Standard disclaimers apply.

Author's Notes:

I'm sorry if this is way past due but I've started this fic even before Halloween and just didn't have the heart to give up on it completely. Besides, this is the not-quite sequel to Bad Habits (thanks to all those who reviewed it, by the way) that I promised some people. So yeah… Still unbeta'ed (as my RL friend who volunteered to do it was so busy) so all mistakes are my own. Oh, and the OOC warning still holds true, as I, regretfully, haven't watched much Ban-Kazuki interactions yet to properly characterize them. Kazuki's neko outfit was inspired by Kyork's wonderful Ban/Kazuki Halloween fan art that could be found at It wouldn't have fit the whole atmosphere I wanted to project, though, so I had him change into a slightly more conservative costume. But still… Enjoy!

BAD HABITS – HALLOWEEN CUSTOMS

By: Ryuuen

            Midou Ban was never a fan of Halloween. It was, in his opinion, just one of those over-commercialized Western holidays that gave people an excuse to dress up weirdly and act sillier than usual. It was a time when local networks suddenly took interest in the occult, providing perfect PR opportunities for Wiccans, parapsychologists and the like. Children would go around in various rented costumes yelling "Trick or treat!" in voices too perky for the occasion, grown ups dumping sweets into the plastic jack-o-lantern basket they brought. Halloween costume parties held in random closed streets and clubs were not so uncommon, either. Not that there wouldn't have been parties, otherwise, knowing the younger generation nowadays. It was a useless holiday, Ban had always thought, if not mildly annoying. Even more so, he decided, as Ginji, not one to hold himself above such traditions, had gone ahead and proposed a Halloween get-together of some sort for the Get Backers and their accomplices. He had even somehow convinced Paul to sponsor said get-together for free. Had Ban been the slightest bit religious, he would've been on his knees by now. Paul didn't do charity. How Ginji managed that, Ban wasn't sure he wanted to know. He, himself, wouldn't have bothered, had things not gone the way they did. Besides, how the hell was Ginji supposed to know about the soft spot he was slowly developing for a certain effeminate Fuuchouinryuu master, anyway?

            Ban snorted into the ever-present cigarette dangling haphazardly from faux-vampire teeth, watching the smoke dissipate into the thin night air. Fuuchouin Kazuki. How absurd that he'd find himself thinking of Thread Spool on such an evening, let alone the entire day. And the day before. And the day before that. He shook his head.

            Shidou was yelling rather obscene things in the background, probably because of the decency, or lack thereof, of the costume Natsumi was forcing on him. Ginji was adding to the racket by whining and pleading someone to help him take his costume off and Ban wondered absently if that alone didn't drive all the bad spirits away. He himself had gotten away with his dignity relatively unscathed, wearing a simple generic vampire costume that Kazuki had chosen for him. Natsumi, who, for all her apparent sweetness, did possess a quite impressive bossy streak and was practically pushing everyone into costumes that were unconventional at best, agreed to his suggestion, much to a certain Jagan master's relief. Kazuki wasn't spared from her "creativity", though, and was pleaded into wearing a black neko outfit that clung to his body like a second skin, complete with random bells that tinkled when he walked and furry cat ears. It was a good thing that Ginji, clad in an equally tight yellow electrical mouse costume (1) came bouncing in, complaining that he couldn't get out of it on his own. It was a very welcome distraction, as Ban had been downright ogling Kazuki's slender figure, enough to give him a nosebleed. So he had excused himself, saying he needed a smoke, and left before things got out of hand.

            Ban sighed. It has been almost a week now since what he had been unconsciously referring to as the cigarette-kiss incident and yet he couldn't seem to get the memory out of his mind. Of course, he had always wondered what it would be like to kiss Kazuki, if only to sate his curiosity, but the chances of him acting on such impulse were slim. Kazuki was attractive… gorgeous… beautiful, even, to a point that Ban sometimes needed to pinch himself to convince him the vision was real. However, in spite of that, he had never really been attracted to him and for good enough reasons, at that. For one, there was Juubei. Kazuki never really told anyone what the nature of his relationship with Juubei had been so he assumed they had been lovers, probably still were, and left it at that. Then, there was Ginji. Ban had cared for him, as a friend, as a brother, and there was a time when he believed that the love he held for the blond had gone beyond platonic. But then…

            He had thought Kazuki disliked him, thought him too annoying and loud and unrefined. The long-haired man had tried to ignore him, which had been quite difficult in itself, save for those times when he would bate the other into verbal battles, which he had found himself finding some twisted pleasure in. They were genial at best and Ban never really saw Kazuki as anything but a co-worker. But, after that rather personal conversation he and Kazuki had that night, some things couldn't possibly remain the same.

