Kurogane can feel the force of Fai's fingers as they bite into him even through his clothes. The man contorts under him, breath coming fast with dry sobs. His eyes are screwed shut against the pain and Kurogane hopes more than he ever has before that they open again.
It's just like him to try and save everyone else with his death.
Mokona whimpers from the edge of the bed and the witch just watches, red eyes seeming more inhuman than ever with her neutral expression.
The mage writhes one last time before falling back against the bed with a gasp, eyes opening to reveal yellow slitted pupils. Kurogane pries the blonde's arms from him as his eyes close again.
"It's best to let him rest, right?" He mutters as he steps back from the sleeping man. Nobody replies.
Kurogane's eyes widen as his hands drop to his side, blood still seeping lazily from his wrist.
The blonde lies there, breathing still heavy but thankfully more steady.
Kurogane stares, wondering if the process had somehow made him hallucinate. He rubs his eyes. No.
Protruding through blonde hair are two cat ears covered in smooth fur and from somewhere behind the man a thin tail has emerged which twitches slightly in his troubled sleep. His hands clench weakly into the thin sheet beneath him.
"What the hell happened?" He grits out, looking at one of the vampires and hoping they'll know. Kamui meets his gaze with what would seem like nonchalance if Kurogane didn't know better.
"There is always a small chance that our blood will mix badly with any magic someone has in their body. It’s not our fault." He says, voice measured.
Nobody had said anything about side-effects.
Kurogane glances back at Fai and watches for a few moments before he clenches his fist and swallows, looking away again.
"So Fai-san is a cat-person now?" Mokona tilts their head, tears still drying on their fur. Kamui nods, "At least Fai-san is still alive." The small creature whines.
Kurogane sighs and turns to look out of the window at the desolate sands.
"Hey, we should let him rest." He says eventually. Mokona hops up onto his shoulder and for the first time he doesn’t push them off.
The ceiling is dull, colour taken by the years of ruin and harsh weather and all the tiles missing now, only the barest remnants of beige marks showing where they'd been stuck to it.
Beneath it Fai shifts, brow furrowing as his breath stutters and he wakes up, gasping.
He shoots upright, eyes wide as he immediately slumps forwards again, curling in on himself, forearms over his knees. His spine curves and straightens with every breath as his eyes narrow in shock at the sudden intake of light.
“Fuck!” He gasps, hands going to his eyelids as he rubs them in confusion.
There’s a few moments of quiet again as he just holds his palms against his face.
“Fuck.” He whispers, voice quivering as he sits on the utilitarian bed, as unyielding as the desert’s bedrock.
Fai lets his arms slip around himself, hugging himself together.
He catalogues the strange new sensations and tries desperately through the pain and nausea and confusion to piece together what has happened.
He remembers pain, more intense than that he feels now, and shouting and so much red.
Like blood and anger.
Like his eyes.
He stays there for as long as he can, silent sobs held in by his hands.
Fai chokes on his tears, trying to swallow the anger and the betrayal and the remorse. Remorse and failure and hate and how could he-
No one visits. He’s glad for this at least.
Eventually he manages to uncurl from his ball though he doesn't want to- he really doesn't want to. Small crescents have etched themselves into his skin of his palms.
There’s something calming in the sharp sting of the new wounds.
He is distantly aware that the scratches are oozing blood but can’t seem to find a reason to care yet. There should be one somewhere.
He should care- he thinks.
Instead he thinks that it’s what he deserves for everything he’s done.
If he had just died he could have atoned through it. If they had just let him die he could have-
The magician sits, staring dully ahead. His legs stretch out before him, limp between the blood soaked sheets, and him hands rest like dead spiders in his lap. The turtleneck top feels tight, stiff with dried blood- mostly his-, and constricting.
He can’t bring himself to care about that either.
Somehow he seems paler than before as he looks in the bowl of water beside him.
His face is washed out by trauma and it contrasts with the red around his eyes, swollen from crying.
The tracks still linger on his cheeks which shine with guilt, guilt, guilt, guilt, guilt.
