Disclaimer: I do not own Beyblade (V-Force or G-Rev), it's characters, or the original plot.

The More Things Stay the Same

By: Tyson Granger

One year. So many things can change in a year's time, that sometimes I could hardly imagine how I would ever make it so long. Then again, I was never one for making plans, so I had no real reason to complain. In the grand scheme of things, a year was really not that long at all, right? I had waited nearly a decade for her after I had begun to discover my feelings, and no matter what I had gone through, I would not change it for anything. One year would offer no challenge in comparison, I was sure.

Then, things began to change. And soon I realized that I had been wrong…so very wrong. Yet, I felt as if I could take on the world, because now and forever, she would stand by my side. On this we swore, only a week after that night on the eve of our retirement at the ripe age of 21. I had taken her out to a pasta dinner at one of the finest restaurants in Rome…on her demand, of course. I would have done it that very night in the hotel, had it not taken me a week to build up the courage to do what I was about to do.

We ate in companionable silence, the occasional fan stopping to request an autograph, which she gave out in spite of her annoyance at the interruption. I signed as well, although they would barely be able to make out the writing. My hands were shaking so horribly that my name looked similar to a poor drawing of Romero's head. I had never been so nervous in all my life.

Of course, she saw right through me…she had always been able to do so…and her attitude shown brightly that night, as she immediately demanded to know what was bothering me. I remember the sweaty palms I had been so worried about, and I remember just how beautiful she had been, her shimmering green eyes gazing down at me in wonder as I stood from my seat.

And then, I knelt before her…no, I did not stand up to her again…and my courage must have broken and steeled all over again a million times before I raised my eyes to meet hers. In a very odd manner for her, she raised her hands to her mouth, suddenly aware of what I was about to propose. I whispered to her four little words that would change everything, as my eyes remained glued to hers…I had never been so nervous.

I do not know if she was excited…or merely embarrassed that I had been kneeling on the ground in the middle of a packed restaurant…but quicker than my eyes could register, she had picked me up from the floor and placed her lips over mine. The sweet sensation lasted only a moment, but it was far sweeter than I remembered it to be, which is saying a lot. She held me closely as she laid her chin on my shoulder, whispering in my ear three words that would keep me going…and be my strength…in the upcoming year. 'I love you…'

The rest of that night was a blissful blur. We had remained like that until the waited politely reminded us that the restaurant would be closing soon. We finished our meals quickly, paid the cashier, and left a huge tip for the waiter before taking our leave to make the journey home. The journey was silent, as I had been content to rest silently in her arms while the limo returned us to the place we were currently calling our home. We had never really had a home apart from the circus, but she had said she felt it was time we bought one.

With our runner-up prize money from our final tournament, she and I had purchased a home in Rome…she had seen the house online and fallen in love with it the moment she saw it. She loved it…so I did too. I personally purchased the furniture, and although she was furious that I had done so without her permission, she could not deny that she loved it. I had lived with her my entire life, after all, I had a good grasp on her likes and dislikes.

So it was that we returned home that night, and found ourselves upon the couch that I had purchased with my own money, lying together no longer in companionable silence, but in shared adoration…truly, in love. I am not sure we said more than a couple of words the entire night, but as I had begun to fall asleep in her arms and she kissed me…firmly, but lovingly as she preferred to do…her lips said it all. I was hers. This was right.

The next morning we spoke with Romero, who immediately greeted the news with open arms and congratulated us in his normal, drawling fashion. And as always there was that martini…damned martini…but it hardly seemed to matter. We spent the entire morning with our former trainer and manager, discussing the details of the ceremony…the "when's" and "where's?" of it all…and as always, she was in the forefront of all the decisions. She made the plans, and I listened and agreed. That was how it always worked, why should this be any different?

To my surprise, however, towards the end of the conversation I heard something that I immediately was not sure if I agreed with. She and Romero had agreed upon two years from now being our unofficial return date to the Beyblading world, and she wished for the date of our marriage to be exactly one year prior to that. She had said it would give her proper time to prepare for the wedding, as well as a fair amount of time to spend with her new husband before then.

