Title: Meanwhile...back at the Baratie.

Rating: K+ for a few swears

Pairing: None really, but I guess I'll let you have Zeff/OC if you really want. Oh you lovely, lovely sick people, you. Slight (very slight) mentions of ZoSan but feel free to ignore them.

Timeframe: About a month and a half pre-Enies Lobby; before Sanji gets his wanted poster.

Warnings: Yes, yes, more crack, slight OOC, another song. What else is new? XD

Disclaimer: One Piece is not mine, and neither is the song. The MFIA is of my creation though. :D

-----X3-----

While Sanji was off gallivanting about the Grand Line kicking ass, not getting laid ('cept by the swordsman), and just having fun with his nakama in general, the Baratie was in a bit of a pickle.

Oh yes, they'd been in pickles before; not counting the Don Krieg incident, there'd been the typical problems and scenarios that always accompanied the presence of a restaurant, all of which were so unimportant they weren't even worth mentioning.

But Lord help us lest we remember one particular tricky incident in the recent past involving the ever-fussy MFIA (Marine Food Inspection Agency), some freakishly large sea-roaches, a carnivorous radish, and an exploding mass of cherry custard-flavoured gelatine. Hell, at least they'd gotten new staff out of it.

However, this was a new one.

'Twas a problem never encountered before at the Baratie and Owner Zeff and his chefs were at their wit's end trying to sort it out. Sadly, several pieces of furniture had already met their messy demise and it wouldn't be long until the walls followed if Zeff kept up his regime of kicking his staff through them in frustration.

One Thursday night, just after closing time, Owner Zeff announced to the kitchen that there would be a meeting in a few hours time after everything had been cleaned up, and that everyone was to attend. Then he departed upstairs to rest his aching leg. Damn thing was playing up again.

When he returned downstairs, everyone was waiting for him in the dining area. The remaining tables had been pushed closely together to create a large circle.

Hmph, just like the one belonging to that fool king in the bratty eggplant's fairy tale books. Zeff grumbled inwardly. I wonder how the little shit's getting on, anyway. Probably miserable cuz he hasn't seduced that swordsman yet.

"Owner Zeff?"

The head chef abruptly shook away thoughts of his foster son's well being (though they lingered still at the back of his mind) and sat at the table.

"Right then shitty bastards, we all know why we're here." There was a symphony of affirmative nods.

"The problem," murmured Patty.

"The Problem," repeated Carne.

"The Problem," echoed the remainder of the staff.

"Shut up!" Zeff sent a swift roundhouse kick at them all, sending them flying. "I got it the first time, baka!"

Grumbling, but thoroughly chastised, the cooks returned to their seats wincing in pain. Zeff continued.

"While we have solved the problem concerning our lack of waiters..."

Here he nodded to the five newest members of staff-four men and one woman-sitting as calmly amongst the crazy cooks as if they'd been doing it for years instead of mere days.

"...since the shitty eggplant's disappearance and the incident with Don Krieg..."

"Bastard," the assembly whispered simultaneously.

"...the customers have been slightly more reluctant in coming here..."

"Why does Sanji's departure make any difference?" interrupted Carne.

"Baka," answered the guy on his right, "The bastard was a moron but at least he kept the ladies happy."

"...I thought he liked guys?"

"Shut UP!" Another roundhouse kick, more bruises, more dents in the wall, and Zeff was streaming as he ploughed on.

"We need a solution, men! How do we draw our customers back? What do you think, eh?" There was complete silence among the chefs as they thought this over. Zeff leaned back in his chair and watched them.

Devil be damned if I don't teach 'em to think for themselves.

An hour slowly ticked by in silence. The waitress called Elveen yawned politely, covering her mouth with a dainty hand.

When the clock stuck quarter past eleven, the cooks turned to one another, seemingly drawing up conclusions in their heads, and started whispering to one another. Then they looked to Zeff, and Patty began to speak.

"Owner Zeff, we have come to a unanimous conclusion," he said firmly, pronouncing the complicated word with care.

Zeff leaned in looking gruffly expectant.

"Yes?"

"The problem..."

"Ye-eees?"

"We think..."

"Spit it out asshole!"

"It needs a solution."

There was a pause.

"It took you...an hour to come up...with that?!?"

"Yes. We conclude that you're right. We all think this problem needs a solution."

The cooks looked quite pleased with themselves...until Zeff wore himself out teaching them all a much-needed (in his opinion, anyway) lesson in pain.

"We're going to need a lot more tables by the time this is over," murmured Basco, the redheaded waiter. His four companions agreed as Zeff sank back in his chair, panting slightly from over-exertion.

