Notes: The last chapter. It's been fun, guys. Thanks for sticking with me (and having the patience to do so)!
Chapter 10: Little Imperfections
Eriol opened his eyes in the dark basement, and instantly became aware of someone humming. Blinking a few times, he turned his head to the left.
Sakura was sitting in a chair against the wall, her eyes closed. Kero was curled up in her lap, and every few seconds, she would run her fingers lightly along his back, in much the same way Tomoyo had with Spinel.
At the thought of her, there was an odd pressure around Eriol's heart that was not quite pain, nor was it pleasure. It was a cold, definite lump of feeling. It made him uncomfortable, though, so he sat up.
"Hungry?" Sakura asked at once, not looking up. "Nakuru should almost be done with lunch."
Eriol stared at her, not at all surprised to find she hadn't aged a bit. "Have you been waiting long?"
She smiled. "It honestly didn't seem like it. I've kept myself busy."
He hesitated. "Sakura-san...about-"
"You're one of my favorite people, you know?" she interrupted. "I made up my mind about this situation a long time ago, and I'd prefer you didn't say anything that might make me change my mind." Sakura stood up, cradling Kero in one arm. "Lunch?"
Eriol could only nod, and he followed her upstairs. Sakura didn't seem mad, exactly, but he did think he wasn't going to be able to change her feelings about the matter anytime soon.
Sakura opened the basement door, and Eriol blinked as his eyes began to adjust to the light. He'd only taken a few steps into the hallway when the sound of bickering reached his ears.
"Out of the way, Siyo-chan! It's my cookie recipe, and I say it needs more sugar!"
"No cookie in existence requires that much sugar, Nakuru!"
"I think fighting is the only way they can constantly be around each other," Sakura murmured. "But it's done wonders for Syaoran. The last time I saw him this energetic, he was still calling me a rival."
Eriol said nothing to this. Keeping up with Nakuru was bound to improve anyone's physical condition. Merely being in Nakuru's presence had probably helped just as much, he suspected. Though it resided in Nakuru now, Syaoran's magic would recognize it's original source, and respond accordingly.
An image of Spinel, purring contentedly in Tomoyo's lap, suddenly entered Eriol's mind, and he forced it aside aside he entered the kitchen.
Nakuru was the first to spot him. "Eriol-sama!" she shrieked happily, shoving Syaoran out of the way in her haste to get to him. She was still in her old body (or perhaps, was back in it), so she had to bend down slightly to hug him and kiss his cheek.
"You look well, Nakuru-chan. I trust you've been keeping yourself amused?" Eriol asked.
"Sure have! It's been great fun, hanging out with Sakura-chan and Siyo-chan!" Nakuru pulled the couple into a big hug.
"In other words, we didn't have a choice," Syaoran sighed. "Welcome back, Hiiragizawa. Now do us a favor and take your Guardian back."
"Oh, I would never come between Nakuru-chan and her playmates," Eriol answered with a smile.
After a delicious lunch, strangely enough, Eriol retired to his room. He wasn't tired, just...confused. It was very possible that everyone he'd seen today had been preserved by magic. But that would mean that Spinel was alive, somewhere, as well. No one had mentioned him, though.
Or Tomoyo, for that matter.
Nor did anything in the house seem two hundred years old, now that he thought about it. Very little of the furniture had been moved or replaced, and Nakuru had already confessed to breaking most of that during some of her 'wrestling matches' with Syaoran.
Eriol was beginning to wonder if he really had slept for two hundred years. Perhaps he'd made a mistake in the spell. It would've been the first time ever, but it was possible. Thanks to Clow, magic had always come naturally for Eriol, and it was very unlikely that he'd slipped up.
Perhaps Sakura had woken him up early...but how early?
His thoughts came to a swift end as a familiar voice reached his ears.
Eriol slowly looked up, and was immediately aware of his heart pounding in his chest. The cold lump of feeling was gone, replaced by fear, pain, and perhaps, just a bit of hope.
Tomoyo stood in the doorway, her face guarded as she stared at him.
But when had she last called him that?
"I hope I'm not disturbing you, dropping by unannounced like this."
Eriol mutely shook his head. He couldn't find any words that would do his surprise justice.
"I wonder if I could ask a favor of you," Tomoyo said as she crossed the room to stand a few feet from him.
