This is a oneshot that picks up in the very last seconds of the 2nd Cardcaptor Sakura movie. Just something that came to mind when I started re-exploring this series. Cardcaptor Sakura and all associated characters are owned by CLAMP.
Even exhausted almost to the limit of his body, Syaoran would always have enough strength to catch Sakura, no matter what. He could do no less. Although, he thought fleetingly as she landed in his arms, the force of her joyful leap from across the gap knocking him backwards and almost off the narrow steps, it might have been easier if she had only waited a few more moments for the steps to return. But his own relief and complicated emotions of fulfilled love swept through him, and instead of releasing the Cardcaptor right away, he held her tightly for a moment.
"I wanted to tell you for so long," Sakura said, a smile lighting her voice as she returned the embrace. Her pink hat poked into Syaoran's chin impishly as she buried her head in his chest.
"You knew?" she asked, surprised. She tried to turn up to see him, but between his height advantage and the stiff cap on her head, she could only really see his jawline from so close up.
"Well…I knew you had to answer me. And I hoped I knew what your answer would be," he said, releasing her reluctantly and holding her at arm's length so they could see one another, gripping her shoulders as though he would never let go. The evidence of her tears remained on her cheeks, but her face was flushed and happy and her green eyes were radiant with triumph and affection, causing the once-stoic warrior to blush.
"But…how could you know what I'd say?" Sakura demanded. She considered pulling herself out of his grasp so she could flail indignantly as Kero might have done, but decided against it. "I didn't even know for sure until recently!"
"Sakura," Syaoran shook his head and smiled wryly, "you really are dense sometimes. Your eyes said a lot of things you never said aloud, and they gave me hope. I just needed to know you accepted what you seemed to feel."
"Oh." Suddenly embarrassed, she looked down at her feet. They stood in silence for a moment, an awkwardness settling over them as the sudden rush of honesty took hold. Even so, Syaoran did not let go of Sakura's shoulders, nor did she want him too. The moment was broken, however, when the rising dawn's light was unexpectedly extinguished around them.
"Everything must be back now," the Cardcaptor said, looking around at the solid wall and steps that had once been a void. Syaoran nodded. The events of the past few hours flashed through both their minds, events they had entirely forgotten in their own emotions. Remembering in a rush that she and the boy before her were not alone in the world, Sakura jumped in place. "We've got to check on the others! We have to make sure everyone's okay!" She tugged at Syaoran's sleeve.
"It's a long way down," he replied, releasing her shoulders and retrieving his sword from where it had fallen when he had been obliged to catch her in midair. The motion reminded him that he had only barely avoided a terrible fall himself from the top of the Ferris wheel, and his muscles hurt from uncommon exertion, not to mention the almost-spell of the Nothing. He had not meant to wince in exhausted pain, but Sakura caught his expression anyway.
"Oh! You're hurt!" she exclaimed. "Here, let's use a Card to get down."
"You don't have enough energy for that," Syaoran replied gruffly.
"Yes, I do," Sakura smiled softly. "My heart will give me the strength." When the heart of one newly in love is full, it holds enough energy to power the world if necessary. The heart will always have enough power for the sake of the one who is loved. Across from her, the boy from Hong Kong nodded, feeling much the same way himself.
Sakura was again amazed at the unconcealed warmth in his brown eyes as he stepped back to give her room, eyes she had once thought were hard and cold. He, like she, shone his heart in his gaze when he wanted to, and while she could not put words to what she read there, she felt the power and depth of it resonate through her very spirit. Deigning to lean on his sword once more, Syaoran watched silently as she summoned the Float Card, forming a wide pink sphere that hovered gently beside the steps. It was an honest relief for both of them to settle on Float's soft surface and let it carry them all the way down through the tall clock-tower to the ground. Stepping out into the rising sunlight, both Syaoran and Sakura sighed as the warmth of the morning sky lifted their spirits anew.
"We've got to find Kero and Yue," the pink-clad girl said determinedly as she collected Float once more, "and then we've got to go check on everybody else." She began to take a few steps towards the exit.
"What is it, Syaoran?" she asked, turning in surprise at the sudden seriousness of his voice.
"You meant it? What you said?"
"What I said…?" she asked, looking confusedly at his face. The warmth was gone, like the sun swept behind thick clouds, replaced with a diamond hardness she knew all too well: the look of a warrior, proud, fierce, and strong.
"I…yes! Of course!" Sakura exclaimed. "Do you doubt me?"
"No, nothing like that," he said, crossing the distance between them. "I know I can take you at your word."
"Then why did you ask me?"
"Because…" and now the determination that was a shield against fear cracked and Sakura could see a nervousness in his eyes, "I wondered if you loved me enough to want me to stay here."
"Stay? You mean, not go back to Hong Kong?" she asked, excitement rising in her heart all over again.
"My plans to go back home are not set yet. And, though the Li clan are not pleased, they have given their consent for me to stay here. I talked to them yesterday after you ran away at school. They realize that there are still things I can learn here in Japan, to strengthen my own magic. And…my sisters are annoying me. So, if you wanted me to stay, I could."
