Scene One: The Weight of the World

This was it, exactly what she'd been dreaming of since as long as she could remember. Freedom, liberation, the volition to go out and follow her dream. Eight years of subjugation under Arlong's rule due to his hold on Cocoyasi Village, she almost forgot the feeling of being carefree. Not a worry in the world, having no strings attached. Her body felt naked without the oppressive weight on her shoulders, as if as soon as she blinked, Arlong's iron-clawed grip would clamp around her neck again. But he wasn't coming back—none of it was ever going to come back.

She could finally breathe free again.

"Nami, my love!" Sanji's sing-song voice rang across the table as his spindly arm reached out over the glamorous feast prepared for her and the crew. "Where are you going?"

His eyes were always full of such passion and enthusiasm that she almost felt sorry for him. But of course that wouldn't keep her from sucking him dry of his usefulness. Nami angled her torso with a bounce to look back and flash him a bright smile. "I'm just stepping out for a bit; I think I feel a small headache coming on."

With a dramatic gasp, the blond sprang from his seat and touched his fingers to her temple. "Are you all right? Shall I accompany you to ease your pain?"

Giggling, she shook her head at his continued cooing and traced his jawline with a slender finger. "Thank you, dear Sanji, but why don't you help me prepare a lovely dessert instead? I'll have it when I'm feeling better." Her lips puckered in a small pout as she batted her lashes, effectively baiting the cook to follow her every command.

"Oh, why of course my beautiful sea flower—"

Weary of Sanji's incessant slew of sickeningly poetic comments, Zoro sent flying his empty mug of booze, which found its target at the cook's curled brow. "Give it a rest, you lousy love cook. You're probably the one giving her a headache in the first place."

Sanji leapt to his feet and turned towards Zoro, shooting him a glare. "Shut the hell up, marimo. Nami's probably just tired of seeing your ugly mug day in and day out."

The pair's bickering continued, giving Nami the perfect cover for retreating from the cabin and into the darkness outside. While the two men were always too childish for their own good, she was at least grateful for their antics when they distracted Luffy and Usopp. Headache or not, she needed a chance to be alone. Ironic, since it was Luffy and the gang who rescued her from eternal pain and solitude.

Though she could still hear their muffled argument in the background, the sound of waves crashing against the wood of the ship was enough to drown them out, giving enough time to lose herself in her thoughts. Looking out over the deep, endless sea, Nami heaved a heavy sigh and sank to her knees. With her arms hanging on the edge of the ship, she stared at the horizon where the cloudless night sky melded into the calm waters.

"Strange seeing you out here so quiet."

A deep voice broke through her calm silence, giving her a start. She jumped to her feet and spun around on her heel to face Zoro. There he stood, eyes settled comfortably on her as he leaned against the base of the mast.

Arms folded and legs crossed at the ankles, he continued. "I'm more used to you nagging nonstop at us."

Nami couldn't tell whether or not he was joking around, with his stern and calm demeanor, but she chuckled anyway. Something told her that this was his way of making sure she was okay. Only a short amount of time had passed since she officially became their nakama, but in that time she could already pick out each of their biggest quirks and qualities. Luffy had his happy-go-lucky attitude paired with an insane amount of determination and steadfast bravery. Sanji, while comically pathetic in his pursuit of each and every attractive woman in sight, exhibited loyalty and chivalry like no other. Even Usopp had his moments of wit and expertise when not sharing her fear of becoming a victim.

Then there was Zoro, who always seemed to keep his cool even in the face of near certain death. Underneath his aloof, lazy shell of blind strength was unyielding tenacity and honor. And though she heard little from him on a day to day basis, she felt a certain attraction to his silent strength. Somehow, even when surrounded by a multitude of monstrous bravery and loyalty from Luffy and the others, she felt safest with the mossy-haired swordsman.

The sound of shuffling broke through her train of thought, and she looked over to see that Zoro had taken a seat beside her. Eyes closed and arms folded, he seemed to be asleep. Nami smiled to herself, knowing better than to let her guard down even as he napped. He slept through storms and howling winds, but he was always aware when he deemed it necessary. And he wouldn't be out here alone with her if he didn't deem it necessary.

"I'm fine out here alone, you know. I'll handle keeping the ship on track; I can take care of things myself." Been doing it for eight years now, after all. "You can go back in and celebrate with the others."

Her words fell on deaf ears as Zoro's eyes remained closed. Not even a fidget or a twitch for a reply. Nami sighed, admitting defeat against the stubborn swordsman. Knowing that no amount of nagging would send him away, she sank down beside him and sighed again.

"Is this a dream?" she whispered, more to herself than to him. "Am I just dreaming of freedom only to wake up to that suffocating nightmare again?"

As expected, he gave no answer. Just silence, which was somehow more comfort than any reassuring words he could have given. The comfort was so inviting. The safety she felt chipped away at her protective walls, and she almost felt reprieved enough to shed her worries away.

"I can hardly believe it," she continued, choking back a sob. "True freedom—No debt to be paid."

Years of pent up strain and worry began flooding to her eyes, threatening to overflow with unrestrained relief. But she was afraid of hoping, afraid of falling prey to another worthless dream.

But then her fear stopped short as she felt a sudden weight on her shoulder. Unlike the burdens of her past, this weight was warm, secure. Through her tears, she looked over and saw that Zoro's eyes remained shut, but his heavy hand clung tightly to her shoulder, as if to say that she was here to stay. No words were necessary; she learned that this was his way of communicating what was truly important.

And for the first time in what felt like an eternity, she allowed herself to cry freely for the happiness of finally finding a life worth living again.

End Scene

A/N: So I finally gave in some time ago and started watching One Piece with my sister. I sure got sucked in... I'm not sure why I ever stopped watching/reading it back in middle school. But now I can't stop, and I HAVE ALL OF THE FEELS. But you can imagine my heartbreak when I discovered that Oda had no intention of writing any romance into the main plot. So... I'm making my own romance.

As you may have guessed, this scene is set right after the Arlong Park Arc. My series of drabbles will closely follow the One Piece story line. Read and enjoy!