"The Land of Might-Have-Been"

by Sophia Prester

Disclaimer: Clover is the property of the wonderful ladies of Clamp.

Author's note: This is kinda-sorta songfic, but given that each volume of Clover is structured around song lyrics, it seemed like the thing to do. There is, however, a little twist which is explained in the notes at the end.

The first song Oruha learned by heart is also the one song she will never sing out loud. Not in public. Not alone. Not ever.

In quiet moments, when she sits alone in her dressing room, waiting to go onstage or waiting for Kazuhiko to arrive, she sometimes hums the song to herself as she coaxes the tangles out of her hair. She is careful, though, not to let the words get past her lips or intrude too far into her waking mind.

But there are times (and they're more frequent now, though she pretends not to notice) when the song seems to demand that she sing it, but so far she has stood her ground, held the line, kept her silence.

What she tells herself, when the song wants to rise to her throat, is that people would laugh at her if she were to sing it. The song was written in a far distant time, in the first decades of recorded music. It is a simple song, from what she sees as a simpler time. Yes, there had just been a horrible war-all blood, and mud, and mustard gas-and everyone was facing hard times, but despite all of that, people still believed that the world was, in essence, a good place. At least, that's what Oruha likes to think.

She also likes to think that people back then also believed in happily-ever-after. She sees that hope running throughout every part of the song, from the unflinching sentimentality of its message, to its sweet, uncomplicated melody, to the childlike quality of the rhymes.

She does not want to subject the song to the cruelty of her world. It exists, playing in her mind like a hymn, and she does not want its purity to be sullied.

So, when the song bubbles into her throat, she thinks of something else to sing until the temptation passes.

All we know is

This place

This time

This world

There is another reason she doesn't sing the song out loud.

Ever since she can remember, the knowledge of her death was with her like a faint pressure in her skull, like the heaviness of an approaching storm. She can smell it in the air the way she used to be able to smell snow.

In the past few weeks, though, her foreknowledge has made her jumpy, the way she might be right before a thunderstorm. It is hard for her to sit still and almost impossible for her to be quiet.

Thank God she has Kazuhiko. For a little while, at least, she can lose herself in him. She used to worry that as they grew closer, she would find herself more and more tempted to give into the song, and then she would be truly lost.

But, no. With Kazuhiko, she can live in the present. Every kiss, every stroke of a calloused hand down her back, every time he moves within her anchors her to the now and relieves the pressure of the inevitable.

She will be grateful for and enjoy every moment of happiness she has now. She will not think about what might-

She will not sing that sweet old song.

Always the same

The same cruel contrivings

The same deceivings

Never at rest

Wanting what we should never have

She has always known the exact moment of her death. She has also known that there was nothing she could do to change or postpone that moment.

What she didn't know was how she would die. Or why.

As the time drew nearer, however, certain details became clearer.

She will die of a single gunshot wound to the chest.

She will die onstage, in the middle of a love song.

For a while, as she staggered under these first moments of clarity, she believed that she was going to die because of Kazuhiko. After all, he did dangerous work for the government, and it was only natural that someone might try to use her against him.

That belief was shattered when she answered the phone and heard silence, then a little girl's voice on the other end of the line.

"Wait... I'm a big fan of yours."

We can only be who we are

There is no other place but here

There is no other time but now

No point in pretending

No hope in wishing

"'The curse is come upon me,' cried the Lady of Shalott" Oruha whispered. One phone call from a fan, and her death raced towards her on hurricane-force winds.

The time and place of her death had not changed-nothing could ever change that-but the events leading up to it had finally been set in motion.

Suu would never hurt her, but as their affection for each other grew stronger, Oruha's doom became more certain. Oruha can't figure out exactly why this should be so, but two things are clear:

It has something to do with the way that Suu could hear her songs, even though Oruha's songs were not played on the radio and Suu had never been to hear her perform live.

It has something to do with her own, weak power. Even though her one power-that one thing she knows-is useless, it became dangerous the instant she and Suu became friends.

