NOTES: This was written a while back [er...May or so?] but anyway. This fic spoils the whole damn manga, just so you know. Not really, but in terms of what I knew when I wrote it. It's from Clow Read's POV [and yes, according to vol. 11 it is spelt Read, who knew? -_-;]. This is a stand-alone teaser for a longer fic/series of fics I plan to do sometime, about Clow. I did get part of it done, but I got really unhappy with it, and it's now Officially Taken Down So Suppi-chan Can Run Screaming At It With An Axe. ^_^ This fic is sort of alternate universe to the larger Clow Saga now. Sorry. =_=

Have fun! XD

--suppi-chan

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HITORI DE
[By Oneself]

I always thought it would be fun to have a daughter. A cute little girl, with a lot of energy and a sweet smile, darting around and laughing.

Of course, if one was going to have a daughter, one should also have a wife, a beautiful one with laughing eyes and a sweet nature, and also a son to watch over your daughter. That would be my ideal family. The son would take after me in appearance, and the daughter would take after my wife, and I would teach my son magic to be my heir and my daughter anything she wished to know. But of course, if the son wanted to be a carpenter or something, I wouldn't stand in his way. Magic users have a hard path in life.

It wasn't very much fun, being the only child of the Read family. The Li family was very angry at my mother for marrying an Englishman, and my father's family was furious that he had married a foreigner. So they kept mainly to themselves and to me, and taught me magic. I think my mother wanted to prove to her family that she was right in marrying outside the family, by producing a son more powerful than anyone elses'. The Li family did not — still does not, I think — look kindly on members who choose mates from the outside.

That's why I think that he probably won't fall in love with her. Not unless the Li family changes considerably, and I should rather expect to discover angels living on the sun than the Li clan changing an inch. And he looks to be a proud boy. Pride is all very well and good, if it isn't taken too far, and I also see a hidden vein of kindness and compassion within him — very rare qualities in a male of the Li clan. He'll do.

But that's part of the fun of having a daughter, isn't it? Carefully considering her and what she needs and desires, and then choosing a mate for her that will love and defend her for as long as they live.

There is a shifting movement behind me. The false form is restless, probably dreaming of what will be it's past. I walk over and stroke it's white-blond hair gently, calming it. It half wakes, blinking at me with sleepy gold-hazel eyes, and then falls back asleep. It — Yukito — won't remember this. Neither will his true from, Yue, who is reappearing at the touch of my hand. But I think that they will remember the touch of a kind hand, no matter what name they give to it. Yukito will probably remember it as his mother or father, comforting him after a nightmare. Yue — well, Yue will make of it as he wills.

Cerberus is half-waking as well. He looks like a half-grown lion cub now, with wings that have not finished their fledging, but soon he will be awake. He moves closer to Yue, seeking the presence of his sibling. He puts his golden head next to Yue's white one, and falls back asleep, gradually changing back to his false form.

I hope she thinks that it's cute. Little girls should have cute things around them. I glance over at the thing on the workbench — a pink staff, topped by a bird's head of enamel and garnet. Yes, little girls should have cute things.

I sigh and walk out of the room. This house is typically English, with the additions of some Chinese art pieces here and there, the silent testemony of my mother's presence. I knock at one of the door, and a voice inside gives me leave to enter.

My mother is very old now, and her hair, once a shining raven's-wing black, is white as snow. This room was made for her by my father and I, with windows to let in the sun and Chinese style-furnishings. She is holding a rosary to her face, not praying, but smelling the rose- petal and sandalwood beads.

"My son," she says. Her voice used to be very lovely, and even now it is still pleasant, low and calm. Like herself. "How are your creations forming?"

From old habit I sit on a footstool beside her. "They're almost fully grown. A few more days for Yue's false form to complete it's memories, and for Cerebesus' wings to finish fledging."

"That is good," she says. She puts her hands on her lap, slowly. "Then I will leave to join your father on that day."

I bow my head dutifully. I know that she misses him, but when she goes, the last person on earth who really knows me will be gone. It is a foolish, selfish wish that she may continue living. She desires rest, and has only waited because of me. "Yes, Mother."

Her paper-thin hand comes to rest on my head. "It has been a long time since I have seen your father, my son. I'm sure he grows impatient."

This was meant to make me smile. My father was the most patient man on earth, and I think he would wait a thousand years for my mother, and count it as a moment. I got my height and my eyes from him, and only my mother's raven hair and perhaps a bit of her magic. I force a laugh out to please her, but my heart is still heavy. Perhaps I did inherit something else from my mother. She as well always rebelled against the destiny set for her, desiring to find new ways of doing things.

"I am afraid that I will miss you, Mother," I say finally. "But that is very undutiful of me, and I sincerely apologise."

"Heh." Mother's thin lips twitch for a brief second. "You say that just like your father, and you mean it just as much. I know you will miss me. That is natural. But I would prefer it if you would miss me like I was going on a trip, and not as if you would never see me again."

"Yes, Mother."

"Look at me, my son." I look at her, and her sharp black eyes study me. "Well," she says finally, "Perhaps I will not worry about you after all." She sighs sharply. "Clow, my only son, promise that you will take my ashes back to the Li family."

"I will, Mother." Something tight is forming in my chest. I know what is going to happen. I've known everything that is going to happen to me, ever since the day I created my staff.

"What are you going to name her," Mother asks, her voice very slow and beginning to slur, "Your daughter of the next life?"

"Sakura, Mother." My eyes are burning, and my throat is so tight I can scarely get the words out normally. "Because they're beautiful."

"Yes," she says, very softly. "Beautiful."

The hand that held the beads slowly relaxes, and the rosary falls quietly to the ground. My mother takes one last breath, and her other hand falls from my head and hangs limply beside her.

I stand, and feel for her pulse. It was gone, like I knew it would be.

Alone.

I am alone.

Even Yue and Cerbesus, when they awaken, will only take the edge off my sorrow, because they will always have a word in the back of their minds. That word will be "master", not "friend".

And finally, I weep.