Chapter 4: Zones


"Ray-chan, did you just purr?"

The neko-jin's eyes widened and he tried to fight the blush creeping onto his cheeks. How embarrassing! Ray tried to keep his 'cattish tendencies' to a minimum, as they tended to disturb people (Random tongue baths were especially a 'no'. Not that it mattered, since the only one he'd enjoy licking all over was-)

Oh.

Ohhhhhh.

That felt...really nice.

So...Oh...nice...

Ray's next purr was more of a pleasure-filled moan, "Don't stop..."

"Oh, you like that?"

'Yes, yes!' Ray screamed in his head, but spoke nothing.

The blond laughed. "You're just like a cat, Ray-chan! You like being scratched behind the ears and everything." But to Ray's disappointment he withdrew his hand from the neko-jin's sensitive, pointed EAR, (what were YOU thinking, pervs!) a blush blotting out the boy's freckles.

The raven-haired teen noted with some annoyance that rubbing against Maxie's legs and demanding he continue would be terribly inappropriate and weird, and might freak the American out. Dammit. So the Chinese blader settled for leaning in real close, their shoulders brushing as he said huskily in what he liked to call his 'Low-and-sexy' voice, "Maybe I am...like a cat."

(Oh, he was so cool with lines... he impressed himself.)

He hesitated, thinking back on his catlike qualities... "Does that bother you?" Ray asked carefully.

Max arched golden brows in surprise. "What?" He blinked in surprise. "Why...oh, of course not!" He slung an arm around Ray's shoulders, bringing them closer. "I think that's really cool!" Perhaps to prove his point, Max flashed that million-watt smile, which made the neko-jin smile in return. Unfortunately, the blond also let his arm drop, returning safely to his lap.

Ray took a deep, calming breath.

'Smooth, Ray-chan, be smoooooth...

...did I just refer to myself as Ray-chan?'

Ray opened his mouth to reply with something smooth – something Tyson had said, in fact: "You don't know how much that means to me, coming from you" ...Gods, Kai was dense... only to be cut off by Max clapping his hands together and asking, "Sooo...what about Kai?"

Speak of the dense...er, the devil.

The Chinese blader waved a careless hand and moved as he close as could without climbing into Max's lap. Hmm, not a bad idea...no, no, later. "Max," he whispered, brining out his "Low-and-sexy" voice again, "I don't want to talk about that idiot. Or the other idiot, for that matter."

"Other-?"

"I meant Tala." Ray's eyes narrowed. "This so-called 'bet'-" he spat contemptuously, then softened. "Is an excuse to themselves. Tala and Kai thinkthey need a reason to draw close. Max, I..." The words simply would not come. For the first time in his life, Ray could not speak what he so desperately needed.

The blond wasn't look at him, staring guiltily down at his hands, so the neko-jin tugged his gaze back up with a gentle hand on his friend's chin. Their lips were mere centimeters apart, eyes locked now, and Ray's fingers still grasped Max's chin.

"Ray?"

The Chinese blader's golden eyes flickered over the blond, analyzing his reaction to the close proximity. Max was flustered, to say the least. His face was fast approaching a color known as 'beetroot', light blue eyes growing impossibly wide. He leaned back a little, but did not change his position. Ray was dimly aware that if it were Kai in this situation (he didn't even want to think about Tala!), Kai would take this negatively – that Tyson didn't like him at all, and was creeped out. Ray knew better.

"People don't need a reason to be close together." Ray said meaningfully. Not quite what he wanted to say, but good enough, he supposed.

Gold eyes darkening, he murmured, "I don't want to justify my actions, Max. You and I have been friends since the beginning, it seems like... but I want to be closer to you."

"We are close," Max protested weakly, but there was a distinct tilt to his head as he leaned forward again...as if to kiss him first.

Heh, not if Ray had any say in that.

