Title: Someone To Watch Over Me
Author: Amethyst Hunter
Rating: PG (minor language)
Notes: I read somewhere once that a statistic exists claiming that more people die at 3 am than at any other hour of the morning. This drabblet is based off that statistic.
Disclaimer: I do not own thine GBers.
Summary: Ban's heard of guardian angels, but his is a rather unorthodox visitor...!
Coming back out of the dark was a tedious effort at best, but Ban managed to push off some of the chains of sleep and get his bearings enough to figure out where he was and why he was here. Hospitals were becoming an all-too-familiar haunt for him, and not just because of Ginji's inability to permit the escape of a stray rice ball.
Ban groaned as hot pain sliced into his side when he tried to sit up. He quickly abandoned all thoughts of getting out of bed, remembering now why he had all those intravenous drips installed in his arms. He should know by now that any mission of Hevn's promised its share of pain. At least they'd gotten the damned object and would be able to collect the money – it would be enough to take care of his impromptu stay, and, if he argued with the nurses hard enough to let them grant him an early discharge, there would be a little bit left over that he might be able to use towards a celebratory dinner for him and Ginji.
After they paid off the parking fine and got his car back first, of course.
Ban rolled his head on the pillow. The room was dark save for a small nightlight in one corner; he surmised that it must be a late hour since he could hear little noise other than the muted hum and beep of the monitor in the room. Outside, he could just make out the occasional squeak of rubber-soled shoes as nurses and doctors alike wandered the halls tending to patients. He was alone.
Well, not quite. As he scanned the room taking in once more the various shadows that cloaked the walls with a hint of blue-tinted light, one of those shadows moved. A tall thin strip uncurled itself from a corner and drifted, nonchalant as ever, towards his bed.
"What the hell are you doing here!"
Darkness bowed to him, removing a large hat that was pressed against a chest in greeting. "That should be obvious, Midou-kun. I am keeping watch for you."
"I don't need a babysitter," Ban growled at Akabane. "Where's Ginji? Or did you send him shrieking to the ends of the earth again as soon as you set foot in here?"
Akabane smiled, unruffled by the hostile reception he was getting. "Ginji-kun is fine. He went to deliver the item to your client so that you might receive your payment." The transporter paused. "How are you feeling?"
"How do you think?" Ban gestured to his side, which was currently wrapped in heavy gauze. "Like I was run through with a damn mace. I'll give you credit, Jackal, at least yours was clean and quick. Not that that's anything I ever want to repeat."
Akabane tilted his head, a sort of curiosity glinting in his eyes. Ban would never admit it, but he found a peculiar fascination in looking at the other man when that bloody – ha, ha – when that bloody hat was absent. Perhaps that's why he wore it. Revealed, Akabane's face was actually rather expressive in spite of his poker demeanor. Ban supposed it was because of his own situation that he found other people's eyes of keen interest; they could expose so much about a person without their realizing it. He still wasn't sure what it was that he always saw in Akabane's, but somehow he got the impression that there really was a genuine human, if one deeply conflicted, behind the savage creature's mask. Problem was, that half didn't rule very often, much to everyone's discomfort.
"I almost dislocated your shoulder that time. I do apologize, but you should not have interfered with my duel," Akabane said, his voice a subtle purr of dark enchantment as always. "Would you like something to eat or drink? I took the liberty of ordering a few small items from your nurse to have prepared for when you awoke."
Ban raised a brow. "How long have you been here?" A shiver ran down his spine and he wasn't sure how well he concealed it. The thought of Doctor Jackal lurking in the shadows of his shelter with him out cold gave him the willies.
Akabane clasped his hat in both hands. "Long enough." Illuminated by the nightlight's glow, his face held an eerie pallor to it that reminded Ban of a ghost – or a cadaver. He gestured with a light nod towards the folder mounted on the wall by the door. "May I?"
"Knock yourself out."
Akabane smiled and placed his hat back on his head before going to read the copy of the instructions on Ban's medical file. "Oh my. Puncture wound accompanied by severe laceration and dermal abrasion...it must have been quite a battle, hmm?"
"Yakuza are stupid, but tough." Ban closed his eyes briefly. "We timed it wrong, broke into the safehouse when everybody was there. Ginji about drained himself dry in our escape. But we got what we wanted. Now I just have to make sure that I get first crack at the money before Ginji goes hog-wild at the nearest sweets shop."
He wasn't sure why he was telling Akabane all this; it wasn't as if the man gave a damn about anything except bloodshed, after all. When he reopened his eyes again the Jackal was standing right by his bedside. Ban couldn't help the immediate jerk of his body as instinct yelped for a fast getaway. Akabane's sneakiness was legendary, and even though Ban knew that he was in no present danger, it was still unnerving to have the specter of death this close.