For some reason, I did not want to wait that long. Maybe I was afraid, but something ill came over me when I realized that I would have to wait an entire year. I tried to get into the conversation, but it had already been decided. In one year's time, I would be married to the woman of my dreams. I did not like waiting very much, but I supposed I could wait. What harm could one year do? I had waited for a decade for her, after all…

The next morning, I had regrettably come down with a cold, so I did not get the chance to attend the press conference to make the announcement of our engagement. I wanted to be by her side as it happened, but she warned me with her trademark glare that if I moved from bed there would be hell to pay. I dared not challenge that look, not even for this day. So I waited at home while the announcement was made.

I was anxious for her return, to hear the good news that everything had gone well. I was certain that the Beyblading world would be in celebration…I could imagine the calls I might receive from fellow bladers of congratulations. She would come home with that smirk of hers, feed me a bowl of chicken soup, and tomorrow we would begin our journey together towards marriage.

But the calls never came. When she came home, there was no smirk…only a tired look of exhaustion, and a trace of something…I could not place my finger on it…but something in her eyes that made me want to hold her. I could not begin to imagine what might have happened to put her in such a mood, but nevertheless, she force fed me some chicken soup with a comforting smile, and fell asleep almost immediately by my side. If only I had known then what was bothering her, I might have been able to comfort her…but at the time, all I could do was watch her with concern written plainly in my eyes, as she slept uneasily within my arms.

Something had changed, but I did not know what it was. So when she proposed to me the next day an extended vacation to a remote beach location, what else was I to be but excited? I nearly leapt from bed with the news and hugged her in my usual excited manner, prompting her to smirk slightly and shove me back onto the bed with the single order to pack. It thought we were going to get away for a while. It would be wonderful, just the two of us.

We left that afternoon, and took a non-stop flight to the island where we would be spending the next few months of our lives. I could not help but admire the tropical beauty of the island, and the quiet, secluded area where we came to find the beach house we had rented to be located in. It was, for all intents and purposes, a paradise.

Our number there had been given out only to a select few people, Romero of course, the caravan, and a few others. It was almost as if she did not want to be found…which I did not mind, of course, but usually we were at available to Mr. Dickinson and the BBA for updates and news about the World Tournaments. I had guessed it was because of our retirement, and paid it no more thought. I was alone in a tropical paradise with my soon-to-be wife, what was there to worry about?

We settled into the beach house quickly, deciding with some sly satisfaction that only one bedroom would be necessary, so we turned the other into a makeshift shrine to Beyblading, complete with our blades, news clippings, and a few trophies to make it more welcoming. The place really felt like home, and I remembered to thank Romero later for setting things up for us.

We laid on the beach that night together, I silently in her arms, and she holding my head gently to her chest. Her heartbeat was thumping quietly in her chest, and I could practically feel the tension draining from her body. What had got her this wound up? I had no idea, but I know I was glad to feel her relax again. Yet, that something never left her eyes. When she thought I was not looking, or whenever she was lost in thought, it was always there. I never asked her though. I figured she would tell me if she wanted me to know, and it was not my nature to pry.

Months passed after that without incident. I thought I had been in heaven. We had been living in peaceful solitude with one another for quite some time. The days were carefree as we roamed the beaches around the islands, and the nights were peaceful, and filled with tender moments. Never had I been so happy…nor so unwittingly blind to the truth.

It was on one of these peaceful mornings that on a whim, I decided to get up early and check the local newspaper to see what was up in the world outside. It was not that the news itself mattered so much as I was just curious to see if there was any news about the next Beyblading tournament. After all, just because we were retired, it did not mean we had forgotten about the sport entirely.

Many mornings I had awakened to see Julia reading with a distressed look on her face, that I merely assumed to be a bit of nostalgia, or perhaps a hidden desire to return to the sport earlier than planned. She had never been out of the spotlight long, and I knew that perhaps the only things she loved more than myself was the thrill of listening to a crowd of thousands cheering her on in the heat of battle. 'Nostalgia,' I told myself with a shake of the head as I snuck out of bed and made my way towards the front door. But as I sat down on the front porch of the beach house and read through the paper, I found an article that would prove just how wrong my assumption was.

