Title: When Worlds Collide

Authoress: Ladya C. Maxine

Rating: T

Summary: see chapter one

Warnings: see chapter one

Disclaimer: I do not own Beyblade or any of its characters. Any and all unrecognizable characters belong solely to me and are not to be used otherwise. I am not making any money off of this and I write with the sole intent to entertain.

A/N: …Yeah, I know. I'm as surprised as you are. Update!

Fiddling with the sash of his robes, Ray stared at the closed door, unsure of his intentions. He kept telling himself that he was only there to check in on Tala, to make sure he was alright, but the redhead had been seen to by the village's best healers and they'd confirmed that, though painful, no ribs had been broken, only bruised. And Tala, the unreadable brat that he liked to be, had shrugged off Ray's earlier concern when they'd run into each other; Tala returning from the healer's hut and Ray from working out in the field with Mariah, who had refused to let him out of her sight after hearing from Lee how close to death he'd come. Only the reassurance that he was going straight home, and staying well clear of so much as a puddle.

So then, having bathed and changed, and with the growing sounds of excitement outside as the festival goers stepped out of their homes, ready for a night of celebration, why was he here, looking at the wood of their guest's door?

'It was just a kiss,' he told himself, unconsciously wiping his lips. 'No one saw it and no one will ever find out about it. Big deal.'

Only, to him it was a big deal. A big deal because he wasn't sure how it would affect their relationship. He didn't get the impression that it had made Tala uncomfortable around him from their earlier confrontation, but it was hard to tell with that one. In any case, Ray himself wasn't that bothered by what had happened. Just a kiss. A bit of goofing around with another who he'd wanted only to knock down a few notches.

Confident in himself, he knocked loudly.

"What?" a voice called from inside, not friendly.

"It's me," Ray said.

He didn't give a reason why he was there, and Tala didn't ask for one. There was a noticeable pause, as if the other didn't know how to react to his presence, and the door was opened slightly, leaving him to push it open the rest of the way as he stepped inside.

"I just wanted to…" he lost track of his own words.

Tala, wearing the ceremonial robes he'd been given for the festival, turned, looking increasingly frustrated with the long sash that was meant to be worn around his waist. His robes were left open, revealing a simply, shorter under robe that just barely covered his thighs. He had pulled up his hair in a short ponytail, if only to keep it out of the way while he got dressed, but it had a stunning effect on his overall appearance. Ray's abrupt silence was lost to Tala, who was looking at himself in the standing mirror (one of the few in the village; an honourable loan), was having trouble with understanding the method of tying the sash, which was over two metres long.

"This thing is ridiculous," he said.

"Pretty complicated for us simple folks, ey?" Ray managed, snapping out of his staring. "You…need a hand?"

Tala merely threw the wadded-up sash at him. Ray caught the wince as the action pulled at the redhead's healing ribs. Not commenting on the less than grateful acceptance, Ray made the other face him and did up the buttons and clasps of the robes, eyes lingering on the exposed chest and stomach a bit too long.

"The trick is in the wrapping and the tying," he told the uninterested redhead, hesitating before wrapping his arms around the other's waist in order to securely wrap the wide sash.

Tala's breath hitch and Ray knew that it wasn't because he'd inadvertently touched the other's sore ribs. Still, he pretended to not notice since Tala made no comment on their contact. Whatever the redhead might have felt when they'd been at the river had long been buried beneath his mask.

"How long will this festival take?" he asked as Ray knotted the sash expertly.

"Two days, essentially. It starts tonight and will go on until tomorrow afternoon."

"So I'm going to have to put up with god-fearing people until then."

"You promised you'd make an effort."

"I will," Tala said, studying Ray's handiwork in the mirror, "but forgive me for having serious doubts."

"How are you feeling?" Ray asked after a while, feeling the need to justify still standing there.

"Fine. Why?"

"Nothing. I just thought that with your ribs and all…"

"You're the one with a dislocated shoulder."

"Nothing you couldn't fix."

