Chapter 10

"Fine. Put it in," Sakura said and leaned further into the sofa cushions.

"I don't want to!" Syaoran argued.

"Stop being a pansy and put it in already!"

"No. I just want to lay here and you put it in!"

"What's going on in here?" Touya asked, coming into the living room and eyeing the pair of cousins on the sofa warily. "It sounds wrong."

Sakura couldn't resist the jibe. "Get your mind out of the gutter. I don't know what you do on this sofa with Syaoran, but that's not the case here." Syaoran wiggled over on the sofa more so he could reach Sakura and kick her on the thigh. "I let him pick out the movie we're going to watch, but he still refuses to get off his lazy bum and put it in the DVD player."

"Let me?" Syaoran's voice was incredulous. "You made me pick! And because of that, you should be the one to get up and put it in."

Touya rolled his eyes, refusing to be sucked into their childish antics. "Grow up. Both of you should get up and do something besides watch T.V. for a change. You are practically glued to those spots. I haven't seen you move all day!"

"That's not true." Syaoran shifted his weight in an attempt to get more comfortable. His body was leaving an imprint on the sofa and he was trying to even it out a bit. "I got up to go to the bathroom about half an hour ago."

"That's right!" Sakura chirped, enjoying the aghast look on her brother's face. He was one of those people that always felt like he had to be doing something. He just couldn't understand the joys of doing nothing. That was fine and everything, but it was the biggest difference between the two siblings. Sakura had been quite happy when she discovered that she and Syaoran shared a love of being lazy.

It was actually surprising how easy the transition from secret lovers back to normal cousins had been - at least on the surface. It was refreshing for Sakura to be natural around Syaoran and even Syaoran seemed to be doing a lot better. There was no more horrible tension or pressure and they found that they were able to enjoy one another's company. Neither of them missed the snapping or the hurt.

There were times it was still awkward. True to Syaoran's words, he had started dating again. It surprised Sakura how soon he jumped into things – mere days after the late night conversation in her room. It really shouldn't have, Syaoran had always been popular with girls. Knowing that she had absolutely no right to feel that way, Sakura had sucked it up. After all, she genuinely wanted him to be as happy as she was with Eriol.

There was an upside to his quick actions. Tomoyo had just assumed that Syaoran rejected her because he was already seeing another girl. Sakura didn't bother to correct her. She couldn't really see the point. It seemed Tomoyo had basically given up on him anyway after the beating her pride took at the Fourth of July party.

"Whatever." Touya moved so that he was hovering over Sakura. He poked her in the face just for good measure. "I have to go to work now."

Sakura puckered her lips with displeasure. "But it's not your normal shift."

"Nope." Touya shrugged his shoulders. "Someone calls in sick and I end up having to go in. Life sucks."

"Sure does," Sakura agreed. It seemed like way too much hassle for a crap paying job.

"And dad called. He's got a big case right now and said he won't be home until late." Touya sent warning glares at both of them. "So you two behave."

"Aww." Sakura flipped over so she was upside down on the couch. "Why did you have to go and say that? I was going to invite Eriol over and we were going to have sex on your bed."

Touya irately grabbed Sakura's ankles and shoved them over her head so she did a backwards roll off the sofa.

"That wasn't very nice," she said when she managed to regain her composure. "We were going to change the sheets. Honest."

Syaoran snorted.

"Geeze." Touya rubbed the bridge of his nose in exasperation. "Who taught you how to talk like that?"

"Yo mama."

"You're going to give me stomach ulcers," Touya grumbled, his eyes flashing. "And you better not actually be having sex with that kid."

"Would I tell you the truth if I were?" Sakura said and then grabbed a pillow for protection as her brother had descended upon her. "I'm kidding! It's a joke! We're really not." She wacked him on the head with the small pillow for emphasis.

"Good." Touya stood up straight, towering over her. A lesser woman than Sakura would have been intimidated by his menacing form. "It better stay that way for his sake too."

"Ooooo… I'm so scared!" Sakura taunted. She knew it was the epitome of being childish, but if a person couldn't be childish with their siblings, then when could they?

Touya smirked and put his foot on her stomach, squashing her slightly. "You will be. Try not to be too loud, Squirt. Mom's still sleeping – she has to work tonight."

"Okay," Sakura squeaked out and breathed a sigh of relief when he removed his mammoth foot. "Don't let the door hit you on the way out!"

Once Touya was gone, Sakura and Syaoran were in the same predicament as they had been before he showed up. They looked at each other and said at the same time, "You put it in."

"I guess I'll do it," Sakura said, giving in. "Thanks to Touya, I'm already on the floor."

"Glad you finally saw reason." Syaoran stretched out, putting his feet on Sakura's spot and working out the kinks in his shoulder.

Sakura chose not to respond to that and instead located the DVD they were going to watch and popped open the case. She was about to put it in the player when she changed her mind. "Maybe Touya's right. Do you think we should get up and do something?"

"It doesn't matter." Syaoran yawned. "I'm going to have to get up in a little while anyways and get dressed."

Sakura twisted around so she could see him. "You're going somewhere?" This was the first she had heard of it.

"Yup, I got a date." He gave her a half smile.

"Oh." Sakura turned back around. "Is it the same girl as last time? Pikachu?"

Syaoran chuckled low in his throat. "Yes. And her name is Chiharu."

