Disclaimer: Regretfully, I do not own One Piece. That right belongs to the incredibly talented Eiichiro Oda.
Chapter 1: Witch Island
Had someone told her one week ago that she would be standing in front of the crow's nest ladder in the middle of the night, she would have laughed at the very idea, before of course knocking some sense into them with a well placed fist to the head. She would have come up with several reasons to raise their imaginary debt had they insisted that she couldn't sleep without his snoring.
Had someone told her that her room would no longer feel like home without the comfort of strong and capable arms around her, and that the one thing she would miss more than even the taste of mikans would be the metallic scent of steel, she would have insisted that they were out of their mind.
But there she was, one slender hand poised to climb and dark circled eyes dull from exhaustion. One week was all it had taken to change everything she thought she knew about their swordsman. One week was all it had taken to realize that she was in love with him.
Their bloated captain's sleeping form was sprawled half way across the dining table; Sanji was slumbering in a nearby chair leaned back against the wall with his arms folded behind his head.
"You ate it all, dumb ass."
Nami rolled her eyes at the mess of passed out crew mates in the kitchen. After weeks without the excitement of land, they had entered the next island's climate the day before and Luffy had insisted they celebrate, mostly with meat. After cleaning them all out with several card games and going through most of the liquor with Zoro, Nami had been the only member to actually make it to her bed with the exception of Robin, who turned in early, and the swordsman who had watch.
An early riser, the orange haired navigator was the first person on deck, pleased to find that they were still on course. They would be reaching the island in about an hour, and based on the chill in the air, she guessed it would be spring there. Dressed in a pair of snug jeans and a t-shirt that read 'gold' that was knotted in the back to reveal a taut stomach, she took a deep breath of the sea-salt air and sighed. She loved mornings, they were relaxing.
A loud crash in the kitchen interrupted her momentary peace and an exasperated sigh escaped her lips as she lifted the binoculars to her face, ignoring the gust of wind to her left as Luffy was sent flying across the deck of the Going Merry with a hard kick from the cook.
"That food was for Nami-san, you shitty captain!"
Luffy flopped into a sitting position against the mast, his cheeks puffed up as he chewed whatever it was that was in his mouth.
"It's good!" He mumbled before swallowing audibly. The sounds of Sanji attempting to strangle the rubber man to no avail went unnoticed as Nami caught sight of the island. It was huge, large enough to be mistaken for a chunk of the main land and covered in lush forests and winding rivers that just screamed adventure, and hidden treasure. From what she could see, there was only one small village with a harbor along the edge of the coast, but the rest of the island appeared to be untouched and uninhabited.
She felt the vein in her temple throb in irritation at the unwelcome nickname.
"There's an island!"
Had he been on deck she would have crashed her fist down over the top of his stupid green head. She fully intended to give him a sarcastic retort but Luffy's sudden excitement drowned out anything she would have said.
The captain immediately moved to standing on his 'special seat' atop Going Merry's bow, a wide grin splitting his face as the ship raced smoothly through the water, rapidly nearing the alcove they were aiming for. It was a mile east of the village and secluded enough that if they left no one to guard the ship, it would still be safe.
"Yosh. To the island of meat!"
Luffy grinned and Nami pressed a hand to her face in annoyance, hiding the smile that threatened to surface. Despite the fact that Luffy could be dense and childish, he was the wind that drove them. He was their captain, and all of them held special places in their hearts for the man.
"Oi, Luffy. How do you know it's an island of meat?"
Usopp questioned, genuinely curious. Blinking, Luffy suddenly chuckled in pure Luffy manner, tipping his straw hat slightly down to shadow his expression, save for the grin. Everything stood still as they waited for his reply, Usopp holding his breath in anticipation. Chopper stared in amazement, astounded by his captain's genius for having known about the island before any of them.
"Shishishishi. I don't know!"
Both Chopper and Usopp practically face-planted on deck, as Nami intervened to distract from their captain's idiotic tendencies.
