~~ A Cappella ~~

A Card Captor Sakura Fanfiction by Kit

All characters portrayed here are the property of CLAMP, Kodansha, a bunch of other Japanese media companies, and a certain Canadian dubbing company that will heretofore go unnamed. I don't claim to own these characters, but the situations I put them in belong to me. I would rather this wasn't posted anywhere without my permission (right now it can be found on the CCSFWML groups site, the CCSFWML website, and fanfiction.net), so email me with questions. Don't steal. I bite.

The snippet of poetry that Tomoyo sings in this chapter is by William Butler Yeats.

Part One -- Solo

solo -- n. -- 1: a musical composition for a single voice or instrument with or without accompaniment 2: a performance in which the performer has no partner or associate

On the morning of the funeral, the sun seemed unnaturally bright, almost painfully so. Tomoyo was finally forced to close her eyes against the brightness. Even then, the light stabbed mercilessly through her reddened eyelids. For a moment, Tomoyo was able to lose herself in the pain, until the aching of her heart was shadowed by the uncaring shafts of sunlight.

A small, warm, glove-clad hand on her arm brought her back to self-awareness. "Are you sure you're alright, Tomoyo-chan?" Sakura's voice was softer than usual. She sounded like someone else entirely.

"Of course I'm alright, Sakura-chan," Tomoyo replied quietly. No, I'm not alright, a strident voice in her mind declared. I haven't been alright in days. I won't be alright ever again. "I'm just a little tired," she continued, ignoring the part of her that recognized her lie for what it was. Tomoyo didn't have the luxury of letting go of her emotions at the moment. She had to be strong for another few days.

The glossy black limousine pulled up the drive of the funeral home. The car stopped and soon the chauffeur came to help Tomoyo and Sakura out of the car. Tomoyo's hand tightly clenched in hers, Sakura gently led the dark-haired girl in through the massive, oak-paneled doors of the building. Sakura's face was red from weeping, but Tomoyo was pale as the moon, her eyes huge and dark. Sakura worried about her friend, but knew that Tomoyo would talk to her when she was ready.

As Sakura and Tomoyo walked down the hallway, their dress shoes clicking quietly against the marble floor, silence reigned. They didn't even speak when they passed the tasteful sign that pointed them in the direction of the memorial service for Daidouji Sonomi.

The girls were led to the small chapel at the rear of the funeral home, where the funeral service would take place. It was good that it was a small chapel, since there weren't very many people attending the service. There were a few of Tomoyo's mother's close business associates, and a scattering of Tomoyo's classmates. Tomoyo's great-grandfather was seated in the front row, looking uncharacteristically old and frail. And of course, there were Kinomotos and their extended family, Fujitaka, Sakura and Touya, Li Syaoran and Tsukishiro Yukito.

Sakura joined her family, and Tomoyo went to sit next to her great-grandfather, who gently clasped his huge, paper-dry hand around hers. He didn't say anything; he didn't have to.

There really wasn't anything left to say. Tomoyo had already heard all of the condolences. She'd already read all of the greeting cards, had already smelled all the funereal bouquets. She'd given more than her fair share of brittle smiles in return for the platitudes. Tomoyo was tired of her mother's death. Or maybe she was simply tired.

Death had come for Daidouji Sonomi with a speed no one had expected. The doctors had told Tomoyo afterwards that a long-hidden congenital heart defect had caused her mother's massive coronary. Despite the gentle pressure from doctors and friends, Tomoyo had refused to be tested for the defect. Tomoyo hadn't seen any reason for the test. Mere knowledge of the heart defect wouldn't have saved her mother's life.

The funeral service was mercifully short. A local Shinto priest said a few prayer beforehand, then made way for Kinomoto Fujitaka, who had asked earlier to be allowed to say a few words about his almost-sister-in-law. It took all of Tomoyo's self-control to keep from crying. She had never fully understood the bond that had joined Fujitaka, Nadesico, and Sonomi together, and still didn't. Despite Sonomi's apparent jealousy of Fujitaka, Nadesico's husband had loved Sonomi nearly as much as his wife had. Tomoyo suspected that her mother's bitter words about Fujitaka hid her carefully concealed love for the man who had stolen her beloved cousin.

