L-chan's notes:  I hope no one saw the summary and thought this was a Touya/Sonomi pairing. *shudders*  It's just a sweet little idea I had, and if it's been done before, I apologize for any unintentional similarities.  Also, I've taken a couple of minor liberties with the storyline, and I'll let you draw your own conclusions about Nadeshiko's true feelings for Sonomi. 

Disclaimer:  Card Captor Sakura and its amazing characters belong to CLAMP.

The Gift

It was a beautiful May afternoon.  It never rained on this particular day.  In fact, this was always the most perfect day of the spring—the temperature was just right, the sun shone warmly on the earth below, and a gentle breeze caressed everything in its path.  Flowers were in full bloom, birds sang sweetly from their perches in the trees, and, somehow, everything seemed right in the world.

And it was on this perfect day that Kinomoto Touya always visited the cemetery.

It was his way of letting his mother know that he wanted to see her.  Every year for the past eight years, they met here, next to her grave.  Here he could talk to her without appearing foolish.  He'd chosen the date, feeling more comfortable commemorating the day she was born rather than the day she died.  He'd visit with his father and sister on other occasions, but this special time was just for mother and son.

At least, it had been.  But this year, someone was already kneeling before the marble stone, clutching a bouquet of pink nadeshiko blossoms.

This was the first time Touya had seen Daidouji Sonomi here.  The auburn-haired woman sat silently with her head bowed, so lost in her own thoughts that she hadn't heard him approach.  He hated to intrude on the private scene, and he was about to go when she finally looked up.  He watched quietly as she set the flowers at the base of the stone and lightly traced her finger over the engraved characters of Nadeshiko's name.  When she stood up, she smoothed out the skirt of her business suit and sighed deeply before turning around.

She started in surprise to see the young man standing just a few feet away.  "Touya-kun?"

He bowed respectfully before his mother's cousin.  "I'm sorry, Sonomi-san.  I didn't mean to disturb you."  He knew that they had been close, and it was only natural that Sonomi would visit here from time to time.  He wondered how often she came.  Was it every year?  More than that?

"No, it's all right," she answered, regaining her composure.  She hoped he hadn't seen her looking so vulnerable.  It wouldn't be good for her proud image.  "I was just leaving."

Ask her to stay.

Touya's brown eyes shifted toward the stone where his mother had appeared.  Her white gown billowed softly in the breeze as she folded her angel's wings behind her.  Her long hair framed her porcelain face, and she looked more beautiful than she did in any photograph.  The late afternoon sunlight glinted off the gold wedding band on her finger as she smiled serenely at her little boy.  Well, at eighteen he wasn't so little anymore, but he'd always be her precious little boy.

Ask her to stay.  It's so good to see her.

"Please stay, Sonomi-san.  She wants you to."

Sonomi gave him a curious look.  "What makes you say that?"

Touya glanced toward the stone again.  "Should I tell her?" he asked quietly, but when Sonomi followed his gaze, she didn't see anyone there.  He appeared to be considering something, and then he nodded before turning to Sonomi again.  "Do you know about my mother, about how she had a special sensitivity when it came to the spirit world?"

She knew a little about it, but it wasn't something she understood.  "She'd sometimes get a shiver, and when I would ask her about it, she'd say that a spirit was in the room.  I always thought it was just a superstition."

He shook his head.  "No, she was right.  And I have that same sense, only mine is much stronger than hers was.  She could only feel the spirits, but I can see them and communicate with them."

He could see the disbelief in her violet eyes.  "So, what are you saying?  That Nadeshiko is a ghost, and you can talk to her?"

"That's the simplest explanation, yes."

Her expression didn't change.  She didn't believe him.  Not because she thought he would lie, but because it was just... unbelievable.

She'll need proof.  She never was one to go on faith.

"I think you're right." 

Sonomi started to ask him what that meant, but he wasn't talking to her.  His eyes were again focused behind her, on the stone.  His head tilted ever so slightly, as if he were listening to something, and then he laughed as he brought his eyes back to hers again.