The headline seemed innocent enough, "Beyblading Duo Wedding Approved, Fernandez Twins to be Married in May." I was confused a bit by the wording…after all, I had figured that Romero had told everyone that we had discovered that we were not twins at the press conference…but if the wedding was being approved, then obviously nothing was wrong. I was satisfied for a moment, before suddenly I thought to myself, 'Why would the wedding need to be approved?'

Instantly I began to skim through the article, and as I did, my eyes slowly began to grow wide. Fans were apparently outraged that the once famous twins were now suddenly, and conveniently announcing that they were 'no longer relatives' just in time for their big wedding. A court ruling had to be made involving the evidence that proved that they were not brother and sister for the legality of the marriage to be approved. By a 3-2 city court vote, the marriage license was approved, and the two to were free to be legally married.

Still, the opinions of the people were not silenced, some of them unconvinced by the ruling and still believing everything to be much to convenient to be mere coincidence. The author of the article clearly had an opinion as well, often calling the evidence that proved they were not twins "circumstantial" and "inappropriately gathered."

I could not believe that there were people out there who would deny us our marriage. Could they not see how in love we were? How I live to make her happy, and how my very life revolves around being by her side…did none of them care? The hospital records proved…proved…that we were not related, and that it was actually legal for us to be together. How could they call it circumstantial?

What we shared was a beautiful bond, and something that nobody could take away from us. The idea that there were those who would deny us that ate away at me, and slowly I began to realize what it was that had been bothering her. The look in her eyes…had she been keeping this from me? I shook the thought from my head, again banishing it as quickly as it entered. Julia would not keep secrets from me…she would not keep this from me.

Maybe I was in denial at the time, but somehow I convinced myself that Julia had never known about the uncaring prejudice of these people, or the media that gave them voices. She could not have known, could she? 'Of course not,' I told myself. Nevertheless, I found myself hiding the day's paper very deeply in the bottom of the trash bin, lest she decide to search for the paper to read today.

The next month or so went without incident, and I never looked in the newspaper in the morning again. I hoped that no more articles had been printed like the one before, but as I noticed that certain something still hiding quietly in the depths of her beautiful, green eyes, my gut told me that was not the case. At one point, I guessed that perhaps my eyes were a little too telling of what I had seen as well, because she asked me on several occasions if there was something bothering me.

It hurt to lie, but she did not need to worry about me. So I told her that everything was fine, and I pretended as if I had never seen the horrid article in the paper that challenged our relationship. I am not sure she believed me, but she let the matter rest…which was strangely odd for her, but I was grateful, and never questioned why.

Our time together grew less enjoyable as the time passed, and I felt an unspoken tension growing between us. It was as if each of us had something we were trying to hide from the other. I knew what mine was, but for the life of me I could not guess just what it was that she could be keeping from me. That thought really began to bother me.

Was she beginning to have second thoughts about our engagement? Did she believe that the evidence she had found to prove we were not brother and sister was merely circumstantial, and that maybe our relationship entirely was wrong? God, I hoped not, and I promised myself that I would try harder to show her just how much I loved her…how much her love meant to me.

On that note, I decided that another dinner…much like the one at which I proposed…would be the perfect thing to get our minds off our troubles, and back on our future together. I was a bit unsettled when she tried to talk me out of my plan, but I insisted that she come. I think she saw just how much I wanted this night with her, and reluctantly, she agreed to come.

Perhaps if I had not been so eager, I would have noticed the nervous glances and the uneasy laughs of hers as we entered the restaurant, while I chatted in my usual, excited manner. I might have noticed the way she directed me to a booth in the back corner of the restaurant, or the way she held her menu up slightly higher than usual, covering her nose to hide her face from the crowd.

As it was, I was simply excited to be with her again, like we were back in Rome the night we swore to spend our lives together. I even ordered the exact same meal I had that night, a rigatoni pasta dish that made my mouth water, in hopes of the night turning out as wonderful as the one in my memory had. Fate, as it seemed, was not on our side, however. No, the cruel mistress had far darker things in store, and I had no idea that what I thought would be a friendly visit would turn out like it did.

