Harshly Honeyed

Chapter 1

Mido Ban entered the Honky Tonk expecting some food from Paul. But to his dismay, there was only the owner of the store, reading a newspaper as usual, and the very beautiful man Kazuki sitting on a chair, looking gloomy.

"No food today?" Ban asked hopefully, wishing there was some surprise food for him hidden somewhere.

"Nope." Paul snapped, like he needed to say that, anyway.

"Where's Ginji?"

"Not here."

"Duh."

"Where?"

"Don't know."

Ban rolled his eyes in annoyance. Where's the sense in the conversation? Sometimes Paul could be so irritating, he thought. He shook his head and as he was doing this, he remembered Kazuki was there.

"Kanojo, (lady)" he called, taking the seat beside Kazuki. "What're you doing here?"

"A customer is a customer. Don't drive him away." Paul butted in suddenly.

"Wakatta, yo (I know!)! Taku (sheesh), mind your own business." He replied, saying the latter sentence to himself more than to anyone.

He turned back to Kazuki. "De (so)?" he asked, knowing there had to be something going on for Kazuki to be here. And he knew very much that Kazuki wasn't the type to hang around in this bar.

"Just hanging around," the longhaired man said, smiling quietly in his seat, proving Ban wrong.

Ban was very much in a loss for words. He said whatever came to his mind. "Uh…Nice shirt." And, yes, he knew very much how incredibly stupid that had to sound.

Kazuki looked down on the shirt that he always wore. He wondered what was so nice about it.

"Anyway, do you know where that Ginji went? He said he'd give me something nice today. I'm expecting it to be food, of course, but he's gone missing!" Ban shifted the topic to avoid further embarrassment.

"Sorry, I really have no idea." Kazuki replied sincerely. "I don't really have anything to do, too, so I can help you look or him, if you want."

"Sure." Ban stood up and Kazuki followed.

***

While walking, Ban started a conversation to break the uneasy silence between them. "So were you really just hanging around in Paul's place?" he said.

"I guess so," he replied, in an ever-polite way, wondering why Ban cared so much about such petty things.

"But you didn't look like it. I mean, you're not exactly the type to just hang, are you?" stupid, he knew, but he couldn't think of anything else to say. Why was he getting tongue-tied around Kazuki, anyway?

Kazuki smiled. "You think so, too?" his smile widened.

"What's with the smile?"

"Nothing... I just remembered someone say a familiar thing." He replied, thinking of Juubei. Thinking of Juubei saddened him once more, because he knew deep in his heart that he'd already left him.

"Doushite?" Ban asked, seeing the twisted expression on the beautiful face of Kazuki.

"Ie, betsu ni… (No, it's nothing)"

Ban felt something he never did before. He felt sad seeing Kazuki like this. He didn't think he'd ever felt this way for Ginji or anyone else. What was wrong with him?

Ban put his hands in his pockets, as he habitually does, and felt some paper bills in there, probably enough to buy them something from the vending machine across them.

"Here," he handed over a tetra packed cold coffee to a surprised Kazuki. "Cool your head," he said, smiling, and Kazuki saw the wink behind the sunglasses.

"Thanks." Kazuki smiled again, and there was an immediate lightening feeling in Ban's chest. Then he remembered, that time too, when they were fighting Makubex, he was feeling the same thing. As he saw Kazuki barely standing and bandaged all over, there was that heavy feeling in his chest. Now, he was beginning to see the bigger picture…

"No prob. Anything for ya."

Kazuki's heart took a great leap. What was it that was blocking his blood from flowing freely to his heart? Was it flattery for being given attention by someone else? And now his heart was pounding madly on his chest. Why? He didn't know flattery could kill so easily.

"Saa, ikou (Ok, let's go)…" and they continued walking, not really sure where to go.

Before turning a corner and after a decade of silence and awkwardness, Ban asked a question that was deeply troubling him all the while. "Na, Kazuki…"

"Hai?"

"Do you have a girlfriend?" Ban tried to make this line sound as natural as he could so as not to arise suspicion.

"M-me?" to say that he was surprised by the question is an understatement. More appropriately, he was completely bowled over.

"Er…no…" he said uneasily.

"Sou ka… (I see)" though he tried to hide it, he doubted that Kazuki didn't notice that he looked glad despite the monotonous reply.

"Why do you ask?" Kazuki said, raising the question to be able to dig further in Mido Ban's complicated thoughts and to find out the reason for the smirk he swore he had heard.

"Just wondering…" Ban lied.

