A/N: I have no rights or affiliation with the characters presented within this piece
Since June 11 is King Kamehameha Day in Hawaii, we thought it only right to celebrate with an update for this particular fiction set in that lovely state with it's sunkissed beaches, surf that rolls gently or roars with awesome power and a welcoming spirit all encompassed by one iconic word-'Aloha'. Happy reading!
Orange Soda and War II
It took Jason's eyes a moment to adjust to the change in light between the exterior beach glare and the cool dimness of the King Kamehameha Club. As soon as he could see his surroundings, he scanned the area for Spinelli but the telltale swatch of messy black hair which bespoke of his anomalous friend was nowhere to be seen.
Where the hell had he gone now? He was just getting ready to stride off in a random direction to search for him; he didn't feel comfortable with him out of his line of sight in these unfamiliar surroundings, when Higgins placed a restraining arm on his shoulder. It was difficult for Jason not to shake off the older man's preventive hand in anger, but he held himself back in deference to the man's heretofore display of good manners.
"It's quite all right Jason. He's with Magnum and Rick, safe as houses here. They have undoubtedly just gone into Rick's quarters to effect a change of clothing," he had made his voice as soothing and non-inflected as he could but all he got in return for his trouble was a baleful look and an unintelligible grunt of dissatisfaction. 'Really, the man was most difficult,' Higgins thought in exasperation, 'as if any of them would harm the lad in any way. It was absolutely preposterous!'
"You must relax," he continued, trying to get Jason to move with him toward the bar. "After all, it was my understanding that you and the boy were here on vacation. It has hardly been restful thus far from what I have ascertained."
Jason allowed his clenched jaw to relax a mere millimeter, "Spinelli's idea, this trip." Finally, Jason, a virtual paragon of succinct communication, was talking as he moved grudgingly in step with Higgins. All the while his eyes were roving, examining every inch of the club as he earmarked suspicious nooks and crannies, strategically placed exits and most of all strained to see or hear Spinelli's easily distinguished voice somewhere in the gloom.
"Somehow I am not unduly surprised," Higgins said with a chuckle, triumphant in their dual arrival at the bar. He gestured to a stool and waited for Jason to sit before he did. "Still, from what I have seen of your relationship, the boy takes his every cue from you. If you don't start enjoying yourself, at least somewhat, you'll deprive the lad of his chance to have some fun."
Jason started at that revelation from this stranger he had just met. Maybe there was more to this bald, rotund man than for which he had been prepared to give him credit. In addition to being a bit stodgy, it appeared that he was quite apt at reading people.
"A martini, dry with a twist and for you?" Higgins ordered from the barman as he then courteously inclined his head toward Jason. He correctly read the hesitation in Jason's expression, that he didn't want to be indebted to this stranger who, along with his companion, had already intruded into his and Spinelli's lives more than he was comfortable with... "I'm afraid you and young Spinelli will have to accept my hospitality this evening. It's a member's only association." He made the remark with an offhand practicality, knowing that it was the only way to phrase his offer so that Jason would accept it. He clearly had almost as much pride as Higgins himself, something that was a rarity in this day and age if Magnum was anyone to judge such things by.
Jason nodded briefly, his face shadowed in the half-lit bar, "I appreciate it. We'll make it up to you." Higgins could tell that he meant it. Unlike some of his other acquaintances who always made the gesture, yet never actually reciprocated.
"Certainly," he murmured graciously, recognizing the size of the concession represented by that concise response. "It's my honor to have you and the lad as my guests after the service you performed in retrieving what was so unceremoniously extracted while Magnum was off slavering over some pulchritudinous female instead of attending to his duty."
Jason actually laughed; it was a short abbreviated sound but most definitely a laugh. It was good to see that the man had a sense of humor at least. Jason was dumbfounded that he had somehow run across another person that sounded precisely like Spinelli in his speech patterns but who wasn't nearly as kind in his estimations of his fellow human beings or at least where Magnum was concerned. No, Higgins was not as innocent as Spinelli, a bit more worldly minded in his sensibilities, something Jason could relate to, even if the speech patterns were a bit beyond him.
