"You awake now?"
He knew that voice. Slowly he dragged his eyes open, noticing immediately that he didn't have his glasses. Then he realized with a frantic leap of his heart why his upper half had been comfy but awkward: he had been lying on his stomach with his shoulders and head in Doumeki's lap!
"Gah!!" he screeched, jumping up and then hissing in pain as jolts of uncomfortable feelings jolted through his nerves. What the hell?! And why did he have this pounding headache? Even his gaze seemed a tad fuzzy, with or without his glasses. "What did you think you were doing?!"
"You were passed out and I didn't think you could lay on your back comfortably."
"Oh?" he snapped ungraciously, "and why is that?"
Doumeki blinked, as if he couldn't believe Watanuki could miss whatever it was that made the archer draw that particular conclusion. With a raised eyebrow, the taller boy pulled out his glasses from his jacket pocket and held them out. Watanuki could only snatch them away, his headache making him more irritable than usual. The lenses were a bit smudged, but that was…okay…
No, it wasn't okay because those lenses were trying to tell him that there was something very huge and white at his back.
Calmer than either one of them had expected, the frailer boy pulled off his glasses, slowly and methodically cleaned them on his shirt, and put them back on. When the white thing didn't go away, he frowned heavily and looked carefully down at his tattered shirt. There was something very wrong about this. Swallowing thickly, he asked, since he didn't have the guts to look himself, "Doumeki, what is behind me?"
"I call you by your first name, so you have to call me by mine."
Watanuki wasn't in any mood to play the boy's games, so he just gritted his teeth tightly and muttered, "…Fine! Shizuka, what is behind me?"
"You have wings."
"…I thought so." Calmly he took a huge breath and then let it out all in one very expected word: "YUUKO-SAN!!!"
It seemed to shake the entire shop and the door slid open quickly. The woman was wearing a comfortable kimono, but not one with a lot of spangles. He blinked in surprise to see her looking as tired as she did, despite the same silly grin she always wore. She hadn't even looked this bad when she had come back from that job of hers of making gods.
"Watanuki, please don't shake my shop down," she teased, but he couldn't rise to the bait after seeing her.
"Yuuko-san, are you all right? You look…um…"
Watanuki glared at his boyfriend. "Could you be a little more tactful?!"
When Doumeki didn't answer, Yuuko's faint chuckle was too loud in the room. "I'm fine, Watanuki. Just very tired."
"Why? And why am I here?! The last thing I remember is taking a nap at lunch with Himawari-chan. What happened to me, why do I have wings?!" The longer he talked, the progressively higher his voice became until he sounded like the frantic boy he should have when finding out he had white wings at his back. And when he chanced a glance, it didn't help his state of mind to find that there were not one, but three pairs.
The atmosphere suddenly grew thick and smothering at the mention of the schoolgirl's name and he looked between his boyfriend and his employer several times, his eyes pleading them to tell him what was going on.
"Watanuki, you were possessed by the crown. The poison you were injected with before when you went to get it was not a cause, but a side effect from when the crown tried to take over your body. When I destroyed the crown, it lost most of its power and fell dormant in you. It managed to take advantage of the chaos in your soul as you subconsciously fought with the knowledge of the fact that you were once an archangel and gained a foothold. It almost completely possessed you." There was a pause as Watanuki tried to take it all in and a look that he had never seen crossed the woman's face as she stood in the doorway: regret. "I made a mistake."
"I didn't call the problem right and that complicated things."
"B-but it's over now, right?" he asked, somewhat desperately. Something was still wrong, there was more to this whole thing, if the atmosphere hadn't changed. Doumeki shifted to sit closer and reached out to hold his hand. In panicked confusion, he glanced down at their twined fingers and then back up at Yuuko. This meant bad, bad news was going to be said and already he didn't want to hear it. "Right?"
"Yes, but not without sacrifices."
Oh god, not that word. If there was any word that he hated more than anything in the whole world, it was 'sacrifice'. He'd had enough of 'sacrifice'. His throat was suddenly dry and though he tried to swallow, it was like he couldn't. "S-s-sacrifice? W-who?"
Suddenly his head was somewhat dizzy as he forgot to breathe. He fancied, in a tiny and unoccupied corner of his mind, that all his internal organs ceased to function in sheer shock. Sacrifice and Himawari should not be put together. They didn't, couldn't, mix together in any way. Not his friend.