"What...sort of favor?" Eriol whispered.
"I was hoping we could start over," Tomoyo answered. "No arrangement. No hidden motives. Just the two of us, as friends."
"I don't know if I can," Eriol admitted softly.
"I'm not suggesting that you forget what happened between us. Only that you don't let it prevent us from being around each other." Tomoyo paused and stared into his eyes. "Because I've figured out exactly what I want from you, Eriol. What I need from you, is to be near you."
"Even after...the things I said to you?"
"I don't care about any of that. I care about you." Her face softened. "I missed you."
The words warmed his heart, and part of him wanted to believe desperately that she hadn't come here to hurt him again. The rest was wary, though. Eriol took a deep breath. "And my feelings for you?"
Tomoyo smiled sadly. "Do you believe that it's possible to love someone so much, you would do anything to see them happy? Even if it meant...not being the one they gave their heart to?"
"What does Sakura have to do with this?"
Tomoyo actually laughed. "I wasn't talking about her and I. Well, not exactly. I meant us." She stepped closer and slipped her arms around him, resting her head on his shoulder. "I can't promise that I'll ever return your feelings. But I won't ignore them, or run away from them anymore. All I'm asking is that you respect my feelings, too."
The familiar scent of her hair made Eriol's heart ache with longing, and he knew that he had missed her, as well. "I'm still not quite sure what it is you're asking of me."
"I suppose what I'm really asking for is time, with you. Maybe I'll fall in love with you, and maybe I won't. But at the very least, I want us to remain close friends. I was miserable without you. You were so upset that you couldn't even bear to just be, Eriol." She drew back enough to look into his eyes again. "Don't you think that means we need each other?"
"I think it means that we each have the capability to hurt the other deeply," Eriol stated, his voice trembling.
Tomoyo smiled softly. "Then we almost have to be in love, don't we?"
Eriol squeezed his eyes shut. He didn't want to be happy that Tomoyo was here. He didn't want to let her back in his life, where she could hurt him again. He didn't want her to know the power she held over him, even now.
And yet he could feel his arms lifting, slipping around her waist, drawing her closer to him. While his mind was still trying to push Tomoyo away, his body clearly had other ideas.
"I know I hurt you, Eriol," Tomoyo whispered in his ear, "and I'm truly sorry. Let me give you better memories, with me, to make up for the painful ones. Let me prove to you that you didn't make a mistake, when you took a chance on me." She reached up and cupped his face in her hands. "Let me be your friend again, Eriol. Once we've learned to trust each other again, maybe we can be more."
"I want to believe you. But..."
Tomoyo pressed a finger to his lips. "You're a powerful magician, Eriol. Are you telling me that you have something to fear from...me?"
He turned his face away from her. "In all my years, I've never known such pain, Tomoyo. It frightened me, how much a simple refusal from you tore at me."
Tomoyo gently turned his face back to hers. "If I could do all that without trying, just imagine what I could do if I really wanted to make you happy."
"I can't," Eriol sighed, shaking his head. "That may never happen."
"True. But it definitely won't happen, if you won't give us another chance."
"It's not a matter of what I want anymore, Tomoyo. I don't know if I can bear to be hurt that way again. You may think me strong because I've died before, but it actually makes me weaker. My body knows the touch of death, and in my darkest moments, I could succumb more easily than most because of that intimacy. You're asking me to risk so much...again."
"Are you going to let your fear control your life, Eriol? How would you live? Away from me, yet loving me all the while? You would never be happy. There'd be no point to living at all."
"You might never love me, Tomoyo. Maybe there is no point."
She closed her eyes, leaning against him. "Tell me this, then. Would you be happier if we'd never met? If we'd never been friends?" Slowly, she lifted her face to his. "If you had never given me my first kiss?"
Eriol vividly recalled each moment, as well as how happy he had been in each. "We were different people then," he murmured.
"Yes, but you still loved me. And two hundred years from now, even when I'm gone, I think you'll still love me. No matter what we do, Eriol, I don't think that's going to change. You might as well do something with it while you can. No matter what you say today, I won't stop asking until you say yes. I believe you love me too much not to, eventually."
"How can I trust you with my heart a second time, Tomoyo?" Eriol asked.
"Because this time, I'm willing to accept you." Her hand went to his pocket, and drew out the miniature form of Eriol's sun staff. "All of you," she whispered, squeezing the staff in her hand.
