Thatch struggled to stand, ignoring the pain that shot through his chest and back. He had more important things to do than just laze around all day. First and foremost he had to find Ace, Sabo, and Luffy. When he woke up all he could remember was that he had been attacked and that the trio had been there at some point.
The first thing he did was quickly look around the room for the three brats and when he didn't see them he had, admittedly freaked out. If he had been as hurt as he was now he couldn't imagine how bad the three young boys were. It had taken Lyra, two nurses, Marco and a mild sedative to calm him down.
Once he had been able to think properly everything had come flooding back to him. Teach's attack and the boys finding him bleeding to death on the floor. He shuddered at the thought of them seeing him like that.
He had asked for the three to come see him right away only to find out that they were missing.
Now he heard that they were back on the ship and, thankfully, perfectly fine. Physically anyway.
He had been persistent when questioning his fellow commanders about the boys and found out that all three had been having nightmares since the attack. And not only had they found him but they had actually seen the attack.
He really wanted to see them. He hated knowing that he was the reason that they were having trouble sleeping.
"What are you doing?" came the firm voice that everyone on the crew had come to fear.
He slowly turned to face a very angry blonde doctor. She was glaring at him, hands on her hips and foot tapping.
"G-going back to my room?"
"I don't think so. You can barely stand. You're not going back to your room for at least a week or two and after that you will be on bed rest for a while and then it's light duty for you."
"Don't you think that's a bit excessive?" he asked quietly. He hated being injured. It took all the fun out of everything and there was no way was he staying in bed for that long.
"If you don't get back in bed right now I will revoke all visitor rights."
"Can you even do that?" he asked incredulously. He regretted the question as soon as it left his mouth. Of course she could. This was her domain.
She raised an eyebrow.
"I'll just get back in bed," he said sheepishly.
She busied herself helping him back into the bed and reconnecting him to the various machines she had monitoring him for only she knew what.
"Don't worry. Marco will bring them by soon. He knows that you're anxious to see them and everyone knows that they are anxious to see you too. We thought it would be best for them not to visit you until you were off the ventilator and awake."
He nodded, hoping that she was right. He really needed to make sure the brats were okay for himself.
"How are you feeling? Any new pain?"
"Nope, just my back and ribs."
"Do you feel nauseous?"
She continued to question him until the door burst open and three small forms ran into the room followed by an awkward looking Marco. Thatch wondered at that. The doctor smiled briefly before putting on a stern face and stepped between him and the three hooligans.
"No jumping on the bed," she said. By the looks of things that had been exactly what Luffy been planning to do.
The three skidded to a stop and looked up at the doctor.
"Hi Nice Doctor Lady," Luffy said.
A smile spread across her face. The brats were the only ones on the ship who thought she was nice and that was only because Marco had been able to convince her to let Luffy share a bed with one of his brothers while all three had been sick. "Hello Luffy."
"Can we talk to Thatch now?" he asked politely, well as politely as he knew how.
"Do you promise not to jump on the bed or yell and leave when I say it's time to leave?"
Ace scowled at the rules but nodded. Sabo agreed as well. Luffy thought for a moment before saying "Yup."
"Alright then. You can have a few minutes. If he gets tired you should leave."
"Thank you Doctor Lyra," Sabo said before all three had their full attention on the injured man.
"Thatch is all better," Luffy cheered causing the pirate to smile. He really wanted to hug the kid right then.
"Not quite but I'm getting there. I understand that I have you three to thank for that."
"We didn't really do anything," Ace said looking off to the side.
"Yeah. All we did was get the others to come help," Sabo said scratching the back of his head.
"And that saved my life. Thank you."
Sabo and Ace both blushed at his thanks while Luffy just looked confused. It was adorable. Although Thatch would never say that out loud.
Marco came up behind Luffy and picked him up, gently putting him on the bed with the other pirate. Thatch smiled at his friend before reaching for the small boy and pulling him into a hug. He was just so relieved that they were all right. For a while there he had been convinced that Teach had gotten to them too. Sure he had remembered everything that had happened, but seeing them now was what truly made the panic he had felt earlier finally leave.
He smiled as Luffy pulled away and looked up at him curiously, probably wondering about why Thatch was holding him now. "I'm really glad to see you," he said in explanation.
"Oh okay," the boy said before snuggling into his chest gently trying to be careful of his injuries. Thatch smiled at the action. "I'm really glad to see Thatch too."
"So what have you three been up to?" the commander asked looking towards the two older ones.
"Nothing much," Sabo said.
Ace looked as if he were desperately trying to hold in a sneeze.
