Surprise surprise, another Kurogane/Fai from me. This one's not horribly angsty or sad or anything, just a bit... different. A bit reflective. They're definitely like an odd dog and cat in here.But it's short, so read it? Lol. I find it amusing how many people commented on the coffee symbolism.

Warnings: Slight language, not much else.

And thanks to Azalee for correcting my French mistakes :laugh:

Masking the Flavor

The atmosphere was dark and relaxed, a string instrument weaving its notes to mingle with the sharply scented smoke wafting through the air of the small café. Kurogane looked warily about him as Fai sat placidly at one of the small tables.

"Nice place, isn't it, Kuro-ki?"

The ninja gave him a short glare and snorted, "Dunno. Seems too quiet for you."

"Silly, Kuro-ro," he laughed, "I can keep quiet when I need to," the bright smile never wavered, and Kurogane growled at him.

Yeah, apparently it's only when I want you to talk that you feel the need to keep quiet, Kurogane thought bitterly. He sat down roughly, the screeching scrape of his chair jarring more than a few customers and earning them disgruntled looks. He met those with a fierce glare, and they disappeared.

"Seems like you're the one who can't keep quiet when you need to," Fai's smile was devilish, clearly enjoying the fact that Kurogane felt completely out of place in a small, delicate café.

"Bonjour, messieurs, voudriez-vous quelque chose à boire?"

Fai smiled at the young waitress who stood patiently waiting for their orders, "Hm… I'd like a small cappuccino, please," he answered, "With lots of sugar and cream, will you?"

"Oui, biensûr. Et vous, monsieur? La même chose?" the waitress turned to Kurogane after a quick jot.

"Green tea."

She looked momentarily nonplussed, her eyebrows furrowing, "Ah… Grine té?"

"Green tea," Kurogane resisted the urge to roll his eyes, "You've got to have it."

" Alors… je regrette, nous n'avons pas du 'grin ti'."

"Out of luck, poor Kuro-pon!" Fai was enjoying this way too much. Kurogane made a mental note to go somewhere where they didn't have his type of food.

"Just get him a coffee," the mage mock whispered to the girl, and then turned a toothy grin towards the ninja, "What would you like with it?"

Kurogane growled, "Nothing."

" Vous ne voudriez pas quelque chose avec votre café?" The waitress looked a bit confused, probably wondering from what world they came from. Which applied quite literally in their case. But upon Fai's approving nod, she bowed and departed.

"Have you ever had coffee?"

"Of course. What idiot hasn't?"

Fai laughed at Kurogane's almost sneering response, "In my country, they didn't have coffee, but they had something similar in the bitter taste."

Kurogane glaced sideways at Fai, "Your country, eh? Tell me, what did you do in your country?"

He watched Fai's reaction carefully, noting with something akin to triumph the vague uneasiness that flitted in his eyes and the slight pause in his movements.

"Well, Kuro-ranran, I did all sorts of stuff," he began with a flourish, his voice dipping into the dramatic and suspenseful, as if he was telling a story to a bunch of little kids, "I was born a child prodigy, but neglect and rejection made me escape my dangerous homeland. On the way, I was rescued by a dark knight on a white horse, and he escorted me to his floating castle in the sky. There, I performed tricks to awe the court and befriended people in high places. I even had mid-night rendezvous with the Lord of the castle, and through him, I came to become commander of his armies. I ravaged enemy towns and gained glory for my country, becoming famous throughout the land as the unstoppable magician. But finally, sick of my life and abused by my lord, living a life of lies, I devised a plan to escape from my world—and that's how you found me."

He grinned cheekily, "Actually, I was just the court magician. That was a tale I spun to entertain myself and my Lord. Nothing special."

Kurogane gazed hard at Fai, trying to figure out which parts of that to believe. On the one hand, Kurogane wouldn't put it past Fai to make stuff up just to see his reaction and throw him off guard, but on the other, it also would not surprise him if Fai was telling the truth and only making it seem like a lie.

"I can never trust anything you say," he finally spit out.

"Well, you know something in there is the truth."

"That's not good enough. You make me sick. Your past can't possibly be that bad that you have to make such a big damn deal about it," he said harshly, the crash of his hands upon the table startling Fai and the people around them. Sapphire eyes hardened.

