Fandom: One Piece
Genre: Serious, slightly angsty
Word count: ~800
Spoilers: HELL yes, only in passing but it'll still spoil the end of the Whitebeard War saga.
Notes: Birthday ficlet the eighth.
Summary: It's moments like these that Nami can see the man the boy has become.
There aren't a lot of moments like this, aboard the Sunny. There were probably even less of them aboard the Merry, because the ship was much smaller and things were far more simple back then. Before they all got separated. Before... well, before, anyway.
Luffy had lost something, then, not just his brother but a part of himself. His childlike innocence, maybe; of course he'd seen terrible things before, been in terrible physical and emotional pain, been pushed to his breaking point and beyond by seeing his friends suffer... but every other time things turned out all right in the end, because Luffy made it all right. He fixed things, and then he snapped back into place like the rubber he was made out of.
This was one thing he couldn't fix, though, and there was no snapping back from that. There was a seriousness to Luffy now that had been absent before, a hard determination tempered by the agony of loss. Before, he was a boy; now, somehow, indefinably, Nami feels he is a man.
With time, of course, he'd settled back into his old self, not a bounce or a snap but a gentle easing. It's never quite exactly the same as how it used to be, but he's still Luffy.
Sometimes, though, there are the quiet moments. There'd been quiet moments before -- less often, but at times -- but there's a depth to them now that wasn't there then. These moments have always been the time that has made it easier to remember what the real Luffy is capable of; in these moments she sees the boy who'd save pet-food for a grieving dog. The boy who rescued her and everyone she loved from Arlong. The boy who'd saved Vivi's country, who'd liberated Skypiea from Enel and brought an end to millennia of fighting. The boy who would declare war on the World Government, for what they did to Robin.
Now, in the hard line of his jaw, she sees the man who vowed to avenge his brother.
It makes her sad, but at the same time, she's always liked these moments, just her and Luffy standing together silently looking out over the ocean.
"Hey, Nami," he says suddenly, staring out at the sunset reflected off the waves with his chin propped on his hand. "What're you gonna do when we beat those guys and I become the Pirate King?"
Never if; always when. Luffy's never had a doubt he'd win. She'd always wondered at his sheer confidence; now she thinks maybe it's always been because losing has never been an option. He's never let himself contemplate failure, because the price has always been too high. (Well, that, and he's just really competitive and self-assured.) That confidence had been shaken after he couldn't save Ace, but it's one of the fundamental cores of who Luffy is. He'd recovered.
When Luffy's belief in himself is so strong and they keep pulling through every time, despite the odds against them, it's hard not to believe in him yourself. Nami always feels safe when she's by Luffy's side, because she knows he'll always win, no matter what it takes.
"What do you mean, what will I do?" she asks, staring at his profile. Luffy talks about becoming the Pirate King all the time, sure, but he doesn't usually talk about what comes after.
"After we win," he says, matter-of-fact. "Will you stay with me?"
He turns to look at her, eyes so deep and serious, and she feels her heart jolt in her chest with the shock of realisation that she loves him, this boy, this man-child.
She'd known she loved Luffy from the moment he'd handed her his hat and gone off to face her childhood nightmares, because how could she do anything but? Her love for Luffy hovered along in the background, quiet and steady, rising up to fill her every time he did something self-sacrificing and heroic, niggling at her in every one of these moments of peace like something on the tip of her tongue, just out of reach. But now she realises that she not only loves Luffy, she loves him, she is in love with him. She wants to stay with him forever. Once upon a time she had vowed her eternal hatred on pirates, but now she would give almost anything to be this man's pirate queen. Helplessly, she almost reaches forward, struck by a sudden and near overpowering desire to kiss him, but she holds herself back: not yet. It's not the time for that now.
Instead she smiles, takes Luffy's hand, meeting his intense stare for a moment before she looks back out at the sea.
"Of course, stupid," she says, with no sting. "Where else will I map all the seas of the world from, if not as the Pirate King's navigator?"