It had taken approximately five minutes for Marco to explain the situation to Rayleigh and for the old man to agree to get on board with their scheming (apparently getting subtle vengeance on their Captains was something of a time honoured tradition for first mates).
The Phoenix grinned "Glad to have you on board Rayleigh, Pop's is definitely going to be our hardest target yet, so we're going to need all the help we can get. After the spectacle we made of Ace and Shanks there's no way he hasn't realised he's our next target. Once may be a coincidence but twice is most certainly a conspiracy yoi."
In a tropical resort miles away Benn let out an amused huff "True, Whitebeard didn't get to be where he was by being stupid. Not even to mention the fact that he has over ten years of experience in dealing with the hellions you call siblings." Marco let out a small snort.
"No arguments there. Thatch and Haruta have already tried just about every trick in the book, so we're going to have to be inventive if we want to surprise him. Not only that but it can't be anything that could risk Oyaji's health so there's a lot more restrictions on this than the other two Captains had."
Rayleigh grinned (a terrifying sight for everyone present) "Sounds like we've got our work cut out for us brats." Dusty let out a nervous chuckle "We also can't disregard what Ace might do to interfere. He's promised unspecified vengeance for leaving him to his Grandpa's tender loving care."
The laughter that came out of Rayleigh's mouth made it obvious the man knew exactly who Ace's grandpa was. (silently Marco wondered whether Gol D Roger had confided in his first mate about the plans for his family).
"Well then, it looks like this means war, Captains vs first mates. I assume I don't need to tell you all that failure isn't an option?" The Den Den Mushi's replicated grin was a something straight out of a horror story and was echoed by every first mate on the call.
Benn let out a small chuckle, "Let the games begin."
Sengoku hated absolutely everything about this situation.
This was the second time that the Elder stars had called him to enquire about one of his subordinates relationship with a pirate. The second fucking time.
It was bad enough when the damn geezers thought that the Queen of Hearts had an unrequited love for Garp, but after the most recent gossip about Shanks as well as Garp's conveniently mysterious vacation (upon which Garp had come back muttering something about sneaky grandson stealing bastard's and impossible to find secret revolutionary bases) everyone was fully convinced about the two's relationship.
So now the Fleet Commander of the Marines was once again being forced to discipline one of his subordinates at the monthly officers meeting over a fake relationship with a most likely imaginary pirate. Sengoku hated his job.
Letting out a deep sigh the Fleet Commander prepared himself to get this farce over with, only to be struck cold by Garp's expression.
Nononononononononono. NO. Sengoku was not dealing with this shit.
The expression on Garp's face was one Sengoku was painfully familiar with. It was an expression that only appeared once in a blue moon when Garp had a rare idea he liked to refer to as a "plan" (plan being the generous term).
The last time Sengoku had seen Garp with that expression on his face he'd had to imprison 5 pirates, 3 parrots, 27 giant gorillas and 7 pigs within Impel down. The paperwork alone had been enough to fill 3 offices.
Looking around the room the Fleet Commander desperately searched for any excuse to leave, (maybe he could provoke Akainu into setting something on fire?) unfortunately it was already too late.
With a grin closer to a sharks than a humans Garp hit his fist on the table "Before we continue with this meeting I have some vital information that everyone in this room needs to be made aware of. However before I start I must make it clear that this information cannot leave this room or the plan will be put in jeopardy."
Garp waited until he had a nod of agreement from all the occupants in the room except Sengoku (the Fleet Commander refused to show even the slightest sign of approval at a plan he was sure was about to become his largest headache)
"Ok then, first of all I'm assuming most of you have probably heard the latest rumours about my torrid love affair with Portgas D Shanksessa?" several of the younger Marine officers looked vaguely sick at the idea of Garp in a relationship, let alone a 'Torrid love affair' as he'd put it, but nodded in confirmation regardless.
"Excellent. The truth is that the rumours are false, and were in fact spread by myself and Shanksessa in order to cover up the truth behind our real relationship. Shanksessa is in fact my subordinate who decided to defy her family's expectations and secretly ran away to join the Marines. For the last month she's been acting as my eyes and ears from within the Spade pirates!"
Sengoku felt his jaw drop open at the complete and utter bullshit Garp was spewing. What the fuck was the man thinking, there was no way in hell anyone was going to buy that?!
