Wow...thanks to everyone who commented on my first fic, it means a lot to me. I love getting constructive criticism on my writing because it inspires me to write more and just makes me feel good in general. So thanks again, everyone!
I got the mental image of Brad and Bit racing their zoids in the desert and couldn't get rid of it until I got it down on paper...and then it sort of...mutated, I guess. It's a little light on dialogue, more of an introspective on the characters. And I know the Shadow Fox isn't an Ultimate X like the Liger, it's just I like thinking of it the way it's depicted in the fic. And I love the implication that Bit could/does have a telepathic link with the Liger Zero...^^;;
This can be shounen ai, if you look at it just the right way...and squint and other things of that nature...I guess my BitxBrad muses are especially...shy lately...>_
Hopefully this makes sense...
Disclaimer: I don't own Zoids or any other Zoids characters,
much to my sorrow. ^^;;
Anyhow, feedback is greatly appreciated!
Brad was doing it again.
Bit had to wonder just how one person could manage to have an ego like Brad's and still have a low opinion of themselves. As far as he knew, Brad was the only one who could manage it. As soon as that thought came to him, Bit felt a twinge of guilt for having thought it. Brad didn't go around flaunting his skills and abilities so much as he sort of...radiated smugness. And even then, Bit knew that that wasn't it either. It was more that Brad was confident in his abilities and it showed.
The other man was sitting in the cockpit of the Shadow Fox with a troubled look on his face across the way from where Bit was working on the Liger Zero in the repair bay.
Sighing, Bit tore his gaze away from Brad and the Fox and back to what he was doing, as a short beep sounded. Pressing a button, Bit's eyes scanned the information scrolling across the diagnostic panel, green eyes narrowed.
The Liger had been damaged in a previous battle, and the front right knee joint was acting up. Bit had been working on it for hours, digging tiny shards of shrapnel from the joint. Sand and other debris had gotten into the gashes in the Liger's armor, damaging the delicate electronics inside.
Running his fingers over a scarred section of armor, Bit felt the Liger's presence in the back of his mind, asking a silent question.
"Sorry partner, just a little longer. Then we can go on a run."
Bit grinned as a wave of impatience and annoyance washed over him through the link he shared with the Liger.
"Yeah, I know. This is taking longer than I thought too. Almost done, though." He said, giving the Liger's leg an affectionate pat.
"Talking to your Liger again, Bit?"
Glancing down, Bit raised an eyebrow at Brad's sudden appearance at the foot of his Liger.
"And like you don't talk to your Shadow Fox?"
Crossing his arms over his chest, Brad tipped his head to the side, a small smile on his lips.
"That's different, I don't expect my Fox to answer me."
Bit snorted, flipping the screen of the portable diagnostics machine he held closed. Sliding the strap over one shoulder, Bit stepped back and studied the Liger's leg joint closely. Everything looked to be in working order.
Removing the shrapnel and repairing the damaged armor had been the easy part. Calibrating the knee joint had been far more difficult, taking up most of the morning and a good part of the afternoon as well.
But if the results of that last diagnostics test were reliable, then the joint mechanism and electronics should be operating normally.
All that was left was to test it.
Bit's gaze slid towards Brad, his lips curving up into a smile.
"Hey, Brad. Wanna race?"
Brad lifted an eyebrow at Bit's offer.
"You sound like a high school kid with a new car."
Bit grinned. Hitting the button that lowered the lift he'd been standing on in order to work on the Liger. Jumping off as it came to a stop at ground level, Bit turned to face Brad, green eyes gleaming with amusement.
"I need to test out the repairs I did on Liger. Want to?"
Brad looked like he was debating the invitation, and Bit's smile widened as he felt the Liger's eagerness at a chance to challenge Brad's Shadow Fox.
"Just the Liger Zero, right? No going Jager?" Brad asked, eyes flicking toward the shadow of the Hover Cargo outside of the hangar.
"Yeah...just Liger Zero and me. You up for it?"
Brad grinned, blue eyes flashing.
"You bet. There's no way you can beat my Fox."
Bit returned Brad's grin.
"We'll see about that, Brad."
