A/N: Hey everyone. This is my first fic, and it came out a bit dark - I tried to portray how unstable and insecure Fai's state of mind is in during the Infinity arc, as well as his new relationship with Kurogane. No sunshine-and-rainbows Fai here, sadly. I'm still trying to decide whether to keep it as a one-shot or to expand on it. It's rated T for language and uh, suggestive situations. Oh, spoiler swamp ahead, by the way.

2008/12/10 Edit: Fixed up a few things.

Reviews, comments and concrit are appreciated, of course. :)


Fai's POV, set in Infinity.

Threadbare Excuses

I.

--

It's getting increasingly more difficult for me to be around Kurogane.

It isn't as if the recent events that happened between us aren't enough, because they most certainly are. When I started this journey, I didn't anticipate losing my eye or my humanity. I didn't anticipate anything at all, in fact, except to eventually get caught and bound and brought back to Celes, my own personal freezing hell.

(See how special I am? I even get my own cradle of ice and death.)

That isn't true, actually. I expected a dying princess of sand, and a boy without a heart of his own, and I expected to kill a certain witch's pawn.

(A beautiful, dark-haired, ruby-eyed witch's pawn.)

…Confessing to Yuuko that I lost the reign over my own strictly controlled feelings was hard. That the very things I swore to avoid have branded themselves in my heart. Attachment. Affection. You know, the like.

(She didn't say much in reply, only that now my pain is their pain as well. That almost made me laugh a little. How cruel she is!)

No, no, it isn't that. It isn't even the newfound bloodlust that rages inside me, parching my mouth and forcing me to find somewhere, anywhere that I can't smell Kurogane's blood, even though this filthy, inhumane craving certainly has a large part in my avoiding him.

The reason why I can't stand being near him now-

(as much as I need him beside me) -

-is that pair of crimson eyes that drill holes constantly into the back of my head, as if they can pierce right through my skull and pry the thoughts and secrets out of me by force. Those horribly perceptive eyes that see, but never judge, that understand but never convey any sympathy, only disgust.

(…Do you understand what I mean? No, I don't believe you do.)

I don't want his pity anyways. I want him to reject me, to push me away and to hate me as much as I hate him.

Sometimes, I feel bad for treating him so coldly after the acid-scarred country. He is never one to beg for forgiveness. His eyes would follow me from the place where he stands with a pained sort of emptiness, and I would slam the bedroom door in their gaze to get away.

And then he would drink himself to oblivion on the couch.

(The danger is always there though. Sometimes I find myself wanting to stare back, to drown myself in those pools of red. Surely it can't hurt more than it does already. The eyes haunt me enough in my dreams. They've started replacing the nightmares I have of towers and kings and snow.)


Syaoran is the first to retire for the night. It has been another long and gruelling chess battle, neither our side nor theirs giving way until the other team's leader collapsed from sheer emotional exhaustion, and Syaoran was slightly wounded in his leg.

He pushes his chair back from the table and stands up, swaying back and forth unsteadily like a pendulum.

"Goodnight, Kurogane-san, Fai-san," he says. Turning towards Sakura, he bows his head formally. "Princess."

He limps out of the room with a wistful look on his face, leaving the three (well, four if you count Mokona,) of us remaining sitting awkwardly in silence.

I busy myself by trying to hold my breath. It has been awhile since I last fed, and the scent of my bait wafting over the table to me is distracting, in a severe understatement. As if it has a will of its own, my eye slides involuntarily over to a tanned wrist and lingers there.

(Ihavetogetoutofheresomehow and fast-)

"I think I will go to bed as well," Sakura declares, and when she retreats from the table accompanied by Mokona, I'm all too eager to jump up and follow her out of the room.

Hah, I say childishly to myself. No blood for you. And I feel triumphant even though I'm actually denying myself, but you have to understand, for me this was normal. As normal as snow in the summer is for Celes.

(And what does this tell you about my mental health? Nothing. You know nothing. He doesn't know anything either.)

Two crimson pinpoints burn holes into my back for an instant as I leave.

(I lied. He knows everything.)

I tuck Sakura underneath her covers. She hugs Mokona to her chest tightly, and looks up at me with sudden tears streaming down her small face.

"Fai-san," she chokes out, her frame shivering as if she is cold. I pat her hand gently, already knowing what this was about. Every night, it is the same. The princess breaks down in an emotional wreck, only to piece herself together next morning into a flawless, unbreakable shell of a girl.

