“Jun, what’s wrong, where are the others?” he asked.
“The party is canceled,” she sniffled.
“Why, what’s going on?”
“I asked Ken to come a little early, so that I could talk to him before the party, I was hoping to make it a celebration of something else too,” she choked out.
“Ah, you finally told him you’re in love with him?” Ryu asked.
“He didn’t take it as you’d hoped?”
“Not even close, did you know he was gay?” she asked a little venomously.
He opened his mouth, thought about it, and closed it with a sigh, coming to sit beside her at the bar before answering her question.
“Did I know he was gay, no. Did I suspect it, kind of, yeah,” he said quietly.
“Come on Jun, you have to have noticed that he didn’t react at all to any of the women who threw themselves at him, in or out of uniform. Not wanting to get involved with a team mate, that’s him all over, he wouldn’t do anything to upset the team dynamics that badly while our lives depended on one another, but to not even look at any of the women who wanted him, not even he is that oblivious,” he sighed.
“I guess I thought, hoped, he was saving himself for me,” she sobbed.
“Jun…” he sighed.
“I know, I know, him running a mile every time I even tried to broach the subject of a romance between us after the war should have given me a hint,” she said a little bitterly.
“I don’t think he ever wanted to hurt you Jun, even if he can’t love you the way you want, he does love you,” he told her.
“I guess,” she sighed.
“So, that explains where Ken is, but what about Joe and Jinpei?” he asked.
“Joe never showed up, and I kind of chased Jinpei out,” she said a little guiltily.
“He’ll get over it,” Ryu said, wrapping an arm around her shoulders.
She smiled tremulously and leaned into the offered comfort.
Ken decided against heading back to the airfield after the rather unhappy conversation with Jun, figuring that would be the first place one of the others would look for him if they wanted to take him to task for breaking her heart. Jinpei especially wasn’t likely to be too happy with him right now, he had seen him peeking out of the kitchen, grinning like a loon when he had entered the J. He was almost startled to realize where he had ended up as his motorcycle rounded a bend and Joe’s trailer came into view, and for a moment he considered turning around, but this was probably about the last place anyone would look for him right now, especially if Joe was at the J.
Joe wasn’t at the J, his car was parked alongside his trailer, and as Ken eased his bike to a stop, the trailer door opened and Joe leaned against the frame, watching his approach with an unreadable expression.
“You’re not at the J?” Ken asked.
“Last place I wanted to be today,” Joe said rather cryptically, stepping down from the trailer and wandering over to where Ken still sat astride his bike.
“Really surprised you’re not there though, I would have thought you and Jun would have had something to celebrate today.”
“You knew she was going to ambush me today?”
“Jinpei may have mentioned it, several times.”
“Shame he never mentioned it to me, I might have been able to avoid hurting her as much as I did if I’d had a little warning,” Ken sighed, running his hands back through his hair.
“She told me she loved me, and I kind of blurted out with less tact than I would have liked that I was gay, and couldn’t love her like she wanted me to.”
“Ouch,” Joe winced, before what Ken had said really sank in.
“You’re gay? You hid that well.”
“A little too well apparently,” Ken said a touch bitterly.
“Come on, you need a drink, or three,” Joe said, hauling him off the bike and wheeling it over toward where his car was parked before pushing him in the direction of the trailer.
A half dozen or so drinks each later, the two of them were sitting outside the trailer, shoulder to shoulder on the step, watching the stars starting to peek out as the sky began to darken to black, passing the bottle of whiskey back and forth between them, the glasses abandoned.
“Why was the J the last place you wanted to be today?” Ken asked, his words surprisingly un-slurred considering how much he had had to drink.
“When I got here, you said that the J was the last place you wanted to be today.”
“Oh, that. I couldn’t face the thought of watching you and Jun being all… happy couple,” he said softly.
“Why?” he asked startled.
“Because I loved you first, and I c0uldn’t stand the idea of having to have to pretend to be happy that someone else had won your heart. I always kind of assumed you and Jun would end up married with kids when the war ended.”
“Joe, you idiot, it’s you I love, it always has been, but I didn’t think…all those women Joe.”
“Do you have any idea how frustrated you left me most days? In uniform your or out you drove me nuts, and I’ve never been a fan of my hand, so one night stands was the way I went, and I certainly wouldn’t sleep with another man, there were attractive enough ones interested from time to time, but I was always too conscious that they weren’t you, would never be you.”
