Disclaimer: Don't own One Piece, like always.

"I've forgotten how long it's been since you've told me about your favorite fairy tales. I've thought for a long time and began to panic. Did I do something wrong again?"

Since the arrival and acceptance of the Whitebeard Pirate's newest recruit, Marco's life had taken a considerable turn for the better. Every day was now illuminated with the bright passionate flame that he found himself unconsciously drawn to; somehow he couldn't break away from the powerful fire as if it was an addicting drug. Every day, he found himself smiling at the prospect of conversing with the energy that lit up his world, which previously only held stars that burned coldly. It was only when he came into Marco's life that he realized what he had been missing out the entire time, the one thing he desired so greatly but never fully understood. This entire time he had been staring up at an empty night sky, but with the arrival of the new crewmate the sky now shone so beautifully.

This flame, both figuratively and literally, was Ace, a cheerful and boisterous young man, exactly the type of person the phoenix believed he would never get attached to. Ace was anything and everything Marco didn't stand for, the polar opposite. He himself was a calmer and more reserved kind, preferring to act as the older figure for his immature and impulsive younger brothers and refrained from any indulgent activities.

Perhaps it was the old saying, "opposites attract", that led to his attraction to the younger man.

It was so ironic how this worked out.

To his pleasant surprise, the younger expressed interest in Marco as well, though not in the way he secretly hoped for. But it was for the better, as Ace's attraction was healthier and more natural than his.

He knew that Ace must look up to him as the ideal older figure next to the old man; most of the crew did, so he often sought out advice from the phoenix, whether it be the life on the sea or other more trivial matters like how to shave properly. He constantly bombarded Marco with various questions, but always in a strangely shy manner he found so intriguing and cute. Despite his usual jovial attitude, whenever he directed a question at Marco he'd hesitate briefly and ask if the other was busy before proceeding, and there'd be another pause before he got around asking. One would expect him to outright spout his query whether Marco was occupied or not.

Slowly, their relationship progressed to the point where every night, Ace would knock quietly on Marco's door and step in, carrying a worn, leather bound book. It was his late brother's collection of writing he had left behind, Ace told him with sparkling eyes as he brushed his hand fondly against the tattered cover delicately titled Sabo's Stories. As the younger flipped through the yellowed pages, he shared the stories with him. It was another contrasting quirk about Ace; he loved fairy tales, and the compilation he owned were certainly one of the most well-written ones the phoenix had ever heard.

The darker side of him danced with glee, naively deluding him into thinking that perhaps Ace also returned Marco's not-so-platonic feelings, however miniscule they might be. Though it was true that he was one of the only people Ace ever confessed his love of fantasy, happily-ever-after stories, it did not mean anything. Marco would not allow himself to fall deeper in love than he had. It was already at an unsalvageable stage as it was.

But as much as Marco savored the nights they spent together, they came into a sudden halt, leaving him a growing, unsettled feeling. Ace's warm and comforting presence was no longer there, and it bothered him more than it should. Had he done something wrong? Were his feelings too bold and obvious that it scared off the younger? These thoughts bothered them often in the subsequent empty nights. Even in daylight, Ace avoided him, often excusing himself whenever Marco was nearby and scurried off to an unnamed place, disappearing for the rest of the day. During meals he'd quickly grab some food and run off again, giving Marco no opportunity to approach him. The younger simply refused to be in the same space as him, never talking and always running away whenever a chance offered itself.

Thatch had also offhandedly mentioned Ace seemed paler and more tired these days whenever he chanced upon the young man. He had developed dark circles under his constantly red eyes, and the amount he ate was a far cry from what he usually consumed. Ace's health was becoming endangered from… what?

What was going on?

Musing about the strangeness for the umpteenth time of the day, Marco wandered meaninglessly around the corridors until he spotted someone leaning against the wall with a grimace. The figure raised his head in alarm as he heard footsteps, dark eyes widening. Looking frantically to the other direction, he made an attempt to run, only to realize it was a dead end. In a weak whisper, Ace said, "Hi Marco…"

Based off of the song 童话 (Fairy Tale) by 光良 (Michael Wong). I am still reeling over how I can write sappy, romantic things like this; it just flows out so easily that it scares me… This story is going to be split into three short parts, this being the first, but there is also the possibility of me combining the second and third, I'm still not completely sure yet. And for the readers who also follow my other stories, I promise I will update them as soon as I have the time. I'm really buried under a lot of tests and schoolwork, on top of absolutely no inspiration/motivation.

Till next time!