Title: The Wings of Time
by magique
: One Piece
Pairing(s): One-sided Sanji/Nami.
Genre/Rating: General, Angst/K
Disclaimer: One Piece and its characters are the rightful property of Eiichiro Oda. I'm just playing with them. The title comes from a quote by Jean de La Fontaine: "Sadness flies away on the wings of time."
Summary: Nami is forced to explain why it won't work when Sanji tries to take their friendship to another level. One-sided Sanji/Nami.
Warnings: None.
Notes: For a request on the LJ community opfanforall; "how about a (respectful) anti-pairing fic? That is to say, pick a pairing of your choice and make a fictional case against it. No points for character-bashing and OOC-ness, obviously." I can't help feeling like they're both a little OOC anyway, but I enjoyed writing it.

Nami wipes the sleep from her eyes blearily as she comes out onto deck. They are nearing a spring island so the night is cool without being too chilled, a soft breeze carrying a flowery scent from the land one day's sailing ahead of them. Rubbing one eye again, Nami looks up at the moon.

It makes her think of Cocoa Village, of Bellemere and Nojiko and Genzo; reminds her of Arlong and money and tangerines and years of knowing the people she loved were watching the same moon and suffering. It used to make her melancholy, but a new association has joined the others: hope. Her boys, adventures and excitement and laughter, and hope. Now she looks at the moon and smiles.

Sanji had watch before her. She can hear his foot tapping aimlessly near the bow in a tuneless rhythm. Of the few times she's taken watch after him—he often lengthens his to encompass hers—she finds him on the section of the ship pointing most North, back curved stiffly and a single trail of smoke wavering as it rises, and she wonders what it means.

Sanji must hear her barefooted steps behind him because he turns, sending Nami one of his goofy smiles around his cigarette. She notices there's less 'goof' than usual, but she says nothing.

"I can take over for you, Nami-san," he says, leaving his spot to flutter around her. "Beautiful ladies like you shouldn't have to take watch."

"It's alright, Sanji-kun," Nami replies. "I couldn't sleep so I'd rather be out here. I need to make sure we stay on course anyway."

Sanji doesn't argue the point, which isn't ultimately all that unusual, but it somehow feels like it. "I'll make you a hot drink to keep you warm then!" he says instead and strides away.

Nami leans against the railing and sighs. Sanji's different tonight; it's subtle, but it's there and she can't place the cause. The added extravagance she'd once thought was a façade to hide feelings completely different isn't there. She glances over her shoulder at the flickering light now shining in the galley and sighs again. Something is wrong. Something she doesn't know about. She's used to knowing everything about her boys, but Sanji keeps coming up with new mysteries and her own lack of understanding worries her.

Sanji returns with a steaming mug, gallantly handing it to her, and pulls out another smoke and his lighter, flicking, lighting and inhaling deeply in one fluid motion. It reminds Nami how easy it is to forget what a graceful man Sanji is growing into.

Nami smiles gratefully and sips the delicious liquid carefully. The way warmth floods her body it feels like the drink is seeping straight into her bloodstream. "Thank you, Sanji-kun."

He glows with pleasure and Nami hates herself for noticing it still looks put on when there's nothing she can do.

They stay like that; Nami leaning on the railing, drinking from the large mug, eyes closed, and Sanji, one pace back, watching over both her and the horizon.

She doesn't question this because she thinks she's becoming aware of what it means, what Sanji's intentions are tonight, and that worries her too. It's uncomplicated when he flatters and feeds and treats her like a princess, but it feels like Sanji's about to attempt something she has secretly feared he might.

If she asks, he might explain. And if he explains, then she will have to too.

Nami can feel the silence become oppressive, suffocating. She sighs again, with more discontent. "Don't worry about me, Sanji," she says. "Go to bed."

"Nami-san," he says and something in his voice makes her turn to look against her better judgement. There's a determined glint in Sanji's visible eye and suddenly the words are more overwhelming than the silence and she feels like she's drowning.

"Sanji-kun." The three syllables carry all the things Nami can't yet verbalise and Sanji swallows and they both just stand there, the silence returning. Its weight pushes down on them, curving their backs and bowing their heads, setting flame upon their cheeks, and Nami know—knows—she can't leave it at this. She needs to explain.

"I—" She stops, gathers her thoughts. "You're…. All four of you; you're like family. And Sanji, you're—you're lovely and you deserve the best of the world and one day you'll make someone so happy and they'll make you just as happy, but it's not me. You're like a brother to me and I just—can't feel any differently."

Sanji pauses, his expression is so crestfallen—so pained—and it makes Nami's chest twinge uncomfortably, but the resolve hasn't quite left his features. "Nami," he says. It's soft and sad and it lacks any endearment or formality and the twinge becomes an unbearable jab so she looks away. "You could try, couldn't you?"

Drops of water land on the railing and Nami has to look up, despite all her knowledge of the skies, to check if clouds had gathered overhead while she wasn't looking and caused rain because she can't remember her eyes filling. She nurses the cooling mug between her hands and watches the liquid inside ripple as the trails of salty tears that had reached her chin became heavy enough to form droplets and fall.

"Sanji-kun," she says again and this time she turns bodily to face him. He needs to watch her face and her lips move as she says this because she knows it won't sink in any other way. "Sanji-kun. I can't. I love you, but—" she shakes her head. "Even if I felt like that, even if I were ready for what you're asking, Sanji; you aren't." And as she says this, she pushes the mug into one hand and presses the other against his chest. "Here, you aren't ready."

Nami reaches up, touches his face; lets the cold tears streaming down his own face separate at her fingers and pool between them, watches them form little wet paths down her hand. "I'm sorry."

"No, Nami-san," Sanji murmurs. The corner of his mouth moves against her palm and she can't remember when he discarded the cigarette he lit, but it's gone now. "It's not your fault. You're right and I've made my beautiful swan cry. I'm sorry."

"I forgive you," Nami says because there's nothing else to say.

Nami lowers her hand and turns away. Sanji takes the mug and leaves her in peace.

But Nami doesn't feel like she's drowning anymore.

And Sanji doesn't look so sad.