It was like flying.
Brad loved this, the way the ground flew beneath his Fox's feet, the steady pound of metal striking earth. He loved the way he could feel his Fox pushing itself to its limits because he asked it to. Loved the way it felt to fly without wings.
Somewhere behind him, Bit and the Liger Zero were taking it slower, testing the repairs before they went all out and chased him down.
You can try, Bit, you can try.
Brad might not have been able to communicate with his Fox in quite the same way Bit and his Liger did, but that didn't mean Brad didn't understand his Fox. He knew when it wanted to run, and he knew when it wanted to fly. And now it wanted to fly.
And so did Brad.
He also understood now why Bit loved going on runs with his Liger. It had quite honestly baffled him before that Bit would want to climb into his zoid's cockpit without the intention of battling. With no offer of prize money.
But then he'd found his Fox.
Before then, and even before Bit, Brad had only looked forward to zoid battles for the money. Sometimes for the recognition he would gain for his skills if he defeated a strong opponent. Sometimes he did it because he had no other choice. Sometimes he did it because his pride wouldn't let him say no.
He'd never done it because it was fun. Because it was something he wanted to do. It had always been something that he could do. Something that would gain him the needs to survive long enough to see another day. But now...
Now it's you and me, Fox.
He felt a stab of regret for his Command Wolf. It had served him well over the years, and certainly hadn't deserved the fate it had received. At his own hands, no less.
The Shadow Fox faltered, its pace slowing as Brad felt some of his elation fade at the thought. Would his Fox meet the same fate some day if and when he saw a faster, sleeker zoid?
And what did that say about his teammates? His...friends? Bit?
Would he cast them all aside after everything they'd done for him, just because he saw a bigger, better opportunity for himself later down the road? Dump them like an anchor holding him back?
The thought made him sick, because he knew he was capable of it. If he'd been able to sacrifice his Command Wolf without a second thought just for a chance at the Shadow Fox...
Settling into the Liger Zero's cockpit, Bit smiled as he felt the link he shared with his Liger slide into place at the back of his mind. He was always aware of it, on some level, wherever he went. Like a kind of white noise in the background, always there and always a source of comfort.
It was only when he sat in the Liger's cockpit that it...clicked...and everything became sharper. The world around him came alive, colors were brighter, sound was clearer. It was like removing a veil from his eyes, and Bit loved every minute of it.
Liger Zero roared in agreement, and Bit's smile widened.
"Ready to run, partner?"
This time the Liger's assent was alike a warm caress in Bit's mind, full of eagerness and anticipation of the chase to come.
Brad had gone on ahead, allowing Bit the time he needed to run basic tests to test the repairs. He could feel the Liger holding itself back by sheer strength of will and a sort of respect for Bit, something that never ceased to amaze him.
What he shared with Liger Zero was a true partnership, equal on both sides, something he'd always dreamt of but never expected to happen. He knew the Liger trusted and respected him, otherwise it would never have chosen him to be its pilot. He also knew that the Liger would have torn itself apart, if he asked it to.
Just like he would have.
Eyes flitting over the control panel in the Liger's cockpit, Bit's smile turned predatory as all lights flashed green.
Better watch out, Brad. We're coming for you.
"All right, let's go Liger!"
With another roar, the Liger surged forward, a flash of white against the wind.
It was a nice view, Brad thought, legs dangling over the side of a rocky cliff. The sun was beginning to set off to his right, bathing the forest below in soft golden glow. If he listened closely, he could occasionally catch the faint bird song drifting upwards.
Sighing, Brad looked over his shoulder at his Fox.
It stood patiently waiting for him at the base of the cliff, its cockpit hatch open. A small smile graced his lips at the sight. It was almost as though the Shadow Fox was beckoning to him to climb back into the cockpit. Trying to lure him in with the promise of a run, and the thrill of the chase.
Who knew, maybe the Fox was sentient in a way. That crackpot Layon was capable of almost anything, why not creating something that could think on its own? Brad knew it had to be like a thorn in Layon's side that they beat him at every turn, and that Bit's Liger was the cause of those defeats.
