The captain never strayed from his navigator's bedside. She'd slept for two days straight, this being the third, and he never took his eyes off her. There was a sense of déjà vu about this, as it felt very similar to their Drum Island adventures, and Nami was in a life threatening predicament then as well. The only difference was, this time, she wasn't sick - somebody intentionally caused harm to her.
He remembered climbing back on board the Going Merry, only to find Nami screaming his name in hysterics. He'd immediately rushed to her side, panic running through him. She was crying and writhing, trying to escape the holds of Robin's arms. Sanji broke apart ("Oh, shit."), and Zoro blanched and walked out of the room the moment he noticed the state she was in, too scared to even react. Chopper tried his best to ignore the commotion of his crew and was shakily drawing medicine from a tube and trying his best not to make eye contact with her. The look her face - it was too hard to watch. And only Luffy was ignorant enough to stare at the sensations etched across her features. It made his heart tear to shreds.
He hoped he never saw her like that again.
Three nights later, she was sleeping fitfully. Luffy held her hand in his, watching the slow rise and fall of her chest. Seeing this confirmed that she was alive. Maybe not alright, but she was living, and that was all that mattered. He was incredibly afraid that if he blinked, she would disappear. Vanish into thin air. Which was what he deserved, anyway.
It almost cost the crew a member - their navigator - to realize that they had been taking one another for granted. A single gunshot, hitting one of their own, and they finally realized her worth. All of their worths. Because all it took was for one of them to fall, and the rest would follow. The crew would not survive without her.
ONEPIECE ONEPIECE ONEPIECE
"Why didn't we think of it before?"
Usopp's question hung heavily in the air.
The entire crew, minus Luffy and Nami, were seated on the deck, trying to enjoy the fresh air after having devoured a sumptuous dinner made by their cook.
Sanji took a long drag from his cigarette. "Because none of the bastards we came across in the past were that smart."
"Take out the foundation that built the crew, and the crew collapses," Robin said, flipping through another page of her book. "It's extremely methodical thinking. Very clever."
"Nami was the first of us that Luffy met," Usopp commented thoughtfully. "They really are the foundations that built the crew."
"What would have happened if Captain Alister had succeeded?" Chopper asked nervously.
Robin gave the doctor a sad smile. "Then it would have been the end for us."
"We just have to make sure no one else tries to destroy us like that again," Sanji growled.
Robin shook her head. "There is no guarantee."
"We almost lost both of them today," Usopp sighed sorrowfully.
Zoro's eyes were closed, but he was listening to every word, and it was making him angry again. He'd already punished himself with 2,000 push ups. And currently, he felt like doing another round.
"No," he muttered.
Heads turned to look at him.
"We almost lost one of them" his voice caught in his throat. "Luffy's a survivor. He always comes back from death. Nami…she's only human."
ONEPIECE ONEPIECE ONEPIECE
Nami's eyes opened blearily to a dark room, barely lit with a fading candle. She suppressed a strong groan trying to escape her throat. Her left shoulder felt numb, and her entire body felt heavy. Her fingers twitched, and she discovered that her left hand was wrapped in someone else's.
Luffy's head rested on her bed, against her side, with half his body leaning over her comforter and clenching her hand like his life depended on it.
She stared at her captain in slight shock, not expecting him to be there, yet knowing very well he wouldn't be far.
Tentatively, she reached out with her right hand.
His hair was as soft as it looked. Messy, jet black locks swam through her fingers. He looked completely at peace and more childish than usual, if that was even physically possible.
He shuddered from her soft touches, slowly waking up.
"Nami?" Luffy blinked, rubbing his tired eyes.
Her voice was rough an raspy from a combination of exhaustion and not talking.
An enormous smile encompassed his face. "You're finally awake!"
Now, she was surprised. "How long was I asleep?"
"Almost three days."
Nami gaped. "T-Three days?"
Luffy nodded. "Robin's been navigating. She said we were going…West?"
Relief flooded through Nami. The ship had been in Robin's hands, so that meant they at least were headed in the right general direction. All Robin had to do was keep the ship pointed in the same direction it was going before the ambush happened, and Nami knew raven haired woman was smart enough to figure that out.
"Are you still hurting?"
Well, that was certainly a loaded question.
She smiled weakly. "I feel better than I did before Luffy," she answered cautiously.
Knowing him, he would flip if she said the wrong thing.
He openly stared at her, as if searching for any indication that she may have been lying.
"What happened to Alister?"
His gaze darkened, and his eyes fell downward. "He got what he deserved."
A chill went Nami's spine, her eyes widening. "You didn't…" She couldn't even finish the sentence.
He didn't answer her, and chose to remain silent. Nami felt a muddle of emotions overwhelm her, and she was at a lost for words. The question of whether he did or didn't still dangled openly. And it would probably remain that way.
The apology and sudden break in silence caught Nami completely off guard.
He shook his head in aggravation. "He hurt you. And he shouldn't have hurt you."
