Agent08 Reporting for Duty!
Now… on with final chapter!
King of Hearts
Queen of Hearts
In my head, I knew it was real. It just had to be real. I was dead – gone from spending too much physical and magical energy. What on earth was I thinking? That I could reverse Rei's actions, save her life and the lives of everyone else in the palace while surviving? No – of course that couldn't be done. I had taken on too much; reached too high.
I just wished that I had a chance to make things right before it happened. If only I could have wished Tomoyo and Eriol a long and happy life together before I'd left, told my father and brother that I loved them… kissed Syaoran one last time.
I didn't want to imagine what kind of state he'd be in, knowing I was gone and never coming back. He was so angry with me when I was just lying there, weak and completely drained of every last bit of energy that I had. He asked me to stay, and I knew I was going. I just couldn't do it for him, and he must've been so upset. I wished that I didn't have to be the reason for his suffering.
Even more than that, I didn't want to see him be with Rei. I had left him, knowing that I had healed her enough for her to stay. Without me, would he fall for her again? Would he be weak enough for her to bewitch him for a third time? Yes, I think he would be. I really didn't want to know that, despite all my efforts, he'd marry her and crown her queen of the kingdom – queen of his heart.
Maybe he'd be happy one day, without me. He'd live a good life and rule as king for the rest of his days, and as long as he had a smile on his face while doing it, I would rest just fine. But I knew, with me gone, while the tensions between us were not settled, and while he never got to tell me the three words I knew he was planning to say – he'd never be at peace.
I just had to do something about that, now didn't I?
But what could be done about it? I was gone and there was no coming back… was there?
Somewhere in my isolation, I could hear his voice and his desperate pleading as he begged me to come back to him. And truthfully, what was stopping me? All I really had to do was break through the bleakness and the nothingness that I was so deeply enclosed in – but it isn't as easy as one might think it is.
In fact, it feels like… like something you'll never accomplish. Like you're trying to swim in a pool of syrup and you're already wet to begin with, so the weight on top of you feels like the whole world. And then you feel like you might go insane from not being able to do it – insane from the longing and the loneliness.
But, I guess, when you know you've got someone like Syaoran waiting for you on the other side… things suddenly don't seem so impossible.
"Come back, Sakura. Please… I know you can do it. Please, please come back…"
In the darkness, a narrow slant of light shone. It was a thin, horizontal line of brightness that was just within my reach.
"Are you opening your eyes, Sakura?" asked a suddenly anxious voice. "Are you waking up?"
And slowly, the slant of light grew larger and larger until the light was directly in my eyes, shining so brightly and brilliantly that it hurt to keep on looking. I squinted, wanting to cover my face with a hand, but found that I couldn't because my arm felt like heavier than lead.
"Syaoran-kun," I said, surprising myself. I didn't think I'd be able to form any kind of sound although admittedly, the one I'd just emitted was extremely frail.
"You're awake," he said breathlessly, the happiness in his amber eyes the most evident thing in the room. "Oh, thank heavens, you're awake. You came back to me, Sakura – oh, I knew you would come back…"
I tried to smile, but even my mouth seemed stiff. "I'm sorry I kept you waiting," I whispered.
He shook his head, taking my hands into his and looking as though he was trying hard not to kiss them. He then stared at me crossly. "You are too stubborn and kind for your own damn good, you know that? I swear, if you try something like that ever again, I may never forgive you… oh, speaking of forgiveness, you must excuse me if I smell or look like garbage. It's been a rough twenty four hours."
It made my stomach feel as if I'd just swallowed a dozen butterflies, just seeing his face again when I thought I never would and knowing that he was so concerned for me. It showed just how much he cared. I couldn't help feeling surprised either – I had been out for a whole day. One whole day! For me, that was unheard of. Usually I was only passed out for a minute or two. I really had gone too far when I tried to heal Rei, hadn't I?
"I think you look and smell nice," I answered, this time somewhat able to give him a small smile.
He returned it. "Thanks."
Taking a brief look to my surroundings, I immediately noticed all the flowers and baskets filled with fruits and candy and other goods. There were cherry blossoms in abundance, and I could've sworn that even though we were nearing winter, it very well could have been spring what with all the bright colours and flowers and fruit surrounding me.
"Is this all for me?" I asked, not sure whether or not all the gifts were just there for decoration or if they really were all there as presents to me.
Syaoran nodded, looking pleased and spreading his arms out wide. "All for you," he confirmed. "Some of the other gifts, the bigger more extravagant ones are in your chamber. We didn't want to crowd that either though, so everything else is taking up space in the hall. We wanted you to see something that would cheer you up when you woke up, so we put all the flowers and candy in here with you."
