Admiral Sengoku was walking swiftly through the corridors of Navy Head Quarters, greeting other Marines saluting him and ignoring anyone that was looking like they wanted to ask him a question or were on the verge of shoving a document into his hands. Work of that kind had to wait, as he was searching for Garp. The idiot had been called into Fleet Admiral Kong's office for a report but had sent one of his subordinates. And so Kong had sent out Sengoku to find the Vice Admiral, knowing that the Admiral would be able to drag the other man back with him for the overdue meeting.
Outwardly Sengoku had taken the order with his usual stoicism and left the office with a salute, but inwardly he was railing against the fool of a Vice Admiral he called his friend. He didn’t know when that had happened, but both men had served a long time together as Marines. Somewhere along the way Sengokus sanity had faltered under the ongoing assault by Garp's weirdness and had just put up a white flag. Most days he didn’t even have any regrets about it anymore. But today he was more than exasperated with Garp's inability to follow orders he didn’t like.
“Admiral Sengoku!” With a grumble Sengoku stopped in his stride and turned around to wait for the older woman to join him. Vice Admiral Tsuru was another quite close friend, the sanest one in that small circle. Having her at his side made him a bit more confident that he could get Garp to where he was needed, which was why he had stopped at her call.
“I didn’t expect you back at HQ for another week,” he said after greeting her cordially.
“And I would have preferred to stay on my ship but I had to escort Garp back. And yes, our patrols shouldn’t have crossed paths but I asked for backup and he was what I got.”
Sengoku understood her exasperation. Garp and his crew were the best back-ups one could get - and the worst at the same time.
“I am looking for Garp, Kong wants to see him. Do you know where he is hiding?”
Tsuru laughed at that. “Garp is not hiding. He is standing guard.”
“And what or whom is Garp guarding?”
“Follow me,” Tsuru said and turned around to walk back the way she had come.
Sengoku wanted to roll his eyes. Of course, she couldn’t just tell him. That would be too easy.
They went down some stairs, walking into the prisoner tract. With Enies Lobby and Impel Down near at hand there was no need for many cells at HQ and most of them were empty. The few that were occupied had either a handful of pirates waiting for their public executions in them, or some marines. Those were either waiting for a trial or just hotheads that needed a wake-up call.
Sengoku knew that Garp had some experiences with being thrown into the brig for insubordination, though that had happened mostly at the start of his career as a marine. He also knew that the vice admiral sometimes came down here to laugh at the hotheads and to let them partake in his own brand of tough love to get them back on the straight and narrow. No one better than the master of toeing the line between justifiable disobedience and stupidly prideful insubordination to teach them acceptable behaviors and how to explain unacceptable ones away.
Tsuru lead him down a corridor to the medical wing inside the prison tract and in front of one of the rooms stood Garp, looking through the large glass window. Sengoku frowned when he saw Garp's stance and the foreboding look on his face. The Vice Admiral didn’t move a muscle, though Sengoku knew that he must have heard them coming. Usually his friend would have at least looked in their direction but his stance grew even firmer and the look on his face grew stormier. Sengoku looked down to Tsuru, asking silently if she knew why Garp was acting so strange. She sighed and shook her head.
Sengoku directed his gaze to what Garp was so fixated on. A small boy was laying mostly naked on a steel table, a strategically placed towel protecting his dignity. Sengoku took notes in his mind: the child seemed to be about four or five years old, though he also looked severely malnourished which could have stunted his growth; his skin was clean and free of any scars or blemishes; cleaned but lifeless black hair was flopping onto the table; eyes of unknown color were staring unblinkingly at the ceiling. The boy didn’t move a muscle while a doctor was hovering over him, prodding him with gloved fingers and medical tools, giving a through the glass inaudible report to a nurse sitting at a table in a corner. The child must have been sedated but not with a high enough dosage to put him to sleep.
Everything about him seemed quite unremarkable. But why then had he he been brought to the prisons medical wing and not a civilian hospital? And why was Garp behaving so strangely? Something was niggling at the back of his mind, a thought he couldn’t quite grasp. He looked to Tsuru to give him the missing piece of the puzzle to get a clear picture of the situation. She didn’t disappoint, pulling a dirty folder out of her jacket and giving it to him. Inside he found a paper with a photograph and some facts about the boy. The most interesting piece of information was the ocean he was born in. Sengokus eyes grew large as the most logical answer came to him. “Rogers child.”
“Vice Admiral Tsuru seems to think so,” Garp said with a sneer.
Sengoku turned to Tsuru, who didn’t look like she had heard the disdain about her decision in Garps voice. The man nearly sounded like when he talked about perceived or real enemies who he would like to pound to a pulp, not like he was talking about a friend that Tsuru had been to him for nearly as long as Sengoku had. They had had their differences but never had he heard Garp talk about Tsuru in this kind of tone.
“I broke enough rules by allowing you to take him from that island,” Tsuru said stoically but Garp didn’t react. Sengoku wedged himself between the two vice admirals, knowing how dangerous it could be when Garps anger turned icy cold. The Vice Admiral was a loudmouth and could explode in a fiery anger at the slightest provocation, but he was predictable then. When his anger grew cold he was much more dangerous, nearly too much to handle even for Sengoku. Standing in between those two he hoped he could hold Garp down should the vice admiral decide to attack Tsuru.
As it had been her mission from which that child had been brought back he ordered her to give the report. He hoped that he could glean some explanation for Garp's rage from her words.
“I was informed by the intelligence division about a call made by Doflamingo to one of his crew about a lesser subordinate poaching from his business and where the subordinate could be found. I requested backup and made my way to the mentioned island, intent to get there before Doflamingos men. The Vice Admiral joined me half a day out from the target. We got there in time, closing the operation down. The criminals were killed in the ambush. We found money, weapons and branded humans to be introduced into the slave market. Meticulously documented inventory lists showed them to be free people, but as they were branded as property of the Celestial Dragons I had them corralled to be transported to Sabaody. They resisted violently and were killed.”
Sengoku nodded his understanding. Tsuru had followed all the laws and rules she was bound by and this was the ideal outcome. Better dead than being a slave. And the humans seemed to have the same idea.
“We found the boy there. He latched onto the Vice Admiral in such a way that we couldn’t get him off and as he was not branded I decided to take him off the island. Later I read his file. A copy has been already sent up to the Fleet Admiral. The boy has been there for over a year and he seems to have a high healing factor as they couldn’t get the brand to stick to him for longer than a fortnight at most. He was tested and is not in possession of a devil fruit. The rest of the file lead me to belief that he is the late Pirate Kings son and I informed the Fleet Admiral. I got ordered to bring him back to HQ and at our arrival here was told to bring him down here.”
What Sengoku got from Tsurus emphasis on her orders was that Garp hadn’t gotten the same ones. He frowned at that thought. Because of his long tenure and his status as a hero Garp had enough pull to get away with behavior that would have other marines seen courtmartialed on the spot, but if Sengoku had read Kong's mood right Garps was on very thin ice right now and even he had to bow down to the Fleet Admirals will in the end. Sengoku took a deep breath, no sense in worrying about that right now. There was another question on his mind that needed an answer. “You couldn’t get him off Garp?”
Instead of a verbal answer, Garp rolled up the sleeves of his coat and shirt on one arm and held it out to him. There were ten tiny bruises on his underarm.
