"Che...it's the third day of winter break, and I'm bored already."
"You don't even go to school. Why are you complaining?"
"Oh, like your senior year in high school has been so horribly taxing..."
"Taxing enough to be more than annoying, the level of which has yet to surpass you."
"WHAT?!" she spun around, spoon still in hand, and glared at the fire-haired young man exasperatedly.
"When are the cookies going to be done?" He asked, brown eyes pleading.
"I haven't even put them in the oven yet! From then, around an hour." Sakura began to spoon small heaps of the mix on the cookie sheet.
"Cheeee... That's too long! I'm gonna die from boredom!" He whined, tipping his chair on the back two legs.
"No you won't. And don't curse."
"What're Touya and Yukito doing?"
"EH?! Why didn't they take me?!"
Sakura looked at him over her shoulder and raised an eyebrow. "Because you would spend all of our money buying sweets."
"I would not!"
"Says the one who ate a whole chocolate cake last night."
"I was hungry, and there wasn't anything else good to eat! Besides, it was fun to see Yukito's face." He snickered, teetering on the chair's back two legs.
"WHO'S KERO-CHAN?!?!" He exploded, and promptly toppled to the floor with the chair.
Startled by the large crash, Sakura whirled around to see two feet sticking up over the table, twitching slightly. Sakura bit her lip to keep from giggling. "D-daijoubu?"
The question was answered with a long list of burning expletives emitting from below the two feet. Sakura scowled and slapped her hands over her ears.
"Kero-chan, if you don't stop RIGHT NOW, I'm going to turn you back into a stuffed animal!" The stream of expletives died out instantly, Sakura huffed and turned back to the counter; Cerberus got up and placed the chair back in its rightful place with a few muttered oaths.
After Cerberus had resumed sitting, Sakura finished putting the mix on the cookie sheets, placed two sheets in the oven, and set the timer.
Cerberus watched as she removed her apron. "Hey, Sakura."
Sakura folded the apron and placed it on the counter. "She's at music camp."
Sakura turned around and regarded Cerberus curiously. "He's mentor teaching at an out-of-town university for a week. Kero-chan, you already know this. Why are you asking?"
"I'm so booored! Why did everyone have to go and leave us behind?"
"Why don't you go to the arcade?" she suggested, pulling out the seat across from him.
"Do you have any money?" he asked her frankly.
"Neither do I."
"Daytime TV?" he questioned incredulously.
"...Right. ...Go for a walk."
"I don't wanna...it's too cold..."
"I know, but that's why you love me, right?"
"You could sound a little more enthusiastic."
"I could." Sakura grinned jokingly.
"You're just overflowing with biting comments today, aren't you?"
Sakura shook her head, grinning. "Go check the mail, okay? That's something to do."
"Sure, sure, putting me to work." Cerberus muttered melodramatically, scooting the chair back.
Sakura threw a napkin at him.
"Slacker." She quipped, loudly enough for him to hear from the hall.
"Hey, make me a stuffed animal any day, as long as I don't have to get a job." Cerberus called back cheerfully, and shut the door behind him.
Sakura smiled amusedly, and then began cleaning up the kitchen.
Cerberus returned a few minutes later, letting the door slam behind him.
"Hey Sakura, you've got a visitor! And the mail isn't here yet..."
Sakura hastily finished wiping off the counter and tossed the rag in the sink, then headed out to the living room, curious.
"Yamazaki-kun!" Sakura greeted the young man cheerfully. "How are you?"
"I'm doing well, thank you. How's your summer vacation faring?" he asked politely, smiling as always.
"Well, I'm surviving it so far..." Sakura smiled genially. Behind Yamazaki, Cerberus stuck out his tongue at her.
"That's good. Chiharu wanted me to give this back to you." Yamazaki profered a small disc case.
"Oh, my CD! I had forgotten that I had leant it to her. Thank you, Yamazaki-kun!" Sitting down on the couch, Cerberus put his feet up on the table until Sakura sent him a look of death, to which he hastily put them on the floor.
"Oh, would you like a drink? Some banana bread?"
