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23 February 2012 @ 06:09 pm
asphyxiophilia; doumeki/watanuki; pg-15  
Title: asphyxiophilia
Author: nebulia@con_noncuranza
Rating: PG-15, for boys in their late teenage years having hormones. Or really, just one boy.
Warnings: Drug abuse. This also depicts an incredibly unhealthy, relatively codependent relationship, with both partners aware and complicit that it has the potential to be very damaging, though this is especially on Doumeki's side.
Summary: [He dreams of drowning, of moving to the Mariana Trench and living on the bottom of the ocean floor and waking up one morning unable to breathe suddenly, gasping in buckets of salty water until his vision flickers in the dark—

and he wakes up, choking on air.] Doumeki attempts to function. It sort of works.
Notes: I started writing this when the general fandom assumption was—due to what seemed to be some pretty strong canonical hints—that Yuuko (and thus Watanuki) smoked opium. In 194, the pipe-seller mentions tobacco, however, which might (though not necessarily) disprove the theory. Thus, Watanuki smokes both opium and tobacco, probably together.
This deviates from canon not long after the first time jump post chapter 186, which was when I started writing it. I suppose it could technically be canon-compliant, but I don't really see it that way.

Poetry credits: T.S. Eliot, Virgil, e.e. cummings, Dionisio d. Martinez, Colplay, and Citizen Cope. Watanuki quotes Shakespeare as well; it's from 3 Henry VI, Act 4, Scene 3, line 60.

asphyxiophilia



prologue

(from Flood: years of solitude)

To those who are destined to inherit the meek.

To us.


seventeen

Shizuka brings groceries after school. He delivers them silently, not sure what to think of Watanuki lounging on Yuuko's chaise, taking slow, careful drags from her pipe, in one of her less wild kimono.

Trying to be Yuuko. As if that will bring her back.

I'll wait, Watanuki says. I'll wait for her.

She's dead! Shizuka wants to yell but he can't do that. He can't say that.

"Could you—" Watanuki says. He's high as a kite, Shizuka can tell, but he still sounds angry and hesitant and awkward. "I can't—"

"I'll bring them," Shizuka said. "You need to eat, right?"

Watanuki shrugs.

He takes a long drag. "Could you—leave me alone?" His eyes are unusually bright.

Shizuka goes.

eighteen

I sing of man and a man at war

He studies at the shop. His mother thinks he's at cram school, but he studies better by himself and this way he can keep an eye on Watanuki.

Usually this means putting him to bed when he's too drunk or high to get there himself. Sometimes it means holding back his hair as he vomits.

It gets worse with customers. Watanuki is not firm like Yuuko was, is too kind. He doesn't charge enough, and it hurts him. Shizuka gets the name of a doctor familiar with the supernatural from the fortuneteller after Watanuki vomits blood for the first time, but there's not much he can do other than stop the pain.

"The price has to be paid," the doctor says. "If he doesn't charge the right amount, it’s taken from him. There's nothing I can do."

Shizuka swears he'll make Watanuki charge the right fucking prices, and thanks the doctor aloud. Later, he makes Mokona responsible in his absence.

"Please," Shizuka says.

"Mokona will try, but Watanuki-kun is stubborn, stubborn, stubborn," the creature says sadly.

"I know," Shizuka says, offering Mokona a wry look.

"Doumeki-kun is too nice to Watanuki-kun," Mokona says. "But maybe Watanuki-kun needs it."

Shizuka wonders if that's true.

how do you like your blueeyed boy
Mister Death


Between kyudo and entrance exams and the shop, Shizuka is busy enough to not think. Looking after Watanuki is hard work, and he's still bereft and dejected most of the time, when he's not high.

Shizuka hides the pipe one day, because Watanuki smokes more in a day than Yuuko usually did in a week.

Watanuki nearly tears the shop apart looking for it, until Shizuka gives it back to him. "Here, here, okay?" He doesn't know what else he can do.

Later Watanuki tells him, eyes dilated, "It's nice, here. I don't have to think about Yuuko-san. You know I'll wait forever? She has to come back someday."

Eventually Watanuki smokes less, mostly because he grossly overcharges a customer one day because he's too high to judge the proper price. Shizuka isn't sure what happened to the customer, or to Watanuki, but it was enough to make him cut down on the opium, which is probably pretty good.

