Notes and Disclaimers: The characters in the following story are the sole property of CLAMP and all their various agents and distributors., not mine. I throw myself on the mercy of the mangaka, should my story be discovered by anyone of importance or influence.
This is dedicated, as are so many of my stories, to the love of my life, who makes me laugh harder than anyone else on the planet.
If you enjoy this story, please let me know at email@example.com, because positive feedback is part of the enjoyment of writing.
The Nature of Clow
It was a cozy family scene, Sakura thought to herself as she entered the living room with the tray of coffee. Seven humans, all smiling and laughing at one another’s stories. Well, six, she amended, as she placed the tray down – Nakuru wasn’t really human, was she?
Sakura began to pour cups of coffee while Tomoyo stood and helped her distribute them. Eriol thanked Tomoyo gently, and they shared a smile. Sakura watched the two of them and wondered what their children would have looked like, had they become a couple. She had never met two more beautiful people. She smiled at the thought. Not that that would be happening anytime soon. Tomoyo seemed more than happy with Mei-Lin, and Eriol and Kaho were as close as, well, as she and Syaoran.
“Where are your brother and Tsukishiro-san?” Kaho inquired, looking around as if they might materialize any second.
“My brother,” Sakura sat herself next to Syaoran and picked up her coffee, “is working tonight.” They all laughed at that.
“But what about Yukito-san?” Syaoran asked.
“Yukito-san is the one he’s working with. Ever since Yukito-san got that job as a photographer,” Sakura nodded at Tomoyo, “Oniichan has been modeling for him.”
There was no laughter at this statement, just a few nods and grins. They all knew Touya well enough, knew how he felt about Yukito – and about his career as an up-and-coming model.
“That’s a shame,” Nakuru said, as she smoothed her dress over slim legs. “I was looking forward to seeing Touya-kun…and Yue, of course.”
“We don’t see much of Yue these days,” Syaoran shrugged. “He seems content to remain Yukito-san.” He glanced around himself, then, as if struck by a thought. “Um, I hate to seem like a worrier, but where are Kero-chan and Suppi?”
Each individual came to an abrupt halt as the total lack of argumentative noise struck them. Eyes wide, they all began to look around.
“I don’t know…” Sakura nearly whispered, “but I’m not sure we should ask.”
As if they all had reached an unspoken consensus to do nothing, the moment passed and they returned to their conversation.
“Eriol-san,” Mei-Lin began, somewhat hesitantly, “I have a question I ‘ve wanted to ask you ever since we met.” She looked around, blushing very slightly. Meeting Tomoyo’s eyes, she received a smile and slight nod of encouragement.
Eriol put his cup on the table and folded his hands in his lap expectantly.
“Do you know,” Mei-Lin asked, “what kind of a person Clow Reed actually was? I mean, we know a little about him, from family stories….” She turned to Syaoran and smiled, “We’ve always imagined what he was like, the great magician that created the Clow Cards, and we have his portrait hanging in the hall. But I’ve always wondered what he was like as a person.”
Syaoran nodded energetically. “My sisters used to make up stories about him, when I was little. He’d be the powerful and dashing magician, etc, etc, and they’d need to be rescued.” He laughed. “It made sense at the time.”
Eriol smiled at them, but shook his head. “I’m sorry to disappoint you. I know next to nothing about the man, despite having been him. Much of what I know comes from your family records, Mei-Lin-san.” They looked at him in some surprise, and he shrugged apologetically. “I mean, I certainly have some of his memories, but I never *was* him, if you understand my meaning.”
“You mean,” asked Tomoyo carefully, “that you remember what he did, when, but not why or how?”
Eriol nodded emphatically. “That’s it exactly.”
“I can’t imagine him being a mean person, can you?” Sakura asked the room in general. “Anyone who would create The Glow…must have been a beautiful person.”
Syaoran smiled at his girlfriend’s naiveté. “He also made The Shot, don’t forget – and Illusion and Mirror weren’t that benign, either.”
“But that was because they were confused!” Sakura protested. “They’re not bad cards!”