And Brad had to admit that the Liger was certainly an impressive machine - even without Bit's being able to communicate with it. Layon was smart enough to realize the Liger was different from most zoids. It would have presented anyone with a challenge, to try to emulate the Liger Zero, and when you added his ongoing feud with Doc...well, anything was possible.
Brad had had his doubts form the very beginning about the Liger Zero and Bit, but after witnessing first hand what those two were capable of...
It made him want to become a stronger zoid warrior. Maybe that was why he'd been so eager to find his Fox that he'd wound up destroying his Command Wolf. Maybe that was why he'd saved Bit for last in that first battle with his Fox, because he'd wanted to see who the winner would be. Maybe that was why he'd accepted Bit's challenge earlier, because he wanted to prove himself as a warrior.
And maybe, just maybe, that was why he'd risked everything to get his Shadow Fox in the first place. Maybe it had been his competitive side egging him on, urging him to do something he never would have considered doing before until then. Maybe it had been time for him to leave his Command Wolf behind, and Fate had personally taken things in hand.
Somehow, that thought made him feel a little better. Knowing the reason why he'd done what he'd done helped put everything else back into perspective. It made him realize that maybe he wasn't so far gone as to take what he had - what the members of the Blitz team - offered freely and willingly for granted. It made him realize that maybe his days as a mercenary were over.
He'd never been very competitive as a child, never wanting to draw the attention of the bigger, meaner kids. He'd always had a sort of quiet confidence in himself and his abilities, satisfied that he at least knew what he was capable of. Even when he'd become a mercenary he'd remained the same.
Allowing his opponents to underestimate him and his Command Wolf because it gave him the edge he needed. He didn't care what others said about him, letting them draw their own conclusions about him. Letting them think whatever they wanted, because he knew the truth. And that had always been good enough for him.
And then Bit had showed up and changed everything.
Snorting, Brad had to smile a little at that. And wonder if Bit had that effect on everyone he met, or if it was just the Blitz team in general.
Or maybe not, since even Bit's enemies seemed drawn to him like moths to a flame. Maybe it was their pride that wouldn't allow them to accept defeat at the hands of someone like Bit. A newcomer to the world of zoid battles while they'd had to fight their way tooth and nail, to where they were now.
Well, it certainly makes things more interesting.
For the first time that he could remember, Brad wanted to win because it would be a challenge. Not because it would gain him recognition. Not because it would give him money to fill his stomach and put clothes on his back. He wanted to win because it was a challenge he couldn't ignore or refuse.
And he knew Bit was aware of it. It had been between them since that first battle of Fox against Liger. He'd seen it in Bit's eyes afterwards as they talked.
He saw it every time he climbed into the Fox's cockpit and caught Bit watching him. They both knew that eventually they'd find a way to battle against each other, it was just a matter of time. Now that Brad had a zoid that could go up against the Liger with a decent chance at defeating it, Brad found that he looked forward to fighting against Bit.
Maybe things had been building up to a battle between them for a long time. Brad respected Bit, but that was just another reason he wanted to challenge him to a battle. Because he knew what Bit was capable of, and he wanted to see if he and his Fox had what it took to defeat him.
A flash of white at the corner of his eye drew Brad's attention back to the forest below as the Liger burst through the trees. He smiled, watching as the Liger all but flew over the ground, leaving a dust trail in its wake as it sped towards the cliff he stood on.
Bit slowed the Liger to a walk as he approached a narrow canyon leading to the cliff Bit knew Brad like dot go to sometimes to think. He'd known almost from the start where Brad would go, knowing that something was bothering the older man.
He didn't know what it was, exactly, but Bit knew that getting Brad into the Shadow Fox's cockpit would help with whatever it was. It was impossible to miss the way Brad obsessed over his Fox. He refused to let anyone else touch it, or even get near it sometimes.
Part of that, Bit knew, stemmed from the fact that Brad's zoid was his life, almost literally. Brad made a living out of battling, and you couldn't do that without being a little paranoid when it came to protecting your source of income. There were other people out there besides the Backdraft Organization whose morals were less than stellar. The rest of it...Bit smiled to himself. The rest of it was because the Fox was Brad's.
