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Title: Bones
Fandom: Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle
Rating: T
Pairings/Warnings: Takes place pre-Tokyo but contains massive spoilers up to chapter 158. No real pairings but a bit of blink-and-you'll-miss-it type Kurofai.
Summary: In yet another new world, Fai meets the last person he ever wanted to meet...and hears a name he never expected to hear again...
Notes: This would not leave me alone. Why should CLAMP be the only ones who get to traumatize Fai?


The world they landed in was all cold wind and dark lamps. The sun was not quite down but the shadows were everywhere already. Off in the distance they could see a tall black tower that gazed coldly down at the ramshackle village and the spindly trees and broken ground.

Fai couldn’t see anyone on the streets, but he could tell from Kurogane’s tense stance that the village was not abandoned.

“Where are all the people?” Sakura asked in hushed tones. She shivered as the cold wind blew by and Fai took off his coat and wrapped it around her almost as an afterthought, his eyes drawn to the high tower in the distance. There was something in that place that was clogging all his senses, that tingled along his spine and hummed quietly in the back of his mind, something old and familiar.

“Hiding,” Kurogane replied darkly.

“Mokona?” Syaoran turned to look at the white creature who was sitting comfortably on Sakura’s shoulder.

“Mokona can’t tell if there’s a feather here,” the creature said softly. “There are different powers here. But Mokona can sense something very strong coming from there.” It gestured towards the tower.

They stood in silence for a moment, considering, and then Syaoran quietly stated that they should look for lodging before the sun went down. Without speaking they walked through the town, staring at the closed windows and rotted signs that hung from empty buildings. There were words written on some of the signs, but even Syaoran couldn’t read them. Fai stared at the signs and through them, and said nothing.

The only inn they found was empty of guests, but the owner refused to let them stay. She spoke very loudly when Fai talked to her, stating that she would not allow strangers in her inn.

The young master sees everything, she said in hushed tones, still gesturing wildly as if in the midst of a staunch refusal. You must leave this town, she told them quietly, before he catches you. The young master of the tower sees everything. No strangers are allowed in this town. She didn’t know how they managed to get past the iron gate, but they needed to turn back before the young master chose to act. No doubt he already knew they were here. Soon the lamps would be lit, and then no one would dare venture out of their houses. She could not board them, because the young master would know. The young master knew everything.

The young master took over the tower nearly a year ago, an old man in the dark tavern they visited next told them in a low voice. The lord and his younger brother lived in the tower before that time, rarely seen by the townspeople. They ruled quietly and unobtrusively, watching over the village from on high and saying nothing, doing nothing. Then something happened and they were gone, replaced by the young master, the son no one had known the younger lord had. No one ever saw the young master, but the young master saw everything. No one entered or left the village now. From time to time a villager would receive a summons to the tower, and then that person would never be seen again. If the villager chose to ignore the summons, he or she would disappear in the night.

That is why no one will lodge you, the old man’s wife said, making motions as if sending them away. She could not help them, she said. But before she closed the door she gave Fai quick instructions in a hurried whisper. There is a farmhouse on the edges of town. The people who owned it were taken to the tower months ago. If they could reach that place before the sun went down they could hide there for the night. But they would have to go quickly, because soon the lamps would be lit and then there would be no escape, if the light fell upon them.

“Run quickly and quietly, keep to the shadows, and hide if you hear a crow’s call, because even the birds are the young master’s eyes and ears. And if you hear the stamping of feet you must run to the iron gate and hope that whatever allowed you to enter this cursed place also allows you to leave.”

The woman slammed the door in their faces and then there was no sound but the wind.

Fai felt something shiver along his spine and he turned his head to look again at the tower.

In the distance, a small light appeared. Then another, and another, as the lamps that lined the streets began to light, one by one.

Kurogane grabbed his arm and the four of them ran, and the light of the lamps followed them.

Fai glanced at the houses as they ran past, but the doors were all closed and the shutters drawn. Even so, despite the darkness and the stillness, he had the impression that they were being watched behind those dark curtains.

