Warnings and Disclaimer are in the first chapter.

Chapter 12

He'd fully intended to go back home, so it was a surprise when he found himself in front of Yuki's apartment building. He sat on his bike and stared up at Yuki's window, deliberating. He'd missed Yuki since their encounter at the café, though why he missed someone who made making him cry into an art form was a mystery. He supposed it was because the biting criticism showed that the novelist cared, but at the same time he really wanted to punch him sometimes.

Making a decision Ryou parked his bike, locking it securely against a nearby rack. He spent the walk up wrestling his nervousness into submission. He didn't know why he was so nervous. Maybe it was because he expected Yuki to reject him despite his words in the café. Whatever the reason, it was with a heavy feeling in his gut that he finally approached Yuki's door. He didn't register knocking but he must have, since a few minutes later the door cracked opened, revealing a disheveled blonde with icy eyes.

"Ryou," Yuki acknowledged. Despite the late hour he was still fully dressed, a cigarette dangling from one hand.

"Yuki," Ryou responded. He didn't know why he was there and now that he was face to face with Yuki there was no leaving now. Lamely he asked, "How're you?"

"Fine." Yuki's stare was cool, his expression that of one bored. "What brings you around?" He leaned against the door frame, taking a long drag of his cigarette. Ryou only shrugged in reply, uncertain now. What had brought him around?

His body reacted before his mind caught up. The next thing he knew he had Yuki pinned against the wall in the blonde's apartment, his mouth firmly pressed against the other's in a passionate kiss. Yuki didn't respond, but that meant he didn't push him away, either, and after a moment Ryou pulled back, ducking his head as he caught his breath.

"I missed you," the beyblader finally said. "And it's not because of before. I missed you because I fell in love with you again."

It was the simple truth, though his face heated up in embarrassment. He hadn't wanted to seem needy and yet here he was. He must have looked desperate to Yuki, he thought, and the blonde's silence didn't help matters.

After a few uncomfortable moments Ryou turned to the door. "Sorry to bother you," he mumbled, biting back tears. He'd been stupid to do this, he berated himself. Yuki hadn't contacted him again because he didn't really want him. Why had he thought otherwise?

He didn't make it a step before a hand wrapped around his waist and dragged him back, the door slamming in front of him once he was clear. Before he could blink Yuki spun him around, pinning him against the door with hands on his shoulders. All Ryou could do was blink owlishly at him, too stunned for words. His mind was stuck on one thought, and that was disbelief. Yuki really wanted him?

"You came here just to tell me that?" Yuki's voice said, chill though it warmed Ryou inside. Boldly he nodded. "Did you come here for anything else?"

The beyblader's cheeks reddened again. "I hadn't thought that far."

"Of course not." Yuki could have smiled, Ryou wasn't sure, but he didn't have long to think on it before Yuki was kissing him again. It was a forceful kiss, Yuki reclaiming him with lips and tongue, and all Ryou could do was go along for the ride.

They made it to the bedroom before the first article of clothing came off, Yuki tugging Ryou's gloves off impatiently and tossing them off to the side. The black vest went next before Yuki started to pull off the turtleneck and Ryou showed the first signs of doubt. Suddenly panicked he backed away from Yuki, only stopping when he crashed into an inconveniently placed wall. He clutched the hem of his shirt, looking away from the blonde in shame. To his credit Yuki didn't show any outward signs of displeasure. He calmly approached the shivering beyblader, reaching down to grip the bare hand in his while at the same time pulling it away from his shirt.

"What's wrong?" Yuki asked. His voice wasn't cold this time and he seemed rather out of breath, although he kept his composure better than Ryou.

All Ryou could do was swallow, leaning into Yuki while he tried to calm himself. "Sorry," he said miserably. "It's just… no one…"

"You haven't undressed in front of anyone since the accident," Yuki guessed. With his free hand he drew the other into an embrace, pointedly keeping his hand well away from the hem of his shirt.

