Taking in a Stray Cat: Chapter 9 – Part 2: Spoken Words

Nami sighed contently as she rested her head on Zoro's broad chest, reveling in the sound of his heartbeat as she traced the scar on his chest with her fingers. Her body ached with exhaustion as well as satisfaction, if she could relive any moment in her adult life repeatedly, it would have been the last couple of hours. Granted her adult life had been no picnic and happy memories were rare, but she had been able to find joy at times… but none of those joyful moments came close to the pure bliss that she had felt with the man she was now using as a pillow.

She continued to listen closely to his heartbeat as well as breathing, though his breathing was even and steady, she could tell that he wasn't asleep and that he was just enjoying a similarly satisfied feeling like her own. Nami let out another content sigh, before breaking the comfortable silence. "Oi Zoro…" She spoke quietly to grab his attention, getting an "Hmm" from him to show he was listening. "You're definitely not what I expected you to be."

"Eh" He responded to her slightly confused. "I didn't hear you complaining much these last couple of hours. In fact the only words I heard from you were you calling my name." His voice was playful and confident, getting a small giggle from her in response.

"That's not what I was talking about baka. You were great." A smile formed on her face as well as a small blush as some of the recent memories of pleasure replayed in her head, but she stowed those memories away, perhaps for a later time, as she continued with what she had been trying to tell him. "I'm talking about separating the man from the legend."

"I like to think I'm a little of both." Nami didn't have to look at his face to know the smug look that was plastered across it. In response to his comment the mikan-head pinched a piece of his skin located on the side of his stomach between her fingers and twisted hard to show her annoyance. He let out a small grunt to show discomfort, but made no further complaints.

"Could you be serious for a moment? I'm trying to say something." The swordsman let out another quiet "Hmm" to show he understood, and Nami continued. "In East Blue, anyone who had ever heard the name Roronoa Zoro, had all heard the rumors; how you were a ruthless demon, how you would cut through anyone and anything without mercy, that if there was a price on someone's head, you'd gladly remove that head to claim that reward, and how you were heartless…" Nami paused for a moment and listened to sound coming from his chest. "If only they could be where I am right now, who knows what they would think of you?"

"Let people think what they want." Zoro's voice was soft, but firm to show that he meant what he said. "Peoples' opinions of me won't change who I am."

Nami smiled at his answer, she respected that about him; no matter the rumors, no matter what past demons he may have had, he wasn't ashamed of who he was. She wondered to herself if she could ever have that same confidence.

She put the thought to the back of her head, instead concentrating on something that had been bothering her for a while. "There's one thing I still can't figure out though Zoro." The swordsman craned his neck to look at her and show that he was listening. "Did you really go all the way to East Blue just to pay your respects to your mother's grave?" Nami knew Zoro was an honorable person, but at the same time the journey to do such a thing wouldn't have been the most convenient, especially if he was supposed to be starting his advanced training with his father that day.

The swordsman gave her a confused look at her question, before reaching his right hand behind his head to scratch the back of it. "Well… that actually wasn't my intention that day." He removed his hand from his head and let it rest across Nami's left shoulder as her eyes narrowed, expecting an explanation. "I just wanted to go fishing, and then after getting hit by a storm I wound up on some weird island, and after that… every time someone would give me some weird directions to get home and before I knew it I was in Shimotsuki Village." Zoro said everything so nonchalantly and with a shrug of his shoulders, as if it was such a natural thing.

Nami could only stare at him for a moment with her mouth agape, trying to register what he had said. "So you went fishing…" She began, getting a nod from Zoro to confirm. "And then you got lost and wound up all the way in East Blue?"

"I didn't get lost." Zoro defended with a bit of a pout on his face.

Nami couldn't even begin to imagine what kind of journey he had taken, all the different missteps he would've had to take to wind up in an entirely different sea, and instead she just shook her head of any of the un-logical thoughts and addressed him with a different question. "So you never tried to go home after that?"

"I figured I would get there eventually." He said with another shrug.

"But you stayed in East Blue for over three years. Your family never tried to contact you?" Nami still couldn't believe his story. She was no stranger to being away from home herself, but even she still reached out to her family every now and then to let them know she was alright. Though she wondered to herself how long it had been since she last contacted her sister, it had been at least a couple of months, maybe she should call her.

She was torn from the thought though when Zoro answered her question. "I pretty much just assumed me sending them the money I was getting from the bounties was enough, but…" Zoro's face took on a serious scowl as he remembered a certain incident. "My old man tracked me down once."

Nami's eyes widened at Zoro's mention of his father, she could tell from Zoro's expression that something important happened that day. She didn't need to ask him to continue with his story, he already knew that she was already quite the curious cat, so he began to tell the story.

