HI EVERYBODY :D It's TIW here ('cause Soap's my partner ^^) and I am finally ready to post my silly excuse for an IGPX fic. Sorry if anyone is OOC, I'm making an effort here. It's not finished yet though. The way I'm looking at it, this fic will be about five chapters and I've already finished the first three. I'm warning you now, I use very evil cliffhangers. I'll update about once a week, so I have time to finish and not be inconsistent :D Okay, done talking now :D An as it said in the summary, this is a Cunningham/Amy fic. If that's not your cup of tea, then sadly you have to go elsewhere THERE IS ALSO LizxRiver in here, for anyone interested. Okay, now I'm really done.
Disclaimer: IGPX is quite obviously not mine, or this would be five episodes, not five chapters XD And as a little tidbit, the title, for all my fellow Gorillaz fans, IS inspired by the song of the same name :D OH and before I forget, much thanks and love to my lovely Michele for beta-reading for me. I love you Meeshell!
So without further adieu…
Don't Get Lost in Heaven
Chapter One: "Shh, It's a Secret!"
"So how does it feel to have won your fourth IGPX tournament!?"
"Well I'd definitely be lying if I said it didn't feel awesome." Takeshi rubbed his head, chuckling at the energetic Benjamin Bright.
Takeshi could still feel the adrenaline rush from the final race. This was their fourth year in the IG-1 and their fourth consecutive victory. Granted, Cunningham had nearly blasted him off the track with the Induraga Mano (it wasn't getting any easier to dodge after three years of perfecting said dodge technique), but he'd come out of it without a scratch. Had he needed to pull Amy out of the fray again though, he'd have been history.
"We're just that damn good! No matter what our opponent throws at us, we'll always be ready to throw it right back at 'em!" Liz was ecstatic, also pumped with the telltale euphoria of their big win, grinning from ear to ear.
"And what is your opinion Miss Stapleton? I'm sure you feel the same as the rest of Team Satomi?"
Amy blinked, pausing as she refocused her attention on Benjamin and smiled. "Well of course I'm happy! And Luca is too, aren't you Luca?" Amy looked down at the calico cat in her arms that meowed in response. If cats could smile, Luca was definitely doing so now.
Benjamin leaned forward in his overstuffed chair toward the three pilots of Team Satomi sitting on the ratty yellow couch of interview set. "So, now that we've got Team Satomi front and center, I think there are a few things that the public is dying to know!"
Takeshi directed a lopsided grin at Liz who could only sigh, scratching her head as they both anticipated the questions that were about to be asked.
"First, Takeshi, are you still seeing fellow pilot Fantine Valjean of Team Skylark?"
Takeshi grinned, placing one nervous hand on the back of his head. "Yes, I am."
"So you're saying your relationship doesn't cause any interference in your racing then?"
Takeshi shook his head, smiling his usual boyish smile. "No, not really. We're both pilots and we both want to win. We may be seeing each other outside the racetrack but that doesn't affect how we race or our desire to win."
"Ah, I see! Speaking of seeing pilots outside the racetrack, are the rumors true Liz? Have you hooked up with former team mate and current Sledge Mamma pilot River Marque?!"
Liz shrugged, trying to hide her blush with a boisterous grunt and a frown. "Not that it's any of your business but yes I have!"
"Ah so it seems that love has struck at Team Satomi with a vengeance! What about you Miss Stapleton, any love interests to speak of?"
Amy blushed, smiling shyly and shaking her head. "N-no, I'm not seeing anyone."
"You heard it first ladies and gentlemen, Amy Stapleton is single and looking! You'd be crazy not to go after this fine young lady I have here with me!" Benjamin laughed, completely missing the slightly alarmed look on Amy's face and the shifty looks that Takeshi and Liz sent her.
"You know you lie like a rug Amy."
The petite sixteen-year-old blushed, sighing and bowing her head, pouting. "I know I'm sorry! But what did you want me to say, we were on public television!"
"Oh I know that, I'm just teasing you." Takeshi grinned good-heartedly at the younger blonde pilot, lacing his fingers behind his head as the three pilots walked down the hall.
"Honestly, we're IGPX pilots, not some teeny-bopper idols! Why do they need to know that kind of stuff anyway?"
