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04 July 2006 @ 05:43 pm
Fic again  
Title: A Thousand Offerings (Part I)
Author: takadainmate
Rating: PG-13-ish
Summary: Life and beer in an ancient world.

The Slightly Epic Story of This Fic: This is what happens when an ex-Egypology student who studied beer production in the ancient world, not much sleep, and a KuroFai obsession collide. I even wrote some notes on the historical background, because I’m sad like that, but it’s not necessary for understanding the fic in any way.

I hope this cheers people up, as I’m sure we’re all currently about to stress ourselves to death over the next chapter. Slightly cracktastic humour supposedly, a smidgen of h/c (because I love it), a little love and fluff (because It Is Commanded), and it even started growing a mini-plot when I got to, oooh, about 7000 words. By the end, the fic got so long I had to divide it up into two parts. This is the first 6000 or so words, and the rest will hopefully follow shortly. Comments and concrit always welcomed and much appreciated!

Thanks to Shiny for the domestic activity ideas and to cienna for the beta and encouragement. Tsubasa not mine. Remaining mistakes all my fault. Etc, etc.

.A Thousand Offerings (Part I).

2. (Beer.)

On the second day, Fai brought him what looked and smelled disturbingly like rotting grain mashed up in muddy water.

“What,” Kurogane demanded, “is that?” He feared he already knew the answer, or that the answer would be worse than he thought, but asked all the same because he was strong and brave.

Fai hummed at him, smiling with a calculated imitation of complete fluffy innocence.

“Beer,” he announced, and pushed the pottery cup in Kurogane’s face. “Smell that yeast.”

Kurogane really wished he couldn’t.

“You want me to drink that?”

Fai swished the cup around a little, considering his reply, and Kurogane blanched.

“Everyone drinks it here, apparently. Full of vitamins and minerals I’m told. Hard workers have to keep their strength up, Kuro-tan,” he sang, paused, smiled even more brightly and added, “I think it’s more like eating anyway.” This was torture, Kurogane decided, and wondered if Fai had been some kind of interrogator at home.

“Have you tried it?” he asked, eyeing the liquid with extreme suspicion.

“Of course I… have,” Fai lied. No doubting it. That was one of the worst lies Kurogane had ever heard in his life. “Won’t you have some, Kuro-pin? You really should. You won’t be able to work if you don’t, and then your children will starve and then how will you face your princess?”

Kurogane would very much have liked to shove that cup down the offending wizard’s throat.

“Stop,” he growled, “saying,” his voice lowering dangerously, “weird shit like that!” It had exactly the same effect as any other response would have.

Fai smiled.

“Syaoran-kun tried some,” he said airily. “He’s very brave.” A solemn nod of the head and a pointed look in Kurogane’s direction. Kurogane scowled and snatched the cup from Fai’s hands.

“This is what people drink here?” he said, looking dubiously at the thick, brown concoction, then at Fai, wondering if this could all possibly be some hideously unfunny joke at his expense. Fai folded his arms and nodded.

“You’re not making this up?” Best to make sure.

Fai actually snorted a laugh at that.

“You think I could make that up?”

And Kurogane had to agree with his logic. For once.

“Fine,” he grumbled, and took a swig, swallowing as quickly as humanly possible, feeling large, sickening chunks of…stuff…sliding down his throat. Fai stared at him curiously.

“So?” he asked. “What’s it taste like?”

Kurogane didn’t want to think about it.

“I thought you said you tried some?”

Fai raised an eyebrow in reply.

“Right,” Kurogane said, and handed the cup back. “I’m going to try and sell you or something if you don’t find something better to drink… eat…whatever.”

Fai turned on his heels, smiling, and Kurogane was almost positive he heard Fai say, “I’d like to see you try,” under his breath as he walked away.

4. (Onions.)

By the fourth day Kurogane was beginning to wonder if it was possible for a person to sell themselves.

“Oh, Kuro-mi,” Fai trilled as he busied himself cutting up onions in the kitchen. He was crying and smiling at the same time and Kurogane thought it looked decidedly freaky. “Stop being so melodramatic.”

“That stuff,” Kurogane ground out in annoyance, “that you seem to think is beer is making me sick.” Fai sighed and put the knife down (for which Kurogane was strangely thankful) and turned fully to face him.

“It can’t be that, Kuro-chi,” Fai began, trying to wipe away tears with the back of his hand. “Syaoran-kun and Sakura-chan drink it all the time, and I don’t see them complaining.” Kurogane thought then that this picture could only be completed by Fai waving a finger at him. And tutting. Fai could do tutting. Kurogane was sure of it.

“You let them drink it?” Kurogane was incredulous.

“Yes. Why wouldn’t I?” Fai asked. Kurogane threw up his arms in disgust.

“They’re kids! You can’t give them alcohol to drink every day!” Fai shrugged and went back to chopping.

“It’s not like it’s strong. And all the children in this world drink it.”

Fai. Logic. There were days when Kurogane seriously wondered if the two words were antonyms.

“The children of this world run around mostly naked!” Kurogane fumed. “And I don’t see those two doing that!” Fai laughed softly.

“They’re shy,” he said. And then Kurogane knew that if he didn’t leave the kitchen right then he would throttle the mage.

5. (Work.)

On the fifth day, Kurogane worked so hard his fingers were red raw by the end of it.

5 and three quarters. (Work II.)

That night, Kurogane wished he hadn’t when Fai tried to apply beer to the wounds.

6. (Work III.)

