(Note: All the person names are taken from the Battle of the Planets version of Gatchaman, but I love the look of the OAV 94 - so descriptions are from there. I have made several *major* assumptions based on BOTP.)
Gillian heard again the Commodore's throaty voice as she fought the crowd gathered to watch the race. "The assassin, known as Zindarra, is after my kid brother. I don't know when or how, but I do know that sometime in the next seven days there will be an attempt on his life. He'll be in today's race, car number two. You can hook up with him there. Make sure Zindarra doesn't succeed, Gillian."
Knowing the egos involved with the male drivers, she had dressed in worn jeans and a midriff baring t-shirt. With her lean athletic build, white-blonde curls and ice-blue eyes, she knew that she would attract the eye of any male about. At the gate, she had clipped her forged press pass to a belt loop -- the guard hadn't look at it too hard. She had crammed a micro-recorder into her back pocket to finish the illusion.
Ignoring the wolf whistles directed at her, she followed the roar of the engines as last minute adjustments were made. When she was close enough to get her first whiff of high performance fuel and hot rubber, she thought. "Okay, Commodore, what does your kid brother look like?" Gillian made no assumptions about what this brother would look like as the Commodore herself had pale skin with long, auburn waves and piercing green eyes and the Commodore's sister, Gypsy, was graced with blue-black straight hair, bottomless black eyes, and a gentle oriental cast to her features.
Taking up a position above the pits, she scanned the crowd. She followed the progress of a slender, young man with a cap of straight blue-black hair to the pits with two steaming cups of coffee. He approached the number two car and offered the second cup to the auburn-haired young man who appeared from under the hood. Blinking she studied both young men and after a moment, snarled inwardly, "Two kid brothers, Commodore? What if they are after the other one?"
From her perch, she discreetly studied the two brothers as the final preparations for the race continued. The black-haired one retired to the pit when the race car pulled onto the track.
"Please, don't have changed your m.o. Zin. Keep it personal," Gillian muttered under the blast of engines as the green flag dropped. With a sense of recognition, she watched the two car weave to the front. There it remained until the end of the race by virtue of speed and sheer guts as the driver jockeyed ahead of anyone who tried to pass him.
After the crowd began to leave in earnest, she made her way to the pit area. She slipped closer to the gaggle of giggling race fans clustering around the winning driver. Wrinkling her nose, she settled back to wait for them to clear out.
"Why do they want to sleep with him just because he wins?" A soft, male voice muttered.
Turning, Gillian met the puzzled gaze of the young man with the blue-black hair. Noting the slight oriental cast to his features, she responded. "The danger. The power."
"I didn't mean for anyone to hear that," he said blushing.
Gillian shrugged, "It's a logical question." She glanced at the women fawning about. "It's a safe way for them to brush with danger." She met the dark eyes levelly. "Most people live their lives within a narrow corridor of safety and danger. Some find the drive to work enough to boost their adrenaline, others ride thrill rides at carnivals. Everyone needs an occasional adrenaline rush to remind them they are alive - it's just a matter of what their tolerance level is and what gives them the rush." Leaning her hip against the workbench, she said. "For this bunch, coming here, watching the races -- even the crashes -- gives them a rush. Then they come down here and brush that danger with their hands. Finally they will go back to their homes and quiet lives, happy to be there. But happy also to have tasted this even vicariously."
Calm, black eyes studied her. "Is that why you are here?"
"No," Gillian reacted to the steady command in his gaze. "I'm interested in racing and he's good. I'd like the chance to talk to him and maybe get an interview." She felt herself being measured carefully.
"Stick around, you can try that line on Jason when this bunch leaves."
"My name is Gillian. My friends call me Gil." She stuck her hand out.
Automatically shaking her hand, he answered, "Mark."
"Have you known Jason long?"
Ignoring his defensive posture, she smiled and asked. "Long enough to know if Jason's always had this need for speed?"
"That and a temper," Mark said with a tight smile.
Jason sent the last of the women with their grasping hands away and spotted Mark and a blond by the workbench. Glaring at the woman, he walked up to them and said. "If you think you can get to me through my friends, you're in for a big surprise."
"I came to ask you if you would let me interview you for a story I'm writing," Gillian met Jason's temper.
Jason looked her up and down, taking in the bare skin and tight jeans. "Right," he muttered, then stomped into the locker room to shower and change.
