Disclaimer: I own nothing but bad ideas. CLAMP has the rest.
Notes: You know hwo sometimes you get an idea and you think "Oh no. Under no circumstances am I to write that fic. No no no," and then you go and write it anyway? Yeah. That's this fic.
Kurogane noticed it right from the start, that there was something decidedly not normal about the idiot mage. There was something about the stupid smiles and the thin frame and the way he walked and talked and clapped and cheered and acted like a general fool. Something in the way he dressed, with the silly fluffy coat. Cultural differences be damned, no normal man would be caught dead in that monstrosity, Kurogane decided, with its big fluffy cuffs and the too-big hood and the all around poofyness of the horrible thing (never mind that it was rather warm, which Kurogane only knew because Fai had caught him shivering once and had curled around him and purred something and if he hadn't been too cold to care Kurogane would've shrugged him off in a second, really he would have, because the mage was stupid and his coat was stupid and Kurogane had no time for either of them). He was sure of it in Spirit, when the mage put on thigh-high boots – a man and he was wearing thigh-high boots -- and leaned on the edge of that doctor's couch with a little half-smile on his face, and Kurogane knew right then that there was definitely something wrong with the idiot.
Even the kids were noticing a bit. Syaoran stammered and turned red when he noticed and pretended he had no ideas about it whatsoever. Even the princess seemed to have an inkling and she, according to Syaoran, still thought her brother and his high priest were just "the very best of friends."
The last world they'd been in hadn't done anything to quell Kurogane's suspicions as far as the stupid magician was concerned. Sakura's feather had been a prize once again, this time in a beauty contest. The only problem was that Mokona had brought them to the right place but with no sense of timing whatsoever, with the contest registration ending in ten minutes and the contest itself starting in twelve, and Sakura was still happily, obliviously asleep after the return of a feather in the previous world. So there had really been no choice.
It wasn't that Fai had agreed to wear the dress that got to Kurogane. It was how quickly Fai had agreed to wear the dress.
He hadn't even had the decency to look mortified when Syaoran, red-faced and clearly far out of his element, had suggested they pad the chest. In fact, Fai had refused to follow such advice. He made no modifications to his disguise whatsoever, save for a hint of eye shadow and a paper fan he used to spontaneously hide his face at what Kurogane suspected were very calculated intervals.
He'd won anyway. It hadn't helped matters that Sakura, also a master of timing, had woken up just as Fai's name was being announced and had cheerfully stated that Fai-san looked very pretty and didn't Kurogane-san think so?
Then there was the awarding of the prize. Along with the feather, Fai was to receive a kiss from the young man who had been hosting the contest, apparently some sort of celebrity or other in this world. It wasn't the kiss itself that made Kurogane wonder. It was the little sideways glance Fai had given him just before the magician's lips met the young man's.
It was not a glance that screamed 'help me.' Kurogane could've understood that. He would've been happy to understand that. But it wasn't. It was a gaze that was much less 'help me' and much more along the lines of 'Are you watching this, Kuro-rin?' (And Kurogane wasn't watching, damn it, because he didn't care what the disgusting mage did, much less what he did with other men while wearing a dress. Kurogane was just glad they had the feather and could leave now and if he did watch the kiss it was only to make sure the idiot didn't somehow give away his disguise).
And the after-party. Fai had insisted they stay, because it would be rude for the winner to miss out on 'her' victory party. Kurogane had been dragged along against his will, because Fai claimed he couldn't go without a chaperone and Syaoran was busy watching over the sleeping Sakura and was too young to come along anyway (and, after all, Fai wouldn't want to corrupt poor, innocent Syaoran when he could corrupt Kurogane instead. At least, that seemed to be the unspoken addendum).
So while the mage got happily drunk and sat and chatted with the other contestants and exchanged the occasional sly glance over his fan at a wandering young man, Kurogane stood by the bar and paid no attention whatsoever beyond what was required to be sure Fai didn't get too drunk and give away his disguise or get taken advantage of or anything like that (because it would be inconvenient for Kurogane if that happened and it would upset the kids. He was not doing it out of any sort of concern for the idiot's well-being. It was his own fault if he got taken advantage of, looking like that and not paying any attention at all to what he was drinking. And that was all it was, thank you very much, so Fai could just forget about saying anything stupid to Kurogane about it).
He'd eventually been cornered by the very drunk host of the contest and had been subjected to a long, rambling speech wherein the young man waved at Fai and told Kurogane what a lucky man he was and that "she can do the most interesting things with her tongue, did you know that?" and he pretended he didn't hear any of it. Eventually he heard the unmistakable sounds of 'nyaa' from where Fai sat with the girls and decided it was time to leave. Fai had been rather unsteady on his feet and Kurogane had been forced to pick the mage up bodily and carry him away, with Fai waving drunkenly over his shoulder at the group as they departed.
