Title: Moment
Summary: Kurogane can only count the days go by as he waits for Fay to awaken. Post chapitre 120-AU.
Disclaimer: Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE is the creation of CLAMP.
Notes: I literally started this when chapitre 120 came out. That was over a year ago, and sometimes I swear this fic is simply adverse to the idea of getting written. Either that or it's because I've sort of been out of the Tsubasa fandom since I finished "Sacrifice", and it's been difficult finding the willpower to get back to this fic. I managed to get myself to write this fic in time for the kuroxfai lj community time contest, so here it (finally) is.

But enough excuses. This is definitely an AU fic, veering off from the series after chapitre 120. So it is highly advisable that you have read up to that point, but nothing after that point is required. In fact, it is probably better if you suspend your knowledge of what happens after chapitre 120, as that would explain why I don't explain the approximately eight-hundred plot holes that pop up because of information in future chapitres not being incorporated here… like, say, real!Syaoran being transported to Acid!Tokyo….
With nothing better to do, he counts the seconds.

Sixty seconds to a minute. Sixty minutes to an hour. That makes it thirty-six hundred seconds to an hour, and how many of those have passed him by already?

The clock ticks. Every tick is another second, every second another moment that Fay does not awaken.

Every second is Fay taking one step closer to death, along with the remnants of his sanity.

Tick.
Kurogane is not at all surprised that they ended up here again.

It makes sense, even though he does not want to accept it. The Dimension Witch fulfills wishes, after all. And at that moment, more than anything else, he had wanted to get Fay to someplace safe—although whether or not the shop can reallybe considered a haven is highly debatable, especially in view of who is running the operation. And while physically, it may be safer than the hell they had just escaped, the prospect of his wish being granted is a constant threat to his mental health. For one thing, he does not know what he wants. Or rather, he has many things that he wants, but he does not know which one he should deal with first. Which one is important enough that he will risk a little more of himself for, with no prospect of guaranteed success.

It's an admittedly cynical view, but a healthy dose of skepticism would not go astray right now. Just look at how well the last time worked out.

It was never guaranteed, Yuuko calmly points out to him when he rages at her. She never promised that he would get back to Nihon; a salesperson would never be so foolish as to promise something like that when there was any chance of failure. What she did was give him the means to fulfill his wish, and then the rest was up to him.

He understands that. Even as he seethes and takes his anger out on anyone and anything—that set of china cups is going to cost him the task of washing the day's dishes, Yuuko calls out as he throws one of the dainty objects at the black manju bun's head—heunderstands because it is a concept that he has lived by for most of his life. Things are not just handed to you; you have to work for them with the tools you are given but mostly with your own strength of character. And if you cannot even manage that, then you probably didn't deserve to get what you want.

Yet despite that understanding, he cannot help but think of it as seller's bullshit now, an excuse for Yuuko cheating him, a desperate attempt to ignore the fact that the real reason why he cannot accept this creed any longer is because if he does, he will be forced to accept that he has failed in most everything that is important to him.

It is not an enticing revelation. No wonder he continues to put it off.

He wonders what the others would say if they knew how cowardly he is being. Actually, that's a lie. The only person whose reaction he really does wonder about is the princess because she's the only one who—as far as he knows, anyway—is still sane. Sure, she might be unconscious and missing her soul—or whatever psychobabble that freak in the cloak was saying—but she was definitely more sane than his other two (human) traveling companions combined and multiplied by fifty. After all, the brat's completely batshit crazy now and Fay was never much better even when he wasn't trying to hide from the rest of the world. But it isn't something he knows for sure because he didn't stick around to find out; in his worry for Fay, his desperate need to protect a person who claimed he did not need, did not deserve to be protected—he failed the other person who needed his help.

And now, days later, the time he does not spend waiting for Fay to wake up is eaten up by paranoia. Days here could mean anything time-wise in other worlds. How long has it been since he abandoned Sakura to her fate? Days, weeks, months? Or has not a second passed, and she is still sleeping peacefully under the water, unaware of the catastrophe happening around her?