"Prepare to drop anchor! Furl the sails!"
Nami began giving orders and the crew came alive to follow her direction. Even if they weren't always in sync, it was nice to know that when it really counted, she could always depend on her nakama.
They quickly dropped anchor and Luffy, of course, was the first one off of the ship, followed by Chopper and Usopp, who didn't seem to be suffering from his usual 'I can't enter this island' disease. Sanji accompanied Robin, leaving Nami and Zoro to go ashore last. She was just about to jump overboard when Zoro placed a hand on her upper arm. She was surprised to see him scanning the forest when she turned to face him.
"Something about this place feels off," his voice was serious and one hand had moved to rest against his swords.
Following his gaze, Nami couldn't find anything about the island that appeared suspicious, but she had to admit that something about it did rub her the wrong way, even if it looked completely harmless.
"Yeah... I don't know what it is but those woods do kind of give me the creeps. We just need to be cautious."
The eerie feeling of being watched wouldn't stop Nami from pursuing the possibility of treasure, but she trusted Zoro's instincts. So far they had never been wrong.
Her answer seemed to satisfy him because he nodded before jumping overboard and Nami followed suit. They needed to restock their supplies, mostly food and fresh water, so a trip into the village was necessary.
"We'll split into teams for supplies and meet back here in thirty minutes."
They had entered the main square of the small village and Nami began dividing them into two groups. One group, which consisted of Robin, Luffy, Sanji and Usopp would replenish their food supply and search for parts to repair the ship while Nami, Zoro and Chopper would stock up on fresh water and medical supplies.
"Nami-Swan is so beautiful even when giving orders."
Sanji dramatically swooned and Nami had to suppress the urge to roll her eyes. She loved all of her nakama, Sanji included, but his over exaggerated affection was annoying.
Zoro didn't bother to hide his opinion of the cook's comment, snorting loudly in amusement.
"You got something to say, moss-head?" Sanji huffed.
"You sound like a dumbass, dartboard-brow," Zoro countered.
Growling, the cook swiftly moved to get in Zoro's face, readying himself to kick the bastard into the dirt, while Zoro lifted Wado about an inch from her sheath with a flick of his thumb.
A hard sweeping blow effectively shut the both of them up, a fuming Nami standing over them with her eyes closed and her temple throbbing.
"We don't have time for this!" She growled.
Sanji twitched on the ground while Zoro picked himself up, rubbing the swollen lump on his head and glaring daggers at their navigator. The two groups split up and dispersed with plans to meet back in the town square as soon as they were finished shopping. Chopper trotted beside Nami in his reindeer form while Zoro hung back a little, silently observing the villagers who paid them no mind. Perhaps that was what had him on edge. He was a wanted man, as was Luffy, and very easy to recognize. Yet these people didn't even look up at them, as if they weren't interested at all. In fact, they were doing their best to avoid eye contact all together and keep their heads down. They hadn't even looked up to see that they were in fact pirates, so they couldn't be scared of them. The villager's had to be spooked from something else. With one hand resting on the hilt of his swords almost casually, Zoro followed his friends into a nearby medical supply shop.
For such a small village, they were very advanced. Chopper gawked at the neat stacks of medical books while Nami went through the organized list he had composed. Zoro followed along behind her, feeling like a pack mule as she handed him various packages full of bandages, herbs and powders, needles and surgical thread and whatever else was on that damn list.
"Can't you carry any of this yourself?"
There was more bite to Zoro's tone than he had intended, and had she kept her mouth shut, he might have felt bad about it.
"What's the matter? I thought the mighty Zoro could handle a few packages."
It wasn't her words that grated on his nerves, but rather the mischievous glint in her eyes. She always had that damn look when she knew she had won. The conversation was brought to a stand-still as they paid for the items, Chopper retrieved his book of choice and they returned to the bustling sidewalk.
"Excuse me, but do you know where we might find a fresh water supply?"
