Title: The Perfect Kiss
Author: Sybil Rowan
Pairing(s)/Characters: 002x004, 009x003/ a Joe and Jet friendship fic.
Summary: Albert and Jet start dating. Joe tries to figure out why Jet, his best friend, kept it a secret from him.
Warnings: None that I can think of.
Author's Notes: This is named after a New Order song. A great one. GB is quoting my favorite Shakespearian play 'Titus Andronicus.'
Special note to everyone: my beta-reading circle already knows, but my cat Horace (or Horus) passed away last week. I had started this story before his stroke, but couldn't find the traction to finish it. The other day I started from scratch. It was so hard because for the last 12 years he's been sitting by my computer, listening to me read out loud all my fanfics, school essays, and beta editing. He's sorely missed. So... the gist is... I needed to write to let out some of my grief. If this story doesn't seem up to par, just bare with. I feel like I'm doing this with out my muse and constant companion.
Disclaimer: Cyborg 009 is owned by Shotaro Ishinomori.
Beta Reader: WingedPanther73, my most awesome hubby.
Date: October 27, 2009 (8:46am)
Word Count: 3,488
Joe quickly got the upper hand on Jet. The electronic icons flipped and swirled across the screen; Joe was winning. He was careful not to snicker at the nasty, brandy colored looks the New Yorker shot him. Joe returned his concentration to the Sony Playstation game controller.
"Ha!" Joe screamed as his game icon was declared the winner.
"You cheated! No way you won. You used your accelerator!"
Joe returned Jet's dirty look. "You know these controllers can't keep up with our accelerators. You broke eight trying to last month!"
"Some how... some way... you're doing it! Besides, you busted your fair share of stuff 'round this place."
"Joe! Jet! Stop arguing over a silly game," Frances called out, not even bothering to walk into the den from the kitchen. Jet rolled his eyes and glared at the kitchen door. Joe knew Jet was about to press his luck and make a tart remark. A creek from the stairs caught their attention.
Joe turned back to the Playstation when he saw it was only Albert with his nose in a book. "Come on. I'll beat you again." A few minutes went by when he realized Jet hadn't moved back to his spot in front of the television.
Joe glanced over his shoulder at Jet. The New Yorker's eyes followed Albert to a recliner. Joe was a little surprised to see a blank expression on Jet; his friend was usually so emotional and expressive. "Jet! Come on. Start again! I'll prove there is no way I cheated."
"Hun? Yeah... sure.... I'll beat you," Jet mumbled, grabbing the controller and fixing his eyes on the television. Joe swiftly made sure Albert was preoccupied and then elbowed Jet. The New Yorker looked baffled. Joe jerked his head toward Albert.
"What's up?" Joe whispered. Jet shrugged and hit the restart button. Joe sighed and pushed it out of his mind. If it was one thing he had learned living in close quarters with people from other cultures, it was that privacy was vital for smooth relationships.
They played for several minutes until Chang bellowed, "Dinner in twenty minutes."
Joe refused to loose his concentration. He poured on the assault on Jet's electronic icon and defeated it again. "Yes! I won again. Hey..." Joe paused and glared at the back of Jet's head. His friend was once again looking at Albert. The German was now browsing though a magazine. "You weren't even paying attention."
Jet jumped up, walked over to the recliner, and sat on the arm beside Albert. Jet said, "Sind Sie mich zu den Filmen heute Abend nehmend?"
Joe was thunderstruck. Jet had never once shown an inclination towards learning the other languages around him. Joe knew Jet, like him, relied on the language translator implanted in their brains.
"Ich dachte, wir könnten zum Abendessen gehen. Wir können darüber reden, was passiert ist.," Albert said after a few minutes looking at Jet in shock equal to Joe's. Joe mentally tuned his language translator in. Albert continued in German, but it now sound like Japanese to Joe, "Only if you're ready for it. Oh and..." Joe could swear he saw Albert's face get slightly pink. "You also shouldn't refer to me like that any more. So formal. There is another word to use for 'you.' More verbs to learn, I'm sorry to say."
"Not more verbs!" Jet shook his head and replied in German, "I think you said we're going for dinner to talk? I'm trying to do this on my own."
"You're doing very well, but I understand English perfectly," Albert replied in Jet's native language. "You don't need to learn German."
"But I..." Suddenly, Jet and Albert stopped their conversation and looked at Joe. He felt guilty, like an eavesdropper.
