- The Orange Ribbon -

-oOo-

It was Zoro's birthday. And what was the green-haired swordsman doing? Fleeing the remainder of his own birthday party.

As was the custom on that wonderful ship called the Thousand Sunny, each of its crew members received a birthday party on their special day – captain's orders. But Zoro had been rather distracted after a certain gift had been placed on the dining table...

A Half Hour Ago:

Zoro's birthday lunch was going rather nicely, not that he cared much about such things but the swordsman, very much, enjoyed the festive atmosphere. That was until the gift-giving happened. He received gifts of different kinds. Some of them were quite nice gifts, some were useful gifts, and others – precious gifts. The aroma of Sanji's cooking was quite nice as it reached him from the kitchen stove, making his empty stomach rumble just a little bit. So were Luffy and Chopper's very creative birthday cards. The two had gotten into drawing, lately, and fancied themselves quite the artists. Robin's very useful book on ancient sword fighting would be added to his growing collection, which now would fill a whole shelf in the library. But Nami's gift... was precious. Even though he didn't look very happy when she put it on the table. It was nothing fancy, just a bottle of sake. Something she usually bought him for his birthday. But this was a rather good sake that Zoro hadn't had a taste of in a while, a really excellent sake that would have made his mouth water had it not been for the bow tied around the neck of the bottle. An orange bow, to be specific. Zoro narrowed his eye at the bow then he looked up at Nami who was feeling embarrassed as she and the whole crew waited for a reaction. But Zoro said nothing, not even a thank you. "Well? Don't you like it?" she asked, sounding offended.

"Yeah," he blurted out, putting his hand on it to at least show he was accepting it.

"Okay?" she mumbled and sat down at the table.

"Talk about being ungrateful, marimo." Sanji snatched the bottle from the table. The cook turned his blushing cheeks to Nami. "Don't pay attention to him, Nami-san. It's an excellant choice and so beautifully wrapped, my sweet," he cooed. The bottle was placed in the fridge and Sanji served the birthday lunch. Nami was upset but she did her best not to show it. Zoro was in shock and tried his best not to show it. The gift was very pleasing but the bow made him uncomfortable.

After the lunch, Zoro was very ready to get his lips on that bottle of sake but he didn't want to do it in front of Nami so he remained seated at the table only as long as she did. Once she got up and went to the library, did he get Sanji to give his sake back. "Oh now you want Nami-san's gift. Couldn't you have showed some more gratitude, marimo?" the cook threw his way.

"Would you just hand it over," Zoro growled. So with ribboned bottle in hand, Zoro now fled the ship to enjoy it somewhere on the island they were docked at. Anywhere where Nami wouldn't see him drinking that sake. But as he fled, the orange-haired navigator happened to come out onto the library balcony and spotted his green-clad form heading for the woods. "Where are you running off to?" she muttered. Nami also happened to notice what he had in his right hand. A bottle with an orange bow tied around its neck. "Interesting," she said before letting out a long sigh as Zoro lost his way on the edge of the woods. Wherever he intended on going was not around there but the swordsman remained in view of the sunny as he took every wrong turn when in the woods and ended up back on the edge of the trees. Nami considered zapping him with some lightning just to get the madness to stop. But shaking her head, she tossed her long hair from her shoulder with one hand and left the balcony.

Why did finding a spot to sit and enjoy his sake have to be such a chore! Zoro didn't ask for much. He was a man of simple means, who could drop down anywhere and call it home. But he couldn't get out of view of the sunny. "Are those idiots playing a birthday prank on me or something?" he muttered, scratching his head. It really was as if the sunny was following him. Zoro was frustrated. If he went on that way then his precious sake would not remain cold for long. Just when he finally was moving deeper into the woods did he decide to take what he had. "Whatever," he muttered and dropped his swords and his weight down against a large rock in the woods. His yukata was green and his hair was green. Who would spot him sitting there anyway?

"There you are," said a silky voice. Zoro's unhappy eye caught sight of Nami standing not too far away. And just like that did his escape become pointless. "Why did you run off to the woods to have your sake?" she asked.

A moody Zoro looked at the orange bow on the neck of the bottle. He felt as if it was some symbol of a noose around his own neck. "To have a drink in peace," he grumbled.

"I thought you didn't like it," Nami said.

