Disclaimer: Yes. I am CLAMP. *Receives package- looks inside and sees an eye staring back at her with the threat 'you're next' written on bloody finger print stained paper.*
I lied. I don't own Tsubasa.
Warnings: Cursing. Um… stalking? Shortness? Possible badness? I am a bit worried about the quality of this chapter.
Dishes clink and laughter sounds, half meaningless, at the table next to mine. A waitress does a slow dance between the bundles of crowded company, twisting and turning; careful not to spill a drop of the coffee she has precariously balanced on her tray. Whipped cream melts over the rims of the cups. When she deposits them on the table, one carefully manicured hand runs up a white streak and is licked. The scent of coffee is thick and sharp in the air-conditioned breeze that wafts from the open faced café, mingled with the sweat of strangers and the bite of herbal and cheap perfumes all swamped together.
Sun filters through the trees and I turn the empty espresso cup over in my hands, glancing at the clock for perhaps the sixteenth time. It should be soon…
And at this moment, even from across the street I hear it. The shrillness of the bell inside the school, signaling the end of class. There is a moment of chaos contained in the white-bricked building, and then boys and girls caught between childhood and adulthood flood from inside, a vibrant rainbow jet of the public school students. They shriek to each other over the heads of their fellows; they pop tiny headphones into their ears and promptly block out the world.
I rise quickly, signaling the waitress over and pay, my eyes still glued on the door. He should be coming soon, I can't afford to miss him. After paying and being thanked and told to please come again some day soon, I grab my backpack by its worn strap and hook it over my shoulder, feeling the weight of my books slanting me sideways. I don't bother to walk into the shop and then out the door- instead I hop the low white plastic fence that surrounds the outside terrace. Leaving the protection of the flapping cloth sunroof, I squint, eyes still trained on the doors.
Buses crowd before the school and the waves of students separate and stuff these rolling metal cages, their slumped shadows creeping behind the shadowed glass. Wheels turn and the crowds thin so that eventually it is only a few scattered beings resting in the shade of trees or leaning against the sides of the building; a trail of smoke possibly streaming from between their lips or a book before their faces. I scan them again and again, at this point becoming a bit more concerned that maybe he managed to escape with the masses of kids on the buses or perhaps he left school earlier from a different exit- you never know with Kurogane. For all I know he dropped out this morning.
Though somehow that doesn't sound like him…
It is then that I notice her, another face familiar amidst dimensions. Black hair falls down to her waist, wisps of it rising in the soft warm breeze. I can see the wide eyes even from here, and though she is too far off for me to see the color, I know they are purple. I recognize her ever-smiling face as she glances down at a wrist, where the glass surface of a watch glints. Then she turns and faces the school as I am, standing and waiting, small hand cradling the strap of a pink backpack almost protectively.
With an audible slam, the doors are thrown open again as one more student exits, feet pounding against the pavement and each motion livid from some wrong that has clearly just been dealt him, perhaps by a teacher or someone else. Either way I can tell even from here who he is, and I scarcely suppress my face splitting grin. There is no missing the gait, the kind of livid life pressed into each thump of a footstep and strained curl of tension in the brow, though I can hardly make out his face at all from here.
"Hey Kurogane, where do you think you're going?" The girl calls when she sees him, not unkindly. He, however, is in a foul mood and responds with venom in his voice.
"Tomoyo, just go home. It's none of your business, anyway."
It is, however, a far more charming answer then many other responses I've seen him give over the years and over the lifetimes. Tomoyo simply smirks at him, unfazed, and makes her way down the sidewalk, joining a small group that had waited for her and chatting animatedly with a collection of girls.
Kurogane stalks down the sidewalk with his shoulders hunched and the characteristic glare never leaving his features untwisted. I feel an odd thrill, as if I have just spotted the star of a reality TV series; a person whose life I know every fine detail of. A character come to life, each small action familiar in an almost disturbing way. His hands are shoved deep into the pits of his pockets, his gaze flickering under harshly arching brows. As if to make it an accident, he ducks swiftly into a side alley, twisting suddenly at the shadowed mouth of it.
Slowly I follow across the street from him, weaving clumsily around the people strolling casually down the walk. I stop in front of a bookstore, letting my shoulders rest against the window, trailing a finger uncommittedly down the row of spines in the bins on the table in front of the store. I can see him from here.
He lifts one large, tanned hand, cupping it before his face and I see a glow leak onto his features like honey pooling from his palm. The lighter is placed back in his pocket and I see the tiny spark of the cigarette like a star in the blending blackness of the alley and his own dark skin and hair.
Cautiously I approach the end of the street and cross, my gaze never leaving Kurogane. As I am walking towards the alley though, I see him shift and then move out of sight. I hurry ahead, hesitating at the mouth of the small space between the two buildings. Peeking around the edge I see his back turning another corner, and I rush forwards.
