Title: Love Will Tear Us Apart- Death and the Condor, Part One
Author: Sybil Rowan
Pairing(s)/Characters: No pairings, just an Asakura family fiction
Summary: Joe gets complications from a bought of pneumonia and has a chance to talk with his parents in Purgatory. He takes on the task of vengeance to help them towards Heaven, but he's hasn't totally forgiven them. Takes place early on in the first Gatchaman series.
Warnings: Angst, a lot of religious themes, and one bad word.
Author's Notes: Edit on January 9, 2009. This is an old story of mine; it's actually the first part of a trilogy about Joe dealing with his afterlife and reconciling with his parents. I've decided to post everything and get my old stuff off my hard drive. Most of my Gatchaman fan-fictions revolve around Asakura family angst. I hope to post a lot more.
Disclaimer: Gatchaman and everything related with it belongs to Tatsunoko. Named after a Joy Division song.
Beta Reader: My totally awesome, and totally picky, husband WingedPanther73!
June 21, 1989 (4:59PM)/ Word Count= 5,147
The incessant beeping from Joe's left wrist brought him around from a deep sleep on his sofa. He rose on shaky feet and walked to his dark bedroom. He pulled a sweatshirt over his head and settled into bed.
He had already talked to Ken an hour ago. Ken had told him it really wasn't a dire emergency. Jinpei had gotten a little nervous over something he had sighted out at the beach with Jun and Ryu. Ken had told Joe to rest up. He had tried to play down how ill he was, but Ken could still hear it. Besides, there hadn't been a change in Joe's symptoms in three days.
Joe hadn't told Ken about the symptom that really worry him; it was a burning sharp pain in on the right side of his chest. Just a pin prick, but it would be enough to set Ken into a barrage of questions, drenched in worry.
Joe wanted to maintain responsibility for his own problems; he clung to his aloofness. He tried reaching with his right hand to the night stand only to feel a shooting pain run through his chest and down his arm. Joe retrieved a photo and held it to the sunlight that worked its way in through venetian blinds. It was of Giuseppe and Katerina Asakura holding their only child when he was three.
"I'm so tired of not achieving what I need. I'm not making progress. I need to do right by you. Maybe you're the only reason I stay with Ken and the others," he said in rolling Italian. "I want to find you both again. I need to finish this or be with you right now. I don't care which."
He held the picture close to his chest and shut his eyes as a coughing fit wracked his body. He sank into restless sleep.
"Why didn't you call me earlier? It wouldn't have gotten this far," Doctor Nambu thought, while looking at the unconscious and wayward Condor. Joe was nestled on the powder white hospital bed.
Joe had called at three in the morning from his trailer, saying only that he was dying. Joe never exaggerated. Nambu immediately called an ambulance after he arrived at Joe's trailer and found Joe passed out on the carpet in his own vomit and blood.
Doctor Nambu looked down in his own hands where he held the two items Joe had been clutching in a death grip. A photo of the Asakuras and his moonstone rosary. Of all the teens in his organization, Donald included, it always amazed Nambu how quietly religious Joe turned out to be.
In Nambu's opinion, Joe had every reason in the world to lose his faith in God. Nambu had witnessed Joe vacillate between anger and faith for the last ten years. Nambu only wanted practical, sober-minded young people working on the Science Ninja Team, not dreamers. He knew that Joe controlled his fluctuations under his brooding.
"You were always so strong-willed as a child. I had so much trouble drawing the line between showing you discipline and breaking your spirit," he thought, going over to the blinds and drawing them shut against the morning sun. "I thought your spirit had been crushed a few times, but each time you came back with that controlled fire. It always burned hotter, but more contained and distant. Is vengeance what keeps driving you? Did you love your parents so much to live the on going hell you go through every day? Maybe it's faith that keeps you going."
He didn't relish telling the others about Joe's progressing illness. Nambu had just found out that Joe was slipping towards death and the pulmonary experts couldn't do anything to stop it. It was as if the young Sicilian man was giving up willingly.
