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Rum and Popcorn

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     "Beer," he called out, taking a seat on the stool at the bar. The barmaid dropped a foaming mug in front of Doumeki quickly, but not before he noticed the young man sitting next to him, eyeing him suspiciously. He took a long drink and a considering glance.

     Tight black clothes.

     Sensible shoes.

     Fishnet gloves.

     With a sigh, he turned back to the bar, ignoring the scathing aura of hatred surrounding his barmate. Didn't it just figure that on his one night in port between this month at sea and the next, he'd run into a ninja? The life of a pirate never ran out of excitement. The ninja was cute, though, and he could have sworn that the tiny fox that peeked out of the collar of his black shirt had winked at him.

     "Haven't seen you around here before," Doumeki said, putting his beer back on the bar. Hard to drink when someone was staring at you like he wanted to rip your throat out.

     The ninja whipped his head away, turning his nose up to the ceiling. "That's because I'm stealthy."

     Oh yeah. Definitely a ninja, Doumeki thought with a laugh.

     "Was that a laugh? Did you just laugh because I said I was stealthy?!" The man in black yelled at him, jumping up from his barstool to throw a fit in his face. He'd have said the ninja'd had too much to drink, but he looked wound tight enough to snap if you plucked him, and his words were abnormally quick and precise for a man who was sober, let alone drunk. "I'll have you know that I could steal the feather off your hat and put it back without you even noticing I'd done it! In fact, I already have. Hah! So there! What do you say to that, hmm? I'm the stealthiest nin--"

     The man swallowed the word abruptly when Doumeki raised an eyebrow.

     "The stealthiest stealthy person," he corrected himself, "in this whole kingdom, so what exactly do you think you're laughing at, you big hook-handed oaf?"

     Doumeki shrugged. "I can see you now. Must not be that stealthy." He could almost see steam coming out of his companion's ears. Saying you were a ninja was the number one screw-up in the ninja code. Pirates had it much better, in his own personal opinion. You could tell anybody that you were a pirate.

     "Well, it's my day off," the man replied, sitting back down and putting his nose back in the air.

     "Mine too." Doumeki lifted his glass to the cute little ninja, who had narrowed his eyes at him in comically animated malice. "Truce?" he offered.

     His barmate clinked his little glass of something clearish (and probably not near strong enough to get the twist out of his loincloth) against Doumeki's mug of beer and shot the last of the glass back in one throw.

     "What're you drinking?" Doumeki asked, waving the barmaid back over.

     The man in black stood up abruptly, tugging his shirt down emphatically. "Actually, I was just leav--"

     "Oh, you're leaving already?" The barmaid asked sweetly when she arrived, and his companion nearly fell over himself geting back on the stool. It was priceless.

     "Himawari-chan, no, no... I was... I wasn't leaving, I was moving away from this goon over here. You should watch out for his type, you know." Turning back to him, the suspicious (but still cute) ninja wrinkled up his disdainful (but cute) nose like he'd smelled something particularly nasty. "He looks like a pirate to me."

     Doumeki lifted his hat to the lady and kissed her hand. "Doumeki Shizuka, captain of the good Queen Cassandra, at your service, milady." She laughed and pulled back her hand. The girl made a good show of seeming not to notice the way the ninja was starting to cry out in horror. "And a double for my friend of whatever's his poison," he said, sliding a silver piece across the bar. With a wink, he added, "Just keep 'em coming," and dropped his purse on the counter.

     "It's nice to see such good friends here," the girl said to the ninja as she filled up his glass. The indignant squeal that came out of the high-strung man in black and the utterly amusing look of disgust on his face was more than worth a night of covering his tab.

     "Friends!?" his companion objected. "Who are you calling friends? I just met this man, just now, and I hate him!"

     The barmaid laughed and went on her way.

     "I am uninterested in drinking anything bought with your money, pirate." The man in black shoved the glass down the bar toward him. "Don't think I don't know all about the Queen Cassandra and the piratey missions that the pirate crew on board does in their very pirate-like way!"

     "Suit yourself," he replied picking up the glass and taking a sip. Doumeki barely managed to swallow it instead of spitting it back out. "Is this iced tea?"

     "It's oolong," the ninja sniped back, grabbing the glass out of his hands, "and if you can't appreciate the divine nectar that is Himawari-chan's iced tea, then you don't deserve to drink it." He drank the whole thing in a gulp and slammed the glass down on the bar, sitting down on the stool again with a "Hmph!"

     Then his eyes went unfocused and wide -- and kept getting wider til Doumeki was starting to wonder if the guy's eyes could eat up his whole head. The ninja turned suddenly to look at the glass in his hand, which was now shaking in exaggerated fashion, and spun back around to look at Doumeki as his face turned green.

     "Oh god. I just let a pirate buy me a drink."

     "Pirate captain" Doumeki replied, pulling off his hat so he could straighten it on his head. "Don't think I caught your name."

     "Watanuki Kimihiro," the ninja replied in a daze, looking at the glass on the bar like a man who'd just seen Death pass by. Then he looked up sharply and snapped towards Doumeki -- back suddenly straight as a gunshot and his eyebrows in the clouds. "I mean Ichihara Yuushi!" he yelled insistently. "I mean..."

     Watanuki trailed off when he saw the smirk at the corner of Doumeki's mouth and dropped his forehead right on the wooden bar.


     He took a sip of his beer, shaking his head in mild disbelief over how well that had worked. Ninja fail, Doumeki thought.

     "So, Watanuki Kimihiro," he said, rather enjoying the pained expression that was taking over his companion's face. He'd heard from a few friends who'd tried it that ninja-baiting wasn't nearly worth the trouble, but for his first time, he'd say it was working out just fine. "What've you got against pirates?"

     "Why, you... you... you... you villians!" He was incensed enough that he didn't even notice the barmaid stopping by to refill his glass. "You plundering scoundrels, gallivanting over the high seas like you own the place, all flashy with your big poofy shirts and your big poofy feathers and your big poofy pants and your... enormous boots! And don't give me any shit about that meaning anything but stupidly big feet!" The ninja looked like he was gesturing in three directions at once, miming a caricature of a pirate's swagger. "You think you're so great just because you can make helpless people walk a plank, or because you wear a hook for a hand, or maybe can teach a parrot to say, 'Avast ye, matey', or something? Well, let me tell you, your lot isn't so tough, Captain Doumeki." The most spastic ninja he'd ever seen in his life stood still for a moment, crossing his arms over his chest and looking up with a shake of his head. "I'll have you know that pirates are my natural enemy, and from birth I have been trained in all the techniques necessary to ensure your defeat. Standing before you now is a true, class-A, bona fide, and peerless nin--"

     The man clamped his lips together to keep the one thing he couldn't say from escaping, at the same time turning as red as Captain Morgan's nose when he'd fallen asleep on the deck after a bender. Watanuki sat on his stool, curled up in more of a ball than a man of his height should have been able to manage, focusing all of his attention on his newly filled oolong tea.

     "Popcorn vendor," the man in black corrected himself before taking a slow and carefully non-chalant sip of the tea (which he seemed to have forgotten was a pirate's treat).

     "Pirates are the natural enemies of popcorn vendors?" Doumeki asked, raising an eyebrow.

     "Did that stupid hat turn your brains into scrambled eggs? That's what I just said." His barmate straightened his back and gave him a look that dared him to claim otherwise, defying him with his whole body -- right down to the tip of the man's nose.

     Definitely cute.

     Doumeki shrugged and downed the last of his beer, signalling the barmaid for another round.

     "News to me," he replied.

     Ninja or not, this was turning into one hell of a shore leave.