A/N: Yeah, so, again, just an idea that wouldn't go away.
Warnings: Mild language and situations.
Continuity/Spoilers: After Arlong Park, pre-Grand Line. / Nothing really.
Pairing: ZoNa-ish. Barely. Only hinted.
Disclaimer: All characters and locations herein are the intellectual property of Eiichiro Oda and various others. Not mine. I wish.

The Ladder Incident

Nami carefully trimmed the last tree branch she could comfortably reach and sighed. Sometimes it was a real pain being this much shorter than her trees. Her grove desperately needed additional pruning, but she simply wasn't capable on her own. With a sour grumble, she thought back to the meeting the crew had when they landed at the last island a few days before.

As usual, everyone split up to gather supplies as needed. Sanji got the food, Nami got map supplies and personal items, Luffy inevitably found meat, Zoro got himself lost, and Usopp sought out various hardware and supplies. The long-nosed youth often asked if anybody had anything they wanted him to find.

"We need a ladder," she had pointed out. "There are certain places on board that can't easily be reached."

"Like where?" Luffy asked innocently. "Betcha I could if I tried!"

"Okay... That can't easily be reached by anyone other than Luffy."

"Isn't a ladder dangerous out on the ocean?" Usopp mused. "I mean, with the sway of the sea, you'd need somebody to hold the ladder for you anyway, so why not just have one of us give you a boost or something?"

"I would gladly be a footstool for my lovely Nami-swan!" Sanji cooed.

Zoro rolled his eyes. "I'm nobody's furniture, but if you ask nicely, I'd be willing to help." Luffy and Usopp had offered their assistance as well.

"Okay then," Usopp nodded, "I guess we don't really need a ladder."

That had been that. Stupid boys! So, where were they all when she needed somebody's help? Nowhere to be found, of course! She heard the door leading below deck open.

"Hey," she called out to whomever it might be, "could you please come give me a hand?"

"A hand with what?" Zoro looked like he had just woken up from a nap, which was an entirely likely state of affairs.

"I'm pruning, but I can't reach the top branches."

"You want me to do it?"

"No," she retorted indignantly. "There's no way I'd let you butcher my trees! Can I sit on your shoulders?" Fortunately, it was a cool day, and she was wearing pants, rather than her usual mini skirt.

"Sure," the swordsman shrugged, "I guess. After all, you did say, 'please.'"

Nami was a little surprised he was being so agreeable, but she wasn't about to spoil her good fortune by pointing out the fact and possibly starting an argument!

Zoro knelt down and slumped forward so that she could awkwardly clamber into position. She tensed as he rose to his feet. Was he really this tall? It didn't seem like she should be this far off the ground...

"Relax," he choked out, "I need to breathe!"


Then, for a while, there was nothing but the sound of her pruning shears and occasional directions from Nami for Zoro to move a little to the left, or to the next tree, or to back up a little.


"What's wrong?"

"I still can't reach the tops!"

"Stand up. I promise to catch you if you start to fall."

So she stood. Zoro firmly gripped her ankles with his hands, and she discovered that this position was really no more unsteady that sitting on his shoulders had been. She continued with her grove grooming.

Nami had to lean a little forward to get to the central branch of the tree she was currently sculpting. At that very moment, a larger than usual wave broke against the ship's hull, and although Zoro had admirable sea legs, he couldn't absorb all of the shock. Nami overcorrected backward and felt herself start to fall. Zoro let go of her right ankle and lifted his arm to catch her. He was probably aiming for her waist, but his arms were only so long, and she had bent her knees. Long story short, she found herself sitting on his hand.

Zoro froze. Nami might as well have been perched on a statue of the swordsman. There was a brief awkward pause, and then Nami righted herself and the hand was instantly back at her ankle. Neither one said anything. The pruning went on as though nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.

Nami decided that if something like this had to happen, she was lucky it was Zoro. Luffy probably wouldn't understand why the situation was awkward at all, and would probably just make matters worse with an innocent, yet oddly pointed comment. Usopp would probably have panicked and let her fall. As for Sanji, well, he'd either have died instantly of happiness on contact with her behind, or thoroughly enjoyed the situation. Yes, the socially awkward swordsman was definitely the lesser evil here.

As soon as Nami was back on the deck, Zoro excused himself to "go train." Nami couldn't be certain, but his ears and the back of his neck looked suspiciously red.

At dinner that evening, Nami noticed that Zoro was studiously avoiding eye contact. No one else seemed to notice his odd behavior, but it was easy to overlook a quiet person in the chaos that was meal time on the Going Merry. Even though Nami found his embarrassment terribly amusing, she was also getting annoyed. She started to leave and grabbed Zoro's ear as she walked past.

"We need to talk."

"Ow! I'm coming already, let go!"

Luffy, Usopp, and Sanji all paused to stare at the strange occurrence.

"What was that about?" Usopp wondered.

"That idiot probably did something to make her angry," Sanji reasoned. They all nodded sagely at this most plausible of explanations, and chaos resumed.

"This is ridiculous, Zoro," Nami berated as the swordsman massaged his abused ear. "Just get over it!"


"But nothing! Look," she began ticking off points on her fingers, "you didn't do it on purpose, you kept me from falling on my ass, you didn't take any advantage of the contact, and you didn't enjoy it! Right?" He gulped and blushed slightly. Nami rolled her eyes. "Okay, so maybe the last one, a little... The point is: I don't blame you, so knock it off with the guilt!"

Zoro frowned and shook his head. "It was still inappropriate contact! I didn't even apologize..."

Obviously, reason was getting her nowhere, so Nami went for Plan B.

"Ohmigod! What's that over there?"

Zoro turned his entire body to face the unknown threat. Nami took advantage of his change in position to slap her hand on his right cheek, and not the one on his face! His reaction was definitely going on her personal top ten list of the funniest things she had ever seen. He must have jumped a good three feet straight up in the air! And that face! She all but fell over laughing.

"Nami! What the hell?"

"Sorry," she wiped away a tear, "but that makes us even now, okay?"

"I didn't squeeze!"

"With interest, of course!" She smirked. "Regardless, it's behind us now. We never need to speak of this again. Deal?" She held out her hand.

Zoro grinned back and took her hand in his own firm grip. "Deal!"

At the next port, they had the usual meeting.

"So, anybody need anything?" Usopp asked.

"Yeah," Zoro grumbled, "we need a ladder."

"Hey, I thought we all agreed we didn't need-"

"As it turns out," Zoro's voice became a low growl, and one hand drifted to rest on the hilts of his katana, "we do."

"Oh, okay, Z-Zoro! I'll s-see what I can find!"

So that's how it was, hmm? If you wanted something done around here, you either had to do it yourself or know which buttons to push.

"I'm gonna go shower," Zoro excused himself. If his ears looked a little red, no one was about to comment.

Which reminded Nami of something else they needed...

"We need a shower curtain."

"What for? So long as everybody remembers to lock the door, there's no problem, right?" Usopp sounded as though he couldn't fathom why the shower curtain had ever even been invented.

"Or knock," Luffy pointed out.

"Or both," Sanji added his own two cents' worth.

"Okay. I guess we don't really need a shower curtain."

Nami rolled her eyes. "Fine, whatever." She got up to leave, a wicked grin forming on her face.

"Where are you going?" Luffy asked warily. That look did not bode well for some poor soul.

"To push some buttons."