He hates not knowing, hates this paranoid waiting, but it is all he can do. There is little else he has to occupy the time that passes by so slowly and yet all too quickly. Every second that does not pass is a moment longer that he must suffer for his crimes, but every second that goes is another moment for things to get worse. The longer it takes, the sooner it will be that things will become too tangled for him to ever fix, if that moment has not passed him by already.

It is hard to tell, with every second being so very much like the last.

Things were never this way during their journey; then, so many things seemed to be happening at once that time flew even when he was consumed with his desire to return to Nihon. Now all he has left is the lack of the familiar idiosyncrasies of the mismatched group—the brat's politeness, the princess's soft thank you's, always overshadowed by the screeching of the manju bun as he chased it around for beingstupid again, and Fay with his smile and teasing insinuations of what the two were really doing… all these, no matter how much of an ulcer they once gave him, cannot be overshadowed by the new, alien arguments. The spastic kid screaming up a storm for apparently no reason whatsoever, the witch's cackling, the constant stream of people who want but do not understand what they are giving up to fulfill those selfish needs. And he wishes, wishes all the time, for the ability to go back, almost certain that he would give anything-

His thoughts come to an abrupt halt. After all, he knows better than to promise anything in a place like this.
There is a clock that hangs in his 'bedroom'. The term is used loosely because it is in actuality a closet used for storage, filled with the odd knick-knacks and valuables people have given up in their desperate pursuit to further unreachable dreams.

The clock is an odd one, to say the least. It has too many faces and six times as many hands, none of which seem to tell the time. Yet each tick manages to count down another second of his life that he no longer knows what to do with, mocking his dreams as he attempts to sleep, the steady rhythm of his mistakes compounded over and over again.

No wonder he cannot sleep. Why should he, when Fay does enough sleeping for the both of them? Granted, a comatose state is not exactly the same thing as sleep, but it's close enough right now. Except for the fact that while he at least he wakes up from the unsteady sleep he somehow manages to drift off into, there's no guarantee that Fay will ever be doing the same. And he knows from past experiences in war-torn countries that the longer Fay stays in whatever dream he's apparently decided is so much better than this reality, the lower his chances are of ever waking.

Every second is an impending death sentence, and Kurogane is all nerves as he waits for the execution date to be set.

He is starting to go a little mad.
Kurogane is not all surprised that they ended up here again, but he hates it nevertheless for what it represents.

He tries to take it out on Mokona for bringing them back here in the first place, but as the twitchy kid bandages up the bumps on his head where Yuuko had hit him with a baseball stick—bat, Mokona corrects him sleepily—he realizes that the bitch is, as usual, infuriatingly correct. This isn't Mokona's fault; it is his own, and his anger is only a cover for the inescapable fact.

He could try to blame it on Fay, but it's difficult to blame someone who's been unconscious for the past two days, although he's certainly been trying, petty as it is. Maybe it's because he's so used to blaming Fay for their problems that it's strange to realize that in the case of life and death, Fay was not responsible. Fay had, instead, placed his fate on blind trust—trust that his actions, past and present, would mean something to Syaoran as the seals broke. But Fay's gamble had not paid off, and if it was not for Mokona whisking them away when it had, Fay would be missing both eyes instead of just one.

Despite the certainty of that fact, Kurogane still cannot help but feel like he has committed some sort of crime for taking Fay and running from the situation. He knows he probably shouldn't, and not only because there's no point to feeling guilty. Rather, it's because he didn't ask to leave, didn't verbalize this desire even if it was what he wished for (and sometimes he cannot be sure of even that). For wishes and actions are entirely separate things, and it is the ability to control one's actions despite the wishes that is a mark of maturity. And he knows that, given the choice, he wouldn't have left even if there was nothing that could be done.

Even at the risk of Fay's life, he would not have willingly left Syaoran and Sakura to whatever fate has in store for them.

