Author: Sybil Rowan
Summary: Kurogane can see Fai is ready to put his twin to rest. He request Tomoyo hold a funeral to help Fai find acceptance and move on with his life.
Warnings: Angst, but sweet at the end.
Author's Notes: None.
Disclaimer: Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle names and characters, belong to CLAMP.
Beta Reader: WingedPanther73
Date: January 10, 2012, 5:30 am
Word Count: 5,061
Dinner was simple; it was fish and rice prepared in typical Nihongo Country style. Kurogane knew if Fai weren't a vampire, the horseradish flavoring wouldn't be to his taste in the least. Maybe that was a small blessing that came with his vampire body, seeing how they would be in Nihongo for the foreseeable future. At least until their unconventional family healed some, and then the Dimensional Witch would reveal Fei Wong's whereabouts to them.
He set aside his bowl and chopsticks and looked out to the deck where Fai sat gazing at the moon. Fai had been extremely silent all day and most of the evening. That was an irritation to Kurogane, because he'd grown used to Fai's voice running in the background. Even in Yama, Fai jabbered a great deal in the privacy of their tent.
He felt a stab in his chest as he remembered those nights in Yama. They were a lot closer then, because Fai wasn't able to use words as a tool to keep Kurogane at a safe distance. They both suffered isolation in Yama, but in different ways. Fai couldn't speak to the other soldiers, and they showed him no kindness. He was too different with his fair hair and cheery smiles.
Kurogane, on the other hand, felt isolated because the men of Yama had no compunctions about calling Fai addle minded. One of the soldiers friendly to Kurogane hinted that some of the others would do nasty things to Fai if they got him alone. So, he found himself forcing Fai to not wander off, and Kurogane didn't suppress a rumor that Fai was his bed partner to scare off any men from trying something. Eventually, his fantasies and desires born in Outo World tangled him up, and it wasn't long before he did coax Fai to his bed.
After Fai became a vampire, he'd occasionally turned his words into something other than tools to keep Kurogane away. His words became weapons he used to show his open displeasure with Kurogane. Kurogane had taken the choice to live out of Fai's hands, and during their time in Infinity, Fai had shown a lot of open resentment. Kurogane didn't feel one moment of regret for his actions, but he wanted to finish making peace with Fai.
When he gave his arm to rescue Fai on Celes, the wizard was just as furious at having his choice taken away by Kurogane, but it was different this time. It had finally sunk into his skull that Kurogane cared for him deeply. The more pain Fai was willing to endure, the more it tore Kurogane up.
When Fai gave up his magic, he confirmed to Kurogane he'd be more careful for the ninja's sake. That was the start of a thaw in their frosty relationship. Fai had even consented to sharing a bed once again, which made Kurogane want to do something tangible to show his appreciation. Nothing came to mind.
He joined Fai on the deck and asked, "Are you thirsty?"
"No, later," Fai murmured, not taking his gold eye away from the sky.
"Out with it. What's eating at you?" Kurogane was expecting to be rebuffed and then suffer some back and forth verbal banter with the former wizard. He was steeling himself for iciness, but instead a frown played at Fai's lips.
"I was just thinking about Fai. The original one."
Kurogane was stunned he actually didn't have to fight to get that information out. This was a notable change in Fai's usual demeanor. Kurogane decided to push on, since he caught Fai in a candid moment for once. "What about him?"
"I wonder if he were the one to live, if he would have made the same choices. How would he have dealt with Fei Wong and King Ashura? We were very different on the inside, even though we looked the same."
"You've never once talked about him," Kurogane noted.
"I wanted this life to be Fai's. I think taking his name as a child was a way I could breathe life back into him. I wonder if he would have done a better job at protecting Sakura and assisting Syaoran. He was calmer and straightforward. He was a lot of things I'm not. I used to wonder why Fei Wong chose me rather than him. We both pleaded for him to save the other. Now I know he just chose randomly."
"It's time for you to move on."
"I know you're right, but I've been thinking about him a little more than normal over the past several days. I'd like to move towards the future and accept that I'm here, not him."