“Little tyke got a strong grip if he wants to. Went through layers of clothing and armament haki. Wouldn’t let go until we were an hour away from the island.” He sounded like he tried to keep pride and wonderment out of his voice, failing spectacularly. Sengoku felt his eyes twitch. He could already feel a headache coming on with thinking about the implications and consequences a child with unknown strength and unmatched healing abilities could have. Even if he wasn’t Rogers son which they yet had to prove. That boy would only bring trouble. Tsuru should have put down her foot on the island and terminated him then.
“He should at least be tested properly,” Garp said, pulling Sengoku out of his own head.
“That would be just a waste of resources” Tsuru countered and Garp bristled.
“What happened to ‘innocent until proven guilty’?”
Sengoku wanted to snort at that. The vice admiral should know by now that life seldom worked that way, though that thought left a bitter aftertaste in his own mind.
“You know quite well that this is a different case. We can’t chance it that the child of Gold Roger reaches adulthood.”
“I don’t care how it looks like, I know that this isn’t the child of those rumors,” Garp said with conviction.
“How would you know?” Sengoku asked with a suspicious tone. Garp and Gold Roger had been enemies but he also knew that Garp always had a good amount of respect for the pirate, though he had never divulged his reasons for that.
“I just know.”
Sengoku waited for a more elaborate answer but Garp kept quiet. He knew that the vice admiral had good instincts, but those weren’t instincts speaking, this was firsthand knowledge. He knew that he should press Garp for a more concrete answer, but he didn’t want to. Some things should be kept secret.
“You are more unreasonable than usual.” Sengoku sighed. “Let’s say he isn’t who we think he is, what then? He still is a slave if he is branded or not. You’ve got the documents to prove that as a fact.”
“How can you even - he is just a little boy!”
Just a boy. Like the one Sengoku himself had found. Just an innocent caught in the machinations of adults, criminals and marines alike. But Rosinante had been a completely different case. Thoughts of him had no place in this situation right now. He wanted to reiterate his thoughts about how a suspected pirates child couldn’t be allowed to live, when the doctor stepped towards the child with a sharp-looking knife in his hand and made a cut on the boy's arm, which then bled profusely. Sengoku had no time to digest what he was seeing, as a shriek sounded from the now open door and Garp pushed the doctor aside roughly, already putting a piece of cloth on the wound. The boy didn’t move, just stared apathetically at the ceiling.
Sengoku and Tsuru went into the room, seeing the doctor getting up again, an angry expression on his face. But he held back, seeing the admiral and two vice admirals in his space. Sengoku looked to Garp who was cleaning the wound and then showed them the skin on the boy's arm. It was still a bit reddish from the blood but the cut had healed already, just a faint line that seemed to grow even fainter as they were watching.
“His healing factor is quite fascinating” the doctor said, watching the healing cut with a look that made Sengoku's stomach churn. “I am quite sure that his skin regenerated the burned cells, which is why he doesn’t have a brand. I will do more tests to see how far his healing abilities go, if he can regrow cut of limbs and things like that-”
“The hell you will” Garp growled, making the doctor pale rapidly and stop his explanation.
The vice admiral was putting the boy in clothes that had been lying on a chair to the side. They looked like a re-purposed marine uniform, pants and shirt cut to a fitting length for the boy, though they were still to big for his malnourished frame. Sengoku was surprised how fast and gently Garp handled the clothing of the unresponsive child.
“How long will the medication last?” Sengoku asked but the doctor just shrugged.
“I don’t quite know. It is quite fascinating how much drugs it took to stop his body from just evaporating them” the doctor said with a scary gleam in his eyes. “He has a high metabolism. We could kill a small sea king with the amount of tranquilizers we put into him just to keep him from squirming. It really is fascinating.”
What Sengoku found fascinating was that the doctor didn’t fall over dead from the murderous intent Garp was leaking and that he didn’t even seem to care about how gruesome and perverted his intentions sounded. He sounded more like a mad scientist than a doctor employed by the Navy.
“Do you have the preliminary report for the Fleet Admiral?” Tsuru asked.
“Oh yes, of course, the report,” the doctor said, glee and anticipation leaving his face, looking quite neutral now. The nurse gave the folder she had been writing into to the Vice Admiral.
“I am up to 99% sure that this is that pirate scums child and I don’t think it necessary to do any further tests. I have put my recommendation in there that the boy should be brought to a secure facility where his healing factor can be explored more, just until we got all of the data, before terminating him.” He talked like he wanted to assure the marines that there would be no way that the supposed offspring of the pirate king would be allowed to live to wreak havoc on the world like his father did. Garps murderous intent intensified again, but Sengoku felt that this was a good recommendation - if that was Rogers child in their hands. It would be only logical to see if his healing abilities could be used to further the cause of the navy.
And though he was thinking like that, he couldn’t help but think about Rosinante again. He would have killed the doctor if that had been his little foundling. The doctors willingness to experiment on a little child with not thought about consequences for it was quite distasteful. He looked at Garp who had gotten out of his coat and put the child into it, holding him tightly in his arms. He felt ill at the drugged look on such a small child.
Looking at the doctor he pulled himself together. “We are on our way to the Fleet Admiral” he said, gesturing to Garp and Tsuru to leave the room. Garp did so quickly, but Tsuru threw him a questioning look, before following the vice admiral out of the room and out of sight.
“I will ensure that your preliminary report is delivered. Have a good day” he said and left the room.
“You can’t take the boy with you,” the doctor said indignantly. “Admiral, this is against regulations and -”
Sengoku closed the door behind himself, tuning out whatever the doctor had wanted to add to his rant.
He sped along to catch up to the two marines, nearly running into them as they had just stopped around the corner, waiting for him.
“You care to explain what that was about?” Tsuru asked and Garp looked equally interested in the answer.
“Rosinante” he just said. He could see understanding in Garp's eyes and Tsuru looked resigned. She started walking and they followed her through the corridors.
Sengoku stayed at Garps side. The child was looking disorientated around himself, but Garp pushed the small head onto his broad chest and told him to rest, the marines movements careful and his voice soft and calming. The boy looked at Garp with dull and sleepy eyes, before he closed them, his body relaxing into a drug induced sleep. Garp pulled at the fabric of the coat so that the face of the child was hidden, only a few tufts of black hair looking out.
They were walking through the prison without speaking and without looking at each other. Sengoku could nearly see the cogs turning in Garps head and he could feel that the vice admiral grew calmer and more relaxed the farther away they got from the medical wing. He was still alert and not his usual boisterous self, but Sengoku could live with that. He hoped that Garp was carefully thinking about his next steps, especially what he would say to the Fleet Admiral. No matter what anyone else would say, Garp was an honorable man and a good marine. He usually followed the program. The times he didn’t he mostly had good reasons. Sengoku just hoped for his friend that his reasons this time were good enough.
“Thank you for getting him out of there,” Garp said, interrupting Sengoku's thoughts.
“For the time being, Garp,” Sengoku said, not breaking his stride or mimic. “I won’t interfere again and you will follow the Fleet Admirals orders, no matter what kind of hold that child has on you. Do not put me into a situation where I have to put you down!” Sengoku said harshly, trying to get through the thick head of his friend and subordinate. “I do not want to have to kill you but I will if you force my hand. Do you understand?”
Garp looked like he wanted to explode but then his stance relaxed and he looked resigned. “I understand, Admiral Sengoku,” he said at last. “But I can’t make any promises.”
That was not what Sengoku had wanted to hear. “You swore an oath, vice admiral,” he said through gritted teeth. “You swore an oath to obey orders and to follow the law-”
“I did,” Garp interrupted him, his voice calm and strong. “I also swore with that same oath to protect those that cannot protect themselves, to fight for the innocent. I fail at that often enough but curiously I am never reprimanded for it. Now I am doing what that oath asks me to do and I am facing repercussions.”