Yet in the end, he is not there but here, in this Nihon, stuck in Yuuko's shop with nothing except an unconscious mage, unanswerable questions, and too much time in the world. He is not sure what happened to Sakura, and he is not sure what happened to Syaoran—if the brat is even alive. Yuuko tried—vaguely, probably knowing that he wasn't really listening anyway—to explain that the boy they have been traveling with wasn't really Syaoran, but that doesn't make much sense to him. Well, none of this makes sense, but that more so than anything else. Because even with the kid going as crazy as he had, Kurogane just cannot wrap his head around the fact that the kid's some sort of clone, that he isn't even… real. How can that be, when he was one of the most real persons Kurogane had ever met?

He has no idea what caused Syaoran to go crazy and attack Fay like that, and Fay isn't exactly in any position to explain. That angsty kid—Kamui—had been too busy trying to murder Syaoran to answer any questions, and anyway his brain hadn't really been working coherently enough to ask that guy anyway. What he remembers instead, with all too vivid detail, is the blood and Fay and the gaping hole in his face where an eye should have been and even more blood than any human being could possibly possess, and he knows a thing or two about blood considering how much he had spilt. And that eye, staring at him out of Syaoran's face, as cold, calculating, and empty as its new owner while its previous master bled all over the ground.

It was enough to make anyone panic, but he is fairly certain that he did not. Not entirely, anyway, but in the end that didn't matter. Because wishes and thoughts had spoken louder than logic and action, and Mokona had not bothered to ask his opinions as he wrapped his arms around Fay's broken body and felt the transport magic stir. Perhaps if he had leapt out of the way…?

He didn't. He didn't, instead allowing Mokona to take them away from the ruins of a once great city and to this shop where dreams could come true if only you could pay the price. And perhaps the real reason why he feels so guilty is because he knows, deep down, that he is grateful for this reprieve. Grateful that the decision did not have to be made by him, grateful that Fay at least might have the chance to live, and he hates himself for that.

The guilt will kill him if he lets it. He doesn't plan on allowing it to, at least not for now. Maybe eventually, if he finally gives into the headache that is threatening to beat him shitless and leave him for dead as he listens to the spastic kid scream at Yuuko and those creepy twin dolls for the umpteenth time, or the ominous ticking of the multi-faced clock those few times when the shop is at a relative calm. But then, as he has said so many times before, dying is the selfish thing to do when there are still people—or at least one person, unconscious as he may be—relying on him. Kurogane has spent far too much time being selfish already. He can spend the rest of his life wondering what he could have done differently, but what would that change?

Nothing.
The first time he said 'I love you'—although it was not those exact words; he had somehow managed to throw in a curse or two, but the sentiment was technically the same—was in a language that Fay did not fully understand. Granted, Fay's language skills were improving, but words like 'love' were not so often tossed out in a war camp, making it unlikely that Fay even understood what he had said.

Their six-month stint in Yasha's army had been a strange one, to say the least. He couldn't understand anything Fay said, although it was not for lack of trying, seeing how he never even got the opportunity. 'Cause as soon as Fay had realized what was going on, he had shut up. The mysterious smile that Kurogane loved to hate had quickly replaced the gibberish falling from his lips, and it stayed there for six months straight, never changing. Even as time moved on it seemed like that smile was frozen on the mage's face, regardless of the circumstances. Whether he was killing someone to spare Kurogane of suffering the strength-draining curse, or listening to an awkward confession of love, the smile remained the same.

Looking back, he has a feeling that Fay, being as clever as he was irritating, had picked up on the language of that world despite never demonstrating the talent. But either he was trying to maintain the identity he had created or was just trying to get on Kurogane's nerves because Fay never said another word until they had met Syaoran in the opposing army. Not even when Kurogane had kissed him, a hesitant, pathetic little gesture that would have gone unnoticed if Fay had been asleep.

But Fay had not been asleep. And he had not reciprocated the motion, leaving Kurogane to feel very small and very, very stupid. He might have been able to delude himself into thinking that maybe it was because Fay just didn't know what he was saying, but not only were kisses pretty self-explanatory, but there was something about the blond's expression that made him certain that Fay knew exactly what he was confessing even before the kiss.