And Bit also knew that Brad had started taking the Shadow Fox out on runs - something he'd never done with the Command Wolf.
It was difficult trying to understand Brad sometimes, and other times it was just all too easy to figure out what was going through his mind. Brad wasn't as good at hiding his emotions as he thought he was, although Bit doubted the others ever noticed.
One thing was certain though, Brad had a bond with his Fox that he'd never had with his old Command Wolf.
Glancing down at the sensor panel, Bit almost missed it. Something at the edge of his vision, like black on black. He felt the Liger's surprise in his mind, and then something very much like a purr.
"What's up, partner? You see him?"
In answer, the Liger twisted around and lunged at something off to their side, hidden by the dense underbrush. Bit let out an excited whoop as the Shadow Fox leaped out from behind the cover of a fallen tree and kept going. He laughed as the Liger set off in pursuit.
"You're mine, Brad!"
Brad's face appeared in front of Bit, blue eyes gleaming with equal parts amusement and excitement.
"How about less talk and more action, Bit?"
Bit's eyes narrowed as he recognized and accepted the challenge for what it was.
"You got it, Brad."
The other man laughed, and Bit was relieved to see that whatever had been troubling him was gone now. Maybe all he'd needed was some time away from Toros base to sort things out for himself.
And a good run in the Fox.
Bit blinked, caught by surprise by the question, and then he saw the smirk on Brad's face.
"Loser buys the winner ice cream?"
Brad nodded, his gaze sliding sideways for a moment as he piloted the Shadow Fox around a sharp turn.
A quick glance at his own sensors gave Bit advance warning, and moments later the Liger followed suit without breaking stride.
"Triple mocha almond fudge."
Bit had to grin at that. Who would have ever thought that Brad had a sweet tooth?
"You're on. Better get your wallet out, Brad, because there's no way Liger and me are going to let you win this one."
Brad snorted gently, giving Bit a dubious look.
"Isn't that what you said last time?"
Bit didn't answer right away, busy weaving the Liger between the trees as they entered the forest. He could see Brad doing the same ahead of him, although he had more of an advantage with the smaller Shadow Fox.
"You got lucky last time, Brad. Things will be different this time."
"We'll see, Bit. We'll see."
Brad's image blinked out, and then the chase really began.
It was long past midnight when Bit and Brad eventually made it back to Toros base, tired, exhausted, and feeling far too satisfied with themselves. The race had wound up being a tie, although it had been a close thing at the end.
Settling the Liger into its normal spot, Bit glanced over to where Brad was just climbing out of the Fox's cockpit. Looking up as he felt Bit's eyes on him. Brad flashed the younger man a smile.
"Next time, Bit." He promised, giving Bit a meaningful look.
Grinning, Bit decided to climb down instead of taking the faster route and simply jumping from the Liger's cockpit. He doubted he had the energy to do anything more strenuous than fall into bed, the way he was feeling at the moment.
There was a wave of tired assent in his mind from the Liger, tinged with satisfaction.
Glancing up at his zoid, Bit smiled.
"It was a good run, wasn't it partner?"
Watching him, Brad wondered what it would be like to have that kind of bond to his zoid. Sometimes it was like Bit and the Liger acted with one mind. It was...impressive hardly seemed adequate, but it was all Brad could think of.
He thought it would have been nice to have something like that, if only for a little while. Glancing at the Shadow Fox, Brad smiled.
What he had with his Fox was something entirely different, but just as important to him. It might not talk to him the way the Liger talked to Bit, but Brad could sense something in the Fox. Maybe it was just wishful thinking, but he knew the Fox was different. Knew it was special...and it was his.
He'd long since earned the privilege and honor of piloting it, and that was more than enough for him.
Turning to face him, Bit graced Brad wit one of his smiles.
Bit tipped his head to the side, a puzzled look on his face.
But he was talking to Brad's back as the older man headed towards the living area.
Watching him go, Bit's expression changed to one of contentment. It looked like Brad had come to terms with whatever was troubling him after all.
We'll see who wins next time, Brad.
Giving the Liger a last once over, Bit turned the hangar lights off and followed Brad.