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16 July 2006 @ 09:00 pm
Finally finally the last half...  
Title: A Thousand Offerings (Part II)
Author: takadainmate
Rating: PG-13-ish
Summary: Life and beer in an ancient world.

Author’s notes: Sorry this took so long. A whole chunk was eaten by my computer and required re-writing, and my beta and I are currently the busiest bitches alive. Unsurprisingly, this turned a bit flufftastic towards the end.

Also my beta, the beautiful cienna, would like everyone to be warned that there is OMFG Syaoran/Sakura HET LOVE at the end. I totally deny this, and if there is I didn’t mean it. Moreover, the one resounding impression she seemed to have after reading this fic was, and I quote, “God, Fai is so gay.” Um. Guess that means he’s in-character then…

Continues on from Part I.

Total final word count: 13,104 *is so proud*

More notes to the historical background of the fic have been added here.

.A Thousand Offerings (Part II).

20. (Bread.)

The twentieth day marked two weeks since they had arrived in that country, spat out into the burning desert just beyond the village walls. Fai celebrated by making bread.

“It’s got sand in it,” Kurogane complained.

“Everything’s got sand in it here, Kuro-pon,” Fai remarked. “It’s not my fault.” And he lightly brushed the mat they were all sitting on, disturbing the thin layer of sand there. “It’s even in the beer…”

“I…I think it tastes good though,” Sakura offered, and took a large bite in demonstration. Syaoran and Mokona nodded in agreement and Fai smiled.

“You see, Kuro-min. Our children think it tastes good.”

Kurogane ground his teeth. “They’re being polite.”

There was silence then, until Kurogane added, “And they’re not our children.” He paused. “Especially the white meat bun.” Mokona pouted and sat sulking and chewing on the bread, occasionally throwing offended looks at Kurogane.

Fai laughed and spooned more vegetables onto Kurogane’s plate. “The whole town thinks they are.”

Kurogane snorted.

“Don’t these people have any concept of biology?”

“Ah…no, not really,” Syaoran cut in excitedly. “There seems to be the belief here that men are solely responsible for the production…of…children…” Syaoran trailed off, noticing Kurogane’s scowl, Fai and Mokona’s amused grins and Sakura’s surprise. “Um…”

“Well I certainly didn’t know that, Syaoran-kun,” Fai laughed. “What have you been talking to people about!”

Syaoran blushed visibly and busied himself picking the bones out of his grilled fish.

“It seems strange though,” Fai mused, “Seeing as they don’t think Kuro-mu and I are sleeping together…”

Kurogane’s plate dropped to the floor matting with a deceptively gentle thud.

“That is not something we need to discuss here, you idiot,” he growled, leaning forward menacingly.

“But I thought Fai-san and Kurogane-san were sleeping together,” Sakura said then, looking somewhat perplexed. “Down in the cellar…”

It was, Kurogane reflected dolefully, one of their more normal dinner conversations.

22. (Rain.)

There was an odd smell in the air on the morning of the twenty-second day, and soon after the sun had fully risen rain began to fall.

There was widespread shouting and wailing and when Kurogane stuck his head out of the front door to see what all the commotion was about their elderly neighbour screamed bloody murder and demanded he stay inside, lest he be drowned.

“I think they’re scared of the rain, Kuro-chi,” Fai said, looking out onto the deserted street from behind Kurogane.

“What for?” Kurogane said, closing the door and turning to Fai. “How is rain supposed to drown me anyway?”

“Well it seems like they hardly ever get rain in this world, so they think it’s frightening,” Fai explained. “I suppose that means you get the day off, Kuro-tan. You can cower in fear of the rain with me!”

“I do not cower in fear of anything,” Kurogane insisted, and sat back down on the floor to finish his breakfast.

“Oh, I’m sure there’s…” Fai began, then paused, a troubled look passed over his face, cursed once then turned and ran towards the back of the house.

“What?” Kurogane called after him, making to stand.

“Nothing, Kuro-rin,” came Fai’s hurried reply. “I’ve got it.” Kurogane frowned but sat back down.

A few minutes later Fai returned, dripping wet but looking relieved.

“The hell?” Kurogane said. Fai pulled open a basket at the side of the room and pulled out a towel.

“That was refreshing,” he laughed.

“You’re dripping all over the floor,” Kurogane said, standing up and making his way over to the wizard. “What happened?”

“I had to put some mats up over the kitchen,” Fai replied, rubbing at his hair with the towel. “I didn’t want my oven to get washed away.

“Hn,” Kurogane said, and took the towel from Fai’s hands. “Get out of those clothes.”

Fai looked at Kurogane for a moment in surprise before a wide, lecherous grin spread across his face. “Why, Kuro-sama…” Fai began.

“Not like that,” Kurogane cut in, and roughly scrubbed at Fai’s hair.

“Ow…” Fai tried to push Kurogane away. “You could at least be a bit more gentle…” Kurogane didn’t reply, just kept on rubbing at damp hair and Fai gave up trying to stop him.

“So what shall we do today, Kuro-tan? If we’re going to be here alone together.” Fai’s voice was oddly neutral.

“We’re not alone,” Kurogane replied.

“Sakura-chan and Syaoran-kun are still asleep though.” Fai turned to face Kurogane and leaned in closer.

“They might not be for long.” Kurogane stopped attacking Fai’s hair and looked down at him, a light smile on his lips and unreadable eyes searching his face. Fai shrugged.

“We can’t sneak out and kiss behind the temple today,” he laughed softly, reaching up to place one hand on Kurogane’s jaw. “You know,” he added, “I always wondered why we did that. It’s very teenaged of us.”

“You started it,” Kurogane retorted.