He could not tell if the lack of response was a rebuff of his feelings, or if it was typical Fay behavior in avoiding the subject entirely.

He still cannot.
It has been precisely eighty-seven hundred seconds since lunch when Mokona launches its fat body at his face, screaming at the top of its tiny (yet still obnoxiously loud) lungs, "Kurogane! Kurogane! Fay's waking up!"

It takes him a minute (possibly two, sixty to a hundred and twenty seconds, but he knows he missed a count or possibly over counted, as the sound of his heart thudding in his eardrums must have thrown him off somehow) to comprehend the words being said.

And later, as he stands over Fay, who is staring at him with one blue eye—the gaping hole covered by an eye patch embellished with gold thread (Oh this?Yuuko said with a laugh, One of a kind. Got it off a blind man. You can have it for massaging my shoulders, but not too hard since I'm delicate!), which hides the empty socket as well as it hides the truth of what is behind the black cloth. For a moment he is not sure if Fay even realizes he is there, but then hands shakily reach up to grab his shirt, all desperation as a voice that is a parody of its usual, lively-yet-so-empty self, rasps, "Can't… you can't."

He knows immediately what Fay is speaking of. "I'm not going to watch you die."

The hands don't loosen from his shirt, and Fay isn't even really looking at him. The one blue eye is staring through him as if seeing something that no one else can, and considering who it is that might not be too far off the mark. "It's too strong. It's too much. He can't… he can't have it. You can't."

"I'm not going to let you die," he hisses. He wants to yell, but his voice breaks before he can get the first word out, forcing him to instead be content with… this. "What do you accomplish by dying? What can you accomplish by dying that you cannot do through living? Just because you can't deal with this doesn't mean that you can-"

"Don't… you don't… understand."

"How can I understand when you never tell me anything?! You carry the burden all on your own, and when you begin to falter how is anyone to take up your place? Do you really think you can do it all on your own, that it can be solved so easily as long as you die? The world doesn't revolve around you!"

Not this world, at least. Not the world as a whole. But does his? Sometimes he cannot remember why he loves this man, this sad, ghost of a man who no longer knows how to live for himself. Who has stopped truly living who knows how far back, as if certain that his continued existence is some crime for which he must continue to pay. Living is the only thing a body knows how to do, but doing so seemed to cause Fay more pain than it was worth.

Knowing that, can he really force Fay to live when he so obviously does not want to?

"Sorry." Kurogane is stunned into silence at this, perhaps mostly because he is not the one saying the word. "I'm sorry."

A word he would forever hate. He had always hated 'sorry'. It was so insignificant, so… empty, for it solved nothing in the end. It did nothing. He could stand in front of his parents' memorial stone and say sorry until the world ended, but it did not change the fact that they were dead and were not going to come back. Saying sorry did not turn back time. The brat was gone, the princess abandoned in another world. Was she even awake? Or was she still sleeping, her soul separated from her body to make her nothing more than a doll?

And Fay. What of Fay?

The hands clench and then relax, falling away from him as Fay continues to stare through him. The blond is now mumbling, mostly nonsense. But he picks up words. Or really, he picks up one word, and a name that is repeated over and over again as now Kurogane's hands clench into fists.

"Don't say that," he says, although Fay does not listen. Does he even know Kurogane is here, or does he think he's dying? If he just apologizing to everyone he owes an apology to, and why is it that he is sorrier for something he did in the past than the stupid decision he wants to make now? "Don't say that. Don't think that just because you say that you're sorry, that you no longer have to live."

Besides. Shouldn't he be the one to say that he's sorry?

Fay's eyes—eye—snaps back to him, blinking as if surprised at his presence. It's unfocused, unaware, and right when Kurogane is certain that Fay either doesn't recognize him or simply doesn't want to acknowledge his existence….

Fay smiles at him. That sad, I'm so sorry smile that is rueful because Fay believes that they are never going to see each other again, that there is never going to be a next time for Kurogane to yell at him but then they both know that it's really just a sign that he cares, that he cares about what happens to the mage even when Fay cannot, that he cares even when it hurts to care for someone who doesn't seem to want to live anymore.