            It was nothing that obvious. A fleeting touch here, a meaningful look there, a carefully worded comment, a soft smile. They've even caught themselves flirting at one time or another, which had warranted nothing but a raised brow from Paul and a clueless look from Ginji. No, the changes came in the form of distracted thoughts and remembered dreams of the tenderness of their shared kiss. It was wonderful, addictive, and Ban was surprised at how vividly the softness of Kazuki's lips, his taste, his touch, the way he had moaned when Ban had pulled away, had been imprinted in his mind. It was a dangerous thing, Ban knew – this attraction that was slowly turning into an obsession – but he couldn't ignore it. Not after that kiss. Not after Ban had acknowledged to himself that he slowly, oh so slowly falling for the beautiful man.

            A soft chuckle sounded from beside him and he started a bit. He had been so absorbed in his thoughts that he hardly sensed someone approaching. It was even more disconcerting still that said thoughts were directed at the person currently peering curiously at him, brown eyes sparkling with hidden mirth.

            "Thinking, Ban-kun? You should be careful. That's rather dangerous territory," the voice was calm, teasing.

            Ban shrugged, taking a long drag from his cigarette, trying to ignore just how true Kazuki's words were, temporarily entertaining the vaguely possible idea that the long-haired man was able to read his thoughts, before pushing it away.

            "Shouldn't you be inside?" was his callous reply.

            "Shouldn't you?"

            "Why should I?"

            "…"

            "What do you want, Kazuki?"

            He sighed, casting a sidelong glance at his companion, only to have his breath taken away. Dressed like that in the light of the full moon, Kazuki never looked more beautiful to Ban. He was wearing, not the scandalously tight neko outfit he had on the last time Ban saw him, but a simple kitsune outfit consisting of a white silk kimono that hugged his body, and yet not, in certain places; furry white ears settled amidst the soft brown hair which was held in their usual style up front but let loose at the back. Completing the costume was a bushy white kitsune tail and Ban was tempted to give it a pull, if only to wipe the knowing smile off the impossibly beautiful face. And the way it had been hanging from the shapely behind sent less than pure thoughts swirling in his mind.

            Ban coughed slightly upon realizing that he had been staring for a good sixty seconds and averted his gaze, trying to convince himself that he was definitely not blushing.

            Kazuki seemed to notice the futile attempt and giggled. And Ban thought he was definitely too far gone if he thought even that decidedly girlish sound cute.

            "Like what you see, Ban-kun?"

            The Jagan master had to smile, thankful for the opening he had been unknowingly given.

            "Maybe," and at this, his smile grew into a mischievous grin. "I'd like it better if I didn't see anything on you at all."

            Kazuki blinked, slightly surprised by the comment, then laughed. He was so sure he had had the upper hand a few seconds ago.

            "Touché."

            "Indeed. But then, the costume fits you in the right places," Ban's grin widened, eyes raking over his companion's form. "And you have some very right places, Thread Spool."

            This time, Kazuki blushed, though it couldn't be ascertained as to whether it was because of the compliment or the intensity of Ban's stare.

            "I'd take that as a compliment, Ban-kun," he finally managed, casting a similar appreciative look in the other's direction. "But then, you don't look so bad yourself."

            "Why, Kazu-chan, if I didn't know better, I'd say you were flirting with me."

            If possible, Kazuki reddened even more and Ban couldn't help but thinking just how innocent his friend seemed at the moment. Kazuki tried to compose himself before throwing back, "And if I didn't know you better, Ban-chan, I'd say you're enjoying it."

            "Maybe I'm enjoying this too much," was Ban's cryptic answer, as he took another drag from his cigarette. Kazuki watched him with a slightly amused expression, the silence between them potent but not oppressing.

            "You know, two weeks ago, I never would have guessed you were interested in me that way." His tone was light, as though he was not really expecting any answer.

            Ban frowned, momentarily clueless as to what the other was alluding before it hit him. His tone was light.

            "I wasn't."

            "Oh?" Unbelieving. "Why did you kiss me, then?"

            A shrug.

            "I don't know. I just felt like it, I guess," Ban eyed him carefully. "Don't pretend you didn't like it, though. You said it yourself – you would've allowed me to kiss you earlier had I asked."

            Kazuki was silent for a moment.

            "I suppose so," he said after a while. "But that doesn't really explain why you kissed me when you weren't attracted to me, does it?"

