A/N~ Hi guys! Sorry this took so long to get out, I've been dealing with a looooot of personal stuff that I'd rather not get too into, Regardless, it stunted my muse, took my crops and stole the chaos emeralds! (Also I've been hyper fixated on Sonic the Hedgehog... again... so look out for future fics of that XD)

Also, I now have an active ao3 account! It's called mad_and_thick_as_thieves, please do check it out! I only have one fic on there at the moment, but I'll be uploading more fairly soon, including some fics I have on here!

FIRST, some honourable mentions!

Saringold - Awww thank you! I hope this gives you feels too! XD

Tasmano - please, have mercy on my spine! Its gone through enough as a woman in my mid-twenties XD Thanks for the review!

Dew - Yes, I try my best to never skip over traumatic events. I know a lot of writers in the industry (not naming names but they're the big ones) who will just flat out ignore character trauma when It could be an interesting dive into the character and how they deal with it after. Still, trauma isn't funny, nor is it all that fun to write when it gets as dark as this, but I'm glad you've enjoyed it!

Special02 - Please, I BEG you, never neglect sleep! You'll suffer for it! But AAAAAH thank you so much!

Hollowsea - as an aspiring writer myself, you should NEVER throw away your attempts! Keep going!

Cheshire Pirates - EEE thank you! I make no promises about Teach tho XD


That's all I have time for, but I read and appreciate every single one of you! Hope you enjoy this next chapter!


Enjoy :)

Chapter 38

As a Devil Fruit user and a pirate of the New World, Marco knew all too well the dangers of the sea. Her temperament, mercy, vengeance and hatred of those with the spawn of a devil in their veins. He knows it intimately.

(The memory of his capture because of that hatred, the all-encompassing weakness that weighs him down like an anchor, the sting of rejection, still makes him flinch.)

So he was rightly sceptical when faced with the apparent truth that there was an island, an entire civilization, living and thriving at the bottom of the ocean, deeper than any human could dive, or any submarine could hope to venture. He refused to believe, thinking it yet more of Thatch's wild stories he'd tell to get the young, gullible phoenix boy riled up over nothing. It's not like he'd ever see it, anyway. The sea wouldn't let him.

Then Namur, a Fishman, joined the crew, and then Marco had no choice to believe. Poor Namur was at the mercy of an excited sixteen-year-old bombarding him with questions of his homeland, his culture, everything till the break of dawn; lucky for him that Namur is more patient than most.

Still, that patience was tested to its very foundations when Marco learned that their ship could sail to the bottom of the sea to visit that incredible, impossible island. In a bubble. Marco hadn't shut up for days leading up to and after their miraculous submersion, much to Whitebeard's delight and the rest of the crew's chagrin and fondness.

Fast forward twenty years, and it hasn't gotten old.

He watches now as the bubble ceiling rises up and up, engulfing the Moby and her crew within a clear, slippery, yet deceivingly durable wall of elastic-like substance. Any minute now, they'll be sinking, beginning the journey at last to Fishman Island, and after, the New World.

Taking three excited, brave and wonderful young brothers with them.

It's been over twenty-four hours, and Marco still can't believe it even as he watches the trio reach over the railing to poke and prod in wonder at the bubble coating. Sabo's mouth runs a mile a minute, questions pouring out of it like water from a dam at an indulgent Rakuyo, the closest one Sabo could snag and drag over to interrogate. Ace has his arms around Luffy's waist whilst the little one's arm stretches to press a palm against the bubbly wall. His delighted peals of laughter turn Ace's grin bright, even as Luffy wriggles indignantly in a bid to go over the railing completely; a delusion Ace will not entertain, thankfully.

"Lu, I don't care if it's the coolest thing you've ever seen," Ace admonishes with a grunt when a stray elbow knocks his jaw, "you're not—ow, freakin'—going overboard!"

Luffy's head swivels to pout at him. Marco braces himself—

"Wa-wa-wanna see! Wanna t-t-touch it up cl-l-lose, Ace!"

And he still can't fight the stupid, wobbly grin that stretches across his face. He knows it's there, knows more than a handful of his passing siblings can see it, yet he can't find it in him to be embarrassed. They all feel the same.

