AN: Set post-Impel Down and the Whitebeard War. Some (minor) details have been revised to match the current storyline; it was originally written long before 3D2Y, so if there are still some irregularities, that's why.
Disclaimer: One Piece belongs to Eiichiro Oda.
by Miss Mungoe
She found him an hour past midnight, after discovering that he'd traded Chopper's turn on watch despite the fact that he'd already covered five shifts in the last two weeks. But Chopper hadn't been counting – not the way Nami had.
And so she found him at the head of the ship, a lone figure against the dark horizon, watching the waves push lazily against the hull. He wasn't lounging on the deck like he'd so often used to do – wasn't perched so far out on the figurehead she'd worry he'd accidentally fall overboard without anyone noticing. He simply stood, silent and watching, keeping vigil for them all in a solitude that would have choked him two years ago. It was everything he'd never been, yet it had become such a familiar sight it physically tore at her heart, this anomaly-turned-reality that would have been unimaginable a scant few years ago.
On nights like this she kept vigil with him, a lone shadow by the wall of the galley, heart heavy with grief for her captain. It had become a routine of sorts – a habitual cycle of waiting and watching, forever teetering between action and inaction. Of doing everything and nothing at all.
He was aware of her presence but had yet to acknowledge it – another anomaly, and one that rested between them like a physical weight because Luffy had never been one for avoidance. But there were no bright smiles for her on nights like this, the same way there was no boisterous laughter or an excited voice beckoning her closer, asking her to sit on the figurehead to watch the stars with him. In their place there was only silence, heavy and laden, and an ever-growing chasm she'd begun to fear she'd ever be able to breach.
She'd long known a desperate longing for the Unattainable, the gouged-out hole in her heart that she's tried to fill her whole life, coveting money she doesn't have, the company of her late mother and at one point more than anything, her freedom. But in a world of desirable treasures she'd never known a want as desperate as having him turn around to flash her a smile. Like greed slithering along her veins straight to her covetous heart, she wanted him to give like he'd always given. And she wanted to take and take and hoard it close; to draw from his strength, a pillar of hope in a tempestuous sea. He'd been a lifeline for all of them for so long, reeling them in when they strayed too far in their doubts, and pushing them to their feet when they were ready to give up.
Now he was the one lost at sea, and all she could do was keep watch from a distance, her fears rooting her in place like an anchor. The old Luffy she would have known how to handle, but that was not the Luffy standing before her now. The War had changed him – turned him inside-out and left scars more than just skin-deep, evident in the way he carried himself, even alone on the deck, back ramrod straight with his arms crossed over his chest. There was no impatient fidgeting, no eager glances as he strained his neck to look for islands on the horizon. That Luffy still existed – there was no doubt in her mind about that. He joked around during the day with the others, he pissed her off on an hourly basis, he was at Sanji's heels for food and Brook's elbow for a new song without a pause between. During the day there was little trace of any changes at all, except for those who know where to look. She'd known within five minutes of their reunion.
And the fist-sized lump at the bottom of her stomach hadn't left her since.
Finding him on deck that first night had only strengthened her concerns; it hadn't been his turn to sit watch then, either, and she'd known because it had been hers. And the Luffy she'd found then was the same as the one before her now, calm and resolute to a degree that was neither logical nor possible for a man physically unable to sit still. His gaze never strayed from the dark waters before him, as though willing the depths to swallow him up, and there was the reason she couldn't sleep at night; the real reason for her silent vigil. The irrefutable fear of waking one day to find him gone.
The notion was nothing short of ridiculous, she reminded herself of that fact often enough, but there have been times her fears have overtaken her rationality. She's observed him during the day, seen the flickers of grief quickly concealed with a practice she's more than familiar with because she's spent her entire life doing the same. And it had awakened a notion in her mind that one day, the pain would just be too much to handle. She'd walked the path of guilt long enough to spot the signs, and it was what awaited at the end that scared her. Two years ago she would have laughed at the very idea that Luffy would ever succumb to the same despair that had nearly been her undoing, but the man before her now was not the boy she'd been separated from all those moths ago, whose innocence had been both his weapon and his shield. That boy had died with his brother, leaving a man Nami didn't recognize. And through the cover of his ever-cheerful attitude, there were shadows that hadn't been there before.
Her hands twitched against her sides as she watched, contemplating the possibility of stepping forward, of breaking the cycle, so that…so that...
