Summary: Almost an AU, but not really. The beginnings of Shurano's Kurogane and Fai. This story takes place when the two first meet.
Warnings: My standards. Warning One: Some swearing. Not too bad though. Warning Two: Spoilers, I suppose. If you haven't gotten to Chapitre 58 you might be wondering about what I'm writing. If you have gotten that far, then I'm building a past for Shurano's version of Kurogane and Fai. Warning Three: Not so much in this chapter, but there will be most definite KuroxFai-ness in future chapters.
Disclaimers: All characters (save for the ones I've invented for the purposes of moving the plot (no Sue, don't worry), though I'm not worried about them and don't actually care about them since I didn't even bother to give them names) are property of CLAMP, et al.
The Bowman and the Swordsman
In the army, a soldier did what he was told. Every swordsman was paired with a bowman, the two working together to defeat opponents. One would never question why the general was pairing him with anyone. They simply accepted the information and proceeded to become a killing force with their partner. But there were always exceptions.
"You want me to be with…" Fai stared in disbelief at his commander.
The man nodded, almost grimly. "Yes, Fai. I'm sorry."
"Uh…well…um…with all due respect, sir," Fai could not believe his ears to be telling him the truth. There had to be some kind of mistake. "Are you sure?"
"Again, yes, Fai," the commander said, patiently. "You are going to be working with Kurogane from hereon out."
Fai hung his head slightly, attempting to process precisely how miserable his life was about to become. Kurogane was infamous among the warriors, the best swordsman in the army, the pride and joy of the general. And about the crankiest soldier among them all. He spent all his spare time in solitude, choosing to fraternize with no one, save the small animals that often lurked in the same dark, quiet places that he did. If anyone dared to endeavor a dialogue with him, he would regret it indefinitely; Kurogane suffered no one pleasant conversation. He spoke only when he felt words needed to be spoken, which were few, far between, and purely utilitarian.
Kurogane had been paired with bowmen before, but each time, they had not been able to adequately keep up with him in battle and found themselves either dead from their enemy, or being cursed at enough to request a permanent regiment change. None had lasted much longer than any half of a particular battle. Fai felt the hopelessness descending; he was surely doomed.
"I know that he is not the," the commander paused, pondering an appropriate word, "easiest person with whom to work."
Fai scoffed quietly. "Sir, I think that would be a gross understatement."
The commander chuckled. "I suppose that's true. The general has faith, though, that you will be able to work with him."
"And why is that?"
"To be completely truthful, the only reason he wants the two of you paired is because he is the best swordsman, and you are the best bowman. He wants his two best fighting together," the commander said. "But he does hope that your personality will be able to withstand his."
"That is indeed much faith," Fai said.
The commander clapped an encouraging hand on Fai's shoulder. "Don't worry. Everyone believes in you. If you cannot get along with him, then no one can."
Fai smiled half-heartedly. "I'm sorry to say, but that's not quite encouraging, sir."
"The whole army will be rooting for you," the commander winked. "Now, go on and make a friend."
Fai laughed outright. "Friend. Right…" He shook his head, saluted, and moved off.
Evening had settled over the encampment and warriors sat in circles around fires, eating and talking. Fai passed them all with heavy steps. Some offered small words of encouragement; it seemed that the whole force had heard of his new assignment. All he had to do now was to find his quarry. He was not inobservant, and had found it somewhat of a game to track the surly warrior throughout the days, so he knew of his favored spaces. A large, gnarled, bent tree stood at a far edge of the camp. The light from the fires could not reach it, but cast long shadows reaching toward its roots. It seemed to be Kurogane's favorite, so Fai deemed to begin his search there.
By the time he had made his way to the old tree, night had fallen, and Fai found it hard to see as he made his way further from the fires. From Fai's observances, he had noticed Kurogane had a tendency to sit facing in whichever direction the moon was. The moon was almost full that particular night and hung low in the southwestern sky. He skirted the outside of the tree, careful to keep a somewhat respectable distance from it, and came around to the other side. Kurogane sat cross-legged between two large roots, his back resting against the trunk, watching the moon; and poignantly ignoring Fai's presence.
