The usual fanfic copyright disclaimers- everyone and everything in here belongs to Tatsunoko and no infringement is implied. Excerpts from the song "Sunshine Superman" by Donovan are used without permission, which hopefully will not be a problem as it was the direct inspiration for the story. The story itself is mine. I only wish Joe were mine too! --------------------------------------------------------------------
Any Trick In the Book By Asakurafan
"What the hell is wrong with him?" Joe snarled across the dark corner table to Ryu, who was busy with his food.
"Who, Ken?" he replied, catching the direction of Joe's glare. "What now?" he added resignedly between bites, hoping that the evening wouldn't escalate into one of his teammates' brawls. They had just finished a tough mission, and he was looking forward to relaxing a bit before the inevitable next wave from Galactor.
"Shit! Just look at her" Joe snapped, his eyes now following Jun. Her great mood radiated from her tonight: she was smiling at customers, laughing, and for once not yelling at Jinpei. She looked incredibly sexy out of uniform civvies in a black T-shirt and blue jeans, and she was swaying to the song playing on the jukebox as she waited on a table. Ryu turned his attention first to Jun, then to his commander.
Ken was at his usual spot at the bar, completely oblivious. He had pretty much ignored Jun all night except when begging for another extension to his bar tab. Then he tried to turn his big baby blues on her, and having failed, was now nursing his beer, his eyes fixed on the television above the bar.
Ryu regarded Joe carefully. He never really could figure out what the big Sicilian was thinking, especially now that he was 'back from the dead.' He'd always been so volatile, but he'd noticed recently that Joe almost seemed calmer on certain missions than Ken. He was also a lot more detached from the rest of the team since his return. He wasn't overly surprised however, at Joe's rediscovered obsession with the 'Jun and Ken Saga.' They'd always kidded about them, and had tried endless set ups to try to force the issue since they had first realized the extent of Jun's feelings for the Eagle. It was only after Joe's 'death' and the resultant peace with Galactor that Ken had finally acknowledged his feelings for Jun, and that had lasted only until Galactor showed signs of rebuilding strength. Joe had never gotten the chance to see them together, and was furious when he found out that Ken had broken off the relationship when the war started again. He acted more like his old fiery self tonight.
Ryu turned his eyes back to Jun, caught by the sound of her laughter. The bar was full of regulars tonight; but not a large crowd and she was less stressed than usual. He suddenly realized that she'd been a lot happier lately - he hadn't seen her this relaxed since before the messy breakup with Ken. She was actually ignoring Ken as much tonight as he was her. He mentioned this to Joe and was surprised by the sudden gleam in his eye.
"Do you think maybe Ken made a move and they're just playing it cool?" Ryu wondered aloud.
"Be real, Ryu!"
"Ah, you're right" he sighed. She wouldn't be ignoring him if their situation had improved- when Jun was happy, she couldn't hide it. "Well, I'm glad to see her looking better. Hey, maybe she's finally over 'the Great Eagle' - she can't worship him forever without getting something back from him. God, she was such a mess when he dumped her; kinda like when you 'died', but a lot angrier." He returned his attention to his plate and missed the strange look on Joe's face.
"How exactly was she when I 'died'?" Joe asked, trying to sound casual.
"Devastated," Ryu replied thoughtfully, his mouth full. "Until Ken finally came to his senses. Then she was happy again, for what, a year and a half, not even? Things got really tense between them after that, and when we got called back, and Ken dropped his bomb- boy, I thought she'd kill him! I sometimes forget how deadly she is!" he laughed. "She settled down a lot after you came back," he added absently regarding her. "You know, she was so sure you were alive. The whole time you were helping us she kept insisting it was you. Ken wouldn't believe her- kept shooting her down. What a mess that was. But she looks good tonight. You're right Joe, Ken is an asshole!" he finished, smiling.