There’s a buzzing in his head as he turns from his reflection which only increases in pitch.
Guilt, guilt, guilt, guilt.
The wall opposite is dull, unmoved, stone.
Guilt, guilt, guilt, guilt.
It is still opposite him. It sees nothing and hears nothing.
Guilt, guilt, guilt, guilt.
The stone is uncaring, flat, dead.
Guilt. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.
Fai looks down and sobs openly, clenching his teeth as he tries to take it back, lock it back inside.
The irrefutable proof is there. In sight and sensation but not in spirit- never in spirit.
He bites down on his tongue hard, feeling the imprint of every tooth as it digs into the muscle.
He deserves as much.
He feels the muscle knit back together quickly, taking only a matter of minutes before it’s as if he’d never been harmed. There are no marks in his palms when he lifts them and he knows- he knows - that he’s a lot better at healing now but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s wrong and shouldn’t be happening and it’s not how it works and his nails extend into claws and he drags them over what should be fragile skin and it’s something- enough.
The whine softens even as his wounds heal up. The pain centers him just enough to hear footsteps coming towards the room he is in and he latches onto that.
Kurogane. He thinks, bitter with it as he attempts a smile on his face which is wrong in so many more ways than it ever used to be.
Fai goes to fold his arms then pulls away, nausea curling in his stomach.
His hands drop to the bed, nails digging into the flesh of his hands in cuts which will heal too quickly. It helps a little, enough that he can let his claws recede and push himself over to the edge of the bed and to his feet.
Standing feels different too and he doesn’t like it but Kurogane is in the doorway, face at stoic as ever.
Fai uncurls his fists, pulling a smile he doesn’t mean onto his face.
“Good morning, Kurogane-san.” He says, eyes closed.
The pain in the ninja’s expression before it changes to guilt and resignation is satisfying enough that he feels momentarily almost alright even despite the voice being not his.
“Don’t move.” The man says in response, fist clenching around the fabric in his hand. It’s one of the acid-resistant cloaks from this world.
“I’m not going to run anywhere.” Fai says, that feeling of rightness welling again as Kurogane clenches his teeth and throws the cloak at him. It lands in a second covering over his empty eye socket which he doesn’t bother to dodge.
“Don’t move around yet.” Kurogane commands, seeming to want to say more even as he starts to walk away.
Fai pulls the cloak from his head, folding it idly and setting it beside him on the bed as he stands.
“Fai.” Whispers a small voice.
The man snaps his gaze to Mokona who sits nervously on the ground a little way from him.
“I’m sorry for worrying you, Mokona-chan.” He says softly, smiling sadly.
Mokona hops up to him and Fai catches them, feeling their weight and warmth in his hands which hasn’t changed.
“Mokona was so worried about Fai-san! Everyone was! We’re all really glad you’re okay!” The small creature sniffles as Fai sits down, placing Mokona in his lap.
“Thank you, Mokona-san.” He responds, running his fingers through Mokona’s fur and feeling himself relax slowly as he focuses on the sensation of Mokona under his palms.
Next chapter is on the ninth of September.
A moment later a cone of light is emitted from the gem on Mokona's head and Fai is faced with the dimension witch staring directly at him, impassive.
She waits a moment then speaks evenly.
"Mokona, I need to speak with Fai-san alone. Would you sleep while transmitting?" The witch asks, more a statement than a question.
"Okay." The small creature agrees, slumping a little in Fai's hands immediately.
Fai feels a bitter smile cover his face. That hasn't changed and there's relief that spreads through him. He continues to pet the sleeping Mokona
"I doubt there is a way to come back from this." Fai says, grimacing at the too-high pitch of his voice, "You know that I would have chosen death over this. I still will choose death over this." He says honestly.
"There are ways." The witch corrects, expression unchanging at Fai's promise.
"If you regain your left eye you can use the magic in it to reverse the changes." She says.
Fai feels a small amount of hope well inside him which he immediately crushes.
He doesn't reply so they sit there again in silence, watching each other.
