Disclaimer: CLAMP/Kodansha owns everything you recognize. Everything you don't recognize belongs to me, and I'm not making money off of it. I also don't own or endorse any of the products herein.

Dedication: Let's be different this time: To Circe, with many thanks (more than I can say, really) to Varon, Sakura, Ekai, and all the others who pitched in, for their encouragement and ideas. And also to sempei, for offering to be my dealer. *snerk* I appreciate the thought very much.

Notes: I realize that I could have done this in present tense, but the idea (well, the bar scene, anyway) has been sitting around since before I wrote Midnight and its little friends, and it was always in the form it is now. Watch out for swearing and a few sexual themes here and there.

There are ideas in here that come out of Ciircee's Third Arc stories; these are used with the author's permission. They are not meant to imply any relation to her works, or my own here referenced, but are used because I liked them. I had nothing to do with her work (aside from beta and praise, beta and praise) and my own work is in no way linked to any of hers.

British slang: To get drunk in England is to get pissed. Eriol is British and I'm forcing it on his inner thoughts

Finally, we come to the old wedding tradition of the bride carrying 'Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue' when she goes down the aisle. 'Something old' refers to Eriol's feelings for Tomoyo. That will be explained (much) later in this part so I won't go into it here. Disagreements thrown at me will be summarily ignored, since I just don't like Mizuki. I can't help it; something about her just drives me to frenzied loathing.

Old: Eriol

They stood in Li Xiao-Lang's living room, seven grown men against one small girl and an old man. It didn't look good. In fact, it looked really, really bad.

"Yes, you are going out, Touya-san. You're going out tonight, as a matter of fact," Tomoyo said cheerfully while Touya glowered down at her.

"The party isn't until tomorrow, Daidouji-san." Eriol winced inwardly at having called her attention to himself. She was wearing the face that meant she was going to get her way no matter how she had to go about it. That face scared him.

"That's the traditional night for it, Daidouji-san." Li Po-sin, Xiao-Lang's cousin and Meiling's fiancée, added somewhat hesitantly. Tomoyo-san seemed to make him a little nervous, though he clearly liked her well enough and she was certainly fond of him.

"No, it's tonight," she said, smiling sweetly. "As I said, I will not have the lot of you showing up at the wedding with hangovers. Further more, I won't have any of the following: There will be no public nudity. No strippers - that includes you. Nobody will eat anything living, not even if you're dared to. Nobody will eat anything that shouldn't be eaten, period. You two," she pointed at Xiao-Lang and Yamazaki, "are important and will not be dancing on any table or bar tops. The rest of you are free to crack your heads open if you so choose. There will be no pornographic movies. Nobody gets to drive anywhere. You will stay on mainland Japan. In fact, you will stay in Tomoeda. If there's any fighting, and I find out who started it, I will make your worst day ever look like a fairytale. You will not call anyone but paramedics or taxis after two beers. You will not call the paramedics unless you truly need them. Nobody is bringing home bar mugs. All vomiting will be done at the bar, in the designated area…meaning the toilet. Nobody will get himself arrested for any reason, even if it seems like a good one. All credit cards will be left here, along with all car keys and house keys."

"House keys? Daidouji-san, how do you expect us to get into our homes without the keys?"

"Simple, Terada-sensei. You're not going home. All of you will be spending the night right here. Wei-san," Wei smiled benignly at everyone, "has agreed to baby-sit the lot of you and make sure nobody dies from alcohol poisoning. He'll be letting you in when you come home, so you won't have to worry that Li-kun or Li-san will lose their keys at the bar. Your wives, fiancées, girlfriends, and significant others have been told not to let you in no matter how much you beg or how pathetic you are, so you might as well do as I say."

"Nothing doing, Tomoyo-san. We're following an ancient, honored tradition here and that means tomorrow night."

+++

"So I says to her: 'I am a grown man, Daidouji. If I say we're goin' out, then we're goin' out. Tha's all there is to it, woman. And what do you have to say about that?' Tha's what I told her." Touya nodded in satisfaction. Eriol did, too, but mostly to counteract what Touya was doing because watching made him feel a little queasy.

"Yeah? What'd she say?" Yamazaki looked suitably impressed. There weren't exactly a lot of men who would stand up to Daidouji Tomoyo when she wanted something done her way.

"Whadda ya mean, what'd she say? She started apologizing for doubting me, telling me that of course I was absolutely right and all. Dropped right to her knees, threw her arms around my legs, and begged me for my forgiveness. And then, when I told her that I wouldn't…'cause I was just messin' with her head a little…she started unzi…. ."

"To-ya." Yukito sounded miffed. Or maybe muffed. Whatever it was, he didn't sound very happy.

"Oh, don' worry, Yuki, I didn't let her do anything. I told her I was taken." Eriol sat up a little more and turned his head so the room would swing around and put Yukito across from him. Which wasn't a very good idea since he turned his head the wrong way and the table had to swirl all the way around to get to the blond man, and he was sitting just on Touya's other side.

"None of that happened. You stop saying things like that. Tomoyo-chan is a nice girl." Yukito slapped the back of Touya's head.

"Daidouji-san's not all sweetness and light," Eriol amended. "But she's an awfully nice girl. Really good at it. Bein' a girl and doin' girl things and bein' pretty and nice smelling and all."

"Well, of course Tomoyo-san is a nice girl. Jeez, Yuki, she's practically my little sister. Who's sayin' she isn't a nice girl? I'll kick him in the head for saying that, the bastard! She's a good kid." Touya glared around the table, making sure everyone agreed with him.

"So she said we couldn't go out?" Xiao-Lang asked in horror. Daidouji was the one person he feared, and getting on her bad side just two days before his wedding would be the worst kind of mistake. Eriol thought that his descendant had faced The Void with more calm than he did the idea that Tomoyo-san would be angry with him.

"She did not. I really did tell her we were going out whether she liked it or not," Touya looked put out. Then he glared at Eriol. "What are you doin' looking at my almost little sister Tomoyo-san like she's a girl? You just quit it, you girl-dating guy, you. I'm not lettin' her get married, either."

"I remember that," Terada chirped in a singsong voice, his eyes glassy and unfocused. "That's why we're out tonight 'stead of tomorrow night like we're supposed to be. Rika-san made me do the same thing for my bachelor party. I wonder if that's where Daidouji-san got the idea from?"

"Na, I bet Tomoyo-san gave her the idea." Yamazaki said thoughtfully. "She's scary like that."

Eriol nodded to himself, mistake though that was. Daidouji-san was eerily prescient and giving Sasaki-san ideas for her wedding seemed exactly like something she'd do. Yamazaki had called her Tomoyo-san. Eriol nodded to himself again. Daidouji-san, Tomoyo-san, knew all about him. She was his friend. He could call her that, too. It was a very pretty name.

"She reminds me of Xiao-Lang's mom, she's really strong like that," Li Po-sin spoke up, resting his temple on his glass of whatever it was they were currently drinking. "And maybe my Meiling, only Daidouji-san probably wouldn't laugh when she beat me in training." He sighed happily, thinking of his fiancée, or possibly not being laughed at in training. Then he bolted upright, turning horrified eyes on his cousin. "Hey, you don't think she gave this idea to Meiling, do you? We're Li's, Xiao-Lang. We're supposed to follow tradition. I don't want your mom mad at us."

"I don't think she'd be mad. She's a girl, too, and they always stick together. Them and Wei, always stickin' together."

"Oh, yeah. Damn Wei, always siding with the girls. I 'member that about him." Satisfied, Po-sin laid back down on his glass, where the table swayed gently under him.

Touya snickered. "'Least I get to go home tonight. You guys are so screwed, havin' to stay with the brat."

"That's not right. It's just not. I'm engaged, you know. I should get to go home, too," Yamazaki pouted.

"You don't even live with Mihara-san." Yukito snorted, rolling his eyes.

"How come you can't?" Eriol asked, signaling for another round. Some of the other fellows still had…well, something…in their glasses, but his was empty and he'd eaten the lemon and the ice and was bored playing with just the glass.

"Hey, yeah…why can't I go home? I'm married. Rika-san can let me in if I can't find my keys. Have you guys seen my keys? I swear I had 'em when I came in."

"A'cause Daidouji said we can't," Xiao-Lang muttered.

