Idioglossia - or "twin speak" - is a real phenomenon, although experts are divided as to whether it can be considered a real separate language or not. Either way, idioglossia tends to be most advanced and developed in instances where twins are neglected as children and left to speak exclusively to each other, which Fai and Yuui definitely were.
Title: Family Portrait
Warnings: Angst, silliness
Spoilers: EOS, no explicit reference to series events
Pairings: Kurogane/Fai, Yuui/Tomoyo.
Author's Note: Twin AAAAAAAANGST. Serious mood whiplash, honestly. We finally get to hear Yuui's sad past, and how he lost his own twin.
Fai roused groggily from his nap, trying to sort out the signals his body was sending him. He was by no means recovered, he estimated, from the staggering drain of transporting two people across the worlds. But the last few hours of sleep had taken the edge off, and he would benefit more by getting some food and water into him than anything else.
He rolled on his side and let out a sigh; a few rays of sun had escaped the clouds and were playing over the opposite wall, but afternoon was rapidly fading into evening. He knew without even looking that Kurogane was there, lurking silently by the doorway like a guard dog. He smiled muzzily at the mental image and sat up, turning his smile towards Kurogane.
Kurogane didn't smile back, which was somewhat surprising; over the last few years he'd lightened up to the point where he would actually smile even when he wasn't carving people up. "Good morning," he said.
"Good night, more like," Kurogane snorted, and Fai stuck out his tongue at him.
"Did you manage to find any food for me after all?" he said, clasping his hands together under his chin and making big eyes.
"Yeah, I did. But…" Kurogane hesitated, and Fai saw his jaw working. "Something else has come up, something that you're going to want to deal with as soon as possible."
The last traces of sleep fled from Fai's system as he sat up. The tension in Kurogane's body and face said that whatever it was, he thought it was going to upset Fai; that he hadn't bothered to wake Fai up earlier said that it wasn't an immediate danger. What, then? "Is Tomoyo all right?" Fai said, a feeling of trepidation creeping in.
"No, no! She's fine. She's - " Kurogane blew out his breath. "Since I left, Tomoyo got a new boyfriend."
"Oh?" Fai relaxed slightly; that was more than enough reason for Kurogane to be so disturbed. He tried for a teasing smile. "Anyone you used to know?"
"No," Kurogane said, "in fact, he's someone you used to know… sort of."
"What?" Fai felt his smile trying to slip off his face. Kurogane shook his head in frustration.
"There's really just no good way of breaking this gently," he said. He stood up and turned towards the door, opening it and beckoning to someone outside in the corridor.
The stranger stepped through the door, and Fai's mind momentarily blanked out. He stared across a few meters of air that had suddenly become a yawning gulf, and his own face looked back at him.
"This is Tomoyo's new guest, who traveled here from another world," Kurogane said gruffly, his voice remote in Fai's ears. "He says his name is Yuui Flowright."
"Hello," Yuui said quietly.
No! screamed a voice in Fai's mind, jolting through him like a scream of agony. Why now, why now? After so many years, after so much pain - after he'd finally been able to put Fai to rest - why should the old need, the old wanting rear its head again? The hope that he thought had been dead and buried, frozen and resuscitated and now brought staggering hideously to life again before his eyes… he couldn't do this again, he just couldn't. He couldn't face up to such temptation - the aching for his other half, the need to wrap himself in his brother's arms and never let go - to feel whole and unburdened and at peace again for the first time since he was six years old - only to have it torn away from him again! He couldn't bear that again, he just wouldn't…
"Oh, hi," was what he said, a false pleasant smile stretching his face.
A long, awkward silence fell over the room.
"So," Fai ventured at last, "you are from another world, then? Neither Kuro-chan nor I ever met other versions of ourselves before, although I suppose it makes sense that they would be somewhere out there."
"Yes, I suppose so," the other said quietly. "Although from my perspective, it's you who would be an alternate from another world. You came from, what was the name - Valeria, I believe..?"
"Yes," Fai nodded. "And yourself?"
"My world was called Albion," Yuui replied. "It's gone now, though."
"Never heard of it," Fai said pleasantly. "So I guess you could say that we actually have no relation to each other at all!"
The silence that stretched between them had a distinctly chilly tone. Kurogane shifted uncomfortably in his position against the wall, between them but well out of the line of sight.
"So…" the stranger huffed an exasperated sounding breath, then scrubbed his hand over his eyes. "Are you really him - Yuui, I mean? Tomoyo told me that Fai was not the name to which you were born…"
"It wasn't," Fai interrupted shortly. "And you? You were born as 'Fai,' is that right?"