Neither Sengoku nor Tsuru had anything to say about that for the moment.
“You do what you have to do, Admiral, as will I when the time comes.”
“Enough,” Tsuru said with a stern glance to both men. “We are wanted in the Fleet Admirals office. Let him decide what the right thing to do may be.” She glared at them until they nodded and started to walk again, now with Tsuru in between them.
They must have made quite the curious sight as they were walking though Head Quarters up to the Fleet Admirals office, as almost all of the Marines they met on the way stopped what they were doing to look at them and especially at the weird bundle in vice admiral Garp's arm, but the grim faces of the three high ranking marines stopped anyone from approaching them, which was for the better.
Garps subordinate, a young marine by the name of Bogart, was waiting for them in front of the Fleet Admirals office. Bogart had served under his stepfather, progressing uncommonly slow through the ranks. After the late captain had made a fatal miscalculation Rosinante had asked Garp to take the younger man under his wing. At first Sengoku had thought that Bogart wasn't a good fit for the navy and that Garp would eat him alive. But in the month he was serving under the vice admiral Bogart had developed a backbone and was able to show that he deserved a much higher rank than he had.
He saluted them as he saw them and stepped into Garp's way when the older man tried to walk into Kong’s office. “I am sorry, sir, the Fleet Admiral is in a meeting with the Gorosei via Den Den Mushi. He gave orders not to be disturbed and asked me to tell you to wait until you are called in.”
Garp looked skeptically at his subordinate. “Kong got an aide for messages like that.”
“And he knows quite well that you would ignore the poor dear” Tsuru said calmly. “Are you to join us in the meeting later?” she asked Bogart.
“No, ma’am. I am just to wait for you and then to go back to my duties.”
Sengoku saw Tsuru's questioning look why he was still there then and he remembered that she hadn’t met him yet and didn’t know the full story of how he had come to serve under Garp.
Bogart turned to Garp who was looking at the bundle in his arms. “Your orders, sir?”
Garp looked up in surprise. “Hn? Orders? Well, for starters you could find some food for the little tyke. It surely would help him digest whatever drugs the doctor pumped him full with.”
Bogart reached into a pocket of his coat and pulled out a brown paper bag.
“A sandwich for you, a small container with bland porridge for the boy, water, utensils, and napkins.” Garp put the bag into his own pocket.
“Mine is done and waiting for the needed signatures on your desk, sir.”
“Also on your desk, sir, in the order in which it needs to be worked on.”
Garp stared at him but Bogart didn’t budge.
“Anything else to do for today?”
“Nothing of the usual, sir.” Bogart then looked at the boy.
“Kong will decide what happens with him,” Garp said, a slightly annoyed tone in his voice.
“Then my tasks for today are done. Should I wait in your office?”
“Nah, you are free to go. I would recommend working on your fighting style. Your defense is a tad weak. I don’t think that I need your help anymore today, but please keep in reach of a Den Den Mushi.”
“Yes, sir. Good day, Admiral Sengoku, Vice Admiral Tsuru.” He saluted and then went on his way.
“You should be ashamed of yourself. He is not your personal assistant, though he may be your direct subordinate,” Tsuru said as soon as Bogart was out of sight.
“That is not on me,” Garp protested, his voice sounding resigned. “His old captain had trained him up like a dog, following every command and thinking a dozen orders ahead. I am slowly training him out of it. He isn’t doing my paperwork anymore and he only brought something small to eat and not enough to feed a small army.”
“And the recommendation to go train and to stay reachable?” she asked but it was Sengoku who answered.
“A safety net.” He had some talks with Garp about Bogart and even gave him some advice when the other man was at his wit's end. “So he doesn’t get anxiety about being useless.”
“How exactly came he to serve under your command?” Tsuru asked.
“Rosinante knew him from training and thought he would be a good fit for me. He isn’t yet cleared to work aboard a ship again, we are still determining how many ranks he can skip.”
“Where is he at now?”
“After nearly ten years of service his captain, also his stepfather, didn’t allow him to get more than Petty Officer.” Both Sengoku and Garp frowned at that thought. Such a waste of time and talent.
Tsuru was watching them carefully. “Where do you see him?”
“Lieutenant at least, but I think at most he’ll get Ensign for now,” Garp said and Sengoku nodded. “The captain was killed in an ambush by pirates about a month ago. As Bogart tells it the pirates Captain took offense at his attempt to order him around. Most of the Marines on the ship got away with their lives but the captain was mutilated and Bogart was stopped from helping him.”
“A month ago? And I just hear about such an attack now?”
“Need to know” Sengoku said before Garp could answer her.
“And I don’t.”
“You do, but the Fleet Admiral was to debrief all commissioned officers with the rank of captain and above who weren’t at head quarters a month ago personally” Sengoku explained.
“Give me the cliff notes.”
Sengoku looked disapprovingly at her but she just looked on patiently. “Remember the order not to trespass into Whitebeards territory?”
Tsuru nodded. “And the idiot captain did.”
“And mouthed off to Whitebeard personally. I don’t like orders from Head Quarters not to ‘trespass’ either but it is better to be cautious and not lead our troops to slaughter, especially when Whitebeard is in such a bad mood like he was a month ago.”
“What was he grouchy about? I would have heard if one of his crew got killed.”
“New territory. An out of the way island no one cared about and the World Government is glad that it has a good reason not to send help anymore, not that they ever had to do much as the island wasn’t part of it. The only reason they did was that some marines came from there and their families were still living there.”
“Were the families of Navy members relocated?”
“Most of them,” Garp said with a sigh. “Benedictus asked to leave the Navy, he had personal reasons not to leave the island. Kong got Whitebeard to allow navy vessels into his new territory to relocate the Marines, but we were to keep away from any other territory. The Gorosei agreed to the bargain. But Bogarts captain didn’t care for the orders, didn’t even tell the men on his ship about them, then he mouthed off and payed the price. Those men who were alive after getting the news about the orders from Head Quarters, laid down their weapons and were left alone. Bogart nearly didn’t make it out if a few of his comrades hadn’t held him back. As I said that man had trained him like a dog. Someone told Whitebeard that Bogart was related to the captain, to which the man mouthed off more to Whitebeard, disparaging his stepson, which in turn made the pirate act lenient towards Bogart and much more grouchier towards the captain.”
“So Whitey is a fairy mother?”
All three stared at the face that looked out of the cocoon in Garp's arm. The boy still looked tired but like the drugs had left his body already. With the dose the doctor had given him that shouldn’t be possible.
“What?” Garp asked, not sure what he had heard the boy ask.
“May said that fairy mothers help girls and boys get away from their bad stepparents. And Bogy's stepfather was bad, no? And Whitey helped Bogy so he is a fairy mother.”
“Oh, you mean a fairy godmother,” Garp exclaimed, now understanding the train of thought the boy was on. “Well you could say that, but Whitebeard is a bad fairy godfather. He helps all the bad boys and girls.”
“Children aren’t bad,” the boy protested and Garp raised an eyebrow. “Children are good. Sometimes they are mean because they are sad or angry, but they are still good. If they do really bad things it’s because they weren’t taught right. May said so.”
“Did she? May sounds quite smart.” Garp said with a smile and the boy nodded enthusiastically.
“She was, she knew a lot of stuff and many stories.”
“You love stories and fairy tales, hm? What is your favorite story?”
