A/N: Well, hot damn, I only just realized I never posted this to FFNet!
For those who don't know, I wrote this for the KuroFai Olympics in the KuroFai LiveJournal community. It was required to have fluff (which it fails at until the end) and was required to answer the prompt "inexplicable attraction" (which it does in SPADES to make up for the lack of fluff). I supposed I ought to apologize for the complete lack of importance Sakura & Syaoran have in this story, but the point WAS the KuroFai pairing. Um, other warnings...? I don't think I broke the fourth wall in this piece, but I definitely gave it a good whack. Does that need to be apologized for? :D
Something Like Gravity
Their eyes meet from across a crowded room. In that instant, everything changes. Do they know it yet? Do they see that it is inevitable, like the rise of the sun or the pull of the tide? Or do they simply think "he has beautiful eyes?" What is certain is that they cannot look away, though they try. This attraction is inexplicable, but also impossible to ignore.
One of them breaks, turns aside. Goes back to what he was doing. But this night is far from over.
You don't see it yet, do you? To see it, go back. This story begins earlier. Maybe it begins before they were born, but for our purposes, it begins just a few hours past. It begins with how they came to be in the same place tonight. They didn't plan for one another, they were only here because someone else made them come. The two of them, being here at the same moment, is pure coincidence—isn't it?
None of this would be happening, Kurogane was thinking when his night began, if magic wasn't dying out of this world. If this world still had magic, he wouldn't be here right now. He'd be wandering the countryside with a sword strapped to his back and a scroll stamped by the provincial lord giving him license to use it however he saw fit. But there were no Protectors anymore. People still hired his father's security firm, but his father was stuck behind a desk all day. As Kurogane had been until recently.
What he really wanted was to be a Protector like the ones in the kiddie story books his mother had read to him, all flashy sword moves and grand adventuring. In the absence of anything else to want, he just did what was easy and did what his parents wanted. So he allowed his father to groom him to take over the business, typing reports until his fingers hurt and squinting at financial statements until he thought his eyes would bleed. They told him to marry their friend's daughter Sayako, so he married her.
Sayako was a lovely little flower, after all. Almost a perfect wife. Delicate and quiet and beautiful of face. She made him dinner every night and slept with him whenever he wanted her. The only thing she lacked was a personality, which was why he rarely wanted her. He should have known it was a mistake to accept what his parents wanted when it came to the person who was supposed to be his partner in life. He'd never cheat on her, never ask for a divorce, never in a thousand years would he dishonour her in any way—but he was a terrible husband.
So when his wife died late last year, he had felt nothing but relief. For her sake, as well as his own. That had gotten him to wondering what else he probably should have made up his own mind about. It was maybe a day after having the thought that he quit working at the security firm and went back to university. He hadn't liked it the first time, but maybe that was because he'd studied accounting.
"Where are my damn glasses?" he said aloud.
He'd kicked a chair out of frustration, forgetting that he was barefoot. Now his toes hurt and he couldn't find his reading glasses to do his homework. Sayako was the one who knew where he kept things, not him. He sat down and massaged his toes. He had stuff to read for his history class tomorrow. If he had broken his toes and failed the history quiz, it would be because magic just went and fucking died out and stuck him in this stupid life.
Finally, he located his glasses, which were beside the stack of mail he'd only opened a quarter of before getting bored. He jammed them onto his face and sat down at his desk to study. Because he'd already been through school once, he'd gotten to skip all the worst courses like basic writing and how to turn on his computer. He was already into the meat of his studies. He had found himself enjoying his class on the history of architecture more than his digital media classes, probably because the millionth spreadsheet he'd done for Suwa Securities had cemented his hatred of computers.
He was only a few paragraphs into his reading assignment when he heard someone knocking on the door.
"Fuck everything," he said through gritted teeth.
It was either a salesman or his parents; he couldn't think of anyone else who would show up at his door. Neither possibility was appealing. What he really wanted to do was ignore it.
But the knocking kept up, so he finally strode across the room and cracked the door open just wide enough to glare at the intruder.
"Oh," he said when he saw the petite brunette waiting on his stoop. "I forgot you know where I live."
She laughed. She had a really sweet little laugh that nevertheless made you afraid, which kind of made her laughter a perfect distillation of her. She was sweet and little and scary as hell. She was always plotting things, things that would lead to your eventual humiliation and despair.
"Kurogane, you're so funny!" she said.
He heard the unspoken command: open this door or I will do something horrible and sparkly to it. He yanked it open.
"What are you doing here?"
"What are you wearing?" she countered, sounding dismayed.
He looked down at himself. "Clothes."
"You're wearing," she corrected him severely, "gym shorts and a t-shirt."
"I was working out earlier," he shrugged.
"You're not going to a party dressed like that!"
"I'm not going to a party at all," he protested.
She pouted at him. "You forgot."
He immediately broke into a cold sweat. She was going to make him pay for this. Somehow, she would. "I didn't forget anything. What party?"
"You promised you'd come to this with me."
"I . . ." He racked his brains. When the hell had he promised her he'd go to a party with her? That was an idiotic thing for him to agree to. "Was I drunk?"
"Kurogane . . ." she whined.
"Tomoyo. Was. I. Drunk?"
"Maybe," she muttered.
"Did you get me drunk on purpose so I'd agree to do this?"
"Maybe. But Kurogane, it's going to be really, really fun," she said immediately, before he could follow this to its logical conclusion (the conclusion in which he denied the validity of such a promise and went right back to studying). "I know the DJ they got for it and I'll probably be the youngest person there so you don't have to worry about stupid teenagers throwing up everywhere or anything. Please?"
"I have to study," he muttered, not looking at her face.
"You're always studying. You need to go out with me. You weren't drunk when you admitted you need me to drag you out of the house sometimes. And I'll be so lonely without you . . ."
"You will not," he snorted.
Damn it. Damn it all to hell. Eye contact. She'd established eye contact and now he was looking at her big soft pleading eyes.
"Oh, for— fine," he muttered. He had said that once, hadn't he?
Tomoyo wasn't even a friend he'd chosen to have. They were in the same graphic art class, but he'd never spoken to her until the day the crazy bitch had just sat down next to him in the cafeteria at their school and said she'd noticed he was always alone and declared that they were going to be very good friends. He had attempted to protest that he liked being alone and he did not want to be very good friends with a nineteen-year-old graphic design student. He had tried. She had interrupted him and started telling him about her professor. She wouldn't shut up. Ever. And she had never gone away. He had run from her, and she had chased him. Literally, one day, out of the cafeteria and into his architectural theory classroom. She actually sat in on a class she wasn't taking just so he couldn't escape her clutches. Because she was a scary, scary person.
He honestly didn't remember telling her where he lived.
"Where's your puppy?" she asked, looking around.
"Sayako's puppy," he corrected her. The woman just had to go and get a puppy a month before she died. It wasn't like he'd wanted the little fucker.
She rolled her eyes. "Fine. Where's Sayako's puppy?"
"In his kennel in my room."