Nambu remembered Joe's heart had stopped when his family was assassinated. There was supposedly no hope of saving the mutilated eight-year-old, however the team of ISO surgeons were able to save him. Nambu knew Joe was no stranger to dying.
It was a miracle that Joe had survived with no brain damage after Nambu had found him. Nambu was prepared to lose one of his wards in battle, but to lose them to illness seemed abnormal. He turned and left Joe in a lonely hospital room.
"Since you are his guardian, we need your signature," a stocky, ISO surgeon said, handing Nambu a clipboard. He had moved Joe to the building for privacy's sake.
"Are you positive it's shrapnel?" Nambu asked, signing the forms.
"It has been in there for ten years, according to our records. It needs to come out now because of the complications with his recent bout of pneumonia. The infection is going to kill him," the man said.
Nambu handed the clipboard back. He took a seat and fought the urge to contact Ken. Jun and Ryu's lives depended on his focus. He had received word that Jun and Ryu had stumbled on a Galactor submarine and had been kidnapped. Ken and Jinpei were in wild pursuit.
Ken had called for Joe's help on the way to the hospital; it had taken Ken off guard to have Nambu answer and tell him they were on the way to the hospital. Ken accepted the news and cut communication. Nambu hoped he would hear back from Ken soon, so he could at least stop worrying about some of the Science Ninja Team.
"Mama! Papa," Joe shouted to the couple sitting on the terrace across the bright beach.
He jogged towards them shouting for them again and waving his arms frantically. They both turned and rose uncertainly. The woman, dressed in a simple green frock, ran across the soft sand and flew into his arms. Joe felt scorched by her embrace for a moment and then he rested on her slight frame. He pulled away enough to see her face.
It hadn't changed in ten years, but now Joe had a different perspective. He was almost a foot taller than the redheaded woman. It was disconcerting to see his same gray eyes stare back at him with matronly tenderness.
He was smothered again as he was taken in another singeing embrace. Two firm kisses were planted on his cheeks. Giuseppe's mustache had always tickled him when he was little. It felt so comforting to feel the whiskers brush his skin again. He stood face to face with a slightly older version of himself.
"Mama! Papa," he said, clutching them tightly with all the terror of losing them again playing through his mind. Their embraces caused Joe a painful, physical sensation of burning; he tremble under the strain. They lay him on the sandy beach and shaded him from the harsh morning sun. The sensations subsided and he grew cognizant again. He asked, "Is this real?"
"You've died again, Jojori," Katerina said. Her delicate hands took his right hand and held it to her lips. Tears ran down her face as she brushed his long, unruly hair off his brow. She moved his head on her lap and kissed his forehead. "You've changed so very much. You were just a little boy, but now you're a man. It's so amazing."
"You were meant to be with us a long time ago, but you went back," Giuseppe said, taking Joe's left hand and sitting beside them. Joe shook his head slightly as he looked into his father's warm, brown eyes.
"But why?" Joe asked. Joe followed his father's gaze over to a withered tree that rested where the lush grass began at the sand. The landscape was the same he knew from BC Island, it held no answers for Joe. He shut his eyes to them and abandoned himself to his parents ministration.
"I'm staying here... with you. It's too long and too pointless. I'm staying," he said, squeezing their hands. He was amazed at how different the fit was now. It wasn't long before it felt right and good again.
Pleasure and delirium began to wash away the reason why he had chosen to leave his parents. The tight rock in his chest began to slowly ease itself. Why his parents and he were in the after life began to grow unimportant to Joe. Anger without a purpose was empty.
"This is what matters," Joe murmured.
He couldn't remember the reason to live any longer. Life wasn't wanted. Even the people who he had met and grew to care for left his mind. His borrowed time began to melt away as he banished their faces from his thoughts. It wasn't in the natural order for him to meet them anyway.
