A/N: Surprise! The last chapter is finished! Hurray! I played around with lots of different ideas for this one… I thought about having Kurogane find the lamp in Fai's room and use the last wish to get revenge on Fai for all his dirty tricks, and I thought about giving Fai mind-reading powers and I thought about having Kuro and Fai switching bodies… but actually, this idea has been formulating in the back of my mind for a really long time now, though I wasn't sure where I'd use it. And now, here it is! Enjoy the final chapter of I Dream of Kuropii!
You're Only Young Twice
Fai opened his eyes and blinked a few times at the total darkness that met him. Where was he? Beneath his body, he could feel the soft smooth texture of the sheets on his bed but his intuition told him beyond it lie a vast expanse of nothingness. He was just beginning to get a little worried when something soft and warm touched him cautiously around the waist. It felt pleasant against his chilled skin. Upon closer exploration, he found them to be someone's hands. They were a decent bit larger than his own and peppered with what seemed to be calluses and scars from years of hardship and perilous battles. Fai's heart skipped a beat; he thought he knew whose hands they were, though he wasn't certain.
The blond rolled over to face his mystery companion, moving his own hands up the arms which so longed to embrace him but seemed hesitant to do so. It was too dark for him to see who was lying next to him, even though he could tell that their faces were but an inch or so from each other. His fingers traced their way up, moving over impressive amounts of rock-hard muscle, the gentle rise of a collar bone, up the side of the neck until they reached the other person's hairline. He was sure of it now. He recognized the awkward embrace, the beautifully constructed form of the sole reason his life hadn't crumbled into irreparable ruin by now: Kurogane.
Fai drew a slow breath which shook with joy and excitement and moved closer. Kurogane's uncertainty seemed to be eased by the act of approval and his strong tan arms encircled the slim waist. Fai leaned into the embrace, his soft, perfect lips exploring the ninja's cheek and neck. When their mouths finally found each other, they united passionately. With each kiss, both seemed to desire the next even more hungrily. Fai's heart soared joyfully, his mind blissfully blank as he at last acted on the impulses he had been trying for so long to suppress. It was paradise. It was heaven. It was—
"Oi! Magician! Wake up!" Bang bang!
—only a dream. Fuck. Fai put his head under the pillow to block out the harsh hammering on his door. Nooooo! Go away loud noises! If it didn't stop soon, he would wake up and the dream would be lost to a place from which it might never return. But the pounding didn't stop. In fact, it simply got more impatient until the intruder just decided to kick the door open. That was the real Kurogane, and boy was he ever pissed.
Kurogane had just finished putting everything in the coffeemaker and gotten himself a cup from the cabinet when Sakura turned to him with her usual (vacant) smile on her face and cheerfully did the nastiest thing she had ever done to the swordsman; she asked him if he would mind going upstairs to wake Fai because his breakfast was ready. Kurogane's eye twitched and he had an almost overwhelming desire to make a gnarly, mean face at her and tell her that, yes, actually, he did mind so you'd better send the brat up there to do it if you want to live to taste those scrambled eggs you're making.
However, to his disgust, he found himself unable to do this to Sakura, proving once again that the most feared ninja in all of Japan was turning into a sissy little pansy boy. What the hell was wrong with him? Next thing you knew, he'd be doing something really, really retarded like secretly hugging kittens. Hey, his mind had piped up as he was climbing the stairs, you already did that, remember? At that point, Kurogane almost curled into a fetal position right there and devoured his own legs in self disgust.
"Oi, Magician, wake up," he ordered, pounding loudly on the door.
There was no reply. He hammered even harder, but to no avail. Eventually, he just kicked the door open, glaring into the dimly-lit room. As his eyes fell upon Fai's shape beneath the covers, his breath caught in his chest, remembering how angelic and innocent the mage's sleeping face looked… Then he realized how disgustingly mushy his thoughts were, promptly gave his own mind a harsh mental pummeling, and knelt down to arm himself with some dirty balled-up socks that littered the bedroom floor. He hurled the first sock at the moaning, writhing form under the covers. Fai rolled over but didn't sit up or show any sign that he was planning to do so. Kurogane tossed another sock at him. "Hey! Didn't you hear me, lazy-ass wizard! Get up!"
"Nnnngh… five more minutes, Daddy…" Fai groaned, waving a hand dismissively at the ninja.
"I don't think so, bastard," Kurogane growled, whipping another sock at his head. "You're getting up right now or I'm really gonna get pissed off."
Fai sat up slowly, and stared tiredly at him, rubbing his eye. "Daddy's so grumpy in the morning. You should be happy! Look at how nice it is outside!"
Kurogane snorted. "I don't give a damn if it's nice outside; just freaking get up."
"How cute; Daddy can't wait to start spending the day with me so he wanted to get me up right away," Fai grinned as he stretched his arms.
Kurogane huffed indignantly and stomped out of the room. He made it about halfway down the stairs when Fai called to him, making him stop.
"Wait Kurotan!" he called, appearing at the top of the steps, pulling a clean shirt over his head. "I want a piggyback ride!"
The warrior snorted and continued his downward climb. "You can carry your own ass downstairs. Quit acting like a little kid."
"…If I were a little kid, would Kuropon give me as many piggyback rides as I wanted?" Fai asked slowly, his expression thoughtful.
Kurogane turned around to look at him, partially amused and partially suspicious. After considering him for a moment, he smirked. "Sure. You become a five-year-old, and I'll give you as many piggyback rides as you can stand." He continued down the stairs, shaking his head with disbelief. After all, he was fairly certain that it would be impossible for Fai to regress back to his youth. Fairly certain. He looked back over his shoulder, his eyes narrowed suspiciously. Fai had a disconcerting ability to achieve the damn-near-impossible, a skill which he seemed to have been exercising quite a bit recently. The wizard had that all-too-innocent smile on his face again, and admittedly, it unnerved Kurogane a bit. "Ok, Kurochuu…but remember, you promised."
