The Warrior and The Goddess
He wondered if she would recognize him. The thought of her forgetting him, even after so long, bothered him in a way he couldn't pinpoint. He knew instinctively that it would hurt him if she were to look at him with no recognition in her eyes. He knew that he could never forget her, the person responsible for bringing him back to life. If he had never met her, or Jin for that matter, he would still be trapped in that black void where he simply existed, neither living nor dead. He had not truly lived until she had opened his eyes and made him feel again.
Joe had wandered various parts of the world for the past five years. He went from place to place, never staying for too long. He met a few people on his journeys, but his heart remained with the friends he had made while on the run from Phantom. He thought of them often, especially the girl that had went through so much in her short life. His thoughts often drifted to Jin, the first friend he ever had and the person that had caused him the most pain. His betrayal and subsequent death continued to pain Joe in a way he never thought possible. He had been willing to die for Jin, never suspecting that his friend was just using him to help abduct Sana and gain the power that he craved.
The train came to a slow stop at his destination. He released a sigh as he stood and departed the train with several other passengers. The station at Satsuma was packed with smiling people meeting their loved ones. Joe briefly wondered if Sana would have been waiting for him if she had known he was coming, but he pushed the thought away as he started towards the address that he found for Toraji and Renee. From the information he had gathered, Sana continued to live with them.
It hadn't taken long for Joe to find out where Toraji and Renee lived, since they were such high profile members of the new government. They had both been instrumental in the rebuilding and annexation of Logos and Revinas by Satsuma. It seemed that the eccentric pirate had finally grown up somewhat. While his leadership style was somewhat unconventional, he had proven to be a capable and popular leader. His wife, Renee, had been instrumental in taking control of the remains of Phantom and other military organizations. If it had not been for her, the fighting between the remnants of the military and Satsuma's forces would have lasted much longer and thousands more would have died.
It didn't take him very long to reach the center of the capital city. Now he would just have to find the tower where the powerful couple lived with Sana. Joe was amazed by the area around him. The city looked almost as if it had never been attacked. Toraji and his people had accomplished so much in the five years Joe had been away. He hadn't been back here since that day when he had said goodbye to Sana as she boarded the helicopter and flew away. Even after all this time, being back brought back all of the memories of that difficult period.
He wasn't one to feel self-conscious, but he couldn't help but feel a bit nervous about seeing Sana again. He knew that he hadn't changed much, if at all, in the years since they had last met, but he still hoped that she wouldn't be disappointed in him. He was dressed simply, in jeans, red t-shirt, and black leather jacket. He still carried himself in the same way, unassuming and aloof, even if he did smile more. If she didn't recognize him, he would be very surprised.
Anticipation started to build in him once he found himself in front of the skyscraper. Toraji and Renee lived on the top two floors in their own penthouse. Joe hoped that security wouldn't be a problem, he really didn't want to cause a fuss just to get in. He also wasn't in the mood to take out the building's entire security force that afternoon. Joe had really come to hate fighting and only did so when absolutely necessary, in order to protect himself. He was sure that Gora would tell him that he had gone soft when he saw the boy, but that didn't bother him. He didn't care what anyone thought of him, except for one person.
The main lobby was fairly opulent with marble floors and pillars and shiny platinum fixtures everywhere. Joe hadn't seen such lavishness since before he and Jin left Phantom together. He knew that the government of Satsuma had become even richer since combining with Logos and Revinas, but he had no idea that they had this much wealth. He felt somewhat out of place, but ignored the feeling and headed to the main desk. The middle aged man behind the counter looked up as he approached and gave him a kind smile. Joe was mildly surprised at being welcomed so warmly, but had to remind himself that he was in Satsuma again, a place known for its hospitality.
"How can I help you, sir?" The man, whose nametag identified him as Domyogi, asked pleasantly. Joe couldn't help but give him a small smile in return. This man had an air of kindness and agreeableness that immediately put strangers at ease.
"Uh, hi. I'm here to see Toraji and Renee Shiba. Can you tell me if they're in?" Joe was hoping that were here and not out of the city somewhere. He didn't know if it was safe to ask for Sana since the couple tried to protect her by not allowing her too much public exposure.
"And your name, sir? Are they expecting you?"
"My name is Joe Katsuragi and no, they're not expecting me." This was the part that Joe had not been looking forward to. He was sure he would be sent away without Toraji or Renee knowing he was ever there. He'd have to figure out some other way up to the penthouse.
Needless to say, Joe was fairly surprised when Domyogi gave him an even bigger smile and gestured toward the elevator.
