Chapter 9

Nami could still feel him.

It wasn't just like a simple memory- she actually could feel him inside her, that stretching fullness lingering even as she took her shower. What a strange sensation, as real as the warm water pouring over her, the minty smell of her shampoo filling the room.

This changed things. She knew that. Her undefined relationship with the ship's sharpshooter might need a little definition- though he had made his position perfectly clear, hadn't he?

He had said he loved her.

This time it didn't feel like a mistake. It felt real, and Nami didn't know what to make of it or what to do with it.

She decided to put such thoughts on the backburner- she needed to focus. She was about to see her nakama- all of them- for the first time since they had their asses handed to them two years before. She wanted to see how they had all grown, to laugh with them, to eat meals together and explore to the end of the world.

She rushed out of the bathroom, remembering too late that she needed to pack up her things. She had a small white rolling case, and she began to unceremoniously shove whatever discarded clothes and odd items were left about the room into it. Loading all of her bags onto her arms, she was able to (barely) make it down the stairs, where she found Usopp waiting, looking very pleased with himself. He was sitting on a bubble bike with a large flat space, the actual seat and pedals situated towards the front. It was perfect.

She practically threw her bags into the thing, perching herself on the edge of the bubble near the front.

"Okay, let's get fuel and head for Grove 42," Usopp reiterated, pedalling and making the huge bubble move easily down the street.

They made their purchase, the trip to the ship a bit slow but pleasant enough. Usopp didn't complain about being the only one doing any of the work- the bubble bike was pretty fun to drive, according to him. He also explained that he had learned long ago not to ask her to do any physical labor without risking her particularly violent brand of annoyance.

She laughed. "Gee, glad I make such a charming impression."

"You're scary as hell, but that is, strangely, one of your charms," he agreed, grinning happily as he pedaled along.

They were close now- Grove 41. At that moment, they both noticed a bird, flying low amongst the trees, seeming to dive down just ahead. It wasn't until it passed over a small shop that the perspective shifted into focus, and Nami realized the bird was gigantic.

And there were people on the bird.

"What the hell…?" Nami asked, as Usopp lifted his goggles, momentarily stopping their progress.

He laughed. "Who do you think it is?"

"I should have known- one of ours?"

"I see Luffy, Zoro, Sanji, and Chopper. They must be heading to the ship too!"

"So… we're last."

"Probably," he looked at her pointedly, lowering the eyewear, "but given the circumstances, I think I'm okay with earning that distinction."

When they got to the boat, Luffy and the giant bird had just arrived, and were being greeted by the others. Robin ran to the railing first, Franky at her side.

The black-haired woman waved, while the massive mixture of man and machine beside her yelled, "Oi! Long-nose bro! Sis!"

At this, others ran to the rails, calling down to them.

"It's Luffy! Everyone is here!" Nami said, surprised to find the threat of tears prickling behind her eyes. She blinked them away.

"I don't see Sanji or Chopper…" Usopp noted, getting off the bike and starting to unload the huge barrels.

"You said they were on the bird…" Nami said, as Franky jumped down to help Usopp. She made for the ladder, climbing it quickly so she could greet everyone.

The Straw Hats were all together again, and her heart seemed so full she couldn't stand it. She hugged the closest person to her- which happened to be Robin.

Robin was giving her an odd look, but Nami brushed it off. She wondered where the more mature woman had spent her time over the years… everyone had spent more time apart than together, and yet coming back together felt so normal, so natural.

She also got an answer for where Sanji and Chopper were, too, as she nearly stepped on the cook while greeting the others.

"I'm afraid he saw me and died," Robin said flatly, much to the protests of Copper, who was shoving cotton up the blond man's nose. Nami didn't even want to know, beyond clarifying, "he's not dead, right?"

"No… he seems to have gone through some kind of trauma, to react like that. I can't explain it…" Chopper said, continuing to shove cotton in his patient's nose.

