Here's a Robin/Usopp fic that was originally a birthday fic for a fandom friend who likes the pairing. Word count is around 1,200. The rating is... well on LJ it was a PG, and here I would consider it a T. Set on the morning of the day after they left Water 7, so it's post-Enies Lobby and pre-Thriller Bark.

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- Take My Hand -

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It's not his youth or inexperience that makes her pause: not the way his breath quickens or the gingerly, unsure manner his hands touch her waist and back; nor the sloppy but eager way he's returning her kisses.

It's their first morning ever on the Thousand Sunny and still early, the sun just barely past rosy dawn, only beginning to spread real warmth after a cool night. Likely it's just by coincidence they're the only two people that are up and about right now.

This wasn't planned. It was just by impulse that she put one of her hands over Usopp's a moment ago, as they stood here next to each other by the railing on the Lawn Deck in that early sunlight. Seeing his blushing face, she followed up by leaning over and kissing him, just a little too long to only be teasing. True, it's an impulse she's had before but not acted upon until now; also true that several things quickly flit through her head as she makes her move. Should she treat this as a welcome back, or a reward for the brave warrior, or an act of gratitude…?

But in the end, she disregards all that and finds she simply likes the way it feels, even more than she'd anticipated: his hands holding her, starting to stroke her in slow wonder; his skin under her hands, brown and toughened; the hidden muscles she can feel moving under his few remaining bandages, showing that his scrawny build is slowly growing into something much stronger. His lips taste quite fine to her, and she skilfully navigates the nose. All of it simply feels good, like the way the morning sun warms her skin. And she'd like to keep on doing this, for a while. That's all.

So while it might have started on impulse, she doesn't mind playing the part of the mature seductress, if that makes it easier for him. She can be the older woman of the world showing the eager but hapless youth a delightful thing or two.

But at the same time, she does half expect him to back off and break it off soon, due to nerves and confusion. Either that, she thinks, or he'll likely press on in a frenzy as if it's the last chance he'll ever get – teenage hormones, after all. And as she feels him starting to tremble more, she figures it will be one or the other, now. She takes one of his hands and lays it on her chest right at the V-line of her top; not directly touching her breasts but in the definite vicinity of them.

His expression is still one of amazed wonder, with a sliver of fear. But then it shifts into a gentle look that startles her: there is too much innocence in it. Even concern.

That makes her uncomfortable without fully knowing why. Don't look at me like that. We're comrades. And don't look so soft, either: I get scared I'll break you... And instead she's the one to turn away, remove his hand from her chest, take a step back. Out of the comfortable morning sunlight, into the cold shade of the big tree.

He opens his mouth in surprise, then closes it again, shoulders slumping just a bit. Looking resigned. Cheeks still pink, though his breath is steadying.

But, Robin thinks, whether he will say anything or not, the spell is already broken. She won't be able to recapture the moment so effortlessly. Better to just smile mysteriously and gracefully walk away, perhaps with a light "See you at breakfast". Yes, that could work.

Yet she hesitates for one more moment, and that's when he does start talking.

"I'm not... I don't..." he mumbles, raising one hand only to let it fall again. Instead he grabs his elbow and rubs it slowly as he looks away, out to sea. "I mean..." He takes a deep breath. "I'm fine, you know? You don't have to... I'm just fine." His cheeks burn brighter, but it's a more unhappy-looking flush now.

She looks at him, is quiet for a few more seconds as she marshals her thoughts.

"Do you think I'm only being grateful?" she finally asks mildly. "Is that all you can see from me?"

Usopp swallows hard and looks down, shifting his weight. He mumbles something incomprehensible and shrugs.

Robin slowly walks over to the bench around the big tree. There's a wide patch of sun there, enough for two people. She sits down, crossing her legs. "Or perhaps you simply feel I'm too old for you," she suggests, keeping her voice and expression light.

There's a smile back on her face again. She doesn't turn serious: she doesn't say anything like If I'm not too dark, then certainly you are not too weak. You should know that. That is not her way. But she very much hopes he will understand this, regardless.

Maybe not. He just blurts out "Of course not!" but then keeps standing rooted to the spot in indecision. She nods at the place in the sun beside her, then sighs in slight exaggeration, blooms an arm from the railing and gives him a friendly push forward. This time he does sit down next to her.

He twiddles his thumbs, gives her an unsure, searching look as if to say, You're the one who backed away, not me.

She returns him a wry smile, shrugging a little in acknowledgement. I know. Let's not talk about that. Perhaps she can bear the gentleness in his eyes after all. He is strong, won't break that easily. And if he might for a second see her as a little bit more fragile and wounded than she thinks she really is, well, maybe that's not so terrible.

Usopp clears his throat. "I just... I just figured that if you were serious, you'd use more hands," he mutters, flushing even brighter but then grinning at her all the same.

Well, this was clearly better. Especially since he then reaches out and envelops her right hand in both of his own, echoing that first move she made before. She laughs in a low-throated chuckle of delight, then leans forward to kiss him on the neck. At the same time, she blooms a hand that undoes one of the straps on his overall. "Like this?" she murmurs.

"Yeah," he breathes back, "just like that," his pulse quickening under her touch, and she feels her own grow faster in response. Then he grabs her shoulder and kisses her on the month: still a little sloppy, but already better than the first one – and feeling quite nice indeed. The height difference is smaller when they're sitting down.

But she knows the rest of the crew will be out on deck soon. They should either break it off now, or...

"We – we could go over to the aquarium room," he suggests, sound both a little nervous and happily breathless.

"Excellent idea," she agrees as they get up again from the bench. They set off in the wrong direction at first, the new ship still not quite familiar.

She doesn't pull her hand away when he reaches out for it on the way over, even though it does surprise her. Just a little.

He's not the only one learning something new, she think. And the warmth of his hand in hers is stronger than the warmth of the morning sunlight behind them. They still have a while before breakfast.