A/N: This takes place just days after the Straw Hats beat down Arlong and his crew. I just figured that, after drawing maps for a traitorous bastard like Arlong for seven years, the first time Nami sits down to do one among the Straw Hats could be a little rough.
(As usual, no shipping, but hey, see this as you will! :D)
Disclaimer: I do not own One Piece. Eiichiro Oda, Funimation, and anyone else affiliated does.
Of Straw Hats, Maps, and Tangerines
Okay, she thinks, stepping back to grin at her makeshift workspace with hands on her hips. That should be everything! I can finally get started!
It isn't the most conventional place for working on her maps. She could very well have barricaded herself in the Lounge, Storage Room, or even her own bedroom if she'd wanted. She keeps enough mapping supplies in all those places to occupy her for days, if need be.
And actually, she'd tried setting up in every one first…but it just hadn't felt right. This map she means to draw is special, the very first one she'd be drawing as a free woman for the first time in seven long years. So, it's only natural that she'd want the location to be special, too.
And it is. When she'd finally decided on it, she couldn't believe it had taken her so long. After all, it's the one place on the entire ship that she feels safest:
Tucked smack dab in the middle of Bellemere's tangerine trees.
Nami remembers hiding here during a game of hide-and-seek with Nojiko when she was little. She remembers standing here on her tiptoes when she was even younger, looking for the best of the hidden tangerines to bring to the market. She remembers the first time she ever ate one of the orange fruits, no older than two, when the smile on Bellemere's face had quickly dissolved into raucous laughter after Nami squeezed too hard and the juice squirted all over her face.
She remembers all of that, and when she's here, she feels like her adoptive mom's still with her, even as far as they are out to sea.
She hasn't brought much with her, in truth. Just the essentials: two ink wells, a quill, a compass with a pencil, a ruler, a small crate she'll use as a desk, several pages of parchment, and a very, very small lamp for when it gets dark. It's a nice little set-up, and she thinks, as she shifts a bit to get more comfortable, that it'll work out just fine.
She positions the crate on the soft earth in front of her, drapes a piece of parchment over it, and sets up her supplies on top of them accordingly. She dips her quill in the ink, taps it on the side three times to make certain she doesn't drip, and settles the tip on the page. She's got the picture crystal clear in her mind.
And yet, when she makes to draw the starting line, she's stuck. She can't get her hand to move. Her arm—no, her whole body—is trembling like crazy, and she has no idea why. She realizes she's ducking her head and shielding her face with her free arm, though she hasn't a clue what she's hiding from because there's nothing here, not even sunlight. It's just her, her maps, and her trees. But for all she knows that, it still feels like there's some malevolent force hanging over her, watching her every move, waiting for that one mistake to set off everything like a bomb. She wonders briefly if she's lost her mind, wishes she knew what the hell was wrong with her, but she has to push those thoughts aside in favor of practicality. If she doesn't get a grip soon and get to work, she doesn't want to think about what'll happen to her—to everyone else. If she doesn't finish this map in time, Arlong will—!
Nami snaps bolt upright instantly, breathing heavily with wide, searching eyes. She's safe. She's on board the Going Merry with Luffy and the others, far away from Cocoyashi and Arlong's threat. She's nestled between the branches of Bellemere's trees, the one place she's always felt most at home apart from her mother's arms. And Arlong himself…well, he's dead. She saw Luffy take care of him with her own two eyes. He can't hurt her anymore.
Even taking all of that into account, though…she still finds herself terrified. He's still haunting her, even from beyond the grave, just when she thinks she's finally safe. She supposes she should have expected it—she still has nightmares, after all, which she resolutely keeps to herself, and seven years of coerced servitude isn't exactly something that can be so easily pushed past, even once it's over.
But still…the fact that he's trying to take her beloved dream away from her, too? Now that just pisses her off. Hasn't he stolen enough from her already?
She doesn't even notice she's crying until a teardrop hits her hand, swiftly followed by another, and then many more. She tries to stop them, tells herself she'll ruin all her parchment and ink, but somehow that just makes it worse. For now, she tries to muffle the sobs that lurch from her throat unbidden as best she can. The last thing she needs is an audience.
