AN: Since I'm having a terrible writer's block with my 30 kisses challenge, I tried writing something else to get my mind off of it and relax, so this short story came out. Five chapters, five weeks. Each week one chapter. Sounds fair, right?

Plus, I feel like SxN doesn't get enough love lately. No fair. D:

Diclaimer: Do not own. Bleh.

Sentimental Labyrinth

1st: Rendezvous

She couldn't believe what she was doing.

Even when she had still been lying peacefully in her hammock, tossing and turning from one side to the other almost in a minute cycle and eventually just simply staring at the ceiling, she already felt infinitely stupid. And the feeling even increased when she had come to the lunatic decision to give in to the nearly unbearable urge to stand up. Her sense of shame had grown with every step towards the trap door, and with every single inch said trap door was opened, more and more heat rushed into her cheeks. And the moment she was finally standing on deck in the middle of the night and all by herself, the dimension of embarrassment that her behavior held was nearly embarrassing.

Nami, what the hell are you doing?

It was a question that she kept on asking herself in an infinite loop ever since she left her comforting bed. But she just didn't have an answer to it in no case. She didn't know what she was doing. Or to put it frankly: She knew what she was doing, she just didn't know why. Of course she did know why, but the true reason behind her being here was so moronic, insane, so infinitely paradox and absolutely wrong-headed and so not her and so incredibly unthinkable that she truly didn't dare to think it. If only because the mere thought already stirred the desire inside of her to slap herself hard, it was just crackbrained like that.

No, honestly, Nami, you better think really really really carefully: What are you DOING here?

After she had walked to the stern first, then all the way back to the bow and then back to the spot where she had started, she came to an abrupt halt as she began to tear at her hair, nearly furious. It was a true laughing matter. She should laugh. She never even read about something so ridiculous in some kind of novels. It was so embarrassing, so idiotic and damned infantile, but it was completely pointless to be reluctant, because she just kept doing it again and again for a reason that was entirely beyond her. An outsider definitely would have declared her insane for the way she was running around the ship like a beheaded chicken, inwardly fighting with herself and massaging her hands as though she was hatching some kind of devilish plan while she paused from time to time to wonder about what the hell she was doing.

Nami, you're officially insane.

It was ridiculous.


Ridiculous, ridiculous, ridiculous, ridiculous, ridiculous.

Nami, it's RIDICULOUS!

She stole a peep on the place where she assumed the reason for her lunacy to be. She bit her lower lip, ashamedly, and glared icy looks of death at the door as though she was hoping the galley would actually explode if she only concentrated on it long enough.

Nami, LET IT BE and GO TO BED!

She would not do it. She would turn around now and go back to bed, since that was the place where every mentally sane human belonged to at this kind of late hour. Ah, right, she wasn't mentally sane anymore. Which was the reason for her lack of sleep in the first place. And also the reason why she was standing outside on the deck and staring at the galley in the middle of the night like a lunatic. But she would still most definitely not do it.

That's a good girl. Yes, that's right, just leave.

She turned around and walked back to the trap door with a determined expression. What a laugh. As if it wasn't already enough that she had been doing it several nights before this one. It was becoming way too obvious for her taste. And the reason for her lunacy did have a brain. Besides, she still possessed something like self-esteem and most importantly self-control. And of course common sense. What she was doing here was simply stupid.

Satisfied with herself, she bent down to open the trap door. Time to turn in.

Exactly: Time to turn in.

Before her hand could grasp the handle, she paused and gulped as she peeked back at the galley from the corner of her eyes, still hunkered down. On the other hand, she was already here anyway… After all, a teensy-weensy glance inside couldn't hurt, right? Just to check it up…

Honestly, what was the big deal anyway?

What's the big deal? A freebie-disgrace of course! Come to your senses, Nami!

Oh, screw it. She would definitely just take a really, really short peek through the porthole. Just to make sure if the reason for her lunacy was really there or not. And she would scram right after it, for sure. She would not go inside. She just wanted to know if he was inside.

And what if he's there? You'll just make a fool of yourself!

One glance and she would be gone.

Tch, suit yourself then. Just don't say I didn't warn you.

By the time she arrived at the galley, her heart already felt like a rock drill. Contrary to the shouts of protest inside of her head, she stood on tiptoes and peered over the edge of the porthole inside – and her mood instantly sank to bottomless dimensions. Alright, so she should have guessed it, since the lights were turned off, but there still had been the itsy-bitsy chance that maybe possibly hopefully he could have been there.

Her bare heels touched the ground in disappointment as she blew an unhappy sigh through her pout. It would have been an outstanding miracle if happenstance would have done her bidding forever anyway. She couldn't have it all.

So you're disappointed now? Rather, be happy about it! You were spared of an awful disgrace.

Her inner voice was an utterly heartless bitch, she realized. As cold as the north pole and absolutely mean and cruel.

I'm just the little bit of reason you idiot have left!

She turned to scuffle back to the trap door, looking crestfallen. Actually, it was true. She should be happy that she didn't make a fool of herself at least. And now that the excitement was over, she even felt a gush of tiredness scraping at her consciousness like a wave before it broke.

"Ah, good morning there, my Nami-san!"

In an instant, she was as wide awake as though there was coffee in her blood.

All right, Nami, a fine mess you've made.

Nami nearly jumped out of her skin at the sound of that voice. She spun around to him in downright horror, with eyes as big as saucers, to catch sight of the blond cook of this ship, and he was offering her such an honest, seriously happy grin that her shock slowly evaporated and an irritated expression appeared on her face. Just acting normal. Everything was perfectly normal. Staying normal and keep on glaring.