We are on another street; a smaller one. A small park is on one side, and he leaps the low fence and walks through it, shoving the rusted edge of a merry-go-round as he walks by. The rhythmic creaks of it sound hollow in the empty space, its normal inhabitants all still in school.
Slowly and with as much normalcy as I can muster, I follow him. Swinging the park gate open creates a small squeak and though it is barely heard over the still reverberating noise of the merry go round, for a moment I see the arch of his cheek and think that perhaps he turned a fraction of an inch to look behind him. He keeps walking though. He does not glance back fully.
As he jumps the fence at the other end of the playground, however, he suddenly speeds up, practically sprinting down the street in easy, loping strides. The ripples of his dark shirt fly out behind him and his hand holds the cigarette's lit end inside the palm the same way another would hold fingers before a candle against the wind.
When he finally slows, my breath catches and I immediately match my pace to his, terrified for an instant that he's heard me. It's all rather exciting, actually. Instead he cuts again into another alley and I approach this one as well.
When I reach the mouth of it, I hear voices- deep ones. Peering down I see a small crowd of boys, varying in ages. Tattoos ripple on one's pale skin, a twisting creature made of fine and arching lines that looks like a bat. A boy scarcely old enough to be in high school stands at the tattooed boy's side, and two others flank him.
Though I cannot hear a clearly articulated word of what they are saying, it is clear from the tone and their actions that they are arguing. The tattooed boy says something angry and forceful, arms crossed across a white sleeveless shirt clad chest. I hear Kurogane yell back, just as livid and just as forcefully, and then I hear the crack as a fist connects with a head in one hard blow.
Kurogane advances, anger in each stomp of his feet but the young brown haired boy runs forwards, pushing him backwards and holding his arm, speaking quietly and imploringly.
Whatever he says seems to have some effect, as Kurogane stands back, still glaring though. He speaks again, slowly and deliberately, and there is another pause. Then the boy in the middle, the one who struck him, slowly reaches into his pocket and removes something that looks like a piece of folded paper. As well as something else that certainly looks like a fat fold of bills, the olive green of them a kind of muted dark before the paper. Kurogane snatches it from his grasp, tearing open the paper and eyes scan as though memorizing every fine detail of whatever's inside before folding it again and shoving it deep into the pocket of his jeans, not even bothering to count the money.
Without saying goodbye, the boys turn and walk back down the alley away from me, the brown haired boy glancing back once. Kurogane however turns and faces me directly, and his eyes lock with mine; a glare already twisting each sharp and arching feature.
So fast I hardly feel myself move I leap backwards, scampering out of the alleyway and around to a small supermarket, hiding behind the rack of chips before the great front windows. I see him exit, walking slowly past the window without glancing at me, apparently unconcerned. Perhaps he simply thought for an instant that he might get in trouble for whatever the hell he had been doing in that alley- it certainly hadn't looked innocent.
I wait a moment before turning and peering out onto the street again.
There's no sign of him.
With an increasing sense of worry I walk hurriedly down the small street, eyes searching quickly over the unknown faces of the walkers until I see the edge of a black fabric shirt disappearing into yet another inlet between two buildings and at a run I follow after him, feeling my breath grow shallow in my chest. I see him dodging a trash bin, scampering down and leaping over any fallen rubbage: an old water stained box and a pile of abandoned Chinese food containers. I run after him, dodging these objects as best I can, and he turns sharply at the end, swinging around to face me so fast I feel my heart leap into my cold throat before I collide with his chest, a wall of black before my crushed nose, forehead smacking against him before I'm knocked backwards.
"Ngh!"I yell, rubbing my head. He, however, doesn't even seem to twitch.
I'm too happy to even be bothered by this now, though. I grin wickedly up at him and he glares down at me, arms crossing over the chest I just collided with, and those harsh dark eyes don't even flutter to blink, trained on me as if marking an aim for a weapon.
"Why are you following me?" His voice is a gruff and low growl, yet a bark at the same time. A command to speak.
I step back. Kurogane, before anyone knows him, is best viewed at a distance of -at the very least- four feet. Unless you're my brother. He seems to be an exception to that rule, surviving perfectly well most of the time with even the normal amount of personal space ignored and infiltrated with great glee.
"Hello." I say, and quite politely I extend my hand, which he doesn't take. "My name is Fai."
He doesn't even bother to look down at it, extended forwards and open for his palm, fingers half cupped. Kurogane's eyes -almost wine colored in this world with this bright late afternoon light- stare at my face and seem to be, if not trying to peel away the layers as I've seen him look before, expectantly waiting for my façade to fall. My smile does not falter though, and he grudgingly accepts it as true.