"Not this close." Before the blond could ask what he meant, Ray closed the distance between him and his love, gently pressing their lips together. Max's eyes widened further before slowly sliding shut and opening his soft, delicious mouth, letting Ray's probing tongue enter and run over his. The half-American teen sighed into the kiss and wrapped his arms around Ray, bringing him closer, before he started to duel fiercely with his own tongue. Ray moaned at the sudden display of aggression, but didn't relinquish dominance. A couple of minutes later, the raven-haired boy broke the heated kiss, much to both of their dissatisfaction. Golden eyes widened. Somehow, he had ended up in Max's lap.

"I love you." Now, was that so hard?

Well... considering that little love confession had come from Max, not Ray...

Ray pressed close and smiled into Max's neck. "I love you too, Max." The American's skin smelled wonderful... Ray snuggled nearer, giving the soft skin a little lick. Maxie gasped, now blushing a crimson color, not as fierce as before. The neko-jin smiled, then licked his way down the blond's neck, finding all the sensitive spots and stopping to nip and suckle, causing the blond to moan and wriggle in appreciation.

A sudden rumble – thunder? It was a cloudless day! – caused Ray to pause in his ministrations. He met the embarrassed (and flushed) Max's eyes.

"Sorry, Ray-chan, but I might be hungry for something else..." he gave a silly laugh, "Say, food?"

Ray smiled reassuringly at the blond before giving him a quick kiss. "That's okay, Max. I've already accomplished what I had set out to do."

As Max processed what Ray had meant, his eyes widened with sudden realization and he shoved Ray off him, who only laughed as Max yelled,

"You gave me a hickey!"

"More than one, love, more than one."

"Argh! Ray-chan! You shouldn't have done that!"

"Well, first; I didn't hear you complaining a couple of minutes ago, and second; you're mine now. I see no problem with marking you." His tone dropped with the possessive words, then he grinned, "Third; I am like a cat."

"What? Hey, wait... some male cats – like tomcats, my mom told me - bite the necks of females when they - Ooh!" Max stopped and glared. It was the most unthreatening thing Ray had ever seen. "I hope you don't think I'm on the receiving end!"

"Oh, yes you are." Ray assured with a smirk. "You're shorter."

"By, like, an inch!" Max shot back, non-threatening glare still present.

"And you're younger, too, therefore less experienced."

"What? And you have 'experience'?"

"Being older makes me more likely to take charge."

Max was stumped by such absurd logic, floundering out, "Well...Well...You're prettier!"

"So? I'm also sexier." Ray pointed out, feeling triumphant. "You're the one that looks..." The raven-haired teen paused, finally realizing of what he was implying. What did age, height or even looks have to do with anything? And- "Why are we even talking about this?"

"...I have no idea."

"...huh." Ray contemplated pinching himself to see if this was some wacky dream.

"Anyway," Max started, catching Ray's attention once more. "You should have thought of what my mother will think when she sees these!"

Ray shuddered, imagining Judy's reaction. Good shit! She was going hunt him down and murder him for touching her precious only son – who was ever-so-valuable now that he was a member of a two-time world champion team. There would be no lost love for an evil cat-boy who disapproved of her, tainting her son's mind and now his body.

He was so caught up in gruesome scenes depicting his painful death he almost missed Max's grumble, "Over someone who's not even my boyfriend, by the way."

Ray's eyebrows rose beneath his headband. "But you said-"

"I said I love you, Ray-chan, not that I would date you." Max sniffed, looking greatly offended...well, sort of. His lips twitched, but he went on seriously, "Not that you even asked."

"What the-"

"Hmph!"

"Maxie," He started, using the nickname, "I'm sorry. I... didn't realize?" Crap, that sounded like a question more than anything else.

Max sniffed indignantly again, got up and started to walk away, his nose in the air – in other words, walking and sulking, a dangerous pastime if Ray said so himself. Ray, realizing Max had not yet accepted his apology, left the safety of the park bench to catch up with the blond, wrapping his arms around the other boy's waist and physically stopping him.

He nuzzled Max's stiff neck, asking, "Will you be mine, my Maxie, forever, until death do us part?"

"Are you asking me to go steady or to marry you?"

"...I'm just saying whatever comes to mind, love."

