Title: Going For The Gold (ch.18)
Author: Amethyst Hunter
Fandom: Get Backers
Theme: #7 – “superstar”
Rating: R (language)
Warnings/Spoilers: None other than standard canon. Minor spoilers for incidents involving Ban and Uryuu Toshiki during the Divine Design arc.
Notes: Many thanks to you, wonderful readers, for your continued appreciation. :)
~ I found my missing ficbits, yay! But I figured I'd finish the previous story first before posting the continuation of this one. ;) (For refreshers, when last we left
Ban and Akabane in this fic, they had just nosedived without a parachute and were contemplating alcoholic rewards for their troubles.)
~ Standard disclaimer: please, if you are of legal age to do so, consume alcohol in a responsible manner. (Seriously, folks.)
Disclaimer: GB & gang belong to the wonderful Aoki-san and Ayamine-san, not me. I just play with them for fun. And unlike Akabane's scalpels, I'm harmless. ;)
Summary: Ban and Akabane struggle to amass funding for their trip to Europe, efforts that receive an unexpected boost when old enemies cross paths with retrievers and transporters alike.
It was well into the night by the time they were able to hail a ride from a Good Samaritan and get back to civilization, and the comforts of a local bar frequented by customers of the transport trade, including the Dream Team. Maguruma had suggested it, along with Akabane's approval – while the latter wasn't much of a drinker, he did enjoy the respectable assortment of appetizers the place offered along with its fine selections of alcoholic beverages. Ban, with his considerable brew heritage and taste-testing experience, wouldn't have minded if they'd stopped at the first dive they encountered, but upon hearing Himiko's listing of the lagers and ales available, decided that perhaps a splurge was in order, especially after a rough job. He was halfway pondering the idea of grabbing the first vodka he found and pouring the whole bottle over his wounds, until Ginji convinced him that doing so would cause at least as much discomfort as rubbing alcohol.
“Yeah, you're right. Better to just absorb the stuff naturally. Medicinal value, after all,” Ban said as they walked into the bar. “Stand back, because the bottles are gonna pile up fast!”
“Too much 'medicine' is just as bad for you as the injury,” Akabane, ever the authority, pointed out.
“Says the guy splattered in red, and it's not from his usual chores. Let your hat down, Jackal. After tonight, we deserve a triple round of shots!”
Akabane frowned as he checked the makeshift bandage he'd tied around his stab wound. Ginji's earlier charge and his own capabilities had helped stop the worst of it, but his dress shirt was destined for the scrap heap. “All right, but just one round, Ban-kun. Cirrhosis of the liver is not a pretty sight.”
“Neither are dead brain cells, but you don't see that holding some of us back,” Ban snorted as he gestured towards Ginji, who was engaged in a staring contest with the large orange cichlid in the aquarium by the front door. The fish seemed to take offense from Ginji's mere presence and kept bumping its massive brow up against the glass, and every time it did, Ginji would laugh and likewise bop his own forehead. “C'mon, eel, let's go get us some grub!”
The mention of food pinged Ginji's attention like nothing else. He obediently fell in behind Ban as the group limped through the barroom until they found a suitable corner table in the back. The waitress attending it was about to comment on their bloody, scroungy appearances when a quick flash of money from Maguruma forestalled any threat of eviction. Pacified by the proper payment, the waitress simply nodded and scurried off after he handed her the bills and requested a steady stream: that is, the booze was to flow as freely as the river Nile until the dams of their stomachs could hold back no more.
Ban was impressed. “Big spender, eh, No-Brakes? Must be nice to be so loaded.”
Gouzou grunted. “She knows me and Jackal. The only reason I'm vouching for you is because we worked together on this deal. And before the night's out, I'm probably going to be deeper into my cups than even you, Midou.”
“Forsaking our designated driver duties, are we? Didn't know you could throw down with the best of 'em,” Ban said as everyone settled comfortably into the well-worn seats and the first round of drinks was served.
“He used to, until his wife reformed him,” Akabane said. “Suzume-san has rules. Gouzou breaks them at his own risk.”
