A/N: It's a small idea that popped out of nowhere. Well, actually it popped out of my absolute fascination with Marco's DF x) Please, read and leave a review. This pairing needs more love x)

Spoilers for Marco's Devil Fruit and the last episode. Aside from that it's pretty safe x)

Who said We're Playing Fair?

Ace leaned against the railing of the ship, careful not to stretch his back too much. He ran a hand over the bandages that covered his torso and hid the still fresh tattoo on his back. The doctor said it'd take some time for it to heal, so he better be careful with it.

Like he didn't know that already. It's not like it was the first time he had one done… Sure, the other wasn't nearly as big… And it had been before he ate the Devil Fruit…

Ace felt a bit guilty for the burns on the doctor's hands. He had done his best to keep his ability in check, but the instincts he had developed were hard to force down. It had taken a few hours of work that proved difficult on both of them, but in the end it was there.

Whitebeard's flag. Every time he thought of it, he heard his own words echo in his mind.

'Let me become your son.'

The word still felt unfamiliar to him. The very idea that he had a 'father' now…

He wondered what it would be like from now on. Because things would inevitably change. At the very least, he would stop his attempts at taking Whitebeard's head. Like he ever could… He had been so cocky to thing he could even touch him… A stupid mistake!

But maybe it could turn into something good, after all. He had promised Luffy not to live with any regrets… And he knew was not going to regret this decision.

A sudden gust of wind startled him. It came suddenly from behind him and forced him to lean against the rail. He lowered his head and straightened his shoulders in an attempt to guard himself from it, but the action only caused him to jerk from the sharp pain in his back.

A movement that resulted in his hat being blown right off of his head.

"Shit!" His eyes snapped open.

'Here!'

'What's that, Luffy?'

'It's a hat, of course!'

'… Why are you giving it to me?'

'Because I have one, and Sabo had one, and you're the only one who doesn't! Besides, you should smile more, just like this!'

He reached forward as far as he could, but the damn wind was taking it over the sea. He wasn't losing that hat! He pushed himself up and put a boothed foot on the rail. He didn't even consider the fact that it was the middle of the night and there would be no one to pull him out of the water, as he prepared to jump forward.

"Stay put!"

He tensed at the call and was just about to turn around, when something moved past him and showered everything in a soft blue light.

A bird, he realized. But it wasn't a normal bird. Ace found himself unable to tear his eyes away from it. It looked like it was on fire… But then he realized that it was fire. The entire body blazed with those enchanting blue flames, burning wings rippled the water with every flap, the reflected silhouette danced over the waves.

With one smooth motion it dove towards the surface and caught the falling hat with its beak, before turning swiftly and raising quickly, the spiraling fire of its tail just barely brushing the water.

He stumbled backwards as the bird headed towards him and released the breath he didn't know he had been holding. It lingered in the air over the deck just for a second longer, painting everything in pale blue hues.

Only then did Ace get a chance to see the whole of the magnificent creature. The entire body was covered, no, composed of those bright blue flames that flapped in the night air. Two darker rings surrounded eyes that held something really familiar. In that same darker color was a mark on its chest. A mark Ace immediately recognized.

"Ma-Marco?" He stammered in disbelief.

As the bird neared the surface, it started changing, the flames retreating and revealing human legs with dark sandals strapped around the ankles. As a wing traveled towards his hat, it merged into a hand and grasped it, before the fire flicked once more and vanished into this air, leaving the figure of the First Division Commander standing before him.

He watched in a daze as the other moved towards him and put the hat back on his head.

"You better keep your things safe," Marco said as he walked past him.

"What was that?" The younger pirate turned around and watched him pause and face him again with his hands in his pockets and a bored expression.

"What do you think it was?" He raised a brow. "A Devil Fruit's ability, obviously. They don't call me 'The Phoenix' for nothing."

