I know I shouldn't be starting another fic right now, but I can't seem to stop myself.
I got this idea when I was writing my drabbles. It occurred to me that there was very little fanfiction detailing the relationship between C!Syaoran and his father, Fujitaka. So this will be a short series in which I delve into their relationship and explore C!Syaoran's childhood in Clow.
First section is in Syaoran's POV, before he was given a name. The rest will be self-explanatory.
1. A Stormy Start
The first thing the boy was aware of was the rainwater splashing his hair.
Something surfaced inside him, a preternatural awareness that had been absent a moment ago, an assurance that he was here, that he'd somehow flickered into existence. In those first moments, he had no concept of memory, no idea that anything had come before, or that anything would come after. But after a few minutes of having cool liquid drip down his face and arms, those concepts set themselves in his mind, as if he'd known them all along.
He was here. He could remember the last few minutes. He existed.
Where is this place? he wondered, though the thought didn't come in words so much as a feeling of wary curiosity. He didn't have words, didn't understand the concept of language. After all, he'd only started existing a few minutes ago.
The ground beneath him shifted when he moved, made up of unstable particles of rock. He brushed his bare foot across the gritty mass, feeling the grains slip between his toes. They were damp, melding together in a squishy soup rather than the dry particles they'd been a moment ago. He made the connection between the liquid falling from the sky and the new condition of the sand. Cause and effect.
The boy sat there a moment more, only moving when the chilling rainwater grew uncomfortable. Instinct brought him to his feet, though it took him a moment to relate that motion—the tug and pull of muscles he'd never used before—with the sudden shift in how he perceived the world. After a few tottering steps, he settled into a relatively agile walk, moving over the sea of sand. If he stood in one spot too long, the damp sand started rising up and taking hold of his feet. Twice, when that happened, he tried to step out of the mass and fell onto his face.
Pain. The impacts hurt, shaking injuries he hadn't known he'd had. He didn't like it.
Another few steps, and his eyes fell across a lighter patch of sand, under an awning. After a brief hesitation, he stepped onto this pale sand and found it remarkably dry. The texture was different under his feet, less inclined to clog the space between his toes.
He stood there a while, absorbing his surroundings. A scent permeated the air, separate from the strange smell of water on sand. The cloying fragrance filled his nose and made his stomach rumble. When someone emerged from the building he'd sheltered next to, a strong wave of the smell hit him. His legs propelled him toward its source automatically, instinct driving him to seek out food. He slipped when his foot came down on the wet sand.
The person carrying the package—a brown bag he would later associate with baked goods such as doughnuts and cookies—glanced over as he hit the ground, then retreated a few steps. She watched him for a moment, the corners of her lips pulling down, then hurried off, faster than his short legs could follow.
The boy stood in the rain a moment more, letting the cold water seep into the white bindings wrapped around his body. The fabric, rough to the touch only minutes ago, was now sodden and drooping, sagging down his flesh. When he retreated under the awning again, he found the wet bindings made his skin clammy and removed even the small relief of the dry spot. He moved on.
He tired after just a few minutes, and sat down beside a brick building. He curled his legs up so they touched his chest, trying to preserve what warmth remained to him. Every moment of his existence so far had consisted of some sort of discomfort. It varied only by degree.
The boy watched people pass by, holding pieces of cloth over their heads to stave off the rain. Some gave him passing glances, while others ignored him entirely. The glances seemed to be the most anyone was willing to give him, though, so he thought nothing of it. Only when he saw a face staring back at him did he begin to wonder.
The staring face belonged to a man. His pale brown hair seemed to have darkened a bit with rainwater, just like the sand. In front of his eyes were two transparent disks, bound together by a thin tendril of metal and secured to his face by two other projections sitting on his ears. The boy briefly wondered if the strange structure could be removed, or if it was permanently attached to the man's face.
The man watched him for a few seconds, longer than any of the other strangers who'd watched him. The boy looked back, then down, resting his forehead against his knees in another attempt to warm himself.
Since his head was ducked, the only indication he had of the man's approach was the soft brush of footsteps against the sand. When they got close, he looked up again. Something brown fluttered in the air above him, writhing as if alive. He flinched away, then let it come down on his head. The texture was rougher than that of the clothes he wore, and the material heavier, but it was recognizably fabric. The boy froze for a moment, unsure how to react, then looked up.
The man's lips curled up around the edges, the first time the boy had seen such an expression. The man's lips parted, and a series of sounds came out, nonsensical to the boy's ears.
When he didn't react, the man frowned. A moment passed, and the boy wondered why the man had removed his cloak when doing so left him exposed to the bone-chilling rain. Like the garbled syllables, the action made no sense.