They left the cover of the buildings behind too soon and then they were on open ground, running through what looked to have once been a graveyard. Cracked moss-covered headstones dotted the landscape. The ground was rocky and broken, as if some great upheaval had taken place and they had to run carefully to avoid falling.

Fai’s head hurt and he felt as if his whole body was humming with the strange power he could feel in the air. Something was here. Something had seen them. Even in the dark, something had seen them.

Something sparked painfully inside of him and Fai’s vision blurred for just a moment. His feet struck a bad part in the ground and he tripped over the rocks, one ankle twisting painfully as he hit the ground.

He heard a crow call in the distance, and then Sakura’s voice yelling his name. Fai shook his head to clear it and looked up to see Kurogane coming back towards him.

“I’m all right,” the magician lied, trying to pull himself to his feet. His ankle was throbbing already and he stumbled, reaching out for something to steady himself against.

His hand closed over the cold metal of a lamp post and then he was momentarily blinded as the lamp burst into a bright light, illuminating Fai’s white clothes and pale hair like a beacon.

Fai blinked stupidly in the light for a moment and then he felt Kurogane’s hand on his arm again – and it had to be Kurogane’s, even half-blinded by the light he knew it had to be Kurogane’s – and the ninja pulled him forward with a curse. Fai stumbled but just managed to keep his feet.

There was another long silence and then they heard it.

Stomping feet, coming closer.

Kurogane pushed Fai roughly away from him and pulled out his sword. Syaoran positioned himself next to the ninja, his grip firm on Hien.

“Take the princess and get out of here,” Kurogane ordered Fai. In one quick motion the ninja pulled off his black cloak and thrust it at Fai. “And hide those stupid clothes, you idiot.”

“Take care of Princess Sakura,” Syaoran added grimly as Fai wrapped himself in Kurogane’s cloak.

“Syaoran-kun….” Sakura looked as though she was about to protest and Fai quickly took hold of her, ushering her away.

“He’ll be all right,” Fai said with a cheerfulness he didn’t feel. “Kuro-pi won’t let anything happen to him. But we need to get away, so he can fight without worrying.”

Sakura didn’t look convinced, but she nodded anyway, holding Mokona tightly against her chest.

They ran then, with Fai trying his best to ignore the pain in his ankle and keeping Sakura close, trying to shield them both from the burning lights with Kurogane’s black coat. Behind them they could still hear the sound of marching footsteps moving inexorably onward, and Fai kept his eyes to the ground, trying not to see the lights or hear the sounds.

“Fai-san, look!” Sakura pointed and Fai raised his head. In the distance he could see a wicked-looking iron gate, chained shut.

“Can we get over it?” Mokona asked quietly.

Fai started to reply, but he was cut off by the sound of rattling chains. The
magician skidded to a halt, Sakura still at his side, and his breath caught in his throat as shadows appeared in front of the gate.

There was the sound of stamping feet again, and the shadows moved closer. Fai moved protectively in front of Sakura.

“What do we do?” Sakura asked softly. She glanced back the way they had come and Fai knew she was thinking of the two they had just left behind.

“There are trees over there,” Fai said, and for once he couldn’t even manage a smile to reassure her. “While I keep them busy, you got over there and hide.”

“But Fai-san--” Sakura immediately began to protest.

“Syaoran-kun told me to protect you,” Fai stated. “So don’t worry. Just keep safe.”

Sakura nodded, and Fai limped forward to meet the approaching shadows.

They stepped into the light and Fai’s eyes widened. The soldiers weren’t men or even demons, as he’d half-expected. They looked like nothing more than stone statues, each with the same blank expression, marching forward in perfect time with each other. Only a few held weapons, but the rest did not seem concerned with that. They all moved forward together, beings with a single-minded purpose.

They stank of magic and it was blocking all of Fai’s senses, making his head throb and his vision swim. A frozen feeling went up his spine again and he found himself turning to bolt before he was even conscious of the desire to run.

He realized his mistake the moment his bad ankle touched the ground and he stumbled, hitting the ground hard. He scrambled for a hold on the rocky ground and just managed to pull himself into a crouch.

