A Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle Fan Fiction
By Diane Long
The flapping canvas of a large indigo pavilion caught the hot and damp breeze of the Nihon summer. This time of year the sun held its place in the sky way into the evening and the royal court and retainers lounged in the borrowed shade and tried to amuse themselves. Even better than the usual entertainments were the strange interactions between the feared chief Ninja and his foreign, pale companion.
Unaware just quite how on display he was wearing a pale blue yukata with white clouds wisping across the fabric, Fai stood gawking at a rushing stream of water burbling through slanted bamboo channels, forgotten hashi poised in his right hand.
"Oh, Fai-san," Princess Tomoyo sighed in sympathy as Fai missed the flowing somen yet again.
Fai shrugged, his sun burnt cheeks wrinkling in wry amusement. "These are enough of a challenge," he said wiggling his chopsticks, "when the food isn't moving!" His Nihon, while increasingly intelligible still held strange syllable stresses and skimped on typical vowel endings.
Tomoyo laughed in appreciation, looking poised in her violet summer weight robes. She glanced Kurogane's way noting the way his eye brow twitched even as he seemed to be ignoring the entire situation. It was amusing how while even off duty he had placed himself in the role of a slightly removed observer. He was guarding someone, but it wasn't her this time. At least not completely.
Abandoning his attempts at dinner, Fai flopped back on a cushion and daintily picked up a small woven reed fan. He waved the fan slowly in front of his face. "It's too hot to eat anyway." He let the hashi clatter to the floor, forgotten.
Tomoyo frowned, making brief eye contact with her chamberlain. "You need to guard your health Fai-san. Please try again, you need to eat."
Fai nodded his head, but continued to fan himself, one hand lifting damp blond strands off his neck. "Maybe later."
Tomoyo's lips pursed. Fai's lies, though now more rare, had never fooled her, even from the start of their acquaintance. She held her tongue as she sensed more than saw her chief Ninja reach his limit.
Frowning, Kurogane rose from his own cushions and strode meaningfully towards the the somen tubes, his deep red yukata with black bamboo designs wrapped neatly about his lean form. He shot Fai an exasperated look before sliding his ebony hashi into position over the rushing water. Two efficient snaps of his wrist captured enough somen to fill the small cup of chilled broth held in his other, mechanical, hand. Twisting his waist he leaned towards Fai with his arm out stretched, offering the meal.
Which Fai promptly ignored, closing his eyes and fanning faster.
"Mage..." Kurogane warned, voice low, his brow furrowing. "Eat it."
The small gathering under the shady pavilion paused their conversations to watch the by-play more closely.
Fai languorously turned on his cushions until his back was to his tormentor. His fanning slowed to a snails pace, clearly communicating his disinterest.
"Fine." Keenly aware of the eyes on him, and unwilling to make a further spectacle of himself, Kurogane moved to dump the noodles back into the tube system, but was stopped by a small cough from his princess.
"You try, it then!" he huffed under his breath.
"Very well," Tomoyo agreed, accepting a covered lacquered box from a servant. She opened the lid to reveal a generous helping of peach ice and a ceramic spoon. "Fai-san, look at me."
Kurogane rolled his eyes and crossed his arms, already knowing how this would end.
Unable to ignore a summons from his new princess, Fai peeped over his shoulder warily, eyes widening at the sight of a cold, sweet, treat. He flipped over so that he was crouched at the base of his cushions with an eager smile on his face. Frenetic energy suddenly replaced deep malaise.
"That's cheating," Kurogane muttered. "And you," he directed at Fai, "you're flashing half the room."
Tomoyo arched an eyebrow, then redirected her attention to Fai who was slowly knee walking towards the treat, with a very small bit thigh showing. Kurogane could be a surprising prude when it came to Fai. "This is for you Fai-san, you may have it after you finish your dinner."
Fai paused and his instant pout sent a titter of amusement through the tent.
"I suggest you hurry," the princess counciled, or this ice will be melted by the time you are ready for it."