On the sixth day, Kurogane nearly got fired for starting a fight at work.

“If I hadn’t arrived right at that moment, Kuro-mu,” Fai clucked, “you would have lost that job and then there wouldn’t even be beer to… eat.”

“If it wasn’t for you,” Kurogane grumbled moodily, “there wouldn’t have been a fight in the first place.” Fai looked up from bandaging Kurogane’s arm.

“What did I do?” he asked, and Kurogane was pleased to hear something like annoyance in Fai’s voice.

“You exist,” Kurogane growled spitefully. “Isn’t that enough?” Fai frowned and sat back, folding his arms over his chest defensively.

“That’s mean, Kuro-pon.” And Kurogane had to admit it had been, and Fai did actually look a bit hurt.

“One of the others,” Kurogane began quickly, “said something about you.” Fai was still frowning. Kurogane wondered hopefully if this meant the mage would never bring him beer again.

“What?” Fai asked darkly.

“That you were…” Kurogane trailed off, realising his mistake much too late. Fai was scowling now, and after the day’s events and the way Fai was looking at him, Kurogane wondered just when exactly the two of them had got married.

“Pretty.” Kurogane almost spat the word. And Fai’s expression went from annoyed to surprised to just-plain-evil in under thirty seconds. It was that grin, Kurogane decided. It never did bode well for him.

“Kuro-sama!” Fai’s smile was expansive, eyes shimmering with untold and oh-so-suspicious joy, and then Fai threw himself at Kurogane, holding him tightly in over-long arms in what some would call an embrace but which Kurogane would call a vice. “You were protecting my virtue!”

Kurogane nearly choked to death.

Virtue?” he roared, and couldn’t decide whether to laugh or to shout. So he did both. “VIRTUE?” Fai pulled back, arms still hung loosely around Kurogane’s neck. And he was pouting. Kurogane couldn’t say he was surprised.

“Of course, Kuro-rin!” Fai said, then the pout morphed back into that wide grin. “And you cared enough to defend it.” Kurogane snorted.

“Don’t get ahead of yourself.”

Fai’s head tilted in questioning.

“That guy called me an idiot. That’s why I hit him,” Kurogane explained. Fai frowned.

“What’s that got to do with me being pretty?” he asked. Kurogane shifted uncomfortably, and wondered if there was any possibility of escaping that question. Fai’s arms dangling threateningly from his shoulders, and that look in the wizard’s eyes told him there wasn’t. Best just to get it over with.

“He called me an idiot for not sleeping with you,” he breathed, and waited for it.

And waited.

And Fai remained silent, an indiscernible look on his face. Then he stood up, patted Kurogane on the head lightly and disappeared off into the back of the house.

Kurogane thought for a while that he had actually made Fai angry or upset or something, until the four of them sat down to dinner and Fai gave him extra onions.

8. (Bath.)

Eight days in saw Fai scrubbing Kurogane’s back with an old rag a little way outside the town walls.

“This world is ridiculous,” Kurogane complained, and tugged at the bandage on his arm.

“Leave it alone, Kuro-chi,” Fai sighed. “Unless you want me to treat it with beer.”

Kurogane ignored him and continued to scratch at the wound.

“Whoever heard of not taking baths? Ever!” he said instead.

“It makes sense though. There’s not much water on this world so it’s kind of a waste to wash in it.”

Kurogane thought about that for a minute.

“But they never even drink water. It’s all that disgusting beer,” he argued, and maybe it was the intense heat (which Kurogane noticed the mage did not seem to much like) or maybe it was just him, but Fai seemed much easier to annoy on this world.

“Kuro-pon,” he said, and scoured particularly hard at Kurogane’s left shoulder. “What is beer made of?”

Oh. Right.

“It’s hard to remember that when you look at it,” Kurogane mumbled, then, “Are you done scouring the skin off my back yet?”

Fai just scrubbed harder.

“No, Kuro-mi, I’m not. You wanted a bath and this is the best I can do so you’re going to sit there and take it.”

“Hn,” Kurogane assented, and they sat in silence as Fai washed out the cloth in the bucket of water beside him and started on Kurogane’s arms.

“I’ll do you after, if you like,” Kurogane said at last.

“With the dirty water?” Fai laughed lightly. “How kind of you, Kuro-sama.”

But Fai let him anyway.

9. (Cellar.)

When Kurogane got home early from work on the ninth day, slightly concerned that Fai hadn’t brought him mid-day beer, he was greeted by Sakura at the door.

“What happened?” he asked, seeing the anxious look on her face.

“It’s Fai-san,” she began, and Kurogane rolled his eyes.

“What’s he done now?”

Sakura shook her head.

“He was just about to start doing the laundry when he passed out! I tried to wake him up but I couldn’t so I went and got Syaoran and Mokona because I know you said not to trust the doctor here…”

“Where is he?” Kurogane pushed past Sakura into the house, looking around for the mage.

“In the cellar…”

Kurogane rounded on Sakura.

“The cellar.”

“Well,” Sakura explained, “Syaoran said he thought it was heatstroke, and then we managed to get Fai-san to wake up by throwing water at him, and he said it probably was too then went down to the cellar to sleep. He said it was too hot anywhere else.”

Kurogane nodded and made for the kitchen.

“Do you think he’ll be all right, Kurogane-san?” Sakura asked nervously.

“Hm” Kurogane said, picked up a pot of beer and descended the steps into the cellar.

It was dark and smelly, and he had to stoop down the roof was so low, but he could see Fai curled up on a mat in the far corner.

