A/N: Since I can't seem to keep myself on track with my regular stories, here is another one-shot for your amusement. As the descripton says its a look at Nami's many visits to Cocoyashi Village from Nojiko's point of view. The writing is meant to be kind of vague. I was trying to focus more on the story than any specific detail.
As for Nojiko's tattoo, my reasons behind the design are completely from my own fanatically demented mind and are not to be taken as canon. Honestly, I have no idea what they mean in the series.
Disclaimer: I do not own One Piece.
Warnings: Some angst and brief mentions of gore.
She remembers the day, the exact time and the clothing which they both wore when her sister left their village for the first time. Nojiko had said nothing. No 'goodbye', no 'be safe', no 'I love you'. She held it all in to protect the younger girl and watched silently as Nami climbed into the small boat and sailed away without a backward glance.
She had cried for days. Nothing Genzo or the old doctor or any of the villagers could say or do would stop the tears. She told Genzo about the deal Nami had made with Arlong to save the village from the Fishman's tyranny, told him about the money and the map-making. Genzo said nothing for a long time, then assured her he would explain everything to the villagers and she must swear to never let her sister know about it. Nojiko didn't understand why at the time, yet promised anyway when Genzo said it was for Nami.
She was terrified. Not for herself, the others made sure she could sell enough tangerines to make money even without Bellemere's help. She was afraid for Nami. Her sister was only ten years old; what chance did a little girl have against the entire East Blue?
Most of the villagers thought the same thing, she knew, although none of them said this any place Nojiko could hear them. Only Genzo kept her hopes alive, reminding her that Nami had been named after the waves they had arrived on ten years before, and where did she belong if not on the sea? To Nojiko, the old man's story sounded far more like a fairy tale and she herself had stopped believing in happy endings the moment their mother was murdered.
Six months went by without a word, each day more painful than the one before. Nojiko spent every waking moment re-arranging the house, or in the orchard carefully grooming each of the precious trees their mother had taught them to love. The sweet scent of the citrus groves were a soothing balm on her distraught mind and aching heart.
The villagers were saying Nami was dead, she could hear their whispers as she passed by in the market. But Nami couldn't be dead. Nojiko would know if she was. Still, it was the most painful time the girl could ever remember.
Nami came back in the middle of the night, dropping a heavy sack on the floor and climbing up into the bed without a word.
Nojiko cried. But Nami didn't.
The next day they found a place to hide Nami's treasure, a soft patch of dirt under one of the trees. Nami told Nojiko she had become a thief and that her target would be pirates, to take some kind of vengeance against the ones who had so senselessly ended Bellemere's life and forced Nami into such a heartbreaking existence. Nojiko begged her sister to chose a less dangerous route, but Nami would not back down.
They stayed together for two days before Arlong came to get her. Nami left with the Fishman without complaint, without a hug or a gentle word. Once again, Nojiko could do nothing but watch her go.
Nami came back after nearly a year of absence with an even bigger sack of treasure. She smiled, said she was beginning to get the hang of being a thief, as if she were a little proud of the skill. Nojiko wanted to yell and shake her, wanted to scream at Arlong and take Nami somewhere far away. She knew she couldn't do any of that. So she smiled back and helped Nami stash the treasure in the hidden shade of the orchard.
Nami stayed at the house for two weeks. They talked about the tangerines and the prices from the market, about the changing weather patterns and even Bellemere. They never talked about Arlong. They never talked about the villagers.
Nojiko could feel Nami's pain at being abandoned by her own people and she clenched her fists in anger each time one of the villagers would make a remark or grimace when the sisters walked down the streets. Nami interpreted it as anger on her own part and never questioned Nojiko. But the pain was clear in the younger girl's eyes and Nojiko wanted desperately to end the façade, even knowing it would only be worse if she did.
They visited Bellemere's grave often during those weeks but never stayed long. Nami insisted they not be seen near the tall cross. Or more specifically, that Nami not be seen anywhere near it. She didn't want to give Arlong any more reason to punish the villagers for her 'mistakes'.
Inevitably the Fishmen came for their thief once again, shepherding her away down to the small boat Arlong had given over for her use in stealing as much money as she could.
Nojiko stood on the cliff and watched her sail away. Neither of them shed a tear.
Another year passed slowly, and Nojiko was beginning to grow restless and angry from having no word from her sister. She paced more than usual, was more rough with the orchard than necessary, until Genzo finally stepped in to stop her path of destruction before she could do anything to damage the fragile, one-sided tie between the village and the Fishmen.
But with the old man's placating words came a startling solution; she was angry because of the lack of connection with Nami. There was a way to at least assuage the hurt, if she couldn't push it away for good.
Nojiko studied the first of the curling blue design etched into her skin and smiled. After the second session she began to get more elaborate with the demands of the lines until she had a delicate collar of curving lines and hearts across her chest and down her arm. The distance between herself and her family and the hold she would keep on them. Three bands encircled her right bicep, one each for Nami, Bellemere and herself, and the wide dots underneath the bands for their beloved tangerines.
