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Koi (Love)

A CCS oneshot by Sakura

Standard disclaimers apply.

Events in this oneshot take place at the same time events in my other fic 'Akogare' do, so if some things don't make much sense, it would probably help to check out the latter (shameless plugging, but what the hey -_-).

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      It was the third one he got that week. 

      Li Syaoran dumbly stared at the small white envelope in his shoe locker, fighting the urge to bang his head against the locker in utter frustration.  Not again!  Ever since he had transferred to Tomoeda Junior High School, there had been letters like that popping up in his locker, his desk, between the pages of his workbook --- all of them professions of love from girls he didn't know.

      He frowned and pulled out the letter, opening it and skimming through the contents.  It wasn't that he didn't like the attention; in fact he was quite flattered for he never even considered himself crush material, but he just wasn't used to being admired so...well, openly.  The letter in his hand read, if it's all right with you, would you please come to the back of the school after class today?  He stifled a groan at that.  What good would that do?  It would be the same scene all over again --- the awkward confession, then he shifting his weight uneasily, slowly, carefully saying sorry, there's someone else that I like.  He always hated that part.  It was hard enough saying no to someone he never even laid eyes on before in his whole life, but then there had to be the horribly embarrassing statement of the obvious.  I like someone else.  And unless you've been walking around all this time with your eyes closed, you should know by now who it is. 

      Sakura's face flashed in his mind briefly, and Syaoran heaved a sigh.  It had been so hard keeping everything a secret from her --- hiding the letters and sneaking out to meet whoever it was just to apologize and say he didn't, no, couldn't feel the same way because he already had Sakura and she was all he needed.  He and Sakura told each other everything, but for some reason this was the one thing he couldn't bring himself to let her know about.  He sighed, slipping back the letter into the torn envelope.  He had no choice; he couldn't stand this girl up, he had to make up some excuse to meet her after class.  What would he tell Sakura then?  That he wanted to go check out the soccer team practice that afternoon just to get an idea of what it would be like before attending the tryouts?  But she knew he wasn't into soccer that much, so that wouldn't do.  How about saying that he had to go to the post office and settle his last payment for the rent?  That sounded more credible, although that would mean that he'd have to run around the block just to get back to the school in time...but wait, what if she came along?  No, that wouldn't do ei---

      There was a tap on his shoulder and Syaoran let out a yelp, jumping high enough to hit the ceiling.

      "Oh my," Tomoyo blinked, taken aback by his reaction.

      "D-Daidouji," he gasped, leaning a hand against the lockers to steady himself.  "You scared me."

      "Sorry," she apologized, then her eyes fell on his half-open locker door.  With amazing speed he slammed it shut, praying that she didn't notice anything.  Fat chance.  She curiously glanced at the locker, then at his flushed face.  "Did I just see something there?"

      "N-No," he stammered, cursing himself silently for being so careless.

      Her smile widened into a knowing smirk.  "I think I did."

      He glowered at her and turned around to put on his school shoes.  Damn, now Tomoyo was on to him.  Keeping anything from her was virtually impossible; he even used to think that she had eyes at the back of her head.  If she found out about everything, she'd tell Sakura for sure---  Syaoran stopped at that thought.  Last night Sakura had called him up and told him in a wavering voice that she just hurt Tomoyo's feelings.  I didn't know what I was saying, she whispered, and I don't blame her if she hates me now.  And he wanted to tell her, she probably hates my guts even more.  For he was actually the one to blame --- he was the one who came in between.

      The one who took her away.

      She was still putting on her shoes.  He went over to her side and leaned against the lockers, waiting for her to finish.  He started talking about how early she was for school and how cold it was in winter, but in truth his mind was mulling over the possibility of saying what he longed to (but didn't get to) say ever since he came back to Tomoeda for the first time in years.

      Thank you so much.

      And I'm really very sorry.

      However, it wasn't the time for that.  As they made their way to the classroom he vowed to tell her soon, before this rift finally drew her and Sakura apart.  A broken friendship was the last thing he wanted...

      But first, there was a love letter problem to reckon with.                     

      "By the way, Daidouji ---" he began.

      "Hmm?"