"It wasn't long after I had started sailing with Luffy, and right after we picked up Usopp. Luffy was hungry so we stopped by that floating restaurant where we met the damn cook, and as always Luffy got us into some trouble with the restaurant owner and he was having to work there to repay his debt. Luckily for him some pirates showed up and were causing even more trouble than he had, and he worked out a deal with the owner that if we defeated the pirates his debt would be cleared." Zoro let out a quick sigh, letting Nami know that this was the part of the story that was causing him to have such a serious expression. "We were handling the pirates pretty easily for the most part, and then out of nowhere my old man showed up. He sliced the pirates' ship right in half, scaring the shit out of them, and most everyone else in the process. I wasn't sure what he was doing there at first. Whether he was in the area on official business, whether he was there to help us out, or whether he was just lost." Nami smirked about the last comment, she seriously doubted whether Zoro got his sense of direction from his father, but she wouldn't deny the possibility. "But we soon found out that he was there for me. He had heard the rumors about me turning pirate and came to see for himself. When I confirmed that it was true he insisted that I come home with him right then and there, but when I refused, he decided to test my resolve instead."

Nami couldn't remain silent anymore, she lifted her head from where her chin had been resting on his chest to look him squarely in the eye. "You fought with your father, didn't you?" Zoro nodded his head to confirm her suspicions. "So what happened?"

"I lost, horribly. I couldn't land even a single blow." Zoro answered her modestly. "Knowing that I was no match for him, and still refusing to abide by his wishes for me to return home, I did the only thing I thought was right." Nami could only stare at him intently, waiting for him to finish, refusing to even blink in fear that she might miss something. "I offered him the opportunity to strike me down, and end my life if he saw fit."

The mikan-head's breath hitched at his confession. Her eyes and fingers instinctively traveled to the huge scar across his chest and abdomen as realization sunk in that it was Zoro's own father that gave him that scar. She traced the scar for a moment before having to cover her mouth with her hand, fearing that she would let out a sob if she hadn't done so. After what felt like an eternity to her, but in truth was only a few seconds, Nami composed herself and removed her hand from over her mouth to ask him another question. "This is why you and your father don't get along isn't it?"

"Bwa-ha-ha-ha!" Zoro belted out surprising Nami even further. "No… actually, after he slashed me, I remember making a vow, it was directed mainly towards Luffy, but was also meant for him and my mother as well. It was a vow to never lose in another real duel again." Nami noticed a smile form on Zoro's face. It was a proud smile. "After I made that vow my old man was smiling... I'd never seen him smile like that before… I think he was proud of me." Zoro's smile faded after a couple of moments before he continued. "Sure it hurt like hell when he gave me this scar, as well as the one over my eye, but I've never been angry over these scars, I'm proud of them."

"Tch" Nami let out after hearing his statement. "How can you be proud about scars? They're ugly, and they always remind you of the pain you went through when you got them."

"Hmm…" Zoro responded to her. "Sure you remember how you got them, but eventually the pain goes away, and we become who we are because of those scars. Even you Nami." Zoro rubbed her shoulder with his right hand, tracing over the scars with his thumb.

The mikan-head flinched when she felt the movement of his hand, and pulled away from him. She quickly sat up from her comfortable position lying next to him, showing him only her back. She became very conscious of herself in that moment, instinctively wanting to hide and guard herself from his gaze; she covered her shoulder with her right hand and stared at the floor. "My scars don't make me who I am, and I'll never be proud of them." She spoke aloud with venom in her voice, but the venom wasn't towards Zoro, it was towards her own memories.

There was an awkward silence between the two of them for a few moments, before Nami broke that silence with a long sigh. "I could really use a drink." She said while turning an expectant glance towards Zoro who was still lying on his back and looking at her intently.

"I have a bottle of sake in my wall-safe." He told her with a nod of his head over in the direction of said wall-safe. "It's the good stuff I've been saving for a special occasion, but you're more than welcome to it… as long as you want to share." His lips curled into a sly smile, and Nami knew what that smile meant; he was telling her that sharing the sake with her was special, and he didn't need to save it anymore.

Nami smiled back to him and quickly sprang from the bed, dragging the bed sheet off with her as she wrapped it around herself. She walked over to the wall-safe, not at all surprised to see that it wasn't even locked, in fact it looked as though it had been torn open at one point, most likely by the man who was now beginning to sit up on the bed. She gave Zoro a quick glance, silently asking him permission to open the safe, and getting a silent nod from him in response. The safe was a cluttered mess, with stacks of unorganized money just sitting there for the taking, but for once in her life Nami wasn't even tempted. She saw the bottle of sake in the back corner of the safe, and was able to grab the neck of the bottle to begin pulling it free from the confined space, but as she did, she accidently caused some papers to fall from the safe. With one hand on the bottle she reached down to retrieve the papers… when one in particular caught her eye: it was a wanted poster of Zoro, with the reward of 90 million Beli, and in the bottom right hand corner was the issuer's mark, a mark Nami recognized all too well, because it was the mark that haunted her every time she looked in the mirror.

