Author's Notes: Long chapter. Since this is the chapter before Eriol steps in, I wanted to really emphasise the fact that Yue canít move on because he canít let go of his memory of Clow. Touya and Yukito fighting. Touyaís getting very, very frustrated, and I donít blame him. I donít know why a lot of people think Yue is a cold-hearted bastard. The poor thing has very good reasons for being the way he is. Heís just a little dense in a few things, thatís all.


Shadows of the Moon

Chapter Twelve

By Leareth

       

He stayed with me all night. Yukito slept deeply, peacefully, knowing that Touya was nearby. His peace affected me as well - or maybe it was mine in the first place.

The last - the only time I've felt this way . . .

Do I . . . love Touya?

I'm not sure.

Yukito loves his friend, that is unquestionable. Although he does not know what he feels, he does know that he is most happy when with Touya. But what do I, Yue the Moon Guardian, feel?

I loved - love Clow. And yet I want to . . . care for Touya. But if I do, then it feels as if . . . as if I . . .

As if I am betraying Clow's memory.

No, I can't love To-ya. It is Yukito's feelings, not mine.

And yet . . . Yukito is me, is he not?

       

With a yawn, Yukito put the house keys into his pocket. He checked his watch - he was already late to meet Touya at the corner.

For a moment Yukito weighed the attraction of bed to attending school. Bed was, at this point in time, most appealing.

Why don't you? a part of Yukito said. No one would blame you.

Almost as soon as the thought had crossed his mind, Yukito shook his head. No. If I don't go, then people would worry. To-ya would worry. I don't want that.

To-ya . . .

He considered that for a moment, then picked up his school-bag with renewed determination.

       

Yukito's desire to be with his friend, his will to live, is perhaps the strongest thing that is keeping me here.

How long until I falter I do not know.

       

Absently the silver-haired boy unwrapped a cold pork bun from its plastic wrapper and began to eat it slowly. It did little to appease his continuous hunger. There was a growing emptiness somewhere inside of him that no nourishment was able to fill.

He had never been aware of it before. Not until that day . . .

Yukito had no idea what had happened to him. It seemed that he had simply fainted on the spot, but why had he done that? He didn't understand at all.

And this fainting incident was different to other times. Because what he saw when he was unconscious . . .

Moonlit water, smooth as a mirror, except his reflection was . . .

no . . . don't think about it

With another yawn, Yukito rubbed his eyes into some painful semblance of wakefulness and forced himself to navigate the mockingly simple path between the steps and gate. He had gotten no further than a meter or two when he had to stop, put his bag down and lean against a nearby tree to catch his breath.

He'd never make it to the corner at this rate.

"Yuki."

That voice could bring him out of the deepest sleep. Yukito glanced up.

Touya was standing at the gate.

       

He came. To-ya came, while he will never come for me again.

       

Within no time Yukito was seated on the pillion seat of Touya's bike, holding tightly onto his friend's waist as the other boy carefully rode to school.

"Thank you," said Yukito softly.

"What for?" asked Touya, turning a corner.

Yukito's slim hands gripped Touya's pale blue blazer more tightly, not for safety but something else. "For coming to my house to pick me up."

Being as positioned as he was, Yukito could feel his friend smile slightly. "It wasn't any trouble."

       

Thank you.

I've never said those words before.

Only with him . . .

       

"Sakura says 'thank you very much' for the present, by the way," said Touya as Seijou High came into view above the trees.

"Hmm?" Yukito looked blank for a second, then smiled. Oh yes, that cute little watch he had bought for Sakura. He had wanted to give it to her personally, but since he had felt to tired, and then he had blacked out . . . in the end he gave it to Touya to pass on to his sister. "Oh. I'm glad she liked it."

       

I'm sorry, Sakura. Sorry that I will inevitably hurt you, sorry that I can't be your Guardian anymore.

You're not Clow. You can never replace him.

But you will be alright, I'm sure. You'll do fine without me.

       

"TOUYA-KUUUUUUUN!!!"

The moment they entered the school main corridor, Yukito was rudely shoved to the side as Akizuki, all flaring skirt and sweeping hair, leapt seemingly out of the wall to glomp Touya around the neck. She swung around, nearly slamming Yukito into a group of passing girls.

"The bell's going to go anytime now!" the girl babbled. "Hurry up, Touya-kun, cause we have to do partner work in Chemistry today and I want to be with you!"

