The Thousand Sunny idled in a slow current, drifting steadily onward through the Grand Line. Overhead, the moon shone serenely, oddly bright for a summer evening, and around the boat the waters had been transformed into molten glass, shimmering with the collective light of the heavens. It was so quiet that, were it not for the gentle sound of waves lapping against the lumbering wooden hull and the occasional fluttering of the sails, Nami might have thought that the whole world had fallen into eternal silence. As it was, she stood on deck, staring from the prow of the ship out to sea, a content smile on her lips. Behind her, on the mast, a single lantern flickered dimly.
Ahead, there was nothing but the blue-black of the sky and the sea, the colours blending together until they were inseparable. Even so, Nami knew that somewhere in the not-so-distant future and in not-so-distant waters, an island awaited the ship; an island which, to date, had not received its fair share of visitors. Glancing down at the eternal pose that she had held in her hand for almost the entire day – and many more days prior – she read once again the name etched clumsily into its cork base.
Raftel, or so the messy writing proclaimed. The island of the King of the Pirates. Luffy's island, soon.
Rubbing one hand up her arm, she shivered, only partially because of the cold. As they had journeyed deeper into the New World, charting untraveled waters as they had followed this final, all-important pose, sleep had become ever more-elusive for her. She suspected that the same was true for the other members of the crew. Even now, on this flat sheet of a sea which could barely touch let alone hinder or disturb the Thousand Sunny, she thought it probable that the others were lying awake in their bunks, listening – as she was – to the meagre sounds of the ship and the outside world. It was a restlessness born of anticipation; an electric, thrilling feeling which was completely impossible to ignore. This island was not the end of their journey – not even close – but it was Luffy's dream.
A creaking sound drew her attention, and she glanced over her shoulder, smiling when she saw who had managed to tread upon the one loose floorboard on the entire deck. Franky would have been infuriated to have heard that noise.
"Luffy," she said simply, by way of greeting, a sudden wind whipping her hair across her face and making her taste salt. "Huh. I suppose you've always been surprising. I thought that you would be the only one of us who would be able to get some rest. I only really expected you to wake up once we got to Raftel."
Luffy's head was bowed, his hand on his straw hat as he rode out the sharp gust sweeping across the deck. When the wind ceased its sighing and settled back into a deeper rest, he lifted his head, meeting her light grin with a wide one of his own.
"Hey, Nami!" His eyes drifted from her face to stare out across the ocean. Immediately, his jaw dropped. "Hey, is that an island?!"
She chuckled softly to herself and shook her head. "No, it's just shadows. There's nothing even on the horizon yet, but we'll get there. You do have the best navigator on the sea on your crew after all."
"That's true," he said, without a hint of doubt, as if he were simply recollecting a fact. "I know we'll get there. I trust you, Nami."
"Even with the One Piece?" She could not resist the tease. "What if it's a big pile of gold? Surely you'll give some of it to your crew, who have worked so hard all these years?"
Luffy's grin stretched wider. Before answering, he sprang forward, leaping nimbly over her head to the ship's fiery figurehead, seating himself cross-legged upon it.
"I don't think it's going to be a big pile of gold," he said eventually. "But if it is," He swivelled to face her, beaming. "Okay."
Leaning against the mast, she smiled faintly. Framed against the moon, stars shimmering around his hat, even Luffy managed to look mysterious, like some immutable deity perched upon a mountaintop, primed to pass judgement and preach wisdom. His hat was aslant as per usual, and his eyes shone with their usual vibrancy, just as bright as the celestial objects at his back, but something seemed different about him. She could not place exactly what it was, but for a moment he almost looked like he might fit the template for the King he was hoping to become.
"I'm hungry," he complained suddenly. "Is Sanji awake?"
And no sooner had the moment arrived than it had passed, normality restored. Smiling, she shook her head in wry amusement, folding her arms across her chest.
"Probably. Like I said, I don't think any of us will be getting much sleep these next few nights."