"Then how come you get to go home?" Terada whined.

"A'cause Wei is s'posed to let me in so I can let you guys in 'cause you can't go home 'cause Daidouji said you can't 'cause she said the other girls wouldn't like us coming home drunk," he sighed.

"So how come I get to go home?" Touya frowned. This wasn't making much sense.

"Because you don't have a girl. You have Yukito-kun and she said that if the two of you could find your door, and your door key, and get it to work, then you were welcome to go home and not bug anyone but each other." Terada nodded and so did Eriol. Why did everyone keep trying to make him sick? "She had all sorts of rules before we left, remember?"

Eriol thought very, very, very hard about this. Then he drank half of whatever it was he'd ordered for them and tried thinking again. Touya had told Tomoyo that they were going out. Tomoyo didn't beg Touya's forgiveness, she had… she had… he put his forehead on his glass like Po-sin, who had to be meditating he was so quiet.

He remembered that Tomoyo and Wei had managed to find some reason to gather everyone at Xiao-Lang's apartment today …or last night. Eriol wasn't sure what time it was any more, but she'd gotten them all together and asked about their plans for the bachelor party. They hadn't even told her they were going to have one; not even the man of the hour knew about it. She said she didn't want them going out the night before the wedding because she wasn't going to let them ruin Sakura's happiest day by showing up hung-over. That was when Touya had told her they were going out anyway. Eriol snickered at his drink. It was absolutely shameful, the control she had over them.

"Heeeey, Gaki."

Eriol perked up. His son-of-the-next-life didn't sound angry, which meant they were finally progressing to the night's entertainment. His son-of-the-next-life's boyfriend had once said that Touya tended to get 'emotional' when he drank too much. Hearing this, the other men had decided that they'd have to see that before they'd believe it was true. That, and Daidouji hadn't left them any other options for entertainment. This was the third bar they'd been to and so far they'd only managed to push him into a forced sort of belligerence, as though he needed to prove he still hated the boy his sister loved. Which they all knew he didn't. Well, Po-sin hadn't been sure of it but he was very laid back for a Li and had only tried to kill Touya once for insulting his cousin and now he didn't so much as twitch at the familiar slight.

"Go to hell, Kinomoto-san." It had become Xiao-Lang's way of letting Touya know he was listening.

"Not you, Gaki, the other Gaki. Jeez, Syaoran-kun, if I wanted to talk to you I'd say 'Hey, Syaoran-kun, buddy, can I talk to you for a moment?' I wouldn't call you names. You're marrying my baby sister. That means something."

"You mean Po-sin-san? I think you'll have to wake him up first, To-ya." Yukito interrupted.

Eriol suspected that Yukito wasn't as pissed as everyone else was. Maybe he was pushing it into Yue. That would be interesting. He didn't know if Yue could be drunk. Or if Yue and Yukito could both be drunk at the same time. Or could Yue be on the inside and drunk so Yukito could be sober on the outside? Tomoyo had said they could go home. Maybe she knew. Maybe she knew that Yue could get them home because he couldn't get drunk. Or that Yukito could make Yue drunk and he wouldn't be. It was all very interesting. Maybe he should ask. What a good idea! Why hadn't he thought of that first? Yue would know if he were getting drunk, probably. Yue hadn't ever been drunk before. But he'd seen Clow get drunk. That was just about the same, wasn't it? You could maybe guess you were drunk if you'd seen someone else get drunk. Clow had done that a lot sometimes. Yue usually got him home again. Tomoyo-san must have known that, or else she wouldn't let Touya go home instead of to Xiao-Lang's. She was really smart.

"…so you're okay, Gaki." Touya slapped his back affectionately.

"Huh?" Apparently, Touya had wanted his attention, not Po-sin's. Which was sad, because Po-sin was really very interesting. He liked to tell stories about Xiao-Lang and Meiling's childhood.

"I said, you might be dating Kaho and tha's really creepy 'cause you're half her age and I wasn't even that much younger than her, like only almost ten years or something, but my sister and my Tomoyo-san like you, so you're okay. You're a good kid. Remind me of my dad, you know. And Yuki." Touya beamed at Yukito, who looked a little nervous. "You know I love you, right, Yuki? I don't love you like that, Gaki, but you're okay. Isn't he, Yuki? Doesn't he make you think of my dad?"

"Kinomoto-sensei? Yeah, I guess I can see that. I think it's the glasses." Terada interjected. He'd been poking Po-sin to no avail. "He's kinda got that face, too. But I don't think he looks like Yukito-kun at all. And you're gonna hafta wait to talk to Gaki. I think he's asleep right now. Shhh!"

"Oh, yeah. Shhh!" Touya hissed at them all. "Poor little guy. He probably had a really long flight. Needs some sleep. You should'a let him take a nap before we went out, Syaoran-kun."

"Li-san's been here for three weeks. I think he's gotten over the flight." Eriol said blankly, still trying to figure out why Touya thought he was okay. "You don't like me dating Kaho?"

"She, buddy, will only break your heart. She's cruel, y'know. I got one day, ONE DAY," he roared, and the entire population of the establishment turned to stare at them, "before she left me for England. Whole 'nother country. Knew for two months, TWO MONTHS," he yelled again, earning fewer looks this time, "before she told me. We'll both love someone else my keister, Kaho! You just didn't want to be with me! Oh, but she'll get hers, Gaki-kun. I can't wait to see it. It's gonna be soooo sweeeeeet. But, like I said, you're okay. 'Mind me of Yuki. I love Yuki, y'know. Best thing ever to happen to me." Touya swayed dangerously close, staring him in the eyes, and Eriol hoped he didn't remind Touya enough of Yukito for any mistakes to be made. "I'd have let him marry Sakura, if she didn't love my friend Syaoran-kun over there. But she does. She loves him a lot." He leaned back and nearly fell, then tried to lean around Yukito's chair to hug Xiao-Lang. "She really does love you, Syaoran-kun. You make my little sister so happy. It's so sweet. My only little baby sister. God, I love her. Practically raised her, you know. And now you're gonna marry her and she loves you and you'll have hundreds of little babies for me to come play with. I love babies."

"He shifts gears pretty quick, doesn't he?" Terada snickered. It was a welcome change from his earlier uneasy silences. He was clearly uncertain about partying with former students, but he was an usher in the wedding and that meant taking part in the bachelor party. At least he was finally getting comfortable. He'd even gone so far as to look around the room.

Xiao-Lang, for his part, was trying to evade the heartfelt embrace of his soon to be brother-in-law. It should have been easy, considering his martial arts training, but he was just as drunk as Touya, who'd also had some martial arts training, so it was a lot like an amateur wrestling match, with a little more kicking. Eriol decided to get out of the way and slid underneath the table. After a moment of confusion wherein he couldn't identify anyone's shoes, Yamazaki leaned down and looked at him.

"I'm over here. I'll get you a chair, if you want. We'll have to tell Kinomoto-san that it's tradition for the bride's brother to kiss the groom at the wedding. You know about that, right, Hiiragizawa? About wedding traditions, I mean." Eriol crawled forward, hoping Yamazaki would remember the chair because he really needed to sit down.

"And it's also tradition for the groom to kiss the best man," he told Yamazaki as he emerged to find Po-sin awake again, Terada nearly drowning in his … whatever-it-was, and Yukito pulling a protesting Kinomoto Touya to his feet. "I'd get some of that flavored lip gloss, if I was you. I think Tomoyo-san has some. Her lips were really shiny and she smelled like Dr. Pepper when she shoved me out the door to come here."

"Daidouji-san is really pretty," Po-sin offered, looking confused. "Why's everyone so scared of her? Does Xiao-Lang have to kiss her, too? That'd be really nice."

"No, it's my job to kiss Tomoyo-san at the wedding. She's beautiful." Eriol was irritated. Xiao-Lang shouldn't be going around kissing his wife's best friend, and certainly not when she was Tomoyo-san and Eriol wanted to kiss her.

"You're not in the wedding. I think I kiss her. Chiharu-chan won't like that. Maybe Chiharu-chan will kiss her for me, so that way I don't have to. You don't think Tomoyo-san will mind, do you? She really loves Sakura-san and all, so maybe she won't." Yamazaki kicked him idly. "Tomoyo-san doesn't have a boyfriend, so she won't have to worry about getting someone else to kiss someone else for her."

