Um, yeah. Seriously. This is the end.
I sorta think I should dedicate this chapter to chapter 112 of Tsubasa because one look at it and I was like, inspired. Seriously. Although that doesn't quite explain why it still took me an obscene amount of time to write this final chapter, does it? (innocent look)
"Did you have sex on the roof last night?"
His eye twitched slightly as he turned reluctantly to face Souma, who was grinning at him as she leaned against the doorframe. Without even bothering to ask for his permission, she casually sauntered into the room as if it was her own, but he chose not to say anything to reprimand her. He had, after all, been expecting her to come, although he would definitely not go so far as to say that he would have been disappointed if she had not. But he had known Souma for as long as he had known Tomoyo, and certain things could be expected after having such a history. Even if it was just a lecture on playing nicely, which he didn't need anyway because Tomoyo had not taken the spell off of him and he would not go so low as to ask her to do so. Especially since he knew that she wouldn't do it anyway.
At this point, he would have preferred a lecture to a question like that. For some reason, it was taking a while for the question to sink in so he could even understand what was being asked, but as soon as he figured it out his face turned slightly red. Not enough to be noticeable, of course, because Kurogane was not the type of person who was easily embarrassed, even when such personal questions were being asked.
He shot her a glare that was clearly meant to skewer her on the spot, but when she remained standing, he finally had to demand, rather hoarsely and most certainly not angrily enough, "What… what the hell?"
It would have sounded so much better at a vehement roar, but he was still in shock that she could have asked something like that. Or maybe it was due to the incredibly annoying inner voice—one that sounded conspicuously like Tomoyo—which kept pointing out that he should have been ready for questions like this. It wasn't exactly proper to have spirited himself and Fai away when everyone else was down in the courtyard enjoying the festival, even though they hadn't even done anything. But that last part—the part about what really happened—was the least important part when it came to what the court gossipers would be going on about. As Souma was so lovingly demonstrating, much to his chagrin.
She grinned at him, "Thought so."
He was about to ask her what the hell that was supposed to mean, but then she continued blithely, "I bet you were tempted."
Yeah, well, who wouldn't have been? Everyone seemed to think he was some unemotional, murdering demon—granted, he hadn't done much in the past to dissuade that perception—but could they really blame him? Anyway, it wasn't like it was the same anymore… he couldn't kill anyone unless he wanted his strength drained, meaning that he had to be more selective. In the end, it was probably less the stupid spell that stopped him from killing, and more the presence of the others. Fai might have been used to it, but just the thought of murdering anyone in cold blood in front of the brat and princess… it was just easier not to.
But then again, they weren't here right now, so the only thing keeping him from striking Souma down was that damn spell. "How the hell is it any of your business?"
Souma simply raised an eyebrow and he found himself cringe inwardly. Despite the age difference, they were… he supposed they could be considered friends, although that was not a word he would ever use to describe their relationship. But she understood him better than most people did, and she was also one of the few people he would listen to. Or at least pretend to. And while he had always made it clear that he didn't really care about other people's personal lives and pasts, nobody in his position could ignore the emotional journey Souma had gone through. Remembering Kendappa-ou… he didn't really have the heart to tell her to go away when it was pretty obvious that the only thing she wanted was to make sure that his relationships were well. The fact that he even had a relationship was something more than she had ever experienced. So as irritating as she was, and as certain Kurogane was that somebody must have put something in her breakfast to make her so damn happy, he found himself muttering grudgingly, "He fell asleep."
"So you would have?"
His eye twitched again, and the lazy smile she gave him made him wonder angrily why he was bothering to be so… considerate when she wasn't even bothering to appreciate it. "I didn't say that!"
"You didn't have to," Souma shrugged as she flopped down onto a pile of cushions that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere, especially considering how he never would have allowed this many cushions in his room. But things had changed in his absence, especially since Tomoyo now had free reign of his quarters without him there to rip up those damn handmade curtains. Not that he would ever really do it, though. No matter how much those things irritated him, he could never be that callous. He had tried once, but either it was the thought of being lectured by Souma (again) that had stayed his hand, or simply imagining how much effort she must have put into making the tablecloth.
It had not stopped him from stuffing it into a cabinet. Unfortunately, Tomoyo had quickly found it and placed it on the small table in the center of the room, its delicate lily stitching peeking out through the gaps between his daggers.
