Note: Gai grew up on Super Sentai heroics; I spent my teenage years watching "Scarecrow and Mrs King" and reading Mrs. Pollifax novels. This fic, I think, reflects that.

Only a Pirate's Dreams
by Estirose
c 2011

When Gai came home at her invitation, Hanako couldn't be more pleased. She didn't know what had happened to her nephew after he'd declared he was finding those pirates and joining them, but she had more of a chance to dissuade him. Adventure, she knew, only caused heartbreak and pain. And she didn't want Gai to have that pain.

But she still had the skills from that long-ago time, so she carefully mixed up something to put in his drink, just in case. She didn't want to, but to save her nephew, she would. If he had joined those pirates, then she needed to put those skills to use to protect her own.

She welcomed him in, made him comfortable on the couch. That way, if she needed to drug him, he'd at least collapse someplace soft. "So?" she asked, after some small talk, "Did you...."

The grin he gave her made a pit grow in her stomach. "I found them. I'm a member of the crew! Isn't that great, Aunt?"

Hanako could only imagine Gai's body half-blown away, the light in his eyes and the grin on his face gone, just like her friend's had been. She was sure that her dreams that night would be punctuated by memories of that time that she'd rather forget.

"Gai," she said simply, trying to keep the pain out of her voice, "This is very dangerous... it's not like your imagination. It's not like those games you played when you were little. Just because you were given the device doesn't mean you have to use it."

"Aunt," he said, his smile only wavering a little, "It's my responsibility. Something I'm called to do." Had he been standing up, she was sure he would have been posing.

But she could only think of him dying, for only a pirate's dreams. She closed her eyes, trying to banish the images away.

"Aunt?" Gai asked, sounding concerned.

She opened her eyes again. "I just wish that you wouldn't do this."

"I'm doing it," he said, and looked almost joyfully defiant. Like he was defying the whole universe with those simple words.

Hanako was going to need more time than a simple lunch, just as she feared. At least she'd prepared, and innocent as he was, Gai would never suspect. She sighed. "I'm going to get us something to drink," she said.

It was simple to spike Gai's orange drink with the drug, and she forced herself to listen patiently to his tales of fighting the Zangyack Empire. As he told her about how he'd gotten the captain to accept him, she thought of how close he kept coming to death. He could have died there, trying to impress the captain.

But she said nothing, just allowed Gai's eyelids to droop and made sure he didn't spill orange drink all over her couch when he finally collapsed.

It was a struggle to haul him upstairs, but thankfully he wasn't too heavy and she was finally able to put him in the spare bed and then handcuff him to the headboard. She was glad that she had a western-style bed in there instead of a futon, it made it much easier, but it was painful to think of why she was having to go to this extreme.

Making sure there was nothing he could use as a lockpick - who knew what he'd learned as a pirate - she went through his pockets and found his transformation device. Well, devices. A bulky cellphone-like device and what looked like a toy. There was a park a short way away, a kilometer or two; she'd leave the device there, among the flowers. She headed out there, and found where she wanted to plant it, but then realized that if Gai was right, then the pirates had the right to get their transformation device back.

Fortunately, she was pretty good with technology, and it only took her a short time to find the redial function and tell the startled, polite young woman that answered the phone that Gai was no longer part of their crew and where to find his device, if they wished to. Hopefully the phone number she'd called was the pirates, but she didn't precisely have time to ask. She put it down among the flowers, knowing that at least it would be hard to find unless one knew where it was, and would hopefully occupy the pirates long enough for her to be well away.

When she got back to the house, she settled in the chair next to Gai's bed. Her nephew was still unconscious, but she suspected he wouldn't be for long.

She let him wake up, and rattle the handcuff keeping him where he was. "Aunt?" he asked, obviously wondering why she had him tied up and everything. He really was too innocent for his own good, and definitely too innocent for what he'd stumbled into.

"I left your transformation device where the pirates could find it," she said. "I'm sorry, Gai, but this is going to end, now."

"B-but the universe!" There was shock and pain in those wide eyes, but better shock and pain now than death. She steeled herself to not let him go until he realized that it wasn't safe for him. She'd lost friends that way, she was not going to lose her family.

"I know," she said, allowing her memories to engulf her for a moment, remembering the friends she lost. "Others can do it, Gai."

"No, they can't!" Gai's passion reminded her of Kentaro's, how he used to be that way about missions.

And Kentaro was dead now, no matter how hard she'd tried to make sure he was ready and equipped. She didn't want Gai to die the way Kentaro had, therefore she'd have to put everything that she'd learned from Kentaro and Hoshiko and the others had taught her to good use.

"Yes, they can," she said, and she was aware that she'd snapped at him. It wasn't like her, or at least not the image she presented to the world. "Gai, I'm worried about you. I don't want you so caught up in being a hero that you forget to be safe."

"So you tied me up? What are you, are you on the Zangyack side?" he asked, and she shook her head, wondering where that had come from.

