Warnings: Major Spoilers when you squint a bit; heavy violence and some language
Author's Notes: The rating really is for safety, as the violence could be considered sorta graphic. I haven't written anything this long in one hell of a long time.. Sprung out of a sudden fit of inspiration after reading fanfiction for weeks on end.
I woke up and I found that
I was sleeping on the couch
Cast away the
And a bit confused
Just trying to understand
If I was dreaming
I Hate It – ELLEGARDEN
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Fai stared at the tombstone he loved.
Once a year, when the snow was sleeping on the grass, coating everything in crystal, he would come here. The keeper of the graveyard had even given him an extra key, should he arrive when the gates were locked for the night. Fourteen times Fai had walked down the paths, left gray footprints in the perfect white, and placed a red rose tenderly on the gently sloping mound under the words:
Warrior of Strength
Rest Now in Peace
Things were so different with him gone, Fai had said many times to no one but himself. Such a small, petty thing took the man away; he didn't go down in the heat of an attack, as every soldier would want for a death. No, it was just after such a fight that Kurogane had stepped wrong, stumbled left, foot caught, and fell backwards onto the knife that cracked his neck and slit his throat.
Now and again, looking at the bathroom mirror, Fai would connect the color of his icy eyes to Kurogane's lips while the man had suffocated.
Every time, his stomach emptied itself. And every time, he would sob himself into heavy, sleepless exhaustion. Nothing would ever take the horrible memories away.
"And you still made me promise not to follow you," pale lips whispered against the freezing stone, said icy eyes closed, forehead pressed flush to the flowing script embeded in the face of the marker. Kurogane had used the very last ounce of his will to croak out that Fai was to live. Why he had been able to hear that and not the screams of the paramedics telling him to move, Fai would never know.
Not much was left of Fai from before it all happened. He didn't bother with fancy fake smiles or fill the silence with bubbly words. Honestly, more people would have been shocked had he kept up the facade.
They all knew what Kurogane had been to Fai.
The wind started to pick up. Lifting his head just enough, Fai glanced at the tops of the distant trees. Angry black clouds wrestled in the sky, rumbling with thunder and snapping with lightning.
Something sick twisted his gut and the ice swallowed Fai's pupils.
He shot up from kneeling like a spooked colt, scurrying back a few messy paces and marring the snow. There was no reason that the sight of a brewing storm should have frightened him so, but it did. Fai couldn't keep himself breathing straight; he was practically running to get out of the graveyard. Slipping to get inside of his car, Fai wrenched the key around and had the gas petal to the floor almost before the engine even had a chance to finish starting.
When he chanced a look at his rear-view mirror at a stoplight, the sky was flat and silver, as if the storm had never even existed.
"Good morning, Mr. Flourite."
Fai felt the ends of his mouth curl in the face of Sakura's bright smile.
"Good morning," he returned, tapping her softly on the nose like he always did, in some parody of older times.
Her smile grew before she hurried back down the hall to her office. Fai's icy eyes melted a little at fond memories the girl instilled in his head. Not only was Sakura the most diligent employee he had on staff, she was also one of his closest friends. She and her husband Syaoran had the kindest of hearts.
They were the ones who had been there for him at Kurogane's funeral.
If there was some way Fai could forget that whole affair, he would. It had been sunny – curse the sun for showing up on a day that all he wanted to happen was for it to rain. Well, Fai thought, maybe it had rained. He'd certainly cried himself dry when it was over.
Wandering along the aisles between tightly-packed cubicles, something caused Fai to look to his left. He halted, right in front of a large window. Flakes of glittering ivory fell down from the heavens.
And suddenly gravity lurched and the window dimmed and the raging wind returned and cruel laughter roared from those stained clouds and shook him to his very core. Fai teetered dangerously. Legs gone to pudding, he rocked forward with a heavy shudder. Panic tore through his body as moving in said way put him closer to the outside--
His nose smacked against the glass. Startling backwards, Fai blinked a few times at the innocent snow still fluttering out of sight below the floor. It was bright again.
It took a moment or so for him to restart his brain and turn away.