“Knights in shining armor who save the day. But the bad man didn’t like May telling those.” The boy's voice had grown quieter with each word he said and he was looking like he was trying to shrink.
Garp held him tightly. “It is alright, the bad man isn’t here. Did he hurt May for telling stories?” He was not surprised that the boy broke out in silent tears at that and nodded.
“It was my fault” he whispered heart brokenly. He seemed to see that Garp wanted to protest that so he spoke before the older man could. “It is. The bad man said so and the other people too. They were so mad at me. But I didn’t mean to make the bad man mad, I didn’t.”
Garp felt his heart break at the big teary eyes looking into his own, but he steeled himself to try to calm the boy down again. “I know that you didn’t mean to and I am sure that it wasn’t your fault. It was the bad man's fault.”
The boy shook his head so hard that Garp thought he may hurt himself, so he pushed the head to his chest again, holding him so that the boy could still see him but not move that much. “Will you tell me what you did that made him so mad?” he asked quietly and calmly.
The boy looked imploringly at him not to have to do it, but then he sniffled and nodded. He was nearly whispering so that Garp really had to concentrate to understand him. “I asked May why there were bad people in the world. And she said they were all the little boys and girls who hadn’t someone to teach them all grown up, all those that had no one to save them, so they become the monsters they were afraid of when they were little, so they hadn’t to be afraid anymore. But she said it wasn’t right to become a monster to chase the other monsters away. I am afraid, but I don’t want to become a monster.”
“That is a good thought, keep that in mind, and you won’t become one,” Garp said with a smile. “Did the bad man hear what May told you?” The boy nodded and tears flooded his eyes again. “He didn’t like it, did he?” A shake of the head.
“He was very loud and then he took her away from me and out and there was a loud noise and then it was silent. He came back in again but May didn’t come back again. The bad man said it was my fault, that I made him do it and that I was a bad boy. I didn’t mean to be a bad boy, I really, really didn’t mean to.”
Garp sighed and moved the boy so that he could put both arms around him and hugged him as strongly as he dared to, not wanting to hurt the little boy more than he already was. “You are a very good boy and very, very brave.” He felt the boy shake his head ‘no’ again and heard a mumble that sounded like ‘not brave’. “Oh, I think you were. You were afraid to tell me what happened, weren't you? But you did it anyway. Being brave means doing something though you are afraid of doing it. You did really good and I am proud of you.” He hugged the now bawling boy closer to his chest and started walking up and down the corridor while humming the first song that came to his mind, which had one of Sengoku's eyebrows twitch in annoyance when Garp looked to him and Tsuru.
“Binks sake, really?” Sengoku growled but Garp just grinned, not stopping his humming, which along with the movement had a calming effect on the boy. Garp chuckled when the boy started humming the tune also.
He held the boy a bit away from himself so that he could look him in the eyes. “Feel a bit better?” The boy nodded. Garp smiled at that.
The door was opened and the Fleet Admirals aide stepped out, looking quite vexed at seeing who was standing in the hall. “Admiral, Vice Admirals,” he said, trying to hide a sneer when he looked at Garp, “please keep it down. The Fleet Admiral is still in a conference, but he will see you momentarily.” With that he made to go back inside but was stopped by a voice from inside the room.
“I will see them now. Please send them in.”
“Yes, sir” the aide answered and got out of the way, gesturing to the marines to come in, looking curiously at the boy in Garp's arms.
They went into the first room of the Fleet Admirals office, which was just a small reception area with the aides desk and a few cupboards and bookcases and a few chairs. At the end of the rooms was a door which lead into Kong's office. It was open and with a wave of the aides hand they went on through, followed by the aide who stopped at the door, looking towards Kong. The Fleet Admiral was sitting at his desk looking disapprovingly at Garp.
“I hope there is a good reason for the boy to be out of medical care,” he said.
Before Garp could open his mouth, Sengoku stepped forward, putting a hand on his shoulder and squeezed it once as a warning to keep quiet.
“I was concerned by the doctors unseemly conduct towards the boy and thought it better to remove him from the medical wing, as all the important examinations have been done, and the boy was deemed healthy enough after his lengthy captivity. I have the doctors preliminary report for you here, sir. I would also ask for the doctor to be put on probation and that he undergo an examination looking for starting insanity.”
Kong just sighed at that. “Rubnofski, please have it seen to that the needed forms for the Admirals recommendation concerning the doctor are drawn up and that the man is informed and detained if he resists the examination.”
“Yes, sir” the aide said.
“But before you do that, please make a call to the communications division and have them sent someone up to install the technology for a video conference call in my office. Tell them to hasten. One doesn’t make the Gorosei wait too long. And after that have someone bring the boys things up to my office.”
“Yes, sir” the aide said, leaving the room but keeping the door open.
Kong gave the waiting marines a signal to sit down on the settee in front of his table. There was barely enough space for the three adults, so Garp pulled the food bag out of his pocket and then put the boy on his lap.
“If you allowed him to be taken out of the medical wing downstairs, why does Garp have him?”
Both Garp and the boy looked up at that, the food bag open between them.
“If I may, sir?” Tsuru said and got a nod from the Fleet Admiral. “As I stated in my report the boy took a hold of the vice admiral when we uprooted the operation and he seems to have taken a likening to Garp, which in my opinion he returns. In the end it is easier for the lad to stay with a trusted person for the moment.”
“You are not in favor of that.” It wasn’t a question and Tsuru leaned forward, stapling her fingers under her chin.
“I find the mutual attachment of the two worrisome, sir, as of yet it isn’t known what is to happen to the boy.”
At that Kong sat up straighter and though he was still talking to Tsuru he was looking at Garp. “Vice Admiral Garp has to know that he is not following regulations at the moment, but to ensure a smooth process in the determination of the boys future it will be allowed until concise orders are given, which he will follow to the word, won’t you, Vice Admiral Garp?”
At this all eyes were on the vice admiral, who was concentrating on eating his sandwich and that the boy was eating his porridge without spilling it everywhere. “Garp are you even listening?” Kong bellowed, scaring the boy in dropping the small container which Garp grabbed before it could turn over and gave it back to the boy with a soothing smile before sending a glare at the Fleet Admiral.
“I am listening” he said, trying to keep his voice neutral.
“And?” Kong said.
“As I told the Admiral before, I will do what I’ll have to do.”
Sengoku and Tsuru tensed at that but Kong deflated in his seat with a put upon sigh. “Why do I even put up with you?”
“Because I am good at my job.”
Kong wiped a hand across his face. “I can’t wait until I don’t have to deal with you anymore. You may be a hero to the navy, but you are a pain in my ass.”
“You are a hero?” the little boy asked with big eyes and wonder in his voice, the spoon halfway up to his mouth, tipping slightly and spilling the porridge back into the container. “Like in the stories?”
Garp nudged him and the boy righted the spoon but didn’t eat, just looking at the man.
“Kind of” Garp said with an embarrassed grin.
“But you don’t have a shining armor?” the boy questioned.
“Ach, that would be just a hindrance. Fighting is hard and dirty work, and I would feel rather bogged down with such a thing and that would make me annoyed, which is never a good thing.” The boy looked at the other people, Garp thought for confirmation on that last thing he had said, but no one was looking at the boy, so he went back to his food, a thoughtful look on his face.
There was a knock outside the office and they heard the aide letting people enter. The man came into the office proper and told the Fleet Admiral that the men from the communications division were there and ready to work on putting up their equipment. Kong bid them to get inside and told them to set it up so that all those occupying the office could be seen and see the monitor on which the Gorosei would be shown. The boy was again neglecting his food, too busy watching the men setting up the Den Den Mushi and monitor and getting all the needed cables sorted.