      "Don't tell Sakura what you saw back at the lockers, okay?" he said, quietly, and after a brief pause she nodded her assent.

      Knowing that Tomoyo kept her promises, he felt so relieved that he actually went on to confide in her.

      "This is the third time, actually," he confessed, "I just don't know what to do with them..."   

      Sakura came in late for class.

      That wasn't particularly unusual, but he straightened up in his seat when he saw her green eyes nervously wandering around the room as if searching for something, then finally alighting on Tomoyo.  Then she quickly darted a look at him, and he saw the turmoil in those green depths.  I'm scared.  Help me.  He smiled reassuringly as if to say, don't worry.  Everything will be all right.  She nodded gravely.  The teacher was saying, "You may take your seat now..." 

      She quickly walked down the aisle to her seat, which was in front of his desk.

      "Ohayou," she whispered.

      "Ohayou," he smiled.  And more quietly, "Good luck."

      She nodded, determination set in her face.  And as she settled down, she took a deep breath and faced the pale dark-haired girl sitting at the desk to her right.  "O-Ohayou, Tomoyo-chan."

      Tomoyo looked up, startled.  Syaoran tensed.  Everything was going to ride on this one seemingly trivial scene --- if her best friend rejects this one simple gesture, it would be all over between the two of them.  He set his textbook in front of him and crossed his fingers tightly, expecting the worst...       

      But Tomoyo smiled.  "Ohayou, Sakura-chan."

      Sakura blinked for a moment, taken aback by her reaction.  Then she started to smile.

      Syaoran hid his own grin behind his textbook and pretended to concentrate on the day's lesson.  The Japanese Imperial Army.  Think about the Japanese Imperial Army.  Hmm.  In his opinion they were basically poor hapless guys carried off to war like---

      He sneaked a glance at them again.

      They were secretly whispering to each other under their breaths, giggling behind their textbooks.

      "Kinomoto, Daidouji," the teacher called out, "would you mind sharing with the class whatever it is you two are talking about?"

      They guiltily straightened up in their seats and chorused, "Sumimasen."

      As the teacher turned back to the blackboard, they hid behind their books, grinning at each other mischievously.

      Syaoran gave an inward sigh of relief.  Thank goodness, things were finally back to normal...

      A sigh echoing his relief sounded out from somewhere to his right.  Out of the corner of his eye he spied Hiiragizawa Eriol, who was sitting behind Tomoyo, smiling at her back in a congratulatory --- then somewhat wistful --- way.

      Syaoran raised an eyebrow at that.

      Well, some things were back to normal, but some things had obviously changed for good.

      Class had finally ended, and Syaoran slumped forward on his desk with a groan.  There was a girl waiting for him at the back of the school --- either that or she was probably making her way to that place this very instant --- and here he was still stuck in the classroom, pretending to finish his homework.  Crouched over his math book like that he looked like he was absorbed in geometry, but in truth he was racking his head for an excuse.

      Think, dammit.  Soccer team practice option out.  That goes for the post office option too.  Consultation for that English project?  Too suspicious.  Library?  That would seem more likely to do, but--

      "Syaoran-kun?" It was Sakura, chin propped up on one hand, looking at him.  "Are you finished?  Can we go now?"

      "Huh?" he gaped at her.

      She smiled and playfully tugged at a tendril of his dark brown hair.  "Helllooooo?  Anybody home?"

      He stared at her, lost for a moment.  God, she can be so cute when she---

      Then he recovered, blushing.  "G-Give me a second, okay."

      "Okay," she beamed.

      Damn.  This was going to be hard.  How could he give her a decent excuse AND make her believe it when all she had to do was smile at him and right then and there his brain would melt into mush?  But there was no time; he had to come up with something, and fast.  What excuses had he already used before?  What did he do?  Was it just him or was this whole thing easier to pull off back then? 

      Why did he always have to bother meeting these girls, anyway?  Why couldn't he be like those other guys who just stuffed the letters in their pockets --- or worse, in the garbage can --- and left them there to be forgotten?  Maybe it was because of empathy.  He knew very well how it felt to feel so much for someone who didn't feel the same way in return.  Love is time-consuming, nerve-wracking, and extremely painful.  But what pains one more --- the ache of being unnoticed, or the sting of rejection?  He didn't know.  He didn't want to think about it anymore. 