"It's Syaoran-kun," she sobs, clutching at Mokona as she falls apart. "And his clone. They're the same. I tell myself that they aren't but the way they look and act, and today when he got injured because of me, I thought I didn't care but I did and it hurt- "

(Ah, don't cry, my princess. When you hurt, I do too.)

What can I say to her? She has just lost her most precious person. She tries to distance herself from this new Syaoran, but I see her resolve faltering as she notices the old clone in him.

At the very least she is having more success distancing herself from Syaoran than I have with Kurogane.

So I keep quiet and don't say anything, and stay by her side as Mokona wipes the tears from her face, chirping, "Don't be sad, Sakura! It makes Mokona sad to see you cry!"

She sniffles once. "I'm so sorry, Moko-chan, Fai-san. Especially you, Fai-san! I can't even imagine what you must be going through… I have no right to complain..." she trails off, exhausted, her eyelids fluttering shut.

And after a moment she falls asleep with streaks of salt on her cheeks.

I bend down and kiss her forehead softly.

A little part of me breaks for the boy and the girl, both so consumed by their own fears and sorrows, both with no one to turn to but themselves. Maybe in another time and place, another dimension, they would've had each other for comfort, but hitsuzen doesn't seem to work that way.

(Damn you, hitsuzen.)

But now, I have my own set of problems to worry about.

For when I step out of her bedroom and shut the door behind me, he is there with his permanent scowl, glowering from his position on the couch. I don't meet his eyes, instead unconsciously letting my gaze slip again from the line of his neck to the dark veins on his wrist.

(Can you hear that? Ba-dump, ba-dump. Beautiful, I say. The sound of life.)

I feel trapped.

And I have to get out of here before I do something that I will regret.

Kurogane looks at me as if he knows exactly what is passing through my mind. And I'm pretty sure he did. To think that before I met him, I actually thought that I can fool everybody, that my play-pretend was perfect. What irony. He tears down the masks I so carefully put on.

(He knows me intimately without ever knowing anything about me at all.)

As the seconds tick by, I feel the blue magic drain from my eyes and a feral gold replace it. A hunger (or rather, thirst), builds and wraps itself around my throat. My, I never realized just how hard breathing normally is.

(I don't think you appreciate how bad it was for me. Imagine starving for half a week, and your favourite food – a steak, perhaps? Well then, imagine breathing in the scent of the steak while you stand famished. To see it oozing gravy before you, to hear it sizzle in the air. It's like that for me, every single minute near Kurogane. Except much, much worse.)

I blink slowly, trying to regain control of my instincts. The blue returns momentarily, and my eyes focus. Talk, I command myself. Or run. One of the two. Don't just stand there.

"Well, Kurogane! I'll turn in for the night then." I smile blandly, as if that makes a difference.

Oh gods.

He is just sitting there, clueless as to how unbelievably mouthwatering he looks, and in more ways than one, too.

Pressing myself against the wall like he might jump up and attack me any second, I try to stay as far as possible as I sneak towards my bedroom. Technically, it is 'our' bedroom since someone up there thinks they are being funny by forcing us to share a room in almost every world-

(Damn you again, hitsuzen.)-

-but with the circumstances between us, Kurogane insists that he is far more comfortable on the living room couch. Where he isn't near me and doesn't have to deal with me tossing about with all my nightmares anyways.

He doesn't mention that it is him who wakes me from my nightmares. He doesn't mention that I latch onto his shirt desperately for something solid to hold onto, shaking and covered in cold sweat. He doesn't mention the things that he hears me mumble while unconscious – mostly the names Ashura and what he thinks is my name.

Fai. Dearest, dearest Fai.

(Kurogane's gaze flickers towards me from his bed across the room. I grin over to him, propped up on my elbows and squinting a bit from the morning sun streaming in through the windows. The light halos his black spikes, casting his face in shadow.

"It seems to be a nice day today, Kuro-puu! Perfect for feather hunting, don't you agree?"

His face darkens, and I immediately realize what is coming won't be pleasant. What did I let slip now?

He pauses. Oh, so he doesn't know whether or not it's in his place to ask. How…considerate. The edges of my mouth start hurting from pulling upwards.

"You had another nightmare last night," he states flatly.

