Playing at Grownups- A coming of age story

The overall theme of this story is coming to terms with being different and over-coming a lifetime of prejudice. As someone who lived in China for five months, I've come to understand a lot more about mainland Chinese people and so, I hope to use this in Rei's characterisation.

This story will have cursing, it will have offensive terms, it will have under age drinking and it will have sex

At present I have 21000 words, 40 pages and five chapters of this written, so I can promise fairly consistent updates.

This will be Kai Hiwatari x Rei Kon.

Chapter 1/??

"Find Me Somebody To Love."

She was drop-dead gorgeous. She knew it too, of course. Silky, flowing hair; large, expressive eyes; soft, womanly curves; long legs, full lips… the kind of girl that caught the eyes of movie stars and yet there she was, staring with those large, expressive eyes and smiling with those full lips at the luckiest Beyblader in the world.

Yes, Rei Kon was one lucky young man.

At least, that's what he was telling himself as he tried to look interested in whatever it was she was rambling about.

"And that's when I knew that my future lay in physiotherapy," she finished her current anecdote. She flushed slightly then and offered him a girlish little giggle that was rather charming. "And, well, not to be presumptuous, but I'd love to give you an example of my skills some day. I'm sure you'd appreciate it, being a sportsman and all that."

"I'd be delighted, Miss Shirou," Rei lied, though he feigned his sunniest smile.

"Please! How many times do I have to tell you to stop being such a gentleman! Call me Sunako" his date shook her head, though her cute little blush and giggles spoke volumes of just how 'exasperated' she was.

She really did look like the kind of girl you'd find on a glossy magazine cover, Rei mused.

"Oh! Will you please excuse me, Rei? I need to go and powder my nose," Sunako said, already pushing her chair back from the table and standing up.

"Sure, that's fine," Rei replied, fake smile still firmly in place. It really was all that he could say. Honestly, women were such strange creatures. Why couldn't they just say that they needed the toilet like a guy would? There wasn't exactly any shame in it. Not that Rei would announce 'I need a piss' whenever he was at a meal, he was far too polite of course, but he wasn't exactly shy about admitting to having human needs every now and again. It was illogical.

With a bored sigh, he fished his phone out of his pocket and flipped it open, checking the time. His heart sank when he realised that the American Beyblade qualifiers had already begun. He'd been hoping that he would be home in time to catch them.

He put his phone away and reached out to take another sip of water, just as his date re-emerged from the toilets. She sat down and gave him a pretty smile. Rei smiled back, absentmindedly tapping his fingers against his thigh under the table.

"So…" she prompted after a few moments of silence.

Rei figured that that was his cue to make some sort of conversation. "I… ah… oh! Do you want some dessert?" he asked. She couldn't say no to that, right? She was a woman and women loved cake and things like that.

"Yes, that's a great idea!" she said, though she looked a little disappointed that Rei wasn't yet opening up to her and telling her his innermost thoughts and feelings. Rei mentally snorted at that. What business was it of anyone else? Really? Really? Mao had used to be the same when she was younger, and Hiromi had prodded at him a couple of times. It wasn't that he didn't have thoughts and feelings and all that. Of course he did. He was human, and a sensitive one at that. In fact he was the most empathic member of the BBA –if not all bladers- out there.

The only problem was that for some reason that immediate understanding and ability to read people didn't transfer very well to dates, which shot his confidence to pieces because he was sure that somewhere out there rumours were beginning to circulate that Rei Kon was a very bad date.

Because he was. He really was.

Still, he mused as the waiter bought them the dessert menu, it wasn't exactly his fault that girls were so awkward. All of the girls that he'd dated were too pushy, too expectant or too laid back. How was he supposed to feel comfortable with them and pursue a relationship with them with that sort of pressure hanging over his head?

All he needed was to find that one girl who was perfect for him- that girl who he could share so many firsts with, without him feeling inadequate or embarrassed.

Maybe this time, he'd found that girl.

"Oh, look! Chocolate cake!" Rei smiled, knowing that girls (not to mention he) loved chocolate.

She glanced at it and pulled a face. "No thanks. I can't eat that, but it looks really nice!"

Rei was perplexed at that. "Why can't you eat it, then?"

"Oh," she replied with a little pat on her stomach, "too many carbs, and I already filled my daily allowance when I had those potatoes."

"…Oh." And 'oh' really was the only reply that he could think up. He'd learned that lesson with a few dates during the summer, but he'd all too happily forgotten about it. Feeling suddenly self-conscious, he ordered a fruit salad, which he knew full well he would only poke at because he really, really wanted that chocolate cake.

But on the plus side, at least he wouldn't look like a fat bastard.

Unsurprisingly, his date ordered the same and after several more joyful minutes of hearing about the health benefits of the individual fruit make-up of their healthy, bland dessert, Rei subtly deemed the meal over.

