A/N: I promised a certain very close pal of mine that I would give her a fanfic for a Christmas gift. And yet New Year has passed, and so did Valentines and yes, her graduation. Yet the fic never surfaced. It's not that I had forgotten, certain very close pal of mine. It's just that the fic plot is way too stubborn, really. I couldn't shape it to my satisfaction.
Thus, another try at a simple ExT oneshot. If you had written (yeah, written, not finished hehe) more than forty-five ExTs, you run out of plots, or at least twists and turns not yet found in your previous fanfics. But because I heart this certain hair-dyeing friend, I was able to put aside those things to write this long-delayed gift.
For your friendship and crazy chat sessions. For tolerating Sir James. For bantering with Hao-sama. For checking out my LJ in vain hope of finding any event in Hime-chan's life worth reading at all. For using YIM when you prefer MSN just to catch me online back then. For reading all of my fics, even when your least favorite red-haired CCS character is portrayed too nicely for your homicidal taste.
For you, Kyte-chan. Did I make you go 0.o with my author's note? Ehehehe, happy reading anyways!
A gift-grant for KyteAura
Her lavender eyes peered at the person standing beside her inside the subway train, his right hand on the steel bar smelling of rust and age while his other hand was firmly clutching a paperback. He didn't seem to mind the rumbles of the vehicle, or that he was one inch away from committing adultery with necrophilia tendencies, the way he was sharing the miniscule floor space with a very old woman whose twinkling of eyes was not very maternal at all.
Daidouji Tomoyo felt the corners of her mouth crinkle into an amused smile. Typical of Hiiragizawa Eriol, polite and unruffled even in the most embarrassing of situations. She could already sense how his mind was working right now—he was subtly but religiously maintaining the distance between him and the infatuated granny, and was at the same time, going along with the flow of his newly bought historical novel.
She turned her eyes back at the window, focusing her attention on the fluorescent lights they were passing by. The glow came and went in a streak of unnatural red, hurting her tired eyes. She fished for her handkerchief in her shoulder bag, intending to wipe her eyes with it. She lingered in the computer room awhile ago, writing a lengthy email to her best friend who was vacationing in Hong Kong with her boyfriend of some four thousand three hundred twenty days (yes, she counts every single one of those days, the way she religiously keeps count of her every Sakura costume stitched) already, Li Syaoran. In her usual Tomoyo-chan chirpiness, she narrated the events that Sakura-chan had been missing since last week when she left Japan.
Naoko-chan's new job. Yukito-san's blooming sales in the flower shop that he and Kinomoto Touya were managing together. Yamazaki-kun's third incredible story compendium published at the same time that he proposed marriage to his childhood best friend, Mihara Chiharu. Rika-chan's firstborn baby. The Penguin Park being closed for renovation.
If not for the gentle tap on her shoulder, her fingers wouldn't have stopped flying over the keyboard. It was hard not to get carried away when narrating to Sakura, may it be personally, by phone, or by web mail. She would just have to visualize her best friend's face all crinkled up in serious listening—paying attention to her every sentence, often with her "Hontou? Wai!" expression that she had found most endearingand she would explode into bubbly streams of stories that people who didn't know her personally would find very strange, given her prim and proper demeanor.
"Here." The voice made her blink out of her trance. She turned to her right and found Eriol handing her a navy blue hanky. His eyes though, were still on the pages of his novel. Really now, if she hadn't personally witnessed how gentlemanly he was back in their elementary years, she would have taken that gesture as a personal insult. What was so bloody interesting about that novel that he couldn't even look at her even for a moment?
But vintage enigmatic Hiiragizawa-kun he was, even without looking, he was still able to know that she needed a hankie. Or then again, maybe he already knew long before she was even born that she was going to need a handkerchief today. He had always been big on fate and destiny. She nodded to that silently. Plausible, of course.
How long had she been staring off to space anyway? And how long had he been watching her making a fool out of herself?
As if reading her mind, he gave her a brief nod of reassurance. What it stood for, she didn't understand though.