"No, I'm on the side of our family," she said. "Gai, you're staying here until you give up this insane quest. I don't want to have to explain to your mother's grave that I let you get killed."

"I won't let myself get killed," Gai told her, and the confident grin was too confident for comfort. "I've got teammates now."

So did she, once. That were dead, but she wasn't sure she should share that with Gai. There was too much about her past she wasn't ready to share. "Teammates aren't a guarantee of immortality," she said, shaking her head. "They can help you, but they can't save you." If she'd been able to do something, anything, for Kentaro and Hoshiko, she would have. "And if they have any sense, they'll realize that you're not a pirate."

"The Zangyack Empire thinks so," Gai said, with too much of a smile for his own good, but he sobered up, much to her relief. "I'm wanted, just like the rest of the crew. Sometimes you have to be, to save the universe."

The boy had definitely spent too much time fanboying over the teams. She wished she could be as innocent as he was. "Gai...."

"I'm going to do this, Aunt," he said, with far too much confidence. "Nothing can stop me! Even a price on my head." He looked at her a little more seriously. "If I don't save the planet, and the Zangyack take over, I'll be executed. So you have to let me go!"

Her heart leapt to her throat. Gai had indeed gotten himself into something far more dangerous than he could imagine, and only she could save him from it. At least she had the experience and the tools to do what needed to be done. And if he needed to be protected from the invaders, she would do it. She might not be a warrior, but she was competent in her own work.

"I can't," she said simply. "Gai, I've been involved in things you can't even imagine; deadly things. I've seen men and women die. I've seen innocents get killed. I know you don't have that experience, and I don't want you to have it." It was the closest thing she'd ever told anybody about that time, and only because she wanted Gai to listen before he became another Kentaro.

"I'll do it," Gai said with determination, "Because if I don't, more people will die."

"No, you won't," Hanako said, "Because somebody else can do it. The pirates can find somebody else." Somebody who hadn't followed each team with delight, who knew all the identities and all the adventures and everything about them. He'd followed this team with all the enthusiasm of the others, even when they were obviously not people to admire or look up to like they were supposed to be.

She remembered when the team first appeared, when it seemed like they didn't want to have anything to do with protecting Earth. She wasn't a fan herself, but she wanted to be able to talk to Gai, so she tended to keep up with the things. And what she found, she didn't like. He, on the other hand, was gushing that they'd never seen pirates before, and wasn't it great, and they'd turn around and save the planet.

And when he'd come from the hospital with that device, and shared his excitement with her, she could only hope that the rogues would reject him. Not that it would stop him, but it might dampen his enthusiasm. Except it apparently hadn't, and they'd accepted him. Maybe pirates were like that, she didn't know, but she knew she couldn't let it go on.

"They don't need someone else. They have me." He looked at her seriously, and Hanako suddenly knew that it might be too late. But maybe it wasn't; she held that hope.

"They'll find someone else." They'd have no choice; it wasn't like they could find Gai, and she could keep him away long enough for them to find someone else to be their sixth. And when they found a replacement for Gai, she'd let him go. But not before, unless he suddenly came to his senses.

The good thing about Gai was that he was bad at lying. It wouldn't occur to him to try to convince her that he suddenly wanted to resume his normal life once more, because that was the way he was. When he was convinced he was supposed to do something, he charged forward wholeheartedly and stubbornly followed his heart.

"They'll find me," Gai told her. "They'll find me and free me, you'll see."

It occured to her then that she could use his own knowledge to convince him to let go. "Gai, has anybody died in the line of duty?"

He looked puzzled for a moment, as if unsure as to why she was asking him. "Well, of course. Dragonranger, and TimeFire, and AbareKiller. I told you, they're the ones who gave me my powers."

"Doesn't it occur to you that being given your powers by dead heroes is a bad sign?" she asked, trying to puncture her nephew's enthusiasm with logic. "And did you ever realize that you could die too?"

He shrugged, seemily unfazed. "Well, I could, but I couldn't think of a better way to die, saving the universe."

"Wouldn't you rather live to see the universe you've saved?" She'd had the sense to get out of the busness; she hoped Gai would, too.

"Well, of course!" Gai said, the grin back on his face. "And with the team at my back, I will!"

She felt tears seeping out, and realized that if she wasn't careful, she was going to cry. "Gai...."

He reached out with his free arm. "Aunt, don't cry. I'll be all right. Whatever happened, it won't happen to me. I'll make you proud."

Compassion laced with unrealistic beliefs, that was her nephew. It was going to get him killed. Couldn't it be somebody else that was doing this that wasn't him?

"I'm... going to clean up." Best to flee back to normalcy, pretend that she didn't have that past, that she was holding her nephew for his own good. Soon she'd have to set things up to hold him for a while, but right then, she needed to go through the motions of being normal. It had always brought her comfort, trying to be what society expected her to be, because that felt like the innocence she wished she had.

