Disclaimer: All X and Tokyo Babylon characters set within this story are the property of CLAMP. We do not have any claims on them, much as though we might like to have.

Summary: What if Subaru never bumped into Seishirou at that train station one fine day in 1990 and never had his heart broken? How would the two of them resolve their bet when they meet in 1999 and would fate be content to allow it? This is our AU story.

PROLOGUE

There is such a thing as fate. Fate weaves people under its spell, and struggle though they might, humans are doomed to follow the course laid for them.

Sometimes, though, small decisions change the course of a person's life. On a certain day after Sumeragi Subaru had just moved to Tokyo, he decided to take a cab, rather than a subway. This prevented him from meeting the kind veterinarian Sakurazuka Seishirou, and the whole tower of cards known as destiny wobbled under the repercussions. Subaru had been marked as a child, and according to destiny, he and Seishirou should have entered the Final Day as the bitterest of enemies, due to a bet that Subaru couldn't win. But... they didn't meet to act out that course of fate.

This simply would not do. The heavens had plans for the two opposing stars. Their meeting was inevitable... but because of fortune's misstep, would take eight years for that to happen- in the year 1998, just before a young man named Shiro Kamui came to the city, to seek his own destiny....

The Writing Team of AXQA presents: Paradigm Shift

CHAPTER ONE - The Tightening Tangle of Fate

Sometime in October 1998, in the district of Shinjuku...

The sound of heavy panting was loud as a young man ran full tilt along the side of the road. Sparing only a quick glance at the traffic, he made a sudden dash across, narrowly avoiding a braking car. If anyone was looking carefully at him, they'd have thought he was flying. His feet moved so swiftly that they appeared to be lifting straight off the ground, but that would have been impossible.

Perhaps not, for Sumeragi Subaru, 13th clan head of the Sumeragi, very little was impossible. At that moment, in a situation of life or death, he was not going to give up without exerting every one of his formidable abilities needed to save a life.

There!

A quick glance showed him that he had arrived at his destination. Quickly he barreled through the glass doors, startling the receptionist just inside the room.

"Please, I need help!" Subaru exclaimed, holding the bundle tightly.

The young man gave the woman credit for her quick thinking because she only took a moment to assess the situation. "Follow me," she commanded as she led him through a paneled door.

A tall man dressed in a white lab coat swiveled around to look at Subaru as he skittered to a stop before him.

Subaru lifted his emerald green eyes to meet a pair of kind amber ones, set behind a pair of glasses. "Please, please, you have to help him," Subaru pleaded as he thrust the little bloody bundle at the doctor.

A small smile lifted the doctor's lips, comforting the younger man. The vet took the burden from the petitioner, settling it carefully on an operating table. "Don't worry," he said, patting Subaru's hand reassuringly.

The touch sent a pleasant shiver up Subaru's spine. He blushed, but didn't know why he was reacting like this.

"Will you be needing me, sensei?" the receptionist asked.

"Eh? No, I think I shall be all right; but would you like to stay and help?" he asked, addressing the question to Subaru.

Subaru nodded gratefully. "Yes."

As the veterinarian carefully examined the injured puppy, Subaru stole shy glances at him. His first impression of the man had been of startled recognition. It was as if he knew him from somewhere before. Subaru's gaze lingered over the gentle way he stroked the puppy lying whimpering in pain on the table and wondered how the touch felt.

He blushed slightly, knowing his sister would mercilessly tease him if she ever knew what he'd been thinking. Luckily for him, out of all the powers the Sumeragi twins possessed, the telepathy that twins were famed for was not among their skills. "Thank you for helping on such short notice, sensei," he said, bowing slightly. "I'm sure you were ready to go home."

The doctor smiled at him. "It's fine... I'd never turn any creature in need away," he said. Something about the way his eyes focused on Subaru, instead of the puppy, made the innuendo clear.

Subaru felt his infamous blush crawl up his cheeks, and fought to suppress it. "Still, I appreciate it," he said, dropping his eyes to the puppy. "I- I'm sorry.... I never introduced myself. Sumeragi Subaru desu," he said, bowing slightly, even as the vet dealt expertly with the puppy's cuts.

"Sakurazuka Seishirou," the vet said, smiling. Subaru stiffened slightly, but the vet only laughed. "I see that the Sumeragi recognizes my family name," he said easily. "Can you hand me that gauze over there?" he asked, nodding his head towards the other table.

Subaru backed up slowly, not daring to take his eyes off the other man. He fumbled around without looking for the gauze, and accidentally nicked his left wrist, on the skin just above his glove, with a scalpel. "Ow!" he yelped in pain, but his eyes remained focused. Pain was something he'd learned to ignore in his years as the Sumeragi Clan's foremost onmyouji.

