Garp stood proud at the bow of his ship watching as the Moby Dick grew closer. His men had already sent the message that he wished to speak to the captain in person and knew that in about ten minutes' time he would be on the pirate ship asking for his grandsons to be returned to him. Garp knew that the agreement had been for six months but he had to make other arrangements and Rob said that he would take the boys for a year only if Garp was able to get them to his farm before he began harvesting his crops.
It would give him more time to think things through.
Besides, his plans had failed.
Sengoku had found out about Ace.
Nine months ago the rumors that the fabled son of the king of the pirates actually existed and was living in the East Blue. Garp had tried to convince his superiors that it was all just that; a rumor. Garp didn't even know how the information had gotten out. He had been careful. Only a handful of people knew about Ace's existence and even fewer knew who he was. The fleet admiral had decided to error on the side of caution however and decided to do a slow but thorough search of every island in the East Blue.
It wasn't the spectacle it had been when they were looking for Portgas D. Rouge while she was pregnant. No, it was just the marines going to islands and asking questions about the children on the island.
A costly but well worth excursion in the higher ups opinion.
He knew it was only a matter of time before they got to Dawn Island and if they found out about Ace, then they would find out about Luffy. Garp hadn't exactly made it a secret that he was Dragon's father but there were very few people in the world that knew he had grandchildren.
In this situation Garp knew that his name would not be enough to save the boys. He knew that their fathers' names were enough to condemn them to death.
Garp had thought he just had to hide the boys for a while and the safest place he could think of was with Whitebeard. He and the pirate were on as good of terms as a vice admiral in the navy and a pirate captain could be. He trusted the man enough not to do harm to the kids and the old pirate had a reputation for going beyond the call of duty when it came to those who were under his protection. Garp had contacted the pirate and asked him to look after Ace and Luffy for six months and then return them. He had agreed to do it on one condition.
Garp owed him a favor.
It didn't matter what Whitebeard asked or when he asked it. Garp had to grant him whatever he asked, even if it meant putting his career and life on the line. The marine knew that the pirate would use this favor to his full advantage and that it could spell doom for countless individuals in the navy but he had agreed to it without a moment's hesitation.
He had raced to Dawn Island to pick up his grandsons and picked up an extra along the way, knowing that the boy would be in danger for his relationship to Ace and Luffy. He had even been able to keep their presence a secret from most of the men on his ship.
And now it had all been for nothing.
The marines had made it to Dawn Island and they had asked their questions.
They heard tell of a little boy that would beat up anyone that would bad mouth the pirate king. That had led to more questions and eventually they had found Dadan. She resisted and kept her mouth shut about the boys. Too bad that the same couldn't be said about all of her followers. With the boys gone and the promise of a full pardon for all of the bandits, one of her men had told the marines everything about Ace and about Luffy. Even about Sabo.
Now they were being hunted down and would be sentenced to life in prison if not death.
Unless he could get them away from Newgate and turn them into fine Marine soldiers. Then maybe, just maybe they'd be allowed to live.
Their existence wouldn't be considered a sin.
"Vice admiral, we're ready when you are," one of his men informed him. The Vice Admiral nodded in acknowledgement. The old marine that most his men were all trying to deny what they were doing right now and some had even taken refuge below deck determined to pretend that they weren't making contact with one of the most notorious pirates to ever live and to not betray their commander or the government
He nodded and soon found himself standing in front of Whitebeard and his first commander.
"You're early," the captain stated.
"I have made other arrangements. I thank you for your help but I need to take the boys with me now."
Whitebeard took a long drink from his bottle and said calmly, "Marco, please inform the brats that their grandfather is here. They're eating dinner now. Garp, how about we go to my quarters and sit and talk while they finish?"
Garp glared at the man.
This wasn't a social call. He could be put to death if anyone saw him near here. Plus he was on a tight schedule. He needed to get the boys to the farm in about a week.
But they should finish eating. There was nothing more important than food. Especially if you didn't know if you'd be going into battle any time soon. He nodded his head and followed the captain to his quarters.
He was offered a drink, but declined. He wanted a clear head if he was going to be on a pirate ship longer than he originally planned.
"Things not going as anticipated?" the captain spoke after a few minutes of silence. "We had an agreement. The brats were to stay for six months."