"When you were five years old, you wanted to be a ballerina when you grew up."

Sonomi stared at him blankly.  "How did you—?"  She looked around again, and even though she didn't see anything, she started to think that maybe something was there after all.  But it just didn't make any sense.  "Your mother could have told you that before.  And what's so funny about that, anyway?"

He coughed to cover his laughter.  The image of the uptight Daidouji Sonomi donning a pink leotard and twirling onstage just didn't seem to fit.  "I think she needs more, 'kaa-san."

Sonomi watched in befuddlement as Touya spoke to his mother.  He'd occasionally nod, and sometimes he'd open his mouth to say something, but then his expression would change, and he almost appeared saddened by whatever he was hearing or thinking. 

"Your parents always pushed you to succeed, and though you respected them for it, you never felt close to them.  Now you're afraid that you're doing the same thing with Tomoyo.  You don't want there to be that same kind of distance between you, because she's all you have."

There was no way he could have known that.  She'd never even said that to anyone.  Only when she was alone did she voice those private doubts.  Could it be true?  "Nadeshiko?"

I'm here, Sonomi-chan.

"She's here, if you want to talk to her."

"Can I?  She can hear me?"

"Of course."  He hadn't meant to sound so condescending about it, but it didn't seem like Sonomi was paying him much attention anyway.  She had knelt down in front of the stone again and taken one of the flowers from the bouquet.

She twirled the blossom between her fingers.  "I don't know what to say," she admitted with an embarrassed laugh.  "All these years, I wanted to tell her so many things, and now I don't know what to say.  I wonder what she must think of me."

I've always been so proud of you, Sonomi-chan.

"She says she's always been proud of you."

A tear rolled down Sonomi's cheek.  "Oh, Nadeshiko," she whispered.  "Why did you leave me?"

I never left you, Sonomi-chan.  I've always been with you.

"'I never left you, Sonomi-chan.  I've always been with you,'" Touya repeated softly.

Sonomi closed her eyes and shook her head.  "I never got to tell you.... I never got the chance...."  Silent tears continued sliding down her face as she absently plucked the petals from the flower.

I know.  It's okay.

"'I know.  It's okay.'"

Did she know?  Did she really, truly know?  There was so much.  Things she'd never said out of fear or anger, and things she shouldn't have said out of fear or anger.  "I'm sorry," Sonomi said, twisting the bare stem in her hands.  "I'm so sorry for everything."

Don't be sorry.  There's nothing to be sorry for.

"'Don't be sorry.  There's nothing to be sorry for.'"

"I wish we could go back.  I wish I could do everything differently."

It doesn't matter now.  It's all in the past.

"'It doesn't matter now.  It's all in the past.'"

Sonomi dropped the flower's stem and covered her face with her hands.  "I just love you so much."  Her quiet words were lower than a whisper, and Touya couldn't make them out.

I know.

He watched his mother kneel next to Sonomi and place a hand on her knee.  It was only the barest of touches, and Sonomi shouldn't have even been able to feel it, but she slowly lowered her hands as if the gesture had brought her some comfort.

I love you, too, Sonomi-chan.

Touya saw his mother's lips move, but he couldn't make out her words to repeat them.  But he didn't need to, because he then saw Sonomi nod in understanding.  Had she somehow heard?  No, it wasn't possible.  Was it?

Will you do something for me?

Her melodic voice was louder again.  "Will you do something for her?" Touya asked.

Sonomi wiped her reddened eyes as she stood up, even though the tears were still falling.  "Anything."

Let my family in.  They're your family, too.

"'Let my family in.  They're your family, too,'" he echoed.

Sonomi had never been able to deal with seeing Nadeshiko's family, her husband and her children.  It was too painful.  She'd avoided them as much as possible these past eight years.  Even before that, she hadn't wanted anything to do with them, because seeing Nadeshiko happy had just reminded her of what she'd lost, of what she'd never have.  "I don't know if I can," Sonomi answered quietly.  "It hurts."

