Title: We Go Ever Onwards

Characters/Pairings: KuroFai, SySak, others mentioned
Rating: T

Summary: The journey goes on.

A/N: The first chronological instalment in the Nihon series I post on LJ, but I thought it stood well-enough alone to be posted here. It's pretty much a tribute to Tsubasa's end, set shortly after the epilogue's end. DO NOT READ UNLESS YOU'VE READ THE EPILOGUE.

"Trolls," was all Kurogane said as he cut the ropes binding Fai, glowering for the blond to keep still so he wouldn't catch the edge of the blade. "Only you could get kidnapped by trolls."

"I thought of it more as an unexpected detour myself," Fai replied a little distantly, his head aching from where he'd been hit with a club or something earlier, knocking him out. "Like a mystery ramble to places unknown, except conducted whilst unconscious. You should try it sometime, Kuro-tan," he stretched his arms slowly as the ropes fell away around him, trying to push himself up to his feet but swaying rather dangerously. Kurogane caught him when he stumbled, steadying the mage against his chest. "The surprises just keep on coming."

"I'll pass," his companion said shortly, looking down at the hazy eyes trying to focus on his face. "You've got concussion."

"And here I thought there were always three Kuro-pons who came to rescue me from dire peril in the past." Kurogane snorted at the sarcasm, crouching down to hook one arm under Fai's knees, the other supporting the mage's back as he stood, Fai settled comfortably in his arms. The blond rested his head against the ninja's shoulder, eyes half-lidded and drooping. His head really hurt. "Where's Syaoran-kun?"

"Back at the Library – the Head Mage around here has some information relating to magical constructs, apparently. I made the kid stay there to look it up." This world they'd landed in was thankfully a relatively civilised one, populated with mages and seers. Their group had been escorted to the Royal Palace shortly after their arrival from the world before, greeted by the Queen Yelan, who had apparently foreseen their coming. She had greeted Syaoran like a son, offering hospitality to the whole group and giving them free range of her kingdom. When queried by the still-distrustful Kurogane she'd only smiled slightly, replying that her actions were the least she could do for ones who had done so much.

And then they'd gone for a ride out in the surrounding countryside together, been ambushed, and Fai had been knocked out and carried off by the local trolls.

"Kuro-daddy is so thoughtful, not wanting to bring his child into danger," Fai mused as Kurogane carried him along, heading out of the rather dank cave he'd been taken to and into the afternoon sunlight once more, "but Fai-mommy would appreciate it if he took along some kind of backup before he dives straight into danger again next time – Mommy's not really into necrophilia."

Kurogane grumbled, hearing a jab to his prowess. "I can take on a few trolls by myself any day."

"But it could be a lot of trolls next time," Fai said softly, slowly being pulled towards slumber, "or an army. Or a dragon. Or…some other scaly thing with teeth and claws. Or a really powerful, completely insane magician bent on tearing apart time and space itself to break down the laws that govern reality."

Dryly: "We've covered that last one already."


Kurogane glanced down at the one he held in his arms at the quiet entreaty, a little alarmed to see Fai dozing lightly. He shook the blond, jolting mismatched eyes open again, still hazy from the concussion. "Don't go to sleep," he ordered rather gruffly, knowing it wasn't a good idea for the other to do so until he'd been checked over by a medic.

"Keep me awake then," Fai half-grumbled, unappreciative of the shake.

Kurogane sighed, knowing he was going to regret the next words that left his mouth. "Then talk."

"…Talk?" The ninja nodded shortly. "…About what?"

"Anything you like – just talk." Kurogane couldn't believe he was saying what he was. "You do it enough other times."

And so Fai talked. About the sky, about the trees, about how surprisingly comfortable Kurogane was and had he gotten practice carrying delicate young men around back in Nihon like this and, if so, did Tomoyo-hime have pictures or other evidence of some kind? Although, it wasn't as if Fai needed evidence, oh no, – a rumour would be more than enough - but he'd Dearly Appreciate Them All the Same because then there was proof, and corroboration, and a very good start for Fai to find whoever it was Kurogane had carried about so and make sure they implicitly understoodIt Would Not Be Happening Again, right? He even went off on a tangent about Celesian fox cubs at one point (at least, Kurogane assumed he was talking about fox cubs – the rambling description Fai was giving sounded pretty close to a fox, anyway -, but then he went off into the complicated realms of spells and writings and Sakura's feathers, deciding aloud that Chii had looked cuter with the ears anyway even if they had originally been a mistake. (Transformation spells were, Fai drowsily defended himself, some of the hardest types of magic out there, and he had only been very young when he'd made Chii, after all, and it wasn't quite his fault if somewhere between crafting a girl out of a feather he'd gotten a little distracted and thought of a kitten-fox-creature instead.) Ashura-ou had agreed as well.

Kurogane privately thought anything was better than a pool-cover, but let Fai keep rambling on right until they reached the palace again and he'd been delivered into the hands of a medic. Then he told Fai to shut up; Fai laughed; the medic gaped at Kurogane for being so rude to an injured person, and Syaoran came running from the library, books in hand and Mokona on his shoulder, immediately querying whether Fai was alright. Mokona leapt onto the blond's bed and declared she was going to sing a 'get better soon' song for Fai; Kurogane clamped his hands over his ears and yelled for the manjuu bun to stop her caterwauling, and the medic fled the room as Syaoran blushed, Fai clapped, and everything descended into general insanity as Kurogane chased the still-singing (it sounded more like screeching cats) Mokona around the room with a chair.