She gasped and gave him the wounded eyes.
"He always wants to play! I can't study when he wants to play all the time!"
"I am getting the poor little thing out and playing with him," she declared. "You are getting in the shower. I will pick out some clothes for you."
"Like hell you will!"
"We're leaving in half an hour," she said, shoving him toward the bathroom. "Get moving!"
"I'm moving," he growled.
He couldn't hear what she said when he closed the bathroom door (at least he pretended he couldn't) but it sounded suspiciously like she had just told the dog she was going to make sure his daddy got righteously laid tonight.
Fai wasn't thinking anything particular when his night began. They were in the car, on their way to the party, and he had rolled down the window at the stoplight, leaning on his arm and sticking his head out for a breath of fresh air. He hated being anywhere stuffy, or even being inside for too long. He'd sleep outside if he could. It didn't help that Sasuke smoked and the car always smelled like cigarettes.
"What are you looking at?" Sasuke asked, flicking ashes out of his window.
Fai was looking at the little city park that began on this corner. The entrance to the biking path was only about fifteen feet away from their idling car.
"Nothing," he said vaguely.
"What are you thinking about, then?" Sasuke asked impatiently. He thought Fai was too flighty and kept trying to make him more grounded.
If I opened this door and got out of the car and walked up that path, I wonder where I'd end up?
"Nothing, really," he said, turning away from the window with a smile. "Just floating."
Sasuke snorted and took a drag off his cigarette. "And that is exactly your problem," he said. "You keep trying to float through life, you'll never get anywhere."
Of course he'd get somewhere. Everywhere was somewhere. It just might not be anywhere that Sasuke (and apparently the rest of the world) would consider desirable or useful.
The car began moving again, and Fai could sort of feel the possibilities of that path retreating behind him. That made him think that his time with Sasuke would probably be over soon. He always got like this just before he realized how unhappy he was and moved on to the next guy. He'd been with Sasuke for a record-setting six months.
The car pulled up to another stoplight. This time, there was a strip of restaurants, bars, and boutique shops stretching up the street to his window. He could walk into one of them and find a job playing music on weekends and waiting tables during the week. He could find an apartment to rent, and leave the smoking asshole in the driver's seat. He'd be so bored by the mundanity of it that he nearly threw up just thinking about it. But still. He'd get to leave the smoking asshole in the driver's seat.
"Floating again?" Sasuke growled, flicking his cigarette onto the pavement.
"Planning," Fai corrected, leaning on his hand again. "I think I might get a job."
Sasuke grabbed his wrist, hard enough to hurt. "Fine. Something part-time."
Fai looked down at his captured wrist. He could twist out of the grip that was hurting him, but what would be the point? It would piss his boyfriend off and he kind of didn't want to show up to the party with a black eye. He didn't particularly want to show up to the party at all, but this was some kind of gathering for Sasuke's peer group, and he wanted to show Fai off. Fighting him was just a lot of effort expended for no good reason.
They stopped again.
"What, did I piss off the traffic gods or something?" Sasuke muttered, and lit up another cigarette. Apparently someone important was going to be there that he needed to schmooze for some reason, so he was nervous about it. He always smoked more when he was nervous.
There was nothing of interest near his window this time. So he looked at the door latch. He thought about opening it. Getting out of the car, walking away up this boring street. Something would happen if he did that, which was preferable to the nothing that was happening right now.
If he left, Sasuke would probably drown the kitten Fai had rescued off the street a few days ago. Then he'd have the death of a kitten on his conscience.
The car picked up speed.
"Finally," Sasuke mumbled. "Here." He handed Fai the cigarette. Fai took a drag to make him happy and handed it back, blowing the smoke out the open window. He hated smoking.
Kurogane was drinking a beer and pretending to listen to the conversation that Tomoyo and her friend were having about fashion. He had no interest in fashion whatsoever. Obviously Tomoyo was good at it, or he wouldn't be here in clothes that looked good and somehow were also comfortable, but he would have been just as happy coming to this thing in his grungy gym clothes. He couldn't actually hear anything they were saying because the DJ was playing peppy techno music really loudly, but he was happier that way and he was doing a fine job of acting like he could hear them.
He looked across the room, wondering if he was the only one not enjoying this.
His eye was caught by this flash of blond hair. It was caught because the quick jerk of movement screamed "violence" to him. It only took him a second to understand what he'd seen. The big guy with brown hair had backhanded the blond across the face, causing his ponytail to catch the dim light of the room.
The blond probably thought he looked subservient, lowering his eyes when the brown-haired man gripped him by the arm. But Kurogane didn't see subservience at all. He looked down to hide his defiance. He was biding his time, waiting for something.
He must have felt eyes on him. He looked up, and their eyes met.
The noise of the party dimmed around him until he could barely hear it. He knew Tomoyo was right there at his elbow, but he couldn't see her. All he saw was a pair of eyes. Blue eyes. Intensely, alarmingly blue eyes. Magic was dying out of this world, it was true. But here was living proof that it wasn't gone yet. He was a Wilderling. A legend out of a storybook, just like the Protectors.
Do you see the way the pieces are falling into place? There is no coincidence in this world. There is something else. Something that brought them here, that makes one man look across a room at the right moment. These things don't happen by accident, do they?
Do you see it now, how this will end? Do you suppose they see it, too?
That guy had been staring at him for a good twenty minutes, and Fai was getting pretty tired of it. What was he doing? At first he'd believed the guy was simply attracted to him (nothing unusual there) but he then he noticed the beautiful girl at his side and started wondering why he kept looking over here if he wasn't interested. Was the man just waiting to see if Sasuke would hit him again?
Sasuke was being even more of an ass than usual, tonight. If the guy watched long enough, he just might get a show. Maybe. Fai honestly didn't know if his own patience would hold to allow his boyfriend to get away with any more of that tonight.
He was so sick of being here. He had known what he was getting in for, hooking up with Sasuke, and had been prepared for the control freak to treat Fai like some account he was managing. But Fai was fed up with being one of his acquisitions. He was showing Fai off tonight like he was somehow responsible for Fai's good looks or like he had done something to attract Fai. The truth was, Fai needed a roof over his head, so six months ago he'd walked into a club and gone home with the guy who didn't care about the drink spilled on his designer jeans because he had plenty of others. That was it, that was all Sasuke had done. Laughed about booze on his pants and alerted Fai that he had money and needed something to spend it on.
He should probably tone it down, though. No use getting defiant when he had nowhere else to go.
Okay, seriously? That guy was still staring at him.
Fai slipped away from his boyfriend and crossed the room. He approached the dark man slowly, slipping into a persona and barely even realizing he did it. He was slinking across the room with a confident smile on his face, because that was what he did in places like this, with people like these. As he got closer, he had to admit that the man looked utterly delicious in his black pants, red shirt, and casual black jacket.
Their eyes met again, and Fai's smile lazily spread wider.
"Well, well, a red-eyed giant. Where are your sword and scroll, brave one?"
