The tall blond took a deep breath as he stepped onto the dock. Bellemere had always spoken of the island with a sort of wistfullness, though they both knew that she was unlikely to ever return, My family grew the best mikans Roci, you have to try them someday!
He had been shaken when he had heard of her death, and had always meant to visit Cocoyashi as a way of paying his last respects And I have to get some tangerines he mused to himself grimly, as he looked around, now just where should he go about buying some?
He wandered further into the town proper, musing that it was a shame that Sengoku hadn't been able to accompany him, the older man had only been able to leave his duties for as long as he had on such short notice due to Rocinante being under his direct command as an excuss, and as such their reunion after four years had been strictly buisness, but that was alright, Sengoku had a good amount of vacation time stored up, from refusing to take any time away while the blond was undercover, and after four years Rocinante had a good deal stored up himself, not even taking into acount the medical leave that he was still on, he was so wrapped up in his thoughts that he didn't see the small orange haired girl dart across his path untill he was tripping over her.
"S-sorry!" he stammered
"Nami! What the hell buster!?"
"I'm so sorry I wasn't looking-Bell?" he cut himself off as his eyes landed on the pink haired woman fusing over the little girl he had tripped over, she froze and turned away from the child to meet his eyes, face going pale
"And that concludes my report sir."
"Yes, thank you Vergo, very good, you're free to go." Sengoku stated flaty, shuffling some papers on his desk. Vergo moved to leave the room, then paused.
"Sir? if I may.." the fleet admiral cocked an eyebrow and gestured for the other man to continue hiding his simmering rage towards the other with a long learned professional demeanour.
"I had heard that commander Rocinante was suffering from some memory loss... I hope it wasn't severe enough to have an imact on his report regarding the Doflamingo family?" I'm sure Sengoku thought darkly, internally rolling his eyes.
"I'm afraid so." he replied with false calm,
"He has barely been able to give us any information from his time undercover, as it is, it's something of a miracle that he even survived.." he continued, allowing his voice to trail off slightly.
"Well, we are all glad that the Commander was able to pull through Sir." Sengoku valiantly surpressed his urge to scoff.
"Yes... I'm not sure if you're aware, but I took Rocinante in when he was just a chld, he's a son to me, if he hadn't made it... well, I dare say I would have had no other recourse but to deal with Doflamingo myself, in fact, now that I think of it, I would take it upon myself to deal with that man if anything were to happen to Rociante."
"Sir?" Vergo replied, faintly stunned. Sengoku turned to meet the other man's gaze directly,
"Well, it is Rociante's dearest wish that his brother be stopped, that's the reason he took that assignment in the first place. If anything were too happen to him he would be unable to rest in peace as long as Doflamingo continued to run free, it would be my duty as his adoptive father to see to putting an end to that overgrown flamingo's reign." He stated in a perfectly matter of fact tone, Vergo didn't need to know that as fleet admiral his hands would be tied on the matter, bound by his duties to stay out of such a minor matter, the point was to ensure that the mole wouldn't even think to try anything with his boy.
"I see sir, if I may be excused?" as he left the spy missed the look directed towards his back, this round goes to me I believe he mused to himself with no small amount of satisfaction.
Later that night Doflamingo recived a report from his second that his brother was in a protected position and could not be safely dealt with.
"So, kids huh?" the blond murmured, looking from the afore mentioned children running ahead to the woman walking along side him.
"Yeah." she muttered in response, gripping her bag of groceries a little tighter, knuckles white. He shot that bag a brief glance, not wanting her to realize his focus on it. It was too little food for herself and two growing children, even with the amber lead draining Law's appetite the two of them had still eaten more than the pinkette's bag suggested. He had watched her carefully make her selections before they left the town proper, patiently waiting for her to finish making her purchases, not wanting to frighten her children by dragging her into an alley and questioning her as he was rather tempted to do, though Law would probably have approved of that course of action he couldnt help but think fondly, before he returned his thoughts back the the bag in his one time friend's arms.