I wanted to beam at this, though I could only manage a small, grateful smile. "Are they all from the townspeople? They're not angry with me anymore?"
Syaoran shook his head. "No. I don't believe they were angry with you at all to begin with, actually," he answered, giving this a little more thought by rubbing his chin and looking contemplative. "I wouldn't put it past Rei to bewitch the people that called out and tried to harm you that night of the ball. That's probably what she did. The people never stopped loving you – that much is for sure what with all the things you got."
At the thought of Rei, I sat up quickly, feeling every bone in my body ache all at once. I winced at the pain and Syaoran stood from his seat, easing me back slowly and gently back onto the bed. It was absolutely dizzying, being so close to him with such a good view of his amber eyes and his warm hands on my shoulders.
"Rei-chan?" I asked, when I was laid back down.
He frowned and folded his arms over his chest. "I'm sorry," he answered. And I knew that she didn't make it.
I felt myself deflate a little, knowing that I hadn't helped enough – knowing that I had risked my life, only to have her not survive.
Reading my mind, his frown grew deeper. "Don't feel bad. You did your best to save her – even when she didn't deserve it. She just took on more than she could handle—"
"But so did I," I interrupted, not finding any real comfort in his words. "I took on just as much as she did, and yet here I am."
At that, he smiled. "It's because you were right," he replied, and for a moment I was puzzled, until he said, "you really are stronger than her."
I wanted to smile at this, but a strange feeling kept my mouth a straight line. My short moment of intimacy and celebration with Syaoran was over. Rei was the one that was really gone – I should've been relieved. Instead, I was feeling rather down. And not because I was sad that she was gone – that wasn't it at all. There was just a nagging feeling in my stomach, one that I couldn't get rid of.
He tried to look me in the eyes. "What's the matter?" he asked.
I shook my head. "Nothing. I'm tired."
He shook his own head and looked concerned. "No, it's not 'nothing'. Tell me what's wrong," he said. And if he continued to coax me, I probably would've caved and gone off on some heated rant, but thankfully, Tomoyo entered the room.
"Oh, Sakura-chan!" she cried, rushing up to me, leaving Eriol covered in the dust she created as she ran forward. She fell on top of me, putting her arms around my shoulders, making me feel even heavier. And even though I was feeling terrible in more ways than one, she was able to put a smile on my face.
"Hi Tomoyo-chan," I greeted, my voice still sounding like rough sandpaper being rubbed together.
She was frowning, but I could see that she was happy. "I was gone for just one minute to use the lavatory and you wake up! Oh, the cruelty!"
Eriol, approaching from behind her with a tray of food in his hands and a small smile on his face said, "Welcome back, Sakura-san. We were all so worried about you."
With my chin resting upon Tomoyo's shoulder as she continued to hug the life out of me, I looked at him with kind eyes. "Thanks, Eriol-kun. And thanks for taking care of Tomoyo-chan while I was out. Hopefully she wasn't too much for you."
He shook his head at me, laughing. "She was a handful, but I could take it. I'm going to have to start now if I'm going to spend rest of my life with her, aren't I?"
I laughed at this, though it hurt to do so, remembering that their wedding was still waiting to be celebrated. But what with all the Rei incidents that had been occurring around the palace, there was no time for planning it. And I knew Tomoyo and Eriol were very eager to get the knot strung and tied (tightly). It probably didn't help that I was out for a day long. I had to repay them somehow.
"I'd say Syaoran was the bigger handful, actually," Eriol answered, taking a seat at the foot of my bed as Tomoyo released me to also sit on the edge. Syaoran did not join us and instead remained in his seat, one leg raised with the foot resting on his knee and his hands held together in an almost menacing way.
"Oh?" I asked.
Eriol nodded. "I'd say he journeyed through hell and back the last twenty-four hours you've been out cold. He wasn't eating or sleeping or bathing – which would explain the stench." Syaoran's arm stretched out in a flash, striking Eriol in his chest. Eriol let out a groan while Syaoran returned to his original sitting position, as if he never moved. With a slightly strained voice after the hit, Eriol continued, "He just refused to leave your side."
"Oh," I said again, this time quieter.
None of us spoke for a few moments, each of us having our different reasons. Tomoyo was already trying to mat down my terrible mess of tangled hair, Eriol was smiling brightly at having the four of us alive and healthy in the same room together once again, and Syaoran was, well – staring. Intently. Right at me. And I, feeling his heavy gaze upon me, refused to look at anything except for my hands that were resting atop my lap.
"I think I'd like to be alone for a little while," I said, my voice smaller than ever.
"I'll stay," I heard Syaoran say almost immediately after I spoke, most likely wanting to discuss the unresolved issues between us. But at the moment, I really didn't have the strength or energy for that conversation – and that was no lie.
