Author's Note: For anyone who doesn't know (I didn't), this fic's premise is that, coming from old time Japan, Kurogane would expect Syaoran's request to train him to be a request to enter into a wakashudo relationship. There is some great scholarship out there on this, but in the interest of condensing it for you, here's the Wikipedia info (yoink!): "The man was permitted, if the boy agreed, to take the boy as his lover until he came of age; this relationship, often formalized in a "brotherhood contract", was expected to be exclusive, with both partners swearing to take no other (male) lovers…The older partner, in the role of nenja, would teach the wakashū martial skills, warrior etiquette, and the samurai code of honor, while his desire to be a good role model for his wakashū would lead him to behave more honorably himself; thus a shudō relationship was considered to have a "mutually ennobling effect".In addition, both parties were expected to be loyal unto death... Although sex between the couple was expected to end when the boy came of age, the relationship would, ideally, develop into a life-long bond of friendship. At the same time, sexual activity with women was not barred (for either party), and once the boy came of age, both were free to seek other wakashū lovers." Now, THIS MAY NOT BE YOUR THING, so if it's not, I'd go elsewhere.

Second Author's Note: Angst ahoy.

At the end of their first day of training together, Syaoran was surprised when Kurogane followed behind him, sliding the door to his room shut. If he wanted privacy, they already had it – Fai had gone with Sakura to go buy supplies for the café. The boy leaned the sword carefully against the wall, still wrapped up tightly in its sheath, and turned to face the older man, bracing himself for what he was sure to be a good telling-off. It had taken all night to get himself drunk enough to work up the courage to ask to for training, and while Kurogane hadn't been drunk, he'd still had a few. Now that Kurogane was completely sober, staring at him with an unreadable face, frowning, Syaoran was sure the man was going to tell him he was a lost cause when it came to using a weapon. Years of over-compensating for his right eye had left him with a set of unbalanced skills – skills that had, admittedly, gotten him this far…but how much farther?

Kurogane moved forward, closing the distance between them. Syaoran's fists clenched at his side; he looked up sharply, his shoulders aching in protest.

"Kurogane-san –"

His words cut off; the ninja had lifted his hand, but instead of grabbing him by the tuff of his hair like yesterday, his fingers slid up through it, wrapping around the back of his head, tilting his gaze up to meet his.

"You're terrible." Kurogane looked down at him, his face still carefully blank. The blood in Syaoran's head rushed a little faster; he was suddenly aware of just how close Kurogane was standing next to him. Their chests nearly touched, and he could smell the crisp, fresh linen of the man's new clothes. Syaoran was bruised, scratched, even bleeding in places from the day's training…and Kurogane hadn't even broken a sweat.

"I know." There was no sense lying about his lack of swordsmanship. A day would come when he might be able to surpass his master, but that day was a long way off…or possibly never. Syaoran stiffened, meeting his gaze with determination. "I'll get better. Please, Kurogane-san…don't give up on me."

Kurogane smirked at his sincerity; the hand behind Syaoran's hair moved down, fingertips brushing at the nape of his neck. Syaoran held himself unnaturally still.

"And you're sure?" Syaoran gave a curt nod, eyes blazing. Kurogane sighed. "I might not be the best teacher for you. I told you before I've never done this –"

"I'm sure."

"You're asking a lot of me."

The silence snaked around them until Syaoran felt choked by it; the tension wrapped itself around his throat, pressing into him until his own heartbeat pounded in his ears. At last, Kurogane huffed, resigning himself, and Syaoran let out a breath he didn't know he was holding.

"Then this is a contract between you and I. Pick up that sword – and kneel."

Syaoran did as he was told, the sword balanced neatly across one leg. Kurogane stood before him, his hard gaze looking down. "We come from different worlds, you and I," he said at length. "Our cultures are different. I don't know how your culture treats oaths. A man is only as good as his word, and this is a sacred pact between men – you shouldn't take it lightly. A boy might wait years to make this decision –"

"I don't have years." His hands gripped the sheath a little more tightly, the rope slipping between his fingers.

