Author's Notes: A note on the English language: blond is from the French and it's one of the few words that have different endings depending on the sex of the... um, owner (I know there's a proper word for it but I don't remember what it is). So - 'blond' - male with yellow coloured hair 'blonde' - female with yellow coloured hair. I was so pleased when I found out the mighty J.K. of Rowling uses this properly Soooooo Fai blond (no matter how deliciously femmy he is he's still a guy ).

There's a companion piece to this, called 'The Morning After' and it's R rated, so go read that too :)

Ahem. And there's a line of a poem in here from 'If' by Kipling, but don't let that put you off.

Disclaimer: They're not mine and you know it. They're CLAMPs, allllll CLAMPs (though Fai is Kurogane's - and that's all the yaoi warning yer getting)

Letting Go

By sugahcat


So very many things have happened in such a short space of time that I'm still not quite sure I've accepted them. Things have changed so much and I'm still astonished to wake up and remember that I'm in another world and not in Ashura-ou's rooms.

I was his, for so long. And even after I'd realised that he didn't love me the way I had loved him I was still his, against my will; partly because I was too afraid to say anything for fear of change, and because I knew he would never, ever let me go. He may not have loved me but he lusted after my Power. I was his beautiful weapon and he would rather have killed me than let me go. I know this.

But I loved him.

When I first realised that the feeling was not reciprocated, it almost destroyed me. When I realised that all of those long years he had been using me one way or the other, my heart shattered. I'm still nursing the pieces now and it still hurts so much whenever I think about him. Which is getting less and less, I am glad to say. My eyes wander over to Kurogane, seemingly of their own volition. Deep inside I know that part of the reason my thoughts are less full of Ashura-ou is because I find the ninja I am travelling with occupying them instead.

When I first realised how badly Ashura-ou had been betraying me I thought I would never, could never love again. I thought my heart had learned its lesson and would stay far from the painful roads of love. And now here I am. I'm still scared to admit how I feel about Kurogane to myself, much less to him, though for much the same reason. I'm afraid of how he might react if I tell him - and I'm afraid of how I might react if I admit it to myself.

I remember being a drunken mess and crying over Kurogane telling me that I was the sort of person he hated the most. I know what he meant - that he wanted me to act like myself rather than the person I became to please Ashura-ou. And that's all very well and good but I'm not sure I know who he is anymore. I've molded myself to fit what someone else wants of me for so long I don't remember who I am. I have pieces of myself, I think, that have been broken badly and are all disfigured and malformed. I don't know how to fit them together. I wish I did. I know I should be able to do it by myself - if I want to become strong, if I want to be myself for my own sake, this is how it must be done. So why do I want Kurogane's help so badly? Why do I want his touch, his love, to heal me?

Is it because I'm weak?

Or is it something else?

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Maybe because this simpering, smiling idiot I've become is getting on my nerves, too. I should be able to pull myself together all on my own, and I've been trying. I can see the shape of me, now. But is it such a bad thing to rely on others? It's not just Kurogane, either.

Seeing Syaoran overcome his difficulties in fighting with only one working eye and seeing him fight so valiantly for his princess is quite touching and is teaching me at once to be selfless and to be selfish when needs be. I mean, he's quite obviously selfless in getting Sakura's feathers back for her. But at the same time it is selfish - it is what he wants to do and he will do it no matter what happens the consequences. This is only true to an extent, of course - I know full well that he wouldn't willingly hurt an innocent for them. But nevertheless it is a selfishness of sorts.

The Princess herself has taught me a most important lesson. She, too has been shattered and is trying to find herself. And she is Powerful - more than she or anyone else in our little troupe knows. A different Power to mine and maybe even more Powerful than me. I think she suspects, I think she can feel it but she nevertheless goes about trying to recover herself. She is brave and I'm trying to learn from her.

In his own way Mokona is teaching me too. His little discussion about how noone would mind if I acted like myself surprised me with his wisdom. Whatever else he is, Mokona is wiser than he lets on. And he knows how to have fun which is something I really need to learn to do - real fun, not pretend fun that lets me hide how hurt and broken I am.

