Somewhere To Belong

A Decision is Made

Ace sat on a bed in the infirmary watching as Doctor Lyra treated Luffy. After Sabo was back on the Moby Dick the three boys had been marched down to the infirmary. The nurses took care of anyone that was wounded during the battle while the doctor looked them over personally.

She had the same angry look on her face since she had finished examining and treating Ace. It was kind of hard to move wrapped in all the bandages. Ace didn't think he really need the bandages but Lyra insisted that he did. He looked over to Sabo who was sitting next to him wrapped up just as much as Ace, but he also had an IV sticking out of his arm. Ace cringed as he remembered the marks that covered his brother's back. They were pretty gruesome.

Lyra started clicking her tongue as she finished with the last of Luffy's bandages; He was cover almost head to toe. Without a word she left the room and went to her office.

The three boys traded looks.

"Look! I'm a mummy," Luffy said standing up and putting his arms in front of him walking like a zombie across the bed.

Ace burst out laughing and Sabo joined him soon enough. Leave it to Luffy to break the tension that the doctor had left.

The door to the Doctor Lyra's office burst open and she strode out. She took a deep breath and asked, "When was the last time you ate?"

Ace cocked his head to the side thinking.

"On Darius's ship," Luffy answered.

That's right it had been while they were with the man.

"And how long ago was that?"

Luffy shrugged and looked at Ace who turned to Sabo. "I don't know there were no windows in that room. I don't even know how long we were on that crummy ship."

"Alright then. What did you eat?"

"A banana," Luffy answered happy that he knew the answer this time.

"And some bread," Ace added, carefully watching the doctors face grow angrier.

Had they done something wrong?

"Is that it?" The three nodded. "How much water did they give you?"

Ace once again turned to Sabo who shrugged. "Enough to stay alive?"

The woman nodded. "And when was the last time you had a decent meal?"

Ace thought about it. When was the last time they had eaten more than just a piece of fruit or bread a day? That's all Farmer Rob had let them have.

"With Grandpa," Luffy answered again. Ace blinked when he realized Luffy was right. The last time they had been able to eat an actual meal with meat and everything was when they were with the geezer.

Doctor Lyra took a deep breath before marching back to her office and slamming the door shut again. "Why does she keep doing that?" Luffy asked.

"Who knows? Adults are weird," Ace shrugged.

Luffy laughed and jumped over to the bed that Ace and Sabo were both currently sitting on. Ace couldn't help the small smile that appeared when he watched Luffy snuggle into his pillow. "Hey that's mine," he said before laying down too. He was tired and still a little dizzy. He hadn't laid in a bed or had a pillow since they left the Moby Dick. It really felt nice.

Sabo laid down and rolled on his side that that he was facing Luffy and Ace. He smiled as he wrapped an arm around Luffy. Ace did the same. And together the three brothers drifted off to sleep.

Sometimes Lyra wished she didn't have the knowledge that she did. Being a doctor was hard but she loved treating her patients and watching them heal, knowing she made a difference. She was the best at her job and always had been. Even during her training, at some point she just started to know more than her teacher.

But there was a reason she chose to be on a pirate ship and not work in a respectable clinic on some island.

She didn't have the heart to watch children die.

She found that out when she had been an apprentice.

A little girl, a little younger than Ace and Sabo were now, was brought into her teacher's office heavily abused and starved. Someone had found her outside, freezing to death after her parents had decided that they had enough of her and had just thrown her out into the street. Lyra and her teacher had both worked for hours but the girl had died.

Lyra had spent the next week crying because she had to watch a child die and swore she would never do it again. Losing a patient is always hard but it's a thousand times worse for her when they were kids. She had given up her apprenticeship and bought a small boat. She only made it to the next island but it was far enough that she could ignore her failure.

Two years later she had set up a practice in a clinic with another doctor. They worked well together and she was able to choose to treat adults only and no one questioned her until one night a boy around five years old came in with a high fever. She had tried to get someone else to help the boy but her partner was busy with another patient so she was the only option.

The boy died that night and Lyra went to a bar where she spent four months of her life.

That's where Pops had found her.

That's where Pops had saved her.

And now she was forced to treat three children on several different occasions.

She had almost stopped breathing when Thatch brought Luffy in with that high fever; it was too close to the other boy. But she was nothing if not professional so she pushed down her own feelings so that she could treat the brats and be done with it.

Now all three children were in her infirmary, beaten, exhausted, and starving and she was trying to keep from falling apart. How could anyone hurt those boys?

