Disclaimer: These characters were hatched from the collective hive-brain known as CLAMP. Not mine.
Spoilers: No. This fic is set after the Shurano/Yamano world but before Rekoruto (aka "library world.")
Word Count: 2500 or so.
Notes: they're at a real café in a real city.You could consider it a part of the "Lost in Translation" storyline (this story assumes that Kurogane and Fai had a deep relationship while they were stuck in Yamano.)
Dedication: to owari (on LJ). Because she's a great writer and a sweetheart too.
The air was too damn sticky.
Kurogane tugged irritatedly at his shirt collar, which had fused to his neck again. Since he could not very well scowl at the air, Kurogane instead scowled at the man seated across from him. Predictably, he only received an infuriatingly cheerful smile in return. A powder-streaked one, to be precise: Fai was obsessed with the little sugar-covered sweet buns this café served. Beignottys, Fai had sagely informed them all earlier, gesturing towards the sign near the front of the café. Kurogane had not been impressed, and had muttered that he did not know why the café bothered with a menu: it only served the sweet buns and the type of disgusting drinks Fai loved. He'd held out blind hope, however, and had requested something- anything – that was cold and alcoholic from one of the employees. She'd blinked at him dumbly as if he were from another planet. (Although he supposed he was.) Kurogane thought he'd shown admirable restraint in not pointing out to her that it made a hell of a lot more sense to serve cold, alcoholic beverages in this temperature rather than hot chocolate and sticky buns.
Long, pale fingers crept stealthily over to Kurogane's plate of untouched beignottys under the cloak of falling twilight. Kurogane pointedly ignored Fai, turning his head to the side so he wouldn't have to watch the mage devour the disgusting things. Anything that came smothered in a mountain of sugar deserved to stay buried. Still, perhaps he ought to be grateful that the mage was too preoccupied to bother him for once. And the damned manjuu bun was gone too; it had scampered off after the brat and the princess when they'd left to investigate the statue of "Andry Jacky" in front of the large shrine across the street. Of course, the pest had tracked powdery paw prints all across the table top in its haste to catch up, but Kurogane found that a relatively small price to pay for its absence.
Kurogane exhaled slowly and leaned back in his chair, deciding to take advantage of the silence to survey his surroundings again, although he knew it wasn't necessary. They were in little danger from the natives of this world. Kurogane watched a pair of them from under half-lidded eyes as they got up from their table and made their way to the front of the café. Instead of promptly paying the cashier, they lingered, engaging the cashier in a meaningless exchange. When the pair finally finished yammering, they slowly sauntered down the street with all the speed of a pair of snails, even stopping occasionally to gawk at the oak trees that drooped massive limbs over the sidewalks. It wasn't just them, though: all the locals shared this idling, roundabout way of walking that suggested they were loathe to get anywhere in particular. No wonder Fai seemed to like this world so much.
Since the natives were so apt to linger, they'd had no trouble getting the natives to cough up information that they'd hoped might lead them to the princess' feather. Many of the locals even went so far as to accost them in the middle of the street as soon as they realized that the four of them (Mokona did not count) were "from out of town." They were surprisingly eager to talk compared to the people on some of the worlds they'd visited, and offered all sorts of advice about where to go and what to see and where to eat. Kurogane blamed one street musician in particular for his being dragged to this useless café; the trumpet player had mentioned sweets to die for so of course Fai had decided they must visit and had wheedled and cajoled until Kurogane gave in just to shut him up.
Fai had gushed about the locals' friendliness, but Kurogane suspected that they merely welcomed any distraction that delayed real work. And the friendliness hadn't been too productive for them yet. When asked about strange happenings, the locals took that as permission to prattle on about voodoo queens and haunted plantations and angry spirits left over from the "Civilly War." One wild-eyed woman had even warned them that under no circumstances should they visit any of the apparently popular cemeteries at night. With her teeth bared and hands curved into claws, she'd told them that vampires slept in the cemeteries by day but prowled them by night, looking for naïve tourists to drain of blood.
