Author's Notes: I didn't think I would be updating this series so soon -- I actually finished this about a week ago and I've been so anxious to put it up. Ah well, here it is anyway--comments and criticisms would be greatly appreciated! Applause for Saku-san & Neaera-san for wonderfully cleaning this up! Thanks so much :)
Vignette Title: Crash into Me
Summary: In which Natsumi is confused, and Ban refuses to be a lech (Damnit Ban!)
Disclaimers: Get Backers is copyrighted to Rando Ayamine and Aoki Yuya, plus all of their other associates – no infringement is being made on their part. The characters appearing in this story are not mine, except for the plot and storyline – so if you steal this from me, you die… k? Oh, and the verses are from a song by the Dave Matthews Band, "Crash Into Me" – beautiful, but I don't think if fits the plot and atmosphere of the fic appropriately, no?
/thoughts/ - character's thoughts
For the Muse who would not leave me be. Yes, apparently, I am in love with you. Damnit.
your lips just so I know
In your eyes, love, it glows so
I'm bare boned and crazy for you
When you come crash
into me, baby
And I come into you
In a boys dream
In a boys dream
I've gone overboard
Then I'm begging you
to forgive me
in my haste
When I'm holding you so girl
close to me
She had watched him far too many times to not have recognized that expression he kept sheltered behind intense, blue eyes as he absentmindedly brushed hair off the forehead of the blonde boy who slept soundly beside him. It was the look of downright concern and kindness, of warm affection and slight amusement – which, when he thought no one was looking, he reserved only for his partner. Except she.
Though she was certain he must have been aware of her watchful presence, furtive as it may be, he never reprimanded her for it. Whether he ignored it because he felt uncomfortable, or he just didn't give a damn, either way, she didn't mind—so long as it gave her an opportunity to continue to watch him. Even at a distance.
And so, from behind the counter she carried on with her task of buffing the already dry glassware, while she held her gaze at him at a careful, side-wards glance. He was now shaking the blonde, poking him to wake, as he whispered softly in his ear, trying to sound irritated - knowing he wouldn't be able to wake him, otherwise,
"Ginji! Oi! Ginji, wake up already."
It both puzzled and amused her, how such easy tenderness could come from a man whose brashness and arrogance were near legendary. It seemed out of character, and yet… appropriate. Although she found it quite adorable, it would was during times like these that she could not help but feel a little jealous—not of Ginji, maybe not particularly, no. She understood perfectly well the bond and friendship of the Get Backers: they were partners and that would never change—"it's what the 'S' stands for" after all, as Ginji had once told her.
But there were weak moments, when she simply wasn't content watching him from a distance, and she'd wish… she'd wish deeply in her heart that he would look at her that same way.
"Natsumi-chan." His voice was strong and deep, yet gentle at the same time – able to break into her thoughts with the mere sound of her name from his lips.
"Hn?" She pretended to have looked up only when he called her, innocently blinking at him as though she hadn't just had her eyes on him the whole time. /Did he notice/ She wondered vaguely.
Good thing she had dimmed the lights of the café earlier upon closing; the near darkness hid the slight tinge of pink that colored her cheeks—which she realized had been a somewhat recurring thing during the times he'd take notice of her. A silly schoolgirl crush, that's what she was having, really. /Just a silly schoolgirl crush./
"I couldn't wake Ginji up."
She couldn't see his expression properly anymore, the toned down lighting made it a little impossible, but she didn't miss the mischievous glint in his eyes when he looked at her.
"Might as well spend the night here. There's a chance of heavy rain tonight, I heard." He explained it rather matter-of-factly, despite the slight hesitation lingering in the undertones. He'd never been one used to asking favors; Ban didn't like the idea of being indebted to anyone (despite their presently increasing tab at the Honky Tonk). What with his pride and all, crashing in the Honky Tonk for the night was, what he'd like to call 'incidental requisition'.
It was one thing that she would nick food for them occasionally; the storeowner would sometimes be forgiving enough and not add it to their tab, especially if they'd been out of a job for far too long. But to use Honky Tonk as lodging as well? Well, she wouldn't be surprised if Paul would charge the Get Backers rent too, one day. Luckily for them, Paul had left that day to visit a friend somewhere up north and he wasn't expected to be back in a few days. Using the store as temporary bed space wouldn't be much trouble… for now, at least.
She turned her attention to the window, pondering on the weather outside. She could make out the constellations twinkling beyond the night sky, despite the severe smog that engulfed the streets of Shinjuku; otherwise, there were no heavy clouds, no threats of an upcoming storm.
"It does seem quite cold outside, Ban-san."
He wasn't impervious to the cold, she learned; the slightest temperature drop would cause Ban to curl up to his coffee mug and actually cuddle against Ginji – but not without the usual protest that he was merely leaning onto his partner to absorb some warmth. She giggled softly at the memory.
He was now staring at her with a bemused expression; confusion at her reaction and perhaps, berating himself for giving such lame justification for their stay at the Honky Tonk tonight, though hoping she was gullible enough to give in. Ban should've known better. A girl with a silly secret crush can easily be persuaded.
Thus, with her most cheerful smile, she held out an okay sign, "Daijoubu! Just for tonight, ne?" Then leaning in conspiratorially towards him at the counter, she added in near whisper, "It'll be a secret between Ban-san and I!"
The boy craned his neck to glance at her, and finally gave her a cocky (and relieved) grin, "A secret. Just for tonight."