"How very fortunate," Tala scoffed. He untied his hair, but only to rake it up into a neater ponytail with his fingers. Done, he turned to Ray. "What, can't go anywhere on your own now without me to make sure you don't kill yourself?"

"Oh," Ray shrugged, "I just figured that you'd want to stick close to me, as opposed to going out there on your own and getting roped into mingling with the villagers on your own…"

Tala came a decision very quickly, knowing that with Ray he didn't have to pretend to be nice. If he went out there and was accosted by, say, the women or the elderly he'd have to mask his disgust and fake pleasantries, whereas with Ray he could grumble and curse beneath his breath, knowing that Ray would let him without getting too offended.

"I should have let you drown," was his way of accepting the offer.

"You're welcome."

Ray was actually pleased that nothing had changed between them after all. What had happened had happened, and if Tala was able to forget about it then so could he. Everything was back to the way it was meant to be.

"More rice wine, Tal?" Kevin asked, rooted next to the redhead.

"He didn't even touch his drink yet, Kevin," Mariah, in a pretty pink and gold gown, said, trying to keep an eye on Kevin and on Gary, who had choked earlier on a leg of lamb.

"No thank you," Tala said when the small boy didn't give up.

"If you need any just tell me, okay? So what you think? Pretty neat, huh?" Kevin waved his arms around at the dancing crowd and colourful lanterns and masked performers.

Ray, seated on Tala's other side, suspected that the village had gone all out this year to impress their guest. The festival was one of their most cherished, but he'd never seen the place this heavily decorated. The food had been delicious and prepared with great care. Someone (Ray guessed Kevin) had informed those in charge of the catering of the Russian's culinary tastes and they'd gone through the trouble of trying to duplicate dishes he was more familiar with as best as they could. Lee had grunted at Tala's perceived lack of appreciation, but Ray had seen the subtle change in the redhead's eyes when the dishes had been placed before him at their table. By now Tala had mastered the use of chopsticks, but he refused to eat with his hands, despite such protocol being a must for certain native dishes.

"There's no pleasing that one," Lee had whispered to Ray.

"He's trying," Ray had defended. "Why can't you make such an effort?"

Lee hadn't replied. He didn't speak to Ray for the rest of the meal and when everyone had drifted off to visit the different stands and attractions that had been set up throughout the village he didn't join the rest of them, not reappearing until a few minutes ago: it was, after all, a tradition of theirs to gather with the other villagers on the steps of the temple to watch the fireworks. It irked Ray that Tala had been more sociable in their little group than Lee tonight, but on the other hand he also understood his best friend and knew that Lee was simply someone who did not get along with strangers, especially those who didn't want to be befriended.

"Kevin, that's enough!" Mariah scolded when he snuck a half-glass of wine. "Remember last time? You got really sick and I had to sit next to your bed all day. You shouldn't even be drinking that stuff."

"Hey, it's the festival!" he insisted. "Everyone over 12 is allowed a couple of glasses."

Giving up, Mariah turned to Tala.

"Are you okay?"

Ray turned too, surprised that he hadn't noticed the change in the redhead's demeanour. While by no means a chatterbox, Tala had grown very quiet in a short period of time. Busy staring at the stone beneath his feet, he looked to Mariah, whose motherly instinct had fixated its concern on him.

"Too much to drink, I think," Tala answered her. Other than Ray, Mariah was the only one Tala seemed to remotely genuinely tolerate, but even so Ray knew he was lying.

"I could get you some water," she offered.

"I'll get it!" Kevin jumped up and ran off before anyone could stop him.

"Yup, he's going to be as sick as a dog tomorrow," Mariah sighed. "Are you sure it's not all too much for you, Tala, what with the boating accident and all?"

"Ray and I were also there, remember? And we're fine," Lee argued, sitting a couple of steps above all of them. "There's nothing wrong with him physically. Just a few bumps here and there."

"Lee," Ray warned, reclining back on the steps.

Tala didn't pay Lee any mind, which only bothered Lee even more.

