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(Kurofai) Pawn

Title: Pawn
Rating: T
Warnings: Spoilers up to the Celes arc!
Summary: Stuck in Yama with plenty of time to brood over his role in the journey, Fai decides to test our favourite ninja's boundaries.

It was in the country of Yama that, unable to spit out any of the pretty little lies that papered over his true self, his thoughts most often drifted towards the darkness. Always it began with those words, echoing out of the distant past, a mantra that ceased to disappear.

‘If, for any reason… that pawn of the witch’s gets in the way, then he too…’

And here he was, stuck in the middle of nowhere with that very pawn, though the man in question would vehemently deny doing anything for ‘that witch’.

They’d been here for nearly five months now, just himself and the ninja, with no sign of the children or the handy little creature that served as their translator. Thankfully the other man had understood enough of the native language to ensure their safety and employment in this world, but the magician couldn’t comprehend anything past the very basics. Thus, Fai had been relegated to pretending to be a mute in the company of others (they really didn’t take well to foreigners in these parts), whilst his travel companion did all the talking. Even when he could speak, tucked away in the safety of the tent they shared out of necessity, was there really any point? It wasn’t like the ninja could understand him besides a few babbles and gestures, and he hated the sound of Fai’s voice anyway. It was beginning to become a struggle now to even gather the effort to speak, in those snatches of time between battles set against a rising moon. He was beginning to lose hope that they were ever going to be reunited with the children. How long were they going to be here for? Forever?

If he was stuck here forever with Kurogane, away from the princess, did that mean he was relieved from his duty? Does it mean I can never grant my wish?

He looked over from where he lay, curled up like a cat on his bedroll, to where the ninja slept, an unnaturally still presence on the other side of the tent. His face presented such a contrary picture when resting; there was no trace of the usual scowl that the larger man seemed to have permanently stuck to his expression. His eyes roamed over the ninja’s features, taking in the curve of his cheekbones, the flick of a nose, the sharpness of his jaw. They continued lower without much thought, drifting over a prominent Adam’s apple, down to where his collarbones met in the midst of toned muscle and a tanned expanse of skin. The man slept bare-chested and without a cover, choosing freedom of movement over comfort, giving Fai the opportunity to evaluate the prominent muscles of an expert swordsman without reprimand as his eyed roved further downwards. Small scars decorated his abdomen here and there, signs of a life lived on the battlefield, but none were serious enough to mar the overall picture.

There’s no denying that he’s an attractive man, he thought to himself, still staring more than he would have ever been allowed if the man were awake. I’d imagine the ladies back home would be all over him, if it weren’t for that scary attitude of his. I wonder if he’s ever been in love...

He quickly dragged his thoughts away from this topic. What business of his was it if the ninja had some past romance or not? Thinking idiotic thoughts like this was exactly the mistake that he wanted to avoid. He wasn’t supposed to be getting to know these people; especially not this man. Getting to know someone could lead to liking them, and liking someone like Kurogane, the man he was supposed to remove if he became a hindrance to the plan, was definitely forbidden. Besides, the closer he got to any of his companions, the more likely they were to find out everything; Kurogane could already tell that he was lying now, so who knew how much he could guess if they got closer? It was best for both of them if the mask stayed firmly in place.

‘If you ever meet that child… remember that he belongs to the witch. He is not my enemy alone.’

He placed so much faith in Fai, that man with the bat crest who had changed his whole world. His eyes followed the line of his arm from shoulder to wrist, noting the dips and curves of the muscles beneath the surface. He wondered briefly if, when the moment finally arrived, he would have the strength required to take the other man down. There was great power in those limbs, enough to heave that gigantic sword around in battle like it was made of feathers; although Fai could quite capably hold his own, a direct physical confrontation might end in disaster for the blonde. Magic was out of the question, too; there was no way he was going to risk waking up Ashura-ou. So he’d have to have a strategy planned.