But all that changes with the slightest rustle of leaves and a familiar weight on her head.
She hesitates a heartbeat before looking up, revealing her tear-stained face and broken expression. She wouldn't be opening up like this if it were any of the others, but it's not. She'll make this exception for him and him alone.
Luffy's standing there, staring at her with that poker face of his, that look that's so old and wise and agonizingly gentle all at the same time…and it's like he's seeing everything there is to her. He has the entire situation read in a second—she can tell from the range of emotions that flash across his eyes—and he understands so much better now absolutely everything she's been through.
She chokes up all the more, pressing a hand over her mouth to keep the cries quiet.
She's no longer in Arlong's company, ever-conscious of the weight of the villagers' lives on her shoulders. She's not in that dark, heavily-monitored map room, doesn't have to worry about being beaten for not finishing a map within the given time or failing to do so up to par.
She has friends now, true ones who will never turn their backs on her, who would die before they ever laid a finger on her. Even after all the times she's been stingy with her Berries, deceived them, whacked them upside the head, yelled at them for being such idiots, they're still here, and especially in the last few days they've each told her a million different ways that they're never going to leave.
Her most prominent supporter, however, has been the boy beside her, this child-captain to whom she's pledged her last breath. He's never, ever given up on her, even when he should have and logic and their crewmates told him otherwise. He's stubborn that way, especially when it comes to the people he cares about, and it makes her happier than she can fully comprehend to think that she, a master thief of all people, has taken up permanent residence in his most precious of hearts.
Her lower lip trembles violently, and she hadn't even realized she'd let her hand fall until now, until she's crying her eyes out the way she did in the streets of Cocoyashi. Only now, her reasons for crying are different. Her tears had started out sad and bitter, full of heartache, but now, they're joyous and sweet, full of all the warmth this seventeen-year-old whirlwind inspires as naturally as breathing.
And it's with that sentiment in mind that she launches at him, still on her knees, clutching him about the waist and burying her face in his stomach. He lowers himself to the ground slowly, hands resting delicately on her shoulders, and when he's at her level, he finally embraces her back as tightly as he can.
He doesn't say anything, knows he doesn't have to. He just holds her, doesn't complain when she squeezes him until it would hurt a normal person, and lets her cry it out, all of her pain, relief, and the newfound happiness she never thought she'd know again. He lends her all of his strength and love because he knows that's what she needs right now, someone to believe in and love her enough to help her see through the darkness of these cherished trees to the sunlight striving so desperately to trickle in from the outside.
Luffy will be that person for her if she'll let him, and really, he's pretty sure he's the only one she ever would. She loves the others well enough, but it's always been Luffy who's held her heart in his hands. He's been gentle with it all this time, nurtured it as needed and letting it go as it pleased, but he's always kept it safe and whole.
She can't thank him enough for that, and she knows she'll only be further indebted in the years to come. But honestly, she doesn't mind. If there's one person on this Earth she would ever willingly choose to follow into the depths of Hell, it would be her straw hatted captain. (And as with all of his shipmates, he feels the same.)
It's a long time before she's calmed down and he lets her go, but neither of them cares. He crosses his legs and glances from her map to her, grinning widely, expectantly. Her eyes mirror his, darting from him to her work and back, expression conflicted as she clenches nervous fists in her lap and bites her lip. Given what happened before...she doesn't know if she can…
The hat Luffy gave her is adjusted atop her head all of a sudden, and she peers up to see the boy with arm stretched out and tongue protruding from his mouth in intense concentration. When he's finally finished with his handiwork, he graces her with a thumbs up and an even brighter beam than before.
"There you go, Nami!" he cheers, as if he's done something remarkably grand. "Now you look just like Shanks!"
And maybe he has.
That night, when Nami goes to sleep, her brand new map hangs from one of the many clotheslines strewn across the room.
Thank you, Luffy.
A/N: Thanks so much for reading!
If you wouldn't mind letting me know how I did, too, I'd appreciate it (especially since this is basically my first time writing Nami, at least to this extent)! A lot of you guys are faving and alerting my OP fics, which is awesome, but a heartfelt review is better still! (At least, that's my philosophy for reviewing stories, especially ones I like. :D) Thanks again!