Sabo had been more than a little surprised when Namur had suddenly yelled avalanche and picked him and started running. He had been even more surprised when the Fishman had actually been able to out run the snow. Once the eighth division commander had stopped he gently put Sabo down so that they both could survey the damage.
Sabo felt his eyes grow wide. There was nothing but snow left. Trees had once dotted the mountain side and now there was nothing.
"Where are Luffy and Ace?" he asked numbly. "They were behind us and now there's nothing there. Where are they?" He looked up at Namur pleading with his friend to tell him that his brothers were safe.
"Uh. I'm sure they're fine. They're with Marco and Thatch. They won't let anything happen to your brothers."
At that moment a giant, flaming, blue bird landed next to them. Sabo immediately noticed the small boy clutched in its talons. "Luffy!" he called out relieved beyond measure. He didn't even notice when the bird turned into Marco he was so focused on his brother, who was crying loudly. "What's wrong?"
"Where's Thatch?" Namur asked.
"Take them back to the ship," Marco commanded. "Bring back as many men as possible."
"Thatch went down."
"W-what does that mean?" Sabo demanded.
"The snow ate Ace," Luffy wailed.
"They were hit by the avalanche?" Namur demanded.
"And Luffy saw it happen?" Namur asked sadly.
"We don't have time for this now. Every second counts. Now take them back to the ship I'll start looking. We can worry about how traumatized the kid is later."
"No. I want to help," Sabo protested.
"I wanna help Ace too," the seven-year-old said through his sobs.
"No. It's too dangerous. Back to the ship with the both of you. I promise I won't stop looking for him until he is found"
"You want me to go back to the ship and just wait while you all get to look for Ace? No! He's my brother and I can help. I'm not just some kid-"
"Yes you are! You might act more like an adult than a kid but you are still just a kid. This is dangerous so you are going to act your age, for once, and let the adults handle this!" Marco yelled, looking frustrated.
Sabo stared at the blonde pirate in shock with no idea how to react. All of his life he had been told over and over again to grow up act more mature, take on more responsibility. This was the first time he could remember that someone had told him to act his age and hadn't gotten onto him for acting like a child.
Marco sighed and ran a hand through his hair before kneeling down in front of Sabo placing a hand on his shoulder. "Look, I know you're not just some kid and that you are capable of doing things most adults can't. I know you want to help Ace. I know that. I understand that it hurts that I'm not going to let you help look for him. It is too dangerous. I also know that it's scary that your brother is missing because mine is missing too. But right now I can't worry about you and Luffy. I need to take care of Ace and Thatch and I need you to take care of yourself and Luffy. Can you do that?"
Sabo nodded mutely still a little shocked but accepting that he was not going to be allowed to help find Ace. But at least he could take care of Luffy.
Namur picked them both up, one under each arm. "I hope Thatch is okay too," Sabo told Marco sadly.
"Thanks. I'm sure they're both going to be fine."
He nodded at the other pirate and the fishman took off running towards the ship. The journey back to the ship was much quicker than the hike away from it had been and they reached the Moby Dick in little to no time.
Namur put them down. "Go back to your cabin and try to stay warm. We'll come get you when Ace is back."
There was no question about whether or not Ace was going to be back. It made Sabo feel better that he was so confident. Sabo nodded before taking Luffy's hand and dragged the still crying boy towards their room. It was going to be a long day and he really needed his little brother right now.
As he walked back towards the cabin he heard Namur shout, "Oi, all men available! There was an avalanche on the island. Two of our own are buried!"
A few hours later Sabo and Luffy were sitting on the railing of the ship, next to the loading ramp, waiting for any kind of news. Sabo had been able to calm the younger down by saying that Ace would be mad if he found out Luffy thought he was dead. He was able to keep him calm by telling him different stories that he had read when he lived with the nobles and was able to sneak story books into his room at night.
He was about to tell Luffy about Goldie Locks and the three bears when a group of men appeared at the tree line. They appeared to be carrying something. He stood up hopeful that it was something about his brother.
"No! Put me down! I have to go find him!" Sabo was happy and disappointed at the same time to hear Thatch's voice. He and Luffy jumped down hoping that they were going to be able to talk to him.
"Calm down Thatch," Vista said pushing him back so that he was lying down on the makeshift carrier again. "Ace is in good hands. He'll be found in no time. You need to rest. That avalanche did a number on you. There's a chance that you have hypothermia and you definitely have a few cracked ribs and your ankle is messed up. "
"He was my responsibility. I dropped him! If I'm hurt, how bad is he? How the hell could I drop him!?"
