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how normal people do

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It starts relatively simple: Vivi has nice hair. 

It’s not a weird thing to notice. Blue hair is uncommon, even on the Grand Line, and aside from Zoro, Vivi’s the only other person on the ship with an unusual hair color. It’s a peculiar shade, darker than the sky on a clear day and softer than the aegean hues of the sea, though it moves like the waves when Vivi leans over the side of the Merry and the wind ruffles through it, or when she bobs her head along to the half-remembered sea shanties Usopp and Luffy like to sing during dinner. When she’s deep in thought, Vivi will twist her hair around her finger, causing her normally straight locks to fall in curls over the right side of her face for the rest of the day.

Vivi also has nice eyes, something Nami realizes abruptly mid-conversation during lunch one day. They are warm and rich like melted chocolate, glossy like resin over driftwood, and even though Usopp and Luffy also have brown eyes, there’s something incredibly transfixing about Vivi’s. Sometimes, when the light of the sun hits them right, just before it sets over the ocean, they melt into pools of amber. 

Then, Nami starts noticing her mouth. The way she’ll lazily trace the tip of a ballpoint pen along the corners of her mouth while she’s looking over the newspaper, how her tongue will swipe over her bottom lip to catch stray drops of whatever drink Sanji’s serving them that day. Vivi isn’t used to being out at sea for this long and it shows, in her unsteady gait and her dry lips from the salt in the air. Once, Nami sloshes half a cup of lemonade down her shirt because Vivi smiles at her during breakfast and Nami is completely unprepared for the blind want that slams into her, the sudden urge to reach across the galley table and feel that chapped smile against her mouth.

That’s when things get complicated. 

 

 

“ ― and just yesterday, she stayed up in the crow’s nest with me and taught me all the Alabastan constellations,” Nami grouses, scowling into her sangria. “What the hell am I supposed to do with that?” Vivi had brought hot chocolate, their hands brushing as Nami took the mug from her. And Vivi had smiled at her. It was unbearable.

Zoro sets his bottle of sake down on the bar counter with a dull thud, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “Tell her how you feel,” he suggests.

“Rhetorical question, Zoro.”

Originally, these bar nights served as breaks from Luffy, an awkward truce to help retain some normalcy back when it was just the three of them flitting around the East Blue in Buggy’s sailboat, the prospect of piratehood still too big and foreign. Over time, they acquired immunity to the weirdness that is now their daily lives, but the habit of going out for drinks whenever they docked at a new island never really went away. 

Beside her, Zoro shrugs. “You two are close,” he says. “It’s worth a try.”

Nami looks at him incredulously. “This coming from you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” he says, defensive. 

Instead of answering, Nami casually swirls her glass. “How’s Sanji doing?”

Immediately, Zoro’s relaxed posture goes stiff. “That’s different!” he snaps, waspish. His cheeks have gone pink, and it’s not because of the alcohol.

“I’m just saying,” Nami drawls. “You’re not exactly in the position to give advice.”

“That’s different," he insists again. “There’s no chance in hell the cook would ever want to be with me.”

“Well maybe you’d have a chance if you stopped fighting with him all the time and actually tried talking to him,” Nami points out.

Zoro looks like Nami just asked him to quit drinking, cold turkey. “Are you kidding me? He’d hate that.”

“He kind of hates you now.”

“No he doesn’t.”

“Literally this morning, Sanji told me he wanted to crack open your skull with his heel and use it as a mortar and pestle,” Nami says.

Instead of reacting like a normal person, Zoro’s face brightens and he sits a little straighter, eyes lighting up like Nami just bought him a crate of his favorite booze. “He said that about me?”

“I don’t think you’re seeing the issue here,” Nami says slowly. “That is not a compliment.”

Zoro huffs and slumps back down in his stool, crossing his arms across his chest and glowering at her over the mouth of his sake bottle. “You wouldn’t understand.” 

And yeah, that’s fair, Nami doesn’t understand, but seriously, it doesn’t take a genius to see that Sanji is into Zoro, and Zoro is into Sanji. The problem, however, is that there’s this gap between them that they keep dancing around, and neither of them are willing to make the leap; they’d both rather keep trying to kill each other than engage in regular conversation. She briefly considers telling Zoro to make a move, to push him in the right direction, but that hadn’t worked the previous hundred times she tried, so. 

Nami sighs. “Guess we’re both screwed.”

“Me more than you,” Zoro scoffs. “Cook’s into women.”

“Well Vivi’s into ― ” Nami pauses. “Wait. What is Vivi into? Revolution?”

“Rain,” Zoro supplies. “Kicking Crocodile’s ass.”