The smile freezes on my face and my mind frantically starts rewinding and trying to remember. Yes, I did dream. No, it wasn't a good dream. What was it about?

"Why," Kurogane asks, "were you screaming your own name?"

No. Not him. Not now. Kurogane couldn't know.

I pull the comforter up to my shoulders and laugh uneasily. "I can't remember my dreams, Kuro-chan. That must've been some dream though."

He snorts disbelievingly and looks off to the side. He has no eyes for liars.

"Maybe," I suggest as cheerfully as I can, "I was afraid of myself?")

I successfully reach the bedroom door, and I am already past the threshold when I do something incredibly stupid, even for me.

I turn around and look back at Kurogane.

My one eye meets his.

"Hey," he says nonchalantly. "Are you going to drink tonight?"

(Oh dear.)

Immediately the disgusting dark blood in me jumps forward at the chance, and I am hit with a wave of thirst so strong I almost double over. The edges of my vision flicker and turn red.

(Damn you too, Kurogane. I was doing so well in ignoring you.)

I grit my teeth and attempt to smile, but I don't see why I bother. It probably comes out looking more like a snarl anyways. Instead of declining politely like I plan to, I find my legs moving towards him until I'm looming over his sitting form.

(My plans never seem to work out. Plan to save Celes? Failed. Plan to not fall in love foolishly? Screwed over. Plan to get away from murderous king? Not botched yet, but for how long?)

Kurogane looks up at me, his face blank and his arms crossed over his chest. The Thirst speaks to me, oh, how nice, he isn't even wearing his chess collar so you get a nice view of his neckline! I shiver with anticipation when I note this fact, and I lick my lips, but I don't think I'm supposed to, because I'm currently trying not to succumb to my cannibalistic instincts, remember?

Control yourself, my logical mind screams. This is exactly what you don't want, you're losing everything. You lost your mind long ago; you lost your soul to the king and your heart to this man you have to kill and now you're losing control of your body as well!

Oh yes, I remember now.

But Kurogane uncrosses his bandaged arms from over his chest and holds them out to me like an offering and I say back to that the logical part of my mind, damn you as well, at least I'm losing my body to Kurogane. He's the only fucking person who understands.

(At least, until he finds out about my past. Fratricide, genocide, attempted suicide, I'm not dense enough to think that he will forgive me if he ever finds out-)

Forget about that for just one minute, the Thirst pleads. Forget about common sense.

(What do you have to lose? Me, I had almost nothing left.)

Leaning forwards until I am half in his lap and wrapping my arms around his broad shoulders, I rest my cheek against the chiseled line of his jaw, my mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water, trying to breathe as much air as I can into my lungs. The smell of his blood floods my senses.

Kurogane freezes beneath me, his entire body tensing. This isn't what he was expecting, no doubt. He can probably feel my breath whispering past his neck, my fingernails digging into his back.

"Mage," he says warningly, leaning away. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

(I don't answer. Do you think that his question merits an answer? Really? Because I suppose that he will find out soon enough.)

I slide down a bit, and I almost groan out loud. His pulse. My ear is pressed right against the steady pulse in his neck. Ba-dump, it goes, and the Thirst inside cheers. I press one hand flat against his ribcage, my long fingers splayed across his chest. I close my eye– what a wondrous, amazing sound this is, the beating of a human heart, and the thought makes me dizzy with happiness because I like to believe that this heart is beating solely for me, but that's just me with my sick wishes again and it's most likely the other way around-

(That my heart is beating for him? No, no! It's beating for Fai, my twin, my other half, which is most definitely not Kurogane…)

But the Thirst is demanding, and so I reach up, drawing one fingernail over the thin skin which covers the pulse, as light as a butterfly, really really careful as if Kurogane is the breakable one between us. A drop of red appears.

(Look at it forming there; don't you agree that it's beautiful? So beautiful, like a shiny crimson pearl. It's mine, too.)

I inhale sharply, savouring the scent, and slowly, ever so slowly, I tentatively lean in and take an experimental lick. Oh! How can I explain the taste of blood to one who is not a vampire? It's even better than liquor, and twice as intoxicating.

(Don'thatemeformyweakness, please don't hate me-)

Kurogane stays as still as a statue. His hands are at his sides and gripping the fabric of the couch so hard that his knuckles are paper-white.

