Working Hard For The Money

I know I should be finishing Intoxication. But I just quit my job and I'm feeling pissed off. Enjoy!

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Practice started at ten a.m. Every morning. Without fail.

Kai checked his watch. Eleven thirty, and still no sign of Rei. He knew what time practice was, why wasn't he there? It was hard enough getting Takao and Max to turn up on time, but Kai had always taken Rei to be a punctual person. Just recently, he had been turning up late for practice, occasionally not showing up at all. Kai's blood boiled. He'd been cancelling dates with Kai as well, claiming he was too tired to go out.

" Well, I've been too soft on him. Just because we're in a relationship doesn't mean he can get lazy. I'm gonna give him a piece of my mind," fumed Kai to himself, as he watched the other two battle.

At last, Rei appeared. He was in the process of tying his hair back, and he did look tired. But he managed to smile at Kai and wave a casual greeting to Kenny as he walked by.

" You're late," Kai hissed at his boyfriend. Rei's smile dropped immediately and he looked hurt. Kai called out to Max at the Beydish.

" Max, step back! Takao, you're battling Rei!"

" Whoa, hold on a minute! I just got here," exclaimed Rei.

" You should have been here over an hour ago. Consider this making up for lost time. Move!"

Rei shot him a look of such fury that, for a moment, Kai was stunned. He put his feelings aside to watch the match. It was no contest, really. Rei's heart obviously wasn't in it. He ripped the cord and released the blade, but never even attempted to defend himself. Takao won each match easily, but didn't cheer like he would have done normally. Finally, Kai called of the match. He leaned up close to Rei's face, and spoke in an angry, clipped tone.

" That was utterly pathetic," he spat, " If you're too lazy to put the effort in, you should quit Beyblading altogether."

He began to walk away, thinking that Rei would take his words with shame and improve his performance for the next day. What happened was as unexpected as it was shocking.

Rei just erupted in a frenzy of violent behaviour, knocking Kai to the ground and hitting him with clenched fists. Out of his mouth, that Kai had lavished kisses on less than a day before, came a slew of screeched gibberish, punctuated by the blows. And then, the attack ceased as suddenly as it had started, when Rei appeared to have run out of energy. Before his team mates could pull him away, he got up himself and walked back to the hotel, without looking back once.

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Kai didn't see his lover again for the rest of the day, and assumed Rei was avoiding him. He spent most of the day in the hotel room, waiting for Rei and treating his injuries. It was nothing serious, just a few bruises and scratches, but still he was worried. Rei had never acted violent towards him before.

At around midnight, Rei finally returned. He didn't often stay in the hotel, but he had agreed to stay with Kai for the weekend. All his clothes were in the hotel room. Kai expected Rei to apologise, to beg Kai to forgive him, to cry a little. Instead, Rei sat at the tabletop mirror and brushed his hair in silence. Kai could tell the Chinese boy was tense by the set of his back. He leaned forward, and pressed a hesitant kiss to Rei's neck, just to show he wasn't too angry. Rei flinched, to Kai's surprise. He broke the silence.

" What do you have to say for yourself?" Kai said, in a slightly joking manner. Rei turned around. There was no humour in his eyes.

" I think we should break up."

Kai blinked. He wasn't expecting that! " What?" he asked.

" You heard me." Rei turned back to the mirror.

" Christ, Rei! It was just one little fight! That's no reason to break up. I don't understand…"

" That's just it!" Rei practically screamed, rising from his chair. " You don't understand, you'll never understand, so we can't be together!"

" What the hell is wrong with you?" Kai shouted back, " I give out to you for being lazy, and you start hitting me? And then I have the cheek to be annoyed with you for hitting me, so we have to break up? Forgive me for not understanding that!"

" Where was I today?" Rei asked, his eyes glowing with rage.

" What? I don't know, I figured you were off sulking somewhere."

" For your information, I was working. You didn't see me for twelve hours and you thought I was sulking? God, I'd hate to be kidnapped and reliant on you to save me."

" So, you have a job. Lots of people have jobs."

" Not just a job, Kai. Two jobs. I was at my second job."

" What?" Kai blinked, astonished.

" I told you I had a second job a month ago. Shows how much you listen, doesn't it?"

" Why would you get another job? It's hard enough to schedule practice around your work hours as it is!" Kai just managed to duck before the hairbrush hit him in the head.

" So I should feel sorry for you?" Rei roared at him, " Oh, poor Kai, he must spend all day working out those timetables! Well, here's news for you, I don't have millions of dollars in a trust fund to spend on hotel rooms! I didn't take a second job because I want to, I took it because I have to! I took it because the minimum wage was lowered and my income taxes skyrocketed, and let's not forget my rent being bumped up because I live somewhere where I'm less likely to be shot on my doorstep! So now I need two jobs so I can afford little luxuries like food and water! Maybe I could have gotten a better job somewhere that pays over the minimum wage, but no-one would hire me because I don't have a high school diploma and I'm a minority! "

Kai was shocked into silence as Rei finished his tirade, and sank to his seat in front of the mirror. He sat down himself, at the edge of the bed.

" I'm sorry," he began, " I didn't realise…"

" Well, how could you? You barely see me at all any more. The only time we ever get to see each other is at training. I work two eight-hour shifts, Kai. The rest of the time I use to eat, sleep and practice. And on top of all that, I have my relationship with you to consider. "

" So you're breaking up with me because you're too busy?"

" No!" Rei's voice rose with anger again. " You don't understand what kind of life I'm living, Kai, and you never will! You've never had to work for a living a day in your life. This morning, I did overtime at the bar to pay off my electricity bills and I was exhausted. I was sorely tempted to just stay at home and sleep until my shift at the restaurant began. Do you know why I decided to turn up?"

" No," said Kai, warily.

" Because I said to myself, if I do turn up, despite the fact I can barely keep my eyes open, maybe my boyfriend will be so happy to see me and so proud that I made the effort that it would be worth it. That's the only reason I turned up."

At that moment, Kai felt about three inches tall.

" Why didn't you tell me you were having trouble with money? I could have given you the cash, no problem!" he said, in a complacent tone.

" That's not what I want! I don't want pity, especially from you!"

" Then what do you want from me?"

Rei looked him dead in the eyes, and Kai saw the fatigue in those dull amber orbs. It wasn't just physical tiredness, it was emotional.

" Empathy. That's all. I don't want you bawling me out for being late. I don't want you complaining that we never spend any time together. And I certainly don't want charity."

" All right. I won't do any of those things. Happy?"

" No. That's not it. See, that would work, maybe for a week or two, but then you'd slip up. The problem runs a lot deeper than that, Kai. We come from two different worlds. If you can't empathise with me, you can't feel any compassion for me. And I know you'll never be able to empathise unless you've been in my position. We're too different, and it's going to come between us. If not now, then soon."

Rei got up to go to the door, but before he could leave, Kai leapt forward and grabbed his arm, turning the Chinese boy around to face him.

" I don't want us to break up," he hissed through clenched teeth. " I'll do anything, just don't finish it like this. Tell me what you want and I'll do it."

Rei thought for a moment, and spoke wearily.

" Fine. You live my life."

" What?"

" For the next two weeks, you live my life. You live in my flat, work both my jobs, pay my bills, do my chores. If you can stick it out for the whole two weeks, we stay together."

For a while, Kai said nothing. This sounded like a good idea, but Rei was right. Kai had never had even a part-time job, let alone two full time jobs. Two weeks didn't really seem that long, but obviously Rei knew something he didn't. Could he do it?

" All right," he said at last.

" Good. You start on Monday."