It was a calm day in the New World as the Moby Dick sailed smoothly through crystal clear waters, her canvasses full and heavy with a refreshing summer breeze. Below her great masts members of her large crew bustled about excitedly, preparing for the landing they would be making in a few short hours at the upcoming island.
Well within their territory, only the most foolish of marines and enemy pirate Captains would dare attempt these waters, leaving the wide expanse of open ocean empty for Whitebeard’s crew to enjoy unhindered. Those on duty hurried to organise empty cargo boxes and pallets, as they were scheduled to make a short stop to replenish some of their supplies.
With such a large crew and so many mouths to feed, the inhabitants of each island within Whitebeard’s territory were more than happy to lease some of their land for crops and farming that would keep the crew fed. In return for these services Whitebeard offered the people protection, and also brought in money and trade that helped support the communities. They never abused their position or took without giving something back - that was not the Whitebeard Pirate way. At least, not with their allies.
Whitebeard watched in amusement from his chair up on the figurehead as his sons went about their tasks, working together like a well oiled machine. The sight made his chest swell with pride, though the wizened old man knew that the peace would not last long.
As the head chef on the crew and the one in control of the supply list, Thatch was doing a good job of checking everything was in order for the landing. It was one of the few times when the man was more serious, reining in his prankster nature until he could get the job done. This rare display of maturity however did not extend to all members of the crew, as Whitebeard soon witnessed.
Two of his youngest sons, Ace and Haruta, had disappeared not too long ago after Thatch had tried to give them a job to do, and as their loud and excited voices carried across the deck, Whitebeard knew they weren’t far away. They appeared at the top of the steps towards the back of the ship with one of the carts used for transporting supplies, with Haruta sat inside and Ace pushing it from behind.
“No no no! Not the stairs!” Haruta yelled, gripping the sides of the cart for dear life. Behind him Ace cackled manically, ignoring his friend as the stairway loomed ever closer. Thatch looked round just in time to see his missing goods cart tip over the top stair and bounce down with Haruta screaming “Ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ace,” and one thoroughly amused fire logia user wailing in delight behind him.
“Ace!” Thatch shouted, marching over as the cart swerved at the bottom and came to a stop half way down the deck, courtesy of Jozu’s hand. “You lunatic, what are you doing now? I asked you to help, not commandeer and race around in one of the kitchen carts!”
Ace stood up straight and fixed his hat on his head. “Oh come on, Thatch, it's just a bit of fun,” he told the fourth division commander. “I can't help it. We’re finally landing at a new island I've never been to before! I’m too excited to work.”
Thatch jabbed his pen against the younger man’s nose. “Are you too excited to eat then?” He asked pointedly. “Because I'll ban you from the galley if you don't stop messing around.”
Ace pouted. “That's not fair, but I'll just ask Marco to sneak me some--”
“I'll ban him too if you do that!” Thatch threatened. “And then you'll have to deal with him being annoyed with you and getting all the night shifts.”
“I told you he'd shout at us,” Haruta stage whispered from the cart. “This is the only time Thatch is serious.”
Ace shoved his hands in his pockets and looked away. “You’re so boring Thatch.”
The chef blinked, letting his mouth drop open as he stared at the second division commander. “I-I’m not boring!” he exclaimed. “I’m just trying to get things done. You’re not the only one who’s excited to go ashore Ace.”
“Oi, oi,” a rather lazy voice called as footsteps crossed the deck. Thatch turned to see Marco walking up to them, looking bored as ever. “What’s the hold up?” the blonde asked, before raising an eyebrow at Ace and Haruta in the cart. “We’re almost at port. Get out of there, yoi.”
Haruta smiled sheepishly and wriggled awkwardly out of the cart, aided a little by Ace. “Sorry, Marco.”
The blonde turned to Thatch, having already lost interest. “Oyaji has asked me to run a few errands in the town, so once I’m finished with them I’ll come and see how you’re all doing.”
Thatch smirked. “No worries, I’ll have everything under control,” he announced.
Ace pouted as he was more or less ignored, fidgeting a little where he stood in the hopes that Marco would take notice of him. The zoan user however continued to ignore the logia’s futile attempts, instead turning away and heading back towards the commanders’ quarters, probably to continue his paperwork.
Ace moved to follow, only to find his plans foiled by a certain chef’s arm blocking his path. “I wouldn’t,” Thatch advised. “Marco probably has loads still to do so you should leave him be for now.”
The fire user shoved his hands into his pockets sulkily. “Still doesn’t mean he should just completely blank me. A simple hello would have sufficed.” He snorted. “I would even have taken a ‘yoi’.”
Thatch snorted quietly in amusement, returning his attention to the clipboard still in his hand. “I’m sure you’ll have his undivided attention later once the supply run is over. Now go put that cart back where you got it and come help with the pallets.”