"Papa. This isn't Heaven is it?" Joe asked. His mother began to massage his temples, anxiety flashed across her face.
"Don't worry about it for now, mio figlio. It's Heaven to us now that you're with us again," Giuseppe whispered.
Jun looked over to Ryu and gave him a smirk as he limped on his sprained ankle. They had finished delivering a handful of U. N. sailors back to friendly territory, after being kidnapped themselves. He had gotten the gimp leg from rescuing one of the ungrateful group whose egos were damaged by having to obey a 16 year old girl. She felt ten years older from that foray.
"I have a bad feeling about this. Not only that, I have to keep Dad from calling the harbor patrol on Ken for taking his boat. I told him it was me, but all those spent air tanks made him really mad. He thinks it's a vandal," Ryu said. One thing she had learned was that Ryu's 'feelings' were never wrong.
"I think that we should get a vacation after what we went through," she said, opening the door for him to the Crescent Coral lounge. She saw Jinpei on one of the bar stools. He instantly flew to her arms and tightly squeezed her.
"Don't ever do that again, Onechan. I can't worry about you like that again!" She fought back her own tears and returned the embrace. He turned on Ryu next, giving him a playful punch to the arm.
"You either, you big jerk." Ryu ruffled the tousled brown hair and flopped down on one of the sofas, elevating his ankles. Ken burst through the door.
"Where's Joe and Doctor Nambu?" Ken asked.
"Probably still sick with that nasty flu bug," Jun pointed out. "Didn't the doctor go see Joe?"
"I'm right here, Ken. You all need to have a seat," the Doctor said, entering through an opposite door from Ken.
He waited until they were all in place before he said, "As you all know, Joe has been sick with a chest cold for a few days. Complications set in last night and I had to bring him here to see a specialist. He's resting and stable."
"Where is he?" Ken asked as he rose suddenly. The others joined Ken, giving the Doctor beseeching looks.
"He's under guard right now. He needs to be alone. Let him rest until tomorrow, because the surgery didn't go so well. Some time will be needed for him to recover," Nambu said.
"You lied to me! Surgery? We want to see him," Ken's voice held so much malice the others stepped back.
"What I told you was for your own good. If I told you how sick he really was, neither you nor Jinpei would have concentrated on the task at hand. I'll let you all in to see him tomorrow morning if he's improved any. I'll call you if his condition changes at all. Good night," Nambu's voice was firm, brooking no argument.
"Damn it!" Ken shouted as the Doctor left the lounge.
"I don't understand one thing," Joe said, squeezing his parents' hands tightly as they strolled along the ocean side. "Why?"
"Why what, Jogi?" Katrina asked, laying her head on Joe's arm. He looked at the sand underneath his bare feet and tried hard to formulate the question in his mind.
"Why didn't we all go to Heaven? Isn't that where we belong? This isn't Hell is it? It can't be?" Joe asked, getting a little panicked as his sharp eyes snapped up and examined his surroundings.
It was just the childhood home that he had been raised in before something happened. He was starting to forget his life after the event that had separated him from his parents. He was happier that way. The gentle waves rolled up, each one seeming to carry more of his memories out to the Mediterranean sea.
"That's our son, Katrina. Always focused on what he can't see. You, Jogi, never had a very science oriented mind. Mostly imagination," Giuseppe said, squeezing Joe's hand back and giving small pats.
"I tried. I was really trying to be like you," Joe answered from his regressed mind.
"It would have made us happier if you were yourself," Katerina said with a warm smile. "We would have loved you no matter what you would have chosen to do. In our eyes, you are perfect. We wanted to give you that choice; to be who you wanted to be."
"Is that what lead to this? Our deaths?" Joe asked. His mother wouldn't meet his eyes any longer. Neither would his father.
"Yes. The Galactor asked us for the one thing we wouldn't give them. You," she answered softly, her voice almost drowned out by the crashing waves. Joe sensed a cold regret emanating from both of his parents.