It was a regular day.

"It makes more sense this way."

"Mage, you're holding the book upside down."

Fai blinked up from the text he was attempting to read at Kurogane. "Am I?" He looked back down at his book again, not withdrawing much meaning from the squiggles on the page before him whichever way he held the book. He attempted to crane his head upside down, bending rather ridiculously in his seat to the point where he would've fallen out of it had not Kurogane grabbed his arm, hauling him upright again.

Kurogane took the book before the blond and turned it the right way up again, hitting his companion (lightly) over the back of the head with it before setting it back down before the other.

"Saa," Fai pouted, rubbing the spot, "Kuro-chan is so violent."

"Violent," Mokona solemnly agreed, before turning the page for Syaoran opposite them.

"Just read the goddamn book the right way up," Kurogane groused, already somewhat put-out at the mountain of text he'd had to trawl through that day in the search for information. He had nothing against books, particularly, but it was the kid who was the scholar amongst them – even Fai was better suited to reading than Kurogane himself was, when the mage could be coaxed to stop being an idiot for any suitable length of time.

"It's in Kuro-tan's language, right?"Kurogane grunted a 'close enough'. "It makes no sense," Fai whined, well-aware he was drawing attention to them in the library of this world – they always ended up in the libraries at some point – but bored of sitting before a literal wall of incomprehensible textbooks and histories. Were the Celesian and Valerian tongue really that rare across the worlds?

"Then go find something that does make sense," Kurogane all but groaned, feeling the signs of a Fai-induced headache set firmly in. "Somewhere else. Preferably far away from me."

Fai rose from his seat with a put-out huff, but his steps were light as only the relieved could be, glad to escape the unintelligible Nihongo.

This was a strange world they'd come to – magic lay in understanding here, bound up in books and the written word, not in the people themselves. Anybody could do magic here provided they could read and understand the appropriate spell and so, as a result, there was a high demand for written spells. Which meant the libraries were packed with literature and documentation, which meant Syaoran, Kurogane, Mokona and Fai had a lot of reading to do, recommended to this world by a witch a few worlds before. There had to be some clue in this lot somewhere that would aid them in their quest, if only it was another lead to another place.

Fai wandered among the many bookshelves for a while, occasionally pulling one of the books down to quickly flick through in the vain hope it would be in a language familiar to his own. None of them yielded a result, and feeling more than a little useless Fai slid down an aside space between two sets of shelves, leaning against one and feeling book-spines press against his back, drifting off into daydreams.

"There you are." Fai had no idea for how long he'd allowed his thoughts to meander, but when he came back to himself it was to the sound of Kurogane's voice, the ninja frowning down at him with all his one-head-higher height. "I thought you went to go look for something you could read?"

"There wasn't anything." Fai affected a loose shrug, letting some of his current feelings of uselessness show.

Kurogane looked dour. "So you skulked around here instead?"

"I was waiting for inspiration to strike." Fai's smile was a blithe one.

"I wish something would strike you," his companion grumbled. "It might knock some sense into that idiot skull of yours."

Fai seized his arm, smiling up at the other brightly. "But Kuro-sama loves me just the way I am, right? Right~? He whispered it in Fai-mommy's ear as he snuggled up to him last night -"

"I did not 'snuggle'!!"

"Clearly Kuro-pon is going through de~ni~al again – don't worry, Kuro-woof!!" The blond sing-songed. "Fai-kitty shall be at your side for ever and ever and -"

Kurogane kissed him, yanking his idiot up by the collar and crushing their mouths together, silencing Fai's words before they could escape into the air. It was a pretty effective method to get the mage to temporarily shut up, pushing Fai back into the nearest shelf with his larger frame.

They drew back for precious air sometime, brows touching, panting breaths gusting over lips already begin to bruise. When Fai pressed up and connected them again Kurogane was still light-headed, one hand gripping a shelf to ground him, the other tight around Fai's slender waist.

It was a gentler kiss the second time around, slower, a lazy exploration of each other's mouths. Fai hummed against him and Kurogane nipped the blond's lower lip, feeling the sharpness of the other's canines in response, a prick just enough to sweetly sting. They pulled apart again eventually, eyes fluttering open from when they'd closed, steady, softened gazes taking in the faint washes of pink over both of their cheeks.

"You'd think we'd never kissed before," Fai teased lightly, raising a hand to run a soft thumb over Kurogane's still-parted lips, the moisture from their earlier kisses.

"Have we?" Kurogane asked him lowly, treasuring the lull around them in the hush of the library, the steady rise and fall of both their chests. Have we ever kissed like this?

"…We've kissed before," Fai told him after a few seconds of consideration, recalling times in Outo, Yama, Piffle, Lecourt, Nihon, Clow, memories coloured by heat and hopelessness and bittersweet alcohol, everything an excuse to end with them in the nearest bed, against the wall, locked against the counter. Blue-gold eyes were serious, keeping and holding crimson red. "But this time we mean it."

One of the worlds they came to had heavy rain for most parts of the year, a deluge that kept up through the day and the night. The rivers were thick and fast and strong, swollen and overrunning so the ground everywhere was one great puddle, Fai settling in quite nicely with boots up to his mid-thigh. (Kurogane outright refused anything that came above knee-height, even when Fai prodded him about it for four days straight.)