"So, we've got the whole day to ourselves, hmm?" Fai said cheerfully, rubbing his hands together. "Just me and Kurowanwan, all alone, with no one to interrupt our fun."
"Whatever you're planning—" Kurogane began threateningly until Fai cut him off by sitting in his lap and putting one arm around his shoulders.
"Have you tried these eggs that Sakura chan made? They're delicious!" the mage chirped. "Here, see for yourself, Kuropii."
With that, Fai scooped a big of egg off his own plate and stuck it into Kurogane's mouth. The ninja choked and swallowed it quickly.
"WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT FOR!" he roared. "YOU COULD HAVE KILLED ME, YOU BASTARD!"
"Now, now, Kuropiko," Fai said lightly, dismissing the protests with a wave of his hand, "if Daddy doesn't get the proper nutrition by himself, then someone else will have to help him. We can't have Kuropyon getting all malnourished when we all depend on him to provide for the family, now can we?"
"I CAN TAKE CARE OF MYSELF, DAMMIT! I SURE AS HELL DON'T NEED HELP FROM YOU!" Kurogane raged, pounding the table with his fist. "I'M NOT YOUR DAMN BABY!"
Fai grinned mischievously and ran his hand through the ninja's hair. "You're right, Kuronyan; you're not a baby. You're the daddy."
Kurogane looked at him suspiciously. "And just what the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"Oh, nothing," the blond said innocently. "Nothing at all…"
Kurogane looked up from his magazine, irritated. Someone was making a loud, obnoxious noise and whoever it was needed to die. Now. Judging by the sound of it, it was a young child. Whether it was laughing or crying, he couldn't tell for sure but it was really pissing him off. He put down his magazine and got to his feet. He'd give that kid something to really cry about.
Kurogane closed his eyes, listening carefully, trying to figure out where the sound was coming from and attempting to feel out an aura. The noise seemed to get louder as he approached the stairs. He climbed them silently, becoming steadily more certain that the child was somewhere on the second floor of the house. This confused him deeply. How could a kid have gotten past him and all the way up the stairs without him even noticing? Kurogane's pride flared up defensively. It was simply impossible for some drooling little toddler to have snuck past him, the best ninja in all of Japan.
Then he became a little unnerved; if the kid hadn't walked in through the front door, then that could only mean that it had flown in through one of the upstairs window. And what kind of freak baby knows how to fly? Several possibilities came to mind: vampires, demons, dragons…cupids. Kurogane blinked, realizing that he was already standing outside the door, on the other side of which was the maker of the annoying sound. Coincidentally, he noticed that it was Fai's room he was standing outside of. He sighed, leaning heavily against the wall. Why was it that when something weird was going on, Fai always seemed to be involved somehow?
Kurogane swallowed hard, one hand on the doorknob, his other on the hilt of his sword, bracing himself for the horror that awaited him inside the room. But dear lord, if it was a cupid in there, he was going to grab it by its stubby little wings and kick its fat baby ass right back out the window where it came from. Everyone knows that cupids only appear for one reason and that is to make people fall in love with each other. Personally, Kurogane would rather die. Resisting the urge to gag, he whipped open the door.
Oh god. There it was. Sitting right there on the bed. DEMON BABY! AAAAAARGH! And what a gruesome sight it was, giggling manically, blood dripping down its face and staining its white clothes… Then Kurogane shook himself out of his weird day-nightmare and took a good look at what really lay before him. It was, indeed, a child, but upon calmer inspection, it became clear that it wasn't a demon. Actually, he found himself gazing at a little boy, probably no older than four, with fair skin, smooth golden hair which would have obscured his vision if he hadn't had it brushed it off to the side, and most notably, large, round, impossibly blue eyes.
Kurogane didn't spend much time around kids but this boy was easily the most beautiful child he had ever seen. If he would have been anyone else, he would have snatched that kid up and hugged him and pinched his little round cheeks. And if anyone tried to take the beautiful creature from him, he would get rid of them by biting onto their finger and refusing to let go until they surrendered…or until their finger came off in his mouth. Whichever one came first.
But he was not anyone else. He was Kurogane. So, he did what Kurogane did best: he stood there and looked really mean and vicious. The red stuff that he had initially mistaken for blood running down the boy's face actually came from a red marker which he held in his pudgy little hand. By the looks of things, the kid had been trying to recreate the Mona Lisa on the bedroom wall but had gotten bored and decided he would rather have the marker for lunch instead.
The two of them just stared at each other for a moment until at last the child spoke up.
"Lookit," he said, grinning widely and holding up his marker. Kurogane's eye twitched.
"YOU STUPID KID! WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING, COLORING ON THE GODDAMN WALL! LOOK, YOU GOT RED CRAP EVERYWHERE! WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK IS GONNA HAVE TO CLEAN THAT UP, HUH!" the ninja roared. He stopped yelling, breathing hard, his angry red eyes boring into the child's sparkling blue ones. To Kurogane's horror, the boy's lip began to curl and tremble, his eyes filling up with tears…
"Oh shit…" he muttered. Then the waterworks started.
Kurogane's ears were pounding from the boy's relentless wailing. This is exactly why he didn't like kids. He had grudgingly washed the red marker from the child's face and was now trying every trick he could think of to get the damn kid to stop crying. Nothing was working. He was now frantically searching the refrigerator and freezer for something he could stuff in the kid's mouth. Finally, he found what he had been looking for: a Popsicle.
"Here," he growled, ripping off the wrapper and shoving it into the boy's hands. The child stopped crying and looked over the cold treat with interest before putting it cautiously into his mouth.
Kurogane slumped against the wall, closed his eyes and sighed with relief. Finally. He opened one scarlet eye to watch the kid with his Popsicle. He was sucking on it happily, sticky purple juice dripping down onto his hands. Kurogane ran a hand backwards through his dark hair. Now the kid would have to be washed again. Damn it. Children should be born with faucets coming out of their foreheads. It would certainly be more convenient since they seemed to need washing every five seconds. Once they got older and no longer needed the constant water supply, it could just fall off or something.
