Season 1 : The Mirror

Summary: 'Lifting his eyes up to the mirror before him, he allowed himself to see what he had been avoiding in his reflection for the past few weeks. A child of the Abbey. A child of fear. A child Kai had forgotten existed. Until now.' In the weeks following the World Championships in Moscow and the return of his memory, Kai is left with the impossible task of sorting through what his memories are, and what are only nightmares. Who will help him piece his mind together?

Disclaimer: Kai, Voltaire and any other Beyblade related themes belong to Takao Aoki, not me. Mori Towers and Chiyoda are real places and they belong to, well, Japan. I own nothing!

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5. Cold

Tala blinked and shook his head; an attempt to clear the faint ringing sound that filled his head at the sound of that name. It was like the sound a glass made when you tapped a spoon against it. He was never fond of the sound. Sharp, crisp and altogether too uncomfortable because it lingered in their air for just a second longer than it should.

"Kai...?" he repeated.

His mother nodded. Her grey eyes creased – a little confused by his delayed reaction, he guessed. "Yes," she said, "asking for you. For... Tala Valkov," she said, her mouth hesitantly forming the words like it was a foreign language. He supposed he couldn't really blame her. Yuriy Ivanov was the name of the child she lost. When he returned to her over ten years later, insisting that his name was Tala Valkov and refusing to be acknowledged as anything else, it must have been… Tala couldn't quite think of what it must have been.

Difficult to swallow, perhaps?

"...If you'd rather not speak to him, I can tell him he's got the wrong –"

"– No. I'll take it," he replied cooly, beginning to descend the stairs and holding his hand out for the phone. She handed it over to him and retreated into the kitchen again, seemingly understanding that this was something he wanted to do alone.

Tala held the phone in his hand and stared down at it searchingly for a moment, not entirely sure if he wanted to speak to the person on the other end of the line. He didn't really feel like speaking to anyone recently. Not his mother or his father. Not cool, calm Dr Donkova with that knowing little smile of hers that, no matter what he said, he was never able to wipe off her face. Not even Bryan who'd called last week – Bryan, the young man who, for years now, Tala knew he could share anything with.

He sure as hell didn't want to speak to Kai – Kai who, apparently, thought he had every right to just stroll in and out of his life as he pleased.

Slowly, Tala stooped down to sit on the bottom-most step and leant against the railing with his back turned to the kitchen. Cursing the short reach of their corded telephone, he paused and listened for the sounds of clinking dishes in the kitchen, making sure his privacy was not compromised. It wasn't.

After a few more moments spent staring searchingly at the phone, he lifted it to his ear, half hoping that the person on the other end had given up waiting and hung up already.

"...Kai?" he said, whispered almost. He kicked himself internally for how vulnerable that must have sounded. Fuck Kai, catching him off-guard like this.

– Tala. –

Tala felt his free hand curl up into a fist. Kai had used that tone. The exact same tone he'd used when he returned to the Abbey in Moscow just before the Championships. A tone of recognition, but not remembrance. Of acknowledgement, but not understanding. It was empty. There was nothing in it.

Nothing but the four letters that made up the name.

"What?" Tala asked icily, taking great care to ensure that the final 't' sound was short and sharp and nipped in the bud.

There was once a time, years ago now, when he wouldn't even have dreamed about using this tone of voice with Kai. It was one he'd learnt to adopt for those outside of his regard, those he preferred to shut out. Like the older boys of the Abbey, to prove that he would not be intimidated. Or the younger recruits who Tala knew were likely to disappear eventually. There was no point in trying to form bonds with those that were fated to die, after all. His parents, too. Tala shut them out because he was sure that, when they looked at him, they didn't see the person he was now. They saw a sorry shadow of the boy he might have been, had he not been tainted by the Abbey.

But this tone, it was not meant for Kai. Never Kai.

Tala cast his mind back as far as it would go and Kai was there. The first person to stand before him, beside him, behind him. The first person Tala could remember ever letting in. The first person that Tala had learnt to rely on, and place his trust in.

Incidentally, he was also the first person to leave.

