Ace was frustrated. It had been about a week since… Teach had left. It had been a week and he had not been able see his friend since the Lyra and the nurses had carried him away to the infirmary.
Ace had asked multiple times if he could visit Thatch, he even had Luffy use his puppy-dog eyes (the ones even Marco couldn't say no to) but still he had been denied. Every time he would ask, the adults would just say that it wasn't a good idea and that he didn't want to see Thatch hooked up to everything that he was hooked up to right now.
It pissed him off.
How would they know what Ace would want?
Three days ago the ship had docked at one of the lesser inhabited islands under Pop- Whitebeard's protection and they were planning on staying there for at least two weeks. Marco had said that it was so that everyone could have a chance to recuperate and that they needed to replenish their food supplies in peace without anyone trying to fight them. Ace knew that it was because everyone was distracted and hurt by what had happened.
He was a kid, not stupid.
He knew that everyone on board had taken the attack and betrayal hard, especially the people from the fourth and second divisions.
Everyone had also been acting weird around him and his brothers too. They all took more notice of them and seemed to watch them more than they used to. He didn't really understand why but Marco said that everyone was worried about them too. The news that they had seen the attack happen spread like wild fire among the crew and since then the three boys could only be alone in their room. As soon as they were on deck they were surrounded by pirates. Ace had asked the first division commander why everyone was concerned about them; they weren't the ones hurt. The pirate responded by saying that seeing someone get stabbed was not something that children should ever see and that the crew was worried about how they would react.
For some reason Marco got upset when Ace just scoffed and told him plainly that it was not the first time they had seen someone get stabbed.
Heck Luffy stabbed himself in the face before, not that Ace had seen that. But they were no strangers to violence and blood; or knives for that matter. They had seen their fair share while in the Gray Terminal.
Despite the crew being more watchful he, Sabo and Luffy were able to sneak out of their room off the ship for some much needed alone time and were now currently playing on a secluded beach a few miles away from the Moby Dick. Luffy was running around looking at what could only be wreckage from a sunken ship that had washed up onto shore, stretching his limbs as far as he could, excited to have permission to do so. Sabo and Ace sat in the sand next to each other, pipes held loosely in their hands, facing different ways keeping watch for any potential enemies.
Ace was well aware that they were probably going to be met by a multitude of unhappy pirates when they made their way back to the Moby Dick but at the moment he didn't really care. He really needed to get away from all the adults. Besides he couldn't remember the last time Luffy had been able to use his powers and he knew it was difficult for his little brother to keep it under control and didn't like how he felt when he couldn't stretch.
It was nice to see Luffy so happy and excited.
It was also nice to see Sabo relax a bit. The blonde had been stressed out lately.
The nightmares didn't help either. They were all having them now.
Images of Thatch lying in a growing pool of blood haunted his dreams and knew that they would until he was certain that the man was going to be okay. What frustrated him was that he was even having nightmares. It wasn't the first time he'd seen someone almost killed, it probably wouldn't be the last. Especially if he became a pirate like he was planning.
So why should it matter that it had been Thatch that he had seen stabbed? Why did it affect him so much? Was he getting soft?
"Oi, Luffy what are you looking at?" Sabo's voice broke through his thoughts. Ace turned to see Luffy squatting in the sand looking at something.
He picked, whatever it was, up and started running towards them. "Look what I found!"
He presented his prize to his brothers proudly.
"No way," Sabo breathed in disbelief.
"Isn't it cool looking? I've never seen a fruit like this before," Luffy said turning the fruit around in his hands looking pleased with his find.
"Lu, that's a devil fruit," Ace said.
"I think so," Sabo said.
Luffy stuck out his tongue and threw it behind his shoulder. "It's gross I don't want it."
Ace quickly picked it up and dusted the sand off. "Where did you find it?"
"Over there," he pointed down the beach towards some of the debris where he had been just moments ago.
"You found it just lying on the beach?" Ace asked in disbelief. There were thousands of people looking for these things and Luffy found one just lying on a beach?
"Yup. Isn't it cool looking?" he asked again.