"No, thank you." She rummaged through her bag again, then successfully lifted the piece of cloth. "I have my own." She grimaced when she realized how rudely ungrateful she had acted. "I-I mean—"
To her relief, he didn't look offended at all. He just shrugged, and then returned his handkerchief in his jacket. He would have looked every inch normal, but she was not Daidouji Tomoyo for nothing. She could detect the slight color on his face. Oh, she was wrong. He did get offended, only he couldn't say it directly to her.
She busied herself in rubbing the soft material briskly against her face, her purpose of relieving her eyes' discomfort forgotten. She was annoyed…well, just a little bit. If not for her headache due to those vertigo-inducing lights, she would have found the situation most amusing. Almost as amusing as her documentaries on Li Syaoran's denials of his budding affection for her best friend back in fifth grade.
Like Li Syaoran in his pre-Kinomoto period, Hiiragizawa Eriol could be so pedantic when it comes to girls. Funny that, when he should feel rather proud that nine out of ten women in Tomoeda consider him as their ideal guy, that is, after they learned that Li-kun was already practically engaged to Sakura-chan.
Of course, she understood that the instances were two separate entities, with very different factors.
One, Li then was in denial. He was SO drooling on Sakura-chan, but in the name of his clan's blasted pride and the usual male-inherent pig-headedness (guised in I-will-not-fall-in-love-with-my-rival-since-that-will-hinder-me-from-my-mission-even-if-she-makes-my-heart-jump-out-of-my-ribcage maxim), he fought and fought his feelings. But at least what he felt for her best friend and second cousin was sincere.
(Well, he did eventually lose the battle, but the bottom line was, he should have realized it sooner. But he wouldn't be called a full-blooded man if he was -that- smart.)
Hiiragizawa Eriol-kun, on the other hand, was not capable at all of holding any ounce of truth. Even a drop of it.
She flipped her hair over her shoulders as she regarded him with narrowed eyes. Hah! He thought he was so impressively cool when he was grinding Syaoran-chan with his impeccable witty one-liners. She knew better. She could read those smiles like the palm of her hand, and she knew that it wasn't reaching his deep cerulean eyes. His laughter was also hollow to her ears, like it was lacking something. Something essential. Something like true happiness.
If he thought he was fooling everyone then Hiiragizawa-kun should fall under the Average Moronic Male category. It takes a thief to know a thief, and she too was an expert on pretenses. She wore that kind of stupid smile when her mother's secretary arrived on her debut instead of her only family left in the world, just so she wouldn't worry Sakura-chan, Li-kun, and the rest of her birthday party guests. She laughed like that when Sakura blushingly announced that Li had promised her his name right after her graduation.
Ah, she only knew faking too well.
Two, Li was an ordinary guy. Okay, so he held a sword years earlier than an ordinary guy, but at least he didn't live in a creepy huge mansion with a panther and a bisexual creature for housemates, sitting in his throne of evil while watching his classmates transform Clow cards to defeat his minions. And he was factually twenty-one years old, not twenty-one years old in this lifetime and forty-five years old in his other. In other words, Hi-kun was a direct contrast; he was COMPLICATED in caps lock. The reason why he was uncomfortable with women (aside from Sakura-chan, of course) couldn't be as simple as that of Li's. She couldn't just picture this sorcerer as…well…shy. He was brimming with authority even when standing amidst the jam-packed subway train.
Her mouth twitched when she gazed at him intently. On another thought, if indeed Clow Reed (whatever his age was) lives within him, he should be really happy by now. After all, his was the face that enchanted the likes of Mizuki Kaho-sensei and the rest of the female population in the town of Tomoeda and the big city of London. Not a bad choice for a body to play host, to be sure. Speaking of body, are those muscles she see beneath the almost impossibly heavy winter jacket he was wearing—
"Please stop looking at me that way, Daidouji-san," Eriol suddenly spoke up, somewhat prudishly. His eyes still refused to leave the pages of the book though.
She nearly burst into laughter. "Hmm? Looking at you?"
