By Any Other Name…

A Get Backers Fanfiction by Aoikami Sarah

 

Chapter Three

 

            The month wore on and once again Jein’s DNA test showed no match in the national database. Ban was beginning to think her case was truly helpless. He watched her hike up her oversized hand-me-down shorts before sitting on a stool at the Honky Tonk one afternoon and dazed out. ‘Well, maybe having someone like her around isn’t so bad…’ he thought dreamily. His eyes widened. “Che,” he scoffed. ‘Don’t go there, Mido.’

            “Mido-san?” Jein asked, noticing his stare.

            “Nothing. Hey, Paul,” he said, quickly changing the subject. “Do me a favor.”

            “Ha,” Paul laughed sarcastically. “You gonna pay your tab anytime soon?”

            “Yeah, yeah, look, it’s not for me… It’s for him.” His eyes met Paul’s and told the barista who he was referring to.

            “What is it?”

            Ban went on to describe the three women who attacked him in the laboratory the night Ginji was killed. “A redhead explosives expert, a blond banshee-type and a brunette good with razors. Do some research for me, find out who they are, who they work for. Also possible shady dealings of a corporation called Genco.”

            Paul took notes.

            “Genco Biotech Industries?” Jein piped. Paul and Ban stared at her for a beat till she held up the newspaper she was reading. “There’s a big science awards ceremony thing tomorrow night in the Palace Hotel, says here.”

            Ban pored over the article, front page on the society section of a tabloid. There was neither a picture nor mention of the man called Maestro, but in the corner of the picture of a man labeled Genco’s president was…

            “Red.” Ban grit his teeth. “That bitch survived?!” He slapped the paper down. “She’s one of them!” Paul raised a brow. Jein sat up straight; her own brows came together with worry.

 

            They walked back to their nearby apartment in silence. Ban sat at the little table and sucked on a cigarette while Jein lay down. He played with the hypo-pen, spacing out and losing himself in memories.

            ‘Fucking Red lived.’ His anger smoldered but he used the revelation to re-think this mystery. He put the pen down. “Jein? Can you… Heh,” he laughed at the absurdity of what he was about to say. “Can you sing at all?”

            She blinked a few times. “I dunno…”

            “Try,” Ban urged her and covered his ears.

            “Mido-san…” she asked, pouting slightly, “why are you doing that?”

            “Just go ahead, belt away, but uh… here.” He got up and walked her to the window. “Sing out this way.”

            Jein looked very confused but shrugged and opened her mouth.

            ‘If she can break the glass it’ll mean she’s the Blond Banshee-type chick from that day…’ Ban thought and clamped his hands over his ears.

            “Eh… tou… What do I sing?”

            “Anything! Just sing loud!” he barked.

            “Uh-ok.” Jein closed her eyes and thought. “Ima wa mada, hi mo tokenai, mune no oku no, garasu saiku. Shinjiteru, anata dake wo, kanjiteru…” Jein gasped as Ban’s hand clamped down on her arm.

            “How do you know that song?” he asked in a breathless whisper. Memories of Ginji singing “Ichibyo no Refrain” in the car flooded his mind.

            “I… I don’t know… is it a popular song?”

            Ban let her go. “Yeah, it is. That must be it. You heard it on the radio,” he said, defeat in his voice.

            “Are you all right?” she asked as he sank into a chair and pulled out a fresh smoke.

            “Just… be quiet for a while, ok?” The Zippo clicked open and the tobacco crackled under the flame. He exhaled slowly. ‘At least she’s not the Banshee Bitch…’ he mused.

            The door clicking open brought him back to his senses.

            “Where are you going?” he asked.

            She paused. “I… I don’t know. It looks like you need to think. I must be in the way.”

            “Don’t be stupid,” he grunted and stood up. “I can think with you in the room.” He turned to face the window. ‘Come on, you pussy,’ he thought. ‘Just admit it, you don’t want her out of your sight.’ “Che,”

            “Maybe I can help you with your other retrieval?” she asked, brightly.

            “Eh?” Ban looked at her. ‘Big mistake, Mido. Don’t look into those big baby seal-eyes of hers. They’re worse than your Jyagan!’ his inner voice chastised him.

            Her brown eyes sucked him in with their optimistic shimmer. “That Genco thing you’re working on. Whatever it is you have to get back, maybe I can help?” she asked, coming closer to him.