"I'd like to be alone," I repeated, this time a bit firmer. I lifted my gaze to barely make eye contact with him, and I could see him resigning to my dismissal as he stood slowly to exit. He waited patiently for Eriol to finish kissing my forehead and for Tomoyo to hug me one more time so that they could meet him at the door and leave together.
As Tomoyo withdrew her arms from my neck, I breathed, "Come back after a few minutes. I want to talk."
She gave me a small nod and a meaningful look in the eyes, knowing there was some ranting I had to get off my chest. She gave me a peck on the cheek before turning around and joining the two men at the door, her violet gown dragging across the floor. They all waved at me, save for Syaoran who just continued to stare, and left the room.
I exhaled, not realizing that I had been holding in a breath. I couldn't remember a time when Syaoran's stare was more intense than when it was just a few moments ago, when he wouldn't stop looking at me.
There were a lot of things he and I needed to talk about. A lot, definitely way more than me and Tomoyo needed to be talking about. But my pain and heart ache called for a friend, not for the person who caused it. Though it was, quite basically, out in the open that I was in love with Syaoran and he clearly loved me back – I didn't want to touch the subject. Not until I felt up to it, because too many things had happened that made me feel not quite right about his feelings for me.
In the silence I looked about myself, observing my surroundings as I waited for Tomoyo's return. I wasn't back in my bedroom, I was in the medical wing, and by "wing" I meant the room that fitted two beds and some desks and cabinets full of remedial fluids and tablets. The bed that sat five or so feet from me was covered in white sheets, the same as mine, only wrinkled as if someone had been lying there just a few days ago and someone was yet to fix it. I wondered if Rei had been the one to make the bed print. She probably was.
The door creaked open, interrupting my thoughts. My breath hitched, caught off guard by the noise as I wondered who it could've been. I released a shaky breath and closed my eyes in slight embarrassment, remembering that I was expecting Tomoyo.
"Tomoyo-chan, you scared me," I said, my voice high and breathy. I guess I was feeling a little bit paranoid, after all that had happened between Rei and I.
"I'm sorry," a different voice responded.
My eyes opened at the sound of Syaoran's voice. I saw him approaching, calm, cool and collected as he always was, his face almost expressionless. I sat up straighter, feeling extremely conscious about my appearance as I suddenly remembered that I had been unconscious for a whole day, meaning my hair wasn't at all combed, my skin must've looked sallow, and I didn't even want to imagine what my breath smelled like.
"W-What are you doing here?" I stammered, struggling to sit up and pushing a few curls behind my ear, not that it would help very much. "I thought I asked Tomoyo-chan to come back."
"You did. I came back for her instead. I hope that isn't a problem with you," he answered briskly.
"W-Well – actually, I was hoping that she and I could…"
"Talk?" he asked, "Ah, yes, right. You see, I was thinking you and I had more to be talking about than you and her."
"I – I agree," I answered, my voice still a pathetic stammer of words, "but I was hoping that… well…"
"Sakura," he said, interrupting me and I was half relieved that he did. At the cross tone of his voice, however, I was not grateful for. "Enough. There's no avoiding me, and there's no avoiding you. We're not doing that dance anymore, not after what we've been through. So tell me what's wrong. Whatever it is has been bothering you since the battle with Rei. We couldn't talk about it then, considering the circumstances, but we have right now."
I could feel myself getting overwhelmed by his words. I wasn't fully recuperated yet. Just the thought of he and I talking about things, setting our feelings straight and confronting the issues of our messy, complicated relationship once and for all caused a headache. Surely he must've known that I wasn't ready to deal with this yet. What I needed was Tomoyo, so she could counsel me through it like a good friend, not him to make me face it like an oncoming avalanche.
"Syaoran-kun, please," I said, my own voice a terrible quiver. I brought my hands up to my head. "I can't do this with you right now. I don't feel well."
And then out of nowhere, I felt his hands come upon mine where they rested at the sides of my head. His fingers filled the gaps between mine and pressed down at my temples, instilling warmth and strange, fuzzy feelings – kind of like the ones I felt before when he was helping me lay down, only nicer. He rubbed in a circular motion, applying just the right amount of pressure and heat. When I gathered enough courage, I allowed myself to peek open an eye. He was smiling at me.
"Better?" he asked.
Wordlessly I nodded.
"I'm just doing what you did when you healed my headache before," he replied, the small smile still on his face. I remembered what he was talking about – it was the day I was abducted and he had a migraine. That day seemed like years ago.
"That feels nice. I didn't know your magic could heal," I mumbled.
"It can't," he said, taking his hands ever so slowly away from where they held my face. I felt like whining, but restrained myself. "You know I only have combat magic."
