Disclaimer: 3 Ninjas is owned by Touchstone and Tristar Pictures, I'm simply playing in the sandbox - and destroying the sandcastles.
Genre: Youth Romance
Series: 3 Ninjas - post Knuckle Up
Summary: "Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth." - Pride of the Yankees, The 1942
Notes: Rocky is 13; Colt is 12; Tum Tum is 9.
Notes 2: Challenge fic - write based on the movie quote - summary was the challenge. This was supposed to be a Star Wars fic, but the muse wants what the muse wants and this wouldn't disappear until it was written. Enjoy :)
"Are you seriously going to kiss her?"
Jeffrey 'Colt' Douglas didn't so much as glance his older brother's way as he climbed out of the back of the car. Their grandfather, thankfully, didn't appear to be paying them any attention and he reached for one of the grocery bags in the seat next to him. "Kiss who?"
"Kiss who." Samuel 'Rocky' Douglas snorted. "Jo, you spaz."
"Kiss Jo?" Michael 'Tum Tum' Douglas interjected, making a face. "I think you're crazy to even think it."
Colt rolled his eyes. "Come on guys, I only said that to shut you up."
"Can't take a little packback for all those time you and Tum Tum teased me about Emily?" Rocky retorted, falling into step beside him as they headed for the house. Tum Tum fell in on the other side as each of the boys carried a bag. "So what're we going to do for the rest of the summer?"
"What, the first week wasn't exciting enough?"
The boys shared a laugh, drawing their grandfather's attention as they slid the bags onto the table.
"Your Ninja training will keep you occupied for the next few weeks," they were told with a stern look. "You may have learned the lesson of the flowers, but your training this summer is not yet complete."
"Yes sir!" The response was automatic after so many years under his tutelage.
Mori smiled. "But first, dinner. Tum Tum?"
"Give me a hand with this. Rocky, Colt - finish getting the groceries."
The older boys headed back out the door as Tum Tum began unpacking the groceries with Mori. When the door slammed behind them, Colt pushed Rocky's shoulder.
"Last one to the car has to do the dishes!"
Both boys took off at a run, laughing as they shoved one another good naturedly to try and get the other to fall back. Rocky tripped him up, and Colt rolled with it, catching his brother by the back of the heel and sending them both sprawling. Pushing up without hesitation, they sprinted for the car only to touch it at the same time, their hands connecting the metal with a smack.
Slapping his pants, Colt rid them of most of the dirt. "Cheater."
"I didn't hear any rules."
Accepting the bag, Rocky waited as Colt grabbed the last one, and then kicked the door closed. They headed back towards the cabin at a more sedate pace. Glancing towards his brother, Rocky considered him for a minute.
"You sounded like you meant it."
"What you said before - about kissing Jo."
It figured Rocky wouldn't let it go. Still... a part of him had meant it, Colt realized silently. He wasn't against girls exactly, he simply hadn't found one before that made him like girls. Until Jo. His stomach fluttered just thinking about her. Would she want to spend time with him now that the crisis regarding her father had passed, or would she simply fade away as people did, going back to their lives?
He didn't know and it bothered him; he wanted Jo to be a part of his summer.
Heat flared in his cheeks and his temper spiked. "Was not."
"I was just thinking, I mean... how can we be sure the landfill business is done; those goons might try to hurt Jo and her father again."
Rocky put his free hand on the back of his brother's head and pushed with an exasperated sigh. "Why? They've been exposed, Colt. If they went after Jo and her dad, they wouldn't- uh..."
"Wouldn't what?" Tossing his head to escape the hold, Colt turned a dark look on his older brother. "The police wouldn't do anything about it if they tried something and you know it."
"The police don't have a choice if something were to happen," Rocky corrected. "It came out in court, remember?"
"How do you know?" They reached the door, and Colt hooked the toe of his shoe around the frame, flicking it open and holding it for Rocky. "We didn't stay to hear everything."
"The courthouse," Rocky shot Colt a look as he placed the bag on the counter. "Hey grandpa?"
"Could we have a friend over for dinner one night?"
"A friend," Mori paused in placing a can on one of the higher shelves. "That little girl you've been hanging around with?"
He ignored Colt's hissed distress. "Yeah. Her name's Jo; she's really nice."
"It was quite the mess she got you three involved in."
"She didn't ask to be harassed at the Pizza Parlor, grandpa," Colt cut in, going from embarrassed to defensive in a heartbeat; he just couldn't help defending Jo. "Those overgrown goons were picking on her and you did teach us that we should protect those who can't protect themselves... things just kind of went from there."
