Disclaimer: I don't own the characters, but the story is all mine.
Setting: At the end of the anime… and the almost end of the manga.
Notes: This fic is mostly canon, focusing more on the manga than the anime. HOWEVER, I wrote this BEFORE I saw the first or second movie, so they have no relevance to this story. Hence the Li family etc are entirely characterised from my imagination.This is it! IT's FINISHED! The last chapter has arrived at last and I want to say a HUGE thankyou to everyone for reading it. I hope you've enjoyed my playing with CCS' characters... I certainly have.
For everyone who reviewed, thank you soooooooo much for getting in touch and telling me what you think. It's an amazing feeling to ehar from readers and it really pushed me to finish posting a story I wasn't really all that confident about.
SO all readers, I very much hope you enjoy this conclusion. The games are over but there's still a battle to be won. Lots of hugs and magic to all
Lots of hugs and magic to all
He woke up the next day, his eyes heavy and his head pounding as if he'd been hit by a mountain.
'Or the next best thing I suppose.'
The last thing Syaoran remembered was Sakura, hovering above him like some sort of angel, white wings spread and glowing with life. He smiled. She'd won it seemed, if his headache was anything to go by and could keep her Cards and leave Hong Kong and his awkward family far behind. Of course it would mean leaving him too; the thought made Syaoran's heart ache and head throb even more. But it was for the best. If his agreeing to be Clan Leader and fight that stupid fight had convinced them of Sakura's ultimate worth then he'd saved her one less trouble for the future. And that was all that mattered he realised. That she was happy… wherever she was.
As sleep slipped away and his awareness began to return Syaoran realised he wasn't alone in his bedroom. Someone was sitting beside him and that someone was holding his hand as though they hadn't let it go all night. His immediate thought was that Sakura was here and he could apologise before she returned to Japan. Then his senses woke fully and he realised that this hand was far too big for that of a teenage girl. It was an adult who waited for him to wake from his slumber and he thought he knew who it was.
"I'm sorry Mother." He croaked, hoping to quell any reprimands that awaited him.
"I think I'm a little young to be your Mother, Xiao."
Syaoran's eyes shot open despite the thumping pain when the light lanced his eyes. Looking to his right he found Fanran, one hand holding his and a cloth in the other.
"Glad to see you're feeling better." She smiled, placing the cloth back in a bowl of what he assumed was water. Syaoran glanced as far as he could around the room without making his head explode, but saw no sign of anyone else; no mother to shout at him… and no Sakura either.
"Mother isn't here." Fanran explained. "She's in a meeting at the moment… with the Elders."
Syaoran flinched as the thought of his promises came rushing back to him.
"Are they angry with me?"
Fanran shook her head, her face solemn and strangely dark.
"More with her it seems. She got extremely angry when you were hurt in the battle, then worse when they started questioning you're suitability for Head. They said you may not be ready, perhaps ever, and she had a lot to say on the matter. As you can imagine things will take a while to smooth over."
Syaoran sighed and nodded, wishing he could be in that damn meeting room himself and tell them exactly what he thought about the situation.
"Why does she have to force this?" He asked, almost to himself, "She wants me to lead so much that she's willing to fight the Council. She's insane."
"She cares about you." Was the simple answer.
Syaoran snorted mirthlessly.
"If she cares so much, why keep me here? Why is she set on making me unhappy if she cares?"
Fanran sighed as though she was talking to a small child. Syaoran went to snap at her but her raised hand quieted him.
"You know why Xiao Lang She thinks she knows best and probably always will. And…"
Syaoran waited but his sister seemed reluctant to continue.
"And what?" he prompted.
Fanran met his gaze and for a moment her brown eyes were infinitely sad. Then she gave him a small smile and took hold of his hand again.
"And she doesn't want to lose you like she lost Father." She replied finally; then almost as an afterthought, "You are so much like him."
Syaoran blushed to the roots of his hair and turned to look up at his pale ceiling. He'd barely known his father, with his constant working and early death, and couldn't remember his parents' relationship all that well either. Now looking at his mother's recent actions they made a little more sense. They didn't make him any happier, but he could understand missing someone and not wanting to lose someone all too well. Taking a deep breath he finally said something he wished he could say to his absent parent.