“Men, probably,” Nami grumbles, morose. She tosses back the rest of her sangria.

“You don’t know that,” Zoro says. “It’s not like she twirls around like a stupid pinwheel whenever there's a man around.”

“Sanji’s the exception, not the rule.”

“Just ask her,” Zoro says, but Nami once saw him attack Sanji with Wado because Sanji came out of the shower in a hoodie with his hair still damp, and Zoro was too emotionally stunted to deal with that in a healthy way. So it’s hard to take his advice seriously.

“I’d rather just order another round,” Nami responds. “On you. Barkeep!”

“On me? Oi. Oi!”

 

 

It’s a nice day out at sea, the waters calm and the sky a second infinite ocean behind a small smattering of clouds. It’s a welcome break from the extreme climates they’ve been bouncing back and forth between, the unbearable humidity of Little Garden and the sub-zero temperatures of Drum Island to name a few. Sanji fetches an empty barrel from the storage room for Nami and Vivi to use as a makeshift table, then ducks into the galley to make them drinks while they enjoy the weather. 

Offsetting the heat of the sun is a pleasant breeze, nudging at the sails to keep the Merry on track. Luffy and Chopper break out the fishing lines and bait, hoping for a big catch, but after Zoro fishes them out of the water for the third time, they give up and join Usopp on the cannon deck, where he is testing out a new kind of gunpowder. 

As though on cue, a loud boom shakes the ship. The perfect dollop of whipped cream on Vivi’s crepe quivers and deflates slightly. Through the floorboards, Nami can hear Luffy whooping.

Vivi takes no notice of the slowly collapsing structural integrity of her crepe. Without taking her eyes off the book she’s reading, she stabs at it with a fork. There’s a clattering noise as she misses and hits the plate. Vivi stabs at it a second, third, fourth time, finally spearing it successfully and nudging a piece in her mouth, not looking up once. Some cream smears against the corner of her mouth, and frankly, it’s appalling how endearing the whole thing is.

It’s getting ridiculous. 

Nami tears her gaze away, letting it slip from Vivi to the lower deck, where she spots Zoro hauling a pail of seawater over the side of the Merry. He looks like he’s just finished training in the crow’s nest, his hair standing up stickily and his shirt slung over the railing. He dumps the water all over himself, then shakes his head like a dog, spraying water droplets and sweat everywhere. Then, because he’s not done horrifying Nami, he puts his shirt back on without bothering to dry off, the water making the fabric cling obscenely to his skin. Honestly.

Nami is just about to yell at him for dripping all over the deck like a moron when Sanji strolls out from the galley, toting a tray of colorful drinks. She watches with mild fascination as he freezes in his tracks, nearly tipping over the tray and sending the drinks crashing to the ground. 

Zoro hasn’t noticed him yet, too busy trying to untangle the rope and pail after somehow twisting them around Merry’s railing. Sanji unfreezes and scurries back into the galley, presumably to slide against the door like a smitten damsel, or maybe file one of his wooden spoons into a shiv. It’s hard to say. 

Several seconds pass. Then Sanji bursts out the galley again, this time without the tray, and immediately tries to dropkick Zoro off the ship. 

Nami resists the urge to bang her head against the wall. If they would just talk to each other instead of fighting to the death. 

“Er, should we step in?” Vivi asks, sounding unsure.

Nami puts her face into her hands, feeling her sanity fray like a worn pair of jeans. “They’re fine.”

A month ago, Nami would’ve been worried about them killing each other. Now, she just prays to whatever gods are watching that they’ll make out already. Judging by the current display happening in front of her, it’s going to be a while. 

“Aren’t they supposed to be nakama?” Vivi asks concernedly.

“They are.”

“They act like they hate each other.”

Ha, if only Vivi knew the truth. “Trust me,” Nami grumbles, “they don’t hate each other.” Unfortunately. That scenario might actually be more bearable than whatever the fuck is going on right now. 

Nami turns back to look at the deck, where Zoro and Sanji have disappeared. In their place are various scuff marks on the wood, and a big slash going through the railing. Half of a pail rolls across the ship pathetically. She mentally adds several thousand berries to Zoro’s debt. 

“It’s a good thing they have you to play peacemaker,” Vivi says cheerfully. Nami bites back a comment about how much peacemaking she’s going to be doing later, also known as beating a pair of insufferable idiots to death with her bare fists. 

It’s frustrating, because that thing between Zoro and Sanji is about as subtle as Usopp’s nose. Even Luffy has probably figured it out, but the trouble about these kinds of things is that they don’t work when other people try to interfere. This is something Zoro and Sanji have to work out themselves. But they won’t. Because they’re stupid. 

