(A/N) Another one-shot related to LtF, this time a scene that's been bothering me to be included in the main storyline, but for length problems won't. I hope you like it, it follows with LtF universe so to speak, and it's set in the night before Tala's match with Tyson in the first series. Also, it's my first 1st person POV in ages, so I dearly hope it's more or less clear. Mild, almost non existent spoilers for the main storyline and some drama are the warnings I can think of… Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't own Beyblade, but I own plot and OC.
Learning To Fly.
Interlude, Our Last Night.
I woke up with a groan, my back and my head were aching like hell and it felt as if my whole spine was on fire. Someone pressed a cold cloth to my forehead and ran a hand over my hair, I sighed. Bryan. With a supreme effort of will, I opened my eyes, and indeed the pale teen was sitting at the edge of my bed, looking down at me with worry in his eyes. I sighed again as I slowly tried to get up, with a little help from him, and winced again as my back protested, loudly, while my head pounded.
"Hey" Bryan smirked slightly as I blinked repeatedly, trying to make my eyes focus properly.
"Hey back" I mumbled as I finally managed to stop seeing double. I let out a painful groan "My blade for an Advil"
He let out a chuckle as he passed me the so needed painkillers and a glass of water, smirking. Making himself comfortable in my bed, he sat behind me, running a soothing hand over my back. I sighed in content as he repeated the motion, and swallowed the medicine.
"My, I don't think Wolborg would appreciate hearing that" He had the nerve to snicker as I glared, but I leaned on him as I felt my body quickly processing the painkillers, my migraine slowly fading away "Valkov wants to see you" His tone was ghostly, and he was clearly much more worried about me than he cared to admit.
"I know" I cracked my neck and looked back at him; his eyes were clouded, shadowed.
I supposed he was expecting Boris to take his defeat out on me. I smiled slightly, though, as I could see the first signs of remorse appearing beneath the surface of his well craved mask. Bryan is strong, stubborn, and god help me, single minded when it came to duty. I could tell he felt uncomfortable with he had been ordered to do, since it went directly against everything he stood for, but Bryan had always followed orders, and he didn't seem keen on starting to disobey them. I remember that when I first met him, I had admired that trait in him, the ability to adapt and comply with whatever was needed. But now… I know for a fact his eyes will look duller than they already did. I looked away from his blank look at the wall and prepare to stand. My back protested, but I knew it would soon be healed properly. My movements seemed to wake Bryan from whatever memory he was reliving.
"Are you going to be ok?" The pale teen blinked at me, not quite shaking the worried tone out of his voice. I smiled.
"This hasn't killed me yet" I shrugged, and forced back the need to wince as Bryan's eyes darkened at my choice of wording "Look, get some sleep, you look terrible. I'm going to check on Ian and Spencer, then see whatever the Boss wants" Bryan nodded, though I could see he was doubtful of my ability to walk, and lay back on my bed. I made a point of frowning and narrowing my eyes at him "Bed thief" He smirked, and for a moment his eyes were alight with mirth.
"So? Sue me" He turned so his back was to me, and pretended to be asleep.
Rolling my eyes at his childish display, I slid out of the room in silence.
Ian and Spencer's room is quite easy to reach from the one I share with Bryan… well, if you know this maze of corridors and stairs as well as I do. I passed a guard post and tilted an imaginary hat at the guard, who looked like he was about to fall asleep standing. He sighed and gave me a poor smirk as he straightened in his post, but I knew the moment I turned the corner, he would fall back again. Reaching for the door, I stopped for a moment, straining my ears to listen to even the slight less of sounds coming from the room. Instead, I heard silence. Opening the door carefully, so as to not awake those inside, I slid into the room, like one more of the shadows, and stilled against the closed door.
Moonlight fell from the window of the tower, illuminating the sleeping figures in the room. Spencer was facing me, his breathing slowed and, though he was frowning very slightly, I knew he was peaceful. As much as his conscience would allow him to be peaceful, though, for I knew rather well what was hidden behind the impassive and generally aggressive green eyes.
