Disclaimer: Wow, this is the last one I'm going to make for this story. Big grin One last time, I don't own any cute anime, bishie boys, or excellent songs. I do claim an overwhelming happiness that this story is now complete.

Warning: A tiny bit of cursing. And a whole bunch of sugar.

Author's notes: For good or ill, this story is finally done, finite, over, owaru. I have loved every minute of writing it. And I loved hearing from all of you throughout this journey. There are too many to thank, but I do want to say I couldn't have finished this without the encouragement of my imouto (you know who you are). I placed her picture of Kai as the book cover to this story so you all could see it. Thank you for your encouragement and your patience. I love all of you.

Now enjoy the last chapter in this endless story. (It's a bit early for presents, but go ahead and open this one early)

A World So Cold

Chapter XXXIII: The Circumstance of a World So Cold.

Kai improved daily from there on. Each day saw the number of tubes and machines attached to the boy decrease. Kai still wasn't able to interact with them much. The nurses had to sedate him pretty deeply to keep him from fighting the ventilator, but each day was a victory to the 'Breakers.

It was almost a week before the doctor decided that Kai was strong enough to come off the ventilator. By this time most of the supporting medications had been turned off and the chest tubes had been removed. Kai was beginning to look more human and less like the subject of strange alien experiment. Dr. Shin even allowed Hideaki and the 'Breakers to remain in the room while they extubated Kai. As soon as the tube was removed, Kai coughed and uncharacteristically couldn't stop himself from expressing how he felt his time on the ventilator.

"Shit," Kai coughed as the tube came free.

"Tell us how you really feel," Takao laughed at the team leader's uncharacteristic breach of silence.

Hearing his friend's voice, Kai looked dazedly around the room. The doctors had turned off the sedation, but it was still working it's way through his system.

"Rei…?" Kai coughed, his throat too dry to continue his question.

"Right here, Kai," Rei stepped forward so Kai could focus on him more easily. "We're all here."

"Yeah, we saved your ass," the bluenette taunted.

Kai didn't deign to reply, but merely turned to glare at the boisterous boy. His usual knife's edge glare was severely hampered by the medications and looked as intimidating as something Takao might be able to produce. This only fueled his team's laughter. Even if he was not even at half-strength, Kai was back.

~days later~

"Hey man, shouldn't you slow down?"


"You've only been awake for a couple days. Take it easy dude," Takao tried again as he followed in the slate-haired boy's wake. The other 'Breakers were having lunch and so it was Takao's turn to 'Kai-sit' as he called it. A term that he didn't dare use in his leaders presence.

Kai felt he was going slowly enough already. Flanked by two physical therapists and holding onto an IV pole for support, Kai felt like turtles should be racing past him.

Hn. Almost feels like home. Hooked up to chemicals and followed by two big guys who are there to 'protect me.'

Kai had to actively fight against the constant need to try to break into a run and 'escape.' It was a good thing for the hospital staff that he hadn't improved enough to do more than just walk yet. And even at that rate, he only lasted about 15 minutes.

"Just want to make it to the door." Kai told his 'helpers' when they indicated that it was time to turn around.

The two men quickly acquiesced; they had learned the hard way that there was no point in trying to argue with the determined boy. Early on in their care of Kai, the hospital staff had discovered that the challenge would not be in helping Kai push forward to recovery, but rather to try to keep the boy from pushing himself back into a relapse. The physical therapists stopped by to see him everyday and they had trouble keeping him from pushing himself to collapse. He wasn't satisfied with sitting up in bed, he had to get up and stand. When they took him for his first walk around the unit, he wasn't satisfied with one lap around the unit and returning to his room; he had just headed toward the ICU's front doors. It only took a one visit before they learned to bring a wheelchair along so that when he finally couldn't stand anymore, they could wheel him back to his room.

Kai had made it further today than before. He had managed to make it out of the ICU and was almost to the front door of the hospital. He knew that even if he made it out the front door, he wouldn't be free yet, but he couldn't deny the need to get there.