Joe hopped up from the game and muttered, "Got to help Chang." He quickly hustled into the kitchen where Frances was setting the table, and Chang was stirring a pot. He scooped up some napkins and walked over to Frances. "Hey, something strange is going on."
"What is it?" She flashed a bright smile at Joe.
"Well, Jet and Albert...."
"They need to come and get dinner."
"But I think that they're planning..."
"Joe, darling, fold the napkins long way."
"Hey dinner!" Pyunma said as he walked through the kitchen door. He was shortly followed by Junior. Joe got frustrated. He set down the napkins as GB made a grand entrance in front of Gilmore and Kuzumi. He said in his deep, booming voice, "Fainthearted boy, arise and look upon her. Speak, Lavinia, what accursed hand... Hath made thee handless in thy father's sight?"
"Where is Albert and that boy?" Chang asked, waving a ladle in the air.
Joe opened his mouth, but GB was quick to say, "I'll get them."
"But I don't think they want to eat dinner," Joe started off.
"Nonsense! Before that mission they were about to kill one another. At least when they got home last night from it they seem peaceful enough. They need to sit down and eat a meal with everyone." GB rolled his eyes, swirled on his heels, and rushed into the den. Joe's eyes went wide, and he rushed in after GB. He could feel the others slowly, curiously follow.
"...and you will at least not insult Chang! It's not his fault you two can't get along at all. Come and eat."
Joe didn't miss Albert and Jet's eyes meeting. He also noticed Jet was still siting on the armrest beside Albert perched in the recliner. It was just so close; it reminded Joe of the one thing he wanted to forget from the mission. He had seen them closer, in a more intimate way. That was all in his head from a lot of stress; it was nothing, just a little misguided comfort.
"But, GB, we're going out," Albert said. He stood up from the recliner and crossed his arms.
"Oh that sounds like fun! We all need to get out of the house!" Joe turned to see GB's face brighten. "Great idea, Albert. Where do you suggest?"
There was an uncomfortable pause; Joe swirled back to see Albert and Jet exchange glances again. Both looked anxious. Joe knew Jet covered his anxiety with anger, and Albert with dry sarcasm. It unnerved Joe to see his two friends ill at ease in the company of people they should trust.
"I'm afraid this dinner is just for Jet and I."
It was too quit. Everyone stared at them. Jet's head snapped up with a volatile expression. "Get bent!"
"Wait... Jet!" Joe started, but his friend turned and ran upstairs. He flinched back when he heard a door slam; he looked over to Albert. The German held up his hand and waved it at the others.
"Just let it go." Albert then turned and went upstairs himself, slowly and with squared shoulders.
"What the bloody hell was that about?" GB turned and looked at the group. Joe noticed everyone, save for Pyunma, was shocked. Joe knew that the African cyborg was also enlightened about what Joe had seen during the last mission as well.
"Dinner is almost finished. Come, everyone, and eat," Chang finally said and ushered the rest of the cyborgs and the two doctors into the kitchen.
Joe poked his chopsticks at the lo mein on his plate. This was the first time within the last year, since their escape from the Black Ghost, there was total silence at the dinner table. It ranged from jovial to volatile, but there was always conversation.
"We'll be back soon." Albert's voice startled Joe from his musings. He looked over to Albert; he stood in the doorway with arms crossed. No sign of Jet.
Gilmore was the first one to nod. "Sure, sure. Remember I want to talk to you and the boys about the mission yesterday. I'll have the analysis done tomorrow morning."
"Sure thing. Joe and Pyunma have some interesting thoughts on what we found, but that's for tomorrow. Goodnight everyone." Albert then turned and left. As soon as the front door shut everyone started eating again. Noone was asking the questions hanging in the air. Joe was grateful because he hadn't processed what little he knew yet.
He continued to pick at his dinner until Pyunma said, "Joe! Come on. Wake up."
"Dishes. I traded with GB. Lets get them done."
Everyone was finished with their dinners. Joe turned to Frances; her warm smile encouraged him. "After dishes are done would you like to watch a movie with me?"
She nodded, squeezed his arm, and left the kitchen. Joe joined Pyunma at the sink. They started soaping and drying dishes as the others filed out of the kitchen. Joe glanced over his shoulder to make sure they alone before he asked, "With everything that happened over the last few days, what do you think about what just happened tonight. You know... Jet and Albert?"
