The restaurant was fancy. Not too fancy; not waiters-in-little-tuxes fancy, although admittedly Nami wasn’t sure if places of that level even existed in real life -- but it was nice. Nami was sweating in her second-hand dress.
“I told you this was a mistake,” she said. “We got friends, and a place to be, no need for -- theatrics.”
“It’s not theatrics,” Vivi said, mildly. She nibbled, delicately, on the end of a breadstick. “It’s our anniversary.”
“The anniversary of our first kiss ! That’s not even a real thing!”
But if anything was fake, it was this argument that they had every year around the same time. Nami would say her bit, and then Vivi would smile, or wink, or laugh, and Nami would crumble like a poorly-constructed house of cards.
“It’s real for us,” Vivi said, with a smile and a raised eyebrow, and Nami sighed, and then she grinned.
“I mean,” she said, reaching a hand across the table to brush a tentative finger down the exposed length of Vivi’s forearm. “I guess you’re right.”
“I’m always right.”
Her skin was warm underneath Nami’s touch. “Don’t know that I’d go that far…” But honestly, she probably would.
It was October 31st and it was an unseasonably warm night. Nami remembered Halloweens being colder when she was a kid, and wondered briefly if that was a Global Warming Thing or just coincidental. Whatever the reason for it, the effect was that she felt almost too warm in her long red gown and was wishing she was wearing sandals instead of boots -- but Vivi was across from her in cascading layers of purples and blues, her hair tucked neatly up under a matching scarf and it was totally fucking worth it.
“Feeling warm?” Vivi asked, leaning forward. The little mind-reader.
“It’s probably just the wine,” Nami said, although she was just drinking a light sparkling rosé and it wasn’t sitting heavy in her stomach. Vivi smirked and touched her foot to the inside of Nami’s calf. The soft suede of her boot crept up her leg and Nami scowled and tapped back with her heavier, meaner boots.
“Footsie?” Nami said. “Really? I thought we were supposed to be mature adults …”
“At a fancy restaurant and everything,” Vivi grinned, scuffing her shoes against Nami’s one last time before leaning back in her chair. “And I graduate in less than a year…”
“Ah, future talk -- very scary, very seasonal --”
Vivi laughed again. She’d been in a giggly mood all evening, and it was adorable. “It’s not future talk , it’s a future mention ...and anyway I’m not worried about it right now.”
“Cross that bridge when we get to it?”
“Cross that bridge when it’s not tonight,” Vivi said. “This a special time.”
“The sacred night of Samhain?”
“Sure,” Vivi said, and she leant across the table and poured Nami another glass of rosé. Mind-reading, again -- she’d been just about to do it herself. “The veil is thin, and all that...maybe it’s thin between what we want and what we get.”
“Or what we want and what we can’t have.”
Vivi tilted her head a little at that, her fork tap-tapping against the side of her plate. “I think you already have just what you want.”
That sent a heady rush of blood to Nami’s head and she closed her eyes briefly, then grinned, then laughed.
“I suppose I do.”
“And when did you get it?”
“That’s a long story,” Nami said, rubbing her thumb over the stem of her wine-glass. “But you know, it did begin on the sacred night of Samhain…”
That first year Nami had been strange and nervous for the days leading up to Halloween and to her friends’ party. Ever since she had learned that Vivi was coming, really; she thought, How exciting! And then the thought percolated in her brain and she couldn’t concentrate on anything and barely decided on a costume in time -- and that had been pure, senseless luck -- or if the night was truly sacred then maybe the gods intended her and Vivi to have the one sweet kiss that night, the kiss that started it all.
“You’re late!” Luffy told her cheerfully, when she and Vivi were still mid-climbing out of the car. “ And you’re not in costume?” The second statement had a bit of an edge to it, like that was something they better rectify pretty damn quick.
“Hold your frickin’ horses, dude,” Nami said, pulling an exaggerated face at him (which was returned back in spades). Luffy was an expert . “We can straight from dinner, so give us like, two tics, yeah?”
