Disclaimer: Punch-Out!! belongs to Nintendo and so does all the boxers.
Author's Note: So I've finally done it, folks. I've created an anthology for Punch-Out!! - it seems I do that with almost every fandom I'm in. As said in the summary, those stories are oneshots (unless otherwise stated) and may contain slash or not. I can think of at least seven scenarios that doesn't involve any slash, so all seems to be good there. If a story is slashy, I will be warning you beforehand in the summary and the author's note. Most couples will probably involve Glass Joe because he's the easiest to slash with someone else (ahemKaiserahem). Sue me. xD
The anthology begins with something in Aran Ryan's point of view. There needs to be more Aran Ryan stuff. What a crazy little bastard. xD There are slashy hints that you don't need to squint to see - but there is no actual slash relationship between anyone in this story. Just vague hints and suggestive themes, but nothing more. This was actually done in response to a challenge set by one of my friends - he bet me during a Punch-Out!! battle that I couldn't make Aran Ryan angsty, because he's so dementedly happy all the time. Well, in my point of view... the angst is there, but Aran's not really crazy enough. I'm getting there. Read on and review, plz.
Aran Ryan honestly doesn't understand what he's doing wrong.
All he wants to do is talk. Maybe play around a little if the going's good - but in the end, talking is all he wants to accomplish. But every time he tries, it seems to go wrong in some way or another - this applies to every boxer in the Association, who usually look oddly at him or just ignore his every word. Despite being in the World Circuit, and despite being better than most boxers, it seems that everybody looks down at him. He knows that he hasn't been taken seriously in what seems like eons, and he also understands that somehow it's all his fault. What he doesn't understand is why.
Sure, he loves to jeer and laugh at the others. It's what he's good at. But even when he's not trying to, something inside him makes the whole thing go pear-shaped; it's as if there is a stray poison inside him, running inside his veins, that forces him to grow apart from the others day by day. Aran knows that things between him and the others are terrible at this present moment - it's a waiting game, for soon enough everyone will turn on him and kick him out. He can sense it. Bald Bull always glares and mutters in his direction even when he's not doing anything; Don Flamenco tenses and goes rather quiet when he's nearby; Super Macho Man seems to laugh at him more than around anybody else. More hate and sneering is directed towards Aran than any other boxer - not even Glass Joe is treated with that much contempt. The Frenchman is surprisingly well-liked, for being ever so sweet and gentle despite losing every match he's in. Aran thinks that everyone has a kind of soft spot for Glass Joe - even Mr Sandman acknowledges him with some politeness, although he doesn't dare to pat the smaller man's back like he does with his friends (it could very well knock him unconscious for days, knowing how fragile he is). At thirty-eight years old, Glass Joe is the second oldest boxer in the WVBA, and people respect that as well. He might know little about the art of boxing, but he knows much about everything else.
In fact, nowadays Aran Ryan seems to be the only one making snide comments about the Frenchman.
But truth be told, he's not doing it because he hates Glass Joe. Sure, he's not Irish and he's therefore not as 'remarkable' as Aran Ryan believes the Irish are; but that doesn't matter. All that matters is when exactly he can get the Frenchman talking to him. Glass Joe isn't going to start socializing by himself, so Aran must do it for him.
Oh, he tries, of course; he tries to get the other man talking. But it never works. Glass Joe just ignores him most of the time - he either quickly leaves the room if he and Aran are alone, or edges himself towards a place where there are people who support him. He's one smart bastard, Aran admits to himself with a bitter smile - but then Glass Joe is fifteen years his senior. Obviously he knows more about such matters.
As he's contemplating this, the Frenchman himself comes in. He's been training, Aran notices - his body is covered with a fine layer of sweat, and he looks rather dazed when he stumbles into the changing rooms. He doesn't seem to realize that the Irishman is there; he just goes straight to his bag and grabs himself a large towel before making his way to the shower stalls. It's not long before Aran hears the rush of hot water from one of the stalls; knowing Glass Joe, he's probably in there leaning against the wall, too exhausted to even stand up properly. Typical him.
But despite his weak exterior, Aran knows that Glass Joe isn't as frail inside. What else could explain the man's willingness to try again and again, even though he loses every match he attends? There must be something interesting inside his mind. Aran Ryan's watched Glass Joe for quite a few months now, observing him closely - even following him to his apartment on one occasion - and he can quite safely conclude that he is fascinated with the Frenchman for being so determined. He just wants an opportunity to go up to him and say hello without being suspected of mischief. He might prove to be a surprisingly lovely person to talk to. Aran doesn't quite know how to explain his odd fascination with Glass Joe, but for the moment he pushes that thought aside.
