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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4. Stone

"… Tala?"

"Hm?" he responded, his sharp blue eyes flashing up to meet her dark brown ones.

"What are you thinking?"

"That I still can't believe you haven't changed this fucking carpet," he said disinterestedly. Even as he spoke, his eyes flickered down to it. It was the most hideous thing he'd ever seen – mottled brown and olive green woven into an elaborately disgusting floral pattern. The only thing she had in her defense was that she wasn't actually the one who'd chosen it.

She laughed. A woman's laugh was a strange sound that he hadn't grown accustomed to yet. Too soft and tinkling, and filled with colour. "I couldn't possibly change the carpet, Tala. I sometimes fear you'd have nothing left to talk to me about if I did."

Tala cracked a small, wry smirk at that. Indeed, he may very well have nothing left to talk to her about – since he refused to talk about anything else. He shifted around on the pleated velvet couch he was sat on and leant lazily over the arm, propping his head up on his hand.

Dr. Galina Donkova. That was the name of his counselor. At least that's what they called her, but Tala wasn't stupid. She was his shrink. A psychiatrist hired to analyse and note down the effects of his time at the Abbey and provide him with some kind of talking-therapy. Pills too, if she thought he needed them, but she hadn't prescribed any yet. Even so, every Tuesday and Friday afternoon he was scheduled here to have an hour-long heart-to-heart session about his issues.

One month later, and they hadn't moved past his issue with the carpet.

Still, he hadn't bet that Donkova would be as stubborn as he was. She never rose to any of his sarcastic remarks, often returned as good as she got, and always tried to steer the conversation away from the carpet and towards himself. A valiant effort, one that Tala never rewarded with anything beyond a little dry banter at best.

"Are you hungry?"

Tala's brow furrowed. "No."

"Tired?"

He raised an eyebrow. "...It's four-thirty."

"But I suppose you feel them, though. Fatigue, and hunger?"

Tala snorted wryly. Ah, he could see where this was going now. "I suppose I do."

"I suppose you do," she echoed. There was silence for a few moments during which Donkova surveyed him as he played idly with a loose thread in the arm of he couch. "I'm aware we've been over this before, but… it really isalright to feel, you know."

Tala rolled his eyes.

"Sometimes, we'll try to hide our feelings because they're ugly, or difficult, or we don't quite know what to do with them. Anger, bitterness, fear –"

"– I'm not afraid," Tala snapped, on impulse.

"...Of me?" she probed. Before Tala even realised what was happening, he was playing along. Talking. Again.

"Yes, of you. Of anyone. Fear just isn't a word that's in my vocabulary."

"Why?"

"… Why?"

"Yes, why?" she said.

"Well, because – and, this isn't a threat, so I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't press that little button like last time – but, because I could snap you. Quite easily," he said plainly. "I could break you and everyone else in this building and before anyone on the outside even knew what happened. I could be out of this country before the police units had even figured out that it was me. I could wipe myself off the map entirely and neither Tala Valkov or this... Yuriy Ivanov, would ever been seen or heard from again."

The dark eyed blonde just stared at him passively from her position on her seat. Her hands were folded in her lap and she looked quite relaxed. "Oh, I don't doubt that for a second, Tala," she said. And he could see it in her eyes that she was telling the truth. But then she leant forward, placed her elbows on her knees and fixed him with a mildly searching look. Almost as though, if she looked hard enough, she thought she might be able to stare right through the defenses he'd built around himself. "So what's stopping you?"

Tala's cold, impassive look split in half as he broke into a laugh to fill the silence. But it was all wrong. Hollow and razor-edged, and completely devoid of colour.

Running a hand lazily through his hair, Tala pushed himself up off the couch and made for the door. "I'm leaving now," he said over his shoulder. His hour wasn't nearly up yet, but he'd never once stayed the full amount of time anyway.

When he looked around, he saw that Dr. Donkova had settled back in her chair and was smiling at him pleasantly, as she always did when he decided it was time to leave. "See you on Tuesday, then."

