AN: I love angst. Can you tell? This is how I make myself feel better after a bad day—I write about people who are having a worse time than I am. It's incredibly effective ^-^ Anyway, as promised, we finally take a dive into the mind of Hiiragiziwa Eriol. A little romance in this chappie. I don't own CCS.

Loneliness

The evening wind danced through the small jungle of plants that made up Hiiragiziwa Eriol's backyard garden. The size and beauty of it was absolutely astonishing, an amazing feat of gardening from a young man with one hell of a green thumb. But anyone who really knew anything about Eriol would have been able to figure out pretty easily that there was at least a little bit of magic involved in the splendor of the garden. But then again, what would one expect from the reincarnation of Clow Reed?

At the moment, Eriol himself was sitting in the garden. He was on his knees, gloved hands in fists on his thighs. He didn't move at all. His eyes were staring straight ahead at some unknown target; he rarely even blinked. The breeze moved through his fine, dark hair, and still he did not budge. He almost resembled a statue of white and blue marble.

The sun was setting behind him; it threw the last of its rays into the sky, splashing the heavens with red and pink, orange and gold. With the flowers in the garden moving gently around him in the wind, it looked like a painting in a museum, or a scene from a movie.

But this was neither art nor movie. This was a living, breathing person.

He had been sitting there like that for quite some time, unmoving. But it had not gone unnoticed.

A tall figure was standing a few feet away, also still. This one was watching Eriol with sad, sympathetic, ruby-colored eyes. The wind swept up her long, chestnut hair, making it dance around her like brown silk. But she ignored it. She had been watching for a while now—he'd been out there since shortly after coming home from school—and she had finally had enough.

"Eriol," she said softly.

The way he jumped a mile at the sound of her voice, one would have thought that a cannon had gone off right beside him. He looked around blankly for a moment before his dark eyes focused in on the watcher. "Ah…Nakuru…is something wrong?"

A heavy sigh blew past her lips, and she marched right up to him and took hold of his arm. "You are coming inside. Now." She held up a hand to silence the protests she knew were coming. "Eriol, you've been sitting out here for hours. It's going to be dark soon. Come on, you should eat something."

"I'm not hungry," he said in a flat monotone. Nakuru took a very close, careful look at his face, and a shiver ran down her spine. His eyes were dead, cold, lifeless. She had never seen him like that.

"I don't care if you're hungry or not. You're going to eat something," Nakuru said firmly, pulling him forcibly to his feet. "You'll eat if I have to forcefeed you myself."

"You're ordering me around?!" he snapped, suddenly furious. "Who do you think you are?"

Nakuru let go of his arm and jumped back. Eriol had never spoken to her like that, not once in all the time they had been friends. Actually, never since he had created her. Fear flashed across her eyes; it was brief, but he didn't miss it. Nor did he miss the fact that her chin immediately started quivering, or the tears that were starting to well up in her wide eyes.

He sighed, feeling appropriately guilty. His momentary anger drained away to be replaced by something he couldn't even begin to name. "Gomen nasai. It's just—"

"I know," she said softly; the tears didn't leave her eyes, though. The accident had hit everyone hard, as Tomoyo had been almost universally loved by those who knew her, including the guardians. "It hasn't been easy for us either. But you still need to take care of yourself."

Eriol didn't answer, but he did allow himself to be led back into the house. That had actually been happening a lot lately. Nakuru and Spinel were proving themselves to really be his Guardians; he was so out of it that they were having to take of him, rather than the other way around.

Once back inside the large mansion he called home, Eriol managed to wriggle away from Nakuru and tiptoe off into library. But only after he had sworn on the Clow Cards that he would eat something. Spinel was not there, and for that Eriol was thankful. He wanted to be alone.

He all but collapsed into the huge red chair he so favored. Spinel had once dubbed it to be 'The Throne of Evil,' because it was Eriol's preferred perch when he was making trouble or contemplating make trouble. But trouble wasn't on his mind then. He just wanted to sit and be alone with his jumbled, chaotic thoughts. There was so much he still needed to sort out within the confines of his own mind.

It took only a minor inflection of his power to make the log in the fireplace explode into flame. The orange-yellow glow from the fire cast shadows across the room, the furniture, and Eriol's face. Suddenly, he looked older, and very tired.

He stared blankly into the flames, letting nothing register on his face.

He, along with Sakura and Syaoran, had gone back to school the day before. The news had beaten them there, and the entire class—everyone who had known Tomoyo, actually—had still been wandering in a daze, even when it had nearly been a week since the accident that had stolen her away.

Had it already been four days? Had it already been four days since Daidouji Tomoyo had died right in front of him? Granted, death was nothing new to Eriol. After all, a good part of himself had actually been the result of a death, the death of Clow Reed. He wasn't really a stranger to death. But Daidouji's death, right in front of him, mere yards away, had shaken him more than he let anyone see.

