Title: The Hollow Place

Fandom: Beyblade

Pairing: Tyson/Kai

Rating: PG-13

Warnings: shounen-ai, violence, blah. the usual.

Genre: uh…action/adventure/romance/friendship/gen/rampant melodrama/god knows what else/i need sleep

Disclaimer: Beyblade and all associated terms, characters, etc. are not mine. no money is being made off this fic.

Length: 5 640

Note: no i don't know what the title means. my subconscious is presumably working on it. this story was begun something like two years ago in the dread days of my youth, and has now been salvaged for your somewhat dubious reading pleasure. enjoy.

"Don't you dare touch him!"

It's not something you can change.

"Get out of the way! MOVE!"

Your first impression of speed is when you are four years old and you are standing still and the seawater is streaming away around your feet back down the beach. The sea heaves and the plaster moon pulls and together they drag you away even though you are planted firmly in the wet sand. The sky has suddenly flipped around and transmuted itself into a sleek silver expanse of bitter water, and for a quicksilver moment you are aware of rush, of hurry, of a single tremendously vast motion crammed into one tiny second.


There were fireflies out on the hill that evening. The smoke from the bonfires had drifted up from the riverbank, mingling with the far-away scent of rain, and there would be thunder later on: the wind had already turned wet and cold after the day's black-amber heat.

Daichi gave a whoop. "Haha! Your puny powers can't beat mine! You suck!"

"What? No fair! And anyway, how come I always have to be the bad guy?" Tyson complained, waving a rather battered action figure around. "C'mon, Daichi, I wanna be the zombie-king this time!"

"Uh-uh-uh! Rules are rules," Daichi said, clutching the zombie king protectively. "Hey, how 'bout a rematch? Only this time the radioactive landslide gave me x-ray vision, so I can see you even when you use the Invisibility Belt! Ha!"

"…that's dumb, Daichi. X-ray vision doesn't mean you can see invisible stuff. Sheesh, that's dumb even for you."

"Yes, but x-ray vision means you can see bones! And normally you can't see bones, right, so that makes them invisible, so x-ray vision means you can see invisible stuff! Chief said so!"

"It doesn't work like that, you numbskull!"

Kai, lying in the grass nearby, glanced over at the two of them and gave a slight smirk. "You two having fun over there?"

Tyson narrowed his eyes at him haughtily, even though his heart was suddenly beating faster. "You got a problem with it?" he asked, as snootily as he could, and then winced mentally, because that was just a seriously lame comeback.

"Of course not," Kai said smoothly, still grinning a superior and rather unkind grin. "Don't let me interrupt your fun and games, now."

"Fine! We won't!" Tyson sniffed, and turned away to wince again, because that was just lamer than lame. His vocabulary had this odd tendency to desert him whenever he spoke to Kai. He stared down at the grass, a few fireflies floating in front of him, and bit his lip, wondering if he should try to say something else. His heart gave a slight jump at the thought.

"Wooooo! I am the Lord of Eternal Night, king of the zombies! Wooooooo!" Daichi rammed his action figure headfirst into Tyson's. "Oi, loser, wake up! I'm kicking your butt over here!"

"Aw, cut it out, Daichi," Tyson said. "This is a stupid game."

"But I'm bored!" Daichi moaned. "You spoilsport."

Luckily, before an argument could break out, Max's voice floated up the hillside. "DAAAAI-CHIII! Yo! You up there?"

"I'm cooooooming!" Daichi called down. Then, turning to Tyson, he snatched up his action-figures and said, in an American drawl, "Eh…ya got lucky today, kid. I won't go so easy on ya next time, you hear? I'm a-watchin' ya, capisce?"

"Hey, who're you calling kid?" Tyson spluttered indignantly, but Daichi was already up and running down the hill. Tyson sighed, and called after him, "Hey! Daichi!"

"What is it now, loser?" Daichi yelled back, turning around and jogging on the spot.

"I'll see you later, OK?"

"Yeah, yeah, whatever."

Tyson lolled back onto the rough grass, folding his arms behind his head and looking up at the clouds, shivering as a dark cold wind blew. Fireflies darted across his vision in a loose, incandescent cloud. He slapped at one, and was just wondering if he should risk saying something to Kai, when he heard Kai stand up. Tyson sat up abruptly, hoping that Kai wasn't leaving; but he needn't have worried. With his hands shoved nonchalantly into his pockets, Kai walked over to where Tyson was, and sat down cross-legged next to him, carefully avoiding any eye contact. Absently, he plucked a blade of grass and started splitting it down the middle, staring down the hill and over the dark river.

