Edited 8/3/12 because Sarcasticles can't spell

Xxx

Bill, bill, letter, bill, Marine Base 4…

What?

Genzo discarded his other mail and ripped open the heavy package from the marines. His village, no, the entire island, was not important enough to get attention from either pirates or marines. What in the world was going on here?

Mr. Genzo,

It is with great sadness that we must inform you of the regretful demise of Captain Bellemere.

Genzo sat down at his kitchen table, absolutely baffled. Bellemere wasn't dead; she was recovering with the two orphans under the doctor's close eye. He scanned the rest of the letter, which did nothing to clear up his confusion.

Captain Bellemere was an exemplary marine who died protecting those who could not protect themselves. Unfortunately, her body was lost in the battle…

Yes, because she was sitting in her house, recovering from her injuries.

Captain Bellemere has been posthumously awarded the Golden Shield, as well as the Bronze Bar for her distinguished service. As her next of kin, we understand that this does little to ease your suffering but we hope that you can be proud of her service.

Genzo set the letter down and slid two small packages out of the envelope. Slowly he opened them, revealing two shiny medals.

We are sorry for your loss; Captain Bellemere's sacrifice will not be forgotten.

With Deepest Regrets,

Commodore Pudding Pudding, Marine Base 4

Clutching the letter in one hand and the medals in the other, Genzo left his house. It seemed like Bellemere had some explaining to do.

Xxx

Genzo barged into Bellemere's humble home, ready to demand answers. He was forced to stop short when he entered her living room. A bed had been set up down stairs until she had the strength to get up and about like normal. There Bellemere slept, along with the children. The sight was shockingly adorable, and Genzo felt a blush creep up his cheeks.

Bellemere stirred, before rubbing her eyes with a groan. She squinted at him and yawned. The girls didn't wake, thankfully. This is a conversation was one he wanted to have uninterrupted.

"Gen? Whaddya want?" Bellemere asked as she attempted to stretch without disturbing the children. Genzo pulled up a chair from the kitchen before handing her the marine's letter.

"It seems like you're a dead woman," he whispered. He watched Bellemere's eyes dart back and forth as she read about her own demise. It didn't take her long to finish, and when she did she thrust it back in his face.

"So?" she replied mulishly, "I don't see a problem."

"Don't see a problem?" Gen said, straining to keep his voice down, "What's going on here? Why do the marines think you're dead!"

"It's like I told you, after the battle I took Nojiko and Nami here. There wasn't exactly time to touch base with my commanding officer. It…It was chaos, and there was no time," Bellemere replied, almost too casually for Genzo's taste.

"You deserted? You deserted the marines? Are you crazy? Do you unders—" Bellemere's glare cut through his protest.

"Do you understand Genzo? Nami and Nojiko's lives were in the balance. There was nothing left after that battle. Who cares what the marines think? I'd do it again in a heartbeat!" she hissed. Underneath the covers Nojiko stirred. Genzo and Bellemere both froze, and after a moment she rolled over and gave a soft snore.

"Genzo," Bellemere began, more quietly this time, "this was something that I had to do."

Genzo gave an exasperated sigh. Leave it to Bellemere to make things much more complicated than they needed to be, "Is that why you won't register them? You can't afford to let the Government know you're alive. Everyone knows what they do to deserters."

"Yeah," she replied softly.

"Hmf. I don't like this, I don't like it one bit."

"You don't have to like it. In case you haven't noticed, I'm an adult now. I'm perfectly capable of making my own decisions," she said stubbornly.

"That's true. But Bellemere you have to know, your decisions don't just effect you now," Genzo replied. Bellemere's grip tightened around her adopted children.

"What would you have me do Gen? They…they saved me. It's too late to go back to the marines, and I'm not sending them to those hellholes they call orphanages. We're a family," she said, with a hint of desperation in her voice. That, more than anything, scared Genzo. Desperation did not suit Bellemere; she was supposed to be the strong stubborn troublemaker who knew no fear.