"Well, I hope that those fruit's natural sugars give me the energy I need in the morning. I have to be up for training at six so…" he left the rest of the sentence, waiting for his date to figure out what he was implying.

She blinked, her brow creasing in disappointment before she quickly covered it up with a feigned smile. "Six! The busy life of being a famous sportsman, eh?"

"Yes, Kai can be a tough customer when he wants to be," Rei smiled back, silently apologising to his friend. Rei always used the Kai excuse when he had to lie about getting up early, playing on the public image that Kai was mean, ruthless and an obsessive perfectionist, when truth be told, Kai liked a lie-in as much as the next nineteen-year-old boy. Of course, Kai subtly encouraged that perception of him because half the time, his opponent had already pissed their pants before they'd even stepped up to the dish.

The image of their fearless captain, glaring half-heartedly at him and Takao, spoon dangling from his mouth entered his mind. He laughed. If only they could see the Kai he knew.

His date gave him a curious look, and it took Rei a moment to realise that he'd laughed aloud.

Colouring, he added; "Well, training is very, very important," he said, stressing the second very, just to erase any doubt in her mind that it was simply just 'important.' "Yes, it's all about hard work and determination!"

"Well, since you have to be up so early, how about we get the bill? Of course I'd love to talk to you some more, but I don't want for you to get into trouble because of me," she said sweetly, though he knew she didn't mean a word of it. Still, he could have hugged her at that moment for catching on.

"Oh! Are you sure that that's okay? I'd hate for you to think that I was bad company!" He said with his best 'sincere face', trying to sound gracious enough to make her feel liked, but not eager enough to make her think that Rei was considering that their early relationship might blossom into something serious yet.

"Not at all, Rei," that was something else that annoyed Rei- when people insisted on him using their first name, he felt obliged to return the gesture and, truth be told, he didn't feel comfortable with virtual strangers addressing him by first name- "as a physiotherapist, I fully understand how important strict training schedules are."

Rei nodded gratefully and called for the bill. Being a gentleman, he made to pay, but his date had laughed it off, claiming to be a new-age woman and so they ended up splitting the bill, which irked not only his masculine ways, but also his Chinese upbringing, though very quietly and very secretly he was a little relieved as the bill had turned out to be pricier than he'd anticipated. Upon the return of his card, he rose from the table and walked slowly towards the restaurant's foyer.

"Would you like for me to give you a lift back home?" he offered. He didn't like the idea of girls catching taxis back on their own. Mao had told him years ago that he was overly protective of girls, and that they could take care of themselves. On a couple of occasions she'd even called him sexist, though her expression would always soften straight after and say that he was the 'good kind'. The other girls that he'd dated called it chivalrous, so Rei shrugged it off to worry about another day.

"Would you mind? I mean, I live all the way in Shinjuku…" she protested, though Rei knew that it was a weak one.

"Come on," he nodded towards the doors. "I live in Shibuya anyway."

He led her out to the car he shared with Kai and, when they reached 18 and took their tests, Takao and Max. Mr Daitenji had bought it for them when Kai and Rei had moved into their new apartment. The others had been surprised at Kai's willingness to live in their moderate apartment rather than his Tokyo-based mansion with his mother, father and house staff, but Rei knew Kai well enough to know that he wanted to experience a relatively normal, stable life- if only for a year or two.

The trip to Shirou Sunako's home was mostly quiet, broken only by the faint sound of music and the woman voicing directions. It was only a few kilometres later that they were parked up outside a generic looking apartment complex. Feeling compelled to, Rei exited the car and walked his date to the door.

"I had a wonderful time, Rei," she said softly.

"Me too," Rei said with his most charming smile while trying to resist the urge to shuffle his feet.

"I… will I see you again, Rei?" she asked, and Rei couldn't help but feel nervous at the pleading look in her eyes. "It's just… I've heard that you date a lot of girls and I just want to know if I'm going to be forgotten about tomorrow, because I really, really like you," she finished almost in a whisper, looking almost ashamed.

And Rei, riddled with guilt, didn't have a clue what to say. "Uhhh, well as you know, my blading has to come first. That's why I date so many girls; they find it hard to deal with my schedule and move on," he was lying through his teeth, but it beat telling the truth any day.

"I understand, Rei. As with me, my career must come first, but, I enjoyed tonight nonetheless," she smiled, though it looked a little sad.

And then suddenly, her hand was on his shoulder and she was leaning in. Rei could practically taste her breath before his senses kicked in and he jerked back. His date's half-lidded eyes snapped back open and she stared at him in disbelief, shock and hurt. "I… I thought…" she gaped, suddenly looking mortified.

