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Demon, Devil, Destiny, Death

Chapter Text

Corazon was first aware of the pain. It lanced through his body, gripping his organs, biting deep into his muscles, rubbing raw in his joints. He had been shot, many, many times, though. The fact that he was alive at all was a miracle. 

He clenched his fists slowly, then forced his body to relax. To let go of the pain. It still hurt like a bitch, but at least he wasn’t going to keel over vomiting. It was only then that he opened his eyes.

Snow was expected. His toque slipped as he raised his head, covering his eyes. 

“Law?” He asked, pushing it back up. Hopefully the boy was far, far away by now, and even further from Doffy.  

“Coming,” Corazon began to curse his luck when the boy’s voice processed. He sounded weird. So did his footsteps through the snow. Far too heavy, far to long in stride. “Cora-san, don’t sit up too fast.” 

“What-“ he lurched upright to get the imposter in his sights. His entire body protested, screaming at him. A cramp raked claws down his side before the agony even slowed, forcing him back into the ground he’d just risen from. Had the gunshots become infected? They felt so much worse than usu- his hands were wrong. 

They were small and stubby and clawed, dark with lead-bleached splotches. These were Law’s hands. 

And Law-

His own face appeared beside him, his hands - so much larger than Law’s - reached out gently. “Sorry, sorry, I didn’t mean to-“

“Law?!” Corazon breathed, alarm and confusion twisting at his already agitated stomach. His body nodded. His eyes looked so tired. “What happened?” 

Law lifted him before he answered, and bundled them both in the feather coat. The warmth of his larger body helped the nausea and the cramping. 

“I panicked. I think I did something with the op-op fruit, but I’m not sure. You were passed out, so I carried us to a different part of the island. Staunched your wounds. I’m sorry, I couldn’t save your shirt; I had to use it for bandages.” Law clung to him, supporting every inch of the sick body he usually resided in.

“I see. It’s fine, shirts can be replaced.” He flexed his hands again. ”Your body feels like crap.” He stated, well aware that Law was well aware.

“Amber Lead disease isn’t exactly a picnic,” Law smirked weakly at that. “Your legs are too damn long.” 

“They are.” Corazon chuckled, only for it to turn into a cough. God, Law was just a little boy. He shouldn’t be in this much pain, ever. Never mind constantly. If he looked for it, he could almost feel the edges of each white blotch sizzling away at the unmarred skin. Burning away the pigment. Reducing life to ash.

Law patted his back a little awkwardly, aware of just how big his hands were, and how strong a body of this size was.

“We should move soon, though. I think I saw smoke over the next ridge, there may be another town. Warm us up, then try and put us back?” 

“It wouldn’t be wise to go into town,” Corazon shook his head. “Nor to light a fire here. Do you know how to sail any?” 

“Just from watching you.” 

“I’ll help where I can. We can get this sorted out in a few islands. Put some distance. Are you up to stealing a dingy? Ours has probably been destroyed.” 

“I can. The bullets honestly hurt less than the lead.” He stood, and immediately cracked Corazon’s head on the ceiling of the cave. Corazon grimaced, for both reasons. No, they were going to have to fix this immediately, and he would hold out in the boy’s body as long as necessary. Law wasn’t allowed to suffer this again. 

“Too fucking tall, too,” Law complained, this time ducking out into the snow. He bore Corazon easily. “Where’s your counterbalance? No tail is weird, how do you all live like this?” Maybe he was running his mouth a little, but Corazon didn’t mind. It was helpfully distracting. 

“Hmpf, you say that like I’m not in the same boat, kid,” he scoffed, poking his head through the opening in the coat so he could see. Snow and cold. A single smoke line over the next ridge. Maybe not a town, but certainly a settlement of some sort. 

He was ignoring their biological differences, and the pain was moderately helping. Curling tight into the encompassing grip was about all he wanted to do. 

“I suppose it would be weird to suddenly have one too,” Law conceded. 

He lurched suddenly a few miles down, sinking deep into a sudden drift. He hissed tightly as he straightened, footing regained. “Cora-san- claws-!” 

“Cl- damn it, sorry, I forgot-“ he eased them free, “are you okay?” 

“Im fine,” Law adjusted Corazon’s weight. “Your proportions.” 

Corazon grinned sheepishly; even he hadn’t managed to coordinate those yet, and he’d had them a long, long time. He had no doubts Law was doing amazingly for the bare few hours he’d had. The ridge rose above them now, likely the last stretch before the settlement. Getting up was a slow slog through snow, but easy enough. It was the far side that proved problematic. 

The drop was sheer enough to nearly constitute as a cliff. At the very base, a lone house stood next to a barn-sized building made of clear glass. Odd choice. Law considered the land about him, and decided the ridge nearer the glass building looked more scalable. 

He proceeded, and proceeded to slip. Ice, of course Corazon’s body would find some. He careened out of control with a yelp. Right off the side of the mountain. He went through the glass roof, and belly-flopped into the tables of greenery below. Corazon landed on his back a moment later, breaking the table. 

“Ow.” Was the shared sentiment. 

Chapter Text

He still hurt - amber lead hurt, not gunshot hurt - when he woke again. Corazon groaned, and sat up slowly. Law’s body protested, but didn’t rip him in half again. “Law?” 

“-ust a sec, I think he’s awake-“ Law entered through a doorway, avoiding the doorframe carefully. Corazon’s face was bruised and slashed by the glass, the hard landing, and anything else he’d hit. He favoured his ribs, walking slowly. “Cora-san, are you alright?”

“Yeah; I think the impact knocked me out, but I don’t feel any extra injuries.” He flexed his hands. Granted, the lead was a big feeling for him, and other injuries might be hiding under the overwhelming one. He’d keep an eye out. 

“Thank god,” Law scooped him into a hug. Corazon reciprocated the best he could - his body really was excessively large. 

Over his shoulder, though, a stranger stood in the doorway. An old man. Grumpy, but not exceedingly cold. Law looked up when he spoke. 

“So the brat tells me you’re actually the old man,” he began, “but you’ve accidentally swapped bodies?”

“That would be correct. He’s just acquired a devil’s fruit in the last day or so.” 

“Hm. I suppose while you’re stuck here fixing what you broke, you can sort that out. You’re not contagious?” 

“Shy of literally eating Law, you’ll be fine.” 

“Good. I’m putting you two to work immediately after breakfast. Don’t dally.” Grumpy left them to it. 

Corazon looked up at Law, expectant. The boy didn’t keep him waiting. “Wolf seems to be a nice guy. Fix what we broke, help out in his garden, around the house.” 

“I see,” he hummed softly. Wolf wasn’t terribly far away, but, “what did you tell him, exactly?” He raised his hand, intending to make a calm bubble. Something appeared in Law’s palm for a flicker of a second. But they could still hear. His snap did nothing. 

Law stared after the brief apparition. His lips twisted in focus, as he repeated the motion himself. His snap reverberated as the sounds of breakfast preparation faded out. 

“Good work,” Corazon praised warmly. “So what did you tell him?” 

“Ah, right, I just said we’d been looking for a doctor to treat me. Our boat broke, so we were looking for a town for a new one, since there isn’t a capable doctor here.” He summarized. 

Corazon nodded. That was neat and simple, easy enough to remember. True, except for the gaping holes conveniently left out. This Wolf fellow didn’t need the nitty-gritty. 

He helped Law release the calm bubble, and stood. The latter was a task. Even without the lingering cramps and pain, his body was still lethargic. Law needed help soon. 

Law steadied him when he swayed. “Cora-san, are you ok?”

“I’m fine. I’m perfectly alright, no need to fuss.” He assured. 

“...We should try and switch back.” Law stated in that frustrating tone that meant he didn’t believe him in the least. Damn impertinent kid. 

“We should feed you before then. Some fruits use energy to use, especially in the paramecia class.” Last thing they needed was to kill Law in trying to heal him.

“Right after, then.” Law didn’t know enough about devil fruits to contest that, even if it didn’t sound right. Neither DonQuixote had ever showed strain just from the use of their powers. But he’d listen this time. 

Wolf griped that they’d dallied, and Law was immediately roped into helping set the table for three. Cora-san had the unique challenge of sorting Law’s aching body into a chair. It would’ve been hard enough, but the tail added a whole new aspect to it.  

Aches and pains; was nothing easy and simple for his small charge? 

“Cora-san,” Law set a plate before him with utmost care, “sit on your knees. It’s easier.” Without an open back to the chair, the comfortable ways to sit were limited. “I usually loop it to my right, since I reach with my left.” It took trying - Cora-san was not in control of the limb, even if Law’s body had the muscle memory - but he was reasonably settled in short order. 

“I hope it isn’t a fucking production every time you sit your ass down,” Wolf commented dryly. 

Before Cora-san could muster up a reply, Law retorted “not when we’re in our proper bodies, it isn’t.” He sat, looking very precarious on his seat. He was clearly uncertain where to put his miles of leg. “The drastic proportion change is 95% of the problem.” 


“Spare limb and chronic pain.”

“Ah.” Wolf set a deep pan in the center of the table, next to a pot of rice. “You little shits better eat the worst of my emergency harvest, since you forced me to do it before the frost got into my garden. Hope you like vegetables.

“When you’re done, get your asses into said garden, and start patching up the roof.”

“Thank you for the meal; we appreciate your effort and kindness.” Cora-san hoped he made up the grace Law tended to lack. 

“Thanks, we’ll get on that.” Law made a small effort when he cared to. He then dragged the fried vegetable medley into reach, and sorted through them. Corazon blinked as his plate was carefully filled with only a small helping of the softest pieces. “Finish that, and if you can handle it, I’ll give you some rice.”

“You need to eat more than that.” Both of the older men protested. 

“I’m used to forcing it, you’re not.” Law was having none of it. “This is the highest protein selection, and if need be, I’ll feed me again later.”

Corazon frowned at that. Law was having trouble eating? Since when? Granted, he didn’t feel very hungry through the pain, but still. This was an atrocity that was not allowed to stand. He found the exact reason for the lack of appetite but a moment later.

It hurt to swallow. A single bite felt like swallowing glass, even as soft as the vegetable was. 

“I suspect that the inflammation to the esophagus has reached tier 2, and ulceration is imminent. I’ll probably starve to death once it becomes impossible to swallow even liquified nutrients, but hypothetically I could survive to see the esophagus completely separate from the trachea, at which point stomach acid would be free to dissolve any remaining organs within the chest cavity.” Law passed the pan to their host. “Projected life expectancy: 3-8 weeks.” 

 Law was unenthused by the following chewing out, but he was put to work. He could put a table back together (kind of), and sweep up broken pots and dirt. But he fell off the ladder three times just trying to see how the new glass panes would fit in. Corazon just watched, grumpy and still trying to eat.

“I can’t figure out why your balance is so bad.” Law finally announced, picking himself off the floor again. “Give me my body back.”

Cora-san took a long time to respond. “I know why, but it’s not important.” He set his meal aside with a soft sigh. It quickly became a cough.

“Cora-san, It is.” Law squatted before him.

“Is it? Or is it unimportant, like telling me you felt this badly?” There was bite in his words, and he’d even managed to get Law’s pupils to narrow to slits for a brief moment. Law swallowed, immediately averting his eyes. “Well?”

“I just didn’t want to worry you any more than you were.” His reasons were perfectly valid. “We both know it’s fatal. Death is an inevitability, so I didn’t broach the subject.”

“Three weeks is something to bring up, regardless.”

Cora-san was right, of course.

“I know,” Law finally relented. “I know... I’m sorry.”

“Brat,” Cora-san huffed. But he slid off his seat. Law looked up when his head was patted by a far too small hand. “Try and have some hope. This devil fruit’s going to change all that prognosis-making of yours.”

“I- yeah. Yeah, it will.” Right now they were just words, unproven. But he wanted to believe. “Give me back my body, Cora-san.”

“No.” Corazon had to deny him. “I want you on the road to recovery before I put you through this again.”

“Cora-san, as nice as the offer is, I don’t know how in hell you expect my body to heal if you can’t even feed it.”

“... I’ve had just about enough of your sass.”

Chapter Text

Law was asleep. He slept lightly, as he always had, stirring at the slightest noise or tremor. Corazon sat beside him, very much not asleep. He should be. As his smart ass of a charge had said: if he couldn’t even take care of the body, there was no hope of recovery.

He still didn’t want to return Law to this ailing body, but he would have to. The ope-ope was reliant on the user’s medical knowledge. Something he only had the bare basics of. Law had studied this religiously. The best he could do was- no.

Doctors were made, not born. It couldn’t be that hard. He could do this too, surely. It was a matter of trying. He could-

Ah, who was he kidding. He couldn’t. He wanted to protect Law, to heal him, to relieve the child of poison and responsibility alike. But even mediocre physicians were years in the making. Law had days. Which meant he had to do one job.

Return them to their natural bodies.

Law stirred slightly when Corazon shifted. He remained asleep. Settling into a meditative position, he prepared to at least sound out the basic abilities of this fruit. He’d mastered one already, of the same class. Granted, the Nagi-Nagi was hardly the same league. That was fine.

He needed time. An ache, a throb, an itch, he dug his fingers into the furred sock Law hid his tail in. He focused. Law’d had his fruit for bare minutes before he used it. It wouldn’t be hard, surely?

Or it could be a mass of label-less, shapeless tools in his mind’s eye. Skills he couldn’t begin to decipher. Techniques well outside his imagination.

It wouldn’t be easy, because of course it wouldn’t. He huffed in frustration.

Law stirred beside him, drawing his attention. His charge’s eyes were open, watching him neutrally. “I’m sorry, did I wake you?”

“You should be sleeping.” Law murmured. “Does it hurt too much?”

“Nn- it’s distracting, but no. I was just thinking.” Corazon shook his head lightly. Law propped himself up on his elbow. “Don’t get up. Thinking can wait until tomorrow.”

“Sure,” Law flopped back down. His sigh was deep and tired. But his hands were gentle as he drew Corazon into his chest. His guardian struggled to get comfortable, wiggling restlessly against pain and awkwardness. He gave him a reasonable window to try before intervening.

Corazon blinked as he was scooped into a ball, still snuggled against the heat of another body. But he was glad Law knew how to help. Even if it confused him when Law slipped off his toque.

“Don’t try n’ do this to me,” Law warned. Corazon started to ask, only for his thoughts to come to a grinding halt as Law rested his chin between the hard outcrops of his horns. His mind went static. Warmth spread up their lengths, feeling - Law could feel through them?? They weren’t just bone????? - feeling every inch like a limb gone to sleep.

Then, then like, he couldn’t even process a similarity, but something was feeling. Feeling, was a something. His brain couldn’t quite understand. But whatever that something was feeling, it wanted him to go the fuck to sleep.

Law wanted him to sleep. Law wanted his body back. Law wanted to sleep.

Law willed him into sleep. Law willed himself to sleep. Willed himself to eat, drink and LIVE. And he willed a return to normalcy.

The Will of D was an incredible, powerful thing.

Corazon had no chance against it. He was already asleep.

He woke hours later, hungry, sore, disoriented and in dire need of a smoke. His fingers shook as he rifled through his cowl, and he was pretty sure he was clenching his teeth. It wasn’t until he was filling his lungs with tobacco that he noticed: there were no spots on his hands.

There were no spots anywhere, and things didn’t look quite so big anymore. No hooked talons, or tanned skin, just simple, plain, His hands. Law was nowhere to be seen.

He took to his feet. He took to the ground immediately thereafter. Right; bruised ribs and plus-sized proportions riddled with bullet holes. From his experience, he was healing well. All thanks to his tiny charge.

Healing, which meant Law- Law-

“Law-!” He patted out his shoulder, scrambling from the room. Law was at the table, stuffing his face under the direct supervision of Wolf. Corazon felt his own throat clench as Law swallowed like it was nothing.

“Cora-san,” he greeted. A little smug. There was a rosiness to his cheeks. Feverish, probably.

“Law,” his relief was palpable.

Chapter Text

When Wolf went off to tinker with one of the machines he was building, Corazon was able to ask, “so what was that?”

“Hm?” Law looked up, confused. “Oh, if my caloric intake drops too low, I won’t be able to continue fighting. I’m forcing myself to eat despite the inflammation.” Unlike Corazon, he knew his body’s physical limit. He’d stop when he met it.

“Not- I meant more your sleeping trick.”

“Oh, that,” Law made a face. “It’s... it’s a ‘half-mink’ thing.” Corazon had figured that much. “It was never really explained to me. I just kind of play it by ear, and what works, works. So just... don’t try it.”

That wasn’t the whole truth, by the way he glanced after Wolf. Corazon let it be.

“So what’s the kid’s official diagnosis?” Wolf asked as Law glued a flowerpot back together. It was an easy task for his little hands.

“He’s been poisoned; there was a mine near his ancestral home that started spewing out garbage a few generations back. Poisons you a little more every day, just enough to kill ya in 70 years or so.” Corazon took a long drag from his cigarette.

“He’s a far cry from 70.”

“Mm, that’s the kicker. His Ma gave hers to him, as her Ma had given it to her, and so on. He didn’t start at zero.”

“The rest of the family’s passed then, I take it?”

“Unfortunately so.” Corazon flicked his cigarette, watching his charge quietly. He seemed better today. Warm and fed enough, at the very least. “The last of his line, and we’ve had no luck tracking down a doctor who can help.

“Pity.” Wolf considered his pipe quietly a second.

“If I die, don’t put me in the earth.” Law could hear them well enough. “It may leach the poison into the soil. It’s safest to set my remains adrift, and light them ablaze from as great a distance as you can manage.” He set one assembled pot on an empty table, and set into the next. “I imagine the fumes won’t be very healthy either.”

“Now don’t talk like that, young man. You’re just a kid. Try and be positive or some shit.”

Law chuckled lightly at that. He smiled when he looked back at them, serene. “It’s just Death. We all face it. I’m not scared of it, and I’ll go when it’s time to go.”

“Law-“ Corazon protested, but Wolf just huffed.

“Well, make sure you finish fixing things first.”

“Of course.”

“Laaw-!” Corazon complained louder. Law’s smile turned bittersweet at his reprimanding.

“Cora-san, we’ve talked about this,” He sighed.

“Doesn’t mean I have to like or approve of it.” Corazon huffed. He stood, putting out his cigarette and his shoulder. Law squawked as he was scruffed, and carted off.

They were found later, holed up in the windless alley between greenhouse and ridge. Corazon hated to interrupt his rest, but Law also had to learn this, to heal. To master the ope-ope.

Currently, he could call up a tiny, fist-sized bubble. A ‘Room’, as he called it.

“How do you make a calm bubble?” Law asked. His Room fizzled out as he dropped his hand. “Like, a big one, not your item-only ones.”

“... I imagine a snow-globe. A glass orb, all around, containing the sound like the water in a snow-globe. When I snap,” he did, and the world fell quiet, “it lowers. Seals us in.”

“That sounds really dumb.” Law frowned. Corazon huffed.

“If it works it works,” he tweaked Law’s ear reproachfully. “I want to see a full bubble before we go in.”

“Room,” Law argued, starting again. Corazon stuck out his tongue, impudent as his child. Law retaliated in kind. They were both children.

It took a few more minutes of squabbling before anything productive occurred.

Corazon could wrestle him into the snow easy as thinking, but still made a show of doing it. Law shrieked at him the entire time, beating at his arms with indignant fury. Then came the tickling. Which was nothing short of unfair.

Corazon wasn’t playing fair, though. Law needed to laugh more. So Law would laugh more. All his training as an older brother meant nothing in the shadow of the giant who had him.

Or at least, until he slammed his palm into Corazon’s chest, causing him to straighten, and fall back into the snow.

“Jerk-!” He crawled his way out of reach, giggles still crowding his lungs. “That was cheap,” he coughed, “targeting a young, defenceless child!”

Corazon had no immediate response.

“Playing dead wont save you this time!” Law picked up as much snow as he could, and emptied it on the fallen. He had Cora-san half buried in snow by the time he noticed.

There was a big, square hole in Corazon’s chest, and the man was slowly turning blue from cold.

 His heart was missing, but he still had a pulse. Law was scrambling to cover Corazon in every thick blanket Wolf owned, but the man refused to start warming up. Hypothermia began to set in astoundingly fast; it was warm enough inside that all the snow, dragged in from lugging him into the cabin, was well melted.

Another devil fruit mishap. The kid really was something.

Grabbing the high-strung kid, however, was a mistake. The boy would be stitching him up later when his guardian was less critical. Ignoring the claws in his arms, “if his heart isn’t in him, where is it?”

Law blinked at that.

“Did you absorb it since you didn’t switch it? Or is it just laying out in the snow somewhere?” Wolf continued.

“It-“ the boy released him. He released the boy in kind a half-second later. Law hastily wiped his bloody claws off on his pant leg, then checked his pulse. Single beat. No stronger than usual. A little fast, but whatever.

The snow was undisturbed by other creatures or precipitation. Law hurried through the footprints Wolf had left carrying Corazon, looking about wildly. Wolf stayed back, close enough to hear Corazon should he call out. He helpfully held the lantern aloft to fight back the growing night.

It was good he did, as Corazon suddenly yelled, and sat up starply. Gripping his holed chest. Pale and gasping with pain.

Wolf was no doctor. Thankfully, the crunching of the child racing through snow was on the approach.

“Found it! Stepped on it, but I found it!” Law tracked snow in. Corazon looked up, confused and breathless.

Law held a glassy cube, inside of which was a heart far too large for the common man. It could only be Corazon’s, beating fast in response to the abuse. It was rather grotesque to the adults. Law was just glad it hadn’t been damaged. It could so easily have been hurt. There was nothing to protect it.

Corazon did not like it so exposed either. Being trodden upon was extremely painful. He dragged himself from the mass of blankets, only for Law to meet him at the edge.

He shoved the organ into Corazon’s chest-hole. The flesh immediately fused with the glassy texture, turning it opaque. Corazon unhelpfully flopped over him in relief. Law had to resist pushing him away, lest he pop more organs out like a living version of his father’s teaching tools.

Corazon was asleep before he could be coaxed off Law. Law didn’t protest too much, it was his fault this time. It also meant he could take a bit of a nap himself.

When Law woke again, the other two were both asleep. Wolf in the next room, by his snores.

Corazon made a face as Law pulled free, but stayed asleep. Law sighed softly, reaching out. His pulse was calm and steady. He was fine. He wasn’t suffering for his heartless period. He’d been worried.

His palm glowed blue as he raised it, spinning a Room into existence. He stared at the glowing dome pensively, before pressing it to his own chest. He didn’t need much space to pop out his own heart.

It was small, but heavy in his palm. In its tiny, blue room. It felt disjointed to watch it beat and work without attachment.

There was a fat, white streak trailing down one of the arteries. The lead was so close to broaching the very core of his being. Law scratched at the vein of lead, considering. He probably had less time than he thought. Or, at least so he thought before the disease began to peel away from its bed.

The fatty, white layer peeled completely off a moment later. He felt his blood pressure drop to normal, and his heart settled somewhat closer to the 120 over 80 he required. His chest unknotted. It was a little easier to exist.

Chapter Text

Corazon steadied Law, holding him aloft. It was precarious, as they were atop the ladder, and less than ideal, but Law had something to try. Fur looped about his neck as Law stabilized himself with his tail. Probably the worst anchor point, but unfortunately the only one. Corazon was not getting the last pane of glass into place. Not by himself.

“That should do it.” Law finally announced, dusting off his hands. The hole was filled in with a thin piece of plywood. Light, durable, and similarly sized to the pane of glass Wolf held down on the ground. Law grinned.

“Glass still isn’t in, brat.”

“Hold your horses, old man,” Law scrambled down Corazon before they both fell. Corazon managed to reach the floor as well before stumbling over his feet. “I want to try this out.”

“Whatever you’re trying, this is my last pane of glass. Break it, and I’ll patch the window up myself,” and just to be clear, “with the hide I tan off ya.”

“Sure you will,” Law had little faith in the old man’s threat.

Raising his hands, he brought a Room into existence.  It was a struggle to get the room big enough to include the window. Should’ve started this on the ladder. Oh well. He could do it, it just made him sweat. The pane was also larger than anything he’d tried.

He wasn’t lifting it, though. Lifting rocks and organs was harder than swapping them out one to one. He could do this. He would do this, and be stronger for it.

And he did. A light popping noise, and the sound of Wolf stumbling as weights changed, and no resounding crash. Glass stayed up, and unshattered.

“Yes-!” He grinned, dropping the Room. He stumbled, but Cora-san caught him. There was nothing but glowing pride on his face. If only the lead was so easy to swap out. Cora-san would probably explode from how idiotically happy he’d get.

It would be nice to see him so pleased.

“That’s a pretty cool trick you’ve got,” Wolf grinned. They were both pleased idiots. What dorks.

“Thanks,” he dusted himself off as he was set on his feet. “Gimme the caulk, I’ll seal it up while you geezers prattle.”

“No, no,” Wolf waved him off. “You’ve done the hard job, I can manage this. Go take 10.”

“If you insist.” Law shrugged. It was probably for the best, as his fingers were shaking from the exertion. The ope-ope was such a drain to use. At least for large applications, while he still had a lethal amount of lead in his system. He’d have to experiment once he had a nap (and maybe a snack).

