Baby Steps

shika hiiragizawa

Summary: A certain Tomoyo Daidouji finds out that the rumors about her husband, Eriol Hiiragizawa, cheating on her were true, and so she leaves him. Incidentally, she gets pregnant with his child, and struggles to make it through, not quite alone, but with her new child. A story of independence and inner strength, and maybe, just maybe, true love. ExT.

OoO

Shika: Well hello beautiful people! Sorry this chapter took forever. To tell you the truth, work has been sapping all my energy and my inspiration… and so I haven't been in my bestest state for months. I thank you for all your comments and your love.

ulq4schiffer: Here's the confrontation! Thanks for sticking with me, and I hope this answers some of the questions you may have about the story, if it doesn't add more!

Maria-Reynne: Actually, that's a great idea! You might be able to sort more rifts with that, or just help more friends in letting their feelings out. I'm glad you like the deepness of their friendship. You'll get to see it some more soon enough.

MimoRei13: I am more than honored to read your comments. Hope to hear more from you soon after this update.

Deadflo: Well, we can't exactly pinpoint who did what, but maybe this chapter can shed a bit of light on this. Read on and I hope you like this also!

Fan: Hi Fan! Maybe you'd be so kind to let me know even your pen name. Thanks for reading on, and here you go! Fresh from my mind factory.

: Hallo! I think this chapter is a bit long, but because the content can't be shorted. Hope this strikes your fancy!

prilly55: Well, we'll find out just how ready she is in a bit. Read on!

XxThe-Crest-Of-AnubisxX: Hi there! Thanks for being loyal to my stories. Here's another chapter freshly brewed that might answer some of your questions.

Cris Elladan: I apologize for the decades it takes to update and I'll do my best to be a little bit earlier. Anway, here's another chappie for you guys!

bitesizedallyx3: Not yet. Eriol doesn't know she's pregnant. Let's leave it for some chapter. *winks*

AHRG: Thanks for reading on! And please read some more!

EuroCuttie: I am so glad you appreciate the different elements and personalities of the cast that I try to blend together in this story. I hope you might like this chapter also.

JackFrost14: That is such an honorable punishment and I might put some more cliffies for that! Anyway, here you go and thanks for reading!

SashaRomanova: Hello dear reader! Thanks for taking the time to find and read this. I am more than glad that you liked it, and as promised, you can get to read on below as to what happens next.

Cheng: The chapter absolutely makes me a bit teary everytime I edit it. I think this chapter is filled with even more emotion. Thanks for being so loyal. Read on and bring a pile of tissues to be safe!

Guest: Yes, we go for feminism!

Shika: Thanks again for the marvelous reviews. Anyway, I won't keep you. Another chapter coming up!

Chapter VI: Bone Marrow

The doorbell suddenly woke her. She didn't even notice that she had fallen asleep in the tub, and the water had now grown cold. Fortunately for her, she didn't drown. The doorbell rang again, and she rushed out of the tub, the water splashing on the tiles. She hastily covered her shivering body with a towel and changed clothes as quickly as she could. She rubbed her hair as fast as she dared and wrapped the towel around her wet locks. She ran to the door on the fourth ring.

She suddenly stopped in her tracks outside the door, her hands unable to move. She only needed to open the door, but she didn't have the strength to open it and see the skeletons she's been hiding. Somehow, she had a feeling she knew exactly who was on the other side of the door.

"Tomoyo, I know you're there," she gasped and put a hand to her mouth as a broken voice echoed from outside the piece of wood that separated them. Her instincts were confirmed.

"I will wait until you open this. I'm not fucking leaving until you do."

Tears cascaded down her cheeks as she slowly sank to the floor, holding in her sobs. Why did he have to come when she had already started to move on with her life? Why can't he come when she was ready?

Wait… why on earth did he initiate this, anyway?

"I know you're wondering why I'm here," he answered her question like he just read her mind. "Kaho told me..." he hesitated and silence filled the room.

Kaho? Then the girl she met…?

Tomoyo wanted to bury the woman she saw at the store. She was indeed, The Kaho Mizuki. Her fingers balled into fists as she continued to glare at the door, like her stare would be noticed by Eriol on the other side. What the hell did Kaho have to do with this, anyway? And why was she the first person he just had to bring up, instead of their problem?!

