Sakura wasn't that suprised to find herself waking up after she didn't remember falling asleep, curled up in bed with a half-naked Fai-san and lots of pillows and no Mokona in sight and several bott - alright, maybe she was suprised. She noted absently that she still had her shirt on, and wasn't sure whether to be reassured or simply more nervous that her trousers had vanished. Underwear present and accounted for, thankfully. Fai yawned and snuggled closer.
"Fai-san?" Sakura ventured, her voice soft enough not to wake him if he was deeply asleep. But he yawned, and his eyelids flickered a few times. He mumbled something, and then emitted a fake snore.
Sakura could tell fake snores. She frowned and bopped him on the head with a pillow, which resulted in his sitting upright and looking hurt. "Sakura-chaaaan," he moaned. "Leave a man to sleep in peace, won't you?"
"What are you doing in bed with me?"
"Sleeping." He gave her his most charming smile. "You fell asleep again, so I brought you up here, and you looked so comfortable that I couldn't resist turning in too. We've all been working too hard, don't you think? The puppies won't be back for hours. They had about twelve dozen things to buy."
"Where are my trousers, Fai-san?" Sakura continued patiently.
Fai sighed. "In the laundry hamper with your jacket. They were covered in grease. I couldn't put you to bed in greasy trousers, could I? It would mess up the sheets."
Sakura sat up too, and ran a hand through her hair. It was in disarray, but not terribly so. So what were the bottles doing there?
And did she really mind? It wasn't a bad way to wake up. Fai was warm and snuggly.
She noticed it next when he began to watch her in the shower. At first she hadn't realized that he was, since she tended to close her eyes and sing - songs had been one of the first things she rembered, and the acoustics of the bathroom here were really quite remarkable. Piffle Country seemed to make everything out of this strange substance they called "neoplastic", and it echoed, reverberating like a concert hall. But even through the frosted doors, she could see that someone tended to open the bathroom door just a little, watch through the crack, then close it again. Someone tall.
Sakura dried herself off carefully, then went out into the kitchen, where Syaoran and Fai were fixing breakfast. She felt a tiny little flutter in her heart when she looked at Syaoran, but she felt a funny quiver when she looked at Fai.
Late one night Sakura couldn't sleep. She padded into the kitchen for a glass of milk, only to find Fai already there. The long lines of his body were only half-revealed in the moonlight, and he wasn't doing anything, just sitting, with the hint of akwardness that always accompanied his efforts to fold his angular shape into a curving chair, staring out the window and looking half-heartbroken.
"Fai-san?" Sakura asked softly, not wantint to startle him. He almost gasped and turned to look at her, and for a moment the expression on his face was so lonely she wanted nothing more than to run to him and hold him. It was gone in an instant, though.
"Ah, Sakura-chan. You couldn't sleep either?"
She shook her head and climbed into the next chair. "It's silly," she declared. "I sleep when I dont' want to, and when I want to I can't."
"I can't really help," Fai said mournfully. "I never figured out a way to fall asleep short of a clonk on the head. And of course I couldn't clonk you on the head." Charming smile. "I like you far to much to do that."
Sakura swallowed. She had to be imagining the look in his eyes. "How much do you like me, Fai-san?"
"I love you like no other woman," he told her. "How could I possibly not?"
Sakura looked away. That wasn't the answer she had been expecting. Like a sister, maybe, that would have been nice. I wish I had a daughter like you. You're nice to talk to. And the little quiver her heart got when she looked at him, that she had thought was apprehension but was so much stronger now that she was looking at him so vulnerable - he wore his clothes like armor, but there was nothing between her eyes and the pale, unmarked skin of his back now - what was she to make of that feeling? "What do you mean?" she said carefully.
Fai looked at her for a very long time. "I think you know what I mean," he said levelly. "And if you're young enough to miss it, the worse sinner I for thinking it."
Oh, that's alright then was her first absurd thought. After all, Fai was a true gentleman. "Maybe I do," she said softly. "It's alright. I don't mind."
Fai laughed. "How sweet can you possibly be? I thought you'd call me a pervert."
Sakura had to think over her next words for a very long time. "I'm not a little girl," she finally said. "I'm old enough to think things like that myself." It was a frightening admission, and she had not known it was true until she made it, but why else would her eyes stray down his body so easily? "And besides, I trust you. You won't do anything to hurt me."
"If only you knew," Fai whispered. "Go back to bed, Sakura-chan. Get your milk and leave a young fool alone with his misery. I won't bruise a bloom like you."
