Nami was sitting cross-legged on the bed, picking at the navy-blue comforter. “Have you thought about your Halloween costume yet? It’s getting pretty close.”
Vivi glanced up from her homework, smiling. Pushing the work aside with a sigh, she said, “Thought about it? Yes. Decided on something? Well…no.”
Nami shuffled herself along the narrow dorm room bed until she was pressed up alongside her girlfriend, leaning slightly against her shoulder. “I know. I want it to be good, ‘cause it’s…you know.”
Vivi arched an eyebrow, grinning a little. “Our anniversary?”
“Of our first kiss! Not even a proper date!”
At the word 'kiss' Vivi leaned over and pressed a soft one to Nami’s cheek, her breath warm against her. “But we both know that’s when it really started!”
Nami sighed, any resistance melting in the face of Vivi’s lips against her. “Okay, yeah. Our anniversary in like, our hearts. But the point remains—we gotta think of something good . You know Franky and Robin are gonna be Gomez and Morticia Addams?”
“And that it’s going to be stupidly perfect and that they’re going to look amazing and show up everyone else who dares step foot at their party?” Vivi met Nami’s eyes and both women grinned. “Yeah, I know. They’re sickeningly cute and deserve each other.”
Nami rubbed little circles on Vivi’s hand as she contemplated. “So couple costumes are out, then, at least the obvious ones.”
“Mm,” hummed Vivi. “But still, I want to match you…”
And then it came to both of them, like something spontaneously remembered from a dream: a shared experience; a shared story; a shared goal in strength and resilience.
“You know those stories Robin tells Chopper?” Nami murmured against Vivi’s ear.
“The ones she pretends are old, but that she composes as she goes along?”
“Yeah, those,” Nami whispered, and she pressed a kiss to Vivi’s neck, sealing the idea into both of their hearts.
Once upon a time, Robin said, her voice gentle as a memory, There was a princess. She was next in line to the throne, and her kingdom loved her. She loved her kingdom just as much, and she always had. So when her people were threatened, she did the only think she could imagine doing—she protected them. But word, by sword, by fist, by shattered-bitter-hopeless dream.
They arrived at Franky’s RV in the same taxi, piling out from the car in a dazzling display of tulle and silk—or, well, cheap fabrics that passed for them, anyway.
“What are you supposed to be, little sis?” Franky asked, one eyebrow raised as he took Nami’s hand in his and helped her to her feet. Sure enough, he was clad in sharp pin-striped suit—albeit rather more fitted than Nami remembered Gomez’s being.
“You can’t guess?” She shot backed, her own brow wrinkled in performative disappointment. “Someone hasn’t been listening to his girlfriend’s fairy tales…”
Franky’s eyes widened as he took in the tiara on Vivi’s head; the sturdy boots and the tiered skirts; the faux-chainmail Nami wore pulled over her top.
“Oh, I get it!” He grinned wide around his prop cigar. “That’s good. Chopper’s gonna like that. Robin too.”
“I’d hope so,” Nami said, taking Vivi’s gloved hand in her own and making to lead her down the well-trod path in Franky’s yard to where the others in their little group would surely be gathered. “We were inspired, y’know.”
It wasn’t hard to be inspired by Robin’s inspiring, personal tales; of bravery and never-giving-up. Ostensibly meant only for Chopper’s young ears, most members of their group had been privy to the story of the brave princesses who saved the day—as evidenced by the outcry that met their arrival.
“Whoa, nice!,” said Usopp appreciatively. “Did you guys make all that yourselves?”
“Yep,” Nami said, shamelessly preening. Vivi nudged her and she deflated a bit. “Okay, Vivi’s dad helped a little too.”
“Cobra really can do everything! I wonder if he’d help me with a project I’ve been working on recently…”
“I’m sure he would,” Vivi smiled. Nami knew she was charmed that her father could be included within the extended family that was ‘Luffy’s friend group’. “I think he’d get a kick out of your costume, actually,” she indicated Usopp’s green pointed hat and other accoutrements of his Robin Hood outfit, “...even if he’d be the rich being stolen from, I guess.”
“Ah~” said Usopp, shaking his finger disapprovingly at her. “But Robin of Locksley is someone all men of honor can look up to! He represents the best of the rebel spirit: courage, forthwithness, and a strong sense of justice!”
“Yeah!” cheered Vivi, caught up in his energy. “Down with the Sheriff of Nottingham!”