Somehow, in the space between when Kurogane had been forced to pick him up and when they arrived at the inn where the kids were waiting, Fai sobered up remarkably and was able to walk into his room with no discernable difficulty whatsoever.
Kurogane almost followed him. He almost strode in and pinned the stupid magician to the wall and demanded to know why he acted like such a fool and why he smiled like that and why he couldn't just act normal for once. And then Kurogane found himself thinking about other things he would do to the mage and decided he had to be drunk himself (what was in the water in this place, really? He could be poisoned for all he knew) and went to bed and did not think about what Fai looked like in that dress (he looked ugly, anyway. It didn't flatter him at all. Not that Kurogane cared. Or noticed. Not at all).
Things were only getting worse in their current world. It had started when they landed in the middle of a crowded street. The magician had said something stupid – Kurogane didn't even remember what, because all the stupid things Fai said tended to run together in his mind and became one big ball of irritation wrapped in a ridiculous fluffy coat and topped with an infuriating smile – and Kurogane had been forced to get out his sword to deal with the problem of Fai talking. He'd been chasing the mage around and promising certain death when one of the onlookers had yelled out that they should just 'get a room.'
It might not have been a problem if Mokona hadn't taken that moment to inform them all of what the phrase actually meant. Kurogane hadn't quite forgiven Fai and Syaoran for holding him back. It would have felt so good to finally kill someone.
Fai didn't seem to care either way. In fact, he'd simply glanced at Kurogane and given him That Smile. The one Kurogane hated most (not that he liked any of them. They were all so annoying that Kurogane had started mentally categorizing them. There was the thin, vague smile Fai wore all the time without thinking and the dirty lie of a smile that Kurogane couldn't believe Fai thought actually fooled anyone, and then there were the more real ones, the bright happy one and the far too amused one, and the one that was filled with nothing but pure, cheerful evil. And then there was That Smile, that infuriating smile that made Kurogane think of a cat that had just eaten a canary and was smiling because the canary hadn't realized it yet. He really hated that one, because he was beginning to suspect that he was the canary and damn it, he was not going to be the canary).
He'd finally let the others drag him away without killing anyone, and they'd gone in search of proper lodging, They'd found a place fairly easily, but there had been only three rooms available. The innkeeper had eyed the four of them clinically, then stated that he would be happy to give them rooms – one for the princess, one for the kid, and "of course the two gentlemen will be sharing a room." Kurogane managed to miss the "of course" until it was already too late to object.
It wasn't that he objected to sharing a room with Fai. If there was no choice, he'd do it because it happened an awful lot of times and at least the mage slept quietly. But he objected to the "of course." There was no "of course." There was a "because we have no other rooms, the gentleman and the insane smiling creature will room" and that was all there was.
Fai still didn't care. In fact, Kurogane thought he saw another ghost of a smile pass those lips again, a triumphant little curving of the mouth quickly hidden by the usual vague one.
They'd all gathered in Fai and Kurogane's room after that, to discuss the next move. There was definitely a feather in this world, though there was no clue as to where it might be. It was agreed that they would split up and look for information, and return later to compare notes (Fai and Kurogane were paired only because the kids had to go together. It wasn't like Kurogane wanted to be stuck with the idiot all day, wandering the streets together. It was just the sort of thing that happened when you had four people and two were a couple).
Then Fai had said something stupid, again, and Kurogane had been forced to chase him around a bit in hopes of finally killing something and stupid Fai had dodged and ducked like he always did. Irritated, Kurogane had asked Fai if he knew what Kurogane was going to do to him, once the ninja got his hands on him.
He knew he shouldn't have asked when Fai reached over to cover the kids' ears before replying.
Once the bloodlust died down, they finally went searching for the feather. The only saving grace of the whole trip was that Mokona had opted to go with the kids, so Kurogane was alone with Fai (not that he wanted to be, necessarily, but one annoyance was still preferable to two and Fai was giving him those looks again, like he knew exactly which of Kurogane's buttons to push and was going to push every single one of them just because he could which was enough irritation in and of itself).
"Kuro-pon seems so tense," Fai told him as they made their way through the streets. The magician was practically skipping (not normal, definitely not normal, this man was insane damn it and why was Kurogane always stuck with him), while Kurogane slunk a few paces behind him, hating everything.
"Hmmph." Kurogane grunted in reply. He wasn't going to deal with this. If he didn't reply, maybe the magician would finally get the hint and shut up.
"Would you like a massage?" The words hadn't even left the magician's mouth before Kurogane felt hands running along his shoulders. A moment later the magician was draped over him, smiling in his usual brainless way.
Kurogane thought about murder, and reached for his sword.
"Oh! Kuro-rin's upset." Fai laughed, not even caring that he was staring his death in the face (the laugh was not at all appealing. Kurogane hated that laugh almost as much as he hated those stupid smiles).