It was a line from a shitty historical play he'd acted in once. The guy would have no idea what he was talking about, so Fai would laugh to set him at ease, then politely tell him to keep his sharp gaze to himself and mind his own business.
"Back at the camp with your lute and panpipes, maybe?" the guy said, squinting at him while taking a pull from the bottle of beer in his hand.
Oh. Shit. Not only did he know exactly what Fai meant, he'd figured Fai out, too.
"Camp?" Fai asked innocently, covering for a moment while he tried to figure out what to do next.
"Our people used to form pacts all the time, didn't they?"
It was true, at least insofar as the accuracy of shitty historical plays went. The Protector would find a band of Wilderlings and travel with their wagons. In exchange for his services when needed, they gave him shelter, food, and a temporary place in the Family. They were supposed to be violent and solitary creatures, but that didn't mean Protectors didn't appreciate good music and storytelling and a place at the fire from time to time.
"So what do you actually do for a living, assuming you don't roam the countryside looking for evildoers to vanquish?" It would be just Fai's luck if this guy was one of Sasuke's colleagues at the bank or something.
"What's it to you?"
"I'm in school."
"You look awfully old for that," Fai mused. The guy had to be at least his age, right?
"So? Fuck off."
Fai laughed, enjoying this guy's abrasiveness simply because it was so honest and different from what he was used to.
"I told you, I'm merely curious. You're at a party, you should enjoy yourself and mingle with the other guests." He bowed just slightly to indicate himself.
The guy glared at him and took another drink. "I'm in school again," he said after a moment. "My family runs a security company these days. Boring work for somebody with Protector's blood, you can imagine. So I quit. I'm getting a degree in architecture."
"How fascinating," Fai murmured immediately, even though architecture sounded boring to him and staggeringly dull work for someone who was supposed to travel around fighting monsters and criminals. (Not that there were any monsters left to fight.) Useless, polite words were practically the only ones Fai knew anymore.
What? This guy was . . . "It is fascinating," Fai insisted. "What did you go to school for the first time?"
"You're still lying. You don't give a fuck."
Eyes of blood, eyes of flame. He thought he used to know a poem about that . . . Was it any wonder that their cutting gaze made Fai feel a little nervous?
"You're right, sorry," Fai laughed. "I actually just came over here to ask you to stop staring at me. My boyfriend's a touch possessive, and I'd rather not risk you beating him to a pulp when he notices you're doing it and comes over here."
"I wasn't staring," the guy growled, drinking deeply from his bottle of beer.
Oh. Sweet. Fuck. He was blushing, and it was cute as hell. Fai had to duck his head to hide his expression until he could get it under control.
"Of course you weren't, Captain Obvious," Fai winked. "I'm not an idiot, I know you're here with that little beauty over there, but you've definitely been watching me. If you're worried about my boyfriend, don't be. He's not that bad, and I can handle myself."
"Then why don't you?"
"Handle yourself. What's the point in letting him smack you around?"
Fai gaped at him for a moment. This guy's abrasive honesty thing was so bone-deep that he was socially inept. Wow.
"Now that is such a personal question to ask a stranger," he crooned coyly, preparing to extricate himself from this conversation and go back to being a possession. Sasuke was an asshole, but at least he didn't have cutting red eyes.
"My name. It's Kurogane."
"I see. Mine is Fai. My boyfriend, whom I should stress will come over here and pick a fight with you for staring at me, hence my coming over here to begin with, is Sasuke." He paused, waiting.
"What's your girlfriend's name?" Fai clarified.
"My girl—? Oh her. She is not my girlfriend. She's not even my friend. She just drags me to shit like this because she thinks its her duty or something."
"She wants me to meet people. For whatever fucking reason."
"I see. Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but a pretty girl doesn't make a very good wing man. The other girls get catty about things like that."
Kurogane the Tall Dark and Tactless rolled his eyes. "Sure, if she wanted me to meet girls. She thought my wife was too pretty to suit me. She saw a picture of this guy I was dating in high school, and now she's completely fucking determined to hook me up with a man. Apparently I'm oppressed."
"You're gay?" Fai asked in surprise.
"Right, wife. So you're bi?"
"But . . ."
"I like what I like," Kurogane growled, draining the last of his beer. "That's all." He reached into the big bucket of ice on the table and withdrew another bottle. He tossed it toward Fai. "Here."
Fai caught it with ease, then frowned. "I'd better grab one more and get back over there," he said. He didn't really know what he was doing here. He'd come over to make the guy stop staring at him. He'd been caught off guard by finding out that they both carried magic in their blood, and now somehow they were having this whole conversation . . .
The guy snorted, ignoring the bottle opener on the table and twisting the top off his new bottle with his hand. "Why would you do that when you don't want to?"
"You hate being around him, right? So why go back over there?"
Leaving aside how quickly he'd figured out that Fai hated being around him . . . "Because I came here with him?" Fai suggested, raising an eyebrow.
"It's a party, right? Mingling and all that shit? Or does he hit you when you talk to other people?"
Okay, this guy was seriously pissing him off now. What was his problem? You couldn't just say things like that to someone you didn't know. What did this guy know about his relationship with Sasuke? (Way more than he should just by looking at them from across the room.) And now he was implying that Fai needed Sasuke's permission to leave his side for ten minutes. Well, fuck Kurogane. And fuck Sasuke, too.
"Some of us aren't as impervious to pain as a legendary Protector," Fai said boldly, holding out the cold, wet bottle. Kurogane snorted again, flipped the top off for him, and Fai took an angry gulp before marching toward the next room. He grabbed Kurogane's arm as he went. "Come on. The music isn't as loud in here."
Is it fear that makes one defiant? Is it a similar fear that makes the other break a long silence? Fear of the way their gut lurches every time they look at each other? Fear that it means something, that it means too much? Things are already going too fast, out of their control. Perhaps even now they know that the colour of their eyes means everything.
Do they already know that one stray look across a room changed it all? That a chance moment is rapidly becoming fate, inevitability, like the movement of the planet around its sun? Do they see how two pairs of eyes were meant to meet and nothing, nothing in the world can change that?
Kurogane slouched down in a chair upholstered with black leather. It was ridiculously uncomfortable, which made him think it must be trendy or something. He scowled at the blond man who was sitting on the table in front of him. This Fai character had been blathering on about something for ten minutes, and was clearly looking to get plastered, with the way he'd already knocked back his second beer and started on a whisky sour. Kurogane still hadn't heard him say anything honest or meaningful, so he wasn't really listening. He was mostly just watching the guy.
He didn't think Fai was actually aware of what he was doing at all. He kept talking and smiling like an idiot to cover up how unhappy he was, but the way he was putting back alcohol was a language all its own. Why was he such an idiot? Even if it was hard, for some reason, to take control of his life and get out of an abusive relationship, wasn't that still easier than spending every day unhappy and lying to himself? Kurogane was rapidly concluding that this guy pissed him off.
"You're not even listening, are you, Handsome Stranger?"
"What the fuck did you just call me?"