Higgins' assessment of Magnum was just fine as Jason was concerned; actually it was balm to his unacknowledged wounded ego. He might have captured the elusive Lady Madonna but it was a poor trade when measured against the fact that Magnum seemed to have, and with great ease, ensnared Spinelli's admiration, maybe even his heart. So, if this Higgins man wished to spend their time together making disparaging remarks about the mustached freeloader, he Jason would be a receptive audience, might even join in himself without much prodding.
On his part, Higgins was surprised and rather pleased to find that this silent, stoic man seemed to have no trouble whatsoever in following his train of thought and what was even more telling-his verbal expression of that selfsame progression. 'How odd,' Higgins thought to himself, musing as to how that came about, 'Most peculiar really, most of the time Magnum stared at him dully, not understanding nearly half of what he said, it was odd that someone as pragmatic as Jason seemed to be would be able to follow his vocabulary as well as he appeared to be doing. Maybe it was just a fluke.'
"A beer, whatever you have on tap, would be good," Jason was speaking to the bartender as he added, "Also, an orange soda for my friend..."
Just then Magnum's less than dulcet tones could be heard approaching, signifying the return of the missing members of their party, "Look, Rick just because you don't get what the kid and I see in proudly wearing the national clothing of Hawaii, is no reason to try and turn him into a little mini you or even worse a little mini-Higg..." As he approached the bar, Magnum cut himself off and with a cheesy grin switched gears, saying "Hi, guys!"
"Getting comfy at the bar, I see," he twinkled at Higgins and tried an inclusive grin at Jason. His efforts failed miserably, neither man responded in kind. Jason just accepted his beer from the barman and took a testing gulp from it while Higgins merely stared at Magnum in stony, disapproving silence.
"Got an orange soda for you..." Jason had turned to Spinelli, all the while pointedly ignoring Magnum and his dogged overtures of friendship. He paused and stared at his young friend in disbelief. "What...what are you wearing?" He managed to choke out, desperately glad that he had swallowed the beer, for he knew without a doubt it would have come spitting out of him in shocked response to the sight meeting his astounded gaze.
Spinelli ducked his head and shuffled uncomfortably, disliking being the cynosure of all eyes, or at least all the eyes that currently mattered to him. Over their time together, Jason had seen Spinelli in many different outfits:plaid shirts with argyle sweaters, jeans and sweatshirts and even the occasional suit which Jason had to admit made him look - well - handsome, almost. The Aloha shirt and matching shorts as loud and colorful as they had been was in accord with Spinelli's taste in clothing, his exuberance and flair for life...but this, this was...it was just wrong.
Spinelli was dressed in duck cotton trousers with a pleat sharp enough to cut a finger on, he had on a navy blue polo shirt with a gold anchor over the left breast, he was wearing canvas boat shoes and a striped blue and white canvas belt with a brass buckle. Surmounting the whole ridiculous outfit was a Captain's hat adorning his head. It was tilted so far back it seemed poised to fall off at any moment and Jason fervently wished it might take that suicidal leap. What type of people had they fallen in with?
"I think the lad looks marvelous, well put together, very dapper," Higgins said bestowing an approving smile on the boy who was blushing as he looked up in silent dismay at his mentor's disapprobation.
"He looks like he's a young Hugh Hefner ready to go out on the Play Yacht with the Bunnies!" Magnum snorted in disgust. For the first time Jason felt a kinship with the thieving detective, he couldn't agree more. 'What the hell had they done to his Spinelli?'
"Hey, watch it!"
Jason swiveled his head to see who had spoken, he was glad to have an excuse to remove his eyes from his awkwardly squirming protégé.
"Who are you?" He asked the man bluntly, disliking him instantly. It was clear he was the responsible party for dressing his roommate like some sort of seafaring, preppy wannabee since he was wearing an identical outfit down to the Captain's hat which sat at a jaunty angle on his head. In addition he was wearing a blue blazer with another gold anchor over the breast pocket out of which peaked an immaculate white triangle of fabric. The man was short, and it was clear that was why they had raided his limited wardrobe to outfit poor Spinelli. He was glaring at Magnum and had missed Jason's less than polite query.