If it had been any other man, she would have told them, I am not a flower. Since it was Fai, who never meant harm by it, she just got her milk and left.
As much as Sakura had shocked herself with the declaration, it was true; she was more than old enough to think such things. She found herself remembering Fai's shape, and contemplating, for a few moments, the idea of trying to watch him in the shower as she was now sure he had been watching her (she discarded it; he wouldn't mind, she was sure, but what if Syaoran or Kurogane saw? What would they say? And why did she still feel giddy when she thought about Syaoran?) or somehow contriving to spill something and make him take off his shirt in the shop.
She decided to be proactive about this. She turned on the Piffle Country network and attempted to find some sort of reference manual, or at least some sort of frank discussion, but there wasn't much to be found. There were, however, romance novels. Deciding this was better than nothing, Sakura sent one the the corner printshop and snuck out to pick it up. At least, she told herself, she'd be learning about the country.
The novel was worse than useless; she stuffed it in the recycling before reaching the fiftieth page.
Sakura was nothing but not determined, though. In the abscence of any sort of guide, she decided that the only thing to do was go without and take things as they happened. She nodded to herself and laid it out in her mind. The obvious first step was to ambush him in his bedroom, where he couldn't run off. If he said no, seriously, and not just because he was afraid for her, she'd leave it and go. If not - hmm. Kisses seemed to be in order, although she wasn't sure what, if anything, else. She'd work it out when she got there.
Accordingly, that night, she went silently down the coridoor, just late enough that everyone else would be asleep. She could hear Kurogane's snores and Mokona's little dreaming giggles - if Mokona dreamed; she wasn't quite sure. Syaoran made no noise while asleep, but his door was closed and he was doubtless exhausted. Fai's door was ajar. He usually left the door ajar. Sakura wondered why.
She pushed it open and closed it behind her, holding the handle to keep the latch from clicking. Fai was asleep, it seemed, sprawled out across most of his bed and with the covers tangled around him in a way that couldn't be comfortable, surely.
Sakura sat down on the edge of his bed, and his eyes fluttered open almost at once. He didn't make a noise, just stared at her, unmoving.
"Hello," Sakura offered, suddely shy.
Fai sat up halfway at that, and rubbed his eyes. "Sakura-chan? It must be past midnight by now. Shouldn't you be in bed?"
"I am," Sakura pointed out, with a faint pout. "And it won't be midnight for hours."
"Your bed, I meant."
"I decided I like this one better." Sakura folded her arms across her chest and gave Fai a Look. "Why were you watching me in the shower?"
Fai looked away at that, wrapping his arms around himself. "Because I was foolish," he said softly. "Chii never m- I shouldn't have. I'm sorry."
"Did I say I minded?"
" ... No. But what respectable girl wouldn't mind having a lonely pervert watching her bathe?" Fai laughed, just a little, and rubbed at his arms.
"Me," Sakura told him. "It's flattering, in a way, and besides, I trust you. Who's Chii?"
Fai's eyes fixed on the opposite wall. "Someone I left behind," he said very softly. "She was like a daughter to me. Like you. And she never minded when I watched her in the baths, because it never occured to her that it was wrong." He shrugged. "You're too trusting, Sakura-chan."
Sakura rached out and took his chin between her hands; he made no move to prevent her, although his breathing sped up a little. She nodded to herself, and then she kissed him. It wasn't much of a kiss, unpracticed and shallow and their noses bumbed together at first until Sakura caught on and tilted her head just enough to let them slip past each other, but it was soft and warm and Fai's big blue eyes blinked at her like - she wasn't sure. If there was something to compare them to, she didn't remember. She didn't really care. She felt warm and safe and - floaty.
Fai closed his eyes and pulled away, and she let him. "Sakura," he said evenly, "if you know what you're doing - "
"I do," Sakura told him. "I'll sleep here. Just as long as I wake up and sneak back in time."
She did no more than kiss him, although the kisses got rather more interesting. Sakura decided that she rather liked kissing. It was rather wet, but apart from that the sensations were fascinating.
So far they hadn't even come close to being caught. Fai never so much as dropped an off-color joke or blushed in her presence publically; Sakura was proud of him for that. She didn't do quite so well. For some reason she felt a little guilty now when she looked at Syaoran, who'd been so nice to her, and who she was sure she liked. she just wasn't sure how. Besides, Fai had been nice too, and it wasn't as if either of them had the illusion this would last.
