Notes: Yue's presences might be few and far between, because it seems… I don't know, wrong to have a Yuki-centric story without Yue in it, and it's equally hard to have him in a story with little to no mention of Clow XD;;; While this is Tsubasa-esque, it's not entirely how it was in the opening eps of Tsubsasa, mainly because I have to work out a few kinks with their storyline and mine. Clow can't be Sakura/Touya's father if he already has a last name… right? So Fujitaka he stays.

Uh… yeah. Enjoy. I really do want critiques on this, because I have a feeling I'm 'missing' something in my writing. Le sigh. Oh well.

Start Time: 8:02 A.M., Algebra B Class


Revolution: Paradox


Cerberus felt an unconscious yawn bubble up from the depths of his throat as he was eased out of his deep REM sleep of the past few hours. The expulsion caused both figures nestled comfortably together to shift slightly, but his companion didn't wake; he cast an affirming, sideways glance toward the princess resting on the plushy paillasse with him before he rose - as unobtrusively as a three-hundred-pound lion could do - and shook himself free of a sleeping back paw.

Another yawn resonated against the walls of the empty attic room - softer, it hadn't come from him - and the guardian had to forcibly suppress a quiet chuckle. As cross as Sakura would be when she woke alone, the freedom to laze around the household all day like this had been a rare treat, and there was absolutely nothing more Kero liked than a three-hour catnap on a warm Sunday afternoon. Even the sand-colored room's ambiance seemed to agree with him, its thick air swirling discreetly with dust and reflecting pane-shaped beams of gold sunlight perfectly placed on the mattress that had served as their impromptu bed.

Presently, he considered returning for a second round of sleep, but refrained on the grounds that Fujitaka was probably up and about by now, out on a routine walk in the gardens. Sundays at the Clow Palace were blessedly free of duty, and all members of the royal family made it a point to avoid dealing with any business at all. Kero, while not a true member of their hierarchy, did the same - being Fujitaka's constant sentinel was just as taxing: he had to be completely stonefaced at all times, maintain a distance of exactly three paces behind the King, and be regularly conscious of everyone that might be in the room with the both of them in case of an attack. While his job was overly ceremonious and boring, the Sun Guardian did it well, and knew there was reason behind all of the customs of guardianship.

Coming back to reality from his contemplative reverie, Cerberus pawed the door open and slid out into the immediate stairwell with the task of finding Fujitaka clear in his mind. The stairs transitioned into a series of hallways, through which the lion navigated with subconscious ease. He hadn't gotten very far when the light pitter-patter of footfalls exiting the stairwell resounded behind. His tail switched levelly as he realized he didn't even need to turn around to know who it was.

"Kero!"

The guardian smiled. Uh oh.

"I hate it when you do that!" Sakura scuttled to catch up with Kero, one hand curled and raised against her face to rub a tired eye. Where are you going?"

Kero's smile turned apologetic for just long enough to pacify her before he turned back to his path and resumed his gait.

"To find your father. I figured he'd want some company on his walk." As an unspoken rule, formalities were absolutely forbidden on Sundays, and Kero wouldn't have it any other way. Sakura's distaste was adamantly known, too - to speak like that when the two had just snuggled up like the childhood companions they were, to Sakura, would have been a mortal sin for which Kero's reconciliatory punishment would have been to suffer a daunting silent treatment.

"Oh." She gave an infectiously wide yawn that prompted Kero to unconsciously sigh deeply. "Well, I'll go with you. I think Syaoran is gonna visit today."

Sakura strode in time with her guardian and twined her little fingers into his gold ruff, dreamily murmuring some lyrics to herself as they strolled down to the main floor of the castle. The mirrored terrazzo floor was annoyingly bright at this time of day when the sun was at the right angle to burst through every window on the entire premises - Sakura established her discomfort with a low-pitched, sleepy whine, to which Kero only smiled absently and mumbled an agreement, his eyes fixed on the empty throne in the corner.

"Eh… where could 'e've gone?" Sakura shrugged in reply, her slippered feet clicking against the marble as they walked to the center of the room and looked around.

"He's probably on his walk already. Dad's predictable."

