The first thing Fay noticed was the cold. He hadn't felt this cold since ... not since ... He sat up suddenly, causing the blood to rush down. The world spun for a moment and he was temporarily unable to get his bearings. The nausea and confusion were better than what he saw when he looked around.
He could see an impossibly high tower looming above him, piercing the slate grey sky. The air was rank; he covered his mouth and nose involuntarily.
"No," he whispered, shaking his head as though to clear the memories out like cobwebs as the familiar cold began to creep back into his old bones. He wasn't wearing the clothes that the damned wear, but the thin clothing of Infinity did little to keep him warm here. "No, this can't be..."
He dragged himself to his feet and, wobbling, made for the tower, gracefully picking his way over the dead bodies that never really rotted. It was far too cold here for that. He drew his arms around himself as he began to shudder, not for cold (he was used to the cold) but for what he feared he would find at the foot of the tower.
Fay's breath hitched in his throat and he stumbled across the body of the king; he felt the tip of the sword gouge into his shoulder, but he didn't care. He fell to the ground, crumpling over the other Fay. The real Fay lay, broken, on the ground where he had fallen, blood matting his flaxen hair.
"Fay," he sobbed, gathering the tiny body against his chest. "Fay, I'm so - I'm so -" He rocked back and forth, as though soothing the child in his arms. He ran his fingers through the long hair, gently undoing the tangles. Only later would it occur to him how utterly abject this was. Now, he was too frightened and upset to see his twin here, not where he should be, not in Celes with Ashura ...
The thought sent a jolt through Fay's body and he clutched his twin closer to himself, his knuckles white. He brought his knees to his chest and leaned against the tower, staring up at the sky. He resigned himself to his fate; he deserved this, after all.
"I'm sorry," he whispered.
"You should be."
Fay looked up, startled. Kurogane stared down at him, frowning.
"Kurogane..." he whispered, and carefully pulled himself to his feet, still holding the other Fay in his arms.
The reality of the situation crashed down on him, and he took a step back; he could feel the bricks of the tower through his thin shirt. Kurogane didn't know, couldn't know - he had to kill - Kurogane would get in the way, and if he got in the way, Fay would have to - He bit down hard on his lip, and he could taste the blood in his mouth; it tasted more like Kurogane's blood than his own.
"You're going to have to choose," said Kurogane, crossing his arms. "Between me and the other you." He jerked his head towards the real Fay, cradled in his brothers arms.
"How do you - I can't - I -" began Fay, shaking his head desperately, too upset to finish a coherent sentence.
"I told you, your past is no business of mine. But you're future is."
Fay looked from his twin to his lover and back again. How could he compare the two of them, choose between the two of them? The frail, flaxen-haired child in his arms and the strong, dark-haired man in his bed? He could never choose between them now; the child he'd been born with, the man he would die without.
Kurogane turned his back and began to walk away and Fay followed him as quickly as he could. "Kurogane, Kurogane, wait. I can explain, I can -"
To Fay's horror, the body of the king twitched suddenly and grabbed the hem of his pants, causing him to trip. The real Fay tumbled to the ground, and the fake one cried out; this was twice now he had killed his brother.
"Fay," he shrieked, kneeling over the body of his twin. "Fay, Fay!"
There was blood on his hands. As though from outside of himself, he watched himself bring his fingers to his lips and taste the blood of his twin brother. Ahead of him, Kurogane watched on in disgust.
In Infinity, Fay D Flourite jerked awake. He sat up suddenly in the dark, blinded for a moment before his vision adjusted. Shivering, he wrapped the blanket around his shoulders and leaned against the wall as he had against the tower in his dream.
It came back to him in scattered fragments like Sakura's memories; cutting his shoulder on the king's sword, holding the other Fay in his arms, Kurogane telling him to choose, falling... Fay grabbed his shoulder unconsciously, as though he expected to find blood there. He steadied himself, trying to stop his hands from shaking. Just when he thought the worst was over, he remembered the very end of the dream.
"Mage?" Kurogane sat up in the bed opposite his, but Fay was already struggling to untangle himself from the blankets. He kicked desperately at them and half jumped, half fell from the bed as a wave of nausea hit him.
Fay darted to the bathroom before Kurogane was even fully awake, and slammed the door behind him. Two rooms over, Sakura shivered and curled up in her sleep, disturbed for a moment by the sudden noise. Fay collapsed to the floor; the cool tile felt good beneath his burning face and hands.