I blushed intensely at this, realizing that he wasn't using magic to help make my headache go away, and that I'd just admitted to him making me feel warm and fuzzy. Seeing the red in my face, his eyes took on an expression of concern as he reached out once more to calm my headache, and though I badly wanted to feel his hands on my face again, I knew better than to let myself get lost.
After waving him off, he sat back down in his chair after pulling it nearer to my bed. He sat, hunched forward, elbows on his knees, head inclined to me. I stared back at him, feeling insecure and completely unsure of myself.
"What?" I asked him, not able to hide my discomfort.
He shrugged. "You tell me."
I sighed. "Syaoran-kun, please?"
"Please what?" he asked, his voice soft and mesmerizing. I closed my eyes again, his rich, lush, lullaby voice reaching my ears like a soft caress. He put his hands on top of mine, first dragging his fingers across the back of my knuckles and then turning them over to trace the lines on my palms. I shut my eyes tighter. "Talk to me, Sakura. What do you want me to do?" he asked, and he sounded almost as if he was pleading for me to say something.
I pulled my hands away from him, ignoring their stiffness and putting them to my sides. He looked at me, confused.
"Do you see what I did there?" I asked, feeling the anger rise in me.
"Um, I saw you react like I was hurting you," he said, his voice sounding offended. "What's your problem, Sakura? And this time I'm expecting a reply."
I exhaled a heavy breath. Oh, he wanted a reply? Well, that was exactly what he was going to get.
"I don't want that right now. It's not what I need, Syaoran-kun," I explained. "I stopped myself before I got too lost. I didn't let myself get in too deep."
"And why the hell not?" he asked, sounding equally angry. "Sakura, I don't understand. Why are we fighting? We shouldn't be acting like this. What you and I have gone through should be able to overcome whatever this is, exactly. We proved that much when you and I beat Rei together."
"That's exactly it, Syaoran-kun," I answered, sounding exasperated. If I had the strength to raise my arms, they would've been thrown into the air out of frustration. "Those are my thoughts precisely. So would you care to explain yourself when you fell for Rei-chan's imitation of me? When you almost gave in to her for a second time?"
His mouth was opened and his eyes were angry, ready to retort to whatever I had to throw at him. But at my question, his mouth closed. His eyes first removed themselves from my face, stared to the side where the blank wall seemed to be more interesting than our conversation, and then to his feet where they remained for a number of seconds.
When he raised his head to look me in the eye, I was staring at him not with any expectation, but with disappointment. His eyebrows drew together in guilt.
"I'm sorry," was all he said.
It didn't seem like enough. If he really believed that he and I could do anything together and overcome whatever we faced, I needed to know why that wasn't true when facing the imitation of me. I had to know what changed.
"Her magic," he said, shrugging helplessly and looking all the more ashamed of himself, "it was just so strong. I couldn't—"
"Stronger than what you feel for me?" I asked incredulously.
"No!" he answered quickly, shaking his head whilst trying not to upset me any further. "Of course not, Sakura. Even you knew she wasn't strong or powerful enough to make me fall in love with her without erasing my memory of you first. Because that's how much I love you! I just—"
"Then why the second time? Your memory wasn't erased then. You still had me in your mind, everything you felt for me still inside you. But you still fell for it. You saw that fake imitation of me kiss another man, heard her say some completely untrue things, and you turn around, ready to ask Rei-chan to be with you for real. And what stops you, instead of your true feelings for me, is your cousin punching you in the face?"
"I was an idiot!" he bellowed, doing what I could not and throwing his hands up. "I was – I wasn't thinking right! All those things that imitation of you said, I just… and then the man she kissed, it all just felt so… so—"
"Real?" I asked, sounding even more disbelieving.
"No! Not real," he replied, this time seeming panicked. He seemed to struggle with his next few words, as if debating with himself internally whether or not to say what he wanted. And then finally he said, "Convincing."
My face fell at this as I stared at him with skepticism, disappointment and sadness.
"Convincing?" I repeated.
He nodded, seeming miserable. "I always knew you were too good to be true," he answered, his voice quieter than I'd ever heard it and eyes still glued to the floor. "All this time, I've just been waiting… waiting for you to realize that I'm not the man you think I am."
I shook my head at this, confused. "What are you talking about?"
He shrugged. "Come on, Sakura. You know some of the stuff that imitation of you said was true."
My eyes grew wide as I opened my mouth to unleash a hail of rage at being so insulted. He raised his hands in surrender, quickly adding, "Not that other stuff was true! I didn't mean that. Not the part about you liking the pageboy, or Eriol, or you being conceited and popular…"
I closed my mouth slowly to let him continue, but kept my eyes narrowed.
"I meant the part about you deserving better. About me not being worthy. About me not being able to defend you, the woman I love, when things had gotten out of hand here at the palace."