"How am I looking at you?"
"Like…" His grip on the rusty pole overhead tightened; a sign of tension, if she would be asked. "Like…" He released a low groan of defeat. "J-Just don't look at me."
"Okay," she said sweetly. He was in no sense ordinary, for being a reincarnation of the world's formerly most powerful sorcerer was anything but. Yet more than that, how often should one see a man his age with such meekness and unawareness as his when it comes to women? For someone who lived more than once in this world, he was still completely clueless when it comes to communicating with girls.
She silently pondered on what kind of communication materialized between him and his ex-special female friend.
"Eriol dear, are you doing anything tonight?"
"Well, I'm planning to finish the second installment of the three-part one thousand pages of the latest edition of Webster's Unabridged Dictionary."
"Oh…how about dinner before you do that?"
"Er, before I read the second installment, it is best if I read the first part, right?"
"A-And after reading the second part of the dictionary…maybe I can give you a massage?"
"But then I would have to read the third part."
"H-How about if you finish all three volumes?"
"Hmm, I roughly estimated the time and I had come to the conclusion that it would be too late to have dinner then."
A final blow of frustrated breath from the woman. "BREAKFAST!"
"Oh, I'll be sleeping by then already."
She clicked her tongue quietly. She would wonder no more that Mizuki-sensei regained her wits quick enough to break off with him after only two weeks of relationship. He was simply too staid, even for the legendary patience and tolerance of their elementary teacher.
But she had to admit, there were times she would find herself fascinated by Eriol-kun's unusual ways.
For instance, here he was, standing beside her in a crowded subway train, braving fatigue and lethal tendencies to get assailed by his fan female population. All just to fetch her from her university every night. It wasn't what someone like him should do, and she was not the person someone like him should spend time on.
Her lilac eyes went back to his figure, her mind recalling the fateful day when he returned to Tomoeda.
"H-Hiiragizawa-kun!" she exclaimed. He was the last person she expected to see standing by the gates of Tomoeda High School, holding a bouquet of white roses. He was dressed in a dark blue coat and equally dark trousers, inches taller than she remembered.
Beside her, Kinomoto Sakura squealed in delight. "Eriol-kun!" She rushed towards him and embraced him excitedly. "Wow, you're here! You're really here!"
"Thank you, Sakura-chan," he said in a mild tone that sent electricity running within her. "Very warm as always. However, my cute descendant is wearing a look that promises instant disposal of me if I shall not release you." He smiled at the person behind her, and she knew that Syaoran was standing behind them, maybe wearing the infamous Li glare.
Sakura pouted. "You two…when will you ever learn to kiss and make up?"
Eriol chuckled. "I am willing to start learning the kiss part."
"In your dreams, Hiiragizawa," snorted Syaoran, who had taken her place as a camera-wielder in this occasion. It was their high school graduation, and Li, having finished his schooling a year ahead of them, had come to witness the ceremony too. She had to reluctantly hand him her precious video camera so she could accept the diploma properly from the school head.
"Like I said," Sakura sighed, then smiled at her as if saying, 'Men'.
She smiled weakly in return. She was starting to feel out-of-place in the situation since she was not really that personally close to the unexpected guest. The best of their exchanges bordered on polite 'good mornings' and 'how is Sakura-chan?', and even when they started to have a regular mail correspondence, it served more as a Tomoeda newsletter. She told him about his best buddy Yamazaki's antics and Sakura-chan and Li-kun's amusingly awkward first stage of boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, among a hundred other things. Recently, she started to become more carefree in writing the letters, but still, she was aware that he was, well, Hiiragizawa-kun. Befriending him in a level that Sakura and Mizuki-sensei do felt like a taboo.
And now that he was standing in front of her, ignoring her in a way that she was starting to think as deliberate, she suddenly wondered if all those letters that never missed its scheduled replies actually meant nothing to him. For all she knew, he was just indulging her, since she was the best friend of the clow mistress. Perhaps she served to entertain him at his idle moments, or maybe he wasn't reading the name signed on those letters after all.