Not to be deterred from his duty, Fai approached, plastering his most disarming smile on his face. He opened his mouth to speak.
"I don't care who sent you, you can turn around and leave," Kurogane cut him off.
Fai's smile faltered, but he went ahead. "That would be to disobey the general."
Kurogane never looked at him. "I said that I didn't care."
Fai frowned deeply. Never before had he talked to this man, but had heard the stories that conversing with him was next to impossible. It looked as if they were all true. But nevertheless, he was there with orders. "And I am not going to be the one to disobey the general."
Kurogane's gaze flicked in his direction, before settling it back upon the moon. "I probably don't have to ask why he sent you."
"I'm to be your bowman," Fai said, doing his best to keep the irritation from leaking into his words.
Kurogane snorted. "I have no need for a bowman."
"And I have no need for a swordsman, but that is beside the point," Fai retorted.
Kurogane looked at him then, raising an eyebrow. "And the point would be?"
Fai sighed. "The point is that the general wants us to fight together. He seems to have this vision of his best swordsman and best bowman working as a team."
"He fancies you his best bowman, does he?" Kurogane asked. Fai forced down the scathing remark that first came to his mind and prepared a more polite response, but Kurogane spoke again. "I suppose you would be, though. Your aim is flawless."
This rendered Fai utterly speechless. Had he been complimented? By Kurogane? More so the fact that Kurogane had noticed his existence before now. He looked away from him, trying to collect his wits. How does one respond to a compliment given by someone who never gives compliments? He had no idea.
"You look like an idiot, just standing there stupefied," Kurogane said, looking back to the moon. "I thought conversation was your forte?"
Fai glared at him. No way was Kurogane going to get the best of him. "Forgive me if I lack the wherewithal to speak with you," Fai said.
"Ah the contempt," Kurogane grinned.
Fai sighed heavily. "And to think that I used to wonder why it was that your bowmen never lasted very long."
"They were useless," Kurogane remarked. "I was much worse to them."
"So I've caught you on a good day?" Fai said. "Lucky me."
"The general thinks you can handle me, right?" Kurogane asked.
"He seems to, yes."
"Well, where would the fun be if I didn't give you grief?" Kurogane said. "There's no sport in that."
And Fai laughed. True, his new partner might not be the easiest with whom to get along, but it seemed they at least understood each other.
Kurogane looked completely away from Fai, hiding the very small, pleased grin on his face. He had heard Fai's laugh before; it was one of the only things that did not annoy him about being with the rest of the warriors. Maybe this partnership would be bearable.
Fai knelt from where he stood, bringing them to the same level. His smile had returned to his face. "So do we at least agree to be partners for the general's sake?"
Kurogane looked back to him. "Might as well. But we'll start tomorrow. So leave."
Fai could not help the grin. Their exchange had actually gone better than he had expected. This dismissal did not faze him. He stood. "Tomorrow it is then." He turned and waved over his shoulder. "Have a good night."
::-:: ::-:: ::-:: ::-:: ::-::
As morning broke over the mountains, the warriors in the field began to stir. Small circles were formed as cooking fires were lit. Fai joined the one nearest the tree at which Kurogane had been during the night. It seemed the fire had been going for a while and the food was already made.
"I do wish he would make something besides field rat and cracked wheat," a soldier groused, gazing at the fare lying on a flat stone among the smoldering embers.
Another rolled his eyes. "Why don't you be grateful that you don't have to catch, skin, and cook the rat yourself?"
"You should feel lucky he leaves us some," another chimed in, carving a leg off a browned carcass.
"Uh, perchance you mean Kurogane?" Fai asked. He had never strayed this far from the main fires, as he tended to enjoy the company there better.
The second warrior looked at him and nodded. "Yeah. We still can't figure out why. But he's always up, eaten, and gone again by the time we get ourselves moving. He always leaves us food though."
"It's not good, but then again I doubt not much would be good considering what we don't have to eat," the third said.
