* * *
Scenes From An Afternoon
A CCS fanfic by Sakura
Standard disclaimers apply.
For Ciircee, who ficced me H/G. ^____^v
With excerpts taken from Joni Mitchell's "Stay in Touch" (from her album, "Taming the Tiger" ).
This story is ExT, and is based on the premise that they have been friends for some time now and that both have made their feelings known in one way or another. Or something like that.
* * *
This is really something
People will be envious
But our roles aren't clear
So we mustn't rush
Still, we're burning brightly
Clinging like fire to fuel
I'm grinning like a fool
Stay in touch
We should stay in touch
i. Eriol Pretends to Busy Himself With the To-Do List.
He was sitting at his desk, absently jotting down notes to himself, when she suddenly turned around in her seat and glanced at him. It was the most fleeting of looks; it didn't even seem like she had actually intended to glance at him, it was more like her gaze had swept him on its way to the clock on the wall behind him. To anyone watching it would've seemed nothing but a cursory glance over the shoulder, but he knew her well enough to know she had just given him a Look. And he knew what it meant. It clearly meant I have papers to run through right now and I think I'll try doing the first two numbers in the Biology assignment but if I hurry and if you will be patient I can meet you at the gate in fifteen minutes. (Later he had to admit to himself that he had a shameless flair for embellishment.)
But the point was, she wanted him to wait for her, and that much he understood. Not for the first time it amazed him how much she could say in a fleeting look, but what amazed him more was how much meaning he could read in it.
He never thought of himself as extraordinarily perceptive. True, he was a talented young man --- and if truth be told, was even the reincarnation of the most powerful magician in history --- but he was not blessed with the gift to read people's minds. Or hearts, for that matter. But he secretly thought that it did not take much to read people. As far as he was concerned, humans could be incredibly transparent when they wanted to be. Gestures, facial expressions, even pauses in speech --- didn't they all betray sentiment in one way or another?
Come to think of it, he thought, clichés are true, aren't they? Eyes really are the windows to the soul, and some hearts are worn on sleeves for everyone to see---
Humans Read Easily, and Their Hearts are No Mystery, droned the Voice inside his head, perhaps in a halfhearted attempt at rhyme.
She suddenly coughed, jolting him from his thoughts. By the way her head was turned slightly toward him he realized that she had been waiting for an answer.
He tapped his pen against the edge of his desk, thrice. I'll be there.
The corner of her lips lifted ever so slightly, and disappeared behind the curtain of her dark hair as she went back to her work.
It was enough to undo him. He found himself grinning foolishly as he started stuffing books inside his satchel five at a time, completely unmindful of the fact that his bag was already full to bursting. The To-Do list had been carelessly crammed between a pencil box and a reader, its urgency forgotten. And as he happily moved, giddy with anticipation, the Voice continued to speak from somewhere in his mind. Hearts are No Mystery, It sighed, Hearts are No Mystery at all…
ii. Eriol Wishes Himself Invisible.
He leaned against the wrought iron frame and watched the students stride past him, laughing and chattering in groups. He thought some of them were watching him, and he instantly scowled down at his shoes and pretended not to notice anybody. Caught in the after-school rush like this he felt uneasy, too visible, too obvious. Everything about him --- the tense grip on the satchel, the occasional peek at the wristwatch, the uncomfortable stance by the gate --- seemed to scream I am waiting for somebody and I know I look it. And he found this transparency unnerving.
But what was there to hide? Everyone probably knew he was waiting for her.
They had known each other from fifth grade and started to become close friends when they entered junior high school. Unfortunately for them, the school gossips thought they were too lovely a pair to pass up --- they both had unwavering dark gazes and pale skin, they were both charming and elegantly polite, they both belonged to wealthy families, they both possessed sharp minds and often got the highest marks in class, and they were both on the Student Council. And they were seen together all the time --- seated at the piano in the music room, reading at the library, sipping tea at the cafeteria, standing by the vending machine at the back of the school, talking outside the council office, striding side by side down corridors. Some had even spied them at downtown cafés, the public library, and even at the Tomoeda park.
