Chapter 11

Chaotic G: I'm SORRY! This update is SO late. I got tangled up in some other stuff and then I kept getting sidetracked and… oh well it's all in the past! Here is 11! (And I so better get reviews)

Black hair was sprawled out over the pillow, black ink, dripping and spilling over his chest. Fingers entwined, bodies pressed together, breaths being shared, blissful, absolute silence in the peaceful dimness of the morning.

It was over.

It was all over.

Boris was gone, the tournament won, and the evil plot foiled.

Vega was alive and well and lying beside him. Real, warm…his.

The only person he had wanted, that he had been separated and then kept from was there. Vega's breath was warm on his neck and her hand smooth and delicate caged within his.

He leaned to press his lips to the top of her head. This was real… there was no way that this could've been-

A dream

Tala reached for Vega but found that she was not there. He opened his eyes and looked about and then pieced it together through his grogginess.

A wonderfully real, painfully false dream.

Tala had woken to reality. Boris was still a very real threat, there were battles to be fought, and Vega was still in danger.

Tala fell back into his pillows and covered his face. It had felt so great. Why did he have to wake up!

He felt rage for a moment and then it dissipated at a thought.

Vega would, eventually, be his. That dream would, someday, come true, he swore it silently. She had not given up on him and he would not leave her behind. Their fates were one; he knew that, he wouldn't be punished to go through this life empty, with a part of him, a large part, missing.

Boris would not steal his happiness the same way he had stolen his childhood and life.

(Space-Space-Space-Space)

"It's stupid how I'm acting over her… isn't it?"

Kai was standing in the doorway that led out onto the balcony just behind Tala, who was sitting in a lounge chair, looking serious and morose. It was still very early and no one else was awake. Kai had heard Tala stomping around his room angrily and decided to see what argument they could get into.

"It's stupid how we all act over them," Kai answered, shrugging. "Girls have that affect I guess."

"But it's stupid how I'm worrying about Vega… I mean she was the one protecting me during our battles at the tournament," Tala muttered.

"Because she cared," Kai added.

"And that's another thing… she cares but that doesn't mean squat, she was coming to reconcile with me, not to stay. I'm getting my hopes up thinking she'd have me even as her friend."

"I never thought I'd see the day where you were sulking over a girl, of all creatures," Kai said with a smirk.

"I never thought I'd see the day where I let myself sulk over a girl," Tala retorted angrily. "I was better off before she came around, you know, because then I wouldn't be dealing with you or the others now."

"Been there, done that," Kai replied, shaking his head. "I thought that a hundred times about the girls... even about the Bladebreakers. Believe me; it won't make you feel any better."

Tala sighed.

Kai was right, even if Tala would rather eat glass than tell his one-time teammate, full-time rival so. He wouldn't have been better off not meeting Vega.

"How do you do it, Kai?" Tala asked quietly.

"Do what?"

"How do you put up with this 'feeling' crap? It's just a bunch of hassle," the Russian spat in semi-disgust.

Kai grinned. "You get used to it."

"And get soft like you? I hope not."

"Sometimes being soft has its perks."

Silence followed this for a long moment and then Kai finally spoke up again. "How about a truce?" It was something Charly had urged him to do since Vega returned from Team Germany.

Tala let the words hang for a moment. "Assuming we could put aside some sort of natural law and do that… why would I make a truce with you?"

"To make this tournament a little easier. I'd say we have enough competition without being in competition with each other," Kai answered with a shrug. "Unless you couldn't handle that."

Tala scowled a little but swung his legs over the side of the lounge chair to look at Kai sternly for a moment and then hold out a hand.

The Bladebreaker took his rival's hand solemnly and they shook.

"Don't think this means that we're friends," Tala said, pulling his hand away and crossing his arms.

"That'd be a cold day in hell," Kai replied before turning and leaving.

Tala returned to his chair, folding his arms as he laid his head back.

It was a weight off both their shoulders.

(Space-Space-Space-Space)

"Tala, I'm sorry! No!"

Vega jumped up in bed with a shriek, raking her fingers back through her hair as she scrambled to the head of her bed and pulled her knees to her chest, leaning her forehead down to her thighs.

The dream rushed back to her.

It had been dark and there were just flashes of light and images of the others, their expressions, and their reactions to her betrayal.

Tala had been there and just as she reached for him he fell back into the dark and then there was nothing and she was alone in the echoing silence.

"Vega!"

Someone was prying her fingers from her hair as she shook her head fiercely and fought with them. "No! I won't lose him! Let me go! Leave me alone!" Her thoughts were muddled and her mind hazy with the dream and the sleep she had not yet wiped entirely from her.

"Vega!" the voice was rougher this time, demanding, and as she came to her senses she realized that it was Kato, his strong hands pulling at her wrists, trying to undo her from the ball she had curled herself up into.

Vega was startled when he finally wrenched her hands away from her face and she was staring at him. She hadn't realized how hard she had been gripping her skull but when she looked at her hands there was blood beneath her nails.

Misha was standing at the end of her bed, his expression expressionless but his eyes holding a concerned shine. The twins were at her side, leaning close and peering at her with their neon eyes like cats. Their worry was much more evident in their faces.