The ninja brought his musings to an abrupt halt when he noticed that he was being studied. Junior was watching him curiously as he continued to enjoy his Popsicle.
"What the hell do you think you're looking at?" Kurogane growled.
The boy giggled at this display of anger, causing more purple juice to drip down onto his hands from the corners of his mouth. Kurogane groaned and attempted to merge his skull with the plaster wall. Freaking nasty.
"What'f youw name?" the child asked. Apparently, he hadn't quite mastered the skill of pronouncing the "r" or "s" sounds and chose to replace them with "w" and "f" sounds instead.
"Uh…Kurogane," he replied. Then he squinted at the boy suspiciously. "Who are you?"
"My name is Fai D. Fwowite. My weal name is pwetty long, fo you can just fay 'Fai'. I'm fwom Celef. It's weally cold thewe, you know."
"Alright, alright," Kurogane interrupted. "I asked for your name, not your freaking life story… Wait a minute…what did you just say your name was?"
"Fai. F-A…ummm…" The child paused, trying to remember the last letter in his name.
Kurogane, however, wasn't listening. As soon as the boy had said Fai, Kurogane's mind erupted. His brain was spinning with confusion, only one question seemingly able to penetrate his numb consciousness: What the hell How could this little kid be Fai? Was it just coincidence that he happened to have the same name and looked a lot like him? Could it just be this world's version of Fai? No, that couldn't be. He'd said he was from Celes and that was definitely the name of Fai's home world.
Then, there was the kid's aura. It looked really strange; a thin layer of sunshine-yellow on the surface, a thick layer of deep, dark navy blue that filled almost all the remaining space and practically bubbled with loneliness and self-loathing, and then in the very center, a little ball of the same sunshine-yellow that coated the outside. The small yellow core strove to shine through the layer of darkness but it flickered and sputtered as though just existing was an exhausting battle. Kurogane had only seen an aura like this in one other person, and that belonged to his magical blond traveling companion. The kid must be telling the truth then…he must really be Fai. All the evidence confirmed it. Now the only thing that remained to be discovered was how?
Fai had finished his Popsicle and was now looking around for a nice, white surface where he could leave little sticky purple handprints for someone else to find. Luckily, Kurogane noticed this and awkwardly picked him up around the middle. Wow, did this ever feel weird. He tried not to think of the boy as the Fai he knew while he washed melted Popsicle off his hands and face but he couldn't help it. Somehow, Fai had found a way to make himself young again, and Kurogane just knew that the older Fai was somehow watching this and laughing his scrawny ass off. I'll get you for this, you bastard, he thought bitterly. Just you wait.
"Kuwotan! Let'f play hide and feek, ok? Not it!" Fai declared, raising his hands in the air. Then he broke into a fit of giggles. "That meanf you have to be 'it' Kuwowin!"
Kurogane tried to ignore him and just read his magazine but it was proving to be easier said than done. Little Fai had his hands on the swordsman's knee and was jumping up and down excitedly. "Count to thiwty, ok, Kuwopun? And no peeking!"
"Forget it, kid," Kurogane muttered through gritted teeth. "I'm not playing."
Fai pouted, continuing to bounce on Kurogane's knee. "But why not?"
"Look, I'm not your damn babysitter, alright!" he snapped. "Go find someone else to bother and just leave me alone!"
"But thewe'f no one elf hewe…" Fai said slowly.
"Then go play by yourself," Kurogane replied shortly.
He could see Baby Fai staring at him with pleading eyes out of the corner of his vision but kept his attention fixed stubbornly on the magazine. When he realized he wasn't going to get any other response out of Kurogane, Fai sighed heavily with frustration and stomped out of the room, his little round cheeks puffed up indignantly. The boy had only been gone about five minutes when Kurogane finally looked up. He hadn't expected Fai to actually listen to him. Now that he was gone, it seemed oddly quiet. The ninja looked around suspiciously. Fai was only ever quiet when he was up to no good.
Grudgingly, he got to his feet and began to look for the little blond, though he didn't call for him. He was already swallowing enough of his pride by looking for him and he didn't want to draw Fai's attention to it if he could avoid it. He searched every room in the house, upstairs and down. To his dismay, Fai was nowhere to be found. He went back and rechecked the rooms more carefully, peeking under beds, behind doors and between couch cushions (hey, you never knew with Fai).
Kurogane was just starting to get really worried when finally he pulled open the closet in Syaoran's bedroom. There, in the back corner, all crouched down, sat Fai. When he saw the ninja looking at him, his little face broke into an adorable smile. Kurogane suppressed a sigh of relief and just glared.
"Kuwowun came to find me!" Fai cheered. He climbed out of the closet. "Now it'f Kuromin'f tuwn to hide!"
"Now look, you," Kurogane said sternly, folding his arms, "I didn't come looking for you because I wanted to play. I just had to make sure you weren't doing anything stupid."
Fai tilted his head to one side, thinking, and then giggled behind his hand as though he had just taken a crap in someone's shoe and was waiting for them to find it.
"And what the hell is so damn funny?"
"Kuwochan doefn't want to play 'caufe he knowf he'll lose."
A vein throbbed angrily on Kurogane's forehead. Fai may have been quite young, but he had still cleverly managed to touch a nerve; Kurogane absolutely hated to lose at anything.
"Yeah right!" he snapped, his hands balling themselves into fists at his side. "As if I could ever lose to a kid! Just wait, you little bastard! I'll kick your ass!"
"Kuwochuu changed hif mind then, huh? Ok then, I gueff I'll go count."
Kurogane's crimson eyes burned angrily into the child's back as he left the room to begin counting. He'd put that little punk in his place.
