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The City of Sunkiss Coast

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Heat seeped through every pore of Fai’s skin as the sun beat down on his fair head. It really shouldn’t have bothered him so much, the heat in this little world, but there was something about the way the sun was never blocked by clouds, and the way the nearby ocean water saturated the air with humidity that made this world unbearable to the mage. 

Just a few days prior, Fai, Kurogane, Syaoran, and Mokona had plopped into the world of sunshine with bright and hopeful smiles. The world was not only populated, but thriving. The people of this world partied all day and night in the heat - bright lights, loud music, and food galore filled the locals with kindness and an eager helping hand to the misfit family. Before day broke that next morning, the four were set up in a small beach home, two bedrooms, one bathroom, and a big enough kitchen to cook in. The only caveat that the locals had warned them about was the lack of air conditioning. At the time it had seemed like a miniscule problem, but it had also been nightfall at the time. It wasn’t until the morning sun came peeking from behind the horizon that the four truly began to appreciate the necessity of air conditioning.

The family had visited warm worlds before. The dry heat of Clow’s desert, and the warm breezes of Tokyo whenever they would stay over with Watanuki - but none of their past worlds could hold a candle up to the unbearable humidity of the city of Sunkiss Coast. Fai merely held up a little pink fan that sputtered equally wet and hot air onto his face as he sat on the wooden steps of their small beach town abode. 

“This does nothing for me, Kuro-rin…” The magician nearly panted as the afternoon heat just grew more and more intense. “I mean, what the hell am I supposed to do? Strip naked in front of the locals?” His long limbs slumped down, the heat exhausting his muscles too much to even hold up the hand-held fan. The warmth seemed to keep the locals happy and healthy, but for Fai, the fatigue just made him cranky. “Every day we have to stay here is like endless torture.” 

Kurogane sat next to his traveling partner and lover on the porch steps, watching the way Mokona and Syaoran had curled up under the shade of a tree for a mid-day siesta. At least when they napped outside, they could get a small breeze through their hair, as long as they stayed in the shade. The ninja took a long and much needed sip of his ice cold beer and sighed. “Just try to enjoy it, will ya?” He grumbled, annoyed by the near constant complaining. “It’s not every day we’re just handed a house. I like sleeping in a bed, and I’m sure the kid likes having a bit of privacy for once in his life.” 

“They only gave us this house because they knew it was defective,” Fai nearly spat, his blue eyes shooting a glare at the house behind him. “It should be considered illegal to stay in a home here without an air conditioner.” 

“The neighbors don’t have air conditioning either.” Kurogane narrowed his eyes and folded his legs. He didn't typically like to wear shorts, but even he had to admit that the country was way too hot to walk around with black pants on. He had been told by a shop owner that the clothing they all wore were called ‘bermuda shorts’ and that they were fashionable for young men, but he just felt a little ridiculous. “You know there’s a beach less than a mile away. I’m sure there’s more wind down that way. We can probably camp out at the beach until nightfall and just get away from this house if you hate it that much.”

Fai had to agree with Kurogane. He wasn’t completely familiar with the way beaches worked, but the few they had been to were all pretty breezy. “Yeah, let’s do that.” Fai just sighed in defeat. “And I’m sure Mokona will like the water… right?” His body gave out at that moment, and he collapsed onto the porch, laying on his back and staring up at the endless pale blue sky. “You’ll have to carry me to the beach though, Kuro-woof. I don’t even think I could make it to the end of our yard in my condition.” 

A sadistic grin spread across Kurogane’s face. “Okay. I’ll carry you.” He hummed as his left arm reached out to touch along the exposed skin of Fai’s side, his shirt having ridden up when he laid back against the steps. “I know how much you love my arms wrapped around you.” 

It only took a split second for Fai’s body to register that the loving touch of his man was much less comfortable than usual. The sun’s unforgivable heat had turned Kurogane’s metal arm into a portable skillet. 

“Shi-! Kurogane!” Fai had to snap his eyes open to glare at his sweet stupid lover this time. “Just take it off! You’ll burn alive if you keep that thing on.” He poked a finger at the metal hand, just trying to get Kurogane to stop touching him. 

“Hm,” Kurogane shrugged, “Doesn’t bother me.” And with that, the ninja stood and made his exit back into the house. 

Fai figured he was probably going to get things ready for their little beach trip. Beer, snacks, swim trunks, beer, sunscreen, towels, beer, and anything else they were going to need. Kurogane should have known by that point that Fai was going to be next to no help with the way he was withering away in the heat. 