Ryou laughed a bit. "Not quite. The last person to see me naked was my doctor, in the hospital." He relaxed into the embrace, grateful for the support. "I didn't think anyone would want to see me, not after what happened. It's a bit scary," he confessed.

"We don't have to do anything," Yuki told him, though he really didn't seem happy. "It's late, you know where the blankets are." He started to pull away, but Ryou shocked them both by tightening his grip on the blonde's hand.

"It's all right." He looked up at Yuki, smiling a bit through a few tears in his eye. Right now he was a bit overwhelmed but he knew what he wanted. Resolutely he stepped back and pulled off his shirt, revealing the body he'd sworn never to show to anyone. He dropped his gaze as he did so, dropping the bit of cloth to the floor at his feet. He resisted the urge to cross his arms in front of him, instead clutching the fabric of his pants.

Yuki regarded him impassively, the scars crisscrossing his chest and abdomen, the pale skin between them. After a moment he reached out and brushed his fingers against the worst of the scars he could see, Ryou shivering under his touch. He then traced the scar on the younger man's cheek before lightly gripping Ryou's chin, forcing their eyes to meet.

"You're perfect," Yuki informed him. Sure it was cliché but he knew just what reaction those two words would have. After a moment of disbelief and denial Ryou's smiled tearfully and kissed him.

The next morning Ryou called home and made up an excuse for his absence that night before he took a shower. He was quite content with what had happened that night and for the first time in a while things seemed hopeful.

. . . . . . .

The months leading to the Beyblade World Championship Preliminaries were busy ones for Ryou and Team Gravity. He spent every moment he could training with his teammates and the Bladebreakers, working on strategies with Drasonet and refining his beyblading skills until he was certain he could beyblade unconscious. Max and Zeo were glad to see his renewed zeal, which had been waning since his memories returned. It was with a renewed sense of determination that Ryou tackled his challenges. He would win, he swore to himself, even if he had to take out the whole of the Bladebreakers to do it.

Most nights after training he would still walk around, though this was more for the relaxation than the songwriting inspiration. Instead of working on new songs he occasionally refined older ones from his notebook, tweaking melodies here and there. It wasn't really a high priority, to be sure. Even with the incentive of being paid for his work his heart, at the moment, was still with beyblading.

After walking around town, more often than not Ryou found himself back at Yuki's apartment. It wasn't something he'd planned on, same as the night he and Yuki had officially renewed their relationship. He'd stop by, have a cup of coffee with the blonde novelist, give him news or talk about his songs. He even discussed the possibility of renewing his singing contract with Bad Luck, though it was in a purely hypothetical matter and he made Yuki promise not to breathe a word to Ryuichi. Yuki growled out criticism or didn't answer most of the time, though Ryou knew that was just how he was. He grew to calling Yuki "cute" to his face when that happened.

The first time, though, he ended up outside a locked door.

Most days that Ryou ended up at Yuki's apartment he didn't stay long, just for a drink before departing. A few times he ended up staying the night and having to explain himself to Max, though his adopted brother teased him endlessly. It wasn't as if Max knew what he'd been doing, exactly, but he could guess.

It was like that that the few months before the preliminaries. Even though it was busy Ryou was happy. There were no mysteries in his life, he had a boyfriend who adored him, and he had a goal. The preliminaries dawned much like the previous, Ryou riding to the stadium on his bike. He stared up at the stadium for a bit, for once not nervous before this coming match. It was with a smile on his face that he rode around to the bike racks and secured his bike.

The inside of the stadium was a riot of people struggling towards the check-in and registration lines. Before diving into the masses Ryou had the good sense to check the leaderboards. It was to his relief that he saw Team Gravity among the checked-in teams, meaning he was able to bypass the lines entirely and head for the locker rooms. Team Gravity's assigned locker room was deep within the bowels of the building and it took a good few minutes of trekking through panicked beybladers before he located his safe haven.

