Warnings: Spoilers up to the beginning of Nihon, kissing, a bit of language.
Summary: In Nihon, Fay has worries, and a proposal for Kurogane.
Disclaimer: Clamp =/= me.
A/N: It seems like everyone and their mom has written a Nihon-set KuroFay, but I wanted to try one nevertheless. As for the part about Yuuko, I'm assuming that Fay doesn't necessarily know what she will or will not accept as payment.
It was late; the only light came from small lanterns hung at regular intervals from the ceiling. Tiny flies flew silently in curlicue shapes around the lamps, and crickets sang in the gardens outside. Otherwise, the night was silent. Through the occasional open window, Fay could see that the moon was gibbous, running to full, and that it was the color of condensed cream. It rode high in the sky, at its apex, and somehow that only added to the stillness and the quiet.
Shirasaki Castle seemed to be full of long, winding hallways like this one, and the only other person Fay had come across in any of them was a servant girl who gave him a blank, sleepy look and continued on her way. Aside from her, all he saw was closed-off rooms and occasional windows and the flies that gathered around the lights. And he wondered, How many of these rooms are empty? The castle was a vast building, and he was sure that there must be a multitude of spare rooms. It would be so much easier to just duck into one of them and go to sleep, and he could always just make the excuse later that he hadn’t been able to find the room that Tomoyo-hime had assigned to him and Kurogane.
Except that something like that wouldn’t work now, not anymore. He had made that decision when he decided to go back to Celes instead of running away again; it was too late to rescind it now. Especially since it had cost Kurogane his arm. That thought only served to make Fay more angry and more determined. How could Kurogane be so foolish, so blind? It was almost unthinkable. Hadn’t he said so many times that he needed to find Tomoyo-hime again, to serve her? And now that Fay had met her, that made perfect sense, because the princess was beautiful and, more importantly, wise; she was without a doubt a good ruler. To count oneself among the guards that saw to her safety would be a source of pride. So how stupid did he have to be to risk bleeding to death in that frozen, hateful palace to save someone who only told him lies?
But now, Fay knew what to do about that. Ashura-ou was dead, and the last fragments of his twin had been torn apart along with him. There really could be no more running and hiding. Even knowing this, he was afraid. But that fear prickled through his body, and for the first time in what seemed like an eternity, he felt alive.
And it was then that he found his way, as he had known he would all along, to the room where Kurogane was, the one at the end of an L-shaped hallway with a small potted tree by the door. He took a last deep breath and, pretending as well as he could to be brave, slid the door open and stepped inside.
Kurogane was still awake, lying on his stomach on a mattress on the floor and reading one of the volumes of ninja manga he had picked up in Infinity. He didn’t look up, and Fay pretended not to have noticed him either in return. He had done his best earlier, but the two of them alone in one room was still an inherently awkward situation.
He knelt to unroll the bedroll that someone had neatly positioned opposite Kurogane’s, then arranged the bed linens. It was a warm night, one of the sort that usually left him wanting to sprawl out on top of the blankets and certainly not underneath them, so that did not take long. His welcome diversion and the rustling of sheets ceased, and the crickets reclaimed the night. He sighed, and looked back over his shoulder.
“Does it hurt?” he asked.
“Not too bad,” Kurogane muttered, not looking up.
“That’s good. I mean, that’s really good.”
Now that it had come down to it, there was seemingly nowhere else in the palace– in this or any world, even– than this one room. And his bed was already made, the sheets folded over as neatly as possible; he couldn’t leave now. The knowledge curled into a hot, tight little ball in the pit of his stomach, and he told himself again that there could be no running now. This was it.
He got to his feet and took a few slow steps to the other side of the room, from where the moon peeked knowingly at him from beyond an open window. Kurogane didn’t move except to flip to the next page of his manga, but he knew he had noticed. Kurogane was a professional after all, always vigilant; he noticed everything except for what was right in front of him....
“We need to talk, don’t we, Kuro-sama?”
Kurogane took notice now, sitting up and looking at him. The expression on his face was undecipherable, and Fay realized that he didn’t even care. This wasn’t exactly about what he thought anymore. So without giving him a chance to reply, Fay continued.
“No, wait, I need to talk. You can just listen, okay? I’m serious, Kuro-sama.”
