Title: Fanning the Flames
Author:
Rhyssa Fireheart
Pairing:
None to begin with. OCs featured though. (Eventual Pazu/OC)
Fandom:
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (set after 2nd Gig and before Solid State Society)
Rating: T for language and situations
Disclaimer:
Don't own it, never will. Just like to play around with it in my mind.

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"Shit."

"What's the matter?"

"Our target just showed up."

"So?"

"With his bodyguard."

"So?"

"It's Ahito."

"Shit. How the hell can he afford her?"

"No idea. Must be trying to make an impression on the other crime lords."

"Is it working?"

"What do you think?"

Pazu was definitely pissed off. None of the intel they'd gathered had even hinted that their target had the kind of money needed to hire a bodyguard of her caliber. He stared at the couple standing on the landing, the woman obviously observing everyone in the room.

Their target looked like a middle-class businessman – grey suit, red power tie, slicked back hair. There was nothing remarkable about him at all, until you noticed the woman standing next to him. She drew the attention of everyone in the room even if they had no clue who she was. Ahito was tiny, barely 160cm tall. Tonight she wore a deep emerald cheongsam, embroidered with dragons and slit to her hips to show black leggings beneath. Black slippers and gloves completed the ensemble, but looking closely it was apparent that both shoes and gloves were practical leather instead of decorative silk. Her black hair was pulled up into a bun on the top of her head and secured with twin chopsticks; Pazu had no doubt they were also weapons of some sort going by everything he'd heard about her.

The conversation in the room slowly died away as the new arrivals stood on the landing. Ahito surveyed the room, her eyes sweeping over everyone waiting below while a smile played around the edges of her full red lips. When her gaze met his for a moment, Pazu got a glimpse of emerald green before looking away.

"I wonder if she color coordinates that as well."

"What's that?"

"Nothing. Are you picking all this up?"

"Yep. She's quite an eyeful, isn't she? I wonder if she costs so much because of her looks or her skills."

"Want to come challenge her to a fight and find out for yourself, Ishikawa?"

"No thanks, I think I'll stay safe here in our van and let you deal with her if need be."

Pazu grimaced at Ishikawa's retort, but couldn't really fault his teammate. The woman really did have a reputation as an excellent bodyguard. He could only think of three reasons how she'd come to be working for someone like Yoshida – the crime lord had borrowed heavily to afford her fees, the reports of his finances were drastically wrong and he really could afford to hire her or someone else had purchased her services for him. Thoughts of who was paying her fee fell by the wayside when Ahito suddenly smiled and turned to her employer to indicate it was safe to join the party in progress. Pazu idly wondered if the rumors were true that her face wasn't cybernetic but instead completely natural. If it was true, that would explain the dark looks she was getting from the assorted courtesans and dutch wives scattered around the room. Calling her beautiful would be an understatement.

The murmur of conversation picked back up again when Yoshida reached the floor. He began to greet other guests, his hearty voice sounding overloud in the secretive hush that covered the room. Pazu watched Yoshida's progress as he crossed the room, eddies of movement flowing around the unseen woman and the crime lord following in her wake.

Ahito looked around at the gathering of underworld powers as she led the way towards the back of the room. The lower level bosses were the ones she worried about the most, since they all had the most to gain if Yoshida were taken out. The look of quiet amusement she wore never faltered though and it unnerved many of the attendees. Anyone who could walk through such a group and look like she was enjoying a private joke was either very confident or very insane and either state of mind was enough to give others second thoughts.

She paused once to look over some hired thug who'd moved out of the way a bit too slowly for her tastes. The young man swallowed noticeably when her smile widened as she looked him over. Pazu had been making his way towards the back of room as well, but he stopped to see what she was going to do. When he reached for her, no doubt intending to pull her into his arms, it became obvious that the thug was one of those who didn't know who she was. Within seconds, the man went from reaching out to clutching his slashed and bloodied arm, shock written on his face. Ahito stood calmly, left hand on her hip, right hand idly waving a patterned fan before her. The thug's gasp filled the sudden silence and before he could begin to yell, security guards appeared at his side and dragged him away. Pazu had a feeling the man would disappear, never to be seen again.

In the meantime, Ahito closed the fan with a flip of her wrist and turned to Yoshida to indicate it was okay to continue on. The fan remained in her hand though, an implicit threat. The pair reached the circle of chairs in the back of the club without further incident and Yoshida seated himself in the remaining open seat, Ahito taking her place behind him.

