I did promise the war would be fast paced, exciting and not that long of a wait. So, I'll do my best to get through it quickly.

XXX

It was another warm day. Sunny and bright outside. He could hear the frogs and the birds just outside, and smell how fresh the air was up here.

It would be so fun to go out and play around! To run through the woods. He would go- but right now he was sooo sleepy.

Ace was not as patient. He shook his shoulder roughly, ripping his arm free from where Luffy was holding it.

"Get up Lu!"

"Hmm," Luffy whined, turning over to hide his face in his pillow. It was too early. He wasn't done sleeping yet.

He felt Ace kick his leg in warning. "Come on, or I'm going to leave you behind."

"-Ive m're -inutes."

"Don't be lazy," was his brother's harsh response.

"Ace!" Someone chastised him, their voice rough as always. "Go easy on him, he's not feeling well."

Luffy heard Ace snort in contempt. "You mean he's being a crybaby." Ace's hand rested on his head even as he tried to press his face further into the pillow. "Come on Lu, you gotta toughen up if you ever want to be a pirate."

Luffy whined again, louder as he curled into his side, trying to ignore the pain in his stomach. "L-Later?

"No, Sab's waiting for us. We got to go."

"Ace," the bandit halfheartedly scolded him. "He's not as strong as you yet. You have to look out for him."

"I know, I know," Ace sighed, and Luffy felt his small hand pat his hair in comfort. "Okay, stay here n' rest up. We'll go by ourselves. We'll bring you back some food. Makino said she'll come by to check on you tomorrow kay?"

"Wait!" Luffy protested, but no one was listening to him. The hand was gone from his head, and he heard Ace rise to his feet.

"I gotta go," Ace told him. "We'll be back."

Probably-

XXX

The world was in chaos- everywhere and everything was violent

"Do you think he understands?"

Sabo looked over his shoulder at Ace before turning his attention back to the scene around them, his face etched with determination.

"No," Sabo told him, not needing to ask who or what he was talking about. He remembered the hurt and confusion on Luffy's face when he realized what Sabo intended to do. "He doesn't."

Luffy never understood why they tried to leave him behind. It didn't matter that he was a liability, or he was too young, or inexperienced to be anything but a hinderance. None of that ever sunk in- because they were always there to save him.

Ace fell silent for a moment, his gaze turning to the floor as they ran, easily hopping over the rubble, and circumventing any fighting between them and their target. Now was not the time to be having this conversation.

-But he couldn't help it.

"He's such a brat," his voice was low.

Sabo smiled despite himself. It was hard to imagine their extremely tough love approach had ended up making Luffy this way.

"Are we selfish?"

Ace was definitely a pirate, and not a revolutionary. "Yeah…," Sabo told him, "I think we are."

"But we're doing this for him!" Ace said.

"I know," Sabo told him, nudging Ace to the side as something that looked suspiciously like a flaming arrow shot their way. What the hell? He scanned the skies, hopping over one of the fallen stone pillars.

There was a principal the revolutionaries knew quite well. Marines liked to see the world as black and white. But the revolutionaries knew better. There was no good and bad. Just a bunch of self-centered idiots, ruining everything as they tried to make it better.

"It doesn't matter," Sabo said. "This is what we think is best for him- not what he wants." They weren't heroes for abandoning their little brother because he was too weak to keep up with them. Hell, if Ace had a choice, he would have done the same thing to Sabo less than an hour ago. The only difference was Sabo didn't give him a chance- and he was going to need him for this- both of them knew it.

Sabo grabbed Ace's wrist, pulling him to the right sharply as one of the Marine's tried to come at them with a sword.

Ace rolled his eyes, shaking him off as he kicked the dull part of the blade. The man watched stunned, as his weapon went spinning into the air.

Using the second of distraction Sabo lashed out, his boot connecting with the man's side, sending him crashing into his nearest comrades. Like a domino chain of idiots.

Sabo caught Ace's eyes, and they grinned at each other. Fighting idiot grunts, this felt way too much like the old days. If things weren't so dark, Sabo would have thought this was almost fun. But no- this way anything but.