Her hands began to shake in Kato's grip as she ducked her head and her hair fell forward like a curtain. The four boys watched as teardrops slowly hit the comforter and they all looked at one another.

None of them knew how to handle this.

"Vega," Zax said tentatively.

"Don't…" Jax began, but trailed off.

They looked to Kato.

Kato caught their stares but wasn't sure what to do. He spent the most time with her but he was just as clueless as they were.

"Get ready to leave."

Her voice came out steady but she didn't meet their gazes.

The twins and Misha looked to Kato, who nodded, and then went about their preparations for the day.

Kato remained by the girl's side, perched on the edge of her bed.

"What are you doing?" she asked quietly. "Get ready to leave."

"No."

Her eyes met his, a little blood-shot around the blue and watery and then she hugged him. Her arms squeezing him around his waist and her face pressed into his shoulder.

Kato froze for an instant, his blood running cold, every instinct instilled in him at the camp telling him to get away but he placed a hand on her shoulder gently and leaned his forehead down to touch to top of her head.

It was a strange feeling and one that scared him a little… up until when she pulled away and it felt as though ice water had been dumped over him.

He missed the contact the second it was gone, even though it troubled him. It felt as though for an instant he was receiving something he had been lacking, a part of him was satisfied and for a moment filled.

Vega was out of bed in a second, rubbing at her eyes in annoyance, fixing her hair and tucking it behind the wing extensions of the headpiece.

Kato ignored the looks of the others as he stood and went about getting ready.

(Space-Space-Space-Space)

"Check this out," Cleo said as she and the Amazons approached a dish centered in a back alley between two buildings.

The Vanguard twins were having it out with two members from another team. They watched as their bits, two oriental dragons attacked relentlessly. They were identical except one was fiery red with a golden under belly and a long row of spikes its back engulfed in flames and the other was yellowish in color with electricity constantly pulsing from the antenna that flowed back from his forehead.

The two worked perfectly in sync as they twisted and dodged around their opponents and attacked.

"They're impressive aren't they?"

All five turned and spotted Vega standing pressed to the wall, her head bowed and her eyes closed.

"Vega-" Charly began, but was cut off by the girl.

"Don't waste your breath, Charly," Vega said softly, raising her eyes to meet theirs. "And don't waste your time."

The meaning was known to all of them present.

Charly shook her head. "We're not giving up on you."

"Is it your stubbornness or your stupidity that's making you persist?" Vega asked, her eyes narrowing and growing icy. "Just leave me be."

"I know that's not you talking, Vega," Charly said quietly. "I don't know what Boris has done to you but I'm not going to let him do anymore."

The girl closed her eyes. "Maybe I don't want to be saved. Maybe this is where I belong."

"I know where you belong!" Charly shouted, her eyes igniting as she clenched her fists. "You're an Amazon, Vega, not Boris' newest play-thing! You belong with us and the Bladebreakers and the D-boys and Tala!"

Vega opened her eyes but didn't look at them, instead she turned her gaze to the twins. "Jax, Zax, quit playing games! Finish them and let's go!"

The twins looked over at her. "Aww, c'mon, Vega-"

"-We never get to have this much fun!"

"Now, you two!" she barked.

Charly reached out and placed a hand on Vega's shoulder. "This isn't you, Vega," she said quietly. "You're better than this, better than Boris… or have you forgotten everything? You never gave up on me, Vega, I'm not going to give up on you."

"Even if I'm only a shadow of what I was?" Vega asked as she reached up to push Charly's hand away but found that it was already gone. She turned and watched the five of them walk away.

Thank you, she thought.

"Vega?"

She glanced back at the twins, who were peering at her curiously.

"Do we have-"

"-To tell Boris?" they asked.

"Have to?" she wondered.

"Kato-"

"-Didn't."

"Kato also lied," Vega said, reaching out and running her fingers gently back through Jax's hair, and the doing the same to Zax. "Lying isn't a good thing."

They looked confused but not disturbed by the touch.

"Even when it helps someone?" Jax asked.

"We're not stupid, we know what he'll do," Zax added.

"We don't want you to get hurt."

Vega blinked once as she stared at them but her expression softened a little. "Don't worry about me," she said.

"We're not going to-"

"-Let anyone take you away."

She watched as they turned and headed in the other direction before following them slowly. What scared her most was the fact that they meant it.

(Space-Space-Space-Space)

Tala lurked around a corner as he watched Vega approached with one twin on either side of her.

He frowned a little at what he saw. Her arms were around their shoulders and they were talking quietly.

She smiled and he couldn't help but grin a little himself. He missed that smile.

He stepped out once they grew near enough and Vega stopped dead and exhaled slowly as their eyes locked.

"Tala…" she said softly, trailing off and shaking her head.

"Vega, don't run," Tala commanded gently, holding up his hands.

Vega hated to see that look in his eyes.

"Leave her alone!" Zax said, stepping in front of Vega, his twin following suit.

A hand came down on Vega's shoulder and she closed her eyes and quit breathing hoping and praying it wasn't who she thought.