Suddenly, Seishirou took Subaru's hand in his. "Here, let me take a look at that. It wouldn't do for that to get infected," the veterinarian said. The antiseptic that he dabbed over the cut was cool and stung a little. "Are you all right?" he asked in response to the little intake of breath that Subaru made.

"Oh, I'm... I'm fine." Subaru stammered, confused over the intimate way Seishirou was holding onto him.

The older man nodded and turned back to the puppy. It wasn't very seriously injured; its leg had been broken and needed to be set. There were also little cuts and bruises all over it. "What happened to him?" the vet asked.

"I found some boys hurting him and took him away from them. I just don't know how some children can be so cruel..." Subaru's voice trailed off in distress.

"People are cruel, sometimes... but there are also the kind ones... there's balance in the world. Isn't that the philosophy of your art?" the vet asked.

"But... to see such cruelty in children," Subaru whispered softly. He looked at the dog wistfully, and saw that it seemed to be relaxing under the vet's gentle ministrations.

The older man turned around, and before Subaru could react, he was next to him. Subaru felt Seishirou's presence in every pore of his being, and wondered why they seemed so attuned to each other. It felt like meeting the other half of himself. "I don't have to guess hard which kind of person you are, Subaru-san," Seishirou said, raising a hand to cup his chin. "When I finish here, would you join me for dinner?"

Subaru's eyes were wide. "No... no... I shouldn't disturb you any more. I'm sure you must be busy..." He protested, though something inside him desperately wanted to accept.

"Ah, I do so hate eating alone. But if you simply cannot bear to be in my company..." Seishirou turned sad eyes on Subaru.

"Oh, no, that's not it at all. I like being in your company," Subaru said, then clapped a hand over his mouth as he realized what he had just been maneuvered into saying.

Seishirou perked up visibly at that. "Oh, good, then you'll come with me. I know just the place. I think you must be hungry, too!" Seishirou cocked his head in the direction of Subaru's middle, as his stomach gave a small growl in reminder that he had not had anything to eat today.

"Um..." Subaru said, and his blush returned full-force. "Just let me call my sister and let her know I won't be around, in case she comes looking for me."

Seishirou looked at him. "You have a sister?" he asked curiously, as he started to straighten the room.

"My twin. We lived together until we were eighteen, but she finally moved out," Subaru said, mentally adding, 'and it saved my sanity.' Even though his clothing was still designed by her, he'd managed to tone down his wardrobe... a little, a very little. He still stood out like a sore thumb in traditional Tokyo.

Today he had selected one of Hokuto's seasonal outfits, which she designed around Halloween. While the holiday made him uneasy (and the spirits even MORE uneasy) Hokuto always had a blast with it, since it gave her an excuse to get out rightly bizarre.

Subaru was dressed primarily in black velvet, which wouldn't have been so bad if she hadn't accented it with neon orange satin. Still, it was better than SOME of what Hokuto had delivered in her last shipment, so he'd decided on it. Sometimes he thought she deliberately left him clothes she knew he wasn't going to wear to make him wear the ones she wanted him to. His pants were low hip huggers and fitted to his waist, flaring out into wide velvety legs that hung to the floor, so long that he would have tripped on them if he hadn't had experience with wilder clothes. His shirt was made of two layers of black: a thin lace that mimicked cobwebs and a fitted vest that started at his ribcage. On his head, (added comma) he wore his black hat... and had that been all, it would have been fine... but then Hokuto had added the orange. (… Now I want to draw that outfit. ^_^v)

The orange hatband was fine, and the orange belt was acceptable as well. He supposed he could even tolerate the orange cross-shaped choker that drew attention to his pale throat... but the long, draping orange cloth she had attached to each of his shoulders, and again at his wrists made him feel decidedly uneasily. Whenever Subaru shifted an arm, he had a yard of fabric trailing it. It drew much more attention than he was comfortable with- like most of his sister's creations.

"Erm, Sakurazuka-san, can I come back to visit the puppy?" Subaru asked politely.

"Please call me Seishirou. Of course you may come back. You can come visit me anytime, Subaru-kun," the older man said.

Subaru rather liked being addressed in that familiar way, though he was a little embarrassed by it. He was after all a grown man.

"You really like animals that much?" Seishirou was asking him as he finished cleaning up after the surgery.

"Oh, yes. I love animals," Subaru gushed in enthusiasm. "I wanted to be an animal doctor too at one time. I even went to university to study biology and zoology, but..." Subaru paused at the reminder of the sacrifice that his duty had required of him.

"But?" Seishirou prompted.

"Well, I have this rather full time job. I'm an onmyouji," Subaru confessed.

"Yes, I know. You're rather famous, you know." Seishirou replied.

"I... I am?" Subaru stuttered in confusion. "You're a Sakurazuka..."

"Yes, I am. But I'm also only a lowly veterinarian. Does that bother you?"