“Oi,” Kurogane called, “The princess is worried about you.” He went over and sat beside Fai’s mat. Fai stirred and opened his eyes slowly.

“I don’t think I ever want to leave this cellar again, Kuro-pi,” he laughed quietly.

“You should have said something,” Kurogane grumbled, and laid a hand on Fai’s forehead. Fai sighed and took Kurogane’s wrist in his hand.

“There didn’t seem like much point,” Fai said. “We can’t do anything about the weather.”

Kurogane withdrew his hand, Fai still holding lightly onto his wrist, and put the pot of beer in front of him.

“You have to drink,” he ordered. Fai pulled a face that told Kurogane everything.

“Kuro-mu,” Fai wailed weakly, “It’s not nice to pick on sick people…”

“You’re sick because you’re not drinking,” Kurogane interrupted, opened the bottle and held it out for Fai. “Don’t make me force you.”

Kurogane heard Fai laugh oddly, but he released Kurogane’s wrist and took the pot.

“All of it,” Kurogane said, and stood up in the small space of the cellar. “Then sleep.”

He left, assured the princess that Fai would be fine but should be hounded to drink at every opportunity, then went outside and started on the laundry.

11. (Toilet.)

Kurogane was just about to leave the house on the eleventh day when Fai grabbed him by the shirt. (Not dress. Kurogane didn’t wear dresses.)

“Kuro-tan!” he announced brightly, and Kurogane had to wonder if the Get-Fai-To-Drink-More plan had been too successful. “I have something for you!”

Kurogane’s heart leapt in fear, and he swatted the mage’s hand away from his shirt.

“I have to go,” he said. “I’ll be late.” And tried to walk out, but Fai’s deceptively powerful grip held him back again.

“No you won’t, Kuro-sama,” Fai said, tilting his head and smiling. “Anyway, this is important.”

So Kurogane, knowing oh-so-well the futility of arguing with Fai, let himself be steered back into the house and pushed down to sit on the floor. And from the next room Kurogane could hear the clink of bottles and Syaoran making strangled protests about something. Sakura’s soothing, pleading voice followed and Mokona cheered in delight. It set Kurogane on edge.

“You know what’s going on in there?” he asked cautiously, carefully watching Fai as the man took an old box from the shelf and came to sit down in front of him.

“Oh yes,” Fai grinned, and then Kurogane knew he was not going to like this.

Fai opened the box, and Kurogane could see small pottery bottles inside. Like a cornered rabbit, Kurogane prepared to bolt.

“You weren’t earning enough, Kuro-tan,” Fai explained, carefully selecting a bottle and holding it up for inspection. There were odd markings on its side that Kurogane recognised as Fai’s writing. “Syaoran-kun needs new sandals, and I don’t know how to make them, so I thought I’d better find something to trade.”

“I can make sandals,” Kurogane said, and was annoyed by Fai’s shocked face. “What?”

“I just… didn’t know,” Fai replied, then smiled, “That Kuro-sama has so many secret skills. Just like Mokona!” He put the bottle back and picked up another. Kurogane noticed blue-black smudges on the lid. “What else can you do? ” Fai asked.

Kurogane put on his most severe face. “I’m very good at murdering annoying wizards who make me late for work looking at pots.” Which only served to make Fai giggle.

“Oh that’s lucky,” he laughed, placing the bottle on the reed flooring carefully and picking out what looked like a small stick from the box. “Because I’m very good at avoiding being murdered by vicious men who wear too much black and have burning red ruby eyes and…”

“Burning red rubies?” Kurogane sounded incredulous.

“Sounds romantic, don’t you think?” Fai said, and Kurogane closed his (burning red ruby) eyes and wished he’d never asked.

“And I don’t wear too much black,” he argued instead. “I’m not wearing any at all now.” Fai laughed again, opened the pot and stirred the dark contents with the stick.

“Only because we couldn’t find anything black for you,” then Fai paused, looked down at the pot and smirked. Kurogane found this highly suspicious, and was about to demand to know just what the idiot was up to when Fai added, “But I really think that dress doesn’t suit you.”

“It’s a shirt,” Kurogane snapped.

“Dress,” Fai corrected.

Shirt,” Kurogane growled. “Men do not wear dresses.” Then he paused, looked Fai up and down and added, “Well, normal men anyway.”

Fai laughed softly and held up the pot and stick for Kurogane’s inspection.

“Then you’re really not going to like this, Kuro-rin,” he smiled.

“And what is that?” Kurogane dared to ask.

“Like I was saying,” Fai explained, “I was trying to think of what I could make, then the lady next door told me that eye make-up was in short supply so I went and…”

“Oh no,” Kurogane interrupted, holding his hands up and shaking his head vigorously. “You are not trying out that stuff on me.”

Fai advanced on him with the stick, heavily loaded with what looked like thick black slime.

“It’s medicinal, Kuro-tan,” Fai tried to argue. “It protects you against the sun and nasty insects. You don’t wear it because it’ll make you look nice.”

“Why aren’t you wearing any then?” Kurogane demanded.

“Ah! Sakura and I are going to put it on for each other after we’ve done you two,” Fai laughed.

“You two….” Kurogane repeated, then remembered Syaoran’s protests from the next room.

“You see. It sounds like Syaoran let Sakura put some on him.” He looked Kurogane in the eye. “Syaoran’s so brave, isn’t he?”

