Inspiration kept me awake last night, so I wrote this one-shot. I'd originally planned to make it funny, but it didn't seem appropriate for the idea I had, so instead, here's some full-blown angsty stuff for you. if you want a funny One Piece story, then check out my other pieces (pun definitely NOT intended).
There are no pairings in this story.
Warning: Character deaths. Vague spoilers, but spoilers nonetheless (up to the post-timeskip). There's also some OOC-ness going around, since the story's set at the end of the Strawhat Pirates' adventure. So READ AT YOUR OWN RISK. You have been warned.
Disclaimer: I'd like to own One Piece, but I don't. Such is the cruelty of life.
A Thief's Debt
The moment One Piece was found by the Strawhat Pirates, Luffy became the world's newest Pirate King.
The moment One Piece was found, Nami cried for the first time since they left Arlong Park. (She wasn't crying because she was sad, or happy. She was crying because everything was over.) The sheet of paper that was reserved for her last map was all warped from being wetted and dried repeatedly. She'd always been the one to see the ending before things could even begin. It was a skill that only belonged to her and Robin, except Robin had the strength to deal with her foresight. Nami preferred to run away before the events she predicted would come to pass. In a way, she was more cowardly than her long-nosed friend.
So it came as a dulled surprise to her when the Strawhat Pirates disbanded, one by one.
The first to leave was Chopper. He'd finally documented all known diseases and illnesses known to both mankind and animals, and discovered the cure for each. Sometime during another hair-raising adventure, he'd given up on the idea of curing pure idiocy. (He now insists that idiocy isn't a disease; it's a human instinct.) But the child was a full-grown adult now, and while he would still act silly with the other men and inhale cotton candy from time to time, he'd become someone they could all lean on – both on the battlefield and in the infirmary.
Sometime, somewhere, Nami had noticed that Chopper didn't cling to Zoro when he was scared, or dance his happy-but-not-happy dance anymore.
But Chopper had left, saying there were lives he had to save with his knowledge. After all, with great knowledge comes great power, and Chopper was much too tender-hearted to leave their fates up to lesser doctors.
So Nami sighed, and settled his debt. Chopper never charged enough in his medical practice, but ever since he'd discovered the cure for the common cold (completely by accident, involving a plate of herbs, Sanji's lemons, and a sick Usopp), he never ran short of money. He also never ran short of cotton candy, even giving it as a treat for his patients after they visited him - which was sometimes hilarious, especially with patients like Zoro. But even he fell silent when Nami showed him the amount he owed her.
The next day, he handed her a box with the exact amount of beri inside, minus one. Nami had raised an eyebrow at that missing beri, but when Chopper handed her an I.O.U. with the words "Free health insurance" scrawled across in the barely intelligible writing of a doctor, she understood.
Yes, Chopper was an adult now.
Next to leave was Brook. He had someone waiting for him, and being the gentleman that he was, he insisted that he shouldn't make Laboon wait any longer than it was necessary. And now that the Strawhats' need for him was gone, he wanted the whale to listen to his masterpiece – the masterpiece he'd created with his previous band of pirates. Besides, he didn't play music for his hordes and hordes of fans, or even for the Strawhat crew. He played for those he couldn't forget, and for one whale to hear.
Luffy was the most upset after the loss of his highly coveted and awesome musician, but the whole crew knew that technically, Brook was borrowed, not gained.
Brook "Yo-ho-ho-ho-ed!" his way home, and cracked so many "Skull JOKE!"s that Nami was almost glad when he stepped off the ship. But she remembered, and caught his sleeve just before he could leave.
He looked at the bill she'd shoved towards him, and gave her that weird skeletal smile – the one to show that he really was smiling, not the permanent one that was a natural part of his face (even though he didn't have a face…damn).
He took off his crown and pressed it into her hands, telling her it was made of pure gold and would more than cover his debt, especially if she took it and sold it to one of his overzealous fans.
Then he'd grinned, and spoiled the moment by asking if he could see her panties.
His hatless head was covered in more lumps than he'd ever had in his lifetime and afterlife, but the moment his back was turned, Nami couldn't help but smile.
Brook's leaving left everyone under a cloud of depression, so they drifted aimlessly for a while. Then, as the ship's navigator, Nami made the biggest mistake in her life: she steered the ship into the East Blue. Usopp immediately smelled the change in the salty air, and declared that he wanted to go home.
They'd all laughed at first, thinking it was a joke or a lie. Or both. But Usopp repeated it quietly; fearlessly. He was a man and a pirate, but first and foremost, he was a storyteller. And now that he had countless stories to tell, he needed a new audience – an audience that didn't know the ending to all his stories. A very specific audience that consisted of three boys who have now grown into young adults, and a girl who had always been a beautiful woman.
They couldn't say anything to that.
Nami had shown him his astronomical debt due to all the accidents and explosions that had damaged the ship, and even though he'd helped with the repairs and given her the Clima-Tact, he still owed her quite a lot.