Nami asked a man passing them by on the street sweetly. He stood at about six feet tall and built like a tank, though most of his form was concealed by the dirty cloak he wore. When his eyes finally settled on Zoro, he smirked. Instinctively, both Nami and Chopper moved a little closer to the swordsman. The man smiled, revealing rotting teeth and rancid breath.
"You've got a lot of balls coming here, Straw Hats."
His voice was low and gravelly. It was obvious the man was a beggar and someone without importance in this town, but the warm honey-brown of his eyes commanded authority, a stark contrast to his state of dress. Zoro took a step forward, placing himself in front of Nami while Chopper moved to hide behind her legs.
"Not many pirates set foot on Witch Island these days."
His tone had softened, and everyone but Zoro relaxed. He didn't seem to be a threat but something still felt off about the man. Nami was the first to move, stepping out from behind Zoro and suppressing the urge to wrinkle her nose. The man smelled like body odor and rotted fruit, his cloak smeared in various things that she would rather not know.
"Sir, we're looking for fresh water for our ship… Is there an irrigation system in the village or a source that we could collect from?"
The man gave her a once over, eyes moving from her vibrant orange hair all the way to the tips of her toes. She could have sworn she saw sympathy in his expression. This man, a homeless disgusting creature had the nerve to feel pity for her! Although she had no idea why he would pity her, Nami felt a cold sensation rest in the pit of her stomach as he spoke again.
"Our irrigation system has been out of commission for a few years now. The only fresh water source is the rivers that run through the island. The closest one is about two miles from here north of the village."
The man's tone grew serious and Chopper had moved to grasp one of Zoro's legs, clinging to the swordsman as he shook behind the limb. Eyes boring into Nami's, the man continued.
"Stay close to the river bank, straying from the path could get you both killed. Keep your eyes peeled… the witch never sleeps."
His words hung heavy in the air as he turned on his heel and left them in front of the medical shop to ponder the strange encounter. Zoro relaxed a little, coaxing Chopper out from behind him as he hoisted a few casks onto his back that they would have to fill up at the river. Most likely, he would be the one carrying them all back too, not only because he was stronger than Nami, but because he always seemed to do her bidding even if he didn't want to.
"Chopper, take the medical supplies back to the ship then head back to the village square and let Luffy and the others know that we'll be back in about an hour after we collect the water."
Zoro almost immediately went into first mate mode, and Chopper nodded as he collected their purchases in his human form and wandered off to do as he was told.
"Come on, he said to head North."
"Then say something sooner!"
Nami chuckled as Zoro stomped off in a random direction whenever she corrected him. Rolling her eyes, she tugged at his stomach band suddenly and began to lead the way out of the village in the correct direction.
They walked in silence for several minutes as they passed through town. While nearing the northern exit, the village had become hushed, and Zoro was the first to notice the stares. Before the people had fought to ignore the crew and now all eyes were on them. It was unnerving, and without thought Nami had shifted closer to her nakama. Zoro was frustrating and stubborn, and he really knew how to push her buttons, but the simple fact was that she was safest with the swordsman or with Luffy.
"What do you think he meant by 'the witch never sleeps'?"
The eerie statement had been bothering her, enough that she was lightly holding onto Zoro's upper arm as they walked, although she could easily play it off as keeping him from getting lost. If Zoro noticed, he said nothing.
"Probably just some old hag who lives out here and creeps out the villagers."
Regardless of how crude he said it, the statement made her feel slightly better. He was probably right, the villagers were just nervous because they were sheltered from the world. Some poor old woman probably lived in these woods and because it wasn't the village social norm, she stuck out like a sore thumb and they had just associated her with some superstitious taboo. No sense in getting worked up over anything if it wasn't even there to begin with.
Following the beggar's direction, they walked north for about a mile and a half before the deafening roar of running water met their ears. Exactly half a mile later and the massive river came into view. Creepy beggar or not, the man knew this island well.
"The bank is too high. We'll have to keep going until we find lower ground and slower currents."