"I need to move the boys while I have the opportunity."
"And where do you expect them to go?"
"I have made other arrangements. That's all you need to know!" Garp snapped.
The giant of a man looked down at him for a minute before speaking. "Leave them here with me. They do not deserve a life of being passed around from one place to another because people you deem safe do not really care about them. Here they will have a home and people to care for and protect them until they can do it themselves."
Garp scoffed at the idea. It had never been his intention to leave the boys here for longer than he had to. "And have them grow up to be criminals? It's only a matter of time before someone finds out they're here then there is nothing stopping the government from placing bounties on their head just because they're here with you."
He wasn't going to let any of them become the next Nico Robin. Even now, ten years after the incident with Ohara, she was being hunted down because she claimed she was able to read the poneglyphs. There would be no hesitation about giving the boys one if they were seen on a pirate ship. Especially with who their fathers were.
"It would be safer for them here."
"What are you getting at?" Garp growled. It was frustrating that the large pirate seemed to be stuck on the idea.
"Do you really expect the son of the leader of the revolutionists to be able to live a peaceful life now that the government knows who he is?" the pirate asked.
Garp was silent.
"How about the son of the King of the Pirates."
Garp felt himself pale. "How did you-" Garp trailed off.
He hadn't told Whitebeard about Ace. How did he know?
The other man scoffed. "I have my ways. Did you really think I would agree to take in three children for you and not look into why you wanted them here? You weren't as careful as you thought you were."
Garp glared. "If you know he's the son of an old enemy why are you insisting that he stay?"
"The son should not be judged for the sins of the father. I want the brats to stay because they won't be safe anywhere else. If they stay here they'll grow up-"
"And become world class criminals."
"Sengoku knows about the brats, correct? That is why you are here, you feel the need to move them. But if you take them from my protection then they will be put into untold danger. They will not live out the year."
"Yes they will!"
"You're not thinking rationally."
"My thinking is perfectly rational. I'll turn them into marines and then they'll be able to live in peace." He was beginning to get angry. Whitebeard arguing with him wasn't part of the deal.
"You know that is not how the world works."
"It has to work!" He was shouting now, but if he stopped fighting what would happen to Ace and Luffy? And the other boy, Sabo? Garp didn't know him very well but he knew enough to know the kid didn't deserve to be branded a criminal. Besides Ace and Luffy both called him brother which meant that he was Garp's grandson as well.
Whitebeard stared at him. "You sound desperate," he observed out loud.
"I was past desperate when I asked for your help. Now I'm just doing the best that I can to keep them safe for as long as possible. This is my family we're talking about. I won't let them kill my family. Not when they've done nothing to deserve it."
There was silence for nearly five minutes while the pirate captain stared at the vice admiral. Garp had no idea what was going on in the man's head but he would be damned if he let the pirate keep his grandsons. Not when he had spent so much time talking the higher ups out of giving the boys a bounty.
They had been dead set on the idea for a while.
Finally the old man spoke. "Garp, I agreed to keep the brats for six months and to give them back without a fight so I will not fight you." The grandfather let out a sigh at the words. "But know that I will come after them."
Instantly Garp felt his whole body tense up. "Are you threatening to take them away?"
"You care about them, that much is obvious and that is the only reason I am not throwing you off my ship without even a chance to say goodbye. I have heard about the way you treat your grandchildren and they do not deserve that. You are more focused on training upstanding marines than you are with raising three children. You are also blinded to your own limits when it comes to protecting them against the leaders of the world. I will allow you to have some time with them before I take them under my protection permanently. When you are thinking rationally again you will see that this is what is best for the brats."
Garp glared at the pirate. He was getting the boys and leaving now. He turned and stormed out the door.
It had been two weeks since Thatch had been released. It had been an interesting two weeks to say the least. With the revelation of Luffy's powers things around the boy were now in chaos most of the time. Not that they weren't before, it was now just more chaos than it was before. He was always bouncing from one place to another and would rocket himself around the ship. It was amusing until he would accidently end up in the ocean which seemed to happen multiple times on most days.
Izo was still working with the brat on improving his aim and Thatch was actually able to see some improvement which he was thankful for.
Ace was gaining more and more control of his new found power every day and Marco had deemed it safe for him to return to his cabin with his brothers, to all three boys delight.