The smile fell off his face and he kept going, feeling Ace besides him.

"Are we doing the right thing?"

They both knew the answer to that. Even if it didn't feel like it right now. This was their best chance to save Luffy while there was still time. To give him back his freedom. And the best place to find the one who had started all of this. They needed to kill Teach.

XXX

Anyone who said that Whitebeard was losing his edge clearly hadn't seen him angry. The man was a force to be reckoned with. Sengoku watched from the deck of his fleet ship, as the old man blew a hundred of his soldiers away with a single swipe of his staff. What a truly bloody battle this was going to be. Neither side willing to accept anything less than total success before backing down.

The elders, initially approving of a possible chance to remove the thorn that was Dragon's revolutionaries from their side once and for all, were now more skeptical the further the situation deteriorated. But there was no turning back now, everyone was well aware of that.

Holding his Den-Den in one hand, Sengoku stood by as it connected, the frequency dulled and corrupted by the distance of reaching the underground.

"Most of the tunnels are collapsed sir," the agent informed him.

Sengoku would have had higher hopes that everyone was crushed in the unauthorized explosion, if not for the fact that Fire Fist, Marco the Phoenix, and The Revolutionaries second in command hadn't survived, and made their way topside. And no doubt if they had managed it, the others weren't far behind.

"Any sign of the kid or the other Whitebeards?"

"No sir," the agent was prompt and quick as always. "Searching the entire network of tunnels will be near impossible considering the structural damage."

"What are the odds of finding him?"

"If he is still down here, around 30%, possibly higher, around 40 or 50, if he is alone."

He wasn't, Sengoku knew that by watching Fire Fist. His actions were more telling than anything else. After everything he had gone through to protect his foster brother, he would never have left him alone down there in that weakened state. No, Portgas had a plan- and annoyingly enough it looked like the Whitebeard pirates were in on it. Reports of their apparent feud and betrayal had clearly been overstated.

The elders would be displeased. But this was far from over. In one move they had managed to draw both the Whitebeards, and the Revolutionaries out, meeting them headlong in a trap. Not to mention Dragon's offspring was still heavily in their grasp.

If he didn't succumb to his injuries (as was still a likely option), then retreat would be near impossible. No ship, nor criminal would escape today, not with how heavily the marines patrolled these rocky and harrowing waters. Any ship that sailed through the passage would do so once the war was decided- not sooner.

"Keep searching," Sengoku instructed. "Find him and bring him to me."

"Understood, CP-0 out." The transmission cut off.

XXX

Teach's gaze darkened as he looked out over the chaos just below his perch. His eyes scanned the crowed of assembled marines and pirates, quickly picking Whitebeard out of the group. Marco was there, perched on his ex-captain's shoulder.

-That was annoying

Teach had hoped he had died, crushed beneath thousands of pounds of bedrock. His carefully laid plans were coming undone around him. But, not all was lost. His eyes settled on Whitebeard again. He had him right where he wanted him. It was time to-

"ACK!" Teach was forced to step back as a huge gust of fire swept towards him. His powers surged forwards, and the fire died as quickly as it had come.

"HEYY!"

"HEYYYY!" A familiar voice called, loud enough to carry over the sounds of the fighting.

"Whuh?" Teach looked over the jagged rock.

Ace stood there, several meters below him on the uneven terrain of the base. He was drenched in fire, that seemed to seep from him as effortlessly as his anger. He crossed his arms. Staring up at Teach with such disgust on his face, honestly before a couple of days ago Teach didn't even know his old commander was capable of that level of hatred.

Of all of the enemies he had made lately, Ace was the one he was least surprised to find hunting him. Not that it would matter for very much longer.

It wasn't seeing his ex- crew mate that surprised him. It was the little revolutionary brat, that seemed to be everywhere all of a sudden. He stood besides Ace, wearing a similar look of disgust for Teach.

"Ah, Commander," Teach called watching Ace snarl. Apparently, it was asking too much that they had died in the explosion as well. "I thought I would be seeing you."

"I'm going to kill you!" Ace promised, taking a step towards him.