The best place to take him out would be here, though, away from the eyes of the children. If Kurogane died in some battle in the middle of nowhere, it could be easily passed off as an unfortunate incident, and his well-practiced acting skills were more than capable of covering up the truth. After all, what was another lie when added to everything else he was hiding?

Still, while the man was a useful guard for the princess it wouldn’t do to remove him from the party of travellers. He was certainly a worthy partner in battle; he’d had firsthand knowledge of that. The ninja was an unstoppable force of nature on the battlefield, even if he did seem to be holding back on killing people for some unknown reason.

A sudden notion snuck into his brain, one urging him to get closer- to test the warrior’s boundaries in case the time came where he would have to carry out his orders- he told himself. It would be cowardly, of course, taking out such an excellent fighter while he was sleeping, but then the ninja himself had pointed out that Fai was a coward. And it was only hypothetical, after all.

Mostly he was curious to see how far he’d get.

Pushing himself up onto his hands and knees, he crept closer to the sleeping ninja, wondering if his constant presence up until now had done anything to lessen the man’s guard around him. It would certainly help if he had, Fai told himself, though he couldn’t suppress the part of his mind that simply wanted to get a better look at that sleeping face. He supposed it was the same part that considered a dozing lion to be cute. Acknowledging that getting this close to the sleeping warrior might result in fatality, as he came within a metre of the man’s right side, he decided to continue his test.

Knowing what he did about the ninja’s constant state of alertness, he figured that the larger man was already awake by now, but waiting to see what Fai was up to.

Now that he was even closer, the details of his body were much sharper than before. The scars on his torso, smooth pink against the tanned skin, looked more jagged and indicative of extreme violence than from afar. Briefly he wondered how each had been caused, how each attacker had managed to land a blow on the seemingly impervious ninja, and whether they had lived to tell the tale. Despite having not killed anyone on their journey yet, he could only assume that the answer to the latter was ‘no’. His reluctance to take down even the enemies here suggested something was hindering his efforts; the blood on his face when they both arrived at Yuuko’s implied it had only taken effect since he had begun travelling. He could still feel the bloodlust radiating from the ninja every time he fought an enemy, despite his forced mercy and the influence of the kids softening him little by little, so he could only imagine what the man had been like in full killing machine mode.

Probably something akin to Ashura-ou, he almost thought, but caught himself in time and pushed that awful set of recollections back down where they belonged.

He never thought that he’d be able to get this near to the other man, not without throwing himself at the ninja in a fake gesture of silliness in front of the children. Not when he was lying there so defenceless… well, as defenceless as an unarmed ‘sleeping’ Kurogane could get, anyway.

As he knelt over him, careful not to touch any part, he contemplated what would have happened next if he’d brought a dagger with him. Would he have been able to kill this man? Firstly, he had approached the ninja without a killing intent; surely Kurogane could sense that, since he hadn’t opened his eyes to stop him yet. Secondly, assuming it was possible, could he actually carry out the deed? He’d never actually killed anyone before coming to this world, not directly anyway, and even then that had been in the heat of battle. Killing people out there and taking out one man while he was supposedly sleeping were two entirely separate things.

Somewhere, in the midst of his internal monologue, his right hand had come up to hover over the place he knew the ninja’s heart must be; the fingers were clenched into a fist, as if holding a knife ready to plunge downwards.

He noticed he was shaking a little.

Holding the hand as steady as possible, he shifted his body in order to further gauge any reaction to his proximity. It appeared that the larger man’s face was as impassive as ever, he noted, bringing his own face closer to scrutinise the ninja whilst attempting to suppress his breathing. It was another opportunity to let his curiosity run rampant, and he quickly memorised the man’s sleeping face from an angle that he would probably never see it from again.

The ninja’s eyelashes, thick and dark, were surprisingly long from this close up. His eyes traced the line of the nose, dropping off the tip to land on slightly parted lips. He could hear the soft breaths emanating from the man below, could almost feel the air caress his skin; it sent an unwanted tingle racing down his spine, which he tried his best to ignore along with the frenzy beginning to build in his chest.