"I figured out your role," Fai grinned at him. "You're Handsome Stranger. Although that assumes I'm the main character. A dangerous assumption indeed."
Kurogane just gaped at him. "So that play you said you'd been in, where all the genders were switched and you were playing a girl . . . Do you work in the theatre or something?"
"Not anymore," Fai said softly.
"What do you do?"
"Nothing," he laughed. Then he tossed back the rest of his drink as if he didn't know how that gave away his dishonesty. "I'm boyfriend-hopping, looking for something to do with my life."
Kurogane had no idea why he felt disappointment that the guy wasn't an actor anymore and Kurogane couldn't see if the legends were real. But if he didn't do anything, then maybe he didn't have the gift of the Wilderlings anyway.
"So you didn't get anything from them? Just the summer eyes?"
"Summer eyes?" Fai hooted. "You're a poet now, Handsome Stranger?"
"No!" he snapped. What the fuck was he doing, spouting lines from a kid's storybook?
"I have a few talents," Fai said. "I just don't use them for anything. I grew up as a theatre rat; my mother was an actress so I was always hanging around. I ended up being a jack of all trades. Acting, building sets, writing some of the music, even directing some. But there's so few people with magic left, and no one knows what to do with us. Once word got out that I had the blood of the Family, they sort of shunned me. Said I had an unfair advantage over everyone else who was trying to make it."
A woman in a slinky piece of fabric that barely qualified as a dress came and draped herself over Fai's shoulder. "You boys look awfully serious," she said in a low voice. Kurogane would have thought she was just coming onto him, except her eyes were so glazed and heavy-lidded with whatever drug she was on that he kind of thought she was just using Fai to stay upright. "Here."
The bottle of rum she pressed into his hands was nearly full.
"Ah, thanks, sweetie!" Fai said in a chipper voice. Kurogane was already figuring out that you had to look for other cues to see what he was really thinking. His mouth was always lying. But his eyes were concerned when he looked up at the barely-dressed woman. "Why don't you stay here and drink this with me?" he smiled.
"No, no, it's a party!" she said, lurching to get herself upright again. "I'm going to go find my friends. You boys enjoy that." She did an impressive imitation of sobriety once she finally started walking.
Kurogane fucking hated this place.
Fai looked at the bottle, then looked at Kurogane and raised his eyebrows.
"Might as well."
This was a party full of young professionals trying to impress each other, so at least the rum wasn't bad. They found a couple of glasses that looked least likely to be crawling with herpes and doused them liberally with gin (which they dumped out) before using them to drink.
"So you write music?" Kurogane asked while they were doing that.
"A bit. I don't actually have a lute or panpipes."
"And I don't have a sword."
"You are kind of gigantic, though," Fai grinned, poking his bicep. Kurogane swatted his hand away.
"Lot of good it's doing me, too," he muttered.
Fai stared down into his drink. "It sucks, doesn't it?"
"The world, I guess. They killed magic because they like technology better, and you and I are just supposed to deal with it."
"You are not one of those nature nuts who thinks telephones killed the water spirits."
"It doesn't really matter how it happened, does it?" he asked quietly. "Whatever the explanation is, it means people like you and I can't find a place in the world anymore."
"Wasn't that the point of your people?" Kurogane reminded him. "They didn't have a home, and that's why they were always traveling."
"They were traders, first and foremost. Of course they traveled. I like to imagine they just got bored on the road, so that's how they developed the gifts of story and song."
"What's your theory on the Protectors, then?"
"Well, they were sent out to ward off evil plaguing the country," Fai said with a raised eyebrow. "The need for superhuman strength seems fairly obvious to me."
Superhuman strength. Right. The thing Fai didn't know about the Protector's blood was how restless it made you. Kurogane could live with just being stronger than everybody else; it was the way his instincts were constantly keening for a challenge to face, waking him up at night, making him notice anyone in pain, that really drove him crazy.
"You've got a lot of theories," Kurogane muttered.
"I don't have one about you, yet," Fai said teasingly. "You're going to have to tell me why architecture appeals to you."
"I like building things," Kurogane shrugged. The rum they were drinking was starting the slow burn in his stomach that made everything feel warm and golden at the edges. It made him talk too much. But he liked talking to this guy, didn't he? So it didn't matter. "I like things that are meant to last."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Kurogane frowned.
"Ah, I'm being way too nosy. Nothing."
"Just say it." He couldn't just say something like that and not back himself up.
"If you like things that are meant to last, then what happened to your marriage? Didn't you say you had a wife, earlier?"
Oh, that's what he meant. "She's dead," Kurogane shrugged.
Fai's eyes went wide, shocked. "I'm so sorry." For some reason, they'd both ended up sitting on the table. Kurogane didn't really know when that had happened, but it made it much easier for Fai to put a hand on his shoulder and give him a very serious look. "I shouldn't have said anything. I . . ."
"Oh, knock it off," Kurogane muttered, shrugging his hand away. "It was almost a year ago."
"She went to the grocery store and got hit by a truck trying to walk across the street."
Fai stared at him. What? Was he supposed to sugar-coat it or something? How exactly were you supposed to gently lead into the fact that she'd gotten flattened by a pickup?
"Still being nosy . . . You don't sound that sad."
"We only got married because our families told us to. We weren't that happy."
"Don't you even miss her?"
Kurogane thought about that. About Sayako. About how hard she'd tried to make him happy. But that was the problem, wasn't it? Her entire goal in life was to make him happy. To be the dinner-maker and bed-warmer and carpet-vacuumer. And he was supposed to find her interesting enough to want to spend his whole life with her? He could cook his own dinner and vacuum his own floor. But the bed was still cold and the house was silent, and it was amazing how in only five years of marriage he'd learned to miss those things.
"Yeah," he said quietly. "I miss her, sometimes. But she wasn't happy, so I think this is better. I couldn't make her happy. I was a shitty husband."
Fai was patting his arm with a very heavy hand. "I'm sure you weren't as bad as y—"
"I was," Kurogane said insistently, drinking more rum and glad for the way it numbed him. He hadn't talked about this before, and he didn't want to ruin it with getting all upset or something. He was pretty sure Tomoyo had figured out most of this on her own, but he didn't want to talk to her about it. She'd be all girly about it. Fai was just letting him talk. "She was just . . . boring. We didn't have anything in common. I didn't care about the shit her friends were doing or the stupid trick she taught her puppy. And why would she care about what I did at work? I didn't even like my job. I never took her places or talked to her. But I should have been there. When she died, I mean. I should have gone to the stupid grocery store with her. What fucking good is it to be a Protector and then let your wife get hit by a truck?"
Fai was rubbing his hand on Kurogane's back, and Kurogane let him. He didn't know what was wrong with him, why he was talking about this, but it was doing weird things to his ability to breathe.
"About as much good as being a Wilderling when you're letting yourself get kicked around by a dumbass banker," Fai muttered.
"Yeah. I might be pathetic, being a thirty-year-old widowed student, but at least I'm not a thirty-year-old homeless bum."
