New Years Festival
Nojiko walked back to her tiny home after helping the villagers with decorating the town for New Years. She was happy to help as usual but her mind constantly drifted off, now she just wanted to relax at home and drink tangerine juice. The house was just one room but she was used to it. It didn't feel lonely with the picture of her, Nami, and Belle-mere which was her reminded that Belle-mere will always be with them in spirit. But at the same time there was also a picture of herself enjoying some grog with a muscular shirtless man with long black hair.
She placed the picture down so the shiny picture couldn't be seen, but then she stared at the calendar and realized...
His birthday is on January 1st.
Nojiko sighed and went to the cabinet to grab a large bottle of tangerine juice, since she lived alone and didn't expect company she uncorked it and drank the sweet juice straight out the bottle.
"Hmm, I thought you would be at least more excited for the new year, let alone my birthday," said a familiar voice.
Nojiko heart nearly burst when she heard that voice and she quickly shifted her eyes to see where it came from because she felt spooked. Near the doorway was a shirtless man, but instead of his usual attire he wore a black jacket and long black pants, his usual hat was now also black, the only thing that was the same was his red beads.
But instead of asking any questions or making a compliment, Nojiko sputtered almost every drop of tangerine juice out of shock.
After things cooled down, Ace mentioned that he was counting Nojiko to be eating lunch by now so she had no choice to make lunch for her gluttonous friend. They both sat down with two plates of tangerine omelets.
"You were gone for 6 months, you could've dropped a line y'know." Nojiko said in frustration as Ace ate.
"Where the hell were you anyway?! And need I remind you that Genzo will kill you after what happened last time?!" She yelled.
"Nothing bad happened," Ace said with food in his mouth.
Nojiko still rubbed her hand against her forehead thinking about how drunk she and ace got during a party and how Ace saved her from the other men by carrying her home and Genzo found out and assumed the worse.
Nojiko paused, "By the way, why are you here, of all places?"
Ace covered his face with his hat but continued eating. "I wanted to eat more festival foods, and of course I couldn't stop by Cocoyashi without snagging some tangerines."
More food?! Nojiko thought. "Pay for them Ace, ALL of them!"
Ace immediately felt a pang of guilt, which was immediately followed by Nojiko glaring at him and her slamming the table and turning around in digust. Ace dropped his fork and sighed, "Alright, I'll tell you the truth."
Nojiko looked out the window for a second to check for Genzo and then turned back to Ace who gave her a smile, she just crossed her arms in front of her.
"The truth is, I did regret not dropping you a line but the life of a pirate gets in the way of this. But it doesn't mean I didn't miss Nami's pretty older sister, the person I can get drunk with without any pranks being pulled, and the one I can laugh with whenever I feel sad."
Nojiko smiled and stared at the framed photos at a distance. "You said to smile through the pain is true strength," said Ace.
"Don't credit me for it," Nojiko said softly.
"Nojiko!" Cried a familiar voice.
Nojiko had a sinking feeling she knew who it was. The voice sounded faint, possibly far away, even Ace heard it and immediately frowned because it was a man who called Nojiko's name. Nojiko ran towards the window and from a distance saw the sheriff and mayor of Cocoyashi Village Genzo, looking furious.
Nojiko quickly ran back to Ace and grabbed his arm, but he didn't budge. "It's Genzo! Quick, hide in closet!"
"Maybe I could converse with him," said Ace.
"Smooth talking won't get you out of everything Ace!" Nojiko said.
Genzo had suspicious vibes all over him because of rumors that a certain pirate returned to Cocoyashi. He knocked on the door, "Nojiko, are you with that Pirate again?"
Ace eventually obeyed and hid inside the closet but secretly he saw no point in this. Nojiko checked the room for anything that may seem suspicious, she flinched at the thought of nearly forgetting to hide the food scraps Ace left over and making a grave mistake. She took the plate and flung the scraps in the garbage just in time and hid the plate.
She finally opened the door to see her serious father-like figure. "Good afternoon Genzo, nice for you to stop by."
"Heh! Yes, visitors are nice. You wouldn't happen to have been visited by a pirate right? Particularly that pirate with no sense of dignity!" Genzo scoffed.
Nojiko bit her lip slightly as Genzo scanned the room frantically. "No, if he showed up I would smack him into pieces for not paying for the food he took, then drop him in the ocean."
Genzo had a flashback of the "fun" Ace and Nojiko had in the past. "Somehow, I don't believe ya!"
He stared at the shiny wooden closet in the room. "Maybe he's in here!" He said as he attempted to open the wooden door.