Nami rolled her eyes at their antics, but she couldn’t help but smile, too. Heroes like Robin Hood were undeniably a good representation of their group—talented and passionate and not afraid to do was they felt right rather than what some tyrant (or run-of-the-mill asshole) wanted from them.
“Who are we taking down?” Zoro’s voice came from behind them, and Nami turned, delighted to see him dressed as a cowboy, complete with hat, boots, and a small toy revolver (which he was spinning threateningly).
“Oh my god, are you wearing chaps? This has to be your best costume yet!”
He frowned sternly at her. “I’m a rebel of the Wild West.”
Nami let out a burst of laughter.
“Ignore her, Zoro,” Vivi said from behind her, unable to hide her grin even as she said it. “You look really cool! I like the bandanna.”
Zoro nodded respectfully to her. “I like your dagger.” Nami rolled her eyes; of course he’d noticed to small hilt of a plastic dagger Vivi was wearing on her hip.
“What’s Luffy?” She asked Usopp. “And it better be something good, after Zoro.”
Usopp grinned. “Oh, it’s good. Luffy is a superhero .”
Nami raised an eyebrow. “Like...Batman?”
“No, like Luffy. He’s done a make-your-own-superhero thing, and it’s awesome .”
As he said it, the man himself appeared, and, well—Nami wasn’t sure she’d call it awesome , but Luffy’s costume was certainly striking. He’d seemingly combined attributes from all sorts of heroes to create his masterpiece; a plain black mask framed his eyes, but his costume was bright shades of blue and red, including a cape. Across his chest, his shirt was emblazoned with LUFFY, which didn’t have the iconic simplicity of, say, Superman’s ‘S’, but was deeply fitting for Luffy.
“Luffy!” She laughed. “Here to save the day?”
“Yep,” he said, nodding seriously. “I’ll fight off any Halloween monsters, too.”
“But only the mean ones, right?” Chopper’s voice came from somewhere behind Luffy.
“Only the mean ones,” allowed Luffy. He grinned, “Or the ones I can eat!”
“Luffy,” said Robin sternly, “I’ll remind you that this is a monster-friendly party, thank you.”
She stepped into the scene and even though Nami already knew what her costume was, she was still struck by how well it worked. Robin’s impressive figure was only emphasized by the curves of her long black dress; her sleeves draping impressively from her hands; her hair in a severe middle part that she didn’t usually wear. She had Chopper by the hand, and Nami instantly recognized the double braids of his costume, too.
“Oh shit! Hey, Wednesday!”
“Hey,” Chopper said shyly, while Robin warned, “Language.”
“Sorry. Hey, you look adorable though! Got the whole family here, huh?”
Chopper smiled at her, and she grinned back. “So, do you like me and Vivi’s costumes?”
She stepped back to stand beside her girlfriend, lifting the light fabric of her cloak to show the full effect. Chopper stared, and she watched his eyes widen as he recognized them.
“The warriors,” he said, breathlessly, “from Robin’s stories…?” he turned to look at Robin beside him. She smiled, Morticia’s dark lipstick curving dramatically on her face.
“Nami and Vivi asked for some advice on how best to portray my protagonists; I didn’t mention it because I thought it would be a good surprise to see first in person.” She turned towards Nami and Vivi. “You both look very good.”
“Thank you, Robin,” Vivi said earnestly, and Nami nodded her thanks.
“You guys look so cool and strong!” Chopper, or little Wednesday, cheered.
“Yeah, look at this crew!” Usopp added, raising his bow to Zoro’s gun, and grinning as Luffy raised his fist and Vivi her dagger in response. “Whatta bunch of bada—uh, cool and strong people.”
Robin smiled, and it was only a little threatening. “Indeed.”
They followed the sound of Brook’s warbling laughter to an open space in the yard, a plywood contraption reaching up behind him. Robin’s other half was laughing with the man, looking slightly more respectable than usual in Gomez’ full suit. Brook himself was a vampire, and a stately one at that—Nami raised an eyebrow at his tall hat, which made the man’s already very impressive height even more imposing.
“Brook?” The older man queried. “I no longer remember my own name…it has been so long since my life was traded for this wretched half-existence…”
Franky patted him on the back comfortingly and Nami rolled her eyes.
Franky shrugged. “I think he’s pouting because Brook stole his vampire idea.”
Vivi giggled and Nami groaned. “He can’t claim vamp every year.”
“You try telling him that.”