Fai nodded, glancing at the tree, and then joined the others in eating. He made short work of it, since there was not much to begin with, plus he wanted to get started on learning exactly how to get along with Kurogane. When the fire had been scattered and all departed for training and the like with their partners, Fai made a quick scan of the crowd. Kurogane sat hunched over a whet stone, sharpening his sword.
"Kurogane!" Fai shouted as he made his way toward the other. "Kurogane!"
Kurogane ignored him.
Fai sighed irritably, glaring at the back of the man's head. "Kuro-chan!"
The blade slipped completely off the stone, clanging to the ground as Kurogane jerked in reaction. The closest to the two collectively gasped in horror at Fai. Surely there would be death ensuing shortly.
Kurogane stood and turned to face Fai, whose path to Kurogane had mysteriously and suddenly cleared. Fai could not decide which emotion was taking precedence on the other's face: utter disbelief or pure, unadulterated rage. Those around them began backing away upon seeing the glare on Kurogane's face.
"What in the hell did you just call me?" Kurogane asked, voice trembling with suppressed anger.
Fai would not be daunted. "Kuro-chan," he shrugged. "I had to get your attention somehow since you were oh, so pointedly ignoring me."
"I was ignoring you for a reason," Kurogane replied.
Fai grinned. "And I needed to speak with you. Desperate times call for desperate measures."
"You're going to be desperate, all right," Kurogane growled, cracking his knuckles.
A small fear for his life bubbled to the surface of his subconscious, but Fai ignored it. "Kuro-tan, you must calm down. We have a lot of work to do."
Kurogane twitched at the second nickname. "Why are you calling me those weird names?"
"Because they suit you," Fai said, grinning widely. He turned toward the large tent that housed the tools he would need to construct a new quiver of arrows. "Either way, why don't you finish sharpening your sword, and I'll make some arrows, and we can meet later to train?"
Kurogane snarled at him and turned, sitting back at the stone, putting his sword back to it. "The only thing I'll need to sharpen my sword for is to be able to kill you faster," he mumbled.
Fai smiled and moved on to the tent, ignoring the disbelieving looks his fellow warriors sent his way. Once inside the empty tent and away from curious eyes, Fai sagged slightly. How he had escaped instant death, he did not know. He had, though. And not only had he lived, but it appeared that Kurogane had not really thought about killing him. He had never picked up his sword from where he had dropped it. Most unlike someone who wished to kill another.
I'm most likely thinking too much into it, Fai thought. He shook his head and headed to the nearest table and set to work.
As he finished his last arrow, the flap of the tent was yanked violently open. He looked up calmly and, as expected, saw Kurogane standing in the entrance, glaring at him.
"What is it, Kuro-rin?"
"Stop calling me those damn names!" He growled.
"I'll think about it," Fai said breezily, hoisting his now full quiver onto his shoulder. "Shall we?"
Kurogane glared at him and let the flap fall closed. Fai gently exited and found Kurogane standing to the side waiting for him, the ever-present glower still fixed upon his features. Fai smiled.
::-:: ::-:: ::-:: ::-:: ::-::
Fai and Kurogane had trained until the evening's fires had been lit. Only then did they silently agree that they should quit for the day. Fai moved toward one of the fires, but noticed that Kurogane was heading away toward the same tree as the night before.
"Kuro-chi, aren't you going to eat?" Fai asked.
Kurogane paused, glaring over his shoulder at the other. "No." And without waiting for a response, he left, evading the other warriors completely.
Fai gazed after him and forced away the sudden and unreasonable urge to follow him. He shook his head and took a place at his usual fire. Dusk soon settled and Fai could bear the pull to seek out Kurogane no longer. He left the comforting warmth of the fire and friendly faces, and began in the direction of the tree at the edge of camp.
"Don't die, Fai," a warrior called after him.
Fai waved. "I'll do my best."
"I don't know whether he's being really obedient, really brave, or really stupid," another warrior whispered.
"It's Kurogane," a third said. "It's stupidity."
"It is his assignment though," another said. "I feel bad for him. Working with Kurogane would have to be horrible."