"Hi Ryou!" Max greeted him, waving cheerfully. "Glad to see you could make it! You stayed over your friend's house last night again, didn't you?" His voice was light and teasing, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth as he tried to be stern. Ryou reddened at those words, telling the blonde all he needed to know. Thank goodness, Ryou thought as he took a seat next to Max and pulled out his beyblade, that Zeo hadn't showed up yet. He'd have to endure twice the teasing and he wasn't sure how much of that he could take today.

He didn't know if Yuki would show up, even. He'd gone to Yuki's last night to invite the blonde to the match, to see what he liked so much about beyblading, but Yuki had been noncommittal. Yuki had still been home when he'd departed, but he knew that Yuki had a car. If the blonde had really wanted to come he could drive.

Zeo arrived a few minutes later and the three of them settled into a quick discussion, strategies and lineups. They passed the time before the start of the tournament like, so absorbed in their conversation that they were startled by the voice calling all of the teams to the floor. Shooting each other knowing glances, they all stood and filed out.

Assembled on the stadium floor was a sea of people, beyblading teams eager to represent Japan at the World Championships. Ryou, Max, and Zeo were at the front of the sea, looking up at the stage that had been set up in the middle of the floor. On it was Mr. Daitenji, looking a tad smug, and DJ the announcer.

"Welcome everyone!" DJ shouted into the microphone, eliciting a cheer from the stadium around them. The force was like a blow to their eardrums. "One of these teams before you will go on to the World Championships, representing Japan and attempting to claim the title of World's Best from four-time champions the Bladebreakers!"

Ryou joined in the cheers from the stadium floor, shouting himself almost hoarse.

"But first we have a surprise for everyone!" DJ ginned madly and Ryou could have sworn the announcer winked at him. "To commemorate this event, we have a special performance for everyone! I'll let Mr. Daitenji fill you all in on the details!"

Mr. Daitenji took the microphone and coughed slightly, waiting for the cheers to die down. "Yes, well, a few months ago I was approached with this proposal. Up until now beyblade hasn't had much in the way of promption, only word of mouth and what commercials we can get shown on TV. But that's all changed! Thanks to the generosity of a band, the sport of beyblading now has its very own anthem!"

Ryou had to resist the urge to slam his head against the nearest flat surface.

"Welcome, everyone, Bad Luck!" Mr. Daitenji gestured behind him, where Ryuichi, Hiro, and Fujisaki were ascending to the stage, instruments in hand. "They've kindly agreed to perform their song for us today!"

A cheer erupted from the beybladers and audience, even as Ryou tried hard to resist the urge to yell at Ryuichi. Mr. Daitenji handed the microphone off to Ryuichi and vacated the stage.

"Hello everyone!"Ryuichi greeted cheerfully, waving. "Thanks so much for having us today, we're glad to be here! But we have a surprise for everyone!"

Ryou groaned, giving in to the urge to facepalm.

"I'll be having help singing this song! It would mean much more to you guys if one of you sung it, right?" Ryuichi said knowingly, bouncing around the stage as he did so. "And it's someone you all know, isn't that cool! Come on, Takao, help me sing for everyone!"

Ryou could have cried in relief if he weren't so stumped by the announcement. Takao climbed onto the stage, waving cheerily through the cheers he was receiving, accepting the microphone from an excited Ryuichi. Ryou had firsthand experience with Takao's lack of singing prowess, so why would Ryuichi ask him to sing?

"Hi guys!" Takao yelled, stretching up on his tip toes to wave as exuberantly as possible. "Are you ready?" He glanced back at Hiro and Fujisaki to check on them, getting thumbs-ups in response. "We are! Let's go!"

The opening chords of "Go Ahead" reverberated throughout the stadium, Takao attempting to dance. It only made Ryou wince sympathetically, although the audience didn't seem to mind. They cheered louder when Takao started singing. Ryou, thankfully, didn't have to plug his ears, but it was still bad enough for the wince on his face to become permanent. He couldn't stand his song being butchered like this.