Behind him, the statues marched on. And as Fai turned his head to look away from them he saw more shadows approaching from back the way he’d come.

He was surrounded and wounded and the magic in the air was somehow interfering with everything, making him slow and stupid. Fai tried to get to his feet again, but he was too slow and the next thing he knew one of the stone creatures was behind him, forcing him back onto the ground, pushing his face into the dirt. Fai’s hands clawed uselessly at the dirt and he struggled to breathe, vision swimming.

The heavy hand that held him down removed itself suddenly and Fai raised his head, gasping in air. He thought he heard Sakura yell in the distance and willed her to stay quiet, stay hidden. Fai tried to gather his feet under him and run, but his limbs wouldn’t listen and he fell back into the dirt.

Cold stone fists slammed into the back of his head and everything went dark.

--

Consciousness returned slowly. The first thing Fai was aware of was the dull pain in his ankle and the back of his head. A cold wind blew in from somewhere and he curled himself into a ball, shivering. His hands touched black cloth and he realized that he was still wearing Kurogane’s cloak.

Fai sat up slowly, reaching back with one hand to gingerly touch the bump on the back of his head. His fingers touched dried blood and he pulled his hand away, wincing in pain. He shook his head in an attempt to clear the fuzziness invading his mind and took stock of his surroundings.

The room he was in was wide and covered in dust. There was cold black stone all around and a single small window framed by tattered curtains. Fai was sitting in an old bed with stiff sheets, and the lit candle on the nightstand beside the bed gave off the only light in the room.

Fai carefully slid off the bed and limped to the window, looking out. He could see nothing below but a long stretch of darkness, lit by small lights.

So he was in the tower, then.

Fai pulled Kurogane’s cloak tighter around himself and made his way to the rotted wooden door. The door creaked open as he touched it, clearly unlocked. Fai glanced out the doorway and saw nothing but a long dark hallway stretching on as far as he could see.

There was nothing to gain by waiting in the room and the strange humming feeling was shaking him again, buzzing behind his eyes. Fai took the candle from the nightstand and, with only it as a light, limped his way down the hallway, one hand on the wall for support.

The hall seemed to go on forever, long and empty. Fai could vaguely hear the sound of the wind whistling by his ears as he walked, but there were no windows and the only doors he passed were locked tight. In the dim light of the candle he could occasionally make out the figures of large picture frames on the wall, but when he leaned forward to examine them he found that he could no longer make out what the pictures had once been of, so covered were they in dust and moss and cobwebs. The largest picture he passed had been sliced in two by something sharp and Fai could almost make out faces in the torn pieces. Something inside shook and warned him not to look too closely, and he hurried forward without a sound.

Eventually he saw far ahead glowing light and an open door. As he got closer he could hear a soft voice singing an indistinguishable song, old and sad and lilting like a child’s rhyme. Fai could hear the voice clearly as he grew closer, but didn’t know the words.

He knew the voice, and his whole body shook at the realization. Everything in him screamed to turn away, to go back to that empty room and hide and wait, but his feet wouldn’t stop moving forward, until at last he stood in the doorway of the lit room.

It had once been an opulent bedroom, but the curtains and bed sheets were tattered and falling apart. In the light of the lamps on the wall, Fai could see an old rotting dresser and a cracked mirror sitting to the right of the bed. A figure sat in a chair by the mirror, clad in black and singing. Fai stood in the doorway and waited.

The young master of the tower turned to look at him. Blue eyes met blue eyes, and Fai’s breath caught in his throat.

“Yuui.” The young master smiled, an eerie mirror of Fai’s usual face. “You’ve woken up. I was so worried. But that’s all right now.” The young master stood and walked towards Fai, arms outstretched. “That’s all right, Yuui. You’ve come back to me, right? You’ve come back.”

Fai wanted to step back, to turn away, but his body wouldn’t cooperate. His muscles tensed as the young master came closer and he tried to focus on the tattered curtains, on the glowing lamps, on anything but that pale face that mirrored his own.

