A/N: This takes place after Tokyo Arc and before the Infinity Arc. It is my first TRC fanfic. Please take the time to review. It would be much appreciated.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Tsubasa characters. They're all Clamp's.
Kurogane felt fingers brush through his hair, and then a cool hand came to rest upon his cheek. His first thought was that it felt good. His second thought was 'Who the hell is touching me!?' This thought he voiced aloud. He opened his eyes and looked up to see a face, fringed in blonde, smiling down at him. When he realized that his head was lying in Fai's lap, he sat up quickly, and then clutched his forehead as it began to pound from the sudden movement.
"Good morning, Kurogane!" said Fai as he slipped off the bed. "You must be feeling better. Yesterday you didn't even notice me sitting on your bed."
Kurogane had been out of commission for the past two days. They had only been in this world for a short time when he started feeling sick. It seemed to come on very suddenly. One moment he appeared to be fine, the next he had collapsed on the street. He had been masking his symptoms from the others for some time beforehand. Sakura and Syaoran recognized the illness as a common one in their home worlds, and their natural immunities kept them safe. Fai had not shown any indication of having contracted it yet. Perhaps his vampire blood had protected him.
"I'm glad you're awake. I'll get you something to eat." Fai crossed to the other side of the room and put on some water for tea.
Kurogane was rarely ill, and he hated feeling so weak. He flopped back on the bed and looked around the small room. He had vague memories of them renting this room when they first arrived in this world. It was not intended for four people, but they did not have sufficient funds for anything larger. There were two beds, a table, a bathroom, and a kitchenette in one corner. It wasn't much, but it kept them safe, warm, and dry.
Mokona had felt the presence of a feather in this world, and there had been no indication that the other Syaoran had been here before them. They had spent a few days wandering around the city trying to find the feather before Kurogane had fallen ill. After that he remembered nothing.
Fai returned to the bedside with a tray containing a bowl of soup and a cup of tea. "Here you go. Eat up!" he commanded. Kurogane sat up again, more slowly this time, and allowed Fai to place the tray on his lap. He picked up the cup of tea and sniffed it.
"Ugh, what is this? It smells disgusting," he complained.
"It's medicinal tea," explained Fai. "Sakura found it at the market yesterday. She said it is similar to something from her home world. It's supposed to work wonders." Kurogane took a sip and cringed.
"Oh come now, be a good boy and drink it all up!" crooned Fai. "It will make you all better." Kurogane held his breath and took another gulp. Fai smiled and gave him an approving pat on the head.
"Quit it!" Kurogane grunted, knocking Fai's hand away.
"See, you're feeling better already." Fai giggled. He pulled up a chair and sat down next to the bed. He didn't think he could get away with sitting on the bed now.
Kurogane took a sip of the soup, which tasted a far cry better than the tea. "Any luck finding the feather?" he inquired.
"I'm afraid not," Fai responded. "It seems to be moving around, as it did back in the Hanshin Republic. But there are no kudan for it to be hiding in here."
"Where are the kids and that annoying white pork bun?"
"They are out looking right now."
"Is it safe for them to be out alone?" Kurogane asked worriedly.
"I believe so," Fai assured him. "They can't be far away if we can still understand each other, can they? During the day the city seems peaceful enough. It's a different story at night though. Apparently there are quite a few poor and homeless in this city, and the crime rate is rather high. But don't you worry. I wouldn't allow them to run around alone at night. How is the soup?" asked Fai, changing the subject.
"It's fine," Kurogane conceded as he gagged down another swig of the god awful tea.
"You must be hungry. You didn't have anything for the past two days, other than some water we managed to pour into you."
"And what about you? I bet you haven't eaten either." Kurogane glared at the mage accusingly.
Fai's gaze dropped to the floor. "Don't worry about me. I'll be fine. You need your strength to recover. I can wait until you're better." Fai had been reluctant to feed even before Kurogane got sick. He didn't like having to depend on Kurogane. It felt too much like receiving kindness he thought he didn't deserve. Fai tried hard to distance himself from his companion, but when Kurogane fell ill, his resolve crumbled. He could not sit idly by and watch the man suffer. He had remained by Kurogane's side, mopping his feverish brow with a damp cloth, while the normally strong warrior slept fitfully.
"Well, I'm feeling better now. You should drink." Kurogane held out his arm.
Fai gently took the offered limb, and tucked it back down by Kurogane's side. "You are far from better. You have been delirious for two days." Fai pressed the back of his hand against Kurogane's cheek, "and you are still running a fever. I am in much better shape than you are." He picked up the tray, with the now empty dishes, and turned to walk away.
Kurogane reached out and grabbed Fai's shirt tail. The blonde stopped, but did not turn around. "You can't keep refusing forever. I'm bigger than you, you know," argued Kurogane gruffly.
"That may very well be," Fai chuckled, "but you are in no condition to best me right now. Especially since that medicinal tea also contained a sedative which should be taking effect any time now."