            And there was something in Kazuki's tone that made Ban turn to him, only to find that, this time, it was the Fuuchouinryuu master who refused to meet his gaze. He took a final drag from his cigarette before throwing it to the ground and raking a hand through his spiky hair.

            "Look, Kazuki…" He had placed his hands on the slighter figure's shoulders and turned him to face him, only to find that he didn't really know what to say. He sighed.

            Kazuki shook his head. "No, Ban-kun. I'm sorry if I brought it up. I was just curious, is all. It changes nothing. It was just a kiss, after all." But there was something in his eyes that said otherwise.

            "It's not that, damn it," Ban growled, frustrated, unconsciously tightening his grip on the other's shoulder. He wondered how this conversation had managed to take a 180-degree turn in the span of five minutes. Kazuki didn't flinch and met his amethyst gaze evenly.

            "Then what is?"

            Ban sighed and released him.

            "Never mind."

            A soft breeze blew, sending his dark cape billowing behind him. Kazuki shivered, clearly having underestimated the cold. Ban took off his cape, wrapping it around his companion's slighter frame as a gentleman would, paying no attention to the part of him mind that was laughing its ass off at such a sappy, all-too-clichéd move. Like something out of a cheesy romance novel. Ban cringed. But then Kazuki had smiled at him in thanks and he didn't really care. He was relieved to feel the awkward tension that was building up slowly ebbing away. The silence was comfortable once more.

            "Halloween is such an odd holiday, isn't it?" Kazuki remarked after some time, wrapping the cape around him tightly, taking in the strong, musky smell that was distinctly Ban's. "You don't seem to like it much."

            Ban shrugged for the nth time that night.

            "I never really did. Halloween is just a waste of time and money, if you ask me."

            "Is it, now? I actually find some of its customs quite interesting, considering that it is a Western holiday."

            "Halloween has pagan origins, did you know? Samhain – the Celtic rituals to keep the spirits of the dead away."

            "Ironic that even Catholics celebrate it nowadays."

            "Yeah. Though, like I said, I never cared much for Halloween."

            "Haven't you ever even gone trick-or-treating before?"

            "No."

            Kazuki looked thoughtful. "Really? Maybe I shouldn't have talked Ginji out of the idea."

            "Doesn't matter. I wouldn't have come." A sigh. "Makes me wonder what ever made me agree to wear this goddamn costume. Someone must've spiked my coffee this morning." Ban gave his companion a look.

            Kazuki all but batted long lashes at him, ineffectively disguising the uncharacteristic playful smile curving his lips. "Couldn't resist my charm, Ban-kun?"

            "Nah. I'm just a sucker for your pretty face."

            Kazuki laughed. "Flatterer."

            "I never lie."

            "Would I ever give you a reason to?" Kazuki flipped his hair in a carelessly deliberate manner, eyes shining.

            Ban's smile was equally teasing as he gave his companion another once-over. "If I didn't know you better, I'd say you were trying to seduce me."

            Kazuki mock-scowled, a slight quirk of rosy lips betraying his amusement. "What ever would make you think that?"

            Ban shook his head. "Sometimes I have to remind myself just exactly whom I'm speaking to."

            "Would it be such a bad idea?"

            "Two weeks ago, I would've said yes."

            Kazuki's voice was alarmingly soft. "And now?"

            "This is turning into a habit, you know."

            "What is?"

            Ban's voice was careful, hesitant, as though the world would end if he so much as uttered a word out of place. He turned to face his friend and their eyes met. Then, softly. "You, Kazuki."

            Kazuki blinked, not knowing what to make of his answer. Intense amethyst eyes were boring into his own, probing, searching for something, making him slightly heady. There was something in the way Ban was looking at him that had never been there before. "Nani?"

            "There's one thing I like about Halloween, though?"

            Kazuki, slightly confused, watched as Ban brought out from somewhere a small round chocolate candy and unwrapped it.

            "Ban?"

            Ban's expression was oddly soft. "Halloween treats make for the best sweets." And, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, he popped the sweet into his mouth before slowly lowering his lips to meet Kazuki's.

            Kazuki froze upon contact, only to moan a moment later, opening his mouth to allow the other's tongue and the slowly melting chocolate to enter. It was nothing like he had ever experienced before. The warm, wet sensation of Ban's tongue slightly tinged with a familiar taste combined with the mild sweetness of the chocolate sent slight tremors down his spine. Unconsciously, he wound his arms around the other man's neck, pulling him closer for a more passionate kiss. The cloak wrapped around his shoulders fell unheeded to the ground.