Touya gritted his teeth as he tried to juggle school books, sports bag and girl without dropping anything. In such a confined space, there was little Yukito could do except watch helplessly.

And besides, he was really too tired to do anything.

"Hurry, hurry!" squealed Akizuki. "Everyone has to pair up and put their names on the board!"

With visible effort, Touya was obviously doing his best not to take drastic action. His human leech, however, relentlessly refused to let go.

       

Go away. Now. Leave us alone. I do not want you near us.

I'm tired of this.

       

Something flickered inside of Yukito as he watched Touya trying to shake Akizuki off as politely as possible. His eyes hardened slightly, their colour cooler than what was usual.

He stepped forward and reached one slim hand out to pull Akizuki away.

At that precise moment, the bell rang.

"There!" said Akizuki, as students milled around the three of them getting to their classes. "What did I tell you? Now come, come!" And without a single glance at Yukito, she hauled Touya off by his arm into the classroom.

Yukito stared after them, trying to figure out what had just happened. Then he realized that he was going to be late, and hurried to his desk.

       

Perhaps it is a fortunate thing that the bell rang, not just for Akizuki, but for me as well. I don't have the energy or patience to deal with this person calmly anymore.

Anger. Not just at her, but at myself as well. Anger for not having the courage to follow through, anger for losing control.

       

The day did not get much better after that. Actually, it got worse.

Akizuki accosted Touya for the first period, a chemistry experiment. Yukito was left with some nameless student he knew practically nothing about who tried in vain to interest him in the exercise. Yukito was not interested in chemistry. His eyes, for practically the whole session, remained on the couple on the other side of the room.

It remained much the same for English, Japanese, Math and Economics and every other class. No matter what he tried, Akizuki monopolised Touya. If Yukito tried to speak to him, Akizuki interrupted. If Yukito tried to walk with him, Akizuki came along. If Yukito tried to have any interaction with his friend, Akizuki insinuated herself into the situation.

And Yukito didn't do anything to stop her.

       

Yukito is too passive when it comes to taking action on his feelings. I am too passive. I wait for others to make the first move when it comes to matters of the heart.

Because really, I'm scared.

I couldn't tell Clow that I loved him. Not even when he died.

I can't do anything about what I - what Yukito feels for Touya either.

And still, I'm so tired . . .

       

"I am so glad to get away from her!" stated Touya emphatically as he and Yukito made their way home. Akizuki had had after school duty, and so couldn't follow them. Still, Touya wasn't one to take chances, and so he was walking quickly down the path. Behind him, Yukito proceeded at a much slower pace, eyes downcast and focused simply on the task of putting one foot in front of the other without falling over. Although he had eaten plenty at lunch, he still felt tired and drained.

Seeing Akizuki attached to Touya like a second shadow the whole day hadn't helped either.

Just why did that hurt him so much?

Some meters in front of him, Touya glumly kicked a stray soda can into a bin. "I don't want to yell at her, and I can't hit her or anything but really, can't she take a hint?" Even though the girl was not physically present, she was still getting on Touya's nerves. Yukito would've laugh if he had the strength to. Which he didn't.

At least he was alone with Touya now. Finally. But he didn't have the energy to do anything with this opportunity apart from walk.

Keep walking, keep moving . . . he slowed and the path swayed before his eyes.

again?

Touya noticed his friend lagging. "Yuki?" he asked worriedly.

Yukito heard him as if from a great distance. He tried to smile, to tell Touya that he was alright. There was something he wanted to say to his friend, something he absolutely had to say before . . . before he . . .

is it time?

He looked up, wavering as if the mere act of looking took all the strength of will he possessed in his slender body.

what am I trying to say?

"T . . . To-ya . . ."

Touya must have realized what was about to happen. "Yuki!" he shouted, alarmed.

Yukito's legs gave out finally. The last thing he saw before the world went black was Touya darting towards him, arms stretched out.

too late . . .

And then he fell. But he never hit the ground.

       

Moon-on-water. It is a half-moon this time, one semi-circle of pale white light, another of starless dark. Two halves of the same thing. Like me and me.

For I - he is here again. Smiling like always, knowing and accepting that which he feels. Unafraid. So different from myself and my reflection. I look across at him, amethyst eyes to hazel, hazel eyes to amethyst. Why is he smiling? I know Yukito is afraid, knowing his is dying but not knowing when or why. Slowly, I look into the water below my feet. Yukito stares up at me, his frightened expression a mirror of mine. Isn't that how I should look like?