Glass Joe comes back in, clad in his boxer shorts; his hair has been towelled dry. He quickly changes into his usual red trousers and dries off the rest of his body, still not appearing to notice Aran Ryan's presence. The Irishman looks at him all throughout this routine, mentally noting how strange his hair colour is. It's not so much a red colour as the Frenchman might say it is. It's more of a darker, brownish-ginger colour; when strands of his hair catch the light, it is the most vivid orange. It goes surprisingly well with Glass Joe's eyes (a lovely shade of chocolate) - each feature compliments the other in this man's face, and Aran likes that.
But he has to admit, Glass Joe's hair colour is astonishing.
This is it. He has the chance to talk to Glass Joe now. He should say something, maybe make a comment about his hair and how well it compliments him-
"What's with your hair, Frenchie?" Aran asks, a grin twisting his lips. Inwardly he's kicking himself, for he knows that this really isn't the best way to start a conversation, but he's started now and he's going to have to go along with it. "is your hair meant to be red? Looks more like carrot to me."
Glass Joe gives him a long look - Aran flinches inwardly, as the older man's gaze is one of both pity and annoyance. He can understand the annoyance part, but why the Frenchman is pitying him is beyond his comprehension and he doesn't really like it. He doesn't like it at all. Without offering a reply, Glass Joe puts on his tight black shirt, tucks it into his trousers (Parisian fashion is so strange at times) and puts on his beret. He then picks up his bag and walks out of the door.
Normally the Irishman wouldn't bother with following him, but today is different. He will get the older man to say something back to him. Aran follows him out of the door, walking just behind him, talking all the while.
"You are listening, aren't you, Frenchie? Just answer already!" Glass Joe walks on. "you can't ignore me forever. All I want is five minutes of your time, for God's sake! Or am I too petit-bourgeois for you? Eh? Is that it?"
The Frenchman stops and looks exasperatedly back at him. "Monsieur-"
"Talk in English!" Aran barks out, even though he's secretly glad that Glass Joe's finally said something to him. "I don't speak French, how am I going to understand you?"
"Your social class is of no importance to me," the older man replies in his thick (and dare he say it, luscious) accent. "I must be leaving now, if you will excuse me."
Aran's delight in hearing Glass Joe talk to him diminishes greatly as the older man attempts to walk away; he quickly blocks his way, his cruel grin still in place. "I'm not done with you yet! You haven't answered me. Is your hair meant to be red?"
"Yes!" Glass Joe finally blurts out, almost shouting in frustration. "does that answer your question? Laissez-moi passer!"
The Irishman blinks once, taken aback despite himself, but regains his composure again. "Only the Irish can get away with red hair, Frenchie! And the last time I checked, you didn't look Irish to me - and your hair isn't that red anyway!"
The Frenchman actually clenches his teeth, now angry and frustrated. His feelings and pride are being toyed with by somebody who's fifteen years younger than him; but he knows that he cannot land himself in a physical brawl with Aran Ryan, for he will lose. He will never be as fast and as powerful as the Irishman, and now isn't the time to challenge that statement. He inhales and exhales deeply, gazing at Aran with calmer eyes, his temper settling down.
"I have answered your question and that is enough, Monsieur. I must be on my way."
Glass Joe pushes past without hesitation or even waiting for a response.
Aran Ryan stands there, stunned, for only a second before sudden fury at himself grasps at his subconscious. Something inside him tells him that he's blown it big time, that he's completely ruined his chances of ever being in Glass Joe's favour. And that something jeers at him, for all this is his fault and no one else's; it's purely his fault that he twists around his words and can't convey anything in the right manner. He ought to go and apologize - but at the same time, rage builds up within him, directed towards the Frenchman. Why can't he understand that all he wants is to talk? What more is the Irishman meant to be doing? Go down on his knees and beg?
Before he can explain his intentions rationally, he sees that Glass Joe is already a few steps ahead of him. Out of all the possible things he can do, Aran Ryan does the most illogical, unhelpful thing possible.
He reaches out and snatches away the other's beret; and before the Frenchman can react, he grabs a fistful of his hair and tugs hard.
Glass Joe doesn't gasp or whimper. His eyes clench shut in pain and his head is jerked back roughly as he screams; the sudden increase in volume makes Aran wince and loosen his grip, stumbling in front of the Frenchman. Glass Joe falls to his knees, his bag and beret falling in a crumpled heap, clutching at his hair and trembling. Aran Ryan wants to bend down, apologize a million times over and ask if he's all right, but he's frozen to the spot. The Irishman hasn't actually thought about the possibility of this happening - he's pulled out quite a few strands of hair in the process. For all he knows, Glass Joe might be bleeding right now where strands of hair have been torn away.