We ought to be careful, she kidded him once, because we're being very visible. And he instantly brushed it off, saying something like why should we be careful? We have nothing to hide.
It took him some time to realize that not only was his brave front made to falter, but also his statement had been a lie. There was, in fact, so much to hide from those prying eyes. The burning realization that something was destined to change. The discovery of new and strange feelings, and the fear that they would soon break him. The thought that his friendship with her would soon be nothing but a farce, a pretense for something completely different---
"Hiiragizawa!" Somebody was calling him.
Startled, he snapped his head up. Not far off stood some boys from his class, waving at him. "What're you standing there for? C'mon, let's go grab a snack or something!"
He smiled apologetically and shook his head.
They exchanged knowing looks, then waved at him one last time before walking away. He watched their retreating backs disappear in the crowd of bags and hats.
Then he happened to glance back at the school and straightened up so suddenly that his glasses slipped a notch down his nose --- there she was, rushing out of the school's glass doors, bag slung carelessly over one shoulder, books cradled in her arms. She ran up to him, dodging students along the way, dark hair flailing madly in the air. He stared at her as she drifted closer and closer…
Then he came to the realization that if the passers-by had been giving him meaningful looks or murmuring to each other about him all this time, well---
They could all just go to hell.
She paused to catch her breath, hugging the books more tightly against her chest. "I'm sorry," she gasped, "I was supposed to be here earlier but I lost track of the time—" She suddenly broke off and started coughing. He instinctively moved closer to pat her back. She grasped his other arm for support, tightly.
"Are you all right?" He whispered, awkwardly.
"I'm fine," she managed to say in between coughs, "I'm fine."
One of the books slowly slipped from her grasp and hit the ground with a thud. He stared down at it, watching the pages flip in the fading light.
"Sorry," she said.
He bent over to pick the book up. "Biology."
Then he gently tugged at the others tucked under her arm. "Geometry, English, History." The volumes tumbled into his grasp, and he jiggled them all comfortably under his free arm--- one, two, three.
"It's all right," she hastily said, "give them to me, I can---"
He only smiled. "Let's go."
iii. Eriol and Tomoyo Lose It…
There were two routes to the Daidouji Mansion --- one was what they called the Easy Way Home, because all that entailed was walking to the nearest bus stop, and there was the other route which he liked to call the Scenic Tour of Tomoeda, because it meant walking seven blocks downtown, taking a detour or two, and --- when they had time to spare --- having the requisite cup of tea for the afternoon.
Today she wanted to take the Scenic Tour of Tomoeda.
"But it's already six o' clock," he eyed his wristwatch warily, "and your mother will want you in time for dinner. I say we take the bus."
"We won't stop for tea this time," she pleaded. "And besides, walking is good exercise. And don't you think we both could use the fresh air?"
As if on cue, a car zoomed by, engulfing them in thick clouds of dark smoke.
They started coughing madly, clamping their mouths and noses against the stench, when the hilarity of the situation finally hit him. He started snorting and coughing at the same time. It was not a pretty sound. "Eriol!" She half-cried, half-choked, but it was too late. He had collapsed against the nearest lamppost, guffawing with full abandon, and it did not take long for her to join him there, smothering her own laughter in his neck.
"Fresh air," he gasped, reaching beneath his glasses to wipe the tears from his eyes. "Bloody hell." She looked up and met his gaze and there was a split second before they fell down laughing again, their mirth bordering on the hysterical.
iv. …Then Finally Manage to Rein Themselves In.
After what seemed like hours, he finally managed to calm himself down enough to speak coherently.
"All right, that's enough," he said, "let's get going."
"Right." Her voice, still unsteady, was muffled in his neck.
v. Eriol Gives In To An Impulse.
It was when they were standing at the fourth intersection, waiting for the light to turn red, when he started to notice the couples standing around them. Some were in their twenties, probably in college, smiling at each other and talking about movies; others were older, decked out in suits and ties, whispering to each other. Not far off stood a pair decked out in high school uniforms; they were staring at the traffic light impatiently, looking as if they were ready to make a run for it.
