Sorry for the wait, people! (hides) Thank you to zekesbabe, Celtic Warrior, Lady Rusk -Raku-, cheny, Black Ice Phoenix Wolf, ayane, keisan, TalaKaiReiLover, Black-Dranzer-1119, tntiggris, Dark-Princess-Hikari, hieinkurama, lilhazelnutta, Intense Innocence, Yurii Savinov, Kaei Kon, Amethyst Tiger Tears, chibirei1227, Ayasuni Zeyy (yes, Ray, not Rei! Whoo!) brittany, (and natasha?) amber, a-devoted-life, Yume no Anime, Maci May, hoshicat, KenshinGal128, CrzyFreek09, Silk Yuzu, Thiendrah, Nedunque, rikku001, kailover2006, NKingy and Crystal-light-27. I hope I haven't missed anyone out! (fingers fall off from typing)
A special thanks to zekesbabes, who beta-ed this (my first beta!) and pretty much gave me the inspiration to write this! (I got hopelessly stuck about a quarter of the way through) So, thank you! (hugs) Also, thanks to AnimeQueen48 (I did spell that right, didn't I?) for reviewing the first chapter and reading the second and telling me in no uncertain terms how much she loved it! (hugs again)
Luv to all my wonderful reviewers! (hugs reviwers) Please enjoy!
Kai stood up.
"Are you coming to train?" he asked indifferently. Ray stared up, taken aback. Was Kai really going to act as if nothing had happened between the two of them? "If not, I'll tell the others you weren't feeling up for it, okay?" Although nothing in Kai's face betrayed a hint of emotion, one hand reached out and brushed lightly against Ray's cheek. Ray couldn't stop a relieved grin spreading over his face.
"Yeah, okay." he answered, climbing to his feet. Kai headed out the room, gesturing at the last minute for Ray to follow him. His stomach twisting with nerves, Ray obediently trailed after him.
"Hey, Ray, you okay now?" Max demanded anxiously, running up to Ray, who took a protective step back in case of any unexpected reactions, and nodded.
"I'm fine, thanks Max." he said, smiling uncertainly. Max's face broke into a broad grin and he let out a sigh of relief.
"Brill. You were giving me the creeps, pal! So, you wanna battle?"
"Y-You really don't care?" Ray stammered. Max frowned momentarily, then grinned.
"What, about you being a neko-jin? Nah, why should I?" He threw Draciel casually from hand to hand. "It's the same as someone making fun of me 'cause I'm half-American, isn't it? It's just being stupid and intolerant."
"And racist." Kenny pointed out, smiling over the top of his laptop. Ray looked at Kai, confused yet again. The older boy smirked.
"Told you they didn't care." he commented. Max nodded furiously.
"Exactly! We don't care! And, to be honest, I don't really get why you thought we would…" His face momentarily scrunched up in confusion, then he shrugged. "It's all okay now, isn't it? Now, do you wanna battle me or not?" Ray hesitated, saw Kai's gaze sharpen, and, chastened, slowly drew Driger from his pocket.
"You're on!" The two boys grinned at each other.
"Oh no you don't!" Everyone spun around, to see a sullen-looking Tyson cross-legged on the floor. He glared at them. "I want to battle Ray!" Ray felt a shiver of fear flash through him.
"Fine with me." he said calmly. Looking disappointed, and also a little wary, Max backed away as the two readied their blades. Kai stepped forwards, his face showing only the barest hint of concern.
"You will battle until one or the other stops spinning." He spoke softly, his words easily heard in the thick silence.
"Can we use our bit-beasts?" Tyson asked. Kai and Kenny exchanged a brief look and shook their heads in unison.
"Remember the fuss Gramps kicked up last time?" Kenny chortled at the memory. Everyone rolled their eyes.
"Gotcha, Chief. No bit-beasts."
"Ready?" Max inquired. Ray and Tyson nodded. "Okay. 3 ... 2 …1 … Let it rip!" The two blades thudded onto the floor and began circling.
"Why do you want to battle me, Tyson?" Ray asked, his voice hard. Navy eyes met his own steadily.
"I want to know what you are." Tyson answered matter-of-factly. "Dragoon, go!" Ray's eyes widened, and the grey beyblade only just managed to dodge the attack.
"How will battling me help?" he demanded.
"It just will." Tyson replied mulishly. Dismissing it, Ray focused on Driger and began to make a battle plan.
Tyson's main strength was in his recklessness, the way that he would put everything he had into one, devastating blow that few could stand against. Other than that, his defence was low, and his thoughtless, easily evaded attacks would provide the perfect opportunity for Ray's faster beyblade to strike and exploit that weakness.
Hit and run, Ray thought with a slight smile. Responding to the thought, Driger swung inward and collided heavily with Dragoon before moving out of harm's way. Ray blinked. Well, that wasn't a command as such Driger, but thanks anyway! The bit-chip glowed green in response.