Joe quietly nursed his drink, watching Jun intently. From the moment he first heard her scream his name to when he held her hands in the desert after rejoining the team, she had re-ignited something he had long thought just another piece of dead machinery: his heart. The tears in her eyes- the look on her face had brought home to him how much he had been missed. She was on his mind all too often lately, especially in light of what had occurred the day they went on that ride out to the country. Ryu went back to his meal, only looking up when Jun came over to their table.
"Ryu, aren't you finished yet?" She tugged playfully at his arm. "I need someone to dance with- Jinpei's cranky, Ken's useless, and it's a good song!" Ryu, his mouth full again, waved her hand away. "C'mon, I'm desperate!" she whined.
"Not desperate enough, obviously. Why don't you ever ask me to dance anymore?" Joe asked, again trying to keep his voice cool.
"Because you always say you're not drunk enough! You hate to dance anyway!" she countered and stuck out her tongue as she sailed off to the bar to try her luck again with Ken or Jinpei.
"Ken's such an asshole!" Joe snarled again, as he watched Washio blow her off again.
"Yeah- I think we've established that tonight Joe," Ryu shot back, exasperated. "If you're so concerned, why don't you do something about it or shut the hell up? All you do is sit there and bitch..."
Joe, surprised at Ryu's tone, snapped back sullenly "Because I'm not drunk enough!"
He glared at Ryu, then looked down at his whiskey. He silently considered the glass for a few minutes, then made a decision. He'd been forced to defer his whole life to the 'Great Washio', who wouldn't know a good thing if it slapped him across the face. 'Fuck it!' He'd had enough. If Ken didn't want Jun... well, he'd had his chance. Joe remembered the bruises he'd received the times he tried to discuss Jun with Ken. He tossed back half his drink and got up.
"Now I'm drunk enough!"
Ryu looked up, startled and curious. The Condor walked over to the jukebox and spent several minutes looking over the list. What with Jun's huge collection and Joe's eclectic taste in music, Ryu had no idea what he might put on. 'This is turning out to be an interesting evening after all' Ryu thought to himself.
Joe finally made a selection, and glanced around for Jun. She had her back to him, still swaying as she gave Jinpei an order at the bar. The CD changed, and the first bars of areally old song started to play. Ryu finally remembered it was called "Sunshine Superman" by Donovan.
Any trick in the book, now baby, That I can find
Joe stalked over to the bar, spun Jun around and swung her out onto the floor. She laughed, startled, then was caught by the look in his eyes as he pulled her close and began to dance with her.
When I make my mind up You're going to be mine I'll tell you right now Any trick in the book
Joe held her tight by the hips, and kept his own locked to her as they swayed to the beat. She felt the heat rise to her face- Joe had never done this before, and her heart began to beat faster. He laughed suddenly, as if he was only joking around and twirled her out, then reeled her back. She began to enjoy this strange behavior- Joe was a really good dancer- funny how she'd never known that. By now, his rather provocative style had attracted attention from the other dancers, who backed off and gave the couple some room. He never took his eyes off hers, and Jun suddenly became aware of the song lyrics.
She began to wonder exactly what Joe was doing- was there a hidden meaning to his choice of song, or was this just him being drunk and teasing her for her earlier words. He spun her out again, and before she was reeled back in she caught a quick glimpse of Ken's mouth dropped open in shock. His face went suddenly grim as he tried to hold back Jinpei from climbing over the bar with an ice hammer in his hands, and then suddenly Joe's face was back inches away from hers- intense blue eyes the color of steel and a wicked smile.
She felt completely under his spell- their bodies moving as one with the music. She forgot they were in the middle of a crowded bar; she was aware only of Joe- his touch, his strength, his grace. The feel of his hard lean body against hers, and she realized she was again blushing furiously.
Superman and Green Lantern, baby Ain't got nothin' on me
They both burst out laughing at the private joke of the lyrics, and Joe spun her away again to break the physical tension.
