Marco frowned as he saw Ace run off the ship by himself looking upset, watching as the boy ran towards the forest.
That wasn't good.
There had been several enemy ships seen in the area and there was no guarantee that there wasn't anyone on the island that would hurt him. Marco shook his head before taking off after the kid. He followed at a distance as the kid ran for about a half hour before he tripped over a tree root and fell to the ground. As the pirate grew closer he realized that the boy was crying. He frowned in concern.
The boy turned in shock to see Marco standing above him.
"Why are you crying?"
There were a few minutes of silence. Just when Marco resigned himself to the fact that Ace would probably never tell him what happened the boy spoke.
"I-I did something really bad," he confessed looking down at the ground.
Marco doubted that whatever Ace did that it was all that bad. He sighed and sat on the ground next to the kid. "I'm sure whatever you did wasn't that bad."
"No. It was. What I did is unforgivable." He was sobbing now. "Everyone was right! I'm scum! I don't deserve to live."
Marco felt his heart stop. How could a kid say something like that? And what did he mean about everyone being right? He wanted to hit the kid to snap him out of his thoughts but thought better of it. He didn't actually want to hurt the little guy. But still it made him angry to hear Ace talk about his life that way.
"Don't say that!" he snapped. Ace's eyes widened. "I don't care what you think you did that was so unforgivable but don't you dare say that you don't deserve to live. Think about how bad that would make Luffy and Sabo feel."
Ace looked down again.
"Stop looking down and sit up!" Marco barked, he wasn't going to let the kid feel sorry for himself. He couldn't let the kid feel sorry for himself. Not when he had said that he didn't deserve to live. Ace snapped up, looking at the pirate. "Stop crying!" After a few minutes the kid was able to control his tears.
"Now, tell me what happened that was so unforgivable," Marco said in a quiet voice now that Ace had calmed down.
"I hurt Sabo. I-I didn't mean to. It just happened." Ace closed his eyes and Marco noticed that there were tears again. "He was my first friend. The first person to ever be nice to me and I hurt him."
"How did you hurt him?"
"I burned him," he said quietly.
Marco frowned. He knew that it wasn't a good idea to let the brats light fires. "How did you burn him? Did you push him into one of your fires?"
"No. I- um. You remember when we left the ship without telling anyone?"
How could he forget? The crew had been in an uproar trying to find the trio for hours. "Yes. That's why I followed you when I saw you run off by yourself."
"Well, Luffy found a devil fruit and he didn't want it because he said it would taste gross so he gave it to me instead."
Huh. He wasn't expecting that.
Good thing Luffy decided not to eat it.
"You ate a devil fruit?"
"Yes," Ace confirmed.
"You ate a devil fruit a couple of days ago on a whim?"
Ace nodded, but Marco wasn't paying attention to him. He was trying to work through the fact that a child had made a decision that would affect him for the rest of his life without truly understanding what it meant.
"You ate a devil fruit a couple of days ago on a whim, then burned your brother." The man shook his head. "Why did you burn him?"
"It was an accident. He was mad because I almost burned Luffy yesterday. He was yelling at me and I got mad. I didn't mean to."
The man nodded in understanding waiting patiently for him to finish.
"Sabo and Luffy told me that I should come talk to you because I'm having trouble controlling the fire. Luffy said you could help because you're a phoenix and you didn't tell anyone he's made outta rubber."
Marco smiled. He was wondering when it would come out that he knew. "So he finally told you that I know?"
"Yeah." Ace bit his lip. "C-can you help me? I don't wanna hurt anyone anymore."
The man studied him for a minute. Poor kid was hurting in a way that he shouldn't be. He was too young to know this type of pain. "You really shouldn't have eaten the fruit in the first place. You're too young to make decisions that will affect the rest of your life like that." Ace flinched at the harsh voice. "But there's no use getting mad about that. What's done is done. Until you learn to control you're ability you should probably stay with me in my cabin. There's always a slight chance that you might catch fire in your sleep. It won't matter if I get burned because I can heal myself."