Kero considered that, and readied a reply before the south door, just opposite them, slid open. Kinomoto Touya sauntered into the throne room, a cocky smirk spelling trouble all over his face the moment he had time to process Sakura's presence. "Nice to see you up, brat. You've just missed almost an entire day."

The two turned to the voice that resounded powerfully in the empty room, both pairs of eyes meeting in simultaneity with the elder Kinomoto sibling's. Sakura's cheeks puffed out with being provoked so suddenly, her eyes dangerously slitted.

"Tooooouya!" An irate stamp of the foot, endearing in its own way to an onlooking Sun Guardian. "Where's Dad?"

Touya half-smiled, dropping unceremoniously onto the giant bean bag throne and heaving an almost inaudible sigh. Kero's ears seemed to pick up the uncharacteristic tire that Sakura had overlooked - her older brother was troubled, but not overtly so. Intrigued, Kero listened more intently, and under carefully guarded scrutiny noticed the stress lines under the prince's sharp eyes and the creases that pinched the corners of his mouth.

"No idea. Don't you have some math work to go bother with?" His smile turned lofty as he leaned against the acclivity of the chair, eyes peevishly narrowed and trained on his sister.

Sakura flushed red with indignant anger, scuttling in clipped paces over to her brother and bopping him over the head with a soft fist.

"O - w-! What was that for, monster?" He humored her by rubbing the spot she had struck, although Kero knew (from experience) that Sakura's hits were comparable to being smacked with nothing harder than a pillow. Sakura didn't seem to get the irony as she snorted, blew a raspberry, and tugged hard on a strand of her brother's hair.

"Ow! Idiot monst-"

"While I have no doubt that Sakura may be a little difficult to deal with, Touya, I do believe you might have deserved that."

All bodies in the room shot reflexively around to regard the magnanimous figure that had seemed to materialize next to the throne. There was no rancor in the King's admonishment, though - one could practically hear the smile it had been said with, although it made his reprimand no less effective.

"Dad!" Sakura chirped happily, immediately forgetting all squabbles with her brother to free herself for the task of standing from her brother's side and throwing her arms around the senior Kinomoto's neck. Touya stood and bowed his head slightly, grinning sheepishly and offering the throne to Fujitaka. His father waved the gesture away with his trademark warm smile, pushing his glasses up - albeit with some difficulty, considering his affectionate daughter was still plastered to him - and shooting Touya a pointed look.

"Perhaps we ought to talk about it, hm?" Kero was unable to see his eyes in their place hidden under Fujitaka's wide beam, but having known the King since his cub days told the guardian that he wasn't going to pull his son aside on a day off for something as unimportant a reprimand. Touya didn't seem surprised - in fact, the way his body sagged slightly, he made it look as though it had been ominously hanging over his head all day.

Sakura, naturally, didn't quite pull her head out of her Father-induced haze to realize he had only been joking. As Fujitaka gently pried her off and made his way to the meeting room doors just left of the canopied throne, the princess began after him but didn't get far when she was pulled roughly back by Touya.

"It'll be quick, Sakura. After your brother and I finish, we'll go visit Syaoran in the village, hm?" Neither men waited for an answer as the twin doors, high as the ceiling of the throne room and taking up nearly a fifth of the entire wall collided shut, locking the King and the Prince in that place the entire royal family so hated.

At being denied her father's company, an obstinate Sakura stamped her foot and turned to glare at Kero. The lion's tail twitched nervously - the rough swell of green in her eyes like sea waves in a tempest spoke volumes of the plans she was cooking up in her busy mind, and Kero was wary of every one of them.

As if at the same time, both of them noticed the air vent in the wall.

Heaven knew why it was there - they never used the heaters in the palace under the constraits of the eternal-summer-weather desert setting, but it seemed horribly appropriate for the situation at hand. The lion and the princess knew that it crossed over into the meeting room, serving as the perfect solution to a young girl's curiosity. Their gazes varied individually from absolute horror to absolute adoration as they stared (although both with a slight degree of incredulousness) at the vent just big enough for a very petite princess to fit.

"Sakura..."

"Please?"

Oh God. Those eyes. That pout.

