You sort through your cards, thumbing each one carefully as you study your opponent. The blond sitting cross-legged in front of you is idly picking his way through his hand, eyes half-lidded. He looks tired, with circles under his eyes and hair a bit too dishevelled, but far more relaxed than when you’d first arrived.
The room is silent and so is the ocean beyond the walls of the ship. It rocks the enormous vessel, gently, coaxing everyone to sleep. Well, everyone except you and him. Rampant thoughts and overwhelming feelings kept you up. You can see his mind is still on the paperwork he was poring over, but you wouldn’t let him go back. It was about time he breathed a little.
All you can hear is the quiet fwip of cards being tossed between you two. A mountain of said items separates you and him, growing larger as time goes on.
He drops a card on the top of the pile. You smile wryly.
“Bad move, birdie,”
Marco inhales deeply, narrowing his eyes at you for the nickname then shaking his head as you slap a card on top of the pile triumphantly. His hands go limp as he releases a small chuckle, cards slipping out of his grasp.
In the end, he sends you a defeated grin, eyes crinkling in the corners.
“You win again,” He states, the flickering light of the candle on a small bedside table making the shadows dance eerily around you. Marco’s eyes shine through the exhaustion, mirthful.
You nod, collecting the cards and motioning for him to hand in his own pile. He does as requested, tilting his head as he watches you shuffle them deftly. At last, you place the stack on the floor and cross your arms over your chest. He stares down at them, mind wandering back to the things he had to do.
You sit in cordial silence that stretches on for a little too long, and when he notes your expression – pinched brows, teeth worrying your bottom lip, (eye colour) eyes unblinking as you glare at the ground – he speaks up.
“Tired of playing ~yoi?”
A reply that you don’t voice echoes within your head. I’m tired.
His placid expression melts away when you don’t respond.
You snap out of your daze, training your eyes on the man in front of you. The ship sways as the ocean starts to rouse, but you don’t pay it any mind. Marco and you stare at one another, expressions troubled for different reasons.
“You alright ~yoi?” He tries again, leaning closer to you as he braces his elbows on his knees. You inch back slightly, eyes scanning the room for something to focus on. Anything that will take your mind off of… everything.
Marco takes no offence to your actions, nor does he ask again. He waits as you gather your thoughts, breathing deeply.
You know you can’t tell him you’re tired like you do with everyone else. It wouldn’t be a lie, but it wouldn’t be the truth either. He’s far too observant, too smart. He’s known you for too long. You can’t lie to him.
“Marco,” His name rolls off your tongue in a murmur. You count the floorboards to keep yourself in check. “Can I ask you something?”
Marco nods his head, and a small, appreciative smile graces your features. It’s not the happy, cheeky smile Marco is used to – not the one he wants to see on your face.
“If you died,” He twitches, you notice, “would you want everyone you loved and loved you to remember you? Or would you want them to forget, just so they don’t have to go through the pain of loss?”
Your inquiry isn’t something anyone would expect, you know. But Marco has been your friend for many years. You don’t mind if he doesn’t answer your strange question; you just need to let the damn thing out.
He doesn’t respond.
You wait, count your 10th floorboard, listen. Marco says nothing.
His calm and collected appearance at your question unnerves you, but years of friendship have also taught you that Marco is damn near unflappable. He probably knew something was up the second you crossed the threshold.
He still doesn’t answer. You take a single card from the deck, stare at the back, and then drop it again, frustrated. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, maybe both, you know exactly which card that was and what it meant.
Finally, he says, “(name), come here ~yoi…”
You hold your breath, torn between scooting further back and crawling to him.
Marco shifts, shoulders drawing back as he raises an arm – a gesture that you've seen him use as a way of comforting you and many others when they too feel down. You’d seen him do it with Ace when he’d been declared the second division commander. You’d seen Thatch sling an arm around Marco’s shoulders and the blond fondly roll his eyes and yet do the same thing. Mother Hen of the Whitebeard Pirates, the cook would claim loudly. He’d done it when you almost-
Hesitantly, you go with the latter.
Now beside him, you focus on the mark on his chest, still proudly in display even in the comfort of his own bedroom. The deep, navy blue and the familiar crescent-shaped design brings Whitebeard to your mind. Your eyes slip shut in shame. What would the man think if he saw you like this? What would he think of your question?
Marco wraps his arms around you, and you do the same, clinging to him. Seconds tick by, and even then he doesn’t provide an answer. You don’t really need one, either way. It’s not a question someone would ask one of their oldest friends. This thought makes the humiliation branch out to every fibre of your being.
As if sensing your darkening mood, the blond tightens his grip on your shoulder. A reminder that you’re not alone.