Nami's eyes shot from the poster to Zoro, shock and confusion clearly written on her face. "You knew where I got this tattoo from, didn't you?" Zoro nodded his head. "And you… you didn't say anything? You let me stay here, and gather all that treasure, you trusted me?" Zoro only nodded his head again. "Why?" Her last question came out the most confused of all.

"You're a lot of things Nami: a thief, con-artist, a greedy witch…" Nami's eyes narrowed at him as he listed those titles, getting a smug smirk from him in return. "…but you're no pirate, at least not like one of those pirates. There's more to you than that." The mikan-head's lip began to quiver at his words as emotions she thought she had buried deep long ago began to threaten to surface. Zoro stood from the bed and walked over to her, not even worrying about covering his still naked form. Once within arm's reach of her, he wrapped one hand behind her head, pulling her in close for a long passionate kiss. Once the kiss was broken he reached his free hand for the bottle of sake, and held her hand in place around the neck of the bottle. "Now how about that drink?"

Nami could only nod in agreement with a shy smile across her face…

-0-0-0-0-

The evening turned into early night as the two shared the bottle of sake together; they had long ago put their clothes back on and began telling each other stories of some of their adventures on the sea. Nami made special effort to make sure she never mentioned her dealings with the Fishmen Pirates, not that she needed to hide it anymore, but because she would just rather not think about them at this moment in time. She wanted to talk about happy memories, and she was very much enjoying listening to Zoro talk about his, and the rest of the crew's dreams. But Nami could tell there was something weighing on Zoro's mind.

"So has anyone accomplished their dream yet?" She asked genuinely curious.

"No, not really." He answered her with a disappointed, as well as betrayed, look on his face. "Besides possibly Luffy and Chopper, everyone else kinda just abandoned their dreams. Choosing to pursue love and careers and that kind of crap." Zoro would never had admitted it aloud, but he'd been harboring anger towards his nakama for a while, he'd felt that they had all turned their backs on their dreams, and in a way, turned their backs towards him.

"It's not crap Zoro. Sometimes people just have to realize that some things are more important than their dreams." Her words were sincere, as well as a little sad, because she too knew what it was like to abandon her dream for something else. "Isn't there anything that you've ever been willing to give up your dream for?"

"Hmm… I almost did give up my dream… once…"

A memory flashed in Zoro's mind of the final events in Thriller Bark: he remembered an overwhelming feeling of fear, not for himself, but for the safety of his nakama after they were all heavily over-powered by the might of the Shichibukai Bartholomew Kuma. He had remembered how hard he had fought with the Tyrant, but despite his efforts, he was too fatigued and injured and was quickly too overwhelmed himself. Kuma's sight was only truly set on Luffy's head that day, and as he closed in on the rubber man, Zoro had done something he never expected himself to have ever done for anyone, he offered Kuma his life instead. It just wasn't Luffy that he was sacrificing himself for, it was everyone. Kuma was moved by Zoro's devotion, so he struck a deal with the swordsman; a deal for Zoro to take on Luffy's pain. Zoro could still remember the agonizing pain coursing through his body, and the feeling of being ripped apart from the inside-out. He had remembered what he'd done for his nakama, and how he'd been willing to sacrifice his own life for them, and for the last year he'd been doubting if they would ever do the same for him…

…But then Zoro's eye widened with a revelation as he remembered something else that happened that day: he remembered the cook offering Kuma his head instead, that Sanji had been willing to die for everyone as well, and if it wasn't for Zoro knocking the cook unconscious, who knows what would have happened if the cook had got his way. An overwhelming feeling of regret flooded over Zoro as his mind began to clear from a haze that had been clouding it for a while, and all his feelings of anger and betrayal had been for nothing, because in that very moment, he knew one thing for certain: he wasn't the only one who would be willing to die for his nakama. That if given a choice, any of them would sacrifice their lives for one another, but not without a fight first.

A thoughtful smile formed on Zoro's face as he turned towards Nami who was giving him a curious look. "My dream is everything Nami, but you're right, there are some things worth giving it up for, but I'll be damned if I give up my dream without a fight." The mikan-head could only stare in a slight awe as his face took on a confident smile, she was amazed at the sudden change in his expression. She wasn't sure why, but for the first time having been around him, he finally seemed… like he was whole. "What about you Nami, are you just going to give up your dream without a fight?" He asked her with a serious expression.