I wanted more than ever to reach out to him, to take his chin and lift it so he could look me in the eye and believe me as I told him, "How can you say that? You are worthy. Come on Syaoran-kun… you forget my place, here. I'm the peasant, remember? You're… well, you're a king. I'm the one who's not worthy of you."
He shook his head, seeming almost as if he'd done it out of frustration or impatience. "No, that's not what I mean at all. You think that I'm this… this great king – and yeah, I guess, I'm not terrible at it or anything. But I'm… I'm mean and rude and unkind. Just look at the way I treated you when you first arrived here! I was awful! And weak – I'm so weak. Weak enough to let Rei do all those things to me…"
I frowned. "You know none of this is true, Syaoran-kun. At least, not anymore. You're a changed man! You're so much sweeter now and stronger than you think."
"Am I?" he asked, not seeming to believe it. "I don't know."
Though I felt for him and understood how he was so easily swayed by Rei's enchantments… it just wasn't enough. It didn't seem like any of this was acceptable. Had it been the other way around – had it been me who was going to be bewitched, the only possible way it would've worked was if my memory of him was erased. Anything else – like an imitation Syaoran telling me awful things and kissing another woman in front of me (all of which had actually happened) wouldn't be enough to make me want to be with someone other than him.
"Syaoran-kun," I said, sounding just as sad as he. "Before all that even happened – I had just told you that I love you. Wasn't that enough?"
"It should've been," he said. "I know it should've been, Sakura. And it was. I was just… weak."
It wasn't the response I wanted to hear.
Turning away from him and pulling the covers higher over me, I shimmied down the mattress so I was back to lying flat on my back. "I'm tired," I told him, keeping my face turned the other way.
I felt his hand come upon my shoulder to turn me back around. I shrugged him off, curling further away from him on the mattress. He sighed.
"Sakura, I'm sorry," he apologized.
"I know," I told him. "Me too."
"Sakura," Tomoyo began imploringly as she helped me walk to my chamber. I was still very tired and weak and couldn't even walk on my own. I had to be supported by her like a child just to make a few steps. "Give him a chance to explain. You can't be like this with him, it's just not right. You two should be on top of the world right now!"
I gave her a sad stare. "I did give him a chance to explain, Tomoyo-chan. And he explained himself just fine. It's just that… I'm sad. And disappointed. He fell for her again, after I just told him that I love him. You know if this were me, nothing would be able to change my mind about the way I felt about him. Nothing would make me want to be with another man."
She seemed to bite her tongue. I knew that she completely understood where I was coming from, but still didn't like the fact I wasn't speaking to Syaoran. Ever since that morning when I had woken up and we had argued, I ignored him for the rest of the day. I wouldn't accept his visits, pretend to be asleep if he forced himself inside, and used Tomoyo and Eriol as distractions to keep me occupied.
It was dinner time and Tomoyo literally had to drag me out of my bed to bring me. There really was no struggle, because I could barely put up a fight. She insisted that I at least come to have dinner with her, Eriol and Syaoran, the way we all did as good friends before things had gotten so crazy in the palace. I in turn insisted that I wasn't ready and that I should be given my meal while still in the hospital wing, but Tomoyo wouldn't hear any of it.
So, reluctantly we made our way to the dining hall. I wasn't purposefully trying to go slow, even though Tomoyo probably thought otherwise, but I was too weak to walk any faster. Maybe if I was lucky, by the time we got there, Syaoran and Eriol would have already finished eating.
It turned out, I wasn't that lucky. When we arrived at the big double doors, the only things separating me from Syaoran and the awkwardness at the dinner table, I stopped to turn to my best friend. "I will give you all the chocolates I received from the townspeople if you bail me out!"
She shook her head. "And ruin my complexion? No thanks."
She pulled me forward but I remained rooted to my spot. "I'll give you creative freedom with my wedding dress!"
"You already gave me that to do your little dirty work, remember?" she asked, and added, rolling her eyes, "and frankly, with the way you're acting right now, who knows if there even will be a wedding."
I whined and let myself be completely taken by her and pulled into the dining hall. When the doors opened, the place was decorated a lot differently than when I had seen it last.
It less bright in there, very dimly lit, and definitely a lot more candles than I remembered. It smelled different – like someone had put some really nice smelling perfume in the air. And there definitely weren't that many cherry blossoms in the room, the last time I saw. I know a few months ago Syaoran had put a few in there because he knew they were my favourite flower, but the room was just overflowing with them, like it was about to burst because it had so much.
I located Syaoran and Eriol standing together at one end of the long dining table. They seemed to be in a serious conversation, but at the sight of Tomoyo and I, they shut up immediately. Eriol smiled brightly and Syaoran's face was completely rigid – rigid, it seemed, with nervousness.