"No, you don't." Kurogane's gaze was solemn as he continued. "Then you agree to form this bond with me. I will take you on as my wakashū; I will train you to be a warrior, and I will teach you honor. You will be loyal to me, and I to you. If I require it, you will sacrifice your life for me, as your master."

Syaoran's gaze fell to the floor. "I will be loyal to you," he promised. "I will do everything you say – but I…I can't give you my life. Not if it would mean leaving Sakura without anyone to protect her."

"Get up."

He stood up quickly, half ashamed with himself. So that would be it, then – he'd missed his opportunity to train under the ninja, but he had to be true to himself.

"Kurogane- san –"

For the second time, Kurogane's touch interrupted him; fingers, rough and calloused, lifted his chin up, bringing their gazes together. The ninja looked down at him with an expression of distinct approval.

"That was the right answer." Syaoran blinked, amazed. "It's part of the oath, but I will release you from that responsibility. I wouldn't take you on if you had said otherwise." The boy's face flushed with the heat of embarrassment. "Put your sword down, then join me."

The ninja sat down on the floor, his legs crossing neatly in front of him. Syaoran moved to sit in front of him, but the man shook his head, gesturing for him to sit at his side. The boy complied, studying Kurogane's changed expression – he'd never seen him uncertain before, but there was something different in the way his brow furrowed, the way he shifted suddenly, as if uncomfortable, trying to decide what to say.

"You're pretty banged up."

"Yes. I'll improve –"

Kurogane gave a brief snort of amusement, but his face grew serious again. "Not if you don't take care of yourself," he said. "However…that's part of my responsibility now. Take off your shirt."

Syaoran froze, uncertain, then fumbled with the collar of his shirt. He folded it neatly and placed it off to the side, turning back to the man.

Kurogane moved forward, one hand shoving him down onto his back. Syaoran braced himself, expecting a solid punch or some sort of reprimand, but instead felt the larger man dig his fingers into a particularly knotted jut of muscle. He cried out involuntarily, biting down on his tongue to stop himself from appearing weak.

"Hiding your pain won't work." Kurogane's touch softened as he loomed over him, rubbing the cords in the boy's neck. "You can accept and acknowledge it, but don't be like him and hide it." His words were suddenly icy, as if he had forgotten himself, but suddenly he looked down at him, sighing. "Like I said, I've never done this before. Tell me if it hurts. Try to relax."

Syaoran closed his eyes, concentrating on the unfamiliar sensation of someone else's hands on his body. Kurogane began at his neck, his strong fingers digging into the tendons that had strained for hours in concentration, and Syaoran discovered how difficult – how nearly impossible it was – to let his guard down enough to be open about his pain. The first time he flinched, as Kurogane's hands lifted his sore left arm, massaging the shoulder, he tried to turn his head away in shame. The ninja had said nothing, but a strong hand had reached out, gripped his hair, and given him a slight, brotherly shake. Kurogane's hands moved down his torso, tracing the lines in his chest, fingers curling under to knead his sore abdomen, and when he felt the urge to tense in pain at a particularly raw nerve, he allowed himself the luxury of it.

His throat suddenly felt too tight and dry, and a familiar prickling itched behind his eyelids. He'd only cried once, that day in Hanshin, standing alone in the rain…and he had resolved that the time for his sorrow had come and gone. What was needed now was determination, courage, and power…but the sorrow stabbed at him. His jaw clenched; he might not have to hide his pain from Kurogane, but he was certain the man would not tolerate tears. When he had said not to hide his feelings, that hadn't been included: it was time to grow up, time to find his resolve, ignore the sadness in his heart that was beating at him, trying to break him every day…

"Hey."

He felt his head lifted off the ground, supported by fingers that had laced up through his hair. He could feel the heat coming from Kurogane, but he dared not open his eyes. He was certain the tears – not many, but some – would manage to escape if he did, and he refused to be shamed so.