By this time, Pazu had reached his own place behind Yamamoto, the crime lord he was using as a cover. Yamamoto, Yoshida, Haruko, Petrolov and Brigham – these five major crime syndicate lords were meeting tonight to cut a deal and it was Section 9's job to prevent it. Petrolov and Brigham were offering military grade weapons in exchange for various cyberdrugs from Yoshida. Yamamoto was acting as the arbiter, Haruko was the witness and each would receive a percentage of both drugs and weapons for his own organization. Section 9 intended to prevent Yoshida from procuring the weapons and escalating the gang wars he was involved in; stopping the drug trade would be a side bonus. All they needed was evidence of Yoshida making the deal and they could arrest him and the other crime lords as well.

"Pazu, report."

"They're just starting the negotiations now, Major."

"Does it look like there'll be any problems?"

"Not unless you're worried about Yoshida offending the other bosses. He's pretty obnoxious for someone in his position."

"As long as the deal goes down and we can prevent these weapons from coming into the country, he can be as obnoxious as he wants. I'm sure it will go over well once he's in prison. Let us know when the deal is final and we can move in."

"Roger."

As the five men began their discussion, Pazu shifted to get a better view of the proceedings. He could hear Yoshida clearly, his voice loud and boisterous. The other men spoke more quietly, their calm demeanors a contrast to Yoshida's exuberance.

The conversation eventually reached a climax and the men all stood up to shake hands. Pazu noticed Ahito moving around the chairs to stand next to Yoshida and he moved closer as well. Her eyes darted his way, assessing the level of threat he presented to her and her employer. She looked him over slowly, another smile gracing her face. He watched her as well, wondering when the second fan had appeared in her left hand. She was famous for those unusual weapons, hard to use and even more difficult to master. All reports listed her as a master.

Once the handshakes were complete and the deal was sealed, all the bodyguards relaxed slightly, except for Ahito and Pazu. She seemed to be waiting for something to happen and he knew something was about to happen. With a glance at Yoshida, she stepped forward to address Yamamoto directly.

"Mr. Yamamoto, may I ask you a question, please." Her voice made Pazu wonder what it would be like to have her alone. It brought to mind dark moonlit nights, cigarettes and whiskey, and much more pleasurable surroundings than a club full of other people.

"Of course you may, my dear. I could never refuse the request of such a beautiful woman." Yamamoto smiled at Ahito, more than willing to be congenial now that he'd made a nice profit for simply hosting the meeting at his club.

"Does that one belong to you?" She pointed and Pazu was surprised to realize she was referring to him.

"Hmm? I believe he is employed as one of my bodyguards. Ryozo, correct?" Pazu could only nod in reply.

"Would you be interested in selling him? I could use a new toy and he looks… interesting." Her smile transformed her face and the look she directed at him promised many things.

"Selling him? I really hadn't thought about it." Yamamoto gave "Ryozo" a considering look, obviously mulling over the implications of having Ahito possibly owe him a favor sometime in the future. "How long did you want to keep him for?"

"Well, that would all depend on his work performance, of course. I prefer to have my toys already trained, but I'm willing to put in some effort if they are worth it." She gave him another sultry look and stepping closer, drew the closed fan down his chest slowly. "How about it, Ryozo? Are you trained or do I need to put in some effort?"

"Pazu, report."

"Just a moment, Major. I don't think they're quite finished yet." He hoped the Major wasn't watching through his eyes right now or he was going to be in some serious trouble.

"Not quite finished, huh? That's an interesting way of putting it, I guess." Ishikawa's voice broke into his thoughts and he knew that it was a private message.

Still praying that the Major wasn't watching, Pazu took a risk and moved closer to Ahito. When her smile didn't change, he told himself that danger could be exciting and moving slowly, took her into his arms and kissed her. He could feel her stretching to put her arms around his neck and she returned the kiss with some enthusiasm. When he stepped back, her smile had changed. It seemed more real this time, as if she were pleased.

"Now!"

When the lights went down, she twisted out of his arms and he felt the solid edge of a fan come down on his shoulder. He struck out with a hand, trying to connect with her head and knock her out. Instead, he felt a piercing jab through his lower arm before hitting something soft. Pazu heard a grunt of pain and swung his other arm out aiming for the sound. He felt his fist connect solidly with the side of Ahito's head as the emergency lighting came up. The dim light provided enough illumination for him to see the end of her spin before his legs were swept out from under him. The last thing he saw was her smile as a fist crashed into his jaw.

Ahito stared down at the limp form before bending down to place a small white card into the pocket of his jacket. Then before the police could get any closer, she grabbed Yoshida's arm and pulled him towards the back of the room. Yamamoto had disappeared somewhere back this way and she needed to find the hidden exit so she could get her employer out. As the door closed behind them, she turned to take one last look back.

"Good-bye, Ryozo. I'm sure we'll meet again soon."

-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

A/N - I have another two chapters written for this, but I'mnot sure if I'm going to end it after these or continue on. I have more I can write about the pairing, but I need to figure out if those will be one shots or continue as part of this story. Enjoy and R&R please!