Buggy is on the deck of the Big Top, watching the Funan siblings try out a new routine, when his Haki suddenly screams at him, the Voice so loud despite the distance that it makes him jump , and he's running towards his cabin before he can even think of it, before he even sees Cabaji running for him, DenDen Mushi in hand.
Not just any DenDen. The specially bred one that connects him with Shanks without anyone being able to overhear their conversation, the special bred of Denden that Mohji and Rockstar had perfected over the years to allow the two of them to stay in contact no matter what, and it's ringing but it's not Shanks' face forming on the snails'd body, it's Benn's and that's only happened once before, when Shanks lost his arm, and Buggy grabs the Denden with barely a nod at his left hand, and rushes into his cabin, closing the door behind him as he takes the call, rummaging through the drawers of his desk.
"Benn, what's going on?" He asks as he grabs a small box out of the drawer. "Is Shanks-"
"Captain Buggy," Benn's voice is hoarse and wet, like he's been screaming and crying recently, and no no no please please Davy Jones and the Sea please don't let this be- "Captain has been captured by the Marines."
Buggy's world goes
"What the fuck do you mean, Beckman?" he barks, much ruder than he would usually be with Shanks amazingly level-headed first mate, but this can't be happening, this can't be the truth, there's no way-
"We were attacked by Big Mom and her 'children' three days ago - Captain had declined one of her marriage propositions again and she took offence, and we could have handled it if it was only her, we could have, but- she had back-up. Marine back-up ."
"A trap," he whispers. "It was a trap."
Big Mom to distract and tire them out, injure them as much as she could, with the fresh Marines swooping in to finish them off once she was done, and Buggy didn't think she would fall so low as to ally herself with Marines but apparently he'd been wrong and now Shanks is-
"What happened, Beckman?"
Another drawn in breath, a rattle in his lungs that makes Buggy frown because that's not good, not good at all.
"Captain was hurt, tired - we had been fighting non stop for three days when the Marines showed up, and unlike Big Mom we couldn't afford to rotate with each other, we don't have that number of people, and... Lucky got hurt. Badly. He's still in surgery and Damian doesn't know if-" A sharp breath. "Captain stepped between him and the next attack, ordered a retreat while he covered us. We nearly made it, and then the Marines showed up and-"
"And he ordered you to leave while he bought you some time to escape," Buggy finishes, trying to ignore the sudden panic rushing through his veins, the absolute terror threatening to take over his mind.
"All three admirals, Captain Buggy. They sent all three admirals, and Captain was already injured and Lucky was dying and some of the others were really badly off and-" Benn cuts himself off. "He cut the waters in two, used the water pressure to literally send the Red Force away, and Yasopp saw him getting knocked out by Aokiji and there was so much blood-"
Buggy inhales. One, two, three, four.
(Four, four years since he last saw Shanks in person.)
Holds it for one, two, three, four, five, six, seven.
(Seven, seven years since Shanks lost his arm and Benn called him in panic because they weren't sure he was going to live through the week)
Exhales. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.
(Eight, eight times over the years that Shanks had nearly died under Buggy's hands as he tried desperately to heal him, to stop the bleeding, the infection, the illness-)
Shanks has been captured. Shanks is injured and captive and the Marines have him and-
"There's probably going to be an announcement in the papers in the next few days," Benn says. "I... I didn't want you to hear it from the papers, I... I know you and Captain are close and... you deserved to hear it from us."
Deserved to hear it from us who failed him, Benn doesn't say but Buggy hears it anyway, because Shanks' people are good people and of course Benn would be blaming himself despite the fact that Buggy knows for certain that the Akagami would have done everything they could to save their captain, knows that they were going to do everything they could to try and rescue him before the execution that was no doubt about to be announced by the World Government. Capturing a Yonkou? One who had sailed with Gol D Roger at that? It was going to be a massive affair, no doubt, and it would take time to organise.
That means that Buggy still has time to do something, time to figure out a way to get Shanks out of this mess alive because the alternative is unacceptable. He's nowhere near ready for this, his position in East Blue not half as strong as he would like it to be given the situation he's about to find himself in, but...
It's the person who has been by his side all his life, his brother in all but blood, the other half of his soul, the one who knows him best and saved him so many times, the person who has always meant safety and comfort and love and Buggy cannot imagine a world without him, refuses to, will not accept a world without Akagami no Shanks in it, no matter what.
"What's your status, Benn?" He asks, forcing his voice to remain calm. "How many injured? What do you need? Where are you? How is the Red Force?"
