A Young Man's Fancy

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may

Tomoyo readjusted her sash yet again, examining herself in her mirror with a critical eye. She had picked up the pattern for this dress on a whim. She had been perusing her favorite websites and this one had caught her eye. There was a picture of a group of women were sitting in a rose garden, sipping tea and eating sandwiches. They were all wearing thin, flouncy white dresses.

She could easily envision Eriol in such a setting. He'd be sitting in amongst a rainbow of blooms, donned in spats and tails. Spinel would be wearing a violet bowtie, Nakuru would be in her frilliest, pinkiest dress. Kaho was probably around, but Tomoyo conveniently had her in the kitchen fetching the tea. Eriol would smile and offering biscuits to Nakuru. Nakuru would shove the biscuits down Spinel's throat and then Eriol and Nakuru would spend the rest of the afternoon trying to capture Spinel and pin him down until his sugar fit passed.

So Tomoyo had bought the pattern and the materials. At the time, she wasn't sure why had bought it. The style was Edwardian and seemed to require yards of sheer, white linen and oodles and oodles of lace. She never made herself frilly dresses—those were for Sakura, not for her. Tomoyo had her mother's fashion sense—all chic, sleek and sophisticated. This did not dissuade her from making the dress. In fact, Tomoyo had worked with intense concentration, finishing it far faster than even she had expected. When it was done though, Tomoyo merely hung it in her closet. It sat there for nearly a year.

Now that she thought about it, she had bought the pattern not too long after Eriol had returned from England. Tomoyo blushed in spite of her. Something in her wanted the dusk-lit rose garden, the sounds of Spinel giggling in his sleep and Eriol's voice rumbling counterpart to Nakuru's chatter. Even then, had she known?

She sighed and stopped fidgeting with the sash. It was too late to turn back and it was far too late to cry. Eriol would be coming any minute. She slipped an apron over her dress and hurried down to the kitchen. Tomoyo had to trust her instincts. They had never failed her before. But still, her hands shook a little as she measured the tea, spilling dried lavender blooms onto the counter top.

"Master, where are you? The day is young, but you are not! We have a Tomoyo-chan to capture," Nakuru sang as she pranced in from the hallway.

Eriol sat in the library, apparently engrossed in a book.

Nakuru peered at the cover and frowned.

"It's a beautiful Saturday morning and you're reading your nasty, old Chinese skeletons again! This is no way for a young, single man to begin his mission of love!" Nakuru said, grabbing for the volume.

Spinel Sun flew in and examined the spine of the book. "The Precepts for Social Life by Yuan Ts'ai," Spinel read.

"An engaging read, not that you would know, since it's not pink and covered in butterflies," Spinel muttered under his breath.

"When living in a complex family, you should let the others know when you are coming or going by calling or by shuffling your sandals. Arriving silently is unacceptable because, should the others be discussing you, all concerned will be embarrassed and at a loss for what to do." Eriol said. "It appears that Nakuru can in fact read ancient Chinese. She practices that precept several times a day. And you call her shallow, Spinel Sun. That's rather unfair of you, don't you think?"

Spinel snorted.

"Men who remarry after a wife dies by taking a girl directly from her parents' home find that a middle-aged man cannot cope with a young woman," Spinel recited.

"Master is an old soul, but it's cruel to say he's middle-aged, Suppi," Nakuru noted.

Spinel ignored Nakuru and continued.

"Men who marry a widow may find that she has affairs with other men. Moreover, she will not be easy to control," Spinel said, staring at Eriol as he floated in the air before him.

"I don't know if that's really going to be a problem with Tomoyo-chan, Suppi. If anything, she swings the other way," Nakuru said, waggling her finger as she stood behind him.

Spinel's lack of response was pointed. Eriol bit down the giggle with little success. Spinel coughed and continued.

"Women who are consistently wise, refined, chaste, and friendly do in fact exist. It is just unusually difficult to locate them. And you're more the fool for turning one down when she's right in front of your bloody nose," Spinel said.

"I didn't see the bit about in front of the bloody nose," Eriol responded absently as he turned the page slowly.

"I took a little liberty with the text," Spinel said, crossing his paws across his chest.

"Well, you should have taken the liberty of removing chaste. Eriol needs some action, Suppi!" Nakuru said, swatting at Spinel's head playfully.

