Back in Makubex's computer room, Ginji was cheering his partner on, laughing loudly as they watched Ban Midou single-handedly crush his enemies. Makubex chuckled along, relieved. For a brief moment, he had entertained a traitorous thought – that perhaps Ban wasn't the right person for the job. For once, he was glad to have his concerns dispelled so casually. Of course, that only proved that his calculations were correct in the long run, so the boy was still rather smug.
"Hahaha!" Ginji crowed. "Did you see that, Makubex? Ban just totally crushed those two! They didn't stand a chance once he called upon that snake god of his!" Ginji's joy was infectious; even Sakura was smiling happily at seeing Ginji's reaction to his friend's victory. She had returned from a brief mission to obtain information for Makubex's calculations. He needed to know the best place to destroy the core, because it was rather destructive all on its own, and had to be behind some seriously strong shields.
Makubex was fairly certain that the room next to the underground garbage facility, where he had hidden the Implosion Lens when the Get Backers had first entered the Limitless Fortress, was the most protected area, but there were a few other options to look into. Sakura was checking those rooms, and seeing if any of them could be adjusted quickly to suit their purposes.
Shifting uncomfortably, Makubex did his best to ignore the rambunctious blond sitting behind him. His lips still tingling pleasantly from that brief kiss they had shared, he was finding himself hard-pressed to stop blushing. It hadn't really occurred to him before that his admiration of Ginji might have grown into something more – something stronger – after he had returned to the Fortress with Ban and two former Volts.
Now, though, he found that he couldn't really deny what it was that he was feeling. Nor did he want to. However, he had to save everybody first, or else he wouldn't have to worry about how to get Ginji to feel the same way as he did. So he threw himself back into his calculations, submerging himself in comfortingly familiar territory. He knew computers. There was nothing complicated about them. You plugged in the commands and the information, and let it do its job. And if you screwed up, you rebooted it and started it over. Simple. Not at all like human relationships, Makubex suspected with a sigh.
"Ne, what's wrong?" Ginji asked, having obviously caught the sigh that Makubex hadn't meant to let escape. Flinching slightly, Makubex kept his eyes on his monitor and didn't respond. What could he say? 'I just realized that I'm in love with you, even though we're both guys, and I know you only see me as a little brother, but do you think you could, maybe, give it a chance?'. Yeah, he was sure Ginji would respond positively to that. To be honest, he couldn't calculate Ginji's reaction to such a confession, same as always, but he didn't imagine it would be good.
He startled when strong arms came around his shoulders, and a firm body hugged him from behind. Ginji moved so that he was resting on Makubex's shoulder, looking at the monitor as he spoke. "It's all right, Makubex. I don't mind. I don't think I ever really did."
Sucking in a sharp breath, Makubex was so tempted to turn his head just a little to the right, long enough to kiss Ginji again, but he wasn't sure if that's what Ginji wanted. Besides, he remembered suddenly, Sakura was still there, sitting behind them. Even if he had the courage to do so, he would do nothing in front of Sakura.
"If you'll excuse me, I believe that my brother is calling," Sakura murmured quietly, rising to her feet. "And I believe that your computer can handle the rest of the calculations, so perhaps you two could use this chance to catch up on what's been happening." With that, she left the room, going off to find her brother, who was no doubt with Kazuki right now.
Ginji chuckled softly in Makubex's ear. "Not very subtle, is she?" he murmured, grinning. Makubex barely refrained from rolling his eyes, but Ginji must've gotten the unspoken message, because he replied, "I'm not as dense as I appear, Makubex. You, of all people, should know that." His voice was still quiet, as if speaking too low would shatter whatever it was that was happening. And perhaps it would.
"Ginji?" Makubex asked quietly, half-afraid that his tentative voice would break the intimacy of the moment. When all he got was a vague querying murmur in response, he swallowed and asked, "Does this mean that you…" he trailed off, unable to finish the question. Though it remained unspoken, the words themselves were pretty obvious.