His eyes were drawn to those of the young master’s and he noted that they weren’t quite the same, that those eyes were wider and paler with wisps of gray inside and a part of him relaxed. There was strong magic here, but it did not all come from this person. That magic was not stronger than his own.

“Yuui?” The young master looked questioningly at him. “It is Yuui, right? I know it’s you. Those people you were with, they kept calling you my name, but I knew they were wrong. We can always tell each other, right? We always know who we are. I knew you were Yuui the moment I saw you.”

“Yes,” Fai breathed quietly. The young master smiled again and embraced Fai
warmly.

Fai’s hands shook and all he could hear in his head was that voice repeating the name he hadn’t heard in such a long time, a name he had never wanted to hear again.

“I’ve been so lonely without you,” the young master murmured, pulling away, face lowered. He glanced up desperately at Fai’s face. “And then I saw you down there, with those stupid people who called you by my name. When did you wake up? Why didn’t you stay here with me?”

“I’m sorry,” Fai replied gently, and he wasn’t even sure who he was apologizing to.

“But you came back, so that’s all right,” the young master said. He reached over and gently touched the bump on Fai’s head, face darkening alarmingly. “And the stones hurt you. I didn’t tell them to do that. I’ll have to punish them.”

“Stones?”

“My soldiers.” The young master’s eyes brightened and he grabbed Fai’s arm, pulling him forward excitedly. “I bet you didn’t even look, did you? The tower’s mine now, so I changed it. I made it better. Here, come see, I’ll show you. We’re going to be together forever now, Yuui, so you should see it. Come on, I’ll show you.”

The young master hurried forward down the hall, and lamps Fai hadn’t even noticed lit up as the other man passed. The young master turned and gestured for him to follow, and there was nothing Fai could do but comply.

“I got rid of all those paintings,” the young master said as they walked. “So we wouldn’t have to see those faces. Of father…and uncle…” The man’s voice grew soft and far away, as though he were a person caught in a dream. “All those faces…the people who said we couldn’t be together, that we couldn’t be two people…”

“Because it was misfortune,” Fai whispered. The young master stopped and looked at him, and smiled again.

“Because we are misfortune,” he said. “But that’s okay now. I killed them all for you, so now it doesn’t matter. I brought misfortune down on them all.”

“Yes,” was all Fai said in reply. And we brought misfortune on all of them and I brought misfortune on you, and sometimes I think I am bringing it still.

The young master grew silent and Fai wondered if this place was the same as the one he remembered, if in this tower someone had asked two children to kill one another if they wanted to live.

He wondered if they had held hands here too, if they’d refused to let go, and if it had all turned out the same even so.

Fai shivered in the cold hallway and the lights made his head ache.

“They sleep down there.” The young master stopped briefly before an old open door that led down to a set of stairs. The other’s voice was soft and trembled just slightly as he spoke.

“Who does?” Fai asked.

“Father and uncle, and all the people we don’t need anymore,” the young master replied. “Do you remember this? Down there, where they kept us. Shackled and chained and locked and apart….and sometimes the door opened, and dark-eyed men came….and I heard you yell my name…”

His voice trailed off, and in the silence Fai could hear the whistling of colder winds, see soft falling snow and dead bodies, hear someone yelling his name from high above and a white-eyed old man laughing as he sliced his own throat.

He wondered if a dark person had spoken to the Yuui in this world too. If this Yuui had been offered that same choice. Choose the other and stay here forever. Choose yourself and watch the other die. Either way you lose. Either way.

Even so, he wondered what choice this world’s Yuui would have made.

The young master regarded him intently before taking his hand and leading him on.

“I don’t go down there, except to throw down the bones,” the young master said quickly. “But not yours. I kept yours. That’s why you’re still here, right? That’s why you came back to me.”

Fai didn’t reply and let himself be led.

“Here, here we are,” the young master said suddenly, and Fai looked up as they entered a well-lit room with a huge domed ceiling. Stone soldiers stood stiff and unmoving all along the walls, statues that never moved.