“Ah, the detachable prick syndrome. 'Leave your big rig at home with me before you go out to play, honey,'” Ban, fluttering his eyelashes and intoned in a ridiculous falsetto, before he and Akabane dissolved into snickering.
“Laugh all you want. You two bozos owe me a wad of money that I mean to collect, one way or another,” a sour-faced Maguruma said, pointing at them. “The wife and I were going to take that truck up to the mountains this summer for our anniversary. The cab was perfect for camping out in, and now it's got more toast on the inside of it than a box of zwieback! And I just got the upholstery cleaned up real nice, too, and the new chrome I put on...” He shook his head, clutching at a fistful of hair in disbelief.
Akabane rolled his eyes. “Oh lords,” he murmured to Ban. “Here it comes. The man claims not to understand my meager idiosyncrasies and my simple requirements, yet he can wax poetic for hours about that vehicle of his. And people say I have issues.”
Gouzou fixed him with a fierce glower. “You cut off the trailer doors! All I wanted you to do was open them!”
“Well, they were opened, weren't they?”
Maguruma started to snarl at Akabane but broke off and directed his next tirade at the quietly cackling Ban. “Yeah, keep laughing, Midou. You're going to pay for the damages to my truck, and you're - “ he pointed at Akabane - “going to pay for the damages to the trailer! And if I can't bleed it out of you, my wife sure will!”
Ban stopped snickering long enough to glance at Akabane. “He for real?”
Chagrined, Akabane nodded. “You've never seen Suzume-san angered. That also is not a pretty view, I'm afraid.”
“Then that's all the more reason for us to drink hearty, mateys,” Ban declared, lifting his frosted mug high momentarily before taking a huge swallow of its contents. “For fortitude and the courage to withstand the maelstroms of Typhoon Suzume! Can I get a 'hear, hear'?”
“You mean 'eat hearty,' Ban-chan,” Ginji said through a mouthful of crumbs. He'd already devoured the bowl of fried oyster strips their waitress had brought as an opening appetizer. Pleased to be able to be the one correcting his partner for a change, he continued, “Nothing beats a good solid meal!”
Ban stared at him. “Shut up and drink your schnapps before I beat you.” He looked to Maguruma, who was already nursing his second helping of sake. “If we're going to assign blame here, you ought to be charging him - “ he jerked his head in Ginji's direction - “for damages. I wasn't the idiot who was messing around with a live grenade. I wasn't the idiot who threw that grenade under your precious truck and blew it to kingdom come!”
“But you were the idiot who gave him that grenade in the first place,” Himiko said suddenly, an insufferably smug amusement dancing in her eyes.
Akabane hummed agreement. “This is true, Ban-kun.”
Ban scowled at the both of them. “Whose side are you on, anyway?”
Lavender twinkled mischievously. “The same side as I have always been on, and will always be. My own,” Akabane answered sweetly.
“It was a rhetorical question,” Ban muttered. Looking at Himiko, he said, “You're not even supposed to be in this place, technically. So what are you doing out past your bedtime, missy?”
She fished a card out of her harness and flicked it at him. “Fake ID,” Himiko said smugly. “You weren't the only one who watched while Yamato was working.”
Ban snorted and threw the piece of plastic back at her after glancing at it. “He should've reigned you in more. You realize you made yourself ten years older than your actual age?”
“That's the trick.” Unfazed, Himiko scooped up the card and replaced it in her harness. “Too old just makes it a joke. Too close, and they suspect it's a fake. You want a balance in between. And,” she added with a knowing smirk, “it helps if you run in the same transporter circuits as I do.”
“You always did have a knack for getting in over your head, brat.”
“Says the guy who got busted his first time out with a counterfeit. Told you I paid attention. My big brother knew what he was doing.”
Ban scowled. “You're just never gonna let me live that one down, are you?”
“Not a snowball's chance in Mugenjou,” Himiko replied with a feral grin. She ducked when he tried to swat her, then retaliated with a smack of her own that landed squarely on the injury he'd sustained from Varlou's attempt at front-stabbing.
“YEOW! Dammit, pull your punches tonight! I'm two stitches away from spilling some scrambled intestine here, you know!”