"Wh-what do you mean?"
Yuuko's eyes were steady on his kneeling form, as if she knew he didn't want to hear it, was afraid of it, but was determined to tell him anyway. Yuuko was the one person that would never let him run away from anything. "The crown had an enormous foothold on your body and soul. In order to save your life, it needed to be drawn out and into another vessel."
As if she didn't even hear him, she continued in a heartlessly clear tone, "The vessel, a person, had to have a very strong will and attachment to you. That person's soul would be forever in a constant battle for dominance with the crown's influence. I expect that eventually, with time, the crown's power will fade with nothing to feed on, but it will be a very, very long time until that happens."
"Himawari chose that path." When there was no reaction from Watanuki, she stated even more firmly, "She's dead, Watanuki. Her body ended up unable to physically take her own power and that of the crown as it melded with her soul. I have her soul safe, you need not worry, but—"
"No! Yuuko-san, why did you let her?!" Watanuki didn't even register the tears that were streaming down her cheeks. All he felt was a hurt betrayal from his employer. She was supposed to be all-powerful. She was supposed to just wave her damn pipe or sake bottle or whatever and things were supposed to just get all better. Sure, there would still be a bit of sadness and regret, but not this! Not someone dying for him again!
"That was her wish, Watanuki. I don't have the luxury to choose which wishes I want to grant. It was her decision and it was the only way to save your life. She wanted to do this and she had no regrets."
"How the hell do you know?!" he screamed. "How the hell do you know if she had regrets?!"
"Because if she did, the crown's influence would have taken over her soul instantly when the spell was performed," she countered calmly in the face of Watanuki's teary rage. "As it is, there is a strange balance at the moment. Neither is giving way and she could not have become this strong if she had regrets."
"I'm not perfect, Watanuki," she interrupted, turning to leave the room. "I can't do everything. I can't know everything. No one can, not even gods."
As the door closed once again, Watanuki completely forgot about his wings. Right then, his panicking over such a thing seemed infinitesimal and petty compared to the knowledge that Himawari was dead and it was because of him. Everyone ended up dead because of him. Who would be next?! Doumeki?!
Frantically he turned to his boyfriend, but as if he read what Watanuki was about to say, the archer shook his head. "Forget it, I'm not leaving you and it's useless to argue with me about it."
After that, Watanuki didn't have the strength to argue. He didn't have the strength to yell. All he could do was slump and cry. Doumeki's strong arms dragged him close and hugged him as tightly as he could, regardless of the awkwardness of the wings, but nothing lessened the crushing defeat in his heart. He had vowed that he would put up with Yuuko's jobs for the purpose of getting rid of his ability and becoming stronger, but he had only ended up killing a close friend.
"She told me to tell you that she was sorry and to thank you. She said you were her first friend and she'd never forget that."
"Did she tell you anything else?" he hiccupped.
That meant she had decided to take her feelings for Doumeki silently to the grave as well and that only made him cry harder. Here he was with everything she had ever wanted and not once had she ever held it against him. She had thanked him, even! Unreasonable, survivor's guilt could only wrack his body with sobs that caused his throat to go raw and hurt every time he cried. His hands trembled even as he gripped Doumeki's shirt tightly. He was a useless creature that didn't deserve to live! What was his purpose in life?! To get everyone around him killed?! Why had he been born?!
Listening to the sobbing from inside the room, Yuuko could only smile in a bitter and sad way, her eyes following the hallway to her bedroom and the jar that housed Himawari's spirit inside it. "He really is the perfect picture of a grieving angel."
She really hated the high prices.
The whole school seemed to mourn Himawari's death, even though she had not had any friends other than Doumeki and Watanuki. Doumeki had gone to school, but Watanuki hadn't, which was understandable in a way. The boy was so busy grieving that he hadn't yet even given consideration to how to remove the wings from his back. He could barely stand and walk with them. They didn't seem quite as big in length as they had been in his soul, but it was still an awkward thing.
Several teachers, knowing how close the three students had been, had suggested to Doumeki that he might seek counseling, but he never did. Right then, the one who needed counseling wasn't him. He had to spend every minute that he could with Watanuki, as he feared that if he didn't, the boy would get some stupid idea of disappearing without a word from his life in order to 'protect him'.