Wolf watched the boy walk off. A tough little tyke, without question. “I’d rather make you do it, lad, but I don’t trust you to not split your head open doing so.”

“Rude,” Corazon could hardly deny the possibility even so.

“Can you handle a rifle? The day’s young, so the traps could stand to be checked. Earn your keep with fresh meat, instead.”

“... I’m familiar with them.”

“In the closet by the door. Just follow the tree line, and you won’t get lost. Hit the town, and you’ve gone too far.”

“Can do.” Corazon swept away, leaving a couple singed black feathers in his wake. Law was in the kitchen as he passed, shoving rice into his mouth as fast as he could swallow. His powers were the draining sort. He’d guessed as much. Healing ones usually were.

“I’ve been sent hunting.” He stated as he lifted the old rifle from the cabinet. He looked it over a moment before deciding his own weapons were more comfortable to use. “Did you want to join me?”

“I was going to read, but sure. Give me a second.” he downed his snack and a few healthy chugs of water. His throat still protested. He’d do well to address that inflammation next. Spleen, then maybe try and parse through his liver again.

“You don’t have to, if you want to rest,” Corazon smiled softly.

“I’d like to survey the area,” Law emptied his dishes into the sink for later attention. Once he was ready to brave the cold, they set out into the sunlit snow. Wolf knew these lands well enough to make a quick escape. They, however, would be screwed.

There was something of a path half covered by fresh snow. The forest was loud with birds. Hares bounded out of the way when they got too close, and occasionally Law could spot larger animals taking advantage of the sunny weather.

Not ample shelter should Doffy, or the marines, locate them.  They’d need miles of head start to evade them, and even then, human tracks would stand out in this wilderness.

“... Law?” Corazon squinted out over the other side of the forest, which drifted down the island and into the sea. Glossy ice covered a large section of the water.

“What?” He saw nothing of concern.

“That’s Minion Island over there.” He could almost make out the manse atop the hill. A charcoal-black smear on that ridge.

“... unlikely. I didn’t get in a boat.”

Corazon’s response was to pull out a telescope. Sure enough, Minion Island was across from them. Law frowned, and clambered up him like a ladder. Corazon made no comment as his telescope was pulled from his grip.

“We must have survived an ice crossing with sheer dumb luck.” Ice bridges were a phenomena he’d only heard of in passing. Rumours, from the furthest North Blue, from only on the coldest winter islands. “And walked past Wolf, away from the nearest township.”

“Makes sense,” he pulled the telescope back, scouring the shoreline. No boats - pirate, marine or otherwise - were landed. His dinghy was gone as well. Luckily he kept most of his supplies in his coat.

Law suddenly bolted upright on his shoulder, eyes slitting as he stared into the deepest part of the woods.


“Bear,” he pointed. It was a small one, and it vanished the second before Corazon looked. White pelts were rare further south, but optimal in such a snowy world.

“Keep an eye out then,” Corazon accepted that. Hibernation was surely different when it was always winter. “Explains why theres nothing in these traps.” He kicked one as they began to walk again. It snapped him right off his feet, into the snowbank.

Law huffed, even as laughter bubbled into a wry smile. Of course. Bested by a rabbit snare. Dumb Cora-san. Worth getting thrown off for.

Corazon sighed a long-suffering sigh, and sat up to disentangle his foot, and return the trap to its primed position. He gave up on it after a few minutes.

“What’s so funny, you brat?”

“You’re dumb.” Law chuckled.

“You wound me,” Corazon was over-dramatically indignant, “so rude. Such a terrible, awful, ungrateful child I have.” He pulled out a hunting knife, and cut himself free. “Just the worst.” That did make Law laugh.

It was cut short by a resounding crash. A small, white bear - wearing pale coveralls - burst out of the tree-line at a run. It didn’t stop, fleeing at top speed. The crashing continued until a massive, crazed beast exploded out after it.

It had antlers as wide as Corazon’s shoulders, giant hooves larger than Law’s face, and was more than two times taller than the bear it chased. And it would be atop all three of them if they didn’t move.

Law wanted nothing to do with this thing. But then a hand grabbed his shirt. Corazon made a beeline for the mad beast and its prey. Law reflexively sank his claws into the bear when he hit the thing at throwing speed. Between momentum and his weight, the youths were bowled into the far bank. Leaving Corazon to the mad beast’s path.

He was okay. His palms stung as the antlers met him, and his ribs made a token protest as he twisted. But Sengoku had taught him hand-to-hand for a reason. The creature slammed into the frozen ground hard enough to make the trees shake.

It didn’t get up again.

“Well,” Corazon huffed, dusting off his hands. He cracked his back, and turned to find the children.

Law had the bear in a death-grip still. The bear itself was crying. Sobbing, babbling apologies amid hiccups.

“You- you saved me-“ was the most cohesive thing the bear said. “You saved my life-! Thank you-! I’m indebted! I’m sorry-!”

Law grunted as he was hugged tightly. Corazon looked up again once he was done unloading his pistol into the beast, for insurances’ sake. His brow was creased in concern. A Mink? An actual Mink, out here in the North Blue?

Was there a trading group in the area? The little one wore no signs of enslavement, so he was likely here of his own will. Questions, questions. “Are you two alright? Did the moose get you, little bear?” The most important ones first.

“Yeah, no thanks to you. I could’ve climbed a tree. Didn’t have to throw me.” Law complained. The fuzzy cheek rubbing against his own was nice, in an irritating, unwanted sort of way. “Stop that.”

“I am fine, thank you as well, Sir.” The bear bowed, without releasing Law in the least. “Thank you.”

“Good,” Corazon really didn’t need to be explaining an injured cub to their furious guardian. “Sorry, Law; I wasn’t sure I could reach him in time, to get him out of the way, and not get mauled immediately thereafter. I won’t make it a habit.” He paused, “anymore of a habit than it already is.”

“I will stab you again.” Law huffed. “Can you- Bear-guy, stop it.” The face rubbing was still going. “Let go of me.”

“Sorry, Captain, thank you, Captain,” the bear had to be peeled off Law. “Thank you.”

“I’m not your captain.” Law straightened his hat first, then dusted himself off. “Go away.”

“I cannot, You’ve saved my life, I’m indebted.” he bowed again. “My name’s Bepo, Mink tribe of Zou. Thank you.”

“Fine! Fine.” Law groaned. He was going to have to take full advantage of this to get around the inconvenience of a tagalong. “Fine, but you have to do everything I say.”

“Yes Captain-!”

“Not to interrupt, but won’t your parents worry?” Corazon interrupted. “We should get you back into town, to your ship.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t have one anymore.” Corazon got a full bow now. “I’m here by myself, looking for my big brother, Zepo. I’m very off course, though, I think. I’m not sure where in the Grand Line I am. So there’s no need to worry.”

“North Blue,” Law could provide that. “You’re in the North Blue. You are so fucking lost.”

“Ah,” Bepo took that as well as one could. “Sorry.”

Corazon swallowed. Well. Suppose that meant he was theirs now.

Chapter Text

They couldn’t keep imposing on poor old Wolf. He took little Bepo’s arrival well enough, especially in the face of so much fresh meat. But it wasn’t hard to read his irritation.

Plus there was the looming threat of Doffy. His elder brother would eventually figure out that he’d been had. That there was no more contact and no more fruit. When no more reports of burning hospitals reached him, well, he’d know, and start at ground zero in the search for them. Doflamingo’s fury left no survivors in its wake.

Then there were the marines. They’d more than likely assume the Barrel Pirates duped them. But eventually the truth would come out. He’d miss a call, miss an update, and Sengoku would know. They’d start their search in the same place.

They were barely an island away. They had to move.

He put out his cigarette, and cast a long look over the seas. There was a storm brewing on the horizon. Too alike the dangers he worried over.

Wolf was explaining his latest invention to an incredibly disinterested Law and an awed Bepo. It honestly looked like junk. Even if it could predict the weather for the next half hour.

“What’re you reading?” Corazon asked Law, settling beside him.

“Map of human organs. Some of them are responsible for cleaning toxins out of the human body, so will have a higher concentration of lead. I’d rather not slice open an artery when I cut in to extract the lead.” Law tapped the oblong diagram. It was labelled ‘liver’ in spiky handwriting.

“You have to cut in? You can’t just pop it out?” Law shook his head.

“Leaves big pockets in my body because there’s so much of it. Would do more harm than good.” He glanced at the other two, “hypothetically, I could swap it out directly if I had fresh cell tissue available. But I’d need a lot, and specialized cells can’t be swapped with other cells. Basically I’d need a hot corpse. That has the same cell markers and blood type as I. And even then I might reject the cells and get sicker, this time with gangrene.

“Which is basically rotting alive from the inside.”

“I know-“ he was too late, “I know what gangrene is. We’re going to avoid that.”

“There’s a shortage of corpses anyways.” Law shrugged. “Either way, too risky. Cutting in is the safest manner.”

“Well, just don’t hurt yourself.” Law scoffed at that, but at least he knew Corazon cared.

“If you help me pull some stuff into town, I could probably introduce you to the doctor on this side of the island.” Wolf offered, “he’s a little better than the other guy.”

“Nn,” Law grimaced outright at that. “I’d rather not. Good or no, they all tend to be assholes about the poisoning. Refuse to even try. Tell me to give up because it’s incurable.”

“Suit yourself,” Wolf shrugged. “Corazon, what was the forecast out there? Sunny? Almost warm?”

“There’s a wind picking up, and a storm brewing on the horizon. I’d estimate snow in the next hour.” He had his eyes on Law, but he didn’t miss the frown of disappointment.

“What direction?”

“South-southwest. Off the open sea.”

“Off the-“ Wolf stood, invention forgotten as he left the building. Corazon followed. He doubted he’d have to point it out, but even so. “Now where....”

The storm was building quicker, now, filling the space with rolling omens.

“Hmph, that little thing’ll drop a few snowflakes, then vanish. It’ll wear itself out by shorefall.” Corazon wasn’t so sure. “Good ya told me, though, brat. It’s the right season for freezing rain. Which is a pain, at best.”

“Hence the concern,” that got him a nod.

Crunching their way back to the warmth of the cabin, Corazon paused. Amid the sound of winter and ocean (and several running inventions), there were heated voices escaping the trees. Yelling. Fear.

“Do you hear that?” He asked.

“Hm? Oh, that just sounds like those damn thieving brats. They live in the woods, steal hard-working people’s produce and coin. Empty traps and don’t reset them,”  Wolf waved the voices away as unimportant. “The town’s working on dealing with them, don’t you worry yourself any.”

“If you’re sure-“ Corazon was ready to take his word on the local nuisance, when he was interrupted by the very distinct sound of a grenade’s detonation. He straightened immediately, gun in hand faster than he could find the telltale plume of smoke.

Wolf reappeared beside him, his rifle ready. “What’ve those two done now?” Law had a knife and Bepo. He fully expected the worst.

“Law, grab the first aid kit,” Corazon instructed. “Just in case.”

As far as explosion sites went, the environment was fine. Some fire damage to a little shelter, and a wild hog lingering at the edges of the clearing. It seemed to be considering the corpses and pieces, even if it hadn’t moved in yet.

“Kid, don’t-“ Wolf was not fast enough to stop Law. Corazon simply followed the boy. He’d seen worse, certainly. His concern was how small these thieves were. Not much older than Law, by their size. Just children, fallen down a dark path.

“They’re alive,” Law pronounced. “Barely, but they are. I need to operate if they have any hope of surviving.” He twisted and folded bandage until he had a tourniquet capable of stemming the blown off arm. “Bepo, pack snow onto the stump and the loose arm, I want as little cell degradation as possible.”

Law barely acknowledged the ‘aye captain-!’, instead rolling the other kid onto his back. He was in worse shape than his brother, even if he had escaped the explosion damage. The hog had gored him, and if not for the cold and snow, he’d be gone already.

“Cora-san, lift this guy so that his hips and thighs are higher than his heart.” Unquestioning assistants were the best. He clambered up Corazon so that he could apply direct pressure to the wound. “Wolf, what’s the closer option; Town or your cabin. I can’t properly stabilize these idiots out here.”

“The- my cabin. But I don’t have blood there. They need blood.”

“They’ve lost a lot, yes, but we can start the intravenous once they’re not losing any more.” Law would gamble just a little. “Why aren’t we moving yet?! Bepo, bring the other guy, all of him! Keep the wound elevated!”

He was fully prepared to start hitting people. But they listened. They were moving, and by some miracle Corazon stayed upright.

Barking more commands as they entered the cabin, Law got an area cleared for him, and water set to boil. Thread was put in his hand at a word. The nicked artery was starting to clot, finally. It would be delicate for hours, but it was going to be fine.

Pressure bandages replaced his hands, and a pillow was sacrificed to holding the site higher than the guy’s heart.

“If he wakes, no moving-!” He ripped the blood typing kit from the box, and tore it open. There was no need to bleed the boys. They were covered in it. And they were, thankfully the same type.

“Wolf, I need 4 bags of X type blood. As fast as you can.”

“Not happening, kid.” That stopped Law in his healing rampage. Wolf was standing at the window, looking out. From what little Law could see, the clear skies had gone a murky slate, and were dropping fat, white clumps of snow, thicker and faster for every moment watched. But then, Wolf rolled up his sleeves. “I’m the same type, though. Use mine.”

“You’re too old; the amount of blood they need would kill you.” Even 2 pints was too much. Far too much, for an old geezer.

“Excuse you, I have the strength and vitality of a 20 year old! Get it done before I have corpses in my house instead of just injured.”

“Fine, if you want to die.” Law wouldn’t let him die.

Only once his patients were no longer actively dying, he could focus on the secondary concern. An arm often meant a man’s life. Sure these guys were just kids, but 2 hands were better than one.

He stole the microscope from the workroom while Wolf couldn’t do anything about it. If he was very skilled, and very accurate, if he could line up each nerve up to its other half precisely, there was a definite possibility he could save the arm.

So he got to work.

Chapter Text

“You’re the doctor of the town, correct?” Law marched through the door with no pretence. The man in a doctor’s coat looked down at him, startled. But after a moment’s processing, he nodded.

“I am; are you alright kid? Do you need help?”

“Doctor Trafalgar; I need three bags of X-type blood and this refilled, since I’m surrounded by idiots.” Law set his very depleted first-aid kit on the front desk. “Also a text on physical rehabilitation.”

“A doctor, at your age?” There was a smile on his face, now, as he crouched down. “That’s pretty amazing.”

“Did you hear me or no?”

“I did, but It’s hard to believe a rude little boy has any sort of credentials.” The doctor cocked his head lightly. “The Physician’s Guild doesn’t hand out many licenses to 8 year olds.” 

“I’m 13, thank you,” Law growled. “The blood, if you please.”

“Mm, I’m going to hazard no. Where’re your parents?” Ah, the tone of an adult about done with a child’s antics. He’d never missed that tone.

“Ah, so you want my patients to die. Lovely.” He pulled his knife. That got some consideration and alarm. “Let’s try that again, Shall we? Dr Trafalgar, needs supplies and the blood.”

“P-put down the knife, kid. Your game’s gone far enough.” He didn’t like it at all when Law advanced a step.

 Their standoff was abruptly ruined by a thud, crash, and Corazon ducking properly into the office. His nose was bloody, but the boys in his arms were undropped.

 “There you are, Law. Making a good first impression?” Then he paused, finally processing the mood. “Is this guy giving you problems?”

 Law expected fear, as Corazon’s pistol appeared, but the doctor of the town had no interest in them anymore. He’d taken one look at the boys in Corazon’s arms, at how pallid they were, and bolted. He returned quickly, with blood, IV rigs and hooks, and an assortment of other equipment.

 “Put the knife and gun away,” the doctor body-checked the curtained area open. “Put them down here. What happened? Who hurt them?”

 “Shachi suffered a 12 inch laceration to the groin, his femoral artery was breached, and he lost about 2 pints of blood. I’ve started him on a preventative round of wide-scope antibiotics, since I couldn’t find a listing of local hog bacteriology.  

“Penguin is on similar antibiotics,” he continued on, taking care of Penguin’s IV personally. The doctor was preoccupied with Shachi. “Concussive blast that caused complete unilateral brachiotomy of the right arm, midway through the humerus. While there is some evidence of mild nerve damage, the repair seems to be healing well. I would expect a full recovery.” Law adjusted the blood flow carefully. “If it weren’t for me, these kids would be dead.”

Penguin, who’d lost debatably less blood than his brother, cracked his eyes open to smile weakly. “Hi Doc.” 

He slowly, painstakingly, and with great discomfort, raised an arm that was supposed to be dead. His fingers were hardly coordinated, but he could, with some trying, make his fingertips touch, starting with the forefinger and thumb.  

“Between blood-loss, painkillers and antibiotics, they’re not super aware.” Law reported that as well. “Now, when I say I’m a doctor?”

“I... I apologize, Dr. Trafalgar. I’ve underestimated you.” The doctor still double-checked Law’s work. It didn’t seem to be out of any kind of malice, but it still made Law scowl. “We’ve gotten off on the wrong foot, clearly. I’m Dr. Water. Water Zima,” he offered his hand. Law considered, then took it. He also considered sinking his claws into the rude man, but that was a level of petty he would reserve for now. Zima felt their sharpness, but as a warning.

Corazon beamed in the background, glad the mess had cleared up.  

 Bepo was not having so great a time. Wolf had point blank refused to let Corazon carry him as well. The old man had only one sled, and refused to move the inventions stacked precariously atop it. Nor would he let Bepo try and help. So they walked, following Corazon’s deep tracks, into town. It was a long, slow slog, as Wolf was still short of blood himself.

But then, instead of following Corazon into the doctor’s care, the old man walked into the  town. He walked into town like he was there to have a calm day, chatting with the townsfolk, comparing the prices of the town market, even wandering up to the town mayor for words. Not a single one commented on Wolf’s new bear companion.

Bepo’s little ears and eyes were kept busy, though. It wasn’t as though the villagers were lax, unafraid of threat. Rather, they were hyper-vigilant, and Bepo just wasn’t a big enough danger to appear on their radars. Which made Bepo twice as wary as normal.

Wolf patted his little paw when he noticed. “Relax little bear, it’s a nice day out.” 

“Aye Sir,” Bepo didn’t calm down in the slightest. It was good that he didn’t, as shortly after, all the adults went from vigilant to keenly aware. Their predator had arrived, covered in rich, gem encrusted gold.

“Ah, there we go. I’ve got a job for you, little bear.” Wolf crooked him closer. “Tell our brats to make themselves scarce. You saw where they turned in?”

“Aye, you’ll be okay?”

“Don’t question me, brat.” Bepo darted away with an apology before his reprimanding thump could land.

The mayor beside him chortled, “new helpers?” 

“Hmph, hardly. The three break almost more things than they’re worth, but I can use the extra hands in return. Don’t be surprised if I offload the less competent ones on you come spring.”

The mayor scoffed in amusement. Any further response was interrupted by a greased, entitled voice.

“That was a hell of a storm this week, wasn’t it Redd, Wolf?”

“Haven’t seen your nephews, brat, carry on.” Wolf huffed.

“We’ll let you know as soon as we track them down,” Redd added with a pinch more kindness, “they can’t have gone far.”

“I’m just asking, old coot,” his offence was masked with an attempt at lightheartedness. “I just heard some loud explosions just as the storm rolled in.”  

“Hmph,” Wolf added nothing.

“The trials of an inventor,” Redd smiled politely, “Every person on the island has a vested interest in the children; if they’re in trouble, they’ll be found and cared for. They’ll turn up soon.”

“Hmm,” richly rich-pants scowled, taking no relief from the reassurance. “I will check with Dr. Zima even so.”

No one moved to stop him.

Bepo arrived at Law’s side with all due speed. “Captain-!”

“Bepo. Where’s Wolf; he needs a transfusion too.” Law looked up from the reference he was perusing. “Did he collapse?” 

“Mr Wolf is fine, but he wants you to know there’s a Golden Predator-human coming, and that you should all leave quickly.”

“Golden-?” Law frowned. 

“Predator?” Corazon questioned.  

“... Uncle,” Penguin hiccuped. It quickly became a distressed, medicated sobbing.  Shachi quickly picked up on that.

“Gettin’ th’necklace, Uncle- gettin it-“ Shachi sounded more like he was begging. “Don- Leave Penguin ‘lone-!”  

Corazon felt his blood freeze. Children begging for mercy was not something he enjoyed hearing.

“That’s all I need to hear; move them into the side room, quickly now.” Zima  unlocked the wheels, and pushed the closest boy in the right direction. “Hide them, keep them quiet.”

Law was set to help, but was instead grabbed up by the older doctor. “Apologies, Dr Trafalgar,” as he was set on the end of a fresh bed, and corresponding curtains were tugged closed. Corazon returned for Law once Bepo, Shachi and Penguin were safely stowed away. There was concern etched in his brow as the clinic door opened.

Rich entered with grandeur and expectation, but there was nothing to be seen but a worried father overseeing his kid’s appointment. A worried father, whom was tall enough to look over the curtains when he entered.  

“So let’s see,” Zima referred to a clipboard that held some previous patient’s numbers. “Looks like you’re completely clean. All the blood tests came back negative. Congratulations!”

Law frowned for a long, quiet minute. Then it lightened, as he realized he was supposed to play along. “I- I’m going to be okay?” Disbelief wasn’t that hard to drag up, “but- the last doctor-“

“Is human, and people make mistakes. But You’re going to be okay. In a few weeks, you’ll be completely over this, and you’ll feel better than ever. You won’t even remember being sick.”

“Told you the last guy was a quack,” Corazon relaxed his concern slowly, naturally. “Glad we tried again now, bud?”

“... Yeah.” Law stared at his fingers. “Yeah.” The lead wasn’t so close to gone, but soon. One day. In the foreseeable future. He was going to have that feeling of bliss, of never, ever having to worry about the lead again.

He was going to relish that day when it came.

“Doctor,” Rich was done waiting. “My nephews?”

“Hm? Oh, just a second,” Zima told Law with a smile, “I’ll be right back.”

Corazon watched from above as the town doctor greeted the rich uncle with politeness and nothing more. Assured him that, while the doctor hadn’t seen the children, he would be notified as soon as they showed up.

They’d almost gotten the prat to leave, unaware that he’d been duped, when things went to hell. As they always tended to.

”Pirates-! Pirates on the shoreline! Take shelter!”

Chapter Text

They were on the open sea, under a heavy moon. The sail was down, but they were moving with the current more than the wind. Corazon fumbled a cigarette into his mouth, breathing deep as he lit it. Nicotine hit his bloodstream moments later, steadying his shaking fingers.

He could then pat out his coat, the burn of singed feathers grounding him. The smell of brine mixed with his cigarette. The silent oceans swayed the boat, rocking his racing mind and heart to peace. The winking stars promised to watch over their progress, should he need to rest his eyes, but the children were all asleep. He wouldn’t wake any of them just yet, least of all for a watch.

It had been a hell-ride to get to this peace.

He had recognized the flag the moment he saw it. Ah, the Diez Barrel Pirates, back for their 5 billion beli fruit. No matter what had happened to it.

Rich had darted off to ensure the safety of his wealth, certainly. Men like him went after that before family. The doctor ran to secure his patients, but Law tried to run out the door with Corazon.

“What are you doing? Stay here, help this guy with your patients. I can handle these bozos.” Corazon grabbed him. He was still too tiny, too sick to consider a fight.

“They nearly killed you last time,” Law snapped right back. “Your clumsy ass isn’t going in alone.”

“No, not until you’re more healed.”

“I’m fine.” He scowled at him, wrestling away with little success.

“No,” Corazon tossed him back into the office, shutting the door between them. He ignored the threats of stabbing as he headed for the shore.

The town was fleeing and hiding with the precision of a town regularly plagued by pirates. They knew what to do. Good.

A town named Pleasure Town, god. They probably got a lot of people coming for a red-light district, or at least gambling and drinking. He doubted they had a brothel, or even a bar large enough for more than just the locals. 

The large vessel in the bay was moderately intimidating. His count of 30+ pirates from last time could easily raise to 50, should space be used efficiently. Some of those number were probably non-fighters in that case, though. Cooks and doctors, and cabin boys proficient with chores and no more.

Even as he approached the shore, easy and relaxed, a solid 2 dozen followed their captain onto dry land. He flicked his cigarette calmly.

“Captain, that’s him!” A familiar face. One of those who’d shot him. He’d survived.

“The bastard who took it? Well.” Knuckles cracked threateningly. “We’ve come to take the Ope-Ope back. We won’t be taking no for an answer, since there’s 5 billion riding on it.”

“What if I don’t have it anymore? Maybe I sold it. Or ate it.” He crossed his arms. There were a few grenades in his coat yet, and several dynamite. They went silent under his fingertips.

“I doubt both those things.” Diez Barrels stopped shy a dozen feet away. His men immediately circled Corazon. 24 muskets, about half with bayonets. And two swords.  “I actually have a feeling that you have a devil fruit already. So turn it over, and we might leave  you alive.”

There were several ways this could go. One depended on him not tripping for at least ten minutes. It was pretty icy, though. Another depended too much on a dinghy being both available, and him not tipping himself into the blue. A third needed more prep time than he had, and at least three more colours of paint than he had on him.

