|Close His Steps Pursued
Author: Akabeko PM
KuroganeFai HC Oneshot. The group transport to an iceworld where things go awry.Rated: Fiction M - English - Adventure/Romance - Words: 7,163 - Reviews: 46 - Favs: 151 - Follows: 9 - Published: 06-14-06 - Status: Complete - id: 2990626
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Comments and concrit warmly welcomed.
Close His Steps Pursued
He had sometimes wondered if there were places in the universe colder than his home world. If there were places where it was too cold for snow to fall, or thick-furred creatures to live, or even to take a breath. He thought he might like to visit a place like that. So each time they left one world to travel to another he secretly hoped they would arrive to find themselves amongst mountains of permanent ice and bitter winds. He wasn't sure why he wanted this, because Syaoran and Sakura would surely freeze to death and he didn't much want that, but he could not help but wonder if perhaps he actually missed that world he had come from.
Or perhaps he was just tired of hot countries.
It was a dazzling midday when they left, and dusk when they arrived. He felt his breath catch in his lungs, and his skin tingled painfully and knew he had finally got his wish. He cursed his luck, shrugged off his coat and wrapped it around Sakura before anyone had said a word. Her teeth were already chattering and the sun hadn't even set fully yet, instead casting long purple shadows across what looked to Fai like an endless sheet of ice.
"Mokona...?" he asked, and examined the ground at his feet, dirty white and slippery and he could feel the cold beginning to seep through his shoes and up his legs. He wriggled his toes and looked up at the others, wondering how badly they felt the temperature, because none of them were dressed for it or used to it. Even he wasn't anymore.
In the half-light, he saw Mokona appear from the collar of Kurogane's cloak.
"It's close…" Mokona said. Kurogane gave nothing more than a grunt of annoyance and busied himself with scanning the landscape and wrapping himself up as tightly as he could. His frown betrayed concern.
"We should find it as quickly as we can and leave." Syaoran spoke, always calm and down-to-business. But the quiver in his voice and the hitching of his breath rather ruined the effect.
And it was silent. Dead. Not even wind, which he thought was odd but knew he should be thankful for. Their movement, their breathing all echoed impossibly loud across the ice and he wondered if they were the first people to ever see that place. Because really, there was no reason to go there.
"Where could it be, though?" Sakura wondered, even her soft voice sharp and intrusive in that silence, and every one of her words punctuated with the clatter of teeth. Fai moved closer and wrapped his long arms around her. She buried her face in his coat and Syaoran smiled at him. It was nice, he thought, how they looked to him sometimes. Even if he could not want it, it was nice.
"No trees or rocks or anything…" Syaoran said, slowly turning, squinting in the poor light. He was grasping his sword tightly as though the ice might suddenly heave itself awake and attack them. "Maybe an animal?"
Fai shook his head.
"I think it's too cold for things to live out here for long," he said, for once without thinking, and saw Kurogane's sharp gaze and felt Sakura press herself closer to him. He laughed softly in apology and tried to sound cheerful and not as lost as he felt. "We should walk around. It will make us warmer."
"Stay together," Kurogane ordered. And did not need to add that soon it would be fully dark and then they would have only his eyes to guide them. Not that there was anywhere to go.
Fai did not bother to mention that he did not think they could survive very long once the sun set anyway.
"Damn witch," he heard Kurogane curse under frozen breath, stalking off in the direction of the setting sun.
But it's all fate, Fai thought to say. It's meant to be this way, but knew Kurogane wouldn't want to hear it. And he didn't think they had come all the way to this world just to die out in the cold anymore than he thought Kurogane would be going home anytime soon or Sakura could forget Syaoran forever.
They followed; Fai walking awkwardly with Sakura wrapped around him and Syaoran close beside.
"It's very close," Mokona said then, but all around them reflected a flat carpet of darkening colours stretching towards the horizon, guarded by a sun bigger than any Fai would ever remember seeing. Or maybe it was just a trick of the light and of the land, where there was nothing to compare it to but themselves. And it felt to Fai as if they stood on a high plateau above the clouds- because there were none in the sky at all, and then he remembered that for all he knew they might be.