Regardless of the heat and the sun, though, Fai really was enjoying himself. Kurogane was calm and happy, and Syaoran hadn’t stumbled into trouble - so overall, this world was winning so far.

***************

Getting from the house to the beach was a bitch and a half for the sweaty magician. A deep instinct from the back of his brain was mostly worried about Syaoran and Mokona - how could two small, precious beings withstand such a torture of the humid heat of this world? But the closer they got to the beach, the more Syaoran and Mokona seemed to walk a bit faster, and with a bit more pep in their steps. It was inconceivable to Fai. 

All the man held in his hand was his little electronic fan, blowing hot air on his face as they made the trek down the two blocks from their lawn to the large entrance of the beach. What awaited them at said entrance, Fai was not at all ready for. 

The family of four could barely get a step onto the beach premises before the sensations of the happy local people smacked them hard in the face. People crowded the beach, truly making a festival out of the heat. The scent of food grilling on charcoal mixed with the sweet scent of cocktails blending. Music filled their ears in every direction, light guitar music from one food stall, to a poppy local radio station at the next vendor. Groups of people crowded around outdoor seating at a few restaurants along the coast, and a small tournament of some ball game was happening on the beach that was also drawing a significant crowd. Fai could practically see the way Kurogane cringed and winced at all the stimulation, and probably the thought of trying to find a good place to set up their umbrella and towels and chairs was going to be a bit rough. 

Syaoran, however, looked as if he was enamoured with the place. His feet practically danced on the sand covered cement pathways that separated the festives from the sandy shores. His eyes drank up all the people and food and lights and dancing and games, and Fai could just tell he was itching to explore the local shops before getting in the water. 

“Kuro-babe, hand me that sunscreen.” Fai muttered, reaching out to pick through the large tote hanging from Kurogane’s shoulder. He procured the lotion, and grinned over at Syaoran, using the last energy he could muster to simply hold the lotion bottle. “Reapply this, then go have some fun. We don’t need you burning alive today.” Fai chuckled, handing over the sunscreen to Syaoran. “We’ll set up camp on the beach, just come find us if you need us.” The mage grinned. 

With that, Syaoran was out of sight, letting himself immerse in the local culture of Sunkiss Coast. 

Kurogane had spent their short time on the boardwalk just scanning the beach for the optimal spot. Any area that was shaded by overhanging trees were snatched up by people who had presumably gotten to the beach hours ago. “Dammit…” He grumbled, his eyes finally catching the sight of a free spot near the water. Of course, it was in full sunlight, but they had a beach umbrella. “Let's go, before more people show up…” Kurogane’s hard eyes locked in on the spot, and he made a bee-line for it, knowing that Fai would catch up in his own time. 

A few minutes later, Fai had dragged his tired feet from the boardwalk to their little set up that Kurogane was finishing. Two fold out chairs sat under the shade of the umbrella, and Kurogane was picking out an ice pack from the cooler to lay on the burning metal of his shoulder. As much as he obviously didn’t want to admit that the metal bothered him, it certainly needed to be cooled down after their walk in the full sunlight. 

Fai plopped down in the free chair, a groan of defeat leaving his lips as he sat down. “That’s it, you’ll have to kill me to make me get up.” He spoke up, eyeing the cooler that sat between their chairs. In an instant, he had a cool beer in one hand, and his trusty fan in the other. 

As Fai settled himself down, his senses were finally hit with the promised relief. A salty breeze filled his nose and dragged along his burning skin as he sat just feet away from the vast blue ocean. He felt as if he was finally able to take a deep breath of air for the first time since landing in this world, and it was worth it. The sound of palm trees shaking in the leaves and the shore lapping against the sand was just calming enough to let Fai relax and close his eyes. He must have been starting to get dehydrated, for as soon as the beer touched his tongue, he practically shivered, the icy drink filling his body with much needed liquid. 

With Fai just enjoying himself for once, Kurogane was able to indulge in the sight of Fai. He looked serene, even if a little sweaty, and a smirk graced Kurogane’s lips - his own happiness coming from the fact that Fai was finally content. If only for a moment. 

“Oi, Mage.” The taller man spoke up, digging through the tote to look for his comic book. “Doesn’t snow reflect the sun or some shit? Wouldn’t the sun feel more intense in your world?” Kurogane didn’t know much about science, but he paid attention during Syaoran’s rants about whatever fascinated the kid on any given day. As much as he probably looked like he could care less, listening to Syaoran speak so passionately about history and science was a delight. 