As if on cue, Kurogane grew dizzy and his vision blurred. "Idiot!" he grumbled as he released Fai's shirt and slumped over on the bed. Fai smiled to himself as he walked away with the tray.
Kurogane was still sleeping soundly when Sakura and Syaoran returned that afternoon.
"Welcome back!" chirped Fai cheerfully. "Any news?"
"Unfortunately no," sighed Syaoran as he sat down at the table. "Mokona felt the feather briefly a few times, but every time we tried to find its location, it just seemed to vanish. It feels like we are getting nowhere."
"I'm sure our luck will improve," Fai said optimistically. "We will find it soon."
"Poor Mokona is all worn out," said Sakura, glancing down at the small white fur ball fast asleep in her arms. "How is Kurogane doing?" She looked over at him with concern.
"I think he is improving," replied Fai happily. "He woke up today, and even ate some soup. I made him drink the tea you bought too. You should have seen the face he made. It was so funny." Fai smiled at the memory.
"I'm so glad," said Sakura, relieved. "I was sure it would help. I'm feeling a bit sleepy myself. I think I will take a little rest with Mokona." She went and laid down on the other bed to nap.
"Have you eaten?" asked Fai. "There is still some soup left."
"Thank you, I'm fine," Syaoran said. "It's hard to go hungry with Mokona around. I think we stopped at every food stall we saw."
Fai laughed. "I'm not surprised. Kurogane will probably be as hungry as Mokona when he wakes up again. I think I may go out and get some groceries for dinner tonight."
"Well then, you better go now, and don't be gone long," warned Syaoran. "It will be night soon."
"Don't worry. I'll make it a quick trip and be home before dark," Fai assured him as he grabbed his jacket and slipped on his shoes. "Make sure to take good care of Kurogane while I'm gone."
"I will," promised Syaoran. He smiled as he watched the magician step out the door. The two men's relationship puzzled him. Fai and Kurogane seemed to protect each other as much as Syaoran wished to protect Sakura, yet neither was willing to admit they were doing so, or why they felt so strongly about it. Perhaps they themselves didn't know. Syaoran just shook his head as he stood to go check on the others. He didn't think he would ever understand adults.
Fai stepped out into the afternoon sunshine. The shadows were long as the sun was beginning to set. "I'll have to hurry to get my errands done in time," he said to himself. Fortunately, there was a produce market nearby. The couple who owned it were very nice, and often gave him extra for free.
"Good afternoon sir," greeted the vegetable woman. "Welcome back, and what would you like? We have some very nice eggplant today." She took a closer look at him. "Are you feeling okay? You look a little pale."
"Me? No, no, I'm fine. It's my friend who has been sick. He needs some proper food to build up his strength," Fai explained.
"Well, in that case, I recommend leeks," she suggested. "They are a sure cure for whatever ails him. That along with some fresh fish and rice should perk him right up." She began to load the vegetables into a sack.
"That does sound appetizing," agreed Fai. "Do you know where I might find some fresh fish?"
"Your best bet would be the fish monger down by the wharf. He always has the best fish."
"Where is the wharf? Is it far?"
"It's about a 15 to 20 minute walk from here in that direction, down the hill." She pointed down the street to the west.
Fai looked up at the sun as it sank lower in the sky. "I have long legs. I bet I could make it in 10."
The kind woman handed him the sack, bulging with far more vegetables than he had paid for. "You have been so helpful today, I don't suppose you have seen any unusual feathers lying about," Fai joked.
"Feathers?" the woman questioned.
"Yes, I know it's a bit odd, but my friends and I are searching for lost feathers," he explained.
"Well, if you are looking for something you could always try the Lost and Found Lady."
"The Lost and Found Lady?"
"She is an old lady who finds things and then returns them to their owners. I have heard some fantastic stories about the missing items she has found. Some have been lost for years before finally being reunited with their owners. She is like a legend in this city. I'm sure she could help you find your feather," the vegetable woman gushed enthusiastically.
"Don't believe a word of this rubbish," the woman's husband interrupted, stepping up behind her and placing a hand on her shoulder. "The Lost and Found Lady is nothing more than an old homeless woman who forces useless trash upon unsuspecting strangers and then expects a reward for her efforts. Most people give her something just to make her go away. She's not all there, if you know what I mean." He tapped his head and nodded at Fai.
"Now Dear, be nice," the woman scolded. "You remember how she found my aunt's cat after it went missing."
"The cat was wearing an ID collar. It wouldn't have been that hard to find its owner," he argued.
"Yes, but how did she find the cat in the first place, huh?" she retorted, wagging a finger at her husband. He rolled his eyes and walked away, as she smiled with satisfaction at another argument won.
