"I'm closing up, Joe, or are you going to sit there all night." I bustled
around the bar, wiping counters and collecting bottles and glasses. I'd sent
Jinpei to bed early since we had a training session in the morning. Ken had
left over an hour ago and after chasing out a few stragglers, only Joe
remained. Leaning inside the booth with an arm draped on the back and his
feet in a chair, I knew he had no intention of leaving right away. He never
answered, instead picking up his beer and taking another long draw before
banging it clumsily on the table.
"Can you drive?" I didn't relish the idea of putting him up for the night.
Sober, he was okay, but drunk meant a lot of snoring and I didn't intend to
stay awake all night.
I turned around and started counting money from the drawer. The sensation of
being watched finally forced me to glance in the mirror behind the low bar.
I'd been right and gauging by the level of his eyes, it looked like he was
studying my lower anatomy. I felt a self concious blush rise to my cheeks. It
wasn't the first time I'd ever caught him looking.
"Do you own any other clothes? Nice ones?"
His question caught me off guard and instead of answering I threw it back. "Do you?"
"Don't need'em. If I'm not working then I'm naked in bed with a beautiful
God, he must really be drunk. I grinned. "You're so full of it."
"Think so?" He was quiet a moment. "I'm looking at a beautiful girl right
now. Bet I could pick her up."
My eyes widened and I flushed with more embarrassment, until I cast a glance
at him. He was looking towards the doorway of the bar. I quickly turned and
saw - my reflection? No way could he be that drunk. It's a reflection, you idiot."
He gasped dramatically. "Why, you're right! I knew there couldn't be a girl
in here lovelier than you."
I groaned. "That's pretty corny, even for you." I heard him chuckling as I
put the money in a bag and filled out the deposit slips. "Are you finished?" I asked.
I moved around the counter and headed over to clear his table. "Well, I think
you've had enough."
"Oh, I could never get enough of you."
I stopped a few feet away and crossed my arms. "God, you are laying it on
thick tonight. What's with you?"
He looked so relaxed. His charm turned on high and one of his rare smiles
gracing his features, I could see why women fell for him. I wasn't immune to
"Just testing the waters. Seeing how far I can get."
"I got you this far." He winked at me.
I grinned and shook my head.
He patted the seat next to him and after hesitating I slid in and leaned
against him. He draped an arm around my shoulders and pulled me closer.
"And now I've got you here."
"Jerk." I slapped his thigh.
"Yeah, I know. And Ken's the idiot. I don't understand why you two aren't
"Is that why you dragged me over here? To interrogate me?"
"Of course not." He gave me a squeeze and then kissed the top of my head. I
tried to remember how many beers I'd served him and came up with two. Jinpei
must have been slipping him the extras. I sighed. "Well, just to get you off my
case, I have a confession to make."
"And what would that be, lovely lady." He started playing with the strands of
hair at my neck.
I rolled my eyes. "Ken and I did go out on a date and it didn't work out."
"It was a while back. We went out and all we talked about was work. It was
partly my fault for mistaking admiration for adulation. We get along fine,
but there's nothing there."
"Yet you let the rest of us think there is."
"Well, Jinpei is so set on it, and you and Ryu are no help either. It's easier
to let you guys go on and on. Kind of an inside joke for me and Ken now."
"Wow." He took another drink of his beer. "But we've seen you two go out."
"Well, sure. But it's platonic. No different than me sitting here with you."
He was quiet for several seconds, his fingers leaving my hair and moving
along my neck and jaw. It created a pleasant tingling that unnerved me, but I
wasn't going to stop him. Just like the guys, I got my thrills when I could
and this wasn't Joe's worst. He'd copped lots of feels in the time I'd known
him. I let my head fall back against his shoulder, determined to enjoy it
while it lasted.
"What if, I didn't want something platonic?" He said it lightly, something
not quite serious.
I tilted my head back and looked up at him not considering my answer before
blurting it out. "What if, I didn't want to be on your list of dead girlfriends?"
"Touche," he murmured.
A pang of guilt struck me. "Sorry."
He looked down at me and then away, nodding acceptance.