Nami shouted over the noise of a nearby waterfall. The river was surrounded by cliffs and dangerous rapids. Not even half a mile further and the bank dipped down and the current slowed. The noise of the waterfall was more muffled down there. A rope and pulley system was anchored to a rock nearby, and Nami surmised that this was where the villagers filled their casks. It seemed that the citizens would hoist their casks down with rope to fill them, like pulling water from a well, ingenious.
While Zoro filled the casks, Nami admired the area while vigorously sketching in a small tablet that she carried with her, quickly mapping out everything she saw and had already seen of the island. Tapping the pencil against her lower lip, the orange haired woman's eyes finally lifted from the paper, where she was met with the appealing sight of flexing muscle as Zoro heaved a heavy cask full of water back up to the bank. She would admit that the man was attractive. Anyone with eyes could see that. But they were nakama, and he was a crude idiot with no sense of direction. Fate was definitely not turned in their favor.
The walk back toward the village was lighter. They hadn't run into a creepy old witch and their mission for fresh water was complete. Better yet, the log pose had already shifted to point in the direction of the next island. Everything was ready to go, and Nami was looking forward to getting off of this island. Despite the fact that they had finished their task unharmed, she couldn't ignore the eerie feeling of being watched, or the way the hair on the back of her neck stood on end.
"These damn things are heavy."
Zoro grunted over the sound of the waterfall ahead of them, and Nami glanced over at her companion. He was hauling all four of the water casks on his back without help. The man was exceptionally strong.
"Oh please, I've seen you lift a lot more weight than that."
She had to get in little jabs where she could, not only because it was fun, but because it distracted her from the chilling realization that something was indeed off about these woods.
"Didn't realize you'd been watching me, Nami," his cheeky reply caused her to glance up to meet his gaze.
His eyes danced with a hidden mirth that made her stomach flip uncomfortably. Was he flirting with her? The way he said her name did funny things to her heart, and bewildered chocolate-brown eyes met his amused expression. She had just been about to open her mouth and say something when a figure suddenly emerged from the shadow of the trees. Everything happened in an instant, the water casks crashing to the ground, Zoro's taller form suddenly blocking her view, and a very feminine chuckle barely heard over the sound of the falls.
"Oh my, so protective."
The slender woman purred, finally coming into full view. She was Nami's height and just as curvy. With long raven locks that nearly touched the ground and alabaster skin that glowed in the mist of the river. She was dressed in a long midnight-blue gown that tied closed in the front, a large slit in the side revealing shapely legs. Needless to say, the woman was beautiful, but something about her sent a cold chill down Nami's spine. Zoro had already withdrawn two of his swords, every muscle in his body tensed and ready for attack.
"Are you the witch I keep hearing about?"
Leave it to Zoro to get straight to the point. A hearty laugh left the woman, effectively drawing the eye to her shapely and barely covered chest, but the action only served to piss Zoro off, an impatient growl escaping his throat. He felt threatened. The woman reeked of evil.
"I prefer to think of myself as a gift giver."
When she received no response, the woman continued.
"I can see and grant your deepest desires."
A playful grin graced her lips as she moved a little closer, only to receive a deadly glare from the swordsman. So, the man didn't believe her. This one would be a tough nut to crack, but oh how she loved the game.
"Or your deepest fears."
Her tone had turned menacing, but only for a brief second before she became all seductress once more. She took another step forward and Zoro moved to warn her with his blades when a pair of soft hands suddenly distracted him. He stood frozen in place while Nami's hands moved over his muscled torso, admiring each abdominal muscle before moving to his chest. He wanted to ask her what the hell she was doing, but her hot breath against the back of his neck effectively wiped all thought from his mind.
Nami suddenly moved around his side and stepped between his swords until they were face to face, her hands still roaming over his front. He tried to stamp down on the growing desire that began to coil in his stomach, but Zoro would admit that Nami was an attractive woman, and it wouldn't be the first time he had thought of her as more than just nakama.