      He, Sakura, Tomoyo, and Eriol were already halfway outside the school gates and he was secretly praying that the girl waiting for him at the back of the school wasn't angry or anything when suddenly Sakura stopped in her tracks, a hand flying to her mouth.  "Oh no!"

      They all stopped.

      Tomoyo blinked.  "What is it, Sakura-chan?"

      "I forgot my history book back at the classroom!  We have homework for tomorrow, right?  I have to bring it home with me or else..."

      For some reason Tomoyo and Eriol looked like they knew what was coming, but all was lost on him.  "You can borrow mine," he offered automatically, but to his surprise, Sakura grabbed his arm and pulled him back towards the school instead. 

      "O-Oi, what are you---"

      "You're coming with me," she suddenly hissed, and his eyes widened.    

      There was a feeble protest behind them; it was probably Tomoyo, but Sakura just went on, yelling something over her shoulder.  "Tomoyo-chan!  Eriol-kun!  Go on ahead; we'll catch up later!" 

      Then her hand tightened on his arm and they were off, running faster than they had ever run before.      

      When they made it to the deserted school front hall, they wearily stumbled in and leaned against a wall, catching their breaths. 

      "Sa..." Syaoran gasped, raking a hand through his hair.  "Sakura, just what the hell was that all about?!"

      She was clutching a hand to her chest as well, breathing hard.  "It was...it was a plan."

      "A plan?"

      She bowed her head for a moment longer before she straightened up, smiling at him triumphantly.  "I decided to give them some time to be alone."  His mind was muddled with the exhaustion of running too fast --- as well as the nagging thought that there was a girl at the back of the school waiting for him --- so it took him a while to realize whom she was talking about.

      "H-Hiiragizawa and Daidouji?!" he sputtered. 

      "Correct!" she sang, nimbly taking off before he could stop her.

      "Hey, now where are you going?"

      "To the classroom; I forgot my history book, remember?"

      "I thought that was just an excuse for---"

      "Just wait there for me, okay?"

      And she was gone.

      Syaoran sighed, impatiently shifting his feet.  Man, what a day.  First, a letter in his locker, then a five-second dash across the schoolyard, and now this waiting in the school front hall which was...

      Silent.

      And completely deserted.

      Just like the back of the school, where someone was waiting for him to come.

      His heart pounded.  Now's his chance.  He had to go.  His feet started to move toward the exit, but he stopped.  What would Sakura say if she came back and found him missing?  What would she do then?  He couldn't leave.  But he had to go!  Torn between his worry for the waiting girl at the back of the school and his guilt over breaking a promise to stay in the front hall, he clutched at his head and angrily cursed himself.  Kusssoooo.  

      Not good.  What should he do, then?  Think, think, THINK!

      I can't think anymore! he screamed at the panicking voice in his head, and before he knew it, he was running to the foot of the stairs,  yelling loud enough for someone three floors above him to hear, "SAKURA, I HAVE TO GO MEET SOMEONE!!!"

      Then he sprinted out of the hall as fast as his feet would carry him.

      Sakura, I'm sorry.

      Sakura, I'm sorry.

      Sakura, I'm sorry.

      When he finally got to the back, breathless and sweaty, there was nobody there.

      For a moment he wanted to hit his head against a wall.  Hard.

      "Great," he groaned.  "This is just great."

      He wearily took off his muffler; it was incredibly hot all of a sudden.  To top it all off, his mouth was dry.  Spying the vending machine in the corner, he decided to buy a drink.  Then he froze.  Peeking out from the side of the vending machine was the telltale edge of a skirt.  It was her, the one who gave him the letter!

      "Anou," he hesitated, "excuse me?"

      The afternoon sun drew back from behind the clouds, leaving the frost-covered grounds sparkling.  The girl didn't move from where she was hiding, but when the sun filtered through the cracked tin roof, her shadow fell across the floor, right before his eyes.

      "Excuse me," he tried again, "but are you the one who..."

      The shadow nodded.

      Well.  She was certainly shy, whoever she was.

      "I'm sorry if I was late; I had trouble getting away, so..."

