Inflorescence: Illusione, finale
ExT fanfiction by Ekai Ungson

disclaimer: CLAMP owns Card Captor Sakura. Characters used without permission.

what: this fic is a part of a series i call "Illusione". it's a collection of ten oneshots that span say... six years of an eriol and tomoyo relationship. remember "Belief II: Beauty"? this happens a year after that. i couldn't figure out if "Illusione" was just one multi-chapter or ten separate oneshots because the timelines are too fleeting, but the fics are definitely connected to each other wholely. some of them cannot stand alone so i think i'll need to edit that. in time those ten fics may become just eight or nine. hmm?

TAKE NOTE: "Inflorescence" is THE FINALE. that means it's the last of the series so you might not understand it at once. i WILL be posting the prequels one by one. i'm posting this first because i've tweaked it time and again. clear?

for: varon and alli.

~~~~~Inflorescence.

There are some things that a man can never leave behind, no matter how his past beckons. There are things like love, and things like devotion. And then there is faith.

----

"What marries me to you? Is it a piece of paper? Then I am not married to you. Is it Church approval? Then I am not married to you. Is it the fact of a bed, the fact of two keys on one lock? Then I am not married to you. Is it the Eye of the Law? Then I am not married to you.

If it is the daily pleasure in your face. If it is the quickening of my spirits at your face, if it is your face I seek when I seek no other, if it is the love of you that is consent, if it is consent to be of the same mind, then let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments."

-- Jeanette Winterson; "Art & Lies"

----

"I want to see you tonight, Eriol."

He ran a hand through his hair in frustration. He was angry, yes. He was mad. He was confused.

Why in the hell did SHE have to call? And why did she have to ask that of him? For Christ's sake. She knew he was married. She knew it was over. If he remembered correctly she had been the one who walked away. She left him in the dust and now, from out of the blue, she makes one phone call and asks him to go to her. Tonight. Now.

It was bloody, bloody hell. He ran a hand through his hair again, pacing the hall. Seventeen steps and back. He didn't want to go. He didn't want to leave. He stole a glance at the room directly across his path, its door ajar. Through it he saw a woman with long black hair holding a bundle of blankets in her arms.

If that was just any other woman, if that was just an ordinary bundle of blankets, he wouldn't be pacing at the moment. That was his wife, and that was their daughter she was cradling. Tomoyo. Bianca.

Bloody hell. This was NOT going well.

The phone had rang at precisely nine. She had been holding Bianca already. She was crooning in that soft voice of hers reserved only for the child and he had picked up the cordless. He never expected that call. He never wanted it. He didn't need it-- Tomoyo was enough, Bianca was enough, he was all right.

But that was him just trying to talk himself out of the situation. Because in all truth and honesty he had wanted that call. He had been waiting for that call for five years. And here it was.

The look on his face had probably said it all because the moment the woman from the other line had spoken Tomoyo stiffened visibly and took Bianca, blankets and all, to the upstairs room. Damn it, what was he thinking? He couldn't even hide that from her.

He didn't want to hurt her. He loved her. God, he worshiped her. It was hurting him to see her hurt because of his indecision.

He had a WIFE and a DAUGHTER for Christ's holy sake. He knew that as he fingered the wedding band on his left hand. Everywhere he looked he saw his things with hers, theirs. His chair beside her sewing kit. His glasses case beside her videocamera. His pyjamas beside her nightgown. His shaving cream beside her Chanel perfume. This house was not his, not hers. It was theirs. Just like Bianca was not hers, not his, Bianca was THEIRS.

Then why the hell was he feeling so... torn?

*She* really shouldn't have called.

He wouldn't be feeling like this if she had just left them alone.

He turned to the half-open door again. He knew that she knew. Tomoyo knew because Tomoyo knew him so well, too well. She knew who had called him, and why he'd been called, and now he was just waiting for the other shoe to drop. There was no use pretending that she didn't know, that she was still happy, because she wasn't. She wasn't even if she was doing everything as calmly as if nothing had happened.

When the door opened and her violet eyes met his he knew that this was IT.

This was The Confrontation.

"Bianca-chan's asleep," she whispered.

"Tomoyo, I--" he began.

She kept walking, down the staircase, without even a backward glance. He couldn't read her. There was nothing to read from her. She was as expressionless, as emotionless as possible. He followed her silently.

When she reached the living room, far away from Bianca's room, he expected an incredible tirade. But nothing happened. She stood in the middle of the room and turned to face him.

He waited.

"I'm giving you free reign."

His eyes narrowed. "What?"

She looked at him with calm eyes. "For tonight, you are not my husband. You are not Bianca's father. You are only a man with nothing to keep you down. And you have to choose."

"I don't understand."

"I know it was her, Eriol," she stated. There was nothing in her voice, nothing on her face, nothing in her eyes. He was staring at nothing. "And I know, I know, you want to go. I'm telling you, that if you want to, you can. This is your choice."