"Shouldn't we be able to see it?" Syaoran asked, and when Fai looked over he could see that the boy was shivering almost uncontrollably and grasping his arms so tightly around himself it must hurt.
Fai wondered if he should offer Syaoran his inner-coat, then thought of a better idea and found himself smiling despite the way his now bone-dry skin protested at the movement. He stopped walking, turned towards Syaoran and said; "Syaoran! You should look after Sakura!" Syaoran looked confused for a moment, and Fai was amused to see something like guilt in his eyes, as though he thought he was being scolded for negligence. Fai shook his head and smiled.
"It's best to share body heat in temperatures as cold as this," he finished more quietly, sagely he thought, and gently pushed Sakura away from him towards Syaoran.
Syaoran nodded fiercely, apparently taking Fai's wisdom to heart, and pulled Sakura into his arms. Then he paused and asked, "What about you?"
Fai leaned towards him conspiratorially, feeling his grin widen, and whispered loudly, "Ah! I'll take care of Kuro-chi. Doesn't he look cold to you?" Nothing more warming than a good argument, Fai decided, and grinned at Kurogane all the more innocently.
Syaoran stuttered a vague reply, visibly thankful when Mokona cried from Kurogane's neck, "Oh Fai! You have no idea! Kurogane is sooooo cold!" And Fai could almost swear he saw Kurogane bristle at that, but then the ninja turned away from them and continued walking.
"Don't come near me," he growled, but it sounded half-hearted at best and he didn't even try to remove Mokona from his clothes like he normally would. Still, a challenge was a challenge, so Fai sidled closer until he was near enough to reach out and wrap an arm around Kurogane's.
"I told you not to come near me," Kurogane warned, and tried to shake Fai off. Fai wondered if he should be offended that Kurogane seemed to care more for Mokona's welfare than his own.
"Aww but I'm cold, Kuro-pi," Fai pouted, snuggling closer anyway. Kurogane snorted.
"I thought you were from a cold country," he said, looking down at Fai.
"Doesn't mean I don't get cold," Fai argued, and Kurogane shrugged. Fai smelled victory, and thought he should tease Kurogane, but this close he could feel the ninja shuddering and was sorry he had no more coats to offer. Not that Kurogane would take it anyway. Instead, Fai pressed himself closer to his side, wrapped his hands tighter around the ninja's arm, feeling frozen skin and tense muscle, and smiled in response to Kurogane's raised eyebrow.
And maybe it was the walking, but the cold wasn't quite as bad and the silence wasn't quite as loud then, even though the sun's light had dimmed to only a strip of red along the horizon and behind them rose a world that looked like thick black ink. So they walked faster, as though they could out-run the impending darkness, and furiously looked about them for any signs of the feather even though there really wasn't anywhere for it to be hiding.
Just ice and silence for uncountable miles.
It was eerie, Fai thought. It felt too much like a tomb, and looking back at the children he could see fear on Sakura's face and uncertainty in Syaoran's eyes. But it would be alright, Fai was sure. They were all together, Sakura was lucky, Syaoran grew stronger and more confident every day, Kurogane was Kurogane- indestructible it seemed, and he was…there, with them, for good or bad.
Kurogane stopped suddenly. "This is useless," he ground out, fidgeting in agitation. "We shouldn't stay here."
"But the feather…" Syaoran began.
"Will be no good to anyone if we all freeze to death," Kurogane snapped and looked pointedly at Sakura buried deep in Fai's coat and Syaoran's arms.
Syaoran nodded and looked at Fai, indecisive for a moment before speaking.
"Do you know…" he started, hesitated, and sounded embarrassed. "Do you know how much longer we can survive like this?"
Fai smiled at his discomfort, and wondered at how Syaoran had ever become so polite.
"After the sun goes down," Fai answered, "Not long at all." And it was a vague answer he knew, but he didn't want to scare Sakura anymore than she already was, and Syaoran got the point anyway.
"It's so close," Mokona offered and looked down from his perch on Kurogane's shoulder. "But it could be buried in the ice…"
"I thought of that," Syaoran said. "But I thought we'd see it somehow."
