Disclaimer: I own nothing right now.
Pairings/Genre: This is STRICT LuRo FRIENDSHIP!!! because I think there are just not nearly enough fics like that out there.
A/N: This little piece is inspired by a filler episode, the one where Luffy asks Robin about her book and everyone is really shocked that he can even read... everyone BUT Robin. Ever wonder why? Well I did, and this is the result!^^
This story was once again beta'd by the awesomeness of TheDoublemintTwins11!!! All remaining mistakes are my own.
You are rewarding a teacher poorly if you remain always a pupil.
Nico Robin looked up from her book to turn her face towards the sun. It was nice to feel the warmth on her skin. Not that she hadn't gotten enough of that during her time in Arabasta, but with conspiracies and near-death experiences, there hadn't been much time for sunbathing.
But for the past five days she has been the newest member of the strawhat pirates, and it has been calm and relaxing five days.
Sure, her fellow crew members were a crazy bunch that didn't even seem to be able to grasp the concept of silence, but they were leaving her alone for the most part. Aside from the love cook's attempts to woo her, or Nami's occasional question about the upcoming islands, she'd hadn't had much interaction. She suspected that the young navigator was mostly happy to have another woman on board, now that the princess was gone.
And the money she had given to the girl probably hadn't hurt either.
Robin certainly understood their hestitation, and she didn't blame them for it. It would take some time before they really considered her one of them.
Not that she particularly wanted them to.
Joining the strawhats had been a decision born out of necessity and curiousity. And maybe a little bit of hope, but that was something she couldn't even admit to herself.
She told herself that she didn't want to 'belong' to them. This was just one of the many chapters of her life, and just as she'd done with the others, she would turn this page too, in due time. It may have been one of the more funny and interesting chapters, but it would pass nonetheless.
The sudden presence behind her left shoulder, and the warm breath that tickled her neck as the person leaned forward and spoke right next to her ear certainly startled her quite a bit, although she would never admit that out loud.
Admitting it would mean that she was getting too comfortable, unobservant. And she couldn't allow herself to get comfortable. Sooner or later these people would betray her, and she would have to leave again. That's how it worked, after all. It wouldn't pay off to get too attached to the Straw Hats. For any of them.
"What are you doing?"
She looked up to see her -temporary- captain leaning over her. His voice had been loud and enthusiastic, but there was a certain mysterious gleam in his eyes. She had caught him looking at her like that a few times, and always assumed that he wanted her to use her devil fruit powers to amuse him. Sometimes she granted him that wish and tickled him, but sometimes she acted as if she didn't notice.
Not because she didn't enjoy playing with him like that, but because she enjoyed it too much.
Now though, seeing his face up close, his gaze fixed on the book in her lap, the archeologist doubted that he wanted to play.
Robin lifted her book so Luffy could see it better and smiled politely at him. "I'm just reading a little bit Captain-san. Do you need me to do something?"
He shook his head, his eyes briefly flickering to her before they returned to the book. "Nuh-uh. It's okay." His grin, that he'd been wearing the whole time, dimmed slightly. "What is it about. Is it fun?"
Robin looked back down, pondering the question. The author described the extinction of an ancient race. It was well researched and well written and she enjoyed it very much, but Robin wouldn't exactly call it 'fun'.
"It is... interesting." she conceded. Luffy hummed in response and continued to stare at the pages. His silence was a little out of character and she wondered what she was supposed to do. After a moments thought she closed the book and held it out to him. "Do you want to read it, Captain-san?"
The rubber boy blinked a few times at it before he began to chuckle and push it back into her hands. "Can't. Never learned how to read."
Luffy didn't sound all too bothered about that, least of all ashamed, but Robin was shocked. The archeologist had learned to read before she'd even learned how to walk. She'd been surrounded by scholars and librarians and, of course, thousands of books right from the cradle. The idea that someone couldn't read, which, to her, was as vital as breathing, was unbelievable.
"Really?" she asked, for once not caring if her careful mask of indifference slipped.
Luffy still didn't seem too upset. He crossed his arms behind his head and tapped his toes.
"Fuchsia was very small, we didn't really have a school." His grin widened as he sheepishly rubbed the back of his head. "Ace could read a bit. He tried to teach me once but he wasn't a very good teacher."
