It was a joke.

It had to be a joke.

It had better be a joke.

"The dealer will know you're coming. I've already given her a description, so don't think you can change when you get there, or she won't know it's you." This final bit of instruction was accompanied by a wicked smile that completely ruined the "I'm all business right now" air Yuuko tried to pull off.

"You… you aren't joking…"

"Joking?" A shocked (entirely fake) and confused (also fake) face turned towards Watanuki. "Haven't I already told you how important this task is, Watanuki? It's absolutely of the most serious nature. You can't take it lightly, especially with such a great reduction of your debt, right?" An evil glint in maroon eyes.

"I guess," Watanuki sighed. It was true that Yuuko had promised to cut quite a bit of his time owed upon completion of this newest mission, but…

"Then go!" Every last trace of formal and business-like demeanor was gone, replaced by childish enthusiasm. "Put it on! Put it on!"

"But-" Watanuki stalled for time, pulling against the insistent hands of Yuuko's two colorful helpers.

"Hurry and get ready!" Maru cried.

"Hurry, Watanuki!" joined Moro.

"Get dressed, get dressed!"

Panic-filled eyes pleaded to Yuuko as Watanuki gave one last desperate effort to change her mind.

"But this character doesn't even wear glasses!"

Mercy was not forthcoming, however.

"Oh, that's the spirit, Watanuki! Getting a feel for it already are you?"

"No, I'm-"

"Don't worry; no one will care if you wear glasses, but..." Here was a familiar, cunning look. "If it bothers you that much, just take them off. You can always have Doumeki-kun hold your hand if you have trouble seeing."

Maru and Moro finally succeeded in dragging a flabbergasted Watanuki down the hall, his indignant cry of "That is not an option!" bouncing off the walls behind him.

"Do you think he'll like the wig?" Yuuko quirked an eyebrow at the small black creature by her elbow, a playful tilt to her lips.

Mokona giggled. "It will be fun to find out."

A small nod of agreement came from the shop owner. "True." The playful smile turned distinctly mischievous. "I think he'll like it."

Five minutes later, the floors began to shake with small, regular tremors. The forcefulness of these tremors rapidly increased until the sake cup on the table near Yuuko's chair began to jump slightly with each reverberation.

"Aw, I guess he didn't like it after all," Yuuko frowned to Mokona with mock hurt.

The shaking reached earthquake intensity and came to an abrupt stop half a second before the parlor room door slammed open. In the recesses of the doorway stood a red-faced and irate Watanuki, panting, and set to kill.

"No. Way." The skinny, costumed boy stomped over to his boss and shoved his hand out to her. A blonde wig dangled limply from his fist. "There is no way I'm wearing this thing."

Yuuko plucked the offending item from her employee's fingers and stared down at it consideringly.

"He really doesn't like it," Mokona added, exchanging a nod and quiet "mm-hm" with Yuuko.

"But if he doesn't wear it, the whole costume is ruined! All my hard work will be wasted!" Yuuko placed a palm mournfully to her cheek and frowned prettily.

"There, there, Yuuko. I'm sure Watanuki will stop acting like such a baby and wear it for you."


"Oh, do you think so Mokona?" Yuuko sniffed softly and put on a trembling smile, seemingly oblivious to the incensed boy in front of her.

"Of course! For once Watanuki will act like a man-"


"-and not let you be horrendously crushed by his disappointing nature. He won't make you cry with his inadequacy and tendency to mess things up!"

"Now wait a damn-"

"You might be right Mokona!"

"I know I am! Besides, if he wants to get his debt reduced, he'll have to wear the whole costume right?"

Two sly gazes turned their full, manipulative force upon the unfortunate school boy.

"Why, I do believe you are right, Mokona."

Watanuki gulped.

The schemers faced one another again. "He can, of course, go without the wig. But we can't really say that he carried out the task as it was supposed to be done."

The little black creature hopped in agreement. "And if he can't carry out the task like he's supposed to, he hasn't really earned his pay, so..."