I closed my eyes and settled more comfortably, his hand still softly stroking
my throat and down my shoulders. I'd considered a relationship with Joe or
Ryu a few times. But after being so hung up on Ken, that I couldn't see
anything else, I'd ruled out team relations. And as time passed, Ryu had
managed to start an on again off again romance with a girl outside of town
and I'd kept Joe at the status of friendly flirting, even though times like
this made me wonder if there could be something more.
I felt his hand slip down my arm, lightly grazing my breast before doing it
again. I smirked, unsure if he meant it intentionally, but not putting it
past him to try.
Slipping out from under his arm, I rose from the booth. "Pervert."
"What? What did I do?" The mischievious grin told me he knew exactly what
"If you wanted to get that close to me, you should've asked me to dance," I
said, knowing too well that he didn't care for dancing.
He stood and offered his hand. "Would you like to dance?"
I was stunned, then suspicious. "All right. What are you up to?"
He pursed his lips, but it didn't hide the smile. "Nothing. You got something
"No, but you do," I muttered and walked over to the jukebox. I scanned the
selections unsure what to play, finally putting in some money and hitting the
random button. The jukebox clicked and whirred it's selection as I sashayed
back to Joe with an evil smile. "I hope it's something fast."
"Would you really spite me like that?" He was leaning against the table, arms
crossed and giving me the once over.
I gave a tiny shrug and we waited.
The first soft, guitar sounds of an old love song poured out of the speaker
and Joe's smile widened. "Nice choice." He grabbed my hand and pulled me
against his chest.
"A random act of fate. You got lucky." I found myself straining to look up
and took a step back.
"Where you going?" He started dancing without me, hauling me to the right so
that I had to scramble for balance, then he had the nerve to laugh.
"You know that doesn't win you points in the gentleman department." I
straightened and his arms went back around my waist, dipping me quickly to
the floor where he kissed me.
Soft, warm, and lingering. Breathless.
He stood me upright, folding my body against his and whispering. "Does that
make it all better?"
I swallowed, unable to answer and not looking at him. My heart pounding so
hard I was afraid he could feel it.
He didn't seem to need an answer and continued moving slowly to the music.
And I felt like a silly school girl, where all I could think about was how
suddenly and intensely I was aware of every movement he made.
"Sing for me."
He shifted and smiled down at me. "Sing."
God, he could have asked me to do anything right then and I probably would
have. I hesitated, listening to the words and realized I didn't want to say
those kinds of things. He started singing, his deep voice murmuring along
without me and making me shiver.
"I can't hear you," he teased.
It broke the spell of hormone induced stupidity that had gripped me and I
smiled, joining in.
His grin widened and he spun me around, before taking both hands and dancing
more playfully. It occured to me that he wasn't staggering around.
"You're not drunk, are you," I accused him.
He pulled me close, dipped me and let me up and away again. "Nope."
Now that was a revelation. It wasn't like him to act this Way around me unless
he was smashed. On a different level, though, it left me Feeling warm. I thought
about what he'd said about relationships. Hmm, Joe, the love interest. And a
damn good kisser, too. I laughed to myself.
"Care to share?" He drew nearer, slipping an arm back around my waist.
I shook my head, feeling another blush in my cheeks, and started singing
He pulled me close against him and this time didn't let go. Hip to hip,
swaying in time, I found myself the only one still singing when the song
ended. He held on a few moments before sighing and releasing me.
"I better get going." A glimmer of the earlier smile still played on his face
as he backed away. "G'night, Jun. I lo-," he stopped. "I'll see you later."
He quickly turned and headed for the door.
I was frozen for a moment, a hundred different thoughts and feelings racing
through me, and one big realization. I hurried to catch up. "Joe?"
He paused in the doorway.
I leaned up on tip toe, impulsively kissing his cheek. "I love you, too."
He studied me slowly, then half smiling, he pressed a finger to my lips in a
gesture of silence. I watched as he went out the door, the chimes on it
ringing softly as it closed behind him.
I locked the doors, hit the lights and headed upstairs to bed, humming to the
echo of a love song.