The people of that world lived in houses on stilts, raised from the water and the mud that went with it. The rain was warm and sweet, and Fai pranced through it blissfully uncaring, t-shirt see-through and plastered to his skin, pulling a confused Syaoran out into the downpour with him to look at the swirls in the afternoon's clouds. They were drenched through within seconds, their hair rat's tails and hanging in their eyes, but Fai drew a laugh from the serious boy with his silliness and they found a bank of adaptive flowers growing up through the water around their ankles, petals white tinged with a dusting of pink. Syaoran smiled at them too, something soft and warm, and Fai knew he was thinking of Sakura, his princess back in Clow.

"Hyuu~," Fai had never grown out of his not-whistle, leaning over Syaoran's shoulder as the youth cradled one of the flowers in his hands and looked at it, "that's a pretty one, isn't it?"

"Yes," the brunet whispered, beginning to sink into his thoughts.

"I bet Sakura-chan would like to see it, ne~?" Fai clapped his hands when Syaoran started and blushed, knowing he'd been seen through, nodding. Fai beamed. "Let's send it to her!"

"Fai-san -"

It was too late; Fai had already drawn his looping sigils into the air, the power whirling into a circle that opened a portal in the air, a window to a moonlit-drenched bedroom in the desert country of Clow.

Fai paused, musing aloud to himself. "…I should probably have consulted Mokona about the time difference, shouldn't I?"

Syaoran could only nod helplessly, but what was done was done, and a familiar figure was stirring in the bed in the room in Clow, sleepy green eyes blinking once, twice before there was a sudden flurry of blankets and Sakura was diving for the portal on her side, still in her nightdress.

"Syaoran! Fai-san!"

"Sakura-chan~," Fai waved happily at the girl, pleased to see her in good health, "I apologise for contacting you so late."

"Don't apologise!" The princess declared fervently, a bright smile in her eyes, on her face. She looked radiant. "It's so good to hear from you! But – um -" she faltered, taking in the soaked state of the two before her, the rain lashing down in the foreign world, "won't you get ill standing in a rainstorm like that?"

"It's fine; it's fine~," Fai waved away her worries. "I'll make sure Syaoran-kun and I are wrapped up warmly when we go back inside so Sakura-chan needn't worry. We'll be extra-snug!"

"I'm glad." The girl clasped her hands. "Please take care!"

"I wouldn't dream of allowing it to be any other way," Fai promised her, perfectly sincere. These were the days of caring, of today and today and tomorrow. The hurt and the pain wasn't gone – there was simply far too much, and it had been around for far too long -, but the wounds were healing slowly and they were healing well, bound up with magic that touched the heart and spread from their smiles and closeness and laughter. "Ah!" He remembered suddenly why he'd originally contacted Sakura, smiling brightly at the princess. "Syaoran-kun has a present for you!" Fai looked to the boy. "…Syaoran-kun?"

Syaoran had turned aside from their conversation, his face bright red and buried in his hands, averting his eyes from the princess on the other side of the portal.

Sakura looked perplexed. "Syaoran?" The boy didn't look up. "Syaoran, why won't you look at me?"

"Sakura…it…you…" the brunet was still as helpless as before, crimson spreading to his ears as the girl looked at him in concern. He waved one vague hand in the princess' direction, though he could've been pointing out anything from the magic surrounding the viewing window to the moon over Clow.

Fai took in the youth's terrible blush, and then glanced back at Sakura. It clicked, and he grinned. "Sakura-chan, I think Syaoran-kun is a little embarrassed to see you only in a nightdress."

Syaoran flamed even redder, Sakura suddenly going a matching hue as she dived off to the side suddenly with an 'eep', only reappearing when she was clad in a gown clearly designed to ward off the desert chill, still horribly pink in the face.

"If it helps, it's a very pretty nightdress?" Fai offered, only making both of the children flush even more. They were both incredibly sweet – Sakura's clothes had been perfectly decent, but Syaoran was really the perfect gentleman.

"T-thank you, Fai-san."

"I found a flower," Syaoran suddenly blurted out, extending his hand with the water-flower he'd picked in it towards the portal. "It reminded me of you," because it was both strong and incredibly pretty, "and I thought you might like it."

"Oh, it's beautiful!" Sakura seemed enraptured by the bloom – or just the fact Syaoran had thought to send it to her -, smiling in delight when Fai drew his magic over the flower and it vanished from the world they were in to appear gently in the Clow princess' hands. "I'll treasure it always."

Syaoran smiled at her.

"It could've been a common weed or an expensive necklace," Kurogane said when Fai recounted the situation to him later, the ninja finally drawn out from the (dry) building he'd been to fetch the blond in from the rain, "and she would've loved it just the same."

"Because it was a present from Syaoran-kun," Fai nodded happily, the motion letting water fly off from his skin. It was still raining. "And Sakura-chan loves him most in all the worlds." He smiled up at the sky, expression serene. "It's good to be remembered by those we love and care for."

Kurogane didn't reply, plucking at his soaked shirt and trying to peel it away from his skin.

Fai eyed him, and for a few minutes there was silence, save for the millions of tiny splashes of the raindrops hitting the water about their feet. "Kuro-chan," he said suddenly, "let's have cake."

"I don't want cake," Kurogane replied, just not understanding how someone could stuff themselves with sugar at all hours of the day and night.

"I'll make you coffee," Fai bribed. "Tea, if you want it."

"…Fine." Kurogane actually felt like something hot to drink.