"He definitely has a temper," Gillian said with a sigh.
"Mark!" A kid on a hover board slid into the pit area, following in his wake were a young woman and a heavily built man. "Did you see how Jason wouldn't let anyone pass him?" The kid jumped into the race car and began making engines noises.
"Keyop, Jason will kill you if he catches you in his car," the brown haired woman said.
"Yah! But he's got to catch me first!" Keyop remained in the car happily running the race again in his imagination.
Princess stepped up to Gillian and stared. Mark flushed and said. "Princess, Tiny - this is Gillian. She wanted interview Jason." Mark made introductions. He nodded to the car, adding, "That's Keyop."
Gillian smiled as she exchanged pleasantries with the young people even as her mind gathered the implications. "Aw, hell, Commodore!! Gatchaman!!" Like most of the Red Raiders, she had had occasion to see the Ninja Science Team in action. Now seeing them together in civilian clothes, she wondered how Zoltar had never found them out before.
Jason came out of the locker room in black leather pants and jacket. He immediately snarled, "Keyop, don't get Skittles in my car!" Seeing Gillian still about, he glared at her darkly.
Meeting his glare, she thought, "Protect the Condor from an assassin?!?! Shesh! That's like trying to protect a tornado from a thunderstorm!" But Gillian was loyal to the Commodore. "Yes, I'm still here. I was wondering if you would mind sharing a few racing stories with me." She smiled sweetly, "I'm a freelance writer. I'll buy dinner for you and your friends here."
The offer of dinner caught Tiny's and Keyop's attention, just as she had hoped. Princess was inclined to agree now that Gillian had directed her attentions away from Mark.
Before the group could begin to debate a place to eat, a willowy, raven-haired woman ran up to Jason and threw her arms around his neck. "You are so wonderful!" Her voice was low and throaty as she gazed at him with admiration.
Gillian stiffened as the Spectran assassin cuddled up to her victim. Some part of her mind noted that Zin's voice was much like the Commodore's. Duplicate except that Zin's sounded like something that slithered through the lowest slime, while the Commodore's carried a deep power that could calm an ex-assassin-cum-Red Raider when her plane was making a crippled landing. Knowing Zindarra's style, she forced herself to remain calm as the woman drew Jason's lips to hers and kissed him deeply.
"The kiss of death, Gil," Zin had murmured years gone by, "Why should I not have the pleasure of them before I kill them? That and the pleasure of watching them die by my hand alone." This was the first move in her game, so Gillian noted Zin's latest look and was grateful that she had changed enough she was no longer recognizable to the other.
"I will see you again, very soon," Zindarra purred as she stroked Jason's cheek.
In the silence left by the black-haired woman's departure, Tiny muttered. "Are you finished flirting with your fans, Jason? I'm hungry."
"You're always hungry," Jason replied. He glared at the watching Gillian, "So why are you still here?"
"The offer of a meal still stands," Gillian said, meeting his glare. She hid her mirth at his discomfort of being overruled by the other members of Gatchaman.
Soon the group was settled at a table in a dark corner of a trendy sports bar near the racetrack. Jason was still inclined to glare, but he was wolfing down the hamburger with purpose. Over soft drinks, the others coaxed Jason into talking about some of his racing adventures.
After the fifth pointed throat clearing by the waitress, Gillian said. "I think these folks would like to go home." She laid the money for the bill, plus a generous tip on the table. "I really appreciate the stories Jason." She stood and offered her hand to him.
Jason stood and shook her hand. "Sorry about the reception earlier," he muttered.
As the others stood as a group, Gillian replied. "I don't blame you with all the race groupies running around." She smiled and winked. "You're young, good-looking, and a fine driver -- they must think you're easy."
Jason stared for a moment then smiled slowly with a quiet blush. "Maybe they do," he nodded.
Outside when she turned to head in the opposite direction of the track, Jason asked. "Where are you going?"
"Bus," Gillian grinned, "My car's in the shop."
"I'll give you a ride home," he offered.
"Sure it's not a problem? I don't want any more misunderstandings."
"Come on," Jason turned to walk to the track.
