Title: A Thousand Cuts
Author: Jordanna Morgan (librarie@jordanna.net)
Archive Rights: Please request the author’s consent.
Rating/Warnings: PG for vampiric blood-drinking.
Characters: Fai and Kurogane.
Setting: After Tokyo Revelations.
Summary:
Kurogane never allowed Fai to bite him.
Disclaimer: They belong to CLAMP. I’m just playing with them.
Notes: Written for Starrie Wolf, as a fill for the 2015 Not Prime Time fic exchange. This is my very first “Tsubasa Chronicle” fic. Happily, the prompt matched exactly with the storyline and ideas that most intrigue me, and which I had already wanted to explore—so thank you for the excuse to finally dig in and write them!
I should add that since this was my first effort in the fandom, I had hoped to run it past a one-time beta reader, simply to double-check whether my characterization rings true. Sad to say, I was completely unable to find anyone at all who was willing and able to do so. In the end, all I had to run with was my own read on the characters and the canon (which is sometimes less than easy to follow); and so, if anything is slightly off, I apologize.

 

A Thousand Cuts

 

Kurogane never allowed Fai to bite him. When the time came, he always made a cut to his own arm instead.

It wasn’t that Fai was unable to bite. Even as a vampire who had been transformed, instead of being born that way, he had the fangs to do the job. He could feel them when he smelled blood, and they emerged with one short sharp ache. No matter how much he tried to hold them back, they always appeared, long and hideously sharp against his tongue.

That was the reason why he never raised his head at those times, never looked Kurogane in the face. He didn’t want him to see those shameful manifestations of his inhumanity: the fangs, the catlike golden shift of his remaining eye. It already had to be plain enough to the warrior that he was giving sustenance—giving something of his very life—to a monster. Fai didn’t want to make the reminder even more repulsive.

Even so, he was fairly sure Kurogane felt the fangs too; felt their edges just barely denting his skin, when Fai’s lips were pressed to the wound he offered. Fai wondered how the man could tolerate even being touched by them.

Sometimes, for a mere instant, the thought of actually using them was tempting. Sometimes he thought it would have been satisfying to sink his fangs deep into bleeding flesh, make Kurogane flinch in pain, exact a tiny amount of retribution for this horror he had insisted on condemning them both to bear…

But that wasn’t really Fai. It was only the dark, animal impulses this beastly condition had instilled in him. When he realized that, he would feel deeper humiliation. He would quickly withdraw, even when his appetite was not yet completely sated.

He gladly would have starved to death, rather than submit to his vile need. From the start, he tried to deny it, to refuse it; but after the first two days, when he began to weaken visibly, Kurogane had calmly threatened to pin him to the wall with his blade and force him to drink.

Fai knew Kurogane was entirely serious about that threat. He also knew that with the vampiric physical strength he now possessed, if he truly wished to resist, not even the powerful warrior could make him drink against his will… but the very fact that Kurogane was so insistent meant everything. It was the reason why Fai had submitted to the change in the first place, and it was the reason why, time and again, he accepted the price his friend had chosen to pay.

The warm blood tasted like Kurogane’s soul: strong yet faintly bitter, like steel, like determination. Kurogane’s strength was in it, and when Fai swallowed it, that strength became his own. In his mind, he knew this must be only the physical process, the response of his changed body to the cruel nourishment it required… yet he couldn’t help feeling as if he was drawing something psychically from Kurogane’s essence as well. It was a heady feeling, at once tantalizing and terrifying, and it held the dark allure of an addiction.

Never once did Fai ask for it himself. Kurogane chose the time, watching the ebb and flow of the vampire’s vitality with an uncanny perception. When circumstances were stressful, he offered his veins more often, and when matters were fairly calm, he waited a longer interval. Either way, somehow, Fai never felt the hunger begin to stir. Kurogane was always there before it had the chance to come, holding out a fresh wound in his arm with a stern and silent patience.

Neither of them spoke of it to Sakura or Syaoran or Mokona. In one sense, it became a ritual of dull necessity, like some perverse sort of medical treatment. But in another sense, it remained intensely private—perhaps even intimate, in a strange, dispassionate way. Because blood was not like medicine, or even food.

Blood was life itself.

Those children wanted to pretend Fai was still normal; or at least, what they thought was normal. They believed this darkness was the farthest thing from his character as they knew it, the smiling lightness he had always presented. They couldn’t imagine that his change was really little more than an outward manifestation of his true nature: the unintended evil, the curse he had carried from the time he was born.