“I won’t,” muttered Nami. “Hey, what’s this monstrosity behind you, though? Tell me you didn’t build that…”
Franky grinned, and spread his arms wide like a proud showman. “Oh, but indeed I did…with a little help, of course. This is the Franky’s Family’s Haunted Maze !”
“Whoa,” said Usopp from beside her. “And it’s a real maze?”
“Yep,” nodded Franky. “Enter…if you dare.”
“Um, maybe later,” Usopp said, backing a hasty retreat.
“Cowaaard,” Nami called after him. Robin chuckled as she approached her boyfriend, lifting a hand to curl it around his shoulders.
“Perhaps Usopp is merely being prudent...who knows what sort of horrors might await one within, hmm?”
“It’s spine-tingling ,” added Franky, and Robin smiled, pulling him in close to kiss him.
Nami groaned, embarrassed at their PDA, but Vivi laughed beside her, clearly charmed.
“Hey,” Vivi murmured, “Don’t judge them. Isn’t that what you want to do to me ?”
Nami shivered. Yes! , her mind said, but her mouth had other ideas. “Out in public like this? Gross.”
Vivi frowned. “It’s not in public, it’s our friends!”
“Yeah, but still…”
Vivi pursed her lips in thought; then she grabbed at Nami’s elbow, pulling her in close.
“Well then,” she said, smiling soft. “What if we took a bit of time to explore the maze? Franky worked so hard on it, after all~”
Nami raised an eyebrow at her flirty tone. “Wha—”
“Don’t be shy. It’ll be fun—” Vivi smirked, leaned in close—”and private ,” she murmured in Nami’s ear.
Well . That was certainly true. Nami took one more look at the towering plywood construction, the grinning painted jack-o’-lantern that suddenly seemed almost welcoming.
“Onward, princess,” she grinned, and she lead her over the threshold.
The inside of the maze was both familiar and unlike any Halloween decoration she’d seen before. The path beneath them was packed dirt, the sides padded with straw. The corridor in front of them stretched long into the murky darkness, seeming far longer than it could possibly be. Fake cobwebs stretched across the space above their heads, spiders and bats hanging down in front of them.
“Damn,” said Nami. “Well, Franky has officially beat Brook, I’m pretty sure.”
“There’s always next year,” allowed Vivi, but she was peering forward into the dark too, her hands reaching up to hold onto Nami’s arm.
“I wouldn’t put it past Brook to learn carpentry just to try and one-up this,” Nami said, and then she pulled them both forward, into the darkness.
Their boots were soft on the dirt; quiet, small steps in the low visibility. They made it to the first intersection; Vivi whispered left in Nami’s ear and she obeyed without question. The left turn took them into an orange wonderland, pumpkins carved into the walls, their eyes and mouths flashing rhythmically with light; tall candles flickering along the path beckoning them forward. Nami pulled them both through it, and when they reached the dark curtain at the end Vivi murmured, right , and once again she obeyed.
The right pulled them through a smoke-filled corridor, multicolored light beams spreading through the fog. Chains hung from a ceiling Nami couldn’t even see when glancing up, it just seemed to go on forever. She pushed the chains aside and they rattled as she and Vivi crept through.
“Right again,” Vivi whispered at the next curtain, and Nami stepped though it, into a fabric maze they had to push through, single-file. They stepped out into pitch-darkness; far darker than the approaching dusk of the party. Vivi gripped at Nami and Nami clasped her hand tightly.
“Come on,” she said, voice low, trapped in the heavy atmosphere of the place. They traveled through the dark for what felt much longer than it must have been; some Halloween-themed soundtrack their only company. Wolves howled and screams echoed from the walls, and underneath the chaos there was Vivi’s breath behind her. Eventually Nami walked forward into another curtain, and she brought them both to a stop.
“Left, this time, I think,” Vivi said, laughing a little, her breath ghosting along Nami’s neck.
Left was a room, a proper room with a foundation and a door, and Nami was impressed with the construction until they stepped inside and Nami felt a mechanism under one floorboard, and the door slammed shut behind them.
“Oh,” Vivi breathed. The room was dark except form the glowing masks on every surface, an array of faces—like the symbol for theatre, some weeping, some laughing. Some smiling serenely, and those were perhaps the most unsettling.
“There’s no door,” Nami said, uneasy, and then more reasonably, “Where’s the door?”
Vivi stepped forward; their hands were still clasped together and she pulled Nami with her. She reached out, hands glancing near the masks. “I guess we have to find it ourselves.”