"Right you bastards, I want a solution before midnight or I'll start breaking heads. And that goes for you too."

Zeff glared pointedly at the four male waiters, who shuddered in horror under his piercing stare, then softened his gaze as he turned to smile at Elveen.

"Mon Cherie, you have no need to worry. A lovely flower such as yourself obviously has no need to be taught how to think constructively."

Elveen smiled coyly and batted her eyelashes flirtatiously.

"Why thank you Owner Zeff-sama."

Her fellow waiters rolled their eyes and groaned softly. One of the cooks muttered under his breath:

"So that's where Sanji gets it from."

Zeff heard and lobbed a fork across the room at him, too tired to kick anyone a third time. It hit the cook's head with a satisfying, albeit slightly muffled, thud.

"Get thinking!" he roared. Silence reined again as everyone but Zeff and Elveen glanced in fear at the clock. Why was it that time went so much faster when you were at risk of being pummelled within an inch of your life?

Several tense minutes passed.

Malone, another waiter, and somewhat of a pervert, suddenly looked up and spoke into the silence.

"If all else fails, I suppose there's always the pole dancing act."

This time Zeff didn't even react. After all, he didn't have to kick Malone's ass; the other cooks did it for him. Elveen smothered a giggle while Basco rolled his eyes and Uric and Reed, the last two waiters, slumped in defeat.

By the time the cooks deemed Malone sufficiently mangled, only ten minutes remained until midnight and everyone started to panic, desperately conversing amongst themselves. Elveen watched in mild amusement before deciding they'd all suffered enough.

She vacated her chair and, stepping neatly over Malone's prone form as she went, sat next to the head chef, placing a hand on his folded arms.

"Owner Zeff-sama, if I might be so bold, would you permit me to share with you my idea?" Zeff's face flushed half a shade darker with delight.

"But of course ma petite poi. What did you have in mind?"

Elveen smiled and told him.

-----X3-----

For the next two weeks after that, the Baratie was closed. Certainly Zeff made sure any starving sailors passing by were fed, but apart from that no one went into the sea-faring restaurant and no one came out.

Then, at the end of the second week, someone contacted the Worldly News and bought a section in the advertisements page. The newspapers sent out the following day bore an ad promoting a brand new eating experience at none other than the Baratie. The debut of said experience would begin in three days on October the twenty-fourth, would last for a week from seven pm to closing time, and would only be watched by those with reservations.

Needless to say, this drew many curious customers, both regular and irregular, to the restaurant. Though some of them claimed boredom was the cause, it was undeniable that all were intrigued to know what Owner Zeff would pull out of his sleeve.

October the twenty-fourth arrived swiftly, and just before six o' clock, the five waiters emerged from the Baratie to greet the earliest customers—the ones eager for "good seats"—and politely bade them sit in the comfortable waiting area set up on the fins (both of which had been replaced after Luffy destroyed them).

Drinks were supplied along a few very light, but extremely tasty, hors d'oeuvres because while the Baratie's staff wanted to satisfy the customers, they did not want any ruined appetites among the audience. No one need have worried though, for the appetisers seemed to do naught but make everyone all the more anxious for the main course.

At seven o' clock on the dot, the doors to the Baratie opened and the customers were ushered inside. The interior was lit with dim lighting, turning the lavender and yellow painted walls to deep rich hues of plum and gold.

Flickering shadows were cast around the room by numerous candles, seeming to sway and dance to the quiet melody of a violin playing somewhere.

The tantalizing scent of food drifted about as the guests were seated at tables before a small podium that had not been there previously, and more than a few mouths salivated in anticipation.

Conversation between the guests flowed in muted tones before suddenly, the waiters vanished into the kitchen, the lights dimmed completely, the music faded away and Owner Zeff himself came to stand upon the podium. A spotlight highlighted him in his full glory; peg leg perfectly polished, braided moustache freshly waxed, and chef hat ruler-straight.

A hush fell immediately as the crowd waited for him to speak. He did not disappoint.

"Ladies and gentlemen...madams et monsieurs, welcome."

Enthusiastic applause followed this greeting.

"You might have noticed that tonight no menus reside upon your tables. This is because the Baratie will be providing each table with an array of platters suited to satisfy the tastes of each and every individual."

He paused.

"I trust no one here is allergic to good taste?"

A smattering of laughter echoed briefly. Zeff smiled broadly.

"Very well then, if that is all, everyone please sit back and enjoy the show. After all, what is dinner without a little...music?"

The spotlight switched off and Zeff departed from the podium to be replaced by Patty. The spotlight switched on again to reveal his outfit; a strange foam spectacle that made him appear to be...a spatula?