Fujitaka's brief eulogy was followed by a short speech from one of Sonomi's vice presidents, and then it was Tomoyo's turn. Her decision to speak at the funeral was a difficult one, but despite Sakura's protestations that Tomoyo didn't have to do it if it would be too painful, Tomoyo knew she owed it to her mother. To her mother's memory.

When Tomoyo stood up and faced the assembled mourners, she realized, to her horror, that she'd forgotten the carefully scripted speech she was going to make. The words fled her mind, and Tomoyo was instantly frozen. Her hands trembled and her eyes burned with the weight of unshed tears.

I can't do this, she thought wearily. I thought I could, but I can't. I'm sorry, Mother . . .

Then a cloud obscured the brilliance of the sun, and the jewel-toned patches of light, filtered through the chapel's stained-glass windows, were shrouded in gray shadow. Tomoyo's chin rose and she opened her mouth to speak.

At the last moment, she realized that she still couldn't speak. But she could sing. So she sang.

"You shall go with me, newly-married bride,
And gaze upon a merrier multitude.
White-armed Nuala, Aengus of the Birds,
Feachra of the hurtling form, and him
Who is the ruler of the Western Host,
Finvara, and their Land of Heart's Desire.
Where beauty has no ebb, decay no flood,
But joy is wisdom, time an endless song."

The tune was spontaneous and haunting, the words the timeless echo of a long-dead Irishman. But Tomoyo's voice soared, unaccompanied, to echo among the stone carvings that lined the stained-glass windows. Her pale face caught the burning light.

Sonomi's grandfather cried for the first time since Nadesico died. Sonomi's daughter had no tears to shed.

"But I don't understand why you can't stay here in Tomoeda!" Sakura exclaimed for the fifth time. "We have a spare room in our house if you don't want to live in that big house by yourself. And besides, you're not a child anymore, Tomoyo-chan. You're fifteen!"

"I know," Tomoyo agreed. "I'm fifteen, but I am still a child, and I don't want to live by myself, either in my house or yours. My mother wanted me to go to England, so I'm going to England."

"But how do you know what it'll be like there?" Sakura was almost in tears. It was bad enough that Sonomi died. Now Tomoyo had declared her intention to move half-way around the world. "I mean, you haven't seen you father since you were a baby, right? Would your mother really have wanted you to go live with a virtual stranger?"

Tomoyo sighed. As much as she loved Sakura, she was tired of explaining the situation. "As I told you before, it's only been ten years since Father visited, and we write letters to each other, so we're not strangers." Tomoyo reached out and clasped Sakura's hand. "Sakura, I'm going to miss you terribly, but I need to go. I need to get away from Mother's ghost for a while."

"Oh, Tomoyo-chan," Sakura whispered before wrapping her arms around Tomoyo and pulling her into a warm embrace. "I'm going to miss you so much."

"I'll miss you too, Sakura-chan," Tomoyo said, her breath warm against Sakura's ear.

Sakura finally sniffled back her tears and gave Tomoyo a brave smile. "Well, at least you'll get to visit neat places. And if you're going to be in England, you'll visit Eriol-kun and Mizuki-sensei, right?"

"Sakura-chan, England's a big place. I don't know if I'm going to be anywhere near them."

Sakura laughed to cover her embarrassment. "Oh, I suppose you're right." She patted Tomoyo's hand. "But I'll give you their addresses anyway."

Tomoyo was almost able to return Sakura's smile. "And I'll visit them if I can," she promised.