No one could think of anything more to say then, so they stood in silence, with silence all around them, and Fai felt as though they were waiting for something to happen; a sign for them to follow, a person to appear, or perhaps just for the sun to finally fall and then it would be as though the world itself had cast them out. They would leave then, disappointed and half frozen, but alive at least.
So it was almost deafening when they first heard it; a low rumbling from somewhere deep below their feet and growing louder. Fai thought he could feel the noise reverberating through the ice and into his bones, and wondered if it was an earthquake, but then Kurogane shoved him away sharply and drew his sword.
"There's something beneath us," he hissed, and Syaoran drew his sword too, but kept Sakura close. There was nowhere for them to hide, and nowhere for them to run to, and they didn't even know where this thing was, or what it was. Fai could feel its magic drawing close though, even as Mokona's eyes widened.
A feather, under the ice below them, and something had it.
Syaoran was looking about his feet wildly. "There must be water under there…"
"The ice is thick, Syaoran. It won't break just from us standing on it," Fai assured him and found that he had to raise his voice a little over that odd rumbling. But Syaoran didn't look convinced because, Fai supposed, it was not their breaking it Syaoran was worried about.
"It's big," Kurogane said, though Fai thought that was kind of obvious. Then the ninja turned his red eyes to Fai. "You," he snapped. "Stay beside me." And that surprised Fai more than that first freezing breath he had drawn on this world; so much so that he didn't move at all at first. Just stared, not understanding until Kurogane looked away and lofted his sword.
Fai would have smiled then, or been worried then, but ominous cracking too much like the snapping of bone filled the air. Sakura yelped, and Fai tried to sense where this thing was, but it felt as though it was everywhere, stretching out for miles beyond their feet where nothing but ice had been a moment before.
Now the ice looked black, reflecting, Fai assumed, whatever lay beneath it. It might have been the growing night but for the way it moved and shifted and the smell of magic and the piercing sound of ice splitting apart around them. Hairline cracks appeared at his feet, growing and splintering and running in all directions.
"We should run," Fai called to the others. It was all he could think to do.
"Where to?" Kurogane yelled back at him.
"Away from here!" Sakura was looking at him with fear painted on her face. "This ice," he tried to explain. "The cracks will make it dangerous."
Syaoran understood because he immediately started running, pulling his princess after him. Kurogane didn't move for a moment, staring oddly at him, then turned and ran after the children.
Fai would have followed. Really, he would have, but the ice shifted suddenly beneath him and he slipped, the back of his head connecting painfully with the frozen ground. He lay there a moment, trying to clear his head, hearing Sakura call his name and finally pushed himself into a sitting position. He waved at the others and smiled to show he was alright, but found the looks of horror and the fact that they continued to run full pelt back towards him decidedly odd.
Until the ground shook again, then seemed to tilt and the sky turned black. Fai heard the slap of water against water and against solid matter and an inhuman shriek thundered above him. He understood then what was happening, and scrambled to his feet only to be flung back as the ice fell away from his feet. And Fai braced himself.
The moment his body touched the water he felt every muscle contract and everything pulled painfully inside him.
He remembered this feeling. It was betrayal and defeat and victory. It was deep pools of water in beautiful castles. It was sealing a king.
Except this was worse. This was colder and darker and unknown.
He thought he had gasped because then he felt water in his throat and then his lungs and he imagined the water freezing there, and his lungs becoming solid and useless. And the water around him stirred black, the movement dragging him this way and that so that he could not remember which way was up and which was down until he saw rivulets of red flowing towards him, bleeding down from a strange black and purple-streaked sky.
Knowing he didn't have long, he forced his frozen limbs to move and kicked wildly, aiming towards the red but his eyes stung, and his lungs burned, and his head pounded and pounded and felt so heavy and unfathomable it would have been so much easier just to give up there and then. Except he didn't want to make Sakura sad or Kurogane angry and he just really didn't want to be in that icy water anymore.
Nearing the surface now, he thought he could hear noise, muffled and unclear, but close and then more red coloured the water. Fai realised then what it was; blood, too thick and too dark to be human so he imagined Kurogane and Syaoran must be fighting some creature above the surface. And it must be massive because its body slithered black behind him, and had been all around him deeper underwater. He tried to swim away from it, from the blood, one hand striking ice and Fai clawed at it, dragging himself up towards air.