"Funny how, up until you came along, neither Ray nor I were ever in a fishing accident. We would have seen that rock if you weren't distracting us."

"Are you insinuating that I'm to be blamed for your poor boating skills?" Tala asked calmly, emptying his glass.

"All I'm saying is that if you'd just done as we told you to do everything would have gone smoothly, like it always did."

"Tala's the one who spotted the rock," Ray spoke up. Seriously, why was Lee so determined to start a fight now, on what was supposed to be a pleasant night? "If he didn't push us out of the boot we would have been hurt a lot worse. And if it weren't for him I would be dead, in case you've forgotten."

"That was very brave of you," Mariah smiled, leaning over to pat Tala on the forearm.

"I would have gotten to Ray on time," Lee grumbled.

And that cleared up the mystery: Lee was angry because he hadn't been there for Ray.

"I know you would have," Ray said, smiling at his friend despite knowing otherwise: Tala had only just barely gotten to him on time and Lee had arrived many, many minutes later. "All that matters is that all three of us survived."

"Yeah, I guess. Though it's still a bit suspicious how he saw the rock before either of us…"

Mariah sighed, as exasperated as Ray with their friend's stubbornness. Ray opened his mouth to begin another round of reasoning but Tala suddenly stood, the bottle of rice wine Kevin had left behind in hand. Without saying anything, he descended the steps, robes flowing with each step.

"Tala, where are you going? The fireworks are about to begin!" Mariah called after him as Ray got to his feet. "Ray?"

"Leave him alone, Ray," Lee said, leaning back on his elbows with a victorious smirk. "If he wants to sulk over things then that's his problem."

"The one who was sulking over things was you, Lee," Ray tossed back. Lee's smirk disappeared. "And quite frankly, I'd rather sit with Tala than sit here and listen to you gripe. Sorry, guys," he told Mariah and Gary, who'd actually stopped eating at the turn of events. "Enjoy the show."

"Tell Tala he can come back and watch it with us whenever he likes!" Mariah offered as Ray hurried down the steps. He heard her then turn on Lee, who defended his actions vehemently.

"Hey, what happened?" Kevin asked, bumping into Ray just metres away. He looked up the stairs at the remaining three. "Where's Tala?"

"Don't know," was all Ray could spare before running off in the direction the missing teen had gone, leaving Kevin to return to their friends for answers.

He had expected to find the other relatively easy: Tala hadn't left in such a hurry and with everyone perched high on stairs, walls and roofs there were no crowds for the redhead to disappear into. But twenty minutes into his search Ray knew it wasn't going to be that easy. Tala had simply vanished. Using his knowledge of the village grounds, Ray ran from street to street, constantly looking out for a glimpse of the other. He asked at the stands, stopped whoever was still walking about, but no one could tell him where Tala had gone to.

"He was walking in the direction of the gates just a few minutes ago," a woman carrying her child finally was able to offer. "At least, I think it was him. I thought it was odd that someone was leaving, but I suppose he doesn't like fireworks."

"Maybe," Ray said and broke out into an all-out sprint, hoping to catch the other before he left the confines of the village.

By the time he reached the torch-lit gates, however, his heart sank. The village gates were hardly ever closed, as there were no dangerous animals in the woods for miles and hunters sometimes liked to venture out at night to catch some nocturnal prey, and with everyone, including the gatekeepers, away awaiting the fireworks he had no clue as to where Tala could have wandered off to in the unlimited area around the village.

"Think, Ray, think!" he told himself, pacing before the gate. "He doesn't know the area like I do…He wouldn't be so stupid to go and get himself lost…Maybe he went down to the river? No, then he'd have to walk all the way back around the village to get there…Where else did I take him?…We went climbing, but he hadn't been so thrilled about that and he can't climb in those robes anyway…The lake?"

It was a straight walk ahead to reach the lake. He wasn't positive, and if he was wrong it would be a costly detour, but he didn't know where else to look. With a weary sigh he began to run, something he rarely did when wearing these heavy robes. His footsteps were barely audible but the silence of the woods was broken just a couple of minutes into the run when the sky behind him exploded as the firework show started. Through the leaves he could see sparkling pink, blue and gold raining down and fizzling out.