(The delight Marco felt, the relief and pride, the moment Luffy met Whitebeard's eyes and spoke, clear as day and clumsy as a newborn deer, was immeasurable. It was like watching the sunrise for the first time after years spent in darkness, feeling the rain on your skin after months of drought, like the wind in his wings carrying him over the waves of an intolerant sea and into the open arms of his father.

Luffy's voice was the sound of freedom in its purest form. And god help him should he ever get 'used' to it, forget what it took for the chains that locked that beautiful sound away to break and fall.)

The Moby lurches, Adam's wood groaning, as she's slowly pulled under the surface. The crew waves and calls their farewells to Rayleigh and Shakky, the couple standing atop the highest, bubbly hill to see them off. Marco can see Silvers' trademark smirk from here, ever the unflappable sailor.

He's not fooling anyone.

(Marco was there when Luffy had hugged the man minutes before their departure, beaming for all his immeasurable worth and chiming with a new voice, rough as sandpaper but clear as a bell—"t-t-thanks, R-R-Rayleigh!"

And Rayleigh had been expecting it, must have because the man somehow knows everything, but that didn't stop him from stiffening, staring at the boy with eyes that filled up with the faintest traces of tears. Certainly didn't stop him from throwing his head back, laughing, and then gathering the gangly kid in his arms.

Shakky had watched, her smile small but just as bright and proud. She'd leaned closer to Marco. "He'll make a fine King," she'd whispered.

Loyalties aside, Marco couldn't help but agree.)

The boys wave as hard as their arms will let them at the older pair before the Groves of Sabaody disappear from their sight, the sea enveloping them in her watery embrace. The bubble coating holds steady and true, and the Moby sinks deeper and deeper. At last, they're on their way.

With their storage fully stocked and their Log Poses set, it should be smooth sailing to the undersea island. But Marco is under no illusion that it'll be a peaceful voyage.

And he's right. He always is.


The first hour after they set off beneath the waves, Luffy's voice is heard throughout the ship; his speech is clumsy, awkward, a decibel louder than a whisper. He'll stutter over every other word, other times signing as he talks, and it frustrates him. But there's always someone there to assure him that it's normal, he's doing amazing and he'll only get better. He has to look no further than Marco to see how far he'll go, how well he'll do.

So to pass the time, Luffy practices. He ventures into Marco's room and whispers under his breath, letting his hands move with him (it'll become a nervous tic, but that's alright), reading aloud with Sabo in Marco's pillow nest, breezing through some of his favourite books until they fall asleep. Ace finds them like that, shares a soft grin with Marco, and buries the pair in layers of blankets.

It's at the three-hour mark that Luffy gets bored of reading and whispering, bored of being stagnant in a bubble, and makes the mistake of asking for help from the rest of the crew. Who is more than happy to give Luffy a few things to say...

"Sa-Sa-Sabo, lunchtime! 's t-t-time to b-beat some meat!"

"... beat some what?"

"H-Hey M-M-Ma-rco, Thatch a-as-ked me to t...tell you that y-y-you're a good egg. Wh's that mean?"

"It means he's going overboard, yoi."

"Hey, Izo, H-Haruta asked m-me to tell you that y-you're a d-d-dryshite. Wh's that mean?"

"Luffy, dear, could you please bring me my largest pistol? I need to shoot my brother."

It comes to a head, far too late for Marco to stop it, when a ballsy Rakuyo coerces Luffy into approaching Whitebeard. Grinning up at their Captain, he says—

"H-ey Whitebeard! Gettin' you t' try 'n stop d-drinkin' so much i-is ab-bout as u-useful as t-tits on a bull!"

Whitebeard laughs hard enough to trigger his devil fruit, hundreds of feet below the ocean's surface. Marco doesn't hesitate in grabbing Rakuyo and punting him off the edge of the crow's nest. He's laughing all the way down.

"I regret nothing," he says later in the infirmary, wearing the cast around his broken arm with pride. Whiskey sighs and cuffs him upside his concussed head.

(Now the only ones remotely trusted to help Luffy with his speech are his brothers, Marco, Izo, Thatch (a reluctant decision) Jozu, Vista and Blenheim. Not even the Captain can be trusted, given he knows the filthiest words and slang the New World has ever known. Pirates they may be, but there are limits, dammit.)