Yeah, he had basically expected that. At least with the Whitebeards it had been a typical pirate betrayal and power play, the kid- well that had been personal to Ace. All of that work just to make some mighty strong enemies. Annoying-

"Who's your friend Commander?"

"Don't call me that!" Ace snapped. "Is this funny to you!" He gestured to the war raging on around them. "Is this what you wanted!"

No, it wasn't. But he had to salvage a tricky situation- pretty flawlessly to saw the least. "I wanted you," Teach told him. "-To join me!" That was foolish though. "Now I just want what you can give me!"

Ace's eyes narrowed. "A painful death!"

There it was. There was the young man's fire that never failed to intrigue Teach. He had wanted that spark on his crew. No need to wonder where he had inherited it from. The man's eyes slid to the blonde boy besides him.

"Oh, and who are you? The Revolutionaries guard dog? And your sure you want to throw your life away on your bosses' personal vendetta?"

"Go to hell!" the boy snapped, and the pure fire in his voice surprised Teach. It almost rivaled Ace's.

His surprised was replaced with satisfaction as he noticed the broken goggles strapped around the blond boy's neck. Well, that explained something. Actually- that explained a little too much.

Teach frowned as the flames rose yet again to meet him- and he battled them back with his darkness, quelling them as quickly as they sprung- directing his tendrils towards Ace.

-And leaving himself wide open for the blonde boy to throw himself at him.

Teach had to duck quickly, narrowly avoiding a painful collision with the blunt edge of the kid's staff- which honestly just looked like a shabby metal pipe.

He reached out to grab the boy's weapon, flipping him away with a twist of his hand, nearly slipping as Ace's fire crept up on him. Gritting his teeth with determination he turned back to Ace feeling the hollow expand outwards, threatening to overwhelm the teenager. But Teach never got the chance. In the split-second absence, the blonde brat was back at it, swiping at him with bone shattering force for such a crappy weapon.

These two, like a dance, or a single hive mind. One would move, and the other would counter never a second off. They were practiced that was for sure.

Teach thought of the glasses again, how the stupid kid had tried so hard to protect them. Perhaps Dragon had been more involved in his offspring's life than Teach had imagined.

Either way, these two were annoying. They would need to be-

-Gone

In the blink of an eye, faster than his mind could process- faster even then his thoughts -the world changed.

An entire mountain side worth of ice flooded the battlefield, racing right past Teach, and completely overwhelming the two boys.

It happened so quickly, like an avalanche, as a sizable chunk of the courtyard was encased in snow and crystal-like glass… no- ice.

Teach turned his head, to where the famed admiral Aokiji stood, alongside Sengoku on the deck of a massive marine ship.

Their targets- the two boys- were nowhere to be seen, buried beneath thousands of pounds of ice.

XXX

The hand pet his hair gently, patting his forehead in a silent promise.

"I gotta go," Ace told him. "We'll be back."

We're always going to come back for you-

"NO!"

Luffy shot up, panting and panicked as his eyes adjusted to the darkness.

"ACK!" He felt the floor under him shutter. No, not quite. It wasn't the floor- rather Thatch. Luffy had been laying on the man's leg.

"Gah- Luffy," Thatch told him, holding his heart with one hand. "You scared me."

Luffy looked around, confused. "Where are we? Where's Ace? Where is everyone else? What-,"

Thatch recovered, covering the other's mouth before he could keep asking questions. "Luffy! Calm down, Okay?"

Luffy nodded, eyes still wide as Thatch removed his hand. "You just asked me all of that a couple hours ago, do you remember that?"

Luffy shook his head. He remembered having a bad dream, but not much else aside from being really scared and sleepy. Now he was just confused.

Thatch clearly held back a sigh. "Okay then, we," he gestured at the two of them, "Are sick people. So, we're staying down here until all of the fighting stops… I know," he said seeing Luffy's face. "Trust me kid, I don't like it either. If anyone deserves to kick Teach's ass, it's the two of us."

"Where's Ace?"

Thatch groaned, rubbing his temples with his hand, clearly exhausted. "Lufffyyy."

"What? Is everyone okay?"

