Marco doesn’t find out about the name on his back until Thatch mentions it to him offhandedly after a battle rips his shirt to shreds and exposes part of it.
“Your soulmate’s name is Ace?”
“What?” Marco asks, twisting to get a better look at Thatch. “I don’t have a soulmate.”
Thatch raises an eyebrow, “Well then you got someone’s name tattooed on you back in the worst shade of orange that I have ever seen, man.”
They both know that is impossible, the last island they stopped at was only for medical supplies and Marco was with Juzo the entire time. Izou would have mentioned if they had drunkenly come to him for a tattoo.
“Is it just Ace?” Marco asks finally, twisting his head back forward.
Thatch whistles as he lifts the scraps of Marco’s shirt up, “Gol D Ace.”
“Yeah.” Thatch agrees, face a portrait of confusion. “He’s got to be dead. How the fuck?”
Marco shrugs, “We’d better get back, before Pops gets the idea to look for us.”
Ace learns how to spell ‘Marco’ long before he learns his own name. It’s written on his wrist in pretty blue that outlines itself with flames and rests on a feather. Ace likes the flames best.
Gramps says that all the decorations mean that his soulmate is lots older then him and already a grown up.
Ace secretly hopes that Marco’s a pirate. He makes up stories of a daring captain on the high seas fighting Marines with his bare hands.
“What if he’s not a captain?” Sabo asks, his own name written in a shade of red along his forearm. “What if he’s just a regular pirate?”
“Nah, my soulmate is at least the first mate.” Ace insists, eyes bright. “He’s got to be. I mean, I’m awesome, so he must be too.”
“The real question,” Izou mutters. “Is how the hell, Gol D Ace escaped being executed with all the women and children after Roger died. I mean, there has to have been something.”
Marco shrugs. He knows it’s suppose to hurt when a name appears, but with his devil fruit, he heals almost instantly. He wouldn’t have noticed the name among the other aches that vanish too quickly.
“Maybe he doesn’t know that’s his name?” Haruta offers. “I mean, if you want to hide a kid, don’t tell it it’s real name.”
Marco snorts into his booze, “Thanks, yoi. Now I’m never going to find them.”
“He’ll get decorations at some point. That’ll have to help you. And even if he doesn’t, he’s got to have your mark and it’s gotta be interesting.” Juzo says easily.
“Or they become a Marine,” Namur agrees.
“I hate you all, you are the worst brothers,” Marco tries so hard. “Yoi.”
He ignores their laughter and shoves all thoughts of his soulmate to the side, he had as ship to keep running and siblings to keep under control. He doesn’t have time to sit and mope.
“You have names?” Luffy asks. “That sounds like fun! How do you get them?”
Ace shrugs, “Mine’s always been there. You know some people don’t have names.”
“Yeah,” Sabo agrees. “There’s nothing wrong with them, they just don’t have them. Some of them get names after they meet people. Some never get names, but it doesn’t matter.”
“That’s right.” Ace confirms.
Luffy smiles and Ace thinks that this is what people mean when they say someone is radiant. Luffy looks like nothing in the world can matter if he’s smiling so brightly.
Sabo looks more like a disaster has been averted. He’s probably right, Luffy gets into more trouble then he’s really worth. Ace thinks he’ll have to have a whole slew of soulmates to keep him in line.
“We got a new rookie,” Thatch says, throwing himself on Marco’s bed and holding the wanted poster to read off of it. “Portgas D Ace, captain of the Spade pirates.”
“I don’t have time for you and Pops trying to figure out how they hid my soulmate, yoi. I have enough paperwork here to drown the entire crew, leave me alone.” Marco answers.
He is tired. Tired of life and work and even the unending hunt for his soulmate. Because he has to be dead.
Anyone suspected of relation to the Pirate King was killed. Innocent women and children slaughtered for the ill fortune of being born at the wrong time and associating with the wrong man.
“Aw, Marco, don’t say that. Izou would stab you.” Thatch whispers, glancing about for his own soulmate.
Izou would. He and Thatch had started off horribly because Thatch had thought Izou was dead and Izou had kept searching. It had taken years for them to forgive each other and Izou still threw it in Thatch’s face when their arguments got too sour.