Nami pursed her lips. "It wasn't your fault."
"You're not the one who's supposed to get hurt."
Luffy's grip on her hand tightened. She'd almost forgotten that he was still holding on to her.
"You're not the one who's supposed to get hurt," he repeated. "Everyone else gets hurt. Me, Zoro, Sanji, Robin, Chopper, Usopp…everyone but you."
A sudden, unexpected anger boiled in Nami at what he said. "So I should just stand back and watch everyone else get injured, like some helpless damsel?"
Luffy looked at her, confused. "You're not helpless."
"Exactly!" she seethed, her energy coming back full force as she sat up in bed. "I'm not. I can fight, just like the rest of you."
"I know," Luffy said, eyes downcast.
"Then tell me, Luffy." His name was like fire on her tongue, rolling through her lips in frustration and - for some odd reason - fear. "Why am not supposed to get hurt?"
Luffy didn't answer.
"I'm a part of this crew, too," she continued, softening at his solemn expression. "I have to shed blood just like everyone else. Haven't you learned by now? Haven't I proved myself by now?"
"But…" Luffy swiftly lifted his eyes to meet hers, and quickly returned his attention to a spot on her bed. For a split second, there was an unfamiliar emotion in his irises that Nami wasn't used to seeing. "You're important."
Nami let out an exasperated sigh. "More important than Zoro? Or Sanji? Or anyone else?"
A pause followed.
"…I need you, though."
Luffy began to unconsciously trace circles on the back of hand, determined to look at only her bed sheets. He felt a strange sense of relief after saying that, and he didn't know why. It was like, all of a sudden, some heavy burden he'd been carrying was lifted.
He wasn't sure what this new sensation in him was, be he found that he didn't mind it..
"I like it when you're around, Nami," Luffy endeavored to get his thoughts out. "When you smile and laugh, I feel really happy. But when you're hurt, I get this really bad feeling in my chest, like someone's trying to hurt me, too."
Nami felt her heart lurch at his words.
She placed her hand atop of his reassuringly. "That just means you care about me, Luffy," she said, her voice shaking just the slightest.
A baffled look fleeted through his face. "So how come I don't feel that way with anybody else? Does that mean I don't care about them?"
"Uh, n-no," Nami struggled, not used to such a vulnerable side of Luffy. "I…you're just, um…Luffy…"
Her captain locked eyes with her, and this time, he didn't move. "I get really mad when someone does something bad to you," he said with a frown. "And I don't like getting mad, but if it means that I'll be able to keep you safe, then I'll do whatever it takes."
She let out a deep breath she didn't she was holding, her thoughts running amuck through her head.
"Luffy," her voice was just an octave above a whisper. "Do you know what love is?"
Uncertainty flooded through Luffy, and by the look on his face, Nami guessed that he might have known of it, but never knew it personally.
"It's like friendship and family put together," she tried to explained. "But a lot stronger. It's not just caring, it's protecting. It's not just promises, but guarantees…it's not just for now, but forever."
"So then, it's like us?" Luffy gestured between the two of them.
Nami gazed at him, baffled herself that such a simple statement could hold so much truth and meaning.
She couldn't find a single way to argue against him. Ever thing that she'd just said, it had unknowingly described their relationship.
"Yes," she sighed. "Like us."
There was a long pause following this as Luffy took in what she said. He looked down at their hands, and as he focused on their interlocking fingers, he couldn't help but notice how small and slender her fingers were compared to his.
"…I love you?"
Nami groaned, rubbing her eyes with the heel of her palm in frustration. "It shouldn't be a question, Luffy."
Luffy's eyebrows scrunched together in concentration. "I…" he lips froze for a moment. "I will protect you. I'll keep you from getting hurt because you're too important to get hurt. And I'll never break a promise to you. I'll always keep you close, because I like when you're close. And I'll make sure you never cry, because you're more beautiful when you smile…but you're still really pretty when you cry, though, I just like it better when you smile, just-"
"Luffy!" she cut him off, holding in her laughter. "I get it."
And with all that he promised for her, she felt it was almost better than loving her.
"Just promise me one thing, Captain."
He agreed so effortlessly it almost knocked Nami off her bed.
"Don't ever blame yourself again."
She received a blank stare in return. "I…I-I can't."
Nami let a smile slip through her lips, unsure why what he said was so pleasant to her. She reached over, tugging his arm closer and bringing his a good portion of his body on the bed with her, and enveloped him in tight embrace. He returned in reluctantly, in minor shock.
"Thank you, Luffy."
Luffy grinned in return.
Knowing that he could - he would - never stop blaming himself, made all the promises he verbalized to her before real.
And she knew, without a doubt, that he loved her.
…Just in his own way.
(A/N): It's done! Finito! I have to be honest, though. I'm not completely satisfied with this ending, so I might do a rewrite. But AFTER I finish my other fics. Priorities, priorities.