A.N.: Lately I've been inspired by Megatruh's fantastic MarcoXAce pictures on DeviantArt and by what I've seen of zoan type Devil Fruits and how some of the humans become like their animals. For example how it was stated that carnivorous zoans were more vicious than other zoan types *cough* Lucci *cough*. Anyways, I figured Marco needed some cool phoenix habits too.


Five Days

ONE


Out of the very few things that made Marco sweat, dreaming was one of them. Not scary nightmares, but rather richly envisioned erotic fantasies. Those particular dreams always left him in a cold sweat with his heart beating so loudly he feared everyone on the Moby Dick could hear it.

He didn't have them often, though tonight he found himself awakening in a dark room soaking wet. And he certainly didn't need to reach a hand down between his thighs to confirm his erection. With his sharp eyes he could see the tent it made by pushing up his bed sheets. When he dreamt it was always the same outcome and, above all, Marco hated it.

He hated how his mind could visualize things to the smallest detail. He hated how his body became aroused without his bidding. But, most of all, he hated that the reason he started having these dreams was because of a certain new addition to his crew, his family.

Marco rolled over with difficulty in his small bunk. Even though commanders had their own quarters it certainly didn't constitute luxury. It only meant an added sense of privacy, something Marco was incredibly thankful for given his current state of excitement. If he were sleeping in the barracks with the rest of his division of pirates, Marco wouldn't be able to order them around without a few jokes thrown in his general direction, slandering his reputation.

He shivered at the thought of being the butt end of his crew members' jokes. It would be humiliating. Another wave of disgust coursed through him. He was their captain's right hand, how could he be dreaming about one of his captain's newest sons?

This brought him full circle to thinking about his dream, or what he could remember of it. Marco groaned at the absurdity of it all and buried his face in the soft down pillow he'd 'borrowed' from an inn the crew had spent a night at during their last trip on land. He liked this pillow a lot and feared that all of his sweating would eventually degrade the quality of the feathers inside the pillow.

Besides, it was nearly time anyway. He would have to get up as soon as the night sky reached its darkest hour anyway.

With that in mind, Marco shimmied out of bed and onto the cold wooden flooring. The room was cramped and he had no trouble locating a pile of clothes with the help of a few small blue flames jutting out of the tips of his fingers, illuminating the room in a wash of bluish yellow light.

By the time he pulled on a pair of pants and a jacket his arousal was deflating. This was a relief as he didn't intend to stay put in his room, not with thoughts of what his dream had been about still plaguing his mind.

Moving sluggishly down corridors and past rooms that held sleeping occupants Marco climbed up to the main deck. The moon was out tonight, shining brightly with her children, the stars, in a cloudless sky. He snuffed out his fire, the need becoming obsolete. Besides, it was getting close to being that time of the year again and he needed to conserve his strength.

Guess it's time to find that island, thought Marco as he lifted his arms towards the mizzenmast in a feeble stretch. His arms fell limply to his sides, completely undermining his usual strength. I feel like a newborn baby bird. So weak.

And sweaty, Marco thought with a grimace. He felt clammy and, with no further thoughts permitted as to why this had occurred to him, he began to climb the rigging of the ship. At his current lethargic pace it took him several minutes to reach the top of the mizzenmast, right below where one of Whitebeard's flags dolefully flapped in the breeze. He wasn't at the highest point on the ship by far, but he knew that there wasn't a watch posted in the mizzenmast's crow's nest. There would be a man above the topgallant and another on the foremast. More than likely one or both of them would be asleep. Aside from that they probably wouldn't notice him until he'd long left the Moby Dick.

He sat in the crow's nest – which was really just a platform with a safety rail to keep occupants safe – listening to the waves hitting the hull of the ship. The gust of wind blew harder, insistently, and Marco forced his human form up on top of the railing, teetering slightly as he was still in a rather lethargic state. He didn't trust his legs to keep him steady and moved into a crouch, feeling the oddly familiar feeling he always got when perching on the Moby Dick looking out at the never ending sea and sky.

It was that sensation of freedom, of flight.