"Of course Mr. Katsuragi. Mr. and Mrs. Shiba are both in. I'm sure they will be delighted to see you." At this, a confused look crossed Joe's face.
"Uh, excuse me?"
"You're on their V.I.P. list, sir." Domyogi began understandingly. "That means that you are to be allowed immediate access to the residence, whether or not Mr. and Mrs. Shiba are in. I believe that young Miss Sana put you on the list, sir."
"Sana did?" Joe didn't try to hide his surprise at that revelation. But a warm feeling began to build in him as he realized that she had indeed remembered him.
"Oh yes sir. She really is a lovely young lady. Never a harsh word or malicious thought from that girl." the older man nodded with pleasure. It seemed that Sana was fairly popular among the staff. "Ah, I apologize for getting sidetracked like that sir. I see that you have not visited the building before, just take that elevator over there up to the 49th floor. I can allow you access to the penthouse from here. Mr. and Mrs. Shiba are both in, would you like me to tell them to expect you, sir?" Joe shook his head in the negative.
"That's alright. Thanks for all of your help." He smiled at the kind man again as he shifted his backpack into a more comfortable position and headed towards the elevator.
The ride up was short and Joe soon found himself at the door leading to the residence. The soldier in Joe was pleased to find that the elevator did not open to the living space, as it did in so many penthouses. The added level of protection was probably Renee's idea. Joe hadn't known her long, but he could tell that she was a very practical person. She would likely have been the one to consider extra safety necessary for Sana. The thought had probably never even crossed Toraji's mind. While Phantom was not around to hunt Sana anymore, Joe was certain that there would be others who would want to use her to create more Gladiators.
He pressed the call button by the steel door and waited. Would Sana be the one to answer the door? What exactly would he say to her when he saw her? He hadn't really considered what he was going to do or say when he saw her again, he had just felt one day that he had to go back. He needed to see her again.
The door slid open to reveal a slim woman with long blonde hair. Her eyes were wide as she looked at him, not believing that he was here in front of her.
"Hello, Renee. How are you?" She continued to stare at him for a few seconds before breaking out into a small, but genuine smile.
"Hello, Joe. It's been a while." Her smile became wider. "Come on in. Sana will be thrilled to see you." She stood aside and motioned him inside. After he entered, she closed the door and punched several buttons before he heard three locks move into place. Joe was again pleased by their level of security. Toraji wasn't kidding when he said he would look after Sana.
Renee took him into a large, open living room before going to get her husband. While he waited, Joe looked around the room to orient himself. One entire wall was nothing but windows and was two stories tall. There were stairs on one end of the room leading up to the second floor with all of the bedrooms. The living room itself was fairly comfortable with three large couches and a baby grand piano on the opposite wall from the stairs. He smiled a little as he looked at the instrument which undoubtedly belonged to Sana. He was glad to see that she apparently still played, he knew how much she had loved it.
It wasn't long before he heard two sets of footsteps heading towards the large room. Renee and Toraji stopped at the large doorway for a moment while the two men simply looked at each other. The former pirate then broke out in a huge grin before rushing over and clapping Joe on the back good naturedly.
"It's about time you decided to visit us. We were beginning to think that you didn't like us." Toraji laughed heartily before stepping back to get a good look at his friend. "You know, you could have at least written to tell us you were coming. We would have baked a cake or something." He sniffed the air as if offended.
"Sorry. I didn't think that far ahead." Joe went along with the joke. Toraji had not changed much in the years since they had seen each other. He still dressed as if he were some sort of Samurai, though his sword was nowhere in sight. His hair had grown a bit and was tied into a neat ponytail. He soon motioned Joe to sit down, he and his wife sitting on the couch opposite him.
"So, how have you been? Staying out of trouble, I hope." the pirate grinned again.
Joe nodded. "I'm fine. I did a lot of traveling."
"You still have a gift for the obvious, I see." Toraji hmphed. "Well, in any case, I know someone who will be even more pleased to see you than we are." He glanced slyly at the man across from him. For some reason, Joe felt a bit of embarrassment from that look.
He was quiet for a moment before asking, "How is she?"
"She's doing very well." Renee answered him. "Sana is getting such excellent grades in school, it looks like she may graduate early. She seems to really enjoy living here." She paused. "I think she's glad to finally have a stable home, since she really didn't have one most of her life."
"Yeah, considering she was treated like a lab rat for how long before her father was killed." Toraji continued as he leaned back into the couch with his hands behind his head. "Then she went on the run with a couple of fugitives. And Renee and I were so busy the first couple of years after the fall of Logos and Revinas, we were constantly moving around. We've only been settled here for about two years."