Ace studied the fruit. It looked similar to the one that Thatch had but different at the same time. The color instead of a dark purple was a variety of orange, yellow, and red. If Ace was to describe it he would say that it looked like fire. "It is pretty cool," Ace agreed sending his brother a smile.
"What are you going to do with it?" Sabo asked. "Are you going to eat it? Can you eat it? I don't think I've ever heard of someone having two devil fruit powers."
"I already said no; it's gross. I don't want to eat that."
Ace passed the fruit from hand to hand wondering if there was a tactful way of asking Luffy if he could have it. He knew that it was Luffy's but ever since he had met the kid he had been interested in the devil fruits and wondered what it would be like to eat one.
"Do you want it?" Luffy asked Sabo and Ace felt his heart sink.
"No. I don't want it. Someone has to fish you out of the water when you fall in. If I eat that then I can't help you in the water anymore."
"Do you want it Ace?" Luffy asked looking up at him.
"You could get a lot of money if you sell it," he said, wanting to take it for himself but knew that he should make sure his brother knew what he would be giving up if he let Ace have it.
"What would I want with that?"
"You could save for when you become a pirate," Sabo said thoughtfully. Ace nodded in agreement. That's what Luffy should do with it. Sale it and start saving for the journey he would undoubtedly take when he got older. "Or you could give it Thatch when he woke up since his was stolen."
Luffy looked uncharacteristically thoughtful for a moment before looking towards Ace and cocking his head to the side. "Ace you didn't answer my question. Do you want it?"
It was a big decision. Should he give up his ability to swim for a power when he didn't even know what power it was yet?
"Go for it." He turned to look at Sabo. "I know you want to. Maybe it will be something really cool."
He had already told Sabo that if he ever got the opportunity he would eat a devil fruit. That he wanted that power so that he could protect his brothers and be stronger than anyone else.
"Do it Ace! Eat it now!" Luffy cheered.
"But, what if the power something lame?"
"I bet it's really cool because Ace is really cool," Luffy said using his Luffy logic.
"You'll never know if you don't eat it," Sabo egged on in a sing song voice.
"But, like you said, what if Luffy falls into the water? I won't be able to save him. I won't be able to swim anymore and-"
"I'll save Luffy and you if either of you fall in," Sabo said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. Which it was, if Ace thought about it.
He studied the fruit from every angle. He really wanted to eat it. He looked over at his brother again. Luffy looked really excited. Sabo nodded once. It was now or never. He shrugged before taking a bite.
And almost spit it back out.
Luffy was right about the taste. Oh well, no going back now. He chomped down the fruit as quickly as he could. Once it was gone he grimace.
"That was really gross," he said sticking his tongue out. He really wanted some water to get rid of the taste.
"How do you feel?"
"Sticky," he said looking at the juice on his hands frowning.
"Is that it? You don't feel like you're going to turn into some sort of animal, or sprout extra limbs, or grow swords out of your arms?"
Sabo shrugged. "I've read about some fruits that can do stuff like that."
"No I feel like I usually do. Nothing new."
"Aw, it wasn't a power fruit," Luffy pouted.
"I guess not," Sabo said looking disappointed.
Ace felt a tickle on his nose. "Why are you the ones disappointed?" he demanded before letting out a sneeze.
"Whoa!" Sabo yelled falling to the sand.
Luffy was looking at him with stars in his eyes.
"Ace, d-did you just sneeze fire?"
"I-I think so."
"Ace is a fire man," Luffy sang happily, giggling. "I told you it would be cool." He grew serious. "But it's not as cool as being a rubber man."
Ace looked at his hand concentrating hard. He jumped when it suddenly turned into fire. He couldn't hold back the grin that spread over his face. He'd never felt this way. He felt powerful. He felt awesome.
He felt complete.
It was like he had been waiting for this power his whole life.
He stared at his hand as it turned back to normal. It was awesome!
He turned towards Sabo who was grinning like mad as he watched him. "How does it feel?" he asked.