She sighed. What did she think was going to happen? She couldn't even answer her own question. Anything. A reaction – anyreaction. She fingered the hem of her shirt, turning the possibilities over in her mind like coins to be counted.
Their reunion was two weeks behind them, but she had yet to get used to Luffy's lapses in attitude. She'd seen glimpses of him in their captain before – quick, like flashes of lightning on a cloudless day, visible in the subtle change in his demeanour in battle or a surprisingly wise remark during a time of great difficulty. She'd seen him before, this other side of Monkey D. Luffy, but now, in the heavy blanket of night, it looked to have completely overtaken him. And in the steady lap of waves against the ship, the ever-cheerful and reckless boy that had dragged her along on the craziest of adventures so long ago seemed like a figment of her imagination. A wraith that still clung to his shoulders; the ghost of a fond memory slipping through the cracks on good days. The boy he'd used to be in the man he'd become.
He sighed then, and she watched his shoulder sag with the weight of responsibilities that hadn't been there before, either. Eight lives that weighed the world in the wake of his bereavement, but that he wasn't willing to let them help shoulder.
Like hell, the thought struck her suddenly, and so her choice was made. Nami bit the inside of her cheek, teetering in her indecisiveness for only a moment longer before she pushed herself off the edge, and for the first time in two weeks, of nights spent keeping watch from afar, she threw caution to the wind.
Pushing away from the wall of the galley, she made her way towards the head of the ship, bare feet padding silently across the lawn deck. They'd dropped anchor in the outer-vicinity of a winter island, and the night chill was biting against her bare skin. But a little cold weather had never defeated her before, and so she ignored the numbness in her toes and set the full force of her attention on the figure before her, willing her decision to be the right one.
She came to a stop a short pace away, and with a patience few would have thought she even possessed, she waited for him to acknowledge her presence. She forced her trembling hands to still in their fidgeting – she'd never been nervous around him in the past, and she wasn't going to start now. Damn it all to the depths of Davy Jones locker, but she wasn't.
Having heard her approach, he inclined his head, and the eyes meeting hers were a gentle tumult of carefully repressed emotions, but she caught the flicker of curiosity. She'd never been one to push matters, and he'd probably counted on that. "Nami."
Her gaze swept across his face, taking in his features, and she marvelled that he could still look so young and yet not. There was the boyish arch to his expressive brows, and the tiny scar beneath his eye. His hair still looked like he'd just rolled out of bed, and the slight upturn of his nose was still too cute to be anything but. There was none of Zoro's gruffness or the facial hair the other boys seemed to have taken a liking to, and yet the look in his eyes was that of a much older man.
Her eyes left his face as her gaze came to rest of the violent scar marring his front, a scar he seemed to flaunt where most would have covered up. A visual and tangible reminder of the path they'd all chosen to walk – the path of the Corrupt and Unjust. She thought about a freckled face and hands that were warmer than most and the blood that had marked him irredeemable in the eyes of Justice.
Luffy took note of the direction of her gaze, and turned his attention back to the dark sea. His voice was strangely weary when he spoke, "Why aren't you sleeping?"
She startled at the raw quality of his voice, such a stark contrast to his high-pitched, laughing lilt, but she made no move to leave, and held her ground stubbornly, eyes resolutely on his rigid back. His hat hung around his neck, the straw almost dull against the vibrant colour of his shirt. The fact that he still dressed the same was an odd comfort.
"Why aren't you?" she countered after a lull, her voice steady despite the fact that she was shaking like a leaf.
He didn't reply immediately, and the silence lengthened to the point where it became distinctly uncomfortable. Nami drew a deep breath and considered her options. Turning back was out of the question now that she'd finally broken the cycle, but his cold rejection had put her at a loss of how to proceed.
"Luffy–" she began, and promptly stopped, the words dying on her tongue before she could speak them. Nothing seemed sufficient, everything too excessive, and it irked her that her silver tongue was useless when she actually needed it. For his part, Luffy made no further move to acknowledge her attempt at speaking to him, but the whitening of his knuckles as he clutched at his arms was far from lost on her, and before she could stop herself – or before her insecurities could reason her into submission – her body made the decision for her. But hell, if she was going to throw caution to the wind, she might as well do it properly.