Gillian joined the group as they moved through the darkened streets. She noticed that unlike most young people, they didn't waste energy on idle chatter or shuffling. Without thought they slipped silently from shadow to shadow. Keyop was even quiet in the darkness. "How long did it take for the training to become instinctive?" She thought as they neared the brighter lights of the parking lot.
As Jason guided the car out onto the street and in the direction of her apartment, Gillian leaned her head back to catch a glimpse of the stars fighting to be seen through the light pollution of the city.
"What are you thinking?" Jason asked, his voice pitched low to be heard over the sound of the engine.
Allowing herself to enjoy the wind rushing through her curls, Gillian said softly. "What it was like to look at the stars with awe, not fear."
Jason made a sharp right.
"My apartment is back there," Gillian said, watching the brooding Jason from the corner of her eye.
He turned off the road and headed for the edge of a cliff. At the last moment, he stopped. Turning off the engine and lights, he waited.
Gillian listened to the last echoes of the rocks dislodged by their sudden stop settle at the bottom of the cliff. As the crickets began to sing again, she turned in her sit to look at Jason.
Gesturing for her to be quiet, Jason pointed up at the sky.
Feeling her breath catch in the back of her throat, Gillian stared at the scattered bright jewels overhead.
Jason's voice held a gentle tone when he spoke. "I come up here sometimes and just sit here watching the stars."
"Thank you," Gillian whispered, not taking her eyes off the sky.
"Come here," Jason climbed onto the hood of the car and gestured for her to join him. They stretched out on their backs, not touching, just being near to another warm body in the night beneath the stately, eternal dance above.
False dawn was hinting at the horizon, when Gillian reached towards Jason only to find him reaching for her. Their eyes met and no words were exchanged as their bodies joined in an intimate dance.
In the dawn, Jason drove to his campsite, guided her into his trailer, and showed her the bedroom.
Gillian blinked awake without moving. She collected her thoughts and realized the quiet breathing beside her was Jason. Slipping from beneath his arm, she found the bathroom and showered quickly mindful that a trailer of this size would not have a large water heater. She found a large white shirt and pulled it on heading for the kitchen.
"Coffee," she thought, "tell me he's got coffee." From coffee, she began cooking breakfast. She was wondering what to do with the extra food she had made when a muffled thud sounded from the bedroom.
Jason stumbled out the door with a disgruntled look on his face.
"I have coffee and breakfast ready." Gillian held out a cup with steam curling over it.
"I was just beeped, I've got to get into the city in about thirty minutes." Jason mumbled grabbing the cup.
"So shower, I'll dress. We'll eat and be out of here in ten minutes if you hurry." Gillian headed for the bedroom and her clothes. "I left you hot water for a shower," she said as she brushed by him.
Jason pulled in front of a bus stop and said. "I hate to leave you like this..."
Gillian shoved her address in the pocket of his jacket. "Call me."
He dropped a kiss on her lips before she climbed out of the car. Once she was on the sidewalk, he pulled into traffic.
Watching the car weave into traffic, Gillian sighed and headed for the bus stop. "How am I going to tell the Commodore I seduced her kid brother?" She thought. "Hell with that... How am I going to tell the Commodore I think I'm in love with her kid brother?"
The pounding on the door brought Gillian out of a sound sleep with her gun in her hand. Silently in the dark, she made her way to the door. Peering out the peephole, she got a fish-eye view Jason in the hallway preparing to pound on her door again. She shoved the gun into the draw on the table by the door as she juggled the locks open and the light switch on with her free hand. Jerking the door open, she grabbed Jason's hand, saying. "What are you doing here at three in the morning?"
"You gave me your address," Jason muttered waving the paper under her nose. He staggered into the apartment.
"Drunk?" Gillian thought, "No, I don't smell any liquor." She spotted the dark circles under his eyes. "Dead tired," she thought.
Locking the door, Gillian grabbed Jason's leather coat and kept him from collapsing on her couch. "Why don't you get a hot shower?"
"Shower?" Jason turned and staggered into her arms.
"Shower," she helped him into the shower and left him standing under the hot, pounding water. She had seen the bruises on his ribs and called the all night drugstore for a quick delivery of Tiger Balm. She pulled the sheets off the bed. Going into the bathroom, she turned the water off and pulled Jason out of the shower before he drown. With a large fluffy towel, she dried him off. Tossing the towel over the shower curtain rod, she pulled him into the bedroom. "Bed, Jason," she coaxed, "Go to bed."