"I get to kiss her," Eriol insisted. "Where's my chair? I don't wanna sit on the floor."

"Who's getting kissed?" Touya demanded. "I haven't been kissed yet. Nobody else gets kissed until I do."

"Don't touch me." Xiao-Lang leapt to his feet and staggered back from the table. "I'm engaged to your sister!"

"Don't wanna kiss you, stupid. You're gonna be my brother. That's gross."

"C'mon, To-ya. I've finished my drink, it's time to go home."

"I want a kiss," Touya protested. Then grabbed his boyfriend and planted one on him, a very long, very involved one. Terada whooped with glee and fell out of his seat. "Now we can go. Did I finish my drink, Yuki? Maybe we should stay so I can finish one. It's not everyday you go out and have a good time with the man 's gonna marry your sister, y'know. I love that kid."

"We'll see him tomorrow, To-ya. You can tell him how much you love him then." Yukito had obviously decided to forgo reason and just drag Touya out physically. Eriol knew he should say something, but he couldn't remember why he didn't want the mouthy Kinomoto to leave just yet. Maybe because Touya was his son-of-the-next-life. And even though, very technically speaking, Touya was seven years his senior, he felt a surge of paternal love and pride. They should have named him Eriol Junior, he thought warmly. Clow would have liked that. Clow was always a really emotional drunk, just like Touya was now. Maybe Eriol Junior should have been named Clow Junior instead. He was such a nice son-of-the-next-life, Eriol couldn't figure out why Yukito wanted to take him away from the party.

Touya, for his part, seemed determined to stay. "The other guys aren't leaving yet! Let's have one more. Just one, c'mon Yuki, it's only one beer and I can handle it! When are we ever all gonna be together like this again, y'know? I don't have any other little sisters to watch get married. Let's stay." He grabbed Po-sin. Po-sin grabbed back, mostly to keep Touya upright and off the table, which was crowded with glasses in varying stages of emptiness.

"Yeah, have a beer. What're we drinking right now? We should finish that first. It's okay, Tsukishiro-san, we'll make it a really fast one. We're new cousins and stuff. You know." Touya hugged him and Po-sin pushed him away. "Don't touch me like that."

"No, I really think we should be going. Now, To-ya. C'mon. No more beer, we're done for tonight." Yukito continued to pull Touya towards the door.

"I don't wanna go yet, Yuki! I should stay here, keep an eye on Syaoran-kun and that Po-sin kid. They're gonna be family tomorrow. Or whenever it is. This is important to me! Ever since Mom died…."

They didn't find out what it was, though, because Yukito had managed to shove the near-sobbing man out onto the street and the pub's thick door cut him off in mid-sentence.

"Damn it. There goes the entertainment." Terada sighed deeply. "He was just starting to get funny."

"Hey!" Eriol shouted towards the door, reminded at last of what he'd meant to say earlier. "He can't leave until we've seen him cry! Bring him back here!" But he thought he felt Yue emerge and that probably meant that they were well out of earshot. Well, he'd tried.

Yamazaki blinked a few times. "Now what are we going to do? It's too early to go home." He signaled for another round and sighed deeply. "It's way too early."

"Not for me it isn't." Xiao-Lang finished his drink and stood up, or as close to it as he could manage since he was listing dangerously to one side. "I'm supposed to be there to let them in if they can't get into their place. Daidouji will kill me if they show up someplace else. They'd probably go show up at her place. She'd kill me." He staggered to the door, then turned around. "Anyone else?"

"Me." Po-sin made a few attempts to get up, then pushed away from the table so it wouldn't get in his way, and stood. "I don't know how to get anywhere in this town. You have to kiss Daidouji-san at the wedding, did you know? Can I kiss her, too? You shouldn't be kissing other girls when you're engaged, Xiao-Lang. Oh, and her brother."

"Daidouji-san doesn't have a brother," Terada said importantly. "I'd know."

"I already said, I get to kiss Tomoyo-san!" Eriol snapped. These guys were really pissed if they thought he was going to let them get away with that. "That's what I do at the wedding. Xiao-Lang has to kiss Sakura-san and you're engaged to Meiling-san and she'll hit you if you kiss anyone else. I kiss Tomoyo-san."

"You have to kiss me, I think." Yamazaki looked closely at the two Li's for a moment. "But I don't want you to. You two aren't very cute."

Xiao-Lang looked mightily offended. "Well, that's it! I'm leaving!" He stalked off into the door and rebounded a good meter or so. "Damn it!" He began groping for his sword. "Damn door! I said I'm leaving and I meant it!"

"Oi, Takashi-san, I don't think you should have said that. It's his party and all. Now he's cranky." Po-sin sighed. "Stupid guy doesn't even know he doesn't have his sword. I'll go open the door for him. Then I'm gonna come back here and finish my drink, 'cause I think you guys need me," Yamazaki's signal for another round had finally been answered, now with three less people than there were glasses, "and then I'll see if I can't pick up his trail and get home."

"You're a good guy, Li-san." Eriol tried to pat him on the back, but he'd left to get the door for his cousin and Eriol fell into Yamazaki's lap instead. "Whoa."

"I'm not that drunk yet, Hiiragizawa."

"I'm not, either." He shoved himself back up and managed to get a glass of whatever it was aloft as Po-sin returned for his last drink. "A toast, my good men, to not being drunk enough!"

"Hear, hear!" They all aimed for the center of the table in an attempt to touch glasses, but it failed almost completely. Quite a bit of something got spilled but nothing broke and Eriol considered that a success. He watched in awe as Po-sin drained his glass in one long breathless try.

"I've gotta go. Xiao-Lang's mad about his sword being at home and he's moving pretty fast…I think. I hope he stops to throw up somewhere 'cause my magic is just shot all to hell right now and if I can't see him I'm gonna end up sleeping in the park or someplace."

"Try sleeping under Emperor Penguin. He's that really big one with all the little ones around. You can crawl under there. So you won't get wet if it rains or something," Yamazaki advised. Po-sin nodded and headed for the door.

"Bye!" They waved as he left, much more successfully and quietly than Xiao-Lang had, then returned to the business at hand. "Whose drink do I have? Touya-san's, Yukito-san's, or Xiao-Lang the Man of the Hour's?"

"I've got Li-san's. I'm The Man. The Best Man. I'm the best man for the job, boys," Yamazaki grinned.

Terada started laughing and fell out of his chair again.

"I think he's got Touya-san's, then. He's losing it fast all of a sudden. So I've got…Yukito-san's." That was good; Yukito-san wasn't half as drunk as everyone else. Eriol nodded. Which was a mistake because it made him sick.

"Not losing anything," Terada denied. "I've found another glass, too." Having chugged his own drink in imitation of the now famous Po-sin, he had indeed found his second glass of something-or-other. Which would have been hard to miss, considering he'd fallen forward into it when he got up off the floor.

"Well…um…great. That's wonderful."

He and Yamazaki exchanged looks. The two of them, he thought, were a lot better at this whole drinking business than the others had been. Except for maybe Yuki-Yue; he'd been pretty level headed. If they were going to get to the serious dissolution of minds and morals, they'd have to take care of Terada before they got too far along. God knew the man couldn't take care of himself. He hadn't even finished his drink before deciding to mediate on the relative merits of marriage versus bachelorhood.

"Maybe we could call Rika-san?" Yamazaki suggested tentatively. "I don't want to deal with him."

"We couldn't!" Eriol was aghast. "We can't even call the paramedics unless he dies! Tomoyo-san said so!"

"Oh. Well…maybe the bartender will call for us? She didn't say he couldn't call."

"Yamazaki…that's brilliant. You are so clever. You're a genius among geniuses. Or is it geniusi? I forget. It's like mongoose, I can never remember. You want to ask the bartender to call, or should I?"

"You do it. You need another drink. Terada-sensei tipped your second one over."

Eriol glared at the contemplative teacher. " Oi, you're a prat." He got up and lurched over to the bar, where he discovered two things: He did not know Terada Rika-san's telephone number and he wasn't steady enough to carry his own drink without spilling it. Prudently, he asked the waitress to bring another round to the table and made his way back. The stupid bar was set up like an obstacle course, he thought angrily. Who the hell designed a bar so a body couldn't walk through without tripping a dozen times? The waitress, strangely enough, didn't seem to have any problem at all.