At the four-hour mark, Sabo emerges from Izo's cabin dressed to the nine's in a deep blue circle skirt with a frilly white petticoat, long black stockings held up with garters around the thigh (so that's how Izo hides his knives), and a lovely pair of black heels with golden buckles. He's buttoned up his coat and tightened his cravat, his top hat cocked atop his curls. He looks as refined and polished as any noble, but even the most pretentious asshole would turn their noses at the eyeliner, the black lipstick, the deep blue eyeshadow and black and blue sparkling nails.

"He looks like he'd snap your neck during a hatter's tea party," Haruta says, watching Sabo strut across the deck as if he owned it, flaunting his temporary look and loving every second of it. Sailors make way for him like a parting sea. Ace chokes on air at the sight of him, and Luffy crows in delight when Sabo strikes a pose.

Jozu folds his arms and nods. "He'd poison the tea, too."

Izo watches as Sabo grants Luffy's wish for a twirl, skirts flaring beautifully, and he sighs, hands clasped to his chest like an old, proud mother. "That's my boy."

Marco pinches the bridge of his nose.


Hour five and things have calmed down. Thank the gods.

They're making good time, having encountered no unexpected currents, Sea Kings or not-so-mythical beasts as of yet, (though Marco won't hold his breath). Lunch came and went with little fuss. Luffy has exhausted himself (finally) and was last seen napping with Kotatsu in their cabin. Sabo is down in Navigations with Haruta and Namur, and Ace...

Marco passes Whitebeard's chair on his rounds and catches the tail-end of a conversation between the old captain and an enraptured Ace, sitting on Whitebeard's giant knee and drinking in every word with wide eyes and a wider smile. Both are bundled in coats to ward off the chill of the depths; even Ace, a boy with fire in his soul, isn't completely immune to the frighteningly low temperatures of the ocean floor. He looks snug in his fluffy knitted hat and two layers—three if the arm of Whitebeard's gargantuan coat draped over his shoulders count as such.

Marco doesn't linger long, doesn't try to listen in. Instead, he smiles, the Phoenix trilling delightedly within him, and goes about the rest of his rounds with a lighter heart.

Behind him, a father laughs with his newest son.


Hour six, and the peace is broken with the arrival of a migrating pod of Sea Kings.

The pod thankfully steers mostly clear of the Moby, but that doesn't stop one, a Sea Cow calf, from drifting a ways from the pod and too close for comfort to investigate the ship, its snout prodding curiously at the bubble coating.

And that doesn't stop an equally curious trio of brothers from stepping as close to the railing as possible to marvel at the creature. The only saving grace is that Ace has the sense to hold the younger two by the back of their coats with a death grip to keep them from jumping the ship entirely. Still, Marco's heart does flips in his chest when Luffy stretches an arm out of the bubble to pet the damned thing.

To the crew's collective relief, the calf isn't unsettled at all by the young ones and, to Marco's awe, nuzzles its snout against Luffy's hand. Sabo swears under his breath, grinning wide. Ace laughs breathlessly. Luffy, of course, beams. "G-G-Good cow!" he giggles, rubbing the creature's snout roughly, legs trembling as the sea saps him of his energy.

The calf groans a burbling roar, low from its throat, unnervingly loud even leagues under the sea. Most of the crew cover their ears and wince.

But Luffy blinks, tilting his head. His brows furrow, his nose scrunching. "...huh. Y-y-you think so?"

The crew is deathly silent. Marco watches, fighting the urge to pinch himself. He dares a glance at Whitebeard standing tall behind him. He feels a touch pissed that the old man's expression gives nothing away save for his grin that shines with pride.

"Luffy..." Sabo taps Luffy on the bridge of his hat. "Are you... are you talking to the Sea King?"

Luffy looks at Sabo. He looks at Ace, who seems like he's fighting to keep his jaw locked shut. He looks back at the giant calf and shrugs. "Dunno," he says, signing the word lazily as he speaks. "H-He's makin' noises t-that don't sound l-like words but s-still kinda s-sound like words. Y'can't hear im?" He looks back up at his brothers, arching a brow. "I can h-hear 'im jus fine!"

The elder two stare at Luffy. The calf stares at Luffy. Everyone stares at Luffy.

Then Sabo turns to Ace. "Is this really the weirdest thing we've seen him do?"

Ace seems to think it over. He shrugs, shaking his head, "Nah, probably not."