            Ban groaned at the feeling of slender arms wrapping around his neck, allowing himself to be guided as the kiss intensified. One of his own arms encircled Kazuki's shapely waist, the other tangled in the soft mass of hair, toying with the soft kitsune ears. It felt so right, so good, and Ban wondered if it were a crime to feel this… complete. The chocolate had melted entirely now and he could make out the faint taste that was undeniably Kazuki. And as he heard Kazuki let out another moan, he knew…

            Their parting was sweet, not unlike the lingering taste of chocolate and unspoken emotions upon their lips. Ban lifted one of his hands, fingers ghosting over the other's face. Kazuki's cheeks were flushed, his lips slightly parted, eyes half-lidded, beautiful, curious.

            "Ban?"

            Ban smiled.

            "Trick or treat, Thread Spool."


            Rai Tei Amano Ginji, in all his yellow glory, was worried. Ban-chan and Kazu-chan had been missing for the past half-hour and everybody decided to start without them. It was so unlike them to wander off, much less together, and Ginji wondered why he felt that there was something Ban wasn't telling him. For you see, Ginji, for all his seeming naiveté, had a keen sense of observation. He had noticed the slight changes in his two friends' behavior, especially Kazuki, who normally would've simply ignored his partner, seemed rather… nice to Ban this past week. He had even offered to treat Ban to breakfast once. But then, Kazuki was nice to everyone so that couldn't mean anything, could it?

            But then, there was Ban. Ban seemed a little bit… spacey lately, as though he had a lot of things on his mind. Ginji had asked him once what he was thinking about and he was surprised to see the almost discernable blush on his best friend's cheeks. Which was odd. Ban never blushed. Unless…

            Ginji had entertained the idea that maybe Ban was in love and for some reason, something within him ached at the thought. With whom, he wondered. Himiko-chan? Hevn-san? Natsumi-chan? Or maybe… Somehow, the dull ache flared at the thought that it could be one of his other friends. But then…

            Ginji made his way towards the back door, tugging at the yellow and brown zigzag-shaped tail of his costume. Ban usually went out there to have a smoke when he was bored, and he knew that Ban never really liked parties. He opened the door, not quite surprised to find that Ban wasn't alone and Kazuki had indeed kept the Jagan master company. Ginji frowned. They were standing closer together than normal. The cloak of Ban's costume was lying forgotten on the ground. Both had turned at his approach and he was quick to note the slight flush that stained the Fuuchouinryuu master's cheeks and that one of the white furry ears was askew.

            "Oi."

            "G-ginji! Did you need something?"

            Ginji blinked. It was seldom that he had seen his long-haired teammate flustered.

            "Mou, Ban-chan and Kazu-chan missed the jack-o-lantern lighting. Everyone's eating now. What were you doing out here anyway?"

            Ban shrugged nonchalantly, picking his cloak up and dusting it off. "I went out for a smoke. Kazuki was bored and followed. We spent the past few minutes debating the merits of Halloween customs."

            Kazuki seemed to have recomposed himself by then. "Ban-kun doesn't seem to have such a high opinion of them."

            "Damn right," was Ban's answer and, having made sure that no permanent damage had been done to his cloak, he began to make his way towards the door. "I'm hungry. I'm going to eat."

            Ginji pouted and turned chibi, clamping onto Ban's spiky hair. "But it's Halloween. How could you not like Halloween, Ban-chan?It's such a shame we didn't go trick or treating. We could've…"

            Ban turned around, a meaningful smile on his lips, eyes fixed intently on the long-haired man.

            "I don't know about that, Ginji. I think we did." He winked. "Didn't we, Kazuki?"

            Ginji turned to look down at his partner then at their other companion and wondered slightly whether he should be worried.

            Fuuchouin Kazuki's cheeks were creating all new shades of red.

            "Ban-chan? What…"

            Ban plucked the Rai Tei from his hair and dumped him unceremoniously on the ground.

            "Ban-kun?"

            "Don't worry, Thread Spool. I promise to give you an even better treat next time."

            And with a backward wave, Midou Ban entered the Honky Tonk, a satisfied smile on his lips.

End.

(1) Yeah, I have such a lame sense of humor.

groans Well, that wasn't so different, except for the Ginji bit. I just had to add it in. Intended it to be humorous but turned out quite angsty. But at least I have a plot now. shrugs Oh well… Please review and tell me what you think. I'm currently writing a sequel for this entitled Breaking the Habit: Over a Cup of Coffee. Watch out for it. Ja!