Fai needs to be protected, for his walls hold him in.
It's kind of like every day, hearing the words and seeing the motions, but never being able to predict what was happening next, because they did not /understand/.
No, this time it is because Mokona is not here, nor is Sakura, nor Sayoran.
Fai even tried "I love you" and found Kurogane looking at him in the same quizzically angry expression. Maybe all those romantics were wrong.
This world seems to be perpetually stormy. The air crackles with electricity and Kurogane wishes the last world they had been to hadn't been a desert, because it looked like it was going to rain.
Fai was shivering from head to toe, but Kurogane had nothing to take off and wrap around his shoulders to keep him from giving him those pitiful looks.
The found a cave, eroded into the barren rock by who-knows-what. Kurogane went in first to see if there was anything that wouldn't want them in there, and found only a thick bed of grassy moss on the ground, as if the cave was just begging to be slept in.
After prodding it with feet, swords, fingers and rocks, they decided it was harmless and sat down just inside the entrance-way to watch the multi-hued clouds gather in intensity until with one big crack that made them both jump the rain came down.
It was a good thing they had come in. Fai had realized why there was nearly no plant life here: the rain was acidic. He hoped the children had figured that much out. But when he tried to convey this to Kurogane via a hand signals he only got a glare and a few incomprehensible growls in reply.
Kurogane found himself wishing for alternatively a good fight or a good cup of tea.
Fai found himself wishing he could get drunk and fall asleep on Kurogane, because drunk he wouldn't have to remember being yelled at later, incomprehensibly or no.
Fai had been trying to fall asleep on the cushioned-yet-still-hard ground for about and hour, and shifted his position about a million times, when Kurogane growled at him and grabbed his wrist.
Thinking that perhaps some animal immune to the acid rain had arrived wanting its cave back, he was startled to his feet, but it turned out Kurogane had just been annoyed to distraction by the shifting and twisting of the insomniac mage.
Kurogane released Fai's wrist and sat down with surprising grace and leant back against the flat spot in the rocks he had found. He beckoned Fai down beside him and pointed at the smooth rock behind him.
Fai sat down and finally got it. Sleep sitting up. Right. As if he didn't have a hard enough time sleeping lying down in a nice bed... But it was better than lying on the hard ground.
He tried to settle in as Kurogane shut his eyes and folded his arms. Fai had no idea how he expected to sleep in such a ridged position, but he didn't bother asking. Even he knew when to stop.
He decided he didn't like this world. No sky, no white fluffy clouds, no snow, and no numbing cold, and yet it didn't have sun, heat, flowers or tropics either. Just desolation.
His eyes drifted to a certain black-haired ninja beside him. Well, not so desolate any more.
Kurogane appeared to have fallen asleep, his breathing even and his body still, even if it did seem impossible.
Fai got up quietly and walked to the edge of the roof. In a sudden anguish and need for pain, he stuck his hand out and felt the rain drops plop down on it. At first it felt just like normal, rain, but then it burnt and sizzled into his skin, turning it brown and dead like a burn. Fai watched it quietly for a few moments and then rubbed it off on some of the grass. It did not satisfy him.
He had a sudden wish to go home, to Chii and his books and quiet snowfalls. To the numbing silence of the winter desert that would make all his pain go away.
But he had told himself he wouldn't go back. He needed to grow, to get away from the past that had haunted him, to make a new future. To get away from Ashura.
He turned back to the sleeping Kurogane. This was what he was living for now. Not the past - the future.
"Love me," he whispered to himself and to Kurogane, even though he knew he would never say it when Kurogane would understand. "Love me and hold me and cherish me and make the past go away."
He looked down at his hands, the most recent burn marks brown, but then faint white splotches and lines ran around his fingers and wrists, the pain taken in exchange for power and knowledge.
When he looked up again, Kurogane's red eyes were on him. He didn't know what to do, so he smiled.
Kurogane cursed at him. Fai didn't need to know what it meant to understand that tone of voice.
Feeling suddenly exhausted, Fai's smile wavered and disappeared. He dropped to his knees in front of Kurogane, watching him at eye level, studying those eyes to see what was there. To see if he was allowed in.