Fai cast a longing look at the ice and then a resigned look at the cup of noodles in Kurogane's grip. He held out a hand, the sleeve of his yukata sliding back to reveal more red skin. As soon as he had the cup in-hand, he tipped it to his lips and began drinking the broth and inelegantly slurping up noodles.
"Oi", Kurogane whispered harshly. "Use the hashi. Take mine if you have to."
Fai smiled and swallowed, a few noodles sticking out of his mouth like catfish whiskers. He pulled those in and chewed. Smacking his lips after a swallow he repeated the process.
"You look like an idiot," Kurogane complained.
"All done!" Fai crowed, handing the cup back to Kurogane, then he straightened up and pranced the rest of the way over to Tomoyo. "Now?" He winsomely dug the toes of one bare foot into the plush rug and swiveled his hips like a child.
Tomoyo handed the box of ice to Fai with a dimpled smile. "Now. Be sure to share with Kurogane-san."
Shoving the first frigid bite into his mouth, Fai nodded happily, a delighted shiver going up his body.
"Forget it." Kurogane said with a scowl. "Both of you know better than that."
Winking at Tomoyo, Fai settled at the foot of her cushions and set to enjoying his ice. "More for me!"
"Did you learn anything from this?" the princess asked her Ninja.
"Yeah. Now he'll want sweets every time."
Tomoyo frowned. "No, I was thinking more along the lines of tempting him with something he really wants to eat." Leaning forward she chided softly so the words were just between the three of them, "Remember eating is the goal here."
Fai made a happy sound into the box.
The ninja shrugged, his deep red yukata gathering around his shoulders. "Won't work with me." He set his jaw, lips thinned. "He'll eat like a normal person or not eat. We can wait as long as he wants. I figure he'll eat when he gets hungry enough."
"So mean," Fai whined licking his spoon, the empty box sitting on his lap.
Tomoyo huffed, her breath ruffling her bangs. "Are you are missing my point on purpose?"
"Yeah, whatever. I'm going to bed." Kurogane bowed to his princess, turned and stepped to the edge of the carpet, toed on his geta and clacked noisily down the paved walkway towards the castle entrance.
"Too loud," Souma complained. "He can do better than that."
"Hmm, he must be trying to say something, ne, Fai-san?" Tomoyo asked with a slight tilt to her head.
A soft smile twisted the magician's lips. "Perhaps. I think I must also bid you lovely ladies goodnight." He gracefully found his feet and handed the sticky box and spoon to a hovering servant. "Thank you for the sweet."
"Your grasp of our language is improving," Tomoyo noted, acknowledging his thanks with a nod.
Fai bowed. "I am surrounded by excellent teachers."
"Some more patient than others?" Tomoyo guessed, motioning him closer to further ensure their privacy.
Fai rubbed his neck ruefully as he leaned his ear toward the princess's lips. "You could say that, Hime."
"You know, he would be calmer if you didn't worry him so much."
The sudden frankness took Fai by surprise and he could only stand there with surprised eyes.
The next words were softer. "You've lost too much weight this summer. It's obvious the heat makes you ill."
Fai, lowered his eyes. "But what can I do? I don't want to over worry him," he whispered.
Tomoyo tweaked his ear. "Let him take care of you. He's trying and your fighting it doesn't help."
"Ah," was all Fai could say, unable to meet her eyes.
"Now follow him and see what he wants," she said shooing him away.
Sweat dripped down Fai's neck as he stood before the sliding door to the room he shared with Kurogane. The cotton of his yukata weighed damply on his skin, irritating the sun burn on his shoulders. It was so much hotter in the castle proper. Why couldn't they sleep in the pavilion? If only he could find a snow drift to roll around in.
But Celes was gone, and it only snowed in Nihon during the winter. The best he could hope for was stripping down to the skin and praying for a breeze to come in through the room's veranda. The food rumbled in is belly, threatening to sour and ache, making him curse his sweet tooth.