"Because we're famous and our watchers want to know everything about us that they can?" The first to be the voice of reason, Amy was glad to have their attention focused on something else besides her.
"Then they should come up to my face and ask me, not make me admit stuff on public television!"
Takeshi laughed at Liz's obstinate expression and the tight fold of her arms as her agitation showed. "Embarrassed Liz?"
"OF COURSE NOT. What're you trying to say Takeshi?!"
"Enough, enough you guys! It's not worth fighting over." Amy tried to placate weakly, looking between her two teammates.
"Well YOU agree with me Amy, right? I mean, you can't even talk about –"
"Liz!" Amy squeaked warningly, her blue eyes widening in worry. "Please, don't say anything! You never know who's listening and you know the trouble we'd have if—"
"Yeah yeah, okay, relax! My point is, you agree with me." Liz's statement was so final that it left no room for Amy to brook any argument, had she wanted to.
The three pilots walked the remaining length of the hallway in silence, the only sound being Luca's collar bell as he trotted along beside Amy. Upon opening the heavy steel door that lead to the back of the building, the pilots were bombarded with blinding flashes from cameras and shouting reporters, all dying to get statements from the victors. They offered smiles but no words as Mark met them halfway, ushering them along to the white van where Satomi, Himawari and Andrei waited to take them to the tournament closing ceremonies and gala.
Amy sighed in sheer relief as she ducked out of the stuffy ballroom-turned-reception hall, stepping out into the warm night air. After Benjamin's brilliant choice of words, nearly every male at the reception that wasn't older than thirty or taken had bumped into her, asked her to dance, or drawn her into an invigorating round of twenty questions concerning her personal life. It seemed that the topic of discussion concerning her was no longer her status as a child prodigy but her availability for dating!
Had she simply not been interested because she didn't want to date, gently rebuffing the countless suitors would have been easy. However, considering they were drawing their new-found vigor to date her from false information, it was ten times harder to act like the blushing naïve child she was presumed to be.
Amy hadn't gained much height in the three years since Team Satomi had made it to the IG-1, so she stood at roughly 5'2" and weighed less than a feather (thanks to those diligent morning runs!). Her hair had grown slightly, no longer falling to the middle of her back but her waist. After the interview, she'd changed into a glittering blue dress that fell in fluttering layers to her knees. The neckline dipped low, hinting at just enough cleavage so that her pursuers were certainly not discouraged. That aside, she was dressed tastefully and modestly.
The reception hall had a connecting patio with a fountain, closed in by rose trellises and climbing ivy. Amy slipped out between two of the tables, inspecting the decorative fountain. At its center was a sculpture of a mermaid. She tilted her head, smiling at the delicate craftsmanship of the marble, spouting streams of clear water tinted blue by the fountain basin's inner tiles.
"You look gorgeous."
Amy was almost startled by the voice behind her. She was halted from turning around to face it by long, masculine arms slipping around her body and a hot mouth brushing first across her ear and then her neck. The only thing that kept her from jumping was the fact that she knew the owner of that voice, those arms, and that mouth.
Cunningham chuckled, pressing a short kiss to her cheek, squeezing her waist and then releasing her, letting her turn to face him. Amy's cheeks flushed pink gently but she smiled widely up at him, bouncing on her toes in barely-leashed joy.
"So I hear congratulations are in order? You beat us again."
Despite the kind tone of his voice, Amy could hear the slightly buried disappointment, or rather, aggravation. Cunningham had a tendency to take his losses more seriously than his victories because he didn't lose very often, so he'd naturally be a little sore about losing to them for a fourth year in a row.
"Just barely. I mean I'm glad that we won, but if Takeshi hadn't escaped your Induraga Mano…"
Cunningham chuckled, slipping past her to sit on the fountain edge. Amy followed immediately, perching beside him with only a few inches separating them.
"You're being modest. Jan said that you gave him a run for his money."
"Well then Jan was trying to please you!"
Now he laughed outright, leaning toward her slightly. "You think my teammates suck up to me? I should be insulted."
"That's not what I meant! You know they respect you though, I'm sure they try not to get on your bad side…" Amy could tell that her logic was crumbling beneath her so she sighed, crossing her arms. "Never mind!"