The night was nearly at its end, and much to my pleasure, she had finally begun to open up. We were talking like we always did…well, I talked, and she either listened or threw in a smart comment to bring me back down to size …or make me blush. Our dinner had gone exactly as I hoped it had, and to say I was relieved would be an understatement. As we stood from our booth, she leaned over and whispered something into my ear that made me smile softly and want nothing more than to kiss her and whisper the same thing back into her own ear…'I love you.'

And so it was with a newfound courage that I turned my head to meet her lips with my own, for a short, meaningful kiss…imagine my surprise when she pulled away from me abruptly, her eyes wide as if they had seen a ghost. I barely had a chance to register what had happened before a small, high-pitched voice came from behind me in a disgusted cry. "It's true! I can't believe it!"

I whirled around to see what the problem was, figuring it to be somebody else, at some other table. Instead, I was greeted with the accusing stare of Zeo Zaggart, pro beyblader and one of our former colleagues in the BBA Pro League. I knew he had always had a crush on her since they had met, but I had gotten to know Zeo well in our time in the league. I figured he would have been over her by now. My face began to form into a laughing smile, and a stepped forward to explain, when I felt her hand hold me back.

She whispered in my ear, but I did not smile at what she said. 'Don't listen to him…' I wondered why she would say that, but I hardly had time to let it register when he pointed his finger at me angrily and began to shout loud enough to disturb the entire restaurant.

"I can't believe you! You're sick, Raul! I thought you were my friend, but this is just disgusting!" he screamed, and suddenly, the realization began to dawn on me that this is what that angry journalist was saying in the news paper a few months ago. And this was coming from one of my closest friends. I felt my eyes begin to water, as I moved towards him to explain again, when he slapped my outstretched hand away from him in disgust. "Don't you get it? She's your sister! You can't marry her! It's wrong! Just wrong!"

Tears were in his eyes, and I could sense the anger and the disgust in his very demeanor. He believed what he was saying…he truly felt as if my engagement was as disgusting as he said it was. Faintly I registered her voice from behind me screaming at Zeo, and begging me to ignore him, but the damage was done. The world around me had changed…and I was not sure if it would ever be the same again.

I walked out of the restaurant broken, leaving Zeo to his argument with her, the short distance to the beach house seeming like forever on foot. Crystalline streaks ran down my face as I kept my head down, hiding my identity from whoever might be passing by. I had no desire for a repeat of the restaurant scene. Rain began to beat down on me from above, succeeding in dampening my nice clothes, as well as my already depressed attitude.

I made my way to the back of the beach house, not even bothering to enter in the state I was in. I had too much to think about anyway. I laid on the beach in tears, wondering once again if everything I had known in my life was a lie. Were we really twins? If we were not, as she had said that night, was it not right that we should be together? Was I not worthy to be with her anymore? Was I ever really worthy in the first place?

To each question, I realized to my dismay, that I could no longer answer it with any certainty. 'Maybe Zeo was right…' I sniffed, rubbing my eyes on my sleeve, although it did nothing to stop the tears from coming. I looked out across the ocean as it raged with the passing storm, but it seemed nothing compared to the storm inside of me at the moment.

Everything had changed so much…it was all so confusing. And it hurt…all I had ever wanted was to stay by her side…and I had fought once to protect that right. I bladed with my heart and soul on the line to prove that I was worthy to be with her. But suddenly, I had to question whether or not I ever really had that right at all. I was not sure…and I had nearly given up hope, when a voice called out to me above the storm.

I turned around slowly, my body numb and cold as a result of the storm, and there she stood. In the middle of the rain, in front of the sliding glass doors to our beach house, she was waiting for me. "Come inside Raul," she told me over the rain, but her voice was as gentle as I had ever heard it. I wanted to resist…I felt like drowning myself in my misery at the moment, but at the same time, I could not refuse her.

So even as my heart broke, I ran to her, clinging to her in the rain as if she were a lifesaver and I were lost at sea. I cried…I had always been a crybaby, or so she told me…for what seemed like hours, sobbing into her shoulder as she held me silently. Her hands ran through my hair as they always did, trying to soothe the pain away as they always had, but this time, the pain would not fade.

"J-Julia," I sobbed into her shoulder, my tears not lost amidst the endless raindrops, "am…am I sick?" I could not help but ask…the man in the papers, the fans, and now even Zeo had accused me of being sick. But it could not be sick, could it? I loved her…I lived for her. How could anything so right be considered so wrong? I had always believed I belonged with her, but never before had someone told me that I was sick for wanting that. The thought struck something deep within my heart, and it hurt more than I could ever imagine.

