A fanfiction by Velkyn Karma

Summary: Nami is shocked to find that no matter how well she thinks she knows her shipmates, they continue to surprise her. A little observation of her crewmates' serious ideals goes a long way in discovering who they are.

Note: Takes place at the very least after the Alabasta arc, but timing doesn't really matter that much I suppose. I have no idea where it came from, other than some thoughts on Sanji and a lot of boredom.

Disclaimer: I do not own, or pretend to own, One Piece or any of its subsequent characters, plots or other ideas. That right belongs solely to Eiichiro Oda. The only thing that belongs to me here is the concept for the story.

Nami is shocked to find that no matter how well she thinks she knows her shipmates, they continue to surprise her. Even more unusual is that Sanji continues to surprise her. Sanji is Sanji, after all; excitable and affectionate, he has always followed her around like a lovesick puppy and probably will continue to for all of time.

Nami doesn't know why she is surprised when he breaks away from this at the port they stopped at to replenish supplies, but somehow it does all the same. Sanji is heading to restock his kitchen, and Nami, to keep an eye on their expenses, follows--or perhaps it is the other way around. He fawns over her, and she ignores it, or uses it to her advantage.

Along the way, she manages to pick up that he is looking forward to another sort of purchase with his personal funds. The island is well known for its tailoring, making world-class clothing that is highly regarded everywhere in the world, and Sanji has been waiting to have a new suit tailored perfectly to his slim frame. It's all about making an impression, and Nami doesn't know if it's to impress her or Robin or someone else entirely. But she does know that Sanji takes impeccable care of his clothing, just like a high-class gourmet chef should, so she can tell he's looking forward to the purchase.

But they don't reach the clothing district; they barely even reach the market place to purchase the ship's food. Sanji is bumped aside by a little boy, and the same boy makes straight for her, or more specifically her bag. She grips it angrily, knowing a theft move when she sees one, and is determined to keep a hold of the purse with their beri and the lunchbox Sanji has made for today.

But the kid isn't put off by the iron grip she has on her bag. He merely tugs at it, more and more incessantly. When she doesn't give it up, he starts to cry, and plead, and tug even harder. "Please!" he says. "Please, you don't understand. I need it more than you. My sister is sick, and my father had to stop work to take care of her. He doesn't have a job now and we don't have money, and we have to eat, and I have to get it for them!"

Nami is disgusted, and wonders how the boy thinks she'll fall for such a lame trick so easily. She has used that same excuse herself on multiple occasions to worm her way into the hearts of the kind and the gullible, and steal their valuables from under their noses. There is no way she'll fall for that trick, even if the kid does look a little skinny. Probably helps with the disguise.

But Sanji is regarding the child very seriously, and frowns as the boy talks, and chews his cigarette thoughtfully. Then he kneels down, so he's eye level with the boy, and silently holds out his small pouch of personal cash.

Nami is shocked, and tries to interject, telling Sanji that he's being an idiot and he should stand right now. But while Sanji normally obeys every command she gives, her words fall on deaf ears now.

Instead, he looks the child in the eye, insistently holds out the pouch, and says, "There's enough in here to buy food for about two weeks. Do you know how to cook?"

"N-no," the boy says shakily. He looks hesitant, but is eyeing the pouch of beri with an almost nervous fervor.

"Alright," Sanji says, and his voice surprisingly patient. "What you should do is use this to buy some beef and root vegetables. That's things like carrots, onions, and potatoes. From what I've seen here, they're the cheapest. Clean them and cut them up into little pieces. Then boil some water in a pot and put your food in. If you have salt, you should add a sprinkle of it--not too much, just a pinch, don't overdo it. You should let it cook for at least two hours before you try eating it so that the meat is okay, but after that it should be fine, and the stew will last for a while. You can make that food stretch into a month if you're careful. It keeps its nutrients in the water, so it'll be very healthy for you and your family. Can you do that?"

"I...I think so," the boy says, hesitantly.

"Repeat it for me," Sanji says, his voice still surprisingly patient, in a tone that Nami doesn't think she's ever really heard from him before.

