004.

It had officially been two weeks since that day. Two weeks since Fai had put an imprint on his life. Two weeks since the lies and the accident and the leftovers and Fai. Kurogane hadn't seen Fai since. Not that he was looking for the blonde. He definitely wasn't trying to think of how to thank him and apologize to him. He definitely wasn't spying on his neighbor's house for activity (yet the only activity seemed to be neighborly children walking over and being disappointed that he wasn't available –he always seemed to leave the door open when the weather was fair or the curtains open when the weather wasn't, when he was available. Like a giant Welcome we are open or Sorry we are closed sign). Kurogane had his car back now, and that Saturday, decided he should pay a visit to see Fai's sister. And in the process, maybe run into the blonde. Except, he didn't know the blonde's last name or his sister's name. And going in there with that much information would really make for a fun conversation. "Yeah, hi, I'm looking for this blonde's sister. I heard she was in an accident two weeks ago on the bus.' Okay so what is their name and his connection to them? Let's see… he's been neighbors with Fai for the last five years and the day after Thanksgiving, he lied to him to save his life, and …yeah, that was really not going to work. But, you just don't save someone then disappear off the radar. Especially if you live right across the street. The thought that maybe he'd be at the hospital or wherever his sister was had been a pertinent thought. But shouldn't he come home sometime? If nothing else, the pumpkin pie is only good for so many days before it goes bad. It was possible that he came home during the daytime when he was at work, but the children gave clues that they hadn't seen Fai either.

And the more the blonde wasn't there, the more he took in details, recalling as many as he could (when he wasn't busy working, because the Witch is not paying him to daydream about missed golden opportunities, and when he figured out just what she meant, he defiantly declared he was not before storming down the hallway, which resulted in the girls laughing at him behind his back.) Smaller details came to him, like how Fai had mentioned both a sister and a brother were going to meet up with him, but only mentioned his sister when he spoke of visiting, later mentioning both he was unable to save. So what was up with his brother? Or was that one of those 'if you say it, it becomes real' things so something was up with the other's brother but by not saying it, he didn't have to face the fact that his brother was … what, though? Never showed up, wasn't with his sister, was with his sister, but … wasn't anymore? And he'd said his sister had been protected, but wasn't completely fine. So, psychologically traumatized, maybe? Was mostly okay, but still suffered physical damage?

What he'd seen of Fai's upstairs, he'd made it a place for children to come over, and when he was in the kitchen, getting food, he' noticed the guy's back yard and a giant tarp over what might be a giant built-in swimming pool, with a deteriorating fence. Apparently, taking care of his yard hadn't been his forte as much as his house. There was stairs going downstairs, with a childproof fence blocking them, and a door at the bottom that was closed shut. There was no silly cartoonish drawing on that door. But beyond a few noticeable things, there was very little … personal belongings of Fai's he saw upstairs, which alluded that the guy's private home life most likely existed in the downstairs space. He hadn't gone into what he guessed would be the office space, but he didn't even notice a single piece of mail lying about. It didn't seem what was personal was open to intrude upon much. Except for that photo frame that had been knocked down and the glass broken. A happy bundle of blondes. He wondered what had been up with that photo. Had Fai intentionally knocked it over and broke it, or was it a mere accident, being in a hurry to get out of the house as he seemed to be that morning?

Five years of having him as a neighbor, five years of not having to deal with him, and then one day spent with him, and he couldn't get the blonde out of his head. None of this overthinking helped though, as he went to his fridge to inspect what he had available. Without the blonde there to answer the questions, all his thoughts were just pure speculation that may or may not be even close to the truth. Kurogane frowned, as he noticed the lack of much anything left, realizing he'd have to cook soon. And go shopping. He began to get ready, grabbing his wallet, his cell, his keys, and thinking about what he wanted to make this time, when he had to pause in his train of thought.

Knock knock knock.

Kurogane set his keys down, and went over to greet the door knocker, hoping it'd be Fai and after he opened it, he was feeling stupid for feeling disappointed when it was just Tomoyo. Then felt bad for thinking of her as just Tomoyo. Tomoyo wasn't just anyone. And why the hell did he want it to be Fai anyway? The blonde was too cheery and blonde for his own good. "What is it?" he asked the preteen.

"I was just wondering… have you heard from Fai lately?"

"No…I haven't seen him in a while."

"Oh…do you know when he'll be back?"

"Why are you asking me?"

"Because you were the last one with him."