Sakura leaned back on her hands and tilted her head back so she could look at him upside down. "So I guess that means I have to entertain myself tonight. Puh." Eriol and Meiling were busy training for an upcoming tennis tournament and Tomoyo was at the beach with her family. Sakura had to wonder at how they all managed to be busy when she needed them.

"Do you remember how to do that?" Syaoran asked.

"Probably not." It was strange, but she hadn't had a lot of alone time recently. Once she got to thinking about it, it was probably a good opportunity to have some quality time with herself. Being around other people too much was bound to drive a person bonkers sooner or later. "Maybe I'll read or go swimming, or something."

"Good for you. Now put the movie in already!" Syaoran ordered, gesturing with his hands.

Sakura stuck her tongue out at him, but did it anyways.

The house was unearthly quiet. So much so in fact that it was starting to freak Sakura out a bit. She knew she wasn't technically alone in the house since her mother was still snoozing, but that really didn't make her feel any better.

The clock chimed eight o'clock and Sakura jumped so bad the book she had been reading went flying out of her hands. It landed on the floor with the cover shut, completely losing Sakura's place. She sighed and bent over to pick it up, wondering what was wrong with her. You would think she'd never been left alone in the house before. She thought she'd grown out of her fear of the dark years ago.

Sakura was flipping through the pages of her book, trying to find her place again when something crashed outside and the book went flying again.

"That's it," she muttered when her heart managed to decelerate. She got to her feet and placed the book down. If she couldn't stop jumping at every little sound, she would just have to drown them out.

Sakura climbed the stairs to the second floor and down the hallway before stopping in front of her door. All of a sudden she wished she'd had the foresight to flick the hallway light on. She could still see things because of the light from the first floor, but it was muted near her room.

She opened the door and was met with darkness. She could see nothing in her room and her heart accelerated again. It was pounding so hard she could hear it in her ears. She snaked her hand over to the light switch and flipped it up. Light flooded her eyes, but she saw with relief that the room was empty and everything was as it should have been.

Sakura had no reason why, but ever since she was a child she'd had a fear of turning on the light switch and there being someone in the room. She knew it was ridiculous, but the fear was still there.

Sakura chuckled and shook her head at how stupid she was being. She crossed the room in four long strides and snatched her new iPod off the dresser.

Sakura had returned to the living room and was about to sit down when she heard another sound again. Except this time the sound was coming from inside the house – or to be more specific – it was coming from the kitchen.

Sakura froze, not knowing what to do until the person in the kitchen coughed. Her body sagged in relief. It was just her mother. She smiled slightly and decided to go say hi. The two of them hadn't seen each other all day, after all.

When Sakura entered the kitchen, Nadesico was bent over and rummaging around in the refrigerator and didn't even notice.

"Hey mom!" Sakura chirped, not meaning to frighten her mother but doing it just the same. Nadesico jerked upwards and narrowly missed slamming her head on the bottom part of the freezer.

"Sakura! You scared me! When did you get home?" Nadesico asked, trying to sound normal, but her voice and the way she turned sideways to hide what was in her hand betrayed her.

"I've been home," Sakura said. Her cheery disposition evaporated. "What is that?"

"What is what?" Nadesico shut the fridge door and moved further away form her daughter.

Sakura knew what was in her hands, but didn't want to believe it. She stared at her mother's red rimmed eyes until Nadesico sighed and placed the beer can on the counter. She popped open the top with ease and took a big sip.

"Don't you have to work tonight?" Sakura asked. She was confused and wanted desperately to understand.

"Yeah." Nadesico took another gulp from the can. Sakura gaped at her.

"Do you think that's a good idea?"

"I was just going to have one or two." Nadesico leaned against the counter, turning her body away from Sakura. "It will have worn off by then."

Sakura hadn't even made up her mind about what she was going to do before her body was acting of its own accord. She snatched up her mother's beer and slowly moved to the sink. She tipped it upside down and watched as the yellowish liquid went down the drain. The simple action made her feel a bit better, but not nearly enough. The way her heart was hammering in her chest made her earlier fear of the dark seem like nothing. Her adrenaline was pumping to the max, but she was trying desperately to suppress it.

When the can was empty, Sakura turned around and strode over to the trash can and tossed it in the garbage. All of this she did with calm and controlled actions. Nadesico's eyes followed her every movement but she said nothing. Nothing about her countenance gave away what she was thinking.

Matching pairs of green eyes met in a calm staring contest of sorts. Neither of them said anything. Nadesico finally sighed and pushed away from the counter. She swung open the fridge door and began rummaging around again. When she straightened to the upright standing position, she had another beer in her hands.

"Mom!" Sakura said in a tone of voice she had never heard come out of her mouth before. It was a mix of anger and agony.

Nadesico apparently only heard the anger because she gave Sakura an irritated look as the popped the top to her new can. "Sakura." She put the can to her lips and tilted it up.

Sakura reached forward to grab the can from her mother's hands but Nadesico must have been anticipating that move, because she dodged Sakura's grab. "Mom, you can't do this." Anger had taken over Sakura's tone completely. She didn't think there was any room for another emotion, the way the rage was boiling inside of her.

"Sweetie, you're my daughter," Nadesico said. "Not my keeper."

"Don't call me that!" She couldn't stand to hear the pet name her parents called her come from her mother's lips at that moment. Hurt flashed across Nadesico's face but it was fleeting. She shrugged her shoulders and made to take another sip.

"Selfish," Sakura spat out.

"What ever you say, Sw-" Nadesico stopped herself. "Sakura." Apparently done with the conversation, she walked away from the kitchen.