Patty grinned, enjoying the looks of surprise on the faces of his precious customers. Music started up again quietly, allowing him to speak up over it.

"Mere bastard customers, it is with deepest pride and greatest pleasure that we welcome you tonight. And now we invite you to relax, let us pull up a chair as the dining room proudly presents...your dinner!"

With a flourish he indicated the kitchen doors, from which several cooks immediately entered, dressed in costumes depicting various tableware and kitchen utensils, carrying immense platters of food.

Carne led the group, dressed as a candlestick, and started to sing, all the while smiling a cheek-achingly wide smile. The music increased in volume.

"Be...our...guest. Be our guest. Put our service to the test! Tie your napkin round your neck, my friend, and we'll provide the rest!"

The group twirled around in time to the music, barely missing one another in their ungainly costumes. Standing back in the shadows, Zeff said a silent thank you for Reed's damn good choreography.

"Soup du jour, hot hors d'oeuvres, why we only live to serve! Try the grey stuff..."

"...it's delicious!" cut in Uric, dressed as a plate, as he gracefully set down a silver tray of miniature foodstuffs. "Don't believe me? Ask the dishes!" He pointed to few chefs dressed as such before sashaying away.

"We can sing, we can dance!" roared one of them, surprisingly in tune. "After all, this is the chance, at a dinner that is never second best! Go on, throw out your menu, just take a glance and then you'll be our guest. Oui, our guest. Be our guest!"

The entire staff joined in for the next bit.

"Beef ragout, cheese soufflé, pie and pudding en flambé!" Basco set a plate of savoury pudding sprinkled with alcohol before an elderly man and set it alight with a hidden lighter and a flick of his wrist. The old man gasped with delight as Patty took up the song again.

"We prepare and serve with flair a culinary cabaret! You are hungry but you'll be spared, cuz the banquet's all prepared. No one's gloomy or complaining while the flatware's entertaining!"

Here Carne took it up again.

"We tell jokes; I do tricks with my fellow candlesticks!" Malone and another cook, both dressed as candelabras, joined him in a strange jig-like dance. "And it's all in perfect taste; that you can bet!"

Everyone joined in again.

"Come on and raise your glass, you've won your own free pass, to be our guest..."

"If you're stressed, it's fine dining we suggest..."

"BE OUR GUEST, BE OUR GUEST, BE OUR GUUUUEST!"

And on it went until all the food had been served and the song's finale drew close. Moving away from the tables, the entire company, Zeff included, made a giant ring around the outside of the room and circled, doing an odd sort of leg-kicking dance as they all sang the last part of the song.

"Be our guest, be our guest, your command is our request! It's been weeks since we've had anybody here, and we're obsessed with your meal, with your ease. Yes indeed we aim to please! While the candlelight's still glowing, let us help you, we'll keep going..."

Zeff's voice rose above the rest as everyone else provided backup vocals.

"Coooourse by course! One by one. 'Til you shout "Enough I'm done!", then we'll sing you off to sleep as you digest!"

Elveen sang a few opera notes as the music reached its crescendo in tempo and volume.

"Tonight you'll prop your feet up, but for now please eat up, be our guest! Be our guest! Be our guest! PLEEEEEEEEASE, BEEEEEE OUUUUUUUR GUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEST!"

The music finished abruptly as fireworks, timed perfectly with the ending, exploded into the night sky outside, creating bright flowers on a backdrop of inky black as viewed through the windows. The lights went up and everyone dropped into deep bows.

Raucous applause, whistles, and shouts of "Encore" rattled the restaurant as the head chef, his cooks and his waiters retreated, smiling, into the kitchen.

Their feet were sore, their voices hurt and they were literally dripping sweat thanks to the hot, heavy costumes, but not one of them could say they hadn't had fun.

Until Malone came out with the kicker:

"Oh great, only another six nights to go."

Good thing everyone was applauding too hard in the dining area to hear his agonized screams.

-----X3-----

Man I had fun with that.

As you've probably guessed, the song is Be Our Guest from "Beauty and the Beast". I modified it slightly in places to fit the situation.

Malone doesn't die by the way. But strangely enough, he thinks before he speaks now. XD

I would die of happiness if someone actually wrote that scene with the MFIA, the roaches, the radish, and the gelatine. I'd do it myself but I have too many other fics on the go. Lately, the inspiration bunny has been biting like nobody's business...yay!

Written for Starla101101, Ice-Skater-Girl101101, and Bo-my-monkey, as they no doubt inspired this fic what with all the Disney fangirling they do. I love you guys!