"How long?" Fai asked her, about a week later. He had left a hand on her arm, but otherwise did not touch her; he seemed hesitant to touch her sometimes.
"What do you mean, how long?"
"You know." Fai pouted, adorably, and Sakura leaned over to kiss his nose. "How long will we be doing - this." He waved vaugely at the bed, the rumpled sheets, her nightgown. "I don't want to - take you any further than you want to go. And if you get tired of me ..."
Sakura attempted to match his pout. She wasn't nearly as good at it as he was, but she tried. "I'm not tired of you, Fai-san. I like you. And I don't know how long I want to keep doing this. Until I figure out what it's like, I guess."
Fai grinned, leaning back. "And last week hasn't given you any clues?"
"Not enough," Sakura declared, and pounced.
When they came up for air Sakura sat decisively on Fai's stomach to keep him from wriggling away. "What's the matter? I don't want to make you do anything you don't want to, either." It seemed a ridiculous idea that she could, but it was the only explanation that came to mind.
"You aren't," Fai said, a little sadly. "Not on purpose. But I know I'm not the one you really love."
Sakura looked down at him for a long time, then nodded. "Not like you mean. Not - romantically. I like you, though. And I'm not the one you love, either." Like no other woman, he had said. It was probably a man, then, and not Chii. "But that's alright. We're just doing this for fun."
Fai just looked at her. For a moment Sakura imagined she could see the weight of years in his eyes, long years, longer than she, with her patchwork of memory, could even imagine. "How old are you?" she asked him, very quietly.
He closed his eyes and said, "A little past thirty. I've lost track. And how old are you?"
"Thirteen." Sakura looked at him again. Yes, with his eyes closed, he could be thirty. Or twenty; he had an ageless sort of face. And for just a moment there, she'd been certain the answer would be measured in centuries. "Syaoran's thirteen too," she offered. "He told me. And I don't know how old Kurogane is, but he can't be more than twenty, don't you think? So you're the oldest of the four of us."
Fai grinned, an example as fine as any of his usual grins, with only a faint trace of disturbance around the edges. "And the most experienced, I'm sure," he breathed. "Since Kurogane's got such a stick up his ass, but only in the metaphorical sense - I'm sorry, I shouldn't say things like that in mixed company, should I?"
Sakura wasn't sure what he meant, but she giggled anyway; his grin was infectuous.
Kurogane suspected something, Sakura was sure, but he didn't say anything. Syaoran was perfectly oblivious. As for Mokona - well, who could tell what Mokona was thinking?
But she still felt a little bit giddy whenever she saw Syaoran, and Fai was so adorably concerned about her she wanted to hit him sometimes. It was ridiculous. She - well, there were obviously places she didn't want this to go, and they were edging up on them, but she was the one who was having to make all the moves.
Sakura decided that it would have to stop. Soon, before she nudged them right where she didn't want to go, or before Syaoran figured it out and - well, she wasn't sure how he would react.He might not react at all, and that would be the worst possible reaction.
Fai didn't seem at all suprised when she told him. "Ah well," he said. "It was fun while it lasted."
He was carefully not saying anything else at all. Sakura wanted to be annoyed with him, but couldn't muster the will. "It's not that I don't like you," she reassured him. "I'm just afraid it wouldn't be good for us. And I don't want Syaoran to know."
"Reasonable enough." Fai sighed dramatically and wrapped his arms around his pillow. "The inevitable way of the world," he murmured. "The beautiful princess and her destined protector ..."
"Fai-san! I didn't say that." Sakura blushed; she had been thinking about it, it was true, but not seriously.
He grinned, and tapped her on the nose. "It's alright. Really. It's better this way."
Sakura wanted to hug him and kiss him and make him feel better, because she was sure he wanted her to stay, and now she felt guilty for having come here at all, knowing it was going to end. "It's over tomorrow morning," she said softly. "I'll stay here tonight. I wouldn't have come by if I didn't mean to."
Fai grinned, and dropped the pillow, tugging her closer. "Well then," he declared. "Let's make the most of tongiht, shall we?"
Sakura nodded, nuzzling against his shoulder. She was not sure if it was kindness or selfishness that led her to say, "Maybe it's not over forever. Maybe just for a while."
"It's not over yet, Sakura-chan," Fai whispered, his voice oddly determined. "We'll think about that in the morning." And he tilted her chin up to give her the best kiss she'd ever had.
All in all, Sakura considered, it had been a most educational experience.