"No, I had better get back to Chiharu's house. She's trying to bake something, and I don't want her to blow the house up."
The front door opened and closed loudly. "Tadaima!" two male voices chorused.
"Okaeri!" she called back.
"Hey kaijuu, come help us with these!"
"I'm NOT a kaijuu, baka! And we have a guest!"
Touya rounded the corner, followed by Yukito, both laden down with grocery bags. Touya and Yukito both bowed slightly to Yamazaki.
Yamazaki bowed in return. "Hello, Kinomoto-san, Tsukishiro-san."
"Hey freeloader, why don't you help us with these." Touya addressed Cerberus crossly. Cerberus eyes lit up as he looked at one of the bags. "Is that cake?!"
"Yeah, and you're not getting any of it!"
"Why not?!" Cerberus whined, deflated.
"You ate our whole damn cake last night!"
"I was HUNGRY, dammit!"
"So that gives you an excuse to eat a whole cake?!"
Yamazaki, Sakura and Yukito looked on at the rapid-fire exchange--Yamazaki curiously, Yukito and Sakura tiredly. Sakura moved to take a few of Yukito's bags, for which he smiled at her gratefully.
"Thank you again, Yamazaki-kun." Sakura smiled at Yamazaki over the ruckus.
"Anytime, Sakura-san. Bye, everyone, have a good summer break!" he addressed the three men. Cerberus and Touya stopped fighting to acknowledge Yamazaki briefly. Yukito smiled in parting.
"And remember," Yamazaki smiled informally, "safe sex is good sex!"
Yamazaki escorted himself out of the house, Sakura and everyone else too frozen to think of being polite. The door shut behind him.
"WHAT the HELL?!" Cerberus burst out finally.
Sakura hung her head and carried the bags into the kitchen, Yukito following suit.
Cerberus sweated. "Wait...he was talking about me, wasn't he?"
"Oh, HELL NO! You two queers," Cerberus pointed two accusing fingers, one at Touya and one at Yukito, "are on your own! I'm not into that kind of ****!"
"Kero-chan..." a voice reprimanded weakly from the kitchen.
Touya sneered. "Right, and you're into stuffed-"
Touya's sentence was rudely cut off by when a flying pot connected with the side of his head. "AAAAAAAAAHHHH!! ONIICHAN, I DON'T WANT TO HEAR IT!!! VIRGIN EARS!!!"
Touya rubbed the side of his head heatedly and yelled towards the kitchen, "They damn well better be!"
"How can they be when you're around, Touya?" Cerberus retorted.
"Look who's talking!"
"And if she hadn't turned out the way she is now, I sure wouldn't have been surprised! All day, every day, you two making googly eyes at each other enough to make a person sick!"
"Oh for Christ's sake, shut up, Cerberus." Yukito said from the kitchen doorway.
"I'm not FINISHED, Yue!" Cerberus shot back, working himself into a melodramatic fit. "And God help us ALL when you two spontaneously make out!"
"MOOOUUUU!!! How the hell am I supposed to get anything done in this house?!?!" A loud crash and the oven door slamming shut followed Sakura. She stomped out of the kitchen past the two sheepish men and into the hall, grabbed her shoes and coat, and stomped out of the house. The door slammed behind her, and Cerberus and Touya glared at each other.
"This is your fault!" They accused the other simultaneously.
Yukito sighed. "Just forget it and come help with the groceries. She'll be back later."
Sakura slipped on her coat and shoes quickly and leaned against the gate surrounding her house, rubbing her arms for warmth. Living in the house with three men, two of which were as immovable as bricks, grated on her nerves to the point of snapping them at times. Was she right in the decisions she had made? Was making right now?
Sakura smiled slightly and let out a gust of breath. Even though they were constantly aggravating her and each other, she knew that they were happy. Touya was able to stay with Yukito and vice versa, Cerberus, Yue, and Yukito received something they hadn't had before--a family. And Yue and Yukito were able to be a truly whole person. She truly loved all of them.
She wondered...would he be proud of her now, as well?