"What do you mean I'm the last one with him? I'm sure he's been with plenty of you brats lately." Actually no he wasn't quite sure of that. But, why wouldn't Fai spend time with them? Unless he had some personal business that kept him away, he was rarely ever away for long periods. And two weeks was a long period for the other.

"Well…Fai called me this past Sunday, and thanked me. He said that he got to 'spend some quality bonding time with Kurogane', thanks to me. And that Friday after Thanksgiving, I was having a sleep over at Sakura's, and she pointed out you leaving Fai's house. Which we thought was pretty unusual then, as you've never given Fai the time of day. And then after Fai's call," she said then giving a casual shrug, "…I thought you might know."

"Well, I don't know where he is right now. For all I know, he could be out sipping soda, petting some kitten, or at the hospital with his sister or frickin in another continent. I don't know; why would I care where he is?"

"Wait … Chi's in the hospital?!"

"Wait - who's Chi?"

"His baby sister of course. You didn't know?"

"He told me he had a sister and a brother, but he never mentioned them by name."

"Chi and Yui mean everything to him. Except for his uncle, they are the only family he has left."

Sure didn't seem that way, if that picture he saw was anything to judge by, but at least, now he had an idea of the other's siblings' names. Not to mention that Fai somehow must've lost his parents too.

"Kurogane… can we go see how Chi is doing?"

"Waitaminute … did Kendappa drop you off on me again? I'm not your damn babysitter. Go dress up Sakura or go bother someone else," he said crossing his arms. "I have things I need to do."

"Sakura is at the shelter with Yukito and Syaoran," Tomoyo responded diligently.

Kurogane let out a small groan, massaging his temples briefly. Tomoyo did not need to know that he had wanted to in the first place but wasn't sure how to find them because he didn't have enough information on either person to comfortably go and ask to see them. But as her favorite dress up model was not available, he resigned to the ten year old, if only because he did want to and she was asking and it would maybe be less awkward if he had a child wanting to as a reason. "…fine, we can go and check how … Chi is doing, or whatever. But we can't stay all day; I still have things I need to do."

"Yay! Thank you Kurogane!" Tomoyo said wrapping her arms around him in a hug.

"Whatever…but you have to figure out where they are, because I am not about to drive all over to try and figure out where they are."

"Maybe I can get a hold of Fai, and he can tell us directly," Tomoyo thought, pulling out her cell phone. It must've been a newer model her mother's company was putting out. Sonomi was practically tied to her company and doting Tomoyo with the latest electronics they were producing. Currently, she also had a video recorder (he quietly bet that any video on it had something to do with or capturing directly Sakura). Noticing the fast-pace of the dialing, the preteen had to have Fai on speed dial (and why she had him on speed dial begged a different question) but still, he waited beside her to see if Fai would answer.

Fai frowned. It was not the first time within the last few days, the last few weeks, and it surely wouldn't be the last, but making these arrangements, doing all the paperwork, was definitely unpleasant yet he was the only one who could right now. So he buckled down, and forced himself to pay attention to the endless dull sprawls of legal paperwork, listen to hours of belittling conversations, consume enough sugar to kill a hummingbird while managing time to see his sister, making sure she was well fed, and had clean clothes, and cleaned and that the needs he could take care of were taken care of. And a little time to actually go home, and do needed things there.

He was currently sipping a steamy cup of cocoa, laced with melted marshmallows, as he walked through the hallways, returning to the cafeteria for a sandwich, something with some protein sustenance, mentally wanting nothing more than to wallow into a puddle of saline and hidden under a wall of blankets, curling into a ball. But, he couldn't just yet; he had to stay strong. Maybe in a day or two or ten. Maybe a year. Maybe never. Because if he did that, then what would be left of their family? Chi couldn't leave the hospital just yet, and Yui. Yui. He blamed himself for it; they'd been fighting, arguing over something petty. He really shouldn't have said some of those things, but they came out and cut, and it was even worse, because Yui was his brother, his twin, and he may have just stabbed that verbal dagger into his own heart because each biting word stung more than the last, each one razor sharp. And he'd… wanted to apologize. He never was able to apologize to him properly. They were going to, he thought, he hoped. Sure, they mostly almost always got along and were great at confusing others with how similar they were (except for minute differences, they could easily pass themselves off as the other), and they had a deep brotherly love for the other, wanting the other to be happy, and they would risk their life for the other, and do anything for the other. But sometimes they fought, and those were fought with verbal daggers and cool cutting voices, and Chi was sometimes the mediator between them. The reason why some of the fights were reconciled. Others were because they were genuinely sorry and didn't want the other to be mad at them anymore. After all, they were family and family looks out for each other. And family spends Thanksgiving together. Family spends time with each other for the holidays. God, it was such a stupid fight.

