Title: The Sun, and Moon, and Butterfly
Summary: The team Clow and Yuko made, even when they were fighting, even when one of them was gone.
Disclaimer: Alas, I am not CLAMP. If I were… but I'm not.
Notes: Oh, lord. This was a perfectly good snapshot story, the original idea for which came from the livejournal community 1sentence. (Theme set Alpha, in case you were wondering.) In fact, I was not too unhappy with it at all. And then chapter 181 came, and blew it right out of the water. So. Now, I guess, it's an AU. How about that.
Also, if you'd rather read the sentences in chronological order, rather than theme set order, I've put that sequence up as the second chapter-- or as close to chronological as I can figure. You know how fuzzy things get when it's Clow and Yuko.
The Sun, and Moon, and Butterfly
(1sentence challenge, theme set Alpha)
"Those children arrived today, by the way," Yuko said to the empty room, "and you know, I think they just might make it."
Sometimes it was all he could do to keep his arms from reaching, his mouth from moving; one did not kiss the Time-Space Witch.
Clow's smiles were like water, gentle and unstoppable, and draining away in a moment.
Sometimes at night Maru and Moro pile into Yuko's lap and the three lie there on the floor, huddled and remembering.
05: (Mashed and Smashed and Otherwise Abused) Potatoes
On the one hand, Clow reflected as he eyed the grey, steaming, sticky lump on his plate, it was reassuring to know that this woman who could mould gods and shift time and space without breaking a sweat had her shortcomings, but on the oth—oh god, was it moving?
She just laughs in silvery tones and saunters ahead while he grumps along, rain plastering his long hair to his back, hers dry and immaculate in a pocket dimension.
By now Clow's already undergone one cooking experiment, thank you very much, and knows better than to accept the small wrapped box Yuko pushes across the table; in all honesty, braving her fury is a small price to pay.
She smirks in delight when she learns that Clow's off in another dimension, way over his head (in her opinion) in trying to cure an insane god, but then phone rings and wipes her face blank with astonishment.
"Yuko-san, please come here; I need you."
When he shows her his design, she rolls her eyes and makes fun of his addiction to nauseating cute, yet, he notices with a grin, she doesn't change a thing when she actually makes the headphones.
The god-dragon's maddened roar sets the ground shaking and shreds the iron wards like paper as Yuko whips around, her mouth taut, and utters the words that freeze Clow's heart: "Clow, listen, damn you, we have no choice and we have no time left—my true name is—"
When he closed his eyes, he could trace the arch of her body and the motion of her hands as she stroked and shaped her magic into being.
"Good riddance," she snapped when she heard the news, "he was always so annoying and rude—once he called me poison—it's just one less headache for me, really—" and Maru and Moro ran to bring their mistress handkerchiefs.
Pull and push and mouths giving and hands taking and hot breath on skin and shivers rippling across flesh: all this never happened.
"Your lips are poison," he murmured, his face a bare inch from her desperate one, the air between them a concrete wall, "and they would make me want to live forever, and I swear, I would drink if I could, believe me—" and here he said her true name and, as she stood stunned, fled.
As the months pass after their last tense meeting, Clow realizes that he has finally found the flaw in his grand plan: it requires that Yuko come to terms with his death.
She's left standing in her front hall like an idiot, having made a last desperate offer to sway him from his chosen path, and having utterly failed, she refuses to compound her shame by crying.
Yuko tears through clients with ferocious concentration until her world screeches to a halt when a dark-skinned, purple-haired teenage girl stands before her, embroiled in a battle nearly as old and epic as Yuko's own, and wishes for the destruction of her nemesis, wishes for this and pays the cost of never seeing her lover again.
She stands on a rocky bluff high above the sea and casts her tears away on the wind.
Clow knows that Yuko has forgiven him when she arrives unannounced at his mansion and demands Kirin beer; it's when she requests his help on a job that he knows she's also granted him the best present it's in her to give: the freedom to finish what he's started.
"I require," Mokona thought in majestic mental reverberation, "the two of you to make me another of my kind, for me to raise and eventually pass on this world of Cephiro, and as payment I shall give you the power and other necessary materials to create the two demi-gods you need."
Yuko would never have forgiven herself if she had broken her silence and asked Clow just what, exactly, he and Yue were to each other.
When the task is done he pulls her hands out of the fire and carefully smooths ointment on the burns, bandaging them so delicately it feels like cool cobwebs on her screaming flesh; then she remembers how much time he has left, and she pulls away with a feeling like a metal file on raw nerves.