"Mage," he repeats, his voice coming out in a hiss. I look up. He stares past me, purposefully not looking at me, his jaw clenched and his face carefully expressionless, but the heartbeat that is speeding up under my fingertips does not lie.

(Oh, how he trusts me! Trusts me so much, when I can't even trust myself. Here I am, one hand around the neck that I can snap easily, the other over the heart I can claw out with one slash with my nails, and my fangs are not inches away from his jugular.)

Yes, he trusts me, but that doesn't mean he isn't suspicious still. I could feel the tension lacing the air, taut like a bowstring, and I tasted the apprehension in his blood. There, at the thought of his blood, my attention is pulled back to the glimmering line of red again.

A trickle has already stained the tip of his shirt. What a waste. I lean in again, brushing my lips down the length of his neck, and then I bite down hard.

(…words cannot define…)

I can try though, but then I'll have to pull the intensely emotional words out. Words like obsession, ecstasy, revival. But to put it in terms that everybody understands, I shall say that it tastes like fresh water after running a mile in the desert, or like honey when one has never tasted anything sweet before.

Kurogane shudders, and his hands reach up and tangle themselves painfully in my hair, tearing at my locks except I can't feel the pain because I'm too far in and in too deep and I can't for the life of me remember why I was denying myself this, this-

(I hate myself. I hate myself for being weak and for losing control and for needing him and I am ashamed.)

I pull back, panting. My chin is covered with streaks of blood and saliva, and I wipe my mouth on the back of my sleeve shakily. Kurogane is also breathing heavily; eyes glazed over and dull from the blood loss. He sinks into the sofa, head lolling to one side, leaving the bite marks exposed, and they burn into my eyes.

(Kurogane, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to- Look what happens, this is all your fault, you should've just let me die when I asked for it.)

("Kuro-chi?"

"I told you not to call me that!"

"Do you love me?"

"Huh?! Hells no."

"Kuro-sama?"

"Yeah?"

"The children love you this much!" I stretch my arms out wide. "But I love you even more!" I bring my arms back so that I'm hugging myself.

"What the fuck are you babbling on about now?"

He says that, but his eyes flicker over for a moment, scanning my face and trying to read the meaning behind my seemingly careless words. Trying to see if I was serious. Unsure if I meant it.

I act indifferent.

He must not like what he sees, because he buries his face in the wide collar of his cloak and doesn't look at me for the rest of the day.)

It doesn't occur to me to get off of his lap, and he doesn't try to move me either. Instead, he frowns at me tiredly.

"…What does my blood taste like?"

What a strange question. It tastes like him, of course. Him and life. I stare at him, my cold façade building up again. I don't deserve Kurogane. I hate him, I hate him so much.

"Like blood," I reply simply. "What do you feel when I'm drinking your blood?"

Something flashes across his expression for an instant, and then it was gone and he says abruptly, "Nothing." Which of course tells me that there's more to nothing, and I am seized with curiosity. Does he feel what I do?

I bend over to lick the last traces of blood from his neck- and suddenly he grabs me by the metal ring of my chess collar and pulls me up so that my face is right by his, and so that I can see all the little scarlet lines of his iris and the endless black void of the pupil-

(just a little closer)-

-and I become conscious of the fact that he isn't staring at my eye- (which was blue again, infinite sky-blue)- but my mouth. My lips, stained with his blood, to be exact.

(Come on.)

I let my own eyes drop to his lips – they are slightly open. I narrow my eyes disdainfully. "Don't believe that your blood tastes normal?" I sigh against his mouth. "Why don't you try it out yourself?"

His eyes actually slide halfway closed from my provocation, and I think he breathes my name once, but I can't be sure.

"Fai-"

-Before his fingers tighten around the collar ring and he pushes me back violently, with so much force that I fall off his lap and stumble backwards a few steps, landing sprawled out on my back on the floor.

"Get out. Go to sleep," he growls dangerously.

I stand up stiffly, glaring daggers at him. "Kurogane, I- "

"Out."

I turn around without another word, and slam the door hard behind me, standing motionless for a moment before sliding down into a fetal position and covering my face with my hands. I lick my lips tentatively.

(I keep telling myself nothing is wrong; do you ever do that? Well then you should know that it never works.)

This isn't the first close call I have with Kurogane. And it sure as hell isn't the last.