some things you can't steal

Nami likes pretty things. Money. Clothing. Jewels. A man's muscles. A woman's skin. Want is not have, and she knows this well enough, but want is still desire; an itch under the palms, a sweat on the back of the neck, a quickening of the pulse and a tightening of the stomach.

What Vivi has is so much better than simple prettiness, though. What Vivi has is quality, rich and unexpected in the former Miss Wednesday. Nami can't steal that. She can't beg, borrow, or thieve it away.

There's a kind of innocence about Vivi that even Baroque Works couldn't take away from her. It's not physical innocence, not emotional innocence, but a sort of innocence of the soul.

(And Nami really doesn't want to believe in souls.)

Vivi could lie down among dogs and wouldn't get up with fleas.

(It's not fair. It really isn't fair.)

Vivi sleeps in Nami's room. Nami listens to her breathing at night. Vivi sleeps as a princess should sleep, patient and undisturbed and beautiful, her hair cascading over the pillow. She's lovely. She's a work of art. She should be woken with a kiss.

Nami rolls over on her side and tries not to think about it.

She remembers Vivi's hand on her forehead when she was ill. She remembers Vivi holding the cup of water to her lips. She remembers everything, in the peculiar brightness of fever dreams.

(She dreamed that Vivi said, "Nami . . ." in a tone of voice that could have meant anything but that meant, "I need you.")

When she and Vivi drape themselves in silks and Sanji falls at their feet, she wants to kick him. He's so crass. So obvious. He throws himself at every pretty girl, and it means nothing at all, and he misses the pure gold when it's in front of him.

And now they're sitting together in the baths, and Vivi's scrubbing her back for her, and Vivi's talking so happily about all the things out at sea, dragons and giants and monsters and islands and whirlpools and . . .

She turns to look at Vivi, and Vivi blushes.

(She could say anything.)

(She could say, "Vivi, I love you.")

(She could say, "Kiss me.")

Vivi's skin is so white, and her shoulders so frail to support a whole country.

She says, "My turn to scrub your back," and Vivi smiles.

She's a thief and she's a pirate, but she's not a spoiler, and she'll have to leave soon enough. And some things you can't steal.

But you can still appreciate them, and maybe even love them, as long as you never tell them so.