(shizuka asked, once, knowing he was stoic enough to wield his emotions like a weapon, i worry when you smoke. can't you just do it a bit less?

watanuki had tossed his head and smiled at him in that enigmatic way that he must have inherited with the shop. you, worrying? don't try to be a comedian.

it does hurt that watanuki will smoke less for a customer he barely knows and not for shizuka.

it hurts a lot.)

And then there are groceries. Shizuka has been buying groceries for his family for years, so he knows what food is fresh and what isn't. Watanuki remarks on that at least once a week. At first, Shizuka reminds him that he knows how to cook, more or less—you asked me once, remember?—and sometimes Watanuki does and sometimes he doesn't, and Shizuka doesn't know what that means. Eventually he just stops mentioning it, shrugging when Watanuki mentions it or just saying something glib and typical.

Whenever he comes with the groceries, Moro and Maru will always greet him with, "Welcome home!" and grins and smiles and their silly welcome-home dance.

"I don't live here," Shizuka says, and takes off his shoes. They don't seem to care.

Even at his most high, Watanuki can cook, Watanuki demands to cook, and he performs admirably. The food never tastes right, tastes of sadness and opium and Watanuki gone sour, but then no one but Shizuka would know that, probably.

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion


Those first few months are the hardest. Watanuki is crazy or silent or creepy or with a customer. Sometimes Shizuka comes from school to find him on the chaise, sobbing ferociously, half the room destroyed.

And sometimes he comes from school and Watanuki is sprawled across the lounge, smoking or dozing, and when he lifts an eyebrow at it, he says things like, "What fates impose, that men must needs abide; It boots not to resist both wind and tide," in English. It is as if with the shop and the smile Watanuki has also inherited every quote about the inevitability of fate, destiny, or hitsuzen to ever exist.

Sometimes Himawari, though more and more rarely, or Kohane visit, but usually they say something innocuous that sets Watanuki off and he throws things and yells and cries until he collapses and falls asleep sobbing.

"He's grieving," the fortuneteller says. "For Yuuko-chan, yes, but also for his life, even if he doesn't realize that." She pats Shizuka on the bicep because she can't reach his shoulder. "It will get better. I know it will."

And eventually it does. One day—after Watanuki has cut down on the smoking—Shizuka realizes he hasn't cried in two whole weeks, a record since Yuuko's death. He hasn't been so drunk he puked in five days, which may also be a record.

It's probably a good thing. Shizuka has exams coming up, and he really wouldn't care much about them but his grandfather wanted him to get into a good university, so he will.

So Shizuka studies for his grandfather, but still at the shop, and sits for the exams, and they're easy, and he gets into Tokyo University and well, then, that's that.

Watanuki has inarizushi and a tres leches cake waiting for him the day the results get in.

"Did you know?" Shizuka asks.

Watanuki shrugs.

"Mokona knew," Mokona says, "But that's because Doumeki-kun is smart!"

"Brilliant!" Moro shouts.

"A genius!" Maru crows. They dance around him, and grab his hands and squeeze and smile up at him, wide and genuine.

He offers a small smile back. "That might be stretching it," he tells them.

"Nope!" Maru says. "Doumeki-kun is a genius 'cause we say so!"

"We said, so it's true," Maru scolds. They drag him to the table.

Watanuki looks at him in that irritated way he has. "Congratulations," he says grudgingly, and then smiles for real.

It might be the first real smile Watanuki has ever bestowed upon him. It makes Shizuka happier than anything else ever has.

Eyes I dare not meet in dreams

The smile fuels Shizuka's dreams for a month. Shizuka sometimes forgets that love is that. Everything he does is for Watanuki, because he loves Watanuki, but he wants Watanuki too. Wants to be able to kiss him, brush elbows with him while they wash the dishes. Wants to be able touch him when he's not drunk or sick and puking, wants to be able to just casually lean against him when they sit on the porch. Wants to have and be had and wants Watanuki to want that too.

Shizuka has spent years fighting that. Close, but not too close—protecting Watanuki whether he wants it or not, but when he actually says thanks riling him up—there was a border. He couldn't have it all.

It was protecting himself, really—Watanuki didn't even like him, and Shizuka wasn't going to set himself up for rejection. Anyway, being with Watanuki, being near Watanuki, keeping him safe, that's enough for him, really.

