by Fushigi Kismet
"Yes," he said, his face solemn, his body rigid, his voice refusing to betray anything, "I could be that cruel."
She glared at him, a flash of anger in the heat of the moment, but in her eyes, beneath the bitterness and the rage, he saw what he had not wanted to see, had never wanted to see in her eyes - defeat.
She slumped into her chair, her entire body sending that one message of measureless despair through the sagging of her shoulders to the gaze of her eyes, staring downward, not at the ground but at nothing. She seemed deflated somehow, lifeless. She who could not be broken had been.
. . . and he could not bear to see her in such a manner. Yet, he could neither force his body to turn away or his eyes to look away. He opened his mouth and wondered what it was he wanted to say. I'm sorry? But no, he could say anything but that - anything. Because those words were not the truth. They were a lie.
Tears were falling now . . . from her eyes, he realized, wondering as the realization came to him why he could taste the salt of her tears before he realized that he was crying as well, for a reason he could not and did not want to name. For an emotion he desperately did not want to feel and could not help feeling.
He had moved across the length of the room without any conscious effort on his part. In the back of his mind he wondered if he had simply teleported there through some unconscious desire of his will. That ceased to matter as he knelt before her, and tilted up the face that had been so radiant before, and looked into eyes formerly so filled with joy now as lifeless and empty as those of a porcelain doll.
But still beautiful.
God, how beautiful she was.
He whispered to her gently, his voice filled with a rare thing, tenderness, "But you would have known, Tomoyo-chan, wouldn't you?"
"Yes." Her voice was a whispered acknowledgement filled with a nameless, trembling emotion that was not anger, not fear, not sadness, nor despair but part something of each and none of them at all.
He took her in his arms as one would take a young, bewildered child, as once a young girl would cradle a prized porcelain doll, afraid of breaking it, yet unable to keep from holding it for the pleasure derived from such an act, the unspeakable need to protect something.
The tears continued to trail down her cheeks, but she was unaware
of them, as unaware of them as she was of his arms around her.
He had asked her to his study that day and she had complied, partly out of politeness and partly out of curiosity. The things he did aroused that much in her - curiosity for what he did and why he did them. They had known each other for years now.
She thought nothing of it. She took no note of it. His return, the passing of the years, from elementary school to junior high to high school to university, none of these concerned her. Her only measurement of the passing of time was how much more beautiful Sakura grew every day in the glow of her love for Li-kun, who truly had to be her soulmate. There had been a time when Tomoyo had let herself believe that Sakura and she were soulmates, that Sakura would one day return her feelings, but that hope had faded gently, quietly, away over the years. She had accepted it, not without tears and denials, but for the most part calmly and composedly. That composure had remained unbroken for several years.
Then she had accepted his invitation and had come to his study. First they had enjoyed a delicious tea in his drawing room and she had wondered at the silence of his house when usually she found it so lively. He had explained amiably enough that his housemates were out on a holiday, one that he felt, he said, wincing, they owed him to take. She had laughed and upon finishing their tea he had led the way to his study.
Once inside, he had shut the door carefully and turned to her, smiling. "As you know, I've been experimenting a bit more recently with what I am now capable of with regards to magic and while Clow Reed might have been able to do all that I've accomplished and more with very little effort, for me, it is an accomplishment!"
Gesturing for her to take a seat, she did so, gracefully.
"I've got a new magic trick to show you, Tomoyo-chan!" he had said and she had smiled at the boyish fervor in his voice where once she might have frowned at the familiarity with which he addressed her. But they had known each other for years upon years and it no longer concerned her.
"Let me show you!" he said, and she nodded her head politely, wondering what feat of magic he wished her to comment favorably on.
He muttered a few short words in what seemed like a harsh snarl and a painful gasp rolled in one then before her stood an exact copy of herself. She stared at the copy in astonishment. The copy smiled back sunnily.
"Eriol-kun?" she whispered.
