A Guardian's Heart
Of course, Card Captor Sakura and its characters don't belong to me, but to CLAMP, Kodansha and the-gods-know whom else. This is just a little sample of what I might do with them if they did belong to me...
A continuation to episode 69 of the CCS anime. That means huge spoilers for the second and third seasons (Kaho, Yue, Eriol, etc.). Shounen Ai, subtle Shoujo Ai and a bit of OOCness ahead.
Kaijuu = monster
Hoe = Sakura's trademark yelp ^__^
Oniichan = older brother
Sensei = teacher
Otousan = father
Hanyaan = Sakura's trademark blushing sigh whenever she sees Yukito
Reikan = inspiration, psychic ability
Ja! = Bye!
Kyoudai = brother
All the cards danced happily around their young Mistress, shining under the sunlight in the Tsukimine Temple. Sakura raised her hand to call them back and squeeze them lovingly against her heart. "These are the Sakura Cards I transformed with the power of my star..."
Yue and Kerberus, standing protectively before her, smiled at the sweet scene. It was over. Their new Mistress had changed all the Clow Cards and none of them was threatened by the possibility of becoming ordinary cards. Clow's legacy was entirely hers, and she demonstrated such affection for it, possibly just as much as Clow himself had.
And speaking of the devil... "Explanation time, Clow," Kerberus muttered. "You better tell us why you were causing Sakura so much trouble, or... Clow?" He stared at the spot where Eriol, Spinel Sun and Ruby Moon had been standing on half a minute ago.
They were gone.
"WHAT?! Where did they go?" Kerberus roared, and ran towards the Temple's entrance. Yue flew after him.
Sakura was about to follow them when Syaoran called her name. Tomoyo saw her best friend support the still weak Chinese boy in her arms, and smiled.
At last. Li-kun was finally going to reveal his feelings. Now everything was going to be well. Her Sakura-chan would be so happy! Nothing else mattered.
Beside her, Touya mumbled something and his eyelids fluttered open. Tomoyo quickly kneeled next to him, hoping to block his vision to Sakura-chan and Li-kun's half-embrace. That would-be couple had been interrupted often enough, and she knew that an interruption from Sakura-chan's big brother would hardly be pleasant... "Touya-san? Are you all right?"
The dark-haired boy rubbed his eyes and yawned. "What happened? I was running somewhere..."
"We're in the Tsukimine Temple," the girl informed him. "You fell asleep. But I don't know what happened, I fell asleep myself. But it seems everything is fine now."
Touya-san seemed unbearably tired, a lot more than she felt. "Yue was with me," he remembered, visibly making a huge effort to complete the puzzle in his mind. "He sensed my sister was in trouble..."
So it was true. Touya-san knew about the Cards and the Guardians. The Kinomoto siblings had that strange habit of never being straightforward to each other. Tomoyo didn't have any brothers or sisters, and sometimes wondered if she would feel as shy to talk frankly to a brother as Sakura-chan did. "Sakura-chan is fine." She hesitated for a second, but then added, "She changed all the Cards now. Yue-san is somewhere outside the Temple, I think, with Kero-chan." If he knew, he knew. There wasn't much point in hiding the facts from him anymore.
Except perhaps for the scene developing at her back, of course.
Fortunately for Li Syaoran, the world took a long time to stop spinning around Touya. He still had to get used to the drain of his magic powers, for Yuki's sake. It was so annoying to feel tired all the time. "At least now I know how Yuki feels..." he muttered, and decided that waking up in someplace he didn't remember to have gone to and without a clue about what happened wasn't all that exciting.
Yuki was too easy-going to complain about it, even if he had any means to argue with his alter ego. But Touya would make a point of telling Yue what he thought of it. At least the silvery angel could have been there to explain things to him when he woke up... "Where's my sister?"
Tomoyo bit her lip. "She's fine."
"You said that already. Where is she?" He sat straight, checking if his legs still obeyed him.
"She's... around." The girl's innocent smile seemed too innocent to be real.
He stared suspiciously at her. "Where?"
"Well... you know how she is..." Tomoyo stammered. "Sakura-chan is so fast, now she's here and the next second she's there... I never saw anyone that fast. No wonder she got all those medals in school competitions, she's so good in sports! Maybe if she trains hard enough she could go to the Olympics in a few years, wouldn't that be wonderful? I hope she let me design her uniforms..."
The more the girl sputtered, more certain Touya grew that something spooky hung in the air. He didn't need magic powers to sense it: his little sister was hiding another secret from him.
Somehow, whenever Tomoyo had been left with the task of distracting someone while Sakura did her job, things never developed as planned. So when Touya decided to ignore her passionate description of the beautiful running sneakers she intended to make and got on his feet with a painful moan of fatigue, she just closed her eyes and protected her ears with the hands. She knew what was coming next.
Touya barely had the time to let out a sigh of relief when he saw Sakura, in a fanciful red and yellow suit with a white cloak, crouching on the concrete ground a few feet away, safe and apparently unharmed. A second later his mind registered the identity of the green-clad figure his little baby sister was holding in her arms.
"KAIJUU!!!" he yelled at the top of his lungs.
"HOEEEE!" Startled, Sakura stood up and stiffened instantly.
Without Sakura's support, Syaoran stumbled and fell on his nose. "Ouch!"
But at least he had said the words.
Meanwhile, Kerberus saw Yue landing graciously on the stone ground of the Temple's entrance and did the same. "Can't find him anywhere. Any luck?" A rhetorical question. If Yue had had any luck, he wouldn't be there looking as if the sky had crashed on his head.
"No. He's gone." The Moon Guardian sat on the base of one of the gateway's pillars, folding his wings. "Again."
Kerberus's heart squeezed bitterly at the tone and the sight. Since Clow's death, he had never seen Yue as lost and dejected as that. "So typical of him," he murmured. "He never liked to explain anything. He's probably back in England right now..."
Yue shook his head. "He's around."
"I'm sure," Yue insisted. "He's very near, watching us with that same old mocking smile of his."
"Yue..." If Kerberus needed any other proof that the British eleven year-old kid was indeed Clow's reincarnation, there he had it. No one else had ever had such a virulent talent to break through the Moon Guardian's icy armor.
"Kero-chan!" Sakura waved as she walked towards them, her right arm wrapped around Touya's waist. It was hard to tell who looked more worn out, he or the gaki who staggered along with Tomoyo's aid. "Where's Eriol?"
"Disappeared. Yue and I searched the whole block. I can't feel his presence anywhere." No sign of any living soul in the whole neighborhood, actually. Apparently Clow had made sure that no one would interfere in whatever weird game he was playing with them.
"Aren't you two protecting him?" Syaoran inquired, leaning against the other pillar. "He was your former Master after all."
"Are you questioning my loyalty, gaki?" Kerberus roared at the boy's face.
Syaoran grimaced. "Is that how you defeat your opponents? With your bad breath?"
While Sakura tried to part the two contenders, Touya cautiously went through the few steps that separated him from Yue and sat next to him, feeling the white feathers brushing his back. "You look almost as fucked up as I am, you know."
"I can take you home, if you want," the Guardian replied.
The thought of flying through the sky in the silvery angel's arms covered Touya's skin with goose bumps. That was probably how he got to the Temple anyway, but he hadn't been awake to savor the experience. On the other hand, judging by Yue's gloomy demeanor and flat tone, there wasn't much fun implied in the proposition. "Yue? Something wrong?"
The snow-colored feathers rippled nervously. How many times had Touya called him by his true name? Twice? Just once? It sounded both tender and weird in the dark-haired boy's lips. Just like in Clow's reincarnation's boyish voice. At the same time shockingly misplaced and so completely right.
"You gotta tell me what happened, Yue. I can't guess anymore."
"I'm not sure if I know the answer myself."
A slender hand enclosed his right wrist and he raised his eyes to meet Touya's. The Mistress's brother looked so exhausted... and concerned. Why?
"Yue, are you okay?"
Why did he keep repeating his name like that? "I am exactly how I'm supposed to be," he hissed. Thanks to Clow, this was the truest answer he could offer.
Tomoyo's doleful moan interrupted them. "I can't believe this... Sakura-chan's most important adventure and I slept through it all!"
"Tomoyo-chan..." Sakura mumbled.
"You sure missed the best," Kerberus grinned. "You should have seen me frying Suppi's ass."
"I didn't see that either," Syaoran grunted sarcastically.
"Because you could barely stand on your feet. Some magic you have, gaki!"
Sakura pulled her hair in dismay. "Oh please, don't start again!"
"The invincible Sakura-chan versus the legendary Clow Read," Tomoyo sobbed. "The climax of my epic, and I didn't get to film it! That's not fair!"
Kerberus tilted his head. "I still can't believe that was Clow Read..."
"But it was his magic, his powers, his presence..." Sakura argued. "I don't know why he was acting like that, but now I'm convinced that Eriol is really Clow."
The winged lion huffed. "I know that! What I meant was... what happened to his taste?"
Sakura arched her eyebrows, confused. "Taste?"
"Did you see Suppi's true form? A black panther with butterfly wings!" Kerberus snorted. "What was Clow thinking? He used to have better sense of fashion than that." To emphasize his point, he rose on his hind legs and stretched his golden wings with pride.
Sweatdrops appeared in everyone's brows. "Hoe... Kero-chan!" Sakura shook her head.
"Consider yourself lucky," murmured a solemn, melancholy voice. It took a moment for Sakura and her friends realize that Yue was actually participating in the conversation. "The worst is yet to come."
"The worst?" Kerberus frowned.
"Yes..." Yue smirked. "I bet the next Sun Guardian will be a teddy bear with dragonfly wings."
"Dragonfly wings?" Tomoyo blinked.
"A teddy bear?" Syaoran blushed.
"The next Sun Guardian?" Kerberus gasped.
"Hoe?" Sakura moaned, utterly lost.
Touya tightened his grip on Yue's wrist, staring at the sad purple glitter in those silver catlike eyes. Tsukishiro Yukito's eyes never held that kind of sorrow. In fact, Yuki's eyes seldom held any sorrow at all.