Kero knelt, shamelessly overpowered, and let her climb onto his back. When she was situated, he spread his wings and pumped them once, rising fluidly into the air high enough for Sakura to pull herself into a kneel and grasp the teeth of the flue. A bit of a struggle ensued before the door fell to the ground with a raucous clatter, causing the guardian and his rider to seize and stare apprehensively at the doors in case someone might have noticed. When nothing happened, Kero chanced a little higher and let Sakura peer down the pipes, deeming it safe, if not a little dusty.

"Kay! I think I… ergh… can get… oop… up!" She heaved a sigh when she was up, her feet scrambling to follow. "Kero, c'mon!"

"What? Why me?" Kero had anticipated being forced to go, but the resistance was only customary, and should they get caught, he was going to steadfastedly profess that he hadn't intended on going. But Sakura always had her way, and this time was no different: she glared down at him, reaching to tug forcefully on one of his ears as a no-nonsense warning. With a defeated sigh, Cerberus swung his wings to form a cocoon, glowing and silhouetting against the feathery shell. When he pulled them away, he was easily a sixteenth of his natural size, and considerably cuter.

Sakura took his paw and heaved him into the vent with her, crawling on hands and knees into the entrance of the shaft. Kero floated after, occasionally looking warily back over his shoulder from the pitch blackness to make sure no one had seen them. The path was straight, and probably went far into the recesses of the castle, but the lion figured they only needed to go about twenty feet in. With one paw pressed firmly against the ribbed edges of the tunnel, he looked uselessly around them - it was too dark for Sakura to see, and he very well couldn't navigate for the both of them with her in the way.

"Kero, do you hear anything?"

"No, 'n I can't see anything with your big butt in the way!" He snapped, pushing her playfully. Sakura audibly pouted, her knees and palms shuffling faster in an attempt to scurry down all the quicker.

"Mou… keep quiet, you!"

"Aw, I'm kiddi-"

But he didn't get very far with a comeback. The tunnel had swung into an unexpected chute, and Sakura went sliding down at loaded speed, whimpering and tumbling down head over feet over head over feet. Kero gasped and shot down the decline, beating his little wings as fast as the laws of physics would allow him.

"Sakura! …Sakura!" The cries rung empty echoes in the vacuous dark of the walls, conforming to the chute's path and settling heavily with the air; they went unanswered.

"I'm… I'm fine," assured the princess after a moment, having reached the bottom of the slope. She smiled up at where (she thought, as it was still pretty dark) Kero had alighted, rubbing her head and shifting uncomfortably against the outlet she was now awkwardly pressed against. The vent aperture was the only thing that kept her from falling into the room below, which, now that they had taken the time to look down into, was an absolute perfect view of the meeting room. It was lit from the inside, and made their presence all but invisible to the occupants congregated at the door.

"Hanyaaaaaaan! Kero, it's Yukito!"

Sakura's enthusiastic whisper caused Kero to squeeze next to her, settling on the only available space of her shoulder. The air in the flue was uncomfortably thick and hot - Cerberus had to press his face up against the slits of the vent to suppress any telltale coughs. If she noticed, Sakura gave no indication - she even inched forward to better regard the room below. Everything from the potentially fatal trip down a five-foot slide to the discomfort of the inky darkness of their surroundings was, for the moment, secondary.

"Hey… Dad's not scoldin' Touya at all!" She hissed, listening in on her father and brother volleying conversational greetings.

"You really think that was what he pulled Touya aside for?"

Sakura giggled and shook her head, prodding Kero with a finger. "Of course not. But I don't like feeling nosy." Wisely, Cerberus refrained from any further comments regarding this subject.

Down below, Touya and Fujitaka were chatting amicably. Yukito was settled at the room's meeting table, a cup of tea in his hands and a half-eaten platter of candied figs placed (probably deliberately) within reaching distance of him. He was dressed simply in comparison to how Sakura and Kero usually ran into him - while his duties called for showy, easily-dirtied silk robes that must have been a hassle to cast magic in, much less commute around an arid desert in (Fujitaka, who was obligated to wear similar, often complained of such), today he was robed in a modest muslin tunic. What little skin that was exposed managed to be comfortably adorned with coppery bangles and miniature chains; thr quirk of noticing this elicited a slightly malicious giggle from Cerberus.

