Characters/Pairings: Doumeki grandfather and grandson, Watanuki. Super-mild Shizuka/Watanuki in the end.
Disclaimer: xxxHOLiC and its characters belong to CLAMP.
Note: This is is a ficbit adopted from ficcentricity over at livejournal, which I took in and raised and didn't rename (so the title isn't too appropriate).
Spoilers: For vol. 9 and 10.

The excessive use of alibis

Hitsuzen may or may not be the answer to everything, but apparently when the Dreamweaver disappears and has to be immediately replaced by a kid with no experience and less common sense, it can't be accountable for misshaps.

Shizuka understands this when, from the corner of his eye, he sees Yuuko's honestly shocked expression at the rather sudden appearance of his grandfather in the middle of her front yard, laying unconscious but breathing on the grass and clutching the hand of an equally prostrate Watanuki.

Not that he isn't a little put out himself, but he still feels a hint of satisfaction at the revelation that she can, in fact, be surprised.

Haruka wakes up and looks around calmly.

Watanuki wakes up and spazzes.

Yuuko smiles as if she's known everything all along and invites them all in to have some of the tea Watanuki is sure to be about to make.

As soon as they've entered the shop Yuuko disappears through a sliding door that neither Shizuka nor, apparently, Watanuki, ever noticed.

Three seconds later she steps back out of the darkness, and while there are no obvious difference in her appearance, Shizuka thinks her eyes look a little tired, her hair a little less perfect, like someone after a long night of research.

She sits with them, sends Watanuki to the kitchen, and explains.

This brand new Doumeki Haruka is a physical manifestation of the one in Watanuki's dreams rather than the one Shizuka remembers. According to Yuuko's explanation, this is how the Dreamweaver could circumvent the Fact that the dead can not be raised. And while recreating him out of thin air ended up almost entirely draining Watanuki of energy, he is now stable in his form and free to rove around, as far as she is concerned.

Doumeki stops scrutinizing the stilted way Watanuki is serving tea long enough to lock eyes with his grandfather. The man nods at him calmly, with the small smile on his lips that haunted Shizuka's dreams for months after he died.

Okay, then.

Yuuko sends the two of them back to the temple with little to no subtlety, and orders Watanuki to stay at the shop and make her dinner.

To Watanuki's frustrated groan, Haruka smiles and says "I'm sure Shizuka told you you can come to the temple anytime."

That's true, but Watanuki never got that child-at-Christmas look when he did, Shizuka notices distantly.

They talk. Of school and spirits, inane and important. Archery. Math papers. Exorcisms.

Shizuka is a little gratified that he now has enough life experience to do some of the actual talking.

Watanuki comes around a few hours later, looking nervous but determined, and also slightly awkward with a bento box fit for a family of twelve wrapped in a black furoshiki with a single, large butterfly on it.

Shizuka fully expects him to fluster and boldly claim, in the face of all evidence, that this is only Yuuko's leftovers and the stupid Doumekis better not get ideas. Instead, Watanuki looks right through him and at his grandfather, and says "I, er, made this. If you want?"

It occurs to Shizuka that apart from the kimono picture incident and general protection advice, he knows little to nothing about the dreams these two have shared.

Things settle back.

Watanuki still brings his bentos to school and huffs haughtily as he hands them over.

Kunogi listens to Watanuki's tales of Shizuka's grandfather with something like rapture, then asks if she can come by the temple as well.

Watanuki bitches whenever Shizuka walks him to the shop.

The only real difference is that Watanuki's visits to the temple become a little more frequent and a lot more enthusiastic.

That's all fine by Shizuka. His grandfather doesn't eat a lot, and dinner is never to be sneezed at.

He's sweeping the path to the temple one evening when he spots them both sitting under the tree that used to host the lady Watanuki and Kohane brought back. His grandfather is leaning against the trunk, smoking leisurely. Watanuki looks captivated for a moment, then he says something - a question, maybe, Shizuka can't tell from that distance- and Haruka nods.

Watanuki's head whips around, their eyes lock, and the boy bursts out laughing. His grandfather smiles serenely on.

Shizuka goes back to sweeping.

After a few weeks, he starts to think (idly, guiltily) that he should never have mentioned his grandfather in front of Watanuki at all.

"Where's Haruka-san?" seems to be the only thing coming out of Watanuki's mouth these days. He lo-- likes them both, really, but sometimes Doumeki wishes his grandfather and Watanuki didn't get along quite so well.

Not out loud, though.

One morning he's almost at school when he's hit by a sudden sense of wrong, and he's learned never to dismiss these impressions.

He turns around and runs towards the shop, where Watanuki ranted last evening that he'd have to stay all night. He's three-quarters of the way there and growing increasingly agitated when he spots Watanuki, sprawled on the ground looking out of breath and bewildered, and at the other end of the street his grandfather in full priest attire, lowering his bow.