"Remember, no bit-beasts." Kenny reminded him, mistaking the glow for Driger's emergence. Ray nodded, his eyes narrowing slightly as his acute hearing picked up the faint sounds of Dragoon's spin increasing. Predictably, Dragoon charged at Driger head-on, but at such a speed that Driger had only just enough time to slide away.
"Good move, Tyson." Ray complimented him. Gratitude lit up the navy eyes for a second.
"Well, I am the World Champ!" he said proudly. Max groaned quietly.
"Do you ever let us forget it?" he demanded.
"Nope!" Tyson declared cheerfully.
The battle carried on with neither blader gaining an advantage over the other, though powerful hits were scored on both sides. Suddenly, as their blades drew back for another strike, the two boys looked up. Their eyes met and understanding flashed between them. In complete unison, they turned and walked outside. Their beyblades imitated their masters and zoomed out.
"What's going on?" Max inquired, following them with a bewildered look on his face.
"They want to use their bit-beasts." Kai explained shortly, coming out and leaning comfortably against the wall. Max pulled a face.
"Why?" Kai didn't bother replying.
"Come on out, Dragoon!" The two powerful spirits rose from their blades amid roars and bellows and faced each other. A grin spread across Tyson's face. "You're going down, Ray." Ray felt his pupils slit as adrenalin raced through his blood.
"Oh, am I?" he whispered.
Still tapping frantically away on Dizzi, Kenny was getting more and more agitated by the second. Max peered over his shoulder, looking in incomprehension at the realms of numbers buzzing underneath the video of the match.
"What's up, Chief?" he asked curiously. A small hand pointed to the screen, fingers trembling.
"You see that, there?" Max nodded, looking attentively at the two little bars that were rapidly becoming taller bars. "That's their power levels." Blue eyes widened. "If they carry on increasing at this rate before they call out their bit-beasts, they could very easily destroy half the dojo if they're not careful!" Kenny's voice peaked at a near-hysterical screech.
"Chill, Chief!" Max soothed, patting his friend lightly on the arm. "I'm sure they know what they're doing!" Kenny returned to typing, clearly not at all reassured. Standing up, Max looked worriedly across to where his two best friends were apparently trying to stare each other out. Ray's pupils were slit, which seemed to be unnerving Tyson.
I don't know why he's so scared. Max frowned, puzzled. He's seen Ray's eyes do that before. Heck, he's seen Ray jump down a mountain before! He's still the same Ray, Tyson, you idiot. He's not changed or anything!
Ray finally looked away from Tyson. Unease boiled in his stomach, caused by the frightened look in the other's eyes. I don't know what it is about me that makes him - He caught himself and suppressed a bitter laugh. Of course he did. He was a neko-jin. But still, a treacherous, lonely part of him insisted, am I really that different? Max and Kenny don't think I am. Kai… He allowed himself a small smile. Kai definitely doesn't think I am!
Driger slowed as Ray continued his perplexed inner monologue. Sensing his chance, Tyson threw himself into action. Crossing his arms in front of himself for some kind of protection, he bellowed;
"Dragoon, Phantom Hurricane Attack!" Completely distracted, Ray jerked his head up only to see a raging twister winding its way over the dish. Cat reflexes kicking in, he held his ground for the split second necessary to call out a counter attack.
"Driger, Tiger Claw Attack!" he yelled. Twisting at an impossible angle, he tried to move out of the way of the wind. It wouldn't attack him directly, it couldn't, Tyson didn't know how and wouldn't do it anyway, but he was fully joined to Driger and would feel every hit that the massive tiger took. Still, he couldn't halt the instinct to get out of the way. As he moved quickly, too quickly, pain tore down his shoulder. Held briefly in one place by the pain, it was long enough for the tornado to hit.
He yelled out as his clothes ripped and his headband came loose. Vaguely, he heard Tyson, also joined to Dragoon, cry out as Driger's Tiger Claw sank into Dragoon, into him. Blackness swirled in his vision, and it took all his focus just to stay conscious. His control of Driger slipped, and was lost in that instant. Falling to his knees, dizzy with pain, he gritted his teeth and waited for the storm to subside.
"R-Ray? You okay?" Tyson asked, his voice trembling. With an effort, Ray raised his head. Tyson was kneeling as well, clutching at his side.
"Been better…" he forced out at last. Tyson crawled over to where Ray crouched still, his face a picture of misery.
"I'm … really, really sorry, Ray." he began haltingly. "I … I never meant for it get that serious …" Ray shrugged, then gasped as white-hot pain blazed down his left arm.
"It's okay, Tyson. I let it get like that as well, don't forget." Tyson smiled uncertainly, then leaned forward and hugged Ray. Surprised, Ray blinked, motionless, for a second. Relaxing, he hugged the younger boy back.
"I'm really sorry." Tyson repeated, his voice muffled and thick with unshed tears.