It was silly, considering how the letters she received from him were written to testify of him fully knowing whom he was exchanging mails with. Yet she could not find any explanation for his indifference.
She bit her lower lip and was about to step back when their eyes suddenly met. For a moment that she thought lasted too long for comfort, his gaze locked on hers.
And then a patch of scarlet that came and went too quickly crept on his face. Disentangling himself from Sakura's embrace, he quietly stepped towards her and handed her the flowers.
She blinked. "U-Um…"
"Co…" He cleared his throat when his voice reached its peak pitch. "C-Congratulations…"
"T-Thank you," she replied, stammering. She appreciated the flowers a lot, but wasn't he going to say anything else? She was his most dedicated pen pal, for crying out loud!
"Why did I not get a bouquet too, Eriol-kun?" demanded Sakura, but her twinkling emerald eyes gave her joke away.
"Because you are already a flower, Sakura-chan," the London male replied gamely, as if he had just recovered. "But accept my heartfelt congratulations on finishing this part of your studies too. I believe Nadeshiko-san was almost your age when she married"
"Hey—" Whenever the conversation focuses on his girlfriend, Li could lose some touch with his humor.
"Oh, please do not feel hurt, dear Li Syaoran. I didn't know you would look for bouquets too," teased Eriol.
"GRAAAH!" Li marched away grumpily, followed by his laughing girlfriend.
She was about to follow her second cousin when she heard him clear his throat. Slowly, she turned to him expectantly.
"I am…" He paused. "…very glad to see you in person after years of satisfying myself with your letters."
She nearly raised a bow. Why did she feel like he was addressing a UN ambassador instead of an old classmate and friend? But then again, he did look very uncomfortable now. The jetlag, maybe.
His gaze went up and down her toga-clad body for a second. His azure eyes then softened. "White suits you very well."
She blinked, unsure of what to reply. Was he complimenting her, or he just liked the cut of her graduation robe?
Fortunately, he had already turned away. "Let's go?"
However, after some months of being in his company, she had long forgotten the two things she thought that mattered: his true age and identity, and his power. She had long grown accustomed to the fact that his knowledge on sorcery was inversely proportional to his comprehension of women. There were even times she would actually see his nervousness in his eyes whenever she would so much as raise an eyebrow at him.
Call her a sadistic power-tripper, but she enjoyed knowing that Hiiragizawa-kun was acting like a hen-pecked husband because of her. How he would easily abide by her whims when she was in one of her mood swings. How he would answer her phone calls even late at night and go to the nearest 7-11 store to buy her a cheesedog and Gulp even at midnight. How he would still reply to her spur-of-the-moment letters even when it was already ridiculous, considering how they were seeing each other already almost everyday. How he would never miss little occasions like her first solo recital and her first time to try a new recipe. He would always be there. Always.
One question remained in her mind though.
Why was he doing this, to her, of all people?
Having known him since fifth grade, she knew his mind worked in levels very much different than theirs. He had a reason for his every decision, as well as a motive for every action. And she was not sure she wanted to know whatever reason or motive was behind his apparent interest on her. May the cynics of the world forgive her naivety, but she had always believed that affection and warmth was as spontaneous, as spontaneous as sun's own rays of warmness give off. To even think of Eriol befriending her for some cold, calculating purpose was making her particularly uncomfortable.
After all, he was already her other most significant male figure in her life. Li Syaoran was like a concerned Fujitaka and an overprotective Touya all rolled into one, looking after her welfare like she was one of his sisters. Stern, at times nagging, but never without warmth.
Hiiragizawa-kun, on the other hand, was not comparable to any other man she knew. Never once did he attempt to impose anything on her or tried to influence her into a conviction. Unlike Syaoran, he would not ask her to say what was wrong whenever she was not in the mood. Eriol wouldn't prompt her to talk, but strangely, it would only encourage her all the more to open up to him.
And listen attentively he would. It was with him that she realized how wonderful it felt to talk and talk with the knowledge that someone was fully listening. No interruptions, no whys. He would save his questions for later, his opinions even more so.