Death was natural, he kept telling himself. People died every day.

But getting hit by a car wasn't natural, he was then forced to remind himself. And although people died every day, they weren't people that he knew. They weren't people he cared about. And they didn't die five or six feet away from him.

And if death was so natural, then why did it haunt him? Why did he see her sprawled across the pavement every time he closed his eyes? Why did he see splatters of red every time he crossed the street? Why did he always hear screeching tires and screams when the room around him went silent? And why did the tears continue to fall?

Eriol had never cried. Not that he could remember. He didn't cry. Until now.

He took a very small amount of satisfaction in knowing that the idiots who had killed Tomoyo were in prison, awaiting trial for vehicular homicide. It wasn't much, but it was something. And at this point, he clung to that something like it was his only hope.

Because it was.

His hands itched. His fingers were aching again. They had been ever since, when he had actually gotten up the nerve to reach out and touch her hair. When she was lying dead in Sakura's arms.

He shuddered to think of anyone like that, let alone her.

He tried to shake the images from his mind, and instead focused on the fire. He needed to think about something else to try and keep his mind off of Daidouji-san. He studied the flames, way they reached upwards, licking at the stones of the fireplace. So bright, so warm, capable of making any room inviting and comfortable. Just like her…

A quick shake of the head dislodged the thought.

Think about something else. Think about sitting down to dinner, a huge affair with entertainment, maybe music or theatre or some such thing; a dinner with good food and better wine, perhaps. She was always an amazing cook…

Again. He had done it again.

Something else. Focus on something entirely different to take his mind off her. Think about night, a clear, beautiful night, with a full moon and innumerable stars in a black-blue velvet sky overhead, and sinking into a nice, warm feather bed…

Eriol's sixteen-year-old, hormone-driven mind stopped that particular little train of thought—or could it be called a fantasy?—before it even got started.

"Kuso…" he swore under his breath. "Everything I think about turns into her."

"Eriol?"

He didn't turn around. "Hai?"

Nakuru stepped around into view; she was holding a tray with some kind of sustenance on it. "Here. You promised you'd eat something."

He sighed unhappily; his eyes still bore into the flames, as though they held the answer to life itself. "Why did it have to be her?"

"I don't know," she said honestly. She waited a minute, but he didn't say anything else. It was one of the few times in Nakuru's life that she just gave up. "I'll leave it here. If you don't eat it, I'll be forced to do something…unkind." She set the tray on a table and moved towards the door.

He managed the absolute tiniest of smiles. She was worried, and he understood that. And, though he wouldn't come right out and say it, he appreciated it. Sometimes it helped even the tiniest bit to know that someone cared that much.

She backed out of the room and closed the door behind her. Spinel was waiting, hovering in the air. The little magical creature looked at her expectantly. "Well?"

"We're probably going to have to forcefeed him, and then he'll be angry as well as lonely and depressed," Nakuru ran her fingers through her long hair. "This is just a lose-lose situation."

"It doesn't help that there's still the funeral," Spinel pointed out.

"I've never seen him like this, Suppie. What are we supposed to do?" she asked desperately.

Spinel Sun did not reply, not even to challenge his hated nickname.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The room grew darker and darker as the fire grew smaller and smaller, wasting away to mere embers and the faintest of glows. It was dying.

Like him. He felt like he was dying.

The last flickering flames were reflected in his gray-blue eyes; the light caught something else, something shimmering in his eyes.

It was one of the few times in his life that Hiiragiziwa Eriol had ever given up. He gave up trying to distract himself, gave up trying to make himself think of other things. It wasn't worth it.

He allowed his mind the total freedom to wander wherever it wanted, even though he knew exactly what he was going to think about. No matter how much it hurt, why fight the inevitable? It was like trying to stop a moving bus by hanging onto the rear bumper.

Long, dark hair, hanging around her like a waterfall of black silk. A smile as bright as daybreak, as beautiful as the moon. Eyes, molten purple, pools of liquid amethyst, warm and understanding.

As one slow, solitary tear managed to escape from his eye and roll down his face, he finally admitted it. To the room, to the dying fire, and to himself.

"I loved her…" Eriol whispered as the light sputtered and died.

Only the night heard.

The night, and an unseen watcher, perched on a cloud.

AN: Eriol is incredibly angst-worthy, ne? It works for him. I hope you liked it. The next chapter is going to be the funeral. I know nothing about Japanese funeral customs, and I'm too lazy to do research, so it's going to be a Western-style funeral, following more of the Catholic tradition ('cause that's what I am).

Also, someone asked me how there would be any ExT romance in this fic if one of them was dead. Trust me. I have my ways. You'll see. It just won't happen for a while yet. It'll be closer to the end. I have quite a bit of stuff to put into this fic before I finish it up. Until the next chapter, ciao!