Rating: Oh I don't know what's the hype of censorship this year.
Warnings: Old fic written somewhere before chapter 75, my fics after that contain too many spoilers for English xxxholic readers.
Disclaimer: Do I -look- rich?
Summary: Doumeki listens to his instincts, and right now they say Watanuki looks exhausted, but doesn't he always look tired to begin with? Maybe Doumeki has been staring too much?
AN: Written in another language originally, translated to English to share with bigger audience, might have errors. Kudos if you get an error, kudos and my firstborn if you get the language it was originally written in.
Doumeki believed the dark circles under Watanuki's eyes to be part of the boy's appearance, like his hair colour, his bad eyes and his complexion. It was something that belonged to him inherently and could not be changed. Well, Doumeki supposed it could be changed short-term, but the idea of Watanuki standing in front of the mirror pasting on the liquid powder like the girls in their school was something so ludicrous it made Doumeki cringe rather than laugh. No, the dark lines under his eyes were there to stay, whether they were wanted or not.
It did make Watanuki look more tired and annoyed than he was, in combination with the white skin and dark hair. The permanent scowl didn't help. Doumeki had often wondered if Watanuki was pureblood or not, and guessed the latter to be right. Watanuki was out of proportion for one race alone. At first sight he couldn't be more average, but his eyes were too big, with long eyelashes and a certain catlike quality to them. Not to mention their colour. Then there was the boy's skin. His unnatural pale skin that most definitely could do with some sunlight and added to the exotic yet unhealthy appearance. It was as if Watanuki was made to roam around at night like the spectres he saw.
Doumeki was almost positive the term 'exotic' was correctly applied to that skinny frame screaming stress and malnutrition. Which was funny because Doumeki knew how much Watanuki loved to cook and eat and he also knew that using the word 'exotic' on a male classmate his own age was not advisable.
No, coming back to the dark circles -Doumeki didn't know why he gave the bags a more romantic name than they deserved- they were always present, whether Watanuki indicated, or rather, complained about being tired or not.
Watanuki did complain a lot about everything else, like now. The boy was complaining about the assignment that was due tomorrow but had in fact been given a month ago. Watanuki had forgotten about it, which was reasonable considering the events of this month, but 'I almost died' didn't count as an excuse in the classroom. So Doumeki listened to the rant while escorting the boy to Yuuko's shop. It was not a long walk and Doumeki knew the boy preferred him around even though he'd rather die than admit that.
Sometimes the trip took long though, because of Watanuki avoiding something that wasn't there, greeting thin air or looking over his shoulder, glasses reflecting the sunlight. Sometimes everything was fine. Today was particularly bad. Watanuki avoided the shadows and was more concerned with where he put his feet down than where he was walking.
"Can I play?" Doumeki asked.
"What?" Watanuki moved to Doumeki's left to circle the shadow of a building.
"Not touching the shadows."
Doumeki went on.
"You must remember. It was a game when we were little. There was a song too, something about the shadows dragging you under if you stepped on them."
"This is not a game, Yuuko forbade me from stepping on shadows today"
"A warning, huh."
"Do you need help?"
The boy growled and made a dismissive gesture with his hand. "No, I don't, what I need is for you is to get off my back and let me concentrate."
"If you hold my hand you'll probably be fine with this amount of sunlight still out"
"I'm not touching you! I can manage just fine! Holding hands with you, honestly, what are people going to think!"
Doumeki listened quietly and patiently for the rest of the walk. Watanuki might look exhausted, he had plenty of energy when it came to yelling and shouting. It made Doumeki wonder sometimes if there was more to Watanuki than just communication with spirits. Something fascinated him about the boy's outbursts, silences and being. He seemed to have an unnatural energy around him that Doumeki could feel sometimes. Doumeki speculated this was because of his lineage and his upbringing in the shrine. Or, he thought, it was just the fact that he admired the idiot's ability to carry on with his million tasks as day.
"Hey kid, are you going to flat 4B?"
Doumeki thought it was fairly obvious, seeing as 4B was at the end of the hallway and all that was between him and flat 4B was the gruff looking man with a pipe in his mouth. Doumeki was tall, but this man was taller, and bigger and dirtier. For all the people featuring in Watanuki's rants, this man was surprisingly absent.
"Yes." Doumeki said.
The man took the pipe out of his mouth and pointed it over his shoulder.