The upstairs bathroom was where the magic could truly begin. Nami laid her bag carefully on the table, like a tradesman’s tools -- which they sort of were. Weeks of stopping at drug stores and grocery stores with ideas above their stations and overzealous Halloween sections and, crucially, Spirit Halloween -- she was ready .
“Zombie or vamp?” Nami asked Vivi. The most important question.
“I go zombie, you go vampire?”
Nami grinned like a villain. “Sounds like a plan.”
It was quick work, if not easy. She had years of make-up experimenting, from covering up bruises and under-eye bags to more fun stuff, like when she’d got really into winged liner. She wasn’t an expert...but she felt comfortable in her knowledge that no-one in the house tonight could top her.
She and Vivi both were already wearing foundation; she powdered over it and then leaned in, with a grin, to ruin her girlfriend’s makeup.
“You’re enjoying making me look dead way too much,” Vivi said.
“Shh!” Nami hissed, holding the gory prosthetic cut on Vivi’s cheek still with careful fingers. “Your spirit gums still drying, don’t move!” And so Vivi cutely bit her lip and just sort of peered at Nami with suggestive eyes.
“Oh, shut up,” she laughed, and started painting blood drips down her chin.
The last few steps were simple; she kissed Vivi smartly on the mouth and then said, “Okay, time for lipstick.”
“Hang on a minute,” Vivi said, and then she gripped at the back of Nami’s neck and pulled her in form a heady, open-mouthed kiss.
“Ough,” said Nami, or something like it anyway, into the kiss.
“Shh,” Vivi said, pulling back only to dart forward with fervent pecks. “Our! First! Kiss!” She said, between little kisses -- “On Halloween! Not gonna let you miss out on an anniversary celebration of that !”
“You are so thoughtful,” Nami said, and then she shut up, because her mouth was pretty busy.
Descending the stairs dramatically, Vivi’s arm tucked ‘round her elbow, felt like something out of a goddamned award-winning film. Nami laughed a little, showing off the delicate prosthetic fangs glued to her incisors.
“Good evening, fellow associates,” she said, in some absurd accent, unaware of what she was even going for, joke-wise, but it honestly didn’t matter at all, because Vivi laughed and that was all that mattered.
“Ms. Nami! Ms. Vivi!” A familiar voice warbled from the bottom of the steps. She looked down to see Brook looking honestly resplendent in a bulky mass of purple velvet; high red boots; an impressive neck ruffle; and to top it off, a golden shining crown perched atop his afro.
“The man of the house!” Vivi called from her side. “Hey, Brook!”
“Greetings, undead minions,” Brook said, seriously, and tipped his crown at them like it was a hat.
“King Brook,” Nami said, grinning as she stepped off the stairs, Vivi’s hand still on her elbow. “That’s good.”
“Welcome to my castle-slash-humble-abode,” Brook said, giving her a genuine and subdued smile. “Everyone’s in the dining room, if you’d like to join us. Refreshments are provided, of course.”
“Sure,” Nami said. She felt at ease, suddenly, the silly tensions of the day sliding off her shoulders. Vivi’s hand slipped off her arm and Nami reached down to take her hand, squeezing just a little.
“Lead the way, Brook,” she said.
The doorway of the kitchen was decorated like a child’s idea of a castle; motifs of moats and parapets on the wall, and actual-legit suits of armor standing guard.
“I swear to God, if those move, I’ll scream -- ” Vivi whispered in her ear, and Nami snickered.
“I’ll protect you,” Nami murmured back. In front of them, Brook was pretending not to hear them, but Nami watched the side of his mouth quirk up in a little smile.
Inside, the old dining table had been expanded to it’s longest setting; a dark stretching thing that all their friends were seated around. A frayed fabric tablecloth draped over everything, with shiny silver plates at each table setting. There was an empty, throne-like chair at one end, presumably for Brook; at the other, Nami saw that Robin was sitting in the mirroring chair.