"Fool," Zoro muttered, making it pretty clear that this was, indeed, too stupid of a situation for her legitimately to worry about.

Rayleigh was onboard, as well, and she listened to the specifics of how to navigate underwater with the new coating on the ship. Time was short, and he gave her a scroll with additional information, which she promised to make use of before the older man left the ship.

Nami felt the squishy coating under her feet that would allow them to go to Fishman Island. Good. They were ready to go.

"Probably our longest stop yet," she said, grinning as she ran over to the rail, looking down. The cart was unloaded, and Usopp was already making his way up the ladder. He caught her looking, and flashed her a "thumbs up."

"It's strange," Robin said as the boys came onboard, Usopp, Luffy, and Chopper marveling over Franky's new robotic improvements. "You were one of the first to arrive, but the last to make it on the ship."

Nami completely blanked, staring at her friend, unsure of how to proceed.

"That is, I arrived shortly after you did, and I was keeping an eye out to see when everyone would get here. I didn't want to ruin the reunion moment, but… I was curious."

"Oh. Haha," was her only reply, which she understood was extremely suspicious but couldn't think of what else to say.

"Brook was here earlier than everyone, but he only just arrived on the Sunny because of extenuating circumstances. Did you run into any… extenuating circumstances?"

Nami had forgotten Robin's deduction skills and her pension for making people uncomfortable in a way that was sometimes clearly intentional. Nami cleared her throat. "Yes- I was shopping."

"I see! That makes sense. That would explain why you and Usopp arrived together, afterall, since you needed help getting all that fuel."

Usually, in Nami's experience, when a conversation was closed and a question answered, you did not feel the need to repeat all of the points that made sense. That is, in pointing out that she had arrived with Usopp, it sounded a lot to Nami like Robin maybe knew a little more than she was letting on…

Nah.

"Huh?" Chopper came closer to the two women, having caught the end of their conversation. "What did you say?"

"Oh, nothing, Chopper," Nami waved the little reindeer away, really wanting this conversation to end.

"I was just pointing out that Nami and Usopp were the last to arrive…. together."

Okay, clearly the woman was enjoying whatever game she was playing, despite the peaceful smile on her face.

"Oh, of course they came here together!" Chopper chirped loudly, sounding as though he had solved some kind of a puzzle for Robin and wanted nothing more than to be helpful.

Nami didn't like how loud Chopper was, even though she had no idea what he was planning on saying. She tried to change the subject, in vain. "Hey Chopper, why don't you-"

"Don't you know, Robin?" he asked innocently, "Nami and Usopp are married!"

Nami's jaw dropped as her brain ran around in panic-mode, trying to search for answers…. What the hell!? "C-Chopper! Why would you say that?" Nami asked, horrified that Luffy, too, had been listening, and was overreacting in his usual manner, jaw dropping as a loud exclamation of, "Whaaaaat!?" came from his mouth.

"Oh my," Robin said, looking genuinely surprised.

"Congrats, long-nose bro," Franky said, slapping the younger man's back hard enough to make him fall over.

Nami looked to Usopp for help, and was surprised to see him shaking with laughter from his new spot on the deck floor. "Chopper," the sniper asked, "have you believed that since all the way back in Thriller Bark?"

It all flashed back quite suddenly. Usopp's lie. Chopper's ignorance in the face of a lie. The fact that they never really explained clearly to the young reindeer.

Nami groaned, a hand to her forehead.

"What? It's not true!?" Chopper asked, devastated.

"Sorry, Chopper. I thought you figured it out on your own," Nami said with an exasperated sigh.

"But… but the kiss-"

Nami slapped a hand over Chopper's mouth, her eyes wide and strained. She was normally quite gentle with the doctor, but she had had enough exposure for today, thank you!

"The Navy ships are coming already!" Brook said, the first to notice the trio of white sails heading for their ship.

"Oh thank god," Nami muttered, in a complete 180 from an appropriate reaction to such news, happy for the interruption.