"The brat isn't home, he never is, and when he is he keeps the whole damn block awake." That made Doumeki frown. "So kid, why are you here?" The man looked as if Doumeki was something nasty he just stepped in.
"We go to school together."
The man grunted, took a drag and exhaled the smoke through his nose.
"Tell him that I got 18 complaints about last night and the moment his term runs out he's out of here. This is no place for children anyway." He pushed past the boy, still muttering as he walked down the staircase.
Doumeki found himself alone in front of door 4B. It took some time until the heavy footsteps of the landlord faded away, all the while Doumeki kept staring at the little white plate on the wooden door. It was depressing to see Watanuki's name there, tying him to this building. The nameplate was shiny and clean. The numbers on the door where shabby, the door itself was shabby; it was a shabby building and quite a walk away from the shrine, Yuuko's shop and the school.
This was in a part of town Doumeki didn't feel comfortable walking around in. It occurred to him that he didn't know how much Watanuki actually got from the government, but it couldn't be much. And speaking of the idiot, why was he out at this time? Getting himself in trouble again?
Doumeki sat down with his back against the door. Maybe Yuuko had him running an errand on his day off. It was quite possible and it explained why the boy hadn't shown up in class today. Though not showing up in class usually meant that the idiot had found some creative way of hurting himself. Doumeki had volunteered bringing over the missed homework so that he could check up on the boy, because he probably had to anyway.
And then his backrest was gone and he was looking up at the ceiling. A ceiling with yellow stains showing leakage, a ceiling with chipped and bubbled paint. Watanuki's head appeared in the view, upside down, face flushed.
"You! Don't scare people like that! What were you doing anyway, sitting outside my door?"
Doumeki sat up and removed his shoes.
"I have your homework."
"Then knock on the door like normal people! Don't lurk outside and wait for me so you can give me a heart-attack!"
Doumeki got up and walked past the boy, shamelessly examining the living space of Watanuki's hot and stuffy apartment. It figured Watanuki was too poor to pay for something with storage space. The table was standing in the middle of the room, the futon was leaning against the wall. There were boxes and books, but no clutter and it had the definite homemaker's touch Watanuki was famous for. Still-
Watanuki slammed the door shut.
"Don't walk into other people's homes uninvited and then insult them!"
"That wasn't an insult, here" Doumeki held out the papers he'd collected in class. The moment the other boy took them he wandered off to the small kitchen. Apparently Watanuki had been in the middle of cooking, the fish and vegetables unwrapped and cut up in neat piles on the counter, the rice-cooker was working. Otherwise it was spotless like he'd expected in some way or the other. Then he poked his head around the door of the small bathroom, also spotless if not a bit cramped. Doumeki turned back to the living room where the other boy was shaking his fist at him.
"Don't walk around my house like you own it!" the corners of Doumeki's mouth turned slightly upwards at the word 'house'.
"Not much space for walking around to begin with."
"So, why weren't you at school today?" Doumeki asked.
"That's none of your business." Watanuki's reply was quick.
"I was starving around lunchtime, so I'm making it my business."
"Yuuko had me running an errand, now if you'll excuse me."
Doumeki knew a blatant lie when he saw one. And Watanuki might be an idiot, but Doumeki knew he wasn't that stupid. They both knew he was lying.
A bleep in the kitchen indicated the rice was done. The sound of Watanuki rummaging around interrupted the little stare-down Doumeki had with the door and made him focus on the stuffy living room again.
It was hot; the air smelled dusty and damp, as if the room hadn't been aired out for a long time. Doumeki pulled away the curtains and inspected the window; it looked fine, apart from the rust and lack of a good paint-job. There was a spirit-ward on the frame and windowsill as well, that made the fifth one he'd seen since he'd entered. That didn't make sense. Doumeki opened the window. The cool night-air was pleasant and he breathed in deep.
Five wards. That was a bit much; even considering Watanuki could actually see these things.
There was a clattering noise from the kitchen. Doumeki turned around to see Watanuki appear in the door, hand in front of his mouth. He looked around wildly for a moment before rushing over to the window, pushing Doumeki out of the way and closing it.
"Don't open the-" he started coughing, doubling over in that way that made alarm bells go off in Doumeki's head. He couldn't see, smell, feel or hear what the boy could but the way Watanuki's body always jerked and protested against the invisible menace made Doumeki feel unwell himself.
"Don't touch other people's stuff! Don't open the windows! You idiot!"
"Why don't the spirit wards work?"
Watanuki shuddered and took a deep breath. "I don't know."
