AN: Well, my buddy Kyte-chan put up a challenge in her LJ community (all ExT fans welcome!) to do an ExT songfic that somehow mentions Vaseline. So here's my entry—spot the Vaseline reference! It's not difficult. Also, this almost works as a follow-up to another of my songfics, 'Piano Man.' I didn't plan it as such, but it ended up with certain aspects seeming to fit.
I don't own Cardcaptor Sakura. This song is from the musical The Scarlet Pimpernel, and as such is the property of Frank Wildhorn. Enjoy my first-ever challenge fic, but be warned—this ain't fluff-stuff.
Where's the Girl
It was a dingy little place, tucked away on an equally-dingy street in one of the darker areas of town. It was shadowed, with a distinctive sort of regular clientele, and was definitely not the kind of establishment that anyone with any sort of reputation would probably frequent.
The inside of the bar was by no means any nicer than the outside. It was dark, lit only by a few naked bulbs dangling from the ceiling; these swung to and fro as they willed, making the shadows dance and move to their beat.
And the patrons were decidedly shady. They glared suspiciously at anyone who dared to enter; they would size up the newcomers, and in most cases, apparently decide that the newbie wasn't worth bothering or bothering with, and go back to whatever they were doing.
Whatever they were doing, it was probably immoral at best, and downright illegal at worst.
This was the scene he stumbled onto. As was the norm, those already sitting there looked him up and down, sizing him up carefully, trying to see how much they could potentially get away with.
He was a well-dressed man, wearing slacks and a sweater beneath his black overcoat, obviously someone of wealth, and definitely not the kind of person that usually hung around the place. But in a surprising move, he glared right back at them. They must have decided that if they couldn't intimidate him, he wasn't worth the trouble. Thus, they went back to their cheap alcohol and whispered conversations.
She was sitting alone at the bar, bent over something amber-colored and probably bordering on poisonous. Even from across the room, he could see that she was even paler than usual, and either she'd been in a fight recently (which he sincerely doubted), or the dark circles beneath her eyes were the result of some sleepless nights.
But even in spite of that, she was as beautiful as he remembered, maybe even moreso. Her hair was as long as it had been, and at the moment hung loose and unfettered in soft waves down her back. Though her posture was slumped, almost defeated, he could quite plainly see that she was still blessed with the body of a goddess; he almost thought she was too thin. Perhaps she hadn't been eating enough?
She was dressed well, just like the young lady of wealth she was. But such dark colors—a deep purple turtleneck, black pants, with a long silver necklace. A black purse sat on the counter beside her, alongside a dark gray coat, perfectly suited for the chilly winter.
It half-surprised him that she hadn't been jumped the instant she walked in the door, but he had heard it said that even amidst the underworld, there was a distinct code of honor, so to speak. Within that code, those who would commit crimes against children or women fell on the lowest rung of the proverbial social ladder, the scum of that world. And it was true that most of the others there seemed to be giving her a pretty wide berth, offering this young woman plenty of space. Perhaps it was also her obvious class—messing with her would almost definitely be trouble.
He, however, wasn't going to do such a thing. It had taken him forever to track her down; he had gone to her home, but she hadn't been there. So it had taken all of his considerable charm to get the elderly landlady to tell him where she had gone. The gray-haired woman had finally told him where he would find her, adding in a sniff of disproval that 'such a nice, proper young lady' would go hang around 'a terrible place like that' amidst 'those ruffians.'
He strolled right up behind her, earning several amazed, suspicious, or downright hostile looks from said 'ruffians.' But no one said anything. That was the easiest way in a place like this: don't mess with anyone else's business. Things went a lot smoother for everyone that way.
One hand came to rest on the bar beside her, and he leaned his weight on it. She didn't look up, though she had to have noticed him. She was just ignoring him, just as she probably ignored all who attempted to intrude upon her solitude. Most likely, the only one she conversed with here was the bartender, a portly fellow sporting several visible tattoos.
For a split second, he hesitated. Then he spoke to her. "Tomoyo?"
Her eyes snapped upwards at the mention of her name, and she spun to see the speaker.
Eriol saw confusion flash across her eyes, followed in rapid succession by recognition, shock, and finally, something eeriely similar to fear. But it was suppressed in a heartbeat, leaving only eyes that reflected quiet suspicion. Her face moved—surprise, then managed to twist into a very good parody of a welcoming smile. "E-Eriol."