The man extended one hand, palm up, so it rested a foot away from the boy's face. After several seconds, the boy reached out and took it, pulling the cloak tighter around himself. The man hoisted him to his feet, catching him when he nearly tripped over the sand. More sounds rang out amidst the pouring rain.
He didn't answer them, merely following when the man led him away from the brick building.
Fujitaka didn't know what to do. The bandages wrapped around the boy's face and limbs suggested either abandonment or abuse. The distinct lack of comprehension seemed to indicate some underlying emotional trauma as well, something that had wiped clean the boy's understanding for the world.
Nevertheless, Fujitaka decided to bring the boy to the police station, expecting that, if he had not in fact been abandoned, his parents had probably filed a missing persons report.
The boy—no older than seven or eight—had little aversion to following him. The only resistance he put up was when they passed by the section of the marketplace selling fruits and other fresh food. The boy paused, seeming to forget they were walking, and stared at the array of fruit, face filled with unconcealed yearning.
Fujitaka hesitated, unsure if he should insist they go to the police station to alleviate the fears of the boy's parents or if he should spend the extra couple minutes to buy something for the boy, knowing his family was likely in a panic. When the boy lifted his tiny hand to his stomach, Fujitaka's resolve crumbled. "Would you like something to eat?" he asked, leaning down so he was eye level with the boy.
The child glanced at him, then returned his attention to the food.
Does he not understand? Fujitaka wondered. After four months studying the ruins, he was familiar enough with the language of Clow to be understood by the majority of its people. Perhaps the boy's family were tourists here, and didn't know the language. That would explain why the boy reacted to the sound of his voice, but not his words. That could complicate things. If his family doesn't speak the language, it's possible they don't know where to file a missing persons report.
He sighed, then moved to the market stall. The man there was halfway through packing up, the rain ruining his chance at business for the day. "Excuse me," Fujitaka said, stepping forward. The man looked up. "Are you still open?"
The man shrugged and set aside the stack of baskets he'd been about to put away. "Sure. What do you need?"
The archeologist surveyed the produce, then pointed to a basket of apples. That seemed like a safe enough choice, given how little he knew of the boy or his eating habits. "Two of those."
The shopkeeper murmured a price. Fujitaka pulled a few coins he'd earned from examining the ruins from his bag and exchanged them for the fruits. He handed the larger apple to the boy, who looked at it in confusion for a moment before biting into it. Something like surprise lit up his face as the juice squirted out between his teeth.
Fujitaka pocketed the other apple for later and started for the police station again, taking the boy's free hand to make sure he was following. The rain lanced at his skin, the desert downpour even more overpowering without his cloak. Though this was technically the rainy season, Fujitaka had only seen one other rainstorm, less severe than this one. Like the stark differences in desert temperatures before and after dark, the contrast between the dry heat and chilling downpour made this climate seem almost bipolar.
They walked in silence to the police station. The man behind the desk glanced up when they entered, obviously wondering what a foreigner and a seven-year-old were doing here. "Yes?"
"Hello," Fujitaka said, wiping his slick hair away from his eyes. "I believe I've found a missing child."
The other man looked at him in confusion, then studied a piece of paper attached to a clipboard. "We haven't had any missing children reported recently. Do you know his name?"
He shook his head. "He won't speak."
The other man stepped around the side of his desk and knelt down in front of the child. "Can you tell me your name?"
The boy stared at the other man for a long moment, then dropped his eyes to the apple core in his hand. He bit into it, consuming the seeds along with the flesh.
"I don't think he understands the language here," Fujitaka murmured.
The man tried the same question in several other languages. Fujitaka recognized most of them from his travels. When none of those prompted a response, the officer stood. "I can't tell what country he's from, or if he's even capable of speech. If you'd like, we can keep him here for a few days to see if someone comes looking for him."
Fujitaka nodded. "Perhaps that's for the best. Is there anything else you need to know?"
"Nothing we can't discern on our own. Thank you for bringing him in."
He bowed and started for the door. Almost immediately, he felt something tug on the fabric of his pants. He looked down to see the boy's hand wrapped around the loose fabric by his knee, the remainder of the apple core all but forgotten in his other hand.
Fujitaka pulled the second apple from his pocket and offered it to the boy. A slight shift in the child's features seemed to indicate that wasn't what he'd been looking for.
"He seems to have taken a liking to you," the police officer said after a moment.
"I can't see why. I've only known him a few minutes."
The boy looked up at him, a flicker of desperation in his chocolate brown eyes. He drew the cloak tighter around himself.
Fujitaka frowned, heart split between staying here until someone claimed the boy and going back home so he could prepare for tomorrow's excavation.