Kurogane just nodded.
“Remember when we were in Yasha-ou’s army? We couldn’t even understand each other, not even a word. But still, we were great, weren’t we? I know you didn’t exactly trust me,” he commented, giving what even he felt must be a stretched, fake-looking smile, “But still, you watched my back then. And I shot anyone who got too close to you; I would never have let them cut you. ...But now, ever since Tokyo, we can’t do that anymore. You, becoming 'E,' cutting off your own arm, you’re still trying to protect me. But I can only be a burden to you.”
He swallowed, hard. He did miss Yama. He had felt so strong then, and it hadn’t mattered in the slightest that Kurogane spent so much of all that time they were alone together casting him suspicious glances. He had been content to be so perfectly powerful, secure in his lies. They formed a shield stronger than any in Yasha-ou’s armory, and he had laughed, untouchable, behind them. But all that was broken now, and Kurogane would see everything.... So be it.
“I’ll get your arm back for you. You won’t be able to fight like this, at least not like you used to, and that’s not fair. I’m going to go to the Dimension Witch. She’ll be able to get it back for you, and after everything you’ve been through, I think you deserve it, don’t you? I’d like that for you.”
“Yeah?” Kurogane countered in the tone that he only used when he thought Fay was being almost unbelievably stupid, “And what were you planning on trading it for, one your legs? That’ll be perfect, and maybe we can find you a peg leg or something so that you can hobble around a little. Would you like that?”
Now this was different: Kurogane wasn’t usually sarcastic, not like that. But it was a strange day, and Fay had already made up his mind anyway. He gave the ninja another smile.
“No, Kuro-sama. Oh, I thought that too. I was wondering what I possibly had left to trade, and everything I could think of seemed like something that would only make me more useless to you. No, you won’t have to worry about me anymore. I’ll die, you see. It’s that simple. I’ll give up my life, and in return... You’ll be whole again.”
Kurogane started to say something– of course he did; he was who he was, and somewhere underneath all of it, he did care– but Fay held up a hand to stop him.
“No, I know you’re not happy with this. But listen.”
And by some miracle, he did.
“Look, I’m sure that my whole life is too much to pay for just one arm. But that’s the thing. I’ll have a lot of, of credit with the witch, and I’ll use that to wish for her protection for you. She can’t interfere now, but if I do that, she’ll be able to, at least a little. And it’ll be all nice and according to the rules, so it won’t hurt anyone.” At that moment, he was intensely aware of how stupid he must look, standing here babbling away like this. He felt frantic and tired, and it must have showed; somehow, all he could feel was the way the humidity had plastered his hair to the back of his neck and the annoying sensation of a fly that had landed just above his right eyebrow. But he kept on, “I’m sure it must hurt her, to have so much power but not be able to use it, to see how everything that could have could have been beautiful just turns out like... Like this, I guess. Because I know what Fei Wong Reed is like, and if you keep on going, you’re going to need all of the help you can get. Oh, Kuro-sama. For that, it’s worth it completely.”
But apparently, Kurogane had had enough.
“And what,” he interjected, “What in the hell makes you think that I’d thank you for that? And did you even think about Sakura? Say we get her all put back together again, and she’s all right, what do you think she’ll say when she wakes up and we have to tell her where you are?”
He was angry, and that was plain to see. But Fay’s treacherous mind– and he had tried so hard, back in Infinity, to suppress it, to not think anything at all if he could help it– was already barreling down a different path: he was, somehow, so beautiful, sitting and looking severe in the pale lamplight. Fay didn’t reply for what felt like it must have been a long while just so that he could stand and look at him while his heart– damn his stupid, hated heart, it was treacherous too– trembled in his chest and tried to convince him that maybe he really did want to live. If only, he told himself.
“Anyway. There’s something else I wanted to say. I need to apologize to you. I mean, we both know I need to for lying to you so much, but I also... I’m sorry for the way I’ve always been carrying on. It must have been really embarrassing for you, having me clinging onto you in public, bothering you all the time. In Infinity and places, I’m sure you can imagine the sorts of things guys in bars said to me when I tried to annoy them like that. Well, I didn’t do that very much though, because mostly I had just flirted with you to get on your nerves. I guess you know that.”
