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31 July 2007 @ 12:14 am
Do you like Shakespeare?  
Title: What You Will
Fandom: Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle
Characters: Kurogane/Fai, Sakura, Syaoran, Ashura, Taishakuten, Kendappa, Tomoyo, Ryu-ou
Prompt: fanfic100 Sunrise, 10_passions Rough Hands, smut69 Proposition, lemonaftertaste Step inside this place and own me, and 20_inkspots Emotions Arise
Word Count: Total of 17,794
Rating: Mature
Summary: After meeting a player at the playhouse, blacksmith Kurogane can't seem to get the man out of his head even though the blond keeps reminding him of the past he has tried to forget. As he continues interacting with the man, he learns Fai has secrets of his own that have driven him to the stage.
Author's Notes: Alright, this was for the Summer History Challenge. The title is actually part of the title of one of Shakespeare's plays: Twelfth Night, or What You Will. Elizabethan London was frequented by the plague, severed heads of traitors were placed on London Bridge to deter people from committing similar crimes, the country was largely Catholic, and the main source of entertainment for Londoners was across the Thames where the playhouses, the bear pit and Bedlam were all located. Fai became a player because the manga has proven that Fai is in fact a good little actor so it was the perfect occupation for him. Kurogane became a blacksmith because it would be difficult for him to interact with Fai if he was a soldier and because his name translates to "black steel" so it made sense to me to have him working with steel.

Thanks to alys_wonder and nikkernoodle for betaing for me and dealing with my frequent typos.

He had been working too hard recently, his apprentices had told him, and he should go have some fun at one of the playhouses. Syaoran was to go with him to make sure he actually went to the playhouse and stayed for the entire production. The kid seemed to be enjoying himself, watching the life of Caesar or some other such thing, but Kurogane wondered how he was ever supposed to enjoy himself down in the yard. The first man who had been standing next to him smelled badly of urine, so Kurogane had been forced to move elsewhere. Then the woman next to him kept trying to proposition him, pulling down her shirt and exposing herself. Kurogane grimaced and moved to the opposite side of the yard. Once he could focus properly on the play, he almost wished he would have stayed with the strumpet. The story was stale, the dialogue was poorly written, and the acting horrendous; the players were almost constantly being pelted by rotten vegetables and fruit. Kurogane thought he saw a dead cat go flying through the air. Until Portia came on stage, a golden haired beauty so perfect it was almost impossible to believe her to be a boy in disguise, and the audience fell silent.

She was far too perfect, Kurogane thought as he watched Portia move gracefully around on stage. Things had suddenly gotten more interesting for him as he was determined to discover the player’s true gender. The way the player moved and talked was far too sophisticated for a boy to have learned. Now that he knew the truth, he just had to decide what to do with his new information. Indeed his mind was on that and not the play for the rest of the performance though Portia did not return to the stage until the final act.

After the production was over, he saw his apprentice looking worriedly around for him, pushing his way through the other groundlings and calling his name. Kurogane would meet up with him and explain later. He was more in finding “Portia” and revealing to her that he knew her secret. He could expose her to the troop and she would lose her job, he could expose her to the church who would do much worse to her, or she could cooperate with him by doing what he asked of her and he could keep her secret safe. She was, after all, a very lovely woman. He had been alone for such a very long time, and he was convinced any whore was sure to give him the pox. She would be willing if it meant he was not going to tell the church what she had been doing.

He slipped his way into the tiring room past the other players, who did not seem to mind his presence. As he thought she would be, she was in the most private corner she could find, half shield by a curtain. She stood her with back towards him, dress undone to the waist, corset resting over the back of a nearby chair and shift partially undone so her slim shoulders were exposed, hunched over as she scrubbed her face with water from a bowl. The situation was perfect according to his tastes.

“The lovely Portia is waiting for me in her bower, I see.” He saw the woman tense as she straightened herself up. “Do not be shy. I know thou art no boy, and if thou dost me a favor in return, none shall hear of your secret from me.”

“Thou art right about one thing; I am no boy.” He felt his blood pulsing faster in anticipation; it truly had been such a very long time. “However,” she began, “I am no woman either.” The player turned fully around to face him revealing a perfectly flat male chest. The player rested with his hands against the table behind him. “As thou can see, I am a man.” For a while all he could do was stare at the man and wonder how he could have been so wrong. The tiring room was getting quieter, which meant the audience must have been leaving the playhouse. “Dost thou need me to remove my skirt as well to prove my manhood further to thee, Mister Blacksmith?”

“Thou art a poor excuse for a man,” he countered, ignoring for a moment that the man had known his occupation.

“Nay, I am so good a man I convinced thee I was a woman until though wished to make the beast with two back with me.”

“Thou makest no sense.”

“Thou needs to decide whether I am to do thee that favor, or if thou art going to the church and confessing to wanting to be intimate with a man.”

Kurogane wondered how he was losing a verbal match to a man who pranced around on stage like a woman. He did not know how to respond to the man, but luckily he was saved by a young lady approaching them.

“Forgive me, Fai,” she said with a curtsey upon seeing his state of half-dress. “I believed you would have been changed by now.”

“My apologies, Lady Sakura,” the player said with a light bow. “I would have been dressed properly had this young man not come to proposition me.”