Kurogane took in what Fai said and looked down at his artificial, left hand. Fai had sacrificed a great deal for this. Over the years, they'd both sacrificed a great deal for each other. He clenched his hand as an idea trickled into his thoughts. There was one tangible thing he could do for his love. He suddenly stood, giving Fai a smirk. The vampire returned a baffled expression.
"I'm going to see Princess Tomoyo. I'll be back soon." He clenched the hair on the back of Fai's head, tugged backwards, and then pressed a quick kiss on him.
When Kurogane let go of his golden hair, Fai nodded and went back to moon gazing. Kurogane left the yard quickly and made his way to the palace.
Tomoyo greeted him enthusiastically, which helped put him at ease so he could make this strange request. He wasn't sure if she'd turn him down, but the odds were good she'd do as he asked. After all, she'd shown Fai a great deal of respect and care since they'd gotten here.
He formally got down on one knee. She tilted her head at his sudden stiffness, and he lowered his gaze. "Highness, I'd like to request a favor."
"Please, go ahead, Kurogane. I'd like to do anything I can to help you."
"It's not for me; it's for Fai. I'd like you to hold a funeral ceremony for Fai's twin brother. I can tell he's come to a point where he's ready to say goodbye. I think a funeral would help him grieve appropriately."
Her silence worried him slightly so he raised his eyes. She was now very somber. "If you think he's ready, then I'll do it."
"He is. I can tell because tonight is the first time he's spoken of his twin, ever."
"You don't call his twin by a name," Tomoyo pointed out.
"His twin was originally named Fai. The one you know now, his original name was Yuui. I know this could complicate matters with the ceremony."
"Fai must assign a new name to his brother to carry into the afterlife. We'll start tomorrow morning. Make sure he's dressed appropriately to our customs and bring him to the temple. Have Syaoran and Fuuma bring the mourning gifts for Fai. Since you're his paramour, you can't fill that role."
"I understand," he said.
"There is another problem. Are there any remains of the twin here? Did Fai save anything at all? Some part of the body would be ideal. An object the twin possessed would make do. Otherwise, I'll have to take something symbolic from Fai."
"I was more concerned with getting Fai out than bring that corpse along. I'll ask, though. You never know with him."
"If he does, you both must cleanse it tonight and bring it in the morning. I'm sure you remember the procedure from your mother."
"Thank you, Princess. This will mean a lot to him. I'm sure of it."
"Good. Go comfort Fai and get some rest."
"A funeral ceremony?" Fai asked numbly in response when Kurogane told of his request of Tomoyo.
"Yes. Didn't you have them on Celes?"
Fai's face grew gloomy. "Of course. There aren't any people we've run into that don't have a way to say goodbye to their loved ones. We weren't different."
"You'll need to assign him a new name for the ceremony or give back his original name and take back yours. Do you want to go by Yuui again?"
Fai gave him a genial smile and shook his head. "It's too odd hearing you say that name."
"Well, I have to get used to it for tomorrow if that's the direction you want to go. Besides, think of all the times you've twisted my name over the years. Just consider it a little comeuppance." Kurogane paused and affirmed, "If you do want to adopt your old name again, it's all the same to me."
Fai seemed thoughtful and then replied, "I've gone by Fai for so many years that responding to Yuui would take some time. I said I was working towards the day when I could give him back his name, but it doesn't seem right. I think I want to give him the parting gift of my original name, and I'll keep his name as something precious of his I can carry for the rest of my life. So from now on, he'll be known as Yuui D. Fluorite. I give him the 'D' because he would have been a powerful wizard. I give him the 'Fluorite' because King Ashura, no matter the beast he became, he was a real father to me. He bestowed that last name out of love for me, and I bestow it to my twin out of love and protection."
"Good. Also, is there anything you have of his?"
Fai mussed for a moment and then his face brightened slightly. "Yes, I do."
Kurogane followed him into their bedroom as he got his huge, fluffy coat from the closet. He laid it on their futon and ran his hands over the coat. Eventually, there was a small clump of long, stringy hair. It had to have come off the corpse, because it was too dull and long to be Fai's. "Will this do?"