It was around nine o'clock when he called. She was working on her science homework, trying to tell herself that she would get through her first year of high school, no matter what. It wasn't working. The phone had rung then, startling her. She was alone in the house--Oniichan was at work, and Otousan was at the University for a late-night lecture. When she was at home alone, she was supposed to let the answering machine pick up, but she truthfully welcomed any distraction the world had to offer at the moment.
She very nearly had a heart attack upon hearing his voice again. It had been half a year since he had left, had gone back home to Hong Kong for completion of his training almost immediately after they had graduated from middle school. He had something that he wanted to tell her then, but said that he couldn't. Not then. So she made him promise, that when he was done with his training, he would tell her. No matter what.
"....Aa. Are you well?"
"U-un... Are you?"
"Yes, I'm fine. I'm not supposed to be talking to anyone right now, because of training, but...I wanted to tell you something."
She gripped the receiver, her face twisting in curiosity. "Okay..."
"...When...I first came to Tokyo, it was to prevent disaster from happening. They had told me that I was to see if you were the rightful owner of the Clow. So, my mission was not only to prevent disaster, it was to evaluate you, as the Mistress of the Clow Cards.
"When I first met you, I thought for sure that you weren't the true owner. You had strong magic, but how could a ten-year-old girl, with no prior training or knowledge on how to control or capture the Cards, handle the responsibility of wielding the Cards?
"But as I watched you capture the cards and use them, I began to realize that you were the true Mistress. Even with the little information that you were supplied with, you were able to use and capture the cards remarkably well, and you showed compassion for the cards and the guardians that no mere girl would. When I reported this to my family, they changed my mission to teaching you. I was to teach you what knowledge I knew of the Clow, to support you and to test you, so that you would become a powerful Mistress.
"You learned quickly, faster than I could have ever been able to learn. You never once failed in any of the obstacles that you were presented with. I tested you, like that time at the cave when we were after the Erase Card; I tested you to see if you could come through with courage. I could have done much more than I did, I wanted to do more than I did, but I was your teacher, and I could only watch and provide you with knowledge to help you. But you always came through..."
Sakura bit her lip and loosened her grip on the receiver.
"I just wanted to say that I'm happy that I was able to be beside you. I truly did nothing, you achieved your power yourself."
"Are you crying?" She was. She didn't know why, but she was crying, even though she was happy, so incredibly happy that someone had truly believed in her the whole way through.
"Syaoran-kun... Thank you so much. I'm so happy," she said through her tears. "...but I didn't do it by myself. I could never have done it without you. You helped me so much, Syaoran-kun. You weren't just my teacher...you were my friend. You gave me courage, and you made me strong. I'm the one that should be happiest, because you were with me. I never could have done it without you."
She started crying in earnest then, happy tears, relieved tears, and sad tears because she missed him.
"Sakura..." he choked. "Don't cry. Don't cry, okay? Remember what I taught you? What you knew all along? Be strong. Don't forget your invincible phrase. It'll be okay, no matter what, right?"
"Un... But, I miss you."
There was a silence as Sakura wiped away her tears.
"...I miss you too, Sakura." He sounded almost awed as he said that. "But we'll see each other again, I promise. Okay? So don't cry."
"Un..." Sakura sniffed, and held back her tears. She would be strong, and she would make him proud.
"Syaoran-kun...was that what you wanted to tell me, back then?"
There was a pause. "No...well, partly, but no."
"You'll still tell me, right?"
There was a pause, and she could almost see him smiling, the same sad smile that she had seen grace his face before when he had left. "Of course. I'll come to see you, and I'll tell you. I promise."
"Okay. You better come soon, okay?"
He chuckled quietly. "I'll try my hardest."
"I'm glad." And she was. She knew that he would never break his promise. He never had.
"I have to go now, Sakura. I don't know if I'll be able to talk with you for a long time."
"It's okay. We'll both do our best, right? Until then."
"Right. Thank you, Sakura, for being my friend. I'm proud to have been your friend."
"You mean you're proud to be my friend."
"Thank you, Syaoran-kun. I'm so happy. Do your best, okay?"
She hung up the phone, her fingers lingering on the receiver. Smiling, she removed her hand and went upstairs to finish her homework.
