Lux in Obscurum- "Light in the Darkness"
Feh, I think this actually became way longer and drawn out than I was going for, but I was having trouble chopping it up without destroying some of the other bits. Also, I don't think I meant to make Luffy sleep so much, but it was necessary to show all of the different parts of this.
Warning: angsty rambling ahead.
Disclaimer: I do not own One Piece
Luffy had nightmares. Of course he did. No one experienced what he had gone through without some kind of mental and emotional repercussions.
Eventually, every one of the Straw Hats knew about them. How could they not, with the way Luffy handled them? Nami was probably the first to know (although it could have been Zoro), almost instinctually, that there was something wrong with their captain. It had just never occurred to her that the source would be something so terrifying.
It had started as a rare occasion, and she remembers the exact moment she had realized that their captain wandering out onto the deck in the middle of the night and laying down next to the swordsman before falling asleep again might not be some random sleepwalking incident.
She had been awake late that night, charting their maps, trying to find the best one to lead them to the Grand Line. Exhausted and a little disheartened, she had eventually gone out to stand on the cool deck, rubbing her blurry eyes to clear her head. Zoro was sitting up against the railing of the foredeck, still as a statue but obviously awake, when Luffy had ambled out from below deck and made a beeline for him. The swordsman hadn't moved, or said anything at all, as Luffy stretched himself across the wood a few feet away and began snoring almost immediately.
Nami had wondered about it only briefly before chalking it up to their weird Luffy/Zoro mental bond and going back inside.
But when a similar occurrence happened only a few days later, Nami began to worry.
It was a hot day despite the sun being hidden behind a few passing clouds, and most of the crew were dealing with the humid heat by sprawling out across various parts of the deck for a quick afternoon nap. All except herself, standing at the railing beside the cabin door, and Sanji, who was currently cleaning the kitchen of the Going Merry.
Luffy sat up very suddenly, eyes shooting open, and before Nami could ask if he was alright, stood from the deck and made his way to where Usopp was asleep against the wall of the cabin. Again, the captain had lowered himself only a foot or two away from his crew mate before falling asleep almost instantly.
She had wanted to ask Luffy about it when he woke up a little later, but when Luffy sat up and laughed, apparently thinking he must have rolled across the deck in his sleep, she closed her mouth again.
He didn't remember. Perhaps he was simply sleepwalking after all.
The strange occurrence happened several more times over the next few weeks. More than once, Luffy had woken up at the kitchen table the day after Sanji had stayed at his station late into the night; another time Nami had spotted him sleeping beside Vivi's bed one morning as she roused herself for the day.
It wasn't until after the events of Skypiea that Luffy found his way to her.
She had been sleeping below deck on her little sofa, content with the weather being fair and Robin currently on watch, when she heard the tell-tale creak of the lower hatch opening and someone sliding through it to the deck above. Nami didn't need to look to know who it was, and she had just rolled onto her back to tell him to go away when Luffy spread his thin body along the very edge of her make-shift bed without a word and settled in for the rest of the night.
Nami had tensed immediately, not exactly sure how to handle this new development, and was just winding up to shove him off the sofa when she realized several things at once: he was not facing her, or moving, or talking. There was no restless fidgeting or stupid questions or needless clinging. He was laying completely still, just far away enough to not be touching her and facing the hatch leading to the top deck.
It had seemed an unusual reaction for someone seeking comfort, looking for a familiar presence to blanket their own insecurities. It was more the other way around, almost as if…
As if he was afraid for her. As if he was saying Don't worry, I wont let anything happen to you.
It was nearly mind-boggling, unfathomable. Luffy, their head-strong and sure-course captain, was well and truly afraid.
Nami was also completely still as she processed this new and startling information. Looking back, she could now see it very clearly as the pieces that had been missing fell neatly into place: with Zoro, Luffy had been between the swordsman and the front of the ship. With Usopp, between the sniper and the rest of the deck. With Sanji, between the cook and the door. It had been the same for Vivi.
And with her, between herself and the hatch.
Did he still not trust them to take care of themselves?
No, that wasn't it. While awake, Luffy trusted every single one of them, and only protected them when completely necessary. Then why was it so different when he was asleep?
Nami had let it go for the time being, and Luffy had woken up on the floor again with a smile on his face and no memory of how he had ended up there.
Luffy never mentioned it, and neither did anyone else. Nami was beginning to think it was her imagination until one day on the deck of the Thousand Sunny, not long after they had all escaped from Thriller Bark.