“Really, Kuro-rin?” Fai sighed, exasperated. “You’re going to make me talk about my past when I’m in such poor condition?” The magician lowered his own sunglasses down to give Kurogane a pitiful look, but the tanned warrior wasn’t budging. “You saw my whole damn past, anyway. Why are you even asking?” Fai grumbled as he sat taller in his chair. “Celes had only a few hours of daylight every day, and cloud patterns were controlled by magicians to keep our crops in the best condition, so I really didn’t hang out in the sun… but I remember it was still just as cold. You only hurt your eyes a bit more when there weren’t any clouds.” 

Kurogane kept his gaze completely on Fai. It was just so incredible to hear his man speak so easily about his past - both of them having learned to share and lean into each other more. The more the other understood, the more they could grow and heal together. “Tomoyo says that Japan has four seasons, and that it was Spring the last time we visited. What are your summers like, Kuro-sama?”

Kurogane paused a moment, taking in a deep breath of the warm ocean air as he contemplated what to tell Fai. His summers before and after arriving at Shirasagi Castle had been so incredibly different. “The sun was hot but not like this.” He let his gaze look up to the sky, puffy white clouds gently crossing in front of the sun, but never enough to create any significant shade. Maybe Kurogane was feeling a little more sentimental from the heat, or maybe he wanted to encourage Fai a bit more to share his past, but he found himself saying more. “Mother always needed to do purification rituals during the Summer Solstice, so father would take all the men of Suwa to the nearest hot springs. I went a few times with them… the sake was pretty good.” He trailed off, not wanting to get too lost in his memories. 

This time, however, it was Fai’s turn to revel in Kurogane. Hearing about the small happy memories of Kurogane’s family gave Fai so much joy. Hearing the deep and tranquil tone of his lover’s voice was like music to his ears. “This beer is a poor exchange for the sake we had back at Tomoyo’s castle.” Fai agreed, yet still took a nice long sip of the yeasty drink.

Even just holding the can of beer was becoming too much to bear, and Fai let it sit on top of the cooler, his hand falling to lay across the cool box, hoping for any more relief. The two men had been sitting in peaceful silence for a moment, yet as soon as Fai’s hand was free, Kurogane found himself moving to intertwine their fingers. His sunglasses-covered eyes never left the comic book, but Fai could tell that even just the few short sentences about his family had gotten Kurogane emotional. 

With a great deal of effort, Fai brought Kurogane’s hand to his lips, and laid a precious and gentle kiss across the skin. Kurogane’s hand felt so hot compared to his lips, even though Fai knew it was the real hand. He couldn’t even imagine what Kurogane’s metallic arm was suffering through in that moment, but he was also certain that any physical pain Kurogane was feeling couldn’t hold a candle to his emotions of thinking about his past. 

The ninja picked his eyes up from his book to look over at Fai when he felt the lips press against his hand. They felt so dry and heated compared to how they normally felt - wet and ice cold. Maybe he had been a bit too struck by Fai’s willingness to talk about his past before, but as Kurogane got a truly good look at Fai, he could tell his man wasn’t doing so good. “Hey…” He called out, but Fai’s fried brain didn’t seem to hear. 

“Hey, idiot!” He called a bit louder, earning him a few questionable looks from nearby beach loungers. “If you look like this when the kid and pork bun get back, they’ll start getting worried. Just listen to your body and keep drinking water, dammit.” Kurogane finally pulled his hand away from Fai, and shoved the beer back into the cooler. 

“Shit…” The tall man hissed to himself, realizing he had been so focused on packing beer that he totally forgot about water. “Here…” He muttered, rummaging through the tote bag once again before pulling out a wad of cash. “Go get something cold to eat and a bottle of water -” He trailed off, brows furrowing. “Nevermind, I’ll get it for you.” He muttered, moving to take the ice pack off his shoulder. 

“No, Kuro-sama, hold on.” Fai was up on his feet in a matter of seconds. “Don’t go, you need to stay under the shade more than I do.” Fai’s eyes caught sight of the way steam practically flew off of Kurogane’s shoulder as the melted ice pack came off. “Look, there’s food stalls just a few yards away. It’ll take me five minutes tops to grab water and ice cream.” He promised, yoinking the wad of cash from his lover’s hands. “Maybe I’ll be nice and get one for you too.” He winked, hoping that his playful talk would get Kurogane to realize his condition really wasn’t that bad. 

