L-chan's notes: Back to the present timeline. Right now, I don't know how long this story will be, but I hope you'll find it interesting enough to keep reading. Thanks for doing so.
We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Life to Bring You This Important Announcement
Chapter 3—In an Instant
Touya didn't hear a word that was spoken to him all evening. He managed to make the proper noises and nod politely when anyone addressed him, but for all he knew, he was confirming his excitement about being eaten by a mutant octopus while his gaki of a brother-in-law provided the play-by-play. And now that dinner was over, and now that Eriol and Kaho had taken their strange family home, maybe his silence would be even more suspicious. Fortunately for him, Yukito was in a particularly gregarious mood and talked enough for the both of them.
He didn't know what to make of Tomoyo's thinly veiled announcement. She'd left soon after, apologizing for her early departure with the excuse that she needed to put her son to bed. But Touya had felt something when he saw her little boy. There was a powerful recognition there that set off warning bells in his head. He hadn't felt such an immediate connection to someone since he'd given up his magic years ago. And when he did the math, it all added up.
Tomoyo's son was his. There was no other explanation. The way she'd looked at him defiantly, like she was daring him to admit, in front of Yukito and everyone, that they'd shared a night together. The way she'd casually neglected to say anything more, making the statement sound more like a general observation about her son's looks than an accusation.
But if it's true, why didn't she tell me?
"Anyone for more coffee?" Sakura asked, breaking into his thoughts.
Coffee. He almost laughed at the absurdity.
"Can I help?" Yukito asked, standing to follow Sakura into the kitchen.
If anyone knew, it was Sakura. She'd been Tomoyo's best friend since elementary school, and the one most likely to know her deepest secrets. He needed to talk to her. Now. "I'll get it," Touya said abruptly, getting to his feet. "Sakura?"
His sister had been about to sit down after his offer, but he gave her a look only siblings would understand. It was a silent communication they'd perfected during their father's illness. "Yes, I'll show you," she answered.
"Everything all right?" Yukito asked quietly as Touya collected their cups. Behind his glasses, his hazel eyes brimmed with concern and a trust Touya knew he'd betrayed.
"Fine. Just trying to be a good brother," he replied.
"Since when?" Syaoran muttered from his spot on the sofa, but a frown from his wife silenced any further sarcastic comments. Touya couldn't even be bothered to do that much. He had bigger problems than the usual trading of insults with Syaoran.
In the kitchen, Sakura started a new pot of coffee, and Touya leaned against the countertop with a heavy sigh. He shifted on his feet apprehensively, then started opening cabinets in a search for something he wasn't going to find. "Onii-chan," Sakura began, her voice pitched so low that he could barely hear her over the percolating machine.
If he was going to find anything out, it had to be now, while they had a moment alone. "Tomoyo's son," he said hesitantly, noticing her green eyes widen, not with surprise, but with something akin to sympathy. "Who's his father?"
Now Sakura shifted uncomfortably, ignoring the persistent beep of the coffee pot. "You should ask her," she evaded.
"Is it me?"
"I really think you should—"
"I'm not asking what you think. I'm asking what you know."
The Sakura he grew up with would have yelled back at him for talking to her like that. The little girl would have said he was a mean bully and stomped on his foot, and the feisty teenager would have told him to go to hell. But this Sakura surprised him by putting her arms around him and hugging him tightly. "She should be the one to tell you," his little sister replied softly. His baby sister, who had somehow turned twenty-four without him ever noticing, and now had her idealistic outlook shattered with the knowledge that her big brother was a cheater and child deserter.
Because it was true. If it weren't, Sakura would be asking what drugs he'd taken to come up with such a delusion. Or she'd worry about him being on the wrong side of crazy. At the very least, she'd wonder when the hell he'd slept with her best friend. Instead, she was completely calm and even supportive. That could only be because it was true.
"I don't think badly of you," she said, reading his mind with sibling intuition stronger than magic. "I remember how it was back then. But I also understand Tomoyo's side of the story."
"Which is what, exactly?" Touya pulled away from his sister, not wanting her patronizing comfort. "God, I don't believe her. I have to—"
"Don't," Sakura said, holding onto his arm before he could take a step toward the door. "Don't go over there angry and hurt. Try to see it from her point of view."
