Warnings: Male/male relationship, spoilers for LeCourt, Clow.
Author's Notes: Written in response to a request at the LiveJournal community CLAMPkink that read, "I'd prefer the whole post-TRC-Fai-living-with-Kurogane-in-Nihon setting, but I don't mind as long as the main focus is Kurogane seeing a few traits of his mother in his lover, Fai. (Toying with the whole "men fall in love with people who remind them of their mothers" idea. I know it's a stretch, but Fai's magic, dreamy gaze, and beautiful hair makes me think of Kuro-Mama for some reason! D: Which is weird, because she looks like Tomoyo, but...oh, well!)" and also wanted the farewell hair-kiss between Kuro-Papa and Kuro-Mama mirrored by Kurogane and Fai."
Kurogane fought against it at first, but had to give in eventually.
He'd already embraced a great deal of personal change during the long journey to gain revenge. Even his goals for the journey itself had proven protean, growing out of the simple desire for vengeance and becoming so much more. He'd not only killed the man responsible for twisting and shattering all their lives, but he'd also managed to shake off most of the effects of Fei-Wang Reed's machinations. Kurogane had returned to the paths of true honor and protectiveness that his parents had set him on long ago after a long detour of years triggered by their murder.
He had known the meaning of true strength while a child - who could have grown up under the arm of that man and not imbibed principles and integrity? - but he'd strayed from it during his teens. But now, Kurogane thought his father would have been proud of his son. Kurogane had returned, not only to the right paths and to Nihon, but to Suwa. Tomoyo had staged a dismissal of her personal guardian for "dereliction of duty" and then "banished" him to "work off his debt of dishonor" in honest labor. That conniving little princess had even seemed to foresee that he would return with the mage in tow, and the papers she'd handed over had included provisions for a new Priest, not just a new Guardian.
His father had been Guardian before him and his mother had been Priestess, and together they'd protected and nurtured the province and people until Fei-Wang Reed's hand had cast a great shadow over their lives and land. And now Kurogane was returned, a powerful mage at his side - and in his bed - to grant a second life to the province that had been struggling under the mismanagement of a less than talented governor for years. The elders had embraced the resurrection of the ancient and respected bloodline and the young folk had welcomed change of any sort.
Fai, with his sunsilk hair and sky-blue eyes, had had to struggle against suspicion and rumor for over a year. His place as Priest over Suwa had been ratified by the Mikado and everyone knew of his unofficial place as Kurogane's chosen one, but one couldn't blame a simple folk from being frightened of one possessed of such unusual coloring...and unearthly beauty. The longest-lasting rumor had been that the young Lord of Suwa had been bewitched by a yako, or mischievous fox spirit, but as Fai slowly but surely carved out a place for himself in the people's hearts, it became an affectionate joke. Whispers of "yako" had turned into cheerful calls of "zenko" and it was now one of the man's nicknames.
The Lord's benevolent fox spirit.
Kurogane could have thrown his weight around and forced people to bow to the new Priest's authority, but it wouldn't have been a true acceptance and it would have also been an insult to Fai. His lover had proven more than equal to the challenge, and the blonde was now as beloved - perhaps even more so - than Kurogane himself. He was fine with that.
He was also fine with the way some of his people, even some of his close retainers, constantly compared him to his father. Some of the particularly elderly servants even confused the old days with the new, and addressed him as if he were in fact his father. It was done with fondness and respect, and Kurogane so honored and admired his father that any comparison was praise. He growled at people that he was his own man and not his father's shadow, but he smiled as he grumbled and took pride in the idea that he could fill the man's shoes.
What he wasn't initially fine with was the discovery that Fai was stepping into his mother's metaphorical slippers in more ways than one.
He was fine with Fai taking on the role of Priest. It was the perfect solution, in fact, for whom to give the position to and what Fai could do with his time and talents. Kurogane had no plans to take a wife and he would not have relished the idea of entrusting such a position to a stranger. Fai swishing around in those questionably long-sleeved robes was also something Kurogane was fine with. Facts were facts, and Kurogane wasn't in any kind of denial about the fact that he was very willingly and happily bedding a man. And to be honest, the blonde looked stunning in those robes. Especially on his back in a spill of moonlight with the fabric spread out under him like great butterfly wings. There was one robe in particular, pure white with a pattern of maple leaves and a dragon picked out in gold and silver, that had such an effect on Kurogane that he was amazed it hadn't yet fallen to pieces from all the washing.
