Welcome, welcome, one and all! I've had a lot of sugar today, so please ignore any incredibly annoying rambling. Anyway.

This story was written for the Tsukimineshrine LiveJournal community. Hey, minna!

Challenge: Valentines Day. Containing chocolates and a kiss. Not including 'like' or 'love' in the context of feelings. 1000-2000 words.

Rating: G. I am such a boring person.

Warnings: Well, may contain things that may be construed as shoujo-ai and het. This means that if girls loving girls, or girls loving guys, bothers you, please go away and never come back to any of my stories. Also, this story refers to manga canon strictly and exclusively. I have my reasons.

Disclaimer: Sakura, as well as anything belonging or pertaining to Sakura, is not owned by me. Yet.

Pasteboard Valentines

            This is Tomoeda. It looks perfectly normal, doesn't it, with all the neat white houses on neat grey streets? It isn't, of course, no town is, but today it's less normal even than usual.

            Today, the fourteenth of February, is Valentine's Day. Everyone's about in twos. Married men and women are sitting in coffee shops, teenage couples are walking in the park, and the grade schoolers are walking home in pairs. Here's Sakura, skating backwards down the road so she can keep talking to her dear friend Tomoyo. Oddly enough, hers isn't the most important story about today.

            The most important story is across town from the comfortable home Sakura's returning to, in an old rambling barn of a mansion that's only there sometimes and to the right people. Nothing that happens within its grounds, however odd, is ever noticed by anyone whose business it isn't to understand. And odd things do happen there, are happening now, in fact, for this is where the Sakura Cards live.

            Not live, exactly; they aren't what most people would call alive. But exist they do, in the house they've known before. Eriol left the keys in Sakura's hands when he left. It serves as a place for the Cards to relax and be themselves as they haven't for a long time.

            Some days, like today, one could mistake them for almost human.

~          ~          ~

            Fly has been feeling awkward around Windy lately. Not uncomfortable, precisely, just a little unsure about whether he should speak to her. He tells himself it's nothing, but he knows he's lying. He can't quite put words around his feelings yet, but he knows what they mean.

            Fortunately so does she, and she has just that little extra bit of age that keeps her from uncertainty. There's no need for words between them, they understand each other so very well by now.

            It's easy for her to find him on the roof, and doubly easy for him to move closer to her, until without saying a word they're flying, overwhelmed in sunlight and cold air and the presence of each other. It's wonderful to feel her warm tendrils curling over his feathers as they crescendo through the sky, shouting in bird's shriek and wind-woman's voice for the sheer joy of existing, and existing as one.

~          ~          ~

            Watery smiles in her vampiric way to see the two vague shapes in the sky.

            "There must be something in the air," she remarks to her companion. He laughs, the sound strangely unhampered by the shape of his jaw.

            "You mean blowing in on the wind? Took them long enough; they were out and about first of all of us."

            "It's the wind power-base. Yue's attitude is catching." Snickering, she draws herself up into an imitation of Yue's stance. "Oh, deary me, I'm so busy moping I don't notice I have no reason to be. Oh, woe is me!" Thunder laughs so hard he goes rolling over and over in the grass. Righting himself, he sits next to Watery. Out of a sense of fairness, he continues,

            "We're under Yue too, you know." Watery only chuckles and seats herself on the grass.

            "Ah, but we're not so flighty, are we, Thunder-chan?" He wants to object to the diminutive, but with her arm wrapped around his shoulders and rubbing under his chin, it doesn't seem very important.

~          ~          ~

            From the bushes around the lawn a veritable storm of giggles breaks out from what appears to be four eyes of various colors peeking through the branches. They disappear and are quickly replaced with their owners, who hurry away before they are seen.

            They duck through the trees, which obligingly move out of their way, and reach one of the small gardens they have made. In this one cypress and myrtle trees grow year-round and wildflowers grow that have never existed outside of myth. Into this paradise flutter Wood and Flower, giggling madly and finally collapsing on the grass.

            Once she can speak, Flower suggests they get back to their gardening. Wood agrees, and they return to rearranging the flowers and trees to their liking.

            As they side by side sort out a stubborn patch of hyacinth that refused to grow around a laurel sapling, Flower glances shyly at her friend. Raising her hands, she creates a bouquet of delicate roses and hands them to her. Wood blushes for a moment, then hugs Flower tight. Around them, all the trees burst into blossom.

~          ~          ~

            Not too far from the enchanted glade, Earthy is frustrated. She wants to create a model planet, but it won't work. Only the bare rock and soil will appear in her hands. She's tried adding grass and leaves from the garden, but it isn't the same. The makeshift plains and jungles only fall off. She's almost ready to give up and paint her globe, knowing it will never look real if she does, when someone speaks.