Spinel let out a bellow of rage and began to lunge after Nakuru, but he was too late. Nakuru was already out the door, shrieking on the top of her lungs. Eriol choked and began to turn bright red. Fortunately, Spinel and Nakuru were no longer in the room. He didn't think they knew anything about Tomoyo's invitation to tea, but he didn't want to take any chances. It would be most embarrassing if they found out—it would give them the wrong idea. There was no reason to get their hopes dashed.

Eriol checked his watch and sneaked a peek out the door. Good, they were gone. He released the spell he set while the two guardians had been sleeping, thereby insuring only the faintest disturbance. Not that they noticed anything when they were occupied in their chase, but it never hurt to be cautious. A mirror of Eriol sat in his chair, the book propped carefully on his lap.

"Now all you have to do is read a passage or two if they happen to wander in and insult Spinel-san or Nakuru. I'd stick with Nakuru. She's the easier target," Eriol advised his double.

The double made a face and Eriol nodded.

"I know, it seems rather peculiar to you, but that's how we show our love to each other. It's hard to tell each other how we really feel—it's too painful," Eriol said.

The double made yet another face.

"Yes, I know, people are rather silly, aren't they? But do your best. I won't be upset if they realize that I'm gone. This should throw them off for a little bit," Eriol said as he opened the window.

He jumped onto the ledge and then dropped off. The double shook his head and turned to the book. He had no idea why Eriol liked this book so much. This was the tenth time he had to huddle behind it. He'd nearly memorized its contents. Nakuru's shrieks and Spinel's bellows were almost soothing. The double stretched his legs and made himself comfortable. He never knew how long Eriol would be off playing his games and all he could do was wait.

Tomoyo sat in her video-editing room, a pot of lavender earl grey next to her. Tomoyo had already selected the tea set, arranging each cup, saucer, plate and spoon just so. She even polished the pincers for the sugar cubes. When she rearranged the cookies and cakes five times, she knew she had to leave the kitchen.

So Tomoyo did what never failed to soothe her—edit footage. However, even that didn't quite turn out the way she had expected. She was drinking her tea, waiting for her computer to boot up. However, the image on the screen was not Sakura's familiar, darling face but Eriol's, half-lidded, flushed one.

Tomoyo choked and began to cough, nearly splashing tea all over her dress. She forgot that she had been making a copy of the tape for Nakuru. She should have turned it off and changed the tape, but she was drawn in. She opened up the editing program, honing in on his face, cropping everything else out. She pulled up a frame much like the ones offered in sticker photo booths, borders of rainbows, hearts and puppy dogs. Tomoyo giggled. She could probably make a tidy profit in school. Eriol rarely took off his glasses and it was a known fact that his fanclub alone would pay an obscene amount of yen for any photo of him glassless. The border of course would mean an added bonus. Tomoyo saved the jpg as hiiragizawakunblackmail in her rainy day folder. It was nice to know even as the world was turning topsy turvy, she still had her touch.

She clicked on the video and continued to scrutinize the footage. She paused on a particularly fetching shot of Eriol lounging on the bed, his shirt slouching an inch or two below his collarbone, flushed pink. His hair was tousled and he looked strangely happy, despite clearly being ill. Tomoyo chose a tropical theme this time—fishes, palm trees and beach balls. There was a girl in 3-K who had a bit of a collarbone fetish. Earlier in the year, she nearly caused Li-kun to have a heart attack because she had come jumping out of his locker after gym class with her camera. The girl had been looking for Eriol, of course, but had hid in the wrong locker. Eriol had laughed for a whole week, despite stern looks from Tomoyo and Sakura. This file she saved as hkunbm02.

She continued to watch the tape, feeling a bit glum. Normally, making sticky photo shots of Sakura made her happy—they were a testament of her love. These shots of Eriol only reminded her of all the girls that pursued him and failed. He turned them down with a kindness that made the rejection all the more cruel. And Daidouji Tomoyo was next in that long, long line. Being unlucky in love was the curse of the Daidouji family. It was definitely going strong—the curse of Daidouji Tomoyo.

The camera now showed Tomoyo leaning over Eriol. Tomoyo paused the tape again, rotating the image and cropping so that Tomoyo and Eriol appeared to be kissing. She drew a heart around their heads. She turned a bright red as she saved it as wishfulthinking.jpg in her personal folder.

The doorbell rang. He was here! She had to go boil the water! Tomoyo jumped from her chair and dashed down to the kitchen.

Eriol stood in front of the door, fidgeting, too nervous to ring the bell. He had picked up a bouquet of white and purple irises. He had in fact spent the last five minutes fixing his hair in his reflection in the polished brass knocker. Tomoyo had merely invited him to grill him mercilessly. Tomoyo had to know where all the strings were in order to pull them. She was just fishing for information. He had to stop thinking this was a date.