The brat, unsurprisingly, had found all the nonsense spewed by the locals fascinating and had even purchased a small notebook so he could scribble notes frantically while they prattled on. The idiot mage was content to merely watch these proceedings with amused eyes so Kurogane had to be the one to point out that cultural anthropology was all fine and dandy, but it really wasn't getting them any closer to locating the princess' feather.
Neither was wasting time in this stupid café, for that matter. Kurogane wondered how soon he could pry Fai away from the beignottys, preferably in favor of some place with air conditioning where they could come up with a better plan than "wander around and listen to the natives' stupid stories."
Then the cute brunette at the table across from theirs caught his eye with a sly smile. It wasn't the first time that evening she'd made eye contact with him, although Kurogane wasn't certain why she kept staring at him. He was dressed in what he assumed was normal native clothing – a black "tee-shirt" and a pair of "jeans;" they'd all swapped their clothes within an hour of arriving.
The brunette lifted her mug to her lips daintily and flicked her eyes to a point across from Kurogane. Of course. Kurogane mentally groaned as he unwillingly dragged his eyes to Fai. The man had finished demolishing the beignottys and was currently absorbed with doodling patterns in the remains of the powder with his finger. The woman probably thought was the damned mage was insane (which he was) and that Kurogane was his caretaker or nanny (which he was decidedly not.) "Fai," Kurogane hissed between his teeth, "didn't your mother ever tell you not to play with your food?"
Fai laughed lightly, a sound that carried through the breeze-less air. "Mother? Why Kuro-pod, didn't I tell you? I was hatched from an egg. And I'm not playing. I'm writing spells in the powder."
"Stop being an idiot. That woman over there is staring."
Fai finally looked up from the plate, blond hair spilling around his shoulders as he gave Kurogane that teasing, knowing look he'd grown to despise. "Silly Kuro-sama, surely he's used to pretty women flirting with him, yes? He's quite handsome."
Kurogane growled and slapped his hand on the flimsy table, which shuddered under the sudden weight. "No, she's staring at you because you're an idiot."
Another wry smile, and an arched eyebrow. "I don't think she's been crossing her legs for my benefit, Kuro-rin. It's a shame, though, her legs really are quite pretty, and here meanie old Kuro-tan hasn't even noticed all her effort. "
The ninja knew he shouldn't ever ever listen to anything Fai said, but the mage's words had a way of worming their way into his brain until they drove him nuts. Reluctantly, Kurogane glanced out of the corner of his eyes at the woman. She smiled when she realized he was looking, and shifted her legs so that her skirt slid across them tantalizingly. Kurogane felt heat rush to his cheeks and automatically ducked his head, swearing silently at himself: Fai was going to torment him mercilessly.
"Aww, Kuro-pup is so cuuute when he blushes! Tomoyo-chan must have had to beat the women off of you with a stick - or was that Souma-san's job?"
Kurogane sputtered in incoherent rage, but Fai ignored him and propped his chin on his hand as he appraised the brunette critically. "She's really not bad-looking, although she could do a better job with that fake-tanning stuff. It's uneven, but I suppose it will wear off eventually so maybe we shouldn't count that against her... oh, she's writing something! A love note? Ooh, lucky Kuro-sama! She really likes him: she's trying to slip Kuro-bin her celly-phone number," Fai whispered, leaning conspiratorially close to him.
The woman had indeed written a series of numbers on a scrap of paper and prominently angled it against her coffee mug. Apparently satisfied that he had read the number, the woman stood up and winked as she sauntered past their table on her way to the front of the café.
Kurogane did not care that she was leaving. Frankly, he wouldn't care if one of the cemetery vampires attacked her right outside of the café and drained her to the last caffeinated drop; he was not in the habit of "hooking up" with strangers - especially when he'd very recently been involved in an intimate relationship. But maybe, Kurogane admitted to himself, all that had happened on Shurano hadn't meant a damn thing to Fai, and this was Fai's infuriatingly oblique way of telling him to get over it. The mage certainly had made no effort to continue that relationship ever since they'd been reunited with the kids although Kurogane had gone out of his way to provide opportunities for them to be alone together. He'd even magnanimously ignored the majority of Fai's irritating babble just to reassure Fai that he didn't mind (mostly) that he could completely understand Fai again.
