Errr... Hi? *is hit by debris* DON'T HURT ME!

Back to the ultra-extreme overhaul of this... monstrous beast. I went ahead and took the oldest chapters off because every time I look at them it actually makes me sick to my stomach to see how horrible I used to be at writing. /shudder

So anywho, this is a revamped version of Kuro's meeting with Chi. Hope you like it better. /bow

It allways impresses me that there are still people reading this who started waaaay back when it began... thank you for bearing with me for so long! It must be tiresome. :)

Anyway, tell me what you think? Critiques are apreciated as always.

(Current as of 4/19/11)

Two days. Two days he'd been stuck in this whitewashed hell, with nothing to do but stare at his linen-wrapped hands and fall prey to the demons of his own mind. Two days of waiting on a razors edge for those too-blue eyes to open. Two days of no sleep, and hospital food, and the ceaseless beeping of equipment he didn't understand. Two fucking days, and Fai had not so much as twitched.

Kurogane shifted in the stiff chair, dragged in from the waiting room, and tried to keep his leg from going to sleep again. He knew this was stupid. There were a thousand other things he could probably be up doing right now that would be more helpful to Fai than sitting here staring at his pale, unmoving face. He should have contacted their college's guidance office to explain the situation. He should have gone back to the apartment to gather a couple changes of clothes… maybe some movies or school books. Even after he woke up Fai'd probably be stuck here a couple days, and as Kurogane knew from experience, the idiot got bored easily. Hell, he should have found an empty room somewhere and gotten a decent night of sleep. It wasn't like he'd be of much help to anyone zonked out on painkillers and completely exhausted like he was.

But…. Even if he knew those things, he couldn't bring himself to leave Fai's side now. The nurses and doctors had tried to move him a couple times, telling him the blond would be ok. One look at his unnatural eyes had silenced them. How could he possibly leave, with the memory of that night still terrifying him every time he so much as blinked? He hadn't been able to stop it. He'd never have even known anything was wrong if Fai hadn't managed to call him. Fucking… Fai had almost died, and all Kurogane had been able to do was pick up the pieces after all the damage had already been done, praying like hell that he wouldn't lose the one he loved for real this time. There was no one he could punch, no targets to destroy that could fix it. He was fucking powerless in all of this, and he hated it. What was there to do but sit here, watch, wait, and make damn sure that it never happened again?

Except that wasn't the case, was it. Because this very well could happen again. Fai would wake up, (and he would wake up, goddamn it) and it would take all of five minutes for him to return to his usual, "I'm an adult, I'll make my own decisions" self. He'd be angry at Kurogane for caring at all, let alone ready to go along with some kind of twenty-four hour surveillance plan. There wasn't any real way to keep Fai safe. He couldn't follow the blond absolutely everywhere like a demented shadow, or tie him down and forbid him to ever leave the apartment. In his wildest, most hysterical moments he thought he might just go kill the fucking bastard that did this with his own two hands. At least that way, he'd know this could never happen again. Sure, he'd go to jail and Fai would absolutely loathe him, but it wasn't like he'd ever believed he could have Fai anyway. The least he could do was make sure that idiot had some kind of chance for happiness in the future, whether he liked it or not. Even the pain of Fai hating him had to be better than the sinking, world-stopping agony of the last couple days, wondering if the one he loved was even going to live.

Kuro cursed and clenched his abused hands tighter. This wasn't like him. He wasn't some kind of traumatized schoolgirl. He could let himself fall to pieces later—after Fai was awake and really okay and didn't need him to be strong any longer. He shook his head and tried to banish the image of Fai sitting broken and blue-tinged against the cold glass. He refused to think about that right now, but try as he might, his thoughts kept wandering back to it. The lack of sleep and the stress were making him weak, as he knew they would.

Damn it.

"Just fucking wake up already, you stupid musician." His voice was rough and loud against the silence of the hospital room, but lacked any real venom. He was just sleep-deprived enough to reach over and brush a stray lock of hair away from his friend's wan face, tracing those features softly as he did. "I swear I'm going to start burning a page of your sheet music for every minute you keep me waiting here… serves you right for leaving it around the living room like that anyway." Kurogane mumbled, wondering if this was proof that he'd finally lost his mind. His hand didn't stop its gentle motion though, and it was nice to feel Fai's breath against his fingers, reminding him that his idiot was really still here and still alive.