"My fight… is complicated." She answered him. "If I fight too hard I might lose things that are important to me."

"Hmm…" Zoro nodded his head in understanding. "But if you don't fight at all, you might lose them anyway."

The swordsman's words stung her a little harder than she would have wanted as images of the people she cared about, the place she called home, made their way into her thoughts. A singe of pain throbbed in her chest as a familiar face of someone she'd already lost showed itself in her mind: she could remember long pink hair that was shaved on the sides, a cigarette hanging out of the person's mouth, and a loving smile on their face. The loss of this person still made her chest ache, and their memory always make her have to fight back the tears even after all this time. She couldn't lose anything else. "I am fighting... the only way I know how." Her gaze was serious, showing the swordsman that she was determined to continue things her way, and getting another nod from him to confirm he understood.

Nami let out a large sigh, relieved that she was able to push back the tears that wanted to escape her eyes just a moment before. She was also overcame with an undeniable urge to call her sister. It had been far too long since she'd last heard her sister's voice, and she needed to hear it now. "Thanks for the drink." She told him sincerely as she quickly placed her feet on the floor to stand from the bed. "I just realized that I have to go make a call." She quickly walked towards the room's exit, stopping at the doorway to look at the swordsman again and tell him "Thank you for everything Zoro" in a sad but grateful voice, before quickly making her way down the hall and towards her room, not even giving the man a chance to respond.

Zoro watched the empty doorway for a moment; realizing that those were the final words that Nami intended to ever tell him, and from the sadness of her voice that it was her way of saying goodbye. He contemplated his next move for a moment, wondering what his course of action should be, but Zoro wasn't the type of man to think long about something, he was quickly able to build his resolve and know exactly what he felt he needed to do. He placed both of his feet onto the floor and rose from his own sitting position on the bed and crossed his room over to one of his dressers. He shuffled through a messy drawer before pulling out a mobile phone* he rarely used. He searched through his contacts for a moment before making a decision on who to call.

"Puru-puru-puru*… puru-puru-puru…" The phone sounded in Zoro's ear, causing him to grow more and more impatient with each ring. "Puru-puru-puru, ka-cha... Umm… He… Hello?" Finally the shaky and confused voice of Usopp answered on the other end of the phone.

"Oi, Usopp. It's Zoro, is Luffy there with you?" Zoro knows full well that Luffy rarely answers his own phone, often do to being too forgetful to even have it on him, so calling Usopp was his best bet to get ahold of the rubber-man.

"Um… Hi Zoro… Um… this really isn't a good time…" Usopp began to stutter.

"Oi, is that Zoro?" The swordsman heard Luffy's voice in the background. "Let me talk to him!"

Zoro stayed silent and only continued to listen, as Usopp's voice was the next to be heard. "Calm down Luffy." Zoro could hear the struggling of Usopp obviously wrestling with Luffy over the phone. "Zoro can I call you back? I'm in the middle of reading my latest book to a bunch of kids, it's called The Adventures of the Great Captain Usopp and…"

"Got it, Shishishi…!" Luffy's triumphant voice sounded after he was able to get the phone from Usopp. "Oi Zoro! Are you ready to sail yet? I want to go back out to sea!"

"Hmph, yes captain, I'm ready." A smile grew across the swordsman's face as he spoke his answer to the rubber-man.

"YOSH!" Zoro had to pull the phone away from his ear to not go deaf from his captain's excited reaction. "Chopper*! Usopp…!"

"I'm still right here Luffy, you don't have to shout." Usopp complained.

"Zoro's back to his old self, we're finally going back out to sea! Shishishi…!"

"Really?" Chopper's own excited voice broke out over the background.

Zoro could hear a lot of excited voices over the phone in the background, mainly from young children, as well as a lot of complaints from Usopp. "Oi Luffy…" He spoke to grab the rubber-man's attention but got no response. "Luffy." He spoke again. "LUFFY!" He screamed out, causing all the noise from the other end of the phone to completely stop for a moment.

"Eh?" Luffy finally answered, wondering why his first-mate was yelling at him.

"There's something we need to do first." Zoro answered with a seriousness to his voice. "How long before you can get everyone here?"

"Shishishi... We'll be right there! Oi, Usopp, Chopper, we gotta go! Call Robin, Franky, and Brook. We need to go meet Zoro and Sanji right now!" Even though the conversation was over the phone, Luffy needed no explanation from his oldest nakama, if Zoro said something had to be done, than Luffy knew it to be true.

"But… but… Luffy…" Usopp's voice broke through all the commotion on the other end of the phone as Zoro listened on for a little bit longer. "I'm still in the middle of telling The Adventures of…"

"You can do that later." Luffy answered him quickly. "We're going on a real pirate adventure right now."

