L-chan's notes: This results from a challenge ordering me to write fluff for a pairing I said I never would. While I don't find this to be the vilest of choices, I certainly never predicted this scenario could come from my imagination.
Disclaimer: I hope Amy Lowell isn't spinning in her grave at my use of lines from her poem, Patterns, (I doubt it), but if so, I apologize. I'm well past the point of apologizing to CLAMP for my use of their characters.
"It's my last day here."
"Finally," came the muttered reply.
"Aren't you going to show me a good time?"
"Do the words 'hell' and 'frozen over' mean anything to you?"
Eriol laughed as he always did at his disagreeable descendant's lack of enthusiasm. He murmured a polite word of thanks when one of the servants swept his breakfast plate away and then returned his attention to the young man scowling at the end of the table. They'd spent the past two weeks together with the excuse that Eriol had always meant to see Hong Kong but had never gotten around to it, at which Syaoran found it necessary to remind Eriol that Clow Reed had lived in Hong Kong for many years. But that was a different lifetime, Eriol had argued, and therefore did not count. And as the rest of the Li family felt honored by Eriol's request, there was little for Syaoran to do but go along with it.
"I suppose I could ask Meiling, but I don't want to deny you the privilege."
"And I suppose it's my duty to spare Meiling the burden of your companionship."
"That's quite noble of you."
"There's nothing noble about it. She'll owe me. For a very long time."
It was a play, a dance, a back-and-forth that had always gone on and would continue to do so, because they both liked it that way. Eriol prodded and Syaoran protested, each stepping in time to the verbal choreography that had developed so naturally between them. Others found their opposite demeanors humorous, noting that the wider Eriol's grin grew, the sharper the daggers in Syaoran's eyes became. At this point, it was expected, a constant in an ever changing world.
And it was all about subterfuge.
"The botanical garden?"
"You know me well."
"We all have our crosses to bear."
The summer sunshine poured over the park like cheer, the rays almost tangible as they streamed through the branches of the trees and bounced off the camellia and magnolia petals. It represented the fleetingness of a perfect moment—something that was undeniably there, but as soon as one tried to catch it, it slipped right through his fingers. Happiness could never be caught and contained. It only existed on the cool breeze, or at the bottom of an ice cream bowl, or in the gaze of someone who mattered more than he should.
"'He had a whim that sunlight carried blessing,'" Eriol said quietly as they followed the garden's winding path.
"'And I answered, "It shall be as you have said."'"
Syaoran shrugged and consciously avoided Eriol's eyes. "Such a depressing poem. The guy is dead. Where is the blessing in that?"
Eriol mimicked Syaoran's shrug with great exaggeration, hoping to get an eye-roll or a scowl out of his companion, but this time, there was no such exasperation in his features. Instead there was confusion, and a longing to understand. It was an unguarded look he only adopted in the most private of circumstances. "It's simply a whim. We're all prey to them."
Syaoran stopped walking, casting a long shadow along the sun-dappled stones. "A whim such as that which brought you here?"
"It was more than a whim," Eriol answered honestly, standing next to him and perhaps wondering why fate was so cruel as to make him an inch shorter than his most distant of relatives. It likely was an evening of the score, to give Syaoran some perception of power where he often felt he had none.
"Why do you do this?" Syaoran's voice had dropped to a low pitch, ragged with the exhaustion of being forced to make decisions about things he never wanted.
"You left England so hastily."
"What else was I supposed to do?"
"Accept the pattern."
"Pattern. There is no pattern."
"Then why do things repeat themselves? Why are we here in a garden, just like that last day in London?"
"You wanted to come here."
"You suggested it. Doesn't that tell you something?"
Now Syaoran's expression hardened. His dark eyes glowered like embers, and his mouth was drawn in a tight line. "It tells me that I'm insane. If a pattern is repetition, and insanity is repeating something and expecting a different result, then I am clearly insane."
"You just admitted to the pattern. You know what comes next."
The beginning had been last spring, in Regent's Park, near the daffodils. It was still early in the season, with a chill lingering in the air, though the sun did its best to make everything bright. The colors were crisp, from the green grass to the yellow flowers to the blue, cloudless sky. Everything in such focus that the memory was preserved like a living photograph of sensory dimensions. Syaoran had unwillingly replayed that scene in his mind until it ceased meaning anything and stopped haunting him. Unfortunately, it never reached that point.
Eriol stepped closer, and the inch difference in their heights seemed to disappear, leaving Syaoran with no advantage, no power. A pair of stormy gray eyes closed, while brown ones fought to stay open and relay the message of what was happening to his brain in short order so that his feet would move, propelling him backward before it could happen again. But something held him in place.
A brushing, so gentle as to be imperceptible, had they not been concentrating all of their attention on the action. Softness and firmness both, contradictory and yet pleasantly balanced, in a frightening kind of way. The barest hint of the moisture within, withheld for now like the summer's promise to rain upon the thirsty flowers when the time was right. Too much, too soon, and they would drown.
Instead they were given warmth, a glow they felt in their cheeks, in the tips of their fingers, in their knees that struggled against the rush that flooded through them. A simple, quiet gesture, the very picture of calm from the outside, while inside hearts pounded as if coming to life for the first time. The lightest of touches, delicate as a feather, but containing the weight of the world. Contradiction. Balance.
Just as he started it, Eriol ended the kiss, and Syaoran was surprised to hear Eriol's shaky intake of breath. That show of vulnerability allowed him to do the same and pull in an almost desperate gasp of oxygen. There had been more this time. It was more than a whim. It was a test. If there was no feeling there, then the incident could be discounted and ignored. But if there was....
The smile was back. That infuriating Cheshire cat smile that covered up the fact that the world had turned upside down, spun backward, and circled the moon before coming to a complete stop and regaining its proper momentum as if it had always been that way. The same smile he'd seen in Regent's Park, near the daffodils. Only that time, it hadn't been preceded by the brief glimmer of weakness.
Perhaps Syaoran had power after all.
"I'm going home tomorrow," Eriol said unnecessarily. The date had been circled on Syaoran's calendar since this visit had been announced.
"You'll come to England soon?" The tone implied a question, while his eyes conveyed an order.
"Why should I?" Arms crossed defiantly, feet planted in an arrogant stance. The dance continued.
"You don't want to break the pattern."
"Whims, patterns. Which is it?"
"I believe that's up to you."