On the screen, frozen in pause, stood three people; one woman flanked by two men. The man in the blue and indigo costume had his muscular arm slung over the slim shoulders of the leggy woman. The man in white stood to one side.
There's a story here, giggled Candi Wigglebutt and reached out a long, red-nailed finger to touch the play control.
The image on the vid-screen slid into motion.
"And we owe it all to Juney!" crowed the Condor before kissing the Swan on the cheek.
The super-heroine smiled happily as the Condor pulled her close, his hand suspiciously low on her waist. Especially considering what the Condor had yelled earlier.
Candi hit rewind, back to when the Swan had been booting the leader of Red Impulse about the head with her dainty boots. She hit play, and caught the throaty cry of the Condor.
"God, I love that woman!"
Oh, goodie, Candi thought. There was definitely a story here. She could even see the headline. "Oh yes," she sighed. "Love in War: the Condor and the Swan." Candi wiggled in her seat, her breasts bouncing. She just loved a good romance.
"Admit it," Joe pressed, leaning on an empty oil drum as Jun fiddled with the engine of her bike. "Admit it, you want him, and it's driving you crazy that he keeps ignoring you."
"Pass me that Philips head, would you?" Jun replied. Joe slapped the required tool into her hand.
"C'mon, Juni, it's me. You can't fool me."
"I'm not trying to fool anybody, Joe."
"That's the truth," he muttered.
Jun's head popped up on the other side of the bike, "What was that?!"
"You want me to help you get Ken or what?"
"What exactly do you propose, Joe?"
He grinned, sauntered around the bike to her and knelt down, leaning close to whisper in her ear. "I got an idea."
"That's a first," she snorted, and tightened a bolt.
"Hey!" he protested, pretending to be hurt. "You want my help or what?"
"It's the 'what' that bothers me," she smiled. "What does this require from ME?"
"Not much," he snorted. "All you gotta do is sleep with me."
"Sleep with . . . ?"
Joe nodded happily; an evil glint in his eye.
Jun carefully laid the Philips to the ground. "No-o...you're not serious . . . sleep with you?"
"You know, get into bed with me? Wake up to my morning breath? Warm your cold little feet on mine?"
"I don't have cold feet!" Jun protested, stung.
"Then how do you explain you and Ken?"
Jun shook her head, clearing it. "Wait, wait, wait. What do you get out of this?"
"To sleep in a house where water doesn't drip through the roof; spend time with a beautiful woman, and piss Ken off so bad he doesn't have to take a leak for a week."
Jun frowned at him, her big eyes narrow in thought. "And where will you sleep?"
"Your room, where else?"
"Ok," he tapped his chin, thinking. "Jinpei's out at that damn YMCA camp this week, isn't he? I'll sleep in his room. We'll figure out the rest as we go along. Deal?"
"I don't know . . ."
"C'mon, Jun, y'know he's only got you on the back-burner because it's obvious he can have you any time he wants to."
"Is it that obvious?" she whispered.
"Oh, yeah! Your eyes go all gooey, and you sigh a lot. And sometimes you get really really mad, and kill a whole bunch of people. Remember that time on the cruise ship? Subtle that wasn't, but I liked the dress. Or... you freeze over like you did when I kissed you for kicking Rat Bastard's butt, but Ken wouldn't. Anyone with half a brain could tell you were upset. Okay, maybe not Ken... And sometimes," he continued. "Even when the weather's really hot and humid, and we're just sitting around--" Joe brought his hands up to his chest and jounced them a little, mimicking breasts, "your n--"
"OH-kay, Joe!" she said, desperate to interrupt him. "OK. You're on."
Ken stood fifth in line at the one open register at the quick mart, chewing on a spring-bun when he noticed that Gatchaman was on the evening news --- hanging from a ceiling like a trussed chicken with Condor Joe tied to his back.
Boy, did they look stupid.
"Excuse me," he called to the woman behind the counter, "Could you turn up the volume a little bit?"
"Sure, no problem."
The screen now showed the Swan as she fought Red Impulse. At the time, she'd been amazing. On screen, with a nicely added soundtrack, she was scary as hell. Scary because she was so good. Red Impulse gave no quarter and Jun needed none.
The image cut to a familiar bust, then face. "....Afterwards," gushed Candi Wigglebutt. "came the kiss that broke a million hearts." She sighed blissfully.
The kiss that broke a million hearts?
"I think it's sweet," cooed the brown skinned blond anchoring next to her. "That they have time for romance while they're busy saving the earth from Galactor." She sighed too, then smiled at her cohost. "What was the point of the altercation between the Kagaku Ninja Tai and Red Impulse?"
"Well, Sugar," Candi giggled. "According to my sources, it was a test!"
"A test?" a wide-eyed Sugar asked.
"Oh yes, a test!"
A test? Ken thought. Oh well, that was better than telling the truth.
"Oooh, how exciting," Sugar trilled, her tiny round breasts bobbled like aspic above the thin band of her bodice, looking like they would pop out at any moment, which was one of the reasons her ratings were so high. "What kind of test?"