"Why can't you smile?"

I jerk my head up, long white hair and wings shivering with the movement. I glare at my false form - he stands with an image of me in the water at his feet. "Because I have no reason too," I reply sharply. "Why should I? Akizuki is trying to take Touya away, I don't know what to do about Sakura, I am fading and the only way that I can live is by hurting To-ya and . . ." I trail off. The last and most important reason why there is no reason to smile . . .

My other self's smile slips slightly. "And?"

I look away, down. "And I want Master Clow to be alive and with me again."

There is no answer from my other self. The silence hurts, so I speak. I want to speak.

"When Clow was alive, I didn't have to worry like this. With Clow, I knew I would be safe. I had no uncertainties. He supported me, gave me life, was always there . . ." There's something wrong with me. Why do my eyes hurt? " . . . I thought he would always be with me, that nothing would change. Yet he died, and made me choose another Master. Made me choose, when he knew that I wanted no one else but him!"

I'm shouting now. I never shout. I never lose control like this. Yet here I am, head bowed, hands clenched, as if I am some human ruled by my emotions. I am not human. I am supposed to have complete control over myself. I am the Judge of the Clow Cards, to choose the Cards' next master.

But . . . "Even then, it wasn't a choice . . . he had already chosen for me . . ."

I can't speak anymore. It's been so long since I have been able to talk like this. And there are some things that hurt to say, even to myself.

Didn't he want me?

I will not cry. I will not cry.

Silence. Then,

"Why don't you forget?" asks my other self.

I angrily blink my eyes. It hurts. "I want to forget! I wanted to sleep forever in the book and forget the pain of losing him." Learn to fly, Yue. I want you to live . . . I glance opposite me. Why is my other self still smiling?! "But Clow told me to live. I did. I was happy being you, dreaming your life. I didn't have to think about the Cards, or my duty, or Kerberos or Master Clow. Yet she woke me, and now I can't forget . . ."

My voice is breaking. Is this the first time I have let myself loose like this? Years and years of bitterness, held back for so long.

"Do you hate Sakura for waking you?"

The question throws me. Do I hate my child-Master . . . I think back to all those times Sakura has smiled at me - Yukito, favored him with presents and other kindnesses . . . I feel an unfamiliar warmth. "She is not Clow," I say. I'm avoiding the question, and I know it.

A still pause.

"How long has it been since Clow died?"

I turn away. "Too many years."

The other's smile turns sad. "Such a long time . . . when will you let him go?"

Let him - "I can't do that!"

"You are being unfair," my other self says mercilessly. "Unfair to yourself, not allowing yourself to live because of Clow's memory, and unfair to others, holding yourself back from them."

"I loved him!"

"Clow is dead."

How can I say that so calmly?! Yukito never loses his temper. I do. I'm always impatient, while Yukito is almost saintly in his tolerance. I want to strike the inhumanly placid face in front of me. I would, but it accomplishes nothing. Besides, I'd just be hitting myself.

"What gratification do you gain from holding onto a memory so tightly it strangles you?" asks the other Yukito/Yue. "Because you won't let go, you cannot fully accept Sakura, who wants to be friend, not master. Clow was always held himself aloof. Will you alienate Sakura because of him?"

I don't want to hear this. I want to close my ears, sink into the water, fly away, anything than listen.

But I can't run from myself.

"And what about Touya?"

I freeze. No, not this subject . . .

"Do you love him?"

I hate looking away. Me, the greatest of Clow's creations, too scared to make eye contact with myself. "Yukito loves him. I don't. I love Master Clow."

A sigh. "You cannot accept that you care for Sakura and Touya, can you. You deny yourself another chance at happiness because you can't move on."

"It is Yukito who cares for them. These feelings are yours not mine." I've said this fact so many times now, I say it automatically. I stare into the mirror-like water beneath my feet. I can imagine myself sinking into it, drowning in its cold dark depths. I am sinking. "Why should I do anything anyway? I - we are dying."

What can my other self say to answer that?

Nothing.

I look away. Moon-on-water, moon-in-water. I remember this place, this memory. I remember Clow taking me here in the dead of night, when the moon was at its highest. He told me that when he had seen this sight years ago, he had loved it so much he wanted to keep the moon with him. He touched me and told me I was beautiful. I knew no greater joy than that.