"Oh, where are my manners?" Magnum said sardonically, "Rick Wright this is Jason Morgan. Rick manages the King Kamehameha and as, I am sure you can tell, is the one who supplied the dry clothing for Spinelli."
"Yeah, and what's wrong with the clothes I provided, I'd like to know," he had blue eyes that were flashing angrily at Magnum and his posture indicated his naturally pugnacious attitude toward life which was so often embodied by vertically challenged men.
"Well," Magnum sighed, he really didn't want to get into one of those arguments with Rick right now. "Nothing, I guess..." he registered the deepening scowl on Rick's face and held up his hands in an appeasing gesture. "Look Rick, all I'm saying is that I don't think it's the kid's style that's all," he placated, "unless of course the kid really is a protégé of Hugh Hefner," he muttered sarcastically.
"I suppose you think he ought to walking around in one of those monstrosities you wear Magnum?" Higgins interjected unable to keep quiet any longer. "Where did you get that replacement one anyway?" He couldn't believe that Magnum was attired yet again in another Aloha shirt, this one colored in effulgent gold and orange.
"Magnum had Rick here keep some extra on hand, for situations just like this one, I guess, Higgy Baby," Jason couldn't believe his senses were so dulled by the events of the afternoon that he hadn't registered the presence of yet another man.
He was as tall as Magnum but infinitely more bulky and yet every ounce was pure muscle. He stepped out of the concealing shadows from where he had been watching his friends bicker and silently gauging the unknown quantity that was this stranger in their midst. "Hi, I'm Theodore Calvin, but everyone calls me T.C., the lone sane voice in this crew," he nodded back toward Rick and Magnum who were engaged in a glaring contest.
Jason liked him immediately; he had an open, genuine face and a disarming smile that showed a gap between his front teeth. His grip was firm but not overpowering, he was a man comfortable in his own skin and didn't need to prove anything. Jason felt an immediate kinship with him.
"Jason Morgan," he supplied, offering his hand. He looked back at Spinelli, who had been lost in all the competing voices and arguing and he jerked his head towards the adjacent bar stool where his orange soda waited patiently.
Spinelli moved forward with a relieved sigh, preferring to be next to his familiar Master's protective presence as he tried to come to terms with the mixed reaction to his appearance. He didn't much care for the outfit himself, but he was grateful for the effort expended on his behalf by Rick and peculiarly gratified by Higgins' approval of his appearance.
"Take that hat off," Jason hissed at him, and Spinelli complied happily, skimming it down the bar and away from him.
"Many gracious thanks, Stone Cold, for requisitioning the Jackal's libation of choice," Spinelli smiled exuberantly as he took a generous sip from the bottle.
Jason gave him a quirk of his lips that they both knew was his version of a, 'You're welcome,' smile. "Well, actually, you ought to thank Mr. Higgins, we're his guests at the moment."
Spinelli looked across Jason toward Higgins and said, "The Jackal is most appreciative for this unmerited opportunity to imbibe the restorative that is the nectar of the gods." He raised his bottle in a salute that Higgins returned by elevating his martini glass.
"So, Magnum says that you had a dinner engagement with a guest at the King Kamehameha." Rick had come up to Jason's shoulder as he was half turned on his bar stool.
"Yes, a..." and he felt idiotic saying it but it was the only name that Sonny had given him, " a Mr. Ice Pick, he's an acquaintance of a friend of ours back home."
A sudden and complete silence fell on the little group as every eye turned to Jason. He, in turn, stared back defiantly at all and sundry. Spinelli stirred uneasily on his stool next to Jason but stopped when Jason laid a light hand on his arm.
"Ice Pick," it was Rick, and he was looking at Jason with a mixture of curiosity and suspicion.
"You know him?" Jason asked, composed in voice. Yet, his body told a different story, coiled tight as a spring, he was ready to take on any and all comers to protect himself and Spinelli.
