1. Jun by TransmuteJun
2. Joe by TransmuteJun
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.
A fabulous illustration from Springie.
Chaper 2: Joe
Joe turned around, only to see Jun behind him. When had she come in? He didn’t recall hearing her enter. Of course, he had been so lost in his own thoughts, he probably wouldn’t have heard an elephant stomping into the room. But now she was whispering with Ken, her bent head close to the Eagle’s as they spoke.
Why did those two have to look so right together? How could two people be so perfect for each other, and yet still never get together?
And how could be he idiotic enough to nearly get himself involved in that mess?
He groaned, recalling his huge blunder of the night before. Jun looked up, catching his gaze, but then quickly looked away, her face flushing beneath her visor. He didn’t blame her. He had behaved incredibly stupidly.
The night had been typical. He had been physically exhausted, downing a couple of beers at the J, rolling his eyes at Ken’s clueless behavior where Jun was concerned, carefully making eye contact with the customers whose gazes had lingered too long on Jun’s feminine curves as she had delivered their drinks. Those men had made a hasty exit after that, knowing that the proprietress was well protected from their unwanted advances.
Jun had clearly been exhausted. Of all of them, she was the only one who had been continuing to work, despite the horrific day they had all just endured. Jinpei had walked by the booth just in time to hear Joe muttering to himself.
“She needs to be kissed.”
“Yeah, but what can I do about it?” Jinpei rolled his eyes, answering the comment that Joe hadn’t intended for the boy to overhear. “Aniki is clueless! I can’t believe he hasn’t figured it out yet. Honestly, Joe, I don’t think he’s ever going to notice Onechan.”
The Condor had turned his gaze on Jinpei, who had been oblivious himself. The Swallow’s attention had been directed at the Eagle, who had been slumped over the end of the bar, keeping his eyes down and on his drink.
“You’re right.” Joe had blurted out. “Ken’s an idiot.”
Now where had that come from? But when Joe had thought about it, he had realized that this notion had been in his head for some time, along with something else….
The realization that if he were the object of Jun’s affection, he’d be doing something about it.
Finally Joe had understood why he had a love/hate relationship with the Snack J. It was a place where he could quietly observe Jun, hour after hour, without her truly realizing what he was doing. Yet, at the same time, what he observed was the Swan mooning about after the Eagle.
Damn, his life sucked.
“Tell you what,” Jinpei had laughed, tearing Joe away from his morose thoughts, “if you kiss her, I’ll spot you a beer.”
The Condor had snorted in disgust, the idiocy of that particular idea not requiring any further response. Jinpei had shrugged, moving off, and then disappearing upstairs with Ryu when he had arrived a few minutes later.
Joe had spent the remainder of the night watching Jun, noting her graceful movements, her swaying hips, her silken hair flowing over her shoulders…
He had been smacking himself mentally upside the head when he had realized that Jun was beginning to close up. He had sighed, getting up and helping her clean the bar, while Ken had done the same. Jun had gone into the kitchen with a tray of glasses, and Ken had disappeared out the front door without a word. Joe had noted earlier that the Eagle hadn’t paid for either of the two drinks he’d had that night, and now he hadn’t left any cash behind, either.
Joe had snorted, turning the sign in the front window around to read ‘Closed’, and shutting off the lights. He had been turning around to leave, when a crazy idea had gone through his head.
What if he stayed, and talked to Jun? Just… talked…?
Clearly, he had had too many drinks if he was seriously considering that particular suggestion, but just as he had been debating the wisdom of this idea, Jun had re-entered the bar.
He had been able to see her body silhouetted against the dim moonlight coming in from the window. He had tried to speak, but his words had stuck in his throat. Instead, he had simply approached her, moving closer and closer, sensing, rather than seeing, her slim form there in the darkness. And suddenly, he had let his primal instincts take over, reaching forward and claiming what he wanted for his own.
For a brief instant, he had felt her responding, her body relaxing, her lips yielding before his tender assault… and then that damned Jinpei had turned on the light!
In his embarrassment at having been caught, he had seized upon the flimsy excuse Jinpei had offered, only realizing his mistake when he had seen the hurt that had flooded Jun’s eyes at his careless words. She had run off, and he had ached to go after her, but the Swallow’s presence had been a grim reminder that it wasn’t his place to do something like that.
It was Ken’s. She belonged with Ken.
That morning he had still been berating himself when he had arrived at the training session, lost in recollections of his own idiocy. And now, to see Ken and Jun so cozy together was killing him.
He’d deal with it. He always had.
But this was different. Now that he had actually acknowledged these feelings to himself, Joe found it harder to ignore them. But he did so by focusing on the training session, letting his physical exertion take over his consciousness.