He walked though a haze. Something was very, very wrong. First at the grave, and now here; why was he seeing this storm? It wasn't real, was it? Why did it keep disappearing? Why did it scare him beyond all mortal reason?
Fai's head snapped up. He barely remembered sitting down at his desk, but there he was. Ashura, his second in command, stood in the doorway, silent concern plainly written in his navy gaze.
"Accounting is throwing a fit again," he continued, words in their normal soft but confident tone. "Subaru apparently erased the returns on a lot of the invoices, and they're having problems getting them back." -- a pause; Ashura became softer -- "Would you like me to handle it? You look very tired."
A look of weary appreciation crossed the ice of Fai's expression, and Ashura responded with a knowing smile and slight nod before retreating. Leaning back to consider the ceiling, Fai heaved a deep breath through his nose. Ashura could always see what was wrong, and never hesitated to point it out.
But he also took care of Fai's well-being – even if Fai found it to be a fault in the other man.
After a moment or so, he placed his focus on the stack of new invoices peering at him from his desk. Thankfully, the process of approving them tended to be a rather mindless task. It would let him lose himself for a while.
It was still snowing by the time he left work. Fai parked in the driveway, carefully picking his way towards the front door of his one-story home. He called out as he nudged his way inside.
There was an enthusiastic mewl and dainty thud as the white cat rushed over from the couch to tangle around his shins. With a rare laugh, Fai bent and scooped Mokona into his arms, petting the animal as it nuzzled into the blond ponytail of his hair. Fai smiled warmly and cooed while heading to sit at the dinning room table. Mokona purred kitty gibberish behind his ear as if Fai could understand. They'd been together for five years; he still hadn't learned to speak feline.
Not much had changed in the house in five years, either. Fai liked where things were placed, and found no reason to move them around. He was prone to go on shopping sprees, but most of what ended up buying was edible. Only one large thing had ever changed:
He forcefully shook himself out from going down that train of thought again. Fai was enjoying to at least pretend he knew what his cat was chattering about, when abruptly, he cried out and shoved the animal away. Mokona skittered over the wooden surface, claws leaving deep gashes where they dug into the table.
Tripping over his chair to get away, Fai's back hit a wall as he clutched at the side of his neck. Icy eyes came to taut attention at the deep and threatening whine that issued forth from his cat. Set ready to lunge, Mokona pinned Fai with a smoldering onyx stare, powerful and deadly like the onset of a tornado. Red was dripping from his hands to stain the collar of his shirt; Fai found he couldn't move.
With a jolt, the world was fine again. Instead of eying its master like a predator going in for the kill, the cat was cowering at the far corner of the room. Sluggishly, Fai realized he wasn't hurt or bleeding at all.
The moment his thoughts rearranged themselves back into a coherent line, he quickly went towards his Mokona, murmuring fervent apologies; "Oh, Mokona, I'm so sorry, I.. I don't know what came over me..."
With a sad sound, the cat leaped back into Fai's embrace. He cradled his pet lovingly against his chest, settling down in the corner for the time being. Before Fai could try to figure out just what was happening to him, the phone pulled him back to reality.
He still held Mokona while answering. "Flourite residence."
"Fai? Are you alright? You sound like you are upset..."
"I'm okay, Chii," he replied, mouth twisting into a relieved ironic smile. If anyone could read him like a book, it would always be his ex-wife. "Are you? Do you need something?"
Chii had known him since they were children. Their two years of marriage had been peaceful and reassuring. However, both of them knew in the dark spaces of their hearts that it wasn't meant to last. Surprisingly enough, or at least surprising to Fai, Chii had somehow been overlooked when a year after the divorce, Kurogane turned up in the city – and tossed Fai's life upside-down.
"Mm, I was wondering if you could take me to the airport tomorrow. Mama says that she needs some help around the house," she elaborated.
"Of course. What time?"
"Around noon would be the best. I would like to get there a little early."
Chii's smile could be heard; "Thank you, Fai."
It made him smile back; "You're welcome."
They hung up at the same time.
