Special thanks to my beta, Transmute Jun...who gave Velvetina some great "horny" lines...lol
It has been six months, Joe. Six months since you died at the Galactor Headquarters. Six months since you spoke your final words to us, yet it seems like only yesterday. We all miss you Joe, and the team just hasn't been the same. We will never be the same.
Ryu spends most of his time out at the marina. I guess going out on the boat gives him some time to sort things out. Kinda like I do with flying.
Jinpei talks about you like you are a god. He worships the ground you walk on, Joe. He wants to be just like you. I sure hope he doesn't end up getting hurt.
And then there's Jun. She hasn't been herself since the war ended. She tries to put on a brave face, but I can see through it, Joe. She misses you terribly. Jinpei has told me that he hears her crying sometimes at night.
I remember what you said to her. I know you thought we should spend our lives together. But it hasn't been that easy. Things are strained between us now. Every time we are all together, I think about it, Joe, I really do. I just can't seem to break down that wall between us. Force of habit, I guess. I've had to keep my distance for so long, and Jun seems so closed off to me now.
I know what you'd say if you were here, Joe. Ken chuckled softly to himself. You'd probably call me a moron and tell me to go over to the Snack right now and tell her how I feel. Heck, maybe I will...
After Ken taxied down the runway, his plane stopped in front of the small, run-down shack he called home. He had seen an awful lot of it lately...a little too much of it for his tastes. He leapt out of the cockpit and yanked his gloves off, stuffing them into his pocket.
One glance into his small refrigerator told him that it was time to go grocery shopping again. He hated grocery shopping.
His stomach grumbled loudly, reminding him that he had forgotten to grab some breakfast before his delivery.
He sat on his couch for a minute, and remembered his last conversation with Joe.
"I guess it's time to go to Jun's..." He said to himself.
Jun stacked the dishes in the cabinet and then turned to face her little brother. She looked tired, and Jinpei knew that she had been feeling depressed since the war ended.
"You ok, Sis?" He walked toward her, and placed a hand on her shoulder.
Jun leaned over the bar and propped her face in her hands. "Yeah, Jinpei. Just bored I guess. This place has been awfully quiet lately."
"Yeah, we haven't seen big Bro or Ryu in a while, either. You're missing him, aren't you?"
"Aw, come on, Sis...you know who I mean..." Jinpei grinned. He really wanted to tease his sister, but he refrained. He could see it wasn't the time for it.
At that moment, the door opened, and Ryu came bounding in with outstretched arms. "Junie! Jinpei! How are my best buddies today?"
"Can it, Ryu. You're not getting any freebies." Jinpei scowled.
"Whoa, looks like somebody woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Huh, Junie?" Ryu chuckled and looked at the Swan. She didn't respond. "Junie? Something wrong?"
"Jun's just missing big Bro, that's all. He hasn't been around at all lately." Jinpei replied.
Jun turned her back to her two friends. Her shoulders shook as she tried to hold back the tears. "I'm ok, Jinpei. It's not that...Ken can do whatever he wants to do. Just because Joe thought we should be together doesn't mean that things will work out..."
"Aw, Jun..." Ryu sat down at the bar and sighed. "I'm sure he's just been busy. It's not like he's trying to avoid you, or anything."
"It's ok, Ryu. Really." Jun whimpered. "I just need to do something different with my life. I'm just tired of this place...doing the same thing day after day..."
"You wouldn't sell the Snack, would ya, Sis?"
Jun cleared her throat. "I just need some fresh air. Jinpei, watch the bar for me, I have to go grocery shopping." Jun called out to her brother as she ran out the door.
"Poor Jun. I had no idea she was feeling this bad. I woulda come around here more often..." Ryu opened a menu.
Jinpei walked around the bar and sat down next to Ryu. "Yeah, she's been real bad lately...sleeping a lot...not eating much..."
"You think she's depressed, Jinpei?"
"Yeah. She misses Joe. We all do. But with Big Bro ignoring her it has made her even worse. And when he does come in, he actually pays his tab!"
"What?" Ryu peered at Jinpei over his menu. "But I thought it would make her happy for him to pay up."
"Me, too." Jinpei shrugged. "But she told me that it made her feel funny to take money from him...like he was a stranger, or something."
"Yeah, I can understand that. Wish she felt funny taking my money." Ryu grumbled.
Jun slid onto her bike and revved up the engine. Her thoughts drifted as she pulled out of the garage and sped down the road.
It was during the times she was alone that she, too, liked to think that she could still talk to Joe.
Oh Joe, I wish you were here. I miss you so much. It feels so strange to be going about our lives without you. Believe it or not, I actually miss being on duty.
We've all grown apart since the war ended. Ryu stays gone for days, and Ken has been missing for over a week. They both pop in every now and then, but I miss having them around. I wish we could be a family again, like we were when you were here.
I know your dying wish was for us to become closer, but we've only grown apart these last six months. Ken spends almost all of his time at the airfield, and when he does come by, it's just to eat and run.
And believe it or not, he actually pays his bill. You'd think that would make me happy, but I miss teasing him about his bill. I've even offered him free lunches, but he refuses. It's like we don't even know each other anymore...
Ryu picked up a napkin and wiped his mouth. "Great sandwich, Jin. You always put on just the right amount of mustard."