Leaving two. Immediately eat dirt, roll his ass under the weapons, and deposit a live grenade at Barrels’ feet. Or, Bluff like his life depended on it. He was pretty good at that, no agility required.

“I see you calculating; no funny business.”

Corazon sighed, and took a long drag of his cigarette. “Fine; truth is it’s not in my hands anymore. Doflamingo took it. Needs it for himself.”

“Doflamingo? The Northern Scourge?” Barrels scoffed.

“The Surgery of Perennial Youth, only from the Ope-Ope no Mi. He’s gone to find a doctor worthy of it, while I heal from the gunshots you all dealt me. He should return soon; they’re barely even scars anymore.” He ignored the man’s disbelief. “He will be very displeased you’ve bothered his little brother again. He’s always been so adamant no one harms a hair on my head.”

Barrels did not move, nor was he moved. But his men were a different stock. They heard him. The little brother of a very influential pirate? He had some fear to work on now.

“We can wait for him to return, if you’d prefer.” He took another drag on his cigarette. Nearly gone. Nearly time.

“I don’t think that’ll be necessary. Men, kill him and search the body. It’ll be with him or nearby.” Barrels commanded. His cold tone was enough to make Corazon roll his eyes. His cigarette suffered one last drag while the men about him hesitated.

The man next to him screamed as he was nailed in the eye with a burning cigarette butt. The sound spooked the men into shooting - one another. Corazon had already dropped down under their aim, and ducked out of there using the opening he’d made. A different stock indeed.

They’d taken out at least half their number, and at least half the remaining men were now sporting bullet wounds. Seriously encumbered, making Corazon’s fight a hell of a lot fairer. Barrels noticed a half second later, and began berating his men after their target. He really didn’t have to, Corazon wasn’t going far in these conditions. He was just going to circle round the back, and appear behind Barrels with presents.

Barrels whirled about when his pockets got heavier, to find Corazon dashing away with six new rings. Rings that had been pins to grenades. He tore his coat off, heaving it into the reeling pile of subordinates just in time. The blast made no sound, for all it injured his men further in the typical manner of a grenade. The ground under his feet then blew up, silent, but tossing him into the ice. Dynamite appeared between his legs a second later. Instantly, not as though it had been tossed. He snatched it up, and outed the wick with a deft move.

No one to be seen.  He glared about the port, watching carefully. Then another stick appeared in a flash of blue, dropping into the few survivors he had left. A silent explosion.

Then something small moved. A kid, on the far side of the road, peering out from pots and planters, before moving. He didn’t seem to notice that Barrels hadn’t exploded, or was watching, as he darted down an alley.

His men were a bloody mess, but someone had dropped a pack of matches. Just what he needed. And he followed the little boy.

Corazon frowned. His pile of muted dynamite kept shrinking. He was trying to take inventory while the pirates dealt with his gifts. Their screams kept picking up and dying. It was moderately concerning. Or at least until he spotted a spotted tail.


“Shut up, I’m helping.”

“I asked you to help the Doctor.”

“And Bepo can do that.” He picked up several of the remaining sticks of dynamite. “I’m going to try and swap this into that Barrel-guy’s stomach.”


“I’m a pirate too, so sh-“ he collided with a pair of knees. A rough hand snatched him up, dangling him uselessly in front of the Barrel-guy. “Oh, it’s you.”

“What was that about dynamite in my stomach?” He asked, with mocking gentleness.

“Say ahh,” Law held out a stick like a tongue compressor, “let’s have a look at those tonsils.”

“Cute.” He got jabbed in the cheek avoiding a quick insertion, and flung the child into the nearby wall. The force of the blow was enough to crumble the frozen brick. That taken care of, he returned his attention to the feathered man, the original thief.

He wasn’t there. His leavings were, but it was like he’d vanished. There was no noise to betray him, so searching by eye was-

The fist collided with his face with enough force to crack the other frozen brick wall of the alley.

“Law! Law, are you alright?!” He should have barricaded the door. Locked it. Something other than just closing it. Corazon ripped through the rubble, unearthing his kid and hoping for the best, expecting the worst. “Law-!”

“Fuck,” Law gasped as he was finally freed. The piece atop him had been more than he could move alone. His face was covered in blood, his skull was tender, and his nose was broken. “Thanks.”

“Law?” Corazon eased him out, supporting his neck.

“M’fine, you throw harder.” A grin hurt more than it was worth. “No skull or spinal breaks, potential for concussion. Nose is fucked.”

“You hit really hard,” he was really sick, still.

“Skull’s made for impact.” There was a sickening crunch as Law fixed his nose, and stemmed the resulting blood flow. “Hurts’a bitch, but m’fine.”


“Scold me later. Kill ‘im b’fore he’s a problem.” His kid pulled away, tending his hurts. He moved to stand, still greying with worry, when heat touched his hand. He expected fire; his feathers were just like that. But a whole stick of dynamite, lit and silent?

He panicked, jolting up to his feet. He aimed to kick it away, to get some space, but instead missed, slipping on the round tube and onto it and his back. Barrels’ smug, bloodied face met his wild-eyed decent, like in slow motion.

Then, oh then, something heavy hit him from behind, just as the wick sizzled down to nothing. Just as a fiery explosion began, so too did a bloody explosion.

Wolf was a hell of a shot. He couldn’t protect his own son, but... maybe he could protect this idiot’s kid.

“Wolf, Wolf wake up.” A loud snapping at his nose dragged him back. He’d died, hadn’t he? Diving onto dynamite tended to  kill people, especially old geezers with a blood shortage.

“What?” He finally snapped, cracking his eyes open. The room was bright, and full of people waiting with concerned faces. The closest face was Zima. Stupid doctor, worried about an old shit like him. “You all better have a good reason for waking me.”

“He’s alive-!” Chorused through the room. Zima sighed in pure relief.

“You almost died. The Doctor-kid, Trafalgar, he saved your life. Don’t know how, but he worked a miracle. What were you thinking, jumping on live dynamite?!” Damn doctors and their fidgety hands, checking and rechecking equipment and connections.

“Hmph,” Wolf grumbled. “Can I still walk?”

“You’ll make a full recovery, sans some intense scars.”

“Good. Where’re the brats?” He tried to rise, only for intense pain to lance up his blown-up side. “Fuck-“

“Bedrest.” Zima pushed him back gently. “Don’t worry, they... they survived.”

“’re omitting something, brat.”

“No I’m not, you’re just tired and hurt. We should let you rest-“

“Don’t. Tell me what happened.”

“... Wolf-” Zima sighed. “You tell him what he did.”

“Well,” Redd was right there, on the other side of the sickbed, “your three guests are part of a pirate crew. Not the sort of people we want in Pleasure Town, you know?

“They’re in a cell next to the Barrel Pirates, waiting on the marines.”

“Part of a- no. They’re rough kids, sure, but they ain’t no criminals.” Wolf sat up again, this time moving past the pain. “You let them out right this instant.”

“Wolf-“ Redd’s expression softened; their old inventor was deceived, fooled by an innocent act. “Wolf, you have to understand, they admitted it. They run with the Donquixote Pirates. They’re dangerous. We’ll be sure to tell the Marines the kid saved your life, that he’s already a skilled doctor, and he’s too young to get a heavy sentencing. You don’t have to worry about squaring up or debts and the like.”

“No, you don’t understand.” He was old and injured, these bastards couldn’t keep dismissing him, so he grabbed up Redd’s shirt. “I’ve actually talked to the kid, alright? Now I owe him my bloody life. He’s no criminal because he’s hunted. The Marines won’t ask questions when they see him, they’ll just execute him on the spot, along with everyone in the town.”


“He’s ill, poisoned. For some reason the Marines think it’s contagious when it isn’t. They’ll destroy everything to eradicate the kid, and anyone who contacts the kid. Let them out. Right. Now.” He was stressing his stitches. There was blood spotting his bandages. He didn’t care.

“I knew those spots were familiar-!” Zima straightened. Redd swallowed hard.

“... Fine. But they have to leave immediately. The Marines said they’d be here by nightfall. They won’t get to say goodbye.”

“Like hell. Zima, quit your gaping and get me a wheelchair.”

“Law...” Corazon watched his charge tie down his bandages. Bepo was dozing, so the boy could take off his hat briefly.

Law tested the padding on his brow - a brick had sliced him open, hence all the blood earlier - then slipped his hat into place. “I’m not sorry for coming to help. I wasn’t going to let them actually kill you this time.”

“... that- that’s... Law, I know you were just trying to help.” Corazon sighed. “I’m not upset about that, just that you put yourself in danger. You’re still healing. I’m worried one wrong move will be the end of you.”

“... I know my limits.” Law mumbled.

“I’m aware, I just don’t want you anywhere near them. Not right now. Toeing the line can wait, can’t it?”

“Hmph.” Law did look rebuked, even if he wouldn’t cooperate.

“Thank you.” He started to pat his head, only to switch to his shoulder last minute. Law pouted, but rested his cheek against his arm.

Unfortunately, this warm quiet couldn’t last.

“Anyways, what I was going to say was, we need to get out of here. I saw some boats in the harbour; they aren’t iced in yet. We can get on one, and be gone long before the marines show.”

“We won’t have supplies. It’s not good fishing in this weather, no one will have a stocked boat.”

“That’s fair; you don’t really have the reserves for any kind of fasting. We’d have to pillage first.” He studied the dirt floor of their cell. It was warm enough in here, at least. “Which won’t be easy, since the town’s on high alert.”

“These idiots brought their ship, but I didn’t get a good look.” Law offered.

“Too big for three sailors, and I don’t know where the galley is so robbing it would take too long.”


“Would rather not. I doubt there’s much loyalty on their boat.”


“... I could probably make the Villagers turn over some supplies, I guess.” Corazon tapped his knee with the other hand. Law stared up at him, expectant. “I’d have to do something I’d rather not do, thought.”

“Hostage?” Law assumed.

“No, no, hostages are too unpredictable, really. In general. I’d rather avoid that.” Corazon dug into his coat. He drew out a small, waterproofed case. “Don’t listen, I’m going to talk a lot of shit.”

“No calm-bubble?”

Corazon shrugged, it wasn’t necessary. He wouldn’t be taking it too out of control.

He leaned through the bars, peering through the gloom. A few lit candles brightened the stone and dirt, and not much else. It was a very small town, to be fair. Two cells was probably more than they ever needed.

“Hello?” He called, “Can I talk to a guard or something?”

“We’re not supposed to, Sir,” a little scrap of a teen peered out from the stairwell. “I can go find the Constable, though.”

“That’s not necessary. Come here,” Corazon crooked a finger. “Know what this is?” He opened the little case, exposing a glossy copy of his marine credentials.

“Uh-“  the kid approached, curious. “What?? You said you were a pirate-!”

“Also yes; sometimes it helps to get an inside guy, someone to help get the bad guy behind bars,” Corazon held his finger to his lips then. “This needs to stay a secret, though. That’s why I didn’t say so earlier, in front of everyone. I can trust you to not blab, though, right?”

“O-of course-!” The boy nodded frantically. “I’ll let you out Mister Commander sir, we’re sorry-!”

“Thank you,” Corazon ruffled his hair affectionately when the door swung open. “Now I’m going to slip away with my cadets; do you know where I could get supplies? I can leave a receipt for repayment.”

“Uh, as you go out the door there’s a big chest with about a week’s dry rations, some blankets. We see a lot of snow some years, enough that we gotta wait a couple days until we can dig out again.”

“Thank you. Law, Bepo.” The boys appeared at his side, “go find it, quickly now. I’ll be up in a second.”

He pulled an official document from behind his credentials. He scrawled out a quick receipt for the kid. “Just give that to the marines when they show up. They have to honour it. And this-“ another document from the same place, “there’s a fellow in town I’m giving your constable permission to investigate. Rich, I think his name is? Anyways, as a Commander I can authorize investigations, so this is to look into thieving and child abuse.”

“Oh, he’s been complaining about that guy. This’ll make him happy.” The boy grinned at the papers.

“Good; try not to get into too much trouble.” Corazon left it at that, and chased after his charges. They were lifting a chest between them. “The right one?”

“Yeah, wasn’t locked or anything.” Law confirmed. The boys looked relieved when Corazon took responsibility of it. Probably a little heavy for them.

Slipping out the back, the three darted between buildings, with the children acting as lookouts. They made the port just as shouting began in the center of town.

The ship easiest to shove off was at the end of the pier; a fishing schooner. Maybe not the easiest for one man and two kids, but not unreasonable. A seasoned sailor could manage it.

Bepo squeaked as he was heaved over the gap one-handed. As reliably as ever, he caught and steadied Law when he was tossed over likewise. Corazon boarded last, after passing the chest. He untied the anchoring line, then jumped on to raise the anchor itself.

“Wait-! Dr. Trafalgar-!” The three looked up from their unmooring.

Dr. Zima was at the end of the pier, supporting the brothers carefully. He was breathing hard. “You forgot your patients-!”

“Ah, Fuck-“ he had.

“Won’t they prefer to stay here, with the town?” Corazon set the anchor aside, standing.

“The town won’t be safe until we take care of the uncle. Take them, bring them home in a few years.”

“... We’ll do that.” He understood that worry, at least. Especially if they’d had a hand in their family’s misdeeds. Two more were added to his very young crew.

“And Doctor-!” Law looked back as they started to catch wind. “Good luck, finding a cure for it-!”

Law froze, eyes slits. Then he relaxed as no abuse followed. They were already running anyways.

“Thanks, I’ll need it-!” He called back. “Don’t let Wolf move for a couple days! And tell him thanks, from us!”

“I’ll do my best!” Even as he spoke, Wolf rolled to a stop beside him, looking a righteous fury. He’d escaped the office without a guard.

“Get back here and tell me yourself, bastards-!” Lively already, too. Law’s wave turned into a fist.

“No! Bed for you, Junker! Survive n’ you’ll be square with us!” He was uncertain if he was heard, as he couldn’t hear Wolf’s reply. So he settled for just waving.

Corazon would’ve joined in gladly, but the chop was awful and he had to focus. Their boat could handle open water, but it wasn’t indestructible.

He had to sail smartly against winter storms, and swiftly. Any sign of sails he avoided. His heading would be hard to discern later, but he’d rather fight that than marines and pirates galore.

He took another drag, eyeing the horizons. Still. Nothing. Nothing to threaten them, nothing to greet them. Just ocean and stars... and bright gold eyes, slitted in the dark.

“You’re a Marine, aren’t you, Commander?”

Chapter Text

The dark night hid the way he flinched. Law stared at him, unblinking. The gold of his eyes wasn’t usually so unnerving.

“You are, aren’t you?”

For all it was phrased as a question, Corazon knew he’d been had. That his façade was up, and he was exposed, and Law had finally realized the Truth . His first instinct was to smile, laugh it off, divert the boy’s attention to some other pressing matter.

He knew it wouldn’t work. The unblinking, expectant silence was not something he could break with anything but the truth.

“I- Yes,” he finally, finally admitted. “I’m... I am a Marine.”


Why? Why he was a Marine? Well, he told him. Told him of a little boy, left abandoned, beaten, and hunted by the people instead of the Marines. Who was rescued by a kind soul, who was a Marine, who raised him in his image. Taught him that Injustice never wins, that Justice would prevail, that, as a Marine, he could be the change that the world needed. It sounded so hollow as he said it. So Hypocritical, in the face of a boy who’d witnessed those same Marines commit the greatest injustice of all.

“I’m sorry,” Corazon finally finished on. Tears were spilling down his cheeks, “I’m sorry, Law. I’ve lied to you. I didn’t want you to be upset, but I can’t go on being dishonest. I want to be with you, to keep loving you dearly, over everything else I’ve worked towards, or wanted.

“You’re terribly important to me, you know. I can’t imagine life without you. I... I don’t want to.”

Golden eyes finally blinked, slow and deliberate. The soft sound of his charge standing. Law’s footsteps were equally soft on the wooden deck. As he emerged from the shadows, Corazon had to fight the urge to look away. Law stared at him, seemingly dispassionate. But his façade broke soon after.

Scrubbing futilely at welling tears, Law tried very hard to control himself. “Idiot,” he sniffed wetly, “you idiot, you can’t just say shit like that. Fuck.

“Anyways, I figured as much. Just wanted t’hear you say it. You’re not subtle, with all those secret calls n’ coded messages. Honestly I’m surprised no one else noticed, Dumbass.”

“You-“ Corazon couldn’t help the short bark of laughter. “You Brat .”

He was allowed to draw Law into his arms, and to dry his cheeks with his sleeve. He’d always felt right, cuddled against his chest, and today was no different.

“I love you too,” it was so quiet, from the enveloping of his arms. He was the most blessed man in the entire world.

Shachi woke up to throbbing in his very core, and sudden clarity. Penguin was beside him, sobbing hysterically as he clutched his arm. There were three people over them - a man too large to be allowed, a little kid with a black and blue face, and a literal bear wearing overalls.

Maybe he wasn’t so lucid.

“Cora-san, he’s conscious. Keep him down.” The kid gave the orders.

“Hey buddy, relax for a moment,” Large Bigman knelt lower, resting a cool cloth on Shachi’s brow. “Law will see you in a moment, okay?”

“Penguin-!” He sounded awful. Like he hadn’t spoken in ages.

“He was hurt too. Can you drink something?” The bear offered a cup of water from the other side.

“Who-“ and that was enough. He broke off, coughing. The kid immediately straightened.

“Don’t like that sound, keep stretching the tendons and stop crying.” Penguin nodded meekly, still crying.

Shachi lurched at the sight of sharp talons. Law didn’t care, holding him still with Corazon’s help. He tested the firmness of Shachi’s belly, low over the injury site. It was properly firm, only mildly distended with residual infection. No other signs of infection were prominent, even in his lungs.

“Dehydration,” Law eventually decreed. “250ml of water every hour, in sips mind. No chugging.”

“... who the fuck-?” Shachi wanted nothing to do with these weirdos.

“I’m a doctor, and I saved your fucking lives. My question is who takes on a boar with a grenade?” Law bristled at the unfriendly tone.

“... Fuck off.” Shachi tried to move, only to stop, clutching his stomach.

“Shachi, stop-“ Penguin took his hand. “Don’t make him mad. He saved us.”

“Says him.”

“... I lost less blood. You were asleep lots.” Penguin squeezed gently. “He did. I don’t remember lots, I was in and out lots too, but Dr Zima said he did a good job.”

“I want Dr Zima, not this bozo. Where is he?” Shachi grumbled, trying to swat away the bear. “And no pets-!”

“Don’t-“ Corazon caught his hand. “Bepo isn’t a pet, he’s a Mink. They’re a people from the second half of the Grand Line.”

“... I’m going to forgive that only because he’s coming down.” Law decreed. “Next slip up, I harvest his organs.”

“Oh- It’s okay Captain, people have called me-“ Bepo stopped short at the intense glare.

“I protect my subordinates.” Law snapped. Shachi swallowed hard at fangs to match those deadly looking claws. “You mind your manners, kid. I’m in the market for a full set.”

Corazon heaved a long sigh. What a brat.

“How is that tendon stretching coming along?”

“I’m doing it I’m doing it, please don’t hurt us-!”

“Good.” He watched them carefully with his scary slitted eyes and shiny, sharp talons.

Penguin was now allowed to stand, walk around, and generally live as he had (exercise but not overwork his reattached arm). Shachi was barely permitted to sit up.

It was aggravating. Boring. He fell asleep lots. Usually when his brother hadn’t been by in a while. The angry doctor-kid who’s name he hadn’t bothered to learn said it was blood-loss and antibiotics and strong painkillers. He just flipped him off.

But periodically, Bepo or the tall guy would visit. He tried really hard to forget the former’s name, but doctor-kid had cemented it with his glare. They were far nicer. They came with food, and sometimes tall-guy stayed to chat, or would read to him.

“What are you going to be when you grow up?” He had asked at some point.

“I wanna travel. Pleasure Town sucks. S’cold all the time.” He had to eat slowly, or else he’d be spare bones. So he tried. Broth didn’t exactly last forever.

“Anywhere in particular?”

“I dunno,” Shachi shrugged absently. “Just... somewhere different.”

“I understand.” He’d smiled then, and it was a stupid, but kind of endearing thing. “We’re landing tomorrow, briefly, to get better supplies. You can’t walk yet, but we’ll start letting you above deck as soon as possible. Law has his mind set on some crutches, or a wheelchair.”

Penguin was left on deck to watch over his brother and the ship. So he cast a fishing line out silently. Only to be nearly scared into the water when Shachi appeared beside him.

“Should you be up?” He asked softly.

“Don’t care. We’re not on Sparrow, so Uncle can’t find us. We need to leave now, before they decide being nice is too much work.”

“Oh,” Penguin frowned softly. “Is that a good idea? We’re still hurt, and I don’t think they’re like that. They seem like they might actually be nice. Besides, where would we go?”

“Anywhere. Come on, I can steer the ship, you pull on the sails.”

“We’re tied to the dock, and I can’t lift the anchor. I can’t really climb around yet either.” Penguin clutched the sore part of his arm. Shachi was right of course; they’d escaped one rotten life. A new, potentially worse one should be avoided at all costs. Even if it meant being thankless brats.

“Come on-!”

“We can try, but later. When you can walk, and we can move normally. Now would be too risky,” Penguin reasoned, “we’re low on food and water, we’re almost out of medical supplies. Neither of us can read a map. Without those we’d die.”

“Only if we die,” he started to argue, when shouting drew their attention.

“There he is-! Get him-!”

“Shit- shit-“ Corazon was incoming. He carried Bepo and Law under his arms, who both held supplies like lifelines. Behind them, a mass of townsfolk bearing torches and pitchforks. Their hosts had apparently fucked up.

There was chaos as they both boarded and unmoored, Corazon nearly tripping into the water between boat and dock. They had to then dodge projectiles from shore, but thankfully no cannonballs. A few gunshots through their sails, though.

“Everyone okay?” Corazon gasped once shore was distant. “No injuries?”

“Just our pride.” Law reported. “Didn’t get everything we needed, but we’ll survive.”

“Good, good... Sorry about the panic, kids, sailed into the wrong port. I thought that island came up earlier than anticipated.”

“What did you do to those people?!” Shachi demanded, forcing himself upright.

“D-Did you kill someone?!” Penguin asked.

“Ah, no, no,” Corazon blushed sheepishly. “Last we were here, Law and I got into an argument with the local doctors. Bastards refused to treat a sick boy. Hospital may have caught fire.”

“Cora-san set it ablaze because they were very rude and unprofessional.” Law clarified further the level of maniac they were under the care of. “Made me cry. Because that’s a good reason for serial arson.”

“I would do it again.” Corazon assured with zero regret. “... wait, Shachi? How did you get above deck?”


He was chased back below deck with threats of skinning and a sword. Dumb doctor-kid wasn’t joking apparently.

“So it looks like the stitches on the outside are finally healed enough.” Law tested the skin under his fingers. Shachi huffed, as his body was still sore there. And itchy. “I’m pulling them, then I’m going to check the ones inside.”

Shachi frowned as the knots were cut and the remaining threads were tugged free. “How the fuck-? Are you going to cut me open again, right after I’ve healed?!”

“Normally, yes.” Law confirmed, discarding the last thread in an old bucket. He selected a scalpel from his collection, and drew it over the leather strop a few times for good measure. Once the edge was suitably prepared, he dunked it into a waiting bottle of antiseptic. “If you move, this will hurt terribly.”

Shachi had been about to kick this punk in the head, but froze at the warning. Blue flashed around his wound, forming a brilliant dome over the workspace. When the scalpel pressed in, it didn’t hurt in the least.

He watched in horror as his bloodless skin was peeled back, and Law began to poke at the underlying musculature. He removed stitches methodically, silently. Then he simply pressed the skin back together, leaving him better than he had been in a couple weeks.

“... what.”

“Devil fruits have their applications.” Law returned the scalpel to it’s spot once the blue faded away. “You’re allowed to start walking around now, though you still have to take it easy. If it suddenly hurts way more, stop immediately. No lifting or anything like that.” Behave himself, and he might not rip open the fresh scar tissue and die.

“Finally.” Shachi started to stand. “Skedaddle, I wanna put on my pants.” He needed out of this stupid hospital gown that smelled vaguely of old man.

“... I’ll go see if Cora-san has any that might fit.” Law distinctly recalled cutting the garments loose, and they hadn’t exactly stopped long enough to go clothes shopping.

Shachi stood agape as he left. He was going to have to run around, bare assed, until they found something???

Corazon frowned as well when Law asked. He pulled off his cowl, and began searching the pockets. The only clothes he had on him were his, and a spare outfit of Law’s. The latter were far too small.

“I suppose he could try my pants, but they’ll probably be far too large. Even if i hemmed them.” He held out his white pair. He’d switched to a darker pair after he noticed slight bloodstains on the white fabric, ones that refused to be washed out.

“He’d fit into these sideways.” Law grumbled. “Guess he suffers.”

“We’ll find something, don’t worry. I’m sure I have something in here - a towel or old flag or-“ he began to empty his coat.