And she needed only to look at the pair of blue-colored gentleness to know the ready acceptance of whatever she would say. He wouldn't think of her less if she did something wrong, least of all tell her what should she do.
What she first thought as detachment on his part was actually an unconventional bond that linked him to her. The sound of his friendship was silence, and it was every inch golden. In his stillness, she found her sanctuary. In his calm, she found her security she never thought she wanted until he gave her one.
The train doors in front of them opened, startling her. This was followed by the rush of people behind her, eager to return home from work already. She was nearly bumped off the train when his hand encircled her wrist, and with one light tug, pulled her back to the air-conditioned coaster.
"Daidouji-san, bear in mind that getting trampled to death is not a very pretty way to die." He flashed her his teasing grin, both mature and boyish to her eyes. "First of all, those tired people won't pay for your funeral. Neither would the operators of the subway."
She blinked. It wasn't everyday that he would crack a joke at her expense, but she liked it—it made her feel closer to him. "Thank you, both for the concern and the rescue."
At the word 'concern', he immediately shut up. She too, opted for silence.
She could never really figure out this man.
Her darling Sakura-chan, though all grown-up, had preserved her sweet child-like innocence and was an open book to her, emotionally-wise. Li Syaoran, on the other hand, may try his best to hide his feelings underneath his temperamental but good-hearted nature, but he would always be a transparent piece of glass sheet to her. She could also read fairly well the sentiments and emotions of her mother, relatives, and other friends.
But when it comes to this Londoner, her talent loses luster. At one moment he would suddenly look so happy and carefree, and then the next minute he was back to his reserved and quiet self. It was easy to diagnose it with schizo tendencies, but kidding aside, she finally understood why Syaoran cautioned her one time when he noticed the deepening friendship forming between her and the London gentleman.
Not with him, Daidouji. Don't get close to a complicated man like him. He'll only give you problems. He's not like us.
To which she replied, I know.
She only knew too well how different he was from the rest.
In fact, he was just about the every opposite of the person she knew was closest to her heart. He was not your average guy that you would expect to settle down and start a family with. He was between living his identity then and his life now. He would die with his true feelings tucked safely in his grave.
In one word taken from Li's vocabulary, complications.
Eriol turned to her. "Uh…I think there are available seats already." He motioned to the nearly empty train and the few people watching them, some exasperated, some interested. Apparently, they were the only ones left standing in there.
"How come you didn't tell me sooner?" she asked, sweatdropping.
His eyes widened, and on his face formed a visible hint of scarlet. "I…got distracted…" he mumbled. "S-Sorry…"
She looked at the forgotten book on his other hand. Definitely not that. What could have merited his attention then?
He motioned for her to sit down, and she complied. She felt his weight settle beside her.
"You shouldn't be doing this," she began, her eyes on the reflection they make on the other side of the seats, fortunately empty.
"W-Well…fetching me in school." She clasped and unclasped her hands that were starting to perspire amidst the cool air-conditioning of the vehicle. "I-It's too… inconvenient on your part."
"Shouldn't that be something I should decide on?" he asked quietly, raising a brow inquisitively. "Perhaps, it is the other way around."
"I'm not comfortable," she agreed. "But it's just because you never told me why you had to do this." There, she said it. The thing she couldn't bring herself to say since day one of their unusual friendship.
She heard his sigh, a most difficult one to make, it seemed to her. "I want…to make sure…you get home safe. Nights in cities are not safe for a lone lady," he explained.
She glanced at him, mouth twitched. Why did something as simple as that took him that long to explain? Ergo, she was not satisfied by his answer. But what should he say that would satisfy her anyway? That he was concerned about her? Would he ever admit to that?
She would find out.
"Why me when you can befriend anyone else in Tomoeda?" she asked, her eyes roving around his face searchingly.
He tried to laugh it off dismissively. "Silly question, Daidouji-san."
She exhaled sharply. "I do not find the value of my friendship with someone else as silly."