His watch let off a small chime. It was time. He closed his eyes as he rang the bell. He waited. And he waited. Several minutes passed. He frowned. That was odd. Tomoyo's staff was normally quite efficient. The door swung open to reveal Tomoyo, breathing a bit heavily. She wore an apron over a lacy, white dress. Locks of her hair had fallen out of the neat coiffure.

"Hello, Hiiragizawa-kun. I'm sorry it took me so long to open the door. I'm the only one home today and it's a bit of a walk to the front door. Won't you please come in?" Tomoyo said, still panting slightly.

Eriol realized at this point that Tomoyo's dress was rather sheer. Despite the fact that she wore a slip underneath, he could see the contour of her body quite clearly. Her dress, in fact, seemed to mirror the Edwardian tea gowns ladies wore in contemplation of an assignation. Several sneezes slipped out.

"Oh, please come in. It is unseasonably chilly today. I have brewed some lovely tea and I whipped up some lovely snacks for us," Tomoyo said, motioning for Eriol to enter.

Eriol stood there, dumbfounded. Was Tomoyo punishing him for last night's debacle with the table?

"Do you like my dress, Hiiragizawa-kun? I found the pattern on a website. It claims to be an authentic pattern of an Edwardian tea gown. I thought it would be nice to wear to our tea," Tomoyo said with a serious look on her face.

Eriol turned a dull red and nodded. "It's very nice, Daidouji-san, quite authentic."

Tomoyo frowned. "You're being kind. It isn't authentic at all, is it? I thought it was a pattern for a nightgown at first," she said with an apologetic smile.

Eriol hid his choking gasps behind some coughs.

"Hurry, it's cold. Help me bring the tea things from the kitchen," Tomoyo said as she turned back inside, heading towards the kitchen.

Once inside the kitchen, Tomoyo put a kettle on the stove. She took off her apron, placing it on a hook.

"I hope you won't mind the lavender earl grey. I've developed a taste for it. I know it's unorthodox, but you know how I adore lavender," Tomoyo said brightly.

Eriol knew exactly how much Tomoyo adored lavender. He remembered when Sakura had bought Tomoyo lavender bath salts the other day. Tomoyo had cooed and sparkled and hugged Sakura until she couldn't breathe. Tomoyo had promised to use the salts that very night, prompting all sorts of tantalizing images in Eriol's mind. Before Eriol knew it, he was lying on the floor, Tomoyo waving her new lavender bath salts in front of his nose.

Eriol smiled wryly.

"I'm sure it will be delightful, Daidouji-san. So where shall I bring the tray then?" he asked.

"To my room. I think we'll be the most comfortable there," Tomoyo said.

Eriol blinked. He refrained from pinching himself.

"Oh, if you say so, Daidouji-san," Eriol managed to say nonchalantly.

Tomoyo's room was not strictly a room. It was more like a suite of rooms. She had her sitting room, her bedroom and of course her editing room. The closet was also arguably a room—it had to be, seeing as how it was the repository for all of Sakura's outfits. So it's not as if they were having tea on Tomoyo's bed. But this was certainly the closest Eriol ever thought he would be to Tomoyo's bed.

They were sitting next to each other in front of Tomoyo's coffee table. Eriol realized this was a prime opportunity to be intimate with Tomoyo. His allergies, for once, seemed to be under control. His eyes were watering, but he hadn't sneezed since they entered the house. Things were looking good. This might be the right time to implement the tried but true standard of the yawn and stretch. The only problem however was girls tended to take yawning the wrong way. Eriol frowned as he considered his dilemma.

Tomoyo poured Eriol a cup of tea, first adding the slightly heated milk, the tea and then one cube of sugar. She stirred the cup seventeen times widdershins and handed his saucer to him.

Eriol blinked. "That was a perfect cuppa," he said.

Tomoyo shrugged. "Don't they say god is in the details?" She continued with her own cup of tea, black.

"So are you still dating Mizuki-sensei, Hiiragizawa-kun?" Tomoyo asked as Eriol was dunking a shortbread biscuit into his cup.

Eriol dropped the biscuit and splashed some tea on his lap. He dabbed at the tea with a napkin.

"Er, no, not really, Daidouji-san," Eriol managed to stammer.

"I see," Tomoyo said, sipping her cup. There was silence as Eriol dunked six more biscuits in his tea. Tomoyo finished her first cup and then helped herself to a second cup, this time adding milk and sugar.