Ace grumbled in complaint before reluctantly moving to do so.
Marco sighed as he walked through the bustling little town, raising a hand to shield his eyes from the glaring sunlight. He was on his way back from meeting with some of Oyaji’s old associates, regarding a quarrel over land, and boy had it been tedious.
While the Whitebeard pirates were in control of these waters and had set a claim on the island as part of their territory, other than when defending it they tried to avoid getting caught up in ownership disputes. Local politics was a nuisance that Marco had no patience for, and he’d just spent the best part of three hours listening to two old men arguing over a single field. One kept livestock on it while the other claimed it actually belonged to him, and so wanted the animals removed so he could build a new house for his daughter.
Marco had exhausted all his diplomatic skills before eventually caving to his temper and giving the two stubborn fools an ultimatum; either come to an agreement or hand the fate of the field in question over to Marco. In the end neither party had been able to agree, leaving him with no other choice but to resort to desperation. A simple coin toss had decided in favour of the current user of the field with the livestock, resulting in the loser expressing his displeasure loudly and rather colourfully in Marco’s ear. Now he had a headache, next to no thanks for his troubles, and a shipful of crewmates and new supplies to organise before he had any hope of a peaceful night’s sleep.
Grumbling an exasperated sigh, the blonde weaved his way out of the crowd of people and turned off the main street of the town, taking a far more quiet dirt track up a hill and towards one of the farms. Thatch was hopefully almost finished gathering fresh fruit and vegetables to take back to the ship, so Marco might as well follow his own word and check up on things. It wouldn’t do any harm.
The wide rolling expanse of fields opened out to him as he reached the crest of the hill, immediately spotting his crewmate and brother loading a box of potatoes onto the back of a horse drawn cart. Some members of Thatch’s division were still hard at work extracting more tasty morsels from the generous earth, and Marco knew this was not the first cart to be filled today.
“How’s it going, yoi?” he asked, stopping to pat the horse’s neck as Thatch turned to him. The chef grinned and dusted his hands together.
“Nearly done now,” he replied. “The second division are helping finish off this last field, and then we’re good to go.” He tilted his head with an amused smirk. “How did it go playing referee?”
Marco grunted and looked away, vaguely admiring a pleasant looking pond off to the right as a frog croaked on its edge. “Complete waste of time. Part of me wanted them to start throwing punches just so it would be over quickly. But no such luck.”
Thatch chuckled and patted Marco on the back, then slung an arm round his shoulders and turned them both away from the horse and cart. “You know Oyaji wouldn’t have sent you if he thought someone else could handle it,” he pointed out as the two wandered aimlessly towards the pond. “Remember what happened when Izo was sent once before? He nearly shot the pair that were arguing and made the whole situation even worse than it was beforehand.”
Marco gave him a pointed look. “That was over a man sleeping with someone else’s wife though, not a damn field, yoi.”
Thatch laughed. “What can I say, a lot of things mean a lot to the people here. Even fields.”
Marco grunted again. “Well I couldn’t care less right now. The sooner we’re back out at sea the better.”
The fourth division commander stopped them both, releasing Marco’s shoulders and turning to face him. “Hold up, we only just got here. The crew needs at least one night off ship to blow off some steam.”
“And they’ll have that night, yoi,” Marco assured him. “But as soon as my duties are complete I’m heading back to the Moby and going to bed. I’ve had enough today.”
“Oh?” Thatch asked, his tone lifting as his brother caught his full curiosity. “And what about Ace? What if he wants to stay out?”
This time Marco scowled at his brother. “Then I’ll do nothing to stop him. Stop poking your nose in my business, yoi.”
“Ooh, someone is on a short fuse today,” Thatch teased. “What’s the matter, Marco? Duty keeping you away from your love life?”
“Any more of that and you’re going in the pond,” the blonde threatened, determined not to rise to Thatch’s baiting. The chef meant well and was only having some harmless fun, but right now the first division commander was far from being in the mood for his teasing.
Thatch laughed and patted him on the shoulder again, going on to say something else that Marco immediately stopped listening to. A faint creaking sound caught his attention from somewhere nearby, sounding like the turning of an old wheel of some sort. Then hurried footsteps joined the fray, and suddenly a loud voice.
“Hey, watch out!”
“Ace!” Thatch shouted.
Marco turned just a second too late to react to the oncoming threat, and grunted as a wheelbarrow full of potatoes collided with the back of his legs. Landing awkwardly across the load he gripped the sides instinctively, dimly hearing Ace curse at the handlebars behind him as he tried to get the runaway contraption back under his control.
The wheel squeaked and bounced beneath the combined weight of the potatoes and now the first division commander, its inertia careening it out of control down the steep banking and straight into the pond. Marco was thrown under first as the front of the barrow crashed into the water, the force flipping it over and catapulting Ace clean over the top of it and further into the pond. The shallow water quickly turned muddy as the two devil fruit users flailed wildly, while up on the banking Thatch dissolved into tears of hysterics.