“No, I think you did, Kuro-mi,” Fai argued, and gently traced Kurogane’s lips with his fingers. “Not that I’m complaining, but we do have a perfectly serviceable dark cellar…”

“It smells down there.” Kurogane let the towel fall to the ground, and his hands fell to Fai’s waist.

“But you still sleep down there with me,” he smiled, hands trailing down Kurogane’s neck now. Kurogane frowned, wondering if perhaps he was getting soft, but then Fai was kissing him and he didn’t much care if he was.

And then, right then, just as Kurogane was discovering just how much he liked kissing the idiot mage, and just how much his hands were drawn to pale flesh hidden under linen shirts, there was a sort of strangled cry from the corner of the room.

Kurogane drew back abruptly, and Fai turned his head, and they both saw a flustered, red-faced Syaoran frozen by the doorframe.

“I’m…I’m…I…was…I’m…” he stammered, his eyes roaming everywhere but at the two adults who still stood somewhat in each other’s arms.

“Ah, Syaoran-kun,” Fai said cheerily. “Good morning! Just let me finish this with Kuro-pin and I’ll get your breakfast.”

Kurogane didn’t know how the mage could act like that, as though everything was perfectly normal, and thought he probably looked about as mortified and embarrassed as Syaoran did.

“No…No…it’s okay,” Syaoran said, perhaps an octave too high. “I’ll get it myself…” And with that he disappeared from the doorway with what Kurogane thought was commendable speed and agility.

“I think we may have scared him,” Fai mused, turning back to Kurogane. Kurogane thought traumatised might describe it better.

They didn’t see Mokona, Syaoran nor Sakura until dinner time that day.

23. (Oven.)

It was late morning on the twenty-third day, and Kurogane should have been at work. Instead, he was in the kitchen kneading dough.

“You’re not doing it right, Kuro-chi,” Fai admonished, and cuddled up against Kurogane’s back, taking the ninja’s hands in his own. “You do it like this,” he said, pushing both their hands slowly into the dough. “You don’t need to be so violent. It’s already dead, you know.” He laughed lightly, and Kurogane felt warm breath against his skin.

“There is nothing wrong with my technique,” Kurogane griped. “You just wanted an excuse to letch.”

“Hmm,” Fai said, and Kurogane could feel the smile against his arm. “But you like it when I letch.”

“No, I don’t,” Kurogane retorted and shoved Fai away with his elbows. “Now go and do something useful. Don’t you think you scared that brat enough yesterday?”

“Oh, I see,” Fai smiled. “You’re shy.” He stretched up and placed a light kiss on Kurogane’s cheek, whispering in his ear, “They won’t be back all day today, Kuro-sama…”

Kurogane growled and pushed Fai away from him with doughy hands. “You said something like that yesterday. Now get off me.”

Pouting and mumbling something about cruel-hearted ninjas, Fai went back over to the oven and began petting it lovingly.

“Even if Kuro-mu doesn’t love me, I know you still do. And even though we’re probably going to have to part ways soon, please make Kuro-tan’s dough rise properly because he won’t listen to me at all, and…”

“How is that doing something useful, idiot!” Kurogane bellowed, turning furiously towards Fai.

“You see how he treats me, Oven? Sometimes I wonder if he hates me.” Fai sighed dramatically and gently brushed sand off the oven’s surface. “He just doesn’t understand how I feel about you,” Fai went on, eyes flickering momentarily over to Kurogane. “I think he’s jealous.”

“I am not jealous,” Kurogane huffed. “And how many times have you been burnt by that thing anyway?”

“No, no, Kuro-pon,” Fai said, “that was just me being clumsy. Oven didn’t mean it.”

“You might be crazy, but you’re not clumsy,” Kurogane argued, turning back to the dough and wondering just why exactly he had felt the need to get into this argument.

“Are you saying Oven burnt me on purpose?” Fai asked, mock-outrage in his voice and eyes wide.

“No,” Kurogane growled, glad for the dough in his hands. He sighed heavily in defeat. “Fine. Show me how you think I should do this, if it’ll stop you being a crazy idiot.”

Fai smiled brightly, patted the oven one last time and went back to stand beside Kurogane. “Oh, I don’t think anything could do that,” he laughed, then took Kurogane’s hands in his own again.

Kurogane despaired.

24. (Temple)

It was late on the twenty-fourth day when Syaoran, Fai, Kurogane, and Mokona, hidden deep in Kurogane’s clothes, left the house and made their way out of the east gate.

“I heard the temple is dedicated to a goddess represented by a feather,” Syaoran explained. Fai hummed thoughtfully.

“So you think the feather is there?” he asked.

“I don’t know. It might be a coincidence…”

Fai chuckled, “You know what the Dimension Witch would say about that, Syaoran-kun.” The boy smiled and nodded, then added;

“We went around all the tombs and couldn’t find any clues, so it seems most likely.”

“So why are we here?” Kurogane grumbled, and squirmed as Mokona moved about under his shirt. “And why,” he hissed, “Is the meat bun in my clothes?”

“Mokona likes you, Kuro-rin,” Fai giggled. “And we’re here because it might be dangerous.”

“And you know that do you?” Kurogane asked suspiciously, watching the mage from the corner of his eyes. Fai shrugged.

“It might be dangerous,” he repeated.

So they approached the temple slowly, Syaoran holding the oil lamp before him and leading the way. It was dark and deserted, and to Kurogane was the place he and Fai kept coming to push each other against powdery brick walls and kiss and feel and was not the place to go with kids looking for feathers.

And inside, where they had never been before, Syaoran’s lamp threw long orange shadows over walls adorned with static, mystical figures and pitch black, curved writing.