And yet . . . last night, when To-ya held me close . . .

I sense something. I look up quickly. My other self is smiling.

I can't hide anything from myself. So I run away. Again.

       

Again, something. Something that flew away before he could see it clearly. Disappearing in a flicker of silver-white light between his fingers, before he could understand.

Moon-on-water, moon-in-water . . .

       

Sleep, Yukito. Sleep and forget.

Sleep and die.

Why won't you die?

Why won't I let myself die?

       

The first thing Yukito noticed this time was the light, a soft warm glow he could sense through his eyelids. He was warm all over, actually, a profound change since his dream was so cold . . .

don't think about it

. . . but wait a minute, there was someone else in the room.

A shadow, seated between him and the light, hunched over as if in deep thought.

Yukito didn't have his glasses on. He squinted to see who it was.

Something about that figure . . .

       

Sunlight, warm on the window sill. He had been reading here, staring out the window more than once at the spring day outside, enjoying the leaves dancing in the window, the sound of the birds in the English countryside, the sweet scent of flowers . . .

. . . he had fallen asleep, only to wake at the weight of a familiar hand on his head.

He blinked sleepy amethyst eyes up at the one who had woken him. And smiled when he saw who it was.

"Master Clow . . ."

Clow smiled also.

"Yue."

       

"Yuki . . ."

Yukito squinted harder. Touya . . . he reached out weakly to his left, searching for his glasses. He always left them on his bedside table - there wasn't a bedside table there. Which meant he wasn't in his own bed.

"Here."

Cool hands slipped something onto his face and the world zoomed into focus again. The first image Yukito clearly saw was his best friend, leaning over him with an expression of intense worry on his handsome face.

Touya always looked at him like that nowadays. Yukito felt extremely guilty. He rubbed his eyes and tried to sit up. Somehow, with the help of the long curtains on the wall beside him, he managed to. "To-ya . . . where am I?"

"My room. My bed." The other boy looked at him. "You fainted on the way home from school, so I carried you to my place."

Again, he was causing so much trouble . . . "I'm sorry to make you do that," Yukito said in a small voice.

"Don't apologise," said Touya, shifting from where he was sitting on his study-chair to sit on the bed. His face was serious, and yet there was some kind of desperation in it as well. Yukito took this all in without really noticing. "Yuki . . ." began Touya, speaking in a strained voice that spoke of a hard-won inner control, "do you know what's wrong with you?"

"I'm just really tired -"

"You're not 'just really tired', Yuki!" Touya exploded. "Can't you see it's more than that?! Can't you see what's going on?! You're slipping away and you can't even admit it!"

Yukito stared, frozen in placed like a frightened animal. He had never been on the end of it when Touya lost his temper. His hot-headed friend never yelled at him. On any other occasion he would have been startled; now, with no strength to even sit up properly, he couldn't take it. With his own insecurities and fears gnawing away at him, Touya's tirade made him want to curl up and hide in his own misery and confusion.

It was the first time he had ever felt this way. And he couldn't understand why at all.

Touya didn't notice his friend's distress, so wrapped up in his own frustration was he. "When will you realize what's wrong with you so I can help you?!"

when will I accept who I am?

Yukito didn't hear him. "I don't know!"

The almost-scream startled them both. What followed was silence, complete but for half-suppressed sobs. Yukito trembled on the bed -

I will not cry, I will not cry

- he bowed his head and whispered, "I don't know . . ."

       

So many things I don't know . . .

Or won't see.

Master Clow, I need you . . .

I need someone.

       

Still the almost-silence held. Yukito fixed his eyes on the simply patterned bedspread, hair over his eyes as he avoided meeting Touya's gaze. Even without looking, he could imagine his friend sitting back straight, staring at him with that look on his face. His hands, knotted in Touya's bed-sheets, were white.

I will not cry, I will not cry . . .

He had never cried before. He had never had any reason to. Yet now, there was some part of himself that wanted to do just that.

Then unexpectedly, touch.

Yukito blinked wide hazel eyes in complete startlement over Touya's shoulder. Dark hair tickled his nose, a hand held the back of his head pressing his cheek into Touya's shirt while the other twined around his waist. The feel of another heart beating against his own made Yukito forget to breathe.

       

I - oh gods, I want this.

And I hate myself for wanting it.

       

Yukito reminded himself that blue was not his best colour and made his lungs work again. Ever so slightly, he relaxed into Touya's embrace. The other boy held him closer.