"Red Impulse launched a mini-training session in order to test the Kagaku Ninja Tai's ability to deal with traitors from within the ISO."
"Really?!! How wonderful of Red Impulse to risk humiliating himself to help the team!"
"Yes," Candi gushed. "He's getting a medal for it too."
"What?!!!" Ken shouted in outrage at the TV.
"I know," the woman in front of him grumbled. "It's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Almost as dumb as that rumour about the Condor and the Swan."
Ken gaped at her.
"Look," she said in disgust, indicating the rack of tabloids ranged at the counter.
Cover after cover showed pictures of the Condor and the Swan, some more obviously touched up than the others. One showed Gatchaman scowling and looking on as the Condor bussed Jun heartily. The headline declared that the details of their secret love tryst could be found inside---courtesy of Candi Wigglebutt.
"Everyone knows that it's the Condor and the Eagle that are involved," the woman complained.
Ken froze to the spot in disbelief. The line moved ahead. The guy behind him cut around.
On the TV screen, Sugar turned to Candi yet again. "You spoke to the Condor at some. . . length, didn't you?" she gushed.
Candi shivered. "I did, I did." The famous ripple traveled down her skin.
"Weren't you scared? I know I would be." Sugar gave a gasping sigh, "Even Berg Katse is afraid of him."
"I must confess, Sugar, even here on live television, it was... (shiver)...stimulating."
"Even... (gasp)... arousing."
"I must confess," Candi cooed. "One of the million hearts that were broken-" she looked directly into the camera, her face alive with an expression that made Ken blush from the roots of his hair to the soles of his feet. "was mine."
"So, then, you must be a little jealous?"
"How can I be jealous?" she giggled. "I'm happy for the Swan because I'm a woman, and I understand how a hard man is good to find."
Ken's eyes bugged out. Had he heard that right?
"Hey," called the woman behind the counter. They were now the only two people in the store. "You gonna buy or what?"
At seven thirty in the morning, all hell broke loose.
"Hey, Jun!" Joe backed out of the bathroom with a pale green towel wrapped around his waist. "I didn't bring my toothbrush. Can I use yours?" Abruptly, he backed into Jinpei.
"Shit." Still sleepy, he turned around and squinted down. "Jinpei. Morning." Then blurted, "What are you doing back so soon?"
"What am I doing here? This is my apartment." Jinpei flushed angrily as he took in Joe's disarray. The boy's fists doubled up at his sides. "What are you doing here?!" he demanded, his voice shrill with suspicion.
Joe rubbed his head, looked over at Jun's partly open bedroom door, hoping she'd come out and explain this. There was no sign of her though. Looking back at Jinpei, he shrugged. "Uh. Um." Shit. The kid definitely had the wrong idea. "Uh. Takin' a shower. See, I was--uh, over last night..."
"I was over last night because we were . . . well, y'see, Ken and your sister weren't working out so... I came over . . . and--- HEY-AY!!!"
Without warning, Jinpei shoved him down the stairs.
Joe caught himself only three steps down and bounced to his feet. "K'so! You little psycho---" He stopped, feeling a draft, and discretely adjusted his towel. "What the hell is wrong with you?"
Jinpei glared down at him, swinging his bolas in one hand. His wiry frame quivered with righteous indignation. "You stay away from Onechan, you pervert!" he shrieked and prepared to blast Joe's head off his shoulders.
"Wait!" Joe protested, "Jinpei, it's not what you think!"
"Joe?" Jun's voice floated out of her room. Jinpei whirled, his thatch of hair swinging as his sister came out of her room, dressed only in a short satin robe, an even shorter satin pajama top, and matching slippers. "What's going --- Jinpei! What are you doing here?"
"Onechan!" Jinpei wailed. "Where are your clothes?!!"
Jun blushed in embarrassment.
"NO! You didn't!"
"Jinpei, I ..." she looked over at Joe pleadingly.
"Mornin', lover-girl," Joe said dryly.
"AGHHH!!! How could you? With HIM?!!!"
"What do you mean, 'With him?'" Joe scowled, keeping well away from the Swallow's bolas as he inched back up the stairs.
"I mean, you, you dog!" Jinpei sneered.
"Now wait a minute, you little shit!" hollered Joe, barreling up the stairs.
"YOU stay away!" Jinpei screeched. "She's only supposed to be with Aniki-Ken!"
"Excuse me?" Jun started, her hands on his hips. "What gives you the right to decide that?"
Jinpei was almost in tears, his face purple with rage. "Onechan! No-one else is good enough for you! Especially not VD Joe!!"
That was too much. "All right, you brat!" Joe yelled. "I admit it! I boinked your sister!"
"JOE!" Jun gasped.
"Yeah," Joe leered at the little boy. "Me and your sister, we did the nasty and it was goooood!"
Jinpei shook his head in denial.
