"Nothing hurts, it's all ok;
But I'm counting down my days.
In this place there's many ways,
To feel at home or not ok."
Arkane Skye, Counting Down My Days (x)
It took Nami about two days to track down Usopp, which was more reprieve than he thought he'd get to have.
(Actually- well, he hadn't known, exactly. Before, he had sometimes felt like he knew his crewmates like the back of his hand, that they were as familiar to him as his weapon or the pens he carried everywhere; but nowadays he wasn't so sure, looked at his friends and wondered if he was imagining the disappointment he thought he could see on them.
He apologized each time, out of doubt; clung to the place on the ship he knew he had but wasn't sure he deserved.)
It happened in the middle of the afternoon, as he was watching Luffy run after Sanji, asking for more sweets, and Chopper run after his captain, yelling for him to stop and let him rewrap the bandages that still littered Luffy's body, even after all this time.
"He's going to fall overboard," said a voice right next to him; he looked, and there stood Nami, the bags under her eyes just a little too dark and her eyes just a little too fond, watching their captain run around the ship enthusiastically. "And Chopper is just going to jump right after him, just wait for it. They never learn, I swear, it's a wonder we ever get anything done."
Her voice sounded exasperated, and her eyes slid to him expectantly, perhaps waiting for him to join in on the complaining, as he had done many times before; but Usopp just laughed earnestly, and leaned on the railing.
"I missed you, Nami", he said absently, and Nami shot him a look before saying, "Well, you wouldn't have needed to miss me if you hadn't left."
(Which was a very Nami way to start a conversation, now that he thought about him. A pretty smile, and then a punch to the gut.
It was also a very Nami way to start a fight, except in a fight the punch to the gut was a lightning bolt to the heart.
Much more fatal.)
"Nami-", said Usopp, and fell short on words, fell short again, and it felt like the thousandth time in barely two days, and he was both tired of and used to it.
"No, you left," said Nami in the same tone she had used on him when he had thrown her into the sea for fun, once- terrified and hiding it and so deeply resentful of the fact that Usopp had been the one to make her feel scared. "You left," she said again, looking out at the sea instead of facing him fully, and he flinched, did not want the conversation that was coming or the silences that he'd get should he try to avoid it.
"So I did," he answered, trying to summon his old confidence; but it was full of holes and he was sure that Nami, and her keen eyes, and her wariness, could see each and every one of them.
There was a silence, heavy and purposeful;Luffy and Chopper and Sanji were still running, but Usopp's focus had long since left them. He startled a bit at the yell Chopper let out just as Luffy fell overboard, but didn't let his eyes leave Nami for too long, out of an irrational fear she'd be gone by the time he looked again. She sighed, but didn't speak again; he was left feeling uncertain and like he had just failed some kind of test.
"I'm sorry, you know," he said, tried- tried to reach out to her, was suddenly so terrified he had taken his crewmates' trust for granted one last time, and they had decided that was it-
(Was terrified he'd lost Nami's trust, was terrified he'd lost Nami herself, and the jokes and exasperated looks they shared when the rest of the crew threw themselves into yet another dangerous island without seeming to be afraid for a single moment.
Was terrified he'd lost Nami, and her hidden kindness and the fierceness of her friendship, and the comfortable silences they shared sometimes, and all those little things that he had come to rely on to keep a level head in the craziness of their life; was terrified she'd withdraw her friendliness, bit by bit, like she did to unfortunate shopkeepers sometimes, and he would be left unsteady and looking for a helping hand that wasn't there anymore.)
"I know," replied Nami, too lightly, too thoughtful; and Usopp felt weak and inadequate in a way he had never felt next to her. "Nobody can not know, given how you've been repeating it these days."
Once again her voice strayed into sounding like an accusation, felt mocking and cruel; and Nami had always been cruel and Usopp had never minded it, had sidestepped her hard edges and looked away from her bleeding wounds, and for a moment he felt angry that she wouldn't do the same for him.