He didn't register exactly when it happened, but the next thing he knew he was hauling himself onto the stage. The song was between verses so Takao wasn't singing, thank goodness, but that didn't stop him from talking.

"Ryou, what are you doing?" the other beyblader hissed, making a shooing motion. "You're ruining it!"

"You are," Ryou countered. "Did you even take Ryuichi's singing lessons seriously?" That had to be how Takao didn't totally suck, Ryuichi coaching him. The singer was still on stage grinning evilly, unused microphone in hand. Ryuichi winked at Ryou and tossed him the microphone, the beyblader catching it easily.

Ryou glanced down at the object in his hand before sighing and turning to the crowd, surveying it hopefully. He wasn't expecting to see anyone so it was with surprise that he caught Yuki's gaze in the back row. The writer had a cigarette in his hand, unlit, his face a cool mask. It was reassuring, though, giving Ryou the courage to lift the microphone to his lips. The second verse of his song started and he threw himself into it, rending Takao as background vocals and Ryuichi dancing somewhere in the corner. His voice, unused though it was, was still much better than Takao's and the crowd grew silent for a few lyrics. It was when he hit the chorus again that the cheers started.

The song ended too soon and not soon enough, the stadium lights hot in Ryou's face as he gasped for breath. He didn't notice Takao taking his leave, Ryuichi slipping back to Hiro and Fujisaki, just the light on his face and the cheers echoing around him. Yuki's gaze pierced him across the distance, and suddenly things clicked into place.

"Sorry to take over," he spoke, bringing instant silence. Thousands of eyes were boring into him but for the first time it wasn't uncomfortable. "I just couldn't stand it. My song deserved better than Takao, no offense to him." He grinned at where Takao had reappeared in the stands, winking to show he didn't mean any harm. To his credit the other beyblader waved back, grinning madly.

There was a murmur in the stands at those words and Ryou nodded to the unspoken question. "Yes, I said 'my song'. I have a bit of an announcement," he declared, inwardly shivering. It was only Yuki's face across the sea of people that held him in place, giving him the courage to say what he had to. He glanced down at the teams before him, at Max looking at him in understanding, at Zeo looking confused. Taking a deep breath he continued. "As you all know, I was in the train accident that claimed Shuichi Shindou's life. However, that's a bit of a lie."

The crowd exploded into sound, shouts and jeers directed at him. Ryou waved them down impatiently. "The fact that I was in the accident was true. However, Shuichi didn't die." It was odd, he decided, referring to himself in the third person. "He just lost his memory. So, in a sense, you could say he died." Taking a deep breath, he steeled himself for his next words. "I'm sorry for worrying everyone. It's taken me a while to come to terms with it, but I am Shuichi Shindou." He bowed for lack of anything else to do.

There was absolute silence in the vast stadium. Ryou, no, Shuichi looked around uncertainly, not sure what to do now that his secret was out. For lack of anything he said, "I started to regain my memories at the memorial concert, but I didn't think I could go back to singing again." He pulled back a few locks of hair to show the scar marring his face and grinned sheepishly. "It wasn't until Takao started singing my song that I realized, I want to sing again. So," and he took another deep breath, a grin spreading across his face. "I'm here to announce that after the Beyblade World Championships, I will be retaking my place as the lead singer of Bad Luck."

Finally the stadium erupted into sound again, deafening cheers nearly knocking Shuichi from his feet. He just grinned and waved, surrendering the microphone to DJ and hopping down to rejoin his teammates on the floor. Max nearly strangled him in his enthusiasm while Zeo just looked dumbfounded. DJ was announcing again, but everything seemed unimportant in light of his newfound joy.

Shuichi Shindou wasn't dead, and finally, he wasn't afraid of being himself. Shuichi glomped his teammates, saw Yuki at the front of the crowd, piercing him with his eyes. He saw Hiro and Fujisaki taking down their instruments looking marginally happier than before. And Ryuichi was grinning openly at him, waving Kumagoro at him.

Shuichi took a deep breath and laughed.