Breaking the surface of the water, Fai couldn't help but wonder if all that effort had been worth it.
The piercing cold air stung his face and hands, and the noise of the creature and the others and the water slopping around him hurt his ears after the silence of below the surface. He felt his lungs heave and wretched painfully, finding it was still hard to breathe. His whole body felt almost too heavy and he thought that he would be pulled under again by the weight of his clothes but his hand found a hold on the ice and he clung there desperately.
"Fai! Hang on!" he heard someone shout, and really wanted to yell back and ask just how stupid they thought he was.
On second thought, best not answer that.
Louder shouting and wailing erupted behind him and the water churned more violently. Fai's fingers burnt and he tried frantically to pull himself further out of the water, but the ice was too thick and the currents too strong. Choking and hacking, more and more water was thrown at him, stinging cold and suffocating. He thought he really wouldn't be able to hold on anymore, but then he felt warmth on his wrist and looking up he saw Kurogane gripping him tightly, leaning dangerously over the edge of the ice.
Kurogane said something to him, but he couldn't quite make it out, and was too busy coughing to really try anyway. Then he was being pulled from the water, and that was just worse. Where he had felt no wind before, now every movement felt like a frozen gale beating against frozen skin. He felt the ice-edge scrape against his body like a blunt knife. Then he was laying down, but the heavy, uncomfortable weight of sopping clothes against his skin made it difficult to tell what part of his body he was lying on. His heart was beating so fast it hurt, and the water in his lungs seemed to want to have nothing to do with him anymore so that he just couldn't stop coughing.
There was bustling around him, and hurried talking, then someone- and Fai was in no doubt who, was hitting him very hard on the back. It did help though, after he'd hacked up what felt like enough water to fill several large buckets, he found he could breathe and gasped in air. Feeling less light-headed now, Fai tried to move and only then realised he was shuddering violently. And there were arms around him. He imagined he could feel their warmth.
Opening his eyes, he saw skin and black fabric and realised he was half wrapped in Kurogane's cloak, pressed against the ninja. With shaking hands, he reached up and gripped Kurogane's clothes, and tried to pull himself closer to that warmth. He buried his face in Kurogane's neck, and then the ninja spoke to him, and as the last vestige of light disappeared Fai liked to think he had said something soothing.
He wondered if perhaps the real reason for this doubt had nothing to do with his home world and everything to do with how attached he had become to the three people he travelled with. Unwillingly, unwanted, but it had happened all the same.
Or perhaps the mage had finally driven him insane.
He was sure of it when he found himself crouching in a narrow doorway, running his fingers through the aforementioned wizard's sopping hair and holding him close. The idiot was deathly cold, Kurogane thought, studying the impossibly pale skin of his face, and wrapped his cloak tighter around his body. Not that it would do much good with Fai still bound in drenched clothes, but Kurogane needed to do something. He wished then that they had wound up on some kind of tropical island instead of this world of miserable grey rain and chilled winds.
It had been pitch-black night when they left that ice-world, and an indiscernible time of day when they arrived.
Fai shuddered in his arms, breathed heavily and coughed, but didn't open his eyes. Kurogane wished he would, then he could stop worrying that the idiot would do something stupid like stop breathing. That would just be annoying, Kurogane decided and couldn't help but wonder if he'd miss the mage if he died. He would be angry at him, he was sure of that. And he certainly wouldn't miss the stupid nicknames and teasing.
Or maybe he would. Just a little bit.
They had all been together so long now. Days had turned into months and then a year and still they travelled from somewhere to somewhere else, and somewhere or other Kurogane had begun to find this life normal. He expected Fai to be there in the morning. He expected smiles for nothing and everything. He expected to chase Fai about at least twice a week, to shout at him at least twice a day, to look at him at least twice a minute to make sure he was still there, to try and work out what he really was, to try and understand him.
Like fascination or an obsession, because Kurogane wasn't used to people like Fai; had never met anyone like Fai. Definitely didn't want to meet anybody like Fai ever again.