Nearly a week had passed since the funeral, but Tomoyo still hurt. She knew the pain would ease in time, but it was so very hard to keep up her brave front. She missed her mother desperately. Sonomi's death had made her realize just how alone she was in the world. Now, all she really had left was Sakura's friendship, and while the friendship was wonderful, Tomoyo knew that deep in her heart she wanted more than that.

Sakura, on the other hand, had already found her soulmate in Li Syaoran, who returned her affections in equal measure. They were so attached to each other that is was almost nauseating to watch. Even worse was the way Sakura occasionally tried to set up Tomoyo with various male friends. It was almost as though Sakura felt guilty about her own happiness, and pitied Tomoyo. Tomoyo sometimes suspected that Sakura knew just how Tomoyo felt about her. Tomoyo knew that it would be easier to leave Japan than to face Sakura's pity.

Sonomi's last will and testament indicated that she wished for her daughter to live with her estranged husband in England, where Daidouji Hiroshi made his living as a painter, unless Tomoyo truly wished to remain in Japan. For Tomoyo, Tomoeda held too many painful memories, too many difficult associations. She needed to start over. England would be just the place to begin.

Tomoyo's farewells were brief, a fact that reminded her of just how few friends she truly had. Oh, they were sad to see her go, but they would go on with their lives. When the day of her flight to England finally arrived, it was Kinomoto Fujitaka, Sakura and Syaoran who drove her to the airport to see her off. In the terminal, Sakura's father wrapped a surprised Tomoyo in an exuberant bear hug, then released her. "Good luck with your father," he told her with a sunny smile.

Syaoran shook her hand, and stiffened when Tomoyo pulled him into a tight hug. Eventually he relaxed and kissed her cheek. "We'll all miss you, Daidouji," he said quietly against her hair.

Tomoyo pulled back to smile at him. "I know, Li-kun," she said. Then she leaned forward to whisper in his ear, "Take care of Sakura-chan for me."

"Of course," Syaoran agreed with a lop-sided grin before kissing her cheek again.

Then Tomoyo turned to face Sakura, who was already in tears. "Please don't cry, Sakura-chan," Tomoyo begged, reaching out to wipe the tears from her friend's cheeks. "I'll be back someday, and I'll write as often as you like."

"It won't be the same, Tomoyo-chan," Sakura said as she hugged Tomoyo. "We've been together since we were children. You're like my sister."

"I'll always be there for you," Tomoyo said solemnly. "I love you." And for the first time in her life, Daidouji Tomoyo allowed the full heat of her emotions to rise to the surface, her feelings clearly apparent in her expression.

Sakura's eyes widened, then glistened with new tears. She hugged Tomoyo again and buried her face in Tomoyo's thick hair. "I'm sorry I couldn't be the person you need," she whispered.

"I know," Tomoyo told her. "I understand. Don't be sorry. Just be happy."

All too soon, the boarding call came and Tomoyo waved farewell to her loved ones before disappearing down the entryway. She didn't look back.

England wasn't quite what Tomoyo had expected. Neither was her father.

Physically, Daidouji Hiroshi had changed little in the ten years since he'd last visited his daughter in Japan. He was still fairly short and slim, with a shock of dark hair, golden skin, and brilliant blue eyes. He looked at least fifteen years younger than he really was.

At Heathrow Airport, he recognized Tomoyo immediately, and scooped her up into his arms, luggage and all. "Oh, Tomoyo-chan! I'm so glad to see you . . ."

Tomoyo stiffened at the initial contact, but forced herself to relax and return her father's hug. "It's nice to see you too, Father," she replied.

Hiroshi set his daughter down and looked her up and down. "You've certainly grown up to be a lovely young lady, Tomoyo," he told her before reaching down and collecting her carry-on bags. "Come on, Tasha's waiting for us outside in the car."

A few minutes later, after the Daidoujis had collected the rest of Tomoyo's baggage from the carousel, Hiroshi introduced his daughter to his girlfriend. "Tomoyo, I'd like you to meet Tasha MacLeod, my roommate and lady love. Tasha, darling, this is Sonomi's and my daughter, Daidouji Tomoyo."

