Standard disclaimers apply.

Author's Notes:

Clichéd plot. Stupid plot devices. Unconventional pairing. OOC-ness. Stressed author. Unbeta'ed. Yeah. I'm writing this just to give my poor overworked brain a rest. Did I mention the stupidity of this whole venture? Consider yourselves warned.

THE BET

By: Ryuuen

Chapter One

        It was a typical Saturday morning at the Honky Tonk. Paul was at his usual spot behind the counter, reading the newspaper, while Natsumi was busy attending to the random early customers who decided to break their fast there. The sun was shining brightly outside and everything was right with the world. Well, almost…

        Fuuchouin Kazuki sighed. He was seated at his usual booth, chin propped on the palm of one hand, the other absently fingering the intricate designs on the handle of a ceramic cup, mocha-flavored coffee swirling within, warm and inviting. Brown eyes watched the steam rising from the brown fluid, as though mesmerized. Anyone looking at him then would've been able to figure out that there was indeed something on his mind. Or maybe… someone?

        "Oi, Thread Spool."

        Kazuki blinked, looking up from his cup of coffee, surprised. It was indeed rare to see the speaker out of bed this early, much less attempting to strike a conversation with him.

        "Ohayo, Ban-kun."

        Kazuki watched, torn between amusement and mild curiosity, as Midou Ban deposited himself rather carelessly upon the opposite chair, yawning. There were dark circles under the Jagan master's eyes, visible even from under his tinted sunglasses. His clothes looked like something he had slept in the previous night, if he had slept at all, and his hair was sticking up more than usual. Kazuki's lips twitched.

"What?" Ban all but growled irritably, noticing the slight movement and recognizing it for what it was.

        "Nothing, it's just…" Kazuki smiled sweetly. "You look terrible."

        Ban glared, reaching out to take a drink from the other's cup of coffee, ignoring curious glances thrown their way. After all, it was difficult to see two gorgeous men sitting together, sharing a cup of coffee, and looking, for all the world to see, as though they belonged, and not wonder whether they were a couple or not.

        "Why, thank you, Ito Maki. That made me feel so much better."

        Kazuki laughed. "You're welcome, Ban-kun. If you want, we could always order another cup." And, at this, he glanced surreptitiously at their surroundings. "No need to give people the wrong impression."

        Ban quirked a brow. "Which is?"

        Kazuki's eyes sparkled with mischief. "Wouldn't you like to know?" And then, as though remembering whom he was thinking of before his companion arrive, "Where's Ginji?"

        Ban sighed, finishing off the cup of coffee with one gulp. "Let me buy you breakfast. We need to talk." He then rose and began to saunter towards the counter.

        "Wait… What's going on?" Kazuki was confused. Then…

        "Breakfast? Does that mean you're… paying?"

        Ban grunted in reply.

        Kazuki blinked. This morning was getting stranger by the minute.


        "You want me to do what?"

        They had just finished their breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes and were currently sipping their respective cups of coffee when Ban told his companion what was going on. Kazuki's voice was calm. Too calm for Ban's liking, granted that the effeminate man was nothing but that most of the time. The Fuuchouin bells attached to his hair tinkled ominously. Ban took out a cigarette and lit it, completely disregarding the "No Smoking" sign on the wall nearby and the glare Paul was sending at the back of his head.

        "Well, at least I'm informing you beforehand." He sighed. "Look, it's not like I'm asking you to marry me and have my babies…" At this, Kazuki's brow twitched. "Just, let me take you out on a bloody date and we could both go on with our lives."

        "So, what you're telling me is that you lost this… bet with Akabane and he now has Ginji and wouldn't give him back if I won't go out on a date with you?"

        Ban groaned. "Don't remind me."

        "No wonder Ginji sounded frantic when he called last night. Juubei and I were worried."

        It was Ban's turn to be surprised. "He called you?"

        Kazuki shrugged. "Well, you weren't exactly coherent last night, were you?"

