"Ah!" said a voice.

Syaoran turned around and saw a boy about his own age, with black hair and glasses. He was staring at Syaoran, not exactly disapprovingly, but as if he saw something to fix. "I beg your pardon?" he said, clutching his sword.

"I know what you want," said the boy. He grabbed Syaoran's free hand and pulled.

"What? Excuse me," said Syaoran, trying to pull free, "what do you mean --"

"I know," said the other boy, "I know exactly what you want. Come along now."

Syaoran was forced to follow.

The other boy pulled him along until they reached a small house in a quiet street. He pushed Syaoran inside gently and called, "We have a guest!"

Someone answered but Syaoran didn't quite catch what they said, because the other boy was hustling him into a room that opened from the hall.

"I'm quite mad," said the boy, conversationally, "but I won't hurt you." He shoved Syaoran into a chair beside a fire and said, firmly, "Stay there."

Syaoran stayed. The room was small and cluttered with books; there were bookshelves everywhere but even so there were books piled helter-skelter on the end tables and along the wall. The room smelled of old books and lavender and furniture polish.

The boy reappeared, clutching a black cat -- were those wings? thought Syaoran, dazed -- who wore a patient look, like someone used to the idiocy of the universe around it. The boy dumped the cat unceremoniously on Syaoran's lap, pulled a footstool to the chair and looked at Syaoran until he put his feet on it. The cat bore with this patiently and when Syaoran was settled, stood up, turned around precisely two and a half times, and laid down on Syaoran's lap. It put a paw on his arm and stared up at him with such hypnotic intensity that Syaoran found he was stroking the cat before he knew what he was doing.

The other boy dropped down on a chair opposite to Syaoran's and beamed.

"Excuse me," said Syaoran. "What did I want?"

"You wanted an hour to sit and rest," said the boy, firmly. "I know." He got up again and made a dive at a pile of books, emerging triumphantly with one in a green cover. "Here," he said. "You sit and read and pet Spinel and I will make scones."

Syaoran gaped at him, but his host simply smiled at him and went out of the room. Syaoran was struck by a sense of familiarity, comforting but unexpected. The boy reminded him of someone, but he couldn't think of who it was. Somehow it didn't seem important, here before the fire and with the cat purring soundlessly on his lap.

He opened the book and read, The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring cleaning his little home.

The next thing he knew, someone was taking the book gently away from his relaxed grip. "Father?" he said.

"No," said a voice. "Go to sleep."

"Have to get back soon," said Syaoran sleepily. "Sakura-hime..."

"Yes, of course," said the voice, who sounded like his father but not. "But for now you will sleep."

And Syaoran did.

When he woke up there was a cozy light in the room, glowing red and warm. The cat had stopped purring and was deeply asleep, so limp that it was in danger of oozing off Syaoran's lap all together. He lifted the cat back up instinctively, and the cat's corkscrew tail flipped once in acknowledgement. He was still drowsy, filled with heavy, deep contentment that he hadn't felt for a very long time.

"I knew," said a voice, with satisfaction. Syaoran blinked the sleep from his eyes and looked up to see the black-haired boy smiling at him.

---

Syaoran is reading The Wind In The Willows, that being the only thing on my bookshelves that is both soothing and something Eriol would be likely to have handy.