"Sure, I know him..." Rick admitted, "he's not here. He called earlier and said to tell his 'guests'," he looked in vague disbelief at Spinelli, before turning back to meet Jason's icy gaze with one almost as impenetrable, "he sends his apologies but he was called away on some unexpected 'business'. He instructed me to comp dinner for you and anyone you would care to invite, whatever you want."
Jason said, "Well, that's very kind of him but we couldn't impose further..." he had decided that he and Spinelli would go back to the hotel. He desperately needed to think, to contemplate and analyze everything that had occurred this evening.
"Stone Cold!" Spinelli was practically whining and Jason was just getting ready to silence him with a glare when he remembered with a pang of guilt the kid's fainting spell and the fact that he hadn't had anything to eat or drink but that orange soda, which was only halfway drunk, in uncounted hours.
"Can't we please eat here, the Jackal is both weary and famished," he was pleading, convinced that his stomach had shrunken to the size of a walnut. "We could invite all our newfound acquaintances to join us in a convivial repast..."
He was doing what Jason hated most, using his puppy dog eyes on him. He knew if he said no and started to leave that Spinelli would follow him obediently. He remembered, a bit belatedly as the image of Higgins crept into his peripheral vision, that this was a vacation and he should try and make sure that Spinelli had some sort of a good time.
"Sounds like a plan, come on guys, can we have that little private dining room in the back, Rick?" Magnum was back to his good-natured self, his little squabble with Rick forgotten and his interest in Jason's association with Ice Pick pushed down into the, 'revisit that later,' file in his brain.
"Magnum!" Higgins was outraged, utterly chagrined at the obnoxious man's poor etiquette, "You presume too much. I agree that Mr. Morgan and Mr. Spinelli ought to eat here at the King Kamehameha but to thrust our company upon them, well, it's just not done, man, don't you see?"
Spinelli was distressed almost to the point of tears, he was truly exhausted and he couldn't take another scene like this. He looked from one man to another, his expression showing his desire for them all to be amicable, to come together for at least one meal without an accompanying disagreement.
Each one saw the crumpled look on his face and it diminished each and every one of them; it took a boy to show them how they ought to behave as men. Suddenly they were all falling over themselves to make it better for him, to make him smile that shy, goofy grin that transformed his face.
"Yes, please have dinner with Spinelli and me, we'd like the company," Jason initiated the invitation quickly.
"Of course, if you insist," TC countermanded his earlier resolve not to join the mysterious pair.
"Of course, we don't want to intrude," Magnum grinned sheepishly, fully chastened after Higgins' scolding and that sorrowful look on Spinelli's face.
"Well, if the lad wants our company, we would be delighted," Higgins smiled magnanimously.
"Sure, kid, we've got some amazing Kobe beef out in the kitchen. I was saving it for Ice Pick's guests, guess I'm one of them now." Rick clasped his hands together, ever the host, he was eager to fix the problem that had left them all ill-at-ease.
"C'mon little guy, I'll show you where this super secret back room is..." it was TC leading off a much more cheerful Spinelli as the remaining four looked at one another in silent concert. They would make this an evening that Spinelli would enjoy, if not remember for a long time to come.
Spinelli looked around in wide-eyed wonder at the room TC had led him to. He was expecting something like the rooms tucked behind the Corinthos-Morgan warehouses down on Van Ness – smoke-filled rooms with green, shaded lamps hanging over round tables that were equally silent about the poker games they hosted or the occasional corpse that splayed across them, wide-eyed with an expression that seemed to say, 'Hey, no, this kinda of thing happens to the other guy...' – a last heartfelt protest against fate. Not that Spinelli had ever seen any such scene; neither Jason nor Sonny would have permitted it though for diametrically opposed reasons.
Yet, he had seen the unoccupied rooms and his fertile imagination, as it too often did, had taken off running. This entrancing chamber was to those seedy little rooms as Notre Dame was to a Vegas wedding chapel. He was immediately enthralled. It wasn't large but it was intimate-such a seductive, engaging word.