Law watched his idiot guardian empty his cowl of far more objects than reasonable. The bazooka was too big. Two rigs for Den-Den Mushis, one of the snails from a different pocket entirely, three forgotten bags of snacks. A ration bar and a miraculously undamaged bottle of wine that Corazon ripped open with his teeth while parsing through a wad of receipts. A mess of explosives and three copies of Doffy’s wanted poster.

Several knives, two sweaters and a fistful of pens later, Law got bored. He went to tell Shachi he was screwed.

Corazon came below deck a while later, stooping for the ceiling. In his arms he held a small box, several bags of snacks, a dress that looked about Baby 5’s size and a rolled map.

His charges scurried to relieve him of the food, and the rest went on the table as he sat. Shachi, already grumpy from wearing a blanket all afternoon, looked mortified as he was passed the dress.


“I found this, it’ll keep you decent until we can get something better,” he smiled apologetically. “It’s better than nothing, I promise.”

“But it’s- it’s so,” Shachi could barely bring himself to touch it, “ Frilly .”

“Yeah, the young lady it was meant for is into that kinda thing. It’s the only thing we have, though.” He passed it off, and Shachi trudged away in despair. Corazon watched him go, before surveying the rest of the kids. They’d converged on a communalized bowl of snacks, and were making short work of them.

“Leave some for Shachi,” he reminded, unrolling his map, securing the corners with several compass-like instruments.

“You have a Logpose?!” Bepo abandoned the rest to scramble over. “And a Triplepose!”

“Yeah, I learned how to sail on the Grand Line, so I have all the tools.” He patted Bepo’s head. “It was just a matter of finding them.”

“And that thing? What’s this?” Bepo picked up one of the four tools.

“This is a sextant, which lets me position us using the stars. And that’s a standard compass, which is what we use outside the Grand Line. Since the logposes don’t work out here,” Corazon tapped the logpose, and it bounced uselessly. “You’re interested in navigation? I’m not the best, but I can teach you the basics.”

“Could you?!” The little bear was adorable, and his beaming was infectious. And now he had taken over his lap. “It would be an honour to be taught by Captain’s Father! Thank you, thank you-!”


Words stopped as he turned to the source of the noise, turned to Law. His charge was visibly distressed, broken pen spilling dark ink over his fingers. He was some dark place, by the slit of his pupils, and the wetness of his eyes.

“Ah, Bepo,” he found his voice, “don’t- I’m just Cora-san, not his father. I love him dearly, but I can’t take on a title like that. Please understand.” Perhaps, one day, if Law decided so, maybe he could. But definitely not now. He stood, setting Bepo on the ground so he could move to Law’s side. “Law?”

At no response, he testingly touched the boy’s shoulder. Gold eyes turned up to him, surprised. “Okay?”

“... yeah, sorry,” He apologized quietly, “what were you asking?”

“Just checking on you.” He passed a rag, so some of the ink could be blotted out. Once it was, Law was placed against his shoulder. For cuddles. Child comfortably in his spot, he could return to his own. “So, Navigation, right.”

He turned the map on an angle so all three children could see it. Four, when Shachi finally rejoined them, tugging at the frilly hem of the dress. He was lucky - it was longer than most of Baby 5’s fashion choices. Which in turn explained why he had it; it was probably planted for a later prank. ... Unless he’d bought it himself in an attempt to coerce her into something more appropriate for her age, and just never got to it. He was now uncertain.

“So this is Haddock Island, where we were a couple days ago.” The island had been previously marked with an X, along with 6 months worth of others. They’d seen many doctors. “Here’s Sparrow and Minion. This island is where I thought we were.” An unnamed island on this map, but marked with a settlement. It was a league to the south of Haddock, meaning the mystery heading of their departure was more east than south. “And this island, Blue Crossing, is where I’m aiming for at the moment.”

“Blue Crossing? We’re leaving the North?” Penguin asked.

“I’m uncertain. But, since the people looking for us are in the north, it may be wise.” Corazon hummed, “did you four have any places you wanted to visit?”

“... Would Zou be out of question?” Bepo asked softly. “I know it’s far, but it’s very beautiful. And really different from the islands I’ve seen so far.”

“In this craft, yes,” Corazon smoothed his fur gently. “Trying to locate it without an eternal-pose in a merely blue-worthy craft would be suicide. Perhaps later, when we have a have a better boat, we can get you home.”

“... home?” Penguin asked softly. When Corazon looked up, the boy looked sheepish, like he hadn’t meant to speak.

“Unfortunately,” he sighed softly, apologetically, “Sparrow is also out of question. Besides the treatment you two needed, there’s a pending investigation of your uncle. The last thing you kids need are criminal charges.”

“We- you-“

“But we’re the ones that did the thieving,” Shachi frowned. “Uncle just collected and sold the product.”

“Were you doing it because you wanted to? Or because he forced you to?”

“Because we wanted t-“

“Because we wanted to eat. He’d give us bread and water, let us sleep next to a fire, if we did what he wanted us to,” Penguin interrupted. Shachi looked very betrayed. “And if you try and pull that shit too, we’ll slit your throats while you sleep.” Slightly less betrayed. Then Perturbed, when Corazon beamed.

“Law shanked me in the kidney when we met, so if you need to I won’t mind. And don’t worry about the whole bread thing, it’s disgusting and we likely won’t have any on the ship. It’ll be real food, or real rations.”

“You’d be dead if I hit you in the kidney. You’re so damned big, I missed. It was close, though, from how much it bled.” Law didn’t rise more than a few millimetres from his feathery nest to speak.

“It was a good shot! I didn’t even hear you coming!” He was very proud of that scar, and his little charge.

The other three exchanged a look between them. Excitement over a stabbing was unprecedented.  At least in their limited experience.

“... Is there somewhere you want to go Captain?” Bepo finally ventured, changing the subject. “Is your hometown anywhere near?”

“... No,” Both replied at once, for different reasons. Corazon registered the tightening of talons on his shoulder, and let Law answer for himself.

“No.” Law repeated himself, quieter this time. “Flevance... doesn’t exist anymore. Getting out was... I couldn’t... can’t go back... even if I want to. S’not possible.”

Chapter Text

Flevance... why was that name so familiar? Shachi had heard the name, knew it was northern, that it was very nice, apparently, but something else escaped him. Something important.

Law was on the other side of the ship, standing next to the cool ocean. He looked out to sea, longing in his eyes. How nice it would be, to turn their heading back to Flevance, to mount its shores to find a gleaming city still there? A nightmare come to an end. He shouldn’t hope, he knew. Flights of fancy lead to nothing but disappointment, he was all too aware.

The little boy in him refused to stop dreaming, the irrational, stupid bastard.

He wanted to hurt the idiot brothers, but it wasn’t their fault. They hadn’t known not to ask, and drag up hopes from the dead. He might hurt them anyways, under the guise of some medical practice. They’d be sorry, then.

Actually, speaking of the brothers...

“Where’s Flevance?” Shachi asked bluntly. “It sounds familiar, but I can’t place it.”

The idiot.

“The World Government, and their Marine dogs burnt it down. It’s not anywhere, now.” His eyes narrowed. “They killed everyone, and destroyed everything. Only one person survived the massacre.”

“So it’s kind of a sensitive topic? Cool.” Shachi was a hare-brained one, for sure. “You’ve totally watched everything vanish before your eyes, then. Guess we’re three of a kind.”

“... Wait, what?” He forgot to be livid for a moment.

“Don’t talk to Peng about it, he’ll just cry. But you’re a lucky kid, getting something to blame and be angry at, that might just acknowledge you one day.”

“I’m Lucky?” The detest came back with a vengeance.

“Yeah, you are.” Shachi insisted. He tried to pocket his hands, but the skirt he wore was lacking. “Peng and I were climbing trees when the wave swallowed the beach. Screaming at the ocean doesn’t do much.”

“... a Tsunami? Up here?” Law frowned.

“Hm,” Shachi’s wordless confirmation was quiet. There were ghosts that haunted him too.

Fewer ghosts than Law’s nation, but a haunting nonetheless.

“... Summer’s only a month or two on Swallow, the rest is snow.” Shachi continued after a minute. “Mom and Dad threw a barbecue, on the beach, for everyone in the family. Uncle couldn’t make it, he and Auntie were away on business.”

Law’s frown deepened. A damn tragedy.

“I don’t do hugs, if that’s your goal.” He was an asshole, sure. He could deal with that. Shachi scoffed wetly. Probably crying behind his shades. They were having a heart to heart, apparently, so it felt right to tell the idiot.

In retrospect, he was also an idiot, of course he wasn’t going to listen all the way through. He gave him altogether too much credit, and that all too familiar look of growing horror was his reward.

“Have you heard of Amber Lead Disease?” Such an innocuous question, and he was shoved into the ocean for it.

Corazon woke abruptly from his nap to a scream. He slammed his head racing above deck, with Bepo and Penguin at his heels. Shachi was there, looking horrified as he tried to rub his hands clean on his clothes. And Law was nowhere to be seen.

“What happened?!” He demanded. “Where’s Law? Are we under attack?”

There were no signs of his boy, not in the rigging, nor the water; they were anchored with nothing for miles and miles except that one measly sandbar off the port. Where-?!

“H-he was killing us all-!” Shachi was very upset.

“What-?” Penguin had time to ask as Corazon’s eyes widened.

“Where is he?!” He roared, drawing up to his full height. On account of his regular slouch, all three looked terrified of the new monster before them.

In his years of spying, it was never the big tells that told him the secrets first, but rather the small ones. The flashes of indecision, the flicks of the eyes, the clench of a jaw. This time it was the eyes that sold out, glancing at the side of the ship furthest from Shachi. He probably grabbed the child too hard, by the yelp. Didn’t matter then, as he was heaved into the water as well.

Shachi surfaced with a shout. He tried to scramble back to the boat.

“No, rescue him! Rescue him, he can’t swim-!” Desperation; his son had been down for minutes already.

“No! No, He’ll kill us all-!” Shachi wasn’t about to do it, so he had to do it himself. He jumped in beside the child, eyes on a dark spot near the bottom. Thankfully it was shallow here. Only 10 or 15 feet. He could see what he’d lost.

He didn’t surface again.

Penguin was staring too much to be a good help. Shachi had to drag himself out of the water, shivering. Bepo ignored them both, staring after Law and Corazon.

“... Neither of them can swim.” He finally realized, and leapt into the arctic blue after them. Penguin and Shachi were left staring, the latter dripping wet and clinging to his brother for warmth.

Bepo surfaced a moment later, Law in his paws. His captain was bodily thrown onto deck with a wet thud, as he dived back down. Corazon came up coughing, a second later. He was weak from the ocean, but he still helped Bepo pull him up as best as he could.

“Law- Law, come on-“ he was shaking and dripping and panicked as he crawled to his boy. “Wake up, wake up and breathe-!”

It took about 30 seconds to get Law coughing. It was the longest 30 seconds of his life. But when the water came up, and he began to cough, to breathe, to live- and to latch onto his face with his very sharp claws. He was shivering madly.

He was alive, sharp and shivering madly.

Corazon could breathe easier, except for the water in his own lungs. He held his boy close. The first drowning was always the worst. You forgot about the trade off you made for the powers, until that moment. He’d been down so long, too. Shachi was going to get such a beatdown for this.

“You’re okay, Law, it’s okay. We got you out.” Even if his limbs would feel like lead for minutes yet, still dripping wet, and it was hard to breathe for all the gook in his lungs, he was alive and safe now.

“Shachi-!” The boy felt well enough to manage a growl. “Y-y-you bastard-! Y-you nearly k-killed me-!”

“You’re diseased! You’re going to kill us all-! Of COURSE I tried to kill you-!”

It’s Not ConTAGIOUS.” Shachi wilted under the combined force of them both. Law needed to cough about it. Corazon held him closer, “Shh, try not to yell for a bit. There’s going to be a lot of goo to get out.

“As for you, Shachi, you are in a lot of trouble. Fortunately for you, I try not to actually kill kids if I can help it. So once you’re whole again, and I have a bit more room to throw, you’re going to be in a world of hurt.”

“Don’t be a pussy, that 40 foot drop would have killed a normal kid.” Law wheezed.

“Shh,” Corazon patted his back. “For now, go start the stove in the cabin. We all need warming up and drying off.”

Law was starting to shiver even harder. It was going to end in the boy having a terrible cold. His immune system was trashed enough as it was. He didn’t need this abuse.

The blankets were gathered, and wet clothing was ditched. But Corazon was hard pressed to convince Law to take off the last two of his clothing items. His fuzzy, dripping hat. The other length of sodden, winterized fuzz. He knew why of course. He too would be hard-pressed to trust their two newest boys with that. Bepo was probably fine, seeing as the bear had completely sided with Law in this argument. 

His cowl was still dripping, as was his toque and everything else he’d been carrying. Nothing spare to give the child. Nothing dry and warm.

“Law, I know you’re in a... mood. But If you don’t shed all the wet layers-”

“I’m acutely aware.” He was growled at in return. “Hypothermia, at the least of my concerns.”

“I know you’re uncomfortable with these brats, but you can’t handle potential pneumonia. Not right now.” Corazon reasoned.

“I Know.” He was glaring. It was visible even under the soggy rim of his hat. Shachi was very careful to keep his back to him. Not accepting eye-contact.

But Penguin was. He kept looking up from Shachi, only to duck back down to whisper. He was being very suspicious, right up until he stood. That was just nerve wracking then. Especially since his approach was slow and nervous. Wary of what he had opposing takes on.

“You’re positive he’s not going to kill us all?”

“I’ve been hanging around Law for over 3 years at this point. Do you see any spots on me?” Corazon cocked a brow. Penguin flinched slightly. Then he pulled off his hat.

“Sorry my brother dunked you. He’ll apologize himself when he’s come to his senses.” Penguin snatched Law’s hat away, wincing at the wet texture, before dropping his own in its place. He hadn’t gotten dunked, just splashed.

He turned away to drop the white hat on the stove, to dry out properly, when he stopped.

“You have horns too?”

Law decided it was time to curl up and die, and vanished into Corazon’s shadow. “Fuck you,” were his parting words. Corazon’s eyes narrowed. Both the other kids were paying a lot of attention.

“Don’t worry about it.” Corazon ended the conversation.

“Is it... the lead thing? Does it make you look scary?”

“Minks only take after one parent, not both,” oh, now Bepo was on their case.

“He’s a monster too?” Shachi had no right to speak, trying to kill his age mate.

Law had his sides with his claws. He was not fond of anything currently going on.

“... Bepo, don’t. Not right now, please.” The other two had already been cordially dismissed.

“Sorry, I apologize for prying.” Their little bear friend bowed himself out. He was entirely allowed to question the inaccuracies in the cover story. But they were thankful he hadn’t.

Law’s claws pinched at his sides. He wasn’t happy with that either. Bepo HAD saved him. He probably felt obligated. Or some other similar emotion, since he wasn’t very good at the empathetic ones.

He poked his head out after a moment of silence, after the others had given up. Bepo had his back to him, muttering something as he rubbed his warm, dry fur against Shachi. Warming him up since Corazon was still very much in charge of Law’s warming. He frowned, from the lieu of Corazon’s shadow. He was still cold. Too cold. The sopping mass of his tail did nothing to help. It didn’t seem to want to dry at all. And worse, he could feel the cord that tied it all on. Wet. Chafing. Twisting almost to the point of pinching. If he wasn’t careful, he could lose it.

Which wouldn’t be all bad, he supposed. Wouldn’t have to deal with all the hiding and such. But no, he liked his tail, thank you.

As inconvenient as it was sometimes.

Corazon looked down when he felt shuffling. A moment later, Law kicked the sodden fur-sock out from his hiding place. He smiled in relief, and set it by the fire to dry. Good. He would warm up soon, hopefully. His body still felt horribly cold.

Law grumbled, and settled down. He hadn’t removed his fur in so long that it actually felt weird to be without. His skin was both too pale - plus splotches of lead - as well as a new darkening around the very end. Slightly chitinous with the dark gradient, like his horns were. Something a little harder, a little sharper. He did need it in this rough, hateful world.

He prefered the warm, thick fur he usually wore. It had it definite advantages.

Unfortunately, touching something sodden, nevermind wearing, was repulsive, so he stayed for now.

Corazon eventually dozed off in the warmth. He had been deprived of a nap earlier. No one really blamed him, since he was also the driving force keeping them on track, and moderately alive. Law ended up stuck under him, when he eventually flopped over snoring. That was fine. Sure. He was warm.

Unfortunately, it did also mean he was pinned. So should, for example, the other children’s curiosity get the better of them, he had no means to protect himself. Except for, of course, his biting wit and sharp ends. He had many.

“So...” Shachi plonked down beside him. He kept his voice low for the sake of Corazon’s beauty sleep. “Penguin... has insisted I apologize.”

“You’re not required to, if you’re going to be a little bitch.” He still had it. The kid flinched immediately at the vitriol.

“Hmph, I guess you’re not worth the effort then.”

“Why are you two like this?” Penguin asked from not ten feet away.

“Shut up,” Penguin rolled his eyes at both of them. They were both aggressive idiots.

“Do you smell burning?” Bepo looked up from the map, where he’d been making the sharp-footed lesser-mink walk across the leagues. Heehee, he walked miles with just one step.

Corazon was the first suspect when Law realized that yes, he did. He smelled smoke, but somehow it wasn’t his guardian’s fault one way or another. That was a first. Then he realized what it was. And it was so much worse.

The waters they were in were fairly shallow. Meaning they did feel the tide somewhat as it covered and uncovered the nearby sandbar. It also meant, should the weather change, or the wind pick up, the chop would shake their little boat about. The boat swayed, a comforting roll most of the time that Law barely felt nowadays.

Except today, when they’d set down a cylindrical item by the cooktop to dry in the heat. A cylindrical item that, while wet and heavy, was still particularly susceptible to rolling should the heave of the boat hit just the right angle. Law felt his stomach vanish into the depths when he finally noticed the end of his tail-fur was just close enough to the stove to catch.

Corazon woke with a yell at the claws in his side. He lurched up reflexively, ready for a fight.

He had many sharp pointy bits.

Law lunged for the errant item of clothing, smothering the flame with his bare hands. Not the best choice, sure. But in his defense he was panicking, and it wasn’t as though he hadn’t been forced to do so before, hanging off Corazon’s shoulder while the man smoked.

The fur was damp enough that the damage was minimal, thankfully. He wasn’t going to need to replace the pelt yet. Soon, yes, but not yet.

“... What the fuck am I looking at?” Shachi was very helpful in voicing the room’s confusion.

“What caught fire, is the ship ok?” Corazon also had concerns.

“Just my fur; everything’s fine.” He owed Shachi nothing.

“Stop being a dick, Shachi.” Penguin finally stepped in. “Tone down the dick, at least. You’ve been at an 11 all day, and frankly you’re unbearable above a 5.”

“I don’t mind that he said he was a Mink when he wasn’t,” Bepo added his two cents. “Honestly, it’s kinda flattering that he wants to be a Mink, to me at least. Maybe when he’s feeling better I can teach him to be one.”

“But why would he lie? Just say he’s a horned, tailed human. There’s all kinds of fucked up people out there. Heck, he has a devil fruit, just say it’s that!” Shachi protested their forgiveness.

“Maybe his clan or tribe has a bounty? Cora-san definitely seems the pirate type, though he’s way too nice.”

“Who cares? I mean if you do, fine, whatever, but like, if he’s actually from the White City, there’s gonna be people looking for him, right? But they’ll be looking for a kid with horns, not a kid that’s half cat.”

“Snow leopard,” Bepo corrected that.


“The pattern on his tail, and the length, and the colour, it’s all from an animal called a snow leopard. They’re not really common on Zou, since it’s tropical and it’s harder for us polar types to stay comfortable, but I’ve seen them. He’s definitely going to have to replace the fur soon though. No cat would ever let their pelt fall into such disarray, least of all a snow leopard.”

“... Cool, I guess?” Shachi wasn’t entirely certain what to make of that.

“I wonder if he chose it himself, or if that’s what’s available for costume pieces out here? I know his hat is spotty, so maybe spots are cool out here in the snow?”

“Depends where you are. Out here in the wild, yeah, they’re pretty common. Less so in the big cities, though. They don’t usually need clothes with camoflage, they just buy their food at stalls instead of hunting.”

“That makes sense.”

“To answer that,” the boat wasn’t very big, so even the far side of the boat wasn’t out of hearing range if one was paying attention, “My mom bought the fabric pre-dyed. But she made the actual garment.” Law stared down at them. He looked a lot sharper, and dangerously intense without his usual coverings. The spots hid him in more ways than one.


“Costume party. My sister went as a tabby cat, and wanted us to match.”

The boys exchanged glances, but that was about as reasonable as it came.

“... Sister?” Shachi finally, quietly ventured.

“Mm,” He considered, then plonked down. “Always kinda jealous that I got a tail, but she didn’t.” He dwelled on that for a long, silent minute. “... N’ the reason I’m hiding everything is because my Mom told me to. There’s people out there who kill people like us. Me n’ my Mom.”

“Oh,” that was also reasonably reasonable.

“So when I say,” he drew a knife and lodged it into the deck for dramatic purpose, “That we don’t talk about this, we don’t tell anyone about this, about me, you say-?”

“Of course not, Captain,” Bepo took the bait immediately. “Bear’s honour, cross my heart.”

“And you two? Or am I going to have to cut out some tongues?”

“Psh,” Shachi scoffed. “You don’t have to threaten us with that. Whatever the hell is wrong with you, that’s your business. Just don’t let it get us killed.”

“That’s generally my plan,” he paused, “unless you’re in the way of said plan.”

Chapter Text

“Question,” Penguin asked. “Are they just killing people like you because of the lead, or because of other reasons?”

“Other reasons,” Law paused, “and me specifically because of the lead also, which is still not contagious, shut up Shachi.”

Shachi, who was stuck holding a very large box for Cora-san, while the man dug through it for something, just scowled. He hadn’t said a word. Then considered how busy their guardian was, and ramped it up to a stuck-out tongue.

“Hold it still, mister,” Corazon warned, without looking up.

“I am I am,” Shachi complained. Corazon had no sympathy for his plight.

“Does it hurt?” Penguin leaned down to poke a white spot. Law considered, then bit his finger off, or at least tried.

“I dunno, does this hurt?” He punched him in the kidney instead. It popped out the far side, much to their surprise. Penguin blinked wildly, then poked the hole curiously.

“... no, actually.”

Law grumbled, and swapped the kidney into his hand once a proper room was open. He was running out of pocket pebbles. He’d have to gather some later, when they landed.

Then he squeezed, and Penguin shrieked in pain.

“Hurts, it hurts-!” He confirmed, “I’m sorry-!”

Law nodded. Good. He understood.

“Are you two playing nice over there?” Corazon finally looked up from whatever it was he was doing. “I can find more heavy, awkward things to hold steady if that’s what you want.”

“Idiot’s just asking stupid questions.” Law released the kidney from its torture. Penguin had very healthy ones. No bumps, masses or discolouration at all. Hopefully he didn’t take up drinking. “Are we done asking stupid things?”

“I get it, I get it, can I have that back?” Penguin dragged himself over, latching onto Law’s ankle. He grimaced when the organ was dropped on his face.

Corazon sighed. He’d hoped Law was just antagonistic with kids like Baby and Buffalo. Clearly he was just a spiny kid. He wasn’t surprised. He wasn’t the sort to make friends, so he was going to have to deal with that he supposed.

“Are you done with the box, Cora-san?” Shachi really wanted to put it down. His arms hurt and he was tired.

“Yeah, for now. Go get me two pails. Empty ones, that we aren’t using.”

Shachi scurried off.

Law was now poking at a square hole in Penguin’s stomach. Penguin was no better, holding his own kidney. After some consideration, Law poked the side of his own stomach and drew out his own kidney.

It was small for his size, and bruised where it wasn’t white with discolouring lead. Penguin shoved his entire hand in the resulting hole, and got smacked for it. Not because it hurt or anything, he was just in a smacky mood.

Corazon sighed further. “Boys.”

“He touched my kidney hole first-!”

“No you did,” Law reached for Penguin’s kidney, but was too short to do so.

“Boys.” Corazon loomed over them. “Please put the organs back before you hurt yourselves or lose them.”

“Yeah put it back Law!”

“Put it back yourself.” Law shoved his own in at Cora-san’s request. It melted back into place instantly. Penguin’s however,

“I don’t have powers of course this isn’t working!” Penguin’s own was still glossy and clear-cubed, despite returning to it’s spot. The oddity piquing his curiosity, Law pinned Penguin down to tinker. Shachi came back to Law sitting on his brother’s face, butterflying the other to Corazon’s distress.

“... huh, you have three kidneys. Neat. No wonder your body’s confused.”

“What?” Both Penguin and Shachi were surprised, confused and alarmed. Corazon was even more alarmed.

“Don’t worry, your urinary system looks fine. As does everything else. If I poke this though, I could send you into cardiac arrest in seconds. I won’t, because, but I could. So if you’re fighting a guy, go for the gut and aim to the spine from the front. Severing this will kill you in minimum time. And even if you miss it’s got lots of other really vulnerable stuff that can’t be messed with.” He patted the third kidney into place. It finally took, now properly lined up and oriented.