Fai giggled at the cute couple. Something about them seemed vaguely familiar. "Well," announced Fai, becoming aware of the time. "I'd best be going if I am going to make it to the fish monger's. Thank you so much for all of your help." He tucked the sack of vegetables under one arm and waved goodbye as he headed down the street.
Even though the air was cooling as the sun set, Fai was warm. He thought maybe it was because he was walking so quickly down the hill. He should have started for home right away, but the thought of fixing a fish dinner for Kurogane had him heading toward the wharf instead. He also felt a bit light headed. "I suppose I will have to give in soon and finally have a drink," he reluctantly admitted to himself.
He had no trouble finding the fish monger's shop, but he must have been too far from Mokona, because he couldn't understand a word the man said. After much gesticulating, nodding, and smiling, Fai managed to pick out a fish, and the man wrapped it in paper for him. Taking his fish under his other arm, he turned for home. The sun was now an orange globe, balanced on the horizon.
The hill seemed steeper now that Fai was walking up it. He grew more tired with every step, and his head began to ache. He could not keep up the pace he had set on the way to the wharf. He wanted to sit and rest a bit, but the sky continued to darken. He had promised to be home before dark, and Kurogane had probably woken up again by now. They were all waiting for him to return with dinner. It felt good to have someone waiting for him at home, so he pressed onward.
Fai had just crested the hill when he heard someone calling out, "You there, young man! Wait a moment." He turned to look down a side street and saw an old woman trundling toward him with a dilapidated baby carriage. When she reached him, she paused to catch her breath. She was dressed in an old brown overcoat, and her disheveled gray hair was pulled up atop her head. Her wrinkled face was smudged with dirt. Fai glanced down to inspect the contents of the carriage. Instead of seeing an infant, he was surprised to see a collection of odds and ends: an alarm clock, a rubber duck, a headless doll, a single pink shoe, and any number of other strange items.
"May I help you?" he asked. Still breathing heavily, she held up a hand to indicate that he needed to wait until she was ready. She fished around in the pockets of her coat until she came up with a flask, from which she took a large swig. After wiping her lips on her sleeve, she screwed the cap on, and the flask vanished back into her coat.
Finally refreshed, the old woman grabbed Fai by the arm. "I've found it," she announced. "I've found what you have been looking for." She released his arm and began digging through the carriage. "Just hold on. I know it's here somewhere." Fai watched in amazement as the old woman rummaged through the junk, now and then tossing something out onto the sidewalk, all the while mumbling to herself. Finally she reached down, deep within the pile, and a grin spread across her face. "Here it is. I knew I had it." She pulled out something and pressed it into Fai's hand. "Here it is. Your special thing. I know you have been looking for it for a long time. I'm sure you are happy to have it back." She grinned up at the one eyed magician, obviously very pleased with herself.
Fai looked down at the object in his hand. It was a doorknob; a plain, brass colored doorknob. "I'm sorry," he began, "but this isn't mine." He tried to hand it back to her.
"Don't be daft. Of course it's yours!" She pushed his hand away. "It's your precious item. Please take better care of it in the future. I will gladly accept that package as my reward." She pointed to the wrapped fish. "Even though it is but a trifle compared to the value of your special treasure." She reached out to take the package.
"But this is Kurogane's fish!" Fai objected, trying not to let it slip from his grasp. It was no use. The old woman easily snatched the fish, and quickly tucked it into her carriage. Fai now felt worse than before. His head hurt, he was tired, it was dark, and now he had lost dinner. He looked down sadly at the doorknob in his hand. "If it had at least been the feather…"
"I can't give the feather to you," the old woman interjected. "It's not your precious thing. I have to give it to the person it belongs to."
"You have the feather?" Fai asked incredulously.
"Of course I do, young man. Who do you think you're talking to!?" she responded indignantly. She began to paw through her pile once again. This time she pulled out a cigar box. Unhooking the latch, she slowly opened the lid. In a small room, not far away, a little white creature's eyes popped wide open. There in the box lay a shining white feather. The image of the glowing feather swam before Fai's vision and he reached out toward it. The old woman snapped the box shut, and put it back in the carriage.
"I've already told you. I can't give it to you," the old woman said, folding her arms in defiance.
"But that's Sakura's feather. She needs it," Fai pleaded.
"Well then, she'd better come get it, hadn't she?" the woman replied stubbornly.
"I'll take you to her," Fai answered excitedly. "Please follow me." He took her by the arm and began to tug her toward home. Unfortunately, he didn't make it very far. His fatigue, hunger, and illness finally got the better of him. The world began to spin around him, and he crumpled to the ground.
The old woman shuffled over and crouched down next to Fai's prone body. She reached out her grubby hand and poked his arm. He remained motionless.
"Oh dear," she sighed. "Well, I guess it can't be helped." She hefted Fai up with surprising strength, and unceremoniously flung his limp body over the baby carriage. After scooping up the bag of vegetables, she began to amble off down the sidewalk, slowly pushing the carriage and humming to herself.