By: Koorino Megumi
This drabble was inspired by link no miko and written at the request of Saulie. Special thanks to both and the amazing Ginger Ninja for their beta help and encouragement!
Explicit spoilers are from early in the series only, although the drabble takes place around the 120s of the manga.
She knew it was a dream from the moment it started, but she didn't care.
They were in the middle of a desert but sitting in the shade, with two large structures rising up behind them, unfurling from the ground, like wings. They were beautiful, she thought vaguely, but her attention was hardly on her surroundings. She could not tear her eyes away from the person beside her.
He was there, as she knew he couldn't be, maybe never would be-
No, I won't give up hope!
Two brown eyes, staring into hers, though one was as blank as glass from sightlessness, and she knew it. She knew it, and she smiled all the wider for it.
He nodded at her words, smiling back and taking her hand in his. "I will always be by your side."
And she knew it wasn't real, knew he wasn't--couldn't be--real. But her tears were as real as anything, welling up in her eyes faster than she could call them back, rolling down her cheeks and leaving long, wet tracks.
Always by my side...you will be, won't you?
She felt his hand on her shoulder then, the motion awkward, uncertain. She accepted the invitation and buried her face against him, crying and crying and feeling him, and knowing he was there--even though he wasn't. Because he was warm, and his shirt was soft, and her tears were streaking across it, and they were real, so didn't that mean he had to be? And she could smell him--smell the sweat from being in he desert that day and the slightly musty scent of the books he must have been reading--He loved books, she knew--and the fresh scent of the fruit he must have eaten to keep himself cool. And it was there, all around her, enveloping her.
But it wasn't.
"Sakura-hime, what is it? What's wrong?"
"It's you," she said again, her voice choked and muffled against him, against the soft green fabric of the shirt he wore--always used to wear, once. But the meaning of her words had now changed. "What do I do for you?"
How can I keep you here--just like this?
"What do you mean?" Confusion flooded his tone, and for a moment she couldn't help but wonder why he didn't know. If he wasn't real, why not know? If it was a dream, why couldn't it be him, after it was all over, coming back for her? Why couldn't it be a version of him who could give her an answer?
Because there is no answer.
"I told you I'd always be with you," he continued, his tone soft, comforting. She wanted to lose herself in those words--wanted, so desperately, to believe them. "There's nothing you have to do in return."
"I'll lose you if I don't!" she cried, pulling her face from his warm embrace and reaching her hands up now to cling to him. I won't let go.
He shook his head at her, his expression worried. He was always so worried about her. "You won't ever lose me."
For a second, anger welled up inside her at those words. It's not fair! Why did she have to see him like this if all it meant was that she would have to lose him again? What had she done to deserve such a dream? It was beautiful, and precious, such a precious moment, but what about her heart? How much more could it take?
"I'll stay with you," he promised, his arms on her shoulders and his eyes staring into hers. "Everywhere we go. Every single world, until we've found every feather."
And then suddenly, she knew. There was a reason--a need--for this dream. Because now she had her answer.
"Every feather but one," she stated. Her tears were slowing, her cheeks still wet from her outburst, but she let a soft smile slide into place on her face now. He relaxed visibly at the change, and her smile widened. "The last one," she promised, "is for you."
And in that instant, it all went away, and she was suddenly back where she had been, lying on the ground with blankets around her. Mokona was humming nearby, and Fye-san was cooking something. Kurogane-san had gone off, probably to get wood or food for them. And Syaoran-kun was sitting nearby, just sitting, looking at her.
As her heart filled with pain at the loss of the dream, she realized that hope had not gone with it. The dream might have left, but one thing had stayed behind.
She had a promise now. And she would keep it.