"Ah, the persuasive powers of a woman," there was a teasing note in grandpa's voice that had Rocky and Colt sharing a look and then looking hastily away while color stained their cheeks. There was a little too much truth in that statement. "A Ninja must be above such persuasions, able to control themselves even when faced with a plea from a pretty face."
"But it's finished now, Grandpa," Tum Tum broke in unexpectedly. "And Jo's not so bad - for a girl. She let us wear war paint and everything."
"And it wasn't like she expected us to help free her father, just find him," added Colt
"We kinda offered," Rocky admitted, glancing at his brothers and knowing they had to face the music at some point. "I mean, the police wouldn't help her and nobody believed her; who else was going to help her dad?"
"You're not superheroes," Mori told them sternly, pinning them with a look as they unconsciously lined up together to take the chastisement - and to present a united front. "You can't save everyone, or put your noses in other people's business and not expect some consequences."
"We know, grandpa."
"We didn't think you'd mind."
"That I wouldn't mind?" The boys straightened unconsciously as Mori crossed his arms over his chest. "I didn't teach you to be vigilantes; you're supposed to be Ninjas!"
"We're sorry grandpa," Tum Tum's subdued apology was heartfelt. "We just thought we could help her because no one else would."
Watching his grandsons, Mori was reminded of the previous fall - after they'd returned home from their annual summer visit - when they'd been used as pawns in another dangerous game. "You've all grown in strength and skill in the last year," he finally relented. "But just because you can help, doesn't mean you should - until you have all the facts."
The subdued, unified response made Mori smile - until Rocky voiced the question that had stared the conversation.
"Does that mean Jo can come for dinner?"
"As long as she doesn't drag you three into any more adventures, I don't see the harm in it." Mori conceded. "And she's not to interfere in your training."
"Not in ours," piped up Tum Tum, elbowing Rocky. "But maybe Colt's."
"You shut up, spaz."
"Boys!" They settled, Colt glaring at Tum Tum before turning their gazes back to their grandfather. "Tum Tum and I will get started on dinner. Rocky, Colt; set the table."
Their training schedule picked up where it had been interrupted in the previous days, and after dinner they were drawn outside for katas and practice. Mostly they used the training tools that their grandpa provided, but this evening, they were paired off.
Tum Tum to work with Mori; Rocky to face off with Colt.
The drills they ran through were mostly routine and Rocky was in the middle of a punch block and counter, when his gaze was drawn beyond Colt's shoulder to a small figure that was watching their spar. Colt's fist impacted on his shoulder as he missed the block, spinning him around and knocking him down to one knee.
Colt hadn't pulled the punch.
"Now who's spacing?"
"Uh, Colt?" He nodded beyond his brother towards the tree line and the bridge used to get to the house proper.
"What?" Colt spun - and stopped. "Jo!"
"Hey guys!" She waved, but made no move to get up. Her bike lay against one of the support posts for the bridge and she was comfortably settled to the side, her hands loosely linked together around her knees. The world tilted as Colt was sent sprawling, Rocky sweeping his legs from under him in his distraction.
Returning it, Colt leapt back to his feet and rounded on his brother with a full round house. Rocky ducked, sweeping his legs towards Colt's - who promptly back flipped to avoid it. Landing on the balls of his feet, Colt swept out with a punch and kick combo that put Rocky on the defensive.
Spurred by Jo's presence, he focused.
Kicks, punches and blocks were exchanged, counters delivered as Colt rose to the challenge. Rocky had ever been better than he was; stronger, more steadfast in his abilities - but Colt was faster even if his style was a touch wild and reckless.
Knowing it, he harnessed the energy behind it.
Rocky jabbed, Colt countered, blocking the jab and sending it wide with his forearm before spinning into Rocky's body and dropping low. Rocky leapt over the sweep of his leg, but Colt was prepared. Reaching up, he caught Rocky as he landed and used his momentum against him. Rocky hit the ground, rolling with the impact - and Colt leapt back to his feet.
But Rocky stayed down, a smile on his lips, as he tucked his hands behind his head to stare at his brother. "Well?"
"You're so dense."
"You won - aren't you going to talk to Jo?" Rocky's gaze went to where Jo was on her feet, but well out of earshot.
"Come on; she just saw you beat me."
Colt's gaze followed Rocky's... and he shied, just like the animal he was named after. "I couldn't; want a hand up?"