"…No… It's not that bad, I suppose… but it doesn't take much to snap a frail limb," the self-deprecation was like a mocking undercurrent in his voice, always at odds with the lop-sided smile on his face, strained as it may have been, and Kurogane now was the one who felt uneasy. Why wouldn't the damn man just be straight about things instead of setting up the situation as if he was the knowing actor in a play, leaving others in the darkness to figure it out? Kurogane hated the subtle hints, the hidden confessions… if he wanted to confess so much, why didn't he?

"Voici, messieurs," the cups were settled on the table with a tinkling rattle, along with Fai's sugar and cream.

Fai watched as Kurogane almost grudgingly raised his cup to take a whiff and sip the strong black coffee, grimacing.

"Figures," the blond muttered, a small smile playing on his lips as he stirred in a couple sugar cubes in his own cup.


"It's just like you to drink your coffee straight without masking the flavor at all," As I'm doing.

Kurogane seemed to be thinking that too, as his eyes glanced over the numerous spoonfuls of cream and sugar cubes that had turned his dark drink a milky chocolate color. Yes, it was just like Fai, in turn, to try to conceal and disguise the flavor, just like he did with his life. For Kurogane, everything was black and white, it either was or wasn't, while Fai… only added to the shades of grays by veiling the truth and drawing curtains over light.

"It really would not be that bad a thing if you stopped pretending everything wasfine when it's not, and stop acting like the drama queen whose past is so bad it's all they can do to get over it."

The blunt statement made Fai stare for a minute before bursting out laughing.

"Ku- Kuro-pon," he waved his hand dismissively in between his laughter, "Really, what would you know? It's great and all you want to help, shows you have a heart somewhere in there, but really, what can you expect when you don't know what you're even talking about?"

This response was clearly not the one Kurogane was expecting, and he promptly scowled and took up his cup again, "Your loss."

"Indeed," Fai smiled agreeably.

After a moment, he spoke up again, setting his cup down and looking out over the small crowd of fellow customers, "You say I have no heart?" he asked, trying to sound neutral, but Fai knew better. Hm, apparently, Fai's comment had struck a chord.

"Do you want me to be blunt?"

The look the other man gave him clearly said something along the lines of 'You, blunt about something serious?' and Fai had to agree, though he wouldn't say so out loud.

Kurogane raised an eyebrow, "Of course, you moron. Lying doesn't do anything but cover up reality, and not living in reality is dangerous from a soldier's point of view," he paused, and then added, "Besides, the truth always comes out in the end. And after being held back for so long, it's not exactly pleasant."

Fai rested his chin on his palm and gazed calculatingly at the dark-haired man, "Alright, so you don't like things sugar-coated. Then, no, you seem like a selfish, emotionless bastard most of the time," and though he hid it well, Fai caught the slight flinch and the hurt look he instantly hid, "Underneath that, however, you're a nice guy. You take care of the kid well, even if you refuse to admit you look out for him and his princess like a hawk," Fai chuckled at the disgruntled scowl on the ninja's face.

You're more human than I'll ever be.

Kurogane's scowl deepened when Fai stopped talking, "Funny you should mention that, because the ironic thing is that under your caring pretend-act, you're the selfish, emotionless bastard."

The words cut deeply and swiftly, and Fai quickly lowered his eyes, "So?"

Kurogane snorted, "Nothing. It's not my problem. Every man chooses how to live their life. But it doesn't mean I agree with it."

"Who said I agreed with yours either?" Fai murmured quietly. It was a lie though, more out of retaliation. He admired the way Kurogane lived a life free of all chains.

"…Who said ours were different?"

With that, Kurogane stood, dropping their payments on the table, fixing his steely ruby gaze on Fai's surprised sapphire one before turning and leaving.

Fai's eyes lowered, contemplating the swirling, milky pale cream in his coffee before reaching out to hesitantly take a sip of the second mug of black coffee, grimacing at the taste. Still, it was something he could get used to.

By the way, the stuff with Fai's past- made up. So it's not a spoiler, just vaguely based on stuff I've heard. Hope you enjoyed it? Review! Oh, and by the way, the waitress was speaking in French... if you hadn't already figured that out...

About the French... well, basically she says 'Hello gentlemen, what would you like to drink?' and then, 'Yes, sure. And you sir? The same thing?' and theeen, 'I'm sorry, we don't have 'green tea'', and after, 'You wouldn't like anything with your coffee?' and later she just says 'Here, gentlemen.'