"Is he gonna do it, Hiiragizawa? I didn't see him pick up the phone."

"You have to go. I don't know their number. I should have asked."

"Oh, yeah. Well, keep off my drink, will you? I'll go. I can do this. I am the Best Man. I can do anything."

"You have to marry the bride if the groom runs off. Be careful…the chairs are moving around on their own. It's like a big shifting puzzle maze out there. 'S not safe."

"Chiharu-chan won't like that very much." Yamazaki staggered over to the bar. Moments later, he returned with another round ordered and the flush of success high in his cheeks. "Done! Stop drinking my beer, Eriol-san."

"Yamazaki, you are one powerful man. You also have to marry the groom if the bride runs off during the wedding."

"Huh. That won't make Chiharu-chan any happier than me having to marry the bride." He thought about it for a moment, drinking in silence. "What if both the bride and the groom decide to run away from the wedding? What do we do then? I don't think we covered this at the rehearsal."

"Who's the Maid of Honor? Maybe you marry her." Terada, apparently done thinking, abruptly sat up and joined in the debate.

"Tomoyo-san."

"That won't work. You can't marry Tomoyo-san. You'll have to marry Mihara-san instead."

"Mihara-san isn't the Maid of Honor, though. If the bride and groom both back out, that's who has to get married." Terada disagreed. "That's why they have a best man and a maid of honor. She has to marry the groom if just the bride leaves."

"I thought I had to marry the groom? Hiiragizawa, don't I marry the groom?"

"Nobody marries Tomoyo-san," Eriol growled. "She doesn't get married at the wed…yes?"

The bartender stood next to their table, looking for all the world like he dealt with drunks every night of his life. "There was no answer, sirs. I don't think the lady is in."

"What lady?" Terada asked. "Who's not in? Why are we calling ladies? Didn't Daidouji-san say not to?"

"That's why he called," Yamazaki grinned, jerking his head in the direction of the bartender.

"Your wife. She's not home. Who do we call now?"

"Why're we calling Rika-san?"

"We didn't, 'cause she's not home to get called. Who do we call?"

"Perhaps a taxi, gentlemen?" The bartender offered.

"There's an idea! Who's leaving? Hey, the drinks are here!"

"Nobody's leaving yet. The cab's not here," Eriol told him seriously, shielding his two drinks with his arm. Yamazaki was just going to have to take care of his own, he decided. He needed his other arm for balance.

"Hey yeah, that is a good idea. I'll write the address down just so they don't have to try to take direction from that drunk over there. Have you got a pen?"

"Of course, sir. Is there any particular company you'd like me to call? Or shall I call the company that Daidouji-sama has selected?"

"Tomoyo-san's mother is going to call a cab for us? She is such a cool mum," Eriol smiled.

"Not that Daidouji-sama, sir."

"Wow, this is getting complicated. I didn't know getting a taxi was this hard. No, you just call anyone at all. I don't care who takes him so long as it's not me."

The bartender nodded and left, pulling out a small notebook and flipping through it.

"Who's leaving?" Terada asked again, slurring outrageously. He got his glass of beer as far as his lips before passing out across the table.

"Holy crap, he's dead!" Eriol blurted out, wide-eyed with horror.

"Should we call the paramedics now?"

"Do dead people need ambulances?" Eriol wondered. "A'cause we're not s'posed to call them unless we really need them. Tomoyo-san said so."

"That's true. We should make sure he's dead, first, then." Yamazaki leaned over and poked Terada in the eye. Terada flinched. "Not dead. I guess we could just wait for the taxi."

"How're we going to get him to the car? Do we carry him?"

Yamazaki frowned thoughtfully, then shook his head. "I don't wanna carry him. He's all wet from the table now."

"Maybe the bartender will do it?" He offered hopefully. The man had been very helpful so far.

"I don't know…he might decide to stop serving us if we make him do that, too. Do you think we can wake him up long enough for him to walk out?"

"I suppose we could try," he muttered doubtfully. "We'll probably have to help him out. I don't think he's going to be very steady on his feet. If we can wake him up."

"He wasn't even steady on his ass, Hiiragizawa. But I'll get some ice water. That should do the trick." Yamazaki raised his hand for the waitress, still staring at their old teacher. "He's not so bad now, is he? I mean, if I had to go drinking with a grown-up again, he wouldn't be a bad choice, would he? Kinda shy and not much for conversation, but he grows on you, don't you think?"

"He's not a bad choice." Eriol poked the man a few times and got a mumble in response. "We might get him to drink that water after all."

"Oh, I was just going to dump it on him. Did you want to try waking him up without it?"

"Huh. No." Eriol was fairly certain that the results would be funny, and they had been cheated out of their promised entertainment. Besides, it would probably be faster than shoving at him and the cab was probably already on its way. He didn't want it to leave without its passenger. Tomoyo-san's mum had gone through a lot of trouble to get that taxi for them.

The waitress seemed glad that they ordered ice water, and that was a little strange. It was a bar, a place that served alcohol; weren't they supposed to get upset if all you ordered was water or soda pop? However the employees were supposed to feel, she was a lot faster in getting the water to the table than the beer. She also brought three glasses of it. That was good, Eriol thought. The first one might not be enough, and now they wouldn't have to wait and order and wait some more if it didn't work.

"Do you wanna do it or should I?" Yamazaki asked, staring at the water. Eriol thought he might want to do it, but then Yamazaki might feel bad if he didn't get to do it. It had been his idea, after all.

"Maybe we should both do it. One glass each, and then we'll know if we need to use the last one," he suggested. That ought to make them both happy. Plus, more cold water might help Terada wake up better. Then he'd be able to get to the taxi by himself and Eriol and Yamazaki could just keep drinking instead of dragging him outside. They were trying to celebrate, even if the man they were celebrating had already left. It wasn't every day you got to throw a bachelor party.

"On the count of three, then," Yamazaki nodded, raising a glass and holding it over their teacher's head. "One, two," he paused dramatically, grinning at Eriol who was tense with anticipation, "three!" And they both upended their glasses.

The shrieking alone would have been a good show, girlish and piercing and full of swear words, but Terada also managed to find his feet and dance around the table. Not well, to be sure, but the ice cubes that had fallen down his shirt seemed to be quite distracting. He only tripped six times, which was probably better than he would have done, Eriol admitted.

"It's okay! We're okay! Just waking up a little! Go back to your drinking! Thank you!" Yamazaki was shouting over the noise. The waitress looked very unhappy, and the bartender had his eyes closed and was in a position of prayer. Everyone else in the bar was just staring at them. Eriol waved slightly to let them know that everything really was all right, then had to catch Terada before he fell onto the table after tripping over Yamazaki. Finally, someone started applauding and Yamazaki took a deep bow. "Thank you, again, thank you! But on to more important matters, everyone: there is still beer waiting to be had!"

"You should go into politics, Yamazaki," Eriol said as people began to go back to their conversations or drinks, "everybody seems to listen to you. You'd be very good at it."

Terada was glaring at Yamazaki, or glaring as best he could since his eyes refused to focus. "What the hell was that for?" He demanded loudly. "Are you trying to kill me?"

"No, Sensei, we'd never do anything like that. We just thought we should wake you up before you went outside." Eriol stumbled to his feet, still supporting most of the other man's weight. "Yamazaki? Would you go get the door? Or, no, wait…I need help. He's heavy."

"Why'm I going outside? Are you trying to get rid of me? You guys don't want to hang out with me anymore?"

"No, you wanted to go outside, remember? Something about a car." Yamazaki smiled reassuringly.

"Oh. Well, that makes sense. It's late. I should probably go home. Rika-san's probably wondering where I am. Have you guys seen my keys? I can't find them any where."

"Don't worry about 'em, Sensei. I'm sure you won't really need them. Someone will let you in."

Eriol tried not to laugh as Yamazaki lied for all he was worth. He really would make a great politician. Everybody seemed to listen to him. He'd probably be the greatest Prime Minister Japan would ever see.

They got Terada outside and poured into the waiting car with a minimum of time and trouble, though Eriol got a nasty bruise crawling over their friend and falling back out onto the sidewalk. The driver tried to talk them into getting in, too (although Yamazaki thoughtfully pointed out that Eriol was already in the car, underneath Terada, who had passed out again) but they managed to convince her that they'd be okay on their own and returned to the dark, smoky pub. Then they got down to business.