"…thank you." The words reached him just seconds before the door opened, and Kurogane was on his feet and between Fai and the unknown threat before he even knew what he was doing. He was already in a stance for one of his best defensive forms, adrenaline pumping through his veins when his roving eyes found the tiny girl in the doorway.

"Mr. Kurogane?" She stopped to look him over, grimacing. He knew he must have looked a mess if an 8th grader could glance at him and start worrying. The martial artist in question just sighed and tried to calm his heart-rate back down. He didn't know what he'd expected to come through that door, but Chi wasn't it.

"How many times do I have to tell you, kid? It's just Kurogane." He replied to her automatically, dropping back into his chosen chair. She looked too much like her brother just then; all sunshine and sharp edges until it hurt to look at her. So Kuro didn't.

"Should I get another chair?" She asked him quietly, more timid and serious than he was used to seeing her. Well, of course she was, Kurogane chided himself, she'd heard what happened, hadn't she? Her beloved brother was in the hospital, so of course she'd… "Kurogane? Are you ok?" Unnatural red eyes flicked up to meet soft, doe brown. She was looking at him with that terrifying, Fai-like concern and it was positively haunting. Why was she looking at him like that? He wasn't the one lying dead still on the hospital bed. He didn't deserve her concern.

"Sorry kid, they put me on something and I'm not quite right in the head. What did you say?" Let alone that he hadn't taken a dose of the damn stuff all day. The truth was that his sanity was slipping, but he couldn't tell her that for obvious reasons.

"Put you on something…? Why did they—" He flashed her a glimpse of his messed up hands and prayed she'd drop it. Having her worry over him when Fai was so much worse off seemed like a sick joke. "I—I'll be right back." She chimed before going right back out the door, closing it behind her as softly as she could. Kurogane turned back to his unconscious charge as soon as the faint click faded.

"Don't tell me you're just going to sleep the whole time, dork. Your sister came to visit, and you're just going to make her watch you breathe? It's not that exciting, let me tell you." It struck him suddenly that talking to an unconscious person and trying to tease them into waking was a very Fai-like thing to do. Maybe he was just trying to fill the awful, Fai-shaped hole in his heart with some kind of normalcy. Whatever it was, he was well aware that he looked like an idiot doing it. That didn't mean he could stop.

"First thing you should do when you wake up is fix your hair. You look pretty dumb." Kurogane tried to tease, but he could hear how awkward the words sounded falling from his lips. Regardless, the statement was true. He supposed he'd gotten used to seeing that ridiculous, tiny ponytail Fai insisted on keeping. Now he just couldn't deal with the sight of that all that hair splayed haphazardly against the too-white pillows. Kuro threaded his fingers through unruly, blond locks without thinking and tried to arrange them into some semblance of normalcy as he talked. "I'm serious about the music burning thing, you know. You're already up to at least 10 pages. You're just lucky I can't count straight enough to know the exact number at the moment." Fai's hair had a mind of its own, it seemed. He'd only managed to make his friend look more ridiculous. Kurogane gave up after only a few more minutes, but he left his hand pressed to Fai's left cheek where he could just feel the faint stir of air every time the musician exhaled. He tried to tell himself he wasn't womanishly hysterical for needing that kind of reassurance.

"C'mon, idiot. I'd even let you call me a nickname. The most ridiculous, girly one you can think of." He paused for a moment, because somehow he expected Fai to spring up then and call him the most outrageous, outlandish, unbearable name he possibly could. The dork would probably smile and say he'd really been awake several hours. That he'd faked sleep just to see what he could get Kurogane to say. Then Kurogane would get angry and stew about how annoying his roommate was, and Fai would poke and prod and call him stupid names until he was ready to scream, and everything would be normal and safe and wonderful again.

…and then Kurogane woke up. He managed to pry one eye open in time to spot Chi stumbling though the door. She was trying to balance a cup of what looked like coffee and drag in a waiting room chair at the same time.

"Kid, what on earth are you doing?" He moaned, voice cracking with the strain. He couldn't have slept for more than a couple minutes just now, but his neck was still stiff to the point of pain when he tried to move it.