It never ceased to amuse me, how everyone thought Bryan was the violent one of us, yet never bothered to give Spencer a second look. Don't misunderstand me, Bryan is a formidable opponent, particularly whenever something he considers his responsibility is threatened. He's capable of great violence, and he doesn't care about the consequences when he's defending something, or someone, but he's generally passive by nature. He shies away from others, generally staying in the background, observing, but never daring to participate in anything unless it's strictly necessary.
Ian says it's 'cause Bryan's anti-social. I know it's because he would never forgive himself if he ever caused sorrow to someone he holds dear… again.
Spencer, on the other hand, is bitter deep inside. He doesn't hate the world or makes dramatic motions or speeches, but it's there, chewing his soul, the bitterness of knowing your parents couldn't care less where you are. That in almost six years of separation, they have not once tried to reach him. That they want nothing to do with him anymore. It's there, present in everything he does, the way he moves, the way he barks orders at his subordinates, in the way he uses irony and sarcasm to make the youngest students cry.
Sometimes, when he's distracted, his eyes turn distant, and you can actually see the neglected child lurking behind them, waiting patiently for someone to acknowledge him and treat him as such. But then the window's hastily shut, and his imposing barriers, physical and mental, go up, and there's nothing but mistrust and self loathing left in his eyes.
My eyes lingered on him for a moment, then I turned to Ian, and I felt them soften completely.
He was curling in bed, eyes shut tightly, shivering in his restless state. His breathing was raged, probably from a nightmare, and his face was screwed in fear. He let out a silent whimper, as I slid closer, finally sitting next to him.
I honestly believe Ian is the most scarred of all of us, even more so than Kai.
Kai's mother is still alive, at least.
Ian is strange, though. For all he has suffered, he has managed to deal with it, perhaps even better than the rest of us. He's cheerful, in his own twisted way, and he manages to remind us we're still human, despite what others might say, even in the darkest of times. I'm not sure I would be able to carry the weight he does, the stigma everyone has put upon him.
Ian's mother, Mitzuko, Voltair's favorite child, died giving birth to him.
His grandfather can't stand the sight of him, and neither his father or his uncle could ever be found in the same room with the short blunette, avoiding his presence at all costs. I know he'll never admit it out loud, but that was what hurted him the most, why he never left Kai's side. He's the only pretense of a family he knows, the only one not even Voltair can deny him. I've watch him since I met him, subconsciously so eager to please everyone, perhaps all he wants is to make them forget who he is, what, in his mind, he's done.
I pressed a finger to his lips, to prevent him from making noise, and shook him awake carefully. He let out a sharp gasp as he jerked awake, but relaxed as soon as he caught sight of me. I smiled softly, letting my eyes do the talking, and Ian looked away after a moment.
"No one's angry at you, Shrimp" My voice was less than a whisper, and even I had problems to listen to it, but the way his eyes shifted to mine again told me he had heard me.
"It's not that" He was uncomfortable, I could tell, and I knew my presence wasn't welcome at the moment.
"Fine… but I really need you to sleep now" I smiled again, and he nodded in a submissive way. I barely stop myself from frowning "We'll talk tomorrow, 'key? After the match" I saw doubt flash in his eyes despite his efforts to hide it, and I smirked knowingly, ruffling his hair affectionately "Everything's going to be fine, trust me"
I stood up as he rearranged himself in an attempt of going back to sleep and slid towards the door in silence, my eyes flickered to Spencer's bed and found two flashing emeralds looking at me. I shrugged and tilted my head towards Ian, take care of him, after a second of doubt, the blond nodded, and I slid out of the room somewhat reassured.
As I climbed the stairs to Boris' office, though, I felt a cold wind pass through me, and I instantly knew something was wrong. The air was thick with tension as I knocked on the double oak doors.