"After all, there's nothing wrong with it," Souma continued, her words barely registering until he blinked and managed to look away from the flowery tablecloth. "After all, you are a big boy with natural urges, and-"
And it turned out that Kurogane was not above throwing things. Several heavy things, as well as a few pointy ones that Souma dodged as if it was just another training session. The cushions, luckily, were not quite as fortunate.
She mock-glared at him, hands on her hips as she said, "Honestly, I'm just trying to help."
"Then help someone else!" He didn't need help. At least, not this type of help. What he needed was somebody to hit him a few times because he must obviously have lost his mind. This was what he had wanted, wasn't it? His world, his home. Even though he had established that he couldn't just stop mid-journey, it was still difficult to give this all up when he really thought about it.
What he was intending to do was not exactly the smartest thing to do, if he looked at it logically. His world, his home… the few people he had come to accept… he was willing to leave all of it behind to go chasing after a psychotic mage—well, to be completely fair, it wasn't just Fai's fault. He had a personal obligation to Syaoran and Sakura to make sure they came through this unscathed as well, although there was only so much he could do. There was nothing he could do about that gaping hole in Sakura's memories when it came to the brat, but he had come to respect them enough that he had to help them as he could. The ability to protect someone… he had not been able to save his mother or father, but now there was this.
He fully intended on coming back, no question about that. But there was always the damnable possibility that he would not be able to, and what then? What would he have, except for Fai who always seemed one step from breaking? The others would—could—move on, but no matter how he tried, it always seemed like the mage was still stuck on the past.
But perhaps that was the point, in the end. And it was the crucial difference between the two. Nihon would always be here for him—it was just a matter of him being able to get there—but Fai was a completely different story. If he did not follow, Fai would no longer be there for anyone, and that included him and the two kids.
It probably did not bode well that he had fallen in love with an idiot with a propensity for insanity, and allowed the mage to become this important to him. Perhaps more so because there was somebody he cared for that needed his help more than anyone else. Because unlike Sakura's memories, there was something he could do about this. He had no regrets in this aspect. It might not work, and it might lead to nothing but he would be damned if he would let it just pass him by. Fai was too important to him to allow the mage to continue this path of self-destruction, especially since it might just end up taking the brat and princess along with him. Although he knew Fai would never willingly let something like that happen, it wasn't always something that could be helped. And what if it did happen? It would just be another burden for Fai to carry, and for him as well. They both had enough of that to last them a lifetime.
Besides, he knew. He knew that he would be coming back, and not alone. Both of them would be returning, even if it meant he had to break Fai's ankles and drag him all the way back by way of a rope tied around that skinny neck. He knew better than to ever say that last part out loud because Souma would probably make a comment on bondage issues, and he'd had enough of that sort of talk too.
"You're coming back, right?" Souma suddenly asked quietly, as if sensing that the time for jokes had passed. If it had even been there, anyway.
"Yeah," he grunted, not meeting her eyes as he went through his belongings, trying to get ready for the next leg of his journey. He hadn't really been prepared the first time around and now that he knew what to expect, he wanted to make sure that he didn't get caught off-guard anymore. Although there was only so much he could do, considering the crazy worlds they found themselves in. Despite the light-heartedness they approached their travels with—because it was just hard to be too serious when you were traveling via a stupid manju—the dangers they had and would face were very real. And now that he had been forced to realize exactly how important… not just Fai, but all of them (except maybe Mokona, although he had no real choice in the manner seeing that it was their mode of transportation) were to him, he wasn't going to let any of them get hurt if he could help it. "Why, you think I'm leaving for good?"
"It's going to be harder now, since you have something to lose."
He paused in his packing, closing his eyes for just a moment. "I know."
"You'll be bringing him back too, won't you?"
There was something… just something about this last question that finally made him look at her. He wasn't sure what it was, but there was… maybe it was the way she had said it, or simply the question itself. As if there was ever any doubt about it, although it might not necessarily have been his own. "Is that going to be a problem?"
"No, I would like to see him again," she replied, but not really answering the real question. He thought he knew what she was insinuating though, even if he couldn't speak it out loud.
"He's more trouble than he's worth."
