Ban heard Ginji shouting in the back of his mind and momentarily lost his focus on the battle he was fighting. His opponent took the opening to attack, leaving a slash on Ban's shoulder and a trickle of blood staining the white fabric of his shirt.
"My, my," Akabane said, posing dramatically (and ridiculously, Ban thought) with his hand on his wide brimmed hat. "You seem distracted, Midou. Could it be that you sense our dear Ginji is in trouble?"
"Tch. Ginji? Are you kidding? Ginji is more than capable of taking care of himself." But Ban wasn't so sure it was true this time. And Akabane, with his usual acuteness, read Ban perfectly.
"Well you better go make sure. I don't enjoy fighting a distracted opponent. When I finally kill you, I want to be sure that I defeated you at your best."
Ban didn't argue and raced off to find Ginji. He was more than a little worried about his friend, but he couldn't help being amused by Akabane's willingness to stop the battle so easily. The man was forever backing off, claiming that he would wait until his opponent could fight at his full power. Ban was starting to think the man was a total chicken-shit. He allowed himself a stiff grin as he ran into the building where he knew he'd find Ginji.
His eyes immediately went the crumpled pile of green and blond in the middle of the floor. It wasn't until he got closer that he noticed the dark and spreading pool of red. Screaming a curse that never made it past the growing tightness in his throat, he closed the remaining distance and knelt beside the still body of his best friend. He gently rolled Ginji's body over, knowing that he could never be prepared for the sight he would see. Ginji was completely covered in his own blood, warm and wet and sticky. Ban cradled him close. "You stupid electric eel," he whispered.
"Ban-chan?" Ginji's eyes fluttered open and Ban pasted his usual confident, unaffected smile on his face. He imagined the effect would be somewhat ruined by the tears streaming down his cheeks.
"You're gonna be okay, buddy," Ban told his partner. "Although you're no end of trouble to me."
The corners of Ginji's mouth twitched up, "I know. I'm sorry, Ban-chan."
Ban felt a pain of guilt and wished he could retract his statement, "Don't be sorry, Gin. I didn't mean it."
"I know that, too, Ban-chan." Ginji's eyes drifted shut.
"No! No, Ginji. Stay with me!" Ban resisted the urge to shake the man, knowing that it would make things worse. "Don't you dare fall asleep on me!"
Ginji's eyes opened again, "I'm sorry, Ba…"
"Hey, I told you. Don't apologize. Just stay with me, okay? Stay with me be- because of the 's'. You need to stay with me because the 's' in Get Backers means that we never have to be on our own, right?" Ban knew he was babbling and didn't care.
"STOP SAYING THAT! You don't need to be sorry, you just need to stay with me."
Ban looked at Ginji and saw death lurking in the amber depths of his eyes. "I wish… I wish that… we… could be… the Get… Backers… forever. I don't… want… you to… be… alone."
Ban squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head violently. His purple tinted glasses slid down his nose. This couldn't be happening. It just couldn't be happening. Ginji was dying. As much as he didn't want to accept it, it was true. Ginji was going to leave him forever and there was nothing he could do about it.
I wish that we could be the Get Backers forever.
Ban's eyes flew open. "Ginji! Ginji, look at me." Brown eyes met blue and Ban silently prayed Ginji had just one minute left.
Ban picked up Ginji and took him to the Honky Tonk. Paul called a doctor and Natsumi cleaned Ginji's wounds. Hevn tried to look after Ban, but Ban shrugged her off with curse and ordered her to help Natsumi with Ginji. The doctor showed up and treated Ginji. Ban found a place for them to stay and later that night they moved Ginji to the motel room.
Ginji stayed in bed for a week. Ban never left his side and a steady stream of all Ginji's friends dropped by to check on the former Lightning Emperor. Kazuki and Juubei would stay for hours quietly talking and reminiscing with their former gang leader. Emishi came by and told awful jokes and generally made a fool of himself. The antics of the whip master caused Ban to scowl, but Ginji seemed to appreciate the efforts of his old friend. Shido and Madoka came by and Mozart curled up next to Ginji while Madoka played her violin.
Paul never came himself, but he sent Natsumi every day with thermoses of coffee and sandwiches. Natsumi winked at the boys and delivered Paul's message that he would be adding the cost of the food to their tab. Ban groaned, but he knew Ginji needed to eat to recover his strength.
Just as Ginji was getting on his feet again, Hevn stopped by with a new assignment, a big one. They checked out of their room and went on another recovery mission. Things went back to normal for a while.
Then little by little things started to change for the better. Their luck with money turned around. They paid their tab at the Honky Tonk with interest. The jobs seemed to come in at a steady pace and Ginji rarely found cause to complain about being hungry. Eventually they bought an apartment in Shinjuku near their friends. The recovery business was good.
And the Get Backers success rate never slipped below (almost) 100.
"Just a minute," Ban whispered into Ginji's hair, even though he knew Ginji could no longer hear him. "I hope you had a nice dream. Ginji-chan."