Fai lit up. "It's a date; it's a date~!" He cheered, latching onto Kurogane's rain-slicked arm, his mouth curved upwards into a brilliant – genuine – grin. He was laughing still, his teeth white, his blond hair dark with water and sticking hopelessly to his cheeks, happiness glittering in his eyes.

"It's a date," Kurogane agreed a few seconds later, smirking when Fai suddenly registered what he'd said, mouth dropping open and hanging agape in perfect surprise.

Another world, this one full of mountains and woods, crisp air, the group entering a small village to take up lodgings there, welcomed into the abode of a pretty woman called Hisui. (Although Kurogane thought 'she' was a 'he', and Fai confusingly declared she was neither so wouldn't it just be politer to go with what their pleasant host wanted?) They heard tales of a wise woman who lived in the nearby woods so they stuck around, Syaoran taking up work with the local shepherd, Mokona riding in his collar, whilst Fai and Kurogane made themselves useful with odd jobs around the village.

Although the community was small it was by no means poor – Hisui's home was a large one considering she lived alone, offering a room to each of her guests. They gratefully thanked her for her kindness and took her up on the offer, but Fai only lasted until the second day until he unceremoniously moved himself into Kurogane's bed and hogged the softest pillows, refusing to be shifted even when his reluctant bedmate tried bodily lifting him up and depositing him outside the door. Fai clung onto Kurogane like a monkey, long limbs locked firmly around Kurogane's frame, pouting and whining and clambering all over the ninja until the taller man eventually gave in and just let Fai sleep beside him, too tired to protest anymore.

On the third night they slept together in the less literal sense, a hot kiss placed by Fai to Kurogane's throat ending with them both tangled in the sheets and around each other, bodies moving in a pattern they hadn't taken up for a few worlds. It was hard and fast, a coil of need and want and please gasped from bruised lips, harsh satisfaction wrung from snapping hips, arched backs and wordless cries. Afterwards, sated, they slept, tousled and together, puzzle pieces locked together – but they'd done that before. If questioned (no-one would question), it was simply too much of an effort to pull apart.

On the seventh night they slept together – and they only slept. Kurogane was somewhat tired from his manual labour that day and Fai was…Fai was Fai, and impossible to tell. Kurogane woke the following day with golden hair in his face and a familiar head tucked under his chin, Fai curled into his body like it was supposed to be there. The ninja stirring woke the mage and sleepy mismatched eyes flickered up at red, Fai covering his yawn with one hand and looking entirely unsurprised by his body's natural fit with the other man's. After a few seconds musing Kurogane decided that he wasn't all that surprised either, though he did blink once or twice when Fai clambered out of the bed (taking his warmth with him) and kissed Kurogane for no other reason than that he could kiss Kurogane without anything else being required, smiling against the ninja's brow before leaving to help Hisui with the breakfast.

The next morning Kurogane beat Fai to the chase and kissed the blond before Fai had even opened his eyes, Fai smiling and winding arms around his neck before letting his lashes flutter open, brushing across his lover's cheek. They both stayed in bed a little longer that morning, and Mokona giggled knowingly at them as she sat on the kitchen table, happily devouring an apple. Syaoran had already gone to work for the day so they didn't catch his reaction, but Hisui was perfectly serene, not commenting on their later appearance, and she poured them both cups of tea.

"Syaoran!!" Sakura flung herself at the boy as soon as she got within sight of him, her cloak catching the wind and flying off of her shoulders as she literally bowled the brunet over, happily cuddling up to him in front of the smiling, crowded marketplace.

"S-sakura -"

"Sakura, Sakura~!" Mokona leapt from her perch on Fai's shoulder to bounce into the princess' waiting arms, shamelessly snuggling up to the girl as Kurogane snorted in the background. "Mokona brought us back to see you!"

"Mokona is very clever!" Fai lauded, smiling when the little creature preened and offering a hand to help the princess back up to her feet (and off of the heavily blushing Syaoran). "How are you, Sakura-chan?"

"Good!" Sakura replied brightly, and flung her arms around the startled man's midriff, not quite yet at shoulder-height. "It's so good to see you, Fai-san!"

Fai smiled again, crouching down so he could hug the girl properly. "And you, Sakura-chan." He meant it. "It's always wonderful to come back to you."

"I'm glad you're all here," Sakura said, stepping back after a little while from the hug, green eyes bright as she looked at them all – Syaoran, Mokona, Fai, Kurogane. "I'm glad you're all safe, and I'm glad you're all here."

Syaoran took her hands, his own gaze clear and earnest. "We're glad to be here."

Sakura hugged him again, a flying tackle, and Syaoran made a surprised noise and went careening into a nearby stall.

"I cease to pray will ne – I will never cease to pray?"

Kurogane nodded in what he hoped was an encouraging fashion as Fai stumbled on with his reading, the mage attempting to make sense of a text Kurogane had handed him earlier that morning and told him rather gruffly 'practice'. Alongside the book was a translation dictionary – they'd finally landed in a world that used a language similar enough to Celesian for Fai to recognise the written word, and Kurogane was taking the advantage of ramming home Nihongo/Japanese (depending on whether you asked him or the kid) into Fai's fluffy head. The less excuses the mage had to get out of work, the better.