Fai squeezed the cup too tight and spilled some of the burning liquid over his hands. He flinched lightly at the sting, but couldn't care all that much that it burned and hurt, and that his fingers were turning bright red all over again; he was more upset he'd spilled some and wasted it than got hurt. There was a heavy weight in his chest, and things had begun to just feel numb. Numb, numb, and it was all because of him. If Yui had been able to make it over, instead of covering someone else's shift, like a pushover, this would not have happened. If he had gone over instead of taking in personally, this would not have happened. But Yui didn't make it over and Fai became bitter, taking it as a personal insult. Change of plans, he texts, not even having the decency to tell him with his own voice, or even give him a heads up, or explain what was going on. Just texts him hours after they said they be there. And he responded emotionally, letting the hurt reply for him, and brother had tried to reason with him, but Fai wouldn't listen, and he wouldn't come, and he just stopped answering; he just cried in a ball from feeling so bitterly angry and hurt and betrayed, but not wanting to hurt him anymore because of his own hurt, curling up on the upstairs bed, in a heap of blankets and remaining emotionally bitter and understanding (understanding that he couldn't change his brother, didn't want to change him, and that it probably would hurt him too that Fai wouldn't come, and Chi would ask and then have to eat dinner almost alone as Yui worked) and turned on his music player, blasting it through a pair of headphones, playing loud angry bitter music, and dinner lay forgotten for hours, as he had lost all appetite.

He'd calmed down after a while, a numbness washing over him. By then, something felt wrong, but he ignored it, blaming it on an empty stomach. He managed to eat a couple of bites, but couldn't muster more than that in effort, before he resignedly picked dinner up. That feeling was still there, and as he wondered about it, at quarter past midnight, he gets that call from Tomoyo, and he forces himself to act normal for her sake. He'd drowned the pain to a bitter numbness, his guts telling him something was off, that something was wrong, but he pulled out his charming card for her. To force a smile on his face as he spoke to her, and act like absolutely nothing was wrong and everything was just cheerfully wonderful, and why was she up that late at night, that shouldn't she be asleep. And Tomoyo told him that she had been, but had been awoken by her dream, and she just had to tell someone, and Fai listened to her, as she told him about the dream in vivid details.

It was so detailed, and she was so articulate, that even the time could be detailed as to the location. Fai paid close attention because listening to Tomoyo was much better than the bitterness of his own mind. But everything seemed so vividly familiar, that after Tomoyo finished telling Fai, she thanked him for listening to her, that she felt better after telling him, told him that she was going to try and go back to sleep, and Fai bid her good dreams, because that dream was if anything a nightmare. A nightmare that twisted a knife, where he thought he couldn't feel any more pain that night. And god, he had to check on something. Because it pecked at him and jabbed like a fresh cut and someone was digging the blade deeper and twisting it painfully. And as he double-checked and realized the times to the location and everything just seemed to swell into a black pit, because as everything clicked, he realized that her dream, and his gut intuition were warning him of the same thing, that the concern was the same bus that Yui and Chi were planning to take later that day, if they were going to take it, the bitterness reminded him, but regardless of if they were, they couldn't. They had to get on a different bus. Because he didn't want to see his brother hurt like that, not really. In the heat of the moment, he couldn't care if he hurt him verbally, but there was no way he would actually want his brother hurt, like seriously hurt.

And so he'd called him. He tried to apologize to him, said he was sorry for not coming and that he didn't mean to say such things, that is was just the hurt and anger talking, but please just don't come on that particular bus. Any other bus would do, just not that one, that that bus wasn't going to be safe. He should've known, though, as it was his brother, and he knew his brother best, and he should have known that that wouldn't work, that he had to reach his brother. But he hadn't been able to reach him, because he just wouldn't answer the phone or the phone was dead or something, but he never answered. Never knew of the peril they were in.

God, he was so passive-aggressive, or just denied his own emotions. Shoved them in a corner, and smiled at the whole world as if nothing was wrong … when everything slowly seemed to be slipping and becoming anything but right. He sighed, leaning against a wall, and just downing the rest of the drink, which wasn't exactly wise, but he didn't care. The pain of the hot liquid sliding down felt much better than a minute ago. His hands burned too, itched with a small shake, and Fai couldn't tell if it was the emotions or the burning that made them quiver. He let out a breath, going to rinse them in some water from the drinking fountain, at least to wash the cocoa off of them. They were probably going to be covered in burns later, but it's nothing he couldn't take. Burns were physical marks. You can see a burn; it's harder to see the scars dug deep in the psyche.