Pyunma raised an elegant eyebrow and sighed. "I think there's a lot that we don't know."
"Yes, but... you saw the same thing I did. When the four of us were hiding out in that barn. Was it what I think?"
"Joe, what happened during the mission shook Jet up horribly. He saved Albert's life," Pyunma whispered. The African cyborg glanced over his shoulder and then met Joe's eyes. "Jet wasn't thinking when he stepped into that trap to rescue Albert. He did something foolish and risky that could have lead to his own death. After we were away from the danger, the reality of what he did to save Albert hit him hard."
"I know. It was a huge gamble to face down that base commander like he did. Jet is brave, but it was a surprise."
"But Jet's ruse worked. He distracted that commander, and we were able to steal the computer disk Gilmore wanted. It was a tough gambit, but it all worked out. We all got out of there."
"Yes, but on the way back. What happened in the barn..."
Pyunma shook his head and scowled. "What business is it of ours. Such a horrible situations, in times of war, can bring people closer together."
"But we're safe now."
"Don't think this isn't a war we're fighting against the Black Ghost." Joe noticed the slump in Pyunma's shoulders. The African gave Joe a smirk and dried his hands. "Done. Go enjoy your movie with Frances and let Jet and Albert find their way through this."
"You're right. What we saw was really noone's business, but theirs." Joe looked over his shoulder when Chang shuffled through the kitchen, got a cup of tea, and then left. He turned back to Pyunma and whispered, "I thought Jet and I were pretty good friends. It just took me by surprise because he never said anything. And well... Albert.... he was married."
Pyunma gave a hearty laugh and smacked Joe on the shoulder. "Jet may not have known anything himself. Albert..." Pyunma's expression turned grave. "I would guess he's a very lonely man."
Joe woke at creaking coming from the hallway. The digital, glowing numbers on the clock beside his bed read two-thirty-eight. He peered through the darkened room; he could tell Pyunma was still asleep, and Jet's bed was empty. Joe gingerly sat upright and crept over to the door. He carefully cracked open the door and peeked out into the dim hallway.
He saw Albert and Jet standing beside the door were Albert shared a room with Junior and GB. Jet leaned against the wall, his arms where around Albert's neck. Albert moved his hands to Jet's hips and then pressed a kiss on the lanky red-head.
Joe quickly, quietly shut the door and climbed back into his bed. It was the same thing he and Pyunma had witnessed the night before. Only this time, Joe didn't feel shock run through him. Instead, he felt irritated. He was starting to sort out this thoughts when Jet crept in. Joe watched Jet peel off his jacket and shirt before getting into his own bed.
"Hey, Jet," Joe whispered.
"Thought you were sleeping," Jet whispered back. Joe heard Jet roll over in his bed. "Sorry if I woke you."
"It's okay. So... how was it?"
"Dinner? Fine. We compromised and had Italian. I really love Chang's cooking, but it was cool to have a little variety."
Joe waited several long minutes expecting to hear more, something that would answer his questions. "What's going on? Is everything okay?"
"I'm cool." Jet sighed, and Joe could hear him shift in his bed again. "Night."
Joe shifted so his back was towards his roommates and drifted off to sleep.
Joe took a careful look at the engine of a dilapidated race car. He tossed aside a screwdriver and picked up his flashlight.
"I thought you'd be out here. Missed you at breakfast." Jet's voice startled Joe. He looked across the garage where Jet had two mugs of coffee. He walked over and handed Joe a mug. "You know the engine is shot on this thing. We'll never find it in Japan. We'll have to order it."
"Frances is starting to complain about our hobby. She's be glad if we declared it dead."
"Ah, girls," Jet said with a mock expression of aggravation.
Joe paused and glared at Jet. "She's a great girl."
"Hey, I know she is! Keep in mind I've know her decades longer than you so don't flip out on me. I was just saying most girls don't understand cars. The beauty of digging into an engine and breaking it down is like art."
"Have you even given a girl a chance?" Joe snapped and turned back the engine.
"What's that supposed to mean? Are you calling me out 'bout something?" Jet's voice was low and edgy. Joe set aside his mug and glanced at Jet. The New Yorker's body language was hostile: squared shoulders, clenched fists, and red faced.
Rather than try to blow off an argument, Joe stepped away from the car and sat on the garage floor. "Jet, what's happening to you? I saw you and Albert last night. And at the barn after we got away from that Black Ghost base. I guess I was surprised."