“Law,” Corazon had to speak over Shachi’s sudden brilliant idea of puking over the side of the boat. His charge was beaming, delighted with his work and discovery. It hurt to tell him no. “Please return Penguin to working order.”

“But he is! He’s in perfect working order! It’s incredible. Nothing like Dad’s cadavers!”

“Law,” Corazon pressed again, “please put him back together.”

“Bleh, fine-!” He began shoving intestines back in their hole of origin. Some protests and an argument about proper intestine management later, Penguin could get up like he’d never been down. Law pouted, yes, but no one was going to die if Law’s energy failed. He was doing better lately, actually, but only several weeks had passed since he’d held a boy more corpse than alive.

“You’re a maniac,” Shachi groaned.

“... you did hear me say to go for the suprarenal abdominal aorta, right? Because do that, should some fucker test you out on the streets. They wont bother you again if you hit it. Or anything around it. A maniac wouldn’t teach you to defend yourself.”

“From the front - the back’s got too many bones in the way,” Corazon added. “Aim for the kidneys when behind an assailant.”

“Uh-“ Shachi didn’t like that any more, especially since Corazon was apparently strong enough to survive a kidney shot. “... anyways, I found you two buckets. One’s empty, but the other’s got this weird white goo in it. Might be mold? Rotten shit?”

“Oh, uh-”

“Where’d you find it?” Law interrupted, leaving Penguin alone, finally. “Did you touch it?”

“Nah, looks gross. Under a bunch of other crap. Should I just-“

Law took the bucket forcibly, and bolted to the far side of the ship.

“... maybe just go wash your hands. You can do the bucket thing later.” Corazon had his suspicions, and Law was only confirming them with his behaviour. “Hot water. Throw the water overboard when you’re done.”

Shachi looked very confused, but scurried off to do so anyways.

Corazon followed Law to the very back of the boat, where he hunkered down over the offending bucket and its contents.

“Law?” He asked gently.

“... I don’t really know what to do with it.” Law murmured. “I don’t want to just dump it; in case it gets someone else sick. If a fish eats it, and the fish gets eaten,”

The person would come down with amber lead disease. It didn’t have to be said.

“Well, what would your... any doctor do with any other toxic waste?” He asked softly.

“... send it to the government people for safe disposal.”

“And barring that?”

“Locked it in a special room in the basement of the hospital until someone could destroy or remove it.” The basement of Flevance’s hospital was multi-layered. The first was home to standard things like isolation chambers and boiler rooms. But the other two were all storage. Old medical tools and outdated references. Things with no other home, but couldn’t be destroyed either. Then the biohazard zone.

No one was allowed down there, not even the doctors. Just the Biohazard team, with their big, clunky suits and tubed in air. It was very dangerous down there and not even brave little boys and their spunky little sisters could pass that last door without three passcodes and a key. But he didn’t have that on this boat.

“Well... perhaps... Blue Crossing is sure to have a medical centre. It’s the last stop before the Grand Line, after all. Do they usually accept donations to their own pool of cess?” Was cess a word? It felt weird to say pool of cesspool.

“They’ll ask where I got it, and then you’ll have to destroy another hospital thus endangering a bunch of dumb people who put their faith in doctors that ask too many damn questions, instead of leaving well enough alone.” Law grumbled. Then he paused. “I could probably just swap it into there if I could find where it is.”

“Worth a try, if they don’t line the room with sea prism stone to prevent leakage.” Worse came to worst, swapping it out just amounted to nothing. And left Law a little tired besides. “How’re you feeling, lately?”

The bruising on his face was going down quickly, and there was a never before seen spark behind his eyes. Hope, just a little bit of hope. A passing test of his brow - hidden once again by his fluffy hat - he was a little warm, but not the feverish, dangerous heat from before.

“Better.” Law replied softly. “Not... perfect. There’s still a lot of lead in my system. But I’ve been ripping out the bits I can reach out. ... and saving them, because reasons.”

“You’ve been looking better.” He was half-tempted to ask if Law knew yet how to switch people’s bodies around reliably, to see just how much better his boy was doing. But, since that would probably be weird,

He didn’t. He could see the difference.

“So provided we don’t accidentally summon a mob again, what would you have us get, Doctor?”

“You would look horrible in a nurse’s outfit, don’t call me that like that.” Law grimaced. “I need more of a variety of medicines. Once I deal with this, I’ll go rob a pharmacy. Take Bepo, since he runs faster than me,” he thumbed the edge of his bucket. “I can trust you to keep the other two in line?”

“Obviously. Don’t rob them, though. When we land, you stay on the boat, inside the boat. Don’t let the townsfolk see you. This place was the hub of the embargo, and it wasn’t that long ago. When I get back, I’ll have a solution for that and some money for the medicines. How much do they usually go for?”

“Depends on the demand. Lots of illness means the price’ll be high.”

“Nothing’s made the news.”

“Mm,” Law shrugged then. He did usually just rob places of their product. “Where do you have money?”

“I have my ways,” He smiled softly.

Blue Crossing was a bustling, busy place. Marines were scattered about, trying to quell the piracy in the area, but from the way their eyes passed over some individuals, many of them were paid. Law wouldn’t think much of it - that was more than normal in the north - but Corazon caught himself frowning. He was lucky his smile was painted on.

Shachi was at his hip, eyes on the ground. He was used to his skirt on the boat, but here? In Public?

“‘Scuse me,” he found some captain who was too relaxed for his own good. The man opened an eye, looked Corazon up and down, and huffed.

“What can I help ya with, punk?”

“Where’s headquarters? It’s been a while since I was here, and it looks like you all replaced a few of the buildings.”

“Psh,” distain was expected. “Why’d I tell a pirate that? Especially after we just replaced it? Scram before I arrest you and your daughter.” Shachi nearly died of embarrassment on the spot.

“Shachi, don’t tell the others about this, alright?” He got a brief nod - poor kid.

“What-“ the captain wasn’t terribly happy about being ignored, and even less about being hefted onto Corazon’s shoulder, and carted off. He was truly detestful of being dropped again in the depth of some back alley, into a rubbish pile. “Who the hell do you think you are-?!”

“Commander DonQuixote Rosinante, of Fleet Admiral Sengoku’s 1st Division. Now, Captain,” He got a turn with the distaste of the other. “Where is the headquarters? I’m deep and I can’t hang around. You’ve already taken up too much of my time.”

The man froze up. Useless. He kicked him helpfully.

“S-sir-!” The man cowered away. “I’m sorry sir- at the bottom of the clock tower! We resituated it below the clock tower when in burned down last year!”

Shachi watched the man grovel before their guardian. Ah, so Corazon was actually a Marine. Which, from Law’s telling, was the sort of person that Law probably hated with a vengeance. The whole, government/marine force destroying everything before it.

“Good. Thank you. Now don’t let your bribe-taking be so obvious. I have to shoot you for my cover. Shachi, turn away.”

“Wait, what?!” Both demanded answers as he drew a pistol.

“I carted you off like we had business. Pirates don’t do business halfway. Don’t worry, it won’t be fatal.” He took aim.

Shachi had known he was a maniac from the moment they joined the crew on that stupid fishing boat. He watched the ground, glad He hadn’t been non-lethally shot for his own transgressions. But there was no sound. No gunshot. Just a smoking pistol when he turned. The captain clutching a bloody shoulder. Silent tears streaming down his face as a couple parting words, also silenced, were exchanged.

“Cora-san, what the fuck?”

“Appearances. He’ll be fine.” Corazon stooped, and lifted Shachi one-handed. The boy clung to him tightly, far less stable than Law was on his shoulder.

They moved down the street easily. No one looked twice at the big man wrapped in black feathers. Shachi thought they should. It was a very dangerous place to not pay attention. Even if Corazon couldn’t walk 40 feet without tripping on cobblestone.

Corazon paused over a board hosting all the recent, local wanted posters. A couple old, generic ones at the bottom for the poor people of Flevance, more general calls to action than individuals. Still a reward for information or bodies.

His brother grinned at him like a lunatic. A couple other rising stars from the oceans. But nothing with his own face. Nothing saying he couldn’t just go in.

Shachi studied them himself. Nothing. Nothing for the crazed maniac that was guarding them. Somehow.

Corazon did get a couple looks for his garb in the headquarters. But they were fleeting. Anyone worth their salt knew a disguise when they saw one.

“Stay quiet little one,” he murmured softly. “I apologize if I refer to you as my son, it’s just the easiest explanation.”

“Okay?” He frowned. He didn’t... like that idea.

But he wasn’t going to say that.

He stayed quiet. Even as Cora-san presented an official looking lady with his identification, and smiled politely as he presented a very reasonable explanation as to why he needed all his backpay available for withdrawal. Or as much as reasonably possible, since, obviously, the HQ coffers could only handle so much

And she bought it. A sympathetic look at the idea that a son had been suddenly dumped on him. Of course he needed to attend that duty, on a backwater island in the North Blue if he needed to.

“Takes after his mother, doesn’t he?”

“Mm, very much so,” he smiled softly. Shachi buried his face in the feathers, pointedly not saying a word. It was all a lie. He didn’t appreciate the dregs of his past, no matter how false or unintentional.

His shyness was acknowledged, and cooed over. Shachi hated this so much.

But then Cora-san was presented with his effects and a very fat stack of beli, and they could leave with soft, polite thank yous.

And that whole ordeal was over.

“You did well, good job,” Corazon smiled. He looked so stupid with a painted one, but the natural one was nice.

“She was really rude, referencing my mom like that.”

“Yeah. Come on, we need a few things before we head back, and you did good. A snack is in order.” Corazon said ‘come on’ like the boy wasn’t currently clinging to his shoulder for dear life. His feet were still unsteady on the uneven cobble, and that wasn’t helping. Could Shachi take a fall? Would his leg be okay?

“A snack? I thought you were pissed at me?”

“I am. If I wasn’t I’d have come alone. Left you four to watch the boat together.” Corazon acknowledged that the boy had made mistakes that weren’t forgiven yet. “However, a good job is a good job. What kind of things do you like to eat? Rations aren’t exactly a good example for what you like.”

Shachi was staring at him. Clearly confused. How long had it been since he’d been offered something sweet? Why was this weird, maniacal man treating him if he was angry? This was a trick? Had to be.

“I’m ...not hungry.” Was the safest answer he could come up with.

“Well, let me know if you change your mind. Blue Crossing is close enough to the borders that they get all sorts of things fresh off the boat.” His smiling softened. He’d won over a bristly boy like Law, a D, with a mind and Will that couldn’t be contended with. A regular boy was surely nothing in comparison.

The streets were full, and though they gave him enough space to land on his face if need be, no one really looked after them. They were big and strange and outlandishly dressed, but not out of the ordinary. This was the last stop before the Grand Line, after all. Corazon hummed to himself while he found what he was looking for.

Clothing - Shachi was finally given a pair of pants, and a few spare outfits for he, his brother, and Bepo. Not a lot, they were stretching their funds as far as they went right now. But ample clothes for them to change as nessecary.

Face-paint - maybe not a nessecary thing right now, but Corazon spent an awful long time hunched over two or three shades, deliberating. He bought all three. As well as a few little application sponges and brushes.

A small candy bar - something Corazon had enjoyed as a child, but now found too sweet. But he turned it over to Shachi immediately, pride showing. A reward for his good behaviour. Even if Shachi was far too skeptical to accept it properly. He did stare at it an awful long time, considering the implications, and how it might taste.

And then, Dinner. Something hot and fresh. They settled on grilled chicken and fried rice, and brought the entire lot back to the ship. Penguin was watching out, settled on the aft comfortably. Law and Bepo were napping, the latter acting like a blanket for Law’s snoring to muffle into.

They were all happy to see food that wasn’t salted fish or preserved in some other way. Shachi hadn’t seen Corazon buy the bag of oranges, but he made sure they all got at least one.

Law had spent the day in the silent cabin, straining his ears for the sound of attack. And also cutting into his own flesh, trying to gather more of the lead. Bepo, also not supposed to show his (adorable) face just yet, watched calmly. He would panic if he saw blood, but it was strangely captivating to watch a man slowly carve himself up into slices. Or chunks. Law was making a mess of his arm. But he’d already gotten a few sizeable chunks out of his skin.

“Garchu, captain,” he was also a distraction, leaning up to rub his face against Law’s.

“Stop that, I’m operating,” he had to stop to push him away. “What does that even mean?”

“Garchu? It’s a greeting.” Bepo answered with a grin. “It’s something that Minks do.”

“... Right,” he frowned for a long moment. “... Sorry I pretended to be a Mink, it was probably rude or something.”

“I forgive you,” Bepo just kept on grinning. Just continued being happy.

“You shouldn’t. I lied, so once I put myself back together I expect you to beat the hell out of me.”

“Sure, I can teach you to fight like a mink; it’s easy.”

“That’s not what I- fuck, whatever.” He dropped his scalpel and began piecing his arm back together.

“It’s mostly hand-to-hand, martial art type fighting. And Electro, which is a little harder, but I’m sure you’ll pick it up easy enough too!” Bepo grinned even more widely, somehow. Putting more of his sharp teeth on display. “Every Mink can do it, from the time they’re born, so a lesser mink shouldn’t be too different.”

Honestly, Law enjoyed having someone just as sharp and beastial around as he. Reminded him of home, in a terrible, heart-wrenching way. He’d never admit it, of course, especially since he’d been pretending to be one of Bepo’s people, and the bear-mink was righteously permitted to exact his revenge for the insult.

He was waiting for it to fall, but it hadn’t. Instead Bepo was just combing the fluff of his tail back into order, like it was the most natural thing in the world. Tutting over the singes and stains, but wrangling them at least semi-presentable.

Bepo could stay as long as he wanted. Law didn’t mind at all.

“... What’s Electro? Sounds like a devil fruit, if you ask me.”

“This.” Bepo freed a hand, and clenched his muscles so that every one of his claws was at optimum extension. With a crackle, electricity began to arch from finger to finger, hair to hair. “It can be used to knock back and stun your opponent. We’re born warriors, so sparring is very important.” He wiggled his fingers, letting the sparks pop and arch for a moment more, before releasing the lot.

“... That’s neat,” he found himself saying before he could help it. “Is it caused by some sort of gland or something? Do you have extra nerves? Do you store the energy, or is it gathered from the air?”

“Uh...” Bepo’s little ears flicked. He thought for a long minute before just shrugging. “I don’t know.”

“Experimentation is in order,” he informed him.

“Okay,” Bepo volunteered to the abuse. He’d seen his captain do all sorts of stuff, and while it was super freaky it was also pretty cool. Penguin was fine after being literally gutted. He trusted his captain not to hurt him when it came to be his turn.

Of course, that would have to wait. Law was starting to feel his surgeries, as he finished putting his hand together. He had to release his Room the moment he had the last piece in place. Bepo blinked when his captain flopped back, landing half on his lap.

“Hi,” he greeted, and leaned down. “Garchu.”

“Yeah yeah, Garchu,” he patted his fluffy face. “Garchu.”

Dawn started with high whistling from the fishermen returning with their early catch, and lots of yelling as the city began to wake. Law wasn’t allowed to take a watch yet, but he was awake anyways due to his nap. Bepo and Penguin were playing cards, with Shachi only 4% awake for the proceedings. Corazon was completely asleep beside them, having taken the midnight watch. Penguin was supposed to be outside doing his watch, but the dock man laughed and said they were fine. They didn’t need his help.

Only when the clock tower chimed the 7th hour did Corazon awake, and rise abruptly.

“Morning?” He asked of his little entourage. The ones who were awake nodded. “Morning,” he nodded in return to himself. He stood, cracked his head on the roof, stood again, and went to check the deck.

When he returned, Law had moved to the stove. Breakfast would be hearty this morning, as there was a chance to get more provisions, finally. No more rationing until they returned to the sea. Eating in silence, it was finished quickly. Then Corazon could pull Law aside while Shachi, Penguin and Bepo fought over who’s turn it was to wash dishes.

“So I probably should have brought you to get an exact match, but one of these should be close enough to pass.” His little vials of face-paint were produced. “Especially if you hold still long enough to contour it properly.”

“Makeup? Really?” Law stared up at him. He wasn’t impressed, even as he selected a bottle carefully. He scowled as he read through the ingredients.

“There’s no leads in these. The makeups that had them are mostly banned now, excepting some very, very low end brands that don’t care. These ones use seaweed as a thickener,” Corazon figured that was what he was looking for. Gold eyes flicked back up to confirm he was heard, and understood, before returning to the label anyways. Law didn’t return it until he was thoroughly ascertained.

“Show me how to use them.”

“Sure,” he settled, and pulled out a mirror and the sponges and brushes, and got to work. It was relatively easy if you knew what you were doing. Carefully testing each shade against Law’s neck, before selecting the closest one, and beginning to paint away the white. Each disappeared as he worked. Then he gave his boy his other features back, drawing his eyebrows and lash line back in. Colouring his cheeks with life and health. Dusting everything down with a fine mist of setting powder. It took longer than his own, but then, he didn’t have to put makeup on his own hands and forearms.

When Law looked into the mirror at the conclusion, he was cured. Not a single spot remind to torment him. If healing was a dream, he could now idealize it. Right here, right now. Nothing was going to stop him.

“Be careful, this is fairly waterproof, but it isn’t going to withstand a drenching. Don’t touch your face. If you must itch, don’t. Sneezing and nose blowing should also be done with caution. Don’t wash your hands.”

“But I need to sneeze now.” He’d been fine until it was brought up. “And pee.”

“Don’t.” Was the unhelpful advice. “Well, if you gotta, obviously, but try not to. There’s still an awareness here. Posters and warnings. Don’t blow your cover.” He pulled the rest of his makeups out, and began drawing on his own face.

Law made a face, but managed to not. It was a bare thing, but he prevailed.

They could then all go into town, provided that someone held Bepo’s hand at all times, and no one let him wander off alone. Bepo wasn’t super keen to, especially when the other pirates caught sight of him with a odd look in their eyes. Stay close to Corazon was top priority. Their guardian could and would punch out any person who asked his going price, if they dared approach the man towering over everyone in sight.

Law clambered up Corazon after a while, taking his spot on his shoulder. He got a smile, as he hunkered down to watch the world. No one even looked at him - they couldn’t see the spots, so there was no reason to worry. Except if it rained, but he would worry about that then, not now.

Bepo held both Shachi and Penguin’s hands, a trio in Corazon’s shadow.

“Y’know, I bet we could all fit up there, and he wouldn’t even notice.” Penguin grinned.

“There is no way in hell that Law would permit it.” Shachi hissed back.

“Only one way to find out, I suppose.” No one could steal the Bepo fruit if it was clinging to Corazon tree.

Law blinked when Bepo appeared beside him. Shachi and Penguin took over the other shoulder, supporting each other. Corazon chuckled despite himself. “He falls a lot, you know. You’ll have to brace for that.”

“I will try my best, Captain.”

“Your funeral.” He could share the real estate, he supposed. It was a lot of room.

Corazon did his best not to fall, though his stumbles took more hands than his children had to count on. But he did not hit pavement, throwing them loose. He made his way through town, periodically stopping for supplies. Pointing out landmarks as they happened upon them. Letting the children see the world, as new and exciting, or as old hat as it came.

Their last stop was an old pharmacy on the edge of the docks, having circled around to this point. No man was dumb enough to carry expensive medicines the whole town over. Corazon smiled softly as he let the little ones down, and turned over most of the supplies to the three who didn’t know medicines.

“The boat’s just right there. Would you mind taking these? We’ll be right behind you, it just gets busy in dockside pharmacies at times, and you don’t really know how to handle a firefight if it comes to that.”

“We can do that-!” Bepo nodded. The other two were less enthusiastic, but they nodded all the same. “Don’t die, Captain!” Law scoffed, but they were already leaving. Corazon watched them until they were out of sight - rounding the corner to the pier they were moored to, devoid of enemies as far as he could see - then followed Law into the shop.

Law knew what he needed. He dodged the varying people to gather his supplies easily. He brought it all back to Cora-san, who had far less mobility, for safekeeping and price-wrangling.

He could also use some emergency pints of blood, but it didn’t look like the shopkeep had that sort of thing. He could just steal some from the hospital they’d passed earlier. And a secondary mini fridge to store them in. He was sure the others would complain about blood bags next to their food.

“What’s the damage?” He asked, once Cora-san had calculated the last bottles of painkiller, and accounted for a lost roll of gauze. “You’re accident-prone, but if we need to thin down we can.” And he could collect it later, for free.

“Hmm,” He considered. The fever and pain reducing bottles were the most important, followed by the bandages and gauze. He supposed a bottle of antibiotics would come in handy. The rest of the items he didn’t know the uses of, nor the necessity of. But, he did trust Law to choose wisely.

“Well, maybe we could lessen the load a little? It should be okay, though, if these are all necessities.”

“... This one is a vitamin supplement that’s usually prescribed to people who break bones - helps it knit together better. This one is the same, but is what the body uses to repair things like blood loss. I suppose we don’t need them, since they are present in this third bottle, which has a multivitamin containing high Vitamin C to prevent scurvy, but at lower doses.” He took them back. “I’m going to leave the one that helps with strong immune systems, though, since we keep getting dunked in ice water.” And Law’s system, isolated on the boat, was probably in danger in this metropolis. “Have you considered taking something to help with balance?”

“... It’s physical, not other things. I got hurt as a child, and it never really went away. Don’t worry about that.” He appreciated the concern all the same.

“This can go back then too, I suppose,” he said in a tone that meant he was following the line of questioning later. “Bandages stay, though. You never need fewer bandages.”

“That’s fair.” Law scampered off into the sea of legs, and returned empty handed. When Corazon stood straight, the poor, harried pharmacist was about to get shot for not having one drug or another.

He and Law exchanged a glance, before the boy mounted the counter to deposit a few well chosen words. Not because he particularly cared whether the pharmacist lived or died, but because the pirate was a moron who thought some oil was going to cure a head-wound if applied orally. Idiot.

Corazon watched on, proud. His little boy was so smart. So intelligent. Even if he couldn’t prevent an entire fistfight over some other product breaking out. His little star.

They ended up not paying in the end. The storekeeper fainted. And the rest of the ‘customers’ swept out en masse with whatever they could grab. They had to escape too. To avoid getting crushed.

Law didn’t mind the theft. It was his bread and butter nowadays, anyways. He was fully capable of getting exactly what he wanted.

If he had to go back and buy something later to make up for it, whatever.

Whatever happened, they had what they needed. He could finally feel comfortable that they weren’t going to drop dead with nary a moment’s notice. He could shove the vitamins down the brothers’ throats, and kick them into submission, then steal their organs. Or just one of those things. He wasn’t too picky.

Corazon ended up shouldering Law, to avoid his tiny little charge being trampled despite moving with the flow of people. He didn’t notice the eyes watching his path back to the boat.

Chapter Text

It was just after the call of midnight. Shachi was stuck on watch, and despite the dock man's protests he stayed on watch. He had seen Cora-san shoot a man today for not answering him quickly enough. He didn't want to be the next one shot; not for abandoning his post. Penguin and Bepo could suffer his wrath, since they didn't know better, nor would they listen to his warnings.

Penguin, actually, was the next shift. So while he had no intent of staying exposed on the boat, he did appear beside Shachi on the aft.

"You can see more if you sit on the higher ledge."

"I don't wanna try jumping off it yet." His leg, still achy at times, would definitely not appreciate it.

"That's fair. My arm doesn't like the climbing up part, but it is a much better view." He could understand not wanting to try fate, though. "Has it been quiet?"

"Mm," Shachi nodded. "The dock man's been pretty insistent we don't have to worry. But whatever. Cora-san wants a watch, he gets a watch."

"You could take it inside, where it's warmer."

"Not getting shot."

"He wouldn't shoot you."

"Not taking that chance, sorry Peng," He frowned tightly. But then he sighed. "I don't get him. Sometimes he's nice, sometimes he's a monster. Why are adults like that?"

"I mean, you did try to kill Law," Penguin murmured. "Mom and Dad would be pretty angry at you too. Everybody gets mad when you put their family in danger."

"... But then he shouldn't be nice. Shouldn't give me candy and praise for other things til he's done being pissed." Shachi grumbled. "It's confusing."

"I mean... he's an adult. He's gotta have a reason."

"Did Uncle have a reason for hurting us?"

That made Penguin shut up. They would never know that answer.

"... Do you still wanna run away? Try and find somewhere better to live?" Shachi asked after a while of watching the clouds skim over the star-filled skies. The boat bobbed under them, gentle on the shores of this island. They were healed. They could fend for themselves now. Escape and make something good.

"No," Penguin's answer didn't surprise him. "Things are okay right now, if confusing. He hasn't hurt us, and we get regular meals. Cora-san promised you a walloping, but all he gave you was extra chores n' stuff. Like when Mom and Dad were mad at us. Even Law isn't intolerable. He's just forgotten what jokes are."

"They're okay," he remembered cold, hungry nights, and the feeling of fists encrusted in gems, and the sharp points of perfectly polished crocodile dress shoes. Remembered the bruises and Penguin's tears. His own, as they tried to get over tragedy through the abuse.

"I think things will get better," Penguin added softly. "Once he's not mad at you for trying to kill Law, and once we're not sailing every day."