They made it halfways across the room when Nami felt another mechanism under her foot, and suddenly the masks around them were moving, spinning in lazy, unsettling circles. It was hard to remember where they’d entered from, now; no door was visible behind them.
“Fuck,” said Nami, and Vivi laughed breathlessly. Glancing at the floor to see the board that Nami had triggered, Vivi walked straight across, said, “Aha!” presumably as she felt another button-press underfoot. This time, the masks didn’t spin, but one on the far side of the room opened it’s weeping mouth wide to reveal something glinting inside it.
Nami and Vivi glanced at each other, then Vivi adjusted her grip on Nami’s hand and pulled them forward, stepping quickly in front of the glowing faces. As the passed into the far side of the room, eerie laughter started to pour out from the masks, some of the moving and whirring with it. Vivi quickened her pace, almost running, and Nami jogged after, propelled by the adrenaline that was filling her body regardless of whether or not her brain knew this was made by Franky.
They reached the open-mouthed mask; the glinting thing inside it was a doorknob.
“Oh, I don’t like that,” Nami breathed; Vivi reached inside, wordlessly, and twisted it.
The laughter stopped in a instant; they hurried through the door, and slammed it shut behind them, stepping away from the unsettling room into the open space they’d found themselves in.
“Jeez,” said Vivi, and suddenly they were both laughing; at their own fear and at the absurdity of being scared by a maze at seven p.m. on a weekday, Halloween or no.
“Okay,” Nami said, looking around their new surroundings. “They was like, way too much. Chopper is not allowed through this thing by himself.”
“It’s amazing ,” Vivi said. “Like, just from an engineering standpoint. And Franky does this stuff for fun?”
“Our friends are weird. Kinda part of the package.”
Vivi smiled. “I’ll take it.”
“So I guess this friendly cornfield is our reward for making it through mask-land.” It indeed was a cornfield they were standing in now; painted cornrows on the wooden walls and real ones layered in front of them. Orange-lit lanterns hung at various interval, swaying softly in the breeze; this section of the maze was open to the night sky.
“Waning moon,” Vivi said, staring up at it. “Just missed full. That would’ve been a good Halloween mood.”
“Yeah, good for Samhain rituals,” Nami said. “This one’s good too, though. Still lots of light.” And she pulled Vivi forward into her arms and kissed her. Vivi laughed into her mouth and then her arms snaked up Nami’s back, pulling her in closer and into a deeper kiss.
“So the privacy was what you wanted after all,” she teased, when they finally broke apart.
Nami raised an eyebrow. “Hey, that was a near-death experience we just had. Kiss me again.”
Vivi ignored her and bit into her neck, sucking at the flesh there. Nami shuddered. “Okay, little Dracula, no need to leave a mark…”
Vivi’s teeth nipped at her again and then she raised her head. “But I want to! Isn’t that what getting handsy in Halloween mazes is all about?”
“Well, when you put it like that,” Nami said weakly, and didn’t protest as Vivi’s mouth started working at her again. If there was a mark, if someone saw, was that so bad? A bit of scandal on the night when everything’s meant to scare and disrupt couldn’t be a bad thing.
When they re-entered the maze they walked through several more turns and twists; Nami leading and Vivi directing once again. They passed skeletons and ghosts and more fog; and then they were back in the corridor of the jack-o’-lanterns. Nami half-heartedly adjusted her chainmail to hide the hickey forming on her neck, and they stepped back out into the night.
Franky spotted them almost immediately and made his way over, grinning. “Well? How’d you like it?”
Nami fake-scowled. “I need a drink. Franky, your maze drove me to drink.”
“Huh. Was it the mask room or the spider room?”
“There was a spider room?” Vivi yelped.
“So the mask room, then. See, ya got off easy!”
“Vivi was picking our directions,” Nami explained. “Guess she saved us.”
Franky smiled at them from under his false mustache. “How valiant. Living up to her costume.”
“Yep. C’mon, princess,” Nami grabbed Vivi’s arm and pulled her toward the drink table.
With a pumpkin cider in Nami’s hand, and a virgin Bloody Mary in Vivi’s, the couple made their way to where their friends were crowded. Robin was standing a stool, fiddling with something above her head, and Nami barely had time to wonder what she was doing when she finished the job and light cut across the dark as paper lanterns shaped like little pumpkins lit up bright above the heads of them all. Vivi laughed with joy, and pulled Nami faster.
“Yeah!” Luffy was yelling as they stepped into the space, pumping his costumed fists into the air. “Cool, Robin!”