"Oh, it's just you, Sanji-kun," she said and actually managed to sound indifferently. "Don't ever scare me like that again!"

Sanji gave her a deep but amused laugh. "I'm sorry, my angel. I'll be careful from now on," he replied before an oddly unsettling smile appeared on his lips. "It sure is a funny coincidence that we keep on running into each other every night lately… Don't you think?"

Nami's heart instantly sank down to her feet as she just stood there, stark as stiff, with a strange expression gracing her face as if she just turned into a pillar of salt.


No, wait a second, she needed to calm down and think logically. She absolutely must not pointlessly drive herself crazy or panic here but rather keep cool, after all there did exist the tiny, really microscopically possibility that she was once again reading way too much into it while he was just simply trying to flirt with her like he always did. Even when his knowing, nearly teasing grin told her a whole different thing right now.

Nami gulped before she finally found her voice to speak. "Well, crazy things do happen once in a while, eh?" she smiled nervously.

"True, but it almost feels like we're having a rendezvous every night." His grin became a bit more teasing, nearly mischievous even.

Nami actually stopped breathing for a full minute.

Oh God, he REALLY knows!

It was official. Sanji knew everything. It was totally obvious. His eyes were speaking volumes and his grin was the final evidence. He knew why she was coming here every single damn night and he was enjoying it completely, it was as sure as eggs were eggs. It was her own fault anyway – she couldn't have been any more obvious!

Okay, Nami, retreat! Meep, meep, meep! Red alert! Leave as long as you still can!

A withdrawal really was the only good strategy right now. "Whatever," she said, waving it off and turning around. "I'm leaving then. See you at breakfast!"

And now quickly back to the trap door before he could actually decide to say it.

"You're doing it on purpose. Admit it."

Too late. Game over.

Nami immediately turned as pale as ashes.

She really needed to pull herself together to even turn around to him again, although with an utterly shocked expression plastered on her pretty face. Sanji offered her a triumphantly grin, a cigarette dangling from between his lips and his hands dug deeply into his pockets as he leaned backwards against the ship's rail. Nami was fumbling for words in complete befuddlement for a while until a perplexed smile appeared on her lips.

"What is it that I'm doing on purpose, Sanji-kun?"

That's right, excellent! Keep on playing innocent!

"Coming here at night," Sanji answered after he took a deep draw on his cigarette, his grin slowly transforming to a joyous smile. "You're hoping to meet me, aren't you?"

God, you SO blew your cover, damn you.

Fortunately for her, there was her good old inborn safety mechanism that dependably always payed off in exactly these kind of dicey situations just at the right moment: She arched her eyebrows at the blond chef in utter disbelief, pursing her lips and stemming her hands in her sides.

"Tch," she ground out with spite, almost admiring herself at how indifferently she could act, even though on the inside she was nearly eaten alive by her panic. "Aren't you just full of yourself!"

Sanji gave a gentle laugh; he was obviously enjoying this subject. "C'mon, Nami-san, we know it both. It can't be a mere coincidence anymore that you're always here when I'm also here ."

Damn it, why in the hell did that stupid cook have to be so darned clever?

She crossed her arms over her chest, rolling her eyes and looking away to avoid turning red in a moment such as this. "You should wake up from your dream, if you ask me. This is reality, you know."

"Oh, so you always put make-up on when you need to use the bathroom or something?"


Okay. Crap.

"Heh," Sanji grinned, visibly having a ripping good time over the vision of her being in a state of absolute speechlessness. "Admit it. You like me, Nami-san."


She felt an unpleasant form of heat gradually creeping into her cheeks. But no panic, she had to stay cool. She needed to keep on denying and playing innocent.

"We're nakama. Of course I like you."

Sanji's grin couldn't be any more wide and teasing; was that guy being spiteful?

"No, no, no. You like me."

Jackpot, jackpot, jackpot.

Nami did not like the way he pronounced that word even one bit.

"… you're out of your mind."

"It's not very believable when you're blushing like that."

Her cheeks abruptly heated up even more upon hearing that, making her feel as though she was on the brink of spoiling by too high annealing temperatures. And when Sanji, who didn't miss a bit of it, even gave a self-confident snicker, she instantly realized that she had to leave. Or else she wouldn't be able to guarantee for anything anymore.

"This -- this is ridiculous, I'm going back to bed," she declared with an angry scowl, turning around and walking off with her head held high.

Sanji, who just couldn't get rid of that stupid grin on his face as he was enjoying the unique feeling of coming out on top for a change way too much, calmly flicked his cigarette overboard, surveying full of admiration how perfectly the moonlight had all of the perfect parts of Nami's without a doubt perfect body look even more perfect as her hips were seductively swinging back and forth – and his grin grew.

He just couldn't help it.

"Tomorrow night, same time?"

Nami abruptly came to a halt, but she refused to turn around to him; if only because she was afraid that she would have to smack that incredibly dense-looking grin right off his face if she did.

"… Good night, Sanji-kun."

There was a laugh of anticipation.

"Heh. I'll be looking forward to it."

Nami was feeling as though a giant volcano exploded right beneath her cheeks by now. She just wanted to leave. Leave, go back to bed, not think of a single thing until tomorrow morning. Just sleeping. Sleeping real tight and peacefully. And no dreaming, please.

She had embarrassed herself enough for one day.