Without being invited, he sat down next to her, dropping his coat on top of hers. "It's been a long time, hasn't it? How have you been?" He was babbling, and he knew it, but the conversation had to start somewhere, didn't it?
She looked quite displeased, but ever polite, she said nothing to that effect. She simply replied, "It's been years. I've been fine. Working. A lot." All of that, he knew. She had taken over her mother's company three years ago, and since then, life had been nothing but business for Daidouji Tomoyo. She travelled often, going to meetings and the like for the sake of the family business.
When he had set out to track Tomoyo down, he had done his homework.
He continued to jabber on, asking questions of common courtesy, and noting her monosyllabic responses. Everything about her was saying 'go away and leave me alone,' but he chose to ignore her unspoken signals, and remain in cheerful, if feigned, obliviousness.
Finally, having exhausted the usual topics, such as the weather and whatnot, he decided it would probably be wiser to just take the plunge and tell her, in so many words, why he had tracked her down, why he was here now, after so long. It had been such a long time since…that night…
"Tomoyo, why did you leave?" he asked. She stiffened quite perceptibly. Her eyes, which hadn't left her drink since he'd taken the barstool beside her, narrowed in anger. Yes, anger.
And for a fleeting second, he was sure she was going to answer him.
"Well, it was nice to see you again," she jumped up suddenly, threw a few bills on the counter, and was out of there almost too quickly for him to react. But he wasn't going to be shaken off that easily. It had taken him a long time to work up the nerve to even track her down, and longer still to get up his courage and confront her now. He had waited too long to be put off now because she didn't want to talk about what had happened between them.
He dashed out the door and caught up with her. By the time he got out there, she was already halfway down the block. She was hurrying, that was for certain.
"Why are you running?" he asked, half-jogging alongside her.
"I'm not running," she replied automatically. He had the sense that she'd been telling herself that little lie for a while now, probably long enough that she had come to believe it herself.
"Then stop," he persisted. When she didn't listen, he reached out and grabbed her arm, not roughly, but hard enough to pull her to a stop, and tightly enough that she couldn't escape.
"Let go of me!" she protested loudly, struggling against his grasp. "What are you doing?"
"I just want to talk to you, that's all," he realized he was starting to get angry by her resistance. Why wouldn't she just stop and talk to him? That was all he wanted. They didn't even have to go anywhere for the conversation; he would have been happy to just sit on the curb, or whatever she wanted.
But her resistance inflamed him for reasons he couldn't quite grasp at.
"I don't want to see you," Tomoyo said, still trying to pull away from his touch. "I hate you."
"Why?" he growled, more like an animal than a man; he yanked on her arm, perhaps a little more roughly than he'd intended, but he was angry, rapidly approaching the point where he would be beyond reason. "Just tell me that, Tomoyo. Why?" If she was frightened of him at that moment, he really wouldn't have blamed her.
She didn't fight back. Her head remained down, and her shoulders started to shake. The arm he held in a death grip went limp from either a lack of resistance or a lack of circulation. He waited.
Her head flew up, eyes blazing with anger and tears, standing out a brilliant indigo against her pale face; one strand of blue-black hair hung down in her face, but she made no move to brush it away. "Because I love you, you miserable son of a bitch!" she snarled with just as much ferocity as him.
He froze. His anger, frustration—it all vanished, replaced by a strange something in the very pit of his stomach. And he suddenly became almost incapable of coherent thought. "You…what?"
She wasn't backing down any more. She actually moved closer, putting her face right in his, so close their noses were almost touching. "I love you. That's why I left. Because I don't want to love you."
That jolted him. "Why?"
"Let me ask you a simple question. Did you ever see me as anything other than a replacement for the one who broke your heart?" she sneered; Daidouji Tomoyo was infuriated beyond description. Her hands were trembling violently as she tried to fish into her purse, and withdrew a tube of Vaseline lip balm; it must have just been the first thing that her fingers closed around, because she threw it at him, and with relatively good aim. It bounced squarely off his forehead.
The blow stung just slightly, and surprised him enough that he released her arm. She stepped back, just out of arm's reach. She could have taken that opportunity to flee, to run away from this man she loved and despised. But she didn't. She simply stood there, glaring daggers at him.
When Tomoyo spoke again, it was with a frightening calm, and a dead look in her eyes that sent chills down Eriol's spine. "I loved you. I gave you my heart that night. I wanted to give you everything. But all you saw in me was someone who wasn't her." Her eyes narrowed. "She broke your heart, and still you pine after her like a little puppy that keeps coming back after its been kicked."
