Hee...I haven't written a POV fic for a while now. This one's form Brad's POV, written really, really late one night on a teensy bit of sleep and a lot of Bon Jovi. (The lyrics for the song I 'borrowed' the title - and got the idea for this fic - from are at the end.) ^_^

There are spoiler-like things for the episode where Brad gets the Shadow Fox, so be warned if you haven't seen that one yet. I didn't write this with shounen ai in mind (more of a friend-type thing) but if you want you can think of it that way - I won't mind. It works either way. ^_^

Candra

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Something to Believe In

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"Talk to me, Brad."

You know, I never thought that I would hear something like that from Bit Cloud. He honestly didn't strike me as the type to pry into somebody else's business. I thought he was more the type who respected the concept of privacy - but I guess I was wrong.

He's just standing there watching me, arms crossed over his chest.

And I'm starting to feel trapped - which is odd - seeing as how we're standing in the middle of nowhere at the moment.

He dragged out on one of his scavenging trips - he likes to call it 'salvaging' - but I think we all know the truth by now. It's not like he can argue the point considering the fact that his truck is equipped with a cloaking device. People who salvage parts don't usually feel the need to do so while their vehicle is invisible. People who scavenge parts the way Bit does usually do.

We didn't find too much this trip though. I guess someone else beat us here. Bit didn't seem to be too upset by that, which probably should have been my first clue that he was up to something. My second should have been when he wanted to take 'the scenic route' back home.

We live in the middle of the desert - there is no scenic route. Nothing but miles and miles of sand and rocks as far as the eye can see. Pretty, in a depressing sort of way.

Now we're standing on some cliff with the jeep fifteen feet away staring at each other and trying not to be the first to bend. Machismo at its best.

"Brad?"

There he goes again, being all concerned about me. I told him before that I don't need his concern or his worry - I can take care of myself perfectly fine, thank you. I've been doing just that as long as I can remember. At least I managed to wait him out this time.

But does he listen? No. Of course not.

It's almost like he has selective hearing. Mention food or anything having to do with zoids and he's all ears. Bring up pretty much anything else and you might as well be talking to a brick wall.

"Look, Bit. I appreciate that you're worried about me, but you're just wasting your time."

Blunt and to the point. That's usually the best way to deal with him. He doesn't have the patience for anything else.

If this wasn't so serious I think that I'd laugh at the look on his face right now. He looks like he doesn't know what to say - kind of confused and lost at the same time.

Not that I'm surprised, I get that look a lot from people. I suppose they're working from some kind of script that they expect someone like me to follow. I guess it's just too bad that I never got that script.

I know he's worried and I know why he's worried, but it's none of his business. Even if I could explain it to him, I doubt he'd understand.

Which is a strange thing to say, considering that he's the first person I've met in a long time that understands me as well as he does. But no one ever understands all there is to know about a person and this is just one of those things, I guess. As much alike as we are at times there are still differences that separate us.

And I think he's finally starting to understand that. Good for him, it'll save a lot of unnecessary hurt feelings later on.

"Brad...what's going on with you? You're acting like an even bigger jerk than usual."

I smile at that. Bit's never been very...tactful. It's just not in his nature I suppose. He thinks with his heart and acts without thinking most of the time. He's driven solely by instinct - which is rare. Admirable in a way.

"Give me the keys, Bit."

He's glaring at me now, angry that I'm not answering his questions the way he wants me to. But I don't really care about that right now. The sun is going down and believe it or not, the desert gets cold at night. Cold enough that I'm starting to wish I'd brought a coat or something with me.

I didn't think I'd need one though, since Bit's 'salvage trips' usually only last a couple of hours at the most. He makes a point to get back to Toros base before the sun goes down. The desert isn't always safe at night and he knows that. It's more than just the animals though - people live in the desert and they're usually far more dangerous than anything with fur or fangs could ever be.

"We're not going anywhere until you talk to me, Brad. Tell me what's going on."

I'm trying not to get mad at him, really I am. I know he's doing this because he thinks it's what I need - to talk this out. But I don't, and it's getting colder and the wind is blowing. And I'm finding it hard to remember why I don't just knock his sorry butt on the ground and take the damned keys from him. It has something to do with the fact that he thinks I'm his friend or something I think.

"The keys, Bit."

When you're a mercenary you learn little tricks to make yourself seem more impressive. Intimidating.

No one will hire you if you sit in the corner and wait politely for them to come to you. You need to have the right kind of mindset to be a mercenary. It's kind of like the one the jocks or the popular kids in high school had. The 'we're better than you' kind of attitude that makes people take notice of you. Even when they hate your guts for it.

People can't help but notice someone like that. They look at you, and that's half your work done. The rest is in letting them know just how good you are. And you don't learn to do things like that without learning how to get rid of people you'd rather not work for. The ones you know won't do anything to further your reputation.

"The others are worried about you too, Brad."

I snort at that. He's looking at me like a kicked puppy that just keeps coming back for more. Manipulative bastard.