The furnishings were masculine – a red leather banquette around a circular polished heavy mahogany table. There was a bar against one wall with a gold speckled mirror behind it that reflected his and TC's images back upon themselves. He groaned inwardly as he caught sight of himself in his ridiculous faux nautical ensemble.
'Thank heavens, Stone Cold had commanded the Jackal to dispense with that inappropriate cap,' he thought to himself, wishing he were wearing an Aloha shirt like Magnum or rainbow colored suspenders like those that his current companion wore. 'Now those spoke to a certain careless joy de vivre in one's approach to everyday life,' he mused approvingly.
He turned from the mirror and continued his perusal of the intriguing supper room. The most startling feature, and the one that truly impressed upon him that he was no longer in snowy Port Charles, were the open French doors that framed a spectacular view. There was a small lanai directly outside the room; it was shaded by a pergola that was overburdened with tumbling falls of scarlet bougainvillea.
It was impossible to discern where the sky ended and the flowers began so perfectly did they meld with the slashes of crimson, peach, and burgundy that were splashed across the evening sky. He had never seen anything like it in his entire lifetime.
The sun was setting and, as he looked intently out at the horizon, he saw nothing but the wavering line where sky and sea met seamlessly. He gasped, he couldn't believe it. He stared out, his eyes aching as he made sure not to blink. It wouldn't be long, he knew. 'That is why they it called it a 'flash'', he thought in awe. It had come and gone and, in his exultation, there was an additonal bitter underlying flavor of melancholy such as is felt when a long-aspired dream is achieved and can no longer beckon one onwards.
"Did you see it?" TC spoke softly, almost reverently from beside him and, strange as it was, Spinelli was completely delighted that this moment had been shared only between the two of them and none of the others. It just seemed right. This large, gentle man and the young dreamer – together they had shared an experience they would tell future generations about. Spinelli turned and smiled at him, his hair falling messily over eyes that gleamed catlike in the room's dusk while the last fading colors of the sunset-draped sky painted his cheeks lavender.
"The green flash..." it sounded like a prayer, an invocation the way he whispered it as though noise would somehow undo the mystique of the moment. "The Jackal had thought...had hoped he might get the opportunity to see it but he knew the chances were slim and on his first night too..." He was overwhelmed.
"You're some kind of lucky all right, kid," TC was looking at him with awe. "I've lived here for years and that's only the second time I've seen it." There sure was something special about this kid, even the sunset seemed to hinge on his happiness.
"Seen what, what are people seeing while I'm not around to see it too?" Magnum entered the room, a jovial smile on his face, and the spell was broken. His humor, his bonhomie, chased the magic away out through the open doors; sent it forth to mingle with the tropic, quick-falling dusk and the soothing, never-ending dim roar of the surf.
"You wouldn't believe it if I told you," TC tilted his head as he continued to regard Spinelli as though the young man were an alien he had just found on what had previously been considered an uninhabited planet.
"Try us," it was Jason and he wasn't about to indulge in people seeing things that made Spinelli look dazed and disoriented and had even seemed to shake solid, reliable TC. Nope, not on his watch. He wanted to know exactly what they had seen and whether or not he needed to do something about it.
Spinelli shook himself like a sleepwalker suddenly awakening. He registered the new arrivals to the room with a vague awareness; his main focus was on Jason and what he was compelled to share with him. But, for once in his life, he could not seem to find the right words. It had been so overwhelmingly beautiful and was beyond the ken of mere mortal words.
Shaking himself, as if from a drug-induced stupor, he turned to his Master, "I saw it, Stone Cold! The Jackal actually saw it!" He was in an excitable state and his eyes shone with a feverish brightness that made Jason go on full alert. Something had happened to Spinelli and he would be damned if he didn't do something about it.
It was disconcerting to everyone in the room except Spinelli, who hardly even noted it, to see Jason Morgan assume his full fledged, 'Stone Cold,' persona. He turned his steely, ice-blue eyes around the room and said in a low, controlled voice that was tinged with menace, "Saw what, who was here? Are they out there?"