As he fell to the bed, Jason pulled her down across his body. He ran his lips along her neck. "You want my body, admit it," he whispered at her collarbone.
"No, Jason," Gillian wriggled out of his hands. "You are so tired you'd never be able to finish what you start and I won't let you leave me hanging." She smiled as his protests slid into sleep.
Rushing to the door, Gillian jerked it open before the deliveryman could knock on the door and disturb Jason. After sending him away, she relocked the door and turned the lights out behind her as she headed back into her bedroom. For a few minutes, she stood in the doorway watching Jason sleeping facedown on the mattress. She opened the Tiger Balm and crossed to the bed. Working with her palms and fingertips, she rubbed the spicy ointment into Jason's back and shoulders. With a bit of urging, he rolled over and she rubbed a thick coating into the bruises on his rib cage. She covered him with the sheet then went to the bathroom to wash the ointment off her hands. Returning to the bed, she slipped in beside him and drifted off listening to his quiet breathing.
Gillian wasn't sure what woke her. The sun was late afternoon bright in the bedroom, but there was nothing amiss. She reached out and touched Jason's taut back. Raising herself onto an elbow, she looked over to find him curled into a fetal position, his face buried in his pillow. Through her fingers, she felt the racking tremors as he shuddered in the throes of a nightmare.
"Jason," her voice was soft. She rubbed his shoulders and neck. "You're safe. It's okay."
As he began to uncurl, Gillian heard him murmur "mama, dada" in a broken sob. She pried the pillow from his hands. Pulling him into her arms, she pillowed his face against her shoulder, making soothing nonsense noises. Slowly he relaxed, wrapped his arms around her and with a sigh fell into a deep sleep.
The sound of running water awoke Gillian. She stretched enjoying the feel of the sheets against her bare skin. With a cheshire smile, she tried to remember how many times in the night Jason had roused her with his insistent demands. She was drifting in a very pleasant memory when the shower stopped and a few moments later, Jason stepped out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his narrow waist and rubbing his hair with another one.
"I don't know why I came here," Jason said hesitantly.
Gillian smiled, "I'm glad you did." She shuddered, "As tired as you were, you would have never made it to your trailer awake." Meeting his gaze, she thought, "Shy? Not last night! Oh, dear Jason, you don't know what to do the morning after." Slipping out of the bed, she said, "Why don't I take a shower and then we'll go out for breakfast? I don't know about you, but I am starved."
"Okay, it's my turn to buy," Jason smiled a bit.
While they ate, a street fair opened outside. Gillian took Jason's hand, saying, "Let's go look."
"I'm not really into that stuff," he held back.
"Have you ever been to one?" Gillian challenged. When he shook his head, she said, "Then how do you know?"
Music swelled about them. The crowd swirled and eddied in front of various booths. The scent of dozens of ethnic foods vied for attention.
A barker yelled, "Hit the target and win a prize!"
Jason paused in front of the shooting gallery. Catching Gillian's hand before she could drift with the crowd, he pulled her toward the smiling carnie.
"Jason," Gillian whispered, "These things are rigged."
"Watch." Jason guided her to the side of the booth. He examined the gun, noting that the sight was a bit off. Then proceeded to compensate for that while he shot. After he was done, he picked a golden maned lion and offered it to her.
Gillian accepted the lion with a smile and hugged Jason with her free arm. "Thank you, Jason," she said as they wandered back into the crowd.
Shrugging he said, "It kinda reminds me of you -- all golden."
"Come on, let's try the bumper cars." Gillian tugged at him, grinning. "You get to hit the other drivers."
After the bumper cars, there was the mirror maze, the ferris wheel, and the merry-go-round. Then they split a sticky, sweet pile of cotton candy as they sat at a picnic table watching the people go by. Wandering to the craft fair section, they spent time looking at the varied work being offered for sale.
At one booth, a woman was shaping copper wire into jewelry. Brushing her fingers over the copper, Gillian said. "This reminds me of your hair in the sunlight. Bright and shiny."
Jason picked up a heavy bracelet.
"That's a good choice for you," the woman said with a smile.
"I need you to make it small enough for her wrist," Jason nodded to Gillian.
"You don't have to buy it!" Gillian protested.
"Hush," Jason said grinning. "I'm feeling generous."