Joe watched her intently - felt the heat and the tension and the electricity between them. All eyes were now on them but he too had forgotten about the rest of the bar. He flashed his trademark wicked grin again. She was following his lead and he was actually surprised at her reaction. She was blushing all right, but her body stayed pressed against his and she added a few moves of her own that startled him. He was beginning to be glad the song was short- he'd have to get out of here quickly before he lost all control. Although the bar was relatively dark, he knew his jeans were now uncomfortably tight and any more than a casual glance would make that glaringly obvious.
When you make your mind up Forever to be mine I'll take your little hand And slowly blow your mind
By the time the song ended, the regulars were applauding, whistling catcalls and Jinpei was screaming obscenities at Joe above the din. Jun didn't hear any of it- she was breathing hard and aware only of Joe. He had never once taken his eyes off hers, and she was locked onto him like a birdmissile.
Slowly he released her, picked up her hand and brought it to his lips, suddenly flipping it so the sensitive skin at her wrist was exposed. He dropped a gentle kiss, and walked back to his table. The crowd went wild. Ryu sat there with his mouth still gaping open- his meal forgotten. Ken had his hands full holding Jinpei on the bar and Jun was frozen to the spot where Joe left her.
Joe picked up his glass, knocked back the rest of the drink and picked up his leather jacket. "See ya, Ryu" he tossed off casually as he strode out the door.
Jinpei was now screaming at Ken. "But Anniki- you belong with Jun! How can you let Joe touch her? What is wrong with you? Why don't you kill him?"
Even half drunk, Ken's grip was like iron and Jinpei's wrist would bear the effects for days.
"Jinpei- drop it!" Ken snarled back at the boy. "It was only a dance. Joe's just trying to piss me off - if Jun buys into it that's her problem!" The words, so cold, raged against what he felt in his gut. Why the hell was Joe making a move on Jun- he'd never indicated any attraction to her all these years-never said a word except to encourage Ken to have a relationship with her. Why now? Why hadn't Joe said anything to him if he had feelings for Jun- he was his best friend! Ken had always half assumed that she would wait around for this war to end the way she had in the past, and that they could somehow resume where they had left off. What if Jun did buy into Joe's shameless attempt at seduction? What was wrong with him that he stood by and watched it happen?
Jun still stood where Joe left her, stunned. The crowd now began to refill the floor for the next song, and she suddenly bolted for the window. A wave of memories and feelings rushed over her- every compliment Joe had ever paid her, every touch - teasing or gentle - raced around in her head. She remembered times that she had caught him looking at her, how he was so often right by her side in a fight-as if he had been watching her back. For all his vaunted machismo and arrogance, he could be suprisingly gentle at times. How he'd always tried to make her laugh when she was upset. They'd always been really close and had spent a lot of time together before the first war had really heated up. She'd felt guilty at times for being attracted to him when she was supposed to be madly in love with Ken, and had pushed out any thoughts of him as more than a friend. But she had mourned his death no less than if it had been Ken... and of course there was that picnic up at the bluffs...and a long forgotten kiss...
She watched as he took a drag on the cigarette he lit as soon as he left the bar, saw the red flare in the dark before he dropped it and crushed it out. Strange- he never smoked. He jumped into his car, and as if his movement released her trance, she flung the door open and raced outside, only to watch him peel out.
"Joe!!" she screamed after him- too late. She suddenly knew her mind- and heart - and darted back into the bar tugging off her apron. She tossed it to the still stunned Ryu, asking him breathlessly "Can you help Jinpei close up and stay with him? Please Ryu?!"
"Sure," he replied, as a wicked grin not unlike the Condor's slowly lit his face. "Go on- follow him!" he yelled. She shot him a grateful smile, grabbed her jacket and was out the door, ignoring Jinpei who was still raging curses at Joe and struggling against Ken's grip.
The roar of her bike was heard over the noise of the bar, and she was gone. Jinpei finally subsided in shock.
'She never even looked back,' Ken thought in a daze. 'Shit! What have I done?' realizing Ryu was regarding him intently, he suddenly released Jinpei and stormed out of the bar. Ryu went over to the fuming boy, and could only shake his head at Jinpei's fury and confusion.
