Disclaimer: Tatsunoko owns the KNT.  I just like to tort- er, play with the boys every now and again.  Honest. 

The Morning After the Night Before

Beeeeeeep-ping!

Ken groaned as the sharp sound invaded his senses.  When he opened his eyes, the faint light sneaking in through the shabby curtains of his bedroom was a bright shaft of pain in his vision, and he retreated into blindness.  However, even that small movement made him aware of the heavy hammer pounding against the front of his skull, echoing harshly with each heartbeat.  He swallowed against the throbbing in his head, which was a mistake.  His mouth was dry enough to rival the Sahara, and tasted just how sweat socks smelt.  Joe’s sweat socks.

He gagged at the thought.

Beeeep-ping!  Beeeep-ping!

The noise managed to pierce the muzzy cotton his head felt wrapped in.  His stomach roiled, and it took all of his currently-diminished self control to keep from throwing up.

Something was keeping him from moving his arms to make his bracelet stop signaling.  And the more he wiggled, trying to get free of whatever was holding him, the more intensely his head throbbed.

Finally, he discovered that the reason his arms felt pinned to his body was because they were; the sheet had wrapped itself around him at least twice while he’d slept.

The chiming of his bracelet was starting to take on a very impatient tone when he worked one arm free and reached out to the bedside table.  Numb fingers fumbled, nearly knocked it to the floor, but then it caught on the roughened pads of his fingers and he drew it up to his mouth.  “This is G-1,” he said, without a trace of his usual crisp efficiency.  On hearing his flat, somewhat scratchy voice, he spared the energy to ask himself if he sounded as horrible to whoever was on the other side as he felt.

That would not be good if it was . . .

“Ken?  Are you all right?”

Nambu.  He remembered just in time to stifle his groan.  “Yes, Hakase, I’m fine.”

There was a short pause, as Nambu seemed to consider this.  “Very well.  Please assemble your team and report to base as soon as possible.  I need you to investigate suspicious activity near an ISO research facility.”

“Hai.  We’ll be there shortly.  Gatchaman out.”  He sat up too quickly and his brain started spinning.  His bracelet dropped to the floor, unheeded.  For a minute or two, he sat on the edge of the bed, gingerly cradling his aching head in his hands and wondering if it would actually be better to let it fly off his shoulders as it seemed to want to do.

When the world stopped going widdershins around him, he stood, and, moving carefully, started looking for his clothes.

His pants he found by the simple expedient of looking down.  He was still wearing them, gravity inching them down his thighs, belt and fly undone as if he’d been only been able to get that far before falling unconscious.  Blushing, head pounding, he hitched them up and fastened them. 

His shirt was still nowhere to be found.

One hand trailing along the wall, he stumbled down the hall and into his tiny bath.  No shirt.  He eyed the sink, weighing his options, then shrugged.  I’ve got nothing to lose, he thought, and ran the water into the basin as cold as it would go.  He splashed some onto his face, soaking sleep-snarled tendrils of hair, but bringing a painful flash of clarity to his hangover-muffled mind.  Shivering, but suddenly much more alert, he brushed some droplets off his face and glanced in the mirror.

He frowned at his reflection.  I even look hungover.  His eyes were bleary and bloodshot, and even slightly puffy.  His face was pale, except for the red splotches in his cheeks from the icy water.  He tore his gaze away from the mirror and scrubbed his face dry with a threadbare towel.  Leaving it wadded up near the sink, he wandered out into the main room, still unsure of the whereabouts of his shirt.

It was in a heap on the floor near the sofa.

Joe was in a heap on the sofa.

He was snoring loudly, one arm tucked beneath his head to pillow it.  The other clutched Ken’s extra blanket to his chest.  Even with the deep sag in the middle, the sofa was too short for the length of Joe’s body; his bare feet hung off the far end.

A glance around showed him Joe’s jeans draped over one of the crates that served as a coffee table, while his shirt had caused the single working lamp to tilt precariously toward falling from his rickety desk.

They staggered down the street, Joe leaning on him for support as he leaned on Joe. Joe was singing as they lurched along, and he was laughing, because everything was so funny . . .

Ken smiled humorlessly as the memory danced through his mind.  At least I know who to blame now for making me feel like this, he thought, and ripped the blanket from Joe’s slumbering form.

The momentum of Ken’s yank on the blanket landed Joe face-first on the floor.  He lay still, and Ken wondered briefly if he was still asleep.  The pathetic groan that echoed a moment later gave him proof otherwise, and he felt perversely better.

“Didn’t you hear the bracelet?” he asked, trying for scornful and not quite managing it.

