FORGIVENESS

I can't forgive him for letting me live. If I do forgive him...I'll be even closer to him.

-Fay

Everything was a blur, a charade of colors and sounds and voices saying all the wrong things, and when he woke up he realized that the world had gone terribly wrong – that he had gone terribly wrong. Somebody was supposed to die yesterday and it should have been him – his body, his soul – but instead it was just his humanity, gone in one foul swoop, whisked away with a single blue eye and far too much blood to be real.

He caught sight of the man he thought he could play like a finely tuned instrument, the man he knew, subconsciously, was really the one controlling him, like a puppet on a string. Turning the earth upside down, one step at a time, one word at a time, one sideways, dark-eyed glance at a time.

Glowering but caring…how did it happen like this?

The puzzle pieces weren't fitting together because the ends were wet and shriveled with blood and the colors were faded and this wasn't how things were supposed to happen – he knew the journey would be painful but never like this, never living when he should have been dead, never surviving this far when it meant that others had to suffer because of it.

He was a burden.

There were many paths he saw, stretched ahead of him, seeming endless, all different colors and shapes, some winding and some sharp and some straight. He blinked slowly, taking in the scene before him – taking in the man before him, and decided, like the weak person he had convinced himself he was, that he was going to take the easiest path he could find for himself. He was going to run.

Fay straightened his back. He curved his lips upward as best he could, he closed his eyes and tilted his head a little, trying to fall back into that actor's place, trying to make everything work, even though he knew something would fall apart as soon as the words escaped his mouth;

"Good morning. Kurogane."

- - - - -

The situation had been set before him in layman's terms. Don't get to close to him, please don't get to close to him, but somehow, get close enough to draw blood. Drink the blood, they said, you need the blood to live…as if living really mattered anymore, as if he had a damn choice in the whole thing.

Kurogane was quieter now. He didn't look at him directly as often anymore, and when he did it was that twisted stare, that 'why are you doing this?' sort of proclamation in his charcoal eyes. To be honest, (as far as honestly goes, which was never very far in his book) he didn't know why he was doing this. But at the same time, he knew perfectly well.

Distance. It was all he had left. Death…it should have been his, their key to stop Syaoran, his small gift to them…and a gift to himself, that final promise of peace. Relieved of something they never really needed in the first place. But Kurogane had outdone himself and taken that twisted road Fay had refused before, had cut his wrist and mixed the blood and let it drip into his lax mouth like the sweet poison he had never tasted before, the sin and the passion and the very beauty of human life in the form of liquid. Something had happened, something he couldn't remember very well – memories – he almost laughed out loud bitterly to think he could have received memories in blood, especially when Sakura was searching so desperately to receive memories of her own. But it was a worn memory, something he could toss aside easily, if he chose to.

And yet, when he tried to forget it, it merely stuck to him like glue, insistent and haunting.

Your life is different now, you're a bird in a cage, you're a burden.

The thoughts swirled and spiraled and changed form every few hours, sometimes minutes, sometimes seconds and bare moments and precious pieces of time he could never fully grasp in his hands. Kurogane found him several times and seemed to try and find the right way to tell him that he needed to drink, that he needed to open his damn mouth and let the blood flow again, but Fay avoided him. Again and again, he avoided him.

He was getting quite good at it.

- - - - -

Fay had heard of vampires before. They were somewhat of a legend – a fairy tale – in the place where he had once lived. He had heard that they could turn to smoke, that they could pass through keyholes, that they were afraid of silly things like garlic and crosses and other such nonsense. He heard they had no reflection, that they could never see their gaunt faces except for in the eyes of other vampires. Fay had taken his share of wonder in the stories, then let them pass over him and moved on, as it was customary to do, because in the end they were just fairy tales, nothing to bother himself with unless he was bored and needed to hear a story from someone nearby who was willing to tell.