Intellectually, Kai knew he was safe. The police had stopped by and informed him of his Grandfather's death shortly after he had awoken. But even knowing this, Kai couldn't allow himself any weakness. Kai still didn't feel safe. He hadn't felt safe since the moment his five-year old self had walked into the Abby for the very first time. He didn't know if this would ever change, so he just pushed on as he always had.

"Just want to see the outside…" Kai said quietly to himself.

I feel like I haven't even smelled the air outside since the moment the bomb destroyed the balcony window in Russia.

Kai felt himself weakening as he got closer to the doors, but still managed to stumble out into the chilly fresh air on his own. Closing his eyes, he lifted his face towards the warmth of the sun and inhaled deeply. His ribs still ached fiercely when he took a deep breath, but right now it was a good pain, a healing pain.

Only when he just could not last another second did Kai finally open his eyes and turn to sit heavily in the wheelchair the man beside him had brought along.

"I'd like to stay out here for a while." Kai was tired to his bones, but just couldn't face the sterile white walls of the hospital anymore.

"I'll stay with him and push him back to his room in a little bit." Takao volunteer when he saw the two men were hesitant to let Kai stay outside.

After making the bluenette promise to bring Kai in soon, the two men left the boys to enjoy the fresh air.

Several minutes went silently by, with nothing more then the bird song to fill them.

"Thanks." Kai said softly, not looking up at his teammate.

Takao couldn't stop the startled glance he threw at Kai at the words of appreciation. He couldn't ever remember hearing Kai say thank you to anyone. For once, he was speechless.

"After everything you all went through, all the times I hurt you, even though I've been an arrogant prick, you guys still risked your lives to save me. I don't understand it, but…thanks."

"What are friends for?" Takao answered simply, smiling his usual goofy grin.

Kai lapsed into silence at this, but that was fine with Takao. He filled the time with grandiose stories of his exploits in rescuing Kai. He got so involved in his story, that he was acting out various poses and waving his hands around in emphasis. And this was fine by Kai, it was just like coming home.

~30 minutes later~

Takao was a bit later than his promise, wheeling Kai back to his room 30 minutes later when they heard loud arguing coming from Kai's room.

"You are being a fool! This is yet another trick, another trap. And you are leaping into it with both feet!"

"Isamu-niisan, there is no trap. If you would just listen to me," Hideaki's voice was cut off.

"Listen to what, more foolishness!"

Takao looked down at Kai questioningly. Kai had gotten used to seeing Hideaki each day. The two didn't really speak, but were more cautiously aware of each other. However, he had never met the elder Houo brother. And Takao realized, that he and the other 'Breakers hadn't really said much about him either. Takao hesitated outside the room, not wanting to bring Kai into the middle of someone else's argument, but not really knowing where else to go.

"If you guys are going to fight, you need to leave." Rei's voice sounded firmly from inside the room. "Kai has been through enough without dealing with your personal problems."

Takao took that as a sign to turn the wheelchair around, he would just push Kai back outside and give them time to leave. But Kai was obviously reading something else into what he heard. The slate-haired boy pushed himself out of the wheelchair and entered the room without any warning.

Rei doesn't need to fight my battles. If that is Hideaki's brother, then Ran was his son. I have to face him now.

When Kai entered the room, he found Rei, Hideaki and another crimson-eyed man standing glaring at each other. The stranger sputtered angrily at Rei's nerve to demand he leave, but stopped when he say the injured boy enter the room.

Kai walked slowly forward until he was standing directly in front of the crimson-eyed stranger. "You're Ran's father." Kai's voice held the finality of a statement, but his own crimson eyes stared questioningly into the man in front of him.

"Yes," the older brother was almost spitting in his anger. "Ran was my son."

Bowing shakily, Kai stared at the floor and said, "I do not ask for forgiveness. Ran died because of me. I'm sorry."

The admission of guilt infuriated the man and he blindly lashed out to strike at the boy who dared to try to apologize for the death of his only son.