"Mage!" demanded Kurogane, hammering on the door. When Fay didn't respond, he kicked it again and continued shouting. "Open this door right now or I will break it down."
Fay hurriedly unlocked it then. "You'll wake the children," he said disapprovingly. He was pleased to discover his voice wasn't shaking as badly as he thought it would.
"If you haven't already with your shouting," replied Kurogane. Fay looked up at him, wide-eyed. There wasn't much space and he could feel Kurogane's breath, warm, on the top of his head, the way his own breath must have felt to the real Fay in his dream. It had only been a dream, hadn't it? Fay shuddered. It felt so real.
"Sh-shouting?" he stammered. "I don't-t know what you're talk-king about."
"In your sleep," said Kurogane. "You were calling your own name," he added, narrowing his eyes suspiciously.
Fay brought one hand to his lips, as he had in the dream. He couldn't - Kurogane couldn't - he wasn't supposed to know. It had been his secret. He stared up at Kurogane in the semidarkness, frozen with terror. Kurogane sighed; he expected an explanation, and the warmth seemed to thaw Fay's frozen limbs.
"I guess I'm afraid of myself," he said, forcing his face into a smile that he was sure looked more like a grimace. It wasn't untrue; it was one of the lesser lies he had told Kurogane.
Kurogane leaned towards him, and Fay took a step back and fell, tripping over the bathtub edge. He smacked his head hard against the tile wall. It would have been almost comical in another situation. He reached back and touched the top of his head gingerly, and he was surprised to find blood on his fingers again.
He looked down at his bloody hand, and Kurogane surprised him by taking it in his own and pulling him up. "Come here, you stupid mage," he growled, forcing Fay to sit on the edge of the tub. "Don't fall in."
Fay sat obediently as Kurogane bustled around the tiny room, looking for medical supplies. He switched on the light, and Fay recoiled from the sudden brightness. Wordlessly, and clumsily, Kurogane wound the gauze around Fay's head, tangling it in his hair and with the patch over his eye. The tiniest hint of a smile appeared on the corner's of Fay's lips, but it was gone almost as soon as it arrived and he started to cry.
He stood suddenly, and, as in the dream, this left him spinning and disoriented for a moment. Unlike in the dream, Kurogane caught him; Fay felt his steady hand against the small of his back. Hiccoughing, he allowed himself to be lead back to the bedroom they shared. To his surprise, Kurogane guided him not back to his own bed, but to the one Kurogane had been sleeping in. He didn't argue as he crawled into bed and Kurogane followed him, pulling the blankets up over them both. Kurogane had seen the look in his eye, not the guilt that Fay always saw when he looked in the mirror, but the fear and the loss, and he had been overcome with a desire to protect Fay, but from what he didn't know.
It was a stupid thing, but for the first time in more years than Fay cared to count, he actually cried. He was never entirely sure what it was that pushed him over the edge that night, though he decided that he would blame hitting his head, if Kurogane asked, but Kurogane never asked. Fay lay in bed beside him, sobbing; he could feel the tears streaming down. They tasted hot and salty on his tongue; cleansing, after what he had tasted in his dream.
To his surprise, he felt Kurogane's lips against his cheek, kissing the tears away. He didn't have time to register his shock at this uncharacteristic act, because at that moment, the door swung open and light flooded into their room. Fay never mentioned it, just as Kurogane never mentioned Fay's tears. It was their secret.
"Is everything all right?" Silhouetted in the door frame stood Sakura, blearily rubbing her eyes. "I thought I heard someone ..."
"I'm fine, Sakura-chan," said Fay, sitting up in the bed beside Kurogane. He wiped his face surreptitiously with his sleeve, so that she would not see the tears.
"Is Fay okay?" Mokona's voice, though Fay couldn't see it from where he sat.
"I'm fine, Mokona, Sakura-chan," he insisted. His voice didn't even shake at all. "Get some rest, we have a chess match tomorrow."
Sakura nodded. She turned to leave, pulling the door closed behind her, but not before wishing them both good night.
"You should take your own advice," said Kurogane. He pushed Fay back down as soon as the door was closed. "That will heal, but not if you don't sleep, and eat."
Fay shook his head. "Not tonight," he said, pushing Kurogane's wrist away from himself. He couldn't, he felt too nauseated by what he'd done in his dream.
"I don't know how you go unscathed in the chess matches, but nearly kill yourself in the bathroom," said Kurogane, pinning Fay down with one arm. Fay laughed a little at that.