Getting ready to cover for his idiot friend Sengoku felt himself freeze in horror as her saw several Marines around the room nodding in approval of the idea. Surely not? Surely no one amongst his elite Marine officers was stupid enough to believe a cross dressing red haired Shanks was secretly a Marine spy?
Looking to the Den Den Mushi linked to the elder stars Sengoku awaited the words of disbelief, only to feel his sanity die as he noticed it's pleased smile "An interesting tactic Vice Admiral, I'm looking forward to seeing the results."
Garp hummed in acknowledgment, a smirk firmly plastered on his face, and Sengoku was suddenly struck with a horrifying realisation. Garp could make up whatever crazy shit he wanted, so long as he claimed that 'Shanksessa' had passed on the message no one would bat an eyelid.
Given how crazy the Spades had already proven to be, even the most outlandish of theories could hypothetically be true.
Feeling mildly faint Sengoku stared down at his coffee cup. Maybe it was drugged? Maybe this was all one big drug induced hallucination?
There was no way the elder stars just approved of Garp's bullshit, this was simply a horrible nightmare that the overworked Fleet Commander was going to wake up from any moment now. (Denial was such a beautiful thing).
Sengoku couldn't wait to retire. At least nothing could make this day any worse?
Hiding inside the ships pantry Ace silently reached out for his personal Den Den Mushi and dialling the number he has long since memorised.
"Shanks, are you alone right now?" The Den Den Mushi reflected a cheerful smile "All clear kiddo, Benn's still hiding out on an island resort pretending to repent about spilling the details of my imaginary love life. Are you sure Marco and Dusty won't notice you missing?"
A shark toothed grin appeared on Ace's face "No worries there, Alice can roll her eyes into the back of her head on command and she's currently distracting the crew by pretending to be possessed by an ancient spirit and spouting ominous prophecies. That should keep them busy for a while."
Shanks burst out into laughter "Oh she's definitely a Spade alright. Ok then, let's get old man Newgate in on this."
Letting out a small snort the freckled teen dialled in the final member of the call "Hello Brat! Want to tell me what's going on, and why our first mates have formed an alliance to conspire against us?"
The freckled teen let out a sheepish chuckle completely unsurprised that the Emperor already knew about the first mate alliance "Hi Pops, I'm not sure there's any specific reason for the alliance, I think it's mainly just general vengeance for all of our collective bullshit. But anyway, we must now unite in a counter alliance to survive their collective might."
The older Captain let out an earth-shaking laugh "GURAHAHAHAHA. An excellent idea Brat, what's our first move?"
Ace grinned with far more teeth than absolutely necessary "We need to take Benn out of the equation first, he's their main strategist, and with him out of the picture they'll have a much harder time plotting. Pop's you should also keep an eye out for Thatch and Haruta, you're definitely the next target and there's no way they wouldn't be willing to help out Marco on a prank."
Whitebeard grinned "That I will son, I suppose you already have a plan for dealing with Beckmann?" The freckled teen laughed like something out of a nightmare "I do, but I'm going to need Shanks's help to pull it off though."
The red haired man grinned, vengeance written on every line of his face "Happy to help Kiddo, it's payback time!"
Laying on a beautiful sunny beach with an alcoholic cocktail in hand, Benn suddenly felt the overwhelming urge to go and hide somewhere no one would ever find him.
Walking out onto the main deck Ace smiled sweetly at his crew in an incredibly suspicious manner "I know we were meant to be meeting up with Pop's soon but I've decided to take a quick detour to a nearby summer island for a small project me and Sandersonia are working on."
The Spades stared at their Captain with open suspicion "Is there anything we need to do on the island Captain." Ace's smile widened "Excellent question Gray, I'm so glad you asked!"
Several groans rang out from the crew and Ace noticed Dret punch Gray for his stupidity in asking "Gray, Alice I need the two of you to go into the town and stock up on some specific supplies for me. The item's in red are absolutely vital, but the rest of it can be substituted if needs be."
Ignoring his crew's curiosity Ace handed a list over to Alice pointedly ignoring her slight smirk as she realised that he'd essentially sent them out on a shopping date.
(He owed Alice for playing distraction earlier, plus what could he say they were cute together)
Turning to face Marco the freckled teen grinned "Birdy you're gonna be our camera man for the day, and before you protest Pop's says he'll make it an official order if needs be!" The Phoenix rolled his eyes good naturedly "Not a problem Ace yoi."
The young Captain smirked "Excellent. As for the rest of you, you're all going to be helping me and Sandersonia out for today. Don't worry, it won't hurt...much."
