TITLE: Prank Warfare
SUMMARY: Prank warfare. Luffy, Usopp and Chopper vs. Robin and (unwittingly) Nami. Crack... angst. *genre fail*
DISCLAIMER: Not mine, no profit, yadda, yadda, yadda.
NOTES: This is set immediately after Robin joins the crew, so they're just learning about her and getting to know her. Originally from an op_fanforall prompt.
"Shh!" Chopper is giggling, and Luffy's face is a mass of grin behind his raised finger, and Usopp is the only one with the intelligence and forethought to realise that they are all going to die.
Robin sinks down into the deckchair, all her attention on the book in her hand. As it takes her weight, the loosened screw gives, the chair jerks underneath her. Usopp closes his eyes before he hears the impact, but then... he doesn't hear it. Only a sulky whine from Luffy. He dares look again and sees the chair has moved all of an inch and rests now upon two pairs of hands sprouting up from the deck.
A fifth hand appears and plucks up the screw, waving it unfailingly in the direction of their hiding place. "Sharpshooter-san, perhaps you could be so good as to lend your skills?" she says, not looking up from her book.
Usopp stumbles out of hiding stuttering his apologies and "of course"s, aware of Luffy behind him, scowling and unrepentant, and Chopper not-so-behind him, clinging to the back of a knee.
"That's cheating," the captain says darkly to Robin as Usopp squats down to fix the chair. He... sort of shuffles past, hampered by Chopper, in what's likely meant as a sulkily stomped exit.
Her eyes still don't leave her book. "Be careful, Captain-san. Somebody could get hurt playing these sorts of pranks."
It's obviously a challenge. Or so Luffy argues later. It's Luffy's fault, anyway. The whole thing. Well, it's certainly not Usopp's fault. Putting aside that Luffy would have neither the thought nor dexterity to unscrew just the right joint on the chair to make it collapse, nor Chopper the daring.
Nami gets involved because even if she does realise the next one wasn't meant for her, she certainly doesn't draw any distinction. Which is unfortunate, because while only one of these women is a former assassin, they would rather face Robin's wrath than Nami's any day.
But how were they to know the dye would barely show up in Robin's hair, but would turn Nami's the colour of sludge?
It's fortunate that she gets to Luffy first, which gives the two of them who aren't made of rubber the chance to flee up to the top of the crow's nest, where they set in for a lengthy siege - with missiles laid out and prepared for their defence - while Nami kicks Luffy about the deck so much that Zoro has to step in. Then Sanji steps into Zoro and those two start to fight, and it's Robin with her ever-so-slightly greeny-blue tinged hair who has to save Luffy a second time.
Luffy mumbles "Sorry, Nami..." around all the lumps she's made of his face and starts crawling off.
Nami stands underneath the mast and shrieks up at them. "The two of you get down here, right now!"
"You'll kill us!" Chopper squeals. Usopp kicks him and slaps a hand across his mouth.
"What he means is," he amends, deepening his voice for maximum sincerity, "It wasn't us! Nothing to do with us at all."
"LUFFY CAN'T MIX CHEMICALS, YOU LIAR!" Nami almost topples them from the mast with the blast of her voice.
"We didn't know what he wanted it for!" Usopp tries desperately.
"LUFFY COULDN'T PLAN A TRICK IF HIS LIFE DEPENDED ON IT!" she returns.
Behind Nami, he sees the covert movement of Robin's actual hands, fingers sketching out a II, then pointing inward toward her chest.
They can't argue the point, really.
"We need something better," Luffy says, as they huddle together in the dark of the hold. Nami's still on the warpath, even days later, but it only means the stakes of the challenge have increased. "And nothing to do with hair. Girls are too scary when it comes to hair."
On this, they are unanimous.
"If she can't know it's a trick," Chopper says, "Nami can't try to kill us again."
They ponder for a while. Chopper refuses to abuse his medical skills in the pursuit of inflicting any nasty 'allergic rashes'. They ponder a while longer. When the idea finally presents itself, it is of the utmost simplicity and genius. Luffy cackles and buries his face in one knee, beating the other with his fist. Chopper shakes in advance terror. Usopp, of course, has had nothing to do with the genesis of this idea, disapproves of it entirely, and tries to talk them out of it every step of the way.
Two days later, Nami is seen to make a shrieking exit from the girl's cabin clad in not a stitch. She dances around from invisible bugs still nipping at her bare feet and rakes her hands through her hair and across her skin, occasionally dislodging the very few real bugs that happen to have got that far. Robin appears at a more leisurely pace a few seconds later, dressed in a robe, brushing the beetles off. She hands a second robe to Nami after shaking it thoroughly.