He realized, with a funny knot in his stomach, that he'd never missed a single show with his friends. Not even when he'd been struck down by a bad flu: the others had come over, at the risk of catching it, and they'd watched the display from his bedroom window.

'And now I'm way out here…looking for Tala…'

A part of him wanted to put the blame on the redhead, to agree with Lee that, at least in this instance, Tala had effectively divided their little group of friends.

'No, not Tala. You did it, Lee. You were the one who went out of your way to chase him off.'

But still, why had he decided to go after Tala instead of just remaining with his friends? He didn't seriously suspect that the other was in any danger. Maybe Tala just wanted to get away from Lee, and all this festivity he was unused to, and find a quiet place. Maybe chasing after him is the last thing Ray should be doing.

'Well, I'm already here,' Ray thought as he saw the glistening surface of the lake in the moonlight up ahead. 'I'll just make sure he's okay, and ask if he wants to come back. And if he says no, that's cool. He knows the way back.'

Even though he'd come all the way out here looking for Tala he was surprised to actually find him. Sitting with his back against a boulder, not far from where they had first skipped stones, the redhead was staring out over the water with blank eyes. He was holding a stolen bottle of rice wine, from which he drank distractedly.

"…Hey," Ray said as he approached, waiting for the other to acknowledge him but Tala didn't look away from the water. Lowering himself down on his haunches, Ray waited a while longer but when the other still didn't make eye-contact he sighed and sat down, stretching his legs out in front of him. "I can't believe you're letting Lee get to you. I thought you had had some great wall of apathy erected around you in his honour."

There was no answer for several minutes. The fireworks were still going off, bright flashes of colourful lights erupting every few seconds behind them, lighting up the entire area.

"I don't give a damn about that Neanderthal friend of yours," Tala suddenly said, taking a big gulp of wine. "He bores me, at best. I stopped paying attention to him long before I…"

"Suddenly stormed off for no apparent reason. Fine. So it's not Lee. But even you aren't that prickly: something must have set you off for you to pull a disappearing act on us. You didn't even stick around for the fireworks. Mind telling me what that was about?"

"You tell me."

"…I would if I had any idea what you're talking about."

"This," Tala said, waving a careless hand at the water, "this lake feeds the river, doesn't it?"

Ray shifted, stalling before nodding slowly. Somehow, Tala caught it.

"Why did you kiss me?" Tala finally got to the point.

"Spur of the moment," Ray dismissed, feeling hot under the collar. His hands were beginning to shake so he rested his folded arms on his knees and tossed his bangs out of his face. "Just had a near-death experience and you were being your usual sarcastic self and I thought it'd be a laugh to get one over on you."

"A joke then?"

"No! I mean…maybe…"

Tala, however, took no offence. He was thinking deeply, trying to work something out.

"Then is this some primitive game you play here in this village? What was the point of it?"

"The point…?"

Blinking out of his trance, Tala tilted his head slightly to look Ray right in the eyes. Realizing what was bothering the other Ray felt his confusion turn to outright disbelief.

"You…don't know what a kiss means?"

"Of course I do. We were taught all about love," Tala swirled the little remaining liquid in the bottle nonchalantly. "Such a useless emotion. A distraction. Boris said that goals cannot be achieved as long as there are distractions in our lives. Love is obsolete. And you still haven't answered my question. What you did was not out of love. There is no such love between men."

Ray nudged the loose stones with his foot. He didn't agree with Tala on the importance of love, but yes, he knew that it wasn't accepted for men to love each other beyond the bond of brotherhood. And up until the redhead's arrival, he had thought little of it. He'd never felt anything beyond kinship for his fellow male villagers. When those who'd travel to other lands would retell their tales to the elders, rumours would sometimes spring up of unsanitary relationship between people of the same sex in other parts of the world. Such matters would never be discussed openly, and children were shielded from the mere thought. When Ray had first heard, through the power of shady gossip, of such attractions he'd admittedly thought it unnatural and more than a bit distasteful. To them, the concept was just unfathomable.