"Yeah, that'll work." Kurogane took a box off the nightstand and put the hair in it after tying it into a secure knot. The box was a gift he'd given Fai a while ago. It had a phoenix carved on the lid and was made of cedar. "We have to cleanse it tonight. I'll show you how."
"Why did you pick this, of all things, to do? You still haven't explained it to me."
"Because you finally started talking about him. It's a sign the pain of laying him... I mean Yuui... to rest isn't going to overwhelm you in despair. Are you ready?"
The first thing Kurogane did was wake the kid up and told him to go get Fuuma. He requested they go see Tomoyo with Mokona. Syaoran didn't question what Kurogane asked, he just did it, which the ninja was grateful for. Syaoran and Fuuma's role tomorrow was very important.
They were to be the people offering the family comfort. Since Kurogane and Fai were lovers, it barred the ninja from that role. He was to serve as Fai's mate during the ceremony which carried a set of different tasks.
They sat in the moonlit, cherry tree orchard with a large bowl of water between them. Kurogane had poured salt at every entrance of their home before they came here. He explained it was to ward off any lingering bad spirits that his twin might have attracted. Fai had to step on salt before entering their home over the next month; a pile would be kept by the doorway.
He was also not to partake in any merry making of any sort over the next six months: no bars, carnivals, or amusements of any sort. Fai wasn't surprise by the ridged dress code either. He'd have to wear a black kimono, or black clothing, for the next month, since Yuui was one of the three things to him: a spouse, a twin, or a parent. Otherwise it would have been a week.
Kurogane told him in Nihongo Country that being a twin was considered a special blessing, and it caused some anger at the people of Valeria. He was determined to bury his bitterness at Valeria with Yuui tomorrow.
"Watch," Kurogane said, taking the hair from the box. He straightened it out where it was one very long clump of dull gold hair with a knot in the middle. He handed it to Fai. "Soak it in the water and think of the first memory you have of him."
"It's very horrible."
"That's fine. This is to purify that memory and get any bitterness out so you can have a sweet parting tomorrow," Kurogane explained.
Fai took a deep breath and plunged the hair into the bowl of salty water. His first memory of his twin was of them getting beaten by their grandfather and locked in the cold, dark dungeon. They clung together for warmth and comfort, crying the whole time. They were starving by morning, but no food came. Finally, their numb mother came and gave them some gruel, but she refused to touch them. She fled quickly, that door slamming shut hurt so much.
"That was your own mother?" Kurogane asked, which startled Fai out of his reverie. He looked down at the bowl with salt water and realized it was actually a scrying tool where his memory was on display. He nodded.
"She went into a depression from giving birth to us. It wasn't long after that she killed herself."
Kurogane felt extremely fortunate at the moment to have had his lovely mother. Her guidance and care helped shape his character. He also felt blessed for having the father he did. Both of his parents had poured a lifetime of love into his childhood. Unfortunately, Fai didn't have the same.
"It's clean now. Let's go," he said, taking Fai by the wrists and lifting his hands from the water. He took the hair and put it back in the box. "Let's get some rest." Fai only nodded and followed him back to their home.
Fai had grown emotionally exhausted hours before dawn. He finally let Kurogane bundle him under some blankets. Kurogane turned the lamps low just as Syaoran came knocking. Kurogane wasn't surprised by Syaoran showing up on their back deck before the ceremony. He had to admit he was also exhausted at trying all night to get Fai to at least get some emotions out before the ceremony. But Fai was a piece of ice that refused to melt.
Kurogane went to the deck only when he was sure Fai was still in a deep sleep. Syaoran's first question was, "How is he?"
"Refusing to let his emotions out. Same as he's always been."
"I figured." Syaoran sat on the deck, and Kurogane joined him. "Tomorrow will help."
"It'll be the point he has to say goodbye to his twin and start living his own life. My hope is he'll allow himself to break down sometime soon so he can get it out of his system. He's been repressing this stuff for years. All that time..." Kurogane slammed his fist against the deck and Syaoran flinched. His eyes were wide in bafflement, so Kurogane explained, "All those years I've been with him and not even the slightness sign he had a twin. Just like him."