Now he stood with a tiny hand mirror in his hand, turning the reflective side away from him so that it lay on his lap. At first he wasn't sure why he was so afraid to look in that mirror. He thought it was some subconscious fear born from hearing too many of those fairy tales, too many silly stories burned into his head…but thinking further he realized that the fear was in himself – he didn't want to see his new face. He didn't want to see how white it had become, or the terrible darkness where his eye had once been, or the tiny fang teeth, dormant in their current state, that lay beneath his lips, where he knew he could feel them if he ran his tongue across the inside of his mouth, had he been brave enough to do it.

You're a coward, a voice said, and Fay silently agreed. He was a coward. That was why everyone was in such pain now, because he was such a coward, because he loved to run. That's why Kurogane was suffering, too.

Kurogane….

Fay turned the mirror over sharply, making sure the action was quick so that his brain wouldn't have enough time to talk himself out of it. A frightened white face stared back at him, lips drawn tight, one eye wide and staring.

He turned the mirror back over slowly. It wasn't so bad, was it?

It was.

- - - - -

The knife glittered in Kurogane's hand, and all at once Fay realized he should have ran away while he had the chance, he should have never let himself be cornered like that. But he had been lost, somehow, in those dark eyes, with all those hidden words and messages and unspoken declarations behind him – he had been lost in trying to decode what they meant, in seeing if his name was lost in there somewhere among concern for Sakura and grimness over Syaoran. He wondered if he was important enough to be worth those sort of thoughts. He wondered what Kurogane thought of him, if he even thought of him at all, besides being the person he must now associate himself with, the person who had so willingly let go of his life – something he knew Kurogane despised.

So despise me. He thought. Hate me. Please, hate me.

I don't want you to love me.

I don't want to forgive you.

"You can't run forever." Kurogane was saying, but his voice seemed strange and distant in Fay's hazy mind. "You're starving yourself."

"I'm not hungry, Kurogane."

"You haven't drank once since you turned, and then I had to pour it down your throat – "

"I'm not hungry." he repeated, silently begging the man to leave him be. He didn't want this sort of sacrifice. He didn't want this sort of help. He didn't even want to be alive right now -- he hadn't even wanted to survive. How could he accept blood from someone who was supposed to hate him?

( who you wanted to hate you…)

Who he needed to hate him, in order for that straight path he had chosen to stay straight. He couldn't get closer, not after what had happened.

( If you do…you might… )

And then the blade glided against his skin and at first there was nothing, no hint of red, no white lips of broken flesh. And then it slowly appeared, the dead skin around the wound, the first drops of blood, as if in slow motion…then the thick flow of it, coursing down his arm, horrible and wrong…wrong because it was so beautiful.

Wrong because he wanted it.

"Drink." Kurogane said harshly, thrusting his wrist out in front of Fay's face, and before he knew it that blood had called to him too quickly, too urgently, and he was too weak, and the senses and the smells and the instincts were overwhelming and it was all too much, as if someone had seized him around the neck and was tightening their fingers, suffocating him, and that blood was his only way out, his only air.

He leaned down.

At first he wasn't sure what to do. He didn't want to sink his teeth into his tanned flesh, he didn't want to suck – if he did, he might never stop, he might just keep going until Kurogane was pulling away but unable to pull away, struggling but unseen through the haze of relief that would overcome him. Finally he darted his tongue out to taste the divine substance and sighed a shuddering sigh, as if someone had taken a great weight off his shoulders at last.

He licked at the wound steadily, feeling his hands shaking slightly, afraid to reach up and hold Kurogane's arm steady (as if it would even be steady, it would probably just make it shake like mad as well.) And then something happened, something strange and grand and horrible, no, just horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible, because immediately his instincts said it was wrong and his instincts were all he could trust anymore.

There was an image – an image of a boy, and immediately he realized what was happening: memories. He was inside of Kurogane's thoughts.

The boy was small but with a frame that promised great height in later years, spiky black hair and skin not as tan as it was now. Little Kurogane took a step forward, and then, in the hazy atmosphere of Kurogane's invaded mind, he fell, tumbling, spots of blood appearing, scars dotting his wrists, and the word 'fate' seemed to flash at him in bold, red letters. He saw what appeared to be Kurogane's version of a younger Fay, a small boy with blonde hair and a icy blue kimono, waving him over anxiously with a smile that Kurogane thought was a fool's smile.