This made him smile apologetically. "Likewise. What I mean is, it's not something to ask anymore."
"I want to know anyway," she insisted. "I want to know why you feel so warm in those letters and yet so distant now that we're face to face. I want to know why you could smile and tease with such ease when talking with other people but you always clam up when it comes to me. " She was aware of her pent-up frustration slowly building up into the irritation that was making its presence felt in her voice. "I cannot understand why you can do anything for me, anything I ask of you in fact, yet you deny that you find me an important person!"
"I-I…I am not denying anything," he said slowly. And surprises of all surprises, he reached for his paperback again.
You're not admitting it, either, which is almost as bad, she thought, rolling her eyes. "Alright then. Forget that I asked." She laid her head back at the glass panel, her eyes on the reflection of her companion. Perhaps he would always stay that way, just like that mirror image across their seats: visible but distant, cold and unfeeling.
Quietly, she tilted her head sideward, eyes still watching their cast reflection on the other side of the vehicle. She suppressed a smile when she saw that her reflection's head was almost on his shoulder. Probably, it would do.
The lids of her eyes grew heavier as she felt slumber slowly pulling her. It would just have to take a little imagination on her part to improvise on the warmth of his shoulders—
She moaned softly, telling him to not disturb her. He obliged, and she completely closed her eyes. However, she felt his hand gently place itself on her hair, giving it a gentle push. His shoulder quickly cushioned her face, his chin on the crown of her head. She had to smile at that. He may be a lot of things, but he was still a gentleman through and through.
Just as she was about to completely give in to sleep, she felt his hand on her cheek, gently caressing it. His touch was so feather-like that she nearly shivered in delight. Why did he have to hide this caring side of his from her? Why could he be so tender only when he thought she wasn't looking?
Right this moment, she suddenly wished that time would freeze. She knew that never would this opportunity happen again. This was the closest she had ever felt with him, in one unguarded piece of time that he seemed to have forgotten whatever was holding him back.
All of a sudden, his finger suddenly trembled, and then stopped. A sigh escaped his throat.
"You're awake," he said.
"Yes, I am." She didn't bother opening her eyes though. She was still tingling from that brief moment of Hiiragizawa-kun's madness.
"Don't say sorry, please." She knew she wouldn't hesitate to murder someone if he uttered any form of apology.
"I-I was…taking advantage of you while I thought you were unconscious," he mumbled, his tone somewhat torn between remorse and discomfort. "I-I shouldn't have—"
She could hear his racing heartbeat on his chest. It must have been a really big deal on his part. Thus, her annoyance was quickly replaced by part-amusement. Hiiragizawa Eriol was still very much a boy at heart, for sure.
"Y-You do know how much I respect you, don't you?" he suddenly asked.
She nodded, even though it was the first time that she entertained such thought. How could someone as mysterious and powerful as him do so? She had always rationalized that his hen-pecked attitude was mostly due to his fear and ignorance of girls. But respect?
He continued to speak in the same hushed tone. "You are one of the people I can associate with a friend, together with Sakura-san and maybe Li Syaoran too. Even back in fifth grade, I have already admired your devotion to Sakura-san and your magnanimous nature of sharing her happiness no matter what. When I boarded the plane heading for London, I have already decided to cut all ties with Tomoeda and start a new life minus my Clow Reed persona, but it didn't go as planned."
"Because I asked if I can write you letters," she said, biting her lower lip.
"I should have refused, but no man in his sane mind could refuse someone as yourself, Daidouji-san." Even with her eyes closed, she could visualize the boyish smile that could have curved his mouth. "And if you must know, I prize your letters very much. Your bi-monthly mails cheer me up a lot, and I still re-read it if ever I need a reason to smile."
She felt her heart skip a beat. She was awed by how much he appreciated those friendly letters.
"Through your letters, I realized that you were much kinder and sweeter than I originally thought, and that you are warm and thoughtful. But you are also funny and witty, and a very smart young woman too."
"W-Where did you buy those compliments?" she asked, letting out a nervous laughter. "R-Really effective. I'm in the verge of believing, I must warn you."