As far as she could tell, Luffy had been sleeping normally (or what passed as normal for him) for days now, and so Nami found herself feeling quite surprised when he climbed down very suddenly from the upper decks, looking a little woozy from his afternoon nap and walking straight toward Robin. He had dropped to the grass beside the chair Robin was using to read her books, without so much as a greeting, then stretched out in the sunlight, his back against the chair's wooden legs, and continued his nap peacefully. Somewhere in the corner of her mind, Nami also noted he had chosen the side between Robin and the railing of the Sunny.
She had watched Robin for a moment, looking for any kind of reaction, but the dark-haired archeologist seemed to be completely absorbed in her book and was barely aware of the captain's presence at all. Nami had squared her shoulders, readying herself to kick their rubber-brained captain back to consciousness and demand answers, when a bright flash of metal caught her eye.
With a huff of irritation she had turned away from the pair to see Zoro watching her with an unusually intense gaze, one she could read without even having to think about it.
Let it go. There's nothing we can do.
Nami stared back at him resolutely, and suddenly she knew he knew. He knew something, maybe even whatever it was that was making Luffy so…paranoid. She also knew, in that same instant, that Zoro wasn't going to tell her anything. Nami had watched with narrowed eyes as the swordsman turned away from her, sparing one last glance at Luffy before retreating into the shade of the cabin.
Nami had been annoyed at the lack of answers, and yet also quite relieved with the entire exchange; at least she wasn't the only one who had noticed.
The encounter brought to light a few more questions for her: how many times did this happen where she couldn't see it? How many times had Luffy awoken in the boys' cabin, plastered to Zoro's side or holding onto Chopper as if the small doctor were a teddy bear? How many times had he been accidentally kicked by Sanji or hit with one of Franky's enormous fists while trying to stay as close to them as possible?
Luffy's bizarre sleeping patterns didn't make much sense to Nami, although she had to grudgingly admit that if even Zoro couldn't fix the problem, then it probably couldn't be fixed. Whatever 'it' was.
During the day Luffy was always his usual energetic, perpetually starving and somewhat psychotic self. There was never so much as a clue that the boy with the dazzling smile and boundless optimism carried such a heavy and oppressing burden. He was insane, no questions in that department, but he wasn't afraid.
Still, that didn't stop Nami from watching Luffy almost constantly, and after realizing that it was not in fact her own imagination, Nami began to notice the subtle reactions of her other crew members during Luffy's 'sleeping guard' moments.
When Luffy would sprawl out beside Zoro, the swordsman always shifted, only minutely, toward the captain's prone form, as if they were magnetically drawn together even in sleep. Again, Nami would have written it off as part of their unusual bond, if not for the more prominent frown that always pulled at Zoro's mouth during 'those times'.
When Luffy would fall asleep at the kitchen table, Sanji would move his project, be it preparing a future meal or maintaining the tools of his trade, to either the long island counter or directly to the table itself, shortening the distance between them. His excuse would always be that either surface held more room than the much more narrow counter against the wall.
Both Chopper and Usopp began performing their studies and experiments respectively in more roomy areas, as if anticipating a visitor at any given time. Similarly, Nami had noticed a corner of Franky's workshop had been completely cleared of debris, leaving a captain-sized clean spot on the floor.
On occasion, Nami would hear a snippet or two of some old lullaby or another, either from Brook or, surprisingly, Robin, and would know immediately that Luffy was somewhere close by.
As for herself, Nami allowed the intrusions with no, or at least very little, complaint. There had been a couple of times, while she was sitting at her desk with Luffy on the floor beside her and feeling the fingers of one rubbery hand clamped around her ankle, that Nami seriously considered kicking him away so she could concentrate on reading her maps. She never did it, couldn't bring herself to do it. Not when he was holding onto her as if she were the only thing keeping him anchored to the rest of the world.
He never tried to sleep in her bed again, although once in awhile Nami would hear him shift against her bedroom door in the middle of the night, as if trying to make himself more comfortable.
It was amazing, Nami thought, that he ever managed to get any actual rest at all.
After awhile Luffy's odd habits became a common sight on the ship, and hardly anyone paid them attention anymore.
The separation of the Straw Hat crew had been heart wrenching, watching Luffy struggle so hard to keep them all together had been devastating, but waking up alone with no idea what had happened to her family had been terrifying.
Not since Bellemere's death had Nami been so truly afraid of losing everything, and somehow, in some way, this was even worse than that time. She felt nothing but sheer, overwhelming, bone-chilling, primal fear. It was blinding, a painful flash the moment upon waking in a strange house and lasting probably no more than the length of a drawn breath; but to Nami, it felt like a century of panic.
What happened? Where are you? Are you alive? Are you hurt? Where are you? How can I reach you? How can I save you? Where are you?