Fai continued idly swirling his finger around the plate, completely oblivious to Kurogane's thoughts, that self-satisfied grin still plastered on his dumb face. Kurogane could feel the skin across the bridge of his nose growing taut, the way it always did when he was getting really pissed off, so he glared at the ceiling fans swishing lazily overhead. Because that was better than staring at the damned mage and thinking about how much he'd like to see his hands wrapped around that scrawny neck right now (and the only reason that would be bad is because it would really upset the brat and the princess.)
"I've made Kuro-sama angry." Fai had the decency to at least sound remorseful.
"How the hell did you think that I would take it? I don't understand you and your dumb games at all: first you ignore me for weeks, then you pull this." Kurogane jabbed his hand in the air violently towards the woman's table.
With a sigh, Fai shook his head. "I keep forgetting... just because we can understand everything again doesn't mean we actually understand each other. It's funny: all those months in Yamano, whenever I had trouble speaking to you, I thought 'wouldn't it be so much easier if Mokona were here?' But now, sometimes I find myself wishing that we were back in that place..." He reached across the table and placed his fingers across Kurogane's hand, and Kurogane wanted to jerk his hand away but somehow he couldn't because the mage was actually being frank with him. Fai stroked his thumb across Kurogane's hand, rubbing tiny circles into the skin. "Where I'm from, if a person teases another person like this, it just means that the relationship is healthy enough for teasing."
Kurogane wished that Fai's skin on his didn't feel as good as he'd remembered. "How can you think that our... relationship is strong when you ignore me?" he asked quietly.
"Ah... I thought I was giving you space, to get used to understanding me again and to being around the kids. I didn't want to push you."
"If I'd wanted space, I would have asked for it," Kurogane huffed, but he felt relieved. Relieved that they'd just been missing each other's signals again because the mage was from an insane world with insane customs. "And I bet that woman wouldn't call me idiot names all the time," he growled, knowing Fai would recognize the complaint as a sign of forgiveness.
Fai gave him a coy gaze from under lowered eyelashes. "That's why I didn't mind that lady flirting with my Kuro-pon, even though Kuro-chi likes pretty women too. She can't give him any names, so how could she keep him?"
"What the hell are you going on about now? There's nothing special about your stupid nicknames, except that they're as demented as you."
"Since Kuro-wan's princess knows magic, surely he knows a little about the magic of words," Fai said, his voice acquiring that low and entrancing tone he reserved for those rare occasions he spoke of magic. "If you can name something, a connection is formed between you and it. And if you can give another person even one name, that's a powerful bond indeed. But I've given Kuro-rin"--here Fai paused for emphasis and looked at the plate-- "exactly one-hundred-and-three names as of today. Three of them I came up with while she was wasting her time making eyes at you."
Kurogane looked at the plate and saw that Fai had indeed scrawled several new mutations of his name into the powder, and he thought he would have laughed at Fai's silly story except that there was something about the way Fai was looking at him and the way Fai seemed to glow under the soft outdoor lights with his blond hair and pale skin and white shirt. And the way Fai's fingers were now curled over his hand. Possessive. Kurogane realized with a start that he didn't mind because if Fai were feeling possessive then that meant he actually cared.
"Do you know, Kuro-pinta, that there are only two people I've ever given so many names to?"
"Oh, there's someone else you like to torture as well? I feel sorry for the poor bastard," Kurogane tried to project annoyance but failed miserably since Fai had just plunked himself down into his lap and curled cool arms around his neck.
"Unlike silly Kuro-tan, my pet has good taste so of course she appreciates my beautiful names properly."
"Your pet? Am I your pet too?" Kurogane demanded, recalling Fai's favorite nickname for him. He suddenly had a horrible mental image of the mage chasing him with a collar, complete with identification tags ("But Kuro-wankooo! If you get lost then how will people know who you belong to?").
"Only if you want to be." Fai whispered huskily, and then his lips brushed against Kurogane's neck and Kurogane shivered and pulled Fai closer.
Closer, because the sticky heat really was more tolerable now that he had an idiot mage with cool skin sitting in his lap.
The end. If you have any comments, feedback is much appreciated. :)