"I..." Benn inhales sharply. "All of us are injured to various degrees. Lucky is still in surgery. Ryu- Ryu lost his left leg at the knee. Rockstar's got some bad third degree burns on his back when he jumped between Damian and Akainu, barely managed to get his Armament up in time but it's never been his strongest suit, that's Observation, and his back is... it's bad. Capu and Castor have severe concussions, some broken ribs as well. Capu's got a bad cut in his stomach and Castor has a broken arm. Yasopp is the least injured of us all, because he's the sniper and fought from a distance, but one of Big Mom's attacks managed to get him and he took some lightning damage from that fucking cloud of hers.The rest have a variety of broken limbs and cuts and bruises, Yasopp, Chess and I have been handling the first aid for now because Damian can't afford to leave Lucky right now and..."
"Benn Beckmann!" Buggy snaps, shocking the man out of his panicked spiral. "Where the fuck are you right now?"
There's a sound of scuffle on the other end, and then suddenly the snail's face changes, Benn's appearance replaced by a hooded face in blue and red, no eyes visible and sharp dragon-like teeth.
"They fucking took him, Blue!" Speed roars into the phone. "They took him and he didn't let me help and now they're all hurt and broken and lost and I can't fix them! Force is injured as well, not too bad and she's fixing herself up as we speak because she's a tough bitch like that, but Red's people need more doctors and they took him and I want him back they need to give him back or I'm going to dye the seas crimson with their blood and feed their entrails to the seagulls!!"
Up until now, Buggy hadn't even been aware that Klabautermänner could use DenDen Mushis, and he pushes the idea away to contemplate later once he's saved Shanks and can actually spare thoughts to something other than a litany of Shanks Shanks Shanks Shanks.
"We'll get him back, Speed, I swear to you on Davy Jones and the Seas he sails on, we're getting him back, but I need to know where you are!"
Thankfully, the Klabauterman is able to tell him their exact coordinates, and a quick look at his maps confirms his initial guess. They're in the New World, Big Mom doesn't usually leave it, but it's close to the Red Line - and right next to Marine Base G5, one of their strongest. The Red Force managed to dodge her pursuers and is now hiding near Raijin - an island loyal to them, that's good, but it doesn't have much in way of doctors or supplies.
Buggy breathes in, slowly.
They're probably holding Shanks in G5 right now, but they'll definitely want to transfer him somewhere more symbolic for any execution. His guess is on either Loguetown, to make the parallels with Roger stronger, or Marineford, their stronghold and the easiest place to secure. Either way, they're not going to keep Shanks in the New World for long.
One of his hand detaches, grabs a pen and a notepad and starts writing down names, DenDen Numbers, calculations, anything that runs through his mind as he tries to figure out how to do this.
The Marines are going to want to execute Shanks, and they're going to want to do it soon, to try and prevent any potential allies from trying to break him out. Before the end of the month, certainly, more than likely in the next twenty days - they will need time to gather their own forces. The execution of a Yonko, especially one linked to Roger, one who has gone to Laugh Tale and seen it with his own eyes, will draw crowds, will draw challengers. The Marines will want to make sure they can handle whatever comes for them. It's Buggy's job to make sure they don't expect him, and whatever he's planning.
"Beckman, if I can get you to one of the best Doctors in the world in the next two days, how many of you do you think would be able to fight within the next ten days?"
He doesn't ask the man if he's been checked out by his doctor right now, he can hear the broken ribs Benn is sporting.
A shaky breath. "Around half of us? Not Lucky, not Ryu either, but Yasopp, me, Rockstar, Damian, Chess, some of the others. I..."
Never in his life has Buggy heard Benn Beckmann sound so hesitant, and it makes him want to slaughter those responsible, not that he hadn't already been ready to do so because those fuckers have captured Shanks and are going to kill him unless Buggy does something. And that is unacceptable.
"What are we going to do, Captain Buggy?" Benn asks him, places him in charge, and something in Buggy's chest tightens. Benn Beckmann is going through the worst day in his life and he's reaching out to Buggy. Asking Buggy for help, trusting him , a small time East Blue nobody, to take charge and tell him what to do, and it's simultaneously humbling and terrifying.
"Speed, is the Red Force dive-worthy?"
"She will be in two hours once I'm done helping her," the tiny gremlin ship that had kept him and Shanks alive through some of their hardest years snarls. "Where to, Blue?"
