“I don’t entirely know how this happened,” Benn admitted.
“Explain it to me anyway,” Shanks offered, sitting next to him on the bed, careful not to disturb Ace, who was leaning into Benn’s side.
“So I was getting on Ace for yelling at Cookie when the kid just kind of dropped,” Benn said. “I panicked and put him on the bed but Luffy told me that was normal and Ace just falls asleep randomly.”
“Huh. We’ll have to have Doc look into it,” Shanks said. “And Luffy in your lap?”
“Well I sat down, relieved Ace hadn’t dropped dead, and Luffy got in my lap and declared naptime and just blacked out. I’m not sure how Sabo got on my other side.”
“…You know that really looks adorable,” Shanks said, grinning.
“Just wait til one of them decides you’re a pillow,” Benn replied.
“So, they spend most of the morning wrecking shit and then Ace passes out and the other two follow…good to know,” Shanks decided.
“To be fair, they’ve only done that today. We don’t know if it’s common,” Benn cautioned.
“Good point,” Shanks admitted.
“Think Ace is the oldest?” Benn asked.
“He and Sabo look about the same,” Shanks said. “Maybe.”
“Got plans to occupy them yet?” Benn asked.
“Well, Sabo seemed interested when Sven mentioned maps so maybe sic him on the navigator?” Shanks guessed. “Probably teach all of them to fight, probably give all of them chores…”
“No kitchen ones for Luffy or Ace with how they eat,” Benn said.
“Definitely not!” Shanks agreed. “Cleaning, probably. Hell knows I had to learn my way around a mop on the Oro Jackson.”
“No, no, you have to look at what you’ve mopped and not walk there,” Kincaid said. “At least until it dries. See how it looks all funny?”
“Oh…” Luffy said. “Hey, what’s this got to do with being a pirate?”
“Cabin boys have to earn their keep,” Kincaid explained. “You do your chores in the mornings and get to learn things like fighting in the afternoons.”
“Gotta be careful when Lu’s fighting,” Ace said. “His weird rubber punches go everywhere.”
“I’ll let Benn know,” Kincade said. “Okay, looks like Clarke's lil' bud got you some more water, so try again.”
“Thanks, Mr. Monkey!” Luffy said. Clarke’s monkey pal gave him a happy nod of acknowledgment before wandering back off.
“Why’s Sabo not doing this?” Ace asked.
“We wanted to see if he could handle chores in the map room,” Kincaid replied. “You know, organize the books and shit.”
“Good pick, Sabo can actually read,” Luffy said.
“You two can’t read?” Kincaid asked.
“What of it?” Ace asked snappishly.
“Well…just with one of you being able, would have thought Sabo would try to teach you is…uh…all,” Kincaid said, fishing for a way to not piss Ace off. Kid was a firecracker. “I’ll let Benn know, maybe he’ll add something.”
Ace eyed him suspiciously before going back to mopping.
Kincaid sighed in relief.
“Hey, Luffy, think your stretching can make this easier?”
“Let’s find out!” Luffy yelled, trying to fling his mop and hand as far as he could…only for it to zigzag back haphazardly after hitting the floor, before zinging off the floor entirely and smacking Luffy and Ace into the wall on the rebound.
“Let’s not try that again,” Kincaid said, picking them back up. “Luffy, you’ve got a messy streak of water to clean up now. See how trying to cheat on chores can make them worse?”
“Uh-huh…” Luffy groaned.
“Go clean that up,” Kincaid said and the kid rushed off to do it.
“You okay? I know you don’t bounce off things like he does,” Kincaid said, crouching down to a still-groaning Ace.
“I’ll be fine,” Ace grumbled.
“You sure? Took quite a crack to the head there.”
“I’m fine!” Ace insisted.
“All right, show me what you’ve got!” Yasopp said.
It had been unanimously decided by the senior members of the crew that the kids were going to spar with Yasopp. He was one of the weaker physical fighters of the crew, so it should be as close to fair as one of them vs. a kid was going to get.
The boys seemed to briefly huddle before Ace went first, “You asked for it!”
Shanks watched the kid carefully. He was definitely unusually strong for his size, the one hit that had connected—just to the left of being a nice hook to the gut, really—had clearly been more than Yasopp expected. But he was pretty sloppy and that temper wasn’t dong him any favors. He just got more and more riled as it became clearer he wasn’t doing any real damage to Yasopp.
“All right, good job!” Benn said. “Lucky Roo, I think you’re going to get him. You’re good with using brute force properly.”
“Sounds good to me!” Lucky Roo said.
“Shit, if he could aim a bit better I might have gotten knocked back by that big one,” Yasopp added. Shanks doubted it, but no reason not to soothe the kid’s pride just a little.
It seemed to work, too, as Ace looked less sulky as he rejoined his brothers.
Sabo went next, after Yasopp had recovered with a quick swig of beer.