"Kid."

Syaoran swallowed, shutting his eyes more tightly. Another moment and he would be fine –

"Syaoran."

A rough thumb brushed against the corner of his eye, dragging a trail of wetness behind it. Syaoran opened his eyes and blinked fast, trying to focus, but his world had become a blurry, underwater vision.

"I'm sorry, Kurogane-san." He was surprised by how calm his voice sounded, if slightly pinched. "That won't happen again."

The ninja sighed. "You're as stubborn as the rest of them," he muttered.

"I –"

Lips pressed against his own, stifling his words with a sudden heat. Below him, Syaoran's eyes flew open, shocked, struggling to comprehend what was happening. Kurogane was…he's kissing me…

His arms came up nervously from the ground, wrapping hesitantly around the man's neck. Kurogane shifted, pressing him down into the floor, his tongue shoving past Syaoran's lips roughly, sliding them open.

Thoughts came and went through Syaoran's mind in swarms of frenzied confusion. Kurogane had never given any indication that he was interested in him before, so…why now? He'd made an oath, and while he had thought he understood what he was agreeing to, Kurogane had said our cultures are different.

One hand moved down his bare chest, the fingertips brushing over his nipple, dragging down suddenly with a light, intense pressure from his nails. Syaoran shivered and gripped him tighter as Kurogane fumbled with his pants, one finger yanking the top button open, the warrior's hand reaching down through course hair.

Syaoran gasped, breaking the kiss. He tried to scramble backward and found his path stopped by a strong hand, pinning his shoulder to the ground.

"K-Kurogane-san…" He didn't know what to say. Part of him didn't know what came next and was afraid to find out; another part of him, desperate for human contact and comfort, shuddered below his touch.

"What is it?" Kurogane's breathing had increased; Syaoran could see his chest rising and falling through the gap in his hakama, his skin dark and hard. He lifted his gaze up to the ninja's, trying to calm his own breathing, but the man was staring at him, as if surprised by the boy's sudden alarm.

"…is this…part of my oath…?" Syaoran tried to choose his words carefully, eager not to offend the man.

The air changed at once; Kurogane let go and sat up, his face a stony mask, but when he spoke, his voice was cold. "Are you telling me you didn't know what you were agreeing to? What you were asking of me?"

Syaoran sat up, his eyes locked on the floor, hands in his lap. He'd gone from trusting the man enough to let himself openly show pain, if only a little, in his presence, to being unable to so much as look up into what he knew was a pair of angry red eyes, burning into his skin.

"…I didn't realize…about this part…"

Kurogane stood up, and now his words shook with a quiet fury. "You would destroy my honor? You would have me be a rapist?" His words escaped in an angry hiss.

"No." Syaoran paused, surprised at himself; Kurogane had turned to stride out of the room, but he had reacted quickly, reaching forward to grab him by the pant leg of his hakama. "I didn't mean to dishonor you, I…I misunderstood our agreement. If that's what you want of me, then fine. I understand now. I was only…surprised."

Syaoran's hand fell away. Kurogane turned around, and this time, when he knelt down to face him, he did what Syaoran had expected of him before: Kurogane grabbed him by a tuff of his hair, making the boy look at him.

"That's not how it works." His gruff voice still betrayed his anger, but his tone had softened, if only a little. "In my world…in Japan, you approach me. Which you did." He fumbled for words now, defending himself. "And believe me, I was surprised. This is not some sort of secret practice – this is a sacred tradition. I thought you knew what you were asking of me…and I thought you were a damn fool, because I can't imagine anyone else worse than me for this kind of job." He rolled his eyes in self-admonishment. "I made my first mistake assuming we were agreeing to the same thing. A second mistake would be forcing you to keep an oath you made without realizing what you were agreeing to. A nenja never approaches a wakashū. It's not about what I want," he snapped, shaking Syaoran's head. "It's about what you need."