“?lleh eht tahw …egaM”

Black irises suddenly appeared, dark eyebrows meeting in the middle, a flash of annoyance crossing his expression. Fai’s hand dropped from the air onto the ninja’s chest for balance as he jumped a little, taken completely by surprise. He froze as his hand came into contact with skin, the soft beat of a relaxed heart thudding gently against his palm. He could almost feel crimson eyes burning through the altered colour, blazing away beneath a black abyss.

He had been awake for some time, then. As I suspected...

For long dragging moments, both men remained unmoving, gazes glued together, as Fai tried to gather the thoughts that had scattered into an unseen wind. The man underneath him (and he really was underneath Fai as he leaned over, hand pinning the ninja to his bedroll) stared up unmoving, apparently waiting for an answer to what had probably been something along the lines of ‘what the hell are you doing?’ judging from the growing annoyance showing plainly on his face.

He was trying to formulate an answer, really, he was, but for some reason the words just weren’t arranging themselves like they were supposed to. Not that the man would understand them, but he could at least make some hand gestures and attempt to grin convincingly, like it had all been a great big joke. The eyes were boring into him now, searching for things that Fai wanted to keep hidden, and he could almost feel the sensation of being invaded, his stare sending creeping warmth from the cheeks he could feel starting to burn to sink heavily in the pit of his stomach. He opened his mouth to begin his symphony of dishonesty, and suddenly noticed how their breaths mingled together, hot clouds mixing in the minute space between them and you need to move right now. Come on, you don’t usually lose your composure like this. Those eyelashes flicked rapidly over black that should have been blood red, and he was struck by how beautiful such a strange eye colour was, wishing he could see it again. You’re still not moving... He could still feel the heart beneath his fingers, pulsing against his digits in a dizzying rhythm— Move, damn it, MOVE!

“A-Ah, Kuro-rin,” He managed to choke out, quickly straightening his mask, “I was merely testing your reactions! And I must say that you failed quite spectacularly!” He remained where he was, waiting for a reaction from the man.

“!naicigam toidi ,peels ot og dna pu tuhS .enagoruK s’tI”

Assuming that meant that he should make a swift exit before violence ensued (he definitely recognised that last part as an insult), he attempted to kick his body into gear. First things first, he needed to remove that hand from the ninja’s chest without making it seem like a big deal. He swept his fingers closer together as he lifted his hand away, ignoring the strange impulse to run his fingers over more of that surprisingly smooth chest, and inadvertently brushed against the skin, a whisper of a caress as he retracted his digits. The resulting shiver from the ninja caused a great number of confusing emotions to run through his system, including that strange rush of heat again. His heart had decided to do a spontaneous tap dance, and he had to remind himself to breathe normally and keep moving away.

What is happening to me? he thought desperately, his head a swirling mess of chaos. All he’d wanted to do was see if he could get close enough for a fatal blow (which may need some reconsideration since he obviously knew I was there) and suddenly he couldn’t even speak properly? He was acting like… well, he was acting like the kids did when they were around each other.

I’m going to pretend that I didn’t even notice the similarities there. I can’t think like that.

He shuffled backwards on his knees a little, withdrawing his face from the personal space of the larger man (he wanted to stare into those eyes a little longer, but he suppressed that notion with the rest of them), and was turning to leave when he felt a hand close around his wrist, preventing the escape that he had just managed to commit to.


He recognised at least that term, since it was one of the few names Kurogane ever called him by.

“What is it, Kuro-sama?” He began, turning back to face the other man.

He froze at the renewed proximity of the man, who had somehow pulled himself into a sitting position a couple of feet away without Fai even noticing he had moved. The ninja was frowning at another obvious misuse of his name, but otherwise his expression gave nothing away.

He needed to focus. The fact that he hadn’t even sensed the other man’s movements was worrying. A mistake like that might be costly in the future. He couldn’t be dazzled into paralysis by the mere presence of a man who would be his enemy.