Their eyes lingered on each other for another moment, nothing but friendly and grateful smiles exchanged—it was the best angle so far she'd ever had for watching him, when he wasn't too shy nor defensive to let her look directly into his eyes; she wasn't afraid and she could lose herself in them if only he'd allow her. But then the moment was over, and the boy had glanced back down at his sleeping friend, nudging him lightly before he propped himself up to lift him off the bar stool.
Sighing, she returned to her final task of arranging the glassware underneath the counter shelf, completely putting away any further intent of flirting with the enigmatic boy. She still spied on him, with open amusement, as he hauled his partner—with rather a bit of difficulty, since the other Get Backer was too deep in his sleep to help himself or Ban—into one of the booths and laid him down on a bench.
"Stupid electric eel must've gained some weight," she heard him mutter to no one in particular, grunting as he rotated his shoulder joints, with a feeble attempt at irritation.
When Ginji stirred slightly, groaning, perhaps subconsciously sensing the change of his position, Ban immediately sat at the end of the booth and removed Ginji's sneakers. He began massaging his partner's feet, kneading at the tired muscles gently, and a thoughtful smile tugging at the corners of his lips.
It was such a sweet gesture. And somewhat… private. She felt like an intruder to this moment, and it took some will power to look away. She didn't plan—or want to be competition, but she decided that she would've probably given anything to be in Ginji's shoes right now. She chuckled half-bitterly at the metaphor.
The Get Backers were a formidable team. And they were the best of friends. It was just a silly schoolgirl crush on her part. /Get over it./ She needed to remind herself that. Besides, Ban didn't seem the type who would want to engage in some romantic, fairytale relationship, with the way he'd cop a feel at Hevn's breasts once in a while; he could be so immature.
/And hopeless./ She needed to remind herself that, too.
Still, it didn't mean she should stop taking care of them, right? She did give them her word that she would, after all. He had saved her; but so had Ginji. What she was doing for them was returning the favor, in small ways she knew how. The attraction and admiration for Ban shouldn't be an excuse not to be friends with them anymore. She has decided to get over her crush, anyway.
Slipping soundlessly out of the counter, she made her way to the storage at the back of the store to fetch some blankets. She knew Paul had a studio apartment above the store, but he would've kept it locked right now, of course. It was a good thing that he kept his linen somewhere accessible and close by, though.
When she returned, she found a curled up Ginji on the bench, Ban's four-tailed white shirt covering his sleeping form. His tall stature did not allow him much space even in that position as his socked feet were dangling at the edge; still it seemed he was sleeping comfortably. Ban sat across him, leaning upright onto the wall, his black undershirt clinging tightly to his toned upper body. Natsumi found herself blushing once more at this. Thank God the lights were still dimmed low.
Tiptoeing over to Ginji first, she placed one soft blanket on top of him, glad that at least it covered most of his body. For a while, she watched him sleep - peaceful and still childlike in his slumber. She felt a small pang of guilt when she recalled her earlier thoughts of wanting to be in his place, even for just a little while. There wasn't a chance, even if he and Ban were only friends.
Looking over at the dark-haired boy, she clutched nervously at the other blanket in her arms. His expression appeared to be relaxed, but she couldn't make out if he was asleep, though, she hoped he was. She couldn't help the burning of her cheeks as she made her way towards him, kneeling gingerly between his legs and began unfolding the blanket. She tried not to look at Ban's face as she draped the thick fabric onto his chest, only acutely conscious of her skin tingling at their close proximity, tempting her to touch him and feel him beneath her fingers… She was really glad he was asleep.
"It's late. You should be getting home."
/What/ She had almost lost her balance when she tumbled backwards away from him; until she felt his arms steady her from behind, somehow drawing her closer, if possible, with the blanket filling in the space between them.
"B-Ban-san!... Gomen, I didn't—I mean, I thought you were asleep."
Now she really couldn't look at him; embarrassment was one thing she hadn't yet mastered handling. She could feel his eyes on her – deep, blue orbs studying her features in the shadows. Why was he contemplating her?
"I meant to."
She gaped at him, nervous that he could've read her mind, and too lost for words until she remembered her comment before. There was no hint of annoyance in his tone, however, just... mild flirtation? Strangely drawn to this unexpected side of him, she felt anxious and excited at the same time.
Suddenly, becoming keenly aware of their somewhat compromising position, it made her feel quite vulnerable. If he stared at her a little longer, she was sure he'd find out about her secret crush, even without needing to look into her eyes and using the Evil Eye to see. And just as she was about to let go…
"I meant to walk you to the station first so—"
"No! I'm—I have to go." She leapt up, rather gracelessly, waving off her arms to distract him. "I'll be alright, thanks!"
She knew she had to get away from him. Fast. She could not risk a minute. It would probably be the first time she felt truly scared of his abilities. Not because of what it could do to her, but of what might happen after it was over and she had to face the reality of rejection—that would be a nightmare that might take longer than a minute to snap out of. She had better banish these feelings now before…
His tone was quite uneven, but there was still this special ring to it whenever he would say her name. She would usually blame it to her own silliness, or exhaustion, if nothing else. The darkness had finally swallowed any remaining hints of his expression—of which she was somehow glad, not really prepared for anything she might see. Only the silhouette of his half-risen form drawn in her mind. All she could make out was a silhouette of his half-risen form.
"It's ok, really. Please lock the door after I'm gone, ok? I'll see you in the morning." She was, if anything, a creature of habit. Her voice still had the chirpy quality to it, which could've fooled anyone. It fooled her. Hopefully, Ban, too. "Oyasumi, Ban-san."
It's not too late. They were still friends.
And they had that little secret.
I watch you there
through the window
And I stare at you
You wear nothing but you
wear it so well
tied up and twisted
the way I'd like to be
For you, for me, come crash