A phoenix. A mythical creature in the form of a bird that upon death would burst into flames, and then rise from its own ashes. It was a powerful immortal being, but above all, Ace thought, it was beautiful.

Ace found himself so taken in by it that he couldn't stop thinking about it. He started following Marco discreetly, waiting for a chance to catch a glimpse of that form again. When that didn't get any results, he tried to provoke him. Every once in a while he would do something stupid, like drop something, or accidentally bump him. He even went as far as to start pouncing at him and hugging him every time he met him, in an attempt to catch him off-guard and force some of those flames out.

Yet, despite of all his efforts he got no results. As time passed he got more desperate. He got to the point when he asked Marco to spar with him while they had stopped at an island, but he was turned down immediately, as the other said he didn't want to hurt him.

Annoyed at another failure, but even more than that, angry at the other's words, he stumbled out of the bar and went to walk around the island, trying to calm himself down. He took his time in roaming the streets of the small village, and ended up on the small beach.

Sometimes he found it strange how the sea always drew him in, despite of being his biggest weakness. He sat himself on the soft sand and stared at the horizon where sea and sky merged into an eternity of sparkling stars spread across the darkness. Time passed and he cooled off, comforted by the stillness that surrounded him.

At a certain point he heard the footsteps behind him. He didn't have to look up, already knowing who it was and didn't react in any way until he stopped just a few feet behind him and spoke up.

"So what's all this about?"

Ace leaned back on his elbows and titled his head back to stare Marco upside-down and raised an eyebrow.

"What's all what about?"

"Stop playing dumb," there was a touch of mirth in the usually bored gaze fixed on him. "Half the ship's already taking bets weather you'd jump me now or wait for the next appropriate moment."

"Oh, really?" Ace couldn't help the smirk that stretched over his features. "What did you bet on?"

"Wouldn't you want to know?" The First Division Commander answered him with a grin of his own.

Ace stuck his tongue out, but then quickly pushed himself back to a sitting position and turned towards the older pirate.

"Show me!" He said and his voice betrayed the excitement. "I want to see that form again! Show it to me, Marco, please!"

"That's all?" The other eyed him curiously and seemed to find his answer in the blackhead's eyes. A lazy smirk played with his lips, before he shrugged. "Alright."

Not a second too late blue flames started to lick at his skin, flickering at the soft breeze, before they engulfed his entire figure, broad wings spreading on both sides of the blazing body.

A strange thrill ran through Ace's body at the sight of the creature before him once again. He quickly got up and stumbled over the sand in attempt to get closer. He reached out completely disregarding the fact that those were, indeed, flames that surrounded the other and by all laws of physics, the blue flames were hotter than the normal red ones.

Yet as he ran his hand over the bird's head and down towards the wing, he didn't feel any heat. The fire that blazed before him was cold, calm. It felt like thick smoke – almost tangible, yet not quite. Beneath it the feathers were soft and smooth, growing longer the further down the wing he went. Delicate, yet strong, a strange combination that made him even more fascinated.

"Grab on."

Ace blinked, having almost forgotten that standing before him was, indeed, Marco. The voice sounded so normal, that it made the exotic form seem all the more unbelievable. It took him a while to process the words, but even when he did, all he could come up with was an entirely intelligent 'Huh?'.

The Zoan turned around so that he was facing his back and spread the wings encouraging. The invitation was clear in his eyes as he turned around to witness the face splitting grin that spread over the freckled face. Without wasting any more time, Ace leaned down against the phoenix' back and threw his hands around its neck.

A flap from the powerful wings and they were separated from the ground. One more and they were floating over the sand, then the sea, and then higher and higher until Ace could no longer say which way was down.

It was a sensation like nothing he had ever experienced, the way the soft flames brushed his naked torso, the feel of the wind in his hair and the lack of ground under his feet. It made him feel so alive, so free he couldn't believe it.

A soft laugh left his lips as he leaned his head against the long neck, letting himself be swallowed by these new sensations. He felt the muscles beneath him flexing with every steady flap of the wings, and watched the blue flames dance in the wind.

