Jun washed dishes behind the bar at the Snack J. Looking at her, Ryu thought idly that it was a coin toss which was hotter--the dishwater or the fire smouldering behind her eyes. Jinpei had cleared the area long since, but Ken, oblivous to all, sat drinking his coffee.
I hope you like your coffee boiling, Ryu thought, because Hell is going to look positively balmy unless someone does something.
A few minutes later, Joe walked into the Snack wearing a preoccupied look. Ryu watched him for a while, then heard Opportunity making distinct knocking sounds. "Ken, maybe you should go see if something's wrong with Joe?"
"Joe?" Ken twisted in his seat. "Why?"
"He looks....well, distressed."
"As distressed as he ever gets," Ryu amended. Joe's eyes had narrowed and his mouth tightened--most people would mistake that for rage, but then again, most of Joe's expressions could be mistaken for rage, particularly when he punctuated them the way he did with feather shuriken, martial arts moves, or natural dead-on-target aim. "You go talk to him. After all, the day and everything..."
A moment slipped by. Two. Mount Jun looked ready to erupt. Ken said, "The day?"
"Valentine's day." Jun's voice could have cut every glass in the Snack neatly in half.
"Oh." Ken thought a moment. "Yeah, he'd be the kind to notice something like that."
In the lowest voice Ryu had ever heard, Jun said, "Precisely what kind is that?"
"You know--he gets all involved with everyone." Ken took his coffee and went to talk to Joe without screaming in pain, so once again we have proof the phrase "daggers in her eyes" is completely figurative.
Joe looked up, and at once Ken saw how right Ryu had been. "What's going on?"
Joe shook his head. "Remember that girl I broke up with last week? I think I made a mistake."
"She threatened to kill you on sight, if I recall."
Joe chuckled. "Yeah, she did, didn't she?" He stared dreamily into space for a second or two before he looked worried again. "But I think she might have figured out who I was."
Ken's eyes widened as he slipped into the booth. "Are you kidding?"
"I never told her about the team, Ken, I swear, but when I got to the trailer this morning, I found this."
Joe pulled from a canvas bag a little stuffed vulture.
"Don't chicks like to give stuffed animals to guys for Valentine's day? But usually it's teddy bears or bunnies or sickly sweet stuff. I mean, I like this, but it's pretty obvious what she meant."
Ken looked at the mangled human heart clenched in the vulture's jaws. "I think so too."
"Because of course vultures--"
"Vultures have a slightly different connotation, Joe."
"She might not have been able to find exactly the right thing." Joe had gotten animated and begun talking with his hands, gesturing widely. "It's a big city, but where are you going to find a stuffed condor? I bet this is as close as she got."
"Well--" Ken looked at Joe and decided not to pursue that line of conversation any further. "Did she give you anything else?"
Joe nodded emphatically. "Roses."
Ken looked puzzled. "This....and roses?"
"Must have been expensive." Joe pulled one of them out of the bag. It was black and by all appearances had been dead for a while.
Ken stared. "Joe, I know horticulture isn't your specialty, but--"
"I hadn't been back to my trailer for a while, so I guess they died while I was away."
"Joe, you haven't lived in that trailer long enough for these to get into this condition. Who planted these flowers--Moses?"
Joe hesitated. "What are you getting at, Ken?"
"Nothing, nothing." He stood, but Joe still caught the mischievous smile. "I think you ought to trust me, though, that she has no idea about the team. It's a coincidence."
"Still, I'd better call and thank her."
"You'd better not." When Joe tried to protest, Ken said, "Trust me, please?"
Back at the bar, Jun still scrubbed some fairly clean plates with a vengeance. Ken chuckled as he settled himself back on his stool. "It's funny," he said, "how Joe has absolutely no clue about women."
Ryu caught one look at Jun's face and bolted.