"No!" Hideaki grabbed his brother's arm and flung him back against the wall while Rei stepped up to Kai's side. "I won't let you touch him."

"You dare defend him!" Isamu staggered upright, leaning against the wall.

"You are my older brother, and you have always protected me. But right now I don't need you to protect me. I need you to listen. Not to me, but to these kids."

Hideaki motioned to the 'Breakers scattered around the room. Rei ignored the two brothers and instead helped Kai into bed. Takao had abandoned the wheelchair by the door and stood between the arguing men and his friends. Max and Kenny stood silently watching from the window.

"Why?" Isamu answered angrily, "Why should I listen to anything these children have to say?"

"It's time everything was laid out." Hideaki answered softly. "For Kai. And for Ran."

Isamu stared at each boy, ending with Kai, before he stalked over to sit in the chair farthest from the bed.

"Kai, I know we haven't talked about everything that happened, but I think we need to." Hideaki turned to Kai. "I think together, we have all the pieces to the puzzle."

Kai honestly didn't really care about the whys or wherefores. Answers wouldn't change what had happened, but he knew that answers were all that he had to atone with to Ran's father so he nodded his agreement to Hideaki.

"I believe this all started with my Great-grandmother, Kuraiko. Grandfather spoke vehemently about how she had been betrayed by the Houo family and then disinherited by her own family because of that."

"Kuraiko?" Isamu interrupted. "She was a thief. She tried to steal the phoenix, so, of course, there was no way we would allow her to marry into our family."

"That is not how Grandfather saw it. He believed she had a right to the phoenix that the Houo family denied her. Everything else that followed was somehow designed to steal the phoenix and bring it to where he thought it 'rightfully belonged.'"

"Impossible," Isamu scoffed. "The phoenix is our guardian. Something like that can't be stolen."

"Obviously, it can be." Takao answered him angrily, pointing at the blue blade that Kai held gently.

Isamu almost jumped up again at the sight of the phoenix, but Hideaki's hand on his shoulder stopped him from rising.

"Stop interrupting and just listen for a while," Hideaki entreated his older brother. "It is possible, but only by someone willing to do anything and sacrifice anyone to achieve it."

"That's right," Kenny piped in. "Voltaire basically set a trap for it."

Kai looked contemplatively at Kenny, he hadn't thought of it that way, but Kenny was right. Voltaire set a trap and he had been the bait.

"Voltaire wanted a tool that you and your family would empathize with so he kidnapped Hotaru and forced her to have his child." Kenny explained what they had discovered.

"He knew he couldn't take the phoenix himself," Kai added to Kenny's story. "I think he wanted a daughter to lure the phoenix. As soon as she had produced a daughter, Hotaru was of no use to him so he killed her."

Isamu was too shocked at the casual mention of murder to interrupt. He had heard of stories of his father's fiancé running away, but he never imagined that she had been kidnapped and murdered.

"I don't think his daughter was exactly what he expected, though," Hideaki commented, thinking back to the sad, beautiful girl that he had fallen in love with.

"No, instead of luring the phoenix, she got pregnant with me." Kai continued. "Grandfather must have changed his plans then and decided to groom me to take the phoenix."

"I don't think he changed anything," Hideaki couldn't help saying. "I think you were part of his plan from the beginning."

"So you admit that you were raised to steal the phoenix." Isamu accused, preventing Hideaki from continuing with his line of thought.

"Shut up, you jerk," Takao shouted at the older brother. "Sure he was 'raised' by Voltaire, if that's what you call abuse and torture."

"You don't know anything about Kai," Max added. "Kai spent his childhood in the hands of that sadistic bastard. The hospital hasn't even finished documenting all the injuries he suffered at his grandfather's hands, not to mentioned that he was almost killed by Voltaire."

"It's okay, guys," Kai waved off their indignation. "He's right. From about 5 years old, Voltaire did everything he could to turn me into a ruthless automaton. There's no use going into all that happened, but I will say that he almost succeeded. If it hadn't been for Nadya, Ran, and my friends here, I'm sure he would have destroyed my soul completely. I tried to rebel against him and he destroyed everything that I cared about and threatened to kill Ran."