Six or so rounds of hide and seek later, Kurogane was really starting to hate the game. He had thought that being a ninja would give him an edge over the small blond but that edge had been dulled by his disadvantage in size. There really weren't that many places in the house that could accommodate someone who was over six feet tall. To one who was barely three feet in height, however, the house was a virtual goldmine of hiding places. Fai could squeeze into seemingly impossible spots and leave Kurogane guessing for quite a while. The ninja was actually losing and it made him hate the world and every organism that had ever dared to exist in it. Imagine, a ninja losing at hide and seek to a baby! He pounded the wall in frustration.
"How the hell do you always find me so fast?" he demanded. "You must be cheating!"
Fai laughed and hugged his older playmate's leg affectionately. "I can find Kuwonpyuu 'caufe I want to. I feel lonely when you'we not with me, Kuwomyuu."
"THAT DOESN'T MAKE ANY SENSE AT ALL!" Kurogane shouted, waving a fist threateningly. "YOU'RE CHEATING, AREN'T YOU, YOU LITTLE BASTARD!"
Then he sighed and leaned against the wall, crossing his arms. "Whatever. I hate that damn game, anyway."
"If Kuwonta if tiwed of playing hide and feek, then why don't we go to the playgwound?" Fai suggested, pulling Kurogane's hand as he tried to lead him to the door.
"Are you freaking serious?" he spat. "No way in hell am I taking a cheating little brat like you to the damn playground."
Fai looked up at him pleadingly, his bright blue eyes looking hurt. When he saw that Kurogane seemed resolute, he let go of the swordsman's hand and hung his head. Kurogane broke into a sweat; he was pretty sure he knew what was coming and he sure as hell didn't like it. Sure enough, Fai's bottom lip began to curl and his eyes filled with tears. Kurogane clapped a hand to his forehead, gritting his teeth, and then took Fai's hand and pulled him sullenly towards the door. The kid owed him big time now; Kurogane hated parks.
"When we get to the pawk, Kuwokuwo haf to push me on the fwingf, ok?" Fai said, clinging to Kurogane's arm.
"Don't count on it," Kurogane replied dryly. Fai had stopped crying the moment Kurogane had agreed to take him to the park and the ninja was annoyed. The little snot was probably just faking it to get his way. That was another reason he didn't like kids: they were all spoiled rotten and just had to produce a couple tears in order to get exactly what they wanted.
"Kuwopii, I'm tiwed of walking," little Fai whined. "Give me a piggyback wide."
"Not a chance in hell!" he snapped. All of a sudden, a memory of something that had happened earlier that day floated to the surface of his consciousness. …If I were a little kid, would Kuropon give me as many piggyback rides as I wanted? And like a fucktard, he had answered sure, you become a five-year-old and I'll give you all the piggyback rides you can stand. God, was he ever flamingly retarded! Seriously, of all the moronic replies… Kurogane sighed heavily and crouched down low enough for Fai to climb onto his back.
"Yaay!" Fai giggled as he clamored on. "Go, howsey! Go!"
Kurogane snarled under his breath, trying to ignore the child who was bouncing up and down energetically on his back.
"Fastew howsey! Wun! Wun!"
"You'll shut your damn mouth right now if you wanna live to see the freaking playground," Kurogane hissed threateningly.
"Daddy lookf a wittle bit angwy," Fai pointed out happily. Then he closed his eyes, looped his short little arms around Kurogane's neck and rested his warm little cheek on the swordsman's shoulder. "Well, I gueff I could juft hold on to Kuwopipi like thif fow a while…"
Kurogane said nothing, hoping that the child wouldn't notice his blush from where he was. Fai grinned silently, opting not to mention the ninja's brightly burning ears. Even though Kurogane seemed to get flustered increasingly easily when they spent time together, the magician didn't think that seeing him blush would ever lose its novelty.
Kurogane dropped little Fai once they reached the park, causing the boy to land flat on his butt.
"That waf mean, Kuwowanwan!" he whined as he got to his feet and brushed the woodchips from his pants.
"As if I cared," Kurogane muttered, shaking his head slightly.
"C'mon, Daddy," Fai trilled, pulling on the leg of his companion's shorts, "let'f go play on the fwingf!"
The ninja sighed heavily, allowing himself to be dragged over to the swing set. With some difficulty, Fai seated himself in a swing right next to another little boy who was being pushed by his mother.
"Push me af high af you can, ok, Kuwotan?" the mage grinned.
"Yeah, yeah… whatever…" He gave Fai a halfhearted push.
"I faid af high af you can!" Fai urged, then he grinned mischievously. "Unleff Kuwopun if getting too old for thif fort of thing…"
"Too old?" Kurogane shouted incredulously, instantly taking the bait. "I'll show you 'too old', you little bastard!"
He grabbed the chains on Fai's swing, pulling him backwards into the air and then shoving it and its precious cargo as hard as he possibly could. The blond squealed with delight as his swing flew forward and then upside-down when it looped over the top support beam several times. The mother who was standing beside him and pushing her child on the swing laughed nervously.
"Oh, he's adorable," she commented. "Is he yours?"
Kurogane glanced at her, an eyebrow raised. "Uhh…no."
"So you're just watching him for the day, then? That's nice of you."
He shrugged, giving Fai another push.
The mother watched the mage shriek with laughter every time Kurogane gave him a push, looking a bit shocked when he sang "Kuwomyuu's touching my butt! Kuwomyuu's touching my butt!"
Kurogane's face turned crimson at the accusation. "Shut the hell up, dumb ass! I am not!"
"H-how old is he?" the lady stammered, trying to break up the awkwardness.
"Hell if I know," Kurogane replied shortly. "Maybe…twenty-two?"
She looked puzzled. "Really? Twenty-two months?"
"Twenty-two years," he corrected, not even bothering to look at her. She continued to stare at him as though she thought he was lying but wasn't quite sure.
"Highew Daddy! Highew!" Fai cheered.
"I thought you said he wasn't yours?" the woman said, frowning slightly.
"Trust me lady, if he was mine, he'd be dead," Kurogane growled. "He's just calling me that to piss me off, the little shit."
The mother continued to stare at him, horrified. When she finally composed herself, she made a show of looking at her watch. "Oops, look at the time! C-come on, Takeshi. We have to go home now."