“You're not that scratched-up, if you can complain about it,” she sighed. But Himiko made him lean back in his seat so that Akabane could take a look at the wound, and after a few moments of physician-grade scrutiny the latter concluded that Ban was in more danger of drinking himself into a stupor than he was of hemorrhaging.
“So mind those Jägermeisters,” Akabane said, shaking a finger at him. “Filling yourself up with alcohol will only make it that much more uncomfortable for you when I have to clean it out.”
“Are you kidding? What do you think's keeping me from bugging you for some drugs? The booze numbs the pain,” Ban told him, and immediately thereafter slogged back another mouthful of his drink, ignoring Akabane's thinning lips.
The Jackal shook his head. “Years of medical school, countless hours of training and practice, and does anyone ever think to listen to me? Does anyone even consider the distinct possibility that perhaps I do know what I'm talking about? No, of course not; that would be too easy, wouldn't it?” he groused, more to himself than to the others present. He looked to Maguruma hoping for backup, but his cohort was perfectly content to enjoy his sake and burger, sparing not one whit of concern for Akabane's self-pity.
Ginji was the only one brave – or foolish – enough to acknowledge the discontent. He looked up from the platter of squid dumplings he was tearing into and offered, “I listen to you, Akabane-san.”
This might have placated the transporter, if Ginji hadn't suddenly reached over then and patted Akabane on the shoulder – the very same shoulder which also bore markings of Varlou's treachery. Akabane's eyes pinched shut and he bared his teeth in a wordless hiss, flinching away from the friendly intention while clutching his fist around a handful of knives threatening to erupt.
Ginji didn't even need that sight to convince him that sitting further away was a good idea. The incensed look the doctor shot him clearly said sometimes I don't know whether I want to hug you or kill you,
and he quickly scooted as far around the table as he could get.
Ban noticed. He pushed aside the Bloody Mary that Jackal had ordered and poured a fresh mug from the bottle he'd been helping himself to. “Here, swill some of this. It'll take the edge off better than that watered-down cocktail crap.”
Akabane hesitated, eying the drink as if he were measuring its battle potential. A ripe twinge of pain from the wound that Ginji had inadvertently jostled, however, made him reconsider his habitual teetotalism. He snatched up the glass with his good hand and took a big swallow of the liquid, grimacing at its herbal sting. “Ah...I think I'd prefer some brandy instead, perhaps, or even a good rum.” He shivered momentarily. “Honestly, Ban-kun, however can you tolerate that stuff?”
“You don't like the Jäger? Fine, I'll take it.” Himiko swiped the glass and downed its leftovers faster than either he or Ban could comment.
“If you think you're gonna out-turbo me, you better pack it in now, kid.” Ban grabbed the glass back and poured it half-full of beer, then took the bottle of Jägermeister and dumped in a hefty stream before gulping down the entire contents. “Oh baby, that hits the spot!” He belched.
Akabane raised a brow, then turned to look likewise as disapprovingly at Ginji when he made a similar noise shortly on the heels of Ban's. Unlike his partner, Ginji was highly susceptible to the outside influence of one capable of sprouting sharp objects without prior notice, so when Akabane shifted in his seat towards him, the retriever pretended he'd seen something of utmost fascination in the opposite direction. As luck would have it, he did see something – or rather, someone.
“Hey! It's Kazu-chan and Juubei! And Emishi!”
Ban snared his arm before he could wave it at them. “Haven't we fulfilled our quota of pains in the ass for the day?”
“Too late,” Himiko said. “I think they see us.”
The pains in question were already making their way over to the table. They all had drinks of their own, but Emishi was juggling several mugs by himself. Literally – he kept trying to attract the attention of a pretty waitress, to no avail.
“Hey, hey, hey, everybody loves a good show! Now who wants to soothe the tears of a lonely clown and give a handsome guy a big smooch?” He danced near the waitress, but when she simply turned her back on him to serve another patron, Emishi stumbled and almost dropped the glasses he was juggling. As it was he managed to catch all but one, which bounced off his elbow and landed on the Get Backers'/Dream Team's table, splashing Ginji liberally with the remainder of its contents.
