Ah. Hello all! I am currently in the midst of re-writing this baby. I meant to go through and just post all the edited chapters at the same time, but then I kept getting discouraged becauase it seemed like such a daunting task... so I just went ahead and posted the first re-done chapter. These should comethrough fairly quickly as I'm only editing. Although... I believe I actually doubled chapter one in size... er... oh well.
Kurogane grumbled as he lifted yet another loose article of clothing from the living room floor. He didn't know why he put up with his damn roommate. The man was a total slob most of the time, and he was always so annoying. He was never around when Kurogane wanted someone to talk to, and he was always around when Kurogane didn't. It was impossible to get any schoolwork done with the man in the room, and his ability to get good grades without ever studying really got on Kurogane's last nerve. But… It wouldn't feel right to share a room with anyone else. As it was, he didn't know what he would do when he graduated this year, and there was no more reason to share an apartment with the music major. Would they simply… drift apart? Despite his utter hatred of every quirk that damn musician had, Kurogane didn't think he could handle that. His roommate had irrevocably and irreversibly managed to get under his skin.
The martial artist swore and threw an unsuspecting sock violently into the nearby laundry hamper. The hell was he moping about? He didn't need his roommate. He'd be just fine without the blond man. Even if he would lose his best drinking buddy. Even if it was hard to sleep without the sound of heavy, steady breathing in the adjacent bed. Even if each morning absent of those blue eyes became the worst day of his life… Damn it.
He threw the next article of clothing hard enough to knock the hamper over, and stood staring at the spilled laundry as he tried to gather his thoughts. Who was he even fooling anymore? Himself? He had never been very good at lying. Kurogane laughed darkly and stood the hamper back up again. There was no more escaping it. Despite all the odds, despite three years of being annoyed beyond all belief, Kurogane had fallen helplessly in love with the musician. It was a truth made all the more painful by the fact that he couldn't have him.
Kurogane had denied it—had feigned hate and tried to push the blond away for as long as his self control would allow. He hadn't wanted to admit that he was in love, let alone in love with the most obstinate, ditzy, frustrating person alive! But over the summer, he'd begun to come to terms with it. He came back to school ready to confess everything, saw those blue eyes again and hesitated. For three years, Kurogane had been nothing short of cruel to his roommate, not always undeservedly, but still. How could he possibly hope that anyone would want to go out with him after that? So he'd turned coward. It was better to be friends with the man he loved than to be rejected. He didn't think he'd be able to stand seeing pity or loathing on that face.
But then, just a few weeks ago, Ashura had made his move. Damn music theory professor. He should know to keep his hands off his students. And now Kurogane couldn't deny the jealousy churning in the pit of his stomach. He didn't know what to do. Should he say something, and risk ruining the strange friendship they had built over the years? Or maybe… was it better this way? The blond seemed so happy every time he said Ashura's name. Maybe it was for the best. Kurogane couldn't bear to take that happiness away from his friend, no matter the cost.
So he'd endured the burgeoning couple and the frequent dates and the obnoxious nicknames and he was starting to go mad. He spent most of his time moping these days. Unfortunately, one of his friends had noticed. Without even bothering to ask what the problem was, Souma dragged him off to the bar for some "cheering up." He really wished she hadn't. It had only served to make him more depressed, and give him a rather nasty hangover. Kurogane had woken up this morning to the blaring alarm, made an attempt to get ready to leave, and finally decided to cancel practice at the dojo. After that, he hadn't tried to get out of bed until three o'clock, and had been completely useless until just past dinnertime. Now he was stuck cleaning up their apartment haphazardly, all too aware that the person who usually cooked was still absent from the night before.
He had just finished putting the last shirt in the laundry hamper when the sound of the creaking door resounded throughout the living room. Slowly, the object of Kurogane's musings made his way through the doorway and collapsed languidly onto the couch. Kurogane paled as he watched the awkward, exhausted way his roommate slid into the room. He'd only seen that shuffle once before, and that was after a funeral. His heart jumped as theories ran wild through his thoughts. Had something happened to Chi? Kurogane was afraid to ask what was wrong, horrified of what could make the musician act like this.