He let his body burst into a multitude of blue flames, stretching out his arms to embrace the semi-darkness around him. With a smile befitting his sudden burst of elation he dove straight down, belly first, passing the rigging in a blur as he plummeted towards the deck. Before he got there he angled his arms, which had become his wings, and shot out towards the vastness of the ocean. In this form he was infinitely light and airy, a true creature of the sky.

He beat his wings to gather a few knots of speed as the wind ferried him along. He could feel it down to his very feathers; the heavy numbness that told him he was slowly but surely dying and in need of rebirth. It always happened near the spring equinox and he'd been preparing for it. He alone was the only reason his captain had berthed the ship so near a deserted island without stating a purpose to his crew.

Only Whitebeard knew of his special condition, naturally. It was his only true weakness that was different from the usual Devil Fruit complications and Marco was not keen on being exploited by his family members who would no doubt give him a good teasing if they found out.

After Marco had eaten his Devil Fruit many years ago, it had taken him nearly a year of blundering about to discover that his phoenix form, though able to regenerate any wound, only worked as long as he recharged his life force yearly. He had figured out how to salvage his drowsiness that had increased a bit every day; reading about the legends of his creature from which he earned his name and experiencing personally how, at certain points during that first year, he felt an unexplainable attraction to fire.

After he learned to deal with that problem he had become an unstoppable force. As long as he followed a strict schedule.

The flight over the dark waters in the night sky was a short one. Despite the tiny bit of light the stars offered him he could see his target; a nameless isle that lacked a magnetic field. He flew low over the trees, looking for the clearing that he knew existed on this particular nameless isle. At last he found it amid a grove of fir trees and he alighted on a rocky outcropping, talons slipping over loose pebbles.

He had a few hours to himself before the sun rose and, with it, the pirates aboard the Moby Dick. He wished to make good use of those hours.

Marco set off gathering trees and sticks, dragging them up onto the rock to arrange them into a neat pile. This process of gathering and arranging, that others might've found cumbersome, was oddly calming for Marco who enjoyed the simple repetition. He didn't know if it was nest making instincts that came from his Devil Fruit ability or rather the gathering instincts of early humans but he knew it felt natural to him.

The creation of a sizable nest took the better part of an hour. By the time he'd arranged everything just the way he liked it the sky was beginning to lighten. He hurried himself along at that point, pulling matches from his pockets and lighting the sticks and brush he'd accumulated. The wood was dry and the fire caught easily, spiralling into a hearty blaze in no time.

Immediately, Marco felt a sense of peace watching those flames shoot up and crackle powerfully. He let himself go and became a blue bird of legend. The fire, previously pulling upwards into the sky began to lean towards him, beckoning and grabbing at his feathers eagerly. Marco had always found the fire's greedy pull amusing and danced around his nest to tease it. Soon though, something inside of his body, an awakened instinct that he repressed throughout the year became restless and tired of being dormant. He leapt into the flames, grasping with his talons the tattered and charred remnants of the forest.

The flames roved his body, engulfing him in warmth. Marco didn't burn in the fire's embrace. He wasn't like any other creature. Really, he was fire itself and the fire accepted him as its own kin. It planted soft kisses on his feathers and gently crackled against his talons, massaging his tired being. That was the physical nourishment the fire provided the phoenix's being.

As for emotional, Marco knew from many past experiences that he would be in a better state of mind when he left the island today. He would feel giddy for the rest of the day, brought on by the pleasure the fire provided for him. The happiness he gleaned from this yearly exercise would relieve any and all stress that had built up during the year. The fire would slip the worries from his shoulders. He would be light as a feather.

But it would take five nights of bathing in the flames to achieve the full effect.

Marco snuffed out the bonfire by covering it with his wings, patting it down into the earth with the promise that he would return again tonight. Only when he was sure the embers weren't going to relight did Marco take to the sky once more, flying low over the ocean swells and back to the Moby Dick.


Later on that same day when the sun rose completely overhead, someone followed Marco all the way from the mess hall to the Moby Dick's figurehead. Marco didn't need to turn around to know who was behind him, for he felt this particular person's subconscious pull on him, so unique from all his other crewmates. It was the same pull that the fire he built yearly had, a pull that made Marco want to relinquish all restraint and give in to desire.