"...No matter what, it'll be alright..." Sakura spoke quietly as she stared up at the bright sky, and she slowly smiled. "It'll be alright." She left the comfort of the wall and walked back into her house.
"Onii-chan, can I have more rice?"
"Yeah, yeah..." Touya stood up, taking Sakura and Cerberus's bowls to the kitchen.
Sakura grinned happily and took more fish, humming to herself. Yukito and Cerberus looked on, bemused.
Yukito shook himself out of it. "You certainly seem happy, Sakura-chan." Yukito grinned, watching her eat.
"Yeah!" Cerberus agreed wholeheartedly. "I thought that you'd be pissed off at us forever after all that!" he rubbed his head sheepishly, "I'm still sorry about all that...we shouldn't have been acting like that."
Sakura shook her head vehemently. "No, I'm not mad at all!" she paused, and looked down at her plate sheepishly. "I should be the one apologizing, after blowing up like that."
Yukito looked ready to speak, but was interrupted by Touya as he placed Sakura's newly filled rice bowl in front of her, then Cerberus's in front of him. "You don't need to apologize for anything, kai--Sakura." Touya quickly amended, grinning at Sakura's initially exasperated expression.
Sakura smiled up at him, then more widely at the three men together. "Ee, I'm happy as long as you are all happy!" Sakura paused and folded her hands in her lap, suddenly self-conscious. "You are happy, right?"
"You've done a lot for us Sakura. It's indescribable, being a whole person." Yukito smiled happily. "Every part of me--both Yue and Yukito--are happy to be together."
"And this 'weaker' form sure is better than my old one! I would never have been able to visit the arcade, or piss your older brother off as much as I do now if you weren't such a great Mistress, and if you hadn't cared as much as you do."
"And you're my little sister, and you've put up with a lot since you were little. You're still a kaijuu," Touya chuckled and raised his hands in surrender when Sakura picked up a fork threateningly, "but I'll always look out for you." Touya rubbed the back off his head awkwardly, and added, "...I wouldn't be as happy as I am now without you."
Sakura and Cerberus regarded him with shock, while Yukito just smiled fondly at him. Blushing, he coughed and glared at them.
"What're you looking at?!"
"Awww, that's so sweeeeet! You're so cute when you're all blushing and flustered!" Cerberus cooed infuriatingly. Yukito grinned and poked Touya playfully, bringing him even deeper discomfiture.
"Shut up, Kero-chan."
Laughter took over the table, and the meal was finished in lighter spirits. Even if this doesn't last, Sakura thought, I'm happy now, and that's something so many people won't ever experience. I really am lucky.
She wondered...would he be happy for her?
"Hey, Sakura!" Cerberus called from downstairs. "Sakura!" She heard a pause, then thunderous footsteps as he ran upstairs and into her room. "Hey, what are you doing?"
Standing in the middle of her room, Sakura regarded her school uniform dismally. She turned at Cerberus's entrance and grinned wryly. "...Mourning the loss of my winter break."
"Oh." Cerberus shrugged, obviously unconcerned.
Sakura looked at him questioningly for a moment, but he seemed oblivious as he stared out the window. "What?" she finally asked.
Cerberus snapped out of his trance. "What?"
Sakura blinked bemusedly. "You were calling for me earlier."
"Huh?" A look of utter confusion crossed his face for a moment, and then he looked down at his hand filled with envelopes. "Oh yeah. I got the mail."
She regarded him, bewildered. "You really should get a job, Kero-chan. Get out of the house more often, or something."
"What, now you're on my case too?! Jeez!" Cerberus lamented, stomping downstairs. Sakura shook her head, smiling faintly, and followed him.
Downstairs, Cerberus was sprawled on the couch, shuffling through the mail. "Junk...junk...Fujitaka-papa...bills...bills...I so totally have not won a million dollars...what the hell is this?!...junk...Saku..." Cerberus abruptly stopped in his inventory.
"For me?" Sakura questioned from behind him. Cerberus jumped, nearly falling off the couch.
"Kee-rist!" Cerberus grabbed his chest in alarm. "You almost gave me a heart attack!"