The young girl looked up at him for a brief moment before turning her attention back to the player. “Proposition? About what?”

“It would seem the young blacksmith want to claim my body as his own,” the player said with a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

“But thou art so skinny. He would have to find a new craft,” the girl stated, looking a little confused. Kurogane decided it would be best for him to leave before the young lady deduced the player’s true meaning. “Oh, I must tell you I met a young blacksmith apprentice after the show. His name was Syaoran.”

Kurogane gritted his teeth as he moved away from them, angry at the boy who had accompanied him; why should a boy be lucky in finding a woman when all he had found was a false one? He made his way back into the yard in search of the boy.

“Master Kurogane,” Syaoran said, as he approached him. “I have been looking for thee. I had begun to fear thou had gone back without me.” They began walking back towards the shop, Kurogane trying not to be too angry with the boy at his side.

“Thou art going to be making horse shoes until the sun rises tomorrow,” he growled as they walked past the bear pit.

“What have I done to offend thee?” the boy asked as he struggled to keep up with his larger master.

“You met a girl at the playhouse tonight.”

“Do ye know the Lady Sakura?” The boy hesitated before stepping on the bridge, gazing up at the heads of the traitors the state had executed and placed up as warnings.

“Move along, boy. I’m not paying for the ferry. The dead can’t bother anyone.” The boy seemed to regain control of his legs and joined him on the bridge. “I met the Lady Sakura and one of her friends earlier today.

“Dost thou not approve of the Lady Sakura?” He could tell the boy was nervous, and he kept glancing upwards.

“I do not approve of her friends. A girly who keeps company with a man like that is not fit for one of my apprentices.” The crazy man might start affecting her and she might start walking around in man’s clothes.

“I suppose it would not have worked between the two of us. After all, a lady and a blacksmith can never be together.” The boy looked upset, but he did not want to ease up on his punishment, so he thought a comforting word might be in order.

“Not necessarily. It is much easier to get into a woman’s skirts than it is to marry her.” He supposed he could always try to seduce some lady, but they seemed to be avoidant of older blacksmiths. The refined ladies recoiled from his touch.

“Master Kurogane!” The boy was blushing fiercely; Kurogane had forgotten Syaoran did not join in the rowdy talk of the other boys. Poor thing was probably still a virgin.

“It doesn’t matter. Thou shouldn’t spend time with that girl or think on her.” He wished he could follow his own advice and stop thinking about that player moving around on stage in a woman’s weeds. Damn him and damn his perverseness. “Let’s just get back to the shop, boy. There’s plenty of work left to be done tonight.” He tried his best to forget what had transpired at the playhouse over the next couple of days, placing all his concentration in his work. Even though it was a time of peace, he was getting a good number of commissions for swords, though mostly for lords who wanted them for show. Kurogane found it to be a waste of perfectly good swords, but they kept him in business, so he continued making them. Things such as swords were far too valuable to placed in the hands of his apprentices.

“Good day to thee, Mister Blacksmith,” someone said to him while he was bent over a sword he had been working diligently on. He looked up to see a man with blond hair standing across from him, and blue eyes sparkled at him along with a gold ring in the man’s ear. Kurogane tried not to sneer at him. Players were the worst, especially after the fiasco the prior week. “I would like to speak with thee about work.”

“Let me finish here, and we shall speak in front of the shop.” The man nodded before practically waltzing away from him. He hated players.

Once he was finished, he stepped outside where the man was waiting for him, watching a woman emptying a water bucket down the street. “What kind of work could a man like thee have for me?”

“Dost thou not recognize me?” the man asked with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. Kurogane was not in the mood to be playing games.

“I care little for plays and less for players.” The man was going to have to work really hard on convincing him if he wanted him to make anything for them.

“Thou found me so beautiful on stage; I had thought thou wouldst recognize me. Shall I put a skirt and wing on to remind you?” He recognized the man then, that twinkle in his eyes, that slender body and lovely face.

“Fool,” he snarled, stepping further away from the man lest he should be contaminated by whatever had taken a fancy in the blond’s brains.

“At least you are becoming more accurate in thy insults,” the man teased, completely unfazed by his reaction.


“Now that’s just harsh.” Men should not pout, but Kurogane refrained from saying anything else to him. “Besides, clearly it is fate we two have once again met. I simply needed a blacksmith, and the odds are low I would arrive upon thy door.” Or his apprentice had babbled the whereabouts of their shop to his lady who repeated that information to her player friend who took a chance that the two were related.

“How did you know I was a blacksmith?” he asked, looking at the suspicious man who was not as fully dressed as he should have been to be in public. He would take great pains to make sure none of his apprentices were exposed to that man.

“Your hands,” the blond responded, with a pointed look down at his hand. Kurogane’s hand twitched and he self-consciously placed his hand slightly behind his back. His other hand was fully clenched. Unfortunately, that caused the man to look back up at him. “A man’s hands reveal everything about him. For instance, thy hands say thou art a former soldier, a blacksmith, and a great lover. Your left hand also tells why you are no longer a soldier.” He glared at the man who smiled brightly at him as if nothing had been said.

“What do thine hands say about thyself?” The man’s hands were smooth as if he had never worked a day in his life.

“My hands say everything and nothing.”