And then we return to Kurogane. I always do - no matter where my mind wanders it's never far from him. He is everything I want to be. Strong and brave, full of courage and devotion - I can do without the temper tantrums, though. I hide a rare, real smile by taking a sip of the delicious minty tea our host has given us.

I remember what else Kurogane said after I got hurt battling the demon. That I should live my life to the fullest. That, I think, may be the most important thing I could learn. It holds all the other lessons within it. I remember reading a poem in Ashura-ou's library with the lines "if you can fill the unforgiving minute/with sixty seconds worth of distance run" - which I translate as, live every moment as if it's your last. I think that's what I need to do. To do what I want to so that whatever else I might regret, I can't regret not trying.

And once more, my eyes slide over to Kurogane. And to my absolute astonishment, he's staring at me with an intense look in his beautiful crimson eyes. We stare at each other for a moment and I have no idea what he's thinking. He puts down his cup and leaves the room abruptly.

Sakura notices him go and frowns but then, as happens too often, her eyes glaze over and she suddenly can't remember what she was just thinking. Syaoran is deep in conversation with our odd-eyed host and his blond-haired lover and I sit there a moment, wondering what to do.

I know what I want to do. I want to follow Kurogane and see what's wrong. Maybe even admit my growing devotion to him. The thought makes me smile my most ugly and humourless smile, one full of self pity and self loathing for I would never find the courage to do that - my fear of his reaction is too great.

My eyes are drawn to Syaoran suddenly and I remember why we are here. Because he is helping Sakura regain her memories even though she'll never remember him and he's doing this even though it will break his heart.

For one second I stay in my seat, my mind undecided. I can keep on being a coward and sit here - or I can listen to the lessons all of my companions are teaching me and I can go and talk to Kurogane.

My body seems to know better than my mind because it is moving in the direction Kurogane went.

Well, then. This is it. No regrets.

Kurogane is stood outside, watching birds flutter and chirp in a birdbath. It's rather sweet to see him watching this scene, frowning and lost in thought. I dare to think some of those thoughts might be about me.

I take a moment to savour the sight of him. I was attracted to him immediately, I have no doubt about that. Tall and strongly built, he was wrapped in the long, midnight cape with the red highlights that match his eyes. He had a certain grace that I recognised as that of a warrior and a determination and sense of self that I had never had. Maybe that was the main thing that attracted me to him. I was a little put off my his brusque manner but now I find even that adorable. He is beautiful, I think, and I want him so much. Too much. If I don't speak out I know I will regret it every day of my life.

"Kurogane-san?" I feel this is an occasion worthy of using his proper name.

He looks up, startled, then frowns. I know he is wondering how I managed to get so close to him without him noticing. I could tell him that when I wish to go unnoticed, noone will notice me. It's a part of my magic that's completely intrinsic, something I can stop no more than I can stop breathing. Maybe one day I will tell him.

"Is everything alright?"

He looks at me for a long moment with unfathomable crimson eyes and I look back, unflinching. It's then that I notice that I'm not smiling. I haven't my mask on and I don't wish to wear it right now. If Kurogane wishes to see the real me, then so be it. He looks at me a little longer and I cock my head, trying to fathom what he's thinking.

"You're not smiling." It's a statement and possibly a question, too.

"No. I'm not."

A long silence stretches between us uncomfortably. I wonder what to say and how to say it.

"You're seeing the real me, Kuro-san. How do you like him?" I can hear a slightly nasty undertone in my quiet voice but I can't help it. He's making me face up to myself and I don't like me very much. He looks at me quietly some more.

"I like it more than that damn smile." Ironically enough, that makes me smile, but it's the ugly humourless one again, not the one I've come to think of as my mask. I don't say anything. I want more from him. "You're in a lot of pain."

"Hah." I'm even laughing without humour now. "A world of pain."

