Second Impressions

His eyes drifted once more to the large screen above the doorway in front of him.

Flight 227 to Moscow Airport: DELAY

He sighed and slumped over again. Three hours it had said that; there were delays on the majority of the planes coming into Tokyo Airport because of bad weather. Here he was, bored out of his mind, waiting for a plane that would take him back to a place he didn't even want to return to.

Sure, Russia was his homeland, the place where he'd grown up, but that hardly meant anything anymore – it was also the place where he'd spent half of his childhood in fear and pain. He was not looking forward to going back, but…

Well, what else could he do? The Blitzkrieg Boys had disbanded since Spencer was too old to compete in the World Championships and Kai had wandered off to Japan again. Ian had left for America to find somewhere where his talents were appreciated and the last time he saw Bryan, he was taking day classes to get some qualifications and working nights at a local club. He himself, though, had no clue what he wanted to do with his life – beyblading was still important to him, yes, but the only careers involving the sport involved either children or science, neither of which particularly appealed to him. So back to Russia it was.

Exhaling deeply, Tala stood, ran a hand through his shock of red hair and shoved his hands in his pockets. Figuring he could do with stretching his legs, he sauntered past his fellow miserable passengers-in-waiting and went to get a coffee.

The hot drink warmed him from the inside, dispelling the cold and, if he was honest, slightly upsetting feeling of not quite knowing where he belonged. He sipped it twice then looked up and around for somewhere to sit in the crowded café.

His eyes scanned the tables once, dismissed the idea of sitting at his own table since there were none free, then latched onto something – someone. A girl, his age or perhaps younger, with shocking orange bangs that covered her face as she bent to read a magazine and dark brown hair that slipped over her shoulders and down her back. It was not her beauty that drew his gaze – indeed, he couldn't see her face to tell what she looked like – just the feeling of something oddly familiar about her.

A beyblader, a past opponent, although he couldn't for the life of him recall her name. Spanish girl, half of that European team that the Blitzkrieg Boys had beaten in the World Championships a few years back, what was her name, Jemima something? No, that wasn't Spanish…

Shrugging and figuring (hoping) the chances were that she'd remember him anyway, he made his way over to her table.

"Is this seat taken?"

She looked up at once, emerald eyes startled and precautious, before recognition dawned in them and she shook her head, a slight smile coming to her face.

He sat down, placing his coffee carefully on the small circular table, "Julia, right?"

She nodded again, the smile coming easily to her lips. Tala hid his relief (he was a good guesser), "Tala of the Blitzkrieg Boys. How long as it been, three years?"

"Ugh, that long?" Tala pulled a face and she laughed. She seemed to be a rather cheerful person; Tala wondered if he'd picked the wrong person to sit with, but her exuberance was refreshing to his current rather pessimistic demeanour.

"How have you been?"

The customary conversation-starter took him by surprise, "Uh, alright I guess, you?"

"Not bad."

There was a brief silence where both parties avoided eye-contact.

"So, uh, we're in an airport…you must be going somewhere?"

"Nice one, captain obvious." He quipped, smirking. She glared at him and he laughed. Oh, he'd definitely picked the right person to sit with. She was cheerful, yes, but so easily wound up; teasing this girl would be a riot.

"Well, if you're going to be like that." she huffed, scowling and turning back to her magazine. He shook his head and slipped it out from underneath her fingers.

"No, no, what were you going to say? Something about…oh, I know! A plane?"

"Oh, ha ha," she grumbled, snatching her magazine back and bringing it up to cover her face.

Tala sniggered into his coffee and watched her over the rim of his mug; she was pointedly ignoring him but every now and then she would glance over in his direction, then quickly away again. Sitting at a table with someone and not talking to them seemed to be an alien concept to her. Talkative girl then, with a heap of pride and self-confidence.

"So, since we're both at an airport…you must be going somewhere too?"

Irritated by his mocking but looking slightly relieved, Julia placed the magazine down again, "Back to Spain to do some practise for our show next summer. Nobody really comes to the circus at this time of year, so I got some time off to go on holiday."

"On your own?"

"Sure, I can look after myself," she shrugged, then her face fell, "Well, Raul, my brother, was supposed to be coming too – we visit Japan every year – but the stupid idiota broke his leg the day before the flight, so he couldn't." her face softened slightly, "He insisted I went anyway, and we'd already booked the tickets. Where are you going?"

"To be honest, I don't really know."

Julia looked mildly alarmed, "You don't know…?"

Tala cursed himself inwardly. Idiot! What was he doing saying that sort of thing out loud? It had just kind of slipped out, and now she thought he was a mental case. Not that it was any different from what most people thought, but this girl was the first person he'd had a decent conversation with in ages. Not to mention that it would totally ruin the image he'd built of cold and stoic and pure coolness.

"I know where this flight is going, I mean, but…"

"It's not where you want to go, and you don't know where it is that you do want to go?" Julia suggested.

Tala stared at her and she returned the look evenly. He dropped his gaze to his hands, a little embarrassed. He could deal with emotions – anger, irritation, jealously, and even fear were fairly customary to him, but anxiety? Confusion? What on earth was he supposed to do with them?

"Tell me about it." She said softly. He shook his head.

"I really don't think-"

"I've got at least three hours, Tala, if not more. I know from experience it makes things easier if you get them out in the open, I doubt you'll talk about it with your frosty old friends." She grinned at him, "Plus, I'm dead bored."

Tala rubbed his thumb over his lower lip, studying the last drops of coffee in his mug as he thought. He was an emotional person – there was no escaping that. He could hold it all inside and deal with it when he got to Russia, or he could talk to Julia and let things out now. She was practically a total stranger, so she could take an impartial view and she wouldn't judge him. Besides, he had hours to kill.

He raised a finger, "None of this leaves here, understand?"

"Cross my heart."

"If I find some crappy girly mag reporting how Tala the famous beyblader is secretly a big old softie – which I'm not! – I will come and hunt you down, personally."

"Ooh," Julia giggled, biting her lip and raising her eyebrows. Tala rolled his eyes.

"That was supposed to be threatening, not seductive, you know."

"Yeah, yeah." She leaned forwards towards him, pursing her lips and gazing intently at him, "Now spill, Ice Boy."

Tala steeled himself and ran a hand through his hair.

Well, it wasn't as if he was ever going to see her again, right?