The aide brought a Den Den Mushi to the man leading the set up and he was talking to someone on the other end in the office of the Gorosei so that the connection between the Den Den Mushis could be made.
Two additional men came in, each carrying a large trunk, which they put at Kong’s sign next to his desk. They would still be in focus of the Den Den Mushi.
As he saw the trunks brought in, the boy tried to get off of Garps lap, but the man’s hold on him was too strong.
“You can look at them later, if the Fleet Admiral allows it.”
“But they are mine!” the boy protested and Garp looked to the Fleet Admiral what he should do.
But they were interrupted by the man leading the set up of the conference call. “Excuse me, sir, we are ready to link you to the Gorosei.”
“Thank you, just give us a minute for a debriefing” Kong said and the man saluted, ushering the workers out of the office to wait in the aides office until they were called back in.
The boy seemed to forget about the trunks for the moment, looking curiously at the sleeping Den Den Mushi, and then at Kong who was clearing his throat to get their attention.
“Following Vice Admiral Tsurus report and having read the copy of his folder I found it necessary to inform the Five Elders. Reporting to them about the boys circumstances I expected to get a decisive order but found myself in the situation of having put a stick into an ant nest.”
“So they knew about him beforehand?” Garp asked surprised.
Kong shook his head. “They did not. But the island this young boy is said to have been born on made them sit up and take notice. They ordered this conference call, to see the boy and anything that may be in his possession, before deciding on a verdict for his future. As you two were instrumental in the acquiring of all the information and body of evidence, so to speak, it behooves you to be part of the meeting as you can give your own reports undiluted and can handle the questions that are sure to come without interference.” Saying that he gave the vice admirals a stern look that they were to behave themselves and not to embarrass him. He didn’t worry too much about Tsuru, but Garp sometimes was a loose cannon, though he was admittedly one of the navy's best men. Tsuru nodded and, after a moment and another sharp look from the Fleet Admiral, Garp also gave a nod of understanding.
“And me, sir?” Sengoku asked in a bored voice though he didn’t fool anyone. He was quite curious how the Fleet Admiral would explain his own involvement in this conference.
“Let’s be clear, Admiral Sengoku - if my wishes are followed and you keep up with your work, you stand to inherit my position and I will take every chance I get while I am still Fleet Admiral to educate you in the tasks and headaches the position entails. Use this as a training exercise in dealing with the governments highest authorities. I also hope that your vast experience and knowledge about your colleagues characters and temperaments will be a help in running this meeting as smoothly and as fast as possible.”
“Thank you, sir, I hope to prove your confidence in my being able to do so right.” Inwardly Sengoku wasn’t as calm. Those words made him a glorified babysitter, especially for Garp and he had enough of that on a daily basis, though it was good to hear that Kong wanted him as a successor. It was a high honor.
“See that you do” Kong just said, before looking at Garp again. Garp tried to meet his eyes only to notice that the Fleet Admiral was not looking at him but at the boy in his lap. Unconsciously he held him tighter to his body.
“Do you have a name, boy?” Kong asked him, trying to keep his tone even and nonthreatening. But it didn’t seem to work as the boy, now aware that the man on the other side of the table was indeed speaking to him, turned away from him to hide his face in Garps chest.
Garp stood up with him in his arms, wanting to step aside, keeping the boy hidden away.
“Garp, we do not have time for that.”
“Just one moment, sir. Please.”
Not used to Garp actually asking for permission, he sighed and waved him away. The three marines around the table were curiously looking at Garp and the child, until Garp put his back to them. They could neither see nor hear what Garp was saying, but just a short while later they could hear the little boy giggle. Then Garp came back, sitting down and putting the boy back on his lap, setting him up so that his back was to Garps chest and he now was looking directly at the Fleet Admiral. Garp was holding him safe and still on his lap and leaned forward a bit to stage whisper into the boys ears: “Can you tell Fleet Admiral Kong your full name?”
“It is hard,” the boy said with a small pout.
“Try your best,” Garp said encouragingly.
The boy said some words silently as if he was rehearsing them before having to say them out loud, once or twice shaking his head and creasing his brow in concentration, before taking a deep breath and saying it out loud, his tongue stumbling a bit over the not often used words: “Tōkō Harison Jēmusu of Otogi-” the little boy stopped there for a moment, sounding out the word silently before going on slowly, saying it one syllable after the other “Otogibanashi Island.”
“Well done” Garp crowed and the boy turned his head to grin at him.
“That is correct” the Fleet Admiral said.
“You know? Why did I have to say that?” the boy pouted and Garp tried unsuccessfully to smother a chuckle.
“Did you coach him to say that?” Tsuru asked with slight disbelief.
Questioningly the boy looked at Garp.
“You want to tell them what I said when we were over there?” Garp asked the boy who nodded.
“Important people want to talk to me and I have to be nice and brave and not lie.”
“And what did you tell me about who told you your name?”
“Mommy did. She had me try everyday, it was hard. Then she goes away with daddy to heaven and I still try and say it every day so I don’t forget. The bad man said I don’t have a name, only calls me boy, but he is wrong.”
“That is right, you have a good, strong name. Did your mommy call you something else?”
The boy looked sad at that. “My little Hare-bear” he whispered and looked like he wanted to melt back into Garp.
“How about we call you Harry for now, it is shorter and easier?” Garp asked him softly and the little boy nodded, his eyes downcast.
“Harry it is then” the Fleet Admiral said and waited until the boy looked up at him. “Garp-san is right, we are going to speak with very important people and you have to be on your best behavior, speak only when spoken to and answer their questions truthfully.”
“What if I don’t know the answer?” Harry asked in a meek voice.
“Just try your best,” the Fleet Admiral said with a sigh, before taking a small Den Den Mushi off of his desk and calling his aide to send in the man from the Communications Division. The men came in, followed by the aide, who took the paper bag and the utensils from Garp and then looked around if everything was in order in the office, before going back out again.
Fleet Admiral Kong stood up, followed by the Admiral and Vice Admirals, looking in the direction of the still black monitor before looking at the man in charge of the big Den Den Mushi. “We are ready.”
The man saluted and spoke into the Den Den Mushi in his hand. The monitor flickered and then produced a slightly grainy picture of the Gorosei in their office. The man checked the cables and after a moment the picture got clearer. The man saluted and then left the office.
The Fleet Admiral, Admiral and Vice Admirals saluted the five seated men, Garp a moment later than the others, trying to get a better grip on Harry, who just stared in wonder at the monitor, but remembering the Fleet Admiral's and Garp's words he kept quiet.
“Be seated” one of the men on the monitor said and the four sat down again.
Then Tsuru and after her Garp were ordered to give their reports about their journey to the island, the happenings on the island itself and then their journey back.
It took a while until the whole tale was told twice, with questions and comments being thrown in by the Gorosei at random times and Harry had leaned back into Garps chest, being calmed down by his voice. The steady stream of words in the deep calm voice made him feel sleepy and he found himself having to fight to keep his eyes open, forgetting that the eyes of all the other people in the room and on the other side of the monitor were on him. But nobody said anything to him or even something interesting about him that would have gotten his attention.
At last Garp was done with his report and then the Gorosei asked Admiral Sengoku about his involvement with the boy and he talked about the happenings in the medical wing, though he kept wisely quiet on the talk he had with Garp and Tsuru on the way up to the Fleet Admirals office.