Robin smiled softly at him, and Nami saw her turn to check Chopper’s reaction—but she needn’t have worried whether he’d be impressed. The youngest of their group was staring up and around him with an aura of serene amazement—taken in by the open sky, or the glowing lights, or the pumpkins lining the ring, or some combination of all of it. Robin’s smile grew wider.
“Hey, Brook!” Luffy was calling behind her. “Brook! Where are you?”
“Here,” came a ghostly voice, and Brook emerged from the shadows in a manner befitting his vampiric attire. “Yes, Luffy?”
Luffy tapped his face thoughtfully. “I think it’s time for MUSIC! Don’t you think so, Brook?”
“Prescient as always~” Brook warbled. “I was just about to suggest the same thing!”
From somewhere in the depths of his coat, Brook produced his bow and violin case (Nami couldn’t help but notice it was also decorated for Halloween) and gave a low flourishing bow to Luffy. “There are plenty of appropriately seasonal songs to be played over the speakers, but I thought I’d start off playing a few tunes myself, if everyone is into that?”
“Hell yeah, Brook,” Nami called, and Usopp and Luffy both joined in, cheering. Brook offered another sweeping bow and was soon after perched on a stool near a particularly large pumpkin, tuning briefly before he launched into a jaunty jig that caused Luffy to whoop and run forward onto the makeshift dance floor, pulling Chopper and Usopp with him and into some sort of chaotic ‘dance.’
Nami sidled over to where Zoro was watching this suspiciously, and nudged him a little with her elbow. “Hey dude, gonna join in?”
Zoro scowled at her from under his stetson. Apparently deciding she wasn’t worth a response, he turned on his heel and stalked back towards of the drink table, leaving Nami and Vivi snickering behind him. Finishing her drink, Nami headed after to pour herself a refill.
Watching Zoro pour himself a very generous double shot, Nami raised a mildly judgemental eyebrow. “Vodka? Working fast, aren’t we?”
Zoro looked righteously offended. “Shut up!”
“At least make it like, whiskey, or whatever it is cowboys drink, I don’t know, I hate Westerns—” but Zoro was already slouching back to the dance floor in defeat, leaving her laughing behind him once again.
“Don’t bully him, Nami,” Vivi faux-chided, sidling up to the table and wrapping her arm around Nami’s waist. “Why are you so mean, huh~?”
“I can’t help it,” Nami sighed, leaning back against Vivi’s chest. “It’s my caustic nature.”
Vivi craned her neck to whisper into Nami’s hair, “Don’t tell anyone, but I kind of like it.”
Nami felt her face heat. “Wouldn’t want to ruin your reputation.”
“No,” Vivi said lightly, smiling, and Nami turned to press a quick kiss to the side of her mouth.
By the time they returned to the dance floor, Luffy, Usopp and Chopper had regressed to playing with the pumpkins and cornstalks surrounding it—the focus of the dance was now solely on Franky and Robin; and Nami couldn’t help but admit that they deserved it. The figure they cut was simply so striking; Robin’s black hair, black dress, black boots with their witchy pointed toes peeking out whenever she moved. The slow waltz that Brook was playing revealed that Robin’s dress was not quite accurate to Morticia’s restricting one, for as she stepped forward it opened wide up, revealing a slit up her leg. Black mesh kept the dress from being revealing, but it was still mesmerizing to watch the fabric restrict around her figure again whenever she closed her step.
Her hands were clasped tight around Franky, of course, and both of them were looking into each other’s eyes, apparently practiced enough at the dance that they felt no need to check the position of their feet. Whatever the song was, Nami had heard Brook play it before; it was aching but not sad—more yearning. This time it felt like the song had been composed just for them. Not even Franky’s fake facial hair or badly spray-dyed hair could impede on the moment; in the orange lighting they looked both terrifying and beautiful, the perfect couple on All Hallow’s Eve.
“They’re…wow,” murmured Vivi, after they’d watched in silence for a few moments.
“Show offs! They probably practiced that with Brook just so they could show everyone else up!” Nami complained. All eyes on them, and only them; on their passion, their love—
Vivi shrugged. “I mean, it definitely worked, then.” Franky and Robin danced, slow in the darkness; when the music sped up Franky opened his hands and Robin slipped out of them, to perform a fast moment of solitary footwork while he watched—and everyone watched, the boys distracted from their games, Brook glancing out over them to see the effects of his music.
Nami shivered; not with cold but with the tension in the air, and she felt relieved when the bow slowed once more and Robin and Franky came back together again, Robin pressed flush against his chest, and they swayed in place as Brook teased out an end to the wavering tune.