"Ah, I see you as a very good friend," Ginji replied after a moment, and Makubex dropped, disappointed. He had hoped for something more than that. "But," Ginji continued, his arms tightening comfortably around Makubex's shoulders, "just because I see you as a wonderful friend now doesn't mean that I can't see you as more than that. I've just never thought about it before. But, I enjoyed the kiss, once I got over the shock," he admitted wryly. "I wouldn't mind repeating it…at least until I decide," he grinned impishly.
Makubex chuckled, unable to stay unhappy, even if he was still slightly disappointed in the outcome. At least Ginji hadn't outright rejected him. That had to count for something, right? Gathering his courage, Makubex turned his head to the right and brushed a kiss across Ginji's lips. The other boy responded without hesitation, and while the kiss was soft, chaste, Makubex found that he didn't really mind. This was how things should be, after all. Slow, allowing them both to take their time and be certain that this was truly what they wanted.
"Now, how about if you explain to me what, exactly, is going on? And why Ban has to go by himself?" Ginji demanded, not pulling away from Makubex as he had feared. Makubex sighed, not really wanting to tell Ginji, but knowing that he had the right to the information, both as the former leader of the Volts, and as Ban Midou's partner.
"Ban is retrieving the central core from a device that could erase all of the Limitless Fortress. The virtual realities blended within its technology would cease to exist, as would those people who are bound to this place. A few lucky ones, like Shido, Kazuki, Juubei, and you, who can leave this place, won't be affected at all. But others, like Ren, and possibly myself, would be erased entirely," he admitted softly.
"And Ban has to go by himself because of the very nature of the Beltline. Up there, unless you are from Babylon Tower, your power will rebound on itself. Someone like you, who constantly generates electricity, would effectively be electrocuted within moments. However, not only is Ban the child of a Babylon Tower resident, he also has the power of Asclepius, which is not the same as either the Jagan or your ability. It is an inherent strength within him that affects only himself, rather than influencing outside targets. And so, it can't rebound on him." Makubex explained the best way he knew how, hoping that Ginji would understand.
"However, the Jagan can be wielded against its owner, as you just saw. So Ban must rely on his and Asclepius' strength alone." Seeing the objection on Ginji's face, Makubex cut him off. "I am aware that others have strength that affect only themselves. However, none of them are strong enough to fight at Ban Midou's side, and might, in fact, do little more than hinder him. We can't afford to lose any more time," he stressed, glancing again at the monitor and seeing Ban in the middle of another fight. He appeared to be winning relatively easily, using his speed and strategic mind to the greatest advantage. He was grinning savagely, enjoying himself. It seemed that things were going pretty well on his end, still, which was a relief.
Makubex had, of course, made calculations as to the amount of time that each fight would take, depending on who they sent after him, but he had needed to estimate a lot, so he gave himself a high limit. If Ban finished his fights more quickly than anticipated, then he would have plenty of time to retrieve the core and bring it back to Makubex.
"Ban hasn't been able to let loose in a long time," Ginji observed, watching the carnage unfold. No doubt much stronger reinforcements were on the way, but for now, it was just soldiers. Quantity of quality, the Beltline appeared to be trying to wear him down, fighting a war of attrition against a single man. They were losing, because it seemed that for every new opponent Ban found, he got stronger.
Makubex froze, an unbelievable thought occurring to him. "Does he actually get stronger with every fight?" he asked, his voice ringing in obvious disbelief. Ginji's manic grin was enough to convince him. "But how?" he asked plaintively, not understanding.
Ginji grinned wider and shrugged. "It's how Ban's always been, when he uses the serpent god. He explained it to me once. It's as if he drains his defeated opponents of their energy. So, of course, the more enemies he beats, the stronger his own attack power gets."
Fascinating! Makubex was definitely going to have to study such a masterpiece, when they had time, of course. He was sure that Ban wouldn't object…if he used Ginji to convince him. But for now, he thought, they just had to hope that Ban's increasing strength would be enough to protect him. Calculations complete, still wrapped in Ginji's arms, Makubex settled down to watch his monitors.