Notes: Published February 2006 in my LiveJournal. I seem to not be able to write CLAMPfic without shoving xxxHOLIC in.
Valentine's Day had never been a good day for Subaru.
When he was young, it always heralded an evil plot from Hokuto, and usually that evil plot involved very pink and very frilly matching outfits. When he entered middle school, it always meant he was crushed under a metric ton of chocolate when he opened his locker in the morning. After the Year, it meant that every February the fourteenth he would return to his apartment in the evening to find it packed full of roses, chocolates, and illusionary penguin bands singing popular love ballads. (One year, he'd found a lacy...thing that he supposed was clothing in the mess. It had a note on it that directed him to wear it and stand at the living room window from 9:00-10:00PM in a sexy pose. He'd wisely declined the request.)
Now...well. 1999 had come and gone, and Subaru had come back in the evening from work (god, he loathed his work) to a rose-less, chocolate-less, penguin-less, and lingerie-less apartment. He sighed.
He tapped off his shoes and hung up his trenchcoat, deciding that a shower and a pint of Ben & Jerry's might lift his mood some. He sloughed his turtleneck, and padded into the bathroom as his fingers worked on his belt. His jeans pooled around his ankles; he stepped out of them and began to rummage through the bathroom cupboard for his shampoo.
A barely audible noise whispered into his ear. Subaru blinked and shook it off.
A moment later, his fingers grasped the shampoo. Somehow the bottle slipped from his grasp and clattered to the floor. As Subaru bent over to pick it up, the noise whispered again--louder this time. Subaru frowned and narrowed his eyes. He straightened back up, clutching the shampoo bottle, and very lightly took the elastic of his boxers between two fingers.
The noise was very clear this time: "Take it aaaaaaall off, Subaru-kun!"
Subaru hurled the shampoo bottle to the floor in frustration and raised his fingers in a chanting gesture. Seishirou's voice tsked in a very patronizing tone.
"Oof! Now, now, Subaru-kun--is that any way to treat a guest in your home? And on Valentine's Day!"
Subaru's hand quivered, and he slowly let it fall to his side. He looked around forlornly.
"...I can't see you," he whispered.
It came from the shampoo. It came from the shampoo. Subaru stared down at the bottle in disbelief.
"Everything in your home is very heavily warded, Subaru-kun," Seishirou graciously explained. "This was sadly the only thing I could easily inhabit--well, actually, it was either this or the teapot. And the teapot doesn't give me the perfect vantage point to watch you shower."
Subaru knew that he should have long ceased to be surprised at the lengths Seishirou would go to torment him. Or see him naked, for that matter.
"...why are you here?" Subaru asked, finally. He sank to his knees to scoop up the shampoo bottle and cradle it tenderly in the crook of one arm. It was then he knew that he had finally lost his mind.
The voice from the shampoo bottle purred in content. "I already told you. Valentine's Day. You showering. Why else?"
"But..." Subaru clutched the bottle tighter. "You're..."
"Dead? Why, yes, Subaru-kun. I noticed."
Subaru nearly cried with confusion, frustration, and a million other things he couldn't even name. "No! You're supposed to have moved on to someplace I can never ever reach and I'm supposed to be spending the rest of my life alone and without you and alone and--"
"Subaru-kun. You're angsting at a shampoo bottle. Though a rather sexy one if I do say so myself."
Subaru sighed in defeat. This conversation was going nowhere.
"Would you at least like a more comfortable spot to possess?" he asked.
Seishirou somehow managed to communicate a shrug. "If you're still planning to shower, I'm fine for now. Unless you'd care to take the wards off of your washcloth...?"
Subaru thought this over for a moment. "...sure, okay."
And so started one of the more bizarre living arrangements in world history. After shower-time, Subaru de-warded one of the various penguin plushies Seishirou had barraged him with over the years to give Seishirou's spirit some mobility. Seishirou seemed to be too enamored of the opportunity to possess a penguin to notice the slight to his dignity. Subaru didn't get much sleep that night, since Seishirou-penguin kept trying to burrow under the neck of his nightshirt ("--but I'm so cooooold, Subaru-kun--!"). In the morning, he awoke to find Seishirou-penguin struggling to carry a tray of breakfast over his head to where he lay.