"No!" Subaru said fiercely without thinking. " I mean... well, my grandmother would probably have a fit if she knew I was talking to a Sakurazuka...."

Seishirou smiled gently and picked up the puppy. "I have a small interest in family history. I can't honestly blame her," he admitted. "But you can't judge us all for the action of our ancestors..."

"Or relatives..." Subaru whispered, seeming sorrowful as his eyes dropped to his gloved hands for an instant.

"Huh? Did you say something?"

"No-no!"

"Well, I'm going to put this fellow to bed..." Seishirou said. "Would you like to come?" He offered.

Subaru nodded enthusiastically. He followed Seishirou to the back room. He couldn't resist cooing a little at the adorable cats and dogs looking back at him in their cages. Suddenly a hand was wrapped around his waist.

"Are you ready to leave Subaru-kun?" Seishirou was smiling an indulgent smile at him. "You can come back and visit and play with these animals anytime you like."

The promise of the treat was enough to make Subaru forget his close proximity to the other man. He couldn't resist smiling delightedly back at him.

"I'd love that! Sometimes I wish I could keep a pet... but I'm seldom home long enough to take good care of it, and I don't think it'd be fair..."

Seishirou smiled. "Many people would take a pet anyway, and let the animal be lonely."

Subaru stuck his finger into the cage of a particularly active kitten. "How could I?" he asked softly. "I'd know how sad they were whenever I was around them, and I'd never know any joy from being close..."

"That's an excellent attitude to have! All pet owners need to be responsible," Seishirou said cheerfully.

As Subaru walked alongside Seishirou, he contemplated the man. Subaru couldn't get over how kind and gentle the veterinarian was. He couldn't believe he could be linked to the Sakurazuka clan. But then he remembered his grandmother had said that not everyone named Sakurazuka was involved in the Sakurazukamori group of assassins. In fact, the Sakurazukamori was only one man, though he was the mortal enemy to the Sumeragi.

No, Seishirou-san was simply unfortunate in being a born a Sakurazuka and he, Subaru, would not shun him simply for it.

After being seated at the small cafe, Subaru looked around, remembering he was supposed to call his sister. He excused himself and went to the pay phone by the side of the wall after asking Seishirou to order something for him.

"WHERE ARE YOU?" The particularly strident tones of Hokuto-chan filled his ear.

Subaru held the receiver a little away before speaking into it. "Maa maa, Hokuto-chan, please lower your voice. I'm... I'm having dinner out today."

The slight stutter alerted Hokuto to Subaru's effort to hide something from her. "Is there someone with you?" She demanded perceptively.

Subaru sighed. His sister knew him all too well. "Yes, Hokuto-chan. But don't ask me to tell you on the phone. I'll tell you all about him when I get back, I promise."

"HIM???"

Subaru could see the wheels turning around Hokuto's head. "It's just a friend."

"I see, you have to bring him around to your apartment after dinner. I want to meet him. I'll be waiting for you there Subaru. PROMISE?"

Subaru found himself bowing in agreement, just like he always did when talking to someone on the phone, despite knowing full well the other side could not possibly see him. "Hai, hai, I promise."

Hanging up, he turned back to see Seishirou staring at him with an amused smile on his face. A blush flooded his cheeks again. Subaru wondered if this hot and flustered feeling whenever he saw Seishirou looking at him was going to be a familiar sensation in his future.

That was, assuming Seishirou would keep seeing him. Subaru was drawn to him... but most people, while fascinated by the onmyouji's art, were unable to stay in their orbit.

They moved through a different world than normal people, and dealt with situations that were downright dangerous. His thoughts skittered to an abrupt halt. With 1999 approaching...

Subaru shook his head mentally, forcing his grandmother's warnings to the back of his mind. He had to live, because that was what he stood for. He stood for life. "Sorry about that, Seishirou-san," he said when he returned to their table. "My sister..." he said, and rolled his eyes slightly.

"She sounds quite interesting. Does she look anything like you?"

Subaru blushed. "Even though we're fraternal twins, when we were younger, people couldn't tell us apart. That is... until... well, until it became clear who was the boy and who was the girl. Still, many people say it's looking at male and female versions of the same person."

Seishirou smiled slightly, and took Subaru's hand in his own. "Then she must be one of the most beautiful women in Tokyo."

Subaru didn't quite know how to take that comment. On the one hand, it would seem awfully rude not to agree, since he did think Hokuto was very special. But on the other hand, he knew Seishirou wasn't really complimenting his sister. He was old enough to know better, though he wasn't old enough to know how to deal with someone hitting on him. So he did the only thing he always did: blush beetroot red.

"Ah.. ah... I suppose..." he stammered.

Seishirou laughed lightly. "I think I should like to meet her, since I see she's very special to you."

