Eriol daydreams a lot as a child.
It's not like there's much to do at the orphanage he's raised at. He was found at age four with nowhere to go and no idea of his origins, so he's basically forced to stay there for now, and there really isn't much to do alone. He supposes he could play with the other children, but Eriol's always found that he prefers being alone.
Or, well, with animals.
But when he's not admiring the wildlife, he's daydreaming. Of silly, random, one-off things mostly, but occasionally, he closes his eyes without falling asleep, and sees visions of gold and white wings, and of flowing robes and images of suns and moons and stars.
He only beings paying close attention to them when these visions start becoming increasingly common, and clearer, and it starts to feel less like a daydream and more like a memory.
The daydreams get clearer.
Gold wings turn into a majestic lion, with the power of the sun and a hearty appetite. White wings turn into an angel, with the power of the moon and a calm nature.
And Eriol finds that it's him wearing the robes, him creating those symbols of the sky, him who commands these two winged beings in these dreams
(dreams? memories? elaborate machinations of the mind? he doesn't know.)
He's six now, and still daydreams, and still prefers the company of animals to people. It's not that the people and other kids at the orphanage are bad, he simply isn't inclined to socialize much.
(it's not like they pay much attention to him anyway.)
The night after Eriol turns seven, he goes to sleep and wakes up in space.
Well, not quite space. It's not like the pictures he's seen, with a spectrum of colors and planets and twinkling stars of all sizes. And people float in space.
No, this is all blue, deep blue, and there's only stars and no planets, and he's standing.
Eriol looks up, and finds that he's not alone.
There's a man there. He has long black hair, and pale skin, and is wearing glasses. There's a large staff in his hand, reminiscent of an exploding star.
And he's wearing the robes that Eriol has in his daydreams.
"...who are you?"
The man's eyes open (the same color, they're the exact same as his own), and he smiles.
"I am you, from a past long gone."
The man explains that his name is Clow Reed, and that he was a magician (and that yes, magic is real, as are many magical stories that have since been written off as folklore and myth and fairytales) who created a special type of magic. He explains the existence of that magic's guardians, the Sun and Moon (keroberos and yue, he says their names are. he speaks of them fondly).
And he explains that Eriol is him, reborn after death.
"It's a lot to take in, but yes. It can, and it has." His gaze softens. "I foresaw many things that involved my magic, but knew I would not live to see them. And therefore, a rebirth was in order."
(there's a sense that he's not telling the full truth, but eriol's honestly scared to ask about it.)
"So then, those daydreams..."
"Were memories. My own, specifically. And there are many, many more you haven't seen yet."
He pauses, and looks hesitant.
"...as of tomorrow, you'll slowly start gaining those memories for yourself. As that happens, the magic that I held will slowly return as well. It..."
He looks down.
"...it will not be a painless process. But it must be done.
I can only hope that you will one day forgive me for it."
(to this day, he constantly asks himself if he ever will.)
Clow was right about it not being painless.
The magic comes in bursts, accompanied by memories
(that still feel like they don't and do belong to him). Some bursts are long and drawn-out, and some are quick and sudden. The gaps between them vary.
But no burst is painless.
The long, drawn-out bursts force his body to focus completely on adjusting to this new power. It leaves him with an incredibly high fever, and leaves him bedridden for days on end, feeling the magic churn within him like it wants to both stay where it is and stretch beyond itself. The fever leaves him unable to decipher the memories he gains, leaving them mixed up and making no sense at all.
The short, sudden bursts come with actual pain. All over his whole body, but mainly in his head, like it's being smacked by something and then pricked by needles in an endless loop. The memories here make more sense, but he's always much too busy being distracted by the pain to figure them out completely right away.
(and during each burst, whether he's trembling in bed from a fever or curled up trying to distract himself from the pain, he wonders why him, why him, WHY HIM
the staff appears before him after two months, sealing this fate. he wants to cry when he first holds it.)