Tasha and Tomoyo exchanged greetings and wary bows while Hiroshi looked on hopefully. Tasha MacLeod was a tiny woman, barely taller than Tomoyo herself, with a delicate, bird-like bone structure and a cloud of bright red-gold hair. She moved with the grace of a dancer, and her smile was a thing of wonder, transforming her from a pale, freckled young woman to an ethereal, eldritch beauty. Tasha's Japanese was perfect, if strangely accented. Tomoyo found herself drawn to her, despite her expectations. She hadn't expected her father to have a girlfriend.

On the long drive back from Heathrow, Tomoyo was slowly introduced to her new family. Ten years ago, Daidouji Hiroshi had been a struggling artist, teaching children's art classes to keep food on the table when his work didn't sell. Now, Hiroshi was finally happy and financially secure. His work was selling, and he could afford a nice flat outside the city instead of a cramped closet in the seedier parts of town. Tasha was a stage actress who had started as one of Hiroshi's models and had ended up living with him.

When told of Tomoyo's musical talents, Tasha beamed over at Tomoyo. "So you sing? How wonderful! We'll have three artists living in one flat. I sing a little, as a chorus girl in musicals sometimes, but I suspect I'm not nearly as good as you are."

Tomoyo shivered. "I . . . don't sing anymore." It was difficult to keep the catch out of her voice. The last time she'd sung was at her mother's . . .

"Oh, I understand, Tomoyo-san," Tasha said quickly, realizing that she'd hit upon a touchy subject.

Fortunately, the uncomfortable silence didn't last long, since Hiroshi soon pulled his tiny hatchback into the parking garage of his apartment building. The three of them spent several minutes hauling Tomoyo's many suitcases and trunks up the front steps of the building to the lobby, where they set in the wait for the lift.

"Thank goodness it's working today," Tasha commented with a roll of her expressive gray eyes. "The lift's more temperamental than your usual prima donna."

"And we definitely don't want to carry all this stuff up four flights of stairs," Hiroshi added with a grin.

Tomoyo winced. "Maybe I brought too much stuff," she admitted.

Tasha laughed gaily. "Don't worry about it, Tomoyo. We're just teasing. It's not your fault that you're being forced to transplant your life to another country."

When the lift arrived with a cheery chime, they managed to cram all of the luggage inside, along with the passengers, and the aging lift chugged it's way up to the fourth floor.

"We're down at the end of the hall," Hiroshi told Tomoyo from behind the stack of boxes he was carrying.

The flat was larger than Tomoyo had expected. Since it was situated on the top floor of the building, the apartment was blessed with cathedral ceilings, that made the rooms seem huge and airy. The decor was sparse and tasteful, appealing to Tomoyo's rather traditional tastes. Tomoyo's belongings were lugged into a small bedroom and she was left to unpack while Hiroshi and Tasha made lunch.

Tomoyo obediently put away most of her packed clothing before losing interest and momentum and finally just lying down on the bed. The flight to England hadn't been as horrible as she'd half-expected, but it would take her some time to adjust to living here. She already missed Japan, despite Tasha's surprising grasp of the language and her father's Japanese-style apartment. It just wasn't home.

Tomoyo tried not to think about her mother, but everything seemed to lead back to Sonomi. Even her father, who hadn't actually lived with his wife in more than twelve years, seemed to be keeping a careful lock on his grief. Tomoyo had been hoping that strange surroundings would distract her from her mourning, but she merely felt isolated in her sadness. She was more alone than ever before, since now even Sakura was out of reach, Sakura who knew Tomoyo loved her, and knew it wasn't the same sisterly love that Sakura felt, Sakura who was sorry for not being what Tomoyo needed.

Tomoyo missed Sakura.

And she missed her mother.

