Author's Notes: For LapisLantern, who wanted a timestamp. Thank you for all the reviews and feedback~ I hope you like this omake!
In the town of Idia, the annual Festival of Light was a week-long event and literally ran all week long, every moment of it. It was liveliest during bloom, of course, with young and old alike crowding the streets and most of the planet's light-giving flowers open to their fullest. But even during the middle hours of fade, when many citizens were abed and only the most determined revelers still out and about, no quadrant of the town was left empty, no season or element or life-stage left uncelebrated. Volunteers worked in shifts and kept the booths and games open at all hours, and the many decorations - not to mention the citizens themselves, whose skin-markings and accessories glowed as brightly as any of the lanterns - kept the streets bright and cheerful even during the hours which were naturally dimmer on this sunless, glowbug world. It was just one more way to celebrate the unending loop of time and the life that flowed along it.
Both Kurogane and Fai understood and appreciated the concept, but not so much that they'd felt the need to stay and help celebrate it for as long as they could command wakefulness.
The mage had broken away after they'd made only one leisurely round of the festivities and the ninja had given chase, but unlike times long past there'd been no shouting of threats, no swinging of a bright blade. No teasing, no near-misses, and no audience to make it all convincing for. Most tellingly of all, Fai hadn't been laughing. He hadn't been running because Kurogane was chasing after him; he'd been running so that Kurogane could chase after him.
A test of Fai's faith in a newfound truth.
He hadn't been tried long; instead of making his solitary way through the dim, star-shining forest and waiting in breathless, eager, fearful anticipation by the glittering stream where he'd left some alcohol chilling, Fai had been captured at the very edge of the forest. Uncertain as he had been of what to expect once their roles were reversed, his heart had hammered as if he were truly prey about to be devoured and his thoughts had scattered like so many startled songbirds. Kurogane's actions, however, had been very like his reaction to Fai's confession; much, much simpler than Fai's sometimes runaway imagination had envisioned.
He'd been kissed breathless and then let go. That was all, and yet not quite all in fact. Kurogane had repeated the process over and over, interrupting their short walk to the stream so often that what should have been a ten minute stroll had taken well over an hour instead. Sometimes Fai had only accomplished five strides before tanned fingers were tangling in his hair or skimming 'round his waist again. Everything around them had seemed to inspire the ninja to make contact, to drag in close and hold, to nibble and nip. Fai'd found himself pressed up against a silvery shining tree trunk, sat gently upon a mossy log and at one heart-stopping point, toppled over and crushed into a thick bed of fragrant flowers that rained shimmering dewdrops down as the heavy blossoms nodded over them. And when they'd finally made it to their destination, the mage had learned that while a deep draught of chilled wine was very refreshing indeed, he far preferred the warm, faint echo of alcohol he could taste when his lips were stolen suddenly between drinks.
He'd felt dizzy. Giddy. Irresistible.
Hours later, Fai was comfortably exhausted. Used to traveling and very fit besides, the physical exertions of walking about all day were nothing. Emotionally, however, he'd worn himself completely out. Unhappy tension and anxiety that had been building over time had peaked in self-inflicted heartbreak, turned quickly to shock and then been transformed into a happiness so pure and unexpected that at first he'd been afraid to believe in it. Kurogane had been very convincing though - straightforward and blunt as usual - and Fai's confidence in himself as a comrade and companion had soon extended to encompass his worth and desirability as a lover as well. All in all, he felt as happy as he'd ever been sad, and considering his past that was saying a great deal indeed.
His jaw ached from a marathon of kisses and his cheeks hurt from smiling too much but he just couldn't stop himself from breaking into grins and breathy laughter as he climbed the stairs of to the second story of their hostess's house. The ninja trailed just behind him and muttered that the elderly woman would no doubt think the mage drunk and scold him in the morning for overindulging at the festival.
"She's a little bit deaf and probably very much asleep," Fai laughed, but he kept his voice down to a near-whisper. Syaoran and Mokona might have returned already to their shared accommodations and retired, and it would not do to disturb their companions for no reason. He quieted down as they proceeded, and by the time Kurogane was shutting the door to the room they shared, Fai was - to all appearances - calm. A smile still lingered on his lips but they remained shut, and the mage moved steadily about instead of flitting around with an excess of energy.
They got ready for bed with Fai washing up first as was his wont, and in the short span of time in which Kurogane was taking his turn in the bathroom the blond hurriedly covered the light-giving glass globes to dim the room and then crawled into bed. The flimsy sheet was pulled almost entirely over his head as if to shut out the remaining light in the dimly lit room, but with his magically scribed tattoos glowing gold on his skin, it was actually brighter under the sheets than without. He wasn't hiding from the light so much as he was hiding himself from immediate sight.
He took the far side of the bed as usual. His pulse was up and he had to make a deliberate effort to relax his muscles and control his breathing, which was also as usual. Since leaving Clow, whenever they chanced to share a bed, "going to bed" didn't mean seeking sleep for Fai; it meant sneaking snuggles instead. Tonight, however, he didn't wait for a chance to steal warmth and contact while Kurogane pretended to sleep. Instead, he waited to see what Kurogane would do.