Kai closed his eyes, remembering everything that had happened. Struggling to keep his voice even, Kai told of how he and Nadya had tried to escape, how Nadya was killed, and then of his battle with Ran and its aftermath. Through it all, Isamu listened intently. For almost 4 years, he had held out some hope that he would find his son. And he had known that if he discovered that his son was dead, he would utterly destroy the person or persons responsible. Only now he knew, and now he had someone to blame. But the boy before him had already been destroyed by his own family and Voltaire, who had engineered everything, was already dead. Isamu felt completely lost with no one to spend his rage on.

"But Grandfather could not control the new phoenix, Dranzer." Kai continued on about what occurred after Ran's death. "Since Dranzer had bonded with me, all he could do was try to clone Dranzer. That didn't work out well for him, though. The false phoenix was incomplete and I used it to destroy the abbey and then ran away."

Kai paused in his condensed recall. He had just spent the last hour dredging up the worst moments of his short life. He was exhausted mentally and physically.

Rei saw this and picked up the story. He told of how the Blade Breakers had formed as a team and their journey together. He didn't leave anything out. Not even when Kai turned on them and returned to Voltaire in the Russian tournament. Rei knew Kai was working hard to atone for his mistakes, real and presumed, and he wouldn't thank Rei for glossing over anything. When he reached the explosive fight in their hotel room in Russia, Rei began taking turns with the other 'Breakers to tell of how they were tricked into believing that Kai had died, and how the searched for him after they had discovered he was still alive.

"That's when we met you both," Kenny summed up the story with the encounter with the Houo brother in the woods.

"You already know what happened after that," Hideaki said. He had already told his brother about how Kai had returned to battle his friends in the clearing and how he had returned to them and been hospitalized.

"We thought we were pretty safe in the hospital," Rei sighed with defeat at the memory of his and Kai's kidnapping. "But that wasn't the case."

Quickly, Rei summed up how they were stolen from the hospital and imprisoned in the cell under the chateau. Kai stayed silent, he was glad Rei was telling this part, it had been hard enough accepting death the first time, he really didn't want to relive it by talking about it. When Rei reached the moment that the crimson and black flames rose around Kai, he paused in his tale.

"There is one thing I don't get," Rei spoke up in the silence. "Well, I guess more than one. First, Kai? You were going to sacrifice yourself, weren't you? You planned on using your death to reincarnate the phoenix?" The last bit sounded more accusatory then inquiring.

"…yes…," Kai said, not quite meeting Rei's eyes. "It was the only plan I could come up with that might save you and also stop all of Grandfather's plans. If I took Black Dranzer into my soul, and then used our deaths to cause the phoenix-fire, Dranzer could reincarnate into a guardian spirit for you just like he did for me. Plus, I thought it might be the only way to get rid of Black Dranzer."

"That's insane," Takao jumped up, furious at his leader. "How dare you even think of dying on us!"

I told you, 'and then we die' was not a good plan. Dranzer had to add his two cents worth to the conversation.

"I know, I know" Kai tried to placate his friends as they all added their own comments on his stupidity. " But I was running out of options. I figured I was dead one way or another, and Grandfather had pretty much told me that after I died, he'd kill Rei. So I thought I might as well try to use my death to save Rei. It wasn't fair that he was caught up in my problems just because he was trying to be my friend."

"Kai, I appreciate what you were trying to do," Rei waved at the others to hush them. "But you still don't seem to understand. I'm not trying to be your friend. I am your friend. And I didn't get caught up in your problems. Your problems are my problems. Besides all that, I could never be happy if your life was the cost of mine. How would you have felt if our roles were reversed? What would you have said to me if I tried to do what you did?"

"I would have told you to stop. And if you didn't, I would have stopped you myself." Kai answered truthfully.

"Then why is it okay for you to sacrifice yourself for me and not me for you?" Rei pushed the point.