"I'd like that," Shachi admitted hoarsely. "Things to get better, I mean. It's nice being on the water, though."

"Hm," Penguin laughed, it was nice on the water. Land was good too. Both felt like home. "Now, about that candy he gave you-"

"Yeah, I'll share," he pulled it out of his hat and began breaking it into pieces immediately.

The ocean got quieter in the early morning. Penguin was afraid he'd dozed off in the lullaby of the waves, and the snores of the others. The occasional seabird call was nothing but an extra chord. He was ashamed of the fact, especially when a sudden banging on the cabin door woke them all with a start.

Corazon was on his feet immediately, pistol in hand. He stepped over the bewildered children, and forced the door open faster than wise. He knocked the closest couple people down, and had the rest at gunpoint a second later.

Luckily, they cowered rather than fight. He was far larger than them. And they needed his help anyways.

"Good, good, right guy," the leader picked himself up from the deck. His bloody nose was wiped on his sleeve. "You have the little doctor kid, right? He's a doctor? A proper doctor?"

"He's sleeping right now, what do you want?"

"Our captain, he's hurt. Our doctor wasn't actually a doctor, just a mook that tried to take our gold. If you're kid's a doctor, we'll pay good gold to have him fix our captain!"

Corazon stared down at the man. "Go to the hospital you idiot."

"Can't, they can't be bought into treating the likes of us. Please, Captain's dying!"

Corazon's glare was proven to be very intimidating, especially to little cowards that were just desperate enough to ask for help from strangers. The rest of the crew quailed before him. But the leader didn't even flinch. The boys were gathering at his hips, Law obediently out of sight but nearby.

"If he's lived this long, he can wait until dawn. I'll talk to our Doctor then, and if he agrees we'll find you." His word was law, especially at twice the height of these intruders. He straightened, and primed his pistol. "Get the fuck off my boat."

The scattered, leaving by pier or sea. The last one standing was the leader, from the safety of the guardrail, one foot already on the pier. "We're on pier 14, the Daisy Dreamer," he stated. "Please, we're begging you to help."

Corazon wasted the bullet, shooting after him, but not bothering to actually aim for him Just close enough for him to skitter away. The dock master gave him the stink eye for the noise, but Corazon returned it for letting their night be disturbed.

He then turned his attention to the children, clinging to his coat and leg.

"Is everyone safe?" He asked softly. He got nods. "Good. This is why I asked for a watch, for the record. I presume it got too quiet and you dozed off?"

"Sorry," Penguin murmured. "I didn't mean to."

"I understand," he sat down once they were all safely inside again. "Try not to, or if you can't, get someone else up to talk to you. Usually the person on next shift will be willing."

"Okay," he was still cowed with shame. Corazon sighed softly then.

"Come here," he opened his arms. "I'll take this last watch, It's okay."

It didn't take much coaxing to get the four spooked boys under his cloak. Shachi and Penguin took over one side, while Bepo and Law curled up on the other. Three of them soon dozed off against his thighs. Only Law, with his bright golden eyes, remained awake to stare up at him.

"In the morning, I should go see what the fuss was about." He murmured, partially buried in Bepo's fuzz.

"You don't have to," he assured gently. "There are lots of doctors about, not just the one hospital. If it's truly serious, anyone else can help them."

"Still, they asked me to," he protested.

"I know, just don't feel obligated."

"I don't. I just wanna check it out. Maybe I can steal some organs or something for cell transfers." He yawned widely.

"Only if he's not saveable. It's rude to steal organs from the living, I feel."

"Serves 'em right for waking us," Law decided it was time to pass out then. Corazon found himself smiling over him regardless of his intentions. Over all of them, really. Even Shachi, who snored like a chainsaw and had tried to hurt Law, was loved. He would go to the ends of the earth for any of them. He'd done it once already, for Law, and again would be nothing.

Dawn came all too soon. The boys rose from their slumber, still a little strung out. Except for Law, who was entirely used to sleeping after a fight, and rose rested and still willing to check on the weird pirates and their captain.

He spent the time before breakfast trying to paint his face back on. Corazon had to help with the finishing touches, but it wasn't too bad, really. A lot simpler than it looked. This time he did sneeze over the setting powder, trying the paints.

After breakfast - another trial with the paint - they exited to find the sky ablaze with red. There would be a storm later. No surprise on Corazon's part, they were within a dozen nautical miles to the Red Line. Law eyed it warily, the other three just murmured over the brilliant sunrise. It was prettiness to them, not a warning.

They'd learn.

"Get this over with quickly," He told Cora-san. He got a nod, no dallying.

The Daisy Dreamer was a larger boat than theirs. A caravel, with mast and gaff, wearing a bright daisy chain for a figurehead. Petals behind the skull of the jolly roger, making it look like a lion. Less than intimidating. Daisy Pirates. Hah.

But then, the flamingo figurehead on Doffy's ship wasn't exactly intimidating either. It was the pirates themselves that made the name infamous. They could be called the Kraken Pirates or the Plague Pirates, and it still wouldn't be anything to look at until they made their marks.

So he wisely held his judgement, and hoisted Law onto his shoulder. Law clung to him as usual, ready for the fight even if it didn't happen.

"Do you three want to come onto the ship? You don't have to." He gave them a chance to bail.

"I'm with Captain!" Was Bepo's entirely expected response. Shachi and Penguin exchanged a look.

"We'd rather not be left alone," They were just scraps of teens, little boys in a big world that wasn't terribly kind.

"Stay close then." He was fine to end up with four kids hanging off his shoulders. It was comforting to have them close at hand.

The pirates looked up when he crested over the top of the gangplank. They were sitting around, useless lumps, trying to keep busy and not succeeding. They were worried. Law frowned over Cora-san's shoulder.

"Take me to your captain," he pushed off, and landed lightly in front of his guardian and crew. "I'm a Doctor."

He was hustled into the captain's quarters, where at least 5 people more than necessary were bustling around trying to sort something out. The smell of infection was deep here. He crinkled his nose at it, and began pushing his way through.

Yeah, the captain was in bad shape. Had taken a blow to the head from the  looks of things. Wasn't dead, but definitely not far from.

Probably only had a couple more days at best. Less, if they continued whatever treatment they were currently working on.

"Why the ever loving fuck do you not have a doctor?" He demanded. People jumped, having not realized he was here. The captain didn't move. Too feverish, too far gone.

"You came-" the man who'd asked them last night, probably a first mate of sorts, looked almost in tears.

"You're fucking lucky I did. This is atrocious. I want everyone out, right now."

"O-of course-!"

As unessentials were removed, Corazon moved in. The boys were all holding their noses at the smell. Law was digging through the pirates' supplies for a pair of gloves. When he surfaced, Corazon caught his eye.

"Will he live?"

"No idea. Worth a try I suppose. They really did leave it to last minute."

"Hm," Corazon shed the children and his coat. "Can I help?"

"Water. Lots of it. Hot. I have to clean out the infection first. Then Remove the dead tissue. Then, just maybe, we can stitch him back together, and get some sign of life." He had a pulse - reedy with fever and infection. His breathing was shallow but present. "Bepo, Keep them out, I'm going to perform surgury."

"Aye Captain!"

"Shachi, Penguin, find some empty pails, bowls, whatever. You're catching." Law put them all to work.

" Do we gotta?" Neither brother looked particularly comfortable; squeamish and green was a more apt description.

"You two looked far worse when I operated. Maybe less rotted out, but your injuries were far, far worse to contend with. You withstood that, you can stand nearby and contain the refuse."

"But-" Corazon was back with a tub of steaming water. A mass of clean cloths draped over his shoulder. Shachi was especially hesitant to deny anything with the larger maniac at close hand. "C'mon dude, that's gross."

"Fine, if you won't help, go assist Bepo. I don't have time to argue."

Law checked his reserves - not high, but reasonable - and opened a room. It kept nasty things, like rot and infection, from spraying everywhere when he made his first incision. Then it was pretty easy sailing as he cut back to the bleeding point. It would be nice to have a x-ray machine handy, maybe an MRI or CAT scanner around. Especially since the man had a little chipping in his skull at the deepest part. But infection wouldn't be the cause of death.

He was tempted to just cut open the man's skull, and root around. But he had no bone saw, no rotary saw, nothing. But then he slipped, room still open, and even his little scalpel could cut through bone. Like cutting butter with a hot knife.

Which meant he saw the captain's slightly bruised brain, and the little slivers of bone stuck in it. He kept going.

Shachi appeared beside him at some point. He vaguely recalled calling him, but wasn't sure. The teen seemed awful skittish around the body.

"Mop," he commanded. "Sweat's getting in my eyes." He had no idea when the last time he'd blinked was.

"Sure," he wasn't asked to touch the surgery stuff, so that was fine. He could pat at Law's brow, smudging the makeup away as he removed the sweat. Hopefully Corazon had more makeup.

His energy was holding. Lowering intermittently, but not alarmingly so. He could to this.

Remove the foreign objects. Lance the bruising and thus the pressure. Begin piecing his skull back together. Trim back the edges of the cut in the last few spots. Realize he should've had two scalpels, or more, as he may have accidentally dragged infection into his brain. Oh well, too late now.

Just bomb him with antibiotics, he'd be fine. So long as he hadn't missed any bits of bone.

He really needed an x-ray system.

He twirled the scalpel in his off hand idly, considering what he knew. He was abruptly distracted by a weird feeling in his gut, like when he'd discovered swapping and popping out items, like when he'd panicked and swapped himself and Cora-san.

He let it guide him. His ROOM was equipped to SCAN.

He found it. A tiny splinter deep in the grey-matter. He switched it with a globule of fat on the outer edge of the brain case. Easy pickings. He found it, the dregs of infection. He quashed it in a moment.

"Huh," he approved of the facet of power, even if it cost more than the others. He was tired now. He returned the head to order quickly. He patted the last stitch into place before he fully released his room.

Captain guy would live, already looked better, even if his knees felt like jello. He would've appreciated a SCAN while he looked at Wolf in that back alley. Pity it only came out now.

Shachi had to drop his sweat rag to catch Law. The damn kid basically fainted the second the blue orb vanished. What an idiot. Corazon, also nearby, hovered protectively.

Law was still vaguely conscious, and surveyed his work proudly.

"Law?" Worry overflowed into Cora-san's voice.

"I'm fine, you idiot." He waved him off with a foolish grin. "I'm fine, just tired. He may even see again, if he's lucky.

"You did very well," from his limited knowledge, anyw ays. Probably didn't mean much, to be honest.

But Law beamed. It meant a lot to him.

Shachi put Law down shortly after, once he was certain he could stand. Law stooped to scrub his hands clean, using what was left of the clean clothes. Corazon was briefly distracted by Bepo and Penguin, and didn't see him start. But when he did, "Law-!"

"What?" He needed the offal from under his fingernails, before it got into his compromised system.

"The makeup -!" He hissed, and Law stopped abruptly. But it was too late. The spots were visible. His hands were showing, and the worn away spots on his face were revealing, and there were probably more they couldn't see. Just as the sound of rain - hard, torrential rain - slammed into the roof. The hard pattering of the wet was enough to tell them their window was closed.

"Captain-!" There was loud knocking. The crew would also like in, of course. To check on their leader. To take shelter from the rain. Corazon stood straight, then dropped his cowl on Law. It was more than his knees could take, but he didn't move out from under it.

"I apologize, M-my captain isn't done yet-!" Bepo insisted. "You've gotta stay out! Sorry!"

"Yeah!" Penguin chimed in. "Let Captain work or your Captain'll die!"

"But-" The crew didn't like waiting, peeking in through the cracks. Bepo and Penguin could only hold the door so closed. They weren't very large. Corazon, however, was entirely capable.

"The boys are right, Law isn't done yet. Give him a few more minutes."

"It's been hours-!"

"How long does this shit take?"

"We should at least check on Captain-!"

"Silence-!" Corazon had exactly such power, muting the entire lot. "I will not have this interruption go on any longer. Go find things to do. A doctor takes every minute he wants, and not a minute less."

Their protests were wasted breath, now.

"That's a handy trick." An unfamiliar voice stated from behind him. The captain, previously dead to the world, was now sitting up. His face was horribly wounded, still, held together with stitches and a prayer. He covered his gaze with bi-coloured shades from the depths of the furs he'd laid on.

The children were a lot more wary of this man than his lackeys. Corazon, too, had his concerns. It wasn't often he was rivalled in height.

"Where's your doctor? I must thank him." The man continued after a moment. He stood, swayed, but stayed upright. "I was in quite bad shape before."

"You shouldn't be standing. If you're standing your kidneys are forfeit." Law stated loudly from under his feathery blanket. "Maybe your liver too."

Confusion was clear. After all, he was a very small lump in the cloak. Certainly not doctor sized. Also he was hidden. Not very doctorly either.

Corazon was not fast enough. No one else was. Shachi was closest, and thereby delegated to, obligated to protect. He wasn't much use, but he could at least grab the captain's arm.

"Wait, he doesn't like to be seen. After surgery. Using his devil fruit makes him look weird." Probably not his best lie, but it would have to do. "It's kind gross looking."

"Is that so?" Intense scrutiny made him sweat. But this was what Cora-san would expect of him, right? Protect Law at all costs?

"Mmhm." He bit his tongue, and tried not to let his lies show.

"It's not gross looking , shut up," Law grumbled. " You're weird. Get fucked Shachi."

"That's enough," Corazon had arrived, and scooped up Law. His little bean of feathers. "We're going to leave now, since you're clearly better. We expect our payment by noon."

"Very well then." The captain straightened. "Thank you for your services. Please unmute my crew on the way out."

"Sure." Corazon snapped, and the roar of noise returned. The crew was so happy to have their captain back. They headed out into the downpour, leaving quickly.

As they left, Law peeked out over Cora-san's shoulder. The captain was enrobed in a bicoloured fur coat, and presented with a full glass of wine. His new scar was very visible from the distance. But hopefully it would heal well.

He should not be standing, or drinking, or throwing a fool overboard for letting his head get shaved.

It took nearly drowning for several minutes, wrapped in sea-stone cuffs, and a lung full of seawater to get that damn Commander's curse off himself. Fucking devil fruit users. They were the bane of his existence.

Once he'd coughed up his drowned lung, dried off, and freed himself from his shackles, he retreated to his office. There he could rip through his stacks and stacks of budding pirate crews, by article, bounty or both. It wasn't hard to find the DonQuixote Pirates. They were currently the worst of the lot. Scurvy rabble, with way more firepower than they'd any right to. He spat his contempt.

But, they lined his pockets. He could afford good meat and nice things. His Marine Headquarters had never looked nicer. All for the low, low price of turning a blind eye. Being a little too late, sending out a force to corral them. Letting the dogs run wild in the shadows.

His shoulder stung warningly. He'd been reprimanded. He must behave.

He picked up his snail, and dialled.

"Do I have the pleasure to speaking to Captain Doflamingo?"

"No," a greasy voice answered. "He's in a bad mood. What do you want, Captain Aspartame?"

"I received word he was looking for a particular man, a Rosinante. He's here, on Blue Crossing."

"... is he now?"

"Shot me, named himself, wears that same feathery thing your captain does. Travelling with a little kid."

"I see. I'll let Doffy know, and you can expect compensation, if you tell the truth."

Diamante hung up on him, and stood. "Doffy, I have some good news," he called from a relatively safe distance.

That was fine, as Aspartame had other people to call. There were no official wanted posters, but there was an internal one, only for Captains and higher. One asking for information. Such a wanted man really shouldn't have just waltzed in, and announced himself.

Law slept deeply when he was tired by his fruit. Corazon smiled softly, settling him on the cot.

"He's gunna be okay?" Bepo asked.

"Yeah. He'll be just fine." He confirmed. He breathed easily, his cheeks flushed with health where they weren't still bleached white. His little claws gripped his blanket, but not in pain like before. He was fine.

"Good. What an idiot, scaring Penguin like that," Shachi grumbled with less spite than usual. Penguin blinked in confusion.

"I wasn't sca-"

"Shut up," he clobbered him.

"Shachi," Corazon turned to him, the oddest look on his face. The boy held his ground.

"Thank you."

He didn't manage to dodge the hug that enveloped him. Corazon was very quick for his size. He didn't really know what to make of this whole thing.

"Thank you. You were very brave back there." He continued.

"Oh shut up," Shachi went red, pulling away. "Shut up."

"Thank you," Corazon squeezed him once more before letting him escape. "You two did amazingly as well. Thank you for helping out." Bepo was much more receptive to the affection that was hugs. Penguin stiffened as much as his brother did, but he didn't try to rip himself free as he had.

"Anything for Captain," Bepo beamed. Corazon beamed in return.

Law slept through the night. His surgery was a heavy toll. But, when he woke, he felt better than he had in ages. In retrospect, the pain from the lead probably made his sleeps more fitful than restful. The exhaustion from his fruit had allowed him to sleep through it, ensuring a much more productive night.

He rubbed the sleep from his eyes. Barely cohesive to think just yet. His liver was starting to ache again. Later he would rationalize that the deep sleep had let his system work on the lead itself, and the buildup was once again reaching the critical levels that needed extraction. He would solve that then. For now, there was the heavy need to use the bathroom, and stuff his face. Hunger was a nice feeling. He was getting better if he was getting hungry.

The three others were playing cards at the table. They greeted him offhandedly. Cora-san was nowhere in sight. Probably taking care of something in town. The morning was bright and fresh with the night's rain glossing the world. Didn't stop him from pissing off the side of the boat.

His deed completed, he could go raid the fridge for breakfast. Except there was now an adult body between him and the cabin.

Ah, the vice-captain of the Daisy Dreamer. Never did get his name, didn't care.


"Er-" the man was staring. Fright behind his eyes. What had his tongue?

"Spit it out."  He snapped. He was sleepy and hungry, and had less patience than normal. Somehow.

"Y-you have- have the syndrome-" he was growing increasingly panicked, "A-amber lead-!"

"So?" His brain was starting to click, and he was realizing his mistake too late. "It's not contagious. Just fatal."


He was dead, so dead, if this got out. But the dock master was too close - if the man screamed while being killed the marines would show. Why did everyone have to think it was contagious?! Why had the government decided this; to spite him specifically? He was so, so tired of this. He lowered his voice further.

"Shut up." He wished he had Cora-san's muting. It was a stupid power, but it was so useful. "Shut the fuck up. I'm a doctor. I made it not contagious."

The man's face froze between wonder and fear.

"I made it not contagious as one of the precursors to the cure. Which I'm also working on. I'm a doctor, I can do that. I was hiding it earlier so I don't have to explain it to every fucking shmuck who thinks they know shit." He knew his glare was intimidating. Or cute, depending on who you asked. But usually intimidating.

It was a bold claim, but whatever. Not like there was anyone else out there who would need the cure.

"Keep your mouth shut on this, got it? If there's ANY trouble, I know all the vital spots that kill, and it'll hurt every second you're dying."

The man's mouth snapped shut, and he nodded vigorously. He was absolutely understood. He silently passed Law a generously thick stack of beli, and dashed off, mouth still sealed shut.

Law grumbled, and cast a look around. Everyone else in the pier was inside their ship still, or already in town. No other witnesses. He slipped back inside before anyone could return or round the bend.

The others were pressed about the doorframe. Unhelpful idiots.

"Could've stopped me, you morons." He snapped.

"We were about to." Penguin shrugged apologetically. "But then the guy came, and you were handling it fine."

"How do you stay so cool?" Bepo asked breathlessly. "He was totally gunna scream! And you stopped him! You're so cool!"

"Hm? Oh, practice," he glanced at the beli, and began counting it idly. "Not my first fight, nor the first time someone's started crying because I'm supposedly going to murder them all."

"Coool~! Bepo had little stars in his eyes. It was adorable. He was adorable. This was stupid.

"At least he paid me fairly. I'll have to let Cora-san know we were exposed when he gets back. Pirates don't keep promises, and we need to leave before it's our skins."

"... you get to tell him that," Shachi dumped the responsibility on him. Law cocked a brow, staring him down.

"Obviously," he didn't trust these fools an inch.

Corazon came home weighed with supplies. Many things for their continuing voyage. Food, water, a spare sail and many meters of rope, at the core of it.

And a little pamphlet of information.

"So the inter-sea cruise ships are passing through Reverse Mountain tomorrow morning. They can usually support six or seven fishing vessels in their lieu each. It's not much, but it helps. We're signed on to take up a slot behind the Orbit, a big pink and yellow one. Also, if anyone else asks, our ship's official name is the Polar Sparrow."

"Oh, so we're leaving right away anyways?" Law asked, taking a very large fish from him.

"Just after midnight, since it's a 5, 6 hour voyage... did something happen? Are you guys okay? Is it better to leave now?"

"The daisy idiot came back. I forgot and he saw me. I convinced him to shut up, but he's still a pirate."

"We'll leave on the next tide, no point in hanging about." Corazon nodded in understanding. "...Which gives us an hour. Anything else we need before we go?"

"That's what he said, yeah. A cure, for the syndrome. Had it himself, but none of his crew was sick, so-"

"I see; did you get that, Sir?"

"I did. While I remain skeptical, this young doctor may be of service. We owe it to the others to at least try." The snail between the two spoke calmly. But agreeing to try betrayed his hopes. "Collect him, and his crew. Bring them to our medical base with all due haste."

"Yes sir."

Doflamingo arrived at dawn. He was brought to an unassuming boat in the harbour.

There was nothing left in it but a lone, black feather.

Chapter Text

It all happened very fast. One moment he was very entangled in his extra rope, fighting to put his cowl out from it's latest blaze, the next he was thoroughly weakened by a rope of sea-stone beads tightening around his neck. Through the fog of the drain, he was doused in seawater - probably for the fire - and a sack was tossed over his head. His hands and feet were tied, and he was then hauled over the side of the boat into a smaller boat that nearly overturned when he landed. His grunt of pain went unappreciated.

He could hear the children's protests. They fought valiantly. But between numbers and size, and application of sea-stone, they were quelled very quickly.

He could do nothing to help, only drip and protest in a weak voice.

"Gently, gently now," a voice that sounded familiar. Corazon could take rough handling, but they treated the children with care. "If you drop the doctor, Captain'll skin you."

"Sorry, sorry, he's just sharper than expected." Law struggled, confounded by the rocks on his throat making him feel weak. He dug his claws in. Got a yelp just as his world began going spotty and black with exhaustion.

"Kid's a half mink, of course he's sharp. Now grab the supplies too, put them in the other lifeboat."

They were rowed away. No one called out for them to stop in the evening half-light.

Corazon was the last brought up to the new ship. It took pulleys and the whole life boat to do so without dropping him into the sea. By that point, he could tell where they were. The Daisy Pirates had taken them.

Why? Hadn't they discovered Law's condition? Did they think he had a bounty? Had they spotted some of the surgery? Did the captain wake at some point during the operation?

Either way, the boys were protesting their entrapments. Three of them, since Law was probably also sea-stoned down. His first stoning; he might even be unconscious. He wished he could see.

"Not exactly how I asked for them," the captain spoke over the boys. "But I suppose it works."

Steps approached Corazon. It was dark enough now that the sack being pulled off didn't completely blind him. His glare was met evenly.

"I apologize for the rough treatment, but unfortunately we have to take your group with us. No exceptions." The captain was so kind to explain. "You will not be harmed or sold. None of you will. But our destination is confidential so the restraints and blindfolds are necessary."

"We're not interested in helping with your business," Corazon spat his contempt.

"We need the little doctor," the man returned his sack. "We will have him. Move them below deck."

Corazon added his protests to the lot. He was equally ignored. They were packed away below deck like normal supplies. With the normal supplies.

God, he hated pirates.

A few hours passed, then the rumble of strong currents began to shake the boat. He couldn't help much when the children whimpered over it.

"Don't worry," he told the darkness around them. "Reverse mountain is ahead, and these damn pirates know how to traverse it if they have this much sea-stone."

"W-what's reverse m-mountain?" Penguin asked, voice terribly weak. He was very frightened.

"It's the only safe entrance to the Grand Line. It bypasses the Calm Belts, where the seakings come from, and joins the four Blues together. Because of currents and water pressure, it makes all the water rise up the mountain at high speeds."

"Water... going up?" Shachi clung onto the voice. "That's impossible!"

"Not on the Grand Line. There's all sorts of wacky currents there. Water forming snakes, and giant bubbles, and knock up currents that can rise thousands of meters into the air. It's incredible. Reverse Mountain is just the start. Anywhere near the Red Line is the most intense of all."

"That s-sounds terrifying." Penguin flopped against his side, finally finding him.

"It does, compared to the Blues, and their stable seas." He couldn't deny it, as another small body wiggled into him. Shachi, he thought. "But it's also beautiful. I grew up there, and it's so incredible to see. Not be in, but see in action."

"So something like a giant elephant island could happen?" Bepo had described his homeland in detail, to their disbelief.

"It does. It wanders the New World right now." He smiled, letting it creep into his voice. They were getting closer to the mountain, by the rush under them.

There was a sudden change in direction, straining the ropes around them. The last two rolled into him, and he had nothing to secure them with. But he willed them together. They were going up now, and the water was deafening about them.