If Fai didn’t have sandals on, he was certain that with his first step out of the umbrella's shade, his feet would have immediately melted off. Kurogane had been right - the cool breeze of the ocean definitely was helping to keep them all from heat exhaustion, but as the sun rose to the highest point in the sky, everything was becoming just a bit more unbearable. People had even begun to leave the beach, deciding to stay out of the sun beam’s intensity until the day grew a bit older. 

Thankfully, as if the universe was rewarding Fai for putting up with the heat, he found himself in front of some parked food carts. Even though some people had already left for a midday nap, there were still so many loud, partying crowds that Fai could barely hear himself think over the laughter, music, and games. He saw a group of what looked to be middle-school children standing near a bright white cart, an overhanging umbrella shading the long counter and stools where customers would sit. From the umbrella stood a sign with writing that Fai would never begin to be able to read, but he recognized the image of popsicles, bottled water, drinks and everything he could possibly need in that moment. 

He slipped onto a wooden stool, his shoulders slumping over the counter and a small menu that sat just in front of him. The smell of fruit juice mixing with alcohol behind the bar filled Fai’s senses, but as much as it smelled incredible, he had to remind himself of Kurogane’s words ‘listen to your body, drink water, and eat something cold.’ 

“What can I do ya for, friend?” Fai’s tired head snapped up to see the bartender on the other side. A wide grin stretched over an older man’s face. Dark skin with a white beard seemed to work so well for this stall owner, and the tropical floral shirt with matching hat really just pulled his whole vibe together. “Happy hour just started, so Strawberry Daiquiris are half off until 5!” He practically cheered, and Fai would never understand how someone could be so happy living and working in this god-forsaken sun. 

It was like the bartender was trying to tease Fai, the idea of half-off alcohol sounding too good at that moment. But he had to remember Kurogane’s words. “Actually,” Fai began, his voice sounding dry and raspy. “I’ll get a bottle of water, and two of whatever those kids are having.” He pointed to the same group of children, all of them inhaling popsicles and gushing at something in their hands. Fai had no energy to find out. 

“Ya sure?” The man chuckled, but prepared the water and popsicles anyway. “It’s not every day I see a young fella like yourself getting these popsicles.” The bartender tried to make conversation as he filled a glass with irresistible ice and freezing cold water. Fai just watched the way the condensation dripped down the sides of the clear container. 

Fai didn’t even have time to respond before the drink was placed in front of him. Immediately, his hands were grabbing at the water, and gulping it down. Every nerve in his body was fired as the ice shocked his system. “Damn, that’s exactly what I needed.” 

The bartender seemed to think that was funny, and just laughed a little louder as he placed the popsicles in front of Fai. “Might wanna eat those pretty quickly. It’s a hot one today.” 

“No kidding…” Fai mumbled, picking up a little plastic wrapped ice pop, and ripping it open immediately. 

“Lemme guess,” the older man leaned against his bar, picking up a cup to clean it. No new customers seemed to be stopping by the stall, and this man clearly found Fai amusing. “You’re from down south, right? The sun’s a bit hotter up here than it is down there.” 

“Yeah, you could say that we’re foreigners.” Fai hummed, taking a few testing licks of the popsicle. Fruit washed over his tongue, something distinctly citrus - something they rarely ever got in Celes. The treat was definitely everything he needed at that moment, but he wouldn’t call it something spectacular. Just an ordinary popsicle that really hit the spot. “I’ve been traveling for a while with some dear people.”

“Sounds like an adventure to me.” The bartender leaned a little forward as Fai continued to inhale the popsicle. “So tell me, ya got a lady back home then? Tryin’ to figure out if she’s the one?” He winked, gesturing down to the popsicle in Fai’s hand. 

“What do you mean?” The mage furrowed his brows, looking up at the bar keep as he licked up the quickly melting sweet. 

“Man, you really must be a foreigner. These are Partner Pops!” The old man laughed, pointing up at the sign above Fai’s head, as if the words would make it clear to Fai. This time, however, as the magician took in the sign, he noticed a few hearts surrounding the image of the popsicles. “They’re a big hit with kids and young ladies up here. Finish the popsicles and instead of a joke written on the stick like some of the popsicles down south, up here the name of your soulmate is written on the stick!” 

“That doesn’t sound real…” Fai muttered, gripping his unfinished popsicle a bit harder. 