With the death of her mother, Daidouji Tomoyo had become an heiress of the first magnitude. She had inherited nearly all of her mother's assets, and could probably have bought up the entire town of Tomoeda, had she so desired. Sonomi had left a generous sum of money for her estranged husband, but Hiroshi refused to take any of the additional money his daughter offered him.

"I don't need the money," he told Tomoyo over dinner one evening. "Tasha and I are perfectly content with our situation right now. And besides, I'm sure you'll find something much more worthwhile to spend your money on, later in life, Tomoyo-chan." His voice was gentle as he affectionately ruffled Tomoyo's hair.

Though her father had only been a vague memory for Tomoyo, she found herself rapidly warming up to the man, despite how radically different he was from her mother. She often wondered what had originally drawn Hiroshi and Sonomi together, back when they had married.

Tasha MacLeod roused mixed emotions in Tomoyo. Despite her instinctive admiration of the Scottish woman, something deep inside her held back from giving Tasha her affection. Perhaps it was childish, but this was the woman that Hiroshi had replaced Sonomi with, and that was a little painful for Tomoyo, despite the fact that it had been Sonomi who had ended her relationship with her husband, so many years ago. But Tomoyo did get along wonderfully with Tasha, and she realized, a month after arriving in England, that she was settling into her new home.

Settling into school was a different matter. Knowing nothing of the English school system, Tomoyo had welcomed Hiroshi and Tasha's advice on the matter. They'd finally settled upon a highly prestigious, ridiculously expensive, private 'college,' with the rather incongruous name of Clef Academy. Tomoyo had innocently asked where the name came from, since she thought it reminded her of someone in a comic she'd once read, and was told that 'clef' meant 'key' in French. Tomoyo decided not to wonder about it anymore.

The school was co-ed, but the girls and boys remained separate for most of their classes, rejoining each other for study halls, arts, and humanities classes. Aside from the language difference, Tomoyo soon realized that English schools were just as demanding as Japanese schools, though not quite in the same way. In a school full of bright, talented, extremely wealthy young people, Tomoyo didn't stand out quite the way she had back in Tomoeda, which was both frustrating and a bit of a relief. Though quiet by nature, Tomoyo let herself slip into the comfort of anonymity. Her grasp of English, considered quite excellent by Japanese standards, was still sub-par at Clef and something else to keep her apart from her classmates.

Tomoyo missed having friends at school, but didn't speak of her general unhappiness at home. She kept up her good spirits for her father's sake, and for Tasha's. In the letters she wrote to Sakura and the others, back in Japan, she described in detail how much she loved her father and his girlfriend, and how fascinating England was, and how wonderful school was. If Sakura ever noticed that Tomoyo never mentioned the names of any English friends, she didn't comment on the lapse.

The weeks drifted by without Tomoyo taking much notice. It was only when the trees along Clef Academy's main walk began to bloom that Tomoyo realized that she'd been in England for nearly six months. Spring came suddenly and late, in that part of England, and as Tomoyo watched pear blossoms drift carelessly to settle on the neatly-raked gravel pathway, it suddenly occurred to Tomoyo that she'd missed the sakura blossoms in Japan. The realization was enough to bring tears to her eyes, and in an effort to escape the prying stares of her classmates (who only seemed to notice her when there was something wrong), she fled to the library.

The library at Clef had quickly become one of Tomoyo's favorite sanctuaries. It was quiet and dusty, smelled comfortably of old leather and paper, and was paneled in richly stained wood. The library was two stories high, and Tomoyo liked to sit in the far corner on the upper level, where she could either look out over the shelves and workstations below the balcony, or stare out the window at the gardens. Today, Tomoyo was so distracted by her sudden homesickness, she she didn't even bother to select a book to take with her. She simply darted up the stairs and down the aisle toward her customary table. As she rounded the last line of shelving she ran full force into a tall, slim man carrying an enormous stack of leather-bound volumes. Both Tomoyo and the man were knocked to the ground, books thudding into the plush carpeting around them. Tomoyo rose to her knees and automatically bowed her head at him.