Subaru nodded. "She'll be at my apartment... she expressed a rather strong desire in meeting you..."

Seishirou's eyes seemed to sparkle with amusement. "She gave you your marching orders? Aren't you the Head of your Clan?"

Subaru gave a mock shudder. "When it comes to magic, yes. When it comes to my own life... well, I have my grandmother and Hokuto and whatever other female relative chooses to poke her nose in..."

The rest of the meal passed with incredible speed for Subaru. Seishirou kept him entertained with tales of the antics at his animal clinic. He couldn't remember a time when he had enjoyed himself more. It was nice to think about mundane things rather than worrying about his magic or work.

After the meal, Subaru found himself leading the way back to his apartment. "Here it is," he said. Before he could say anything further, his front door flung open.

"Su-Ba-Ru!" A loud voice declared as a very pretty young woman practically hurtled out.

Subaru caught the missile that resolved itself into his sister with the ease born of years of practice. She smiled up at him mischievously, though, and his stomach felt like it had gained a lump of lead. Hokuto was Up To Something.

"Hello!" she said, turning around to get a look at the visitor for a second. Her eyes scanned Seishirou from the feet to his head, and her grin widened. Before either man could stop her, she threw herself into his arms and planted a kiss firmly on his lips. "I'm Sumeragi Hokuto- call me Hokuto-chan!"

"Ho-Hokuto!" Subaru stammered, staring at his sister as he got a good look at her outfit.

She was dressed as Cupid. She wore knee-high white boots, a mini-skirt and halter top with tiny wings attached to the back; the entire thing was far too cool for the season, but she didn't seem bothered. She had accessorized with gold-heart jewelry and a belt made of heart-links... but the kicker was the small golden bow and arrows she had strapped to her right hip.

After seeing her kiss the man he had just spent one of the best dinners of his life with, combined with her clothing choice, Subaru wished that he could banish her to the South Pole. But something inside Subaru was relieved when he saw that Seishirou didn't appear to be particularly affected by Hokuto's kiss.

"Ah, dear lady, I don't think we've been properly introduced. I am Sakurazuka Seishirou, a humble veterinarian," Seishirou said with an amused and indulgent smile.

A quick narrowing of her eyes was all the reaction that Hokuto made at hearing the name. She tilted her head at Subaru for a quick look at him before smiling broadly, "So you're the first person who's ever managed to get my brother to go on a dinner date with!"

Subaru flushed with embarrassment at her candor. "Hokuto-chan!" he exclaimed. Then remembering his manners he said, "Seishirou-san, would you like to come inside?"

"It would be my pleasure, Subaru-kun."
*
And that was the beginning of the battle for the fate of the world, even though Sumeragi Subaru wouldn't know it for many months.
*
Sakurazuka Seishirou didn't manage to get away from the twins until around one a.m., but that was more then acceptable. His prey, after over a decade and a half, had walked right into his office. Just the other day he had been thinking he'd been falling into the most dreadful routine, and had been racking his brain to come up with a diversion.

He remembered the bet he had laid with the young child, of course, but it had always been something to do later. He hadn't realized when he made it that he and the Sumeragi were both destined to fight for the end of the world. Destiny had a strange way of diverting things to its whims, and he had made the decision years ago to let the bet lie, and merely take the Sumeragi on as his opposite, come the Final Day.

After all, they were already opposing clans; it was quite natural that they be rivals.

But this was just too perfect. Subaru had walked right into his hands, and he was already infatuated with him. It was a delicious thought he could date Subaru, bed him... and then betray him, all in time for the End of the World. Watching the pale face and sweet smile crushed by betrayal... would be another form of victory, and perhaps a more enjoyable one. He rarely got to play with his kills, and few of them were as fascinating as Subaru.

How could anyone be twenty-four years old and be so blasted innocent? Seishirou wanted to know. The Sumeragi was the head of his clan, but he still stuttered and blushed like a shy schoolboy. If it wasn't for the almost visible aura of power and the underlying sorrow that flashed occasionally in Subaru's fascinating green eyes, Seishirou would have just killed him outright. Still, the contradictions Subaru had interested Seishirou, and he decided that playing by the terms of the bet wasn't going to be a bad idea.

~~~~~

Notes: All of Subaru's and Hokuto clothes were designed by Aishuu who turned out to have a rather fiendish imagination as far as Xandra is concerned. But since Xandra turned up an absolute blank on how to dress the twins, she's not complaining.

Aishuu: I can't help it if I think the best thing Hokuto ever did was dress up her brother! But I was going for a subtly sexy look on Subaru, who, at 24, is just as clueless as he was at 16.... Since he never met Seishirou.

Up Next: Tokyo Babylon springs into full play, with Seishirou and Subaru meeting for lunch, and Subaru going ghost-hunting...