Title: Sooner Than You Think
Author: Sybil Rowan
Pairing(s)/Characters: Pre-romance 004 and 002.
Summary: Companion piece to 'Wish I Was Older.' Albert and Jet are learning how to communicate with each other right after the 0011 fight. A car accident promotes some bad memories for Albert.
Warnings: Some language. Very light Shounen-ai 004 and 002; non-yaoi fans can read it with no problems.
Author's Notes: This is a companion piece to 'I Wish I Was Older.' I tried to design this story so you wouldn't have to read the other. Sorry if it feels like I'm rehashing a lot of that story. Named after the New Order song, typical me to use them as my inspiration. Also, thanks so much to everyone for standing by while I did some beta reading.
Disclaimer: Cyborg 009 is owned by Shotaro Ishinomori.
Beta Reader: WingedPanther73... Thanks so much!
Date: October 7, 2009 (8:09 am)
Word Count: 3,069
Albert started slightly when he felt something heavy against his left arm. He lifted his head, and realized he had fallen asleep upright on the couch in front of the television. It was now a garish test pattern in the dim light coming through the curtains. A bright patch of scarlet caught his eye. Albert glanced over to see Jet was asleep and leaning against his arm.
He felt a lopsided smile come to his lips in spite of his recent, week-long aggravation with Jet. He looked closer at Jet's face; the apparent teenager was finally relaxed. There was no visible tension. Albert let out a sigh as he heard a shuffle from the hallway leading to the den.
GB ambled by the doorway, paused, and looked in at Albert. The bald actor's eyebrow shot up, and his jaw swung open. Albert quickly shushed GB and held up a metallic finger. GB clamped his jaw shut as Albert dragged a blanket over Jet's shoulder.
He eased Jet onto the couch and worked himself away. Albert was careful to make sure Jet was still asleep before he left the den and shut the door. He tugged GB down the hallway towards the kitchen.
"What was that all about?"
"He couldn't sleep last night. Some sort of nightmare." Albert then glared over at GB. "Neither could I."
"For the last time... I do not snore," GB said, glaring back.
"Yes, you do. It's horrible. I'm very tired of sharing a room with you. Junior is fine, but you're loud." GB gave him a dismissive wave, which grated against Albert's exhaustion.
They arrived at the kitchen where Chang bustled around Doctor Kuzumi's stove. Albert and GB took seats across from each other at the long kitchen table. GB poured two cups of coffee and handed one to Albert.
"Besides, I thought Mister Link was giving you the petulant child treatment all this week. If I recall, he declared he'd never say another word to you after you criticized his right to go and come as he pleased when we have Black Ghost breathing down our necks." GB took a sip of coffee as the kitchen door opened. Albert watched Junior walked in and grabbed an apple off the counter. "Americans! Where do they get their ideas any way?"
Albert cleared his throat and pointed over GB's shoulder. GB turned around and looked up at Junior's questioning expression. GB's hands flailed in the air. "Not you, Big Guy! The other one from America!"
Junior shook his head and went back outside. Chang placed two plates of fried eggs in front of them and took a seat beside GB.
"So what's this about Jet?" Chang asked, getting out his pipe and puffing on it.
"He had a hard time last night. That's all," Albert said, hoping to downplay Jet's issues. He had made a promise to the redhead that he intended to keep.
Jet had made a late night confession that he had stabbed a rival gang member to death during a turf scuffle. Albert maintained a neutral facade and promised to not tell any of the others. Last night Albert had been able to glimpse the self-incrimination under Jet's hard shell; he had suspected something dark was there the whole time. Jet had even gone as far as to suggest his cybornization was something akin to instant karma.
"What a fickle boy. One minute he can't stand you, the next he's all chatty. You know, if he got rid of that chip on his shoulder, he might be a pleasant lad."
"He had a lot of troubles before the Black Ghost kidnapped him."
GB sighed and rolled his eyes. "Didn't we all?"
"He needs some time to himself. He wasn't as old as us when this all happened, so it's difficult for him to adjust," Albert said.
"So was Frances," GB pointed out.
Albert gave him a smirk. "Frances has her own hardships with this. This is..."
Albert swirled around in his chair; Frances stood in the doorway. Heat rose to his face. "I'm sorry, Arnoul. I shouldn't have been talking about you behind your back. I was about to say the idea of fighting is very hard for you."
She gave Albert a smile. He knew their history as first generation cyborgs covered a multitude of sins against one another; her warm smile was proof. She sat beside Albert and served herself coffee. Albert began to wish Jet had the same forgiving nature Frances had; after all, Jet was a first generation cyborg as well.
"We were actually talking about Jet anyway," GB said in a whisper.
"Oh. I wish he could see common sense. We have to think of each other." France began to sweeten her coffee.
"You would think he would realize how foolish his behavior was all week long," Chang agreed.