Touya tried not to take it personally.  He knew how his mother's family had felt about her marriage, and he'd never had contact with any of them, except when she'd died.  Even though Sonomi had recently shown an interest in Sakura, he still didn't think the rest of the Amamiyas would ever accept him and his sister and their father.  It wasn't fair, but he'd decided it wasn't worth the energy to be angry about it.

Look after them for me, and let them look after you.  None of you has to be alone.

"'Look after them for me, and let them look after you.  None of you has to be alone.'"  He knew that she was right.  They were family, and they needed each other, whether they wanted to admit it or not.  The past was the past, and all those old feelings of resentment or disappointment needed to be left behind once and for all.

This never was what she wanted, not really.  She'd thought that staying away from Nadeshiko's family would be less painful, but closing herself off from them just made it worse.  Not acknowledging them was like not acknowledging Nadeshiko's existence, her happiness.  Her family was a part of her—her husband, whom she'd loved so completely, and her children, who were so like her in countless little ways.  They were part of Nadeshiko, and they were all that Sonomi had left of her.  "I'll try," she whispered.  "For you, I'll try."

And be happy, Sonomi-chan.  But not for me.  For you.

Nadeshiko was still standing in front Sonomi, and Touya wondered if she could feel it.  Sonomi closed her eyes and nodded again at something he couldn't hear.

"I'll try."

He saw his mother move close to Sonomi, and he turned away from them, giving them one moment alone together as he futilely tried to wipe away his own tears.

So he didn't see Nadeshiko gently, softly, brush her lips over Sonomi's, and he didn't see Sonomi reach up and put a hand to her mouth as her violet eyes widened in wonder.

Touya-kun.

"Yes, 'kaa-san?"

I have to go now.  But I'll come see you, all right?

He felt the warmth of her hand rest lovingly against his cheek.  "Yes, 'kaa-san."

Give my love to your father and sister.

"I will."

He watched his mother spread her angel's wings again, and then she was gone.

Sonomi stood silently by the stone as she absorbed everything that had just happened.  She felt the heaviness that had been weighing on her heart for so long disappear, and whether it turned out later that she'd just dreamed all this, she'd use this as a chance to make a fresh start.  That was what spring was all about.

Touya didn't know what to say.  He'd never experienced something so personal with someone before, especially with someone who was practically a stranger.  Family or not, they really didn't know each other.  But now they were tied together by this, a bond that no one else would ever understand.

Sonomi took a deep breath and ran her hands over her eyes once more.  She carefully schooled her features into an emotionless mask, the same one she used in business dealings.  When she turned to face Touya, he wouldn't have known that this was the same woman who just minutes before had been sobbing on the ground.

She tucked a stray lock of auburn hair behind her ear and straightened her suit jacket.  "So," she said to him now, crossing her arms in a familiar, arrogant stance, "I'll expect your family at my house for dinner on Sunday.  Tell your father I'll call him with the details."

She really was taking all of this to heart.  Touya shoved his hands in his pockets and tried not to grin.  "Okay."

She rolled her eyes and pretended to huff.  "After all, I know how fond Tomoyo is of all of you, so...."  She let her words trail off and waved her hand dismissively as if she couldn't be bothered to finish the sentence.  But he knew better now.

"Of course."

"Fine."  She was going to walk off without another word, but she stopped.  She reached out, then seemed to reconsider, and then she changed her mind again and hugged him.  "Thank you," she whispered.

He put his arms around her and awkwardly returned the embrace, but he didn't say anything.  It wasn't really necessary.

When she let go, she turned around and walked away with her confident, purposeful stride.  He smiled a little as he watched her go, and then he faced his mother's grave again.  He remained there silently for a few minutes with his head bowed and his eyes closed, and then he headed home.

And the only sign that anyone had been there at all was the bouquet of nadeshiko blossoms at the base of the stone.

~Fin~