Then he spotted the black eye, and all rational thought flew out the window.
"Fai? What the hell happened?" The man in question jumped before turning to regard Kurogane with wide eyes. He didn't seem to have noticed the dark-haired man was there. Kurogane's brow darkened. Fai's every motion screamed fear, and he didn't know what on earth could make the musician act that way. The tense seconds passed like hours before Fai managed to find his mask again. He forced himself to smile but it didn't reach his eyes.
"Kurogane! Didn't you have classes today? I thought you usually taught at the dojo on Saturdays." Fai's voice sounded wrong. It was had a hoarse quality to it that led Kurogane to believe the man had been crying. He didn't like the thought of tears in those eyes, but more than that he didn't like the way Fai was lying to him. Kurogane had long ago learned not to use Fai's expressions to gauge his emotions. Muscle tension and body language were much better indicators, and right now they were telling him Fai was hurt and afraid. Kurogane took all this in, and ignored the obvious attempt to change the subject. His stern expression remained unchanged. Fai wasn't going to just brush him off this time. It might have worked a few years ago, but he was used to Fai's tricks now. He had already been the victim of everything the man could possibly pull to get out of this situation and Fai knew it. His blonde companion eventually sighed, giving in to Kurogane's silent glare.
"You never were the type to let things go, were you Kuro-mu." Still, Kurogane didn't rise to the bait. Nicknames didn't truly bother him anymore, hadn't for a while. Fai was apparently too exhausted to think up some other manipulative trick.
The two sat together in silence, caught up in a battle of wills that might have been comical if it weren't so very tense. Then, without warning, Fai moved. He leapt off the couch, darting past Kurogane and making a run for the bathroom. Kurogane reacted almost before he realized what was happening. Hell no! Fai wasn't getting out of this one. He chased Fai half-way across the living room before the musician suddenly swayed and collapsed. Kurogane was by his side in an instant, earlier confusion and anger switched for soul consuming worry. He felt his heart racing in his chest as he helped the one he loved off the hard floor. Fai was weak and all too light against his shoulder.
"Fai…?" The martial artist tried to swallow, but his mouth was suddenly dry. "Fai, what's wrong?" A thousand different possibilities raced through his mind, each more ridiculous than the last. He'd never seen Fai act like this, not even when the blond was feverish did he allow himself to appear weak. Kurogane didn't know what to do as his roommate breathed too quickly and too shallowly beside him. Perhaps he should have checked for injuries or at least brought the musician back to the couch, but his thoughts seemed strangely absent. He continued to panic until Fai laughed darkly.
"I'm such an idiot, Kurogane. But you know that." Fai's tired, battered face looked up at him from his shoulder, and Kurogane felt his breath hitch at the self-hatred there. He'd never noticed how very much Fai loathed himself. What else had he missed about the enigmatic man? "You've known that right from the start. Such an… idiot…" As Fai's words trailed off, his head fell heavily to loll against Kurogane's chest and the crimson stain marring pail hair became blaringly obvious.
"Fai! C'mon Fai, don't fall asleep. You've probably got a hell of a concussion." Kurogane parted the hair carefully with his free hand and was glad to note that the wound would not need stitches. "Damn it Fai! Don't you dare fall asleep!" He shook the man to try and wake him up a bit, but only received a weak groan for his effort. Fai shifted against him and tried to take another step towards the bathroom.
" 'm gonna be sick." The small voice sounded more frightened that Kurogane had ever heard it, and spurred him into frantic motion. With almost no effort at all, he hoisted the thin frame beside him and carried the musician to their shared bathroom. He scarcely had time to brush back blonde hair before his injured love was retching into the porcelain bowl. Each heave shook his whole body, and Kurogane was afraid he would never stop.
