Eriol had sat behind her now for years on end. Years and years. Years and years of observing, of watching, of reading every little nuance.
When she had a blank look on her face, she was curious. When she looked curious, she was interested. When she looked interested, she wanted to know. When she looked like she wanted to know, she was dying to know. When she looked as if she were dying to know…Eriol wasn't sure what that meant, and that bothered him sometimes.
Daidouji Tomoyo was a mystery that he had been trying to crack for years. Since that first meeting. Since the day when he returned from England, without a word. After everyone had clamoured around him, she had stayed behind, and all she had said was that she was sorry. Unspoken were the phrases that you and sensei have broken up and that you have to restart your life and don't worry I won't say anything.
He had meant to respond only with a nod, but his façade had fallen to pieces at that very damned second and he had blurted out, "I…Tomoyo…"
The sound of her name had given her only the briefest of surprises. Recovering in a split second, she had informed him that his old house had been marked for demolition, but she had recovered it after the town had tried, unsuccessfully, to contact him. She had been trying, she said, for a while, but had he moved? Even Sakura-chan wasn't able to get in contact…
Eriol hadn't been able to process anything. He had spent the rest of the afternoon in his old living room, amongst the sheet-covered furniture. Crying. Softly.
Ever since then, he had tried to understand her. When that proved useless, he started from the ground up. Dissected her mannerisms, her quirks…and slowly, he started to understand parts of her.
That was the biggest clue, he admitted ruefully. Between the two of them it was always achingly polite. "Yes, Daidouji-san?" Her eyes were focused on him, and he had to concentrate to avoid becoming lost. Shockingly violet eyes that anyone would die for.
"I think we should schedule a time for our art project soon, don't you?"
"Of course." That art project. Sketch a portrait in one colour theme. He already had his colour theme.
"I brought my pencils today, but if you didn't…oh, you did? Well, then could we sketch sometime tomorrow after school?"
"Are you, by chance, free today?"
"My apologies, Hiiragizawa-kun, but I promised that I would help Sakura-chan with her maths homework today. I might be able to come by later, to your house…"
Eriol's mind froze for a moment at the thought of having her at his house, but he knew a polite offer when he saw one. "That is unnecessary, Daidouji-san. Tomorrow after school would be fine." He was about to continue when a flare of magic announced the arrival of a familiar person. Eriol frowned, then smiled to himself. His descendant. He had been shielding himself, to properly surprise Sakura-san. How cute.
Tomoyo had been watching him. "Anything wrong, Hiiragizawa-kun?"
Eriol thought about telling her, but then changed his mind. "Do you still have your camera?"
"Of course. Why?"
"You might want it. Soon."
Tomoyo paused, apparently deciding that expressing confusion was polite in this instance. "Hiiragizawa-kun," she began, while still taking out her video camera, "why would I want this?"
Because you deserve a surprise every now and then, too. No fair that you know everything. "I have a feeling that something is going to happen today."
A flicker of a genuine smile flashed across her face. "And here I thought we had cured you of your penchant of mysterious airs."
"Never, my dear. Why, the stars inform me that a white shadow has recently passed over the moons of Jupiter…and you will meet a tall, dark, handsome stranger. He will sit right behind you!"
"Yes, the fates have informed me…anything else?"
"Any more clues? Because, honestly, these dark types are much too sketchy, so I'd like to avoid him."
"What…? No, I meant…" Belatedly, Eriol realised that Tomoyo was opening up to him. Now. Of all times. Would surprises ever cease? "Actually, Daidouji-san, if you really, really wanted to know…"
She turned around fully, her hair falling forward to brush against his desk. "Yes? I hate surprises, you should know that."
Her last comment stung a bit, because in reality he didn't. "Well, fine. Today's surprise is—"
"Tomoyo-chan! Syaoran-kun is back!" Sakura's gleeful voice trilled across the room. Li Syaoran, taller, broader, and a little more assured, stood next to her, smiling sheepishly.
A smile lit up Eriol's face at seeing Sakura-san radiate happiness. He turned back to Tomoyo, with a look of 'I-told-you-so,' and…froze.
Tomoyo's face, normally so composed, betrayed a queer sort of complete and utter shock. Her camera lay on her desk, forgotten. Her hands were clenching the back of the seat, her knuckles turning even paler than normal. Her cheeks had lost their healthy flush.
"Daidouji-san?" Eriol whispered, "are you…is there something…?"