"I've already lied for you once, Vega, don't push it."

She exhaled slowly. "I thought you had business with Misha on the other side of town," she said, looking up and back at Kato.

"I finished early," he replied, his eyes focused solidly on Tala in a glare, which was returned with equal venom.

"Record time," Vega murmured.

"I want to talk to her alone," Tala said, already knowing the answer.

"If you think you can get through us," Kato began, with a small smirk, "go ahead and try."

"That attitude could get you killed," Tala growled.

Kato's smirk widened. "Is that a threat?"

"It can very easily become a promise," the Russian replied.

Kato opened his mouth to say something but Vega placed a hand tenderly on his chest to stop him and he glanced down at her and watched as she removed her hand and then maneuvered past the twins to stand just in front of Tala.

"Stop following me," she ordered, her voice firm and steady.

"I refuse to lose," Tala said, keeping eye contact with her.

"You lost to Kai and Charly."

"I did… and I've gotten over it but there was only pride on the line then," he murmured. "I have a lot more to lose now that can't be replaced like ego."

Vega stared at him for another moment and then turned and headed back to the twins, who fell in behind her as she walked.

Kato glared Tala down a bit longer before turning and trotting to catch up to the girl, placing an arm around her waist as they walked and pulling her minutely closer.

Vega sighed and leaned her head against him as she stared down at the sidewalk.

Tala watched with hate boiling inside of him at the sight of Kato's arm around Vega's waist. The trainee was just doing that to spite him.

Which was a mistake.

Vega glanced back in time to see Tala's look of hurt and anger and realized then that she had been right all along.

Tala, with his eyes narrowed in contempt, jealously, and hurt, still cared and had not betrayed her.

At that thought a part of her jumped for joy.

(Space-Space-Space-Space)

"What we can be grateful for is that she didn't appear hurt," Cleo said quietly as she and Lily and Charly sat around a table in a café.

Brian was leaning against the back of her chair as Tala hovered nearby with his arms crossed.

"But she looked so dead," Charly murmured as she stared down at her coffee.

"Boris' training will do that… but it might be for the best," Brian replied. "It means she's trying to keep it together."

"Brian!" Cleo said admonishingly. "Vega's not unstable."

"Maybe not when she went in," Brian replied bitterly. "But she's not going to come out the same person."

"At least she's safe… for the moment," Lily put in.

"She'll be safe for as long as we need her to be," Tala spoke up suddenly and the others turned to look at him.

"What's that mean?" Charly asked.

Tala folded his arms and looked to her. "I caught up to her just after you left her in the alley. She was with the twins and that trainee Boris made her bodyguard. They're very… attached to her."

Brian frowned. "What makes you think that?"

Tala chuckled. "The twins tried to 'defend' her from me and they meant it. They thought I was going to hurt her or… take her away." He smirked a little. "I bet Boris didn't count on that."

"And the one who's playing bodyguard?" Brian asked.

Tala's looked darkened. "Kato? He's attached as well… but in a different way. He's even more protective and it's not all out of duty."

"He likes her," Lily mused with a smile. "That's sort of cute."

"It's sort of disgusting," Tala snapped, glaring at her.

"Aww, are you jealous?" Charly teased.

"Don't go there," Tala said dangerously.

Charly looked to the others, holding her hands up defensively and then biting her lip a little. "So what does this mean?"

"It means Vega's put a virus in Boris' little system. Those four aren't supposed to feel, just like we weren't… they do now," Brian explained, crossing his arms. "It means Vega has four less things to worry about, especially if they become more loyal to her than Boris."

"It can't be that easy," Cleo said, shaking her head.

"It's not," Tala replied. "But Vega indulges them. She knows how to win them over to her side… though I'm not sure about Misha. He's pretty dedicated to Boris… he's not the oldest but he's probably been there the longest… that's the only explanation for it."

Brian shook his head. "Pondering over it now is useless and it's not going to get us anywhere. I'm done with the break; I'm going to go find Ian and Spencer."

"I'll come with you," Tala said.

"We should probably find Hikaru and Takara. The battles they were finishing up are probably over now," Charly said as she and Lily and Cleo stood. "How many wins do you guys have."

"Varied," Brian replied, "you?"

"The same," Charly replied, nodding. "Because everything's scored individually we have to keep a close tally on it. We'll meet you guys back at the hotel tonight, okay?"

The two nodded before leaving.

"Tala seemed bothered by what he said about Kato," Lily murmured.

Charly shrugged. "He's being paranoid. C'mon, we've got to go. There are butts to be kicked!"

"Kato!"

Vega sat up in bed as the twins helped him in through the door, which Jax kicked shut behind them.

"What happened?" she asked.

The twins helped him to his bed, which he collapsed on but said nothing to explain.

Vega frowned as she examined Kato. The right portion of his face was a little swollen, blood coming from a split in his lip, his cheek bruised, and his eye blackened.

"His ribs are sensitive too," Jax added.

"Who did this?"

The twins glanced at one another and then down and up to avoid her eyes.

Vega reached over and grabbed them both by the chins. "Who?" she asked.

They swallowed hard and then answered in unison, "Boris."

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