Yue's smile broadened but remained just as somber as before. "And the next Moon Guardian should be..." he glanced at Sakura's battle suit made by Tomoyo. "...a beautiful young girl. With long curly hair and rosy cheeks. Dressed in bright colors, with lots of ribbons. And a fancy hat." He closed his eyes, forming that picture in the back of his mind. "And dragonfly wings, to match the Sun Guardian's."
Everyone expected Tomoyo to jump with beating hearts in her eyes and sputter something about a new gorgeous battle suit for Sakura-chan, but she didn't. Even not understanding what was bringing up such gloom in the silver-haired angel's voice, she offered him her sympathy and respectful silence.
That was too much to ask from Kerberus, of course. "Yue, what the hell are you babbling about? I think that Ruby Moon character must have sliced more of your head than a few strands of hair..."
"We know each other for far too many years, Kerberus," Yue cut him off. "And I know you're not as stupid as you seem to be." He stared straight into the lion's slit pupils. "You know exactly what I'm talking about."
The look exchanged between the two Guardians was so intense and solid that Syaoran imagined he could cut it with his sword.
Or maybe not. Maybe the look was solid enough to break his sword instead. Syaoran decided he didn't want to try.
Sakura stared with a blank face at Kero-chan, then at Yue-san, at Kero-chan again... until she saw the lion fold his wings and sit with downcast eyes. "Yes," he whispered. "I know."
"Well, I don't!" Sakura yelled. "Aren't you telling me what's going on?"
Yue looked away.
Kerberus just sighed.
Smoke began to come out of Sakura's ears. "Oh NO! No way!!! I'm sick of you two hiding things from me! Tell me now! What next Guardians?"
The silence fell heavy around her, and for a moment she thought no one would answer. "The ones you'll create to replace us," Yue hissed at last. Each word seemed to draw blood from his heart.
"What?!" Touya exclaimed, his hold on Yue's arm becoming painful. He had agreed to surrender his powers so Yuki wouldn't disappear. Wasn't that enough testimony that he wasn't going to let anyone take his friend away from his life? No one could ever replace Yuki.
Poor Sakura felt dizzy. She had been so scared of losing Kero-chan and Yue-san inside the Staff when they merged with it in order to help her change the Light and the Dark Cards. Now... she'd have to bid them farewell nonetheless? "But I don't wanna replace you! I don't wanna create new Guardians!" She turned to Kero-chan, tears threatening to run down her cheeks. "Kero-chan... do I have to?" There was still so much about that magical stuff she didn't understand.
"Of course not," Kerberus soothed her. "Don't listen to Yue. He's just being the usual moody jerk he is."
Yue snorted, gently disengaging his arm from Touya's grip.
"Sakura, we're your friends, remember?" Kerberus continued. "And we're going to stay with you for as long as you want us to!"
That restored the smile to Sakura's face.
"Precisely my point," Yue commented bitterly.
The smile vanished.
"Spit it out, Yue," Touya demanded. "What the hell do you mean by that?"
The Moon Guardian sustained Touya's impatient gaze for a moment, before turning to face Sakura. "Mistress, your power is growing more and more as days go by. Today you changed eight Clow Cards all at once."
"Just six," she reminded him.
Yue shrugged. "You changed the other two soon afterwards."
"Because you and Kero-chan helped me!"
Syaoran groaned under his breath. Had she forgotten about him already? He had helped too!
Yue went on, ignoring the correction. "Then you broke Clow's spell and conquered all his Cards. In twenty, thirteen years more, you'll have power enough to make your own Guardians. I was trying to guess how they'd be like."
That was why he had mentioned teddy bears; everyone knew Sakura was crazy about them. Syaoran couldn't help feeling a bit relieved that this had nothing to do with him. Sakura's shocked silence to his love declaration was constricting his heart hard enough, he didn't need anyone rubbing salt on his open wounds.
Sakura stared at her Staff in bewilderment. The power to make her own Guardians? It seemed such a colossal task for her... But Yue-san never praised her abilities beyond the simple truth. Hadn't he been the one to claim that she'd take a long time before matching Clow Read's talent?
She knew Kero-chan was right: Yue-san still carried deep feelings for his former Master and his opinion might not be as impartial and unemotional as the Moon Guardian pretended to be. But that only made his rare compliments all the more valuable and trustworthy. Differently from Kero-chan, who did his best to encourage her no matter the circumstances, Yue-san wouldn't credit her for something he wasn't absolutely sure she was capable of.
"I don't understand," said a serious Tomoyo. "Does Sakura-chan need to change the Guardians, just as she did with the Cards?"
Kerberus's tail wagged uneasily. "No, I just told you. We belong to Sakura already. And our powers feed from her energy since the end of the Judgment." He glanced at Touya. "Well, not completely, of course, she still can't sustain us all by herself. But in the meantime, I can draw energy from the Sun, and Yue from Sakura's brother."
Sakura perked up a bit. "So Oniichan's powers aren't lost forever?"
Touya sent her a strange look. "You didn't know?"
No, she didn't know. How would she, if her two Guardians insisted on keeping her on the dark?
But if Yue-san was draining Touya's energy on a regular basis, her brother's constant fatigue made more sense than if the power had simply been transferred from one to the other in a single pack. And the more her own powers grew, the less Yue-san would have to take from Oniichan, and someday she would be able to nurture the Moon Guardian on her own and everything would be all right!!!
But in the meantime, as Kero-chan had said... She gazed worriedly at her big brother.
He offered her a lopsided grin. "I'm fine, kaijuu. Gets easier every day."
"I'm not a monster," Sakura pouted. She felt a lot better though.
"But if she doesn't need to change you," Tomoyo insisted, "where the dragonfly wings will come from, Kero-chan?"
Kerberus extended his claws out of reflex. He prayed that Yue hadn't given the girl any ideas. The battle suits were cool, but no one would be touching his wings. No way.
Syaoran began to understand the Moon Guardian's point. "It's like having your own place to live," he whispered thoughtfully.
Five pairs of disconcerted eyes turned to him. Not even Yue understood the analogy.
"Most people move out from their parents' houses when they're able to live on their own," the boy explained. "Even those who love their parents and lived happily with them. It's just part of growing up, I think." There were several reasons why he had stayed in Japan. Sakura was the main reason; but in Tomoeda he had a kind of freedom he could never experience under his mother's watchfulness.
"It's only natural, to want things of your own, to make things your own way," he continued. "Even if you appreciate the pieces of furniture you inherited or were given to, wouldn't you be more proud of the stuff you managed to buy with your own money, or built with your own hands?" A chill ran down his spine when he realized that if he were the new Card Master he would have enjoyed creating his own Guardians, just to prove that he could do it. His mother would have expected him to do just that.
In his hands, Kerberus and Yue might have found their doom.
Touya was on his feet, glaring daggers. "Oi, gaki! We're not talking about furniture here!" So what if Yuki wasn't human? So what if similar creatures could be created by magic? Yuki's heart couldn't be duplicated. His feelings shouldn't be ignored. That suggestion mustn't even be mentioned.
Syaoran folded his arms. "Perhaps not furniture," he agreed. "But most sorcerers would see the Cards and the Guardians as living properties. They have their own personalities, but they can't act on their free will."
"I'll show you my free will, gaki," Kerberus growled, showing his sharp fangs.
"You can't do a thing if Sakura tells you not to," the Chinese boy bragged.
Sakura's green eyes widened in remembrance. Kero-chan and Yue-san had been ready to engage in a violent fight against Eriol's Guardians when she screamed in terror, begging them to stop. She didn't want anyone to get hurt. And to her surprise, they had actually stopped.
Stopped and looked at her. Waiting for her orders.
Who was she to command those magnificent creatures? Why had Clow chosen her, of all people?
Tomoyo held her hand and offered her a soothing smile. "Don't worry. If you conquered all the Cards is because you earned them. And I don't think someone as powerful as Clow would allow his creations to be taken by someone who wouldn't care for them as much as he did."
Sakura silently thanked the Fortune for a friend like Tomoyo-chan. It was like she could read her mind and tell exactly what was bothering her. And she always knew how to cheer her up.
However, the girl's words produced a quite different reaction in the Moon Guardian. "Care as much as he did," Yue echoed absently. "I wonder..."
Touya saw the silvery angel close his eyes tight, as if holding tears back. He vaguely wondered if magical creatures could weep. Yuki never cried.
Syaoran gulped, comprehending the Guardian's anguish. The mighty Clow could have found a way of leaving his creations to Eriol Hiiragizawa, if he really treasured them. But he gave them away... like old clothes that didn't fit anymore. Except that, as Sakura's sullen brother had implied, old clothes and furniture didn't feel rejected.
He glanced at Sakura, who still smiled lovingly at Tomoyo, and wished he were just an old school uniform or a broken table. Having a heart sucks.
Kerberus stepped closer to Yue, trying to figure a way of encouraging him. It suddenly dawned on him that the ever formal Moon Guardian was still sitting gloomily on the base of that pillar. Even while addressing his Mistress and answering her questions, he hadn't bothered -- or hadn't had the inner strength -- to stand up. "Let Suppi and Ruby Moon enjoy their share of Clow's horrible sense of humor. We're better off without him anyway."
When Yue opened his eyes, they were dry and colder than ever. "I don't know why someone would question your loyalty, Kerberus," he said icily. "You'll accept any master who feeds you with enough pudding and cakes."
The winged lion's fur rippled from ears to tail. "You crabby, peevish, boring... What will it take to you admit that Sakura's a good Mistress?"
Yue's chin hardened. "That's beside the point."
"No, it isn't!" Kerberus roared. "She's more than our Mistress, remember? She's our friend."
Sakura braced herself. Yue-san never seemed to give much credit to this statement of hers, made on the top of the Tokyo Tower after she defeated him. For one thing, he still insisted on calling her Mistress, no matter how many times she asked him to call her by her name.
Apparently, his opinion hadn't changed yet. "So what?" he countered. "She calls us friends. Clow called us his children. Still, we were nothing but his pets." With a harsh move, Yue took off the earring with the blue gem he always wore in his true form. He showed it to Kerberus, waving a finger to the similar jewel -- this one red -- that the lion had on his left ear. "He even marked us as pets."