He'd protested, until she gave him "the glare". After thinking it over, he seemed to have one of his light-bulb moments, and shut himself in his room for quite a good number of hours. When he re-emerged, he had a scroll in his hand, which he gave to Nami. He puffed out his chest and told her how he discovered an enormous amount of forgotten treasure buried under a forest of Devil flytraps while training on Greenstone Island. The great Usopp-sama single-handedly defeated these monstrosities, and when he'd uprooted them to see if he could turn them into a weapon, he found an old treasure chest full of jewels, gold, pearls – the lot. The flytraps had been the chest's "lock". He only left it there because it'd been much too heavy for his boat.
She unrolled the scroll, and saw that Usopp had drawn her a treasure map, complete with longitude and latitude lines, a detailed sketch of the terrain, and a big "X" to mark the coordinates of the treasure. There was even a compass showing where North, South, East, and West were.
She'd flicked his nose, and told him he'd better start praying that the treasure was worth travelling all the way back to this god-forsaken island. It was the first and only lie from Usopp that she allowed herself to believe.
She bade goodbye to the boy who cried wolf, and wondered when that boy had become a trustworthy man strong enough to defeat any wolf that came his way.
Eventually, even Robin - her sole girlfriend on the ship - decided it was time for her to go. She'd looked at Nami with a knowing twinkle in her eye, slipped a velvet pouch into her hand, and left in the middle of the night without telling anyone else.
She was the only one who hadn't owed Nami anything, not because she was a girl, but because she was the only one Nami couldn't seem to tie down no matter what tricks she tried to use. She was like a bird in flight, and Nami wasn't cruel enough to keep her by her side.
The rest of the crew were surprised when they learned of her disappearance, but they weren't worried. Even though they were men, they could understand the heart of a close friend. It hadn't stopped Sanji from bawling his eyes out, though. She actually had to pat his back before he recovered, and even then, she wasn't sure if did the right thing.
When they returned to Water 7 to drop off Franky, Nami thought he would drown the ship with tears. He'd seen all he wanted to see and more, and all while he was onboard the Thousand Sunny he'd built with his own hands. He knew the whole world now recognised the face of the lion that sits on a throne of water, and while some still cowered in fear at its sight, many others welcomed the Thousand Sunny because they knew the figurehead of the proud vessel that carried the Pirate King and its crew across all the different seas.
Although he'd already created his magnum opus, he was still a shipwright, and he wanted to continue to improve his skills by helping Iceburg expand the Sea Train's routes and build train tracks that would connect Water 7 to all the surrounding islands.
Nami admired his renewed dream and vigour, but he still owed her a ton of beri for buying too much cola and materials for the ship that was often damaged by his own enthusiasm. He'd peered over his sunglasses and told her it was not "SUPER!".
She gave him the most deadpan face she could muster, which was pretty difficult, considering that he was…well…Franky. But he cracked before she did, and he told her that the Thousand Sunny now belonged to her.
He posed right then and there with a DON, and the robot with human hands left. She didn't even have time to tell him that the ship was worth more than his debt, and his bounty was worth more than the ship, and that the ship belonged to all the Strawhats, so what kind of loophole is he trying to exploit here? But he was gone, and that was that.
Sanji was the most reluctant one to go. He'd resisted for the longest time, and Nami had noticed the struggle in his eyes, although she never called him out on it. She stayed silent because in spite of all the annoying and stupid things he did "in the name of love", she didn't want him to leave.
Finally, he relented. They'd found All Blue quite some time ago, and making frequent trips back to that part of the world just didn't cut it for a first-rate chef like him. He wanted his own floating restaurant, and figured he could honour the geezer's memory by doing what he could never do: find All Blue, set up shop there,and keep all his limbs intact.
They dropped him off on the Sea Train tracks so he could hop on the next train to Water 7 and commission the world's greatest restaurant-ship from Franky. He wouldn't settle for anything less; Luffy had forced him to make that promise a long time ago. And a true gentleman never breaks his promises.
Sanji had cooked the biggest feast they'd ever had, but Nami knew he did it to comfort himself rather than his nakama. Even Luffy's immense appetite was satisfied, and Zoro was so drunk that he even forgot to be offended by Sanji's last parting insults. Or maybe he was pretending to be drunk. Zoro was so honest and blunt that even Nami couldn't tell when he told a lie.
Sanji's debt was minimal, compared to everyone else's (barring Robin). He was always overly considerate of her, and only bought fresh ingredients that had cost far less than what they were worth, therefore always managing to spend less than the amount she allotted for food. His debt was caused by having to visit the blood bank one too many times, and his blood type was so expensive that Nami had to create a budget for it, which was labelled as "Sanji's Stupidity". She kept the account filed with all the other budgets such as "My Wardrobe", "Luffy's Bottomless Stomach", "Zoro's Medical Supplies", etc etc.