Kurogane let go. "I will release you from this oath. I think it best we never speak of it, either…if the mage found out…"

"Wait." Syaoran felt the blood rush to his face. "I…what if I wish to keep my oath?"

The stunned silence that followed left him hollow; his body ached for contact, his soul for some form of comfort. When Kurogane didn't reply, Syaoran spoke again. "It's just – Sakura. What about Sakura…?"

Kurogane's voice, deep and quiet, answered. "It doesn't change anything between you and Sakura – and it shouldn't. Ever. It's a pact between men."

"Then, I…" His fists clenched as he struggled for the words; when none came, he reached out with a shaking arm, tugging at the older man's pant leg, and found it in him to manage a half-whispered, "…Please?"

Syaoran glanced up at the soft sshk of fabric sliding through itself; Kurogane had undone the outer waist tie of the hakama, letting the cloth fall away. The man knelt again, and Syaoran, his eyes locked on him, allowed himself to be lowered onto his back as the ninja loomed over him, kneeing his legs apart. He supported himself with one thick arm, the other loosening the collar of the hakama, shrugging himself out of his clothes completely until the billowy clothe lay pooled around them.

He began working at the remainder of Syaoran's clothes next, tugging again at his pants, and this time, the boy lifted his waist up compliantly, helping to kick them off. He was suddenly much colder now without clothes on, shivering beneath the man whose body radiated heat as he pressed against him, kissing under his jaw line, moving back up to his lips.

Kurogane's voice sounded near his ear, a husky, whispered apology on his tongue. "I'm not good at this."

Syaoran gripped him, pulling him closer, and buried his face against him in reply.

Rough hands slid down his waist, the thumbs stopping to rest and balance on his hip bones, his fingers tracing down the boy's shaking thighs. Syaoran could feel the man's arousal pressing against him, and somewhere, in the hazy world of sensation that had become his mind, he wondered what he was supposed to do. So far he had lain still, gasping as Kurogane's tongue slid over his ear, down his neck, licking at the hollow of his collar bone where sweat had collected. He reached up tentatively, following the path of jutting, hard muscle down toward his groin –

A hand caught his, the fingers intertwining, and brought his arm up above his head, pinning it to the floor.

"Don't worry about that."

"But you –"

He stopped at the sound of a low, warning growl, closing his eyes. Kurogane grasped his exposed member and gave it two quick strokes; Syaoran gasped and bucked beneath him, startled by the burst of stimulation. His heart slammed against the inside of his ribs, and a sudden fear moved in him. The wooden floor squeaked beneath him as he tried to move out of the man's grasp, but Kurogane gripped his arm tighter, his thumb running experimentally up the boy's shaft, then down over the head. Syaoran cringed, his face flushed with embarrassment.

"You feel embarrassed because you're vulnerable right now."

Syaoran felt the ninja's eyes on him and knew it was useless arguing with a man as perceptive as Kurogane…especially when he was right.

"…And you don't want anyone to know that you're capable of being vulnerable." There was something almost ruthlessly tender about the way he spoke. The friction increased; Syaoran gasped helplessly as Kurogane brought him closer to the edge. "Especially me."

"I – I respect you," he murmured, but his vision was growing brighter.

"And you have too little respect for yourself."

"Aah!"

He came in a series of short bursts across his lower abdomen, his legs trembling, and felt the overwhelming need to cover himself with something, anything. He felt the need to apologize – for what, he didn't know – and instead found himself gasping for air again, his back arching. A hand had dragged two fingers across his stomach, slick now in cum, and then reached below, pushing inside him.

Kurogane released his arm; Syaoran arched higher and grasped at the clothes on either side of them, fisting bunches of the cloth.