Ace's wounds were all pretty new, only a week old, probably because his devil fruit had kept him safe from harm until the sea stone had been put on him. He had dark bruises and scratches covered his body that made it obvious that he had been hit many times over the past few weeks. The bruises on his abdomen worried her and she would need to keep an eye on him for signs of internal bleeding.

Sabo had been whipped almost to the point where it could have killed him. The wounds were several days old but some were still bleeding and the wounds were infected and she had to put him on an IV to fight the infection. He had less bruises but probably because Ace tried to keep the attention of the slave traders on himself and spared the other two.

Luffy had been beaten, by the looks of things, often. He didn't have bruises because he was made out of rubber, but he had cuts, more than Sabo and Ace combined. She was horrified when Ace and Sabo said that someone had used him as a piñata and a spiked club as a bat. He too was starting to show signs of infection and she had given him an antibiotic in pill form because when he had been sick Sabo had informed her in no uncertain terms that Luffy hated needles and she shouldn't use them unless absolutely necessary. But if he didn't start to get better then she would be forced to start him on an IV.

To top off everything that they had obviously been through all three had been starved.

She could tell after examining Ace; his skin and hair didn't look healthy and there was some muscles atrophy.

It was no secret on the ship that the three boy could out eat almost anyone on the Moby Dick, the only exception was probably Pops. To be able to eat that much and still be as small as they were they had some of the fastest metabolisms she had ever seen. At the rate that they usually ate she was surprised they weren't worse off than they were after being denied a sufficient amount of food for so long.

She took a deep breath to steady her nerves. She had a job to do and needed to make sure that the brats all got some food in them and a good night's sleep.

She also had to report to Pops.

The doctor stood tall as she exited her office and strode back towards her patients.

She couldn't help but smile softly when she saw all three boys curled up on Ace's bed. She would have preferred them to stay in their own beds but she couldn't separate them. Not after they had been through so much.

"Hannah, Iris," she called two of her nurses over. "Hannah, please keep an eye on the brats for me. I need to go report to Pops. Iris, I need you to go to the kitchens and get together with one of the chefs and make a meal plan for the boys. We need to reintroduce food gradually."

She was glad that her nurses understood her so well. She had handpicked most of them and each were brilliant and knowledgeable and all of them would understand what was wrong with the boys without her having to explain every little thing to them.

"I'll bring some beef broth back with me if you'd like," Iris offered.

"That would be good. Make sure that there is something small for them to eat at all times. We need to make sure that their meals are light and frequent. And make sure that there is plenty of water too."

"Yes doctor," both responded and went about doing the tasks that were set.

Lyra took another deep breath before turning to the door and walking out of it. She really shouldn't have been surprised to see the hallway full with crew mates.

She sighed. "They're fine, now get to bed all of you. It has been a long day and no one but Pops is allowed to see the brats right now. Yes that includes you commander," she said looking at Thatch, who looked as if he were going to protest. "They need their rest."

There were mumbles through the crowd as they dispersed. Really she had never heard of a pirate crew that had nothing but a bunch of mother hens in it. If someone on board was hurt then the whole crew wanted to know how they were and to make sure they were all right. It was nice that they cared for each other but the crew was rather large so it was difficult to deal with sometimes.

She shook her head fondly and the misfits that had become her family before heading to the captain's quarters to give her report.

Whitebeard sat in the infirmary all night watching over the three youngsters while they slept. It was nothing he wouldn't do for any of his children that had gone through such a horrific experience. From all the evidence that had been gathered it was obvious that since they had left the Moby Dick they had been abused in many ways. From what he heard they were physically, mentally, and emotionally abused by almost everyone they had come into contact with for the last month and a half.

The thought of it made him angry. Before Garp had come and reclaimed his grandsons they were full of life and joy. They had brought an energy to his family that he hadn't known could exist. He enjoyed watching as they formed bonds with his sons and daughters and even himself.

He was mad at Garp for taking them away from the safety of his ship and putting them into a situation that allowed them to be enslaved. It wasn't for very long but it was too long for children so young.

He was furious with the man that had brought them to Sabaody. Apparently he had been responsible for many of the injuries that the boys now had. He had also been the one to separate them. He wasn't sure what else the man did but apparently it was enough for Ace to feel the need to rearrange the man's face. He had been assured that Namur had taken care of the man. He wouldn't be bothering anyone ever again.