He stepped toward the lanai, putting himself in between Spinelli and the open doors, not liking how vulnerable he felt without a weapon. He was uncomfortable being amongst so many unknown quantities that represented the assorted men contained in the small space. It was much too small a space for so many men; any one of them could pull a weapon in the amount of time it took to take a single breath and Spinelli or he could be lying face down in a cooling pool of blood. No, he did not like these odds at all.
"Hey, Jason," naturally it was Magnum who spoke. He foolishly stepped forward to try and reason with him. "Just chill why..." in a matter of seconds he was on the floor with Jason's boot pressed firmly against his neck and had no memory how he had gotten there.
"I say, there's no call for that type of brutish behavior..." Higgins stepped forward, only to stop abruptly as it occurred to him that it was that self-same action which had placed Magnum is his current state of prone discomfiture.
"Hey, get off him," TC was stepping toward the fierce man who had pinioned his friend like he was a ninety-eight pound weakling.
"Get off him, you goon, before I call security," Rick ground out.
Magnum himself only managed a strangled, "Hey..." as he reached up with both hands and tried to remove the crushing pressure from his trachea. It was getting difficult to breathe.
All protests were spoken to no avail. Jason was unreachable. He had entered survival mode and it was only the quiet, "Stone Cold, you must release the Intrepid Investigator at once," which managed to penetrate his ice- cold carapace.
He looked over at Spinelli and then down at the ground. He was shocked to realize what he had done. It had been pure reflex. He had not been fully conscious of his actions. Magnum, face turning a blotchy red, lay face down on the floor. His boot, which Spinelli had tried in vain to dissuade him from wearing, was pressed firmly against the back of the man's neck, effectively cutting off his ability to breathe in an uninhibited manner.
He stepped back and reached down to help up a choking, gasping Magnum to his feet. His offer of aid was rejected as Magnum weakly batted his hand away. TC bent down and pulled his coughing, red-faced comrade up.
Jason was fully contrite, he tried again, stepping towards Magnum who was leaning on the bar, wheezing as his airway began to realize it was once again open for business. "I'm sorry Magnum...I just...I'm sorry." It was all he could say. He couldn't say how he hadn't even been in the room; that he had already been out in the night, armed against any enemies that might attack him or Spinelli. The man would never, could never understand. No, not someone like Magnum who had obviously never had to fight against dark forces that wanted to rip his very soul from him.
Yet, as he turned to go, to leave the room, the club, these men's' lives with which his and Spinelli's existences had so briefly overlapped and with whom he had felt an unexpected kindred spirit, he felt a weak hand pulling on his shirt urging him to stop as best it could.
"Hey," it was only a gasp but it was almost more than he could manage, "You were doing it for the kid, right?" He sounded like a ninety year old man with a seventy year smoking habit and a bad case of bronchitis to boot.
Jason stopped and turned to look at Magnum, there was no one else in the room except for the two of them at the moment, "Yes, and I would do it all over again." It was a factual statement that covered so much buried emotion that it was almost painful to hear.
"Yeah," he croaked, wondering if he could eat that steak after all, but he sure as hell was going to give it a try-Kobe beef! "Me too..." It was the most he could manage, but the straightforward sincerity that shone out of his eyes was enough proof to convince Jason.
He nodded his head in tight acceptance and his posture relaxed fractionally for the first time since the two had crossed paths an hour ago. "I believe you." He said in simple recognition of their newfound bond predicated on the well being of the young man standing a few feet away waiting with bated breath as he hoped for a miracle that would enable him to stay in the orbit of both of these men whom he admired so much.
The four spectators were relieved and unexpectedly touched as Jason and Magnum shook hands. They collectively exhaled as the tension, which had permeated the air of the crowded room, gradually dissipated.
Rick recovered first, "What say we get this party going? I'll go tell the chef to get the steaks on the grill and get a barman in here to take our drink orders." He turned to leave, finally understanding what Jason Morgan and Ice Pick could have in common but still puzzling over where Spinelli might fit into the picture.