Kurogane's problem was with the fact that Fai was starting to actually remind him of his mother, not just succeed her as Priest. It was bad enough that the kid had married the girl from whom his mother had been cloned; Kurogane didn't want to think that he himself had brought the mage home because he'd subconsciously been looking for someone who reminded him of his mother. He couldn't figure it out, and so it nagged at him. The man was tall enough to nuzzle at Kurogane's jaw without stretching, had hair like spun gold and eyes like water crystals, and had a loose and easy way of moving totally unlike the measured grace of his mother, and yet Kurogane kept catching himself comparing the man - the man - to the mother he'd lost.
He did it again after the noon meal.
Kurogane had been kicked soundly that morning by one of the stallions being broken this summer. Normally even the most wicked and quick beast wouldn't have been able to lay a hoof on their lord and master, but Kurogane had been shielding a stablehand's head from the blow and couldn't avoid the kick entirely. He'd commanded the servants to secrecy, knowing Fai's tendency to fuss, and tried to avoid his lover's keen eyes until he could work out the stiffness in his shoulder.
They were both very busy with their respective duties, so it had been easy enough to keep out of the mage's way during the morning, but they always took their meals together if they were both at home, and despite his best efforts, Fai seemed to notice something off in the way he sat and handled his cup and chopsticks. Kurogane finished his meal first - no great feat, since Fai still handled his utensils with a charmingly childish lack of grace - and left their private dining room immediately, pleading pressing duties instead of lingering to indulge in conversation or shock the servants by moving his cushion over to his lover's side and stealing kisses in the middle of the day.
In hindsight, it had been a tactical error to make such an obvious retreat. It tipped the blonde off that Kurogane was hiding something, and Fai tracked him down very quickly after that. The ninja was hiding studying reports predicting this autumn's grain harvests in his study when Fai suddenly slid open the doors with a serene smile on his face and a medicine box hanging from one hand.
"I thought we had discussed this," the blonde said sweetly, and Kurogane sighed, internally cursing the servants for not being able to withstand the mage's manipulations and keep a simple secret. As if he himself were any more proof against Fai's wiles and winning ways.
"It's nothing," he insisted, but hastily corrected himself when Fai gracefully folded himself down near Kurogane's stiff right shoulder and balled up his fist, preparing to catch the ninja in his lie. "It's not that bad; just a bruise."
"And 'just a splinter' can fester and turn into a fatal infection," Fai retorted, but instead of any real anger, there was the faintest hint of a tremor in his voice as he helped Kurogane ease his arm and shoulder out of his robes. "You promised," the blonde reminded Kurogane, keeping his blue eyes fixed on the tanned shoulder that was turning all sorts of interesting colors and wincing whenever one of his exploratory touches provoked any sort of response from Kurogane, as if he were feeling the pain instead of the ninja.
Kurogane snorted and told himself that he should have known he couldn't have gotten away with this. Yes, he had promised.
They'd needed to have many talks both before and after the ninja had brought home his fox-bride. It wasn't just the day-to-day concerns of Fai needing to master a new language and submerge himself into a new culture. They had discussed how long Fai might be expected to live if disease or injury did not cut his life short, and Kurogane had formally adopted Fai as his heir and gotten the Mikado to grant the mage a life annuity as a result of those conversations. He had also had to confront and comfort Fai's terror of someday burying his lover.
Kurogane's lineage originated in a dragon-god taking on human form and taking a powerful miko to bride. That was many generations ago and the blood had thinned, but the ninja's red eyes and superhuman abilities still spoke of that ancient power, and he expected to live much longer than his average countrymen. He would still die long, long before the mage, however. And so for the sake of Fai's peace of mind he'd promised to always take his own health and welfare as seriously as he could, and tell Fai of every injury or sign of illness.