“No, he’s a kind-hearted fool!” Kurogane shouted, and pushed the ever-drawing-closer Fai and His Stick away from him. He stood and stomped his way angrily towards the door to the sound of Fai calling after him;

“Don’t blame me if your eyes burn out of your head, Kuro-chi!”

12. (Festival.)

The twelfth day turned out to be a festival. Kurogane would rather have gone to work.

When the four of them stepped out into the narrow town streets at sometime before noon, throngs of people were already drunk and rolling around laughing and giggling like maniacs. Some were already passed out.

“Well this does look like fun, doesn’t it, Kuro-daddy,” Fai cheered. Syaoran and Sakura looked scandalised.

A red-faced man Kurogane vaguely recognised stumbled towards them, a jug of something in each hand.

“Ah! Kurogane!” he slurred, “Are you out of wine?” He shoved one of the jugs into Kurogane’s hands. “Here! Have mine!” Then he staggered sideways and bent down to look more closely at Sakura and Syaoran. “And these must be your children! Oh they are so cute.” He pinched Syaoran’s cheek, and Kurogane heard Fai and Sakura giggle.

“Um…” Syaoran stuttered, “Sir? What does this festival celebrate?” The man stood up straight and looked at Syaoran like he was a complete idiot, before pushing the other wine jug into the boy’s hand and saying;

“This!” Then he wandered off. To get more alcohol, Kurogane assumed.

“Well?” Fai said brightly, taking the wine jug from Syaoran. “Let’s try some, Kuro-rin!”

Kurogane thought this was a really bad idea.

“We can join in and because everybody’s so drunk they might talk more and we can find out about the feather whilst Sakura-chan and Syaoran-kun go looking at the tombs. Isn’t that a great idea?” He smiled, and Syaoran nodded vigorously, looking like he wanted nothing more than to get away from the insane festivities going on around him.

“We’ll be going then. Take care, Fai-san, Kurogane-san,” he called, and pulled Sakura (still looking somewhat shocked) into the crowd, heading for the town gates.

And when Fai lifted the jug to his lips and drank, making appreciative noises, Kurogane had the distinct feeling that the day was not going to end well.

Might be still 12, or it could be 13, or it could be anything really… (Festival II.)

An indiscernible time and number of wine jugs later, Kurogane was beginning to think that maybe the festival wasn’t so bad after all.

“Oh, you are so wrong,” Fai was announcing to the small group assembled around their oil lamp. He listed sideways and sprawled across Kurogane’s lap. “Kuro-sama hates me.” Fai smiled and Kurogane nodded in complete agreement.

“You must have a really strange way of showing someone you hate them then in your country,” one man laughed.

“Maybe the word ‘hate’ means something different where they come from?” a lady sitting the other side of Fai suggested.

“Ahhh!” Fai held up a finger. “But we’re not from the same country.” The crowd ooh’d and aah’d and Kurogane nodded again, still in complete agreement.

“Then how did you meet?” another asked, looking intently at Fai.

Fai sighed and looked up at the sky dreamily, his head laying pillowed on Kurogane’s leg. “Oh, it’s such an extraordinary story…” he said. The others sat forward expectantly. “We both had wishes that only a very powerful witch could grant,” he began. “So we travelled to her, and she took from us the thing we valued most in payment for granting those wishes.” And Kurogane nodded fiercely at the memory. “But she was mean and cruel and had tricked us,” Fai went on, and through the haze of alcohol Kurogane thought that last sentence sounded decidedly odd. “And she captured me and held me hostage inside her great big castle…” Now Kurogane knew that wasn’t right. “But then Kuro-pi came and saved me from her evil clutches…” And the gathered crowd gasped in mixed excitement and horror and were looking at Kurogane with such awe that he was almost tempted to hold his peace. Until the woman sitting beside Fai spoke again.

“Even if you say he hates you, Fai,” she said softly, putting a hand on Fai’s shoulder, “I really don’t think Kurogane could if he did that.” There was a murmur of agreement around the circle and Kurogane shoved Fai forcefully off him, almost smashing his half-empty jug of wine in his hurry to stand up.

“That idiot is lying,” he shouted, pointing accusingly at Fai. “That never happened!”

“Oh there’s no need to be shy, Kuro-tan,” Fai said softly, patting his foot. Then he turned to the others. “He’s just so modest.” And the serious, reverent nods passed around the circle were the last straw for Kurogane.

“That’s enough,” he growled, and unceremoniously dragged Fai to his feet. “We’re going home now.”

“Oh, but Kuro-rin,” Fai complained, “What about…”

“I don’t care,” Kurogane interrupted. “I’m not letting you tell anymore weird-arse stories to strangers about me.”

“They’re not weird,” Fai retorted. Kurogane scowled dangerously.

“Don’t make me carry you,” he threatened, and in the second it took for Fai to process the warning Kurogane dragged him away from the circle by the arm.

“It was nice talking to you all!” Fai called back when he realised what was happening, and the others waved and shouted farewells in reply, quickly disappearing into the night as Kurogane marched Fai home.

There were only a few people still walking around now, and most of those were either half asleep or so drunk they were having problems staying upright. The rest of the town seemed to be passed out on the streets. Kurogane picked his way around the sleeping revellers as best he could.

“You didn’t have to be so rude, Kuro-pin,” Fai chided, and tripped over a sprawled arm.

“You were telling stupid lies about me,” Kurogane replied.

“I was having fun,” Fai sulked. “And they were good stories.” Kurogane snorted and handed Fai the wine jug he was still carrying.

“Drink this and shut up,” he ordered. Fai, unexpectedly, obeyed.