He would have laughed at that, only he couldn't. Tomoyo wasn't entitled to a point of view that basically amounted to her lying to him for four years about something that changed his life so drastically. "Why are you—?"
"Sleep on it," his sister suggested. "Please. Tomorrow you can go to Sonomi-san's and ask anything you want. But just think about it before you do or say something you'll regret."
Touya ran his hands through his hair and closed his eyes as he shook his head. "I can't believe this. I can't believe this is happening." Somehow the full force of it was just now hitting him. He was a father. He had a son. "What am I going to do? What am I... oh, God, what am I going to tell Yuki?"
He'd never told Yukito about Tomoyo. He didn't think he had to. It was only the one time, and while they were trying to put their relationship back together, there was no good reason for that confession to be made. It wouldn't undo what had happened, and Touya knew that being honest about it would be more hurtful than keeping it to himself. It felt awful, like he was lying, but he didn't see any other way. He never asked Yukito about his actions during the time they were apart, believing it was better to leave all that in the past and start over.
Now that mistake had come back to haunt him. He'd been stupid and careless, all because he'd given in to the influence of loneliness, several beers, and a pretty girl's smile. It never should have happened. Why hadn't he stayed home that night instead?
"Give me your keys," he said now. Sakura simply stood there with confusion etched over her normally cheerful features. "Your keys," he repeated, his hand outstretched.
"This isn't something that can wait until tomorrow. If you won't let me borrow your car, I'll call a cab. Or walk. But I'm going over there."
She knew he wouldn't be swayed once his mind was made up, so she nodded slowly and fetched her spare set of keys from the side table drawer. But before handing them to her brother, she hesitated. "What am I supposed to tell them?" she asked, tilting her head slightly in the direction of the living room.
"I don't care. Make something up."
The drive to Sonomi's house should have given Touya enough time to prepare a lengthy and detailed list of all the reasons why Tomoyo was one-hundred-percent in the wrong to hide this from him, or to contemplate what having a child meant to him, or even to nurse his anger so as not to lose any of its intensity before he could light into her. Instead he forced himself to focus on the dark road, because he could not afford one second of distraction. His knuckles turned white from his tight grip on the steering wheel, and his eyes fought against blinking and losing sight of the faded stripe along the asphalt.
At the entry gate, he pressed the intercom button and identified himself, which led to a brief pause while the housekeeper relayed the information and awaited permission to allow their visitor inside. It seemed to take longer than it should, but perhaps that was because time had stopped moving at a normal rate. It hadn't meant anything for the past three hours, and he wasn't even aware that three hours had passed. It felt like a nanosecond and an eternity. The gate finally opened, and he made his way to the front door as time sped up again.
He was surprised that Tomoyo chose to greet him at the door, instead of trying to gain an upper hand by making him wait. "Welcome," she said pleasantly, a politely inquisitive smile pasted on her face. But he wasn't fooled. She knew why he was here, and he could see the nervousness in her eyes, even though she was clearly determined to play the proper hostess. "Would you like some tea?"
"Why, are you all out of coffee?" he replied, feeling his upper lip fight against curling in a sneer.
Tomoyo blanched visibly but maintained her poise. "No." Her voice was strong, though still with a slight tremor in it. She kept her eyes on his, and if he hadn't been so upset, he might have admired her for not recoiling like a timid mouse at his hostile demeanor. "Well, then, please have a seat," she offered, gesturing toward the front room and its plush sofa.
Touya didn't want to sit. He didn't want to sit and chat cozily like old friends. They weren't friends. They weren't anything. But she turned away and left the foyer, giving him little choice but to follow.
Neither of them sat. "I know what you're going to say," Tomoyo began.
"You can't possibly know what I'm going to say," he answered. "God, how could you do this?"
"Aren't you even going to ask? You're being awfully presumptuous."
"Don't even start. He's mine. I know it."
She closed her eyes and sighed. "Yes."
"Why didn't you ever tell me?"
"I had my reasons."
"That's not good enough."
Her violet eyes opened again and regarded him honestly. "I was scared, okay? I was twenty years old, and I'd just had my life turned upside down. I didn't know what I was going to do. I didn't even know if I was going to keep him."