Shizuka wipes his hands on his trousers and heads back to school.

The course his thoughts are taking is dangerous.

It goes like this:

Experience has proved that anything Watanuki was this enthusiastic about was bad for him. So was anything that made Shizuka edgy for no apparent reason.

On occasion, Shizuka has exorcised spirits Watanuki liked a lot. Well, once. But it was a big deal.

Yuuko keeps insisting that morally speaking there is no difference between spirits and humans.

He never lets that go any further.

The witch appears to think he's still good enough to accompany Watanuki on her crazy missions. Watanuki gripes about it the whole way to the haunted house they're supposed to see to, for about three quarters of the time they're there, and then he has other things to think about.

Afterwards, Shizuka carries Watanuki's semi-conscious form back to the temple, where his grandfather throws them one look before explaining all the things Shizuka needs to do -all the things he's already done by himself half a dozen times.

He doesn't answer.

The next morning he comes by the room that he now thinks of as Watanuki's, only to find it empty. There's a brief moment of not again before he sees them in their special spot under the tree, Watanuki sprawled in the grass with his head on Haruka's thigh.

Shizuka grits his teeth and walks over to them.

"He'll be fine," his grandfather assures, twirling a strand of Watanuki's hair gently around his fingers. "He just wanted to nap a little in the sun."

"I'm going out," Shizuka says.

"Can you get me some tobacco then? I'd go myself, but moving is a bit difficult right now."

"I'm underage," Shizuka calls back over his shoulder.

He ends up at the park, alone.

"You're an idiot."

He looks up to find it's already mid-afternoon and there's a sullen and tired-looking Watanuki holding a bento out to him. He takes it without a word.

Watanuki just stand there, looking at him expectantly. "Want some?" Shizuka offers, because that's the only thing he can safely say.

Watanuki rolls his eyes but sits on the concrete tiger across from him.

Shizuka eats.

"Do you even realize how lucky you are?" Watanuki asks suddenly, eyes locked onto a patch of ground that is probably fascinating in some way. Shizuka looks at him, but doesn't answer. "No one gets a chance like that," Watanuki insists. "And you're just blowing it away like it's nothing important."

"I'm not." He really isn't. He does know how lucky he is to have his grandfather back, even if said grandfather doesn't seem like such a big beard in the sky anymore, is barely ten years older than him, knows more about everything and does everything better - including interacting with Watanuki.

"Then why are you being such an ass about this? Even more than usual."

The way Watanuki is speaking, Shizuka is rather sure that of all the spectrum of standards answers (from 'I don't know what you're talking about' to 'it's my decision'), none would go well at all. So he sticks to expectant silence.

"He tried to talk to you," Watanuki says after a while. "For years he tried to talk to you despite the fact that you're an oblivious idiot."

"He's talking to you now," Shizuka points out, hoping it comes out as nothing more than a description of facts.

"Are you that stupid? You're his grandson!"

But that's just like hitsuzen, isn't it? It only has as much importance as you think it does.

Watanuki sighs. "Look," he says, sounding a little defeated. "I didn't mean to intrude. It's just... it's been a long time." He seems to hesitate, swallows, and when he speaks again his voice is so low Shizuka has to strain to hear it. "Having someone around who really cares and knows how to handle the things I can't and listens to what I have to say."

Even if Shizuka had something to say now he wouldn't be able to. Not with how dry his mouth is, how much his throat aches.

Then Watanuki looks up, glaring. "And who doesn't make unreasonable food demands," he adds a little defiantly. Then, looking away again, "I haven't had a parent in a long time. And I thought. Maybe you."

"Maybe I what?" Shizuka prods when it looks like nothing more is coming.

"Maybeyouwouldn'tmindsharing," he says in one long string, then gets up and makes a show of dusting himself. "But obviously you're still the same selfish-"

"If you're a surrogate grandson," Shizuka says slowly, almost tasting it as each word loosens something inside him that has been tightening for weeks, "does that make us cousins or brothers?"

Watanuki snorts and rolls his eyes, snatching the empty bento back with none of the flailing that should have been expected from such a comment. His hand brushes against Shizuka's arm as he efficiently wraps up the box again.

"Maybe neither," he says.

Further note: The original prompt ran like this:

(AU. Doumeki Haruka is alive, and surprisingly young-looking, for reasons I cannot satisfactorily explain, except that the concept is awesome.)

Doumeki's starting to think he should've never introduced them to one another. "Where's Haruka-san?" seemed to be the only thing coming out of Watanuki's mouth these days. He lo-- liked them both, really, but sometimes Doumeki wishes his grandfather and Watanuki didn't get along quite so well.

I changed the prompt a bit so I could make it not blatantly AU.