Disclaimer: I do not own Tsubasa, as Tsubasa belongs to CLAMP.
Spoiler warning: This story happens after Tokyo Arc, so (what a surprise) there may be spoilers as for Tokyo events. Plus, it contains vague allusions to Fai's past, but nothing much revealing.
Author's Note: This story was surprisingly written by me and kindly beta-read by greengirlblue. Please Read, Enjoy, Review, and Have a Nice Day :) Note that even if you're not a logged member, you can still review and I'll wholeheartedly appreciate that!
Ah, and you might notice there's no Mokona around. So either accept that its range is really that wide, or assume... hmm... have you seen Disney's Pocahontas? Because Mokona is not quite vital for the plot of this story, as far as I'm concerned.
Of Flitting Snowflakes at the Break of Dawn
It was snowing.
Large, easily distinguishable flakes were dancing on the wind, floating up towards the tree tops on its slight blows and eventually always gracefully drifting down to rest on the ground, thickening the soft layer covering the clearing. The first shy rays of awakening sun exposed their delicate sparkling, as if the snow consisted of countless little diamonds forming each single flake like a separate work of jewellery art that was unique, beautiful and short-lived.
Most people would find such scenery peaceful, but for Fai D. Fluorite, who was observing it through the window in a dark room, its restfulness bore only one association – the restfulness of death, and that motionless place of existence in the middle of death where he had once, such a long time before, left one life and one name. The snow slowly but incessantly burying anything that once had been vivid and vigorous, freezing the last remaining dim flames of warmth and equalling life with death in infinite, white coldness – this had been haunting him in dreams, and now he could see it once more in front of him. The greyish dusk wouldn't revitalize the landscape, quite the opposite. It indicated the unchangeable eternity since for the dead, and dead-alike frozen, passing days and nights brought no warmth, no hope – nothing at all.
But although unexpected, the change arrives, it eventually arrives, not with a break of a new day, but from the outside, out of the initially hopeful, later hateful and finally indifferent cycle of dawns and twilights. Something, or someone, interrupts the immobile pace of the world of frozen, futureless present, demanding what, or who, was left alive to arise from among the lost and offering them life that was not a mere, pointless existence, but life. Or rather offering them the choice between life and death, ending the unnatural state of suspension…
"Good morning, Fai-san."
A quick, barely noticeable quiver of surprise passed down the magician's spine as he felt a warm hand touch his left elbow all of sudden, distracting him from his pensive contemplation of the view. Fai attempted to cast a glance at the newcomer without turning his head and failed, which irritated him a bit. It wasn't like he didn't know who it was – there were only the two of them currently in the cottage after the other two had departed to search for a feather, taking Mokona yet leaving them, as those needing recovery most badly – but discovering more and more inconveniences of his contemporary state kept reminding him of what had happened and how his life had been changed for ever – once more.
"Good morning, my princess!" Fai turned to Sakura, withdrawing a step and bowing slightly. When he raised his head to face her, he already had his standard careless smile ready on his lips; still, at a single look on her delicate features he realised that the empty form of a cheerful expression was being filled, for a tiny moment, with happiness as real as only possible given his condition. A second of sheer delight forgetful of everything apart from her green eyes came and passed, leaving Fai with a usual beam on his face and even more usual state of aching emptiness in his heart.
That was how it worked. He had figured it out quite a while before – that constant grin could conceal both sorrow and bliss, sadness and cheer; whatever loneliness and misery Fai felt, he covered it with a smile, and whenever a real smile appeared on his face, it got lost among millions of fake smiles residing there any other time.
Or at least he wished it did.
"I was hoping my princess would at last get some rest," the magician said now. "Why did you get up? It's still early."
Sakura shook her head, auburn hair twirling. "I couldn't sleep. It's true that I'm tired… but I cannot sleep." She smiled sadly, eyes wandering somewhere past Fai, outside the window, into the snowy wood. He noticed her look become dreamy as, to his surprise, she drew herself closer to him and leaned her head on his arm. "Isn't it beautiful? It makes me feel so calm… Almost makes me… forget…" Her voice drowned into whisper as if Sakura was ashamed to admit she could forget, even for a tiny moment, even if it was almost, about what had happened. After a moment of silence, she inquired again: "Isn't it beautiful, Fai-san?"
He opened his mouth, automatically ready to give a simple, agreeing answer for so simple a question. Very simple a lie indeed, yet Fai hesitated. Would it truly make any harm now to tell the truth, to save this one feeling from being denied? He didn't want to spoil that moment with lies, as far as it was at all possible.