“If ya don’t believe me, you can just look at the reviews online… I really thought these things had come to the south though. I’ve never heard of anyone thinking the popsicles weren’t real…”  This time, the man was the one looking perplexed. As far he knew, the Partner Pops were a phenomenon that kids absolutely loved. Social media was filled with people eating their first Partner Pops, and the sticks being incorporated into wedding proposal pictures. They just worked. There was nothing more to it. They had never NOT worked! “Where did you say you were from again?” 

“Nevermind that…” Fai stared intently at his popsicle. Was this item really capable of telling him the name of his soulmate? Fai already had a sneaking suspicion of who his possible soulmate could be, but if that name was written on the popsicle, then would that be that? What if that name wasn’t written on the popsicle? Maybe it wouldn’t work for people not from this world. 

Before Fai could lick up the last bits of ice covering the stick, he had to ask one more question. “Has anyone ever… ever gotten an empty stick? Like there was no name on it?” 

“As far as I know, no.” The bartender raised a brow. This pale blonde guy sure was making a big deal out of the Partner Pops. “There’s no need to be scared or pessimistic about it.” He spoke a bit more kindly and gently, figuring the foreigner was just nervous to see this kind of information. “Everyone has a missing half, and finding that person is a beautiful thing. Hell, there’s even dating apps now that let ya put your soulmate’s name in, and it matches you with only people with that name. You’ll find your person in no time at all!” The barkeep grinned yet again, and gave Fai an encouraging slap on the shoulder. “Now go ahead and finish that bad boy up!”

With one more deep breath in then out, Fai finally finished his treat. Blue eyes peered down hesitantly at the stick, his lungs holding onto his breath as he looked at what was written. In elegant, curling Celetian font was exactly the name Fai had expected to be on the stick. 

‘Kurogane Youou.’ 

“Now that wasn’t so bad, see?” The bartender half cheered for this stranger at his bar. “Although I gotta say, I’ve never seen a language like that before. You speak our language really well for someone with a totally different writing system.” The man really couldn’t help but look down at the stick, the letters just too pretty to stop looking at it. “So what’s it say?” 

“Kurogane…” Fai whispered, more out of awe or shock than actually answering the older man’s question. Fai’s head was spinning. He was hot, and bewildered, and he didn’t know what to do with himself. 

“I-” He began, looking at the kindly gentleman in front of him. As he stepped just barely out of the shade of the umbrella, the full force of the mid-day sun came crashing down on him. Dizziness, heat, weakness, nausea, and confusion all rammed into Fai like a brick wall. He could hear the sounds of his own pulse throbbing in his head as he staggered on his feet. The headache that struck him seemed to pulse louder than the music and laughter around him. His stomach flipped and he could practically feel his skin just growing hotter and hotter by the second. 

“I think I’m gonna vomit.” He muttered, right before his vision turned completely black, and he found himself falling backwards. 

************

“Syaoran! Syaoran! I want that one!” Mokona cheered, throwing their little fist in the direction of some charred meats grilling at a restaurant along the boardwalk. “Doesn’t it just smell delicious?”

“We could probably get some for Kurogane and Fai, too.” Syaoran agreed, slipping past a few groups of people to reach the restaurant - indoor seating and take-out both available. Syaoran figured it would be a lot easier to just bring Fai and Kurogane some food rather than drag them all the way from their spot on the beach to the restaurant.

The pair of travelers really hadn’t spent too much time out on the boardwalk yet, but they were already starting to feel the heat. Syaoran had already reapplied the sunscreen twice, and Mokona had procured a small visor to shield their eyes from the sun’s intensity the longer they walked around. The two had mutually agreed that after grabbing a bit of food, they would go spend a moment under the comfort of their umbrella then hit the water. It was just a little too unbearable to be walking around on cement, passing by hoards of people, and surrounding themselves with a sensory overload. 

But Syaoran knew they could at least handle it for a bit longer. He figured it was a good thing
Fai had set up camp with Kurogane and taken root there. The youngest traveler knew for certain that the older mage would not handle the boardwalk well at all.

Before the two could even take another step closer to the food stall they had set their eyes on, a loud commotion started to build up on the boardwalk just a few yards away. Two young men were seen navigating the crowd with a stretcher between the two of them. 

“Mokona…” Syaoran spoke up, eyebrows furrowing as he tried to peer past the crowd and get a better look at what had happened. “Do you think we should help out? It looks like someone is hurt…”

“I wouldn’t expect anything less of you, Syaoran!” Mokona giggled, patting a nubbed hand against the kid’s shoulder. “Lead the way!” They called out before pointing directly into the crowd. 