      So.  That was supposed to be her cue.  But the girl didn't say anything, nor did she move from where she was hiding.  Syaoran scratched his head confusedly.  "Um, didn't you...um, call me here because you...um, wanted to say something to me?"

      The shadow nodded.

      Don't just nod there, dammit! he wanted to scream.  Come on and spill it out so I can tell you what I have to!

      But she still didn't say anything, her shadow immobile.  A few more seconds ticked by before Syaoran decided to be direct, however embarrassing it was.  "Can I ask a question?  Do you...do you like me?"

      The shadow nodded without hesitation.

      "Well, you said so in your letter, so that really doesn't come across as much of a surprise...  Ha ha, that was stupid, wasn't it...."

      Pause.

      "Thank you...  I know I really should be saying 'thank you', but..."

      The sun disappeared behind a cloud, and her shadow was gone.

      "But I'm afraid I can't feel the same way about you."

      There, he finally said it.  But much to his surprise, the words continued to come before he could stop himself.  "And I'm afraid I can't feel the same way about anyone else anymore, because there is someone I like."

      Pause.

      "I like Kinomoto Sakura.  No, wait, that's wrong.  I...I love her."

      There was silence, save for the steady hum of the vending machine. 

      "And I can never imagine myself with anyone else.  I probably never will."

      The sun came out again, and the girl's shadow fell across the floor.  It was moving.   

      He bowed.  "I'm very sorry."

      "Syaoran-kun."

      His eyes widened at the familiar voice, and he practically fell over when the girl stepped out from behind the vending machine.   

      "S-Sakura?"

      She walked up to him and stared at him.  She wasn't smiling, but her green eyes were soft.

      He paled.  "Sakura, did you--"

      "Yes, I was the one who put that letter in your locker."

      "But why?"

      She finally smiled.  "It was part of my plan."

      "Not that again," he snapped.  "Seriously, what were you thinking?"

      She sobered.  "Did you really think I didn't know about those letters?"

      His mouth hung open.  "H-How did you---"

      "You don't seem to realize," she softly said, "how popular you are."

      There was an awkward silence for a moment.

      "Anyway, I did this just because I wanted to hear it straight from you."

      "Hear what?" he blinked.

      "What you just said a while ago."  The smile was back, and a flush of red tinged her cheeks.  "You know what I mean."

      His eyes softened.  "But Sakura, you didn't have to do all this just for that.  You could've just asked me." 

      "I wanted to be sure," she looked away, uncertain for a moment.  Then the impish grin was back. "But it's much more fun this way."

      Before he could say anything, she suddenly threw her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly.

      "If you had lied," she whispered, "and said that you were going to the library or to the post office or anywhere else instead of saying that you were going to meet somebody, I would've been very very mad at you."

      He gulped.  "Then it was good that I yelled where I was going before I came here."

      She giggled, burying her face in his shoulder, her voice muffled in his coat.  "It's a good thing you yell loudly enough for the whole

town to hear."

      "Excuse me," he pretended to be offended, gently pulling away so he could look at her, "I do not yell that loud."

      Her green eyes sparkled.  "Oh, but you do.  Loud enough for the whole of Japan to hear, even."

      He looked wounded at that, but his amber eyes were whimsical.  "Oh sure, make fun of me after I go through all this humiliation."

      She protested, but he put a silencing finger on her lips.  "Not only that, you also made me run all around the school like crazy."

      "I'm sorry," she immediately said, but he smiled.

      "I'll forgive you," he began, leaning closer, "if you let me do this just once."

      And his lips brushed against hers, tenderly.

      Now, a word to our readers from the hero of the story himself, Li Syaoran.

      Did I really say that love was nerve-wracking and extremely painful? 

      Let me take that back. 

      Love is dizzyingly maddeningly overwhelmingly breathtakingly wonderful.     

      And you can quote me on that.

      The next day, he arrived at school to find Sakura at her shoe locker, looking dazed.

      "Ohayou," he smiled, then lifted an eyebrow when she turned to him with a slightly panicked look on her face.  "What's the matter?"

      "This," she weakly raised something in front of his eyes.

      It was a love letter.

[O.Wa.Ri.]