Disclaimer: What, do you think I own CCS or something?

This takes place after the second episode of the Sakura Cards arc, after Sakura transforms her first card, Firey. Vague shounen/shoujo ai hints, but come on! This is CCS! I'm sure you're all used to it by now.

This Time Around

Tomoyo smiled to herself as she walked home in the darkness. It wasn't really so much of a surprise to her to learn that Sakura had to transform the Clow Cards, not just catch them. The cards' new mistress had just succeeded in transforming her first Sakura Card - wearing one of Tomoyo's specially tailored outfits, of course. The girl prided herself on her ability to design costumes especially to assist Sakura in whatever magical situation she found herself in. It was a little strange that nobody had ever wondered exactly how the seamstress always knew exactly what Sakura would need.

A breeze wafted through the trees and Tomoyo pulled her jacket a little tighter around her body. She was a little concerned about the draining affect that the night's magic had had on Sakura. Surely the girl would be okay with Cerberus and Yue; yet it was only Tomoyo's nature to worry a little about her friend, and what lay ahead. She had a lot of transformations to film and a lot of costumes to make. Not to mention sorting things out with Eriol...

And speak of the devil, there he was now!

Ahead of Tomoyo, sitting on a bench by the road, was the mysterious new 'exchange student' from England. The bespectacled boy seemed uncharacteristically anxious, swinging his legs and scuffing his shoes in the dirt. Obviously he had noticed the 'hint' that Tomoyo had deliberately dropped for him earlier in the day. The girl allowed herself a mischievous smile in the darkness. She'd been waiting for this for a long time, and she had a feeling it was going to be fun.

"Komban wa!" she said, cheerfully, almost bouncing into the light of the streetlamp that lit the resting place.

"Komban wa, Tomoyo-san." Eriol replied, stiffly.

"Tomoyo? Is that who you think I am?" the girl in question cocked her head to the side, a picture of innocence. "Really, Clow, I thought that the most powerful sorcerer in the world would be able to recognise his own sister!"

Eriol's eyes widened; his whole face was a picture of shock. "So it is you!"

"Mo-ch'o Read, at your service." Tomoyo announced, with a mocking bow. "Or the one who carried her memories, anyway. And her powers."

"I don't believe it." Eriol shook his head, a smile on his face. "Now this is something that I never foresaw. I never knew a thing. Clow's sister, with this sort of power. How on earth did you manage it?"

"Long story." Tomoyo sat down and Eriol followed. "Have you got a minute?"

"So, Mo-ch'o... do you mind if I call you that? It is strange to use our new names when talking about old lives."

"Of course I don't mind, Clow." his sister replied, sitting down. "Goodness me, you don't know how I've missed calling you that! I've missed you for a long time, you know."

"What do you mean?" A concerned look crossed Clow's face.

"Oh, nothing, really." Mo-ch'o shook her head and smiled. "Back before, when we were still called Read... we spent most of our lives apart. I didn't see you very much after I was married to old Huang."

"You didn't like being with him, did you?"

"He was from a rich family," the girl replied, stiffly. "He was very good to take me for a wife, as we were so poor after our father died." she was silent for a moment. "I hated it.
"Fortunately, as you probably know, it didn't last long. I wanted nothing to do with the old man, but he wanted me to do his every bidding, to be a slave like any other Chinese woman. Only a few days after our wedding I became so furious at what he made me do that I wished he would just disappear."

"You never said much about it, just kept a blank face and went along with it," said Clow, "You must have been so angry underneath it all."

"Ah, yes, but my anger got the better of me that day, brother. I wished that Huang would disappear - and he did."

Clow gasped in shock, but Mo-ch'o only tilted her head back to glance at the stars.

"I was hysterical, of course." she went on, "Fortunately, there were many other women in the house to take care of me. They wanted to know what happened to my husband, but I was too terrified to make any sense. Eventually the rest of the town was told that he had died very suddenly. I suppose that's the story you heard, too."

"Yes, it was. I wasn't sure whether I felt sorry or glad for you when I heard the news. I knew that Huang would probably be a terrible husband so I was glad that you were free of him, but to be a widow is no way to live."

"Well, I lived. I became a very different person, though. I was terrified at what had happened to Huang when I got angry at him, so I swore never to let anger control me again. Over the next few years I trained myself to control that anger. After a while I stopped feeling almost all negative emotions. There just wasn't anything that made me mad at all."