"Hey," Fai scowled at him. "I'm twenty-eight."
"I'm twenty-nine. I was rounding up."
"And I am not homeless. Sleeping in the backseat of my mom's car when she couldn't find work, that was homeless. This is . . . This is traveling."
"I guess. But I hate guys like you, creating their own problems. You should get a job and take care of yourself. You could find something to do. Music is your gift, right?"
"One of them. You should see me dance sometime."
"Yeah? Like when?"
Fai's eye was caught by something across the room, and he suddenly stiffened up. He'd been loose, relaxed, leaning into Kurogane's side while they drank—oh, shit, drank almost the entire bottle. But now he was all tensed up.
"Like now," he sighed. "Look, here comes Chekhov's Gun."
Someone asked her where her friend had gone, and she had grinned like a maniac and refused to answer. All she'd say was, "I didn't think he had it in him." She seemed very pleased that he was nowhere to be found.
But then someone asked him where his companion was. He had known that the beautiful blond tended to flit from person to person at gatherings like this, charming and untouchable, but they were clamoring for him to fulfill his promise now. Everyone had their vices, but now they wanted the one thing only he could bring.
Perhaps the anger he felt and the violence rising up in him was fear. Fear of the end, because the end had already happened, hadn't it? It happened the moment two pairs of eyes met, when he wasn't looking, and there was nothing he could do about it now.
"There you are," Sasuke was saying as he came across the room, a sharp smile on his face. Fai hated that smile. That was the false smile, the smile that promised bad things. "I was wondering where you'd gotten off to."
Fai knew what he wanted, before he even asked. Maybe the reason he hated Sasuke so much was because Sasuke was always speaking when he didn't need to. Because he didn't even know that he didn't need to. He was so oblivious to anything except himself that he didn't realize how quickly Fai had figured out everything about him.
He hadn't meant to drink so much. He was too drunk for this.
Sasuke's hand closed over his arm and pulled him to his feet, tilting his head up to lay a possessive kiss on him. He was several inches shorter than Fai was, and he didn't even know how laughable Fai found his attempts to make up for it by yanking him around like this.
"Are you having fun?" he smiled.
I was, Fai thought a little bitterly. The fun was over now, though. Thank every power in this universe that Sasuke didn't seem to realize how long he'd been gone or that he'd spent the entire time with Handsome Stranger over there.
"Come with me, I promised them you'd dance tonight. I already got with the DJ and found a great song. It's time to really get this party started."
Because I am your toy, Fai thought dully. Wind me up, watch me dance. It's my magic, you fucker.
"Fine," he sighed.
"Hey," Sasuke snarled, his fingers clutching tight. "I thought you loved performing. What's the problem?"
"No problem," he said with a smile. Sasuke could never see through his smiles. He didn't have the eyes for it. "I'm ready."
Well, not yet. But he started to prepare himself as he was led into the other room. The magic was always restless inside him, so it was no trouble to stir it up and call on it. It snapped to attention, a thrumming in his veins, like setting a bow to violin strings. He felt the energy coiling around him, felt something like static electricity between his fingers. He knew his eyes were glowing blue in the dim lighting of the room.
The music began. It wasn't beautiful, but it was dark and sexual in its own strange way. It was an electronic sound, heavy on the thumping bass rhythm. It sounded like two machines grinding together until the parts fell off. Fai didn't have the energy or inclination to be creative. So he just pushed Sasuke into the middle of the room to use as a prop.
And he started to dance.
He felt himself getting lost inside the magic, just a bit. He could feel the red eyes on him, somewhere in the room, in the back of the crowd. There was one person here he didn't want to disappoint with a poor performance, even if he probably wouldn't like this performance. So he rolled his hips and drew a pulse of light over his body, something blue and purple and strobing. He swirled around Sasuke like a shadow, and every time his hand touched Sasuke's chest or back there was a flash of light. He gyrated against him and released bursts of colour. He slid down the side of Sasuke's body, a thrum of black light, and he saw the nearest spectator's pupils changing. They were feeling it, now. It was better than any synthetic drug, wasn't it? You could get high just watching him dance.
Fai was supposed to use these gifts to sing a ballad about a lost love, so you felt the wind in your hair and cried for your loneliness; or to act like a tyrant king on a stage, so your cheek stung when he slapped the actor at his side and became terrified of his scowling face. But Fai had been chased out of that world and he couldn't find a place for himself anymore. So he just used his gifts in a way that made him feel like a whore.
His arms sketched ribbons of light that were followed by every eye and his hips sent a happy shot of adrenaline right into the brains of his audience. He was a whore. And pathetic, just like Handsome Stranger said. He created his own problems. That man was somewhere in this crowd, learning just how pathetic Fai was.
He slammed his body against Sasuke's back, wrapping a leg around him and slapping his hands onto Sasuke's stomach, and sent a wave of his magic rippling in every direction. He was panting with effort and feeling sweat prickling his scalp. He was finished with his dance. And he kind of thought he wanted to die.
Fate can only do so much. It can put two men in a room and it can make them look at each other and feel a pull like gravity. But if they anger each other from the first words they speak, then fate becomes powerless. After that, it's about choice. And who would choose to keep watching, when the life of such a hopeless case is crumbling around them, pulled down by their own hands?
After fate does its work, the ending becomes uncertain. There is resentment now, and disgust for the weakness that has been put on display. But perhaps even after that, he still doesn't want to turn away. It's nothing he could explain. Can you explain it? Perhaps to see how this will end, you have to trust an inexplicable attraction.
The party had been on the quiet side, before. There was a DJ and drinking, true, but it was a house full of adults, which was what you called people who'd been alive long enough to learn life's lessons about inhibition and control.
Fai had wiped out those lessons in a three-minute whirlwind of colour and light.
It was like he'd given the whole crowd a massive hit of ecstasy. A lot of people were dancing, now, with Fai and his idiotic boyfriend right in the middle of them. The two of them were grinding against each other, passing a bottle of tequila back and forth and drinking while they danced. The ones that weren't dancing or happily shouting in conversation were crawling off into corners for some kind of sexual encounter.
Kurogane was leaning against a wall and not moving. It hadn't hit him like it had the rest of the crowd. He had felt an enormous pressure building up in his head, and then something had released like a floodgate and gone pouring through his veins, tamping down the rising adrenaline. It made sense. A Protector had to be able to fight the influence of trickster spirits and water sirens. Maybe that was why Protectors and Wilderlings had gotten along so well, historically. Maybe they liked knowing there was someone they couldn't manipulate.
No, Kurogane was just staying here because he was plain old vanilla drunk and he didn't want to make an ass of himself. But he needed to go look for Tomoyo. He wasn't going to let anything happen to her while under the influence.
"Hi," said a quiet voice at his elbow. He looked down. It was Tomoyo.
"Hi," he repeated dully. He didn't really want to interact with her when she was like this, only because he didn't want her to be embarrassed about it when she sobered up. He'd taken advantage of the momentary silence after the dance to call a cab so he could take her home.