He heard the door open, then shut again, and soon enough the wide mattress dipped under the ninja's weight. There was a bit of shifting and blanket-tugging, then silence broken only by the soft sound of slow, even breaths. It was just like any other night, and Fai tried to fight off the little pang that welled up in his chest. He kept his breathing steady but couldn't help his brow furrowing slightly over his still-closed eyes. He felt disappointed, and ridiculous for feeling disappointed. His lips were still tingling, he could still taste Kurogane under the sharp mint of tooth powder, and his body still remembered with vivid clarity how it felt to be persistently, insistently sought after and caressed and drawn close.
It was silly and selfish and almost ungrateful to be so greedy for more, but he couldn't help it. He'd gone from despairingly deciding to be content with only friendship to struggling with discontent because he wanted to be lavished with an absolutely unreasonable amount of affection. From Kurogane, of all non-demonstrative people. Fai wrinkled his nose at himself and then let a tiny, rueful sigh escape him.
Well. Just because Kurogane wasn't initiating contact didn't mean that he himself couldn't go seeking it, and Fai decided to upgrade his usual contact-thieving a bit. As an acknowledged - welcomed, wanted - lover he could rightfully expect to be allowed to do more than just creep carefully closer and grab a fistful of shirt. He could boldly snuggle up, worm an arm around that muscular torso, perhaps even weave their fingers together and warm his toes on Kurogane's calves. He had very chilly toes.
Fai blinked open his eyes and immediately flinched, meeped and then laughed in quick succession.
"How many times do I have to tell you to just ask when you want something?" Kurogane grumbled, looking down with a mixture of fondness and exasperation. He was lying facing away from the door against all his ingrained habits of watchfulness and wariness, and had his head propped up on his hand instead of resting comfortably on his pillow. Fai grinned up at him a bit sheepishly, but his expression was mostly one of delight.
"Kuro-sama is a demanding teacher," the mage mock-complained, "wanting his students to know their lessons by heart after just one lecture."
Kurogane snorted but made no verbal comment, only steadily watching his bedmate smile up at him. Several seconds crept sedately by, and then his brow crinkled into a little frown.
"Well?" the ninja demanded, obviously anticipating a request of some sort. Fai continued to gaze up at him, smile shifting this way and that as he pondered over his reversal of romantic fortunes in the past day. He looked lighthearted one moment and then a little more pressure of his lips together made him suddenly seem thoughtful and subdued. A faint quirk of pale eyebrows made him look even wistful, and then the mage finally spoke.
"Maybe what I want," he murmured, slowly as if to test the thoughts out even as he spoke them, "is to not have to ask at all. I know you...I've been by your side, at your back, sometimes on the other side of your sword and I know who you are as a protector, warrior, mentor and friend. I want to learn what you're like as...when..."
The blond's words trailed off, every ending to his sentence leading to a word he'd only used for himself and not yet applied to Kurogane aloud. But Kurogane had already answered the question even though Fai hadn't asked.
"You love me," he whispered, his tone making it half a statement, half a question. He knew it. Tremblingly, exultingly, hesitant but wholly. Saying it aloud had still taken courage.
"Yes," Kurogane replied, and Fai's mouth quirked back up at the corners as he gave a breathy chuckle.
"You already told me," he said in a lightly teasing manner. "Now I'll have to ask again to even us up." Blue eyes filled with the light from the shimmering scrollwork on their skin blinked in surprise and curiosity when Kurogane shook his head.
"Keep the extra," the ninja said quietly. "For when we fight. For when you're afraid to ask."
There was a breathless sort of silence after this, at least on the mage's side, silent and still and all wide-eyed and wondering. Kurogane waited as his bedmate seemed to stare fixedly at him and yet look miles away, as if scrying past their present and seeing their future days roll by; all their uneventful days and adrenaline-fueled moments, all the intimate looks and secret smiles, all the bright flashes of temper and passionate reconciliations.
Fai had woken up that morning steeling himself for an end to one possible future between them, and just now seemed to be realizing that hey hadn't just captured a single moment under the Tree of Life or stolen a few hours for themselves by the stream. They'd struck out on a new path together that stretched on and on, further than either of them could clearly see.
They were going to be together long enough for adrenaline to fade and vision to clear, for behaviors to become habits and adventures to become routine. They were going to be together long enough to fight and make up and then probably do it again sooner than either of them would later want to admit. They were going to be together.
The hush stretched out and Kurogane waited until he saw Fai really focus on him again with a more animated look; a little quirk of the eyebrows, a hopeful glint in those light eyes, and pale lips parting to smile and take in a quick, shallow breath. The ninja cocked an eyebrow of his own and waited expectantly, his own crooked half-grin expressing a wry promise that if he had to remind the mage to just ask, damn itone more time it would come with a reinforcing blow to the head.
"Can I have a spare or two?" Fai whispered, voice trembling a bit with suppressed laughter. At himself, it seemed. Or maybe at them. "Just in case. You get awfully surly sometimes, Kuro-sama, and I'd feel better with more than one reassurance in my pocket."
The unexpected - fanciful and illogical yet somehow sensible and so very Fai - request surprised a chuckle out of the ninja, and he let his hand slip away from supporting his head so that he could cradle the mage's instead. He leaned in and knocked their foreheads lightly together, letting his eyes drift shut and nosing slightly at his bedmate.
"Yes," he answered, the both of them grinning so widely that it almost ruined the kiss they nuzzled into. "Yes."