"Excellent idea, shall we seat ourselves?" Higgins had taken over the hosting duties and they fit him as naturally as a second skin as he ushered everyone toward the red leather banquette.
"You sure you're okay, man?" TC looked Magnum over worriedly as the normally animated man rubbed at his aching throat and shuffled slowly after Higgins.
"Yeah, just remind me never to get on his actual bad side," he was able to once again speak but his voice was hoarse and strained, and, though he winced from the effort, he managed one of his patented smiles.
"So, what is it you did see if it wasn't a person?" Jason was uncomfortable with his actions but he knew that his ability to respond so immediately to real or perceived danger is what had kept him alive all these years and he would be damned if he stopped looking out for Spinelli now.
"The green flash," Spinelli's voice was a mere whisper. He had almost forgotten the cause of the misunderstanding. Now the memory was stained with the Jason's attack on Magnum. Unique as it was, it hadn't been worth a man's life.
"The what?" Now Jason was irritated and felt foolish. If this was one of Spinelli's comic book heroes that had gotten them into this mess, he and the kid were going to have a talk pronto. If he had nearly killed a man over some newfangled super hero, so help him god, Spinelli was going to have a talking to.
"You saw it?" Higgins was looking at Spinelli with something akin to amazement.
Even Magnum's jaw dropped as he was pulled out his self-pitying misery, "The green flash!" He would've yelled but the best his larynx could manage was a strangled squeak. He turned accusingly toward Higgins, "I've never seen it, not once, not after hundreds of sunsets on the estate, on this very beach out there," he gestured weakly as he waved toward the lanai which was now clothed in the inky black of night. Pouting, he sank morosely into the comforting embrace of the banquette.
"I remember once, when I was on a reconnaissance mission over the Pacific...." Higgins started.
"Higgy-Baby," TC implored him on behalf of his defenseless friend, "not now, I don't think Thomas can bear to hear one more green flash story."
Jason was beginning to share that sentiment. He still had no idea what they were talking about. "What is it?" He asked while Magnum groaned and, folding his arms, put his head down on the tabletop as though completely defeated.
"It's a most intriguing phenomenon..." Higgins started to say at the exact same moment Spinelli chimed in with, "The green flash is a rare and ephemeral..." One of them was enough to give Jason a headache, now it appeared that there were two Spinellis and he wasn't sure if he could handle it. He rubbed at the throb which had started a rumba in his temple.
They stopped and stared at each other, nothing resembling this in the slightest had ever happened to either one of them before. Meanwhile, Jason sank down next to Magnum and, shoving him with his shoulder, forced him to scoot over. They exchanged commiserating looks of pure understanding about the torture they underwent on a daily basis. "Stereo," Jason muttered.
"There're two of them," Magnum moaned, "just when I thought I was safe."
TC just stood there in complete bemusement until he started to laugh, "Higgy-Baby, I think you've finally met your match!"
Spinelli and Higgins turned toward him in perfect synchronicity and they said in uncomprehending unison, "Whatever do you mean?"
TC went off into uncontrollable gales of laughter while Magnum and Jason hunkered down at the table and tried to think of sizzling, scintillating, seared steaks grilled to perfection and meat that practically melted in your mouth.
Rick returned to a room gone mad, TC was wiping tears of hilarity from his eyes as he held his aching belly, Spinelli and Higgins had moved to the opposite side of the table from Magnum and Jason and were entering into a lively discussion about the green flash and the different atmospheric conditions required for its occurrence. Spinelli was dazzled when Higgins said that he had encountered the green flash around twenty times in his life.
Meanwhile, Magnum and Jason were discussing different types of disarmament moves. Jason was promising to teach Magnum the one he had used on him just a short while ago which still had the private investigator absentmindedly rubbing his throat every now and again.
Rick felt as though he had missed out on something crucial, but all he said after looking around was, "Steak'll be up in a couple of minutes...what can Frank here get you all to drink?"
Just like that, the separate camps broke apart and everyone came together. All previous animosity was forgotten as they were served drinks and salads. Jason felt another twinge of guilt as he watched Spinelli inhale his plate of greens that he would usually disdain to touch, 'Maybe I should starve the kid more often to get him to eat better...' he thought wryly.
