Title: Honky Tonk Blues

Author: Amethyst Hunter

Rating: PG

Word count: 984

Warnings/Spoilers: None

Disclaimer: I don't own GB.

Summary: Paul Wan dispenses other things besides coffee.

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The mood in the Honky Tonk varied, depending on its clientele at any given time, but usually it was a casual haven for those seeking relaxation, which was why people frequented it. Today, however, the environment was decidedly funereal, as several patrons moped over their train-wrecked love lives – or lack thereof at the present.

"It was just a little squeeze! How was I to know she was PMSing this week?" Ban Midou groused over a pile of extinguished cigarettes. "She walks around wearing outfits no bigger than a band-aid, I can't help it if I'm wanting to do more than just look."

"With that attitude, small wonder you can't get a girl," Shido Fuyuki snorted as he flicked the remote buttons to Paul's small television…again…and again…and again…

Ban shot him a poisonous look. "Look who's talking. I'm not the one melting down the remote over there."

Shido growled. "Better this than beating your face into the counter, snake bastard. Anyway, it's just temporary. I'll stay here till Madoka cools down and then things will be fine again."

Ban lit up another cigarette, oblivious to the one already smoldering in the ashtray next to him. "Or you could just be a man and take out the trash like you were supposed to instead of playing circus trainer."

"The crows needed my attention, all right?" Shido snarled. "The squirrels kept playing around their nests and it was upsetting the females that had eggs. And I never said I wouldn't take out the garbage – unlike some retrieval agents around here that think they're too good for that stuff – I just said it would have to wait. It's not my fault if some people think household chores are the end-all be-all of life."

"You made her cry, didn't you?"

Shido sighed, his anger abruptly deflated like a flat tire on the 360. "Like a Cat-4 typhoon."

"Big man, huh, you go around making little girls cry – "

"At least I don't behave like a sex-crazed maniac, going around grabbing women inappropriately!"

"That's because you already have plenty of dogs to choose from – "

Before Shido could kill Ban via a pack of wolves' teeth, a soft despairing sigh managed to carry over their row. They glanced over at the black-clad man sitting with drooped hat at the counter, nursing a cup of Paul's finest.

"What's your problem? Nobody interested in having you teach them the alphabet?" Ban snorted.

Akabane Kuroudo sighed again, impervious to the insult. "I'm afraid that presently, Himiko-san is quite upset with me."

Blue eyes narrowed. "What'd you do?"

White-gloved fingertips caressed the side of the coffee cup. "Well, as you may or may not know, Himiko-san sometimes employs a delivery service to acquire some of the ingredients she uses in her perfumes," Akabane explained. "Apparently one of their agents also moonlights as a pizza deliveryman, and had I known ahead of time that Himiko-san had also ordered food in addition to supplies – " Akabane gave an indulgent little chuckle. "Well, let's just say that it was a simple case of mistaken identity in which I proved beyond a shadow of a doubt the speed and skill of my reflexes when he knocked on the door."

Shido and Ban stared at him. "The illustrious Doctor Jackal whacked a pizza boy," Ban said.

Akabane gave a helpless little shrug. "It was an accident. I didn't mean to spoil Himiko-san's supplies." He frowned slightly, and added, "I disclaim responsibility for the ruined pizza, however. That was solely the fault of the deliveryman."

"How so?" Shido wanted to know.

"It wasn't necessary for him to have bled all over that too," Akabane replied, somewhat irritably.

Ban pinched the bridge of his nose. "Ah, man. That's classic," he snickered. "Talk about your secret sauces, eh Ginji?" He poked his partner in the ribs, but got no answer. "Oi, Ginji. You alive there, or do I gotta get Paul to break out the caffeinated?"

Next to him Ginji Amano sighed, sounding uncannily like Akabane in his disappointment. "I'm fine, Ban-chan. It's just…" His expression turned tearful. "Natsumi-chan must be mad at me too, because she hasn't said a whole word to me yet today!"

"Idiot. She's studying for midterms," Ban said, jabbing a finger over at the girl in the far corner who was industriously paging through a stack of fat textbooks.

Ginji refused to be placated. "But Ban-chan, she always says hi to us when we come in. Maybe we made her mad when we snuck a piece of that apple pie she made for the master…"

Ban rolled his eyes. "She'll get over it. Besides, it was sitting right out in the open like it was meant for anybody to help themselves to it. Who am I to pass up free pie?"

"Yeah, you cheapskate," Shido muttered.

"Count yourself lucky, monkey-man. At least you have somebody who'll bake for you," Ban grumbled. "Even if it does suck."

Shido heaved a sigh again, memories assailing him. "Madoka makes the most disgusting apple pies. They taste like burnt rubber." He sighed again. "God, I could go for a bite of one right now…" He hung his head like a miserable old dog. "Madoka hates me."

Ban ground out his cigarette and lit up another. "Hevn hates me."

Akabane idly scraped a J into the countertop of the table. "Himiko-san hates me."

Ginji drooped into a sad puddle of fat tare. "Natsumi-chan hates me."

By now Paul had heard enough of the pity party. He calmly stepped over to the group, not missing a beat as he continued to dry the dish in his hands. "You, take out the trash. You, go apologize. You, stop killing visitors. And you," he finished, looking at Ginji, "just go over and say hello to her already."