But Aran Ryan didn't mean to hurt him.
"What was that you said about red hair?" a quiet, but nevertheless threatening voice calls to him ever so softly. Aran flinches upon recognizing the voice, hardly daring to turn around; he glances back ever so slightly, seeing the one person he didn't fancy seeing.
Standing behind him is Von Kaiser, who's just come back inside from his break from training. He must have been standing just outside of the main doors to hear everything that Aran said. He's still wearing his gloves, along with a murderous look on his face. One look at the man makes Aran realize that he's just made one of the biggest mistakes of his life.
Von Kaiser has a very fine head of red hair.
Complete with a very impressive mustache and eyebrows.
Before Aran Ryan can even say a word in his defense, the German boxer lunges forward and uppercuts him straight on the chin. He's almost broken the primary rule for boxers - never hit anyone outside the ring without gloves on - but because Von Kaiser is wearing his gloves, Aran can't do much about that. He goes down with a yelp, taken by surprise at the lightening-fast attack, and falls hard to the ground.
"Are you all right?" he hears Von Kaiser ask softly to Glass Joe, his voice tinged with worry. That voice is so unlike Von Kaiser - he should sound rough and harsh, not gentle. But either way, it seems to be working wonders for Glass Joe, who nods nervously and tries to get up, no longer in pain. The older man unlaces his gloves quickly as he sees this. "here, let me..."
Von Kaiser stretches his arm out, grasping the Frenchman's hand with his own and helping him up. He also bends down to pick up the other's bag and beret, handing them to Glass Joe.
"Merci..." the younger man whispers, sounding shy and nervous. "I... should get going now... but merci beaucoup, Monsieur."
"You're welcome," Von Kaiser says. Aran watches, speechless, as they walk away and leave him splayed out on the ground; the German boxer is shielding Glass Joe from further harm, even walking him to the main doors where he will be safe from the Irishman's clutches.
Aran doesn't understand why, but he feels as if he's going to cry when he sees that.
"Stay away from the likes of him," he can faintly hear Von Kaiser saying. "he could have done much worse." his voice is definitely softer, kinder than usual, and Aran bites his lip as he realizes that Von Kaiser has more than just friendly feelings for Glass Joe. This in itself wouldn't be so bad - but the Irishman sees how Glass Joe leans close towards Von Kaiser. Nothing that he'd ever do in response to Aran Ryan. He doubts that either of them knows how the other feels, but from what he can see, it's going to happen quite soon.
"I wasn't expecting it," Glass Joe replies. "I'm just glad that nothing in my bag broke... I did fall rather hard..."
The German boxer nods, but doesn't say anything. He instead reaches up and pats the other's head, smoothing the messed-up locks of hair back into place. Aran would like to see the Frenchman recoiling at the touch, of course, but nothing like that happens. Glass Joe walks along, letting his hair be stroked, apparently enjoying the sensation.
Although he doesn't want to admit it, Glass Joe and Von Kaiser suit each other.
Aran Ryan pulls himself up into a sitting position, still staring after the two. It's hard to hear anything from that distance now, but Glass Joe seems to be thanking Von Kaiser again before giving him a wave as he leaves the building. Von Kaiser responds with a slight wave of his own, watching the other leave, keeping an eye on him in case anything else happens. The Irishman briefly thinks that he sees a rather sad light in the older man's eyes; he also believes for a moment that he hears the other sigh dejectedly; but maybe it's just his mind playing tricks on him. Von Kaiser is not exactly the sentimental type.
Except around Glass Joe, that is.
He doesn't want to watch anymore. All he knows about the whole thing is that he's blown everything with Glass Joe, and that Von Kaiser's sweet on the Frenchman. And deep down inside, he knows that he feels the same towards Glass Joe - but he will only ever respond to one of the two, and it's not going to be Aran that he wants.
Aran Ryan stands up and walks away from the entrance, where Von Kaiser is still standing and staring longingly in the direction that Glass Joe went. He could pick a fight with the older boxer, of course. He'll win every match against him. He's faster, younger, and more skilled than Von Kaiser is and everyone knows that.
But he doesn't see the point of it all, when it won't earn him anything except for more hate and bitterness.
A bitter grimace graces his face as he turns away and runs through the building, searching for the back door. There's no way that he's going to use the same entrance as Von Kaiser - he finds the door, wrenches it open and into the sunny world outside. But there's nothing there that he wants. He's still wearing his boxing attire, but he couldn't care less about what he looks like right now. Aran keeps on running towards his house, where he knows that multiple conveniently-placed punching bags are waiting for him to be used at his own leisure. They're just things, bloody things, objects that he takes his anger out on and then disposes of when they burst.
All of them are going to be thrown in the trash tonight.