Fai reached out to touch Kurogane's chest, covered by a thin cotton shirt, and the warrior caught his wrist. He saw the pain suddenly flash though Fai's eyes - part at being denied the touch and partly from the persistent acids.
His eyes caught the brown dots on the pale hand and ran his thumb over them with his thumb. He opened his mouth and Fai fliched, but nothing came out. He had stopped himself and was just glaring at Fai, tired exasperation on his face.
Fai didn't understand that expression. He had never seen it before, behind the yelling, angry words.
Kurogane slowly, slowly, not releasing Fai's wrist, twisted and fell backwards onto the light cushion that had so reminded him before of soldier's pallets. Fai was dragged on top of him and tried to pull his wrist away, knowing he would be reprimanded for being so close to Kurogane... but nothing happened. He was kneeling between Kurogane's legs and Kurogane was holding his hand, and the rain was still going at it, and all of a sudden, in one fluid movement, Fai collapsed.
Kurogane started, knowing that Fai never fell asleep that easily, knowing what he didn't know about that rain, knowing that Fai was never that clumsy, even when he was drunk.
It was time for Kurogane to panic and wait.
It took two days for them to be found. It took two more days for a healer to mix up something that would stop the poisoning. It took three more days before Fai woke up. It was plenty of time for Kurogane to resolve himself.
When Fai woke up, the burning sensation, the floaty air headedness he had felt before, and the sudden homesickness was all gone. Not to mention the cave, the rain and the grass. What remained was Kurogane, and so that was what Fai focused on while he tested his limbs.
"I didn't think I needed that much sleep..." Fai mused, knowing Kurogane knew he was awake. Those red eyes were looking right at him.
"The rain was poisonous," Kurogane said stonily, frowning a little at Fai's shoulder. He couldn't bring himself to look Fai straight in the face.
"So I guess we were found, since I'm not dead in a cave, eh, Kuro-pii?"
Kurogane gritted his teeth at Fai's official return to childishness.
"Yes. It's been five days since then."
"And the children? I assume they're nearby if we are able to talk so nicely like this."
"They were the ones who organized the search party."
There was a pause and then Kurogane closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
"Fai, I am sorry. I refused to do what was needful of me and I have been punished by your pain. I apologize for not taking care of you and letting you hurt yourself like this. I should be flogged for being so ignorant. My princess would kill me with her own hands for this, if she had seen it herself. Fai Flowright, I offer you my sincere apologies."
Fai stared at Kurogane's face for a while, watching the wrinkles in between his eyebrows grow in size as he waited for Fai's response.
"I... Are you serious?" Fai responded finally.
Kurogane opened his eyes and stared down Fai.
"Do you honestly think I would apologize to you if I didn't mean it?" he snapped.
"Okay. I... thank you, I guess."
Fai's body tightened under the sheets, while his brain refused to accept this seemingly impossible idea of repentance and kindness from Kurogane. Maybe it had been Fai himself who had been denying himself the real comfort he needed, not Kurogane. But that was another argument for another day.
Kurogane got to his feet as a gong tolled somewhere beneath them.
"That means lunch is ready. I'll go down and get you something," Kurogane said finally, having given up on any real feeling from Fai. Somehow he had been hoping for more.
When he looked at Fai again, though, he was making that /face/, that look of absent pain he had been making in the cavern.
"Stop it," he growled, half to himself. It was now his turn to go down on his knees by Fai's head. He grabbed Fai's bandaged hand and kissed it roughly, unsure of what he was doing even as he did it.
"Don't do that ever again. I won't let you."
And something broke within Fai and he flung his arms around Kurogane's solid neck and buried his face in one broad shoulder. Tears were crystallizing his eyes and all he could do was hold on as Kurogane's hands, large like the rest of him, pressed against his back.
"Thank you," he whispered.
Kurogane only grunted and placed a hand firmly on the back of Fai's blond head.
Nothing would change immediately, he figured, but with practice maybe he could find a way to be gentler, and maybe Fai would talk about his problems and then they'd be alright.