Kerberus gaped, incredulous. Yue had never taken that earring off in his entire life. The Sun Guardian would have bet that he didn't even let the Snow Bunny wear it out of sheer jealousy. Yue wouldn't accept sharing a gift from Clow with anyone, not even his own false form.
"I know you don't like listening to me, Kerberus," Yue continued. "But just this time, try. Because I've been there and you know it. You shouldn't let the same happen to you."
Kerberus scowled. "Are you suggesting...?"
"Maybe not the same way, but yes," Yue nodded.
"You're talking over my head again," Sakura grimaced.
The Guardians didn't reply. As long as their Mistress didn't give them a direct order to tell her the whole thing, they'd keep that subject just between them. Luckily for them, Sakura seldom gave direct orders.
She had matured a lot during the mission to capture the Clow Cards, but she was still a kid. Bright enough to have guessed by herself the essence of Yue's feelings for Clow, but probably too young to grasp the whole picture with all its subtleties and complexities. If she took the comparison the Moon Guardian just made the wrong way, the consequences could be a bit awkward.
Kerberus loved Sakura, of course. Not the same way, but he did and couldn't deny it. "It's not the same," he whispered. "And Sakura isn't Clow." She wouldn't make him suffer the same bittersweet agony Yue had gone through because of their former Master.
"Only one way to find out, I'm afraid," Yue hissed back, rubbing a finger on the azure jewel. "The hard way."
Touya stared at the angel, deeply frustrated. He had had few opportunities to meet the British kid with glasses and a stunning aura, and even fewer to actually talk to him. The mistrust he had felt was partly instinctive -- the automatic defensiveness before someone clearly more powerful than him -- and partly an odd intuition hinting that the ever-smiling boy might be somehow connected to Yuki's true self. Connected in a way he really didn't want to know about.
Now Yue's ambiguous words and distracted manners were telling him exactly what he had dreaded. Touya had a rival. A strong one. Perhaps an unbeatable one.
"Yue-san, I'm sorry you're upset," Sakura said gently. "I'm not Clow Read and I could never be him. I'm just Sakura, and I don't know if I can be a good Mistress, but I'm sure I can be a good friend. This stuff about new Guardians with dragonfly wings..." She shrugged helplessly. "I don't want new Guardians. I'm not even that fond of dragonflies."
Kerberus's relief at that comment was noticeable. At least his wings were safe.
"Clow-san asked me to take care of you, Kero-chan and the Cards," she went on, thinking of her previous encounters with the mage. "I don't know why he chose me, but I'm glad he did, and I promise you that whatever happens, we'll be friends forever!"
Tomoyo and Syaoran exchanged a smiling glance. It was so easy for them to guess why Sakura Kinomoto had been the chosen one...
However, not everyone seemed to comprehend that. "How many years mean "forever" for your scope of vision, Mistress?" Yue asked hoarsely.
Sakura bit her lip, wishing she hadn't understood the question. "Clow-san said that his creations should be passed along for the new generations..."
The two Guardians lowered their heads in chagrin. So that was how it was going to be? Surviving indefinitely while their masters died one after the other? Passing from hand to hand until Doomsday?
Not even the best preserved furniture had to endure so long...
Yue clenched his hand around the gem. "And who's going to be this new generation, Mistress?"
Sakura freaked out. How could she know? She couldn't predict that far ahead!
But the Moon Guardian's question was more specific. "Is it going to be you? Your next incarnation? Or someone else?"
Tomoyo glimpsed a fidgety tremor in her best friend's hands. The Guardians deserved a straight answer, but all the six people gathered there under the Tsukimine Temple's gateway knew that Sakura-chan couldn't offer any. She didn't have that kind of awareness; not yet at least. The sable-haired girl noticed Li-kun leaning on his sword as if it were a walking stick, his shoulders bent by fatigue and sympathizing sadness... Touya-san brushing discreet fingers on one of the Moon Guardian's wings, visibly wishing he could do more to comfort him... Kero-chan looking as dejected as a lost puppy... and Yue-san. Right now, the beautiful Moon Guardian and the happy-go-lucky Tsukishiro-san resembled each other as much as bricks and bubbles.
This wasn't at all the happy ending Tomoyo had planned for her epic movie.
"I... I don't know, Yue-san," Sakura conceded at last.
Yue's eyes narrowed. "But I do."
Kerberus snorted. "You can't tell the future either, Yue."
"I don't have to. Just think of Clow's twisted sense of humor and the way he manipulated us so far..." Yue stood up and flapped his wings open, and Sakura was again in awe at how majestic the Moon Guardian was in his true form. "I think our fate has been decided already, Kerberus. Someday our new Mistress will get bored and give us away. Then you'll be assigned to choose the candidate she'll have already chosen, and I'll be assigned to judge the candidate in a confrontation she'll have already made sure I'll lose. The Mistress's candidate becomes our new master until he or she gets bored as well... and so on."
Sakura wrapped her arms around her body, feeling very lonely all of a sudden. Was that what Yue-san thought of her?
Tomoyo knitted her brows. "You're saying that it was all Clow Read's plan? Sakura-chan finding the book, Kero-chan choosing her as a Cardcaptor, the whole Judgment?"
The words slapped Sakura hard. Of course it was a plan. If something could be deduced from her encounter with Clow provided by the Return Card was that the late mage knew she would someday be the owner of his legacy. And what would have happened if Mizuki-sensei weren't there to help her through the Judgment?
The betrayal in Yue-san's eyes when Windy challenged his command and captured him... Who had the Card obeyed, Sakura's chant or Clow's bell? Windy was a Moon-ruled Card, Yue-san had told her, and should have bowed to his authority. What if when Mizuki-sensei rang that bell she was in fact signaling to the Card that the Moon Guardian's authority should be disregarded, by Clow-san's will?
What if her triumph in the Judgment had been nothing but a cheat?
Yue gritted his teeth. "We aren't entitled to choose our path. That's not our purpose." Opening the palm of his hand, he let the earring drop. The jewel tinkled sadly on the stone path, bouncing cross the pavement and rolling away to the middle of the street. "No matter our pitiful delusions."
"Y-yue-san..." Sakura was on the brink of exploding in tears. How could she prove him wrong? Because he had to be wrong. Clow had loved him and Kero-chan and the Cards, he wouldn't have forged such a bitter fate for his dearest creations.
Yue stepped back, putting some respectful distance between him and the green-eyed girl. He didn't want to make his Mistress cry. A Guardian's life purpose was to serve and protect his master. Hurting Sakura-sama felt like stabbing a dagger in his own heart and twisting it. But at this point, he simply couldn't stop himself from spitting all the venom heaping in his throat. "I apologize for my questioning. I was just curious about who's gonna be our new master puppeteer," he mumbled, and braced himself for a jaw-breaking punch from Touya that surely would have to follow this disrespectful comment.
But Touya didn't move. His fists were clenched and ready to strike, and his whole body trembled in fury. But he didn't move.
"How can you say something like that?" Syaoran snarled, suddenly finding the strength to stand very firm. To his eyes, the silvery creature was still just as beautiful and bewitching as when he first met his false form. Tsukishiro Yukito's beauty and friendly ways could be charming, but it was his inner mystic glow that entranced the people around him like a mermaid's chant. Syaoran continued to hear that alluring singing, even long after understanding the nature of his feelings. But if Yue kept on harassing his dear Sakura like that... Maybe it was time for a rematch of their combat back on the Judgment day.
Yue heard Kerberus snarling under his breath, while Tomoyo held a weeping Sakura protectively in her arms. Clow had replaced him by an annoying pink-haired butterfly, the Cards didn't respect him anymore and everyone else hated him, with the possible exception of Yukito, who was simply incapable of hating anyone.
If only he were Yukito... If only he were anybody else but himself... "Mistress, if you don't need me anymore, I'd like to go back to the book."
Sakura was too shocked to do more than gasp at the request, but Yue resolutely took it as a dismissal anyway. He needed time alone, without Yukito's persona clouding his thoughts. Besides, the Mistress could summon him with the Staff whenever she wanted. If he would never have the chance to experience free will, at least Clow made him sly enough to use Sakura's momentary silence to his benefit.
That was probably the one good thing of not being Yukito.
Before anyone else could protest, Yue spread his wings and rose in the air. The Light Card's magic was giving in to nature, which was calling the end of the day. He glanced briefly at the moon in its last quarter and wondered if Clow had timed his reappearance deliberately, knowing that his forlorn Guardian would later fly lonely cross the skies and see his symbol waning to nothing...
Before he reached the Kinomoto's residence, his conscience pulled his braid. He couldn't go back to the book. Even if his Mistress hadn't said anything against it -- because he hadn't given her time to do so -- someone else had. Or at least had bounded him to a promise that kept him from returning to the timeless silence he craved for now.
So he just sat on the roof of the chapel tower and wrapped himself in his wings, hiding his pain and hopelessness inside the feathery cocoon. Did humans ever feel like that? Like clueless, helpless creations of a prescient, powerful wizard with a crooked notion of entertainment, contemplating the dreadful prognostic of a long existence without any purpose? Yue doubted it. Whoever created the humans, it couldn't be someone as evil as Clow Read.
Yue sighed miserably. No, Clow wasn't evil. He was exasperating and full of crazy whims, but was also kind and gentle and warm and... loving...
"Damn you, Clow," he whispered, then shivered. What if the mage was really around and watching him with that mocking smile? What if he could hear him?
Yeah, what? Clow wasn't his Master anymore. Wasn't his anything anymore. Yue was free to yell at him as many curses as he could come up with, right to his face, at the top of his lungs. He could tell Clow exactly what he thought of him, of the way he had been treated, and offer suggestions about where he could put that Star Staff of his...
And the wizard would only smile at him.
The Guardian's heart shrunk. It was so unfair. Clow Read had the power to make rain over deserts, to set fire to the oceans, to darken the day and brighten the night... But the smile was a low trick. No one had a chance against it. Yue certainly hadn't had any.
"I take it back," said a familiar voice very near him. "You're far more fucked up than I am."
