Warnings in effect: Crack pairing romance. Feel free to be afraid, this is a challenge-fic.
A/N: This was written in response to the "One False Pairing" Tsukimineshrine challenge. The challenge mandated that we all had to write a WAFF featuring the one pairing we swore we'd never be caught dead writing. Unfortunately, the one pairing I swore I'd never write is somewhat…disturbing. Have fun…
The heat of the day was almost upon them by the time she finally made it up the hill, rising and shining in waves over the tombstones. It was a quiet graveyard—just far enough into the mountains that the urban sprawl hadn't swallowed it yet—and her family's small plot sat before her in a neat little rectangle, all the stones lined up like small granite soldiers.
Everything looked…exactly the same.
Sakura snorted. Of course things looked the same. It was a graveyard, an old one at that; there weren't many people who cared about renovating the grounds. The headstones were a little more worn, of course, and if she looked closely she could see tiny weeds coming up between them...but everything else was exactly the way she remembered it. Mother's headstone, Father's headstone, all of the rest...all of them lined up and waiting. She hadn't been here in many years, and there was work to be done.
She set her packages down and went straight for the weeds, coaxing them out of the ground with strong fingers. Flowers were next, then the incense, and then there was nothing left to do but collapse on the green and observe the results, the small trails of smoke rising up from each altar.
Behind her, her purse rustled.
"Kero-chan…" She sighed, rising up on aching knees. "I thought I told you—"
Her Guardian was nowhere in sight.
Strong arms wrapped around her from behind and pulled her to her feet, carefully leaning her back against a warm chest. He was in this form again, Sakura realized with a smile, and reminded herself to tease him about it later. "Weird form" or not, he seemed to be wearing it an awful lot lately.
"Looks pretty good." The Guardian remarked, resting his pointy chin down onto her shoulder. Sakura shrugged in annoyance and twisted out of his grasp, pointedly brushing his fingers away.
"I thought you said you'd keep out of sight."
She gave him a look.
"--enough." He shrugged, pulling his wings in. "Not like anyone's around." He folded his brown arms in front of him and stared at her petulantly. Sakura sighed and turned back to the altar in front of her, not interested in arguing.
"I hope these are alright…" She said, bending down to fuss with the lilies. "I'd rather have orchids, but they're not in season this time of year, and you know oniichan wouldn't have wanted me to spend all day looking for flowers since I can't—"
"They're fine." He rumbled insistently, tugging at the back of her dress. "Jeez, don't get your tail in a knot."
"I don't have a tail."
"Whatever." He snorted and flicked his wings slightly. It was a very Yue thing to do, and Sakura grinned at the memory.
"What?" He asked, suspicious.
"You looked like Yue, just now."
He snorted again, in exact the same manner. "Yeah, right!"
She resisted the urge to point out that he'd done it again, just chuckled and looked at the graves. So many people they'd had to say goodbye to. So many graveyards they had to go visit. It was easier here, in Japan, where the losses were oldest…but in some ways more dear, and now that she was here again she wasn't sure if it was easy at all.
"Hey there, c'mon now…" Kero murmured, drawing closer. His warm hands were suddenly everywhere, hot breath at her throat, and the look in his eyes was far from innocent.
"Kero!" she gasped, forgetting the –chan for the moment. "You can't—"
"Can't what?" He growled, running his hands up the sides of her hips.
"We're in a graveyard!" She hissed, and gave him a shove. "Have some respect!"
"Well, sorry to bother you, Mistress!" He huffed. "You looked like you could use some cheerin' up." He shifted back to his feline form in an instant, looking so injured that she couldn't help but smile. Kero didn't understand human relationships, and things like propriety. He dealt with emotions the same way he dealt with everything else—brash, straight-forward, and completely without tact.
Maybe that was what she liked about him.
"Oh, come here!" She sighed, reaching out to scratch him behind the ears. The Guardian melted instantly, leaning into her touch with whole-hearted eagerness. "Honestly…"
"…do I really look like Yue?" The lion asked finally, looking up at her curiously.
"What you said."
"Oh…well, you did, when you stood like that."
She sunk down to the grass and buried her hands in his mane, breathing the scent of hot fur and funeral flowers. His wings spread out and surrounded her, welcome shade in the midday light.
"You know, I kind of miss him." Kero said eventually, staring at her brother's headstone. "He swore he hated me, but he always slipped me chocolates."
"He 'hated' Syaoran too." Sakura remembered. "But when we got engaged, big brother loaned Syaoran the money for the ring…he was always doing stuff like that."
"Yeah." The lion agreed.
He swished his tail in long, lazy arcs through the grass and dipped his head toward her brother's grave, the closest the Guardian ever came to showing actual respect.
"I'm glad you gave Yue to him."
"Yeah." Sakura whispered.
More silence, just the soft buzz of honeybees attracted to the flowers.
"Do you ever…do you ever wish I had sealed you?"
The Guardian was back to human form in an instant, wrapping a thick arm around her shoulders.
"Now, why would you ask something stupid like that?" He groused, shaking her gently. "Next you'll be tellin' me you should have asked Ruby Moon to house-sit!"
They both had a good hard laugh at that one, unable to imagine the carnage they'd find waiting for them.
"No, seriously," Sakura said eventually, once she could breathe again. "It's just that…maybe, if I sealed you in with the Cards…"
"I know." Kero said quietly, all trace of joking gone. "And I already told you."
"My place is with you."
She nodded slightly and leaned into his embrace, brushing her fingertips against the soft cloth of his robes. They wouldn't speak of the real reason they were visiting, that Sakura's magic was finally deserting her—that after so many journeys, this would probably be her last. Soon enough, she'd need to find a successor for her own little legacy, but right now…
"Where we go," Kero said gently, twining his fingers around hers, "we go together."
That was all they had to say on the matter.