At some point, when the bursts start getting more common
(and even worse), he can tell the rest are starting to notice. The caretakers keep a close eye on him, and the other kids always seem worried, constantly hounding him to make sure he's alright. (he's not sure if he's okay or not with the sudden attention)
One time, when an intense, long burst leaves him with a fever so high he can barely tell what's going on around him
(let alone breathe), Eriol overhears the caretakers talking. It's difficult to make out what they're saying completely, but he hears something about possibly calling the hospital if this keeps up.
"It's becoming too common, there might be something deathly wrong."
(he listens, then gazes at the staff, currently in key form, that he hides underneath his pillow.
he has to resist crying again.
oh, if only they knew)
Eriol sneaks out of the orphanage after that burst is over.
He technically has no more reason to be there, after all. He's remembered quite a lot at this point, and has most of (
his-clow's-who's?) those old powers back, and he needs to start preparing for when the girl (sakura, her name is sakura and she's going to be nothing more than a child like him) is born and grows up to become the Cardcaptor. He needs to relearn this magic completely.
But he's grown so used to the bustle of the place, to the children yelling and playing and the grown-ups gossiping amongst themselves, that when he wakes up underneath a tree far from it, already feeling another short burst of pain coming on, he has to resist the urge to burst out sobbing.
(he's so lonely)
Some realizations are made
(they'll look for him but he's not him, he's not), some preparations are made, and soon, two glowing chrysalises sit in the air before him. (he's been finding that he prefers butterfly wings to angelic ones)
He stands before the first one, and touches his staff to it.
"You are made of the sun's rays and of wisdom and of shimmering blue stones. You shall be my Sun, christened Spinel."
He watches as the chrysalis turns a deep blue, smiles, then walks to the other and again touches his staff to it.
"You are made of the moon's glow and of love and of bright red jewels. You shall be my Moon, christened Ruby."
The chrysalis turns a pale red, and then Eriol steps back as they both open.
The deep blue chrysalis reveals a large, majestic panther
(he supposes some sort of cat was inevitable after last time), with white and cyan jewelry and a shimmering jewel on his forehead. The pale red one reveals a humanoid, with long bright hair and a beautiful magenta dress. Both have large wings reminiscent of those of a butterfly. (and he smiles a little softer, because maybe now he won't be so lonely)
As he trains more with his magic, he takes time to learn of his new guardians.
Spinel Sun is serious, and wise, and enjoys reading as much as Eriol has come to. The only time that ever comes off is when the poor guy eats sweets, a silly effect that Eriol had had nothing but a passing thought of, but it was apparently enough to cause it to become reality.
...he can't say he regrets it, as it still causes him to laugh each time it happens.
Ruby Moon, meanwhile, is more outgoing and mischievous. They make quickly apparent their distaste for gender, though they do seem to prefer skirts and dresses over pants, perhaps simply because of the freedom and more options those garments have.
He's fine with it. In the end, Ruby is simply Ruby.
Out in public, they take much more conspicuous forms, Ruby as a human girl and Spinel as a stuffed toy. As they are, it's simple to see them as, perhaps, an older sister and her younger brother with his plush.
It's the closest thing Eriol can get to 'normal' right now, so he takes every chance he gets to be with them like this.
Years later, when he still looks like a child and has grown to the exact same level of power that Clow had been, he meets her.
She's in college at the moment, but he knows her to be involved, and knows that their destinies will intertwine in regards to the cards. He'd had dreams of her before, though never with clear features. Simply seeing that she would aid Sakura in multiple ways in regards to the cards, during both the capturing and the transformation processes.
But when they meet face to face for the first time, Eriol realizes that he didn't foresee her being so beautiful.
He learns that her name is Kaho Mizuki, and that she's studying to be a teacher, and that the bell she held was once Clow Reed's, and it is the one he saw in his dreams, meant to aid Sakura in Yue's judgement.
But slowly, he learns things unrelated to those future strifes. He learns that she loves collecting antiques, and he admires the smile she has when talking about her collection. He learns that she enjoys walking and exploring, but gets lost easily because she can hardly remember street names. She likes food and drinks with alcohol in them, and dislikes marshmallows.