He had to be hallucinating for sure. How in the world Touya would have gotten up there?
"I don't wanna talk to your goddamned wings," insisted the ill-tempered voice. "Are you opening them or I'll have to pull them off feather by feather?"
Hesitantly, Yue opened his wings a little bit and peeked outside. Never before he had understood why some of Yukito's classmates feared Touya's silent, grave manners. The Moon Guardian had quickly recognized the warm heart behind the somber looks, perhaps shaded by his visions of a ghostly dimension most people ignored. But now that he found him hovering in the air, arms akimbo and an angered face glowering down at him, Yue reconsidered. Touya looked as frightening as a vindictive god preparing his final blow.
A shy caring sound reached the Guardian's ears, unexpectedly. It wasn't a "sound" really, not the way humans defined it, but for Yue it was as clear and intelligible as a voice. Letting his eyes run down Touya's figure, he found the source of the concerned question he just heard, and also the explanation for the presence of Sakura's brother up there. "It's okay, Float," he soothed the Card. "I'm fine."
Touya frowned at the winged balloon beneath his feet. "Not for long."
Float quivered but held on. The Mistress wouldn't appreciate if her brother fell 130 feet, and his safety was tacitly implied when she asked the Card to take him wherever he wanted. The Moon Guardian would have to stand this threat on his own.
A sorrowful grin curved Yue's lips as he brought his wings to hang loosely open. Another Card to witness his decaying prestige. He could only wonder what the Cards were commenting about it behind his back. At least this time he had called it upon himself with that pathetic emotional outburst at the Tsukimine Temple; he had been discourteous to the Mistress and he knew it, the public reproach was a fair penalty.
"You think this is funny?" Touya muttered.
Yue breathed in deeply. "No."
"You know you're the last person I thought I'd ever have to protect my sister from?" The tone was low, but only someone deaf wouldn't notice the rage underlying it. "I watched the whole Judgment from afar, and I didn't interfere because I knew you'd never bring yourself to hurt her. And if I never broke your neck for what you did then, it was because I noticed how much it cost you."
He had witnessed the Judgment? Split between guilt and gratitude, the Guardian found himself speechless.
"But I guess I gave you too much credit," Touya went on. "Now the last remaining question is, are you giving me an explanation before or after I break your neck?"
Yue gazed earnestly at him. "I didn't mean to upset the Mistress." A lame excuse. He braced himself for the next accusation.
"Then who did you mean to upset?"
That wasn't the charge he had expected. "Wha-what?"
"Did you hear yourself back there? All the mean things you said about Sakura?"
"Was it her you were calling a master puppeteer?"
"Was it her you were accusing of treating you like a pet?"
Yue shook his head categorically. "Of course not!"
"Was it her you were accusing of replacing you?"
The Moon Guardian looked up helplessly. "No..."
Touya softened his tone a bit. "Was it her you were accusing of betraying your affection?"
Yue wished for a deep dark hole he could hide inside for all eternity. "No."
"Then why is she the one who's crying her heart out for you?"
Because he was a crabby, peevish, boring jerk, obviously. Why was Touya taking so long to break his neck? "For me?"
"What did you expect? Now she's looking all over the town for you!"
He was being summoned already? "She's really mad at me, isn't she?" he sighed.
Touya gritted his teeth. Was the angel really that stupid? "Sakura's NOT mad! She thinks YOU are mad at her! She thinks the Judgment was a fraud and that she doesn't deserve you. She thinks she's not a good Mistress, whatever that means to her. And more to the point, she thinks you don't like her!"
The Guardian's eyes widened in shock. "But..."
"Make no mistake, Yue," Touya added. "I'm one who's mad at you."
His name, again. Like a caress before, like a kick in his stomach now. What kind of power the Mistress's brother had over him? "I never meant any of that..."
"I hope not!" Touya raised his finger, glaring at the angel's face. "You better go find her and apologize right now, or I'll kick your ass so hard you'll become the Guardian ON the Moon."
"I can understand if you're mad at Clow for leaving and creating new Guardians. You know perfectly well how one of them has THE talent to annoy me beyond logic. If you ever decide to strangle her, you have all my sympathy. I can even hold her wings for you."
Yue smiled, despite the situation, despite himself. "Touya... I..."
"But my sister is NOT Clow," Touya shouted. "Aren't you the Judgment Maker? Then. Be. FAIR!!!"
Yue didn't do it purposely. The nickname Yukito had given to his best friend came out from his lips as if moved by a force of its own, placating Touya's fury and dissipating the storm between the two tall figures on the chapel tower. The town sounded strangely quiet at the fiery sunset.
A sudden breeze ruffled the Guardian's long hair and forced Float to shift in the air to stay near the roof. Touya easily kept his balance, but noticed warily that he wasn't hovering over Yue's head anymore. Their eyes were now at the same level. "What the hell are you doing here, Yue?" he asked in a gentler, tired tone.
"I just wanted to be alone for a little while."
"Couldn't you have at least told Sakura that? What do you think she thought when we got home and you weren't in the book?"
Yue bit his lip. She probably thought he had deliberately lied to her. "I'm sorry, that wasn't my intention. I'll accept any punishment she chooses." Not that he had any choice anyway.
Touya stared down at him in bewilderment. The angel WAS stupid. "Punishment is the last thing on her mind right now, believe me. She's worried sick about you."
The Moon Guardian met his eyes, disbelieving. "Why?"
"She thinks you ran away or something." Touya scowled and amended, "I hope you didn't, because I won't forgive you for that."
Weren't they listening when Clow's descendant spoke of free will? "I can't run away. Even if I wanted to."
Did he want to? Yue wasn't sure.
"Seems the stuffed toy did it once. At least that's what I got from Sakura's wailing."
Yue grimaced. "Kerberus used to do that whenever he got upset with our former Master... pouting like a sullen baby and pretending he was running away from home. Clow never bothered to go after him. He'd always be back in time for dinner."
Touya had to snicker at that. That tone of voice... and Yuki dared to mock the way he spoke of the kaijuu... If only Yuki could listen to his true self now... "Is that what you're doing? Pouting?"
Silver catlike eyes blazed momentarily. "You couldn't possibly understand."
The dark-haired boy sat down on the winged balloon. "Maybe not the whole picture. But there's one part of it I can understand very well."
"The one about the most important person in your life kicking your butt and not giving you any explanation or second chance... as if you didn't mean anything at all in the first place."
White feathers rippled in surprise. Touya wondered if Yue knew what he was talking about. Yuki didn't, or did an exasperating act of being clueless about it.
"At least she loved you back," Yue murmured, embracing his knees.
So he did know. "How can you tell? You didn't know me then."
The angel tilted his head, visibly caught by the question. "I don't know. Just guessed." Falling for Touya was just as easy as catching the flu in a snowy night when your clothes are wet.
Or easier than that. Yukito wasn't susceptible to the flu.
Touya looked up to the puffy clouds burning in the crimson sunset. "I sort of doubted that for a long time after she left, you know. Sometimes I still do."
"Did she shove you into someone else's hands?" Yue asked sarcastically.
"Close." What had Kaho said? That when she came back, he would be in love with someone else, and so would she... "Pretty close." At the time it had sounded like an insult.
But now... She had opened the door through which a certain gray-haired boy with round glasses and a perpetual good mood would enter his life some time later... and the window through which a stubborn silvery angel had recently flew in. Each day made harder to keep hard feelings.
Float wafted closer to the Moon Guardian and Touya smiled at the not-so-subtle hint. He couldn't understand the Card's speech, if that soft ethereal whistle ringing distantly in his ears could even be called that. He didn't understand it for now, at least, while Yue was absorbing all of his powers. But just like the sweet Mirror, Float lacked something in the acting department. They were both too candid for their own good. Were all the Cards like that?
"What was the point then?"
The murmured question sounded so distant, Touya wasn't sure if Yue was talking to him or himself. "Of what?"
With his face bent down, Yue's hair fell over his catlike eyes like a gossamer veil. "Of starting something you won't keep."
How many times had Touya asked himself that same question? "Maybe there isn't a point. At least not a great universal-scale one."
"What do you mean?"
"Kaho and I had fun together."
Yue eyed him suspiciously. "Was that enough?"
"No. I wanted more. But at the time, that was all I could get."
"So you're satisfied?"
"Hardly. But I don't regret it."
The Guardian considered it for a moment. "What if she knew all along that it wouldn't last?"
Touya sighed. "That's the problem with us, humans. Nothing ever lasts."
"I know," the other cut him off. "Kaho and Clow... they could see farther ahead than we could."
Yue nodded, uneasy. It was disquieting, having his thoughts scanned like that, especially by someone who theoretically didn't have the power to do so right now.
"My parents had only one decade to live together," Touya continued. "If my father knew from the day they first met that my mother would die at 27... you think he should have given her up?"
"That's not a fair comparison," Yue scowled. "My Mistress wouldn't have been born then." And, doing his best to make it sound as a casual afterthought, "Neither would you."
Touya didn't buy the casualness. "I'm not important in a universal scale."
Judging by the Guardian's reaction, he had just said some kind of heresy. "Of course you are!!!"
Float's fluttering warble was so categorical in agreement that Touya almost heard it with his ears and not as a vague pinch in the back of his mind. The universe of those magical creatures was probably a bit narrow, he mused, and centered in the life of the one who commanded and supported them. Sakura's well being was the focus of their existence now, and if something happened to her older brother their curbed vision would take it as a calamity of galactic proportions.
A puzzling thought, to say the least.
"I know nothing about Clow," Touya retorted. "It's hard for me to picture someone as prescient as you were hinting back in the Temple, but let's just assume for the moment that he was all that you said he was. That he knew all along what was going to happen, and that in the very day he created you he knew he wasn't going to keep you forever."
Yue felt a sudden aching pressure constricting his chest. The words sounded even worse coming from someone else. He nodded in silence.
"Then let's suppose that he thought the way you think now... that it was pointless to start something he wouldn't keep. Suppose he had given you up right from the start." He waited until the angel nodded again. "You are one of the most important people in MY universe."