“It’s better than the beer,” he said, and leaned heavily on Kurogane’s arm. They stumbled along in silence for a while until Fai looked up at Kurogane, his eyes unfocused and grin lopsided drunkenly. “Sleep with me in the cellar tonight, Kuro-mu.”

Kurogane considered the prospect for a moment.

“Why?” he asked. Fai laughed softly and pressed himself closer to Kurogane’s arm.

“Because it’s dark and lonely in there,” he said. And, in a bizarre moment of clarity, Kurogane knew exactly what he meant.

13. Probably. (Festival III.)

It was possibly the worst hangover Kurogane had ever had, and he had no idea how many days they’d been on that world anymore. All he knew was that it was dark and cool and he wasn’t wearing any clothes. And there was an equally naked mage lying next to him.

“You awake?” he said into the blackness. There was a mumbled noise and shifting, which Kurogane took as an affirmative.

“Last night,” he began, feeling his head pound harder with every word. “Did we…”

Kurogane felt an arm drape itself over his chest.

“You don’t remember, Kuro-chi?” came a sleepy, amused voice. “I think I should feel offended.”

“Then we did…” Kurogane trailed off, and tried not to think about the implications.

Fai hummed and propped himself up on his arm.

“Of course we did,” he laughed, and trailed a hand down to Kurogane’s wrists. “Look at all these bruises…”

WHAT?” Kurogane yelled, and felt Fai chuckle beside him.

“I was just teasing you, Kuro-pon,” he laughed, and lay back down, pulling away from Kurogane.

“Then did we…?”

Fai shrugged. “It’s a mystery to me.” He sighed and went on, “We should find some clothes I suppose. In case Sakura-chan and Syaoran-kun come looking down here.”

But Kurogane couldn’t shake the feeling that Fai knew.

14. (Cleaning.)

On what was likely the fourteenth day, Kurogane and Fai looked around in horror at the state of the house in which they currently resided.

Which Fai had called their house, their family home, their love nest. Kurogane shivered.

“I think I’m glad we decided to stay in the cellar yesterday,” Fai sighed, and looked up at Kurogane. “I hope Syaoran-kun, Sakura-chan and Mokona are okay.” Kurogane huffed and looked around at the empty jars and discarded half-eaten food littering the floor. Fai started picking things up and putting them back on shelves.

“Unless they had a party without telling us,” he continued. “I think this must be left-over from the festival.” Fai turned to look at Kurogane again. “Did we make this mess, do you think?”

“No,” he replied. “There’s no mess in the kitchen or in the cellar, and I’m pretty sure we were in there…” Kurogane frowned at the memory.

“Well you could at least help me clean up, Kuro-rin,” Fai said, pressing something that Kurogane supposed was a broom into his hands.

“Sweep!” Fai commanded, pointing to the floor with an unconvincingly stern look on his face. Then he went back to sorting through the mess littering the sides of the room. “I hope nothing was stolen,” he said, and Kurogane grunted an agreement, looking with some disgust at the broom-thing in his hand. “We’ll have to sell your sword if we get any poorer,” Fai went on lightly, sorting through an upturned basket now.

“The white meat-bun goes before my sword does,” Kurogane huffed.

“Of course he does, Kuro-sama,” Fai replied agreeably. “Now could you stop looking at the broom and use it?”

“Ninjas don’t sweep.”

“And magicians don’t darn Ninja’s underwear, but I seem to have done that last week,” Fai retorted.

“Magicians use magic,” Kurogane argued, “And you claim not to.”

“Ex-magicians then.” Fai paused and looked thoughtful. “Although it’s very tempting to use magic so that I don’t have to get near your underclothes.”

“There’s nothing wrong with my underwear!” Kurogane shot back, waving the broom-thing angrily in Fai’s direction, then added, “You can do that?”

Fai looked at him, grinned and shrugged. “I heard there’s a market today. We should go,” he said.

Kurogane crossed his arms and stood watching Fai gather up pieces of broken jugs. Either he was oblivious or ignoring him, the latter being the more likely, so Kurogane shook his head and said, “I need a new chisel.”

15. (Letters.)

Kurogane was sure it was the fifteenth day because he had to go back to work. What was worse, he was accompanied by Fai.

“Why are you here?” Kurogane groaned, and hefted his bag of tools onto his other shoulder.

“I wanted to see the tombs,” Fai replied, pulling his linen scarf further over his head.

They were climbing the last steps to the crest of the valley when Kurogane noticed Fai’s face turn abruptly to his left as though he’d just seen something appear there. But there was only sand dunes and steps and narrow, rock-cut doorways leading to deep tombs.

“What is it?” Kurogane asked. Fai had an odd frown on his face.

“I thought I… saw something,” he replied, shook his head and smiled. “It’s nothing.”

“Whatever,” Kurogane growled, and pointed to a huddle of workmen further down the valley. “That’s where I work.”

Fai nodded happily and followed Kurogane down a rough-hewn path towards the others.

“I brought beer for all you hard workers!” Fai called in greeting, and Kurogane was surprised (and disturbed) when they turned to them, smiling, and called Fai’s name in reply. Not Kurogane’s. Fai’s. And Kurogane wondered just how exactly Fai had got to know them, and just when exactly he had become so popular. They all looked far too pleased by Fai’s arrival. Kurogane couldn’t imagine why.

“Fai!” one particularly keen individual said, (then he nodded a greeting to Kurogane. As an afterthought). “Did you make it yourself?” And then Kurogane tuned out their over-enthusiastic chatter about the best beer jugs and spices and Kurogane really couldn’t believe how much Fai had learned in fifteen days.