It's only a few days before she leaves for Tomoeda, when he starts to feel a pain over not being able to see her for much longer, that Eriol realizes he's in love with her.
The day Kaho leaves to go fulfill her purpose, he gives her one simple request.
"Please...in any context, do not refer to me as Clow Reed anymore, to anyone."
(because he's not him, he's himself, himself, HIMSELF-
but who is that?)
Sometimes, the lines between his two lives blur. It's difficult, too difficult, to determine where 'Clow Reed' ends, and where 'Eriol Hiiragizawa' begins.
He has his own likes and dislikes, different from Clow's, that's for certain. But memories overlap, and twist, and combine, between the ones Clow gave him and the ones he himself created, and sometimes it's just too much.
On days where it's especially bad, he stays in bed pretty much the whole day, focused on nothing but sorting out his own mind. Spinel and Ruby refuse to leave him alone, making sure he at least takes care of himself when he's like this, and making sure he doesn't get so lost and distraught over his mixed up memories he does something foolish. Spinel sometimes lets him cling to him, in both his toy form and true form, and Ruby holds him close and murmurs words of comfort.
That it isn't his fault this is happening. That he'll get through all of this.
It's not his fault. It's not.
(but isn't it?
he still refuses to let himself cry.)
"I fear I might make things difficult for you."
(you already have for others, after all, he thinks bitterly as he watches)
Clow appears to him in a dream for the final time, the night after the Judgement.
It's at his old house, within the garden, underneath a familiar tree. Eriol's sitting on one side, curled up with his head against his knees, and he hasn't looked behind the tree, but he knows that Clow's sitting there.
"...are you angry?"
"I didn't know then, and I still don't know now." Eriol huffs, but doesn't change his position. "...they'll vanish, right? If she doesn't make them her own?"
"...indeed." Clow's silent for a moment. "You being there will sustain them for a while, but not forever. They'd only last a few more months, if it was her and her alone."
"What of the guardians?"
"Keroberos will be fine. After all, the Sun makes its own light."
...neither say any more on the topic.
"...Clow? Can I ask you something?"
"If you had chosen not to reincarnate into me...would I have still been born?"
"...I like to think you would."
(his voice is soft, riddled with guilt.
and eriol still can't decide if he forgives him.)
Kaho comes back a little while after that, and in the time before Eriol, Ruby, and Spinel need to leave for Tomoeda, they spend time together. He hides his nerves best as he can, hides the fact that he doesn't want this to end, hides the intense want for just a little bit more normality.
(just a little more, just one more day, please to all forces above just let him have this-)
But fate is unavoidable, and soon, it's time for him to leave.
The day before, Kaho and him are alone in the living room. She's sitting on the windowside couch, reading, and he's next to her, staring out the window, where Ruby and Spinel are goofing off.
(even now, they act so carefree, and he wishes he could be more like them.)
"...who am I, really?"
Kaho makes a small noise, looking up at him from her book. "What do you mean?"
"It's simply...difficult, sometimes, to differentiate between him and I."
"...is that why you asked me not to call you by his name?"
(his mind the memories it's too much), but the answer to her question is all too obvious.
He feels himself slip, feels the memories start to twist and merge and overlap again and it's all he can think about-
And he barely hears Kaho put her book down, barely hears her moving, until her hands are gently cupping his own. She's softly calling his name, and its muddled at first, drowned out by the weight of the memories, but he tries to focus on it, tries to follow it out of the deep hole he feels his mind has fallen into, and makes a small noise of affirmation once he can hear her clearly.
"At ease, alright?" Her voice is soft. "Focus on my presence."
And he tries. Eriol does his best to focus on it, on that soft presence of moon magic, and slowly, his twisting memories start to leave him be.
Once he's able to feel everything around him again, Eriol leans into her, and she gently wraps her arms around him.
"It'll all turn out fine."
"Everything will definitely be alright!"
(and for a moment, just a moment, he believes those words for the first time.)