In the center of the room was a glowing circle, and inside Fai could see a pile of bones and decomposing bodies, and he stumbled, almost falling. The young master pulled him up and pulled him forward, past the bones towards the soldiers along the walls.

“What—what are those…?” The raw magic in the air was making Fai feel dizzy again and the smell of lingering blood burned his nostrils.

“I can’t give life, you know,” the young master said with a dark, horrible smile. “I learned that. You can’t give a life if you don’t take a life. They did nothing in that town, while we suffered for their happiness, so now they suffer for mine. I take their life and give it to these statues instead.”

“How?” Fai asked, even though he already knew the answer.

“A gift from the gods,” the young master replied. “A raw power that amplified mine. It came to me, so it’s mine. Ours. But it wasn’t giving life where I wanted it to and I thought I’d done something wrong, but you’re back so it must have worked. Right?”

Fai opened his mouth to reply, then stopped as he got closer to the statues along
the walls, his eyes widening.

The group of statues nearest to them were covered in dried blood and one held Souhi tight in its stone fists.

“Where did this come from?” Fai touched Souhi’s hilt and the stone fist opened, allowing him to take the sword.

And I brought misfortune and sometimes I think I am bringing it still.

“From those people, I suppose,” the young master said off-handedly, not bothering to look at him. He reached over to another statue instead, placing his hands on either side of its face, his own face darkening alarmingly. “This is the one that hurt you without permission, Yuui. I’ll take care of it.”

Wind began to blow even though there were no windows and the statue gave a low, inhuman moan as it slowly crumbled into dust. Fai didn’t even turn to look at it. All he could see was the sword in his hands, the sword whose owner Fai knew would never have abandoned it unless something grave had happened.

“Where did you send those people?” Fai asked, not looking up.

“What people?” The young master shrugged. “Oh, those. I don’t know. They may be bones in that dark place by now, you slept so long.”

Fai’s blood froze in his veins and he didn’t even realize that he’d fallen to his knees. He pulled Kurogane’s cloak close with a trembling hand and stared at Souhi as if it could answer all his questions.

“Hmm? What’s wrong?” The young master crouched down beside him, head cocked questioningly. Fai couldn’t look at him. “Yuui?”

“Stop calling me that.” Fai wasn’t even certain that he’d actually said the words at first, and his voice sounded rough and guttural to his ears. The young master shrunk back, eyes wide.

“That’s mean,” the other said at last. “That’s so mean, Yuui. I’ve been waiting for you for so long, and you don’t even look at me.”

“That’s not my name,” Fai said, still unable to tear his eyes away from Souhi.

Not the same person, not the same person, but even in a different world with a different one our sin still exists, as long as we are together, my sin still exists, as long as we are together…

“Yes it is. We always know who we are, even when nobody else can tell.” The young master reached over and cradled Fai’s head in his hands, and Fai could feel them both shaking.

“Let me show you another thing,” the young master said at last. “The place I prepared for you must still be there. Come with me.”

The young master took him by the hand and dragged him to his feet. Again Fai let himself be led down dark corridors and twisting staircases, a mirror image in front of him and Kurogane’s cloak around his shoulders, with Kurogane’s sword in his hands.

The young master led him to a large double door carved with ornate symbols. Words written in what had once been shining gold lined the top of the doorway, but as they got close Fai could see other words written on the doors themselves, written in child’s scrawl and half-faded away.

“This is our throne room,” the young master said. “I’ve been waiting for you to come, so we could rule together.” He ran a hand along the words scrawled on the door and they glowed where his fingers touched them.

The door swung open, and Fai was immediately stung by the smells of death and rot from inside. The room itself was in shambles, with crumbling statues and ruined paintings along the walls. In the center of the room was a small stone pool filled with water which shone with the same eerie blue light as the magic circle Fai had seen in the room with the statues. Curtains hung loosely from every corner, waving like ghosts in the half-lit of the torches. A torn, dust-covered carpet was spread on part of the floor, leading the way to the throne at the far end of the room.

A figure was slumped on the throne, and the young master ran towards it, kneeling at its feet. Fai limped after him and then his eyes registered what he was seeing and he stumbled again, his stomach churning.

