Characters: Clow Reed x Yuuko Ichihara
Theme: #20 - the road home
Disclaimer: I don't own xxxHOLiC
If there were no other limits more powerful than her very will, Yuuko would be chanting time-stopping spells right now, just so she didn’t have to return.
Cascading locks of raven were spread out on the grass, long and smooth, in such a way that they almost blended with the greenery. Her entire form lay on the ground in careless relaxation, enjoying the feel of the last, faint remainders of sun touching her skin in a lingering caress. Just like a lazy butterfly, she seemed to be waiting for the sun to be completely gone until her wings could safely take her home; except she didn’t really wish to fly anywhere.
The wish granter tucked her arms under her head for comfort and took a breath of fresh air. She didn’t want to go back home, but the thoughts from before crossed her mind once more, disturbing the peace she was looking for. Perhaps that was a warning, telling her that she was supposed to be somewhere else.
A sigh welled forth, and the witch allowed her eyes to flutter closed for a moment. The afternoon was drawing to an end, and the first shades of night began to slowly crawl their way into the hovering skies above her secret refuge – a small, quiet hill hidden amidst the outer limits of the city. There was something about that place that inspired utmost harmony and tranquility; she wondered if it was so because Clow liked to watch the sunset by her side on that very same spot in silent bliss, as though their remarkably known fights and eternal bickering were but rumors.
Then she remembered. Hadn’t it been because of him that this whole predicament had started?
Until the magician came to her that one, fateful day, Yuuko had never had any attachments to her clients – most of them were actually too wary of her sinister demeanor to stay any longer than necessary, let alone request her presence in a friendly meeting. She always kept her distance during the whole transaction, and not once did she show any concern for her costumers once their wishes had been granted. Her job and position as a maintainer of the universal balance was far more troublesome than their mundane issues, so she was better off that way.
Her first reaction upon seeing the ever-famous Clow Reed requesting her assistance was that of surprise. Judging by everything she had seen and heard about his personality and magical prowess, she thought of him as an overly confident creep hiding way too much arrogance under that irritating smile. What she saw before her, however, was a sad man, too drained from his excessive efforts and failed plans – all for the sake of people he technically did not know. Even if his sacrifice would be absurdly high, he was willing to pay, and so she agreed to cooperate without asking further questions; as long as there was a fair exchange, his reasons were not her problem.
He made sure to prove her wrong, though.
Not only did he show her how much he cared for people, but he also taught her how to care as well – for the ones he was trying to help, for the people around her and, as much as she hated to admit it, for him. Clow was the type of man who loved to spoil and shower everyone close to him with affection, and Yuuko used to think that was a disgustingly freaky habit until he started dedicating the same sort of attention to her. She couldn’t help but getting involved, perhaps a little too much even, and her current getaway was a result of such attachment.
Steps on the grass drove the witch away from her musings, and she knew it was Clow before even catching a single glimpse of his figure, tall shadow projected right over her; he had a strong, unique presence, and he was also the only one who could possibly find her there. As he took a seat on the ground with his back to her, she inhaled deeply and waited for him to begin making questions. Several moments later, they had yet to come.
“Aren’t you going to ask what brought me here?” She finally spoke after another long, awkward while. If Clow hadn’t said a thing since he arrived, it was probably because he was plotting something inside that wicked mind of his, which plainly scared her. Truth be told, Yuuko actually needed him to talk to her, but she assumed he wasn’t about to strike up a conversation, even though she couldn’t understand his behavior.
“I was hoping you would tell me on your own will,” Clow lowered his head and smiled, although she couldn’t see his face. He figured she could guess his expression even without looking directly at him, anyway.
She spared him a casual glance from the corners of her eyes and retorted. “Why would I do that?” Her tone was defying but not aggressive, as she wasn’t feeling in a very nasty mood.
“Isn’t that the reason you chose this particular spot in the first place?” He returned her gesture with one of his own, gazing at his friend from over his shoulders. That hill was one of the few things they both were interested in, as witch and magician were too different to share much in common. “If you didn’t want me to find you, you could have gone anywhere else.”
A snicker, followed by a good-hearted smirk. “Modesty is clearly not your strong point, is it?”
He laughed in as kind of a manner as he could. “I’m as modest as you are good at hiding, dearest.”
Yuuko gave a brief chuckle and sighed in a barely audible fashion, just before falling silent again for several minutes. Her eyes trailed back to the skies above and she smiled in awe at the perfect balance between light and darkness, which was most fitting for the situation. Her lips soon curved into a semi pout, visibly displeased for not having brought any sake along – that kind of setting definitely deserved a toast, she thought.
“I saw them,” She retook her speech in a quiet tone, averting her gaze to the opposite side of where Clow was seated. “Those children. And that boy.”
He simply gave an understanding smile, without moving from his spot. “It’s hard, isn’t it?”
“It’s more than that,” A small shiver ran up her body when a cooler breeze brushed against her skin, though whether it had really been caused by the sudden cold or by the memories of her vision, she could not tell. “They were all suffering so much, both physically and mentally… It was a painful sight.”
He arched his eyebrows in slight surprise. “Do you care about those children, then?”
“Not as much as you do,” Came her immediate, dry reply, though she knew she wasn’t as cold as that response made her seem. “But enough to lament not being able to directly interfere in their favor.” With a sigh, she completed her train of thought in a sad, if somewhat shy, manner.
“That is exactly how I feel,” His eyes were closed for a short moment and he craned his neck up so to face the sky, in his usual calm and collected demeanor. Once he could see light again, there were but faint traces of a smile on his features, though he proceeded in spite of his own sorrow. “Those children, all of them, mean a lot to me, and yet there’s not much I can do to help them.”