Syaoran had to nudge his way past a few people (not without apologizing nearly half a dozen times), before finally making his way to the front of the crowd. It seemed as if the paramedics were trying to keep the small hoard at bay from the injured person, and on any given day, Syaoran would have been happy to comply and just watch the medics do what they do best - but the collapsed individual being taken onto the stretcher was sporting an unmistakable head of blonde hair. 

“FAI!” Mokona cried in a way that broke Syaoran’s heart. He really hadn’t heard Mokona call out in such distress in such a long time. 

There wasn’t much time to waste, and Syaoran dreaded the idea of Fai being taken to some unknown hospital, where they would need to somehow find their way back to each other. Or Fai ending up alone at a hospital too far from Mokona, and not being able to communicate with staff. Although, from the looks of his state, he didn’t seem like he would be doing much communication anyway.

“Excuse me!” Syaoran called out, reaching a tentative and cautious hand towards the closest medic to him. “Please… I’m traveling with this man. Can you tell me what happened?” 

The medic whipped his head towards Syaoran, and blinked for a split second, as if unable to process that a random kid from the street was interrupting him. “Sorry kid, you say you’re traveling with this man? I can’t give out too much private information without the patient’s consent, but it seems like he’s had a heat stroke. We’re gonna cool him down in the ambulance and see if we can get him conscious before taking him to the ER.” The medic hesitated for a second, as if trying to believe whether or not Syaoran was truly traveling with their patient, or if he was just some nosy kid. “Do you have a parent with you, or some documentation for this patient?”

Syaoran’s eyebrows furrowed even deeper. Through all the dimensions and trials he had gone through, not once did anyone ask to talk to his parents. He tried to shake off the feeling that the statement was an insult, and refocused on the task at hand. The medics wanted to talk to an adult? He could definitely go grab one. “I’ll be right back. You’re just going to be over in that ambulance, right?” Syaoran gestured to the truck at the entrance of the boardwalk, where sand met asphalt.

The kid waited for the medic to nod before he was sprinting back into the small crowd and towards the beach where he knew Kurogane was still nursing a beer. 

*********

Thunderous stomps grew closer and closer to the parked ambulance with a mantra of “Dammit, dammit!” following in the steps’ wake. Kurogane couldn’t help but swear - really it was his own damn fault for letting that idiot go off alone to get water. The ninja hardly cared that his own arm was steaming in the glare of the sun, the small strip of exposed metal between his bicep and shoulder was nearly glowing in the heat. Why the hell did he choose to wear a tanktop anyway? 

Kurogane just shook his head, reminding himself of the task at hand with Mokona and Syaoran following behind him like little duckies. 

“What the hell happened?!” Kurogane boomed as he finally reached the medics, and his eyes caught sight of Fai. His mage looked like an absolute mess. His skin looked red and dry in the few inches of areas that weren’t covered in ice. The medics had really done a good job trying to cool him down, but he looked so fragile laying on the stretcher in the ambulance. “Fai…” Kurogane nearly whispered, the protective nature of his heart just aching to help in some way. 

“Sir.” A medic approached the group of three. This person looked as if they might have been the supervisor on staff that day, adorned in pristine white scrubs, and an official looking badge around their neck. “I’m going to need you to calm down. I have a few questions for you about our patient...” She trailed off, her eyes catching sight of the glinting metal attached to Kurogane’s arm. They could practically see her line of thinking, as if she wanted to ask about the arm, but knew she had other things she needed to worry about first. “Please, come this way.” She gestured to an umbrella covered table, away from the pedestrians and festivities enough to have a conversation. 

Kurogane took a seat, and silently thanked the universe for giving him shade again. Syaoran stayed close to his side. From the sound of things, the medical professionals of this world didn’t entirely trust children, even though in Kurogane’s dimension, Syaoran was just barely a child still. 

The woman sat down and began almost immediately. “We just want to get a little more information about our patient. My staff is working very hard to bring his temperature down before we bring him to the emergency room. The only kind of identifying documents we found on his person was this.” She pulled out a small stick. To Kurogane, it looked like a popsicle stick after it was finished eating, the kind they would see at summer festivals in various countries they’d visited. 

Along the middle of the stick was some Celesian writing, and although Fai had certainly taught Kurogane the alphabet, he would need a minute to decipher the writing. Although, just from a glance, he knew it wasn’t Fai’s name. That was one of the few words he could read in an instant. “What is it? It looks like garbage. Was Fai writing on that or something?” 