And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions

Except sometimes it isn't. Sometimes it hurts so badly that he can't take it, hurts like someone plunging his heart in a vat of liquid nitrogen and throwing it to the ground, a tight, squeezing, icy shattering feeling. Some nights he wakes up gasping for air and his chest throbbing and he curls in on himself and buries his face in his hands and forces himself not to cry.

He loves Watanuki, loves him with all his heart, and he will no matter what—but Watanuki doesn't even like him. He barely even cares.

It's hard, sometimes.

nineteen

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.


"I'm moving out," Shizuka's mother says. "Do you have a problem with that?"

No, he doesn't.

She's found an apartment. A nice one, in the city. Less upkeep. More privacy. No memory of a dead husband. No disappointment of a son, studying folklore in the university, wanting to be a priest like his grandfather.

(but you were so good in science! his mother nearly wailed. you could be a doctor.

i don't want to be a doctor,
shizuka said.

it's certainly a better career than a priest, she said. more money, more social. You could make a real difference!

i want to be a priest
, shizuka said.)

Shizuka doesn't really care.

"I'm fine here," he says.

"I thought you would be," his mother says, and that is that.

So now Shizuka lives alone. He neglects to mention this to Watanuki, until Watanuki mentions his parents and Shizuka says, "Mother doesn't live with me anymore."

Watanuki blinks at him slowly.

Shizuka says, "She moved out. To an apartment in the city. The temple has been ours for a century, and I know how to pay bills."

"Why didn't you tell me?" Watanuki nearly shrieks, though his nearly-shriek is different, quieter, than it once was.

Shizuka shrugs. "You didn't ask."

Watanuki takes a deep breath, preparing for a rant, but then stops, and instead doesn't say anything. "Right," he says, and brings the pipe to his lips.

He doesn't ask about his father. Shizuka thinks maybe Watanuki forgot he was dead until just then, and says nothing.

once you'd gone it was never an honest word

Living alone suits Shizuka. There are a couple of priests who work the temple, and he takes care of the financial issues, and cleans, and occasionally sleeps and dresses there. It is still home, will always be home, but he doesn't spend much time there.

Sometimes the shop is home too, but it's not right. It's not really home.

Watanuki doesn't want him there.

Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question

Shizuka dreams of living at the bottom of the ocean, deep in the Mariana Trench, alone and happy. Down there, there is nothing but him and silence and living, no memory, no people, no Watanuki.

He wakes up hard for no reason whatsoever with Watanuki's name on his lips and in his thoughts. He jerks off hard and fast and breathless in the shower, trying to think of nothing, but instead Watanuki's name runs through his head—Kimihiro, Kimihiro, Kimihiro—

And Watanuki says his name—not his family name, his grandfather's name, but Shizuka, and Shizuka comes.

This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

The temple is good. It's quiet most of the time. Shizuka enjoys the silence. The offerings he gets, after paying the priests, are enough to cover the utilities and for some food. He doesn't need anything. He should be happy.

Toudai is good to him, mentally. It challenges him. He loves folklore, loves studying it. He might have been good at science, but it really wasn't all that interesting. There was always an answer, a theory, everything all tied up nice and neat. It was boring. It was just something he was good at.

Folklore, though, is interesting. Interesting the way different cultures have ancient legends that match each other perfectly, even without ever coming into contact. Interesting in the study of oral tradition, of things getting sung and spoken and told and eventually, finally getting written down, poetry because it had been easier to speak that way, easier to remember. They read stories from different cultures, sometimes in their original languages—English, Latin, classical Japanese.

He loves it as much as he loves kyudo. The two passions in his life.

Well, three, if you count Watanuki.

He has to count Watanuki as a passion, as a hobby, because he's not a friend or a lover and he's certainly not an acquaintance. There's no way to describe what Watanuki is to him, no way that's mutual. He's just—Watanuki.

In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

He goes to school and gets groceries and goes to the shop and does his work. He wears a yukata most nights and washes his clothes at the shop and goes back to school in the morning. He comes back home on Thursdays, when he doesn't have class until eleven, and Sundays, checks in with the priests who work there and then showers and changes his clothes and goes to the shop.

He does his work late at night, after Watanuki has sprawled across the lounge for the night. He has a bedroom but he doesn't go there; he sleeps in the living room, his obi loosened, kimono falling off one skinny shoulder, collarbones sticking out like knives, pipe on the floor, hair mussed, glasses dangling from one hand. He pulls a blanket over his shoulders, tries not to think about biting those collarbones, and sits in the kitchen with Mokona, doing his work. He sleeps for whatever time is left and wakes up with smudges under his eyes and more worry lines across his forehead.


twenty

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”


He dreams of drowning, of moving to the Mariana Trench and living on the bottom of the ocean floor and waking up one morning unable to breathe suddenly, gasping in buckets of salty water until his vision flickers in the dark—

and he wakes up, choking on air.

