Battle Stage

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Shigeno Shuichi. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Summary: Street racers become street fighters. Takumi walks into a wall; Keisuke is called Pretty Boy yet again and varsity jocks play with their fists.


Prologue

Brawling wasn't his thing, racing was. He was a street racer not a street fighter. Yet here he was – brawling.

Takumi's fist connected with a sickening crunch. He didn't wait to confirm that he'd broken the guy's nose. He was already swerving to avoid a blow. This idiot had stringy, bleached hair and an affinity for body piercing. Takumi caught his wrist easily and twisted. He screamed as he went down, clutching his now useless wrist.

His back turned, he never saw it coming. Takumi caught a vicious blow between his shoulder blades. He automatically threw his hand out and rolled to break his fall. He narrowly missed the boot aimed at his head. He didn't have time to move away; the guy was trying to stomp his face in again. Takumi caught his foot and managed to throw him off balance. Takumi scrambled out of the way. The guy was already coming at him, fists bunched. He was squat, but powerfully built compared to Takumi's wiry frame.

For all that he looked like a gorilla, the guy was surprisingly nimble and fast. Takumi was barely managing to hang on. It was made worse by the fact that he couldn't see very well out his left eye. Blood from a cut above his left eye kept dripping down his face and it was starting to coagulate, gluing his eyelids together and making it difficult for him to see. The blow to his stomach knocked the wind out of Takumi and nearly sent him to his knees. Before he could recover, he was slammed against the wall. Once. Twice. Stars exploded behind his eyelids and the world spun sickeningly around him. He yelled hoarsely when Gorilla's hand tightened agonisingly over his right arm, right above the elbow, in a vice like grip. He swung around desperately, nearly dislocating his arm in the process, and jabbed his left elbow viciously into the guy's solar plexus. His arm was instantly released as the guy staggered back, doubling over in pain. Before he could recover, Takumi kicked him hard across the head.

Takumi fell over, losing balance. His head was spinning and the cut above his eye had reopened. The trickle of blood was a steady flow now. The smell of blood was beginning to make him feel sick; or maybe that was just the effect of the blow to his head. He was finding it difficult to focus. The feeling of wanting to lie down and rest his head right there on the dirty alley was beginning to overpower him. Takumi forced himself up, swaying. Well, at least Gorilla's out cold, he thought. More luck than anything else that he managed to kick him.

'Oh shit!' Takumi swore when a couple of guys headed towards him. Or at least so he thought it was a couple of guys. Couldn't really be sure. His problem was solved when a couple of Keisuke-sans knocked the men out cold. Takumi swayed alarmingly as he waited for the dizzy spell to pass.

Keisuke swore as he reached out to steady Takumi. 'Oi! Fujiwara!' Takumi slumped against him. 'Shit! You're not going to faint on me are you?'

Takumi forced his nausea down. 'No…no…I'm fine.'

Keisuke looked around. The alley was littered with a couple of unconscious bodies; the rest had obviously fled. Keisuke put his arm around Takumi, supporting him. 'Let's get the hell out of here, then. Before the back up squad arrives.'

'Too late, love.'

Keisuke stiffened at the sight of half a dozen giants holding hockey sticks blocking their way. 'Ah, hell. Don't tell me. The hockey team had a match here too?'

The guy who had spoken earlier smiled unpleasantly. 'Looks like.'


Fujiwara Takumi found his thoughts drifting to his Mogi Natsuki. Mogi, who was not-quite-his-girlfriend-but-something-else. It'd been a week since she returned to Tokyo, leaving Takumi with a lot to think about. Was it truly over? That weird relationship he had with Mogi. He had wondered, once long ago, if he was in love with her; it'd certainly felt like that for a while. Before she'd hurt him and betrayed his trust. He'd still loved her after that, but not quite. He had kissed and caressed her and laughed with her and felt loved with her and revelled in the sheer beauty of her but he never really trusted her after that. Mogi, who stared at him with eyes full of unshed tears. Mogi, who sometimes understood him better than himself.

In the end, he'd hurt her far more than she'd hurt him. Takumi didn't like to think of that.