Sakura stood alone, at a loss for what to do. It felt like a helpless situation. Still, the anger in her was far from gone and she felt like she needed to do something about it. So she followed her mother.

"You really ARE selfish!" Sakura said. Nadesico stopped and turned around, her eyebrow raised.

"You really want to continue this?"

Sakura continued as if she hadn't said anything. "You act like you are the only one this is affecting!" Nadesico said nothing so Sakura continued. "Touya might not say anything but I know this bothers him. He's a mama's boy – how could it not?"

Nadesico sat down at the dining room table and took another swig. She knew Sakura would follow her if she tried to leave, so she just sat there.

"And dad." Sakura paused, remembering her father's face and the way he talked to her at the party. She had partially deserved his irritation since she just kept pushing and pushing, but it was still abnormal for him to talk to her like that. It wasn't even that he'd actually said anything extremely cruel, but his disapproval of her cut her to the core. "I know it is getting to him. He doesn't smile as much and he always looks so worn out."

Sakura could see that her words were having no affect on her mother and couldn't understand why. What was going on that had changed her so much? Up until that summer, her mother had been like her best friend - even more than Tomoyo had been. They would spend time together, Sakura would tell her all her secrets, and Nadesico would give her advice… up until the thing with Syaoran, nothing had been a taboo subject between the two of them.

Sakura felt the anger leak from her bones and was instead consumed by an overwhelming sadness. She missed her mother. Though they fought like sisters, she had always thought they shared a special bond. Knowing that bond was in danger of being irreparable was probably the most painful thing she had ever experienced. It was flat out terrifying.

Sakura knew she was going to cry. And while she hated it (and feared that she was turning into a crybaby), she didn't feel the need to stop it. It felt different than the tears at the party. Those had been violent. These were silent and leaked from her eyes, requiring no effort on her part. They dripped off her face and down her shirt.

Because they were so effortless, Sakura was sure she could talk normally. Her mother wasn't looking at her anyways. "And I-" She was wrong. Her voice caught and cracked.

Nadesico's head snapped up, startled. Her red rimmed green eyes widened when she saw her daughter's tear soaked face.

Knowing that she was caught, Sakura forced words out of her mouth. It wasn't something she would normally do since she sounded high pitched and out of control when she was crying, but she didn't care at the moment. "It affects me too!"

Nadesico looked like a deer caught in headlights and still Sakura continued. "I miss my mom!" It was bad enough that she had to give up Syaoran, but she didn't want to lose her mother too. Her face crumpled in pain. "I may be seventeen, but I still need my mother!" Her voice had taken on a hysterical quality as she said her last sentence. "I need you!"

Nadesico stood up and the chair she had been occupying tipped over and landed on the linoleum with a crash. She made to reach forward and grab Sakura but then thought better of it. Sakura took a half step backwards and squeezed her eyes shut, the tears still going strong.

"Sakura…" Nadesico sounded so unsure of herself. "S-sweetie." Her voice cracked and Sakura opened her eyes to see Nadesico's eyes pooling with unshed tears. "I'm so sorry, baby."

That was good enough for her. Sakura launched herself at her mother's outstretched arms and buried her face in the soft cleavage. Meiling's body had been womanly and comforting, but it was nothing compared to Nadesico's inviting warmth.

Nadesico still smelled of alcohol, but Sakura didn't care at the moment. If she buried her nose deep enough she could smell her mother's original scent, soap and scented lotion. It was a comforting smell and it reminded Sakura of the past, before the events of the summer had occurred and her life had been forever changed. It was nice to pretend, even if for only a little while.

After that, the two of them had gathered all of the booze in the house and piled into Sakura's car, with Sakura at the wheel. They drove to a nearby convenience store and Sakura deposited all of it in a dumpster with a satisfying thunk.

Nadesico took a steaming hot bath when they returned to the house and then the two of them crawled into Nadesico's bed and chatted. They talked about all sorts of things that they'd missed out on with each other, but Sakura still didn't tell her about Syaoran. She also noticed that her mother didn't tell her what had started the drinking and wasn't about to ask. That was okay for now. Everything else was fair game.

"So, how's it going with your boyfriend?" Nadesico asked, her eyes glittering from the little light creeping in through the window. The rest of the room was dark.

"It's going well," Sakura answered, wondering how they had ended up talking about her again.

"That's good. So, how is he at kissing?"

"Mom!" Sakura blanched at her mother's bluntness. Nadesico giggled. Sakura couldn't help grinning either. "Let's just say, he knows what he's doing." And just to try and catch her mother off guard. "How is dad at kissing?"

Nadesico didn't take the bait. Instead, she looked like she was considering it. "He's definitely in the top five," she said after a while. "That is, after I taught him how." She winked.

Sakura's eyes bugged out. Nadesico laughed at her daughter's flabbergasted expression. "What? I had a lot of boyfriends before I met your father."

That was news to her. "Oh?"

"Yeah." Nadesico rolled over so she was on her back. "But they were mostly losers. I met your father in college and immediately fell for him. He was just so serious, but could also be a lot of fun. It's strange, I know. But I just felt like I could be myself around him. There was no need for fronts and he accepted me. Plus, it didn't hurt that he was such a cutie, with those glasses and everything."

Sakura listened to her mother talk, wondering why only now she was learning about all of this. It seemed like they shared a glasses fetish, Sakura mused, thinking about Eriol's spectacles.

"Who asked who out?" Sakura asked, really wanting to know.