The boy does, and only then does Sanji release the pouch containing the entirety of his personal money, hard earned from previous adventures. The boy snatches it before it hits the ground, regards Sanji with wide-eyed awe and respect, and then whispers a quiet thank you before disappearing into the crowd.

Nami is shocked, and yells at their idiotic chef for falling for such a ploy. She curses his naivety and asks him how he plans to buy the suit he wanted when he is so easily conned out of his money. Sanji accepts the lecture without argument, as he always does, but when she is finished he does not disappear into the crowd to track the boy down and wrestle back his cash, nor does he apologize to her for his stupidity.

"You really believe it, don't you?" Nami finally says, shaking her head in exasperation.

"There's a desperation," he says in response. "You can always see it in the eyes; sometimes it's visible even before it shows on the rest of the body. It's a desperate willingness to do anything, fight anything, and kill anyone in order to survive. Hunger does that to you."

His explanation is oddly calm, and there is a distant look in his one visible eye, one that makes her think perhaps this is a little more personal than simply cooking for half-starved pirates on the Baratie. She hesitates, not entirely sure what to make of this new Sanji, and says, "You think you saw that?"

"I know I saw that," he says, and strides off towards the closest stall to examine its produce for the ship's stores.

Nami is puzzled by this, and begins to wonder if it really was truth, and not a ploy. She knows that Sanji would never let anyone go hungry, not if he could do even the tiniest thing about it, because he considers it a chef's duty to combat hunger. Even with all his bickering and fighting on the Going Merry with the other crew members, he never hesitates to provide meals and snacks that are both delicious and healthy; and she supposes this would apply to everyone else as well. This is Sanji as well, a more serious side that doesn't often reveal itself, but it is just as much a core part of his being.

Later on, while he is bringing the newly purchased foodstuffs back to the Going Merry to organize in his kitchen before they leave, Nami excuses herself and disappears into the town, searching carefully for exactly the right store. She returns uncharacteristically late, nearly a half hour after the log pose has reset and the crew is ready to leave.

As she scurries towards her cabin to claim her maps and instruments so they can begin, she hesitates only momentarily to shove a carefully bundled package into a fawning Sanji's hands. He is so enthusiastic about the gift it takes a well-aimed smack to bring him back to his senses enough to actually open it. Inside is a full navy-blue suit, in a shade Nami thinks will bring out his complexion nicely although she certainly doesn't tell him that, with a matching silk tie folded carefully on top. It is well tailored--Nami had to guess, but is certain the size is right--made of a very durable material to help it withstand Sanji's regular entry into combat, and matches his beloved dress shoes and weapons both.

Sanji is ecstatic, and thanks her profusely, attempting to throw himself at her in what may possibly be a wild hug, or maybe a little more than that--with Sanji, it is sometimes hard to tell, as Sanji blurs the line between gentleman and lech with with surprising skill. Nami deflects the move neatly, and as she hurries toward her cabin she throws over her shoulder, "Don't be that enthusiastic. I didn't shop at the best place on the island, and it isn't the most expensive material either, so it's not that great."

Sanji probably knows this. He also probably knows that even without shopping in the most expensive locations the gift still cost a pretty penny, and he certainly knows how tight-fisted she is with her beri. So Sanji knows the real worth of the gift, and is probably more excited that she allowed him to see a different side of her than anything else.

But that's okay to Nami, because a little surprise is worth it, and Sanji deserves it after displaying such a personal part of himself today. So she accepts the thanks, listens to Sanji's singsong mellorine absently, and wonders what other surprises her shipmates will have in store for her in the future.

I actually looked up how to choose suits for the entire two sentences describing the gift at the end. Clearly this means I have no life.

I don't think Nami actually knows Sanji's backstory, which partly inspired this piece. She left the Baratie before Sanji's story was explained, and while he would probably tell her the entire thing if she asked, I doubt she would casually. So I'm not entirely sure if she knows his starvation story, but for the purpose of this fic, she doesn't.

If you review, kindly leave something of substance--constructive criticism is very helpful!