"It's not--"

"It is," she interrupted. "It is, truth."

"I love you, Tomoyo," he whispered.

She shook her head, and he stopped short. "That's not love, Eriol. It's not love you're feeling. It's what you think but it's not what you feel, and that is the point. I think you're mistaking something else for love. Something like the fact that it's a wedding ring you're wearing, the same as mine. Something like the fact that our clothes are mixed together in the closet. Something about the fact that we share a bed, that we bought this house together. Something like your things aren't just yours, and my things aren't just mine, but ours, and something, something like Bianca-chan."

He stared at her.

"Fact is, Eriol, in retrospect, all of those things are bound to you and bound to me because of a simple piece of paper. But if there is no love, that piece of paper is meaningless, is useless," she said softly. "You think that because you have a daughter by me means you have to be tied to me at all costs." She shook her head. "That totally defeats the point."

He couldn't look at her anymore. Not at those beautiful, beautiful violet eyes. Something was eating at him. Guilt?

She was right. She was always right, and she knew him too well.

It wasn't that Tomoyo didn't understand him. But there were parts of him that she could never fill with her light. Those parts of him where light itself would be a fallacy, a lie. Those parts of him she never could reach, because he couldn't bear to share them to her, knowing full well that she'd never understand, no matter how she tried, and she tried hard. Those parts of him... Kaho reached them, and filled them, and he was not empty.

He thought he had forgotten, didn't need, those parts of himself when Tomoyo came and shone on him. He never dreamed that one day they would eat at him and cause him so much pain. And Tomoyo couldn't heal him.

He knew this was hard on her. He knew this was breaking her, even as she stood reed-thin in the middle of the room. She looked so small and frail, and he wanted to take her into his arms, but he couldn't. He didn't have a right to while he was feeling this way.

He needed to know who he was again.

And he knew that she wanted that, too.

"I know that I've been lacking," she went on, and he winced. "I know there are parts of you I can never understand and more than I can never know about. I won't hold that against you. In fact, I won't hold *anything* against you. I won't even hold Bianca and say you have to stay because she is here and she lives and you created her, you created her with me. I won't hold a marriage contract in your way." She sighed and walked past him. He turned and stared at her.

She stopped at the doorway. "I'm going up to Bianca-chan's room. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, between you and that door to keep you from leaving tonight. Not a wedding ring, not Bianca, and certainly not me." She paused. "This isn't about me or Kaho. This isn't a fight between us. This is a struggle of you against yourself." She smiled, but the smile never reached her eyes. There was no light in her eyes. "If you leave, you leave, but I will wait. If you come back, you'll be welcomed. If you don't, I hope you be happy." He saw that she meant it. "It's your life."

He breathed.

"I love you," she said. He opened his eyes, he stared at her. She met his gaze.

She closed her eyes.

He left.

----

"I will be at the Hotel. You know which, and it's room 519. And I'll be waiting."

He walked the cold streets, the words ringing in his head.

"I'll-- be-- waiting."

He shook his head, buttoned up his coat. He was here. He might as well go. But he didn't want to.

Images were swimming before his eyes. Kaho's smile. Tomoyo's eyes. Kaho's hands, Kaho's lips, Kaho's quiet dignity, Kaho's intelligence. Tomoyo's touch, Tomoyo's calm, Tomoyo's humor. Kaho, countless faces in countless places. And Tomoyo, Tomoyo's faces countless times. Tomoyo in a hospital bed after that incident. He had been so scared. He held her hand and he never let it go until she woke up. He never wanted to let her go. Tomoyo in a hospital bed after giving birth to Bianca. Bianca, Bianca and Tomoyo.

But he wasn't supposed to be thinking like that.

/ "For tonight, you are not my husband. You are not Bianca's father. You are only a man with nothing to keep you down."/

----

Snow was falling outside. And she knew that he was somewhere, out there, his life in his own hands.

She saw a vision of him going into a hotel, walking through the halls, up the elevator. He would knock once, twice at a door, and it would open, and a woman's hand would pull him into the room, a woman's hand touching him, marking him.

All she could do to keep from crying was to hold her daughter close. "Yoru no sora ni matataku... tooi kino hoshi. Yuu de yume de miageta... ko..kori to... onaji iro. Nemu...reru.. yoru... ni... utai utau uta.."

/"I was never destined for anyone but you."/

/I believe in this,/ she thought. /I believe in you./ ".. mune no tsubasa ni notte..."

Another woman's lips on his, another woman's skin on his. She shook her head. "... yasashii yoru ni... hi-hitori utau... uta... a-su.. wa kimi to... i-itao-u.. yume no... yume no.. tsubasa ni no--notte."

And the tears fell, unbidden.