+++

Eriol was wiping his mouth on his sleeve as he reeled out onto the street several hours later. Or he thought it was hours later, anyway. It was kind of hard to tell, since he'd broken his watch by putting it in his beer to show Yamazaki just how long it would be waterproof. In any case, they were the last patrons to leave the bar. Some of the wait-staff had even left while they'd been throwing up in the bathroom. Not that they'd felt sick or anything, he reminded himself. They just didn't want to cause any trouble for Wei.

"I dunno 'bout the two of you, Hiiragizawa, but I feel good." Yamazaki bounced into a lamppost and caught it before he fell. "In fact, I'm not ready to go back to Li's yet. What do you think we should do now?"

"Two of me? I'm not the one with a twin. And why are there two streetlights right next to each other? That's stupid. Isn't that stupid, Yamazaki? And it's too early to go home." Eriol nodded seriously and watched the street bounce up and down a few times before it settled back down. Which was funny, as he hadn't even felt the earthquake that made it do that.

"I just said that."

"Okay. Huh. We should do something. We shouldn't have to go to Xiao-Lang's, you know. Stupid rules. I can't believe Tomoyo-san doesn't trust us. We're trustworthy, aren't we? We made sure everyone else got home, didn't we? We can take care of ourselves, Yamazaki, not like those other tosspots. Whooo, those guys were bad. Drank like little girls, you know. I bet Sakura-san could've held it better. You know what I wanna do, Yamazaki?" Eriol shoved away from the wall he'd been leaning on and all but fell onto his friend.

"Hiiragizawa, I really like you, but I really like Chiharu-chan better. I'm not doing that with you."

"I'm not, either." Eriol managed to get a little distance between himself and Yamazaki, frowning at the ground as he looked for whatever it was that he'd tripped over. "Tha's not what I was talking about. I don't wanna do that with you. I like girls."

"Oh, good. I like girls, too. We are so much alike it's scary. Y'know, I miss Chiharu-chan. Haven't seen her all day. God, I love her. Even if she yells when I tell stories. She's the most beautiful woman in the whole wide world."

"Yeah! That's what I wanna do!"

"You wanna go to Chiharu-chan's with me and tell stories so she c'n yell at us?" Yamazaki frowned at him. "She's my girl, Hiiragizawa. You just 'member that when we get there."

"No, not Mihara-san! I meant, I wanna go see a beautiful girl. Tomoyo-san didn't say that we couldn't go to her place when she did the rules. I bet she'd open the door and then she'd be breaking the rules. She'd be wrong and we could fight about it. We wouldn't be breaking rules. She's too nice, you know. We should fix that, make her a bad, bad, rule-breaker. We should go see her. I wonder what kind of pajamas she wears?"

"But I wanna go to Chiharu-chan's! I like her pajamas. She's got li'l polar bears all over 'em. You know that polar bears aren't really white, don't you? They're clear. They look white 'cause of all the snow. If you moved them to the rain forest, they'd look like trees and stuff."

"Tha'd be neat. I should try that sometime. Maybe if I put one in front of my fireplace, he'd look like he was on fire an' he'd melt."

"What would you do with a melted bear?"

"I dunno. But it'd be awfully natty, don't you think?"

"Guess so. Chiharu-chan lives this way, Hiiragizawa," Yamazaki told him, beginning to stumble away. "We gotta be quiet, though. Some of her brothers still live at home, an' they're kinda strange. Don't like boys, tha's for sure."

"We don't like boys, either. I thought we were gonna go see Tomoyo-san? I wanna see her. Which way 's she live? Tha' way, right? Yeah, I'm right. I'm gonna go see her. Tell Mihara-san I say 'hi' okay? An' I'll see her later, okay? I'm gonna go make Tomoyo-san mad right now, but I'll lie to her later so she can be mad, too."

"'Kay, if you don't wanna come with. You sure you don' wanna? I know where her window is; we probably wouldn't wake up her brothers or her parents."

"Yeah, I'm okay. See ya later, Yamazaki. I'll explain to Tomoyo-san why you aren't with me. She'll think you're sweet, or somethin'. She likes cute people, she'll think you're cute with Mihara-san. She won't be mad at you." Eriol waved, turned, tripped, and weaved off down the sidewalk, singing an old Chinese drinking song that somebody had taught Clow a long time ago.

After the first police cruiser slowed as it passed him, he stopped singing quite so loudly and concentrated on walking in what might pass for a straight line if one didn't look too long at him. He was, he admitted to himself, drunker than he'd ever been before in his life. He thought he might be drunker than Clow had ever been, but it was hard to say. There were some gaps in Clow's memories of drinking that a body could fit an aircraft carrier through…sideways. Of course, Yue and Keroberos had often tried to fill in those gaps with vicious rumors and outright lies. At least, Clow had been certain that he would never really do some of the things they accused him of. Only an idiot would have stood outside an empty house and recited verse after verse of exceedingly bad poetry until well past dawn, even though he knew the lady wasn't in, or enchant a bunch of crickets so that they lined up in front of said house and spelled 'beloved.' And he surely wouldn't have been so foolish as to use the Sun Staff as a pool cue. Eriol wasn't so certain that Clow hadn't done those kinds of things, though. They seemed very Clow-like to him.

The walk was awfully familiar, and Eriol was mortally afraid it was because Clow had often taken to walking the streets after a night on the town. Usually he was looking for Madoushi, which had been a lot easier in Hong Kong, though he'd tried it here in Tomoeda a fair few times. But Eriol knew exactly where he was going, so he was sure it didn't count. And he wasn't going so that he could moon over how pretty Tomoyo-san was while she fought with him. He wasn't acting like Clow, then. Clow had been a sloppy, happy, silly, crybaby of a drunk, and he, Eriol, was nothing of the sort. He nodded to himself, and then held onto the nearest sign as yet another earthquake shook the street around him. The world, he thought grimly, should really stop dancing around like that. He'd never get to Tomoyo's if it didn't.

And he had to go see Tomoyo. She'd give him that wonderful new 'You're funny, Hiiragizawa-san, but I'm not about to tell you because it'd just encourage you to keep acting like that' Look that he loved. Tomoyo-san…Tomoyo-san…she was so interesting, so smart, so funny, so composed all the time and he'd barely seen her since he'd returned to Tomoeda, he thought miserably. She was always off giggling with the other girls, or sewing and stitching and measuring and ordering things and checking on all the other things. She always said 'Hello, Hiiragizawa-san' and 'How are you, Hiiragizawa-san' when she saw him, but she didn't ask him what he'd been doing, or if he was going to the movies that night, or even say that she liked his stylish new shirt. She didn't even call him 'Eriol-san.' He sighed forlornly. He'd missed her, and she hadn't missed him at all when he'd gone away. He'd had a crush on her when he left, and she'd never known. He just wanted her to know that he liked her. Not that he'd ever say it that way, since he was a man and men didn't say that stuff to friends unless they were a drunken Clow or Clow Junior. But she'd know what he meant, even if he was going to wake her up and make her mad. She was even more interesting when she was irritated.

She didn't get irritated often enough, he thought, cruising on the idea. She had a sense of humor, a wry, sneaky sense of humor that most people wouldn't think someone so sweet and kind would have. It wasn't a dark side, exactly, it was just that she was Tomoyo and she wasn't supposed to think it was funny to push people into screaming or stammering in embarrassment while they were somewhere out in public. She had the sense of humor that was usually attributed to people like himself. Which was also sneaky and kind of funny, because she was fooling everyone around her and she knew it.

But she wasn't fooled by anything or anyone. He hadn't fooled her at all when he'd first arrived in Tomoeda. She probably knew even before his plane landed that he wasn't who and what he seemed. She didn't tell him that, of course, she just hugged it to herself and let him go about thinking everything was just dandy. Eriol scowled at that thought. Then she'd kept him all turned around from the time Sakura changed the last two sealed cards to the minute he stepped onto the plane back to England. He hadn't had a moment's peace once he'd revealed himself to them, because she kept looking at him and seeing right through him. And he'd never, not once, surprised her. Well, he brightened, that was about to change. He was gonna go knock on her door and she'd open it right up 'cause she probably wasn't expecting any of the guys to come looking for her. And she'd told him, told them all, that none of the women would open their doors to any of the men tonight, no matter how pathetic they sounded. Not that he was going to sound pathetic or anything. With a renewed sense of purpose, Eriol straightened up and marched towards Tomoyo's apartment building.