It appeared, on the outside, that Fai had heard none of that conversation, but he had heard every word. Was he being stupid trying to befriend his new partner? Should he just not even try and solely train and fight with him? He growled to himself. And why was he feeling this idiotic urge to not keep his distance from him? A warrior could not afford to be close to his comrades anyways. So why was he persisting with Kurogane? Did he have a death wish? The way he continued to call Kurogane those nicknames and smile at all of his threats could have convinced anyone that he did. Fai hung his head, staring glumly at the dusty field grass that fell under his steps. He had the feeling that his search would not be in vain, necessarily, but it would certainly not yield much of anything besides simply finding the other.
Kurogane did not ignore him that night. Fai had not gotten much past the last fire when he heard Kurogane. "Just because we're partners, doesn't mean you're welcome to be around me."
Fai quirked a small, wry smile. He continued around the tree and, ignoring the angry glare, sat down on the opposite side of a root from Kurogane. He looked up at the moon. "I would say that I'm sorry for intruding, but I'm not."
"I can fix that," Kurogane offered.
"Don't trouble yourself," Fai said. He looked down, meeting Kurogane's eyes. "I'm going to be truthful and say that I don't know why I'm here."
"Then why are you here?" Kurogane said. "Find somewhere that might want you."
Fai looked down at his hands resting against his knees. He wanted to leave. His subconscious, however, would not allow it. And that was the only thing that kept him there. Away from the friendly faces that would gladly chat with him on into the night. Away from the soft, warm glow of the fires. Only Kurogane, the tree, and the moon were with him there. And none of them looked to be giving him any kind of welcome.
"Why do you think you're here?" Kurogane asked, his voice no longer angry.
As surprised as he was by this question, Fai did not look up. "Because…because I…" He what? Wanted to get to know him? Thought they would work together better if they could speak plainly? His subconscious told him that it was right? Fai could have rolled his eyes. That was absolutely preposterous. What did his subconscious know?
"It seems I jinx your rhetorical skills," Kurogane said quietly.
Fai snorted. "I don't know what's wrong with me."
"Why does there have to be something wrong with you?"
Fai looked up, confused; not only was Kurogane holding up a reasonable discussion, but he actually almost sounded concerned. "What do you mean?"
Kurogane shrugged and looked up to the moon. "Personally, I don't like to think I have too many problems about myself. But, if there's something wrong with you, then there's bound to be something wrong with me." He noticed Fai's still confused expression from the corner of his eye. "You don't know why you're here. And I don't know why I don't want you gone."
Fai frowned. "We could just say that we're following the general's orders."
"I don't like lying," Kurogane said.
Fai had no answer, and the two lapsed into silence, both watching the moon as it hovered low over the treetops. Fai was not used to silence. It had never sat well with him. Silence usually meant unrest, or being a prelude to unrest. But tonight, the silence was pleasant. Neither Kurogane nor himself felt the need to speak; no lies or artful evasions would be uttered, and nothing too close to truth would be either. So comfortable the silence, neither noticed the time slowly passing by. Fai did notice, though, when sleep began calling gently to him. He looked over at Kurogane who still watched the moon stoically, showing no sign whatsoever of being tired.
"Do you usually stay up this late?" Fai asked, softly, almost afraid to break the silence too abruptly.
"I don't need a lot of sleep," Kurogane replied. "You don't have to stay up for my sake."
Fai nodded and edged closer to the tree trunk, leaning against it. He glanced once again at the setting moon before allowing his eyes to close and began to succumb to sleep.
Kurogane looked over at Fai from the corners of his eyes. Anyone who was familiar with him would never have recognized the look on his face; normally a scowl was a permanent fixture, but at that moment, a soft and peaceful, yet almost confused, expression lightened his face. He should never have allowed Fai to stay, however. He did not want his new partner getting too close to him. Though, it appeared that he was already permitting the antithesis. He had been close to someone in the army once, a young swordswoman, Umi. She had been a fierce warrior with a will that almost rivaled Kurogane's. The two had been not necessarily close, but Kurogane had somehow grown attached to her, looking out for her as often as possible. She had been brutally killed in battle. And Kurogane had sworn never to become close to anyone ever again.