"Hey," Tyson said, quietly and somewhat breathlessly. He stared at Kai, whose face was masked by the deepening twilight. Fireflies drifted aimlessly around him, smooth-edged sparks of fire in the darkness.

"Hey," Kai said, still staring down at the piece of grass in his hand. Then he said, "Nice night."

"I dunno…it's kinda cold," Tyson said.

"It's almost winter."


The riverbank below glowed with the lights and barbecue fires from the BBA party. Even though all the formal speeches and presentations were over, the rustle of voices could still be heard, and the faint clash of Beyblades echoed out across the black water of the river. Far-away thunder rippled across the night sky, and the wind blew again, bringing with it the scent of deep earth and silver rain.

Tyson picked a dandelion, its spangled white head glittering like the moon. He held it under Kai's nose and said, "Present for you, courtesy of Tyson's delivery services."

"This is a present?" Kai asked, scathingly, and then added, in a voice dripping with sarcasm, "Wow, gee, I guess it's the thought that counts."

Tyson gave him a shove on the shoulder. "What happened to your good mood?"

"I was in a good mood? My medication must need adjusting."

"Ohoho, Kai, don't try to hide it!" Tyson said, maliciously. "Come on, you actually acted like you didn't hate us today."

Kai fingered the dandelion's stem. He raised the fluffy head to his lips as though to blow at it, but then lowered it again, and said, quietly, "I've never hated you."

Tyson grinned lopsidedly, a strange, soft feeling of almost painful happiness catching in his throat. "Well, of course not!" he exclaimed, brightly. "I knew that! Deep down inside, you're just a big softie."

Kai looked at him, the fireflies whirling everywhere, and for a moment there seemed to be an expression of great peace and gentleness on his face, before he quickly raised one eyebrow and gave an amused, scornful smirk. "Excuse me?"

Tyson flushed under his gaze, and gave a quick laugh, and said, "Not like I care, or anything."

Tremors of bleak light fluttered across the low clouds at the very edge of the sky, and thunder rippled through the air again. Black grains of rain began to ping down like specks of fat in a pan, sweet and cool in the sandy heat of the night.

"Ack! Aw, the party's gonna be ruined," Tyson said, sadly, raising an arm over his head to shield himself as the rain grew heavier. "Brrrrr…hey, you're still staying the night at my place with the rest of us, right?"

"I guess." Kai stood up, moodily shoving his hands into his pockets again. He did it so that one almost couldn't tell that he had slipped the dandelion into his pocket; but Tyson saw, and clutched at the grass under his fingers as his heart kicked painfully in his chest. He grinned even with the cold rain plashing down his cheeks.

"What are you smiling about?" Kai asked, staring down at him apprehensively, guiltily, the rain slicking his hair to his pale face.

"Nothing!" Tyson said, leaping recklessly to his feet and bounding ahead, still grinning madly. "You coming or not? Or do you want to get pneumonia or something?"

Kai hurried after him, falling into step beside him as they walked down the hill. By now the rain was harsh and metallic, the droplets bursting silver on the grey grass, but even though he was shivering violently in his thin red jacket, Tyson slowed his pace, lingering, and Kai stayed beside him.

"They'll always be in your heart, you know."

It's not something you can forget.

"I need you with me. Please."

Your whole life people have been leaving you behind. Your dad travelled and worked all the time, and your brother went off on his own, and your mom…well, yeah. Sometimes it makes you angry, but other times you know that it's your fault. You have to work so hard. You have to be the best friend in the world so that people won't leave you. You talk tough, and you know that your friends care about you and would do anything for you, and you know that it's OK these days, but sometimes you get scared. Sometimes you freak out because you're scared that everyone's going to get better than you and forget about you again. Sometimes you worry that you won't be worthy.

It's dumb, yeah, but you can't help it.

There's one person who burns so brightly that you can't breathe when you look at him. There's one person you'd give anything to defeat. You want to be like him. You'd give anything to make him happy, to make him safe. He was hurt really badly when he was a kid, and they screwed his head around and made him lonely, made him selfish. You can see how the shattered things inside him have lodged deep in the marrow of his bones, becoming inflamed and painful. You'd die if that would make the bad things go away. You really would. The one thing you have to be sure of is that he is safe, and the one thing you know is that he's special. He has this clear, pale light that shines out from deep down inside him: this silent, remorseless power radiating all around him.