Joe snorted and took another gulp of the whiskey.
“Would you ever have said anything?” Ken asked, taking the bottle from him, but not drinking.
“I didn’t think I would have the chance. Like I said, Jinpei was crowing about how you and Jun were going to be together, and whatever else I may be guilty of, I won’t break up a couple.”
“But I’m not with Jun, I’m never going to be with Jun,” Ken pointed out quietly.
Joe’s breathing hitched for a moment, and then he took the bottle from Ken’s hand, putting it aside before tangling his fingers in Ken’s hair and pulling him into a kiss, his tongue exploring the other’s mouth for a long moment before Ken’s own tongue met his in a sensual tangle. They were both panting for air when they finally broke apart, and both achingly hard.
“We should stop now,” Ken panted, and seeing hurt uncertainty in Joe’s eyes, he shook his head.
“You’re too important to me, this is too important. I am not having our first time be a drunken fumble, and if we don’t stop now, we won’t stop at all. Please Joe,” he whispered.
Joe looked into huge blue eyes, hazed with a mix of passion and alcohol, and sighed softly, leaning over to steal an almost chaste kiss.
“The things I do for you,” he said, grinning suddenly.
“I guess we’re both making friends with our hands tonight.”
“Hey, I get it, I do. This is important to me too, I can wait,” he promised softly.
“Thank you,” Ken smiled.
Ryu looked over at Jinpei, sitting in the passenger seat of his VW van.
“Why do you want to go out to Joe’s?” Ryu asked him.
“I thought he might know where Ken was, he didn’t go back to the airfield last night.”
“And why are you looking for Ken?”
“Because he made sis cry, and he’s going to pay for that.”
“Jinpei, if he couldn’t love her the way she wanted, the way she deserves, surely its better that he tell her that, rather than try to force himself into a relationship that would never make him happy, in the end that would hurt her a lot more than he did yesterday.”
“It doesn’t mean he should get away with making her cry. If you won’t take me out there, I’ll get there some other way.”
Ryu sighed and started the engine, better if he were there to make sure things didn’t get out of hand if Jinpei managed to catch up with Ken before the dust had a chance to settle.
They drove in silence out to where Joe had the trailer, and arrived just in time to see him hooking it up to move it. Ken walked around from the back of the trailer, and Ryu’s heart plummeted as he saw Ken catch Joe in a toe curling kiss. Jinpei made an inarticulate sound of rage and was out of the van before Ryu had fully stopped, throwing himself at Ken and punching him, screaming angrily.
“Hey, what the hell Jinpei?” Ken yelled, pushing him back.
“You…Jun loved you all this time and you…him…” the boy screamed again, lunging at Ken once more.
Joe intercepted him, grabbing him and shoving him back in Ryu’s direction, the big man caught him and held the struggling boy tightly.
“Calm down, Jinpei,” Ryu said firmly.
“NO. How long? How long have you two been messing around, laughing at her wearing her heart on her sleeve for you? How long have you been planning to hurt her like that?” he demanding, still kicking and struggling in Ryu’s unbreakable grip, itching to get at the older two and kick their asses.
“How dare you? How fucking dare you Jinpei? You want to know how long Joe and I have been a couple?” Ken yelled, glancing at his watch and making a quick calculation.
“Fourteen hours, thirty two minutes and a handful of seconds, that’s how fucking long. We never laughed at Jun, and I never wanted to hurt her, and maybe, just maybe, if I’d had a little warning of what she was planning, I could have figured out a gentler way of heading her off. You know what, if you can really think so little of me, of us, then leave, I have nothing more to say to you,” Ken snarled, glancing quickly at Joe before vanishing inside the hitched up trailer and slamming the door shut.
Joe looked at Jinpei, who was now hanging limp in Ryu’s grip, eyes wide and starting to fill with tears at Kens angry and absolute dismissal.