"I guess you're feeling lied to?" Syaoran asked.
"Yeah, but it's nothing new when it comes to dealing with Fai." Kurogane took a deep breath. "The only thing I'm annoyed at Fai about was that he felt he couldn't confide in me. I understood why he did what he did; that's why I'm not truly angry with him. I'm more mad at myself. I could always see through his lying ways, but I could never put the pieces together. Not once did it dawn on me he was trying, at least in his twisted thinking, trying to protect a loved one."
"At least there's really nothing more he can hide from you," Syaoran pointed out. "We saw the worst of his life. It was so ugly, but it's out now."
"The only blessing is that Sakura didn't see it. I think Fai would have died of shame if she would have been awake," Kurogane said. They were silent for a few minutes, the only sound being crickets. "That's another reason I want this funeral. First is for his mental health. But also, I want him to understand that this is the end of his lying ways with me. And I'll let him know tomorrow after Yuui is laid to rest."
"So what kind of gift should I bring?"
"Money is the usual gift, but it could be anything," Kurogane said.
"I wish Sakura were awake. She'll feel bad she missed being here for Fai," Syaoran said.
"I know, but he's still not comfortable with what happened. He refuses to talk about it," Kurogane said.
"I know. I guess he's the type to deal with one thing at a time," Syaoran ventured.
"No, not quite. It's just that even one of his burdens is heavy enough to break most people. Listen, just get him something that would be meaningful to him. Something that would bring him some happy thoughts."
"I think I have an idea. I'll check with Mokona."
"Fine, and thanks for doing this, kid. It means a lot."
Syaoran gave him a fond smile. "As if I wouldn't do this after everything you and Fai have done for Sakura and me." With that, he took off and Kurogane went and crawled onto the futon beside Fai's tossing body.
Syaoran, Fuuma, and Mokona were already waiting out front when they arrived at the temple. They were dressed in black kimonos, just like Fai and Kurogane. Fai was carrying the box with his brother's hair and a small bouquet of zephyranthes. He decided what message with flowers he wanted to give Yuui today. According to what Fai told Kurogane, there were three messages associated with that zephyranthes: I love you back, I must atone for my sins, I will never forget you.
"Thank you for the kind gifts," Kurogane said in the traditional greeting acknowledging Fuuma, Syaoran, and Mokona. Accepting the gifts and watching after them on Fai's behalf was one of Kurogane's roles during the funeral ceremony.
Fuuma approached first and gave a slight bow. "Sorry for this time of loss. May my poor gift bring comfort." It was the traditional response.
Fuuma dangled a fluorite crystal pendant from a long gold chain. The fluorite was a deep blue with splashes of sea green in the morning light. Fai looked the crystal over and asked, "Is this from...?"
"A piece of fluorite acquired from Celes' past. The Dimensional Witch said you'd appreciate it. It would help you think of some happier times in your life."
"Thank you for your generosity. We humbly accept," Kurogane said, taking the pendant for Fai and falling back on the proper responses he'd observed from his mother's ceremonies.
Syaoran stepped forward and said, "Sorry for this time of loss. May my poor gift bring comfort."
The kid held out the cherry blossom token from Outo World. Syaoran said, "Kurogane said money is the usual gift. I know that it's not real currency, but I though you may want a reminder of Sakura and your times with her at the Cat's Eye. I know she'd want to be here."
Kurogane didn't miss the tears brimming in Fai's eye at this gift. Fai had actually been so happy on Outo World. Fai had felt a sense of purpose and it had lead to his getting closer to the group in spite of his compulsion to keep people at a distance. The ninja was glad for Syaoran's thoughtfulness.
"Thank you for your generosity. We humbly accept," Kurogane said and took the token. Both gifts he tucked away in his kimono.