"Because it's me." Kai answered in a matter-of-fact tone. Even with everything that his friends had done for him, he still couldn't see himself as being worth that kind of sacrifice.

The room fell still at Kai's response. Then, one by one, the 'Breakers joined their captain on his bed.

"Kai, you may be an arrogant, stuck up, thoughtless prick," Takao put his arm around Kai's shoulder.

"Thanks," Kai glared at the bluenette.

"But," Takao continued, "you're our arrogant, stuck up, thoughtless prick. And I wouldn't want you to be anyone else. You're one of my best friends. I recently spent a few days learning what my life would be like without you and, let's just say, it thoroughly sucked. I never want to go through that again."

"I'm sorry that it might have felt like we were not accepting of you," Max said quietly. "We just couldn't seem to see you clearly. Kai, you are one of the bravest, smartest, and most loyal people I've ever known and I'm proud to call you a friend."

"I thought Mr. D was insane when he named you team captain." Kenny admitted. "I didn't think you cared about anyone but yourself. Boy was I wrong. I'm sorry I misjudged you. Thank you for always taking care of us."

Kai couldn't quite believe what he was hearing. His eyes felt heavy with unshed tears and he looked down at the bedspread clenched in his fists to hide his eyes from his friends.

Rei reached out and tilted Kai's head up so he could look in his eyes.

"It seems like an eternity ago that I told you that we care about you. Do you believe me now? We are friends, now and forever."

Kai, you've always put yourself last. You decided you could be content as long as you were the only one hurting. But that was wrong. Friends share pain. And they share joy. Friends make life worth living. Don't push them away. Please accept what they are offering.

Kai nodded a silent acknowledgement to Dranzer's words.

"I…" Kai cleared his throat, trying to keep his tears from showing. "I will try to be worthy of your friendship."

Takao rolled his eyes at this and leapt on Kai, tackling him back against the bed in a bear hug. Laughing, Max and Kenny quickly joined the melee. Kai tried to dig his way out from under his three enthusiastic teammates, but Rei had to come to his rescue, pulling the giggling boys off one at a time.

"Do you understand now?" Hideaki quietly asked his brother.

"I understand, but I still think you would be safer breaking all ties with these children." Isamu answered him. "You and I have suffered too much from the Hiwatari family to needlessly involve ourselves with them."

"It isn't needless," Hideaki rebutted, turning away from his brother. "Rei, you had another question?"

"I have a question," Kenny intercepted the conversation. "Kai, what happened to Black Dranzer? Rei told us that the blade was destroyed, but the metal piece that Voltaire forced on you is still there. And obviously your plan, you know, the plan you made that disregarded our concern for you and would have ended in your death, didn't work. So is Black Dranzer really gone?"

Everyone turned to look at Kai intently. Rei had been meaning to ask Kai this himself, but he had actually been waiting for a moment alone with Kai.

I guess Kenny thought it was something we all needed to know about, Rei thought. He's probably right. If it was something bad, Kai would try to keep it from us to protect us.

Kai sighed quietly, he had not intended to talk to the others about this, but now he didn't really have a choice. He had told himself he had to be completely honest for Ran's sake and it had backed him into a corner.

"No," Kai admitted. "Black Dranzer is not gone, exactly."

"What the hell does 'not gone exactly' mean?" Takao exclaimed.

"I mean that while Black Dranzer's blade is gone, his spirit is not. But he isn't a danger to you guys anymore. He can't battle or claim other spirits anymore, but he's not exactly gone."

"What do you mean by 'not exactly gone?" Max asked.

"I'm more interested in the 'not a danger to 'you guys' anymore part of that explanation," Rei glared at Kai.

Kai had to admit, Rei had a pretty intimidating glare when he wanted to.

"He's here," Kai motioned to his chest. "The first part of my plan actually worked just like I planned. I opened myself to our bond and we battled for dominance. He tried to devour me, but I pulled him into myself instead. I guess you could say I won."

"That's a really crappy prize for first place," Takao commented.