He launched into something fast right after and Nami blinked; it was like being woken from a dream she hadn’t known she was having. Luffy cheered at the return of the boisterous music, and he and Usopp ran into the circle, laughing and performing their own bastardized version of a waltz (or at least Nami presumed that was what they were going for). Chopper reached shyly towards Robin and she broke away from Franky, taking Chopper’s hands in her own and showing him some simple steps. Franky produced a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped at his brow, grinning and accepting a high-five offered by Usopp.
Nami looked down at her hands and realized she had finished her second drink without even noticing, and she tugged lightly at Vivi’s elbow before murmuring that she’d be right back.
By the time she’d made it back to the table and was carefully refilling her cup with cider, Franky had made his own way over for water and snacks. Looking up from his plate of peeled grapes masquerading as eyes, he grinned at her.
“So. Gonna dance with Vivi yet?”
Nami rolled her eyes. “We’re really not that kind of couple.”
“Really?” he sounded deeply doubtful, and Nami felt herself bristle.
“Well, we haven’t learned any ballroom dances, for one.”
Franky tilted his head consideringly. “Nothing much to just swaying back and forth. All I’m saying is it seems like something Vivi would be into. You guys gotta show off those costumes!”
It was the kind of thing Vivi would be into, was the thing, and Nami frowned down at her hands, setting the bottle down with more force than necessary and taking a sip from her cup. The cider was cold on her lips, and she wanted the warmth of Vivi back against her. When she looked up, Franky was watching her knowingly.
“Dance with her,” he said, smirking a little.
Her cup gripped tightly in her hand, Nami leaned across the table at him, ignoring how her face was heating at the thought of it. “I am not taking romantic advice from a man with a glued-on mustache!”
Franky raised an eyebrow. An eyebrow that had been penciled-in black to match said mustache. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never undermine the depth of my relationship with Robin.”
Nami slammed the drink to the table so that she was free to throw up her hands in exasperation. “You are such a weirdo!”
“Sure, little sis,” Franky said, taking a slow sip of his virgin piña colada. “But a weirdo who got the girl, huh?”
Said ‘girl’ emerged from the shadows like the character she was pretending to be (seriously, why was everyone in their group so good at that?); coming to a stop beside her boyfriend. Robin’s dangling black sleeves had been shucked up her arms, an empty wine glass perched smartly in her hands.
“Are you two having a fight?” She said, lightly. “Has there been any blood drawn?”
“Not yet,” said Franky, setting his own glass down to face his girlfriend. His eyes took in the (admittedly impressive) curve of that black gown for the nth time that night. “ Cara mia, ” he added dreamily.
Nami groaned into her hands and left the table before he could start with the kisses up her arm. As she stalked away, she swore she heard Robin’s delicate laugh behind her, though when she turned to look at the couple they were clearly engrossed solely with each other.
Nami sighed a little as she returned to Vivi’s side. Vivi seemed to have been watching the scene happening behind her with some amusement; there was a little quirk to her eyebrow.
“Well,” she murmured to Nami, and how genuinely charmed she was by the soppy scene peeked through in her voice. “Looks like they’re having a good night, at least.”
“Yeah, well,” Nami said, nonsensically. She scowled, feeling oddly peeved by Franky’s comments. All said by a man in an obscenely fitted pinstripe suit! The injustice of it all!
But she had to admit that there really was something, something there between her two friends. It wasn’t that they made a handsome couple—although they did—or that they were two of the most important people in her life—although they were (loathe as she sometimes was to admit it, sometimes)—but...watching them, you could see the connection between them. They were feeding off each other’s happiness; they didn’t always like or enjoy the same things, but each was equally willing to indulge the other, to let them play and live they way that they wished.
Nami’s hand clenched again around her cup, and impulsively she finished it quickly and set it gently on the ground beside her.
Vivi turned, blinking. “Hmm?”
“It looks kinda fun,” Nami admitted. “Let’s show off our costumes.” If you want to dance I want to let you do it. And tonight, I want other people to see.
Vivi met Nami’s eyes, and a slow smile crept onto her face. “Okay,” she said, and held out her hand. Nami took it, reverently.
She almost tripped over her own feet leading them both to the dance floor and she muttered explicatives under her breath at herself.