"She surrendered the pink, and I ATE her pie. I threaded the needle. Put the hotdog in the bun. Drove the train into the tunnel. Launched the rocket. Had the candy that melts in your mouth, not in your hand. Docked the shuttle. Unfurled the petals. Shot the arrow through the arch. Did the horizontal tango. Knocked da boots. Did the bumping ugly. Was a wailing monkey humping a tree. Inserted tab A into slot B. Made the love bunny jump in and out of his hole until he threw up. Got shtupped. Found the cave with the snake. Drilled for oil. Did the rumpy-pumpy. Hit the springs. Loaded the heat-seeking moisture missile. Had the clam swallow the eel. Brought Mr. Ed to the stable. Stuffed the sausage. Covered her in love lava. Danced to the jism jive. Had a cream filled wonder wand fiesta. Ate at the Y. Popped that coochie so hard I nearly went blind. Did some lab licking. Crossed the border and went straight to Taco Belle. Sipped the nectar of the petite pink flower of love. Did some belly rubbing. Chewed the fur burger. Had a hum job. Went down for the count. Had her enjoy some pole munching. Tickled between the big toes. Plunged the depths. Watched her do a little pole jumping. Let her take my measure. Drained my tank. Laid pipe. Mr. Happy puked his guts out. Had love lava erupt from my volcanic peak. Fucked my chindildo baby and spooged cock snot all over her love meLONS--!!"
With the last word, Jinpei launched himself at Joe, snarling with rage. Joe went tumbling down the stairs with him, getting beaten, kicked and bitten and losing his towel on the way down. Jun followed close behind, the towel in her hands.
"Oof!" Joe landed on his stomach, curling just enough to protect his tenders from the worst possible damage, but not enough to keep him from scraping himself uncomfortable.
"BASTARD!!!!!" Jinpei landed on his back, biting his ear.
"OWWW!" Joe bellowed, struggling to sit up.
Jinpei beat him about the shoulders and neck, screaming dire threats about honor, virtue, venereal diseases and morally bankrupt, stinking dogs. Swearing and cursing, Joe tossed the psychotically enraged little boy off of him and leaped to his feet, naked as the day he was born, flushed with anger even as he shriveled in the cold.
"THAT'S IT!" Joe roared. "YOU DIE!"
"NOT BEFORE YOU, PENCIL DICK!"
"PENCIL DICK!!! PENCILDICKPENCILDICKPENCILDICK!!!!!!"
"Joe!" Jun cried, running up behind him. "Don't hurt him!"
But Joe was hurling tables, and bellowing, "DIE!!!!!" He grabbed up a pool cue, swinging it experimentally. It made a satisfying noise as it zipped through the air.
"Overcompensating, Joe?!!!!" Jinpei taunted, launching a heavy ash-tray at him.
Joe knocked it out of the air, and straight into the juke box.
Suddenly, the front door Jinpei had left unlocked when he came home opened.
"Anybody home?" Ken called.
"ANIKI!" Jinpei screamed, running towards him."ANIKIJOE'STRYING TOKILLMEANDJUNSGONNALETHIM SAVEMEOHSAVEMEOHSAVEMEPLEASEANIKI IDONT WANNADIE!!!!!!!"
Ken scanned the room, trying to see past Jinpei even as the boy tried to climb him to escape Joe. He was a mite surprised. There stood Jun, in her pajamas, trying to keep Joe away from Jinpei. Ken blinked. Joe appeared to be naked. He blinked again. Yep. Joe was starkers, and Jun was pressed right up against--
"andIcamehomeandhegotoutoftheshowerandhesaidallthesehorriblenasty thingsabouthimandjun andyououttacourtmartialthisforherbecauseitsmindcontrolandhetrheatenedtokillme andidon'tknowwhathe'sdonetojun andohken-anikiyouhavetodosomething thisisterriblethisisterriblewhatarewegoingtodo---?!!!!"
"Quiet, Jinpei." Ken muttered, setting the kid on the ground, his eyes fixed on Joe and Jun. She was busy helping him with the towel.
"Morning, Ken," Joe grinned sheepishly over Jun's head.
"Morning, Joe," Ken managed.
"Good morning, Ken," Jun blushed, leaning against Joe.
"Morning, Jun," said Ken as Joe bent his mouth to her ear, looked over to Ken, and winked.
This was not happening. This was not happening...
"Can I kill him, now, Aniki?" Jinpei hissed.
Joe wrapped his arm around Jun's shoulder, pulled her closer, and goosed her.
She jumped up with a shriek and began to giggle madly.
The rumours, it seemed, were true.
"HI! This is Candi Wigglebutt (gasp) bringing you a special inside look at the interior of the ISO building! (shiver) That's right! Today, we'll be seeing sections of ISO that were off limits during the conference last week. All live with our special guest, Dr. Nambu Hakase!"
Gushing and giggling, Candi clapped at the immaculately dressed man beside her, who regarded her with one raised eyebrow and a nervous expression, then turned to look into the cameras.
"Thank you, Candi. Now, the ISO building was built in..."
Candi stood at his side as he droned on, gushing and bouncing with every word he said. She was bored out of her mind, but she had a mission. To hunt down and interview the Condor and the Swan about their relationship, or even better, to catch them in bed together.