Fai, of course, griped about the lessons, but there was an amused gleam in his eyes that belied his complaints, a genuine interest that kept Kurogane going even as every gust of wind slammed the door of the room shut and sent all the scattered papers Fai had amassed on the desk in front of him to translate the book he had flying everywhere. Kurogane would've blamed Mokona for being disruptive but the manjuu was out shopping for groceries with the kid – he would've blamed Fai for using his magic to play with the wind as well, but the blond seemed as honestly exasperated as Kurogane as he snatched his strewn work up from the floor and air.

Fai took a stab at the next line, tapping his pen against his bottom lip thoughtfully as he read out the translation he'd done. "Always on this child will…it rain?"

"No matter what," Kurogane loosely read from the original text himself, "shower this child with love."

Fai smiled, finishing off the page. "To his hands you hold please give a gentle kiss." Kurogane nodded, and his companion leaned forward in his seat, intrigued. "…Where did Kuro-chan get this book from?"

The ninja shrugged. "Some shop I passed when you made me fetch the flour for food tonight. It was beside the dictionary, so I grabbed it."

"…You bought both of these for me?"

"Yeah, well," Kurogane glanced aside, the tips of his ears going a particularly suspicious shade of pink. "You need to know how to read Nihongo."

"Oh~?" Fai slid closer to him, putting down the sheet of paper he'd been holding to touch the other man on the arm, voice practically a purr. "And why's that, Kuro-sama?"

"It's…" Kurogane hesitated, something he wasn't prone to doing, something he'd rarely – if ever – done before meeting Fai. He hesitated, but then he pushed on, ever on, opening up the path to further insanity he didn't think his life could be the same without, anymore. "It's the common language, in Nihon."

Fai's smile was brilliant, hearing the unspoken question, the implied plan for their future ahead. He bowed his head over his work again, assuming the air of diligence, but let his hand trail down Kurogane's arm, slide into another warm palm. "I'd best get learning then."

On the next world Syaoran found a stray, injured cat on a side-road and took it in, unable to watch the creature in pain. Mokona watched worriedly by as Fai helped Syaoran tend to the feline, sorting out the injuries as best they could and leaving the cat in a warm place with some water in a dish nearby and some (of Kurogane's) fish. They watched over the cat for about a fortnight until Kurogane asked why they were still keeping the thing around, Mokona and Fai immediately turning on the ninja and scolding him soundly for being 'insensitive'. Syaoran only looked up at the man with his usual solemn eyes, the cat sound asleep and purring on his lap.

"Kurogane-san," Kurogane knew it was rarely a good thing when everyone fell silent to listen to Syaoran address him like that, "can we keep her?"

Kurogane floundered for a few moments in the face of the boy's obvious sincerity and faith, Fai and Mokona glaring at him disapprovingly from the side that he could even think of saying no to Syaoran's dreadfully hopeful face.

"…Fine," the ninja grumbled eventually, and looked aside. "Just keep the thing away from me." He wasn't a cat person.

Fai immediately decided the cat should, in line with his own Nihongo lessons, be called 'Nyanko' ("You can't call the cat, 'cat', you idiot!!"), but – since Kurogane was so terribly grouchy and liked to spoil poor, poor Fai-kitty's fun all the time - they'd call her 'Koko' for short.

Mokona approved, Kurogane yelled, Fai ran away from him and Syaoran sat with Koko on his lap, rubbing her behind the ears and making her purr.

Among the grime and lights of another non-magical world Kurogane found himself accosted by another blond, a creature with the same bright smile as his counterpart, but a pair of summer-sky eyes.

"Kuro-chan~," the voice was the same as well, lilting and sweet, and Kurogane spared an idle pitying thought to this world's counterpart, a bond over stupid nicknames. "I thought you said you couldn't come out tonight?"

Kurogane attempted to detach himself from the other-Fai, this world's Yuui. "I think you've got the wrong person."

"Kuro-pon, don't be silly." Yuui chided him, wagging one finger in his face. "I know my Kuro-pup and what have you done to your arm?!" The blond was wide-eyed as he took in the ninja's metal appendage, lifting it up to inspect. "Kuro-wan -"

Kurogane pulled his hand from the other's grasp. "Like I said, I think you've got the wrong person."

His companion frowned at him, confused. "But you're Kurogane."

"But not your Kurogane," answered the same voice from behind Kurogane's back, a familiar possessive hand pressing against the ninja's right hip, Fai leaning on the man's left side with his arm around the other's waist. The angle he was at meant Kurogane couldn't see the look on his face, but the stiffness of his frame and the thoughtful consideration that crept onto Yuui's said it was probably a sight indeed.

"…I don't understand," the Yuui before them admitted, taking in his reflection living, breathing, resting against the side of someone who looked very much like his own boyfriend, "but I don't think I'd believe you if you explained it to me."

"No," said Fai rather shortly, having no patience for himself. "You wouldn't."

"And my Kuro-sama?"

"Probably exactly where you left him."

"Right," said the Yuui, and inclined his head. "It was a pleasure meeting you." Fai didn't return the sentiment, and the other blond wandered off. (Kurogane supposed it beat screaming, but the calmness was a little weird.)

Kurogane raised an eyebrow at Fai, unused to the mage being so rude, and Fai looked up at him, still bristling from the encounter. "You're jealous of yourself?"

"Who else could put up with you?" Kurogane only continued to look down at him, and Fai reached up to grab the front of his shirt. "I'm not losing you, Kuro-sama," he said simply, right before dragging Kurogane down into a kiss, "not even to myself."

"Kurogane-san," Syaoran said in a world without houses, where the people lived in hides under trees so tall they had to reach to the sphere of the sky itself, "do you think I'm wasting my time?"