Vivi laughed softly, her free hand going up to rest on Nami’s hip. “Hey, it’s okay, I’ll lead. Let’s just...be here for a bit.” She pulled Nami in close, her breath lighting over her face; swaying them both to the beat of Brook’s music. As always, he was reading the room impeccably; the song was now once again slow and gentle, although still a little bit eerie.
“This is nice, huh,” Vivi said, and Nami tried to calm down and let it be just that, just nice. Vivi stepped forward and back and Nami followed her easily, letting herself be in the rhythm and not try for more. Vivi’s hand was pressed warm against the small of her back, and Nami leaned her head against her girlfriend’s collarbone.
“You know…” said Vivi, her voice drifting by Nami’s ear, “it’s kinda cute that our anniversary will always be a costume party.”
“Yeah, everyone dressing as zombies and skeletons, just for us.”
“You’ll have to wait till the anniversary of our first date for a romantic evening, I think.”
Vivi hummed to herself, bringing up Nami’s hand to rest on her shoulder and then clasping their free hands together again. She leaned close, moving them to the music. “I can wait. Like Robin’s version of Rapunzel, who waited as her hair grew, then used it to suffocate the woman who kept her locked in the tower.”
Nami let out a startled laugh. “Fuck, don’t let Chopper hear you, Robin has a strict 18+ policy to hear that version of the story.”
“I like it though,” Vivi mused. “It’s dark, but…”
“She saves herself.”
Vivi nodded. “Yeah. I wanna be the resourceful sort of princess.”
“I wanna be the type that gets revenge.”
Vivi kissed her suddenly, warm and open. She pulled back too soon, and Nami gasped. “Okay,” Vivi grinned. “I’ll follow you, brave warrior.”
Nami’s face was hot. “Don’t tease.”
“I thought we went over this already,” Vivi said lightly, her hand pulled even tighter against Nami’s back. “Neither of us is ever teasing.”
And that was it, wasn’t it, Nami mused—the two of them had come to an understanding, sometime over the last year—that they’d meet the other where she was, go to her if the distance was great.
“I’ll follow you too,” was all she said, and brought their clasped hands together for a moment, pressed her lips to Vivi’s knuckles. The night was dark, but in the flickering light from the orange lanterns, she saw Vivi’s slow, sweet smile.
By the time Brook’s playing was interrupted by Sanji announcing desserts for all, Nami was feeling a strange mix of mild embarrassment of being publicly romantic and warmth from showing off her girlfriend. If Robin and Franky’s costumes emphasized the differences between them while retaining how compatible they were, hers and Vivi’s showed them to be a matching set, two princesses who’d climbed down from different towers. She was almost overwhelmed by the depth of her feelings sometimes, that she could let herself be so acutely vulnerable; but if anything would show the strength of numbers it was this group of friends.
“You guys looked so cool dancing together,” Chopper chirped at her, wide-eyed and breaking her out of her little reverie.
“Huh? Oh, thanks! So y’think we look as good as the princesses in the stories, right?”
“Yeah! I told Robin she should put romance in the stories.”
“And I told Chopper I’d consider it,” Robin said, appearing silently beside them, her arm looped around Franky’s.
“Put me in it, Rob,” Franky grinned, pressing a kiss to Robin’s shoulder.
“No,” his girlfriend said, shortly.
“Ouch!” He switched tack, turning towards the group. “Candy cigar, anyone?”
“Go away, Gomez!” Nami snapped.
Franky threw back his head and laughed. “Good choice!” He winked. “They’re actually explosives.”
Robin tutted beside him and he released her arm to take her hand in his, and they stepped back into the darkness, presumably headed towards the food.
There was a moment of silence watching the couple retreat. Then: “...He was joking, right?” Vivi said, nervously.
“Yeah, totally,” Nami said. Not very convincingly.
“If we’re talking about Franky, y’know what he really was not joking about?” Usopp stalked into view, looking pale under his green cap. “The frickin’ spider room!”
Nami winced in sympathy and Vivi patted him reassuringly on the shoulder.
“Spider room?” Chopped looked more intrigued than scared.
“Uh, nope, because you’re not going in there alone and I’m not willing to go back in either.”
“Me neither,” added Nami “Sorry, dude.” Seeing his pout, she laughed. “Hey, let’s go get some snacks instead, huh? I bet Sanji made something that looks like spiders, too.”
“Yeah!” cheered Chopper, and Nami ignored that she also heard Usopp mutter “He better not have,” under his breath. Vivi took Chopper’s hand in hers and Nami let her girlfriend lead them into the warmth and safety (well, safe from Franky’s spiders and, hopefully, his explosives) of the RV’s kitchen.