He's your hero.

He acts like he can't even see you. He acts like he's off in his own cold, lonely world, like he's right and you're wrong and nothing's ever going to change that. You're only real if he chooses to acknowledge you. You've been trying to break through to him for years but the ice keeps freezing over again. He always leaves you alone and you can't stop him. He always goes away in the end.

It was still raining the next morning.

"Now what?" Tyson grumped. Still in his pyjamas, he wrapped himself in a blanket and sighed. "Brrrrr. Dumb rain."

"PILLOW FIGHT," Max said above the soft patter of the raindrops on the roof outside.

"Don't even think about it," Kai warned.

"Hehe…afraid you'll lose, Kai?" Tyson asked, cheering up marginally.

"To you? Don't make me laugh," Kai snorted, leaning against the wall of the big room where they had all camped out in their sleeping bags.

"Prove it, then," Tyson taunted. He threw off his blanket and grabbed a pillow from the closest futon, feinting left and right. "Come on, big guy, show me what you've got."

"Uh-oh, competition time again," Max said. "Do you two ever give it a rest?"

Daichi gave a loud snore from the corner. Tyson rolled his eyes, and chucked the pillow at the younger boy's head. "Yurgh," Daichi said, and rolled over, still snoring.

"OK, new idea: whoever manages to wake Daichi up first gets a medal," Tyson suggested. "Sheesh, how much sleep does one little runt need?"

"Look who's talking," Kai muttered.

"Yeah, what happened to the good old days when you slept, like, twelve hours minimum?" Max asked.

"I? I have matured," Tyson sniffed pompously. "And anyway I don't sleep thaaat much, do I?"

"Please, Tyson. We used to have to drag you out of bed. And even then you carried on sleeping," Kai said.

"Remember that time we dumped him in the swimming pool at that hotel?" Max reminisced fondly, risking a grin at Kai.

Surprisingly, he got one back, even if it was slightly evil-looking. "That was one of my better ideas," Kai agreed.

"Wait, wait, that was your idea?" Tyson gasped. "Why, you sneaky son of a –"

"UP AND AT 'EM, MA DAWGS!" yelled a cracked old voice from the other side of the dojo. "BREAKFAST IS OOOOOON THE TABLE! COME AND GET IT!"

"Alright, I'm starving!" Max whooped, and leapt off his bed, rushing to the door. "Yo, Tyson, see if you can wake up Sleeping Beauty, will ya?"

"Easier said than done," Tyson grumbled as Max disappeared from the room. Annoyed, he strode over to Daichi's bed and poked him with a toe. Daichi didn't move. Tyson poked him harder. Stupid kid. "Hey, brat. Get up."

"Need…sleeeeeeeeep," Daichi moaned, yawning widely. "Can't…go…much farther…aargh, go on without me, you guys! I'm a goner!"

"C'mon, you moron, you're making us miss breakfast," Tyson said.

"Huh? Breakfast?" Daichi exclaimed, sitting up immediately. "Well, why didn't you say so? Woohoo! Food!"

"Oh, great. I think I liked you better when you were asleep."

"No, don't tell me Max got there first!" Daichi gasped, jumping out of bed and rushing from the room. "Max! Wait up! Save some for me!"

"Dumb kid," Tyson muttered, running a hand through his sleep-rumpled hair and only managing to mess it up more. Then he gave a yelp as what felt an awful lot like a pillow hit the back of his head. He turned around indignantly, only to see Kai looking determinedly into the distance, his lips folded together as though he were trying not to laugh. "Did you just throw that at me?" Tyson demanded, stalking across the room to stand accusingly in front of Kai.

"Maybe," Kai said, the corners of his mouth twitching a little. His eyes glittered wickedly as they met Tyson's, and then suddenly he gave him an open smile, and laughed. "You wanted a pillow fight, didn't you?" he asked, softly.

"You…you jerk," Tyson spluttered, suddenly feeling a little awkward, almost trapped, with Kai looking at him like that. "You…know what this means, right?"

"No. Tell me."

"I'm gonna – I'm – gonna – um…um…" Great, his vocabulary had given up entirely. "I'm gonna have to get you back," he said, finally.

"Is that so?"

"Yeah," Tyson hazarded. "Uh, it, it is so. It is very, very so."