“Which means thou speakest a good deal of nothing.” Nothing he could see seemed to be able to affect the man who continued to stare at him with that blank smile. “State thy business with me and be on thy way.”

The player bowed to him quite formally. “Lord Ashura’s men request for thee to produce ten fake swords for our use in an upcoming production.”

“So be it.” The man straightened and thanked him. “Now be gone, and send some other to retrieve thy commission.” Kurogane thought the man may have looked hurt, but he would not trust the feelings of a player. They knew no real emotion.

“Did I just see thee talking to Fai, the man who played Portia?” Syaoran asked when he stepped back into the shop. The other three apprentices did not seem to care he had gone outside.

“How dost thou know his name?” he asked the boy suspiciously.

“The Lady Sakura was telling me about him, and I thought he looked familiar.” He still wanted to know why fate had cursed him with worse eyesight than a young boy; perhaps it was all the smoke from the fires.

“Aye, and if he ever returns, he is not to speak to me.” He picked up the sword he had just finished. The man had been right on two counts and he knew not how. The third… well, the lack of women in his life exposed that lie. He did not believe the man could presume to know so much about him just by his hands. Maybe he had been following him, and he should learn to be more careful, Kurogane thought as he laid the sword back down. He would make the man his swords, but then he would refuse to do future business with him and his company. Besides, now that the man had mentioned something, every time he saw the blond he would think about everything he had tried so hard to forget.

Even though the swords were fake and for players, he still did not entrust the job to his apprentices and made all ten fake, lightweight swords himself. Even the weakest of boys would be able to lift and use them. He entrusted the lesser work to his apprentices during the time he was working on the playhouse swords, focusing all his energy on his project. He only had one other real sword on commission during that time, which he easily finished. After the swords were finished, he realized he did not know when to expect someone to arrive to pick up the props. Kurogane decided he could work on other projects until someone arrived to pick them up. If only they were at war, then he would have something else to do.

On the third day, someone came to retrieve the swords. Though the man was back in Portia’s dress and had donned the wig, this time Kurogane recognized him the blond player without fail. One of his apprentices stopped to stare at the blond, and Kurogane barked an order at him that sent him scurrying away. “I thought I told thee never to return here.”

“Aye.” The man was speaking in the woman’s voice which may have been a good thing since two of his apprentices were still around. “So I came not as myself but the lovely Portia that thee found so beautiful.”

“We shall talk outside,” he said, grabbing the man by the elbow and pulling him outside where his apprentices would not bear witness to the conversation. “Offer thy payment so we may be done here.” He did not know where the man kept gold in that dress and begun to fear the worst.

“Unfortunately our company is poor and this transaction was not previously sanctioned by our sponsor.” That was precisely what he had been afraid of. “We can only pay you in women,” except he had no use for a disease-ridden whore, “or, in this case, a poor substitute for one,” the player concluded, indicating the dress he was wearing. All of Kurogane’s foul suspicions about the man were confirmed in that instant, especially the ones concerning the player’s clearly perverse mind. “I offer thee five minutes for every two swords.” If he was going to be forced into this, and he did need to be rewarded for his services in some way lest people believe he gave things out for free, Kurogane decided he might as well make the most of his situation.

“Five minutes for every sword,” he countered, and he saw the other man wince. Nearly an hour was a very long time for a man to endure such treatment.

“You cannot believe I would possibly enjoy this.” The fact that the blond was resisting enticed Kurogane further to payment such as this.

“I have witnessed thee enjoying playing a woman on stage very much. I believe thou would enjoy playing a woman between the sheets as well.”

“Five minutes for every two swords plus an extra five for thy generosity.” The man was getting desperate in his offers, so Kurogane thought he should accept before the man just walked away.

“And none of my apprentices shall ever learn that thou art not a proper woman else I may lose their respect.”

“Done,” the man agreed, and Kurogane wrapped an arm around the slim waist and the player gasped as he was pulled close.

“Well then, thou player’s wife, shall I have my pleasure of you?” Before the man could change his mind or protest, Kurogane started to drag him through the shop, making sure the apprentices saw him fondling the “lady” on the way through.

“Do you think we’ll ever get paid in beautiful women when we’re masters?” he heard one of the apprentices ask as his payment tried to squirm out of his arms and walk on his own.

“I think thou hast to be as handsome as our master first and not look like a woman thyself,” one of the others jeered.

Kurogane took the man back to his private room, only releasing the man once the door was shut behind him. “Take the wig off,” he ordered because he did not particularly care for fighting with fake hair.

The blond took the wig off and placed it on the table. Even with short hair he still resembled a woman. “Dost thou have to be so rough with me?” he asked rather defiantly.

“Would thou rather prefer I treat thee like a woman?” he growled as he removed his apron.

“If thou art going to use me as one, then thou should treat me as one.” He was not going to do that. Now that he knew the truth he could not bring himself to imagine him as a woman, no matter how much he may resemble one.

“Thou art not a lady; therefore, I shall treat thee like a whore.” He grabbed the man roughly by the elbow and forced him to his knees in front of him.

“This was not part of our agreement,” the player said as he tried to wrench himself away. Kurogane kept him in place with a firm hand on his shoulder.

“It is thy job to make me want thy payment and to be handmaiden to my desires.” He had seen women with short hair on rare occasions; he ran his fingers through the man’s hair.