"I thought you were afraid of that?"
"I've had two years to think things over. I know now that Clow Reed and magic will always be a part of your life. But they shouldn't keep you from living your life the way you want to."
Eriol's eyes widened. "How did you-"
"I had these visions, the night you went to sleep. I know why you pushed me away, at first. I know you changed your mind, for some reason. And I know that I'll never feel this way about anyone else." Tomoyo turned away from him, staring thoughtfully at her closed hand. "Why would I have those visions, unless we were meant to be together, Eriol? They weren't just dreams, either. There were things in them, about you and Nakuru, that I couldn't have known. Doesn't that mean anything?"
"It does, indeed," Eriol agreed quietly, a distant look in his eyes. "Clow chose you."
Tomoyo slowly turned to face him. "What?"
"I thought...I might have displeased his memory by confessing my love for you. But these visions obviously mean that he approves of you."
"They...they do?" Tomoyo asked uncertainly.
"He was an odd man, but a wise one. If he believes we are right for each other, then I will not question his judgment. So far, he has only spoken to myself and Sakura in dreams. That he would speak to you, as well..."
"But...he didn't, really. At least, I didn't hear his voice."
"How else could you have those visions?"
Tomoyo shook her head. "I don't know, but..."
"It is normal to question Clow's motives, Tomoyo. I have done it myself, from time to time. But he's almost always right in the end."
"So...because he accepts me...you do, too?"
Eriol smiled. "No. But because he accepts you, I am no longer afraid to trust you again."
"Does this mean we're friends again?"
"For now, yes. Years from now, who knows?" He paused, tapping his chin thoughtfully. "Did you say I was only asleep for...two years?"
Tomoyo ducked her head. "Sorry. Sakura insisted that we wait at least that long, just to be sure that I knew what I wanted. I do this time, Eriol. I really do want to be with you."
Eriol reached out and took her hand. "I believe you, Tomoyo, and I feel the same way."
Sakura hummed happily as she strolled through Eriol's garden, a bright smile on her face. She stopped by a bed of strange, violet roses and sat down to smell them.
"You," said a voice behind her, "are sneaky, Sakura-chan."
Sakura turned to find Nakuru and Syaoran next to her. "I have no idea what you mean."
Nakuru put her hands on her hips. "Yes, you do."
Sakura turned back to the roses. "These are so pretty..."
"Tomoyo said she had dreams about Eriol," Syaoran murmured. "Odd that the only ones she was around at the time were you and Spinel."
"What are you implying, Syaoran?"
"Seen any butterflies lately?" Nakuru asked.
"Maybe a few," Sakura replied airily.
"Don't play innocent with us, Sakura," Syaoran sighed. "We know you sent those dreams to Tomoyo."
"You say that like it's a bad thing."
"It was dishonest."
"No...I never said I didn't send the dreams. They all contained the truth. And I certainly didn't say they were from Clow Reed. That was all Eriol."
"So HE knew, too?"
"He figured it out on his own," Nakuru sighed. "Really, Sakura-chan, you've learned too much from him."
"You two shouldn't let it bother you too much," Sakura suggested. "They wanted to be together, anyway. They just needed a little push."
"Then you're not going to tell Tomoyo the truth?" Syaoran asked.
"Tomoyo's truth is that she has feelings for Eriol. My sending her those dreams didn't change that, they just made it more obvious."
Nakuru nodded. "She does have a point, Siyo-chan."
Syaoran frowned. "Are you sure this is the right thing to do?"
"Even if it's not, I wouldn't care," Sakura answered, gently brushing the tops of the roses with her fingertips. "I would do anything to see the people I love happy. No one deserve happiness more than they do."
Syaoran was going to try and argue his point one last time, but before he could, Tomoyo ran up to them, a huge smile on her face.
"How did it go?" Sakura asked anxiously as she rose to her feet. She almost looked as if she had no idea what Tomoyo was going to say.
"Eriol and I have an understanding," Tomoyo gushed excitedly. "We're going to be friends again, and beyond that, we'll see!"
It didn't sound like an improvement to Syaoran, and he nearly said so, but Nakuru planted an elbow that felt like steel in his side, so he made do with a pained smile.