"I do," he answered, truthfully. He really liked the gift but that bow around its neck...!

"You didn't look happy about it," she said, coming over to him.

"Yeah," Zoro muttered. He started to untie the bow. If he could just get it off. Nami came right to him, making Zoro think she was going to sit next to him or snuggle up against him! But, instead, the navigator climbed onto the large rock he sat against and lay her slender form over it. She made herself comfortable on her side, her upper-body supported on an elbow. She was right behind his head, hovering over him, able to watch every move he made. Zoro looked up at her and Nami looked down at him. "Go away, woman," he grumbled. Now he was going to drink it with her hovering right over him? The blasted ribbon still remained around its neck. To his horror, Zoro had discovered that it had been glued to it – rather firmly.

"Zoro, you messed up the bow," Nami said. Her long arms slid over his shoulders and she retied the bow, some of her long hair fell against his neck and onto one green-clad shoulder. Her cheek brushed against his hair. "That's better," she said.

"Woman, get off!" he growled. Nami retreated but remained where she was, like a feline stretched out on the very comfortably sized rock.

"Have a taste," she invited.

Zoro huffed but opened the bottle and took a sip. It wasn't like he was obeying her. He was going to take a sip anyway. She just happened to beat him to it with her suggestion. The sake was good, just as good as he had known it would be. Some of the best sake he had ever tasted. The woman had made him very happy but Zoro wasn't very keen on showing it. "It's good," he mumbled and a tiny smile slipped through.

Nami smiled, completely satisfied. "I knew you'd like it," she said behind him, above him, around him, increasing Zoro's suspicions. "I wonder something though... " she added and trailed off.

He gulped. "What?"

"I wonder, if anyone gave you a birthday kiss?" she suddenly asked him. An already tense Zoro became angry. He knew it! He knew there was more to the ribbon!

"Hey, we already made a decision about the kissing!" he growled over his shoulder, ready to fight for his freedom.

"I only asked a simple question, Zoro, but seeing as you brought that up; that decision doesn't stand anymore," she said, not bothered by his fit.

"The hell it doesn't!"

"Of course it doesn't," Nami added. "We went against it just a few days after making it."

"That stupid Halloween crap and fireworks made us do things we never would," he grumbled.

"They were just two kisses, Zoro."

"They were stupid," he said.

"They were quite good, actually," Nami said, not regretting them at all. "But that was probably because of my leadership," she jibed. "I guided you through those kisses really well, didn't I?"

"Eh? Leadership?" He scoffed. "You were weak. That was all."

"What are you talking about?" she asked, frowning.

"I had to hold you up half the time," he mentioned.

"What?" she asked, sarcastically.

"All you did was hang on my neck while I kissed you," he declared. Only when it was too late did Zoro realise what he had said.

Nami let his words hover in the air for a few seconds before she spoke. "So you kissed me," she teased with a smile. "I could have sworn it was mutual but thanks for clearing that up."

"Whatever, believe what you want. Now shut up about it," He took another sip. His precious drink was warming up too soon and so was his body. Zoro took longer sips to cool himself down.

The kisses had been mutual, mutual meetings of lips. Their hungry eyes peeping through their home-made Halloween masks and then their aggressive moves of their lips and hands had spoken more than real words would ever convey. Zoro didn't like thinking about what had happened just a few days ago. He didn't want to get things confused. Nami was his crew mate and someone he saw as a very troublesome woman. Seeing her in any other way would be madness. He blamed the kisses on how well they'd been getting along in the New World. They barely argued anymore and most of that passionate fire that would flare up during angry confrontations of the past had shown up in those kisses. The kisses had been new and better ways in which they expressed what was between them. What had always been there. A fiery attraction.

Behind those roughly coloured-in paper masks with angry eyebrows drawn on them that Luffy and Chopper had made, Zoro and Nami had found a freedom to act on their desires. They had wanted to be kissed by each other, to be held by each other, to find any desire they could find in each other. And the truth had come to the forefront. When they had dared to stop and the awkwardness would no doubt take over did Nami flee, almost a little too dramatically as she had gone down the stairs and hurried to where some of the crew stood. Thinking back, she couldn't even remember who they had been. But they had been her sanctuary and so had that ugly mask resting on the bridge of her nose as it had all but hidden her glowing eyes from unsuspecting glances. Zoro had let her go, her touch, the feel of her against him, not leaving his mind.

