Nami, who has a grasp on the workings of the universe firmer that her hold on a quill pen or her Clima Tact, whose knowledge of life and the way things is embedded under her skin like the ink of her tattoo, who is sure she understands the way people think as well as she understands money and weather, can't convince herself of the obvious.
She knows Luffy. She knows the way he thinks, that he sees the world crystal clear and plain through the eyes of a child and that his mind is simple and unspoiled by thoughts of vengeance or blood. She knows that he works toward a constant goal with unerring certainty and confidence and nothing can ever halt him. He is a force of nature, an unstoppable hurricane of force and freedom, sweeping up everyone in his wake and reshaping them into something with power and purpose. She knows that he loves everything and everyone and that nothing can convince him that people are not good or not worth trusting.
And yet, she can't quite believe that he will not push her away if she tells him how much he means to her. If she tries to explain that she loves him, that some days he is the only thing that keeps her on her feet and among the living, if she tries to say that he is the sun and the rain in the garden of her existence, will he laugh at her? Will he dismiss her words as the talk of an enamored teenage girl, will he ignore her entirely? She knows, yes, that this is silly, that there is no way it can be true. But she doesn't believe it.
But Luffy can see. It's not a thing he can sense or feel, it's something visible in the way she moves and the way she looks at him, and he can hear it in her voice. He knows, and he wants—because she is nakama, because he loves her, because she is Nami—to help her. He waits, because the timing has to be right; Nami is a girl, and Shanks told him once that girls are flighty and emotional and that they consider timing to be very important. Nami doesn't seem very flighty to Luffy, but she does seem emotional (mostly angry, mostly at him) and she is a girl, and Shanks never steered him wrong yet.
One day, Nami is sad. Luffy sees it. he wonders why no one else can see it; she smiles when she talks with Robin and thanks Sanji when he brings her a drink, laughs at Usopp's stories and praises Chopper's skills in stitching up Zoro who sliced his arm on the sharp fin of a fish he caught and she yells at Zoro for getting cut and bleeding on the deck, and all in all she seems perfectly normal on the surface. But she isn't, she's sad, and it's so obvious because she frowns in more than concentration when she makes a key for her new map and she stands with her shoulders hunched and she takes a second to look up with that sunny smile when her name is called. Why can't anyone else see? Why doesn't someone do something?
Of course, Luffy is the captain, and it must be the captain's job to cheer up his crewmates. And like Ben used to say, if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.
Nami is only trying to make a map and she doesn't want anyone to bother her (which is what she said but not what she meant), so she tenses up when she hears footsteps coming closer, pen scratching just a little faster in agitation by the light of the lamp that wards away the encroaching darkness. Sandaled feet slap against the deck, and they stop just behind her. She wants to turn around and scold him, tell him to go away and let her finish. Instead, she puts down her pen and waits.
Luffy is always doing things she doesn't expect. Things like not giving up on her and making her laugh when, logically, she should be crying. So really, when he rests one hand on the side of her arm and puts his chin on her shoulder, hair tickling her neck and warm breath washing over her ear striking prickles down her spine, she shouldn't be shocked. And she isn't really, although defense mechanisms want her to shove him away and shout a lot.
He says something, but Nami's chest is so tight and blood is rushing so hard in her ears she doesn't hear what it is. It's probably something like, "it's getting dark, the sun is almost down." Or, "I'm hungry, can I have a snack?" Or maybe, "the water looks pretty with the lamp shining on it." It doesn't matter. She knows what he means; he is only saying, How are you? Are you okay? You seem sad, but I know you don't want me to ask. I just want you to feel happy.
Her hands clamp onto the edges of the table and her fingers go white digging into the wood; there are tears stinging her eyes and she doesn't know why. She wasn't that sad. She was only thinking about home and the things that she misses, and feeling a little lonely, and now here is Luffy with his chin on her shoulder and his hand on her arm and he is only trying to make her happy but now she is upset, and maybe that's why his hand tenses because for the first time in maybe ever he doesn't know exactly what to do.
She can't think, can't concentrate on anything but how warm Luffy is and how the world isn't fair and she turns around in her seat and clutches blindly at his shirt and hides her face in his neck and shakes, wishing she could tell him, wishing she could talk at all but she can't find her voice; he wraps his arms around her and puts his chin on the top of her head and doesn't say anything (he is saying words, but they don't mean anything, they are only there because she wants to hear his voice and he knows this).
"Luffy," she says eventually, interrupting the flow of speechless words, but she doesn't take her face away from his neck because she is terrified of what she might see in his face.
"Getting your neck wet."
He laughs, that silly happy boundless laugh she loves so much and usually ends up hitting him for. "I don't mind," he says brightly, and Nami laughs too, through her tears, just a little, and clings tighter.
"If I tell you something stupid, will you laugh at me?"
"You don't say stupid things," he points out, quite plainly, linking his hands around her back. She wants to hit him a little for that, but she doesn't. Instead, she sighs and leans her weight against him.
"You…I…I just wanted to say…" The words refuse to come out the way she wants them to, so she bites her tongue and tips her head back and looks into his wide, dark, guileless eyes. Something catches in her throat, causing her throat to close up, and now everything is useless because she can't even speak and she feels pathetic and angry.
"Me too." He's smiling. Not mocking, just happy.
Nami is confused, because surely that doesn't make any sense at all, but he only smiles a little wider and says "I do, too" as if that clears it up, and then he kisses her, which probably does clear it up when she thinks about it.
But she doesn't think about it at the time, because that would be ridiculous. She doesn't push him away, either, which would be the smart thing to do. All she does is slide her arms around his shoulders and kiss him back, twisted around in her seat at a terribly awkward angle and not caring at all, which is a nice feeling. So is having Luffy's lips on hers. That's a very nice feeling.
"Luffy," she says again, very quietly, when she tilts her head back a moment later to look at him. "Did you do that just to make me feel better?"
"No, I did it 'cause I wanted to," he tells her, matter-of-factly. Then he furrows his brow and curves the corner of his mouth in thought, which makes Nami want to kiss him again. "But do you feel better?"
She rolls her eyes and smirks because it seems like the only possible correct response. "Yes."
"Then that's good, too," he replies, and kisses her again.
Luffy, she thought, as she kissed him on the deck under the darkening sky, clearly didn't know anything at all about the way things were supposed to work, and maybe that made him the smartest person she knew.