A/N: Da-da-da-daaaaaa! Another one-shot! I tried posting it last night, but after an hour and half of struggling with the site/my internet connection, I decided to hold off until morning... But here! Here you go!

This one winds back in time -before Franky, before Brooke... A sad time... haha :P

There's a small story behind this one-shot, too. In Nami VS Hancock as well as Tongue Tied, I'm sure you noticed one particular detail -the fact that I connected Nami and Luffy through physical pain and emotion. That is my version of the "red string of fate" a love so true that your loved one feels the same as you do. I had plans to make it into a multi-chapter story, to delve into it to full depths. And maybe I will someday, because the full extent could be a very fun thing to write about. Until then, I've created this little one-shot.

Well... Enjoy!

Next up -a ZoRo one-shot, then Freak Show... I'm just warming up here ;)

Of Red Strings

"She's a traitor, Luffy, and I don't think she should be with us," Zoro muttered under his breath to his captain, glancing behind him at the tall brunette that walked a good distance behind them with their navigator. At this point, he'd rather have Sanji there. But the cook was back at the ship.

"We just met her, what has she done to you?" Luffy, in the meanwhile, had looked back to the old lady who was walking beside their two female crew members. "And she looks innocent enough."

"Innocent? She was working alongside that Crocodile jerk," Zoro looked at his captain, confused.

"She was?" Luffy's eyes widened. "So she was on Alabasta, too? How'd she beat us here? And did she lie? She said she's been living on this island for years."

"What –Luffy –"

"He's talking about me, Luffy," Robin called from behind. "Your dearest right-hand man doesn't trust me."

"You don't trust Robin?" Luffy looked at Zoro, frowning slightly. "Why not?"

Zoro sighed. "Never mind."

"Well, she's a lovely girl, you should get to know her better," the old woman encouraged.

"So where does this road go?" Usopp asked.

"I don't know why you came, I didn't invite you," the woman turned her nose to the air. "I only invited these four."

"But we're bo~ored," Chopper complained. "You can't exclude just the two of us—it isn't fair!"

"So where does this road go?" Nami looked smugly at Usopp, knowing she'd get the answer they all wanted to know.

"To my hut," the lady replied.

"It's this far from the village?" Usopp kicked at the ground as they walked. "I feel like we've been walking forever."

"Well, we have been walking in circles," Nami said.

"You've noticed," the woman looked surprised. "I was hoping to lose Pinocchio and Rudolf. Whether due to their feet hurting or them giving up."

"Who's Pinocchio?" Usopp asked Robin.

"Rudolf?" Chopper pulled a face.

"Of course. I'm –" Nami began, ignoring the two idiots.

"She's our navigator!" Luffy cut in, beaming with pride.

"I see that," she smiled knowingly before stepping off the trail they've been walking and stepping into the light foliage to their right. "And you two have a very close relationship?"

"I loathe them all the same," Nami shrugged.

"What's loathe mean?" Luffy asked Zoro.

All answers were stopped as they stepped into a round clearing –Nami suspected they'd been walking around it the entire time, mere meters from the small hut and its surrounding herb gardens.

"You… weren't kidding when you said it was a hut," Robin offered an easy smile.

"Well, we're not all liars," Zoro crossed his arms over his chest.

"Usopp is," Luffy pointed out.

"I'm not a liar," Usopp said defensively.

"Shishishi," the captain laughed.

"So why are we here?" Nami asked. "Other than to feed Luffy's gluttonous stomach with a free meal?"

"You grow aconitum napellus?" Chopper gasped, leaping back as we walked by some of the plants she had growing in her field.

"If used properly, it's quite helpful."

"It's poisonous," Chopper turned to Nami.

"But like most poisonous plants, if used correctly it can be used to heal," the woman said. She turned the knob and held the door open. "Come in, come in. Sorry I don't have that many chairs. I was only expecting four guests."

Inside the house, amongst bottles filled with colourful liquids and jars of assorted herbs, were many, many balls of red yarn. Unraveled and strewn across the floor. The string stretched out between objects, hooked on nails in the wall, falling into baskets, onto the kitchen counter. A few strands were held in place by closed cupboards. They laid everywhere, in the corners and under the five chairs that sat at the small table in the kitchen portion of the hut. There was two doors leading to separate rooms, closed and uninviting.

"How could you be expecting any guests at all? We just met you today," Robin walked along the wall, looking at the bottles and jars lined along curving shelves. "Unless you're a witch…"

"It's not the name most people call me, though perhaps more accurate," the old woman grinned mischievously.

