Hard Christmas For Nico Robin
One Piece Fanfiction by Aoikami Sarah
Drabble written for OP-Exchange 12/2007
After a long day of research at a library on a large, winter island, 15-year-old Nico Robin made her way back to the flat she’d rented. After her last misadventure at sea she had selected this island as a good place to lay-low because it was home to one of the best and oldest libraries on the Grand Line. She was pleased to find such a gem of a facility to occupy her time. If she could hide out from the Marines and get work done at the same time, she wouldn’t feel that she was letting moss grow. Yet it had been two weeks since she landed here and a rather foreign sense of ease was starting to make her nervous.
When she had arrived, the first thing she did was to choose her new alias, which was Julia. She had been through the alphabet once already and was on her second ‘J’ name (the first had been Jane). The second thing she always did anywhere was to spy at the local post office. Using her Akuma no Mi ability, Robin eyed the wanted posters and was relieved to not find her own on its walls. Some smaller towns, she found, had taken hers down, either because it had been up so long or after a while the people who worked there felt bad for the ‘little girl’ in the picture.
Tonight, she walked back to her flat, bundled up, her nose buried in a book not only out of habit but in order to remain inconspicuous. As she passed the green grocer, a strange thing happened that would take Robin completely by surprise.
“Hey, Julie!” the large, burley man who owned the grocery called out to her. He was shoveling freshly-fallen snow from the walk in front of his establishment. “Merry Christmas!”
She stopped and blinked at him. She couldn’t remember when she would have told him her name, but it had a few weeks… “Merry…?”
“Christmas!” he called.
“Oh, is it that time already?” she asked calmly.
He laughed. “No, you ain’t missed it. It’s Christmas eve! You got your tree yet?” Robin straightened up and looked where the man indicated. A row of left-over Christmas trees stood against the side of the building. She shook her head ‘no’ and he grinned. “Tell ya what. You pick one out and take it home with ya.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t have any money.”
“I didn’t say I wanted any!” He laughed. “These’ll be kindling tomorrow anyway. Go ahead, Jules.”
She put her book into her bag and humored him by giving them a look. After only a few moments she lifted one off the ground. “I’ll take this one, thank you.”
“You sure you want that piddly thing?”
She nodded. “I have a small flat.”
“I guess!” He laughed again. “Merry Christmas, Julia.”
“Merry Christmas, Mr. Grocer.”
Robin’s flat was small, sparsely decorated but technically furnished. Most importantly it was warm and dry. She put her bag down and placed the tree in the center of the room. It was short, spindly and might have had a hundred needles on it. Robin reached into her bag and pulled out a glass ornament she had stolen from a decorated public Christmas tree somewhere between the grocer and her flat. When she put it on what seemed like the strongest of the branches the thing nearly tipped over, despite being nailed to a wooden base.
She stared at it and sighed.
After a small dinner and some more of the book she’d been reading on the way home, Robin sat up on her bed and stared at the little tree. “Christmas eve,” she whispered. She let out a long breath and pouted before sliding off the bed. She put all four candles she had in her possession on whatever plates she could find and arranged them on the floor near the tree. She took a cushion and put it next to this and rummaged in her bag again. Robin put a small, brightly wrapped present under the tree and sat down on the cushion to admire her work. “That looks about right,” she said and contemplated the tree and its single ornament for a while.
She already knew what was in the package. She had bought the expensive bottle of ink for herself but when the clerk asked if it was a gift she was so thrown for a loop that Robin said yes and it was wrapped accordingly. “That woman thought that I had someone to buy it for,” she muttered and shook her head. She closed her eyes and enabled her ability. An arm sprouted from the floor, picked the gift up and handed it to her. “But if someone had given it to me,” Robin said, “it would make me very happy…”
She reached out to take it from the imaginary someone. “Merry Christmas!” she said with a strained smile and took the gift.
In a moment the hand dispersed. Robin clutched the pretty package to her chest and tried to keep smiling but the tears wouldn’t stop. “Is that what it’s like?” She asked. “If this were real, would it make me happy? If I stayed here in this little town and got to know the grocer and the ladies at the post office and the librarian by name, I could be Julia. I might even be invited for Christmas next year. Maybe I’d have friends who would…”
Her hands fell into her lap and wrinkled the paper and little bow as they squeezed the present. “It gets harder to imagine every year, Saul.”