Disclaimer: Not mine, I own nothing, please don't sue.
Summary: When a choice has to be made, what will Fai and Kurogane do?
A/N: beta'd by fluffymaru, so much thanks to her! yay. [Especially for the brief but pain-in-the-ass-ish humor section. ugh.] Dedicating this to notworthy, because she writes me awesome fanfic all the time and I'm so bad about ever returning the favor.
Lord Byron, Childe Harold (canto I, st. 10)
It was always disorienting to drop into a new world. It was impossible to know what to expect; because anything was possible, and the rules were always changing. Whether you would be accepted or ostracized, whether the customs would be easy to adapt to or not, whether anything at all would be familiar -- nothing was certain.
Fai enjoyed that uncertainty immensely. All the world hopping and such... it was an adventure, and he was determined to enjoy himself as much as possible while he could. And, as far as he was concerned, as long as they kept moving and never ended up back in his old world, he could enjoy himself forever.
He looked around himself as the new world materialized before him. Syaoran was already at Sakura's side, as was to be expected -- but where was his Kurorin? Fai half-turned and saw him, standing a good distance from everyone else and staring at some buildings that Fai did not think were particularly interesting. Certainly they had seen structures similar to them in other worlds they had passed through.
"Kuro-chan?" he called. "Is everything all right?" Kurogane turned around, but didn't acknowledge him before turning to face the structures once more. Fai moved, wondering what was wrong with him -- but when he tried to touch him, Kurogane moved away, and Fai couldn't help but frown. "What's going on, Kurone?" When Kurogane continued to ignore him, Fai couldn't stop the hurt from crossing into his eyes for just a moment; just a second before he was able to hide it behind that easy smile once more.
Before he could say anything else, Syaoran and Sakura came up behind them. Mokona jumped from Syaoran's shoulders over to Fai's. "Mokona senses Sakura's feather!" he announced happily.
"Ah, so we'll be staying here, then," Fai said with a smile. He promptly sat himself down, resting his arms on his legs. Mokona bounced a little as he did so, and jumped down to the ground.
"Mokona hop! Hop, hop, hop!" he exclaimed in an all-too-excited voice as he jumped among them.
"Don't worry, Princess," Syaoran assured Sakura, "we'll find your feather this time, too."
"Big Doggie and Little Doggie will sniff it out for you!" Fai announced. Kurogane didn't react at all, but it caused the girl to laugh, and he grinned up at her.
After all, if he could smile and make someone else smile, too, then everything was still okay, even if everything suddenly felt so wrong.
"What would you do," Kurogane asked him later, when it was dark and they were alone in their room, "if we ended up back in your world?"
Fai turned over to look at him; they had been silent for hours, but he hadn't been asleep. He was less surprised by the question than he felt he should have been. "I would want to leave," Fai answered honestly. "As soon as we could, I would want to be gone from that place." He didn't even pretend to smile, but in the darkness he didn't have to.
Kurogane made no reply, and the silence settled over them once again -- but after a few minutes, Fai found that he could not keep himself from asking: "And you, Kurorin? Would you leave me, if we found ourselves dropped into your world?"
Everything went very still for a split second, and then Kurogane moved, settling himself on top of Fai and kissing him harshly. Fai wasn't stupid; he knew when he was being ignored, and he knew what that meant. But he gave himself over to Kurogane anyway, and he didn't fight what he knew was coming.
In the morning, when Kurogane was missing, he couldn't find the energy to act surprised.
It took Syaoran longer than usual to locate and secure Sakura's feather for her, but it wasn't particularly hard; once he found out where it was he had it back for her almost immediately. It was six days after they had arrived, but Fai couldn't help wishing they had just a little more time. Time to find Kurogane, time to convince him to leave with them, time to say goodbye -- time, time, time.
"I don't want to leave without Kurogane-san," Syaoran told him, "but..."
"No, it's okay," Fai told him with a smile. "Kurone left, he didn't get lost. We should do a little more searching, just to be sure, but if we don't find him by the end of today, then I think it's okay to go." Syaoran looked unsure for a moment, but then he nodded his agreement.
I took everything Fai had to hide how much those words had cost him.
In the end, it was Kurogane who found them, not the other way around -- which, Fai had to admit, was unexpected.
Kurogane pulled him aside while Syaoran and Sakura were turned away. "This is my home," he said, almost desperately.
"I know it is. I knew the night before you left. You never were very subtle, Kurorin!" Fai laughed, but that just made Kurogane angry.
"Stop it! Stop acting like a fool. I know that isn't you, and I need to talk to you right now."
Fai stopped laughing, but refused to let his smile drop. "You haven't been so angry towards me in a very long time, Kuro-sama. But you didn't have to find me to try and explain -- I figured it out that night. Of course you're staying here. Maybe it would have been easier if you hadn't tried to say goodbye."
"Stay here with me." Kurogane said it in a rush, and his face turned slightly pink, but he stubbornly held onto eye contact.
Fai just shook his head sadly. "I can't, you know I can't. I have to keep running."
"This isn't your world, Fai. No one here is after you. You'd be safe here, and we could be together. Syaoran and Sakura would be fine. The kid has grown a lot."
"It's not about Syaoran! I can't. I won't. I won't be found, I won't go through that." Fai exploded, taking several steps back.
"But how would anyone find you here?"
"I don't know... but he would! I know he would."
"Then we'd fight him. Them. Whoever it was! I'd protect you." Kurogane grabbed his arms, his hands digging painfully into Fai's skin.
Fai smiled again at that, but his smile was a sad one. "I'm not that kind of a person, and you know that. I don't want a fight -- I don't want that kind of a confrontation. I want to stay with Syaoran, go through these worlds with him, see new things and always, always, avoid staying in one place. That's my goal. That's what I asked the Dimension Witch for. I can't give it up now."
"I asked to go home," Kurogane said softly, loosening his grip.
"And you're here now. You should be celebrating."
Kurogane let him go and turned away. "I want to be with you, but I can't leave this place again."
"I never asked you to." And that was the truth, hanging in the air between them. Kurogane's shoulders hunched slightly, but he made no reply. Fai didn't know what else to say. Nothing would change what was happening, and nothing would make it better. He reached out, as if to touch Kurogane's shoulder, but hesitated and finally let his hand drop.
"I... thank you," he said after a moment. "Thank you for finding me, for asking me to stay. It means more to me than you probably intended." He took a deep breath and circled Kurogane so that he could look him in the face. He stepped in, close but not actually touching; Kurogane wouldn't look him in the eye, but that was okay. "I'm going to miss you. But we should have realized that this was how it was going to end."
Fai leaned in and let his lips just brush over Kurogane's. He pulled away almost as soon as they had made contact and whispered something that could have been "I love you" but it was so soft that Kurogane wasn't sure. And then he was gone.
When Fai, Syaoran, Sakura, and Mokona landed in their next world, Fai smiled brightly and joked with them as he always had. At night, in a room by himself for the first time in a long time, he tried very hard not to cry. But if he failed, there was no one there to notice, anyway.