"...you made this for me?" Subaru asked, softly. He picked up the tray and set it on his lap to relieve Seishirou-penguin of his burden.
Seishirou-penguin scrabbled his way onto the bed, dusted off his flippers and huffed a sigh.
"Of course. I don't exactly need to eat, Subaru-kun. You, however--" He prodded Subaru's ribs with a plush flipper. "--are in worse shape than when I last left you. There are other food groups besides cigarettes, you realize."
Subaru picked at his rice sullenly. Being scolded about his weight by a stuffed toy seemed distinctly degrading. A change of subject seemed necessary.
"If you're here and perfectly able to possess things, Seishirou-san, why hasn't Hokuto-chan ever taken the opportunity?" Subaru frowned for a moment, then looked about suspiciously. "...or has she?"
Seishirou-penguin shrugged. "She seems to prefer a more stealth method of meddling in your life as of late. She was always the one to help me book the penguin band every Valentine's Day, and she made you that lovely lacey thing you cruelly refused to model for me that one year. Hokuto-chan felt very insulted, I hope you know."
Subaru felt a twinge of hurt. "...but she knows that lace makes me itch..."
Seishirou-penguin flopped across his lap languidly and gazed up at him with button eyes.
"So, Subaru-kun, what are we doing today? Have you been making sure Tree-san takes its vitamins? Sometimes it likes to hide them under its leaves to get out of it, you see..."
Subaru set down his chopsticks, slightly embarrassed. "...ah. Actually, I'd planned a tea date with Kamui and Arashi-san today. We...thought we might need it, after Valentine's Day."
Kamui. Arashi. Subaru felt a pang of guilt. 1999 hadn't been kind to them, either--and he doubted they had the luck he did yesterday.
The "luck." He really had lost his mind.
A dark cloud settled over Seishirou-penguin's features the moment Kamui's name was mentioned. "I'm coming with you."
Subaru scowled at him. "They already think I'm insane, and it'll only be reinforced if I bring a stuffed penguin to talk to during our outing!"
Seishirou-penguin, in response, fluffed up his stuffing and pouted. It was a display that could erode even the most steel of wills.
"Fine, fine. We have to be there at noon."
When Subaru arrived at the café where he was to meet Kamui and Arashi, Seishirou-penguin in tow, he was vaguely relieved to find that he was not alone in his madness.
"Oh, miss, your hair smells like a garden after the rain--!" Arashi's beret sighed in bliss. "It makes me want to sing--! Oooh, miiiiiss, your haaaaaiir smells like a GAAAAAAAARdeeeen..."
Arashi twitched. "I told you that you could only come along if you possessed something useful and were silent."
"I'm useful," Sorata-beret insisted, hurt. "I protect your lovely head from the cruel February air. And I'm like your own personal band! Now, for the remix. Boomp chicka woomp! GARDEN! RAIN! BOOMP CHICKA!"
"At least yours is making himself marginally useful..." Kamui muttered. A hot pink My Little Pony lounged in Kamui's empty teacup, wearing tiny round glasses.
Seishirou-penguin blew a raspberry at Fuuma-pony. "Who's more badass now, pony boy?"
Fuuma-pony scowled back. "I like to play with my sister's old toys from time to time, okay? At least my stuffing isn't hanging out."
Seishirou-penguin immediately began to check himself over for leaks. Subaru sighed and set down his napkin.
"I'm glad to see you're doing...well," he said. "But I have to take my leave now; I have some business to attend to."
Arashi was clasping her hands down on Sorata-beret in a desperate attempt to keep him from dancing along to his impromptu remix. "I'm--glad to have--stop it--seen you well, too, Subaru-san--stop it or I'll put you in the pepper shaker again!"
"Me too," Kamui said, earnestly, flashing a brief smile. It rapidly faded as he saw Fuuma-pony nodding off to sleep in his teacup. "Why won't you remix a love song for me, Fuuma? Huh! And don't give me some bullshit about it not being my wish!"
Fuuma-pony seemed wounded at Kamui's outburst. "But you know I'm more of the slow-love-ballad-under-the-balcony type..."
Subaru set down his portion of the bill, scooped up Seishirou-penguin, and wisely retreated. Seishirou-penguin smirked in triumph.