Ignoring his brother's proffered hand, Rocky pushed it aside and sat up, waving Jo over. "Hey Jo! Com'ere."
"What are you doing?"
"What you should have done when I hit the dirt." The hissed conversation stopped as Jo bounded across the bridge to stop just shy of where Rocky was still on the ground, Colt standing almost woodenly at his side. "Hey Jo!"
"Hey Rocky; Colt. I've seen you guys in action before, but that was something else. Wow."
"It used to be Colt couldn't touch me," Rocky conceded, pushing himself to his feet with a mischievous smile. "Looks like I'll just have to work harder to make it that way again."
"Really?" Jo looked suitably impressed. "You guys seem pretty evenly matched to me."
"Nah, Rocky's still better - he let me win."
"You wish." Dusting off his gi, Rocky turned to find that Tum Tum and Grandpa were behind him. He smiled. "Did you see that grandpa?"
"He caught you off guard, Rocky."
"It won't happen again, sir."
Mori's lips twitched. "And who is this young lady?"
Colt jumped in before Rocky could introduce her. "Grandpa, this is Jo. Jo, our grandfather Mori Tanaka."
"You look different without your traditional dress."
Jo's expression blossomed into a brilliant smile. "You have amazing grandsons, sir. Thanks to them, I have my father back and my people will be able to recover from the sickness infesting the land."
"It was nothing."
"Not to me," her solemn denial was enough to silence Colt, who suddenly felt like a heel for saying otherwise. "We all wanted to thank you properly for all you did, but you left the courthouse before we could."
"We didn't help you for recognition," Rocky told her honestly, sharing a look with his brothers. "We did it because it was the right thing to do. We're glad you have your dad back - and that the landfill is being shut down."
"Besides," cut in Colt, "your people already gave us the Eagle feathers. We really should give them back."
"Oh no!" She looked panicked. "You can't. They were gifts, to mark you as honorary warriors of the tribe. Returning them would be an insult."
"The young lady is right." the four young people turned to Mori. "The tribe has chosen to honor you for taking up their fight and succeeding where they had not. You didn't go looking for the honor, didn't expect it, which is all the more reason to accept it. Humility is admirable and exceptional in a Ninja - if it can be maintained."
"There will be a celebration for winning the battle at the courthouse. I have been told to invite you - all of you," she looked pointedly at the boy's grandfather, "and not to accept no as an answer."
"Jo, it's not that we don't want to come, but..."
"It's been a long few days," Tum Tum broke in before Rocky's hesitant refusal could continue. "We really need to sleep tonight."
"Yeah," Colt's unenthusiastic addition drew her gaze. "We kinda broke our curfew the last time we came-"
"-and we promised Grandpa it'd be an early night tonight." Rocky finished without looking at said grandfather. "We really can't."
Jo looked around the circle of dejected faces to the man who was their guardian through their summers. "And your answer, sir?"
"If the celebration is tonight - or tomorrow."
A giggle and a grin broke through Jo's seemingly passive acceptance and her eyes sparkled. "It's tomorrow. We wanted to celebrate tonight, but my dad said the same thing after all the excitement today. Will you come?"
The three eager expressions of his grandsons turned his way and Mori looked at them all for a moment before nodding. "We'd be honored."
Jo let out a whoop that would have done any brave proud and punched the air. "They'll be so excited." She threw her arms around Colt, the brother nearest to her.
"So'm I.. we... us... us too," stammered Colt as he panicked.
Rocky struggled not to laugh as his brother looked at him and could only shrug as Jo released Colt before she all but pounced on Tum Tum. The youngest let out an indignant squawk as she used the opportunity to kiss his cheek. Pay back no doubt for the last time when Tum Tum had made the crack about already having had a bath.
"Ew! I'm going to need to scrub for a week!"
Tum Tum stumbled as he was released, swiping at his cheek with a glower at Jo as she turned to Rocky. He hugged her back - he wasn't surprised or majorly crushing on her like Colt - and used the opportunity to drop a reciprocal kiss on her cheek when she buffed his; just to needle Colt.
"We can't wait."
Jo blushed as she stepped away, not looking at him - and it didn't pass Rocky's notice that while she hadn't kissed Colt, she'd clung to him the longest. "I-I guess I should be going and let you guys get back to your training."
"Unless you'd like to stay and watch?"
"I shouldn't," she hedged, not looking Colt's way. "I mean, you're not to only ones who broke curfew the last few nights."
"Come inside and call your parents," Mori suggested. "I'll give you a ride later and this will give the boys time before desert to stretch and cool down." The last was a jibe in Colt's direction.