“If I look at it will you leave me alone?” Marco sighs.
“You want to kill Whitebeard?”
Ace nods, “That I do.”
“And you don’t think that’s insane?” His firstmate continues. “He would kill us!”
“Us? I want to fight him myself, why would you guys be involved? You just have to fight the crew.” Ace says tilting his head in confusion.
“Just his crew, he says. Marco the Phoenix heals himself!”
“Marco the Phoenix?” Ace thinks briefly of the name hidden underneath his log pose. “That’s a kind of bird, right?”
His first mate groans, “A phoenix is a bird yes, it’s immortal and reborn from it’s own ashes.”
“Why would we fight him? I’m a fire man and he’s a fire bird. We’ll be friends.” Ace says easily.
His first mate groans, sobbing into his hands. Ace watches him for a long moment, worry furrowing his brow. He makes a note to have their doctor drag the man in for a check up, obviously there was something wrong with his first mate.
“Aren’t you worried?”
“Should I be?”
The brat is cute, Marco will give him that, even when he’s being a pain in his ass. None of them are sure where he got that damn ax and Namur is starting to get annoyed about having to drag him out the ocean after every attempt, but they’re growing use to him.
They’re also getting used to the brats crew following them, probably attempting to get their captain back. Marco tells Pops as such.
“He’ll make a wonderful addition,” Pops says easily. “He’s already shown he’s got a good heart if his crew care for him this much.”
“I think he got more heart then brain.” Marco mutters unkindly.
“The young are overzealous.” Pops agrees, easy smile on his face. “What did you find on him?”
“Not much. I can’t even get the brat’s birthday, for all we know he sprung into the world fully formed.”
Pops laughs, voice loud, “I doubt that son.”
“I could hope.” Marco answers. “I’m checking with our contacts for anything but they haven’t started getting back to me yet.”
“He should just join us.” Pops sighs.
Ace stares at the name on Marco’s back, eyes darting from the flames surrounding it to the orange cowboy hat that his soulmate can’t see. He had suspected that Marco was his but for him to be Marco’s?
He hadn’t thought he would be that lucky.
It takes him another few weeks before he agrees to be on of Whitebeard’s sons and he has to reveal his darkest secret because he wouldn’t dare to assume that just because his name is on the first mate’s back means that Whitebeard won’t hate him.
He takes to watching Marco afterwards. Trying to decide how to tell him. After all it wasn’t something that could just be blurted out.
“You look pretty intense,” Decker, his old first mate, whispers.
Ace glances at him, most of the crew knows who’s name is on Marco’s back, they’re a close crew, they’ll know who he is if he ever finally tells Marco.
“He’s my soulmate.”
Decker stares at him like he’s grown two heads before muttering that of course it made sense. Ace wonders what makes sense but finds his gaze drifting back to Marco. He’s pretty sure that this is what Luffy feels like around meat that he can’t eat.
“Just tell him, please, I can’t keep watching this.” Decker hisses. “Please.”
“How do you tell them?”
Decker stares at him for a long moment, “I…have no idea.”
“I use my mom’s name.” Ace says looking nervous as he stands before Marco, the party almost over and most of the deck deserted. “Portgas, I mean.”
“You think this is important?” Marco asks and sighs when Ace nods. “Alright. Does Pops know?”
“I told him before I took his mark,” Ace agrees.
Marco resists the urge to call him a good boy and pet his head. He shoves his hands into his pockets instead.
Ace nods, “I…Gramps said that it’s less likely to attract attention, that man was executed, it would have painted a target on me. He didn’t take into account that my soulmate would have my real name.”
“Oh, it’s one of the crew?” Marco doesn’t wait for an answer. “It happens, people get their names changed, they won’t be upset.”
“Gol.” Marco freezes, air catching in his lungs. “My father’s name was Gol D Roger. Mine should be Gol D Ace.” Ace throws one of his arms out, wrist up to show Marco’s own name on the inside curve. “Pops said that you, that I should tell you.”
Gol D Ace stares at him with eyes the same shade of silver as his father and Marco can’t breath because his soulmate is alive. His soulmate is alive and only because someone was smart enough to lie about his name.
Marco has never been more thankful to a Marine in his life.