He was so determined to get to her place that he almost walked right by it on his way there. A sense that she was near pulled him up short in front of a building that he didn't think looked like hers at all. Then again, she probably changed buildings like she changed shoes. Guys would do almost anything for her if she smiled at them. He frowned at the thought and made a mental note to track down and beat up whoever it was who was changing her building for her. That guy probably wanted to date her, too, which Eriol wouldn't bloody well have. Not that he was going to date Tomoyo, because he had Kaho and Tomoyo had never smiled at him like she wanted him to do something for her. He wouldn't have minded; he'd have done almost anything she asked. Even without that smile, he'd have done it.

Which wasn't getting him inside and it was getting chilly. Or maybe it was just chilly because he was wet from the sprinkler system starting up and drenching him. Anyway, he was getting cold and wet and he had no idea how deeply Tomoyo slept or how hard he'd have to try to wake her up so she could open the door to him. After he made her realize that he was right and she was wrong and she'd broken the rules, not him, then he'd go back to Xiao-Lang's. That was going to be a very long walk, and he'd have to get started soon or he'd fall asleep before he got there. He'd have to go by Emperor Penguin just in case he did feel too sleepy.

Eriol managed to get up the steps without tripping, and once inside he realized he had to go back outside to wring out his clothes a little. He was dripping water all over the floor. But then again…it was cold out. Maybe he'd just ask Tomoyo to lend him a towel so he could dry off before he left. He wasn't going back outside like this. So he squeezed out as much water as he could while looking through the directory to find Tomoyo's apartment number. He'd been there once, with Sakura-san, but he wasn't sure he remembered it right. Eriol was bound and determined not to wake up her neighbors looking for her. He was an adult, a still powerful mage, and he could find a girl without any help at all, thank you very much.

Chanting the number in his mind so he wouldn't forget it again, Eriol made his way to the corner apartment whose door positively screamed 'Tomoyo-san lives here!' to his sixth sense and politely knocked on the door. She didn't answer. He knocked again, just a little louder. Still there was no response. He shivered and decided that she was a deep sleeper and he was going to have to be somewhat more forceful to get her attention.

"Tomoyo-san!" He bellowed, knocking loudly. "Tomoyo-san! It's cold out here, and I'm wet, and I don't have any keys! Come open the door!"

A door opened, but it was the one down the hall. A very grumpy looking man stood there, glaring at him. The door across the hall creaked and Eriol turned to see a very uneasy older woman standing there, robe wrapped tight around her. He smiled charmingly at both of them and started to apologize as the third door in the small hallway opened.

"Umm…oops? I didn't mean to wake anyone, but Daidouji-san is a very deep sle…"

Tomoyo's door flew open and Eriol, who'd been leaning against it, stumbled inside. "Whoa. Okay." He managed to land sitting on the sofa, instead of on his face on the floor. Oh, yeah. He was practically sober, all right. He pulled his feet up under him so he wouldn't make a mess of her white carpet and turned to watch her.

"I'm truly very sorry that my friend disturbed you all; he's been celebrating and he's not thinking. It will never happen again, I swear. Please, go back to sleep. He won't make any more noise." Tomoyo bowed several times to her neighbors, before shutting her door and rounding on Eriol. "Have you any idea what time it is, Hiiragizawa-san?"

"No. My watch is broken. See?" He held out his arm for her inspection, but she didn't seem interested.

"They are furious! And I don't blame them! A drunk, screaming, maniac breaking down doors in the dead of night…I wouldn't be surprised if one of them called the police to come get you," she hissed. "What in the hell were you thinking?"

"I missed you?" He smiled hopefully and was rewarded with more glaring.

"You're making a mess. Stay right there, Hiiragizawa-san."

"Okay. I'm sorry!" he called after her. She shot back out and slapped a hand over his mouth.

"And shut up! I promised them it would be quiet."

"I'm really sorry, Tomoyo-san," he whispered when she removed her hand. She only looked at him for a moment before walking off again. Which gave Eriol a chance to look around. It was girly, all right. Flowers and pretty things were all over the place; a plushie sat on the cushion next to him. Like he'd told Kinomoto-san ages ago, Tomoyo-san was really good at being a girl.

He picked up the toy and stared it right in the eyestalks. "Tomoyo-san is mad at me," he whispered to it. And now that she was, which was what he'd kind of wanted in the first place because she was pretty when she was angry, he didn't want her to be mad. He wanted her to be happy and smile at him. It wasn't all his fault, though. "She should have answered the door the first time I knocked. Maybe I won't mention the fact that she's breaking her own rules. She's scary when she's angry."

"Thanks for that, Hiiragizawa-san," Tomoyo said dryly. She stood just behind him, towel in hand.

He looked at her, then back at the snail and decided that he'd rather talk to someone who was on his side. "See? She's not happy at all, is she? I bet that's why you're out here instead of in the bedroom; you said something she didn't like. She scares you, too, doesn't she?" He made the snail nod in agreement. He and his fuzzy accomplice could make her happy again, he just knew it.

"I said I was sorry, but she didn't care. She's so mean, Hiiragizawa-san," he said in a squeaky voice. "And it was all her fault. She's the one who let me in. She was supposed to make sure I went somewhere else, but she let me in and I said thank you, and she let me stay and now I have to be really nice all the time or she'll throw me out and I wouldn't know where to go or what to do."

"That's very sad, Snail-san. That was a terrible thing for her to do, taking you in off the streets like that. I bet she even hugged you. Vicious, that's what our Tomoyo-san is, cruel and unkind and she laughs at our misery. She mocks us, Snail-san." He and his new friend turned to look at her. "I guess we have only each other," he told it mournfully as she laughed. "She's not ever going to forgive us for getting her to break her own rules."

"My snail is not interested in having a relationship with you, Hiiragizawa-san," Tomoyo said, trying to stifle her giggles. She draped the towel over his head. "What 'rules' did I break, anyway?"

"You said that nobody was going to let us in except Wei-san." He peeked out from under the towel and found her standing in front of him. Well. "But you opened the door. You were supposed to ignore me. That rule. You told us right before we left. 'Member it now?"

"You broke them when you showed up; you were supposed to go directly to Li-kun's apartment. There's not a taxi out side waiting for you, is there?" She frowned when he shook his head. "Please tell me that you weren't hitch-hiking."

"Nope. I walked over."

"Hiiragizawa-san…" she sighed. "Do I need to tell you how stupidly dangerous that was, or do you think you can remember that you're drunk and you could have been killed any number of ways getting here?"

"I missed you?" He tried again.

"Lovely." She began briskly drying his hair, much to his stomach's dismay. "I'll have to drive you over to Li-kun's."

Everything was shaking. It was an earthquake, an avalanche, and a typhoon, and a billion other things all rolled into one. He couldn't figure out where up and down were; they kept moving and shaking and hopping about. It was all so disorienting, so panicky feeling; he couldn't even think of a way to counter the effects.

"Tomoyo-san, don't do that! I can't think. Stop it, stop it, stop it! Oh, please don't do that," he whimpered. She immediately stopped, pulling up the towel so she could see him.

"You are not going to throw up on my carpet," she told him warningly. "Come on, come with me." She took his hand and dragged him into the bathroom, which was brilliantly, blindingly white. He whimpered again with pain. "Get it all out of your system. I won't have you sicking up in the car, either."

Car? She was going to drive him…? But he was here. He wanted to stay here. It smelled very nice, and it was pretty, and he might get to sleep on the couch, instead of the floor at Xiao-Lang's.

"Please don't drive me all the way over there, I feel really sick," he said quickly.

"Where's your hotel? I'll take you there, then. Akizuki-san can deal with you."

He thought about that and came up blank. "I don't remember. I don't know where it is. I don't think I know which hotel it is, anyway." That was a lie, because he knew it was an Akasaka…he just didn't know where it was and he was getting tired. "I'm not going to get sick. I'm not that bad standing still. I'm not as drunk as you think. I'll be fine."