And these couples --- young and old --- were all holding hands.
He started to become painfully aware of their own proximity, the fact that they were standing so close that when she stirred, her knuckles brushed against his skin. It would not take much to reach out and take her hand in his; it was probably one of the shortest distances to close, but he had his doubts. Should he dare? He had never held her hand deliberately before, and he did not have a good reason for doing so other than…well, because he wanted to.
He sneaked a glance at her profile.
Her dark eyes were trained on something in the distance, and she was biting her lower lip.
And if…just if, he had been reading her right all this time and she liked him back just as much, if he did something out of the ordinary like that, she wouldn't really mind, would she?
So caught up was he in his turmoil that when the light finally turned red, he did not budge from the pavement. People started to jostle past them with faint sounds of annoyance, and he felt her tug at his arm. "Eriol? What are you waiting for, let's go!"
In the throng of street-crossers, he spied a flash of white --- the high school couple, hands linked, was already flying down the street and laughing.
"What's wrong?" Her fingers had enclosed themselves around his wrist, lightly. "Do you feel sick or something?"
He did not know if it was the sight of the running couple or the sensation of her palm against his skin, or the fact that the red light was starting to flicker dangerously, but something suddenly locked in his mind and he knew what he had to do. Unobtrusively, he moved so his own fingers caught her own, and before she could ask him what he intended to do they were flying across the street themselves, managing to make it to the other side seconds before the light turned blue.
Beside the busy rush of traffic, they paused to catch their breaths.
"You…" he gasped, "you don't mind, do you?"
"Mind what, running?" She retorted, just as breathlessly.
He shook his head. "Not that, this." And then he gave their linked hands a little shake.
She stared down at their hands for a moment.
"Yes?" He asked, timidly.
She then slowly threaded her fingers through his, grazing her palm against his, and tentatively drew a line against his skin with her thumb.
"That's more like it," she softly said, the veil of dark hair falling to cover her smile.
vi. Tomoyo Shows Off Her Swinging Prowess.
It was already half past six in the evening and they were taking a detour through the King Penguin Park. It was nearly empty; the children had all gone home for supper, and only a few joggers were seen making their rounds. They made their way through the dusk, their shoes tapping softly on the cobblestone walk.
He was quite content, walking hand in hand with her, when she suddenly stopped short and yanked him to a halt. "Swing!"
"What?" He blinked.
She beamed at him, pointing at an empty swing set not far off. "Have you ever tried standing up on a
swing? Sakura-chan used to do it all the time when we were young --- and she was very good at it --- but Okaasama would never let me do it myself."
"And it was probably for a good reason," he said. "You could hit your head on the bar or something."
"If you're not careful," she winked. Then before he could stop her, she let go of his hand and walked up to the empty swing set. She dropped her book bag on the gravel, grasped the chains, and then hoisted herself up on the wooden seat.
"Wait," he rushed to her side, dropping books and his satchel on the gravel beside her things, "you have to be careful, these swings aren't as sturdy as you think---"
"I'm as light as a feather," she sang, slowly rocking herself forward.
The swing groaned.
"Wait, don't---" Alarmed, he moved to grasp the chains and steady her to a stop, but stopped in mid-step when he saw that she was now moving steadily back and forth. And everytime she swung forward her skirt lifted high enough to show him---
He spun on his heel so quickly that he almost knocked his head against the iron bars.
"What?" She asked, blissfully unaware of his discomfort.
He prayed that it was dark enough for him to hide his flaming cheeks. "Y-Y-Your skirt!"
Silence fell, broken only by the groaning of rusty chains.
Then, to his surprise, she started to laugh.
"That's right, I forgot all about that." The creaking slowed to a stop.
"People jog past this playground," he muttered, inexplicably distressed.
"I'm sorry, oh Noble One," she continued lightly, "and many thanks for your concern; though I did notice that you took the liberty of staring before you warned me---"
He felt his face burn deeply. "Tomoyo!"
"Just kidding." She sounded amused. "Come sit over here and I'll push you."
He turned around and saw her standing by the swing, grasping the chains lightly. Her dark eyes were soft. "Come on, I can push you. You're as light as I am."