He slid the door open, kicked off his zori, and stepped in – his eyes immediately searching out his lover sitting in the doorway leading to the veranda, his gaze pinned to the waxing moon. Red eyes slid over to him briefly before aiming back at the sky.
"Tadima," Fai called, and his voice sounded weak even to him. Noting the futon had already been laid out, Fai staggered to it, flopped onto his stomach and stretched out his limbs appreciating the coolness of the fresh bedding and willing his stomach to settle.
"TaDAIma," Kurogane corrected absently.
Fai could feel Kurogane's eyes back on him again and soon soft foot steps slid towards the bed, accompanied by shifting cotton as the ninja knelt beside him.
"Take that off," Kurogane said tugging at the obi knot at Fai's back. The knot quickly came loose and Kurogane began easing the damp yukata over Fai's shoulders. "Tch," he hissed as Fai lifted his arms allowing the garment to come free. "When did this happen?" He ran a gentle finger over the angry red skin on Fai's back.
Fai hissed into his arms. "I went swimming to cool down today. And stayed out too long."
A tired laugh. "Where do you think?"
"Yes, there. And as you can see, your Gods have already punished me, so don't start," Fai said peevishly irritated at the heat, pain, nausea, and the stupid restrictions of his new land. EVERYTHING seemed to be sacred and thus off limits.
A rough chuckle sounded over the sound of a cloth wringing out water.
"What's so funny, kuro-ahhh!" the mage exclaimed as a cool cloth dabbed softly over his back.
"You are." Kurogane dipped the cloth back in a basin of water. "Feel good?" he asked, wringing it out again and carefully draping over the red skin on Fai's back.
"Yessssss," Fai sighed, letting his shoulders relax. "Thank you." His irritation ebbed away with the coolness.
The only answer was a gentle snort. Kurogane was smarter than to say how pleased he was with Fai's increasingly honest communications. They still were not common place and the quickest way to scare them away was to comment on them.
The process continued for a few moments until Fai asked again, "What was funny about me?"
"Your total disregard for good manners."
Fai turned his head so a blue eye could peer at Kurogane through wisps of blond. "I'm very mannerly," he stated stoutly.
"When you want to be."
"What makes you say that?" Fai blinked looking falsely innocent.
There was that fake look again. Kurogane opted for the shock of truth. "Disrupting the pond in the meditation gardens is disrespectful. Eating without utensils is disrespectful. Making the Hime bribe you to eat is also disrespectful."
"VERY disrespectful, or just a tiny bit?" Fai asked hopefully.
Kuro ignored that, and shared more truth. "I also told you to stay out of the sun. Now look at you."
"But... it was so hot...the water looked so nice."
"This happened in the desert world. You should know better." Despite his intentions to sound tough, to hold Fai accountable for the impact of his actions, a sliver of worry flavored his words.
Fai hid his head in his arms and bit his chapped lips, thinking back on Tomoyo's earlier words. "I'm sorry, Kurogane," he said after awhile. "This heat makes me stupid."
The sound of a lid being pried off a container was loud in the silence.
"This will help the burn," Kurogane murmured as he spread a cool cream over Fai's back.
"What's in it?"
"Calendula and mint."
"I don't know that first word. Teach me?" The smell of the mint agreed with his stomach, an unexpected bonus.
"Why not?" Fai asked cautiously.
"I don't think you should stay here."
Fai has been letting his eyes drift closed as the cooling cream soothed his skin, but now they popped open again. "Wh-what?"
"Never mind." The words were like a slammed door. Go no further.
Fai reached back and grabbed Kurogane's hand. "Seriously, what do you mean?" Panic edged his words like ice around the sides of a freezing pool.
"This," Kuro included all of Nihon in a sweep of his hand, "isn't good for you."
Fai's face blanked for a minute then came the old empty smile hid everything. He let go of Kurogane's hand as be began to disassociate. It had finally happened....