"What do you want now?"
Akabane bent slightly and reached for his arm. It took all of Ban's self-control not to flinch or lash out, but by the time he realized the transporter's intentions Akabane was already withdrawing his hand. "Your IV line was crooked," he explained with another smile.
"Hn," Ban grunted, his way of saying thanks for the adjustment. His head felt fuzzy and he wanted to ask Akabane again what he was doing here, but the morphine swimming in his bloodstream made it hard to form extra words. It probably didn't matter anyway. The transporter could be on an unrelated job and was making a point of dropping by now that he'd learned that Ban was here too. He had a habit of turning up like a bad penny around the Get Backers, which freaked Ginji to no end, but Ban had come to accept it as part of life, albeit a somewhat annoying recurrence. Attracting paying clients was harder when their personal bloody raincloud kept following them everywhere they went.
Uncannily Akabane seemed to have read his thoughts. "I admit that I could not resist the opportunity to see you again, even if your present condition renders you incapable of stimulating conversation. Morphine is very powerful, Midou-kun. It's probably just as well that you not risk upsetting your stomach with extra fillings. Nevertheless, I will keep the tray handy if you should need a drink of water. It is rather dry in here." With that, the other man stepped back into the mass of shadows and took up watch on a chair.
Ban blinked away a fog of haze clouding his vision. "Jackal?"
Akabane adjusted his hat, granting a small flicker of smile. "I will be here if you need anything, Midou-kun."
Nothing more was said after that and Ban contemplated telling Akabane to get out of here and leave him in peace, but for the life of him he couldn't seem to remember why he didn't want the transporter's presence. He started to drift in and out of consciousness; at several points he remembered opening his eyes, searching for that corner, then falling back into darkness once he'd detected the slim form still seated there. He couldn't explain it, but having Akabane around wasn't quite as disturbing as it had initially been. In fact, it was oddly reassuring.
During one such interval Ban found his tongue and asked, "Why are you staying?"
"I told you. I am keeping vigil," Akabane said quietly. "Do you know, Midou-kun, that three o' clock in the morning is when the largest number of patients die? No one knows why, but this hour has always filled many a tomb."
The creepy feeling came back at the thought of a prospective deathwatch. "What time's it now?" Ban slurred.
"Ten after two," Akabane answered.
"I just feel like crap. I'm not gonna die, Jackal," Ban grumbled.
"But you might," Akabane returned, his smile inching towards an anticipation that Ban wasn't sure he wanted to dwell on.
His body told him to forget about it and go back to sleep; the morphine agreed. Ban did shut his eyes, but some time later – how long, he had no idea, but it felt like just minutes had passed between blackouts – he awoke to noises in the hallway, and a sudden spike of focus gripped his attention. Judging by the rapid footsteps and a few angry mumblings he could halfway decipher, someone was looking for a room. His room.
He was not alone in his notice. The telltale scrape of emerging blades drove a surge of adrenaline through his veins, but Ban realized that Akabane's gaze was not on him. It was trained on the closed door and the shadows churning below it, in the narrow beam of outside lighting.
Ban had the sudden chilling impulse that if that door were to open, it would be the last thing he'd ever see.
Akabane stayed put, back straight, body still and taut, only following the movements of the people on the other side of the door with sharp measure. Ban recognized the look on his face: a predator sizing up his stalking approach to the potential kill. What surprised him more than the transporter's reaction was his own. Ban couldn't shake the feeling that for once having the Jackal on alert and ready to attack was a good thing.
The tension continued to coil, and not just in his right arm. Outside, the voices hissed and snapped at each other as whoever it was tried to decide where to go next. Ban heard what sounded like the lid to a jar being removed, and then he realized that one of them was carrying a silencer fitted to a pistol. The hairs on the back of his neck stood straight up.
Akabane was not smiling. He looked at Ban and put one white-gloved finger to his lips in warning: be silent and don't move.
The muttering outside grew louder for a moment, then receded. The footsteps and their shadows moved on.
Ban kept holding his breath for as long as he could, unwilling to release even that much tension and possibly draw the enemies – and his gut told him these were enemies as dangerous as any he'd ever met – back to this room. But either his reflexes overrode his concern, or he must have passed out again, because the next blink of his eyes showed a more relaxed-looking Akabane still sitting in his chair, minus four glowing scalpels.
It was quiet out in the corridor. His throat felt dry and scratchy. Ban couldn't recall having spoken the question, but surely he must have, because Akabane was at his side now, helping to tip his head up and offering him a plastic cup of cool water with an encouraging murmur of silken voice. Ban drank it all, and more appeared, which he also downed. Then he was being eased back onto the pillow and the blankets were being drawn up around his chin.
