Notes: Wow, it's done! I love this fic so much. Thanks to everyone who has reviewed! And also, thanks to everyone from whom I got ideas via our role-plays!
It was amazing how much the bikers had come through over the last several weeks. It had been close to a month since these latest quandaries had began. Doom Reborn and the Paltridges were still free, and most likely nearby, watching their prey. It was an unsettling thought, but Valon had made up his mind not to worry about any of them tonight. Alister was home with them, safe and sound, and that was what he wanted to concentrate on. Right now Alister was upstairs in his room, supposedly resting, but Valon somewhat doubted that the redhead was asleep.
The doctors had determined that Alister had suffered a horrible shock to his system (the cause of which they could not quite determine) and that he should go home and rest. The friends were quite agreeable with that, and so Alister had ridden back with Raphael (as Raphael had not wanted Alister to get in a crash by riding alone or with Valon). After they had gotten Alister home, Raphael had returned to KaibaCorp to retrieve Alister's motorcycle as well. In the meantime, Valon had righted the furniture that had gotten tipped over during the earlier battle.
He leaned back at last, surveying his finished work. "That looks good enough," he said aloud, heading for the stairs.
As he went, he tried not to think about his parents, but somehow they crept into his thoughts anyway. He clutched the banister tightly, remembering how they had been torturing him and Raphael with the energies from the Orichalcos. Had that been even a small part of what Alister had gone through when it had electrocuted him? Valon shivered at the thought. He supposed that Howard and Martha had been doing it because they wanted to subdue them both into unconsciousness. Then they would have been abducted and taken to who knows where.
"Then Valon will come with us, as we planned. Doom Reborn gets the other two."
Valon's eyes narrowed as he recalled Martha's words. That only created more mysteries than before. Apparently, even if they were mercenaries, they were working for more than just Doom Reborn. But who might want just him alone? Or did the Paltridges themselves have some strange reason for wanting him? It did not make sense to him.
He bit his lip. He hoped that now the situation was such that they would not attempt to take him away legally through a court, but he knew that with people of their caliber, anything was possible. Now that he knew that they possessed Orichalcos stones, however, and since they had tried to abduct him and Raphael, it seemed more likely that they would focus on that approach again. Surely they did not want him for any legal reason, so why would they try extremely hard to get him in a legal way? Maybe they were only trying to scare and rile him and his friends.
He reached the top of the stairs and looked in at Alister, since the redhead had left his door open. Indeed, Alister was awake. He was laying on his side, staring off at the wall. He looked calm, yet sad. Wondering why, Valon could not resist wandering in.
"Hey, Alister," he called softly. When the redhead looked up but did not become annoyed or make some sort of flat remark, Valon was encouraged to go right over and plop down on the edge of the bed. Alister allowed this, propping himself up on one elbow. "Are you okay, mate?" Valon watched him curiously, with a bit of worry mixed in. It was not often that Alister's emotions were so blatantly obvious.
"I'm fine," Alister answered predictably. He watched Valon calmly with his gray eyes. He was happy and relieved that he had broken the control of the Orichalcos and that his friends were safe, but he was angry at himself for not being able to stop the ancient evil from taking him over in the first place. It was only natural for him to be upset. After all, he had only wanted to save his friends, but instead the Orichalcos had almost caused him to kill them. Alister clutched a handful of the quilt as he recalled the night's past events.
"You sure?" Valon asked, closing one eye as he scrutinized the older man. "You know somethin', Alister? It's not really that easy to trust your 'I'm fines.' You say that whether you're really fine or not!" It annoyed him highly at times, but he knew that he himself often did the same thing, as did Raphael. They were three very independent young men who did not particularly like being fussed over. And none of them wanted the others to worry about him, either.
Alister gave him a slight, amused smirk. "Maybe in my mind, I am fine, despite the circumstances I might be found in," he answered. "Or maybe I figure that even if I'm not fine, what good would come of saying so?" He sat up now, leaning forward on the bed. "But no, I really am fine, Valon." He imagined that he would stay frustrated with himself for a while, but his common sense told him that he had broken through the control and saved his friends, so he had no need to continue feeling upset over the incident.
"Well, you'd better be!" Valon snapped, poking him in the chest. "You've gotta stay here with us and not get all depressed and sad or something." He glared at his friend. "I mean, if you're beating yourself up over the Orichalcos thing, then you'd better stop. You couldn't help it that the bloke poisoned you. And you never stopped fighting against it! You won out too, so that says something."
Alister raised an eyebrow, admittedly surprised that Valon was basically telling him that he had done all he could, especially after the arguments they had gone through. "I was under the impression that you thought I wasn't fighting hard enough," he said at last.
Valon's shoulders slumped. "Yeah, well . . . I was frustrated," he responded. "But I should've been more patient. You were tryin' your best. And hey, you did come out on top." He grinned weakly, then sobered. "But I am sorry, Alister. . . ."