For the first time in Eriol's life—either of his lives, actually, be it past or present—he was completely speechless. The girl—no, the woman—who had haunted his dreams for so long had just said to him the words he most wanted to hear in the world, and he was too stupid to reply. After that fateful night (and oh, how he treasured that memory), she had disappeared, taking his heart and a large piece of his soul with her. And he couldn't think. He couldn't even breath.
"And you yourself proved me right," she sighed, turning her head; seeing her in profile, he could see something he hadn't noticed a moment before: her eyes had taken on a very peculiar shimmer. "You didn't come after me."
All his years of life, knowledge, and wisdom, and he couldn't find a single word to tell her how wrong she was, how desperately he wanted her to come back. And he certainly couldn't tell her how scared he had truly been to find her, to confront her like this, without knowing the reason for her leaving. He had only known she was gone, and hadn't come back.
She turned away. "Goodbye, Hiiragizawa-san." The formality stung, and she started to walk away.
Finally, Eriol found his voice. "I didn't know."
He was amazed when she stopped and turned. "What?"
Not knowing what would come of what he was about to say, he blurted out the honest-to-God truth. "I didn't come after you, Tomoyo," he took a step towards her, and she did not move away, "because I didn't know you wanted me to."
She stared at him, and he had the sudden sensation that she was looking straight through him, right down to his very soul, reading whether or not he was telling the truth. He willed her to understand, and risked another step towards her. "Tomoyo, please…stop. Stop doing this. You're hurting both of us. Please. I'll get down on my hands and knees and beg if you want." He was babbling, and he knew it, but it seemed to be working. She wasn't trying to run away from him.
With each word, he continued to inch towards her, and she wasn't moving. He reached out towards her with one hand. "Let's just talk. Just for a while." Almost close enough…there. Feeling greatly daring, his fingers brushed her cheek, tracing the damp line of a single tear that had run down her face. She looked up at him with something there. Was it…hope?
Tomoyo's teeth clamped down tightly on her lower lip, trying to keep it from trembling, but it was no good. And in a moment Eriol had dreamt of for so long, she walked willingly into his arms. Of course, in his dreams she hadn't been crying, but it was a start.
After a moment, he took the initiative, and planted a very gentle kiss on her hair. Then he pulled back the tiniest bit. "Talk?" he asked. And she nodded.
Sunlight played across the sleeping girl's face. Her dark hair was strewn messily over the pillow, standing out against the white bedding. She was still in the clothes she had been wearing the night before, the sweater and slacks, but was showing no discomfort for her unusual nightclothes. And a night's rest had done a world of good, all but erasing the tear-streaks and other marks of the night before.
Tomoyo shifted a bit in her sleep, and snuggled a little closer to Eriol. He was propped, leaning his weight against one arm, while the other was draped across her shoulders in a protective manner. He tightened that arm a little as she moved towards him, and continued to watch her sleeping.
In his bed, no less, though nothing had happened.
This was a night he would always treasure. They had talked, talked for hours, until finally she had dozed off, leaning against him. He had eventually surrendered to sleep as well, and he had still woken before her. And now he was free to watch her without hindrance.
For a while, anyway.
Finally, she seemed to become aware of the sun's presence, and winced against it. Slowly, her eyes fluttered open, and she looked up at him. There was a moment of confusion, followed by a rush of comprehension as the events of the previous evening came flying back to her. She sat straight up, and turned to look at him, questioningly.
"Daijoubu," he whispered gently, reaching up to brush a lock of hair away from her forehead.
Tomoyo visibly relaxed at that, but she still looked worried. "Eriol…" His ears were dancing at the sound of his true name falling from her lips, "where do we go from here? What happens now?
"Doesn't matter," he shook his head, leaning down to kiss her. "I found you." His lips brushed ever so slightly against hers. "And I'm not losing you again." Then he kissed her—for real, like he had wanted to for so long.
And there was no resistance.
AN: Most of you probably realized that 'she' is Kaho. Kyte-chan's probably going to kill me for mentioning IT, but I wanted to go in a different direction than my usually pieces of marshmallow fluff. And I wasn't exactly flattering towards Kaho, either. So Kyte-chan, please don't hurt me!
Anyway, my first challenge-response fic. Did you see where I mentioned Vaseline? I hope you enjoyed it. As always, thanks for reading, and a double thanks to any who review! Luvs!