"What happened?" I narrow my eyes and suddenly decide to tell him. I can't pretend to him if I want our relationship to become anything more than it is. I tell him and am startled by his reaction. At first shocked, then angry. Then... something else. I think I recognise it from when he's been watching over Sakura-chan. Protectiveness. He wants to protect me? For one long moment I close my eyes and pretend that's what he means. When I open them again it's my turn to be startled. Without my noticing he's moved to be less than a foot away from me. Eyes the colour of blood are so intense it makes me catch my breath.

"You put up with being treated like that?" I smile hopelessly. "Stop smiling!" I do and am horrified when tears start to well up instead. "That's better." He whispers and either it's my imagination or there's tenderness in that voice. "If you're hurting, then cry. You said there's a strength in being able to cry when you need to, so do it. Not crying hasn't helped you any."

I bring a shaking hand up to my mouth to stifle a sob that threatens to erupt and he takes hold of it, taking it down by my side but he doesn't let go of it. A tear rolls down my cheek and I'm still terrified to let go of the control that's kept them back all this time. Kurogane shocks me again by wiping the wetness from my cheek and lets his hand rest there. The pain I feel from Ashura-ou's betrayal is counter balanced by the sudden joy I'm feeling. Joy that's so strong it gives me the strength to voice it.

"I think I'm falling in love with you, Kuro-san," I whisper and he smiles softly, a beautiful smile.

"Let me heal you, Fai-san," he whispers and I look at him through the tears. His face is totally serious. "And maybe you can show me the true meaning of strength."

He looks at me for a moment longer then leans forward to cross the short distance between us and I feel his lips on mine. My heart soars. It's not the possessive, jealous kiss that Ashura-ou gave me and then only rarely. It's soft and gentle and loving. I didn't expect this from Kurogane and I think that he'll teach me much about himself that I didn't know. And I want to know it all.

His strong arms wrap protectively around me and I slide my arms around his waist. The kiss gets hungrier and I realise that this is what I need to get over all that Ashura-ou did to me. Maybe some people can get over this sort of thing on their own - and maybe I would've, eventually. But I think I'm teaching Kurogane a lesson, too. That sometimes people do need other people to protect them. That I need him.

His kisses leave me breathless and tears are still falling down my cheeks but I can feel Ashura-ou's grip on me finally fading. I can't be entirely Kurogane's until I no longer am in Ashura-ou's thrall. Until I can give him up entirely. Pulling back I look deep into Kurogane's eyes and see tenderness and a furious protectiveness and I smile. Closing my eyes I look over the memories of Ashura-ou that I am holding onto for whatever reason. Memories of his kisses full of possessiveness. Memories of him protecting me - his Powerful magical weapon - from those who would have taken me from him. Of his forcing his marking on me, promising me control but giving him yet another way to control me and making me afraid of my own abilities.

My eyes snap open and I know I have an ugly twist to my mouth that isn't even a smile. The last vestiges of love I had for Ashura-ou have become hate and I realise that even though I still have some healing to do before I can come to terms with my Power, I would use it to protect Kurogane. I am ready to face myself in the mirror once more without wearing my mask.

"Better?" Kurogane asks after a moment of contemplating me and I give a real smile. I think it might even have been a beautiful one for Kurogane blinks and his eyes widen slightly.

"Yes. Much." I pull him to me once more and drown in his kisses. We might be interrupted in a moment by Mokona or the kids but right now, I want to kiss him and from now on I promise myself that I'm going to live my life to the fullest. I have a feeling a lot of it is going to involve my ninja and even as I kiss him, I smile a real smile.


Thoughts: Did Tomoyo make Kuro-chan's outfit? Does he have a sweet little jester outfit for certain occasions? Meheh, a fanart is in order, I think.

And:Fai's tattoo looks like the Fly Clow Card. Is it just because CLAMP can only draw a limited number of birds or is it an x-over? I think it should look like the birdies from Wish instead x) (I've had too much sugar, again)

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