"About Kurogane-san…" Yuuko says.
Fai cuts her off quickly.
"We've talked. I said 'Good morning, Kurogane-san.'." The mage says, smiling insipidly, his one remaining eye closing.
The witch again pauses before replying.
"Is that your answer?" She asks.
Fai pauses, slumping a little.
"At first I had planned to call him by his name like with Syaoran-kun, Sakura-chan and Mokona-chan but it was… Fun. It was much more fun to annoy him with those nicknames." The magician says, "I doubt anyone had given him a nickname before." He says, fingers still smoothing over Mokona's fur.
"It was so fun that I didn't realise that I was stepping over the line I had drawn for myself." He says with a grin.
"That's why I will not forgive him for forcing me to live. If I forgive him we might become close again." Fai confirms, smile unmoving.
Yuuko blinks slowly.
"The things which have happened did not happen because you two had spent time together." She says evenly.
"Even so." The mage starts, looking down at Mokona in his lap, "I don't want to make people unhappy. Those words that I said to Ashura-ou. I will not let them be a lie."
Fai does not look up but if her did he would have seen the flicker of pain that goes over the witch's face as she says his name.
"There's one thing you should remember." She says, once again impassive as he looks up at her.
"To everyone in your group you are no longer someone who can pass through their lives and be forgotten. You are important to them. Your suffering is their suffering too." Yuuko states.
Fai swallows, looking down again.
He doesn't say anything for a long while.
Next chapter should be on the 11th of November.
"Is Sakura-chan still sleeping upstairs?" He asks, gaze not shifting.
There's a pause- or at least it feels like one to Fai as he feels his stomach drop before she says anything and he knows already but what if he's wrong- they wouldn't have just let her leave in her condition, would they? They aren't stupid-
"No." Yuuko says evenly, gaze cool.
Fai looks up, single eye blown wide as the shock registers and he knew, he knew but!
"She's out there." She says and Fai could throw up. His hands make to tear Mokona from his lap but he can't wake the small creature so he just wraps his fingers into his flesh and feels his claws bite at his skin, threatening to rip through his arms as he tries to hold it together.
"They sent her with someone. The real Syaoran went with her." He states the questions, horror crawling through every inch of him.
"No. She went alone. That was the price." The witch says neutrally.
Fai can't hold it together. Without words he places Mokona on the bed beside him and leaves instantly, running from the room. Rage fuels him as he tugs the cape around his shoulders, feeling a spiraling nausea at the pure wrongness of a feeling past the bottom of his spine where he shouldn't feel.
He doesn't care though.
He doesn't care if it hurts him or makes him sick or kills him. He deserves all that.
He wants all that.
She doesn't deserve any of that.
He has to do something to save her- has to protect her, his daughter.
He can hear somehow where Syaoran is- the real Syaoran, not the fake who he can feel through the tendril of magic caught between them- and tell through some strange pull where Kurogane is and he bursts between them with all the fire he has held inside, spitting and snarling and breaking its teeth against his self-control which is wavering like steam from a kettle.
"Where is Sakura?" He growls out, finally feeling like the monster he's always been.
Syaoran looks guilty, sadly staring at Fai in a way which won't earn him half the sympathy it would have from the old one when everything was new and bright.
The ninja has the gall to look calm, dismissive even.
Before that would have merited a little teasing or maybe even a brief, hidden piece of honesty tied up in ambiguity and humour.
Now Fai is even more broken apart than before- (We all are- screams a distant part of his mind, crying out for him to stop) now it only makes his claws extend from his fingers, deadly sharp and looking close enough to his- to that man's- that Fai knows that he truly is his son in every meaningful way, even down to his demonic nature.
"It's what the princess wanted." Kurogane says, voice even, eyes fixed steadily, unchallenging on Fai's.
He thinks he's right.
"And you didn't stop her." He gets out through gritted teeth, addressing the man completely now because he is the only one who could have and he did nothing- no one else knew her well enough. Syaoran would always do what his childhood friend had wished and this Syaoran would never dare to command his own mother.