"And in those letters, I also noticed how very similar you and I are." He, too, laughed nervously. "A-Audacious for me to say but…well, I noticed that…well…you sound so lonely. I-I mean"
"I see." Her heart pounded harder. He was not as unfeeling as she originally presumed after all.
"W-Well, after that, I started looking forward to your letters until finally…" He blew another breath. "…until finally, I decided to go back to Tomoeda to see you."
"T-To see me?" She didn't know that either. All the while, she thought he had just visited for their graduation and summer vacation. So that was why he occupied his mansion once more.
"I was really overwhelmed when I saw you face to face again. More beautiful than I had ever imagined, and with so much spirit in you…" He let out a chuckle. "I've never felt the same again afterwards."
"A-Are you trying to say that I disturbed your sensibilities?" The temptation to open her eyes was getting harder and harder to resist.
"Disturbed?" he said thoughtfully. "If it means I find it nearly impossible not to think of you, well yes, I believe you are rather disturbing."
She laughed quietly. She never knew being called 'disturbing' could sound so delicious, especially when coming from Hiiragizawa-kun.
"Daidouji-san, I think this is our stop now," he said quietly, sounding sober again.
She was forced to open her eyes. Fate and its evilness. Just when she had started to get a more decent conversation with Eriol, it had to barge in and break the spell.
As they were walking side by side on the nearly deserted road, she suddenly spoke up. "Hey, Hiiragizawa-kun, do you still find me…disturbing?"
He suddenly exploded into fits of cough. "E-Excuse me." He quickened his pace. "The night breeze is getting chilly. We really should hurry home now."
"I guess that's a 'yes'," she said dryly. She knew the moment there in the train was too good to last. He could have just been carried away by their unbelievable nearness.
Her mouth twitched mischievously. Of course, nearness! Why didn't she think of that sooner? She could easily provide that one.
Subtly, she matched her pace with his. Finally catching up with him, she scanned the ground for a convincing place to slip and fall. She knew he wouldn't be able to refuse that chance of closeness, knowing his gentleman nature.
"Um, Hiiragizawa-kun?" She touched his arm lightly, intending to call his attention so he would fully see the "accident" that would happen to her.
To her dismay, he suddenly jumped, startled. The sudden movement caused him to crash on the ground, face first.
"Okay, I've got it all bandaged up." She tapped his knee, and then got up from her seated position. They were both leaning under the lighted postlamp, bags on the floor. "You think you can still walk?"
"Yes, of course." He forced a smile, but it turned out a grimace. "I am afraid I have lost my power long ago, after the last Clow card has been transformed. I cannot use it to heal myself."
"Don't worry. I'm sure your white cells are still intact," she reassured him, sitting down beside him. "You know, this is a bad idea."
"I know," he said miserably. "Maybe I should ask Sakura-san even a fraction of my old powers. I kind of miss them sometimes."
"No, no. I mean, this friendship, if that's what you call it," she said, shaking her head.
He gaped at her.
"I mean, yes, you respect me, and yes, you find me disturbing in a good way. However, this won't work out at all if you can't even stand being close to me."
He paused, and for a moment, she could feel tension rise within him.
"Do you really think our friendship won't work?" It was the saddest voice she ever heard in her whole life.
"Hiiragizawa-kun…" She looked at him sideways. "Why can't you let yourself get close to me? I would rather have that than your veneration, you know."
His eyes clouded. "Because if I allow myself the liberty to do what you want, I might end up doing something stupid."
"Like falling more deeply in love with my most special friend."
Her jaw dropped. Falling? More deeply? In love? With her? She suddenly felt dizzy. Ironic when she felt deep in her heart, she wanted to hear that answer too. But now that she heard it loud and clear from him, she could not think of any proper reaction at all.
He sighed yet again. If she were to pay him a yen for every sigh he made all throughout this evening, she was most certain that she would lose the famous Daidouji wealth sooner than her ancestors would have it.
