Disclaimer: I do not own One Piece
Summary: Nami and Usopp find themselves up late one night, discussing the importance of their captain's most precious treasure.
Warnings: For rather tame language and spoilers for everything Thriller Bark and before (And, perhaps, a veeeery slight one for Strong World too)
"Burrrrr." Usopp shuddered as he stepped out on the lawn deck, rubbing his arms to stir some warmth. There was a chill settled over the boat that the sniper partially believed were the last vestiges of that awful Florian Triangle trying to pull them back, ghostly wisps of a sea filled with zombies, skeletons and apparitions curling around the boat like a deceiving motherly embrace. Another chill worked through him, this one more bone-deep like one of those Horo-Horo girl's negative ghosts sweeping through him, and forcefully reminded himself that Thriller Bark and all those terrible things that island-dressed boat entailed were behind them now.
But as another breeze swept by and sent prickles running up his skin, he recalled why he had left his workshop in the first place – to get something warm to drink. He started across the deck, shooting a cursory glance up towards the observation deck, lit up and standing like a beacon against the velvet-dark sky. In the windows, he could clearly see the shadow of shifting and swinging through the air and knew without even having to ponder about it that it was Zoro's weights.
Chopper had been reluctant to allow their still recovering swordsman on watch and Usopp understood. It had been a decidedly disturbing sight for all of them, seeing a frantic Sanji dragging an overly bloodied and unconscious Zoro over and yelling for Chopper in such a desperate way that it alerted them all that this time, Zoro's wounds weren't a joke. Usopp wasn't sure what had happened and though it seemed convincing, he could easily see through the lies Sanji was spewing about how Kuma's blast must have got him the worst.
But watching Chopper tend to Zoro at a frenzied pace had brought a shock of familiar fear through him. A fear that he had not felt since he was very young and his wide and watery eyes peered in from the window of his small home's kitchen as he watched Syrup's village doctor and nurses moving equally furiously as they tried to get his mom's heart beating again. With his constantly moving tongue finally stalled, he decided not to press the issue with the tight-lipped cook, just enjoyed the relief that took over his rattled heart when Chopper finally announced Zoro was on the road to recovery.
The sniper briefly entertained the idea of going up to join Zoro on watch. N-Not because he wanted to check up on him or anything like that! Just because anyone would be privileged to be in the Great Captain Usopp's company. He threw the thought aside though because he was still cold and craving something warm – and no, it did not have anything to do with the fact he noted that the shadows of the weights were a little thinner than usual (which, he'd tell anyone who asked later it was just a trick of the light).
He headed for the stairs, passing by the boy's cabin and able to hear Franky's colossal-level snores even with the door closed. He could picture the cyborg now, flopped on his back, large arms dangling over the sides of the bed and mouth wide open as he breathed in deeply. He could see the others too. Luffy would be on his stomach, hugging his pillow and chewing on a saliva-coated edge, smiling widely with dreams about islands of meat and adventure. Chopper, with an animal's instinctiveness, was probably nested in a ball underneath the blankets, little horns poking from under the sheets. And Sanji would be on his side, hair still hiding his eye and his breathing louder than anyone else's thanks to his smoking habits. The only one Usopp was having trouble visualizing was their newest member, Brook – though he was still fairly unfamiliar to all of them. But he knew in time he'd become accustomed with the skeleton's habits and gestures just as he was with any of his other Nakama.
It was kind of funny really, how easily he had accepted the other. Where at first meeting he had been decked out in garlic and crosses and cowering on the couch, he now sat down willingly beside a walking, breathing body of bones at breakfast time, his smile wide and asking the other hopefully if he'd like to hear a story. Maybe it was a testament to how the human brain could only take so much shock (of which on the Grand Line, there was plenty of that) before it just started to settle and accept everything.
Or maybe it was because he knew Brook now – not as a fearsome, ghastly abomination – but as the man he was inside. He knew well the loneliness the musician had experienced when the entire world was stolen away. He respected the promise he was still faithfully keeping when thousands of others would have crumbled under weight of such a heavy burden. He was even envious for Brook was also a recklessly brave man, fearlessly reaching for him from being crushed under the gigantic arm of a demon or willingly electrocuting himself as he got launched through the air just to land a single, devastating blow on a deadly foe. That was the kind of courage Usopp admired and aspired to one day have inside of himself.
One day, maybe, when the shaking in his knees finally stopped and his voice boomed not with false bravado but with true confidence as he faced his enemies.
He smiled at the thought, pushing the galley door open only to pause in surprise when he found the room occupied. "Oh, you're still up Nami?"