But it's not like he can just stop caring, especially when it's something as important as this.

Thankfully, the smile only lasts a split second. Any longer and Kurogane might have made the decision to do what Fay has asked by effect of doing nothing, and in the process add another item to that long list of crimes he will never be able to forgive himself for. So as Fay's single blue eye closes and his hands fall limp, strained breathing evening out as if he has simply gone to sleep instead of taking one step closer to death, Kurogane reaches out, grabbing for something concrete, some reason to hold on when Fay no longer wants to.

"Don't tell me what to do," he says, but the words are empty and they fall on deaf ears, and he feels obligated to repeat them with more urgency, more desperation, "Don't tell me what to do. You don't have the right to tell me what to do."

It's an empty excuse, a lie to justify his decision to continue finding a way to make Fay live. But somehow, he knows that it isn't just his own selfish need to have Fay be there, that there must be some other reason that does not have to do with him.

Kurogane is quite certain that there is. But as he releases Fay's cold hand, he admittedly cannot think of one.
Five days after Fay's random flirtation with consciousness, Fay is showing little interest in making an encore performance. It's starting to irritate him. The irritation is probably just a mask for the constant fear that the idiot will never wake up, but Kurogane refuses to admit to that so he justifies his irritability in more creative ways. He's annoyed because he wants someone to talk to, or more specifically someone who isn't sadistic, spastic, moronic, or some twisted combination of the three. Fay might be hard to comprehend and even harder to stand, but he's at least an idiot Kurogane has gotten used to.

He cannot say the same about this world, this Nihon that is so infuriatingly unrecognizable. It's like he's stuck in limbo, and the longer he is here, the more he is recognizing the customs, the ways, and the details of a place that he doesn't give a shit about. He's starting to recognize the people as something other than anonymous annoyances, adapting to the standards that should never have applied to him.

Kurogane is starting to get used to this world, and that's the last thing he needs. It is almost as if he is being integrated into this society, becoming a part of the tapestry of the daily life of this shop of wishes.

It is not an attractive prospect, to say the least.

If Fay was awake, he could go back to his bubble of not caring about the rest of the world. Fay's certainly distracting enough for that. In fact, he's distracting enough even when he isn't awake. Kurogane knows all too well that he has the means of waking Fay up for good. The Dimension Bitch has certainly insinuated it enough times, but there are several considerations that have prevented him from doing it yet.

It isn't that he doesn't feel that Fay is important to him; the mageis, despite his best attempts to make it otherwise. He wouldn't go so far as to say that the idiot is the reason why he is able to live each day, etc, etc and the rest of that romantic bullshit, but he has to admit that despite the fact that Fay seems to inspire homicidal tendencies in him, he does… love him. He said as much before and he is not ashamed of it (not too much, at least) regardless of the reaction he had received from the blond. It took him a while to understand, and even longer to accept. But it is a love that is different from the love of a son for his parents, or the limitless loyalty of a guardian. It is both, yet so much more, and that is what presumably makes this feeling… different from the others.

And it is precisely this reason that he does not know how to proceed—the fact that he cares so much makes it… hard to do what he knows is right, to make Fay live because it is so obviously not what Fay wants. And if he does care for the mage as much as he claims to, how can he ignore his wishes so recklessly?

There is also the fact that the blond will hate him for making this decision. He knows it. He knew it the moment Fay woke up and asked him not to do this, not to do anything in fact. To let him die, even though Kurogane doesn't understand the logic behind it. In fact, he doesn't think there is any logic at all. And knowing that should have made it easier to accept the fact that he doesn't particularly want to care about what Fay wishes for. Just because the bastard's given up doesn't mean Kurogane's going to let him take the easy way out. That is an action reserved for cowards, and Fay should not be stooping to such a level.