"This wasn't the way I planned my confession, Daidouji-san," he said defeatedly. "Really, I apologize for my rudeness."
"W-What's wrong with falling in love with me?" she found herself asking him.
He laughed sadly. "Because I can see it in your eyes. You won't want to be involved with someone as complicated as me. And knowing how sensitive you are, I know…I know sooner or later you would find out. The last thing I want you to feel for me is pity."
"B-But…y-you can't fall in love," she stammered. "Not with someone like me! If your relationship with Mizuki-sensei didn't last then…then….what more for us?"
"Why can't one fall in love with someone like you, Daidouji-san?" he asked back, his voice husky from weariness and chill. "You are the kindest, most selfless person I know. You can easily make me smile by your mere voice. You can make me forget whatever's in my mind when you smile my way. Your laughter is my sunshine when I am alone in the darkness of my mansion, wondering what should I do next with my life. You disturb my senses in a way no one could ever do. Now do tell me how can a man stop himself from loving you?"
She fell speechless as Eriol tested his knee, and then got up.
"We really should be heading home now," he said, offering his right hand towards her.
"Why did you break up with Mizuki-sensei?"
"We did not."
Her face fell.
"We never had anything to break in the first place," he explained smilingly. "Now will you take my hand already?"
"B-But," she sputtered. So the grapevine news was not reliable then?
"We are good friends," he said, as if reading her mind. "Misinterpreted in a lot of ways, but she is a very good woman, if only she was in love with a man who will love her too."
Her eyes widened. Kinomoto Touya?
"Well, will you take my hand now?" he asked.
"U-Uh…r-right…" Suddenly she felt like she was transported back to the first time that met in Tomoeda Elementary School, and then once more after their high school graduation. Shyness returned to her like an old friend. She couldn't believe it; she was deeply loved by this man in front of her—this man of utter complications, but wanted someone as simple as her.
His fingers tightened their hold on hers as he pulled her up gently. As soon as she got her balance though, she was not deposited back to her feet. Instead, he pulled her closer to her until she felt his lips on hers.
She was too shocked to even react, and just as she was about to respond in a way she didn't know if proper, he pulled back abruptly, catching his breath.
"I-I…I…" he stammered, his hands still on hers. "…did… I do it right?"
One moment her jaw was dropped, and the other she was already laughing like there was no tomorrow.
Kami-sama, she was his first kiss!
His face was now visibly flaming. "M-Must be miscalculation on my part. I-I did not observe enough, p-perhaps…"
"Come on, boyfriend, let's get going," she said, looping her arm around his. "You're starting to think too much when you get chilled."
"It's not that!" he protested, limping along too. "It's just—" His eyes suddenly widened, making him pause. She turned to him, a playful smile on her face.
"D-Did I hear it right, what you called me?" he asked incredulously.
She shrugged. "Why not? You're a boy and you're my friend," she reasoned casually.
His face fell. "Y-Yes…"
"And you're my most special friend," she added, a twinkle in her eye. "Very special."
The corners of his mouth crinkled. "I guess…I could live with that…" He grinned boyishly, nearly making her heart melt. "No take-backs, okay?"
"it's a point of no return, Hiiragizawa Eriol-kun," she nodded. "So will you start dating me now?"
"Well, I do need to court you first properly, don't I? I must make my intentions clear to you mother and to your whole family as well."
"Then we can go out?"
"After we have obtained their permission and blessings."
"Yes, yes, then you can kiss me again?"
He frowned. "Well, of course. In front of the priest and the altar, after the wedding ceremony."
She rolled her eyes. "You are SO stalling time to learn how to kiss properly, Hiiragizawa."
To her laughter, his face had turned scarlet again. "Daidouji-san, PLEASE—"
She laid her head on his shoulder, humming. Well, she could use some time herself too. After all, like him, her first kiss deserved only the best too.
Torpedo is a colloquial Tagalog term that was derived from "torpe", meaning a shy guy who wouldn't make his move on the girl he likes very much. Longer than usual ne? And it doesn't go on hiatus hehe! Thank you for reading!