He stiffened when her arms came to wrap around his waist, locking securely at his front and leaving no room for him to wiggle away. Her fingers brushed against the roughened scar tissue lacerating his stomach, but she ignored the morbid sensation, focusing instead on the familiar scent of sweat and straw and the spices with which Sanji seasoned his meat. The fact that he still smelled the same was another strange comfort, and it drove the thought home that it was still Luffy and that their captain was with them, grief in his heart and scars on his body, but with them regardless.
The awkward lull that followed at the heels of her decidedly out-of-character display of affection felt like the longest of her life, and the thought struck her that perhaps she should have chosen a smoother transition from watching from a distance to all but attaching herself to his person. It was daring, even for her, and more so the man in question taken into consideration. He wasn't Sanji, who'd have welcomed the gesture with open arms. But he wasn't Zoro, either, who'd have thrown her overboard for even trying. And to her immense relief, he made no move to push her way. At the same time he remained completely rigid in her arms, as though unsure of the appropriate course of action.
It made her smile, glad she wasn't the only one completely out of her own element. The coarse straw of his hat chafed against her skin, and she moved her head, laying her cheek flat against one of his shoulder-blades as she breathed in through her nose. Her following exhalation seemed to allow him to relax, and she tightened her hold a fraction, as to assure him she wasn't about to let go. And when his hands came to rest tentatively over hers, hope rekindled within her, flaring to life and curling along the pit of her stomach, effectively loosening the knot that had taken shape there.
The syllables of her name rumbled in his chest; a comforting sound that sent her traitorous heart leaping against her ribcage. There was no whine in his voice when he spoke – the childlike glee replaced by a more serious tone. It wasn't him, and yet it was. The boy and the man and the pirate captain and the little brother.
His hands closed around hers then, pulling them away, and she knew she'd overstepped the tentative line between too little and too much. Closing her eyes, an apology rested at the tip of her tongue, ready to excuse her behaviour–
–only to have him pull her against him, catching her completely off guard and effectively quieting any apologies she'd been ready to make. And before she had chance to gather her thoughts his arms were around her shoulders, strong and steady and all but crushing her to him with a childlike desperation that contradicted everything she had learned and re-learned about him. The palm of his hand lay flat between her shoulder-blades, warm through the thin fabric of her shirt, and it seemed like such a decisive gesture she wondered for a moment who he was really embracing. But for all her bewilderment, she slid her arms under his in return, pulling him close as she tucked her head into the crook of his neck.
He didn't speak, but she wasn't about to demand anything else from him. She'd offered her support – that he had chosen to take her up on it instead of pushing her away was more than she'd hoped. She wouldn't bother him with needless words, not unless he asked for them himself.
"I failed," he said then, his voice a rasp against her hair but the force behind them a physical blow. A familiar blow that sent an unpleasant shiver of recognition down her spine, because if anyone could relate to what he was feeling, it was her. His grief had been her own for years; the cold and unforgiving hands of guilt and remorse wrapped around the roots of her heart, an unrelenting reminder of how she'd failed the people she cared about. Her mother, her sister, Gen-san, her village and her own crew.
She knew the feeling like an old friend, and she knew she would never allow him to succumb to it like she had, poisoning himself until all that was left one day was a bitter, empty shell of the man he'd used to be. The exuberant man who would become the Pirate King. She would not let him become the wraith she had once been. If he thought that, he had another thing coming.
"Don't be an idiot," she snapped, her words intentionally cutting and leaving no room for rebuttal. "You went through hell. You risked your life. You didn't–"
His voice cut her off mid-sentence, and she snapped her mouth shut, suddenly mellow where his backtalk should have earned him a pair of boxed ears. But she hadn't sought to let him wallow in silence; the entire purpose of reaching out had been to dig up the feelings he'd shoved away somewhere in the two years he'd spent away from them all.
"Ace," he began then, drawing a sharp breath, "Aceshould be alive, not me. He always had to be the protector, even when we were kids, I was always–" he cut himself off, but she heard the words he couldn't say as clear as if he'd spoken them aloud.
Always the weak one, they rang loud in the silence between them, these younger siblings with their common ghosts. But just like she knew the words, she knew he'd never voice them out loud. His confidence had so long been his driving force; his weapon and his shield along with his innocence. But from the few images she'd seen of the execution and the following battle, even a man of Luffy's fortitude would be hard-pressed to brush himself off and move on. Holding your brother as he bled to death in your arms after a fatal assault meant for you...it wasn't a defeat you just walked away from.