A hand waved above the crates in the vague direction of the door.  Puzzled, Ken looked over, saw the flat white lump of his only other pillow.  Bending cautiously over it, he could hear a muffled beeping, and sighed.

Joe had just sat up and dared open one eye into the painful light of day when pillow and loudly pinging bracelet hit him in the face.  The word he said was deadened by the pillow, but not much.

“Come on.  Hakase wants us at the base as soon as we can get there.”

Joe opened his mouth to protest, and then the way that Ken bent oh-so-carefully to pick up his shirt happened to catch his blurry eye, and he said nothing.

He’s trying to make me think he’s not as hungover as I am, Joe realized with a start that hurt.  Jerk.  I know he had just as much as I did, if not more.

‘Course, that was only because I kept buying it and pouring it for him . . .

It took a while for the idea to make its way to the front of his sluggish mind, but when it popped up, he definitely took notice.  And grinned.

“Sure, Ken, whatever you say.”  He arranged himself comfortably, legs drawn up, arms draped over his knees.  “You might wanna find your bracelet first, though.” With an ease that belied the throbbing behind his eyes, he nodded toward Ken’s bare wrist.

Still bound up in his shirt, Ken obviously didn’t at first follow what Joe meant, then, as his arm found its way through the correct hole, he didn’t see the familiar glint of silver-gilt color.  Confused, he glanced around himself, then back down the hall, as if he thought he would see it following after him like a little lost puppy.

Joe was able to keep his snickering contained through great force of will, but when Ken retreated down the hall toward his room, tripping over the edge of the area rug en route, he had to bite his lip.

Some sound must have escaped him, though, because he thought he heard “I am never drinking with you again,” drifting down the hallway.

As soon as Ken was out of sight, he straightened, spared an instant to regret his lack of self-control the previous night, and stared down at what had caused him some small soreness in addition to the train running through his head.

He prodded the wound delicately; the edges were still raw enough to messages of sharp pain along his nerves, so he stopped.

He climbed to his feet with a sigh, and rather unsteadily pulled on his jeans.

Today’s certainly not going to be a picnic, that’s for sure.

***

Ken shifted uneasily in his seat, praying to whatever god would listen that his head would stop throbbing long enough for him to make some kind of sense of what Hakase was saying.

It didn’t appear that there were any gods on duty this morning, however.  His head still pounded, just out of sync with his heartbeat. 

And it would have almost been all right if Joe even looked like he was suffering as much as Ken was, but he sat there across the table, leaning back in his chair, picking invisible dirt from beneath his fingernails.  It seemed that the ride to the base had refreshed Joe, while Ken’s own hangover had merely gotten worse.

Was it bad of him to so dearly wish revenge on a teammate?  He rather suspected it was.  But he still glared at Joe through bloodshot eyes, unaware or simply uncaring that it might attract notice.

But luckily, Nambu was too involved in giving them the details of the problem they were about to face to see that Ken was not even close to paying attention.

He felt . . . itchy.  Not quite unclean, but certainly not shower fresh, either.

As he sat there squirming, it also occurred to him that he hadn’t had a chance to use the bathroom for other, now more pressing needs.

“. . . expect you to repel Galactor if they have built a base near this ISO research center.”  Nambu looked at them all expectantly, and Ken realized with a sinking heart that he’d spaced almost the entire thing.

Not good at all.

He caught sight of the smug grin Joe wore as they filed out of the briefing room and it grated on his nerves even more.  Clearly, he would not be able to rely on his second to give him any information of use.

Then Ryu was walking next to him.  The big man had his hands shoved deep in his pockets, shuffling along as if he weren’t a ninja.  “I . . . uh, I noticed that you were a bit distracted during the briefing,” he started, not looking at Ken.  His cheeks were a bit pink.  “And I . . . Well, I just wanted to let you know that if you need some help . . .”

Ken smiled in relief.  “Thanks, Ryu.  I appreciate it.”  Then they were passing the locker room, and he paused for a moment.  Those needs, now that he was thinking about them, were becoming more pressing by the moment.

Ryu carried on a few steps, then realized that he was alone, and looked back.  Ken had his hand on the door to the locker room.  “Uh, Ken?  Hakase kind of wants us there now . . .”

Ken blinked at him, then looked longingly at the locker room door.  After another moment’s hesitation, he pulled himself away from the lure and followed Ryu down the corridor to the hangar.

Duty came first.  He just hoped it wouldn’t take long.

***

Up in the rafters of the Galactor base, head still pounding, mind still slightly fuzzy despite the danger they were in, Ken glowered over at Joe, whose dark BirdStyle was nearly invisible in the gloom.  I am never drinking with you again, he thought, the words as filled with venom as he could make them.