"There's also an island on the grand line that rains thunderbolts 24 hours a day. And Fishman Island is inhabited by mermaids 10,000 leagues below the surface. And islands in the sky, 10,000 leagues above us! On the clouds! And so, so many more-!"

"W-what's your favourite one?"

"Ah, I think... it would have to be Dressrosa. I only visited there once, but it's a beautiful place. Flower fields as far as the eye can see. They say even the island is shaped like a giant sunflower."

"A giant flower island?"

"Mmhm, it was my ancestral home. Stunning food, glorious gardens... they say that fairies live there! And they steal things out of your pockets. I'm still mad about losing that beli. I was going to buy the biggest ice cream ever. Bigger than my whole head!" Sure it was back when he was smaller. But that was less distracting than an ice cream bigger than his current head.

"Wow," he could hear the sparkles in the brothers' eyes. That was what he wanted. That was what was going to get them over the crest.

"Their most famous flavour was Black, which was roasted sesame flavour or squid ink flavour, depending on which merchant you went to. Let me tell you, the squid ink flavour definitely wasn't as good as the sesame, but the ink made my tongue black for an entire week! And my teeth black for the rest of the day! I scared so many people like that, can you imagine?"

"That would look so cool! The only things around here that colour your tongue are the blue and purple flavoured lollipops. And they don't colour your teeth any!"

"Do squid even grow this far north?" Penguin asked, "Think we could catch one?"

"Mm, I dunno, but next we have our fishing rods we can try!" Shachi agreed.

"Make sure to catch a seagull first." Corazon instructed. "Tie the feathers to the line just above, and bait with the offal. The squid here don't get a lot of seagull, so it'll attract them quick. Did I grab rice? I should pop some rice to bread with, and then we can have calamari too. No point in wasting a perfectly good fish just for the ink, you know?"

There were chimes of agreement. He now had Bepo participating. Good.

"My favourite fish is cod, it's so good-"

"Salmon's better, especially when there's butter-"

"Sorry, but Both of you are wrong, a thick, fried seal steak? Now that's the very very best-"

"Ew Seal?!"

"You can't eat seal, dude, that's. No. Why would you hurt the seals?"

"Sorry-" Bepo was about to launch into an apologetic rant, but the entire boat lurched free of the ocean, into the air at that moment, bouncing all four into the air. Cora-san had to fight to keep from moving himself. The kids landed in his lap. An elbow in one sensitive, painful place, and a knee or two in other painful places, but they were all still together. "Ow."

"You said that right." Corazon groaned.

"Sorry-" Law rattled through his sea-stone daze. "What the fuck?"

"Made the top of Reverse Mountain." Corazon shifted slightly, pressing more of his back to the ship wall. "Feels like... East Blue or the Grand Line. We'll know for certain once we hit the bottom. There's been a problem whale at the start of the Line for a few years now."

There was no impact into a giant whale, nor even the sound of one. Hopefully that meant they were in the East Blue. The ocean was calmer than the Line usually was when they evened out at the bottom. The kids didn't like that impact anymore than the jump at the top, or the ascent. But at least that meant that danger was over and done with.

The boat above them was silent as they continued to sail. Corazon frowned, then began to work at his ties some more. The best he could, anyway, with the sea stone sapping his strength.

He froze at the sound of snapping rope. That was very close. Nothing fell though. He began working at it again.

Claws took his hands a moment later.

"Sorry." Bepo apologized. He had a knife? Either way, Corazon was freed from his bonds, and could freely rip off the sea stone and sack. It was dark in the hold. But not impossibly. Lots of supplies, some of which was theirs. Bepo's knife was Law's. The boy was rubbing his throat numbly, still dazed from the sea stone. Shachi and Penguin were in the process of being freed.

"The knife fell out of Captain's boot when we bounced around," Bepo elaborated at the confused look. "I think he forgot he had it?"

"Knew it was there," Law shivered, and tried to push himself a little farther from the sea stone beads. He was already backed up against the wall. "Couldn't move... couldn't think..."

"That's normal with sea stone." Corazon smiled softly, and scooped him into his lap. "Especially early on, as you're still new to your powers."

"Ah," Law clung to him.

"So what's going to happen to us?" Shachi finally decided to address the situation they were in. "Are they going to hurt us?"

"... They said they wouldn't. But they're also pirates, and shouldn't be trusted to uphold any promises they make. We're no longer contained, so we have a bit of an edge," He only spoke when he had shielded their conversation from the outside world. "We'll have to run, when we hit land next."

"But we won't have any boat, or supplies, or-"

"We... can get those again later," he stopped him. "It's a pain, but we're not going to stay here any longer than we have to." They'd leave sooner if possible. Stealing a dinghy was far from ideal, but if this was the East Blue, they wouldn't die immediately. Loguetown wasn't more than a two hour sail from Reverse Mountain. That was when forced to sail into the headwinds.

Whether their captors would stop there, however, was up for debate. He needed more information. More definites, or else he was flying on maybes and that would get them all killed.

They had many supplies, so stopping wasn't necessary; bypassing Loguetown was a definite possibility.

He stood slowly, remaining muted. The ocean remained stable under his feet.

"Where're you going?" Small hands seized his pant legs. Four pairs of bright eyes begged him to stay.

"You stay here for the moment. I'm going to do some reconnaissance. Don't worry about me." He squatted again to pat their hands and heads. "I'm going to go be a spy. It's going to look very cool, but it'll be safer if you stay here for now. Stay down, stay quiet, and my disappearance won't be discovered."

"... Be safe. If you get shot again I might have to throw you off the boat." Law was quite serious. He usually was.

"Of course." He promised. He would accept being thrown off the boat. This was perfectly reasonable.

The upper cabin was pretty quiet. Most of the crew was above deck, dealing with things. Their captain included. Corazon moved fast, and quickly ruled out the kitchen/dining room, and the crew lodgings wasn't hiding anything behind all those hammocks. Which left the captain's quarters.

He crept through the door, eyes on the world. The waves continued in his favour, and he made it into the quarters with nary a hitch. He closed the door behind him, and carefully ensured he had the door unmuted. It felt like a stiff, squeaky thing under his hands, so there would be warning. The other door to the room was untried, but he dared not test something leading to the outside.

Movement drew eyes as much as sound.

The desk was filled with carefully organized papers. Three Den-Dens, two with personalizations and the third naturally coloured. Direct lines to someone else. Was the Daisy Dreamer part of a fleet? Or simply lines to allies? The two personalized lines were rigged up with extra security features. Secure lines. The snails didn't move as he peered about them. Very secure lines.

The papers were very precise in their arrangement. He took deliberate care in not messing that order.

But these were just receipts. Water and meat, citrus and bread; salt, mead and wine. Lots of wine. By the bottle, not the keg, despite the increased fragility and weight. He returned them to their spots. Not a page out of place. The drawers were likewise professionally attended, as though the captain had a background in accounting and business. No false bottoms to speak of.

He frowned. He had learned little, and gleaned even less. No maps. No eternal poses or compasses. Nothing to indicate their path. This ship knew where it was going, and how to get there without their headings. Unless the heading equipment was set into the navigator's hub. There hadn't been an internal system for the rudder, so it was outside.

He was going to have to keep searching, or start asking questions.

Unfortunately, there wasn't much more to search. The captain slept on a fur-lined bed, with only a lamp on a frame-like side table. The books on the shelf were all proper books. Not a single one was indicative of anything, never mind holding secret, hidden items. No hidden doors or false walls. Every inch was accounted for. Well fuck.

"You won't find anything in here, Mister Corazon." The captain's voice scared the shit out of him. He hadn't heard the door open.


"I knew you were here. The doors don't open properly for strangers and enemies. The entire crew felt you open them, even if it didn't make any noise this time." The man approached easily, unafraid. "Your little group took longer than expected to escape your bonds."

"We had other things to worry about." He dismissed the other man. His gun was deep in his cowl right now. It would take a moment to unearth it. He had to keep the other talking. "Where are we going? Planning to land anytime soon?"

"Classified." One word shut him down. "However, where we are going is a straight shot from here, one we will not need to stop for. We have the supplies."

"So about 10 days, 8 if you travel in reasonable surplus, from Reverse Mountain on the East Blue. Heading is more east than north, so unless you plan to circle around much, there's only a few dozen places we'll land." He considered his mental map some. "And many more in rowing distance."

"Sure, if we carried any life boats with us." The captain returned. "We will not be passing within viewing distance, so even if you could swim, it would be in vain."

"No Lifeboats? What happened to the two earlier? What sort of shit pirate doesn't have at least one?"

"We lost them going over Reverse Mountain. An unfortunate loss." The captain stepped around him to inspect his desk. He seemed pleased that it wasn't out of order. "Why have we taken you, Mister Corazon?"

As the Captain sat at his desk, swilling his wine, he watched him through his bi-coloured lenses. Corazon returned the calculating gaze.

"You have sick comrades that need a physician. But not any physician will do. You want Law specifically for some reason. You're taking us to a sick camp, or a plagued nation. But there's been no illness in the East Blue."

"Correct," The Captain waited.

"Meaning you may have refugees from another Blue, or the Grand Line."


"And your right hand probably squealed the second he got back." He didn't like the image he was getting. Not at all. "He squealed, and should be shot like the pigs you are."

His gun lasted less than a second. His blood ran cold when the two pieces fell to the floor, and the captain's new, scissor-like hands rose to his throat.

"Do not threaten my crew, Mister Corazon. You may be the guardian of the little doctor, but you are not necessary for the little doctor to do his work. I may kill you if you prove too difficult."

"He will not cooperate, if you kill me." He knew Law. Law was a stubborn boy with more spite than sense.

"Sure, perhaps. But children are persuadable."

"Not this one. By the time you talk him around, you won't have any patients left. If you really have people suffering from the Amber Lead, their time is counted in weeks, if not days. It took me three years to convince him to heal himself."

The Captain stopped at that. Concern didn't show in his face. But the way the blade carefully inched back from his throat. It was more a 6-month run from hospital to hospital, but that was besides the point.

"If you want to save those people, you need to be the one cooperating." He put the pressure on.

"Accidents happen," The Captain snipped his hands threateningly. But he then lowered his weapon.


  • They thought Law had a cure. Not completely wrong, but not exactly correct. Was Law to blame for this inaccuracy? Double check.
  • Willing to work with them. But not too much. Mind their backs and their tongues.
  • Captain had a scissor-like devil fruit. Decently strong, as it cut through steel like it was paper.
  • Unknown island as destination, one probably uninhabited since it was a camp of Amber-inflicted individuals. Reduced the number of islands that they could be landing on, but not enough. Even if he could steal a den-den and call for help, he had no destination just yet. Not that he had anyone to call for help, nor would calling help to an island full of illegal refugees be the wisest decision.
  • He was going to have to tell Law that there were survivors.

That was the part he dreaded most.

Chapter Text

He had to tell Law, he thought, as he was marched back to the storage.

He had to tell Law, he thought, as they were given a meal not long after.

Law had to be told, he was insistent, but he needed to be delicate about this. Very, very delicate, or the little boy that he cared so much for would hurt.

It was going to hurt anyways. Which is why three more days passed before Law had enough.

"What's going on?" He snapped. His eyes were dangerously thin, and Corazon could feel the pricks of talons in his arm. He looked away, guilty. "Cora-san."

"... I learned something while I was looking around the other day. Something I know will Upset you, but I haven't figured out how to break it to you." He opted to not lie. Law wasn't a baby. This would hurt even so.

"... Oh." Law's intensity relented. "What was it? Are they separating us? Killing some and enslaving others? Just straight up killing us?"

"No." Not even close. "When... you were exposed, what did you say? Just threaten him with pain and death?"

"Uh, no, He started to yell. I needed him to shut up." Law looked away. "I went ahead and said that I'd cured myself. That I'd used medical science to make myself not contagious. I mean, it's not as if it was to begin with. And I'm the only one who even needs it anymore. I won't have to repeat it."

"... Unfortunately," Corazon started, and Law froze. His eyes were wide and disbelieving. "You are going to have to repeat it for them. They found some refugees. Refugees that need... need your cure."


"Law," Corazon wanted to help, but,

"There are other survivors." He struggled with it even so. "Other... people, of Flevance?"

"So it would seem. Unless, of course, they're just infected visitors that left before the embargo, not realizing what they had come into contact with. I would not... will not promise that it'll be anyone you know."

Law breathed. He rubbed at one of the pale patches on his cheek. His fingers twitched, like he wanted to scratch at it instead, but he didn't make himself bleed this time.

"I know escape is the safer option, but I need to-"

"We can check before we run." He understood. "We can stay if we need to. But don't let them see your fruit in action. I still need to keep you all safe, and I can't do that if they take you away."

"You don't have to; I can defend myself." The protest was automatic, distracted. "I need... need to..."

"Law," Corazon reached out, and took his hands gently. Enveloping them and holding him steady. "It's okay. I'm here. We'll do what we need to."

"We'll do what we need to..." Law sucked in air like he'd been choking, then exhaled through his teeth. Forcing his twisting stomach down. His nerves could shut up. There was no room for that anxiety right now, just action.

"I'm here when you need me," Corazon reassured softly. He wasn't sure how deep into his trauma Law had reverted, but he expected the worst. The rawest, bloodiest edges.

Breathing didn't help much sometimes, when his nose could smell old blood and rotting flesh, when the corpses pressed down on him from all sides. He tried.

No one had worn feathers, though. No feathers, and cigarettes smelled far and away from ruin and death. He pressed in, hoping to be enveloped in the present, not the past.

Silence was so much better than gunshots.

He appreciated that stupid power at times like this.

Corazon held him, his precious treasure. Healing was more than physical. He could attest to that himself. While his ability to patch wounds was minimal at best, he hoped he was enough.

Law buried his face deeper into his shoulder, accidentally pushing his hat up. Corazon stabilized it before it actually fell, though he couldn't properly cover the bases of his little horns. There was a little scrap of something clinging to the left one.

Ah, just a bit of feather fluff. He brushed it away gently. He hadn't touched Law's horns in the brief stint in the child's body, and was surprised to find them smooth. They looked ridged, but it felt like skin covered the whole base area just enough. He lingered over the area, thumbing it idly as his thoughts returned to Law himself.

This was going to hurt him, whether or not he knew anyone there. He wasn't sure which was worst. Though, he was fairly certain, from the nightmares and the absolute certainty that his parents were gone, his little charge had been privy to the execution of his family. To his companions and entire world. There likely wasn't anyone left to find.

He knew that pain. While he could not make it go away, he could hold him a little tighter, shield him a little more, and the world at large had to go through him to reach the boy.

Law let his eyes flutter closed when Cora-san touched him. It was soft and gentle, and the warm feeling of his hand was grounding. And he felt like his mom, behind all the physical things.

So much Love. So much Determination. If nothing else, he had that, without question.

He wouldn't chide Corazon for ignoring his previous request not to touch. He was permitted so long as he didn't abuse it.

Corazon noticed when the intermittent shivers faded away. He did not release his boy. Even when the others woke from their boredom naps, and cuddled up to him in lieu of anything better to do. He didn't release him until he well and truly drifted off. Safe and secure. When he woke again, he would still be here.

And then they could start to plan.

On day 4 of their voyage, the sails were pulled, and they came to a halt in the water. Corazon looked up from the card game, concerned. Law was also quickly alert, though the other three were still trying to count cards.

"Why have we stopped?" He asked when the hatch opened, and someone came down the ladder.

"Captain wants'ta talk to the little doctor," the sailor stated. "Says it's important."

"Tell your captain to shove a live sea snake up his ass." Law snapped. "I win, give me your sunglasses, Shachi."

"Like Fuck you did, punk," he laid his own cards down. A tie.

"Er-" the lackey hesitated.

"Law has declined; let us know when we're set to land." Corazon clarified, then set out his own cards. He was lower than the boys.

"Uh," the man swallowed, then climbed back up the ladder.

"So you need to be less obvious when you're cheating at cards," he returned his attention when the other was gone. "Otherwise you'll get caught and shanked."

"I'm not cheating," Penguin insisted, setting down 6 aces. Two more fell out of his sleeve. "You're cheating."

He did have three kings of spades, but that was more a mixed deck problem. He wished he knew where his actual deck had gone, not the fistful of cards he found in the depths of his pockets. He wasn't even sure he had a 3 of any suite in here.

Bepo considered the playing field, then dropped his own cards. "I think I win, actually. Sorry."

The bear had a mixed hand, and not a single double. Amazing. He even had a three, though it was very clearly a custom card, drawn on a blank with clumsy marker. He was so proud.

"... I concede," Law agreed, and tugged off his boot. Bepo put it on gleefully. Shachi tutted, but relinquished his own boot - the opposite foot - which was equally appreciated. Corazon's toque and Penguin's cloak completed the very fashionable ensemble.

"Another round?" Penguin asked, scooping up the mess of cards for a shuffle.

"Sure, you deal this time," Law sat back and got comfortable. Penguin's arm was healing really well. It hardly even shook, except when the moron was scared of something.

Still couldn't shuffle for shit, though.

There was a clattering from above, and they all looked up. The lackey was back. He had a gun now. Corazon glared at him.

"I've been told to insist, or one of the non-doctors gets filled with lead." He sounded mildly frightful. He could have chosen his words better. Law winced despite himself.

"How about I fill you with lead-!" He shot back, the ope-ope tingling at his fingertips. There was lead in his bucket nearby, and while the man wasn't fat, he had to have fat reserves somewhere. Swap out some... some... he couldn't do it. Corazon's hand on his only reenforced that. "Fine, fine, fuck it, since you bastards are so desperate for my attention, I suppose I can come chat."

The man swallowed, and holstered his pistol. "Follow me."

Corazon considered the other three. "Will you be okay here? I don't want Law left alone with the captain."

"Leave us a weapon." Shachi insisted. He squeaked when a thrown blade lodged into the wood next to his head. Law smirked.

"I need that back later, so don't lose it."

"Yeah, sure."

Corazon scoffed, wishing the other DonQuixote pirates hadn't taught Law that particular trick. But no one was hurt, so he didn't speak of it. "If anything goes awry, raise a fuss. I'll be listening."

"Be safe!" Bepo waved. He then pulled out a marker, there'd been a box next to him the entire time, and resumed making cards of the useless blanks they'd found.

"You kids as well."

The climb up to the captain's room was silent aside from the sailors out on the deck. They were... playing cards too, from the sounds of things. Maybe a few other leisurely activities. Someone was named a liar, cheat and harlot as they passed through the last door.

The captain was at his desk. Waiting. One of the snails was working through dialling - a lengthy process through the rerouting. This one was wearing a shimmering shade of violet lipstick, and wore an equally violet afro wig. Massive lashes and a tiny crown on its shell.

The captain himself looked a little rough. His scar was better than before, but the skin was very red around the actual wound. It seemed he was a little feverish as well, from the sheen on his cheeks.

"You haven't been taking your antibiotics." Law scowled. The man waved it off.

"While you left none, it would do no good. My system does not permit such drugs to do their duties, as I have tested a range of them for pharmaceutical use. Do not mind that - I am well enough." He sipped his wine. "Have we established connection?"

"In just a minute, Darling Boy," the snail crooned, one eye glancing up. "In the meantime, what is this about being unwell?"

"Nothing to raise concern, certainly-"

"The idiot knocked his skull in, then left it until it nearly rotted his head off," Law interjected. "Now it's getting infected again. Who the fuck are you?"

"Oh, tut tut, Ina-boy. We'll see to you immediately on your return, don't you fret." The captain, now dubbed Ina-boy, blinked his thanks with great, dry exasperation. "Who is your friend? I don't recognize their dulcet tones in the least."

"Just a child," Corazon could tell from that alone that the codeword hadn't been dropped yet. The line wasn't secure. He set a hand on Law's hat, holding him steady.

"A child~? How delightful," the snail cooed. "How's Daisy? She take the waters well?"

"Very. The ocean has been calm. Lost a lifeboat, but those are replaceable." Idle talk, to fill the airwaves. Nothing of purpose, so that any listeners grew bored and kept looking for the information they wanted.

And then, "It's a Miracle that you made it back, Darling."

"Of course not, your Highness, my sailors are top stock." Ina-boy dropped the idle talk immediately. He sat a little straighter, as the snail fixed both eyes on him. The line was secure.

"Now, to business. I've heard rumours of a doctor that can cure all these poor patients? Miracles and hormones can only go so far, and I'm at my wits end. It's enough to make a grown man weep." The other was very dramatic, speaking with deep emotion and intent. Corazon frowned tightly.

"The child is the doctor. The evidence seems to support it, as his spotting is continuing to decrease over the days we've had him in our custody. Not the fatal increase we're familiar with. Nor have any of his companions developed any signs of the illness. Even the ones that have spent years with him."

"It's hard to spread an illness that isn't actually contagious." Law snapped. Corazon nodded. "You fucking idiots. Did you even ask? Any actual survivor could tell you that. Morons."

Both snail and captain stared at Law; long, horribly unreadable expressions. Corazon did his best to loom and be threatening enough to make them think twice. They were kinda dumb if they hadn't figured out that much from their camp.

Even Doffy had scrounged up the full, true story in the mess of lies and subterfuge that was the underworld.

"What a rude little boy," the snail finally acknowledged. "Are you certain he's qualified?"

"I am certain," Ina-boy nodded. "Send us the heading, and he'll prove himself before you personally."

"If you're sure, Darling." A series of numbers followed. It took a moment, but he was pretty sure that was a code. Coordinates. His mental map began puzzling it as the call ended.

"Now, onto what your purpose is, Dr. Trafalgar Water Law." Ina-boy tugged a string with his free hand. A sailor came in, took a scrap of paper that had the freshly written code on it, looked, and burned it with a match. He left with the knowledge and nothing more. Corazon frowned after him, still puzzling the numbers around. He had a latitude, but the same formula did not give him an applicable longitude. Unless he had both wrong, he was certain the navigator needed to know two separate codes, just to get a heading.

Complex. He liked the challenge.

"Mister Corazon, if you would be so kind as to use your silencing trick. I would like to not be overheard."

He rolled his eyes, but did so. If they had to resort to extremes, no one would hear it happen.

"My Thanks. By now, certainly, your guardian has explained the purpose of our kidnapping. You are being brought to survivors of Flevance, and other individuals that have contracted Amber Lead through one way or another. I trust you have no issue with this."

"I would've appreciated an upfront explanation," He sniped back. His glaring wasn't getting anywhere.

"The crew doesn't know. For all they're aware, we're just heading back to the hospital with supplies. The only reason they haven't drowned you at sea is because of your claim of being non-contagious, which some are still greatly suspect of. Northerners are hard to sway." Ina-boy sipped is wine carefully as the ship began to move. North, Corazon was pretty sure.

"We shall keep this discreetly between us, as well." He added. "Until such a time when you cure the other patients."

"It's not actually ready for human testing. I'm just willing to do trials on myself." Not even started counted as not ready for human testing. He was pretty sure.

"I understand," Ina-boy's expression softened a touch, "But there will be other doctors working on the cure too, and all the equipment you'd need." He had all his tools already, by the thrum in his chest from the fruit. He just hadn't learned them all yet. He could cure them, just by cutting them up and apart. And more finessed ways that were still beyond him.

"There will also be senior doctors there, that can aid where you lack. You're obviously still young, so any gaps will be accounted for."

"There aren't any gaps, you bastard," he stated. Corazon's hand on his hat tightened slightly. He ignored it.

"Of course." All too easily, his outburst was accepted. "Regardless, we shall be arriving shortly. Prepare your companions for a medical investigation. They will undergo testing for the lead, and will your guardian, since they show no signs as of yet."

"They're clean."

"Even so," Law scowled at him, then turned to leave. Corazon did not stop him. He was halfway down the hall before he realized, and dashed back to the office. His giant shadow followed easily.

"How the fuck do you know my name?!"

To that, Ina-boy simply smiled.

He did not get answers, only a shooing. The crew was starting to move, shore was in sight.

They were escorted back at gunpoint. Law decided to be stubborn about it, and rightly so. How they knew the little boy's name was concerning. Did they have the others' names? His name? How had they collected this information?

It was a concern, but not one that they could address right now. Not with a pistol in the small of his back, and a slightly pale sailor at the trigger.

Not a good situation to try people. The boys were huddled up behind Law's knife, waiting for the worst, and all they got was their leader and guardian returned to them. Not even a fight to prove themselves with.

"Stupid fucking asshole bastard," Law seemed to be working through every swear he knew, starting with his favourites. He punched the wall, and the pain helped nothing.

"Everything went swimmingly then?" Shachi grinned weakly. He chuckled at the death-glare.

"I'm going to cube you," he took his knife back, clipping his fingers with his talons. Shachi shrieked, but Corazon stopped Law just in time, "mince, actually! Mince you nice and small, maybe give in and taste human flesh! Heard it tastes like pork-!"

"Law, no cannibalism, thank you," Corazon was pretty sure that Law would not, given his usual reaction to burnt-human-flesh smell, but he was riled up. Might still attack fatally. He got slightly bitten for holding him back, but Law gave up fairly soon. Then he just sulked in Corazon's hands.

Bepo patted his hat gently, a soft smile in his warm, black eyes. "So what did they want? Something bad?"