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," muttered Touya. "I shouldn't have yelled at you, it's not your fault." He took a deep breath and Yukito trembled. "It's just that -"

"Dinner's ready!"

At the sound of the cheerful call, Touya literally leapt a foot into the air. Within the space of a second, he had flung himself to the other side of the room.

Yukito blinked as the door opened, his still fuzzy brain trying to determine what was going on. Then it all made sense as he looked at the face peeping around the door.

"Sakura-chan!" exclaimed Yukito. "Hello!"

The girl seemed to glow. "Eh, Yukito-san, you're awake!" Then she noticed that her brother was leaning on the opposite wall with one hand over his eyes as he heaved a huge sigh, whether in relief or something else Yukito wasn't sure. "Onii-chan?" Sakura asked.

Touya lowered his hand and gave her a look. "Geez, kaijuu, can't you give a bit more warning before you come stomping up here?"

"I am not a monster!"

       

I suppose I should be grateful Sakura has such a bad sense of timing. Otherwise, if she had come any later, I don't know what would have happened.

I don't know what I would have done.

       

Touya ignored the way Sakura's foot was twitching the way it did just before slamming a certain pair of toes into the ground. "Hey, Yuki, I'd bet money you're hungry - let's go down and eat."

The mere mention of food made Yukito sit up straighter. "Dinner? Ok!"

Yukito's voice immediately put Sakura on her best behaviour again. "Uh, yeah, let's go eat!" she said quickly, turning and running out of the room to finish setting the table.

Touya sighed and looked at Yukito as the smaller boy slowly got out of the bed, rubbing his head. "You ok?" he asked. The expression on his face said that he was perfectly willing to carry his friend downstairs if need be.

Yukito looked up at his friend and smiled shyly. "I'll be alright, thanks."

Touya didn't answer, and followed Yukito out of the room and down the stairs to the dinner table. Yukito could feel his friend's eyes on his back the whole time but tried to ignore it as he sat down to eat.

Even though food lately did nothing to help Yukito's strength, it still was enough to revive him somewhat. It helped that the wholesome food the Kinomotos were capable of cooking was especially good to the palate as well. Yukito ate probable four or five times what Touya did and enjoyed every bite of it.

"Thanks for the food!" said Yukito happily when he had finally finished. "It was great!"

Sakura looked extremely pleased. "Are you feeling better?" she asked.

Yukito smiled back. He wasn't feeling much better, but he wasn't going to make Sakura worry. "Uh huh! I was just tired, that's all."

Sakura smiled happily. Touya didn't.

       

It will not do for Sakura to know what's happening to me. She will undoubtedly feel guilty, since it's because she isn't strong enough to support both me and the Cards that I am fading.

I can't blame her. After all, she is not Clow.

       

"I'm sorry to make you worry," continued Yukito to Sakura, not noticing Touya's expression. The girl shook her head vigorously, her face turning a pretty pink.

Touya sighed. "Thanks for the food," he said automatically as Sakura rose from the table.

"I'll go get some tea, ok?" she said, scampering into the kitchen as Yukito thanked her.

Her departure left the two boys alone. Feeling awkward, especially after what had happened upstairs in Touya's room before Sakura had interrupted, Yukito looked at his plate, not wanting to meet Touya's eyes.

Little did he know, but his friend was doing the same thing.

The silence dragged out until it got almost painful. Slowly, Yukito raised his head - and met Touya's serious sapphire gaze.

"To-ya," Yukito began, just as Touya said, "Yuki."

They both hurriedly broke off. Touya was the first to speak. "What is it?" he asked.

"N-no, you go first," said Yukito quickly with another of his smiles. It wasn't as dazzling as it used to be.

Touya seemed to think on this, then took a deep breath and leaned forward. "Then I'll just tell you."

He was looking straight into Yukito's face as he said that. His intense blue eyes refused to let Yukito go.

       

I thought that there was only one person who could make my heart race like this . . .

       

Without haste, Touya reached across the table to touch Yukito's left cheek. Held in place both by physical touch and the thin thread of Touya's gaze, Yukito found he couldn't move a muscle. This contact was different from their interrupted moment upstairs - Yukito's wide eyes were as open as his face as he stared straight into Touya's eyes. He was suddenly aware of the tiniest of details; the way Touya's dark hair fell into his lashes, the set of his mouth, the warmth of Touya' fingers on his face . . .