"Oh, I did." Nadesico turned her head towards her daughter. "He was so shy and always the perfect gentleman, it was always me who made the first move. But once I got things going, he was more than happy to reciprocate." She wiggled her eyebrows and Sakura couldn't decide whether to laugh or feign disgust. It was her parents she was talking about, after all.

The events of the day finally took their toll on Sakura and she drifted off to sleep. She was woken up at some point and realized that her mother's warm body wasn't next to her anymore. She started to become alarmed until she heard the hushed voices of her mother and father.

She was still groggy with sleep, but peeked one eye open to see Nadesico wearing scrubs and Fujitaka in his suit. She didn't really hear what they were saying, but got the impression that it was something good because she saw them hug each other tightly. Sakura closed her eye when they started kissing, wanting to give them some semblance of privacy. While pretending to be asleep, she dozed off again.

The next time she awoke, there was different person sleeping next to her. Sakura stared at her father's sleeping face, enjoying how relaxed he looked at that moment. It took her a moment, but she realized that she was lying on his strong arm and using it as a pillow. It reminded her of when she was little and would crawl into her parents' bed. It was very comforting.

Still, no matter how hard she tried, Sakura could not fall back to sleep. She eventually gave in and carefully crawled out of bed, making sure not to wake her father. She crept out of the room and shut the door all without making a sound.

The house was completely black and Sakura wondered what time it was. There really was no telling. She made it to the living room by running her hands along the walls and was relieved when she finally located a light switch. The light was a lot brighter than she thought it was going to be and it felt like her corneas were burning out of her eyeballs.

"Ow," she mumbled to herself and willed her pupils to adjust. When they finally did she was able to look at the clock. 2:47 in the morning. Sakura sighed. It was too early to be up for the day, but she still didn't think she could sleep.

She noticed her cell phone sitting on the coffee table and reached for it. It was possible that Eriol had called while she was busy with her mother. She flipped it open and, sure enough, she had a missed call from him. Knowing that it was too late to return the call, Sakura exited out of that screen and another window popped up. 2 new messages. Curious, Sakura clicked on 'read'. The first one was from Tomoyo that read:

'I got stung by a jellyfish ;_;'

Sakura winced in sympathy. The second was from Meiling and a bit longer.

'I bought a new kind of peppermint soap and got it in my ass crack and vagina. Now they tingle and I don't know if I like it!'

Sakura burst into laughter at Meiling's audacity and almost dropped her phone. She definitely hadn't been expecting that. She made a mental note to respond to both of them in the morning and set her phone down.

Now what?

There wasn't really anything she felt like doing. Late night television was mostly crap, there wasn't anything she wanted to do on the computer, and she was tired of reading. She wasn't sure what else there was to do, especially at that time of night.

She finally decided that it was a perfect night for a late night dip in the pool. The day had been hot, the night was warm, and she was in an extremely good mood. Plus, she hadn't been swimming in a long time and was beginning to miss it. She would have to be quiet since her father, brother, and Syaoran were all sleeping, but she could deal with that. The silence was part of what made swimming at night so much fun.

Sakura went to her room to change into her bathing suit and grabbed a towel before heading to the backyard. She briefly considered turning on the underwater pool light, but dismissed it. It would be more fun without it.

Sakura set her towel aside and walked to the edge of the pool. She stuck her toe in the water, decided the temperature was acceptable and then slowly lowered herself into the water. It was a little cool, but still not bad.

Sakura put her head under the water and broke the surface, feeling refreshed. The water splashed around a bit, licking the sides of the pool. Sakura did the breaststroke around the pool once, getting a feel for it, before coming to a halt and changing to a backstroke.

She really couldn't believe her luck. So many things were going her way it was almost too good to be true. She had a great boyfriend, she was getting along well with Syaoran again, Meiling was fast becoming a close friend, she was reconciled with her father, and her mother had decided to quit drinking. Life was great.

It was then that Sakura remembered something Meiling had said at the party.

"Have you ever gone skinny dipping?"

Sakura paused, floating on her back and considering. Should she? Could she? Did she even want to?

If she was being completely honest with herself, she was definitely curious. It was something she had never done before and while it wasn't exactly on her 'to do' list, Meiling had piqued her interest. It was just like Meiling said - once the idea was planted in her mind, Sakura was having a hard time discarding it.

If she was ever going to do it, now was the time. It was a dark night and everyone else was in bed.

Mind made up, Sakura swam back over to the shallow end and stood up. Trying not to lose her nerve, she twisted her arms around to untie the back of her top and deposited it on the sidewalk by the pool. Her breasts were free to the night air and they pebbled instantly. Sakura quickly slunk into the water, feeling embarrassed even though she was alone.

"Halfway there," she said to motivate herself. That being said, it took her a little longer to work up the courage to slide her bathing suit bottoms down her legs and put them next to her top.

It felt awkward and freeing at the same time. It was strange that taking off a couple tiny pieces of cloth could make the water feel so much different. It slid around in places she wasn't used to and she couldn't decide if it was a good thing or not, but it didn't matter. It was an experience for the sake of curiosity.

Gaining a little courage, Sakura moved further into the pool and away from her bathing suit. Testing things out, she pushed her feet off of the floor and swam around a bit. It was exhilarating!

Quickly getting the hang of things, Sakura swam around the pool and giggled softly to herself. It was a lot more fun than she thought it was going to be. It was odd how doing something even slightly taboo was able to get the adrenaline pumping.