Inside, Luffy was laughing as he encouraged a blindfolded Zoro to touch the various suspicious food items laid out on the table in front of them.
“A classic Halloween game!” Usopp exclaimed. “Don’t worry Zoro, I’m sure Sanji didn’t include anything too dangerous…”
“I’m not scared ,” Zoro said through gritted teeth, and aggressively shoved his hand in a bowl of spaghetti.
“Ah,” said Usopp dramatically. “ Worms ...”
“Worms? But that’s not even scary!” Luffy was starting to look skeptical of this game.
“Oh my god, I haven’t played this sort of thing since I was a kid,” Vivi leaned in to tell Nami.
Nami grinned. “You should have a go, then.”
“Hey, guys!” Nami called. “Is there another blindfold? Vivi wants to play.”
Luffy cheered and produced another strip of black cloth from his costume’s tactical belt, and Nami gestured to Vivi to step forward.
Vivi laughed, soft and joyous. “Okay, yeah. I’ll try it.”
Luffy tied the blindfold securely and Nami watched as her girlfriend yelped to feel ‘brains’ and ‘guts’ and, finally—
“Spiders?” Vivi jumped back, ripping the blindfold off with her free hand. Everyone leaned forward, and sure enough, the final ‘feel box’ was filled with small fake spider toys.
“Okay, it’s definitely cheating to use models,” Usopp complained, and Nami stepped forward to comfort her girlfriend.
“Very brave,” she whispered in Vivi’s ear, and Vivi leaned back into her arms, now laughing at her own fear.
“That’s what you guys missed in the spider room!” Franky said cheerfully, emerging from the other room with Robin. Sanji followed, carrying what appeared to be a large pumpkin in his hands.
“That’s a cake ?” Nami said, half confused, half impressed; and then it was a mad scramble for everyone to get their fair share before Luffy laid claim to the whole thing.
“You know,” Usopp said reproachfully, after the dust had settled, “for a superhero, you don’t share very well.”
“Yeah,” Luffy said, mouth stained orange with icing. “That’s why I’m not a hero in real life. Who wants to share?”
Nami grinned, surreptitiously offering Vivi a bite off her fork. “Well, can’t argue with that logic.”
“Being a hero is overrated,” Zoro said. “It’s cooler to just do whatever you want, like a cowboy does.”
“I’m not really sure that’s what a cowboy doe—” Vivi started to say, but she was cut off by Luffy’s agreement.
“Maybe I’ll be a cowboy next year, then! We can be cool outlaws together!”
Zoro nodded solemnly, but Usopp leaned towards the pair, frowning. “Uh, if we’re talking cool outlaws, famous heroes like Robin Hood double as outlaws, y’know!”
“Well, I’d be a famous cowboy,” Luffy said, as if it was obvious.
“That’s not the point—”
“Don’t bother fighting it,” Nami said to Vivi, grinning. “They’ll just continue on like this indefinitely.” She raised her voice to address the table more broadly. “Actually, just so we’re clear, the coolest outlaw-slash-hero combo that someone can be is a warrior-princess. Just sayin’.”
There was a veritable uproar from the group, until Chopper’s high voice cut through it, “Yeah! They’re the coolest!”
Nami smirked. “Can’t argue with that,” she said, raising a challenging eyebrow at Zoro, who scowled back at her.
“It’s true,” Robin said serenely. “They balance being revered and being exiled. They are symbols, but individuals beyond that—like real people with real feelings, yes? You feel it when they succeed and when they fail. I aim always for a story that is both false and real… ‘une histoire de la vraie vie .’
“Oh, Robin,” Franky said, grinning. “That’s…French!”
And Nami groaned, knowing what was about to come; sure enough, Franky took Robin’s hand softly in his own, pressing a kiss to her knuckles, to her wrist. Robin’s eyes slipped closed, and she smiled gently. Franky laughed, soft, and he broke character to lean in and press a chaste kiss to her mouth.
“Wow,” Vivi whispered dreamily from her place at Nami’s side. “So romantic! They really are the best couple...”
Betrayal! “Ugh! Not you too, Vivi. They’re so soppy!”
Vivi turned to her, feigned innocence in her wide eyes. “Sorry—I mean, they’re the best couple after us, of course.”
Nami let a smile creep up her face. “Okay, fine…you’re forgiven. As long as we’re the best, I can allow this.” And she leaned in and kissed her, open and free; right there in the warmth and light, to seal the deal.