She tidied up the house, brough up a bedpan to the spare bedroom for Gai, and wrote her articles and ignored Gai's cries and proclamations and handcuff-rattlings.

And then she made dinner.

Ladling some miso soup into a bowl, she brought it up to Gai. He must have been hungry, for he reached for it, and she realized the skin of his wrist was starting to chafe from the handcuff. She probably needed to get something with a longer chain, but that was easy enough.

She put the soup down, getting her first-aid kit and bandaging Gai's wrist. She wanted her nephew as comfortable as he could be, given he wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. At least he'd figured out the bedpan; he was a smart boy. She took care of that and put the kit away, returning and picking up the spoon.

She was feeding Gai the soup when there was a boom. He suddenly grinned, and she hoped this didn't make him think he was going anywhere. He was still stubbornly insisting that he had a team, but she knew that, given time, he'd understand. Understand that he was more valuable than anything else, that he couldn't keep trying to get himself killed by running into the face of traffic and battling intergalactic bad guys.

Besides, there was no way that they could have found him without that device, and that device had been left in a flowerbed with instruction on where it was. If they were as good as Gai said they were, they would leave him alone and find another to risk his life. Just as long as it wasn't Gai.

"Stay here," she said, realizing that he wasn't going anywhere after a second's thought.She rushed towards her front door to find that she had no front door anymore, at least not a whole one. There was a young man in a red longcoat, four others behind him, two wielding swords and the other two guns. Hanako found her eyes drawn towards the young woman in the frilly white-and-pink dress holding a gun as if it fitted naturally in her hand and realized that this group of strangers had to be the pirates that her nephew had associated himself with. Gai had shown her the pictures, after all, even before he'd gotten the crazy idea to join them.

"Where's Gai?" the young man in the longcoat asked, demanded, and she drew herself up. She would protect her nephew even from his own so-called team. She might not be a fighter, but she knew a thing or two from a job few knew she'd had. She grabbed the hatstand she'd picked up in her journeys, holding it defensively.

She looked at him, straight in the eyes, pointing the business end of the hatstand in his direction. "You can't have him." She didn't know how they'd found this place, but she wasn't going to give him up to that life.

"Up here, Marvelous-san!" her nephew called. Obviously she should have gagged him, but she hadn't anticipated this. Kentaro would have chided her for it.

"Listen," she said, aware that there were guns pointed at her, and people with sharp swords backing them up. "Gai doesn't belong with you and your life. He's an ordinary boy. I'm his aunt, I should know this." As long as she stood between them and Gai, her nephew was safe.

"He's one of my crew," the young man in red said. He was holding a gun as well, pointing it at her. She held still, hoping that he was as good as Gai had said he was and that he wouldn't fire on her.

"Marvelous-san," the young woman in the frilly dress said, "Perhaps this is the aunt that he was going to visit?" Hanako placed the woman's voice after a moment to the voice who had answered the phone.

He held his finger on the trigger, but nodded. "Doc, Luka. Go upstairs. Find Gai."

She was too far to stop them, she realized, as two of them walked around her and presumably went upstairs to free her nephew.

A few minutes later, or so it seemed, and then there were noisy footsteps from upstairs. Gai appeared in her range of vision, followed by two members of the team. "Any reason I shouldn't shoot her?" Redcoat said, not turning his attention from her.

"She's the aunt I went to see, and she meant well, Marvelous-san," Gai said, holding out a hand as if to stop the man. "Don't hurt her."

The man suddenly broke out in a large, manic grin, looking from Gai to the hatstand Hanako still held. "I see it runs in the family," he said cryptically.

Gai was rubbing his wrist, and Hanako was glad she'd bothered to bandage it. Just because they were good didn't mean that they were nice, after all.

"Gai," she said, "I still don't want you doing this." She didn't want him with these people, not from what she'd seen of her door, and Marvelous-san's attitude. "You're a good boy, you don't belong with them."

Marvelous-san laughed at what she'd said. "He's chosen to be part of my crew." He stopped looking at her to look at Gai, brushing Gai behind him with one arm. "I don't think I could have ever stopped him from choosing this life, even though I discouraged him too."

Her estimate of him rose slightly. He'd still allowed it, but he'd tried to stop Gai. But it wasn't far enough.

"You should have discouraged him harder," she said simply.

A shadow passed over Marvelous-san's eyes, and he was slinging an arm over Gai's shoulders. "You hurt?" he asked.

"Just a little bruised," Gai told him.

"We're leaving then," Marvelous-san said, looking at her once more, as if warning her. She was sure it was a warning to stay away from Gai, to not try it again, and she knew that crossing him was probably not wise.

And with that, he was guiding her nephew out of the house, followed by two of the others, and the other two backed out.

She didn't stop them. She was a mere human.. She couldn't stand up to a group of space pirates.

But, as she heard sirens a few minutes later, she smiled and put down the hatstand. Maybe she wasn't without weapons, after all.

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