Hearing about the encounter with the doctor woke Harry up a bit, but there were more questions to be asked about the incident and answer to be gotten from the vice admirals. Hearing Garp tell about his side of the story, though he tried to be as neutral and objective as he could be, Harry was calmed down again. He couldn’t help but yawn at one time, remembering to put his hand in front of his mouth as May had taught him to do, not that anyone else on the island had cared about whether he did so or not. But she had thought it important to give him some lessons in manners, for as long as she was allowed to do so. At last the Gorosei asked if the boy himself had given any pertinent information, which made Harry perk up again now that they were talking about him personally. At that question the Fleet Admiral gave a short report on what had happened in his office and what Harry had told them about his name, origin and the bit that his parents were deceased.
Garp nudged him and Harry looked to the monitor, seeing the Gorosei all looking directly at him. He straightened up a little and looked questioningly at them.
“Your name is Tōkō Harison Jēmusu, is that right?” one asked.
Harry nodded and Garp nudged him again, stage whispering ‘words’.
“Yes, sir, that is right.” After he had said that Harry looked up at Garp to see if he had gotten it right this time and the man just smiled before nudging him again to look at the monitor.
“And you come from Otogibanashi Island in South Blue?”
“Yes, sir” Harry said without having to be nudged this time.
“Where did you get that information from?” another asked and Harry just looked at him and then at Garp as he did not understand the question.
“Who told you that?” the first reworded it and Harry looked back at him.
“My mummy, sir.”
The Gorosei exchanged a look at that, which Harry didn’t like though he didn’t knew what it meant. He just knew that the look bothered him. But he didn’t dare to say something, not wanting to behave badly and make those important men mad.
One man gave a sign to someone those in the office couldn’t see and the monitor went black again. The adults stiffened at that, looking at each other with questions in their eyes they didn’t dare to voice. Garps grip on Harry grew so tight that the boy had to tell him that the man was hurting him. Garp let him go but Harry pulled his arms out of the coat and took the hands of the older man and put them around himself in a light hug, looking up at the man with a sad smile.
“Was I bad?” he asked into the quiet of the office and all eyes were on him, while he just concentrated on Garp and keeping those strong arms where he wanted them to hug him.
“I do not think so,” Garp answered with a strained smile, feeling bad for having hurt the small boy and fearing the outcome of this meeting and interrupted conference call. He didn’t know the significance of the island in the South Blue, never having heard of Otogibanashi Island. First he thought that it was a figment of Harrys imagination. He knew the boy liked his stories and fairy tales. But as the Gorosei seemed to have some knowledge about that Island, it must exist. Garp just didn’t know if the existence of that island and Harry having been born there was good or bad news.
Neither one of his colleagues looked like they had ever heard of the island or knew why the Gorosei had interrupted the meeting. Question was also if they would come back on again.
Just as Garp was thinking about it the monitor flickered again and then the picture cleared. As one they stood and saluted as they had in the beginning and as before they were told to be seated.
“What we are about to tell you is under no circumstances to be repeated.”
“Yes sir” the adults answered as one.
“Otogibanashi Island is an unplottable island in the South Blue, hidden by its inhabitants and only to be found if they want it be found. The inhabitants keep to themselves and the World Government has no hold over it. We have no strife with them since a skirmish about seven hundred years ago where they sunk an entire armada without any loss of live on either side. The powers then agreed to let each other live in peace. We do not bother them and they do not bother us. And as far as history has taught us they would be a foe the World Government would not survive. ‘Fairy Tale’ Island is a misnomer, a name which the world has given it as it is only spoken about in reference to being just that, a fairy tale. To us it is also known as the Island of Forgotten Heroes, Death’s Island, Island of Death’s Heroes and other monikers like that.”
Garp felt his eyebrows rise at that ridiculous sounding story of their history, but seeing the Gorosei's faces he knew that they were serious about it and a part of him started to believe it. And this little boy came from such an ominous sounding island.
“It is known that the inhabitants are at times prone to venture forth from their island, but the last documented and verified case of that is about eighty years ago; a man who was just known as Albus, the same single name with which this letter in the file of the boy was signed, who was sailing alone around the world to just experience it as he said, when he somehow landed himself in this office. He gave a method to identify others like him to our predecessors because I quote ‘it would be needed’. It is not known if people beyond the island can develop the characteristic that is unique to the inhabitants of the island, some kind of energy or force akin to haki but not the same. That Albus character gave some examples of that power which he called ‘magic’, but more than that is not documented.”
Garp had to hold his breath to not let out a snort at the word ‘magic’. Something like that didn’t exist. Some may say that devil fruit powers or even the usage of haki seemed like magic, but those were all explainable things. Magic on the other hand was just simple make belief.
“To verify if the boy is from the island we wanted to see him, though we came to an understanding that he is too young to prove that he is in fact from Otogibanashi Island, and to examine any belongings he might have brought from the island.”
“We have two chests here that the file claims to be his, but they are, as the file also stated, not openable by any means, not even brute force” Tsuru explained with a meaningful look to Garp, who still smarted that his renowned fist hadn’t made even the tiniest dent on the chest, not even a scratch whereas his knuckles had been slightly bruised.
“I can do that” Harry piped up, shrinking back when all eyes were on him again.
“You can open the chest, boy?” asked one of the Gorosei and Harry nodded at that, though he didn’t like to be called ‘boy’. It reminded him of the bad man. He got a nudge from Garp. “Yes, sir” he answered. “I can open them. You just need the key.”
“There is no keyhole and we didn’t find a key,” Tsuru said skeptically.
The boy closed his eyes and seemed to concentrate very hard. Had Garp seen his face directly he would have thought that the boy on his lap was about to poop his pants. All eyes were on him and a gasp was heard when a silver line appeared around his neck. At the gasp he opened his eyes and grasped at the silver line, pulling out a long chain with a medallion on it from under his shirt.
“What?” gasped Sengoku. “How couldn’t we see or feel that before?”
Harry shrugged. “I wished it not to be seen or the bad man takes it away. He couldn’t see it and I kept it unseen,” he explained. He fiddled with the medallion and it popped open, two strands of hair, one black and one red, tied with strings, falling out and on Harrys lap. He held the medallion open so that Garp could see inside. “That are my mommy, my daddy and me, see?”
Garp looked at a tiny round photograph of a red haired woman and a black haired man with glasses, holding a tiny baby. There was a resemblance of Harry in the man and he seemed to have gotten his mothers eyes. “I see,” he said, slightly chocked up. They seemed to be quite young in that picture and they had been killed with their son still a toddler.
“And you can open the chests with that?” Sengoku asked, trying to get the boy back on track.
“Yes, sir,” Harry said, putting the hair back in and closing it, showing the underside, where there was an intricate filigree pattern molded on it.
They looked at the chests and there was the same pattern inlaid in the middle on the top of the chest inlaid.
“May I try?” Sengoku asked as he was the one nearest to the chests.
Harry looked at him suspiciously. “You give it back?”
If he weren’t in the presence of his superiors he would have rolled his eye. As he was he just said ‘yes’ and the boy gave him the medallion, which was quite warm in his hands from laying directly on the boy's body.
Sengoku knelled down at one of the chests, positioning his body in a way that all those watching could see what he was doing. He pressed the medallion on the indentation and turned it a bit. He could feel it moving but there was no sound and the chest didn’t budge when he tried to open the lid.
“You are not doing it right” the little boy exclaimed and wiggled out of Garps grip and the coat to run over to Sengoku, who looked a bit vexed at him and then moved to the side o let the boy have a go at it.