"Thatch!" Sabo called as they climbed onto deck. He wanted to ask if they found Ace but it was clear they hadn't and he squashed the desire.
"Oh God. Sabo. Luffy." The man paled, even more so than he already was, when he saw them. "I-I am so sorry." No one tried to push him down again as he sat up leaning on arm. "I-I tried to get to him. I did-"
"Did you try your best to help him?" Sabo interrupted.
"Of course I did."
"Then that's all we can ask. Thank you." It hurt to say. He wanted to yell and scream and blame everything on the man but he didn't cause the avalanche and he tried to protect Ace the best he could. Blaming Thatch would just hurt others and probably himself. Taking a deep breath dulled the ache and he knew that he had meant every word he had said to the pirate. "You should take care of yourself now. We don't need to worry about you too."
For some reason the pirate found this funny. He collapsed onto his back, the heel of his hands digging into his eyes laughing like a mad man. "You hear that Vista the kid's worried about me. He's worried about the idiot who lost his brother. What is up with these kids? They don't act the way they should."
Vista nodded at the men carrying the stretcher and they carried a still hysterical Thatch below deck.
"Is he okay?" Luffy asked watching as the men disappeared.
"He's a little out of it right now," the swordsman said looking awkward.
"Why did he say we don't act the way we should?" Sabo questioned.
"He was just expecting you to blame him for what happened because he blames himself. I think it would probably make him feel better if you were mad because then he wouldn't have to be mad at himself."
"Grown-ups are weird."
Sabo chuckled turning to his little brother. "I agree with you there Luffy. Do you want to go see if Doctor Lyra will let us visit Thatch once he's feeling less crazy?"
"Then let's go."
"You're oddly calm about the situation," Vista noted as he walked with them.
"Well you all found Thatch so that means that there is hope for Ace and at this point I am just going with no news is good news." He looked up at the swordsman for confirmation. "Right?"
The man smiled kindly. "Right."
They arrived in front of the infirmary as the men that were carrying the stretcher were kicked out.
"Demon witch, we just wanted to make sure he'd be okay," one mumbled but the two boys heard it anyway.
"We're going to leave now. Will you be alright?" Vista asked Sabo. "Everyone, except a few look outs, is working on finding Ace. I could find you something to eat before heading back."
"Not hungry," Luffy said sliding down the wall and landing with a soft thump.
"I don't think either of us could eat right now," the blonde said sitting next to his brother putting an arm around him and pulling him into his side. "We'll just wait here until a nurse comes out and we can ask if Thatch is ready for visitors."
"If you're sure, we're all going to head back."
"Good. The more people looking for Ace the better," Sabo said his voice cracking on the last world. What if they didn't find Ace in time? What if he never saw his brother again? This was almost as bad as the fire. The only thing that made it slightly better was knowing that at least Luffy was safe.
He bit his lip trying to stop the tears he knew were about to come.
He didn't want to cry.
Not now when there were ten other people around to watch him.
He hated crying.
Ace was going to make fun of him if he did.
He felt the tear start falling.
Luffy's arms were slowly inching around him going further than what would be considered physically possible. "Luffy don't." he scolded. The last thing they needed was for Vista and the others to find out about Luffy's powers right now. He didn't feel like dealing with everyone's reactions at the moment.
The arms disappeared. He looked down at his little brother as he felt him scoot away. That's not what he wanted at all. His grip tightened on his brother's arm and he pulled Luffy onto his lap wrapping his arms tightly around the smaller boy. He knocked Luffy's hat off so that it was now hanging from the string around his neck and buried his face in his brother's hair letting out a sob, embarrassed that he hadn't been able to stop it.
"Sabo?" Luffy questioned, voice shaking.
He was unable to respond and just sobbed harder as he felt the two small arms wrap tightly around him holding on the back of his coat. He allowed himself to cry for a few minutes before taking a few deep breaths to calm himself. He pulled away from Luffy and gave him a shaky smile when he noticed his brother was crying now. "Sorry about that."
"Sabo," Luffy said again. The blonde didn't respond. He just tucked his brother's head under his chin and squeezed him tightly. "Don't worry. Ace won't die. He promised."
Sabo blinked. When had Ace promised not to die?
"We're going to find him," Vista said determination in his eyes.