She shrugged, "It isn't supposed to be easy. But he makes you happy, doesn't he?"
He wasn't sure if that was quite the right word for it. Fai was… Fai was too frustrating and annoying and psychotic to ever make him feel anything remotely similar to happy, but there was still something about him. Something that made Kurogane want him to be… not like this, with the fakeness and all the bullshit he had never had the patience for. If it had been anyone else, he wouldn't have bothered. But this was Fai. And for some reason, it really mattered to him. Was it happiness? He highly doubted it, considering how his usual reaction to the mage was attempts at strangulation.
Souma gave him a strange look, and then said simply, "You make him happy too."
He found it rather difficult to keep a bitter laugh from coming out, "I don't think he knows what happiness is anymore."
"He'll figure it out."
Because it hurt. It really did hurt, having to see that idiotic grin that didn't really mean anything at all. It hurt that Fai thought… really thought that looking happy on the outside meant everyone would think he was happy, even though he knew that wasn't true. In fact, it had simply become so irritating that he had become tired of seeing it because… what the hell? He didn't need to have a reason for not wanting to see that type of shit. He didn't need anything to justify wanting Fai to be… he wanted Fai to be happy, and not always looking over his shoulder and waiting for something to take it all away from him. He didn't know what had happened in the mage's past. There was Ashura, certainly, but what had happened to him… sometimes it seemed like it was more than just that. There were so many demons that Kurogane didn't really know where to begin, and sometimes he wondered if he had a right to do so anyway. Because it was Fai's, what had happened. And he wanted to tell Fai that it didn't matter to him, what that past was, but he didn't think that was quite the right way to approach the mess. Because while it was true that he didn't care what was in Fai's past, it didn't quite… well, he happened to care very much what that past had done to the mage. The past could stay in the past, but in this case it wasn't doing that. He wanted to focus on the present, on their future but he couldn't just ignore everything else. Perhaps the only thing he could do was erase the scars , and try to give Fai something else.
Something worth caring about.
"I think," Souma said with a smile, "you'll be fine."
He opened his mouth to tell her that he didn't need her to tell him something as obvious as that—although deep down the gesture was appreciated, but he squashed that thought immediately… not out of annoyance but something suspiciously like embarrassment—only to be interrupted when somebody walked through the door. He turned to face the newcomer sharply, but all his curses and lectures on knocking before entering died when he saw Tomoyo standing on the hand-knit throw rug. She gave him a demure smile that, in typical Tomoyo fashion, still managed to be conspicuously devious.
"Hello," she said cheerfully. "I do not suppose you had sex on the balcony last night?"
His eye twitched once again as behind him, Souma fell to the ground, choking on laughter.
He did not really have the right to expect anything else.
And to make it worse, he was not sure if he ever did. It was… it was not very clear, what he had been thinking before he had fallen asleep. Although he had really not meant to do that, but the warmth of being with someone else in a manner that really could only be described as intimate… it might have been unfamiliar to Kurogane, but he was more than used to it. He was so used to it, in fact, that he had not realized it was one of those things he had been missing until he had so suddenly found it again.
It had always been difficult to explain his relationship with Ashura, especially to Kurogane. He had not been lying when he had told Kurogane that he… loved? Love? Even now, he could not be sure what it was. Perhaps that was why he found himself running away so often, a distraction for his own thoughts. And if he could not confront his current emotions, how could he be expected to deal with any new ones? It was part of the reason why he'd had to be so wary of Kurogane. The warrior was painfully straightforward that it was almost surprising that Kurogane ended up being so confusing too, but that was just the way it was. He knew it was screwed up, but he was used to that sort of thing. Perhaps that was the most normal thing about their relationship.
But as he dragged himself up, blinking at the empty place beside him in a room that was decidedly unfamiliar (probably the one he had been given by the palace staff, although he had only spent an hour or two there in the end), he wondered if this was supposed to be it. After all, it seemed a tad… anticlimactic to have Kurogane just disappear on him like that, although it was definite preferable to having another row. Nothing the man had said could be labeled as untrue either. It just wasn't quite the truth. Kurogane didn't really understand that sort of thing though, the shades of gray. This was not to say that Kurogane saw the world in only black and white, but he had not yet quite grasped the idea that… there was often more to the picture. Kurogane was very, very good at seeing the big picture, but he was not very good at understanding it.