Ace had told Thatch that he had eaten his devil fruit only a few weeks ago. Poor kid had thought the pirate was going to be mad at him for not offering it to him after everything that happened. To be honest Thatch was sure if he ever got his hands on a devil fruit again he would either pawn it off on the first person he had the chance to or just throw it into the ocean.
He really didn't want to have to go through everything again. Getting stabbed just wasn't worth it.
Sabo was also improving. He worked hard and Thatch was surprised to see that he was able to keep up with Ace in their daily spars. Ace would win most of their matches now, but Sabo always gave him a run for his money and was now winning more and more. Sabo had told him once that he and Ace were evenly matched before Ace ate the flame-flame fruit and he had to work twice as hard as his brother now so that he wouldn't fall behind. It seemed that he refused to be seen as weaker than his brother.
At the moment the fourth division commander sat watching the three brats trying to coax an extra helping of steak out of the cooks. He shook his head fondly knowing that they were going to get what they wanted once Luffy pulled out the puppy eyes. It was a well-known fact on the ship that Luffy had the most dangerous weapon on board. He was even able to talk Marco into doing things that the man didn't want to do.
It was amazing what just four months could do.
Was that really all the time that the brats had been there?
Just four months?
It had felt like they had been around for longer than that.
Thatch felt sadness grow in his chest as he thought about the fact that they would be leaving soon. They had all talked to Pops about trying to keep them but the man was insistent that he would not break his word.
It was hard for the old man to say no to keeping the brats. It was now a common sight to see the captain sitting with the three at his feet listening to one of his stories. Luffy especially had been enthralled by the stories and could be entertained for hours at a time which was impressive because Luffy had an attention span shorter than that of a squirrel.
He was joined by the three boys who not only had a second helping of steak but mashed potatoes as well.
"You were able to talk the cooks into giving you seconds I see," he said.
"Yup," Luffy said scooping up some of his potatoes and taking a bite. Thatch didn't think he would ever get used to seeing how much the boy could eat and he had a feeling they hadn't even see him eat until he was content.
He smiled and looked over to see Marco slowly walking towards them. Thatch's smile fell as the man approached. He had never seen his friend look like that.
The man looked devastated.
Thatch stood quickly, fully facing his friend.
"What's wrong?" Thatch demanded, fearing that something had happened to Pops.
Marco shook his head before turning toward the three boys who were watching the scene, still eating.
"You need to gather your things," he told them. "Garp is here. He found somewhere else for you to stay."
Thatch felt his heart stop. "B-but we have two more months," he said. The agreement was for six months. It had only been four.
They were supposed to have two more months with the brats.
Marco shook his head, silently telling Thatch to shut up. By now everyone in the room was watching.
"Gramps is here?" Luffy asked dropping his fork looking terrified. Thatch wanted to grab the brats and hide them but he knew that he couldn't do that. Marco was under orders from Pops to come and get them.
"Yes, he is talking to Pops right now. He said he wants to leave as soon as possible so you need to go and pack your stuff."
Marco frowned as he watch the three boys line up outside Pops' door waiting for the marine to exit. Garp had arrived about a half hour ago and demanded his grandchildren to be returned to him right away. Suddenly the door burst open making the three jump as Garp stormed out. "Don't you threaten me, Newgate," he spat.
Pops followed at a much slower pace.
"It is not a threat," the pirate captain said in a low slow voice so that he was sure that Garp knew that he was serious.
The marine glared at him for a second before his attention snapped to the three boys all of whom cringed at the angry look. "Let's go!" he barked.
The three followed him. "Grandpa, do we have to go?" Luffy asked as they made their way towards the marine ship. "I like it here."
Garp rounded on the boy and hit him on the head. Luffy staggered and both hands flew to the spot that had just been hit. Marco's frown deepened. That had actually hurt the kid. And had he been imagining it or did he just sense Haki?
"Don't hit Luffy!" The two older brothers came to the younger's defense and each received the same treatment.
Marco was certain that there had felt Haki. He growled as he stepped forward. Nobody hurt the brats. Not while he was around.
"Marco." The voice of his captain stopped him. He looked to see the man give him a small shake of his head, an order not to do anything. The old man looked as if he wanted to stop all of this from happening but for some reason he held back.
Marco clenched his fist but did as he was told and backed down.