"Yeah, I didn't think so. I mean, he talks to Kotatsu all the time, so this is..."

"Yeah, I figured. Good job, Lu, you can inexplicably talk to animals." Ace pats Luffy on the back.

"Yeah, good job, little brother. You have a mystery power." Sabo pats Luffy's shoulder.

Luffy giggles and goes right back to chatting with the Sea King.

The Whitebeard's, however—

"ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?!" the pirates howl, arms in the air.

Whitebeard, of course, laughs.

Marco groans into his hands and wonders, briefly, how he's not being paid enough for this.


He feels their arrival moments before the ships docks.

It's involuntary, of course. He's in the middle of a meal, and no one with enough sense in them would dare interrupt. But Edward Newgate and his crew are not the kinds to follow certain rules, nor are they ever subtle in anything they do; their combined Haki is strong, and it sings in his ear now.

He stops chewing.

His men notice immediately. "U-Um, sir?" one brave soul asks, saluting as he approaches. "Is everything alright?"

He swallows, then stands. He lifts his gaze to what he can see of the shimmering bubble layer of Fishman Island's borders.

"You lot stay here," he says, "guard the ship. If anyone asks for me, tell them I'm on break. If it's an emergency, call me. Understood?"

"Yes, sir!" they chorus, snapping to attention. Good crew, this lot. Some of them may go places.

With that, he steps off the ship and into the city, following the trail of Haki through the winding streets.

They're not far. He can feel it.

I can feel them... they're really here.


Fishman Island is beyond anything Sabo could have ever imagined.

Never mind its sun and sky, flora and fauna (though he could rant about that for years, don't test him) all contained within a bubble of impossible size and strength at the bottom of the bloody sea. It's the city, the coral shores and the buildings so bright and colourful and alive, the people that range from Fishmen like Namur to actual mermaids and mermen, creatures from sailor's tales that live and breathe and thrive...

It's everything. Sabo might cry.

"Don't cry."

Sabo whirls on Ace and pouts. "I wasn't going to!"

"You were thinking it. Please don't."

Luffy snickers, "crybaby, crybaby, Sabo is a—"

"Shut it, or I'll eat your candy!" Sabo reaches for Luffy's bag of sweets, gifted to him by a kindly old mermaid who'd deemed Luffy 'the cutest little guppy she's ever seen'. Unblinking, Luffy stretches his arm over their heads, high enough that Sabo would have to jump for it, which he won't. He has his pride.

"Will you three knock it off? You're freaking the locals out," Marco chides at the head of their small group, not even looking at the trio. Haruta fights a snigger, while Thatch offers a smile and a 'do as he says' shrug.

Luffy obediently drops his arm, sticking his tongue out at Sabo like a brat. Sabo returns the favour, so Luffy slaps his arm. Sabo slaps him back, and Ace reaches over to slap them both upside the heads. They both slap Ace.

"I mean it, yoi."

"Yessir," the brothers chime, arms plastered to their sides.

Marco sighs and mutters under his breath about 'being too old for this', and Thatch gives him a hearty pat on the back before skipping back to join the trio. "Don't take it personally, kiddos," he says. Luffy's hand slips into his as easy as breathing, and Thatch swings their joined hands as they walk the cobbled streets to make the boy giggle. "Marco's just a little tense. The phoenix hates being underwater under any circumstances, and the folks here aren't exactly partial to us humans walking around, much less pirates. He wants to keep the peace and stay in the locals' good graces."

"I thought you said the Fishmen were cool with Whitebeard," Ace says, lacing his fingers behind his head. A group of young Fishmen children—a mix of sharks, a goldfish and one little mermaid—watch them go with big eyes filled with wonder. Not far, their parents whisper to one another, casting looks. Sabo tries his best to ignore them and schools his expression.

He's not fast enough as Thatch catches him. He smiles ruefully. "Yeah. This Island's officially under the protection of the Whitebeard Pirates as of a few years ago, but that doesn't mean everyone here worships the ground we walk on, nor should they. And one decent pirate crew won't get rid of decades of bad blood between Fishmen and humans. They've got a looong history..."