            “You can’t help…” he whispered.

            “But I want to… I owe you, remember?” she smiled innocently.

            “You can’t…”

            “Please?”

            “I said you can’t! He’s dead!”

            She gasped in alarm. Finally, she saw it: the pain of loss etched beneath the usually calm, cool exterior. Her eyes fell to the right and the futon that she slept in every night. “He was your friend… and your roommate wasn’t he?” When she looked back, the large brown eyes were soft and gentle. “It’s his murder you’re trying to solve, not a retrieval, right?” He nodded. “Please let me help you, Mido-san. It’s the least I can do.”

            As the seconds passed achingly slowly, Ban’s eyes began to itch. He blinked a few times, and tried to look away, but her eyes were pulling him, sucking him under. He bowed his head and leaned towards her. She didn’t move away, but rather tilted her chin up to meet him.

            Their lips met for just an instant. When her eyes closed, he was freed from their trap. Ban leapt back, knocking a pile of magazines off the table with a slippery crash.

            “I’m sorry!” he shouted. “I don’t know… why I did that, I…”

            “It’s ok, Mido-san.” Jein crouched down and helped him pick the magazines up. “If I can help ease your sadness, I’d like to do that, too.”

            He swallowed hard and muttered dismissively.

 

            They ate a dinner of ramen and junk food in silence. Her eyes had burrowed into his soul, almost controlling him. When he kissed her, he wasn’t in his right mind, he was sure. He would never do something like that…

            When it was time to go to bed, Ban presented something he had been mulling over in his head all evening. “Hey, Jein. Do you know about something called ‘Jyagan’?”

            She blinked at him a few times as she came out of the miniscule bathroom dressed in sweats for bed. “The evil eye?” she laughed lightly. “I guess I’ve heard of it.”

            “I posses this skill,” he said very seriously. Jein sat Indian style on the bed and tried to look serious, too. “I can’t dig down and unveil your past, but perhaps I can make you think back.”

            Jein winced. “Does it hurt?”

            Ban chuckled softly. “It won’t, I promise.” She shrugged and let him sit next to her. He let his glasses slip down his nose. “Just look into my eyes…”

            She gasped slightly as the Jyagan took hold. Her body went slightly limp, getting lost in the hypnosis. He wished he could see exactly what it was she was seeing. Only impressions of darkness and fear flashed though his mind’s eye. She started to shake. Halfway through the minute-long vision, she began to call out.

            “He… Hel… Help me… somebody please… Help me…”

            Ban grit his teeth and regretted his decision. She was shaking so hard it looked like she was going to fall over. He reached out; ready to grab her if he had to. The minute ended and she drew a startled breath. Disoriented and frightened, Jein reached out for him. She finally stopped shaking as he shushed her, repeating how sorry he was. When she was all right, he dared ask,

            “Did you learn anything?”

            “Whatever it was… It was terrible. Dark, close, no one could hear me. Like I was buried alive!”

            “I’m so sorry, Jein, I…”

            “It’s ok…” she smiled optimistically. “I feel closer to knowing. That’s something.”

            He pulled away, wary of the power of her eyes. “You should get some sleep. We have a big day tomorrow.”

            “Mm!” She nodded. “Good night, Mido-san.”

            “Night, Jein.” Ban gave her a small smile and turned out the lights.

 

.x.

            As the scientific society gala geared up the following night, Jein and Ban pulled up in the 360 and flashed phony IDs to the ushers. Ban wore a collarless tux and Jein was poured into a sequined green affair courtesy of Hevn.

            “Um, Mido-san…” Jein cinched the skirt down and followed him as they ducked out of the ballroom and down a service hallway.

            “The dress looks fine,” he hissed.

            “That’s not it. We’re being followed.”

            “I know,” he answered and kept moving.

            “That’s not very reassuring!” she moaned.

            He opened the dumbwaiter and motioned for her to get in. She gave him a look that could freeze Sterno. “They’ll follow me. Get out on the 23rd floor. I’ll be waiting and if not, go to room 2345 and fake that your drunk.”

            “What?!” she cried as he pushed her into the tiny service elevator and sent it along to the upper floors.

            “All right, you bitch,” he warned and ran down the hall to the stairs. “It’s me you want. Come get me!”

 

.x.

            Back at the Honky Tonk, Paul was brewing a fresh pot of coffee when Natsumi found a piece of paper under a placemat.

