Scorched – Chapter 02



Chapter 02

When light greeted his eyes, blinking slowly with the slow on, off, on, off that alternated white with darkness, he knew he’d had a drugged sleep.  He didn’t wake up gasping, lurching from an unremembered dream.  Plus, his eyelids felt numb.

Hollow rasping.  Oxygen mask.  Slowly, with leaden limbs, he reached up and pulled it off.

“Kai!  You’re up!  Stop taking that thing off!  We had a hell of a time putting it back on after the last time.”  Before he knew it, a tanned hand reached into his view and put the fogged mask back onto his face.

Takao – because it could only be him, so loud that Kai’s eardrums felt like ready to burst – plopped himself down into the hospital chair, the kind that weren’t particularly designed for comfort, with a heaving sigh, as though he were the one confined to the bed here.  “You sure gave us a scare last time.  You just started screaming your head off.  Rei practically had to jump on top of you to keep you down.”

He slid his eyes close again.  Last time.  He’d waken up before…?

…It was no good.  He only had vague recollections, and it was of an overwhelming feeling of chaos and loss, the dregs of which were still clinging to his psyche.  He shoved them to the back of his mind again, resolving to look into them when he was alone and didn’t have a teammate nagging at him.

“Kai?”

He opened his eyes again and focused on the blue-haired blader.  The closest he would come to calling a rival and his equal in Beyblading, who was unfortunately also the exact opposite of him in personality.

Something nagged at him for his attention.  He ruthlessly walled the feeling off, confining it to the dark corner of his mind for later contemplation too.

Takao took his eyes focusing on him as a sign to continue.  “Oh good, you’re still awake.  Don’t know what I’d have done if you dropped off again.  Max and Rei just went out to catch some z’s.  You really took a lot out of them when you woke up last time.”

Again with the “last time.”  The boy must have seen the slight furrow in his eyebrows, or perhaps the question in his eyes, because he continued.  “I’m not really surprised if you don’t remember it.  I mean, you were basically flipping out and trying to burst our eardrums while trying to brain us at the same time.  No biggie.”

A morbid curiosity filled him and he wondered what he could have been screaming.  He wasn’t sure he wanted to know.

Takao went ahead and told him anyways.  “Of course, if I’d been yelling about some secret girlfriend, I’d conveniently forget about it next time I woke up too.”

This brought the full force of his glare on Takao, and even though they’d moved on long past that point where Takao would actually cower at his gaze, the boy still froze for a split second.

Painfully, but slowly so he wouldn’t make any sudden movements that’d trigger another panic attack from Dragoon’s partner, he moved his arm to his mouth and shifted so the mask was half off.  “What…”  He started, but faltered.  His throat was cracking and catching on itself.  After a bit of swallowing, he tried again.  “What are…?”

Seeing his pain, Takao quickly reached over and poured a glass of water and handed it to him.  “What am I talking about?  I mean, I wasn’t here, but it sounded from Max like you kept on yelling about some ‘she’ or ‘her.’  This may come as a surprise, but we don’t know much about you, let alone your private life.  Don’t think you could have mentioned this girl to us?  We’d have loved to know.”  A cheeky grin only half as bright as usual followed the sarcasm.  It quickly devolved into some awkward shuffling.  “You didn’t break up or anything, did you?  You kept asking where she was.”

Propping himself up on his elbows, he finished the cup and handed it back to Takao, gesturing for another.  The other complied, and this one was finished just as quickly.

A girl?  “She?”  He had no girlfriend, had never had any interest in dating or looking for a partner of the romantic sense, so it was simply inconceivable for him to have said anything of that sort, but Max was no liar.  He may exaggerate on very rare occasions, but he never told an outright lie.  The only girl he had regular contact with was Hiromi, and he’d never looked at her in such a light.

There was the slightest possibility he might, if he were drunk, but since he’s never been drunk, he wouldn’t know.

If it weren’t a girl, then there was only one other.

There was only one “she,” only one “her” that he had in his life.

“Takao.”

“Yeah, Kai?”

“What happened?”

“What, you mean yesterday-”

“No,” he said with a bit more force, “I mean, why am I here?”