"Yes," Yuui said in almost a whisper. "It's been - many years since I answered to that name."
"And took the name 'Yuui' when your brother died?" Fai's chest was throbbing and his eyes were stinging, but he forced the question bluntly from his mouth.
"Yes," Yuui said.
Fai let out a short bark of laughter; there wasn't much real humor to it. "So you couldn't keep your brother alive either, huh?"
Yuui flinched as though he'd been struck by an arrow, and Fai felt it too; a searing bolt of scorching ice through his chest. But he didn't back down, and Yuui took a step forward, strands of blond hair wafting around his face. "I never dreamed you could be so heartless," he said, a catch in his voice. "When I learned from the Witch of the Worlds that you still lived, somewhere out there in the universes, I left my home world forever to try to search for you -"
"Well, maybe you shouldn't have!" Fai was on his feet, his hands clenched into fists, and his face felt strange; tight and hot and swollen like a balloon. "I never asked you to! Who said I even wanted some stranger like you barging into my life? Why don't you just go back where you came from?"
"This is my life now!" Yuui shouted back, his voice ragged. "I lived here for eight years, waiting for you! But I have a home now, I have a life and a lover, and I'm not going to give that up no matter what you do! You're the one who's been gallivanting all over the worlds all this time; why don't you leave?"
Fai drew back his hand - to throw a punch, or perhaps a spell, he didn't even know. But then Kurogane was up and moving, grabbing his wrist to hold it back. "What the hell are you two talking about?" the ninja growled impatiently.
"You tell me!" Fai said, turning angrily on Kurogane. "He thinks that just because he's in Tomoyo's good graces that he's got a right -"
"No," Kurogane interrupted him. "What the hell are you two saying to each other? What language are you even speaking?"
"What?" The question hit Fai like a brick wall, and he stopped for a moment, blinking rapidly. "I'm - we -"
"Because it's not Nihongo," Kurogane continued remorselessly. "And I've heard you speak Valerian before, and it sure as hell isn't Valerian. I would have thought it was complete nonsense sounds, if the two of you weren't screaming at each other!"
Fai looked back over at Yuui, and saw understanding dawn on his face in the same moment. Without even realizing it the two of them had slipped back into their own unique language - the private twin-speak they had used between themselves, in the long stretches of time of their childhoods when no one else would talk to them at all. It wasn't Valerian, and it certainly wasn't Albionese or whatever language they spoke in this other world… but it was the same. The same language they had used to call out to each other in the pit. The same…
"Oh, God," Fai said faintly. He felt a blurring rush through his chest and head, and his eyes filled with tears so quickly that he could no longer see straight. "Fayu - it really is you, isn't it?"
All he could see in his tear-fogged vision was a blur of bright yellow with splashes of anxious blue. He stood up and stumbled forward, and his outstretched palms hit a soft warm body; they tumbled over and hit the floor half-on, half-off the futon. "Yuzu," Yuui whispered in his ear, completing the exchange; their own private twin-names, the ones they had never shared with anyone else. "I've missed you so much."
He was dimly aware of Kurogane - a tall, dark, angular shape - turning away and letting himself quietly out the door; most of his mind, though, was wrapped up in his twin's embrace and would not let go.
Kurogane slid the door quietly closed and stood there for a moment in the corridor, listening to the quiet murmur of voices beyond. Even if he could have heard them clearly, he suspected, he would not be able to understand them.
He became aware of a presence in the shadows behind them; although he did not turn to face her, he shifted around in such a way that she would know he sensed her. "I thought we'd gotten rid of you for good," a soft contralto voice came from the shadows.
"You wish," he grunted, and now he did turn to face her. "You were always jealous that I caught more assassins than you."
"As if," Souma scoffed, and shifted position slightly so that the light from the hallway spilled across her dark skin. "You always raced ahead and threw yourself into them, leaving the Princess and the Empress unguarded. You might have been good at killing mooks, oh mighty ninja, but as a bodyguard you frankly sucked."
Kurogane snorted and looked away, unwilling to face up to the truth in her statement. "She turned out not to need me to protect her after all, did she?" he said, and it came out slightly more bitter than he would have liked. It was a complaint he could never have made to Tomoyo's face, but the resentment still lingered.
"Maybe not, but she missed you," Souma said in a softer voice. She stepped forward, and brushed her fingers lightly across his shoulder. "And she's glad to have you back… and so are we all."
Kurogane stood stiffly for a moment, allowing her the liberty. Then he shrugged, letting it all fall away. "I don't suppose you could dig up a good drink around this place," he grumbled. "I could really use it."