       

"Were you waiting up for me, Yue?"

The moon angel looked up from where he was lying sprawled on the large rug in the main sitting room, wings half-folded over his slender body like some feathery blanket. He rubbed his eyes sleepily. "Master Clow? Have you finished?"

"Mm." The tall silhouette in the doorway moved into the dark room. "The Cards are complete. Where is Kerberos?"

He sat up, curling his legs underneath him. His long white hair spilled along the floor like a river of moonlight. "Asleep upstairs." Fine lips turned upwards in a dry smile. "He said that he would see you in the morning, and that I was an idiot for wanting to wait up so late for you."

There was a chuckle from the magician as he knelt by the Moon Guardian's side. One strong hand reached out to cup the side of his face. The moon angel closed his eyes and turned his lips into Clow's palm.

"You're so caring, Yue."

       

Yukito saw someone else for a second, and tried to blink. He couldn't. Not with Touya leaning so close to him, forbidding any movement.

"You don't know, do you," said Touya softly, yet there was a sense of urgency to his words. Still his hand remained on Yukito's face. "But you can't go on like this."

Yukito couldn't move. He couldn't understand what Touya was saying. And . . .

why do I feel like this?

Touya was so close now. Yukito couldn't speak.

"Yuki . . . I know you -"

"Sorry to keep you waiting!"

Touya's fingers flew off Yukito's face as if they had been burnt and he jerked back into his seat just as Sakura came running into the dining room carrying a tray with three steaming cups of tea on it. She would drop it if she wasn't careful. Quickly Yukito stood up to take the tray from her. "Let me help," he told Sakura, who relinquished the tray with a blush and a smile. "Tell me later, okay?" he said to Touya, who sat in his seat glowering.

Suddenly Touya got up, shoving his chair back almost violently. "I'm off to work," he announced to no one in particular.

"I suppose I had better be going soon as well," said Yukito, cheerily accepting the cup of tea Sakura handed him.

Touya stopped on his way out and turned. "No, I'll walk you home when I get back," he said to his friend. "You might faint again."

Yukito blinked, then smiled. "I'll wait with Sakura-chan then. Is that ok?" he asked the girl.

Sakura's eyes went wide. "O-o-o-okay!" she replied. The girl was almost literally sparkling with delight.

Yukito smiled. There was a touch of sadness in the expression.

       

I know I shouldn't encourage this from Sakura.

But I have so little time left . . .

       

Being the good students they were, Sakura and Yukito got out their respective homework to pass the time. Yukito concentrated on his English as well as he could, pausing now and then to rub his forehead. He was feeling tired again. The after-glow of dinner was making him sleepy.

That, plus the fact that he was no longer adrenalin-motivated, not with Touya gone . . .

He wasn't stopping and starting as much as Sakura was, however. Every few minutes the ten-year-old would look across the table at him with that dreamy look on her face. Yukito barely noticed, so caught up in trying to finish the simple exercise was he.

       

So maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all.

       

Yukito suppressed a yawn as the foreign words on the page in front of him dissolved into incomprehensibility. Nevertheless, he felt himself falling forward ever so slightly, his eyes fluttering closed behind their glasses as he sank into a lake of sleep . . .

no, not now! not in front of Sakura!

. . . he blinked himself into a more alert state of mind only to find Sakura looking at him strangely.

"Is something wrong?" he asked.

Perhaps embarrassed to be caught staring, Sakura blushed and quickly returned to her work. "N-no, it's nothing," she said quickly.

Yukito looked at her questioningly for a moment, then shrugged. Whatever.

Just as he was finally getting into the more difficult questions, Sakura suddenly turned to the window as if startled by something.

"Sakura-chan?" asked Yukito.

To his surprise, the girl got up and moved away. "Um, um, I-I-I'll go buy us some cake!" she said, speaking so fast Yukito had to run the words over in his head once more to understand. "Uh, there's this really delicious cake store I know of!"

"I'll go too," said Yukito automatically, moving to rise also. Before he had even closed his book, however, Sakura had dashed out of the room, calling, "N-no, it's ok! I'll be right back!"

Yukito could only stare as Sakura scrambled upstairs, then a few seconds later come back down wearing a coat and running out of the house.

The door slammed, leaving him all alone in the Kinomoto's house.