"I know you will. I just don't know in what condition he'll be in when you do." Try as he might he couldn't stop the second round of tears. "It seems that every time we're actually happy something horrible happens. It's like we're not allowed to be happy and when we are we're punished." He was sobbing again by this point. He felt a large hand squeeze his shoulder offering comfort. The blonde looked up to see the commander kneeling next to him.
"Sabo. Things just happen. There was nothing you or anyone else could have done to stop that avalanche," the swordsman said. "You're not being punished for being happy or anything like that. It's a good thing that you're happy here. We're glad to hear that and we'll do everything in our power to make sure that you all stay that way."
"Please find Ace," Luffy pleaded when Sabo didn't respond. "We can't be happy if he's not here."
The commander smiled at the two boys before standing and turning towards the men that had helped him carry Thatch back. "Alright men, let's get back to the search. No one stops until Ace is found," Vista commanded and the pirates with new determination left the two boys in the hallway. Just the two of them, and Sabo allowed himself to cry until he fell into an uncomfortable sleep.
Sabo rubbed his eyes, frowning at how much they hurt.
He really hated crying.
He looked down at Luffy and noticed that he was asleep. He sighed and rested his head against the wall giving his brother a tight squeeze. He didn't know how long it had been since Vista and the others had left but knew it had been a while. Would Doctor Lyra let him and Luffy in to see Thatch now?
He tensed up as he heard footsteps above them signaling that someone was on deck, with all the noise he guessed that there were quite a few people on deck.
Did they just get back or had it been a long time and they just didn't want to come talk to them because they hadn't been able to find Ace? He was terrified to know.
He turned as he heard footsteps coming towards them. His heart stopped as he saw Namur and Vista coming towards them talking in low voices. He shook Luffy to wake him up as Namur nodded and the two commanders turned towards them.
"I didn't think you'd still be here," Vista said surprised looking down at them.
"I fell asleep," Luffy said before smiling sheepishly at Sabo.
"So did I," Sabo said with a wobbly smile. He wished they would tell him about Ace. He didn't want to have to ask.
"Sabo," Namur said softly. This was it. They were going to tell him that his brother was dead. He looked up to see the fishman smiling at him. "It's alright. We found Ace. He's fine, in better condition than Thatch even. We were all actually looking for you two."
Both boys jumped up. "He's alright? Where is he?"
Vista nodded towards the deck and that was all the prompting Sabo needed before he took off running, Luffy right behind him. They burst onto the deck and instantly heard a familiar voice calling. "SABO, LUFFY, WHERE ARE YOU?"
"ACE!" the both screamed at the same time. There was the sound of hurried footsteps and then he was there standing in front of them. Sabo was going to cry again if he didn't watch himself.
Luffy tackled Ace to the floor in a hug laughing as he did so. "Ace is back," he sang happily.
Sabo didn't even think before joining them and creating a three way hug laughing the entire time.
"Did you miss me or something?" Ace asked grinning from ear to ear.
"Yes," Luffy answered.
"Don't you ever do something like that again," Sabo yelled. "I'm used to worrying about Luffy in that way but not you. You do stupid things that can get you killed, Luffy is the one who gets lost and eaten by things!"
"Eaten? I didn't get eaten."
"The snow ate Ace," Luffy said seriously.
"Snow can't eat people, stupid," Ace said rolling his eyes pushing his brothers off and standing up.
"Yes it can!" Luffy exclaimed jumping up.
Sabo stood and couldn't help the ridiculous grin that spread across his face. "How did you survive?"
"I found a big rock that had a ledge that I sat under. It blocked the snow from crushing me and it even left enough room for me to breathe okay until Marco found me."
"Marco found you?" Luffy asked looking happier than ever.
"Yup," Ace said with a laugh.
"Oi," the pirate in question walked up to them. "There you are. Vista told me you two haven't eaten since breakfast. Seeing as its late you will eat dinner and the straight to bed. Ace now that you've seen your brothers you have to go see Lyra, she needs to look over you to make sure that the exposure to the cold didn't do any damage. We've all had a stressful day so please don't argue with me."
Luffy jumped onto the first commander hugging him around the middle. "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."
"It's just dinner."
Sabo joined Luffy in hugging the man. "You found Ace," he clarified.
"No need to thank me for that," Marco said patting both of them on the head. "I found him because I wanted him to be safe."
Sabo felt his grin widen. The pirate had no idea how good he had just made Ace feel. The idiot was always wondering if people wanted him dead or not and here Marco just said that not only did he want him alive but he wanted him safe too.
"Thank you for keeping your promise," Sabo mumbled."I don't make promises I can't keep."