There was a brief note of silence before Cunningham's voice lowered and he spoke again. "So I see that Bright's delicate . . . suggestion has got every man in that room vying for your attention."
Amy couldn't help but smile at the displeasure in his voice, her cheeks turning pink once more. "Unfortunately. I couldn't correct him or he would have started asking more questions."
"I don't understand it. I'm only sixteen, so why are all those men coming onto me? Can't they find women their own age to flirt with?"
"So you want me to go find a woman my own age?" Cunningham grinned, raising his brow teasingly as Amy immediately tried to deny what she'd said.
"N-no! You know that's not what I meant. But you have to agree with me. Would you really want to date a girl that's as young as I am?"
"Amy, you're asking the wrong person. I am dating you and I'm twenty-four." Cunningham couldn't help the twinge of pleasure at hearing it vocalized, since he certainly didn't get to very often. He could tell by her doubtful expression that she was preparing another argument, so he decided a switch of tactics was in order.
Lifting one hand to set on one satin-draped shoulder, he leaned down, quieting her response with his mouth. Amy squeaked, not prepared for the press of his lips against hers. However, deciding quickly that she preferred that to further argument, her shoulders relaxed and she leaned into him, returning his simple kiss. Taking it no further because of their open location, Cunningham leaned back, giving her a rare smile.
"Hey Amy, you out here?"
Amy immediately pouted at the sound of Takeshi's voice, not appreciating the interruption of her time with Cunningham. Reluctantly, she raised her head, calling back. "Yes, I'm over here Takeshi."
Takeshi circled the fountain. "Huh? Oh sorry, am I interrupting you guys?" Despite his desire to be polite, he couldn't resist a grin.
"Hey Takeshi. Congratulations on the win."
"Thanks Cunningham. Sorry 'bout the interruption, I'll leave you guys, but listen Amy, don't stay missing too long." At Amy's inquisitive look, he offered a lopsided smile. "Your fans are looking for you."
Amy sighed in exasperation, covering her head. "Benjamin Bright, you make my life miserable."
With a quick 'later guys', Takeshi left as quickly as he'd come, the sounds of the reception loudening briefly as he opened the doors, reentering. Cunningham sighed, leaning forward and then rising, offering a hand to her. "Come on, he's right. Let's not tempt fate out here."
"I guess you're right…" Amy pouted, taking his offered hand and rising with it. She looked up at him, reassured by the warm smile on his face.
"Listen, we'll meet tomorrow and spend time together then." Amy did not miss the fact that his words were more command then request.
"But where? If we're seen alone together it'd be suspicious." Always the tactician, Amy voiced the flaws of his suggestion despite her desire to agree whole-heartedly to said suggestion.
"Invest in a pair of sunglasses and a hoody. At least with those, we can go out unnoticed. You see Takeshi and that Fantine girl do it all the time, right?"
"True..." Amy paused, mulling over the plan before finally deciding it was the best one she'd been presented with since he'd propositioned her to date him (and forcefully, as she fondly remembered). "Okay, let's do that!"
"The boardwalk then, noon."
"Okay!" Amy smiled sweetly, her expression gentle as she lifted her head, meeting his kiss this time.
Liz flipped her hand towel over her shoulder, rubbing the back of her hand against her forehead as she left the training dojo. It had been just her in the dojo that morning because Takeshi had taken it upon himself to sleep as late as he could, so now she found herself walking into an empty rec room alone. From here she could hear the distant sounds of Mark in the garage, his voice faint as he conversed with the mechas (she'd decided a long time ago that that was a particular habit she was not going to question). Just as she sat on the couch and reached for the remote, she heard the door slam open and a squeak. Sighing, she turned in her seat.
"Amy, what are you doing?"
Amy skipped across the threshold, pushing the door closed and then rushing to the other side of the room, pulling on a sandal as she went. Liz raised a curious brow at the frenzied girl, trying again in a slower voice.
"Umm… Amy…? Where's the fire?"
The sixteen-year-old slid on the light-weight zipper-up hoody that she was carrying, smiling at Liz and answering breathlessly.
"Oh sorry Liz! I'm just going to be late if I don't hurry, is all!"