It's not enough, not for a family of three at least, he would have just assumed that it was just picking up a few things they had run out of, maybe a few ingedients for a particular recipe, if it hadn't been for the way Bellemere had carefully counted out every coin she had handed over, had given the higher value items regretful glances, had looked just a little too thin, her family's clothes showing a bit more wear than the townspeople, his stomach tightened slightly at the implications, but kept his mouth shut. The subject would keep, and it definitely wasn't one that he would broach in front of the girls, innocent in a way he had never known Law to be.
"Is that why you let yourself be listed as dead?" he asked instead, looking at the two little girls, chattering loudly with one another, somehow it was far to easy to picture a boy with a spotted hat along side them, Law always had been rather good with Baby 5...
"I- yeah... They needed me." she choked out, her tone vaguely desperate. He gave her a brief glance, before looking back at the children, who were now shouting that their house was just around the next bend, with his greater height Rocinante could just see it, a tiny little thing surrounded by tangerine trees, far too small for a family of three, barely big enough for one really. He looked back down at the girls, remembered white patched skin, and angry, pain filled eyes.
"Yeah, I know what you mean." he murmured, barely even noticing the sharp look she gave him.
He turned to address the girls as they approached the house.
"Why don't you two go play while I help your mother put things away?" he suggested in a bright tone, smiling down at them, they blinked up at him, before turning to give their mother a questioning look.
"It's okay, just make sure you get back in time to wash up for dinner." She reassured them with a smile,
"Its been a long time since I last saw Roci-kun, so we have a lot of catching up to do. It'd probably be pretty boring for you, so scram!" She laughed as the girls brightened and ran off into the trees with shrieking peals of laughter following them. Once the girls where out of sight the woman turned stiffly and entered the house. The blond quickly following her, half worried she would slam the door on him given the chance.
"I did say I'd help you."
"Sit, Roci. Knowing you, half the shopping would be ruined and the house would probably catch fire." she bluntly retorted, not even looking at him as she spoke, the blond quickly sat in one of the kitchen chairs without further argument. Silence reigned in the small house.
"I missed you, I wanted to come here when I first heard that you were dead, but it never seemed like the right time."
"So what made this the right time?" she asked,
"Medical leave." That got him another look, held a bit longer this time.
"I might have blown my cover, after a four year mission." He muttered, not meeting her eyes.
"What the hell hapened!" She exclaimed, turning sharply and banging her hands down on the tabletop. He paused a moment, hesitant, then looked her in the eye and smiled softly.
"A kid." He gave her a moment to process this,
"Bratty little thing, joined up with the crew I was undercover with when he was just ten, stabbed me in the back with a sword a week later, he was so angry..." a pause,
"He was in so much pain, Bell." his own voice shook at the thought of how much that tiny little boy had been suffering.
"But what does that have to do with your cover getting blown?" She exclaimed shaking her head in confusion as she turned to check on her soup. He twisted his hands together, pondering how to answer as Bellemere added a few more items to her soup, before nodding and placing a lid on the pot and coming to sit across from the blond and giving him a steady look.
"So what happened with the kid?" he pursed his lips briefly, then spoke.
"He was sick, really sick, only had a few years left to live when he joined up, and I- I just couldnt stand by and watch him to die by inches any longer! He just accepted it, and that just made it so much worse Bell! He was always hurting, and sometimes he could barely eat, or hed just sleep all day with a fever, sometimes he didn't even seem to really know where he was!" Those times had been the worst, when he frogot where and when he was and would call for his parents, it broke his heart when that happened, he had never really dared ask if he remembered when that happened.
"I just couldn't stand by and do nothing, I wound up abandoning my post to look for a doctor that would treat him, but everywhere we went .." here he trailed off, unable to speak of those 6 months of disappointment, of doctors that called a sick child monster, of burnt out hospitals...
"Then we finally got lucky, the captian I had been undercover with contacted me about a devils fruit tuurning up, the Barrel pirates were selling the Op-Op no mi to the Marines for 5 billion belli, the Captain wanted it for the internal youth operation. Law, his parents were doctors, they taught him, he just devoured any books we got him on medicine, such a brillant little boy..." He was rambeling now, everything he hadn't been able to tell Sengoku finally spilling out.
"I betrayed everyone, the crew, Sengoku-san, ... I left Law alone... he's only thirteen, just a little boy.. he just barely comes up to my knees..." He barreled on, ignoring the small smirk she made at the mention of his boys size in comparison to himself.
