Red Lily

Just Once (Part 03)

Written By | Series: Cardcaptor Sakura | Part of

Chapter 3

Morning comes too early and nighttime falls too late
And sometimes all I want to do is wait
The shadow I’ve been hiding in has fled from me today


“Surrounded” by Dream Theater, from Images and Words


 

“So you…and she…” Touya was actually blushing.

“Well, it’s not like I was a virgin,” she said a little sulkily, and then, instantly realizing her mistake, she clapped a hand over her mouth.

“What?” His face turned even redder, this time with anger.

“Touya,” said Yukito sharply. Touya was brought to an abrupt halt by the tone in his voice. Yukito picked up the glass Sakura had been drinking from and held it out to him. “I think you should bring Sakura some more warm milk. But, To-ya,” he gave his beloved a significant look, “Make sure that the milk has cooled down enough before you bring it in. I know you wouldn’t want to hurt Sakura, especially right now. Right?”

Touya took the glass silently, and Yukito gave him a small nod and an almost imperceptible smile.

When he was gone, Yukito sat down next to Sakura, who was staring obliviously ahead of her and had clearly missed their little interchange entirely. He put an arm around her. “And then what happened?” he asked, his voice as gentle now as it had been sharp a moment ago.


 

Sakura awoke, blinking sleepily. Someone had said her name…

“Aright, Kero-chan…just a few more minutes…” she mumbled.

“Sakura-chan.”

Through her foggy, sleep-filled brain the whisper came again. Gradually Sakura became aware of a warm body pressed against hers (much too large to be Kero-chan), an unfamiliar room…

Her eyes snapped open as she suddenly remembered where she was…and who she was with.

And what they had done. She blushed a little, but smiled, remembering.

Gradually the smile faded and a slight frown creased her brow as she considered what had happened…and, more importantly, how it had happened.

“Girlish experimentation?” she whispered to the dark stillness. That was what it had been. Just trying something with a best friend, safe…Tomoyo had just wanted to…practice, she was sure.

An image of Tomoyo’s pleading face floated in front of her mind’s eye for a moment. It didn’t fit…

For a moment, the carefully constructed tower of logic and explanations trembled, threatened to collapse.

No. No, surely not. Surely Tomoyo-chan had someone special that she loved, that she had been thinking of, but that she was too shy to confess to…to even tell her best friend about…

Sakura shook her head. This was getting her nowhere. It had only been an experiment, she told herself firmly.

No more than that.

She almost believed it, brushing the objections and the little pieces that didn’t fit aside. It made sense. It did.

Tomoyo sighed in her sleep, and Sakura turned to look at her.

The moonlight reflected off of her gentle features, tracing the curves of her face, the face that Sakura felt she knew by heart. But her eyelashes and hair were lightly silvered, giving her an odd, beautiful look, as though she was someone Sakura didn’t even know…alien.

Tomoyo sighed again, and a small sound escaped her lips. Sakura started a little when she saw a tear trickle from one closed eye, slipping across her face and into the pillow beneath her head.

Tomoyo was crying in her sleep.

Was she having a nightmare?

Sakura reached out to comfort her friend, to bring her back to the land of the waking and away from whatever demons haunted her nights. But then Tomoyo-chan spoke, a whispering sigh, and Sakura’s hand stilled.

“Sakura-chan…”

She was dreaming about her? What was she dreaming? Well, considering what had happened that night, perhaps it was natural, but…why was she crying?

“Sakura-chan…Koi shiteru, Sakura-chan…”

Now Sakura’s whole body stilled. Nobody had ever said that to her. Not even Syaoran. He’d said he loved her, of course, but this…this was different. Syaoran was a boy, and easily embarrassed, he wasn’t likely to say “koi shiteru.”

Sakura’s carefully cultivated image of their friendship shattered into a million pieces. It was like staring at something for a long time, thinking that you understood what you were looking at…and then suddenly realizing one day that you’d been looking at it upside down the whole time. A thousand tiny parts fell into place, creating a cohesive whole. There were no more little niggling questions, no more loose ends, nothing which didn’t fit into the pattern anymore.