"Which, I suppose, is why I didn't recognise you when I first arrived here," Clow admitted. "I never knew this 'new' Mo-ch'o, only the one that I grew up with, who shut up and fumed when things didn't go the way she wanted. It's incredible that you changed so much."

"It probably wouldn't have happened if I had been able to forget what happened to Huang. The memory would have faded if there weren't so many other things going on. But it was my magic that did that to him, and it wouldn't leave me alone. I kept sensing things, and seeing things."

"Like visions?" her brother suddenly seemed far more interested. "What did you sense? Could you sense anything of me? Did you know what it was?"

"Slow down!" Mo-ch'o laughed. "Too many questions. I sensed a lot of vague powers that I didn't understand, although I knew you were one of them. I saw visions of things I didn't understand at the time, but I later found out were the Clow Cards. And no, I didn't know what any of it was. Not for a while, anyway."

"I learned about my magic power from a fortune-teller in town who recognised it." said Clow. "She taught me all about it, how to control it and how to use it. Eventually I could start creating things. Until I met her, though, I didn't even know I had magic. So how on earth did you learn anything?"

"I learned from one of your creations," Mo-ch'o said, a mischievous smile growing on her face at the expression appearing on her brother's. "It just so happened that several members of the household I was living in were moving to Japan, and I leaped at the opportunity. Hong Kong may have become a better place for women since the English took over it, but I'd lived there all my life and I wanted to see new things."

"So you were in Japan too? I don't believe it! If only I'd known you were there then I would have come to see you."

"Well, I'm afraid I have a confession to make. I did know that you were in Japan. I was in the kitchen one day experimenting with cheesecake, a recipe I learned from the English. I'd left it by the window when I went to get something from another room and Kero-chan just happened to be passing by..."

"You can't be serious!"

"I think it was the cake, rather than my magic, that drew him to me," she sighed, staring out into the darkness. "He tried to sneak in and take a nibble, but I sensed his magic and ran straight back in. Although he was worried about me seeing him and being scared, I was delighted because I could finally see one my 'visions' with my own eyes, instead of just in my head."

"Cerberus keeping secrets from me," Clow shook his head, disappointed. Mo-ch'o reached out and put a hand on his shoulder.

"Please don't be angry at him. I asked him not to tell you anything. I felt like I had to keep it a secret, somehow."

"So he taught you everything."

"Yes. So I knew how you created the cards. I knew about Yue too. And eventually, Kero-chan told me your plans for the cards' future. He told me about how you were going to be reborn when it was time for the cards to be given a new master. I realised that I wanted to be able to see the cards being passed on, so I put all my magic into doing what you did, making sure that I, too, would be reborn. So here I am."

"Unbelievable." said Clow. "That's the reason you did it?"

"Yes. Well, I wanted to see you again, too."

"Well, here I am," he smiled, "Not quite what you expected, eh?"

"Oh, you still look enough like my twin," Mo-ch'o smiled. "But different, somehow, too."

"That's because so many things happened to me - Eriol - before I recovered my memory." he explained. "Our experiences shape our lives greatly, and the early stages of my life as Eriol were very different to my life as Clow. So at the same age, my two lives were very different." he made a strange face, "In a way, it's good, because when my memory returned I had a much more complete view of life than most people do. I imagine that as you get older, you'll find the same thing."

"'As I get older'? Eriol, you talk as though you're an old man!" Tomoyo teased.

"I'm older than you are."

"Then why are you still in primary school?"

"Believe it or not, Tomoyo, I'm actually old enough to be your father," said Eriol, exasperated. "At the moment I reside in a ten-year-old body because that's the best way for me to get close to Sakura and assist her. I regained my memory very suddenly when I was ten -"

"How?"

"Don't interrupt!" Eriol snapped. "If you must know, my powers started returning and one day I saw a vision of Sakura. Then everything sort of came back at once. Anyway, as I was saying, when my memories returned I was able to use my powers properly and I could look into my future again. I saw that the best way to help Sakura would be to pose as one of her classmates, so I immediately halted my own growth."

"Whereas I was born around the same time that Sakura was." Tomoyo agreed. "I'd known her for a while before I got my memories back, but it was because of her that I did. I was staring out the window the night that she made her first card capture, and remembered everything very quickly. It seemed to take an eternity to sort out all the thoughts and memories, but in reality it must have been only a few seconds. When I got through it all I grabbed my video camera and got this beautiful shot of Sakura using the Fly card for the first time."