"So why isn't he draining you anymore?" Rei wanted to know. "The last time you bonded with Black Dranzer, he was working hard to suck the life out of you. How can you survive with him feeding off you like that?"

"It's not the same," Kai answered Rei's fear with confidence. "He isn't bonded to me, he's a part of me now."

"I don't think I like the latter any better than the former," Kenny agreed with Rei's apprehension.

Takao looked confused at Kenny's phrasing, but he did agree with his hesitant tone. "Aren't you still in danger from Black Dranzer then?"

Kai wasn't sure what he could say to assuage his friends' fears. He didn't know if he had the words to describe it. He placed his hand lightly on his chest, reaching out mentally towards where Black Dranzer resided in his soul.

What had once been a vast echoing and aching hole, a vacuum that had torn at his soul greedily trying to devour it to fill that hollow space, was now something completely different. It had changed in a very primal way. He could still feel a light echo of the previous emptiness, but now there was also a strange contentment to the feeling.

Black Dranzer had been created as a flawed clone. By himself, he was empty, like a black hole, trying desperately to pull in everything around him to feel something. But it was different for him now. He was finally complete because he was just a small part of something infinitely greater than himself. Just as a black hole was merely a speck in the grander universe about it, Black Dranzer's spirit had become just a small existence in the infinite reaches of the soul surrounding him. He didn't hold the feelings and desires he had craved, instead he now was a part of all those emotions and memories. They surrounded him and provided him with something he had never felt before, a sense of comfort and completeness.

"No," Kai answered his friend's fears. "I really don't think I'm in any danger from Black Dranzer. Somehow, what I did seems to have changed him a bit. He still draws some energy from me, but it is so slight, my bond with Dranzer is more than enough to supplement the tiny amount he needs from me. And he seems…content… is the best word I can find, with just existing in me. I don't feel any type of drain or demand from him. Besides, I don't think he can harm me, even if he wanted to."

None of the' Breakers were especially reassured by Kai's answer, but they knew that there wasn't anything that they could do to interfere with the situation. They would have to trust Kai.

"Okay, Kai," Rei wanted one last reassurance. "Just promise me one thing. If that ever changes, if Black Dranzer returns to what he was and begins to cause you harm, you will tell us."

"Fine," Kai agreed. He was happy to promise anything if it got his friends to stop worrying about him.

"That was too easy," Takao grumbled, glaring suspiciously at Kai.

"What can I say," Kai answered Takao's weak stare, "I'm a changed man."

That triggered a repeat attack from Takao and this time even Rei joined in with the others in pinning Kai in a hug.

"You guys –have- to stop doing that," Kai complained breathlessly as he finally succeeded in pushing Takao off the bed.

"One last question," Rei was a bit breathless himself from laughter as Takao climbed back onto the bed to sit with his friends. "It's about after Takao and Houo-san came to rescue us. I truly thought you guys were too late. Black Dranzer's flames had disappeared and Dranzer's flames were rising up to take Kai. But, somehow, Houo-san, you stopped them. I don't see how you could have done this. The phoenix, Zephyr was your family's guardian spirit, but when Dranzer born, he bonded with Kai. So you shouldn't have be able to call upon him, correct?"

"Yes, you're correct." Hideaki agreed with Rei's statement. He had been trying to think of a way to say this before, but he somehow he had never found a good way. Now was as good a time as any. "Well, half correct. You have made a mistaken assumption."

"Kai, do you remember when I told you that I thought you were a part of your grandfather's scheme all along?"

Kai nodded, his eyes normally bright crimson eyes darkening in confusion.

"I don't think Marya was a trap for the phoenix. I think she was a trap for me."

Confused looks met him from around the room as Hideaki continued. "I met Marya when I was in high school. I fell in love with her, and I truly think she loved me, too. We were together only a short time before she just disappeared. When I found out you were her son, Kai, I asked the doctors to do another blood test."

"You see, the phoenix is still my family's guardian. I..," Hideaki cleared his throat, trying again. "I'm your father, Kai."