Rei cursed himself severely internally. "No, no! It's not like that! I think you're absolutely beautiful, but it's just… I don't kiss on a first date. I prefer to wait until the second or third date!" Rei wanted to bite off his runaway tongue when he saw her eyes light up suddenly. Where the Hell was he getting this stuff from?

"So… so you think there'll be a second and third date?" she said coyly.

Hoping it would distract her, Rei quickly leaned in to press a kiss that was more to the air than her cheek. "Sure, but we've got an important match coming up, so I'll be busy for a little while." He was already backing down the path and reaching behind him for the car door handle. "Sleep well!" he waved with a benign smile, waiting for her to wave back before he dived into his car. He watched her go inside before he released a huge sigh and dropped his forehead to the driving wheel.

He abhorred, detested and hated lying, but…

Heaving another sigh, he fished out his phone again and glanced at the time. If he rushed home, he would probably catch the end of the American qualifiers. The thought brightened his mood and he set off for home.


Shrugging off his coat as soon as he walked through his front door, Rei tossed it onto a coat hook and threw his keys into the bowl on the table where the house phone sat. He toed off his shoes and sauntered through the darkened living room and into the adjoining kitchen.

"Grab me a beer too?" A voice interrupted his rummaging through the fridge and he rolled his eyes, though he still picked up two cans instead of one. Knocking the fridge shut with his hip, Rei strolled out into the living room and flopped down onto the sofa with a heavy sigh. Wordlessly he offered one of the cans, which Kai wasted no time in taking and tearing open.

"How's it going?" Rei asked as soon as he'd taken a deep gulp.

"Allstarz are dominating it, but any idiot could have guessed that. There's an interesting all-girls team though. One of them beat Eddy and another came close with Emily, though their cheerleader theme is extremely annoying. There's a couple of others too, which I'm sure PPB have noticed." Kai said, though his eyes didn't shift away from the television screen.

"How are the Allstarz doing themselves?" Rei couldn't help but enquire, seeing as he was still a little sore about his loss to Eddy all those years ago.

"No match for us," Kai said simply. He suddenly looked at Rei and smirked. "You'd destroy Eddy."

Rei smirked in return, grateful for Kai's weird ability to know what he was thinking, and took another drink of beer. A sudden thought occurred to him. "Wasn't Takao going to come around and watch it with you?"

Takao, despite living in his grandfather's dojo still, tended to spend more time in their apartment than he did at home. Max also made it a point to come around almost every day, and Kyouju and Hiromi visited on the occasional weeknight, and on the weekend. It wasn't a problem, since Mr Daitenji had arranged the apartment as a 'home for Team BBA', but it was really only Kai and Rei who lived there because Kai didn't seem too pleased at the prospect of living with his parents, and Rei had an otherwise killer commute.

"He was, but then Hitoshi invited him to go to the cinema with him," Kai shrugged, obviously not feeling too put out by it.

"It's nice that they're spending time together outside of beyblading," Rei mused, drawing his feet up onto the sofa.

"Hmm," Kai agreed.

They slipped into a comfortable silence for a while; eyes transfixed on the flickering screen- the only source of light in the room.

"How'd the date go?" Kai asked, the suddenness of the question startling Rei.

Rei shrugged.

"What happened?" Kai continued to watch the beybattle on the screen, and if Rei knew him slightly less well, he would have believed that Kai was only asking out of courtesy.

Rei had, however, learned a long time ago that Kai didn't do courtesy and asked questions because he was genuinely interested. "She's… pretty much perfect. Pretty… well, more stunning, and really fit and healthy too because she's a physiotherapist. She likes some sports and she's really nice and sweet."


Damn it, Kai knew him far too well. "… I don't know." Rei heaved a sigh and stared down at his beer can.

Kai actually turned to regard him, and something akin to pity shone in his eyes. "You going to see her again?"

"… I don't know," Rei bit his lip. "I kind of implied that we'd have a second and third date."

"Why?" One of Kai's eyebrows rose.

"She… she tried to kiss me." Rei's face flamed.

"Ah," said Kai.

Rei busied himself with draining the rest of his can. "Want another?" he asked, already standing.

"Sure," Kai replied, eyes back on the screen.

Once in the kitchen, Rei buried his face in the fridge, trying to cool down his raging blush. He had no reason to blush, not really. Kai was the only person who knew about his complete and utter inexperience, and had never once made him feel like an idiot for it.

Because the sad, sad truth was that, despite the fact that Rei dated girls almost weekly he had never once actually kissed any of them. In fact, he'd never kissed anyone. He wasn't ashamed of it, per see, but it did kind of wound his masculine pride that Takao had kissed someone the previous year, and Max had kissed someone at Rei's birthday party when he'd been a bit tipsy. He wasn't too sure about Kai, but since he was older and better looking, Rei had to assume that he had. The thought of that rather hurt though, because as a rule, he and Kai were totally honest with one another, as neither saw a point in playing silly mind games. Rei had even told him of the great embarrassment that was being eighteen years old and totally, utterly inexperienced, so Kai wasn't right to hold these things back from him.

