Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you weren't cursed?

Himawari mulled the question over in her mind with more thought than one would normally put forth. After all, just because you wondered didn't mean you could actually see what it would be like if it hadn't been there.

And yet, she still kept thinking about it, especially during lunch with Watanuki and Doumeki. She watched them as she always did, able to see things about their relationship that they probably pretended they didn't know. Oh, she wasn't disgusted. All she ever wanted was for Watanuki to be happy and Watanuki couldn't be happy with her. No one could, not with her problem. She wouldn't subject anyone to such things. They'd probably end up dead.

But the little spirit's words hung in her mind. She had been walking home with Doumeki and Watanuki at Watanuki's insistence that day. Apparently, the spirit had been there, completely harmless and just lost to somewhere. She hadn't been able to see it, but Watanuki did speak to it.

It was as it was leaving, or so Himawari assumed, that she heard the words in her head. Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you weren't cursed? She hadn't even formed a conscious thought about an answer before her whole body and psyche had screamed 'YES' in response. She desperately wanted to know.

That night, three days after 'meeting' the spirit, she dreamed…

Like one usually was in dreams, she was a silent spectator to the world, even to herself. She watched as she woke from her bed, in the same house she'd gone to sleep in not moments before, and dress herself. Her room was different though. There were pictures on the wall and dressers, of people she'd never met and places she'd never been.

The walk to school was actually quite eventful, at least to her real self. She became surrounded almost instantly by friends less than a block away and watched as her dream-self laughed with the other girls. It sent a pang through her heart, but not as much as she would have expected. Right then, she had a vague inkling that maybe she was pretty, mostly satisfied with her life as it was.

But curiosity prompted her to keep watching instead of waking herself up. She followed her dream-self to school, eager to see a whole Watanuki. She didn't think she'd ever be free of the guilt of his injury, of the fact that he couldn't move his pinky because of her. She wanted to see him healthy in a way that he wouldn't be ever again.

And yet, no matter how long she waited when they entered the school building and her dream-self sat and class began, Watanuki never approached her. Her dream-self didn't approach him. She was used to his exaggerated gestures in her presence, his constant and rather silly smile he showered her with. Had she not been cursed, she would have taken Watanuki up on his silent offer in heartbeats. He was a very sweet boy and she did happen to like him a lot.

Rather than follow her dream-self around, she found her feet following a silent path behind Watanuki. He seemed twitchy, more so than what he had showed in the classroom, and she wondered if even in her dream he could sense things.

"Something wrong?"

That voice was familiar and she knew it was Doumeki before she looked. He was leaning against a row of lockers, obviously waiting for Watanuki. Watanuki frowned and gestured his hand to empty air. "I feel like I'm being followed, but I can't see anything behind me."

Doumeki seemed to look straight at her, but there was no recognition in his eyes. It was like he was just seeing the empty air where she stood. "Is it bad?"

"It doesn't feel malevolent, no," came the groused reply as the gangly boy stalked out the door and onto the grounds to find some place to eat lunch.

The first thing that struck her was that Watanuki here seemed calmer. Though he showed that same 'bad temper' and irritation for Doumeki, there was little flailing. He also seemed a lot more comfortable too and relaxed. There were long pauses and short conversations in which it sounded like two actual friends, not the hissing cat that Watanuki became in her world whenever Doumeki dared speak a word.

She glanced over her shoulder, seeing her dream-self nearby and surrounded by a gaggle of girls. For the first time in her life, she thought she looked like an airhead. She didn't even have to go over there to guess that the topic of conversation was probably about boys and the latest fashions.

Nothing of any substance.

"How's your back?"

Himawari turned back in time to see Doumeki shrug and hide a wince, going back to eating a lunch that was obviously handmade by Watanuki. Some things never changed, apparently. Though Watanuki seemed somewhat disconcerted by her presence and that he couldn't see her, it apparently didn't bother him too much if he wasn't freaking out. Or maybe this Watanuki didn't freak out, not like hers generally did.

"It's fine and besides, it's a small price to pay."

"For what?" Even here, Watanuki got jumpy when someone mentioned prices and paying them. Was he working for Yuuko here too? Probably.

Doumeki leaned in and gave a small nip on Watanuki's ear, causing Himawari's eyes to widen at the gesture. Her Doumeki would never be so bold and her Watanuki would never just blush and mutter something, looking away. Her Watanuki would have probably had a heart attack and screamed until he woke the whole town when they were already awake.

The dream began to fade as she watched the rest of their lunch in silence, how companionable it seemed. She was surprised and also unsurprised to find tears on her face when she woke. Her room was as she left it with very little picture frames and all things she knew. The girly touches of current fashion were gone and yet, she didn't mind all that much.

It was refreshing to see Watanuki as she was used to, but she couldn't help thinking of that scene at lunch. Not only with Doumeki being so overt and forward, but just the whole thing in general. It was like they were an island to themselves, no one daring to approach. Watanuki's only friend had been Doumeki, that hadn't changed, but what really struck her was their relationship.

It was the same, whether she was in the picture or not.

Oh, it might seem to the contrary with Watanuki yelling as usual about making Doumeki lunch, but she knew better. These two in front of her were just more adept at hiding the reality that she had seen in the dream. She could see the whole lunch played out before her eyes, only it was hidden and obscure. A glance of Doumeki's here would be the same as a warm touch there. Watanuki's yelling about being reckless and how he didn't need help equaled his question of Doumeki being all right. It was like a beautiful, intricate dance.

And they both knew exactly what these actions and words hid.

She walked home with them again, but there was a faint heaviness to her heart that she tried not to let on. Even the unexpected appearance of Yuuko and her demand that Watanuki and Doumeki fetch an expensive wine couldn't shake her of it. She watched them go with a wistful smile.

"So what was it like without the curse?" Questioning green eyes made the witch shrug. "I didn't do it, but I know it was done. After all, it takes a lot of power to show you a different reality as it truly exists."

So it hadn't been a dream after all, but a real reality, something that was also happening at that very moment. And before she could help it, a bitter smile touched her lips when she realized how replaceable her existence was.

"It wasn't any different."