“One day,” Nami mutters, mostly to herself. “One day, they’ll finally get along and then I can stop spending so much goddamn money fixing the ship.”

Vivi laughs, and Nami nearly goes blind from how bright it is. Because, well, there’s also that other thing. Not the Zoro and Sanji thing, but her thing. 

Just ask her, a voice that sounds suspiciously like Zoro says. 

Shut up, she responds. You once spent three hours in the seasonings aisle looking for a rare spice to give to Sanji, only to panic and throw the jar overboard as soon as you got back to the ship. 

The voice shuts up.

But then Nami thinks about it. About Zoro and Sanji, and how they’re always stealing glances at each other when the other isn’t looking. About how Zoro sometimes glares crossly at his sake during their bar nights, or how Sanji is always leaving onigiri in the crow’s nest. About how they’re always on the same wavelength, except when it comes to things like this. 

She formulates a plan. 

“Vivi,” Nami starts nervously. 

Vivi pauses in the middle of scraping her plate clean with her fork. The streak of cream from before is still on her mouth. “Hm?”

“Would you like to go shopping with me?” Nami asks. It’s an innocent-sounding question, not too transparent, and she still needs a new jacket after Luffy destroyed her last one on Drum. “Like, on a ― ” The word ‘date’ gets stuck in her throat. She coughs. “On the next island.”

Vivi grins at her. “I’d love to,” she says. “Just tell me when.” She finishes off her crepe and points at Nami’s empty plate. “Want me to get that for you?” she asks.

“... sure.”

It’s only after Vivi leaves to bring their plates to Sanji that Nami lets her head fall onto the barrel with a thunk.

 

 

Plum Island is a spring island, something that considerably brightens Vivi’s mood. It’s a good sign, means that they’re getting closer to warmer waters, and hence, to Alabasta. 

The first thing they notice is the flowers. Plum Island is positively overflowing with them, blossoms of every color crowding the treetops and drooping over the shoreline. It’s famous for its plants, according to one of the logbooks on Nami’s shelves, and the island is one of the largest producers of bouquets and medicinal blends on the Grand Line. Chopper’s eyes go wide at the mention of the latter, eager to go explore the island and look for rare herbs, but the smell from the flowers is too overwhelming for his reindeer nose. He reluctantly agrees to stay behind with Usopp and watch the ship, but not before shoving a list of hastily scrawled instructions and names at Nami.

“I want a jar of aster citreum,” Chopper says frantically, one hoof holding his nose and the other smushing the list harder into her hand. “And kymin, if they’ve got it.”

“Sure.”

“And if you see any ysgrit root, be sure to ask for it fresh, not dried!”

“Alright.”

“Oh, and there’s a book! The Complete Guide to Medicinal Tarvic ― ”

As soon as she gets the opportunity, Nami passes the list on to Sanji, who takes it while making incessant promises that he will “be the knight you need” and “won’t fail you, Nami-swan!”, which makes Zoro roll his eyes and insult him, which in turn starts another fight. They’re too distracted to notice Luffy rocket over the treeline, no doubt going to stir up trouble. 

Nami feels a little bad about neglecting Chopper’s list, but as far as she’s concerned, there are more important matters at hand.

Vivi materializes by her elbow while Nami is watching Zoro and Sanji destroy several small ecosystems on the shore. She has a small rucksack slung over her back and is wearing a fisherman’s hat, to keep the sun out of her eyes. She is also wearing one of Nami’s shirts, which can only mean bad things for Nami’s heart. 

“Ready to go?” Vivi asks. Nami nods mutely. 

Plum Island has no shops. Instead, there are clusters of street vendors scattered around the island, stalls pressed against each other along the sides of the roads. Nami doesn’t find any coats to replace the one Luffy destroyed ― the villagers have no use for coats on a spring island ― and is in the middle of bartering for a small cherry blossom bonsai for Chopper when Vivi tugs on her elbow.

From behind her back, she pulls out two flower crowns, one violet, and one canary yellow. “Look what I found,” Vivi says. “Alabasta doesn’t have many flowers. They aren’t made for the climate.”

And then before Nami can respond, Vivi just. Puts the yellow flower crown on her head. Nami’s scalp tingles from where Vivi’s fingers brush through her hair, so that it doesn’t get tangled.

“There.” Vivi steps back, beaming like she didn’t just grab Nami's heart by the strings and yank it off a cliff. “I knew that one would look good on you.”