"To be honest with my princess," Fai said quietly, "I shall say I myself find it pretty upsetting. But I'm glad you like it." And that was the truth. He was glad to hear there was something she could comfort herself with.
Fai himself had been trying to be there for her, always be there for his only princess. Not only after Tokyo did he feel this way; Sakura had always been someone very special to him, but so far her worries had been limited to missing memories, a mysterious person appearing in those regained (whom Fai knew to be Syaoran), and everyday hassles connected with their journey; these worries were not overly difficult to allay. Now, after what had happened, everything was different. Suddenly it was not enough to say "Hey, please, don't worry, Sakura-chan, everything will be all right", or "Smile, Sakura-chan, otherwise Syaoran-kun will be concerned! Look at me!" Suddenly words were less than not enough, and all Fai could do was assist her in her sadness.
That Fai wished with all his heart to comfort Sakura was unquestionable. His travelling companions were the first people he had ever got befriended with who were selflessly kind to him, but the princess had immediately occupied a special place in the magician's thoughts, brightening them with her every glance, every word. He had accepted her kind-heartedness with silent gratitude, praising her only with occasional true smile only for her, most often when she was unable to notice it; and gradually, almost subconsciously falling into deeper and deeper admiration of her charm, her blissful laughter he was constantly trying to evoke, her graceful motions, her bright, caring eyes; falling in love with Sakura.
And here she was, his princess, silent and melancholic, deprived of cheer. And here was also he, bound to her side, desperate to help her anyhow yet paralised by the fear that he might contribute to her misery.
"So you were just standing here, watching the view you find upsetting?" Sakura looked up at the magician.
"Apparently I was," Fai grinned. "But if I were you, I wouldn't put much thought into this."
"How would I not? I don't want Fai-san to be upset." Sakura protested, still analising his face closely, evoking a faint blush on his cheeks. "If there is anything you would like to talk about…"
"Please don't worry about me, my princess," Fai said warmly, although averting his eyes back towards the window. "I'm not upset," he continued, carefully picking words, "I just… need a while to… adjust to our new situation. At the moment, I feel a bit… confused with all of that… and that's why I…" He stopped, realising he had gone too far. "But never let that trouble you! I'm going to be all right soon, you'll see. I know my princess is having hard times herself right now, anyway, so I couldn't forgive myself if you had to add me to your worries." Not like I could forgive myself either way, the magician thought bitterly.
"But…" She began, taking a step back in order to find herself directly face-to-face with Fai, when she suddenly lost her balance and lurched sideways with a soft cry. The magician jumped to Sakura and caught her as she was about to collapse; the princess held on to him, clenching the fabric on his shoulders.
"Are you all right?"
Sakura nodded, then looked down.
"Ah, that's a relief. It's that leg of yours, isn't it? Still not healed?" Fai made sure his voice was calm and gentle despite the pricking sting of guilt; it was because of him that Sakura had been hurt, yet the magician knew she wouldn't accept him taking the blame on himself, no matter how much he felt he deserved it. "My princess, shall we get seated?"
However rhetorical that question seemed to Fai, Sakura shook her head vehemently.
"No, I'm… really all right. Sorry for worrying you." She cast a quick glance on his face and swiftly moved a little bit forwards, clinging tightly to the magician so that all that was left for Fai to do was to close his arms around her, which he indeed did before even realising it. She felt so fine and fragile, almost ethereal, yet at the same time so warm and full of life… his dearest princess, with her lovely face buried on his chest and her silky hair tickling his neck. He closed his eye, hardly believing that was actually happening, unable to think clearly.
"Fai-san…" After a moment of silence her muffled voice reached his ears.
"What is it?" he breathed into her hair.
"Nothing, just… it feels good… But I hope I'm not… bothering you?" Sakura sounded unsure, ginger, as though she herself was bewildered by her actions, and yet her sincerity appeared to have overcome any presumed shyness.
"How would this be bothering? If I can hold you like this, nothing could make me happier…" Out of his confusion there came, despite his will, words of truth hidden in his heart he had doubted would ever be expressed. "My only princess…"
"Why won't you call me like you did before? Ever since we left Tokyo, you haven't called me by my name even once. Why is that so? Did you think I wouldn't notice?"
"…Would you prefer it if I called you Sakura-chan? Or maybe…" a smile no one could notice crossed his face at this thought, "Little Kitty?"
