Author's Note: The idea for this one-shot actually came around when I was doing laundry (and singing a Cat Steven's song from which this piece is entitled). Hey, when inspiration strikes it's best not to question the source and just learn to run with it. XP Anyway, I didn't want to spoil anything, but I should warn those who aren't open about alternative sexuality that this may not be the fanfic for you.
Reviews are greatly appreciated since it's hard for me to fit a fluid plot in a one-shot. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I have no ownership of the mentioned characters. If I did, Muffy would never have a bad date (unless this fluff came afterwards). I also have no rights to Cat Stevens although I would love to stuff him in my closet and make him sing Moon Shadow for his supper. XD
Hard Headed Woman
Winter... Why is that I like winter? Nami wondered as she stared at her reflection in the Blue Bar's front window. Her volcanic red hair was dusted with the dainty white lace of snow, and her frozen blue eyes sent icicles into her own thoughts. Although the air was crisp, she chose to wear her standard plaid vest, orange tee, and khaki shorts. She had other clothes, but this was what she felt most comfortable in. Of course, no one was likely to notice if she didn't wear anything different...
"Nami, isn't that what you wore yesterday?" a familiarly chipper voice asked. There was no doubt it belonged to Muffy, the ever cheerful yet ever heart broken barmaid. Her fluid mass of curled blonde hair and startling emerald eyes grabbed anyone's attention while her low-cut, tight-fitting dresses kept men's, usually the pyrotechnic twins, longing gazes. Though beneath the bubbly, girlish image, there remained a loving and supportive woman, she certainly had a bad encounters with the men she chose to date... A shame for the beautiful sweetheart.
"Yeah, what of it?" the red-head shot back, more sharply than intended. Luckily, her attitude seemed to have no affect on the young woman as she merely laughed kindly.
"You're absolutely right. It's certainly none of my business what you choose to wear," she agreed while unlocking the door to the small building. "Oh, you do know that today is Wednesday, right?"
"So?" Nami asked, again a bit irritably. Why do you ask about the obvious things?
"Griffin closes the bar on Wednesdays, honey!" was the barmaid's eager reply. Damn.
"Oh," the young traveller responded dully, shoving her hands deep into her pockets. It was a shame since she'd been looking forward to a warm Stone Oil. No such luck apparently...
"But I can whip up something for you if you'd like," she offered. "I'm not as good as Griffin, but I can handle a Moon Trip, I think."
Nami was a bit doubtful, but she shrugged her shoulders as she casually followed the other woman inside. The Blue Bar had always served as a reliable hang-out for her. With its long, glossy oak counter and exposed wood panels and beams, it had a homely feel while old crackling speakers played out rinky-dink country tunes. Even the posters on the surrounding walls were relics faded and yellowed with time. Maybe it was the flaws that made it her favorite place to linger there in the evenings...
While she thought on this, Muffy had been busying herself behind the counter, walking herself through the motions. It was simple drink, but she had a terrible habit of messing up the recipe. Though none of her combinations were exactly terrible, they certainly weren't what she'd been aiming for. It left her frustrated to no end. However, she believed that at last she'd accomplished what she'd set out to do in the first place.
"Here you are, darling," she cooed, placing her mixture gingerly in front of her sullen customer, as she began to play with a curl of her hair. "It's on the house." She had a particular liking for the ever serious Nami, and on occasion, usually after the woman had downed a few Stone Oils, Muffy felt the other generally enjoyed her company. Besides, it was cute the way she tried to come off as uncaring when nearly everyone knew she was simply shy.
"Did I make it right?" she asked, placing a hand against her cheek and smiling. She'd been sure she'd done it according to the house recipe.
However, her hopes were dashed as Nami muttered, "I think you didn't use enough sugar..." After seeing Muffy's defeated expression, she added, "but it tastes better this way..."
"Really? Are you sure?" she asked, leaning towards her over the counter. "I can try again if you'd like."
"No... I don't care for sweets, anyway," her voice came out smooth and even although the tiniest hint of pink brushed her cheeks. She came to have liquor, not a sugar-high. Besides... the barmaid had tried her best to make it right. No sense in causing any damage to her confidence which was already shaken given all the Mr. Wrongs in her life. "Are you going on another date next week?" she asked, trying to make some kind of small talk.
Muffy sighed and shook her head, causing her wonderfully soft curls to toss about her narrow shoulders. Her date today had been a total bomber. It wasn't that the man treated her poorly like all the other men she'd dated in her life, but he just seemed bored amid her playful chatter. His eyes kept wandering back to his feet whenever she checked to see if he was paying attention. That's exactly why she dumped him this afternoon. Sure, it was a bust, but at least it wouldn't leave her crying into her pillow tonight.
"Sorry," Nami apologized quietly, her ice-blue eyes studying the sweet woman across from her. She should've kept her mouth shut. Maybe then Muffy's green orbs wouldn't be so misty as she thought about being dumped once again. The traveller had never been good about other people's feelings. She didn't mean to hurt anyone, but it always ended up that way. That's exactly why she chose not to say much.