"Oh no! You wouldn't want to snoop into a women's personal belongings! Especially since that woman is right behind you!" Nojiko gasped, a drop of nervous sweat also ran down the side of her head.
Genzo paused, now he couldn't bring himself to do it. He growled, "Alright! You win this round Nojiko!"
Nojiko's mind chimed at the thought of victory. "And now you have no reason to stay!" She said as she started to push Genzo out her door.
"Hey, wait! Nojiko!" Genzo said.
Nojiko opened the door and gave Genzo one last hard push. "Don't worry, you'll see me at the New Years festival." She said with a wink.
"Now let me take a nap so I can stay up extra late!" Nojiko said as she slammed the door.
Genzo clenched his teeth at what Nojiko just did. "I just wanted ya to be safe from that pirate! After what happened, YOU KNOW THAT NOJIKO!" He growled and turned away afterwards.
Nojiko sighed in relief against the door and wiped away the sweat on her face. She had a feeling Genzo would leave after that so she didn't bother to check outside, so she walked to the closet to get Ace out. "Alright Ace you can get out now-"
She heard a faint sound, she placed her ear against the closet. Snoring?
Nojiko opened the wooden closet door and the muscular man was indeed sleeping and fell on his face with a thud, but it didn't stir him. The position he was laying in made him look even more undignified, but Nojiko knew on the inside Ace was the epitome of dignity.
"Ace, you fell asleep!" Nojiko cried. Well, at least Genzo didn't hear him snoring.
Ace opened his eyes and took a moment to realize what happened, he quickly picked himself up and turned around to see a flustered Nojiko. "S-Sorry, you said 'nap'." He said.
Nojiko rubbed her hand on her cheek as she looked down on him, "Yes, I did. I hope you don't fall asleep during New Years."
Ace rubbed the back of his hair and smiled. "Well, you said nap maybe we could-"
Nojiko smiled and walked toward the two framed pictures. Even though the last time Ace visited her it ended with a misunderstanding, Nojiko remembers waking up from her drunken slumber to see Ace gently lying next to her, before Genzo broke in. It was nice while it lasted she admitted.
Ace walked towards her and stared at the framed picture of her and him drinking their fill of grog. "Maybe, another picture will be added to your collection."
Nojiko giggled, "Can we PLEASE make up for lost time right now, before you and I fall asleep again?"
For Ace and Nojiko time flied at the Cocoyashi New Years festival, they were busy eating festival foods and drinking alcohol but this time they didn't become the drunk partiers that became the life of the party. But Ace hid under a black cloak so nobody would get suspicious, and it was a little cold at Cocoyashi with it being winter, Nojiko also wore a coat and mittens and earmuffs but she felt more comfortable wearing sandals in the winter. They didn't talk too much to the villagers though because some weren't too fooled that Ace had returned, they were able to brush any questions off but at the same time people couldn't help but see Nojiko and the mysterious cloaked man as boyfriend and girlfriend, nothing they could do though but be flustered.
"Sorry we couldn't do what everyone else does on their birthdays and eat cake, but cake making isn't my thing." Said Nojiko, feeling a bit guilty but it was really short notice anyway.
Ace looked down at the woman, "It's ok. The truth is I wanted to spend my birthday with you." He smiled at her.
Nojiko gave a warm smile back as she noticed Ace crouching down so his face met hers, they moved their faces closer for a moment not thinking if anyone was watching or not.
"Nojiko!" Cried a familiar voice.
Both of them turned around and saw a girl with orange hair at a distance, it was Nojiko's younger sister Nami waving her hand in the air and smiling, and she was walking with Luffy, Ussop, Sanji, and the others. Sanji had lovey dovey eyes at the sight of Nojiko.
"Nami, and her friends are here," Nojiko gasped, she was surprised but in a good way and bad way.
Ace felt sweat roll down the side of his head, "This could be bad, you remember my younger brother."
Nami walked faster so she was the first one to be face to face with her Nojiko and Ace. "Hey, it's been awhile," Nami said as she smiled to her sister.
Nojiko gave a light smile, "Hey Nami, it's great to see you guys again but why are you here?"
"We wanted to visit!" Nami sounded so innocent until she walked closer and searched Nojiko for money. "Now, be a dear and lend me some money."
Nojiko sighed and stepped away from her sister, "No Nami! Not tonight of all nights!"
Luffy and Sanji now finally caught up with Nami. "Nojiko! You still look as beautiful as ever!" Sanji swooned. "Eh? Who's your friend?" He said bitterly.