But what Kurogane believes is different from what Fay believes. What Kurogane wants is different from Fay wants, simply because Kurogane is no longer sure if Fay knows how to want for himself. But it seems that he is not above putting his own selfish needs before Fay's death wish. For he knows that the last thing he needs, the last thing he can deal with… is to remain here by himself. Even, quite possibly, at the cost of knowing that he has in a way lost Fay, even though the man might be breathing, standing, living… but once he decides, once he makes this decision, he knows that things will never be the same between them again.

So even knowing how much Fay means to him, he has yet to broach the topic with the Witch. Just because he has the means to pay doesn't mean he has the emotional capability to do so. But the longer he waits, the more time it takes him to decide, and the greater the risk he is putting Fay in as well.

What is he supposed to do?
"He lost his eye?"

The spastic kid is talking to him. Kurogane cannot help but be disturbed by this concept because up to this point, he hasn't seen the kid do anything but get into some sort of supernatural trouble and then scream every time Yuuko put him to another chore as payment for saving him (not that he reacted any differently when the bitch asked him to do anything for her, but still). Needless to say, he hasn't considered the idea that the guy might actually know what was going on with his situation, but apparently Watanuki isn't quite as useless as he seems, which might be why the witch keeps him around in the first place.

Recovering quickly from what might be considered by some as surprise, he narrows his eyes and asks coldly, "What's it to you?"

Tomoyo would scold him for being so rude to a person who was simply trying to have a civil conversation. Souma would try to stick a few kunai in him. And Fay? What would Fay do, if he wasn't too busy being the reason for this talk? Would he scold him as well, or would he sigh in mock disappointment—or perhaps not so mocking.

Maybe.

"I lost my eye as well," Watanuki says.

He blinks, his confusion combining with the frustrations that have been threatening to bubble over for much too long, and he replies, "You look like you have both of them right now."

"This eye here," Watanuki pauses to tap his finger on his glasses lens, "is not quite mine."

"Whose is it then?"

Spastic Kid looks decidedly uncomfortable at the question, and Kurogane decides not to pursue that subject further (he can probably wrangle it from the Witch, with enough coaxing and good alcohol, or barring that maybe the other Mokona). So he asks instead, "How?"

"Um… well, it's a long story, actually." Watanuki laughs nervously, but then says, "It was my own fault, really. I didn't… think it was quite worth a sacrifice, to save my eye. But he proved me wrong. And he gave me half his sight, even though he didn't have to. It's sorta weird 'cause I can sometimes see things that he's seeing, but that I'm not."

"And you're okay with that?" He doesn't have to be any more specific than that; it's obvious that he refers not to Watanuki's comment about seeing things he shouldn't be, but the very idea of being saved.

The kid gives him a small smile, which he doesn't return. Because he knows the situation is different, that this isn't the same thing. What the kid is telling him… it's just a reminder that he has the means of waking Fay up, and the fact that he has not. "And what happens if he doesn't want to wake up?"

Watanuki blinks (and Kurogane makes the silent vow not to call him 'Spastic Kid' anymore), and then says quietly, "It's your decision, in the end. I guess you just have to decide how much you want him to wake up. I mean… he's important to you, isn't he? And it's not like you can just keep waiting to make a decision on this… you don't really have the time to do that anymore. At least this way, you'll be able to go on with your life."

The kid has a point, although he wonders if it is really enough to justify what he wants to do. What he feels is right, despite what he knows it will do to Fay. He wants Fay to wake up—he wants Fay tolive. The first did not necessarily mean the second, for waking Fay up was only part of the equation. Could he keep the man alive, once that crucial first step happened?

Would Fay let him?

He doesn't know the answers to these questions. Nobody does, except for Fay. So the only way to know for certain is to wake Fay up. It is a risk that he will have to take, for if he does not he will spend the rest of his life wondering if. He cannot spend the rest of his life wondering about what could have happened, what would have happened, what should have happened if he was not too scared to face the consequences of losing Fay forever by saving the man. It is something he does not think he can live with, even more so than the likely consequence of going against Fay's wishes.

By this point, what does he have to lose? Nothing that he would not have lost by not acting, by spending the rest of his life counting seconds instead of doing something productive.