"Oh fine! Alright, alright, I'll wear the stupid thing already." Watanuki snatched the wig back from Yuuko's hand and stamped his way out the door once more. "But I'm not putting it on until I get there!"

Yuuko tipped her head towards her tiny companion, all serenity and contentment. "I'm sure that's acceptable."


Tap Tap Tap


Tap Tap Knock


Knock Knock Bang


Bang Bang Bang Bang Bang Bang Bang Ba-

The shoji door leading to Doumeki's room slid open to expose a less-than-happy-looking archer.

"Are you trying to break the door?"

An equally less-than-happy-looking Watanuki glared with poorly suppressed impatience at the boy in front of him.

"What took you so long? Yuuko should have called you by now. Didn't you know I was coming?"

"She called. I knew."

Watanuki waited. Doumeki blinked.

"Then what the hell kept you?! I've been out here for almost ten minutes!"

"Actually, it's only been about 5 minutes."

"I don't care! You don't keep guests waiting outside for so long. It's just plain bad manners! Even you should know that."

"I couldn't find my camera."

"Fine, whatever. Let's just hurry up and..." Watanuki paused and stood quietly for a few seconds as he replayed Doumeki's last statement. Surely he had heard wrong, though. "Wait. What?"

"I couldn't find my camera. Well, actually I did find it." Here he held up a small digital camera for Watanuki to see. "But that's what took me so long."

A look of horror settled within deep blue eyes.

"Uhn-uh." Watanuki shook his head and violently slashed his hands back and forth through the air in front of him. "Not a chance in hell. You can go and put that thing right back where you found it."

"I can't. It's part of my payment for the costume."

Hands stopped waving and rested in the "stop right there" position. "Trust me, once you see the costume, you won't want to pay for it."

"You do know it's August, right?"

For several moments, Watanuki tried to figure out what the month had to do with Doumeki needing his camera, but in the end all he could come up with was, "Huh?"

"Why are you wearing your winter coat?" Doumeki gesture to the long-sleeved, black, knee-length coat Watanuki was wearing completely buttoned up to his neck. "And... gloves?"

Scarlet flared across Watanuki's face and he decided that, camera be damned, it was time to leave. The smaller teen threw one of the two garment bags slung over his shoulder at Doumeki and abruptly turned on his heel to go. The bag he kept currently contained his regular clothes, the dreaded wig, and a couple of the costume's accessories he hadn't quite had the spirit to put on yet.

"Let's just hurry up and go. The sooner we leave, the sooner this nightmare is over."

"Nice boots."

Watanuki whirled around, instant death shooting from his eyes. "Don't. Even. Start."

Doumeki gave a blasé shrug and followed to now seething and rather petulant Watanuki, noting (to himself) how loud the boots sounded as Watanuki marched away.

"This... this place is huge! Look at that! Isn't that architecture amazing?" The sulky mood Watanuki had held on to the entire train ride and walk to the building where the convention was being held lifted almost instantly at the up close sight of the towering building with it's unusual upside-down pyramids atop four pillars. "How tall do you think it is?"

Doumeki followed the shorter boy's gaze upward and then back down again. "50 meters or so, maybe 60."

An impressed blue gaze turned to Doumeki. "Wow, really? That tall?"

The archer shrugged. "Maybe. I don't know."

The impressed look quickly shifted to irritation. "Whatever. Let's go." And he turned quickly enough to miss the small tug on Doumeki's mouth as he stalked away.

The two entered the lobby and elbowed their way across the immense room to check in. Though the convention had already been in full swing for quite a while, the entryway was still overcrowded and it took them nearly 15 minutes just to get to the service station. During this time Watanuki had seen such a wide variety of bedecked people that he began to feel almost relieved that he wasn't going to be the only strange looking person in the place and, compared to some that he saw, his outfit was downright tame. Apparently this particular costume wouldn't be out of place and, he reassured himself, at least Doumeki's would look as completely embarrassing as his. Yuuko had assured him they were from the same series and matched perfectly, though she wouldn't even let him peek at the other costume. He gleefully imagined the look on Doumeki's face when he opened the bag, and hoped (somewhat sadistically) that the taller boy had to wear a wig too.