"You know she'll only drive me away if she keeps me here."
Fanran chuckled softly and Syaoran turned indignant eyes towards her. But when he saw the honest smile on her face he softened and settled for a questioning stare.
"I know that Xiao Lang, and somewhere inside I think she does too. Which is why…"
She paused as though for effect.
"Why what?" Demanded Syaoran his interest suddenly peaked at the mischievous sparkle in his sister's eyes.
"Which is why I'm going to take your place and succeed Mother, when the time comes."
Syaoran blinked. Then blinked again. Fanran's smile only spread as disbelief and confusion coloured his face.
"B-bu..wha…I…I mean what about the Council?"
Fanran leaned back in her seat grinning confidently.
"Oh I think I can handle those old guys… after all I am a better magician than you little brother."
Syaoran laughed weakly, his head still aching dully.
"Ah but I can still beat you hand to hand." He grinned.
Fanran nodded sagely.
"A leader must always admit her defeats." She sang sarcastically.
Syaoran laughed again, looking back at his ceiling and processing the information he'd just been given. The responsibility of so many lives had suddenly been lifted from his shoulders and he was free to do whatever he wanted. Which meant…
He moved to sit upright as her name shot from his lips, then immediately lay down again when the world spun on its axis. Holding a hand over his eyes he groaned before finally repeating. "I can see Sakura."
Again Fanran laughed but this time he could sense softness in her tone.
"You really do have a one-track mind sometimes Xiao Lang."
The boy ignored the jab and instead looked earnestly back at his sister.
"Where is she? I want to tell her now."
To his despair Fanran's face fell, despite his childish excitement, and she broke his eager gaze.
"What is it Fanran?" He asked quietly, trying to hide the nervous tremor in his words. "Did the Clan do somethi…"
"No, Xiao Lang, no; nothing like that."
The tremor was there full force now but Syaoran didn't care. With frantic eyes he caught her sad gaze and prepared to hear the worst.
"She's gone Xiao Lang." His sister whispered finally. "Her young friend and her brother, who was apparently here, came and took her home straight away. We flew them out to Japan as soon as possible. It's what they asked for."
She stopped and silence devoured the siblings, as Syaoran lay wide-eyed in his bed. He couldn't see his ceiling, just Sakura floating above him, smiling serenely. The image hurt his heart so he closed his tired eyes but she followed him into the darkness. As his eyelids rolled open he felt sure that despair would crush him. He was, all of a sudden, hot and it was difficult to breath. Only when his eyes stung did he realise he was trying not to cry.
He'd lost her, again. Perhaps, this time, forever. There was no promise of a return, no bear to keep him company, just an empty room in a house that was too large without her laughter to fill it. If only he could have apologised, for his mother, his sister, for turning his back and running away. If he could just have apologised for agreeing to the Clan's stupid idea in the first place perhaps he could have been forgiven. But now he would never know.
She had left without waiting for him to wake, and by force or not she was now unreachable in a whole other country. He wanted to shout and scream until his mother knew what she'd done and regretted it like he did. Instead all he could muster was a whispered question.
"Did she say goodbye?"
Fanran sighed heavily and moved to take his hand again, before thinking better of it and resting both in her lap.
"She couldn't Xiao. She was asleep when they took her. She'll have woken up at home."
The thought didn't give him any comfort as he imagined Sakura going through the same agony as he was now. Then again maybe she didn't care, maybe she was just smiling through each day, as always; his genki girl.
"Go to her."
The words shocked him out of his reverie and Syaoran turned to look at his sister. Her eyes were wide and earnest and her hands twisted tight in her lap. She looked so hopeful for him but unfortunately he couldn't find the same feeling in himself.
"What if she doesn't want to see me Fanran? What if she hates me?"
"She doesn't hate you. She loves you."
The words pulled at his heartstrings but Syaoran fought to keep his voice even.
"So what if she does. Her brother probably wouldn't let me see her anyway. Besides I live here. This is my…home."
There was no conviction in the word and he knew it, as did the woman sitting beside him. He wasn't reprimanded however; Fanran merely rose to her feet, giving his arm a final squeeze.