“Mokona,” Syaoran whispered. “Can you feel anything?”

Mokona appeared at the collar of Kurogane’s shirt. “There’s a lot of magic here…”

“Like before…” Fai murmured. Mokona nodded and Kurogane and Syaoran looked at him.

“What do you mean, Fai-san?” Syaoran asked, and Fai smiled weakly.

“I felt it at the tombs, and Mokona did too.”

“It’s like lots of different magic all at once,” Mokona explained. “But I can’t tell if it’s the feather too.”

They looked around, and Syaoran tried to read the walls for any clues they might give, but as the moon rose to its peak, and Syaoran’s lamp flickered as it burned the last of its oil, they decided it was hopeless to search this way and made their way home to devise another plan.

25. (Cutting Hair.)

Kurogane marked the twenty-fifth day with the twenty-fifth scratch in the wall beside the bench that had once been his bed, and wondered how the idiot mage had ever convinced him to sleep on a dirty old mat in a dark, dingy cellar instead.

Fai appeared at the doorway yawning widely and scratching his head.

“Good morning, Kuro-pon,” he said sleepily, and sat down next to Kurogane, leaning heavily against his arm. Kurogane mumbled a greeting.

“Why didn’t you tell me about the magic at the tombs?” he asked then, frowning, and tapped Fai lightly on the back.

“Kuro-chi,” Fai whined meekly, “Don’t start that again. I only just got up.” Then he scratched his head again.

“And you’d better not have lice,” Kurogane said, pushing Fai off him and taking his head in his hands. He pulled the mage down and started rifling through light-coloured hair.

“I do not have lice,” Fai insisted, but held onto Kurogane’s knee and didn’t seem to mind him looking through his hair anyway.

“You’ve got too much. You should cut it off,” Kurogane said, and at that Fai pulled back and shot Kurogane a horrified look.

No!” he cried.

“I’d cut it for you,” Kurogane smirked. Fai responded by throwing a dusty old cushion at him.

“And maybe next time,” Fai said slowly, standing up, “somebody wonders why we’re not sleeping together, I’ll tell them it’s because you’re really bad in…”

And Kurogane lunged for the mage, missed by an inch and wished he had his sword at hand.

“You dare and I’ll kill you,” he warned, standing up himself, fingers twitching in irritation. Fai was backing away into the corridor, laughing airily.

“Hmmm.” He waved an arm at Kurogane. “You always say that, Kuro-sama, but you’ve never even caught me.” And childish or not, noisy so early in the morning or not and dangerous to children sleeping on the floor in the next room as Kurogane stormed after Fai’s flighty steps or not, Kurogane just couldn’t let Fai get away with that.

26. (Cutting Hair II.)

The twenty-sixth day was burning hot and blindingly sunny and the house became so stuffy and uncomfortable that Sakura and Syaoran and Mokona went to doze on the roof, and Fai and Kurogane sat out on the street in the shade of their house.

And death by Fai and a pair of screeching scissors was not how Kurogane had envisioned his ultimate demise.

“I know what I’m doing, Kuro-mu,” Fai reassured him, and ran thin fingers through black hair.

“What, you were a barber as well as a mage in your world?” Kurogane mumbled. Fai giggled but made no reply, and Kurogane heard the scissors squeak ominously somewhere above his head.

“I thought I was supposed to be the one cutting all your hair off.” Kurogane fidgeted, his stool rocking on the uneven earth ground.

“I wouldn’t let you near my hair, Kuro-tan,” Fai laughed, and Kurogane held still as he heard a snip and saw hair fall to the ground. “You’d make it look awful.”

Kurogane bristled.

“I would not!” he retorted, heard more snipping and saw more hair fall and wondered why he had ever agreed to this. “I trust you to do mine,” he added more quietly. Fai paused for a moment, then said;

“But you don’t, Kuro-pon. You’re scared.”

“I told you; I am not scared of anything!” Kurogane growled, and held himself still, really trying to trust Fai. “I just don’t trust you to not do weird things.”

Swift trimming and cutting and hair falling around him, and Fai seemed to be thinking.

“Alright then,” he said finally, and stood back a little from Kurogane, leaning this way and that.

“What?” Kurogane watched Fai out of the corner of his eyes, apparently inspecting his handiwork.

“You can trim my hair,” Fai replied. He stepped forward again and lightly brushed stray hair from Kurogane’s shoulders.

“Seriously?” Kurogane asked, turning to look at Fai and running a hand through his own (shorter) hair to ensure there were no bald spots at least.

“Seriously.” Fai smiled at him. “But if you cut too much off or make it look stupid I’ll put poison in your beer,” he added cheerfully and handed Kurogane the squeaky scissors. Kurogane stood up so that Fai could take his place on the wobbly stool.

“Just a bit shorter, please, Kuro-barber. It’s very hot today, after all,” Fai chuckled and Kurogane stood behind him, scissors in one hand and the other in fine light hair and he suddenly wished he hadn’t offered to do this.

“You trust me?” he asked Fai, and he really had never expected Fai to agree.

“I suppose I do,” Fai replied, still amused. And Kurogane frowned, and cut Fai’s hair more carefully than he’d ever done anything in his life.

28. (Well Water.)

It was the twenty-eighth day, and the beer store was running low.

“Do you think the children have been raiding mummy and daddy’s stash?” Fai looked around the cellar perplexed, oil lamp held in his outstretched hand, then turned to Kurogane. “Or maybe Kuro-daddy secretly likes the beer…”

Kurogane snorted a laugh. “Or maybe idiot wizards have been too lazy to make more,” he suggested. Fai hummed disapprovingly.