The navigator looked up from where she sat at the dining table, hunched over a familiar looking red-rimmed straw hat. A couple needles, spare straw and netting were beside her. Ah, that was right; Luffy had torn a small hole in it from the last fight. "Mmmhmm. The weather is promising to stay stable for a while, so I figured I'd better fix this while I have the chance. What about you?"
"Got cold working on a project, just came up here for something to drink."
"The water in the kettle is still warm." Nami offered. He finally took notice of the steaming mug set beside her – she must have just boiled it. "It's on the stove if you want some." He smiled and thanked her, taking the offer gratefully. Just as he poured himself a cup and dropped in a bag of peach tea, Nami surprised him by asking, "What are you working on?"
He glanced back at her, but she was still stooped over her work, not even giving him a glance. Unless it had to do with her Clima Tact, she almost never asked him such a thing; in fact, she was never very interested in what he or any of the other 'moronic' guys on the ship were up to as long as it didn't somehow annoy her (and, quite possibly, he often lost her with the chemistry talk if she ever did ask). But, maybe she was going to ask for another upgrade if she learned it wasn't important or time-consuming; maybe she was just bored.
Either way, Usopp was never one to not sit around and talk about how great he was, so he picked up his cup and settled down on the bench across from her, bragging, "A new star. Something similar to my Hi no Tori Boshi, except I'm trying to get it to work with the flash dial instead. I want it to be electric." Nami arched an eyebrow at that and he knew she was interested. He waved his hands out wide, "I want it to take the form of a gigantic dragon. Wouldn't that be great? I've almost got it too!"
He dropped his chin in his hands, grumbling disgruntledly, "But I can't get the powder to spark the way I want it to. Getting it to make electricity is easy but getting it to actually take shape is trickier." Or well, it was easy now; he had plenty of practice when working on Nami's thunderbolt tempo.
"Mmm…" The woman hummed and he knew he had lost her attention again with the 'impracticality' of it all – girls just didn't understand the importance of making things look awesome. Pulling out a severed piece of straw to carefully replace it with an intact one, she said, "Well, I'm sure you'll figure it out eventually."
"Of course I will." Usopp proclaimed, thumping his fist against his chest as he brazenly lied, "Back in my village, they used to call me Usopp, the genius inventor! There was nothing I couldn't create. Why, I was even about to invent world peace, but I didn't get to finish before you guys stole me away."
Nami smiled in amusement, rolling her eyes. "We didn't steal you."
"Says Cat Burglar Nami, while she willing gets swallowed by gigantic, treasure-bellied snakes and makes shady deals with undercover princesses."
"That's different!" The woman argued, "That treasure didn't belong to anyone and that was a business deal." Before he could even utter a syllable in argument, she quickly added, "And this time was a… a gift from God. I had nothing to do with it whatsoever."
"Ah-huh." Usopp deadpanned as he tied the string around the tea bag and squeezed out the excess water, setting it aside. "And yet, you still searched that castle top to bottom, am I right?"
She blinked at him, pursuing her lips in a mockingly-offended pout, "How could you say such a cruel thing? I would never be so heartless. I was looking for you guys!"
"Oh, and you just happened to miss the four-hundred foot zombified demon trying to crush us all to paste in the courtyard?"
She shrugged some, saying casually, "Well, it couldn't be helped. You know I miss the finer details when not wearing my glasses." And then she looked up at him and smiled innocently.
It lasted two seconds before they both burst into laughter, shoulders shaking with mirth.
Nami recovered first, turning Hat over and replacing some of the inner netting while Usopp rubbed some at his eyes and lifted his glass to his lips. Having lived alone for many years, he had picked up a thing or two about sewing himself (though he'd never tell anyone that), but he knew his amateurish stitching could never compare to Nami's expert hand. It made him wonder, sometimes, why she bought all her clothes in all those fancy stores when he knew she was skilled enough to make her own ensembles. But then sometimes he recalled her house that she never knew he had seen and the story she never knew he heard and thought maybe he knew the answer anyways. They were all escaping something, weren't they?
He watched curiously as Nami poked a needle through the straw that, at first glance, appeared unthreaded; but when he squinted harder he caught sight of a thread as light and invisible as a spider web slowly mending the netting back together with every loop. He sipped at his tea, mentioning, "It always seems to be the same spot that you need to fix."
She nodded, not seeming at all surprised by this. "It happened on the island before yours, actually, the one I met Luffy and Zoro on. There was this pirate who had this devil fruit power that was able to split his body into pieces and have them float through air. He disembodied his hand and stabbed Luffy's hat with a couple of knives. I managed to patch the holes, but it's never been the same."
He shuddered at the explanation, glad he never met such a fearsome guy. "Bet Luffy really walloped that guy huh?"