            "It's beautiful as it is, you know. What's wrong with it?" These words give release to all of Earthy's frustrations. They pour out of her in a flood.

            "It won't work! I want it to be a real, living planet. But look at it-it's dead! I don't know how to make it work." Only then does she look up to see Illusion bending over her, her features flickering a bit before settling on dark eyes and a gentle smile. "Oh-it's you." Irrationally, she blushes. "I didn't mean-"

            "May I take a look?" Wordlessly, Earthy hands her the sphere. Illusion turns it delicately in her hands for a moment, then gives it back. "Is that what you wanted?" Earthy stares. The globe seems covered with perfect emerald and turquoise, exactly as she has envisioned it.

            "Oh-oh yes. It's wonderful!"

            "Is it?" Illusion settles herself beside Earthy. "I think I preferred the earth to be visible rather than the illusion." Earthy smiles and leans closer.

            "I think they're perfect together."

~          ~          ~

            She knows she's close, so close...She leaps! All her magical power and hunting prowess concentrate on...a stuffed sheep. From somewhere Jump laughs. He's tricked her again. She swears cheerfully--that makes three times in a row. Fiery stalks toward the next rabbit hole. He has to appear sometime. All the tunnels may connect, but they don't lead away. He has to be there.

            They all connect...suddenly she has an idea. Fiery has a wonderful, awful idea. Quietly, she lights a few pieces of soggy, dead wood on fire. It smokes horribly. Grinning, she pushes it into the nearest hole. It will keep burning underground if she has anything to say about it.

            It works perfectly. Within a minute a sooty, coughing Jump crawls out of a tunnel. He knows Fiery planned it. What he doesn't know is the horrible fate she has in store for him.

            Fiery pounces on him and cuddles him without mercy. In the process a lot of soot gets all over her. She doesn't mind. Neither does he, really.

~          ~          ~

            "Canst not catch me!" Sword laughs and dodges Shield's outstretched hand yet again.

            "I'll get you yet!" Sword abruptly stops and rounds on a surprised Shield.

            "Penalty shot! Thou knowest the rules! We musteth speaketh Oldeth Englisheth! Thou art a rule breaker!"

            "Aww..." Resigned, Shield hands the ball over. "Why--I mean, whyeth didst thou maketh this rule?" She ducks the throw with the ease of long practice.

            "Hast thou forgotten? Thou madest this rule, not I." A laughing Sword takes a step back, to her companion's delight.

            "Hah! Thou art in the Damsel in Distress zone. Thou must stayeth there until a prince cometh to rescueth thee!" Shield does a little dance of victory, then pauses. "Ah...did--eth--we provideth for a prince?"

            "Not that I recalleth. Carest thou to do the honors?"

            "By alleth meanseth. Ahem." She begins to speak in a deeper voice. "Feareth thou not, fair maiden. I am cometh to saveth thee." Sword, obligingly, bats her eyelashes and gushes,

            "Oh, whateth a handsometh prince! Sh--He shall surely rescueth me!" Shield, theatrically, sweeps her up and gazes deep into her eyes. It is some time before they recollect themselves enough to say, "Where's the ball?"

            After that, they redefine the Damsel in Distress zone.

~          ~          ~

            Not too far away, Erase is surrounded by green. She is puzzled. The green walls stretch in every direction as far as the eyes can see, and on the ground before her is a checked scarf. It shouldn't be there. She left it at the last intersection, and the path hasn't so much as bent since then. It shouldn't be possible to go in a circle while traveling in a straight line. Shrugging, Erase picks up her scarf and carries on.

            It is while proceeding up the underside of some stairs that she gives up on patience. Reaching down--or possibly up--she grabs the section of maze and puts forth her power. The entire construction vanishes in a matter of minutes. Unfortunately for Erase, she turns out to have been upside down.

            As she mentally checks herself for injuries, the sound of laughter reaches her ears. She looks up to see Maze's freckled face grinning widely. Accepting defeat, Erase takes the outstretched hand. Maze, still smiling impishly, adjusts her challenge.

            Best two out of three is a double victory.

~          ~          ~

            Shadow looms ominously over her helpless victim. With a peal of maniacal laughter, the torture begins.

            "Aack! Shadow! Stopit stopit stopit! That tickles!"

            "Now, really, Glow-chan, would it be called tickle torture if it didn't?" Glow somehow manages to speak through her laughter.

            "Not exactly, no. Hyah!" Shadows drops Glow to rub her head.