"Thanks big guy." Jinpei replied. His eyes never left the TV over the bar. A commercial about an online dating service came on.
"You know, we could do that." Ryu smiled.
"What are you talking about?"
"For Jun." Ryu continued. "We could get Ken to give her some attention... spend some time with her."
"And I suppose you have a plan for this?"
"Bear with me, kid, I'll think of something..."
The Swan pulled up in the grocery store parking lot and stepped off of her bike.
The automatic doors hissed as they opened to let her in.
Her eyes were immediately drawn to a cork board that was hanging on the wall in the entrance. A large advertisement was tacked there, offering a new class at the local college. "Start a new career in Fashion Design at Utoland University!" it read.
Jun scanned the rest of the article. "Limited space available: Fashion Design and Merchandising with instructor Nina Caledon."
"Caledon!" Jun gasped. "I don't believe it! A class taught by Caledon, herself!"
Jun tore off one of the information tabs from the bottom of the ad, and continued on with her errand.
Ken walked up to the door of Jun's place and timidly opened the door. He wasn't sure how he'd be greeted after being gone for so long without contacting anyone. He hoped Jun wasn't in one of her moods. Would she throw something at him, or hug him?
As he walked in, he saw Jinpei grumbling behind the counter.
"Bro?" The Swallow blinked. "It's about time you showed up around here. Sis was getting worried."
"Worried? There's nothing to worry about, Jinpei. I've just been busy." He took a place on the stool next to Ryu. "Hey, Ryu. Haven't seen you in a while."
Ryu made a motion like he was casting a fishing rod and reeling a fish in. "I've been busy, too." He chuckled softly.
Ken's blue eyes quickly scanned the room. "So where's Jun?"
Jinpei plopped a wet rag onto the counter in front of the Eagle. "So now you want to know where Sis is, huh? Well, for your information, it's a secret." The Swallow crossed his arms in front of his bony chest. He couldn't help but to feel a little angry at the Eagle for making his sister so unhappy.
"A secret, huh? You make it sound like she's out on a date, or something..." Ken chuckled, as though it was a ridiculous notion. His face grew pale and he felt a lump in his chest, a twinge of jealousy at the thought of his girl going out with someone else.
Never in a million years did he think that she would entertain another suitor. As far as he knew, she only had eyes for him. And although he knew of the Swan's feelings for him, but he hadn't gotten up the nerve to address those feelings since the war had ended.
"You said it, not me..." Jinpei whistled innocently as he turned away and watched the TV once more.
Jun returned to the snack with a bag of groceries in hand. Ken and Ryu turned and spoke to her.
They said in unison.
Jun stopped in her tracks and smirked. "Well, look who the cat drug in."
Ken ran his fingers through his hair nervously. "Well, I needed something to eat, and, I hadn't been here in a while, so..."
"So you thought you'd finally grace us with your presence. Thanks alot, Ken." Jun's voice carried a hint of sarcasm.
She turned to Jinpei." Guess what, Jin! Utoland U has a new class in fashion design, and it is being taught by...Caledon! Can you believe it?"
"Uh, no...I can't believe it...that's... uh... great, Sis..." Jinpei scratched his head. His sister's mood had taken a turn for the better since she had gone to the store.
Jun laid down the groceries and headed for the upstairs apartment. "Put those away for me, ok, Jinpei? I need to call the University before the class gets filled up."
The Swan bolted upstairs, leaving her three teammates staring at each other in confusion.
"I thought you said she was on a date, Jinpei..." Ken grumbled.
"You said it, not me..." Jinpei giggled. " You should have seen your face when you thought she was on a date. Were you jealous, Big Bro?"
"Jealous? Me?" Ken pointed at his chest. "No way. Jun can do whatever she wants to do. I won't get in her way."
"Come on, Ken. Admit it. You think she should spend the rest of her life pining for you." Ryu teased. "And you are too scared to talk with her about it."
"I'm not scared." Ken growled, as he took a sip from his glass of water.
"You are scared." Jinpei joined in. " You're scared of Jun! You wouldn't ask her out on a date for anything, would you? It's because you're chicken!"
Ken's face darkened. "Shut up, Jinpei! I'm not a chicken!"
"Bok, bok, bok, bok!" Jinpei jumped up on the counter and tucked his arms in like chicken wings. He began waving them wildly and strutting across the counter.
Ryu howled with laughter.
"Then why don't you ask her out on a date, Ken?" Ryu asked, as he tried to stop laughing at Jinpei's antics.
"I can't right now...I just need some time..."
"What are you waiting for?" Jinpei jumped off of the bar and walked over to Ken.
Ken stared into his glass. "I dunno. It's just hard to think about changing the way things are. What if it doesn't work out? It would really mess things up for all of us."
"It won't mess things up, Bro. We'll always be friends, no matter what happens. Besides, it would make Sis awfully happy."
"Well, how about we make a bet?" Ryu winked at Jinpei. "You ask Jun out for tomorrow night, and if you don't do it..."
"...You've got to take that fashion class with Sis!!" Jinpei interrupted.
Ryu grinned. "Good one, Jinpei."
"And what do I get if I do ask her out?" Ken's eyes widened.
"Free meals for a year!" Jinpei promised.
"Alright, you guys have got yourself a deal. I'll ask her out tonight, after dinner."