Disclaimer: Gatchaman belongs to Tatsunoko Productions, not to me; all I own is my own twisted imagination.
It wasn’t because he never knocked on the door to Ken’s room, because he always did. But it was probably because he never waited for Ken to tell him to come in.
Joe stood in the doorway, completely shocked by what he saw. His brain adamantly refused to believe his eyes, and his fingers loosened, the magazine with the specs for a new plane model falling to the floor with a rustling sound.
Ken had been kneeling on the floor of his room, but he was now scrabbling, crawling toward a corner, where he huddled, arms wrapped around his knees.
He was naked.
Nambu Hakase was standing right near where Ken had knelt. His hands went to the front of his pants. The noise his zipper made was very loud in the total silence.
Then, his face impassive, he brushed by Joe and disappeared down the corridor.
Joe just stood there, staring at the now empty spot in the middle of the room, mouth agape. It was too amazing . . . too frightening . . . to be true.
It couldn’t be true . . . could it?
“Go away, Joe.”
Joe blinked. He hadn’t forgotten Ken was there, but he was still stunned by what he’d seen. Slowly, he turned in the direction from which the muffled voice had come.
Ken was still curled in the corner, hiding his face against his knees.
Somehow, the fact that Ken was not wearing any clothes was almost the most disturbing part of what he was still trying to deny he’d seen.
“Ken . . .” he began slowly, unable to shake the numbness that seemed to have taken over his brain. “Hakase . . . what . . .”
“Go away, Joe!”
Joe twitched. Ken had yelled at him before, of course; what pair of boys didn’t get on each other’s nerves from time to time? But this time was much different. Despite it sounding like an order, Ken had pleaded with him to go, his voice quavering slightly as it hadn’t since it had broken and deepened a year ago.
In fact, it had never sounded quite like that to Joe’s ears before.
And it wasn’t an order he was going to obey, in any case.
Quietly, he shut the door behind him. Even though Ken was still not looking at him, he didn’t fool himself into thinking that his brother didn’t know he was there; his senses were too sharp for that. A quick glance around revealed that Ken’s clothes had been neatly folded and laid on the bed. He grabbed them with a sense of relief, then hunkered down near Ken and offered them to him.
Ken looked up at him then, blue eyes glittering.
Wordlessly, Joe proffered the pile to him again. After staring at him for a moment, Ken reached out to take them, and started to wiggle into his jeans.
When Ken was half-dressed, Joe cleared his throat and began, “Ken . . . what was Hakase . . .?”
He couldn’t finish; Ken shot him a look filled with such loathing that the words stopped in his throat.
Then, quite suddenly, Ken tore his eyes away once more, crushed his shirt to his stomach and rested his head on his knees. His shoulders shook slightly, but he didn’t make a sound.
Confused as he was, Joe’s face contracted into his usual mulish glare. Whatever Ken and Hakase had been doing, it obviously . . . embarrassed Ken. That meant he was probably doing it against his will. Ken was Joe’s brother. Nobody forced Joe’s brother to do anything he didn’t want to. Not even the man who had adopted him when his parents had been killed.
Just when he thought Ken was going to never going to answer, and would never lift his head from his knees again, he did. Without looking at Joe, he whispered, “He . . . Hakase called it . . . fellatio. He made me . . . made me take . . . that part of him in my mouth and . . .”
Horror was a cold wave, crashing over Joe, and he lost his balance, sitting on the floor with a sudden thump. Fellatio was a word he didn’t know, but Ken’s hesitant description made its meaning clear. “Hakase made you . . . made you . . . suck his dick?” he asked, his voice cracking in shock and disbelief.
He instantly regretted his bluntness when Ken shivered and pushed himself even further into the corner, as far away from Joe as he could get.
Something inside him snapped. Even when Sayuri had died, Ken hadn’t been this . . . lost, this broken. He’d always been reserved, more composed than Joe knew he himself had ever been, and now he wondered just how much of that reserve was from . . .
He scrambled to his feet, fists clenched. “I’m gonna kill him,” he vowed, and almost didn’t recognize his own voice. He sounded strange, his voice too deep for his half-grown body, and it came out as a growl more than words.
He was halfway to the door when the way Ken said his name pulled him to a standstill. It was still partly that pleading tone that he hadn’t believed could come from Ken, but held the sharpness of command that it never really had before. It drew him up short, and banked the rage that burned within him, but could not put it out.
Joe was certain that nothing would, not even pounding Hakase’s face into mush, or seeing blood spray . . .
He distinctly heard Ken swallow. “You can’t kill Hakase.”
Slowly, belligerently, he turned back to Ken. His brother had climbed to his feet, still holding his shirt rather than putting it on. As he took in Joe’s expression, his jaw firmed, showing that he had a stubborn streak that rivaled Joe’s. But now was not the time for it, nor for Ken’s sometimes inconvenient sense of right and wrong. “Of course I can,” Joe said with a feral grin. “I can kill him just as easy as you can. That’s part of why we’ve had all that training, isn’t it?”
He knew Ken would flinch even before he did, but took no pleasure in the knowledge that he’d caused it.
“That’s not what I mean . . .” Ken floundered helplessly.
Joe felt something in him harden, until it felt like he was made of stone. “He deserves to die for what he’s done,” he declared, his voice gone deep again. “And I’m going to make sure he does.” He stared at Ken, daring him to look away again.
Ken paled but did not drop his gaze. “You can’t,” he repeated, and there was no doubt in his tone this time.
“Tell me you don’t want him dead for this,” Joe challenged, and waved one hand around Ken’s bedroom.