Nami blames the heat for what she does next. She tugs the violet crown from Vivi’s hands and pulls off her fisherman’s hat. Some of Vivi’s hair falls over her face when Nami places the crown on her head. Without thinking, she brings her hand up to brush it away, tucking the strands behind Vivi’s ear as tenderly as she can. 

The whole time, Vivi watches her carefully. Without her hat on, the sun lights her eyes gold, turns them into little solar eclipses. 

Nami pulls away and looks at Vivi. Looks at her dark eyes, and the purple flowers nesting in her soft, azure hair.

“You look beautiful,” Nami says honestly. It’s easy to be brave when you’re in freefall.

For a moment, Vivi doesn’t say anything. Whatever courage Nami managed to scrape up earlier melts away, leaving her sweaty and anxious. 

And then Vivi smiles, slow and crooked and like nothing Nami has ever seen before, and it’s like a sunrise coming over the side of the Merry, like the tide washing her away. She feels like she has just done something obscene, right there in the middle of the street, with that smile seeping into her, warm and aching in her chest. 

“You like it?” Vivi asks, still smiling, and then Nami kind of wants to throttle her, because of course she likes it . “I’m going to see if they have any more.” And then she disappears into the sea of villagers and travelers.

Nami suddenly realizes that she’s holding her breath. The air rushes out of her in one ragged exhale. 

“Young lady,” the stall owner behind her says irritably. “Are you gonna buy the bonsai or not?”

Nami buys the bonsai. 

 

 

So, that had been … something.

The shopping trip hadn’t been a complete success, because Nami still can’t get the word date out of her mouth without wanting to tie herself to the anchor, but it had been something, which is better than nothing, which makes her better than Zoro and Sanji. Admittedly, that’s not a particularly high bar. Nami still allows herself to feel a little proud. 

But where to go from here?

Out of everyone on the ship, Usopp is probably the one with the most experience with these kinds of things, what with his relationship with Kaya and all. He’s also the next sanest person on the ship behind her, save for Vivi, but for obvious reasons, Nami can’t exactly go to her. So, Usopp it is. 

“Oh god, this is about the fire, isn’t it,” Usopp babbles when she corners him in the storage room in the afternoon. “I promise, I had it put out almost immediately.”

“No, that’s not what I want to talk about,” Nami says. And then, “Wait, what fire?”

“... did I say fire? I didn’t say fire. Was there a fire?”

Nami makes a mental note to investigate that later. But first things first. “I need help.”

“You need help,” Usopp echoes. “Can you be a little more specific?”

“No,” she snaps, instinctive, and Usopp blinks at her. “Sorry,” she apologizes hastily. The only other person she’s told about Vivi is Zoro, but that was more because of the alcohol dismantling her mouth filter. The only things she and Usopp have ever talked about are being sane and knowing to run away from dangerous, probably-will-kill-you things, unlike their crewmates. 

“Okaay,” Usopp says slowly. “Can you make this quick, though? I promised Zoro I’d help him pick out something to wear for his date with Sanji later.”

What.

“What,” Nami says.

“I know right?” Usopp grins, leaning back against the wall. “I mean, it’s about time.”

A part of Nami is really happy for Zoro. Since before they reached Reverse Mountain, he’s been pining after Sanji, and she’s glad to see them finally get together. For one thing, it’ll make their bar nights less depressing, and hopefully, hopefully, decrease repair costs. A second part of her is offended that Zoro didn’t think to ask her to help him pick an outfit ― she’s fucking brilliant at choosing clothes. 

But then, there’s a third part of her that’s just pissed, because losing the feelings race to Zoro and Sanji of all people is like losing a footrace to a dead body. And that’s just sad. 

“Also,” Usopp continues, oblivious to her internal breakdown, “Zoro wanted me to tell you to ‘suck it, witch’, and make a very crude hand gesture that I am not going to make ― h-hey, where are you going?”

 

 

Nami slams open the door to the girl’s room. “We’re going on a date,” she announces.

Across the room, Vivi startles in her bed, dropping her book in her lap. She stares.

Nami suddenly realizes what she just said. “I mean. Would you … like to go on a date?”

“This is sudden,” Vivi says, wide-eyed. 

Nami soldiers on. “I’ve realized something,” she says, a little manic. “Life’s short, Vivi. Life’s really short, and you’re wonderful. Beyond wonderful. I’ve never met anyone like you. You’re beautiful, and you’re kind, and you’re brilliant, and sweet, and strong and ― and I’m a pirate, and pirates, well, we’re all about opportunities and seizing the moment, and I guess I decided that this was that moment for me, and, um …” Nami trails off as her actions and words start to catch up to her. Crap. Crap. What did she just do? What did she just say?