"Someday," Clow promised as he ladled out a steaming bowl of nikujaga, "you're going to have someone who's an even better cook than I am."
He was devoted to protecting his creations and heirs while she was devoted to hitsuzen and balance through the granting of wishes, and sometimes these goals complemented each other, and sometimes they did not.
It is a world without atmosphere, with no life or movement; the tower they built and the experiments they conducted will shape the land forever.
"They were clients," is all the message says, and Clow knows she's right, in some grand, cosmic way, but all he can see are two dark-eyed, sharp-teethed twins using the power granted to them by the Time-Space Witch to slip into another dimension, stepping one world closer to the one in which they will cause his descendant pain.
She never mentioned how she would minister to him when he collapsed with fever, eyes rolled up and lips spilling disjointed shards of future; she never spoke of how she would return him to his own bed when the worst was over and he, for his part, always figured that years of experience had made him stronger and more resistant to the physical toll of trance.
"It's a song," he murmurs, lifting his hand and watching the smoke from her pipe curl around it, "with a fluting, haunting beauty, that I would love to listen to but that fades as I strain to catch it, because," and he raises his eyes to meet Yuko's, "it's a solo."
And who can say who was the guiding star for the other?
She meets him for a friendly beer every now and then, and enjoys it, but talking with Eriol is not being with Clow again, any more than reminiscing about it would be returning to the place of her childhood.
Clow was prepared for this fledgling witch to gasp, blush, maybe even get a little starry-eyed when she heard his name; he was not prepared for her heavy-lidded smile, her cool "Ichihara Yuko, Dimension Witch," and her hand, extended for him to kiss.
"You will find someone, Yuko," he presses fiercely, "promise me."
She was a brilliant, uncontainable flash of light and he was a distant, unseen rumble felt deep in the bones.
Some time after his death, she takes a deep breath and roars to the sky, "I never wanted to be tied to you!" and is glad she waited for her statement is too confused, with too much truth and too much falsehood, and anyway, true or false, it would have hurt him to hear it.
Yuko is smiling and waving as she strolls the packed streets, merrily calling out greetings; Clow has a damp and unnerved grip on one of her long dress sleeves, discomfited by how very many creatures in the Spirit Market look at him with hunger in their eyes (or eye, or uncountable thousands of eyes).
"We can rebuild it," Clow begins, grinning like a maniac, "we have the—" and winces as Yuko's palm smacks into the back of his head.
When Clow presented her with the two spirit ward servants he'd made, he should've known better than to ask what she would name them; the twitch of Yuko's eyebrow as she contemplated how deeply this put her in his debt, that alone should have warned him.
"Smug and annoying, right," he snorted, "what about your smile?"
She had steeled herself before meeting him that first time, and thanked all the gods for the advance warning, because oh, he was even more gorgeous than rumour had it.
She threw her head forward again with a triumphant cry and brandished her empty sake bottle, clinking it against his so emphatically that he could hear his liquor slosh.
There is no such thing as coincidence; that's why Clow knows better than to think that maybe this isn't their last walk together, under a sky so overcast and with a radio clenched in Yuko's knuckle-white fist that just happens to be playing "Goodbye Blue Sky."
"So," he mutters, groping for good-bye, "we'll go no more a-roving--" and is interrupted by Yuko's snap, "Don't you dare, Clow, I've always hated Byron."
After five days and nights, feverish and sleepless, they discovered a way around Brannoch's Law of Magical Transference Limits, and then lay back and laughed themselves silly.
In all the years (aeons, by some standards) that they worked together, they never touched except in ordinary, necessary ways, never kissed.
Yuko sets the book carefully down on the shelf so as not to wake the sleeping guardian, runs her fingers across the gold filigree of the cover one last time, and then turns away.
They have never been friends, but for the sake of Clow's wish, Yuko's fingertips rest gently on Yue's closed eyelids, and the golden eyes that soon open are warm and loving.
She never told him the date, of course, but after a long while of working and laughing and being with her, he began to feel it in the very reverberations around her, the tremors in space and time as her birthday came closer.
The alien wind whips through her hair as they stand on a continent that can only be reached by stepping right-leg-first through Clow's second-story bathroom window, and he gently tilts her chin towards the sky, prefacing the light show with, "I really had no idea what to get you, but I hope you enjoy it."
"It doesn't burn as brightly as you do, but it's not bad."