Thatch opened his eyes blearily. All he could see was darkness around him. His entire body felt like a giant bruise. He closed his eyes as he exhaled a throaty breath, content to just lie there forever. As long as it meant that he didn't have to move, he would do it.
Blurry images flashed through his mind.
'A strange island.'
'A missing kitchen knife.'
'So much blood.'
He groaned, squeezing his eyes shut and trying to block out the memories. While most of them were blurry, they definitely were ominous signs! He was in serious trouble this time. What good would remembering do if he was still stuck here, dying in this godforsaken cell?
"Forgive me, Oyaji," he rasped once again before becoming still.
"One, two, three," a cheerful voice above him called before he felt an immense pain on his back.
His eyes flew open as he screamed, the pain far too great for any obscenities. The person above him was talking, trying to tell him something, but his vision and senses were leaving him. He passed out yet again.
How long he stayed asleep was anyone's guess. There were times he rose to the surface of his pain, only to be pulled back under again. During that time, he thought he heard a voice overhead, but it could just be some fever dream. The voice sounded far too pleased to be real unless of course, the person was sent here to torture him. Considering the rough treatment from earlier, it very well might be within possibility.
When he finally was coherent enough to open his eyes, he had the sneaking suspicion a few days had passed.
For the first time, he could take note of his surroundings. He was lying in a cell, constructed of cold grey stone from floor to ceiling. The only light source was from the cell door itself. Light streamed in through the small barred gap near the top of the door. But for the most part, he was surrounded by inky darkness.
He was about to close his eyes and go back to sleep when a chipper voice rang out from across the room.
"You're not dead!"
It was the same voice from before. He looked up in surprise to see a face hovering inches from his. To his vast surprise, it was the face of a kid. An actual kid, as in he looked between his early mid-teens. He had tan skin, black hair and huge dark eyes with a matching grin. He was covered in scrapes and bruises, some of them were sloppily bandaged.
"What are you doing here?" he asked, his voice sounding hoarse even to him.
The teen shrugged, coming to sit by him, the smile never leaving his face.
"I was looking for some food so I went to go hunt for some, but then I got jumped by this huge animal and it started chasing me. So I tried to fight back, but it tried to eat me! Can you believe that?"
Thatch continued to stare at him perplexed. No, he actually couldn't. But that was beside the point. What the heck was the kid talking about?
"So just when I thought it was going to get me, I ran into a tree! It was so surprised that it ran into a different tree." The teen began to laugh as he remembered it. "You should've seen the look on its face."
"Kid? What are you talking about?" Thatch asked, bringing a hand to his aching head.
The teen paused for a moment to give him a blank look. "It's Luffy, not kid."
"Alright…Luffy, how did you get here?" He tried to sit up but instantly regretted it.
For a second he thought Luffy wasn't going to answer, but then he jumped right back into his story.
"So I was going to see if I could eat it, y'know… now that it was all tired from hitting the tree. But it tried to attack me again."
Thatch sighed and closed his eyes. All this chatter was making his head pound. To his surprise, there was a loud and bone-chilling laugh.
He shot up, his injured body protesting as he searched for the source.
There, on the other side of the prison door, stood Teach. His grisly face appearing in the small barred window. His breath caught in his throat as the memories threatened to break through his mental wall.
"I see you met Luffy," the man said, a cruel grin on his lips. "Play nice you two. You will be spending a lot of time together."
Thatch shot him a repulsed glare as his arms gave out and he once again flopped to his back.
"Why?" he grit out as his voice threatened to give out. "Why did you betray pops?"
Black Beard let out another strangled laugh in reply. "It's not betrayal if I was never loyal in the first place. I was with you for one reason, and one reason alone. To get power and search for the fruit. Which you so kindly found for me."
"So why kidnap me? Why take the kid?"
The man nodded, as if pleased he had asked. "Well, you see, that alone isn't enough. I need recognition and fame. I figured that by kidnaping you, Whitebeard will be drawn to me. When your precious Oyaji comes to save you, I will do away with him and gain his status."
Thatch saw red after the traitor's confession. He would kill this man. Rip him apart.
"YOU'LL NEVER BE ABLE TO BEAT OYAJI!," he screamed with a ferocity that surprised even himself. "He is the strongest man on the seas! He will never lose to scum like you."
"Only time will tell. But I must say, I've always found your unwavering faith in that man sickening." Teach shrugged, not amused by his outburst.
"Not as sickening as your face!" the boy beside Thatch shouted.
The man looked startled at the poor insult. He bared his teeth in disapproval. "I've got to say kid, I'm a little surprised, I honestly thought you would be a little smarter."
"Well, I thought you would be smarter," the kid parroted back, crossing his arms angrily. "And your teeth look like a chessboard."