“Good of you to join us,” she said, and Nami stared at her black vest and white top, red shirt tied around her waist for a moment before her eyes alighted on Franky beside her, with his bleach-blonde hair and his crop-top.
“Bill and Ted?” she said, with a barely-disguised groan but also a barely-disguised grin, “ Really? ”
Franky-slash-Bill looked up briefly from where he was deep in conversation with Chopper. “Be excellent to one another,” he deadpanned, and Nami rolled her eyes as Vivi giggled into her hand behind her.
“Whatever,” Nami said. “Whatever! You guys have yet to be actually scary at all so I don’t know how Luffy lets you get away with it.”
As if on queue, Luffy emerged from the cordoned off area that was the kitchen, munching on some presumably-stolen snack. “Halloween,” he said, sagely, “is about lots of things. Not just being scary.” He grinned at her, his hair peeking out in dark bunches underneath his cheap-y plastic Viking helmet.
“Good, cause I’m not scared of Vikings!”
“Vampires aren’t even scary either,” Luffy said, raising a judgemental eyebrow at her. "Unless you’re a coward, I guess. I mean, Sanji is one every year!”
“Well, obviously I’m not scared of myself,” Nami said, and she raised her lips to bare her fangs at him. “At least Vivi and I are in the spirit of death and dying, though.”
Zoro emerged just as suddenly from the darkness behind Luffy. “There’s honor in that, but there’s honor in lots of things,” he said, solemnly, and Nami stared vaguely at his black suit and black tie, trying to place the presence of his chin-length black wig.
“John Wick?” Vivi whispered in her ear, and Nami said, “Oh my fucking God,” because yeah, Zoro had a plastic handgun clasped in one fist.
“What is this,” she said, laughing again. “The Keanu Reeves Cinematic Universe?”
“Wow!” Vivi chirped, though she was struggling to contain her laughter, too. “Nice one, Zoro. So I guess what we need now is a John Constantine -- to fight demons and stuff, yanno?”
“No!” came a voice from the other end of the kitchen, and Nami and Vivi turned to see Usopp emerge, grinning, in a long dark coat and sunglasses. “We need someone who can see through the lies of the world and fight for the truth !”
“Neo!” cheered Vivi, and Nami said, “Okay, but like, did you all plan this, or --”
“Ignore her, Neo,” Vivi (the traitor!) said sweetly. “I’m all for truth. And justice. And…” she seemed to remember the date and how she was dressed, “...eating brains!”
“Yeah!” Luffy cheered. “That’s the Halloween spirit!”
“You guys are all hopelessly weird,” Nami said, ladling herself a glass of something labeled King Brook’s Potion!!! (21+) . “I just want you to know that.” She sat down heavily beside Chopper.
“Even me?” Their youngest friend said, frowning at her.
“God no,” she said automatically. “You’re perfect in every way, little guy.”
“But I want to be weird! I’m totally weird!”
Beside her, Vivi laughed as she dropped into the next chair over. Nami threw up her hands in defeat. “Fine, whatever! You’re a little freak too, okay? I mean, we all gotta be, right? So you’re a freaky little…” she took a moment to decipher the sensible trousers that Chopper was wearing, paired with a sequined purple top and fake chain-mail. “Princess! Another of Robin’s princesses! Aww. You liked our costumes from last year, huh?”
In years past, Chopper would’ve blushed at that, but now he just grinned at her, taking the golden tiara he’d been fiddling with and placing it back on his hair. “Yeah,” he said. “They’re just so inspiring, right?”
Oh my God he’s growing up! Shouted Nami’s mind. She turned and made the briefest of eye contacts with Vivi, who was looking utterly charmed.
“Yeah,” Nami said, “They really are.”
Behind him, Robin smiled, a serene presence despite her questionable fake bangs. “Chopper’s starting to write his own stories too, you know. They’re quite good.”