"Your mastery of language astounds me."

Tyson flushed. "Well, your mastery of being a jerk astounds me!"

"Such an original mind, too. Such pithy comebacks." Kai grinned. "A lesser man would fall to such wit."

"How about you fall to this?" Tyson yelled frantically, and, snatching up a pillow from the floor, swung it straight at Kai.

Kai ducked, Tyson overshot, and a loud thump! was heard as a certain rather tender portion of a certain young Beyblader's anatomy hit the floor, hard.

"Not funny," Tyson gritted out, rubbing his behind gingerly. "Really not funny."

"From where I'm standing it is." Kai smirked down at him. "Pathetic also comes to mind."

From the kitchen, echoing down the hallways: "OI, T-MEISTER! GRUB WAITS FOR NO MAN!"

"Urgh. Gimme a hand?" Tyson groaned.

"I don't think so," Kai said, and strode away. "Better hurry up."

Tyson scrambled to his feet and dashed after Kai. Perhaps it was the fact that he was so hungry he couldn't think straight, or perhaps it was just hormones, but whatever the cause, Tyson found himself brave enough to sling his arm around Kai's shoulders with such vigour that he almost toppled both of them over. "Stick 'em up! Woohoo!"

"Get off me, moron," Kai snapped. His shoulders were stiff under Tyson's arm, but his skin was warm. Tyson always half-expected him to be cold, or else somehow inanimate, somehow unreal or unreachable, but he wasn't. He moved with each breath and smelled of soap and sleep and was as solid and heavy as anyone else. "The hell's your problem?"

"No one calls me pathetic and gets away with it," Tyson explained, trying valiantly but failing nevertheless to get Kai in a headlock. "Hey, hold still, you jerk! How'm I s'posed to teach you a lesson if you keep – gaack!"

Tyson wasn't entirely sure what happened, but before he could think, Kai had reversed the hold and had Tyson firmly in a half-nelson. His chest was pressed up against Tyson's back, and his lips moved against the fine hairs of Tyson's neck when he spoke; entirely coincidentally, Tyson found himself with a bad case of goosebumps. "I call 'em as I see 'em," Kai said. "Pathetic."

If he turned his head even the littlest bit, they would be eye-to-eye: too close together for gravity not to take over, too close to be resisted. "I can kick your ass in kendo."

"No, you can't."

"Oh, right? Let me go and you will be sorrier than you've ever been in your life, you big loudmouthed creep."

"That's exactly why you can't," Kai said. His breath was very warm on Tyson's skin, dry and sharp. Tyson entertained the horrific notion that Kai's proximity meant that he could somehow feel his heartbeat, which was far too fast. "I'm not going to let you go."

"Stalker," Tyson muttered.

"You wish."

With no warning, Kai released him and strode out of the room. Tyson shivered in the sudden cold, and for a moment his stomach twisted in disappointment. He stooped to pick up his cap, which had fallen to the floor in the tussle, and wondered why Kai seemed so different of late.

Teasing. That was it. Kai was willing to play along, to snark, to offer up insults as good-natured banter. He had been staying at the dojo for several weeks, before Daichi and Ray and Max had arrived, and had spent the better part of the winter in Tyson and Kenny's company. Just the three of them, often talking beyblades from breakfast through to dinner; and at night, Tyson would creep into the spare room and perch cross-legged at the foot of Kai's futon, and they would go on arguing about weight ratios and technique and spin speed, comparing this blader to that and debating which strengths would prevail, which weaknesses would be shown up.

"Man, one day I gotta see Ray against Garland. They're so similar, you know: they plan it all out so perfectly. It'd be like watching Beyblade chess or something."

"Ray's learned to improvise over the years, though. I don't think Garland could improvise if his life depended on it."

"That's just making an assumption. You ever blade against him? I mean properly? He has enough confidence in himself to freestyle if he has to."

"I didn't say freestyle, I said improvise. And personally I don't think Garland could freestyle, either. Freestyle's what we were doing the day before yesterday, you remember? Not thinking, just – you know. Letting it happen."

"Oh, I get what you mean. Heh, now that was awesome. I never thought that was a whole different technique, though – I thought that was just having fun. But it's probably only really effective if you know your opponent. If I tried it against, say, Tala or someone – hell, even against Ray – I'd get crushed in two seconds flat. I'm so used to you, that's why it works." He grinned, and poked Kai's foot with a toe. "Even if you pull something sneaky, I can see it coming. I'm onto you, buster."

