Warnings: Male/male relationship, spoilers for just about the whole series, sex, language.

Author's Notes: Written in response to a request at the LiveJournal community CLAMPkink that read, "Kurogane finds out Fai **likes** to have his hair touched, played with, and fingers running through it. Puke-worthy romantic love-making ftw. Kuro-top Fai-bottom, please." I inserted as much puke-worthy romance as I possibly could while still trying to remain post-series in character, so if fluff isn't your thing, you should walk away now.

Edit 01/02/13: Only the first two chapters are eff eff dot net compatible. The last four chapters are a bit too sexy for this site, so they have been pulled down. The entire story is available at my dreamwidth site (link available on my profile) in one big post. Sorry for the inconvenience!

It was a measure of how much Kurogane had changed throughout the years spent traveling through various worlds and dimensions that he could now smile easily and without restraint. The smiles were still comparatively rare though, and Fai always felt a thrill when he caught sight of one. The sensation was especially potent when the smile was directed at him, and he taught himself to enjoy the pure and simple pleasure of it instead of ruining these moments with the wish that those smiles could hide something more for him. Fai had changed, too.

Right now, however, Kurogane's smile was pissing Fai off.

"Would you stop grinning and help me?" he demanded. Fai glared as the dark-haired man snorted and smirked and just stood there in the middle of the forest with his arms crossed, watching as Fai struggled to free himself from the berry bush he'd gotten tangled up in.

"Attained the highest wizardry rank in Celes at an early age..."

"Kuro-sama, it hurts!"

"Can dodge magical attacks and sword strikes even with no depth perception to speak of..."


Kurogane snorted at the absolutely pathetic whimper and finally stepped over to assist, moving easily over fallen trees and uneven ground, and through golden beams of sunlight that shimmered across his shoulders and dark hair. Fai went limp in relief and watched admiringly as the man approached, but then tensed when the ninja loosened Ginryuu from its sheath.

"Don't CUT it!" he cried out in horror, and Kurogane blinked at the vehemence of the wizard's reaction.

"What?" the ninja asked exasperatedly. "I'm not cutting your damn head off. Just some of your hair. You're too tangled up for me to just pull you free, so hold still."

"No don't, please!" Fai begged, and grabbed at Kurogane's wrist to still the man's sword arm. "I'll free myself. Never mind."

"The hell is your problem?" Kurogane asked, sheathing his sword with a soft snick. "I never would have pegged you as being so vain about something like your hair."

"I'm not vain about it," Fai protested, trying to escape by reaching back and snapping a few branches but failing miserably. "It's just...special." He didn't want to explain the tradition he'd run across early in their journey and adopted for his own that dictated that one should grow their hair out while committing themself to a cause or the accomplishment of a goal, and cut it only when admitting defeat or celebrating victory. Fai would grow his hair out until Kurogane took him into his arms or turned him away.

Kurogane raised an eyebrow but thankfully didn't pursue the subject, instead shaking Fai off and bringing Ginryuu singing out of its scabbard, brooking no protests or interference this time. A particularly annoyed growl subdued the wizard, and he found himself rewarded for his compliance when Kurogane cut him free without sacrificing even a single inch of hair. The berry bush wasn't treated with nearly as much respect.

"I suppose now you're going to whine at me until I help you get all that crap out of your hair," Kurogane grumbled, still kneeling nearby as Fai mournfully patted at his head to assess the damage. The years had brought wisdom indeed.

"I'd appreciate it if you'd save me the trouble of thinking up all sorts of outrageous reasons why it's your fault that I got stuck while picking berries," Fai agreed, with real gratitude in his voice. With a long-suffering sigh the dark-haired man gestured for the wizard to turn around and then settled himself more comfortably into the cool, rustling leaves, long legs splayed out on either side of the knotted-up blonde.

Fai worked on the left side of his head while Kurogane picked at the right. The ninja grumbled uncomplimentary things for a while but soon left off thinking up insults so that he could concentrate on removing as many thorny twigs as he could with the minimum of blood from the fingers of his right hand and badly stifled yelps of pain from the blonde. The more hair they managed to clear out and untangle, the more awkward Fai's arms got until finally he just let them fall into his lap after a few pointed flicks from Kurogane's fingers, leaving the back of his head for the ninja to tackle on his own.

The blonde just sat, slightly hunched over and playing idly with the leaves scattered around him, a small smile curving his lips. It was a silly sort of situation, but he cherished moments like this, where there was nothing important going on; just two friends and a comfortable silence. Fai had decided years ago to be content with what he had instead of stewing with dissatisfaction over what he didn't. It was erring on the side of caution, but their hard-earned friendship was too precious to him to risk. Kurogane was not exactly demonstrative and Fai didn't have enough hope to build on that the ninja preferred men, and that out of all the men within reach, Fai would be one of the top picks for a bedmate. The blonde was confident that he was Kurogane's most treasured friend. Potential lover...not so much.

As the danger of getting stabbed with an errant thorn diminished, Kurogane began combing through the sections of freed-up hair with his fingers, and Fai closed his eyes to better revel in the sensation. The ninja had as much control over his custom-built and -fitted artificial arm as he did his flesh-and-bone one, and the hands running through blonde locks were equally controlled and careful. Fai had always enjoyed having his hair brushed out. There was something particularly nice about it that made him feel loved and cared for. Perhaps it was because it was somewhat of a maternal gesture. Perhaps it was because he was simply wired that way.