"Something of a cherished memory, judging by the look on your face," said Eriol, with a wry smile on his face.

"Sakura is a very special person," the girl said, with a sigh. "She would be even if she wasn't the card captor. When I - Mo-ch'o - decided to do as you were doing and be reborn, I didn't really think about it much. Looking back, it was quite foolish, rushing into this with no knowledge of what was going to happen. But I think that it was the right thing to do. I may just be standing on the sidelines, but I played a part, and a big one at that."

"It couldn't have gone better even if I'd planned it." Eriol smiled. "You're just the person to keep her company. There's just one problem, though."

"And that is..."

"She knows who I am now. But she doesn't know a thing about you. When are you going to tell her who you really are?"

"When she's older, I suppose." she sighed, then added bitterly, "There are a lot of things I have to tell her when she's older."

"Tomoyo? Mo-ch'o? Are you okay?" He put a sympathetic hand on her shoulder. "You hate lying to her, do you? But you're such a good friend to her. Magic or no, she's still the luckiest girl on earth to have a friend like you."

"Yes, but..." Tomoyo's voice trailed off and she stared at her hands.

"You want it to be more than that, don't you?" he smiled and draped an arm across her shoulders, pulling her closer to him.

"It doesn't matter what I want." she replied, leaning her head against his shoulder. "What matters is that she's happy, and right now I think the way for her to be happy is to be with Syaoran. They love each other, even if they haven't said anything yet."

"Imōto-chan, you care so much for other people. Doesn't your happiness count for anything?"

"How can I be happy if Sakura is not?"

"So you're just going to stand by and let it happen?" Eriol shook his head. "It must be hard."

"It is." Tomoyo said. Her voice caught in her throat and she buried her face in the shoulder of Eriol's jacket, trying to muffle a sob."

"Hey, it's okay, you can cry if you want to," her brother said, gently. "We weren't together very much in the old days, I know, and I'm sorry that I couldn't help you back then. But I'm here for you now, in this life, and even if you're not really my sister any more, I promise I'll listen to you and I'll help you. I'll be the best brother you'll ever have."

Slowly, Tomoyo calmed down and drew away from the boy next to her, still gripping his hand. "Thank you."

"Any time," he said with a smile. "Come on, I think it's time you went home. I'll walk you."

So the twins walked together in silence, Eriol lost in thought while Tomoyo tried to regain her composure. The sun was sinking low on the horizon by now and its light was tinged with yellow. It was that sleepy, winding down time of afternoon, when everyone and everything seemed to be coming home for a snooze in front of the TV before dinner.

"Onii-chan?" Tomoyo said, at last.

"Yes?"

"You can see into the future, can't you?" She looked at him imploringly. "Please tell me, will Sakura and I... will we ever... is she ever going to love me, too?"

"I can't tell you," Eriol send, bluntly. He sighed when he saw the disappointment on her face. "I promised a long time ago that I would never tell anybody else about the things I saw. It's not about being selfish, it's about what's best for them. Knowing what's going to happen to you can change your attitudes and it can be a bad thing. Besides," his voice dropped suddenly, "It's a burden that nobody else should share."

"Is it really that bad?"

"It's terrible." he murmured. "I know so many things that are going to happen to me before they happen. Seeing the good things ruins the surprise and takes the fun out of it, and seeing the bad things is just so depressing. I hate it."

"Are you so sure that everything you see will come to pass?" asked Tomoyo.

"Well, I've never been wrong before," he replied, bitterly.

"But you didn't see me."

Eriol jerked his head and stopped to look at her, his eyes wide behind their glasses.

"You didn't see me." Tomoyo repeated. "You had no idea that your sister had magical powers or that you were going to meet her again in your next life."

"That's only because you can hide your power," he muttered, unconvincingly. "Out of all the people who have magical powers, only you have the power to hide it."

"Yet you still didn't see it." she refused to back down. "You were wrong about this much. I took you by surprise tonight. So it's entirely possible that the things you see may turn out differently to the way you expect. I can tell you that some things are already going against what you had planned."

"Like what?" Eriol demanded.

"Oh, you'll see." she smiled mischievously.

"I think that your magical power must be manipulating people," said Eriol, dryly, as they began walking again.

"Not quite," Tomoyo laughed, pleased to see her brother smiling again. "Most of my power is just practical stuff, manipulating objects and things. Simple. Although back when the cards were running wild I always knew where they were. That's how I tailored each of Sakura's battle costumes especially for the card she had."