The next day, they had almost passed each other on deck when both had stopped and faced the other. "It never happened," Zoro had said, aggressively.

"Of course not," Nami had said with equal determination. And they had gone their separate ways, both eager to put the happening behind them.

Then came Guy Fawkes, just a few days later. Sometimes fireworks up in the dark skies can be considered romantic. Zoro and Nami had found themselves standing next to each other as the crew oohed and aahed below on the lawn deck. A clothed arm had brushed against a bare arm and then the back of a rough hand had brushed against the back of a soft hand. And soon Zoro and Nami had repeated the Halloween kiss, but this time under the bright, colourful lights, their passion matching the bursting flames in the skies. After that they had become more irritable with each other. But with Zoro's birthday coming around, Nami had felt a need to make peace. No one had done anything wrong, after all. So she, secretly, had gone out of her way to get the best sake she could and had wrapped an orange-coloured ribbon around the neck. But realising that Zoro would probably just pull it off, she had super glued it to the bottle with glue she had gotten from Franky. As long as Zoro enjoyed that sake, he would be reminded of who had given it to him. Nami had sat with the bottle of sake, knowing that Zoro would like it and had smiled at that thought.

"Buying that special man in your life a bottle of wine. My, my, Nami-san. And all wrapped up in a bow," Robin had teased, catching her staring at the bottle with a happy smile.

"It's not like that," Nami had responded, though her face and tone had shown something else. But Robin's words had concerned her. "You think the bow is too much?"

"It's just for decoration, right?" Robin had asked.

And they both knew it wasn't. But Nami left it there. If anyone said anything she'd just punch them on the head.

But no one had or even seemed to find it odd and now Nami lay there wanting to watch Zoro enjoyed her gift. And she teased about their kisses because she wasn't annoyed anymore. She and Zoro were not really enemies anymore so accepting that she felt an attraction to him was not such a bad thing. They had, somewhat, become closer over the past few months. They'd chat more and smile more. Things were rather good whenever they left the crew behind and just hung out together. And Nami didn't want what was between them to be ignored again.

"Are you just gonna lie there and watch me drink?" Zoro asked with a frown. He hoped she wasn't thinking what he thought she might be thinking as she watched over him.

"Yeah, I guess. Why are you so moody? I've been nothing but nice to you," she asked.

"How come did you get me this?" he asked.

"Why? Cause you're crazy about the stuff, that's why," she said.

"But how come such a good one?"

"I wanted to make peace," Nami said, honestly. "There's no reason that we should be mad with each other just because of a couple of kisses."

"Peace, huh?" he said.

"Yeah, I wouldn't want things to go back to how they used to be. You know, how you'd always be unhappy to see me."

"I was never unhappy," he defended. "Just... a little annoyed."

"Yeah, you couldn't stand me," she added.

"That's not true." Zoro turned to look at her. There was something very serious about the way he said the words.

"It's not?" Nami asked.

"Well, my guard just comes up whenever you're around. I'm not like the other's who will just run when you say run. You know that."

Nami smirked at that. He was so serious about it. "Is your guard up now?" she asked.

Zoro ignored that question. "So I'm just more cautious where you're concerned," he continued. "I might come off a little cold but we've always had a way of saying whatever we wanted to each other. You won't just fall apart because of things I say."

"Do you like that about me?" she asked.

Zoro looked at her and found it to be a sincere question. "Whatever," he said with a smirk.

"One last question," she said.

Zoro sighed. "Go ahead."

"Would you be offended if I gave you a birthday kiss?"

Zoro frowned, looking in front of him. "Why would you wanna do that?" he asked, tense again.

"No reason," she lied.

Zoro didn't know what to think. Was this just another part of her plan to trap him? Just because of a few kisses did she think she owned him now? "I don't need a birthday kiss or any other kiss," he pressed and took a quick sip.

"Okay," Nami answered in a neutral tone. "But I didn't ask if you want a kiss, I asked if you would be offended if I gave you a birthday kiss."

Zoro felt defeated. "No," he said. He wasn't going to lie.

"Good," Nami said. "It's just one friend giving a birthday kiss to another friend, so it's not a big deal."

"Guess not," he responded, warily.