Sabo frowns. He's heard enough of that history from Namur—the horrors, the injustice, the blatant hatred for anything not human—to understand where the trepidation comes from, why some will smile and wave at them whilst others will hesitate, step aside and avert their eyes or cast scalding glares when their backs are turned. A part of him feels hurt by it, even though he understands, even though it's justified.

There's no use getting offended over it. As long as no outright attacks him or their group (which would be suicide), he'll take it in stride. He'll smile, keep his mouth shut, and enjoy their time here while it lasts. Whitebeard has no plans on staying too long, just enough to catch up with old friends, stock up for the next leg of the journey and—

A shiver runs down his spine.

Sabo freezes. Ace's eye twitches. Luffy stops swallows his mouthful of candy hard, eyes wide.

Thatch, clueless, stops with them. "Hm? Something the matter?"

Sabo feels sweat gathering along his brow, though he tries to keep smiling. Ace's freckled face is stone-cold, expressionless. Luffy looks seconds away from bolting.

Thatch notices and his smile disappears. "Hey, hey, easy pups, it's okay, you're all okay. Stay right here, and I'll go get Marco, alright?" He pats them each on the head and hurries to fetch Marco and Haruta, the pair already a fair distance from them. Sabo can't open his mouth fast enough to beg him to stay.

"... Sabo," Ace croaks.

"Yes, Ace?"

"You feel that, don't you."

"Yes, Ace."

"It's... It's very familiar, isn't it."

"It is, Ace."

"It's coming closer."

Sabo shuts his eyes, fighting a whimper and mostly failing. "Yes, Ace."

"S-Should we run?" Luffy asks, the stutter not entirely due to his unused vocal cords.

There's a stomp some distance behind them.

"I think it's too late for that."


"I'll take my chances. Run."

And at Ace's word, Sabo grabs Luffy's hand and tears down the cobbled street at a frantic sprint, the three of them screaming past the baffled commanders. He hears Marco—"What in the—oh BALLS—!" moments before he's mowed over by the hundred-something pound monster giving chase. Sabo doesn't dare look behind him to check.

He's never doubted the Whitebeard's strength. But even mountains tremble under the might of Monkey D. Garp.

"DAMN BRATS!" their grandfather hollers after them, easily gaining ground even as they jump over barrels, zip through terrified crowds and skid into alleyways. "STOP RUNNING AND TASTE MY FIST OF LOVE!"

"NO!" they screech back, nearly tripping over a coral garden. They bypass several confused locals, who immediately trip over themselves to evade the charging Vice Admiral in hot pursuit. Where the hell are the Whitebeards? Did Garp knock them all out with a Fist of Justice? Did he kill them?!

"How is he here?!" Ace cries, arms and legs pumping like never before. "Why is he here, of all places?!"

"Shanks must've told him!" Sabo pants, yanking Luffy off his feet to carry him on his back instead; he'll run faster now that he's got a rubbery shield to protect him from the worst of blows. "They've been in touch since we went missing! He must've tipped the old man off!"

"But how'd he get here before us?!"

"I don't know, secret Marine passage?!"

"T-This s-s-sucks!" Luffy cries, clinging for dear life as Sabo nearly skids into a bush coming out of another alley. Garp bursts through, hot on their heels, and Sabo allows himself a girlish shriek. "W-why is he ch-chasing us?!"

"I'm not sticking around to find out!" Ace says.

Finally, Sabo looks over his shoulder and instantly regrets it when he sees the redness and utter murder in Garp's face, nostrils flared like a raging bull. "I don't think we'll live to find out!"

Garp's gaining on them, swiping at Sabo's jacket with meaty hands. Luffy sacrifices his bag of candy and throws it at Garp's feet. The old man trips over the rolling balls and falls flat on his ass.

Sabo almost stops to marvel at the sight. Luckily, Luffy does it for him. "Can't believe that worked," he mutters.

"I can't believe this is happening again," Ace groans. They leap over another bend, and Sabo finally realizes where Ace is leading them. It looks like a forest...?

"What's happening again?" Sabo asks as they burst through the trees (or whatever the hell they are).

"This! Every time we stop at an island, something weird or terrible happens!"

"Oh come on, not every—"

"On Tundra, you got shot, and Luffy got kidnapped. On that one island with the huge beach, Luffy went running off again. The Marine Island, you got the Navy chasing us off! Sabaody, I pull some dumb shit and nearly get sold off! And now, we're being chased by our batshit crazy grandfather on Fishman Island!"