"That's one reason I'm not staying on with you," Kai said, very matter-of-factly. "I need something new. Knowing you this well is an advantage for me, but it also means that you know me, and I can't beat you that way."

There was a little quietness in the room at that, until Tyson said, as though it didn't matter, "You and me – we'd make one awesome tag team."

"We'd be too good," Kai agreed, and something about his voice made Tyson absolutely certain that he was smiling, even if only a little. "No one would even begin to challenge us."

"There's the twins. They're the best tag teamers I've ever seen. I still don't know how Daichi and me pulled that one off. Raoul wasn't at the top of his game, I guess."

"We'd be better than them," – dismissively; and then, almost gently – "One day: maybe. As a training exercise, of course."

It was that gentleness, that almost imperceptible lowering of some barrier, that had made for the change in Kai. Sometimes Tyson even noticed it around Kenny, and once or twice, when they arrived, with the others – but only occasionally.

"It's disgusting," Tala said to Tyson, on a visit, as they watched Kai and Max going through the preliminary motions of an exercise in agility, which was still Max's weak point – feinting and dodging, side to side. "He acts like you."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Tyson snapped, riled. "The fact that he doesn't rust up when it rains, like you do?"

"He's smiling."

"You got a problem with that?"

"He never used to smile. He used to smirk. There's a difference."

"Oh, please," Tyson scoffed. "He smiles plenty. Granted, they're more like facial tics than actual smiles, but still. Sheesh, how come all you Russian dudes are such grouches? You're even worse than he is."

It was that weightlessness when they watched each other from across the beydish – or, more often than not, from opposite side of the garden, or from opposite banks of the river, where they had taken to attempting water matches, just for the fun of the challenge (though Kenny complained about rust) – that suspended and independent stillness in the midst of motion, that tiny buoyant slipslick miracle that fled and was lost in the instant that it was discovered. It was the growing softness in Kai's face, a softness that would never even begin to dispel the distance that still lived in his eyes, but that served somehow to make him almost complacent at times, almost relaxed, almost – gentle.

And for Tyson, it was the assurance of Kai's continued and undeniable failure to be anywhere else but where Tyson himself was.

Which was the only thing he had ever really wanted.

After breakfast, which didn't involve many vitamins or minerals, but which did involve a large amount of American-style waffles, an even larger amount of syrup, and more than one mini-food-fight, Gramps suggested that they take a walk. "Ahhhh, fresh air!" he sighed, flinging open the front door and nudging Tyson and Max out of it. "Yupyupyup, just the thing for you young adolescent-type dudes! Now that you're growin' up, you gotta get exercise!"

"Gramps, I'm practically the greatest beyblader who ever lived! Like I don't get enough exercise already," Tyson complained.

"Exercise? You? You mean the fact that you're a world-class channel surfer, I take it?" Kai remarked from inside.

"You too, Kai-man!" Gramps said, chivvying Kai out of the door. "Go on with ya now! Run wild and free like young mustangs through the streets of the city!"

"But it's raining!" Max and Tyson wailed together.

"Rain? Rain? Holy guacamole, kidsters, you call this rain? When I was a bright young thing I ate rain like this for breakfast! This ain't got enough rain-juju to whip a real rainstorm's little sister at hopscotch! Now come on, sprouts! March, two three four! March, two three four!"

They marched.

"At least it's only kinda sorta drizzling now," Max remarked, optimistically. The sky was silver, and the sun shone pale through the low blanket of cloud. The trees all around were for the most part bare, although some crumpled golden leaves still clung to the lattice of dark branches here and there.

"Hmpf. It's still rain," Tyson muttered, his arms folded behind his head as he trudged along the wet sidewalk, his shoes crunching on the sodden dead leaves that lay everywhere. "Doesn't this count as child abuse? Kicking us out to the mercy of the elements? Abandoning us on the street like…like…like yesterday's pizza?"

"Get over yourself," Kai advised.

"Ahhh, Gramps is just trying to get us out of the house," Tyson concluded knowingly, trying to ignore Kai. "He's expecting his girlfriend to call, I bet."

"His girlfriend?" Max yelped. "Oh, please tell me you're kidding."

"Nope," Tyson sighed. "You know that nice old lady who runs the sweetshop around the block?"

"Whoa," Max said, chuckling. "Hehe…hot date."

