Chapter Five

Hiltz peered through the scope of the Death Stinger at the house in the distance. Focusing in, he saw three figures appear on the balcony. Very soon he would get his revenge on Van Flyheight for ruining so many of his plans beforehand. Looking at Raven, Hiltz gave a sigh. That boy had potential, but because he had rescued Van and healed him, Raven had to be brought out of the picture as well. First, Hiltz would need to take out the organoid Shadow in order to prevent Raven and Van from escaping. That wouldn't be a problem. Hiltz smirked as he licked his lips. Not now, but soon, very soon would he attack...

Raven led Van to the edge of the balcony, where he swept his hands across the dusty railing.

"It's been such a long time since I've stared up at the stars like this," Raven commented as he gazed up. "It feels right being back here."

Van nodded in understanding as he moved to stand beside Raven. The whole being on the balcony thing was kind of romantic, and it probably would have made Van feel uneasy had he been here in the past with Raven. But after everything that had happened, and him coming out to the boy, Van felt kind of at ease being here with Raven, knowing that nothing was going to harm them in that moment.

"Oh, you must be famished! Here, I grabbed one for you before. I've heard they're your favorite," Raven said as he took out a hidden papaya from his pocket.

"Thanks man," Van grinned as he easily caught the fruit and began munching away. "Whoa, this is the best thing ever!" Van made sure not to use the secret word.

"Haha, glad you like it," Raven laughed as he turned back to the stars. "Can I ask you something?"

"Shoot," Van said as papaya juice dripped out of his mouth.

Willing himself not to lick the juice up, Raven tore his eyes away from Van's face and asked, "Where do we stand now?"

Thankfully Van wiped the juice off with his wrist as his face twisted into that of confusion.

"Hmm, well, I don't think I can actually call you my enemy after all that has happened. But calling you my friend would just seem really weird and messed up. How about we consider each other...frenemies?"

"What a ridiculously gay thing to say," Raven replied with a straight face before Van burst out laughing. Raven found that he loved the sound of Van's laugh.

"You know, I'm really glad I came out to you," Van said after he had calmed down from laughing. "It's strangely reassuring to know that I don't have to carry that burden alone anymore. I mean yeah, I told a few of my friends the truth, but for me, it's different telling you the truth than it is them...why do you think that is?"

Raven shrugged. "Maybe because you're finally realizing you want me."

Van laughed again as he rolled his eyes and took a last bite out of the papaya. "You're dreaming."

"Maybe I am," Raven whispered after a moment, giving Van his full attention.

Van paused in his chewing and turned his face towards Raven's, swallowing awkwardly as he stared at the boy in wonder.

Van was about to ask Raven what he meant when suddenly Shadow's head perked up and he gave a growl.

"What is it Shadow?" Raven asked as he looked out into the distance.

There was just enough time for a sparkle to appear in the distance before Van shouted, "DUCK!" and jumped onto Raven, pushing the boy to the ground as an explosion hit the house.

As more shots fired, Shadow moved towards Raven to protect him when suddenly a blast hit the organoid, sending him flying into the wall of the building.

"SHADOW!" Raven shouted as Van pinned him down with his body.

"Don't move!" Van shouted back as more shots attacked the balcony. "PAPAYA!"

"Van, this is no time to be talking about -" Raven's voice cut off as Van lifted up his own shirt to his mouth and started screaming 'papaya' into the microphone.

Raven's eyes widened in horror as he stared up at Van in shock. "You were wearing a wire this whole time?"

Van's eyes widened too as he realized what Raven was thinking.

"Yes, I was, but not for the reasons that you think -"

"You son of a bitch!" Raven shouted as another blast hit the balcony where they were laying directly, causing the balcony to begin to crumble. "ZEKE!" Van shouted as the balcony broke below them. Instantly there was a flash of silver as the organoid appeared out of nowhere and engulfed Van, throwing Raven onto its back, and flying away.

"You're not getting away that easily," Hiltz muttered as he fired more shots, trying to lock onto Zeke. However the organoid was too fast. Zeke flew to where the Liger was standing next to the Genosaurer. As Zeke dropped Raven into the Genosaurer's cockpit, and Van into the Liger's, Van heard Raven shout out over the communications system, "I swear Van Flyheight, when I stop Hiltz, I'm coming after you for lying to me, you bastard!"

"I didn't lie to you, Raven! I didn't know our conversation was going to get that deep, I promise I wasn't wearing a wire to betray you or anything!" Van shouted as he brought the Liger to life and sped it off towards Hiltz.

"SHADOW!" Raven shouted.