Then Nami was leaning down and the next thing Zoro felt was her hand on his clothed shoulder and her cheek brushing against his cheek. "Zoro," she said, her warm breath flowing over the corner of his mouth. She wanted him to turn his face so she could reach his lips but Zoro scrambled to his feet and Nami almost fell off the rock. "What?" she asked, looking innocent. "I couldn't reach your lips."

"Why didn't you just kiss me on the cheek?" he asked.

"Because that's not the kind of birthday kiss I want to give," she pressed. "Now will you let me or not?"

Zoro relented. He came over to her and Nami lifted herself up, supporting her body with her hands and looking up at him all the while. The swordsman stopped right by her; he bent down to bring his face to hers and Nami noticed the slight blush in his cheeks. She couldn't believe she had gotten him to agree but felt bad about lying. The truth was that she wanted to kiss him really badly and the birthday excuse was just a small part of the reason. Her head hung back, her long hair trailing down one arm as she closed her eyes, ready for the kiss. But his lips didn't touch hers. When no kissing happened, Nami's brown eyes opened again. "You're supposed to be giving the kiss," Zoro said over her lips, his voice suddenly soft.

"Happy Birthday, Zoro," she said and with a smile, Nami joined their lips, softly taking the lead this time and felt Zoro's lips start to move as well. Their eyes closed as they kissed each other patiently. Slowly the kiss turned into more than it should have been. It was just as wonderful as the others had been but Nami felt like someone who was being kissed for the first time. It was so soft and tender. Zoro found it to be the sweetest kiss; his resistance crumbled and all he wanted was to keep it going. Nami's hand went to the lapel of his yukata just to have something to hold on to as she leaned on one hand and Zoro put his hand behind her head to keep her in place, her hair soft in his palm but not as soft as her lips.

Then, all of a sudden, Luffy's laughter filled the peaceful woods, startling them both and without thinking, Zoro shoved Nami off the rock. The navigator went tumbling off it, landing roughly in a bush behind it. "Zoro?" she uttered, stunned.

"Sorry," he exclaimed. His reflexes had just kicked in.

"Oi, Zoro," Luffy and Usopp called as they came into view and Nami made use of her hiding place by lying on her side, her front pressed to the rock. Zoro moved so he'd block any glimpses they might get of her.

"Going to town, wanna come with?" Luffy asked.

"Uh, Luffy, I think Zoro's quite happy where he is," Usopp commented. "He's not alone."

The swordsman froze. "I'm not?" he asked.

"Nope." Usopp pointed to his forgotten orange-ribboned bottle of sake in his hand.

"Oh, Yeah," Zoro answered with a faint nod.

"Yeah but you could have more fun with us," Luffy said.

Zoro glimpsed over his shoulder at the quiet, orange-haired navigator who lay pinned against the back of the rock. He doubted his captain's words very much. "Just go, you know I don't wanna have to share my sake with anyone," he said with a smirk and sat down on the rock.

"Yeah," Luffy agreed, laughing. "Happy birthday, Zoro," he said as he passed the swordsman and patted him on the shoulder.

"Thanks captain," Zoro answered.

When the two youths had moved far enough, Nami rose to her feet with the aid of the rock, her eyes dangerous as they bore into Zoro's one good eye. She slapped sand from her jeans and bare arms. "That's what I get for all the things I've given you today," she hissed through clenched teeth.

"You wouldn't have wanted them to see us that way, would you?" was Zoro's response.

"No," she admitted with a sigh.

"Want some?" he suddenly asked.

Nami blinked. "You're sharing your sake? And with me?" she asked, flabbergasted.

"One time offer," he said, holding the bottle out to her. Nami took it and sat down on the opposite side of the rock, her body facing his as his faced hers.

"Not bad," she said after taking a sip.

"What's the orange bow for, Nami?" Zoro asked. "I know it's not just for decoration."

"It's not?" she asked, completely caught off guard.

"Not only is it around the neck of the bottle, but it's glued to the thing with really strong glue," Zoro said, incredulously, touching the ribbon.

"I didn't mean anything by it," she said. "Well, I just wanted to make sure you didn't forget who it came from," she admitted.

"That's all?" he asked.

"Yeah," she said. "I was making peace, so..."

Zoro was relieved; his suspicions had been wrong. She wasn't being possessive over him. But there was more to the ribbon. It was written all over her face. He took the bottle from her hand.