"I bet they call her a –" Nami smacked Usopp before he could finish. "Urmfff… a lovely… old woman."

"Sit," the witch ignored him completely, gesturing for Luffy, Nami, Zoro and Robin to sit. As they went to sit, she stopped them, waving her hands dramatically. "No, no, no. You sit beside him, and you there. And you two -away!" She waved Usopp and Chopper to the corner of the room, where a stool stood all on it's own. They grumbled as they retreated there.

Nami and Robin exchanged looks as they sat down on the opposite sides of Zoro. Luffy grinned at Nami, whose chair bumped against his as she made herself comfortable.

"So you're a witch," Robin verified.

"The best one on the Grand Line," she smiled; prideful. "Though no one would know. I tend to keep to myself."

"So why invite us over?" Nami asked, picking up a red string that laid over the table in front of her.

"I like playing mind games with the young ones," the woman opened the fridge and began pulling food out. Just when it seemed like she'd emptied the fridge, she continued to pull out more. Usopp's eyes just kept widening –Luffy's grin stretched from ear to ear.

"Well, you seem to know our captain well," Nami crossed her legs at her ankle. She weaved the string through her fingers, elbows on the table and hands held daintily in front of her as she worked the twine.

"His stomach is infamous," Robin pointed out.

"So… the string?" Nami asked curiously, pulling at the one she still had in her hands; still wound around her fingers.

"Red string of fate," she said idly, setting the food on the table. "Go on, help yourself."

"It's still raw," Nami said, frowning as she laid her hands on her lap, out of the way of the cold dishes being placed in front of her.

"No it's not," the witch said –and suddenly it wasn't. Or maybe it wasn't in the first place. Nami frowned.

"Wow," Luffy began eating immediately. Nami looked at Zoro and Robin, who both shrugged.

"Rather than food, I really am more interested in the string," Nami said, unsure of what the witch had done to the food, though none of their male companions seemed to care.

"Me, too," Robin nodded.

"Fine then –" the witch stood up, snapping her fingers. The food disappeared instantly –faster than Luffy could shove it all down his throat.

"Hey~" Luffy frowned, looking around. He turned his pout on the old woman; "I thought you were cool. Now you're just mean."

"You'll get it back," she promised. "Now pick up a red string. No –not you two."

"Aw, come on," Usopp turned his nose to the ceiling, frustrated with the witch.

Zoro hesitated before picking up a string, while Luffy grabbed one instantly, hoping it'd bring the food back that much quicker. Nami and Robin where more relaxed, though tedious, about it, seeming to pick out their strings carefully –if this was what chose their fates, they'd do it with the utmost care.

"Follow it to the very end," the witch instructed the four.

And they did just that. Chopper watched eagerly, and Usopp just sighed.

"You shouldn't complain –you have Kaya," Nami reminded him.

"Captain Usopp has many women all over the Grand Line," he puffed up his chest. With another sigh, he deflated. "I miss Kaya."

It took a moment, but they all reached the end of their ropes at relatively the same time, though Luffy had been going as fast as he could. Anything to get that food back.

"There's nothing at the end," Nami said disappointed. She instantly wished she'd picked a different string. Would the outcome have been the same?

"Huh," the witch said. She continued, though the glint in her eyes didn't match the tone in her voice, "How odd."

"What does it mean?" Nami said, waving the end of the red string. "Am I going to end up alone?"

"Who's to say? It's just string. Here, place it on the table –you may resume eating."

The four of them tossed their strings into a small pile on the table.

Nami turned to Robin, "This means I'll die before finding my true love, doesn't it?"

"Well, we have each other," Robin chuckled dismissively. But she, too, was slightly disheartened.

"I'm sure you can weasel your way into some guy's heart," Zoro muttered, accepting the ale that the witch offered. Robin took a mug as well, sipping it as she leaned back in her seat, again releasing a small chuckle.

"But I'm going to die alone," Nami didn't hide how hard that hit her. "I mean, I'm not looking for a relationship right now, but I don't want to die before I do start looking..."

"I won't let you die, Nami," Luffy told her through a mouth full of food. She glanced up at him. He swallowed and continued. "We need you until we get to the end of the Grand Line."

A sigh and a slight roll of the eyes. She leaned forward with her elbows on the table, murmuring, "Thanks, Luffy."

"Shishishi, you're welcome."

Long after they left, the witch picked up the strings untouched since they'd been placed there. But despite the four strings being placed individually on the table, now there were only two. In the center of each, a small knot having appeared from nowhere.

The witch smiled. "Now that's fate."