AN: No, I'm not dead. Just having lots of stuff going on the last two months, which makes it difficult to do much writing. Sorry guys, :( But rest assured that I haven't given up on any of my stories and I promise to slowly continue cranking out chapters. (Actually I was able to write two of the most important chapters for this story but they're like...still far away from that point in time so it didn't really do any good. xD) Thanks for still sticking around and giving me opinions, I really appreciate them and I'm sorry that my ability to respond has dwindled. I'll try to shake myself out of this depressed-like state, so don't worry. Thanks guys, you're awesome. :)


Nami was bored.

Lounging on the couch the copper haired woman looked up at the apartment ceiling. Even though she now had a key and could go exploring any time she wanted to she hesitated. Without a map she wasn't sure she could find her way back to the apartment building…Navigating on the open ocean was different from navigating inside a city, especially one the size of Water Seven. The only route she was familiar with in any way was the shortest route between the shipyards and Blue Station; she had been planning on boarding the sea train as soon as possible after robbing Iceburg-san...

Since practically forcing her new house mate to go out and do what he was supposed to the petite thief had gone through all her clothes, taking advantage of the closet in her room and putting them away, calculated exactly how much she had in gold, and had even browsed the shipwright's book shelves curiously.

It had been hours now and she had nothing to do…even playing with the glittering gold and jewels wouldn't relieve her boredom.

She hoped Paulie would come home soon…

Flushing at the thought she pushed herself back up in annoyance. Her thoughts were a confusing mess…last night she had tried to sort out how she felt and what it was that she wanted…and now hours later she was still trying to figure it out.

Her only consultation was that the voice in her head hadn't offered any other opinions or "advice." Actually it had been completely silent for hours now…

'Are you still there…?'

Immediately the lovely woman felt ridiculous; where would it have gone since the last time it had spoken to her? There was a peel of laughter in her mind and she sighed. 'I'm here.' It responded in amusement.

'Lovely.' She snapped back. 'So why have you been so quiet today?'

'Don't be nasty.' It answered mildly. 'There's no reason to get snippy with me.'

'Right.' She sighed again, one hand slipping into her hair to twirl it around on her fingers. 'Well then…Anything to add?'

'I don't think the question you should be asking yourself is what you want.' It answered thoughtfully. 'That's too broad a subject, which is why you're getting all tangled up, right?'

She didn't have to answer; being inside her head it already knew that was what the problem was…She had no idea what it was she wanted, and every time she tried to figure it out she only confused herself.

'So what will you do after you've bought Kokoyashi back?'

Unintentionally she gasped out loud. That was a subject she had hardly ever aloud herself to think of… 'I'll deal with what happens then when it's time…' It was the same answer she had been telling herself for years.

'And you could get away with telling yourself that because you were alone…But you aren't anymore. What do you think will happen with him after you've bought your village back?'

Though she was alone Nami felt her heart speed up and she automatically looked around nervously. She didn't even know how to begin thinking about that…What did Paulie want from her? What would he expect after he helped her raise the seven million? She just didn't know…

'Alright, laying that aside for now, what you told him yesterday is true. You've been a thief for most of your life now; do you really think you could just stop when the need is over? What will you do…help Nojiko grow and sell oranges?'

The copper haired woman bit down on her lip. Another question she didn't have an answer to…'Aren't you supposed to be a part of me? How come you're coming up with all these stupid questions?'

'So they're stupid because you're too scared to think about them?' It asked her in a snarky tone. Nami fidgeted uncomfortably. 'I'm not scared…I just…'

She had no excuse. These were things she didn't want to be thinking about…

'Fine then.' The voice said in irritation. 'Why don't you try answering this one…How do you feel about Paulie?'

Again she inhaled sharply. She didn't want to think about these things…!

The door opening caught her by surprise and the petite woman's head jerked slightly as the person she had been thinking about let himself in, her cheeks blooming red. The blond was grinning from ear to ear and he had a sheaf of papers in hand. "Ah!" He said when he saw her. "I'm glad you're here…look!"