A body sat on the throne, half-decomposed, all bones and rotting flesh and rags. A few remaining strands of blond hair stuck to its skull and its staring eyes were covered with a milky film but, strangely, still clearly blue behind all that. In its bony hands sat Sakura’s feather, the only pure light in the room.

“How can you be here and there?” The young master’s voice rang shrilly through the empty room.

“I’m not there,” Fai said. Souhi felt heavy in his hands. “I need that feather.”

“You’re…not my Yuui, are you?” The young master’s voice sounded miserable and lost, and Fai could feel the memories breaking him apart with every word.

“No.” No one’s Yuui, anymore. That person does not exist anymore.

“You tricked me,” the young master said accusingly. He rose slightly onto his knees so that his face was close to the corpse’s, one hand brushing across its cheek and the other holding tightly to the broken remains of the dead one’s hand.

“I need the feather,” Fai repeated. “That’s why I’m here.”

“You can’t have it,” the young master stated, eyes narrowed. “You’re not my Yuui. You’re not! Liar. You’re just a liar, that’s all. You can’t have it. It’s mine. I’ll bring Yuui back with it.” He let go of the corpse’s hand and reached over to take the feather, eyes shining with its reflected light. “With the power in this, I’ll take all their lives below and bring my Yuui back. I’ll fix everything that went wrong.”

“Give me the feather.” There was nothing else Fai could say. The young master’s wish was only the same as his own. A wish that could never be granted, no matter what he gave. No matter what price he paid. Neither one of them would ever have that wish granted, when it was the only thing they truly wanted.

“It’s mine,” the young master repeated, clinging to the corpse with one hand and holding the feather tight with the other. “I need it. For Yuui.” The blue eyes were desperate and pleading. “We were separated for so long….and I heard Yuui yell my name sometimes, and there was nothing I could do to help him, no one I could tell, nothing I could do but listen in that dark place. They bound our hands and chained our magic and locked us away, apart in the dark, and didn’t listen, didn’t look. I only wanted to help Yuui.” He gently caressed the body’s cheek. “And then Yuui died anyway. So I’m going to help him this way. I won’t let anyone stand in the way of that.” He turned to glare at Fai. “And you liar. You can’t have this. You’re all alone, right? You broke your promises too. You only want my feather so you can undo your mistake too.”

“That’s not why I need it,” Fai said, and even he wasn’t sure if he was lying or not.

“You’re just alone,” the young master stated. “And now you want to take away my Yuui. I won’t let you. I won’t let you. We won’t let you. You’re just one, just half. We’re whole and you can’t defeat us.” He turned back to the corpse and placed the feather in its lap, placing both hands on either side of its face.

The young master’s hands began to shine and Fai could feel the magic stirring sluggishly in the room. The wide, staring eyes of the corpse began to glow with a white light, and the blue began to melt away and then the white and then the eyes themselves until they was nothing but a pair of empty sockets staring at nothing—

--and the young master’s eyes darkened with every moment to a deeper and deeper blue and the magic in the air grew thicker and heavier—

--and Fai’s legs moved forward on their own and he was aware of nothing else until the very moment that Souhi’s blade pierced the young master’s chest.

“Y-Yuui…why…” the young master gasped out as he fell backwards against the throne, blood seeping from the wound in his chest. Fai pulled out the sword and let it fall to the ground, too aware of the blood on his hands.

The young master stared up at him and Fai could see the light rapidly dimming in those familiar blue eyes. He knelt beside the dying man and pulled him close.

“I’m sorry…Fai…” The magician felt the young master shudder once and then a last gasp of air was released from those lips, and he died.

The blue pool abruptly went dark.

Fai sat there by the throne for some time, unable to move, barely able to breathe, simply holding the still body close. Eventually he managed to stumble to his feet, eyes wide and staring at nothing. Mechanically he picked up the dropped sword and took it over to the pool, washed the blade and the black cloak and his hands, over and over again, and even in the dim light he could still see blood everywhere.