Genzo took off his hat, and stared at the little pinwheel that had made Nami laugh. He had known Bellemere for a long time; he knew her history, where she had come from. She had been the source of countless headaches, and more than a few heartaches over the years. He knew that by all outward appearances she was unfit to adopt those two girls.

But the thing about outward appearances was they were so often misleading.

"Bellemere," he began slowly, "I'm not saying you did the wrong thing by these girls. I'm just trying to wrap my head around this, same as you. But with you being officially dead, things will be difficult. If you're found out you'll get jail time, or worse. And taking care of two little girls is going to be hard enough as it is."

"I know Gen. Trust me, I know," she said solemnly, stroking Nojiko's hair.

"Good," Genzo said forcefully, "Now what's this about being your next of kin?"

The faintest hint of a blush tinted Bellemere's cheeks, "Everyone who enlists has to put down a next of kin and I don't have any family around, so I put down you. I didn't think anything would come out of it."

Genzo was both honored and amused. After all the trouble she had given him…He let out a soft snort and put his hat back on his head. He was about ready to leave, when one more question came to mind, "What do the medals mean?"

Bellemere suddenly looked very uncomfortable, "Oh, uh, the Bronze Bar is for performance in the face of adversity. And the Gold Shield is given to every marine who dies in service," she muttered.

Genzo looked in horror at the little medal in his hand.

"Yeah, Gold's for death, and Silver Shield's are for injury. I've got a couple of them too," she said with a weak laugh.

"What am I supposed to do with these?" he demanded.

"I don't care, they're yours."

"No, they were awarded to you," Genzo hissed.

"Yes, but they were sent to you. I want nothing to do with them, or the marines for that matter," Bellemere replied haughtily.

"It couldn't have been that bad."

"Yes, it could have. It was fine when I first enlisted; I was with people that really wanted to make a difference. But as I got promoted I had to deal with more and more assholes who only wanted power and glory. The marines…they aren't what we think they are. If we were attacked today, I can only think of a handful of commanding officers that would even care," she said.

"Don't say that, you'll only invite bad luck!" Genzo exclaimed.

"I don't believe in luck. Now, will you please go away and let me sleep? The girls will wake up soon enough as it is, and I want to get my strength back as quick as I can."

"Fine," Genzo said before turning towards her door. After a brief moment's hesitation he gave her one last glance before saying, "You…you don't have to do this by yourself Bellemere." Hiding his blush, Genzo quickly fled.

In his haste, he didn't see the look of relief on Bellemere's face as she looked down at her children, nor did he hear the whispered "Thank you," before she snuggled down and resumed her nap.

Xxx

Back in his house, Genzo wrapped the medals back in their fancy packaging and stored them away. He hoped that he could forget about their existence, and the morbid connotation that they carried. One day he figured Bellemere would get over her issues with the marines and want them back. Until that day he would keep them safe.

"Deserting the marines," he muttered to himself. A part of him couldn't quite believe it, but a greater part saw how much she loved those girls and completely understood.

Bellemere wasn't a woman to do things by halves. She would take care of Nami and Nojiko to the best of her ability. She would make every sacrifice to give them a good life, and do her best to bring them up right. Bellemere was many things, a deserter, a troublemaker, an obnoxiously stubborn woman that irritated him to no end.

She was also a mother.

With a final sigh (he could feel an awful headache coming on. Damn that woman, and her ability to get under his skin!) Genzo put the medals away.

Bellemere the Marine was dead, and Bellemere the Mother was left in her place.

He could only hope that it worked out for the best.

Xxx

AN: In Nami's flashback it's implied that Bellemere went directly from the battle that almost killed her back to Cocoyashi. One would think that had Bellemere properly left the marines she would receive some sort of pension, but that doesn't seem to be the case. So it's my head cannon that she actually deserted, and this is my interpretation of the events. Also in Chapter 0 Bellemere is seen wearing a fancy-pants coat that's generally only worn by officers that are captains or higher

As always, reviews are appreciated