"I wonder how he walks with all that stuff on 'im," remarked Kero, receiving a playful swat from his companion. "He's like a Christmas tree."

"Hey! I think Yuki looks just fine!" Sakura puffed her cheeks out and prodded her companion again, severely defensive of the High Priest. Kero snorted, suddenly doubting she had ever really gotten over her painfully one-sided childhood crush on him.

"Shh, they're talking."

Touya seemed to notice Yukito for the first time as Fujitaka moved to take a seat at the end of the black marble table, leaning on his arm thoughtfully and beckoning his son to sit down. The Prince blinked softly and complied after a short, confused hesitation; the seat right across from Yukito and catty-corner to his father was taken before he affirmed his confusion aloud.

"Yukito? What are you doing here? You usually have acolytes to attend to today."

Yukito smiled gently, reaching to the tea set center of the table and pouring both the King and Prince their own cups. Not that it would have mattered - everyone knew Touya hated balsamina tea - but being so dutybound made it hard for even the High Priest to forgo customary displays of their superiority.

"Oh, I was-"

"I asked him to come." Fujitaka took a sip from the cup he'd been passed, his eyes discreetly flickering to the air vent in the corner before they turned back to his son. "Discussing your future is something that should be shared with everyone important to you, and I believe Yukito is one of those people."

Sakura made a small 'hm?' of confusion and tugged on Kero's tail absently, shifting against the vent door in an attempt to get a better view, as if a few inches made a difference. Her guardian ignored her and squinted, focusing in on Touya. So this was why he had been so nervous earlier...

Touya nodded once, fixed on the puff of curling steam above his teacup. It was hard to deny that the boy's father was right - from childhood, Touya and Yukito were as inseparable as Sakura and that Syaoran boy presently were, and seemed to share the same kind of mental connection. There were days where he woke up and simply knew how Yukito was feeling, and he was sure it wasn't one-sided. If Touya was having a shitty day, the whole family could bet on Yuki making time for their stubborn prince despite a hectic schedule, if not for something so menial as a five-minute visit. There was hardly a time when Yukito had not been shot through his veins like medicine, had not been intertwined in his life so tightly, had not been the one to shoulder an overworked conscience when he himself could not bear the burden. Kero didn't need to read the young Prince's mind to know any of this: it was simply understood.

Fujitaka chuckled softly as the simultaneous looks of knowingness passed across the table. It hurt to have to be so forward, but this had to be done…

"Ah, first, I forgot the roster sheet in my study. I'll be back in a moment." The King rose and exited the room, and for the second time that hour, Kero could swear he winked toward the vent as he passed.


Touya growled lowly as his father exited the room, absently toying with the bronze studs on his tunic sleeves and exuding a cloud of dour over the entire room. Yukito munched noiselessly on a caramelized fig, eyeing his friend across the table and trying to figure out how best to approach the situation. Touya was just so touchy sometimes...

"…You don't seem happy about this meeting," he said in as understanding a manner as he could manage, the faint outline of a comforting smile ghosting onto his face.

The Prince sighed, snagged the fig from Yuki's hands, and took a bite out of it. It was a little too sweet for him - he illustrated this by smacking his lips tastelessly and tossing it back to a glowing Yukito.

"Nah. He told me last week we had to talk about this. I kinda only have a clue about what he wants, and I'm not gonna chance a definitive guess just yet. I'm thinking he wants to talk about diplomacy... since I seem to suck at it." He snorted and gave a wry grin.

Yukito nodded mutely, finishing off the snack and demurely drawing his tongue across his now-sticky fingers, completely oblivious to the fascinated Touya watching him with slitted eyes. How someone so... asexual could seem so damn hot with just one innocent act was a miracle.

Christ, he was absolutely fucking insensible.

The overall distress of not knowing what was so important to his father had faded away with the High Priest's presence, however unexpected it had been. His brother of fourteen years seemed to possess an all-encompassing aura of contentment, and with Yukito in the room, it was hard to fear anything. He didn't feel so alone as he might have been with just his father to mediate between the present and the future.