"No." The warrior says, "I didn't."
Next chapter on the 13th of January.
Fai doesn't waste another moment talking to him and just storms past them both. Kurogane steps aside, not stopping him either and why does it hurt after what the ninja's done for him? Why does it hurt that he doesn't stop him from doing something stupid? He doesn't want to be stopped- thinks he could actually really kill the man if he stopped him- but why does it hurt?
He hears Mokona crying out his name and ignores the small creature.
It hurts him too, hearing it call for him but Sakura is the only one in real danger now- she needs him more than any of the rest of them do.
He's disgusting really- he needs to be needed and that's the only real reason he's going to find the princess.
He's so selfish. He always has been.
"Do you think you're going to find the princess?"
The voice comes from behind him and he almost whirls on it, hating the fact that this man is questioning him after what he's done.
"And if I am?" Fai asks, hating the pitch of his voice, not his, as he grits his teeth, eyes unerring on the horizon. Something stops him and he can't go forwards and he hates that he clings to the man's words like this because he should hate him- he does hate him- more than anything except himself.
"Wait with us." The ninja asks, voice even, not a plea or a suggestion or an order.
Fai hates that too. The way he makes him want to stay just by asking. He pauses. There's no way he can look at the man
"You know she'll be hurt. You're not getting your back healed because you know there isn't much medicine in this world and that she'll need it when she gets back." The mage counters, fists by his sides as his eyes flicker back to where he can't see, glaring.
"Kurogane-san..." Mokona whispers and Fai shouldn't catch something so small but he does, hears the small catch as the creature cries over them all.
"What if she can't come back no matter what she wants." Fai mutters, glaring at the ground in front of him.
"If she's just hurt that's…" He pauses, hating himself as he says it, "okay." He hisses out.
What if she is so badly hurt that she needs him right now and he's not there?
"But what if she dies?"
What if he's the most worthless out of them?
"Then she'll never come back!" He shouts, his nails cutting into the flesh of his palms.
What if she never comes back? What would happen to them?
"The princess knows that. She's been prepared for that and she went anyway." Kurogane says, mocking Fai with the evenness of his voice and his acceptance of just letting the princess get hurt.
Fai turns, letting his gaze burn into the ninja.
"If you knew that then why did you let her go?" He says, his own voice brittle and colder than the Ceressian wastelands.
Those red eyes pierce through him but they can't do anything because he is ice and fire and so incredibly old and this mortal man can't affect him.
And yet he does. Somehow.
"That's why." The ninja says, "The princess said she'll return and I trust her so I'll wait even though it's more painful to wait than to go along and help her."
Fai turns completely, unable to look at the man any longer.
"Well I can't wait." He says, walking towards the horizon because Sakura is somewhere out there and he won't let her be hurt any more than she already must be.
"Are you that afraid to believe in someone else?" Says that voice again, patient.
Next chapter is on the 17th of March.
Fai grits his teeth. He doesn't even believe in himself. How could he believe in anyone else?
The rain burns as it begins to fall, torrents from nowhere tracing lines down his face and across his scalp. It hurts just enough for him to settle just a little bit.
"It's the rain! Fai! The rain really hurts! Come back Sakura!" Fai doesn't turn back even though it hurts him to do this to Mokona too. They are all safer without him anyway.
Maybe if he gets lost looking for Sakura it would be good- they wouldn't have to deal with him.
He could just-
"Wait." That voice cuts in again.
He still doesn't turn back.
"If you want to stop me it will turn into a fight." Fai says. He feels colder than the month long blizzards of Celes.
"What if." This voice is gentle and Fai is pulled short by it.
He can't help but turn and look at the boy holding Mokona to his chest to comfort the small creature as he himself huddles against the wall, gaze determined as his clone's was.
"What if you went to save her and ended up getting hurt?" Syaoran says softly, "Then Sakura-" Fai hears the small inhale, the too fast thrum of the boy's heart before he continues, "I mean, the princess, would hurt even more."