“Huh, what?” The woman creased her brow, instantly confused about the question. “No… it’s a Partner Pop…?” She asked as if Kurogane was maybe having his own heat stroke. As if everyone should just know what a Partner Pop was just by looking at it. “I could tell he was a foreigner just by his popsicle stick, but you really don’t know what these are…?” 

A quick shake of both Syaoran and Kurogane’s head told her everything. 

She sighed and placed the stick in front of the both of them again, hoping it would suddenly make sense. “Partner Pops will manifest the name of your soulmate on the wooden stick. When two matching popsicles are together, the chemicals in the wood will react and change to a blue. Of course, you can just touch any stick with these chemical properties and have the same effect, but most people like to have their soulmate sticks in popsicle form. Because they use such precise science, they’re a form of legal documentation, so if we could find the patient’s matching stick, that would be ideal and we could begin paperwork and consent forms.” She looked at them expectantly, as if they could read the popsicle and tell her everything she needed to know. 

Syaoran, of course, was more than happy to take the challenge head on. “We can figure out what it says!” He agreed, leaning towards the popsicle stick a bit more. 

“We don’t need to…” Kurogane muttered under his breath, his demeanor a bit dark, as if this whole thing was a farce. “Just gimme a damn stick and we can give you whatever the hell documentation you need.” 

“Wha-? Kurogane, you read this stick that quickly?” Syaoran could feel his cheeks starting to heat up a little. Kurogane knew the name on the stick and was asking for a stick himself. Sure, Syaoran could probably figure out without reading a popsicle stick that the mage and ninja were soulmates but still… facing the fact so directly seemed like it should be something special. 

The medical supervisor stood to retrieve something from the ambulance, returning just a few breaths later with a sterile stick wrapped in a protective seal. “They work by using the person’s fingerprints and oil on the skin to create an impression in the wood then turn it into a name. So the person who touches it will have their soulmate’s name written on it. Do you understand?” She asked. “So whoever his soulmate is should be the one to open it.” 

Kurogane grumbled some more curses under his breath, as if this whole thing was just a waste of time. The ninja snatched the stick from the woman’s hand and ripped it open, then held the stick for a solid moment before thin, delicate Japanese characters began to carve themselves into the wood. There was something about just seeing the word “Yuui” begin to appear on the stick that calmed a raging fire in Kurogane’s chest.

Kurogane didn’t need to read the rest of the stick. He had his own name that he kept private from the group, and he also knew Fai stored his own secret about his name deep in his mind. Just reading the secret on a stick without Fai’s permission seemed wrong in a way. Kurogane simply dropped the stick on top of Fai’s and watched the way the wood blossomed from their point of connection into a deep, rich blue. Almost the same color as the ocean they were just a few yards away from. 

“There.” Kurogane stared daggers into the pair of sticks. “Does that give you your answer? I don’t need to have some damned popsicle sticks tell me that Fai is mine.” 

“R-right… sorry?” The woman mumbled and dipped her head a little. “I’ve never had someone react like that before to Partner Pops, so I’m sorry if I’m a little confused.” She hummed and stood up. “I’ll be right back with some paperwork for you to fill out. I’m sure once we get to the hospital, we’ll have a translator available to read your documents and we’ll get everything sorted out.” 

“What a waste of time…” Kurogane grumbled to himself for what felt like the millionth time, sliding his hand down his face. “We really can’t go to any new country without some kind of sucker punch to the gut, huh?” He asked more towards himself than anyone else. 

********

Fai gasped awake and immediately was surrounded by the smell of disinfectant. His vision hadn’t quite returned to him yet, but the unmistakable white of the lights and walls and floor around him was easy to process. He obviously wasn’t still at the stall that he had blacked out at, and he could at least figure out that he was in an air conditioned room. 

As his senses slowly returned to him, Fai felt an ache all over his body. A tube connected to a bag of liquid was attached to his arm. He had seen this sort of thing before, and figured it was medicine. Medicine for what, he really had no clue. He didn’t even know why he had passed out in the first place. 

With a blink, Fai looked down at his body. His skin seemed red and dry, and even the idea of trying to get up felt like such a struggle. He was only wearing his bermuda shorts, and ice packs covered his chest and belly. 

“What the…” He coughed, letting his head fall back against the pillow behind him. This definitely was not the most comfortable bed he had ever laid in. “Where am I?” 

Fai was definitely not as aware of his surroundings as he originally thought. He didn’t even notice that Kurogane had been sitting in a corner of the room, waiting patiently for his apparent Soulmate to wake up. 

