Title: Lifeline

Author: Amethyst Hunter

Rating: PG (language)

Word count: 1520

Warnings/Spoilers: Only itty-bitty canon ones.

Notes: Drabble request for a friend.

Disclaimer: Alas, I own not the GBers.

Summary: For Ban, driving is a vital extension of himself.


Humans place more value on material objects than necessary, some say. Ban Midou might agree to a point – he is, after all, a retriever, one whose specialty it is to get back lost or stolen objects, and he's seen some pretty bizarre requests in his time. But a job's a job, and in spite of never having had much to begin with in his turbulent life, he understands that to some people, the material is everything.

He himself would fight to the death to keep what few objects he has that are most important to him. Even if it is crazy, it's his world, damn it, and the live-and-let-live strategy only works if the other party's willing to cooperate. Few are.

Of primary concern is his car. By many people's standards it's a beater, but it's in surprisingly good condition for its age and shape; it helps that he babies it with most of his available funds (the rest goes to food and smokes, not necessarily in that order) and makes sure it's kept in peak running form. It's never let him down on those long days or nights when he needs it most.

He uses it for missions, of course, and it's not a bad bed for those times when he and Ginji can't find suitable housing (which is way more often than either of them would care to admit). But sometimes Ban needs it just to drive, and he takes it well out beyond city limits, a silver bullet fleeing the highway of the endless struggle that seems to be his life.

Driving is like breathing for Ban. He can't imagine not doing it, much like he couldn't imagine a partnership without Ginji or a city without a touchstone as reliable as the Honky Tonk (and it is reliable despite Paul's heart of stone when it comes to starving retrieval artists; if nothing else he can always count on the old bastard to give him a good lecture). Driving helps him think things through, gives him a better perspective to base his future actions on. It's easy to lose oneself in imagination when the outside world is whipping by, everything becoming all and nothing together in the same blur.

If he were the suicidal type, Ban thinks, he might envision a stretch of road leading up to a cliff, and he'd hit that pedal hard, no pity, no regrets (well, maybe just a few), and blow right off it and laugh himself senseless all the way down into darkness. But life carries with it certain responsibilities, and one of those is the plain fact that once you save someone else's life, you're responsible for them for the rest of however long either of you have on this earth. Even in his darkest moments when he thinks everything – everyone - would just have been better off if he wasn't around, Ban doesn't even entertain the thought of abandoning Ginji to the not-so-tender mercies of the world. Or maybe it's the other way around...very few people have seen an enraged Raitei and lived to speak of it.

Driving for most people is an exercise in stress. There're traffic jams, and stupid people to whom licenses never ever should have been issued, and a nightmarish labyrinth of signals and streets and parking meters to have to navigate. Ban's the exception to the rule: he might rant and rave about the questionable mental capabilities of the jackass who just cut him off, and pray for a plague to befall all towing operators within a 50-mile radius, but for the most part, he finds driving to be relaxing. It's nice to have one's own little bubble of mobility, to be able to come and go as one pleases, to be the captain of one's ship, even if only briefly.

Of course, the passengers that said captain tends to wind up chauffeuring are at best...questionable...

Driving Ginji is an exercise in futility. More often than not it's Ginji who drives Ban – drives him right up the wall, that is. Being serenaded by the latest ridiculous pop song that every radio station is playing to death is not Ban's idea of a good time on long trips. Having it done while the singer is spraying a mouthful of crumbs from a bag of chips is even worse. Okay, he's not the universe's greatest housekeeper himself, but geez, cleaning mold out of the backseat because someone forgot and hastily left a half-eaten sandwich in there one night...Ginji's lucky he's so damn appealing, or else - !

Speaking of death, he's a frickin' retriever, not a transporter, and transporting transporters is about as much fun as getting a root canal with a rusty scalpel from one of said transporters. Oh, the agents are polite enough (even if one of them needs to learn how to show a little more gratitude when her rival reluctantly agrees – in exchange for appropriate compensation, naturally - to drive her and her merrily murderous cohort to their job site because their regular driver is out sick), and at least one of them is more than happy to chip in for his share of the ride (as long as he's paid back in his favorite currency!), but dear God, they just won't shut up.

No wonder they warn people about starting debates with one's relatives, however thick or thin those bloodlines may be. Perfume overwhelms quickly in an enclosed space.

Akabane sings too. At least his voice is a lot easier on the ears than Ginji's. But if Ban has to hear 'Que Sera, Sera' one more time...!

Although he should be thankful he's never let any monkeys ride shotgun. Ban draws the line at letting just any manner of animal ride in his beloved Ladybug. At least Jackals are housebroken. Beastmasters he has personal reservations about, despite any reassurances from Ginji.

Mediators like to share the driving from the backseat in a way that has nothing to do with making the vehicle rock in the kind of manner he'd prefer. After-school cafe' help is all right, since they usually bring (and share) extra food, but censoring the more colorful details of one's exploits gets tiring fast, and Paul's generosity regarding coffee is directly proportional to the time when Natsumi or Rena comes up to him and asks what a reverse cowgirl is. It's bad enough having to explain that stuff to Ginji.

No, the best times of Ban's vehicular life have not necessarily been spent with others. He likes it when he's alone in the car, just silence aside from the purr of the motor and the comforting thumps of the occasional small road debris hitting the tires, the glare of fading sunlight warming the interior while sea to shining sea provides him with a stark view of a more forgiving horizon whose consumption he would gladly lose himself in, until the gas runs low and it's time to come back down to reality from his dreams.

At the end of a good drive, he feels more grounded. Renewed. Driving lets him give free rein to all those troublesome emotions, all the things he feels but can't express for one reason or another because the costs would be far greater than the relief of release. Even though he loses every time, there's something therapeutic about racing at breakneck pace with a guy who calls himself "No-Brakes."

Hurtling down the road in his little car that could, mashing the pedal into the floor hard enough to make his heart skip a beat or two (does he dare use nitrous??), the wind whistling in his hair and beating down his skin, blood singing an irresistible siren song that's sweet reckless music to his ears, Ban really does feel invincible at times. Like he could plow through a whole building and come out with nary a scratch on his bumper, the way an arrow strikes true. Like he's flying on an updraft, soaring-coasting on his will alone, and nothing and no one can ever stop him because he's a god in this world, as omnipotent as they come, and heaven help the fool who gets in his way because he'll just bulldoze straight over 'em if he has to.

For a while, the loneliness and the frustration and the anger evaporate, and all that's left is a soothing numbness, or wild exhilaration, depending on the nature of his trip. Driving in rain can be oddly mellowing; doing it during a mission adds extra peril to his chaotic work.

Driving reminds him of what's really important, what he has waiting for him at the end of the road. When he pulls up in front of the Honky Tonk and sees his best friend's eyes light up like a Christmas tree, his self-imposed exile is abruptly forgotten, all ills and cares swept away for the moment as he's caught up in Ginji's bear hug, which threatens to break more bones than his Snakebite.

Driving is a necessity for Ban. Driving is the lifeline that leads him home.