        An image of Akabane making him drunk popped into the Jagan master's head and he had to resist the urge to bang his head against the table.

        "How did you know?"

        His companion wrinkled his nose in disgust. "You're breath reeks of alcohol. It's a wonder you don't have a hangover."

        "I've always had a high tolerance to alcohol."

        "I'd say."

        "Look, can't we just get this over and done with?"

        "You really don't trust Akabane, do you?"

        "Is that a rhetorical question?"

        Kazuki sighed. "Look, Akabane never does things without purpose, especially not things as… flighty and whimsical as this."

        Ban growled. "This is no time to psychoanalyze that bastard. Who knows what his motives are? Homicide gets boring after some time. Maybe he's decided that playing cupid would be a nice change in his job description."

        "Playing cupid?" Kazuki eyed him suspiciously. "Just what exactly was the bet you lost to him about?"

        Ban muttered something under his breath before burying his face in his hands. "Trust me, you don't want to know."

        Kazuki raised a brow but did not pursue the topic.

        "I accept."

        Ban looked up in surprise. "What?"

        "I said, I accept. I've learned long ago that the only way to deal with Akabane is to play by his rules and to beat him at his own game… whatever it is."

        "Right. See you at 8 tonight."

        Kazuki nodded, all business-like.

        "One thing, though."

        Ban sighed. "What is it, princess? Do I have to pick you up some fancy limo or something?"

        "Well, actually…"

        Ban looked horrified. "You're not serious."

        Kazuki laughed. "Hey, I could easily charge you for this, you know."

        Ban glared. "No, you couldn't. You care too much for Ginji for that."

        Kazuki shrugged. "Well, you've got a point there. But, well, I was wondering where you're getting the money to pay for this. The last retrieval mission you went on wasn't exactly lucrative, was it?"

        "Who says I'm paying?"

        "Do you mean to imply that I'll be the one to…"

        Ban waved him off. "You worry too much. All you'll have to do tonight is have dinner with me and look pretty." Then, as an afterthought. "Though I don't think that last part would be too difficult." Ban gave his companion an appraising look.

        "What?" It was Kazuki's turn to blush.

        Ban looked away. "Nothing." Slight hesitation. "You should tell Juubei. I wouldn't appreciate black needles suddenly finding their way into my bed tonight."

        Kazuki blinked. "Now why would you think that?"

        "Look, Ito Maki. It's no big secret you and Needle Boy are…" He gesticulated vaguely.

        "We're not."

        "What?" Ban was surprised. He was so sure his sources were reliable.

        "I said, we're not… like that."

        Ban wasn't convinced. "Right."

        Kazuki sighed. "Where are we going, by the way?"

        Ban shrugged. "Don't know. Don't care. Akabane didn't go into specifics. He said it didn't matter; he'd know. Where'd you want to go?"

        Kazuki stood up abruptly, eyes fixed on the wall clock. "I have to go. Mission," he said by way of explanation. "I know of a place. Pick me up at 8." And with that, he started to walk away, only to stop a couple of steps away.

        "Oh, and by the way, Ban-kun…"

        He turned back… and smiled. "Thanks for breakfast."

        Ban's breath caught in his throat and he almost choked on his cigarette. He had never really noticed it before but… He almost blushed. Kazuki was indeed beautiful when he smiled like that. And his eyes… "Yeah, yeah," he managed after a while, tearing his eyes away from the other and waving at him dismissively. Then, nonchalantly. "I've always been a sucker for a pretty face."

        Kazuki's smile faltered. "So it seems."

        Ban frowned. "What…"

        "See you tonight, Ban-kun."

        And in a flurry of white cloth and brown tresses, he was gone, leaving a tinkle of bells and a slightly confused Jagan master in his wake.

To Be Continued…

Crap. I know. You don't have to tell me. Or maybe you do. Whether or not I'll continue this is all up to you. Ja!

P.S. Thanks to all those who reviewed Bad Habits and Bad Habits: Halloween Customs. Sequel is in the works.