Albert felt his back stiffen. He now knew a little more about Jet's past; he found it difficult to criticize the New Yorker's rebellious behavior. By the same token, he knew if he jumped to Jet's defense suddenly, it would bring suspicion on why he had changed his opinion about the redhead.
"You look tired, Albert, and you aren't eating. Are the eggs not to your liking?" Chang asked.
"They're fine. I'm just not hungry right now."
"You should go back to bed after sleeping on that wretched couch," GB said.
Annoyance hit Albert. He bit off his own tart reply and to tried to figure out where his annoyance sprang from.
"You fell asleep on that couch?" Chang asked.
Albert was interrupted by GB, "Yes. He and Jet where sprawled out in the den. That's why the subject of Jet came up. They must have come to a more congenial understanding."
Albert glared at GB when Frances and Chang turned puzzled looks his way. "Neither of us could sleep so we talked about our most recent disagreement. He fell asleep, and I wanted to finish the inane movie we were watching. Time got away from me."
"I wasn't trying to pry or anything. Neither of you two have been on speaking terms for the last week," GB snapped back. He just shook his head at Albert and took another sip of coffee. "Maybe Jet's nasty attitude is contagious."
"Now, GB, you shouldn't be so forward with people. We're all still getting to know one another," Chang said. "We're all from different times and cultures. We all must try our hardest to find harmony with one another."
"I agree," Frances said enthusiastically.
"I do think you need to rest, Albert," Chang continued. "Why don't you go rest until lunch? I'll bring something to you."
"That's very kind of you. I appreciate it."
"Think nothing of it. It's rejuvenating to help others in need."
Albert's sleep-deprived mind shifted tracks as Joe and Pyunma entered the kitchen. Chang got up to prepare the newcomers' breakfast. Albert jumped up and walked over to Chang.
"I'm going to go into town today. What do you need?"
"Hun? Oh thank you so much, Albert. That saves me some time I need to finish my new recipe." Chang flashed a bright smile at Albert.
"Actually, I'll be helping someone else out too."
"The money and the list are by the phone in the living room."
"Great." Albert nodded and left the kitchen. He headed straight to the den and opened the door.
Jet was still sound asleep and bundled up. Albert walked over to Jet and shook his shoulder. Jet bolted upright, flung his arm at Albert's face, and gave a startled gasp. Jet's expression melted into exasperation when he finished coming to.
"Oh! You! What do you want?"
"I'm going shopping for Chang. Get yourself together so you can come along and get some fresh air?"
"What? Aren't you the one who bitched at me about staying hidden?"
"I said to not take any unnecessary risks, not that you couldn't go out for a little shopping."
Jet's brandy colored eyes narrowed in hostility. "Maybe I don't want to."
"You do, and you're going to."
"I'll meet you in half an hour in Gilmore's car. Get a shower. It'll make you feel more human."
"Quit pushing me around! You're not my old man!"
"Like I told you last night, I would never assume that monumental task. Now get up and get ready." Albert turned and left before Jet had another chance to mouth off.
Jet sauntered towards Gilmore's car; Albert checked his watch. Jet was ten minutes late. No doubt Jet was making a statement, but Albert knew he had won the argument. Albert leaned over and opened the door.
"I want to drive."
"On the way back. I need to drive so I can shake off my grogginess," Albert answered, putting the keys in the ignition.
"Fine." Jet now wore a scowl as he got into the passenger seat. Albert noticed the wariness in the slump of Jet's shoulders, but he couldn't see the New Yorker's eyes behind dark sunglasses. Albert started the car and headed down the drive.
"About what you told me last night..."
"Forget it! Don't say anything about it!"
"Listen to me before shouting me down!" Albert glanced over at Jet; his face grew red, but Albert notice Jet clamped his mouth shut. "I had a feeling you would try to get defensive about the whole thing. I just wanted to point out something else."
"Fine. What is it?" Jet's tone was clipped. He crossed his arms and turned his head away from Albert.
"I don't want any more arguments with you like we had last week. We do have our time with the Black Ghost in common. You should try to come to peace over your time with the Black Ghost and your life before them. All of your anger could be used against you."
"Just like 0011 used your past to manipulate you?"
Albert frowned. "Yes. I don't want to see you hurt like that. The potential is there. I'm worried you could be dragged down a pathway against your will out of the shame and guilt you feel."
"Why did I tell you anyway? I should have known you would get onto me about this."
"Everyone has an obligation to try to keep themselves fit and sane for the sake of everyone else."
"I agree! I have big problems to worry about. Like the Black Ghost. Still... in a lot of ways... this is still 1960 to me. Sometimes all this shit gets blurred together."
"I know. One day at a time. You need to stop being such a loner and just learn to ask for help when you need it."
"You're a hypocrite," Jet said softly. Albert looked over at Jet.