"But I don't wanna go home!" her black-haired child whined.
"We can stop at the ice cream store on our way home, ok honey? Come on, we're going to be late."
The little boy clapped his hands joyfully and hopped off the swing with out another complaint.
"Well, um…g-goodbye," she smiled apprehensively, taking Takeshi by the hand and quickly leading him away.
"Now look, Kuwowin! You fcawed them off!" Fai scolded lightly. Then he said "hey, I wanna get fome ife cweam too, ok Daddy?"
Without waiting for an answer, he jumped down and started running towards the ice cream store they had passed on their way to the park. Kurogane snarled and took off after him. Fai didn't even bother to look both ways before dashing into the street right in front of a semi. The ninja could have sworn he felt his heart stop and he seemed to see the terrifying scene in slow motion. Fai noticed the semi heading straight for him and increased his speed. The driver of the truck didn't beep his horn or even slow down, he just raced on carelessly.
Fai looked at the face of the driver and froze, an expression of shock and terror on his face. He recognized the person driving the semi instantly. How could he not? The face was the one that had constantly haunted his dreams for years now, whose cold eyes struck fear into his heart every time he remembered them, whose laughter echoed in his head, sending shivers down his spine. Ashura was behind the wheel. There was no doubt that he saw Fai; he was looking him straight in the eye, that ever-present cold smile on his face as he hurtled on toward him.
Just before the deadly impact, Fai felt something else collide with him; something that flew in from the side. It shielded him, knocking him out of the way just in time to avoid becoming another bug on the windshield. When he hit the ground, all the air was knocked right out of him, though through a gap in the thing that had saved him, he could see the semi continue on its way, completely unconcerned. He heard a sharp intake of breath through clenched teeth and turned his attention to his rescuer. Kurogane was holding him tightly to his chest, gasping in pain from the large nasty-looking scrapes on his forearms from where they had taken the fall.
He jumped to his feet and grabbed Fai by the lapels, lifting him easily off the ground.
"WHAT THE FUCK WERE YOU THINKING! YOU DIDN'T EVEN WATCH WHERE YOU WERE GOING! YOU JUST RAN RIGHT OUT INTO THE GODDAMN ROAD! YOU KNOW YOU WOULD'VE BEEN KILLED IF I HADN'T BEEN HERE TO SAVE YOUR SORRY ASS? HUH? DID YOU EVEN THINK OF THAT, DIPSHIT! DID YOU! DID YOU!" Kurogane roared, shaking Fai harshly as he spoke. Fai refused to meet his eyes, keeping his gaze fixed determinedly on the ground.
Disgusted, the ninja dropped the boy and turned his attention to his injuries. As soon as he had been released, Fai started running again; as hard and fast as he could. Though Kurogane shouted after him, he didn't even spare a backwards glance, his mind set on reaching the house. His stupidity had nearly cost Kurogane his life, and now he was injured because of him. Fai felt sick with guilt. He hated the semi, he hated its driver, he hated the scared, angry tone in Kurogane's voice as he had verbally ripped into him, but most of all, he hated himself for being so careless and stupid.
Kurogane was usually pretty sure of himself. He knew what he wanted, how he was going to get it, and where he stood on most issues. Because of this certainty, it was rare that he did something he ended up regretting later. Right now, however, was one of those rare times. The angry words he had screamed at Fai echoed in his head, the memory of Fai's terrified pale face flashed across his mind and as he headed for home, he was starting to think that maybe he had been a little too harsh on the boy.
He had certainly had a reason, though. After all, Fai had nearly gotten them both killed because of his carelessness and now Kurogane had a large, badly stinging scrape on both forearms. He gritted his teeth as he studied the wounds. They had dirt and little bits of gravel in them, blood dripping down his wrists and off his fingers, leaving a small trail of red droplets behind him. He would need to get them washed out quickly or he risked receiving a nasty infection.
When he finally reached the house, Kurogane had a difficult time opening the door without getting blood on the handle. Once he managed that, he removed his shoes at the entryway and headed straight for the bathroom to wash out his injuries. The ninja ground his teeth as the cold water from the bathtub's faucet rushed over the scrapes. Then he studied them again. The washing had managed to get rid of most of the dirt but there were still a few little bits of gravel embedded in his skin. He sighed heavily; these would have to be dug out by hand. Kurogane located the first aid kit in the cabinet under the sink and began the slow, painful work of dressing his wounds.
Kurogane tapped gingerly on Fai's closed bedroom door. He had finished getting himself all bandaged up and the pain had lessened some, but only slightly. When there was no reply, he slowly opened the door and looked around. Fai wasn't anywhere to be seen. He pushed the door open a little farther and invited himself in. The swordsman had hardly taken three steps when the sun coming in through the window caused something on one of the shelves to glitter, catching his eye.
He approached it curiously, noticing the way it had been hastily shoved between some books as though some one had tried to hide it before it was seen. It seemed to be made of brass, with some faded symbols scratched into the side. He squinted at its dull exterior, rubbing at the inscription as he tried to make it out. Kurogane dropped it in surprise when it began to smoke and shake and backed away, his hand drifting instinctively to his sword's handle. The smoke slowly faded away to reveal a tiny girl with a curled purple ponytail and exotic pink clothing. She smiled cheerfully at him.
"Hello, Master's Scary Friend! I'm glad to finally meet you! My name is Sumomo! How do you do?" she chirped, bowing low.
"…What the hell…?" Kurogane muttered, crouching down to have a closer look. "Who are you and what the hell are you doing here? And why did you call me "Master's Scary Friend"? My name is Kurogane."
"Hello, Master's scary friend, Kurogane! My name is Sumomo! I'm a genie!"
"Genie? What the hell is a genie?"
"We grant our master's wishes… well, we're supposed to, but I'm not very good yet so all I can do is give my master magical powers for a day. I know it's not that amazing but Master Fai said it was ok, so…"
"NOW WAIT JUST ONE DAMN MINUTE! YOU'RE TELLING ME THAT THAT TALL SKINNY GUY IS YOUR MASTER?" Kurogane shouted incredulously.
