Usona Comedy/ Romance with mature content near the end.
So… I intended for this to be a short rewrite of a few events in Thriller Bark. However, as usual, I went overboard and now this thing is nine chapters going through to the end of the two year split. It's completely finished- I just need to take the time to edit each chapter before I post.
I live for reviews, so please let me know what you think. This is my first One Piece fanfic, and I know I ship a not-so-popular couple but I'm hoping someone will find this worth reading. :)
Usopp was good at a lot of things. Sharpshooting, catching beetles, fishing, inventing, reconstructing miscellaneous objects his captain broke… but, of course, he considered his ability to spin a tale to be his crowning achievement. After all, the one thing that could really sell a lie was the confidence behind it, and boy, he knew how to fake it when he needed to. It didn't matter how outrageous something sounded, he firmly believed that if you could say it loud enough and project your own belief in it, then others would follow along.
Nami would, of course, probably snidely remark that that only worked on idiots… but she seemed to think a lot of people fit into that category, and being that Usopp's lies had gotten him out of plenty of scrapes in the past he might be inclined to agree with her conclusion, if not her premise…
In any case, his skill set did not include incredible feats of strength, let alone the power that would be needed to stop the rampaging pink zombified warthog from slicing her apparent victim into fine pieces of prosciutto.
The beast in a wedding gown was stampeding forward, a murderous glint in her eyes as she approached Nami with two swords drawn. So far, she had proven unstoppable.
Usopp screamed along with Chopper, each holding tight to one of the enormous tusks jutting from the beast's mouth. She seemed completely oblivious to their continued attempts at interference, the weight of the man and reindeer attached to her not even registering. This was not a great sign.
"Whoa, stop! You can't do this! Don't kill her! She's my nakama!" he tried, his shouting falling on deaf ears. Chopper screamed his agreement, followed by several less tactful insults, but again it seemed as if their words held just as much impact as Chopper's continued punches to the face- that is, none at all.
The distance between the would-be bride's swinging blades and Nami's pink-clothed back was growing dangerously slight.
"Ab-sama will be my husband!" the creature screeched, eyes wild in her pursuit, ignoring the continued efforts of Usopp and Chopper to talk her down.
What they needed was something she would actually hear. Pleas? Insults? Reason? Total trash in this situation. It was clearly time to think outside the box. What they needed was a lie… something that would appeal to the warthog's goals… tell her what she wanted to hear, maybe?
"Get off of me!" the zombie suddenly cried, bucking violently to throw the two pirates from her. Apparently, they hadn't been as ignored as previously thought- both were catapulted in separate directions. Chopper crashed right through a decorative fence, smashing the gate to splintery pieces. With Usopp it appeared she was going for height- he ended up seated in the crook of a tree branch, several feet from the ground. At least he was fairly certain he was unharmed- there wasn't really time to assess his own situation, anyway- Nami had tripped.
As in, fell over, like just about any damsel in distress in a horror story. Not that he hadn't done plenty of tripping over his own feet in this terror-mansion, himself… but the timing!
Perhaps, after this, she would reconsider her footwear in future life-and-death situations. Probably not, but Usopp was pretty sure she should.
They were out of time. Several things happened all at once, fear gripping his heart to the point where he could hear the rush of blood in his ears. The hopelessness of it all made the scene seemingly play out in slow motion- his jump from the branches agonizingly slow. Chopper's movements, from the corner of his eye, were also apparently languid. Too slow. They were both too slow- there was no way they would make it in time.
Nami turned towards her approaching death, eyes wide, mouth open as she began to vocalize some kind of protest.
Lie. A lie the warthog would want to hear.
Their navigator raised her hands in front of her face, as if she could fend off the black screaming metal with a gesture. "I'm actually-" she began, but was abruptly cut off by Usopp's own booming yell, tinged triumphant in his excitement at figuring out the perfect cover.
"She can't marry that Ab-guy! I'm her husband!"
The swords froze, inches from Nami's outstretched palms. The warthog's eyes never left the redhead's face.
