Spoilers: Up to Chapter 119
Disclaimer: Clamp's world, i'm just trying to make sense of it.
Dedication: For my husband, because i can't breathe when i think of how close that fence post came to wiping you out of my life permanently.
Too Much, Not Enough
I'm across the courtyard when I hear the echoing crack of the pane, Himawari's scream, the collective held breath of every witness – and I turn to see you fall.
You're twisted, face pivoted down, and by some inconceivable stroke of misfortune, you're falling faster than the pane of glass. Everything freezes and I can see your vivid blue eye and my golden one, not stubborn or contrary or superior for once – your face is raw, something I never see in conjunction with me – you're staring straight at me, mouthing my name, as if I can materialize right where you're headed – You need me – and I'm retaining enough logic against the rising panic and sheer, voluminous fear that I know I can't – I can't be there fast enough.
My vision crystallizes, sharp and clear, as every cell screams for you – the rush is familiar, dreadful, and nearly incapacitating this time – I'm painfully aware of how much it going to hurt this time, for the both of us, because I should've known, I should've stayed with you all day, if not because of my sharpened intuition when it comes to you, but because of grandfather's. Damn it, Shizuka, you've should've been there, you should've known better. A landslide of mistakes… and you're the one that pays for them, the one time it's truly no fault of your own.
I hate myself, repressing the bile as it rises to the back of my throat, shouting for an ambulance. All I know is I'm halfway to you when you strike the concrete, eyes wide and mouth open, your shoulder absorbing most of the impact, a crack of bone, and half a breath later, the pane… The sun catches the glass, blinding me, but I don't need to hear it shatter – I can hear it, hear your gasp, something so primal in your agony – I wasn't there fast enough.
I sprint so fast one of my wooden sandals breaks in half – I don't stumble, my ribcage tight and hard, choking as my heart clogs my throat. There are people closer to you, hands covering their mouths and their eyes, but I reach you first. I hardly feel the glass as I dive to my knees, wincing as I flip you over, into my arms, as carefully as I can, cradling you in my lap. Your face is bruised and swelling, the shattered lens of your glasses leaving deep puncture wounds around your eyes – our eye – and they're not open. I taste blood in my mouth. "Watanuki!" You don't respond.
I glanced up at the place you fell from to see Himawari leaning out, her face the epitome of horror, and just for that split second, it swells inside me, and I hate her, I hate myself because we do this to you – but I hate you, too. Why can't you just listen to me, to grandfather, at least?
Why didn't you keep the goddamned balloon, Watanuki?
You're limp, your hands cold – Open your eyes! – there's too much blood; it runs into the cracks in the pavement, reflects against the shards of glass, smears across your face as I cup it in one hand, it's in the creases that surround my fingernails. Some of it is mine, flowing from my hands and arms and knees, but not enough of it. It's soaking into my gi, and I can feel it staining my chest, a permanent tattoo right next to my thudding heart. Too much of the blood is yours; you'll die from the loss before the ambulance gets here, its sirens already wailing across town. I know all about the dead; the invocations, the incantations, the rituals, but it strikes me I know nothing about the dying: you're headed from one into the other, and there's almost nothing I can do about it.
I clutch you as your breathing becomes fainter, distressed, and my chest seizes when the vision in my right eye goes black – No! There are too many things I still need you to know! – and I close my eyes as every ounce of reason escapes me; I'm abandoned, and I have a wish. "Yuuko!" I shout, and true to her nature, her voice is there while she is not.
It is a great price, you know, She reminds me, but I can hear the undercurrent of pressure in her voice. She wants me to pay it almost as badly as I need to. I grind my teeth together, aware that Himawari has reached your side, panting and crying, frantic. I can smell her perfume – sweet but soured by sweat and the metallic twang of your blood that's everywhere. I look down at your pale face, bloody lips parted slightly, and I know: There is no price great enough.
The blood that surrounds us shimmers, and I grow light headed instantly. I don't know if the blood on the ground became mine, or if it's yours – I'm still clutching you, your head cradled in the crook of my elbow, so it doesn't matter. My blood is yours now, but that's the way it's always been, always will be, as it should.
I was afraid of losing you piece by piece – I should have known I could also lose you all at once. I swallow hard again, my heart stops, blood dripping from where I bit my lip. I've learned time will stretch when it comes to you, Watanuki, skewing my world more than you know, and here it is again, as I wait for you. I can't breathe, won't breathe, until you breathe with me…. Please, please, please – Your eyelids flutter, your narrow chest rises, and my vision blurs with relief. You take another breath, faint as it is, it's there, and I wait for the next one, another moment prolonged into days. Don't leave me… Stay with me, Kimihiro… Breathe with me…
But then paramedics surround me, shouting and pulling you from my arms. I almost panic, fight back, but the battle's over: you're breathing, and that's all I need. So I let them take over, coming dizzily to my feet, stepping back as they proceed to control the bleeding that's left. Himawari reaches out, clasps her hand shut when I lock her eyes, and we both turn to watch as they strap I.V.s to your thin arms, loading you onto a stretcher. Himawari's holding her fists to her chest as they load you in and scream off with you, still unconscious.
"Yuuko…" I whisper, and Himawari glances at me, a knowing look on her face. I plant my feet apart as my balance wavers, and I fight the nausea that boils up – it's small compared to what just happened to you, Watanuki – and I can handle it.
You are a customer, now. Bring Himawari–chan as well. Watanuki–kun was pulled back from the brink; he will be with us soon enough.