"I suppose you can stay here tonight. I don't really feel like driving around town in the middle of the night, anyway," she sighed, rubbing her temples and ignoring the fact that he wasn't very drunk. "I'll call Wei-san and let him know. You stay here until you're absolutely, positively, one hundred percent certain that you're not going to get sick." She wrinkled her nose when he opened his mouth to tell her that he was certain. "There's a new yellow toothbrush in the right hand drawer. Consider it yours and brush. Your breath could kill someone."

He sulked; his breath did not stink. And he wasn't going to be sick. He and Yamazaki had taken care of that before they went anywhere. Mihara-san probably wasn't telling Yamazaki that he had bad breath. She probably hadn't shaken him up and told him that she wouldn't blame people if they called the police on him. It wasn't fair, it wasn't fair at all, but he did as she'd asked him. And when he finished, he could hear her talking, so he wandered over to eavesdrop.

"Yes…yes…. No, he says he's sick, so I'll just keep him here tonight. …. I don't suppose I mind that much. He's being remarkably well behaved, now that I've got him away from my neighbors. …. What? No, he isn't. He's not there? Well, obviously not or you wouldn't have asked me. …. Maybe Hiira…hang on a minute, he's right here. I'll ask." She covered the phone with one hand and turned to him. "Where is he?"

"What? Who's where?"

"Takashi Yamazaki. Wei-san says he's not back yet and the taxi driver that dropped Terada-sensei off said that you two were together at that point. So where is he now?"

"Oh, Yamazaki. He's at Mihara-san's. He was gonna…." He trailed off as Tomoyo quickly returned to her pervious conversation.

"He's supposedly halfway across town and probably disturbing the peace. …. No, no I'll take care of it. He should be home soon enou…no, I'm not leaving him here alone. He's pale and shaking and I'm afraid he'll pass out and hurt himself, or wander off again. "

"I'm not drunk anymore. I'll be fine. Me and Yamazaki, we're really good at this. He's fine. Mihara-san is probably already taking care of him," Eriol corrected her. She ignored him entirely.

" I'll have one of my bodyguards get him; one of them is always awake. …. Okay, Wei-san, I will. I don't think he's capable of it even if he thought of it, which I don't think he would, but I will. …. Okay. Good night."

She hung up and ignored him again as she dialed. "Kinyue-san? Would you … no, I'm fine. I need you to go by the Mihara place and …."

He took off to throw up and missed the rest of the conversation. She was sitting on the side of her bed, staring thoughtfully out into the distance. She smiled and him and he felt his knees go a little week. "You're beautiful. You're absolutely wonderful, and not just for letting me in. I missed you. Did you miss me when I went back to England? I should have called, asked you to visit. Would your mum have let you come to see me?"

"You've had quite a lot to drink tonight, haven't you?"

"Oh yeah. I didn't much care for the beer right at first, but once I'd had a few, it tasted just fine. Maybe it was the bar we were at."

"Perhaps," she smiled, "or perhaps drunks aren't too particular."

"Are you saying I'm drunk? I'm not. So you'll come see me in England? You'll ask your mum to let you come? I really have missed you. You're so sneaky and fun. You're a lot sneakier than I am."

Tomoyo laughed softly, sadly. "I'm not ten years old, I don't have to ask permission."

"You're still lovely, even if we aren't ten anymore." Eriol's mind was starting to blur, and he was having trouble focusing on what he was saying. Whatever it was, it was making her smile. "Oh, yeah, I'd forgotten. You're a grown-up; you can do whatever you like." He swayed slightly and felt suddenly nauseated. "'Scuse me a minute." He ricocheted off the doorjamb and into the hall, heading for the bathroom. He paused suddenly, as the feeling passed. "Never mind." He turned around to go back, felt nauseated again, and made a quick dash for the bathroom. Drinking, he remembered from Clow, was a tricky business. He didn't sick up, though. Tricky business indeed. He began to rejoin Tomoyo in the hallway before his stomach sent him back to throw up.

"Are you going to need help, Hiiragizawa-san?" She sounded concerned.

He staggered out after brushing his teeth again. "No. No, I'm fine. Call me Eriol, okay? You're my friend, right? You like me, and you'd do me favors if I asked you and I really needed them, right? I'm your friend, I like you and I'd do anything for you, so I call you Tomoyo-san. That's how it goes." He nodded happily. "I'm wet."

"Are you sure you're not going to be sick?"

"Yeah. Yeah. I'm just gonna go get some sleep. I can stay on the sofa, right? Me and Snail-san, we'll sleep there."

She stared at him with measuring eyes, clearly debating something with herself. He stared back, trying to figure out if her eyes were a shade of purple or just really dark blue. They were very pretty.

"You're wet and your clothes smell like all the pubs in town." Tomoyo finally sighed deeply. "If you want, and if you won't be too embarrassed, I've got a shirt that should fit you, and I'll wash and dry your things so you'll have something clean to wear in the morning."

"Tomoyo-san," he said incredulously, "your clothes won't fit me. I'm bigger than you are. And I'm a boy. And you're not a boy; you have little, girly clothes that'll never fit me. I can't wear your shirt." Unless it was the one she was currently wearing…he'd give that a shot if only to see her…. Well. Well, that wasn't a proper thing for him to be thinking of.

She rolled her eyes and sighed, a little smile tugging at her lips. "It wasn't originally my shirt. You aren't as tall or as broad as Touya-san, so it will probably fit. I don't, however," he thought he saw her wince as she turned and led him back to her bedroom, "have any…anything else that you might wear. So…well…" she took a deep breath and shook her head, more to herself than him. "So I certainly hope that you wore something underneath those slacks tonight."

Eriol stared blankly at her, trying to figure out what Touya's shirt had to do with what he was wearing. And just why did pretty Daidouji Tomoyo have it? It wouldn't be polite of him to ask that, though.

"Why do you have one of Kinomoto-san's shirts? He's living with Yue-san and Tsukishiro-san, you know. I mean, he…you … why do you have his shirt?" So much for polite.

Tomoyo arched one perfect eyebrow, amused. He scowled; it wasn't funny. If he was going to be wearing another man's shirt while staying over with a beautiful woman, he wanted to know how she'd gotten it.

"It's none of your business, Hiiragizawa-san," she replied airily, handing him a red T-shirt that was soft and faded with age. "But he gave it to me several years ago, when I happened to get to the Kinomoto house before Sakura-chan and my umbrella made it back from the store, but after it had started raining. He said that, as it no longer fit him, I was free to keep it. So I did."

"So you kept it."

"Obviously. I'll step outside while you put that on."

"You just kept it?" He called through the door. "Just like that?"

"He said I could. Are you jealous, Hiiragizawa-san?"

"Eriol-san. No, I am not. It just doesn't seem like a you thing to do." Unless, of course, she liked his son-of-the-next-life, a thought that made him frown again. He didn't want her liking his boy. He wanted her to like him; he liked her more than Kinomoto-san did, he was sure.

"You are! You're so drunk, Eriol-san, I'm surprised you made it this far without passing out."

"I'm not drunk!" He replied indignantly, struggling out of his trousers and praying he wouldn't trip over them. That was the last thing he needed, because Tomoyo would just assume that she was right and he was drunk, which he wasn't. Not really, anymore, really.

Her answer was a low chuckle, which made him glare. Even if he was jealous, and he wasn't, it wasn't funny. He turned to address the door directly, tripped, and managed to hit the back of his head on her bureau before landing in an ungraceful heap on the floor. If this was the sort of thing that happened every time a body had a drink, Eriol thought, then it was no wonder Clow'd had so many headaches; it wasn't from the visions, it was from the sake.

"Hiiragizawa-san!" Tomoyo rushed into the room. "Are you all right? How many fingers am I holding up?"

"Ow."

Hiiragizawa-san, how many?"

"Eriol-san. I see three fingers, Tomoyo-san. I hit my head, not my eyes." He tried to stand up and was entirely unsuccessful, as he was still half-wearing his slacks. Not that he noticed that, as Tomoyo was kneeling right next to him, leaning over him and looking deeply into his eyes with concern and … exasperation?

"I'm not worried about your eyes. Oh, hold still," she muttered as he made another attempt at standing. She shoved him back down and had his slacks off in very short order.