"Don't worry about it none, darling. I already know my luck with men isn't wonderful... " she replied with a huff. At this rate, I might as well just... "Anyway, I'm going again next week, and-"
"Could I join you?"
The question hung in the air as Muffy whipped her head around with a rather shocked expression and stared at her friend. "You want to go with me?"
"Is that okay?"
"W-well of course it is!" she cheered, taking the woman's hands into her own which made the woman blink in surprise. "It's certainly strange coming from you, honey, but a girls' day out sounds like a perfect solution!"
The red-head merely stared at their clasped fingers wondering how someone could change their moods so rapidly. Hadn't she been on the verge of tears a moment ago? Ah well, it was better to see her excited than depressed. Nami wasn't as capable of comforting her as Griffin had always had, and she couldn't have known what to do should Muffy start sobbing. Besides, the girl had a lovely smile.
"Next Wednesday okay for you?" the barmaid asked kindly, already thinking of all the wonderful shops they could explore in the city together. What kind of places did Nami enjoy visiting? Her only hope was her friend had planned on more than bar hopping.
"Yeah... It's not like I have to be anywhere..." Nami replied coldly, taking another sip of her Moon Trip. It actually tasted a hell of a lot better to her than Griffin's mix. Maybe she just preferred more alcohol than most...
Muffy was clearly beside herself with anticipation. If only guys could be this considerate, then she wouldn't have to feel so alone! "So how about you pick me up here then, sugar?" she asked as the drifter as she made her way out the door. A half-hearted wave was her only reply, but Muffy didn't mind. She'd seen the soft smile although Nami had done her best to hide it. She really is a sweetheart under that gruff exterior of hers, she thought merrily.
The week seemed to fly by for Muffy as she waited for Wednesday to come around. Whenever she had a spare moment, she found herself trying to find the perfect outfit for the occasion, and she felt everything about her had to be just so. Tuesday evening she had found herself flitting from customer to customer, more light-hearted and cheerful than ever. She was a beautiful princess going to a ball, like in all those wonderful fairy tales she'd loved as a child...
"You have a date, I'm guessing?" her boss asked while they were closing down for the evening. Griffin rarely saw his co-worker this carefree unless that was the case. However, he normally also heard how absolutely "wonderful" the man she was dating was, and he'd patiently listen as she spun the yarn on all the "special" things the man had done just for her.
"Not really. Why do you ask?" she asked, cleaning the shot glass in her manicured hands. She'd had meticulously done the job herself during after hours. It took forever for them to dry so she could sleep, but it was worth it to look her best.
"Because you're humming, and you usually do only when you have one."
"Actually, Nami's going with me to the city tomorrow," Muffy explained gleefully. Her bubbly laugh rose as Griffin stared at her in surprise. "I know, she certainly doesn't seem the type to do that sort of thing, but she asked if she could come."
"That's nice," he replied with a smile, still recovering from some slight shock. Since when did that cold, blue-eyed woman shop?
"I'm just happy she wants to go! It's no fun shopping all alone, you know? Maybe she's a closet girly-girl?"
"I doubt it," was his dry remark. She's probably just bored. Then again, it was kind of her to go with Muffy since she obviously knew his barmaid's myriad of relationship troubles. Besides, Nami might open up to this outgoing, vivacious girl, and then they'd both have another shoulder to lean on from time to time. "Still, I hope you two have fun then."
"Nami!" Muffy cried, waving ecstatically to her weary friend. "Hey, I see you're wearing clean clothes for once! Did you borrow that coat from someone?"
Nami glared, trying to figure out how some people could be so damn cheery in the morning. However, her scowl soon softened when the barmaid noticed that she'd put some effort into dressing up. "No, my older brother gave it to me a long time ago," she explained simply, readjusting the collar. It was a warm, black military trench she'd had for years, but she rarely wore it because the coat was one of the few things she had left from home. Even she preferred not to rough up something of sentimental value.
"It looks good on you, though!" Muffy squealed with delight, tugging gently on the sleeve. "You're certainly tall enough for it."
"Am I then?" the red-head asked with a small smile. The way her bubbly friend carried on made her relax, and she felt comfortable at her side. They were already scaling the large hill leading out of the valley, and Muffy struggled to walk on the dirt road in her black heels. Although Nami had slowed down, the woman was trailing far behind her. "Dammit... Why the hell would you wear those things?" she asked irritably.
"Because they're stylish, of course," was the frustrated barmaid's reply, "not like your shoes. Hey, are those men's dress shoes?"
"What of it?" Nami snapped back. She liked these shoes. Did it matter they were bought in the men's department? At least, she wasn't the one having footwear difficulties.
"Well, sorry," Muffy scoffed, stumbling to catch up. Her companion had stopped to wait for her though a bit impatient to finally get over the top ridge. She smoothed out her new powder blue dress as she stood next to the other woman, and then proceeded to check herself in her compact mirror. Nami rolled her eyes and started again while she tried to figure out this need for appearances. Couldn't the girl see she was beautiful without all that fuss?
However, once they made it to the city limits, both girls had put the difficult leg of the journey behind them. After becoming thoroughly perturbed at Muffy's inability to keep up, Nami had stormed down to pick her friend up. With the blonde's flustered apprehension, the sullen woman had piggy-backed her up the hill, and the two had enjoyed a nearly full day of shopping. Well, at least Muffy enjoyed that part of it.