Kurogane grabbed the hand back and squeezed it. "Don't be stupid. I'm not kicking you out. We need to go somewhere else. Together."
Fai remained frozen, his mind still wandering away from his heart.
"Oi! Don't be an idiot!" Kurogane squeezed the thin hand until the small pain brought intelligence back into Fai's eyes. "Don't do this again. Why do are you so ready to think I'd...." he trailed off.
"Leave me?" Fai finished softly. This wasn't how he wanted to feel cold. The ache in his stomach was eclipsed by the one in his heart. Even now he knew what Kuro had really meant, he still hurt, felt a little raw.
Kurogane huffed. "Together. We will go together."
"What makes you think that going is needed?" Fai asked, slowly relaxing his face, breathing in the relaxing smell of the cream.
"In the desert, you idiot, we thought you 'd die."
Flipping to an elbow Fai pulled free from Kuro's hand, and stared into his eyes noting the pain there. "This is hardly the dessert."
A metallic finger carefully flicked away a peeling shred of skin from a pink nose. "No, but you look the same."
Fai reached up and pressed his hand to the warm metal. "I'm fine."
"Stop it." Kurogane pulled his hand away abruptly as if stung by the lie. "I wonder what a cold world would cost me?" He capped the cream and tossed the jar onto the futon.
"You stop it," Fai snapped, mood tilting back to hot and frustrated. "You only have so many limbs left, and I like having both of my eyes, thank you very much! When will you believe that I'm okay?"
"Maybe about the time you'll stop expecting me to leave you."
"Not the same," Fai protested. "Believe me, I am fine."
"It IS the same if you think I'll just let you starve to death as long as you are 'fine'?" Rough fingers poked painfully at shadowed ribs. "I can count these! You're a damn skeleton."
"That hurt!" Fai snarled. "Damn you, think!" He scrambled up from the futon angrily gathering his yukata around his body and tightly tying the obi. "You saw my past... you saw me. THAT is skeletal. THAT is what I look like when I don't eat. This is nothing."
"Sure, let's wait till you're practically dead before we do anything." Kurogane was close to shouting.
Fai walked to the engawa door and leaned against the frame, his back to the ninja. "It's way too hot for this. What do you want?"
"Too make it better, " the words rang with intense sincerity, only a flavor of his earlier temper around them.
"By leaving? This is your home. I couldn't do that to you," Fai tossed a sad little smile over his shoulder. "My home doesn't even exist anymore. You should enjoy yours."
"Then what can I do?"
"It's only a few months, I can make it through," Fai paused remembering Tomoyo's words. "But you can help."
Attentive silence was the response.
"Don't take my complaints too seriously – you know the real problem is when I stop talking. Please stop making me eat- its worse than being hungry. Believe me I can survive a very long time without food."
"I see you suffering,"Kuro said turning away and gripping his own yukata tightly.
Fai walked back to Kurogane, knelt behind him and cradled the Ninja's head to his shoulder. "I'm glad you don't understand, but this suffering is NOTHING compared to things I have endured. This is living, when before I was dying with out the release of death."
Kurogane wrapped his arms around Fai's arms, his fierce hug communicating his regret for Fai's past.
Fai nodded his heads towards the two ihai on a low table near the engawa's wooden shutters. Incense sticks next to them were burning, sending spicy smoke into the warm air. "Besides, my brother is here with your family. How could I ask him to leave?"
* An Ihai is a tablet left before a Buddhist altar to commemorate a deceased loved one. The mortuary tablet is usually placed in front of the Buddhist altar with incense burning. The family of the deceased usually chants sutras or Buddhist scriptures at this tablet. The ihai takes the form of a wood or stone tablet that is engraved with a name given to the deceased as a posthumous name.
A/N: I know, I know Fai struggling with the heat is not a new concept, but this is the fic that wanted to be written, so here it is. Hope you enjoyed it and if readers from long ago fandoms stumble across this you can see I haven't stopped writing completely, though it is close!