DISCLAIMER: Card Captor Sakura and all its characters are the property of CLAMP.Your friends are the Family that you choose.-- anonymous
-The Ones That You Choose-
Sometimes, Yukito felt that he had no family at all, and the edges of his cheer slid into the hole where his father and mother should be. His grandparents most likely had no idea of this, or they would not be gone, away on one trip after another, so often. His house always seemed so empty when they were away, as if they didn't exist, as if they were a figment of his imagination.
Sometimes, Yukito thought that he should get a pet. A cat, sleeping in the sun streaming in from a window, seemed like something he should see when he walked into the living room. A great big cat would look right, with fur like the sun itself. But his grandmother was allergic to cats, and dogs too.
Sometimes, Yukito had to go home to that empty house anyway, and try to find something to fill the vacant time after his schoolwork was finished. Sometimes, but not today. Because today his new friend, who was walking home with him, had asked if he minded making a side trip on the way..
"I'm picking up a cake for the kaiju," Touya explained flippantly. "She just made the cheer squad at her school." He didn't elaborate beyond that, just kept walking with long strides, and Yukito had to walk quickly to keep up with the dark-haired teenager.
He always called his little sister, Sakura, "the monster", but Yukito thought she was a cute little girl. He wondered what it would be like to have a sibling. "That's great," Yukito said to Touya, "you and your father must be proud."
Touya shrugged in reply. They had arrived at the cake shop, and for a few minutes they paused outside, admiring the different flavors displayed in the window. "She'd like that pink one," Touya mused. "But that chocolate one looks really good, too."
"They all look good," observed Yukito. "What's her favorite kind?"
"Strawberry," replied Touya. He glanced over at Yukito and smirked at the epicurean avarice on the pale teenager's face. "Which one is your favorite?"
"I like strawberry, too," answered Yukito in a drifting voice. "Especially that kind, with the ones that are dipped in chocolate. That marzipan next to it looks good, though. Or the ganache covered one, with the praline … ."
"Uh-huh," said Touya.
Yukito ripped his attention away, and saw Touya's reflection in the glass eyeing him with obvious amusement. Embarrassed, Yukito felt his face coloring pink. He straightened his glasses, and himself.
"Can we go inside the bakery without overwhelming you?" laughed Touya.
The laughter was warm, inclusive. Yukito smiled in answer. "I won't embarrass you," he said.
Touya, waving off the promise, snorted. "You're not embarrassing me, Yuki," he told the other boy. "Come on, let's go in."
Yukito was determined to act cool once they were in the cake shop, but once they were in the cake shop, that became difficult. The refridgerated cases held row after row of mouth-watering visions, and behind the counter, decorators were smoothly applying the finishing touches to many more. There were cheesecakes and tortes, tiered cakes and tarts. Cakes with fresh fruit and sponge cakes fought for his attention.
Yukito was in heaven. Touya, however, was less happy. He was looking at the small tags that indicated the various cakes prices. After a few more minutes, he tapped Yukito on the shoulder and wordlessly indicated that they should leave. Yukito followed him out the door.
"To-ya?" he asked.
Touya was walking more slowly than he had been walking earlier. Frowning slightly, he looked lost in thought, and frustrated. Yukito walked beside him, just looking at his face, waiting for a response.
"I can't afford any of those," Touya admitted finally. He was silent for several more strides. "Maybe I can get the kaiju something else," he mumbled, not seeming happy with the contemplation.
Yukito thought about the fancy cakes in the shop, and the deft manipulation of piping bags full of frosting. "I could bake you one," he said, suddenly. He wondered why he hadn't thought about it before. "I can do the decorating, too." Of course he could. When he thought about it, he realized that he was the one who always made the birthday cakes for his grandparents.
Touya looked at him sharply, eyes narrowing, but just for a brief moment. The look quickly changed to one of curiousity. "We have all the stuff at home," he said. "And 'Tousan usually makes the cakes for celebrations, but he's been working late and might not get home until after dinner." He was watching Yukito, and Yukito could almost see the thoughts turning behind his observant eyes.