She shook herself, her eyes refocusing. She gave him one long look of complete betrayal, her eyes silently saying how could you?
"Tomoyo-chan! Eriol-kun! We have to go out today for ice cream! And juice! And cake!" Sakura had made her way to the two of them. The clock indicated that it was past the start of homeroom, but in the absence of a teacher everyone continued to chatter.
Tomoyo now appeared to have recovered enough to speak. "Ohayo, Li-kun. I trust your flight was okay?"
As Syaoran nodded, Sakura wrapped her arms around him, leaning her head into his side. Eriol watched as Syaoran absently snaked his arm around her, all the while answering Tomoyo's polite enquiries as to his health and that of all his family.
"Well, that's good to know," she finished.
Syaoran seemed to notice this change in her tone at the same moment Eriol did. "Daidouji-chan—" he began, at the same time that Eriol reached up to place his hand on one of hers.
The simple movement set off a chain reaction. Tomoyo jumped, the colour coming back into her cheeks. Syaoran made a strangled noise deep in his throat, which caused Sakura to move back in confusion. Eriol quickly withdrew his hand, busying himself with something in his bag.
When he resurfaced, everyone had gone back to his or her previous position, and Sakura was rattling off names of nearby cafés.
Eriol could tell that Tomoyo was only half-listening to Sakura. She glanced at him, then at Sakura, then back at him, as if considering something.
"…oh, and the new one on the corner by the post office is supposed to be good, too! Ne, Tomoyo-chan, where should we go?"
At this, Tomoyo clambered off her chair and stood up. "Gomen, Sakura-chan, but I'm afraid that Hiiragizawa-kun and I have to do our art project today. Why don't you and Li-kun spend the afternoon together, and we'll all do something together another time?"
The tardy arrival of the homeroom teacher cut short Sakura's protests. Tomoyo very carefully sat back down in her seat, avoiding Eriol's gaze.
Eriol, on his part, took very careful notes, latching onto each word the sensei said.
That, at least, was easier than dwelling on her seemingly endless complexity.
Their session, awkwardly scheduled in one of the cramped, solo study rooms, started out ominously as Eriol was late.
"It's okay. You don't need to apologise. I should be apologising for…imposing."
Eriol shook his head. "Never, please don't."
She smiled weakly at him, and then busied herself with rearranging her drawing materials. "I hope you will at least allow me to say thank you, then."
Eriol nodded, noting with some amusement that she had chosen a completely grey palette for him.
She noticed his glance, and shrugged. "Call me cliché, because I am."
"I'm afraid I don't understand, Daidouji-san."
"Grey? Shades of grey?"
"Everyone is a shade of grey, though."
"Not as much as you. Your world only exists in shades of grey. Look, I brought no black. Nothing is black and white in your world, is it?"
Eriol wanted to hit something. Not her, but something hard that would hurt. Damn her and her astuteness. "Nothing is black and white, ever."
"I'm sorry, but I would have to disagree there. Some things are."
After a moment, Eriol realised that she was planning on saying no more. Once again, he belatedly realised what she was alluding to. It must have shown on his face, because she bit her lip and looked down, all the while rearranging her materials.
"It's a funny assignment, isn't it?" she said, suddenly breaking the moment of silence, "I mean, sensei never said anything about why we need to pick a colour, and yet here we all are, reading volumes into the selection of a theme. I should have chosen pink for you, or something." The idea of pink clearly amused her, but only for a moment. Pink meant…
Eriol wanted to say something. Anything. I want you to confide in me, Tomoyo-san.Let me understand, Tomoyo-san. Help me to clear your eyes, Tomoyo-san. The thought of her eyes reminded Eriol of the assignment. "Oh, that's right. I have my pencils, too." He rummaged in his bag, finally finding the slim, metal case that housed his pencils. "Here they are."
"Let's see them, then. What colour, what aura the mystical sorcerer has chosen." She smiled faintly.
Eriol looked at her and almost dropped his pencil case. Tomoyo's face, normally so blank and emotionless, was frighteningly easy to read. Her eyes were focused on his art supplies, almost begging him to…say something. It was as if her entire being rested on his revelation of his chosen colour theme. Please, Hiiragizawa-kun, she seemed to be saying, tell me something about myself that I can't see.
"Hiiragizawa-kun?" Her tone was slightly desperate and breathy.