"Kyaaaaa! Scaryyyyy!" Sumomo wailed, throwing herself to the ground and sheltering her head with her arms.
Kurogane took several deep breaths, trying to calm down and absorb this shocking bit of information. "How…how many wishes does he get to make?"
"Usually, we only grant three, but since I still have some work to do before I can become a real genie, I decided I should make up for inabilities by granting five wishes instead. Master has already used all his wishes, so I can leave now, but I didn't want to go without saying goodbye to Master," she explained.
Kurogane took her words in, suddenly feeling numb all over. This certainly explained a lot about what had been happening for the past few days…
"I'm glad I got to meet Master's scary friend before I left," Sumomo continued. "Master talks about you all the time so I knew you must be someone very special to him."
"What? He…he talked about me?" Kurogane said dumbly. "What did he say?"
"Well… he said that the reason that he chose the wishes that he made was because he wanted to play with you. When I asked Master why he didn't just ask you to play, he said that it was because you would get mad at him. That's why he had to use magic, so that he could have fun with you without you knowing. He also said, umm… he was hoping that by using his powers, he could finally make a perfect moment where he could let you know how he felt about you."
Kurogane stared blankly at her, his mind blank and frozen. He knew he should be feeling something significant at hearing this news but he was at a total loss as to what that should be. "…And…did he say…how he felt…?"
Sumomo frowned slightly, then shook her head. There was another moment of silence between the two of them before the ninja got to his feet and swiftly left the room to find the wizard.
Fai jumped when he heard the door being pushed open but didn't turn around. He was sure he knew who his visitor was, and he wasn't ready to face him yet. It seemed like he should have some explanatory speech ready before talking to Kurogane in order to justify his actions but so far, he had nothing. But he knew the warrior wouldn't let him off the hook that easily. So he took a deep, steadying breath, gripping the blankets he lay on top of tightly for reassurance and prepared to take what Kurogane had come to dish out.
Fai was in Kurogane's room, lying on the bed with his back to the door when the ninja finally located him. Kurogane paused for a second, collecting himself before entering the room and taking a seat on the edge of his bed.
"Hey," he said gruffly, "what are you doing in here?"
Fai didn't answer.
"You hiding out?" Kurogane asked. "Feeling sorry for yourself?"
Fai was biting his lip now, trying not to cry. He felt so guilty for what he had done, for what he had nearly done to Kurogane, that he couldn't possibly put it into words. Yet here he was being accused of feeling sorry for himself. Was that the kind of person Kurogane took him for? Some kind of ungrateful, self-centered asshole? Fai was cut deeply by the thought. Still, he absolutely refused to let the tears fall.
Kurogane sighed and rested his hand on the child's shoulder. "Look… I'm…I'm sorry I yelled at you like that, alright? I was just…" he caught himself there, just before admitting that he had been absolutely terrified for Fai's life. He still had his pride to consider, after all. "…You almost got yourself killed, you know that?"
"I'm fowwy," Fai whispered.
"Huh?" Kurogane said.
The little blond sat up, paused uncertainly, and then threw himself at his companion, hugging him as tight as he could in his short arms. "I'm fowwy, Kuwochan," he repeated, a little louder. "I'm fowwy."
Kurogane said nothing, but put his hand on Fai's back soothingly. He could tell that his regret for what he had done was sincere. Fai let go of him after a moment, turning his attention to the bandages that were wrapped around the ninja's arms. His tiny fingertips skimmed them lightly and he finally looked Kurogane in the eye.
"Doef it huwt, Kuwochuu?" he asked quietly.
Kurogane blushed slightly and looked away. "It's nothing."
Fai continued to stroke his injured arm ever so gently. Kurogane's first reaction was to flinch at the contact but he realized to his astonishment that it magician's touch actually felt good. "Can…can I kiff it bettew?"
Kurogane stared at him, his eyes widening slightly in surprise at the request. Then he looked away again, his blush returning even brighter than before.
Fai hesitated slightly, then carefully touched his little pink lips to both of Kurogane's arms. As if by some sort of miracle, Kurogane felt the pain melt away almost completely, although he could tell that the injuries were still there. The corners of the angry ninja's mouth turned upwards ever so slightly as he looked down at the child whose pure and tender love was willing him to heal. Maybe, just maybe, he didn't mind kids so much after all.
Sakura, Syaoran and Mokona had arrived home from work by the time Kurogane and Fai came downstairs. Sakura had started supper and the other two were assisting her. When the princess's eyes fell on Kurogane, she smiled brightly at him.
"Hello Kurogane san. Where is…" the she gasped loudly, clapping a hand to her mouth as she noticed Fai, "Fai san!"
Syaoran and Mokona looked over to see what all the commotion was about and they too reacted with shock.
"What…What happened to Fai san?" Syaoran asked frantically. Little Fai smiled cheerfully up at them all.
Kurogane shrugged. "The bastard dragged me out shopping today and we were looking at this place that was selling charms and crap. There was this one charm that was supposed to make you young again, and the guy at the store told him not to touch it but the dumb ass didn't listen," he lied easily. Everyone else stared at him with wide, round eyes, including Fai, who certainly hadn't had any part in cooking up this story. "The guy said it should wear off by morning. Then he'll be back to his normal, idiotic self."
Mokona, Sakura and Syaoran all sighed with relief.
"I'm so glad," Syaoran laughed nervously, putting his hand to his heart.
Sakura crouched down to get on Fai's level, giggling as she stroked his smooth blond hair. "And just look at how cute he is!"
"Almost as cute as Mokona!" Mokona cheered. He hopped into Fai's waiting arms and nuzzled against him. "Cute baby Fai!"
"Ah! Sakura hime! I think it's burning!" Syaoran gasped, waving her over to the stove. Sakura squeaked nervously and ran over to check the food.