The abrupt statement brought an echoing silence, until the sound of heavy, fake mechanical breathing sounded loudly through the room.

"Luke, ~heavy breathe~, I am your f- Ow!"

The bluenette found himself lying on the floor again after Max, Kenny and Rei all reflexively kicked him off the bed.

"Hey, you were all thinking it," Takao complained defensively from the floor.

"Yes, but you were the only one tactless enough to say it," Kenny rolled his eyes at Takao.

"Come on, guys," Max looked around at his friends. "Lets get some air."

Rei gave Kai a gentle squeeze on his arm before following the rest of the 'Breakers out of the room. Hideaki nodded at his brother to give him some time alone and, reluctantly, Isamu complied.

Kai started intently into the crimson eyes of the man before him. It was too much to handle. He had thought he understood everything, but now, it was like he had known nothing at all. And certain things that had never made sense suddenly came into a clearer light.

Is it true? Is it possible? If he is my father, then that means Ran was my cousin? Do I even want it to be true?

Kai felt a new pain surfacing. He had always believed that the only family he had left was his grandfather. And in an odd way, that had been a relief. All the pain and death of those he loved and those who should have loved him had made him wary of the entire concept of family.

Why should he be any different? I caused the deaths of the woman he loved and the nephew that he doted on. Why should he care anything about me? He doesn't even know me.

"Kai?" Hideaki said cautiously, trying to pull Kai out of his deep thoughts. "Kai? I'm sorry to spring this on you, but you needed to know."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, I had the doctors take blood from me and compare it to yours. It's definite."

"When did you find out?" Kai was still struggling to accept the information.

"I had the tests started before Voltaire took you from the hospital, but I didn't have the results back until after we had brought you out from that cell."

"Is that why you came after me?" Did you somehow feel obligated to save me because of some possible blood test?

"No, I would have come after you no matter what the tests said."

"Why?" Why would you care?

"Kai, I didn't know it at the time, but somehow my nephew Ran gave me a gift that I'm just now starting to comprehend." Hideaki sighed deeply, running his hand tiredly through his hair. "You see, because I was worried about him, I used to go to the clearing that you and he would meet in. I'd watch you two play together. I saw you challenge each other to beybattles. I watched you defend each other as valiant samurai or defend the galaxy as power rangers." Hideaki laughed at the memory of the boys racing through the clearing battling imaginary monsters.

"I wasn't there everyday, but I did get to see you grow up over the years." Hideaki felt tears gather in his own eyes. "I never imagined I was watching my own child from afar. From too far. I wish I had known. I wish I could have taken you away from that world that you were trapped in."

Kai didn't answer him, but just continued to watch him warily.

"I know that you've lived a long time on your own, but I want you to know that I want to be there for you. I want to be your father. In truth and not just in name. I understand if this isn't something that you want or are ready for. You don't know me, why should you trust me? But, please, just consider it. Even if you don't want to live with me in my home, maybe you'd be willing to meet with me occasionally. We can take our time and just get to know each other a little at a time."

"I don't…" Kai wasn't sure what he should say. Family had always meant pain, but the man before him had literally pulled him from the inferno to save him. Maybe family could be something good, something that he believed it could be when he was 5 years old. "I don't know. I need time….to think about this."

"I understand," Hideaki nodded sadly. "I won't push you, but please know I'm here whenever you want me."

Hideaki quietly left Kai to his thoughts, closing the door behind him.

"What do you think, Dranzer?"

Kai, I know you are leery of trusting someone that you've only recently met. You are just barely beginning to trust your teammates as friends and you've known them for more than a year. But maybe, if you open your heart a little more, you might find some happiness for yourself.

"Kai?" Rei peeked his head timidly into the room. He hadn't joined the others as they went for a walk outside. Instead, he had stayed behind to watch the door to Kai's room. He hadn't wanted Kai to be alone with such emotionally laden information. "Do you want to talk? Or would you rather be alone for a bit."

"Come in, Rei," Kai sighed. I haven't really been alone since the moment I bonded with you, Dranzer.