Robin didn't know Ace, but she guessed that he was as bad a teacher as Luffy was a pupil. It wasn't hard to imagine the short attention span a young Luffy must have possessed. It probably wasn't that much different from the one he had now...
"So you wanted to learn?"
He shrugged. "Sure. It was sometimes pretty boring, especially after Ace was gone. I once asked Makino-san to teach me but she was always busy at the bar."
"I see." Robin muttered as the pieces began to fall into place in her mind. Just like herself, Luffy had eaten the devil fruit at a very young age. She knew from personal experience that not many kids were able, or willing, to accept people that were different than them. It could get quite lonely.
The archeologist glanced at her ever-smiling captain and began to wonder. Maybe, Luffy had been strong and independent enough to not notice how the other kids looked at him. But maybe he had, and just hadn't cared. Or maybe it had been completely different and he'd been a popular and well liked child, just as he was now.
Those were a lot of maybes, and if she'd been more familiar with the man – boy, really – beside her, she may have asked. But she wasn't, so she pushed those thoughts away and opened her mouth to ask something else, when Usopp came up to them, a scowl on his face. He stopped in front of them and repeatedly poked his captain's chest.
"Luffy," he whined, while the other boy squirmed away from the offending finger. "Where have you been? Chopper and I have been hiding for an hour. You were supposed to look for us, you know? Hide-and-seek!"
Luffy laughed like that was the funniest thing he'd ever heard. He pointed a finger at the long-nose and exclaimed with a cheerful and triumphant smile, "Found you!"
Usopp sputtered indignantly and Robin tried to hide her smirk behind a hand. This crew was certainly... unique.
Ussop made a move to grab Luffy, causing the rubber boy to shriek and run away in a fit of giggles. With his hands on his hips, the sharpshooter stared after him before following, muttering something about the giant dust monsters he'd fought while he'd been hiding in one of the closets all the while.
Robin kept an eye on them as they bickered and scuffled with each other before she turned back to her book.
She had to read the page five times before she finally admitted that her thoughts were somewhere else entirely. A sighed escaped her lips.
She had a lot to think about...
It had taken her a day to come to a decision, and another to decide how she wanted to proceed with her plan. She knew that, if she didn't do this right, Luffy would most likely decline. Everything that required sitting and paying attention wouldn't sound all that enticing to him if there were much more interesting things to do.
So she ambushed him one night in the crow's nest during his watch. Everyone knew that it was one of his most hated duties because he had to do it alone, and sit still without doing anything fun.
To put it briefly: it was boring.
And that made it the perfect opportunity.
A bored Luffy would be open to any kind of distraction, and that was exactly what Robin needed right now.
Her urgent, almost overwhelming need to do this scared the archeologist to a certain extent. She didn't know where it had come from, or why she didn't fight or forget about it.
There was only one thing Nico Robin knew for sure: Luffy couldn't read, and she could. To her, that was a completely simple and conclusive equation with only one possible solution...
As she'd expected, the rubber boy was thrilled when she joined him in the crow's nest and immediately started chatting with her about nothing and everything, not even noticing her lack of answers, or the bag that she'd brought with her. Only when she opened it and revealed the book that had been resting inside, did he stop long enough to take a breath. She took the opportunity to push the big volume into his hands. He stared at it questioningly.
"It's a book, Captain-san." she gave him a teasing smile.
He scowled at her, but it looked more like a pout. "I know that! But why are you giving it to me? You know I can't read."
"That's why I'm going to teach you." At his prolonged silence and blank stare, Robin suddenly felt very self-conscious. What had she been thinking? Why would he want to learn something from her, a former enemy? She had been lucky enough that he hadn't tossed her overboard when they'd discovered her aboard the ship. Her voice betrayed nothing of her inner turmoil when she added, „If you want to, that is."
A second later she realized that all her worries had been for nothing when her captain began to flip though the book and bounce up and down with a silly smile on his lips.
"Of course! When do we start? Where are we gonna do this? What is it about? Can I eat meat while we learn?"
She chuckled, although it was more out of relief than anything else.
"Now. Here. Pirates. And no."