The man was a wizard, not a healer, but he had studied medicine almost obsessively in the past few years and was now one of the best in the country at concocting potions and elixirs. Fai knew he could not prevent Kurogane from dying, but he wanted to do what he could to keep his lover hale and healthy for as long as he possibly could, and Kurogane had promised to be mindful of this wish, and to honor it.
Fai applied a salve to Kurogane's bruised shoulder, and the ninja indulged in a bit of light ogling as his lover pouted adorably in concentration. The blonde was especially elegant today, in a pale blue robe with dark blue river swirls and green and gold koi dyed into the fabric. His underrobe was pale green, with aspen leaves embroidered onto it with metallic gold thread, and he wore a gold brocade obi to match. It set off his eyes and hair to a stunning degree, and it would have almost been too sparkling and bright save that he was wearing a plain white shawl draped casually over his shoulders and looped through his elbows, breaking up all the color like a blanket of snow on a purple mountaintop.
Kurogane took a fold of the shawl between his fingers, feeling the heavy weight of the good silk, still fine and smooth despite the years that had passed since he'd bought it for the mage, and despite the fact that Fai wore the thing almost every day, winter and summer.
"You really like this scrap of cloth, don't you," Kurogane commented idly, and was on the verge of calling it a security blanket as a lead-in to what a baby his lover was, and how he made unnecessary fusses. But Fai glanced up with one of those soft, sweet smiles that never failed to stop Kurogane's heart and served now to still the ninja's tongue as well.
"Because you gave it to me," the blonde said simply, and then turned to his medicine box again for a length of bandage with which to wrap the injured shoulder.
Kurogane sat in silence, playing the obedient patient and thinking back to a time when he'd climbed a tree in order to retrieve a favorite scarf of his mother's. It had been a simple, gauzy thing almost indistinguishable from many others that she owned, but this one had been her favorite because it had been a gift from her husband. Red eyes were far away for a moment, lost in memories, and then focused on the mage again.
Blue eyes, blonde hair, a bright laugh and a man's body despite its slenderness and those flowing sleeves. Fai looked nothing like Kurogane's mother. But those crystal-clear eyes were soft with love and that sweet curve of his lips spoke of contentment in knowing that love was returned. He served his home province as Priest and supported that province's Guardian with his faithfulness and magic. And he continued to grow his hair long because Kurogane had confessed a while ago to preferring it so, and wore the silk shawl his lover had given him on all but the hottest or wettest days.
"There, all done," Fai suddenly declared, snapping Kurogane out of his reverie. He looked down to find his shoulder neatly wrapped, and nodded his approval after rotating his arm a bit to test the give of the bandages. The blonde beamed, happy now, and Kurogane huffed in amusement at how easily he had been forgiven for hiding the injury in the first place.
"I've got to pick more chickweed," Fai mused apropos of nothing as he tidied up the wooden chest of drawers that he used as his medicine box and then unfolded himself from the floor, and Kurogane shrugged himself back into his robe and stood up as well.
"Take Kusanagi with you," he replied almost automatically. This was Kurogane's own version of fussing, where he always insisted that Fai never wander off without someone with him who could help him communicate. Though the wizard was considered fluent, there were still little nuances of the language and culture that could get him in trouble. "I'll be riding out this afternoon to the southern farms."
Fai smiled and nodded, then turned to depart Kurogane's study, but the ninja impulsively reached out and lightly grasped the long blonde ponytail that swished by. The mage felt the tug and paused, turning back partly to raise his eyebrows inquiringly. Kurogane said nothing, only gazed fondly at his lover for a moment before bowing his head and bringing that long tail of golden hair to his lips. When he raised his head again, letting the silken strands slither through his fingers, Fai was looking at him wonderingly, with a slowly widening smile taking over his face at this unexpected gesture. When Fai raised one pale hand to caress the ninja's face, Kurogane just grinned back, and they soon parted without speech to go on about the rest of their day, Fai still smiling and Kurogane still grinning as they separated at the door.
Kurogane wasn't his own father and Fai certainly wasn't his mother, but if Fai sometimes made him think of his mother because the way that they loved each other reminded Kurogane of the way his parents had loved one another...well, he was fine with that.