Still, he thought as he pulled out two beers and closed the door again, he wasn't about to push, as it had taken a long time to develop the close friendship he had with Kai.

Absentmindedly, Rei tapped on one of the beer cans, before shrugging and shoving the thought to the back of his mind. He left the room and headed back to the sofa, flopping down next to Kai once again.

Kai was flicking through the channels, before he settled on some sort of action movie that, from the looks of the explosions, was already half- way through.

Clearly bored, he turned his attention back to Rei. "Will you see her again?"

Rei sighed and curled his legs up onto the couch between himself and Kai, all the while toying with the ring-pull of his can. "I don't think so," he said after a short while.

"What was wrong with her?"

Rei's face scrunched up. "There was nothing exactly wrong with her. She was… wonderful. It's just, I might have, sort of implied that I'd kiss her on the second date." He blushed brightly at that and tried to hide it by taking a mouthful of beer.

"Well… maybe she's the one to do that with. She sounds nice enough," Kai supplied.

"You should have seen her, Kai. She was really, really beautiful. The last thing I want to do is make a fool out of myself," Rei grumbled.

"Rei… why do you go on these dates if all you're going to do is run away at the end of them and never call them back?" Kai's voice didn't rise, but Rei could clearly sense the disapproval behind it. "You're going to get a really bad reputation at this rate- and not even as a playboy," he scoffed.

Rei winced, well aware that the term 'playboy' was a backhanded compliment amongst men, as, for some reason, it seemed to score you macho-points. The way Kai had said it made it seem that it would be better to be a playboy than this flighty mass of teenage angst and indecision.

"I'm ok… I'm alright," Rei insisted, forcing a smile to prove it. "I ain't gonna face defeat just yet," he joked in a mock Osaka accent to try and disperse the sudden tension he felt.

Kai looked a little unconvinced. "She's a physio. She might come in handy," Kai tried, more softly this time, which Rei knew was a sort of unspoken apology for being a little snappy.

"I think Hiromi does a much better job than she ever could," Rei grinned.

Kai let out a brief chuckle. "Ahh. Makes me wonder how I still have my fierce reputation. That girl could break even me."

They fell back into comfortable silence, watching the end of the movie and then flicking over to the news. Rei had long since finished his can and was idly rolling it between his hands. He was tired, he realised. That's why he was staring at the screen without actually seeing anything.

He set the can on the table and sighed, the motion and noise catching Kai's attention. "I don't know what else I can do," he said miserably.

Kai said nothing, but turned to face him, indicating that he was listening and paying attention.

One of Rei's hands found his forehead, rubbing fingertips tiredly against his skin. "I don't understand why I'm so hesitant with these things. I don't even buy into this first kiss bullshit. I don't want it to be some kind of magical, wonderful moment. I just want to get it out of the Goddamned way." He took a deep breath. "It's not even that I want to have my first kiss with the love of my life, or some sappy crap like that. I just… I go from girl to girl because I just want to find one that I click with, you know?" He looked at Kai desperately. "One that I feel comfortable with. Kissing it's… intimate. It's about letting your guard down and letting someone taste and feel you and that scares me even more than being laughed at for my poor attempts at pretending I know what the Hell I'm doing. I just need… I just need that one kiss, you know? That kiss that will break down the barriers, it'll get me over this intimacy thing. If I could just kiss one of my dates, I could kiss anyone I dated after that because I'd have that confidence. I'd know what I was doing and I wouldn't feel like such a moron all of the time." He spread his hands before him, unaware that it looked almost begging. "I just need it to be with someone I'm comfortable with. Someone I can let my guard down with. Someone who was more like a friend, who could laugh it off when I made a mess of things. Someone who I just …clickwith. Someone… someone… so comfortable… so…"

And for some reason, as he lapsed into silence, sentence and thought spiralling into nothing, utterly forgotten, Rei realised that Kai was staring at him intently and that he was staring right back.

After a long moment, a thought sprang unbidden to their minds, but before they had a chance to fully realise its existence, they both simultaneously snapped their gazes away from one another and almost in a hurry; Kai stood up and cleared his throat. "Do you want another beer?" he asked, already heading towards the kitchen.

"Uhh, no thanks," Rei replied. "I think I'm going to go to bed, I'm really tired." He too was already off the couch as he spoke, heading towards his room without waiting for Kai's response.

Once inside his room, he simply stood, staring blankly at the deep maroon carpet, trying to figure out why it felt like he'd just ran away from his best friend. And more so; why on Earth his heart was pounding.