Author's notes: For naye's July '10 One Piece Chaos thread at Livejournal, story 1 of 3 for that thread, for the prompt "Where are they Now?" (The cut off near the end of the first paragraph is intentional.) Also found at Livejournal, Deviant Art, and Lunaesnce Archives; please see my profile for those links.
One Piece © Oda Eiichiro, etc.
It wasn't all that bad being dead. Sure, there were no women to fawn over him, there was no wind to ruffle his hair (and nobody to make fun of his hair); but Thatch couldn't complain too much. If he wandered around enough he could find booze, food, strange machines that played music, and even other dead people to hang out with. But when he came back to his own space, he was bored. It wasn't quite the hell he was expecting. He was expecting hell. You know: pain, torture, suffering, and creepy little cackling dudes running about and stabbing things into him. It wasn't like that at all. Here, it was an endless expanse of grey. Not black, just grey... dark, silent, cavernous, with a faint mist or smoke curling up from the ground. (That was a little creepy in itself, and Thatch preferred not to think about it.) But overall, if he wasn't exploring or doing certain other things like dreaming and, it was boring.
Time really does fly when you're dead, and you really couldn't be sure how much or little, how fast or slow, it was going. That was, until somebody stumbled into Thatch's space.
Thatch's jaw dropped. If it was possible for the already-dead to have hearts, Thatch's heart stopped again, but this time it fell through his stomach, out of his body, and was now rolling across the floor.
And sure enough, it was Ace. He was a little bewildered, but as soon as he caught sight of Thatch, that grin he remembered spread across Ace's face as the boy picked up speed and jogged Thatch's direction.
'How?' Thatch thought to himself, Ace was just a kid... "What happened?" He tried to ask, only it was a little muffled through Ace, who was now hugging him.
"We're dead!" Ace said.
"That's the first thing you can think to say, 'We're dead?'" Thatch was imaging Ace must be in some form of denial. He was far too happy for a dead person.
"I saved my brother. I tried avenging you, too, but that idiot Teech. That devil fruit you found was insane! It absorbs everything, and I got caught because of Teech. They made him one of the Warlords." (Thatch was thinking Ace couldn't bring himself to admit losing to Teech, and probably getting turned over by Teech if he was made a Warlord, recalling Ace's hundred times being beaten by Pops and Teech's lack of bounty. Being so strong himself, Ace isn't the kind of person who gets beaten often or easily unless it's a really strong opponent. Still, skirting around that word, and other things.) "They through me in Impel Down, and sentenced me to a public execution at Marineford."
"You were executed?" Thatch asked, mortified.
"I haven't gotten there, yet!"
"Okay, okay; sorry, sorry..." apologized Thatch.
"Thank you," said Ace. "As I was saying, they sentenced me to a public execution. I got really depressed. They wanted to start a war with Pops, and you know Pops!" (Thatch did know Pops...) "And then my brother, Luffy, he broke into Impel Down!" (Thatch's jaw dropped again.) "He broke into Impel Down to save me! He broke in to save me! And you can imagine how worried I was!" (Thatch also imagined how mad Ace was. Ace didn't like to be "rescued", least of all, Thatch further imagined, by his little brother. But it was still a sweet gesture, so he left that, too.)
And Ace and Thatch talked; okay, Ace mostly talked, relaying to Thatch all of what had happened in the past few hours, with Thatch reacting accordingly (and occasionally getting shushed by Ace for interrupting, again). But when Ace got to where this Mr. 3 guy had released him (a devil fruit ability working on sea stone, who'd have thought?), Thatch's questionably-there-heart had stopped again, this time plummeting further and he could feel tears starting in his eyes. "Pops," he said.
"Huh?" asked Ace.
Thatch pointed and Ace turned around. There he was, the Greatest Pirate alive, walking towards them, in death.
"My boys," he said, and it felt like an eternity had passed without any more words said.
Eventually Ace and Thatch got up and walked over to Whitebeard, where they sat down where he was. (After all, Whitebeard doesn't come to you unless you deserve a bitch smack. You have to go to Whitebeard if you want business with him. (Mm hm.) Ace finished his story (Thatch had to keep from crying), and when Pop's finished his there wasn't a dry eye.
The Reign of Whitebeard was over. The life of Edward Newgate was over. The lives of Portgas D. Ace and Thatch were over. And now here, the three men sat, recalling somberly what was their ends. When this time, a barking broke through the air.
"Stefan?" Whitebeard perked up and turned to look behind himself. Ace and Thatch each leaned to the sides of Whitebeard, as to look around him, and sure enough a scruffy white dog with a giant moustache was trotting jovially at them.
"That bastard killed my dog!" Whitebeard exclaimed and Stefan now bounced happily in the lap of his owner.
"He probably pined to death, Pops, like he knew you died! Dogs can do that!" Ace remarked, as Stefan jumped off his Daddy and ran happily between Ace and Thatch, licking at the two and running back to Whitebeard, unsure of who he wants to be with most.
"On top of all of us, he killed the dog. That's just sad..." Thatch said, shaking his head. "If that fat bastard isn't dead by the end of this story, I'm killing him myself."
Now, with Pop's laughing, Ace playing fetch with Stefan using Pop's 'stache, and Thatch just sitting there, he thought, 'Well, at least I won't be bored anymore.' It was just like old times.