"You alright Buddy?" Thatch asked the boy who nodded, covering his nose with his hand.
The boy sighed in relief and removed his hand after a few seconds.
"Yeah I'm great. I'm really glad that you're getting better." He walked to the bed and took Luffy out of Thatch's arms. "You, look really tired. We have to go now."
Before another word could be spoken Luffy was out of his arms and all three were out of the room. Thatch turned to Marco who shrugged, confused as he was.
Ace dragged his brothers back to their room as quick as he was able. That had been entirely too close. He had almost lost control while with Marco and Thatch.
"Is everything alright?" Sabo asked once they were settled in their room.
"Yeah. I just almost sneezed again."
"Maybe we should've stayed at the beach until you had better control," Sabo said looking concerned.
"I thought I had the hang of it," Ace said disappointed.
"You can't expect to master something like that in less than a day," the blond reassured.
"Luffy doesn't have this problem."
"He's rubber. He just stretches and he still has to train. You're fire, a force of nature. It's a bit different."
Ace felt a tingling in his arm that he had come to learn meant that the fire was about to come. He shook his arm hoping to stop the fire.
He was disappointed when it didn't work.
He tried to smother the fire by patting it out but it didn't work.
He faintly noticed Sabo grab an old glass of water and throw it at him. There was a hiss as the flames went out and Ace turned towards his brother, unimpressed.
"Thanks," he said sarcastically.
"You're welcome," Sabo countered with a smug grin.
Ace sighed in frustration. "What am I going to do? I can't even go walking around deck without catching fire if I can't get it under control."
"Ask Marco," Luffy said, butting into the conversation.
Ace gave him an 'are-you-kidding-me' look. "Why would I do that?"
"Why not? Marco is good. He won't tell."
Ace blinked at the statement. It sounded like it was more than speculation.
"How would you know that?" Sabo asked sounding suspicious.
Luffy instantly looked to the side. "I just think he would be okay to tell. It's not like he knows I'm rubber or anything."
Ace and Sabo both hit their brother on the head.
"What was that for?" he complained.
"YOU TOLD MARCO?!" Ace yelled.
"Shut up! Do you want everyone on the ship to come see what you're yellin' about?" Sabo hissed before turning towards the smallest in the group. "How could you tell someone after both of us and Gramps told you not to?"
"I didn't tell him. He found out."
"Oh and how did he find out?" Ace asked crossing his arms and standing over Luffy to look more intimidating.
"When you guys were sick I went with Marco to a town. He bought me a snack but had to leave for a second. When he was gone there were these guys and one pulled on my arm to get me off of the seat 'cause he wanted it. My arm stretched and the guys thought it was funny and they kept stretchin' me. Marco made them stop. Then he promised not to tell anyone."
Ace and Sabo both blinked at the story. This was the first they had heard of it. Luffy had actually kept it a secret for this long?
"So he saved you?" Sabo asked.
"Why didn't you tell us?"
"I didn't want you to be mad."
Ace shook his head in annoyance. "You should'a told us. What if he had hurt you or told someone that wanted to hurt you?"
"Marco wouldn't hurt me. And he promised not to tell."
Both boys rolled their eyes at their brother's trusting nature.
"Does anyone else know?"
"Well at least it was only Marco. We can trust him," Sabo said.
Ace nodded in agreement. After their time spent on the Moby Dick he was almost positive they could trust everyone on board. The only exception had been Teach and apparently they had good reason not to trust him. In fact he was sure that if everyone on the ship found out about him or Luffy it wouldn't be that big of a deal. The only thing that made him want to keep it a secret was Garp. He wouldn't be happy if he knew that someone found out about Luffy.
Would the geezer get mad if they found out about Ace eating a devil fruit? Well, the geezer didn't have find out.
"Then ask Marco to help," Luffy insisted. "He's a fire bird so he can help Ace with his fire."
Huh. Luffy actually had a point. But Ace really wanted to try and work this out on his own.
As if sensing his thoughts Sabo spoke up. "How about you try for a week or two to work things out and if you can't then you go to Marco to see if he can help."
"Alright if I can't get hang of it in two weeks I'll ask Marco for help," he agreed.
A week later Ace had wished that he just asked for help.
It had started out as an okay day. He and his brothers pretty much stayed in their cabin so that he could try to gain control of his fire but it seemed to not be working. In fact his control seemed to be getting worse.
"Just leave me alone," Ace yelled at his blonde brother.
"NO! You almost burned Luffy! That the fourth time!"