For half a second the Guardian's face was inundated by swirling emotions, his eyes growing round and vivid like Yuki's. He opened his mouth to protest but his voice faltered. Heresy, that was what he seemed about to scream. Float, on the other hand, puffed up happily. Touya grinned. A precious half second.
Too soon the moment was gone though. Pale coldness retook control of the angel's demeanor as sad eyelids hid the storm in those silver irises. "I see."
Did he? Touya doubted. Somehow some misunderstanding remained there. The angel was so stupid...
Or that was what Touya hoped for. The other explanation for Yue's reaction was one he didn't want to deal with. Perhaps there wasn't any place for him in the Moon Guardian's heart after all. Perhaps the only reason Yuki smiled at him the way he did was because he didn't know his true soul had a master already, and one alone.
Perhaps Touya had indeed an unbeatable rival.
"I suppose my existence served Clow's purpose," Yue spoke softly. "Maybe it still does somehow. But why did he make me this way?"
For Touya THAT was the worst of all heresies. Such glowing perfection shouldn't be questioned! "What way?"
Not in the habit of talking about these things, Yue took a while to gather his thoughts. "You think he conceived us, Cards and Guardians, just to care about him?"
"I don't think so."
"So we have another purpose."
Touya pursed his lips. That anguishing need of a purpose, of a meaning to his life... he had been there not long ago, when the visits from wondering spirits had become too frequent. If he didn't get much of an answer then, what solace could he offer the angel now?
"He tricked me," Yue went on. "Maybe he tricked us all, and our purpose is something completely different from what we always thought to be... but still we have some purpose, which isn't caring about him."
The dark-haired boy tilted his head hesitantly, unsure of where this line of thought would take his companion.
"But I just don't understand..." whispered the Guardian, capturing the human boy with a pleading gaze. "If I wasn't supposed to love him, why did he give me a heart?"
Touya held his breath, his own heart skipping a beat. "Maybe so you could love someone else," Touya suggested, the words barely making through his dry throat.
On cue, Float silently settled the Mistress' brother beside the Moon Guardian, so they were both facing the same direction, less than an arm-length's apart. This was as near as the Card could manage though. If Yue-sama didn't have such large wings... Those two would have to close the rest of the distance on their own.
Predictably, Yue didn't make the effort. He was visibly still trying to decipher the meaning of the unexpected words he had just heard, his eyebrows twisting nervously. And he looked so cute like that, Touya decided.
Cute. Not a word that could be easily associated with the magnificent Moon Guardian. With Tsukishiro Yukito, on the other hand... "Yue?"
The angel froze at the warm call of his name. Again.
"Why didn't you go back to the book?"
Yue seemed genuinely surprised by the question. "I gave you my word."
Touya crossed his arms over his chest, puzzled. What was the other talking about? He didn't even know about the book until Tomoyo explained it to him -- the little she understood of it at least -- while trying to comfort a weeping Sakura after Yue left them at the Tsukimine Temple.
Yue's next words were clearly an apology. "I just wanted some time alone to think. The book was the first thing that came to my mind. There's not a place in this world that can match the peace and silence of the book, and I've been out of it for so long... All I wanted was to fly back there and sleep in it until my presence was summoned again," he confessed. "But I made a promise to you and you can rest assured that I'll keep it. I won't take Yukito away from you."
What a choice of words... Was that how the angel felt, trapped by their contract? Actually Touya hadn't even thought of the power transference as a contract, as a benefit granted under certain conditions. Yue had put things on these terms, but all Touya had asked was that he took care of Sakura and Yukito...
Just how far that misunderstanding went? "Yue, tell me this one thing: do you honestly believe you and Yuki are two different people, or is this just part of the big keeping-Touya-in-the-dark scheme?"
"I don't think it's possible to keep you in the dark," Yue countered automatically. "Not even with your powers gone."
"Will you answer my question or I'll have to guess too?" the boy snickered.
"You look at me and say "you", you think of Yukito and say "he"," Yue shrugged. "What is left for you to guess?"
Touya rolled his eyes. "I should've known you wouldn't make things easier for me. Fine, I can still play this game. When Yuki transformed in front of me in the British kid's house, I watched you closely. There's only one body. You make it change with your magic: the wings, hair, eyes, skin and all... but this is Yuki's flesh all the same," he asserted, resting his hand on Yue's.
The Guardian didn't react, but Float sighed contently. Encouraged, Touya went on. "And I've always known Yuki isn't human, from the moment I saw him. This is not some kind of possession. He's made of the same preternatural matter I could sense in you."
Touya saw Yue bow his head a millimeter and wished he hadn't been so emphatic. He knew the angel had put a lot of effort in hiding his true essence; hearing how vain it all had been was certainly a bit humiliating. "And Yuki looks awful in my blue bunny pajamas," he added quickly to change the subject.
Perhaps the change was too drastic. "I beg your pardon?" Yue choked.
"I got that thing from an old lady, a paleontology teacher, long-time friend of Otousan's. My birthday, I think. Years ago, before we moved to Tomoeda. I remember it was too big for me at the time. But the size was the least of the problems. What really bothered me was thinking someone had actually imagined me wearing that blue fluffy thing with bunnies on the collar and down the sleeves. I felt really offended."
Yue would have smirked, if he weren't worried that the Mistress's brother had abruptly lost his mind. What did that had to do with anything?
"But then... remember when we had that problem with termites at home? I had to get all my things off the closet to get the damned vermin out, and Otousan saw the pajamas on my bed and said it looked perfect for Yuki. Sakura was there and said the same. And I looked at it and... it WAS perfect for Yuki. His size, his style, bunnies and all... but I couldn't for the life of me picture Yuki wearing something like that."
Personally, Yue thought it was the most ridiculous outfit his false form had ever embarrassed him with. Yukito had an almost childish way in relating with clothes, toys and decorations. Tsukishiro Yukito in the mall meant Yue the Moon Guardian cringing helplessly in agony inside.
"So the next time he slept over, I made him dress it," Touya grinned in remembrance. "I had to see him in that thing."
"He loved it," Yue grunted.
"I know. Those pajamas seem to have been made for him. But still..." The boy frowned. "It was all wrong. It was very, very wrong, and I had no idea why. Not until I saw you."
The Guardian glanced at him by the corner of the eye.
"Only then I realized... I was looking at Yuki and seeing you. Sensing you. And no one in his right mind would ever dress you in bunny pajamas, Yue."
The tone, so soft and warm, with a tinge of amusement... so familiar. "You did."
"I had to prove my point," Touya argued. "I look at him and you, and I see one person alone. One person with a half-time amnesia, but only one. Now I understand why you call Yuki your false form. He's very true and real. The false thing about him is the impression that he's not you, but only a mask. In the end, you are the mask. He's your true heart, in a false form. It's absolutely puzzling, I could never think of a better disguise."
Yue was dizzy. "What?"
"I'm guessing, remember? All clues you gave me tell me that you and Yuki are the same. Although that doesn't explain why he acts so weird sometimes."
The Moon Guardian tried to digest that. He was the non-human with strange powers, giant wings and feline eyes, and Touya thought Yukito was the weird one?!
"Are you at least telling me my score in the game?" Touya nudged him.
This conversation was giving Yue a headache. Yukito, his true heart? Of all weird concepts...
Nonetheless... "Clow created Yukito's personality not long before he died," he told Touya. "He cast a spell that replaces my memories when I transform into my false form. I forget everything about him, Kerberus, the Cards and the life I had before, and the remaining void is filled with images of people that never existed and places I've never been on. At least that was how it worked until the Judgment."
Touya suppressed a smile. So far his guess had been pretty accurate. "What changed?"
"While Yukito is awake, I'm asleep. But I dream of him, of the things he does and says and thinks..." Yue trembled. "Before I never dreamed."
"That's how you know if Sakura is in danger," Touya deduced. "Does Yuki dream of you too?"
The angel shook his head. "Clow's spell prevents it."
"Is it permanent? The spell?"
Yue hesitated. "I don't think I can break it at one stroke. I only have the power to, like you said, make Yukito dream of me. He'd gradually learn about my life and regain my memories. But I don't think I have the right to break Clow's spell."
"Why? He doesn't own you."
"But he did once. I owe him respect."
"To the master puppeteer?" Touya snorted.
Yue moaned under his breath. He wasn't being very logical, was he? A few minutes ago he was fancying the idea of yelling curses to Clow's face! "I have no wish to break Clow's spell," he corrected himself with obvious reluctance.
"I know. You enjoy dreaming of Yuki." Touya saw a protest forming in the Guardian's lips and cut him off. "How much of your time do you spend as him? You don't come out that often, do you? Not if Sakura doesn't need you. Yuki doesn't really know what anguish and pain means. Without your memories he has very little life experience, and what he told me about his grandparents and his childhood is so peaceful and sappy, worse than the books Sakura reads. He has no idea of how it feels to lose someone you love." Remembering that his hand was still on Yue's, he intertwined his fingers with the angel's. "You traded your memories for pleasant dreams. I can't really blame you for that."
Even dealing with two very different personalities, never before Yue felt such a strong pull in opposing directions. Part of him wanted to fly away and dive in the book and hide his pitiful perplexity... and another part just wanted to stay there and play with Touya's warm fingers.
He had felt more comfortable with the threats of having his neck broken.
Touya's suggestions were creating a whirlpool in his brain. Yukito, the false form, the true heart. Yue, the true form, the mask. That implied that he had been hiding far more than his magic powers over the years... which was actually true, wasn't it? He honestly couldn't think of a time when he hadn't been hiding something from someone. Even when he lived with Clow... or specially when he lived with Clow...
This didn't make any sense... but in its own absurdity Yue recognized himself, or at least the shadow he had learned to think of as his essence behind the glow and the changing aspects. Maybe Touya's perception was acute enough to discern the curse of those who lived under the rule of the Moon, in a chaotic private world with no clear boundaries, where the soul's confines were too intangible and the bluish-ivory light too deceptive to offer more than hazardous balance and dusky lucidity... Maybe To-ya could really understand him after all.
Amazing. Guessing so much from some silly bunny pajamas... "To-ya?"
"You thought Yukito looked awful in those pajamas right from the start."