Takumi absently ran his index finger round the rim of his teacup. He was both grateful to her and sorry that it had ended. Their not-quite relationship.

'Are we going to be love-sick all day?' A drawl startled him out of his reverie. Takumi looked up.

'What?'

'What?'

Takumi stared at Kenta who stared back at him. They both turned to stare at the third person sitting at the table.

'Who...?'

'Who...?'

Takahashi Keisuke was leaning back on his chair, looking amused. 'Both of you, actually.'

Takumi looked back blankly while Kenta sputtered, 'love-sick?!'

'Well, are you?' Keisuke asked, with a touch of arrogance, looking at Takumi.

'Not really,' Takumi replied turning away. His eyes followed a waitress who passed by their table, arms laden with plates. He thought she looked a bit like Mogi. He was back to thinking about Mogi and back to feeling the confused mix of emotions. Why did he feel relief even as he felt regret, even as he ached for her and missed her? He shook his head slightly, as if clear to it.

Keisuke was still watching him. 'Like that waitress, do you?'

'Which waitress?' Kenta asked suspiciously, before Takumi could reply, craning his head to get a look.

Keisuke raised an eyebrow. 'Why, may I ask, are you so interested?'

Kenta turned red. 'Well…er…there's this girl who works here…..'

Keisuke looked amused and Takumi turned away to hide a smile.

'What's her name?' Keisuke asked.

'Megumi,' Kenta answered, still red in the face.

'So, did you ask her out yet?'

'Not yet,' Kenta mumbled, tracing a pattern on the tablecloth. 'I just admire her from far.'

'Admire her from far?' Keisuke laughed. 'How old are you, man?'

Kenta started to speak but broke off at the sight of a group approaching their table. Keisuke and Takumi turned to see what he was staring at.

Keisuke took an instant dislike to them, with their self-satisfied smirks and aggressive swagger. He glanced at Takumi. And blinked. Fury was radiating from Takumi in waves. He was held himself so rigidly that it looked like he was trying to stop himself from lashing out.


'Hello Fujiwara,'

Takumi stared back stonily. What are the fucking odds?! What are the fucking odds that I'd bump into him now?! Miki hadn't changed. He was still the same disgusting vermin that he was in high school. The same stupid hairstyle, the same oily grin, the same beady, cunning eyes. Takumi's eyes narrowed. What the hell is he up to?

'It's been a while, eh?' Miki said.

Takumi's eyes blazed. Yeah, you stupid bastard! It's been a while. Last time I saw you, you were hugging the steering wheel, whimpering. If I had known then, what you'd done to her, I would've broken every bone in your hand. Takumi clenched his fists involuntarily.

Miki looked at him a bit warily but continued in the same sly tone, 'I thought I'd come over and give you an interesting bit of news about our old friends in the football club. I bumped into a common…er…friend of ours the other day in Tokyo. I'll have you know that she looked as sexy as ever. The guy she was with seemed to think so too, I think. He couldn't take his eyes off her….you know…' He laughed unpleasantly and his friend grinned sycophantically beside him. 'She's still such a tart.'

Takumi's control snapped and he stood up and grabbed Miki's neck. 'Shut up, vermin.' Kenta gasped next to him and Keisuke jumped out of his chair, putting himself between Takumi and Miki's friend.

'Don't even think about it,' Keisuke told the guy, casually, as he made a move to grab Takumi. Keisuke stared down at the shorter man, his pleasant smile belied by the cold look in his eyes.

Miki clawed uselessly at Takumi's hand as he tightened his grip. 'You never learn, do you?' Takumi was saying in the same dangerous tone.

Keisuke touched Takumi on the shoulder lightly. 'Fujiwara, calm down. You'll break his neck.' Takumi seemed to not hear him. 'Fujiwara!'

Takumi looked at Miki's fearful face with loathing. He loosened his hold. 'Get out of my sight.'

Miki staggered back, massaging his neck, trying to catch his breath. He stared back malevolently, his beady eyes narrowed further. 'I'll get you for this! You're a pathetic bastard, you know that. I heard you'd dumped her. I thought you'd finally figured out that she was a whore, like everyone's been saying. But you're still the same pathetic bastard that you always were!'