Jo walked away with Mori towards the cabin, and Colt rounded on Rocky. "What'd you do that for?"
"You kissed her!"
"Just on the cheek. It is what she did the other day to thank us - remember?"
"You didn't have to copy her."
"Well, now that I've kissed her, you doing it shouldn't be a big deal."
"Yuck!" Tum Tum made a face. "I want my ice cream, can't we just stretch already?"
"So stretch," Colt reached out to grab Tum Tum's arms and pull him upwards - to be promptly kicked in the shin.
That resulted in Colt retaliating, Rocky jumping in, and a brotherly scuffle of rolling around in the dirt playing out. Tum Tum broke free first, leaving Rocky and Colt to face off against one another again, but both rolled to their feet and gave chase. Tum Tum let out a yelp and bolted for the house, his brothers hot on his heels.
Rocky caught up with him as he hit the top step, just as Jo opened the door and stepped clear to hold it for them. His momentum carried him up the steps and through the doorway, a squirming Tum Tum in his arms. Colt pulled up short - and then let out an angry yell as Rocky grabbed the door, tearing it from Jo's fingers, and yanked it shut. The sound of the lock snapping into place was clearly heard - as was the unspoken message behind it.
Talk to her.
Colt pounded on the door with the side of his fist, but if his brothers heard, they were ignoring him. "Rocky, open the door now!"
Rocky did no such thing, tapping lightly on the glass towards Jo, who was behind him. His grandfather, Colt suspected, was simply letting them be boys. He'd be let in eventually, but not before he took Rocky's not-so-subtle advice.
Talk to her.
"I guess my ice cream is going to melt."
The amused observation brought his head around and Colt let his fist drop. "Sorry."
"No." She shrugged, shaking her head.
Silence fell between them, and Colt absently slapped at his pants and shirt to break the dust from them for something to do with his hands. They itched to touch her - when she'd hugged him, he'd been too shocked to do more than stand and stammer. The very idea brought color to his cheeks. Until Jo, he hadn't even noticed girls for the most part, and now all he could think about was how lucky he'd be if he could hold her hand, or kiss her the way Rocky had.
With a glance at the door - and his brothers peering at him curiously through the glass, Colt made a face. "They're not going to let me in any time soon; wanna go for a walk?"
"Sure." Jo hopped off the porch, extending her hand to him. "Rocky mentioned the other day that there's a water fall somewhere around here."
"There is." Jumping down beside her, Colt tentatively took her proffered hand - and her fingers folded around his trustingly. The delight at the feeling was new and completely suffused him with warmth - the pleasurable shock of it prevented him from pulling away. Using it as a way to draw her forward, he spun, taking her with him as he started walking away from the house.
Jo stumbled the first step, but quickly matched his pace - and didn't reclaim her hand.
They walked around the cabin, Colt aware that his brothers were watching but didn't care. Let them watch. They'd be out of sight soon enough. Silence greeted them as they walked, the birds and animals going about their daily routines as the two almost-teenagers tread across paths Colt and his brothers had been walking for as long as he could remember.
They came to the downed log that crossed the stream and Jo's breath caught. Delighted, she pulled him across, to the center, and then dropped down to sit. Surprised, he was drawn down with her - closer than he ever would have dared if she still didn't hold his hand captive. Hip to hip, their legs dangling over the side, Jo turned a smile his way.
"This reminds me of a place that used to be just outside our borders; before the landfill swallowed it up."
"It's no waterfall."
"No, but it's beautiful all the same. Life starts and ends here; a true circle."
Out of his league, Colt could only watch her as she watched nature. She was close, her smile and eyes sparkling as she took stock of their surroundings. He couldn't tear his eyes away. The place where Rocky had brushed his lips across her cheek was close, closer than he'd ever been when not surprised by a hug, and suddenly he couldn't think of anything else.
But he'd never kissed anyone except his mother before, and he certainly didn't think of Jo like that. Rocky had kissed her cheek; Colt wanted to leave her with something more - but did he dare? What if he got it wrong? She'd be his first kiss, something he'd never forget... but what if he was so bad, she wanted to forget?
"Are you okay?" Her gaze as turned back to him, the wonder replaced with worry.
Kicking himself he tried to laugh, but nothing came out. "F-fine. Just..."
Oh man. What was he supposed to say next? "Did.. did you like it when Rocky kissed you?"
She stared at him for a minute and then laughed. "Rocky didn't kiss me."
"Sure he did, right here."