“This is coming out of your time,” the player told him as nimble fingers roughly loosed his breeches.

“Thou wilt regret any delay,” he growled as the man nervously kneeled before him, looking not at what was in front of him but at the wood door behind Kurogane. “Hurry up, my lady. Time starts with thee.”

The player seemed to gather what little thoughts he could produce, and a warm mouth tentatively engulfed him. He leaned his head back against the door as the man’s mouth began to affect him. He supposed once he focused solely on the sensation of that tongue moving against him the gender of who was performing the deed no longer matter. Once he could take his payment on his own will, he pulled the man roughly to his feet.

The player gasped as he was turned around facing the door and pressed against the wood. Kurogane pulled the back of the skirt up and pushed himself firmly against the man’s back. “Dost thou give all payments in this manner?” he snarled in his ear as he thrust against the blond’s back causing the player to gasp again.

“I only have given my body willingly to you,” the blonde responded, looking over his shoulder at him. Kurogane used his right hand to pin both the man’s wrists above his head and his left hand was placed uselessly on the player’s hip, crying out as Kurogane ruthlessly entered him.

“Sh, dost thou want my apprentices to hear thy manly voice?” he growled as he began to move. The man whimpered, but he did not cry out again. Kurogane could tell he was biting his lower lip.

“Dost thou not want me to make thy apprentices envious of thy progress?” the man asked through heated pants as Kurogane nibbled along the side of the man’s neck. He allowed the man to bend over slightly though he kept his right hand on his wrists. “Oh, yes, Kurogane, harder!” the player screamed in a woman’s tone. Kurogane shushed him and bit him roughly on the side of the neck.

“That is not necessary,” he ordered. He looked up to see the player’s fingers fumbling against the wall. He buried his nose briefly in the man’s hair before moving his mouth over the back of the blond’s neck, panting lightly against the player’s heated skin. The man was groaning in front of him as Kurogane thrust into him with measured steady thrusts

“Art thou sure thou can last the full time?” the man gasped. He sounded as if he might be in some pain, so Kurogane stopped thrusting into him so harshly.

“The better question may be art thou sure thou can handle the full time?” he asked, loosening his grip on the man’s wrists.

“I would be fine if thou wouldst stop hurting me,” the man hissed. “I know thou dost not like me, but must thou try to break mine hip with thine hand?” Kurogane pulled his hand off the man’s hip; a dark bruise was already forming on the man’s pale skin. He let his hand remain at his side to avoid future injury to the man. Even though he disapproved of players, he did not want that to be added to his conscience on top of everything else.

“Maybe now I can enjoy this,” the man gasped as he bent further over granting Kurogane fuller access. Kurogane was making sure he was getting every minute he was owed. Besides, it had been a very long time; if he closed his eyes, he could simply imagine that it was a woman underneath him. Except he did not close his eyes, and he continued to kiss the side of the man’s neck as they both panted.

They still had ten minutes left when one of his apprentices knocked on the door. “Master Kurogane, the Lady Kendappa and the Lady Tomoyo wish to see thee.”

“Tell them I am busy,” Kurogane responded before closing his mouth back over the base of the man’s neck.

“They say they shall speak to no one but thee and that it is urgent.” Kurogane sighed as he pulled away from the player and refastened his breeches. “I shall return,” he informed the blond as he pulled him away from the door and slipped outside; Fai caught himself against the table after Kurogane released him. He pulled his skirt back up to investigate the mark on his hip. He didn’t think the man had intended to hurt him, but he was probably going to limp all the way back home. He hoped it would not be obvious the mark was from a man’s hand. Fai had time to catch his breath while the blacksmith was gone and let his imagination wonder how his time would finish. Eventually, the blacksmith reentered the room, looking slightly tired.

“What did they want from thee?”” the player asked as he closed the door behind him.

“A special commission. It appears Lady Kendappa broke the last sword I made for her.” He was not entirely interested in the player any longer.

“Who are they?” the man asked him, and Kurogane wondered if he was just trying to delay the completion of their time.

“Saucy wenches the both of them who have refused the touch of all men. The land they own would have been mine had their father not made a bad decision and did not have the opportunity to change it before he died.” He did not know why this man compelled him to remember everything he had tried so hard to forget. “He left the land in their care until one married, then the land would belong to her husband. Those sisters are too loyal to each other and neither will ever get married, not even for love.”

“Siblings can be a very wonderful thing,” the man told him with a sad smile. “But, we two should not be talking. I owe thee time.”

“Take thy swords and leave,” Kurogane told him before he remembered that other time that was starting to resurface.

“But I have yet to pay in full,” the player protested, but he did pull the wig back on. Kurogane liked the wig least of all.

“Take all ten swords and be on thy way,” Kurogane told him, avoiding looking at the man as much as possible.

“But I still owe thee time.” The man’s protests were getting weaker. The blond had not seemed to be enjoying it very much anyway.

“Five of those minutes were for my generosity,” he said as he opened the door. He resisted the urge to touch the player’s back as he walked past.

“I know thou art no longer in the mood now, but when should I return to finish thy payment?”

“Do not bother.” He had no desire to see the man ever again, though he was currently in the mood for a good deal of ale. “I don’t want to see thee ever again.” Something about the blond’s very presence kept reminding him of all the things he wanted to forget.