And here he was, sitting next to another boy who made his skin tingle in a way that no girl had ever managed.

"You're right. It wasn't love," he conceded.

"Then what was it?"

"I don't know."

"Your instincts aren't too keen, then."

"You didn't exactly pull away."

"No, I didn't."

Suddenly feeling uncomfortable, Ray cleared his throat but could think of nothing else to say.

"Maybe I should just go."

"Why?" Tala asked, emptying the bottle and tossing it into the water, where it landed with a loud splash. Running a hand over his head, he asked again, "Why? Are you scared?"

Suspecting that the other was mocking him, Ray wanted to shoot down the accusation, but when he asked the question to himself he could only give himself an honest answer.

"Yeah. Yes, I am scared. Because I don't know what's going on here and I don't think I want to know. Maybe it'll be better if we just don't talk about it, okay? It was just a…mistake." Quickly getting to his feet, Ray dusted off his clothes and looked up at the glittering sparks in the sky above the village. "I suppose this is one of those fears you shouldn't confront. We'll just walk away from it and go back to normal."

"…I'm scared too."

The confession stunned Ray and he looked back. Tala wasn't showing any emotions, but his confession had been as clear as the stars. He was cradling his head in one hand, staring down at the pool of his robes with a straight face. When Ray got closer, however, he could see the shivers running over the other's body. How much did Tala drink? Had he overdone it? Ray crouched down before him, searching for any signs of drunkenness. Tala looked up, eyes clear as water, not drunk at all, just deeply troubled.

"You? Scared?" Ray chuckled, trying to make light of the increasingly risky situation. "That's just the wine talking."

"I can go through an entire vat of vodka without even feeling slightly light headed," Tala argued with little heat.

"But why are you scared? You don't know anything about…feelings…" Ouch. That sounded a bit harsher than intended.

"Only because I never had them. But now…" Growing frustrated, Tala slammed his fist down onto the rocky ground. His frustration was eating him up alive inside. "I am feeling something and I don't know what it is and neither do you. I hate not knowing! I hate not being able to know and solve things!"

Ray watched, not believing his eyes or ears. Tala was…breaking down? The Russian statue was cracking, in his presence?? It had to be the alcohol. It had to be. There was no other sensible explanation.

"I think we should get you back to the village," Ray said, reaching out to pull the other up.

"It doesn't matter where I go," Tala said as he pulled away. "It will always be there. No matter where I turn, it'll still be right behind me. I cannot walk away from it. That's why it scares me…I…don't want to walk away from this…"

Ray had to replay that in his head a few times to realized what the other was saying. When it hit him he pulled away from Tala as if he were diseased. Only, his mind told him, they both were.

"It's not the kiss that scares me," Tala finally said outright, looking off to the side in shame. His fiery hair framed his face, bright eyes flitting everywhere as he swallowed with great difficulty. "It's the fact that…I liked it. And that I…want to…again…"

Staring at the vulnerable teen before him, Ray felt a sense of connection, of realization that, for once, the two of them were feeling the exact same thing, and that neither of them had the answer. When Tala hesitantly looked at him Ray clenched his fists, trapped between instincts and learned etiquette. He listened to the loud bangs of the fireworks and could almost hear the cheers and appraisals of the villagers; the same villager who had taught him the meaning of pure love. Before him sat Tala, who had been taught that love was unnecessary and disposable. Two different teachings, and still they were feeling the same thing.

"We should go back…" he muttered despite moving closer to the redhead.

"We should," Tala agreed, sliding back warily while his eyes darkened hungrily.

From there they moved as one. Tala allowed himself to be pushed down onto his back, groaning when Ray straddled him but not allowing his bruised ribs to stop him from pulling Ray down on top of him. In deep disbelief of what he was doing, Ray kissed the other feverishly, as if it was something he'd been waiting to do all his life. Cupping Tala's face, he worked their mouths together, hard. He felt a hand gripping his hair while the other clung to his back.