"I am so sorry," she apologized, moving to collect the books for him. "I was upset and didn't see where I was going." Her hand paused on the cover of the book she was about to pick up. The title was embossed in gold on the leather cover, reading Fifteenth-Century Alchemists: Their Mystery, Madness, and Methods -- A Practical Guide. Tomoyo glanced up at the man, wondering what sort of person would need a 'practical guide' to fifteenth-century alchemy.

"Daidouji-san?" the man said, surprised. Tomoyo stared at him, trying to remember whether she had a class with the man -- well, boy, really. He couldn't have been much older than she was, despite his height and deep voice. His features were Japanese, which surprised Tomoyo, since she didn't think there were any other Japanese students at the Academy, though his eyes glinted strangely behind the lenses of his glasses.

"Daidouji Tomoyo?" he repeated. "Is that really you?"

"Yes," Tomoyo replied, frustrated that she couldn't remember who the boy was. He did look familiar, but from where? "I'm sorry, I can't remember your name," she finally admitted ruefully in Japanese. It was a relief to speak her native tongue to another native. "I've been learning names ever since I enrolled here and they all get out of order in my mind."

The boy smiled at that. "I had the same problem when I began school here. English names are strange too, which makes them even more difficult to remember." He began to pick up the rest of the fallen books. "But I was hoping you would have remembered me from my time in Tomoeda, though I was only there for a few months."

Tomoyo's eyes widened as she suddenly recognized the boy. "Hiiragizawa Eriol?!"

Eriol laughed and reached up to set his books on the table next to him. "The same. It's lovely to see you again, Daidouji-san," he said. His voice was, Tomoyo realized, almost exactly the same as it had been in elementary school, though significantly deeper. It had that same velvety quality to it, a sort of pull that made her return his smile with one of her own.

"Yes, it's wonderful to see a friendly face here," Tomoyo said. "It's amazing that we've both been attending classes here for about six months and haven't even seen each other once." Though it's probably because I've been avoiding all the other students, Tomoyo reminded herself.

"I had no idea you were even in England," Eriol said, reaching down for Tomoyo to hand up the rest of the books, which he set down next to the others on the table. "I haven't exchanged letters with Sakura for a while, so I'm behind on the news. Did your mother decide to relocate to England?"

Tomoyo shook her head, but kept the smile plastered across her face. "No, my mother passed away suddenly, a little over six months ago. I'm living here with my father."

Eriol took the news in stride, his face revealing only sympathy and polite shock. He reached down to help her to her feet. Then, instead of releasing her hand, he clasped it between both of his, squeezing reassuringly. "I'm so sorry to hear that, Daidouji-san. I had no idea, or I wouldn't have asked." He gave her a long, measuring look. "You've been having a difficult time here, haven't you?"

Tomoyo didn't really know what he meant by 'here', whether he was talking about England, or Clef Academy, or the current situation in the library. "It hasn't been easy . . . adjusting, but I think I'm going to be happy here." Her words were accompanied by a brilliant smile meant to stave off any further uncomfortable questions.

Eriol seemed to take the hint. In Tomoyo's memory, he'd always been good at reading body language. "I'm glad to hear that," he returned, continuing to smile. Eriol's smile hid even more than Tomoyo's. His eyes revealed even less. "I've grown quite fond of England."

"And the people in it, from what I hear from Sakura," Tomoyo added slyly, remembering what Sakura had told her about Eriol's obvious attachment to Mizuki-sensei. As obtuse as Sakura could be at times, she was startlingly perceptive about what she read in Eriol's letters.

Eriol's smile faltered ever so slightly, but it was enough for Tomoyo to notice. Tomoyo decided to continue with a slightly less suggestive comment, "Are you still living with Mizuki-sensei? I have letters for her from some of my friends back in Japan. I also have a few for you . . ."

"I gave Kaho the house as a wedding present two months ago," Eriol said, still smiling. The smile was starting to make Tomoyo nervous.