“That was a pretty shitty thing to say to him, half pint. I’m used to being seen as the bad guy, the jerk, but him…all his life Jinpei, all his life has been dedicated to other people, to his mom, to training for the team, to keeping the world safe, everything he’s ever done has been assessed and reassessed for how it will impact the team, or the people relying on him, and the only times he did do something selfishly it burned him, making him even more gun shy. The war is over now, and it’s time for Ken to have something that’s for him, and I’m sorry that you’re unhappy that it isn’t Jun, and I’m sorry that she got hurt, but I am not sorry that he picked me, and I love him, and I will protect him however I have to, even from the rest of the team, he’s right, it’s time you were gone, we have things to get sorted today,” Joe said coldly, turning his back to check the connections between the car and the trailer.
“Joe…” Ryu started softly.
“Leave, now,” Joe cut over him, not looking at them again as he quietly followed Ken inside the trailer.
Nambu smiled proudly as he waited to walk Jun down the aisle, glad that he was getting to give her away on her wedding day. The year since the end of the war had been a hard one for a lot of people, so he was happy of a chance to celebrate. Glancing back over his shoulder to where Ryu stood, waiting for his bride with Jinpei as his groomsman, he found himself sighing softly. The past year had been very hard, he amended, wondering where Joe and Ken might be right now. The two had vanished without a trace a few days after the end of the war, and it had taken him weeks to get through the troubled silence of the others even enough to find out that there had been a huge row of some kind.
Two months after their disappearance, his worry had been assuaged somewhat by a brief, terse and untraceable message from Ken, the only one of the five he had ever truly seen as his own child. The message was simple, he and Joe were safe, they weren’t coming back any time soon, and he would keep in touch so that he wouldn’t worry. It hadn’t taken much after realizing the two had left together to figure out the cause of the rift in the team, he had realized long ago that Ken only had eyes for Joe, but he had never imagined anything would come of it.
Over the course of the following weeks, the terse, untraceable messages had given way to very fast phone calls on a disposable cell, never on the line long enough for Nambu to trace the call, if he were so inclined. He wasn’t, his son sounded happy, as did Joe, the few times he spoke to him, that was all that mattered to him now.
He could pinpoint pretty much to the day when the healing had begun between the missing pair and the three who remained behind, Ken had sounded hoarse, almost tearful, but happy none the less when he had spoken to Nambu one evening, and they quit ringing off before calls could be traced, although it was still fairly clear that they didn’t intend coming home in a hurry. Jun and Ryu had started dating around then too, with the worry, and guilt over Ken and Joe’s departure no longer festering between the three of them, which led them here today.
He heard the door behind him open, and turned to smile at the radiant bride who stepped out.
“You look beautiful Jun,” he told her, holding out his arm to her.
“Thank you,” she smiled, taking his arm.
“Did they come?” she asked in a softer, more serious tone.
“Not yet, but it doesn’t mean they won’t, the five of you have been working hard trying to heal your friendship, even if it has been over a phone line. Don’t give up hope, Jun,” he told her, he certainly wasn’t giving up hope, sure that the pair would want to be here for Ryu and Jun’s wedding. She gave him a sad smile, and then looked over at where Ryu waited, and her smile brightened unbidden at the look of love in his eyes.
“Are you ready?” Nambu asked her with a smile.
“More than ready,” she nodded.
The small reception was being held at the J, although caterers had been brought in, as neither Jun or Jinpei was going to be cooking anything tonight. Nambu saw Jun freeze as Ryu helped her out of the car, and hurried over, wondering what she was staring at.
“Jun?” he queried.
She sobbed something unintelligible, and hauled Ryu and Jinpei quickly toward the door, leaving him staring after them. Looking around for what had disturbed her so, he caught sight of a motorbike, parked mostly out of sight in the alley, it had only been visible from where she was standing. He followed the three inside hurriedly and saw five figures in a group hug, Jun openly sobbing, and a very confused group of caterers.
“Give us a moment, please,” he said to the caterers, his own voice a little tight with tears he would never allow anyone to see. The caterers obliged, vanishing through to the kitchen as Ken looked up at the sound of his voice and broke away from the others to stand in front of him.
“We kind of decided to come home,” he said in a slightly uncertain tone.
“For good?” he asked.
Ken glanced back at Joe, catching his eye, and his lover grinned at him as he messed Jinpei’s neatly groomed hair up into it’s normal state of disorder.
“We’ll see how it goes, but…yeah, we’re aiming to be home for good,” he nodded, turning back to face Nambu.
Nambu pulled his son to him and hugged him tightly, hoping that now everything would finally be all right.