Ace stepped back and avoided eye contact, Nojiko didn't know how to respond because she did not see this coming. "He," She paused having to swallow from lack of words to say. She turned to stare at Ace, "He's the new sheriff!" She finally blurted out.
Ace had the sudden urge to scream, 'What?!'
Nami's mouth dropped, "Really?! But what happened to Genzo, is he full time mayor?!"
Nami turned around, "I should talk to him about what happened."
Nojiko quickly grabbed her sister by the arm. "No! He's really busy right now and can't talk to anyone!" Nojiko yelled, but Ace had a sinking feeling this wouldn't go well.
"You seem a bit shady for a sheriff sir," Sanji said directly to Ace.
Nojiko continued to keep Nami from moving. "He's shady to strike more fear into low lifes!" Nojiko exclaimed.
Ace reluctantly nodded, which looked weird since he was under a cloak. Meanwhile Luffy ran towards the group carrying a giant joint of meat with one hand. "Hey everyone!" He yelled.
Even though it was overdramatic, Nojiko had a bad feeling in the pit of her heart. Ace had mixed feelings of joy and nervousness, he was sweating under the cloak. Luffy waved, "Hey Nojiko! Hope you don't mind us joining the party-Hey! Who's he?!"
Luffy used his rubber powers to stretch his neck and see who was behind the cloak, he had a serious face on and even sniffed to see if there was a familiar scent. Ace however, started to shiver under the cloak. Luffy smiled because he had an idea of who might be under the cloak, but Nojiko couldn't allow Ace to be revealed so she quickly let go of Nami and dived in to grabbed Luffy by the legs, but to no avail because even if Nojiko grabbed his legs it didn't stop Luffy from removing the cloak and revealing that Ace was under it.
"Ace! I finally met up with you again!" Luffy said, overjoyed.
Even though Ace knew he was in hot water, he still gave a weak smile. "H-Hey Luffy. Great to see you too."
"Ace! How've ya been? Did you go on any cool voyages? Oooo! Did you get any new powers?"
Luffy continued to ask questions and Ace didn't know where to start, but he couldn't pay attention after noticing Nojiko on the ground, hanging on to Luffy's legs.
"Oh, Nojiko," He said, ignoring Luffy and offering the woman a hand.
Nojiko took it and Ace's strength lifted her up easily, she didn't say anything though, just continued to hold his hand.
"Hey look!" Nami said with a smile, nice thoughts of her beloved older sister and Ace running through her head.
Sanji was not amused, he just blew the smoke out of his mouth from the cigarette he smoked.
"Guess my plan didn't work," Nojiko muttered.
Ace patted her on the head, "It'll be alright, I promise."
"Hey guys!" Cried a squeaky voice.
Everyone turned around to see Chopper running towards the group with bright eyes filled with excitement. "Hey guys they're about to do the New Years countdown!"
Ace smiled and grabbed Nojiko's hand. "You know what that means! Let's go!" He said as he ran off dragging Nojiko in the opposite direction. Nojiko was confused though as she tried her hardest to keep up. "No! I don't know what that means!" Nojiko cried.
Ace ran until he got to a part of the village that was mostly empty, and decorated with lights. "This should be a good spot." He said.
"9!" Cried voices from a distance.
Nojiko was confused as she stared at her friend. "For what?"
Ace quickly turned to her and lifted her chin up.
Ace smiled at her, which made her heart beat faster.
Then it finally came to her. "OH!" She said in realization.
"Took you long enough," said Ace.
Nojiko closed her eyes and smiled, she wanted to hide the fact that she was blushing but she was doing a bad job at the moment.
Ace moved his face closer to hers.
As Ace heard the final number get counted down had pushed his lips against her's, it was both rough and gentle. As they finally kissed bright fireworks exploded in the sky that it covered up the crowd's "Happy New Year!" cry. The kiss between them lasted for around two minutes until they both broke off with the two of them chuckling.
Nojiko opened her eyes to the attractive pirate who won her heart, she almost forgot another thing. "Happy birthday," she said.
Ace gave her a cocky smiled...Little did they know that Genzo was making his way around the village and finally spotted them. "N-Nojiko! And that pirate!" He yelled in shock.
Nojiko quickly turned around and to her horror she saw that Genzo really did finally caught them. But before she could react Ace wrapped his arms around her and jumped away on top of a roof carrying her bridal style, this was so unexpected for her that she was in shock for a moment.
"Hey get back here!" Genzo yelled.
"Sorry for making you worry good sir, but I assure you that Nojiko is in good hands!" Ace said.
Literally. Nojiko couldn't help but give Ace a sly smile.