“You can read them some time, if you want,” Chopper said, and Vivi said “We’d love to!” before Nami could even open her mouth.
“Enough chit-chat!” Usopp’s voice interrupted them (which was good, because Nami wasn’t sure how much more her heart could take), “who wants food ?” Chopper and Luffy erupted into cheering as Usopp walked in with Sanji behind him, both of their arms laden down with dishes. The trays they set down were full of a mixture of Halloween themed pastries, common party foods, and what seemed to be gourmet dishes, presumably because their resident chef couldn’t help himself.
“Now this,” Luffy said seriously, as he picked up a hot dog, “is what Halloween is all about!”
“Is it, though?” Usopp said, settling in beside his friend. Luffy’s answer was too full of food to be interpreted, but Usopp nodded, taking it as an affirmative. “Well, what Luffy says goes for fact, right?” he muttered conspiratorial to Vivi, who likewise nodded seriously. “Of course, of course,” she said, picking a handful of grapes from a bowl and offering some to Nami.
They’d already eaten, of course, and so Nami mostly just sipped her ‘potion’ as Vivi ate little finger foods, and they watched their friends. It was warm in the room, heat still rolling out of the kitchen as Sanji had finally allowed the door to be opened, and Nami felt cozy and relaxed in it. Every so often Vivi would poke at her shoulder or kick at her foot and she’d lean close, get physical, lace their fingers together.
It got loud, and then it got a little rowdy, and Luffy and Usopp whipped out the board for some absurd role-playing game they were designing. Brook was getting tipsy off his own punch and had started singing sea shanties, which Luffy had cheered on, and there was, in general, just a bit of a ruckus. Nami watched Vivi lean over the board in genuine fascination, apparently trying to actually understand the supposed ‘rules’.
“They’ve got to her,” she said mournfully to Chopper, who giggled. “She’s lost! I’m gonna go get a drink, you can have my seat if you want in on...whatever that is.” She was pretty sure the game had like, a plot. It seemed like overkill to her, but Vivi was kinda into that sort of stuff.
Chopper excitedly moved over, and Nami brushed her fingers over Vivi’s shoulders as she made her way to the drinks table.
“Howdy, little sis,” Franky said. He was leaned up against the wall and chatting to Robin, who was pouring herself of glass of something black and mysterious. Nami frowned vaguely at his exposed stomach.
“Aren’t you cold?” she said, pointedly.
Franky smirked. “In this weather? I think not, little sis!”
She rolled her eyes. “Ugh. As long as you guys don’t start playing bad guitar or whatever --”
“You mean change the future? With our amazing music skills?”
“Shut up!” She shifted focus abruptly. “Hey Robin, what is that?”
“Our local regent made it,” Robin said lightly, tilting her head in Brook’s direction. “It’s...an alcoholic liquid. That’s all I’ve been able to determine.”
“Seriously, what does he put in these things?” Nami poured herself a cup-full anyway.
“One day, I will discover the answer to that,” Robin said solemnly, without a hint of irony.
“Huh,” said Nami, almost nervously. “You know, I really believe you on that, actually.”
“As well you should,” Franky said, and he reached down to capture Robin’s hand and press a kiss to her knuckles. “ Cara mia ,” he said, a little breathless. “Do you know that I think you can do anything?”
“I do know that,” Robin said, her voice flat and nearly -- but not quite - emotionless. “However, if you wanted to explain it again --”
“Of course,” Franky said, grinning, and starting to press a row of kisses down her outstreched arm. “Of course --”
“Alright!” Nami said, approaching a panic and dumping some of the ominous black liquid into her cup. “Leaving now! Have fun!” And then she cut a hasty retreat.
“Viviiii,” Nami said, having retreated into the safety of her girlfriend’s presence, “Save me!”
At that, Vivi turned away from the table and laughed, her head tilting back with it, eyes pressed near-shut in amusement. Nami watched the easy way her chin rose. “From what? Is there a scary monster?”