Genzo had nearly fallen over in shock when the project was finished, but Nojiko had absolutely no regrets.
She showed the tattoos to Nami the moment her sister returned and, while a little surprised, Nami seemed happy when Nojiko told her they would both have tattoos now. She never explained the reason for the specific design.
Nami was allowed to stay for an entire month this time before having to leave for the sea. They took the opportunity to catch up as much as they could. As happy as Nojiko was to have Nami home again, the faded, dull look in the younger girl's eyes where they once would shine bright enough to blind nearly broke Nojiko's heart some days. But Nami was strong, and so she would be too.
The dreaded day came much sooner than either would have ever wanted, and this time Nojiko pulled Nami into a crushing hug before the Fishmen could take her sister away again. Nami's eyes were glistening when she disentangled herself but she remained silent and followed the vile pirates to the shore, not looking back as Nojiko collapsed onto the packed dirt in front of the small house.
If the partings had been difficult before, this time was nearly unbearable, and it would take a long time for Nojiko to realize the feeling had been a foreshadowing of terrible events to come.
She didn't see Nami again for two years.
Just like the first time, Nami came home in the middle of the night and crawled into bed with Nojiko. But this time was very different.
Nami was sobbing uncontrollably, and between the hiccups and whimpers Nojiko caught most of the story; Nami had been forced to kill a man to escape the last job. He had found out she was a thief and was outraged. He was strong, too. She had taken the dagger Arlong had given her and killed him at the first chance.
Nojiko held on tight and Nami cried for hours, about the fear and the blood and the look on the man's face when he collapsed against her and his life fled from one instant to the next. The blood had been everywhere, Nami was certain she would never be completely clean of it again.
Nojiko knew why the younger girl was so distraught, apart from the obvious trauma of killing at such a young age. Despite being a thief, Nami was not a demon, and watching the man die had triggered the trauma of watching their own mother killed in front of them.
Nami cried an ocean of tears that night and Nojiko made the decision to never cry for her sister again. Not because Nami was a murderer, which she wasn't, but because Nami didn't have the strength to carry the weight of both of their tears. Nojiko would gladly carry them for her.
Nami left the next morning without so much as an ounce of sleep, leaving her treasure in the kitchen and ignoring Nojiko's requests to at least rest before sailing off again. She did however hug Nojiko as tightly as the older sister had held her before, then turned around and left without looking back.
It was this visit that made Nojiko realize something else about Nami; she never looked back, because if she did she would never be able to make herself leave again.
This time, Nojiko closed the door without watching Nami disappear first.
Twice more Nami came home. Twice more she played the part of Arlong's loyal navigator, hiding her pain from the world and convincing everyone, even herself, that she was out for nothing but the money. That was, Nojiko supposed, what Nami thought at any rate.
But Nami didn't hear the teary apologies and regrets that flowed from the townspeople the moment she was out of sight. Nami didn't notice the way their eyes followed her with a mixture of sympathy and hope.
Nami didn't see it. But Nojiko did.
The day they came to the island, Nojiko had every intention of telling them to leave her sister alone and go about their business. Had even said as much to at least one of them, if not half of the group. She had even gone as far as to tell them why they should leave, not only for their own safety but to save Nami from another heartbreak. The poor girl had been through enough already, and through the years of her travels friend was never a word she had been allowed to put much substance into. For very good reasons.
And yet there they were, those pig-headed pirate boys, blatantly ignoring every threat and warning she and Nami could dish out between them, facing down the most ruthless dictator in the East Blue without a second thought. And all because their silly-looking captain had seen Nami cry.
When Arlong betrayed the village, almost expectedly although they were still enraged by it, Nojiko was ready to die rather than send Nami back onto the treacherous ocean. She stood with the villagers against her sister's wishes, all of them gunning for the Fishman who had murdered and tortured for too many years to count and finally chose this island and Nami to control as he saw fit.
Nojiko wouldn't let anyone get in the way of her vengeance for the pain inflicted on her family. Not the other Fishmen, not the weird outsiders, not even Nami.
But as she watched the four unlikely men take down Arlong's main fighters and saw the rage in the young captain's eyes as he fought for her sister, Nojiko felt something she hadn't been able to feel in the past eight years; an absence of repressing fear.
It was this new feeling that pushed her into fighting alongside the strange group, risking her life to make sure a guy she didn't even know could beat Arlong, because suddenly she knew he could do it. Without a doubt, she knew the Straw Hat kid could free them all.
When Nojiko heard the deafening rumble of Arlong Park crashing to the ground, she barely dared to hope for a victory. When the young captain's voice cut across the grounds, shouting for all to hear that Nami was and always would be his friend, Nojiko had nearly collapsed with a relief she had been waiting years to feel.
The island was free.
The village was free.
Nami was free.
She remembers the day, the exact time and the clothing which they both wore when her sister left their village with the Straw Hat Pirates.
Nojiko had said nothing. No 'goodbye', no 'be safe', no 'I love you'.
She held in all her relief and joy and the heart-lifting thought that when Nami left for the sea this time it would be toward a new life, a new freedom. For the both of them.