Sakura came to a stop in the deep end and floated on her back, her boobs halfway out of the water. Sakura didn't care; she was beginning to be comfortable with her nakedness.

But, as we all know, all good things must come to an end.

The porch light flicked on.

Sakura froze, not quite believing what she was seeing. It took the back door opening for her to convince her body to move. She quickly sunk herself to the bottom of the pool. She stayed under there, mortified, until she ran out of air. She was forced to come to the surface.

Sakura stuck her head out, making sure to keep her body hidden. The porch light was far enough away so that it was impossible see the pool very well, so she wasn't too afraid. No one would be able to see what was going on under the water.

"Sakura?" A distinctly male voice called out. "Is that you?"

"Yes," Sakura hissed, finally registering in her brain who had interrupted her peaceful swim. "Of course it is!"

"Well, excuse me," Syaoran said, shutting the door. He took a few steps closer to the pool. Sakura started getting nervous. She wanted to tell him to stop, but figured that would alert him to the fact that something was going on. "I couldn't see you from over here. What are you doing?"

"Swimming. Nar." Her brain was whirling at a hundred miles an hour, trying to think of an inconspicuous way of getting rid of him.

"It's after three in the morning. You thought now was the best time for a little dip?" he asked and moved closer. Sakura gulped.

"I couldn't sleep," she said at last.

"Oh." Syaoran paused and Sakura relaxed a bit. It was premature. He started walking again and that time he made it all the way to the edge of the shallow end. "I heard about what happened with your mother."

"Um hum." Why did all her articulation have to go flying out of the window when she was panicking? It was so unfair. At least he wasn't standing right next to her bathing suit. Thank God for small miracles.

"It's good that she has decided to stop drinking. I-" Syaoran broke off and Sakura had a small stroke. A frown crossed his features and he moved toward her discarded bathing suit.

He got there and poked it with his foot. Not being able to tell what it was, Syaoran crouched down and picked up one of the pieces. When he held it up, Sakura noticed that it was the top piece. The strings and two small pieces of cloth dangled from his fingertips.

Syaoran stared at the bikini top for a long time until it registered what it was he was looking at. Surprise was his first reaction, but that quickly turned into amusement.

"Sakura, are you… naked?"

Sakura sank deeper into the water, her cheeks flaming. She wanted to drown herself. "Possibly."

Syaoran starting laughing but tried to keep it quiet. The effort of it made him clutch his side. "No wonder you are being uncharacteristically quiet!"

"Yea, yea. Just go away already!" Sakura commanded, trying to hold on to her dignity. It was probably futile anyway. It seemed like it always was in front of him.

He ignored her. "So, I guess Meiling was right. The temptation was too much." He stopped and seemed to consider it. "How is it?"

Sakura was taken aback. She considered lying, but figured there wasn't any point in it. "It's actually a lot more fun than I thought it would be."

"Really?" Syaoran said thoughtfully. He trailed off and Sakura stared at him. It seemed like he decided something, because he turned around and walked back to the house.

Sakura was a relieved and a little disappointed at the same time. She need not have been. Syaoran opened the door and reached inside to turn the porch light off. He used the moonlight to find his way back to the pool.

"Turn around or shut your eyes," he said simply.

"Huh?" Sakura asked stupidly. Syaoran didn't answer her. Instead, he grabbed the bottom of his shirt and pulled it over his head. His smooth chest was exposed to the moonlight and Sakura knew she was gawking. When he hooked his fingers in the waistband of his pajama pants, she finally wised up to what was going on and turned around. It wasn't too much later that she heard the water splash against the side of the pool as he lowered himself into it.

"You're right," he said, and Sakura was relatively sure it was safe to look. Even so, she did it slowly. "This is kind of fun."

"Syaoran, I don't really think this is a good idea," Sakura said, very aware that they were both naked and within 20 feet of each other.

"You're worrying too much," Syaoran answered, knowing why she was uncomfortable. "It should be fine as long as we don't get too close to each other. The pool is pretty big and the water is dark. It's impossible to see anything."

"Well…" Sakura wasn't really ready to leave the water yet, and didn't feel right making him. She could be stubborn and make him leave anyway, but that required too much effort. "I guess it should be okay."

Syaoran smirked, but let the conversation die. The two of them floated around in the water, keeping a safe distance from each other. Sakura caught herself wondering what skinny dipping felt like for him. After all, his junk was free to float and bounce wherever it – she squashed that thought ruthlessly. Great. She really shouldn't be left alone with her thoughts. She needed to make conversation to keep her brain occupied.

Sakura asked the first thing that came to mind. "How was your date?" It surprised her. She shouldn't have even been thinking about that. What was wrong with her? Was she so determined to make things awkward between them?

"It went well," Syaoran answered without missing a beat. Sakura was thankful for that. It kept the situation from turning uncomfortable. "She cut our date short tonight though because her childhood friend called and was having a crisis."

"That's good it's going well." Sakura moved a little further away from him, determined to at least put some physical distance between them, if not figurative. "What's she like?"

"Hmm," Syaoran seemed to really think about it before answering. "She's a very blunt person and doesn't hold back how she feels. It's a nice change."

Sakura wondered if he meant it was a nice change from her. She couldn't blame him though; it was the truth. She could only imagine what her actions looked like from his point of view. The thought wasn't pretty.

Syaoran must have realized how that came out, because he continued quickly. "She's also very kind, even though she likes to pretend like she's not."