The tears continued to flow as Julia whispered soothing words in my ear, and I think…no, I am positive now that I look back on it…that I felt a few of her own tears amongst the raindrops as the fell upon my shoulder. She sniffed hard, trying to hold in her emotion to try and protect me from my own. "No, Raul," she whispered fiercely in my ear, "you're not sick. You're beautiful." She pulled me closer into her arms, and held me so tightly that I thought she might never let go.

"You are beautiful, and wonderful, Raul. And don't," she stopped and sniffed, probably more from the rain than anything, "don't let anybody ever tell you anything different, ok?" She pulled my head into her hands and kissed my forehead firmly, before looking me squarely in the eyes. "I love you, Raul. Only you," she confessed again, and I could see in her shimmering green eyes that the meant every word she said, "I want to be with you for the rest of my life. Now and forever."

I smiled weakly and nodded, allowing myself to be drawn back into the safety of her arms long enough for her to lead me inside of the beach house. There, she quickly set me down in one of the two chairs in the room, then went to fetch a couple of towels to help us dry off. I sat and shivered for a few minutes on the couch, pulling off my wet clothes and dropping them in a heap at my feet. My shoulders were shaking, but Julia's words had calmed me. 'You're not sick, you're beautiful…'

I sat for those few minutes in anticipation, waiting with bated breath to see if Julia would indeed return to me, and when she came as quickly as she could back into the room…cursing slightly as a cup of hot chocolate burned her hand…I could not help but allow myself to relax. She handed me a cup, her silent glare commanding me to drink it, an order which I found I had no trouble complying with. The warmth spread throughout my body quickly, and the numb feelings faded away.

I placed the cup on the table next to the chair, and Julia did the same before handing me a towel to dry myself off. I took the towel gratefully and dried myself off as I sat quietly in my boxers, my eyes fixed firmly on the floor as I continued to contemplate the incident from earlier. I realized now that Julia was right…I could not let someone's opinion change what we had. She was too precious to me…she was my everything. I would do anything for her. She was perfection…my goddess, after all.

And so it was when she called my name in a low, husky voice and I looked up to see her lying on the couch across the room, clad only in undergarments, that I could not hope to resist her. I crossed the room at a near jog and leaned down towards her, allowing her arms to pull me down on top of her without any hesitation. She kissed me firmly, and lovingly, just as she always loved to do. But this time, I could sense in the kiss what she so desperately wanted to say, but that which she was afraid to so out loud.

Julia, the woman I loved, the woman I had thought was my sister, needed me. If I pulled away and left her tonight, she would be just as heartbroken as I would if she did the same. If I gave in to the pain, and the pressure of the media, and those who did not understand our need for one another, she would be lost. It was like she always told me, that I was her strength, as she was mine. She may have always been the greater of the two, but she needed me just as much as I needed her. I always liked it that way…and I think, just maybe, she did too.

Without question, I kissed her back gently, letting her lead, but giving enough in return to leave no question that I shared her need. Her tongue licked my lips, silently asking for entrance, and to that she needed not ask again. I whispered against her lips, the words my kiss was intended to convey…'I need you…' and I parted mine quickly to deepen the kiss. Her arms encircled me, pulling me flush against her body. The shared heat between our bodies causing a thin layer of sweat to glisten on each of our brows, and soon, the heat grew even more intense.

Barriers were thrown aside, and again that night, I was one with my goddess. I kissed her gently, and all that was hers she offered me freely, and to her I made the same offer. Each was taken with care, and together we spent the night within the protection of the other's arms, in safety and bliss. No…never again could I doubt the beauty and perfection of this thing…this moment.

I laid there hours later, warm within the arms of my lover, and in spite of everything that happened that night, no longer did I despair. Julia and I would be married a few months later, and there was nothing in the world that could change that. Things had changed so much, and yet, in the end, they would always stay the same.

I would remain by her side, and she would always be my goddess. She was perfection, and I was her partner. She liked it that way…now and forever…and so did I.

So did I.