"At least if you go you'll know for sure." She replied before turning and walking round his bed towards the door. Before opening it she stopped.
"Remember what I said Xiao Lang. Don't be bound by family ties…ever."
Then the door opened, and she was gone.
It was a week since she'd arrived home. A week since her ordeal with the Li Clan had finished and she'd left Syaoran unconscious on a dusty floor. She hadn't woken herself till the plane her brother had demanded was landing in Tokyo and by then it was too late to make a fuss. Tomoyo was exhausted with worry, as were her brother and Yukito-san. For their sakes she'd stayed silent and allowed them to put her to bed for two days afterwards without question.
She'd slept most of the time, eaten when she was awake and barely spoken to anyone at all. Tomoyo had been busy with her mother, and Touya and Yukito needed no company but their own. No one mentioned Hong Kong much after the first day or so, or the boy she'd left behind so it was up to her own imagination to fill the void. And it did. When her eyes were closed all she saw was his face, dirty and scratched, smiling up at her as rocks surrounded him with their crushing weight. It was a blessing and a curse all at once. Finally Sakura had decided against sleep altogether and succumbed to an uneasy insomnia.
When she was finally rested and her aching joints healed, boredom became a constant companion. She didn't want to do anything outside of school, even that she slipped through in a daze. Home became a nuisance, which was why today she found her feet leading her to Penguin Park at the final bell. She wandered aimlessly around the slide and amongst the screaming children, playing and laughing with no cares to speak of. Then as the place emptied and shadows lengthened Sakura moved to the swings where she'd so often come when she was sad. But this time there was no one there to comfort her, just a silent space beside her as she scuffed new shoes against the dirt floor.
The sun sank quickly behind the trees and the air began to glow with rich orange and gold. The warm air reminded her of China and caused another piece of her heart to pale. Sakura's eyes followed the dancing shadows until she was lost, hypnotised by their constant movement and the emptiness that was slowly growing inside of her. Consequently she didn't hear the scuff of shoes approaching her from behind.
She froze just as his hands came to rest on her slim shoulders, warm and comforting in their weight. She could sense the tension in his whole body and Sakura wanted nothing more that to turn around and hold him close. But she didn't know why he was here or how he felt after what she'd done to him. More importantly she didn't know if he was here to say goodbye, before returning to his family for good. She wasn't sure she could take either outcome so she remained silent, allowing just one tear to slip down her face.
His voice was a soft rumble just behind her, gentle and calm, as it was in her dreams. His fingertips tightened impulsively on her shoulders and she forced her voice into action, to reassure his panicked aura.
"It's ok." She whispered softly.
It was all she could say, still so unsure of where this was leading.
"I'm going to stay, in Tomoeda. I transfer next week."
Sakura's heart leapt and a second tear spilled free, even as a small smile lit up her face.
"I'm glad." Her voice sounding watery and cracked, but she didn't care. This was what she'd wanted to hear for so very long. But her private celebrations were cut off when he spoke again, his own voice rough and unstable.
"S-so…we'll be together…"
The smile on Sakura's face grew as she laid her head softly against his hand.
"Forever." She whispered into the twilight.
"Forever." Syaoran agreed, his voice stronger and a smile evident in his own tone.
Sakura turned to face him then and fell headlong into that soft amber gaze. As the smile in his eyes swallowed her whole she felt a light pressure on her back and she shrieked as she was swung up into the violet sky towards the stars and beyond the moon. But as the air rushed past her and she looked back to earth she saw Syaoran there, waiting for her, smiling. And her heart sang to know that he always would be.
So that's it! I hope the ending was alright for everyone. I know people probably wanted a little more 'action' - ie: a kiss dammit! - and believe me I'd have loved it too. But that's not how this wanted to come out and the more ambiguous ending seemed more real. After all, their love story has really only just started. Maybe one day I'll write a more touchy-feely epilogue... hehe!
Once again thanks to everyone who's stuck this through to the end. I really hope you enjoyed it. Please don't forget to click that review button and let me know what you thought of 'Family Ties'.
Hugs and Kero's cake!
Just Akiko x x x