"Come on. Let's get back to the ship. It's going to be dark soon and some of the look outs said that they saw a few ships coming towards us. If that's true there might be an attack tonight. We shouldn't be caught on the island by ourselves."
He waited until Ace was walking slightly in front of him so that he could keep an eye on him. As he watched the kid he realized that it was the first time he had seen him cry. He was really distressed about what happened.
When they made it back to the ship Marco steered Ace towards the boy's cabin to see his brothers. He knew that Ace wouldn't be able to calm down fully until he had seen his brothers and saw if Sabo was alright or not. He opened the door and didn't know if he was disappointed or not to see that the other boys weren't there. It was a big ship and if they weren't in the infirmary then it would take a while to find them.
Marco quickly led Ace towards the infirmary and was relieved when he opened the door and saw Sabo on a bed and Luffy sitting with Thatch. Ace stopped in the doorway and shifted his weight back and forth.
"Ace!" Luffy called happily running towards his brother before he stopped halfway across the room and scowled at the older boy. "What are you doing here? I'm mad at you."
"Luffy be nice," Sabo scolded quietly.
Marco pushed Ace forward and it was all the encouragement he needed to walk to his brother's bed. "I'm sorry," he said.
"Are you?" Sabo asked.
"I-I told Marco about my powers. He said he would help me."
"You told him?" Luffy asked cocking his head.
"Yeah." Marco watched as the tears started again. Ace really hated the thought that he had hurt his brother. "I'm sorry," he said again. "I am so so sorry. Please forgive me."
"Don't be stupid. Of course I forgive you," Sabo said. "I only said all that stuff because I was mad. I'm sorry too."
"I'm sorry Luffy for hurting your brother," Ace said to the little boy.
Luffy smiled. "I forgive you." He hugged Ace and the older boy returned it tightly. Luffy pulled back and looked up at his brother seriously. "Just don't do it again."
"I'll try not to."
Marco shook his head smiling as he walked over to Thatch's bed.
"What powers?" Thatch asked.
"Ace will tell you when he's ready to tell you."
At that moment Lyra walked out of her office and frowned when she saw two more people in her infirmary. "What are you all doing here? I didn't say anyone could visit. If you're not in a bed then get out!"
Luffy laid curled up on the lone bed in his and his brothers' room. He never noticed how big the room was but now that he was alone he couldn't help but think that it was too big.
Sabo had to stay with the doctor tonight and Ace was staying with Marco until he got his fire under control.
He was alone.
He bunched up the blankets next to him so that he could pretend that he wasn't but he knew that there was no one with him and it made him sad and scared because he was still having nightmares. They weren't as bad as they used to be but they were still there.
He pulled his hat to his chest and cuddled with it. His hat was always there for him and he knew that he could count on his hat. It reminded him of Shanks before he had to leave.
There was a loud boom before the sound of splintering wood filled the air.
"What was that?" he asked himself sitting up.
His door slammed open revealing Vista. "Luffy the ship is under attack. You need to stay here. Understand?"
He nodded. "Good. Someone will let you know when it's over."
It felt different than the last time they were attacked.
The door slammed shut leaving the little boy alone. There was a click and Luffy was pretty sure that someone had just locked the door.
He didn't know how long he sat there listening to cannons and guns going off, the clashing of swords, and the screams of men growing closer and closer. He covered his ears trying to block out the sounds of the loud gunshots. The noise was starting to hurt his ears.
He jumped as a gun went off right in front of his door.
This was really scary.
He wanted Ace and Sabo.
There were more gunshots and then a scream.
Luffy watched as the door splintered and cracked. A man that he had never seen before fell into his room.
There was blood running from his head and stomach. He turned and saw Luffy sitting on the bed.
"What the?" The man looked at him and then slowly aimed his gun.
Luffy did the only thing he could think of. He grabbed one of the pipes that was leaning against the wall and hit the man as hard as he could in the head. Repeatedly.
"You brat!" Another man was standing in the door way with a sword. He advanced towards Luffy, sword held threateningly in front of him.
Luffy looked at his pipe and knew that it would be cut in half.