They all laughed at the girl’s insistence. “They’re not bad, they were just made that way?” Tomoyo asked.
Sakura made a face at her. “Well, I think he must have been a wonderful, kind man.”
Kaho agreed. “Look at the man he picked to be reborn in, and the woman who became his successor – these are not the choices of a selfish man.”
“That’s true,” Mei-Lin said. “Sakura is a kind person, too, that’s probably why he chose you as his replacement.”
Sakura felt her cheeks get warm. “I’m sure that’s not it,” she said.
Just then a bump, then a scream, came from the floor above them. They could hear the sounds of the two winged creatures in a heated argument. Nakuru stood and smiled, “I’ll go see what’s up.” She leaned down and picked up two slices of cake. “This will help.” She left the room, and the conversation drifted on.
The evening passed, as good ones do, all too quickly. Tomoyo and Mei-Lin left first, pleading an early engagement. Just as Nakuru made ready to go, Yukito and Touya arrived home, and she was gratified to have a chance to tease both Touya, and in a private meeting a few moments later, Yue. Yukito and Touya retired to their room and Eriol and Kaho took that as their signal to leave.
Sakura brought dishes into the kitchen while Syaoran washed them. Taking up a towel, Sakura began drying and putting the dishes away.
“Did you ever wonder what Clow Reed was like, when you were young?” Sakura asked the young man.
“Sure.” His tall form was hunched over the sink, as he scrubbed a recalcitrant plate. “Of course – I was supposed to be his successor – he was the ideal I lived up to.”
Sakura put the plate down, and laid a hand gently on Syaoran’s shoulder. “Do you ever regret not being the Card Captor?”
He looked up, surprised, then his face softened as he gazed down into her eyes. “Not for one moment.” She smiled up at him, then began to dry once again.
They finished the dishes, put them away and went back out to sit in the living room. The hour was late, but they had nowhere to be, no reason to part. Sakura sat next to Syaoran and leaned her head against his shoulder. He smiled down at her and took her hand in his. For a few minutes, the only sound they could hear was the clock on the mantle and the noise of their breathing.
“We could find out.” Sakura’s voice was soft, but it startled Syaoran.
“What?” he said sharply, a little confused.
“I was thinking about what we were talking about – about Clow Reed – and it just occurred to me, that we – you and me – we could find out what he was like.” Sakura sat up and watched Syaoran process this.
“How?” he asked.
Smiling slightly, she reached into her pocket and pulled out a deck of cards. Fanning them out expertly, she pushed one a little forward. Syaoran, not taking his eyes off Sakura, drew the proffered card. Turning it over, he looked down at it, his eyes widening in comprehension.
“I hadn’t considered that.” He held the card up and gave her a mischievous grin. “Well? Do you want to?”
Sakura matched her grin to his. “Let’s do it!” They laughed at each other. Sakura pulled out her wand and released it from its key form. Giving the wand a few desultory spins, she called upon the card that now floated in front of her. “Return!” she invoked the card.
The scene changed abruptly. Instead of the well-lit living room, they now sat, or more precisely, floated, in a dark, candle-lit interior room. Small knick-knacks and obviously magical items mingled with the dust. Many documents and books were spread about on every conceivable surface. There was no doubt that this was the great man’s study. Sakura glanced at Syaoran, only to see him trying to make out the titles of the books on the shelf nearest him. With a shrug he turned back to Sakura.
In the gloom, they could barely make out a shape on the floor. Legs folded into its own lap, only the pale face was distinguishable. As her eyes grew accustomed to the dark, Sakura was able to see the glimmer of a single candle reflected in glass lenses, and the long dark hair pulled back from the lean face. Syaoran leaned forward, peering at the figure, but Sakura pulled him back, trying not to touch anything as they floated above the magician’s head.
As they watched, the figure on the floor began to glow. Or at least, a glow began to form about the figure. At first a white ghostly presence coalesced from the corners of the rooms, a drifting fog that began to burn with a lavender glow. Syaoran and Sakura found themselves entranced. The magician’s face, already beautiful, took on an unearthly mien, as if he were an angel. Sakura recognized Yue in the magician and she realized how much the creature looked like his creator. Completely entranced, the two visitors from another time saw the lavender fire deepen in hue and intensity, until the meditating figure was surrounded with violet flames, a living aura that threatened to suck the very air from the room. Sakura could feel her body tingle, as the aura drew all the magic from its surroundings. She glanced at Syaoran and could see that he felt it too.