"What? You going to start calling me names? Give me static over..."
"No! It's not that," Joe interrupted Jet. He waved Jet over. The lanky red-head sat cross-legged in font of Joe and picked up the discarded screwdriver. Joe watch Jet calm down a little as he dragged the screwdriver tip across the concrete floor.
Joe asked, "You never told me that you were interested in Albert. Why didn't you tell me?"
"Yeah right. Why would I?"
"Because I thought we were friends. Did you think I would criticize you? Why be so secretive? I'm not naive. We grew up in the same kind of situation." Joe took a deep breath and looked at the floor. "I mean... my two friends from Kurihama Juvenile Hall, Ibaragi and Oyamada, were together. I would have understood if you would have said something."
Jet took a deep breath and nodded. "Yeah, but there is one really big difference about our growing up. Fifty years." Jet started digging at the concrete with the screw driver's tip more aggressively. Jet wasn't meeting his eyes. "When I joined my gang the guy in charge was this toughie named Mark. The strong, silent type they used to call them. One really smart guy. I always used to think that's why he was never happy.'
'Everyone looked up to him. He never went around with the loose girls and took good care of his ma, but he never backed down from a fight. One night Tony, this wise guy, got totally blitzed and started up with Mark. Mark told Tony to go home and sleep it off. That's when Tony called him out for being a queer. Told the whole gang about something Mark had done the month before."
Jet waved the screwdriver in the air and let out a shaky sigh. "The gang jumped him. Immediately. He wasn't the same. Broke his back during it. His ma shipped him off to relatives in Idaho... or Wisconsin... some place like that. I never saw him after that. What I learned was to keep my mouth shut about it even around your closest friends. They could turn on you."
Joe nodded and said, "I see. Sorry about that."
"Don't worry about it. I'm getting some sense knocked into my hard head, still, old habits die hard." They sat silently for several long minutes. Joe felt more at ease now that things were out in the open. Jet hopped to his feet and jerked his thumb at the car. "So how are we going to scrape up the money for the fix?"
Joe jumped up and walked over to the car. "I think we can rebuild it. We're both broke."
"I know. I should get a job, but I've never really held one down before." Jet laughed and shook his head. "Don't tell Al. He'll just give me all sorts of lip about work."
Joe chuckled as they both leaned over and examined the engine. Joe's mind started to wander in a new direction now reassured that Jet did in fact trust him. "So... can I ask you a question?"
"Sure, anything," Jet answered brightly.
"Hun?" Jet looked baffled.
"You know? Why did you pick Albert anyway? I mean... not to sound rude... but he doesn't seem your type."
"Oh?" Jet gave a lop-sided smile. "Why's that?"
"He seems kind of... you know..."
"No... I..." Then Jet looked as though he comprehended. "Oh... you mean he seems like he has a stick up his butt all the time?"
Joe gave him a wry look. "I wouldn't have said that."
"Well I did."
"I was just curious. You don't have to answer. It was really nosey of me."
"Nope, it's fine. To tell you the truth, I don't even know why. I haven't thought about why much because it's only been a few days since it started. What I do know? He drives me crazy most of the time, but he's been there for me. He doesn't put up with any of my lip either."
Joe laughed out loud and shook his head. "That's a necessity."
Jet gave him a mock glare, slowly melting back into a smile. "Even when we fight, I know he'll back me up. He's always the same old, predictable Albert Heinrich. He may have a temper, and one heck of a stubborn attitude, but I always know what's coming with him. To tell you the truth," Jet suddenly blushed, "my life has always been one huge roller coaster ride. It's kind of nice to feel my feet on the ground for once."
"I think I know what you mean. It's kind of the same with Frances and me. She's always been reliable." Joe peered back into the car engine.
"Hey... uh... just between us." Joe didn't miss the nervous tone under the Jet's aloof fiddling with the air filter.
"Sure." Joe was careful to sound nonchalant.
"He has a big hang up that already came up last night."
"That woman who died?"
Jet flinched slightly, nodded, but kept his eyes low. Joe exhaled and gave a casual shrug. Jet cleared his throat and said, "I'll win in the end. I don't give up easily. He maybe stubborn, but so am I."
"Well put some of that stubborn on the engine, and lets get this piece of junk going."
Jet chuckled. "You're right. We got to get it out and see what we're looking at."