Author's Notes:

You'll probably think I'm crazy for writing a story with this pairing, but I wanted to see if I could do it successfully.

Even though this is technically a crack pairing, this is by no means a crack fic. I'm going to write a serious, multi-chapter fic about an intimate relationship between Syaoran and Kurogane. So I apologize if you dislike this pairing, but I'm going to go ahead with it.

Warnings: eventual yaoi, intense violence, language, and pretty much everything a story could be rated M for. Also, spoilers for basically the whole series, without further notice.

As with my other Tsubasa series, I will refer to C!Syaoran as the Other.

Edit 9/9/2016: Started a revision sweep to correct some minor continuity errors and clean up the wording.

Edit 10/13/2016: Revision complete.

Chapter One

"Sakura-chan and I are going grocery shopping," Fai said.

Syaoran pressed his ear against the bedroom wall, listening to the squeak of the front door's hinges, the uneven tread of Sakura's footsteps against the cement floor of the apartment they'd been staying in. "We'll be back soon," Sakura said, her voice subdued, as it had been ever since Tokyo. Guilt twisted through Syaoran's stomach as she took the last steps out the door. Seven years had passed since he'd twisted back time, and the consequences of his wish lingered like the ache of an old wound.

"Later," Kurogane called from the living room, just before the door closed. After that, there was silence.

Almost. Until Syaoran's stomach growled, at least. He wrapped an arm around his abdomen to stifle the sound, throat constricting. Denying his hunger wasn't healthy—it was selfish to wear down his body when they had a chess tournament coming up, and more selfish to hole up in his room just to avoid the chill that crept into the air every time the others noticed him. Even so, he couldn't bring himself to face them, not even to fill the gnawing absence in his stomach.

Fai and Sakura would have taken Mokona with them, however, which left only him and Kurogane. Of his traveling companions, the ninja was the least cold to him. Perhaps if he moved quickly, he could get something to eat without having to talk to anyone.

He crept down from his thin mattress and unlocked his door, wincing at the sound of gears clicking together. Between that and the creak of his bedroom door, he might as well have announced his presence. Head down, he stepped into the living room, and in his peripheral vision, he saw Kurogane glance up at him, then back to the television, his expression never shifting.

Syaoran hurried past the couch, nose twitching at the bitter smell of cigarette smoke and other, more sinister concoctions. He wondered, sometimes, if the shabby state of the apartment was a direct result of its previous tenant's poor maintenance, or if it had degenerated over many years, gradually losing whatever charm it may once have possessed to the ravages of time. Whatever the cause, its current condition seemed an eerily accurate representation of what had happened to this group since he'd joined them in Tokyo.

"Been a while since I've seen you," Kurogane remarked from the sofa.

Syaoran's flinched. "Yeah . . ." He waited for the ninja to say something else. When the room remained silent, he opened the refrigerator door and pulled a bag of cold cuts from the drawer, along with a selection of cheeses and vegetables from the crisper drawer. He decided he'd make two sandwiches, one for now and one that would keep until tomorrow, to better let him avoid his traveling companions.

He plucked several slices of bread from the bag on top of the microwave and started assembling his meal, alternating layers of cold cuts with lettuce or tomato, with occasional dabs of mayonnaise. By the time he dropped the top slice of bread onto the sandwich, it was three inches thick. His stomach rumbled at the sight, and he quickly set to work making a second sandwich, this one with peanut butter, that would keep until tomorrow.

"You planning a camping trip or what?"

He glanced back, pushing aside a box of instant potatoes. "Huh?"

Kurogane inclined his head toward the stack of sandwich supplies. "It looks like you're packing to run away or something."

"Oh." Run away? he thought, sliding the peanut butter out of the cupboard. The idea was more tempting than it should have been. But no. Even if he weren't obligated to help Sakura and the others in whatever way he could, running away simply wasn't practical. As alone as he was now, he would be even more isolated here, in this unfamiliar world, with its unfamiliar culture and its unfamiliar language.

"Are you?"

He blinked, searching for a butter knife to spread the peanut butter across the bread. "Going camping, or running away?" he asked hesitantly.

Kurogane let out an exasperated sigh and returned his attention to the television—shutting him out like everyone else. Suddenly, it wasn't hunger, but nausea, churning away in Syaoran's stomach. He understood why Fai had turned away. He even understood why Sakura had. But Kurogane was his one tenuous connection to this group, the one person who might speak for him if the others ever decided they were better off without him. To see him turn away made Syaoran's throat close up with something akin to panic. "I'm not going anywhere," he said, his voice strained.

Kurogane turned back to him, his expression attentive without being warm. Syaoran looked up, meeting someone's eyes for the first time in weeks. The ninja returned his gaze evenly, his eyes revealing nothing. "I'm not going anywhere," Syaoran repeated, a little more controlled. "But I don't want to be a burden to anyone, so . . ." He looked down, severing the connection before it became uncomfortable.

"So what? You're just going to sit around in your room all day while your health goes to shit?"