Sakura apologized sheepishly.
Cerberus looked at the envelope again, then up at Sakura. "Yeah... Yeah, it is for you..." he looked at the envelope again, as if to be sure, "...it's from the brat."
Sakura raised a questioning eyebrow, before realization suddenly washed over her face like a tidal wave.
"SYAORAN-KUN?!?!" she shrieked, grabbing the envelope and staring with wide eyes. A smile slowly spread across her face, and she turned to race upstairs.
A very confused Cerberus was left behind on the couch, staring at the place Sakura had been occupying seconds before.
Sakura nearly leapt into her room and shut the door behind her. Breathing hard, she regarded the envelope almost reverently before tearing it open and removing a small piece of stationary.
Sakura, I hope you're well. I've completed my training, and I'm free to leave Hong Kong.
I'll be in Tomoeda soon.
There was a long silence, then she picked up the phone and started dialing.
"Is Tomoyo-chan back yet?!"
"Um, no...this is Sakura, right? She should be back later on tonight..."
Sakura deflated slightly. "Oh, thank you..."
"Have a nice day, miss."
Sakura hung up the phone and heaved a sigh. She looked at the paper again, and a small grin slowly spread across her face. Filled to the brim with energy, she hopped up and down in rapid succession before tossing herself on her bed face down.
"But what's soon?" Sakura asked, the coverlet on her bed muffling her voice to near incomprehensibility.
She brought the paper to her face again and stared at the words. All of her questions she had been storing up, all these years...Sakura smiled, and buried her face in the coverlet again.
Her rival, her teacher, her friend, was coming back.
She didn't when she had fallen asleep, or how long she had been asleep. All she knew was that she had been woken up by a knock on the door. Sakura lifted her head from the bed and looked over her shoulder out the window blearily.
And that it was almost dark.
She let her head fall again. She had rolled over to lie on her side while sleeping, and the envelope and paper was now above her head. She smiled sleepily. How had she fallen asleep, anyway? She had felt hyper enough to knock the paint off the ceiling with her head.
Sakura was drowsing back to sleep when a sudden muffled exclamation sounded from far outside of her room, followed by the unmistakable voice of Cerberus yelling, "What the hell are YOU doing here?" She sighed and rolled over to lie on her back. Touya must have walked in on Cerberus in the bath again. There wasn't much chance of her going back to sleep now. She should get up anyhow... It was Cerberus's turn to cook dinner tonight, but knowing him, he probably hadn't started it. She listened to the quiet murmuring of two people talking downstairs. Was someone at the door?
She heard a pair of footsteps slowly heading up the stairs; it was probably Yukito--Touya and Cerberus certainly made more noise when walking upstairs.
Sakura was startled when the quiet footsteps came to a halt at her door, followed a soft knock. She sat up and hastily straightened her sweater and pants. "Yes?"
The door slowly opened, revealing a young man. His lean frame was rigid and nervous, and his black dress pants and un-tucked white shirt were rumpled, as if he had been sleeping in them recently. His tan face seemed tense, like he was clenching his jaw. Auburn bangs covered amber eyes, which were fixed on her.
"Sakura...?" he asked, eyes wide and hunted.
He smiled uncertainly. "...I'm back."
The words were barely out of his mouth when Sakura leapt from the bed and threw herself towards Syaoran, wrapping her arms around him in a fierce hug. Syaoran remained unresponsive at first, body rigid, but slowly relaxed and wrapped his arms around her waist.
"I can't believe it! I didn't think you would be here so soon!" she exclaimed into his soft hair. She squeezed her eyes shut and hugged him even tighter. She felt light-headed.
"I left a day after I sent the letter..." he mumbled, his breath tickling the back of her neck.
"Still...I'm so surprised..." Sakura reluctantly withdrew, but kept her hands on his shoulders. She giggled suddenly as she looked up into his face.
"What?" Syaoran asked, sounding almost amused.
"You're so tall!" she exclaimed, raising a hand to illustrate the difference between she and Syaoran.
He grinned down at her. "I've come a long way from being one of the shortest boys in eighth grade, huh?"