"What did you think it was for?" she asked.

"Thought you'd become possessive or something."

"What?! You think I'm possessive over you?" she exclaimed. Attracted was one thing but possessive?!

"Thought the kisses had gone to your head," he said with a shrug of his own, taking a sip.

Nami scoffed. "What an ego," she commented.

"I thought you thought you owned me now. And that ribbon might as well have been tied around my neck instead of the bottle's," he added, his tone light with humour, now that he felt safe.

Nami laughed. "Baka, I do own you," she announced.

"Hmm?" Zoro pulled the bottle from his lips.

"You'll do anything I say," she commented, tossing her hair from her shoulder.

"Not everything," Zoro groaned.

"Most of it," she said.

"Some of it," he said.

"Yeah well, you're a good guy, Zoro. I know I can depend on you," she declared, her eyes cast downwards, not able to look at him with such a confession. But then Nami tried to make light of what she had said. "Well, sometimes," she added, relenting and agreeing with him. Now Zoro was stunned.

And then he handed her the bottle again, surprising himself with his sharing. "One last sip," he said to her.

Nami took the sip even though she didn't like sake much. But there was something about the way he shared it with her that made her keen to accept. "Careful with your generosity," she teased, handing the bottle back to him. "I might get the wrong idea."

Zoro clicked his tongue, feigning annoyance and tried to take a sip but stopped when Nami stood up. "Where you going?" he asked.

"Back to the library." She gave herself a once over. "I can do with a bath."

"I'll go back with you," he said.

Nami watched him take a last sip and the bottle was empty, the gift used up. But the ribbon remained. It was funny how it looked like she had claimed him. No wonder the poor baka had thought things after the kisses they had shared. "All up," she commented.

"Hmm," he agreed, also looking at the ribbon.

"And now it's time for a nap," she assumed.

Zoro stretched. "A nap would be a good idea," he agreed, wholeheartedly, and they started to walk but then Nami started hopping on one leg. "What's going on?" Zoro asked.

"A stone in my sandal," she said and her hand landed on his shoulder for support. Nami could so easily have leaned against a tree but she didn't want to. And Zoro didn't complain as he looked at her. There wasn't much space between their bodies and before Nami could even reach her sandal, did Zoro slip his arm around her back and pull her against him. If Nami didn't know better, she would have thought him drunk but Zoro was stone-cold sober as he held her so close. They looked into each others eyes and then he pushed his lips against hers, melding them together. His birthday kiss had been interrupted. Maybe this was a continuation of it or maybe it wasn't. All Zoro knew was that he wanted to kiss her and had wanted to since their kiss under the fireworks. Their passion came out again, their desire for one another clear as they clung to each other.

"You're taking chances," Nami said when their lips separated but their arms remained tightly wound around each other. "I could somehow become obsessed and possessive."

"I could handle obsessed," Zoro responded. "You'd follow me around like a puppy."

Nami scoffed. "Then I'll go for possessive. That ribbon going around your neck sounds like a very good idea," she said.

"Just try getting it on me," he said, actually flirting with her for the first time.

Nami smirked and moved her lips to his ear as she ran her fingers through his hair. "If anyone can get it there, it's me," she whispered.

Zoro brushed his lips against her cheek as he slipped his rough hand over her bare waist. "No one traps Roronoa Zoro," he said, in a deep and sensual voice, his warm breath going over her cheek just before he released her and walked away. Nami's mouth hung open with wonder, the warm feeling of his touch still on her, the sound of his voice flowing through her ears.

"Zoro! I still need to get the stone out!" she called.

He stopped. "Use a tree," he said and walked again.

"Ass," Nami exclaimed and begrudgingly took care of her problem.

As he walked, Zoro looked at the ribbon on the bottle in his hand and sighed. "But If anyone could, it would probably be you, woman," he muttered under his breath just before Nami caught up with him and slapped him on the arm.

"You deserved that for lying," he said to her.

"What lie?" Nami asked.

"No reason for the birthday kiss, yeah right, Nami." Nami couldn't get any words out. "I told you, I'm always cautious around you," he said. She was embarrassed and really couldn't get words out. Zoro knew this. "If I could just take a kiss, why can't you?" he suddenly asked.

"Cause you were so touchy and defensive about the other kisses," Nami said, surprised.