Kurogane looked at the boy consideringly, feeling the heat of the fire they were sitting beside touch his face, people chattering in this tribe they'd entered, gathering around the communal pot for food. Fai was elsewhere with Mokona and Koko, talking to the Chief's wife. "You made a wish, didn't you? To be together with those you love."

"To live in a peaceful world," Syaoran said quietly, his hand over his heart, as if he could reach inside of himself to pluck out the soul of his father, his friend, his clone, "with everyone together."

"…There are a lot of worlds out there," Kurogane told him after a short pause, getting to his feet and ruffling the youth's hair with one hand, looking over to where the food was being served. "We'll find the one you're looking for sooner or later."

Syaoran looked up at him. "Kurogane-san…"

"It's time to eat," Kurogane said bluntly, cutting the brunet off, "before the food gets cold."

"Yes, Kurogane-san," Syaoran said obediently, and followed the ninja to the pot.

Kurogane did not like cats (Fai was the self-declared exception). They mewed and they wailed and they scratched his pants-legs to ruin with their claws. They got underfoot and tripped Kurogane over, and moulted all over his black clothes – black. Fai suggesting Kurogane change his primary colour choice was met with a rather hearty scowl, Koko mewing innocently and washing her face as she sat on the kitchen counter opposite the two humans, Mokona curiously inspecting the cat food Fai had bought their animal friend.

Kurogane did not like Koko – but he put up with the cat, because Fai, Syaoran and Mokona declared themselves deeply attached to the feline and were forever cooing over her, and Kurogane's eardrums weren't quite feeling up to the task of combating the scolding he'd receive should he so much as look at Koko in a semi-violent way. The cat was forever getting in the way – from using Kurogane as her personal cushion and scratching post, to pushing in-between Fai and Kurogane when the ninja was in the midst of successfully angling them both towards the nearest bedroom, effectively stealing Fai's attention as the blond swooped down to pick her up and coo over her, declaring that Koko was hungry and had to be attended to at once.

The last straw came one sunny afternoon in a fairly modern world, the group living in a small house whilst they consulted various sources around the nearby city. Kurogane was resting on the couch, reading his latest copy of his favourite mangayan; Syaoran was out investigating with Mokona, Fai was in the kitchen, preparing the evening meal and talking to the cat. All was well, all was peaceful, and Kurogane tuned out Fai's non-stop yammering with a skill born of practice, immersed in the manga before him.

That was until, of course, Koko suddenly pounced on his chest, covered in white flour, and tackled the mangayan from his hands, clawing at the page the ninja had been reading and proceeding to shred the rest of the book before Kurogane's eyes.

"FAI!!" Kurogane yelled for the idiot even as he smacked Koko away from his manga, grabbing the precious up from the floor. The stupid cat had wrecked the middle section – a few torn pages fluttered loose just as Fai walked distractedly out of the kitchen, just as covered in flour as the cat.

"What is – ohhhh." Fai understood implicitly what the death of the mangayan meant. Especially one Kurogane hadn't finished reading. "Kuro-chan," he said diplomatically, "we can get you a new one."

"I wanted this one! And your cat shredded it!!"

"I'm sure Koko was just playing -"

"The cat shredded my manga."

"I can see, Kuro-chan – it's making a mess on the floor." Kurogane growled, and Fai sighed. "You already smacked her, right?" A sharp nod. "Then what else do you expect me to do?"

Kurogane floundered. His instinctive response was to say 'kill the cat', but there was certain warning gleam in Fai's eyes that promised a certain kind of hell if he so much as breathed the suggestion. Koko, it appeared, had diplomatic immunity – Kurogane did not.

"Come," Fai took his hand, and tugged him gently towards the kitchen, shutting the door behind them and sealing Koko in the other room. "Kuro-pon can help me with dinner – I'm making pie, and I need a taste-taster to try it out."

Kurogane sulked, taking a seat at the nearby table. "I'm not your damn guinea-pig."

"No," Fai agreed, smiling, lifting a spoon of some filling or other to the other's mouth for Kurogane to try out. Trained, Kurogane opened up, and ended up with something hot and meaty in his mouth – beef? "Kuro-wan is my growly puppy."

The chunks of beef went down the wrong way, and Kurogane choked. Fai immediately looked up in alarm, but Kurogane coughed his mouthful back up, breathing normally.

Fai looked distraught. "It was that bad?"

Kurogane shook his head, still breathing a little heavily, and wondered just when it was he'd been domesticated. "It wasn't the cooking."

"Then the filling was good?" Fai perked up again.

"Yeah," Kurogane granted him, watching the blinding sparkles emanate at once from his pleased partner, Fai clapping and flinging his arms around the taller man's neck. He was getting flour all down Kurogane's front, but the rather sweet kiss he gave the ninja more than made up for it.

Peace reigned in the household for the rest of the afternoon and well into the evening, Syaoran and Mokona returning to the house for the meal. Kurogane was relatively content, having calmed down, Koko was happily out of sight, and then Fai wailed in the kitchen – some thing had scoffed half of his pie, and the only culprit –

Kurogane was first out of his seat to offer. "Can I string that cat up by the neck?"

Sulking about the destruction of his cooking, Fai didn't hold him back.