He looked at her, aghast and disgusted, and she was quick to explain before he could think the worst of her. "I spoke to our lawyer about adoption. That was my immediate reaction—I was too afraid and confused to even think about raising him myself. But of course she pointed out that the odds of him finding a good family were low to none, so I told her that I'd think about it and get back to her."
"But I never did," she continued. "As the days passed, I realized that I did want him. I'm his mother, and there was no way I'd be able to live with myself if I gave him up. I knew I'd always worry about him and wonder what he was doing and if he was happy. And I realized I loved him too much to turn him over to someone who could never love him as much as I do. Once I realized that, I knew I'd made the right decision."
Touya tried to take all of this in, and he was finding that against his will, his anger was beginning to subside. Maybe it was the vulnerable and open way she spoke about her child. But he didn't want to be touched by her story, a story that should have included him. All of her decisions were made without him, and that was inexcusable. "That doesn't answer my question. Why didn't you tell me?"
Now Tomoyo sat on the sofa and waited until he did the same before answering. "I thought it would be better that way. I didn't want to cause you any trouble."
"I knew you and Yukito-san were working things out, and the last thing you needed was me coming along and botching that up. It's not like I expected you to drop everything and marry me. And I didn't want you to think that's what I was after."
"When I saw you at Sakura's wedding, I knew I had to tell you, but I couldn't. And then your father got sick, and, well, that would have been horrible timing, wouldn't it? It was almost like I wasn't supposed to tell you."
He leaned back and tilted his head against the sofa, staring up at the ceiling. "I guess those are reasons. I'm not sure if they're good ones."
"I'm sorry. I truly am."
All of this... all of this was so overwhelming that Touya still didn't completely believe it. It was something that should be happening to someone else. "You told Sakura," he said, trying to remember that he was supposed to be upset about this and not feel sorry for her.
Tomoyo nodded. "She's always supported me, and that was what I needed, more than anything."
"And your mother? What did she have to say?" The pause that followed his question was long enough to make him look at her. "Does she know it's me?" Considering that Sonomi probably would have had him killed, if not worse, he'd have to guess that she didn't.
"No. I told her it was a one night stand, which is the truth."
"It wasn't just a one night stand."
"Well, it was just one night, and we were standing," she mused, smiling slightly like she was joking, but he couldn't find the humor.
"Don't play semantics games. You know you weren't just some random screw to me."
"Wow. You sure know how to make a girl feel special."
"Well, now we're even."
Tomoyo's tiny forced smile was replaced with a thoughtful frown. "No matter when or how I told you, you were going to hate me. Damned if I do, and damned if I don't. Which isn't completely fair. I certainly didn't get pregnant on purpose, or all by myself, you know."
Touya reluctantly admitted that was valid, but it wasn't the point. Or maybe it was, since he wanted to blame her for this, when he'd been a willing participant and was fifty-percent responsible for the consequences. Being angry with her was in part to distract him from being angry with himself. And a poor distraction at best. "Why now?" he asked quietly.
"You deserve to know," she answered simply, "whether or not you want anything to do with him. And even if you don't, I want to be able to tell him the truth, when he's old enough to understand."
Whether or not I want anything to do with him? What did that mean? Did she think he would callously walk away from here and act as if this child didn't exist?
It wasn't going to be easy. It was going to cause a major upheaval in his life, not to mention how it would affect his relationship with Yukito. And Tomoyo would become a permanent part of his life, someone he had to discuss things with and make decisions with, unlike the polite yet vague way they'd always treated each other before. But this was something he had to do, no matter how hard it was.
"I'm asking you because I want this to be your choice," Tomoyo said, breaking into his thoughts. He'd missed the first part of whatever she'd said. "And, if you don't want to see him, then please don't pretend that you do. I don't want him becoming attached to you if you're going to change your mind."
Coming from anyone else, that would have sounded like an insult. Anyone who knew Touya would know that he took his responsibilities seriously, and he could be trusted to do the right thing. But Tomoyo was speaking as a mother needing to protect her child. He had to respect that.
"So... do you want to meet Reiji?"
Reiji. She'd probably said it before, but it hadn't resonated. His son's name was Reiji.
"Yes. I want to meet Reiji."