Nami had remained quiet nearly the entire venture. It wasn't as though she didn't have a good time, but she was dwelling on her own thoughts. Something was changing inside her hard shell of a heart, and although it was a familiar feeling she had shut away almost two years earlier, the reason for it was different than that time. What is this feeling? she had wondered throughout the afternoon.
Yet again, the two were faced with a steep climb on the way home, but this time, Nami wasn't going to have any of Muffy's apologies.
"I told you it was no problem," was the standard reply. "Now quit saying you're sorry already."
"B-but I gained so much weight during last season..." she protested, still blushing at the humiliation of having to be carried. Her friend was surprisingly strong for her willowy frame.
Nami halted abruptly, a fire burning in her cold blue eyes. "Muffy, you're not fat, so shut the hell up about it. You weren't that damn heavy for Goddess' sake."
"Y-you really don't think so?" she asked bashfully. No one other than Griffin's told me that...
"Of course. In fact, I think you ought to stop by the Inn more often," Nami offered. "A woman with your curves shouldn't worry about starving yourself into a size zero."
Muffy could only blush further when she heard the compliment. The traveler was never this nice to anyone else after Gustafa married that new farmer girl last year. She'd shut down on nearly everyone but the delightful barmaid, so to hear her saying such lovely things was wonderfully sweet. She didn't have long to think about it, though, since a spectacular sight caught her attention.
It was a beautiful sapphire bracelet which had been displayed in a luxurious jewelry stone on the wealthy side of the shopping district on the hill. Her emerald eyes grew wide with admiration, and she tapped her friend's shoulder eagerly and pointed, "Look at this, Nami! Isn't it gorgeous?"
Nami had never really been one for fine jewelry, but she certainly recognized true quality work. The cut was perfect, and the clarity was spot on. Even so, she couldn't justify the price slapped onto the display card beneath it. Not even Romana would've forked out that much gold for a wrist trinket. Still, she saw the blissful gaze of her blonde companion, and she felt she had to make a small suggestion.
"Have you ever seen Saibara's craftsmanship?"
"You mean for tools?" Muffy asked, obviously confused. How did that relate to what was in the shop window?
"No, he does jewelry work, too," she explained with some exasperation. Why did it all have to be laid out for this woman.
"Wait," Muffy recalled, "he was the one who made Elli's broach, right?"
"Yeah..." Nami agreed, not truly remembering but willing to slip a white lie if it meant getting somewhere. This woman could be a space case at times... "I could have him make you a bracelet if you'd like. It'd be made out of orichalc, though."
"How on earth could you possibly afford it?" Muffy questioned, rather stunned trying to imagine the drifter having much of anything in the way of funds. Was she a stubborn runaway from a rich family or something?
"I know his grandson Gray," she explained. "He owes me a favor from a while back."
"What'd you do for him?" teased the girl playfully.
Nami had a bitter thought, but she decided against verbalizing it. No reason to make the girl cry because of an unnecessarily nasty remark. "Do you want one or not?"
"S-sure. I mean, you don't have to..."
"But I want to," she finalized, her cool blue eyes warming as she gazed into Muffy's emerald orbs. The woman on her back had never been treated this well before, and she certainly didn't expect this generosity coming from sullen, brooding Nami. Not for the first time that day, she found herself flustered. How was it that every time the red-head said something it sent her heart aflutter? She had a strange sort of charm when she spoke like that with so much affection and kindness within so few words. She didn't waste a single one.
As they reached the top of the hill leading home and came to stand side by side, they were greeted with the sunset at their feet. Brilliant hues of reds, oranges, and golds streamed out from below over the quaint buildings of the valley, and the view captured everything wonderful that had ever come before, perhaps even more.
Just as Muffy was about to comment on the wonder of the sight, she happened to feel a warmth in her delicate hand. While she gawked at the gesture, her mouth poised in subtle surprise, Nami continued to stare out over the scenery, but when her eyes happened to stray over to her companion, the traveller gave the barmaid a tender smile.
"Shall we go then?" she asked, pulling Muffy closer to her side and wrapping an arm gently around her tiny waist. Flecks of radiant gold shone in her crystal blue eyes as she kissed her blonde sweetheart's cheek. She even let a chuckle slip towards the flustered young woman before brushing aside a curl of hair from her ear and whispering, "Or we can stay right here... together if you like?"
Muffy bit her lip as she leaned in for another kiss. However, her heel caught on a small stone and she happened to slip into Nami's secure arms. Blushing, she looked up at the red-head who had begun to laugh softly while ruffling her blonde curls. Her date kissed her sweetly on the forehead as she buried herself into the other's chest. Nami may not be Mr. Right, but she certainly was right for the woman with the ever broken heart.
In the end, that's all that really mattered.
Final Author's Note: You know, I never figured I'd enjoy writing a Muffy/Nami piece so much as I did this one. The pairing normally never would've struck me since Muffy's so eager to find a man. I don't think it's my strongest work, but I like this piece of subtle fluff all the same...