"And you realized why when you saw me during the Judgment."
"That's what I said."
"But still you made him wear that thing countless times after that," Yue accused.
Touya snickered. "Oops."
Oops? He had purposely made him... Yukito... look silly, and all he had to say was "oops"? "No one in his right mind, you said."
"Guilty as charged," the dark-haired boy confessed. "Call me a lunatic, if you want. I could never deny that," he added with an impish smile and a light kiss on Yue's hand.
The smile. Low trick. And the pajama thing was also the kind of fast one Clow might have pulled on him.
The kiss, however... "You scare me," Yue admitted.
That definitely hadn't been Touya's intention. "Why?"
"You say that Clow and Mizuki could see farther ahead than we can. But your perception, even now, doesn't seem that shortsighted. Maybe you can't see the future... but you see through barriers you aren't even supposed to know about."
"You mean I can see you," Touya translated gently.
He felt Yue's hand stirring in his, and belatedly understood his point. He was acting like a fool, trying to impress the angel with his cleverness by ripping all his veils off too fast and too harshly. It was something he could do to Yuki, who had little to hide. But Yue just had to be scared to death now. Touya would have been, were the situation inverted. Touya HAD been, with Kaho.
The fly-and-hide pull was getting the best of Yue now. The human fingers encasing his hand suddenly felt like cold shackles binding him to a distressing scrutiny. "To-ya..."
"It has nothing to do with magic," Touya soothed him, afraid that he had clumsily scared his silver bird away already. "I can see you because... you and I are very much alike."
"You mean you and Yukito," Yue replied defensively.
Touya's brows knitted together. "Everyone says Yuki and I have nothing in common but soccer. I knew they're wrong, but honestly I couldn't tell why. Not until I saw you for the first time." That had presented a delicious enigma for Touya. He knew Yuki like the palm of his hand, but with all sincerity, didn't understand him. The kind gray-haired boy carried his heart exposed in his face, hardly bothering to hide his feelings from anyone... only it was impossible to make any sense of them. In other words, Touya could easily say what Yuki's reactions would be at any time, but those were not what Touya thought they should be.
Conversely, Yue emanated a thick aura of mystery, mysticism, dubious intentions and past passions, bewitching the very few privileged witnesses of his manifestations on this world with the unbearable beauty and aloofness of the moon. Touya approached the Guardian with frightened steps, half-expecting to be swallowed at any minute by the bottomless depths of the night dark the angel drifted over... but the fearful silence of that foggy dimension felt stunningly familiar. Understanding Yue was just as easy -- or just as hard -- as understanding himself.
"You," Touya murmured fondly. "What Yuki and I have in common is you."
Another utter absurdity... which reached Yue's ears as an ancient song he seemed to know by heart. A Moon song. A Moon truth. "Open your eyes," it chanted secretly. "See him."
If To-ya was really capable of understanding the Moon idiom, he would always see the true Yue through all barriers, masks and false forms. And it turn...
In turn he would be seen and understood. In turn he would find in a Moon Guardian a spirit to relate to, a confessor and a confidant. A mate. No wonder Akizuki Nakuru had been drawn to him like a moth to a lamplight... No wonder he held such a power over Yue just by saying his name aloud...
Obeying the silent chant in his soul, he took To-ya's hand to his lips and kissed the warm, tender fingers. Too late to be scared. Certain calls simply couldn't be ignored.
Touya's heart throbbed in his chest. The image of an old photo popped up in his mind... a shy deer eating trustingly from Kinomoto Nadeshiko's hand...
His frightened bird wasn't flying away. Touya couldn't tell if all misunderstandings had been finally cleared up, but in his vacillating blabbering Yue had found a reason to stay. "Beautiful," he breathed.
Yue gazed up at him, for a moment looking just as clueless as Yuki would have been in his place.
"You, silly angel," Touya clarified.
"I'm not an angel," Yue corrected him.
Heresy... "Will you admit that you're beautiful and silly then?"
A second too late Touya realized that he was being scaringly clever again. But Yue's reaction this time was the last he -- or anyone who knew Yue, for that matter -- would have expected. "Oops," whispered the Moon Guardian with the cutest smile ever.
Yue was right, he was no angel. An angel wouldn't be so devilish to dare putting Kinomoto Touya in "hanyaan" mode. The dark-haired boy had to summon all his strength and sense of ridiculous to preserve his composure and keep himself from blurting out the embarrassing interjection.
Float couldn't wait to go back to the book and tell about this to the rest of the deck...
Touya looked nervously around, as if searching for a sneaking enemy. Startled, Yue reached out with his senses, but couldn't feel any danger. "What is it?"
"Nothing," Touya scowled. "Paranoia, I think. I guess I'm half-expecting Akizuki to drop on my neck all of a sudden."
"She'd better not," the Guardian stated icily.
"Yuki never seemed to mind her," the other pointed out, curious.
No, Yukito never felt threatened by the girl. Yue both scorned and envied him for that. "I mind her," he admitted.
Beautiful, silly, jealous... "Don't forget. I'll hold her wings."
"But why did you think of her now?"
Jealous... and so stupid. "Because she always interrupts us when I'm trying to tell you something important."
Yue's pupils dilated momentarily. Something important... "You mean... when you try to tell Yukito."
Touya grimaced. "Do you really have to be this stubborn about it?"
"I don't know," the Guardian murmured. Even recognizing the truth in To-ya's assumptions, it was such a complicated matter to be solved at the snap of his fingers! It was hard enough when only Yue thought of Yukito as an incomprehensible part of him that was out of his control, but now that Yukito learned about Yue's existence and thought of HIM in more or less the same terms... He caressed the back of To-ya's hand in apology. "I honestly don't know."
"And I don't know what to do about you," Touya sighed. "If I tell Yuki how I feel about him, Yue might think I don't care about him, but only for his "false" form."
Yue winced. He had been absolutely sure of that until a minute ago. Now the Moon chant and the loud drumming of his heart were deafening his thoughts and spirit.
"And if I tell Yue what I feel," Touya proceeded, "Yuki might not even remember what I said when he wakes up."
Yue's shoulders dropped. "One of the purposes of Clow's spell is to protect Yukito," he said defensively. "That's why I don't wish to break it. All I want is to spare him from the burden of my memories."
Touya's amusement was unmistakable. "You mean, YOU want to protect YOURSELF from your OWN memories."
Yue looked away, embarrassed. "It's a way to put it." Just not his favorite one.
"I don't kiss that bad, you know," the human boy chuckled. "I don't think it would be such a burden on your memory."
"To-ya?" The blush on the angel's cheeks clashed beautifully with his pale skin.
"Can you promise me this?" Touya asked softly, taking that burning face between his hands. "That when Yuki wakes up, he'll remember I kissed him on the top of the chapel tower?"
Vertigo. For a moment Yue felt so dazed and frightened that he couldn't even tell up from down, and his fingers instinctively flew to grasp the hem of To-ya's shirt. This wasn't happening, this couldn't be happening. He hadn't heard well, To-ya wasn't going to... he couldn't possibly be intending to...
But then why was To-ya holding his face with such care and... expectation?
He was going to... he was. All Yue had to do was to promise...
The Moon Guardian closed his eyes in terror.
Promise to share that moment with Tsukishiro Yukito.
And that irremediably meant starting to break Clow's spell. Raising the curtain between the two personas, downing the shields. Letting his false form pry into his true heart... or letting the true heart pry into the mask's thoughts? Which alternative was more disturbing?
Did To-ya know what he was asking him? There was so much to lose there... If Yue had lost almost everything with his beloved Master's death, Yukito still had his treasures... Sakura-chan... To-ya... his own unique perspective of life... Would Yue have the chance to keep all that for himself? Would his Mistress ever look up at him with the same love and admiration she so frankly devoted to Yukito? Would To-ya care for him the same way...?
Didn't he care already?
Taking a deep breath, Yue gathered his courage and opened his eyes, meeting To-ya's awaiting gaze and the unavoidable. Yukito feared not to be real. Yue feared Yukito had become more real than himself. Now one simple promise could start the process of making these doubts irrelevant, and the fear unbearable. But what choice did they really have?
The Moon hummed its lovely siren call in their ears. Resisting would be pointless, and painful.
The Guardian's skin glowed palely. In the back of Yue's mind, Yukito woke up.
"I promise," Yue whispered. "Yukito will..." he bit his lip. That didn't sound right. He amended, "We..." No. Still no good. He gulped. "I will remember."
To-ya smiled... what a low trick... and suddenly leaned over the angel, risking his balance as he closed the final distance between them. Startled, Yue reached out with arms and wings to hold him, bewildered at that obvious declaration of trust -- not even Kerberus or his Mistress would dare to jump winglessly in the air, trusting Yue to catch them.
It was something only Clow would have done.
Distracted by these thoughts and the concern about To-ya's safety, he almost forgot the purpose of that dangerous stunt, and gasped when warm lips fell on his, wet and hungry, opening a dozen windows in his soul.
Despite the fatigue, the apprehension, the elation, Touya breathed more freely now. Akizuki could show up now. She could jump on his neck with her butterfly wings and even her panther companion -- that must have been quite a vision, too bad he wasn't awake to see it -- and with a whole army of goblins and elves, plus the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse... Nothing was going to make him interrupt this, except for a withdrawal of either Yue or Yuki. And even then, with sore reluctance. He had been very patient and had waited in semi-paralysis for the perfect timing, Yuki's recovery and Yue's promise... Now, finally the time had come for the first step. For the blind jump into the night. For the uncontrolled flight towards the Moon.
Yue's mouth tasted like snow and cold raindrops, but his kiss made Touya feel all warm inside, and more than a little inebriated. Like hot sake poured through frozen lips, a dry throat and an empty stomach. Delicious and dangerous. The extraordinary long mane smelled of dew and white lilacs, and Touya wondered how it would feel to have his bare skin covered by the gossamer veil of platinum strands. He had to try that. Soon.
But for the moment this kiss would have to do. The poor angel and Yuki still had too many issues to deal with, and as things were now Touya wasn't sure if touching one wouldn't feel like cheating on the other. Until he could hold both in his arms and make it very clear that no one was being left behind, a simple kiss would have to do.