It was a thought he’d had several times since waking up.  The problem was, he was already experiencing the effects of having drunk with Joe the night before, so it wasn’t going to help him this time.

Not caring whether Joe even saw or not, he flicked his fingers, signing, I’m going to make you pay.

Joe’s response was a waved whatever.  He continued to study the movements of the Galactors below.

Ken returned to his stony silence.

Even the BirdStyle had been against him today, it seemed.  As they had reached the GodPhoenix, he had triggered the transformation—and his head had felt like it was going to split open.  Hot flashes of pain seared up and down his spine, centering in his belly, his groin.  Thrown off stride, he mis-stepped, and swallowed, wishing fervently that he had thrown up earlier, because he would not so desperately want to now.

Then, as quick as thought, it had stopped, leaving him panting, with his teammates eyeing him strangely.

He had seen Jun’s eyes narrow beneath her visor, her mouth firming into a thin line.  Before Jinpei had even started to ask the question that everyone knew was on his lips, she herded the boy into the GodPhoenix.  Ryu had had the grace to look embarrassed.  Joe had not; he even snickered.

Looking carefully, though, Ken had seen that Joe’s face was pale beneath the violet tint of his mask, and he felt slightly cheered by that fact.

He wanted to know why the transformation had been so excruciating.  It had been painful the very first time, but never—or at least, very rarely—since.  He wondered if there were something . . . wrong with him, something that would make the transformation have such an effect.  It had made his hangover seem like a mild caffeine headache in comparison.

Hangover . . . He blinked.  That’s right.  Joe sometimes complains it hurts, but only when he’s obviously hung-over.

That must be it.  Ken sagged with relief, glad that he’d been able to figure it out, even if it had taken him significantly longer than it should have.

The unmistakable sound of a distant explosion drew him taut; the Galactors beneath them were scurrying around like panicked ants in green suits.

He glanced over at Joe, saw a familiar feral grin curling his lips, and resigned himself.  Maybe a little physical activity will make me feel better . . .  An instant later, they dove upon the Galactors, and all hell broke loose.

It was only when they had finished off the mooks that Ken realized that he still hadn’t been able to relieve that pressing need.

Well.  The trip back to base wouldn’t be too long . . .

***

Ken was practically dancing when he finally made good his escape from Hakase and his debriefing.  Superhuman control would only go so far.

He burst through the locker room door at full speed; it was the closest place to the briefing room.  Slamming through and into a stall, he could vaguely hear one of the showers running, but whoever it was certainly wasn’t going to be bothering him.

He had just adjusted himself and was preparing to sigh in relief when he noticed something was wrong.

It didn’t feel quite . . . right . . . under his fingers.  He looked down, puzzled at the feel.

“What the hell . . .

His penis was wrapped in gauze.

Gauze.

It was just too weird.  Holding on almost as if he were afraid parts of him would jump off and skitter away, he maneuvered around and carefully sat down.

It took rather a long time to unwrap the mile of gauze, especially one-handed, but at last, it was done, slithering down to pool at his feet.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!”

***

Joe lifted his head out of the deluge of the shower, frown settled firmly on his face.  He turned off the spray, then swiped some water off his face with his hand and reached for his towel.

That had sounded like Ken . . . in fact, it had sounded like Ken somewhere nearby, that shout echoing in the locker room.  He wrapped the towel around his waist and stepped cautiously out of the shower.  Wet feet skating perilously over wet tiles, he made his way across to the one bathroom stall that was closed.

“Ken?”

No response, except for some harsh breathing, spiked with occasional sounds that sounded suspiciously like whimpers.

“Ken?”  Concerned, Joe tapped on the door.

This time, Ken answered.  “Go away, Joe.”

But the tone held no force behind it.  Making sure the towel was snug at his waist, he hauled himself up, over the front of the stall and flexed his way in.  He almost kicked Ken on his way down, because Ken wasn’t paying enough attention to dodge.

He was staring down at his . . .

“Oh, my GOD!”

***

Joe’s exclamation brought Ken back to himself, and he looked up, scowling, blushing, mouth open to blast his second . . .

His mouth snapped shut quickly.

Water dripped from his thick hair, beaded on his wide shoulders, trickled down his chest, interrupted only by the golden loop through one nipple and the soft thatch of hair . . .

Loop?  Nipple?

“What the hell?”