“Let’s go to bed ~yoi. You look exhausted.” You press the side of your face against his shoulder, sighing pitifully. Marco huffs in amusement, rising from his spot on the floor and taking you with him.
You let him escort you to his bed, body glued to his and your nails digging into his purple shirt. The two of you flop down on the mattress, a chorus of sighs ghosting past your lips at the freshness of the sheets. Marco reaches over, grabs the candle, then blows it out.
Shadows take over the room, and you close your eyes, weariness gnawing at your consciousness.
You still haven’t released each other. No, instead, you wound your legs together and listen to the few sounds up on the main deck.
Footsteps, a few voices that fade into the distance, and quiet laughter rings out. The blond at your side breathes deeply, sighs, tightens his grip a second time before loosening it.
And eventually, you fall asleep.
The next morning, you find yourself alone in bed. Sunlight filters through the porthole built into the wall, and you hiss at the brightness of the room as you crack your eyes open. Blinking the haze of sleep from your eyes, you search the room for Marco.
The blond is sitting at his desk, quill in his hand and ink bottle nearby for when he needs it. You know he knows you’re awake, but you don’t bother saying anything. Peeling the covers off, you rub your shoulders for warmth and pad over to him.
“Morning, ~yoi,” Marco looks up when you reach his side, sending you a warm smile.
You return the gesture, placing a hand on the backrest as your eyes skim over the documents in front of him.
“That looks fun,” You comment casually, grinning when Marco rolls his eyes. He begins writing again, his movements smooth. His writing is cursive yet simple, just so it’s still readable to those that have less experience with reading.
You fall silent again – a common thing among you two. You’re not ones to fill the silence with words. You let it fill itself.
You examine the room, noting the deck of cards on the bedside table. The card you’d fiddled with last night is upturned on the smooth surface. Curious, you walk over to it, snatch it off the table, and stare at it.
The King of Hearts.
The scratching of the quill on the paper halts.
“(name),” Marco calls, voice low as to not scare you. Or maybe it’s because he was just too focused. You hum to let him know you’ve heard him, and he continues. “what did you mean?”
Well aware of what he’s talking about, you inhale deeply and think before answering.
“I don’t know.” You admit, twirling the card in your hands. It’s a bit worn in one of the corners.
The sound returns.
“Marco, come on.”
He doesn’t listen. Thatch frowns.
“Thatch, go away ~yoi.”
The man with the pompadour shifts, a plate of food in his hands. Marco refuses to acknowledge him, quill scratching furiously on parchment.
“Marco, you need to eat something.”
Marco drops his quill on the desk, more aggressively than he intended, but far beyond the point of caring at this moment. Thatch is still there, at his doorway, concern radiating off him in waves.
He knows that it’s not their fault. He knows that it’s not his fault. He knows that.
And yet he wants to blame them. He wants to blame himself. He wants to blame you.
Marco is well acquainted with these sorts of emotions and knows how to handle them so they don’t end up impacting another negatively, but lately, they’ve been a bit much to deal with.
He cranes his neck to peer at his brother, eyes burning with the exhaustion of the past week. Thatch takes it as an invitation to silently venture closer, and when he sees that Marco isn’t going to kick him out again, he places the food in front of him. The first division commander shoves some papers aside, staring solemnly at Thatch’s peace offering.
“I’ll come back in half an hour to take the plate,” Thatch says, clapping a hand on his shoulder and exiting his room. It was his way of telling him to eat it, or else. Marco feels the corners of his lips tug upward at the hidden threat, but no more.
Turning back to his work, he reads through the papers, blinking slowly. There were several reports of the damage to the ship. Broken railing, snapped rigging. On top of it all, a paper with a single name haphazardly written on it.
Cause of death: Unknown.
Almost everybody believed it to be the battle against the marines they’d encountered on their voyage to a nearby island. Commanders that knew him were a bit more in tune with the situation, but nobody truly knew what happened. Marco had an inkling of an idea, but nothing concrete.
If you died, would you want everyone you loved and loved you to remember you? Or would you want them to forget, just so they don’t have to go through the pain of loss?
The question haunts him. He’d been anticipating some sort of statement, like usual. An odd remark about his paperwork, a concern for one of the crewmembers, a random thought, but not that. Never that.
And even now, he didn’t know the answer.
He didn’t know, because he couldn’t die. It's the one thing he's afraid of confessing to anybody. It's the one thing he was afraid of telling you.
Marco glanced to his left, where the deck of cards sat. That day, he’d taken out the card you’d been fiddling with, for no reason at all. Now, he could see why you did. He could see why you did.
If only he could go back.