Oh, not that he didn't love Fujitaka. The family had long since reconciled with the fact that his health was failing him, and it was probably very soon that he would have to pass power onto his son (although he wondered how much Sakura really had come to terms with), but Fujitaka seemed to be constantly weary nowadays. The young prince found it nearly impossible to grasp the reality of their discussions when it was just he and his father - the King would be gone when Touya took over, and combined with Touya's natural nihilistic pessimism, their preparatory meetings seemed like they were inviting death in for the Kinomoto father.

But Yuki… Yuki made everything fine. Yuki let him believe things would be alright. Yuki knew the solution to everything. Yuki could address a huge crowd with humility, could calm a hysteric little sister when she had nightmares, could scare the monsters under the bed away with a sweet smile and some kind words. Yuki was the link between reality and Touya's escapist fantasies; no matter where he went, Yuki was always there.

And Touya didn't want it any other way.

Presently, the Master of Ceremonies finished off the platter of figs and took one of Touya's hands in his own, patting it gently. The air was considerably more relaxed than it had been when he and his father had first entered, when it had been tinged with apprehension and mistrust and anxiety. The Prince was thankful of this, but said nothing.

"Don't worry over it, Sir. Your father would not rush you into anything you weren't ready for. I'm sure this is just one of the more -"

"Yuki!" Touya's voice conveyed quite clearly that he was scandalized at the blatant use of honorifics, causing the rabbit to wither ever so slightly under his sharp eyes and stricken expression. "What've I told you about being formal? Christ, don't ever do that again…"

Perhaps he was overreacting, but Yukito understood it, and was honestly apologetic. Touya's latent abandonment issues seemed to be provoked by Yukito's lack of intimacy with him, if not even going so far as to dropping him into a state of reticence. Touya, whose personality could be considered an acquired taste of the most extreme kind, did not make friends lightly - those that he liked, and who liked him enough to stick around were expected to forget any and all status in between them. Like most royalty, being defined by his status made the Prince touchy and lonely.

"I'm sorry. I forget." He amended his misstep with a bright smile, feeling Touya squeeze his hand ever so slightly in response.

"Whatever. In any case, I think you're right, although it's still a pretty uncomfortable. I mean, I'm twenty… my dad was already running this country at my age, just out of the military. Grandfather was a taskmaster, if I remember right… I'm just lucky Dad isn't like that. I wonder if I'll have to do service before my coronation…"

He trailed off, getting lost in himself. Yukito retracted his hands and sighed softly, playing out various scenarios in his mind. Even if he did have to serve, Yukito wouldn't fear for him - Touya was an excellent swordsman, and none of his hypothetical fantasies ended with much worse than a few scars that could be worn away with time.

The doors thundered open suddenly, Fujitaka reemerging with all the shining altruistic grace he was known for and a stack of papers under his arm. He sat himself back down and chuckled lightly at seeing the empty fig plate as the documents were shuffled and placed squarely in front of him for easy access. Yukito's voracious appetite was one of those quirks of the young priest's that all members of the Kinomoto household found endearing, and in lieu of this, it wasn't hard to guess where the fruit had all gotten to.

"Well, now… I think we ought to get started."

Fujitaka gave his son one of those creepy, foreboding smiles that always made him feel like a lamb about to be slaughtered. It wasn't like Fujitaka meant for it, but these meetings always had at least one of those Fujitaka-specific Looks.

"Touya, you're getting so old. I'm proud of you, I really am…" His eyes misted over, signalling that he was rapidly falling into Proud Father(tm) Mode.

Oh God, thought Touya, inwardly rolling his eyes, Here he goes.

"When I was your age, your mother and I had just met at a festival… she was from the Northern Provinces, and wasn't used to the deserts…"

Touya shot Yuki a Look that could have translated roughly to, 'He's told this story a billion times, but I'm going to be nice and not say anything.'

So Yukito did it for him. Clearing his throat meekly, Fujitaka snapped to attention, head cleared and the paternal simper faded from his eyes.

"Yes, well… I think it's about time we arranged a betrothal for you. Now, while we had the option of doing it at your birth, Nadeshiko and I were hesitant… after all, I had forgone a betrothal for her, which made our marriage very difficult. We didn't want the same for you or Sakura."