"Last call!' he yelled out.
Joe spun out in a neat 360 to park against his trailer. He just sat there. He had raced home, windows open, cold air rushing against his face and sobered up quickly. He actually hadn't had that much to drink- with this body it took a hell of a lot more to get him really tanked.
'Well, that was interesting, but incredibly stupid! Damn it!' he thought cursing himself.
He thought about Jun and felt his body heat rise all over again. God, she felt so good in his arms. Even if she killed him tomorrow, it was worth every minute of her touch, her scent, and the look on Ken's face! He smirked at that thought.
Ken was like a brother to him, and Joe would never have gone near Jun tonight if Ken had shown any of his previous interest in her. He had, in fact tried to encourage a reunion since his return to the team. But Ken had dropped her cold, and had come to blows with Joe when he tried to discuss it. Joe had wanted to slam Ken again on several occasions since when the Eagle had obviously hurt Jun's feelings in his ongoing efforts to make sure it didn't look like he showed her any favoritism.
'Bastard!' he thought. 'He has no idea what he's let slip through his fingers.' Ken had never appreciated her and he certainly didn't deserve to have her still pining for him. Joe decided that brother or no, he wasn't gonna make the same mistake. He couldn't deny anymore the attraction he had so carefully buried all these years. Jun was a woman like no other, and he finally had a chance of letting her know that he for one appreciated her. 'But do I really deserve her either?' he thought uncertainly.
This was Jun- this was not some casual one-night stand, to be regretted with a hangover in the morning. That was Joe's usual style, and he realized he had, as always, acted first and thought about it afterward. Joe hoped at least that his behavior was so over the top that if Jun didn't respond as he now realized he so desperately wanted her to, the whole incident could be laughed off by both as a drunken prank.
'God, I haven't felt this human in a long time.'
The flash of a headlight in his rearview mirror suddenly caught his attention. This end of his trailer park was deserted except for him, and his instinct was at first for danger. Hakase had warned him about keeping his guard up since Galactor knew his identity now. He kept moving the trailer, but he knew it was only a matter of time before Hakase would probably demand he move into the base permanently. If he'd let himself get so distracted as to be followed...
He relaxed slightly, but his heart began to pound as he recognized the sound of Jun's engine. She swung up completely controlled but dangerously close to his car in a cloud of dust. He once again admired her driving skills - she was the only person he'd let pull off a stunt like that and live.
He jumped out of the car and stopped, watching the cloud of dark hair tumble out as she removed her helmet. God she was beautiful. He'd always thought so. Her eyes looked huge against the pale glow of her skin in the moonlight as she stood, hesitating. Suddenly, with the lightening speed he had also always admired, she was in his arms kissing him so soundly that he lost his breath. The only time he had ever kissed her on the lips had been a very drunken incident under mistletoe at a holiday party. Neither had ever mentioned it. Now she was in his arms, and he felt drunk all over again at the passion between them. He buried his fingers in her hair, pulling her close; reveling in the feel of her lips moving under his own.
He forced himself to pull away after a few minutes and gasped for air, still holding her closely. The 'Great Condor' actually felt shaky.
"Joe?" she questioned softly, still clinging to him and breathing hard.
He suddenly realized with fear that he had made a huge mistake tonight- he wasn't supposed to feel anything anymore- he wasn't supposed to get too involved...'I'm crazy,' he thought. 'I'm alive for one purpose- to destroy Galactor. I have no business starting up with Jun.' Could he really take the risks he knew he'd have to with the knowledge of Jun's feelings for him? He felt a sudden pang for Ken as it hit home why the Eagle kept pushing her away. He had to stop it- now.
"Jun - look - I don't know what came over me tonight..." He pushed her away and leaned back against his car, casually lighting another cigarette, hoping desperately that he came off as his old arrogant self.
"Then what the hell was that tonight?" she whirled on him, eyes blazing.
" I was just messing around and it got out of control..."