When the organoid didn't merge with the Genosaurer, Raven sighed and began piloting the zoid in Van's wake. "Looks like I'm doing this without him."

"Look Raven, I'm sorry for all this, but we need to work together to stop Hiltz!" Van cried out as he got the Death Stinger in his sights.

"Why should I trust you now? If anything, I should destroy you first, and then stop Hiltz! After all, I am just a machine of destruction," Raven snarled as he fired a shot at the Liger from behind.

"Raven, I'm sorry about this, but we need to work together!"

"Van, what happened?" A small voice asked from behind.

Spinning around in his seat, Van was shocked to see Fiona sitting in the backseat like always.

"Fiona? What the hell are you doing here? This wasn't part of the plan!"

"She's here too? Oh great, now it's just one peachy reunion isn't it?" Raven spat. "Go on, Van! Tell her the truth while you're at it! If you want to prove to me I should still trust you, tell her how you feel about her! Or did she hear the truth already over the secret microphone?"

"Van, what's he talking about?" Fiona asked shakily as the Liger avoided shots fired by the Death Stinger. "I couldn't stay behind knowing you were in danger, Van."

"I wasn't in any danger when it was just Raven and I!" Van shouted back. As the Genosaurer began attacking the Death Stinger, Van continued, "And nothing Fi, it's not time for that now!"

"Oh, on the contrary Van, I think now is the perfect time!" Raven shouted as he fired more angry shots at Hiltz. "And besides, just who exactly was listening in on the other end of that microphone if it wasn't Fiona?"

"It was me," a voice replied as the Dibison rounded the corner. "I'm the only one besides you, Van, and Shadow who knows the truth, Raven. And for the record, I don't hate either of you for it. Herman only knows what information I relayed back to him, and the only thing I told him was that I was going in to help you with the Liger's help."

"What truth? Van, Thomas, what's going on?" Fiona cried out as the three zoids formed a line against Hiltz.

"Go on, Van, tell her. She deserves to know, doesn't she?" Raven taunted as the three zoids began targeting the Death Stinger.

"Van?" Fiona asked, fear sneaking into her voice.

"I hate to interrupt this bickering, but I would appreciate it very much if the four of you would simply cease moving and allow me to kill you," Hiltz's voice rang out as he began preparations for his most infamous attack.

"Van, he's going to use his charged particle attack!" Thomas shouted as he fired shots, which were easily deflected by the Death Stinger's shield.

"Van, I can't help you if I can't trust you!" Raven also shouted.

Van looked from Fiona's pleading face to Hiltz's Death Stinger, to Raven's face on his screen. Van gave a deep sigh as HIltz's Death Stinger prepared to fire its master attack.

"Fiona, I can't love you because I'm gay."

What happened now happened in a relative Hiltz fired his ultimate attack, Thomas fired a Megolomax in response to counter the attack. Van piloted the Liger up into the air with a battle cry, and drove the zoid down onto the Death Stinger, whose shield had been disabled in order to allow Hiltz to fire his attack. As the Megolomax struggled to overcome Hiltz's blast, Raven also sent out one of the Genosaurer's electric blasts, assisting the Dibison in counter-measuring HIltz's attack. And as the Genosaurer and Dibison's blasts met Hiltz's, the Liger broke Hiltz's shield and speared the zoid.

"No, this can't be happening! You were all supposed to hate each other!" Hiltz shouted as his zoid was attacked.

"Love overcomes shit like fights," Raven muttered as he moved the Genosaurer forward, overpowering the Death Stinger's ray.

"Ambient, I need more power!" Hiltz shouted as the zoid growled an agreement.

"Raven, without the help of Shadow, we won't last that long!" Thomas shouted.

It was true. With the Death Stinger connected to an organoid, and Raven's Genosaurer without Shadow, it wouldn't be long before HIltz got the upper hand and overpowered them.

"SHADOW!" Raven shouted.

Simultaneously, Van's Liger continued to slam down on the Death Stinger, attempting to disengage the enemy's attack.

"Oh no you don't," Hiltz muttered as he aimed a spare cannon at the Liger to fire an attack.

Van quickly side-stepped HIltz's attack and drove one of its blades deep into the cannon, proceeding to turn the Liger sharply and rip off the zoid's cannon.

Ambient growled as one of its sources of firepower was ripped off of the zoid. Suddenly the Dibison and Genosaurer began sliding backwards.

"He's overpowering us!" Thomas shouted as he struggled with his controls. "The Dibison isn't used to a prolonged Megolomax attack like this! Raven, we need Shadow!"