They came to a world of contrasts – magical and non-magical both, two-thirds of the population living magic-free and clueless about the second life the minority conducted. They landed in the garden of one of the wizard families of the world, a few children leaning out of windows and applauding their 'apparating skills', asked if they were there to see their parents. Having no clue about where they were Fai agreed and said they were, and somehow or other (over very civilised cups of tea with milk and about three heaped spoonfuls of sugar for Fai - stirred clockwise three times – and about seven for Mokona) the story of what they were doing came out to two very-concerned-looking-but-ultimately-exceedingly-helpful wizard parents, and the whole group found themselves being escorted to another end of the country (apparently) using the fireplace.

They were in a castle, it seemed, a school, as a rather stern-faced woman (the headmistress) informed them, ramming a worn hat down over Syaoran's head before Kurogane could whip out his sword. Seeing it was only a hat and it didn't appear to be eating the boy or anything (although the incredibly spooked expression Syaoran was wearing didn't raise the ninja's hopes too high) Kurogane relaxed slightly – and then jolted when the brim opened, and the hat spoke.

"They're telling the truth."

Kurogane actually goggled at that, and Fai clapped his hands together (again), looking utterly enthralled. "Hyuu~! What a clever hat!" And then he sneezed, and looked most startled.

"Bless you," said Syaoran automatically, the talking hat still sitting on his head.

"Thank you, Syaoran-kun~," Fai sang, and then he sneezed again. Koko, who had been sitting curled around his neck, leapt onto the ground in disgust, not ready to put up with her perch jerking so violently like that.

Mokona piped up. "Someone is talking about Fai!"

"Tch," Kurogane snorted. "Who'd waste their time talking about this idiot?"

Fai sneezed again, and looked apologetically at the headmistress. "This castle is full of magic, isn't it?"

The woman nodded. "It's a school of magic."

"Ah," Fai looked temporarily woeful. "I think I'm allergic."

They were allowed use of the extensive castle library, though after about an hour straight of sneezing Fai was forbidden from the room, stirring up too many delicate pages. Mokona went with the blond for a walk outside to keep Fai company, and when they came in three hours later soaking wet Fai only beamed, Mokona giggling, and both informed their alarmed companions they'd made friends with the giant squid who lived in the castle lake.

Fai was promptly forbidden from going back outside again as well.

They were given rooms in the castle that night. After a long day spent in the library Kurogane was actually glad to be heading to bed, only to discover a certain cat had gotten there first and made herself quite comfortable on his pillow. Picking Koko up and dropping her on the floor – and then chucking the cat-fur-coated pillow after her for good measure – Kurogane went for a long bath, looking forward to stretching out alone –

Only to discover Fai curled up half-asleep on Kurogane's bed when he came back. The mage woke up promptly and properly when Kurogane loomed over him, Fai reaching out with his usual assurance to the younger man, pulling Kurogane down over him and joining their mouths.

Kurogane was still slightly damp from his bath but Fai didn't really seem to care, clothes shed and dropped over the side of the bed onto the floor, skin sliding against skin, softer, slower, closer than usual. Taste, touch, sight, sound, nigh all were each other, time dropping away as they actually smiled into each kiss, Fai leaving a row of white fingermarks along his lover's darker shoulder, hot gasping breath rushing along Kurogane's neck. Tighter, hotter, brow to brow, skins flushed, somebody's shivering moan when Fai shifted his leg, deeper, better, god –

Afterwards, sweaty, sated, the sheets barely covering them, Fai pressed into Kurogane, all but purring as the ninja stroked one hand down his spine, shamelessly nuzzling into the arch of the taller man's neck, too comfortable to even think aboutmoving. Not that Kurogane wanted to move him, either. This…this was good, this was nice, legs tangled, hair tousled, safe and content and dropping sweetly into sleep.

Sometimes, however, it was such a shame Kurogane did so much post-coital thinking.

"You stopped sneezing."

"Hm?" Fai was far too gone to care about his usual extensive vocabulary, dark lashes fluttering as he looked up at his lover enquiringly and tried to process those things – ah yes, words – coming from Kurogane's mouth. Why was Kurogane talking again?

"Sneezing," the ninja repeated, tone taking on a slight impatience as he attempted to get his message into the skull of his drowsy companion. "You stopped doing it."

"Oh," Fai blinked once, twice, Kurogane feeling the lashes brush the skin of his throat, almost hearing the wheels turning in the mage's labyrinthine mind as it was reluctantly called back from the tempting oblivion it had been happily heading towards. And then Fai smiled, awake enough again to once more be a tease. "Kuro-tan, maybe all I needed was a pick-me-up?"

Comfort and cosiness be damned, Kurogane promptly pushed Fai out of the bed. (The mage made such a satisfying thump as he hit the floor.)

They fought back-to-back, side-by-side, with Syaoran between them; Mokona curled safely into a hood or collar – usually Fai's -, Koko slinking out of sight into a nearby bush until a battle was done. The blond preferred long-distance fighting still above all other forms of combat, his magic a beautiful, deadly thing in battle, strengthening his comrades, protecting them, biting and burning and searing the skin of the fools that dared try to harm the ones he loved, white-hot phoenixes that blinded the eye and turned those that stood against them to little more than charred scraps, ash.

Kurogane dived in, dark, dangerous, slicing and cutting and blazing a path through their enemies, his dragon roaring and curling around them in the air, the blazing protector before and behind.

Syaoran was the lightning-flash, wind, fire, water, connected to nowhere and nothing but with a heart of pure gold, defending his allies and taking down his foes. He learned quickly and well, keeping them safe, learning, improving, set only on his goal.