----

He walked onward, still onward, deciding. Deciding on his basest destiny, without any factors involved, without anything to point him.

He was Hiiragizawa Eriol, a free man deciding on which path to take and stay on.

One had broken him to bits. The other picked him up and lent him her light.

Kaho understood the deepest, darkest parts of him because she had been there to witness most of his life. He remembered the devastation he'd felt when she left him. He remembered the way he'd felt for her before, when everything was all right. He remembered emotions he'd long buried deep coming out to overtake him.

Tomoyo. Tomoyo's song had made him listen. Tomoyo's kindness had made him forget. Tomoyo's heart was what he used to survive. Tomoyo who had stood idly by until he realized he held nothing more for Kaho. Tomoyo was his destiny. He'd seen it before. Tomoyo.

Tomoyo who had granted him his freedom, no matter how much pain it brought her.

His destiny was getting blurry.

He loved both, knew that he did, but he didn't, knew that he didn't. He loved only one.

Which one?

The one who understood his magic, his mystery?

The one who knew his pain and accepted it?

He looked up.

He was at the hotel.

----

There was virtually nothing she could do but wait.

Wait for him to realize what he was, what he wanted, what he needed, what he desired.

Wait for him if he decided to return.

It was killing her. It was killing her slowly inside, all this pain, this emptiness. It was murdering the life in her, slowly, slowly. He was her life. And this wasn't right, this wasn't fair, but this was what she'd wanted. This was what she'd told him to do, because she knew full well what he really desired, and that she couldn't live with a lie, couldn't live with a man living a fallacy.

She knew it was more likely for him to not return to her, to stay where his past lay. There, in *her* arms, he was more complete, more alive. More everything. *She* could give him that.

And Tomoyo couldn't compete with that. She was only human. She was only a woman. She wasn't capable of holding anything to compete with that kind of power.

The baby girl in her arms whimpered, as if sensing her distress.

"Bianca," she whispered. She however, had infinite patience, and boundless love.

Would that be enough for him?

Bianca whimpered again.

And she began to cry, again.

----

Outside, the snow had stopped falling, and the flowers paid tribute to the first rays of the sun.

She was sitting on a chair, his, still holding Bianca. She stared out the windows blankly.

He still hadn't returned.

Had she enough tears to cry some more? That was all she could do, all she wanted to do. All she could do was cry her heart out, cry her soul out, because she had nothing else.

She wanted to break down to pieces, little shattered crystal shards in the wind. But she had to remain strong, for Bianca, because Bianca existed, Bianca lived, and she loved Bianca.

As if on cue, the child let out a wail.

Tomoyo picked her daughter up at the same time she heard a key turn in the lock and footsteps approach from the door.

This was it. Final culmination.

He entered, his dark hair wet with melted snow, his eyes exhausted, his steps slow.

And he looked up at her, holding his daughter.

Silence.

"... Do you want me to draw up divorce papers?" she asked quietly. Her voice was broken, as if she'd been crying and he saw in her eyes that she had.

"I didn't go."

She looked up suddenly, her eyes searching his for truth, for certainty, for reassurance that he wasn't lying to her. /This is true? You didn't go? But why...?/

He shook his head slowly. "I didn't go to her. I got to the hotel, but I never went in. All night I searched the city." He paused. "I searched the city for answers. All night I was debating with myself whether I was better off with her who knew me, all of me, inside."

"Magic," she whispered. "You're bound to her by magic. It connects you to her for all eternity." She looked away. "I can't beat that. I can't even compare to it."

He stepped forward and grabbed her shoulders. She looked up at him.

"Last night, I looked at my destiny, and it was blurry. So I kept walking. Walking without direction at all, totally aimless. And do you know where my feet took me?"

She shook her head.

"I opened my eyes today and I was right outside our front door," he answered. "My feet brought me here, they brought me to you," he said. "Don't you understand? I don't need the magic anymore." He tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear. "All I do need is you. All I do want is you."

She stared at him. In his eyes she saw all he was, all he attempted to be, and, if she looked a little deeper, she could see herself.

"I remembered that time when you were in the hospital for dehydration," he whispered. "When you starved yourself because your mother took you away from me. I was so scared when I got her call, and I got even more scared when I saw you in that bed. You were white as a ghost. I never wanted to see you like that, ever, at all, and I couldn't do anything. Part of me wanted to yell, why didn't you believe in me, in us, and then I realized, I realized you did. I realized I did. I believed in you."

She let her head fall forward to his chest. His hands entangled themselves in her hair.

"You are my destiny," he said. "It has always been you, and I'm a bloody idiot for putting you through all that. Are you crying? Oh, Tomoyo-sama, stop crying. I'm here now. I'm home with you and I'm not leaving. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry."

"Welcome home," she whispered.

He smiled. "I love you."





-Owari-