Most people I know would expect Boris office to be scary, and perhaps it is for some people, but to me, it has been a sacred place of peace and quiet ever since I set foot in this god forsake place. If there is anything Boris Valkov has, is good taste. The ample space his office occupies has a practical design, yet it encapsulates everything that Boris personality is in the penetrating feeling it irradiates. Bookshelves line the walls on the left, while at the right there are large crystal windows that overlook the main patio of the Abby. The office is located in the highest floor of the North tower, five stories above street level. On a clear day, though, you can see the city in the distance from the wide windows. There's a rather monumental fireplace among the bookshelves, made entirely of white marble that contrasts quite loudly against the dark and sober bookshelves. At the very end of the room, two paintings hang from the wall. The left one is of Boris parents, both in classical aristocratic poses, while the other one is of Voltair. The cherry wood desk rests under them, with a very classy design that somehow manages to mix with the rest of the decorations of the room. There's also a very out of date phonograph in the far left corner, given that Boris has a thing for playing his music directly from the old vinyl disks.
As I slid inside the magnificent room, I found the boss was playing Carmine Burana on the old phonograph, as he watched the distant city lights through the opened curtains. The image instantly gave me an apocalyptic feeling as the roaring fireplace casted an eerie golden glow over the room, and my suspicions something was wrong redoubled.
"Sir?" I silently closed the doors behind me, eyes fixed on the taller man.
"Lock the door boy" There was something off in the old man's voice, but I complied non the less.
"You wanted to see me, sir" Breath deeply, I told myself, and don't let your concern show.
Because, goddamn it, I was concerned. The eyes that met my gaze as he turned to acknowledge me weren't the eyes of the man to whom I felt the deepest of respects. Boris is a strong man, rough, scarred, unfaltering. What I was seeing were the eyes of a doomed man, a man who had long since given up all pretense of hope, of trying.
And it scared me.
The only time I had seen the wine colored irises looking so hopeless was that when he revealed his secret to me, the true nature of his torture; and there's still nothing more terrifying than that, at least not for me, for I know I risk myself with every choice, with every decision I take, one step closer to gain myself that burden, that cross he so stoically carries on his back.
And I know I'm not strong enough to deal with something like that, it would destroy me, for sure, but it would also destroy everything I hold dear. Ian, Spencer, Bryan, even Kai… Yazel, Ruth, Marie, Rose, Ewan, Ruby, Amethyst, Eva, each and every person I've care for, Saille and Uath, turn them into dust.
Like it happened to Boris wife.
He must have felt my sudden discomfort, because he turned his eyes back to the window. I faintly noticed there was an opened bottle of wine, already half way gone, and two glasses placed on the desk. One was almost empty, the other glimmered with the dark liquid inside.
"You'll lose tomorrow's match" His voice held a certain tint of finality, not that of an order, but of a known fact.
"Why in heaven's name would I do that?" I couldn't quite shake the disbelieving note of my voice.
How could I? How could I throw nearly ten years of hard work to the wind by losing to an overrated child who knew nearly nothing compared to me? How could I lost against a weak creature that hid behind the pretense of controlling a sacred spirit, and yet knew nearly nothing about it? How could I give up all the sacrifices that had taken me here? Alexei's life, Ian's perpetual masked melancholy, Kai's memories, Spencer's bitterness, Bryan's lost hopes, hell, my own life. Everything I had gone through, since Boris assumed control of my life, everything I've learnt, everything I had been taught…
Why the hell would I throw it all to waste against a flimsy boy whose only talent came from his apparently unending source of luck?
"Because you can't win" Boris voice was slowly growing hoarse, and I saw the black glow around him flicker faintly. Dread settled in my stomach at the sight.
"Sir… Boss, what's wrong?" I took a faltering step towards him and he raised a hand to touch the cold crystal of the window.
Outside, the snow fell heavily, giving the landscape the unnatural glow only fresh snow can. The music bothered me in a primitive way, as if it foretold what I was about to hear. The black glow flickered around him in a steady flow, sober and dark and so… him.