Sakura blushed, and looked down. "Yeah..."
Syaoran cleared his throat suddenly, and loosened his hold on her slightly. Sakura felt a little disappointed. "You've changed a lot as well..."
She grinned wryly. "Still undersized, with short hair..."
"I always liked your short hair better. And you're certainly not undersized..." He broke off, a suspicious hue on his cheeks.
"HEY, SAKURA!! Does the brat want to eat here tonight?!"
Sakura smiled with embarrassment at the scowling Syaoran. "Some things don't change, I guess..." she mumbled to him ruefully. "Would you like to stay for dinner? Please?" she added, looking up at him hopefully.
Syaoran stared at her pleading face, the hue on his cheeks growing darker. "If it's alright..."
"Of course!" she moved to yell around Syaoran. "YES! And his name's SYAORAN, KERO-CHAN!"
"OI! WHO'S KERO-CHAN?!?!"
Sakura grinned, self-satisfied, and moved to face Syaoran again, ready to apologize for her guardian.
Startled, she realized that their faces were much closer than they were before.
They stood like that, frozen for what seemed like forever, amber eyes locked onto crystal green. Flustered, Syaoran began to move away.
"S-sorry..." Syaoran looked away, cheeks mortifyingly warm.
He nearly jumped out of his skin when he felt a soft hand slowly guide his face back down to its original place.
And Sakura kissed him. She gently pressed her lips to his for an excruciatingly brief moment, and then moved back a few paces, face burning.
Syaoran could only gape down at her, his lips still tingling from the contact.
"I'm sorry..." she mumbled, looking ready to bolt at any given moment.
Syaoran continued to gaze down on her, the look of astonishment slowly fading to gentle surprise and appreciation.
"No, it's..." Syaoran stopped, and tried again, vying for control of his words. "You don't have to apologize for anything."
Syaoran moved to lessen the gap between them and placed a hand on her arm. "It's okay. It was actually..." Syaoran stumbled on his words, "..it was nice."
Sakura allowed herself a tiny grin through her embarrassment.
An awkward silence ensued, broken by a crash and a loud curse from the kitchen downstairs. Sakura giggled softly, and the mood lightened somewhat.
"That's right..." Syaoran started, a slightly awed look on his face as he looked at her. "How did you..." He gestured downstairs.
She grinned happily. "It's not a very long story, but I think it would be better if I told it to you with them."
Syaoran nodded, smiling at her gently.
Sakura suddenly perked up in curiosity. "Syaoran-kun...your promise..."
Syaoran looked away, flushing. "Well..."
Sakura gazed at him inquisitively.
"Um, I'll tell you after dinner."
Sakura scowled and bopped his arm playfully. "Mouuu! At this rate, I'll never hear it!"
Syaoran mumbled an apology.
"Pleeeeeeeease?" she implored, resorting to another puppy-dog-face.
"E-to, I was actually going to wait until we got more comfortable with each other...as friends." Syaoran added hastily.
"At least give me a hint or something!"
He paused, and regarded her thoughtfully. Slowly a smirk tugged at the corner of his mouth. "Well, you already beat me to part of it."
Sakura regarded him bemusedly, and then blushed as she realized the meaning of his statement. She struggled to repress the delighted smile that threatened to overtake her face.
"And what was that?" she questioned innocently.
Syaoran looked startled, then embarrassed. "Um...it was..." he looked down at her then, and saw the playfulness in her eyes. Syaoran looked at her in surprise, then a wicked smirk curved his lips. "Trying to mortify me even more?"
Sakura bit her lip, then burst into a fit of giggles. She then shot out of her room and fairly pranced downstairs. "Nee, Syaoran, let's help Kero-chan with dinner!"
Syaoran smiled faintly and moved to follow her, but abruptly stopped.
He felt heat rushing up to his cheeks, but smiled it away. Lingering in her room, he looked out the window. He had left Hong Kong for something that he wasn't sure was true anymore, leaving the security of his home. Despite everything, it turned out more than all right. Smiling, he left the comfort of her room and went downstairs to help with dinner.