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Immortal

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Phoenixes are immortal. And Phoenixes mate for life.

The first time Ace died, Marco had lost his light. And he'd continued on quietly as a doctor, working to honor both his fallen captain and father figure and the person that he loved most with the rest of his life. And he stayed there on that island for twenty-two years until word spread about an upstart pirate with freckled cheeks and a bold heart that had taken on Straw Hat Luffy himself and had ended up forcibly adopted into his crew. He left to find them, and the young man had taken just one look at Marco before throwing himself at the man.

His heart had returned to him. And so had the warmth in his life. And he stayed with Ace, Aaron this time, but still Ace, always Ace, until his untimely death in the great War against the World Government and the Celestial Dragons. Aaron wasn't the only one who'd succumbed to the weapon. Many lives were lost on the bloodstained path to force a positive change in their world, but Marco once again lost his warmth and life. He couldn't save Ace again, couldn't protect him from the blast of the celestial cannon, and he couldn't die.

So once again he retreated to Whitebeard's home to do his best to protect the people he could in Ace's name. And he stayed there for another twenty something years or so, some of this twisted for him, it was hard to focus on dates and times when there was nothing but survival for the sake of survival. And every other member of the Whitebeards was now gone.

He was just living. Until a summer day brought an angry nineteen year old girl to Sphinx island with a group of refugees, fleeing from violence in their homelands. Anna, but still Ace, always Ace, snarled instead of spoke to anyone who got close, freckled cheeks too thin and dark eyes full of rebellion. Until she took one look at Marco, and all but flew at him. And she spoke his name without knowing how she knew him, and she didn't care. They married in the spring, and she stayed with him happily until her body grew too old and feeble to move, and her last breath was used to tell him that she loved him.

He was not allowed to die with her. And he was not allowed the peace of rest. His angry, restless heart craved violence, and he set back out on the open seas at the first whispers of renewed corruption of the world government. He became a beast in the night, a burning rush that took out anyone who dared cross him, a vigilante fire that ruined and broke and burnt to embers many a life. And he kept killing until his heart forgot who he was. And he found himself a place to hide away, no longer Marco at all but the blood phoenix. A creature of myth and fear that none dared even risk approach.

Until a beast tamer with one of the circus groups decided to come and tame him for himself. Marco rose up into the air, burning brightly, and started to dive. But then his world twisted again, at the first look at Adon, but Ace really, it was always Ace, all brown hair and wild eyes and circus makeup and smiles. He threw himself at Marco, and they flew off together. And Adon taught Marco how to speak again, and how to love once more. They preformed together in one town or another for a wonderful three years, until Adon succumbed to the terminal illness that had pushed him to enjoy a wild and regretless life to begin with.

This time, Marco didn't hide. He didn't run. He waited. He searched. He knew that Ace would come back to him, he always did in one form or another. He just needed to find him. And when he finally did, all the pain would be worth it. Ace would be young again, or healthy again, and even if Ace never remembered what they'd experienced before, the love would be there and they'd start a new life together.

But even after thirty years.

Forty years.

Fifty...

Ace didn't return. Marco was becoming frantic at seventy. And miserable at ninety. Just short of the hundredth year of search, he was starting to think that he'd missed him. That he'd not searched well enough. Or worse, that Ace hadn't returned after all. And he slowly started to lose faith.

But the television broadcasts spoke of fires coming suddenly and fading as fast on the island that Ace was born on. A rush through the skies that couldn't be caught, no amount of advanced camera work had actually managed to catch a glimpse of whatever that had burned through the trees and cried out in the night. So Marco made his way there, not expecting anything, but the helplessness and hopelessness inside of him demanded that he proceed. If there was even a chance of these fires connecting to Ace, it was worth one last search.

He arrived, and he waited for night. And as the reports had started, a blinding rush of fire moved throughout the skies, and a panicked cry sounded out that had Marco's stomach turning and fists clenching. He didn't think, he just moved, taking to the skies and chasing down the blur of orange and red.

And once he was close enough, he could see the creature.

Another phoenix.

And suddenly it turned on him and rushed, nearly colliding with him when the feathers and fire went changed to skin and hair, and so many freckles and and the softest dark eyes he could imagine.

It was Ace, always Ace, and Marco landed so he could hold onto him properly and sooth out the messy tangle of hair and listen to the soft cries that went from frantic and panic to something closer to overwhelmed happiness. And after so long, he didn't know what to expect. Would Ace even know him this time? Ace answered that quickly as he nuzzled into Marco's neck, arms twining behind him.

"Sorry I took so long this time around, Marco. Not gonna leave you this time."

And his world was suddenly full of light and warmth once again.