"Tortoise Island. Get them to Tortoise Island as fast as you can, I'll have someone meet you at the harbor. I'm going to make some calls, figure out what's happening. Beckmann, I swear to you I'm going to do everything in my power to get him back. I swear on Davy Jones and the Seas he sails on, I will get him back alive or die trying."
The rushing sound of waves in his ears, the barking of a seagull in the distance - his oath has been heard and acknowledged, Davy Jones' attention has been caught. Buggy hopes it'll be in their favour - Shanks still needs to collect Shiki's head, like he promised, hopefully Davy Jones will help them if only for the entertainment factor.
An oath in Davy Jones’ name is not one to be made lightly, but Buggy means it with ever fiber of his being.
A world without Shanks in it?
Buggy would probably survive it.
But he doesn’t want to, because a world without Shanks would be…
No. He refuses to even imagine a world without Shanks in it.
(They’re Buggy-and-Shanks and Shanks-and-Buggy, and Buggy refuses to become Buggy-without-Shanks. He refuses. )
"You better stay alive too, Captain Buggy, or Captain will never forgive himself," Benn interjects, voice gruff and rough. "Tortoise. We can get to Tortoise, if we can make it through Fishman Kingdom without trouble- What then?"
"Then you get as many of your people as possible back in fighting shape, and we prepare for the rescue operation of the century," Buggy declares, tone a lot more confident than he actually feels. "Have Rockstar call me as soon as he's in any state to do so, I'll need his help for the New World part of the network. Start making a list of the allies you can call upon who will come if you call, and the ones that might not but who could be persuaded to at least cause problems elsewhere to draw attention away from us. And for the love of Shanks, Beckmann, get someone to check out your ribs and to make sure your lungs aren't damaged, I can hear you rattle from here and Shanks will never forgive himself if you die either."
That gets him a wry chuckle, and then Benn speaks up again. "Aye. I will. Rockstar will call you as soon as Chess is done bandaging his burns. And we'll have your back, Captain Buggy. Whatever you need of us to save our Captain, you have it."
Buggy nods, throat tight at the trust Beckmann is putting in his hands. "Take care of your people, Benn. Make sure all of you stay alive for Shanks to greet when we get him back, alright?"
He hangs up before Benn can say anything, and carefully puts the small DenDen on the desk, before moving away from it to collapse on his bed, legs unable to support his weight as his hands start shaking like leaves in the wind.
Shanks SHANKS ShAnKs
Shanks- Captured injured going to be executed a head cut off the wet squelch as it hits the ground no no no no he can't, can't lose Shanks, not after losing Captain, can't can't can't-
Buggy digs his nails into his forearms, uses the pain as he draws blood to ground himself into the present, to help him push the panic back and get moving. Time is running fast and he's going to need every single second if he wants to be able to save Shanks, and failure is not an option, wouldn't have been one even if he hadn't sworn it on Davy Jones and the Seas.
He refuses to live in a world where Shanks doesn't. Refuses.
Deep breaths, one after another, and then he's standing up and grabbing the notepad and his address book and the denden and then he's out of the cabin and on the deck and Mohji and Cabaji are at his sides, Richie pressed against the small of his back, the contact grounding and comforting and Buggy can't breath but he has to pretend he can because he needs to be breathing to rescue Shanks.
He doesn't know how he explains what happened to his right and left hand, can't hear anything beyond the rushing of water in his ears, and in his pocket there's a small box with a small piece of paper, torn and bloodied but still moving and that's the only thing preventing him from shattering into pieces right now, the knowledge that Shanks is still alive and that Buggy still has time to try and save him.
And maybe it's ridiculous to think that he'll be able to do so, because he's Buggy and he's weak and Shanks is a Yonkou and they still managed to beat him, what chances does Buggy stand against the might of the Marines when even Shanks couldn't?
None, that's what, but he's going to try anyway. Because it's Shanks.
Breathe in, breathe out. In, and out, the taste of salt and water on the air.
Cabaji is gone, his Haki placing him inside their communication center, agitatedly pacing around the room. Mohji is putting the rest of the crew through their paces, ordering a new heading that will lead them towards the Grand Line, and from there to Marineford, as fast as possible. The rookies are glancing at him worriedly, and Buggy feels guilty for that, but he can't stop himself.
Richie is still pressed close to him, his rumbling a soothing vibration that keeps Buggy from getting lost in his own head, and he buries his fingers into the lion's fur, hiding his trembling hands in the long mane.
"Alright, Rich'," he tells the feline, and his voice is much steadier than he feels. "We've got work to do."