Fai closes his eyes, feeling the ache of the rain as it drips down his neck, doesn't say anything.
He can feel the boy's eyes on him and it itches, this much observation.
"She'd be more hurt by the pain you're feeling. Just like you are hurting right now." The words are certain and Fai can taste the steel edge to them, that guilt which coats his tongue as he manages to raise his head though his heart hurts far too much and give the barest hint of a pained smile.
"You really are alike. The two of you." He whispers, meeting Syaoran's gaze. The boy smiles just a little, guilt dancing in his eyes too.
Then Mokona cries out again and Fai's gaze snaps around before he can even think about it, adrenaline spiking through him, making him sharper.
"It's Sakura!" The small creature shouts but Fai is already running forwards with his new strength and watching her small form fall again and again and she's just a girl- she's just a child! How could anyone do this to her?
And then he's holding her in his arms, pulling her close despite the nausea at the smell of blood and burned skin and his discomfort at the physical contact as he pulls her tight into his chest.
He curves his neck against her head, pulling his cloak around her as he cries, eyes squeezed shut and teeth clenched.
She's warmer than she should be.
"I'm so sorry." Her voice chokes on the words, rasping and pained as she weakly raises a hand to his arm.
"You were hurting so much and I couldn't help you." She gets out, sounding like she's strangling herself with the effort of speaking.
"Shh. Shhh. It's okay!" He murmurs, trying to soothe though he's trembling too and everything is too much but it's okay- it doesn't matter- she's back now and he has to keep her safe.
"I'm sorry. Even now I'm sure you're hurting far worse than I am-" Sakura breaks off into coughing and Fai's grip tightens, knuckles white as he clutches at her.
"Sakura-chan!" Fai breaks, shoulders hunched as if he could shield her from the world with his own body.
"Even if that's true." She says, words sounding dry as she takes a wheezing breath.
"I'm just so glad that you're alive." The princess pushes through, voice barely above a whisper now.
Somehow their eyes meet and Fai feels sicker than he ever has before.
"Please. Forgive me?" She asks.
"There's nothing to forgive!" Fai chokes on the words but she doesn't hear them, already limp in his arms.
Next chapter's on the 12th of May!
Fai lifts her, holding her as close as he can through the nausea and the worry and suffocating feeling in his throat and chest, keeping the rain off her as much as he can.
Wordless he moves past Syaoran, Mokona and that man again. He doesn't meet any of their gazes, view fixed on the girl in his arms as Mokona sniffles and the rain pours, burning them all just a little.
Fai keep his head bowed, watching her chest rising and falling fitfully as he runs fast enough that even the ninja will have trouble keeping up.
The paths and people don't matter at all as he follows his way back to the room they've been staying in, just four concrete walls, some crude furniture and the smell of sickness. He would live here forever though if it meant she would live.
"Fai?" Her voice cracks and she peers at him through an almost closed eye, sclera tinted pink in a way which makes him want to vomit, as he settles her down on the bed as gently as he can.
She clenches her teeth as he carefully lets her go, flinching upwards a little as her fingers twitch and her eyes squeeze shut at the shock of pain.
And Fai can smell the blood far more than he would like to.
There's a pipe in her leg and it's twisted and stuck and there's nothing he can do and he's lost almost everything and she's in so much pain and there's nothing he can do about it so he takes the easy way out- the coward's way out.
Fai whistles, standing over her and watching her face drift into a mild grimace. The sound makes him feel a little better, more comfortable somehow even as he feels that little bit of magic leave him, a tiny percentage of all he has left.
Still it's worth it to watch her breathing settle though her chest wheezes.
He falls back against the wall, feeling in a distant way the impact of his back against the concrete and the sliding of his feet on the floor. There's a pain, almost jarring, at the bottom of his spine and past it somehow but he doesn't care. He can't care. He just can't right now as he curls in on himself, head on his knees and arms around them, nails digging into his shoulders and sobs, head pounding.
Next chapter's on the 23rd of June.