       

There was an all-too-familiar tail hanging out of the pocket of Sakura's coat. Kerberos and Sakura both went out together. There is only one thing that would have called for that.

Another Clow Card incident.

And they didn't even tell me.

I suppose I can't blame them. Sakura does her utmost to prevent people from noticing her strange activities. That includes Yukito and her brother, though I don't think she realises that Touya knows more than he lets on. Kerberos knows that I don't have the power to assist them.

But it still hurts.

       

Wondering just which cake store in town opened this late without his knowing, Yukito tried his best to return to his work. Sakura said that she would be right back, and he trusted the girl to keep to her word.

He plodded through the English exercise. He finished it - finally - and then turned to maths.

Long minutes passed. Still no sign of Sakura. Yukito began to worry. What if Touya came home and found his sister gone? He thought back to that night when Sakura had been asleep on the couch soaking wet, and the way Touya had looked at him . . . no, he didn't want that to happen again. Should he go out to look for her? But what if he fainted again? Then Touya would come home and find both his sister and friend missing . . . no, best to remain here in the house.

But still Yukito worried.

       

I shouldn't worry about Sakura. I've seen her, the way she uses her magic. She is perfectly capable of taking care of herself. Even without me.

But still . . .

       

Over an hour had passed and still no Sakura. Having finished his homework, Yukito couldn't distract himself from worry any longer. To pass the time, and also to keep himself from falling asleep, Yukito wandered all over the house. He came here at least four or five times a week, usually, and so there was nothing unfamiliar to him. Idly he tidied up a few things, but the Kinomoto household was well kept, and there was very little way Yukito could make himself useful domestically.

It was while he was rearranging the cushions in the lounge that the darkness crept up and ambushed him.

       

Again, Sakura has changed a Clow Card. No, not just one, two.

And again, I'm falling.

I see no reason to save myself. Why should I? I have no reason, no duty to tie me to this world.

But . . .

I don't want to die, I don't want to die, I don't want to die . . .

Still Yukito wants to live.

Why?

       

"Yukito-san!?"

Someone calling him. His face was wet. Yukito tried to identify who it was. He opened his eyes and saw carpet.

"Yukito-san!!"

There was someone on the carpet. Yukito blinked and saw Sakura -

master

- kneeling beside him with a dripping towel that dribbled water onto his face, though most ended up in his hair. A little yellow stuffed-toy sat on her shoulder. Yukito blinked again. Two equally worried expressions were directed at him. Now he knew he was seeing things if he had the impression the toy was worried.

"Eh, Sakura-chan . . ." Groggily Yukito pulled himself upright, realising he had fainted in the Kinomoto's living room. "You're back."

The girl looked distraught. "I'm so sorry! I shouldn't have gone out, not with you so tired and all!"

Yukito rubbed his throbbing forehead. "It's alright, it's not your fault," he said mechanically. Still the girl hovered around him, worried to death as she guided him towards the couch to sit down.

"I-I-I'll get you something to drink," stuttered Sakura. Quickly she darted out of the room. Yukito sighed and leaned his head back against the wall. He wanted to close his eyes and sleep, he was really getting tired of this . . .

"Here!"

A cup nudging gently against his fingers - Yukito opened his hand and Sakura placed a glass of water in it. He drank deeply, the cool liquid sweeping some of the fuzziness in his brain away.

"Arigato."

The cup was taken away again. Yukito breathed in several deep breaths to regain control of himself before opening his eyes again. Sakura was still looking worried. So was the toy, for that matter. Yukito frowned at it slightly. There was something nagging at him about that toy . . .

       

How did it go, Kerberos? I take it you and Sakura succeeded in whatever you were doing.

It's not as if I was needed, anyway.

       

"A-a-are you alright?" asked Sakura. Yukito blinked. It had been the third time the child had asked the question. He smiled at her, feeling proud that he managed to smile in the first place.

"I'm ok, Sakura-chan," he said reassuringly, although he was certainly not. "Really, if you had to go out to buy a cake, it's not your fault if I chose a bad time to fall asleep."

Sakura didn't look very reassured, but Yukito's smile had its usual effect, and soon the girl was blushing at him again.

There was a familiar step at the door. "Tadaima!" someone called.

At the sound of her brother's voice, Sakura went slightly pale. "Um, um, about Onii-chan . . ." she said hesitantly, looking from Yukito to the entryway and back.

