Max and Hillary slipped off his bed, and Kenny closed and hugged his laptop to his chest as though Kai might lash out and throw it against the wall. Their treatment of him like he was explosive irritated him further still.
But, after a few muttered apologies and attempts to…unawkwardize the situation, they filed out.
Tyson, however, didn’t leave. Hillary made a lot of hissing noises in attempts to get him to follow, but he just ignored her and climbed back onto Kai’s bed as though nothing had happened. Kai pushed his tray aside, along with the little table that slid out on an arm from the wall. Tyson snagged the uneaten half of his roll and went to nibbling on it.
Only once everyone else had cleared out did he speak.
“Did you know they might have guns? And don’t tell me you didn’t.”
Kai shrugged and pulled his legs up, despite the smart in his side. He wanted to avoid touching, and he had already been bumped by Max and Hillary more than he cared for.
Tyson swallowed the roll and licked at his teeth as he frowned, navy-black eyes uncharacteristically serious.
“You know I’m grateful—we’re grateful for what you did, right? Saving our souls and bit beasts, that’s…but you’re just awesome sauce like that. But…” his eyebrows went high, like a rising drawbridge to waterworks, and Tyson ducked his gaze behind his fringe. “Do you think we’d feel any better about it if you got yourself killed for us? Dragoon and I would have figured it out on our own eventually. We have before. You know that, don’t you?”
Kai thought about just ignoring him, as he often did with the others. But Tyson was one person he never tried to soften the truth from. To do anything less would be pointless to say, as the stubborn idiot wouldn’t respond to anything less.
“Grow up, Tyson. Friendship speeches or concentrating on your feel goods wasn’t about to save you or Max.” He leaned towards the cubby, cursing at the nurse who decided to put his stuff back under the night stand. Tyson grabbed it for him, to which he gave a brief nod of gratitude. His fingertips brushed against the pouch holding the razor attack ring, which none of his friends knew about, or ever would.
“Once more you’re missing the point. When are you going to get off your high horse and realize those ‘feel goods’ aren’t just feelings? Friendship and loyalty and honor are real. After all, it wasn’t just my gorgeous arm that saved you from that ice on that lake.” Tyson flashed him a toothy smile, which Kai didn’t quite return. For once, Tyson wilted, then sighed. “Look, Kai…next time you pull something risky like that I’m going to have to beat you to a bloody pulp.”
Kai let out an amused ‘hmmph.’ “I’d like to see you try.”
“Oh, I will. Captain or not, you need to learn some serious manners. Well,” Tyson shoved off of the bed, adjusting his shirt and putting a finger beneath his nose, a strange habit he got into when he thought he was being ‘cool’ or ‘stylish’ in his good-bye. “Before I go off to annoy Hillary some more, what’s up between you and Ray?”
Kai shrugged. “Ask him. Now go away.”
“Jeeze, grouchy as always.”
But Tyson left him be. Perhaps he had grown up in the past years.
Check out took forever, namely because he had to wait for his assigned doctor to check him over and tell him what he already knew about taking care of flesh wounds. It would have only taken him a few minutes, but, as usual, doctors took their sweet time. That, or he had a particularly talkative patient at death’s door.
When his latest dose of painkillers started to wear off, Kai had had enough. Ignoring the smarting of his side, he peeled off his IV, got dressed in the clothes Kenny had brought for him, snapped on his beyblade belt, and left. He was already starting to get hungry, which told him it had to be sometime in the afternoon, which irritated him to no end. He hated wasting time.
At the nurse’s desk, he asked for his prescription so he could go. Just as she wilted under his glare and started to blubber something about needing a doctor’s signature to be released and all that crap, Tyson bowled into his side with his usual grace. Fortunately, it was his uninjured side, but he hissed in pain none the less. He shoved Tyson off with a growl.
“Can you ever act normal?”
“Says the guy who has a perpetual stick up his butt,” said Tyson, flashing him his usual winning grin. “You gotta stick around, bud, the show’s just about to start!”
Kai sighed and turned back to the bemused nurses. “Forget the pain meds, I’m going.”
“Hey, home skillet! What you doing up and about? I heard you got owned good!”
Grandpa Granger had appeared right behind Tyson, all whiskery smiles and cheap, out of style slang. He had on his usual polo shirt and cargo shorts, though he also had a handful of paperwork, which he handed back to Tyson as he accepted the release form from the nurse. Seemed Tyson would be leaving the same time as him.
“Little dude, I got enough teenagers in my house—all dudes too. Any sweet young thing would be eat alive.”