This lack of understanding had made him feel a variety of things. Old, for one thing. He was older than Kurogane. Maybe he didn't look it, and most of the time he didn't act it, but being around Syaoran, Sakura, and Mokona did not make him feel nearly as old as being around Kurogane did. Those three had energy and enthusiasm, but Kurogane had wisdom belied by a certain immaturity about the way the world worked. Or perhaps not immaturity, but just… not understanding how complicated things could get. Kurogane had been through so much, but he had never been unfortunate enough to get wrapped up in the game of being someone that you weren't. And as horrible as it was to become a part of that sort of thing, it did offer a particular insight that the warrior was missing. He had a feeling that trying to explain this would just lead to a few headaches on both their parts, which was rather amusing a thought considering how many headaches he had already caused Kurogane by this point. It wasn't always deliberate, but a fair amount of amusement could be gained from watching Kurogane twitch. Honestly, if he didn't react so overdramatically, Fai would have absolutely no reason to tease. Syaoran and Sakura let him do what he wanted so he didn't have to bother trying to push the limits with them. Kurogane, on the other hand, was so tightly strung that it was like he was an explosion waiting to happen, almost as if the man was trying so hard to seem stern and proper that it was just so much easier to distract him with those little temper tantrums than to give the warrior long enough to really think things through.
He wasn't, of course, quite stupid enough to think that this would work indefinitely. He had hoped it would work long enough for Kurogane to lose interest, but then the man had the tenacity of the dog that Fai had so aptly nicknamed him for. Kurogane was smart enough to know what he was doing, and smart enough to keep playing along so as to make Fai think that he was winning this game of keep-away. Which was sort of irritating because Kurogane should not have been quite this good at playing, especially considering his personal experience with all these games.
Granted, this one was not nearly as serious as the ones he had found himself engaged in back in Celes. More often than not back then, it had not been with Ashura. But Ashura was always there, a part of it nevertheless. It was difficult to explain, and after a while Fai had simply stopped trying to. It seemed that this was the way he approached most of his problems, but Ashura… Ashura was Ashura. A king that he had served, a lover that he had given himself to, a man that possessed flaws just like everyone else. Logical as that last part seemed now, he had still been painfully surprised when he had discovered these flaws for himself.
Maybe he had overreacted.
Sometimes he felt like he wasn't really running away from Ashura, or from a past that had become too much for him to handle because those were things he could do nothing about, really. He could not change the way the system worked, he could not change the person Ashura was. It had all been too much, in the end. He wasn't prepared for it because he was young and decidedly immature when it came to confronting things head-on. He wondered, at times, what he would be doing now if it was not for this journey to find Sakura's feathers. Or even, more simply, what would he be like if Kurogane was not here to make him wonder over and over and over again how his life could have been different if.
Where would he be if he had ended up at the Dimension Witch's shop alone?
Regret was what seemed to rule his life most of the time. If he had not acted so rashly. If he had not gone so far. If, if, if. When he had left, he had not thought about any of that. First and foremost was to get as far away as he possibly could, and he might have been able to remain in that mindset if it was not for the matters. What was it about them that made him wonder so much what it would be like if he hadn't done what he had? What was it about Kurogane that made him spend so much time reflecting, trying to picture a time where he would not have had to meet any of them? Kurogane was the one who always said that the past did not matter, that it was all about the time. It made it somewhat ironic that his past was the only thing he could obsess about as a result, as well as a theoretical present that he would never experience.
For a moment he debated doing the immature thing and pulling the blankets over his head to feign sleep, but then he realized it probably wouldn't work anyway. Syaoran would know he was awake, and he didn't want to cause the boy anymore problems than he already had the previous day. So he forced himself up (again) and said in as bright a tone as he could muster, "What is it, Syaoran-kun?"
"You weren't at breakfast so I brought you some. Can I come in?" The words were spoken so quickly that it took him a moment to interpret them, and it brought a smile to his face. One that Syaoran could not see, and one that was definitely not meant to be hurtful or mocking. It was simply… something, a feeling that came from the mere familiarity of it all, the familiarity of being within a small group that somehow managed to simultaneously make him forget and remember everything he was trying to run away from. Okay, so perhaps that last part was not really a good thing, but it was also something he was starting to learn to cope with, and it was becoming easier with each passing down.