Souma laughed. "I bet you could!" she said. "Come on, we'll head down to the new canteen. One of the ballrooms got trashed in the big storms a few years ago, and rather than pretty it up again they just converted it for use by us mooks."
So apparently there had been some changes while he was gone. Somehow, Kurogane found that heartening. He followed her through the old familiar hallways of the castle with a lighter step.
They got a table to themselves - Kurogane's glower was sufficient to warn off all comers - and while Souma helped herself to some food, Kurogane had eaten a supremely awkward meal with Yuui and Tomoyo earlier and was not hungry. Instead, he ordered a massive quantity of sake and devoted himself grimly to putting it away as efficiently as possible. It took a lot of alcohol to affect him, but he meant to get as far as his natural tolerance would allow him into blissful fuzzy-mindedness.
"Not that I'm complaining, but what are you doing out here anyway?" Souma asked between chomps and slurps of her own food and drink.
Kurogane sighed at his sake cup, watching the reflection of light off the surface of the liquid before draining it. "I figured they needed some time alone," he grumbled. "Not like I won't have plenty of time to see him later… both of them."
"Yeah," Souma agreed. "Now that Princess Tomoyo has shacked up with His Awkwardness, he's become a pretty permanent fixture around here."
"Hmph," Kurogane said with a scowl, and poured himself more alcohol. "So what's up with this consort thing, anyway?" he said, for the fifth time already today. He never had gotten an explanation that satisfied him. "Aren't they married?"
"Ehh… it's complicated," Souma said in a neutral tone. "Sort of… yes and no."
"Engaged?" Kurogane prompted. Then a horrible thought occurred. "Don't tell me they were waiting for us to get back to throw a big party." He could just see Tomoyo laying plans in wait for fancy wedding clothes for all of them.
Souma chortled. "You'd hate that, wouldn't you?" she said, then sighed. "But no. There hasn't been a wedding, and probably isn't going to be, any more than there will be for me and Kendappa… or for you and your boyfriend in the furisode."
"Hey! I didn't pick out his clothes," Kurogane objected. "Take it up with Tomoyo. I don't think he even had any idea what he was wearing."
Souma ignored the challenge. "It's gotten… political," she said. "What it all boils down to is, since he's an outsider and a gaijin to boot, he has no official status of his own in the court. Some people feel that it would be demeaning for the Princess to submit herself to an outsider. Others don't like that he has as much power as he does - he's a powerful magician in his own right, you know - and don't want to see him get above his station. Either way, they've decided that they don't need a ceremony to bind them together… and that it's better just to let things be."
"Hmph." Kurogane glared at the wall, mentally willing his scowl to travel to these moronic 'some people' who thought their stupid, petty opinions and rivalries were more important than Tomoyo's happiness. And set them on fire. Well, at least the problem wasn't Yuui himself getting cold feet - remembering his own long and painful journey with Fai, it wouldn't have surprised him at all if the flighty blond resisted commitment.
"Why the sour face, Kurogane?" Souma said in an arch tone. "Don't tell me you'd actually approve of Blondie's affair with the princess?"
Her challenge went unanswered for a couple of heartbeats, and Souma's eyebrows lifted almost to her hairline as a wide grin split her face. "You do, don't you?" she crowed. "I'd never thought I'd see the day!"
"So what of it?" Kurogane snapped. "It's not like I'm in a position to tell her who she can and can't have in her life. If she wants to take a lover that's her right, and no business of mine. And besides…" he hesitated, staring meditatively into his sake cup again. "If he's even half the man his… brother is, then there's no one in all the universes more deserving of her love."
Souma's laughter died down. "Hmm, I guess you'd know," she said in a quieter voice.
For a moment they sat silently together, each lost in their own thoughts as they downed alcohol together.
"Besides," Souma said after a while, watching Kurogane's face, "people are getting pretty damn impatient for the royals to put out an heir already. I'm just as glad to have the pressure off Kendappa, but if he can get her to pump out a baby or two, then nobody at court will care what world he came from."
Kurogane's resulting spittake was truly impressive; it reached a whole new record on the markers on the wall.
The last of the daylight had faded hours ago. At some point soft-footed servants had moved through the hallways lighting lanterns that glowed through the paper framed walls, but they had not moved away from each other. Yuzu was… Fai was… Yuui didn't know what to call him, really. This was his brother Yuui, but the others - Kurogane and Tomoyo and everyone else - called him Fai, and after so many years it was hard to stop thinking of himself as Yuui. It almost didn't matter, though, since in his head Yuui only thought of his brother as only that: brother. Names were secondary to that.