There was a chance the boy's parents would not show up for several days. With as little money he earned from his archeological digs, Fujitaka couldn't afford to take time off. Besides, the police here were good people. They would feed and care for the boy until his family returned to him.
He knelt down and took the boy's free hand between his own. "I have to go now," he said, hoping his tone conveyed his apologies since the boy didn't seem to understand his words. "But I'll check in tomorrow, and the next day, until your parents come to pick you up, okay?"
The boy stared at him, then looked down, hands dropping to his sides. Fujitaka stood and bowed to the police officer he'd charged with caring for this child. "Thank you. I'm sure his parents will come by soon."
The officer bowed. "Of course."
Fujitaka turned to leave. This time, the boy didn't try to stop him.
When the brown-haired man left, the stranger in the blue coat took his hand and led him over to a bench. The stranger murmured something before patting the boy's shoulder and returning to the desk. There, he selected a long, thin instrument from a cup and began scrawling things across a flat, white sheet.
The boy sat there, clutching the red, round fruit the other man had left him with. Something stirred in him, similar to the desire he'd felt when he'd seen the smooth fruit, but tinged with something darker. It was like the pain in his stomach a few minutes ago, before he'd eaten. A yearning.
There was nothing to be done about it now. At least, nothing he could do about it. He thought about going out into the storm to follow after the man who had brought him here. There was no one else who had interacted with him, and now that the contact had been broken off, he wasn't sure how to handle himself. Mimicry wouldn't work. The only other person in the room had buried himself deep in his strange, abstract drawings, only occasionally glancing up to verify that he was still sitting on the bench.
The boy bit into the second apple, discarding the remainder of the first's core at his feet. After his teeth had closed around the hard black seeds in the middle, he'd decided he would eat around those instead of trying to consume them.
After a time, the man in the blue uniform walked over to pick the discarded fragments of apples off the floor and throw them in a green bin a few feet away. The boy watched, making a mental note to put all his future apple cores in such receptacles.
The man returned a moment later and extended a hand to him, just as the kind man had done after laying his cloak over his shoulders. The boy pulled the heavy fabric tighter around his torso, cherishing the warmth it afforded him. The uniformed man opened his mouth and sounds came out, like they had when he and the kind man had interacted. After a brief hesitation, the boy took his hand and allowed the unfamiliar man to tow him to another room. Here, the man presented him with a soft piece of cloth. When the boy did nothing, the man took it and used it to scrub the rainwater out of his hair. Understanding, the boy took it back and did the same, ridding his skin and hair of the cold water.
The man made more sounds, watching him for a reaction.
He began to wonder what the sounds meant to these people, and whether or not they should mean something to him. But the liquid syllables ran by too fast to comprehend, and after a few seconds, the boy stopped trying to discern their meaning.
The man exhaled, the corners of his mouth pulling down. After pondering the shift, the boy decided these changes in expression must mean something, if the sounds didn't. He tried to piece the meaning of the frown together by the reactions of the people he'd seen so far. They'd all been soaked by the rain. Was the frown a signal of discomfort? Then again, this time it had been in response to his lack of an answer. A signal of displeasure, then?
The boy pulled his own features into a frown, wondering if the movement was supposed to cause some reaction inside. He felt no different.
The man made more sounds, his lips moving rapidly as he rapped out the strange syllables. When he received no response, he exhaled and took the boy's hand, leading him back to the room where they'd first entered. As they abandoned the interior room, the boy realized the constant tap of the rain was louder here. Across from him, the raindrops splattered against some invisible barrier in the wall, leaving tiny streams to run down the surface. He watched this with avid interest, learning about the behavior of liquid.
But eventually, even that lost his interest. He stared at the floor awhile, then the ceiling, then the walls. Since nothing moved there, those things became mundane, too. His mind began to drift back to the man who'd wrapped the cloak around his shoulders. It had seemed such a minor action to the man, as if he'd done it without thought, but to the boy, the gesture meant so much more. A relief from cold, the first pleasant stimulus he'd felt since arriving here. Doing so must've also exposed the man to the cold water, leaving him to shiver until he found someplace to shelter.
The boy could think of no reason why someone would willingly expose themselves like that. What if the dampness harmed the man permanently?
He wrapped the cloak around himself and laid down on the bench, closing his eyes against the troubling thoughts. There was so much he didn't know—even the hour sitting here had taught him things he would've never come up with himself—but he knew he didn't want that man to be hurt because of him.
As he slipped deeper and deeper into his musings, one thought solidified in his mind: when the storm abated, he would search for the man and return his cloak, so that next time it rained, the man wouldn't have to be cold.
The rain beat harder on the translucent barrier, strangely reassuring despite its uncomfortable effects. The last of the boy's thoughts slipped away, and for the first time since he'd come into existence, he slept.