His whole body ached when he woke up. A look at his clock told Fai he had an hour before he'd need to start out on the road to get to Chii's apartment on time. Giving Mokona a gentle pat on the head where the cat still snoozed on the other side of the bed, Fai shifted to stand. He groaned a little as his head throbbed and legs protested and back fussed about being upright again. Fai forced himself to the bathroom before he could decide to lay back down.
Tugging off his clothes, he flipped the shower on as hot as it could go before stepping under the spray of water. Scalding, but Fai needed it more than it stung. Steam filled the room, making it slightly hard to breathe.
Fai had always been a morning person. Thus, sleeping in always left him groggy and unwilling to do anything for the day. Most people found that cold showers would snap them out of it; Fai was next to immune to the cold – only when he was being burned by the tap could he pull himself back to awareness.
That didn't mean that didn't take a while, sometimes.
Strong arms tenderly slipped around from behind to envelop him. Now lost in a dizzying heat, Fai sighed and leaned back into the familiar, solid chest he knew was there. A burning tongue traced the inner pattern of his ear, causing Fai to arch with moan.
"What is it with you and ears," Kurogane's rumbling voice smirked at him.
Something clicked and Fai opened his ocean blue eyes.
He was slumped back in the tub, shirt and pants still on him, getting soaked by the lukewarm drizzle of the shower-head. Frowning a little, Fai hoisted himself to his feet and turned off the water. Strange... he didn't remember falling asleep again.
The red quality of his hands and feet signaled he really had indeed gotten his molten shower for the day. He wrung out his clothing before stepping onto the bathroom tile, unconsciously keeping himself from glancing at the mirror. His watch, sitting face up on the ceramic edge of the sink, told him he now had half an hour to get going.
Fai went to grab his second sock, only to find it missing. Tapping the counter thoughtfully, he almost turned around, when said sock was dangled down in his face from behind. He half glared at the tan fingers holding it there.
Something clicked and Fai opened his ocean blue eyes.
And he blinked. The soft sheets of the bed were cool on his naked back. He sat up slowly, scanning the room and taking his time with it. Hadn't... he just been in the bathroom? And where was his shirt? Fai called upon his clock again to find it the same time as when he first woke up – an hour to leave. His brows crawled together and knitted in confusion.
He'd been dreaming?
Like a kick to the ribs, Fai grimly realized that because Kurogane had been there, he had to have been dreaming. Nausea blindsided him and he fought to push it down. He didn't have time to get sick right now, he had to pick up Chii in an hour and he still had things he needed to do.
Staggering into the bathroom, Fai closed the door, stripped off his sweatpants, and soaked in hot water all over again. There was a strange, tight feeling in his lungs that was making him anxious. Just before he could step out, a flat, smooth surface was pressed to the skin of his abdomen.
"Let's see how you like to be killed," Kurogane snapped from behind.
The ocean drowned out the black center as Fai's eyes widened.
In one deft movement the knife spun and --
Fai toppled out of his chair and hit the floor with a loud thwack.
He practically gaped as Ashura came running over to him.
"Are you okay?" the man asked in distress, helping Fai up. All Fai would do was stare at his office door. Work? Why was he at work?
"Wh... What day is it, Ashura?"
"What day is it?" he pressed.
The man gave him a very puzzled look. "It's the 23rd... Are you sure you're okay? Did you hit your head?"
Twenty-third? No, no, Fai told himself, it had just been the twenty-fourth, he'd just woken up and taken a shower, he was supposed to go pick up Chii--
Something clicked and Fai opened his ocean blue eyes.
Back against the bathroom counter, he was dressed and ready to go. An unsteady glance at the watch on his wrist told him it was the 24th of February, and he now had fifteen minutes until he needed to leave and get Chii.
Today was shaping up to be one very unsettling day.
Fai's ex-wife gave him a cozy hug. "Thank you, again."
He returned it easily. "You're welcome." -- Fai pulled back -- "I can pick you up, if you'd like, as well."
Chii's smile grew ten-fold. "That would be very nice, yes, thank you. I will call when I think I might be leaving and tell you when to be here."