"Yeah, I mean I think they're fine. But -damn… just ignore me okay. I'm still getting over the first time you asked me that… and everything else."

"So… he's gone?" Luffy asked, and Thatch looked at him from in between his hands.

"Yeah- Luffy… They left to go help my Captain fight the marines so we can get out of here." He reached for the kid, seeing his surprised and hurt face and expecting the subsequent breakdown that accompanied the news last time.

Luffy bit his lip. "He's such-,"

"I know," Thatch comforted him.

"A Stupid JERK!"

"Oh!" Thatch pulled back. "Your mad?" This was new.

"Yeah!" Luffy defended. "He promised! Both of them- Promised ME!" He tried to get up to his feet, but Thatch held him back gently.

"Okay- okay, clam down." When Luffy got upset, he had a tendency to break stuff- and people with his mind. Thatch had never met a haki user this young, let alone conqueror's haki. With insane untapped potential. When he was older it would serve him well, but right now it just meant they had a scared and traumatized kid who could go off like a bomb any time he got upset, which was a lot lately. A little while ago he had cracked the ceiling and gave Thatch a splitting headache.

"I know it's unfair," Thatch told him. "and I know your scared, and sad, and confused- more than you're letting anyone see. But Luffy, everything's going to be okay now. I really believe that."

Luffy huffed, turning his head away so Thatch couldn't see the hurt he knew was there. "You don't know that-," he said.

"No, I understand that." Thatch told him. "I just trust my family like I know you trust yours. That's all we can do right now."

"No, it's not." Luffy met his gaze this time and despite himself Thatch felt himself shiver. Yeah- he was afraid he would say that. From time to time, Luffy's determination scared even him- kind of like being in a cage with a wild animal. Not that he was actually scared of Luffy- more scared for him and being entirely uncertain of what he would do next. Thatch had learned by now that no one could make the kid do anything he didn't want to.

There was another reason Thatch had taken them down here. Well, mainly it was to try to get away from the marines and to safety. But he had also had to swim through a flooded section- something he knew Luffy couldn't do on his own.

Well aware he had just taken up the reigns from Teach, Thatch tried not to think too much about it. -Besides, the only reason in the entire world he was doing this was because Ace had begged him too.

They knew that Luffy would try to go after them, even if that meant going through an active war zone. Marco had made sure to give Thatch extra of everything, from medication, emergency food powder, and the drug he had used to knock him out- while carefully explaining dosage. Something Luffy must have managed to avoid taking for a second time. Everyone also knew Thatch didn't have the heart to force this on Luffy. Not after everything Teach had done. So here they were.

"Luffy," Thatch began, very careful to pick his words. "Don't you trust me?"

Luffy nodded without pause. -That was good.

"And don't you trust Ace- even though you don't agree with him."

He nodded again.

"Then why don't you listen to us, just this once."

The kid made a face. "-Cause I don't want to."

Thatch fought off the urge to hit his forehead. It had been so long- he had almost forgot how crazy Luffy could make him. "I got that," he said. "But kid, if you know you might die, why go out there? Why risk everything- everyone who loves you, your life… for what? You can live, with us- with your brothers- everything you want, you can have it. You just have to stay here with me! Otherwise… otherwise you're just going to die."

There was more he wanted to say- so much more- he had to make him understand! But before he got the chance Luffy's bandaged hand gently thunked his face, and Thatch, stunned into silence, sat there.

"You done?"

"No!" Thatch said.

Luffy bonked his face again, and Thatch grabbed his hand annoyed. "This is literally like talking to teenage Ace!" Thatch accused him, as if that meant anything to him. "You two deserve each other! Why did you do that!"

Luffy tried to wiggle his hand free, but Thatch didn't let go and he gave up. "Well, you were talking a lot and I wanted you to stop."

"I'm trying to get you not to be a suicidal idiot like your brother!"

"Thatch," Luffy said, and there was actual amusement in his voice, like he thought Thatch had just said something funny. "You don't know what's going to happen! Nobody does. Maybe if I leave, I'll die, but maybe I'll die if I don't. We could drown or get crushed- or get eaten by a meaner giant water lizard!"