"It's not funny!" Tyson yelled, waving his arms wildly. "He's been writing poetry! My grandpa has been writing poetry! It's a nightmare!"

"What does adolescent mean?" Daichi enquired, breaking into the conversation. When no one answered him, he stepped on Max's foot. "Oi, Max! I said what does adolescent mean?"

"Ow! Daichi, that hurt!"

"Then tell me what it means!"

"You could've asked nicely," Max sulked.

"I did! Only you guys didn't listen!"

"We don't have time to listen to losers like you," Tyson said, sticking his nose in the air. "Buzz off, Daichi."

"Hey! I am not a loser! I flattened you the other day! I beat you two out of three rounds! Who's the loser now?"

"He has a point there," Kai said. He was walking beside Tyson, and gave him a slight nudge with his shoulder, something he'd never done before. He caught Tyson's gaze for a moment, and gave him a teasing smirk. "That was the most pathetic blading I've seen since we coached those first-graders in July."

"See? See? Even Kai agrees with me!" Daichi crowed. "Uh…hey, what were we even talking about?"

"Kai's a jerk, that's what we were talking about," Tyson muttered, glaring at Kai, who looked away and stuck his hands in his pockets as though he couldn't care less what Tyson thought of him. Tyson gazed at him, biting his lip in a confusion of anger and longing, and then gave a loud, "Hmpf!" and looked away too, walking ahead quickly.

"Wow, puddles! Alright!" Max whooped, catching sight of several wide puddles of rainwater that lay spread out across the sidewalk, their pale surfaces shimmering slightly under the fine drizzle. He kicked at one enthusiastically, sending murky droplets tumbling through the air so that they glittered when the silver light caught them. "Hey, come on, you guys! Don't you just love these?"

"Hey, yeah!" Tyson said, apparently forgetting about Kai. He stopped, took aim, and leapt squarely into another puddle, the muddy water splashing everywhere.

"Ha, bet I can splash bigger than you can," Max challenged him, giving him a shove on the shoulder.

"No way," Tyson grinned. "Maxie, you are dead meat."

"Hey! Hey! Me too!" Daichi yelled, leaping into a huge puddle and splashing Tyson's legs. "Haha! Chew on that, suckers!"

"Why, you little – hey, get back here!" Tyson yelled as Daichi danced on ahead, kicking at puddle after puddle. "Dumb kid! These are my favourite jeans! Now they're all wet!"

"Too bad, Frogman," Kai said, sauntering past Tyson and Max and strolling on calmly down the road.

"Oh – oh, yeah?" Tyson called after him. "Well, I bet you can't beat me at jumping in puddles!" Then smacked his hand to his forehead. Lame

"I'll try not to let that depress me too much," Kai answered smoothly, walking on.

"Ouch," Tyson whispered, his face burning. "Urgh, that was so embarrassing…"

"Tyson, are you blushing?" Max enquired. "Wow…your Kai thing must be worse than I thought. Well, alright, that was a pretty lame thing to say, but still…"

"How many times, Maxie? I do not have a thing for Kai!" Tyson yelled, infuriated.

Ahead of them, Kai started, turned his head back the barest inch, and then hurriedly turned around again, straightening his shoulders.

Tyson moaned. "I'm gonna kill you, Maxie," he muttered. Had Kai really heard that? No way. No way. That was just too embarrassing to happen. He clenched his teeth, willing his heart to stop beating so fast. "Has he stopped looking?"

Max didn't answer for a moment; and then he shouted, "Daichi!" and started to run. Tyson glanced down to the end of the street, to the corner where one road turned into another, and saw Daichi, flat on his face on the ground –

He started to run flat-out, sprinting towards Daichi. Kai and Max were already kneeling on the ground beside him when Tyson caught up, and Max had turned him onto his back, and was feeling at his wrist for a pulse. "He's OK," Max said, breathing hard. "He's alive."

"What happened?" Tyson pressed, reaching out to shake Daichi's arm. "What's wrong with him? Did he fall or something?"

"I don't know, I just –"

"Sniper," Kai said, tersely. He reached out and plucked a thin hypodermic dart from the side of Daichi's leg. "Run."

There was a slight whizzing sound. Max said, "Unh –" and toppled over sideways, a dart embedded in his neck.

"Max!" Tyson yelped.

"Go!" Kai yelled, pulling him to his feet and shoving him backwards down the sidewalk so hard that he stumbled. "I'll look after them! You go! Get help!"