His face was so blank and dead, so completely opposed to how Fai usually was that it made Kurogane nervous. Then he knew he would miss him, and hated himself for it. And hated Fai for it too.
And sitting on a stone step with a soaking mage in your lap was really starting to get cold now. Kurogane rearranged Fai, feeling more icy water seep through his trousers and shirt and Fai's laboured breaths and too-slow heartbeat against his chest. If the kids didn't hurry up he was sure all this would be for nothing, and he couldn't even blame the mage if he died.
Rain fell, and Kurogane waited, glaring at the blank grey wall across the street because otherwise he'd start staring at Fai's face again. This place was so lifeless, wherever this place was, and he started to think the grey stones of the streets and the buildings around him were drawing the life from Fai just as they seemed to have drained the colour from the earth and the sky. Then decided he was being absurd. He gripped Fai tighter all the same and rested one hand on his neck to make sure the idiot was still alive.
From down the street Kurogane heard fast approaching footsteps, his senses piqued and he listened intently, discerning it was the children returning. They ran out of the rainy gloom and came to a halt dripping wet and panting before him.
"We ran a long way…" Mokona began, looking down at Fai from his perch on Sakura's shoulders. Sakura wrung her hands together.
"There's no one here," Syaoran continued, took a large breath then went on; "We couldn't find anyone, and nobody answered any of the doors we knocked on…"
"I told you we should just have broken in," Kurogane grumbled, gathering Fai up in his arms and making to stand. Fai's head fell back lifelessly. "We don't have time for this."
"But these doors…" Syaoran said, looking at the solid metal-looking behemoth looming behind Kurogane, then stopped and shook his head. "We found one open," he said then. "It looked safe."
Kurogane nodded, stood fully and motioned for them to lead the way.
But he still thought a few well-placed attacks would have that door (or the wall) down in much shorter order.
"It's not far," Sakura breathed, and Kurogane stepped out from their meagre shelter into the cold drizzle. Fai's breath hitched at the first touch of rain against his face.
"Fai…" Mokona said miserably, and Sakura tried to shield his face from the rain with her hands.
"Don't worry about that," Kurogane said, and Syaoran nodded and started running up the street in the direction he and Sakura had just come from. Kurogane followed and Sakura beside him with Mokona held in her arms, passing door after door of identical grey metal and flat, flawless walls with no windows that reached high into the sky.
Fai was heavy in Kurogane's hold, his long arms and legs swaying listlessly as he ran, but still breathing and his face turned towards Kurogane in an attempt to evade the water falling on his face. There was discomfort and something like pain on his face, an odd drawn and scrunched-up expression Kurogane had never seen before and didn't like.
They turned a corner into an identical street, their feet slapping against the paved alley and the quiet hiss of rain the only sounds in that dead world.
Two worlds without people.
Kurogane was beginning to think they were cursed. Then remembered he was.
Syaoran stopped suddenly a little way ahead, motioned to the left and disappeared through what Kurogane assumed to be the open doorway. He sped up, turned sharply into the building and found himself in a long, grey corridor. It smelled dusty and damp, old and unused. An old wooden door stood open to his right and the sudden change in colour and texture surprised Kurogane. He went through it into an almost bare room. Syaoran was already pulling blankets from an old wardrobe onto the floor.
It was no warmer inside than outside really, but it was dry at least and looking around Kurogane could see there was a passable mattress in the corner and something that looked like a fireplace or a stove built into the wall behind him.
Quickly putting Fai down on the floor, he started wrenching off his sodden clothes, struggling with ridiculously placed buckles and trousers so heavy with water they seemed glued on.
Sakura and Syaoran brought over blankets, wrapping Fai up, and Sakura rubbing his hair gently in an attempt to dry it. Mokona looked on from Syaoran's shoulder, making worried noises.
"He looks so white," Sakura said, and Kurogane thought blue was probably a better description. He put a hand to Fai's neck again, still ice-cold, and felt his heartbeat slow and breathing almost nothing. Fai wasn't getting any warmer this way, and Kurogane could think of only one other thing to do.