I nod at her voice, and my bowstring arm aches, so I absentmindedly rub it – I know, grandfather, I know – and even through my pounding heart and throbbing fear, I send a faint smile to the sky. Thank you… for protecting him when I couldn't… Because if there's one force I can trust, it's that of my grandfather.
Himawari and I walk slowly to Yuuko's, silent, and she's careful not to come too close, not to touch me. The guilt that surrounds her is almost palpable. She holds her elbows, face down, chewing on her lip, and I don't feel the need to reassure her. I can't even muster up the strength to bolster myself – but then again, I don't deserve the comfort, either.
Sure enough, there's a house on that abandoned plot now, two stories tall and anciently majestic, much like the temple. It radiates power, an aura of temptation and danger and whispered nothings under a full moon, and the air is pressingly heavy once we're through the gate. A somber Maru and Moro greet us at the door, their seductively innocent faces drawn and tight. Maru takes Himawari by the hand, and the older girl flinches for just a moment, before she realizes her curse will have no effect on something that doesn't have a soul, allowing herself to be led through the paper screen to where Yuuko waits. I can hear their soft exchange begin as Moro follows, sliding the door shut, and Yuuko outlines the price.
Himawari, for her part, doesn't hesitate in the slightest.
A few minutes later, she slides the door open to see my slumped figure on the floor, clenching and unclenching my fists, trying to warm them up again – my joints are aching, my fingertips blue, and my hands shake – adrenaline is the only reason I'm moving. As it is, I'm exhausted, but I won't rest until I know that you're here, that you're safe, that my blood has served you well. Himawari stops in front of me, hesitant, and I stop attempting to pry the splinters out of the sole of my foot because I can sense that she wants to touch my shoulder, to ask if I'm alright, but she's afraid. So she asks the question she thinks she already knows the answer to, her aquamarine eyes searching mine for an emotion that's never there anyway, not on the best of days, the worse of days, or the most normal of days. "Doumeki–kun… do you hate me?"
I hold her gaze. I hated her for that instant. I wanted to blame her, I wanted to blame you, but in the end, I could only blame myself – anything else would be as futile as condemning you for the things that haunt you, Watanuki. "No."
Sitting down heavily on the floor in front of me, braced against the opposite wall, she sighs her relief, but Yuuko's there, looking at me, already knowing what I want to ask. "Not yet. Not like this. It would be too much for him." I nod. I'm exhausted, still covered in our blood – I can feel it drying on my face, tightening my skin. My hands are covered in it, sticky and icy. I can feel it caking my hair, making my bangs cling to my cheeks. I wouldn't trust myself, anyway. I don't want you to see me this shaken. I don't want you to know that I finally made a last–ditch effort, that I pulled out my last resort, that I didn't have a back–up plan. I let my guard down, and it's inexcusable – I almost couldn't save you this time. Although it doesn't matter now – you're safe – I still failed you. I cover my bloody eyes with a bloody hand, and for the first time since my grandfather's funeral, I feel tears well up. But I didn't cry then, and I'm not crying now.
Somehow Yuuko got you here while we were on our way; Himawari goes in to say goodbye. I knew that's what Himawari would do. It's the same reason why I go out of my way, why I put up with your shouting, why I hold an umbrella in the rain for you, why I had Yuuko take half my eye. Because nothing compares to knowing you're safe, Watanuki – absolutely nothing.
I listen in as you stop Himawari from leaving, and I wonder if you'll accept the price to amend her curse. Please, please, tell me you've changed. Himawari will make her own decision. Don't take that away from her, Watanuki. I let go of my held breath when I hear you compromise with yourself. You'll never cease to amaze me with your kindness, even if it does make you an idiot sometimes.
Himawari pauses by the door, hands clasped behind her back. She looks lost, like she needs to know everything will really be alright, but can't commit herself to it. She does her best. "Don't tell him about the cake, ok? It's a secret between Watanuki–kun and me."
She's wearing a ghost of a smile – I can't tell her what she needs to hear, but I can tell her what I know. "Okay… But I want to eat a bento together, the three of us."
She really can smile, Watanuki; I can't blame you for being side–blinded by that at all. "Okay." Himawari gives me a nod, moving toward the door. I can see the tip of your scar as it snakes up past her collar, and I'll never let her know that I can see her shoulders shaking as she tries not to cry. For you, Watanuki. I hope you understand that, now. We do these things because if we didn't, we wouldn't have you, and then we'd have nothing. We do it for ourselves, too, and in the end, it balances out.
I try to find the strength to get up, to find the bath and change, so I can creep into that room with you, make sure you're sleeping, breathing, that you're whole. But I can't; if I do, I won't ever leave – I can't see you that way again, Watanuki, it'll break me.
Instead, Yuuko comes out of the room, catches my eyes. She reads the question in them, something I can't put words to – Is it alright now? – I'm shivering, I'm tired beyond belief, my head is spinning, but I need to know. I can't let go until I know. Yuuko nods gently, laying a hand on my hair, and the exhaustion floods me as I slide to my side on the floor, laying in the bloody tracks I brought in with me.
You scare me – scare me because you don't listen to what I say, scare me because you never do what I tell you to, but you scare me the most because I can't keep you close enough, because if my life was hollow before, it'd be unbearable without you now. Since my grandfather died, I've never let anyone have that sort of hold over me, that kind of control – but you're in there, you're under my skin, and since there's nothing I can do about it, I'll hold you to it – these sacrifices, the pain and the fear and the inconvenience, I'd never take them back, Watanuki, they're worth every drop of the blood I lost today, because I know you're behind me, through that door, sleeping peacefully. That's all I need.
I'm glad I'm this close to you, Watanuki, even though you don't realize it – because even if I'm going to sleep, I'm going to watch over you.