The two of them were curled on their sides facing each other, with their hands loosely clasped between them. They had been talking for hours in hushed whispers, shifting in and out of their own private language; but his twin was quiet now, his hands pressing hard. Fai had told him everything; about the the tower and the pit, about the magician and the curses and the choice, and Yuui had held his shoulders and rocked him and whispered reassurances that he was still loved. Now it was his turn to speak.
"It was… a bad time for our country," he said at last, breaking the silence in a near-whisper. "Ever since the two of us were born there had been ill luck… failing harvests, terrible storms, earthquakes. Things just kept getting worse and worse… our parents… the king and queen and the court blamed us, but the peasants just blamed us all.
"There was a riot… we were too young to understand, really, but a crowd of people came up from the village with torches and rocks and - and shovels. The guards couldn't hold them back, the king and queen fled to safety from a secret passage - but - I never knew if it was on purpose or just a mistake in the confusion, but… they didn't take us with them."
His brother took a breath, catching in his lungs as his hands tightened on Yuui's almost painfully. Yuui closed his eyes and swallowed before he could speak again.
"We were hiding in one of the antechambers… there was a big wooden wardrobe there that we liked to play in. It was full of coats and shoes and piles of gowns… it had a funny smell, musty, like mothballs. The two of us huddled in there behind the stacks of blankets and shoes and tried not to make a sound.
"They were in the room, banging and shouting and punching holes in the paneling… I think they may have been trying to strip off the gold leaf from the borders. Their voices were so coarse and… and loud, saying such awful things and I was so scared, and I just… made a noise."
"And he…" his brother whispered. Yuui nodded a little against the pillow, his eyes still shut.
"He grabbed me and threw himself on top of me… I couldn't breathe, let alone make any noise. But they had heard me - they knew we were there now. And… and he pulled one of the heavy blankets on top of me, to cover me, and he stood up… just as they threw open the door to the wardrobe and saw him, and pulled him out."
He had to stop there, and pressed his face against a warm shoulder as he shook. His brother didn't press him to go on and he was grateful for that, not to have to relive his brother's death. Not that he had seen anything, of course, hidden underneath the stifling layers of cloth with tears pouring down his face… but he had heard everything. And he'd seen what was left over afterwards.
"I'm so sorry," his twin murmured quietly.
"No! I'm the one who's sorry," he said, and he sobbed. "I should have been quiet! I shouldn't have made noise! I should have been the one to go out there, not him… I should have been the one…"
"It wasn't your fault," Fai said, and Yuui clung to him desperately, aching to hear that reassurance even as he shook his head in violent denial.
"It was! It was my bad luck, I've always brought bad luck… it was because of me that they got so mad, it was because of me that they left us behind…" His stomach hurt as though he were being stabbed, and he curled into a tight ball, only vaguely feeling his twin's arms around him. "They killed him just a few feet away and I didn't do anything! I should have saved him… I should have gone in his place… I should have been the one to die…"
"No!" Fai shouted; his hands clutched spastically at Yuui's shoulders hard enough that his nails left scratches even through his clothes. "You're wrong. You're wrong!"
The pain registered dully through Yuui's well-practiced haze of guilt and recrimination, and he managed to raise his head out of his miserable huddle far enough to meet his twin's gaze.
"It was not your fault," Fai told him in a low, intense tone, his eyes boring into Yuui's with a fierce conviction. "And he - and your brother wanted you to live."
Such simple words. It took a moment for Yuui to absorb them, turn them over in his mind. Your brother wanted you to live.
Fai hadn't said would have wanted, or probably wanted. He spoke plain facts, because of all the people in all the universes, he knew just what it was that Yuui Flowright of Albion had been thinking in his last moments.
Your brother wanted you to live.
"I know," he said at last, in tones of quiet confession. "And I know that I wanted him to live, too - if I had been given a choice, I would have died to save him."
Before Fai could respond to that he raised his hand to press against Fai's cheek, turning him to meet Yuui's gaze steadily. "Just like he chose to save you."
Fai made an inarticulate noise, and hugged Yuui so hard he couldn't breathe. Yuui bore it, as he had borne Fai's tears and confession earlier. It was a necessary healing, for both of them.
"I don't want to choose any more," Fai said, and his voice was choked and unsteady. "We don't have to choose any more. We can both live here - together."
"Yes," Yuui agreed softly. "That's all I ever wanted."
They lay together as they once had as children; each curled around each other, their soft breaths synchronizing across the silence, and gradually succumbed to sleep.