God, she loved live television. Oh, yes!
"Okay, that's enough. Let's take a break."
They broke, Jun and Joe already making a bee-line for each other.
They moved faster than the bird-scramble, Ryu thought, watching them come together on the far side of the rooftop garden they'd been training in.
The Condor bent his head to whisper something to the Swan, their wings mingling. Her fingers crept up his biceps, and curved around his chin, tickling lightly. Ken could hear Joe's answering purr.
Disgusted, Ken turned his back on his two billing, cooing teammates and went over to where Ryu stood next to a seething Jinpei. Ryu had one hand on Jinpei's shoulder to keep him from charging bodily into the disaster, fists and clackers flying.
Jinpei's eye was twitching.
Ryu looked up at Ken as he flopped down on a bench beside him. "Uh, Ken, what's going on?"
"Nothing," Ken snapped as Joe bumped his pelvis into Jun's hip. Ken gritted his teeth. "Nothing at all!"
Ryu flinched while Jinpei started grinding his teeth. "Poison," he muttered. "No... too good for him. Poison, and a bullet to the gut, yah! And hanging, after I drown him. Yah yah! All after I CUT HIS BALLS OFF!" he screeched.
Joe raised a middle finger in his direction, but otherwise didn't take his attention off Jun.
Ken hid a sigh, wondering himself what was happening himself. For two days, Joe and Jun had been all over each other, whispering, laughing, trading ammo, even ducking into spare rooms and broom closets. Every time he turned around, they had their hands on each other and he kept expecting to walk into the coffee room and find Joe doing her on the table.
Why Joe? was what he kept wondering. Why would Jun be interested so suddenly in someone who had all the moral fortitude of a used tissue? Joe had bedded so many women that his bed had a permanent dip in the middle. Jun KNEW that, so why was she with him? Ken shook his head, deciding it was none of his business if Jun got involved with a man who couldn't appreciate her for more than her stunning legs and stand-up --- Ken exhaled the breath he'd been holding. What Jun and Joe did was their business as long as it didn't affect performance. The last thing he wanted was them to start pulling their "I know what you're hiding under your cape" game on a mission.
On the far side of the lawn, Jun giggled at Joe, who grinned back, his hands somewhere under her wings. Jinpei turned a new shade of purple. Smiling, she threw her arms around the big Sicilian's neck and wrinkled her nose at him. Chuckling, he grabbed her hand and spun her around the lawn in an impromptu waltz that took them right over to where Ken sat and around him. He just sat still, not allowing any expression on his face. If they were going to insist upon doing this, why did they have to be so obvious about it?
"Do we have to be so obvious?" Jun whispered.
"Yes," Joe replied in an undertone. "Don't forget it's Ken. He's so dense he could crush a coal into a diamond by sticking it up his butt."
Jun blushed. "That's... crude."
"Thanks. You know I try."
Joe dipped her, just right so that Ken would have a perfect view up her skirt. Unfortunately, he was looking the other way, though Ryu turned beet red and Jinpei turned his back. Jun sighed. She knew wearing buff colored panties was a big mistake. But, it was better than wearing nothing at all, which was what Joe had suggested.
"It's not working," she mourned, as he led them around the greenhouse. "He still hasn't noticed me."
"In that case," Joe decided. "We stop being subtle."
"They've been gone for a real long time, Ken." Ryu noted.
"And they're not responding to their wrist-coms."
"You think maybe they got lost, Aniki?" piped Jinpei from under Ryu's leg. The big guy had pinned him under it after he'd broken free the last time. "They just got lost, right? They're probably coming back here now, right? Right?"
Jinpei strained to turn his head so he could see Ken's feet. "Aniki?"
Ken stalked off in the direction of the greenhouse.
"He's gone, Jin."
"Oh. You wanna let me up now?"
"You promise not to eviscerate Joe?"
"Then you stay there."
"So," shivered Candi Wigglebutt, as she, Nambu and her camera crew ascended to the penthouse through the executive elevator. "You say that the Kagaku Ninja Tai's excellent teamwork comes from your having raised them together as siblings?"
"You could say that," said Dr. Nambu after giving the question some consideration.
"Then could you define a romantic relationship between the Condor and the Swan as incestuous?"
"Beg Pardon, Candi?" Hakase Nambu asked, stunned out of his mind.
Ken found them by a fountain. A very nice fountain. They'd left a clear trail. It'd gone from two tangled sets of footprints to one carrying an almost doubled weight.
He found Joe sprawled on his back, a daisy chain around his neck, with his head and shoulders sheltered by the curve of Jun's stomach and hip. Their fingers touched. They seemed to be playing a child's game. Only, Joe's nose was beeped with lipstick and Jun's hair was a muss around her head.
Their voices were quiet, seemingly oblivious to everything but each other. Ken felt a lump in his throat. Had he found them grunting and straining in the bushes like he expected he would have felt no compunction about beating the crap out of the both of them for blowing off practice. But no, they looked sweet and pure, not at all like the touchy-feely, corny and HORNY freaks that'd chased one another around the ISO --- even if he couldn't figure out where Joe's other hand was. Damned wings...