Takumi made another lunge for him, but Keisuke was ready this time and held him back. For a horrible second, Keisuke thought Takumi was going to hit him but all he did was hiss, 'Get your hands off me!'

Keisuke tightened his hold instead and didn't relax his hold even when Takumi stopped struggling. 'If you ever come near me again, I'll break your fucking face,' Takumi informed Miki through clenched teeth.

'Do you want your face punched in, you stupid prick?' Keisuke asked coldly when Miki didn't move.

'I came to patch things up with you but you….! You made a big mistake messing with me, Fujiwara.' Miki gave him one last venomous glare and stalked off.

'Can you take your hands off me now?' Takumi asked harshly.

'Not until you calm down!' Keisuke snapped. 'Calm down before we get thrown out of this place.'

Takumi noticed, then, with some surprise that the whole restaurant was staring at them. He felt himself flush with shame. Keisuke felt his body relax and saw the wild look in his eyes fade. He took his hands off.

Takumi slumped into his chair. Kenta looked at him nervously. 'Sorry 'bout that. I lost my head, a bit.'

'Happens,' Keisuke said. He looked at him curiously. He'd never seen the Hachi-Roku driver lose his head so completely like that before. I wonder what's going on. Kenta looked like he was going to ask something but Keisuke shot him a warning look.

Takumi nodded absently. He was cringing inwardly with shame and guilt. I'm no different from him. I've called her that, too. Whore. Never to her face; never aloud. But I called you that, Mogi. Even back then, in school, when I broke his nose for talking trash about you, I'd hated you more than I'd hated him. I hated you for being with him, for shattering the rosy image that I'd had of you, for making me think that you were smart and witty and the most gorgeous thing that I'd seen, for not leaving him even after you'd heard what he'd said, for making me feel like an utter fool for ever liking you. I think I may have loved you a bit, or maybe more than a bit. I must have, for you to almost break me with your betrayal. Forgive me, Mogi, for never really trusting you after that.

Takumi was still brooding and barely heard Keisuke saying, 'I guess I better signal for the bill, then. I think we may have outstayed our welcome.'

The manager of the restaurant looked relieved to see them leave.


Keisuke noticed them first, as they were walking back to where their cars were parked. Kenta and Takumi were lagging behind and had yet to notice anything. The light from a streetlight cast an eerie glow over the group. He halted in his tracks.

'What's wrong Keisuke-san?' Kenta asked.

Keisuke made a slight motion with his head. 'Our friend from earlier has brought some of his friends along.'

Takumi swore. 'I should've predicted this.'

'This might get ugly, Fujiwara. They're spoiling for a fight,' Keisuke said grimly.

Takumi nodded. He knew there was no way he could take on so many but he had no intention of running away. 'Keisuke-san, Kenta-san, you guys go on ahead. I'll see you later.'

Keisuke gave him an irritated look. 'And what? You're going to take on those guys by yourself?'

'I don't want to involve you in this mess. It's my mess and I'll take care of it,'

'Don't be stupid, Fujiwara!' Keisuke snapped. 'I've handled a lot worse. And anyway, Aniki would kill me if I just let our downhill ace die.'

Takumi looked at him coolly. 'I can handle myself just fine. Don't concern yourself about it, Keisuke-san.'

Keisuke fought the urge to gnash his teeth together in sheer frustration. 'Well, I am going to concern myself about this,' he said through clenched teeth. 'Because unless I'm seriously mistaken, which I'm not, there are more that half a dozen guys out there and you're dumber than I thought if you think that you can handle it by yourself. I spent my teens running around with the dregs of society, courted by the yakuza. Some of my old gang members have already begun their glorious careers with them. After some of the scum I've had the pleasure of meeting, I don't think stupid boys pretending to be thugs should be a problem. So, Fujiwara, I'd think you'd want me "involved in your mess."' Keisuke had gotten steadily quieter and the last part was a menacing undertone.

Takumi gaped at him. He cleared his throat. 'Er…okay?'

Keisuke nodded, satisfied. 'And anyway, we're team-mates. We're supposed to help each other.'