Vivi just keeps staring at her, mouth slightly agape. The silence stretches for miles, makes Nami want to crawl right out of her skin. Her stomach curdles.

“Anyways,” she says awkwardly. “I’m just gonna go ― ”

“I’d love to.”

“ ― sorry about all this, really ― wait what?” Nami’s head snaps up. “What?” she repeats.

“I’d love to go on a date with you,” Vivi says. 

“Wh ― now?”

Vivi looks down at herself. She is wearing a set of rumpled pajamas with tiny sea cats printed on them. Her hair resembles a blue bird’s nest, frizzy and chaotic.

“Well, not now now,” Vivi says, laughing. “Let me shower and get ready.”

“Oh,” Nami says. “Okay then.”

Vivi beams at her and gets out of the bed. She pauses briefly beside Nami on the way out, then leans in and kisses her on the cheek.

“Meet you on the deck in half an hour,” she says, smiling. It’s a good thing Vivi doesn’t stick around after that, because Nami’s pretty sure her entire face lights on fire. 

She spends the next few minutes periodically pinching herself while wandering around the room in a daze. Around minute five, the reality of the situation hits her like a cold bath. She tears through her dresser and trunk in a panic, trying to find something decent to wear. Nami ends up having to enlist Usopp’s help (no Zoro around unfortunately, though maybe that’s for the best), who immediately starts prattling on and on about the time he supposedly helped all three hundred single residents of Bachelor’s Island find love. 

While she’s waiting outside, Nami spots Zoro and Sanji returning to the Merry, picking their way through the flora. She’s about to run out and congratulate the two of them, maybe knock their heads together for taking forever to get their shit together, but something stops her. 

The two of them are covered in grime and mysterious spatters. Sanji’s temple is bleeding, the bottom half of his tie neatly sliced off. Zoro’s shirt is speckled with red, and he looks like he’s got a black eye coming on. They’re both snarling, shoving at each other. Nami’s stomach drops. 

“ ― ruined my favorite tie!” Sanji growls as they approach the ship. Zoro mutters something Nami can’t make out, and Sanji yells, “Excuse me?! That tie was thirty thousand berries, I’ll have you know ― ”

“Tch. Maybe learn how to dodge better,” comes Zoro’s gruff reply, and there’s a loud clattering and a lot of cursing. A few minutes pass in silence. Then, Sanji briskly marches up the gangway. He doesn’t even notice Nami standing on deck, striding right past her and into the galley. Seconds later, Zoro trudges up after him. He freezes when he sees Nami standing there with her arms crossed. 

Nami takes one look at him and demands, “What happened?”

Zoro’s face flushes. He rubs the back of his neck with his hand. “We went to the tavern nearby, but Curly started a fight with another pirate for not treating a woman right or something, and we got kicked out for breaking the roof, and then the roads moved and the shit-cook got us lost.”

Nami severely doubts that last bit, but she winces nonetheless. “That bad, huh?”

Zoro gives her a funny look. “What are you talking about? It was fine. We’re going again tomorrow before we leave.” 

“You ― he agreed to that?” Nami asks, flabbergasted. She wonders if she’s missing something crucial. 

“He suggested it,” Zoro says, like she’s an idiot. He cocks his head to the side, as though just noticing her outfit. “Vivi?” he asks hopefully.

“We’re leaving in a few minutes.” Nami holds up her hand and brings her index and thumb close. “You beat me by this much, ” she hisses.

Zoro smirks at her and opens his mouth to retort, but is interrupted by a loud thump from the galley and a “MARIMO IF YOU DON’T GET IN HERE THIS INSTANT I WILL SHOVE MY FOOT SO FAR UP YOUR ASS YOU’LL BE PICKING MY SHOELACES FROM BETWEEN YOUR TEETH.”

Nami blinks. 

Zoro, however, grins, like that’s a perfectly normal thing to hear from your date. “He wanted to cook dinner,” he says, which doesn’t really explain anything. “I have to go. Have fun.” And then he just leaves, disappearing behind the galley door.

Nami doesn’t know if she wants to cheer or cry. 

“Well, how about that.” 

Nami turns to find Vivi standing behind her, dressed casually in a t-shirt and jeans. She recognizes the shirt as her own, and her heart stutters against her ribs. 

“Who would’ve guessed?” Vivi says, looking towards the galley.

“I’m not even going to try to understand it anymore,” Nami says tiredly. She offers her arm for Vivi, the way she’s seen Sanji sometimes do for random girls they meet, and Vivi laughs, fingers curling around her elbow.

“Come on,” Nami says as they head down the gangway. “Let's show them how normal people do these things.”