"You're going somewhere?"
Amy giggled, nodding emphatically as she pulled out small-framed sunglasses from the hoody's pocket. "Yes, I'm going out!"
"Obviously Amy. Where are you going? And since when did you wear sunglasses?"
"I can wear sunglasses whenever I want to!" Had she not been so excited, she might have sounded indignant, but as she was, she could only grin and try to contain her anticipation.
Liz eyed her suspiciously, making an obvious study of the girl where she stood. Amy was wearing a mid-length skirt fringed in girly lace and a spaghetti-strapped tank top. She'd already put on the white-zipper up and her sunglasses and had now unearthed a white denim fishing hat that she fixed atop her head carefully. In conclusion, Liz decided that Amy was entirely too nicely dressed to just be going out for fun. However, before she could make any statement, the door opened again with Takeshi entering this time, still sleep-fuddled and suffering an obvious case of unrelenting bed-head.
"Nice look ya got there Takeshi."
Takeshi made a face at Liz before noticing Amy's obvious departure preparations. "Going out Amy?"
"You're not taking Luca with you?"
"Luca made it perfectly clear that he wanted to sleep all day today! He stayed at home."
"Where are you going?" Takeshi flopped down on the opposite end of the green couch from Liz, craning his neck to keep his eyes on Amy. However, before Amy could come up with another vague answer, Liz spoke up for her.
"She's going out to see Cunningham, I'll bet."
Amy sputtered, blushing. "Liz, shh! Don't tell Miss Satomi or Andrei, okay?"
"Yeah yeah we know the drill! Now get outta there, your boyfriend is waiting for you!"
Amy giggled, waving. "Okay! Bye guys, have a nice day!"
With that exuberant parting, Amy exited the rec room, hurrying down the front hallway of the team building and pushing the front door open, fixing her bag on her shoulder and taking off at a jog. She had on a pleasant smile as she navigated the sidewalk, nodding politely and smiling at the people she passed.
Glancing at her watch again, she stopped to catch her breath at the boardwalk entrance. It wasn't extremely crowded but there were a fair amount of people milling about, but then she didn't blame them, it was a beautiful day! Fixing her hat and sunglasses, she mounted the boardwalk, beginning to walk slowly, looking about. Cunningham hadn't specified where on the boardwalk to meet him, but they both had phones, so if she couldn't find him, she could always call him.
Amy froze, hoping that that call wasn't directed at her. Could someone have recognized her already? After the stunt Benjamin Bright had pulled on their interview, she'd been weary in public, expecting every man she passed to call her out. Much to Amy's relief though, the speaker moved ahead of her to meet another person, allowing her to pass without notice. Resuming her search, she tightened her grip on her bag as she glanced around anxiously, looking for any sign of Cunningham.
It was then that someone caught her eye. He was leaning against the boardwalk's railing that overlooked the public tennis and basketball courts, probably watching whatever game was in progress below. Edging to the rail herself, she tried to steal a good look at the man. His hair was pulled back in a short ponytail that poofed out in unruliness. He wore sunglasses, cargo pants and a plane t-shirt, a sweatshirt with a hood tied around his waist.
Amy smiled immediately, approaching him slowly, ducking her head as she spoke.
Cunningham lifted his head, glanced down to look at her and smiled. Turning to her, he leaned down and pressed a short kiss to her mouth. "Hey."
"Hey." Amy blushed, smiling as she looked up at him, quelling a giggle. "Decided to try a different hairstyle today?"
Cunningham crossed his arms, giving her a wry smirk. "It's called a disguise. I see you took my advice. You look cute."
Amy clapped, smiling. "Really? Good! I found an old pair of sunglasses that were lying around in my room by sheer luck. Actually, Luca found them."
"What happened to that famous organization of yours, eh?"
"Hey! I am organized! I just… don't usually wear sunglasses", she finished lamely, pouting.
"Okay, I'm sorry." Offering her a hand, he nodded toward the remaining stretch of boardwalk. "What do you want to do?"
She took his hand pressing close to his side as they began to walk. "Why don't we just walk for a little while? We can look for a place to eat lunch!"
Nodding, he laced their fingers together, setting off for the opposite end of the boardwalk to scope out a suitable restaurant for them.
