Chapter 1: Jun
Jun sighed. It had been another one of those nights. She had come home from a mission bone tired and ready to drop, but just in time to open the Snack J for the night. She had been so tempted to just leave it and drop into bed, but she and Jinpei really needed the money. So instead she had opened up, and for what? Nothing but a few lousy customers who had had a couple of drinks. It had hardly even been worth it.
Of course, the guys on the team had shown up as well. Ken had sat at the bar as usual, quiet and soft spoken, not really paying any attention to her except to ask for yet another extension to his tab. Joe had lounged in one of the booths, staying to himself but sharply observing everything that went on. Jinpei had dragged his feet helping her out, mooning around the room with a sullen expression and speaking only with Joe. That was, until Ryu had shown up. Then somehow the Swallow had regained his energy and bounded upstairs to play video games.
The most annoying part was that it hadn’t mattered. Her few customers had left, and no one else had appeared after that. But now, it was closing time. Jun’s eyelids were drooping and she began cleaning up. Ken and Joe silently began helping her out, but she barely had the energy to mumble a thank you.
Jun picked up a tray of glasses and brought them back into the kitchen, straightening up in there for a few moments before going back out into the Snack. To her surprise, the lights were off and the closed sign was displayed in the window.
She realized that the guys must have finished up and gone home. They had to be as exhausted as she was. They had been up for close to twenty-four hours locating Galactor’s latest base, before infiltrating and destroying it. She just hoped that Berg Katse didn’t have anything planned for tomorrow.
She turned, heading toward the stairs and her waiting bed, when a slight movement caught her eye. In the dark, she saw a familiar scruffy head near the window, his long hair falling down to his muscular shoulders.
What was he doing here? And in the dark?
He approached her, barely visible in the dark room, but moving closer and closer until Jun could feel the heat emanating from his body. With a quick, sudden movement, he reached out, pulling her close to him, his mouth descending on hers; a heady mixture of warmth and tenderness, a faint tinge of alcohol on his breath. Jun moaned, her body quickly responding to this unexpected intimacy as his fingers threaded through her hair, pulling her closer.
There was a flash of light, and Jun pulled away, temporarily blinded by the sudden change in illumination. She blinked, and his face came into view.
“I can’t believe it!” Jinpei laughed, standing on the stairs.
Jun’s head swiveled back and forth, her confusion quickly turning to anger. The man in front of her wasn’t Ken.
It was Joe.
“You actually did it!” Jinpei crowed. “I guess I owe you a free beer!”
“Free beer…?” Jun felt a flood of heat and embarrassment rushing to her face.
“Yeah, Joe said you needed to be kissed, and I bet him a beer he wouldn’t.” the Swallow revealed. “I never actually thought he’d do it!”
Jun forced herself to look at Joe, who was standing in front of her with a strange expression in his eyes. He stared at her for a moment before his usual self-deprecating grin took its place on his face.
“Well, I knew there was no way Ken would ever do it.” he laughed harshly.
Jun wished she could just drop into the floor. This was the last thing she needed tonight.
“Just get out!” she cried, rushing up the stairs and pushing past a surprised Swallow.
“Hey, Onechan, what’s the matter?” Jinpei called after her. “Joe doesn’t kiss that badly, does he?”
Jun slammed her bedroom door behind her, tearing off her clothes and rushing into the shower, her brother’s mocking laughter still ringing in her ears.
It was at times like this that she hated her life.
By morning, her embarrassment had turned to anger. It was bad enough that Jinpei had made this silly bet, but her little brother did dumb stuff like that all of the time. It was just the way he was. She had gotten used to it, and in a way, expected it.
But Joe… that was something else altogether. How could he have taken advantage of her like that? The Swan was furious, and she was determined to let the Condor know that she was not someone to be trifled with.
Despite her tiredness, Jun was up with the sun, and as a result was the first one to arrive at the scheduled training session. She sat down in the corner of the gym in full Birdstyle, still steaming at Joe’s nerve and insensitive actions of the night before.
The Swan was still lost in her vengeful thoughts when the perfect opportunity suddenly presented itself. The Condor stalked into the room, clearly moving under some dark cloud of his own. Jun didn’t care. Joe’s distraction was the perfect opportunity for her to strike back. She was determined to show him why he should never mess with her again.
Silently, she crept over to where he was staring morosely at the wall, pulling a mini-bomb out of her belt pouch and clutching it in her left fist, while readying her yo-yo with her right. She would strike at his back, right between the shoulder blades, and make him dance with a well-aimed explosive strike at his feet. It would certainly make her feel better to see Joe scrambling to react to her attack.
He stood there, chewing one of those damned feather shuriken in his mouth, glaring at something only he could see as she moved into position behind him. She hadn’t watched Ken for all of these years without picking up a few of the ‘White Shadow’s’ tricks herself, and she slipped into the background, invisibly approaching her target.
Joe still hadn’t moved, and she raised her right hand, ready to initiate a yo-yo strike…
She looked up, only to see Ken standing in the doorway, shock written all over his face.