He waited for the answer, but when Takao didn’t answer, he looked up.  His teammate was biting his lip, a bad habit he sometimes showed when he was nervous or trying to sort through words.  Takao wasn’t exactly stupid (granted, he was far from being a bright crayon in the box either); his problem seemed to be more a terminal case of “leap before you look.”

It unnerved him that for once, Takao was thinking very, very carefully about what words to choose.

“You remember fighting Brooklyn, right?  Well, you won.  It’s been … three days since.”

Three days lying injured in a hospital bed.  Kai waited for the continuation, but Takao was being very stingy with words.  Silence reigned for a few seconds before Kai finally prompted, “And?”

“And … well, the G-Revolution won!  We won the World Championships and beat Balkov’s stupid ass bac—”

“I don’t give a fuck about Balkov, Takao.  Where is my blade?”

Heedless, Takao continued.  “I mean, you were … shit … hospitalized, and we couldn’t even accept the award because we felt like crap because of you, and we haven’t slept a wink waiting for you to wake up and trying to keep you down.  Did you know you have a mean right-hook?  I shouldn’t be surprised; I mean, after all, you do work out, but you should really do something about what you do in your sleep…”

“Dranzer?  Where is Dranzer?”

“Shit, Kai.  You fucking died!  What were you thinking?  Why didn’t you say anything?”

When he stopped for a deep breath, Takao did flinch at Kai’s crimson glare this time.

But it wasn’t from fear of him.

Then why?

The ominous feeling pooled in Kai’s gut.  Anger out, Takao started fiddling, and the more Takao fiddled, the more Kai realized that he didn’t want to know the answer.

The more he hesitated, the more Kai realized he already knew the answer.

She was gone.

“We found you lying in the hall afterwards.  Didn’t even realize you didn’t make it to the team room…  We were really worried because you wouldn’t say anything!  You wouldn’t open your eyes!  It didn’t matter how hard Rei slapped you or Max shook you or I shouted at you or Daichi chewed on you, you didn’t wake up…”  By this time, Takao was wiping tears from his eyes.

Kai bit back his automatic comment about how crying was a weakness.  It would have been hypocritical because crying was not just the physical act, but the emotions associated with it.

He was guilty of it as well.

“Dranzer, Kinomiya…  Dranzer…?”

“Dranzer … we found her next to you.  She’s fine, she’ll be patched up in no time.  It’s not the first or last time our blade’s been chopped to pieces, so she’ll be all right.”  Takao fidgeted.  Kai looked away from his concerned gaze.  Too much was too much.  “We’ll have her fixed up in no time and it’ll be here the next time you wake up, so no worries, right?  Just … get better.  Get some rest.  And for god’s sake stop getting up and moving around on your own!”

Kai kept quiet.  Takao’s words ran true, but … at the same time, the beast was not the blade.  The blade may be easily repaired, but Kai knew, somehow, that the beast … the bit … won’t.

For all that Kai felt like shit, his injuries shouldn’t warrant this much concern, especially from Takao who was no stranger to the no-pain-no-gain philosophy and who trusted him to always pull through.  Takao, who was now practically hyperventilating just to keep him from moving.  “Kinomiya … what happened to me…?”

“Huh?”  Takao did the perfect owl impression.  “I shouldn’t…”

Glare.

Sigh.  “You … you can look at it on your chart later.  You probably won’t remember even if I tell you, and I can’t tell you because there’s too much to remember.”  Takao gripped his hair in his fists.  “Shit … you fucking died on us, Kai…”

He did mention something like that before.  True.  That would justify some degree of mother-henning.

For once, Kai had no words in response.  The one thought that did occur to him was highly inappropriate – it wasn’t his fault that it was true that Suzaku would be waiting for him if he left this world.

Instead of replying, justifying, rationalizing, comforting, or any other verbal action he could’ve taken, he closed his eyes, a sure sign the conversation was over.  His questions answered, he was going to seek the sanctuary of unconsciousness.

“What?  Hey, don’t sleep on me!  Are you listening, Kai?”

He was listening.  But he wasn’t ready to think of death yet, her loss burning still too brightly.  (What was worse was that no one but him realized, and that there was no way to alert them, yet.)

He stopped listening when he drifted off again to the cacophony of Takao’s complaints and resigned grunts.




Onto Chapter 3 >>

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