"Sounds like a plan," he agreed with a little smile of his own.
"Good-bye!" she called over her shoulder with a wave.
"Bye," Fai echoed, watching her until she was lost to him in the crowd.
While he felt like he'd been hit by a truck, Fai still drove to work. He hadn't been able to finish all the invoices before Ashura had shooed him away. Sometimes Fai wondered if he let the man get away with a bit too much.
Just as he pulled into his parking space and set the brake, he instantly wanted to leave. Desperation started to claw at Fai's throat, making the world spin like a top. With an airy gasp, his head plunked against the steering-wheel.
A large, comforting hand rested between his shoulders. Fai relished in the contact. Going next to boneless, he opened his mouth... then froze.
Jerking upright, Fai blinked.
The car was empty save for himself.
"You need to go home, Fai."
He almost scowled. Ocean blue eyes flickered up to study the speaker of the words. Ashura was giving him a stern, unmovable look, arms folded. Straightening his back, Fai laced his hands on top of the invoice he had been mulling over.
"'Fine' is a trick word. No one who says they are 'fine' means it."
"Ashura..." he drawled, pinching the bridge of his nose.
"Go home, Fai."
"There's nothing wrong with--"
That stopped him. Slowly pulling his hand from his face, Fai was rather stunned to realize that he was, indeed, shaking. Probably having seen his dumb-struck expression, Ashura silently came to stand in front of Fai's desk. The man leaned forward, softly taking Fai's fingers and holding them between his palms. Fai glanced up somewhat hesitantly.
Ashura offered him a worried half-smile, voice softening once more into normalcy. "I can hold down the fort for a while. Go home and take it easy."
It didn't take anymore prodding; Fai was agreeing with him. The last couple days were causing him to come unglued. Ashura gave him a small push on the back outside, before ducking back into the building.
Truth be told, though, even if earlier he'd had a bit of an episode, the drive soothed him a good deal. Fai found his mind becoming more and more relaxed with each minute that slid by. He really didn't think he'd need that much of a break by the time his mailbox came into view.
But as soon as he walked in the front door again, Fai felt his energy leave him. He barely made it to the couch before collapsing on it with a gasp. There was no fighting it when his eyelids clamped down, and before he knew it--
Oceans blinked open.
Chii studied him intently, concerned. "You stopped talking all of a sudden.. Are you sure you are alright?"
...where in the hell?
Glancing about him quickly, Fai felt adrenaline speed his blood while he acknowledged that he was still standing outside the airport terminal.
The oceans came to a standstill.
Something clicked and Fai opened his sky blue eyes.
With a curse, he stumbled two steps away to get his face out of the blistering liquid being thrown on it. Gingerly rubbing his eyelids, he sank down to his rear. It was hard to breathe.
He eased his hands away from his view.
Fai was sitting in his shower again.
"Chii... would it be alright if I paid for a cab to take you to the airport instead?"
"...Fai, what is it?"
"Don't worry, I'm okay, just... feeling a little weird. I'm really not up to going anywhere today.."
"Oh.. okay, then."
"Do not be sorry, Fai. Just feel better. I will talk to you later."
"...thank you, Chii. Have a good flight."
"Thank you. Good-bye."
The phone clattered back into the holster. Fai, sitting on the edge of his bed, stared blankly at the carpet.
Nothing made sense anymore.
Going spread-eagle over the mattress, Fai let out a deep sigh. He was going to take it easy, just like Ashura said he should. A little time to himself, to unravel...
...wait, Ashura had been part of his dream.. hadn't he?
"It felt so real..." Fai mouthed, content with believing he was talking to Mokona still sleeping next to him.
His thoughts went in silent circles, tracing shapes in the popcorn ceiling. A flower, a small tree, a little fish; Fai felt the tension slowly leaving his body. The images started to change the closer he got to dozing off. There was Sakura-hime, smiling again; Syaoran-kun was looking at something very seriously; Chii reaching out to him, calling him home--
"Stay calm," Kurogane firmly ordered him, covering the mage's body with his own. Fai released a softer breath, nuzzling into a dark neck. "He's gone."