But if Yue's kisses were always like that, it would be hard not to have his brain short-circuiting long before he got any opportunity to diminish the number of clothes around them. He vaguely wondered if Yuki would kiss the same way. He let his tongue twirl around Yue's, probing and tasting, his hands sliding to delve gentle fingers in the angel's soft bangs, palms covering his bare ears...
Yue froze. His earring. He had thrown away his earring. The precious gem that Clow Read had cut, shaped and polished with his hands. Not a magic talisman like the larger stones all the four Guardians carried on their garments to link their power to their masters'. Even if made of the same unearthly material, the two earrings, his and Kerberus's, were simply a token of love from the man who had imagined a duo of winged enchanted creatures and dreamed of them strongly enough to make them real. A symbol that claimed that no matter what, in some subtle way they would always belong to Clow.
As pets? Yes. Truth had to be said, yes. But only as pets?
Someone was giggling inside his mind. Yukito? But what did he know?
A sob formed in Yue's throat. He had been a fool. As Kerberus kept teaching their little Mistress, the key to the most powerful magic was wishing for something with all your heart. The more difficult the task, the deeper and truer had to be the wish. Creating living, sentient, rational beings as strong and exquisite as the Guardians... Clow Read must have put all of himself in this. In them.
Just as he had done with the delicate earring Yue had angrily thrown away. What could have possessed him to make him do something that stupid?
Sensing the hesitation, Touya opened his eyes and began to fall back... but even before their lips separated, Yue pulled him strongly into his arms, desperate not to lose this moment, eager to make it last as long as possible. He silently apologized to Clow, but he could go and look for his earring later; this kiss was a fleeting treasure he might never have the chance to savor again.
Float flapped wings frantically, on the verge of being knocked out of balance and losing the grip on the Mistress's brother. For a brief second the Card wished this sensitive mission had been confided to Fly, who had far more advanced maneuvering skills. On the other hand, that would have erased any possibility of the other Cards learning about this sweet scene between the Moon Guardian and the Mistress's brother. The sober Fly had the annoying habit of never sharing the tales of the Mistress's adventures with the others. That was so unfair, since Fly was probably the most demanded of them all... If it weren't for Windy, the unbeatable sovereign of gossip...
Windy could have done the trick here too. But since the Judgment, there had been an awkward silence between the elemental Card and the Moon Guardian, and Yue-sama would hardly be this relaxed in Windy's presence at this point. And the Mistress's brother might not feel at ease to do what he was doing now if he were being held by a witness with humanlike features.
Float puffed up proudly. Keeping the Mistress's brother safely and steadily 130 feet in the air, being discreet AND telling all the details to the rest of the deck later. That was certainly a mission for the resourceful Float!
Oblivious to the winged balloon's trepidation, Touya dived into Yue's glowing embrace. He hadn't been wrong: this beautiful angel wasn't innocent. His kiss was an endearing mix between hesitation and eagerness, but also a blatant contrast with Tsukishiro Yukito's naiveté. That filled Touya with tingling anticipation, and more than a bit of anxiety. Unlike Yuki, Yue had someone to compare him with. After Kaho, he had hoped for a relationship that wouldn't have him again as the "virginal boy", the one who had to be led and taught all along. So much for his hopes.
Would that magical creature be too exigent? Had his former lover established too high standards? Touya abruptly realized that he didn't even know if Yue's body under the sophisticated outfit was any similar to a human one...
When Kaho saw him and Yuki together, she had commented with a mischievous grin, "You didn't change a bit, Touya!" He hadn't quite grasped the implications then; now he had no choice but shyly agree with her. He still let his reikan guide him to the object of his affection, he still craved for someone who could understand and relate to the discomfort of being more than ordinary, he still ended up in the arms of a Moon disciple, and someone who had indubitably went through a lot more than he did. How old was Yue anyway? Did he really want to know?
Squeezing his eyes against annoying doubts, he deepened the kiss, pulling Yue's tongue in his mouth and sucking it carefully. He had seen dozens of people drooling over Yuki, including the kaijuu and the gaki, without being bothered by jealousy. Somehow the acknowledgement of Yuki's true self had caused this sudden eruption of fear and possessiveness, made him face the reality of what he was trying to achieve: to grasp and keep a transcendental being who could easily fly away from his reach forever, or worse, dissipate into nothing right between his fingers.
And as if that wasn't enough of a nightmare, this new facet of the challenge didn't promise to be any easier to handle. But there was no way around it, was there? His every gesture would be compared with a past thick enough to cast frozen shadows over Yue's glittering eyes. Few things were harder and less fruitful than competing with ghosts.
But losing this angel wasn't an option. Not daring to part the kiss, Touya pressed the silvery figure against his chest, wishing he could somehow cradle it inside his heart.
Little did he know that in Yue's mind that feared ghost's colors were gradually fading to gray. Even the memory of the long, anguished decades he had waited to be kissed again was nothing but a vague notion spiraling uselessly inside his thrill-crammed brain. Right now he was only aware of the hot mouth devouring his, the slender hands tenderly playing with his hair, the steady heartbeat pulsing against his chest, the cool breeze ruffling his wings, the Sun Guardian's presence hovering nearby...
"Ahem..." Kerberus cleaned his throat.
Touya was definitely not in the habit of being sneaked up on like that. He jumped so high, Yue and Float almost didn't catch him in time. "Don't creep up on me like this! You know I can't sense your presence anymore!"
Deep inside somewhere, Yukito winced with guilt. Yue felt nothing but. It wasn't the best of things to have in common, but still... If the merging was inescapable, it had to start somewhere.
On the other hand, inescapable didn't mean abrupt or done in a rush, or else their sanity would be endangered. A sweet long-awaited kiss and a flare-up of regret, that was enough for a convoluted start. With loving caution, Yue sent the part of his mind that concerned Yukito's awareness back to dreamless sleep; the pale glow waned as well. It was too early to introduce Yukito to Kerberus's choleric fits.
Touya offered the lion the best of his glares. Sakura's overgrown yellow stuffed toy had to have the worst possible timing. But his annoyance disappeared when he turned his eyes back to Yue. The angel was making a colossal effort to regain his composure, and not being that much successful. He even raised a wing to shyly hide his face from the lion's amused stare.
Holding back a chuckle for Yue's sake, Touya glanced down at Float. He had the distinct impression that the striped balloon was blushing.
Kerberus cringed a little. He sometimes had nightmares about Sakura's brother's piercing glares. Prudently, he chose to glare at Yue instead.
The Moon Guardian met the sarcastic gleam in those golden eyes and frowned. Mute glowering wasn't Kerberus's style. His reproaches and complaints were always very loudly verbalized and grandly accompanied of roars, flapping wings and sometimes even flying objects crashing on people's heads. What could be keeping his mouth shut for a change?
Yue blinked. There WAS something keeping Kerberus's mouth shut, literally. He was holding a tiny glinting object between his teeth.
The azure-jeweled earring. Kerberus had brought it to him.
Touya began to feel uncomfortable with all that silence. What were the Guardians doing? Could they talk through some kind of telepathy art he knew nothing about?
It suddenly hit him that if the spirits were temporarily gone from his vision, from now on his life would be surrounded by magical creatures such as these. And Yue had been right; being a human, he couldn't possibly understand the whole picture. There would always be a part of Yue/Yuki's perspective that would be shrouded from his sight, even if he regained his powers.
Hopefully, Touya had managed to help Yue with the part he did understand, the loss, the rejection, the loneliness... But there was still the mystic portion of the problem he could only glimpse. So as much as he wanted to shoo the lion away and keep the angel company for a while more, he humbly realized that it was time to step aside and let Yue be helped my someone who knew better what he was going through. There would be the opportunity for more and better kisses later. Now Touya was sure of that.
Decidedly, he stood up, trusting Float to keep him steady. "I'll wait for you at home." He winked at Kerberus. "I'll calm down my kaijuu-sister while you stick some sense into your brother's head."
Yue gasped. Kerberus was so shocked he almost let the earring drop. Brother?
But Touya just folded his arms as Float, cleverly sensing the danger the Mistress's brother was calling upon himself, started their descent. "And don't give me those funny looks, you two. I'm too familiar with siblings dynamics not to recognize it when I see it. Ja!"
The Moon Guardian moaned miserably. With all the embarrassing news Float had to tell the deck at this point, it would be a miracle if he and Kerberus went back to the book and didn't find a riot waiting for them...
But long before that, Yue's morale would have to survive whatever Kerberus would be throwing at him now. Reaching out with an open hand, Yue accepted the earring, fearing what might come from the Sun Guardian's mouth when it was set free.
"Do you realize that while you're here making out with Oniichan, Sakura is having a seizure because of you?"
Yue rolled his eyes. Almost as bad as he had feared. So far Kerberus was being unexpectedly diplomatic in comparison to his normal standards. "Don't call him "Oniichan." It's very disrespectful."
"Right. And may I know by what respectful name you're addressing him now?" the lion snorted.
Yue made a huge and mostly futile effort not to blush. "Kerberus..."
"On second thought, don't tell me. Spare me from the details."
"This is not what you're thinking, Kerberus!"
The Sun Guardian folded his forelegs in a very human gesture. "I couldn't care less about your love life, Yue. Who knows, if getting laid makes you just a little bit less cranky than usual, I'll be even thankful."
Yue was starting to see red. At least there weren't any Cards present to hear this.
"But really!" Kerberus went on with his indignant speech. "With Clow you had a better sense of timing!"
"While you have, had and will ever have none," Yue muttered.
The lion landed on the steep roof, using his claws to hold himself. "Says the one who made Sakura cry right when she managed to change all the Clow Cards. You can't recognize celebration time even when confetti is raining over your head."
"It might be celebration time for her. Maybe even for the Cards. I'm just not sure if it's celebration time for the two of us."
"Well, I'm not sure either!"
Yue gazed at him with surprise.
Kerberus tilted his head. "But I don't wanna spoil everyone's party. It's you who always does that."
The Moon Guardian looked down at the earring on the palm of his hand. "You're not sure? But..."