Fai giggled excitedly as he ran into his bedroom and threw himself onto the bed. Kurogane followed him sullenly, not looking overly pleased about the tasks he had ahead of him, though his attitude was only for show. The blond bounced happily on the bed, his oversized nightshirt (actually, it was a t-shirt of Kurogane's) falling easily past his feet, and scampered up to the top to sit next to the pillow while Kurogane dropped into a chair, grumbling under his breath sulkily. The ninja pulled back the blankets roughly, gritting his teeth angrily, and Fai crawled under them, pushing his hair out of his face which was still damp from his bath.
"Will you tell me a ftowy, Kuwopippi?" Fai asked eagerly.
Kurogane stared at him disbelievingly. "A story?"
"Yeah, you know, they begin with 'onfe upon a time' and end with 'and they lived happily evew aftew'."
"I know what a story is, you dumb ass! And why are you asking me? Ask the princess or the brat! I'm sure they know way more stories than I do! Hell, I'll bet even the manjuu could tell you some!"
Fai looked at him pleadingly, taking one of the ninja's fingers in his tiny hand. "But I want you, Kuwotan!"
"I don't know any stories!" he snapped.
"Then I gueff I'll have to tell Kuwowanwan a ftowy," Fai grinned. He thought for a moment, and then clapped his hands. "I know a pewfect one! It'f a old ftowy in my countwy but it'll pwobably be new fow Kuwochii."
Once upon a time, there lived a boy named Kuro chan. The people in his town thought that Kuro chan and his mother were a strange family so they tried to stay away from them for the most part.
One day, Kuro chan's mother sent him out with a basket full of treats for his sick grandmother. It was his first time traveling through the woods by himself but Kuro chan's mother wasn't worried; Kuro chan was a very good fighter and was perfectly capable of protecting himself.
He started down the forest trail but was soon stopped by a dragon who wanted to eat him but Kuro chan took off his sword and easily cut off the dragon's head. The dragon's two friends who were waiting a little ways down the path see what he did to the first dragon and slink quietly away into to woods before he can do the same to them.
"Yeah! Take that, you bastards! You'd better run!" Kuro chan shouted, brandishing his sword. He began to continue on his way but then turned around, gave the dead dragon a roundhouse kick to the face and then kept going, feeling very proud of himself. No other dragons dared to bother him for the rest of his trip.
Kuro chan had just reached the heart of the forest when he was spotted by the Big Bad Fai Kitty. The Big Bad Fai Kitty thought that Kuro chan was absolutely adorable so he decided to go talk to him.
"Hello," said the Fai Kitty.
Kuro chan blushed. "Uh…h-hi…"
"What's your name?"
"I'm the Big Bad Fai Kitty."
"Huh? Big bad…?"
Fai Kitty shrugged. "It's just a nickname. So what brings you into the woods on this beautiful day, Kuro chan?"
"Um… my mom wanted to bring this stuff to my grandma, so…" he broke off, blushing even more brightly.
"All by yourself?" Fai Kitty gasped, surprised.
"Yeah…Um, I gotta go or my grandma's gonna be mad…"
Kuro chan started to walk away but looked back over his shoulder at Fai Kitty with an expression of longing on his face. Fai Kitty just smiled. Kuro chan shook his head and continued down the road. Then he looked back again. He had almost made it passed where Fai Kitty couldn't see him anymore but he changed his mind and ran all the way back to where Fai Kitty was.
"Aww, screw grandma!" he shouted. "…Wanna go make out?"
"Of course!" Fai Kitty grinned.
And they lived happily ever after.
Fai finished his story and looked over at Kurogane, a huge smile on his face. Kurogane was staring at him, his eyes narrowed, an expression of both disgust and embarrassment on his face.
"There's no fucking way that story is one they tell back in your country!" he raged. "You just made that up, didn't you, you little bastard!"
"You think a fouw yeaw old can think up a ftowy like that?" the mage asked innocently.
"Normally no, but since it's you, I'm willing to rethink that!" Kurogane snapped.
Fai giggled, clapping his hands. Kurogane shook his head, sighing heavily.
"Well, I'm going to bed."
He reached over and switched off the lamp next to Fai's bed before getting up from his chair.
"Wait, Kuwomyuu!" Fai said suddenly.
Kurogane looked back at him. The child looked down at his blankets.
"I'm…I'm afwaid of the dawk…could you ftay with me and hold my hand…juft until I fall afleep?"
It was too dark for Fai to make out the ninja's expression but after a brief pause, Kurogane sat down in his chair again and took the little boy's hand in his.
Fai smiled. "Thank you, Kuwochan. Good night."
Icy fingers moved along his pale, bare skin, their freezing-cold touch sending shivers throughout his body. Frigid lips brushed against his ear, whispering empty words disguised as sweet nothings and weaving a tapestry of deceit and false promises. Despite his frosty aura, Fai leaned against his companion, feeling completely at home in his chilly embrace. The two of them stayed like this for a while before suddenly, without warning, hands plunged into his exposed chest and groped eagerly for his heart. The pain was intense and Fai could barely stand it… but he knew that if he showed any inclination of displeasure, the one holding him would push him roughly away and leave him alone, in the darkness.
The cold hand finally found its target and closed triumphantly around his fragile heart… then it squeezed. Again and again, it crushed his heart, the pain reaching such a pitch that he could no longer contain himself and a small whimper escaped his lips. The squeezing stopped and for a moment, everything was still. Then Fai felt himself sinking in freezing dark water, and try as he might to swim to the surface, his arms refused to obey. But he had to! He couldn't breathe! …His vision was darkening now, his heartbeats slowing…
Fai awoke, an adult once more, shivering violently, his face drenched in sweat and tears. He sat up and took in his surroundings; they were nothing like the frozen landscape of his dream-world. But if all that had been a dream, then why was he so cold? In fact, the only part of him that was warm was… The wizard's eyes moved slowly down his arm and focused on his hand. Someone was holding it… but who? Fai's thoughts were moving sluggishly and he felt confused and dizzy.