"I guess I can't say no when you put it that way," he replied, and before he could continue and ask how the search for Sakura's feather had been—although he really did not need to ask because Syaoran was back and that could really only mean one thing, since the boy was really not the type of person to give up on something this important so easily—he was rudely interrupted by the door slamming open. And he immediately knew that there was someone else there because Syaoran would never slam a door. Slamming doors was like some sort of sin to the boy, who was always so polite almost to the point of being painfully so. Didn't the boy ever lose his temper? Even when Sakura was involved, it seemed like there was still a certain amount of restraint in his actions, as if Syaoran was simply incapable of losing control. Or just not allowed to.
But that quickly became the last thing he had to worry about as Kurogane strode quickly through the door, Syaoran at his heels. Kurogane, after all, had no such restraints. He felt a bit of a twinge at the back of his head, although this was not because he was scared of the warrior—he'd had enough of that, thank you very much, but the man was somewhat unsettling all the same, especially when considering the fact that he was in possession of a very sharp and pointy sword. One that he knew how to use very much, and Fai had never been very good at swordplay.
Perhaps it was not really… unsettling, but more to do with the fact that he could not squirm his way out of this situation. Kurogane could be distracted, yes, but only to a certain point. And he always got the impression that Kurogane was just humoring him because they both knew that he could not just walk away. It was actually rather irritating to know that Kurogane could see through him so easily, but that was part of the appeal too. That someone could understand him so well even when he was trying to prevent it.
There was a long moment as they looked at each other, although he was slightly distracted by the sight of Syaoran glancing back and forth between them with a very nervous expression, as if he was afraid that they were going to spontaneously combust. Fai didn't really blame him; the intensity of Kurogane's glare was making him wonder the same thing.
"I'll take that," Kurogane suddenly said very pointedly, taking the breakfast tray from Syaoran, who was of course given no opportunity to protest. "You should go check on the princess if you want to leave soon." He felt a slight twist in his stomach when he heard that last part, although Fai was sure not to let any of his discomfort show up on his face.
It was not a suggestion, and even though Syaoran was still looking rather nervous at the thought of leaving the two of them here… alone… but he nodded and backed away quickly, as if realizing that this was not an argument he was going to win. Fai had to agree; he had quickly decided that it would probably be a little much to try and make the boy stay here for a little longer because it wouldn't have worked anyway. Kurogane was very inflexible when it came to this sort of thing.
Which wasn't quite fair because he was really getting tired of having other people decide what he was to or not to do. Even if it was for his own good, it all got a little tiring after a while, as if he was too idiotic to think for himself. Maybe he brought it on himself by always acting silly, but he would have thought he'd proved a few times over that he wasn't really that stupid. Or maybe this was just Kurogane's way of punishing him for keeping up the silly act, although to be truthful it wasn't completely an act. Even he couldn't pretend to be that way all the time. It wasn't quite right, but it wasn't wrong either. It was simply a part of him that he allowed to go a little more over the top now, and maybe it was also the person he just wanted to be because it was so much easier than always being depressive.
Hard not to be angsty with Kurogane glaring daggers at him, anyway. Still, he forced himself to look up and smile, even as he remembered everything in the past few days. It seemed like he had never really had a moment to relax in this world, between worrying about Kurogane hitting his head like that and the fact that this was it. He had hoped, stupidly, for a miracle of some sort to occur, but knew better than to be too optimistic. Kurogane had always made it clear what his goal in this journey was, and Fai was not going to be the one to keep him from it. It wasn't really fair. This was what Kurogane wanted, after all, and at least the man knew what he wanted. It was a decided one-step up from his current position, since he had no idea what he was even doing anymore.
"Are you even awake yet?" Kurogane asked abruptly, causing him to blink. Which was probably not the best way to be answering the question.
"Because you fell asleep on me." This was pointed out with a slight hint of sulkiness that made a smile tug at the edge of his mouth, although technically he was supposed to be feeling depressed and most certainly not in the mood to be smiling.