He felt helpless. He knew he should say something, but condolences had never been his style and any kind of comfort now would just be embarrassing. Still, Fai's sudden illness eventually dissolved into sobbing and Kurogane couldn't bring himself to sit awkwardly by any longer. The martial artist threw his pride aside to awkwardly rub his roommate's shivering back. His mind raced frantically through all the things his mother used to do for him when he had been sick, but it had been so long that he couldn't quite remember. He abandoned his post for a moment to retrieve a washcloth from the cabinet, and set himself to wiping the tears and the evidence of sickness away. Fai leaned boneless against him as he worked and Kurogane worried over just how warm the man was. Should he try to get medicine now that it looked like Fai would keep it down, or should he continue his pathetic attempt at comfort?
The dilemma was solved for him when shaking hands were suddenly reaching for him, pulling him as close as they dared. The tears that had been dissipating earlier came back in full force, violently wracking Fai's willow-thin frame. Kurogane didn't know what to do. He just sat there with his arms wrapped awkwardly around the one he loved, too caught by surprise to do anything but watch Fai hurt. He felt like he was invading on something private, seeing Fai so broken and open and completely raw like this.
Eventually, the tears dwindled to nothing and the sniffling slowed to a stop. But by the time Fai had forced a smile back on his face, Kurogane could feel the rage burning deep within his chest, growing brighter with every stifled sob because someone had hurt his Fai like this. His arms fell uselessly to his sides as Fai pushed away. He could do nothing but look on as Fai used the sink to pull himself up off the floor, gaze sharp and unwavering. The musician was hiding it well, but he could see the way Fai was swaying ever so slightly on his feet. Still, the perfect grin was back on his battered face. Kurogane wondered just how much of a lie that smile had always been.
"Eh… sorry about that Kuro-tan. You must really hate me now, right?" The martial artist didn't let the words phase him, but he couldn't deny the sharp stab of pain at the thought of hating Fai. He ignored it and continued to glare from his place on the floor. He was going to find out who had hurt his roommate in such a way, and then he was going to make them wish they'd never been born. He was completely useless when it came to emotions and comfort and all that mess, but revenge was one thing he knew he could handle.
"Who was it, Fai?" That bright, deception of a smile faltered for a moment before coming back full force. Kurogane could see that Fai was planning ways to escape. The blond reached for the doorknob.
"I think my eye might need some ice. It's starting to feel a bit—"
"Who?" He demanded as he stood, backing Fai into the door and pushing it closed once again. The musician winced, eyes filling with the deepest kind of fear. Kurogane felt like a monster, seeing Fai look at him like that, but he had to get an answer now when Fai was weak and tired or he'd never know what had happened.
"Really, Kuro no need to get upset. It was just an accident." Listening to that voice, there seemed to be nothing but truth in Fai's words. But Kurogane could see the way Fai's eyes slid dishonest from his own, could see the fear still churning deep within. Even if he hadn't just sat next to the blond man as he cried he would have known that this was more than "just an accident."
"Fai." He growled, ignoring the way his roommate flinched away from him. "For once in your life, don't lie to me." He'd said the wrong thing. Fai's fear turned to resolute anger in moments, smiling mask coming back cool and dangerous as he shoved Kurogane away.
"It was an ac-ci-dent." He sang as he opened the door, voice light and jovial but his eyes anything but. Kurogane cursed himself and reached out to stop the man, hand closing around a pale wrist. He didn't expect to actually stop Fai. Despite looking like a complete pansy, the blond was actually pretty strong. Sure, Kurogane could beat him if he really tried, but he was too afraid of shattering that fragile frame to do any harm. So he knew Fai would be able to get away.
Which is why he was so surprised when Fai froze. The musician was doubled over and biting back a groan of pain by the time Kurogane had come out of shock enough to realize it. He gingerly lifted the injured wrist, internally berating himself for hurting Fai in any way. A nasty, hand-print shaped bruise stared back at him. Kurogane almost felt his heart stop before he realized the hand-print was a little too small to be his own.