Sometimes he dreams of how Watanuki once was, of them eating lunch under the tree or on the stairs, talking about nothing, arguing about less. When Watanuki reaches over to refill his tea, he drops the pot and grabs Shizuka's throat instead, hands tightening his eyes blank, his mouth twisted into that strange dreamlike smile he has after he's smoked too much, the black sleeves of his gakuran suddenly long and brocade—

and he wakes up choking after those too, and usually hard as well.

Sometimes the saltwater he swallows is more tangible than dreams, and when he wakes up there are tears on his face. He never remembers crying, just waking up with his face still damp and blotchy.

And sometimes he thinks he dreams normal things, sex and flying and falling and going to school naked. He doesn't fully remember them, just feelings of tumbling off a precipice, of lying in bed happy and sated, of sitting in a lecture hall freezing cold, of wings. Not enough for him to even describe them as anything other than a dream he had last night but can't recall.

But it doesn't matter. Every morning he wakes up gasping for air, like he can't breathe.

His courses get more specific. He's working on a thirty-page paper on comparisons on Chinese and Japanese folklore, places where they intersect and places where they fork. He's found a number of sources amongst his grandfather's books, and more in the university library and his professor contacted a friend of his in China and got him a copy of a legend in classical Chinese, the first telling ever written down, that Shizuka had had a hard time finding.

He throws himself into the paper because it's better than thinking about Watanuki, about drowning, about choking on nothing.

Watanuki is more subdued than he used to be, but usually he's similar. He doesn't cry himself to sleep every night. He doesn't need a hangover remedy every morning.

But there's something dreamlike about him. Something odd and enigmatic, and it becomes more and more obvious with time. It was an aura Yuuko had, of not-quite-thereness, of being separate from earth. But Yuuko could—and did—spend time on earth. Watanuki does not. He can't, and that makes him seem unattainable, in every possible way.

He'd never thought of Yuuko as unattainable, but then he'd never loved her, either.



intermission

Chapter One

I do not think that they will sing to me.


Himawari sees what Watanuki-kun does not.

It has been a long time since she visited, a long time since she was able to smile at him like she used to. Shizuka-kun says that Watanuki-kun cried about it the first time her smile was sad and weak, and Himawari was horrified to realize she didn't really care. She's just sad that things can't be how they used to be. But Watanuki-kun is different now, is determined, too determined, and he's breaking everyone's hearts, and Himawari doesn't want her heart to break too.

She sees Shizuka-kun too skinny for his broad shoulders, his height. He has stretch marks on his back still from his final growth spurt, and Watanuki-kun noticed, for a while (this was before Himawari stopped coming by except for on Watanuki-kun's birthday), and said: "How can you be so skinny when you eat so much?"

The fortuneteller smiled and said something about being a growing boy, and no one said anything about Shizuka-kun eating nothing outside of Watanuki-san's food.

But Watanuki-kun thinks Shizuka-kun has filled out, is all right now. He is tall and broad-shouldered, and a suit can hide a lot when the coat hangs from his shoulders, when you can't see the ribs underneath.

Of course, Shizuka-kun takes measures to hide that from Watanuki-kun. He doesn't want him to worry, or at least think about that.

She sees Shizuka-kun caring too much, and Himawari is angry because one day they came home from the shop, walking together because the temple was on the way to her apartment, and he shut the door to the temple and she heard his hitching breaths, his gasps.

She'd opened the door and he was standing just inside, hand supporting himself on the gate, crying, not loud, not sobbing, his eyes wet but no tears, his shoulders shaking, just little gasps of air. And his face—Himawari had long since thought that Shizuka-kun did not so much hide his emotions behind a mask as he just was serious, because she could tell when he was happy even when he didn't smile (though he did, sometimes).

His face was open and hopeless.

She held him then, just inside the yard to the temple, stroking his hair, murmuring things. His hands clenched in the shirt on her back, hard, and it didn't hurt—her scars had stopped hurting a long time ago—but it made him flinch and pull his arms back.