Harry put his hand on the medallion and moved it, but now there was an audible ‘click’ noise and the lid sprang open a bit. “Easy, see?” Harry said with an excited grin, trying to move the lid upward.
“Easy” Sengoku repeated flabbergasted, having seen no difference in what the boy did compared to his own try. He helped the boy push the lid back and then watched him put a hand in it to get at something that looked like a long sleeved dress with a hood that was a size or two to small for he boy, in a shining emerald green. The boy put it over his head and his borrowed clothes. Surprisingly it fit. Sengoku could have sworn that it stretched with the boys hands tugging on it. He looked at his colleagues and found that he wasn’t the only one that had seen it, if he interpreted their astonished looks right.
“Could you open the other chest for us also?” Garp asked, trying to keep the awe in his voice to a minimum. Doing these things was normal for Harry and Garp didn’t know how he would react if he saw the adults around him freak out, though the freaking out publicly was kept as subtle as they possibly could. But Garp could see it in his colleagues, he knew them long enough to see that the calm they tried to portray was fraying at the edges. He didn’t want Harry to think that those things that were normal to him were freaky or even bad. He used it so casually, what would happen if he were to actively constrain himself in fear of being scolded or punished for something that he was born with? Garp didn’t know and he didn’t want to know or even test it. He just hoped that the Gorosei and his colleagues followed his thought.
Harry grinned at him and went over to the other chest and opened it.
“May I look inside them?” Sengoku asked and Harry looked at him for a moment before smiling.
“You may, sir,” he said and content with having gotten his robe on he skipped back to Garp, who put his own coat aside and hoisted the boy back on his lap.
“Clothes, children’s books, some toys and blankets” Sengoku said and Garp went back to watching him. “A small medicine kit, it looks like” he said as he opened a small box that had tubs and vials in it. He looked at the labels and all of them were over their ‘best use by’ dates, so he set it aside. He pulled out another box. As he tried to open it, the box bit him and in a caterwauling voice it screamed ‘THIEVES! FIRE! MURDER!’ before it was quiet and lifeless again.
If Garp hadn’t been as surprised as the other man by the box he would have laughed at the look on Sengokus face.
“Do you know what is in this, Harry?” Sengoku asked with as calm and distinguished voice as he could muster, though Garp could tell that there was anger looming behind the calm facade.
Harry looked at the box and his eyes grew round, he hopped from Garps lap again. “Money and Mommys shinies” he said, touching the box, trying to open it. He showed quick reflexes when the box tried to snap at his fingers and he pulled them away just in the nick of time. “Too young. Not allowed” the box said and Harry just shrugged his shoulders at the disbelieving looks on the adults faces.
“So, money and family jewelry” Sengoku assumed, putting the box aside. He got another small box and gave it over to Harry to open it, not wanting to be bitten again. A deep voice sounded “Caution, danger” but Harry didn’t listen and opened it up before Sengoku could stop him.
Inside laid two beautiful crafted daggers with a stylized stag etched into the blades. Harry didn’t touch them, just looked at them with tears in his eyes. “Daddy’s” he said into the room.
Sengoku put his hand forwards cautiously to see if the box would react to him touching the blades, but as nothing happened he got one out, looking at it closely. It was too small for him so he gave it over too Tsuru, who tested the grip, balance and sharpness. They were still quite sharp though they had lain unused in a box for a few years.
“Very good craftsmanship” was her verdict before giving it back to be put in the box again.
Sengoku put it aside and in a last search he found a folder. “Family papers” he just said after a quick look through and put the folder aside to be looked over closer at a later time. Then he put the chests to rights again but kept them open.
He and Harry went to their places again. Garp held him tight, thinking about how he would have to have a talk with the child about what to do when there was someone warning him about danger, at least as long as he was still a little boy and not trained to handle things like these daggers. At least he hadn’t handled them like toys and kept his fingers away from the sharp edges.
“This is enough proof that the boy Harry, found in slave traders hands, is from Otogibanashi Island” one of the Gorosei said, getting all of their attention again.
“But what should be done with him?” another asked. “As he is from that island he can not be touched by anyone of the World Government as long as he doesn’t prove to be an enemy to us, without courting the ire of the people of Otogibanashi, which makes the point of sending him to the Celestial Dragons moot. The documentation of his getting a brand has to be made invalid, especially as his skin doesn’t show it.”
“There is to be considered why he was sent forth from the island in the first place. There is no known or even logical reason for that. He may have been sent to live with family before he was given into the hands of slave traders, but that only shows that he was meant to be in our jurisdiction and not kept safely behind the islands barriers, until he was old enough and trained by those peoples standards to sail the world.”
“So far there were no signs that the inhabitants of the Island were going to interfere with our world or even planning to come out in the open and integrate themselves more with our population” another Gorosei said.
“Are we to ignore the words that have been documented to have been spoken by that Albus person?” another one said. He had been the one to sign for the pause in communications and so far he had kept quiet and had just watched and listened.
“Balderdash” another one huffed. “If those words were to be believed to pertain to the boy he is years to early.”
“’Fate is fickle and dreams even more so’ weren’t those his words?” another said, seemingly convinced by the theory, which they didn’t care to explain to the marines, it was like the Gorosei had forgotten that they were in a conference call.
“I believe it behooves us to discuss this matter in depth at a later time” the one who had brought up the theory said, nodding towards the people in Fleet Admiral Kongs office and at once all Gorosei stares were on them again.
“Agreed. For now I would suggest to get the boy into proper medical care and to administer the pertaining tests to ensure that he is of no relation to the most notorious of the World Government foes. No matter if he is from Otogibanashi or not, his people wouldn’t begrudge us on our diligence deployed to keep our society safe. It would also be practical to look for possible guardians in the ranks of any of our military forces. With his documented strength and abilities he would be good fit for any part of the military forces, and it would ensure his safety.”
Garp felt a pang in his heart when he heard the Gorosei discussing the need to look for a guardian for Harry, who was just looking at them, most of what they were speaking about and the words they used had to go over his small head. He may be quite smart, from what Garp had seen so far, smarter than he had thought a five-year old, who had been imprisoned for a year in the most dire circumstances and did not have any chances to learn or to be properly taught, though that woman May seemed to have put some good ideas into his head, would be, but the very formal speech would go over his head, until he had been taught how to decipher it and use it himself.
Garp wanted to be the guardian for this child, feeling protective over him already, and trying to keep him safe and sound, even just in the short time that he had known that this boy existed. He knew that his chances to get the job, so to speak, would be nearly nonexistent, what with his failings towards his own son. He knew that his peers but the blame about Dragons life choices solely on his shoulders, though there were none that would openly accuse him or speak to him about it. They knew he wasn’t one to take such accusations laying down and the knowledge of his temper and strength preceded him wherever he went.
Garp didn’t think a moment if he could be a good guardian or even a good father to the little boy, there was no doubt in his mind that he could do a better job with Harry than he had done with Dragon. He was older and more settled in his work, rank and power, politically and bodily speaking. He thought he knew where the problems in his and Dragons relationship had lain and he would try his hardest not to repeat them and to temper himself.
Though he still didn’t think that they would even hear him out or take his bid for Harrys guardianship into consideration, it wouldn’t hurt to just outright ask. He hadn’t gotten his rank and reputation by just dithering about and questioning his own self worth. In cases like this the best plan of attack was attacking the beast head on. He could think about the consequences of the possible fall out later.