The Spades felt a shiver run down their spines, whatever this was they didn't see it ending well for anyone involved.
Ace grinned it was time to put the first part of his plans into action.
Benn stared at Shanks in horror "Captain, what are you doing here?" The red haired man smiled sweetly, stealing the cocktail out of his first mates hand "Hello Benn, seeing as I've decided to forgive you for spilling the details of my imaginary love life to the press I figured it was time to come and pick you up!"
The first mate of the Red haired pirates stared at his Captain with undisguised suspicion. Whilst Shanks was usually a very forgiving man over minor transgressions, there was no way in hell he'd actually forgiven Benn, which meant that whatever Shanks had planned was probably the first move in the Captain's retaliation.
"I appreciate the visit Captain but I feel like I need a few more days to properly atone." Shanks's grin widened "What a coincidence I was hoping you might say that! Ace is in the area too, he's meant to be getting here sometime tonight after he finishes up a short project with his fake fiancé. We're planning on throwing him a farewell party before he joins up with Whitebeards lot!"
Benn paused, there was no way in hell that Shanks's appearance and Ace's proximity was a coincidence which meant that the Captains had most likely joined together in their scheming to get revenge.
The first mate had to hide a grin, if the Captain's were targeting him first then it meant they were trying to get rid of the first Mate's lead strategist, which meant that they were definitely unaware of Rayleigh's involvement as their primary schemer.
The grey haired man let a slow smirk creep on to his face, the Captains were going to be in for a world of pain if they couldn't figure that out before they reached Whitebeard "Great idea Captain."
Shanks grinned "I thought so too, but before we throw a party for Ace we need to throw one for you to celebrate re-joining the crew! Me and the rest of the crew are going to get set things up and you need to stay away for now and then come and join us at the view point on the Blue mountain in seven hours, Captains orders!"
Benn laughed, Captain's orders huh? No escaping that then, oh well if it was a war they wanted, then it was a war they would get.
Grinning Benn gave a nod of agreement and waited until Shanks was walking away and out of range to pull out a Den Den Mushi. Ringing up Marco and Dusty, the grey haired man gave a dangerous grin, the games had officially begun.
Walking up the small footpath towards the assigned meeting place Benn mentally prepared himself for what may be waiting at the top, unfortunately neither Dusty nor Marco had any information on what their Captain's might have been scheming due to both men being wrapped up in Ace and Sandersonia's pet project all day.
(Neither man had revealed what this project entailed, but had instead burst into laughter and promised it was going to be entertaining to say the least).
Getting closer to the view point Benn couldn't help but notice that unlike the usual Red Hair parties the mountain seemed mostly silent with only soft melodies drifting down the path. Rounding the corner to the view point Benn felt himself freeze at the sight in front of him.
Rather than rowdy pirates with an excessive amount of alcohol, the clearing held a single candle lit table scattered with rose petals, and two chairs pulled out. Before the grey haired man had a chance to process what was going on Shanks appeared out of nowhere "Benn, glad you could make it! I'll show you to your seat!"
Not giving his first mate the time to protest Shanks forcibly seated the man at the romantically lit table before stepping back with a grin "The show will be starting momentarily so just sit back, relax and enjoy!"
Having apparently said his piece the red haired man vanished into the surrounding area leaving Benn alone. Raising an eyebrow in wiry amusement the grey haired man resigned himself to sitting through whatever was about to happen next.
What Benn didn't expect was for thousands of tiny lights to suddenly twinkle into existence (if not for the sudden appearance he would have thought them fireflies but after his earlier conversation with Shanks he felt safe in guessing them to be Ace's work).
The gentle melodies Benn had heard whilst walking up the hill gained in volume and a voice started to sing from within the darkened surroundings "There's a calm surrender, to the rush of day," The grey haired man took a moment to appreciate the singers clear voice (he's pretty sure it was Gray from Ace's crew). The singing continued on as Gray's voice was joined with Alice's and the two began to harmonise "Can you feel the love tonight?"
Benn did not like where this seemed to be going...
All of a sudden a third voice joined the singing and without warning Buggy the clown stepped into the clearing wearing a tuxedo and carrying a bouquet of beautiful red tulips.
Benn blinked in shock, wait what?
Making his way towards the table the clown continued to sing before he sank down on one knee and pulled out a ring with a diamond big enough to seduce any pirate. The singing faded off into a softer melody as Buggy stared up at the first mate of the red haired pirates with a smile full of adoration.