Abruptly, it ended. The flames disappeared with a noise like a gasp and Sakura and Syaoran would have fallen over had they been standing, so sudden was the magic’s departure. As abruptly as the magic disappeared, the figure on the floor bounced to its feet. Even in this small place, he was a figure of both authority and great power.
“To me!” Clow Reed cried, one arm raised above his head. “To me, Kerberos! Yue!”
And they were there. In that tiny room, already crowded with texts and magical paraphernalia and two invisible magical visitors, there now stood the ethereal Yue, whose light shone in this murky room like moonlight on snow. And, trying very hard to not knock anything over, sat Kerberos, his wings furled tightly against his flanks, looking uncomfortable. Sakura put her hand over her mouth to keep herself from laughing.
“I have it!” Clow Reed pronounced. “A new card!” He began to pace back and forth in the space that was left to him. “Float – that’s it, we need a “Float” card…” he began to cackle as he paced, his mutterings continuing along the lines of the benefit a Float card would bestow upon the universe… Yue watched dispassionately, while Kerberos rolled his eyes at the great one.
“Yes, a Float card!” Clow continued to mutter. “Think of the fun it would be! We could float with the clouds, so nice…” his voice became singsong as he continued his float fantasy. He stopped, looked at his audience and shrugged, “Well, you two can fly, but I can’t, so it would be fun for me…”
“You can fly,” Yue said, his lovely voice all but entirely free from sarcasm, “you made the Fly card.”
Kerberos rumbled in agreement. “And Jump.”
Clow looked back and forth at his creations, then resumed pacing. “This is entirely different!” he insisted. “You just don’t understand.” He returned to his muttered and chortled comments. After a moment or two Yue caught Kerberos’ eye and the two creatures simply disappeared, leaving only Sakura and Syaoran as witness to Clow’s insane ramblings.
A few more minutes passed and Sakura reached out to take Syaoran’s hand. They should be getting home, they nodded to each other. Sakura closed her eyes in preparation to have the Return card bring them home, when a voice stopped her mid-thought.
“Thank you for coming by, Sakura-san. I’m glad to see that the cards are in such good hands.”
Sakura’s eyes popped open to find Clow Reed standing just outside arm’s reach. With an elaborate bow, he turned to Syaoran and smiled. “And I’m glad to see that my descendants will be such worthy magicians.” With a wink, Clow Reed swept out of the room, leaving the two figures in mid-air, both figuratively and literally.
Sakura stared after the magician for a moment and shook her head to clear it. Calling the Return card once again, the two found themselves back in her living room.
Staring blankly into space for a while, neither wanted to speak. Finally Sakura ventured a thought. “Should we tell Mei-Lin?”
Syaoran thought about it for a moment, then shook his head solemnly. “I don’t think so – let her continue to think of him as the magnificent magician. No need to let her know her was a…” His voice petered out.
“A fruitcake?” Sakura suggested with a grin.
Syaoran laughed. “Exactly.”
And with that, Syaoran gave Sakura a goodnight kiss and took his leave. Sakura waved to him until as he walked don the street, until he wasn’t visible anymore then, yawning, took herself upstairs to the bedroom. Kero-chan was on the bed sleeping and she changed into her pajamas without waking him.
She sat on the bed, and gave the Seal Beast a little push until his eyes opened.
“Mmmm?” he asked sleepily.
“Kero-chan, what was Clow Reed actually like?”
“Oh!” The Seal Beast sat up, completely awake now. “He was a great man, a powerful magician….”
“Nonono,” Sakura interrupted. “I mean, what was he like as a person?”
“Oh, that.” Kero-chan nodded, then yawned and stretched. “He was a complete nutjob.”
Sakura nodded and thanked the creature, and laid down to sleep.