"Oh? I don't quite remember that happening." Which was true, of course. He didn't seem to remember that they had even been talking when he had fallen asleep… last he remembered, Kurogane had somehow managed to convince him that going up to the roof was a good idea. He had been amused by the fact that Kurogane wanted such a thing, which might have been why he agreed even though he wasn't sure it was the right thing to be doing at the time. But the guy had been right… it was a place with a perfect view, even if there was a slight worry that he would fall right off. Then, he didn't really think that Kurogane would let him do that, if judging from the firm grip the man had kept on him the entire time.
One that was now being applied to his right arm, although not strong enough to hurt. It was more of a gesture of reassurance, except Fai wasn't really sure what he was trying to reassure him about. "I was trying to tell you something."
He wasn't really sure what to say to that except for, "Sorry."
Kurogane drew back at that, looking slightly annoyed, "I thought I told you that you shouldn't apologize if you don't know what you're apologizing for."
He really did have to smile at that, "You'd be surprised at what I do know."
It was nice to get the best of Kurogane, even though it didn't happen very much and was not nearly as satisfying as it could have been since all Kurogane did was continue to glare daggers at him. And although he knew that it wasn't really possible to kill someone only by scowling, it didn't exactly make it very comfortable to be in such a situation. So he decided to remedy that by asking, "So are you going to tell me?"
"Tell you what?" Kurogane shot back.
He rolled his eyes and gave an exaggerated sigh. "What you were going to tell me."
Fai raised an eyebrow, but there it was already. There it was, the hope, that small, pathetic hope that he knew could ruin the rest of his life if he let it. The right thing to do, obviously, was not let it, but that was okay because he had a feeling that maybe, just maybe, things were finally going to get a little better. He really needed things to get better, after everything that had happened before.
He needed this, despite everything. And so he could not help but prod, "But if you don't tell me now, how are you going to tell me later?"
Because the need to know was more important than anything else. It was difficult, in a way, to allow himself to even contemplate such a thing after having spent most of the morning resigning himself to… well, something else. But from the way Kurogane was acting and the words that were simply not being said… Fai knew. He knew, although he needed it to be said as well.
Or… perhaps he didn't. As Kurogane reached over, taking his chin in the hand with a pale scar, his mind went unexpectedly blank. He heard a very soft 'oh' in the back of his head although he really could not take the time to really pay attention because suddenly everything seemed rather less important as Kurogane kissed him.
And he realized, quickly, that it was so simple. Just the fact that there was going to be a later was enough. Just the fact that…
But by that point he was already leaning so deeply into that kiss that it didn't seem to matter anymore.
Kurogane had always secretly hoped that he would be able to catch Fai so off-guard as to bear witness to the momentous—and decidedly rare—occasion of seeing the mage surprised. Not that horrified look mingled with shock that came up every time somebody alluded to Fai's past, but one of genuine surprise where somebody had actually managed to get the better of him. It was hard to get the best of Fai since the man always seemed to be one step ahead of everyone else, and he was fairly certain that Fai had started to figure out what was going on before that kiss. Still, those sky blue eyes had widened at the gesture before they closed and Fai leaned closer, the arm Kurogane had been holding onto going slack as the tension abruptly left it.
And although it was a very good kiss, by Kurogane's admittedly low standards seeing this was only his third or so, he found himself being distracted by that same surprised look. He decided rather quickly that the gaping dead fish look just did not suit Fai at all, and he would have pointed that out if he had not heard a soft giggle from beyond the door. Fai seemed to still be too dazed to notice, but Kurogane had been trained to listen for signs of unexpected visitors due to the constant assassination attempts on the royal family. A giggle was a bit of a different story, but that was almost like another life. His eyes narrowed as a much louder giggle followed up the first, one that was awfully familiar and in fact loud enough that even Fai was looking over at the door with a slight frown. Although 'even' was probably not giving Fai enough credit. The mage didn't act it most of the time, but he was pretty perceptive for someone who didn't have any clue how to keep his mouth shut. Well, on things that didn't matter, anyway.
"Is that…?" Fai started, but he didn't bother waiting for him to finish before quickly reaching out to grab the mage around the waist. Fai let out an indignant squeak at being treated so rudely, but he ignored it as he tossed Fai over his shoulder and got up, striding towards the door even as the blond asked, "But Kuro-tan… what about my breakfast?"