Sakura's mind wandered to the conversation she had with her mother before they fell asleep, about kissing. She hadn't ever taken the time to realize how strange it was that you could have many failures before finding the person right for you. It was such an obvious thing, but a revelation just the same. How many guys had kissed her mother, or perhaps thought they had a part in her future? How many guys would she herself kiss before finding the right one? Or how many girls would Syaoran kiss, for that matter?

"Have you k-" she broke off when she realized who she was talking to. She could almost feel him raise his eyebrows at her in the dark.

"Have I kissed her yet?"

Sakura's face flamed with mortification. She was afraid to turn around. "You don't have to answer that! It just kind of slipped out."

Syaoran chuckled low in his throat. "It's alright, I don't mind. No, we haven't kissed yet. I like to go slow."

Sakura jerked around at that one. "Oh really? You could have fooled me." The sarcasm in her voice was impossible to miss. Slow? He had practically jumped her several times that summer!

Syaoran really did laugh at that one. "You have a point. I guess you were the exception to the rule."

"Why is that?" Sakura moved toward him unconsciously, to get a better look at his face in the moonlight.

"To tell you the truth, I did a lot of thinking that night after the party when I left your room." Syaoran sighed deeply. "And I hate to admit it, but you may have been right."

Syaoran looked up at the moon and Sakura got a good look at his side profile. She didn't say anything, just let him talk. He seemed like he needed to get something off of his chest. "I mean, this summer has been a very chaotic one. My mom and step-dad were arguing all the time. It wasn't like they yelled or anything, but there was always a thick tension between them. It was suffocating. I just had to get out. That's when your parents offered to let me stay here."

Sakura nodded. She could still remember when her parents had been talking about it. They saw Syaoran at a family dinner and noticed that he seemed off. Naturally, they wanted to do what they could to help – even if it meant sticking the eternally feuding pair (Syaoran and Sakura) under one roof. She also remembered not being thrilled at the news.

"Everything was so different at your house. Fujitaka and Nadesico treated me so kind, but I was still basically living with a bunch of strangers. After all, I have spent a good chunk of my life with just my mother. I wasn't used to being away from her. I felt like an outsider and an invasion on your lives. To tell the truth, I was planning on going home for a while there."

"What made you change your mind?" Sakura asked, curious beyond all measure. Syaoran turned his head quickly and caught her eye.


Sakura choked on air. "Me?"

Syaoran laughed at her response. "Yea, you."

"What did I do?"

"You treated me exactly the same as always. Of course, that means you treated me like an annoyance, but that's beside the point. It made me feel normal. And before long, people seemed to catch on to your attitude, and began to relax around me. Everything became normal."

Sakura felt a little bad at the way he phrased that. Like he thought he meant nothing to her. "But Touya treated you that way too."

"Yes," Syaoran agreed. "But Touya didn't flounce around the house in a tank top and underwear, or just a towel. You do realize that it was the first time I had been around that kind of thing? I don't have any sisters, so it was completely new for me to see all the sides of a girl close to my age."

"Oh… I see." She didn't know what else to say, and caught herself thinking back to all the things she had worn in front of him. The thought made her a little queasy.

"Every time I shut my eyes I would see your bare legs, or your shirt creeping up on your stomach when you laid on the sofa, or the way you would arch your back when you stretched."

Sakura flushed, but couldn't think of anything to say. At that moment, she had never felt more like a tease.

"So you naturally became the star of my… fantasies." Sakura wanted to die. "But I think it was really just because I was around you too much, and I was seeing so much of you. I ended up projecting on you in real life." Syaoran furrowed his eyebrows and glared at the water.

"I can't believe how I almost ruined everything by acting on those impulses. When I think about it, I get so mad at myself! I never realized how much you are a constant in my life until I tried to ignore you." He looked in her direction, remorse in his features. "I'm really sorry about all of that. I don't want you to have to tiptoe around me anymore. I just want us to stay good friends, because you are important to me." Syaoran wrapped it up and fell silent. Neither of them moved much, so even the water stayed silent.

Syaoran was important to her, too. Before that summer, she barely spared him a stray thought, but things had changed so much. Sakura couldn't imagine her life without him in it. The thought was just so wrong. Without ever realizing it, the two of them had entwined their lives so deeply – so much so, that to detach themselves from one another would leave a void. If it weren't for the occasional urge to jump his bones, she would have considered the feelings she had for him as sisterly. She needed him in her life the same way she needed her mother, father, and brother. She didn't ever want to jeopardize that.

"I'm glad we can agree on something," Sakura said at length. And then, to lighten the mood, she added, "So, does this mean I'm allowed to grill you about your personal life?"

Syaoran cracked a smile. "Only if I'm allowed to do the same."

Sakura blanched. "I'm going to have to think about that one."

"Why am I not surprised?"

"How about I omit at my own discretion?" Sakura offered. Syaoran shrugged.

"Like I could stop you." He smirked and Sakura got the impression he was about to test her. "Got big plans for tomorrow?"

She couldn't really see how that was prying, but okay. "I'm probably going to Eriol's house. It's his parent's anniversary so they are going out to celebrate."

"So it's just going to be the two of you?" Syaoran wiggled his eyebrows. She squirmed under his insinuation.

"His sister is going to be there!" Sakura said quickly. It was true, but she almost felt like she was covering something up. The way Syaoran was looking at her skeptically wasn't helping.

"Uh huh."

"What about you?" Sakura challenged, hoping to throw it back in his face.