He couldn't do that. Not now, not ever. Besides, Ace was just beginning to trust everyone. He had just ceased his attempts at his Pops' life. Marco wouldn't risk the precarious balance that had come about for his own wants. As the First Division Commander of the Whitebeard pirates, he wasn't allowed to be selfish.

"Hey, Marco," Ace greeted him softly, sitting beside the man on the expansive whale head that served as the ship's bow. He sat a reasonable distance from Marco, though not too far as to appear suspicious or guarded in any way. "Can I ask you something?"

There was an undercurrent of nervousness in his tone that Marco picked up on immediately.

"You can ask me anything," Marco replied with a smile on his face, sticking his tongue out a bit in hopes that it would make Ace feel more at ease. He liked that it was he who Ace always sought out for answers. It made him feel like a mentor to this younger man and he enjoyed the time Ace gave him out of his day.

Ace licked his lips, almost anxiously. "Last night…"

Marco perked up, moving his body around to face Ace completely, re-crossing his legs under him. His attentive eyes urged Ace to continue.

"Well, I was on watch last night and I saw something…well, I don't really know if I should have alerted everyone or not. It didn't seem threatening."

Marco quirked an eyebrow and Ace rubbed at his freckled cheeks, suddenly feeling sheepish. "I mean, it was this…I think it was a bird. A giant blue bird. And you might think this is crazy but I swear it was on fire!"

Fighting to keep a laugh and a huge grin from erupting out of him, Marco merely inclined his head in acknowledgement. He managed to keep himself in check now that he wasn't looking at Ace's incredulous face, though it was hard not to mental snicker to himself. "I believe what you saw," he said slowly after he'd gotten himself under control.

Ace had only been a part of the Whitebeard pirates for a few moons. He was just beginning to prove himself as an adept member of the crew. He didn't know all of ship's secrets or its occupants' full powers. He didn't know he'd seen Marco's most illusory form last night.

"You believe me?" Ace asked sceptically. Marco returned a very firm nod and a slight encouraging smirk that brought out a hesitant grin on Ace's face. "I wasn't sure if anyone would believe me. I mean, this bird was like something out of a dream. It was beautiful. I would give anything to reach out and touch it. Hell, I would give anything just to catch a glimpse of it again."

Marco turned away to stare out at the ocean, swallowing thickly as he repeated Ace's enthused words in his mind. Apart from Whitebeard, nobody had ever been so receptive of his Devil Fruit ability. Nobody had really cared what he was and, if they did, they thought he was a freakish creature straight from the fires of hell. This unknowing appreciation Ace had for his bird form was a nice change of pace.

"You should have seen it though Marco; this bird had the coolest way of flying. I can't even describe it to you, but it was like it floated on top of the air. The New World sure has some amazing creatures in it."

Marco knew he'd be preening his feathers to Ace's words later and tried not to bask in the glow of Ace's gusto right at that moment, for it would raise questions from the boy beside him.

"I volunteered to have the two o'clock to five o'clock watch again. You should come on watch with me tonight. Since we're docked it could show up again and I think you'd like to see it too."

As much as Marco wanted to spend time with Ace up in the crow's nest he also had his own obligations for the next four days. Oddly enough they just so happened to coincide with Ace's own plans. After some pondering of the pros and cons of putting himself in such a situation Marco said, "I like to get a good night sleep while I can."

It wasn't a lie but it also wasn't the truth that Ace would find so fascinating to hear. Ace merely chuckled and tried to convince him several times more to go bird watching with him. Marco politely declined every time, citing his weariness couldn't be ignored so casually since he was one of the head figures in Whitebeard's crew. He needed to be well-rested in case they came under attack.

At last Ace gave up, sprawling out on the deck and changing the conversation topic to something more suitable to pirates. Like whose ship they might plunder and pulverize next.


A.N.: This is my first Marco x Ace story, so hopefully it isn't too bad! I'm completely speculating Marco's Devil Fruit powers and so far I'm having fun writing him. I have a feeling I will be bumping up the rating to 'M', so beware of that.

Anyways, if you read it please review it! I love hearing what my readers have to say.

~Reiki