Watanuki handed the receptionist the two passes Yuuko had given him and they were directed to the main convention areas after finishing the registration and a brief inquiry as to where the restrooms were.

The restrooms were surprisingly large (or maybe not so surprisingly, given the size of the place), but still crowded with people adjusting clothes and fixing make-up and accessories. Watanuki had to peek out the door to double check they were in the men's room before rounding on Doumeki. The taller boy was eyeing some of the people around them with something akin to mildly detached interest. Or at least he blinked a couple times, so that was Watanuki thought it might be.

"Alright, just remember that as soon as I get the package, we can change back. So don't go chickening out on me. Oh! There! Go grab that stall, quick!" With that Watanuki shoved his companion a bit more roughly than necessary in the direction of the unoccupied stall.

Despite being surrounded by highly colorful and obviously eccentric people who were accustomed to seeing others in equally eccentric outfits, Watanuki couldn't shake the awkwardness he felt. He adjusted his wig for the tenth time trying, somewhat successfully, to cover as much of his face as possibly, on the off chance that he might run into someone he knew.

The restroom was nearly empty by the time Watanuki realized it was taking Doumeki a great deal longer than was needed, even for humiliating costumes like theirs.

"Aren't you done yet?" The skinny youth glared at the door of Doumeki's stall and contemplated banging on the door a bit. "I know it's ridiculous, but if I have to wear it, so do you. You can't back out now."

"Sorry," was the obstructed reply a second before the door opened. "I had trouble with the tie." Doumeki exited the tiny enclosure, head bent as he fiddled with a small white bow tie around his neck.

Watanuki could feel the exact moment his last "must not kill my boss" nerve snapped, complete with sound effect.


Doumeki looked up from his half-done bow tie and immediately froze, eyes growing to an almost perfectly round shape.

Had he not been otherwise distracted by the complete unfairness of his life in general, Watanuki probably would have yelled at the archer for staring.

"Why do you-" With hand on one hip and the other pointing a gloved finger in the direction of his companion, Watanuki was doing little to take away from the overall effect of his costume, though he didn't realize it at the time. "-get to have the cool costume!?"

But for the moment Doumeki seemed to have no opinion on the matter and, in fact, seemed unable to form any words at all, if the periodic opening and closing of his mouth was any indication.

"Oh, stop gawking already!" Mortified beyond belief, Watanuki tugged uselessly at the bottom of his costume, a near-painful heat painting his cheeks an impressive shade of vermillion.

Doumeki finally moved, but unfortunately it was only to lower his head and give Watanuki a full look-over from head to toe.

"Cut that out! What the hell are you looking at?!" A person to his left snickered and the blush spread down his neck.


"Shut up. Don't even say it."

"But you're..."

"I'm warning you..."

"But why are you-"

"It's not like I got to pick it out myself, alright! Like much of my life and almost all of my relations with Yuuko, this damn thing was shoved on me without any say-so on my part or even any indication that my opinion even matters!"

"But... Sailor Moon?"

"Gah! I told you not to say it!" Watanuki clutched his fake hair by its long pony–tails and shook them in Doumeki's face. "I have enough reminders without you telling me the obvious, thank you!"

"And I'm Tuxedo Mask, huh?" Doumeki gave his cape a little flip and tilted his head consideringly.

"Yet another pearl of perception from the Master of All That is Blindingly Apparent. Yes. Very good." This was accompanied by an eye roll and heartfelt sigh. "Can we just get this over with?"

"My tie." Doumeki pointed the sad looking state of his bow.

"Oh, for Heaven's sake." Watanuki marched over to the lager boy and deftly fixed the offending piece of material. "There," he said backing up a step and smiled at his handiwork.