Her thoughts drifted to another time and another childhood, and a girl who took more than her fair share of punishment for the little sister who couldn't keep her thieving hands to herself. A girl who'd never failed to remind the world of her seniority, that she was the eldest and that therefore, the duty of protection was hers by default.
"It's his job, you know," she said then, but her words weren't meant to comfort. It was a simple statement of fact from a kindred spirit who'd endured the same pain, and who wasn't going to sugarcoat the truth. He squirmed against her, no doubt realizing that what she was about to say wasn't going to be pleasant.
But Nami could give a rat's ass about pleasant, and Luffy needed to hear what she had to say. "He was – is – your older brother. It's his job to protect you, whether you like it or not," she declared, her signature boldness taking hold of her as she spoke. "You might hate it, and you might hate him for doing it, but none of those things would have changed how he felt about it, and when it all came down to it, he would have made the same choices regardless of how you felt. He'd still have taken that hit for you, because it's his job to protect you. That's what older siblings do."
An image flashed before her mind's eye, of a head of vibrant blue hair and dark skin covered with an excessive amount of tattoos – a ridiculous token by a girl who'd only wanted to make her baby sister happy. She'd long lost count of the many times Nojiko has taken hits meant for her – physical and verbal alike – but no matter how many times she'd screamed at her sister to let her handle things for once she's a big girl and this is her choice and her sacrifice to make and why won't they just see that, Nojiko would just smile at her with that knowing grin, as though saying, 'You'll get your chance, baby sister. One day, when my job is done and you're strong enough to stand on your own two feet in this world.'
The memory of her sister triggered another one, of another older sibling, male, but with the same ludicrously excessive amount of tattoos, and wearing the exact same grin carefully balancing the border between fond and playfully patronizing.
"A kid brother like you makes a big brother worry..."
"...Take care of him for me, okay?"
"You were everything to him," she continued, confidence guiding her voice and her words. "And he would have given the world just to see you get safely away from that place, so don't you dare say you've failed. You're alive, even after everything you've gone through, and you can bet all our bounties that's all he ever wanted."
She could feel a protest coming but interrupted him, "Luffy," she snapped, because she needed to tell him this – needed to make him understand, to make him see what had taken her years to realize. Years she wouldn't get back, but that he didn't have to lose. "Ispent my childhood trying to carry a burden that was too large for my shoulders because I wanted to protect the people I loved. I despised you all for butting in back then, when all I was trying to do was keep you safe," she drove on, memories from her years in Arlong Park clinging to her voice like ghosts, turning her words bitter and sharp. "I'd gladly have given my life for any of them – for any of you – but sometimes…" she sighed, and the sound fell heavy like a conviction in the space between them. "Sometimes you have to accept that there are people who'd give their lives for you, too."
She got no immediate verbal response, but the arms around her slackened, and for a breath she was certain the moment was lost – that she truly had gone too far too quickly. But just as she'd been about to prepare herself to pull away, he surprised her again by resting his hands on her shoulders, holding her at arms length instead of pushing her away. And when she raised her gaze to his there was an intensity in his eyes that made her feel like he was seizing her up; an opponent in battle rather than a friend on the deck of his ship. Only there was no open hostility in his look, but a wary curiosity.
And spurred by some force beyond her control, her body acted where her common sense hesitated.
She moved before he had a chance to react, and with the swiftness of a master pickpocket she stepped towards him, closing the gap and rising to the tips of her numb toes in one fluid motion, and the distinct widening of his eyes was the last thing she saw before her own slipped shut, and she pressed her mouth firmly against his.
Then she was kissing her captain, and caution had, she was certain, been thrown quite thoroughly to the wind.
She'd caught him by surprise – that much was obvious from the yelp that escaped him, and she half expected him to violently push her away and yell 'Gross, Nami!' or something of the like. It was a pleasant surprise then when his rigid posture relaxed against hers, shoulders sagging as he gave in to a coaxing mouth that could do more than just bandy silver words, and she felt triumph blossom in her chest as his hands reached up to tentatively cradle her jaw. And then he was kissing her back with the fervour with which he did everything, throwing himself in head-first-and-grinning-wickedly and she nearly lost her footing in surprise at his sudden and vigorous response. He titled his head downwards and shifted his grip, but the hand between her shoulders now was deliberate for an entirely different reason, and she grinned against his mouth, hooking an arm around his neck for support.