"It's okay, Tyson." Ray comforted the boy, realising through a haze that Tyson had accepted him at last. He was sure he would understand the significance of that later, but right now, he was just too tired. "Thanks. How's your side?"
"Dunno … Everything kinda hurts …" The black blobs that had been threatening to overwhelm his vision finally won, and he felt himself fall forward. Tyson, too weak himself to be of any assistance, only just managed to stay upright, and it was somebody very different who caught him.
"You're both idiots." was the last thing Ray heard before darkness took him.
Daylight shone through Ray's eyelids and he shifted uncomfortably. When it became clear that the annoying red-orange glow wasn't going to go away, he reluctantly opened his eyes. Blinking a few times, he saw Kai sitting cross-legged on the floor next to him. Wait, floor? Okay, where am I? Concentrating, he realised quickly that he was lying on the porch in his sleeping bag. Satisfied, he met Kai's unreadable crimson eyes and tried for a smile.
"You okay?" Kai asked quietly, unsmiling. Ray shrugged, and immediately wished he hadn't. Amusement flickered in Kai's eyes. "Yeah, don't do that."
"Now you tell me?" Ray joked weakly, wriggling feebly round to try and ease the pressure on his painful shoulder and arm. "That'll teach me to pit instincts against logic…" Seeing Kai's raised eyebrows, he explained how he had stupidly tried to twist away from Dragoon's Phantom Hurricane.
"Stupid." Kai agreed. Reaching out, he put a hand on the afflicted shoulder and rubbed gently. Hissing at the mixture of pain and pleasure, Ray shivered, and, to his utmost shame and humiliation, nuzzled Kai's hand with his cheek. Colour flooding his face, he tried to move away. Quite a feat in a sleeping bag, really.
"I did not just do that." he mumbled.
"You did." Kai informed him flatly, amusement clear in his eyes. Ray turned even redder. "I didn't mind." A trace of a smirk curled about Kai's lips as he spoke.
"I'm sure you didn't." Ray muttered. That smirk was getting on his nerves. So … superior. Like he knew exactly what he was thinking. He grinned suddenly. He knew how to wipe it off, all right. Struggling into a sitting position, he put his good arm around Kai's neck and kissed him fiercely. There was a moment of freedom while Kai gathered his composure, then he pulled backwards, one eyebrow raised challengingly.
"C'mon then, let's see what you've got…" he muttered, before closing the gap between them. Ray responded eagerly, bringing a soft moan from the older boy. Kai drew back yet again and regarded Ray indulgently, with the faintest hint of surprise. "You're good, cat-boy," He smirked again, much to Ray's displeasure, "but I'm better." He pushed Ray gently down onto the sleeping bag and leaned down, leaning on one arm to stop himself from crushing Ray. Their lips met and the furious battle for dominance began again. It didn't last long this time. Kai's eyes glittered with triumph as he made Ray's mind spin.
"I'll just go back to sleep, shall I?" They whipped apart, Ray wincing at the sudden jolt to his arm, and glared at Tyson. The younger boy returned their glares gleefully from where he was sprawled out on his sleeping bag, looking sleepily interested. "You got any more surprises for me today?" he asked enquiringly. Ray flushed yet again and tried to ignore Tyson's sniggers. "Don't worry guys, I won't fly off the handle again! I used to know someone who was gay." He looked thoughtful, almost sad. "They left. So, as long as you two don't, I'm fine with it!"
"Tyson," Ray asked suddenly, "Why did you want to battle me?" Tyson blinked at him. The sudden silence stretched out.
"I wanted to check if you were still you." he answered at last, a look of uncertainty crossing his face. "I mean … you were suddenly so … different … and you were a neko-jin, and … they've kinda always freaked me out a bit … so I went a bit crazy. I just … needed to make sure that you were still Ray, and that was … sorta the only way I knew how." Now it was his turn to flush red and look away. Ray yawned and nodded, finally satisfied.
"So, you still like me?" he mumbled wonderingly.
"Of course!" Tyson declared enthusiastically.
"Mm … good." Ray yawned again, curling up in a ball and fighting to keep his eyes open. He let out a hiss of protest as Kai got up.
"Everyone likes you, Ray. Now, stop being such an idiot and go to sleep." the team captain said brusquely, his tone betrayed by his hand, which was stroking Ray's head gently. Ray smiled and shut his eyes, purring very softly.
"Love you, Kai." he murmured mischievously. There was a pause. Tyson was sniggering uncontrollably.
"Yeah. That too. Go to sleep." Kai said at last. Laughing hysterically inside, Ray pretended to be asleep as Kai stood up, coldly ordering Tyson to "Shut up and let him sleep." With startling rapidity, pretence became reality, and with one final, unconscious purr, he drifted off.
Well? Opinions? Any OOCness? (I was told that there was slight OOCness)
Another mutil-chapter fic finished! (dances around manically) Okay, please, please review! This time, I promise I'll reply to everyone's reviews!
Hope you liked it!