"Not very smooth," Max teased, glancing over his shoulder with a cheeky grin. So he wasn't really mad...but...

Ray stiffened. "How do you know about that?" Did Kai...?

"I've seen you practicing in the mirror." He confessed, laughing.

'Shit,' Ray mentally cursed, feeling his face heat up in mortification.

"As for your 'proposal'; I will, but," The blond finally turned and wrapped his arms around Ray's neck. Big blue eyes stared into his seriously. "You've got a lot of making up to do."

"Oh?" the raven-haired blader said, relieved that Max had seemingly dropped the 'smooth' thing. "And how can I do that, love?"

"You could buy me lunch, love."

"That's it?"

"Well..." Max looked thoughtful, then an (evil?) little grin settled on his face. Ray wondered what he had gotten himself into. "We'll have to see..." Ray raised an eyebrow. Max giggled insanely, big blue eyes anything but innocent.

Ray looked at him with his last resort- the ever-so-pitiful and pleading puppy-dog eyes. Well, he looked more like an abandoned kitten, but that's beside the point. He'd never used them on Max, (or anyone, really...) so he didn't know if this would help him get his way...

"Aww. how cute!" Max patted his hair, brightly informing him, "It won't work on me, Ray-chan, I invented that look...but I forgive you anyway, added that you owe me a favor later." The neko-jin blinked, but nodded. "Now let's go get lunch."


Max had grabbed his pouting boyfriend's hand and proceeded to drag him to the nearest restaurant- a WacDonalds, a personal favorite of his. Ray ordered a Tamatori Burger, Max a Teri Cheese Burger, yum! They sat down with their meal, and since Kai was still a no-no topic, Max began informing Ray of Tala and Kenny's little 'date'.

"The Scary Russian danced, eh?" Ray repeated with surprise.

Max nodded, images of Tala and DDR flashing in his head... "Yep! And he's quite good, too, if I do say so myself."

Ray frowned, golden eyes flashing with jealousy.

"I'm better," he stated rather heatedly, a low growl making itself known. Max blinked, picking it up instantly. An (evil!) smirk (?) found it's way onto Max's adorable face.

"Ah, now that I don't know. Tala was really shaking it." He half-teased.

Ray's growl doubled in volume, making some people stare. Max's (evil!) smirk widened into a full-blown (totally evil!) grin.

"Perhaps if you showed me?" Max offered, feigning innocence.

Ray's eyes lit up and he grabbed Max's hand, pulling the amused blond away from their trash to an arcade, where he proceeded to shake his ass to an extremely upbeat song. And, boy, was Max sure wishing that they weren't in public (the tabloids would just love this!), preventing the neko-jin from having his merry way with him, because with the way those hips swayed, Max was sure wanting to-

Eh heh.

When Ray got down, his cheeks were flushed and there was a grin plastered to his handsome face. "I told you I was better."

Max could only nod and smile sweetly.

...because – Ray would never know this - Tala's score was higher.


Kai was wearing leather pants. Really, really tight leather pants.

Though Tyson would like to say he was thinking on the animals slaughtered to make such glorious pants, at that particular moment the world champion's mind could only comprehend one thing:

Kai was wearing leather pants.

As hard as he tried, Tyson couldn't tear his eyes away from the gentle sway of Kai's hips... and found himself glaring at the three belts Kai had draped across his waist, which obstructed his view of the most important part! The unfairly attractive Russian also wore another belt of a darker color, (which made the other three seem excessive, but they looked cool) tight around his middle, where a plain white tee was tucked. His jacket – also leather- was unzipped and had short sleeves like his usual one, but fiery wings were emblazoned on the back. He had forsaken the scarf for this occasion as well, instead a silver pendant hung from his neck. However, the most drawing part of his attire remained-

Whether some act of mercy or a cruel, cruel torture, Kai turned around, facing Tyson and breaking the boy's stare. Well, for a moment the teen's eyes lingered on the new area presented, but that was only natural, right? His eyes quickly snapped upward.

"Are you coming or not?" Kai's violet gaze conveyed how clearly annoyed he was that Tyson, of all people, should lag behind.