"Go and get out of those wet clothes," he ordered, and when Sakura made to protest he gathered Fai up again, rose and turned his back to them, heading towards the mattress.
"Come on, princess," he heard Syaoran say.
"Take care of Fai," Mokona called after him, sounding unusually serious, then there were wet footsteps and the squeaking of the door as it was closed behind them.
Alone now, with Fai on the mattress, Kurogane stripped off his own wet clothes and armour, throwing them to the floor and crawled into the blankets with the wizard, sucking in a breath as his skin touched Fai's. Too cold, Kurogane thought, so he pulled Fai close and tried not to think how incredibly unsettling this closeness and their nakedness was. He rubbed the mage's icy back then arms then chest and really really tried to ignore the fact that he was looking at skin and watching his hands on that skin with something like fascination. And that he didn't mind the feel of Fai so close to him as much as he kept trying to tell himself.
Kurogane hitched the blankets further up around them. They were itchy and a nasty brown colour and he felt almost too hot under them, but Fai needed them and Kurogane wanted Fai alive and warm and he didn't mind admitting that much. The shivering hadn't stopped though, and Fai's lips were still a disturbing shade of purple. Kurogane stared at them, and thought kissing them would make them warm, then balked at his own mind and rubbed Fai's face with a the corner of one of the blankets instead. And perhaps he did that a little too roughly, because Fai stirred and squirmed and weakly tried to push the offending blanket away from his face.
Tired blue eyes opened slowly and half-focused on him. Fai smiled faintly and took a shaky breath.
"Kuro…pon…" he croaked, and shuddered almost violently. "Stop trying to… smother me…to death…" Kurogane snorted, trying not to look too pleased with himself and started to absently rub Fai's back, ignoring as much as he could the feel of Fai's soft skin under his hands and against his body. And the unabashed openness of Fai's face at that moment. He looked sleepy, Kurogane thought.
"Shut up," he said, and wanted to say more but didn't know what, and Fai looked liked he was falling asleep again anyway.
"Nice…" Fai sighed, and leaned closer to Kurogane, resting his face in the crook of his neck. Kurogane felt lips against his collarbone and decided that it definitely wasn't a kiss, because Fai was barely conscious and it was just a coincidence, or it was just because he was exhausted that it felt like one.
Fai was murmuring something now, and pressing his hands and forearms against Kurogane's chest, then his body relaxed, the shivering subsiding somewhat and he supposed the mage had finally fallen asleep, rather than unconscious. He was glad for that, he thought, and wrapped the blankets tighter around them, then gently stroked Fai's back until he fell asleep himself.
Like this, he didn't think he really needed to know anything or do anything or be anything other than there.
Kurogane was snoring softly somewhere above him and Fai listened for a while, wondering at the way the ninja's arms embraced him, closer than he could ever remember them being before, and the way their legs seemed to have twisted together in sleep. In that place, his only view was Kurogane's chest and ugly bedding and an indistinct, grey room beyond.
Rain was falling somewhere, he was sure, and his feet were cold.
The chill reminded him of deep black water and he shivered, memory leaking back- biting ice and filled lungs, and all of a sudden he felt dizzy and claustrophobic. Fai tried to untangle himself from Kurogane and sit up, but the blankets were too heavy and Fai thought that odd because he could never remember blankets being too heavy before.
He gave up, finding himself slightly out of breath, his muscles aching, and tried to think.
"What are you fidgeting for?" came Kurogane's voice, half-asleep, unexpected and loud to his ears. He shifted and held Fai tighter.
"Heavy," Fai explained, and found his voice not as clear as he thought it should be. Kurogane huffed, reached out from under the blankets and threw one off.
"Don't complain to me if you get cold," he said gruffly and tucked his arm back around Fai. Fai couldn't help but smile.
"Who else do I have to complain to?" he asked, and took a deep breath. "Anyway, my feet are already cold." Kurogane was silent for a moment, considering, then his arms loosened and he leaned back a little to look down at Fai.
"I know," he said, and there was a hint of a grin on his face. "I can feel them."
"That's not my fault," Fai retorted. Then paused, realising for the first time that neither of them had any clothes on. If he actually minded, he would have thought Kurogane was taking advantage of him.