Fai isn't sure how long he spends crying and can't bring himself to care even as he hears everyone else standing outside the door.
For once they could hear and know that he's not alright- it's their fault anyway. Kurogane's.
If he'd just let Fai die then none of this would have happened and Sakura wouldn't be there on that bed now, in pain and asleep.
His spell won't last forever though and there is nothing more he can do for Sakura now than hope.
The others are still waiting outside and he can hear as more people gather and voices start to rise as Kurogane tells them to wait- people hear to look after Sakura- who can actually do something to help her.
"Give him a few minutes- she won't die in that time. The princess is stronger than that." Comes a gruff voice which he hates for how much the words hurt.
How dare he speak like that when he's the one who hurt him and Sakura is breathing so shallowly?
Fai stands and yanks open the door he can't remember having opened or closed and pushes through the crowd feeling his throat start to close and his eyes burn despite how angry he is- how much he wants to hurt that red eyed man. It recedes around him and he hears people start shouting, assessing and taking action, the corridor emptying of people again and he can breathe a little easier even as he feels those eyes tracking him as he moves away, watching too closely and seeing too much.
He can hear just as easily as if he was in the room the panic that everyone is in, Mokona's sobbing and Syaoran choking as he tries to squash his tears.
Those eyes burn even through walls and floors as he escapes to the upper reaches of the crumbling building, losing his footing on the rubble and stumbling around holes in the floors and stairs which give way until he's standing at the open side of part of the tower, seeing nothing.
The floors have been stripped and the paint from the walls is chipped and sunbleached and far, far beneath him and beneath the wrongness that is his life is the sand covered concrete which makes his mouth feel dry even as he considers and wants and pulls himself back, heart beating far too fast, against the broken down wall and the grit pushed up against it.
He will do this for Sakura.
He has to do this for Sakura.
Next chapter's on the 18th of August.
There's shifting behind him, gravel skittering and crunching under heavy boots. Fai curses the dizziness and blood rushing through his head which had hid the sound from him because he knows exactly who it is without looking and he does not want to talk to him. He pushes himself further into the crumbling wall.
It is silent between them.
Fai refuses to be the one to break it even though he knows that it will get that man away from him sooner, stop him from staring at Fai and knowing- because he has to know- has to be able to see- the changes which have happened to him.
Fai doesn't care enough to stop the tears now as they stream silently down his cheeks.
If this man wants to make him live he'll have to live with seeing the pain he's inflicted.
Eventually Kurogane speaks.
"I know you used magic to help the princess." He says, voice gruff.
Fai can't help but laugh, the sound bitter and touched by hysteria as it bites at the sour air of this world.
"Now you're going to ask why I didn't heal her. Why I don't heal myself." The blonde states, words tasting sharp as his lips form a grin which is almost human.
The ninja is silent. Fai hears him readjust his footing and waits for him to leave him alone again. After half a minute Fai breaks.
"I can't heal people." He says darkly, "Only hurt."
The other man still doesn't speak.
"You saved someone useless." Fai spits, trying to emphasise his point to this stupid, stupid man.
The wind picks up and Fai hears whistling as it passes through the holes in the collapsing tower. Some grit on his left slips softly from the edge of the building, whispering as it does. Somewhere below them people are shouting and crying and trying to save Sakura's life and leg.
"You aren't useless." That man says patiently as if Fai is a child needing encouragement and not an adult fully aware of his worth.
Fai laughs again but says nothing.
"The princess needs you. The kid and the meatbun too." The red eyed man says, still standing behind Fai.
Fai turns finally, looking around his shelter and directly into the other man's eyes.
"And you? Why didn't you let me die?" He challenges, standing again, head tilted up.
Kurogane doesn't flinch.
"If you haven't figured that out yet maybe you really are an idiot." The dark haired man says before turning and leaving again. His hand trails against the frame of where there used to be a door as he ducks inside.
Fai doesn't stop him.
Next chapter on the 29th of September.
Fai stays there until he can't hear Kurogane anymore, staring at the rubble around him.