Her face flushed even more at his words though she knew he hadn't meant them in the way her brain was insisting on taking them. Shaking herself the cat burglar dropped her eyes to the papers her companion had tossed on the coffee table.

"Wanted posters…?" She asked.

Paulie dropped to his haunches on the opposite side of the low table, his bright blue eyes reflecting his excitement. "Galley-La has certain rules about dealing with pirate customers." He started. "While pirate crews are our clients they have immunity with us…After we've done our jobs they'll sometimes get caught and taken in, but even the marines know better than to try making trouble while they're at the shipyards."

His voice embodied his excitement too and Nami found herself lowering her eyes again, she hadn't even realized she had raised them; his handsome features were animated as he explained whatever it was that had made him so happy.

"Okay…" She murmured, to let him know she was listening.

"The rule is well known and I wouldn't break it anyway but…" He held up one finger to emphasize his point, anticipation in his voice. "But, I can find out when every ship is done, as soon as a wanted man leaves the shipyards with his ship done he's fair game again."

Her eyebrows drew down in confusion. "You want to…?"

"It wouldn't be hard to collect on them." He said earnestly. "It still might take a while but we could definitely save up quicker than just relying on what either of us could make..."

He continued but her mind missed it, her eyes widening and her breath escaping her chest as his plan finally made sense to her. He wanted to chase down known criminals…? ! And he said she was reckless!

"Paulie!"

The blond stopped and blinked at her in his own confusion. "What?" He asked her blankly. The fact that he was missing the obvious only annoyed and worried her more.

Slamming one hand on the coffee table in between them the thief glared at him. "No way!" She snapped angrily. The shipwright's eyebrows rose as he looked at her in surprise. "Why…" She cut him off. "You won't let me go out robbing pirates, which avoids confrontation I might remind you! But you want to deliberately fight them for their bounties…Do you not see a problem with this?"

Her frustration continued to rise as the carpenter across from her began grinning again. She opened her mouth to yell at him more but he beat her too it. "Annoying isn't it?"

He ignored her eyes, which flashed dangerously, and continued. "For one thing Nami, I know how to take a person by surprise." He deliberately didn't mention their brief fight in Iceburg's office though she could tell he was thinking about it as his grin changed into a smirk. "Secondly, I'm more than capable to handle myself against a few pirates." He chuckled. "And lastly, you're still going to be out robbing them. Why should I avoid danger when you're running straight for it?"

His voice had changed while speaking too, now reflecting the smugness that he felt. Furiously she began berating him. "You have no idea how talented I am! I can get away with robbing them because they won't even know it until I'm long gone! You…!" Her shouting continued for several minutes as her companion watched her calmly. When she began repeating herself he stepped back in.

"Tell you what Nami…" He leaned both elbows against the small table in between them. "I won't go bounty hunting if you won't go thieving." His smirk widened when she began sputtering at him angrily, but then it slipped off his face and he took a deep breath.

"Look…" His tone had changed to reflect his seriousness. "Neither of us really want the other in harm's way, right?" His cheeks were tinged with color even as hers flushed. Meekly she nodded. "But there isn't really another way. Seven million is a hell of a lot Nami. Trying to earn it by any other means would take a long time…too long." He paused and her eyes flickered up to his before dropping again…sometimes he was so intense…The copper haired woman realized her breathing was light and shallow; she tried to correct it immediately, hoping he hadn't noticed.

"Your people's lives depend on this…" His voice was soft and gentle, which didn't help with her confusion. "That means we gotta take a couple risks."

She wanted to tell him he shouldn't risk anything for her…she told herself that she should say it…but instead the young thief just stared down at the stack of wanted posters, her face reflecting her feelings. Unaware of what she was doing Nami reached up with one arm, crossing it over her chest and touching the shoulder that had Arlong's symbol. If she didn't say something to diffuse the situation she might start crying again…

"You're co-operative all of a sudden." She mumbled and then stopped, not knowing how to put what she felt into words. He had been picky and over protective and now had suddenly reversed completely…

The blond seemed to have guessed what she was thinking because he chuckled. "Like I said…its annoying isn't it?" The smirk was back on his face she could tell… "Shut up…" She retorted weakly, to which he laughed quietly again.