Nami, for her part, did move, her head mechanically turning to him with a narrowing of eyes that could not have been approval.
"Is this true?" the warthog, Lola, asked. Her voice still held an edge of cautious danger, her swords still angled down towards the fallen woman.
Nami laughed nervously, but sounded quite adamant as she proclaimed, "Oh, yes. Definitely."
For a beat, the Straw Hats were not sure how Lola would take this news. Everyone seemed frozen in place, breath held.
Except, of course, for Chopper, who very loudly and abruptly proclaimed his shock. His little arms wiggled around as he shouted, "Whaaaaat!? Nami and Usopp are married!? No one ever told me!"
Usopp would have made some comment to indicate to Chopper that he was being ridiculous, but those dark zombie eyes suddenly rolled to him. He froze, not liking how her focus had shifted.
There was a sharp clap of pink cloven hooves.
"I see!" the warthog exclaimed, her demeanor changing so suddenly it was jarring. "How lovely! There's no way Absalom can marry a girl that's already married- well, unless he finds you and blows your head off your body, that is."
Usopp felt the color leave his face as beads of sweat formed on his forehead. He… had not considered that angle.
Nami stood, swiping at the dirt on her clothing and obviously trying to look casual and calm. She turned to Lola, hand extended. "My name is Nami. Now, Lola, as one happily married woman to a future bride- can I just say what a great couple you and Absalom would make? I am totally rooting for you!"
"R- really!?" Lola exclaimed, oozing excitement. "Do you really think so?"
"Oh, absolutely! Come on, let's have a little chat, why don't we?" Nami's mannerisms seemed suddenly so different, like a big sister ready to give sage advice. She helped right a toppled garden table and two chairs, sitting Lola down first with an air of control that she surely did not legitimately feel over the situation. The entire picture was so absurd that Usopp could do nothing but watch. It was like a train wreck in motion- impossible to look away from, but with the potential for so much to go so, so horribly wrong.
"No one has ever encouraged my relationship with him before!" Lola was saying, unshed tears lending a strange sparkle to her eyes. "I've tried and tried to force him to sign the marriage license, and nothing seems to work!" Suddenly, in what seemed to be a complete turn for the conversation, Lola twisted full around in her seat to stare back at him.
Usopp gulped, not wanting to be a part of this weird conversation… even if he had been a part of initiating it.
"And what about you? It seems pretty rude that your wife introduced herself to me and you didn't. A man's perspective might really help me out!"
Shit. Okay. Time to get over the shock and showcase his amazing acting talents.
"Ah, haha… of course! My name is the great Captain Usopp-" he had reached the table and was just pulling up a chair when Nami's elbow met his side. The angle he was at, partially shielded by the table, hid the action from Lola, but it certainly cut off his introduction impressively as the air left his lungs.
Nami, apparently, did not like his sudden bravado, and didn't want him to continue to list his amazing accomplishments. He didn't understand why- he was sure it could only serve to make him sound impressive…
"Oh, I see!" Lola began, "A captain! That makes much more sense. At first, I was skeptical… I mean, look at the two of you! At first glance, there doesn't seem to be a single reason why she would marry you!"
"Nami is such a beautiful girl…"
"...and she seems so polite…"
"...and I barely even noticed you trying to stop me before, so you're not very strong…"
"...or handsome. But, at least you're a captain! You must have hidden talents to have that title!"
The look on Nami's face was really quite annoying, but Usopp couldn't figure out how to yell at her without blowing their cover. The corners of her mouth were curling, as if she were fighting off laughter. Chopper, Usopp was irked to find, was standing quite close to Nami's side, nodding along with everything Lola said as if it all checked out.
"So… how did you do it?" she finally said, getting to her frustratingly drawn-out point. "How did you win over Nami? Maybe I can use that on Absalom!"
Usopp was not happy to be perceived as the "Lola" in this imaginary comparison, and was just opening his mouth to make up a story about Nami begging him to marry her when the navigator cut him off.