“Seriously, Gramps? We’ve been over this! All you have to do is see her.”
But his Grandfather had turned his attention over to Kai again, who was caught between the decision to flee or the decision to stick around and get a ride from Gramps (gunshot wounds did hurt, after all, even if it was just a graze).
“We just passed by your crib, K-man. Doc’s look’n for you.”
Kai groaned. Of course. NOW he decides to show up.
There was a patter of footsteps and then Max launched himself onto Tyson’s shoulders.
“Tell me your Gramps said no, Tyson! Because my Dad’s rearing to go!”
Tyson shoved him off. “No way! I just sent in Hillary to get her ready, there’s no way I can lose!”
“Guys, will you stop wrestling by the desk? You’re going to knock stuff over,” said a weary Ray, who must have been following Max for he just stepped up. He handed some papers to Grandpa Granger, who signed them, and then handed them to the nurses. As temporary guardian for Ray whenever he was in Japan, Grandpa Granger would be able to sign him out, wouldn’t he?
Sometimes Kai wondered if his pride just made everything more difficult than it had to be.
He turned to return to his room. Pain killers were nice, after all, and the powerful kind he could save for a day he really needed them. If not that, they had their uses for other things as well. Not to mention a ride would make it easier overall.
“Gramps, look! There she is!”
Almost as though he couldn’t help himself, Kai stopped half-way across the bland, green/white tiled hall and looked where Tyson had pointed his grandfather.
His stomach fell to his feet.
If she had been beautiful dressed in the bland, baggy hospital gown with her hair everywhere, she became unfathomable with her hair pulled back by a big, pink ribbon and dressed in a small, ruffled skirt and girly blue blouse. Somehow it made her more real, more touchable, and that heightened her appeal when it should have already reached its max.
When he realized he had stopped breathing, he forced in a breath. This couldn’t be happening to him. He didn’t like this girl. No one should have such an effect on him just because of how they looked. It was stupid. It was ridiculous. It was dangerous.
And yet he had forgotten where he had been going in the first place.
Ayah had her legs pressed tightly together, her hands held tight in front of her, and her eyes averted to the floor. She looked every bit as uncomfortable as Kai felt.
Tyson gave a low whistle. “Dang, you did good, Hill!”
Hillary, who Kai hadn’t noticed was standing next to Ayah, grinned toothily and gave Tyson a triumphant two fingers. “Though I didn’t do much. I just tied back her hair and got her dressed in some of my spare clothes. They’re a bit big on her—”
Whatever she had been going to say after that was blocked out by a great explosion from Tyson’s grandpa.
All of the blade breakers winced, and Ayah squeaked in fright. Just as she moved to flee, Grandpa Granger was there snatching up her hands. Hillary backed away, disturbed.
“Say you’ll do an old lonely man a service and be my granddaughter, even if only for a short time?”
“Lonely? What happened to having a house full of teenagers?”
And what happened to his weirdo slang? Thought Kai, who, despite himself, was feeling the urge to laugh as he had also spied Ray’s expression, which was just as it had been the night she had appeared to them in Tyson’s backyard: half-way to heaven and half-way to screaming.
Max just looked star struck.
Since she couldn’t speak yet, Ayah made fish faces and tugged her hands out to give desperate gestures. Kai figured he wasn’t needed here and told himself to get going, but he still couldn’t quite remember where he had been heading to. It was a hospital, maybe he was heading to the car—wait, pain. Doctor.
He took a few steps and paused again as Tyson said, “Since we don’t know who your parents are, I asked my Grandpa to take care of you till you find them. The hospital has this sort of temporary release/guardian thing. You can even consider me your big brother! Please do!”
Grandpa Granger twitched and ran over to the counter, where he grabbed a pen and started scribbling down furiously. Max dodged out of the way and bounced up to her, all pink face and hamster smile.
“Not me, though, I want to be your boyfriend!” he said.
“Whoa, hang on, you can’t hit on her before she’s even my sister yet! Man rule number three: never date your best friend’s sister!”
“Rule doesn’t count if she ain’t your sister.”
“But she’s gonna be! Right, Ayah?”
The poor girl looked completely overwhelmed with all that had happened. Her mouth had dropped in its biggest fish expression yet and her eyes had gone impossibly wide. She stared at them each in turn and began to tremble all the way to her big pink bow.
Hillary was in front of her in a second. “Cut it out! Who would want to stay with creeps like you anyways?”