"No I didn't," he protested quietly, knowing that it was true. He had almost burned Luffy but that was because the younger boy had jumped on his back and it had surprised him.
"Don't lie! I saw his shirt! You almost hurt our little brother!"
"SHUT UP! You weren't there you don't know what happened!"
"I can guess. You need to go ask for help. If you hurt Luffy I won't forgive you!"
Ace didn't mean to.
He was just hurt and angry that Sabo would ever think that he would actually hurt Luffy in any way. He couldn't control the fire. He could feel it building underneath his skin until it was released.
Ace's eyes widened in horror as he watched Sabo fall to the ground curling up on his side, screaming in agony. The scent of charred clothing and burned flesh filled the room.
He had hurt his brother.
He had burned Sabo.
He watched numbly as Luffy jumped off the bed where he had been watching the fight and ran to the blonde's side.
"Ace you hurt Sabo," the youngest brother accused, anger in his eyes.
"I-I I'm sorry." He blinked back the tears. He hadn't meant to hurt him. He didn't want to hurt him. He just got angry like he usually did. And now this. "I'm sorry," he repeated taking a step back, away from the other two.
"Are you okay?" he heard Luffy question.
"Y-yeah. I think so."
"I'm sorry," Ace heard himself say again.
"Does Sabo need to go see doctor lady?" Luffy asked.
"I'm sorry," Ace said one more time before running out of the room. He didn't hear any of the calls that followed as he ran down the ramp of the ship and into the forest on the island.
He just needed to get away. He had hurt his brother.
He had hurt Sabo.
One of the two people in the world that knew who he was and still wanted him around. He couldn't stand to see the hate in those eyes that had only shown him kindness since they had met years ago.
Sabo was his first friend; his brother. And he had hurt him.
Everyone had been right about him. He didn't deserve to live.
Luffy sat on Thatch's bed as he watched Doctor Lady look at Sabo's side. She was asking questions, most of Sabo's answers were a halfhearted shrug. The other boy hadn't wanted to come. He wanted to go look for Ace but Luffy decided that he needed to get his burns looked at and once Luffy decided something it happened.
Luffy looked behind him when he felt a poke in his back.
"What happened to Sabo?" Thatch asked, looking towards the boy.
"He got burned."
"How did that happen?" the man asked.
Luffy debated on what he should say. He really shouldn't lie to Thatch. He was a friend. But Ace and Sabo didn't want to tell anyone about Ace's powers for some reason.
Finally he decided to just tell the truth.
"It's a secret."
"A secret eh? What kind of secret?"
"I can't tell you. Then it wouldn't be a secret anymore."
"True," the pirate conceded.
"Luffy?" Said boy looked up to see an angry doctor staring at him. "What happened to your brother? He won't say anything other than he got burned. He won't tell me how."
"I can't tell," the little boy said crossing his arms. "It's none of your business anyways."
"You tell her Lu!" Sabo cheered.
Doctor Lady didn't like that. She looked really angry but then took a deep breath and said softly.
"If you don't tell me what happened I can't treat him properly. It might do more harm than good."
Luffy bit his lip. Was it true? Could Sabo be more hurt if they didn't tell her what had happened?
"Sabo got burned by Ace's fire," he explained.
"The boys occasionally cook their own meals," Thatch spoke up. "Sabo probably fell in or something."
"Yeah. That's what happened. I didn't want to tell you because it's embarrassing," the blonde said agreeing with the pirate.
Luffy was confused. That's not what happened at all. He turned to say something but Sabo put a finger to his lips telling him to be quiet.
"Well, your burns certainly could have been a lot worse," Doctor Lady said. "I just had to pick out some of the cloth that is burned to the skin but that is the worst of it. You only have second degree burns which means that none of the tissue died. However you will spend the night in here. At least until the blisters are gone so that I can keep an eye on it."
Sabo shook his head. "I feel fine now. I have to go find Ace." He attempted to get out of bed but was stopped by one of the nurses who pushed him back down.
"I don't think so young man. There are plenty of people who can find your brother. You just stay right there until I say so," the doctor said glaring at the boy.
"B-but it's already been an hour. Who knows what stupid things he's been thinking?"
"I don't care. Stay! If I find out you moved from that bed then I'll drug you so you can't move." She grabbed a stack of books before going into her office and slamming the door.
"She's scary," Sabo said wide eyed.
Luffy giggled. "She's funny."
"Why would Ace be thinking stupid things?" Thatch asked, eyes narrowed.
"It was his fire," Luffy said as if it would explain everything.
Before the conversation could continue the door opened.