Chapter 4

Thanks to kailover2006, Dark Kaiser, Nedunque, Elemental Gypsy, AaraNari, Ozuma and Blank's Lil' Kitten, Sam, and MagicalKaiLover18 for reviewing!

I know, I know, it's been far too long since an update, I know at least three of you want this fic to continue! I'm sorry! I ran out of ideas! Forgive me!

Enjoy this long-overdue chapter!


Kai was sitting on his bed, head in his hands, utterly motionless. Ozuma hesitated, unsure, now that he was actually in the room, of what to do.

"You okay?" he asked at last.

"Yes."

"Yeah right!" he scoffed, a little bolder now.

"What would you do if I said no?" Ozuma's recently-acquired boldness fled for the hills.

"Force-feed you painkillers." he said at last. Kai chuckled softly.

"You could try."

"I could. And I will if you don't lie down."

"Fighting words, but can you back them up? And I would love to lie down, but unfortunately, moving isn't really an option at this precise moment in time." Sarcasm dripped from every carefully-spoken word.

"Talking shouldn't be, either." Ozuma shot back, his temper starting to rise at Kai's stubbornness.

"Yeah, well …" Ozuma watched Kai's throat move in a quick, convulsive swallow. "I don't take notice of "shouldn't"s."

"How did I guess?" Ozuma muttered under his breath. "You're an idiot, has anyone ever told you?"

"More times than I can count."

"Then you think something might have sunk in?" Irrational anger was tight in Ozuma's chest as he stomped over to Kai. "Are you masochistic, or just plain stubborn?" Before Kai could reply, Ozuma had given him a swift, hard push that sent him reeling backwards onto the bed.

All the colour drained from Kai's face, and he let out a strained hiss, his eyes screwed tightly shut.

"Sadist." he managed at last.

"Try sensible." Ozuma instructed him coolly. He drew the curtains and headed for the door. "See you when your face is back to its normal colour." He shut the door on Kai's incoherent reply.

------

Ray gave him an amazed look as he came out. Ozuma shrugged.

"He's an idiot." was all he said. Ray grinned and nodded.

"And don't we all know it." He paused. "None of us would have dared do that, though." Ozuma's head began to metaphorically swell, until Ray added with a mischievous grin, "None of us have a death-wish."

His bubble well and truly burst, Ozuma glared at Ray and stomped away.

------

Ten minutes later, he was watching Max and Mariam battle through a crack in the door. He considered it his duty to watch every battle with the Scared Spirits, to make sure that they were still under control. And there were times when duty became pleasure. Such as now. This was highly amusing.

"Come on, Maxie, I know you can do better than that!"

Of course he can, Mariam, he hasn't even summoned Draciel yet. Curious. I know the spirits react to emotions - maybe he's afraid that Draciel will refuse to fight at full strength and show him up in front of Mariam. It would make sense.

The bulky green beyblade was spinning stolidly in the centre of the dish, with Sharkcrash darting around the edges and flying in to land an attack now and again.

She won't attack full strength either - this is a much more cautious way of battling than I've ever seen from her before.

Sharkcrash nudged Draciel gently, almost questioningly. The green blade made no reaction, but the owner developed a rather flushed neck and cheeks.

Hilarious. It's flirting via beyblades.

"Get on with it, you two! I'm bored!" Tyson grinned and waved at the glares from his own vantage point near the second door.

So impatient, Tyson. All things come to he who waits.

Deciding that Tyson wasn't worth the air-space taken up by their anger, the opponents faced each other, and their bit-chips began to glow.

"Yeah! That's more like it!" Tyson shouted cheerfully. Ozuma's skin prickled as the Black Tortoise rose from the bit-chip and bellowed a challenge at the armoured shark weaving around it in a figure of eight.

You're right Tyson, that's much more like it.

"You want my best, Mariam? I'll show you!" Max's eyes were alight with sudden determination as he raised his arms. "Draciel! Heavy Viper Wall, now!" The two bit-beasts were engulfed in a whirling purple mass that grew stronger as Max put more and more effort into it.

Mariam tried to fight back, but it soon became clear to Ozuma that she hadn't prepared herself for an attack of this magnitude. Her attacks were disorganised and sloppy, desperate strikes when Draciel's steady power surge hit a low ebb that made no effect on a beyblade built to defend.

In contrast, Max's eyes were fierce with resolve, and a violet glow was beginning to seep from his body as he accessed Draciel's true strength.