"It didn't work on you?" Wait, she looked upset, not high. What happened?
"Must be a Protector thing. What about you?"
"I closed my eyes and left the room," she said softly. "I couldn't . . . it hurt."
He hadn't thought of that. She had confided in him that she, too, had a touch of magic in her blood. It was dying out everywhere, and it seemed like the only place it remained was inside humans. Tomoyo was a Reader, and could sometimes see what people were feeling. It was her ability to do that, she had told him, that made her seek him out. She wouldn't tell him what she'd seen in him, only that she wanted to fix it. For her, watching that dance would have been awful. It was obvious even to Kurogane that Fai was unhappy. She must see it a thousand times more clearly than he did.
"And I wanted to be clear-headed so I could find you," she said. "Are you okay?"
He didn't want to know what she was seeing in him right now. "I'm fine. Why wouldn't I be?"
"I saw you go off with him. I thought maybe . . ."
"Maybe nothing. He's an idiot."
She shook her head, and she was crossing her arms over herself like she was cold. "He's not. He's just so lost," she whispered.
He put his hand on her arm. "I wasn't sure if you could drive, so I called a cab. I think we should both get the hell out of here."
"Thanks," she said, raising her hand up to touch his. "I can drive, though. You really want to go?"
"You go ahead. I'll take the cab."
"No, I'll drive you."
"My house is out of your way," he scowled at her. "And I'm not an asshole who's gonna make a cabbie drive all the way out here and not get a fare. And you need to get out of here as soon as possible. You don't look so good. So just go. I'll be fine."
She turned her head and kissed his hand and smiled at him. "My knight in shining armour," she said. "I'm going to call you in half an hour to make sure you got home, okay?"
He walked her to her car, then went back into the house. Why, he didn't know. To get one last glimpse of those eyes before he gave up on the idiot forever, maybe. Kurogane found him right away. It wasn't like he was hiding. He was dancing with a chair, and everyone was watching him. He wasn't using magic, he was just dancing. Sort of. He had planted his hands on the chair behind him, his heels on the ground, and he was thrusting his body upward, slowly rippling back onto his feet. He planted his hands on the back of the chair and did a strange, scissoring kick.
"Apparently he took a few ballet lessons when he was a kid," a girl told him cheerfully when he walked up. "He was just showing everyone that ballet is very versatile."
Versatile was not the word. If straddling a chair and rolling your hips was ballet, then Kurogane was a fairy princess. Although Fai was humping the chair very artistically. Kurogane couldn't see things the way Tomoyo could, but he thought he could see Fai dying right in front of him. Why was he doing this? Did he really not see any way out of this life? Everyone else seemed to think this was really sexy, but then everyone else was high on his Wilderling magic.
That asshole was right next to Kurogane. Sasuke. His name was Sasuke. He'd hit Fai in the face and left a red mark that Kurogane hadn't mentioned because he hadn't wanted to argue with Fai about it. This guy was pissing him off even more now that he wasn't trying to control the blond.
"You're just gonna let him do this?" Kurogane growled at him.
"Why not?" Sasuke leered. "Everyone's enjoying themselves, but he's still coming home with me."
"But you should do something," Kurogane said quietly, his eyes on the dancer.
Sasuke's eyes sharpened and he looked over Fai, then turned to Kurogane with a disgusted look. "Buddy, you're wasted. He's fine."
But he was bleeding, he was dying, he was hemorrhaging out right in front of them while they laughed and got turned on by his flexibility and gracefulness. He was sweating, with drops rolling down his neck, dancing furiously in a fight against something he couldn't see. And maybe some of those drops were tears, not sweat. Kurogane couldn't watch this anymore. He was a Protector, wasn't he? So he was damn well going to protect something.
He marched past the spectators, right up to Fai, who flowed onto his feet and placed a hand on his chest.
"Hello, Handsome Stranger," he smiled.
"Oh, shut up."
Kurogane unceremoniously picked him up, threw him over his shoulder, and marched out of the room. Fai lay in his grip limply, too stunned to fight him as he walked outside. His power was thrumming in him, the way it sometimes did when he pushed himself to the limits while working out. Fai wasn't even heavy.
"What are you doing?" he laughed nervously.
"Protecting you," he muttered.
"What?" He struggled to get down, but the cab was here, so Kurogane shoved him into it. "From what?"
"From yourself, stupid."
Taking him away from the dancing seemed to have made him realize how drunk he'd gotten. He fell limply against the opposite door of the cab.
"But Sasuke . . ."
"I don't give a flying fuck about that asshole."
"Where are we going?"
He gave directions to the cabbie, who was sitting very quietly in the driver's seat and doing a credible job of pretending that he didn't exist.
"So you're stealing me away from him?" Fai asked, his eyes dreamy and glazed.
"I'm putting you to bed in my spare room. You have any idea how drunk you are?"
"Damn," Fai sighed, leaning into him. "I was hoping you'd steal me."
"Steal yourself," Kurogane said severely.
Tomoyo called him when Kurogane was dragging Fai up his porch steps. He let go of the blond to answer the phone.
"Hi. I'm fine."
"You made it home?"
"Yeah," he said, watching as Fai tried to lean against the side of his house, slid downward to puddle himself on the porch, then suddenly leaned his head over the side to puke in Sayako's azaleas. "Oh, nasty."
"What on earth is that noise?"
"That is the sound of a blond idiot regretting his choices."
"He's puking in my yard," Kurogane clarified, finally getting his key into the lock on his third attempt.
"You brought him home with you?"
"Well, I couldn't leave him there," Kurogane muttered. He grabbed Fai by the shirt and hauled him upright. He was feeling his own drunkenness pretty strongly, now. He nearly fell over trying to get Fai on his feet. "Listen, I'm home and I'm fine. You're home, right?"
"Yes, I am."
"Okay. So don't talk to me anymore until I'm sober, because I'm an idiot right now. I must be an idiot, I just kidnapped somebody."
Tomoyo was laughing. It wasn't the sweet laugh of doom, either. It sounded happy. "Goodnight, Kurogane. I'll talk to you tomorrow, okay?"
"Yeah," he muttered.
He hung up the phone and promptly lost track of it while he hauled Fai inside. He left him in the living room so he could let the whimpering puppy out of his kennel to go outside. He left the back door open for the dog while he pushed Fai into the spare bedroom and onto the bed.
"There," he muttered, feeling accomplished. "Now go to sleep."
"But I hate sleeping alone," Fai said, grabbing his hand and pulling on him. Kurogane tried to resist, but his balance wasn't so great at the moment. He fell onto the bed. His head began spinning lazy circles, like the ceiling fan above them. He closed his eyes to make it stop. It felt good to close his eyes.
One of them has made his choice, while the other has yet to make up his mind. It's already all but over now, isn't it? They see the end now, same as you do.
Fai was afraid to wake up. He knew he'd fallen asleep while drunk. He was certain he'd wake up on the floor or the sofa or someplace that would leave him with an aching neck and back, possibly coated in Sasuke's dried spunk, possibly even more unhappy with himself than he'd been the day before.