Wiping his hands off on his pants, he looked over to a window, before grabbing that sandwich he'd meant to, and took it outside to eat. He quietly took a bite of it with morbidity, as they only had turkey sandwiches available then. It couldn't have been some reprocessed meat that barely resembled what it came from and tasted like hash; it just had to be cold turkey. After a few moments, he noticed his phone buzzing to life. Setting down the sandwich, he took a moment to remember he would never hear his brother's ringtone, and see his brother's picture, dressed like some pâtissier and Fai-decorated with some frosting and crème and sprinkles, pop up when he felt like calling. However, he did manage an almost real smile when he realized it was Tomoyo, before answering the phone in a cheery voice. "Tomoyo, darling; what a pleasant surprise!" he answered in that happy voice he'd become accustomed to pushing out whether he was happy or sad.

"Fai! How are you?"

"Mm… Not bad, not bad… and yourself?"

"I'm doing just splendid. Say, where are you right now?"

"Mm… lemme check…" Fai said shuffling about some.

"Stop charading you overgrown twig; can't be that hard to know where you are…" grunted Kurogane in a low mutter.

"Shush," Tomoyo chided.

"Ah, well it seems it's the south branch of the Medical Center of Aurora…It's at 1501 Potomac … And what's with that ominous black cloud hovering over your shoulder, Tomoyo? That wouldn't happen to be Kurogane now would it?"

"As a matter of fact, it is… Would you like to speak with him?"

"Ah that's…"

"Lemme see that…" Kurogane said reaching for the phone, but not ripping it out of the preteen's hands, and before Fai can give a response, Tomoyo is passing along the phone to Kurogane.

"Hey."

"Ah, Kuro," Fai chirped pleasantly, "How is your car?"

"She's fine… Where the hell've you been for the last couple of weeks? You've had the brats fretting over your disappearing."

"Uwaah…such a potty mouth Kuro and in front of Tomoyo. Have you no decency?" Fai said chastising the other in playful humor. "Besides, it sounds like you are more upset with me not poking good cheer in your general direction than the children are that I've not been around much for the past two weeks."

"Oh shut it…nothing she hasn't heard me say afore."

"Anyway…what's up? After Friday, I wasn't sure…"

"About that…Tomoyo asked if she can come see your sister, and since her sister dropped her off on me, I just wanted to make sure it was fine and all."

"Ah, yeah…. She can have company over. Ah, you're at home right?"

"Yeah…"

"Think you can grab some leftovers from my place? The food here is terrible. Hospital food, yknow…Though they do know how to make a good cup of cocoa."

"I don't have your key."

"No worries….I hid a spare key in the rocks. Just in case something like this happened. It'll be fine, unless you don't want to of course."

"…what do you want?"

"Mm, well there's a ham bake and some stuff I didn't bring last time… how about those…the leftovers are on the top shelf. The bake is in one of those glass casserole dishes, should be on the next shelf, and anything else is in those child-friendly Tupperware holders or Ziploc baggies. You can grab something for you and the cutie beside you if'n you want to. Just remember to lock up afterwards."

"Right. Then we'll see you in a bit."

"Mm. Alright, take care and we'll see you when you get here."

Fai hung up, and Kurogane passed the phone back to the youth. "Alright. Looks like you can go see Chi but Fai asked if we can grab some of his food before we head over."

"Okay. Shall I get driving instructions while you get the food?"

"Yeah."

Tomoyo headed inside, while Kurogane grabbed his car keys and drove the small distance across the street and pulled up into his neighbor's driveway, parking temporarily. Going over to the front porch, he looked for the key, and if it weren't for knowing about it and where it was, he would have never noticed the small key camouflaged in with the rocks. Picking it up, he unlocked Fai's place, and went to the kitchen. Someone had obviously been there in the two weeks, because there were some noticeable differences. The crayon box was no longer knocked over, and instead picked up. The book was now closed, and set up on one of the shelves. A couple pieces of mail had been sprawled on the table, replacing the assortment of items that had previously buried it, and that photo frame had been moved there, with a couple bandages over the broken glass. White bandages with black paw prints and pink fairy bandages and black bandages with neon green skulls. He recognized the photo despite the bandages as he could still see the bubbly blonde baby's energetically laughing face and traces of blonde. He saw a note written beside it. Lengthy, handwritten, and the first sentence clearly visible. Dear Uncle Ashura. From his own knowledge, Ashura was a very famous name. Famous as in, military famous. It might have been another guy with the same name, although Ashura wasn't that common of a surname.