Young voices became louder as kids in the room started bombarding Usopp and the other two Straw-hat Pirates with questions.

"Really?"

"You guys are real pirates?"

"That's so cool!"

"Where are you going on your next adventure?"

"Will it be dangerous?"

"Ah-ha-ha…" Usopp laughed nervously for a moment until a false confidence took over his voice. "Yes, I and my loyal nakama are going on a most dangerous adventure. But fear not my young followers, for I am certain that my loyal nakama who would gladly sacrifice themselves in the name of my greatness, as well as I, a proud warrior of the sea, will triumph. And then I will be able to tell you all about the continued and great adventures of The Great Captain Uso…"

"Oi! I'm the captain!" Luffy shouted over Usopp.

"Oh come on Luffy! Couldn't you at least pretend for a moment for the sake of the kids?" Usopp complained. "They're my stories and…"

Zoro didn't need to listen to anymore of the arguing between Usopp and Luffy. He hung up the phone and thought about what he would do to pass the time until his nakama got there. 'Hmmm… I guess I could sharpen and clean my swords until those baka get here.' He thought to himself as he began to gather his things. 'Those baka better not get lost…'

-0-0-0-0-

Nami quickly shuffled through her belongings, before finally finding the item of her search: a new satellite phone she purchased earlier that day while in Ruger, she thought it might come in handy during her long voyage home in between islands. She dialed the only number she knew by heart, and nervously waited for someone to answer on the other end.

"Hello?" A confused feminine voice asked after the phone quit ringing.

"Hi Nojiko" Nami greeted her sister softly. "It's me."

"Nami?" There was a shock in the voice of Nami's sister, as well as a little relief. "It's been months since I last heard from you, you've never gone this long without contacting me. I was worried sick about you. What have you been doing? Where have you been? Are you safe?"

The mikan-head was a little taken aback by the barrage of questions; sure she went longer than usual without contacting her, but there were plenty of times Nami had been gone for weeks and Nojiko would barely say a word, this time felt different. "Nojiko, it's okay. I'm okay." She spoke to try and calm her sister. "Some things happened and I lost my last phone, and plus I got busy with a lot of other things." Nami was purposely being vague with Nojiko which was nothing new between the two of them. Rarely did Nojiko ask for specifics, it was usually more than enough to just know that they were both alive and well. "I've been staying with Roro… with some really good people for a little bit. I'm safe Nojiko."

"Oh thank Kami.*" Nami heard her sister let out a huge sigh of relief after hearing the news that the mikan-head was safe. "I thought something… never mind. I'm glad you're safe Nami." Nami could still hear something off about her sister's voice, there was a sadness to it. She wanted to cheer her up.

"Nojiko I've got great news. I'm coming home soon." Nami paused to see if Nojiko would react, but only got an awkward silence in return, so she decided to continue. "I've done it Nojiko, I've collected enough Beli to buy back the village from Arlong. You're all going to be free, we're all going to be free. Isn't that great?" She thought for sure that would cause an excited reaction from her sister, but there was still no response. "Nojiko?"

"You can't come home Nami." Nojiko responded softly.

"What…" Nami didn't know how to respond. She was confused and a little hurt from her sister's words. "Why… why not?"

"You just can't Nami." Nojiko's voice was cracking on the other side of the phone, Nami could tell she was on the verge of tears. "Just take the money you've collected and run. Stay as far away from this place as possible."

"I… I don't understand Nojiko. Why can't I come home? I have the money. I thought you'd be excited. We can all be free." Nami was becoming frustrated; for the last 12 years of her life she had been working for this one moment, and she was so close, and yet the person she trusted most in the world was telling her she couldn't have it.

"Arlong will never let us go free Nami. Especially not you. He still needs your skills as a navigator and a cartographer so that he can take over all of East Blue and move onto the Grand-line." Nojiko paused for a moment. "The only way Arlong will ever free us is if it's the same way he gave Bell-mere her freedom."

Nami covered her mouth for a moment to hide the shock she felt from hearing her sister's statement, but after her shock had subsided, anger took over. "That's not true Nojiko!" She seethed through the phone. "Arlong and I have a deal. He might be a monster, but he's also a business man. Once I show him the money I'm sure he'll hold up his end of the deal. I would've been able to pay him 2 years ago if it wasn't for those damn marines confiscating my money…"

"WAKE UP NAMI!" Nojiko interrupted with anger in her own voice. Nami could hear heavy breathing on the other end of the phone as she could vision her sister visibly seething, but then heard a huge sigh shortly after, and when her sister resumed talking her voice was calmed. "It was Arlong that took your money 2 years ago."

"No… that… that can't be." Nami stuttered out in shock. "Where's your proof?"

