Cardcaptor Sakura: Darkest before the Dawn

The cab pulled up to the curbside, and a young woman slowly climbed out, carrying a child's backpack. The evening's rain drove down, nearly pushing the unsteady woman off her feet. She moved very stiffly, and the cab driver looked on in concern.

He asked her worriedly "Are you sure you don't want to go to the hospital instead? If you can't afford it, I'll drive you there for free."

"I'll be all right," she answered the cabby softly. He waited a moment, then with a shrug he drove off, as the young woman walked slowly over to the building. She peered at the intercom system, then with a shaking hand pressed a series of keys.

"Hello?" the voice from the intercom asked, so distorted that the young woman could barely recognize her friend's voice.

"Tomoyo," Sakura weakly said in reply, slumping against the wall as pain and exhaustion began to overwhelm her, "help me..."

Tomoyo looked in astonishment at the phone, then she slammed it down on it's cradle and rushed out of her small apartment. Only minutes later, she found Sakura leaning against the wall, and gently slipped her arm around the shaky girl's shoulders. Sakura tried to turn her face away, but Tomoyo could still see the vivid bruises that ran down the side of her face.

"What happened?" Tomoyo asked her in a shocked whisper, reaching out to softly touch the dark blue skin.

A single tear trickled down Sakura's cheek as she whispered her answer, "Li." She seemed to want to say more, but before she could, she slumped in Tomoyo's grip, unconscious.

Shortly, Tomoyo had Sakura upstairs in bed, fast asleep, while she paced the comfortable living room angrily. 'How could he?' Tomoyo fumed to herself. The bruises on her face was the least of what he had done! Sakura was black and blue all the way down her torso, wherever the bruises wouldn't normally show.

Tomoyo suddenly kicked at an inoffensive cushion and sent it flying across the room to slap against the wall, but it didn't really help calm her anger any. What she really wanted was Li Syaoran standing in front of her, but...

Her eyes fell on the small bag Sakura had brought in with her, and she carefully pulled it open. "My god!" she said softly.

As Tomoyo carefully pulled it out of the bag, the Book of Clow felt warm in her hands, and seemed to be filled with a lot of restless movement. A charm spell, looking like the ones Li normally used, rested on the top of the book, and she could see the engraving of Keroberos underneath it, glowing bright red. Tomoyo grabbed the charm and suddenly cried out in pain. It flared with mystic energy and scalded her unprotected flesh, but she held on, pulled with all her might, and with a flash of light and fire, it came free!

The golden winged lion exploded from the front of the book, materializing right in front of her. Flames danced all around his body, mirroring his barely restrained rage. Keroberos' eyes glowed redly and his fur stood on end as he growled at her furiously "Where is he hiding?" Looking about angrily, he quickly loped over to the closed door, only to come to a sudden stop as Tomoyo planted herself right in front of him!

"If you don't find him quickly, who will be here to protect Sakura?" Tomoyo asked him in a fierce but quiet whisper. Keroberos stopped to look at her steadily for a moment, still growling softly in the back of his throat, and then he slumped. He quickly shrank, shifting to his smaller form right before her very eyes.

"I didn't do too good a job protecting her the first time," Kero said, and sighed softly. "I'm really sorry, Tomoyo."

"What happened to her?" Tomoyo asked him, whispering softly so as to not awake Sakura in the next room. Of course, with all she had been through lately, Tomoyo doubted an explosion would wake her, but still.

"I think we all underestimated how angry the kid really felt about his losing the Clow cards to Sakura," Kero said to her quietly. "He started drinking a lot shortly after they got married, and that seemed to give him an excuse to let that anger out."

"Does he still have his magic, too?" Tomoyo asked him softly, lost in dark thoughts as she began to plan for the future.

"Yeah, and it's stronger than ever, too," Kero sighed. "He ambushed me, and sealed me and the cards away in the book so we couldn't get out to help Sakura."

Tomoyo picked up the nearby cellphone and after a moment's thought dialed a number quickly. "Who ya calling?" Kero asked her curiously.