            "Oww. What'd you do that for?"

            "That's what happens to evil, cruel, bad Shadow-chans who torture their darling Glow-chans! You're being evil, and you know you promised Dark-neesama you wouldn't!" Shadow pouts.

            "Evil is fun. You're a silly Glow-chan who hurts her Shadow-chan, yes you are!"

            "Am not!"

            "Are too!" Eventually they tire of their argument, about the time Shadow shouts, "Are three!" Giggling, they begin to plot the downfall of civilization, or at least the portion of it in the upstairs hallway.

            "Do you think we could go hide out inside Maze's labyrinth for a while? We could pretend we're running away!"

            "But Shadow-chan, I'm comfortable here. Let's stay here and pretend."

            So they do.

~          ~          ~

If music be the food of love, play on.

Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,

The appetite may sicken and so die.

            Mirror smiles, only a trifle sadly, and takes another chocolate out of the box. This, to her mind, is the supremely perfect way to spend St. Valentine's Day; reading a great romance and eating chocolate. No present these, she bought them days ago. Mirror expects no gift of affection, and wouldn't know what to do with one if she did. She is perfectly content with herself. If at one time she would have said otherwise, now she feels no need for romance. All she needs is peace, quiet and a good book.

            Everything ends happily in her romance. What matter if it is no more than a story?

So full of shapes is fancy

That it alone is high fantastical.

~          ~          ~

            The sun is sinking in a firestorm of color, and Dark and Light sit on the roof to watch. They preserve the silence for a time, then Light says.

            "Does it strike you as funny, the way everyone's pairing off today?"

            "Not really," Dark replies vaguely, "We haven't had time for this lately, but today you can't forget it. Is that why everyone seems to have vanished?" Light nods.

            "You must have seen Windy and Fly today, and Thunder and Watery were just as obviously together. Flower started doing some project with Wood, as Earth did with Illusion, but I doubt either pair got much work done. Fiery has been stalking Jump all day, as I'm sure the smoke told you. Sword and Shield were playing their usual game, but I'm inclined to believe they got distracted. I don't know what Maze and Erase started out doing, but the labyrinth entrance hasn't been around for some time. As for our dear imouto-chans, I last saw them in the upstairs hall, fast asleep."

            "From the noise they were making," says Dark, "I'd say they were playing some rambunctious game. They usually are. How do you remember all that?" She adds, admiring. "I never can." Light chuckles.

            "That, dearest of Darks, is why I am the manager around here and you are not."

            "Oh?" Dark smirks. "Is that why I'm always the one who ends up making chocolate for everyone to give everyone else?"

            "Wait. You do? Why do I never learn these things?" Dark laughs to see the expression on Light's face.

            "I do indeed. So you had better be good, Light-chan, or you'll get cyanide almond crèmes for White Day!"

            "Really?" A gleam creeps into Light's eye. "What if I don't want to be good?"

            "Well," Dark says, equally coyly, "I've heard it said that I take bribes." Light shifts closer, all but purring.

            "What kind of a bribe...Dark-koi?"

            "Oh," Dark says, "I'm sure you can think of something."

            Light kisses Dark on the rooftops at the fading of the sun. They sit there a long time, not caring that that they are in the sight of many, and their hair, ebony and silver, blows in the breeze. Not until the first stars peek out do they speak again. Light smiles sweetly.

            "That kind of a bribe?" Dark grins ferally in the twilight.

            "Your chocolates are safe from cyanide. Arsenic, now..."

~          ~          ~

This is the house where the Sakura Cards dwell. At times, they can seem almost human.


Scene 1: Yes, I made this up. So there.

2: I just wanted to get that last line in somehow.

3: Apologies for Yue-mocking. It's not my fault Watery's snarky!

4: I'm on a bit of a Greek mythology kick. Therefore, the plant life.

5: Cue the corny. They wanted it that way.

6: Awww...They decided snuggling must be included.

7: Oldeth Englisheth is a bit of an inside joke among my friends...sorry if you didn't understand a word of it.

8: As a lifelong connect-the-freckles player, I decided that if Maze were human, she would have freckles.

9: I officially declare Shadow and Glow to be Dark and Light's little sisters. Nyah.

10: Okay, so I used the word 'love'. But it was a quotation, so it doesn't count.

11: This is quite probably the only couple here that's even semi-canonical. Go figure.

Total: There are in this story references to each of the following:

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

some Shakespeare play(ah, but which?)

Lord of the Rings

and Calvin and Hobbes.

Chocolate to anyone who can tell me two of them. Chocolate and a set of Sakura Cards to anyone who can tell me all four.