They both froze as his finger tips brushed her cheek. Unable to help himself, Colt traced the exact spot where Rocky had placed his lips and then dropped his fingers as if burned, folding them into a fist. Both of his hands - having dropped hers - were now fisted in his lap, and he stared at them. The question that had been bugging him escaped before he could stop it.
"Why did you kiss him and not me?"
"When you hugged us; you kissed Rocky and Tum Tum but not me."
"I..." she seemed lost, surprised by his accusation. "I'm sure I kissed you."
"No you didn't." He couldn't look at her. "I'd remember if you did; the thing is..."
Colt didn't finish, and he could feel her looking at him, nerves eating away at his courage reserves; he couldn't do it. Having her watching him, waiting expectantly - for what he didn't know - was killing his ability to talk. And then she started to say something, and the exasperation in her tone knifed through him.
"I like you a lot, Jo." He blurted in a rush, not looking at her as his cheeks turned crimson. "I've never liked a girl the way I like you before."
Jo blinked, caught by surprise... and then smiled shyly. He caught it from the corner of his eye even as her hands covered his - and his head jerked up. She moved, turned towards him and going up on one knee as their noses almost brushed, barely a breath apart. Brown met brown as their gazes locked. Her cheeks were just as flushed, a direct and flattering contrast to the bronze of her skin, as she offered him hope in four soft words.
"I like you too. I think that's why I didn't... couldn't..."
She was close, so close that Colt didn't even think about it. He leaned in. Their eyes remained locked, her fingers clenching about his, and their lips brushed. They brushed again and held - and her eyes fluttered shut. His followed, the feel of her lips against his a foreign enticement. Soft and supple, his lips slid across hers for a heart stopping moment and a heartbeat later they separated.
Her grip on his hands eased as their fingers slid together, intertwining as she backed away shyly to sit beside him once more. Without saying anything, she tilted her head to let it rest on his shoulder. One hand slipped from his - it was awkward to keep both of them in their current position - but the other remained tightly entwined with his. A smile creased his lips as he placed his head against hers and turned his attention to the beauty surrounding them once more.
Hearts pounded and breathing slowed as they contemplated the shift in themselves - for the rush of the moment had captured them both. They stayed that way for several long minutes, the silence between them comfortable and somewhat awed before Jo reluctantly moved away.
"I should get going."
Unable to meet his gaze directly, she glanced at him shyly from beneath her lashes. "I'll see you tomorrow, right?"
"Wouldn't miss it."
"Good." Pushing to her feet, she pulled him up with her, and glanced back towards the bend - behind which the cabin was hidden. "Your brothers-"
"I'll handle them." He led her back along the path towards the cabin. Once within view they proceeded more cautiously, dropping each other's hands. Colt paused at the bridge and turned to face her once more. "You know, if we say or do anything around them, they'll tease us."
"It'd be weird," she conceded, glancing around him towards the cabin. "Can I hug you at least?"
"I hope so."
Jo proceeded to do just that, deliberately planting her face on the side of his head opposite the cabin and brushing her lips across his cheek where no one would see. Her shy and sudden admission was heartwarming. "You're my first kiss, Colt."
"Me too." Daringly, he hugged her back. "I-I mean you're mine - that is, my first kiss."
Her smile when she pulled away was brilliant - and Colt bent to kiss her cheek before he could think about it.
"They probably saw that."
"I'm counting on it."
Smiling, but not really understanding what was going through his head, Jo darted across the bridge for her bike.
"We'll see you tomorrow!"
She waved to let him know she'd heard, and Colt watched her ride away. The teasing would come, he knew, because his brothers had undoubtedly seen the last of his actions, but he didn't care. If he hadn't, they'd have known something else had happened between him and Jo - and it was easier to explain this than the other.
Today he'd been Jo's first kiss - an honor and a privilege. Today, he thought as she disappeared from view, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.
For today, Jeffery 'Colt' Douglas had shared his first kiss with his first crush; and, if he had his way, his brothers would never know they were teasing him for the very thing he'd done.
When the echo of their teasing as they finally opened the door and poured from the cabin to taunt him reverberated through the canyon - "Colt went and kissed Jo! Colt went and kissed Jo. Colt went and kissed Jo!" - he surprised everyone, even himself, by turning with a grin and baldly admitting to it. It helped, as the words left his lips, that neither Rocky nor Tum Tum knew the full truth.
"Well, what do you know? I did!"
Author's Note: Don't ask where this came from, I don't have a clue - it's just what the muse wanted me to write.