"It's okay," she'd whispered, "It's okay."

"I love him," Shizuka-kun said, and he didn't really sound like he was crying, just hoarse. "I love him."

Himawari knew that, had known that since Shizuka-kun had forced the ambulance driver to take them to Yuuko's and not the hospital after the accident with the window, but he said it broken and hopeless: he'll never love me, he said, even if the words didn't come out.

Shizuka-kun did not act any differently after she'd helped him to bed, rubbed his back till he slept, but Himawari knows what a broken heart is.

She sees Shizuka-kun getting Watanuki-kun groceries, little extras, some apples when they were on sale, because Watanuki-kun liked apples, he'd said so once, long ago, when he could still taste things and needed to eat. He buys sake too, and she sees him drink it too fast and be drunk. He's no different drunk, not really, but if he can drink enough to pass out, his sleep is dreamless. Himawari doesn't know what he dreams about normally, but the few times she has seen him sleep his has tossed and turned, not a lot, but Shizuka-kun was never one for unnecessary movement.

She doesn't ask what he dreams of. He doesn't offer up the information.

Chapter Two

I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter


It's not as if Kohane doesn't love Kimihiro-kun, because she does. But loving him is hard, and exhausting, and not really anything like love at all. She goes to school and comes home and kisses the fortuneteller on the cheek and calls Shizuka-kun, checking in. He never reports anything new, anything different. He says, "He's doing fine. You know how it is."

She does. She doesn't understand how Shizuka-kun does it. They go out for lunch one day, and whils the fortuneteller is in the bathroom she asks: how do you do it? How do you survive? Doesn't he exhaust you?

"He's worth it," Shizuka-kun says.

"Is he still?" Kohane asks, playing with her chopsticks.

Shizuka-kun sips his tea. He hasn't ordered lunch. "Already ate at the shop," he'd grunted when the waitress asked if he wanted anything, batting her eyelashes. Only Kohane and the fortuneteller can see that's he's exhausted, the kind of exhausted that two or three nights' worth of sleep could not even begin to cure. To everyone else he's calm and composed and handsome, if a bit thin.

"I don't know," Shizuka-kun says. "But I guess he is."

"Eat something," Kohane urges, and Shizuka-kun shakes his head.

"It all tastes like sand," he says. "It's like I'm choking."

twenty-one

Do I dare
Disturb the universe?

"You're too thin," Watanuki says from the doorway.

"I'm changing," Shizuka says, his back to the door, more because it's the principle of the thing than anything else. He shrugs into the yukata, tying it.

"You shouldn't be so thin," Watanuki says again. "You're tall. Your shoulders are wide. I can see your ribs."

"It's not your problem," Shizuka says.

"You eat so much," Watanuki says. "How are you so thin? You're not sick—" Shizuka turns around, looking at him. "Unless you are. Are you sick?"

"No," Shizuka says, except he sort of is, at least mentally. "I'm fine."

Watanuki frowns and steps forward. When they stand next to each other, the difference in size is startling. Shizuka has four inches on Watanuki now, and Watanuki makes it worse, seems narrower, slimmer in those kimono that nearly fall off him.

Watanuki frowns at the v of Shizuka's yukata's neck. "How did I not notice how thin you are?" Watanuki says, almost dreamily. One long-fingered hand, smelling of opium and tobacco, comes to rest on his shoulder.

Shizuka nearly spits out you were too busy caring about other things, but doesn’t. He shrugs.

Watanuki swallows hard, his face darkening. "Oh," he says, as though he has realized something.

Shizuka says nothing.

"Don't lie to me," Watanuki says, harsh.

Shizuka looks down at him. "What?" he asks, genuinely confused.

"Don't tell lies," Watanuki says. "Even of omission."

"I haven't," Shizuka says.

"You have!" Watanuki yells, grabbing the fabric at his shoulders. "You have a wish! A fucking wish and you didn’t tell me!"

Doumeki grabs Watanuki's wrists. They feel like they might snap in his fingers. "It's not one you can grant," he says lowly.

"I wouldn't know it if I couldn't grant it," Watanuki hisses.

Shizuka goes cold.

"How long?" Watanuki asks.

Shizuka says nothing.

Watanuki shakes him, hard. "How long?" he demands, and Shizuka tightens his fingers around Watanuki's wrist and pulls his hands away. He can feel Watanuki's bones beneath the skin with his tighter grip, and he's not fragile, Shizuka remembers, he probably never really was.