Tyson steadied himself, his breathing hoarse. His chest was starting to hurt, and his blood was going like a drumbeat in his ears, too fast to be real, too painful to bear. "Are you crazy?" he shouted. "You think I'm just gonna leave?"

"Yes!" Kai hissed, gripping his arms with trembling hands and giving him a small shake. "Get help, you idiot!"

"No! OK? No!" Tyson snapped. "Why don't you go, huh?"

"You can't get hurt," Kai said, urgently, shaking him again. His breath was hot and harsh against Tyson's cheek. "Not you. Not now. Go."

Then the soft whizzing sound zinged through the air again, and Kai's eyes rolled back in his head as the dart hit him in the back of the neck. He gave a short, wheezing gasp, and collapsed into Tyson's arms. Tyson staggered under his weight for a moment, and then sank to the ground, Kai slumped heavy and boneless across his lap. Tyson had stopped breathing, his mind exploding with what now and help and Kai please don't die don't die don't die and -

A voice said, "You are Tyson Granger?"

Shaking violently with both fear and rage, Tyson looked up, and saw a man standing in front of Max and Daichi's slumped forms: a pale-skinned, dark-haired man wearing an ordinary black business suit and mirrored shades. "Who wants to know?" Tyson grated out, slowly reaching for his shoulder holster with one hand, and fumbling for his launcher with the other.

"I'm a representative for BioVolt," the man said. "I should warn you that if you attempt to resist you will be sedated in the same way that your friends have been."

"You work for that Boris whacko?" Tyson asked, breathing hard and unconsciously clutching at Kai. "No way. No way. We got rid of you creeps. We beat you fair and square."

The man ignored him. "I have a business offer, Mr Granger," he said. "It involves the testing of –"

"You are not getting your hands on Kai!" Tyson shouted furiously, whipping Dragoon from its holster and clicking it into place on his launcher, aiming it directly at the man's forehead. "Get out! Don't think you can come back and screw things up again! You get out of here!"

"We're not interested in Mr Hiwatari," the man said, and made a quick hand signal to someone Tyson couldn't see. "We're interested in you. Put that ridiculous excuse for a beyblade down and come with me; you won't need it in future. This is not optional. You will do as you are requested to do."

"Sorry, pal, but I'm gonna have to say 'no'," Tyson muttered. Gently, he laid Kai down on the ground, and then stood up, adding, "I don't work for crackpots." He pulled the ripcord, and yelled, "GO! Dragoon!"

The beyblade shot through the air, glinting in the cold light, a vortex of freezing wind beginning to spiral around it as it flew; but the man dodged effortlessly, and caught the beyblade in one gloved hand. He looked at it, raised an eyebrow behind his shades, and then said, "Very nice, Mr Granger. You are a first-class beyblader indeed. Unfortunately, it doesn't look as though you are especially anxious to cooperate with us on this venture." He dropped the beyblade; it clattered to the sidewalk and lay there. Gritting his teeth, Tyson sank down to the wet sidewalk again, crouching next to Kai.

"What are you gonna do with my friends?" he asked, glancing down at Kai's blank face and feeling a twinge of panic. "You better not hurt them."

"Don't worry," the man said, shrugging. "It's generally a good rule not to rack up unnecessary murder charges. We're not interested in your friends; they're useless to us. You're the one we want. You're the only one who can wield Black Dragoon. Now, please, Mr Granger, if you'd accompany me to the car…"

"OK," Tyson said, standing up and walking towards the man, who placed a hand just below his shoulder and said,

"Excellent, Mr Granger. I'm sure that you won't regret choosing to work with us."

"Yeah, only I'm not gonna work with you!" Tyson said, and punched the man hard in the face. Fist connected with nose, and a loud crackling crunch resulted. The man toppled backwards, blood flying through the air in hot droplets, and Tyson took his chance and raced down the road, looking for – for an open garden where he could hide, or someone who would help him, or anything –

- and then he heard the soft zinging sound again, and there was a little thump! against his back. A thick, buzzing whine filled his ears, and he felt his knees buckling. He had the odd feeling that his thoughts were pouring out from the back of his head in a slow stream of icy slush, and then his eyes closed even though he tried to hold them open, and things suddenly grew dark, and empty, and cold.

to be continued.


thanks for reading this far, o ye fellow fangirls. now i must depart and pretend to study. yay matric.