Koi shiteru…

Sakura lay silently, staring at her friend for a long time. Then, very, very quietly, she slipped out from under the sheet. She grabbed her clothing and threw it on in the darkness, not caring if it was inside out. And she crept out the door, out of the house, and fled into the night…

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When Tomoyo awoke, the cold, grey light of dawn was already trickling into the room. She blinked, half-awake, smiling a little as she remembered the dream she’d had the night before. Gradually she slipped into full consciousness, but the dream didn’t fade, instead, it only seemed to become clearer.

Suddenly Tomoyo sat straight up.

The covers were in disarray, Sakura’s scent hung faintly in the air. She looked around the room, unable to quite believe the truth…until her eyes fell on one of Sakura’s socks, crumpled and forgotten, lying on the floor.

Left behind…

Alone.

“Not a dream,” she whispered. “It wasn’t a dream.” She shuddered, as a sudden iciness slithered through her veins. “She left. She left.” Tomoyo wrapped her arms around herself, hugging herself against the sudden chill. A single word, a single question played over and over again in her head.

“Why?”

Where had she miscalculated? She knew Sakura, knew her better than Sakura knew herself! Last night…Tomoyo went over every detail in her mind, unable to fathom what could possibly have caused Sakura to flee so abruptly. She went over every possible reaction she could envision. Tomoyo could see her being upset, even feeling guilty, but she would never have run away from that, she would have woken Tomoyo…or waited until she had awoken…and talked to her about it. And Tomoyo would have been soothing and convincing and Sakura would have gone away comfortable and happy and secure…and ready to marry Li-kun the following day.

Li-kun…was it possible that…?

With a shaking hand, Tomoyo picked up the telephone off her bedside table and dialed a familiar number.

“Hello?” said a sleepy voice after the third ring.

Tomoyo had to swallow twice before she could speak. “Hello, Li-kun,” she said, striving to sound normal.

“Tomoyo-chan?”

“Yes. Li-kun…” she paused, but there was no subtle way to ask this. “Is…is Sakura over there?”

“Over here?” Suddenly he sounded far more awake. “No! I thought she was over there! Wasn’t she supposed to stay over after her bridal shower last night?”

Tomoyo closed her eyes, suddenly numb. “She was…she did. It’s just…she left kind of early, and I was just a little worried…”

“She left early? And without telling you? That doesn’t sound like Sakura at all!” Now Li-kun sounded truly alarmed, and Tomoyo felt a sharp pang of guilt drive through her. She tried to think of something convincing to say that would soothe his worry; but her brain refused to work properly and nothing came.

“I know. I’m sure she’s all right…she probably just forgot something…” The excuse sounded lame in her ears, and she could almost feel Li-kun shaking his head on the other end of the line.

“No, she would have woken you up and told you, or at least left you a note…”

A note! That was it! She would tell him that he was right, that Sakura had left her a note but that it had fallen on the floor and she’d missed it! He would understand, it was early, and things had been so crazy…she opened her mouth to tell him…

…and couldn’t. She found she couldn’t lie to him, no matter how much she wanted to.

Before she could say anything else, he spoke again. “Have you tried her father’s house? Or…her brother’s place?”

“No…no,” she responded automatically. “You were the first person I tried.”

“All right. I’ll call her father’s house if you’ll call Touya, deal?” In spite of everything, Tomoyo almost smiled. She understood *exactly* why Li-kun didn’t want to be the one to call Touya’s house.

“All right,” she said.

“You’ll call me back and let me know if she’s there, right Tomoyo-chan?”

“Of course!”

She hung up the phone with a sigh and a frown. Now she was bringing more people into this, when that was the last thing she wanted to do. She’d been so sure that Sakura had gone to Li-kun’s…where else could she have possibly gone? And…her mind flew back to the same question that had been bothering her since she had awoken to an empty room…an empty bed…

Why had Sakura fled?

With a sharp shake of her head, she picked up the phone again.

Chapter 4