Tears were pricking at the edges of his eyes now. Pathetic. He had told himself he wasn’t going to do this, but in the end it seemed to be inevitable. Oh, but Kurogane didn’t need tears like these. “But underneath it all, even if I was just being stupid, about most of it, I...”
He really was crying now, but there was probably no point in even worrying about that.
“I don’t care about what you think of me, and it’s okay if you don’t understand. Kuro-sama, I love you. Not ‘I like you,’ or ‘I care about you.’ I mean that I love you like that.”
And whatever Kurogane’s reaction to that was he never knew; he had squeezed his one remaining eye shut like a scared child and all that he could hear was the echoing repetition of his own words, which already sounded insipid and jejune. All he was going to do was keep talking and make himself into even more of a fool, but the words– more of those puerile, filthy words– were already out of his mouth before he could stop himself. “And that’s why I could never– I can’t stand it when you do stupid things like that and you do them for me. So that’s why you should just let me go, and, you know, maybe you can be happy then and everything will work out. Remember this afternoon, that cute girl who was changing your bandages? She was nice. And she was really, really pretty. You and someone like her, maybe– when this is all over– you could settle down, have some kids, something.”
“I’m not engaged to the assistant nurse.”
“I know. What I’m saying is, don’t you dare get hurt– don’t you dare die on me!– Kuro-sama, please. Please.”
And then, it was all he could do to fall to his knees with at least a sliver of grace. He tried to stop crying, pressing his hands over his face. And he heard, “Are you very nearly done now?”
And he nodded. That was when it happened. Fay felt fingers trail lightly across the side of his neck, the line of his jaw, beneath his chin. And then, just for a few moments, Kurogane– his Kurogane– was kissing him.
And it was wonderful, except.... Almost (but only almost) before he realized what he was doing, he had pushed Kurogane away as hard as he could. And before the other man had time to react, he punched him. It was so unfair.
“Don’t you dare! I’m not some pet, something you can just play with like that! You think you can just kiss me and I’ll feel better and everything will be fine? If you knew what that felt like to me, if you knew how that made me feel for the split-second I believed it....”
When he dared to open his eyes, Kurogane was rubbing the side of his face, where a red blemish was already forming. He gave Fay a Look.
“You really don’t get it, do you?” he asked, sounding genuinely surprised for once. “You know, if you’re actually planning on telling the truth from here on out, you’re also going to have to start trusting other people eventually.”
He paused. “And Fay? I love you too. And I do mean that.”
Then it was Fay that leapt forward this time, running his hands through Kurogane’s spiky hair as he kissed him. When he thought about it later, he decided that they must have looked utterly ridiculous; he was still crying hopelessly, and Kurogane was off balance because of his arm, and (if he was going to be perfectly honest) neither of them seemed to be a very good kisser to begin with– But at the time, he couldn’t have cared less.
When they finally broke apart, they ended up (after almost falling over each other flat onto their faces, because they both were tired and stupid with relief) leaning together on Kurogane’s mattress, as close as they could be, as if there really was nowhere else in the world. And this, Fay decided, meant that he probably wasn’t going to die after all. And that opened up a lot of possibilities.
“Hey Fay,” Kurogane began some time later as he reached over to touch his shoulder.
“How do you feel?”
For the first time in a while, he felt like laughing. He did. “Like I’m going to throw up. ...Er, in a good way. Relief, and all of that.” He paused, and then thought, Why not? “So Kuro-kun, since I guess I don’t have any plans anymore, could I ask you out sometime? A drink, perhaps? Dinner?”
“I don’t think I want to go out for dinner with someone who lies to me about everything. But,” he continued, smiling now, “If we could talk about things... It’s too late for dinner, but you can ask me out for... pretty much all of the time, actually.”
“I’ll take you up on that,” Fay said, “Kuro-kun, I will tell you everything. We could start with, um... With...”
“This is going to be long, isn’t it?”
“Then maybe we should start with something to eat after all. The kitchens are in an outbuilding just across the courtyard.”
“Mm, that sounds good.”
“We could go in a little bit.”
“...Yeah, in a bit.”
(And outside, the sound of crickets still filled every patch of greenery, and the gibbous moon was just barely beginning to head down and to the west.)