It was inexperienced and fumbling but there was nothing tentative about it now, and she was reminded that here was a man who thought on his feet more often than not, and who adapted with an ease she'd always secretly envied. When they pulled away, noses inches apart and breaths intermingling in the cold air she couldn't keep the grin off her face, a cat-that-ate-the-canary stretch of the lips that she hadn't felt like in months. He'd once dubbed it her treasure-grin, but it was his now, too, and to be honest she couldn't care less about One Piece if she could have this – a part of Monkey D. Luffy more private even, than the rare privilege of occasionally wearing his hat.
And then he smiled back, a faint quirk of the lips but one that reached all the way to his dark eyes, and she triumphed because she could see the night's ghosts had fled his mind, chased like wraiths by a conviction he'd long ago taught her to feel. A brief moment of respite brought on by a choice not made lightly, but a choice she wouldn't regret for all the coins in the world combined. For once, she'd been the one to not second guess – to throw herself in head-first-and-grinning-wickedly, gambling everything on the possibility of nothing. She had no idea where to go from here, the path from friends to nakama to something else entirely, but her resolve was a-flutter in her chest like a living thing, and she couldn't have made herself regret her choice if she'd wanted to.
He looked at her then – really looked, like he was seeing her for the first time. And the vanity that had demanded a similar appraisal after their two-year separation but received none curled up like a pleased cat as he watched her now, taking no note of the hair she'd grown out or the curves she'd become less shy about flaunting, but seeing her regardless, at once blind and devastatingly perceptive. The captain and the little brother; the boy falling from the sky and the man who'd risen out of the ashes of War. The man who would become the Pirate King.
"You're the strongest person I know, Monkey D. Luffy – the strongest person we allknow," she spoke then, seeming to startle him from wherever his mind had gone. "And don't ever let anyone convince you otherwise." Unhooking her arm from around his neck, she let her hand find his where it still held her cheek, curling her fingers around his.
"But even the strongest need someone to protect themonce in awhile."
She let the words hang between them, watching as a series of emotions danced across his face. After a moment of inner struggle, he seemed to settle on some form of resignation.
He exhaled deeply, "Yeah. Just...this wasn't s'posed to happen, Nami. What if something like this happens in the future? What if I can't protect you?"
She knew he meant the crew as a whole, because there was no such thing as a hierarchy of importance for a man like him, but the selfish thought of it meaning her alone made her shiver. Her hand slipped from his, and she tilted her head slightly, before giving his lips a peck. It was such a small gesture, but it conveyed more than she could hope to with words. And actions had always trumped excessive talking when it came to Luffy, and if that was the way to remind him of their presence and unconditional support Nami would make sure they all hug-tackled him every few days just to pound the notion into his skull until it stuck.
But more to reassure herself, she who was a woman of silver words, she let slip the truth they all carried with them every day – their own personal cross, as condemning as the jolly roger that marked them what they were. "A lot of things won't turn out the way we want them to, you know. Not on this ocean. We're pirates. We're lucky if we get out of this adventure unharmed, let alone alive."
He opened his mouth to protest, and though she was glad his confidence in their abilities was making itself known, the hands of a master cut-purse were quicker than his tongue, and before he could get the words out her hand was on his mouth, and she silenced him with an imploring look. "If we're going down," she continued, shuddering inwardly at the morbidity of it all, "If we're going down, we're going to put up one hell of a fight. You fought with all you had for your brother, just like I know you'll fight with all you have for any one of us. But Luffy–" she emphasised, willing him to understand. "Promise me you'll let us fight for you, too. Stop trying to shoulder this all on your own. It's stupid and unnecessary, when you've got one of the most loyal crews on the Grand Line at your back." She raised a brow to underline her point, and as if to dare him to contradict her claim.
He didn't give her an immediate answer to her request. In fact, he didn't say anything at all, just pulled her against him again to bury his face in her neck. She wrapped her arms around him in turn, but didn't say anything else. Had it been anyone else, she might have demanded a verbal reply to her show of skilful eloquence, but this was Luffy, and his actions had always spoken volumes louder than his words.
His arms tightened around her. "Thanks."
She nodded wordlessly, pulling back from the embrace, her hands seeking his like a refuge. "Come on," she said with a wry smile, tugging at his hands as she started towards the galley. At his confused look, her smile turned devious. "I know where Sanji hides the key to the fridge."