"You bastard, if you don't get off of me--" Kurogane hissed. Fai laughed again and detached himself in one smooth motion.
"I'll go ahead, okay, Kuro-pin?" Fai said, skipping backwards. "I'll meet you back at the room!"
"Get back here!" Kurogane made to follow, then he noticed the stares he was getting from the crowd. Someone Kurogane couldn't see made a comment about "flirting in public."
Oh yes. Kurogane was going to have to kill everyone.
When he made it back to the room, Fai was not there. Syaoran and Sakura eventually appeared, having found a couple leads that could be followed up on in the morning, but Fai still didn't return. The sun went down, and still the magician remained missing.
Kurogane sat up in his room polishing his sword and waited. It wasn't that he was worried or anything. The stupid magician could handle himself, Kurogane knew that well enough. No matter how the man looked, with his thin frame and girlish hands and that soft blond hair and pale skin (and Kurogane was not having any thoughts at all about Fai's looks, it was just that the man was so out of place everywhere they went that it was impossible not to notice it), Kurogane knew he could handle himself in a fight. Fai was an idiot, but he wasn't a fool.
Though who knew what trouble the man had gotten himself into, in an unfamiliar place like this. He'd probably wandered off and found a bar and gotten himself stupidly drunk (or at least pretended to get himself stupidly drunk, though that seemed to be an event he saved specially for when Kurogane was around, and then of course Kurogane would stuck with the task of carrying the mage home and no, no matter what the idiot said, Kurogane was not doing it because he couldn't keep him hands off Fai and he was not touching anything he shouldn't be touching and he had definitely been spending too much time with the stupid magician because he kept hearing that ridiculously cheery voice in his head making perfectly innocent bloodthirsty thoughts seem much more disturbing). Knowing the idiot, he was probably passed out somewhere, draped over some random stranger and making stupid noises and irritating someone else for once.
For some reason, Kurogane found himself gripping the handle of his sword a little harder when he thought about that. Probably just residual traces of his desire to split Fai open with it, Kurogane decided.
Well, if the magician was in trouble, that was his own fault. It wasn't Kurogane's job to play white knight and swoop in every time Fai got himself into trouble. The idiot would just have to stop pretending and actually defend himself for once, like Kurogane knew he could. Fai was perfectly capable of saving himself, once he stopped play-acting. It wouldn't be so easy for someone to take advantage of Fai. There was nothing for Kurogane to worry about (not that he was).
There were ways to trap the idiot. Fai could be outnumbered. He didn't usually fight alone, after all, because Kurogane was usually there. Numbers could overwhelm Fai, if they were great enough. And the magician was just stupid enough that he might have gotten himself drunk or injured, and then he wouldn't be as fast, wouldn't be able to dodge like he normally did. And the idiot was useless against weapons, because he refused to use the only one he had. Against a sword Fai couldn't do anything more than avoid. He could have gotten himself into a brawl with armed men and been trapped. He could have gotten his stupid self into danger without thinking because he never thought because he acted like a dead man half the time and if that was the case then someone would have to save him and Kurogane wondered if maybe he should go find the idiot after all because that someone was almost always him and if he was going to have to rescue the stupid magician anyway he might as well go now and save some time.
And there was that person Fai was running from, the one Kurogane knew almost nothing about except the name. If that person had arrived, Fai would keep running like an idiot until he was caught at last, and then things would likely go very badly for him. The thought made Kurogane tense up (but only because he didn't want someone else to get the pleasure of killing Fai. That was it. He'd earned the right to kill the little bastard, that was all. He wasn't going to let some guy take all the fun for himself, not when Kurogane had been suffering in the mage's company for who knew how long).
Still, it wasn't that Kurogane was worried. It would just be inconvenient, if Fai got himself damaged or killed. It would upset the kids. They'd never find the feathers and he'd never get home if everyone was upset like that. Otherwise he wouldn't care. He sheathed his sword and prepared to go find the idiot and drag him home by the sleeves of his stupid puffy coat.
That was when the door swung open and Fai sauntered in, looking perfectly fine and smiling in his usual brainless fashion.
"I'm back, Kuro-pi!"
"Where the hell have you been?" Kurogane demanded.
"Getting information," Fai told him pleasantly. "I met a man at one of the shops I went into and he seemed to know some things about Sakura-chan's feather, so we went to dinner and--"
"You just went out to dinner with some stranger?" Kurogane growled. "You're lucky you didn't get poisoned."
Fai started to reply, then stopped. A slow smile spread across his face, and Kurogane suddenly had a very bad feeling.
"Is Kuro-chan jealous?" Fai sounded far too pleased with himself.
"Of what?" Kurogane huffed. "Idiot. The kids were worried and it was getting on my nerves. You're lucky we didn't find the feather ourselves and leave you behind."
