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Masterpiece by Chris White
Masterpiece by Chris White
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Story Notes:

Thanks to KT1972 for giving this piece a quick beta!

I don't own these (Gatchaman) characters or the (Madonna) song.  

Jun mixed another drink, pleased with the crowd the live band had attracted. It wasn't so busy that she and Jinpei needed help to keep up, but the J hummed with youthful energy, letting her pretend that she was just another teen. 

And so many girls. Joe was holding court, leaning against the back of a booth while flirting with a few all at once. Of course, this being Joe, he wasn't alone. Jun had seen Ken try to escape more than once. Whenever he shot her a desperate plea for rescue, she pretended not to notice. Watching Ken be even more awkward and uninterested with other girls offered a welcome boost to her self-esteem.

Accepting her patron's money and minuscule tip, Jun sighed, wiping down the bar. Then the band started playing the song she'd chosen them for. Hoping she wasn't flushing, she glanced toward Ken. No, he'd never realize it, not for a moment.

If you were the Mona Lisa
You'd be hanging in the Louvre
Everyone would come to see you
You'd be impossible to move

Jun tensed as a girl leaned in close to him, reaching to touch his hair. He pulled back with the slightest of frowns, which just seemed to encourage her, causing him to slowly slide away as she stalked him in a flirty chase. This time he almost got away, until Joe clapped his shoulder. 

Suddenly their gunner slipped away from the girls toward the bar. Ken was immediately surrounded, looking utterly lost as he found himself the focus of attention. 

It seems to me is what you are
A rare and priceless work of art
Stay behind your velvet rope
But I will not renounce all hope

Was it just her, or did he glance in her direction with a slight look of guilt? Either way, she cooly ignored Joe as he approached, leaning against the bar with a cocky grin.

And I'm right by your side
Like a thief in the night
I stand in front of a masterpiece

"If I paid extra," said Joe, steel grey eyes sparkling with mischief, "how much would you spike his drink?"

"Why?" Jun tore her gaze from the pack of beauties. "So you can get him laid by some bimbo?"

And I can't tell you why
It hurts so much
To be in love with the masterpiece

Joe slapped money on the counter. "Just trying to wake him up."

She poured two beers with another sigh. "Joe, you need to mind your own business."

He leaned in, reaching for the glasses. "One day he's gonna realize just how good he's got it."

Cause after all
Nothing's indestructible

When? Their missions were getting harder, brushes with death far more common. While that apparently made Joe want to live life faster and not miss a thing, it was causing Ken to shut down even more, determined not to fail them. No matter that he was failing himself.

Still, she caught Joe's meaningful look, and managed a small smile. Then he pushed off the bar with a wink, raising the glasses as he pressed through the girls. Jun dared to watch the dynamics shift. Most of the attention returned to Joe, since he actively encouraged conversation, but one or two die hards always tried to draw Ken out of his shell.

Problem was, she couldn't blame them. Putting him and Joe next to each other was a study in contrasts. Ken was so handsome he was almost pretty, while Joe had a rough masculinity to him. Joe was brash, cocky, and confident, where Ken was just as confident, but more quietly, and yet endearingly awkward. 

From the moment I first saw you
All the darkness turned to light
An impressionistic painting
Tiny particles of light

Between the two of them, it was a regular feeding frenzy. Jun's gaze met sky blue eyes, and she started, realizing that Ken had caught her staring. His brows knitted in another silent plea. 

It seems to me it's what you're like
The "look but please don't touch me" type
And honestly it can't be fun
To always be the chosen one

Jun couldn't help but smile and crook her finger. She had to hide her laugh as he made his escape, suddenly animated and offering genuine-seeming apologies. Of course, Joe watched him closely, no doubt ready to pounce if Ken tried to escape the club.

"Thanks," sighed Ken, looking a bit weary as he leaned against the bar.

"Don't thank me yet," she said with a grin. "You can work off some of your tab behind the bar."

To her surprise, he smiled, looking relieved. "Sure. What do you want me to do?"

A group of people arrived, and then another. The club was getting more crowded. "Why don't you take the orders and handle the money? I'll mix the drinks."

"Hai." Ken gave a little salute, then came around to join her behind the bar.

As they slipped into a comfortable rhythm, Jun found simple pleasure in the fact that Ken would rather be put to work behind the bar with her, than return to dealing with all those girls. Catching Joe's smug grin, she rolled her eyes, refusing to give him any credit. It would just go to his head. 

A different kind of pleasure filled her when Ken's hand brushed hers, both of them reaching for the same glass. Especially when he didn't pull away like he'd been burned. Instead he glanced at her with a shy smile, and while it was hard to tell in the low light, she could have sworn he was blushing.

And I'm right by your side
Like a thief in the night
I stand in front of a masterpiece

She smiled back with a flush of her own. Sometimes love didn't hurt so much. One day, this particular masterpiece would feature in her private collection. Until then, she supposed she could share him with the world for a while longer, at least to look at. 

Just as long as the other girls just looked. Only she got to touch.

~ Table of Contents ~
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