They both looked so good and beautiful lying there. A picture perfect romance. Ken sighed, trying not to let it get to him. He was their commander, that was all, he told himself sternly.
Joe, feeling the hair on the back of his neck prickle, said, "He's here."
The world reversed and Jun suddenly found herself rolled on her back, Joe's face in hers, his elbows pinning her into the ground, his legs v-ed open on either side of her thighs. He grabbed the edge of her skirt.
"Uh, Joe..."she gasped a little breathlessly.
"What? Ken's here. We gotta make it look good," and zerberted her bare stomach, absurdly grateful to the inventor of the natural waisted mini-dress.
She meant to say, 'ewwww' but it came out as as a dulcet moan.
Hey, Joe thought, grinning like a shark, I found a sweet spot! And went for her hairline, right near her ear, eliciting another low sound.
Ken's brow furrowed. So much for sweet and innocent.
Oh God. This was way too close, Jun thought as the little noises she made registered as hers -- and embarrassing as hell. Her buff covered butt was hanging out for all the world to see, she just knew it. Oh God. Joe was kissing her, kissing her for real. Oh, my, he was pretty good at it, too.
"I'm in love with you!" Joe groaned, when he finally let her come up for air, and promptly launched into an paen of praise to her various physical and psychological attributes in an outlandish mixture of Sicilian, Japanese and English, where he compared her to all other women and found them wanting.
Ken scowled. Joe would know about all other women.
Thing was, while ad-libbing his ode to Jun, Joe found he wasn't entirely bull-shitting.
"Juney, I want you soo bad..."
Hmph. Thought Ken, that was the Joe he knew.
"Joe," Jun gasped, wriggling her arms free. Her heart was beating a whole lot faster than she really wanted it to. "My Joe..." He started nuzzling her neck.
He poked her stomach. Wait a minute, weren't his hands above waist-level..? "Joe. You're. Tickling. Me."
"Uhhh," Joe blushed. "Sorry."
Ken had had enough. "DO I HAVE TO TURN THE HOSE ON YOU TWO??!" he bellowed.
Joe looked up at him and grinned, still lying full-length on Jun. "Whatsa matter, jealous?" Jun held her breath.
Ken turned several shades of purple under his visor. "This-is-the-most-immature-display-I've-ever-witnessed," he grated.
Joe chuckled lowly, letting Ken wonder where his hands were wandering to under his wings. From the expression on her face, Jun was wondering it, too.
"Aw, grow up, ya big baby! We're adults - mostly. And it's not likely that anyone's gonna catch us up here on the roof, now is it?"
"Hi! This is (gush) Candi Wigglebutt reporting to you LIVE from the roof of the ISO building (sigh)! Oh, LOOK! Love is in the air!"
"WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?" Nambu yelled.
Jun started screaming at the top of her lungs, deafening Joe as, frantic since neither one of them was wearing their helmet, he swept his longer wings around his teammate and sat up, cross-legged on the ground with Jun in his lap, both of them blind and smothered by the blue wings wrapped tightly around them.
"No one's gonna catch us on the roof?" Jun retorted.
Joe grinned. "Look at it this way. Our ratings will definitely go up."
"JOE!" Nambu bellowed, apparently forgetting the newscrew. "LET GO OF HER AND STAND AT ATTENTION NOW!"
A voice drifted from the mass of feathers. "Um, I can't do that..."
"I - um... lost my helmet..?"
Nambu pressed two fingers to the sides the bridge of his nose. "What happened to it? Or do I even want to know?"
"Uh.... I threw if off the roof in a fit of passion. I think it's embedded in the windshield of your limo."
"You're kidding, right?"
Ken, peering over the side of the roof, winced. "Doesn't look like it, Hakase."
"THAT'S IT! I'M GETTING YOU FIXED!!"
The mass of feathers started to shake. "There, there," they heard Jun say. "I'm sure he didn't mean it... BREATHE, Joe, BREATHE!!"
"Doctor!" Candi protested, bouncing towards him in shock. Nambu saw her coming and turned white. "You couldn't seriously want to hurt the great Condor, could you??" (gasp) "He's the greatest lover of this age!" (giggle)(sigh) Her great big eyes filled with tears that, oddly enough, didn't make her mascara run.
"He is?" Ken gaped.
"I am?" Joe asked. "Wahoo!" The feathers shook viciously. "Ow! Jeez, Jun! I'm sorry!"
"You CAN'T fix him!" Candi breathed.
"Yeah!" Joe agreed.
"That would leave the Swan forlorn!"
"Yeah!" Joe agreed.
"And I haven't slept with him yet!"
"Yea-- hey, is that a prom---OW!"
Candi was crying freely, advancing on Nambu with bosom heaving until he was backed up to the edge of the roof and obviously debating whether or not to jump. "Okay!" he gasped. "No disciplinary measures will be taken!"
"Damn," Ken muttered.