"The chain is too heavy for such a small wrist," the woman reached for a delicate bracelet.
"No, this one," Jason insisted. He draped an arm over Gillian's shoulders and said, "She's stronger than she looks."
As they left the booth with the bracelet gracing Gillian's wrist, she said. "Thank you, Jason." She smiled. "You don't have to buy me anything, I enjoy just being with you."
Jason shrugged, "I like to."
The setting sun lit another booth in all colors of the rainbow. The pair looked at the suncatchers, jewelry, lampshades, and other assorted items made from tiny glass beads - according to the small sign on the wall.
A dreamcatcher strung with gold, red, and yellow beads caught Gillian's eye, she opened the tag and read: "Hang the dreamcatcher in the room where you sleep. Bad dreams will be caught in the web and the sunlight will wither them away. Good dreams will pass through the web and bring happiness to the dreamer."
"Right," Jason snorted, "Nothing can stop bad dreams."
Gillian pocketed one of the business cards on the table as they left the bright booth behind.
They ate hot dogs and funnel cakes -- sampled caramel popcorn made in a kettle over an open fire, homebaked cookies, and hand-churned ice cream. They shared a side of barbequed ribs that Jason swore would fill Tiny up. Finally they wandered away from the crowds and back to Gillian's apartment.
Taking the cushions off the couch, they settled on the floor to watch a movie. Gillian picked an old romantic comedy, that Jason swore he'd hate but if she wanted to watch it, he would too. When the heroine turned into the beautiful swan, he stretched out with his head in Gillian's lap. When the hero tried to send the heroine away "because it was for her own good", he snorted and muttered "stupid". Finally when the hero showed up on the heroine's doorstep and admitted "I need you", he whispered "So do I".
Gillian gently kissed the tears off his cheeks and thought, "Am I the only one who sees this? Do you never relax with your friends? Thank you for trusting me so much. You'll never believe me, but I will never betray this trust."
They didn't make love, but held each other into the night.
Insistent beeping woke both of them at the darkest hour, Gillian said nothing just kissed him and opened the door. She saw the question in Jason's eyes, but the beeping of his com-link continued unabated. After locking the door behind him, she leaned against it knowing the next time he came, there would be questions she could not answer.
The mission had been a short, violent one. Not enough to take the questions from Jason's mind. After the debriefing as the group seperated outside the building, Mark grabbed his arm and said. "What's with you?"
"Nothing," Jason pulled away and stalked towards the parking lot, dawn just peeking over the buildings.
"Jason, you've been distracted all night," Mark persisted in following. "Is it that reporter? Has she been following you?"
"Leave Gillian out of this!" Jason turned on Mark.
"Let's get some coffee," Mark suggested.
Over mugs of steaming coffee, Jason told Mark that he had been seeing Gillian since that day at the race. At last he said, "I am happy with her. She makes me forget about Zoltar and Spectra."
"So what's wrong? She sounds perfect."
"She heard my com-link sound alert. She never asked a question, never said a word -- just let me leave."
"Did you tell her...?"
"Absolutely not," Jason made a slashing motion in the air. "It was as if she knew. Expected me to be on call. That's not normal for a racer."
"There you are," a throaty voice intruded.
Jason looked up to see the raven-haired woman from the track approaching the table.
"And with your friend too, I see." The woman took an empty chair at the table. "I thought afterwards I was terribly forward. My name is Zindarra Weathers. My friends call me Zin." She smiled brightly.
"This was a private conversation," Jason growled. He watched the woman's face fall.
"I'm sorry," she stood. "I was just going to tell you about a private race this afternoon. Only the very best are going to be there. But if you aren't interested..." She turned to leave.
"Private race? I've never heard of that."
"A very wealthy man wants to have a race and is offering a million credits to the winner. He doesn't want to deal with the crowds at public races." Zindarra said, "I apologize again for interrupting."
"Where and when?" Jason snapped.
Zindarra pulled an envelope from her purse and handed it to him, saying. "The instructions are here."
After Zindarra had left, Mark said, "It could be a trap."
"So? I'm in the mood for a fight," Jason's grin contained no humor.
Jason met Mark's steady look and nodded. "Deal."
