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“You want me to what?” Junior asked, not quite thinking he’d misheard

“Throw me,” Joe repeated, pointing up and over his shoulder. Out the window, Junior could see – and thankfully couldn’t hear – Francoise and Pyunma yelling up at where GB and Jet looked to be playing keep-away with a volleyball. Knowing them, they were just out of reach.

The logic behind Joe’s request was suddenly very clear.

Junior considered. Even with their enhanced durability, Junior’s strength could still easily hurt his fellow cyborgs. Joe knew that, and still asked.


The squawking noise Jet made when Joe slammed into him was incredibly satisfying

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May. 8th, 2017 10:13 am
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Jet had very long fingers.

Joe really should’ve been paying more attention to what Jet was actually saying, but his attention wandered with every gesture the flier made. And given that Jet talked with his hands as much as his voice, Joe’s attention was firmly on those fingers. Finally, he set his beer down – and maybe he’d had one too many at this point, that he was having this much trouble concentrating – and grabbed Jet’s hand, carefully sliding his thumbs over Jet’s knuckles. And now that he had that hand, it only made sense to press a kiss to Jet’s fingertips.

It took him another moment to realize Jet wasn’t talking anymore.

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Joe forgot sometimes.

Tsutomu didn’t really expect him not to; everyone did, at some point. And Joe wasn’t doing it on purpose like some kids at school did. So when Joe turned his head away when he was talking, or covered his mouth so Tsutomu couldn’t read his lips, he didn’t hold it against him.

And Joe made up for it. In the dark of the theatre, with Joe holding his hands and rapidly signing into his palm so he could follow the movie’s dialogue – not something anyone else had ever thought to try before – Tsutomu felt a warmth in his chest that had nothing to do with the tentative romance playing out on the screen. Carefully, during a lull when Joe had stilled, he closed his hand for just a moment, catching Joe’s fingers and knowing that this was exactly what he wanted.

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This wasn’t what the newly implemented “Bedroom doors stay open when you have company” rule was meant to prevent, but Junior wouldn’t have known it from Joe’s reaction. He jerked back, his hands jerking in Tsutomu’s grasp, and turned bright red. Tsutomu, for his part, just looked over at Junior curiously.

“Dinner will be ready in ten minutes,” Junior told them, waiting until he got a confirming nod from Tsutomu and making a mental note to check the sign later himself. He sent a glance at the boys’ joined hands, Tsutomu clearly in the middle of guiding Joe’s hands into the proper shape, and added, “Come down whenever you’re done.”

Joe made a small strangled sound and said, “It’s not what it looks like?”

Junior blinked slowly, letting his amusement tinge his expression. “Tsutomu isn’t helping you learn sign language?”

Joe hesitated, his face turning even redder. “It’s exactly what it looks like?”

“I wouldn’t have thought otherwise.”

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“I’m not worth it.”

The beep of the heart monitor was Joe’s only answer. He clenched his fists in his lap, keeping himself from reaching out to touch Jet. There’s wasn’t anywhere to touch, nothing left that wasn’t covered in bandages and tubes and machines. Nothing that wasn’t his fault.

“You shouldn’t have…” He swallowed, his eyes locked on Jet’s hand, lying far too still on the bed. “I was—I would have been fine with it ending like that. Coming after me was…” He wiped his eyes. “Have you lost your damn mind, coming after me like that?”

Silence fell again as Joe got his breathing back under control. Slowly, he rested his hand on the bed, fingers just brushing Jet’s forearm. “Please wake up. So I can ask you again.”

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Jet froze, ears straining to pick out any movement in the trees around him. Even after all this time, the sounds of fighting in the forest was still less natural to him than a back alley brawl; the relative quiet around him told him nothing about what was going on.

Until a crack sounded from the bushes a few meters away.

He spun, bringing is gun to bear and cursing his inability to use his accelerator right then, but he could already see the muzzle of a rifle aiming straight at him and—

A body slammed into his, sending him sprawling across the forest floor. Joe crouched over him, already firing at the shooter.  He stopped after a few shots and peered into the underbrush. “I think he’s gone. Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m good.” Jet sat up and glanced over at the blue paint dripping down the tree that had been behind him – Pyunma’s paint color, no wonder he hadn’t heard him coming – and grinned. “My hero.”

Joe grinned back and leaned down to bump his helmet’s face plate against Jet’s in lieu of a kiss. “I almost lost you. You’d better stick close to me.”