The strain of defending herself from an attack that grew stronger with each passing second began to show on Mariam's face, and with a strangled half-sob, she let Sharkcrash slip out of the range of Draciel. In an instant, Draciel surged up to Sharkcrash and with a firm smack, shoved the beyblade out of the dish. Mariam let out a startled cry and fell to her knees, the blow making itself felt in her stomach.

That was child's play to Max. Interesting, to see how much they have all improved. I can see we need work.

Max hurried over to Mariam and extended his hand.

"Good match! Are you ok?" he asked worriedly. "I'm really sorry, I didn't mean to hit you that hard, I kinda got a bit carried away …" Mariam took the shamefaced boy's hand and stood up, laughing.

"Don't worry, Maxie. I'd have been mad if you hadn't." Max looked comically relieved.

"Thanks." He gave her a sunny smile.

"Anytime." She smiled back, a rare smile that was free of any irony. "You're cute when you're angry." she said, her serious tone belied by the grin spread across her face. Max turned an interesting shade of red and visibly searched for words.

"I'm cute all the time!" he offered at last, with a cheeky smile.

Oh, please … Shaking his head and miming being sick, Ozuma moved away from the door and headed back to their rooms. At this rate he was going to end up like Ray and Dunga, and spend the evening watching mindless TV programs made for people whose blood went to the wrong head. He would never have pictured Ray as someone like that, but people were, after all, full of surprises.

To his surprise, when he reached the room he shared with Kai, he found the door, that he knew he'd left closed, slightly ajar, and the sound of voices issuing from within. He put his eye to the gap, looked, and withdrew quickly, his mind working with the split-second image in the darkened room to create a very interesting picture. Don't be silly, he chided himself, you're over-reacting. He hovered near the gap, eavesdropping unashamedly.

" … you ever been to a doctor?"

"No. Why would I? They're headaches."

"Yes, but …"

"But what?"

"I give up, ok? You're hopeless."

"I already knew that." Ozuma dared another look. Ray was sitting on the foot of Kai's bed, legs folded under him in an impossible position and an irritated look on his face, while Kai was lying with his eyes shut, looking smug. His strange mental picture of before, he saw now, was simply because of the angle he had been looking; it had appeared that Ray was sitting on Kai's legs.

You see it everywhere. he thought sternly. Just because he got lonely from time to time didn't mean that every boy remotely his age was that way inclined. But they do look close … a little part of his mind insisted. That's because they're good friends. he insisted back.

"Ozuma?" Damn, he had been spotted. "You can come in, you know. It is your room."

"And mine."

"And you're in it, so why shouldn't he be?" Ray said, with the overly patient air of someone without much of that particular facility left to give. Ozuma stepped in, noting that Ray hadn't moved from his previous position. He sat on his bed and swung his legs backwards and forwards, feeling slightly awkward.

"Your face is back to normal." he said at last. Kai opened his eyes and gave him a brief smile.

"Yeah."

"You look tired, though."

"He does." Ray agreed, with a note of faint triumph that said "I told you so!" as effectively as if he had spoken aloud.

"I don't need you two telling me how I feel!" Both boys blinked at the unexpected anger in Kai's voice.

"Hey, calm down, we didn't mean anything by it!" Ray tried placating him, to no avail.

"Both of you, get out! Go on! Get out!" With a look of confusion and hurt that made even Ozuma, the innocent party, feel slightly guilty, Ray got up and stormed out. Kai turned a hot, glittering stare to Ozuma, rage boiling in the murky grey depths of his eyes. Shrugging carelessly, Ozuma stood.

"You need to get a better grip on your emotions, pal." he said nonchalantly, sauntering from the room. He wouldn't let Kai know that he was hot and cold all over with unreasonable guilt; that the sudden, uncharacteristic burst of fury had affected him far more than he would ever have expected.

Outside, he exchanged raised eyebrows with Ray, who looked like he felt.

"He hasn't lost his temper like that for a long time." Ray said abruptly, as if to fill the vacuum that had appeared between them. "I don't know why …" He trailed off and shook his head with a rueful grin. "He might be my best friend, but there are times he's a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a whole lot of "I-don't-give-a-damn-about-the-rest-of-the-world, you know?" Ozuma nodded. He understood.

Hm. Best friend.


Longer than the last one - slightly - and still not up to my average length. Oh well. Hope everyone else could picture that Max/Mariam bit as well as I could! I tried for a bit of random fluffiness this chapter, to give me a respite to remember, or rewrite, the plot. -.-

Please review!