"Are they actually coming inside?"
The boy shook his head. Doumeki peered out the window at the wall opposite.
"Are there any out there now? That you can see?" He didn't get an answer and when he looked up Watanuki was busy straightening his blouse.
"There are, that's why you keep the curtains closed." Doumeki mused.
"I like my privacy." Watanuki stated, still wiping at an invisible speck of dirt, ignoring the fact he had a brick wall as a view.
"How many?" Doumeki asked.
Watanuki shrugged, dropped the hem of his shirt and gave that look that made Doumeki want to do something, hit somebody, break something. That look. Watanuki's eyes with their unnatural colour were endlessly deep and a turmoil of emotions always lay just beneath the surface. A bit of melancholy a bit of grief, an unnatural dose of sadness, but most importantly the apathetic acceptance overshadowing all that. Watanuki had long accepted his 'fate' and that triggered so much raw anger in Doumeki he wondered if all those years of meditating with his grandfather had been for nothing.
Watanuki moved over and grasped the curtains, keeping his eyes on the window. "I haven't opened that curtain in a while, I tend to loose count with the way they all keep pushing at each other to get in, it gets on my nerves."
Doumeki didn't say anything, imagining what it would be like to have his peace violated in such a way. He leant even closer, nose almost touching the glass.
"I thought I had an effect on them, what are they doing now?"
Good, Doumeki thought as he moved away so the boy could seal the place off again.
"Do you need my help?"
Watanuki sighed. "No I don't, it's fine, as long as some idiot doesn't barge in here and opens the windows."
Doumeki was about to retort when there was knocking on the door. Seeing as Watanuki made no effort to open it -and the other boy shot a glance that could silence the dead- Doumeki remained quiet. There was more knocking and some scratching and fumbling at the door before heavy footsteps echoed away into silence. Doumeki stood motionless, waiting for a sign. Eventually the shorter boy sighed and raked a hand through his hair.
"Why are you hiding from your landlord?" Doumeki asked.
Watanuki nearly fell over.
"Do you always have to be so blunt?"
Doumeki shrugged and observed the boy opening the door the slightest bit and quickly picking up a letter from the floor before shutting it. Without glancing at the contents of the envelope he binned it. Doumeki frowned.
"What?" The short boy blustered, as if feeling compelled to explain himself. "He wants me out of this place, but I don't have the money to move right now."
Watanuki looked at him blankly for a second. "Why? Because all my income goes either to Yuuko or the school."
"I meant, why does he want you gone?"
Watanuki made sure to turn his back to the other boy before starting his rant.
"Who knows? Probably because I don't have enough to worry about with that boozehound and her ridiculous demands, did you know tuition fees went up again? After the new year do you know how much I'd have to pay? This way it's better if I quit and don't go to high school at all! Just slave all day until I die, now- "Watanuki finished acting out his untimely death, "-did you want something because I am very busy."
Doumeki acknowledged for himself that he touched a tender spot when it came to money, also the idea of Watanuki having to drop out of school now because of finances was a surprisingly real threat, but that didn't clear up the matter of Watanuki lying through his teeth.
"Actually, I'm hungry."
"I am not feeding you!" Watanuki crossed his arms.
"I didn't mean that, I meant you come with me."
"I'm cooking." Watanuki motioned towards the kitchen with a big gesture that meant his was still upset.
"Didn't I just tell you about my riches?"
"I'm paying" Doumeki replied.
"Off course you are, don't invite people if you don't pay!"
"I meant the food you're leaving."
"That's not the point."
"Just come with me, idiot."
Silence again. Always silence when Watanuki didn't want to say what was bothering him. But despite his protest he was cleaning up and turning off the lights. It was a small apartment, it was shabby, but Watanuki protected it and took care of it as if it was a shrine.
"It's dark." Watanuki's face was obscured by his hair as he put on his shoes. "There are more of them when it's dark"
These spirits directed everything in the smaller boy's life.
Doumeki didn't know where they were going, but he just wanted the boy out of this place, if only for a while.
"I'm here now, they don't touch you when I'm with you, right?"
"They better not, but if they do then you're useless and I won't have to cook you lunch anymore, so it's a win-win situation for me."
Still Watanuki looked shaken up as he put his coat on, following Doumeki through the cold night air. There were no complaints, a lot of looks over his shoulder, and he kept very close to Doumeki. So close, the boy noted as his arm was grabbed, that people would talk if they saw them.
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