“I haven’t had time.” He signed and turned around in the small space, crouching to climb the stairs out of the cellar.

“You going to buy some more?” Kurogane asked, following him out.

“No,” Fai replied, lightly shaking the large water pots lined up against the kitchen’s back wall. “I’m going to make some. I don’t mind drinking my own as much as the nasty stuff other people make.”

“Yours tastes horrible too,” Kurogane said, folding his arms, and watched Fai heft an empty-sounding pot onto his shoulder.

Fai laughed. “Well yes, but if you think you can do better you are welcome to try. And help me get water would you?” He pointed to another jug.

“Why do I have to help?” Kurogane complained, but picked up the pot anyway.

“Because Sakura and Syaoran are too young to lift them, and Mokona is too small, and I can only carry one at a time and I need more than that to make more beer, and you’re a big strong Ninja who wants to help his family,” Fai trilled, smiling, and led the way through the house and out onto the street.

Only a few steps beyond their door Kurogane had to navigate his way around a group of women sat chatting and spinning right across the way, enjoying the light afternoon breeze and the shade of the houses. Fai greeted them amicably, and they laughed and waved and offered to teach him weaving or embroidery or anything he wanted and how was the brave Kurogane today? And wasn’t it kind of him to help around the home? Fai laughed with them, then waved goodbye and Kurogane was glad when they turned down an alley to the right, heading towards the north gate.

“Friends of yours?” Kurogane asked.

“They taught me to make beer,” Fai replied, and Kurogane thought that made them sound more like cruel-hearted evil harpies than friends, and said so. Fai just laughed and turned down another alley, Kurogane following impatiently behind.

“Where are the kids anyway?” he said. He could see the gate a little way ahead, and two dozing men sitting beside it. If he were their commander, Kurogane thought, he’d have them exiled for such negligence. The thought cheered him.

Then Fai said, “They went back to the temple. Syaoran is trying to get the head priest to teach him about the mythology of this world.”

“He needs to hurry up and find that damn feather,” Kurogane huffed. “This world is annoying.”

“You think all the worlds we visit are annoying, Kuro-pi,” Fai chuckled. Kurogane shrugged as best he could with a large earthenware jug balanced on his shoulder.

“That’s because they are.”

“All except for yours?” Fai asked, voice amused and eyes sly. Kurogane didn’t answer and they walked past the sleeping guards in silence.

Outside the town gates the wind blew stronger, throwing sand against the walls and in their eyes and mouths.

“Are you really,” Kurogane spat, tossing the jug to the ground as they drew level with the well, “saying you like this place?”

“No,” Fai laughed. “I was saying you didn’t.” He lay his jug down and unhooked the well bucket so that it fell into the hole with a splash. “Although,” Fai went on as he and Kurogane used their weight to draw the bucket back up, “It is peaceful here. Maybe a bit too hot. But peaceful.” And Fai smiled almost dreamily. Kurogane thought he might like that smile.

30. (Unmoored from the Shore.)

Dawn on the thirtieth day was alive with wailing and shouting, and Kurogane, dragged by the din from sleep, marvelled at the volume of their voices and wondered if it was raining again.

A pale hand landed haphazardly on his face and a sleepy voice drifted up from somewhere at his side.

“Kuro-mu,” Fai murmured. “Tell them to be quiet.” And he snuggled closer, nose pushed against Kurogane’s arm and hand falling to rest on his chest.

The wailing got louder, and then there was banging on the front door.

“You tell them,” he grumbled, and turned his back to Fai, pulling the thin blanket over himself and, judging by Fai’s indignant cry, off of the mage.

“Hey!” he protested, draping himself over Kurogane’s side. “Kuro-chi’s so mean this morning…”

There was banging on the door again, and now Kurogane could hear there was sobbing and howling and someone was calling their names. Fai sighed.

“Do you think they’ll go away if we just ignore it?” he asked, only half jokingly, and lightly brushed sand away from Kurogane’s neck.

“Doesn’t sound like it,” Kurogane replied. He laid a hand on Fai’s head for a moment then sat up. “Come on,” he said, and watched Fai with amusement as he felt around in the dark for his clothes.

“To your right,” Kurogane instructed, and laughed when the mage finally found his shirt and tried to put it on as trousers.

“Kuro-chi really is mean this morning,” Fai mumbled, pulling his leg out of the sleeve. “Just because he can see in the dark…”

They heard feet running across the mat flooring above them, and the volume of the wailing increased exponentially as the door was opened and Syaoran cried;

“What’s wrong? What’s going on?”

“Oh child! Oh child!” the wailing voice cried. “Our beloved neighbour! Oh our beloved neighbour is unmoored!”

Pulling down his shirt, Kurogane hurried up the cellar steps and to the front door to find a bemused-looking Syaoran and an expectantly miserable-looking woman with puffy red eyes and clenched hands. Fai rushed to join them at the door, and upon seeing him the woman rushed into the house and grabbed Fai by the shoulders.

“Oh Fai! Oh Fai!” she bawled. “Our beloved neighbour, the Ancient Weaver, she is unmoored!” And she emphasised the word as though Fai knew what it meant.

“Well…that’s…awful…” Fai tried, and twisted his face to something approximating unhappiness. The howling women nodded her head fiercely and then wept on Fai’s chest.

“Woman,” Kurogane bellowed, “That idiot doesn’t understand what you’re on about any more than I do. Now tell us what happened? Some old granny got stuck in a boat?”

The woman turned to Kurogane with a look of pure horror in her eyes.

“How could you say such a thing!” she said, her voice quivering, and she walked over to where Kurogane stood. “This is not the time for jokes, you cruel cruel man!” she shrieked, and starting slapping Kurogane on his face and chest so fast Kurogane had to bring his arms up in defence.