I'm not too surprised that the others are worried about me, but for some reason I can't find it in myself to care too much about that. Doc and the others treat me like I'm a member of the team - or family or whatever it is we are - but I still feel like I'm on the outside looking in.

No matter how much they act like I'm a regular member of the Blitz team like Jamie or Bit - I know I'm not. They know it too; I can see it in their eyes.

They try to convince themselves that I'm just like them - but they know I'm not. It's almost like there's an invisible barrier between us that I can't cross for whatever reason, and they aren't willing to. There are just too many differences between us.

I'm a mercenary first and foremost. I don't fight for fun and I don't fight because I want to. I fight for the prize money that keeps my zoid and me going. I fight because I have to, and they fight because they want to. My parents weren't rich; we barely got by. Zoid battling was like a far off dream, something that I never thought I would be able to do. And then I realized that if I was good enough at it I could make a living battling. If I was good enough.

Bit's still staring at me, probably wondering what I'm thinking. If I knew, I'd tell him. The fact is I'm just as confused as he looks right now.

There's no reason as to why I've been acting more standoffish lately, I just am. It might have something to do with the fact that I'm feeling more and more like an outsider the longer I stay with them. Maybe I'm hoping they'll get tired of my attitude and get rid of me.

With Bit on the team they don't really need me anymore. That means that Jamie would have to take part in more battles, but I think it would be good for him. He spends too much time planning battles that he's forgotten how exciting they can be. How...fun...they can be. And I've got enough money saved up that I can afford to be on my own for a while.

I'm sure there's a team out there somewhere that could use someone with my ability.

"Brad..."

Now he's trying the 'I'm your friend and you can talk to me' approach. Before it was the 'I'm your friend and I'm worried about you' strategy. Both are useless against me, however.

People like me don't have friends.

"I told you you're just wasting your time, Bit. Give me the keys and let's get back."

He's looking at me like I just made a tactical mistake, and I'm wondering what it is. All I want to do right now is get back to the base and get the hell away from Bit. If I were in my Fox right now my thumb would be hovering over the smoke screen generator trigger. Bit has this unnerving way of looking at you like he knows exactly what you're thinking.

"Why?"

I'm not sure what to say to that. I think the answer should be obvious to him. It's getting dark and he knows full well that it's not safe for us to be out here like this. He might not be a native to the desert, but he's lived with us long enough to know the area.

"The sun went down, Bit."

Usually saying that is more than enough for him. He's not stupid, he just acts that way.

"And I told you we're not going home until you talk. So talk."

What do you want from me, Bit? Do you want me to tell you that I feel like I don't belong with the rest of you? Because I don't. Do you want me to tell you that I feel like an outsider? Because I do. Do you want me to tell you that I want off the team because I know I'll never belong? Because I do, Bit. I really do.

I don't want to be the reason that the Blitz team isn't going as far as it can. I don't want to be the one holding the rest of you back. And I know I am because I can't do the things the rest of you can. I can't fight the way you or Leena or even Jamie does, because I don't understand how any of you do that. And until I can, I don't think I should be a part of the Blitz team.

Maybe that's why Leon left when he did. Maybe he saw something in you that he didn't see in himself. Maybe he knew that he didn't have what it took. And maybe he decided to go find that for himself.

That's what I have top do now, Bit. I have to go find -

"Is this all because you used to be a mercenary?"

All I can do is stare. When did they start talking about my being a mercenary in the past tense? And why does that sound so...good? I think I could get used to hearing that, if -

"It is, isn't it."

He's talking like he knows what he's talking about. Like he knows what I'm thinking. Like he understands...

"Brad...do you remember when you got the Shadow Fox?"

Now he's treating me like a three year-old.

"Brad?"

I feel my own eyes narrow in annoyance. He has this little smile on his lips as though he knows he's going to win.

"Yes. What does that have to - "

He cuts me off before I can finish my question.

"When Dr. Layon told you to fight us you sent the judge registration as a warrior for the Blitz team. Why did you do that?"

Maybe he is as stupid as he looks. The reason should be blindingly obvious - to anyone else.

"I did that so the Fox would be registered to the Blitz team. That way Layon wouldn't be able to say anything about me...acquiring it from him."

You don't hang out around Bit Cloud without picking up a few things from him. And you don't go through life as a mercenary without learning the value of bending the truth every now and then. It's better than flat-out lying, and doesn't tend to get you into as much trouble later down the road. Just look at Doc - he's a master at bending the truth to get the results he wants.

Bit's smirking now, like I just made his case for him.

"Right. But you could have registered it in your name as a mercenary, right? Instead of as a member of the Blitz team?"

I'm getting the feeling that I just walked into one of his traps. One of the ones that should be obscenely obvious but somehow isn't.

"...Yes."

"But you didn't."

Now he looks like he's waiting for me to say something.

"What's your point, Bit? It's not exactly like I was given a lot of time to plan out what I was going to do, you know."