“No...well. Maybe.” She bent down to murmur to Vivi so that Chopper couldn’t hear. “Franky and Robin are over there by the drinks like, roleplaying Gomez and Morticia again.”
“Is that a euphemism for something?”
“It frickin’ should be!” Nami pulled an exaggerated grossed-out face.
“Wow,” Vivi said, comically wide-eyed. “But they’re not even in Addams Family costumes this year!”
“I know! They’re disrespecting the Keanu Reeves Cinematic Universe!”
“Well we simply can’t stand for that …”
“So glad we agree. You’ll help me escape then, Ms. Zombie?”
A knowing sparkle appeared in Vivi’s eye. “Ah, so that’s what you’re getting at, Ms. Vampire…”
“That’s definitely what I’m getting at!”
“Luckily, I may be dead but I can do something about that !” Vivi grabbed at her satin-gloved hand and pulled Nami away from from the room and away from the offending flirtatious couple.
“Don’t say that,” Nami said. “You’re un-dead. You’re never gonna die, okay?”
“You’re in charge of that?”
Vivi turned them both, now in the privacy of Brooke’s anteroom. “Alright,” she said, and she leaned in and kissed Nami sweetly on the lips. Her mouth had the sweet tang of candy. She pulled back to grin at her girlfriend, and then she pulled them both into the night air.
Outside on Brook’s porch, the air was still warm, although there was now a slight breeze. Nami watched dark leaves flutter onto the lawn, lit up with purple and orange lights and grinning jack-o-lanterns.
“It’s nice out here,” Nami said. “So, wanna make out?”
Vivi laughed. “And ruin my makeup? But you worked so hard!”
“Well Hell, I thought that’s why you wanted to escape with me…”
“Maybe later,” Vivi said, with a little wink. “But...I don’t know. I kinda just wanted to talk.”
Nami raised an eyebrow. “Uh oh.”
“Nothing bad . Just the whole graduation-is-real-soon thing.”
Nami groaned, tilting her head back to look at the stars -- and to avoid looking at Vivi’s face, maybe. “I thought we agreed not to do this today.”
“I know we did, but why not?”
“The sacred day of Samhain!”
Vivi laughed, but she sounded almost sad, too. “Yeah, yeah, but wouldn’t that spell of protection only apply if it’s a bad thing, something to be protected from? And I mean...is it?”
Nami’s heart was starting in on a nervous speed in her chest. “What do you mean?”
Vivi was silent for a long moment; long enough that Nami turned to stare at her, at the furrow between her brows and the thin-pressed line of her lips. Eventually, Vivi spoke.
“I mean...why do you always have to assume that the future is bad ?” she said.
Vivi turned towards her, bodily, so that she was facing Nami with her whole self.
“This whole thing...where you’re scared of future talk, and you joke about it, but I know you really are scared… but why does what’s coming have to be scary at all? Don’t you want to imagine good things for us?”
Nami just looked at her, lips slightly parted. Now her heart was just full-on racing in her chest, and she didn’t know what to say.
“Can’t the future be good? Isn’t that possible?” Vivi reached out and grabbed Nami’s hands.
“I...want the future with you, Nami. I want...I want to imagine living together after I graduate and getting to see each other all the time, getting to go on dates more than once a month. I wanna watch movies on the couch with you! That’s not scary!”
There was a lump growing in Nami’s throat. “Did you just invite me to move in with you?” She said.
Vivi let out a choked gasp of laughter. “Oh, goddammit, don’t joke, not about this -- I’m serious. Do you really not want to imagine any of that?”
Nami bit down on her lip, hard, relishing the flash of pain it brought. “Of course I do. I…” and if she dared to let her mind linger on what Vivi had said, on any part of it, her heart would go even faster. “I don’t know. I’m sorry.” She raised her gaze to meet Vivi’s dark considering eyes. “I’m just scared. I don’t even know why.”
