The final installment for Void and Cookies and Cream. This is dedicated to those who have waited for a more positive ending to the E+T story.
This is also a way of saying "thank you" to the people who never tire to wait for my E+T fics. Wo ai ni!
Eriol and Tomoyo were doing the latter's assignment that night as the feast on their official ice cream, Cookies and Cream.
"Able was I ere I saw Elba," said Eriol.
Tomoyo's forehead creased. "Wow, it uses the same letters backward and forward, and still makes a coherent sentence!"
Eriol Hiiragizawa smiled fondly at his friend. "That is called a palindrome."
"Hmm…this sounds tricky, eh? The person who thought of that word, pali-…pali…"
"Palindrome," he said.
"I knew that!" she said, smiling. "Palindrome. Now what was I saying just before you so rudely interrupted me?"
"You're telling me what you think of the person who invented the word, palindrome."
"Yes, right." Tomoyo Daidouji flipped her glossy raven hair over her shoulders. "He must be a really clever guy."
"If I tell you that Clow Reed invented the word…"
"I'll believe it with all my heart," said Tomoyo, making a straight face so straight that Eriol had to chuckle.
"What?!" she exclaimed, grinning.
"You're so funny," he explained. "No one in this world can make me laugh the way you do, Daidouji-san."
"Is that so?" Tomoyo turned serious.
She pouted. "You're not paying me as your personal clown!"
He laughed again. "Daidouji-san, you're ten times wealthier than me! What will you do with your salary as my personal clown?"
"It's more of a principle thing."
"Oh?" His brow raised quizzically. " And what may be that great Daidouji Tomoyo principle is?"
Her eyes lost their twinkle. "That nothing in this world is free." She resumed working on her English assignment again.
He became silent.
There she goes again. Just when I thought that she had returned to her normal cheerful self again, she would retreat back to her cold, hard shell.
But he decided to pretend that he didn't notice her sudden mood swing. "Will you enlighten me as to why you picked that as your principle?"
"Because in one way or another, you won't get something you want or need without paying for it," explained Tomoyo, eyes glued on the jumble of English verbs, pronouns and whatnots on her notebook. "For instance, if I want a new dress to make me happy, I have to pay the shop before I get that thing to make me happy."
He smiled. "That's silly. Of course, buying and selling makes the economic universe run. You're being too…sentimental."
"You don't get it, do you?" she asked, irritated. "I was just using that as an example!"
"It's a poor example because I cannot understand your point," he shot back, still grinning. He still couldn't get over at how fascinating the insights of a seventeen-year-old loner heiress of a vast business empire are.
"OK," she sighed, sitting up on Eriol's bed. She faced him squarely and picked up a pad of paper and a pencil. She began to doodle a stick figure of a girl and another stick figure of a boy.
"Um, you're very artistic, Daidouji-san, but I hope you give me first your explanation on the previous topic-"
"Oh shut up, London Wiseguy! I'm using a visual presentation to better illustrate my point," she snapped.
"Trust Daidouji Tomoyo to make something so simple sound so good."
"There!" She held up her masterpiece. "Now, say this girl here likes the boy." She drew an arrow line from the faceless girl towards the equally faceless boy.
"But she can't like him for free. She would have to pay it with her heart, with her soul, with her social life, with her sleeping time, her meal times, her every waking hour-"
Eriol held his hand up. "Um, I get the point."
Tomoyo nodded. "Now, say this boy here doesn't like the girl…he likes someone else…" She drew an arrow from the nameless male specimen in her drawing towards the empty space of the paper. She quickly sketched another girl in the space.
Eriol chuckled. "I don't understand the boy's logic. The girl he likes looks exactly the same girl he rejected!"
Tomoyo stuck her tongue out at him. "Cut it out with your jokes, will you?"
"Think of it more as an artistic criticism."
"Whatever." The girl continued her theory explanation. "Now, what will happen to all of the things that the rejected girl offered to the boy. What will become of them? Nothing, because he took it all away. Everything." She turned to Eriol. "So you see, in love and every little thing in this world, there is always a price to pay."
Eriol was silent.
He shook his head. "Daidouji-san, you are telling your theory from a third-person point of view. Why don't you try to put yourself into the rejected girl's shoes?"
She looked at her drawing. "They're too small."
Eriol sighed. "And you say I'm the smartass here."
"Daidouji-san, you are familiar of the cliché it is better to have loved and lost rather than to not have loved at all?"
"Familiar enough to wear my eardrums out."
Eriol smiled sadly, his blue eyes softening. "It's true. It's really true."
Tomoyo felt her heartbeat quicken. "Eriol-kun…"
He exhaled deeply. "I have loved this girl ever since the first time I met her, and I still do now." He turned to her. "Madly and deeply, in fact. But she's so…distant. It's like, I can reach out to her, but I can't touch her. She's so cold and faraway."
He smiled forlornly. "But guess what? I'm not going to give up. Never ever will I give her up. And as your theory says, I'm willing to pay the price. May it be a broken heart or an injured ego."
"Brave lad," she remarked in a low voice.
"Because she's worth it."
Tomoyo gasped when she felt his hand tuck the stray strands of her hair behind her ear. "You're worth it."
She laughed sardonically. "Um, ok, this demonstration thingie has gone far enough. Y-You're starting to think I'm Mizuki-sensei."
He blinked. "What are you talking about?"
She groaned. "Oh come on, for Christ' sake, Hiiragizawa Eriol! Your girlfriend, Kaho Mizuki! The one you're talking about awhile ago!"
It took him a minute to digest what she said before his eyes crinkled into a delighted smile. "All those Cookies and Cream servings must have caused some kind of bizarre brain damage on you."
"How dare you insult me!"
"Daidouji-san, I love you."
Tomoyo rolled her eyes. "Eriol-kun, you're the one with brain damage-" She was silenced when Eriol suddenly pulled her to him and kissed her hard. She shut her eyes tight when she tasted the cookies in her mouth…and it wasn't her who was eating the ice cream.
When their mouths parted, Eriol smiled at her. "You were saying?"
"I'll bonk you on the head and give you real brain damage if you say that you are just pulling a trick all this time," she said, near to tears. Her defenses were crumbling, and she started to feel as helpless as she was before when she bumped on Eriol when they first met.
"Don't you understand, Tomoyo? All this time, there was a palindrome that we failed to see. Read it backward and forward…we're in love!" Eriol cupped her face lovingly.
Her eyes widened. "We are? We?"
Uncertainty crossed his face. "Right?"
"Y-You love me?" She was now really crying. "All this time, I thought I was the only one in love…"
"It's we," he said, laughing like he had never ever did before.
"We," she agreed. "I and you. You and I."
Palindrome it is, she realized when his lips started to brush on hers gently but firmly, promising that the riddle was over.
The end (syao means it)