“Aw, that’s no fair! Tyson’s the one who has porn mags stuffed under his bed,” said Max.
“I do not!”
“Oh, what a lie.”
“I filled out all my part!” sang Tyson’s grandfather as he skipped back over to the little party in the hall that was beginning to attract a lot of attention. He held it out to Ayah, who had yet to move. “Now we just need yours.”
Ray seemed to come to with a snap and strode over. “Stop pushing, guys, you haven’t even given her a chance to say what she wants.”
“Hillary’s already explained everything, right?” said Tyson.
Hillary blustered. “Well, yeah, but—”
“I’m going to visit you every day!” crowed Max. “Ayah, what’s your favorite treat? I’ll buy you ice cream on the way home.”
With a grunt of exasperation, Ray pushed Tyson, Max, and Grandpa Granger aside and stuffed a scrap of paper and pen into Ayah’s limp hands.
“Here, Ayah, you can tell us what you want with those.”
Ayah lifted up the pen and paper as though she had never held such before.
Kai knew what was going to happen the moment Ray handed her the paper and pen, and he had started to move towards her against his better judgment.
She dropped the pen and paper.
And burst into tears.
All of them, including the on looking medical staff, blanched.
Kai had just caught himself from reaching for her (really, that made no sense) when she fell towards Tyson, throwing her arms around his neck. Her raspy voice could just frame out a, “Yes, please,” before it dissolved back into her quiet sobs once more.
Hillary’s curious look snapped him back to reality. Kai continued walking past her and down the hall to his room, his insides aching as though he had left his organs somewhere behind him. He ignored the drama playing out as he found his room, closed the door tightly, and took a seat at his bed. Only then did he realize his hands had started to shake. He clenched his fists to stop them.
That girl had sucked out his friends’ souls—had almost made them worse than death. He hated how everything about her so far just screamed victim. Didn’t she know her parents or her own last name? Why had she left it to the rest of them to find out? It was just like what he had said to Ray: she had simply used them as an opportunity to escape. After all, if her voice could do as much as she already had, surely she could have freed her own self. She must be desperate for attention, desperate to be coddled—to watch people fall head over heels at her feet to take care of her like some delicate princess because she was beautiful. For all he knew, she could manipulate the human mind or entrance people with her voice as well. He didn’t even know her, so anything could be true.
But just as soon as he wondered about her parents, his mind came up with answers he didn’t want to hear. If she did remember her parents, she must fear them more than she feared those who had tried to shock her to death simply because she had been disobedient.
And then the way she had burst into tears and thrown herself on Tyson’s neck. It had to be because he told her he was going to be her brother. She had probably been lonely…
He shook himself just as the doctor came in. He seemed a little concerned by the way Kai kept clenching his fists and jaw, but guessed out loud that it must just be the pain and seemed rather shocked to find that Kai had torn out his IV. Guess he couldn’t get a dose directly to his blood. It’d have to be pills.
Kai didn’t care. He hardly heard him.
When Tyson came in to ask if Kai was coming, Kai just glared at him and told him he would walk home. Both the doctor and Tyson stared.
“I wouldn’t advise that—” started the doctor.
But Tyson broke over him. “What’s crawled up your ass and died?”
Kai took the prescription from the doctor and walked around Tyson, who, being the stubborn nosey child he was, just stepped back into his path.
“You’ve been like this since you woke up. Look, I’m sorry you got hurt trying to save us, but that doesn’t give you the right to treat your friends like they’re scum!”
“I just want to walk home,” he grumbled. “Stop being so dramatic.”
“Then stop making it so I have to be just to get an answer out of you. Ray said you hated her, is that why you aren’t coming? You don’t want to be in the same car as her?”
And because the thought that Kai would have to avoid anyone instead of the other way around irritated him so much, Kai gave his grumpiest ‘fine’ and shoved Tyson out the door with himself. He’d sit in that stupid van with that stupid girl and watch all those stupid people fall apart all over her. It wasn’t till he was back out in the hallway and stomping towards them that he realized he was acting like a jealous girl around a love rival.
Ugh. Look what her presence was doing to him now? Like he didn’t have more reasons to hate her.
But, just as he opened his mouth to tell them all to get a move on, her eyes met his. The strange, unreadable look from before smoothed the muscles about her mouth till they made a small ‘o’ of concern. Concern for him?
He snapped and bared his teeth at her. She flinched.
Luckily, he gained control of himself before anyone noticed. Or, so he hoped.
“Alright, kids, to the Granger Mobile!”