“I know why,” Vivi said, and suddenly she shut her eyes and leaned forward, burrowing her face into the curve of Nami’s shoulder. “The past hasn’t always been kind to you. I know you’re scared of change because you worked so hard to just get where you are now and I know it’s not fair to get mad at you for that. But I’m excited for the future! And I want you to be excited with me.”
“I want that,” Nami said, voice too-quiet and shaky. “I want that too.” She raised her hand to cup the back of Vivi’s neck, pressing gently and comfortingly against her. “I’m trying. I’ll -- try harder.”
“I don’t want you to punish yourself,” Vivi murmured, but she pulled her face out of Nami’s shoulder to look her in the face again. “I just need to be able to be excited even if you’re scared. You’ll come to my graduation, right?”
“Jesus, you don’t think I’d really miss that, do you?” Nami had in fact already asked off for the whole weekend. She’d been thinking they could do something together, after.
“I didn’t know,” Vivi confessed. “I don’t know. I didn’t want to be pushy.”
“You’re no t !” Nami frowned. “We have to...we have to be able to expect things from each other.”
Vivi gave a small nod. “If we want...if we want to move forward. Then yeah. We have to.”
Nami closed her eyes for a long moment, breathing deep to gather herself. “I do want to move forward with you. I’m not gonna say the future doesn’t terrify me -- it does. But I swear I always want to move forward with you.”
Vivi caught up her hands again, and rubbed a thumb over her palms. “Thank you,” she said. “I can work with that.”
For a moment that just sat there, the too-warm October air pressing gently against them. Nami thought of a Halloween two years ago on this very porch, and how so much had changed since then. Her whole life , in some ways. She was too scared at the time of even flirting with Vivi, scared to upset the fragile balance that was their friendship, but, well -- it had turned out that their friendship wasn’t so fragile at all. It was strong, and it still was...strong enough to handle yet more change.
Where will I be in another two years? She thought, and then she tried to imagine something good and better instead of everything crumbling into dust. She and Vivi wouldn’t crumble.
She leaned forward to kiss Vivi, a chase brief press of lips, meant as reassurance. “I’ll work on that, too,” she said. “Don’t think I’ll forget that you totally asked me to move in with you.”
Vivi rolled her eyes, although she still looked a little emotional. “I think you’ll find I didn’t ask anything, actually.”
“Even worse! You just assumed I’d want to!”
“Well, do you?”
“Want to live with you?” Nami cocked an eyebrow. She tried to see it and she almost could; their jackets tossed over the same couch, Vivi baking in the little kitchen while Nami mixed herself a drink and cheered her on. Would it be good? Could she actually handle it?
“It’s hard to…” she didn’t really want to say it, but she had to. “It’s kind of hard for me to think about, I don’t know why. But I do want it, I think.”
Vivi smiled, and then she leaned in, pressing their foreheads together. Their makeup was probably getting completely fucked up but Nami was so beyond caring.
“Okay,” Vivi said. “I can work with that too.”
Unlike two years previous, there was no interruption by Chopper, no convenient salvation from the intensity of their emotions. Nami tried not to squirm with it. Honestly, it was nice to have the time, and if the universe was feeling generous…she’d try to take that as a good sign. For a while they simply sat together, arms around each other, Nami tugging at Vivi until she was basically lying in her lap. It was comfortable, almost too warm, and Nami traced the edges of Vivi’s face, still pretty even under the grey makeup.
After a while she said, “Let’s go back in and face the music.”
Vivi laughed, but she sat up, adjusting her headscarf from where it had slipped in that position.
“Yeah, the terrifying presence of our friends, right?”
“They are a bit overwhelming.”
“Scarier than the future?” Vivi said, but her voice was just sort of cheeky now.
“Shaddup! Enough about my issues…”
“Hmm,” Vivi said, climbing to her feet, “Next Halloween we’ll talk about my hang-ups...deal?”
They shook on it, playfully, grinning at each other like loons until Vivi slipped the handshake into a hand clasp and pulled Nami inside, giggling a little.