            “Master, what does “Red Explosives Blond Banshee mean?”

            “Eh?” He looked at the note and nearly swallowed his cigarette. “Fuck! I forgot!”

 

.x.

            Ban’s footfalls echoed up the stairwell as he ran up flight after flight. He couldn’t hear her yet, but the smell of sulfur told him she was just about to make an appearance. The steps below him fell out as the explosion sent shockwaves through the cacophonous space. ‘She must be below,’ he thought. “Trying to outwit the almighty Ban-sama, eh?!” He leapt down two flights of stairs to the 19th floor, yanked the door open and came face to face with Red.

            “You little psycho…”

            “We meet again, Mido Ban.”

            “You fucking bitch…” Seething, he stepped towards her. He couldn’t see the panic in her eyes through her sunglasses but he knew it was there. He could smell it. “He meant everything to me. He was my reason for living, he taught me what it meant to live and you took him away from me…” An aura of malice pulsed around him with each step. He cracked all the knuckles on his hands.

            “Y-You’re a monster!” Red turned, terrified beyond rational thought and started to run away. “Oh my God, somebody help me!” she cried.

            “I’ll help you!” Ban shouted as he caught up to her. “Suneiku Baitto!”

 

.x.

            Jein pulled the dumbwaiter door aside and awkwardly fell out of the tiny box. She hit the floor and super deformed. “Ouch. That wasn’t big enough for me, Mido-san…” she muttered.

            “Need a hand?” someone asked from above.

            “Oh! Thanks!” Jein smiled and reached up to the extended hand.

            “Where you headed?” the brunette with the sunglasses asked.

            “Well…” Jein grinned and remembered the plan. “I’m a little drunk and I can’t remember where my rooooom is…”

 

.x.

            Red screamed bloody murder in the hall of the 19th floor as Ban took the elevator up to the 23rd. “Pleasant dreams, bitch.”

 

.x.

            Natusmi bit her nails. “Is he picking up?” she asked again. Paul shushed her and rolled his eyes as he got Ban’s long-winded cell phone message.

            “Ban, Paul. Genco is bad news. Better call in some of the Mugenjou folks for backup on this one. They steadily hire protectors and transporters for all kinds of black market medical trade. There’s reports that they do illegal human cloning and other really creepy shit. And those chicks came up blank. I got a couple guys that fit the description…” he went on to give Ban all the info he gathered. And it would have been really useful right then, if Ban had his phone on.

 

.x.

            Room 2345’s door was ajar. Ban pushed his sunglasses up his nose with his middle finger. “This is gonna be messy,” he sighed and kicked the door gently in.

            It was a massive suite, lit up like a candle and glittering with gilt fixtures and other edifices of grandeur. He hated places like these: tacky hotels designed for the rich in order to make them feel above everything else in the world, including most of its population. Ban wished he chewed tobacco so he could spit a plug onto the lush, white carpet.

            Just as he expected, he turned the corner of the little foyer and an annoying scene unfolded in front of him. The president of Genco Medical stood at the huge windows and picked his teeth with a toothpick like a gangster. The Banshee held a gun to Jein’s head and the Maestro wore a shit-eating grin as if he’d reeled in the catch of the day. Everyone but Jein wore shades.

            “Mido-san! I’m sorry I got caught!” Jein wailed.

            “Mido Ban…” The Maestro began, smarmy and over-confident.

            “Maestro, or should I say Hitachi Kanero?” Ban countered, sarcastically. “You’re one slippery individual. It took my informant at least 20 minutes to find out who you were.”

            “Hitachi!” the president barked, upset. The Maestro waved his hand to calm him.

            “Don’t get so riled up, Taishou-san. Mido-san won’t be a nuisance to us much longer. He was good enough to search us out, rather than have us find him for our little endeavor.”

            Ban was on top of it again. “Yes. Too bad I’ve come to end this sick little game you’ve got going here. Miss Banshee?” he asked, looking over to the protector. “I don’t think you or your compatriots are aware of what’s going on, because if this bastard did what he did to you to me, I don’t think I’d work for him.”

            “What?” she asked, skeptically.

            “Now, now, Mido. We do have a hostage here that I don’t think you’d like to see hurt,” Maestro warned.

            “Oto Juunichiro, 27. Occupation, Protector,” Ban informed. “Well known in the underworld for having a special talent of blasting the enemy with low or high pitched sounds emitted from his mouth. Last job was approximately three months ago. Hasn’t been seen since. What do you think? Sound about right, Juunichi…ko?”