"Ah! I'm sorry Kurogane, I didn't mean to wake you up," she almost-whispered as he took the chair out of her hands and placed it beside his own at the head of the bed. Just standing up took a lot more effort than it should have, and the weight of the damned chair against the stitches of his right hand was enough to make his arm shake. It only served to make him feel even more helpless. He was struck with a sudden wave of longing for his dojo—where he was confident and powerful, and he knew what right and wrong meant. Maybe after he was sure Fai was okay, he could just go spend a whole day training until he was numb with pleasant soreness.

But that's never going to happen, is it? How will you ever know he's okay again?

Fucking thoughts. He wished they'd shut up.

"It's fine, Chi. I didn't want to be asleep anyway," he groused, collapsing boneless back into his chair and closing his eyes. From the slight rustling he could hear beside him, he guessed Chi had seated herself in a more lady-like fashion.

"Here I brought you—" And here he knew she'd finally been able to catch a full glimpse of Fai's battered form, because she suddenly had to gasp for air. "I… I brought you some coffee." It took her a full minute to remember to finish her sentence, and even then, her voice was significantly higher, still a little shaken. Still, he thought she'd fared admirably well. It was more than Kurogane could have managed. He was pretty sure when they'd first shown him in here he'd just sat and stared for hours, praying that none of this was real—that it was all some kind of realistic, twisted dream. But Fai had still been there every time he blinked, looking beaten and broken and so fucking lifeless with all those wires and tubes hooked into him… It was hard to process. He didn't think he was quite done processing it yet.

"How much do I owe you?" He took the steaming cup from her outstretched hand without really looking at her. He didn't think he was being too rude. She couldn't seem to stop staring at Fai either.

"I didn't pay anything, the lady just handed it to me." Kurogane glanced at her sidelong, his pride forcing him to be skeptical, but there was nothing dishonest in her too-serious, cherubim's face. He had to remember that this was Chi, not Fai. He didn't think that girl could lie if her life depended on it. Shrugging, he gave in and took a sip of the dark liquid. It tasted disgusting, but it was hot and it would wake him up. That was all he cared about. He focused on the way it burned down his throat, using the bitter taste of it to anchor himself to reality. Chi was so quiet at his side that he'd almost forgotten she was there when she started talking again.

"He—He's going to be ok, isn't he? They told me downstairs that he was fine, but…" Kurogane gazed blankly at the still form of his roommate and tried not to let his hands shake too badly. He didn't need burns and wet bandages on top of the stitches, after all.

"Yeah, kid. He'll be alright," he lied through his teeth, and took an extra-large gulp of black liquid. He wondered if there was any significance to the way it scalded his throat on the way down.

"What happened to him? I've never seen my brother look so…" The words failed her, but Kurogane knew what she meant. Fai looked shattered, emotionally and physically. The bruises on his too-pale skin were frightening enough, but even asleep his expression was just so… broken? No, that wasn't quite the word for it.

"Couldn't tell you. I found him like that." He wondered if he was going to make lying like this a regular habit. The idiot had really rubbed off on him.

"That's what Momma said you told her, but I hoped… well…" Odd. Kurogane had no memory of calling the Flowright residence, but he supposed he must have. He didn't remember a lot of what had happened over the last two days—they'd seemed to stream by in a flash of drugged up hysteria.

"Your parents didn't deign to come by?" He asked derisively, mumbling around the Styrofoam of his cup. Chi winced. She probably knew well enough what he thought of them.

"Ah, no. They're still angry with him." Angry that their son was gay? Angry he'd decided to pursue a career in the arts, instead of following in their politico-footsteps? Kurogane scoffed and rolled his eyes at their mindless bigotry. He was glad he didn't remember calling Fai's "home". He'd probably said some rather uncomplimentary things. At least now he wouldn't have to fake ignorance when Fai chided him for it later.

"Figures," he spat. "Fai gets himself near-killed and they can't make the time of day to visit." The words tasted like ash in his mouth. He had to down the last of the coffee to banish the flavor. It wasn't until he'd finished that he realized Chi was frowning, her hands fidgeting with the edge of her blue, uniform skirt. Despite her quiet, calming demeanor, she was still only a middle-school kid. It probably stung to listen to him talk about her mother and father like that. "Sorry," he grumbled almost inaudibly.