"Have you tried catching him when he's vulnerable? When he's asleep, for instance?"
"Hmm… I don't know… wouldn't that make me a bad person?"
"You're a zombie! You're not bound to normal rules of morality, right?"
Lola popped one fist into her open palm in sudden realization, stars in her beady eyes. "I see! Wow! That's a really good idea! You have a good head on your shoulders, Nami!"
"Oh, Lola, you just learn these things when you've been married as long as I have."
Usopp clumped his mouth shut. That was certainly the best way to get through this madness of his own making.
"Wait...if you and Usopp are married, why does he sleep in the boy's cabin?" Chopper continued, big eyes innocent and wide as he tugged at Nami's skirt like a small child. Which… he kind of was. "He snores really loud."
"Ah, haha… Chopper, how about we have this conversation later?" Nami managed, seeming to momentarily choke on her own spit as she fake-laughed.
"And how come neither of you have wedding rings?" the doctor continued, oblivious.
"We, uh, lost them?" Usopp tried, desperately willing the unwitting baby reindeer to stop talking.
"And why… um…" Chopper suddenly seemed to notice the death glares his companions were giving him, Usopp leaning back around Nami to make desperate motions with a hand to his throat, as if to signal for silence. Something clicked, and Usopp swore the reindeer's realization was so instantaneous he could almost hear the sound. His big pupils shrank to tiny dots in a sudden panic, both little hooves slapping onto his own mouth as he realized his mistake.
"Very strange…" Lola hummed, and the table itself seemed to vibrate with the grinding of her voice. There was something dark in the creature's dead eyes as Usopp turned around to face her. He gulped audibly as her hooves twitched, as if considering a movement back to her swords. "This little cutie seems to be a friend of yours, but he brings up a lot of interesting questions… could it be that you… lied…?"
Nami seemed to have trouble breathing again, and without thinking Usopp grabbed her arm, ready to pull her up to start running again if necessary. Chopper seemed on edge, too, and a close observation would have noted the reindeer already had a little yellow ball clutched in his hoof.
"Oh, Lola," Nami began, sounding way too calm and sure for the cold sweat running down the sides of her face, "kids, you know? They always ask a lot of questions! He's just a bit confused-"
"-prove it," Lola interrupted in a flat tone.
"Ah, well, we don't carry paperwork around with us, so there's not really a way to do that, so you'll just have to take our word for it!" Usopp managed in a voice just an octave higher than his normal tone, accompanied by an extremely awkward laugh, his grip on Nami's arm tightening marginally as the stress of the situation began to work at his nerves.
Lola's eyes narrowed suspiciously, and Usopp was sure the jig was up. "PROVE it," she spat out through gritted teeth, her zombified flesh naturally pulled back and making her mouth form a grotesque and malicious grin. Through his hand on her arm, Usopp could feel a shiver run through Nami at the monster's cold and sharp demand.
This was not a negotiation. That much was clear.
Nami turned to look at him, and there was something indiscernible burning in her eyes. Anger? Indignation? Some kind of dark promise, as if whatever was about to happen was something he would pay for… literally and figuratively.
He couldn't imagine what was actually going through her head just then, but his own brain went into an initial complete shut down at her response to Lola's demand.
Without another moment of hesitation she kissed him.
Nami kissed him.
Her lips, on his, kissed him.
His first reaction: Fear. He was dead. The look in her eyes before she did it told him that much. She was going to kill him. First, she would charge him an obscene amount of money, and then she would murder him. Probably when he least suspected it. One day when the Merry had caught a good wind and was making speedy time, he would be fishing, and she would just… push him into the ocean.
It wasn't fair. This wasn't his plan. He may have gotten them into this, but… this was not his intention! She couldn't reasonably blame him for this… right!?
His second reaction: Her lips were really soft.