'That's right, Fujiwara,' Kenta said.

Keisuke turned to Kenta. 'And who said anything about you getting involved?'

'But Keisuke-san!' Kenta spluttered.

Keisuke shook his head firmly. 'No, Kenta.'

'But why?' Kenta protested. 'I can fight too!'

'Because I need to do something else,' Keisuke said grimly. 'I need you to get out of here.'

'But Keisuke-san…!'

'No, Kenta. I don't want to worry about you getting hurt.' Keisuke said gently. 'It's not that I think you can't handle it but you're my responsibility. And I don't want you getting hurt if I can help it.' Kenta looked torn. 'Just listen to me, Kenta. Leave now. Don't get involved.'

Kenta looked like he was about to cry but he nodded and ran off into the night leaving Keisuke and Takumi to watch Miki approach, friends in tow.

'Well,' Takumi said, 'at least we didn't park our cars here.'

Keisuke smiled grimly. 'The silver lining I was looking for.'

'If you girls are done whispering sweet nothings into each others ears….' Miki smiled unpleasantly. Raucous laughter rang out.

'Quite the witty one, aren't you, now that you've got your buddies behind you. You're such a cowardly little shit Miki,' Takumi said contemptuously.

Miki flushed with anger. 'Don't think you're all that, you cocky bastard! I'll make you pay. Don't think I've forgotten that incident back in school. You won't get away so easily this time.'

Takumi eyes narrowed. 'I thought I'd told you that I'd break your face if I ever saw you again.'

Miki smiled unpleasantly. 'Hey Fujiwara, did I mention I came here for a football match? I'm on the college team.'

Takumi blinked, momentarily thrown. 'What?' he asked wondering if he'd heard that right.

'Meet the rest of the team.'

Well, that explains why they all looked so huge and muscular, Takumi thought dourly.

'If you're done boring us to death…..' Keisuke said coolly.

'What's that Pretty Boy?' a huge guy standing next to Miki asked.

'Oh, the gorilla can speak,' Keisuke said sounding surprised.

'What was that Pretty Boy?' the guy said moving towards Keisuke. He was huge man, well over six feet and built like a tank.

'Apparently that's the only line he speaks,' Keisuke muttered in an undertone. 'Should I have broken that into simpler sentences?' he asked solicitously. He looked chillingly calm. Takumi couldn't help admire him even as he watched the rest of them warily, his senses primed for any attack.

'I don't like your tone, Rich Boy.' He said 'rich boy' with relish.

'Not that again,' Keisuke muttered to himself. Seriously, all of them said that Was that some dumb thug thing? We'll make you pay, Rich Boy. I'll kill you, Rich Boy. You're dead, Rich Boy. The only other variation was Pretty Boy and Keisuke hated that even more.

'You're dead, Rich Boy!' he said, rushing headlong at Keisuke.

Keisuke swerved gracefully and brought his hand down on the back the other guy's neck, all in one fluid motion.

All hell promptly broke loose after that.


Brawling wasn't his thing, racing was. He was a street racer not a street fighter. Yet here he was – brawling.

Takumi's fist connected with a sickening crunch. He didn't wait to confirm that he'd broken the guy's nose. He was already swerving to avoid a blow. This idiot had stringy, bleached hair and an affinity for body piercing. Takumi caught his wrist easily and twisted. He screamed as he went down, clutching his now useless wrist.

His back turned, he never saw it coming. Takumi caught a vicious blow between his shoulder blades. He automatically threw his hand out and rolled to break his fall. He narrowly missed the boot aimed at his head. He didn't have time to move away; the guy was trying to stomp his face in again. Takumi caught his foot and managed to throw him off balance. Takumi scrambled out of the way. The guy was already coming at him, fists bunched. He was squat, but powerfully built compared to Takumi's wiry frame.