I was scared.
"You cannot win" His eyes were distant, weary "Don't you feel it? Can't you sense it in the very core? We are to fail, and there's nothing we can do about it"
"Worse of it, is that it's all my fault" I didn't know what to say, I truly didn't. He seemed so lost, so… defeated "We should have left when Voltair assumed complete control… but now it's too late all together. You will fight, and even with all your advantage, you'll lose"
"I…" I took a deep breath, and steadied my thoughts "I know that we're not precisely on the… good side, but… but we could help them instead" Even to my own ears it sounded impossible and false, but for a strange moment, I couldn't bear the thought of the stoic man crumbling down "Perhaps even join them, they received Kai, after all"
"It might work for you, Rascal, but some of us are much more complex than that" His lips twisted into a grim smile, and I felt like a small child again.
"I'm an old man boy. I learnt to dance a song, and now that they've changed it, I can't follow it" His voice wavered slightly, and his hand clutched the crystal of the window "But you're young. Go hide with them if you want to, I'm not holding you back… go to them and take the rest with you, but I'm standing my ground until the end" There was a final note in his voice as he said so, and I knew it was time to make a dangerous choice. The glow around him died suddenly as he bore his eyes on the landscape.
I froze. That was as much as admitting I was free. I paused for a moment. Sure, I could go and with any luck, I could convince the others to join them. Even Bryan… but it wouldn't be fair. It would be like deciding to live permanently in the Blue Moon, accepting defeat and running away from a problem that was apparently too big to be overcome.
It would mean to become a coward.
"No" I smiled thinly, and to my surprise, he mirrored as he turned to face me, eyes hollow "Then, we'll stand our ground, even if this isn't what we wanted"
He shook his head and turned back to the window, but motioned to the wine on the desk lazily, almost regretfully.
"You're stubborn mule, Rascal" But despite being harsh in his wording, and despite giving me an exasperated look, the tone was almost endearing.
"I learnt from the best, sir" I crossed the room, refilled his glass, took mine and walked to join him at the window "It so happens my teacher is a stubborn bastard"
"Congratulate the man next time you see him, Rascal" He accepted the glass, and stirred the dark liquid in slow circles of his wrist "He's done a fine job with you"
"Perhaps he's not as much as a bastard as he would like to assume" I dared to smirk, shrugging slightly. I rose my glass and sighed "For whatever is to come"
"For failure then" He rose his own, shaking his head, before taking a long sip of the drink.
Even the wine tasted bittersweet that night. I wasn't sure then, but my instincts told me it was the beginning of the end. We drank in silence, until both glasses were empty, and I was motioned once again to refill them. I did so flawlessly, moving in the silence of the room with a resigned ease. Once again, he took the drink from my hand and settled his eyes towards the landscape, but not really watching it.
"Do you know what war does to an empath, boy?" The question startled me as I turned my eyes from the window to him, curious.
"Sir?" My body felt the heat of the wine and the fireplace, which mixed with the music had me inside a surreal mind state.
"It breaks you. Shatters your mind and soul from the inside out" There was bitterness in his voice, and I instantly knew he was talking about himself "Empaths aren't supposed to feel hatred boy, for the simple reason hatred is the key to killing" His lips thinned as his eyes darkened "Empaths aren't supposed to kill"
I stood in silence, not sure of how to answer, or if I should even answer to that. I looked down at the merry lights in the distance. Wondering if the people who lived there knew even a fraction of what was at stake in the next day's battle. I resigned myself to fate as I drank the last of the wine on one last sip. I would try, try my damn hardest, and leave the rest to fate.
What else could I do?