            “It can’t be…” she whispered, stunned by this surprise and leaned against the wall for support.

            Maestro began to laugh. “You think you’re so smart, Mido Ban?! So yes, we’ve been collecting and genetically altering those with special abilities; people whose memories and identification have been wiped clean but their abilities remain. We’ll sell an army of them to the highest bidder.” He took the gun from the startled banshee woman and pressed it to Jein’s head. She didn’t move. “Now tell me, Mido? Would you like to join our happy little family, or would you like to see you’re partner die… again?”

            “Wha…?” Ban lost all concentration. He stared into Jein’s huge, brown eyes which were glazed over and unfocused. The president took a hypo pen out of his tuxedo jacket and walked towards Ban.

            “You…” Jein whispered. A loud crack resounded. Maestro shouted in alarm and dropped his gun.

            “What’s the matter, Hitachi?” Taishou asked his partner.

            “You did this to me…” Jein looked up at the Maestro and narrowed her eyes. “To all of them.”

            “Now, now, settle down,” Maestro waved his hands and tried to recover his weapon. She stepped on his hand as she stood up.

            “I-I will not forgive you,” she hissed through her clenched teeth. The current was visible now as it arched around her. She grabbed the large man by the lapels and conducted the electricity through her hands to his heart. He screamed and thrashed for a short while before falling dead to the floor. The president wet himself. The Banshee sat and stared at her hands.

            “Jein?” When she turned to look at him, her eyes were different, hardened, familiar. “Raitei…?” Ban whispered, astounded. Suddenly her eyes rolled back and she collapsed.

 

.x.

            Rain gently patted against the window. The little apartment was cloaked in the grey of early morning. The figure on the futon stirred and slowly sat up.

            She stared out the window and dreamily looked down at her folded legs. Running her hands over the curves of her body, she stifled a sob and looked around the room. Ban was leaning against the far wall near the door. The pale light glinted off the sunglasses he always wore. She opened her mouth to speak, but the voice that came out was too soft to be heard.

            “Is it true…?” Ban asked with a voice as dull as the morning sky.

            Her eyes welled up as she nodded her head. “You got it back, my identity. I’m Amano Ginji.”

            He looked away and went for the door.

            “B-Ban-chan, wait…” she reached out to him as he closed the door. Her hand fell limp and the tears flooded out.

 

.x.

            As the sky cleared and the afternoon wore on Hevn entered the Honky Tonk looking for the Get Backers. Paul bid her to wait, hoping that Ban and Jein would show. He had gotten a call from Ban late last night saying everything was all right, but nothing more.

            The bell above the door jingled and everyone looked up.

            “Jein-chan!” Natsumi chimed and jogged over to her. “How did it go last night?”

            “Well…” She squirmed. Hevn noticed that although this girl usually wore clothes supplied from Ginji’s wardrobe, Ban had never before given her his usual green vest to wear. It dwarfed her petit frame, but she clutched it to herself as if she were cold. “All right, I guess,” she muttered and looked up. “Have you seen Ban-chan?”

            “He hasn’t been in yet…” Paul raised a brow.

            Natsumi laughed. “That’s so cute, Jein-chan. You just called him Ban-chan! Are you guys an item already?”

            She blushed crimson. “If you see him, I need to…”

            The bell jingled again and Ban stepped inside. Everyone stared at him. He pouted and turned right around.

            “B-Ban-chan…” she whispered and rubbed the back of her hand over her weeping eyes.

            “Jein-chan…” Hevn rubbed her shoulders. “Did he do something stupid?”

            Paul sighed, poured a cup of coffee and pushed it towards the girl. Knowing what he did about the protectors, he put the pieces together. “I’m so sorry, Ginji.”

            That broke the damn. Ginji wailed and threw her arms around an astounded Hevn, babbling incomprehensibly in her grief.

 

            “So let me see if I got this straight,” Hevn pressed her fingertips together and stared at the blond across from her. “The day you were kidnapped, you were taken to Genco where they somehow re-arranged your genetic structure…”

            “Turning Ginji the boy into Ginji the girl!” Natsumi finished.

            Ginji nodded slowly. “And now Ban-chan hates me…”

            “Oh, Gin-chan, don’t say that…” Hevn tried to reassure her.

