Valentine

Ginji was staring.

That in itself wasn’t unusual. Ginji liked to watch people–a remnant of Raitei, when his observance could make the difference between life and death.

Right now, however, it was a matter of who got custody of the pocky box.

For Valentine’s Day, Natsumi had presented both GetBackers a box of Men’s Pocky each with a shamefaced smile, then admitted most of her money had gone to buying something nice for a particular classmate of hers. Ban accepted it with good grace and wished her luck, which earned him a sunny smile and a quick peck to the cheek.

He liked Natsumi. She was a good kid, and unlike some people, didn’t try to use her cuteness against him.

“You had your own box, Ginji,” he said, and deliberately took his time nibbling the stick dangling from his mouth. “Not my fault if you’ve already finished yours.”

Ginji pouted and hunkered lower against the tabletop, and continued to look at Ban. Over the years, he’d perfected this to an art–wide-eyed, soulful, with a touch of puppyish hopefulness. It drove girls crazy, and even hardasses like the monkey-trainer and the master of the Honky Tonk melted under it.

Not Ban, though. He was strong, and well-used to this look. The pocky was his.

He fished out another stick, and Ginji sidled closer, half-perking up with veiled hope. Ban smirked at him and ate that one slowly too, and told himself he didn’t feel guilty when Ginji deflated.

Any second now–three, two, one–

“Ban-chan, can I have just one?” Ginji blinked those huge brown eyes at him. “Half of one? Please?”

“No.” Ban pulled out his third stick. He didn’t even care for chocolate, but watching Ginji squirm was too fun to admit a little detail like that. Ginji watched it disappear with covetous petulance and drummed his fingers on the table. Ban watched him from the corner of one eye as he fished out another stick.

Inspiration struck in a sudden bolt of devilish glee, and Ban resisted the urge to smirk. At best, it would let him finish the rest of the box in peace, and at even-better-than-best–

“All right,” he said, then held up a finger when Ginji perked up. “You can have one, and only if–” he set the stick between his teeth and held it gently, so that the cracker part wouldn’t snap off–“you’re willing to take it from here.”

Ginji’s eyes went wide. They were the only two in the Honky Tonk at the moment–Paul was in the back, and Natsumi still at school. However, they sat in a streetside booth, which meant anyone coming their way could easily see them through the windows. He swallowed hard and glanced at the table, a blush dashed hard and high across his cheeks.

For someone who hugged people with thoughtless abandon, the concept of kissing always left him shy and red-faced. Ban nibbled thoughtfully on his end, still grinning around the stick. Victory was his–

And then Ginji straightened and leaned across the table, and bit the opposite end of Ban’s pocky stick, then glanced around and inched a few bare centimeters closer. His breath gusted against Ban’s cheek in soft, quick bursts.

He glared at Ban’s poleaxed expression with one of sulky defiance, as though daring him to comment. After a moment to recover from his shock, however, Ban just grinned, and used his tongue to make the stick bob obscenely.

“You’ve been griping for hours,” he said kindly, balancing the snack with skills honed from years of talking around cigarettes. “Is that really all you’re gonna take?” He waggled his eyebrows.

Ginji’s sour expression melted into a shy half-smile. “Well…” he began, and leaned forward suggestively. Ban smirked, pleased with himself.

“…it’s much easier if I just do this.” And then Ginji’s hand snapped out, fast as Ban’s Snakebite, and grabbed the box from Ban’s hands.

He grinned at Ban’s shocked look, and fished out two sticks at once, which he bit into with cheerful enthusiasm. When surprise melted into a scowl, Ginji continued smiling sweetly.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Ban-chan,” he said sweetly, then bolted with a hoot when Ban snarled and lunged for him.

The box dropped to the floor with a bounce, and there lay forgotten.

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