Thatch reached out to feel his forehead, but Luffy pushed his hand away. "I'm not crazy!"

"You're talking like it!"

"I'm not scared of dying," Luffy told him, determined to make him understand- and just determined. "I am scared of this," he gestured around them. "I don't want to be here, I don't want to lose myself, or my family, or my freedom ever again!"

"Luffy-," Thatch tried but Luffy shook his head, refusing his comfort.

"I'm not scared of dying," Luffy repeated. "But I don't want to die with regret," he gestured to the dark room around them. "And I regret all of this!"

"That's not fair!" Thatch told him softly. "You didn't have a choice."

"I know," Luffy told him, squeezing his wrist. "I tried my best, I promise I did."

"I know," Thatch breathed. "We all know that Luffy."

"But it wasn't good enough. It didn't change anything! I didn't get to choose- so it wasn't my fault- but I have a choice now."

Strong people got the freedom, and weak people, people like Luffy had to either fight for it, or lose it. And he had lost it. Right until Ace had given it back to him. Since then, he had chosen to follow Ace, as he always had. But right now- he wasn't a prisoner anymore. He knew Thatch didn't understand. That he thought Luffy was just being selfish and stubborn. But this was more than that. This was who he was- who he was choosing to be. If it was between living in fear, and dying then-

"I chose to die without regrets!" Luffy told him. Under the sky and-, "Free!"

-and nobody got to take that from him.

Thatch was silent for a good long moment, he looked sad. No, it was more than that- he looked… decided.

He shook off Luffy's grip on his wrist as he moved to stand up. "You really are like him."

Luffy watched him as he stood, confused. "Thatch?"

"Damnit Luffy!"

Luffy tilted his head, confused by his friend's anger.

"Fine! How are you getting out? We're surrounded by water."

Luffy looked around the tiny room as well, frowning. "Well, you put us here!"

"I'm not helping you kill yourself!" Thatch told him sharply.

"Okay," he agreed easily, looking around. That was fair. He would get out of here by himself, he would figure out something. He always did.

"Luffy!" Thatch said, and something in his voice made Luffy frown, looking back to him. "Hm?"

"Get up!"

Still frowning, Luffy rose onto unsteady legs. He was barley up for longer than a couple of seconds when Thatch struck out, leaning down he swept at his legs, sending Luffy tumbling over onto his stomach. He huffed as he sat up.

"What was that for?"

"Get up! Come on."

Rubbing his now bruises jaw Luffy scrambled up, only to be knocked down once more.

"Thatch stop it!" he whined.

Thatch sighed, dropped to his knees as he grabbed Luffy's shoulder, flipping him back onto his stomach as he pinned his arms behind his back. "You want to go out there, with all those people who are going to kill you? Well kid, you got to get past me first… OUCH!"

Luffy had turned his head around, well past human limits, to bite Thatch's wrist. The man recoiled, further falling back as Luffy kicked out, catching him in the jaw.

Luffy huffed again, as he sat up, looking up at his friend, a smudge of blood at the corner of his mouth. "I don't want to fight you."

Thatch laughed, humorless. "Trust me- it's literally the last thing I want."

Luffy nodded, slowly processing. "You'll let me go- if I can get past you…" he said, as if wrapping his head around it.

"That's not what I-,"

"Okay," Luffy told him, that familiar glint in his eyes. "Let's do it!"

XXX

Challenge accepted Thatch!

Never bet against Luffy! (He took it as Thatch's blessing to leave).

So everybody being kind to Luffy, and making him feel loved again, especially lately, lent him the strength to do this, even after everything he's been through. So in a way it's sweet Luffy was able to go through all that without losing himself. (But he also picked a really bad time to self-actualize.) So, in defense of Thatch: not being able to save Luffy was one of the darkest and loneliest things that happened to him. So, he will do anything to try and save him this time.

I'm slowly making a list of characters I want in this fight. But please let me know what you guys think. (Short of Law showing up in his submarine lol).