"What. Happened?" He bit out once he could breathe again. Fai was shaking once more, swaying uneasily. Kurogane was pretty sure the idiot should be in bed right now, recovering, but he needed to have some answers before he could fix Fai up. Now that he was looking he could see the evidence of bruises creeping out at him from Fai's neckline and sleeves. He was going to kill whoever did this.
"N-not important." The blond was afraid again and this time Kurogane wasn't sure why. Fai had a habit of lying and being impossible, but he didn't usually put this much effort into one of his games. What reason could he possibly have to protect his attacker? Unless… Kurogane looked at the violent purple hand-print that stained his roommate's wrist and swore.
"I'll kill him!" He managed to choke out through the anger. He was half-way to the door when he felt those shaking hands trying to pull him back. Kurogane blinked away the rage that clouded his vision and looked to see just what had stopped him. Fai was standing there, leaning against the martial artist almost as much as he was trying to restrain him.
"Stop, please." He didn't think he'd ever seen the musician so desperate or afraid as those blue eyes stared frantically, searchingly into his own. "It's not… It isn't what you're thinking." Kurogane couldn't help the jealousy and the bitterness roiling black within his heart.
"Oh really? Then what the hell is it, Fai? Because I'm thinking he beat the shit out of you." The blond seemed to recoil as if he'd been physically hit before falling against Kurogane's chest. His breath was coming out in little puffs how, skin entirely too warm. He must have made himself sick with all this emotional trauma, injuries aside. The martial artist felt guilty for straining him further like this, but what else was he supposed to do? Just stand by and let this slide?
"It was my fault. You don't know anything about it so just—it's not important." Fai was almost always eloquent, but he was stumbling over his words now and Kurogane was really starting to worry about that head injury. He needed to get another look at it. Perhaps they should go to the hospital after all? But this needed to be addressed, and it needed to be done now.
"I'm calling Souma. She can look after you while I go teach that bastard a lesson." He muttered, half to himself, half to Fai. He wasn't paying attention to Fai's inane arguments. Head injury, after all; the blond was bound to say stupid things.
"Kurogane, please!" He could tell that Fai was getting more and more upset. The tears were coming back full force, and Kurogane couldn't help but feel guilty that he'd been the one to bring them out this time.
"Bastard's at his apartment right? I dropped you off there one time, so I'm pretty sure I remember—"
"Stop it!" Fai sobbed, knocking Kurogane's cell phone away when the dark-headed man made to call his classmate. He was all anger and despair and desperation and Kurogane couldn't keep his heart from hurting to see Fai like that.
"What the hell is wrong with you?!" He shouted, flustered and jealous and just wanting to hurt someone. "He hurt you! Why are you—protecting him!"
"Because I love him!"
They stood there for some time, both trembling with rage and hurt as those words echoed into silence. Kurogane finally managed to bite back his emotions, tearing his eyes away from that bright, furious gaze before lifting the blond in his arms. He couldn't possibly explain just how much hearing those words had ached, but they had drained the ire and the fight out of him. He felt like a gutted shell as he laid Fai on the mattress, wandering into the bathroom to find his first-aid supplies.
What could he say against those words? There was nothing, and he knew it. If he went after Ashura, he would hurt Fai. And maybe it would be better for Fai in the end, but he didn't think he could stand to see those blue eyes staring him down with cool hatred. More than anything, he wouldn't be able to bear that. Kurogane would do anything for the one he loved. Anything, but make himself hated.
"Don't fall asleep," he called as he stepped from the bathroom, bandages finally in hand. Kurogane closed his eyes, banished the self-hatred and the fury, and took a step forward. This was the beginning of something terrible—something he would regret. He just knew that it would get worse, and that he wouldn't be able to do a damn thing about it. It was going to kill him inside, probably Fai too.
He was right.