He stands, not looking at Watanuki as he does so. And as he prepares to find the Witch, he says gruffly, "Thanks."
Yuuko doesn't look at all surprised when he approaches her, which makes him all the more certain that she was the one who put Watanuki up to talking to him. She'd probably decided that she didn't want him hanging around the shop anymore, skulking around and scaring the customers away (all in the name of saving their lives, although he doubts she sees it the same way). But he chooses to just glare at her as she takes a deep drag of that disgusting smoking herb and says, "You know that there's still a price to pay, don't you?"

"But it's my eye," he protests half-heartedly, not really caring anymore. He can't wait any longer.

"Transfer costs. You really think that something this important is ever going to be free?" she replies with a mocking lilt in her voice. He is possessed with the inexplicable urge to curse her, punch her, stab her, or quite possibly do all three at the same time.

She apparently sees some of his homicidal feelings in his expression, and she laughs, "Don't worry. Since it is your eye, this doesn't have to be something from you or him. Although Fay-san does have it."

That makes absolutely no sense, and he tells her so much.

"You didn't notice that he's been holding onto something all this time?" Yuuko asks, still mocking. "Ah, well, I shouldn't expect too much from a hard-headed idiot like yourself. Anyhow, go get it and bring it back to me."

"You think I'm going to give you something without even knowing what it is?" he demands, although they both know the answer to that already.

"It isn't yours, and it's not his. What are you losing by this, and why are you even bothering to question it when you don't really care? Honestly. I thought you were better than asking stupid questions. Just fetch it for me like a good little dog, will you?"

He growls at her, but gets up all the same even as he mentally curses her. But as he starts to leave, her voice drifts through like a treacherous snake, "But do remember, Kurogane, that this wish of yours to not let him die is yours alone. Fay does not wish for it. By giving up half your sight, you give him life. But just because he lives does not mean it will continue, and that is a price you will pay for until the end of time."

"I know that," he replies, turning to face her. "Believe me, Iknow."

She breathes out another cloud of smoke at him, and it hangs between them like an ominous storm. But even that is not enough to cover for the fact that she is finally not smirking at him, and he almost feels a shiver go down his spine. "Then that is enough."
He has not gone to see Fay since the mage went unconscious again. He doesn't care if some people think that it would have been the right thing to do, but he has always been of the opinion that holding vigil for someone isn't going to make them get better any quicker. Especially if they're in no position to know that you're there anyway. Holding his hand wasn't going to make Fay wake up. Perhaps if he'd had some indication that Fay would regain consciousness, he might have. But as of now there has been no sign of any such thing, and watching over Fay is only a pointed reminder of his failures and guilt.

It's less painful this time, with the knowledge that he will finally be accomplishing something. It may not be the right thing, but it is something, and far better than watching the time go by and waiting for something to happen. He has never done well with sitting around and waiting, much preferring to actually doing.

He is surprised, but also quite irritated, that the Dimension Witch is right as he pries open Fay's cold hand. He wonders how it managed not to fall out of Fay's hands when an eyeball was being gouged out, or when the mage reached out to him, or more importantly how he had not noticed it during all of this. The anger at himself is compounded as the small yin-yang symbol drops out of Fay's hand, for although he does not know what it is the thing practically screams magical energy. He should have noticed. How did he not?

But he knows that this is not the time to be worrying about things of the past, particularly when there's a more urgent present happening right at this moment.
"So what now?" he demands, pointedly not looking at the Dimension Witch as he asks the question, not interested in seeing her smirk at him. Not to mention the fact that he doesn't really have a choice anyway—he's having trouble seeing as it is. Nobody mentioned this sort of thing hurt, although he probably should have expected it. And it's nothing compared to the other pains he's gone through, although he's admittedly not had one quite this permanent.

With the exception of the scar on his hand and the holes in his heart, anyway.

"We wait." At this point Yuuko would have blown a puff of smoke into his face, but apparently she had decided that smoking in front of a recovering patient was not conducive to health. Either that or it is because he's flushed out her entire collection of smoking herbs and put it down the drain. "That's something you're good at, isn't it? Besides, you didn't honestly think he was going to wake up just like that, did you?"

