A Disturbing Reality
It was a nice world. Not great, not terrible, just... nice. 'Nice' was a generic statement, polite yet indifferent, and for once the whole gang could agree – the new world they found themselves in was really quite nice.
The weather was nice too. Not too hot, but not too cold either, and not raining, which was always a bonus with the memory of the acid rain from Tokyo still so fresh.
And then there was the people, who were also nice. A little too nice in some cases, but no one was complaining – not after the not-so-nice people they'd had to deal with of late.
So it was no surprise, in this nice world of nice people, that the gang found themselves in a nice cafe, drinking nice tea in the nice weather.
"This is creepy," Kurogane mumbled into his teacup.
"The teacup?" Mokona frowned, head cocked, eyes on the dainty little cup in the ninja's hand. "Well it is a little creepy, but Mokona thought that was just because the cup's so pretty and Kurogane's so-,"
The white creature giggled and bounced away from Kurogane's grasping hands. Around the table the others smiled, the soft, almost forlorn smiles of the relieved – with everything that had happened, this small moment of normalcy was like a glorious drop of water in a drought. It was something precious, something to be cherished in the darker days ahead. The calm before the storm.
"I meant this world!" Kurogane snapped, though he could only partially hide his own smirk. "It's weird. I can't quite put my finger on it but there's something that doesn't feel right."
"Mokona doesn't sense any feathers," the pork bun chimed, but that much had been obvious from the second they'd arrived. There was simply no way a world containing one of the princess's feathers could be so... nice. Such power always, inevitably, drew attention of a particular type, and though they'd only been there for little over an hour it was hard to imagine there was anyone like that around.
"It doesn't feel much like this world possesses magic either," Fai added, and beside him Syaoran nodded in agreement.
"I kind of like it..." Sakura said softly, her eyes as gentle and at peace as her voice. "No fighting, no suffering... It reminds me of home."
Silence greeted her admission, mostly due to the fact that she was probably the only one among them – not including Mokona – whose home was anything like that. The Syaoran who sat with them now had been a prisoner most of his days, and so had no home to speak of, and both Fai and Kurogane's homes were tainted with the painful memories of their pasts. A place with no fighting or suffering was a place unknown to them.
Which was probably what had them so ill at ease.
"Miss. Sirs." A waiter carrying a large tray appeared at Kurogane's elbow and bowed respectfully, startling the irate warrior. "Your soup." He quickly and efficiently unloaded the tray, then turned a hundred-watt beam of pure, unadulterated joy on them. "We of Café Cal hope you enjoy your meal."
And then he was gone in a whirlwind of pleasantness, taking orders from the next table before anyone was able to properly understand what had happened.
By unspoken agreement, no one commented on the waiter's over the top cheerfulness, but there was a shared thought between the three males, at least: Let's eat and get the hell out of here.
They ate in silence, which was commonly the case those days. There was little to talk about that didn't revolve around their missing comrade in some way, and so most of the time it was easier not to bother talking at all. Even Mokona, whose ability to draw a conversation from thin air was legendary, had trouble avoiding the tender subjects – the plain fact of the matter was there were simply too many of them to easily avoid.
So when a pair of lookalikes crossed the street a few blocks down the way, Mokona seized on the opportunity for harmless chatter with fervour.
"Look everyone, look!" All heads turned in the direction Mokona was pointing. "It's another Fai and Kurogane!"
The white pork bun was right; close enough that there could be no mistaking them, two men the exact doubles of Fai and Kurogane were weaving their way through the rush of lunchtime pedestrians.
"Well, well, well," the real Fai chuckled, watching the pair's progress with something between amusement and irritation. "It would seem that we're friends in this world, Kurogane."
The ninja glanced at him from the corner of his eye, expression unreadable. "So it would seem," he replied without inflection.