Whatever it was, it was amazing, and Fai soon gave himself over to the enjoyment of it. As the twig-tugging lessened and the untangling continued, he began to make contented little hums at the measured, careful slide of those strong fingers through his hair. The fact that it was Kurogane doing this to him, for him was enough to make him want to bottle this feeling up and keep it forever. If it felt this good to just get a friendly finger-comb, what would happen to him if the ninja ever raked those fingers across his skin in passion?

Shivers of pleasure ran down his spine and raised gooseflesh on his arms when he felt fingernails scrape slowly across his scalp, and he began to slowly tilt his head this way and that, seeking more pressure over a particular spot or trying to make a certain caress last longer like he was a cat chasing head scratches. He was practically purring by the time all his tresses were twig-free and smooth again, and when long fingers gently carded all his hair back in a final sweep, raking from his temples all the way to the back of his skull and then pulling through the trailing ends, Fai tipped his head back and moaned.

The hands froze, still woven through the ends of his hair, and Fai froze likewise. Blue eyes blinked open and he stared up at the leafy canopy overhead in dawning horror as his brain floated up through the hazy layers of hedonistic happiness that it had been buried under and gave him a quick replay of how he'd been acting the past few minutes. His heart started hammering in his ribcage and then almost stopped when Kurogane's hands fell away and then immediately repeated the action that had drawn that excruciatingly embarrassing noise from his throat.

He flinched when the ninja's hands laid themselves at the sides of his head again and couldn't repress a shiver and sigh as they caressed along his scalp, this time moving the entire length of his hair until the ends fell against his back again. Knowing that Kurogane had heard his moan - the whole forest had probably heard it - and knowing that the tone of it had been unmistakable was mortifying. Horrifying. Sweet merciful God kill me now scary. But having the ninja deliberately repeat the caress was so confusing that he got up the courage to slowly, fearfully turn his head around with a question in his eyes.

Fai had been afraid to see understanding and disgust mingled together in Kurogane's face, as well as struggling against the old impulse to flee or make a joke. They were long past that stage though and it would have been too deep of an insult to Kurogane for him to do otherwise now than face his friend and the consequences, be they what they may. Thankfully, that well-loved face was not closed off, haughty and offended, or openly showing anger or distaste either. Instead, Kurogane's expression was all alive with what Fai thought to be curiosity and a bit of uncertainty in that tiny up-quirk of those dark brows, and the interest in those red eyes had the wizard's heart leaping up into his throat. Hope suddenly burned hot and painful in his chest as well as a sharp, icy fear that it would be extinguished shortly, and Fai began to have difficulty breathing.

He couldn't bring himself to say anything despite the terrible anxiety of not knowing and just waiting for a reaction. It had taken all his courage just to meet that intent gaze. Mercifully, Kurogane spoke, and after only (ten thousand years) a few seconds.

"Was that for me, or do you just really like having your hair combed?"

Yay, an easy question. Was Fai lusting after the ninja or was he one of those weirdos with a strange fetish? Trust Kurogane to make things difficult. What made it even more awkward was the answer to the query.

"Both," Fai said after pausing a moment to experience heart failure. "I like having my hair touched, and...I'm in love with you." He kept his eyes locked on the man he'd just confessed to, heart thundering in his chest and a massive stress headache building up behind his eyes, and when Kurogane just gave a thoughtful "oh" he almost hauled off and punched the man.

"Kuro-sama, you can't ask me a question like that and just say 'oh' when I answer it!" he protested, and probably would have rushed on to say much more than he'd meant to and definitely more than he should have, except that Kurogane suddenly gave a short, barking laugh and looked at him with an expression that on any other man in the world would have been categorized as apologetic.

"Give me a minute, damn it," the dark-haired man said, his voice rich with amusement, and it was so strange to see him responding cheerfully and without any resentment at the impatience and frustration being dumped on him that the wizard blinked and then relaxed, slumping down a bit and settling in to wait quietly as requested.

The tension had barely gone out of his shoulders, however, before a tan hand was reaching up, sliding along his jaw and curling into a fist around the hair at his nape. The warm, rough fingers were firm against Fai's skin and left fiery pinprick sensations in their wake, and he shivered again at the feeling. Having Kurogane grab a fistful of his hair right after Fai had confessed through both word and action that he really, really liked having his hair touched was so full of implication and hope that it had Fai trembling. Kurogane bent toward him then, gently pulling at the same time so that Fai was also leaning close, and he felt so dizzy from lack of breath that he impulsively clutched at the ninja's wrist to anchor himself. That was solid. That was real. The rest of it might be a fever dream but that warm, muscular forearm and strong, steady pulse was something he could latch on to for balance.

The wizard was so fixated on getting more than an "oh" as a reply that right up until the moment Kurogane's lips touched his, he was still waiting for the ninja to actually speak a proper response. And then he realized that the hand in his hair and the mouth on his was Kurogane's answer to his confessions, and somewhere in the vast ocean of relief and gratitude and love and joy and lust that welled up and washed over him was a quiet laugh at himself for thinking that the man would respond with words.