I wasn't, actually. Layon made sure of that.

"That's my point, Brad. You didn't have a lot of time, so you went with a plan that you obviously thought was best."

My opinion of Bit somewhat confused now. I used to think he was smarter than he looks; now I'm convinced of exactly the opposite. I'm not sure which one is right anymore. One thing I am sure of is that Bit is extremely irritating either way.

"Bit, you're working on my last nerve right now. Either get to your point or give me the damned keys!"

I've never been all that patient myself. A bad failing on someone like me, I'm sure.

"My point is, Brad, that you obviously believed in us when you did that. You obviously trusted us enough to put that plan in action."

I'm still confused. Bit has that effect on people.

"Bit..."

I stop. Do I trust them? I must, if I go into battles with them. Despite the fact that the judges closely monitor zoid battles, accidents can happen. People can be hurt - even killed in a normal zoid battle. And when you get caught up in one with the Backdraft involved...

But that doesn't mean that I trusted them when I registered the Fox as one of the Blitz team's zoids. I was just using them. It's what people like me do.

"Brad, I don't know what you went through before I met you. I don't know what happened to make you so jaded and cynical, but I think I can take a guess."

It takes everything I have not to hit him right now. He's standing right in front of me with this little satisfied smirk. Like he thinks he has me all figured out now.

"You think you know me, Bit? Then tell me the reason why you want to fight so badly. What is it that makes you want to win so much?"

He's quiet now. Trying to figure me out - trying to see why I asked him what I did. I can almost see the gears turning in his head. He has this vacant look on his face like the one he gets right before a battle when he's sizing up the opposition. As if he's trying to anticipate what the other team's strategy might be and what he can do to counter it.

"I fight because I need to, Brad. I need to see if I can be the best. I need to fight because if I can't not fight. I fight because it's what Liger and I were born to do."

I should have known he'd work the Liger Zero in there somewhere. It's almost like the two of them share the same mind sometimes.

"Then why do Leena and Jamie fight, Bit?"

He's finally starting to see what I've been telling him from the beginning.

"Leena fights because she loves it, and Jamie...Jamie fights because he wants to prove that he's as good as his dad was. He's fighting to prove to his dad that he can."

Such simple, simple reasons.

"And why do I fight, Bit? If you know me so well. Why do I fight?"

He doesn't answer, and I know that I've won this one. But for some reason my victory rings hollow.

"That's why, Bit. That's why I've been acting the way I have lately. The rest of you have reasons for fighting...and I don't. Not one that I want to give as much of myself to like the rest of you have. Fighting for money just isn't reason enough for me to risk everything for like you and the others do. Not anymore."

I hold my hand out for the keys to the jeep, but he's just staring at me again. And then he starts smiling.

"You're wrong, Brad. You do have a reason for fighting, and it's not for money."

"Really. What is it then, Bit?"

I'm not really expecting an answer from him. He's been learning to play poker and he's good at bluffing.

"Us."

That throws me for a moment.

"What?"

"Us. You're fighting for us, Brad. For your friends. That time when the Backdraft kidnapped Leena. That time I was in trouble with the Elefander. That time when the Liger Zero was stolen. You can't tell me that you did all of that for money, Brad. You were fighting for us, and for you. That's your reason."

I can't say anything, and he's still smiling.

"It's a good reason to fight, Brad. A much better one than any I can think of. It's noble."

I still can't say anything.

"The Blitz team is lucky to have someone like you on it, Brad."

I want to ask him if he's blind, or if he's stupid, because I don't understand how he can say that about me. I'm not noble, and the Blitz team could do better than someone like me.

Maybe he sees some of that on my face because he's shaking his head and frowning.

"I don't expect you to believe me right now, Brad. But the least you could do is think about it. Maybe you'll see what I mean if you do."

And then he turns and heads for the jeep. It takes me a moment, and then I'm following him. I still don't see what he's talking about. But right now all I want is to go back to my room and the warm bed I know will be waiting for me. I want...I want to go home.

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Something to Believe In - Bon Jovi

I lost all my faith in God,
in his religion too
I told the angels
they could sing their songs to someone new
I lost all my trust in my friends
I watched my heart turn to stone
I thought that I was left to walk this wicked world alone

Tonight I'll dust myself off,
Tonight I'll suck my gut in
I'll face the night and I'll pretend
I got something to believe in

And I had lost touch with reason
I watched life criticize the truth
Been waiting for a miracle
I know you have too

Though I know I won't win
I'll take this one on the chin
We'll raise a toast and I'll pretend
I got something to believe in

If I don't believe in Jesus, how can I believe in the Pope
If I don't believe in heroin, how can I believe in dope
If there's nothing but survival, how can I believe in sin
In a world that gives you nothing, we need something to believe in

If I don't believe in Jesus, how can I believe in the Pope
If I don't believe in heroin, how can I believe in dope
If there's nothing but survival, how can I believe in sin
In a world that gives you nothing, we need something to believe in