“It’s not a… What the hell…” Kurogane sputtered, and seriously would have liked to hit the woman back.

“Ah, my friend, my friend,” came Fai’s voice then. “Stop, stop…” The woman halted her attacks, and turned to Fai, a quizzical expression on her face. “Kuro-pon is cruel, it’s true,” Fai smiled, “But he really doesn’t know what you mean.”

She looked between Fai and Kurogane and back again and then down at her feet.

“Oh…” she sobbed, and bowed at little. “I’m sorry…” she said. “I mean she’s dead. Our dear neighbour is dead. But she was old, and liked shouting, but still we will miss her.”

They all stood in silence with the howls of the other neighbourhood women bleeding through the open door, and Kurogane remembered how the Ancient Weaver had nearly deafened him that day it rained, chastising him for trying to step outside, worried that he would drown himself.

33. (Market.)

On the thirty-third day Fai and Kurogane got up long before dawn and walked the distance to the market, carrying a box of Fai’s make-up and a bag of Kurogane’s sandals. They came away that evening with a donkey, which Kurogane could have sworn Fai paid for in smiles, a map for Syaoran, and a bag of grain and vegetables.

“Your sandals were a great hit, Kuro-rin!” Fai applauded, swinging the pot of beer he held dangerously in his hands. “You’re amazing!”

Kurogane grunted in reply.

“And I have enough grain now to make more cakes,” he went on, oblivious to Kurogane’s lack of interest. “Oh! And we need to name our donkey.” He patted the animal on the head, grinning widely. “We should call him Kurogane.”

Then Kurogane’s head snapped up, and he turned to Fai in surprise.

“Did you just call me by my real name?” he asked, eyes wide. Fai laughed and shook his head.

“I said we should call the donkey Kurogane, Kuro-tan” he repeated, and laughed harder as he watched Kurogane’s expression turn from surprised to irritated in a split second.

“We are not calling it that,” he said gruffly, and yanked at the animal’s rope.

“Why not?” Fai teased, “Are you afraid people will mistake the two of you?”

No!” Kurogane roared, and turned angrily away from the mage, glaring daggers at the sand under his feet and the low limestone hills around them. “And if you think so, you can go and kiss that Kurogane instead,” he mumbled moodily, which only made Fai laugh even more.

“Oh but Kuro-miiiii,” Fai sang. “You’re the only one for…” Then his voice cut out abruptly, and Fai gasped in what sounded like pain. Kurogane looked around to see him bending down and grasping his ankle.

“What is it?” He drew the donkey to a halt and took a step towards Fai.

“It feels like I was bitten by something…” Fai replied, and looked up at Kurogane.

“Let me see.” Kurogane let go of the animal’s rope and crouched down beside Fai, swatting his hands away. There was a little blood, which Kurogane wiped away with the hem of Fai’s shirt, revealing two small puncture wounds on his ankle.

“I hope it wasn’t something with deadly poison,” Fai laughed humourlessly, leaning heavily against Kurogane’s back.

“How do you feel?” Kurogane asked, quickly calculating how far they had to go and how long he’d been told the most deadly creatures’ poisons killed.

“Um…” Fai stood thinking, and Kurogane thought his face looked a little red, but then that might have been the sun. “My ankle hurts, and feels kind of hot, but that’s about all,” he said finally, and looked down at Kurogane. “So, am I going to die?”

Kurogane frowned and took Fai’s pot of beer from his hand. “It’s not one of the most poisonous or you’d be dead by now,” he said, and pulled the stopper from the pot.

“What are you doing, Kuro-chi?” Fai asked, then found out when Kurogane poured beer over the bite.

“That hurts, Kuro-rin!” Fai hissed, and tried to pull his foot away, but Kurogane held it still and poured more.

“Good,” he said flatly, and Fai squirmed in his grip in discomfort. “Tell me if you feel worse.” Kurogane inspected the ankle, the bite already inflamed and sore-looking. “Can you walk?” he asked, finally releasing Fai.

Fai tested his weight on his foot and grimaced, but then nodded. “More or less.”

“Then we should get back as fast as we can,” Kurogane said, took up the donkey’s rope again and pulled Fai’s arm over his shoulders so that he could lean on him.

It was slow going and, Kurogane could tell, increasingly painful for Fai. He watched him, breathing heavily and tripping over his own feet, and was surprised that the idiot didn’t whine or complain. Just set his eyes to the sand and let Kurogane guide him. It was…disconcerting.

Then, just as the sun was beginning to set, Fai stopped walking and gripped Kurogane’s shirt tightly.

“What is it?” Kurogane turned Fai towards him to look at his face, ashen and beaded with sweat.

“I’m…” Fai breathed, and looked like he was going to collapse right there and then, but he held on to Kurogane and took deep breaths and Kurogane thought this was really too much.

“You have the worst luck of anyone I have ever known,” he grumbled, and picked the mage up carelessly, throwing him heavily over his shoulder. “Next time, you can carry me.” Fai breathed out a laugh, and patted Kurogane’s back lightly.

“Of course, Kuro-pon,” he agreed. “Of course.”

34. (Board games.)

It was the thirty-fourth day, and for the first time since he’d woken up in a cellar with a naked mage beside him, Kurogane was beginning to doubt the wisdom of being with Fai. Like this. Like two people. Together. Or something.

He wondered at how he’d never considered this before.


A warbled call from the front room. Then again;


Kurogane sighed, waited, counting to ten, then twenty, then...

“Kuro-sama! How could you leave me alone at a time like this!” A sad, sonorous whine, piercing Kurogane’s eardrums and patience. “Don’t you love me?”