Luffy hopped down from his perch, looking for all intents and purposes like he was planning to go and raid the stockroom. Nami was ready to step aside to allow him to sprint unimpeded back into the underbelly of the ship, but – not for the first time – he did something which she had not been expecting.
He just stood there, right on the spot where he had landed on the deck. In the gloom, it was hard to see his face, but from the angle at which his head was tilted he seemed to be staring straight at her. Confused and suddenly nervous, she took a hesitant step forward, squinting towards him through the shadows. When this did not help, she took a few steps more.
He was not staring at her. That much became clear when she was closer. Instead, his eyes were on something behind her; just over her shoulder. Puzzled, she looked around and, instantly, she knew why he had come to a standstill. On the mast, the faint lantern that she had brought outside with her was still burning, albeit faintly, the candle within having shrunk almost all the way down to the wick. It was struggling valiantly, but the fire would be out soon. Nami watched it silently for a few seconds, and then turned to Luffy.
"He would be proud of you," she said quietly, before she even knew what she was saying.
Even as the words left her lips, her heart leapt to her mouth in horror that she had dared to voice them. It was not so much that she was worried that he would be angry that she had done so, but they had somehow never spoken as a crew about that time; the war at Marineford and Ace's imprisonment and death. Again, it was not so much that talking about it was forbidden. For her part, Nami avoided speaking about it because it reminded her of how close Luffy had come to breaking. It frightened her, how vulnerable he had been at that moment; how fragile he had become. Luffy wasn't vulnerable. Luffy wasn't fragile. Luffy was Luffy; they could always count on him to be exactly who he was. Perhaps that was what scared her the most about that time – the thought that he had almost lost himself entirely. They might never have seen him again.
As these thoughts ran through Nami's head, Luffy bowed his.
"I know," he replied, just as softly. He turned his head away from the flame, looking out across the endless sea.
Nami stood awkwardly for a few moments, following his gaze out across the ocean. Only the horizon met her eye; a horizon which she still could not separate from the sky. She had thought it serene at first, but now it seemed like a void, a darkness at the edge of the world looming across everything like some spectre or vengeful god. Having known her share of shadows, Nami knew just how difficult it was to move beyond them. Perhaps it was that knowledge which pushed her to step forward once again, and to lay her hand gently against Luffy's upper arm. He had been her saviour and he was her captain, but more than anything else he was her friend, and she wanted to do what she could to help him.
"Nami," he said suddenly, seeming strangely distant. "Tonight's a strange night, isn't it? It doesn't feel like a normal night."
That night's air was cold against the skin of Nami's outstretched arm.
"It feels weirdly familiar though, doesn't it?" she replied. "This isn't a normal ship. Perhaps this is our night."
She had meant all of them; she, Luffy, and the crew. Or at least, she thought she had. When Luffy turned to look at her, he had an expression that she did not recognise on his face, half appraising and half curious. All of a sudden, Nami realised how close she was standing to him, and how ambiguous her words had been. As she opened her mouth to correct her mistake, her voice stuck in her throat, heat rising unbidden to her cheeks. For a moment, as she stood there beneath the constellations, caught in the gaze of the King of the Pirates, she could barely breathe, each passing moment another moment in which she could have better explained what she had meant. But something kept the words inside, the same thing that charged the air around them just as powerfully as could the Clima-Tact. In that moment, she made a choice; she let him make of what she had said exactly what he wanted.
Luffy stared at her for a long time. It was probably the longest she had ever seen him look at anything without his face stretching into a huge grin or darkening with anger.
"Hey, Nami?" he said slowly, in the end. "You still smile, right?"
Whatever she had been expecting, it had not been that. Taken-aback, she withdrew her hand from his shoulder uncertainly.
"Your smile." And there it was; the wide grin that she had seen so many times. "That old man on your island said he would hurt me if you lost it. You shouldn't look so serious."