She looked at him with sudden shocked understanding and contempt. "What am I - the ultimate prize in the never-ending Joe vs. Ken rivalry? Huh? Is that it? Was it just to prove to Ken that you still have it?" Her hand whipped up l ike lightening and she slapped him hard. "Thanks for the public humiliation - like I haven't been laughed at enough all these years about him! But from you... of all people?"
"Maybe that's it - I'm not a person anymore - I'm a fucking machine Jun! A goddamned killing machine! I short circuit sometimes" he replied coldly as he crushed out the cigarette.
"Oh, nice - very nice!" she interrupted sarcastically. "You're not all machine and you must have some feelings or you wouldn't give a flying fuck about pissing Ken off! But using me as bait?! Howdare you mess with me that way!"
She was livid now; Joe saw what Ryu had meant by her reaction to Ken's behavior. His insides churned up- she was right of course- despite all the hardware, there were some feelings he couldn't shut down. He raged at himself for the pain he was causing her.
"Oh, and if you haven't been paying attention," she hissed, "I kill for a living too. I just don't use it as an excuse for clamping down all emotion like you two!"
"I am a dead man, Jun!" he exploded, "A living breathing time bomb just waiting to go off!" Realizing what he had just admitted, he added hurriedly, "I always have been - you know that! Why would you want me anyway- you know my record: every woman I love ends up dead!" He looked away, anywhere than at her face. 'Damn!' He'd said the only thing that could possibly be worse. She looked at him in shock.
"Why?" she said softly. Joe looked at her - tears were welling in those beautiful green eyes. "Why didn't you ever..." she began before he stopped her with a finger on her trembling lips.
"Ken" he said simply. "After all, I am only G2 : I'm supposed to defer to our commander," he added, sarcasm dripping from his voice as he let her go and turned away.
She regarded him quietly, and replied softly "Not in this case. Not any more."
He looked back sharply at her. Pulling her against him with more force than he intended, he kissed her again passionately then buried his face in her hair. He closed his eyes and just breathed in her perfume.'Why did this feel so right?'
She gently pulled back a bit to look in his eyes, her hands on either side of his face. "I know you're not the same, but that doesn't mean that you're not a real person." She brushed a stray lock of hair away from his temple "In here", indicating his mind, "and in here," as she moved one hand to rest on his chest, "It's still 'Joe'. I can feel your heartbeat; I can see your soul in your eyes. You're still you."
"Juni," he began his voice raw with emotion and desire, "I do want you. But you know how I feel about Galactor -what I have to do - why I'm still here. You know the risks I take without even thinking - I can't turn that off- I can't guarantee..."
"None of us has a guarantee!" she spat out angrily. "It's not part of the job description!" She turned angrily away, hugging herself tightly. "You once told me to get a life - to find the happiness I deserve. Well, I tried, but shit happens! Galactor came back, and Ken couldn't cope with that and me. He couldn't find any reason to be happy."
She turned back to Joe. "I know the risk. I also know that there's no point to our trying to 'save the world' if we can't take the little time we have to enjoy it! We all deserve a little happiness. I'm tired of putting off having any kind of life until the unforeseeable future when Galactor is finally gone. Life isn't that simple- you of all people should realize how short a time we have." She turned away again, and muttered softly "Damn! You sound just like Ken!"
Joe reached out and roughly pulled her close. "I'm no Ken. You know that," he added, looking into her eyes intently.
She answered his gaze evenly, and replied "I'm counting on that."
Stunned, Joe again felt the unfamiliar fear gnaw his insides. "I don't know if I can give you what you need. I shouldn't start something I can't finish..."
This time, her fingers stopped his lips. "You never do, Joji," she breathed softly, and stopped any further argument with a lingering kiss.
Joe cradled her in his arms, silently surrendering to her, reveling in this intimacy with her - alarmed at the strength of feelings he had never acknowledged before this night. Surprised that she seemed ready and willing to match them. He looked down into her eyes, wondering at the wicked gleam that suddenly lit them.
"Will you dance with me?" she said huskily, pulling him by the hand towards the trailer door.