"You and that damn ring. You're the one with the past that almost cost us our life! Not to mention that you've got the loner act down pat with... Shit! Look out!"
Albert's eyes jerked back to the road in time to see they were veering towards a tree. He quickly swerved, but not in time to avoid the deep ravine beside the tree. The car jerked and caught air. The front tilted downwards towards a forest at the bottom of the ravine. Albert gasped and shoved his right foot on the brake; panic hit him hard.
The car's drop seemed to pause as a high-pitched, metallic whine filled his ears. Albert felt himself jerked left towards the passenger seat. The door flung open, and before he knew it, he was airborne above the deep ravine. Real time resumed, and the car tumbled and smashed into several damp pine trees during its decent.
He shook off his bafflement when he saw Jet's hands around his left wrist. Albert found himself occasionally forgetting about Jet's prototype acceleration device. He looked to see Jet had them at a safe distance in the air. Jet had a pale, stunned expression that turned to a scowl as he flew them over to the side of the road. He let go of Albert's wrist a few feet above the ground and landed.
"What the hell is wrong with you? You have some sort of death wish? Damn!"
Albert walked over to the edge of the ravine and intently stared at the wreck below. Smoke billowed upwards as Jet continued a tirade of English profanity aimed at Albert. The German cyborg couldn't focus on Jet any longer. His numb mind was on the twisted car, then on a twisted, wrecked truck fifty years ago.
"... of gotten us killed!"
Albert turned around at the phrase. The voice was dragging him back to the present against his will. "What?"
"I said you could have gotten us killed, you dumb son of a bitch!" Jet blurted out with fists in the air.
Albert closed the distance between them and clenched Jet's shoulders. He shook Jet slightly; Jet was suddenly stupefied. Albert tighten his grip and examined those brandy colored eyes in front of him. No, they weren't blue eyes. Bright, brilliant blue eyes he used to lose himself in. These eyes were so different from hers.
Albert shook his head to finish warding off the sudden daze that had taken hold of him. He slowly let go and slid his hands down to Jet's wrists. "Are you okay?"
Jet nodded and said, "Sure. I'm fine. Are you? I mean... it's like you freaked out for a few minutes. Sorry I flipped out over the car. I guess I shouldn't have made such a big deal since we walked away from it."
"I have my own nightmares I haven't finished dealing with yet."
"What was it?"
"I don't want to talk about it."
Jet's expression turned to sourness and anger. "You really are a hypocrite! Sure! Let me spill my guts last night and then treat me like some idiot kid this morning?"
Albert turned and walked down the road in the direction they had come. Albert ignored the footsteps he heard behind him, but then his shoulder was jerked back. He was now face-to-face with the tall red-head.
"You were the one who wanted me to deal with my past. Well why don't you?"
Albert took a deep breath, walked over to a thick oak tree, and sat with his back towards the trunk. He drew his legs up and rested, elbows on knees. Jet scrambled over and flopped down in front of Albert, looking discomfited.
"Hey... are you going to freak out again?"
Albert gave him a smirk and shook his head. "You're right. I've been hypocritical with you. When I was trying to get her out of East Berlin, we had a car accident. She died minutes after the accident. That's when... well... you know the rest."
"Wow. I knew they grabbed you coming out of East Berlin, but I didn't know it was from a car accident. Hey... wait a minute." Jet's eyes narrowed and a sly smirk came to his lips. "You blame yourself for her death, don't you? That's why you never talked about the details. You feel responsible for that car accident, so now you want to try to make up for it. When you confronted 0011, it was some sort of redemption for you."
"You're wrong. It was communist boarder guards that killed her. It couldn't have been me because I loved her." An uncomfortable sinking sensation hit the pit of his stomach.
Jet sneered. "Couldn't? You said 'couldn't' which is a weak denial of your guilt at best. I'm not as smart as you, but I can figure things out about people. That's what's underneath your cold attitude. A bunch of guilt. Guess we have more in common than you thought."
Albert looked away from Jet's stern expression and nodded slightly. "Maybe we do." Albert then smirked. "You're a lot more clever than you know."
Jet hopped to his feet and held his hands towards Albert. "Come on. I'll fly us home. But you're explaining it to Gilmore."
"Why don't we walk? It's a nice morning, and Kuzumi's house is only four miles away."
Jet rolled his eyes and gave Albert a mock look of disgust. Albert got up, and they started walking down the road. They were silent for a while until Jet asked, "Since you let me spill my guts last night, why don't you do the same now? We have to do something to kill the time. You want to talk about things in your life before the Black Ghost? Or her?"
Albert chuckled and shook his head. "No. Not right now." Albert held up a finger to halt Jet's protest. "I do trust you. I just would rather have a light conversation right now. As time goes on, I'm sure I'll tell you more about my life before this. As for now... Gilmore is not going to be happy about his car."
"Nope. That's for sure."