In that moment, Nami would have given anything, everything, to have them all within her reach again.
It had taken every single ounce of self discipline she possessed to regain her senses, the fear sealed to the darkest crevasses of her mind before she had even opened her eyes. But the damage was done, and there was nothing she could do to take it back.
Nami had, through experience, always kept a small piece of herself locked away; untouchable and unbreakable. She had always found it necessary to preserve a part of her heart, to not let anyone have it, because even such a tiny fragment was capable of destroying a person in an instant.
Yet now after so long with them, so many adventures and close calls and rescues and celebrations, after crying and laughing and being a family, Nami finally understood the risk Luffy had taken from the very beginning: he had given himself over to them completely, given them all the ability to destroy him, knowing the consequences of such a gift.
It had taken a lot longer than she would have expected, but Nami finally understood.
Two years might be no more than the blink of an eye for some, but when a person is a member of a dedicated yet forcefully separated pirate crew, those two years can be closer to a lifetime. So many things could, and would, change in only twenty-four months; some small and insignificant, some much more noticeable.
One of them, Nami realized as her newly-rejoined family set off once again, is that she was definitely not the only one who had experienced such a life-altering epiphany during their time apart.
Zoro's gaze was sharper now, despite having lost half of his vision, and much more attentive when one or more of the crew were in his sight. It was a small thing only truly recognized by those who knew him best, but it was there.
Usopp was still loud and quick to complain about a dangerous plan and still valued his own skin quite a bit, but he no longer felt the need to hide so much anymore. He now preferred to stay a little closer to them, to share a quick jab or an embellished story with whoever happened to be within hearing range. If anyone saw through his excuses for company, they kept it to themselves.
Chopper's doctoring skills had increased, and with them his confidence in his ability to protect his crew. He still fretted of course, still shouted at Zoro for being reckless and fussed over all of them after one big fight or another. For all of his new confidence, there were also times when the fear still shone through his tougher exterior.
Sanji was seen out of his kitchen more often; he always seemed to have a reason to check on everyone, albeit some more than others, before returning to his post. Robin had taken over Zoro's habit of favoring the higher places of the ship, specifically the locations where she could see and hear everyone around her even without the use of her Devil Fruit abilities. Franky seemed to make even more noise than he had before, listening for everyone's verbal reactions (from shouts of joy to indignant shrieks to annoyed grunts) as if he were conducting a mental head count.
Several times a day Nami would catch herself drifting toward another Straw Hat while either lecturing or explaining something to them, as if having a closer proximity to them would ease the tension in her mind. Sometimes she would wake up in the middle of the night and could only go back to sleep once she had seen Robin in the next bed or, on the nights the other woman had watch, heard the light snoring of the men in their own cabin.
The change in Brook was probably the most subtle out of the entire crew, and at the same time the most valuable. Being the oldest and most experienced pirate, he had always known of the revelation the rest of them were still sifting through, and so became an unexpected anchor for one person or another when the fear began to resurface again.
With Luffy, it was not what any of them had been expecting.
Where the captain was concerned, everything had been reversed. Despite losing his crew, and then living through the horrible events at Marineford, Luffy now carried far less fear than the rest of them. It was as if that second blow had torn his world apart and rebuilt it around him; he had already experienced the worst, and the only thing to do now was to make sure it never ever happened again.
He no longer sought them out in his sleep, either. Not because he didn't care, but because he didn't need to anymore. He was never alone, not with his crew revolving around him as though he were the sun itself. Nami thinks that maybe Luffy realized, in the simple and straightforward way that only he could, that his crew were all hurt on the inside, and it would take a long time for them to properly heal.
He was certainly willing to wait for them.
So yes, it was different at first. The Straw Hats had tasted a kind of fear that most people could only imagine; not just losing their friends and family or their own lives, but their dreams and goals and very reason for their existence. They knew now that their entire world, everything that made anything make sense, could be gone in an instant.
It was a frightening thing, even for the strongest of them, and led to many sleepless nights over the first several months. However the more they traveled together, the more they followed the inextinguishable light that was their captain, the fear began to fade away into the background until eventually it was little more than a memory.
It took a long time, but one day and almost simultaneously the crew let go of the dark, cold fear and settled into something far more substantial and enduring; absolute faith. Not only in their captain or each other, but in themselves as well.
And, if after a particularly difficult battle Chopper could be found sleeping beside Sanji, or Zoro had moved his napping spot a little closer to Robin's chair, or Usopp and Franky were seen tangled together in the grass after completing all necessary repairs…well, that was just to be expected of family.
After all, Nami knew, Luffy had nightmares. But so now did everyone else.