"That's wonderful, Tomoyo," Sakura said, drawing her friend into a big hug. "I'm glad you two managed to work things out."
"So am I," Tomoyo sighed happily, closing her eyes. "Thank you for convincing me to try again, Sakura."
"Oh, I didn't do much," Sakura laughed softly.
"It's almost sickening, how convincing she is," Syaoran commented quietly. "To think, she used to be so innocent. What happened?"
Nakuru smiled. "She has too many responsibilities to stay innocent, Siyo-chan. And far too much magic. She had to grow up and out of the old Sakura. But it's not that bad; look how happy Tomoyo is."
Syaoran did look. The last time he'd seen Tomoyo that happy was...well, back when they had still been children. Before he and Sakura had become a couple. And while Tomoyo had been happy since then, there always something in her eyes, a hint of sadness that he'd always picked up on. It wasn't there anymore. For the first time, Tomoyo was depending on no one but herself for her happiness.
"I suppose it could be worse," he said at last.
"Sure it could," Nakuru agreed, patting him roughly on the head. "But it isn't."
Eriol was not at all surprised when he approached Syaoran and Sakura's home, and found the door unlocked. They had little to fear from common thieves, and anyone that found their way into the house...
"What are you doing here?" Yue asked as he appeared before Eriol.
"Your Mistress asked me to pick up Spinel," Eriol replied. "We're having a little celebration. You're invited as well, but she assumed you wouldn't want to come."
"He's in the library," the Guardian said simply.
"You won't come, then?"
"I have been entrusted with the security of the home of my Mistress. It is my home, as well. I will not leave unless ordered to by her."
Eriol smiled. "You haven't changed, I see. Sakura is fortunate to have such a loyal companion."
"Anyone would be," Yue stated, narrowing his eyes.
Sensing that it was time to move on, Eriol excused himself and made his way to the library. There, he found Spinel in the midst of a particularly difficult book of spells.
"I hate to interrupt, but your presence is requested, old friend."
Spinel looked up and quietly shut the book. "Have you spoken with Daidouji-san?"
"I have, indeed," Eriol confirmed.
"We're right back where we started, apparently. She seemed pleased enough."
"Good." Spinel took to the air, landing lightly on Eriol's shoulder. "Because I would hate it if I had to punish you for hurting her."
Eriol feigned a look of pain. "You wound me deeply, Spinel."
"I most certainly would, for her."
"Then that is as it should be."
"Don't tell me you predicted this, too?"
"Of course not. Don't you think I would've done everything in my power to prevent things from reaching this point, in this manner?"
Spinel studied him closely. "Honestly? No. You never did take the easy way out in anything you did. It's what makes life so complicated, I think."
"I would've said memorable, but that works, too."
A small party of close friends was just what Tomoyo needed. It didn't occur to her until much later that everyone present was a magic user,
but even if it had, she wouldn't have minded. Chances were she would've been too distracted to do anything about it, really.
At regular intervals during the party, she would catch Eriol staring at her, even if he was talking to someone else at the time. The looks themselves didn't bother her, but the sheer frequency of them made her wonder if Eriol had thought about anything else since the party began.
Tomoyo had been no better, once Sakura had asked her a seemingly innocent question.
"Are you in love with him, Tomoyo?"
"I don't know," Tomoyo had replied honestly. "I think part of me wants to be, though. There's something in him that always makes me feel so...special." She had paused at that and cast a worried look at Sakura. "You don't think it's Clow Reed, do you?"
Sakura had laughed kindly at her. "Tomoyo, in all the time I've known you, you have never displayed a weakness for older men. I don't think you're going to start now. It's Eriol you need, not Clow. Anyway, you happen to be best friends with someone who can do things Clow never could. What could you possibly need him for?"
"Well...I'd be interested to know what the future holds for me, and Eriol."
"You'll live long, happy lives together," Sakura had answered at once with a bright smile.
"You're just saying that!"
"True, but how do you know I'm not right? I can see the future if I need to."
Tomoyo had tried to pry more information out of Sakura, but it did no good. Sakura would only say that Tomoyo was destined to be with Eriol for quite some time. She was clearly being vague on the nature of their relationship on purpose, but it was pointless to be mad at her for it. Knowing the future would more than likely change it, after all.
The rest of the party had passed in something of a pleasant blur, and Tomoyo finally found herself curled up beside Spinel in Eriol's bedroom.