"Have you dated anyone since Mizuki-sensei then?" Tomoyo asked.

"Er, I don't really see why that's relevant, Daidouji-san," Eriol said.

Wishes did not quite count as dating, did they? He swirled the contents of his cuppa.

"It's very relevant, Hiiragizawa-kun. If you're really feeling so low about yourself, perhaps it's the aftereffects of maltreatment. Women can be cruel, Hiiragizawa-kun," Tomoyo said slowly as she examined him. "Or men. People, I suppose, people can be cruel."

"Kaho wasn't cruel, so I wouldn't blame her. She was herself and I was myself. That was the problem," Eriol said, finally drinking the sludge that was now his tea.

"Stop putting yourself, down, Hiiragizawa-kun, I don't understand why you have such a low opinion of yourself," Tomoyo snapped.

Eriol blinked. Tomoyo never lost her temper.

"You are very smart, polite, kind, handsome and a powerful magician. Well, I suppose most people don't know that you're a powerful magician, but everything else would be more than adequate by most people's standards. Modesty, of course, is a virtue, but self-flagellation leaves unattractive scars, Hiiragizawa-kun," Tomoyo continued in brisk tones.

"I'm glad that you think I am so amazing, Daidouji-san, but you appear to be in a minority. The answer to your question is no, I have not dated anyone else since Kaho. You see? You can't really blame anyone but me. I like to blame Clow, but even I must admit that's getting a bit old," Eriol said, relishing his soggy biscuits.

Tomoyo was such a good friend—it felt wrong to want to even try the yawn and stretch. But now was the moment. She was so worked up, she wouldn't realize what had happened until it was too late. He lifted his arm, screwing his eyes shut, steeling himself. He quickly opened his eyes, however, when he realized that Tomoyo was kissing him. She tasted of sugar and lavender. He wrapped his arms around her. The dress was as thin as it looked, her warmth almost shimmering through the material. He didn't want to let go, didn't want to stop, for fear that it was just a dream.

But eventually Eriol needed air—he was starting to see stars.

"Daidouji-san, I don't think this is a good…," Eriol began to say, but Tomoyo interrupted him, kissing him yet again.

This was the strangest non-date Eriol had ever been on. He should really go on them more often.

Eriol had taken all the pins out of her hair and begun playing with it. He wove his fingers into its strands, combing them from her scalp all the way to its curly ends.

"As I was saying before you so rudely interrupted me, I really don't think this is a good idea, Daidouji-san," Eriol said, his voice so deep, she could feel the rumbles in her chest.

"And why do you think it's a bad idea, Hiiragizawa-kun?" Tomoyo said as she rested her head against his shoulder. She noted that he hadn't pushed her off his lap yet. She was clearly winning.

"Well, you're in love with Sakura-san," Eriol pointed out.

"Yes, I do love Sakura-chan," Tomoyo said, examining his collarbone. "But I like plenty of other people too. I can like other people," she continued, her tone mild and rational.

"I'm not really your average sixteen year old boy," Eriol said, bravely forging on.

Tomoyo couldn't help smiling. This obviously sounded reasonable in Eriol's head, so she had to indulge him. Clow had mucked things up a bit, but he couldn't help it. Clow obviously was a theory sort of man. Eriol wasn't going to drop off the face of the earth after Sakura passed her test. Tomoyo sighed. If she ever met the man, she was going to have a very long talk with him.

"I'm not really your average sixteen year old girl, so we're about even, Hiiragizawa-kun," Tomoyo said as she began to unbutton Eriol's shirt.

Eriol at this point squeaked and nearly jumped out of his skin.

"What are you doing, Daidouji-san?"

Tomoyo grinned, her eyes sparkling.

"I would think it was rather self-evident, Hiiragizawa-kun."

Eriol sat up and pushed Tomoyo's hands away from his buttons.

"I'm obviously going to have to be the sane one here. This is a bad idea, Daidouji-san, I won't be a part of this."

Tomoyo frowned and sat up as well. So he was going to be stubborn, was he? She shook her hair into some semblance of order, straightening her dress before she marched into her editing room. When she returned, Eriol was sitting with his face in his hands, his glasses sitting on the coffee table. She dropped the sticky photo print outs on the table.

"Take a look at those, Hiiragizawa-kun," Tomoyo said, her hands folded demurely in front of her.

Eriol frowned, examining the pictures carefully. He narrowed his eyes and peered intently at her.