'If you don't say anything he's going to think you're okay with this.'

She didn't bother to argue; instead the young woman looked back up at the blond. "I don't like this." She said bluntly. "You're the one who's being reckless, you know!"

The shipwright gave her a half smile, though his eyes were still filled with amusement. "You're underestimating me, Nami." His voice was teasing as he used her own words against her. Unthinkingly she stuck her tongue out at him, making him laugh again, and breaking the uncomfortable atmosphere.

Paulie rocked backwards on his heels and then stood, stretching slightly.

"Well," He grinned down at her. "I've got the rest of the day off…What'll we do now?"

Following his lead the thief stood. "Iceburg-san said you never take days off, why's that?" She reached up and began twisting one lock of coppery hair again, watching her companion who shrugged.

"Usually it's 'cause I've got nothing to do outside of work."

"Nothing?" She repeated lightly. "What about family and friends?"

If the blond was surprised by her question it didn't show. Instead he shrugged again before giving her a side glance. "Speaking of…we should get our story straightened out before I get asked more questions."

"Questions? Who's been asking you questions?" As if she couldn't guess…

"Well Kaku for one…"

She nodded, releasing her hair as she slipped past him. "I figured that would happen. What did you tell him?" Careful to keep her eyes away from his the cat burglar pulled a book off his shelf and began flipping through it randomly. He had a couple of interesting books, and at least one on Navigation that she hadn't already read.

"I said you came to Water 7 with your dad a long time ago and we became friends."

She heard him rattling around in the kitchen but she kept her face buried in the book, thinking deeply. He knew she was an orphan…at one point she had felt that Gen-san was the only father figure she would ever need; her unwanted break from the affections of the Kokoyashi villagers had been…well sometimes it still felt like he had died that day too...

...Sometimes she thought that would have been better…

Shaking off the well of depression she spoke again. "So you've lived here your whole life?"

"Ah." She wished she could tell what he was thinking but his voice was bland. "I was born here."

Tracing a finger down the page as her eyes followed the words unthinkingly Nami nodded, she had guessed that to be the case. Awkwardly she paused before asking her next question, feeling like she was prying. "Do you have any family...?"

He didn't even pause, as if he had been waiting for her to ask. "Nope. I'm an orphan." In her peripheral vision she saw him saunter back into the living room with a steaming cup in hand. His face was calm, which in turn calmed her…She had been wondering about him, about his life and history, and though she had the perfect opportunity to ask she had been worried about being too invasive, the past could be a painful thing after all.

Taking a deep breath she casually turned and leaned against the wall, the open book still in her hands. "And when was it that I came here with my dad?" She kept her voice light and airy, hoping he hadn't guessed her feelings.

Paulie shrugged. "I wasn't specific so…whenever you want." There was half a smile lurking at the corner of his lips as he brought his drink to his mouth. "But it would have to be before I turned eleven."

Curiously she peeked over the top of the book. "Why's that?"

Again the blond shrugged. "That's when I met Iceburg-san so he would have known if you came here later."

The thief relaxed again. This was a relatively safe topic of conversation. "How did you meet him?" She slipped into the chair next to the couch and settled herself comfortably. It was possible she would get to find out about him after all.


AN: Sorry about the shortness of the chapter; the next isn't much better but at least it's got a bit about his past in there. I've set the plot out more decisive and clearly, (before it was a "Oh, that would be cool, I should make that happen!" sort of thing.) So the chapters are set out by content, which I've found makes it easier to write. I still don't know what the schedule will be like and I'm sorry, things are just kinda...difficult. (And no, I don't mind talking about it, I just feel like I would be bitching and moaning if I wrote it down here. You are free to ask and I won't be offended. ^-^)

Thanks again guys, I hope you enjoyed this chapter, (even though it's so short!)