Everyone's read a fic when Fai has to make the choice between staying in Japan with Kurogane, or leaving to run away from Ashura. With that in mind, there's no need for me to explain what's going on in this fic. This is a bit different from the rest because it doesn't really go into why he's leaving so much as the actual confrontation, without a faerie-tale ending.

Bitter Parting

"Are you going to leave?"

I freeze, standing in the dark, the heavy coat on my shoulders slipping just a bit. The gruff bark that cuts into the silence is the water to the fire of my intentions. It barely conceals the hurt he must be fighting so hard to keep from his voice. He doesn't do a good job of it, but then, his emotions have always been as transparent as could be. He tries so hard to hide them— thinks he's doing a good job at it, too— But I've always been able to see through him as easily as he's able to see through me.

I say nothing, hardening my gaze, using all my willpower to hide the pain and make myself distant and cold. He's used to the cheerful smile, he'll see through that. But distant and emotionless is new, he won't know how to deal with that.

"…Are you going to leave?"

He repeats his question, and this time the despair and fright manages to escape his carefully constructed walls. I hear it, and cringe. This is something I'm unused to as well, hearing raw emotions in his voice instead of interpreting them through his eyes and actions.

Are you going to leave me?

He doesn't need to add the last word for me to understand that's what he really wants to say. And I'm sorry, sorrier for what I'm about to do more than anything else I've ever done in my wretched life. I can truly say I loved him. But just for what I'm about to do, I don't deserve him, much less after everything I've done in my life period. Of course, it's partly because I love him that I'm doing this. But it's more for myself, so it's not a white sin. I'm selfish, and that's the bottom line.

I finally turn, slowly, breathing deeply to control myself and make sure my gaze never wavers as I look into those tortured crimson eyes. He's begging me, I think desperately. I want to lift those trembling hands, kiss them once, twice, and move to those lips that I've become so familiar with, but I don't. It would break the last bit of my vacillating willpower. But I want to so bad, a last remembrance before I leave it all behind.

"You know running away is my only option," I turn away, but I can see him from the corner of my eyes. I watch him bow his head, so that the pained grimace on his face only flashes momentarily before me. I'll still remember it for the rest of my life, despite its briefness. The openness he's showing me is the ultimate stab in my heart.

"I- I'll protect you, so you don't have to!" he says suddenly.

I whirl around, surprised. He's never said that before. It's always been clear in his actions- when fighting, he's always on the lookout, and more than once he's gotten hurt preventing a small scratch on my part, much to my chagrin. I never felt guilty though, because I knew that he wanted to do that. One can't very well feel guilt for something that they wanted to do.

I stand before the man with the bowed head, he's only a couple feet away, but the darkness is so oppressing, it's hard to see his face. He's swathed in shadows, but I can see his shoulders, illuminated dimly with the light from outside, shaking.

He finally lifts his face, and I barely hold back from widening my eyes. The light seems to make his face glisten, as if…

I stride forward, unable to resist bringing my hands up to wipe his face firmly with my thumbs, removing the moisture determinedly, committing the soft feel of his dark face to memory as I hold his face in my hands. I want to cry now, because I know that for the first time, he's exposed himself, and it's just when he's finally done so that I leave him. It's unfair to him. I made him cry.

I'm so sorry.

"Don't do that, you can't," I say, and I know the aloofness and indifference is belied by the force and guilt with which I say these words, "I'm leaving, and there's nothing you can do to stop me. You know you can't… Don't cry," the last is a whisper, and he suddenly grabs my hands, wrenching them from his face, and his still-moist eyes are boring into me, smoldering with emotion as if I'd just slapped him, rejected him, thrown him to the ground and stepped on the last shred of his heart. I probably have. I know those words infuriated him, made him feel powerless. They were the reality of the situation, and he's just realized he's lost.

"Fuck you," he growls softly, and his hands are clenched, his body trembling all over, and I want to hold him and make it all go away. Ironic, since it's my fault in the first place, "I'd never cry for you. Leave. If you're not strong enough to stay, leave."

He looks like he's about to be ill, his ashen face strained as he stares me down.

That's it, hate me, I think to myself, forcing myself, though it's killing me inside, to give him an indifferent glare for touching me. It hurts. His words burn, the emotional pain manifesting itself in the acid bile rising in my throat.

If he hates me, maybe it won't hurt so much for him later. It's my last stand at being unselfish, but maybe I'm going about it wrong. Maybe it'll only cause him more pain in the end. Maybe I'm still being selfish.

In the end, I can't resist, my will is crumbling quickly, and I know if I don't do it now, I never will. On impulse, I lean forward, brush my lips over his, feeling his lips move against mine, the warm breath over my chilled lips.

"I hate you."

I smile brokenly and leave him in the dark.

He's not the only one crying.

Reviews on this appreciated.