"Aw! Kuro-rin was worried for me!" Fai was definitely laughing at him now, Kurogane decided. Fai's eyes were bright and danced with amusement, and that only irritated the ninja more.
"Stop that!" He grabbed Fai roughly by the arm.
"Stop what?" The blue eyes were calm and serious now.
"That." He knew it was a stupid sort of answer, but Kurogane didn't care. "Don't you ever worry about yourself, idiot? Does the thought ever come up in your stupid, brainless head that maybe there might be danger in an unknown place? I'm not going to be the one left here to explain to the kids why you got your moronic self killed."
"I'm not going to get killed," Fai stated, but there was something hollow in his voice. Kurogane wanted to hit him again, to make him stop and be normal, damn it, just be normal once, without any smiling or stupidity or empty stares and hollow smiles and nothing there. Kurogane didn't think he'd ever hated anything so much as that false face.
"Then stop being an idiot," Kurogane said instead, because he was starting to have thoughts again and he was not under any circumstances going to allow himself to continue to have thoughts about Fai. Thoughts that did not involve any sort of slicing or killing or punching. Thoughts which were as not normal as the magician himself (something in the water here, too. There was always something in the water. He was never drinking again). "What would you do if you had been poisoned? Or if that person came after you?" Kurogane's eyes were cold as steel now, and he gave Fai only a moment to compose himself before he said the name. "If your Ashura came after you, and you were alone."
"But I wouldn't be alone." Fai looked Kurogane full in the face and smiled. It wasn't one of his usual smiles – it was rough and sharp, and for a moment Kurogane had the wild thought that if Fai could wield a sword the way he did a smile, then the ninja might have found the sort of opponent he'd always longed for.
They stood that way for a moment, face to face, sharp eyes trying in vain to stare down the sharper smile, and then Fai broke away and wandered away in a slow, dancing sort of circle, swinging his hands behind his back.
"Kuro-sama would be with me, so I wouldn't be alone." Fai's smile was bright and cheerful again, and Kurogane felt as though he'd just missed something important, though he'd be damned if he asked the idiot magician what.
"Whatever. Don't do it again." Kurogane turned away. He'd had enough of this conversation anyway.
"Say, Kuro-tan." Fai spoke again, and Kurogane glanced up to look at him. The stupid magician was looking at him out of the corner of his stupid, lying blue eyes and there was a sly smile on his face. "Do you know what I'm going to do to you, if I ever get my hands on you?"
"You aren't trying to catch me, idiot," was what Kurogane was about to reply, but he'd only gotten two words out when suddenly Fai's lips were on his and Fai's hands were roaming around his body and it felt much better than it should have.
And Kurogane would have pulled away, because Fai was an idiot and Kurogane had no time for him and he didn't care how those hands felt on his skin and how that mouth felt on his and he objected to everything about the man, everything, he really would have pulled away, because all there was between them was in the ball of fluff that was Fai's excuse for a mind and Kurogane wasn't going to be trapped just like that. He really would have pulled away.
Really. But it felt too good and his own head was buzzing with thoughts he refused to have, and so he just leaned into things instead, because there was no reason not to.
As it turned out, Fai really could do some very interesting things with his tongue.
Sakura was surprised that morning when she wandered down the stairs of the inn, Mokona wrapped securely in her arms, to find Syaoran sitting alone at a table with food in front of him. She hurried over to sit beside him, offering a quick thanks to the serving woman who placed a plate of hot food before her, and began to eat, nervously glancing back up the stairs.
She was just about to ask Syaoran when she heard voices float down from nearby and she turned to look as Fai and Kurogane descended the stairs together. The magician was talking animatedly and Kurogane was answering in what appeared to be monosyllabic grunts. Fai waved brightly and greeted her and Syaoran as he sat down.
"I'm glad Fai-san and Kurogane-san are all right!' Sakura leaned over to whisper to Syaoran. He looked at her curiously. "I think I had a bad dream last night. It was like I woke up in the middle of the night and I heard lots of noises coming from their room. I thought maybe they were being attacked and I wanted to help, but I just fell back asleep and I was so worried this morning! Did you hear anything, Syaoran-kun?"
For some reason, Syaoran choked on his food. Sakura wondered why his face looked so red.
Once she was certain Syaoran wasn't choking anymore, Sakura asked him again if he thought everything was all right between Fai and Kurogane. She wasn't completely certain all those noises had been a dream, and Kurogane had looked very angry yesterday when Fai went missing and they both did look awfully tired this morning, didn't they?
Syaoran glanced from her face to the scene across the table, where Fai was cheerfully attempting to feed an increasingly irritated Kurogane his breakfast.
He looked back at Sakura and calmly told her not to worry, it was simply that Kurogane and Fai were "the very best of friends."