"He's out of commission!" Raven shouted as he said a silent prayer.

'Come on Shadow.'

Van spun the Liger around to the back of the Death Stinger and prepared to give it another go.

"I'll end this," Van muttered darkly.

Hiltz looked out of the corner of his eye at the Liger. Suddenly he had an idea. It was a risky one, but it was one he was willing to take nonetheless.

"Ambient, I'm going to spin this baby onto Flyheight. Can you take care of the other two quickly?"

Ambient growled and Hiltz smirked.

This would be over soon enough.

All Shadow saw was darkness. He could hear voices calling for him, but he couldn't see them or respond. All of the voices were blending together, and it was hard to make out what each individual voice was saying. All he knew was that his name being spoken.

Focusing on one particular voice, Shadow recognized it as Prozen's.

"This is Shadow. He's yours if you can tame him."

Shadow smiled softly at the memory. That had been the first day he had met Raven, and the two had been inseparable since.

Another voice came to his mind as his body began to stir.

"I hate zoids...I hate them and I hate you."

Raven had once told him that. It seemed like so long ago since Raven hated zoids. Shadow wondered what had changed in the boy?

"Zoids aren't weapons to be used in a war! They're supposed to help humanity and to be free creatures used for good!"

Ah yes, it had been that boy Van Flyheight who had changed Raven's outlook on life and zoids.

Shadow smiled again as he began to stand in the darkness. His master...no, his best friend had changed thanks to meeting Van Flyheight. Shadow's head tilted as he heard a voice calling for him.

"Van? No, it was...'

Instantly Shadow's eyes shot open and the darkness cleared as he heard Raven's voice calling for him. Shadow looked around as he stood up completely. He was standing in the rubble of the balcony of Raven's old house. Looking ahead, Shadow saw his best friend's zoid fighting with a Dibison, trying to overpower the Death Stinger while the Liger hit it from behind.

'I have to help them,' Shadow thought as he tried to open his wings. One of his wings was badly injured, but Shadow couldn't worry about that now.

He had a friend to save.

"Raven, we're not going to last much longer!" Thomas shouted as the controls of the Dibison started frizzing out under the pressure of the Death Stinger.

"Just a little bit longer!" Raven shouted as the Death Stinger slid them back even further, closer to Raven's old home.

"Hang on guys," Van shouted as he charged the Liger forward with a shout.

Suddenly Hiltz smirked and swung the Death Stinger around, changing the path of his charged particle attack from the Dibison and Genosaurer to the Liger. The charged particle attack hit the Dibison in the attack, wiping out its Megolomax, and swiftly cutting through the Dibison's legs as if they were paper. Thomas screamed as his zoid crumbled to the ground.

"Thomas!" Fiona shouted from the backseat of the Liger. Up until now, she had just been silently watching, taking everything in, but she couldn't stand the thought of losing her Lieutenant.

"What?" Van shouted as he dove the Liger away from the attack just in time. The Genosaurer's attack hit the Death Stinger just as the Death Stinger brought the charged particle beam around in a full rotation to meet the Genosaurer's attack head-on again.

"That's impossible!" Raven shouted.

"That's the power of my organoid," Hiltz smirked as he rammed the power lever up to its fullest.

As the charged particle beam fired its full power onto Raven, the Genosaurer was pushed even farther back as the distance between the Death Stinger's attack and Raven grew smaller.

"I'm going to die," Raven thought as he watched Hiltz's attack grow closer.

From out of the blue, Raven looked up sharply as he heard a growl as his organoid merged with the Genosaurer. Instantly the controls surged to life, and the charged particle blast emitted by the Genosaurer was able to pour more power into pushing Hiltz's attack back towards him.

"Shadow! You're alive!"

'I couldn't let you have all the fun alone,' Shadow grinned as the Genosaurer gave a roar of life.

"So your organoid returned to its master after all? Well it doesn't matter. Ambient is still stronger than any of your organoids!" Hiltz shouted as he gave a cry.

"Shadow, stop him!" Raven shouted.

Shadow smirked as he gave the zoid the boost he needed.

"Thomas, can you still fire another Megolomax?" Raven shouted.

"I can try. I've never fired more than two at a time before!"

"Do it!"

The Dibison gave a groan as it fired another Megolomax, combining itself with Raven's charged particle cannon's attack, opposing HIltz's attack.

"What?" Hiltz shouted as the blast surged forward, pushing Hiltz's blast back at him. "No!" the criminal shouted as the Liger jumped high into the air and crashed down onto the Death Stinger. The aerial attack was just the distraction Raven and Thomas needed as they put more into their attack, watching as their blast surged forward and hit the Death Stinger.