The jealousy that Tomoyo had been trying to keep at bay erupted like a volcano holding in too much lava. There was a bitter taste left in her mouth.

"…divorce…" his voice cracked and he said nothing more. The single word bought a load of painful memories crashing to Tomoyo.

A sob finally erupted from the depths of her misery.

But she knew she had to be strong. She took a deep breath, dried the tears on her cheeks and stood up. There was no way Eriol would see her crying. She would never even let him glimpse a single shred of her weakness. Never. He would simply grab that opportunity and tailor it to his needs.

Be strong, Tomoyo, she chided herself.

She grabbed the handle with trembling hands, took a deep breath, and pulled the door open.

What she saw beneath the door was almost a skeleton. It was nowhere near the man she had known to love, and loved to know. Eriol's hair was messed up like he had been running his fingers through it in his anger. He had been too resentful; a nest would have likened to the wrecked mass of navy blue atop his head. His skin was paler than what she was used to. He looked like he lost a few pounds. The hollow in his cheeks was evidence.

His eyes were sunken, and his glasses seemed to magnify the dark circles beneath his bloodshot orbs, which seemed to have lost their twinkle. Tears were running down his face, moistening his chapped lips, and nestling in his unshaved beard.

He wore one of the oldest clothes that Tomoyo wanted to throw away; tucked at the bottom of his cabinet. Obviously, he didn't have time to do laundry. His shoelaces were hastily tied.

"What happened—"

Tomoyo's words were lost in her throat as Eriol shut the door and gazed at her, his eyes unreadable.

"I'm sorry, Tomoyo… I'm so, so… sorry…"

He looked like a lost child in the dark, looking for even a single pinprick of light – in this case, Tomoyo. He drank in her appearance as she catalogued his. He noted that she had lost a few pounds, that she had tears in her bloodshot amethyst eyes. He knew it was hastily wiped away, because only a shimmer of wetness was visible. Her face was gaunt; but she was still more beautiful than the face he had been seeing in his dreams. He thought people's imaginations would be more beautiful than reality, but as he looked as his wife - well, as of now - he can't help but feel his own memories and dreams inadequate.

No camera, no paint, no human eyes can ever stand her ethereal beauty, even if she looked tired. What more if she looked fresh and stress-free?

He noticed that Tomoyo had an aura of strength around her; as opposed to the weaker aura he was used to seeing around her. Her back was straighter; more confident. It obviously looked like she had a better time coping than him. So the divorce…

His hand reached out for hers, seeking warmth in the coldness he felt through the whole month, but she shied away from him. Didn't she love him anymore? Were her tears of hatred and not of the same brand of pain he felt?

On the other hand, like Eriol, Tomoyo wasn't sure what to do. She wanted to touch him, hold him, kiss him – to make love to him, for what it's worth. But she couldn't give in. She deserved more than seeing a crying Eriol. She deserved more than just apologies.

"Why are you here?" she asked, her voice colder than the shivers than ran down Eriol's spine. Never had he heard Tomoyo address him with such indifference. Didn't she love him anymore?

Eriol averted his gaze from her penetrating glare. He couldn't put to words how he was feeling. He was never used to apologizing. He wasn't used to being the weaker one. With just one look, Tomoyo made him feel so inferior… like she had moved on, when for him, all but time stopped since the day Tomoyo left.

"Will you please give me a chance to explain myself?"

Tomoyo sucked in a deep breath; realizing she was actually holding it in. Did he actually want to relive the memories, when he had been creating new ones with her?

"Why do we even need to talk about it?" she spat, her soft voice layered with venom, like silk slicing through metal. "Do you think, by recapping everything, things could still change? You have her now, Eriol. So why the fuck do we still need to talk?"

Eriol felt a million knives slice his heart. Where was the kind Tomoyo he knew who would accept him when he made mistakes? Did a month really change so much between them? But on the other hand, could he actually blame her?

"This is exactly why we need to talk. We're not together." His voice had gone quieter, a contrast to the rage the violet-haired woman released seconds afterward.