"You know," he admitted, snuggling down next to Kurogane, "I don't know."
"You're an idiot," said Kurogane.
Fay drifted off back to sleep like that, his forehead resting against Kurogane's shoulder. He could smell Kurogane's blood, hot and metallic, just beneath the skin. The weight and warmth of Kurogane's body next to his comforted him, and for the rest of the night he dreamed no longer of children like broken birds and a land covered with bodies like snow drifts. He dreamed of nothing at all, and the next morning when he woke, he felt that some of the cold had left his old bones.
Kurogane was right; by the time Fay woke, the scrape on his head had almost completely healed. Kurogane wouldn't take no for an answer when Fay refused to drink, and had again resorted to the surprisingly passive-aggressive approach of simply slitting his wrist and insisting he wasn't going to do anything to stop it until Fay drank.
Fay hated his neediness. He hated the way Kurogane's blood made him swoon; more than simply nourishing him, it pleased him. Kurogane's blood tasted good, and that upset Fay. Worse still, after his dream last night, Kurogane's blood felt cleansing as it filled his mouth. It was all he could do to push him away, though he knew Kurogane would not have let him continue for much longer.
By the time they were on the chessboard, there was no evidence at all that Fay had fallen. He was glad; he didn't want to have to explain the bandage to Sakura and Syaoran. Thankfully, in the dim light last night, she hadn't seen it.
The whistle pierced the air and the three of them jumped into action. Across the board, their opponents did the same. Fay ducked a blade swung at his head and kicked the weapon from his opponents hands. It flew across the board and clattered to the ground, not far from Sakura's feet. He glanced back anxiously, to be sure it hadn't hit her; he would have to be careful of trying another trick like that, lest he hurt one of is friends. Fay was not used to fighting on a team. He usually worked alone; being part of a team had taken some getting used to, as it had never really been his style.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Syaoran skid towards the edge of the board and two of their opponents bear down on Kurogane, rid of the other threat for the moment. As if in slow motion, Fay saw one of the curved scimitars swing through the air towards Kurogane's neck. Without thinking, he used his own opponent as a springboard and launched himself towards Kurogane. In a moment, his shoulder felt as though it were on fire. He felt blood pour down his arm, hot and sticky. Kurogane shoved him out of the way and dispatched of their two remaining opponents in short order.
Sakura ran to him as soon as the battle finished. "Fay-san, you're hurt." Fay recognized the look in her eyes; it was the same he always saw in his own.
Kurogane carried him home as he had done once in Outo. Sakura insisted on cleaning what remained of the wound when they returned home, though it was all but healed by then.
There wasn't even a scar, by the time Kurogane and Fay started to argue about it. Sakura and Syaoran were asleep, and they attempted to keep their voices low, so as not to disturb them.
"What the hell were you thinking?" demanded Kurogane, pushing Fay down onto the bed.
Fay sprang back up immediately. "I was thinking that it would kill you," he hissed back, "but it wouldn't kill me."
"Like that would have stopped you."
Fay glared at Kurogane, chest rising and falling as he took each breath slowly, so as to keep from shouting. His hands balled into fists. "I'm not," he began, but Kurogane cut him off.
"I told you," said Kurogane, raising his voice slightly and speaking very carefully. "When I decide it's time for you to die, I will kill you. Until that day, you will live."
Fay ground his teeth, angry and unable to do anything to argue. He owed him that much, at least. Without a word, he stalked back out of the bedroom, closing the door behind him with a quiet but distinct click.
He found what he was looking for on the dining room table: a bottle of sake. He tore off the cap and was about to take a swig when it occurred to him that he may not even be able to drink any more. He cursed under his breath, closed the bottle and slammed it down on the table with perhaps more force than was strictly necessary. He flopped across the couch and stared at the ceiling, a series of quiet curses on his lips.
Fay didn't know how much time had passed when he heard Kurogane's footsteps coming toward him. Groggily, he wiped the sleep from his eyes; although he could not remember the details, he could tell that he had another nightmare as he had lay out there on the couch. Fay could tell from the cold sweat he could feel on his forehead, and the way his hands trembled ever so slightly. He allowed Kurogane to take him by the hand and lead him back to their room. Fay was too tired now to be angry.
As he had the night before, Fay lay beside Kurogane and slept deeply and dreamlessly. Sometime in the night, he realized this pattern of nightmares when he slept without Kurogane by his side. It troubled him, but at the time he rolled back over and fell asleep, deciding he would put it off until later, the way he always did.