"Why aren't you going to Heaven? I need to know the truth! I was too young to know what was going on and I can't remember the details. Tell me," Joe demanded.
"Mio figlio. You can still go to Heaven right now if you want. We can't," his father answered.
"But why not?" Joe asked. A creeping sense of horror gnawed at his stomach. A warm wave lapped up to the trio's knees and they turned and faced each other. "I can't stay with you? I waited such a long time to be here and see you both."
"Your mother and I have accepted this. We love you too much to let you languish here. All you have to do is keep walking that way. This is as far as we can go." Giuseppe said, pointing down the beach.
"I don't understand. I'm not leaving you behind. I'll stay here with you," Joe insisted.
"No, Jogi. We won't let you suffer on top of the agony we put you through. Go and forget us. It's important. It was our fault that we ended up here. We won't let you pay for our sins again and again. Go! Now, beloved, go," Katrina said with desperation edging into her voice.
"You see, this is Purgatory, Jogi. Your mother and I made a mistake and sinned. We held contempt for humanity and willingly worked with Galactor to enslave humanity. We grew greedy and hid the final part of our invention from Sosai X's main agent at the time. She grew angry and vowed to punish us. We arrogantly went back to BC Island, thinking that they would pay our price and wipe out the filthy part of humanity. We sat smugly in our ivory tower secure in our superiority until..."
"No don't say it! That's a dirty lie! You were forced to work for Galactor. You were trying to escape. You and mother loved humanity and would never do something depraved!" Joe shouted, taking a step backwards into the deeper, cool water. "If you say it I'll have to remember it. Don't do it to me, mio padre! I don't want to leave this place and if I remain ignorant I can stay with you."
"But Jigori, like all good and responsible parents, we must see to your well-being above our own well-being and wants. Not only did they want the weapon back, but they wanted a sign of fidelity on our part. They wanted to take you away from us and train you to be an assassin. We couldn't let that happen," Giuseppe said with a tear-filled smile.
"Sosai X ordered that a Devilstar assassin be sent to kill us if we didn't bend to it's will," Katrina picked up the story. "We realized too late our mistake and tried to make up for what we had done by contacting the ISO and defecting. We were willing to die for humanity when we realized that it was beautiful. Jogi, if you would have been just like us, that is very scholarly, we would have never realized the full capacity of love and the value of all human life. You redeemed us in part by being so spiritual. I remember when you came up to see what the shooting was all about. My soul wept bitterly at failing in protecting you from the insidious deals we had made. Moments later you were with us in this lonely place."
"We weren't allowed to go any were else except Purgatory, because our sins were never confessed. Because of our love for you, and our last minute repentance, we weren't cast in Hell," Giuseppe explained.
"It seemed like years that the three of us stayed here, even though it was only three minutes. An angel came and explained it to us all. He said that you could go back because things weren't balanced when we died. We could go to Heaven if you went back and corrected the mistake by destroying the Sosai X's presence on the Earth. You don't remember it, do you?" Katrina asked.
"You aren't subject to death now unless you want it and you are still not at risk of Hell. Once you destroy the Galactor, you must come back here. If you don't soon afterwards, you will be out of Grace and could be sent to Hell. We would be in Heaven and permanently separated from you. You are risking your eternal soul to set us free and we won't have that, now that you're safe. All it takes is one unrepentant sin outside of Grace and you will be in torment forever. Please go on to Heaven. You left us when you were a child and we couldn't stop you from choosing to free us, but now maybe you'll understand that you are more important to us than leaving Purgatory," Giuseppe said.
"My destroying Galactor is the only way for us to be together in Heaven?" Joe asked flatly, as the memories of the Devilstar assassin washed back up from the sea. They were painful pieces like broken glass inside Joe's head. "Why can't we stay here? This is Purgatory, right? It doesn't seem terrible."
