notes: I bet you guys are surprised, huh? Never think you know how things are going to turn out.
I'm a different girl now to who I was – I started Butterflies when I was thirteen years old, and I'm seventeen now. I've written a big body of work off this site – moved through several serious fandoms, and ended up in real-person fic. I never forgot about this fic, no matter how it must have looked. I promise you that.
I can't remember where I was going with the previous chapter titles – I know it was meant to make a whole joke when put together, but I lost the notes pertaining to that. That's an indication, I guess – we're all older now and we've forgotten things, but I can remember where my heart was when I started this, and the ending is as fresh in my head as the day I imagined it. It may not be perfect, but if you'd like to come with me on this last journey together, I'd be delighted to have you.
Let's hold hands, take one more for the road.
butterflies: in spring
take sixteen: i'm sick of young love
Eriol calls Syaoran in the morning when Sakura is in the shower. (She doesn't sing, hasn't for a long time, but Tomoyo knows they are so close, and she will again, and so she hums as she folds some of her own clothes into a suitcase for Sakura, before she can say, hushed, don't be silly, Tomoyo-chan, I couldn't -).
Eriol cups his hand over the receiver like he is in a spy movie and says to Syaoran, "hold on, okay? An hour, I think, tops. We're bringing her back!"
He wraps his finger around the phonecord and rocks on his feet, almost buzzing happily. Okay okay, he's a sucker for Syaoran and an even bigger sucker for true love; but he can't help it. Tomoyo is – unironically! – the light of his little life, and it kind of hurts him to think about Sakura and Syaoran stumbling around in the dark. (Whenever he starts in on this, ever so sincerely, Tomoyo laughs softly and flattens the hair that sticks up over his left ear.)
Tomoyo feels kind of numb to it when Sakura comes down to breakfast looking pinched and miserable. She can't really feel pity or sadness when she and Eriol are concocting this brilliant plan and Sakura will be smiling not long from now; it's hard enough not to pull Sakura up from her seat and dance a leisurely waltz to future happiness.
She puts a plate of pancakes in front of Sakura with an encouraging little smile.
"For my own good, right?" she says, and sighs a little bit. Tomoyo's pancakes are the best, but today she feels like she'll throw up anything she puts in her stomach. She wants to say, Tomoyo-chan, I'm scared, but she figures her best friend knows that anyway.
"For your own good," Tomoyo agrees, and leans across to press a feathery kiss against Sakura's temple.
Sakura steels herself and climbs into the car after breakfast. She's wrapped in an inordinate amount of layers for the weather, Tomoyo figures maybe she feels like she can protect herself from Syaoran as a result, from his sadness and his disappointment and his love.
"You're coping well," Tomoyo says, wedged in the back seat with her (not from lack of space, but for need of closeness) and pats the back of Sakura's icy hand, once. Sakura nods stiffly in return.
If Syaoran had ears like a fox, they'd be pricking up as he hears a car pull up outside. It takes all he has to stay sitting at the table, to not get up and run to her and fold her in his arms and breathe in the scent of her hair and tell her he loves her and they can work it out and she can't, she just can't leave him again.
The car doors slam and he can hear her talking – not laughing, and not talking loudly, and kind of, kind of flat and sad, but it's still her – and his hands clench. He breathes deeply, and closes his eyes, and lies in wait.
"And you're sure he's not here," Sakura says, with her hand poised to push the front door open.
"He gave me the key so we could let ourselves in, didn't he?" Eriol says easily, and Sakura nods, reassured.
"Alright," she says.
"You go on in," Eriol says. "Tomoyo and I will follow, I just need to check the car out a bit first – I don't like the sound she was making going over that hill."
Even the door hinges feel familiar. The air inside the house smells the way she remembers – warm and kind of citrusy. It's all stiller than she remembers, though – the air is slightly stagnant, and dust motes rise and fall in the sunlight. It feels like a disused house, unloved and abandoned.
She just stands in the hall for a second, remembering the mornings here – blackest coffee and Syaoran's bedhead – and the evenings, curled in a comforter on the couch. She even laughs, once, to herself.
She has to let it go.
She ventures into the kitchen, figuring she'll brew coffee for Eriol, Tomoyo and herself – and stops dead when she sees him at the kitchen table.
"W-what are you doing here?" she asks, voice barely more than a whisper. She's clenching the doorframe with bloodless knuckles, it feels as though her knees are ready to give out. Nobody in Sakura's life has ever made her feel the way Syaoran makes her feel – uncertain, and small, and scared, and like she is being dangled over the precipice of something deep that she doesn't understand.
"Sakura-" he says, standing with his palms raised in front of him ,trying to make himself look vulnerable. "Wait –"
"No, you wait!" Sakura says. "You listen to me! I am tired of being manipulated, and and – conned, and lied to! I don't know what you thought you were going to accomplish by this, but at least we'll get one thing out of the way!"
"Sakura –" he tries again, chancing a step towards her.
"I want the divorce," she says, and closes her eyes against the wave of sickness she feels, and she's not too proud to admit that the sickness is shame at what she is doing to him. "I can't do this."
"Sakura –" Syaoran says, again, and damn it, her name isn't his to say that way. "Sakura, please, at least – at least tell me why."
His voice is catching and stumbling. Sakura grapples blindly for a chair and sits down heavily.
"I can't do this," she repeats. "I don't – we can't –"
"We can work it out!" Syaoran says, desperately, taking one of her hands in his. "I'll do anything."
"There's nothing to work out," she says. "I'm sorry."
Eriol and Tomoyo finish up Sakura's packing while she sits in the car. When they come back outside, and Eriol settles into the driver's seat, there is a silence for a few seconds.
"I'm sorry," Eriol apologises. "I really am, Sakura-san. It was my idea, I just thought –"
"It's okay," Sakura says wearily, and mostly, it is. She doesn't blame anyone for trying.
She lays her head against Tomoyo's shoulder, and falls asleep.
Sakura fumbles the cereal box in her kitchen in her new apartment that night, closes her eyes as little rice puffs bounce off the lip of the bowl and land on the floor. Lucky Charms were always his favourites.
She has her cereal with water because she hasn't got any milk, and stubs her toe on the foot of a kitchen chair. She doesn't cry, just closes her eyes and bites her lip and goes on.
The news that night was a special on starving orphans in Africa. The children had eyes like ghosts were living in their heads and limbs like needles; the news reporter looked straight into Sakura's eyes. That was the only reason she cried, tears causing ripples in the water as a plane flew overhead.
notes: Hold my hand over my heart when I say I'll finish this. Trust me.