Cannons fired. The group tensed, ready to fight… when something flew through the rapidly approaching cannonballs, knocking them right out of the sky. A new ship appeared- lined with dragons, curtained in red, the insignia a many-headed thing.

"That's the Kuval pirates," Robin explained to the group, sounding surprised, "Their captain is a Warlord- Boa Hancock. They say she is so beautiful, that to look at her is to fall in love and turn to stone."

A Warlord!? First the Navy, now a Warlord… they really were back together again!

Brook chanced it, looking through the spyglass and making declarations of admiration for the woman, before handing off the thing to Usopp. As he raised it to his eyes, his jaw dropped, but before he could say anything Nami swiped the device from him. She shot him an annoyed look, and he had the tact to look properly ashamed, a hand running over his hair as he smiled apologetically.

Robin laughed behind a coy hand.

"She's like a goddess!" Brook added, which seemed to be the magic words to bring Sanji back to life. The cook saw Nami before he could ask for the spyglass, however, and had some kind of fit again, blood pouring down his face as he called out her name.

What the hell had happened to Sanji?

"Oh, I know her," Luffy casually dropped, as if it were no big deal, indicating the friendly ship. A figure appeared by the railing of the red ship, and even Nami found herself a bit shocked- even from this distance, the woman's beauty was obvious.

She winked, and the action appeared to kill Brook.

Huh… it seemed Luffy had made some interesting new friends.

Sanji woke up long enough to berate Luffy, jealous of what he perceived his captain's training period to be like. Knowing Sanji, he was imagining something perverted, and wishing he could have traded places.

"We should move. Franky?" Nami nodded to the shipwright, and he got to work. Nami knew there were a few steps they needed to take before they could set out, and Franky was the best man for the job. He dived into the ocean, obviously handling things under the ship.

"My, my," Robin said as everyone began running around, trying to see what Franky was doing from the other side of the deck, "you certainly haven't lost your touch, Nami. We're counting on you." She smiled good-naturedly, and Nami relaxed a little.

"You can count on me- I've got this!"

"And Nami," she added, putting a hand on her arm. Er, her actual hand, not an extra one. "Until you have worked as a spy and outlaw for as many decades as I have, you may find it hard to keep a relationship of that kind secret on a ship as small as this. I won't say a word," she raised a finger to her lips, her smile obvious in her aqua eyes, "but if you need anyone to talk to, you know where I'll be."

Robin walked away to join the others all-too-casually, leaving Nami to stare after her.

She took a deep breath, trying not to think about it as she pulled open the paper Rayleigh had handed her and reviewed the directions. The coating on the ship began to inflate, traveling up her legs as it absorbed her into the safety of its bubble.

Usopp walked over to her once the bubble was fully raised, taking a seat on the circular bench. "Am I forgiven?" he asked, grinning.

"For eyeing up that Warlord? We'll see," she responded, not taking her eyes from the paper in front of her, but responding to the humor in his voice with a little smile.

The boat started to sink, just as Franky rejoined them on deck.

"Ready?" she asked the sniper, looking up for the first time to see him staring at her- it was a look of admiration, and she drank it in, her heart doing that funny little pull again.

"You know it."

There were a lot of things that could go wrong in the New World, but at the moment her heart was too full to worry about all those things- she was a lot more focused on all the things that were just right.

THE END

A/N: This is the last chapter for this story, but I've already kinda started writing a series of vignettes, covering some of the things I couldn't cover. For example, I wanted to deal with Sanji finding out… but how could I do ANYTHING with post-timeskip Sanji? He's absolutely worthless to write about until he calms down a bit. I also want a conversation with Robin, and a few more cute scenes with the couple… it just seemed like this was a good stopping point for this story as it stands.

Anyway, if you have any thoughts, please let me know! If there's something you would like to see, I'd be glad for ideas. This story could be a jumping point for just about any Usona content in the New World, I think. 3