“Oh god, where’s a camera when you need one?” he exclaimed, doubling over and cackling as both Ace and Marco spluttered towards the edge of the pond, thankfully in no danger of drowning due to the relatively shallow depths.
“What the hell are you playing at, yoi?!” Marco demanded, turning to glare at Ace as they both crawled out of the water. “Why didn’t you warn me sooner?”
“I thought I could stop it in time,” Ace retorted, spitting out a mouthful of pond mud. “The idea was to catch you in the barrow.”
“And why on earth would you want to do that?” Marco asked, shaking some weird slimy green sludge from his hair.
“Because you ignored me this morning,” Ace pouted. “Back on the ship.”
Marco turned and smacked the second division commander on the back of the head. “So you retaliate by running me down with a wheelbarrow?!” He practically screeched.
“I told you it wasn’t meant to happen like that!” Ace protested, ducking away as Marco took another swipe at him.
While all this was going on Thatch had dropped to his knees, failing miserably to contain his mad cackling as he gripped his sides. “I can’t wait to tell Oyaji!”
“No!” Marco yelled.
The crew was in an uproar of hilarity and jokes as the sodden first and second division commanders stood in the centre of the deck a short while later, having returned from their misadventures up in the fields soaked to the bone and filthy from pond water and mud. Whitebeard sat in his chair, head thrown back with his booming laughter at the sight before him. His sons never ceased to amaze, or in this case amuse him. Marco looked seriously put out for a man normally so stoic faced, and Ace’s cheeks burned a deep crimson with embarrassment.
“I knew you two were dirty, but this just takes the cake,” Izo called, sniggering behind a delicate fan in his hand.
“Shut up!” Ace and Marco shouted together, which in turn drew more hysterics from their family.
“I see you’ve had quite an adventure, my sons,” Whitebeard mused, looking back down at them again with a smile and fond sparkle in his eyes.
“It’s Ace’s fault, Oyaji,” Marco told him petulantly. “He damn well nearly ran me over.”
“Oyaji, it was an accident,” Ace defended himself. “Dumb Marco didn’t move in time.”
The blonde turned his head so fast his neck cracked. “‘Dumb’ Marco?!”
Whitebeard raised a hand to stop them from arguing. “Alright, enough of that,” he told them both, settling down from his own mirth now. “The main thing is no one was hurt. Now do your old man a favour and go shower. I can smell the pair of you from here.”
Another chorus of laughter enveloped the ship as Marco and Ace turned away, disappearing below deck and towards the commanders’ showers. Marco threw off his stinking clothes in a hurry, giving his favourite sash one sorrowful look before stepping under the hot spray of water. He didn’t notice Ace joining him until a few seconds later, when a hand lifted to his hair from behind him and began to massage shampoo into the blonde strands.
Allowing himself a quiet sigh, Marco calmed at the touch and turned to face the younger man. As infuriating as Ace could be at times, the phoenix still loved him, disasters and all.
“You owe me for that yoi,” he grumbled, closing an eye as soap suds rolled down over it from his hair.
Ace smiled, rinsing off one hand and carefully wiping the offending white bubbles from his partner’s face, being sure that none of it got in his eye. “It is kinda funny if you think about it,” he said with a grin, ignoring Marco’s unimpressed growl. “I’ve never seen you flail around like that before. I would have laughed if I wasn’t too busy half drowning.”
Marco scowled. “And whose fault is that?” he asked pointedly.
Ace rolled his eyes. “Mine, I know.” Finishing with the shampoo, he let Marco rinse the suds from his hair under the hot spray, then leaned up and pecked him on the cheek. “But you still forgive me right?” he asked, tilting his head in the adoring way he knew his lover couldn’t resist.
Knowing he had just lost the argument with that one gesture, Marco sighed and leaned their foreheads together. “I suppose so,” he admitted reluctantly, even as a smirk crept onto his lips. “But you messed up my favourite sash, so I at least expect some compensation.”
Ace grinned and stepped closer, their chests coming together as he brushed Marco’s lips delicately with his own. “I think I can arrange that,” he purred, smiling as he felt Marco’s hands come to rest on his hips. “Most of the crew will be out tonight partying in town. We’ll practically have the ship to ourselves.”
Marco grinned, very much liking that idea already. “Then who am I to resist,” he replied, taking a moment to indulge in a sweet kiss between them. “But do me a favour, Ace.”
The freckled man tilted his head again, lightly nipping his bottom lip as he gazed up at Marco. “What’s that?”
Marco’s grin turned into a smirk. “Next time you decide to mess around with wheelbarrows, knock Thatch in the pond.”