"Yeah, well,... I'm not anymore," he said, quietly. "You were right."

"About what?"

"That second kiss changed everything. Instead of denying it, it's best to face it."

Nami couldn't believe how accepting he was. "So, you're okay with kissing? In secret, of course, but at any time?" she asked. And Zoro's cheeks turned a colour again.

"Well, I guess..." He scratched his head. "Look,... there's no use... It's... We can't... ignore... Yeah! Okay?" he said.

"Okay," Nami said and moved closer to him. "But only with me, right?" she asked with narrowed eyes.

"Wait a minute. Are you getting bossy? Are you getting possessive?" he asked, narrowing his eye as well.

Nami grabbed his sash around his waist and jerked, slightly. "If I'm possessive, then so are you," she said, puzzling Zoro. "What if I went and kissed Sanji-kun right now, would you be fine with that?"

Zoro's top lip lifted as if he'd growl. "Hell no," he said and Nami smiled.

"So it's settled," she said. "Wow, Zoro, I didn't know you were so possessive over me. Who would have thought?" She tossed her long hair and started walking again. And Zoro realised that he was exactly where he hadn't wanted to be when fleeing that ship. He had just helped her put an invisible orange ribbon around his neck. It was there, even though no one could see it. But it was there, with its bow. The only consolation was that a very green one now lay tied around her neck as well. Nami was about to use the stairs to get back on-board the sunny when he hurried to her and grabbed her arm, spinning her around to face him. Zoro lifted his hand to her neck and ran his fingertips over it. "What's that about?" Nami asked.

"Just admiring the ribbon," he said.

"What ribbon? There's no..." Then she got it.

"It has a bow too," Zoro informed her with a smirk.

Nami raised her chin. "Is that so? Well, it better not be green," she said and climbed the stairs. "Green doesn't go with all of my outfits."

"You'd be surprised," Zoro said as he followed her up.

"Thank goodness it's invisible," she announced.

Zoro chuckled at her words. "At least green goes with orange," he said.

"It does?" she asked, amused.

"Yeah," he said, stepping on to the lawn deck.

Nami looked down at the grass she was standing on. "You're not gonna roll my hair in the grass to prove your point, are you?" she asked.

Zoro shook his head and his face lifted in the direction of the upper-deck. Nami followed his glance. "What are you looking at?"

"Nothing," he said.

"There's proof up there?" she asked.

"Hmm," he responded with a nod and smiled a little smile – a warm smile. "See you later," he greeted with a hidden meaning in his words as he looked deeply into her eyes and then walked to the men's-quarters. Nami blinked, her eyes going to the upper-deck. "Nami," Zoro called from the door to the men's-quarters. She looked back at him. "Why don't you just go find out what it is," he suggested with a smirk and went into the room.

Nami sighed and went to the library. And as she went, she was thinking: 'What's up there that's green?' But before she could lay eyes on them, it hit her. The sturdy duo of trees stood before the library with their fruit hanging from their branches. With a smile, Nami walked over to them. She admired the colours and ran a hand over the leaves and one of the mikans. "They do go good together, don't they?" she said softly. "I wonder how long that baka has been thinking that."

With the smile still lingering on her lips, Nami entered the library to go have her desired bath. But as she climbed the ladder to the bathhouse, she started to laugh. Nami wondered if she should take the ribbon off before having her bath.

The End.

-oOo-

A/N: Wow, still can't believe I wrote this. Something about realising it was Zoro's birthday brought out a little bit of creativity. Took me a while but I got it done. Nami and Zoro were a little soft with one another in this one. It was brought on by episode 569 of the anime, in which they were standing next to each other on deck as if they had been having a conversation. I really liked that :). It was so nice to see that they actually stood alone together some times. And at that moment Franky and Robin were on the balcony together. I was very happy, lol.

I'm so sorry for not updating anything but my imagination has left me, truly left me. The ideas are there but nothing is happening. I so wanted to do a one-shot for Halloween that takes place at a Halloween party but it's... well, yes. I've taken a break from reading fanfiction as well as watching all things anime just to see if that will help. The final chapter of 'Just a man' is almost, ALMOST ready but it's not making me happy yet so I can't release it. Please know I'm not deserting my writing. This attempt at a one-shot should prove it. :)

-n3