Dreaming was never pleasant, and his subconscious was hardly ever indirect with all the troubles and emotions he signed off as unimportant or unnecessary.
Thus, he found himself in the bowels of the Abbey, closed in by dark bricks with the tang of his own blood in his nose. Whether he had blood in his mouth or in his nose or on his face, somehow it had always somehow ended up in the back of his sinuses, or at least the smell: coppery, like wet metal and salt.
But instead of Boris standing before him, whip at hand, and a trembling child next to him holding up a beyblade to practice on the unarmed Kai, Ayah stood there, somehow more beautiful and ethereal than he remembered her. Besides her stood a nonplussed Ray, Tyson, and Max.
“You know you deserved that,” said Ray.
“How could you have done that to her?” Tyson asked, while Max shook his head.
Kai spat out the blood from his mouth and tried to speak, but as was often the case in his dreams, his voice didn’t work. He growled and heaved air past his throat, struggling to protest, to say he didn’t even know what he had done. He tried to stand, to move his arms, but when they didn’t respond he looked down to see them bruised and bloodied, with the broken bone of his leg peeking out from his shin. Just as he saw it, he thought he could feel the pain.
He looked up, desperate to make his friends understand, terrified for them that they were even here. But when he looked up, they were already leaving, and only Ayah remained behind, looking down at him with that unreadable look in her eyes. It frightened him, and he hated that. Not much frightened him anymore. Or, perhaps, everything frightened him and he had forgotten what it was like to live without having to always be brave in order to function.
She leaned over him and reached for him with those perfect, delicate hands. He cringed. There was no way any woman should be this perfect. It was unnatural. It was inhuman. But of course she was inhuman. She could hear Ray’s very bones vibrating and echo back their sound a hundred fold. She could probably hear the hum of his heart. She could probably just open her mouth and hum the tone that would make it explode.
The soft touch of her hands startled him. As she wiped at the blood on his face, the smell of blood faded. She had started to emit a sound that sounded so familiar to what she had made in the alley with Tyson, but it was somehow…upended. Fixed. Harmonized, so that it fell smooth on his ears. He watched as the broken bone sunk back into his leg and mended itself. The blood was vanishing.
There was a pause and a cough. Then she made the low hum for Max, once more upended and righted, and the rest of the bruises vanished. No wounds remained on him, and neither did the pain, but still he couldn’t move. But why would she heal him? No one was just that kind. She must feel guilty—had to feel guilty for all the wrongs she had done him. For stealing the souls of his friends, for getting him shot, for throwing him into this dismal dungeon in the first place—
His vision clouded with rivers of gleaming white hair. It felt like silk against his skin. She had dropped to her knees between his legs, her hands splayed across his chest, and that indefinable emotion curling in her gaze like whirlpools.
He could smell her cinnamon bun rose scent. His mouth watered as he remembered her taste. As though called by his want, she brought herself forward, eyes fluttering close, and pressed her lips to his. Sweetness filled his mouth and a riotous hunger blossomed up from his naval. He never fathomed another human being could be so soft, so…so…
But what had happened to his hatred of being touched? To the disgust? To the creepy crawlies up his skin? He should be recoiling from her, imagining her softness as squishy, fatty flesh and her hands as pinching claws and weapons of blunt trauma. Her legs nothing but bone and muscle, her stomach nothing but a bag of organs…
He woke up with a start as a weight sat on the edge of his bed.
“Wow, were you already awake?”
“Probably,” said the second weight. “He’s always been a light sleeper.”
“Yeah, but those nurses juice you up with something, I’m telling you.”
Kai stared at the two boys sitting on either side of his legs. They wore the same hospital gowns as him and the morning sunlight gave them an almost picturesque glow.
Tyson and Max.
“How you doing, buddy?” asked Tyson, his cheesy grin widening. “Miss me?”
“Miss you? He probably wishes you were still gone, heh.”
“Aw, come on, Max, he’s not that heartless.”
A rock had formed in his throat. A weight lifted off his shoulders, and, for a brief moment in time, he was completely content with his place in the world. Smiling weakly, he reached out to grip Tyson’s forearm, ignoring the protesting pain at his side. It showed how much they actually understood each other when Tyson didn’t make a big deal out of it, though he did move out of Kai’s grip so they could grip hands, grinning.
“I never have to worry with you, Kai,” said Tyson.
Max reached out for his other hand, which Kai gripped just as hard.
They were here. They were safe. He could breathe again.
Pulling his hands away, he reached under his pillow to find the orbs right where he had put them. He handed them to Max and Tyson, who gave them curious looks.
“Ask Ray for the story,” said Kai lowly so as to hide the emotion in his throat.
“You mean there’s a reason you gave me a paper weight?” asked Tyson.