Maybe it was the grin. Maybe it was those words. Maybe it was that clear, perfect night and the fact that they were standing on the verge of history. Maybe they were feelings that she had long-supressed. Whatever the truth – whatever wellspring to which she owed her actions – it did not really matter. Her heart rushed with a tide of emotion, her hands cupped Luffy's chin, and she kissed him, knocking his straw hat from his head in the process.
He stumbled backwards, perhaps in shock, as she teased his lips apart with her own, pressing the advantage which she had gained after catching him off-guard. Before she knew it, she had him pressed up against the figurehead, her hands in his hair as she feverishly stole his breaths, one by one. Even Luffy – Luffy, with his immaturity and indifference – was momentarily so stunned that his jaw slackened, his mouth opening just enough for Nami to deepen the kiss. For a very short, but exhilarating moment, she could kiss him with the sudden passion that she was feeling, and she made every fraction of a second count.
Then, she felt hands on her shoulders, pushing her back, and they broke apart. She had to hide a smile as Luffy held her at arm's length, gaping at her in astonishment.
"N-Nami!" he spluttered with shock. "What was that for?"
Folding her arms across her chest, she smirked. "Come on, Luffy. I'm a thief! It's only natural I would want to steal a kiss at some point... I suppose now just seemed like the right time."
Luffy gaped at her for a little longer, but his expression turned thoughtful eventually. "Because of this weird night?"
She smiled faintly as Luffy straightened up, and she stepped aside to let him pass as he wandered over towards the nearby mast, there to stand in the gloom beneath the sails. Belatedly, she realised that the candle inside her lantern had blown out. In that little flourish of activity, she had not noticed. Luffy seemed alright, though; his head was bowed as he leant against the wood, but he looked to be waiting rather than introspecting. Smiling a small smile at the thought of Luffy introspecting, she sauntered over to join him, turning around to gaze out across the wide, dark blue frontier ahead of them. She took a deep breath, letting the freshness of the sea air fill her lungs, and closed her eyes. Whether Raftel was near or far, it had a serious job on its hands to live up to the wonderful, open waters of the New World.
Luffy's voice was strange. Her eyes fluttered open.
Cool lips covered her own; lips which somehow tasted just like the ocean. Hands cupped her face, tentatively mimicking her own technique, and her mouth parted with shock, just as his had. Stunned, she brought her hands up to his shoulders, ready to push him away, only to feel all of the energy suddenly sapped from her limbs. She was so used to being in control – navigator, preserver of order – that the loss of it left her rooted to the spot, helplessly ceding to every tentative demand that Luffy made. Tilting her head back a little, he deepened the kiss, using her tactics against her as he cheekily sought out her tongue with his own, the merest of contacts somehow managing to cause her heart to surge with excitement.
And then, suddenly, he pulled away, leaving her rocking, light-headed, on unsteady legs. Stepping back, smiling widely, he did not even seem to notice how much he had affected her. As she stared at him wide-eyed, he lifted his hat from his back, where it had been hanging by its strings, and returned it to his head. Before leaving, he gave her a final, huge grin.
"Hey Nami, I got my kiss back," he declared triumphantly. "You'd better not try to take it again!"
He brushed past her, heading to the kitchen, leaving her stunned on the deck. After a few moments spent waiting for her heart-rate to return to something resembling normal, Nami exhaled slowly, not having realised that she had been holding her breath. With shaking fingers, she touched her lips, which felt like they were on fire. He took his kiss back? Was he really that simple?
Suddenly, she found herself grinning. Laughter burst from her warm lips, and soon she was doubled over, her stomach aching as she shook with mirth. Of course he was that simple! Luffy was Luffy, and there was nobody in the world quite like him. Nami laughed until her lungs burned for air and tears shook in the corners of her eyes, and then laughed some more. When, at last, she managed to compose herself, taking huge and desperate breaths of air, she leant heavily against the nearby mast, shaking her head.
"You idiot, Luffy," she giggled, fondly, allowing her head to fall back against the mast. "That's going to cost you."
And it was then, as she stared happily up at the starlit sky, that she heard birdsong.