"So if you could only do that because you could sense the cards, then how did you know what she would need to wear to transform her first Sakura card?"

The girl blinked in surprise. "I really don't know. I hadn't thought about what I was doing when I was making the costume, I just did it. It was like I just made it automatically, without even knowing why."

"Perhaps you are more powerful than you think. I could train you to use your powers properly now that this is all over, if you like."

"I think I'd like that. Although I'll never be as good as you."

All she got in reply was a snort and a shake of Eriol's head. Tomoyo made a mental note not to flatter him about his magic again. If anything, it seemed to be a sore spot with him.

"There's one thing I don't understand about you," she said. "You're the most powerful magician there ever was. You could have done all sorts of things. So why, of all those things, did you choose to create the cards?"

"Because I knew that one day they would be needed." he replied. "In one of my earliest visions of the future I could see that one day, far in the future, something terrible would happen that couldn't be fought by any normal human. So I created the Clow cards so that when that day came, there would be someone who could use them to protect themselves and their friends and families and maybe the world."

"Sakura?"

"No, it won't happen in this lifetime."

"Good." Tomoyo cocked her head to the side. "Tell me, my dear Clow, what exactly did you see in this vision?"

"Well... destruction, mostly."

"So you created the cards in hope of preventing this destruction?"

"Yes."

"And have you had this vision at all since you created them?"

"Well... no." Eriol blinked and gazed up at the sky. "I'd never thought of that before."

"I don't think that your visions always show you what's going to happen." said Tomoyo. "I think that sometimes they show you what could happen. They're possibilities, not facts. Don't let them ruin your life."

"Maybe you're right." he said, softly. "But only sometimes."

"If it can help you save the future, then it must be a gift, and not a curse."

"Well, we've got a long way to go until we can be sure that I've saved it." Eriol sighed. "Sakura is just the first of many who will master the cards before they reach their final purpose. When she dies she must hide them until they can be found by the next card captor."

"Are you going to be reborn again and again, to help every captor?"

"Yes, I made that decision long ago. I created these things for a purpose and I intend to see them fulfil it."

They had reached the gates of the Daidouji mansion. Tomoyo let herself in and gestured for Eriol to follow.

"Would you like to come with me?" he asked.

"Where?"

"To follow the other card captors. To be reborn, again and again. To guide all the young magicians."

"Yes, I think I would," Tomoyo smiled at him. "We didn't have a very good relationship the first time around, but it's great that we'll have a chance to do it again. Hey, do you think Sakura will come with us, too?"

"She can if she wants to." he shrugged. "It would be nice to have her along, I think. Of course, this Syaoran may want to as well..."

"There's something else you didn't foresee." his sister remarked

"I did so! That's why I left him with the Lasin Board."

The girls smiled inwardly, but didn't bother to correct him.

Eriol carried on. "Cerberus and Yue will have to come too, of course -"

"Yue won't want to come without Touya." Tomoyo interrupted.

"Touya?" Eriol looked confused and a little dazed.

"Sakura's brother. Oh, don't worry, you'll find out soon enough."

"I'm sure I will. It looks like whoever the next card captor is will have a whole host of advisors to look after him... or her. Not to mention Spinel and Ruby... oh, but you'll find out about them soon enough."

"Very funny." A light suddenly came on in one of the windows in the house above them. "Oh dear, my mother's awake. I think I'm in trouble. You'd better go."

"No! I want to meet your mother."

"Such a gentleman." Tomoyo gave Eriol a long, thoughtful look. "You know, I think we're still the same people, even though we're living different lives. It's like growing up; you don't really change, because the previous version of yourself is still there, but you keep covering it with new experiences. We're still the Read twins, but we have different experiences from different lives over the top."

"I'm not Clow anymore. I'm Eriol Hiiragizawa. Clow Read is gone." he delivered it almost like a command.

"Are you sure about that?" she raised an eyebrow. "Or are you just in denial? You can't help being who you are, even if you don't like it. Perhaps if you tried being Clow as well, you wouldn't find it so bad. Whether you think you're my brother or not, that's still what I'm going to call you."

"Suit yourself." Eriol replied, coldly.

"Besides," she smiled, reaching for his hand, "I've just proved to you that there are always surprises left, haven't I?"

He grinned and then, quite suddenly, hugged her. "I'm glad you're here. I need a sister like you to keep me sane."