Placing a hand behind his head, Tyson laughed awkwardly. "Yeah, sort of... That beybattle wiped me out, you know!" His grin stretched wide as he asked, "Did I ever tell you what an intense opponent you are?"

'And those pants did NOT help my concentration...'

Piercing violet crinkled in smile. "Only for you, Tyson."

Tyson blinked. 'What the heck does that mean...?'

"...I know." Cinnamon eyes closed, Tyson's smile seeming almost too big for his soft, round face. "It's great that we can go all out together and not worry about hurting eachother, isn't it? Like the perfect rivals." He cracked one open, watching Kai carefully.

Something flickered in Kai's dark violet, but all he said was, "...Yeah."

Tyson wanted to sigh.

In fact, he took a moment to bemoan his tragic fate, dramatic tears rolling down his cheeks. Maybe it was wishful thinking, but... He liked to imagine Kai felt the same way he did, somewhere deep that icy heart of his. But nothing was ever going to happen, because Tyson was suffering from random, insane fear. That's right, he was scared...he knew he shouldn't be, but whenever he got close those questions started popping up.

Oh, you know, the agonizing,'What if Kai is straight?'. Well, if Tyson wasn't, it didn't seem like Kai even could be, but you never know...And Kai was never going to do anything if he was gay...

'Why-oh-why did I fall for-'

...And Kai was giving him a very disturbed look.

The navy-haired teen blinked, then bounced on the sidewalk, suddenly almost as hyperactive as Maxie. "So let's go get that meal you promised!"

Kai arched an eyebrow, then turned and resumed his graceful walk. "Hope you brought money."

"Heeeey..." Tyson crossed his arms, glaring and unintentionally looking a lot like his captain. "Winner pays, remember? Kai? You remember?"

"Hn."

"KAAAAAIIIII!"


...Ah, there was nothing quite relaxing on a nice and peaceful day, wasting the time away doing nothing...

Except this was Tala.

Tala didn't do 'wasting time'. He'd grown up with Boris breathing down his neck.Wasting time earned getting leered at, withdisturbing comments about pushing your youthful body to work harder. Wasting time got you traumatized for life.

So he trained, he battled, he plotted the murder of one blue-haired midget of a pop singer, he...read a book...

Well, his newest book was sitting at home, jammed under his bed with several others he couldn't bear seeing at the moment (aka, the entire Harry Potter series)... and he had read almost everything else in his home library three times that week in a mad reading fit to save his scarred mind. Which brought him here, to a bookstore in the mall, hand wavering over the shelves...

...and the shojo manga was calling him...

Tala did not read shojo manga. He barely read manga in general. Kai was the one with the enormous stash he thought no one knew about. The redhead's fingers brushed over the spine of something called Desire, when something glommed onto his jean-clad legs. He turned his gaze down, ready to glare the murder he wished to inflict upon a certain pop princess when he realized:

There were two somethings on his legs.

Red hair, tanned skin, 'X'-shaped scar...Daichi?

And, more importantly, the brown mop that was Kenny.

"Tala!" He loved the way Kenny screamed his name. "You have to help us!"

"SHE'S CRAZY, I TELL YOU!" Daichi bellowed, looking like a frantic monkey.

Everyone in the store but a few teenage girls, who were giggling and whispering to eachother, was glaring at the three bladers. Tala glared back. Everyone looked hastily away. Smirking at that, the Russian bent down (whoa, they were both so short!) and put his arms across their shoulders, which got more giggles...well...hmm...

"Shh... It's, uh, okay." Hm. Crap. He wasn't good at the whole 'comfort' thing. " Who's crazy?" Besides me for you, Kenny...Damn, that was corny...Wait...OH MY EFFING-! I'M TURNING INTO KAI!

Tala twitched. And twitched some more.

"Well-"

"SHE'S INSANE! MY STYLE IS UNIQUE!" Tala clamped a hand over Daichi's loud mouth and waited for Kenny's answer.