"You know what I am telling you is true Nami..." There was unshakable resolve in Nojiko's voice. "You've just been denying it, and hoping there was still a way to save everyone, but Arlong will never let you. Chabo* overheard Arlong about a year ago bragging about how he put the marines up to taking your money. About how he found some newspaper clippings of a bounty hunter hidden in your map making room and he was stealing the money to get back at you for plotting against him."

Nami's head began reeling from the information Nojiko just told her. She quickly began to put the pieces together: the timing around when Zoro had met up with Luffy and soon left East Blue. The marines confiscating her money. And Zoro's bounty poster with Arlong's mark for the exact amount that had been stolen from her 2 years ago. She couldn't believe that she hadn't put it together sooner. She should've noticed, but she didn't. And that's when she knew Nojiko was right: she didn't notice because she didn't want to notice. Even after she had tried to forcefully remove the tattoo off of her arm, she still continued to lie to herself and convince herself that there was still hope. She really was in denial. But now even though she knew the truth, she still couldn't admit defeat. "It's okay Nojiko, I'll just offer him more money for the village then. I'll offer him 300 million Beli. There is no way he can refuse that."

There was a long silence on the other end of the phone before Nojiko finally spoke again. "Listen Nami, you tried, and the fact that you were willing to fight for all of us has always been a ray of hope for everyone in the village. But it isn't going to work." Nami was about to try and reason with her sister, but Nojiko cut her off to continue. "Something big is about to happen. There is all kinds of talk that a large group of Fishman pirates is heading this way in a few days. I think they're called the New Fishman Pirates and their captain's name is Hody Jones. Genzo and Dr. Nako think that Arlong is going to finally make his move to take over all of East Blue once these other pirates get here."

Panic started to come over Nami, as she continued to listen to Nojiko, she was starting to feel serious fear for her sister's and the all the other villager's safety. She was silently praying that none of them would do anything rash… "We're going to fight them Nami" …like that. "We were able to get our hands on some weapons. We know we don't stand much of a chance, but at least we won't have to live as slaves any longer."

"No Nojiko… You can't…" Nami tried to plead.

"I'm so glad I got to know that you're safe Nami, and you're with good people. Please Nami, stay away from Cocoyasi, stay away from East Blue. Don't ever let Arlong or his men get their hands on you, don't let them use you as a tool anymore. You have to stay safe." Nami could hear the overwhelming sadness in her sister's voice, as well as the determination. "It's not your job to fight for us anymore. It's your job to live…" Nami could hear soft sobs coming from her sister. "Just remember that none of us ever thought lowly of you Nami. We all love you, very much… Goodbye…"

Nami stood motionless as all sound on the other end of the phone stopped. "Nojiko…" it took her a few moments to realize that her sister had already hung up. "Nojiko…" She quickly redialed her sister's number, praying that she would answer again, but her call went straight to voicemail. She dialed again… and a third time before she knew it was pointless to keep trying, because her sister had shut off her phone, most likely for good. The mikan-head's hands began to shake violently as panic overtook her; the satellite-phone slipped out of her hand and fell to the floor with a thud. Nami's breathing and heartbeat became erratic, and she had to muster all of her strength to not fall to the floor herself. She wanted to scream, she wanted act out violently, she wanted to stab that cursed mark on her shoulder again to forcefully remove the tattoo like she had tried 2 years ago. She felt herself ready to explode with anger and frustration at any moment…

But she never did. Almost like flipping a switch, she immediately calmed down and her breathing steadied, as she found her resolve. She knows her sister told her that it wouldn't work, that no amount of money would ever be able to buy her village's freedom, or her own, but Nami had to try. She also realized that she couldn't wait for Franky to deliver her ship like he had promised he would, nor would a ship with sails be fast enough to get her to Cocoyasi in time, she also wasn't even sure if a ship with a motor could get her there fast enough, but it was the only option she had left, and she would have to steal it. She hoped Perona could forgive her for what she was about to do. She would leave tonight.

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Nami made her way down the path towards the docks slowly and quietly; it was around 3:00 a.m. and the last thing she wanted was to draw the attention of the Humandrills while she was all alone, especially since her defense capabilities were limited while caring two large briefcases of money. She had easily gotten hold of the keys to the Gothic Princess and was almost in the clear, she would only have to make it around one final bend and then the docks would be in view. She had just started to turn the bend when a voice broke the silence of the night.

"So what was your plan witch?" Nami nearly dropped the briefcases from the scare Zoro's voice caused her. She quickly scanned the area to see him leaning against a tree with his eye closed.

"Zo… Zoro, what are you doing out here?" She asked him nervously.

Zoro opened his good eye and looked directly at her before answering simply. "I was waiting for someone."

