Characters: R! and C!Syaoran, Sakura (slight C!Syaoran/Sakura). Also mentions of Touya and Fujitaka.
Warnings: Acid Tokyo spoilers (and blink-and-you'll-miss-it spoilers for recent chapters), uh... bird death.
Summary: Syaoran hopes and prays and fears, but in the end, he knows he's bound to be disappointed.
Disclaimer: Clamp owns all; I'm just an interloper.
A/N: Because metaphors are fun.
One day, Syaoran watches as the boy– if that is what he, it, is– and the Sakura who is Princess of Clow find a bird’s nest in the branches of the palo verde tree they are climbing. They poke at it, admire the eggs inside; they are children who will be excited by anything. It’s lucky that the mother bird is away, isn’t it; she would peck the two of them until Sakura cried, thinks Syaoran. But they do not have the benefit of his knowledge, which is perhaps just as well. It’s funny, he muses, that his best hope for these two is that they will grow to where they will never meet him. Will never need him.
“Look, Syaoran!” the princess exclaims. She’s talking to her friend, of course, but Syaoran looks too, will always look and wait and worry and pray. Let them find a way, any way.... “I think they’re hatching!”
The two, three, of them lean over, clinging tightly to the tree’s branches so as to not tumble over and fall to the ground– not that it would hurt him any. (It might make Sakura upset though, and perhaps that wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all. He needs to learn how to react to people, how to be a person if this plan is to have any chance of success at all.) The eggs are uniform, a pale beige color, speckled, with a satin sheen. Ugly to Syaoran’s mind, although the children seem to find them fascinating. It’s strange to think that those bland, hard shells can hold something as vibrant as new life. Eggs are like stones; nothing that comes from a stone ought to be able to fly. Then again, let that be negotiable as well, oh please do.
The chicks are fighting to be free, that much is clear. The worlds inside those eggs must be intolerable then, that they are so desperate to escape the peace of nothingness and force their way into the unknown world outside. Tiny beaks poke through, greeted with shouts from the children. The birds struggle through, and they might have stayed there to watch them until they were all hatched– had Sakura’s brother not interrupted, dragging her home on account of the fact that she had missed the dinner bell and their father was worried.
“Syaoran, would you like to come home with me for dinner?” she calls as Touya tugs on her hand impatiently and gives the boy in the tree a scathing look that says, ‘Don’t even think about it, you.’ He really does have unerring instincts, doesn’t he...? He must know somehow that there’s something different about that particular child. Actually, Syaoran had been afraid that everyone would notice, that they would withdraw their hands with a little shudder of disgust when they realized that they brushed up against someone, something, like that. And then, there would have been no chance, no chance whatsoever. What’s the point of creating a soul, something that can feel, if all there will be for it was rejection? He had let out a sigh of relief when Fujitaka had taken the boy in, fed him, clothed him, treated him like any other child. Maybe the gap here could be crossed, after all. Let him live; not just breathe, but live.
Sakura’s offer is refused with a shake of the head. “N-no thank you, Sakura-hime. I think I’ll stay here, okay?”
It breaks Syaoran’s heart, every single time. Hesitant, nervous whenever she is around, this child does not sound like a killer. He sounds like nothing more than a normal boy; with any luck, that’s all he will be. A wish for normalcy is the product of desperation, that much is clear, but there is nothing else that he needs more. With luck, he will grow up to be normal. (With luck, he will grow up, period, not just subside into nonexistence once his purpose is fulfilled.) With luck, he’ll become one of those people who, after hearing about some murder, shakes his head sadly and wonders who could be capable of such a thing. Syaoran acknowledges the irony of this request with open arms; it’s so much better than the alternative. It cannot– should not– be possible for a child to be evil. (Assuming that a child is what he is in the first place-- and Syaoran, are you really, truly sure that is so?)
And as that boy watches, one by one the birds shake themselves free from the pieces of eggshell that cover their heads, their backs, their wings. They peck and they struggle, and as they do so, they extricate themselves from their blank cages. And surely, Syaoran soundlessly pleads to the dark room around him, to Xing Huo’s emotionless face as she stands and watches him without moving. Surely, if these little bundles of feathers can do it, he must be able to. Right? The little birds were such small, fragile things, but wasn’t hope supposed to spring eternal? Somehow, those soft things were able to break through all of the hard hollowness.... (Like the softness of two small hands brushing up against one another, the softness of the blush that spreads across her face when she thinks he isn’t looking....)
Although he can’t see it without the aid of a mirror, Syaoran is sure of the determination that those eyes must hold whenever Sakura needs the slightest thing. She is something to live for, is she not? If dripping water under the earth gives birth to stalactites, seeds to flowers, eggs to birds, then... ...She is more than she seems, powerful without knowing it, so surely she must be capable of such a simple task as giving life to one small boy.
Hope may spring eternal, Syaoran chides himself, but...
Neither of them notices it until the next day, when the boy eagerly climbs the tree again to look at the birds now that they have finally finished hatching. Life. Yes, he wants to see life. At the far edge of the nest is that one lone egg, cracked and broken but not completely discarded, and a few flies buzz around the spilled egg white and something else inside.... The clone– yes, let’s not mince words, thinks Syaoran miserably. That’s all it is, isn’t it?-- gulps unhappily and gingerly picks it up as best it can. Clear fluid stains its fingers (for now anyway; the blood will just have to wait its turn), the fragile eggshell falls away, and now all that’s left in that thing’s hands is a dead, runty-looking baby bird. Syaoran can’t even look away. Some things just weren’t made to survive, and he supposes that he knows them when he sees them. For its part, the clone sniffles a bit.
“But... but it tried so hard,” it says to nobody; Syaoran hears anyway. So, despair springs eternal too, huh?
Sliding back along the branch, dropping to the ground, the thing that thinks it is a boy continues, “It’s not fair. It just isn’t fair.”
Oh my soul, thinks Syaoran, you have no idea.