Alister nodded slowly. "It's alright, Valon," he said then. "Don't bother feeling upset about it." He paused, weighing his next statement carefully. "If you want to vent to me about your parents, you're welcome to." He knew that Valon often did like to talk, and he was letting the boy know that if he wanted to when Raphael was not around to listen, Alister was willing to listen as well.
Valon blinked at him in surprise. "Yeah?" Alister nodded again. Valon smiled a bit. "Well . . . thanks, mate."
Alister paused now, mulling over something he recalled knowing about right before losing consciousness. "You tried to save me," he said at last, watching Valon calmly. "When I fell off the edge . . . you nearly fell yourself, trying to catch me."
Valon again was amazed. "You were awake then?"
"I was awake until right after Eatos caught me," Alister answered quietly, "though I was steadily falling senseless."
Valon shuddered, pausing himself now. "Well, yeah," he burst out then, "of course I tried to save ya! You idiot, I didn't wanna see you die like that!" I don't wanna see you die at all . . . but especially not like that. . . . No one should die like that. . . . Especially not a chum of mine.
Alister shook his head. "If Raphael hadn't been there, you probably would have died," he said flatly. "But . . . I appreciate the gesture, anyway." He laid a hand on Valon's shoulder. He was glad to know that he had people who cared.
Valon looked down, unable to think of anything to reply. "Yeah," he said finally. He relaxed. Alister had surprised him many times tonight, with his words and his actions. They were close friends, in spite of their incessant arguing.
The door opened downstairs, signaling Raphael's return. After a moment the blonde man came upstairs, checking in on both of them. Alister and Valon both looked up. "It's raining hard," Raphael said flatly, running a hand through his damp hair. He relaxed, seeing that his friends seemed well and realizing that they must have been talking. That was good for them, especially when they often had a terrible time understanding each other.
"You didn't have to retrieve my motorcycle," Alister said to him. "I could have gotten it later." He had objected when Raphael had first mentioned going out after it in the storm, but Raphael had thought it best to get it before someone could attempt to steal it, and so he had gone. Alister was glad to see that he was back safely.
Raphael grunted. "It was better to get it now," he responded, coming in and sitting down on a chair.
The three of them talked for a while, enjoying the peace of the moment—especially since it would most likely be shattered before long. After a while Valon leaped up, deciding he was hungry. He wandered out of the room and down into the kitchen with the intention of making sandwiches for himself and for his friends. Raphael watched him go, shaking his head in gentle amusement.
"Heh. . . ." Alister drew one of his knees up to his chest, laying his arm over it. "He's strange, sometimes . . . but he's a good person." Alister cared about both of the others very much, and though he did not agree with Valon a lot of the time, he knew that the brunette boy cared about him and Raphael in turn.
Raphael nodded. "He is," he agreed. He regarded Alister with a searching look, trying to determine how his friend was doing after the horrendous experience he had gone through earlier. "As are you. Are you alright?"
Alister grunted. "I'm fine," he said again, but gazed off into the distance for a moment. Then he sighed, turning to look back up at the older man. "I was panic-stricken earlier," he said seriously, "when we were dueling." He clenched a fist. "I was afraid my dark soul, under the Orichalcos's spell, would win and that you and Valon would die."
Raphael reached out, laying a hand on Alister's shoulder and squeezing gently. "You broke free, though," he said firmly.
"Yes," Alister agreed slowly, "but only with great effort. I was fighting so long, Raphael, and so hard . . . but it seemed that no matter what I did, the Orichalcos was always stronger than I was." He ran a hand through his hair. "I was just about to call out the final attack that would have been your destruction. That's how much control it had over me at that moment. Then . . . I screamed . . . and just kept screaming. I had to do something . . . anything but call out the attack. . . . I had to get control again."
"I heard you," Raphael said solemnly. "We both did." He remembered the inhuman nature of Alister's screams and felt himself cringe. The agony that the younger man had been in had been obvious.
Alister nodded. "Finally I was able to . . . but I knew that the Orichalcos could get free again, if I didn't do something. . . . I had to save you and Valon. . . ." He remembered the desperate plea for divine help that he had screamed. That plea had most certainly been answered.
"It was horrible . . . when we thought you were dead," Raphael spoke after a brief silence.
"I'm sorry," Alister replied quietly. "I did the only thing I knew that I could to save your lives." He looked down. "When I fell unconscious . . . I was fighting the Orichalcos's influence in my mind. I had to get it out of my body. After I succeeded, then I was able to wake up." It had not been as simple as that, though, and Raphael understood that, though Alister did not say so. But he could see from the weary look in Alister's eyes that it had been a vicious and taxing battle.