He had always been a thing that brought suffering to others by his very existence. Now it simply came in a form that others could see, exposing the cause and effect between his life, and the price paid for it by those around him.

Still, for their sake, he did his best to let them pretend, to hide from them the new impulses that were involuntarily seething in him. At all times now, he could feel the restless fluctuations of predator instincts, the taint of inhumanity that came with being a vampire. He tried to keep it so tightly controlled… but he couldn’t control it every moment.

Perhaps that was why it was such a painfully private affair. When the emerging fangs cracked the fragile mask of his smile, and he was reduced to preying like an animal on the life of a human being, Kurogane could see all of those things in him—whether Fai wished it or not.

At least that tinge of savagery had its uses in Infinity: this strange dark world of human chess games. Already in their few matches so far, Fai had realized he was fighting in a different way than before. He wasn’t yet sure how much of it came from the influence of Sakura’s strong will, as their “Master” in chess… or how much was the new part of himself which, if not for his blood bond with Kurogane, would have felt the urge to tear out the throats of their opponents.

When he first saw the black leather and chains which were this world’s idea of fashion, he had been forced to hold back a bitter laugh. Dressed in such a way, he knew very well that he even looked like a vampire.

It might have been alright, he supposed, if his curse had been reduced to only this; if being a vampire, and drawing sustenance from someone who was so inexplicably willing, was the only thing he had to worry about in himself. However, this evil had not been traded for the other parts of the burden he held locked up inside him, bound to his remaining magic. It had only been added on top of them.

He wondered exactly when it would all come out… and who would pay the price on that day.

 

“You could use a drink,” Kurogane said without preamble, after their companions had retired for the night. “It was a rough match today.”

He already had his sword in hand. Before Fai could say a word, the warrior traced a shallow cut above his wrist, and the mage-turned-vampire could only suppress a soft sigh of regret as he watched the blood begin to trickle out.

Really, Fai couldn’t argue tonight. Even for him, their latest chess match had been grueling… and he needed the nourishment.

Letting his weapon fall, Kurogane sat down on the edge of the sofa, his arm outstretched. Fai approached slowly, almost reverently; and like a worshiper, he knelt, bowing his head over the wound. After only a slight hesitation—much less now than at first—he grasped Kurogane’s arm to steady it. He felt the man’s strong pulse flutter beneath his fingertips, quickening just a little.

Was it a thrill of revulsion at being touched by a vampire that made Kurogane’s heart beat faster?

In the past, Fai felt certain he would have known, would have been able to read Kurogane better. Now, between his diminished magic and the chaotic stirrings of his new vampire senses, he found his perceptions had become more jumbled and unclear. The loss of his eye had not only robbed him of a part of his physical sight, but something of his spiritual sight as well.

What he could read now was the scents of his companions. As a vampire, a creature that was naturally—or in his case, unnaturally—designed to hunt prey, he had gained a drastically heightened and altered sense of smell. It did not offer the insights his more supernal, magically-derived instincts had before his change began to muddle them, but it was something, at least. Fai had learned that people’s bodies reacted chemically to certain shifts of their moods, creating minute changes in their scents that he could sometimes pick up on… but it was strongest with those who were not very good at suppressing their emotions anyway, like Sakura and Syaoran. By contrast, Kurogane was so disciplined, so controlled, that Fai could rarely detect those subtle variances in the way he smelled.

Not that he ever had much of a chance, after all. In his resolve not to fully forgive Kurogane, not to let himself grow close again for Kurogane’s own sake, he was careful to keep a little more physical distance now as well. The only exception was these brief interludes when he fed… and in those times, all he smelled was the blood.

He smelled it now. The aroma was sharp and metallic and obscenely inviting, causing his fangs to lengthen.

Exhaling a deep sigh, he lowered his lips to the cut on Kurogane’s arm, and let the warm red liquid spill into his mouth.

It shouldn’t have tasted good to him. Heedless of his aggrieved and remorseful mind, the purely physical part of his being enjoyed it, savored it with the primal triumph of a predator overcoming its prey. That traitorous response of his own body made him feel unclean, unholy, in entirely new ways than he always had as a mere matter of course.

This anguish of the damned is only what I deserve… but why must others go on suffering for my punishment as well? Why must he?

Kurogane remained very still. His breaths were as deep and steady as those of a man asleep—yet Fai knew the warrior was watching. With his now glowing-yellow eye turned away, he couldn’t see the gaze that rested on him, but he could feel it like a heavy weight across his shoulders. It only intensified the shame.