"DAMMIT, YOU SLACKERS, WE NEED TO CLEAN THIS SHIP FROM TOP TO BOTTOM... AND SOMEONE FUMIGATE THAT CABIN!" yells Nami, at those who are paying attention to anything beyond the furious bouncing of her breasts, robe flopping illustratively in her hand.
Luffy still gets slapped beyond recognition for staring (and for laughing so hard he accidentally swallowed his lips). The only reason Sanji escapes the same treatment is because the ship's resident lech already jumped into the sea the minute the bugs appeared. It takes three hours to coax him into coming back aboard.
While he's sure Nami isn't looking and Robin is, Usopp displays one finger, then taps it to his own chest.
Not because he really had anything to do with it, he wants that to be fully understood. He only does it because Nami's already convinced it's all three of them, Chopper doesn't have fingers, and Luffy would be bound to screw it up and get them all busted.
Prank number four, then, and they've already decided the way to go. It's just a matter of how long it takes to get Chopper to cave in on itching as he wouldn't on rashes. Itching is a classic, after all, and though there's some trepidation because a girl's clothes don't come far behind her hair, at least they can be sure to target only Robin via her clothes. Revenge on Nami is satisfied and she comfortingly unknowing; therefore the original intent of the contest is resumed and, if at all possible, they'd really rather avoid invoking the wrath of the beast again.
Sanji may never forgive them, which seems decidedly unfair after they've provided one of the happiest moments of his love-sick love-cook life.
After her previous non-reactions, they didn't exactly bargain on Robin dashing across the deck frenetically scratching herself from multiple hands sprouted out of her torso and leaping into the sea. Of course, it's necessary someone jump in and retrieve her - and almost drown her again when Sanji resurfaces with her secure in his grasp only to get an eyeful of what he already got a handful of. The transparent state of her drenched and clinging shirt sends a fountain of blood from his nose.
Sanji's faster than Nami, and therefore harder to run from. This, they make a mental note of for next time, as he kicks all three of them about the deck.
Robin's narrow-eyed, dripping glare is a declaration of war. Usopp's hand is slightly unsteady as he holds up two fingers in a victory 'V', while Sanji tries to hammer Luffy and Chopper into the cracks between the boards of the deck.
"--The hell are you morons playing at lately?" Sanji growls, finally giving up. "Picking on Robin-chwan! On Nami-swan!" The thought prompts a last furious stamp. Then he stalks off, maybe to pick bits of Luffy out of his shoes. Chopper in guard point rolls across the deck like a tumbleweed, then pops back to normal with his head covered in egg-sized lumps. Luffy groans and his body slowly regains its shape as he picks himself up.
"Sanji's right," Nami says. "What is with you guys recently? And Robin... you're not doing anything to encourage this, are you?"
She stares suspiciously at Robin, clad now in a towel that Zoro offered disinterestedly while Sanji was still kicking the miscreants around. Her look of wounded innocence would make any liar proud.
"Yeah, you guys." Usopp tuts and shakes his head... and a hand grows from his neck and grabs his nose before he can say anything further.
"Now, Longnose-kun. We know you had a part in this."
They won't listen to him no matter how much he protests that he's innocent.
It's the last one, the tie-break, and they all know that it has to be big. Sanji may very well kill them next time, and it would be a terrible tragedy should they depart the world for anything short of glory.
When they decide what they're going to do, however, they know they were wrong - Sanji won't kill them. Nami will.
Even though the Merry is technically Usopp's ship.
It's insane, and they'll die, but this comprehensively fails to darken the mood or stop the periodic outbreaks of giggles as they prepare to put the Great Plan into action. Their next stop is on a tiny island mostly covered by a large, bustling town and inevitably there are things everyone wants to do while they're there. It's perfect. Nami looks a bit suspicious when Luffy offers to stay and guard the ship, but Zoro's off to get a scabbard fixed and she's not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. Chopper and Usopp leave before the rest, then double back to hide and watch everyone else depart.
Luffy stays behind on the docks to run interference if anyone should come back early, and once Merry is safely tucked in a hidden cove on the other side of the island, Chopper and Usopp sprint back through the streets of the town. Chopper's nose finds Zoro, Sanji and Nami on the way, whereupon Usopp delivers a breathless tale of Luffy's terrible capture by the marines and desperate need of rescue.
Distraction duly achieved, they return to the docks, snickering madly at their own audacity. Luffy is snoring and bloated behind a crate that clearly no longer contains any sort of food product. They prod him awake and wait for Robin's return.
It's something of an anticlimax.