Of course, Kazuki didn't believe him. He excavated more into the subject by asking, "How about you?"

"M-me? …Er…no…Why do you ask?" Ban said, not realizing he just repeated what Kazuki said. Though this time, he was way embarrassed by it.

Kazuki chuckled gently, finding it really cute of Ban to be stuttering like this.

"What?!"

"Nothing…I just was surprised by the thought…you know, how someone so charismatic, handsome and everything never had a girlfriend," he smiled at him innocently.

"Che! As if you had one yourself!" Ban exclaimed, thinking Kazuki was equally handsome and charismatic as he was, not that he was being a megalomaniac or anything.

A long pause passed and suddenly both of them burst out laughing.

"No, really… Not a single one?" Kazuki inquired again.

"Sheesh, you don't have to rub it in, you know!" the blue-eyed man protested.

"Not even Ginji?" Kazuki was looking at him slyly in a joking manner as Ban fell silent and blushed a sakura pink.

"Not a chance! You know I treat him like my younger brother." He refuted Kazuki's statement like that was the most obvious thing in the world.

"A, sou…" Kazuki replied sarcastically.

"Heh…Do you think I come in battle without weapons? I know about J-u-u-b-e-i!!" Ban said, emphasizing each letter of Juubei's name.

Suddenly, Kazuki lost the triumphant look on his face. He said, "That was over...a long time ago..." and turned his head.

"So it's true?" Ban said, and though he knew this subject hurt Kazuki, he was burning with curiosity to know...

Kazuki nodded his head slightly.

Ban was at a loss for words again. What should he say? He felt that whatever he would say would hurt Kazuki. He sighed and said, "Don't waste the coffee I gave you. Drink it while it's cold."

***

Since the Juubei talk, they hadn't mentioned a thing to each other until sunset.

"Yuhi wa itsu mo kirei desu ne? (The sunset is always pretty, isn't it?)" Kazuki said as they both paused to stare at it.

"Sou da ne. (I agree.)" Ban replied, as he stared at Kazuki from behind. He wasn't even looking at the sunset. His eyes were just glued to the beautiful man in front of him, thinking about how stupid he was for only noticing now.

They took a seat on an empty bench that overlooked the sunset. Silently, Kazuki yawned...as he stared into the sunset thinking up thousands of thoughts, the world started spinning in a whirl of color...unclear...blurry...

Ban felt a head fall on his shoulder. It was Kazuki, twice as beautiful, noiselessly dozing on his shoulder. He put an arm around Kazuki's shoulder to protect him from the cold wind that passed by from time to time.

Then he realized, it was only now that he'd felt this kind of feeling. Peaceful. Tranquil. Everything seemed to be in order, as things never were in his life, including him and the person next to him.

Then, slowly, Kazuki started awakening. When he realized the situation, he straightened up as fast as he could and said, "Sorry. I guess I got a little tired...My, we still haven't found Ginji-san..." He wondered why Ban was looking at him and why his arm was still resting on his shoulder. "Doushi--"

"Kazuki, I... I have to tell you something..." Ban interrupted, making Kazuki sit still like a stone in his seat as he waited for Ban to continue. It seemed like a crucially important matter.

"Kazuki...I...I, I'm not really sure, but, uh, I think I like you..." 'There. I said it.' Ban thought. 'If he doesn't accept, I don't care. I shouldn't.' And though he was thinking this, every fiber of his body was praying or acceptance like it never did before.

Kazuki just stared at him for quite a long time. And after he realized that it was making Ban feel uncomfortable, he said, "Sou desu ka?" I can't believe this. "Ban-san, I'm not really sure as well but..." I love you! I love you! Say I love you! Say it, Itto no Kazuki! Why can't you say it?

But before Kazuki could say anything else, Ban had his lips press upon Kazuki's, kissing him, gently at first then deeper and deeper, probing Kazuki for an answer.

As they realized they needed air more than saliva, Kazuki said, "Ban..." That was all he could say. Tears just flowed out from his eyes, for some reason. Perhaps he was overjoyed that someone was going to fill the void in his heart now. Or because he knew someone cared and loved him. And maybe, just maybe, it was because there was someone to replace Juubei.

"What are you crying for?" Ban said, smiling. He had never felt this good in all his life. He embraced the longhaired man beside him, and even if there were hundreds of people passing by, he just kept whispering, "I love you, Kazuki..."

~Tsuzuku~

That's it for the chapter. Hope you liked it. Reviews please! Beautiful people really do review. So if you're a beautiful person, you'll review! I'm open with criticism!