"Since you got my soul back," Shizuka says. "Maybe before. But that was when I knew."

Watanuki is shaking. "That's—" he says, and gasps like he's been slapped. "Six years ago—"

Shizuka nods. "Not quite six," he says.

Watanuki's face is white. "You—you can't—"

Shizuka shoves Watanuki's wrists down and lets go, suddenly furious. "I can," he says acidly. "I do. I love you." The words fall out of his mouth too easily.

He thought all color was gone from Watanuki's face, but he'd been wrong as the boy goes even whiter. "B-but," he stammers after a moment, "but you d-don't—don't f—"

"Don’t what?" Shizuka snaps. "I don't love? I don't feel? You have no idea what goes on inside of me. You never asked. You never wanted to know. How do you I don't feel things?"

Watanuki takes a step back, twists his fingers in the sleeves of his kimono.

"Look around," Shizuka demands. "Look at you. You've alienated everyone, whether by time or accident or device, I don't know. Kunogi never stops by, except for on your birthday—she can't take it, not just you being hurt but everything, how you drink and you smoke and you hurt yourself. Tsuyuri has school, and the old woman is just that—old. Tired. It's a long trip to the shop from her home. They still love you, they still want to take care of you, but you don't want to be cared for. You want to be alone."

Watanuki's mouth opens and then closes. "I—"

"You'll wait for her," Shizuka says. "You'll wait for her and you'll wait so long that eventually you'll be her." He lowers his head. "You're Watanuki. Not Yuuko. I won’t let that happen to you. I will do everything in my power to make sure that never happens to you."

Watanuki tosses his head, still pale but angry now. "What? You'll live as long as I do? You'll stay around?" He laughs, but it's more like a sob. "How? Sheer force of will?"

"If I have to," Shizuka says. He steps around Watanuki and heads to the porch. He is going to drink sake until he can do nothing but sleep. In the morning his head will hurt, a little, but he won't be drowning. He'll be dehydrated.

Watanuki turns. "You don't love me," he says.

Shizuka stops, turns around. His heart is pounding and if he was furious before, he doesn't know what this is. He can't breathe, can't see anything but white and red and angry, and he pushes Watanuki hard against the wall. Watanuki's eyes go wide with terror, but Shizuka just glares at him.

"I'm still here," he says, low and fierce. "I have given you everything—my blood, my eye, my sake, my grandfather—" Watanuki flinches—"my fucking soul, and I am never going to leave you. No matter what you say to me, no matter how much you push me away, I am going to stay. Because I love you and it's all I can do."

He lets Watanuki go.

"I—" Watanuki says. His breath comes hitching and gaspy, like he's been running or crying. "I can't—" he says and turns and goes to his room, almost sprinting.

"I know," Shizuka whispers to the wall. "You don't love me. I know."

He still can't breathe. He gasps, like a fish out of water, and falls to his knees, presses his hand against his mouth. He chokes on the air in his throat.

He doesn't cry. He doesn't throw up. But it might have been better if he had.

they keep knocking me sideways

(he took off the ring when he got home, put it next to his bed. set the egg next to it.

it was futile. he had been choking long before that, and he didn't stop choking just because they weren't touching him.

he put the ring back on the next day, his finger naked without it.)

looking over trees
sometimes you feel so far away—


Watanuki avoids him for a week. Shizuka puts the groceries away himself. The door to the greeting room is shut and Moro and Maru stand in front of it, sorrowful, not letting anyone in. There are no customers.

"Wants to be alone," Moro says, hanging her head.

"Wants things he can't have," Maru says. She touches Shizuka's hand.

Shizuka wants to live in the Mariana Trench.

And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?

Watanuki comes out because Kohane shows up, unsurprisingly. He acts like everything is fine, or at least he does after Shizuka arrives from class, Kohane and Mokona already drinking tea and Watanuki talking to them from the kitchen. He can hear them when he walks inside.

"Hey," Shizuka says.

"Welcome home!" Moro and Maru shout, and Shizuka tries not to flinch. He's given up on correcting them.

Kohane and Watanuki are laughing, though Watanuki's laughter sounds forced. Would anyone other than Shizuka notice that?

"Kohane's here!" Moro and Maru say, dancing around him. "She brought cake!"

Shizuka smiles slightly, and removes his shoes. He didn't need to get groceries today, so he sets down his bag and Moro and Maru each grab a hand and drag him into the kitchen.