Your chapter was brought to you by an unearned sick day- and my third covid test of the day. Remember when you could just be sick- without having to triple prove it's not covid! We are moving next door where I work, and oh my goodness, me and my coworkers are dying of three completely separate medical conditions. I went in to work on Saturday and was answering literally my first email for the day, and woke up hours later drooling on the desk. Then I went home and slept for eighteen hours. They gave me today off so I could go get tested for like strep, and covid, and who knows what else (just to tell me I managed to catch this season's rare mystery Pokémon). But I am feeling much better! And I used the off day to write another chapter! So everyone (but my poor poor co-worker) wins!

I'll update again soon this time! We will get past this war and get to the happy part of this kinda dark story. But in the meantime, please remember that this is just a STORY! It's not real! (It's not even remotely cannon). It's just for fun, and if it's not fun, then please don't stress yourselves out over it.

(And of course, everyone take care of yourselves!)

XXX

RimaPichi: I wish I could notify you on this one too! But until you check back! Happy readings!

Haha my dyslexia read it as "Shocked to see this fic continue" and I was like "Ouchie, I really need to update more XD". But that is so sweet! I can't even read this story all the way through once (too much cringe), but I love to hear other people enjoy it! I am also suck a sucker for the whump! But I promised happy times ahead! (and you are so kind!)

VayNami: Why thank you! Yeah… Luffy's been better- but he is a tough lil guy! He will pull through somehow!

Aquarica: Luffy deserves so much more than I have given him haha. I promise in a couple of chapters he will get all of that! And thank you! Thatch is truly such an angel person (I miss him!). Hopefully the new slightly angry dynamic isn't too bad! They still love each other! Just louder this time!

Mel72000: So true.

Wishfull-star: Luffy never makes anything easy on anyone. What a lil brat!

They will get out soon! Like a little too soon! But I am so glad you liked it! Stay safe as well.

kirtiY: Sweetie! (I hope you're not still reading this story), but if you are -it's okay. I mean this, your mental health is way more important this this stupid story. I wrote it for me, and some people like it and some don't- and that's OKAY! Please find one you like better and just know, no hard feelings! I've definitely been called worse.

(Also, if you want to file a complaint against my story, you got to go to the admin. It doesn't work just posting a comment on the story. Do what you got to do!)

Super Neko Majin: I'm sorry to hear you are going through that. I think it's very understandable to want attention where you can get it. But I'm glad to hear that you were able to make some nice friends!

Nancy2239: Why thank you!

JustCallMeCookie: Aww, thank you! Me too haha. When One Piece ends, I'm getting therapy.

That is so sweet. I'm so glad to hear someone had a positive (I hope?) experience with it! It's my stress/ frustration project so it means a lot to now other people use it for some good old fashioned escapism as well. I know I have also been promising this for years- but I eman it this time. Luffy is sooo close to being free. Teach, might take a little bit longer!

And of course! Writing this is such a nice escape from my real-life troubles haha. I am always happy too! And that is so sweet of you to say. Thank you for such a kind review! I will forever appreciate all you wonderful readers!

Crazykittylover: I made it! I ended up missing work but I finally made it to the store and oh my god apples are sooo good! Why didn't anyone remind me!

Poor Marco, he really deserved that- he did so much philanthropy work lol. Thatch too- just with different brothers. (I love Luffy too- brat an all!). His brothers have started their revenge. (Or tried!) Thank you for your kind words! Inspiration is easy to come by! It's time and money that I lack haha! I'll do my best.

Guest: Thanks!

xXxWolvesInTheNightxXx: Aw, thank you. Glad you liked it. Poor abused Ace. Picked on by his lil brothers.

Shandrabowlby: Of course! I'm glad you liked it.

qiaraz97: Yay! Thanks for reading! More Ace and Sabo duo to come. The best partners yet! They will get revenge for Luffy if it's the last thing they do!

Poor Luffy, he will need a little while. Thatch of course was great to Luffy! And vice versa. They really needed ach other. And will continue!

Haha, you won't have to wait long for Luffy to escape to the fight.

OFC!

Colibri 84: Merci!

eri1325: Right! And thank you. Thatch is such a good dude. ASL will be together soon!