"Some reinforcements," Tomoyo calmly answered. Into the phone she said "Hello, Toya? Can you put Yukito on? Thanks. Sakura's in danger, as well as the cards. Can you get Yue over here quickly? Good, and bring Toya along too."

"I don't need Yue's help to protect Sakura!" Kero growled at her angrily, puffing up his fur and trying to look bigger.

"Yue beat Li easily during the final judgment," Tomoyo said to him coldly, and suddenly she seemed so very different from the quiet little girl Kero had known only a few years before. "Hopefully, he can still hold his own against Li now. You listen to me, Kero, I won't let your wounded pride get in the way of keeping Sakura safe!"

He looked at her in a great deal of surprise and just nodded quietly, for once shocked totally silent. It was less than ten minutes later that the intercom loudly buzzed again, and Tomoyo let them both into the building. "They must have broken some of the speed limits getting here," a subdued Kero commented quietly.

The two young men came in, rushed right by Tomoyo and straight to the bedroom to check on Sakura. A white faced Toya and Yue emerged, both of them nearly shaking with rage. "When I get my hands on him I'll.." Toya started to say.

Tomoyo cut him off, "...get thrown into jail, where you can't help Sakura at all?" He looked over at her in surprise, and nodded slowly. She'd made her point. "I want you all to stay here and keep an eye on her. Don't let Li near her, whatever the cost! Understood?"

"And what are you going to be doing?" Yue asked her very meekly, folding his wings back in deference to her. Tomoyo the dragon lady was somebody he hadn't seen very often, but he didn't want to cross her!

Tomoyo smiled humorlessly, "Calling on the one person I swore I never would again." At their questioning looks she softly elaborated, "My mother."

Sonomi groaned loudly as the ringing phone brought her back to wakefulness. She rolled over in her bed, saw how dark it was outside and picked up the bedside phone, barking "This had better be good!"

"Hello, Mother," Tomoyo answered softly.

Sonomi held the phone away from her a moment, looking at it with an expression of total and utter disbelief. She brought it back to her ear and quietly said to her "I seem to remember you told me you never wanted to hear from me again, Tomoyo, for as long as you lived." With some sarcasm she asked "What in the world could change my stubborn daughter's mind?"

Tomoyo swallowed the angry words that first occurred to her and instead answered her with just one word, "Sakura."

Sonomi's eyes widened as she heard the name, her face growing pale, and she answered Tomoyo softly, "I'll be right over."

She was as good as her word, and strode into the apartment with her typical self confidence. She completely ignored a surprised Kero, Yue and Toya and instead headed straight for Tomoyo's bedroom. She stopped and stood there at the doorway looking in, and her one hand clenched and unclenched in her anger.

"Oh, god. Sakura, she looks so much like Nadeshiko," Sonomi whispered as a single tear trickled down her face.

Tomoyo's eyes widened as she realized how Sonomi must feel, looking at the beaten form of the daughter of her lost love, and she felt her heart soften towards her mother a bit. "Let's let her sleep," Tomoyo said softly, gently led her mother out of the room and over to the kitchen. She sat Sonomi down there and poured tea for them both, giving her time to regain her composure.

Sonomi looked into the distance, then down into her cup before finally drinking her tea. "When we were kids I promised I would watch over our children," Sonomi finally said softly. She shook her head sadly, "It seems I didn't keep that promise too well." She looked up at Tomoyo, asking "What can I do to help?"

"Our children?" a surprised Tomoyo asked her mother, an eyebrow raised and a quirky smile on her face.

Sonomi blushed a bit as she explained, "When I was little, I thought we'd have kids together, like when we played house and I was the husband and Nadeshiko was my wife." She smiled sadly, remembering those days.

Tomoyo looked down into her teacup, suddenly feeling very uncomfortable as she broached the reason for her call. "Our last big fight was over your shadier business associates," Tomoyo said softly, "and I feel awfully hypocritical now that I might need their help." She looked up at Sonomi and said very quietly, "I need to hire a hitman."

