Slipping from My Hands like Water

Slips from his hands like water.

That's what it all does, only Kurogane is trying to hold on and Fai turns to water himself. It's not because it's easier that way. They both think: This is necessary.

And: It is going to fail.

Fai's problem is that in all his life he has only loved one person.

"Loving yourself is the beginning of a lifelong romance, Kuro-pon," he smiles, but Kurogane scoffs at the quote and Fai looks away.

His mother was a fancy whore, mistress of a king; it makes sense her teachings are not considered appropriate by a samurai champion.

Syaoran interrupts them by replying to the princess: "…called The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro." A mumble, and then he reads aloud: "'I've tried and tried but it's no use. I've given what I had to give. I gave it all to–' Kurogane-san, is something the matter?"

"No," says Kurogane, who's looking at Fai.

Now like always Fai smiles with his eyes closed, because it is harder to lie with your eyes and the first rule of the born liar is to never tell an untruth.

That was weeks ago. That was too close.

"You see," Fai tells Kurogane, in a bar of all places, with his eyes blank behind the steam from their tea. "I was born waiting to be swept off my feet."

"Twenty worlds later," Kurogane scoffs, melancholy for some reason, there beneath the contempt, "and you're still waiting, huh."

"Maybe," says Fai. He doesn't meet Kurogane's eyes, but then Fai has the habit of looking past you even when he's staring at you. Selfish people are like that, egoists and cowards, and Fai is a selfish person at heart. He can't be bothered to be either proud or ashamed of it. When you don't care for other people you aren't plagued by those emotions, can't access them.

It only makes sense for him to expect the world to sweep him off his feet. After all the world has chosen him, has offered him its courtship by bringing him on this date called life.

I rather regret, he thinks dryly, that I accepted the invite.

He tries to laugh but it doesn't come out right.

There is sweat on his neck. He knows Kurogane notices it. He also knows Kurogane does not want to notice it.

"Maybe that's the difference," he sighs, because he doesn't care anymore. "I grew up in Fairyland. I was told I'd get all my wishes."

"Like with the witch."

"The price was higher in my world."

That's Kurogane for you, he doesn't startle.

Well, really, what had he been expecting?

Kurogane who grew up in a beautiful dangerous world is a lethal beauty, and suddenly seems young.

Once he muttered in his sleep, and Fai's magic is more persistent than he had thought. No, that's not true – the magic is him, after all. It stands to reason it is boundless. So he caught the implication, heard the whisper-scream of the past: use your strength to protect those you love.

Such an alien concept for Fai, and Kurogane no longer has anyone (he loves) left to protect.

There is some silence, because Kurogane takes a lot from Fai – whether because or despite the fact he is nothing like a wizard or a liege lord or a lover should be.

If this was how it was meant to turn out the gods are stranger than he thought. Perhaps Fai could tell him, with those closed eyes maybe he sees, but Kurogane won't ask.

Fai stirs his tea.

The children have their puppy love: Kurogane has a teasing man who said, "You like men, don't you? Never had one before?" and breathed and laughed, languid and slanted.

He had not ever thought about it.

But Fai cannot have what he wants, and invariably that seems to mean he can have anything else. Kurogane is a passing fancy, but perchance a necessary vice.

"Are you going to continue using your magic?" his voice says.

Are you going to continue living? his mouth says.

Last night happened, and things are mercilessly apparent. Fai's annoying mysteries were necessary, it turns out, and Kurogane thinks he should not have witnessed so many of them ripped away quite so brutally.

Maybe in one world we'll meet someone who has the same soul as your King Ashura.

Fai goes white and he stays white.

Kurogane thinks, That shut him up

Only last night he realised it had never been him at all.

Now he can see Fai fight with the questions, and always Fai fights like water. Slips around you, wears you down, goes on and on, and he can drown you but if you can't drink from him eventually you die from it.

Eventually, also, he shrugs.

"Maybe."

"Is that all you can say, damn you?"

"Maybe."

"Fine, whatever."

"Alright, Kurogane."

Fai breathes in the scent of tea and looks at nothing. It wasn't even very difficult not to use magic, after a while. After all it had always been Ashura's power, just like Fai's soul has always been Ashura's, and maybe without either of those two defining things he could die.

But something not being active is not the same as it not being there, and Fai is a cheater and a liar anyway.

"I love him, you know," he says conversationally, so much pain that a little more or less makes no difference. "I always have. It's the first thing I remember."

"And yet you sealed him."

"The power was turning his mind."

"You saved your people? Well, you were the court mage, after all."

"Ah, no. I sealed him before he could turn away from me like he already had from them."

"You f– No, never mind. Is that why you won't use your magic?"

"Maybe," says Fai.

"Because you're afraid you'll become him? Another crazy tyrant devoured by his power? Look, it's not going to happen."

Fai could almost laugh at that, because love has devoured him to the point there is nothing left for power to corrupt.

"Sometimes I'm afraid he'll feel me and trace me through it," he offers, light as ice. "Sometimes I am afraid he will not."

Kurogane sips his tea. "You told the witch you had to go to a world where there is no King Ashura."

"Yes," says Fai. "Because I could not exist in a world where he was without being with me. That was why I sealed him to begin with."

He licks a forgotten patch of blood off his fingers, traces the rim of his tea cup.

"Huh," says Kurogane.

Fai smiles a little. His eyes aren't closed this time and bleaker than usual.

Some things should be clicking, he expects.

It was only yesterday, when Fai made love and killed, that Kurogane realised why their sex is the way it is.

Kurogane knows he's really done it for Fai when Fai's closed eyes crinkle and he makes that sound – something in his own language, too strangled and heartfelt to be translated. A, and then something else, breathy, longer.

Fai's hands catch in his hair, then describe a strange awkward graceful arc. Later Kurogane realises this is because Fai's lover, the man Fai wants to sleep with, the person Fai is fucking in his mind, has long hair (Kurogane doesn't).

Yesterday afternoon they arrived in this brave new world, and in the evening they hit the town. A feather or something of similar strength was abroad, and Syaoran got involved hunting clues for a serial murder case that might be related to the memory retrieving business.

Fai and Kurogane entered the bar across the street from this one, and after a few moments Fai was frozen, and Kurogane realised there was a dark-haired stranger up ahead. Then Fai was smiling, unfrozen, feverish.

"This one is mine," he said.

"No fucking way am I just leaving" ...but Fai wasn't even pretending to listen.

He was looking at the stranger until the stranger was looking back, all soft and golden and Kurogane was abruptly clear on the fact he had never seen Fai on display before.

The stranger made his skin creep, but Fai had his hand on the dark-haired man's side, and whispered something, and after that Kurogane could not move at all because the very air had become energy, wild vivid energy.

Fai's magic, it dawned on him. Fai's and the stranger's, rising and rising, rivalling and intertwining, and a single feather was nothing at all compared to even one of these two.

"Go away," Fai told him again. "Tell Syaoran-kun to take care of the princess. Protect Mokona at all costs."

And he was gone up the stairs, and when Kurogane could move it was a while before he did. He could hear Fai screaming and he could still feel the residue of magic and of love.

With Ashura Fai is transcendent. With Kurogane he stays inside his own mind during sex.

He wasn't with Kurogane then.

Isn't now either.

Kurogane has told the kid and the princess to stay safely inside with the white bun, explained Fai handled the serial killer but it cost him some effort.

"Will he be alright?" asked the princess.

"Is the killer dead?" asked the kid.

"I don't know," said Kurogane. "Yes."

"Hmm," says Fai. "It's time for me to go home."

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