They were absolutely trashed, and they both knew it.  But they’d both had long practice in pretending to be something other than what they were, and it wasn’t too hard to convince the girl at the piercing joint that they were nothing more than mildly tipsy, despite the miasma of alcohol wafting around them.  It was a wonder she didn’t get drunk just by their presence.

Joe was certain that it was a good idea to get a nipple ring.  The way he acted spoke to Ken’s ego, telling him that Joe obviously didn’t think he was brave enough to puncture himself deliberately.

He was, but he didn’t want to follow in Joe’s footsteps.  He would get a piercing, too.  But he wasn’t going to get a wimpy little nipple piercing.  No, sir.

When the girl, grinning hugely, followed a pale and wincing Joe out and asked if he was ready, he held the brochure behind his back and nodded.

“Fuck, Ken!  There’s such a thing as taking one-upsmanship too far!”  Joe’s eyes were bulging as he stared at the thick ring through the tip of Ken’s penis.

As the events of the previous night started to drift back to him, Ken realized that this wasn’t a nightmare, and neither Joe nor the . . . thing in his dick would go away.

He also began to remember little snippets of information from the brochure. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad . . .

Joe bent down to look at it more closely, his rear against the stall door.  “. . . the hell?  That thing is . . .” he swallowed, and his voice was tight when he went on.  “That thing is right through the hole, Ken.  Jesus, doesn’t that hurt?”  Indeed, the ring of metal arced out from the hole at the head of his prick, curved around the lower part of the head, and then entered flesh again underneath.

Ken blinked at him, then looked back down at his penis.  Waggled it a little in his hand.  The ring tugged as gravity drew on it more heavily for a moment, and the head of his penis throbbed a little in response, but it didn’t hurt if he just held it.

“It doesn’t,” he replied, and Joe glanced up at the surprise in his tone.  “It just . . . well, it pulls a little . . . but it doesn’t hurt.”

Joe straightened and folded his arms, his glare full of disbelief.  “Yeah, right.”

Ken shrugged. “Fine.  Don’t believe me.  Just get out.”

“Why?”

He just couldn’t leave it alone, could he?  Ken gritted his teeth.  “Because I . . .” He stopped and his face reddened further.

Joe gave him an evil grin.  “Can you even take a piss with that thing?”

“I. Don’t. Know.  Yet.  Now, get the hell out of here!”

Chuckling, Joe finally turned and opened the door to the crowded stall.  “Y’know, Ken,” he taunted, pushing the door to once more, “when I saw this morning that you hadn’t gotten your nipple pierced, I just thought you’d chickened out.  I never figured you were so stupid.”

Unfortunately, Ken could not respond in the manner in which he wished.  Instead, he growled, “You’d better explain that.”

His laughter drifted in over the door.  “Well, think about it!  In one move, you’ve just taken yourself completely out of the gene pool.  I mean, what girl is gonna wanna have sex with someone with a piece of steel in his dick?” There was a slight pause, and then more snickering.  “And would you even want to have sex with that?”

Tucking himself away again, Ken paused for an instant, glad that Joe could not see his smirk.  Part of him wanted to wipe the floor with the smug grin that the Condor was undoubtedly wearing.  But, luckily, the perfect rebuttal had flitted into his mind as he started to recall the night before.  And he laughed as he opened the stall door.

It caught Joe off-guard, and he gaped as Ken walked casually over to the sink.  “Just shows what you know, Joe,” he tossed over his shoulder.  “It’s supposed to increase the sexual stimulation for both parties . . . me and her.  Or him.”

Joe stood, shocked and staring, eyes wide.

Cleanliness appeased, Ken wiped his hands and then captured Joe’s chin with one of them, grinning hugely at him.  “What do you say?” he purred.  “Wanna give it a try in a few weeks?”

Joe’s chin moved up and down in Ken’s grasp as his mouth worked, but no sound came out.

Letting his smile turn mock-regretful, Ken patted Joe on the cheek, none too lightly, and said, “Ah, well.  Just think about it, then.”  He turned away with a wink and sauntered out the locker room door.  “I’m still never drinking with you again, though,” he called back.

He’d made it perhaps 10 meters down the corridor when he heard the enraged bellow behind him and broke into a run.

***

December 7, 2004

© randi (K. Shepard), 2004

FYI: The piercing that Ken got is called a “Prince Albert”; it goes through the opening of the urethra, circles around the bottom of the head, and then goes in again from underneath.  It is (from my research) one of the faster healing male genital piercings, and is less prone to rejection than many of the others.  According to some information, the act of urination helps keep the wound clean while healing.  And, while some do not enjoy having sex with a man with this type of piercing, many others do, and not just women.

Or is that wishful thinking on my part? ^^