Sonomi smiled, an odd little smile on her face, "I did listen to you then, you know. I'm just glad I got myself out before I was in too deep to escape." She saw the look of dismay on Tomoyo's face and reached out to lightly pat her on the hand. She asked her gently, "Tomoyo, are you sure you need to use such extreme measures?"

Tomoyo sighed softly, "If he was just an ordinary man, I'd hire all my old bodyguards, get a restraining order against him and then press assault charges. But he's terribly powerful, and I don't think the law could stop him."

"Not to mention the magical powers," Sonomi sighed. At Tomoyo's surprised look, she added a bit crossly, "I'm not blind, you know."

Tomoyo blushed, and asked "How did you know?"

Sonomi blushed a bit, "I stumbled on one of your videos, actually. Remember when my VCR broke and I asked to borrow yours? You left the tape in."

"Oh," Tomoyo said quietly.

Sonomi thoughtfully continued "There are still some people in, shall we say, the underground economy who owe me a few favors, big favors." She looked across the table with great intensity as she finished, "Let me handle this, please, Tomoyo."

Tomoyo wanted to argue with her, to insist that she'd handle it herself but she stopped when she looked into her mother's sad eyes. Sonomi honestly wanted to help, despite all the bitter fights between the two of them. "Thank you," Tomoyo said in a whisper. Sonomi rose, Tomoyo got up as well and with a step moved to give her mother a hug. They were a bit stiff at first, but after a moment Sonomi hugged her back.

After Sonomi had left, Tomoyo sat on a chair opposite Toya and Yue, while Kero had a small snack on a nearby table. "So what's the story between the two of you?" Toya asked, pointing to the door Sonomi had just left by.

Tomoyo looked a bit surprised at the question, quickly answering "I'm not sure that's any of your business, actually."

Toya smiled at her wryly, "Look, you and her are both back in my little sister's life now. I'd like to know about any metaphorical landmines before I step on them, OK?" He finished with a smile on his handsome face, and Tomoyo felt his practiced charm wash over her. A gift he shared with Sakura, though she was most unaware of her own charm.

"Good point," Tomoyo admitted to him softly. "Here's the Reader's Digest version, then: after my parents were finally divorced, Mom threw herself obsessively into her work, and I ended up spending the next few years in the primary care of the housemaids and bodyguards. Before I decided to leave home, my Mom made some very ethically dubious business dealings, and to top it all off, I accidentally walked in on her and a... paramour."

"I bet he was embarrassed," Yue said with a slight smile on his pale face. Even as he talked to them, his hawk like eyes scanned outside the nearby window for any potential signs of trouble, his body tensed and ready to move.

"No, but she and the young lady she had in her bed were," Tomoyo said, smiling ruefully. "It was shortly after that brow-up I moved out."

Toya looked over at her thoughtfully, and then quietly said "Why do I get the feeling you left some things out?"

Tomoyo shook her head, "Sorry, that's a little too personal."

She remembered the sounds first, going upstairs and opening the unlocked bedroom door. She had screamed, thinking it was Sakura laying there in Sonomi's arms, and then Sonomi's own panicked realization of the resemblance. The poor girl had quickly grabbed her clothes and run out of the bedroom as the last, big, Daidouji "Mother/ Daughter" fight had begun. She had called her mother everything from a bitch to a pervert, and Sonomi had shot back as good as she got. Finally, Tomoyo had walked out, a few bags and her camcorder case in hand.

Only much later did Tomoyo see that the poor girl looked much more like Nadeshiko, but by then too many harsh words had been said between them for either one to take them back or to gloss over. Sonomi and Tomoyo saw each other only at rare family events, where they kept their distance and maintained the peace.

Yue interrupted her train of thought, and said "We should take shifts while we watch over Sakura. As the night is my element, I'll take the first turn." He stood, and seemed to shine from within, an aura of power forming around him, "Toya, you're on guard second, and Kero can start his shift with the dawn."

"But what about me?" Tomoyo protested.

"You get to keep an eye on the squirt directly," Toya said to her gently. They split up, Toya and Kero to bed, Yue guarding from the living room, and Tomoyo returned to her bedroom to watch over the sleeping Sakura there.