He had no basis of comparison to understand the feeling of having something – someone – inside him, pressing against his inner walls, fingers moving to reach and spread. It felt, in some ways, like being cut by a hot knife, but still there was the pleasure – delicate, electrifying, making all of his skin tighten and tingle – of Kurogane pulling his fingers out of him, wiping the cum off his chest, rubbing the rest off the head, and then pushing back into him, with more force, more insistence… Syaoran lost himself. He forgot to be embarrassed by his own weakness and need, forgot, if only for a moment, where he was, and allowed himself to give in completely to the shivers that were racking his body.

Kurogane withdrew again, watching the way the boy's half-lidded eyes flicked open. The ninja lay down next to him, two powerful arms pulling him on top of him until the boy was straddling him, eyes fully wide now.

"You do it."

"…Me?"

Kurogane rested his hands on his hips, his gaze unblinking. "You try to take on a lot of responsibility at the cost of yourself. So go ahead – you do it."

It sounded almost like a challenge. Syaoran could feel the man's hard member pressing against him, between his own thighs. He leaned forward on his knees, one hand pressed flatly down against the ninja's chest, supporting the weight of his own tremoring frame. With his free hand, he grasped Kurogane's cock and heard the man's sharp in-take of breath. I can do this, he thought, even though he didn't quite believe it. He pressed it close to his entrance, closed his eyes, and pushed down.

The fragile balance of pain and pleasure he had experienced before tipped; he grit his teeth to keep from crying out, but it hurt too much…and still he tried, his legs braced now with the effort to take Kurogane into him, struggling to make it work even as his body felt like it was on fire.

"Come here, you."

Syaoran was pulled forward, down to Kurogane's chest, up and off of his arousal. Two powerful arms locked him in place, and red eyes, angry, glared at him. "What's wrong with you?"

"I'm sorry, Kurogane-san – I was trying, but –"

A fierce, hot, angry kiss silenced him, and then the man pulled back again, shaking his head. "Why are you trying?"

"You said…you said to do it…"

"And you can't."

"No, but I was trying –"

"You're an idiot, just like the other one," he cursed. "My point was that you can't. You need help, and you're too hard-headed to ask me. Do you even know what you're doing? No, of course not," he scoffed. "When you ask someone to train you and take you on as your master, you're accepting that there are things you can't do or learn on your own. That's the first thing you need to realize. Do you understand?"

He nodded wordlessly.

"Sit up."

His arms fell away; Syaoran pushed himself up until he was straddling him again, and once more, firm hands, the palms thick from years of gripping the hilt of a sword, rested on his hips.

"Now try again. Go slowly – and listen to me."

It took a long time; Syaoran listened to the quiet instructions that came up to him from time to time, and by the time he could comfortably relax enough to slide down the man's length, his head had fallen backwards, both of their bodies slick with sweat. He had tried to do his part and move up and down and found his legs too weak, his body thrumming with the new feeling of having someone inside of it, and only stopped his apology after the look of admonishment Kurogane gave him. He remembered what the man had said and let himself lean forward, his hands pressed against the man's broad chest, and gripped him with his thighs, riding him as Kurogane thrust upward into him. Syaoran contributed nothing to the motion, only gasped and cried out when it became too much for him, and allowed himself to selfishly enjoy it without giving anything back in return.

He was half-afraid that Kurogane would wrench away from him as he reached down, grasping his hair, but the man only leaned into his touch, giving him the contact he desired. When the warrior came, an unfamiliar heat spreading inside him, Syaoran collapsed forward, desperate for sleep.

A thick arm curled around him again.

"…You learn anything today, kid?"

"Yes, Kurogane-san." Syaoran slipped off of him, falling next to his body, his head resting in the crook of his arm. "Do you think…can we stay like this, for a little while? Until the others get back?"

Kurogane moved his arm, letting his hand fall over the boy's eyes. "Yea," he grunted. "Go ahead. Take a nap or something."

Kurogane remained still, holding him close against him as he listened to the sound of the boy's breathing change, slow, even out…and when he felt tears flow through his fingers, he resolved quietly to wipe them away before Syaoran woke up, so he would never know that he cried in his sleep.

Fin.