"Who's gone?" Either his ears were ringing or his voice was slurred, but he felt numb.
"That... Fei Wang bastard."
Fai awoke with a violent start. Mokona mewled in distress for its master. The cat slunk onto his chest and purred in an offer of comfort.
He sat up, dazed.
What just happened?
A loud clap of thunder ripped Fai back to the present. Rain was pouring from the sky, and the wind whistled as it rushed around the house. Terror forced Fai to scramble out of his bedroom, Mokona giving an angered hiss in the background. His knee smacked into the edge of the coffee table next to the couch and he lost his balance and lightning stole his sight.
He felt himself being shaken none too gently. Groaning at the pricks of iron pain that sprung up on his body, Fai struggled to see who was talking to him. But his eyes would only open so far, and everything was blurred.
"Come on you idiot, stay with me!"
Fai seized up as he was dropped on the ground with a vicious swear, yelling and the sounds of a fist fight reaching through to his pounding head.
No, no, no, this was all wrong, no, NO! He couldn't live this day twice oh please no not again--
But he was already gone again. Fai screamed at the sight of his lover lying prone on his back, eyes dead and glazed, the cruel pointed end of the knife still clutched in their attacker's equally dead hand gleaming red and half sheathed in Kurogane's windpipe. Wake up, he sobbed, other hands grabbing Fai's shoulders and pulling him away. The storm of his emotions was threatening to be the end of him. Don't leave again--!
It's dark behind his eyelids. It's very cold wherever he shifts. A crippling ache is squeezing all he has out of his heart.
"Fai-san please wake up..."
It echoes on in his skull before his brain makes sense that it's Syaoran speaking to him. Syaoran-kun is speaking to him. He wants to say something back, he wants to erase the devastated quality out of the boy and tell him to be strong for the princess..
A strange, wet slide of metal against something else finds his consciousness as well. Crunch, crunch nearer, crunch beside him, then a shuffle, and Fai is warm. He is suspended in the strongest, yet most merciful fold of arms and a sturdy chest that nothing else seems to matter anymore.
He can't keep his head up, Fai realizes, when it lolls towards his spine as he's held. In fact, he can't seem to move at all. His lack of control makes the arms around him tighten, and the mage feels as well as hears the sudden choked bark of:
Grief clutches at him.
The warrior is never, ever meant to sound so openly broken; Fai has to do something, he has to show that he's okay, he really is okay...
Though the mage almost doesn't achieve it, he opens the one sapphire left to him, an impossibly deep smoky sky with tiny angels of white hovering towards him the first thing he sees. Unable still to lift his head, he manages a strained noise of sympathy. Muscles against his own tense warily, as if uncertain to believe Fai did anything. There's a shift, the support of a hand cups the back of the mage's skull carefully;
When his face is lifted, and fire meets jewel, dreams are replaced by fact, and Fai remembers everything.
Up to what he last knew before it all went black..
He looked so angry...
Yet the single thing in those twin blazes that he can see now is a bone-crushing, hopeful relief, so overwhelming, Fai trembles under its power. Kurogane must feel his quaking, for he pulls him closer, tucking the blond head under his chin. The mage distantly hears Syaoran whisper a thank you, to who, he doesn't know.
While he tries to, Fai can't keep himself from shaking. He feels so weak, so drained, and he wishes he knew why. His magic reserves are next to completely drained, but he knows he didn't use any before he went down. Fai wants to ask what happened, wants to know everything he doesn't know about why.. why...
"You're safe." A shuddering breath stirs his hair. "I have you now, you're safe. Those bastards can't hurt you anymore."
Fai surprises himself by sobbing.
That's all he really needed to hear, wasn't it.
For what feels like the longest time, the mage weeps into the warrior's coat, large palms stroking down Fai's back in a sweet caress. The light touches and presses make Fai feel treasured; he's not being pushed away, even if somewhere in the back of his thoughts he believes he should be.
Kurogane is brushing away the cobwebs from the mage's soul, and giving him another chance at the life he should have had.
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- owari -
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