Who the hell was the kid? He didn't show an ounce of fear, only anger. But his insults left much to be desired. He didn't seem to hate the man with the same ferocity Thatch did either.
"You're nothing like him," Teach told him, shaking his head in mock disappointment.
"You're nothing like him!" Luffy said, apparently not done with his barrage of repeated insults.
Teach overlooked his lame comeback and turned to Thatch, "Luffy here will make sure you don't die, so hang tight."
"I'll make sure your face doesn't die…. with my fist!" Luffy screamed as the man walked away, leaving their limited range of sight.
To his vast surprise, Thatch felt laughter bubble up in his chest. The insults were very poor, but the kid's face was so serious. He clutched his aching ribs as he chuckled.
When he calmed down a little, he once again turned to the kid. "So it was you who was treating my wound. Thank you."
The seriousness quickly left his face as Luffy once again sat by Thatch. The dopey grin was back as he hugged his knees to his chest.
"How Old Are You?"
"Fifteen," he said, his eyes wide with confusion.
Thatch nodded. "Don't worry kid. We will get you back to your family, I won't let anything happen to you."
Luffy gave him a weird look but remained silent, something Thatch took as a blessing as he once again let the pain obscure his vision.
It had started off as a normal day, or at least as normal as things get on the ship. The one difference being Ace's presence. He had stopped his last attack on Oyaji weeks ago. In the absence of daily spars, they had offered him a position as second division commander just a few days earlier. Although the transition of events might seem odd to some, it made perfect sense to the crew. They had seen Ace go from a bloodthirsty monster to the laid back, friendly young man he really was. Oyaji liked him, a feeling he shared with all the crew. Even while Ace was attacking them, it was clear what kind of man he really was. Loyal to a fault, tough, trustworthy and someone who never gave up. He was strong in both body and heart, and brave enough to attack Pops without faltering. He was the kind of person who would make a great second division commander, so that's what he became.
Ace was the type of person who drew people towards him. Whether or not he knew it, he made friends easily, and people rooted for him. In the few short months he had been with them, he had managed to win over nearly the entire crew, Thatch included, without even trying.
But as easily as people trusted him, Thatch had seen a different side. A more fragile and broken side. Ace accepted their trust with open arms and would never do anything to betray it, but at the same time, he was hesitant to extend the same trust to them. That did not stop him from getting into all sorts of trouble with his new-found friends.
And that is exactly how the day started. Ace and Thatch were on deck, fishing around for the latest 'treasure' to put in Marco's bed. Of course, that's not what they found. After a few minutes of fishing around Thatch pulled out a strange shaped fruit from the sea. After asking Pops it turned out to be a devil fruit. Unfortunately, Teach had heard the entire exchange. He had been standing right there on deck when they discovered it. Thatch had been so preoccupied with the new discovery, he completely missed the evil gleam in the man's eyes.
The rest of the day had passed without incident. The entire crew was amused by what he found, but by nightfall it was more or less forgotten by everyone but one man.
Thatch was just returning to his room. Most of his brothers and sisters were in bed by now. He had spent the majority of the time in the kitchen preparing for tomorrow's meals. By this point, even the other chefs had left. He had noticed at that point that a kitchen knife was missing. But of course, on a ship like this, it wasn't exactly uncommon, things disappeared all the time. It was likely to reappear the next day in some elaborate prank. So Thatch ignored it.
But when he got to his room, something felt wrong. The door was open ajar, and light shone brightly through the crack. Frowning, he moved to investigate and was startled to find his entire room ransacked. At first he thought it was just a prank, but his pillow looked like it had been gutted with a knife. Whoever this was, wasn't messing around.
Then he remembered the devil fruit. He had hidden it between two loose floor boards. Not that he didn't trust his siblings, but some of them were greedier than what was healthy for them. What he didn't know at the time that it was Tech who had ransacked his room. The man hadn't left. He was hiding in the closet, waiting for Thatch's return. He had watched him pull up the floorboards and reveal his treasure. From there it was a simple matter of letting the knife do the work. The same knife he had stolen from the kitchen earlier that day.
He had stabbed Thatch in the back, thankfully missing his vital organs but doing enough damage to seriously wound the man. So as he lay bleeding out on the carpet, Teach stole the devil fruit and then stole Thatch. Without anyone on the ship ever waking up.
Thatch groaned once he regained consciousness, resurfacing from his memories.
"Yep?" The boy's face came into view, his ever-present smile as radiant as ever.
"How did he catch you?"
Luffy opened his mouth to launch back into his not so amusing animal tangent when Thatch weakly put up a hand to stop him.
"Skip to the part where you met him," he insisted firmly.
"Well AFTER I missed out on dinner, I was heading home SUUUUPER hungry and I ran into him on the path. He asked me if I was Monkey D. Luffy. When I told him I was, he started attacking me."
Thatch shook his head in pity. "That must have been awful."