"Enough…" Tala said, half-heartedly pushing Ray away but not struggling when Ray swooped back in, suckling on his neck hard enough to leave dark blotches.

They kissed until breathing became a dire and painful affair. Tala, cheeks flushed, was looking as confused as Ray knew he was. Their heavy breaths almost drowned out the sounds of the fireworks. Ray could see the bright sparks reflecting in the other's wide eyes. The longer he stared at the other, the more Ray wanted him.

"We must stop," Tala said, allowing Ray to undo his sash.

"If anyone ever found out…" Ray shared his concerns, rising slightly to allow the other one better access to his own belt.

"Do you even know what you're doing?"

"No, but I still want to do it."

With a moan, Tala agreed, shivering when the cold night air kissed his exposed skin as Ray pushed open his robes. Kissing the black tattoo on the redhead's hip, Ray felt the maddening need. A desire so strong he growled, confused and hot. There was only one logical way to relieve the burn, and despite his mind telling him that the one to give it to him shouldn't—couldn't be another male, he turned Tala over onto his stomach.

"Boris said…Boris said…" Tala kept trying to tell himself as he automatically raised himself up onto his knees, hand slipping on the smooth river stones.

"Boris isn't here," Ray said, resting against his back. Tala reached back, trying to grab hold of anything. "Boris is the reason why you're here. Boris has no say in this."

When Tala said it the first time Ray thought he was hearing things as he spat into his hands, but then Tala took a shuddering breath and repeated it, louder, his already spinning mind as muddled as Ray's.

"…Fuck Boris…" he groaned, rocking back impatiently.

Leaning over and nibbling on the rounded ridge of the other's ear, Ray couldn't agree more. He could hear the voices of the elders in his mind, preaching against the importance of a natural, healthy relationship, one that could bring forth offspring. He heard the snickering whispers of the gossip mongers, sharing dirty secrets they'd heard from the travellers. Hundreds of voices were echoing in his head, but when Tala moaned eagerly the voices were nothing more than nuisances instead of knowledgeable and Ray blocked them out.

Their simultaneous cries of pain and passion were drowned out by the continuous explosions of bright colours in the sky. In the village, no one was any the wiser, not even noticing the two boys missing. At the riverbank, there was no one to witness the two young men, clinging to each other desperately, frightened and confused, but unable to stop, writhing and screaming in passion as they forcefully came together, drawn in by want and fear.

By the time they were done Tala was crying silently, tears dripping down his face. It wasn't until Ray raised a hand to brush away his sweaty bangs that he realized that he was also crying. He pulled away, unwillingly causing Tala to hiss sorely.

Neither looked at each other, seated on the lakeshore, eyes blank as they stared in opposite directions, the weight of their actions beginning to sink in. The pleasure had been beyond either of them had ever felt. Ray was still trying to cope with the wave of ecstasy that had coursed through his body so violently, but helping to numb the bliss was the realization that he had committed a crime that was both unheard of and unacceptable in their village. When Tala spoke, voice hoarse from screaming, his words cut Ray deep. Cut and scared him as much as it did the redhead.

"What have we done?" Tala panted, fingers scraping painfully over the stones. "What the fuck have we done…?"

There was only one question even more challenging then that, and neither had the guts to ask it: what were they going to do now?


A/N: Damn. Wanted to go all out lemon here but seeing how I rated this story T, and I don't like changing ratings for the sake of a few scenes, I had to give the "safe" version of events. Still, got that yaoi ball rolling. Hell, that this got batted right out the park! HOME RUN!!

Yeah, Tala is definitely the uke in this story. Mostly because he's too inexperience in any emotion to know how to instigate anything.

I usually go for a slow paced build up when it comes to lemon scenes, but this was really meant to be an unexpected turn of events for both Ray and Tala. Both a bit tipsy (despite Tala's claim otherwise), and horny, they didn't really think things through. And so begins the drama…

Read & Review, please.