Tomoyo cocked her head curiously to one side, giving Eriol a penetrating stare. "A wedding present?" One delicate eyebrow rose in question. "I know you're Clow's reincarnation, but isn't your current form a little young to get married?"

"Yes, it is," Eriol replied with a light laugh. "So it's a good thing I'm not married, isn't it?"

Tomoyo gasped quietly. "So Mizuki-sensei married . . . someone else?" She was suddenly aware of how aloof Eriol had grown as a reaction to the current conversation. Or had he always been that way? It was so hard to tell sometimes . . .

"Kaho married her childhood sweetheart," Eriol explained. "Believe it or not, he's an archaeology professor, like Kinomoto-san." He gave her a crooked little smile that made him look his age, instead of a decade older. "And oddly enough, her husband, Gregory Reed, is a direct descendant of Clow's English father's younger brother. How's that for coincidence?"

Tomoyo was startled by Eriol's calm explanation, but she knew there was more going on here than he was letting on. "I don't mean to pry, Hiiragizawa-kun, but Sakura told me that she was sure that you were . . ." Tomoyo paused, not quite sure how to phrase what she was trying to say. "Sakura-chan thought that you and Mizuki-sensei had some sort of understanding."

Suddenly, Eriol seemed to lose the last of his legendary calm patience. "Well, apparently we didn't have an understanding, as you so delicately phrased it. With all due respect, Daidouji-san, I'd rather you didn't question me further on the subject. What happened, or didn't, between Kaho and myself is our business, just as your mother's death is yours, just as your relationship with Sakura-san is your business, as well."

Tomoyo's growing irritation flared into what passed for full-blown anger with her. "Please don't bring Sakura-chan into this, Hiiragizawa-kun," she said quietly, her lips pale, her cheeks flushed.

Eriol's mouth curved into his usual mocking smile. "As you wish, Daidouji-san," he said affably. "We shall restrict our conversation to safer topics, if you like." He settled himself into one of the comfortable chairs around the library table and steepled his fingers on the tabletop in front of him. "So, what else shall we discuss? Hmm, have you managed to find a new circle of friends here at Clef?" Eriol's smile was almost malicious. "A new best friend, perhaps?"

Tomoyo paled. He'd asked the exact question she didn't want to answer. It was bad enough that Eriol had to be so damned smug about everything without him finding out how lonely Tomoyo was. Instead of answering, Tomoyo spun on her heel and stalked away, not bothering to excuse herself.

Perhaps a minute later, a small voice came from the shadows of the bookshelf. "That was cruel, Master."

Eriol sighed. "I suppose it was, Spinel," he admitted, absently running his fingers through his dark hair. "She just caught me off-guard with all her talk of Kaho. I guess I'm still kind of in shock over the whole thing. I can't understand how Kaho could leave me . . ." He shook his head slowly. "At least Daidouji-san isn't aware that I've known she was here. I didn't know she'd react quite so badly to my snipe about her lack of friends. She seemed so calm about it . . ."

Spinel Sun, in false form, lounged on an open book, his strange eyes gazing thoughtfully at his creator. "She's much like you, in that way. She keeps everything inside, so as not to hurt those around her." Spinel's tone grew reproachful. "Mentioning Sakura was really unkind . . ."

Eriol winced and nodded. "Yes, yes, it was, and I'm sorry for it. I guess I should apologize or something. Perhaps I ought to set up another accidental meeting?" Eriol thought for a moment, then asked, "Is Nakuru still off playing with the male population of the senior class?"

Spinel rolled his eyes. "As far as I know, yes, he is. The moron has them all trained so that they squeal like girls and run in terror when they spot him coming." Spinel gave Eriol a suspicious look. "You're planning something, aren't you?"

"Yes," Eriol said shortly. He was deep in thought.

"Do I really want to know what it is?" Spinel asked wearily.

"Probably not," Eriol replied honestly, with a ghost of a smile.