Dressed in suits, much like the rest of the people roaming the streets at this hour, to the naked eye the other Fai and Kurogane seemed much the same as their world-travelling counterparts – they had the same hair, same eyes, same build... They even had the same basic personalities, as far as it was possible to tell from such a distance. Fai 2 was smiling brightly, his face animated as he spoke near incessantly about goodness-knew-what. Kurogane 2 on the other hand said little, walking stoically and barely acknowledging his companion at all.
That was where the similarities ended however.
No one mentioned it, but the differences were far more outstanding than the similarities, even for there being less of them. For one thing, the other Fai had both his eyes. For another, the other Kurogane seemed completely weaponless and comfortable with the fact. But the most important distinction perhaps, for both the doppelgängers, was something that couldn't be seen by just anybody – something that only the five of them were likely to realise.
"The other you seems really happy, Fai-san," Princess Sakura said, smiling wistfully.
"And Kurogane-san too," Syaoran added.
Mokona looked between the two Kuroganes, thoughtful. "Kurogane still looks grumpy to Mokona."
They all laughed. Even Kurogane let out a small chuckle, though he still batted at the creature with a large, fisted hand.
"I guess Kurogane will always be Kurogane." Fai grinned, amused – though his glee was more likely aimed at Kurogane's inability to use his spoon properly than anything else. "Straight faced even in a world as nice as this."
"And I can see your double is as annoying as you are," the warrior countered, abandoning his spoon and drinking the broth straight from the bowl (much to Syaoran's horror). "You could talk the grim reaper to death."
Mokona, taking advantage of Kurogane's preoccupation with his soup, returned to the remaining bowl and started to eat.
"It's good that Kurogane and Fai are still friends though," Mokona said between spoonfuls. "It's like the two of you are meant to be together, you know?"
At that moment, the lookalikes stopped outside a building and traded a few more words. It was impossible to tell what they were saying, but the group watched with interest nonetheless – it wasn't every day they saw other versions of themselves. This time Kurogane 2 offered some input to the conversation, his face as deadpan as always; probably scolding his companion for talking to much. Fai 2 nodded a few times and smiled, before turning to go back the way they'd come.
He didn't get far. Kurogane 2 grabbed his wrist and pulled him back, which was surprising enough. But then, as the entire gang watched, something totally and utterly unbelievable happened right before their very eyes.
The doubles kissed! A proper, full on the mouth, lovers' kiss!
It was as fascinating as it was horrifying, and the reaction around the table was instant.
Kurogane spat his soup all over the table, eyes wide as saucers in a mixture of disbelief and disgust. Fai, who wasn't blessed with the healthiest complexion to begin with, turned white as a sheet. Both Syaoran and Sakura seemed at a loss for words, and stared at the table as their cheeks glowed furiously in embarrassment. Mokona, however, seemed thrilled, and immediately stated laughing and squealing with delight.
"Ooooooh! Mommy and daddy kissed!"
The real Fai and Kurogane glanced at each other in speechless shock and slowly moved farther apart, as though afraid whatever madness had captured their alter egos would also infect them.
Across the street, the pair pulled apart but remained entangled in each others' arms, exchanging more meaningless sentences – this time with identical grins that nobody wanted to examine too closely.
Kurogane's patience snapped.
"Pork bun!" he barked, standing abruptly and almost knocking the entire table over. "Next world! Now!"
Still giggling, Mokona obeyed.
When they landed in a heap in the next world, everyone rushed to jump apart, no one able to look anyone else in the eye. In fact the only one able to do anything more than gawp, appalled, at their feet was Mokona, who was too incapacitated with laughter to notice the awkward atmosphere.
Kurogane was the first to speak. "No one is ever to speak of what we saw back there. Anyone who does will face the business end of my blade!" He stomped off without a backwards glance.
For once, no one argued.
It wasn't till some time later that Mokona joyfully explained there was a meaning attached to that world's name: Yaoi Country.
Funnily enough, the meaning didn't make anyone feel any better.