The Rebirth of Hope

Disclaimer: All Gatchaman and Gatchaman-related characters are property of Tatsunoko Productions. No profit is being made from this story.

Author's note: This is my very tiny, very first fic. It would not exist without the amazing Swans, Owls, Eagles, Condors and Villains from Gatchamania -- especially Hinotori who encouraged it, read it, fixed it and made me feel confident enough to post it. Thank you!!

Jun neatly folded her striped jeans and placed them on the small bench above her shoes. She then stripped off her t-shirt, carefully folding and placing it beside her pants. She stopped for a moment and stared down at her civvies, swallowing hard. She felt guilty for doing this. For what felt like the hundredth time that day she thought about canceling, not going through with it. But Galactor had been quiet for the last two days and there were no signs coming from intelligence that even hinted at the remote possibility of an attack. Still, Jun knew that there weren't always warnings and the last thing she wanted to do was be caught here, out of uniform and unprepared to answer the call. She had set so much aside for her duty to the Science Ninja Team, and to Gatchaman, that the slightest distraction felt wrong to her. Sometimes her smallest indulgences felt like a betrayal to the team, to her duty, to the world. And to Ken. She felt she was betraying him most of all.

Jun shivered slightly as she stood in only her bra and panties, then hugged her arms about herself. The idea of betraying Ken made her skin crawl. He had no claim on her and she had no right to claim him, but that only made her feel more desolate. "Just get dressed and walk out," she thought to herself. But in that same moment, she knew she couldn't. She needed this. She needed to do this as these small, intimate moments let her know she was still herself. That the heart and soul of Jun was still alive inside her. So much of her true self was hidden now. Her very identity was such an utter secret that she barely had friends. Her own name, Jun, seemed like it was no longer relevant; she was "G-3" more and more, even in her own thoughts. She had schooled herself so well to accept her duty that sometimes she believed she didn't want a normal life any more. Her soul was filled with the blood of years of war and she sometimes felt she couldn't remember whom she had been before. Did she really love Ken? Was she even capable of love at all?

Jun looked at her reflection in the mirror and saw a thin, tired girl with empty eyes. "I might already be a ghost," she thought. She shivered again and knew she had been standing there too long. For all of her indecision, she was nonetheless still here. Nearly naked, and as vulnerable and lost as she had ever felt in her life, Jun knew she needed this moment to find the strength and hope for her to continue on to the next. Yes, that was what this was ultimately all about, the rebirth of hope; the rebirth of her hope.

Jun slipped off her bra and placed it next to the rest of her clothing, then stepped up on the small platform before her. Suddenly, there was a gentle rap at the door frame of the curtained entrance. Jun modestly covered her bare breasts with her arm and answered "I'm ready." The curtain slid back and a dark haired girl, the same one Jun had seen the last time, came in, a smile on her face.

As the girl knelt in front of Jun, piles of snowy white silk dropped from her arms. Jun carefully stepped into the fabric that had gathered around her feet and the girl moved behind her, pulling the fabric gently over Jun's hips. As the girl began to work at the closures at her back. Jun reveled at each tiny sensation... The sensuousness of the silk brushing against her bare skin; the warm, sure hands deftly securing the row of miniature hook-and-eye closures trailing up her spine; the snug feel of the skin-tight dress pulling across her abdomen, her stomach and finally her breasts. Jun felt her heart quicken as she once again connected with her own body, her sense of self, and even her understanding of her beauty. Her emerald eyes smiled now as her imagination flared to fill in the missing details. The roses around her; candles and candle light; soft musical sounds from a cello or a violin.

The dark haired girl finished her work and then gently gathered Jun's long hair in her hands, pulling it forward so it would framed her face, then trail delicately across her bare shoulders revealed by the strapless gown. "What is his name again?" the girl asked softly.

"Ken," Jun responded quietly, "My finance is Ken. He's a pilot."

The dark haired girl smiled knowingly, then stepped away so Jun could see herself in the mirror. "Well, once he sees you walk down the aisle in that, I don't think you'll have any trouble keeping him on the ground." She leaned over and adjusted the folds of the train. "I'll give you a moment to think about it" the girl said as she swished out through the curtained doorway. Jun barely noticed her departure as she stood in awe of her transformation. As surely as if she had raised her bracelet and shouted "Bird Go" she could not have been more different then the girl, the ghost, who had walked in here. She felt full and warm and poised on the edge of a life that in one moment of instant clarity seemed completely and utterly real. This was where hope lived within her. For one hour, every three months or so, she lived every single moment she was denied the rest of the time. For one hour Ken was hers, the world was at peace, and she was beautiful. Beautiful in her own eyes and beautiful in his.

The tiny bell above the shop door jingled as she closed it behind her. Galactor hadn't attacked. No one had called her on her bracelet. Ken hadn't found out. Without looking back, she swung her leg over her bike and gunned the engine, leaving the dress and the bridal shop behind.