And he didn’t care what state Fai was in, or if he was dying or in pain, and he didn’t care that he’d agreed to look after him, he took it all back. He took it all back right now.

“No I don’t,” Kurogane barked, stomping his way into the room, glaring viciously at Fai. “And will you shut up! I am not your damned slave!” He threw the beer bottle down in front of Fai and sat down heavily on the other side of the room. “You happy now?”

Fai grinned.

“Yes, Kuro-pin! Thank you.” He uncorked the beer and took a sip, grimacing slightly. “I thought I might get used to the taste…” he sighed, then shrugged, turning his eyes back to Kurogane. “Can you give me that massage you promised me now?” he asked, laughing and wiggling the toes of his bandaged foot.

“I never promised you anything like that!” Kurogane growled, folding his arms. Fai pouted.

“Then how about singing to me?”

Kurogane balked at the idea, shouting, “No!”

“Then read to me?”


“But I’m bored, Kuro-mu! You won’t let me go anywhere!” Fai argued, flopping down to lie on his back.

“You can’t walk on that anyway!” Kurogane argued back, pointing to Fai’s inflamed foot resting on colourful beaded cushions. Fai turned his body towards Kurogane and smiled.

“You could carry me?” Fai offered hopefully. Kurogane snorted.

“It’s your turn to do the carrying, remember?”

Fai huffed then, lay back down and frowned.

“Being an idiot looks tiring,” Kurogane smirked, and really, Fai did look exhausted. Kurogane would have preferred it if the damn mage had just consented to stay down in the cellar and sleep, and not only because that would have made his day infinitely less irritating. But this was Fai. And Fai never did what Kurogane wanted.

Fai ignored the comment, saying instead, “Play a game with me?”

NO!” Kurogane shot back, more out of principle than anything now.

Fai threw up his arms in frustration and sat up again, turning to face Kurogane. “Then let’s have sex.”

And Kurogane was going to say no, but then he realised what Fai had asked and stopped dead.

“What?” he asked cautiously. Fai smiled playfully.

“Let’s have sex,” he said again.

And Kurogane couldn’t fathom why, when he had meant to fume and refuse because Fai was being manipulative and Kurogane did not exist for the exclusive purpose of relieving the boredom of certain idiot mages, what he actually said was, “What, here?”

“Why not?” Fai’s smile widened, and there was that mischief in his eyes. “There are more cushions.” He reached out an arm towards Kurogane.

“You’re a bastard, you know that?” Kurogane snarled, but stood up, walked over to Fai and took the proffered arm. Fai smiled brightly.

“I’m injured, Kuro-chan,” he laughed, “You’re not allowed to be say things like that!”

Kurogane frowned and sat down on his knees beside Fai. “I’ll say what I like,” he said, then kissed him- all thin limbs and hot skin in his arms, and really hoped that this time, no kids would disturb them.

38. (Firewood.)

On the thirty-eighth day, Syaoran found the feather.

“That tomb,” Syaoran said, and took the offered jug of wine from Fai’s hands, “it was beautiful.”

Sakura clasped her hands together and sighed. “Oh, I wish I could have gone with you to see it,” she said, then paused, looking embarrassed and added quickly, “Not that I minded staying behind and looking after Fai-san…”

Fai laughed lightly and sat down next to her. “That’s alright, Sakura-chan. I would have liked to have gone too.”

“You didn’t miss much.” Kurogane threw another log on the fire between them and shrugged. “There wasn’t anything to fight.”

“Ah, but Kuro-tan,” Fai smiled, and took a drink from his own wine bottle, “Didn’t you think it was beautiful too?”

“It was… weird,” he replied simply.

Sakura looked from Kurogane to Syaoran and asked, eyes wide, “Was it scary? It was so far underground and it must have been dark and was there… a… a dead person down there?”

“There was a coffin,” Syaoran said over the soft crackling of the fire, “in the deepest room. There was that picture writing they use here all over it. It said it belonged to the feather goddess.”

“Did…did you open it then?” Sakura looked entranced and afraid, and stared at Syaoran with eager eyes.

“I thought your feather would be inside, so I did…” Syaoran trailed off, remembering yellow and blue decoration flickering dully in the light of his oil lamp, unthinkingly taking a swig of wine.

“It wasn’t there,” Kurogane said, and frowned as he watched Syaoran drink. “And the lid to that thing was damn heavy.” He glared at the sleeping Mokona on Sakura’s lap. “And that was no help.”

“But I bet Kuro-sama looked so cool,” Fai cooed, and shifted himself around the fire, moving closer to Kurogane.

“Idiot,” he mumbled, but didn’t even try to push Fai away when he attached himself to Kurogane’s arm.

Sakura was still staring at Syaoran.

“And then what happened?” she asked, “If the feather wasn’t in the… the coffin?”

“Mokona told us it was definitely there somewhere, so I guessed that it was under the coffin, and when Kurogane-san stepped into it he…”

“In the coffin?” Sakura exclaimed, and looked at Kurogane. “ Wasn’t there a… dead person in it?”

Kurogane shrugged and nodded. “I don’t think they minded me…” And then Fai hit him on the arm, frowning.

“Kuro-pon!” he reproved, “Don’t be so insensitive!”

“What?” Kurogane argued. “It was mostly dust anyway…”

Fai shook his head, and it seemed to Kurogane as though he couldn’t decide whether to laugh or look angry.

“So… what did you do, Kurogane-san?” Sakura said.

“I made a hole in the bottom of the coffin,” Kurogane replied. “And stop drinking so much,” he added, turning abruptly to Syaoran.