Yukito immediately understood what she was worried about. He smiled at her again. "Don't worry, I won't tell To-ya," he said. Touya and his sister complex . . . no sooner were the words out his mouth than the person appeared.

"Okaeri, Onii-chan!" chirped Sakura.

"Hello, To-ya. You're back early," greeted Yukito.

Touya stopped. He looked at his sister. He looked at his friend. Both were smiling at him.

Touya frowned.

"What's going on?" he asked bluntly.

       

To-ya is most definitely sharper than he lets on.

       

It took a lot of talking on Yukito and Sakura's part to convince Touya that absolutely nothing had happened while he was away. It took a lot more talking from Sakura to explain why she hadn't brought a cake back. Apparently she had bumped into Tomoyo-chan and Li-kun (at the boy's name Touya's eyes narrowed) on the way, had a chat, and by the time she had got to the store there were no cakes left and it was closing anyway. Before Touya had had a chance to say anything about this long rigmarole, Sakura had fled upstairs to finish off her homework, the yellow stuffed toy literally hanging onto her shoulder for dear life.

Yukito smiled tiredly at the look on his friend's face. "She's just too independent for her age and you can't accept it, To-ya."

Touya glared at him the way he always did whenever they had the Sister Complex Exchange. "Shut up."

Yukito laughed. It was a real laugh this time. Some things never changed.

Apparently their little banter had eased Touya as well. "C'mon, Yuki, I'll walk you home," he said, going upstairs to collect Yukito's school bag and blazer. He it didn't take long for him to reappear, and Yukito waited for his friend to put on his sneakers on again before they exited the house together.

Outside, the night was cool and peaceful. Stars twinkled in the sky above, watched by a crescent moon like a mother over her children. The scene was lovely, and yet somehow it nagged at Yukito, as if there was something familiar about it. But he put it out of his mind. After all, Touya was with him.

They walked in comfortable silence, the only sound audible being the scuffing of shoes against pavement and the odd insect. Touya had insisted on being the one to carry Yukito's bag, and he did so with casual ease. Yukito couldn't resist stealing a look at him more than once.

       

The way he walks, his handsome features, the way the light from the streetlamps strike his face just so . . . why must he remind me of the one I loved and lost?

       

"Thanks for walking me home, To-ya," said Yukito softly as Touya placed his schoolbag inside the hall.

"No problem," said the other boy, straightening. He looked searchingly at his slightly built friend. "You going to be alright?"

Yukito nodded, feeling a brief and uncharacteristic flash of anger, How many times had he heard the line 'you alright?' today? "I can manage, don't worry about me," Yukito said lightly. He had one hand on the door, ready to close it. Touya stood just beyond. All Yukito had to do was close the door and the day would be over.

He didn't close the door. Not yet. They just stood there.

There wasn't even a breath of wind to stir the silence. The only thing Yukito let himself see was his friend's sneakers. He had the distinct feeling Touya was doing the same.

Touya was the one to break the moment.

"I'll see you in school tomorrow, ok?" he said softly.

The sneakers walked out of Yukito's point of view down the garden path. He lifted his head and watched Touya slowly close the gate and turn down the road. Only then would Yukito close the door. After that, he went straight to the shower, and then to bed where he immediately fell asleep.

       

In a way, I'm glad Touya did not stay. His presence is uncomfortable for me - too uncomfortable. But Yukito wanted him to stay, wanted his friend to remain in case something happened. I'm tired of being watched over, I don't like being taken care of. I am supposed to look after Sakura, not the other way round.

Which of my Master's Cards did Sakura make hers this night? Did Kerberos have to tell her what to do? I doubt it; for all her faults Sakura is not as silly as she seems at times.

Whatever the incident was, I had no part in it. Sakura and Kerberos didn't even bother to inform me that something was going on.

My help is not needed. My duties as Guardian are Judge are not needed. I am not needed.

I hate this feeling of uselessness.

Life was so much more clear and defined when Clow was alive. I knew my purpose, I knew what I had to do with my Master. I knew I loved him. I knew he didn't love me the way I wanted him to.

So close and yet so far from me, Clow. Why did you keep me at arm's length? You made me, made me your Guardian, the cold beauty of the moon personified. Yue, the Judgement Maker.

Was that all you wanted me to do? To Judge the next Master of your Cards? But the decision had been made long before I awoke. My Judgement was not needed.

I was not needed.

So why did you create me?

Yukito is crying in his sleep.


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