“You know, Fai,” the keen one was speaking again, “You shouldn’t be out in the sun like this. It’s a long walk back, and I heard from your neighbour that you passed out the other day.” He looked sincerely concerned. It made Kurogane feel slightly ill.

“I’ll be fine!” Fai announced gleefully, and some of the gathered workers were looking at Kurogane scornfully now as though he could do something about it. As though he was responsible for making the idiot mage dehydrate. Perhaps they thought he was sucking Fai dry somehow, and that thought was almost too lascivious, leading down the slippery slope to what Kurogane hoped were memories of warm lips and pale skin in dark cellars.

“Kuro-chi?” Fai’s voice, light and curious, stopped him short.

“What?” Kurogane shook himself and knew Fai had noticed.

“You looked a million miles away, Kuro-mu. Are you all right?” he said softly, and out of the corner of his eye Kurogane could see Fai’s hand wavering just below his elbow as though unsure whether to touch him or not.

“Fine,” Kurogane replied, mumbled something about getting to work and headed towards the tomb entrance. He passed oddly posed creatures with unrecognisable animal-heads and thick black line drawings he had been told were writing as he descended down dark stairs.

The writing, thin and elegant and mysterious, reminded him of magic. And it reminded him of Fai.

16. (Letters II.)

“Dear Kuro…pon,” Syaoran stuttered late in the evening on the sixteenth day. He looked up at Kurogane, whose only response to the nickname was a deeper furrowing of his already deeply furrowed brow.

“I thought so,” he mumbled. “Stupid weird language of his makes my name look like a bunch of chicken scratches.” Then louder; “Go on.”

“I’ve just gone to that man with the big scar on his leg’s house to deliver some…” Syaoran shuddered, “…make-up. He really likes it and says I’m the best… I don’t know that word… in the village.”

“He’s the best what?” Kurogane demanded, leaning forward to get a closer look at the cloth scrap the note was scrawled on.

“I… I don’t know. His language is very unusual…” Syaoran tried to explain. “I’m not even sure what I’m saying is right.”

Kurogane huffed and leant back against the wall.

“It sounds like him,” he said. “What else does it say?”

“I’ll be back soon and then I’ll…” And as Syaoran’s eyes ran over the words that followed he felt himself choke, then blush furiously, and when he looked up at Kurogane he could see deep deep suspicion in his eyes. And Syaoran was afraid.

“Well?” Kurogane was looking at him with such intensity that Syaoran wished he could just sink into the floor matting and disappear.

“Um…” he tried. And failed. And looked around the room desperately hoping for a means to escape. He could feel Kurogane’s eyes on him, watching.

“Just say it, kid,” he said. “I know it’s not you.”

So Syaoran took a deep breath, and read;

“…and then I’ll give you another bath out in the desert where we can be alone and maybe this time you won’t complain when I’m too rough I even got something like soap at the market so it won’t hurt as much There’s a new…”

“Enough!” Kurogane roared, and Syaoran stopped immediately, wondering why Fai, who had always been so kind, had forsaken him this way. Then more quietly, “I get it.” And Kurogane took the cloth letter and shoved it viciously into a crack in the wall.

“I can find something useful to do with this at least,” he mumbled furiously.

Then he stood up and stamped his way out of the house.

When he returned later that night with Fai and a bag of grain, Syaoran could have sworn Kurogane smelled of herbs and spices.

17. (Letters III.)

On the seventeenth day Fai wrote Kurogane another letter.

Kurogane found it when he got home; an old scrap of browned cloth with black, blotchy scrawls across it left on his pillow. He stared at it for a long time, weighing up the pros and cons of asking Syaoran to translate again, weighing up the pros and cons of ignoring it and finding another crack in the plastering to plug.

Then Sakura appeared beside him, looking curiously at the rag.

“What is that, Kurogane-san?” she asked.

“It’s from that idiot wizard,” Kurogane replied shortly.

Sakura’s eyes widened in surprise.

“You can read that?” she said, and carefully took the cloth from Kurogane’s hands to examine it closely.

“Not a word.” And then Sakura’s eyes lit up and Kurogane knew he was doomed.

“Then we should go and find Syaoran-kun! He’ll know what it says!” she declared gleefully, and ran down to the cellar where the boy was checking the grain to fetch him before Kurogane could stop her. For a fleeting moment Kurogane thought he felt sorry for Syaoran.

“A…another message?” he said, appearing at the kitchen doorway, cloth held tightly in his hands.

Definitely felt sorry for him.

He almost looked pale, and certainly harried and Sakura was bouncing at his arm.

“What does it say, Syaoran?” Sakura asked excitedly.

Anxiously, Syaoran’s eyes fell to the writing, and Kurogane knew it was bad when after a moment of reading Syaoran’s breath caught and he let out what sounded decidedly like a sob. He looked up, eyes pleading mercy, at Kurogane.

“Just read out the… relevant parts,” Kurogane sighed, and saw a confused look cross Sakura’s face, but she knew better than to ask. Syaoran nodded.

“My…dearest Kuro…mi,” he began, and Sakura nodded intently. “Please forgive me for yesterday… Err… he says he hopes I wasn’t too embarrassed.”

Kurogane snorted in disbelief.

“I’m glad you liked the soap and I did too. I especially like it when your strong, manly hands…”

“HOW IS THAT RELEVANT?” Kurogane bellowed. Syaoran and Sakura quailed.