Sabo was the only one who brought his pipe to the fight. He didn’t seem to know how to use it as a staff and treated it more like a club despite its length. Still, it gave Yasopp a bit more trouble than Ace’s fists until the man retrieved his rifle to parry with—and that thing better have been unloaded, Shanks mused. Being a pirate was no excuse for being an idiot with a gun.
“I think I’ll take him,” Benn decided as Sabo was finally put on his ass. “Teach him how to block, for one…he’s got good aim, maybe teach him to shoot when he’s a bit older…”
“My turn, my turn!” Luffy said eagerly.
“Hmm, you’re going to be tricky,” Yasopp admitted, taking another swig. “Hit you too hard and you’ll go bouncing all over.”
“You’ve got to tie him to something and then hit him!” Ace suggested. “Like a tree!”
“What?” most of the crew yelled, looking between Luffy and Ace in shock.
“Ace didn’t like him at first. Don’t worry, it got better after Luffy almost got eaten by gators,” Sabo said.
“I thought they were crocs…” Ace mused.
“Yeah, cause they smiled!” Luffy added, unperturbed that his big brother was explaining how to properly attack him.
Shanks shook himself out of wondering how the hell the kids had even survived this long and cleared his throat. “Be careful, Yasopp, but don’t worry. Plenty of us can swim if Anchor goes over.”
“All right then, come on!” Yasopp said, swinging at Luffy. The kid ducked it and bounced a little ways away.
“All right! Gum-Gum Pistol!”
“No!” Sabo and Ace yelped as Luffy’s fist shot forward, barely grazed Yasopp’s hair, hit the mast, and rebounded full force, dragging Luffy with it. Shanks rushed over and grabbed him before he went over the rail.
“Okay!” Shanks said. “You’re only allowed to practice that indoors or on nice, safe islands from now on!”
“Please!” Ace and Sabo agreed as Luffy sulked.
“Think I’ll put you with Kincaid…not much of a puncher, myself,” Shanks said. “I’ll help you with dodging without bouncing all over, though, you’re going to run into their fist eventually like that…”
“But it doesn’t hurt much when I do!” Luffy complained.
“Not yet it doesn’t,” Shanks said, setting him down and pushing him back towards his brothers. “But trust me, there are plenty of people out there who can make it hurt you anyway.”
“Oh…” Luffy said.
“All right, we’ve got some plans of what to do with you…let’s get some dinner,” Shanks said.
Ace and Luffy instantly perked up at the mention of food.
“Captain, Anchor eats more than Lucky Roo and he’s like three feet tall!” Sven complained as they headed into the galley.
“Guess the rubber applies to his stomach too,” Shanks said.
“Yeah. We had to hunt down a lot of animals cause Luffy and Ace eat so much,” Sabo said.
“You hunted your own food?” Shanks asked. Sabo and Ace were supposed to be ten, right?
“Mostly lunch cause Dadan forgot about it a lot or just didn’t make enough or we were out exploring and didn’t check in, why?” Sabo asked.
“These are the most innocent experienced kids I have ever seen,” Kincaid said, sitting next to Benn. Shanks sat on his first mate’s other side, with Luffy next to him and then Ace and Sabo.
“What do you mean?” Ace asked, frowning. Shanks was quickly learning that frown meant the kid was prepping for a fight.
“Well…most people don’t tie their little brothers to trees to make sure they can hit them properly,” Yasopp explained. “Or let seven year olds anywhere near alligators.”
“Crocodiles!” Luffy and Ace insisted.
“Whatever, you don’t let seven year olds near them,” Benn said.
“Or look for how to weaponize random objects like pipes,” Lucky Roo admitted.
“Or forage in the woods on your when you had a caretaker,” Sven said.
“You know, it has been weird spending this long around adults…” Luffy mused.
“You’ve been around us for all of two days, kid,” Benn said.
“Yeah, that’s a long time. Usually we just sleep and maybe eat with Dadan and her gang and spend the rest of the time on our own,” Sabo said.
“Oh boy,” Yasopp said as Cookie started to pass out the plates.
“Well, kids with caretakers, even pirate caretakers, get schedules,” Shanks said. “You brats get free time around lunch and after dinner. But we can’t have you acting like tornados like you did on your first day, so we’re going to keep you busy otherwise.”
“More cleaning?” Luffy whined.
“Hey, I was a cabin boy when I started out. I did a hell of a lot of cleaning,” Shanks said. “And laundry. Which was bad because I am shit at laundry to this day.”
“Cabin boys earn their tutelage from older pirates by doing chores. Basic exchange,” Benn said. “Sabo, you’re the only one cleaning the kitchen though. I don’t trust those two.”
“You shouldn’t,” Sabo agreed.
“You’ll generally work mornings and get to practice with or shadow some of us in the afternoons if it’s a usual day. Of course if we’re having a party or something things can get changed up,” Shanks decided. “Everybody got that?”
“Yes captain!” everyone whose mouth wasn’t full agreed. Lucky Roo agreed despite his mouth being full, per usual.
“So why are you carving bullets?” Sabo asked.