Individual, each of them was formidable. Together, most people wisely decided that fighting was simply not the best option that day, and lay down their weapons. That, of course, often disappointed Kurogane, and Fai patted him pseudo-comfortingly on the head and got his hand snapped at for good measure. The blond only ever laughed, Mokona squealed in delight, and both ran or bounced away from the pursuing ninja 'kyaa'ing and waving their arms whilst Syaoran looked on, smiling, Koko coming out of hiding and taking up her place on his lap.

It was good to be together.

They arrived in a country that could've been Paradise, on an island lush with tropical green with an endless sky of blue overhead. They landed under trees and Fai promptly stripped down in the humid air, Syaoran following suit a few beats later – though not to the excess that the blond did. Kurogane refused to be parted from any part of his black ensemble and Fai whined about it, complaining that daddy was a prude and shy and silly and if he got sweaty and overheated it was all his own fault, and just see if mommy comforted him later when he died of sunstroke. Kurogane responded in his usual succinct fashion, and called Fai a pervert.

They lounged in the shade as the sun climbed higher overhead, Fai snapping a large leaf from a nearby tree and lazily fanning himself with it. Kurogane, he announced, made Fai hot just be sitting there, brooding away in his big black cloak. Kurogane only growled at him; it was far too hot for him to be bothered enough to get up and kick the blond, even if Fai was being terribly annoying.

And then Fai had the bright idea of contacting Sakura, immediately perking all of them up (even if Kurogane refused to show it). The Clow princess was as delighted as ever to see them, literally shoving her elder brother out of the room the viewing portal had appeared in so she could talk to them in private, beaming and chattering and asking them about their journey, telling them about her day. Kurogane decided it would be a good idea to give her and Syaoran a little private time to talk (and he was growing weary of the meaningful looks the two younger ones were exchanging) and dragged a reluctant Fai away, unable to grab Mokona because the manjuu decided she was going to stay and keep Syaoran and Koko company.

The two adults went to the beach that ran the length of the island, Fai dropping the clothes he'd shed in a small patch of shade – and then pulling off a few more, much to Kurogane's sudden embarrassment – and running for the ocean that sparkled rather enticingly, reversing their previous roles and being the one to drag Kurogane along instead. Kurogane only had time to kick off his boots and lose his cloak before Fai had pulled him into the – thankfully rather warm – water, laughing and splashing the other like a child half – well…a child a lot, lot younger than him (Fai had never revealed his exact age).

Kurogane attempted to go after him but he tripped over an underwater rock, spluttering as he went under for a second or two. Fai laughed at him and Kurogane sent up a wave of water as soon as he got footing once more, Fai splashing him back and protesting that oh, Kuro-puu, the water was so cold –

They sat on the sand in the sun afterwards drying off, Kurogane finally peeling away his wet clothing and trying to get it dry as well before Syaoran rejoined them. Fai flopped down beside him, eyes closed, sand sticking to his pale skin, salt stiffening the gold of his hair and leaving traces of white on his lips. He didn't look like a prince like that, or a mage, or a knight. He didn't look like someone who had stood at what could've been the end of all the worlds beside Kurogane, dream-burned, determined, pushing for the tomorrow so that they could all go on. He could've been anyone.

He was Fai.

He was Fai, and despite everything Fai was there, a thousand trials suffered and beaten to reach this point where they were, side by side still, with the sun warming their faces.

"Kuro-sama," Fai didn't even bother opening his eyes to speak, too comfortable exactly as he was, halfway to anywhere and two-thirds asleep, his arms propped behind his head, "I can hear you thinking."

"Some of us like to do it from time to time," Kurogane griped, knowing rather than seeing that Fai was smiling at his comment, letting the truly nonexistent jab within it roll off him as easily as the beads of water from the ocean.

"Some of us develop headaches as a result." Fai lazily retorted. "Really, Kuro-tan, you're going to go all wrinkly."

Kurogane picked up his still-soggy shirt for that comment, and flung it over his lover, Fai letting out a peculiar squeak noise and flinging the damp thing off of him again (it was cold), pouting when he heard Kurogane laugh at him.

"Saa, Kuro-myu is so mean."

"Yes," the ninja agreed quite readily. "I am."

Fai sulked and Kurogane ignored him and Fai teased so that, when Syaoran finally emerged from under the tree-line with Koko draped around his neck and Mokona bouncing a few steps ahead of him, both Fai and Kurogane were back in the ocean again, the former evading the latter as Kurogane attempted to drown him.

"Syaoran-kun!" Fai waved as soon as he caught sight of the boy, voice taking on a piteous note, "Save me - your daddy's finally cracked!"

"I'll show you 'cracked', you idiotic -!"

"Ah, Kuro-wan is scary – scary~!"

Syaoran took a seat on the sand with Mokona and Koko, and let the two 'adults' continue with what they were doing, yelling and squealing coming from the ocean for a good half hour as the two out there chased each other around and around.

It was a regular day.

A/N: I haven't a lot to say, really. ^^;; Ah, Tsubasa, I'm so sad to see you go. *woe*

- The 'text' Fai is translating in the first part of this story is actually a song – Tsunaida te ne kisu wo, from the -man anime. It's a very beautiful song and actually makes me wibble like hell – I'd recommend it to anyone.

- The magic castle in this part of the chapter? Yes, it's a minor crossover (of course I don't own that series), and if you don't know which one I'm referencing you need to look up your pop culture references - seriously. X3