He quickly took a defensive stance with his pipe held firmly in his hands. He wasn't going to go down without a fight.
"You gonna fight me kid?" The guy laughed before launching an attack.
The pipe Luffy had been holding was cut into pieces almost instantly. He dropped the rest of the pipe slowly backing up.
What should he do? He'd never fought someone this strong before. And the guy had a sword.
"HEY! GET AWAY FROM HIM!"
Namur slid into the room grabbing the guy and throwing him out of the room. "You alright brat?"
That had been really scary.
Namur looked at the broken door and then back to Luffy. "Come on Luffy. It's not safe here." He grabbed the little boy by the back of the shirt and lifted him into his arms. He turned Luffy's head so that he couldn't see anything and held it there so the boy wasn't able to look at anything.
"Namur! What the hell!?" he heard Marco yell.
"They got into the brats' room! One of them was attacking him."
Namur let Luffy move his head enough so that the boy was now able to see Marco looking down at him with concern. "You alright kid?"
Luffy nodded again. "Where's Ace?" he asked. He really wanted his big brother.
"He's in my room."
"LET ME GO YOU SON OF A-"
"ACE!" Several pirates cried and ran to save the boy that was being carried off by one of the opposing pirates.
"Who is that? Why does he have Ace?" Luffy asked panicked.
"Namur, get Luffy down to the infirmary. It should be safe there!" Marco commanded before running after the pirate carrying Ace.
Namur didn't waste a second and started running. He didn't get far before he stumbled. Luffy was able to see that someone had kicked the fishman in the back and was now trying to fight him using a sword. Namur dodged the blows keeping a tight hold on the boy in his arms but if he wanted to do anything he would actually have to put the kid down and fight.
Luffy was put on his feet and with a command of, "Stay there! Scream if anyone you don't recognize come towards you!" Namur turned to the man and started a vicious counter attack.
The small boy watched the fight in fascination. He had never actually seen a fight this bad before. All around him there were people lying on deck, some bleeding, others dead.
He didn't like this.
Luffy screamed as he felt an arm wrap around his neck and he was yanked of his feet and was now being held against someone's chest.
"Looks like you're my ticket outta here," he heard the man holding him say.
"What do you think you're doing?" Vista demanded glaring at the man that was now holding Luffy.
When had the swordsman gotten there?
"You're going to let me leave the ship peacefully otherwise I'm going to shoot this kid in the head."
Luffy was scared but he swallowed his fear. "LET ME GO!" he screamed for all he was worth. He kicked his legs wildly. The pirate grew angry and hit him with the butt of his gun. It didn't hurt but it was still annoying.
Vista's eyes grew colder and his grip tightened on his swords. "Put. The kid. Down," he said slowly.
"No I don't think I will. You won't attack me as long as he's in the way. I'll let him go as soon as I'm on my ship."
"Vista," Luffy cried out. He didn't like this guy. He wanted to be put down.
"Don't worry kid. He's not going to do anything to you. Not if he doesn't want to deal with Pops coming after him."
The pirates hold loosened a bit and Luffy was able to squeeze out of his hold. He landed on the deck with a dull thud. He didn't hesitate and jumped to his feet and ran towards the commander that was now charging the pirate he had just escaped. There was a loud bang and Luffy felt something hard hit him in the back.
He fell to the deck wondering why that had hurt and why he couldn't breathe suddenly. He was rubber it should hurt when he got hit.
Ace struggled against the man that was carrying him across the deck of the Moby Dick and towards one of the enemy ships. He had been sitting in Marco's room like he was told to do when five men burst into the room. They took one look at him and attacked. Ace was able to take out two of them before one grabbed him and started running. There had been talk about using him for leverage and like hell he was going to let them use him against the others. Ace could tell that the battle was now slowing down, based on the fact that the ones that had attacked the Moby Dick were now trying to flee.
He could see Pops- er- Captain Whitebeard watching as the men ran towards the boat. He hadn't seen the man that angry since that guy had tried to shoot Luffy a while back.