"And that's what's important," Raphael interjected. "You saved us . . . and yourself as well." He, also, was remembering what Alister had yelled right before he had been able to break free. His sincere, urgent prayer had granted him the help he had needed. "Don't think about the what ifs. That won't help." He spoke gruffly, as he often did, but his genuine caring for his friends always shone through.
"I know." Alister sighed, then started as Valon abruptly appeared in the doorway again. The teenage boy was holding a plate of sandwiches while he was eating another, and he blinked curiously at his friends as he entered the room.
"Where's the cat?" he asked as he set the plate down on the nightstand. "She usually comes running anytime someone opens a can of tuna." He plopped back down on the bed as Alister and Raphael each took a sandwich from off the plate.
"She was sleeping in my room," Raphael answered.
Without warning a panel in the wall began to slide open and Liu abruptly appeared, blinking sleepily and meowing a greeting. Immediately she ran over, rubbing against each biker, and then proceeded to beg for some of the tuna. Raphael was extremely amused—and baffled.
"Well," he said, shaking his head as he finally gave in and pulled a piece of tuna out of the sandwich for Liu to eat, "at least we know how she kept getting in the room." He frowned over at the panel, wondering how it had escaped their attention in the past. Had Hans perhaps done something that had jarred it open if it had been stuck for a long time? In any case, it was definitely strange.
Valon finished his sandwich and then laid back at the foot of Alister's bed, placing his hands behind his head. "Sneaky cat," he remarked. "She probably rubs against the panel or somethin' and it slides open." He could imagine that easily. Liu was a very inquisitive cat by nature and if the panel had gotten unstuck, she would have found and gotten it open during one of her roams around the rooms upstairs.
Alister gently brushed the cat away as she innocently tried to share his sandwich. He felt himself slowly relaxing. It felt right, to be here with his friends—and the Ragdoll—and to not have to worry that he would suddenly lose control of his mind and attack any of them. Everything was going back to normal, and he was grateful for it.
"My parents are probably gonna come back soon," Valon remarked bitterly.
"I'm sure of it," Raphael grunted, watching Alister feed Liu a small bit of tuna after she tried to bite into his sandwich again. "And Doom Reborn must be planning something." It still did not make sense to him on why they had been set free. The woman who had spoken to them had seemed very ruthless and cruel, since she had killed Hans without a second thought. Whatever she was plotting for them could not be good. And if it was worse than Hans' idea of taking someone to be a hostage, then what was it?
"Most likely," Alister agreed. Soon they would no doubt find out what the new Doom's leader's "others ways" were. He was not especially looking forward to the opportunity.
"Ah well, we can take 'em," Valon grinned impishly, sitting up again. "If we can get rid of the Orichalcos, we can fight off whatever else they throw at us."
"Don't get too prideful," Alister warned.
"Hey, it's just a fact!" Valon retorted.
Raphael shook his head. "Don't start fighting," he pleaded in a low voice. The last thing he felt like doing right now was playing referee in one of Alister's and Valon's quarrels. "We know we'll fight whatever they throw at us, but it's true that if we get too confident in our abilities, they could overpower us." He finished eating and watched as Liu hopped onto his lap. He chuckled softly, petting her.
"Yeah, well, they won't," Valon responded. "They can't, 'cause I'm not willing to let them." He slammed his fist into his palm in determination.
"None of us are," Alister said flatly.
Liu snuggled against Raphael, purring in bliss. She did not seem concerned about the problems at hand, though of course she did not understand about them in the first place. She only understood that she had a caring family to be with, and that was what mattered to her.
The bikers each slept peacefully that night, for the most part. Though they did experience nightmares of what had happened earlier, they awoke remembering that all had ended well and that they were safe. Alister had overcome the darkness, Valon had mended his friendship with him, and Raphael was back to being calm and levelheaded. And Liu was purring quietly on Raphael's bed. Their problems were nowhere near over, but at least for this night, they could be at peace.
Miruko smiled happily as he watched Alister fall back to sleep after waking up from a disturbing dream. "It's okay, big brother," he said softly, hugging the young man gently. "Everything's okay now. You're safe, and Raphael and Valon are safe, too! I knew you'd break free." Miruko had been watching over Alister throughout the entire experience, of course, and he had given strength to his brother to help him overcome the powers of the Orichalcos. "I'm really proud you're my brother!" he declared.
Alister smiled in his sleep, sensing his brother there. "Miruko," he whispered, his tense muscles relaxing.
The child beamed, settling down onto the bed. Sonia and Julien, who were watching from the doorway, looked at each other and grinned, running to Raphael's room, where Liu saw them and continued to purr, knowing that they were friendly. And Mother Mary watched over Valon, gently covering him again with the quilt when he threw it off in his sleep. The bikers' loved ones were always watching over them, happy that Alister, Valon, and Raphael had found each other.