"So, where are we headed, Subaru-kun?" he crooned, snuggling into Subaru's chest.
"I have to make a payment for the Sumeragi," Subaru explained. "We just have to find the right street...ah, here."
Subaru made a beeline down a tight alleyway to emerge in front of a traditional-style house. Seishirou-penguin arched an eyebrow.
"I knew that nearly all those connected to the spiritual world were indebted to the Dimensional Witch somehow, but I somehow thought the Sumeragi would prefer to take a more independent route."
Subaru rolled his eyes. "Ichihara-sama sells many other things aside from magical tools. If you really must know, our shrines tend to need the extra attention of cleaning goblins, which she contracts out."
"I think I still owe her twenty yen for a can of soda..." Seishirou-penguin mulled.
"Welcome--!" trilled Maru and Moro. "Please come in! Yuuko-san will be with you shortly, when the aspirin starts working--!"
Yuuko stumbled into the room shortly afterward, clumsily dressed in a bathrobe and pressing an ice pack to her head. She groaned and flopped into an armchair.
"Ghehehmmm..." She focused her bleary eyes onto Subaru. "Subaru. Nice to see you again. ...Sakurazuka. Nice new look. Anyway. That time already?"
"Yes, Ichihara-sama." Subaru dug about in his trenchcoat for a brief moment, and his hand emerged clutching a fat bottle of gold liquid. He offered it to her with a deep bow. "I come with this month's payment."
"Stop...moving..." Yuuko moaned in agony. "The room is swaaaayiiing..."
She fumbled for the bottle eagerly and popped the top, taking a swig. After a few seconds, she sighed in relief.
"Sumeragi hangover relief! High quality stuff, that is...a gift from the heavens..."
"Is that wine drinking itself?" Seishirou-penguin asked.
Yuuko started and spun to where Seishirou-penguin's flipper pointed. She shrieked in anger.
"CLOW! GET OUT OF MY GOD DAMN WINE!" She flew from her seat and to the wine closet, shaking the possessed bottle angrily. "That's from fifteenth-century FRANCE, GOD DAMN YOU!"
The wine bottle gave a satisfied burp. "Yuuko, you really do drink far too much...consider this a favor from my dearly departed self."
"I'LL MAKE YOU SO DEARLY DEPARTED THAT YOU'LL FEEL IT INTO NEXT WEEK!" Yuuko roared, shaking the empty bottle madly.
"Ichihara-sama, don't get so agitated so soon after drinking the potion!" Subaru warned, desperately.
Too late. Yuuko sank to the ground suddenly, moaning and clutching at her head. Subaru dashed over, guiding her up to her feet and to her chair. Yuuko flopped back heavily.
"Ugh. You two, leave." She gestured vaguely at Subaru and Seishirou-penguin. "You, die again." She tried to kick at Clow-bottle, but missed by a mile.
Subaru bowed deeply and scooped up Seishirou-penguin. "It has been a pleasure as always, Ichihara-sama."
The trip home and the rest of the evening passed without incident--excepting when Seishirou-penguin ensured that Subaru ate every bite of dinner by insisting that he feed him himself. Watching Seishirou-penguin struggle with the chopsticks, Subaru bit his lip so hard to keep from laughing that he drew blood. Later, Subaru curled into bed sleepily with Seishirou-penguin tucked into the crook of his arm.
"...I really missed you," Subaru murmured softly.
Seishirou-penguin snorted. "I know. Why else would I come back?"
Subaru blinked sleepily. "...I thought it was because of Valentine's Day and nudity...?"
"The nudity is a bonus..." Seishirou-penguin admitted.
"Subaru-kun...? Cute as I am, I'd rather have a more tangible form with which to fully appreciate the various bonuses of my second coming."
Subaru hmmed. "...Ichihara-san really needs more of those hangover potions than I pay her for the goblins...maybe we can convince her to give you that 'tangible form.'"
Seishirou-penguin sighed rapturously. "Oh, Subaru-kun. Beauty and brains. I knew there was a reason I had you kill me."
Subaru's heart twisted with warmth, and he buried his face in Seishirou-penguin's soft fluff.
"Good night, Subaru-kun."
"...good night, penguin-san."