Syaoran shook his head. "No hot date for me, I'm afraid. I'm going to spend the day with my parents. It's been a while, after all."

"Oh," Sakura said, feeling stupid. She opened her mouth unsure about what she was going to say, but was saved by a gigantic yawn. "Goodness. I guess I'm still a bit sleepy. I better get out now. I'm getting pruny anyway."

"Okay, I guess I will too," Syaoran said and watched as she swam over to her discarded bathing suit. Sakura raised an eyebrow at him when she caught him staring.

"Do you mind?" she asked playfully.

Syaoran chuckled and turned around. "Sorry. My mind wandered."

"I bet."

Suit securely in place, Sakura hoisted herself out of the water and onto the sidewalk. As she was toweling off, a thought occurred to her. It was quickly followed by another, more devious thought.

"You don't have a towel."

Syaoran didn't move. "Oh damn. You're right."

"And I'm betting you don't want to put your pajamas back on when you're still wet." Sakura rubbed the towel through her hair, trying to get rid of as much excess moisture as possible. She was careful to keep her eyes away from him, afraid that she wouldn't be able to keep a straight face until the punch line.

"Also true."

Sakura let out a fake long-suffering sigh. "I suppose I could let you use mine, since I'm done with it."

Syaoran moved closer to side of the pool where Sakura was standing. "How kind of you. You can just leave it there."

A smirk slowly spread across Sakura's face. After all, it wouldn't have characteristic for her to do such a good deed without some ulterior motive. "I don't think I will."

"What?" Syaoran asked dumbly, but Sakura was already walking back toward the house.

She reached the door and sent one last smirk in his direction, before dropping the towel on the mat and entering the house.

"Night, Syaoran." She shut the door, giggling at his flabbergasted expression. He was just too much fun to mess with.

Sakura was still on an emotional high from her good fortune when she went over to Eriol's house the next day.

They were sitting on the sofa together and watching a movie, and she couldn't have been happier. Life was great! The saying "too good to be true" was niggling in the back of her mind, but she stubbornly ignored it. She wouldn't let anything rain on her parade!

Sakura got the feeling she was being watched, so she turned her head and saw that Eriol was staring at her and grinning widely.

"What?" she asked, wondering if there was something on her face.

"Nothing," he said and leaned in toward her. "It's just so great so see you happy. It's a nice change."

"Was I really that bad?" Sakura asked, but knew the truth. She hadn't ever snapped at Eriol, but her mood had been grouchy for some time. "Never mind. Sorry."

Eriol chuckled. "Don't be sorry." He reached out to tug on a strand of her hair, his eyes never leaving hers. He always did that when he talked. It had a way of sucking her in. "I knew you were going through some hard times. There's nothing to be ashamed of."

"I wish I could agree." Sakura winced when she thought about some of her behavior. And what was worse was that she acted that way toward the people who were most important in her life. It was one of life's little jokes, how easy it was to put things into perspective when you weren't in the middle of it. "I can be a real… bitch sometimes."

"Let's just say you were tempestuous," Eriol said, unable to keep the humor out of his voice.

"Big word," Sakura acknowledged. Had she been violent? She couldn't remember.

She was snapped out of her musings when Eriol's hand left her hair and moved down the side of her face. He dragged his thumb over her bottom lip. "It's just good to see you really smiling again."

Sakura's breath caught and her heart hammered in her chest. How was he able to get her so flustered with just one simple action?

But, as most moments are, it was ruined.

"Well, well, well…" A girly voice cooed. "What's going on in here?"

Unlike Sakura, Eriol didn't jerk around at the newcomer's voice. He dropped his hand slowly from her mouth, and rested it over her hand instead. Only then did he bother to address his sister. "Nothing at all. Just watching a movie, as you can see." He gestured to the television for emphasis.

"Uh huh. Sure." Nakuru rolled her eyes, not believing one word of it. She didn't seem to care though. "Would one of you mind zipping me up?" The question brought attention to her clothes. Her dress didn't seem to be the type someone would wear around the house.

"Sure." Sakura stood up to help her.

Eriol regarded his sister curiously. "Going somewhere?"

Nakuru pulled her hair over her shoulder to get it out of Sakura's way. "Of course. You didn't really think I would stay here all night, did you?" Sakura yanked the zipper up and fastened the clasp.

Eriol shrugged his shoulders. "I guess not. You're just going to leave us two here. All alone?"

"I trust you," Nakuru said, completely disregarding what she had just walked in on. Or appeared to, at first. "I know you won't do anything Sakura doesn't want." She winked at Sakura, who flushed crimson.

"Oh, what would our parents say about you going out tonight?" Eriol faked concern.

Nakuru narrowed her eyes at her little brother briefly. "They won't have anything to say, if you know what's good for you."

"Scary," Eriol mocked.

Nakuru didn't say anything else, returning to all smiles. She turned around and grabbed Sakura by the shoulders before planting a kiss on her cheek. "You take care of that little punk, okay?"

Sakura nodded and Nakuru flounced out of the house, calling over her shoulder, "You two have fun now. Don't do anything I wouldn't!" And she was gone.

Sakura flopped back down on her spot on the sofa and turned to her boyfriend. "So, I take it that means you don't want to be alone with me?"

Eriol was genuinely amused. "It's not that. There's just too much temptation when no one else is around." He smiled his Cheshire cat smile. "I would hate to scare you off."