"I'm afraid sir" My voice was softer, quiet "I'm afraid you're right, I might lose tomorrow's match"
"Do you know why we're in this mess, Rascal?" His voice held a note of irony as he tactfully ignored my admission. I shook my head in all honestly "Because we're the soldiers fighting someone else's war. We follow orders we don't understand, we do things we know we shouldn't for the sake of following an order. In all I hope you've learnt at my side, this is the most important lesson of them all, Tala"
I turned at the use of my first name, watching him with a resigned expression. I suddenly felt tired, the weight of my last decision finally catching up with me, the stress of the latest experiment, and the now certain knowledge I was doomed before the start. Many memories flashed through my conscience in that moment, but one in particularly stood up from the rest. A confession made not so long ago, which should have hurted a lot more than it did.
The redhead was sitting on the rail of the window, letting the freezing breeze inside, as he watched the students on the main patio. The purple haired man was working intently in some papers on his desk, he was so concentrated, and he didn't even bother to complain about the window. Blue eyes shifted from the ground below, to the man in the desk, drinking the sight of him and trying to point out what exactly made the man thick. A thought nagged at the back of his head, and it had been bothering him ever since they had won the last championships. Perhaps it was insane, or stupid, but he couldn't quite shake the feeling away. Working up enough courage to ask, he looked directly into the man's wine colored eyes.
"Boss?" For some reason his voice was softer, almost shy, and he kicked himself mentally for not keeping his composure.
"What?" The man looked up only to face the once more expressive eyes, and he felt uneasiness crawling up his spine.
Despite the sudden urge to do so, the taller man did not break eye contact.
"Boss… were you the cause of my father's anger that night? I mean…" He stopped to choose his words carefully "Did you deliberately sent him to attack my mother?" There, he had asked.
The redhead was already starting to regret having said a thing, as the man's lips thinned and his eyes grew colder. He didn't look away though. After a long silence, the purple haired man sighed.
There was another long silence as the redhead took in the information, but to the man's surprise, there were no yells, not cries of everlasting hatred, nothing.
"Oh" He said, and turned back to watch the others, five stories below them.
For some strange reason, the redhead's chest felt lighter.
"Look at yourself, what are you now? An obedient soldier who will comply to any order" His voice snapped me out of my little daze, and I detected the thick layer of disgust in his tone.
"I do what is required to survive" I don't know why I turned defensive at that moment, but my eyes narrowed as I placed the glass down the desk.
"Bullshit" I blinked at the plain and undignified response "You do what you're told to do. But learn it well, Rascal, it's not worth it in the end"
"I…" I found I couldn't counter that, and I sighed bitterly "I know"
The music became the only sound in the room again, and for a long moment I thought about his words. Was this really how things were going to end? Just like that?
"It's getting late, you need to rest for your important match tomorrow" I couldn't but snort at the hidden irony in his words, and shrugged.
"I'll be seeing you around, then sir" I was sure the man wanted me gone so he could get drunk beyond the point of no return.
When I received no answer, I turned towards the double doors, feeling caged and trapped like I hadn't in years.
"Tala" I stopped and turned, one hand still in the handle.
"Promise me something, brat" There was a note of hopelessness in his voice that made me sick to the stomach "Don't become a man like me"
I blinked, taken a back by the sudden, alien request, and met his gaze after a moment of doubts. After a few seconds, I knew exactly what to say.
"I know sir" My voice wavered slightly. How do you say goodbye to a man like him, without quite saying so? "That you've done many… questionable things in your life" He snorted "But I'm sure I can learn from your mistakes…" He nodded, and his lips twisted in what I guessed was a faint smile "My wounds need rest to heal sir, good night"
"Good night Rascal"
As I closed the heavy doors, I felt I was sealing a man's death sentence, while starting to walk the green mile myself.
Notes on this chapter:
This one was hard, but not in the sense of characterization or dialogue, as it pretty much wrote itself out. It's the mood that gets me nervous, as it's not generally my style. I do like the quality of despair this piece reflects and the in deep it shows in the Boris/Tala relationship. He's pretty much the only father figure he's had since he became an orphan and yeah… it's a pretty messed up situation. Anyway, I hope you liked it, comments more than welcome, please review.