Syaoran blushed, looking both guilty and surprised, mumbled an apology and put the wine jug down. Kurogane could feel Fai chuckling softly beside him.

“Um,” Syaoran said, “So, there was another room below the tomb. It was the most amazing thing- all golden and… and… shiny. Your feather was there.”

“And that was it.” Kurogane stood up, pulling the mage up with him. “Now go to bed so we can leave tomorrow.”

“Oh, but Kuro-mu!” Fai whined, and leaned heavily on Kurogane’s arm. “It’s such a nice night out and who knows what the next world will be like.” Fai released his arm and sat back down. “And we have a nice fire and wine and our children are having fun!”

“You want to spend another day in this heat that you’ve been complaining about ever since we got here?” Kurogane asked incredulously, folding his arms and glaring. “You want to drink more of that beer?”

“That’s not it, Kuro-pi,” Fai laughed, tugging at Kurogane’s shirt hem and offering his wine jug to him.

Syaoran and Sakura were looking at him with half-drunk, curious eyes, and the sand had been soft, and the wine good. And their fire burned, insignificant, as though it was the only light in that world beneath brilliant stars. So Kurogane sat, and saw mischievous promise on Fai’s face.

39. (The Place Of Truth.)

There was a strong breeze on the thirty-ninth day, which Fai decided was a good portent.

“Do you know, Kuro-myu,” he called, shaking black fabric and watching droplets of water splatter across scorched sand, “that your cloak is one of the dirtiest things I have ever had to wash.”

“And how much washing have you done in your life?” Kurogane retorted.

“Enough to know that the water running out of clothes shouldn’t be brown.” Fai hung the cloak on a rope strung between the village wall and an old, weathered pole. The pole bent dangerously.

“And why is it so heavy, anyway? This line will never hold my coat with your cloak on it too.”

“I doubt it would hold your coat anyway,” Kurogane commented, taking Fai’s coat from the basket beside him and holding it up. “All this fluff holds a tonne of water.” He squeezed one arm thoughtfully and a stream of water came out. “Is this even going to dry before tomorrow?”

“It will in this sun, won’t it?” Fai said, and Kurogane grunted a reply. They worked in silence then as Kurogane squeezed water out of thick blue fabric and Fai tried to balance Sakura’s dress on the pole.

“Did you see Syaoran-kun this morning, Kuro-pu?” Fai spoke finally, an amused grin on his face.

“He looked green.” Kurogane shook his head. “I told him not to drink so much.” Another squeeze of an arm, and water splashed to the ground. “And you didn’t help- always giving him more of that wine. I think he was trying to keep up with you.”

Fai giggled. “You’d think he’d learn.”

They lapsed into silence again, balancing and squeezing, until Fai had hung up the last bit of clothing and sat back against the wall rubbing his ankle and watching Kurogane wring the life from his coat.

“I wonder if the next world will be like this,” he said, and Kurogane could tell from the strange look on his face and the lilt of his voice that Fai wasn’t really asking about other places.

“We’ll be like this,” Kurogane answered plainly. He didn’t need to say anything else, because Fai was smiling.

40. (A Thousand Offerings.)

“Breakfast tasted really good, Fai-san. Thank you,” Syaoran said, closing the town gates silently behind him.

“And even the beer wasn’t so bad,” Sakura cheered and Mokona, held in her arms, concurred.

“The beer was definitely just as bad,” Kurogane disagreed.

And then, as the sun rose on the morning of the fortieth day, the travellers left that ancient world behind in a flurry of sand and magic.

The villagers said, “Maybe they were ghosts,” and “Maybe they had to go home,” or “Maybe the witch kidnapped Fai again and the others had to go and rescue him.”

They talked for months and months, and remembered their strange clothes and loud pets and odd ways. And then, much later, the villagers set up a stelae to their disappeared friends.

It said: “A thousand of bread and cloth and beer,” and other spells to ensure that whether they were dead or alive, they would at least be fed and clothed. They made offerings to them, just as they had done when the four strangers had lived in their village. And they offered bread and cloth and beer. Lots of beer.


Comments and concrit much loved and appreciated.
selenityshiroiselenityshiroi on July 16th, 2006 12:36 pm (UTC)

I love you so much, right now!

I love your characterisation and the way you describe the world (in this and the first part). You can tell you have a love for the subject.

Very, very enjoyable to read. *adds to memories*
tingting: KuroFai by evercooltakadainmate on July 16th, 2006 01:11 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Despite the epic this fic became, I enjoyed writing it very much and am glad you enjoyed it!
ataraxistenceataraxistence on July 16th, 2006 12:42 pm (UTC)
Oh my goodness. Complete and utter love to you. *gives you my heart* That was a vision of pure, perfect domesticity. *laughs* I read all of it in one go, and I liked the way you numbered it by days, which gave a wonderful sense of the time progression. ^_____^

And your Kurogane is so in character, which awes me the most, because I always feel Kuro is difficult to write. ^___^ I loved this line particularly: “We’ll be like this,” Kurogane answered plainly. He didn’t need to say anything else, because Fai was smiling.
*squees quietly*

Please, please write more. *hearthearthearts you*
tingting: drinking partners by ciennatakadainmate on July 16th, 2006 01:28 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I really wanted to do something that was about how the four of them lived their lives in one world, rather than a story about the feather or anything. And also a story about Fai and Kurogane's growing relationship. I love writing them both, and I had a lot of fun writing this and I'm glad you liked it! I'm sure I'll be writing more at some point in the future.
kumonii: Kuro Faikumonii on July 16th, 2006 04:26 pm (UTC)
Really wonderful fic! XDDD I adored your characterisation, especially of Kurogane, and I found the historical background you used fascinating.