“Um…well…it has to do with…um…the next part…” Syaoran stammered. Kurogane sagged in resignation, put a hand to his aching aching head and waved at Syaoran, indicating for him to continue.

“So…err…” Syaoran skimmed his fingers across a couple of lines of text that Kurogane hoped he never had to understand. “He says then: I have gone to that lady who makes really pretty cushions’ house to get some cream she says works really well for…err…smoothing calloused hands…” Syaoran paused, skimmed along two more lines then said, “love, Fai.”

Kurogane stood in stunned silence.

“Isn’t that nice of Fai-san,” Sakura giggled. Then Kurogane turned on his heel and stormed out again, wrath and murder on his face.

Syaoran had long since gone to bed when Kurogane and Fai returned in silence that night.

18. (Poems.)

On the eighteenth day Kurogane wrote Fai a letter.

“Fai-san?” Syaoran approached, apprehension and perhaps resignation in his face and a large piece of broken pottery clasped in his hands. Fai looked up from grinding.

“What is it, Syaoran-kun?” he asked, smiling brightly and sweat beading his brow.

“Um…” Syaoran looked down hopelessly at the shard in his hands. “Kurogane-san sent me with this,” he said, and leant forward to pass the pottery to Fai.

“For me?” he laughed, sounding inordinately pleased, then studied it curiously. “But I can’t read it.”

Syaoran sighed heavily, even though he had known it would come to this and Kurogane had promised there would be nothing like that in his letter, Syaoran still felt somewhat like a tiny tiny insect caught between two giant, cruel insect-eating, green, scaly lizards.

Fai handed the letter back. Syaoran took it and followed Kurogane’s beautifully calliagraphed handwriting across the pot’s rounded surface. It could, Syaoran reflected, have been worse.

“To…the Idiot Wizard,” Syaoran began, and Fai giggled. “As you seem to take some perverse and disturbing pleasure in writing me notes containing far too much information, I thought you might enjoy a poem I wrote just for you…”

“For me!” Fai exploded, and clapped his hands together. “Kuro-pipi is such a romantic!”

Syaoran really didn’t think so.

“Um,” he said.

“Yes, yes, Syaoran-kun!” Fai smiled. “Read me the poem!”

“Okay.” Then Syaoran continued;

“Write me any more notes
And I’ll kill you

Fai sat for a moment, apparently contemplating Kurogane’s verse.

“It didn’t rhyme,” he said finally. Then reached up and grabbed the pot shard from Syaoran’s hands. “I’ll have to show him how you write a real poem.” And Fai started rooting about behind him for his ink and pen.

“You wouldn’t mind taking this over to him and translating it, would you, Syaoran-kun?” Fai asked, mixing up the ink with a stick. “No, I thought not. Thank you,” he added before Syaoran had a chance to reply. “And could you take those cakes next door too? That would be really helpful.”

And it was with a heavy heart, a large bag of cakes and that accursed pottery shard that Syaoran left the house for the second time that morning.

18. (still. Poems II.)

“Oh Kuro-chi, how fair you are,
Oh Kuro-pon, so strong,
Oh Kuro-rin, though quick and brave,
Still gets his poems wrong.”

Syaoran bowed low, the offending note offered from outstretched arms.

“I’m very sorry, Kurogane-san,” he apologised. “Fai-san said your poem didn’t rhyme.”

“It wasn’t supposed to,” Kurogane grumbled, took the pottery and in an empty corner began to write. It was then that Syaoran realised this was going to be a long day.

19. (Poems III.)

There were no more letters or poems on the nineteenth day. There weren’t even words. Kurogane, it seemed, had chosen to verbalise his final sonnet on the eighteenth night, and Fai hadn’t spoken to him since.

At first, Kurogane had thought this a great thing, until he remembered food and warm bodies and temple walls.

sexy collarbones: Fay - out of the closetrain_of_mind on July 4th, 2006 09:17 am (UTC)
Poor poor Syaoran. He's always the one to be traumatized. The kid is gonna need serious therapy after the journey is over. XD

Looking forward to the next part!
tingting: KuroFai by evercooltakadainmate on July 4th, 2006 09:25 am (UTC)
Yes, he will indeed. But he's just so easy to traumatise.

Oh, I love your icon so very much!
thejenxthejenx on July 4th, 2006 09:50 am (UTC)
XD Oh man. Syaoran as the errand boy just cracked me up so bad. This whole fic is bloody awesome. But it;s unclear in the last bit what happened. Ah well, all the more reason to wait for the next bit!
tingting: by seme_sakurazukatakadainmate on July 4th, 2006 09:55 am (UTC)
Yeah. This fic works better in it's whole-ness. I realise that now. Oops.
ontogenesis: solemn oathontogenesis on July 4th, 2006 12:22 pm (UTC)
That background is fascinating. I like how you utilize the environment of Egypt to spur the conflict between Kuro & Fai, and you really blend in the cultural tibdits with the story seamlessly. It just flows, unlike the beer. ^^

Lovely characterizations, and I like all of Fai's efforts to manuever the culture. Kurogane's little surprises are a nice touch as well (I can see him knowing how to work with his hands and make sandals - many of the samurai could - and having beautiful handwriting. He was the son of a lord, after all.)

The poetry, however, is pure love. <3 Syaoran being tortured by the two is simply wonderful.
tingtingtakadainmate on July 4th, 2006 12:42 pm (UTC)
I thought you might like that. ♥ Egypt was my original passion, and so permeates my brain so completely it was just so easy to fit the group into that culture and way of life, and is something I've always wanted to do with them.