The Prince's stomach dropped like an ice-cold anvil. The color drained from his entire body, only his eyes seemed to relay any hint of the trademark unaffected ease he was so known for. If he had been listening, he might have heard the suspiciously muffled sneeze that sounded a lot like a familiar, "Hooooooooeeeeeeeeeeeee!" sound, but he had not, and probably would've been a little too focused to act on it. Yukito, wide-eyed and paling, bit his lip, more discreetly taking the shock of the proposition - although by no means taking it any less seriously than his friend had. It wasn't hard to guess where Fujitaka was getting at.

Despite pleading looks from his son and the rabbit-child, he went on. "I know this is all a little sudden, but it's best. We're getting pressured by a Nihonese clan in the East for a quick answer - a princess by name of Tomoyo has just turned fourteen, and is eligible for marriage. In the Eire Province, there is an unmarried duchess who I believe we met at a benefit last year… er… Mitsuki, if memory serves." He shuffled the papers in front of him, leafing through the first few. "Oh! Mizuki. Kaho Mizuki. Remember her? Ah, well… we have a few months to give them answ-"

"No."

"To-ya?"

Touya seemed steeled against anything further, his fists clenched and an air of seriousness reflecting his unwillingness like a mirror. Yukito stared incredulously at him, at a loss for input for the first time in longer than Touya wanted to acknowledge. If this was so big that even Yuki wasn't a step ahead of him, the Prince knew he wasn't simply overestimating this. He had to be careful with his words…

"Father, I'm aware it's customary for early marriages, but…"

"This is imperative, Touya." Fujitaka's voice was uncharacteristically businesslike, despite the pure tactic of employing honesty. "I've had these invites hanging around for the better part of three years… don't think that I'm just springing this on you all of the sudden. I didn't believe you were ready before now, and I still don't believe you're ready, but they're getting impatient, and we must resolve this as soon as possible. However, before you continue, know that no matter what decision you make, you will damage Clow's relationship with that country. This is your first test, Touya. Take it seriously."

There was a maddeningly pregnant pause. Touya's face had not lost any of its pensive intensity, even as he leaned to rest his chin in his hand thoughtfully. Then…

"…What if I announce that I have already made a decision?"

Fujitaka and Yukito both did a double take and gaped at Touya as if he had grown an arm out of his forehead. He paused slightly before continuing, chewing over his words and offhandedly massaging his temples as if to soothe himself.

"No matter which bride I choose, I'm screwing us over anyway. Eire's warlike, and Nihon is a big ally of ours. To pick one over the other is inciting some bad blood, and I don't honestly don't like the idea of being tied down before I've had my fun." His eyes rose to regard the Priest across from him with the most regal look Yukito had ever seen him utilize. Fujitaka's tactful use of the words, 'you,' 'I,' and 'we,' had been arranged as they were for a reason, and with no small amount of pride did the other two men in the room realize they had unconsciously deciphered it.

"Yukito…" At his name, Yukito jumped slightly and folded his hands nervously in his lap. For the first time in his life, he could not predict what Touya was thinking. An idle wish in the back of his mind managed to voice itself coherently in the confusion of the room, ruing Fujitaka's presence. He could simply reach across the cold marble table, take Touya by the hand, and simply Know what his Prince was alluding to… but that would be horribly inappropriate, shamefully selfish, especially now.

He paused. "…My Prince?" The formality was resonating desperate fear. Touya didn't act as though he noticed - not even his expressive eyes betraying anything but business and duty. Yukito went unanswered.

"I will ready a formal proposal tomorrow. It would… be ideal if you would serve me as a spouse… and an equal… in my reign." His voice was devoid of any telltale emotions behind it, as if the statement had been scripted and rehearsed. Yukito's stomach did a curious twist, caught between wanting to openly look aghast and needing to maintain a dutifully controlled expression.

Fujitaka's eyes were unabashedly laughing. Yukito had all but gone catatonic with wonder, but the lack of reaction annoyed Touya, especially since it was just now that the cold tendrils of guilt were just beginning to run up his neck. Proposing should have been a gloriously beautiful event, not something forced and done out of necessity, as this had been… specifically because marrying Yuki should be so right. If anyone understood how duty worked, it would be the ever-honorable Ceremony Master, but they weren't dealing with planning a festival, or settling a debt case - they were discussing personal, lifelong happiness.

