A/N: Wrote this when I should really be finishing up my other fic. Couldn't help it though. The idea took hold and wouldn't let go. Hope you enjoy it.

Edited 7/27/05: Tweaked the ages, thanks to Atropos' Knife. Timeline getting fuzzy for me. Thanks for catching the error.

The Payment

There had always been something about Akabane Kuroudo that creeped Ginji out. Besides the fact that the man was a cold-blooded killer, had a much closer relationship to his scalpels than was strictly necessary, and yes, had tried to kill Ginji on a number of occasions, that is. There was something else, something familiar about Akabane that Ginji could never quite put his finger on. The feeling was something like déjà vu, only less conscious. It was a sneaking suspicion buried deep within his memories that there was more to Akabane than met the eye, and that Akabane himself was aware of Ginji's suspicion but was unwilling to enlighten him. Rather, that sideways smirk, that tilt of the hat, that soft chuckle told Ginji that Akabane definitely knew something and was enjoying keeping Ginji in the dark.

Or maybe he's just creepy in general, thought Ginji as he quickened his pace to keep up with Ban, who appeared to be walking with his usual nonchalance, but whose lowered sunglasses hinted otherwise. Hevn, Himiko, Kazuki and Shido were all looking around warily out of the corner of their eyes, being careful not to show open fear. They were getting closer to the entrance of Lower Town now. Ginji could tell without looking. The closer he got to Lower Town, the more the hair on the back of his neck prickled with static electricity. He could feel the energy zing through his veins. He was going back for the first time since he left, but unlike that time, he was walking among friends.


Akabane smiled quietly to himself, watching the nervous blonde walk tensely up ahead, never straying more than a few steps from his mysterious, spiky-haired partner's side. The plutonium was safe in its box in his coat pocket. He had waited a long time for this opportunity, and if that man was right—and he always was—the time had come for him to receive payment for that long-ago transport job.

"NO! Please no!"

The woman's scream echoed hopelessly off the cold concrete and unseeing windows, only to be swallowed up by the night air. Akabane ignored her as the masked men handed him the bundle. Their task done, they disappeared into the darkness. Now it was his turn.

He turned to leave, but felt a hand grasp the edge of his coat. Looking down, he saw the woman hanging on with one white hand, struggling to get up despite her injuries. By the look of desperation in her eyes, it probably would have been more merciful to kill her on the spot, but he had strict instructions to leave her alive, unharmed if possible. Everyone else he could kill, which he did when they tried to stop him. It had been entertaining, but not really challenging, so he was satisfied with the job but not extremely pleased. Plus, he didn't usually deal in these types of transports, but his contractor this time had promised something unusual for payment and he was intrigued.

He pulled his coat from her grasp, turned, and without another glance, left the stricken woman sobbing on the floor. The bundle in his arms was wailing loudly now, but he ignored that too as he vanished into the maze of dark alleys and side streets that would lead him to his destination: the top of Babylon Tower.

The man in the shadows didn't step forward, but sent one of his associates to take the still-crying and squirming baby from Akabane's arms. The man scurried off with the bundle as another stepped forward with a suitcase full of money. He opened it briefly, allowed Akabane a passing glance at the neat rubber-banded stacks of cash, shut it and placed it by Akabane's feet before slowly backing away, keeping his eyes trained on Akabane's still form all the way.

Akabane ignored the suitcase completely. His eyes were on the man standing in darkness.

"I see that you haven't forgotten your other payment," said the man, finally.

"It is hard to forget, if it is as interesting as you made it sound," replied Akabane. "How did you phrase it? 'Something that will help you achieve your true desire."

"Yes," said the man.

"I am curious to see why you think you know what my true desire is," said Akabane.

"I have my resources," said the man.

Akabane didn't find that answer satisfying.

"You obviously know a lot about me," he said. He still spoke in that same pleasant tone, but the room temperature seemed to drop several degrees. "Enough to know that I am one of the few transporters—perhaps the only transporter—capable of reaching this delivery point. And you claim to know my goals, yet I don't know anything about you. I am starting to wonder if perhaps it would be wiser of me," he said, as he slid three scalpels into his hand, "to erase all records of this job."

The henchmen looked at one another, but the man in charge seemed unaffected.

"I think you will find your payment adequate to allay your worries," he said, smoothly. "My only regret is that I cannot give you your other payment right now."

"Really?" said Akabane, his eyes narrowing slightly. He still had his scalpels in his hand. The henchmen tensed, hands poised to reach for their weapons.

"Yes, I must apologize for that. You see, it is not…ripe, yet. You'll have to wait about eighteen years, in fact. But, I promise you, it will be worth the wait," said the man. "If you are unsatisfied, you can always come back and kill me." The man was not joking.

"Now I really am curious," said Akabane, chuckling softly. He slid his scalpels back into their place. "I will wait, but if it turns out that you are wrong, know that I will come to you for my payment."

"Don't worry, Akabane-san," said the man. "I will pay you back, with interest."

Eighteen years pass quickly, thought Akabane as he watched the quick steps of the blond boy before him. The cocky Jagan user beside him was a bonus. Yes, I will certainly get my payment from you two, GetBackers.