One of the apprentices handed the player the bundle of fake swords, looking worriedly at his master. “Alright, Kurogane.” At least it did not seem that the apprentices realized that the player was not actually a woman. “Perhaps thou might come to see my husband in a play?” the man asked hopefully.

“I doubt that. Show the lady to the streets,” he instructed his apprentice.

“Good bye, then, Master Kurogane,” the player said sadly as he turned to leave. Kurogane watched him walk away at the side of his apprentice. Every so often, the man would look over his shoulder at him, and Kurogane noticed that the man was limping. It was for the best if they remained out of contact with each other.

Besides, he had plenty of work to occupy his mind with. Lady Kendappa needed a new sword; she had complained the last one had been too light and that was why it had snapped. Kurogane maintained a sword was no tool for a woman, even one who governed her own land, but she had smiled sweetly and requested he make a sword for her younger sister as well.

Syaoran started going to the playhouse every chance he got, presumably to meet up with the Lady Sakura whenever possible. Kurogane did his best to forget about the playhouses; he confined himself to London avoiding all temptation from the other side of the river. His main objective was to avoid the bridge as much as possible as the heads of the traitors would surely mock him were he to walk by.

“Master Kurogane, thou really should get out of the shop,” Ryu-ou told him after about a week of his self-confinement. “'Tis not healthy for thee to be confined in such a manner as this.” The outside world was what was unhealthy for him, poisoning his mind and accusing him of crimes he had not committed. “That woman’s husband has come looking for thee.” Kurogane knew exactly who his apprentice was speaking about given only three “women” had been at the shop recently and two of them had sworn to never wed. “Thou should go elsewhere to speak with him.”

He did not want to go anywhere to speak with that particular man, but Ryu-ou left and returned with the man at his side.

“Mister Blacksmith?” the man said happily as he approached him. “My wife told me what happened and I thought I could finish paying you with a drink at the alehouse.” He had thought he had made his thoughts on players perfectly clear the last time the man had been to visit him.

“Master Kurogane, thou should go. It would be nice to see thee out of the shop.”

“I’ll pay for thy first two pints,” the man happily offered. Kurogane could tell he was eager to get him to go to the alehouse with him.

“Alright,” he finally agreed, rising slowly to his feet. “Ryu-ou, I trust thee and Syaoran to close the shop tonight.” They were the only apprentices he really had any hope for. Kurogane followed the man out the door and into the filthy streets.

“Where is the nearest alehouse?” the blond asked him as he began walking backwards down the street. Kurogane would never do that; he wanted to make sure he didn’t step in something disgusting which was always a possibility.

“This way,” Kurogane said, indicating the direction they were already walking in. He glanced down at the man’s hip, and the player grinned lecherously at him. “How is thy hip?” he asked. The man did not seem to be limping anymore.

“Much better. Thanks to thee for asking.” The man continued to walk backwards turning when Kurogane indicated that he should. At least the alehouse was close, and he would not have to put up with the man’s nonsense for long. “Since thou hast been staring, I must ask. Dost thou prefer my beauty in a man’s or woman’s weeds?”

“Do not ask me such questions,” he growled. Because the player wore so little clothing as man, it was much more painfully obvious that he was male, particularly when Kurogane chanced to look down. “We are at the alehouse.” He grabbed the man by the arm to keep him from walking further.

The player turned to look up at the sign. “Do they serve good ale here?” At least he could get along with a man who appreciated alcohol while they were drinking.

“Decent enough. Don’t eat the food though,” he warned as they walked inside and sat down at a small empty table in the back corner. Kurogane liked this ale house, and he was not entirely sure he wanted to be seen in the company of a player there.

“Two pints,” the blond called to a loosely dressed serving girl who made her way past their table. One of the reasons Kurogane liked that place was because they were quick in serving their alcohol, and the girl quickly returned with two filled mugs. At least the man behaved modestly to the serving girl. “How long hast thou been out of thy apprenticeship?” the blond asked over his mug at him.

“A few years,” Kurogane answered him noncommittally, hoping this would not turn into a conversation about his life. Alcohol should only contain conversations about women. “How long hast thou been a player?”

“My entire life,” the blond answered with a broad grin. Kurogane did not doubt if for an instant. “Thou mentioned last time that thou were almost lord of Lady Kendappa’s land.”

“I was supposed to marry her younger sister. Before the wedding took place, her father died, left the land to his daughters till one of them got married, and she refused to marry me.” He might be able to survive this conversation with the man if the player did not ask about a time earlier than his almost marriage.

“How disappointing.” The man did not seem sincere in his comment. “But dost thou enjoy being a blacksmith in London?” That question felt a bit more real to him.

“Tis a paying job.” The player was starting at him as if he wished him to continue. “I would prefer to live in the country somewhere.”

“A country home would be rather quaint.” The man gestured at the serving girl to get her to refill their mugs. “However, I do not think they take kindly to Londoners in the country.”

“Every one adjusts in time,” Kurogane responded, looking down at his left hand. He was sure the player noticed. “What is thy true meaning? Thou did not bring me here to interrogate me on my life,” he accused. The man was slowly losing the cool composure Kurogane was used to seeing him with.