Tala held his breath, waiting. There was nothing but silence on the other side of the line; Kai was wasting his time. He'd just about made up his mind to hang up when the other person finally spoke.

– ...Look, Tala. I… –

He hesitated. Probably that foolish pride of his getting in the way, as usual. Well, Tala didn't have the patience to tolerate it today. "Spit it out. I don't have all day."

An intake of breath. Kai tried again.

– Fine. Tala, I keep… –

Tala heard Kai sigh in frustration and swear under his breath. But when he drew his next breath, the redhead could have sworn he heard the resolve in it. Kai's next words were slow and deliberate; almost as if he was finally confessing the fact to himself as well as to Tala.

– Right. I… am regaining my memories of the Abbey. Every day. And it, it's too much for me to, to… so, I need - fuck, this is so stupid, why can't I just… Tala. I need your help. –

Kai... remembered?

Even as he spoke, Tala felt his barriers slipping, felt himself begin to thaw out. Those old ties of friendship he'd cast aside a life-time ago were tugging at him again, once more pulling him towards this boy who never, in all the years he'd known him, had never before asked for his help. Who'd never before sounded so… pitiful. So… so utterly unlike himself.

Despite the alarm bells that this fact set off ringing in his head, Tala wasn't able keep a trace of softness out of his voice as he breathed his next question down the phone. Before anything, Tala needed to be sure that he remembered. "...Where have you been, Kai?"

– ...what? –

Tala closed his eyes tiredly and leant his head back against the railing.

He would never fail to help Kai with anything. But then, Kai would never ask for help. It was a strange, silent understanding they'd shared. Help, if it was needed, was always given before it was asked for, and afterwards their thanks would always go unspoken. That's just the way it was – they were proud, arrogant, vain, and strong. But Kai was stronger.

At least, that's how Tala remembered him.

Kai was the first to stand; Tala was quick to follow and emulate, then strive to outdo. United in competition, their rivalry tied them together and pushed them to achieve greater heights. For years, they were Balkov's golden pair... until a certain grey-eyed bird of prey entered the walls and shook things up with his sheer power and brute strength. Spencer and Ian had been there longer, but Bryan... Bryan was unforgiving – ruthless, even by the Abbey's standards. He made no apologies, took no prisoners – he was the perfect soldier and Kai quickly understood that he'd make a much better ally than an enemy. And he was right. Bryan had that rare streak of uncompromising loyalty that meant he would follow you to the grave, if he had to.

Kai understood a lot of things.

Kai should have understood that question.

Tala repeated it, but with a trace of ice now seeping into his voice. A coded question with a scripted answer – a private joke, if you will. It was entirely meaningless, of course. But at the same time, it meant everything. One more chance. If Kai didn't remember this, he didn't remember anything.

"I said, where have you been?"

– Where have I…? I don't, Tala? –

That was all it took. Kai didn't remember. Tala felt himself shut down again.

Deep blue eyes sharpened to ice, then narrowed. Catching his breath, he had to tell himself that whatever it was that just shot through his chest and punctured his lungs, it wasn't hurt. He was just pissed off. Yeah, majorly pissed off… Tala could work with that. He would not succumb to the feeling of being forgotten a second time.

His thick, icy barriers were now firmly back in place. Immovable, impenetrable. He wondered vaguely why the familiar chill brought him no comfort – but quickly dismissed the feeling.

"Fuck off, Hiwatari. I have nothing to say to you."

The hand that held the phone to his ear slid down slowly and, as it came to rest in his lap, Tala hit the disconnect button. The silence that followed seemed… Tala smirked bitterly. He didn't know what the hell it seemed like – it was just different. He decided he didn't like it.

Standing up, Tala deposited the phone back into its cradle on the wall and spared a moment to survey his hands. The hands which had never once betrayed him by shaking, and still did not shake now. Unshakable. Unreachable. The person who was once his best friend was reaching out to him and Tala shot him down, not caring for anything but the grudge he'd been holding onto like it was a lifeline. Looks like Boris had squeezed the heart out of him after all.