But he was angry at himself too. If he had started looking for the boys sooner then maybe some of this could have been avoided. If he hadn't allowed Garp to take them at all then there wouldn't have even been the possibility of any of this happening. But that would have been cruel.

Despite everything that Garp said and did he really loved the brats and just wanted what was the best for them. The vice admiral just didn't know how to raise children and should just keep to training marines. Whitebeard agreed that the man could visit occasionally now that official that they would be living on the Moby Dick until they were old enough to look after themselves.

That is if they agreed to it.

He refused to be someone that would hold them against their will. If they chose to leave the ship then he would make sure that they were somewhere safe and that no one who meant them harm could touch them.

He was broken out of his thoughts by a small voice.

"Hi Captain Pops."

He smiled. He couldn't describe how much joy it brought him that Luffy called him that.

"Good morning Luffy. Did you sleep well?"

"Yup except for when Sabo woke up. His back is hurting."

"I heard."

Ace was now sitting next to Luffy rubbing his eyes. "What are you doing here?" he asked bluntly.

"Ace that was rude," Sabo said from his spot where he was still lying in bed. It was probably more comfortable that way with the injuries he had.

"Oh. Sorry."

The old man laughed. "It fine. I'm a little rude myself when I first wake up."

"Uh, sorry for the interruption Pops," a nurse, Alice said with a small bow. "But the boys need to eat before anything else."

"Don't be sorry Alice. They need to be healthy and you're here to see to that."

"Is it more meat juice?" Luffy asked.

She laughed. "Iris said that you were calling the beef broth that. You woke up earlier and had some right? Did you like it?"

"It's not as good as meat but it was still good," he said looking thoughtful.

"I'll let the chef know that you liked it. Doctor Lyra said that you were going to be on a special diet for a while so you'll probably get a chance to have it again. In the mean time I have some freshly squeezed orange juice."

"Is that it," Ace asked taking is cup.

"For now. I'm sure it will probably be enough. If not I'd be happy to get you some more but Iris said that you and Luffy had a bit of trouble with the beef broth."

Ace didn't say anything more, just started sipping his juice.

"Remember. Slowly," she told Luffy as she handed him his cup and a spoon. He pouted but took both and slowly spooned the juice into his mouth. She smiled at the boys and turned back to face the captain. "I'll be in the office if you or the boys need anything please don't hesitate to ask."

"Thank you child."

Seeing the three youngsters slowly drinking their breakfast strengthened his resolve.

"I am here to ask you three a question," he said. The boys looked up at him, curiosity in their eyes. First he needed to make sure that it was their choice. "Do not feel obligated to say yes. If you don't want to there are other options."

They looked up at him with frightened eyes and he had to wonder what he said wrong.

"Are you sending us away again?" Luffy asked quietly.

"No, no, nothing like that. In fact I was want you to take my mark." This time the looks were ones of confusion. "Become my sons and you will never be forced to leave if you don't want to. You can grow up strong and free and then find your own place in the world."

"Does this mean we're going to be pirates?" Luffy asked looking excited.

The old man chuckled at the enthusiasm. "Not for another few years at least."

"Oh." He looked disappointed.

"Y-you want us to stay here? Forever?" Ace asked. He looked as if the offer was too good to be true.

"Of course I do. But you do not have to make your decision now. Think it over. The offer will stand. Even if you say no now, you can always change your minds."

He got up to leave but was stopped. "Yes."

He turned. He hadn't been expecting an answer that quickly. Both Ace and Luffy were looking at Sabo who was looking straight at the captain. "Yes," he repeated. "I want to stay. I want a family and I feel like we belong here. The only time I've ever felt like I belonged was when Luffy, Ace, and I were living on our own. I don't want to go back to having no one in the world. But you have to promise that no one can take us away ever again and that my brothers and I will always be together."

He studied the boy. He looked hopeful, scared, and determined all at the same time. The old captain smiled kindly. "I promise that as long as it is within my power you will never be taken away and that you and your brothers will be together."

The boy was satisfied with the promise.

"Well if Sabo is staying I'll stay," Ace said with a shrug but he looked as if he were fighting to keep a strait face.

The youngest looked distressed though. "What about Grandpa?" he asked. "Won't he be sad?"

The man smiled at the boy's thoughtfulness. "I've already talked to him. We came to an agreement that if this is what you wanted then this is what was best."

Luffy nodded thoughtfully. "Then I want to stay too. I like it here."

The man smiled. "Then welcome home. I am glad to have you back with us my sons."

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