“I do not know any others in the city other than thee and the players,” the man began quietly, darting glances around the room. “My person has been placed under suspicion by the church, and the Lord Ashura’s Men have abandoned me until the church has stopped the investigation. I need a place to stay until then.”

He had not been expecting the man to be so serious; of course, Kurogane had to wonder how much was acting. Still, he could not abandon even a player to be thrown in the tower. “What are the accusations?”

“That I perverse the minds of the young, that I am a sodomite, a thief, and a Prot-“ Kurogane placed his hand swiftly over the man’s mouth.

“Do not say that word here,” he warned as he pulled his hand away. The blond was looking at him imploringly. “I can grant thee a place to stay, but it is small,” he warned. Besides, even that man did not deserve to be sent to the tower. “When thou art done with thy drink we can return.” The blond had three or four more pints before he decided he was ready to go to his hiding place which Kurogane found just a little suspicious. Perhaps there was more to this situation than the man was telling him, but it was too late for him to change his mind.

The streets were dark by the time they stepped outside. Kurogane thought the man might have been walking too close to him for comfort, but he decided to let it pass for the moment. He led him back to the shop, where they passed Syaoran sleeping on a pallet in the corner.

“Do all thy apprentices sleep here?” the man whispered as they walked carefully through the shop.

“Nay, only him for he has nowhere else to stay. Yet he is beneficial to me for he keep away thieves.” He would have the apprentices take turns spending the night in the shop if one did not always have the need to be there.

“Truly? For he has not stirred since we entered.” He could tell the blond was almost laughing; he had probably gotten drunk with all the ale.

“He recognizes my voice,” Kurogane growled as he shoved him into the back room. The man froze as soon as he was inside.

“Dost thou reside in here?” The man appeared to have too many memories of that particular room to sleep comfortably.

“Upstairs,” he said, pushing the man towards a door in the back room. “There is a small room with a bed.” It was not a grand lodging, but it was good enough for him to live in solitude and allowed him to not live in the shop yet be close enough to it should an emergency occur.

He followed the player up the creaky stairs and lit a candle for them immediately inside the door. There was a window overlooking a joint yard, but it did not provide for much natural light.

“Do the fumes from thy shop reach here?” the man asked nervously.

“Not usually.” Kurogane set the candle down on a table near the bed before collapsing into the bed. It had not ever been intended to be shared by two people. “Blow out the candle when thou art ready to go to bed,” he instructed.

“I cannot stay here for free,” the man said, taking a step closer to the bed.

“Thou hast no job.” Besides, he was not lending the man a place to sleep for the extra money. He had his own reasons for protecting the player.

“I know I cannot pay thee in gold,” the man started and Kurogane looked over his shoulder at him, “but I can pay in what I have.” The player started to unfasten his breeches.

“Do not concern thyself with payment tonight,” Kurogane told him before the man could get too far in his undressing. “The first night is free.” The blond thanked him before crawling into the bed next to him and Kurogane could feel the player’s body heat radiating against his back. It was a good thing the evenings were starting to cool so it would not be that unbearable.

The next morning he slipped out of the bed before the blond was awake. Since the player was unable to leave, they would have to work out a system during which Kurogane could bring the man meals. Syaoran was still asleep when he went through the shop. He walked through the streets of London until he found an open vendor and bought some breakfast for the two of them. The man still was not awake when he returned, so Kurogane left his breakfast on the side table for him before going downstairs to wake Syaoran and start work for the day. At lunch and dinner he took more breaks to give food to the player. At night, the blond tried to pay him again, but Kurogane refused, claiming he was too tired.

They continued with the same pattern over the next few days; Kurogane wondered how much longer he could avoid the man’s payment. He also wondered what the man did during the long hours he was trapped in that room. Still, anything had to be better than the tower. After five nights, he went upstairs for the evening to find the player sitting on the bed wearing only a shirt.

“What is this about?” he asked, knowing perfectly well that the man was growing more insistent about paying him.

“I cannot stay here for free, and this is the only way I can pay thee.”

“I’ve told thee, payment is not necessary.”

“If thou dost not allow me to pay, I shall go back on the streets. I do not want thy charity.”

He could not allow the man to leave yet; if the player found himself in the tower, Kurogane would feel responsible for everything. “… Aye then,” he finally agreed, and the man looked relieved. Kurogane never could tell what the man was really feeling, and he did not trust the emotions he perceived from the man. “Kneel next to the bed,” he ordered.

The blond crawled slowly off the bed and moved into position with his forehead resting on his folded arms on the mattress. Kurogane tried to think of the last time the man’s lithe body had been in front of him to get himself ready. Replaying the noises the man had made, it did not take long at all for him to be ready for the man again. As he dropped to his knees behind the man, he unfastened his breeches. “Art thou really sure ye want this?” he whispered in the man’s ear as he coated his own erection with saliva.

“I have nothing else to give,” the man responded as he lifted his head. Kurogane followed his gaze temporarily to look up at the starry sky.

“Thou dost not have to pay me,” he whispered, lightly caressing the player’s hip with his right hand, causing the man to shiver.