“Hey…” Kurogane’s rough voice called out. The ninja covered the short distance from the corner to the edge of the bed. “You’ve gotten soft. You let the sun take you out… not a good look.” 

“Shut it…” Fai groaned, closing his eyes, letting them have a rest from the painfully bright white surrounding him. “What even happened? Where’s Syaoran and Mokona? Where are we?” 

“We’re at a hospital. You probably shouldn’t try and move around too much. You fainted from the heat…” Kurogane looked like he was hesitating to tell Fai more, but a part of him urged him along. He was probably just sentimental, or maybe this world had some stupid Soulmate connection. That was something he didn’t particularly want to think about too hard. “The doctor said you could have died. I should have gone to get that water for you.” Kurogane had to rub his face. “Syaoran and Mokona are in the waiting room. They said only I could be in the room until you woke up…” Kurogane looked like he was about to throw something. “These forms and regulations are just killing me.” 

“Only you?” Fai shifted a bit in the bed, letting some of the melting ice packs fall from his chest. “Does one of the nurses have the hots for you or something?” Even in his awful state, Fai couldn’t miss an opportunity to tease Kurogane. Especially when it came to the random women of various countries swooning for his man. 

“No.” Kurogane looked to the side, face as solid as stone, and expression pensive. It was a look Fai couldn’t quite understand, but was already dying to understand. 

“What’s with that face? Did something happen?” Fai sighed and casually shook his head. “I’ve been a lot closer to death than this. You should know that better than anyone.” 

“I know that.” Kurogane’s typically deep, harsh and high-spirited voice seemed way too serious. He spoke slowly and carefully and it was odd to Fai, but not entirely unwelcome. “Mage… What were you doing when you passed out? 

“Drinking water, like you told me to do. Why?” Fai raised a brow. 

“You were obviously doing more than that.” Kurogane grumbled, pulling something small from his deep shorts pocket. 

With another blink of his eyes, Fai was able to register what Kurogane was holding. Two small blue sticks with writing along the wood. One he recognized almost immediately - those same two words in Celesian that he had seen right before passing out. The name of his Soulmate. “The Partner Pops? Did you have one too?” 

“Kind of.” Kurogane shrugged, plopping them both down on the bed next to Fai. The mage wasn’t exactly good at reading Japanese yet, but he didn’t need to read the stick to know that his name was sprawled on it. “I figured we should at least acknowledge it.”

“The Soulmate thing?” Fai felt the tips of his ears heat ever so slightly. Kurogane had been completely dedicated to Fai for quite some time now, yet he still felt utterly flattered by this tall dark man. “Does it bother you? Being my Soulmate?” 

“You shouldn’t have to ask that question, mage.” Kurogane spoke a little more fondly, his pensive state faltering ever so slightly. “Just knowing that we’re Soulmates seems a little redundant at this point, doesn’t it?” 

Fai hummed in agreement. It was completely unnecessary at that point to learn they were Soulmates. Kurogane’s arm was enough proof in itself. “But it is a little romantic, isn’t it?” The blonde spoke up after a moment of comfortable silence. His hand moved slightly from it’s spot on the bed over to Kurogane’s thigh, giving him a weak little squeeze. “You’re not really the romantic type, so at least I have these sticks now to remind me that you’re mine.”

“Not the romantic type? I took you out to that restaurant!” Kurogane grumbled, his usual angry facade washed over his face.

“That was three worlds ago!” Fai sighed in exasperation, but his hand didn’t move from Kurogane’s thigh. “Maybe we’ll get lucky and go to a world where we can get marks on our skin for being each other’s Soulmates.” Fai gave his love a playful grin. “We’re probably just going to lose those sticks anyway.” 

“We better not.” Kurogane huffed, shoving them back into his pocket. “They’re basically our marriage license in this world. If we ever come back here, we’ll need these for your next emergency room visit.”

“You just told me we’re basically married in this world, and yet I still feel a little insulted.” Fai sighed yet again, his hand falling over his eyes as he tried in vain to shield his vision from the blinding light. “Damn, my head hurts. I’m gonna try and sleep again.” He let his Soulmate know, giving him a quick glance.

“I’ll turn out the lights and go find the kid. The doctors will probably want to know that you woke up, so try and sleep as much as you can for a few minutes.” Kurogane stood from the bed, stretching out his biological arm. “Oh and Fai.” He muttered, his head moving just a few centimeters away from his love’s face. “I’m really fucking glad you’re my Soulmate.” He whispered before placing a chaste, gentle kiss against Fai’s lips.