After being exhausted for days, Kurogane is woken in the middle of the night by a child's nightmare and must handle it on his own. Mentioned KuroxFai with minor details, so PG-13.
"What the hell do you want?" he meant to ask, but it came out sounding closer to "Mmm?"
There was a slight pause as the person on the other side of the door-one of the kids, he figured-tried to guess at what his response meant. "Mmm?" Kurogane asked again, a little louder this time, hoping to get the point across.
A hesitant whisper came from behind the door. "I had a nightmare," said the frightened-sounding voice. The princess. He sighed, prying himself into a sitting position and rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. The bed squeaked softly as he got up and reached for a pair of pants and a shirt to cover his nakedness. Sliding them on, he glanced over at Fai.
"Hold on," he mumbled in the general direction of the door as he leaned over to cover the mage's ass with the sheet. Kurogane took a closer look in the darkness, and pulled the sheet higher to cover the love bites and nail marks on his back. It wouldn't do for the princess to accidently see those. Fai mumbled in his sleep and buried his face deeper into his pillow. The ninja allowed himself a fleeting smile before willing his eyes and legs to move away from the sleeping figure to the door. He opened it and stepped out into the hallway, shutting the door gently behind him. Sure enough, there was the princess, looking small and scared in the dim glow given off by the night light plugged into the wall in the hallway. Her tear-streaked face sparkled with the glow of her shimmering emerald eyes.
When tears were involved, he found he was usually at a loss as to what to do. Kurogane'd dealt with nightmares before but Syaoran's half-forgotten and nameless whisperers of doubt were easier phantoms to chase away than the tears of a frightened, innocent young girl. Reassurance and a simple order to return to bed worked well enough to conquer any enemy Syaoran may have found in his dreams. As he gazed into her eyes, Kurogane had a feeling it wouldn't be easy with her. Whatever had frightened her had done a good job. She was shaking so hard that it seemed the ground should have been moving with her. Protectiveness welled up inside him. He didn't want to think about anybody hurting her in her dreams.
For a moment, he considered waking the mage, but doubted Fai was capable of walking at the moment. He thought back briefly to his childhood, trying to remember how his parents had handled his occasional nightmares. Through the haze of still-painful memories a solution came for half the problem, and he guided her into the bathroom as he fought back the exhaustion that threatened to lure him back to sleep. Sakura sniffled a little as he handed her a tissue to blow her nose with. Grabbing a washcloth from the linen closet, he wet it with cool water and knelt down next to her. Kurogane gently ran it over her face, wiping away tears as his father had once done for him when he'd nearly broken his arm falling out of the first tree he'd climbed. When the sniffling had stopped and she was no longer shaking he hung the washcloth up to dry and let her dry her face before he took her back to her bedroom, considering the tears dealt with.
The princess climbed back into bed and slid under her covers. Now what? Innocent, frightened eyes gazed up at him expectantly and Kurogane had to think back again. Tears, it turned out, were easier than he had thought, but what about nightmares? His mother had usually tucked him into bed, and listened to him talk about it, hadn't she? He could try that, he supposed. Kurogane pulled the blankets up around her and tucked her in as best he knew how. "Do you want to tell me what happened?" he asked, though a bit awkwardly. The mage would have been better for this. Kurogane supposed it was his own fault for being so rough with him. Luckily for him, he thought, the princess shook her head.
"I can't remember it," she said. "I just woke up crying and scared, that's all."
Ah. Then what did she want him to do about it? He scratched the back of his head. Why did this all have to be so hard? "What would make you feel better?" he asked, trying to keep his eyes from shutting as exhaustion began working its way back into his body. If he could at least get her to fall back asleep, that would be enough and he could go back to bed with the feeling of a job well done.
Clearly, it wasn't what the princess had expected him to do, though from the look on her face, she'd obviously been hoping for something similar. Still, it caught her off guard enough that it took her a moment and a yawn to come up with an answer. "Um... if it's not a problem, could you stay until I fall asleep?"
Could he? He didn't really want to, didn't know if he was capable of staying awake even the short amount of time it would probably take her pass out again. Kurogane wanted to crawl back into his own bed with the mage's warm body secured tightly in his arms. But one glance at the hopeful expression on her face shattered any argument he might have made and he caved with an internal sigh.
"All right," he agreed, sitting down on the edge of her bed. Her face lit up, sadness instantly chased away by a feeling of safety, and Kurogane felt something almost like pride and affection inside him. He kicked the feelings away as best he could. Feelings could be analyzed and dealt with later, when mind and body weren't weary from too much exertion and too many nights in a row of very little sleep. Sakura curled into her pillow, and he knew it wouldn't be long before he could go.
A moment later he felt a tug on his shirt. His eyes flew open. Had he really passed out? The princess was giggling, just a little, though there was worry in her eyes. "You can go back to bed if you have to," she offered. And though it was tempting, there was something in her voice that he couldn't refuse: something that was small and scared and reminded him entirely too much of his childhood nightmares of monsters coming and kidnapping his father to punish him for all the killing he'd done of their kind. Kurogane's weary mind fought to come up with a solution, but Sakura beat him to it. She scooted over, looking up at him with a bit of caution, as though wondering if he'd throw a fit over the suggestion.
Honestly though, he was really too tired to disagree. His own bed felt far away and he wondered if he'd even make it down the hall. Surely there could be no harm in just resting here until she was asleep. Then maybe he'd have the energy to go curl back up with the mage.
"No, it's fine," the ninja answered, shifting carefully on the blankets to lay next to her. His bare feet hung off the edge of the bed, but it beat sitting up. Her bed was softer than he preferred and felt strange to him, but it was nothing compared to the strange feeling of having a child curled up against him, trusting and innocent. The strange mix of pride and affection rose inside him again, and Kurogane allowed himself a moment to consider it as his eyes drifted shut. This was different than being with Fai-the mage was something else to him, something he was in no way prepared to admit to yet, not even to himself. Fai fit differently against him, long and lanky, his limbs as permanently intertwined with Kurogane's as one could get while lying mostly on their stomach. Sakura was tiny, and burrowing against him, as though she could hide inside his chest from the monsters that plagued her in her dream and she would be safe.
It was different. But he found he didn't mind so much as he probably should have as he slowly drifted off into sleep with her small hand fisted in his shirt. Kurogane draped an arm over her waist, and she relaxed with a soft sigh. "Good night, Kurogane-san," she breathed, as the wings of sleep folded around her and whisked her off to a place he hoped was full of happier dreams.
"Good night, princess," he murmured back, lips moving instinctually to plant a soft kiss on her forehead. Reaching arm behind him to the nightstand, Kurogane turned off the light and let the blissful oblivion of sleep claim him as well.