"Benn Beckmann, I have never felt more in love than when I witnessed your complete destruction of Shanks's dignity, would you do me the honour of agreeing to marry me?"
Benn had to hand it to the Captains, this was one scheme he hadn't seen coming...
So first of all sorry this is several months later than it was meant to be (I've actually had at least half the chapter written since December but I couldn't quite fit together what I wanted till now!)
Huge thank you to all the lovely people who left a review or sent me a message it really means a lot to me and definitely makes me want to keep writing :)
On that note big thank you too:
NeverTooMuchInspiration, Haruki Uchiha (Don't worry I'll definitely have an ASl reunion soon I love them way too much to not include it eventually! And guess i already answered the question of Buggy going through with the proposal lol, for good Ace fanfics i highly reccomend spades on screen, wish by spirit and if by yes (cute Sabo and Ace reunion stuff), whatever you can still betray (it's hilarious) and second division provisions! hope this helps! :D ), gong222, LuckyMagicBelle, Engineer of Epicness (Thanks! Sengoku us definitely not going to be having a good time for the next chapter I'll say that much), animemistress1, raider93, Eyilin (Thank you for the comment and I hope this made you laugh :D ) MrSunshine744, yukino76, butterflypuss, Simitria, WILDSPARK-PRIME (Thank you for the comment! And Shanks us both horrified by Buggy's affections but also completely willing to use them to help take Benn out the picture XD and omg Ace running away with bannanas from his ship minions is a hilarious image i cackled when i read your comment), portgas d ace forever, beujaflu (Thank you, hope you enjoyed the chapter :D) InfinityMask (Marco loves Whitebeard like a father but the poor man needs a vacation so revenge it is XD), TheWickedTruth89, Lilif3r19 (Thank you your comment made me cackle XD), Random Wingithingy (Thanks for the comments and Garp is absolutely rolling with the newest gossip to piss of Sengoku! I can promise more pranks next chapter!) , readorcetics (Sorry my computer bugged out last time i posted chapter 22 so it posted it twice which is why there was no chapter 23 till now, sorry for the long wait but I hope you enjoyed!), Aome475 (Gracias por la encantadora respuesta y espero que haya disfrutado del capítulo! Y saludos de vuelta de Inglaterra! :) ), shukkets, Monxu Aki (Hope you enjoyed and if I ever get round to doing a one shot collection after I finish the main Story I can guarantee messing with the other Emperor's will be involved!) Readinglivinglif, FlamingReaper (Glad you're enjoying it and sorry for the confusion on the last chapter my computer uploaded chapter 22 twice which is why you got a notification for a 23rd chapter!), AnimeFanRy (Glad to hear you're enjoying the fic hope you liked the chapter!), BlueKnight1940 (Thank you for the nice comment hope the chapter made you smile!), Creativesm75 (glad you're enjoying it!) Anime. (Yup now Rayleigh is involved things are gonna get tricky, good luck to the Captain's lol) , LoveDarkHina (Excellent question about Sandersonia and Marigold joining the first mate society, hadn't considered it before but I think I'm maybe gonna try include it cause that'd be hilarious! Thank you for the idea!), jayyfallen (Thank you and hope you enjoy the update :) ), Sarcasmrocks (first of all love your username, and yup Ace is definitely spreading the madness! don't worry I'm hoping to include Luffy soon :D, and ooo good point about Mihawk you've made me want to include him now XD) , mo (glad you love the story omg thank you, having someone cackle at your work in the middle of the night is actually the best praise! XD and hope you enjoyed this chapter just as much!), Tsunoyo (gracias y espero que te haya gustado este capítulo! :) ), BoredPotatoe (the first mates are terrifying and despite the Captain's retaliating they better watch their backs! And I'm definitely doing some Ace and Buggy interaction next chapter! glad you enjoyed the last chapter), pimmeles626 (Thank you, hopefully I'll get round to the actual prank next chapter!), Shadowpillow (you're probably right at this point it's just one more crazy rumour to add to the pile XD and glad it made you laugh!), NilakantaDragonQueen619 (aaahhhhhhh thank you so much for the nice comment that is absolutely the best feedback you can get as a fic writer and it made me smile so much :D), Louve3 (Thank you, hopefully I can try update more regularly!)
As well as everyone else who left a review (Sorry if I missed anyone!) and I hope you all enjoyed the chapter and that you're all doing well and keeping safe :)