She stands with a book under her arm, frowning at the space where the Going Merry isn't. She speaks to a dock employee who shrugs and waves his arms in unmistakeable 'gone' gestures. Then, with no other visible reaction, she sits down on a crate. Their muffled giggles are reduced to fits and starts, and gradually dry out entirely.
"It didn't work!" Usopp hisses, aghast. They sit and figet in frustration. Robin... has more patience than any of them, and they know this, and if she waits long enough, then Sanji, Nami and Zoro will come back. They've just embraced their inevitable demise for nothing. "Dammit, why didn't it work?!" Is she made of stone?
"I don't like it," Luffy says. Unexpectedly, his face has grown serious.
"Me, either," Chopper sulks. "She's not reacting at all. I thought she liked us, but she doesn't care if we left her. It's no fun..." He trails off and looks suddenly doubtful.
"No." The captain stands up, ignoring the frantic hisses to get back into hiding. "It's no fun. This trick was mean."
"But we'd never really leave Robin behind," Usopp protests, scrabbling at the end of Luffy's shirt, trying to drag him back down and instead being dragged along when he starts walking. "She knows that!"
"What if she doesn't?" Luffy's eyes are shaded and he doesn't turn his head.
"I'd care if you left me behind! I'd care... a lot." Abruptly, Chopper is out of cover too and dashing ahead of them both, tugging at Robin's skirts. "Robin!"
She turns and, momentarily unguarded, it's possible to see a moist sheen glittering on the surface of her veiled blue eyes. Belatedly, Usopp remembers that Robin is very, very good at lying, too.
Though her eyes dry within the space of a blink, they all see through this lie now. "Then you didn't leave, after all." There's no inflection of relief and little of accusation in the words, and her face is mild and unreadable as ever once more as she rises to her feet.
Chopper squeals and hugs her ankle. "We didn't leave! It was just a prank!"
Luffy folds to his knees and bows his head to her. "We'd never leave you behind, Robin. It was a bad trick, and we're sorry."
Usopp hangs back and doesn't quite know what to say, doubly a failure when he's supposed to be the one that's good with words. "I-it wasn't me! But I'm s-sorry too!"
She says, "Oh." Her hand descends; touches the crown of Luffy's head, stirring his black locks. She slowly sits back upon the crates, and leans down to touch Chopper likewise. Then her mouth stretches in a broad smile. "That was a very good trick, this time. I suppose that means you win."
"No," their three voices speak in unison. Then Luffy and Usopp say, "Nobody won," and then Usopp says, "No more pranks." Luffy turns his head and looks up in askance, and then echoes the decision.
"But I--" Robin begins, her face falling strangely. She doesn't get to finish.
Because Sanji, Nami and Zoro are charging onto the scene; there's a foot buried in Usopp's gut, Chopper's getting the closest and scariest haircut of his little reindeer life, and dear God what Nami's just done to Luffy with the clima-tact-- "YOU! You tricked us, you lied to us, you - you - you MOVED THE SHIP?!!!" Once her eyes pop back into place after spying the empty dock, she sprouts a demonlike visage and a voice that harks from the very depths of hell itself. "DAMMIT LUFFY... USOPP!"
Robin's hands stop the offending foot, sword and staff mid-descent. "I'm sure the ship is safe, Navigator-san. It was simply a prank. A mere prank. And I did encourage them, it's true. You were right." Her normal mellow amusement washes over them all with the sound of her gentle laughter.
But then, Usopp realises, there's always been something a little false and strained in that laughter of hers, too... if you're liar enough to see it.
So nobody really talks to them for most of the next two days - including Robin herself, whose mood takes a more reclusive and introverted turn even than usual.
Then, well, the prank war is over and things are returning to normal, but... normal has changed. Whenever they see an opening to do so, Luffy and Chopper assail Robin with hugs and a dozen other small gestures they didn't use before. A crack in her facade has been detected, leaving such things possible. Still, for Usopp, less prone to random invasions of people's personal space, something doesn't yet feel right.
A few days later, he figures out what it is.
He sneaks into the girls' cabin, risking death or mutilation once again to leave his own peace offering on Robin's pillow.
The fake spider won't scare her -- wouldn't even if it was real. That's not the point, this time. He understands what the pranks meant, and he'll let the spider be the last. There are other ways to show that they accept her among them, with no fear, no mistrust -- and after this, he intends to use them.
It's Robin herself catches him as he's leaving. While arms pin him in the doorway, she looks past him, and her lips curl into a smile. The restraining hold disappears.
"Did you really expect any of us to believe you weren't the ringleader, Longnose-kun?" she says, and that smile slowly transforms into an amusement that genuinely touches her eyes.
Usopp stammers his usual protest as he flees.