"'Course not," he snaps, the pain making him edgy enough already without her condensation. "It's just a means, right?"

She smiles lazily at him, "So you're not completely hopeless after all."

"Bitch." The curse slips out before he can stop it. Although he is not entirely sure that he would have, anyway.

"What was that now?"

He looks her squarely in the eye and repeats, as there is nothing left to lose now that he has not already lost, "Bitch."

A part of him might have worried that she would kill him. The rest of him was too busy worrying that she would somehow force him to stay here for the rest of his life, which was a far worse fate. Instead, she simply continues to smile.

"Nice of you to finally say it to my face."
Fay does not wake up immediately. Kurogane is not sure if that is a curse or a blessing, as he often is when it comes to Fay, and continues to be conflicted when the mage finally does wake up.

He is counting the seconds, having surreptitiously moved the clock from the glorified storage closet to Fay's room. Despite his personal reservations against vigils, he found that he wanted, at least, to be here when Fay finally deigned to wake up. To face his decision head on, to take responsibility for his actions. For he has finally paid the price to wake Fay up, but he isn't sure if he can live with the consequences.

"Kurogane."

The name makes him flinch. Strange, seeing how he was always yelling at Fay to use his real name. And now that he does… it seems so foreign, so wrong. Like nothing is ever going to be the same again, but didn't he know that heading in? But still it hurts to hear his name instead of a silly nickname because he knows… he knows that he will never be forgiven for this.

He remains silent, and Fay continues in a voice that is hoarse from disuse, "What… what did you do?"

It is as if he is a criminal, faced with jury, judge, and executioner. Should he ask for forgiveness? But that is a ridiculous concept, for he knows that in his mind, there is nothing he has done that requires forgiveness. Yet knowing that on a practical level is so different from accepting it on the emotional. Still, all he can do is snap, "Don't ask stupid questions."

"But-" And Kurogane wonders if perhaps Fay is not referring to the fact that he is alive, if maybe Fay had expected that already. That perhaps Fay is worried that he's given up something important for him. That Fay still doesn't understand that he's worth giving up something for, that Kurogane meant it when he said those words that seemed to go nowhere. Given some time, he could probably figure out the meaning behind those words, but Kurogane just doesn't want to hear it right now. After everything that he has gone through, he realizes that… he just wants this one moment, damnit. He wants this without the questions, without the guilt. He wants this without the apologies because he's tired of hearing the word 'sorry', even when it's coming from his own mouth.

He wants, just for this moment, just for this one piece of time, to be happy that Fay is alive, regardless of the consequences this has on the rest of their lives.

"Please," he says, the word harsh and desperate. And Fay falls silent, staring at him with the one blue eye and the other red. It doesn't really suit him, he can't help but think. Fay had such lovely eyes, that light shade of blue that he only occasionally really saw, unclouded by self-loathing and guilt. And he knows he will never see those eyes again, not only because one of them is in the socket of a psychotic clone but because things can never go back to those days when Fay would not resent him for this decision. For he knows, knows that Fay will never forgive him, and it is all he can do stop that fact from eating away at him.

But right here, right now, he's not looking for forgiveness. For one thing, he knows he doesn't deserve it. And he knows better than to ask for such a thing from the mage. What he has done is unforgivable, yet it is better than doing nothing. It is better than Fay never waking up again, better than things just… ending.

So he accepts it, accepts that Fay will probably hate him for the rest of time itself, and takes this moment—this final, desperate,selfish moment—to kiss Fay softly on the forehead (above those mismatched eyes, which he knows are now staring at him and doing the emotional equivalent of saying good-bye) and just be grateful that he could even have this moment.

The clock continues to tick, marking down the time until this is all over and a new, unwelcome reality begins, but he no longer bothers to count the seconds.

End Notes:
Um. I guess this is my last Tsubasa fanfic (except maybe drabbles). Hope you enjoyed it?

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