"Fai." He says slowly, as though speaking to an idiot. Or perhaps not as affectionately gruff as he would at idiot, considering how familiar the term is to him. Or really, it's only affection in his own rather unique way of showing it, so… anyway. "Why are you following me?" He repeats, and he gives me a look that clearly says that if I get the answer to this specific question wrong, he will, in all senses of the phrase, end me.
I raise my eyebrows at him and smile again. This entire thing is so familiar, and for a moment I wonder if some other existence of me is looking in on this scene and for a moment mistaking me for Yuui.
"Well, Kurogane, I have business with you."
His eyes narrow when I say his name, but besides that any shock he might have felt is well hidden. If anything, he almost looks amused. "What are you," he says, and he steps back, leans against the wall and lifts the old cigarette to his lips. Ash has claimed almost a centimeter of the rolled paper, grey and precarious, and he taps the unlit saliva slickened end against his teeth when he bares the molars to me. The ash falls away, and the tiny light of the cigarette is a point against the darkness of him in the shadows. I think for a moment that this is the extent of the question, despite the fact that it seemed to trail off as though missing a finish. "A stalker?"
I smile at the comparison, and his eyes narrow at mistrust in the face of my supposed happiness. "Yes. In a way."
This, I think, surprises him. He only raises his eyebrow though, a single one, and those teeth that were bared at me cover with lips as he takes a long drag on the cigarette and when he exhales the smoke it drifts in the air around us.
There is a prolonged silence where I grin gaily at him and he seems to gouge exactly how psychotic I might be.
"Well, are you going to try to rape and kill me now, Fai? Because I do think I could probably take you." He says, calm as ever, as though discussing the weather with me.
"No. But I am going to ask you to have coffee with me."
The eyebrow arched again. "I tend to not date random creepy private school stalker boys I've never met before."
"Wow. Is that my nickname? Because really, it's kind of a mouthful. You call my brother idiot or mage or stupid or moron or something like that, really, in most worlds. And very occasionally, by his name. But I've found in every world you've known me, I'm something that's not as simple and blunt, like I'm 'That Idiot's brother' or I'm 'creepy school boy' or something else, but Random Creepy Private-School Stalker Boy trumps them all, I think."
That certainly surprised him. His eyes widen, and an amused, incredulous look crosses his face. The cigarette, now nothing but a lit butt, is stubbed out and dropped like the tiny bit of a conversation we were having.
He shakes his head slightly as he walks away as though to get rid of the last traces of my words from his ears, and his fists are shoved deep into his jean pockets; the same ones that house the whatever-it-is that the boys in the alley gave him and the wad of crumpled bills.
"Hey, wait!" I call, and I run after him and reach forwards, clasping one bare, tan arm in my hand and pulling and then I am being thrown back into the fence surrounding the parking-lot on the left side. My head jerks back and hits the criss-crossing metal before it bounces forwards, and I bite my cheek as the jaws clamp. It's all right though, I think it worked. The wires are ringing from the contact of my skull, and the soles of my shoes grind against the grit of gravel as I try to claim my balance again, but I think it worked.
Kurogane is glaring at me, and there is fire in his wine colored eyes, eyes that now look like blood thrumming with his heart- blood buried under the hard cold ice of the whites and pitted with black pupil.
"Don't. Touch. Me."
He stabs each word with a threat and his eyes burn at me in one final, feral glare before he turns away, chin balancing the world on its raised tip.
It's all right though, because I can feel it- like a thread, I can feel and see it stretching, unwinding as he walks away. A thread stretching between us like the tether of a kite, invisible and unreal to him on his arm and me grasping it with the simple tip of my finger. And through it, I can feel his heartbeat and his lungs, can even feel his mind. Can feel when sleep approaches.
"See you tomorrow, Kurogane." I call after him, rubbing the outer side of my cheek where I bit the inside. He doesn't even look back at me.
And that night, we fell into dreams.
A/N: Um… what to say, what to say? I was going to explain something, but I realized it's best left for later for explanations. Um… review please with any questions; I don't want to miss anything in explanation. And opinions of course, please.
Another thing- I don't quite know whether this is good. I just finished a play and the SATs, so the biggest thing I'm immediately even slightly worried about right now it Jr. Prom, so when I have shallow worries I sometimes wonder if my writing comes up shallow as well. And this is the real chapter, yes.
Review please. Honestly. Please. It's the right thing to do. You know it. *Insert puppy dog eyes*
New Author's note: Well, this was written A While Ago. I gave it to a new Beta, who would write back saying she'd send it to me tomorrow every time I asked her and then never send it. I've given up on her. So yeah, here's a delayed-even-by-my-slow-standards update. And again, I'm sorry, but updates will be VERY few and far between.