As if on queue, Robin was standing quietly in the foyer, a glass of mystery punch in one hand.
“I wondered where you two had gotten off to,” she smiled. Her eyes were suspiciously knowing. The choppy bangs of her cheap fake hair extensions should’ve made her seriousness laughable, but it was Robin, so they didn’t.
“Just enjoying the night air,” Vivi said lightly, pulled Nami forward, “and talking about our feelings. You know, regular Halloween stuff.”
Robin cocked her head, her smile curving even deeper. “Sounds terrifying.”
“Oh, it was.” Vivi and Robin grinned at each other and Nami pretended that it wasn't the scariest thing she’d seen all night.
“Uh,” she said into the weird tension. “So what’s everyone else been up to...?”
Robin smiled like a snake in the grass. ‘I think the only thing you’ve really missed is a demonstration of Franky’s newest creation.”
“Oh,” Nami said, faintly -- Franky’s creations were always their own thing . “Well, wouldn’t wanna miss that. Lead the way, Robin…?”
Robin smiled, indulgently and knowingly, and did.
The Thing this year was, apparently, a prop replica of the phone-box Bill and Ted used to travel in time. It looked very good and very realistic, and Robin had smirked and said, “Why don’t you two step inside?” before vanishing back into the unexplored darkness of Brook’s old house. Nami and Vivi had done so, because they were the sort of curious idiots who died in horror movies.
Admittedly, the phone-box looked really cool . On the inside, there was a tiny plush bench, which they sat on, and it faced a screen playing the scene of Bill and Ted traveling into some absurd future.
For a moment, they just watched the screen. Then, “This is a little, like, on the nose,” Nami said. “Isn’t it?”
“I mean, the veil is thin,” Vivi said in an oddly affected voice. She laughed. “I don’t know, but of all the nights this could be happening on, Halloween is pretty fitting, yeah?”
“Yeah,” Nami said, grabbing Vivi’s hand to run a nervous thumb over her palm, “it’s just what I wanted, to face all my dumb future anxieties on our damn anniversary.”
“So you admit it is our anniversary!”
Nami rolled her eyes as CGI lightning flashed on the little screen. “Yeah, yeah, you win this round.”
She glanced over and Vivi’s grin was illuminated by the lighting in rapid strobe-bursts.
“Happy two years,” Vivi said. She leaned forward in the tiny space and kissed the side of Nami’s mouth. “I love you.”
“I,” Nami said, her mouth suddenly dry. “Love you, too.” She gripped Vivi’s chin and pulled her into another kiss, and then another, and then a deeper one. They didn’t say those words that often, although they tried to say it in little ways, all the time. All of a sudden in the close-quarters of a wooden phone-box, she felt very full, stuffed-to-bursting of feelings and warmth. From the screen, a voice crackled to life, Be excellent to each other! And there was a sharp flash.
“Wha--” Vivi said, pulling away. Nami licked her lips at the loss of contact, and then blinked as a slot on the wall opened out of nowhere, depositing a little slip of paper.
“Holy fucking shit,” Nami breathed. “Dude. I hate Franky. This is a frickin’ photobooth, isn’t it?”
And it was. The little slip was a picture, the two of them wrapped close around each other; Vivi’s fake gore illuminated by the flash; Nami’s fingers gripping her chin; their deep kiss.
“Oh,” said Vivi. Her eyes were suspiciously bright. As she pulled the photo from the slot, her elbow jutted back and nudged the walls of the box, and that flash went off again. A new photo of their stunned faces cheerfully printed.
Nami burst into laughter. “This is crazy. Viv, we gotta get out of here before we learn that this thing works for real and we get sent to some crazy future ourselves.”
“Well,” Vivi said, still looking down at the picture in her hand, “That’d be one way to get over any remaining fears.” She raised her head to look Nami in the eye. “One more picture for the road before we make our daring escape?”