"I'm so glad you both could join us," Eriol said delightedly, arms brought up high to greet the both of us. He approached Tomoyo and gave her a peck on the cheek, then took my arm to bring me to Syaoran.
"W-What…" I stuttered, looking about myself and unable to take my eyes away from the romantic décor of the dining hall. Not to mention, I just didn't feel like looking at Syaoran. "What is all this?"
"Dinner, of course," Tomoyo said, standing on the other side of me. When we finally reached Syaoran could only stare at me for a few moments. He then took to glaring at the dining hall surroundings, and would sometimes glare in Eriol's direction. It seemed as though he was angry.
"You'll have to excuse us, however," Eriol continued, letting go of my arm and taking a few steps back with Tomoyo. They both looked too happy for their own good. "I promised Tomoyo we'd have our own private dinner, just her and me."
"O-Oh," I answered breathlessly, ignoring Syaoran's stare and the fact that he hadn't spoken yet. "Well… you two should eat here in the dining hall. It's not too late for me to be served dinner in my bed. I—"
"Nonsense," they chimed, waving their hands at me and walking further and further out of the room. "We insist that you and King Syaoran dine in here, together. Anyway, the setting in here is just too… romantic. It seems more fitting for you two."
I wanted to scoff at this, considering, they were the ones happily engaged, while Syaoran and I could barely speak to one another.
"Please," I insisted, though I didn't see the point. "You two—"
"Enjoy yourselves," they said, giving exaggerated winks and bowing out for real.
I didn't fail to notice that they'd even taken with them the two attendants standing at attention at the door frame. They left Syaoran and I completely alone with one another with only the flowers, the candles, and our unresolved issues to keep us company.
When the silence was nearing the point of complete awkwardness, Syaoran spoke up, surprising me. "Do you… do you remember when I asked you to have dinner with me all those months ago? Well, we never got around to it, so I was wondering if… now, maybe, you'd like to join me?" Was it just me, or did he all of a sudden seem shy?
Allowing a brief moment of silence to lapse, I nodded, smiling back at him though it didn't reach very far on my face. I made a movement to sit down, not wanting to feel like a bother by asking him for his help. I took one step forward and stumbled, and Syaoran, acting quickly as he normally did caught me by the arms. I laughed nervously, more embarrassed than ever as he put his arms around my waist and helped me into my seat.
Instead of sitting at the head of the table like he usually did, he took his seat opposite me so that we could face each other. The food was already set on our plates, looking and smelling delicious, and wine filled to the brim in our cups. But neither of us made anymore movement to move or to speak.
"I…" he began again, not knowing what to say. His eyes flicked from side to side, as if wondering where to begin. "I told them not to go so over the top with the decorations," he mumbled, looking apologetic and somewhat embarrassed. "But they insisted. We had a lot of your cherry blossoms from the townspeople anyway; we didn't want them to go to waste…"
I smiled weakly at him. "It's really alright. It's beautiful."
He looked up at me, his eyes hopeful. "Really? You think so?"
I nodded again. "Yes, really. Can I…" I said, trailing off and lowering my gaze to the table, only able to look up at him through my lashes. He looked so cute when he was insecure. If I continued to look at him while he was so darn adorable, I might have exploded. "Can I ask what this is all for?"
He seemed surprised. "You… you don't know what this is for?"
I shook my head. Was I supposed to?
"U-Um… no. Is it… er…" I thought for a while until an answer popped up in my head. "Is it because you wanted to butter me up, so that I could forgive you?"
Syaoran quickly dismissed the idea. "No, that's not why we did all this. But, now that you mention it…"
I stopped him before he could get another word in. "Syaoran-kun. Stop. I know what you're about to do. I don't want you to apologize anymore. I… I realize, now, that I'm being unfair to you. I shouldn't be angry with you. I mean, you helped me defeat Rei-chan. If you hadn't stepped in during the battle to give me some of your energy, I might not even be here right now. But please, can we not hash this out right now… I don't know when I'll be ready to do this."
He leaned forward, his eyes taking on a look of pleading. "Please, Sakura. We have to talk about this – we have to. I can't let you go on being disappointed or angry with me. I know you don't want to face it because… because facing it would mean both of us coming to terms with the idea that my feelings for you might not be as strong as yours are for me, but—"
Hearing him say so, again, that his love for me wasn't enough, while mine was more than enough, made my eyes water. He noticed their sudden wetness and looked about himself desperately. "I don't feel like talking right now," I said, my voice cracking.