"You wouldn't," he said in a deep rumble.

"I would. I wouldn't really enjoy it, but I do what I must," Tomoyo said with wide, soulful eyes.

Eriol gritted his teeth.

"How much do you want?" he asked.

Tomoyo smiled before snuggling into his lap.

"I thought you would never ask, Hiiragizawa-kun. Money, of course, won't be enough. No, we start first with a proper make out session. I want at least a full hour of no talking. Then, we call Sakura-chan and tell her that we're dating," Tomoyo said, playing with his hair.

"And if I refuse?" Eriol said.

"I sell to the highest bidder and finally install the closed circuit Nakuru's wanted," Tomoyo said, smiling like the cat before a saucer of cream.

Eriol closed his eyes and leaned back. Tomoyo lifted her face and whispered into his ear.

"Is it really that repugnant, Hiiragizawa-kun?"

Eriol shook his head.

"Then why?"

"Because I'm not worthy, Daidouji-san," Eriol whispered back.

"Hiiragizawa-kun, if it were not for the fact that I liked you very much, I would be smacking you upside the head. Chiharu-chan might be onto something," Tomoyo whispered sweetly.

"Well, you would do anything for a friend, you said so yourself," Eriol pointed out weakly.

Tomoyo grabbed his face with both her hands so that Eriol faced Tomoyo directly.

"If you don't want this, I want you to tell me to my face, Eriol. Look me in the eye and tell me that you don't like me. Then I will get up and you can walk out of the door and we can just be friends," Tomoyo said.

Eriol stared at Tomoyo, swallowing slowly. He sighed and shook his head.

"I can't do it. Even though I know I should, I can't say no," he said.

Tomoyo crowed with delight and began to kiss him mercilessly. Eriol laughed in spite of himself and fulfilled his end of the bargain. There was no talk for a full hour. Or several hours, but who was keeping time?

Sakura smiled as she got off the phone. Kero-chan was playing Gran Turismo 3 with Syaoran. They were engrossed and did not notice her entry.

"Well, Tomoyo-chan and Eriol-san are dating! I told you it would happen," Sakura said, hopping around. "Hanyaaan!"

Syaoran's controller slipped out of his hands, causing his car to crash into the barriers.

"I won!" Kero-chan shouted. "You owe me, Brat. I get free pudding for a week. Go me, it's my birthday, it's my birthday."

Eriol's double was slumped in his chair, snoring. Nakuru came in and spread a blanket over him.

"Suppi, does Eriol really believe we think that this is him for like even a second?" she said to the hovering black cat.

"I think he does. We shouldn't tell him though—whenever the double shows up, we always know that Master's up to mischief. Makes our lives a whole lot easier. Besides, his double is much nicer than him," Spinel noted wryly.

Nakuru gently eased the book out of the double's slack fingers and fussed with the blanket, tucking Eriol's double in securely.

"Do you think Daidouji-san has managed to snare him?" Spinel asked as he watched Nakuru, cleaning himself idly.

Nakuru snorted.

"I'm not of course slighting Daidouji-san's abilities. You know how dense Eriol can be," Spinel continued.

"True, but I think we should start dinner without him. I'm in the mood for takoyaki!" Nakuru said as she pranced out of the library.

"That is the best idea you've had in ages, Nakuru," Spinel said as he flew behind her.

"Well, now that I've held up my end, you will give me those pictures?" Eriol asked.

Tomoyo handed the pictures without batting an eyelash.

Eriol tossed them into the air and they disappeared in a poof of smoke.

"I, however, did not promise to not make other pictures," Tomoyo said, pressing her hand against her mouth to suppress a yawn.

Eriol stiffened and Tomoyo giggled.

"I suppose you'll have to stick around and make sure that I don't leak those pictures, hmm, Hiiragizawa-kun?" she asked, her eyelids drooping.

"I suppose I will, I suppose I will," Eriol said as he stroked Tomoyo's hair as she fell asleep.

And so in the spring of their third year, Hiiragizawa Eriol's thoughts turned lightly to love. Daidouji Tomoyo, however, was a woman of action. Thus they were brought together and we have reached

THE END.

Notes

1. The Precepts for Social Life by Yuan Ts'ai is actually a real book. It was written in 12th century China and was well a guide for social life. So forgive the flippant use of ancient history. It was done in the name of laughter.

2. Fancy is done after a long four years. Thanks for sticking around, fans, disbelievers and friends. Let's hope I learn how to finish things a little faster next time around?