"You should have eaten it earlier. It's nearly noon, as I'm sure you have noticed by now," he replied coldly and with absolutely so sympathy as he walked as quickly as he could despite Fai's weight. But he'd carried heavier things in his life, and Fai was not exactly that fat in the first place. He was borderline anorexic, in Kurogane's opinion, but maybe that was due to self-starvation due to that pathetic inability to use chopsticks. "You'll just have to wait until we get to the next world."
"Kuro-tan is really mean."
He could feel the perpetual headache coming back on, but managed to bite back the customary retort of telling Fai for the hundredth time not to call him that. There wasn't much point anyway, since Fai never listened. So instead, he merely grunted in response as he pushed the heavy doors open. He would have hit Tomoyo if she had not anticipated the motion and had already stepped back, greeting him with a smile that never failed to irritate him. She must have known that because she merely grinned larger as next to her, Souma straightened and smoothed down her skirt, trying to look prim and proper and so obviously not stooping so low as to be spying on an ally while he was making out with a mage psychotic enough to match all of Tomoyo's many eccentricities. He could feel his mouth twist slightly in a smirk-slash-frown, and the return of his eye twitch. Of course not.
"That's really mean of you too," Fai pointed out cheerfully, to which he responded by rolling his eyes even though the mage could not see due to being so happily flipped over Kurogane's shoulder. He wondered briefly if the blood going to Fai's brain would make him any more coherent than he normally was, but was not allowed to pursue that train of thought any further when Syaoran and Sakura emerged into view. With Tomoyo and Souma on his left, Syaoran and Sakura on his right, and Fai at his back, he suddenly felt like he was being surrounded by aliens. This feeling was heightened when Mokona danced onto Syaoran's head with a squeal of delight, shrieking at the top of its tiny but very powerful lungs, "Kurogane and Fai were kissing! Kurogane and Fai were kissing! Mokona is so happy for you because Mokona thought that you two were being strange with each other but now you understand each other and can stop always trying to hurt each other even though it's really fun to watch Kurogane running around trying to hit Fai with his sword because he never manages to do it but now Mokona understands why this is because Kurogane obviously doesn't want to hurt Fai since he loves him which is why they were kissing and-"
He couldn't help it when he immediately tried to swat Mokona off of Syaoran's head, causing it to squeak indignantly—a sound that was similar to the one Fai had made when he had picked him up—as it jumped onto Sakura's head instead where it mercifully fell silent. He eyed Syaoran at this point, trying to ascertain exactly what the boy might be thinking. He was suddenly finding himself wondering if perhaps he should have first explained to the two the exact nature of his relationship with Fai before the making out, but judging from their expressions neither seemed too surprised by it. This caused him to smile slightly, realizing that he had expected no less from them.
"Will you be leaving now?"
All that happy feelings immediately evaporated as he turned to glare at Tomoyo, "At least I have a choice this time."
"Oh, you're not going to complain about that again, are you?" Tomoyo asked sweetly, her eyes sparkling with what Kurogane quickly labeled the glint of evil. "After all, it seems you've adapted rather well to the situation."
He decided not to deign that statement with a response, not only because it was completely ridiculous but because he didn't want to give her the satisfaction of embarrassing him again, especially in front of so many people. So he chose to glare instead, although it didn't last for long. Tomoyo… both the princesses, in fact, had the obnoxious tendency of bringing out the best in people, which made it very difficult to stay angry at them for very long even when they might have deserved it. Of course, they were the type of people who usually didn't inspire such antagonism in the first place, but in Tomoyo's case she tended to abuse this power to the extreme. She might have had his best intentions at heart, but it didn't make him any less horrified when she turned her attentions towards him.
"Don't worry, Tomoyo-hime," Fai said, even though he was really not a part of the conversation. "Kuro-pipi is just the type of person who likes to hold a grudge. I'm sure he doesn't mean anything by that—ouch! Haven't you dropped me enough times already!"
"Apparently not," he replied, trying not to smirk too much as Fai picked himself off the ground with a pout. The nice thing about it, though, was that after so many months of being in the same vicinity, Kurogane had quickly become immune to such looks. Not to say that he was susceptible to the pout in the first place, of course.