"I see." Joe couldn't help but feel somewhat guilty for time that he and Jin had taken Sana on the run with them. That was no way for a child to live. Toraji must have heard the guilt in his tone because he sat up and looked Joe straight in the eye again.
"It's not your fault, you know. Sana thinks the world of you."
"She's missed you a great deal, Joe." Renee added softly.
Her husband nodded emphatically. "That's right. She's been wanting to see you again for a long time." He paused before looking slyly at Joe again. "You know, she's really grown up while you've been gone. Do you know how old she is, by any chance?"
Joe blinked a couple of times, not sure what Toraji was getting at. "No, I don't." He had never really thought about her age, even when she had been in his care. He didn't see how it mattered.
"She's sixteen, almost seventeen. Practically an adult." Toraji chuckled a little to himself before Renee elbowed him in the ribs and gave him a pointed look. He grimaced in pain, but quickly shut his mouth.
Joe looked from one of them to the other, not sure what was going on. Whatever it was the pirate was trying to say, his wife seemed to disagree with him entirely. Joe wasn't sure what to say to break the tense atmosphere, so he remained silent.
Before either of his hosts could change the subject, Joe heard the steel door unlock and then open. He immediately lifted his head and turned towards the hallway in anticipation. Almost immediately, he heard small steps rush toward the living room. Renee and Toraji also looked expectantly towards the door at the sound.
Joe tried to hide his disappointment and surprise when a small child emerged from doorway and rushed towards Renee and Toraji.
"Mommy! Daddy!" The little boy yelled excitedly. He couldn't have been more than three years old, at the most. "Guess what I did! I found a frog in the park and he was all slimy and I wanted to bring him home but Sissy said no that he had to stay there cause that was his home. I was really sad but then we got ice cream and I got chocolate chip and it melted on my shoe but it's ok cause Sissy cleaned me up!"
The boy climbed onto Renee's lap as he told his story. The little blonde boy looked quickly between each of his parents excitedly. Joe noticed how both of his hosts' faces lit up with pride and happiness at the boy's appearance. It wasn't until the boy stopped for breath that he noticed the stranger sitting in his living room.
"Who's he?" The boy pointed curiously toward Joe, making both of his parents laugh lightly. Before he could get an answer, another set of footsteps were heard coming down the hallway.
"Wataru thought he was going to get away with sneaking that frog in, but he couldn't get it past me." A very feminine voice said before giggling. Joe's eyes widened and he turned toward the hallway as the woman entered.
She was of average height with a small build. She had on a light pink dress that showed off her shoulders and collarbone. It was embroidered with lace and was short sleeved. Her tan knee high boots clicked on the floor as she came to a stop. Her light pink hair was down and reached just past her shoulders. She had a bright smile on her face as she looked toward the boy and his parents, not noticing the visitor's presence at first.
Joe stood, not believing what he was seeing. This couldn't be Sana. The Sana he knew was a young girl, not a grown woman. He realized that he should have considered the time he spent away more, then he might have realized that she would be grown up by this point.
When he stood, she finally looked his way and gasped in surprise. Her eyes went wide and she quickly brought her hand to her mouth. They stood there staring at each other for what seemed like an eternity.
"Sana?" Joe was surprised at how hopeful his voice sounded to his own ears.
It was almost as if his voice brought her out of her shock because her hand dropped from her face and a smile broke out. He heard her yell his name before she ran over to him and launched herself into his arms. She threw her arms around his neck and held him tightly to her. As if by instinct, his arms surrounded her and held her tightly to himself. He couldn't remember the last time he had been hugged, but he was sure that it had been her who had done it. Holding her seemed to be the most natural thing in the world, but he wasn't sure why.
"Oh, Joe, I've missed you so much! I can't believe you're here!" She pulled away just enough to look at his face, a wide smile brightening her own. Joe couldn't help but smile back at her, relieved to see her pleasure at seeing him again. "How long are you staying? A while, I hope…" her voice trailed off in anticipation.
"I can stay as long as you'd like, Sana." She gave a little shriek as she again flung her arms around him and held him to her.
"Then you'll never be leaving me again." She whispered, barely loud enough for him to hear. It almost sounded like an oath, but Joe shook it off. He was probably just hearing things. When she pulled away to look at him again, it was hard to miss the joy in her bright blue eyes. He wasn't sure how long they stood there looking at each other before Toraji cleared his throat to grab their attention.