And then he felt miserable, again; wanted to shake the anger out of him, the guilt out of him, the unease out of him; until it was all gone, and then maybe he could breathe like he wasn't suffocating.
Nami sighed again; looked at him regretfully, like she did when she had been too sharp with someone and had only noticed too late.
"It's alright, you know," she finally let out, hand playing absentmindedly with the bracelet on her wrist, turning it around and around and around. "I left too, after all."
(And- she had, hadn't she? She had stolen Merry, before it had even become Merry; had thrown poison in their face in the painful hope it would drive them away, that it would hurt them just enough for the whole crew to leave.
But Nami had been cruel out of concern for them, for her town, and not even for herself. She had thrown lies at them with so much anguish in her eyes that Usopp, born a liar or maybe made a liar, had never even begun to believe it; and Usopp, when he had left, hadn't had nearly as noble reasons, so really, comparing the two didn't make much sense.)
"That wasn't the same thing," he protested immediately; and Nami looked at him with the same terribly hidden fondness she sometimes had in her eyes, when Sanji asked her permission to take tangerines from her trees too solemnly, or when Luffy grinned too brightly too fast. Somewhere in the distance, Sanji had stopped Chopper from jumping after his captain, and Franky had thrown Luffy back on the ship, the boy laughing all the while.
"I know you think I haven't forgiven you," Nami said softly, paying the rest of her crewmates no attention. "And you're right, a little bit, but you're more wrong than right. You just- you worried me, you all did, so I'm a little mad, but I'll get over it, you know. You settled things with Luffy, and you're back, so it's fine. Stop apologizing. You made a mistake, but you're still our crewmate."
Usopp took a deep breath, and his knuckles were white from clutching the railing too hard. He felt like he'd taken a bolt of lightning to the chest: vulnerable and still shaking and not quite in control of anything
"Usopp. It's fine. You're back, it's in the past, it doesn't matter anymore. You're still our friend. You'd have to do much worse not to be, so stop apologizing."
He tried to protest again, but some kind of sternness in her eyes stopped him mid-track. He let out a soft breath, not quite a sigh, and made a conscious effort to relax his hands and stop being so scared.
"Okay," he ended up saying, blankly. He felt out of balance, like he'd stepped onto a ship for the first time; like the horizon was just too close to him, like he'd expected something to be impossible and destroyed and ruined only to find out it was right there next to him. "Okay. I still-"
"I missed you, you know," she said, not caring about interrupting him, not caring about the fact that he looked like she had just punched him in the gut. "I'm glad you're back. My clima-tact needs an upgrade and I wasn't about to pay someone to repair it."
She grinned, and just as Usopp was about to- to thank her, or maybe hug her, or maybe collapse into the grass of the deck and take his first full breath since he had stepped on Sunny, Luffy, still soaked from his fall into the ocean, came bounding from behind and knocked into the both of them, nearly sending them overboard.
"What are you doing? Nami, weren't you doing maps? What were you talking about?" He asked, easily using his arms to stop them from falling; Nami shook her head fondly.
"I was," she answered, smiling. "Usopp was just being stupid, but we weren't talking about anything important, Captain, don't worry!"
Luffy tilted his head like he did sometimes, almost suspiciously; but then the question in his eyes disappeared, and he grinned. There was something satisfied in his smile, something proud and undescribable that Usopp couldn't believe he had almost lost forever; like he had heard their conversation and approved, or, more likely, like he hadn't heard a word but trusted them enough to not care about it.
"You should listen to Nami, Usopp," he stated decisively, the seriousness he rarely used with his crewmates surfacing a little; but as soon as his sniper nodded, he smiled again, and it all disappeared again.
"Good! Now, Usopp, will you play tag with me?"
(And Usopp had long since lost the will to refuse his captain anything, since he had stepped out of the hug that had welcomed him on Sunny, or maybe an eternity before, so he answered, a hesitant smile on his lips-)