Watanuki is cooking in a simple kimono, not one of Yuuko's. He has his sleeves tied back and an apron on, not the long-sleeved one he used to wear over his gakuran, but a western apron. He stiffens as they walk in. Mari and Moro let go of his hands and skip back out to the sitting room.

"Oi," Shizuka says.

Watanuki doesn't turn around. His shoulders are tight. "I have a name," he says crossly, but he sounds subdued opposed to his usual self.

"Watanuki," Shizuka says. "How are you?"

He's not very good at pleasantries.

Watanuki is putting inarizushi on a serving plate. "Fine," he says, too fast. "But it's dinner time now, so—" He picks up the plate and turns, and Shizuka grabs his arm.

"What's going on?" he says quietly. "What is it?"

Watanuki wrenches his arm out of his grasp. "Nothing's going on," he snaps. "It's none of your business."

"It is my business," Shizuka says.

"Why is that?" Watanuki demands. "I told you you've got no—"

"Shut up," Shizuka says. "I'm not gonna change my mind."

Watanuki's shoulders slump suddenly. "Oh. Oh, I—" he sets the plate back down and faces Shizuka fully. Their eyes meet—for the first time in a long time, Shizuka realizes.

They look at each other for a long time.

"Even if I do become her," Watanuki whispers, "if I do, will you stay?"

Shizuka nods. "No matter what," he tells Watanuki quietly. "I meant it."

Watanuki's smile is small and wry. "I know you do. You mean everything you say." He looks down, puts his hand on Shizuka's heart. "I could grant your wish," he says. He frowns at Shizuka's chest. "It wouldn't—it wouldn't cost too much, not for you. Because I would pay too." He looks back up at Shizuka. "Meeting in the middle," he whispers.

Shizuka can't breathe. He's shaking all over. He swallows, and inhales.

Watanuki's left eye is pale gold, not quite as dark as Shizuka's. Without thinking, Shizuka reaches out and touches Watanuki's face, brushing his thumb under that eye. His eye.

"What're you—" Watanuki twists away.

"I'd give you everything," Shizuka says quietly. "If you needed it, if you wanted it. My whole body if yours broke."

Watanuki stills. He steps forward again, puts his hand on Shizuka's arm. "Don't worry," he says, quiet, certain. "I won't break."

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

epilogue

"You can stay over," Watanuki says one night, hesitantly. "I don't mind. You know you're always welcome," and the words sting with truth to Shizuka, make him smile a little into his tea.

"Ah," he says in response, really not sure what else to say. He does stay over, most nights, has since Watanuki took over the shop.

"What kind of answer is that?" Watanuki mutters, but without much heat. He taps some ash from his pipe into the bowl, and then sighs and sets the pipe across the bowl, shifting to sit closer to Shizuka on the porch.

"Tea?" Shizuka offers, and Watanuki takes it. Their fingers brush as he gives Watanuki the cup, and Shizuka feels soft inside.

"In fact," Watanuki says slowly, "You could just…stay here. All the time. I—I would like it."

Meeting in the middle, Watanuki's voice breathes in his head.

"I can't," Shizuka tells him. "I'd like it, but I still need to take care of the temple." Still needs the temple, really. He needs something other than Watanuki, something to tie him to the earth. If he floats away, there will be nothing to hold Watanuki down.

Watanuki's shoulders slump a little. "Oh," he says.

"I can stay over sometimes, though," he says, and meets Watanuki's eyes. Nothing will change, but it means something anyway.

Watanuki smiles, and that smile, kind and sincere and real and directed towards him—he feels like he's floating, neutrally buoyant, everything around him and within him perfectly balanced, and he takes a breath.

He leans over and kisses Watanuki, brief.

"That's good," Watanuki says. "That's great."

but that was when i ruled the world
 
 
 
the world is not beautiful, therefore it isheijihatsutori on February 24th, 2012 04:53 pm (UTC)
I seldom read xxxHolic fanfiction, but if most of them are like this then I'll start hunting them down.

This. What is this you-

Okay before I start rambling nonsense I better get a grip on myself.

Tl;dr memming this. You are awesome.
perhaps from middle dutch.nebulia on February 25th, 2012 01:27 am (UTC)
Thank you!

There is some really excellent holic stuff out there. The fandom is full of good stuff. I'd check it out!

:D I'm glad you liked it.