Squealing, Candi threw her arms around Nambu's neck and kissed him. Once he collapsed, she turned and wiggled her way over to the feather cocoon and knelt. "Oh, (giggle) Condor, would you like to comment on (gasp) your new relationship?"
"You mean my relationship with the Swan?"
Ken's fingers clenched.
"Well, Candi," came Joe's voice from beneath his wings. "This was pretty much inevitable. I mean, we work long hours saving the Earth on a regular basis and we've gotten to know each other pretty well. She's all woman and she makes me all man. I can't imagine that there's any lady in the world that could compare with her. In fact, I'm pretty sure that's impossible. And I should know. I've had a lot of girlfriends."
Nambu, Candi, Ken and the camera crew were focused on the pile of feathers. It shifted as Joe got comfortable.
"You ok, babe?" he was heard to ask.
"Sure," she was heard to reply.
"Ahem. Where was I? Oh, yeah. I find that now, more than ever, with her lying here in my arms, beautiful and strong, and, uh, feminine; breathing her breath, sharing her warmth, feeling her --- uh, never mind . . . "---Ken's jaw clenched-- ". . . seeing her eyes shining up at me with love and admiration, for me, the one man she says can match her in honor, in courage, it's overwhelming. I-I feel that I really am the foremost lover and warrior of the age. And it's all thanks to the wind beneath my wings: my love, my life, my comrade in arms, my Swan." A faint, female gagging sound drifted towards the camera mike.
"Ooh (shiver) that's so romantic! But could you maybe say that in five words or less? Just so we can use it for soundbites later on."
"Sure." Joe cleared his throat and pulled Jun tighter to him so that another four inches of her thigh disappeared beneath his cape.
"She's mine!" he cackled. "All mine!!"
The thought darted through Ken's mind so fast he almost missed it: Not if I have anything to say about that.
"Oh, that's wonderful!" she gushed. "And you, Swan? (sigh) You have the man women have been dreaming of for (sigh) minutes."
"I... can't... breathe."
Candi beamed at the camera. "And the Swan is breathless with love for the mighty Condor. Isn't love (wiggle) grand?"
"Aces!' said Joe's voice from the pile of feathers.
All but Jun and Joe turned to see Jinpei racing across the lawn, swinging a 2x4, Ryu in full pursuit.
"Is that who I think it is?" Joe asked.
"Yup," Ken replied, debating whether or not to stop the Swallow, and deciding finally it wasn't worth it.
"Ohwellgottagothenbyenicetalkingtoyou." Somehow, the two managed to stand, still wrapped in Joe's wings, stumble cursing over to the side of the roof and pitch over the side, Jinpei only a few feet behind. Candi bounced over to the edge and looked over, gushing. "Oh, how romantic," she breathed. "The little swallow is giving his (shiver) blessings."
"Yeah," Ken commented, standing beside her and watching. "Right up the side of the head."
Hiding out the in back of Nambu's limo had Joe bored out of his mind.
He sat across from Jun, holding his helmet to his side. Listening for signs of Jinpei and watching the Swan, who at the moment was guzzling Nambu's store of cider and giving him the deep freeze. At least he thought it was the deep freeze.
In any case, it was interesting.
So, he wasn't totally bored. He shifted his helmet to his lap.
"Thirsty?" she asked, pointing the neck of the bottle at him. He shook his head no and she poured herself another glass and drank. A not-so-far-off explosion rocked the car, accompanied by the harsh sound of a rain of falling glass.
"Whoah!" Joe yelped, holding onto the sides of his seat. "Sounds like he found that false trail."
Still that deep freeze. Maybe he shouldn't've pulled up her skirt.
Jun wiped her forehead with the dewy bottle of cider. Damn it was hot in here. Joe really generated way too much heat. Way too much heat. She settled a little bit farther away from him, and concentrated on breathing.
"Jun?" Joe asked.
"Think we should get going?"
Jun parted the curtain and glanced out cautiously.
"Not just yet. Candi and Nambu are looking down at us."
"So we're pinned."
"Until I get my helmet back, yes."
She frowned, peering upwards. "I can't see him." She sighed. "Maybe this wasn't such a good idea."
Joe shrugged, grabbing the cider and taking a swig. "You kidding me? Eagle was ready to kick my ass. And kiss yours," he added with a leer. Jun tossed her yoyo at his face lightly. He dodged and lunged at her, aiming to tickle. She shrieked and started kicking, but he had her pinned. Seconds later, they were in the middle of a full fledged tickle fight.
For all her calm demeanor, Jun had very vocal reactions when prodded in certain spots. Jinpei knew them all. At least the polite ones. Which was why he went pale when he heard a scream, held at a high D, coming from the parking lot. He never made her shriek at THAT note.
Then, paling with shame and consternation, he saw it. Nambu's limo, rolling and rocking on its shocks in a way that turned the little boy green.
"Oh, look!" Candi gushed, pointing down at the rocking limo. "Romance never stops!"
Ken just buried his face in his arms, deciding right then and there that Joe was going to die in the most horrid manner he could come up with.