A part of him found it morbidly amusing that Akabane was playing doctor. The other half of him wanted to kick himself in the ass and sneer at his own folly for having become bedridden – how could the great Ban Midou, retriever superstar supreme, have fallen into this kind of weakness? His logical side, or maybe it was Aesclepius, argued that at least the circumstances were in his favor this time and he should count his blessings. Akabane wasn't interested in fighting an opponent unless that person was in full health, the better to draw out the struggle for the inevitable kill.
Ban decided it was still in his best interests to try and stay awake for as long as possible. For all he knew the weirdos they'd heard earlier might come back, and he wanted to be prepared if possible. He battled several jaw-cracking yawns and his own boredom with forced inertia as he conjured whatever idle thoughts he could cobble together, but he managed to stave off the call of the morphine for some time.
Right about when dawn broke open he finally conceded defeat to exhaustion, and Akabane must have known it too. The transporter got up and came to his side once more, bending over him to check that the covers were in appropriate place. Sheathed fingers gently carded through his hair and along the side of his face, and Ban experienced a temporary burst of awareness as sun-dappled nightshade surrounding pale skin and purple eyes filled his vision.
"Rest, Midou-kun. You are safe, now." Akabane smiled at him, then, adding to Ban's surprise, leaned forward and kissed his forehead. The other man's lips were warm and petal-soft against his skin.
Akabane stood and tipped the brim of his hat at Ban in farewell. "Goodbye, Midou-kun. I hope we meet again soon, when you have recovered."
He should have guessed that was coming. Resigning himself to a future confrontation, Ban shrugged. "Hey, Jackal...thanks."
Akabane's smile didn't change, but the gleam in his eyes warmed with the acknowledgment. In a hushed clicking of boots on tile and the whispers of his coattails, he stepped through the door he'd opened, and then he was gone as seamlessly as he'd first appeared in Ban's room.
Ban ended up having to meet the full booking the doctor had put him down for – no amount of begging, pleading or pitched fits was able to convince any nurse to waive an extended stay, though they probably wished they could after he chucked that bedpan at one of them. About a month after he finally obtained freedom from hospitalization he was back at the Honky Tonk, pitching sales to clients and quarreling with Ginji over who got the last slice of pizza.
"You're lucky you're so useful to me, otherwise that'd be your last meal," Ban told him, not with rancor, after Ginji managed to whisk the remaining food out of harm's path and shovel it into his gullet. "I owe you one, Gin."
Ginji quickly swallowed the impossibly huge chunk of crust and stared at his partner. "For what, Ban-chan?"
"You know." Ban thumped him on the back of the head. "Good improv on your part, hiring Akabane to stand guard dog over me while you took the item back to the client. It's gonna cost me later the next time we run into that whackjob, but for once it's worth it. How'd you know those goons we fought at the safehouse were tailing us?"
Ginji blinked, once, twice. His face was perfect blankness. "I didn't."
Ban frowned. "You didn't run into any yakuza after we separated at the hospital?"
"No. But I meant too, I didn't hire Akabane-san." Ginji matched his frown. "He came to visit you?"
Ban set his coffee cup down and stared hard at his partner. "Don't flake on me, Ginji. Yeah, Akabane was there, right in my damn room by the bed, even. You didn't send him?"
"I swear, Ban-chan! I don't know anything about yakuza or Akabane-san." Ginji's eyes were large. "He didn't hurt you...did he?"
"No. Matter of fact, he probably saved my life," Ban mused, thinking back to Akabane's mention of the creepy trivia concerning death and the late hour. He'd had no idea when the yakuza muscle were trolling the hospital halls, but he'd bet good money that the clock had been reading three or close to it at the time. Had the transporter not appeared when he did, Ban would have been gunned down in his sleep without ever getting a chance to defend himself. The idea was unsettling. "I just wonder how the hell he knew something was about to go down. Unless he was following us too..."
"I don't think so," Ginji said. "I mean, I would have known it if he was anywhere in the area. I can't explain it, but I can somehow always tell when Akabane-san's around, even when he's not carrying metal scalpels."
"Yeah, that's true."
"Hmm. Maybe Akabane-san sensed something and followed a hunch. Like animals can tell when quakes or bad weather are coming? You know, 'cause he kills all the time, so he probably has a talent for predicting fights. They say that those kind of agents know these things in advance..."
"Maybe," Ban said, undecided as to whether Ginji's gift for interpretation was impressive or disconcerting. Given that his particular guardian angel also happened to be an angel of death, probably both. "Geez, I sure know how to pick 'em, don't I?"