The navigator grinned mischievously, something about the memory being entirely satisfying as any of Luffy's triumphs tended to be, and said, "Something like that, yeah."
"Heh, not surprising. Luffy treats that hat like you treat treasure." Usopp replied, finishing off his tea – but noticed Nami falter a little in her sewing. "What?"
"Iiie…" She sighed softly, "Nothing really. That's just… the same thing Luffy said when I first met him. There were a couple of pirates who knocked his hat into the air and he told them not to touch his treasure." She chuckled softly, "I remember how ridiculous I used to think that was… gold or jewels. That was all treasure used to mean to me then."
She dropped the needle, letting it fall against the brim then rose the hat up and placed it on her head, smile a little shaky as she said, "And then at my village, when Luffy dropped this on my head, I remembered him saying that… and I learned that there are a lot of different kinds of treasures in the world."
He stared at her, wordless.
Once, when he had been much younger, Usopp remembered he used to shoot pebbles at one of the village dogs (it was getting on in years and had no teeth) until it chased him. And Usopp would run away pretending the lame, old canine to be something big a ferocious like a T-Rex or a dragon that he was just narrowly escaping from. And then one day he ended up tripping over a loose branch in the road. The fall hadn't hurt at first, but he remembered how the impact had left him momentarily blurry eyed and a jolt running through his spine. And then, after about twenty seconds when he realized he had skinned his knees and his chin, he started bawling his eyes out like the baby scrapes were the most agonizing pain he would ever feel in his entire lifetime (and, at four, it probably was).
And that was exactly what he felt now when Nami uttered those words. It was the shock, like that of an unexpected and sudden fall, which left him reeling and numb all over at first. But after his mind had managed to catch up and process what he had just been told, then the pain came and left him wondering if he might die from it.
"Usopp?" It was Nami's turn to notice him waver, pulling the hat off her head. "You alright?"
He jerked a little, seeing the concerned way she was looking at him, and spluttered, "Tea!" He stood abruptly, grabbing his cup. "I need more, that's all!"
As he stepped up to the stove, he felt the orange-haired woman's gaze burning a hole through his back. He tried to ignore it, only to curse when he noticed his hand shaking so much that some of the water he had been pouring missed the cup entirely. He gingerly picked it up by the rim and set it aside before grabbing the dishtowel off the oven handle and mopped it up.
And through every action, Nami continued to watch him, mentally trying to scorch him black. And even if it took days of staring (and a couple of debt threats), she'd get it out of him eventually.
The second cup poured easily. When he returned to the table, the tea was already strained and with three servings of sugar inside. The navigator was threading more straw but she gave him a cursory glance, silently inquisitive and maybe just a smidge alarmed – though if he pointed it out she'd knock him upside the head.
"You remember…" Usopp spoke, hesitant and mouth unexpectedly dry. He took a drink then started again, "You remember the Davy Back Fight with that Noro-Noro Split-head guy?" Nami nodded even though the question was mostly rhetorical; that had been a rather… unique day after all. "Well you know during the last game I was Luffy's coach for the boxing match. You remember how I dressed him?"
Nami grumbled, "Of course I do. A little hard to forget that ridiculous afro."
"Oi, don't insult the power of the afro!" Usopp argued defensively, but then slumped over some, drumming his fingers along the edge of his cup fretfully before mumbling, "Do you remember… what I wearing though?"
"What you were…?" The woman's eyebrows furrowed and it really wasn't any surprise that she couldn't quite recall. Between Luffy's marvelous appearance and the fight, it was a small detail, something so easy to overlook that even he didn't really realize the full impact of it. But as she looked at him, about to speak, she noticed his line of sight and looked down, seeing the straw hat between her hands and her mouth opened in realization. "Oh."
Usopp nodded tersely, the movement heavy. His fingers grasped his mug tightly, swallowing around the knot in his throat, and spoke just barely above a whisper. "I didn't really – I-I mean… He had pulled it off to get on the afro and I had just turned away for a minute, spotting these cool sunglasses, when suddenly something fell on my head. I-I figured he'd just put it back on his head no matter how dumb it looked but he gave it to me. He gave Hat to me and he… and you know what he said? 'Here Usopp, take care of this while I kick that split-head's ass'. And he had that ridiculous smile on his face as if he could trust me with everything and I didn't even think…"
Feeling overwhelmed suddenly, he dropped his head, saying in a tone that bordered on hysterical, "And then what do I do not three weeks later in Water 7? I-I just… I… I didn't even… Oh god Nami." He moaned, pressing his palm against his forehead as his shoulders shook, "I'm such an idiot."
