by Ekai Ungson
disclaimer: CLAMP owns everything. characters used without permission.
Official summary-like thingy: Eriol, Tomoyo, a dark office and a few hundred photographs. Much reminiscing. Also features a scheming graduating class and "that durned envelope".
The second installment to the Illusione arc.
'I was just asking.'
Hiiragizawa Eriol lugged in the last box of photographs into the yearbook/school paper office. "That," he panted, "should be the last of the bloody lot."
From behind him, Daidouji Tomoyo giggled, holding a clipboard close to her chest. "I can't believe there were so many photos taken by our batch," she said, unpacking her first box, the first of many. "I guess there were so many closet shutterbugs in the class." She picked up one photograph of the class in their last field trip. Amazing how one little frame had fitted something around one-hundred and seventy people. She smiled. "They have knacks for photography."
"I'll say," Eriol said, still trying to catch his breath, "if these nine boxes are anything to go by."
"You should have said something if you wanted help with them, Hiiragizawa-kun," Tomoyo chided.
"What? Never," Eriol replied in a gallant voice. "I would NEVER want you to go into any hard work. Li would never let me hear the last of it."
Tomoyo raised an eyebrow. Eriol smiled cheerfully.
"Shall we begin? Those ARE nine boxes."
They had been assigned to wade through all the photos submitted by the batch to put in the yearbook. The batch had picked Tomoyo because of her aesthetic sense, and Eriol for... well, Eriol really didn't know why the class had partnered him with Tomoyo-san, but they HAD been pretty insistent about it that Eriol didn't want to refuse.
Not that he wanted to. He certainly wasn't about to complain. Tomoyo-san was certainly good company.
He turned to her and saw that she had buried herself to her arms with photographs from the box she'd just opened. She seemed intent on her task, her eyes focused but animated, obviously awed by the outcome of the ad she'd formulated and posted by hand all over the school.
She looked up at him. "Anything wrong?"
He shook his head quickly. "No," he replied. Then he began to murder the tape on his first box, wondering why boxes had to be taped so much and why the tape on this particular one was so thick anyway. Bloody box.
Tomoyo shrugged and went back to her work. He was still murdering the tape, that much she could hear, and she wondered what it was bothering him exactly. Judging from the noise, she didn't think she wanted to know. Unable to stand it any longer, she left her box and went to him.
"Look, you'll never get it out if you force it," she said. She took the cutter from his hand, held it deftly in the light and attacked the tape on the box with one swift move. It surrendered to her and she opened the box with a proud smile. "See?"
"Quite," Eriol said. He picked up a photo from the box idly.
It was a shot of Yamazaki being decked by a vehement Chiharu. The picture was taken on the summer festival and in it, Chiharu was raising a bucket full of water above her head as she stalked behind Yamazaki who was telling a gripped audience another one of his "stories".
"Cute," Eriol commented. Tomoyo giggled.
"Yamazaki-kun and Chiharu-san… the class just wouldn't be complete without them. The way Yamazaki-kun" --she shot him a pointed look—"tells his stories and Chiharu just dragging him away bemoaning her fate…"
"I can't believe how you women can be so disbelieving. There IS actually some truth to our stories," Eriol sounded offended.
"Of course, Hiiragizawa-kun. Whatever you say," Tomoyo replied idly as she went to work on her boxes. "I think we should set that one aside—it's a priceless shot."
Eriol placed the photograph in a folder labeled YEARBOOK. Then he began digging through his boxes again.
There were pictures of the class at another one of those plays they had to perform when everybody had misaligned roles (Syaoran played a mouse for a production once and he wasn't happy about it) and photos taken of the numerous sports festivals they had joined in and won. Pictures of students past and present, pictures of places they'd been in, campsites and campfires and ski resorts, swimming pools, skating rinks, parks, scenic cliffsides, and other such hijinks. Pictures of candid moments (a Yamazaki, his face covered with white cream) and posed shots of groups of friends and couples. Soon Eriol and Tomoyo's photograph envelope was getting fatter and fatter with each photograph they chose to be put in.
Eriol picked up a photograph and almost instantly an odd look came over his face.
Tomoyo looked up once she sensed that Eriol had somehow… frozen. "Hiiragizawa-kun?"
When no reply came, Tomoyo forgot about all the rules and decorum she had learned, walked over to the boy and picked the photograph from his hand.
It was a shot of Mizuki Kaho and Terada Yoshiyuki.