At last he rose from the pool and returned to the two bodies by the throne. Fai took the feather and tucked it safely inside his cloak. Then he reached over and propped the young master’s body up against the throne, closing the wide, staring eyes and pressing one of the cold hands against the stiff bony fingers of the older corpse.

He pulled down one of the curtains and quietly placed it over the bodies.

“Wherever you’ve gone,” he said softly, “I hope you’ve gone there together.”

Fai turned and left the room and didn’t look back.

--

Fai leaned against the closed door of the throne room, staring into the darkness. He’d been standing there for what seemed like a very long time, but he wasn’t certain how long it had been, with no light from outside to help him track the passage of time. His head hurt and his ankle hurt and he had to remind himself to keep breathing, and he waited. He could feel the magic ebbing from every corner of the tower and the blurry feeling that had been settling in his mind ever since he landed in this world was finally disappearing. With the young master dead, the magic spells he’d worked were dying as well.

Fai sat in the darkness and waited, and even he wasn’t sure what he was waiting for.

And when, after what seemed like a lifetime of sitting in the dark and cold, a voice called his name in the dark it took him a moment to remember that he should respond, that he was the one being called.

Small lights bobbed in the darkness ahead of him and then Sakura appeared, holding Mokona tight in her arms, Fai’s coat still wrapped around her shoulders. Behind her came Syaoran, limping slightly and holding a lantern, and last of all Kurogane, grim-faced and covered in dried blood.

“Fai-san!” Sakura threw her arms around him and Fai had to stop himself from shying back at the touch. “Are you all right? We were so worried!”

“I’m okay,” Fai lied. He took a moment to find a smile. It was weak and shaking, but it was the best he could manage. “I think I hurt my ankle and I’ve got a bump on my head, but that’s nothing. Are you all right? The soldiers didn’t hurt you?”

“No.” Sakura shook her head. “I saw them knock you out and I tried to follow, and they surrounded me, but they didn’t hurt me. They just kept me from moving until the ones who had you were out of sight, and then they left.”

“And you two?” Fai turned to Syaoran and Kurogane.

“They attacked us,” Syaoran said. “But it was strange, they only knocked us out and left us alone. They didn’t take us like they took you.”

“Ah. That is strange.” Fai smiled again. It was a strange comfort, lying to people who couldn’t see through it yet. “Oh! And I have something for you.” He held out the feather to Syaoran.

“Fai-san…” Syaoran gratefully took the feather. “Thank you.”

“I think we should leave now,” Fai said. “It’s dark and creepy here, right? Let’s go outside where it’s nicer.”

Syaoran nodded and he and Sakura turned to leave. Kurogane remained where he was, staring at Fai and the closed door.

“Someone died here,” Kurogane said darkly. “In there?”

“Many people died here,” Fai said, shrugging. “The townspeople told us that much.”

“They also said that there was someone who owned this tower, but I don’t see him.” Kurogane’s eyes were as cold as his voice and Fai knew that he hadn’t fooled the ninja at all.

“He’s in there.”

“Did you kill him?”

Fai did not speak, only silently pulled off Kurogane’s cloak and held out it and Souhi. Kurogane took both without reply, wrapping the cloak around his shoulders.

They stood there in the half light, staring at each other, neither one speaking. Kurogane moved forward to open the door, and then Fai reached out and weakly clasped the fabric of the ninja’s cloak.

“Don’t go in there.” Fai’s voice sounded hollow and strange to his own ears. “Let them sleep.”

He could feel Kurogane looking at him but Fai couldn’t bring himself to meet that gaze. He stared intently at his own hands, still wrapped in the fabric of Kurogane’s cloak.

“Idiot,” Kurogane said at last, and for once Fai was thankful that the ninja never called him by name. Despite the rough tone of voice, Kurogane’s hands were surprisingly gentle as he pried Fai’s hands off his cloak. He silently pulled Fai’s arm over his shoulder and held the magician close, quietly supporting him as they began to walk together down the long dark hall.

Fai leaned into Kurogane and closed his eyes, and tried to forget.

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