Hey guys! I'm a sick (through every fault of my own) so this chapter is both late and short. Desintas is beta-ing it again because she is awesome but I have no idea when it will be done and I would feel bad about making you guys wait longer. So sorry in advance for my terrible proof reading job, I will upload her awesome sauce editing skills version as soon as I can. Until then I hope you like chapter 2! (cover art by me! It's steam punk Sabo.)
The Moby Dick was in an uproar. Thatch was missing. He had been betrayed by his brother. They had all been betrayed by Teach. He had stabbed Thatch and stolen the fruit. It was unknown if Thatch was even still alive or not. Yet they still harbored hope. But after everything was said and done. Each search team coming back with disappointed faces and drooping shoulders the mood began to change. The anger slowly began to fade giving way to heartbreak. It had been nearly a week since Thatch disappeared. The odds of finding Teach were shrinking every day. But there was nothing any one seemed able to do about it. They had not clues, no leads, no nothing. How would they ever find their lost brother at this rate?
Ace sat by himself on the ships railing. His knees were hugged loosely to his chest as he stared out at the ocean. To say he felt responsible would be an understatement. He had just been made the second division commander. How had he screwed it up so fast? Teach was in his division, he was his responsibility. Yet he had done nothing to prevent it. Some commander he was.
He hugged his knees tighter. Anybody who knew anything about him could clearly say that Portgas D. Ace loved a challenge. He wasn't one to shy away from anything. That being said he felt lost right now. He wasn't use to failing. His go-get-it attitude coupled with his inability to accept defeat assured his success at most things. Apparently that wasn't going to be enough anymore. If this wasn't what losing felt like then he really didn't know what was. And now because of his mistakes Thatch was …
"Stop it!" Marco's voice rang out.
Surprised Ace turned around to face the first division commander.
"What?" He asked baffled.
"Stop thinking like that! Of course it wasn't your fault."
Ace pouted as he turned to face his friend. "How could you possibly know what I was thinking?"
Marco just shrugged as he leaned against the ships railing. "You're far too predictable my friend. Honestly no body blames you. We're all a team. That means that we don't just hand out blame. When we fail we all accept the loss together and work to make it right again. You're no more responsible than the rest of us. Besides, you're still the newest member. If anyone could have realized what he was planning it would have been us."
Ace nodded as he slowly rose to his feet. He wasn't entirely convinced yet but Marco had made some good points. They were a team.
"Come on." Marco said taking his shoulder. "There's something you are going to want to see."
Ace frowned at his serious expression. This couldn't be good. He followed Marco across the deck to the front end of the ship. Most of the crew had gathered there, including Oyaji. They were gathered in a semi-circle of sorts. Marco pushed his way through the crowed Ace following closely.
"What's going on?"
Marco's face was once again tense as he looked over at Ace. He gestured to a small brown package in the middle of the circle. "It's from him." There was no need to clarify who they were talking about.
Ace clenched his fists as he watched pops carefully pick up the package. What on earth could Teach possibly send them?
He watched, holding his breath as the package was opened. He couldn't remember a time when the ships atmosphere was as tense as this.
Oyaji grit his teeth as he looked inside. He glanced up at his crew and then back at the package. Confusion blossomed over his face as he withdrew a hauntingly familiar straw hat.
Upon seeing it Ace's eyes widened as his chest constricted painfully. That couldn't be…. But even as his mind desperately pleaded for it not to be true he already knew it was. He would recognize that straw hat anywhere. Did that mean that that creep had his brother? Teach had kidnapped Luffy as well. And this time it WAS his fault. Not all the Marco logic in the world could convince him otherwise. A special type of fear creeped into his heart, the likes of which he hadn't felt in years. All logical thought was pushed out and replaced with frantic worry. Luffy was being held by a mad man, a psychopath.
The message was intended for Ace and Ace alone. This left the rest of the crew confused and frustrated.
"Isn't that Red Haired Shank's hat?" Marco questioned? Whatever answer he was about to receive was cut short by a loud thud.
Marco surged through the crowed to get to his friend. Ace had fallen to his hands and knees and was looking quite sick. He barley responded to Marco's efforts to pull him up.
"What's the matter with him?" Haruta asked in concern.
"M' fine." Ace insisted, his words slurred and distant. With help from Marco he pushed himself to his feet.
"Are you sure my son?" White Beards voice boomed over the crowed.
Ace nodded as he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, his eyes never leaving the package.
White Beard nodded satisfied as he turned to address the crew. "I know all of you are worried about Thatch but we can't afford to act rashly. A man's life lies in the balance if we do. For the sake of your brother I need all of you to stay calm and rational."
The crew nodded, their eyes downcast as they agreed. No one was happy about it but pops did have a point. They trusted him to make the right decisions especially when the situation got rough.
"I need all of the commanders to meet me in an hour for a meeting to discuss our next actions. The rest of you get some rest."
Ace was barley listening, his gaze fixed firmly on the deck. He could feel Marco by his side but he refused to look up. The crew moved all around him complying to Oyaji's request.
"Can I see the hat?" Ace asked, his voice sounding hoarse even to his own ears.
If White Beard was surprised he didn't show it. He clapped his huge hands on Ace's shoulder and gave it a reassuring squeeze. His free hand handed the hat over to Ace.
"Ace." His calm and commanding voice made Ace look up at him. Meeting his eyes square on. "Is there something wrong?"
Ace clutched the brim of the hat tightly. Wetting his lips before he spoke. "No sir."
White Beard glanced over at Marco who stood beside his friend. Marco's arms were crossed and it was clear as he looked up at pops that he didn't believe him. Still, until Ace was ready to talk there was no use in forcing him.
"Alright my son. But I want you to know that if there is something on your mind you can always come to us."