"Tala…?" His cool eyes snapped up to meet his mother's. He wasn't sure what emotion was swirling in his eyes, but it was enough for her to take the smallest of steps back. "...Are you okay?"

Tala chewed his lip for a moment, pondering the word. Okay. Everyone seemed to be asking him that, lately. What the hell did it even mean, to be okay? To be physically sound – or mentally? Emotionally? Why did he even care?

He shook his head and gestured back to the phone on the wall. "It wasn't the person I used to know." He surprised even himself by the hard-edge in his voice. But Tala wouldn't lie to himself, because that wasn't Kai. Not really. Not yet.

"Oh," his mother breathed. "I'm sorry," she called to his retreating form up the stairs.

"No, it's... okay." Tala replied. He couldn't suppress the smirk that crept around his lips at his clever little wordplay. Okay.

He was going to have to get to the bottom of that word.

–––––––––––––

Kai blinked, stunned.

The phone was still clutched in his hand and the annoying droning tone that told him the line was dead still echoed into his ear. His mind slowly reassessed the facts.

Tala Valkov had just bitched him out and hung up on him.

As soon as that fleeting moment of shock receded, Kai's immediate reaction was indignation. His eyes narrowed and hardened. Kai would not be hung up on by anyone – not even Tala. He had half a mind to just ring the little fucker back up and tell him so. But then he decided it wasn't worth the time.

He'd tried to make contact and was shunted. He would not give Tala the satisfaction of doing that a second time.

Fuming, Kai slammed the slim, black phone down onto the handset and started to pace around the office in his apartment. Every so often, he glared out through the windows and down towards the bright streets of Chiyoda. Noon. He squinted. The sun was too strong and too bold a contrast to the grey place his mind was currently in.

Where have you been, Kai?

Kai ran a frustrated hand through his hair and had the vague feeling that if he did that any more today, it would be sure to stick that way. Groaning, he flopped down into the black leather chair before the desk and sighed tiredly.

I said, where have you been?

Kai placed his elbows on the desk before him and held his head in his hands as Tala's words echoed around and around in his head. There was something more to the phrase than the words that made it, he was sure.

It meant something.

But he had no idea what that something might be.

Closing his eyes, he tried to pull up some kind of memory or image as the words played around in his head. But all he could see through the purple mist were those sharp, blue eyes and the trace of a wry smirk. That was all he had to work with. Apparently, his mind had no problem relaying all manner of horrible experiences that Kai thought he could do without – but this one, small detail, the only thing he asked for, had to be held back.

It was a fucking joke.

Irritation quickly replacing his lethargy, Kai's eyes snapped open to the computer monitor before him. After angrily tapping random buttons on the keyboard to re-awaken the thing, he opened up his mail-provider and scanned the e-mail Dickenson had sent him with a frown. Along with the old man's predicable wishes for good-health, Kai had gotten two things. A phone number that would take him to Tala, and an e-mail address that would take him to Bryan.

Kai placed two fingers to his left temple in thought.

But then he rolled his eyes at himself and brought his fingers to the keyboard. He would just have to get this over and done with. He'd over-thought the prospect of getting in touch with Tala and look what that got him – nothing but another headache and a loose end. His aim in contacting the Russian was to try and tie up his loose ends, not create more.

Leaning back in his seat, Kai spared a moment to observe what he'd written.

From: Kai Hiwatari
Subject: (no subject)
Date: 9 November, 12:07 GMT +9
To: Bryan Kuznetsov

Kuznetsov,

My memories of the Abbey are returning. I have to know if what I'm seeing really happened. A little help?

Hiwatari.

Short, no frills, to the point. Before Kai could convince himself not to send the damn thing, he tapped the 'return' button and the message was gone. Just like that.

If only his conversation with Tala had been so easy.

Kai sighed. His anger at the redhead was marred by something else. The sound of betrayal that seeped into the teen's voice before he hung up, probably. Kai had gone to him first because he'd felt sure that they were friends, once. But Tala could be ice through and through when he wanted to be, and Kai guessed he'd just forgotten that.

...He'd forgotten so much.

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