“I cannot accept thy charity,” and Kurogane knew he should not mention the man not paying again that evening. The blond gasped as Kurogane bit the side of his neck while entering him. He kept his one hand on the man’s hip, the other he let rest gently above the man’s hands on the bed, not holding it but simply lying on top of it as he pushed into him with carefully measured thrusts to collect his payment as quickly as possible and be done with it. The man groaned beneath him, but he said nothing of being hurt this time. Once Kurogane finished, he crawled wearily into bed and closed his eyes. It was another full minute or two before he felt the player crawling into bed and blowing out the candle.

The man insisted upon paying him on a nightly basis. He quickly learned Kurogane’s schedule and most nights would be kneeling in position beside the bed by the time Kurogane was done with work for the day. He was growing tired of the situation and wished the church would forget about the player soon. One night when he went up and the man was waiting for him, Kurogane simply bypassed him and collapsed into bed.

The player’s hand lightly touched his arm. “Art thou tired?” the man asked him with a touch of concern.

“I am always tired after a good day’s work,” he responded, without ever opening his eyes.

“Dost thou not enjoy thy payment?” Kurogane slowly opened his eyes and thought carefully about how he really felt about the man’s payment, as he liked to call it. If he chose his words carefully, he might be able to break the circle.

“I do not enjoy anything I am forced into, especially when the other person is forcing himself as well.”

“I am not forcing myself,” the man said. Kurogane could never believe anything that came out of his mouth. “I actually quite enjoy thee.”

“Thou were not so willing the first day,” he accused, remembering how the man had pleaded with him to lower the time spent in payment.

“I thought thou wouldst enjoy it more if I resisted a little.” He had liked it less because the man had resisted; he preferred doing things when both partners were willing to participate.

“Thou were the one to cancel thy wedding with Lady Kendappa’s younger sister,” the blond said suddenly, most likely in an attempt to get the subject away from him.

“She never wanted me and only agreed because her father insisted.” He did not want to think on how he really felt about that situation. “We were talking about thee.”

“What wouldst thou have me do? I wish to pay thee somehow for thy kindness.” He looked down to see the man had started caressing his left hand.

“I cannot trust anything ye say or offer. Ye simply play the role of whichever garment you are wearing.” When he wore the dress, he played the woman; when he wore only that shirt, he played the whore.

The blond pulled the shirt over his head and threw it across the room. “Dost thou trust what I say now that I wear no garment?” the man asked. Kurogane watched as the man leaned down to kiss his left hand. “I would enjoy it very much if thou wouldst join me on thy floor.”

“Nay,” Kurogane told him, and the blond looked at him surprised. “Thou wouldst enjoy it more if thou wouldst join me in this bed.” Kurogane pulled the player into the bed so that he was straddling his waist.

“Wouldst thou touch me tonight?” the man asked in a sultry tone as he ran a finger down Kurogane’s chest.

“Not if thou rides.” Kurogane did not know why he was trying to hide from the player what had been painfully obvious to the man from the first time they met.

Once Kurogane had allowed himself to have sex with the man on the bed, he saw no point in bruising his knees on the rough floor any longer. The two of them started a new routine, a new dance, a new play together. The daylight hours remained essentially the same except occasionally the player would manage to entice him into a mid-day payment before he returned to work. None of his apprentices knew that the man was there in order to ensure his safety, so they had to finish the daylight payments quickly. During the night, they could take as much time as they desired, and oftentimes the player desired to pay him a very long time. At the end of the day, the blond had taken to wait for him completely in the nude. Things were much less awkward between them when the man was not trying to play a part for him.

After a month or so had passed, Kurogane brought the man lunch one day to find him sitting fully dressed on the bed, looking out the window and tapping his foot impatiently against the blankets. Kurogane placed the food down on the bed next to him. “Sometimes I think prison would be better.”

“Nay, nothing is worse than prison.” He saw the blond glance down at his left hand, and he pushed it behind his back. Perhaps he knew more than he let on sometimes.

“I apologize. I was unjust to thee and thy hospitality.” Of course; no matter. What the man thought he possibly knew about him, he could not know the reasons why. “Now I have gone and upset thee, so let us talk of something else. Let us talk of thy hands.” The man was wearing that foolish grin of his. “Thy hands are rough.”

“A blacksmith’s hands.” He did not need some fancy player who maintained smooth skin to tell him about his hands.

“I like thy roughness when they roam over my bare skin.”

“Women do not,” he informed the man, remembering every potential lover who had pulled away from him because she did not like the feeling of his hands.

“Women are foolish,” the player replied before licking his upper lip. “I want my lunch.”

“I placed thy food right there,” Kurogane said, pointing to the lunch he had brought the man.

“I want something else to eat. Something only thee can give me,” the man said as he started crawling across the bed. “Something very tasty.”

Before he could protest the man had grabbed him around the waist and was pushing him onto the bed. “My tasty blacksmith,” the man said with a giggle before beginning to kiss his crotch through his pants. As the man’s fingers started to deftly untied his breeches, Kurogane was just starting to believe this might not be a bad idea to allow the blond to continue. As long as they were quick about it, he would not have to fear his apprentices learning anything.

“Master Kurogane,” Syaoran called with a knock to the door and the blond stopped unfastening his breeches. “I apologize for interrupting thy privacy, but the Lady Sakura has come to visit Master Fai.” The player retreated from him and looked nervously towards the door, leaving Kurogane to refashion his own breeches.