She had nothing against a snack later tonight, but meat would only distract him. Fortunately, Luffy didn't seem to have heard anything after the word 'pirates'.
"Pirates?" he asked, his eyes wide and big.
Robin smiled in triumph. She'd known that a book about pirates could only aid her plan. Especially this pirate. "Yes Captain-san. It's a book about Gol D. Roger."
Luffy burst into a long-drawn-out 'Wooow' before he plopped down beside her and placed the book between them so that both of them could look at the pages. He pointed to several random words.
"What word is that? And that? And that?"
A brief moment Robin wondered what she'd gotten herself into but then she blossomed an arm out of the ground and pointed to the first word on the page while her other two hands took the book in a firm grip so it wouldn't fall down.
"Let's start at the beginning. This letter is a 'T'..."
They kept practicing in the hours of the night, when either of them had watch. Neither were ashamed or particularly secretive about their little sessions, but the night was the only time when Robin could be sure to have Luffy's full attention. The day just bore too many more interesting distractions. Whether it was a game of hide and seek with Usopp and Chopper, or just a funny shaped cloud; once you lost your captain's attention, it was almost impossible to get it back.
Not that Luffy was bored with reading, or bad at it. Robin was actually fairly surprised at how fast he had grasped the concept of pronouncing and connecting letters to form words and sentences.
Just two weeks had passed, and he was already mostly reading on his own, just now and then stumbling over complicated words, looking to Robin for help. It just proved what Robin had known all along: The rubber boy may be acting like an idiot most of the time, but he was anything but stupid.
As Robin leaned back against the railing, warming her hands with the cup of coffee she'd held between them, and listened to Luffy reading stories of Gol D. Rogers adventures to her, she thought about these past two weeks, and how they had changed things for her aboard the Going Merry.
The more time she spent with Luffy, the more she wanted to protect him. There was just something about that smile and innocence in his eyes that warmed her cold heart. She suspected that this was how a big sister must feel towards her little brother, and she wondered whether the others felt the same way towards their captain. It was kind of ironic that their leader evoked such protectiveness, considering the fact that he was the one who was the most determined to protect his Nakama.
But she had, after all, already come to the conclusion that this little family was quite extraordinary if nothing else.
But not only Luffy's and Robin's relationship had changed. Since the start of their reading lessons, the others had begun to act differently around her as well. Whether they knew what the archeologist and their captain were doing at night, or whether they just unconsciously sensed the shift in the relationship between the two of them, Robin didn't know. But instead of mere tolerance, she was suddenly met with warm smiles and cheery good mornings when she entered the galley for breakfast. The swordsman's stares didn't seem quite as untrusting anymore and Sniper-san and Doctor-san were a lot less jumpy around her.
She felt a lot more like a part of the crew, now.
She just didn't know whether that should frighten or please her.
After a few moments, Robin noticed that she wasn't hearing Luffy's voice anymore. She turned her head to see the boy, not reading, but staring at her with an expectant expression on his face.
"And? Was it good?"
She smiled reassuringly. "Yes Captain-san. Your reading comes along quite well."
He giggled like he always did when someone praised him. "Shishishishi thanks. Reading really is kind of fun." He held the book in front of him and regarded it with a look that was full of wonder and excitement. "There were so much things I didn't know about Gol D. Roger. It's so awesome!"
Robin sobered a little bit at those words. She knew that feeling.
Wanting to learn.
Wanting to know.
Wanting the truth.
There had been a lot of things she hadn't known before she met the librarians and became an archeologist at the tender age of eight. And sometimes, in her darkest hours, she wished she'd never come to know the truth because sometimes... sometimes...
"Sometimes knowledge is dangerous." she whispered in a pained and distressed voice, barely more than a breath.
The memories were threatening to overwhelm her, and she clenched her fingers until her nails left little, bloody crescent moons in her palm. The crow's nest was suddenly too small, and she wanted to leave, but she didn't trust her legs to carry her, so she stayed put and tried to breath around the bile that rose in her throat.
Luffy, however, was blissfully unaware ofRobins plight, and fiercely nodded his head.