He blinked away the drips of liquid and licked his lips. “Hey, that's good! What is it?”
“Honey mead,” Kazuki answered with a smile. “Juubei passed his finals for the semester, so we're out celebrating.”
“Online courses, for a start,” Juubei clarified. “Makubex persuaded me it was in my best interest, before I enroll in person. First I must learn the essentials of running my own business. After that, I continue where my Kakei training left off.”
“That's right, he's going to acupuncturist school, isn't he? Sorry, threadspool. Almost didn't recognize you without your nurse's cosplay,” Ban cracked.
Kazuki's smile fell like a stone into water. “Speaking of needlework - “ He glanced at Akabane and the other transporters. “What's this? The winner scams the loser into treating them to a free dinner and drink now? I suppose that's par for the course with the great cheapskate Midou Ban.”
Akabane's eyes narrowed. “Actually, we all won tonight's mission.”
“For a change,” Ban said, while Maguruma grunted and nodded.
“We all worked together on this one,” Himiko confirmed.
“It was a real doozy too!” Ginji said.
Kazuki raised a brow, taking in the group's bedraggled appearances. “So I see. Well, at least you'll get paid this time. That is, if somebody - “ his eyes darted towards Ban - “doesn't park the car in a towing zone again.”
“I'd pound your face till it's beyond the need for lip gloss, string bean, but right now I'm in a decent mood and boozed just enough to not give a shit about you and your fly-fishers,” Ban told Kazuki as he threw back another shot.
Kazuki remained unperturbed by the insult. “From what I understand, intoxication can get you to not care about a couple of other things too.”
He paused, and looked to Juubei before he unleashed the zinger. “For instance...oh, let's say, French-kissing Uryuu. Right, Juubei?” They, along with Emishi, laughed and high-fived each other.
Ban looked at Akabane. “You wanna kill them, or should I do it?”
Kazuki wouldn't let up. “Toshiki hates admitting it, but I did worm it out of him that you give great tongue technique, in spite of your predisposition towards drunkenness. How long did that kiss last, again?”
“Oh for - “ Ban slammed his hand on the table hard enough to rattle everyone's glasses. “For the last time, idiot, I wasn't drunk when I did that!” Realizing then how bad that sounded, he quickly added, “It was a matter of necessity, for chrissakes. The guy was two doors down from death and even if the world could stand to have one less air-massager in it, it was obvious that you two harem dweebs plus him - “ Ban jerked a thumb at Ginji - “would've been boo-hooing in your cups for weeks if I'd let him expire. So the way I see it, you owe me.”
“Ban-chan's got a point, Kazu-chan,” Ginji said apologetically. “I mean, he did save Toshiki...”
Kazuki appeared torn on that bit. Not that he wasn't grateful for his comrade's life being spared...
Himiko chose that moment to deliver her own salvo. “Say, didn't you get some mouth action from that girl who lives with the pharmacist in Lower Town? What's-her-name, Ren...”
“Aw, no fair!” Emishi whined. Before learning who she was, he'd once tried to hit on Ren Radou while being treated at her grandfather's quarters, also without any luck. “Kaz gets all the girls. How's about sharing sometime, huh? Us jokers need love too, ya know!”
“I should never have told you about that,” a red-faced Kazuki groaned to Ginji, who shrugged and gave him a sheepish grin.
“Get yourself a Rio Rubbergirl if you're so hard up for company,” Ban advised Emishi. “Face it, buddy, with your sense of humor that's the only action you're ever gonna see in your lifetime. Here's an idea, maybe take pins-and-needles boy there with you and go to clown school, then you can both learn some better jokes!”
Emishi glared, but came back with, “Like the one about mister snakey-man gettin' all dolled up in his pretty blue pajamas with a make out preference for muscle-bound blonds? Oh, wait, wrong blond – you have that Fudou dude panting after you all the time, don'tcha, how he wants to suck something of yours - ”
A low chorus of oohing went around the table as Ban's face flushed, not entirely from his continued imbibing. Emishi didn't get to finish his sentence before a large hand clamped around his neck. Ban's eyes, along with everyone else's, widened.