In spite of himself, he had to smile. "I am not."
She rattled the chains. "We'll see about that."
So he went over to the swing and sank down in it. He was slight enough to fit, although when he tried to move, the rusty bolts dug uncomfortably into his thighs.
She stood behind him, close enough for him to feel her warmth. Grasping the chains on either side of his head, she slowly began to draw them back, making them groan in protest. She was drawing him closer and closer to her, and when he inclined his head slightly he felt a lock of her dark hair brush against his nape. She smelled like lavender. It was madness.
He closed his eyes.
The swing suddenly stopped moving, and her bemused voice rang in his ear.
"Eriol," she whispered, "you're heavy."
He burst out laughing and she collapsed against his back in a fit of helpless giggles, pushing him forward so quickly that his shoes scraped against the gravel.
He felt so happy that he thought he was starting to hear music in his head; but it was only a radio perched at a window of some nearby apartment, playing a song:
Let light hearts remake us
Let the worries hush
In the middle of this continent
In the middle of our time on Earth
We perceive one another
Stay in touch
We should stay in touch
vii. Eriol and Tomoyo Finally Reach Their Destination.
When they finally emerged from the King Penguin Park, the sky had turned musky velvet, and the stars were strewn above their heads. He gazed up at it dreamily, racking his brain for some bit of prose, when she suddenly squeezed his hand and led him so quickly into the shadows of the nearby hedge that he nearly stumbled over a rock. His glasses fell at an odd angle down his nose.
"The camera," she hissed, "it's on."
"The one at the gate that we use for surveillance." She had started wringing her hands nervously. "Okaasama always has it on."
He blinked. "You don't want to be seen on the camera?"
"No, it's not that…"
"Oh." He felt a lump in his throat. "You're ashamed to be seen with me."
"No, it's not that either." She shook her head, vehemently. "Okaasama's seen us together so many times that she's used to having you walk me home."
He felt relieved. "Then what is it?"
She bit her lip and looked out at the street beyond the hedge. "I…"
"I was planning something."
"That you don't want the camera to see?"
"It's something really stupid," was all she said. Then she looked up at him and pushed the glasses up on the bridge of his nose with a finger. And before he could ask her what she exactly meant by stupid, she had raised herself on tiptoe and pressed her lips against his.
viii. Tomoyo Bades Him A Long Goodnight.
Sweet, he thought, his eyes closing themselves in rapture.
But she suddenly drew back, leaving him hungry for more.
"…So if Okaasama saw that," she continued casually, picking up from where she had left off, "she would probably storm outside the mansion and threaten to have your head chopped off or something."
"Or something," he echoed dumbly, still out of it.
"Water torture," she whispered, framing his face between her palms and drawing him down to her.
"Or getting burned at the stake," he murmured.
She shrugged, disinterested. "Something."
He bent his head and kissed her, and it was deeper and stronger than the previous ones, as though all the passion that they had felt for each other through the years had finally come crashing through the thinning barrier of resolve, threatening to overwhelm them, engulf them with their flames.
And he found himself trying to remember so many things at once --- the graceful curve of her back under his hand, her lavender-scented skin, the waterfall of dark hair tumbling over her shoulders, the slightest brush of her eyelashes against his cheek, the long sweet kiss that never seemed to end.
He clung to her desperately, filling his memory with everything he could gather. But his mind could only hold so much, and his heart was already crammed full with her, so much that it was almost painful.
She drew back with a sigh.
His eyes drifted open.
"Goodnight," she breathed. Then she pressed her lips against the side of his face, tenderly. "See you tomorrow."
ix. Eriol Takes the Bus Home.
A beautiful day this was, commented the Voice in his head.
He only stared out the window.
And a beautiful night this is, too, the Voice continued, seemingly content to carry on a soliloquy. There are verses for nights like these; pity you can't remember any.
He raised a finger and started to write against the hazy glass:
and am instantly
believable and can wait
for every instant I
The last word trailed down to the edge of the window frame, then his hand dropped back to his lap.
The Voice only sighed and said nothing more.