The first time or two, except for a few uneasy glances as he became used to the sensation on his arm, Kurogane hadn’t looked. It was as if he wanted to give Fai a certain measure of privacy—which was ridiculous, really, because this unhappy experience belonged just as much to him. Perhaps even more so, because Kurogane was the one who gave. Fai, the taker, had no right to refuse him the sight of his life being consumed, or the sight of who… what… was committing that repugnant act.

Lately, however, Kurogane did look. Perhaps he had accepted that they were stuck with this arrangement for at least the foreseeable future, and there was no sense in being so delicate about it.

After all, delicacy was hardly Kuro-Pooh’s strong point…

Fai felt a pang in his heart at the thought of the old playful barbs he had sworn off using. He wished they could go back, wished so much that it could be the way it was before, he wished… but there was no going back now. There was only the little Fai could do to try to protect Kurogane from Fai himself, even as this bond of blood tied them together more closely than ever.

Because Fai never looked up when he drank, he didn’t know what expression might be on Kurogane’s face as the warrior watched him. Maybe that was the real reason for his reluctance to lift his head. Maybe he was too afraid to see the disgust, the loathing, that was surely reflected in the eyes of his prey.

He drank until the shallow cut stopped bleeding out. In reality, it took surprisingly little to nourish him. It was a good thing, because with the heavy exertion of their chess matches, none of them could afford to have Kurogane weakened by blood loss.

Fai suspected his feedings were much quicker than they felt to him. He wondered if it was the same for Kurogane.

Gingerly, taking care not to let his fangs scrape Kurogane’s skin, he withdrew his lips from the wound. After a moment’s hesitation—it was rather mortifying when he knew the man’s eyes were on him, but the instinctive compulsion was so very strong—he darted out a pink tongue, and licked up the last trace of scarlet around the edges of the cut.

At last he released Kurogane’s arm, and sat back on his heels, demurely wiping his mouth with his fist. It didn’t shock him anymore to see the crimson streaks that came away on the back of his hand. What he felt now was only an empty, aching sadness and regret.

“…I’m sorry,” he whispered, his gaze still averted.

“Hunh?” Kurogane mumbled brusquely, as his right hand reached for the roll of gauze that was kept close by to wrap his forearm.

“I’m sorry that this must—disgust you. And…” Fai dared to lift his head, glancing over at the sword Kurogane had allowed to fall to one side. He wasn’t even sure his eye had changed to blue again, but it didn’t really matter right now. “I’m sorry for causing you pain.”

Kurogane’s head tilted. He was silent for a long moment, his own eyes wandering to the sword, before his gaze slowly shifted back to Fai.

“Why do you think it is that I always make the cut myself?”

The vampire winced, breaking their fleeting eye contact. “I thought it might be because you can’t stand the thought of…” A shudder slipped through him, and he raised his slim fingers to his lips. Behind them, he could still feel his fangs, only just beginning to recede.

“Wrong again. I do it so you won’t think you’re the one causing me pain, by having to bite me.” Kurogane’s eyes narrowed, but his expression was not angry. “This choice was all on me, Fai—and it still is. If you can’t get anything else into that empty head of yours, remember that.”

A lump knotted itself tightly in Fai’s throat. He stared up at Kurogane, speechless. The warrior’s image blurred a little as his eye threatened to well with tears, and he willed them valiantly not to spill over onto his cheek.

“And while we’re on the subject…” Kurogane hesitated. It was unusual, coming from him. Words were not exactly one of his strengths, either; but when he did use them, he was always unflinchingly direct. That uncertain pause was something rare and telling.

“The witch said you could refuse my blood—and after the way you’ve been fighting since we came to this world, I can see what she meant. Considering your attitude about things before you were changed, I… expected it to be a little harder to convince you.” Kurogane drew a short breath, stared firmly into Fai’s solitary eye. “I’d like to know what made you accept it.”

A vague, aching warmth slowly crawled into Fai’s heart and squeezed it tight. It was a mix of sad and happy and grateful and sorry and pained that he was suddenly much too tired to try making sense of just yet.

“You answered that yourself. It was your wish that I survive—even at the cost that was put before you. I don’t pretend to understand your reasons, but…”

Fai pushed himself fluidly to his feet. When he looked back at Kurogane, the mask of his serene smile was in place once more.

“…It would have been unkind of me to refuse you something you made such a fuss about getting, wouldn’t it?”

Kurogane blinked at Fai, his mouth twisting a little. It was the expression of a man who knew there was more beneath the answer, but also knew that was all he was going to get.

At least for now.

“Good night, Kuro,” Fai concluded gently, and went out of the room.


© 2015 Jordanna Morgan