During a moment of relaxation with a troubled young man Kurogane watches and thinks. Set during chapter 141, so spoilers through that.
Lately they'd taken to splitting up to spend time with the kids more than they had before. He understood that it was probably important for the kids to be with somebody they were comfortable with, but it stung sometimes that Sakura wasn't willing to talk to him, or accept his decision to let this boy come with them. Occasionally it bothered him that the other two didn't seem to be willing to do more than tolerate his presence, leaving the kid feeling alienated and alone in a strange place and situation. Kurogane thought he deserved better. Syaoran hadn't asked for any of this to happen, hadn't wanted to be imprisoned, he was sure, and it was unfair to treat him as though any of it was because of him.
Or that he and his clone were the same person.
This child deserved better than that, he thought, as he watched the child falling asleep against his chest and took a sip from his cup. They all did. Nobody could ever deserve what their group had gone through to leave them at such a loss. Kurogane had taken to staying up late to watch over them, feeling as though there was nothing he could do but watch and wait for some path of healing to open up to them. It frustrated him, but right now patience was one of the few things he had left to spare, a strange reverse from how he had been before all these terrible things had happened to break them apart and shake them down into shadows of their former selves.
He glanced down; the kid had finally fallen asleep. Removing the glass from his loosening hand, Kurogane set it down on the floor and gently shifted Syaoran so he was lying down on the couch, covering the boy with his jacket.
"Syaoran's interesting when drunk, no?" the manjuu asked from its position on his lap, holding its glass up for more. Kurogane poured more, eyes now lingering on the door the had remained shut for far too long to hold the whispered tears and words of comfort within. "There must be a lot of things he's worried about. He fell asleep so quickly." Mokona's voice was soft, worried.
Kurogane rather thought that was obvious. They all had a lot to worry about now. His eyes narrowed. The sounds of quiet sobs had stopped and the suspicious -sounding whispering had begun. "Just like the princess." His voice was soft, eyes on the door that contained the two biggest sources of his own worries and fears. "The magician as well," he added, almost as an afterthought though he'd been suspicious of him for ages now.
The manjuu sipped at the cup that looked so giantic in its little paws. "There have been many painful things. Syaoran disappeared-"
"It's not just that," Kurogane said, cutting Mokona off. He didn't want to think about what had happened right now, when he was just beginning to relax. Better to focus on the here and now. "They're hiding something." The thought was painful somehow, that they thought they couldn't trust him, or didn't want to trust him. It had to be something they knew he wasn't going to like.
It seemed to puzzle Mokona, who looked up at him in confusion. "Which?" Mokona asked. "Fai or Sakura?"
"Both, especially the princess. Haven't you noticed anything?" Was he really the only one picking up on these things? His first instinct was always right, he knew, but it was hard to fight against the vain hope that he was being paranoid.
Mokona's answer didn't do anything for his hopes. "Not when I'm awake," it said. "But Mokona can't sense anything when Mokona's asleep. When Fai talked to Yuuko, Yuuko told Mokona to go to sleep so they could talk in private. So if Sakura talked to Yuuko while Mokona was asleep, Mokona wouldn't know." That worried him a lot. There was no way he could find out what was going on without talking to that witch. Besides, even if he was willing to try it, he doubted she'd say anything.
A drowsy voice cut into their conversation and Kurogane looked down at the sleepy boy sprawled out next to him. "Even so, I'll protect her," Syaoran murmured, looking up at Kurogane with eyes glazed over from alcohol and exhaustion. Sad, protective red eyes gazed down at him for a moment before Kurogane balanced the bottle and cup in Mokona's paws and placed a hand over the kids eyes. Closing his own, he summoned close the magic he used for his special techniques, just enough for the smallest of spells.
"Sleep," he commanded, letting the tingle of magic move from his stomach through his arm to his hand. With a breathe he released the spell and as he pulled his hand away, Syaoran's eyes slid shut again as the arms of sleep claimed him once again. Kurogane relieved the manjuu of its burden. "You sleep too," he said, no longer able to stand the feelings this conversation was bringing. And maybe the kid would stay asleep with Mokona at his side. He certainly deserved a good night's rest.
Mokona frowned slightly up at him. "What about you?" it asked. Him? Kurogane intended to finish the bottle and drink until the pain of conspiracy left him and he knew the two in that room were okay. But no one else needed to know that.
He waggled the bottle a little so Mokona could hear the swishing of liquid inside. "There's still some left," Kurogane said by way of excuse. The ninja attempted a cheerful smile.
It worked, for the manjuu beamed up at him. "If Kurogane's awake everyone can sleep without worries!" it exclaimed. The smile shifted into something real as he scooped Mokona up and tucked it under Syaoran's arm. He'd needed to hear that, whether he was admitting to it or not.
For a long while, he simply sat and watched the two of them sleep as he drank, gaze torn between the two he trusted and the room holding the two he didn't trust completely. The door still hadn't opened, though the sound of unnerving whispers had ceased.
"Six of one and half a dozen of the other," he murmured to himself. Kurogane took a long drink from the glass in his hand as he waited for the mage to emerge from the room.
It was going to be a long night.