"Soon you won't be able to enter my shop again."
He looked up as he passed the gateposts to see Yuuko dressed to go out and waiting in her yard for him. For some reason, knowing that he wouldn't be able to enter soon was reassuring to him. It meant that soon, perhaps, their lives would go back to normal. That Watanuki would be able to leave Yuuko's shop and go back to his apartment. That they could go to school together once more and he might be able to, just maybe, get Watanuki to smile again.
"He's waiting for you inside. I won't be back until tomorrow morning, so make sure to watch over Watanuki and see that he moves around and eats."
With a keen eye, he didn't miss seeing a jar in her hand. Inside that jar was a tiny ball of white light. The orbs rays weren't strong enough to even be equal to a light bulb, but somehow, it seemed infinitely softer and kinder. He could make a decent guess that that was probably Himawari's soul. "Where are you going?"
She glanced down at the jar as well. "To deliver this to someone who can take care of it better than me and patience for a long time to come."
Doumeki didn't press her for more information, as he trusted the woman, strange as that was. If she said she knew someone who could care for Himawari's soul better than he could, then he believed her and there was no need to worry.
"I made sure the girls won't bother you and I'm taking Mokona with me," she called over her shoulder with that silly and usual grin he always saw when she talked about Watanuki, "so you can get as wild as you want." She winked and laughed and then she was out of sight.
It was at times like this that he got a glimpse of what Watanuki must have to deal with all day and he thought he could understand the frazzled mentality he had occasionally.
There was no answer to his call, but he did hear some banging and noises from the kitchen. That was odd. Very rarely did Watanuki move around, regardless of wings, even after the week had passed after Himawari's death. Did that mean he was feeling better?
It was somewhat funny to see an out-of-sorts Watanuki trying to cook with three layered wings that were, at the very least, the same size as his body, if not bigger. It was also heartwarming, that this was a day that he could see Watanuki not crying as he walked in. When Watanuki nearly dropped a pan on his foot, a faint chuckle escaped from his lips.
In shock, Watanuki whirled around and his wings ended up banging into the refrigerator and cupboards and thankfully all the things he knocked down to the floor weren't made of glass. Really, the kitchen wasn't big enough for Watanuki and three pairs of wings. There just wasn't.
"Don't scare me like that!" came the strident and indignant yell.
"You look so cute with an apron and wings. Especially with no shirt."
Watanuki flushed. They had found that once the shirt was off, there was no way to get it back on and Yuuko had refused to lend any shirts that they'd somehow have to cut huge holes in the back of to wear. Watanuki himself had refused to ruin his limited amount of shirts for such a purpose either, so it was shirtless most of the time, which Doumeki had absolutely no problem with.
"You could at least say I look beautiful or magnificent!" he snapped finally, turning away to hide his glowing, red cheeks. "Don't I look even somewhat impressive?"
Doumeki could already recognize that Watanuki's fake cheer was fading when his last sentence had ended up petering off into a whisper. His face took on an achingly sad look and he knew that any minute, the boy was going to be crying. With a sigh of sympathy, he reached around the wings to pull Watanuki toward him. As usual, Watanuki's tears stained his shirt, but he didn't mind. Despite the fact that Watanuki was crying, he was cheered up slightly himself. The fact that Watanuki had attempted to try to cook and had even acted somewhat normal, even for a few minutes, meant that he was trying to get over his grief. It meant he was trying to move on.
"I don't think I could do this without you," Watanuki muttered into his chest. The words were garbled, but for someone in love like Doumeki was, there was no way that he couldn't understand what was being said.
"I'll be here long after you don't need me."
Soon the only sound in the room was Watanuki's crying, but that fell to silence soon enough. He figured it would take a long time for Watanuki to truly get over Himawari's death, but he'd be there every step of the way.
"My grandmother is going to be coming for Christmas."
"You want me to come?"
"You need to ask that?"
And for the first time that whole week, he saw a tremulous, faint smile touch those sad lips. "Guess not."
They stayed in that silence, Doumeki clutching Watanuki tightly and trying to keep the boy warm even with the heater. Lacking a shirt must be really bad…
"I don't think you should lose the wings."
"You look cute and I like you without a shirt."