Luffy shrugged. "Actually, it was kind of fun, until I lost." He said the last part with a frown, like he still couldn't believe it.
"Is that what happened to your face?"
The kid frowned and reached up, feeling the many bandages and scrapes. He shrugged noncommittally. "Some of them…I always look like this."
"You're always covered in bandages?" Thatch asked with disbelief.
He nodded, tugging experimentally on the bandage plastered on the bridge of his nose.
Deciding to burn that bridge when they got there, Thatch continued on. Being the oldest, he felt somewhat responsible for the kid. Even though he seemed less concerned about the situation than Thatch was. Still, it was his duty as a grownup to assure the kid that things would be all right.
"Either way, I'm sure everyone's worried sick about you."
Luffy laughed in earnest. "I doubt anyone's noticed I'm gone yet."
"Don't say that," Thatch scolded. "I know your family's worried about you, just like mine's worried about me."
Luffy looked up at him with interest. "What are they like?"
Thatch thought for a second. "Well, they're really loud, and obnoxious. But I guess I love those idiots."
Luffy laughed at that, and Thatch couldn't help but like the kid. He was one of the happiest teenagers he had ever met. He was completely carefree despite the situation.
A loud bang interrupted the two of them as someone kicked the door. Thatch's head shot up despite his body's protest. Teach himself was unlocking the prison door.
Luffy wasted no time in jumping to his feet. He stood between Thatch and Blackbeard, creating a human barrier. If the man didn't know any better, it almost seemed like Luffy was trying to protect him.
The man's lips curled into a cruel smile. "What? You're going to fight me? After what happened last time?"
"Bring it on!" Luffy yelled as he threw himself at the man. To everyone's astonishment, he managed to get a hit in. His enthusiasm had taken the man by surprise, and in turn, he landed a solid blow to his face. Unfortunately, it was the first and last he would get.
Moving with a remarkable speed, given his rather large frame, Teach grabbed the kid's wrist, throwing him to the floor. Thatch's hoarse screams for him to stop fell on deaf ears as he stomped him into the pavement.
"That won't work!" Luffy told the man as he panted with exertion.
To Thach's horror, Teach smiled, "I know." He pulled a thick pair of handcuffs from his belt and slapped it on the teen's wrists.
He watched as Luffy's face twisted with confusion as he fell limp. Thatch did his best to help, trying to crawl to his new friend, but all it did was agitate his injuries. Ignoring him for now, Blackbeard pulled the free cuff, effectively dragging Luffy along with it across the dirty cell floor. He snapped the second cuff to Luffy's free wrist, forcing his arms over his head as he attached the cuffs to a clasp in the wall.
"Scared now?" he jeered at the teen.
"No," Luffy answered back instantly, and from the look in his eyes, it really was true. He didn't fear this man.
Thatch couldn't help but smile a little at his resolve. But that smile quickly faded as Teach tethered Thatch to the wall with a chain on his ankle, ensuring he didn't go anywhere. Undoubtedly, if Thatch wasn't so injured, he would have received the same rough treatment as Luffy.
"Maybe now you will behave," Blackbeard told them coldly, his eyes narrowing dangerously.
Thatch looked at him in disbelief. In all the years he had known this man, he had never thought him capable of this level of cruelty. Sure, the two of them might not have been as close as he was to some of his other siblings, but he still considered this man a friend.
But as it turns out, he hadn't known him at all. No one had. He easily betrayed his crew, his family, and for what? A devil fruit. One that he could've had if he just asked for it. But he didn't, and look at him now, about to go to war with Whitebeard.
He watched, holding his breath as Teach stomped back to Luffy, giving him a long stare.
"Don't, he's just a kid, leave him alone!" he yelled desperately.
Teach glanced over at him before turning back to Luffy. For a second it seemed like he would hit the kid again when instead, his hand shot out, grabbing the straw hat on top of his head.
The effect was immediate. Luffy acted like he had just been shot. His mouth fell open as he gaped before his surprise gave way to pure, unrestrained fury.
"Give that back, you bastard!" he shouted, his face full of rage, catching Thatch off guard.
In all the time Thatch had known Luffy, the boy had yet to get riled up. Despite being imprisoned, Luffy acted like it was a mild inconvenience. Even as he got beat around like a rag doll, he hardly seemed to care. But the second Blackbeard touched his hat, all bets were off.
"Give that back or I'll kill you!" Luffy continued to scream, even after Blackbeard had left, leaving the cell dark.
"Luffy, you need to calm down," Thatch said after a few minutes of desperate screaming.
"GIVE ME MY HAT!" Luffy yelled, ignoring Thatch completely.
Thatch sighed and rested his head back on the cold stone floor. He hoped his family would hurry and come save him already. If not for him, then for this kid who may or may not be going crazy. For whatever reason, it reminded him of Ace.