"It seems a little unorthodox," he went on, too quickly in his desperation, addressing both Fujitaka and Yukito with his Sovereign Look™ plastered squarely on his face. "…But there has been a history of rulers and clergy marrying in our past, and the subjects of Clow will most definitely be pleased with the marriage of a well-liked High Priest."

There was a lot more he wanted to say. I can't imagine being with anyone else for the entirety of my life; I'm sorry you had to find out this way; I know this is selfish of me; Forgive me. Touya's mouth, heart, and brain seemed to be warring viciously, forbidding anything further to be said.

Well, that might have been true, if not for the sudden clamor of a certain princess and her guardian falling from a vent and to the carpeted floor with an unceremonious, "UMPH!"

Touya's face snapped from Leader™ to Big Brother™ in a fraction of a second. Launching himself from his chair, he dashed toward his little sister with concern stitched all over his face and arms tensed and ready to wallop any invisible monsters that might be after her.

"Sakura!" In the confusion of the moment, it couldn't be said for sure who had called out for her.

Fujitaka rose, Yukito following, and the three elder crowded around the fallen pair. Touya was waved away with a sheepish smile as Sakura rose and dusted herself off, the blush on her face rivaling that of a tomato. Kero, gray with dust and just as embarrassed to be caught spying, shuffled behind the princess in an attempt to hide himself.

"I'm fine," Sakura urged, looking worriedly over her brother's shoulder toward Yukito. The Priest was swept up in the din of the moment, thereby shoving down any of his own personal discomfort residual of the Prince's on-the-spot proposal. Still, it didn't make Sakura any less frightened for him.

"No, you're not. Look at that, you must've fallen eight feet! C'mon, let's get you cleaned up…" Touya hoisted her over his shoulder, all of his attention centered on the bundle of dust and cuteness and humiliation in his arms.

Unsure of what to do with himself when Touya left the room, Yukito simply cast an absent nod Fujitaka's way, heading out of the room and down the opposite door Touya had gone, presumably to go back to the Sanctum. As everyone else had vacated the room, Cerberus looked up at his master, all signs of confusion brightly strewn across his face. He blinked once before chancing a question - Fujitaka didn't seem particularly affected, but one never knew when it came to the King of Clow.

"My Liege…"

"Hm?" Fujitaka sat down again, smiling softly at his faithful guardian and passing him a cup of tea.

"You called them both here because you anticipated this reaction from Touya… right?" Kero's nose twitched involuntarily. Fujitaka rarely did things that he wasn't sure of; this couldn't have been an exception. However, the reply that followed surprised even his lifelong pet - so elucidated by Cerberus's sudden erratic intake of breath and surprised tail-and-nose-switching - had not anticipated.

"Actually… he did something that surprised even me." Fujitaka palmed his chin thoughtfully, eyes absently glued to the floor.

"What?"

"I can't deny I didn't expect something like this, but Touya has never been forward about Yukito. I… well, I can't explain what I expected, but it wasn't anything near that. This will certainly make things interesting…"

His eyes lit up in a foreboding smile, the kind Kero felt didn't belong to him, but of Fujitaka's grandfather, who had been a brilliant, very eccentric sorcerer. The guardian had only known him for a short time, but he had learned Clow's mannerisms well enough… and this simple, definitive smile recalled Clow with bright neon warning signs.

"I'm going to have to interfere a little, though. If Touya wants to start off right, he's going to have to decide how to make enemies properly. Send out these letters tomorrow, please, won't you?" Fujitaka extracted a pen from his sleeve and a sheaf of paper from a hidden desk in the table and began scribbling elegantly down the parchment face. "…Letters of affirmation. These will invite Mizuki Kaho and Daidouji Tomoyo here for a visit… I will inform Touya tomorrow."

He smiled again, this one lacking the coquettish malice of the last one. Still, it made the lion shudder slightly, and it was all he could do to keep from questioning the logic just yet.


How was it?

Finish time: 1:26 P.M., February 25 (edited 10:06 P.M., February 26 :: Buncha sleep-deprived typoes and light clarification edits)

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