He could see various Whitebeard Pirates following after the man, all looking almost as angry as their captain. Ace wondered why they were so mad but pushed it out of his mind. He had to get out of the situation he was in.
He wasn't going to get on that ship.
Not caring about the consequences Ace let himself get angry and smiled when the fire he had been having trouble controlling came to the surface. The man holding him screamed in pain as he dropped him.
Ace hadn't been standing for more than a second when he was scooped up by a familiar blonde.
"Good job," Marco said running back towards the crew's quarters.
Ace smiled at the compliment and looked to the side and froze at what he saw. There was his baby brother being held hostage by some scum bag with a gun pointed at his head.
Marco stopped running and turned just in time to see Luffy drop to the deck and start running. Not even a second later there was a gunshot and the small boy that Ace had come to love more than anything in the world drop to the deck. No scream. No cry. Nothing.
"LUFFY!" Ace fought his way out of Marco's arms and, ignoring anything but his brother, ran towards the tiny figure. "Luffy, don't be dead. Don't be dead." He pleaded.
He vaguely registered Vista swing his sword and a scream from the guy that had just shot his baby brother but he didn't really pay attention. He fell to his knees, afraid to touch Luffy.
He blinked in confusion. Why wasn't there any blood?
Had Luffy not been hit?
He put his hand on Luffy's back and could feel a small up and down movement signaling that the smaller boy was breathing.
"Luffy?" he asked quietly. "A-are you alright Lu?"
"Th-that hurt," Luffy wheezed out just loud enough for Ace to hear.
Luffy pushed himself up so that he was sitting on his knees.
"Hey don't move!"
Ace looked up to see Vista and Marco staring down at Luffy, eyes wide and- were they scared? He had never seen any of the crew scared before.
"That really hurt!" Luffy said loudly this time, angry that he had been hit.
"You're not dead," Ace said. He pulled Luffy into a tight hug for the second time that day. "You're not dead!" he repeated joyfully.
Ace had no idea what was going on but he wasn't going to complain. His little brother was alright.
"Luffy?" Marco got the boys attention, crouching so that he was eye level with them. "Where were you shot? We need to get you treated."
"I was shot?" Luffy asked eyes wide and frightened.
"You mean you didn't notice?" Vista questioned in disbelief.
"I thought I was just hit by something. Like when Grandpa hits me. It hurts then."
Vista and Marco traded looks at the statement but Ace wasn't paying any attention to them.
"You were shot but there's no hole in you," Ace said amazed. Checking his brother once again for holes that shouldn't be there.
"What's going on?" the deep voice of the captain caught the commanders' attention.
Marco stood and faced his captain. "Luffy was shot. Or at least we thought he was."
"Maybe the bullet bounced off," Ace said head cocked to the side talking to his brother. He didn't really care who knew about Luffy's powers or not. These men had protected them and saved their lives. They could be trusted. "You are rubber after all."
"Rubber?" Namur questioned. Had the fishman been there the entire time? "What do you mean he's rubber?"
"That's right," Marco said. "You don't get hurt when someone hits you, right? Maybe bullets bounce off you too."
"You knew!" Namur accused.
The older devil fruit user shrugged. "Of course I did."
"Quiet." The captain said joining them and kneeling downs so that he was closer to the two boys. "I am sorry you got caught up in the fight that was not yours. They were stronger than expected and had more men than we initially thought. Will you forgive us for letting you both get captured?"
"Yup," Luffy chirped.
Ace nodded, wondering why the man was apologizing. It's not like he had been the one that had done anything to them.
"Is it true you're made out of rubber?" the giant man asked looking curious.
"I ate the gum-gum fruit!" he informed excitedly.
The man smiled, turning his attention to Ace. "I suppose you ate a fruit as well. I saw what you did to those men."
"I wasn't going to just let them take me. Who would watch out for Luffy while Sabo's not feeling well?"
The man chuckled. "Marco take them to Lyra and make sure she checks them over thoroughly. We don't want our… guests to be wounded and for us to not know. The rest of you start doing a count. See how many of your brothers have fallen and who needs help."
They all nodded and followed their orders.