“These are special bullets,” Benn said. “Have to make them very carefully because the material’s brittle if chipped wrong even if it’s hard as diamond and-”
“I feel kind of funny,” Luffy said, weighing a block of the rock in his hands.
“That’s because seastone messes with Devil Fruit powers,” Benn said, taking it back. “It’s hard as hell to shape into bullets, you have to do it by hand and specifically to fit each gun you intend to use it with. My seastone bullets are different from Yasopp’s because of it.”
“Gramps mentioned the Marines use seastone,” Ace said.
“Yeah, they control the majority of it, and it’s pricey. Yasopp and I trade most of our shares of any money we come into for it, though. It’s a big reason we can strike fear into a lot of Fruit users,” Benn said. “If it pierces them, they can’t control their powers, same as if you dump them in the water. Also weakens them—that’s why you ‘felt funny’ Luffy.”
“So you could take on even an Admiral if they were a Fruit user?” Ace asked.
Benn smirked, “Shot Admiral Kizaru in the leg during one of his first weeks on the job. He got the wound healed just fine, but he’s been iffy around me ever since.”
“Whoa,” Luffy and Ace said.
“Are there other seastone weapons?” Sabo asked.
“Some folks have them. Heck, some Fruit users even edge or tip their weapons with seastone so it hits enemies but not them,” Benn said. “But me…I like bullets best.”
“That why you didn’t shoot anybody when the bandits attacked?” Luffy asked.
“Nah, wasn’t carrying seastone on me that day. But frankly they weren’t worth really bullets---except the guy with the gun to Shanks’ head,” Benn amended. That one had it coming.
“Yeah, he deserved that,” Luffy agreed. “I told you guys Lucky Roo shot him, right?”
“We’ve heard the story like a million times Luffy,” Ace said, rolling his eyes. “Yes.”
After about a week of it, Benn was getting used to Ace’s mood swings. He’d have to ask Shanks sometime if Roger or Rouge was like that at all.
“Hey, Benn?” Sabo asked.
“Shanks hugs you all the time but you usually don’t hug him. Why?” Sabo asked.
Benn really hoped this was curiosity and not the kid hitting puberty early. There was no way in hell a single adult pirate on this ship was ready for that. “I’m more private than Shanks is. Like how Luffy’s more affectionate with you than Ace but they both care about you.”
“Oh,” all three boys chorused, as if he had imparted the wisdom of the universe.
Benn assumed this was what parenting correctly felt like and went back to showing them how he shaped the seastone to fit his rifle.
“All right, boys, this is the Calm Belt!” Lucky Roo said. “As you can see, there’s no current and almost no wind, which is why we’ve got more guys on the sails than usual—they have to catch anything they can get.”
“So that’s why we keep having to tie and untie stuff?” Sabo asked as Ace wrestled a rope still for Luffy to tie.
“Yep,” Lucky Roo said, securing his own rope. “There’s also the Sea Kings, which love it here. Luffy, remember than mean old big eel that ate Shanks’ arm? That’s a small one.”
“A small one!” Luffy gasped as he finally got his rope tied off.
“Yes indeed!” Lucky Roo said. “So not only do you get slowed down, but those big boys want to chomp up any ship they can find!”
“But you guys say you come to East Blue all the time!” Ace said. “How haven’t you gotten eaten yet?”
“Haki,” Lucky Roo said. “There’s a special type of energy you’ll learn about when you’re older. Some special people can use it to scare off giant animals and knock out people.”
“Like Shanks scared the big eel! Shanks must scare them away!” Luffy said, his eyes widening. “I want to learn that!”
“Sorry Anchor, that one kind of Haki can’t be taught. You’ve got to have it in you to start,” Lucky Roo said. “But if you do have it, I’m sure Shanks will teach you…for now though, even you two swimmers aren’t allowed off the ship, or even on deck on your own! We’ve got to be careful for the next few days, until we’re through the belt! Now go get that rope from Sven and take it over to Clarke and Mr. Monkey!”
“Well, that month went well,” Shanks said, collapsing into bed. “We saved three kids, got through the Calm Belt, and are back home to have some fun!”
“Fun he says,” Benn muttered, rolling his eyes.
“Hey, be glad we finally got the kids beds. I was sick of them sneaking in here before we did and stealing ours.”
“And then giving you the puppy eyes when you tried to boot them out…” Benn chuckled. “Which you fell for and let them stay with us. Great Emperor Red Haired Shanks, pushover to children.”
“Shut up. I’m not a pushover, I gave them chores and make them do them.”
“You are an utter pushover for our kids. Don’t worry, it’s cute.”
“Cute?” Shanks demanded. “I am a feared Emperor of the Grand Line! Fuck you, Beckman!”
“If you don’t I’m going to fuck you,” Benn said bluntly.
“…Shit, now I don’t know which one I want to do more…eh, both,” Shanks decided, stripping. “We deserve it. Did a good month of dad-ing.”
“Dad is still not a verb.”
“Less grammar more screwing, captain’s orders.”