She turned to him, amusement gone. "Gomen nasai, Hiiragizawa-kun—"
He shook his head. "It's all right. I just… remembered something."
She stared at him intently, watching as his eyes went from melancholy to mischievous. The mask was back. She couldn't have stopped it. That was Hiiragizawa Eriol's nature, to retreat further into himself. She knew because she was the same way.
As Tomoyo went back to her perch on the other side of the table, she pondered this, how he was so like her in more ways than one.
Loneliness is a bad friend.
I wonder—does he still love her?
"I grew up," he said suddenly. She started and looked at him.
"Pardon, Hiiragizawa-kun?" she asked, confused.
"I grew up and she became morally uptight about it," he said. "It was just better all around if we were apart."
It took her a while to realize that he was talking about his past relationship with their former teacher. She opened her mouth to apologize or excuse herself, for what reason she still didn't know, but—
"It's all right," he said nonchalantly. "It's long been gone and buried."
She gave him a tentative smile. "Maybe I should watch what I'm thinking."
"I didn't read your mind," he replied.
He chuckled. "It was that look on your face, it gave you away," he said. "I don't know why you think such things are so impolite to ask about."
"It's your privacy," she replied.
"You're so Japanese," he teased.
She rolled her eyes. "Shut up."
'So tell me the truth.'
"Look, here's a nice one," Tomoyo said. Eriol walked over to see.
It was a shot of Sakura, Naoko, Rika, Chiharu and Tomoyo in the lake, up to their knees in water. They were splashing each other.
"There is something about this class and water," Eriol said philosophically. "First it was Mihara-san dousing Yamazaki-kun with water. Then it was Li-kun falling into that balloon tub. Then it was those girls who fell off the boat on that Hokkaido trip," he finished. "Maybe we should start calling this class 'The Great Soaked Batch'".
She swatted him playfully. "Be nice."
"It happens to be true!" he retorted. Then he broke off, staring at something on the table.
A startled Tomoyo followed his gaze. In the middle of the table was a large manila envelope that was labeled "E. and T." in big red letters.
"That was NOT there ten minutes ago," Eriol said.
"Maybe it was buried under those boxes," Tomoyo replied.
Then both of them lunged for the envelope at the same time. The result was a mild sort of scuffle with Tomoyo as the victor.
She didn't even let the other boy react as she reached for the letter opener and slashed the envelope swiftly. One swish and the adhesive had given to her.
She peered in the package. "They're photographs," she said, in a voice that clearly depicted her confusion.
Eriol seized the opportunity and the envelope before she could say anything. He began digging through the photos, then giving up and dumping the whole lot on the table.
They were photos, all right, but nothing like ordinary photos. The pictures on their hands and on the table were shots of exclusively Eriol and Tomoyo only.
"What the…" Eriol mumbled.
Tomoyo picked one up, gingerly, and stared. It was taken from outside a classroom window, the one where both of them attended council meetings and the like. Their heads were bent towards each other in quiet deliberation. She turned to Eriol. "Who…?"
He shrugged. "Your guess is as good as mine," he said, as he picked one up. It was a shot of himself taken during the interschool basketball tournament. It looked like an ordinary picture of him shooting hoops. But then his eye caught on the beaming face of Tomoyo from the front seats at the stands, apparently shouting her lungs out.
There was another one, taking during the same ballgame, of Eriol lifting Tomoyo up after winning the game. The word for it was elation.
There were pictures of Eriol and Tomoyo having lunch together under the big tree out at the courtyard. There were pictures of them at recitals and performances. Pictures of them hanging out by the wire fence during a PE class, Eriol's arm around Tomoyo's shoulder.
"I don't get it," Tomoyo said, finally.
"I think I do," Eriol replied as he picked one last photo up and saw that it was one taken during their Senior Prom while they were dancing. Slowly.
A note fell out.
"Everyone knows you're half in love with each other except yourselves,"it said. "Hope this speeds it up some. We're tired of waiting for you two to get with the program."
Eriol's jaw dropped. Tomoyo sputtered.
'What are you going to do about the truth, now?'
"Are we, are you, it's not, we're not…?" Tomoyo stammered.
"We're not," Eriol agreed.
A/N: No, the Illusione arc does not end here. I still have to take Eriol and Tomoyo through college, the graduation ball, and get them married. Also helps that the ending isn't really and ending-ending. Next episode: Eriol and Tomoyo go through some very awkward times. ^-^