Eventually he stands, wind blowing his hair as his gaze shifts to the barren desert around them and far in the distance the only other remaining building.
The blonde goes inside.
The stairs seem endless as he trudges his way back down, closer and closer to the smell of blood and crude antiseptic.
Kurogane is thankfully nowhere to be found when he slips into the room holding the princess and gently closes the door behind him. The room is vacant excepting Syaoran, Sakura and Mokona, all three in various manners of unconsciousness.
The boy looks similar enough to the clone in this light that Fai hurts and bites at his lip, looking away from the way his chest gently rises and falls, pained expression on his face and Mokona on his arms as the cloak slips from his shoulders and that emblem is revealed behind where the small creature sleeps fitfully, murmuring Sakura's name.
Fai's gaze instead goes to the girl on the bed, face still twisted slightly in pain, clearly fighting his magic and whatever drugs they've given her, trying to wake up. He strengthens the spell on her and sighs in relief, dropping to sit on the bedside, as her brow smoothes just a little bit.
Maybe he has enough power still to keep her safe, asleep until they get somewhere they can heal her leg, unaware.
He knows even as he thinks it that it's a lie he's telling himself but lets himself believe it anyway, smiling painfully as he lifts her hand and presses a silent kiss to her bruised knuckles and then to the cuts on her fingertips.
"Why couldn't you all just let me die?" He whispers to her as he lays her hand down again and kisses away the dimple that appears between her eyebrows, feeling the tears he won't let himself cry in his throat and behind his eyes.
Behind him he hears Syaoran shift a little, heart beat speeding up a little as he blearily opens his eyes.
Fai looks away again, swallowing and tries to leave the room, saying nothing.
He tries not to catch Syaoran's eyes as he does but he grabs at his ankle, gripping firmly, a question rather than a demand and the mage can't help but go still, not breathing through the sick feeling that pervades him.
"You helped with her, didn't you?" He asks.
Fai can't respond through the horror rising in his throat that another person knows what he's done.
"I-" He starts to explain himself, looking down at the boy who holds the still sleeping Mokona close to his chest and smiles sadly.
"Thank you for doing that." He says gently, releasing Fai's foot.
The mage stands for a moment, confused, before fleeing the room.
Next chapter's on November the 10th.
Fai holds his breath, put chest to chest with the one he wants to see least as he gets away from the accusation, not thinking except for fear and persecution and the threat which lingers over him still.
Red eyes slide down to his and say far more than the grunt of acknowledgement that comes from his mouth.
Fai scowls, his own eyes narrowing as he meets the red ones in challenge.
He ignores it now and somehow that hurts him- to be turned down by the man who always wanted to fight him when they first met.
He stands still for a long moment when the man brushes past him and continues in the direction Fai had come from.
Then he moves again, away from people but not up this time, outside.
Up is... Far too enticing.
The acid burns a little as he walks across the sand and he feels strange moment near his hair, a sensation so foreign to him he doesn't know how to process it and avoids it for now, curling up just out of sight beyond the ruined wall and letting the rain etch paths into his skin.
It takes hours for Sakura to wake up.
It feels like another lifetime of torment to add to the many that Fai has already lived.
That person doesn't come to bother him, the other Syaoran and Mokona stay to watch over Sakura and none of the people from this world have any reason to look for him.
It's a relief in some ways but in others it leaves him alone with his thoughts and the prickling awareness- though he tries to push it back and ignore it- that there are some things deeply wrong with his body.
With practised ease he buries the curiosity and thoughts beneath guilt, fear and the burning trace of rain as it licks down the side of his face, along his jaw, down onto his neck and slowly, slowly runs along his collarbone to his chest.
There's always been something seductive in the horror of the act.
He tilts his head and feels the acid drip onto the bare skin, resisting the urge to itch or brush it away or soothe it.
It's as much as he deserves, he thinks as he bites down on his lip, enough that it hurts and makes him gasp, tears in his eyes, squeezed shut, enough not to draw blood.
He knows the balance.