She'd been watching the horizon for a while now, and Cunningham wondered if she'd forgotten where she was. He could honestly say that next to the races of the IGPX, the last five hours had been the most enjoyable length of time in what felt like forever.
They'd walked all the way to the end of the boardwalk before turning back to scope out the restaurant they'd decided looked the best. It was on the higher end of the price range, so luckily, it hadn't been packed with people and they were able to maintain their anonymity rather easily. After lunch, he'd convinced her to play a match of tennis with him (during which he'd discovered that as good of a midfielder as she was, Amy was hopeless at sports and wouldn't have known a racket from a bat if you'd asked her). Despite her obvious lack of affinity for sports, she'd diligently chased after each tennis ball, finally crumpling to the ground and declaring forfeit. Feeling the slightest bit sorry for her, he'd agreed to carry her back to the boardwalk (which she'd enjoyed immensely).
Though he normally wasn't one to express a multitude of emotions in any public setting other than military-esque determination, cockiness, or snobbish distaste (because face it, as many fans as he had, the other IGPX fans who sympathized with the other teams felt that he was the epitome of the rude jerk), he'd been hard-pressed to quell his laughs as Amy struggled to keep up with each tennis ball volleyed at her. Although she was fast, her aim was absolutely dreadful and usually ended up with a wasted rush across her side of the net. She'd been adorable in her steadfast determination to get the ball across the net, which she'd succeeded in only a few times.
Cunningham, surprisingly, had no tolerance for the puppy-dog eyes and, very pathetically, caved when Amy turned them on him. In this particular instance, it had been to visit the bookstore on the boardwalk (because for Amy to pass-up a bookstore would have been a personal offense to herself). Despite the need to fend off the people who recognized them, she'd been thrilled by the selection of books and come out of it with a book on the history of classical orchestra (A/N: Allusion to Youkai Ryuu's fic "Fading Smile" :D GO READ IT!). Ever the gentleman, Cunningham had bought it for her, both because he refused to let her pay for anything that day and because he was rather fond of her fantastic violin skills.
Finally, after more mischief, a brief scuffle with one of Amy's y-chromosome callers and an impromptu autograph signing for a group of pre-teen IGPX fans, they'd ended up at the observatory deck that gave a fantastic view of IGPX City, especially the racetrack. It was a different view from here (as they were both used to seeing the track from the track) and oddly refreshing.
Amy had been quiet now for at least ten minutes and he wondered if she'd fallen asleep, but one covert glance at her confirmed that her eyes were open and she was awake. Her sky-hued eyes were squinting slightly and there was an absent smile on her face as she leaned against him, her small hands holding the one of his that was draped around her shoulders. When he squeezed his hand in both of hers, she blinked, looking up at him.
"What are you thinking about?" His voice was rough from their lack of speech and she blushed at how handsome he looked in the sunset's light, even behind sunglasses and with his fluffy ponytail.
"Hmm." She snuggled closer to him and her smile widened slightly when his arm closed tighter around her in response. "Today. I haven't had so much fun in a long time . . . even if I can't play tennis for my life."
Cunningham chuckled, nodding. "I was thinking the same thing . . . And you're not that bad."
"Oh don't flatter me, I know I'm terrible!"
He smiled gently, leaning his face down to nudge against hers, their noses rubbing together, his voice low. "And if I like flattering you?"
Amy smiled exuberantly, her cheeks flushing charmingly. "Than you're entirely more romantic than I give you credit for, Alexander Cunningham."
"Then you should give me more credit, Amy Stapleton." Mocking her teasingly, he caught the tip of her nose between his teeth, making her jerk back and yelp, sticking her tongue out at him.
Laughing, he tugged her back. "Put that tongue away before I put it to better use."
Amy giggled girlishly, covering her mouth to try to hide her embarrassed blush. Even though they'd been dating for a few months (five and three-quarters if she was counting right, which she was), she was still sixteen and prone to the naiveties her age provided. On top of that, Amy was on the introvert end of the social scale, so she was much less skilled in dealing with people in a casual setting, given her elevated status as child prodigy and her childhood handling as if she were a china doll (it certainly didn't help that she'd been showered with attention but starved for affection). Of course that was behind her, thanks to her new friends in the IGPX and the boost to her confidence given by the coordinated efforts of Team Satomi and everyone else associated with the IGPX.