"I could have done that," he told her, wondering how she'd managed it so quickly. She…she couldn't have practiced that…could she? No, no because she was Tomoyo-san, who was always very polite and formal and pretty and if he found out that some…some guy…had let her practice on him then Eriol was going to hunt that boy down and give him to Nakuru as a birthday present. He wondered if Tomoyo was reading his mind, because she was trying not to giggle. "What's so funny? I could done it myself, you know."

"I'm sure you could have," she replied, rolling her eyes. "I'd just thought that you were half-British."

"I am."

"Oh?" She repressed another smile as her gaze dropped briefly.

He followed her glance down and blushed to the ends of his hair; his boxers cheerfully exclaimed 'Kiss me, I'm Irish!' in bright green, surrounded by fire engine red lip-prints. "Nakuru gave them to me!" He scrambled to his feet and swayed dizzily. "They were a gift! I'm not Irish!"

"Ah, I see."

"I'm not!" She continued to smirk at him as he tried unsuccessfully to cover the words. "I'm going to bed," he announced, giving up. He whirled away and walked straight into door, rapping his already throbbing head soundly against the doorframe. "Ow."

"Hiiragizawa-san!"

"Eriol-san."

"Whatever! Are you -?"

"I need to sit down." He dropped onto her bed, holding his head tightly in his hands. "I can't believe Clow thought this was fun." He told Tomoyo, speaking above the ringing in his head. "He enjoyed going out and drinking. He must have been mad … or rather, madder than I had thought. I can't imagine how much worse this would be if Yamazaki and I hadn't taken care of things at the pub. I mean, thank God I'm not drunk. Can you imagine…? I'd probably kill myself. Really…what do you need, Tomoyo-san?" She stopped shaking him and stepped back to look at him in surprise.

"What do I need? I need to know if you've got a concussion, Hiiragiza…Eriol-san!"

"You're learning," he told her happily as she remembered to use his first name. Finally, they were getting somewhere. "I'm fine. You probably want to go to sleep. I'll go…um…oh, yeah, the couch. I'll be out there if you need me."

"You're not going anywhere," she responded, shoving him very gently back onto the bed.

"Tomoyo-san?"

"You're dizzy and pale, you've been sicking up since you got here, and you've just hit your fool head twice. I'm not about to let you out of my sight. And since my living room carpet is pure white and takes forever to clean, I'm not going to let you near it in the condition you're in. Besides," she said, softening, "there's plenty of room. If you aren't going to feel awkward, I don't mind sharing for one night."

"Oh? Oh! You're sure? I can sleep here, in the bed, with you?" He felt dizzy with delight (and the two blows to the head, but that didn't mean he wasn't very happy) at the offer. It was more than he'd hoped for.

"Yes, I'm sure. Now move over, that's my side."

He obeyed, rolling over to stare at her in the ensuing darkness. Not tired yet, he thought. "Tomoyo-san? Will you sing me a lullaby?"

"No. Go to sleep."
"May I sleep on that side?"

"No."

"Will you tell me a bedtime story?"

"Once upon a time there was a young man named Hiiragizawa Eriol. He was smart and kind and he was very happy all the time. Many people loved him very much. But he had one friend who was different, a friend whom he'd awoken in the dead of night and badgered for this, that, and the other, because he thought it was cute. She loved him a lot, too, but she ended up smothering him so that she could go back to sleep. The end."

He stared at her in shock. "That wasn't a very happy story."

"True stories usually aren't, Hiiragizawa-san."

"Tomoyo-san, that wasn't very nice! It's Eriol-san now."

She sat up and picked up her pillow, eyeing him severely. He cringed down under the blankets, playing scared for a moment before beaming at her. She sighed, rolled her eyes, and gave him that Look, which made him smile wider, before she lay back down. "Go to sleep, Eriol-san."

He prepared to do just that. "Tomoyo-san?" he asked after a moment. She made a disgruntled noise. "Could I sleep by you?"

"You are by me."

He slid closer, not quite touching. "I meant right next to you. I'm cold."

"Will you go to sleep if I say yes?" she sighed.

"Absolutely!" he agreed, fervently hoping she wasn't getting angry again.

"Then yes, if you'd really like to." She slid back the half inch separating them.

"Thank you, Tomoyo-san." Eriol wrapped his arms tightly around her, nuzzling into her hair. She shifted slightly, getting comfortable, and didn't seem to mind when he did the same. His mind floating, just drifting away, he only half-made the decision to cuddle to his heart's content with his lovely, warm Tomoyo-san.

And when he was almost asleep, his mouth moving and his mind not, he heard the word "move." She wanted him to move. Tomoyo-san didn't want him sleeping so close to her; like Kaho she probably couldn't sleep with him so close, and she'd been too polite to tell him. He cursed himself for being an idiot, hastily moving away and apologizing. She was his friend and he should, he berated himself, have been more thoughtful of her. More thoughtful of Kaho, too, who was his girlfriend and didn't deserve to have him indulging his infatuation with Tomoyo the very first moment he could. He was an idiot and a prat, he continued mentally, and he had no business being with one woman and holding another as closely as he'd been holding Tomoyo. A real man was constant. He didn't hurt a lady's feelings. He…

…froze when he felt Tomoyo behind him, wrapping her arms around him in a comforting hug, telling him that he didn't have to move. He'd misunderstood her; she hadn't minded his closeness, just his heaviness. Eriol forgot his earlier hurt, thrilled to find that he was allowed to stay close. He pulled her over so that he could see her, say thank you, and saw the quietly troubled look in her eyes. He'd caused that, he knew, and he intended to rectify it. At least, he thought that's what he intended. Sleep was stealing over him and he had not a single clue as to what he was saying, save that it was making her want to laugh.

"Hiiragizawa-kun, could I speak with you, seriously, for a moment?"

"Of course," he responded, mildly perplexed. A serious matter at a time like this?

"I was wondering…that is, I'm a little concerned about you."

"Concerned, Daidouji-san?"

Tomoyo paused a moment, gathering her thoughts. "I don't know much about magic, and less about having it, but…are you all right? You're not in any pain, are you? I know you wanted Sakura-san to split your power, that it's what you and she have both been working so hard for, but it seems to me that it might have…hurt…. I'm hoping you'll tell me I'm wrong."

Eriol stared at her, joy rioting through him. She'd been watching him. "I'm fine. There's no pain, really, Daidouji-san," he assured her when her gaze narrowed slightly. "Having it, it felt more like a lot of pressure pushing inwards and now it's gone. I feel like I've got room to breathe a little more deeply."

"Like having a weight removed from your chest?" Tomoyo seemed amused.

"There's always been a good reason behind a figure of speech," he responded with a smile. He wanted to dance.

"Well, then, I'm very glad to hear that you aren't in pain and hiding it for the sake of politeness. I was worried."

"I thank you for your kind concern, Daidouji-san. I'm happy to know I've got such a caring friend." Happy didn't begin to express his feelings at this eleventh hour revelation. For the first time ever, he wanted to get away from her for a moment; he needed to cancel that return ticket to England and she didn't know he'd been planning on leaving. If she hadn't given him this, this one sign that she might have eyes for someone other than Sakura-san, he would have gone. He would have given his heart to Kaho, who already held a part of it, instead of hoping for a chance that might never come. This chance might never amount to anything, he knew, but he was going to stay and wait and if she was ever ready to try her heart on him, he'd be there. Something about her captivated him, and the love he felt for her was, if one could pardon the term, simply magical, a chance better than a sure thing.

"I'm happy to be a friend of yours, Hiiragizawa-kun," she said simply, touching his arm before turning to leave.

He felt her tug hard and he shifted, trying to take his arm back. "Wait…that's not what happened. She never said…." he mumbled, pulling away from the hand he could still feel. His eyes opened reluctantly, and he saw Tomoyo beside and beneath him, dragging on his arm. "Tomoyo? You're here." He moved, following her will, and felt her sigh and settle more comfortably under him. "I'm so glad you're here. I thought I'd left you."

She sighed again and he held her tightly, heart full. "I love you, Tomoyo. I won't leave you again. You're the one I've always waited for." He pressed his face into her wild hair, burrowed down to her neck, breathing her in. This was more than he'd imagined. Eriol thanked every deity he could think of that he wasn't dreaming that he was with her. Just before he fell back into oblivion, he added a quick prayer that he'd wake up right where he was, just in case.