The grin that stretched wide across his face sent her heart into another wild rampage against her ribs, and she grinned back, giving his hand another tug. His slack fingers curled around hers lazily, and he followed her silently across the lawn deck. The Sunny bobbed gently on the surface of the water, the stillness of the night interrupted only by the muffled thump-thump of their feet against the deck and the soft lap of waves against the hull.
She knew he'd never be the same. She wasn't going to kid herself believing that anymore than she was going to think the New World would be a cakewalk. The two years had changed them all in different ways; the were the same, and they were not. It was an inevitability that had finally caught up with them, in their time spent apart. The world demanded sacrifice for their voyage forward, and they'd all paid their dues. There was no room for innocence in the New World. She'd known this – they all had, but she doubted any of them would ever experience the injustice of the world as thoroughly as their captain. Luffy had felt the corrupted touch of War, been branded by it, and she'd be a fool if she were to think he'd magically revert back to his old self in the aftermath.
But, she thought as she took in the expression on his face; weary but resolute – maybe this change was necessary. He was still Luffy, beneath all the scars. An idiot and incurable troublemaker, defiant to the marrow of his bones and fierce in his determination to change the world. It wasn't just about One Piece anymore, but then it never really had been. Not entirely. And that thought calmed her, somewhat.
He opened the door to the galley for her, and the warmth from inside beckoned her forward. She longed for a pair of warm socks. Or a fire, she thought, curling her numb toes against the cold floor of the deck. But just as she'd been about to step inside, she caught sight of a shadowed shape out of the corner of her eye, perched on the railing to her left. She frowned, and was about to turn her head to check if it wasn't Zoro sleepwalking again when a warmth like no other enveloped her, heating her up from her core to the very tips of her numb fingers and toes, and her breath lodged in her throat like a rock because she recognized the presence–
Her heart somersaulted into her chest at the echo in the night – or her head? It was impossible to say for certain, but she knew she'd heard it. The words had been loud and clear, the voice achingly familiar; smooth and just a twinge sardonic – a soft breeze rustling the branches of her mikan grove–
–and just like that it was gone, and the chill hit her like a weight, rooting her in place and sucking the air from her lungs. She was faintly aware of Luffy asking her if she was alright, but his voice seemed far away, and she was too preoccupied to make sense of what was happening. The memory was already slipping – a whisper at the edge of her subconscious, the ghost of a dream in the first moments of waking. But she knew it hadn't been just a trick of her mind.
It would appear she hadn't been the only one keeping vigil from the shadows.
"No," she said then, resolute, because disagreeing was, after all, amongst her finer traits. A smile tugged at her lips. "Thank you." For letting him come back to us alive.
"You alright, Nami? Did'ja say something?"
Eyes still on the empty railing, Nami shook her head, a smile on her face. "I'm fine," she said, as she drew her gaze back to his. "Just talking to myself," she lied smoothly. She knew he wouldn't question her further, not with food on his mind, but he surprised her by tugging her close and nudging his nose against her forehead in what could almost be counted as a sort-of-kiss. And it was at once such a Luffy-like gesture and not, and behind it was two years of growth they hadn't seen the full effects of yet. When he pulled back, this creature both a boy and a man and a King and a Captain, there was a grin on her face she now dubbed her grin, and she stored it away like a treasure because a pilferer she was and a pilferer she'd remain until they sailed off the edge of the world.
"You said you knew where Sanji hides the key?"
Her answering grin was more patient than mischievous as she fished the desired key out of its secret hiding place, silently apologizing to Sanji as she did but knowing the cook wouldn't really mind. They still had a long voyage of ahead of them, and there would doubtless be more heartbreak waiting for them in the future, but she knew – as she watched Luffy disentangle the row of padlocks from the refrigerator – that they would be there with him this time. With him, and for him, and to the end of the world if needed be. After all, they'd promised his brother they'd take care of him.
"Y'know, Nami. Sanji's going to kick my ass for this."
She waved him off. "I'll distract him. Now eat– you're scrawny enough as it is. I'm getting hungry just looking at you."
And they were not going to let him carry his burdens alone.
AN: I love the dynamics of this pairing – the push-and-pull kind of banter and bickering that conceals a trust that runs deeper than simple friendship. They've been dear to me since I first got into One Piece, and to this day I can't make myself ship them with anyone else.