She giggled slightly. "The first option seems optimal."
"So shall it be according to your wish, Sakura-chan. Because no matter how I call you… you are my princess."
"Thank you," she concluded simply, apparently deciding to let the question remain unanswered.
Fai wasn't entirely certain why he had quitted using her name. Perhaps partly due to the same reason why he ceased using nicknames and scarcely ever addressed anyone by their names: out of the fear of allowing them to get involved with him, to create a safe distance so that they wouldn't be hurt. Perhaps also because whenever he said that name, the longing he endured seemed so conspicuous that impossible to pass unnoticed; perhaps he was trying to protect his secret, imagining it would spare both of them suffering. But now all the distance had been covered with one little step and Sakura was there, in Fai's embrace.
"I can hear your heart beating," the princess said quietly. "When I think about what you were through… how you were hurting…" He felt her shudder vaguely.
"Please don't, Sakura-chan." That was probably the last thing he wanted her to ponder on.
"No, let me say it… When I think how you were about to die, and I was asleep at that time… To realise that you could have died and I would have only found out too late to even say goodbye to you… It makes me feel so glad to be able to be here and hear that your heart is still beating…"
"So please listen to it," he whispered to her ear, "because right now it is beating only for you, Sakura-chan, as you are the one who paid the price for keeping it from halting."
A twinge of pain bit Fai's heart at the memory of horror which had struck him when he had discovered she had ventured out into unknown danger of Tokyo at night. He had been ready to run after her, save her no matter what without even recognizing he was still barefoot, oblivious of anything else than the possibility of losing her. The magician clenched his eyelids for a second, fighting to prevent that twinge from escaping through tears. Sakura had come back, after having paid the price for his miserable life with her own sweat, blood and pain, and he had offered that life to her, pledging loyalty to his one and only princess. His existence belonged to her now.
"That was all I could do…" She still sounded sad about it, which made Fai want to cry again. He hugged her closer and slowly, hesitantly stroked her back. "Fai-san… I don't know what I would have done if we had… if I had… lost you… especially before I could… tell you… how I felt…" Shivering once more as he froze, she raised her gaze to meet his; Fai saw a pair of green eyes shining solemnly with traces of tears, felt slender palms move upwards his shoulders, soft fingers touch his cheek and sink into his hair, draw his head down. Lifting herself on her tiptoes, Sakura lay a delicate kiss on Fai's lips, then pulled back, blushing, leaving him in a state of confusion ten times greater then earlier. It was impossible, unimaginable for her to love him… was it not?
"S-sakura-chan…" the magician stuttered out, looking down into her glittering eyes.
"I love you, Fai-san," the princess said simply, smiling a little sadly. "I wanted you to know that, even if you cannot love me back."
He took one of her hands that were still around his neck and pressed it first to his lips, then to his heart, feeling that something too wonderful, too blissful to keep inside was growing inside of him. "Sakura-chan… How could I not love you?"
Her eyes widened, her expression brightened even further. "You never said anything, so I thought…" She shook her head. "Why?"
"I was afraid… I feared that would make you unhappy to know if it was unreciprocated… that we couldn't even be friends anymore, as you would feel ill at ease knowing… I deemed you would be happy with Syaoran-kun…"
"Syaoran-kun…" Sakura sank her head. "He was a great friend to me, and I feel I should try and get back his heart… I owe it to him, for he was searching for my feathers. But it doesn't mean I love him. I love you."
"I love you too." Fai cupped Sakura's face in his hands so that their eyes met again. "But I can't stop fearing I may end up bringing you only unhappiness… Just like anyone I ever cared for. I needed to let you know that."
"I don't believe that could happen," the princess declared. "And even if the possibility exists… to allow it to come between us would only cause us pain. I couldn't stand this."
"Are you sure about it?" Fai inquired, brushing a strand of her auburn hair aside.
"Absolutely?" He could feel his mouth curve in a smile as that something inside was expanding.
"So shall it be…" he bent his head "…according to your wish, Sakura-chan." The name he whispered almost between her lips before covering them with his own.
At that moment, he could sense that time was indeed progressing onwards to the future, that the change arrived, demanding his heart to arise from its agonizing suspension and offering it a chance to live in bright beams of his princess's loving smile. It was no longer frozen or lost - it was ready to blossom under his cherished Sakura's gentle touch.
It was snowing, but neither paid any attention anymore as after having pulled apart, they stayed there in each other's arms, enjoying a tiny spell of warm peace.