Ken swallowed convulsively, his Adam’s apple bobbing, and he stared into Joe’s eyes, but said nothing.
Joe turned back to the door, the spell of the command broken. Already he was imagining how he would kill Hakase. He considered practicing stealth, sneaking into his room in the night . . . but discarded that idea in favor of the direct approach. He wouldn’t even ambush him; he’d let him see it coming.
After all, Hakase knew that his life was forfeit and there was no sense in trying to pretend otherwise.
This time, Ken grabbed hold of his arm to keep him from leaving. “No. I don’t.”
“What?” This stunned Joe just as completely as what he’d seen. Slowly, he looked back at Ken.
Ken’s face was calm, nearly expressionless, but his eyes were as piercing as a blade. “I don’t want him dead.”
It was Joe’s turn to feel helpless. He was rooted to the spot by Ken’s gaze. “But . . .” The words piled up in his throat again in confusion. How could anyone not want the person who had abused him in that way dead?
Ken released Joe’s arm, but did not look away. “He . . . he’s always been here. Even before my father disappeared, Hakase was around more. He always helped Mother when she needed it, and took good care of her before she . . .” He stopped. When he went on, his voice sounded different to Joe’s ears, infused with something, some emotion he’d never heard or felt before. “But even though he . . . forced me to do that thing to him, I don’t want him to die.
“Hakase is the only one that believes in the existence of Galactor. He’s the only one who’s trying to defend people from them and their evil. He needs to finish assembling our team, to make sure that we are able to do what he needs us to do. Even if I didn’t remember what he was like . . . before, and I did want him dead, I still couldn’t let you kill him. He’s too . . . important to the world.”
“That’s not fair, Ken,” Joe whispered.
“Maybe it’s not,” Ken replied quietly. “But it’s the truth. The world needs him.”
The bloodlust simmered in him still, tempered some by Ken’s words, but only some. He looked down, staring at the floor, and gritted his teeth. As much as he wanted to kill Nambu Hakase, he needed to make sure Galactor was destroyed. He raised his eyes again when he felt Ken grip his shoulder tightly.
“I won’t make you promise, Joe,” Ken said, his voice barely audible. “I won’t make you promise not to kill him. But . . . please, don’t.”
The silence stretched out between them, as Joe studied Ken. His belief shone brightly in his face, but whether it was belief in him or in Hakase, Joe couldn’t tell.
Finally, Joe gave a curt nod, a single jerk of his head, and Ken smiled and let him go. “Thank you.”
One corner of Joe’s mouth quirked up. “Yeah. Whatever.” He shuffled his feet, and kicked the forgotten magazine, pages crumpled from where it had fallen. Bending down, he picked it up and handed it to Ken. “Here.” Then, noticing the state of the pages, he muttered somewhat apologetically, “This was for you to look at . . . sorry.”
Ken saw the plane on the front, and his eyes lit up. “No, it’s fine, thanks . . .” But some faint disturbance of the air brought his head up again and he caught Joe before he could leave. “Where . . .?”
“I’m just going to get some of my stuff. I might need you to help me with the bed, though.” Then, at Ken’s puzzled look, Joe raised a brow. “Well, he’s not going to try it again if there’s someone in here with you, is he?”
Ken blushed. “No, I guess you’re right.”
“And once I’ve got my stuff in here,” he went on, glaring fiercely, “you’re going to tell me why you didn’t say anything before.” Before Ken could react, he flitted away.
“Shimatta” drifted down the hall after him.
When Nambu re-entered the house that evening, he found, as he had expected, Joe waiting for him just inside the foyer. The boy was lounging against the wall, arms crossed over his chest, scowling.
Before he had even removed his coat, Joe growled, “Ken told me all about it, so don’t think you can twist this into something else.”
He had to admire the boy for immediately going on the offensive; he’d learned well.
Then Joe pushed off the wall and approached him, slowly, slowly, making him dread every movement, thinking that he was going to be attacked.
When he was within arms’ reach, Joe stopped, and Nambu could see that his grey eyes were colder than chips of ice.
Even more chill was his voice when he spoke again. “You know that I could kill you right here.” And he reached out, quicker than thought, and wrapped his hand—big for his age, Nambu noticed irrelevantly—around Nambu’s throat. “All that training you’ve given us,” Joe whispered, and there was an edge of glee in his voice that made Nambu shiver. “I could kill you so easily.” His fingers tightened, and Nambu’s vision started to waver around the edges. He made a gurgling noise, hands scrabbling to loosen that deadly grip.
Suddenly he was free, and he sagged back against the door, massaging his throat and wheezing. Joe had released him just short of crushing his windpipe.
“I’m not going to, though,” the boy said, and smiled, a wicked twisting of his lips that was frightening to behold. “But it’s only because Ken asked me not to. As long as you’re useful, as long as you’re able to protect the Earth, I’ll let you live. But the moment Ken’s belief in you wavers, I will be there, and you’ll be dead, and that’s a promise.”
Against his will, Nambu nodded his understanding, still unable to speak. Seeing, Joe relaxed slightly and turned to enter the house proper. “I can’t wait to get together with the rest of the team,” he tossed over his shoulder, almost carelessly. “I can’t wait to wipe Galactor off the face of the Earth.” His footsteps faded away as he climbed the stairs.
It was some while before Nambu recovered his breath, and even then, he didn’t move away from the support of the wall.
Not for the first time, he wondered at the wisdom of raising a team of trained killers.
And he started to think of ways to protect himself.
May 6, 2005
© randi (K. Shepard), 2005