“It’s not a paperweight, idiot, it’s what they used to suck up Dragoon and your soul,” said Max with no lack of drama
Tyson squawked and dropped the heavy orb, barely missing Kai’s leg. “That thing sucked up my soul?”
“No. You just woke up in a hospital because you were abducted by aliens,” said Kai dryly.
“The doctor’s said my soul was stolen?”
Max groaned. “Tyson, breakfast.”
That was reminder enough to get them both off of Kai’s bed. Promising to bring him back something, the hyperactive duo sped out the door and down the hall. As the welcome quiet settled back in the hospital room, Kai found himself missing their company. But not too much. It was enough to sit in the quiet and appreciate the relief that wanted to overwhelm him. It wasn’t till then that he realized, since he really was a light sleeper, Ayah’s singing must have woken him up. But as he recalled his dream, he also realized his brain couldn’t’ve made up those noises. That must have been her, and his sleeping brain had incorporated the music into his dream.
Tyson had left behind his marble, though Max had taken his. Kai picked it up and watched the sunlight play on the smooth surface, not really thinking anything in particular. He’d have plenty to think about later. There were precautions to make, pits in the road to avoid. One didn’t go around maiming people for life with their blade and carrying on as though nothing had happened. Though, and he thought this with a self-satisfied smirk, shooting at him had made things a lot easier for him. It would be difficult to hide their use of illegal firearms should they try to accuse Kai of attacking them—that is, if they ever figure out that it had been him.
As he thought this, he leaned gingerly out from his bed, blessing the pain killers, and plucked out Dranzer from his belongings. Being sure to push against the blunt ends of the obsidian blades, he twisted off the specialized ring and slipped it into the pouch of his belt. Then, from the pockets of his jeans, he pulled out Dranzer’s original, BBA approved attack ring and twisted it back on. He’d have to soak the other blade in alcohol as soon as he could. Just in case. Blood was terribly clingy, after all.
Ray stepped in, a bandage about his head to hold squares of gauze over his ears. Kai frowned at the tiger’s grim expression.
“Tyson and Max,” he said.
Kai nodded. “Ayah pulled through.”
Ray shook his head, the heavy line between his eyebrows deepening. “She did. But she shouldn’t have. She’s sedated in her room now with a tube down her throat because it swelled up so much she couldn’t breathe. She…she was coughing up blood and everything.”
A strange shock ran through his system. His dream drifted to the forefront of his mind, and he didn’t like it. Nor did he much care for how the imagined softness of her hair and body made him feel guilty. He hadn’t told her to fix it right away. He had clearly said ‘when she was ready.’ And now she was already wrapping Ray about her finger. Every little wrong, every little hurt, and Ray would be like this: brow solemn and telling Kai about it as though it were their fault—or just his.
“Why are you telling me this?” he asked.
Ray’s expression went lax with surprise. “I—I thought you’d like to know. She even tried to run away like that, coughing blood and wheezing. That’s why they had to sedate her.” He bit his lip and looked to the floor. “Maybe…maybe we should thank her.”
Kai didn’t like this. “She’s the reason we’re in here at all, including you.”
“They made her—”
“No one can make you do anything. They coerced her, but it doesn’t change the fact it was her throat who landed us here. She was simply fixing her wrong. Not having the patience to wait long enough until her throat could handle it was her bad, unless you want us to thank her for tearing herself up for no reason.”
Ray just gaped at him, and not in a kind way.
“They almost killed her!” said Ray. “She did everything she could to protect us—”
“You don’t even know the whole of it,” snapped Kai. “You think she did that just for us? They were keeping her in a cage like an animal, Ray. I even saw the bucket they gave her for a bathroom. How do you know she didn’t just use us?”
“She wouldn’t—can you blame her? That’s just more—”
“No. It’s just you trying to justify your attraction to a pretty face. You’re a bleeding heart.”
Ray opened and closed his mouth for several seconds, flabbergasted.
“Oh,” Kai had almost forgotten. “It’s good to see you’re hearing is back. Pity she couldn’t think of something else to do besides nearly destroying your hearing.”
“What is your deal? You can be cold, Kai, but I’ve never heard you talk so much on it. Usually you’d just ‘hn’ or ‘hmm’ like you usually do and shrug, it’s almost as though you actively hate her!”
Kai shrugged. “Maybe I do. She did get me shot.”
This made Ray flinch. “Shot? By a gun?”
“Well, it sure wasn’t a bow and arrow.”
“You can’t blame her for that!”
“Oh, but I can.”
Face now flushed with anger, Ray clenched his teeth and curled back his lips, flashing his long canines. Without another word, he spun about and left, leaving Kai almost as hot. But Kai told himself that if Ray had the experiences he did, that if Ray had grown up beneath fists and stones, he would understand. His team was just naïve. They didn’t know how the world really worked.
And he didn’t want them to know either.