"I stole the fruit and gave it to Law, and the only reason I'm still alive is because I was able to hide it." "How?" she asked, voice soft, it was the first time she had spoken since he had started pouring his heart out in earnest.
"Doffy shot me, left me to die." he uttered in a low voice, fists curling at the memory. Not noticing his companions soft gasp at his brothers name.
"After I passed out Law led a nearby solider to me... little bratt snuck off while she was busy with my injuries." he added, with a rueful smile.
"Took me awhile to wake up, and when I did I told Sengoku-san I coudn't remember what happened. He knows the rough details, everything I could give him on Doffy without putting Law in danger... we're going to take advantage of that spy he has in the Marines." here the blond made a grimly satisfied expression, but it fell away a moment later, finally looking up to meet her eyes.
"I don't regret it, not any of it, do you know why?" she had a good idea, but.
"Tell me." she said, taking his hand in hers.
"Law made it out, I wasn't able to catch up to him after I go off bedrest, but I caught his trail where we had planned to meet up, he got away from Doffy and from what I was able to piece together was in better health than he'd been in for months." he proclaimed, gripping her hand tightly.
"All I care about is making sure he's alright!" He leaned over their joined hands with tears in his eyes, they sat like that for awhile while the blond sobbed silently, when the appoarching sounds of the children snapped them out of it, he looked away, wiping at his eyes, suddenly bashful at having spilled everything out to her. The pinkette stood, moving to check her soup,
"One last question." she murmed gently.
"Huh?" he turned to look at her, still rattled from his emotional outporing.
"Why did you tell me all this? You would be in huge trouble if anyone found out, I know we used to be close, but this is the first time youve seen me in years, what makes you so sure you can trust me?" she bit out, feeling almost angry with the tall man for his recklessness.
"The same reason you know I'm not going to turn you in as a deserter, we're in the same boat now." He answered with a soft smile, tilting his head to gesture in the direction of the approaching voices of her daughters. She stared at him, slightly stunned before a flush rose to her cheeks. Of course, we both have children to think about, leave it to Roci to see and plan for a new common ground.
She smiled warmly back at him, of course it was like this, how could I have forgotten she wondered, staring at the large man sitting in her kitchen, feeling more like a teenager than she had in years, and as her daughters burst into the house she felt none of her earlier worry, Roci wouldn't do anythng to ruin the life she had built here, no more than she would do anything to ruin the careful web of deceptions he had spun, after all there was a boy out there that was going to need his father back at some point, just as her girls needed her. Also she mused with a smile as she directed her girls to wash the dirt from their faces and hands, she had someone special to introduce them to now.
Afterall, while Genzo was a good father figure to her girls, she had never seen him in any sort of romantic light, and she thought as a nervous Rociante fielded questions from an enquisitive and half washed Nami, he did already have experience with children. I'll have to ask him how long he can stay she thought as she ignored the slightly panicked looks he was shooting her as Nojiko joined her sister in interrogating him in favor of serving soup into bowls.
"Hope your hungry!" she chirped, smiling wider at the look he was giving her as her childern climbed up into his lap.
After two years, an established repeating order of tangerine perserves and and a very tense stay at his adoptive fathers house that they only ever visited when on vacation, Sengoku knew that he wasn't telling him everything about Minion but wouldn't push him about it, wouldn't push the younger man to lie to him any more than he had too, and he was grateful for it. He really rather suspected that the older man had an inkling of just what had really happened on minion, but was avoiding doing anything that he wasn't outright obligated to do as fleet admrial, it made things a bit stiff and formal between the two of them for awhile, but it had been set aside easly enough now he was finally back on the sea, sailing around serving Justice on the blues was much superior to doing so from behind a desk, even if it did mean being much more frequently submurged he mused to himself as he was hauled back up on deck, spitting out water and informing his men of the yellow sea king he had caught a glimpse of while he was under, the men quickly going on alert and moving to sail in a different direction than he had glimpsed the distant form.
Several meters under the seas surface, golden eyes tracked the shadow of the Marine ship, a smile forming on their owners face.
"It's been a long time time, Cora-san." he murmered, safe in his underwater home
in a yellow submarine.