"Appearance is not always true," Katrina said, taking Joe's hands again. "We don't want you to risk damnation for us. Please go so that we can have some measure of comfort here. We are willing to spend all of Eternity here in Limbo so long as you are safe." Joe squeezed her hands tightly as his childish delusions sank away.
"Here's your beer, Anki no Ken," Jinpei said in a hostile tone as he slammed the frothy mug down. "That's four hundred yen!"
"Can't you put it on the tab?" Ken asked.
"No I can't. Jun won't let me, even if I wanted to, you big fat liar," Jinpei shouted out. Ken looked around to note that the bar was empty.
"Jinpei, I didn't know how bad off Joe really was," Ken said. He regretted lying to Jinpei when they were rescuing Jun and Ryu in spite of his need for the youngster's focus. He regretted Jinpei losing respect for him and looking at him with mistrust.
"Yeah, but you knew he had pneumonia and you told me it was just a cold, even when I called you on it. You could have been up front with me. Now I just think you're one big creep," Jinpei shouted. Ken flinched and glared down at those hostile, brandy-colored eyes.
"I shouldn't have lied to you. I apologize. I made a mistake. I know I can't afford to lose your trust, but you have to understand that adults make decisions, sometimes, and don't give all the reasons behind them. They can see everything clearly and need to make a snap decision," Ken said. Jinpei's smoldering eyes softened a little.
"Fine! But when I grow up I won't just make a bunch of choices and not let people know what's going on," Jinpei snapped and walked off as some people sauntered into the Snack J.
"I thought the same thing when I was your age, Jin. When my father did the same thing and walked out on me after mom died," Ken thought to himself as he sipped on his beer.
Joe sat on the sand dune and looked over at his parents. They were holding each other and gazing out on the setting sun. They had left Joe alone so that he could sort out his thoughts and feelings.
He was too young at the time to realize what was going on, so his mind naturally produced a story. He believed his parents were blameless saints who were duped into using their talents for destruction. Nambu never discouraged this fantasy.
To know that they had held malice towards mankind in the past went straight to his heart. He had never pictured himself as a great philanthropist, but terrorism disgusted him. He never could understand how brilliant people could be seduced into evil.
The only sensation was pain. He couldn't understand how they had designed to enslave humanity at one time. This was hell. He couldn't reconcile his parents' image with reality. He had loved them unconditionally for ten, long years. He had constructed his life around destroying the organization that had killed them. It was reprehensible to find the responsibility for their deaths lay at their own feet.
He started to feel shame and anger welling up in the pit of his stomach as the violation seeped in. This deep-seated pain was not going to go away. Joe had to decide what to do with the options that he had. They had cheated his life when he was a child, but now that he was older, he had the power to choose.
He drew his knees up to his chin and really studied them. They were both so radically different from him in general, however pieces of the both comprised him. His coloring and eyes were hers, but his face was definitely Giuseppe's. He used to have a loud, forthright nature like Katrina's but he had learned to use the quiet logic his father had bestowed on him.
They had accepted and encouraged his interest because they loved him so much. They had also risked their lives to protect him from becoming a Galactor-trained assassin. They didn't want to make him into a version of themselves; they wanted to give him his life and freedom to choose how to live. They were his guides into adulthood and his caretakers, but not his overseers. Unfortunately, their sins and greed had enslaved him as certainly as if they had given him to Galactor. He didn't know if he could love them again with the same utter devotion he'd had for them before.
They glanced over at him with heavy sorrow etched on their faces. They were willing to stay here for the rest of Eternity to ensure he achieved Heaven. He recalled the numerous books he had read on the afterlife and Purgatory. It was a punishment for guilt, but it wasn't the permanent punishment of Hell.
Joe couldn't figure out the punishment they were suffering. He didn't understand how living on BC Island again could be a torment. Whatever it was, Joe was certain it was horrible.
He stood up and began to walk towards them. He had made his decision. Right or wrong, he was a piece of each of them. They were willing to sacrifice living in Purgatory just for him. He should do the same by them and stay to offer them comfort.