"Mm? Oh," Law huffed, and wiggled free with a scrabble of claws. "I guess you were asleep when Cora-san told me. There's other people with the amber lead poisoning. They want me to cure them, so they're taking us there." Fuck the amicable request to keep that info on the down-low. He wouldn't honour shit til he got his answers.

"Oh..." the three exchanged a glance. "So-?"

"I'll have a look. No guarantees, though."

There was a small swell of silence. The boys exchanged further glances.

"...You might see your family again, and you're not even a little bit excited about it?" Penguin finally ventured, slow and low.

"I will not... be seeing my family again," Law's eyes shut, but he remained stoic otherwise.

The gunshots echoed in the waves, and groans of wood and wind were the undercurrent to screams that split the air. Flames would not part for him.

"Anyways," he shook the miasma away, "they've decided you four will have to be tested for the lead. If I am not present, you must impress upon them that your blood counts are very low still. They can not take too much for their studies."

"And if we do? Have it, I mean?"

"I'll fix you guys up, don't worry. I shouldn't have to, though. Unless you've been fucking around with the raw stuff, or contracted it stealing for your uncle, you should be fine."

"How would we get it from jewellery or little knickknacks?" Shachi burst in, upset at the very notion. "We didn't steal no fancy makeups and stuff!"

"Flevance produced many products with the lead. It was present in nearly everything a person owned by the end, and exported widely." He had read as such in his textbooks. They'd flourished in mere years for it. "An old mantle piece or heirloom ring could easily have it. That's why you never handle new treasure with bare hands until you inspect it."

"... It's pretty cold most of the year. We probably wore gloves most of the time." Penguin studied his hands, then Shachi's. They had no spots.

Law frowned, then took their hands. Nothing, not even bad circulation. He considered, then the hatch above them. "Cora-san, cover me?"

"Of course." The black feathers shifted, and his mass blocked that direct line of sight. Blue light followed, as he opened his Room.

Scan was still expensive. But he had a look like a good doctor would. Nothing so expansive as his anything to see, just looking for the lead. It glowed in his mind's eye, marring his own skin, but the bodies of the others remained dark. Not a single cell.

"You're clean," he assured with renewed certainty. "They won't find anything." Cora-san and Bepo were likewise clean.

He, however, was a marble of sickness. The echo of the spots stained his vision as  he released the Scan. He frowned, then drew his knife and dug into his arm. 

No blood, no pain, just a solid hour's worth of pulling long strings of lead out of his veins. The others had to look away at times. But no one stopped him.

He would be well again. He had to be.

A couple hours passed, before the sounds of docking began to echo into the hold. Corazon shook Law from sleep, then the boys all curled into his mass. Clinging to and under his cowl. They weren't scared, but Corazon scared off all but the bravest.  It was simple logic to hang close to him.

Bepo was kinda scared, but he had all his new friends.

"Are you prepared?" The captain himself called down. As Corazon surfaced, they were in a cave, around a watery bend. A natural, hidden harbour.

"As well as we can be, given your meagre explanations." He frowned at him, baring the children easily. Four lives balanced on his.

"Good," they could bolt away into the darkness on the edges. Looked like ancient, volcanic tunnels lead into this grand chamber. A building was set into the wall, painted a similar slate to match the dark atone around it. A hospital, by the large, painted sign. Not a long-standing one, but well made for a short life.

A hidden hospital. Exactly the sort of thing that was needed for Flevantians and the other afflicted.

Except there was a bit of a party going on outside of it, in flashy pinks and purples, and erotically dressed dancers. Not exactly kid, or family, friendly. The man in charge of the stage, and probably the whole operation, was wearing a hot pink mankini with accenting black fishnets on a garter. His two crowns were stacked atop each other in gaudy display. Corazon had to quell the desire to steal his platform heels - he would actively kill himself in anything that precarious. Even if they looked like they might fit.

By the colouration, and the impressively fluffy purple afro, and the loud, exaggerated makeup, this was the 'Highness' that they'd spoken to prior.

"Ina-boy! Welcome back!" He greeted exuberantly. "I feared I may not see you again! Who mauled your elegant Coiffure? Shall I have them put to death?"

"No need," Ina-boy declined, stopping at his side. "The punishment has been doled out already. I have arrived with the doctor."

"Never mind that for a second, darling," Highness straightened from his dramatic stance, and adjusted his glove. "You're burning up. I told you that you should have brought some of my special serums along."

Ina-boy sighed, and passed off his wine-glass for a second. He lowered his jacket from his shoulders. "I insist that I am well enough, the fever will break in the next few hours."

Law shook his head. No, it really wouldn't. It would keep raging until the infection quelled, or the man was dead. The Highness seemed to agree with his diagnosis, and flexed his hand. Which then turned into four syringes coated in pink latex. Ina-boy was unmoved by the transformation, and the subsequent stabbing. He was used to this particularity.

He gaped, from the shelter of Cora-san's cloak, when steam began to wick off Ina-boy's flushed skin, taking the redness, swelling, and illness with it.

His hand returned to normal a moment later, and he could cluck over the nasty scar that was left.

"How the actual fuck-"

"Devil fruit," Corazon frowned. He had no idea which, or what it was capable of, but he did not want his children anywhere near it or this being. Law continued to stare at the marvel before him, as his patient grew well again before his very eyes.

The other dancers cheered, chanting over the success, the return, and this Highness in general. It quickly turned into a frenzied, impromptu dance. Shachi and Penguin were peeking out from behind his legs, clearly interested in the high socks and short skirts. Bepo just hid, making his whole self as small as possible on his shoulder.

Law was very, very interested. How? It was a medical marvel, a miracle even. It made his own fruit pale in comparison. But when he made to jump down from Cora-san, his guardian stopped him with a hand. The serious look in his eyes made Law hesitate. A trick?

He wasn't sure. But his instincts told him to be wary. He had a bad feeling, especially about something too good to be true.

"Ah, good, a full recovery. You can go nap now, darling. Sleep off my hormones."

"Of course," Ina-boy straightened up, coat and all, and accepted his wine back. "But first, the young Doctor, Trafalgar Water Law. And his guardian, who goes by Mister Corazon."

"Oh?" The Highness smiled widely, painted lips perfect. "Mm, you did mention he was just a little brat-boy, but I had hoped he was a little more a man. Are you certain he isn't just playing Doctor?"

While it was a fair question, Law couldn't help but feel insulted. He was not just 'playing'.

"I am Certain," Ina-boy answered before he could really retaliate. "We should take this meeting inside, however. I fear Mister Corazon is on the verge of fleeing, and we cannot risk an escape at this time."

"Of course, of course-!" Corazon could not break free from the congregation in that moment. He lost his balance on a rock, and face planted. This was always to be his fucking undoing wasn't it? At least this time he didn't have to drop in a mass of rifle-holders. Just dumped his children all over the ground. It somehow felt worse than being shot 12 times in the chest.

He was lifted by strong hands - the biggest of the dancers grinned at him - while the boys were collected by smaller ones. Law was gently set on his feet, and waved forward.

"Tell me, Spotty-boy, where did you get your doctorate? I wasn't aware schools permitted such young candidates~?" The Highness leaned over, and his head was the size of Law's entirety. "You're just a child, no?"

"I'm 14, so fuck off, firstly." Law bared his teeth threateningly. "Secondly, Internships can start whenever, at the head doctor's discretion. Thirdly, take me to my patients so I can discern whether you're wasting my time. Fourthly, call me that again and I'm going to kill you."

"Oh, little Spotty-boy doesn't like me~" He swayed, weeping like his heart was broken. "He doesn't like me, and he's such a bossy, rude little brat." His troupe converged on him, soothing their leader. Only to be blown back by a very, very abrupt change of tone and poise. "Let's get one thing straight, kitten.

"This is my facility, and these are my patients. I am the only thing in this world standing between their lives and their untimely deaths," He advanced a step, heel impacting the ground with enough force to blow dust into Law's eyes. He did not flinch, though he was forced to blink. "If I do not deem you worthy, you do not go within a mile of them."

He drew his knife, then, unintimidated. He tested the edge with his thumb, stare unbreaking.

"If it's a fight you want, you have it," his previous promise stood.

"Oh, kitten," he had only a few brief milliseconds before those gaudy, pink heels tried to slam into his face. Missing only by a hair's breadth. "You've already failed."

He hd even less time to prepare for the next attack. But he was still preparing for the first. So he got one small strike in, carving a deep, bloody line in the man's calf before he was bodily punted into the wall of the hospital. His ears rang as he sat up, but there was still no time to spare. The Highness was already in the air above him, ready to finish crushing his skull in.

Corazon struggled against the men who had him, but they were very strong, strong enough to suspect haki use. His son was getting pummelled, and he could do nothing.

Well, almost nothing. He still had a couple grenades left.

The dancers shrieked as the world around them blew up. The children were equally frightened, and released by their captors. The silent explosions did not reach the others, though the light did catch Law's eye. He took advantage of his distraction, and stumbled over his shoes again before he scooped up three of the four. Racing to Law's defence.

Law was doing okay, considering. His skull was rattled, and blood threatened to drip into his eyes as it ran down his face. That was fine. He evaded an attack, and lashed back with his talons. His knife had fallen, and he wasn't sure where. Probably under rubble. Making the bastard hop and shriek, waving his one leg about in an attempt to dislodge; it was petty, but amusingly so.

He left horrifically bloody wounds when he was finally scraped off. He bounced off the rocks with a pained yelp.

The Highness looked enraged, especially over the damage to his fishnet stockings. He went on the offensive again, ready to put his heels back to good use.

Corazon lit the dynamite stick while he ran, acutely aware he was lighting himself ablaze too. The children took care of it. But he wasn't moving fast enough. He wasn't arriving soon enough. Those sharp heels were too close to his most precious person.

Law saw him coming. Coming too slow. But trying. He just had to close the distance. He just had to Reach-

Blue, Room. He was still reaching. To be Over There, not here, in harms way. The Highness probably meant to kill now. Meant to end this fight. Everything between here and there was pretty clear. Dynamite, rocks by the dozen, Cora-san himself.

So he grabbed, and pulled.

He wasn't sure it would work. But, like the tiny pebbles he usually messed with, two items swapped into each other's places. He was suddenly suspended in the air, right where the dynamite had been as Cora-san threw it. He hit the ground, hard, as Cora-san tripped over him. Highness stomped a stick of dynamite, and got well blown up for it.

Law laid there for a moment, breathing hard. His heart was stuttering uncomfortably, and his limbs were quickly growing far too heavy. Ah, he had overdone it. This was the cost of the ope-ope, if you went over your own limits. Supposed he was going to die anyways. Good run, though. Good try, Cora-san. Couldn't win them all.

His vision was greying when a hand appeared next to his face. Aw fuck, the explosion hadn't done in the Highness. Pity. Hopefully Cora-san had more tricks up his sleeve. The ope-ope throbbed in his throat, tasting bitter, like bile and blood.

Painted lips were speaking to him, but he couldn't really tell what was said. Then the fingers were sharp, needle-like points.

This bastard really wanted to be the Cause of Death, huh? Well, too bad for him. Law was pretty sure he was already too far gone to make a difference. He laughed in his face with what he had left (a shaky smile and nothing more).

Then Cora-san was there, preventing the bastard. Then two pairs of painted lips were arguing over him, and it all fell on deaf ears.

Pity, but he was glad someone cared. He preferred dying with family, over dying alone and scared.

Chapter Text

And then he was not dead. His every nerve caught fire, surging with newfound energy. He was very, very much alive, stemming from four lacerations in his side, where needles flooded his system with a mix of glucose, and adrenaline.

Sound, light, colour, it all assaulted him at once. He gasped, air. Sweet, sweet air. His heart pounded, stabilizing. He rolled over, coughing and breathing hard, barely processing. Alive? Alive??

Why? How? Alive! Cora-san? Cora-san! He clung to the feathers, hiding from the blinding lights and deafening sounds. Too much yelling. Too much bright.

He was shaking. Too much all at once.


Corazon realized after a moment, as the boy retreated into him. His words were lost, so he carefully cradled him close, and Calmed the area around his head. His attention could be brought about in other ways.

He freed a leg to kick the royal's face again. It was deserved, even if he looked (over-dramatically) contrite.

Chapter Text

And then he was not dead. His every nerve caught fire, surging with newfound energy. He was very, very much alive, stemming from four lacerations in his side, where needles flooded his system with a mix of glucose, and adrenaline.

Sound, light, colour, it all assaulted him at once. He gasped, air. Sweet, sweet air. His heart pounded, stabilizing. He rolled over, coughing and breathing hard, barely processing. Alive? Alive??

Why? How? Alive! Cora-san? Cora-san! He clung to the feathers, hiding from the blinding lights and deafening sounds. Too much yelling. Too much bright.

He was shaking. Too much all at once.


Corazon realized after a moment, as the boy retreated into him. His words were lost, so he carefully cradled him close, and Calmed the area around his head. His attention could be brought about in other ways.

He freed a leg to kick the royal's face again. It was deserved, even if he looked (over-dramatically) contrite.

"Now, as I was about to say, your Highness," Ina-boy stood over him, sipping his wine slowly. "Our guest has the Qualifications, If not as much experience as his predecessor."

"I realize that now, Inazuma, do not mock me any further."

"We're leaving," Corazon interjected, no holds barred on the weight of his insistence. He kicked him again for good measure, then stood. Law tightened his grip, and the other children clustered close.

"... you won't inspect the other patients?"

"No," Corazon spat; these bastards would not have another second with his Law.

But then there were claws in his chest, more meaningful. Law was slowly coming to his senses.

"I understand. Follow me, there are smaller ships ready for departure on the other dock." Inazuma - Ina-boy was clearly a pet name that Highness had bestowed - straightened. "Crafts that one man can handle."

"No funny business?"

"On my honour," Which didn't count for much, but it was the best they could expect. Without, of course, striking out on their own. Which, in practice, would be more dangerous, since they clearly had access to multiple dock systems, likely full of ships with nightingale floorboards and trapped doors. Who knew what kinds of enemies they would encounter in a group this prepared. (By himself, he wouldn't worry. It was the children he fretted over.)

"Lead the way, then." He could get Law a new knife later. Who knew where it had gone in the fight.

"I don't suppose anything I could say would convince you not to leave with the other miracle fruit?" Highness was now lounging quite comfortably in the spot he'd previously sulked in. "We do need that, and him, to work the miracles I cannot."

"You're lucky I'm leaving you alive," he would regret it, certainly. But his hands were currently full of his precious treasure. The Highness rolled his eyes at the snarled answer, but did not protest further.

Verbally, anyways. He was acutely aware of the thoughtful eyes on his back.

Law was staring up at him, watching him speak. He was Alive, a bright sparkling to his eyes that was previously unseen. Almost vibrating with whatever he'd been injected with. He was going to ask for release soon. Or just suddenly hyperfixiate on a stray feather, carefully combing it back into neatness.

They had to go into the hospital to reach the other dock. The dark front was a fake, cheap wood to give the deeper, stone building a chance to evacuate. The Highness had only broken a few layers in his rage.

There were patients milling around, mostly standard hospital fare. A broken limb here, an elder in a wheelchair there. A pair of young people getting tended for standard wounds. Doctors and nurses, all nodding politely to Inazuma, and carrying on. Not even looking at Corazon's little party.

He had to quell the urge to burn this one too. ... Maybe he had a problem. Law was watching too, still content to be muted and deafened.

He hadn't felt this good in... ever, maybe. His fruit fed him information, telling him just how high his dopamine and serotonin and endorphin levels had risen, his brain muddy with the adrenaline that joined the sugars in his blood. His skin tingled. He licked his lips slowly, only abort halfway through. Dry, his mouth was so dry. His shaking fingers found something to chew. Much better; saliva production was important, even if it put him at risk of drooling. It was very bright. His pupils were probably blown huge. His body was rejoicing in the surplus after having been short for so long.

He wasn't acutely aware, as he idly chewed on the string of Corazon's toque.

Bepo frowned tightly, concerned. His paw was claimed by shaky hands before he could test Law's temperature. Law was now overtly focused on the shape and texture of Bepo's paw-pads. Corazon didn't comment on the high mood Law was experiencing. He was happy, if dazed from his beating.

His bruises were only just faded from the Barrels Pirates a sea away.

He was alive.

"This facility has only stood for a few years. But we consider it one of our best," Inazuma spoke calmly. "People from around the world have been successfully treated here. Normally it is just the standard individuals on staff, but we currently have Queen Ivankov on as well for his hormone-hormone fruit's abilities. His efforts are currently the only thing keeping our special patients."

"It's a shame, really; without a capable user of the ope-ope, I expect we'll start losing our patients within a week. I may be a miracle worker, but even Miracles can only go so far," they were being followed.

Law liked his paw, so he slid forward to join him in Corazon's arms. He was very happy to be smothered in fur on one side, feathers on the other. White and black. A good balance. Just like his brain was slowly doing. A slow, delicate balancing.

He was going to keep Bepo forever. He liked Bepo. The other two were pretty okay too, to be fair. He could destroy the world with this, if that was what he still wanted.

He blinked slowly, licking his lips again. Ah, that was what the bad taste in his mouth was. Tobacco off Cora-san's toque. Pleh. Did not like that.

Cora-san was talking, rage only just contained. They were walking, through a hospital in clean whites and greens. He couldn't hear a damn thing, even though there were people about, doing their tasks. Meaning if he wanted silence he had it, and if he didn't, well...

A small hand on his face distracted him from continual threatening. Law was staring at him expectantly, still smothered in Bepo and feathers. He was aware again, finally. He leaned into the little hand slightly, glad.

Law pouted, and smacking his cheek lightly. No, not affection. Hearing, and speaking were what he wanted. Do not with the snuggles. He was declined for a long minute.

Sound slowly filtered back when he was finally released.  It was a lot, but it processed back to normal much faster than the rest had. Only a few seconds, and a vigorous shake of his head. He could then assess the situation properly.

Hospital, right. Competent doctors, from the looks of things. The weird royal stripper still hanging around.

"Are we going to see the patients?" He asked, wriggling enough to see over Cora-san's shoulder. The Highness beamed at the idea.

"No, we're leaving," Corazon filled him in. "These people are just looking to use you, and your abilities." Ivankov frowned at that.

"Oh," he glanced at their captor and guide. He decided that he'd been 'out' long enough for a reasonable amount of conversation to occur, and nodded. "We're still walking with them because?"

"They've agreed to cooperate and give us a boat and our supplies. If they rescind their cooperation we'll just take it by force anyways."

They needed Law alive, so they were walking on eggshells now. He needed Law alive too, so he would milk it for all its worth.

But Law, he had a look on his face. Consideration. He was going to ask something he could neither agree to nor refuse.

"We should steal their patients. That way I can work on them, and have spare cell donors should I not succeed." Or he could be an absolute demon.

"We will not tolerate such a theft." Inazuma cut in. "You do not have the equipment to keep them alive on any ship, so taking them from here would be both painfully cruel and a death sentence. If you wish to treat them, it will be here until they are well enough to travel again."

"Are there any that're basically dead?" His skin thrilled. "I'll take what they got and redistribute it, and make their end a little less drawn out."

He was a little demon, and he never learned. Corazon could hear Ivankov seething. His son was going to get attacked again.

"Does your cure, kitten-boy, involve the constant sacrifice of others?"

"It can," he grinned wickedly. "Easier than what I've been doing." Corazon rolled his eyes at that. They needed to leave quickly. Before Law's good mood got them all killed.

"Which is?"

"Classified," he was a doctor, he could do that. He was also a little shit, and it showed.

He was toying the line, right after dying. The way the strangers about them grit their teeth, it was a very fine line that he was treading on.

"Law," he pulled him from his fun, "we don't have the supplies to support more people. Not to mention having a pile of dead bodies aboard would be very unhealthy for everyone."

He didn't like piles of dead bodies, even through his high. He stuck his tongue out in disgust, and scrambled higher onto Cora-san's shoulders. He could not be contained.

Then he was contained, dragged back down into the warmth of his Bepo. This was also acceptable. Bepo was too little for this whole ordeal. He would protect the Bepo. He was still a little high.

Corazon watched them snuggle in his arms as Inazuma began to walk again. They were going up, through mostly empty halls excepting the occasional doctor or nurse. Then they abruptly turned right, then left, then another right, into a slightly darker hall. Through a set of thick doors, probably steel lined if not solid metal. It was hard to tell through green and white paint. Then into-

Well, a day ward, really. No visible exit. Patients milled about or languished on plasticky furniture. They'd been had.

"What are you playing at?!" He demanded.

"I seem to have made a wrong turn; I must be tireder that previously anticipated. I shall take my leave now, your Highness," Inazuma dipped his head sightly.

"Of course, Ina-boy. You rest well," Ivankov was grinning. Oh, they'd been had and fooled and tricked. He would never live this down. He would be lucky if they all lived to try living it down.

Law blinked widely at the scene before them. Ah, his patients. He could harvest some good cells from at least one of these poor saps. He didn't recognize a single one, except for that one with the necrotic foot, and the other lady with the familiar ribbiting wheeze. And the guy with the upside-down ears who heard colours. And the lady who was in every other week with some new malady. And the dozen others who crept out to see what the commotion was. Every single face, he knew, simply from dogging his parents' heels from the moment he could walk. All people of Flevance, all people suffering from mid to late-stage amber lead disease. Suddenly he felt guilty, having threatened to use them for spare parts.

Not for long. He couldn't afford guilt right now.

"We said no-!" Cora-san was arguing with Ivankov, who's large size was exponentialized by the small room. His afro was crushed almost flat by the ceiling, crown completely lost to his curls. His smirk was so terribly condescending.

"Cora-san," he interrupted softly, pulling free of Bepo. Corazon frowned, but averted his attention. He didn't know what to say.

"... Is that... the Trafalgar boy?" Someone asked of another patient. In the silence, it was so loud.

"I think so- don't recognize the big fella, but," the murmured reply might as well have been yelled.

"Trafalgar Law?" The weekly-malady woman reached out with her spotted hands. "Is that you, young man?"

Law stared right back, because he was suddenly afraid. He'd changed into a horrible little heathen instead of a studious brat, and it was probably all too visible. An immoral creature, with veins thick with the lessons Doffy had taught them; he'd survived on the bones of others, and now he wasn't so sure he enjoyed being recognized.

He didn't want to be here anymore.

A snap filled his ears with nothing. "Law?" Corazon asked softly. His child had frozen up.

"They're Flevian. From Flevance. I've helped treat them before." He found enough voice for that.

"We can leave. I've fought giants before, this idiot is nothing."

He wanted to. He needed to. But then, this was-

He was faced with his parents' work, and he was their sole remaining legacy. He couldn't just run. These people had survived as long as they had on their own strength. They were choosing when and where to die. He could help, now. He was strong enough, now.

He would survive, and he would let them survive.

"Law?" Corazon was worried by the way he kept zoning out, the thoughts and feelings moving a hundred knots a minute. The boy looked up to him, uncertainty turning to iron resolve as he watched.

"I'm going to cure them." His golden eyes were slits, and flashed in the hospital lighting.

"Are you sure? I don't trust these idiots. They've already tried to kill you."

"I know." He didn't really trust them either. "But I know you'll protect me." So he braced himself, and hopped down and out of the soundless bubble.

His people still waited on an answer, as he stood straight, and grinned his sharp, wide grin.

"I am Trafalgar Law, and I'm here to start curing you."

No matter how off-putting his sharp grin was, those words got a response. Surprise, shock, hope, and... something else. He didn't expect the something else.

"Come child," his hand was taken by the closest lady, and he was pulled towards the end of the ward. Questions as to his claim were going to have to wait. Or be addressed to a distressed Corazon and smug, smug Ivankov.

He wasn't going to be kidnapped right now, not by these people. He followed as quick as his little legs could bear him, hand still guiding him. There were three closed wards, people too sick to move anymore. Kept by the steady beeping of medical equipment. Barely hanging on by one's slightly off pulse.

He was ushered into the cordoned off area, the one with the bad pulse. He wasn't sure he could help right now. Nor fast enough to save someone holding on by a thread. But he supposed he could try.

There were a lot of wires and tubes, at least a dozen IV lines besides. All this barely kept this one life, and it was slipping as he watched. He could barely see a person under all that. They were not doing well.

Skin pure, unbroken white, as far as he could tell.

"We looked everywhere we could for you," his guide was saying. "When we found her, we thought you may have been squirrelled away too, but you weren't there, or with the other children, or anywhere to be found."

"After the fires?"

"Yes. They were too hesitant to go into the mines proper, so that's where most of us hid. It took days, but they left before the flames went out, mostly."

"I was already gone, then," he scanned the room, and found a stool. "I didn't wait for the body levels to lower, I slipped out among the dead while the fires were still burning."

"... Smart young man." He'd escaped all on his own.

His patient was under a medical coma, by the drugs hanging about her. Not going to do much while he poked her. Not that he got to do a lot of poking.

She'd always hidden a small scar by pushing her bangs in that direction. A tiny thing, really. Seven stitches from a bad fall that only just clipped her eyebrow. Hardly a wound at all. But it made her 'ugly' and 'rough', and not at all the sort of mar she wanted on her body, never mind her face.

"You're alive?!" He had been 9 when he'd seen Lami last, and now he was 13. Their mother's resilience had not only gone to him.