“Yeah,” said Nami, still feeling very light. She wanted to run into the night. She wanted to go dancing. She wanted -- and how lovely that this was how she felt all the time now! -- she wanted to take Vivi with her. “Sure.”
She threw an easy arm around Vivi’s shoulder, and the two of them leaned in close. Just before the flash went off a third time, Nami turned her head to press a kiss to Vivi’s cheek.
The photo that printed was as sweet as the wide smile Vivi was wearing in it. Vivi experimentally pressed a small button near the slot and another copy dutifully printed. She grinned at them and carefully separated them, handing one to Nami. “So we both get one.”
Nami carefully tucked it into her handbag, next to her phone. The notification light on said phone was flashing steadily, and she said, “I think we’ve been missed.”
“Of course,” Vivi said, sweeping her long gown up with her and stepping carefully from the booth. “Wouldn’t wanna steal away from the party for too long…”
“We’re the light of that damn party so it’d be pretty rude--”
Vivi laughed and that was just as satisfying as usual. Without the sound effects of Franky’s phone-box, Nami could hear the chatter and chaos of their friends, and she took Vivi in hand once more, leading them both back inside.
“Welcome back,” Robin said, as she was the first to spot them. “Enjoy yourselves, I hope?”
“It was most excellent !” Vivi said as she took her seat beside Chopper again. He, Luffy, and Usopp were painting pumpkins, with varying levels of artistic talent on display.
“SUPER! ” Franky cheered in response, appearing suddenly behind Robin like a particularly smitten ghost.
“You are not very good at roleplaying, mon sauvage,” Robin said, frowning up at him. He shrugged in apology.
“The hypocrisy of that statement,” Nami said dryly, “Is like, astounding.”
“Hmm,” Robin said wonderingly. “Maybe we should’ve just rehashed our costumes from last year.” She held up a hand to her partner, and he kissed it delicately.
“Yep,” Nami said. “Extremeeely in character for frickin’ Bill and Ted.”
“Well, I don’t know,” Vivi said beside her, consideringly. “I mean I always kinda thought that --”
“No!” Nami screeched, but she was laughing, and she saw that Robin was too. “We don’t need to get into this! Robin and Franky don’t need any more excuses for PDA!”
Across the table, Franky raised a painted-blond eyebrow at her, and then leaned down to kiss Robin on the lips. Robin’s mouth curved into a gentle smile as she tugged his chin even closer. Breaking apart, Franky surreptitiously flipped her off.
“Two can play that game, old man,” Nami said sweetly, and then Vivi obligingly pulled her into a brief smack of a kiss. Her heart still raced a little with every public expression of their relationship, but she thought it was mostly a good racing, now.
A clap from the end of the table made everyone jump. “Alright,” Brook said, standing tall in his full regalia. “Break it up, young things! You’re all very sweet~” He was indeed smiling gently at all of them. “But tonight is a night for terror and fear!”
Beside them, Luffy’s head had perked up like a tracker dog that just scented something fascinating. It was that time of the night, then…
“So who wants some frighteningly good tunes , eh~?”
There were laughs and groans at the unimpressive pun, but everyone was on their feet in an instant -- even Zoro, who Nami was pretty sure had been asleep by the punch bowl a second ago -- and trailing through the house after Brook’s regal figure.
Vivi’s hand touched at the small of Nami’s back, and she leaned in close to whisper in Nami’s ear. “I love it here,” she said, earnestly. “I love these people. It’s always magical, every time.”
Nami couldn’t make a joke, or brush it off, because it was true. And because maybe the spirits of Samhain that had set her and Vivi up so perfectly would be angered if she did. “Yeah,” she said, “It really is.”
Franky’s voice rose into the air behind them. “Party on, dudes!” And Vivi giggled, tipping her face into the curve of Nami’s shoulder.
“You know what?” Nami laughed. “Fine. Fine! You win, Bill-slash-Gomez. Party on!”
She leaned into the warmth of Vivi’s hand, still touching her to gently. The future, it turned out, was looking pretty damn excellent.