His words were so formal, but he knew of no other way to explain himself. Syaoran had always been terrible at admitting difficult truths. What he could not say was that he wanted very much to stay in Japan with her. Hong Kong was empty to him now, and he could no longer focus or find peace there. His family, perceptive as they were, did not know what exactly bound him to this other land, but they did know it was enough to make even his magic weaker. Thus, by virtue of the fact that he could not seem to overcome this distraction in China, they elicited a deal from Syaoran: he must return home four times a year to be tested by the best in his family, and if he had failed to grow sufficiently in both his prowess with sword as well as spells, he would not be permitted to return to Japan. And, to his enormous chagrin, Syaoran was pledged to host his four sisters as well as any other family who wished to check up on him at any time with perhaps deliberately little notice. Annoying and difficult as these conditions could potentially be, he would accept any such terms if it meant he could stay where his heart intended to live.
Sakura said nothing at first, busy with her own feelings and thoughts. It had been awful for Syaoran to be gone, with only letters and email to sustain her, and those brief and awkward at best. And, she was quite certain, it would be far worse if he were to leave again, knowing now what she felt. What if they parted and something changed and they had to start all over again the next time she saw him? That would be awful. And, in spite of the fact that she had been rather slow on the uptake and rather late on admitting her feelings, now that he knew, she did not want to lose him again. Even though her life with her friends and family was happy, even though she had plenty to distract and amuse her, there was an empty place in her life where Syaoran should always be. Sakura clung to those she loved, relinquishing them only hesitantly and drawing them back as quickly as possible. And he was the one she loved most.
"If you don't want me to stay here, however…" Syaoran said softly, taking her momentary silence as a negative response. Stricken, Sakura leaped out of her thoughts and seized one of his hands in both of hers before he could turn away, eyes downcast.
"No! I mean, Syaoran…" she gulped, then held his gaze with her own, "I'd like it very much if you would stay. You would do that, just for me?"
"I would and I will," and his face spread back into the gentle and genuine smile that spoke volumes. "I love you."
"Me, too," she smiled sweetly.
With the hand not currently clasped by Sakura, Syaoran reached up and hesitantly cupped her cheek. His smile widened as her eyes melted, and he knew his expression matched her lost and delighted one. They stood that way for what seemed like a very long time, no words needed in the silence. Their hearts were speaking through and for them, and both understood what the other meant and felt. Just as the Sakura Cards were now finally complete, sealed to each other and whole at last, so were Sakura and Syaoran themselves with each other.
"I guess she told him after all," Yukito said with reserved happiness, the ever-present expression of peaceful contentment on his face a little brighter than usual. Beside him, Kero huffed in great annoyance, careful to keep himself hidden beside the pale young man. The ticket booth that obscured them from the sight of the other two was not the best hiding place.
"Yeah. Guess I'll have to learn to deal with the kid. I can't wait." Kero punched one balled-up hand into the other in frustration, his voice dripping with irritated sarcasm.
"You should be happy for her," Yukito admonished gently. "He's good for her."
"Hey! I don't need advice from someone who just met me ten minutes ago!" Kero snorted, crossing his little arms. He glared at the amused expression on the face of Yue's other half.
"How long did you think you could keep me from knowing what you really were? My other self already told me about you. Actually, I was looking forward to meeting you."
"Really?" Kero's pride began to get the better of him and he looked a little more eagerly at Yukito.
"Of course. You and my other self are very much a part of Sakura's life. You both protect her. And I do care about her very much. So it is good to know you, and to know you care about her, too." His eyes were alight with amusement at this floating bear who was so jealously protective of his young friend. Although waking up to see a little plush trying desperately to pretend not to be anything more than a toy was remarkably funny, it was also exactly the ice-breaker needed for a long-overdue introduction. Kero was the last of Sakura's guardians, the final piece on the chessboard set to protect their queen. And though he as Yukito could do very little for her, he felt much comforted knowing that the others who were more than pawns were up to the task. Now, if only he could convince Toya of the same.
"I still wish it were you with her instead of the kid," Kero grumbled.
"I am with her. And so are you. But this is better for all of us." He smiled sagely. In the back of his mind, however, he was not particularly looking forward to explaining the state of affairs to Sakura's very protective older brother. It appeared he actually had two grudges to assuage, not just one. However, in the face of their happiness, Yukito could not do otherwise for the young pair. He was, at heart, a peacemaker, and he had work to do on both Kero and Toya.
"Are you always so…laid-back?" the sun-guardian asked, trying not to be too offensive to one he had just met properly. After all, besides being Yue's other form, and thus not one to irritate anyway, Yukito was a very good person who did not intend to rub in the fact that his Candidate had fallen in love with someone he could not abide.
"Generally. Now come on. Let's give them just a few more minutes of privacy. Then you and my other self can go with them to check on everyone else. And Kero?"
"The 'kid' is not a bad choice for her at all. Give him a chance."
"Is that Yukito or Yue talking?" Kero asked suspiciously as they both retreated behind the booth and made their careful way back towards the main entrance to the park.
"Both. But my other self says if you don't quit ignoring his perfectly good advice, he'll freeze you solid the next time you try to take a bath." Yukito chuckled at the stricken look on Kero's face at that threat. Of course, his other self had said no such thing, but at least it gave the little guardian pause.
"All right, I'll give him a chance. But only under one condition," and Kero's eyes looked devilishly calculating.
"Anything. What's the condition?" The silver-haired young man grinned speculatively as his new friend swelled to twice his size in excitement and anticipation, his face growing quite fat with pleasure as he shouted his heart's desire with rapture.
"That you bake me a whole big bag of cookies!"
Yukito's laughter, silently echoed by the amusement of his other self buried deep behind his eyes, echoed and dissipated up into the dawn sky of another day.