Cunningham leaned back on the bench where they sat, stretching. "Let's do this more often."
"Okay." Amy smiled sweetly, snuggling against him once more, pillowing her head against his shoulder as they both examined the sixty mile track from this new point of view.
Cunningham turned his attention from the track back to Amy, his eyes darkening a little as he examined her face and most specifically, her mouth. He may have been a gentleman and not your typical hormonal male, but he was still a twenty-four-year-old man and not immune to the effects of pretty girls pressed against him. Even though Amy was only sixteen, he didn't see her as a child. He reasoned that it was because she was so mature for her age, thanks to her astonishing IQ and her unfortunate rush through child hood thanks to fame and familial neglect. Her naiveties aside, he considered her more adult than a couple of the people he knew, including her own team forward Takeshi and his own team defender Dew (because God only knew if that man was ever in a serious mood outside of Hamgra's office).
"Hey . . ." His voice was low and had an almost purring quality to it and Amy felt a shiver go down her spine as she felt the tug of his arm against her. Turning to look at him, her response was delayed by his continued speech. "Come 'ere . . ."
She felt her breath flutter as he leaned down again, catching her mouth deftly. He'd kissed her several times that day but they'd all been quick, fleeting brushes of the mouth. This was a real kiss; his tongue gently prodded her lips and she yielded immediately, her head tilting to accommodate him, her hands letting go of his to allow her arms to slide around his neck. In response she felt his hands slip down her slides slowly, caressingly, to grip her slim waist.
He allowed her a brief reprieve, freeing her mouth to simply nuzzle against it. Amy smiled gently, her hands pulling back from their place behind his head to slide his sunglasses up over his forehead to sit on his head, freeing a few wisps of his chocolate brown hair. A small sound of amusement surfaced from her throat as she tucked the strands behind his ear, turning her face up slightly to receive his mouth again.
They remained in their lip-lock for a few long moments. Only when he felt her small fingers tightening on his ponytail did he deem it all right to let her go. Ending the stream of kisses slowly, he nipped at her lower lip, pressing a final, simple kiss to her mouth, nudging his nose against hers as they both caught their breaths in silence.
This poignant hush was the only time that Amy ever felt nervous around Cunningham. Against her better rationale, instinct always dictated that she should tell him she loved him after such heated moments. It was the natural order of any romantic moment, laden with aesthetic novelties like moonbeams, flower petals and dramatic music, and she felt compelled to follow the tradition. However, in her right mind, she knew, a little regrettably, that neither of them was ready to trade that particular statement. At sixteen and twenty-four, already a potentially-precarious predicament, they had to pace themselves and choose their words carefully. Even though he'd made it clear he didn't care what other people would think of him, the public wasn't ready to know about them and, to Amy at least, 'I love you' was almost a sure fire way for the world to find out.
However, sensing her discomfort, Cunningham saved her the awkward fumblings and kissed her cheek, smiling easily. "All right. How about I take you out to dinner? I'm getting hungry again."
Amy smiled adoringly at him, nodding. "That sounds like a good plan to me!"
Stretching and then standing, he offered a hand to her, which she took delightedly, bouncing to her feet energetically. Cunningham couldn't help but grin as he led her from the observatory deck, their hands laced together tightly.
Barely able to contain his grin, the young man lowered his camera around his neck, barely leashing his excitement. How much would the press pay to have these pictures? Alex Cunningham of Team Velshtein and Amy Stapleton of Team Satomi, of all people! He could always do with a little extra cash, so what was there to lose?
Turning immediately away, he raced toward the end of the board walk where his bike was chained up. Mulling it over in his head quickly, he unchained his bike and mounted, pausing. He could bring it to the IGPX newscasters to give to Benjamin Bright, but he highly doubted that even Benjamin Bright would accept such illicit material, especially after just airing that Amy Stapleton was single the day before.
His mind made up, the young man rolled his bike across the gravel to gain momentum and then dashed the pedals, making a beeline for the local tabloids. They'd reward him handsomely for this.