Eriol would have laughed at the situation if it weren't he and Tomoyo sitting, face to face. Carefully, he opened his pencil case, revealing a neat row of sharpened pencils, each in a different shade of violet. He looked up at her and was surprised to find hints of disappointment. He felt the need to explain quickly, and so muttered, "Violet, for your eyes."
The disappointment, if it had existed, suddenly disappeared, to be replaced by a placid look. "Thank you, Hiiragizawa-kun. Shall we begin?"
Eriol nodded, his mind concentrated on her reaction. His hand flew, of its own accord, across the paper, outlining and shading. All the while, he kept his gaze on Tomoyo, but she never looked up.
Fifteen minutes passed, and he was about to ask Tomoyo anything to get her to look at him when suddenly she passed her sketch across the table, finished.
Eriol grabbed it, his eyes widening in amazement at the level of detail and sincerity in the work. It was done completely in grey, without any real areas of white or black, as promised. The pose, a simple glance upwards, was one in which he could imagine himself. He glanced back at Tomoyo, who was furiously throwing things into her bag. "Daidouji-san, wait—" He glanced down at his drawing. It was a good likeness, and it would earn an excellent grade, but somehow it paled in comparison.
"—no, Hiiragizawa-kun, I can't wait."
The curt reply stung Eriol, who suddenly found himself at a loss for words. "I'm…excuse me?"
Tomoyo sat back down, her eyes level with Eriol's. "I said, I can't wait. I'm sorry, Hiiragizawa-kun, but…" Her manners kicked back in, and she smiled politely. "I'm sorry, I'm really very tired and I have a headache. Could we finish this another time?"
"Of cour—no, no, wait. Daidouji-san, are you okay?"
"I'm fine, just tired. I'm free tomorrow, as we originally planned." Her eyes were panicked now, constantly darting towards the door.
Eriol shook his head to clear it. "Daidouji-san, what's wrong?"
Tomoyo shook her head once, wavering, and then buried her head in her hands. "God, if not you, then who? Fuck, Eriol, I hate purple!"
Eriol continued to shake his head, now overloaded with completely new information. "Daid-…um, Tomoyo, I…purple? What?"
Tomoyo looked up, her eyes now openly tearing. "That's right. I hate purple, violet, indigo, lavender, the whole lot. E-everyone picks purple, because…of my 'eyes,' and…and you weren't s-supposed to be everyone, you w-were supposed to know…"
"This isn't fair, you g-got to break down at home! Alone!" Tears had started falling in earnest.
Eriol grabbed a handkerchief, slightly alarmed. "How do you…?"
Tomoyo swatted at her eyes and then looked at him, angrily. "You come in, your face a mess, your eyes puffy, and your nose rubbed red, and you expect me not to realise?"
"Daidouji-san, I never—"
"You never a lot of things! You never thought that perhaps I would want to know that Li-kun is returning, did you?"
"But you…you still…?" The question was embarrassingly evident.
Tomoyo looked at him with a disbelieving look on her face. "You're joking, aren't you?"
"But you seemed…I thought…"
"You seemed fine, too, didn't you? Showing up without a word and we're supposed to assume you just decided on a change of scenery?"
"I'm sorry, then, that I didn't realise…gomen, Daidouji-san, I didn't realise—"
"I took the time to find out, you know? Took the time to understand."
"But you're so…mysterious…" Eriol blushed, knowing how stupid that comment sounded.
Tomoyo covered her eyes with her hand. "You didn't realise a lot, Hiiragizawa-kun," she sighed, "and now I have to go, okay? Your sketch looks fine. I'm…tomorrow…choir practice. Forgot. Sorry."
They both knew she didn't, really, but all Eriol could do was watch her leave. The door continued swinging, slowly coming to rest.
Turning to the piano, he began to play scales as deliberately as possible. Because that was easier than admitting that he didn't know Daidouji Tomoyo at all.
He was late the next day, having starved himself of sleep as retaliation for something that he couldn't quite name. He stopped short on the threshold, however, at the sight of her desk. Empty.
He moved slowly towards his seat, methodically taking out his notebooks and pencils and erasers and sharpener and opening to a new page and writing the date in the upper right. The teacher was already drawing some figures on the board, and Eriol picked up a pencil to start copying them down.
Her absence suddenly weighed heavily on him. Sitting in the same place, without her in front, he felt his mind clear.
He and Daidouji…Tomoyo…well…
It was so simple.
They were the same in so many ways.