His fingers tightened convulsively around the butter knife. He turned back to the counter, hurrying to finish his preparations. Once he'd finished making the last sandwich, he packed up the remaining cold cuts and bread and returned everything to its place.

"Is this the first time you've eaten all day?" Kurogane demanded.

It was. "You don't have to worry about me."

Kurogane's mouth twisted into a sneer. "Right. How long has it been? You plan on starving yourself or something?"

"No!" he said quickly, jamming each sandwich into a small plastic bag. Infinity seemed fairly well-developed despite its barbaric tournaments, which meant it had little luxuries like sandwich bags. Even so, Syaoran couldn't help but resent this world, with its soulless cities and uncaring residents. "No, I . . . I ate last night." Yesterday afternoon, at least. His stomach snarled.

The hostility level dropped off a bit. Kurogane stood, his red eyes never wavering from Syaoran's face. Syaoran tried to look up and found that he couldn't. He hurried to his room, only to have the ninja's hand clamp down on his shoulder. "You need to take better care of yourself. If you don't start, I'll drag you out of your room and make you eat."

"I'm sorry," he mumbled, taking another step toward his room. Kurogane's grip tightened until it was almost painful. The ninja turned him so they were face-to-face.

"Look at me," he commanded.

Syaoran struggled to raise his eyes, feeling his stomach contract with anxiety. The last thing he'd wanted to do was upset the one person who deigned to speak to him, and now he was trapped, unable to say anything, his shoulders hunched under the oppressive weight of his guilt.

"Look at me."

I can't, he thought, clutching the pair of sandwiches close to his chest. He waited, immobile, for another command, hoping that somehow the order would jar him out of the sickening uncertainty he felt now. But Kurogane's hand dropped to his side, releasing him. Abandoning him.

"Wait," he whispered, just as the ninja was about to turn away from him.


"I'm sorry if . . . if I upset you." He forced the muscles in his neck to unlock, forced himself to look up and meet the ninja's eyes despite the frenetic flips of his stomach. He caught a glimpse of red before his chin dipped down again. "I'll take better care of myself, so please, don't concern yourself with my health."

Kurogane's eyebrows slanted down. "It's none of your business what I concern myself with."

He bit his tongue. "I'm sorry," he said again.

The ninja's expression softened slightly, but he said nothing. The silence pressed on Syaoran's eardrums, heavy and painful. He's not saying anything, he thought, his breath coming faster. It's like he didn't even hear me. Like I'm a ghost.

Images of Sakura's eyes, hardened by the events of Tokyo, flashed through his mind, crippling his lungs and leaving him breathless. If everyone had only resented him, he could tolerate it. Even if they'd been outwardly hostile, he could've endured. But not this. Not the pressing silences, not the apathy, not the lack of reaction.

Not this.

Kurogane stood stoic, unmoved by the turmoil crackling in the air as the tenuous connection between them slipped away.

I'm lost, Syaoran thought miserably. I'm lost to them. I'm nothing but a pale shadow of the Other.

Something shuddered and gave way inside him, like a decrepit building finally crumpling under its own weight. He had to prove that he wasn't the same as his clone, had to prove, both to himself and the others, that he existed as something more than a blueprint for his copy. He had to provoke some sort of reaction.

He had to do something the Other would never do.

It was impulsive, what he did then. Foolish. But it was the only thing he could think of, as he saw the infinitesimal movement of Kurogane's shoulders shifting away from him, that would be sure to elicit a response. Clumsily, he rocked forward on his tiptoes and brought his lips to the ninja's.

There was an instant of perfect stillness, and then Kurogane reeled back, their mouths separating with jarring abruptness. Syaoran saw Kurogane raise a hand, felt something connect with his sternum. In a blur of movement, he shot backwards, shoulder slamming into the wall, the air rushing out of his lungs, the sandwiches falling forgotten on the cement floor. Pain twisted through his chest, half from the impact, half from a sharp stab of rejection.

It was the first time in weeks he'd gotten anything more than a glance or handful of words from anyone, and it had to be this.

Kurogane towered over him as he slumped onto the ground. Where moments ago there had been nothing but a blank wall before, he now felt a roiling cloud of fury pressing down on him. The rage on the ninja's face was so absolute that Syaoran could only stare, breathless, as if he were looking into the heart of a furious sandstorm with no shelter for miles.

Kurogane took half a step forward. Syaoran bolted.

He almost didn't make it back to his room. A heavy hand coiled around his upper arm, dragging him back. Syaoran flailed, his elbow slamming into the wall. The wild movements freed his arm from the ninja's grasp, and his legs propelled him toward his bedroom door. His hip smashed into the frame with bruising force as he ripped the door open, and pain blossomed across his body.

But he made it. He slipped in through the tiny gap he'd made for himself and slammed the door, locking it with shaking hands. Then, he slumped to the floor, leaning against the thin wooden frame to keep from collapsing.

Kurogane's fist smashed into the other side of the door with a splintering sound.