"Yes, it's me!" the copy chirped back happily in her own voice. "I realize that it's like the mirror card, but it's inconceivably harder for a human being to transform that a magical one. You might think that this is like smoke and mirrors - all illusion, but I've actually become able to transform myself into anyone. Do you think the magical girls will be upset that I've stolen their trick?"
But she was not listening to his voice, not laughing at his joke. Her mind was fitting itself around that strange concept that it could not comprehend. She reached out a hand and only vaguely noticed as her copy threaded its fingers through hers.
"Into . . . anyone?" The voice was tremulous and strained.
He dropped her hand abruptly, reverting back to himself, and moved away, across the room, suddenly weary. He turned to look out the large bay windows that overlooked his gardens. Drawing the curtains closed, he said, an odd note in his voice, "You mean, can I turn into Sakura?"
He turned towards her and suddenly it was not Eriol standing there but Sakura looking at her with sad, green eyes. Then the sadness was gone, wiped away, and Sakura stretched her arms out to her, eyes filled with warmth, love, and longing . . . the longing that Tomoyo had fought against for ten long years.
"I love you, Tomoyo," she said, and there was no lie in those words.
Tomoyo took an unsteady step forward, trembling, an inarticulate cry tearing itself from her throat.
Then Sakura was gone and Eriol stood in her place, his eyes shadowed. He lifted his head. Their eyes met and she did not understand, could not understand the tortured look he gave her.
"Yes," he said, "I could be that cruel."
"You see, Tomoyo-chan," he said, into her dark hair, not expecting her to heed him or to respond, speaking merely because he had to, "we are too old for make believe. Once, we could have pretended and it would not hurt nearly as much as it will now if we were to let ourselves. Children can only afford to pretend because somewhere in them they believe that there is some truth in their imaginings, something they can believe in completely. Adults have lost that capacity."
Dimly, his words entered her consciousness and she realized that they were not for her but for him, just as his words earlier had been for himself. He could have been that cruel to himself and let himself pretend . . . for an instant . . . .
Do you love me? she wondered, the thought itself incredible. Do you need me?
No one had ever needed her before. No one had ever needed her as she needed Sakura.
He pulled away from her, studying her face. "I can't love you as Sakura. I can only love you as me."
She found her fingers moving without her knowledge, without her consent. They buried themselves in his thick, dark hair, and pulled his head down to hers.
Their lips met fiercely, almost desperately, and then he was in control, claiming her lips, her mouth, herself as his due with raw, unbridled desire, and she knew then that he needed her.
Do I need him? She wondered, his lips moving to her neck, his fingers expertly undoing the buttons of her blouse. Do I need him now?
Then his lips had returned to hers as the blouse fell from her shoulders and she had no room for thought. It was all she could do to give into the desires of her body and respond to his passion, to feel the pleasure rising in her at the desperate ardor of his kisses and caresses, at the possessive nature of his hands on her body.
Had she been able, she would have wondered at his deftness, at the manner in which he undressed her, quickly but sensually, his lips and hands moving to cover each newly bared region of her body, but then he had been a man long before he had ever been a boy, and here he was, a man again.
She wondered as he laid her down and as his body covered hers if his need was great enough to meet her own, if his desire could overcome hers. Do you love me enough? Can I love you enough?
"Is it enough for you?" she whispered, running her hands over the small of his back, finding delight in the delicious sensation of his warm skin beneath her fingers.
He pulled away from her, looking at with startled, tortured eyes as if realizing what he was doing for the first time. She was stretched languidly beneath him, her dark hair spilling unimpeded over the curves of her shoulders and breasts, her violet eyes wide and dark. "Tomoyo, I'm sorry. I-"
She smiled and he stopped short, arrested by the look in her eyes.
I think it is, she thought, finding to her genuine astonishment that she did indeed need him. She wanted him. Loved him even. As much as she could love anyone but Sakura. It's enough, isn't it? To love one another? And even if it isn't, even if . . . .
"Let's make believe," she said, and reaching up, pulled his head back down to hers.