“Thou may enter,” he instructed gruffly.

His apprentices entered first with the young woman following closely behind him. “I apologize, but I heard Master Fai entering the first evening and thought it would be best to tell Lady Sakura of his whereabouts.” The boy looked worried, but then again, so did the player.

“Master Fai,” the girl said after a quick bow, “I came to bring thee good tidings.” Kurogane stood because he had the feeling he was not going to want to sit next to the man when they received the news. “Some of the lesser earls are caught in a scandal, so the church will no longer worry about a mere bas----player .” The girl had changed her word quickly, but Kurogane thought he knew what word she had been going to say. “Ye may return home now and no longer strain this poor blacksmith.”

“Thank thee, Sakura,” the player said, inkling his head briefly towards her.

“I should return to my brother before he frets,” she said, curtseying to each of them in turn before leaving.

“I should return to work,” Syaoran said, scurrying out the door behind her. He knew well enough that Kurogane disliked a lack of work in his shop.

“It would seem I no longer have a need to bother thee,” the player told him without rising from the bed. Kurogane grunted in response; it would be nice to only have one person sleeping in the bed at night again. “I should go now.” Kurogane did not know what to say to get the man to stay, nor was he entirely sure that was a good idea. The player stood and looked bleakly around the room; he had brought no belongings to collect. “Perhaps I shall see thee around,” Fai said hopefully.

“Perhaps.” Kurogane was not going to go to the playhouse, not even to see the man again. The blond gave him a quick kiss on the temple before walking slowly out the door.

It was a full fortnight before he saw the player again. He had been taking a brief break outside of the shop when he saw the man walking down the street.

“If thou art coming to pay the ten minutes, thou should have worn the dress,” he said as the man approached. “Tis much easier to access.”

“Nay, I have come to grant thee another commission.” Kurogane realized he was starting to grow fond of that odd twinkle in the man’s eyes. Of course, it made him fear everything was a game to the man as well. “A false suit of armor made for a man about my stature.”

“Thy payment?” Kurogane knew the man did not have gold with which to pay him. He could not have earned much in the time that he had been back at the playhouse.

“An hour with mine wife, to do with her as thou pleases.”

“An hour is a very long time,” he warned. “I may win her affections away from thee.”

“She already prefers thee to mineself.” The man had reached over to quickly brush his fingers against Kurogane’s arm.

“Send her to pay me in two days. I shall have thy commission completed by then.” The player agreed to the terms and went on his way with a broad smile.

Two days later, Kurogane was waiting outside when the blond returned, again dressed as a woman. “My husband has sent me to pay thee, good blacksmith.”

“Aye, and a goodly payment tis.” Kurogane grabbed the player by the hand and led him through the shop to his backroom. Once inside, the man snatched his hand away and experimentally flexed his fingers.

“I thought thou likest me slightly more now,” the man said as he cradled his right hand. “Thou seemed willing enough to accept this payment.”

“I apologize for that,” he said as he pushed the wig off the man’s head. “Thou noticed thyself that my left hand is the reason I am no longer a solider.” The player had always spent a good deal of time looking at and commenting about his hands.

“What happened to thee?” the man asked as Kurogane began, kissing along his jaw.

“Not today,” he growled, especially when the player was clearly holding secrets of his own that Kurogane knew little about, though the Lady Sakura had unwittingly given him some clues.

“True enough,” the player said as he arched against him. “Now is the time to be discussing thy payment. Shall we go up to thy bed? Shall we return to the door? Or shall I bend over this desk I am leaning against?” Kurogane did not answer the man, allowing the player to wrap his slender arms around his shoulders as he hoisted him onto the desk, pulling his skirt up around his waist. He permitted the player to kiss and caress him while he thrust into the other man as he nuzzled the slender neck.

Once they were finished, he continued to hold the man close to his body. “Thou went over thy time,” the blond panted in his ear, followed by a low laugh.

“Thou owed me ten minutes,” he reminded the blond as he continued nuzzling his neck.

The player’s hand was running lightly through his hair. “How dost thou explain the other fifteen minutes?”

“Interest,” he replied without really thinking.

“Usurer,” the player teased with another exhausted laugh. “I have a confession. I have no need for a false suit of armor.”

“That is fine,” Kurogane replied as he finally pulled away from the man. “I did not create one for thee.” Fai laughed and stretched up to kiss him on the nose. “When wilt thou return?”

“In a few days if thou desire it.”

“I do.”

lilmookat: candy lubulilmookat on July 31st, 2007 05:18 am (UTC)
I'm too sleepy to read the other half but this is amazing, combining two of my fnadomes. ::hands over cookies::
shadow_pipershadow_piper on August 1st, 2007 09:55 pm (UTC)
Obviously a lot of thought was put into this. :3 I enjoyed it.
If you intend to enter this in the History Challenge, would you be so kind as to post a link to this here:
that way I know to judge it when the deadline comes along. :D
Kyomikasumivy on July 13th, 2011 02:25 pm (UTC)
I can't breathe. This is eating my heart since I keep feeling a tightness in my chest. The hidden angst appeared through all the conversations makes the ending completely delicious. I don't know anything about this kind of English and it's making a weird feeling as I read this and it's good. I'm so loving this <3 Thank you for such beautiful fic ^-^~