"It's good to see you remember him, at least. Though if you keep holding onto him like that, he's going to get the wrong idea." The pirate gave a hearty laugh at his joke as Sana quickly pulled away, her face a brilliant shade of red. Toraji just laughed harder at her display while Renee rolled her eyes again.
"Don't mind him, Joe," Renee began as she stood up, her son in her arms, "He's only happy when he's torturing others. Just ignore him, we do." Wataru giggled and nodded emphatically.
"Anyway," Sana turned back to Joe, "Where are you staying? You can stay here with us, if you'd like." He could tell that she was trying to hide the hope in her eyes, but she wasn't doing a good job of it. It touched him that she wanted him to stay so badly, that she had missed him so much. He looked to Renee and Toraji to see if the offer was alright with them and both of them nodded in confirmation. He looked back to Sana and gave her another smile.
After taking his bag to one of the guest rooms, Sana and Wataru gave Joe a quick tour of the penthouse. Sana spoke quickly and excitedly as she showed him around. Wataru had taken a liking to Joe almost immediately and held onto the man's pant leg during the tour, occasionally adding a comment or two. It wasn't long before the three of them were called to dinner.
The four adults spoke easily throughout the meal. Toraji and Renee updated Joe on various military and political subjects. He learned just how difficult it had been to convince Satsuma's various leaders to invest in the reconstruction of Logos and Revinas. The couple had a difficult time encouraging some of them that it was in the best interests of all involved to participate without the guarantee of monetary gain. Now it was just a matter of getting all of the various factions to cooperate and work together in the best interests of the people. Thankfully, it was not as difficult a task as it had once been. They then told him about how the various crew members of the Ishin were doing and what Gora was currently up to. Joe was immensely surprised to find that the loud boy had gone into the military, with a little help from Toraji.
Sana didn't speak much during the meal, content with allowing her adoptive parents to fill Joe in. She did offer occasional comments, especially once the topic came to Gora. She and the wild boy had developed a very close relationship in the years they had been together. Sana felt like he was the brother that she had never had, at least until little Wataru was born. She missed him a great deal, but she was very proud that he had grown and matured so much. He would be pretty angry when he found out that Joe had come back and he wasn't there to see him. The thought made Sana giggle to herself.
Eventually, the conversation turned to the young lady herself. Toraji and Rene proudly went over her many accomplishments, as true parents would. Joe was glad to see that they had become a real family, one that was truly close. Sana tried to brush off their compliments, blushing with embarrassment. It was remarkable how much she had grown up in such a short time. When he had first met her, she would have relished their compliments and added some of her own. Now she was a modest young woman, one that was no where near as self-centered as she once was. It filled him with pride to see how she had blossomed under the couple's care.
"Sana, why don't you play something for Joe while I clean up and Renee puts Wataru to bed?" Toraji suggested at the end of the meal. He winked when she turned to him in surprise.
"I don't want to bore him or anything…" she blushed before turning back to Joe.
"It won't. I'd really like to hear you play again, Sana." He gave her another small smile of encouragement.
"Alright then, if you really want to." She stood up and smiled at him. "Let's go."
He followed her out into the main living area and to the grand piano near the corner of the room. The view of the night sky from the wall of windows was breathtaking, offering a wonderful view of the large city. Sana sat on the piano bench and motioned him to sit beside her. Once he was seated, she began to play a soft tune. It relaxed him almost immediately and he found himself closing his eyes as she continued to play. When they were on the run, he only had the chance to hear her play twice, but it filled him with pleasure on both occasions. Of course, the second time he heard her play was when Jin forced her and she subsequently collapsed. It had been the first time that Joe had ever questioned Jin, let alone stood up to him. He couldn't help but shudder at the memory of that day, how he held Sana's limp body while fleeing from Phantom's assassins. Joe pushed those unpleasant thoughts aside as the song started to build in intensity. Opening his eyes, he watched as Sana's petite fingers expertly glided over the keys, never making a false move.
She was totally engrossed in her playing, a small smile lighting her face. He could almost feel her joy as she played and it the feeling soon spread to himself. He wasn't sure how long she played, but it seemed like she finished all too soon.
"How was that?" she asked, even though she knew she had played the piece perfectly.
"You did a great job. It was wonderful, Sana." He replied softly. She giggled a little.
"You know, you talk a lot more then you used to, Joe." She touched his arm when he looked at her with confusion. "But don't worry, it's a good thing. I'm glad that you speak more. I like your voice." she finished quietly, with a hint of embarrassment.