"Get on the ship," Garp demanded pointing toward the marine vessel.
All three glared before shooting off in different directions. Luffy came flying at the first division commander and wrapped his arms around his legs. He looked up with tears running down his face.
"Bye Marco. I'm gonna miss you," he wailed.
Marco pried the brat of his legs before kneeling down and pulling him into a tight hug.
"I don't wanna go," he heard the boy say into his shoulder.
"I don't want you to go either," he assured the boy before pulling back. "But don't worry. We'll see each other again. You're going to be a pirate right? When you are, come find me. We'll go on an adventure together."
"Really? You promise?"
Marco smiled. "Of course. You might be leaving for now but that doesn't mean that we stop being friends."
The boy smiled at him widely before letting go and running to Thatch and hugging him. Marco stood as he watched as the three boys quickly went to say bye to each of the commanders that were present to quickly say their goodbyes.
Oddly enough Garp was silent during the process.
He looked down at Ace and Sabo as they both stopped in front of him.
"Thank you," Ace said before he wrapped his arms around Marco's waist. Sabo didn't say anything but joined in as well. Marco knelt down so that he was able to hug them as tightly as he could.
This was harder than he thought it would be.
He had thought that he would just be babysitting for a few months. He hadn't expected to get attached. And now he was having to let go part of his family.
"Enough! Get on the ship. We have a tight schedule," Garp finally barked.
The three followed the man to the other ship and stood at the railing all waving sadly as the ship pulled away.
Marco had watched until he couldn't see the marine vessel anymore and then couldn't bring himself to move. He didn't know how long it would be until he saw the brats again and it broke his heart that he was going to miss out on so much of their lives. He truly loved them all and wished that he could have kept them with him.
"This is wrong," Thatch said coming to stand next to Marco hours later.
"What is?" Marco asked absent mindedly.
"Why did we have to give them back to that negligent, abusive bastard? We should have fought for them."
"Pops has his reasons." Marco certainly hoped they were good ones. "He's hurting just as much as the rest of us."
"You're right." Thatch sighed and ran a hand though his hair. "Doesn't mean that I have to like it though."
Marco looked at his friend. It was plain to see that he had been crying. Most of the crew probably had been at this point. It was hard having to say goodbye to family. "Come on. Let's go talk to Pops. He always knows what to say in these situations." Marco wrapped an arm around his friend and led him toward the old man.
Edward Newgate sat gazing at the ocean he loved so dearly. His children had slowly been gathering around him since the marine vessel had sailed out of sight and he couldn't help but wonder who would bring up the brats first. He knew it was only a matter of time until someone asked him why he let them leave. He didn't know himself.
He had told Thatch more than once that he would not keep the brats because he would not break his word to Garp but when the marine had shown up he had every intention of telling Garp to say goodbye to the brats and continue on his way without them.
But seeing the desperation on the other man's face he couldn't do it. The marine was frantic. Everything about him from the way he stood to the way he spoke screamed of desperation and as much as he wanted the brats to stay he could not ignore how hard Garp was fighting for them. He had gone against everything he believed in when he had asked a pirate captain to look after his grandchildren. He had risked his life and livelihood to keep the three boys safe and Whitebeard could not blame him for that. Garp was doing what he thought was right in order to protect his family and for someone who had spent years yearning for a family of his own Edward Newgate could not take away the old marine's family.
Not without giving him the chance to fight.
He looked around deck and saw the family he had built gathered around him wanting support and comfort. He caught sight of Marco and Thatch making their way through the crowd towards him. Many, if not all of his children, had formed some kind of bond with the brats but Marco and Thatch had become the most attached followed closely by Namur. Looking at the two he knew that he had unintentionally hurt them more than either were willing to admit when he had allowed Garp to take the brats away.
"Marco," he spoke. It was the first thing he had said in the hours since Garp had left.
"Get the crew started in making preparations for a journey to Paradise."
Marco raised an eyebrow. "Alright," he said slowly hoping to get more information.
Thatch was not as patient. "Why are we going there?"
The captain smiled. "If I know Garp he will be taking the brats back to Paradise. I think we have given him enough of a head start. We don't want him to get so far ahead that we won't be able to find the brats."
Instantly the crew came alive and his sons ran every which way turning the ship around and taking it in the same direction that Garp had left.