Next chapter on the 22nd of December.
Fai stays away until he feels his spell begin to slip again.
By the time he reaches her, dragging his feet the whole time because he knows that it means being in a room with that man again, she is sitting upright, more alert than she's ever seemed before and he knows that something vital in her has changed and aches for it.
Mokona whimpers when they see Fai and Syaoran's eyes go wide with shock and pain as Fai holds his head high, saying nothing but looking at neither of them directly.
He's already begun to heal.
He can feel it itching as it runs through him, too warm.
Kurogane says nothing but his eyes linger on Fai even longer than usual though the mage can't read what he's thinking in them.
Sakura doesn't flinch either, the princess frowning as her eyes meet his and he lets them stay like that, not averting his gaze even as her gaze traces each reddened line on his skin and the traces of blood on his clothes.
"Fai-san." She says, something lost and hurt in her tone though it would seem firm, a mere acknowledgement to most.
The blonde can't help but bow his head, teeth clenched as he looks at her longer, too pale, too bruised, too young.
He goes down onto one knee and takes her right hand in both of his, letting his head rest above the surface of his hand over hers as he speaks.
"I am in your duty, princess." He promises, tongue licking over his lips, dry from the amount of time since he's last drank.
The mage doesn't look up to see the pain of each separate person's faces, shared but not divided.
There's silence for a while and Fai doesn't move, waiting for her to realise what he's saying.
Eventually she speaks again.
He looks up to see her nod and almost, almost smiles as he feels some of the guilt ease.
His anxiety skyrockets again as he sees her curl in on herself a little, still in pain, and cough, heavy and wheezing.
In moments he is on the bed, pulling her into his lap, fighting the prickling discomfort of the awareness of changes to his body he just can't confront now as he tries to make her as comfortable as possible, put her into the position that will put the least stress on her body.
The fact that he studied this so intensely only makes the fact he can't do healing magic sting more, the shame burning even stronger than the things he won't think about yet.
Next chapter is on the 26th of January. I'm going to be going through this and correcting pronouns and editing bits because a lot of this makes me feel very uncomfortable now but I'm not sure when this will happen.
The girl feels so small in his arms, still in the tattered cloak she'd been in since she came back and the dirty clothes. One eye is shut, swollen a little, while the other remains open, wide as she keeps coughing, the spasms peaking and then flattening out as Fai breaks further with each one.
It's not fair.
It's not fair.
That should be him or he shouldn't be here.
It's all so unfair that she should have to hurt while he is perfectly fine.
The mage swallows, pulling her into his chest and forcing back tears, huddling in on himself, teeth still clenched as he controls his breathing with iron grasp.
Eventually she stills, breathing ragged as she looks up wearily. Her eyes meet his and he gently lowers her down again, understanding the command in it and the veil of stone which has come up over her face with her own tight jaw.
"Mokona-chan. Call Yuuko-san." She asks, voice still stretched too thin as she adjusts herself a little to face the wall where Mokona dutifully projects the witch.
"I'm glad that you made it back." Yuuko says. Her eyes flicker to everyone but Fai feels more than anything that she's talking to him.
He hates it.
He looks down instead, at Sakura, at the princess.
He notices as people begin to speak the way that she seems so distant somehow even with how close they are, as if he's looking down from some height on the girl in his arms.
He can't even feel the weight of her or fully the words that she is speaking.
He knows from a fact that the back of his brain supplies that everything spoken is translated into his language but still the words seem to slip away as if he's underwater. He could grasp them- he thinks- if he tried.
That's distant too now and perhaps that is fine. Perhaps he could drift like this, float away from them, far enough that he couldn't hurt them even with them.
It's quiet as he looks down.
The girl in his lap is the same as the bed, as the floor, as his eyes slide off everything, unthinking, processing nothing.
The name slices through the silence and he starts a little, lowering his head slightly, unable to fight the guilt and determination he feels at the reminder of what he promised.
Suddenly the full weight of Sakura in his arms and the things he's done crashes down on his awareness.