"Please, just hear me out…"
"I've heard you out, Syaoran-kun," I told him. "I know everything I need to know. And eventually, I'll get over this, and hopefully when that happens I won't be too bothered by the fact that your feelings for me weren't strong enough to keep you out of Rei-chan's arms. Maybe then, whenever that is, we can pick up where we left off."
I stood up to leave. Before I even stood up straight, my legs wobbled, and I fell back on my butt, faced with no other choice but to stay with him and listen to more of his pleading.
"I'm telling you now, Sakura, honestly and without any reservation that it was me who was weak, and not my feelings for you. My feelings for you put my head straight again – they're what helped me come out of all my trances. It's me, physically, mentally, magically, that wasn't strong enough."
I remained silent, unsure of how I should reply.
"I was stupid and weak enough to believe those things that the imitation of you said. I was an idiot, an absolute moron, a real, unmitigated ass, a spineless—"
"Syaoran-kun, please… you're not any of those things…" I interrupted, getting somewhat uncomfortable with the names he was calling himself. I was actually starting to feel rather insulted on his behalf. I certainly didn't believe he was an idiot or a moron or whatever else he called himself, and neither should he.
"No, but I was!" he interjected, sounding disappointed in himself, more than I was. "And I promise you," he said, leaning further across the table and taking my hand in his, the other taking my chin to lift gently so that I could face him. "I promise you," he began again, sounding serious and… well, in love. "That I will spend the rest of my life making it up to you. If it means I have to apologize every day, or wait outside your chamber, or take a beating from your onii-chan—"
"Syaoran-kun, please," I began, the tiniest, smallest, miniaturist of smiles appearing on the corner of my lips. "That really isn't necessary."
He shook his head, insisting with his eyes that it was. "And I know… I know that you won't ever forget the fact that I kissed Rei, who knows how many times, while I was bewitched. I know that you'll always be bothered that I called her my fiancée first, and that she got further with me—" he coughed, getting uncomfortable "—er, well, physically, than you have, but—"
"What exactly have you done with her?" I asked, the smile melting off my face.
He held my hand tighter to reassure me of his actions. "We never slept together," he told me, and the tone of his voice sounded very honest. "She used me, she kissed me, and a few of the times that we made out I may have been topless…"
"Syaoran-kun…" I began, the scolding rising in my throat.
"But, she never, ever had my heart. She may have had my lips and my body, but my heart was never hears. It was always yours. And so is everything else. My first kiss—"
"I was your first kiss?" I asked, somewhat pleased by this. What with all his fan girls, I was sure that I wouldn't have been. "Really?"
He rolled his eyes at me. "Well of course you were, Sakura. And you're my first love, and my first – my first – well, I'm hoping for you to be my… er… first…"
I'd like to say that my usual denseness impeded me from understanding what he was trying to say. And truthfully, it did take me a moment or two to understand what he was trying to get at, but his incredibly intense blush, the heaviest I've seen in my life ever, and the way he was getting so flustered, made it easy for me to realize it.
I blushed as well, smiling because I knew in my heart that he would be the one I'd first sleep with as well, and it made me happy to know that he was also still a virgin, but couldn't help but to scold him. "Syaoran-kun!"
He immediately switched topics, cutting straight to the chase. "You get the point," he said, hurriedly. "I just… I never loved her, Sakura. Never. I look back on my time with her while I was bewitched, and not once did I tell her that I loved her."
My eyes grew glossy at this. Maybe he was right. Maybe his feelings for me really were enough. "You didn't?"
He was smiling, the blush now fading, while mine remained. "No. I never did. I would say I adored her or worshipped her or whatever else, but I never actually said I was in love with her. And I know it was because the part of me that was still with you wouldn't let me."
I allowed myself to come forward a little bit so my face was nearer to Syaoran's. He really had a way with his words when he was able to stop stuttering and blushing. "I think…" I began quietly, "you've made up for yourself enough. It's me who should be making amends. I shouldn't have been angry with you to start with."
"No," he said, shaking his head slowly. "You were right to be angry with me. All I ever did was let you down, Sakura. It's high time that I start making up for it."
This, I did not agree with at all. I was the one who couldn't heal his mother, he was the one that saved my life when I got abducted… but I didn't see the point in arguing any of this with him. He seemed to firmly believe that he was the let-down, and that he had to make things up to me.
"So you're starting with this dinner, huh?" I asked, smiling at him full on now and allowing myself to be okay with the fact that he'd done all those things. It didn't matter anymore – none of it did. Not as long as he loved me, and that was all that I needed to know for the rest of my life.
He smiled sheepishly, kissing our joint hands. "Among other things…"
He let go, searching inside his robes for something. "I realize that you don't have the crystal pendant I gave you on the day that you took your vows. I'm sorry it had to break; I was hoping it would last. But… this gives me the opportunity to give you something new. I was thinking, this time maybe, something diamond."