It was a thought from somewhere in the back of his mind, and before he knew it it had pushed forward, overtaking his fear. She had turned her head slightly (most likely to work around his nose… which exemplified a concerning amount of forethought), and despite being pulled back in a neat ponytail a few of her loose hairs managed to tickle his neck. It took an incredible amount of grinding, forceful, active thought to restrain him from kissing her back. His whole body seemed to ache from the effort, the hand still touching her arm twitching.
He was dead certain she wouldn't forgive him if he did. So he just froze, trying not to think about the tantalizingly warm pressure against his mouth, or the impossibly sweet smell of her hair…
The whole thing lasted for only a few moments... More than just a quick press of lips- she really sold it to Lola- but not drawn out longer than it needed to be. Again, Usopp had that strange feeling of time slowing down, and the conflict of thoughts running through his mind were just too much to process.
"Now, Lola," Nami continued, barely missing a beat as she turned back to the beast. Usopp remained frozen, Chopper moving around the table to poke him in the leg. "You go find Absalom! I'm rooting for you!"
Though a kiss is a rather subjective piece of evidence, it seemed to be enough for the dangerous zombie. "I'll do my best!" the warthog replied, once again bubbly and communicative, all hints at murder a thing of the past.
How? How was Nami acting so normal? The only hint that she may have been affected by the kiss was the vaguest pink tint to her face, but you would have to be really looking to notice. She exuded complete control over her reactions in a way that Usopp could not compete with. Chopper seemed to be examining him closely now, in a small voice whispering something like "catatonic."
"And, oh, before you go…" Nami continued smoothly, clapping her hands together, "I forgot something in the treasure room, and we got a little turned around. Could you maybe point us in the right direction?"
Lola, who had already stood up in her hurry to go find her unfortunate intended, laughed lightly. "Ah, what a silly mistake- but then, this castle can be so confusing! It's just past Perona-sama's room. See that veranda up there? That's it. Just keep going straight this way, up the staircase, and it will take you there. You can't miss it!"
"Thank you!" Nami answered cheerfully, waving at the now retreating back.
"No, thank you Nami! I won't forget you, my friend!" Lola responded, and in a flash she was off and running.
Immediately, Nami's demeanor changed. Her eyes went all dangerous-and-glinting again, her attention now turned fully to Usopp. "Hand," she said, and Usopp could only blink in response.
"Uh…" What did she want from him?
"Usopp! I swear, if I didn't just get a lead on what I assume will be a massive treasure horde, I would probably be adding an incredible amount to your debt! Now… move your hand, you idiot!"
Usopp was still trying to process that, somehow, by some miracle, she wasn't going to charge him an insane amount of money. This was the second time on this damn island he had been sure she would, and he thanked whatever deity had given Nami her newfound patience with him. Granted, both times he had saved her, but Nami hadn't always thought rationally when the prospect of money was on the line.
He looked down at his hand, still gripping her arm, and snatched it back as if he had been burned.
"S-sorry," he stammered, the awkwardness of the situation catching up to him. When had touching her ever been awkward before?
"Don't be sorry- just get moving!" Nami reprimanded, moving cautiously, bent over slightly, walking sneakily in the direction Lola had indicated. She kept lower than the hedges to her right, being sure to keep her cover. It was smart, and Usopp followed suit.
"That was amazing! The warthog didn't hurt us, in the end. Nice job guys!" Chopper chirped up in a loud whisper, keeping easy pace with Nami without needing to crouch at all to stay below the hedges.
Nami certainly was good at turning a misfortune into a big pay-off. There couldn't have been a better outcome from that run-in, over all.
At that thought, unbidden, Usopp's brain immediately brought him crashing back to the kiss: he could still feel the pressure of her lips, somehow, against his own. Quite an outcome indeed...
He shook his head, as if he could dispel the memory that easily. He needed to. He couldn't get distracted by something like that- look at Nami, acting like everything was perfectly normal. Like it didn't happen at all. That was the way to deal with it- just… pretend it didn't happen and move on.
Pretend he couldn't remember the almost irrepressible need to kiss her back...