"I'm gonna kill him, I'm gonna kill him, I'm gonna kill him..." Ken chanted his new mantra as he stomped down the hall, well ahead of Candi, Ryu and Nambu as they made their way back down from the roof, Candi now interviewing the Owl on how he felt about the chance of becoming an uncle, and whether Jun would be more dangerous at five months pregnant or nine.
"I'm gonna kill him, I'm gonna kill him . . ."
Coming down to the balcony over the lobby, he looked down at Jun and Joe running in the main doors, both back in full uniform and pursued by the Swallow, who Joe quickly locked outside. The boy was left shrieking death threats impotently outside while the two started across the busy lobby, arm in arm.
"I'm gonna kill him..."
Jun never used to pay attention to Joe before. He couldn't understand it. She always wanted KEN, and he knew it, though he felt his position made it wrong for him to reciprocate. Well, he wasn't going to make that mistake again.
Below, Joe ducked his head to kiss Jun's cheek and very visibly pinched her bottom. She jumped.
Ken set to trembling, "Asakura, you animal..." he growled.
Seemingly unaware, Joe's hand vanished beneath the pristine pink of Jun's flirty skirt. Touching her ass. Touching HIS ass. It was the last straw.
"SHE'S MINE!" Ken screamed, yanking his birdrang out of its holster and throwing it. Jun looked up and dove to the floor as Joe leaped straight up and did the splits, balancing himself on a platform to his left and a pole to his right. Looking down, his eyes widened at the sight of the birdrang embedded an inch deep in the wall, right where his groin had been.
Two inches lower and it would've been all over, Jun calculated with an unbidden smirk.
Joe swallowed hard. Then an insane light appeared in his eyes. "YOU BASTARD!" Leaping down, he pulled his cable gun and fired in a single motion. Ken screeched as the tip hit the railing right in front of his waist, then dodged to the side, swearing.The Condor leapt after him, wings spread, people below ducking under tables and chairs, many renewing their pledges to find the architect who decided that a bunch of winged teenagers should be given headquarters with lots of wide open spaces, and see how HE liked being divebombed during his lunch hour.
"STOP!!!!" Shrieked Nambu, just as Ken jumped off the balcony, colliding with the enraged Joe in midair and plunging them both towards the ground, cursing, swearing, and genuinely trying to kill each other. "Didn't I tell you people NOT to fly in the halls?!"
Below, Jun sat on the floor, gaping up at them both before flushing red. "Oh, I KNEW he liked me!"
The he in question didn't give a shit. He'd erase Joe from her memory later. Right now he had a Sicilian to geld.
In battle, the Condor and Eagle were breathtaking. Candi oohed and wiggled her way through a commentary that would have done Marv Alpert proud, though it made her cameraman a little ill to have to follow her jouncing in addition to the dives, rolls, leaps and throws of the two science ninjas.
In the confusion and placing of bets, no one noticed the Swallow, who had cut a small circle into the glass door with a diamond head razor and let himself in. He watched with preternatural calm for his opportunity. When the two men broke he threw his bolos, catching Joe right around the hips.
"Oh, dear Mary, mother of God," Joe whimpered, going completely white, and fell to the floor like a sack of feathered dog shit. Screaming feathered dog shit. "OH, MY GODDD!!!"
Being somewhat top-heavy, and completely *ahem* limp, he hit the ground headfirst and was still.
"Joe!" Jun gasped.
"unnnnhhhhhhhh" Joe managed, only it was a tremolo wail.
"Got 'im!" Jinpei crowed, producing a knife.
"Oh, no!" Candi breathed. "Women everywhere are (gasp) swooning at this horrid turn of events!"
"Wow," Ryu managed, wincing as he stood a few feet from her. "I didn't know a man's voice could pitch quite that high."
"Serves you right!" Ken roared, landing in a crouch beside his fetalled, sobbing gunner. "You animal!"
"YOU BASTARD!" Jun's backhand caught him completely by surprise.
"Onechan!" Jinpei gasped as Ken fell backwards, his head hitting the ground at Jin's feet, "Aniki-Ken was fighting for you!"
"What am I??! A trophy!!??" She whirled on the little boy with outstretched finger, her yo-yo dangling from her clenched fingers, "You need to have more respect for me and Joe! Who I choose to love, and who I take to my bed is my business! You had no right to do what you did! And you know me well enough to know that I don't waste my time with trash!"
Jinpei had a lot to say in response to that, but not in front of the camera. And certainly not with Jun holding her yo-yo that way. She could easily clock him upside his head on a sudden upswing.
She whirled to face Ken, who was processing her comments to Jinpei with difficulty, as well as the slap to his face. "And you, what is it with you and not giving me a second look until after you think I'm involved with Joe?"
Candi's cameraman made sure his dumb look was recorded for posterity, but he didn't care, and exhausted from days of feigning calm in Joe's intolerably good time with Jun, said the first thing that popped into HIS mind. "You're supposed to be in love with me!"
Not, "I love you." Nor, "But what about us?!" or even, "Why didn't you wait for me, Jun," but, "You're supposed to be in love with me!"?