"Mokona has a gift for Fai, too," the little white critter declared. Kurogane wasn't surprised Mokona didn't stand on ceremony. It opened its mouth and spat out a bottle towards Kurogane. He caught it and looked at Watanuki's handwritten label. "It's chrysanthemum wine from the wish shop. Mokona traded Yuuko-san for it! It's enchanted so Fai can drink it, too." Kurogane couldn't help but smirk at the sound of pride in Mokona's voice.
"Thanks, pork bun. I'm sure it's good stuff," Kurogane said, deciding to not stand on ceremony either as he tucked away the bottle.
Tomoyo appeared at the entrance to the temple dressed in pure white robes. "Have the gifts been given and received?"
"Yes, thank you," Fai said towards Fuuma, Syaoran, and Mokona.
"Then Fai D. Fluorite may enter the temple with Yuui D. Fluorite's remains," she said. Fai gripped the box and flowers and walked towards the entrance. Kurogane followed and then Syaoran, and Fuuma, who was carrying Mokona.
Normally, the temple was open air, but there were translucent black drapes blocking out most of the light. They fluttered in the gentle breeze as the group walked to the front. Princes Tomoyo lead them to the altar where incense and candles were already burning. There was also a small, blue urn on the altar along with some chopsticks.
Tomoyo took the box and flowers from Fai and laid them on the altar, first the flowers and then the box on top. Kurogane tugged Fai into a kneeling position on the ground. Fuuma and Syaoran knelt behind them with Mokona now perched on Fuuma's shoulder.
"Now is the time for Yuui D. Fluorite's loved ones to honor his life," Tomoyo announced to signal the start of the formal ceremony.
Kurogane put a hand on Fai shoulder and gave him a nod. Fai's hands clenched the black fabric of his kimono so hard his knuckles turned white. "I know I was the only one here that knew him, so I want to share about who he was." Kurogane watched Fai lower his grim face. Fai was still resisting emotional release.
"He was extremely loyalty to me. He always followed where I lead, no matter how dire the situation. He always stood beside me no matter what. He was mild and kind and generous. He was so forgiving. If he would have lived, he would have brought nothing but love and joy to anyone he would have met with his gentle nature. He would have brought comfort to people in pain like he had done for me so many times. He was my only bright spot as a child. I just want him to find comfort and rest now."
"What would Yuui D. Fluorite want for your life in the future?" Tomoyo prompted.
"He'd want me to find peace," Fai said. Kurogane glanced over and saw Fai was now looking at him. He wasn't surprised to see a tear trickle from Fai's right eye. The ice around Fai was finally starting to melt. "I think he'd want me to live life and allow myself to embrace happiness. He'd want me to let go of the grief I have over his loss and celebrate his life. He'd want me to bring honor to his name as I carry forward."
Kurogane nodded, letting Fai know it was okay to let go. He put his hand over one of Fai's clenched fists when he was still refusing. That's the moment when Fai lost what control he had. He fell into Kurogane's arms and wailed.
Kurogane supported Fai's slumped body and let him get his tears out. It was refreshing for Kurogane to see Fai's honest emotions on display. It seemed like a long time before Fai finished crying. Kurogane wiped Fai's face and dry with a handkerchief and let him pull away. Kurogane sat up straighter as Tomoyo approached with a small cypress branch.
She dangled it over Fai's head. She sang a song about mourning, touching his head three times with the branch. Kurogane remembered his mother singing the same song many times, and he felt a sense of loss himself. When the song came to a close, Tomoyo went to the altar and let the branch burn over the candle. Kurogane rose as she dropped the smoldering branch to the ground. He stomped it out; now it was nothing more than ashes. Tomoyo then sprinkled salt over it.
Kurogane rejoined Fai, and Tomoyo went to the altar. She offered several long, formal prayers that would offer protection to Yuui as he traveled to the afterlife. Then she took Yuui's hair from the box; she then urged Yuui to find peace and happiness in the afterlife. Kurogane stood and dragged Fai to his feet.
Kurogane got the chopsticks from the altar and picked up the long gold strands out of Tomoyo's hands with them. Tomoyo got the urn and blessed it. Kurogane held the chopsticks toward Fai, who took them deftly. The ninja suppressed an inward groan, realizing Fai had only been goofing around over using chopsticks all this time. Then again, it wouldn't be Fai without all these little surprises.