“Sirs” he said to the camera and all eyes were on him, out of the corner of his eyes he saw Sengoku's eyes widen in recognition of his impossible plan and he felt Tsuru stiffen at his side, “if I may, I would humbly ask to be taken into consideration for the guardianship of Tōkō Harison Jēmusu of Otogibanashi Island.”
There, he had said it, in his most modest voice possible, though with the strength and straight forwardness his colleagues were accustomed to from him.
Both offices were quiet at this proclamation, one could have heard a needle falling onto the carpeted portions of them.
Garp kept his spine straight and the hold on the boy strong. He could not see behind the masks of the Gorosei's faces but he felt more than he saw that the tension in this office was growing thicker by the moment.
Sengoku and Tsuru had stiffened in their posture even more, and the incredulity on their faces caused by his daring question had been masked by their usual calm and stern appearance. Those were the same expressions on their faces he saw when he told them about a viable but ridiculously risky plan of attack, with which realization they wanted to have nothing to do with. It was such a common occurrence that he had learned to ignore them and just went ahead with his plan, in most cases exceeding all expectations - those about the success of the plan, the genius madness behind it and the estimated damages to people, possessions and reputations.
Fleet Admiral Kong threw him a short glance that asked him about his sincerity and at the same time questioned his sanity. But Garps eyes didn’t budge from the Den Den Mushi or from the prone forms of the Gorosei.
“Denied” came the answer from the oldest man and Garp held his breath for a moment to let the anger at the outright denial flow through him, so that he wouldn’t fall in his usual trap of blustering and rampaging in anger. That would neither help his case nor his career, especially if he were to lose it in front of so many of his superiors, foremost in front of the heads of the World Government.
And most important of all he didn’t want to spook or scare Harry. He saluted the Gorosei. “Understood” he said and was surprised himself at how calm his tone of voice was. He could rampage later in a safe location, like miles out on the sea and terrify some pirates or other miscreants. Now was decidedly not the time for it.
Though they didn’t move a muscle he could see in his mind's eye that the other three adults in the office were letting out a relieved breath.
“What is a garden ship?” Garp heard a quiet voice coming from his lap and he looked down at Harry.
“Guardianship” he corrected him. “A guardian is someone who looks after a child, similar to a parent, but for children who don’t have any anymore or who aren’t living with them for various reasons. A guardian is someone who gives you a home, bed, clothes, food, someone who looks after you.”
The boy looked thoughtful at that, then he seemed to have come to a conclusion and grinned up at Garp. “You did all that! Are you my guardian?”
Harry looked around at the disbelieving expressions that were now clearly visible on the marines faces and laid his head to one side with a questioning glance at the rounded eyes and slightly opened mouths before shrugging a shoulder. Remembering May saying that you should look at the one you were talking to, he turned around in the mans arms, now kneeling on his lap and looked straight into his face that was smiling down at him, though he looked quite sad beneath the smile.
“I am not” Garp said, “I can't be your guardian.”
“Why not?” Harry asked wide-eyed. That man had rescued him, not only from the bad man but also from the weird doctor, though the other man on the other side of the couch had also helped with that, and he had given him clothes and food. As soon as Harry had seen him on that island he had known that the big and loud man would be safe and had latched onto him like a leech. Remembering that it had worked before he took the sleeves of Garps shirt between his fingers and held them tight, so that he couldn’t be easily removed. “Don’t you want to be my guardian?”
“I would like to be your guardian” Garp said, “but I am not allowed to.”
“I allow you.”
Garp wished it was that easy. “Listen Harry, I am old-”
“May says we learn a lot in our life, so you should know a lot more than anyone, and can teach me all that, right?”
“-and I am not home a lot because of my work-”
“We can work around your work.”
“-and - you know that it is very rude to constantly interrupt the person you are talking to?”
Harrys excited smile at his solutions for the in his mind non-problems fell. “I am sorry,” he said quietly and lowered his head, though he didn’t slacken his grip on the mans sleeves.
A finger was placed under his chin and moved his face upwards again. “It is quite alright, Harry,” Garp said with an encouraging smile. “You will do better now that you know, won’t you?”
“Yes, sir,” Harry said, again with a tone of excitement and a grin.
“That is my boy.” Garp grinned. But then he grew serious again. “I understand why I am not thought of as being a good guardian and I want to tell you the reason. Will you listen until I am finished?” Harry gave a nod. “I have a son, he is already an adult and he isn’t a good man, he causes a lot of problems for the people I work for and so also for me. I failed him, I wasn’t at home a lot and I couldn’t teach him the right way. I couldn’t save him, neither from himself nor from other people. I am not much of a hero now, am I?”
Harry looked thoughtfully at him and then opened his mouth, but Garp wasn’t done yet and he moved his leg a bit, not enough to disturb Harrys kneeling position, just to get his attention. “People think that if I already failed with my own son how can I possibly make a good guardian? And I kind of agree with them. So, I can’t be your guardian, but if I am allowed I will make sure that you get a good guardian and, if I am able, I will visit with you as often as possible, alright?”
Harry pouted at hearing that but nodded nonetheless. But there was still a question burning in his mind and he hoped he could get a smile on the mans face again. “Do you still love your son, though he is bad?”
Garp knew that Harry didn’t mean anything by it but that was a very dangerous question to ask him in an office full of people who would arrest him for treason if he didn’t think of something good to say. But at the same time he couldn’t lie to this hopeful eyes. “It is my job as a father and he is still my son” he said slowly, again feeling Tsuru stiffen beside him, “but all the love I may have for him doesn’t mean that I won’t do everything in my power to take him to task and to arrest him for his crimes. He is still a bad man.”
“Well, that is alright” Harry said with a smile and Garp looked surprised at him. “If you get him you can teach him the right way and perhaps in another life he can be a good man.”
“I like that thought,” Garps said and chuckled. Then he looked at Harrys downcast eyes. “What is it Harry?”
“I wish you could love me like that and I really, really want you as my guardian.”
“We can’t always get what we want, Harry, but we will always get what we need, no worries about that. You’ll be good, okay?”
“I promise I will be good. But I am going to miss you a lot.”
Garp pulled him into a hug and Harry let go of his sleeves, just to latch onto his shirt and bury his head in the older mans chest. “I will miss you too, little tyke,” he whispered. That was only intended for the boy's ears. And he really would miss him. He had missed having such a warm and trusting small weight in his arms. It had been many years ago since he had done that with Dragon, too many years ago.
He patted the boy on the back softly when he felt the grip on his shirt loosen. Looking at his face and seeing that he had gotten a hold of himself, Garp turned the boy around.
Garp didn’t look at his navy colleagues, he just looked forward with a serious and calm face at the Gorosei, who had the same expression on their faces.
“Fleet Admiral Kong” one of them said and the Fleet Admiral looked at the monitor, ready to take on any orders that he might be given. “You are to prepare a list of navy personnel who could possible take on the guardianship of the boy. We will await your report tomorrow.”
Seeing it as the dismissal that it was Kong and the other marines rose and saluted the Gorosei before the monitor went black.
Kong gave the others a sign to sit down again. “That went quite well. Vice Admiral Garp, please bring the boy to the medical wing upstairs, you know to whom. I will send the order for the requested tests at a later time. After that please join me to review your behavior in this meeting. Dismissed.”
Garp stood up with a sigh, hoisting the boy up to keep him secure in his arms. He saluted the Fleet Admiral and left the room.
Kong faced the remaining two. “I want to keep the boy affiliated with the navy and I would like your input in who should be put on the list of potential applicants of the guardianship.”
Tsuru and Sengoku exchanged a glance. They knew what the other was thinking and they questioned their sanity.