He was saved the bother of trying to figure out the logistics of that as Mokona suddenly jumped off of Sakura's head. He flinched back, afraid that the idiotic bunny was going to try to meld itself into his face, but it merely went up and hovered for a moment before, in the usual overly gaudy display, the circle appeared beneath it as Mokona spread its wings.
The two kids, quickly remembering their manners, immediately turned to Tomoyo and Souma. Syaoran bowed as he said politely, "Thank you very much for your hospitality."
"We're just glad that you found what you were looking for," Souma replied kindly. "You take care, will you? And make sure to let us know if Kurogane is treating you poorly. He has a tendency to be-"
"Stop talking trash about me, Souma!"
Syaoran just looked amused by the exchange, but Sakura really did look like she was ready to stand up for Kurogane when she was interrupted by an over-enthusiastic grab by Tomoyo as the psychotic witch practically shrieked, "You must come back! There are so many designs I can make for you, and together we may even be able to convince Kurogane that always wearing black is just not appropriate!"
At this point Fai stepped forward to offer his own words, and Kurogane really had to flinch, expecting an overly long and dramatic conversation on all of his flaws and problems. As if he needed them to discuss it right in front of him, but much to his surprise, the mage simply smiled and said, "Thank you."
"Just make sure to bring him back, Preferably in one piece."
With a quick nod to the others, Fai joined them near Mokona, leaving him with Tomoyo and Souma. He stared at them for a moment, wondering what to say that had not already been said, and finally settled for a rough, "I'll be seeing you then."
He almost didn't turn around to face her, but it was rare that Tomoyo spoke in such a tone. The first time she had used it, in fact, was when he had been dripping blood and had one of her spells through his left hand, pinning it to the stone wreckage of his home. It wasn't the last time she had used it, although it was still a rare occasion, and he knew that he would have to listen to what she had to say. "Yeah?"
He wasn't sure if this was supposed to be a compliment or not, so he demanded coldly, "How's that?'
Kurogane did not particularly relish the idea of being lectured on such a thing by somebody who was so much younger than him, but there was something about the way she said it that seemed to mean that… it was not really meant that way. It was simply a statement of fact, one that seemed extremely bizarre at the moment. He opened his mouth to respond, not sure if he was going to ask for clarification or simply tell her that she was obviously crazy—something he had told her many times already—but then Mokona had opened its big mouth and sucked them all in, giving him no chance to say anything at all.
And thus it is done.
It's never really a good sign when you want to scream, "Hell yeah! I'm done!" after completing something, but I find myself reveling in the thought every once in a while. Eheh.
There are a few things I could say about this story, but most of it I've forgotten already. I think it's because it just took me such a long time to write this (the first chapter was posted January 31, 2005!), with so many gaps between the individual chapters that I often had to go back and reread everything just to remember what I had written. Which is strange because… I rather do like this story. It's not often enough that I can admit to something like that, but… I like this story. There were a lot of rough spots but when I look back, there wasn't too much I would change when it comes to the actual writing. So I finish on a somewhat high note, which is to say that I'm happy with what I've done here (despite all my complaining, really).
I'm still having problems believing that it seriously took me this long to write the story, and even more problems believing that I actually managed to finish it. I never really had any doubts that I would finish… eventually… but it took an obscene amount of time. Thanks to everyone for putting up with my erratic update patterns. I really apologize for that.
There are a few people I need to thank for this story. To Cairnsy-san, who was the person who really managed to get me into Tsubasa (someone to blame!), and somehow manages to always give me insight into my own story. And I must also thank Sahara Storm, who has braved my rambling, paranoia, and various other personality quirks that were—are, no doubt, highly irritating. Thanks, both of you. I know you've put up with a lot of my shit, and yet apparently did not hold it against me because you've made this story better than it should be.
I've given up on listing my future plans because I can never stick to them anyway. There will be a sequel to this story, one that goes more into the actual KuroFai relationship and involves Ashura as well. This story I consider to be more of a Kurogane story, although the relationship was very important too, of course. I suppose you could say that the sequel will be more of a Fai story, if I can manage to pin him down long enough to cooperate with me. It won't be for a while though, I think, and will probably be subject to as horrendous an updating schedule as this story was. :)
I hope you enjoyed it, and thanks for reading.
Writing Complete: June 9, 2006
Edits: July 15, 2006