Finally, he identified the person holding his hand as Kurogane and suddenly he didn't feel quite as cold anymore. The ninja was warm, had plenty of warmth to share with the slim blond. Fai's hand tightened a little in Kurogane's, reveling in the contact between the two of them. It wasn't until the first tear fell that he even realized that he was crying. His teardrop splashed on the ninja's hand and slowly Kurogane opened his eyes. At first, he seemed as dazed as Fai had been but then his eyes focused on the mage and his confused expression became one of concern.
"What is it?" he whispered, pulling Fai close and allowing him to rest his head against his chest.
"I had a… a bad dream…" Fai stammered, wiping the tears from his face.
"A bad dream, huh?" Kurogane repeated. "About what?"
Fai bit his lip; he remembered what the dream had been about but… he didn't really want to tell the ninja about it.
"I… I don't remember," the blond lied.
Kurogane studied him for a moment, a slight frown on his face. "If you don't want to tell me, you can just say so. You don't have to lie about it," he said finally.
Fai looked up at the swordsman, his eyes wide with surprise and full of tears. Then he looked away; he hated how Kurogane could always tell when he was lying.
"I'm sorry, Kurorin," Fai muttered, bowing his head. "I didn't want you to feel bad so I… I mean, it's nothing personal; I'm just… not ready to talk about it yet."
Kurogane sighed and rested his cheek on Fai's soft, blond hair, pulling him closer.
"Well, when you're ready to talk, I'm ready to listen."
The mage sat there in Kurogane's embrace, still and silent. He really did want to tell the warrior about everything that had happened to him but something held him back. Maybe it was the fact that he knew reliving his story would break his heart completely, revealing to the ninja everything that he was working to conceal. Fai closed his eyes and slid his arms around Kurogane's waist.
As jaded as the warrior seemed, Fai knew that although Kurogane thought he wanted to know the true him, it couldn't be farther from the truth. The real Fai was weak, scarred, worthless, broken, dependant… all the things he knew Kurogane hated about other people. He had already been hurt once by someone he'd loved and he wasn't about to make the same mistake again. His only choice was to keep his real self buried under layers of carefully constructed disguises and hope that the ninja didn't bother taking the time to unmask him. But Kurogane wasn't the type to turn a blind eye to matters that invoked his curiosity and slowly, layer by layer, the warrior was peeling away Fai's fake identity.
"Please Kurosama…" the blond whispered, his voice shaking with suppressed grief, "please stop…"
Kurogane remained silent, waiting for Fai to explain himself.
"Stop trying to uncover who I really am… Y-you wouldn't like my true self at all… so p-please… j-just leave it…"
"You're wrong," the ninja replied quietly. "It's the fake you I can't stand. You obviously don't notice, but there are times when you think no one's watching where you let your real self shine through, and I've seen it. I've only caught a few short glimpses but already I know I like him better than this fake person you're trying to be."
Fai gripped Kurogane's shirt in his shaking fists, his carefully repressed tears threatening to spill over.
The swordsman seemed to know what Fai was thinking and began gently stroking the wizard's hair. "I don't care if he's not perfect. I don't give a damn if he's wimpy and dependant. I'm a goddamn bodyguard; it's my job to protect people. And I'd rather die than let something happen to you."
Tears were flowing freely down his pale cheeks now, hitting Kurogane's shoulder and soaking into his shirt. He wanted more than anything to believe what the ninja was telling him. After all, his words sounded heartfelt. But then, so had Ashura's. His king's name crossing his mind caused a small sob to escape his lips and he felt as though his heart were being wrenched out, sliced open and turned inside out. The pain was nearly equal to what he had felt in his dream.
"I w-want to believe you…" he gasped, "I r-really do… but… I've b-been hurt s-so many times… I'm afraid I've f-forgotten how to t-trust…"
"No one can fix that for you. That's something you'll have to work out on your own," Kurogane said solemnly. "But no matter how long it takes for you to relearn trust, it doesn't matter. I'll be here waiting for you…for eternity, if I have to. So just don't worry about it. Take your time."
Fai clutched at his chest as he felt his heart wrenching painfully again at the ninja's words. Even Ashura, the master of deceit, hadn't been able to make him feel like this; for once in his life, he wasn't so afraid of his imperfections. The strong tan arms that embraced him made him feel as though he would never have to experience cold again.
A relief washed over him; one that was more complete than he could remember ever having experienced in the past. He could feel it like a poison that was being extracted from his body and it left him with exhaustion so overwhelming that he absolutely melted into Kurogane's arms. He could feel his eyelids getting heavier by the second and knew that he would be in a deep sleep within moments. But wait! He couldn't fall asleep now! There was still something that he had to do; something he had to say. Once he said it, it would be ok to sleep. He was so tired that he could hardly move his mouth.
"There's something… I have to tell you…" he began. "It's really important…"
Kurogane's hand moved up from the middle of Fai's back into his golden hair where his fingers intertwined with the gossamer strands.
"I… I…" He stammered. The last of his strength was draining away. "I… love……"
Fai's crystal blue eyes slid shut and his cheek rested warmly on Kurogane's chest. Although Fai had not been able to finish his sentence, Kurogane knew what he had been trying to say and suddenly, all the confusion and uncertainty he had harbored over his feelings for Fai vanished. At last, the answer came to him, and now that he had it, it seemed so blatantly obvious that he wondered why it had taken him so long to figure out. He touched his lips gently to Fai's, and whispered "I love you too."
A/N: And that's all she wrote. I do hope Fai's childspeak wasn't too difficult to understand. I actually went and watched some tapes of when my siblings were little in order to refresh my memory on how little kids talk, but I didn't end up using the knowledge much as it only would have made it even harder to understand. By the way, Takeshi, the little kid Fai and Kuro met at the park is Yamazaki (Takeshi was his first name, if you remember) from CCS, although there wasn't much of a chance for me to elaborate on his character. I love you all for your lovely reviews and much-appreciated feedback! See y'all later!