He sniffled a few more times, until a handkerchief was passed under his nose and he glanced up, teary-eyed, at Nami who was smiling sympathetically, "Can't argue that. You are an idiot." She pulled away as he took the cloth. "And you're still one now, but not for the reason you think you are."
"What do you mean?" He dried his eyes and blew his nose, then folded it on the tabletop when she waved him away with a grimace as he tried to return it.
Nami pulled the needle through for the last time, the hole disappearing as if the straw had never been cut, and bit the thread free. "Because you're still acting like you never apologized." She inspected the hat one last time, giving a nod of approval at her own work, before tossing the hat over to him.
He grappled for it in surprise, catching it by the brim with practiced ease that he had learned from wayward breezes over the sea or an enthusiastic 'time-to-adventure' Luffy clinging upside down in the trees. He looked up at her in confusion, "What…?"
"Well, you're headed to the boy's cabin, aren't you?" Nami said casually, tossing her supplies in her sewing kit, "You can return that for me. I need some beauty sleep." She got up from the bench, before pausing just as she reached the door and looked back, "Oh, and make sure to leave everything spotless before you go or I'll be sure to tell Sanji whose ass he needs to kick in the morning!"
The sniper gaped, "You're a demon!"
"Yep, I'm going straight to hell!" She giggled, "Good night Usopp."
He grumbled back a response, getting up to rake the kitchen counters and dining table of any loose grains of sugar or straw, then washed his cup and hers, as well as the kettle and spoons. It only took about ten minutes overall, but he still bitched like it took thirty and would exaggerate tomorrow how it took hours. Maybe he could work in some sort of time loop. Explain to them how some paranormal being had forced him into cleaning for years while for them only one night had passed.
"Yeah. Chopper and Luffy would get a real kick out of that one." Usopp mumbled to himself, setting the last spoon in the dish drainer, wiping his hands dry. He gave the room a cursory glance, just to make sure he hadn't missed anything that might somehow induce Sanji's wrath-filled foot on his poor, sensitive posterior.
But the only thing still out of place was Luffy's hat, sitting innocently on the center of the table where he had left it.
He approached cautiously, as if expecting it to suddenly come to life and bite him, and he reached out towards it, fingers hovering momentarily over the neatly patched dome. Straw crunched lightly under his fingertips and he lifted it, hovering it up above him. He took an uneasy breath, before shoving the hat down on his head, just like Luffy would if he were there at that moment. And it felt right there – not the kind of right that it belonged to him, but rather the kind where he knew he would and could care for it, just as the sniper underneath the weaves of straw and promises would be by the owner. It felt like love and nakamaship and redemption.
But most of all, it felt like forgiveness.
Usopp left the kitchen, turning off the lights as he went, waving to Zoro who was perched in the window of the tower taking a breather (which, in his mind, was still lifting a 200-pound dumbbell in one hand). The swordsman gave a nod of acknowledgment and nothing more or less; and that was reassuring in its own way.
He still had work to do on the Tenryu Boshi but his mind wasn't even on the new weapon. It was mostly on sleep, finding himself becoming rapidly exhausted as he headed for the boy's cabin.
But, a little part of his mind also was thinking how tomorrow he'd set aside the sparking powder and flash dials and pull up a different project on his work bench: a series of flashy fireworks he had been trying to finish to impress the crew with for ages now. He just needed an afternoon to get that done. And with their newest crew member aboard, it was a great excuse to celebrate – not that pirates really needed an excuse.
And when he showed Luffy that night, his captain would think he was the best thing since cooked meat.
Or maybe, an old and battered straw hat.
A/N: So yeah… this happened.
I know, there are like 50 million other things I should be writing and finishing, particularly No Day Without You, but then I saw a screenshot of Davy Bark Usopp and realized he was wearing Luffy's hat and then remembered Water 7 and got unexpectedly hit with feels all over the place. I absolutely love it when the other Straw Hats have Luffy's hat so I can't believe I managed to miss that. Or maybe I had realized it at the time and forgot later because, really guys, I watched like 90% of One Piece in a single two-month long marathon. And him in that outfit was, what, two out of like five-hundred and something?
But anyways, for this story, I was kind of aiming for the theme: Sometimes we forget just how much we mean to another. And then I had to add in Nami, to give Usopp a little insight (and because Luffy giving her his hat is an infamous scene anyways). And then Zoro and Brook wormed their way in randomly beforehand and so this sort of turned into a nakamaship-all-over-the-place fanfic really. I don't even know if it's good, I'm just proud I managed to finish something after a small fit of writer's block.
Either way, thanks for reading. Even more thanks if you read all the useless author's notes too, haha!