“You are helping,” Yuuko nearly rolled her eyes at his statement. “You did everything in your power, and as if that wasn’t enough, you came to me when you could no longer make anymore progress by yourself.” It was all true; the man was even meddling with the rules of he Universe, for crying out loud! What else could he possibly want?
“I know. But I won’t be here when everything happens,” He replied, oblivious to her silent musings. By that time, his smile had completely vanished, having been replaced by a frown. “I won’t be able to do anything when they need help the most. And, when the final moment comes--”
“I’ll be here,” She cut him short before he could finish his sentence. “I’ll be the one to witness their moves and decisions, and all the suffering that will come from it. I’ll be here, watching the whole ordeal.” In a way, she thought her position was much worse than his, though she couldn’t exactly call him lucky, either.
“Is that why you escaped home?” Clow had caught the subtle hints of melancholy and bitterness in her words, so he spoke in as amiable of a tone as he could muster, careful as to make sure she wouldn’t misinterpret him.
She laughed at his description, in spite of herself. “Just for a little bit. Being there reminds me of the pressure that comes from my duties, and even I need a break when things start bordering on unbearable.”
“Because you’re afraid of the pain?” His words were blunt, but held no malice whatsoever. As a matter of fact, he couldn’t bring himself to blame her for behaving in such a way, for he, too, was very familiar with that kind of burden.
“Because I’m afraid I won’t be able to refrain from action when I see their pain,” There was a nearly empty look in her eyes as she corrected him, as though trying to block those visions of a gruesome future. “And because I fear I might engage on one too many retreats and just never return home.”
Clow nodded in acknowledgement. He had gone through a similar dilemma years in the past, when his Sight first started showing him the fate of those children, though he has long since defeated the occasional will to escape – those people were all connected to him in someway or another, and that alone made all the trouble worth a while. Yuuko, however, was but a stranger who had only gotten involved because of him, and as much as he couldn’t afford losing her assistance, there was no denying he felt a little guilty.
“I can help you with that,” He offered in a whisper, his head low in some resemblance of shame. “I can make sure you don’t stay away for too long.”
“You won’t be here forever,” This time, her words were full of obvious bitterness, as Yuuko always took her time to emphasize how much it bothered her to know he would leave this world soon. Had she been aware of his current inner turmoil, though, she wouldn’t have been half as mean. “Who is going to take me home then?”
“Oh, you don’t need me to take you home, dearest,” His forced chuckle didn’t come out as natural as he had intended, but he hoped the witch wouldn’t notice. “You can perfectly trail that road on your own.”
Yuuko almost laughed at his silliness, but on second thought, she didn’t really find it funny at all. The truth was that she actually needed him in more ways than just one, but she made an effort to keep it to herself, and when her question came, she spoke no more than necessary. “How can you be so sure?”
“Because there isn’t anyone else that knows what must be done better than you do, Yuuko,” He took a small pause and a deep breath before proceeding, as to carefully fish for the appropriate words. “And because I personally trust you not to abandon those children in times of need; if not by my request, then for whatever affection you already feel for them.”
Having had her attention caught by his last statement, the raven-haired woman turned to face her companion and realized he hadn’t moved from his spot during their whole exchange, as though he had been trying to avoid her – then again, there was a slight chance she was being a little paranoid. Coming from Clow, however, that was certainly unusual, not to say confusing, as she had been under the impression that he had willingly come to meet her all the while.
Curiosity at last got the best of her and she decided to simply ask him, as it was seemingly her best option. “If it is as you say, then why did you come?”
This time he gave a real laugh, and Yuuko was positive there was a huge, goofy grin stamped all over his face, even if she still couldn’t see him. “I just thought a small push in the right path wouldn’t hurt.”
“Does that mean you were worried?” Came her chanted reply and, before even having time to realize it, she was grinning in a rather mischievous fashion.
“Perhaps,” He chuckled in confession.
A smile graced her features and the witch let out a content sigh, sparing another glance at the firmament. The sun could still be seen hiding beyond the horizon, although evening was gradually taking over the space, followed by numerous stars and a pale moon so to better enforce the reign of darkness. It was all a beautiful exhibition of the forces of nature, but one particular thing impressed her the most; several nightly butterflies seemed to fly out of nowhere and crossed her range of sight, in a clear message to their queen - it was time to spread out her wings and leave her hideout.
In a swift motion, Yuuko sat up straight and made cat-like noises as she stretched in her usual, lethargic behavior, breaking the momentary silence. “You should be worried, you know,” She teased him, her quirky grin from earlier, now even wider. “In any case, this is all your fault for making me too soft!”
“Do you regret that?” Still avoiding eye contact and visibly ignoring her playful tone, he gave her his profile, brows furrowed in a display of concern. “Having met me, I mean?”
This time, she did roll her eyes. “You make the most stupid questions ever, Clow.”
Before the wizard could take her words the wrong way once more, Yuuko pulled closer to him and placed one arm across his broad back, resting her head just where her fingers met his right shoulder. A couple of minutes later, she reached for his chin with her free hand and made him face her, snatching his lips in a delicate kiss; it was her means to show gratitude for his unconditional support in her own times of need, and also for guiding her when she strayed from the right road.
Once their lips finally parted, Clow took a single moment to lock his gaze on hers for the first time during their dialogue and spared her his earnest smile, mostly through his eyes – much to her relief, he seemed to have recovered from his previous mood. That once kind gesture, however, soon turned into a witty smirk as he teased her in return for the playful little jokes that woman had thrown at him, though there was a hint of real curiosity in his remark.
“Does that mean you love me?”
Her giggles were all Yuuko ever gave him for a response.