–––––––––––––

Shrugging the collar of his thick winter jacket closer around his jaw, Tala stepped off the metro and began to weave his way through the throngs of people milling around the underground. He hated the public transport system in Moscow. There were always too many people crammed in to too small a place, while even more people from behind tried to squeeze in as well. It was utter stupidity, and there was simply no order or reason to any of it.

But since the alternative was to be constantly watched – babysat, even, – on his way to and from the therapy sessions, this pointless, chaotic crowd was something he was willing to endure. Because in this grey jacket, walking through this grey crowd in a grey city, he was at least afforded some level of invisibility. His vivid red hair, no longer held up in his once trademark style, yet still unusual enough to gather some attention, hung loose around his jaw now and began to sway about in the sharp November air as he stepped out of the station and into the street.

This damned hair, coupled with his penetrating blue eyes, was enough for the occasional passer-by to identify him as the old captain of the Demolition Boys, Russia's national Beyblade team. Tala Valkov. Once a hero, now just tragic little Yuriy Ivanov, a victim of the Abbey; confused, abused, disturbed, unhinged. A gasp of breath, the reflexive step back – there was no ignoring this when he was recognised on the street. He'd play it up occasionally, with a sharp glare and a threatening step forward. At first, he'd gotten a kick out of the flash of fear that sparked in people's eyes when he did. But it quickly grew tiresome.

Even worse was the pity, though. There was no hiding that in the eyes of those who recognised him. And eyes never lied.

He wondered, vaguely, what these people on the street saw in his eyes.

A manic perhaps, so disturbed by his time in the institute that he was likely to snap at a moment's notice. A liability. A threat. The boys at the Abbey received far too much military training at far too young an age. Hardened through hardship. He had blood on his hands. He was dangerous.

But then, no.

Perhaps they saw a child in his eyes. One who was snatched off the streets years ago when he was little more than a toddler. Brainwashed. Put through torturous training. Put through hell. Scarred. Alienated. Alone.

Donkova saw a case, of that much he was sure. Something to be prodded and probed and figured out, before being set to the side, put in a box and neatly labelled.

These eyes of his attracted too much attention. Tala lowered them to the snow-dusted grey streets of Moscow and felt himself disappear. He'd be home in less than fifteen minutes if he took the tram. But he decided he'd rather walk. Just another person in another crowd.

All of these people had places to go, people to see. He imagined they had goals, aspirations, dreams. Good grades in school. A promotion. A family.

Tala never had any goals. Or at least, not any goals in the regular sense. His goal was to survive another day. His aspiration was to become strong enough to fight tomorrow. And his dream? He didn't have one of those. No one at the Abbey did.

Sure, they'd all thought about what they'd to do when the time came for them to leave the Abbey. At nineteen – if you'd survived to that age, that is – you were too old to make the cut for the first team, too old to compete in any Championships.

Most of the boys went on to become the Abbey's guards. They'd keep order inside the walls and continue to replace the ever dwindling numbers. Others would join the team of scientists, discover new ways to push the limits of the body and develop ever stronger beyblades, more powerful bit-beasts. The most elite students were sold to the army and would become spies, assassins, weapon specialists, tacticians of fearsome potential.

Tala guessed that the army's involvement was what had kept the Abbey standing for so long. The world was corrupt and their country had too much to gain from it. A constant trickle of already-trained, elite soldiers who would do anything and question nothing.

And for the children who'd spent their entire lives fighting, it was the most desirable path. One that led out of the Abbey, but not outside of what they knew.

This was what Tala had aimed for.

But he'd fallen short.

And now, he just didn't know what to do with himself.

"Hey, kid!"

Tala blinked up, and in the split second that the beeping of a horn assaulted his ears he saw the flash of a truck's headlights before him. Adrenaline took hold, and with reflexes that only a boy raised in the Abbey could possess he crouched down, pushed himself off the road he didn't remember stepping out into and half-jumped, half-stumbled back onto the sidewalk. A half-second later and a hand had grabbed him around the elbow, trying to pull him upright.