Maguruma calmly finished his sake and squeezed Emishi's throat to make sure he was listening. “I came here to unwind and get plastered, and I'm not even halfway there yet on both counts. Take it outside if you're going to start a fight. Otherwise I'll take my truck and flatten you with it. Capisce?”
“He'll do it, too. I've seen him,” Akabane said.
“But Mr. No-Brakes doesn't have a truck anymore,” Ginji whispered to Himiko.
“No thanks to you,” Ban, who'd overheard, said.
Ever the peacemaker, Ginji got up and tried to placate the would-be combatants. “Guys, guys! We've all had a very busy day, we're all hungry and thirsty and tired. Why can't we just hang out and have a fun time? Let's all settle down and enjoy ourselves. We won on the job, you know! So isn't that a good enough reason to be nice to each other?”
“I just had grenades thrown at me. Fuck the olive branch,” Ban snorted.
“No, Ginji-kun is right,” Akabane mused. “We got what we wanted, and I did get a rematch against Varlou – not as thorough as I would have hoped for, of course, but a rematch nonetheless. And frankly, Ban-kun,” he sighed, “what I really want most now is to finish my drink, go home, patch up this shoulder of mine, and your injury as well, and take a nap. Losing a lot of blood does more than deprive a person of valuable weaponry, you know.”
“I'll play nice,” Emishi squeaked out. Maguruma cast him a look, then grudgingly let off on the chokehold.
Ban studied Akabane, then Ginji. He looked at Kazuki and indicated his partner with a jerk of his head. “He ever pull that kicked-puppy act with you when he wants something?”
“All the time,” Kazuki agreed. “Somehow, you just can't resist him when he looks at you that one way and gets that little pleading note in his voice...”
Ginji, hopeful that his suggestion would be taken seriously, offered them his best pretty-please
tare look. Besides, he wanted to try some more mead, and those sushi rolls did look awfully delicious..!
Ban heaved a loud puff of air and sank back against the vinyl seating. “Oh...what the hell. I may be a sucker, but I'm gonna be a sucker on my terms.” He sat up suddenly, wincing as the motion pulled at his wound, but clapped his hands for the waitress about to pass by their table. “If we're doing this, we're doing it right. Threadspool, needle-boy, lamer – have a seat and order up.” Louder, he said, “Everybody on board the Jäger-train! No one's getting off till we're all pissed to the winds!”
He pointed at Kazuki. “No-Brakes is taking the night off, so you're designated driver. Now ixnay the talk of issing-kay, unless you want the one of death, got it? We've got a very homicidally-jealous ackal-Jay here, in case you've forgotten,” Ban warned as the thundercloud gathering on Akabane's face darkened yet still, at the mention of further details of Toshiki's incident.
“We are going to have to have a talk later, Ban-kun,” his mate said in a deceptively dulcet voice.
Ban reached under the table and patted his leg. “Relax. You know it was well before you and I hooked up, and it wasn't anything like what Florence Nightingale over there said. I about puked in the guy's mouth, actually, that concoction of Maria's was so foul.”
“I'm aware of that,” Akabane replied in cooling tones. “However, it all makes sense now. Why this Toshiki is always so antagonistic towards you. Why he keeps giving you an evil eye of his own. Well, I do not share what is rightfully mine. Kazuki-san had best make it clear to his friend that you are off limits, else I shall be giving him a permanent solution to his lovelorn angst!” He made an indignant noise in the back of his throat.
“Don't worry, he - “ Ban stopped and stared as soon as the impact of Akabane's declaration registered. “Are you – you think that – Jackal, are you serious?”
He started to straighten out the misunderstanding, and realized that with Kazuki here, at this point it would only prolong the torture. He let out a helpless laugh instead and palmed his face before leaning in and hugging Akabane closer to him.
“I promise, Kuroudo. I'll make it dream-crystal-clear that I'm taken.”
Duly satisfied, Akabane leaned against him without further comment as the waitress returned with a fresh order and the drinking games began in earnest.