?CCS copyright [insert names here]. I do not own them. I just play with them. Put this up
without permission and die a slow, miserable death. For Tin for her birthday/Christmas. Bwah.

STITCHES IN TIME

He likes to watch her embroider, although if you asked him, he couldn't quite tell you why.
Perhaps it is because of the way her hands move sure and graceful on the fabric, holding the
needle as if it were an extension of her own fingers. She can stitch without looking down at the
fabric, hold a conversation, look at something with tenderness and care in her eyes -- he has seen
her. And yet she is always aware of the fabric in her hands.

Embroidery began, long ago, when someone realized the simple mending of fabric could be made
beautiful, and then took that and spread it over the fabric, painting with a needle, piercing it to
make it stronger. He has seen with his own eyes fabric that survives only because of the work
someone, long ago, put into the fabric, making it beautiful with thread and time.

He likes to watch her embroider because she does it so well, or so he tells himself. It is always a
pleasure to watch an expert work. And yet, even if he told you that, he would be aware in the
back of his own mind that it was a lie, of sorts -- perhaps the real reason he likes to watch her
embroider is because she is the one doing it.

---

He sews the way he does everything else, she thinks -- no wasted movements, not in haste, but
not in leisure. When he sits down to work, he finishes his set task quickly but carefully. The
stitches are even, straight and perfectly spaced, small, but not too small, taut but not so tight to
pucker the fabric, with looseness just enough to insure the fabric will lay as it is meant to.

She knows exactly why she likes to watch him sew, although she is sure that he does not know
that she watches him. She likes to watch him sew because he loves it, and in his love for it he
relaxes and becomes merely a craftsman, instead of thinking always of his power and what might
have become of him, of her, of Sakura, of the Cards, of Yue and Cerberus, of Spinel Sun and
Ruby Moon. He thinks of nothing but the next stitch, and the next, and the next after that.

---

But now, watching her needle rise and fall into the fabric, trailing a line of colored silk behind it,
he is aware that her hands are slender and graceful, her fingers long and strong. He wishes he
could be the fabric, spilled familiarly over her lap, held in her hands, made new by her.

Sometimes he wishes he could stop watching her, but always his eyes go to her of their own
accord, and watch, fascinated, as beauty trails her flashing needle.

Sometimes she sews and he sits near her, talking pleasantly to Sakura and Syaoran about nothing
and everything, and this she likes nearly as well as watching him sew. He is always courteous to
her, threading needles, chasing down floss that has inevitably dropped to the very bottom of the
basket. She knows he is watching her work, and does not mind. Even though she has no magic,
she has the artist's eye to observe, and she thinks that watching her calms him, though he doesn't
realize it. Especially now that he has given up half his power, she thinks -- for however terrible
the burden may have been, still, there was a deadly comforting security in knowing what the day
will bring.

So he watches her, and pretends that he does not, and she knows he does, and pretends that she
does not, and both keep their silence behind their smiles.

Really, she thinks, surprising herself, things could be worse.

---

A good needleworker inspects her work often. Firstly, to evaluate her progress; secondly, to see if
the pattern requires changing to suit the fabric; and thirdly and most importantly, to find her
mistakes and correct them before it becomes impossible. Sometimes an error is found that cannot
be removed without ruining the fabric or the design. In that case, the needleworker must accept
the flaw and work around it.

The best way to tell between machine-sewn and hand-sewn needlework, by the way, is to look for
small errors. The most expert of human needleworkers will make tiny mistakes, but machine
work is perfect. Even the errors in pattern are consistent. Another way to tell, they say, is to
look at the back of the work. However perfect the front of a hand-sewn piece of work may be,
the back of it is always slightly jumbled-looking, just a little messy. Machine-sewn work, again, is
always precise.

---

Creating the Guardians was not entirely unlike sewing, now that he thinks about it. He hadn't
made them of fabric and flesh and fur, of course, but the process might be called similar.

You take your power, and make of it a needle, and you thread it with magic and sew magic
together into the form it wants to be, and then you call the souls that will inhabit the forms you
have made from the place where they sleep. They come and enter the bodies you have made for
them, and you have companions to ease the terrible loneliness that has been with you since your
first memory.

He has never taught Sakura the way of making magical spirits. For one thing, he is sure the
process will be different for her, and for another, he hopes and prays that the day when she wants
to create one will never come. He is more than content that the knowledge of how to create
creatures like Yue and Cerberus, Ruby Moon and Spinel Sun, should die with him.

Mostly because he lied to himself when he thought that you threaded the needle of your power
with magic. The real thread was loneliness, and he would not wish what he felt on anyone,
especially Sakura.

He looks up and realizes that in his brooding he has stopped sewing, and Tomoyo is watching him
with steady eyes. He looks back at her, and they stare at each other. Her eyes are calm and
unafraid -- how many people, he wonders, look into his eyes without fear?

He thinks, suddenly, that he would like to tell her of the birth of the Guardians, and how he had
done it -- not why he had done it; that she already knew. She would understand, she would listen
to his story without judgement. She would know, none better, the delicate work of sewing a
destiny.

And he would tell her, and she would listen, and while she was listening her needle would flash in
and out of her fabric, trailing beauty behind it. And when he had finished telling her, she would
look at him with her clear, steady eyes.

And he would find, at last, a little peace.

---30---

NOTES:

12/13/01

The title, of course, refers to the proverb 'a stitch, in time, saves nine', although not directly. Don't
ask where this one came from, I'm still not sure myself. =_=; I MEANT to write a lemon, but
noooooo, that was apparently Bad. Damn them, anyway. O_;

And yes, Eriol sews. This is canon in both manga and anime. Heck, Fujitaka knits, and
presumably so does Eriol. O_o They're actually kind of scarily domestic.

Thanks to the usual suspects for much help, suggestions and encouragement, and happy
birfday/Merry Christmas to Tin.