"Not together? Not together? You have the gall to lie to me, after what I saw before? What the fuck, Eriol?! I knew you were a man of pride. I never knew you would sink that low to lying. Desperation was never in your dictionary."

"Desperation?" he repeated in disbelief, the pain rising like bile in his throat. "You think what I'm feeling is just desperation?"

He grabbed her shoulders tightly, not caring if his fingers burrowed its way in her skin. She tried to move away, but his grip was to strong. Eriol was half-shouting now.

"I don't know what I'd call it – a quarter-life crisis? I don't fucking know, Tomoyo. I can't even put it to words so that you'd understand, because I can't even get myself. Fuck, Tomoyo. You think this doesn't hurt me as well?"

Even if Eriol's voice had risen, this was not enough to make the purple-eyed goddess bow down to him. Her eyes looked even more dangerous than before. It screamed of all the pain she endured, and all the justice she wanted for herself. Eriol coiled inwardly at her expression, but his face betrayed none of his fright.

"Do you think a quarter-life crisis is enough excuse for you to do that? I may not know whatever you're feeling, but has it ever slipped your mind, as you dated her, that I am your wife? That I do not tolerate cheating? You know this, Eriol," she waved a hand at herself to prove her point. "You know me best, and you just had to give me what hurts the most? Who the hell are you?"

Eriol's grip tightened on her shoulders, making her take a step backwards. "I NEVER DATED HER!"

"Don't you dare lie to me!"

"Just listen to me first!"

Eriol had dragged her to the sofa. He knew his nails were digging painfully into her shoulder blades. Her fingers were making dents on his arms as well as she tried to push him away, but to no avail. He set her down on the sofa, forcing her to sit down. He was breathing heavily, the tears wetting his cheeks. His hands did not move from her shoulders as she squirmed helplessly under his powerful grip.

Silence had crept in Tomoyo's apartment. She dared not meet his eyes, knowing she could break any moment if she let him in.

"I was having moments where I was obsessing over my life. Yes, it is narcissistic. I wanted a breather from everything. I wanted to run away, no matter how cowardly it seemed. I hated work, I hated the expectations everyone had pushed down on me. I am human too, Tomoyo. I have my limits. My parents – you know who they are – they were pressuring me to do all this shit. I never wanted to own the company, Tomoyo. They wanted me to have kids. I wasn't ready yet! And you were hinting it as well…"

Tomoyo's hands balled into fists as she tried to contain her anger. She opened her mouth to speak, but Eriol continued before she even had a chance to utter a sound.

"Tomoyo, fuck. I was having thoughts of whether I should be tied down to all my responsibilities. I hated all that shit, but it was forced onto my shoulders like hell. I couldn't express myself. Not to my co-workers, not to my parents. I couldn't even bring myself to tell you I wasn't ready. But I knew you weren't pushing me. I wasn't ready for anything."

His right hand let go of her shoulder, running across his unruly hair. He was trying his best not to rip his hair off as he looked out the window, trying his best to compose himself. Tomoyo stood rooted on the spot, though she knew she had a chance to move; even run away. But she wanted to listen. She wanted to know. Because somehow, she understood what he was talking about. She knew him better than anyone, so she knew his pain was no shallow matter.

"Can you even understand? Because I don't. I feel like I'm being forced to act twice my age. I wanted to have fun, too, Tomoyo. That time, all I wanted to do was to get wasted in some bar and wake up the next day not knowing who I am or where I was, and not having the rest of my life planned out. I was so sick and tired of anything. Everything."

He stopped and his anguished eyes looked downward. Anywhere but Tomoyo. She was already hearing his weaknesses, why did she need to see it? He felt her gaze at the top of his head and he looked up reluctantly. Her expression was unreadable. Eriol tried to gulp, but his dry throat inflamed so suddenly. He opened his mouth and closed it. How could he say it? Even his own throat was against it. By some miracle, it seemed like Tomoyo's eyes were urging him to say what was stuck in his throat. A flash of hope entered his black heart as he opened his mouth to continue.

"Then, Kaho came. Her fire was different – I yearned for her headstrong personality. I longed to dominate someone as strong as she was. Because if I could, then I could at least know how to put a stop to those who tried to dominate me. It was stupid, of course, but who cares? I had no other aces up my worn sleeve.