Something slimy and wet touched his face.
Now he was really afraid to open his eyes.
Something warm and rough and wet—something was licking him. Fai's eyes popped open, and he saw a happy brown face and a lolling tongue. A dog. There was a dog licking his face. He pulled his head back a bit, trying to squirm away, and then froze. Because he couldn't move much, anyway. The person behind him groaned and started to wake up.
Oh, hell. Now he remembered what had happened last night. Kurogane should have been disgusted by him and left him to his own devices. Instead, he'd picked him up and carried him home like some kind of prehistoric caveman. And then Fai had been an idiot about it because he was drunk and he'd felt so desperate that he'd nearly burst into tears when Kurogane had set him down on the bed.
So now Kurogane was wrapped around him like some kind of living blanket, with his face buried in the hair at the nape of Fai's neck. Fai almost felt as much like crying as he had last night. Because this felt so, so good. He fit against Kurogane's body perfectly, with his butt nestled into the curve of the bigger man's hips and their long legs twining together. It was like Fai had been born this tall just so he'd fit correctly against the giant Protector. The warm breath on his neck felt like a lullaby, trying to soothe him back to sleep.
Kurogane muttered something, and the arm he'd draped across Fai squeezed a bit, drawing him even tighter against the broad, warm chest. They were still wearing their clothes, for which Fai was eternally grateful. He would have hated himself even more if he'd had sex with this man when he was that drunk.
The puppy made a whining noise. Fai looked at him, and he started wagging his tail. He dropped a chewed-up blue and green ball onto the bed. It rolled right into Kurogane's hand. He made a disgusted noise.
"Stupid mutt. Outside, Syaoran. Go outside."
Fai grinned in spite of himself. Kurogane didn't even know who he was draped over right now.
"That ought to be easy," he said in a raspy whisper. "I think you left the door open all night."
Kurogane would likely deny it later, but he screeched when he jumped away and scrambled off the bed. "What the fuck?" he shouted, and the puppy started yipping with excitement. "Quiet, Syaoran!" he snapped. He turned to Fai and blinked. "Oh, it's you. What the fuck are you doing in my bed?"
"Well, you put me here, although I seem to recall you saying this was the spare room."
"Oh," he groaned, and sat down on the edge of the bed, dropping his head into his hands. His hair was standing up in the most amusing spikes. His red shirt was a crumpled mess. "Right. Cause I kidnapped you."
"Yes, you did." Fai finally sat up, and immediately moaned. "Now be a good kidnapper and make some coffee."
"Do I look as much like shit as you do?" Kurogane mumbled.
"Depends. Do I look as much like shit as I feel?" he mumbled back.
"Pretty much like shit, yeah," Kurogane said. He sighed, and stood up cautiously. "Coffee. Good idea. Shower is also a good idea, it's two doors down. You go ahead. I'll make coffee."
Fai obeyed only too happily. He clumsily scratched the dog behind the ears on his way out. "Syaoran, was it? You're cute."
Syaoran wriggled happily and chased Kurogane down the hall. Fai stumbled into the shower and felt some semblance of life beginning to return. He had used a lot of magic last night. He had been a complete idiot last night, he realized as he lowered his head under the hot spray of water. Really, what in hell had he been thinking? Fai knew how unhappy he was, but the entire rest of the damn world wasn't supposed to know. He'd all but spelled it out in the air with magic strobe lights. And then he'd kind of had sex with a chair.
Kurogane hadn't turned away from him. He should have. He had no reason to do what he did. But the fact remained that he'd seen all of Fai's ugliness, and instead of leaving him there to destroy himself, he'd picked him up and carried him to his own house.
Fai had felt something last night, from the moment they'd looked at each other. But really, how important could the feeling be? It couldn't change the fact that Fai was too weak and Kurogane was too strong. So it didn't matter, that feeling, not even when they got past pissing each other off and accidentally started getting closer to each other than they were supposed to.
But here, standing under the spray of the shower in Kurogane's house, Fai had to admit that it must mean something. Because somehow they'd ended up here. It had to mean something that Kurogane's eyes were red and Fai's were blue, and that his body fit against Kurogane's in sleep like they'd been designed that way. It had to. Because Fai was remembering what Kurogane had said last night in the cab. "Steal yourself."
He wasn't going back to Sasuke, he realized. Maybe he'd known that since they'd gotten in the car last night. He really was going to get a job, find an apartment or something. He didn't want to be pathetic anymore. He wanted Kurogane to see him differently. He really did. So that was what he was going to do when he left Kurogane's house today. And when he felt more worthy, more like someone who was strong enough to stand beside a man like Kurogane, he'd come back here. Because this was where he really belonged, wasn't it? It meant something; Wilderling and Protector, summer eyes and eyes of fire. Once he'd proven that he could stand alone, he'd come straight back to the arms of the man who was trying to hold him up while he was falling.
Before he left, he wanted to say thank you for that . . .
So: it all comes down to a choice. A simple look across a room, and then a choice of what to do about it. The tugging of fate, the siren call of a place of belonging—it's almost as inexorable as gravity. And everyone knows what happens when you fight gravity, don't you? When you were a child, you leapt off the roof to see if you could fly, and your defiance was dashed against the ground with your body. You bled for it, and eventually you realized how foolish it was.
After the choices are made, everything has fallen into place. They see the end, and you see the end, and this could be the end. But the way they find each other at last is too perfect to look away from now.
Kurogane stared in disbelief at the person who entered his kitchen.
He'd started the coffee pot and leapt into the shower in his own bedroom, so now he was sitting at the breakfast table feeling slightly less like road kill. He was sipping coffee and pushing Syaoran away with his foot because the stupid mutt kept attacking his toes, wondering what he would say to Fai when he emerged from the longest shower on record. Fai would probably talk forever and say a bunch of stupid stuff, but what he would really be saying was "Thanks for letting me sleep here, sorry I'm an asshole, and I gotta go find Sasuke so I can keep wallowing in my misery."
Kurogane decided not to say anything in return. What could he possibly say? He'd made the mistake of looking at Fai and now he couldn't look away, and watching him walk out the front door was going to hurt more than Sayako's death had hurt. If he spoke, he'd just say something cruel. And it wouldn't make a bit of difference.
Fai was walking into the room wrapped in a bed sheet. His hair was still damp and messy and everywhere, and his face was warm and happy and his blue eyes were getting brighter every second. Kurogane was suddenly very glad he was sitting down and hidden by the table. Because damn. What did he think he was doing, anyway?
"Would you mind terribly if I washed my clothes before I left?" he asked politely. "I really don't want to put them back on as they are."
"Just take one of my shirts," Kurogane said dully, trying to ignore the pounding of his pulse. "If you're going to go, then just go. He's going to hit you anyway, it won't make much of a difference if you're wearing my clothes."
He hadn't expected Fai's smile. "You really think you made no difference to me at all?" he asked quietly.