He was devastated by their revelations, but he would have all Eternity to sort out his feelings towards them. He would return to the state of being he should be at: a denizen of Purgatory.
"Your decission is not correct. Your true state of being is alive and fighting the Galactor. Balance the scales; things will be put right. You can't stay in Purgatory,' a voice murmured in Joe's mind.
"I won't listen to you. This is the only way I can make sure we are together forever," Joe thought back as they embraced him again.
"You have to go to Heaven or back to Earth now, Jigori," his father said after his parents pulled away from him. "We love you very much, but we don't want you to stay here any more. The torments for our sins are coming and we don't want you here to witness it."
Joe's mother wrapped her thin arms around his chest and clenched him. He shivered, feeling her breath on the back of his neck. His father's embrace was the same. They were growing icy. Joe felt the kisses on his cheeks as they both left for the replica of his childhood home.
"No!" He struggled towards them, "Let me go with you. You said it was possible for me to stay."
He struggled to glimpse his parents in the dim, dusk light, but they were consumed in flames as they approached the spot where the Devilstar had assassinated them. Their flesh began to melt slightly and hang off their bodies as unholy screeches of agony hit his ears. Joe struggled with everything he had towards them with single-mindedness. The fire was too powerful for him to close.
"We won't let you suffer our fate. Go to Heaven now," Giuseppe shouted out to Joe through gasps of pain. "We must burn all night long. Go, because we won't accept you in this corner of Purgatory!"
"You can't help them without balancing the scales. Come with me that you may join them soon in Heaven," the mellow voice in his head intoned.
It was as if his soul were made of stone. His parents were going to try to make him go to Heaven, even thought they knew he was their last hope for redemption.
"If you choose to go back to the land of the living for your parents, you will free their souls to eternity. You're committed already. When you died the first time as a child and chose this, you chose to go free them because of your love for them. You are angry with them now, but you must go live and find love for them once again," the voice pushed into his head. The blaze grew higher as the smell of rotting flesh and salt water filled his senses.
"Not this! How could I leave them now?" he asked.
'Love them and you will leave them to avenge them,' the voice buzzed.
"I will destroy the Galactor and free you!" Joe shouted to his parents as a starless night fell over the beach. He sank into the sand as his vision began to dim. The partial memories and anger filled his mind once again, as he felt his flesh toes began to move again.
Joe sat up slowly and let Ken put more pillows behind him. Ken set a tray on Joe's lap. Jinpei had gone all out, with soup and other nutritious items. Ken held up the spoon and smirked at Joe.
"Eat it all or I'll sic Jun on you this afternoon," Ken threatened.
"You sure do play nasty," Joe said, smirking back.
"Funny man," Ken said. He handed over the spoon and silently watched as Joe slowly consumed half the soup. "Feeling better?"
"Yes, mother," Joe answered, feeling in a wily mood after being bed-ridden for a week at Ken's airstrip.
"I got you something while I was out on my last run," Ken said, unzipping his tan windbreaker. He got out a dog-eared paperback copy of Dante's Inferno in Italian.
"You really went out of you way for this," Joe said, thumbing through it and observing the previous owner's markings.
"No. I went to that store in Kimare City you had talked about with Italian language books. They had a used book section and I felt compelled to buy it."
"Did I talk in my sleep or something?"
"Not anything I understood, because you spoke Italian, but Doctor Nambu did. He said you kept mentioning Purgatory," Ken said. Ken looked down and blushed suddenly. "You also talked about your parents."
"Just a wild dream," Joe said. He was only left with hazy, half impressions left behind from his illness.
He thumbed through the brittle pages and then held it up to his nose. It smelled of pipe tobacco and moonflowers. The one thing he knew distinctly, was that there was still hope for redemption. "I want to go home tomorrow and get back to work."
"If you want," Ken answered with a shrug.
"It's also a need besides a want," Joe said, shutting the book.