Masquerade

By Ekai Ungson

Please see previous chapters for the full disclaimer.

This fic is for Luna, in gratitude for created grace, beauty, and friendship.

Notes: … dies. The last time this story was updated was September of 2005. I faintly remember a computer crash and losing all my data. I've since moved on to other fandoms, but I found the hard copy of the story recently, and am retyping it as is with no edits, just for completion purposes. My eternal apologies for those who have waited so long.

"Put your mask on, Tomoyo. It's time for the final act."

Fifteen: Masked

The ball was filled with bright lights, music, laughter. To Tomoyo, it was all a mockery. She was nowhere near happy—she was desperate.

Her place was by Shinosuke's side, and that was where she stayed. He had ensured that, at the very least. A maid's loosened tongue had alerted him to her condition, and he had come to her quarters looking very self-satisfied. He wished to claim the child as his own, he told her. It would serve as the ultimate slap to Hiiragizawa's face. Tomoyo was powerless to intervene.

From behind the crowds, a man watched; wearing a mask to obscure his face.

She did not see when he entered the room, but Tomoyo felt that presence, clear as a current of electricity over her spine. She looked around, confused. Surely he was not so foolish? Yet she knew. Tomoyo gazed across the sea of masked faces.

I know you are here.

The night progressed without incident. A man bravely walked up to the Kurotori, seated on a divan.

"Will you dance, Black Bird?"

She looked up and she knew. Slowly, she took the hand he offered her. Once out on the floor she could barely contain herself. "What are you doing here?" she hissed. "Kourin has lost his mind. He will murder you when he finds you."

The masked man gave her a smile. "Do you know who I am?"

"I know who you are, and very well," she whispered. "Leave at once. What is your purpose here?"

"I came to save you from yourself."

"You have nothing to save me from," she muttered. "This is a choice I made myself."

"Oh yes?" he questioned. "I think I do."

She stared at him. He shook his head. "These wounds at your back, I feel them as well as I feel my own. Kourin has not been treating you well. I will get you and my child out of this hellhole."

Tomoyo's jaw fairly dropped. "How in the world would you know—"

"I have friends in holy spaces," he replied cryptically. "Trust me."

Trust him? Never again, Tomoyo had vowed, not since that fateful day just before she left him. Her mother had been right—men were not to be trusted. But right at that moment, she wanted to believe in him.

"I have missed the scent of your roses," she admitted quietly. "I have missed you, but I have nothing to offer you now—not my honor, not my dignity. Why would you still want to be with me?"

His eyes were kind behind the mask. "Because you loved me for who I am," he said simply. "I too can love you for who you are, no matter what has happened."

The song ended. Eriol brushed his lips against her forehead lightly before letting go.

"It'll be all right."

O

Shinosuke wasn't a lot different from his father, the one who had loved her mother. His jealousy flared for seemingly no reason, and no explanation could sway him. He pulled Tomoyo aside forcefully when she came back, hissing out his displeasure. "Who was that?"

Tomoyo winced. Telling him the truth was out of the question. "I don't know him."

"Don't lie to me!" A hand was raised, and she closed her eyes, waiting for the slap to connect.

It never came. When she opened her eyes, Shinosuke was on the floor, Eriol towering over him. He turned to her. "Are you all right?"

She stared at Shinosuke's unmoving form and breathed in. "You've killed him."

Eriol shook his head. "I should have. Had he hit you I might have. At the moment he's lost consciousness, but you and I should leave, now." He took her hand, pulling her across the dance floor. They were halfway to the exit when one of the guards caught sight of his fallen master and alerted the rest.

Shots were fired into the air, and the guests scattered for cover. With no place to hide, Eriol and Tomoyo stood in the middle of the dance floor, completely vulnerable.

"We're trapped," she whispered.

He shook his head fiercely. "Not yet."

Tomoyo gasped suddenly—Eriol turned only to stare down the barrel of a pistol in the hands of a bleeding Shinosuke. "Give her up or I kill you both."

O

She could feel her heart, slamming against her chest, blood rushing in her ears. Eriol was looking at her. She shook her head. She would die with him, or for him.

"Let her go," Shinosuke ordered. "She belongs to me."

"I have never belonged to you!" she spat. Daisuke's eyes narrowed. Eriol moved her protectively behind him. The guards were closing in.

"Better that I die now," he whispered to her. "I will not have him hurt you."

"No!" she exclaimed, but she heard Shinosuke cock the pistol, madness in his eyes.

A shot was fired.

Tomoyo was unsure as to what had happened next, but the guards took off in every direction, and Eriol remained standing.

Shinosuke was on the floor, dead, as Miki-baasan lowered her rifle, still smoking.

With this her nightmare ended.

With this her new life began.

Fin.

032002.