Movement over Joe’s shoulder caught Jet’s eye; he whipped his gun up and fired before he quite processed it, and cursing echoed through the trees as his shot hit true. “Maybe you’d better stick close to me.”

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Jet stared at Joe in disbelief, uncertain of what he was looking at exactly. Joe shifted uncomfortably under the look, holding the cupcake up almost as a shield. “I know last week wasn’t good, but,” he sped up, seeing Jet’s face darken at the mention of the disaster that was his birthday, “I still thought—happy unbirthday?”

He held his breath for a long moment as Jet just stood there, eyes hidden behind his bangs. Suddenly, finally, the tension left his shoulders and he muttered, “Since when did you read Through the Looking Glass?”

He still took the cupcake.

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“Are you all right?”

Joe rolled his shoulder again, wincing at the feel of the synthetic muscles tightening and pulling at his real muscles. “I’m fine. I’m just a little sore.”

Junior gave him an even look, then put the folded blanket down on the bed. “Sit down.”

Joe gave him a confused look, but set down his pile of pillowcases and sat on the half-made bed. He felt the bed shift as Junior sat behind him, places his hands on Joe’s shoulders, and squeezed.

Joe groaned as Junior started a slow massage, his strength obvious even in the gentle press of his fingers. He couldn’t help a few more happy noises escaping as knots he hadn’t even been aware of came undone. It only took a few minutes before Joe melted back against Junior’s chest with a happy sigh.

“Better?” Junior asked, placing a kiss on Joe’s head. Joe just made a small noise of contentment, his eyes sliding shut for a moment before a light tap sounded at the open door.

Francoise stood in the door, a blush high on her cheeks as she stared at them. Joe instantly sat up straighter, reaching out for her. “Francoise?”

She visibly shook herself and took a step towards the bed. “Dinner’s almost ready,” she said, even as she let Joe draw her into Junior’s arms. She glanced at the piles of bedding around them. Joe followed her gaze and winced.

“We’ll finish making the bed before we head down. We got distracted.”

The blush snapped back over Francoise’s cheeks. “I heard.” She shifted slightly, leaning more into Joe’s side. “It… sounded very different.”

Junior’s laugh rumbled through both of them when Joe realized exactly what she meant and buried his face in Francoise’s shoulder, his own blush as bright as hers.

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“It’s always the leg!”

Joe hefted Jet higher on his back, mindful of the shrapnel still lodged in the other cyborg’s leg. He tried not to pay attention to how strained Jet’s voice was or how his fingers were digging into Joe’s chest.

He really wished he hadn’t overused the accelerator earlier. They’d be back at the Dolphin by now, Jet safe in Dr. Gilmore’s care, rather than running through the forest listening to Jet talk just to keep himself awake.

“And it’s always in the middle of nowhere. How come we’re never near a city or something when someone gets hurt?”

“We can go somewhere after this,” Joe offered, thinking about places they hadn’t been on a mission. “Kyoto, maybe. We could take a tour of the temples.”

Jet was silent for a long moment. “Temples in Kyoto?”

“Yeah, something like that. Something with a low chance of anyone blowing up.”

Joe could feel Jet’s lips curl against his neck as he smiled. “Nothing to do with that temple in Kyoto that does gay weddings, then?”

Joe barely avoided stumbling, his grip on Jet’s legs tightening. “What?! I wasn’t… I didn’t mean…” He trailed off, his cheeks hot, as Jet started laughing.

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“But what if he doesn’t like it?” Joe looked back around the doorframe at the lone person in the library.

“It’ll go fine.” Francoise followed his gaze. “You won’t know unless you try, right?”

“I know, but…”

Jet snorted, pushing away from the wall to clap a hand on Joe’s shoulder. “You’re not going to find out just standing here staring at him.” The supportive hand turned into a firm shove. “Go on, lover boy.”

“We’ll wait for you by the side door,” Francoise called, and the two of them were gone down the hall.

“Traitors,” Joe muttered after them. He turned back to the library, only to see he’d gained some attention. “I, uh. Hey Tsutomu.”

Tsutomu waved in greeting, motioning an invitation towards the chair opposite him. Joe shook his head slightly, making sure he was facing Tsutomu as he spoke.

“Thanks, but I can’t stay long. Junior’s picking us up soon. I just wanted to, uh, give you this.” He dug through his backpack and tried to ignore Tsutomu’s surprised look when he slid a red envelope across the table. “And, uh.” He could feel his face flush as he carefully signed the words Mr. Kozumi had helped him learn before turning and darting out of the library. “Okay, see you tomorrow!”

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September 2017

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