He firmly looked away from the photo and the letter addressed to 'Uncle Ashura', instead he focused on the food. Reaching into the fridge, he easily spotted the leftovers. Fai wasn't kidding when he gave his description of them. Bright, colorful Tupperware, dated Ziploc baggies, and a clear glass casserole dish filled with scalloped potatoes, ham and vegetables. There was a canvas grocery bag nearby, so he took that, and placed the food in there. Carefully placing the bake in first, he placed the other food on top of it. Keeping it simple, he merely grabbed a bottle of juice for Tomoyo before heading back out. Locking up behind him, he was careful in setting the food in his car, placing it on the floorboard in the back seat. With the food secured, he shut the door to see Tomoyo heading down the sidewalk with a printout folded in her hands.

"Did you shut the computer down and lock up after yourself?"

"Yep; here's the instructions. Did you get the food?"

"Yeah," Kurogane said, gently patting the door he'd just shut. "Climb in."

Tomoyo smiled, before getting into the front passenger's seat while Kurogane took the driver's seat. Before putting the keys into ignition, Tomoyo handed him the instructions, and in return, he passed her the juice bottle. Quickly reading over them, he got the gist of it, and handed them back to Tomoyo for safekeeping, while he revved the engine, before driving off.

"Kurogane…do you think we can get a gift for Chi? You know, a get well gift?"

"What did you have in mind?"

"Maybe some flowers? Don't you think she would like some flowers to brighten up her room?"

"Fine. There's a King Sooper's nearby; we can stop there for some."

"Thank you Kurogane."

Kurogane didn't comment, instead driving over to the King Sooper's parking lots. Getting a good parking spot, he turned the car off, got out with Tomoyo, before locking the car up, and heading in with the youth ten paces ahead of him. Ten energetic Tomoyo paces. Kurogane could easily keep up, but let the child get just enough ahead that even should a car come, he had enough time to get to her side. Stopping in, he grabbed a set of their ads to look at, figuring he'd have time later that day, or tomorrow, to do the mandatory shopping. But that was later's business. Currently, his business was to watch Tomoyo pick out a good bouquet to give Chi as a get well present, as he didn't know the first thing about what flowers to get her or even what kind she might like. Instead, his gaze fell onto the rack of plush animals nearby. There was a plush beanbag like puppy that was white and ice blue with a dark blue ribbon decorated in snowflakes from the looks of it, sitting slumped in the pile. He couldn't help but think of Fai when he saw it, wondering if he would like it.

"…voila!" Tomoyo said excitedly. "I found a good one, Kurogane!"

Kurogane turned to the child, or to where her voice was, noticing the bouquet was full of vivacious floral activity, vibrant colors and a lot of azaleas, and she could almost make her top half invisible behind it. Peeking out from behind it, "Do you like it?"

"It's fine."

"That's not very enthusiastic."

"Tomoyo, trust me; if you picked it out, Chi will love it."

That made Tomoyo smile. "Alright, now let the cashier ring it up," Kurogane murmured, grabbing the dog as he walked closer to the counter, and setting it down with the bundle of flowers.

The clerk had to ask one of those usual clerk lines of "Find everything you were looking for?" Kurogane just let out a grunted 'for now', pulling out his debit card, handing it to the floral clerk. The guy rung the purchase up and charged it to the card before handing it back, giving the courtesy clerk usual line. "Would you like a bag for that?"

"Yeah, for the flowers," Kurogane said. The clerk wrapped up the base of the flowers in one of those festive bags, tying it up near the top of the bag. The bag's only purpose, as far as Kurogane was concerned, was so Tomoyo didn't have a wet lap from the water condensation.

"Alright please come again soon. Hope you have a great day."

"Yeah…you too," he murmured taking his receipt from the guy and grabbing the dog by its scruff while Tomoyo grabbed ahold of the flowers, and carried them outside.

"Who's that toy for?" Tomoyo asked, as they were outside and near the car.

"Somebody else," Kurogane muttered, unlocking the doors, opening up the passenger's for Tomoyo and climbing in his own seat, tossing the toy into the backseat, it landing amongst the food. Tomoyo smiled sagely, before climbing in. Once legal, Kurogane backed out and drove away, heading back down to Aurora.