Ace just nodded again, "Yes sir." He said in the same toneless voice.
Whitebeard sighed as he leaned back, watching Ace walk away. Whatever was bothering Ace he knew he would eventually work it out.
"Keep an eye on him would you?" He asked Marco. Ace, like all his children, had his utmost trust. But he did fear Ace didn't take the 'don't act rashly' message to heart.
"Already on it." Marco promised him.
Carefully choosing a hidden corner of the ship Ace sunk down to the ground. His trembling hands still clutched desperately at the hat. He fingered the red ribbon, slipping a finger along the place he knew was a rip. It separated a section of the ribbon from the straw creating a sort of helpful pocket. When they were younger Luffy used to store important things in there.
Sure enough his trembling fingers hit the folded edge of paper. A note. He pulled it out and unfolded it, recognizing the messy handwriting at once as Teach's.
Long time no see. You never told me you were a big brother.
Isn't that adorable. I can't tell you how hard it was to track
him down. After all it's not like you have a lot of family to
spare. So I'm willing to bet you would do a lot to save him
right? Well if that's so then I need you to follow my
instructions very carefully. We don't need to drag the crew
into this do we? After all this is just between you me and your
brother. A matter of family. As such I want you to meet me in
Sabaody Archipelago in three days' time. I'll keep good care of
him until then.
Love Marshal D. Teach
Ace crumpled the note in his fist. How dare Teach drag Luffy into this? After all it was between the two of them. Luffy wasn't even a pirate yet, that meant he was still an innocent civilian. After he had been so careful not to let anything slip to the new crew about his brother. It wasn't like he didn't trust them. But at the same time he could never quite get himself to start talking about his personal life. It felt wrong in some way. Especially when it involved Luffy.
Of course he had a million stories about his trouble making little brother that would be perfect to tell during an all-night drinking binge. But that protective instinct he had been developing since he was ten had stopped him. After all for every White Beard member he knew there were two more he didn't. His worst fear was that Luffy would somehow suffer for his mistakes. Only now it was actually happening. Up until this point he just thought he was being paranoid. But now he was glad he hadn't shared. Still despite this Black Beard had managed to find Luffy. How he had done it was a mystery to Ace.
Anyway Teach had been right about one thing. They didn't need to get the crew involved. He had attacked Ace directly by taking Luffy. So Ace was going to go after him himself. This was a matter of family.
Marco nodded looking in concern at his father. "Yea Oyaji! I took my eyes of him for one minute and the next thing I know he just took off."
White Beard nodded thoughtfully, turning away from Marco to look out the window.
"There is something more going on here then we seem to understand."
Marco nodded in agreement. "Why do you think Ace left?"
The enormous man frowned, stroking his chin thoughtfully. 'Why' indeed? Ace was fiercely loyal. What he wasn't was secretive. He was the type of man who brazenly spoke his mind. Vanishing like this without a word was most certainly out of character. It was possible that he should not have given Ace the hat. It didn't mean anything to them, meaning it wasn't meant for them. Ace had been the target all along. Like all of his children Ace had been saddened by the loss of Thatch. But he hadn't decided to up and leave until he had the hat, which was the single possession, aside from the favored watermelon bag that he had taken with him.
"What would you like to do my son?" He questioned Marco.
"If I may Oyaji, I would like to go after him. Ace is my friend and I am worried he is playing right into Teach's hands."
White Beard nodded turning back to face Marco. "Very well. Bring Ace back to his family where he belongs."
Marco nodded, unable to hide the relived smile on his face. "Yes sir!"
He bowed curtly to his father turning back to scan the bow of the ship. The sun had yet to set leaving a streak of colors across the ocean in its wake. Still the horizon was void of any movement except the soft lolling of the ocean. Ace couldn't have gotten far.
Feeling for the phoenix power trapped deep inside him he stepped up onto the ships railing, precariously balancing there. He felt a familiar warmth spread over his body as he became engulfed in the blue fire. With a final lurch he fell over the side the air immediately intermixing with his fire. His ungraceful fall quickly turned into a smooth glide as he coasted over the ocean surface, close enough to touch it with a winged arm.
"Hang on Ace, I'm coming."
Once again sorry about its shortness. I tried to make it longer but somehow this length seemed to fit really well. To make it up I will try to update next Saturday. I really hope you liked it. Marco should find out about Luffy next chapter.
Lostdog200: Thank you! I hope you like the story!
Mammoth boys: Thank you! I'm really excited to write about the crews reactions as well! Marco's should be next chapter as he catches Ace pretty quickly. I'm not sure about the rest of the whitebeard pirates but it's unfortunately looking like Thatch isn't going to find out until the end. Hopefully it will pay off in a huge 'NO WAY' moment I am really glad you like my story. As you can probably tell Ace was definitely not pleased about Luffy getting kidnapped. Since it is because of him Teach targeting Luffy he feels even worse. Poor Ace Thanks for the review!
Guest#1: fggghhjkll! Thank you! I'm glad you liked it.
Guest #2: I hope you liked Ace's reaction. He is angry/worried/in shock. He is going to keep good care of the hat until he can return it too Luffy.
xXMellowHeartXx: Haha thank you! This one was even shorter (sorry) Ace will take good care of the straw hat until he can give it back to Luffy. Ace didn't take it well but I'm not sure when the rest of the whitebeards will find out. Marco's will probably be next chapter. I'm glad you liked the story!
Guest#3: Thanks you! As you can see Ace didn't take it very well. Right now its looking like Thatch is going to find out last unfortunately. But it will be a huge "OMG' moment. But maybe not I'm not really sure yet. Marco will hopefully find out next chapter.
pipedream: Thank you! That is like the nicest thing I've heard! I'm really glad you like the story.