My breath caught at this. "D-D-D… Diamond?"
He looked at me with all the love in the world in his eyes, presenting me with a small velvet box. Lifting open the top, he showed me the same ring that he'd given to Rei, the same ring that I claimed should've been mine when I snuck back into the palace just yesterday.
"I know Rei wore it before you did," he said, sounding sad and apologetic. "But it was my okaa-sama's… and I know she would want you to have it. If you can accept this ring as yours and just… just forget about the fact that I gave it to Rei… I was wondering if, maybe… you could take it and… well… marry me?"
I bit my lip to keep my grin from spreading into a ridiculous stretch. I don't think my cheek bones could've taken it. What I did instead was rise slowly. When Syaoran looked up at me wonderingly, I continued only to smile while restraining myself from smiling any wider. I made my way around the dining table to him, took his arm and sat down on his lap. He was smiling embarrassedly.
"It was never really hers anyway," I answered breezily, pretending not to have a care in the world. "It was always mine. Right?"
He chuckled lightly at my playful manner. "Absolutely." And then, quieter, he added, "I love you."
The three words hit me like a freight train. And though I knew such a sensation is supposed to be painful – for me, it felt amazing. "I love you too."
Accepting the ring and allowing him to put it around my finger, I didn't admire it for very long until I leaned forward to kiss him, in celebration of our engagement, and finally resolving everything that had to be resolved. Kissing him felt like kissing him for the first time all over again, and I knew that it would feel that way every single time afterwards.
After a while, though I'm not sure how long because kissing Syaoran somehow manages to hinder my ability of telling how much time passes, Eriol and Tomoyo came in, looking pleased with themselves.
We parted, smiling sheepishly at them both. They ignored us and pretended as if they had not just walked in on us making out. Eriol then began to eat the food that was on Syaoran's plate, stuffing his face and taking on a look of boredom.
"You realize that Tomoyo and I are getting married first?" he asked. Tomoyo rolled her eyes. "What?" he asked, sounding offended. "I proposed first, without all the hassle. I should get married first. Shouldn't I?"
"It's not a competition, dear," Tomoyo answered, sounding annoyed.
I giggled at this, amused at how they were already acting like a married couple, when their wedding had not yet even passed. And then I had a thought. The two did a lot for us, and I did remember telling myself that I owed them…
"Isn't there still a wedding tomorrow?" I asked Syaoran. "The one that was supposed to be yours and Rei-chan's? Everyone in the kingdom has been working so hard to make it beautiful and extravagant, from what I've heard. It would be a shame to let it go to waste…"
Squeezing me gently for coming up with such a brilliant plan, Syaoran smiled lightly and agreed. "Oh yes, that's right. I don't suppose you and I could just get married tomorrow…"
"Oh, no way!" Eriol piped up angrily, taking the bit of bread he was chewing on and throwing it at his cousin. "I call it. That wedding is mine."
I laughed at their boyish antics and looked to Tomoyo who had not yet given her two cents on the matter. Her eyes were wide and glossy, and her jaw nearly reaching the floor. "Tomoyo-chan?" I asked, my voice cheerful. "What do you think?"
"I…" she began, her voice barely above audible. "I think… I think that I… have some designing to do!"
My face fell at this. "What?"
"You're my Maid of Honour, Sakura-chan! My gown has been ready for the last two weeks, but not yours! Oh no, I haven't even started on yours! What will I do? This is such short notice! I need thread, and lace, and more needles for my sewing. I don't even know where I'll start!"
As my best friend went off on her designing woes and worries, and as her fiancé bickered with her about what should have been her first priority, I could only laugh and lower my head into the space between Syaoran's neck and shoulder where my head seemed to fit perfectly.
And just being there with him, I knew, still sitting on his lap, feeling the staccato rise and fall of his chest as he chuckled at the squabbling of his cousin and his cousin's fiancée, that he loved me. And that I was, always had been, and always would be, the queen of his heart.
Authors Notes: There you have it, folks! I'm sorry it's so late, though technically it isn't. Right now is the two-week mark so, really, I'm not late, nyaha! Anyway, could you guys tell that it was extra cheesy? I tried to put in a little more fluffiness for you guys, to make up for the wait :)!
Thank you to those who gave my story a chance. You all are possibly the awesomest people on earth, and I'm so happy that you were able to enjoy it. I definitely will continue writing here on Fanfiction, though it may take me some time to develop a new story. In the mean time, you should give my other stories a look! They'll keep you occupied for a while, and they're extremely lonely. They're begging you to read them!
Thank you again to the awesome readers and reviewers. Please keep an eye out for my future stories, should I choose to write more :).
Infinite x's and o's!
Agent08 – My life as a secret agent xD