"Hilary's taking us shopping," The brunette mumbled, looking a little embarrassed at how silly that sounded as he explained, "It's really bad! She's trying to force all sorts of weird clothes on us!"

Tala's jaw dropped in surprise, his own words of a week ago coming back to him.

"He wouldn't dress so badly if I could get a hold of him..."

A smirk that could only be classified as EVIL appeared on Tala's face. "Well, let's find Hilary and have a little talk about this, boys..."


Tyson drained his bowl, then leaned back and sighed in bliss. "YUM! That was delicious! My compliments to the chef!" He enthused, then paused as he noticed Kai's stare. "Something the matter? Don't you like this kind?"

Kai shook his head, muttered under his breath to his bowl something that sounded an awful lot like there being 'few things more unromantic than ramen noodles' but couldn't be. Then he glared at the perfectly innocent bowl of noodles, soup, various veggies. More particularly, the bit of egg topping the dish.

'If it weren't dead (and food), it would be withering under that evil Death Glare 500.' Tyson found himself thinking quite insanely, before switching his attention to completely Kai.

Even while looking murderous, Kai was the most gorgeous person he'd ever seen. 'Pretty' wasn't the right word for it, nor was 'handsome'. 'Beautiful'? ...Maybe if he was feeling poetic (a rare, alcohol-induced state. He blamed Gramps.).

Kai was simply...Kai. No one could mistake those features – those defiant eyes, flawless skin, blue triangles and, of course, that infamous gray and blue-black hair. All made complete with that disapproving scowl Tyson had grown to love... To make matters worse, Kai was confident in everything he did, cool as ice unless you somehow manage to reallyyyy annoy him (an art Tyson was proud to have perfected!).

Tyson smiled thinly, knowing he should simply be glad that he was of the privleged few who could honestly say they knew that deep down, Kai was a good person.

That, and the Russian could never be a villain – the one time he tried, he was found to have a terrible evil laugh.

Tyson suddenly wanted to laugh at that memory, so long ago, back in their first year as the BladeBreakers... when Kai thought he was alone in the world...

"Sasuke-e..." someone whined.

Tyson blinked, snapping of his Kai-pondering and turning his eyes upon a strange pair of boys. One was blond and tanned, the other dark-haired and pale.

And the blond was being ignored. (Tyson immediately sympathized.)

"Sasukeeee..." he repeated, rocking impatiently on his stool. His light blue eyes were wide and imploring, and he was doing the best puppy-face possible with (cat-like, maybe?) whiskers.

The pale boy didn't look up. His response was simple: "Hn."

The beyblader blinked. That was familiar.

The blond boy tried again. "Saaaaasukeeeeee... I'm hungryyyyy..."

Now he looked up, narrowing dark eyes. "So order another bowl." He suddenly smirked. "You're paying, after all."

The tanned youth crossed his arms, pouting. "No fair, you're the rich one!" The blond paused, and an impish kitsune grin formed across his face as his eyes slipped shut. Tyson found himself thinking that was far better suited for the blond, with his whiskers and all... especially when he began to laugh evilly. Not that bad, either.

The dark-haired friend arched an eyebrow and - somehow - managed to gracefully slurp ramen. The navy-haired teen was thoroughly impressed.

"You're right...I guess that's the price I have to pay." He pitched forward, placing a hand on the pale boy's cheek. "To be on top, I mean."

His hand was quickly slapped away, followed by a grumpy, "We're in public!"

Tyson watched with complete interest now. Eavesdropping as it was...he didn't care.

"So? I'm hungry...but not for food." The blond reached up and traced his "friend's" jaw, not even bothering to whisper, "...My Delicious Little Ramen Noodle."

Sasuke, anger-mark pulsing, snapped, "I won't accept that type of talk outside the bedroom!"

He stood up and stormed out of the stand, his lover laughing as he followed behind.

'"Outside the bedroom"...' Tyson repeated in his head, mouth falling open in a little 'o'. Stunned as he was by the shameless display, he couldn't stop a little part of himself from wishing that was him and a certain gorgeous rival of his...


End chapter.