            “He can’t even look at me!”

            “Well…” Hevn made a face. “Were you guys… I mean, back then, did you… you know?” she made an obscene gesture with her hands.

            “NO! I mean, not really, I MEAN!…” Ginji blushed and shook her head.

            Natsumi held her hand. “Do you love Ban, Ginji?”

            “With all my heart…” she sniffled.

            “Does he love you? I mean, did he feel the same way when you were a guy?”

            “Yes, I’m sure of it.”

            The other two women looked at each other. “Gin-chan,” Hevn asked, leaning in, her breasts pressing against the table that separated them. “Do these do anything for you?”

            “Do anything?” Ginji blinked.

            “Hm, interesting. Usually I’d get at least a trickle…”

            “Hevn-san!” Natsumi blushed.

            “Of a nose-bleed, child. A nose-bleed.”

            “Oh!”

            “Uh, Hevn-san, what are you talking about?”

            Hevn clapped her hands together. “Looks like you’re straight!”

            Ginji blinked. “I am?”

            “Well, you’d normally get a little aroused, right?” she pointed out. “So what’s the problem? You’re still a person that wants to be with Ban. Not that there’s anything wrong with boy-love, mind you…”

            “Unless...” she bowed her head. “Unless it’s Jein he was in love with. He kissed me the other day. He kissed Jein.”

            The women went silent for a moment. It was Paul who broke the tension.

            “Go find him, Ginji.”

            “Paul…”

            The barista smiled. “Tell him how you feel.”

            Ginji smiled, finally straightening up and relinquishing her grip on the green vest. It flapped behind her like a kite as she ran out the door. “Thanks guys!”

            “Good luck!” Hevn called after her.

            Natsumi ran to the door and shouted, “Welcome back!!!”

 

.x.

            The park was a peaceful refuge in the heart of the city. Pigeons and old people coalesced in the sunshine. Ban walked up to the central fountain and looked up.

            ‘Why is this happening?’ his thoughts asked no one in particular. ‘I lose him to death and now this…’ Absently, he pulled a cigarette out and rolled it between his fingers. For the second time in his life Ban thought, ‘what am I going to do without him?’

            The sound of pounding feet echoed off the statuary as they approached. Pigeons scattered, the runner slowed and stopped just a few paces from him. She sputtered as she tried to catch her breath.

            “Bah… Ban-chan… Puh… Please… Oh my god… I think my lungs are gonna ‘splode…”

            He straightened up, but didn’t turn around.

            “Please,” she begged. “Please look at me, Ban-chan…”

            “Stop calling me that…” he muttered.

            “Why? It’s what I always call you,” she protested. “I won’t call you Mido-san. I’m not Jein, not any more. But I was her. Ban-chan, that was me. I was me, she was me and I am me! Nothing has changed!”

            “Everything has changed!” He shouted and turned, but his eyes wouldn’t meet hers.

            “Do you love Amano Ginji?” Ginji asked, tears staining her cheeks. “He’s right here. The package is different but the contents are the same. I love you, Ban-chan. That will never change. Please…” she sniffled. “Please don’t leave me…”

            Ban gasped, a pain like being stabbed in the heart shot through his chest. ‘Stop being an idiot!’ his inner voice shouted. ‘Look at her, Mido. Just look.’ His blue eyes turned up and met those soft, brown baby-seal eyes, full of tears and hurt and he melted.

            “Ginji…” he said for the first time. “I would never leave you.”

            Hope glimmered across her features, the pain drifted away like fog burning off under the noon-day sun. “You… you mean it?” she asked, tentatively.

            Ban nodded slightly. It was all she needed.

            “Ban-chan!!!” Ginji shouted and threw her arms around his neck. Ban returned the embrace, spinning her around a few times. Some old folks seated nearby applauded lightly.

            “I missed you, Ginji,” he whispered into her ear. He held her close and the icy pain of loneliness slipped away from his heart.

            When she pulled back, her smile was radiant. “Come on, we’re gonna be late!”

            Ban raised a brow. “For what?”

            “Hevn-san’s waiting at the Honky Tonk. You know, Dakkanya Get Backers! Success rate 100 percent?” Ginji laughed and jogged ahead of him.

            Ban smiled and lit the cigarette. “Maido Ari.”

 

END

 

Maido Ari[gatou] means “thank you for doing business with us, please come again”.


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