Going Downhill Fast

Himiko looked at her hands on the table in front of her, unable to meet Ban's eyes. "I'm sorry, Ban," she said slowly, "but it's going to be difficult to work out who the father is. There were so many men, you see . . ."

Ban choked on his coffee.

"I loved them all." She sighed, raising one hand to touch her mouth. "Makubex-kun was sweet, and so innocent, and Kazuki . . . oh, he knew just how to please a woman. Then there was Kagami-san, so polite, so delicate -- though when I was sleeping with Toshiki, his raw masculinity just touched something deep, if you know what I mean? And when it was him and Juubei together . . ."

"Ban-chan," Ginji said nervously, "you have to breathe. Breathe, remember?"

"At least it wasn't Hevn," Himiko continued happily. "I don't think the Voodoo Child thing goes that far. Though she was really one of the nicest people yet, and she didn't even mention the bill till just before morning. And Clayman was, you know, soft but decisive . . ."

"I did so mention the bill," Hevn put in angrily. "Before we even started."

". . . but while the times I had with Doctor Jackal were among the happiest, I think I'd really prefer it if it turned out to be Ginji's child." Himiko turned a melting gaze on Ginji, who shrank on the spot and tried to sink into the ground. "I'm hoping for a little girl . . ."

Ban woke up, screaming.

"Bad dream?" murmured a sleepy voice from beside him.

Ban wriggled out from under the heavy silk sheets. "Naah," he lied instinctively. "But --"

His conscious mind finally managed to kick down the bolted door of half-doze to point out that:

(a) These were silk sheets.
(b) That wasn't Ginji.
(c) Ginji didn't have dark hair.
(d) Miroku Natsuhiko had dark hair.
(e) That was, in fact, Miroku Natsuhiko in the bed with him. Putting one familiar hand on his bare leg. Putting one far too familiar hand on his bare leg and beginning to stroke.

"Good," Miroku Natsuhiko purred. "Because all my siblings want to have their turn with you now. Roll over, Ban-kun . . ."

Ban woke up, screaming.

"Wake up." Paul was shaking his shoulder. "Falling asleep over lunch?"

Ban raised his face from the plate of noodles in which it had found haven, and wiped meat sauce from his nose. "Sorry," he muttered, too relieved to be free of the nightmare.

"Mnh. I understand that you're tired. Business has been good. Don't worry, it's almost over for the day."

Ban took a deep breath. Well, if he and Ginji were being run off their feet by Hevn with ridiculously dangerous assignments, that would certainly explain why he was dozing off over his food. "Sorry, Paul," he muttered ungraciously.

Paul nodded. "Right. Now for this afternoon, you're waiting on table five, where we've got Kazuki Fuchoin and his two friends from Mugenjou. You're to wear the bunny girl outfit and they've requested full services, so do your best to please. That'll make ten per cent of your debt paid off . . ."

Ban woke up, screaming.

The sound woke the babies in the cots around the room. They joined in, wailing like an inhuman chorus of lost souls.

The door of the room opened, and Fudou Takuma stepped in. "Ban-chan, I know we both promised to adopt these orphans, but you did say you'd try to keep them quiet this time . . ."

Ban woke up, screaming.

"Does this happen to you often?" Hevn asked, holding a limp part of his naked anatomy in her bare hand.

Ban woke up, screaming.

"No screaming!" Ginji's hand clipped him across the back of the head. "Bad Ban-kun! Bad Ban-kun! Chains for you all day today! And I'll ask Akabane-san to help me punish you!"

Ban woke up, screaming, his nose against the hand-mirror that he was holding. The fascinated group of onlookers backed away nervously.

"Okay," Hevn announced loudly. "I think we all have definite proof that Ban can make the Jagan work on himself, right? Please pay your bets off now, and I'll be taking thirty per cent as usual . . ."

"Ban-chan!" Ginji hugged him. "Well done! You won us a whole two hundred yen!"

Ban sagged. "Hevn-san -- that assignment you were mentioning earlier? The one that was so stupidly dangerous you weren't even going to mention it to us? With the almost certain death thing?"

"Yes, Ban?"

"Tell us about it. I need a rest cure."


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