Nami stopped abruptly at a pathway that parted the hedges, peeking around the edge, and Usopp was so damn caught up in his rambling brain that he walked right into her.
Her arms swung around rapidly as she fought to keep her balance, falling back on her heels in the end instead of plunging forward into the path. She shot him an annoyed glare, but kept a finger to her mouth to make it clear they shouldn't talk. Now that he was paying attention, there were definitely voices on the other side of the greenery...zombies, it seemed, discussing their orders to find the three victims that escaped the casket…
Crap. The pink warthog seemed to be several levels more powerful than the average zombie, but power-level hardly mattered when they were so horribly outnumbered. Usopp felt pretty confident taking out a regular zombie or two with a Fire Bird Star, but overall a massive group or a veritable monster like Lola was well beyond the weakest trio of Straw Hats.
He heard heavy footsteps, and luckily they were headed in the opposite direction, the hedges still sheltering the group from sight. He breathed a sigh of relief, ready to continue following Nami toward the staircase now visible ahead.
She was staring back at him, frowning.
"What?" he whispered, gesturing forward as if to say, "after you."
"Are we going to have a problem?" Nami hissed, making no move to bolt for the stairs.
"I- what do you mean?" Usopp hissed right back, feeling pretty annoyed, himself. Didn't she know they were in a hurry? Those zombies could circle back around any minute- who knew how long they would have to clear that big, open staircase!?
"I mean that you're acting weird, and if you keep zoning out staring at me like that-"
"I was not-"
"Usopp, you were- right before you ran into me. Pay attention! We're just normal people- we have to be way more clever and sneaky than the others. Focus up or you'll get us caught!"
He was getting pretty angry, but he couldn't place exactly why. Maybe because she was exactly right?
He grit his teeth and nodded. He was being ridiculous. Surviving this hell island had to stay at the top of his mind.
Nami had already turned away from him, making her way cautiously forward. Chopper had moved on, ignoring their bickering and heading for the staircase. It was at that moment that Usopp realized, with a chill running all up and down his spine, that he heard… breathing.
Heavy breathing, with just the slightest hint of a growl rumbling in the air between animalistic pants.
It was coming from somewhere just to the left of him, but… there was no one there. Furthermore, zombies couldn't even breathe, right!? So… what the hell was making that noise?
"It's good that I managed to find you- Lola gave me quite a scare, but no worries…" Something shimmered in the air, cutting off Usopp's view of Nami's retreating form in front of him. He jumped back, startled, as a… a man appeared? The invisible man? "... I'm here to whisk you away and protect you from her, my bride!"
This… was the aforementioned Absalom? The invisible man was real, and he was the reason Lola had been after Nami… shit. This guy gave off some kind of powerful aura, and it was clear he was not going to be a pushover. Still, Usopp would do what he could- he pulled out his Kabuto, aiming as the guy kept his back to him. As the man in the funny hat grabbed a very surprised Nami around the waist from behind, he fired a very close-range Super Smoke Star.
This was not a pellet he had created for offensive purposes- it created a smokescreen, but didn't pack any real punch. Still, at close range… it was a hard shot to the back, and at the very least it got the monster's attention.
As Absalom turned to Usopp, it was clear that he was, indeed, a monster. Usopp hadn't really gotten a good look at the guy earlier...his face was pieced together like a puzzle, the mouth of a large cat sewn hastily through the middle. That muzzle was drawn back in a snarl as he looked down at Usopp, the last thing visible before the smoke began to thicken the air around him. Running on pure instinct, Usopp ducked. Sure enough, he felt the breeze above him of something swiping forward- a fist? A claw? A sword? He had no idea. All he knew was that he had dodged it, and that was his cue to run the hell away.
He groped in the haze, looking for where the creature had dropped Nami in surprise. He felt the woven material of her sweater under his palm and she jumped- she probably thought he was the monster- but before she could do something dumb like scream he pushed her forward, urging her to run. She obeyed, apparently understanding immediately that it was her nakama backing her up.
They did what they did best- ran like hell.