"Oooooooh!!!!!!" Jun fumed, her yoyo narrowly missing Ken on the upswing but clipping his helmet on the way back. "The ONLY one who has treated me with ANY respect," she continued. "Is JOE!"
"He groped you!" Ken yelled.
Drawing herself to her full height, she grated. "Nobody gropes me without permission." Pause, then shrieked: "AND it's a lot more than YOU'VE ever done!"
"I'm your commander! I'm supposed to be in control of myself!"
"HAH!" she snorted. "Let me guess. We get together you'll trot me out for sex once a week, right on schedule!"
"Jun!" Ken gasped, making a mental note to drop the idea of Wednesday nights before Deep Space 9 came on. "I wouldn't do that!"
"Damn right!" she barked. "Because at this point, I don't want anything to do with you! The ONLY reason you want me is because you and Joe are always in competition. Well, I am nobody's prize and YOU aren't worth it!"
Her nose in the air, and the eyes of a nation on her - since there was nothing better on TV - she went over to the huddled Condor, grabbed his cape, and dragged him behind her off to the infirmary.
"Ah," Candi sighed, in that way that only she could. "True love (gasp). Just like in the caveman days. But upgraded (jiggle) for the nineties!"
It started with a low sigh, then it grew into a ripple in the air, finally bursting forth as a chuckle.
"What's so funny?" Jun asked, turning on him, the jar of liniment in her hand and a scowl on her face.
"You should have seen his face when, HA HA HA Ha Ha ha... ow."
Joe's shoulders shook. He laughed so hard he tried to curl on his stomach, but that hurt too much with his pulled muscles so he ended up slapping the examination table instead. "OH-HA HA HA, ow, HA HA HA, ow. " He sat up with difficulty, wheezing into silence. Then, still chuckling, he sat there, his legs dangling, the top of his suit bunched around his waist. He looked surprisingly hail for a guy who'd almost been gelded by a nine-year old.
Jun's eyes narrowed. "Were you ever unconscious, Joe?"
"Me? That? When you lectured eagle and swallow? Little tap like that?! Naw." He knocked on his crotch happily, producing a hard plastic sound -- Kevlar cup. Not perfect, but with it the damage had been minimized. "Sides, I wouldn't've missed it for the world."
She walked up to him, and slapped him upside the head.
"OW!" he cried, holding his hands up over his head. "What's that for?!!!"
"Boinked?" she growled. "Chindildo baby?"
Oh yeah. He looked up at her sheepishly.
She glared at him, "Had me enjoy some *pole-munching*?"
He couldn't help it, he grinned. (or leered, or smirked, or whatever)
He jumped, raising his arms to his head. Smack. "And that's for goosing me in the Snack J." Another slap, "and that's for yanking up my skirt in front of Ken," A third smack, her cheeks bright with anger, then another whack, which landed on his upper arms. "And that's for sticking your tongue down my throat!" Yet another smack. "That's for EVERYTHING else on the roof, and for feeling me up in Nambu's limousine!--" She fisted her hand and drove it into his exposed stomach, causing him to oof in surprise. "Which wasn't absolutely necessary!" Smack. "And that's for pinching my rear-end in the lobby on national television!" She raised her hand, tightened her abs and got ready to drive her shoulder into the wall right behind his head. Joe unfolded abruptly from his defensive position and caught her fist. Callused fingers, gentle grip, slighty hairy wrist. Nice.
"What'll it take for you to forgive me?" he asked.
"D'you mind so much that I did it in public, or that I was pretending in public?"
No answer, but there was a change in the quality of her silence.
"What if I told you I loved every minute of it?" he asked, his voice tactile as the hand moved up her arm to her elbow. "That maybe it was an excuse to touch you, hold you . . .to smell you?"
Jun's knees turned to water. "You were still very crass," she managed.
He brought her wrist to her lips, "Desperate times, desperate measures." A ghost of a kiss flickered against her skin. "'Sides," he was going hoarse. "How else were you gonna get to find out what was really going on in Eagle's head?"
Her lips quirked. She ducked her head, deliberately obscuring his view of her face. She murmured something.
"What?" he asked.
"What you said, on the rooftop?"
"Was that pretend?"
Joe took a deep shuddering breath, "Only if you're not willing to play along."
He saw her arms pink, she looked up at then, her blush deeply evident, her eyes eating him up. "I'm not playing," she admitted, her heart beating in a now familiar triple time. Like by the fountain, with Ken watching, only Ken wasn't anywhere nearby. She was alone with Joe, and her blood pressure had her somewhere in heart-attack zone. "I hate pretend."
His body sang with victory, in distinct harmony with hers.
Her answering gaze was rueful and hot. "You were still very very crass," she muttered, not willing to let him off the hook completely. "I ought to beat you up myself."
"I already apologized for that, Jun."
What could they do but look at each other? She was still blushing. Their hands linked between them.
"Hey, Jun." His eyes met hers, evening dusk into forest dark as he closed the distance between them. "You blush too easy. Lemme really give you something to blush about."