"Shit, kid! What are you, crazy? Look where you're –" the man's voice hitched in his throat mid-sentence as he recognized just who it was he was shaking by the elbow. He gasped. Fear this time around, Tala noted. "You – you're that –"

"– 'your fucking hands off me," Tala spat, shooting splinters through the man with his ice-cold glare. He wrenched his arm free and shoved the man roughly away by the shoulder. He stumbled backwards, and Tala turned on his heel and barged his way past the small crowd that had begun to gather, hitching up the collar of his jacket once more.

–––––––––––––

Kicking his feet against the wall, Tala freed his boots of the snow before stepping over the threshold and closing the front door behind him with a small click. He went through the motions of kicking off his boots and shrugging his jacket off his shoulders to hang up on the hook.

"Andrei, is that you?"

"No. It's me."

"Oh, Yuriy!" Tala suppressed a winced at the sound of that name and made towards the stairs. His hand had just grabbed hold of the railing when a woman appeared in the doorway to the kitchen. "Tala," she said softly, correcting herself. A conscious effort, he noted. But he supposed old habits were hard to break. "You're back early."

"So I am," he replied. He let his hand fall off the railing and turned to face her, leaning back against the wall.

Red hair pulled into a loose braid over her shoulder, and warm, soft, grey eyes. His mother. The woman who claimed to be, at any rate – and he had no memory of her or any other woman to prove otherwise. She was quite lovely in both dictionary definitions of the word, and generous and kind to boot. There was really nothing about her that was dislikable.

And yet Tala found himself disliking her all the same. Or at least, disliking the way she made him feel.

He watched as she placed a warm smile on her face and asked, "So, how did it go?"

"...Fine."

"Did you –"

"– We spoke about my feelings again," he said indifferently, quickly tiring of the same conversation they had each and every time he returned from one of his sessions. "She said it's alright to have them, whatever they are."

She nodded encouragingly, "she's right. It's all fine."

"I know. So I guess it's also fine to say that I don't really feel like talking to you right now."

She glanced to the side and looked down to the floor, but Tala's keen eyes didn't miss the expression of hurt she tried to mask. And there it was again – that twinge of guilt he didn't understand and had no idea what the fuck to do with.

He wasn't sure what exactly she expected from him, or how to deliver it. She'd said he was her son, that there wasn't anything she expected. But that was expectation enough. He wasn't her son. He had no memory of ever being her son, and no knowledge of how to be one now. So all he was left with was this gnawing feeling of falling short, all over again. He'd never been bad at anything in his life. Now it seemed he was doing everything wrong.

He didn't need this.

Pinching the bridge of his nose, Tala tried again. "Sorry," he said woodenly. He scanned his brain for all the responses or excuses a person might make when they just didn't want any company. "It's just… it's been a long day."

She glanced back up at him with the smallest of smiles on her face and nodded, fumbling with the edge of her little plaid apron. She understood. She always understood. Tala wondered how she managed it. He wasn't understanding much of anything lately.

"I'm preparing beef zharkoye for dinner," she said, gesturing into the kitchen behind.

Tala nodded. "Right. Smells good." And it did.

She lit up at that. Smiling a little brighter, she said, "I'll call you down when it's ready, then."

Tala nodded again and, just as the phone in the hall began to ring, he turned and began to mount the stairs. His mother went to answer. But as soon as he reached the landing, he was being called back down again.

"Yuriy?"

Tala rolled his eyes from the safety of a position where she couldn't see. He'd tabooed the name, but she just kept forgetting. "Yes?" he asked irritatedly, leaning down over the railing.

"It's for you," she called softly.

"Who is it?"

There was a moment where she spoke into the phone again, asking the caller for their name again. Then she looked up at him again, and Tala wondered vaguely why the look in her eyes made him feel uneasy.

"Someone who used to know you," she said. "He said his name's Kai Hiwatari."

 

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