L-chan's notes:  Written for the Rainy Night challenge on livejournal.  I hope you enjoy it, and please remember to review!

Disclaimer: Card Captor Sakura is the property of CLAMP.  Duh.


"What genius came up with this?" Ruby Moon muttered under her breath.

"He'll hear you," came Spinel Sun's low warning.

"I don't care," his sibling replied emphatically.  "I hatethe rain.  It's so dreary, and it makes my gorgeous hair all frizzy."

"And just what do you think it does to my fur?"

"I know.  It's just miserable.  Isn't this why we left London?"

"I'll be glad to send you back there, if you like."  The two guardians glanced back sheepishly and looked suitably chastised by their master's innocuous threat.  Of course Eriol had heard everything as they had returned to the house.  By allowing them to speak freely, he'd hoped to learn their thoughts on this new situation.  And now he knew.  "Now, either you two can continue your complaining inside, or we can all stand out here and reenact the last scene from Breakfast at Tiffany's."

"Pass," Ruby Moon said weakly as her feet met the ground.

"Me too," Spinel agreed.

Nothing more was said about it... until they were inside.  "But, why rain, Eriol?" Ruby Moon asked.  "Surely you could have come up with another test.  One that wasn't quite so... wet."

Eriol sat back in his red chair and regarded his creations with a fatherly bearing that belied his youthful appearance.  "I have my reasons," was all he would say.  He nodded to Spinel in directing his next remark to both of them.  "It looks like we'll be settling in for the night.  You may return to your false forms."

The midnight blue panther changed to a small, plusher version of himself, and the butterfly girl traded her wings for a high school uniform.  "I'll make some tea, then," Ruby Moon replied, her voice changing only slightly in this other body.  "I'm still chilled through.  Why does the rain have to feel like little daggers of ice?"

"Are you ever going to let this go?" Spinel replied, lazily stretching his little plush legs like a true cat.

Eriol watched indulgently as his guardians continued bickering on their way to the kitchen.  The small smile on his lips slowly faded, and he stood from his chair to warm himself in front of the fireplace.  The emptyfireplace.  With a quick wave of his hand, low flames began licking up around dry logs.

He could understand their unenthusiastic response to his first test.  It had rained many of their last days in London, and they'd been looking forward to better weather in Japan.  Though the day had started pleasantly enough, the tests needed to begin immediately, and needed to have an urgency to propel Sakura into action.

Now Eriol's smile returned.  He hadn't been prepared for Sakura.  Nothing that Kaho had told him had done the young girl justice.  She was the embodiment of kindness and innocence and cheer, which reassured the ancient part of him that he'd chosen the right successor.  She had all the qualities necessary to take proper care of the cards.  So, she hadn't figured out how to use them tonight.  But she would.  Even if he had to prod her memory, she'd know what to do.

No matter what anyone else said, for him, this was the perfect test.  He liked the rain—the sound of it gently drumming against the roof, the iridescent trails that decorated foggy windowpanes, the coolness and coziness that blanketed the earth.  And rain was about renewal.  When the sky was clear after a storm, everything seemed fresh again.  Colors were brighter, and the air was cleaner.  Breathing was easier, and loads were lighter.  But most of all, the rain reminded him of home.

Because this house, for all the history and memories contained within its walls, was not his home.  Nothing here was his—Eriol's.  Not even the comfortable red chair, the thing that felt the most familiar, but it was his inheritance, like the property and the memories and the magic, and he could not refuse any of them.  It was his burden to carry, and a duty he would fulfill with pride and dignity.  Then, maybe, when this was all over, his life would be his own again.

It was only just beginning.  This test was the first of many.  Time stretched before him like a road he must travel to reach his inevitable destination.

Destination.  Destiny.  There was so much inherent in that one word.  So many futures relied on the upcoming chain of events.  How would everything play out?  Was he doing the right thing?  Were the memories and visions true?  Or would his intuition fail him when it mattered most?

There are many ways to fail, but only one way to succeed.

And they had to succeed.  All of them.  They had to find that one road that would lead them safely to the other side.  When this rain was over, Sakura would have passed her first test.  Then they'd both have the confidence to make it through this.  He had faith in her.

Everything will be all right.

Yes.  He knew that.

Eriol turned away from the fire and looked around the drawing room.  He'd spent more time in this room than any of the others since they'd arrived in Tomoeda.  It was the closest thing to his library back in London, and it had the same comfortable atmosphere.

As for the rest of the house, it remained relatively unexplored.  Several of the rooms were still closed up, holding years of musty smells and dusty furniture.  Kaho had offered to air the place out before leaving Japan, but he hadn't wanted her here yet.  Not until he'd had a chance to come to terms with that past.

He knew exactly what was behind each door, but he still didn't want to know what else he might find there.  So many little things left over from another life.  Scenes filled his mind, visions of familiar beings, traces of familiar feelings, all so real and tangible that he had to remind himself that these things hadn't happened to him.  For the most part, he was able to separate himself from Clow, but other times, the line blurred.  He'd only trusted Kaho with some of these concerns, keeping the rest to himself.  But it had all been so much easier to deal with when they were all blithely back in England.

He'd hated leaving her behind.  Kaho had been the only one he could talk to about things.  Ruby Moon and Spinel Sun were his servants and companions, but Kaho was his equal.  They'd discussed the situation, and they knew it had to be this way.  She didn't want to be a distraction, to him or to Sakura, or to risk inadvertently giving the secret away before it was the right time.  She would stay and look after the house in London these next few months, and then she'd join everyone when the tests were completed.  But he couldn't deny that he missed her, even more than he thought he would.  And that was certainly telling.   

"Tea, Eriol?"

Ruby Moon came back into the room, with Spinel right on her heels.  She carried an old silver tea tray that she'd found in a cabinet and polished that morning, but balanced on top was their flowered porcelain tea service.  Eriol smiled to himself again as he realized that he was not alone in his longing for home.  His earlier threat to send his companions back had never carried any real weight, because not only did he need them here, he wantedthem here.  No other reason was quite as important.

"Thank you," he said as he took the cup and saucer from her.  "Wait.  Are these...?"

Ruby Moon nodded.  "Kaho packed them.  She knew you wouldn't last long without your favorite shortbread biscuits."  Then the girl shrugged.  "I thought this would be a good time to bring them out."

"You were right."

Now she dangled one of the cookies above Spinel, who had taken his usual place near the window to read.  "Want one, Suppi?"

"Who is this 'Suppi?'" the plush panther asked with a mix of boredom and exasperation.

"Come on, Suppi.  Have a biscuit.  Have a widdle bitty biscuit, Suppi."

"You can stop that at any time."

"Does widdle Suppi want a widdle biscuit?"

"I'm warning you."

Eriol tried unsuccessfully to hold back his laughter at their familiar squabbling.  They stopped long enough to look at him strangely, but he only gave them his same enigmatic smile and silently sipped his tea.  He had his delightful creations—his friends—his favorite biscuits, and a lovely, steady rain falling outside.

Maybe, just maybe...

...this could be home.