Condor Joe was a loner. That was the way it was meant to be.
But that night, Joe found himself back at the Snack J. Masochistic idiot that he was, he saw the events of the previous evening replayed before his eyes, only this time, Jun kept sending dark looks his way, and it was clear that she had not forgotten his misbehavior of the night before.
He had to do something about this. Even if he couldn’t… well, he didn’t want Jun to be angry with him. He had to apologize, at least.
But for the first time in his life, Joe Asakura found his courage lacking. He downed far more beers than usual, in a vain attempt to find some liquid courage.
It didn’t work. He remained glued to his seat the entire night, cursing himself with every frown and scowl Jun sent his way. It wasn’t until she began closing up that he realized that he had to do something, now.
As usual, Jinpei and Ken got out of there as fast as they could, while Ryu headed for home. Joe continued to clean up the bar as he had the previous evening, yet this time he didn’t turn out the lights, but merely waited patiently for Jun to come out of the kitchen.
But when she did, the Swan greeted him with a snarl.
“What are you still doing here?” she growled. “You’re not going to earn any ‘free beers’ tonight, Joe.”
He felt as if she had slapped him in the face, but Joe guessed that he deserved that. He ignored Jun’s words, forcing himself to speak.
“You’re… what?” Jun had clearly not expected to hear this from him.
“Last night.” Joe mumbled, his words slightly slurred. “When Jinpei turned on the lights… I should have…”
“I shouldn’t have said that.” Joe said slowly, raising his eyes to look at her. “I wasn’t thinking, and I didn’t realize how it would make you feel.”
“So, you’re not apologizing for kissing me, you’re apologizing for getting caught?” she asked incredulously.
“I’m not apologizing for kissing you.” Joe agreed, confused. “I wanted to kiss you.”
“You like beer that much, that you’d actually stoop to something so distasteful?” Jun spat, moving past him as she headed for the stairs.
Joe’s arm shot out, grabbing her at her wrist, holding her firmly to prevent her from leaving.
“It wasn’t distasteful.”
“It wasn’t?” Jun’s eye softened momentarily, before hardening again.
“I never wanted the damn beer.” Joe muttered, wondering how he could be screwing up something as simple as an apology. “I just used that as an excuse.”
“An… excuse?” Now she was looking at him as if he’d lost all of his senses. Joe guessed that he had.
“I should have told Jinpei off, and I didn’t.” Joe finished, releasing Jun’s arm. “So I’m sorry.” The Condor stood up on slightly unsteady feet, moving toward to door. This was one evening he really wanted to come to an end. He’d made an ass of himself for two nights in a row, now.
This time, it was Jun’s hand on his wrist.
“Where are you going?”
What the hell kind of game was she playing? A minute ago she had looked ready to kill him.
“Because…” His foggy brain tried to form a coherent answer. But what came out, while the truth, wasn’t exactly what he had intended to say.
“Because you belong with Ken.”
“And what’s so great about Ken that everyone seems to think that?” she asked angrily, pulling away and slumping down into a booth.
“Uh…” the Condor struggled to come up with an answer as he sat down beside her. “Because… you like him?”
“If that were all it took, I would have been with Ken years ago.” Jun sighed. “I figured out all on my own that it wasn’t ever going to happen. Jinpei still bugs me about it sometimes, but I think even he sees the futility in that idea.”
“So… you don’t like Ken?” Joe cursed himself for having had so many beers. Why couldn’t he think straight?
And then, his head suddenly cleared.
Jun was kissing him!
He wasn’t quite certain how it had happened, but the taste of her was intoxicating, taking over his senses and blotting out his awareness of anything else. Joe pulled her close to him, caressing her with his mouth, trailing his lips along hers, and then across Jun’s cheek and down her neck. She had just slipped her arms around his neck when they heard a familiar, yet unwelcome sound.
“Again?” Jinpei laughed. “That deal was only good one time, Joe. This isn’t…”
The Swallow’s words were choked off as he found his collar held tightly in the Condor’s fist.
“Get out.” Joe hissed, practically throwing the youth away from him. “I don’t want your damn beer.”
Jinpei scrambled back up the stairs, his eyes wide as he rushed to leave the room.
Joe turned back to Jun, only to find her standing behind him, her eyes shining and her mouth smiling.
“Goodnight, Joe.” she whispered, her lips brushing across his cheek.
“Goodnight, Jun.” he replied, grinning from ear to ear.
It had taken him twenty-four hours, but he had finally gotten it right.
Perhaps there was hope for Condor Joe yet.
And here is the wonderful picture of Springie's that inspired the fic!