Fai put the hair in the urn and returned the chopsticks to the altar. Tomoyo held the urn towards Fai. "Now is the time for parting words."
"I promise to treat your name with utmost respect, and I will find justice for you. As my flowers say: I love you back, I must atone for my sins, and I will never forget you."
Tomoyo held the urn towards Kurogane. "I will protect Fai and stay by his side. Go find peace and know he's cared for."
With that Tomoyo sealed the urn and handed it to Kurogane. "Go and lay Yuui D. Fluorite to rest. May his loved ones leave behind their grief and find joy."
"So where are we?" Fai asked after they had traveled by horseback for most of the day. It was getting to be dusk.
"This is Suwa," Kurogane answered.
"Your actual home?"
"Let's hurry before the sun sets. We need to complete the ceremony." Kurogane got off his horse, as did Fai. Kurogane got the urn from his saddlebag and lead Fai towards a tiny, crimson building. He slid the door aside and Fai could see the building had several urns. Fai watched as Kurogane went over to one of the shelves. He nudged an urn over to make room and placed it on the shelf.
"Where is this?" Fai asked, getting a suspicion where they were.
"The Suwa family shrine. I decided your brother should rest beside my parents' ashes," Kurogane said. "If that's fine by you?"
Fai felt his throat choke up and tears come again. "I don't know what to say."
"You don't have to say anything," Kurogane said, taking Fai's hand. "Let's get some rest and then we'll go back tomorrow morning. It's never wise traveling at night in Nihongo."
"So our son is back," Lady Suwa said, glancing at her husband's spirit. "The changes in him are incredible."
Lord Suwa crossed his arms as they watched Kurogane lead that fair-haired man into the Suwa family home. The evening was a warm spring; the golden moon was starting to rise. "I'm very proud of the man he's become. He's honorable, protecting those children from realm to realm. He's everything a father would want."
"I am proud of him, too. He's endured hardships and learned self-control," Lady Suwa said, taking her husband's hand. "And it seems he's found love."
Lord Suwa snorted and shook his head. Lady Suwa looked at her husband in surprise as he griped, "Bah... Fai... If he would stop being a suicidal idiot, he might be tolerable."
"You're disappointed he didn't find a woman?" Lady Suwa asked.
"No, that's not it. I just don't like Fai's recklessness that cost Kurogane so much."
"I know, but those sacrifices were his choices. Choosing to love Fai built that character we're so proud of. Besides, Kurogane's love is making changes in Fai. They complement each other so well, now."
Lord Suwa sighed and nodded. "Okay, I may warm up to the little idiot some more, now that he promised Kurogane he'd stop being so reckless. It's hard for a man to stand by and see their loved one harm themselves."
She leaned against his arm for a few moments, but then she perked up when she saw a translucent child appear before them. The boy was thin and had gold hair that reached to his ankles. He had the sweetest, shy smile on an angelic face.
Lady Suwa walked over to him and knelt down. He looked at her with the prettiest, wide, blue eyes. He asked her, "Is this where I'm supposed to go?"
"Are you Yuui D. Fluorite?" she asked.
"Yes, at least that was my brother named me. He gave it to me before I was sent here. He took on my real name so he could remember me and gave me his."
"So would you like to stay with us?" Lady Suwa asked.
He frowned for a minute. "Is that what he wants?"
"I'm sure of it."
"But why did Fai choose to leave me with you?" Yuui asked. She could tell this had been a very intelligent child.
"Because he has a special friend: our son. They travel together and it would comfort them both to know we're all taking care of one another." She brushed his long hair back and smiled. "My husband and I would love the company."
Yuui slowly smiled back and nodded. "If it makes Fai happy, I'll stay here."
"Good," Lady Suwa said, standing and turning towards her husband. "Why don't we show Yuui around Nihongo so he knows his brother is in a good place."
"Sure," Lord Suwa said. "We'll make sure you're protected and happy. That's what our son wants, along with your brother. We'll honor their wish."