"It's almost 3:00 a.m., who could you be waiting for at this hour?" Nami was becoming more nervous by the moment, surely he wasn't waiting for her.

"I already answered your question, now it's time you answered mine. What was your plan?" Zoro stood from the tree and approached Nami, standing in front of her and looking down at her before he continued speaking. "Better yet, let me guess. You were going to steal Perona's boat, make your way to East Blue, and try to solve all of your problems with all the money you got in the briefcases." Nami was speechless; she knew Zoro was more perceptive than he let on, but not this perceptive. "If it has anything to do with that big ugly fish, it isn't going to work."

"You don't know that. He and I had a deal. I'm sure he'll keep to it… He has to." Nami was trying to convince herself more so than Zoro.

"Guys like that don't honor the deals they make Nami. They don't do it for the money, they do it for the power. If they want money they just take it by force." Zoro watched the mikan-head closely to make sure his words were settling in, from the look in her eyes he could tell she knew what he was saying was the truth, she just didn't want to admit it, not yet, she still needed a final push. "You can't fight monsters with money."

Nami's breath started to get erratic again, as the same feelings of frustration that she had earlier started coming back. "And how exactly would you suggest I fight then baka?"

"A monster that feeds off of being powerful, needs to be shown that there are more powerful monsters out there." The swordsman answered her.

Nami couldn't take it anymore, she had been holding it back for too long. "How the hell am I supposed to do that?" She screamed at him, throwing the briefcases down to the ground and getting directly into his face. "I'm not strong like you are! And I'm fighting the only way I know how! What else can I do dammit?" Nami dropped down to her knees and buried her face into her hands, she knew he was right, and that Nojiko was right, and that no matter what she couldn't save the village on her own. She was completely overcome with emotions and was doing everything in her power not to let the tears flow. What was left for her to do?

"Why don't you just try speaking Nami?" Zoro's words were genuine, but confusing to the mikan-head. She removed her hands from her face to look up at him, waiting for him to explain. "You've got no problems being a bossy pain in the ass, but you've never said the words you truly want to say. Just say the words witch." Zoro kneeled down in front of her to meet her gaze at eye level. "Some words are meant to be spoken."

Nami knew exactly which words he was referring to, the ones she had wanted to say so many times, to so many different people, but always told herself she couldn't. The thought of being able to finally say them was too much, the flood dams finally broke and tears fell freely from her eyes. She kept telling herself that it was a dream, and that it wasn't real, that it couldn't be that simple… but even if it was just a dream, even if she would just wake up to find out none of it was true, she wanted to say those words at least once.

She looked at him with a tear streaked face and watery eyes, to finally speak the words she had wanted to for so long. "Zoro… help me… please…"

"It's about damn time, you stubborn witch." Zoro answered with a confident smirk before standing and offering his hand to assist her to her feet.

Nami wiped the tears from her eyes before taking his hand and standing to her feet. When her hand made contact with his own she realized that it wasn't a dream, that it was real. "You're one to talk you stubborn ass. Next time drop a girl a hint or something and I would've told you sooner." She retorted back with a truly grateful smirk of her own.

"I guess I didn't realize that you're actually pretty dumb for a smart person." Zoro teased as he reached down and grabbed the briefcases before starting to walk back up the path.

"Oi baka. The docks that way." The mikan-head told him and pointed in the opposite direction he was heading, causing him to blush at the realization that he was already heading in the wrong direction.

"Hmph…" He huffed out before both of them proceeded down the path in the right direction.

As the dock came into view Nami noticed a ship she had never seen before, as well as the rest of Zoro's nakama waiting for her with huge smiles, and determined looks on their faces. She felt tears of joy wanting to well up into her eyes again, but the tears were interrupted by the joyful scream of Luffy. "Oi Nami! Zoro convinced you to be our navigator right?"

Nami gave Zoro a confused look, and he only shook his head in response before turning his attention back onto his captain. "Dammit Luffy, do you ever listen to anything anyone says? She hasn't agreed to be our navigator… yet. We have to help her with a fish problem first."

"Eh…" Luffy responded with a confused look, but the look was soon replaced with a serious one. "I don't care what anyone says, Nami's our navigator, even if she hasn't agreed to it yet. And no one hurts one of our nakama and gets away with it. Yosh! Let's go kick some fishman ass!"

"Aye!" Chopper, Franky, Usopp, Brook, and Sanji all screamed in unison, while Robin gave a nod and a smile to Nami to show their support, to both her and their captain, before they all started to board the foreign boat.

Nami looked up at Zoro with a skeptical look. "What the hell did you get me into?" She asked him, getting a smile in return.

"Hmph… Don't worry, they're a lot more reliable than they look." Zoro stepped forward towards the ship to follow the rest of the crew. While Nami only looked on wondering if she should follow for a moment, but only for a moment. She had asked Zoro for help, and there was no turning back now.