"No!" Hiltz shouted as the attack hit the zoid, completely destroying Hiltz's charged particle cannon. "This isn't over!" Hiltz screamed as he tried to bury his zoid underground.

"You're not getting away that easily," Raven muttered as he called his organoid's name once again.

Shadow laughed as the Genosaurer fired another attack on the Death Stinger, singing the top of the zoid just as it disappeared into the ground.

A few moments of peace went by as the zoids stood around, recovering.

"I guess...we won," Thomas replied as he opened the cockpit of his Dibison and hoped out.

"Yeah," Van agreed. "Guess we did...Ambient's strong, but he wasn't evenly matched what with two Guardian Force members and two organoids against him." It was at that moment that Van remembered Fiona. Slowly he turned around to regard Fiona. "Fi...?"

The blonde was sitting in the backseat regarding Van with a curious look on her cace. The boy was surprised at how small she looked in that instant.

"Why didn't you ever just tell me the truth?" she asked quietly.

"I thought you would hate me for it," Van said honestly.

"I could never hate you Van," Fiona said honestly as she looked up into his eyes. "I wish that you had told me beforehand and not under such grave circumstances, but I'm proud of you for telling me...and it's okay. I still love you, even if I can't love you in that sense anymore."

"Soooo you don't want to kill me?" Van asked with a shaky laugh.

"No," Fiona smiled as she leaned forward and gave Van a hug. "You're my best friend."

Van grinned and gave a sigh of relief as he relaxed in the embrace.

"Thanks, Fi."

Raven opened up his cockpit and jumped down, meeting Shadow on the ground. Raven quickly ran forward and embraced Shadow. "You're the best, Shadow," Raven grinned as he held his organoid tightly. "I was worried I had lost you."

'You're not losing me that easily,' Shadow laughed as he rested his head on top of Raven's. Raven smiled and turned to watch as Van, Fiona, and Zeke appeared on the ground. The trio quickly walked over, and the group of friends stood around looking at each other in awe.

"You know this isn't over...Hiltz will be back. And next time our little stunt won't be enough to stop him," Thomas said matter-of-factly after a moment.

"We'll be ready for him when he does," Van grinned as he looked at Raven. "Together?"

Raven looked down from Van's open hand to Fiona's face and back to the hand before gripping it tightly.

"Together," Raven agreed.

"Fiona, can you call Moonbay and ask her to come pick me up? I don't think the Dibison can make it back to the base on its own."

"No problem," Fiona grinned as she moved to head back to the Liger.

"Oh, and Fiona?"

"Yes, Thomas?"

Thomas exchanged a smile with Van before turning back to Fiona, sucking in his stomach, and asking boldly, "Since Van can't be an object for your attention anymore, I would appreciate it very much if you would consider going on a date with me!"

Fiona looked at Van who gave her a shrug in a response.

"Well...I guess I could go on a date with you Thomas," Fiona smirked. "On one condition."

"What's that? I'll do anything for you, Miss Fiona!"

"Be gentle in your report to New Helic City. There's no reason why certain truths need to go into the report."

"Already took care of my wording," Thomas beamed as he gave Van and Raven a knowing look.

As the two blondes made their way to their specific zoids, Raven, Van, Zeke, and Shadow stood around.

"I'm sorry I mistrusted you," Raven blurted out after a moment.

"I'm sorry I wasn't fully honest with you," Van replied.

"I don't get it though. Why didn't Thomas use that mic to call in reinforcements?"

"Because then we wouldn't have had the privacy to do this if we won," Van whispered as he drew Raven in for a kiss. It started out gentle but took a different toll as Van's tongue licked against Raven's lips, asking for entrance. As their tongues battled for dominance, Shadow gave Zeke a wink, who blushed and turned away in a pout in response. When the two boys finally broke apart for air, Raven whispered, "Always the dominant one, hm?"

"Well I do have a reputation of being the hero go uphold," Van smirked with a wink.

Raven gave a genuine smile before his face twisted into a confused one. "Wait...so you and Thomas were willing to risk our lives just to avoid us getting caught in a kiss?"

"Wasn't it worth it?" Van grinned as he gave Raven a light peck before pulling the boy close to his chest. "I'm sorry about everything Raven. WIll you forgive me?"

"On one condition," Raven smirked. "Tell me what you truly want."

Van smiled as he gripped Raven tighter to him in an embrace as he pressed his nose into Raven's hair and whispered by the boy's ear, "I want you Raven. Always have, and I always will."