Kurogane was right, Fay thought sadly.

The images continued, some hazy, some agonizingly bright. There was the two of them, one biting the other's neck, drinking blood, vampirism in it's most natural state, he assumed. There was Kurogane, holding Fay's hand, kissing it like a gentleman, looking up at him with eyes that resembled his father's. There was Fay, his hair tied in ornaments like a princess, longer and pulled back delicately; a mockery of what Kurogane must have considered love to be.

No… Fay thought. No. These are your thoughts, your precious thoughts, I can't invade them, I can't…

But there was no way to pull his mouth away from the blood, no way to stop the pictures from coming. Fay, the blue kimono gone, wearing white pants and nothing else. Fay, touching his light hair uncertainly, looking down at his belt loops and smiling a sly smile. Fay, reaching up toward a modern looking Kurogane, reaching up so that their lips met, dark tones to flushed pink cheeks, modest at first, then desperate, the ninja's tongue slipping into his mouth, his hands sliding around his waist and fingers dipping lower to touch the curves of his frame –

What?

A fantasy. An old thought from many nights ago, something he had conjured up before sleeping. A lithe body beneath a broader one, Kurogane moving steadily over him - him - Kurogane, pinning his wrists beside his head and kissing his neck. He seemed more ethereal in the fantasy, his hair brighter and his face whiter and his eyes more Japanese. But it was him, surely him, nearly naked now, just as Kurogane's robes hung off him clumsily. The two twisted together, arms looped around his neck, whispering sweet nothings as Kurogane grunted something intelligible and pushed against him desperately, the thin sheet of sweet on his skin that seemed to make it shine –

No!

He pulled away from the bleeding wrist suddenly and the images cut themselves off, like a film pressed to pause. He was staring at the real-life Kurogane, who looked back at him with serious eyes that widened slowly. "What's wrong?"

What's wrong?!

"Nothing." Fay lied quickly, unable to shake the images of Kurogane's small fantasy out of his head. "Nothing…"

- - - -

At least now he knew what Kurogane thought of him, Fay thought bitterly.

Why was he surprised? He should have seen his coming. He had flirted with the man countless times before, he had swished his hips when he walked, he had pouted his lips, he had laughed fake laughs and stolen touches and generally played the man as if nothing really mattered but the act. But it was all in fun, wasn't it? It had all been a game, and he assumed Kurogane – dark, brooding Kurogane – had known that.

He was safe territory, Fay thought suddenly.

Kurogane would never fall in love with him. He had a princess back home, and a lack of interest in anything but returning. He was coarse, he was uncaring, he was to the point and easily angered and definitely not the sort of person to flirt back when someone like Fay made a pass at him. That was just it – he was safe territory. He was just a little bit of fun.

Right?

He was just fun, right? It was just a game, right?

Right…?

- - - - -

He knew that Sakura was gone, and that information pained him far more than he thought it would. He was worried for her, worried that the child would hurt herself. Worried that she would mess up, and that would be that – they would never see her again.

Kurogane was saving the last of their medication for her, he knew it. It hurt him, knowing that, knowing that Kurogane was that sort of person…but at the same time, he was glad, even though he knew Kurogane himself had serious wounds that should have been mended. It was all so confusing, it hurt his head to think about, but what was most confusing was Syaoran, and the fact that he had been fake.

He didn't want to think about it. He didn't want to think about the dull, ebbing pain in his missing eye. He didn't want to think that Sakura might never return, or that Kurogane would never look at him the same, or that he would never look at himself the same way. It hurt so fiercely that he almost wished some other pain would come along, something to block out the agony of worrying. But nothing came, and he was alone with himself, hungry again but afraid to feed, lonely again but afraid to look at Kurogane, knowing that if he did, all he would see was the older man's fantasy. All he would see was himself pinned beneath him, and that look of compliance etched across his features.