"Are you happy now, Daidouji-san?" Spinel asked quietly.
"I believe I am, Suppi-chan," Tomoyo sighed, petting his head lightly. "I just can't help wondering what's going to happen."
"Might I make a suggestion, then?"
"Wondering is fine, but try not to worry about the future too much. As your Guardian, it's a bit insulting."
Tomoyo grinned and tickled him. "It's not my life I'm concerned about, Spinel. It's my love life. Even you can only do so much to protect that."
"I'd like to think that was my job, anyway," Eriol added as he entered the room. "Or, at least, that it will be one day."
"I wish you wouldn't get your hopes up like that," Tomoyo sighed, closing her eyes. "You know I can't promise any more than I already have."
"My dear Tomoyo, what would you say if I told you that I knew this day would come?"
Tomoyo opened her eyes, staring at the calm expression on his face as he stood at the foot of the bed. "I'd say you were lying."
"And if I said that I know you'll fall in love with me one day?" Eriol continued softly, his eyes never leaving hers.
"Still lying," Tomoyo replied, though she sounded a bit less confident.
"And if I told you that I had no intention of ever letting you out of my life again?"
"That, I could believe. But you make it sound like I'm your prisoner."
Eriol chuckled as he moved towards the door. "Perish the thought, Tomoyo. I would never ask you to do anything against your will." He paused in the doorway, glancing over his shoulder at her. "Although, I fully expect you'll eventually be perfectly willing to do anything I ask, so long as I'm polite about it."
"And why is that?" Tomoyo asked uncertainly.
"We may be friends for the rest our lives, my dear, but we are still friends whose hearts belong to each other." Eriol inclined his head slightly. "Pleasant dreams, Tomoyo. I will see you in the morning." A tiny smile tugged at his lips. "Of that, I am certain."
Tomoyo stared at the closed door long after he had gone, wondering just what he had meant.
"Best not to think too hard on it, Daidouji-san," Spinel suggested at last. "He was toying with you again, you know."
"That doesn't mean he wasn't being truthful, Spinel."
"True. But you shouldn't let it bother you. You know how he feels about you."
"Yes, I do," Tomoyo agreed. "That's what makes me think he was being truthful."
"Then is this what you wanted?" Spinel asked, studying her face.
Tomoyo tapped her chin thoughtfully. "Let's see. I have my best friend back, and a loyal Guardian. You have been reunited with Nakuru. And Eriol is being mysterious, as usual." She considered that for a few moments. "Well, I can't say for sure if I wanted it, but at least I'm used to it. And I am happy with it all."
"I am glad that you are pleased, then."
"I think I am, too." Smiling, Tomoyo leaned down and kissed the top of his head. "Sweet dreams, Suppi-chan."
Spinel watched in silence as she closed her eyes and fell asleep. "Just friends," he murmured doubtfully, curling his tail around his tiny body. "I give that a week at the most."
I went through so many plot changes with this story, I'm amazed I ever got it done. I'll use the rest of this space to explain things.
Nakuru: Nearly everything I implied or stated about Nakuru came from the manga or anime. Some of it is artistic license, though. I think part of the reason Nakuru acts so childish at times is because she's not human, and she sees children as being much happier than adults. I don't think she's immature, she would just rather have fun than take things too seriously.
Eriol: Someone said he was out of character. I personally think it's rather hard to portray Eriol accurately, there's so much you never find out about him. How much sway does Clow Reed have in his life? At what point is one life separate from the other? Does Eriol really see Clow as his former self, or more of a guiding father figure? At times Eriol says things like, "This is where I died," and at others, "Clow Reed did this." It's very complicated. I don't think it's possible to be really accurate with Eriol, unless you have a definite picture of his connection to Clow Reed (and I still don't).
Sakura: Eriol made it clear that he was grooming Sakura to be the world's strongest magician. So at some point, she has to start acting like it. Seeing how much trouble individual Cards can cause and attract, it makes more sense to combine them in a place where they can't be stolen or tampered with (or accidentally set free, again).
Tomoyo: Normally, I would've been glad to make Tomoyo and Eriol a more definite couple. But after a lot of consideration, I remembered what the title was, and decided against it. Besides, I never say they won't get there, just that they aren't quite there yet. And no sequel, so don't bother asking.