When she informed him of his debt during the precious few moments he had before he left, he'd stared at her with his one visible eye, and handed her his kitchen knives. She tried to force him to take them back, but he just told her that someone needs to cook for those two idiots, and that he could always get a new set. After all, a great artist doesn't mind what kind of paintbrush he uses.
It wasn't until it was dinnertime when she realised that that was the first time Sanji said no to her.
Zoro's debt was by far the greatest - it even exceeded Luffy's. It was no wonder he called her a witch/devil's spawn/hellcat on a regular basis, and his debt was usually racked up by the dumbest of reasons, too (to him at least. Nami thought that she was always reasonable).
It was always a debt that Nami had doubts Zoro would ever be able to repay, even if he lived to be over a hundred.
One day, after taking a longer nap than usual, Zoro declared that his captain's dream was complete, which means he could now work towards fulfilling his own dream. He wanted to hunt down Mihawk and challenge him for the title of the World's Strongest Swordsman, and this time, there would be no delays. None, except his horrible sense of direction. Nami had thought this, but Luffy was the one who voiced it.
It was clear neither of them wanted Zoro to leave.
Zoro just frowned, and said his sense of direction wasn't that bad. Besides, the last time they exchanged swords, the former Shichibukai had slipped him a piece of his vivre card, and Zoro had understood his intentions.
He said he'd meet up with them again after he's done, but they all knew that he couldn't. If he lost, he would either be dead, or keep trying until he won, or died. If he won, he wouldn't be able to come back, because in order to be the world's best swordsman, you could never lose. Others would challenge him, those brave or foolish or confident enough to take him on would besiege him like a roulette that never stopped spinning, and even if he managed to take them all down, Nami seriously doubted that he'd be able to find his way to them again. They would have to go to him (as always), and Nami had a hunch that by then, fate would not be on their side, not like the first time when Luffy found Zoro. And Nami knew she had the best instincts out of the whole crew.
But they had travelled together for so long that Zoro's stubbornness had become as legendary as his three swords, so as a last resort, Nami dangled his debt in front of him, daring him to pay up before he left.
He dropped his eyes to the ground and muttered something, before turning away to take another nap by the mast.
Nami honestly thought she'd won. But the following night, he pulled Luffy and Nami into the cellar, and told them that he'd stay on one condition – if they could win a drinking competition against him. Two versus one. Zoro was unique that way: he'd always liked the odds to be against him.
Nami fought to hide her smirk – she was glad Zoro was such an upfront idiot. He knew better than anyone how well she could hold her liquor, but what he seemed to have forgotten was that she knew how to lie. And even though Luffy would usually be pretty useless in this type of situation, even he had built a greater tolerance for alcohol, and could stretch his stomach to hold a hundred times more liquid than a normal person like Zoro ("normal" as in "not-a-devil-fruit-user normal").
Later on, Nami ranted and raved about how Zoro had cheated by crushing sleeping pills into her barrel of sake, but since she couldn't prove it, nor could she really believe that Zoro, of all people, had cheated, she let him go.
Besides, while they were asleep - NOT drunk, not her at least - he'd slipped a note in her pocket that said that he would pay up the next time they went drinking. He left while they were unconscious, and Nami knew he'd be mortified if she told him that Robin left in the same way.
She wrote a memo to herself, and filed it under "B" for "Blackmail Material".
Luffy was the only one who never paid her back. She stood in front of him, and for once, he didn't say anything.
Luffy was the only one that she owed. He saved her from the prison Arlong had built around her, and gave her a home. In fact, he had given her the world as her home, because every time she drew a map of the places they visited, those places all became part of their home.
After finding One Piece, everywhere she went was like returning home.
She hated him for leaving her in debt. It was a gnawing, festering feeling, and she hated it. It was very different from the kind of debt she forced others to be in, because Luffy had left her with a debt she could never repay.
She wanted to punch his gravestone until her knuckles bled, but she had also changed. She was no longer a child. Instead, she sat down, wondering what she should say, when something small and round lying in the grass caught her eye.
Old skills die hard. She could instantly tell that it was a beri coin and picked it up, even though it had rusted several times over. She frowned. There was something taped to the back, and when she peeled it off, she realised it was a note. It read:
"When you weren't looking, I was the one who put sleeping powder in your cup."
She stared, re-read the message, and laughed. She finally realised she wasn't the only one who still owed their captain, and that knowledge blew all her feelings of loneliness away.
Trust me, I tried to keep both Zeff and Luffy alive, but the characters just wrote themselves. I honestly think that those with "D." as their middle name all die horribly. Maybe that's what the "Will of D." is: to burn bright, then die a horrible death.
Anyway, I wrote this story because I've always wondered why Nami forces almost all her crewmates into debt. It could just be a running gag, but I felt that it was more because she wanted to tie herself to them. It reminds me a little of how Misty keeps saying Ash owes her a bike, so she is "forced" to follow him everywhere to make sure he pays her back.
I'll try to write something happier next time. No promises though. But thanks for reading, and please review and/or comment! Constructive criticism is always welcome as well.
A/N: Now re-edited.