The larger man stared at him for a short while, eyes assessing his condition as they raked up and down his body. Fai waited patiently for whatever it was the man had to say, wondering why he was bothering to say something he wouldn’t understand, when the ninja spoke again.

“.yllautneve emoc lliw uujnam eht dna sdik ehT .yrrow t’noD”

Once again he understood none of the words, but the depth of feeling behind each syllable struck him with their sincerity and gentleness, words that he would never have thought to associate with the brash man before him. He’d seen snatches of a softer man in some of his interactions with the children, hidden behind glares and gruff words, but this was the first time he had witnessed such an unguarded gesture of kindness. It would have brought a genuine smile to his face, were he not weighted down with the knowledge that he would one day take advantage of that weakness.

So instead he forced a smile, corners of his mouth straining to cover the gaping hole in his cheery facade, and babbled some more nonsense words of assent at the ninja.

He earned a sharp thwack around the head for that one.

“.gniyas er’uoy tahw dnatsrednu t’nac I nehw neve ,ti ekaf t’noD” The other man grumbled, fingers tangling into blonde locks almost unintentionally as the flat of his hand connected with his head.

He supposed he deserved that. It was a poor effort.

He was surprised, however, when the fingers didn’t retreat immediately, choosing to linger for a long moment. He could almost feel the fingertips caressing his scalp softly, and had to suppress another shiver at the thought. His brain was starting to reassess their closeness, though the rest of his body had succumbed to immobilisation again, lost in the onyx eyes that were now locked on his own. His mouth suddenly felt really dry, and his tongue darted out unconsciously to wet his lips. He watched the ninja follow the action with fascination, a brief flash of something crossing over ebony orbs, and felt his breathing turn erratic again.

Whatever you do, do not do what you’re thinking about now.

It seemed like Kurogane was going to say or do something, lips slightly parted as fingers flexed against his head, but whatever he was planning was interrupted by a loud crash outside. The resulting jeers and exaggerated rounds of applause probably meant one of the men had dropped something important.

All of a sudden it was as if the larger man broke from a trance, eyes blinking rapidly as he took in their positions. His head quickly withdrew from Fai’s personal space, fingers pulling away from his scalp with a little more force than Fai appreciated. Sensing that whatever moment they had been having was definitely over, Fai let out the breath he hadn’t realised he’d been holding.

“.gniniart rof pu er’eW .egam ,deb ot oG” A low mumble came from the retreating ninja.

“Good night, Kuro-tan!” He managed to chirp out as he turned his back on the other man, crawling back onto his bed roll.

Sinking back into the thin blankets, he tried his best to ignore the unsettling sensation in his stomach, a thousand butterflies battling for space. He took deep (and quiet, he hoped) breaths, attempting to steady the rapid pounding of his heart, and pushed the close up view of the ninja’s face dancing in front of his eyes away. He forced himself to think of the reasons he was doing this, mantra turning over and over in his mind.

Sleep wasn’t going to be an option tonight.


He should’ve killed him back then.

Looking back on it now, that was the answer he concluded. But in the depths of his heart he knew that his resolve to kill the man had wavered even before they were marooned together in that warzone of a world.

As all his lies were finally cut open, spilling out all his sins and regrets to be laid bare in front of his companions, he knew that the time had come. There was no way that the pawn of the witch- that Kurogane- would let the man who destroyed his country take the princess. There was also no way that he would let that happen, he had realised, somewhere in the last couple of worlds as he struggled to keep a broken girl together. At the same time, however, like an ever-present weight in the back of his mind, he still wanted to bring his brother back, and that meant carrying out the plan.

I don’t think I can do this.

It was almost laughable, really, his desire to both bring back Fai and to defend the people in the way of that goal. Why must I struggle to protect everything, when I know that I never manage to save anything?

‘Never forget that you are my pawn. Until your wish is granted.’

He raised a trembling finger, magic gathering as he brandished the digit in the direction of the approaching ninja.