"You're right, Handsome Stranger. I've got to learn to be the main character in my own story. I'm not going back to him. I'm going job hunting today, that's why I need clean clothes. And hopefully I have enough left in my bank account for the first month's rent somewhere."
Kurogane stared at that smile, that proud smile on that soft mouth. He wasn't lying. He was actually going to do what he'd just said. And something just . . . clicked. Just slipped into place inside him, when he'd been trying to jam it where it belonged all his life. He'd just found it. He hadn't known what he was looking for, but he'd just fucking found it.
"Quit calling me that," he said, feeling something squeezing his chest in a vise. "If this is your story, which is debatable because I'm pretty sure it's mine, then I at least get to have a name."
Fai started to laugh, but it trailed off and his face was shining with a happiness so obvious it was painful. "If this is my story, which I agree is debatable, then you are the only character who gets a name, Kurogane."
And that was all that needed to be said, wasn't it? An answer to a question that Kurogane hadn't even known he was asking.
"Why are your eyes so blue right now?"
"Because I want to dance for you," he said quietly.
Kurogane swallowed. "Oh?"
"I saw a girl do this at a cultural festival once. She did it with a skirt and a shawl, not a sheet, but I think it'll work fine. I've always wanted to bring my gifts to this dance. I just never had a reason to before now."
Kurogane's answer was to swallow again.
He started slowly, just slowly turning in a circle with one arm outstretched and dragging the sheet slowly over the floor. As he turned, it wrapped around him, enrobing him. His eyes were looking at the ground, his messy hair swinging over his face. He paused. He looked up at Kurogane, making Kurogane take a deep breath.
He suddenly flung himself in the other direction, the sheet billowing out around him. He spun in circles, his feet so light on the floor they were soundless. He started reversing direction again, then again, doing it over and over. The sheet would wrap around him, then flare out, revealing the lean lines of his body, his clear pale skin, then covering it again.
He lifted his arms around his head, the sheet draped across them, whirling about and sending it fluttering around him like a banner. His body was moving, undulating almost. His feet were light and leaping, his arms moving in slow ripples to swirl the sheet in graceful arc around him. He had a look of happiness on his face, lighting his glowing eyes, that he should always have. He should always be this happy when he danced.
At first, Kurogane didn't understand the magic. It was beautiful to watch, but it was just Fai, using a body that he'd carefully honed for many years for this purpose. But then he felt the pressure building up, trying to tamp down on the influence it felt. He had no idea how it worked, but he was so desperate to feel whatever Fai was sending to him that he managed to overcome it. To turn off his defensive nature, and just watch.
And he began to feel it. It felt like warm sun falling over his skin and cool grass beneath his body. It smelled like clean air and light. Fai's dance was sending him to a meadow on a sunlit day, lying in a patch of shade with his lover. He could taste something like sweet summer wine in his mouth, crisp and golden. It was filling up his senses. A breeze was stirring his hair, and then a ripe plum was pressed to his lips, so real he could smell it and feel the pressure, and then the flavour of it and sensation of the flesh bursting in his mouth—
He stood up, his heart pounding and feeling heady with a wine he wasn't actually drinking. Fai was still dancing, but he turned just in time see Kurogane before he was caught in his arms. Wordlessly he picked Fai up and carried him into the bedroom, setting him down with the sheet still tangled around him.
He paused, trying to think straight. Fai had done this to him, but it was Fai's magic from across the room. Fai himself wouldn't be feeling anything yet, so Kurogane had work to do. His mouth fell onto Fai's throat, eager to see if it tasted and smelled the way that dance had made him envision it. He heard Fai's sigh of pleasure. He kissed his way over that gorgeously lithe body, slowly untangling the cool white cloth from him, kissing every newly bared inch of skin.
Fai's hands were on him, stroking his skin, tugging to remove the t-shirt he'd thrown on after his shower. While he unwrapped Fai from the sheet and kissed his pale skin, Fai undressed him and caressed the strong lines of Kurogane's body, ribs, hips, butt, thighs; Kurogane was wild with need and heat and couldn't contain himself to soft kisses anymore. He smashed his mouth into Fai's, parting his lips and plunging his tongue inside, discovering a taste better than any wine or fruit. He was looking into Fai's summer eyes and feeling something like destiny looking back into his.
When they finally came crashing together, crying out with need and pleasure, they were both glowing with magic. Every passion in them that had craved an outlet was suddenly finding its release and spilling through their veins while they writhed and thrust and gasped for air. They'd found what they'd spent their lives despairing existed, and now they claimed each other, body and soul.
And when it was over, when they lay tangled together on a damp white sheet and tried to learn how to breathe again, Kurogane spoke the words he'd been holding until he could find someone to say them to.
"Don't leave," he muttered.
"I have to," Fai whispered.
"You don't," Kurogane corrected him, rising up on his elbows to hover over him. "You can get a job or whatever, but don't leave. What's the point in learning to be on your own when you'd just be coming back here anyway?"
Fai made a slight humming noise. "To prove I can?"
"You're not supposed to be on your own. You're supposed to be with me."
"It shouldn't be this easy, but yes, I think I do. But I don't want either of us thinking I'm not as strong as you are," he said quietly, lifting his hand and brushing a stray strand of hair out of Kurogane's eyes.
"I'm not strong," Kurogane said, leaning down to kiss him. "I just didn't know what I was missing so I managed to live without it. Now I know, so I can't just . . . don't leave." His hand caught Fai's where it was brushing at his hair, pressing it down to the bed and twining their fingers together. "Stay with me."
Fai looked desperate for a moment, wild, then suddenly his fingers tightened in Kurogane's grip and a tension went out of him.
"Yes," he said simply. Then he suddenly grinned. "But you don't know what you're in for."
"Really good sex all the time?" he suggested.
"Later. First, you have to put your legendary heroic skills into action."
"Why? You want me to go beat the shit out of Nameless Asshole Boyfriend character?"
Fai laughed with pure delight. "You might have to. We have to go get Sakura."
"We have to get . . . Please for the love of everything good in this world do not tell me you have a daughter."
"She's my kitty."
Of course he had a damn cat. Kurogane scowled at him. "I have a dog."
"Dogs and cats do not get along."
"Sakura's just a baby," he protested. "She and Syaoran are going to get along great, I know it."
"I'm not going to feed, water, or pet your stupid cat."
"I didn't say you had to," he said serenely. "You just have to go with me to get her. Because I might murder the shit out of Nameless Asshole Ex-Boyfriend character if I go by myself."
Kurogane grunted, mollified. "Hmmph. Fine."
Fai's smile went soft, and he craned his neck up to kiss him again. "My hero."
"That's right. I'm the hero. This is my story."
"Does that make me the damsel in distress?"
"No. Fuck, no."
"So what am I?"
Kurogane was stumped for a moment. "It was two stories until now, so we both get to be the main character. "
"Works for me," Fai said, twining his arms behind Kurogane's head and dragging him down. Kurogane let him.