Yet as he watched Fai drift further into sleep, he felt a familiar warmth well inside him; much like whenever he had been around Umi, yet different. Something was very different about this, not that Kurogane could put his finger on it though. That only made him warier. He never trusted emotions he did not understand. And as of that moment, he definitely did not understand what exactly Fai conjured inside him.
"Goodnight, Kuro-tan," Fai mumbled softly.
Kurogane scowled at him. What the hell was with those stupid names? Moreover, why did Kurogane not destroy him for even thinking of them? That only caused his scowl to deepen. He did not like what was going on. He would not allow Fai to become close to him. He would not. It was far too dangerous. For both of them.
Then a shout from the camp cut through the peaceful silence that had ensconced the two.
"War! Prepare to move out at dawn!"
The cry was repeated at various decibels as the messenger moved through the camp. Kurogane looked away from the camp and back to Fai, who was now blinking slowly into awareness. He focused on Kurogane with a confused look.
"What's going on?"
"We're heading for war tomorrow," Kurogane said. "We leave at dawn."
Fai covered over the downcast look that flickered over his face with a long-suffering smile. "Looks like I'd best get back to sleep then."
"Just don't sleep in," Kurogane quipped. "We'll march without you."
Fai kept grinning. "I think I'll be able to rouse myself in time for the march."
"Good to hear," Kurogane said. "Go back to sleep."
Fai rested his head back against the tree, closing his eyes and listening for any other shouts of announcements, but soon found himself in sleep's sway. Despite the rush of the strange mix of fear and excitement he always felt at the prospect of going into battle, Fai could not stay awake and was soon asleep.
Kurogane only looked away from Fai once he was assured that he was asleep. He looked into the sky to see that the moon had fallen past the tree-line horizon. He remembered that the moon had had a thick halo engulfing it. There would be a storm tomorrow. He narrowed his eyes at the thought. Somewhere in the back of his mind, a silent warning made itself known. Kurogane looked back at Fai, frowning. Tomorrow, both of them would see just how well they worked together, but Kurogane knew that there was something else. If he listened to that warning, tomorrow would be going terribly wrong.
A/N: Well, now. Here I am, yet again, with another TRC story. And once again, this story was inspired by my plotbunny, Miss Duchessa. It's taken me quite a while to get this one going. I actually began this whole thing by writing the part where Kuro and Fai join with Yasha. Then I was all like "Waitaminute. This feels way too incomplete. This would be okay…if I wanted my story to suck! So what can I do? ::thinkthinkthinkthink:: Hmm… ::thinkthinkthinkthink:: Oh my god! I've got it! I'm just going to write their freaking history! CLAMP's not going to do it since they're too concerned with the actual plot and finding Sakura's feathers and having Syaoran get the shit beat of him every other chapter but be perfectly fine two panels later and not writing anything with Kuro and Fai in it. So that gives me carte blanche to do whatever I want! It's perfect!!" And thus, this story morphed from a one-shot to what may turn out to be the longest fanfic I've ever written (seeing as how I'm a better short story writer than anything else). Right now it's scheduled for four chapters. But that could change depending on how well I'm writing. If I'm writing well at all, actually. I thought about making this chapter longer, buuuuuuuuuuuut I decided against it. I think it will turn out better in many shorter installments than in fewer longer installments. Plus I like the way this chapter hangs off. However, this means that anyone who actually likes reading what I write is going to have to wait until I can churn out the next chapter. I'd be frustrated, personally. Again, I'm all about the immediate gratification. So I apologize for the lack of complete story. I'm also going to apologize just in case I suck at life and this story is actually crap too. I'm kind of fond of it though, so I'm going to finish it, but for some reason I'm not feeling very confident in my work lately. Anyway, thanks for reading if you've gotten this far. I'll try and get the next chapter up as soon as I can. Thanks again for reading!
Edit: Ah, my readers. How sharp they are. Thank you, Umidori for spotting that. Because 'passed' should have been 'past.' Duh. I hate typos and am quite embarrassed that I a) typed that in the first place, and b) missed it each time I reviewed it. But that's all right. It has now been fixed. Thanks again, Umidori, and everyone else who reviewed!
::works hard on next chapter so as to not disappoint::