"It's alright. I know they're not nice people, sometimes." She paused, brow ever so slightly furrowed. "But I think…. If they saw him like this, even they would want to fix it. At least, I hope they would." Yeah, right, Kurogane growled in the safety of his own mind. He'd met Fai's parents just once, over an awkwardly tense lunch. It had been enough to convince him that those people weren't the type to seek forgiveness. They'd pretty much disowned Fai the day he'd been accepted into the music program, and that was that.

Kurogane fell into taciturn reminiscence for a while, his mind grateful to have something other than his own powerlessness and Fai's flawed decision-making to be angry with. He ran with his thoughts and didn't come out of it until he felt Chi's gentle hand on his arm some time later. "Kurogane. Thank you for taking care of my brother." His heart hurt to hear the sincerity in her voice. He wished he could run away from it. "Maybe it should be our parents' job but… I'm glad that it's you. He seems happy around you." And god didn't he just feel like a monster now. He crushed the empty Styrofoam cup with unnecessary violence, trying not to wince when he put too much pressure on his stitches. Why did she have to have so much faith in him? What made her think he was anything but useless when it came to Fai?

"You don't have to thank me. It's not like I decided to take care of that idiot. He's just too troublesome to leave on his own."

"True," Chi laughed back, muffling the sound with her sleeve. "In any case, I'm grateful." Kurogane chanced a glance at her, and instantly regretted it. She was nothing but trust and belief, tinged with a sadness that was too old for her face. He knew with a sudden clarity that he'd never be able to let her stupid brother walk into danger again. This was more than him and Fai, or Fai and Ashura. Chi didn't know anything about what had happened, what was still happening, but she could still be hurt by it. If Fai had died that night…If Fai had died…

God, what the hell kind of sentence was that? Was he only just thinking of it now? Fai could have fucking died, and somehow he'd never taken the time to realize what that meant. If Fai died, all the right and wrong in the world would make no difference. It wouldn't matter that Fai still loved Ashura, or that Fai still felt like an adult. Kurogane would just be stuck knowing that he'd done nothing to stop it, and that would be far more painful than any kind of retribution Fai could come up with. He'd spend the rest of his life hating himself and trying to forget. He knew that. So why was he still sitting here wallowing and wondering what there was to do about it? The answer was simple, and it always had been. He was going to end this. One way or another.

Kurogane stalked over to the trash and dropped his crushed cup in listlessly. He stood there, hovering in the corner until he could put all his emotions back in their buried places. Chi seemed content to leave him be. When he'd mastered himself enough to turn around, he found her staring at her brother again, looking like the world had ended.

Ugh. As if he didn't feel enough like a bastard already.

"Did you want to be alone with him? I can leave if you want." He was selfish and overprotective, but he knew how important family was. Kurogane couldn't get in the way of that. Not even if he'd be sick to his stomach with worry the moment Fai was out of sight. He'd need practice with the feeling if he was really planning on putting a stop to Fai's idiocy.

"No, it's alright." And he wouldn't admit to the unrestrained surge of relief that flooded him at her words. They sat there, silent for a while. Kurogane was suddenly struck by how damned quiet it was without the musician around. He was searching for something to say to fill that void when he had his first lucid thought that day.

"So if your folks didn't have the decency to come by, how'd you get here, Kid?" he mused. Chi tensed and shivered like a puppy about to be scolded, hands back to fidgeting at her hemline.

"I…. might have skipped school," she mumbled into her sweater. Kurogane had figured as much, once he'd woken up enough to realize she was wearing her school uniform.

"Not what I asked. How'd you get here?" She blinked at him with glossy, innocent confusion. She'd probably never seen an adult brush off admissions of blatant rule-breaking like that.

"…I took the subway." Kurogane nodded at her.

"Do you have money for the fare back?"

"No," she admitted after he'd stared her into honesty. She seemed to be having trouble meeting his eyes. "I thought they'd call my parents when they found me. I just wanted to see Fai. I didn't think—"

"If you leave by one o'clock, you should be able to make it back in time to catch your ride home." The martial artist had to dig painfully in his pockets for his wallet for a few moments, but found it with relative ease. He grabbed Chi's wrist and put enough money for any subway fare directly into her hand. "Don't make this a habit, alright? I'll have that idiot call you when he wakes up." He let himself half-fall back into the chair without looking at her. He was pretty sure if he had, she'd be looking at her palm like it didn't belong to her. Kid was too polite for her own good. It took a while longer for her to get over her shock enough to speak again.

"You're the best, Kurogane."

damn it.