He was sure that the surprise was obvious on his face. "Uh, thank you."
An awkward moment passed between them before Sana shook herself lightly and turned to him.
"Would you like to play with me?"
"I…I don't know how..." An image of Sana and Jin playing together came unbidden to his mind briefly before he pushed it away.
"Oh that's alright! I can teach you!" Excitedly, she stood up and motioned him to shift to the center of the bench. As he did so, she moved to stand behind him. She lifted his hands to the keys and placed his fingers over the proper places.
"Now, I'm going to put my hands over yours. Just follow my movements and do as I do. Ok?" At his nod, she carefully put her arms around him and placed her hands over his. Her hands were so small and soft compared to his larger, calloused ones, he marveled at the feel of them. She placed her head on his right shoulder and pressed herself against his back. He could feel the warmth of her body on his back and when she turned her face toward him, he could feel her warm breath on his neck. "Ready?"
He nodded again, suddenly unable to speak. He hadn't been this close to someone in a long, long time. The fact that it was Sana made the situation all the more astonishing. Joe was certain that his face had to be blushing, it would have been a miracle if it were not. As she began to lightly move her hands to play, he had to force himself to concentrate on following her movements and he had to keep his hands tight against hers in order to follow her lead. He tried to ignore the feeling of having her so close against him. If he hadn't seen that she had grown up before, he would have known now. With her breasts pressed against his back and her scent in the air, he knew that she was no longer the child he had once known.
Her breath tickled his ear as she told him to relax. He hadn't realized that he had tensed up, so he had to work to relax again. It wasn't easy with her so close to him, her warmth traveling about his body. Joe had to concentrate to ease each muscle in his body so that he wasn't so tense. Eventually, he was able to relax enough that he could follow her movements more easily. Their playing became much smoother and less splintered, and Joe soon found that he was enjoying himself. Her closeness became less and less of a distraction the longer they played. It began to feel almost natural, the feeling of her body against his.
Joe wasn't the only one that was somewhat distracted by their position. Sana was surprised at her own boldness, going right up and pressing herself against Joe like it wasn't a big deal. She hoped that he wouldn't be able to tell how nervous she was, that he wouldn't be able to feel her heart pounding in her chest. She had wished for his return for years and now he was literally right in front of her. He was so warm and she could smell a musky scent that was incredibly appealing. She had to push those distractions out of her mind in order to play properly. The fact that he had stiffened so much when she first touched him made her nervous, though she tried to play it off like it didn't matter. When he relaxed and leaned into her, she thought she would faint from the happiness. She could definitely get used to being this close to him, though she highly doubted she would ever get another chance. She resolved to enjoy this experience and soon found herself lost in the song.
They played what seemed like a combination of songs for a time before it came to an end. Their hands stilled on the keys, though neither attempted to move from their joined position. The sudden sound of clapping made Sana jump away from him in both fright and embarrassment. She and Joe turned to see Toraji standing in the doorway, leaning against it, arms crossed with a smug grin plastered to his face. It looked like he had been there quite a while.
"That was a lovely duet. Who would have guessed that you two would be so…in sync with one another." The former pirate smirked, enjoying the discomfort of the pair before him. "interesting teaching method you have, Sana."
Sana flushed and looked quickly from Toraji to Joe and back again. "Well, I just thought…it might be easier if…" She looked at her feet and added quietly. "I didn't mean anything by it."
Joe felt a flash of disappointment rush through him at her denial, though he was confused as to why. Sana couldn't have possibly reacted to their closeness the way he did. She would never think of him in that way. He would always be her protector, an older brother that she could always count on. He shouldn't even have reacted to her closeness the way he did…it made him feel somehow dirty. She was too young to possibly be interested in him. At least, that's what he kept trying to tell himself.
Sana's denial and Joe's silence seemed to entertain Toraji all the more. His grin grew wider and he chuckled to himself. He straightened away from the door and began to turn towards the stairs. "Don't be too embarrassed, Sana. It's perfectly natural. You are an adult now." He grinned again as he looked at Joe. "Besides, it looks like your student thoroughly enjoyed the experience as well." Joe looked up sharply, his face slightly red at knowing he had been caught. Toraji missed the embarrassed expression as he had already begun up the steps.
"Renee and I are off to bed. You kids have fun and don't stay up too late" The former pirate's chuckle echoed as he disappeared, leaving the young woman and her former bodyguard alone in the night.
A/N: Please drop me a review. I'd especially like to know if Joe and Sana are too OOC or not. Thanks for reading!