For all that he looked like a gorilla, the guy was surprisingly nimble and fast. Takumi was barely managing to hang on. It was made worse by the fact that he couldn't see very well out his left eye. Blood from a cut above his left eye kept dripping down his face and it was starting to coagulate, gluing his eyelids together and making it difficult for him to see. The blow to his stomach knocked the wind out of Takumi and nearly sent him to his knees. Before he could recover, he was slammed against the wall. Once. Twice. Stars exploded behind his eyelids and the world spun sickeningly around him. He yelled hoarsely when Gorilla's hand tightened agonisingly over his right arm, right above the elbow, in a vice like grip. He swung around desperately, nearly dislocating his arm in the process, and jabbed his left elbow viciously into the guy's solar plexus. His arm was instantly released as the guy staggered back, doubling over in pain. Before he could recover, Takumi kicked him hard across the head.

Takumi fell over, losing balance. His head was spinning and the cut above his eye had reopened. The trickle of blood was a steady flow now. The smell of blood was beginning to make him feel sick; or maybe that was just the effect of the blow to his head. He was finding it difficult to focus. The feeling of wanting to lie down and rest his head right there on the dirty alley was beginning to overpower him. Takumi forced himself up, swaying. His body was one big ache. Well, at least Gorilla's out cold, he thought. More luck than anything else that he managed to kick him. I wonder if Miki's dead.

'Oh shit!' Takumi swore when a couple of guys headed towards him. Or at least so he thought it was a couple of guys. Couldn't really be sure. His problem was solved when a couple of Keisuke-sans knocked the men out cold. Takumi swayed alarmingly as he waited for the dizzy spell to pass.

Keisuke swore as he reached out to steady Takumi. 'Oi! Fujiwara!' Takumi slumped against him. 'Shit! You're not going to faint on me are you?'

Takumi forced his nausea down. 'No…no…I'm fine.'

Keisuke looked around. The alley was littered with a couple of unconscious bodies; the rest had obviously fled. Keisuke put his arm around Takumi, supporting him. 'Let's get the hell out of here, then. Before the back up squad arrives.'

'Too late, love.'

Keisuke stiffened at the sight of half a dozen giants holding hockey sticks blocking their way. 'Ah, hell. Don't tell me. The hockey team had a match here too?'

The guy who had spoken earlier, smiled unpleasantly. 'Looks like.'


Keisuke weighed the odds and found them not even remotely in their favour. He felt like a cornered animal. The stench of the dirty alley and blood and sweat and familiar feel of adrenalin exploding in his gut was bringing back old memories. He had been sixteen and cocky and stupid and he'd lain in a similar alley, almost senseless with pain. He'd thought he would die there and he probably would have, if his brother hadn't arrived with all the terrible glory of an avenging angel. A lot of people, in that dirty alley behind their school, learned that day why Takahashi Ryousuke had been placed fourth in the National Karate Tournament that year.

Keisuke didn't see any way out of this one. His brother certainly wouldn't be arriving to save his butt this time. He glanced at Takumi. He didn't look too good, his face ashen under the blood and grime. He could've maybe managed somehow if he didn't have to look after Takumi. Takumi seemed to sense this because he pushed Keisuke's hand away and said, 'Don't worry about me. I'm all right.'

Keisuke was about to tell him that he didn't look all right when the gorilla from the hockey team spoke, 'I heard from the friends in the football team that you were pretty unpleasant to them. I was very sorry to hear that. I hate violence, see?' He slapped his hockey bat against his palm.

'I'll bet,' Keisuke muttered in an undertone, listening to the ominous, rhythmic tattoo of hockey sticks slapped against open palms.

'I can see you're tired and a little…er…worn after your fight. Since I'm a nice guy, I'll give you little time to recuperate. We can get acquainted in the meantime, what do you say? I'm Sawada Omi, by the way. You can call me Sawada-sama.'

Keisuke didn't bother to reply; he was thinking furiously for a way to get them out of there. There was an odd humming in his ears.

Sawada was still smiling. 'It's useless, you two. There's no way out. We've got all bases covered.' He took a step forward.

Keisuke felt Takumi's body tense beside him as he readied himself for the attack. Then, he heard it. The humming had gotten louder and he recognised it for what it was. Sawada stopped in his tracks. The humming was a steady roar now. He could feel the vibrations to the tips of his toes and fingers.

The alley was flooded with light. Keisuke winced at the bright lights and put up a hand to shield his eyes. He heard Sawada say, 'what the hell?!'