Sabo blinks, ducking under a branch. "... Wow. We have the worst track record."

"Or god really hates us," Ace pants, slowing down as they traverse the slippery terrain.

Luffy shrugs. "O-Or the writer's running out of ideas."

(A low-hanging branch smacks the rubber loud-mouth in the face, seemingly out of nowhere. Serves him right. Hmph.)

They keep going a little longer until they reach a clearing somewhere in the centre of the vast, eerily quiet forest. Only then do they finally stop running, sweat dripping down their faces, wheezing for air.

"I think," Ace says after five more gulping breaths, his hands gripping his trembling knees, "we lost him."

"Either we're getting better," Sabo says as he lets Luffy slide off his back and plop in a graceless heap on the floor, "or he's getting slower. I'm hoping for both." Ace nods in agreement, dropping onto a nearby rock and fanning himself with his ridiculous cowboy hat. Sabo drops right to the ground next to Luffy, his little brother's limbs spread like a starfish.

Sabo sighs, and looks up. The sun shines bright even through the thick canopy, hundreds of feet below the sea. It's not warm like on the surface, but Sabo feels its phantom presence on his face. It's a strange feeling, but not unwelcome.

"... why here?" he mutters. "Why now?"

He feels Ace's eyes on him. Luffy shifts where he lays, curling up a little on his side, fingers playing idly in the dirt.

"I dunno," Ace says softly.

"... 'm not ready yet," Luffy murmurs. Sabo looks down and barely restrains himself from punching the nearest object as tears start to gather in Luffy's eyes. His fingers clench into fists. "'M not ready. Not ready yet."

"We're never gonna be ready, Lu," Ace says, standing up and walking over to sit with them. He puts a hand in Luffy's hair and wraps the other arm around Sabo's shoulders. Sabo leans into his warmth, and Ace bumps the heads together. "We'd never be ready. Not in five years, not in ten... It was bound to happen sooner or later." Ace huffs a dry laugh. "I'm almost glad it's sooner."

A bitter smile takes Sabo's lips. "Yeah. Could've gone without the mad chase through the town, though."

"Well, that's Gramps for ya. Never the one for the conventional approach."

"Bold of you to assume he knows the meaning of the word."

"Ha! That, too."

A brief silence hangs over the trio, barely broken by the sound of the sea above them. There are no birds here, Sabo thinks, or any four-footed creatures one might find in a forest this expansive. It's unnerving as it is a blessing. Sabo's in no mood to hunt for or be hunted by anything.

"... missed him," Luffy says. "Missed him a lot."

A lump, sudden and heavy, sits in Sabo's throat. He works his jaw as tears spring unbidden in his eyes, stinging fiercely. He sniffs, reaching blindly for Luffy, only for the boy to sit up and snuggle under his arm, fitting neatly against his chest just like always.

"Yeah," he croaks, squeezing Luffy tight with one arm. Ace wraps both arms around them. "We missed him, too, Lulu."

"Got a damn funny way of showing it."

The boys' whirl.

Garp stands at the edge of the clearing.

Now that Sabo has a good look at him, he sees the changes. He seems older, somehow, closer to his age than Sabo has ever seen him. Weary, almost. The wrinkles are more pronounced, the set of his shoulders still proud but burdened with something far heavier than the coat hanging limp against his back. His expression is stone, but his eyes are achingly sad.

That frightens Sabo far more than anything Garp could do to them. It's wrong, unnatural, and he hates it.

(He hates that they're partly the reason it's there at all.)

Garp takes a single step. The boys lurch to their feet to face him proper, but they don't flee. There's no fight. No chase. Not this time. Sabo can feel it drain out of the old man.

Garp sighs, long and heavy. He meets their gazes.

"Hello, boys. Long time no see, eh?"


Elsewhere, back in the now unsettled streets, Edward Newgate stares down at the bodies of Marco, Thatch and Haruta. Large footprints sit like brands on their backs, their faces buried in the dirt, their siblings and onlooking locals alike crowding around.

Edward grins and leans down. "Dare I ask?"

Marco doesn't bother lifting his head. "Go ahead. I don't care, yoi."

Edward chuckles. "What happened, then?"


Edward's grin falls hard. "Oh shit."

"Indeed, you."

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