Entertaining and a great read. Thanks for sharing! *adds to memories*
tingtingtakadainmate on July 17th, 2006 01:57 am (UTC)
Glad you liked it. I had a great time writing it! And Kurogane was just so co-operative when I was writing.
asdhjfbciwu3487 on July 16th, 2006 04:57 pm (UTC)
I've been waiting for the second half of this story! It was great *adds it to memories* I really like the fact that this story is more about their every day life in one world and how they deal and adapt with changes in their environment, it's a nice change from the norm. It's been really refreshing to read this fic, it's very original and well written. Thank you for sharing!
tingting: KuroFai by evercooltakadainmate on July 17th, 2006 01:58 am (UTC)
That's what I was going for! Glad you enjoyed it, and I really love your icon. XD
aquana: Yami Marik WOOnightcrawler_2_ on July 16th, 2006 05:00 pm (UTC)
The part where Fai was bitten by something made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside... :3 This is awesome.
tingtingtakadainmate on July 17th, 2006 01:59 am (UTC)
Sometimes I just can't stop myself from being mushy. Glad you enjoyed it!
Ho-chan: Sakura -  BUSYhoneko on July 16th, 2006 05:09 pm (UTC)
Yay! I loved this so much. I agree with everyone else. your characterization is so good! And I was giggling and smiling the whole time. I'm glad you finished the story and posted it even though your computer meanly ate it!
tingtingtakadainmate on July 17th, 2006 02:00 am (UTC)
I was most annoyed at the eating, and it put the fic back about 4 days. But it feels good to have finished this epic, and I'm glad you liked it.
the uninformed: kuroganeuninformed on July 16th, 2006 05:58 pm (UTC)
I liked the thirty-ninth day the best in this part, especially the very end of it. However, it was all fantastic, and I'd been looking forward to the resolution of this since you posted the beginning. It has such a nice sense of completion, too - probably because it started with their arrival and ended when they left, but all the same.
tingtingtakadainmate on July 17th, 2006 02:02 am (UTC)
Yep. That was something I wanted to do; their complete time in one world. I enjoyed making them all domestic. (Perhaps I should change the title to "Domesticating Kurogane") Anyway, glad you liked it and i'm so happy nobody thought Kurogane was too mushy in thirty-nine.
(no subject) - thisfishflies on July 21st, 2006 06:54 am (UTC) (Expand)
jaded old fox: toshtoshirodragon on July 16th, 2006 07:03 pm (UTC)
*APPLAUDS* Bravo, you captured the dynamic between Kuro and Fai beautifully! Good job getting into Kuro's head.

My only critique would be: your sentence structure needs polishing and I, personally, would flesh out some of the paragraphs. Do a bit more description. But beyond that it was a highly enjoyable read!

tingtingtakadainmate on July 17th, 2006 02:05 am (UTC)
Thanks! I love those two so much.

Usually I would use more description, but I was using a different style with this fic which meant almost all description should come across from things people say or what they are doing. It was a difficult way to write, but I kind of like the way it turned out.
(Deleted comment)
tingtingtakadainmate on July 17th, 2006 02:06 am (UTC)
I'm glad you liked it! Since I started writing this fic about 4 weeks ago I have wanted that line to end the fic! XD
メリッサ: Fai whistlesailormgm on July 16th, 2006 10:07 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed this, especially the end of the 39th day! Such a sweet thing for Kurogane to say. ^^ Great job!!
tingting: KuroFai by evercooltakadainmate on July 17th, 2006 02:07 am (UTC)
Thank you! Hehe. Not too mushy for him I hope.
laliho on July 16th, 2006 11:52 pm (UTC)
Wow, I love everything about this fic. It's so lengthy and in character, and it kept bringing a smile to my face at regular intervals.

If he were their commander, Kurogane thought, he’d have them exiled for such negligence. The thought cheered him.

Was probably my favourite line, simply because it's so *Kurogane*.

An excellent read, and I really appreciate the amount of effort you've put in here, as I'm sure everyone else on the comm would agree.

Thank you very much for writing and for sharing this! ♥
tingtingtakadainmate on July 17th, 2006 02:08 am (UTC)
I am happy you liked it so much! And this fic was kind of a labour of love seeing as it involved Egypt and KuroFai which are probably my too favourite things in the world. XD
Noirla_vie_noire on July 17th, 2006 12:29 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! I was really waiting for this and it was worth the wait. Great fic, wonderful characterization, I hope to see more of your fics in the future.
tingting: KuroFai by evercooltakadainmate on July 17th, 2006 02:09 am (UTC)
I certainly will write more fic, and I'm glad you enjoyed this!
SkyeMarie: kuro x faiskyemarie on July 17th, 2006 10:43 am (UTC)

i am such a goober over egypt myself, and kuro and fai! how could i not love it. that last little exchange with kurogane and fai while doing the wash was perfect.
tingtingtakadainmate on July 18th, 2006 05:01 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! Happy you liked it and always good to find other people with a love for egypt. ♥
yaired on July 17th, 2006 02:32 pm (UTC)
“I wonder if the next world will be like this,” he said, and Kurogane could tell from the strange look on his face and the lilt of his voice that Fai wasn’t really asking about other places.

“We’ll be like this,”

Perfect :)

A lovely fic, thanks for sharing
tingtingtakadainmate on July 18th, 2006 05:02 am (UTC)
Hehe. Thanks. I enjoyed writing it!
karorumetallium: faykarorumetallium on July 17th, 2006 06:06 pm (UTC)
I loved every bit. Thank you!
tingting: KuroFai by evercooltakadainmate on July 18th, 2006 05:03 am (UTC)
My pleasure! Glad you liked it.