"How are you holding up? That was something pretty huge to discover."

"I don't know how I am. I'm still sort of processing it. Dranzer has been my only real family for the last few years. Grandfather stopped feeling like family about the time he killed Nadya."

"Do you want family?" Rei asked, perceiving the root of some of Kai's reluctance. "I wouldn't blame you if you didn't, after what you went through with your mother and grandfather."

"Truthfully, I don't," Kai answered honestly. "Dranzer has been the only family I needed. It makes me uncomfortable thinking about anyone else having a claim of ownership on me."

Rei nodded thoughtfully to Kai's words. "However, you would also have a 'claim of ownership,' as you put it, on Houo-san. Or put another way, you would have someone you could depend on, just like he could depend on you."


"If Houo-san was anything like your grandfather or your mother. Or even like his older brother, I would tell you to forget about him, that Dranzer and the 'Breakers are the only family you really need."

"But he isn't like them," Rei continued. "He's like Dranzer and probably a lot like how Ran was. He risked everything, not only to save you, but to save all of us. He acted exactly as I would have expected you would. He's a lot like you, too. And," Rei added smiling, "that's a good thing."

The little tiger is right. You may think that you are fine, that you only need me as your family. But it isn't about what you can survive with, it's about what you deserve. You deserve people who care about you.

Kai didn't really answer either of them. He knew that they were both right. After all, I trusted Rei and the others and more than validated that trust. They almost killed themselves trying to save me. I can't imagine better friends, or even better family. If Houo Hideaki is anything like them, maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to get to know him.

"I can't see him as a father," Kai admitted. "I just don't know him well enough to know if I can trust him or not."

Rei nodded in acceptance. He wanted Kai to get the love of a family that he deserved, but he wasn't going to push his friend into anything he wasn't comfortable with. He unconsciously held his breath hoping that Kai had learned to open up enough to try trusting the man.

"But, how can I know if I can trust him or not without getting to know him," Kai reasoned. "I can't promise anything, but I'm willing to try to get to know him. Maybe, eventually…" Kai trailed off, not willing to trust enough to voice out loud the possibility of a loving family.

"That's all any of us can do." Rei smiled in answer. "And don't worry, if he does anything to hurt you, he'll have all the 'Breakers on his ass."

Kai laughed.

"Thanks for the sentiment, but if he decides to screw with me, I won't leave much of him for you guys to clean up."

Rei smiled at Kai's returned confidence. He hoped Houo Hideaki was prepared for the challenge. Getting to know Kai wasn't going to be anything like he could possible imagine.

Kai was exhausted from his exertions, both physical and mental, and laid back in his bed. He easily fell asleep knowing that Rei was watching out for him.

Rei sat smiling contentedly as the sound of Kai's soft, steady breathing drifted across the room.

Finally, Kai's safe. He even opened himself up enough to accept our friendship. And I never expected that he might be willing to try to trust a virtual stranger in hopes of family, but he seems to be willing to give Houo-san a chance. Takao has always called you 'the iceman,' but maybe you've finally let a little sun in. Maybe you've discovered that the world isn't so cold after all.

~The End~

~ and a new beginning~

laughs So many of you thought I'd kill Kai, but I just couldn't. I love him too much. And after all that torture and the edge of death moments, I just had to let him end with a little light. For all my angsty writing, I'm truly an optimist at heart.

Thank you for following me off all my cliffies and having faith that you would enjoy the story all the way to the end. I hope you did.

Oh yeah, also, I'd love to know your favorite line/quote. I won't be changing my summary with each chapter anymore, so I want to pick the best line in the story to represent it. I'd love to hear the moment you liked best so I can pick one to bring new people to my story. Thanks.

Please be kind and send a little light my way by leaving me a review. (I think 33 chapters might be worth it LOL) I'm really interested in what you think of my story. I'm thinking of trying to write a book based on my own ideas, but I am nervous about trying it.

I hope I've brought everyone a bit of Sun. Ja ne!