"Oh, okay," Sakura said, for lack of anything better to say. He was always the perfect gentleman around her. She wondered what was really going on in his head all the time.

They turned their attention back to the movie, and after a while Sakura caught herself feeling somewhat… disappointed? She slid her eyes over to Eriol, trying to figure out where those emotions were coming from. With dawning horror, it occurred to her. She wanted him to give in to temptation!

"What?" he asked, noticing her stare. Her bug-eyed expression registered in his eyes. "Is something wrong?" Sakura shook her head quickly, not wanting to alarm him. "What is it then?"

She didn't know the best way to phrase what was going on her head so that she wouldn't be embarrassed, so she did the only thing she could think of. She leaned over and kissed him.

Eriol recovered from his surprise quickly and responded to her kiss, falling into the familiar motion with her. It was nice, but Sakura wanted more. She realized that she was going to have to be the one to initiate things. With that, she put more urgency in her kiss, leaning into him.

Eriol's body stiffened with shock. Sakura was almost afraid that she had crossed some line, but he gained control of his senses and responded with as much enthusiasm as she had initiated. Their kisses had a whole new feeling now.

The change from kiss to make-out happened quickly. Sakura sat back into a more relaxed position and Eriol moved with her. She lost her balance and fell on her back. He still moved with her, his body on top of her. He must have realized what he was doing, because he broke the kiss and pulled away from her slightly. "Sorry, Sakura, I-"

But he didn't get to finish. Sakura reached up and nuzzled his neck, effectively cutting him off. She pulled away to get a good look at his face. Confused dark eyes met bright green. Sakura nodded and he smiled slightly before pushing her on her back and pressing himself against her.

Hot hands moved up and down her sides, provoking goose bumps. His lips were on her neck, the heat was everywhere. Sakura moved her legs so he could lie between them comfortably and raised her hips unconsciously. Eriol moaned and ground into her, brushing against something nice. She couldn't stop the whimper of approval from leaving her lips.

Sakura wrapped her arms around Eriol's torso and slipped her hands under the edge of his shirt. Cool hands met warm flesh. It only heightened the excitement.

The two of them moved together, with only their clothes keeping them separated. At one point, Eriol hitched Sakura's leg around his hip so he could hit a better angle that had her gasping for air.

It was great and Sakura was enjoying herself immensely, but the intensity was starting to be too much for her. It was almost painful, but still pleasurable at the same time. She wasn't one hundred percent sure she wanted it to end. She was once again left to wonder if she was a masochist.

"Ow," she finally said, when it seemed her pelvis had had enough.

Eriol promptly froze. "Are you okay?"

"Yea, it's just kinda starting to hurt. Sorry."

Eriol rolled off of her, so that he was between her and the back of the sofa. He wrapped his arm around her waist so she wouldn't fall off the edge. "Don't be sorry. There's nothing to be sorry about."

Sakura sighed contentedly and snuggled closer to him. He stiffened up. "Is something wrong?" she asked.

"No. Just… don't squirm so much."

"Oh." Sakura giggled and he poked her in the side for enjoying his predicament. Eriol nuzzled the side of her face and placed a tender kiss on her cheekbone and Sakura couldn't have been more content.

Sakura hummed a light tune as she turned the key to the front door. She was in such a good mood that it didn't even bother her when the door stuck and she had to force it open with her hip.

The house was dark, so she just assumed everyone was in bed. That suited her just fine. She was still a bit embarrassed from what she had done that evening and wasn't sure if it would show on her face around other people.

Eriol was great. They spent the rest of the night talking, watching a movie, and just enjoying being with each other. They had plans to get together the next day as well.

Sakura didn't turn on any lights when she got to the second floor, secure in the knowledge that she could feel along the walls to get to her room. That way, she wouldn't run the risk of waking anyone else up.

She made it to her room and swung the door open. Right before she turned on the light, she got the strange feeling that she always did. She really was paranoid. She flipped the switch.

Someone was sitting on her bed.

Fear consumed her for one terrifying second and she barely managed to keep from screaming bloody murder. Even though she had just had the scare of her life, there was no reason to alert her family. It was just Syaoran, after all.

Her first reaction was annoyance. What was he doing sitting in her dark room like that? Her second was embarrassment. After all, she had just spent the evening heavily making out with her boyfriend and could even still smell him on her clothes. Nevertheless, the first reaction was stronger.

Sakura was about to tear him a new one for scaring her like that, until she got a good look at his face. He wasn't looking at her, his eyes were trained on the bed. But she could see that his face was pale and full of some emotion she wasn't sure of. His whole body language radiated some sort of upset.

"Syaoran?" Sakura said timidly. "What's going on?"

Haunted eyes moved up and latched onto her. Sakura couldn't move and didn't want to. She didn't know what to do. Somehow, she knew that her fortune had come to an end before he even said anything.

"My parents are getting a divorce."

Kitty Neko: How much do you hate me now? haha

I went through and proofread everything again so there are some small changes. Mainly just grammatical. But I decided to get rid of all of my author's notes, so I'm going to put everything important right here.

1. Yes, the Fourth of July is an American holiday. So sue me.

2. Your eyes don't decieve you - this is a Syaoran and Sakura story. Eventually.

3. I am quite aware that Nadesico is spelled Nadeshiko in CardCaptor Sakura, but I started spelling it in this story as it is spelled in Martian Successor Nadesico and I don't feel like changing it. Mainly because there were a couple of rude people involved.

4. Natsu means summer.

That's it for this time. I hope you enjoyed it!