"Kuro-rin?" he said slowly. "Why exactly are we naked in bed together?"
Kurogane's eyes searched his face curiously, then he shrugged.
"You don't remember?"
"It was cold…." he said, and remembered water again. He felt himself shiver. "I was drowning, I think."
Kurogane didn't say anything, just started gently stroking Fai's back, and Fai thought that it felt familiar. He giggled and pressed a cheek to Kurogane's chest.
"Kuro-pi does love me!" he laughed quietly, and felt Kurogane's hand pause for a moment, then fall away and Fai almost wished he hadn't said anything.
"You're annoying," Kurogane said, as though that explained everything. And Fai couldn't argue with that because it was probably true, and Kurogane probably hated this and probably was only here to make sure he didn't die and upset the children. Now all this thinking and this odd proximity was making his head hurt and he really was very tired. It would be better to just not consider Kurogane's almost-concern. To ignore the possibilities and the ease of Kurogane's touch. Sharing body heat, he'd told Syaoran.
He thought he might have been trying to fall asleep again, but then a thought struck him and he pushed back abruptly to look at Kurogane.
"Kuro-chi! Where are the others?" he asked, feeling something like panic rising within him until he remembered that Kurogane probably wouldn't look so wholly unconcerned if anything had happened to them.
"Across the hall."
"Hall…" Fai repeated, thinking. No longer ice or emptiness, but grey walls and soft rain instead. "We're in another world. I don't remember that."
"You were…" Kurogane began, then paused and frowned.
And there it was again. Almost-concern that looked like Kurogane and sounded like Kurogane, but sat at odds with how Fai thought things should be.
Or maybe not. Because Kurogane had a protective streak a mile wide, and Fai remembered Kurogane reaching down for him on that dark ice-world as though it was the most natural thing in the universe. An instinct, a burning desire, maybe even an insoluble need.
"Were you worried about me?" Fai asked, only half teasing and couldn't decide if he was surprised or not when Kurogane didn't deny it. Kurogane just stared at him for a long time.
"I wondered what it'd be like if you died," he said finally, anger in his eyes. Fai felt as though he'd done something wrong and would have apologised if Kurogane hadn't then suddenly gripped his arms and pulled him forwards so that their mouths met. Fai, surprised, dizzy, head pounding and arms burning from Kurogane's vice-like hold, couldn't think what he was supposed to do, even as Kurogane's warm lips slid away from his lips to his chin and Fai thought that perhaps he was still drowning in that ice-cold nightmare.
Except this was more like smothering in fire and Fai didn't want it to stop.
Kurogane's hands running down his arms and then his back and face, on skin and tangled in hair and Fai could only keep breathing. Wanted, unwanted, hope and desire filled Fai's thoughts.
"Open your eyes," he heard Kurogane say, so close to his ear he could feel lips gently brushing the skin at his neck.
"I don't need them," Fai teased, really just couldn't help himself when it came to Kurogane.
"You look like you're going to sleep." Kurogane sounded as though he didn't like that idea, and Fai contemplated many new and convoluted ways to make the ninja angry, but then remembered cold and longing and the possibility that Kurogane would stop. It would be so easy, Fai thought. To push Kurogane away. To make Kurogane hate him more. But Kurogane was there, doing this, and it didn't have to be anything other than warmth and comfort and he had almost convinced himself until he opened his eyes, sighing dramatically, to find Kurogane frowning at him again.
"I'm serious," he said simply, pulling back slightly.
"Of course you are, Kuro-pon," Fai agreed, and smiled as though it was unimportant. Kurogane's eyes narrowed.
"You're not." And Kurogane's tone was flat. It was neither angry nor curious; just a statement of fact that it seemed Kurogane had come to accept. Fai looked away and hated it that he couldn't just get up and walk away, that there was no one to save him from Kurogane's unforgiving eyes. And he hated that he was just too tired to even pretend.
"This is unfair," he complained, but perhaps Kurogane's determination was getting to him, or maybe he was just sick, but he almost felt like giving in and taking Kurogane's face in his own hands and running his tongue along his lips and feeling that dark hair under his fingers. Fai thought it might be nice.