I wooed the spitfire that was her. I yearned for rebellion, Tomoyo. You, being someone so selfless, would never think for yourself. That's why I couldn't talk to you. I know you would tell me to bear the pain instead of run away from it, when I wanted to do the latter."

Silence stretched on as Eriol waited for a reply from Tomoyo, who was boring a hole in the carpet. She still didn't move away from his grip, so he knew she was listening. He sucked in a deep breath he realized he was holding before he continued.

"We never had sex. The moment she left that fucking hickey, I realized she was stepping on my territory. I ditched her and went home. I didn't realize she was doing it because of the alcohol. I had to stay out to get it down my system before I went home to you. I wanted to tell you soon, but I didn't have the strength to. When I saw you, I thought you were mad of something else – I never knew you knew. I shouldn't have underestimated you.

When you left, I felt like it was so dark. I barely went to the office, I shut out my parents and my co-workers. Damn, if I wasn't in such an important position, they would've fired me right away. All I could think of was how I betrayed you. And how I wanted you back. You were the only one who understood me. The only one who accepted me even when I acted like a total asshole. Well, except now.

Kaho was there all along. I rejected her, I told her to stay away from me. But she took care of me, nonetheless. She cooked, even if I didn't eat. She cleaned, I worsened up our house. After learning about the divorce, she wanted to leave. She was guilty as well for hurting you. That's why she took care of me – she wanted to keep me from being wasted to I could go back to you."

Eriol had now taken a seat on the table in front of them. He was eye-level with Tomoyo now, and his intense eyes never left her gaze.

"You see, I couldn't blame her. She never knew I was married. I had to face her wrath when she found out – but she felt like she had done me wrong as well, so she helped me. And here I am, Tomoyo. I am fucking nothing without you, even if it so hard to admit. I never loved Kaho. You were the only one, Tomoyo. I knew these excuses are stupid, but I was stupid that time. It was wrong, it was heartless. But I am accepting no fucking divorce, Tomoyo. You may act all cold towards me every day, but you will always be my wife. Forever. You cannot leave me."

Tomoyo yelled in frustration. It was all she could do not to bare her fangs and slit his throat. "You cannot keep me trapped like you're some fucking dominant. I have a life, too." She glared at him, hoping her loathing glare would make him vanish in a puddle of mud. Nothing happened. If anything, Eriol didn't even look shocked at her reply.

"You made a lifelong commitment with me. For better or for worse," he said, his voice growing stronger.

Tomoyo's face was filled with disgust. "How dare you put this on me! You made a lifelong commitment with me, so why did you fucking stray away?"

A trace of his trademark smirk was seen in his ghostly face. Tomoyo knew that look all too well. He knew he was winning. She had to wipe that blasted smirk of his face, by hook or by crook! She was not going to fall anymore. Never. Even if she loved him. She was preventing any chance for her heart to break again.

"You cannot divorce me without my consent, whichever way."

Tomoyo's anger heightened, along with her voice. "This is rich, coming from you! Have you learned nothing from your so-called crisis? If you hated being pushed to responsibility, how is it any different from forcing me to stay in this hellhole of a marriage?"

"How would you know how it felt, Tomoyo? You never had a fucked up family!"

"Do you think that these are excuses to drag me down to your hell, Eriol?"

"You're my wife, Tomoyo! Aren't you supposed to accept me?"

Tomoyo gulped and averted her gaze from his burning orbs. She fought to keep her voice steady, but it ended up weak and crackly. "You once were, Eriol. I don't consider you my husband anymore."

"We are still married." It was like Eriol could already taste winning. His confidence was one of the things Tomoyo loved the most about him – how he could be so calm and strong in any situation – but for now, it increased whatever negative feelings she had for him.

"On paper, yes. My heart doesn't belong to you anymore. It belongs to me. Can you please leave?"

Eriol cupped her cheeks with his hands and looked into her dark orbs. His voice was filled with truth. With all his feelings. All in one reply.

"No. I am not letting you out of my sight one more time."

OoO

Shika: So… how did it go? I would be more than happy to hear your thoughts on this. Review please!