Then, finally, they arrived, carried in on a covered platter by the chef who was unwilling to let anyone else near the prized beef.
They had only been allowed to express a preference that ranged from rare to medium, there was to be no well done for these beauties. He had his standards and, if the Philistines couldn't manage to acquiesce to them, well he had a nice Mahi Mahi they could have as a consolation prize. Naturally, no one had opted for the fish. The room was silent as the meal was devoured with the obeisance it demanded as its birthright.
Finally, when everyone was satiated, and Magnum had, as per expectation, belched, gaining an impressed grin from Jason and an outraged glare from Higgins, the plates were removed and Rick announced that there would be a hiatus before dessert to allow them to digest their bountiful repast.
"Better?" Jason asked Spinelli, reaching over to affectionately rumple his hair; he had been almost drifting off. His stomach full and his body jet-lagged, his eyelids had begun to droop. He had never felt so tired in his life.
He sat up startled and looked around the table blearily, "Not asleep, Stone Cold, the Jackal wasn't asleep..." he trailed off, embarrassed as he realized once again that all eyes were on him, this time they were accompanied by amused grins.
"Of course you weren't kid," Magnum's voice was better, just a little rasp remained, reminding them of earlier. He tried to bridge the awkward silence that had descended upon them all, "So, how did you guys end up in Hawaii? Isn't the Caribbean or Mexico a more natural destination for Easterners?"
Spinelli just looked down at the table, the tips of his ears visibly pink. Jason grinned wickedly as he looked at his protégé's bent head. "Spinelli won a contest..."
"Get out of here! What contest was that?" It was TC trying to encourage the kid to look up. Something about the kid's green eyes and their shared moment before all hell had broken loose had endeared the youngster to him.
Spinelli mumbled something incoherently, surreptitiously shooting Jason a glare through his matted bangs. 'Why did Jason have to ruin the entire evening by bringing that up?' He groaned to himself, the Kobe beef turning in his decidedly anxious stomach. 'If only it weren't so embarrassing.'
"What was that lad, speak up won't you?" Higgins leaned closer, straining to hear what Spinelli was mumbling.
"C'mon, Spinelli, it's nothing to be ashamed of," Jason poked him and Spinelli leaned away irritably, still refusing to raise his head, now shooting dangerous glares at his mentor.
"Kid," it was Magnum, speaking gently, "we're all your friends here; we won't make fun of it, whatever it is." He smiled kindly and was rewarded when Spinelli lifted his green eyes to meet his.
Jason felt a sharp spasm of annoyance as that did the trick and Spinelli looked up, his face still flushed. "The Jackal wrote a jingle for Hawaiian Punch," he answered shyly, still a bit uncertain about whether or not Magnum would keep his promise.
"That's cool!" The sincerity evident in Magnum's voice brought a reluctant smile to Spinelli's lips as he realized they hadn't responded with cruel ripostes as he had half-expected.
"How's it go?" Rick asked. He was genuinely curious and wondered if it had been aired yet. If it had, he was sure to have heard it. He had a friend in the advertising business.
Spinelli was shaking his head vehemently, once again painfully shy. "No, no the Jackal shan't spoil a lovely evening with painful examples of his dilettantism," he stammered out, once again lowering his eyes to the tabletop.
"It can hardly be considered thus if you won an all expense paid vacation to the tropical paradise that is Hawaii," Higgins pointed out in an eminently reasonable tone. "Besides it appears that we will be hearing it one way or t'other since the company will start using it in their advertising, no?" He looked expectantly at Spinelli who gave a tiny nod of agreement. "Then I think a rousing call of auteur, auteur is indicated..."
He looked around the table and the others took their cue, picking up their silverware and pounding it on the table while they called out variously, "Jingle Jangle us" or "Sing out Spinelli". Even Jason got caught up in the moment and pounded a knife and a fork on the table, feeling vaguely foolish all the while…
A/N Reviews and perceptions are appreciated