"I don't know why I didn't say something sooner," Yukito said shyly. "It just didn't occur to me. But if you don't mind, I could make a cake for Sakura-chan."
Touya looked at the sidewalk in their mutual path when he answered. "Thanks."
Yukito smiled. Even after just a short time of friendship, he knew that Touya was sparing with his words, but Touya put a lot into the little that he spoke. Yukito smiled a little more brightly as he began to anticipate the afternoon's baking. "It's no trouble," he answered Touya with rising happiness.
His mood remained bright all the way to Kinomoto house. Touya seemed happier, too, and the two teens joked a little bit about events that had happened at school, and talked about soccer. Yukito didn't know very much about the professional teams, but he was learning. Touya asked if Yukito was going to go out for any of the school teams, but Yukito told him that he was content with just helping out occasionally; he wasn't much of a team person.
There was only a little over an hour before Sakura would be home after practice, so the boys set right to creating the cake. After deciding on pink frosting (in three shades) and vanilla cake with strawberries between the layers, they donned aprons and divided the duties. Yukito started cooking the frosting while Touya sliced the berries and sifted flour, following his friend's authoritative directions. With the frosting divided and cooling, waiting for color, and the oven warming, Yukito chatted with Touya and mixed the ingredients for the batter. Touya greased and floured the cake pans.
"You're really good at this," Touya observed. He was trying to get more flour into the pans than on his face, with only moderate success. Yukito showed him how to tap out the excess flour, therefore leaving only an even, light dusting, and then he went back to the gentle folding of the mix.
"It's practice," replied the fair-haired teen. "Not talent," he murmured almost under his breath.
Touya's little sister came home in a breathless explosion through the front door. "I'm home!" she called out loudly. "Oniichan!" She became silent very suddenly.
Touya walked out to the front door entry with Yukito following. Sakura was staring at the additional set of shoes that denoted the guest in her house. Her face was flushing a deep pink. It clashed with the colors of her cheerleading uniform, but she was adorable.
"Yukito-san …" she said, staring at him in total stillness.
"Hello, Sakura-chan," Yukito greeted merrily.
"Hey, kaiju," said Touya. "Yuki is staying for dinner, okay? We're going to be doing homework. Why don't you go take a bath?" he added, casually.
Sakura, if it was possible, blushed harder. She bolted up the stairs, her ponytail tufts bouncing.
"That was easy," the big brother observed.
"Did you just lie to your sister?" Yukito asked uncertainly. He didn't want to be confrontational, but the question was out of his mouth before he could catch it. He stood as nervously still as Sakura had stood a moment ago, wondering if Touya would get angry with him.
Touya glanced at Yukito from the corners of his eyes, unbothered. "We are going to do our homework," he stated, simply. Looking at his friend more directly, he reached out and lightly swatted Yukito on his silvery hair. "Don't be such a scared bunny," Touya added jokingly.
Yukito ducked his head and couldn't help smiling. "The cake is going to take almost an hour to bake, and then we need to wait for it to cool before we frost it," he explained. Turning with Touya, he re-entered the kitchen area. He checked the oven temperature, and finding that the oven was ready, slipped the round pans into its heated interior. Touya, meanwhile, cleared up the light messiness of preparation. When the table was clear, he pulled out his books.
After setting a timer, Yukito joined the other boy and they began their homework. When they got to the math excercises, there was a subtle race between them to finish first. Touya put his pencil down first; Yukito jumped up as the timer dinged.
There was no way to hide the heavenly smells of the kitchen, and as Yukito carefully removed the finished cakes – after checking them with a skewer, first – and placed them out on cooling racks, Sakura's little face peeked into the kitchen. Her eyes wide, she held her fists close to her face with wordless excitement.
"Congratulations on making the cheer squad," said Yukito, darting a look toward Touya.
"Yuki's making you a cake," said Touya, as if he had no part in the idea.
Sakura's excitement bubbled over. "REALLY, Oniichan?" she sputtered.
"Well, not the whole cake," Touya answered. "You get a slice. We get the rest."