"I can make her do whatever you want."
The woman's taunting wouldn't work of course, but Zoro found himself unable to move, as if the woman were controlling him as well. Slowly, Nami's hands moved to encircle his neck, and he mentally screamed at himself to move, but to no avail. The navigator moved closer, until their lips were only about three inches apart. It was in that moment that Nami's eyes finally flickered to meet his. She looked afraid, silently pleading for him to understand that she wasn't doing this willingly. It was enough to break the spell, and Zoro growled before wrenching out of her grasp and rounding on the raven haired beauty.
"Oh don't act like you didn't like that."
The woman laughed, and Zoro lunged at her. There were very few people in the world that could dodge an attack from Zoro, and apparently this woman was one of them. She moved to the side as if with ease, and Zoro found that his arms felt unbearably heavy. It was the first time, aside from the event with Nami just moments prior, that he didn't feel entirely in control. What the hell was going on?
"Fine then, greatest fear it is."
He watched in horror as Nami suddenly took a step toward the cliff, that same frightened expression in her lovely brown eyes, but her face completely blank.
"You bitch! Let her go!"
Another step, and Zoro fought the invisible bonds that held him desperately. He felt utterly helpless as she took another step, her heel on the very edge of the rock, his heart hammering in his chest with what he knew to be fear. Roronoa Zoro was afraid, and the woman in blue silk appeared to be enjoying it, even feeding off of it.
A bead of sweat rolled down Zoro's face, the only evidence that he was struggling with all of his strength to move. He had to save Nami, if she died…
"Too bad, such a pretty girl."
Nami took the last step, breaking the woman's hold on her just long enough to scream, one word.
Her name came out in a roar as he finally managed to wriggle out of the witch's invisible spell and Nami tumbled over the side. There was no time to grab her so she wouldn't fall, so Zoro did what he did best, acting on instinct. The witch watched in surprise as the green haired man jumped over the cliff without hesitation.
"This is going to be fun."
Grinning, the witch made her way back into the woods.
"I'll be seeing you two soon."
He angled his body to increase his speed, catching up to Nami and quickly wrapping her up in his arms. Finally free of the spell, she clung to him as he folded his body over hers without a word just before they hit the water. Zoro choked out a moan of pain when his side landed hard against a sharp rock on the bottom of the riverbed before the current ripped them downstream. The water pinned them down to the bottom, bashing them against the rocks and making them helpless to take a breath. Lungs burning, side throbbing, they were no more than ragdolls in the raging river. Until it finally relented and Zoro shoved them upwards to take a breath.
Coughing water out of his lungs, Zoro swam toward the shore with Nami still in his arms, dragging them both up onto land before he rolled onto his back with a hiss of pain, his white shirt quickly turning pink with blood. Nami coughed and gasped for breath, violently shaking because of the chilly spring water.
It wasn't like Nami to be polite, and Zoro glanced over at her in curiosity to see her shivers. Though he wouldn't admit it out loud, his heart melted just a little.
"I knew you wouldn't let me die."
She chuckled this time, and Zoro smiled. It was both a burden and a blessing that the entire crew could rely on him as first mate, and as their friend.
"How long do you think it will take us to get back?"
He sat up to scan their surroundings. The trees looked different and he could no longer hear the rush of the waterfall. Nami glanced at her wrist, relieved to see that the log pose had survived the rough journey. She herself had made it out of the river with only a few cuts and bruises, Zoro had shielded her from most of the blows.
"I'm not really sure where we are but… Based on the speed of the current and the amount of time we were under water, I'd say a week minimum."
A/N: Well, I hope that you're enjoying this story so far! Photo courtesy of Meru90 from DeviantArt. (Thanks to my amazing friend and beta Oceanwind for editing my numerous errors.) I realize that it started out slow, since honestly I had no idea how to start this story. I just knew where I needed them to end up in order for the real plot to surface. It gets better, I promise! Thanks for reading!