"You thought you had the monopoly of worrying about our fate," the lion accused. "More irritating yet, you seem to think you're the only one who misses him."
Yue raised his eyes to gaze at the crimson gem fastened to the Sun Guardian's ear. "I never claimed..."
"No, you never claim anything," Kerberus cut him off. "You just stand at the corner, mute as a coat rack, looking as if you wanted to be someplace else and making everyone feel unwelcome. That's probably what you're best at. I'm actually thankful that Clow reappeared and made things so bad that you had to scream. You were driving me nuts already."
"I didn't scream," Yue hissed moodily.
Kerberus shrugged. "No. You just growled. Still it was an improvement."
Poor Yukito. He didn't deserve the punishment of having to deal with the annoying Sun Guardian. Not even the best of To-ya's kisses could compensate for that.
"When will you stop being so stubborn?" the lion went on. "Of course I miss him. All the Cards miss him. We didn't want to replace him any more than we wanted to be replaced. But still we're happy that we have Sakura, that she'll sustain the magic of the Cards and keep us with her, at least for the time being. And the Cards are happy that YOU didn't have to sacrifice yourself for them and disappear, although I sometimes think it might have been a blessing to the world."
Yue looked for something to say while Kerberus paused to breathe. Anything that could straighten his shoulders and give him back his usual control. He found nothing.
"And for your information, Yue, Sakura didn't buy me with pudding! She won my loyalty the exactly same way she won yours!"
The Moon Guardian conceded a grin. "And the pudding didn't help at all?"
"Just as much as Oniichan's good looks," Kerberus retorted wickedly. "I have my weakness, you have yours."
This time Yue was too tired to fight the blushing that took over his face. "For the time being, you said. How long do you think that will be?"
Kerberus folded his wings and lowered his voice. "Her lifetime, I'm sure. After that... I don't think any of us can predict that for now. Not even Clow."
"Her lifetime... and then we start all over again?"
Golden and silver eyes met in a melancholy sigh. "I don't know," the lion confessed. "Maybe. But it won't be exactly the same. Even if Sakura grows to be as powerful as Clow someday, she'll still be different. She has a mind of her own. She won't give us away and make new Guardians just because Clow did it."
"You sound so sure..."
"...just as sure as I was that Clow would never leave me."
Kerberus frowned. "Leave ME," Yue had said, not "leave US". And he knew Yue well enough to know that that wasn't just a slip of tongue.
Weaknesses. Love had made Yue more than a little blind to Clow Read's flaws. Mizuki-sensei's interference in the Final Judgment was a surprise for Kerberus, but hardly as shocking as it had been to the Judgment Maker, who had genuinely trusted Clow's promise that the choice of the new master belonged strictly to the Guardians. Inwardly, Kerberus always thought that Yue should be the last one to be given that incumbency. Of course he would demand the impossible of any candidate, firmly believing that no one would or should ever take Clow's place.
So if their former Master had somehow planted the woman and the bell right there and then to give Sakura a better chance of success, for Kerberus that sounded very logical, if somewhat cruel to the one who had served him most faithfully. More to the point, that move had Clow's name written all over. Yue had paid the price of giving his heart to a man that frankly loved that kind of plotting game and sometimes played it without even realizing it.
But Sakura wasn't like that. She would never be like that. She had a lot to grow up and learn, of course, and time and knowledge changed people, and the path Sakura was following would grant her an exceptionally long life and the kind of knowledge that REALLY changed people, but no matter what she would always be his beloved little Sakura, right?
Kerberus felt an emptiness in the pit of his stomach that had nothing to do with hunger. "It's different," he mumbled with downcast eyes.
Yue sighed, clenching his fingers around his earring. "I sincerely hope so, Kerberus," he spoke gently. "You might be losing your only opportunity of proving you're smarter than I am, you know."
The winged lion smirked, golden sparks returning to his irises. "If I'm wrong, I grant you permission to annoy me for the rest of our existence with I-told-you-so remarks," Kerberus stated with sneering solemnity.
"I don't need your permission to do that."
Kerberus stuck his tongue at him. "I feel pity for Oniichan. He really deserved better."
"Let's leave him out of this, okay?"
"I'm not the one who brought him in!"
"And be careful with what you say in front of the Cards!"
"I didn't say anything! I was holding your dang earring! And you didn't even thank me for that!"
Yue looked away.
"You're welcome," Kerberus growled.
Arching an eyebrow, the Moon Guardian stood up. "We should go back and find the Mistress."
"Will I get to see you swallowing your conceit and apologizing to her?"
"You could be discreet and look for some pudding in the kitchen while I talk to her."
Kerberus gave him a broad smile. "Nah. Seeing you choking on your pride is better than any pudding. And since you have to do it anyway, you could do the complete job, you know."
Yue frowned. "What do you mean?"
"Talk to the Cards. Tell them you're not mad at Windy for locking you up. You know it wasn't Windy's fault."
"Of course I know that!" the Moon Guardian snapped.
"Well, they don't. Windy is feeling guilty for that. And since you never talked about it, they all think you're angry."
Yue brushed his hair away from his eyes in a tired gesture. Windy, the Mistress... why did they think he could be mad at them? He didn't even have any right to be mad at them! Didn't they understand that?
He sighed out. Obviously not. "I'll talk to them."
"Good," Kerberus approved. "And... Yue..."
The Moon Guardian cringed. "What else?"
"I'm not Clow. I can't predict what's gonna happen to us or to the Cards. The future you predicted... I think you're wrong. I hope you're wrong."
"So do I," Yue admitted.
"But then, if you're not..." Kerberus looked up to face him soberly. "I guess I should remind you that, no matter what, I'll be with you."
Yue gaped, his surprise evident in his widened eyes.
"I'm not saying it will be pleasant for me," the lion added quickly. "I'm just saying that I'll be there. So at least you won't be alone."
The sun approached the skyline for a magnificent twilight while the moon spread its dreamy glow through the darkening sky. Gold and silver sparks shined inside the blue and red gems on the Guardians' garments as the wind caressed their wings. Fastening the earring back to his left ear, Yue wondered if perhaps the whole purpose of having a heart was just to feel it melting at that precise moment. "Thanks, kyoudai."
Kerberus failed to grasp the content of the soft murmur. "What did you say?" Sure Yue couldn't have said what he thought he had said...
"I said, let's fly," grinned the Moon Guardian. "That is, if your wings can still hold your weight with all the sweets the Mistress gives you."
"And who are you to judge me?" Kerberus roared, following the silver figure through the sky. "You eat three times your weight every day, Snow Bunny!"
Very, very near, a short figure watched as the two Guardians stretched their wings and rose to the sky, bickering comically between each other as they flew towards the Kinomotos' house, back to their new Mistress. And this figure had indeed a broad smile in his face. But differently from Yue's previous assumption, it carried no mockery.
Contentment. Amusement. A bit of self-criticism. And love.
"Ah, Yue... I spent years planning your future to the minimal detail... everything to assure your happiness, and Kerberus's and the Cards'... I got most of what I wanted, but your heart ruined one of the most important parts of my scheme..."
In his arms, little Suppi stirred. "You don't seem too upset about it, Eriol."
"Why would I be upset?"
Beside the young mage, dark butterfly wings glowed and dissolved into nothing. "I can think of quite a good number of upsetting things about Yue..."
"I'm sure the feeling is mutual, Nakuru-kun," Suppi snorted.
Eriol breathed in deeply, the familiar quarreling from his own Guardians bringing sweet funny memories of a stubborn golden lion biting the long braid of a silvery angel, who in turn pulled the lion's tail... memories of a life he had never lived and was yet as real as the soft chilly breeze rumpling his black cloak.
"Yue's becoming too independent," Nakuru objected. "Untrustworthy."
"And what should we say about you?" Suppi muttered.
"That's the privilege of the Judgment Maker," Eriol commented distractedly. "Choosing the best path. I wonder if Yue ever understood that..."
The small winged cat wiggled his corkscrew tail. "So you really aren't disappointed with his choices?"
Eriol was surprised, to say the least. He had admitted the possibility of being outsmarted by Sakura-chan, but never by Yue. However, knowing that both had managed to make their own amends to Clow Read's stratagem wasn't any disappointment. On the contrary. It made him proud. "This is hardly the end, Spinel. New judgments will be made. Now I know I can trust him to make the right... no... not the right... the BEST choices. On his own."
"Best choices? For whom?" Nakuru sniffed. "Clow's legacy or himself?"
Kerberus and Yue disappeared from view with the last remnants of the sunset. Feeling a wave of contented peace, Eriol shrunk his Star Staff into the key pendant and put its thin chain back around his neck. "Let's go home. We have a tea party to prepare for tomorrow."
Nakuru's eyes beamed. "Tea party? With cakes and pies and cookies and muffins?"
Suppi growled. "I can't eat those..."
"You can have the tea, Suppi!" she teased. "I'll make it very sour and bitter, just for you."
Eriol patted his Sun Guardian's ears. "You can have all the sweets you want, Spinel."
But Suppi knew his master too well to take his word for that. "You just want me to get high and embarrass myself in front of everybody," he moaned.
"I can change you so you won't be "allergic" to sweets anymore."
Nakuru was impressed. "Will you do that, Eriol?" There had to be a catch somewhere...
"Of course," the young wizard assured him with one of his broadest smiles. "It'll be fun! Our sober Spinel will become just like Kerberus."
Nakuru didn't know if she should laugh or scream in terror. Suppi glared daggers at his Master. "You are evil, Eriol."
~*~ owari ~*~
-- For all I know, the power transference from Touya to Yue IS permanent. But as it's often pointed out in the CCS fandom, Touya without his powers isn't Touya. I just wanted to keep a window open.
-- I find the relationship between Yukito and Yue fascinating, but utterly confusing. This fic depicts the best theory I could come up with to explain it.
-- Some fics do portray the two Guardians as "real" brothers, but I don't know if that is mentioned in one way or another in the manga.
-- The relationship between Cards and Guardians is also hazy to me; and what the anime doesn't explain, I fantasize over. That's what fanfiction is all about, ne?