"If you think so," he heard Kurogane say, "tell me to stop." Then Kurogane's hands were on him again, and Fai thought that Kurogane really was being unfair now because how was he supposed to tell him to stop when he was furiously covering his mouth with his own as though he was trying to breathe for him?
And then Kurogane's hands were finding their way down his torso to his thighs and Fai thought that Kurogane was just being downright unscrupulous now because there was no way he could refuse that touch, that tongue, those eyes burning trust into his. Perhaps, then, it was more than warmth.
And Fai thought he must have gasped because Kurogane was looking decidedly smug.
"That your answer?" he grinned, and Fai had to admit he liked that self-satisfied smile and he liked the feel of Kurogane beside him with his hands all over him and he thought perhaps he should tell Kurogane that.
So he did take that face in his hands, and he did run his tongue along those lips, and found it really was as good as he thought it would be. Better even, because Kurogane pressed himself closer to Fai and took hold of his length and ran warm, calloused fingers slowly up and down the skin there. Fai knew he had gasped then because Kurogane was kissing him.
Hands shaking slightly, Fai reached up and slid his arms down Kurogane's back. He thought maybe he should try and reciprocate more, but with every new glide and twist of Kurogane's hand on him his mind cleared of all thought but never letting that touch stop, of blood pounding furiously and lungs fighting for air. It was all he could do to hold on; to grip muscle and feel it move under his fingers and feel heat there and sweat and it was Kurogane's.
Fai knew he was moaning, and probably writhing and panting too but didn't much care as long as he didn't have to remember the cold. And he wanted more, so he entwined his legs with Kurogane's and felt Kurogane draw in a sudden breath even as they kissed, and laugh softly.
"Your feet," he said, pulling away from the kiss and dropping his head slightly to nuzzle at Fai's neck. "They really are freezing."
"Bad circulation," Fai breathed, smiling, and Kurogane laughed harder and rubbed his legs against Fai's.
Crazy. This was crazy. It wasn't supposed to be like this. He wasn't supposed to want this. To do this. Yet he was about to come from Kurogane's touch and Fai doubted there was anything in the universe that could save him now. The pressure was too great, growing with every moment Kurogane's hands were on him and all he was doing was laughing and gasping and letting Kurogane do whatever he wanted. Fai wondered if Kurogane really would stop, if he told him to, and thought to try except right then he felt Kurogane's tongue on his chest, trailing slowly down as his hand sped up, caressing and caressing.
And caressing until Fai could feel only that, and pleasure, and heat, then more and then with one last gasp and the twist of a hand Fai was coming and coming and he held Kurogane as though he'd fall away if he let go.
Laying there, feeling Kurogane's weight at his side, feeling hot and breathless and slightly nauseous, Fai couldn't think of anywhere he would rather be. This could be enough, he thought. Kurogane was shifting beside him, moving blankets and limbs and Fai lay on his back and let his arms fall to his sides.
"You all right?" Kurogane asked, sounding stern and half-way apologetic, and Fai was going to reply Yes, of course Kuro-sama, then realised he wasn't so sure. Still, he opened his eyes to look at Kurogane with what he hoped was a cheerful smile and nodded.
"Tired," Fai said, realising it was the truth, more now than before and his head and body ached even worse. Fai snorted. "Is this your idea of trying to make me feel better?"
Kurogane shook his head, looking more serious than Fai thought he ought to. But then, Fai always thought Kurogane looked too serious.
"No," he said, and pulled Fai loosely back into his arms, and Fai thought he was probably trying to tell him something neither of them wanted to hear, so he just smiled and nodded and mumbled an apology.
"What for?" Kurogane frowned, and Fai could have said For everything but said instead;
"I think I'm too tired to return the favour right now."
"Hn," Kurogane agreed, and without knowing why Fai leaned forward and kissed Kurogane. Just a brief kiss. Nothing fancy or erotic or very interesting at all really, but Kurogane's eyes widened in surprise and Fai smiled.
"Another time," Kurogane said then, stroking his hair back, letting his hands play across Fai's cheek, looking at him.