Sabo was happy for his brother. Ace had expressed a number of times that he wanted to eat a devil fruit and he had gotten his chance a lot sooner than either of them had expected. They had both thought that it would take years and a lot of money for Ace to get his hands on a fruit.
He laughed as he watched Luffy jump back as Ace, with some difficulty, was able to turn his whole arm into fire. The brunette had been at it for hours and it was more than a little obvious that he was having troubling controlling his new power.
Sabo looked towards the sea, at the now setting sun and frowned. They had been gone a little longer than what they had meant to be. "Hey, do you think we should start heading back?" he asked the two.
"Why?" Ace asked. "We're not leaving for another week and a half at least."
"True, but we didn't tell anyone where we were going."
"So? It's not like we've never done that before."
This was also true. But Sabo had a feeling that the crew cared more about what they did than Dadan and Garp ever did. But that wasn't saying much.
Besides, he rationalized, no one on the crew had seen them leave so they probably thought they were still in their room and Sabo really didn't want to go back just yet. It was nice being with just his brothers.
"Can we sleep in the sand?" Luffy asked looking excited at the concept.
"I don't see why not," Sabo said. "As long as we sleep far enough away from the water."
"Yay!" Luffy cheered jumping in a circle.
It had been an interesting day watching his brothers play with their powers. He forgot how far Luffy could stretch and how excited he got when he could stretch further than he used to.
"We should probably go gather some wood so that we can have a fire going all night. It probably gets really cold at night and I for one do not want to freeze," Ace said heading back towards the trees Sabo and Luffy following close behind.
"Can you get cold if you're fire?" Luffy asked.
"I don't know," Ace responded with a shrug.
By the time they had enough wood that would keep the fire going all night it was already dark.
"Alright Ace," Sabo said turning to the fire boy once they had the wood set up.
The fire boy was staring at his hand intently, concentrating very hard.
"Oh come on I just did this like twenty minutes ago," he complained before trying again, Luffy standing right next to him looking hopeful and amazed.
His entire left side turned into fire.
Sabo grabbed Luffy and pulled him away just in time to save him from getting burnt.
"Be careful!" he scolded angrily. That had been close.
"Sorry Lu," Ace said before lighting their fire and turning back to normal.
"It's alright Ace. Powers are hard to get used to."
"I'll still try to be more careful," he said collapsing into the sand looking exhausted.
Luffy laid down in between them and curled up in the sand. He was asleep shortly after.
"I'm sure you'll get used to it in no time," Sabo said crossing his arms behind his head and lying down.
"I hope so. I don't want to accidently hurt someone."
"Just get some sleep. We'll figure out something tomorrow. Goodnight."
Marco glared at the three boys as they approached the ship. They had been discovered missing yesterday at lunch time when they hadn't shown up. It had led to a massive search of the ship and they still hadn't been able to find them. Pops had called off the search before they moved to the island saying that they would be fine, but it still didn't make any of the crew feel better. There had been a few ships spotted in the area that could mean trouble.
"Where have you been?" Marco greeted the three.
"At the beach," Ace answered lazily swinging his pipe around as the other two climbed onto deck, ignoring the angry pirates around them.
"You thought it would be a good idea to disappear for a day and not tell anyone?" Marco demanded angrily.
"The ship is going to be docked for more than a week," Sabo shrugged. "We knew that you weren't planning on leaving anytime soon so we thought we would just sleep on the beach."
"Next time you decide to leave the ship tell someone!"
The pirate sighed and smiled at the little boy despite his anger. He couldn't help it. "Hey Luffy."
"Hey Marco, guess what?"
"We got ta sleep in the sand last night."
"That's nice kid, but you should have told someone that you were leaving."
Marco blinked. It seemed as if the brat really didn't think that anyone would like to know where he was.
"So that we don't worry about you. We had no idea where you were."
"Why would you worry?" Ace asked.
"Why wouldn't we?"
"Nobody else ever has," Sabo shrugged.
Marco stared down at the three boys. Had they really never had anyone that cared about what they did and whether they were safe or not?
He rubbed his head not really knowing what to say. He decided to change the subject to something that would make the brats happy. "Thatch woke up."