"A private race? What do you mean Jason?" Gillian held the receiver from her ear and finally hung it up. "Dammit! Pig-headed! Stubborn! Idiot!" As she muttered she went into the bedroom and pulled a compact computer from beneath the bed. Turning it on, she activated the bug she had planted on Jason's car earlier. "Walk right into a Spectran trap, why don't you?!"
Jason woke slowly, his nerves tingling from the jolt that had knocked him out. Tensing his muscles, he found a steel bar locking his elbows behind his back with his wrists tied together then roped to his ankles.
"I know you are both awake."
Opening his eyes, Jason glared up at Zindarra standing before them. He glanced at Mark, trussed up similiarly and realized that they both had been de-transmuted.
"Looking for these?" Zindarra held their com-links up, then tossed them into the nearby grass. "Zoltar paid me alot of gold," she purred, "to bring him the heart of the Condor. I wonder what he will give me for the heart of the Eagle as well." A dagger appeared in her hand as she stepped nearer to examine her captives. With the point of her dagger, she forced Mark to lift his chin at an acute angle. "Pretty," she murmured.
Turning to Jason, she trailed the edge of the dagger along his cheek. "I was going to bed you before I killed you, but you didn't cooperate."
Jason felt the cold edge of the dagger slide along his neck to his collarbone. Hot blood flowing over his skin was the first hint she had cut him, only then did the pain start.
"Dear me, I seem to have found a vein there." Zindarra stepped back hastely until his blood wouldn't splash on her.
"Zin!" A yell sounded across the clearing.
Zindarra whirled, snarling. "Who interfers with my kill?"
Dressed in a black leather jumpsuit, Gillian stepped out of the shadows.
"If it isn't the soft Gilly," Zindarra sneered. "Where did you hide your delicate belly?"
"None of your business, Zin. You are finished." Gillian sidled in, moving with a dancer's grace.
"That remains to be seen," Zindarra lunged with her dagger forward.
Mark struggled against the ropes tying him as the two woman engaged in their duel. He couldn't look at the ever-widening pool of Jason's blood, fearing it would stop before he could help him. He jerked when Gillian rolled into him in the brief clash he felt a knife pressed into his hands. He saw when she stood that her hand had dipped in Jason's blood. Almost in slow motion, he watched Gillian charge Zindarra and take the dagger in her side. But Gillian didn't stop moving, his voice strangled as she forced Zindarra off the side of the cliff with the momentum of her own body.
Only when Zindarra's scream broke off did Mark shake off the paralysis and slice through the ropes binding him. He freed Jason and used his shirt as a compress before grabbing their com-links. After calling for help, he sat there and held Jason in his arms, whispering. "Stay with me. Don't leave me."
"We searched down river. All we found was the assassin's dagger and a scrap of black leather. The assassin apparently was working alone." Mark said to Jason. "Gillian was wounded when she went over the edge. There's no way she could have survived."
Dressed in his customary black leather pants and jacket, Jason had waited until he was released to ask Mark about Gillian. Now he stood and ignored the nurse saying that he had to use a wheelchair, it was the rules. He heard Mark shout something behind him, but all he wanted was away. His car waited for him in the parking lot and he jumped behind the wheel. Leaving behind the smell of burnt rubber, he tried to out run his memories. But they followed him all the way up to the cliff where he had taken Gillian that first night.
He thought he caught the faint scent of the lemon shampoo she used on her hair. He could hear the whisper of her breath beside him. The breathless catch of breath when he touched her. The tenderness of her kiss as she took away his tears. Only this time, the scent drifting by was that of pine carried on the sighing breeze, somewhere in the distance water rippled the air, and Gillian was not there to kiss away his tears.
Finally his tears ended because he had no more strength left to cry. Wearily he started his car and drove to his trailer. Unheeding he threw himself across his bed and sought a dreamless sleep. But he did dream of lemons and sunshine and laughter and kisses. When he awoke, the sun danced through the windows and glinted off a small hoop filled with a webwork of red, gold, and yellow beads. Trembling he touched the dreamcatcher. A slender envelope propped by his pillow.
"The dreamcatcher will only work if you believe in it.
Dream of a better time when we will be together. Dream of a time when the skies are seen with awe once again. Dream of me, as I shall dream of you, my love.
With all my heart,
Jason rushed to the door and opened it to the gentle breeze. Somehow knowing she would hear, he called out, "I do and I will, lovely Gillian."