Nami approached the ship, taking a moment to look it over as she did. It was a modern design but didn't look like any ship she had ever seen before. Like Perona's ship it was a double decker, but had a much narrower design, no doubt built for speed. The thing she found most odd was how flashy it was. It was adorned with all different kinds of colors and painted on the side in the front was a lion's head surrounded by a flower and the name Super 10,000 Sunny II*, and on the back a Jolly-Roger with a Straw-Hat.

After boarding the ship Franky quickly greeted her. "Ow… I saw you checking out the ship Nami-sis! Don't worry, this one ain't yours. But the way swords-bro was talking it sounded like you were pressed for time so I brought my greatest ship yet. It's a prototype and I'll guarantee it's the fastest thing on the sea. It'll get us there in SUPER no time!"

Nami only smiled and nodded at him; she couldn't deny speed was a necessity. She watched silently with a thoughtful smile on her face as the crew started to prepare to disembark. But there was something just a little saddening about leaving. She turned towards the shore, to get one final look at the place she had called home for the last several weeks. It was time for her to say goodbye to Kuraigana Island. She only wished she could say farewell to Perona. But as she looked at the island one more time, she was happily surprised when she noticed a head of Pink hair standing where the ground meets the docks… and even more surprised to see her father standing next to her.

"Oi Nami!" Perona yelled out to the mikan-head. "I know they are all a bunch of reckless un-cute baka, but two of them are my family. Take care of them for me, especially that stubborn little brother of mine."

Nami tried to find words to respond to Perona. To tell her that her family was in safe hands, as well as to express her gratitude for everything the pinkette had done, especially to bring the two very stubborn personalities of her and Zoro together. But no matter how hard she tried to speak, she found herself speechless. She could only smile and nod to the pinkette as Zoro approached her side and placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

Zoro too gave Perona a grateful nod; sure his sister could be a pain in the ass, but she always meant well, and on occasion, all of the trouble he had to put up with from her was worth it. Zoro then directed his attention towards his father, expecting to see a judging-piercing gaze… and indeed the gaze was a judging one, but not in the same way Zoro had expected.

"Roronoa, I see you found it again." Mihawk told him with a smile on his face, getting a confused look from Zoro in return. "You found your will to fight. The next time we meet, I should probably watch out. You might just be ready to take my head as you promised."

"Hmph…" Zoro responded simply to his father, as he turned to head back towards his desired position on the ship.

"Oi! Are you guys all done with your goodbyes yet?" Luffy said beginning to grow impatient. "It's time to set sail!" Luffy positioned himself at the very front of the ship. "Come on Franky, fire it up!"

"Ow… Sure thing captain!" Franky responded with vigor as he started the engines.

"Oi witch, you might want to grab onto something." Zoro said to Nami to grab her attention.

Nami looked at him confused, and then to other members of the crew, to see that they were all frantically finding a secure place to either sit or stand. She particularly noticed very nervous looks on Chopper's and Usopp's faces as they quickly strapped themselves into a chair. She then heard a mechanical sound coming from the back of the ship where she noticed two jet engines coming out of hidden compartments before they started to emit a small roar while power started to flow into them. Her eyes quickly widened in realization and shock just before Franky screamed out an excited "SUPER COUP-DE-BURST!"

Nami screamed in terror at the tops of her lungs as the ship screamed forward through the water, she thought she was going to be thrown overboard before a strong hand gripped her arm and pulled her into the owner of the hand's body. She wrapped both arms around Zoro's waist, holding on for dear life, as he casually held onto the rail with only one arm. "WHAT THE HELL DID YOU GET ME INTO?" She screamed at the swordsman who now acted as her lifeline. "YOU GUYS ARE ALL INSANE!"

"Shishishi…" Luffy laughed excitedly, while hanging onto his beloved had, as they darted off into the distant sea towards East Blue.

End Chapter 9 – Part 2: Spoken Words

Author Notes and translations:

Mobile Phone* = they don't use Den-Den Mushi in this universe

Puru-puru-puru* = but the ringing sound phones make is still the same as the Den-Den Mushi ;p

Chopper* = both the young reindeer and Luffy often attend Usopp's book readings despite the book being intended for young children

Kami* = Japanese for god

Chabo* = was the kid that wanted to kill Arlong for fishman killing his father, but was later stopped by both Nami and Nojiko

Super 10,000 Sunny II* = Franky has also built the original Thousand Sunny in this AU, but it would have took forever to get to East Blue by using the Thousand Sunny so… I did what I want ;p

Alright… no long and boring author notes at the end of this one. Just the simple = Thanks for reading and please review ;-}