Touya started laughing. While the little girl colored red with fighting spirit, Yukito watched the interaction with wide eyes. "Sakura-chan," he interjected. "Would you like to help decorate it, later?"
Sakura's attention immediately switched to the soft spoken boy. She nodded quickly, as if unable to speak. Then, with a last quick look at her brother, she darted out of sight again.
"She is really shy," observed Yukito.
"She's not shy, she's a kaiju," replied Touya.
"I wish she was my little sister," Yukito murmured wistfully.
"Okay," said Touya. Yukito looked at him curiously. Touya leaned back in his chair until it was balanced on the back two legs. "She can be your little sister." And then he gave his new friend a hard, even look. "But just that," he said.
Yukito blinked at the subtle but clear warning in the teen's voice.
When the cake layers had cooled, and it was time to build the cake, the three youths stood around the table at the ready. Yukito found himself the center of both Kinomotos' attention while he showed them how it was done, and as long as he focused on the cake itself, it didn't bother him. He cut the domed tops off of each circle of cake, and explained afterward that it was to make the layers level. Then he carefully applied the slice strawberries, and freshly whipped cream, on top of the first level. Touya observed seriously, learning; Sakura watched while bouncing on her feet.
Yukito then laid the top layer in place. He handed a small piping bag to Sakura, the brightest pink frosting peeking from the metal cone tip. To Touya, he offered a spreading knife. Yukito started frosting one side while Touya, following his example, worked on the other. Sakura held her frosting bag eagerly, licking her lips and still bouncing on her toes.
Touya nibbled on the cut away pieces of vanilla cake while Yukito showed little Sakura how to push the frosting out of the piping bag and how to make curling and swirling designs. They were crooked, and unevenly but enthusiastically placed. Yukito couldn't help giggling. It was hardly the most beautiful cake he had ever made, but he couldn't remember having so much fun doing one. "You're doing a good job," he told his honorary little sister.
Touya rolled his eyes, and stuck a lump of pink sweetness onto Sakura's nose. Sakura raised her depleted frosting bag at her brother threateningly. Touya, ignoring her, slipped out of his chair and started making the preparations for dinner.
To everyone's surprise, Fujitaka made it home just as dinner was being served. He swept in through the door looking windblown and hurried. "I brought ice-cream!" he announced breathlessly. "Oh, hello Tsukishiro-kun." Turning his attention back to his daughter, he crouched down to her level.
"We made a cake!" Sakura beamed.
Fujitaka glanced up at the two boys and smiled. "Then we can have cake and ice-cream," he said cheerfully.
"Wai!" cheered Sakura.
After a speedy washing-up, the family and guest sat down to eat together. When it was time for dessert, Sakura ran into the other room and came back with a framed picture. "Okaasan should be here, too," said the little girl brightly. She placed the photograph on the table between Touya and Fujitaka.
"Of course," Fujitaka agreed. "Your mother would want to celebrate, too."
Touya looked quickly at Yukito, his self-conciousness evident despite a controlled expression. Yukito met his eyes and smiled. He didn't think it was strange, wanting to include their mother, even if she wasn't alive anymore. Touya must have read the thought in Yukito's face, because his expression relaxed.
Everyone enjoyed the cake, agreeing that it was delicious. "I'm almost glad that I wasn't able to bake one, myself," joked Fujitaka with a charming modesty.
"It wouldn't have looked anything like this one," Touya teased, eyeing his sister. Under the table, she gave him a hidden kick in the shin.
Realizing that the time was winding down, and that he would have to leave this warm household soon, Yukito clung to the minutes, wishing them to last. He savored the glow of the family gathered around the table. "Thank you for having me over, for dinner," Yukito said, finally.
"You're always welcome," answered Fujitaka, kindly. The words wrapped around Yukito, and his answering smile came easily, on a light wave of cheer.
A/N: Reviews are greatly appreciated, and if you liked this story, please check that "favorite authors" box. This was written in reponse to the "Family" challenge at Tsukimine Shrine, a community on Live Journal.