The roar died and the sound of doors being opened and slammed shut were heard. Keisuke blinked trying to adjust to the sudden darkness and heard a familiar voice say, 'Why don't you guys step away from them? Step away and things won't get ugly.'

Keisuke and Takumi exchanged disbelieving looks. 'Sudo Kyouichi!' they exclaimed together.

Keisuke felt a rush of affection for Kenta. 'Kenta's brought the whole fucking cavalry!' he laughed in disbelief.

The Emperor, Sudo Kyouichi stood there, legs planted firmly apart and arms folded, looking truly terrifying. It wasn't just Sudo who stood there in that dirty alley, looking menacing, the rest of the Emperors were there as well. Nakazato Takeshi and the Myogi Night Kids stood next them, and the Saitama boys next to them.

'Who the hell are you?' Sawada blustered, taken aback by the sheer numbers.

'Just get out of here and we'll forget the whole thing,' Sudo continued ignoring the question.

'Just what the hell is going on here?'

'What does it look like?' Akiyama Wataru demanded. 'Man! You're dumb!'

Sawada bristled and took a step forward in their direction. 'Don't be stupid,' Sudo bit out coldly. 'Go home before you get seriously hurt.' Iwaki Seji played with a knife next to him.

The racers' air of restrained menace was chilling. In the silence that followed, Keisuke could hear the sound of Takumi breathing next to him. The tension rose unbearably as the two groups stared each other down. Sawada must have recognised the recklessness that all racers possessed in varying degrees that made them push their cars to the limit and flirt with danger and occasionally death, and made them dangerous men when provoked because he backed off.

Sawada looked like he was about to say something but then changed his mind. He wordlessly motioned to his team and they lifted their unconscious friends from the football team into their arms. The racers watched as they stalked off into the night without a backward glance.

'I never thought I'd tell you this,' Keisuke told Sudo Kyouichi, 'but I sure am glad to see you.'


Takumi had Wataru's handkerchief pressed to his head to staunch the flow. 'You look like shit,' Wataru informed him. Takumi tried to smile but his face hurt too much.

Kenta hovered around Keisuke anxiously. 'How did you find everyone anyway?' Keisuke asked him.

'It was Ryousuke,' Sudo answered for Kenta.

'Eh? Aniki?' Keisuke said, completely surprised.

'I called him, Keisuke-san…' Kenta said.

'And he called me,' Sudo said. 'He knew I had a race here in this area with the Night Kids .' He shook his head. 'He's really got a nerve, that brother of yours. He thinks he just has to ask for something, and it will be granted. Although, in this instance, I was glad to oblige.'

'We held our race off,' Nakazato Takeshi continued laconically. 'Once Sudo-san decided to do that, there really was no point in the Night Kids hanging around.' He smiled. 'And anyway, we wanted to help you out when we heard you were in trouble.'

Keisuke and Takumi stared at them. 'You held off…' Takumi trailed off.

Wataru grinned. 'No big deal, kid,' he told Takumi. 'It's a Street Racer's Union thing, see? We help each other out.'

'Eh?! There's a Street Racer's Union?' Takumi asked surprised. 'I didn't know.'

Everyone gaped at him. Keisuke closed his eyes and prayed for strength.

'Er…never mind,' Wataru said, smiling weakly. 'First, we need to get you to a doctor.' He examined Takumi's face. 'Hmmm…that cut is definitely going to need stitches. What the hell did they hit you with, anyway?'

'A wall,' Takumi answered wryly.

'It must have been some wall,' he commented, grinning.

Nakazato Takeshi shook his head, smiling. 'Man, kids these days are so energetic.'

Takumi was slightly taken aback to see all of them, even the taciturn, Sudo Kyouichi, smiling at him in the same half-amused, half-affectionate way. Takumi didn't understand the kindness and protectiveness of these people who barely knew him but then, he was not the type to recognise his own charm. He didn't understand it but it warmed him and made him feel fiercely proud to belong to that exclusive brotherhood of street racers. He wanted to thank them, but words seemed so inadequate to express the gratitude he felt.

Takumi felt himself smiling back, split lip and all.