Ace didn't know how long they remained over the endless sea. He only realized they were going back when he heard the sound of the waves that had long ago been lost beneath them. Not long after his gaze went lower to stare at reflected flames that merged into blue-colored sand.

Then Marco landed with that same ease and grace that flowed through every movement in this form. The wings flapped one last time and then folded on both sides of him. The younger pirate finally let go and betrayed by his own legs, he felt himself fall on his behind on the soft sand.

"That was…" there was a dazed look on his face as if his mind was still chasing the clouds high above them.

"You liked it?" A small nod was all he managed, and the next thing he realized, the voice was much closer to him than he remembered. "That's good."

Ace blinked as he felt a hand cup his face and realized that Marco had practically crawled over him and his face was so close to him, blue flames still licking the other's shoulders. The other took advantage of his shocked state to finally close the small distance and their lips met.

The younger pirate found himself responding easily to the soft kiss and humming contently against the other's lips.

He was surprised, yes, but truth be told, he had wanted this. All the time he had spent around the First Division Commander had made him see things he would have otherwise missed.

The way that easygoing and laidback attitude put everyone around at ease. The respect he held towards others. The silent knowing look that he sometimes acquired. The way he actually looked cute when he was flustered from the amount of booze he drank, and the way he never really let himself get too intoxicated in order to be able to help those who did back to their beds afterwards. The way he always knew the what, in a way that was almost frightening.

He wanted to know more about this man; he wanted to understand him, to get closer to him. But most of all he wanted to feel the way he made him feel. He wanted that fascinating to never end, he wanted to feel that freedom more often… And more than that, he wanted to take this to the next step.

So he wrapped his arm around the other's neck, opening his mouth. As tongues met he was pushed to lie back and a muffled moan left his lips at the feel of the muscular chest against his own.

When the other started pulling back, Ace murmured in disapproval and craned his neck to follow as far as he could. Still, the kiss was broken and Marco looked down at the pouting pirate with a smirk in place.

"Well, I guess I just won 100 beri from Thatch," he chuckled lightly at the sly grin that spread across Ace's face.

"Oh? But wasn't the bet on when I would jump you? This turned out the other way around, didn't it?"

"Only if they find out," came the smug reply.

"That's not fair, you know," Ace laughed.

"We're pirates, after all. Who said we're playing fair?"

The other started moving up and Ace didn't like that. He seized the opportunity and rose quickly crashing into Marco and forcing him back, switching the positions and grinning down mischievously at the man who just quirked a brow with amusement.

"Now, you've won the bet."

With those words, he dove down and took his lips in a deep kiss, running his hands up and down the naked chest, feeling the muscles flex beneath his touch. He felt more that heard the small moan the other let out at his actions. Strong hands settled on his hips and he felt the other shift ever so slightly in preparation to change the position again. Oh, no, he wasn't having that.

Pulling back abruptly, Ace grabbed the hands and held them on either side of Marco's head. He smirked, certain of his victory when the older pirate tried to move again and Ace turned his palm into fire. A soft hiss left the blond's lips at that as Ace presented him with a crooked smile.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you," he said teasingly, but then something caught his eye.

His burning hand was suddenly surrounded with blue flames that danced in a way that mesmerized him and made him stare once more in amazement. Using this chance, Marko swung the blazing wing with enough force to send them rolling down the beach, crimson and blue merging as they turned into a fireball trundling over the soft sand.

Suddenly, the rolling came to an end and just as Ace was about to announce victory, he was pushed from atop the other and landed right into the shallow sea, lying on his back. Panic took over as he swung his hands and feet all around in a desperate attempt to get out, but then he sat up and realized the water hardly reached his chest. He flashed an annoyed look towards the beach where Marco was laughing out loud, but soon found himself joining in with him, their voices drifting over the empty beach.