Even though they've never met, the song Oruha thinks of as her song seems to be playing in the background of the song Suu wrote for her.

It reminds her that she needs to think of Suu as a friend, and only a friend. Oruha never had a sister, and she will never have a child of her own, and she is careful not to wonder about these things just as she is careful not to sing that song.

She does occasionally wonder what Suu looks like, and if the two of them would have some sort of strange family resemblance.

Daylight scorches us

Confuses us

Throwing shadows

On our sureness


Our bravery

Oruha tries not to wish she could be cold-hearted enough not to worry about what would happen to Kazuhiko once she died. She had wanted not to love him, and had made herself keep him at arm's length for three months, but it was a losing battle. She might as well have tried to change the day of her death.

Now she wishes she hadn't wasted those three months.

But, what's done is done, and there's no point in wishing. It won't change anything.

She leans against him as they walk, and the smell of him nearly makes her forget the building pressure, the approaching storm. Even so, it is impossible not to wonder:

Will he collapse in on himself in grief? Will he grow hard and cold, turning into someone she would rather not know? Will he destroy his own life in attempting to avenge her death? Will he grieve for a while, then simply forget her?

In his later years, will his memories of her be a blessing to him or a curse?

It is unfair, she thinks, that she knows almost everything about the moment of her death, but nothing of what lies beyond.

The stillness of the air catches us

Lays us bare

Tells us of despair

Reminds us that what we have

Can never last

She never lets herself imagine what would happen if...

...what things would be like...

...if she and Kazuhiko could grow old together...

...if she ran into Suu on the street one day, just at random, recognizing her at once although they'd never met...

...if the one true thing she'd known since she was born was nothing but a lie.

We can only be who we are

There is no other place but here

There is no other time but now

No point in pretending

No hope in wishing

Oruha had seen herself go up on that stage a thousand times in the past two weeks. She knew exactly where the bullet would strike her. She knew what it would feel like. She knew the exact verse-exact word-of the song she would be singing when it happened.

She had run through the scenario a thousand times in her imagination. One thing she had never let herself do was imagine herself singing the song to its end and jumping down from the stage into Kazuhiko's arms. She had never imagined the wicked smile on his face and the way he would kiss her deeply, right there in front of everyone. She had never daydreamed about how she would wrap her arms around his neck as he carried her back to her dressing room.

When the time finally came, she thought she'd be scared. She didn't know how she could sing, knowing that a sniper was waiting up in the rafters, aiming at the tattoo on her chest.

But in the end, all that mattered was the song.

Singing for all she was worth, living in the moment, not caring that she would never reach the end of this song. She could see Kazuhiko in the audience, smiling at her like he never smiled at anyone else. She knew that Suu, wherever she was, however she did it, was listening.

This song didn't matter. What mattered now was the next song she would sing, the first song she ever learned, the one song she would never sing out loud.

Until now.

Somewhere there's another land

Different from this world below

Far more mercifully planned

Than the cruel place we know

Innocence and peace are there

All is good that is desired

Faces there are always fair

Love grows never old nor dies

We shall never find that lovely land of Might-Have-Been

I can never be your king nor you can be my queen

Days may pass and years may pass

And seas may lie between

We shall never find that lovely land of Might-Have-Been

Sometimes on the rarest nights

Comes the vision calm and clear

Gleaming with unearthly lights

On our path of doubt and fear

Winds from that far land are blown

Whispering with secret breath

Hope that plays her tune alone

Love that conquers pain and death

Shall we ever find that lovely land of Might-Have-Been?

Will I ever be your king or you at last my queen?

Days may pass and years may pass

And seas may lie between

Shall we ever find that lovely land of Might-Have-Been?

"The Land of Might-Have-Been" by Ivor Novello, published 1924

Author's note, part two: The lyrics within the story are original. The song that inspired the story (and the false lyrics) is not original, and is quoted in full below. If you want to hear what it sounds like, it's on the Gosford Park soundtrack.