A funny thing about Kurogane's poem; I actually spent several hours one boring afternoon trying to write a haiku for him, but I just couldn't get the number of kanji right with the meaning I wanted. I gave up in the end, but the poem is what was left. I have to laugh that it took me several hours to write those three lines! XD
Sosomisosomi on July 4th, 2006 12:24 pm (UTC)
I'm addicted to this story XD and omg. traumatized Syaoran is just amusing x3
tingting: KuroFai by evercooltakadainmate on July 4th, 2006 12:43 pm (UTC)
I certainly enjoyed traumatising him! I'm glad you enjoyed it.
calasstriastarcalasstriastar on July 4th, 2006 02:01 pm (UTC)
Ah yes! I liked this fic! Poor Syaoran having to get caught in the middle of a lover's quarrel. lol Please continue^w^
tingting: by seme_sakurazukatakadainmate on July 4th, 2006 10:07 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Most of the rest is already written so no need to fear! It just needs some editing and betaing. Syaoran was just asking for it. XD
xueyxuey on July 4th, 2006 02:05 pm (UTC)

I agree, traumatized!Syaoran is simply deliciously amusing. ;o

Fai is a poet! =3 *adds to favorites*

tingtingtakadainmate on July 4th, 2006 10:07 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed it! And yes, I enjoyed traumatising Syaoran so much I couldn't stop. Hehehe.
ECK: RabuRabu da! XDevercool on July 4th, 2006 04:42 pm (UTC)
OH MY GOD XDDDD I love this story to DEATH. It's soooo funny and entertaining and yet so GOOD XDDDD *added it to memories only half way through because I was already addicted to it*

Fai was scowling now, and after the day’s events and the way Fai was looking at him, Kurogane wondered just when exactly the two of them had got married.

LOL. That made me laugh so hard. Then the poems part near the end had me cracking up like something else too XDD

Syaoran still felt somewhat like a tiny tiny insect caught between two giant, cruel insect-eating, green, scaly lizards.

Fai handed the letter back. Syaoran took it and followed Kurogane’s beautifully calliagraphed handwriting across the pot’s rounded surface. It could, Syaoran reflected, have been worse.

POOR SYAORAN XD But God I enjoyed his torture. Ahahahahahah XDDDD

Thank you SO much for sharing XD This completely made my day. Just... brilliance. I love your writing so much XD I think I'll reread it continuously until the next part comes out. LOL.
tingting: Kan-chantakadainmate on July 4th, 2006 10:09 pm (UTC)
This fic has been a bit of a labour of love so I'm glad you liked it so much! XD No fear! The next part will be out soon (hopefully).
Michiru: trc * drowning (fai)michirukaiou on July 4th, 2006 04:52 pm (UTC)
This story is just lovely! *adds to memories* I look forward to reading the next part.
tingting: KuroFai by evercooltakadainmate on July 4th, 2006 10:10 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I will finish is as soon as I can.
Tephra: fangirl squeetephralynn on July 4th, 2006 06:45 pm (UTC)
I adore your attention to detail. It's rare to find fic where the author remembers and uses the fact that only Sakura and Syaoran share a common language, and that Syaoran can read several (making it plausible that he can at least work out the basics of Fye and Kurogane's languages.)

tingtingtakadainmate on July 4th, 2006 10:10 pm (UTC)
It's all in the details! Glad you enjoyed it.
jaded old fox: claptoshirodragon on July 4th, 2006 07:16 pm (UTC)
That was great! By the end I was giggling like a schoolgirl! I love the use of poor Syaoran as the middle person in the letter exchange.

tingting: Kan-chantakadainmate on July 4th, 2006 10:11 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Glad you enjoyed my Syaoran torture.
(Anonymous) on July 4th, 2006 07:25 pm (UTC)

Poor Syaoran.
hehe. Kurogane did laundry
tingtingtakadainmate on July 4th, 2006 10:11 pm (UTC)
Hehe. Glad someone noticed that. XD
Clare: faust shaman kingcuriousciel on July 4th, 2006 08:15 pm (UTC)
Eheheheh xDDDD I enjoyed this a lot, and I look forward to the next part ^__^ I like the ambiguity best of all. I wonder what happened in that cellar...
tingtingtakadainmate on July 4th, 2006 10:12 pm (UTC)
Well i'm a big fan of ambiguity and it works very well in this fic, I think, with this style. Though I don't think I ever do let you find out what went on that night... hmm... Glad you liked it anyway.
(Deleted comment)
tingting: KuroFai by evercooltakadainmate on July 4th, 2006 10:13 pm (UTC)
Hehe. Thanks. I particularly enjoyed writing those parts. Next part will be out soon!
Noirla_vie_noire on July 4th, 2006 11:05 pm (UTC)
Wow, such a great characterization! Wonderful story, the best I've read in the fandom. Please continue soon. ^^
tingtingtakadainmate on July 4th, 2006 11:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! The end will be up soon!
SERIOUS FEMININE DERANGEMENT: Black Cat - DEDwoodburner on July 5th, 2006 12:32 am (UTC)

Dave is over here wondering if I've lost my mind, I keep cackling like a hyena.
tingtingtakadainmate on July 5th, 2006 12:44 am (UTC)
XO Do you need some CPR, my dear? I'm happy you thought it was funny! Sometimes I wonder about my sense of humour...
(no subject) - woodburner on July 5th, 2006 01:29 am (UTC) (Expand)