"I know!" he cried and leaned closer as if he was about to tell her a secret. "Sometimes Nami throws one of her books at me when I bother her too much." He leaned back again and rubbed an imaginary bump on his head, his face screwed up in pain. "That hurts, you know?!"
Robin almost dropped her coffee at that, and felt a bubble of laughter rise in her chest. She stifled it, but there was no hiding the wide smile on her lips.
"Yes, I imagine it does."
All of a sudden she felt strangely at peace, sitting here with her captain under the full moon and talking about flying books and why ill tempered navigators were to be avoided at all cost.
Maybe that's what makes this crew, and this ship, so special, she mused. With a Captain like that, there was no time to mourn past mistakes and losses.
And God knew, she needed the break.
"Why don't you read that last part again, Captain-san?"
Even in the galley you could clearly hear the rain storm going on outside. It was one of the few times that the whole crew – except Zoro, who was outside looking for islands – were in one place without sitting at the table, eating or discussing their route.
Chopper was on the floor, working on some kind of medicine, while Sanji stood at the stove preparing their dinner. Nami read the newspaper with a bored expression on her face while Usopp worked on another of his secret super weapons.
Nico Robin only listened with one ear as their Captain exclaimed (for the umpteenth time, it seemed) that he was bored, and as their navigator absentmindedly told him that, no, he couldn't go outside and fire one of Usopp's fireworks. She was only pulled from the book in front of her when her Captain leaned over her shoulder, just the way he'd done one time three weeks ago, and asked her what she was reading.
Nobody jumped up or pointed shaking disbelieving fingers at their captain, but you would have needed to be blind to miss the sudden stillness in their postures and their slightly widened eyes. They were obviously shocked beyond comprehension that Luffy would even ask about a book, much less attempt to read it.
But Robin wasn't shocked. She knew first hand that Luffy could read, and actually quite enjoyed it.
She was quite pleased, since this was the first time that Luffy had shown any interest in a book during the day, so she passed it to him quickly, and told him that it was called Rainbow Mist and that it was a book about adventures.
His face lit up at the mention of adventures. Robin – and everyone else, still too shocked to move – watched him read the first few pages, before the swordsman came back in with the announcement that he'd seen an island.
Luffy jumped out of his seat with a whoop of joy and bounced out of the galley. The book lay forgotten on the table and Robin pulled it back towards her while the others sagged in their seats with little sweat drops on their foreheads. The archeologist wondered briefly if they had held their breaths the whole time.
"That was strange." Sanji muttered before leaving the galley as well with Usopp and Chopper in tow. Zoro arched an eyebrow before he followed them.
Robin opened the book where she'd stopped reading and realized that she should feel irritation or disappointment with her captain.
But she didn't.
Luffy was not the kind of person who would spend hours alone and entertain himself with only a book. He was someone who needed to feel and experience the adventures first hand. He didn't want to read about them, he wanted to live them.
He would always put reality before fiction.
And Robin accepted that. Had accepted that in fact, before she'd even begun to climb to the crow's nest that first night. Teaching him how to read hadn't been for the purpose of turning him into a bookworm. She'd just wanted to show him something that he didn't know already, and share with him her love for the big old volumes that she always carried with her.
A mission that she'd completed brilliantly, if she allowed herself to say so.
Suddenly there was a shadow over her, and she looked up to see the navigator looking down at her. The girl was smiling, but there was something resigned to it.
"You coming too?"
Robin knew why the girl looked like she already knew the answer to that question. Until now, Robin had always stayed out of their way when it came to new islands or other curiosities they encountered on the Grand Line. She would always stay in her cabin or the galley, reading her book, while the others went out and had fun exploring.
Robin looked down at her book and could almost taste the 'No thank you' on her tongue, but something stopped her. Maybe it was the fact that, after spending so much time with the rubber boy, she wasn't used to be alone anymore.
Or maybe she just realized that, with a crew like this, the reality wasn't too bad, and that she could follow Luffy's example every now and again, and experience life first-hand.
Whatever it was, it made her rise from her seat and follow the surprised girl out into the rain, leaving her book behind in the galley.
And when the water hit her face, and she saw the island up ahead, and her crewmate's excited voices reached her ears, the archeologist Nico Robin smiled and thought that this was almost as good as a book...