Glancing up, Watanuki saw that his companion was still looking at him in that intent, unnerving way of his. Watanuki couldn't decipher such a look and found himself feeling flustered, so he gave the archer his back and began packing up his things, babbling nonstop to try and calm himself.

"Honestly. That woman loves to torture me. I bet she and that damn furball are just laughing it up right now and plotting the next humiliation to push on me. She'll probably make me dress up like a bunny or something, though I think I would like that better than this damn skirt. My legs are freezing! Why is it so cold in here? And just where are we supposed to put these bags? I guess I should go back to that lady we checked in with and ask her where the lockers- What? What now? Huh?"

Watanuki took the small piece of paper that Doumeki offered him and read it aloud as the archer played with a black disk that popped out into a top hat after a few seconds of fiddling.

Stop complaining.

No one will steal your bags.

Have fun, and don't forget my pictures!


With a peaceful face only moderately given away by the tight pursing of his lips, Watanuki calmly ripped the piece of paper in two, then again, and again, and again, until the note began to resemble confetti. Then, still calmly, he walked to the nearest trash can and sprinkled the pieces into the bag below.

The bags were deposited in a corner where no one would be bothered by them, and his skirt was given one last futile tug. Without even bothering to make sure Doumeki was following, Watanuki walked to the door leading back to the main area.


The bedecked youth paused, stiff-shouldered, without turning around. "It had better be very, very important."

Doumeki paused, adjusted the hat on his head, and contemplated. Apparently deciding it was worth the risk, he continued.

"Your tiara is crooked."

Unfortunately for Watanuki, and fortunately for Doumeki, his tiara did not magically transform into a powerful weapon when thrown.

"I swear, if one more person asks us to pose for a picture..."

"You could have let them, they looked really disappointed."

"Oh, well I'm so sorry I don't want physical proof of the fact I had to dress up as a junior high girl with magical powers!"

To that Doumeki simply shrugged, not bothering to mention the fact that he would have to take a picture eventually, anyway. For payment, of course.

Though maybe he would get double prints just for the heck of it.

Inner musings of Watanuki's reaction to him pulling out a photo during lunch one day were interrupted by said boy's aggravated grumbling.

"This is taking forever! How am I supposed to find this person with such ridiculous directions? 'Look for the red dragon. You'll know when you see her.' We've been walking around for almost an hour and still nothing!" The sudden tirade was accompanied by several skirt tugs that Doumeki noticed had quickly become a habit.

"We could ask someone."

Blue eyes rolled behind a mass of blonde bangs. "Oh sure, let's just grab the next person we see and say, 'Excuse me, I don't suppose you know where I could find a red dragon do you?'"

"Sure. You need to go about three rooms down to the left and look towards the far right corner."

Watanuki blinked uncomprehendingly at the stranger as Doumeki thanked the man and started to steer his "princess" in the correct direction. Snapping out of his I-can't-believe-I-actually-got-help-when-I-needed-it shock, Watanuki looked back and stuttered out a belated thank you, though by then the man was gone, lost in the ever-shifting throng of happy, costumed people.

Doumeki was tempted to make a crack about how people really were more helpful to girls, but kept it to himself in the end. There would be plenty of time to tease the poor boy later. Plenty of unsuspecting, out-of-the-blue time with associated visuals...

"What are you smirking at? You can let go of my arm now, you know."

He knew.

"Jeez." The smaller teen tugged his am back with an exasperated huff when he realized the archer wasn't letting his grip up. "Keep that up and we'll get mauled for pictures again," Watanuki muttered, glancing nervously around for overly perky girls with cameras.

Not that Watanuki's worries were an especially good reason to let go of his arm, but Doumeki conceded. With Watanuki's vigilant eyes keeping watch for ambushers, the two of them navigated their way across the crowded space, traveling from room to room until they reached the indicated third room and headed for the far right corner as directed, eyes combing the stalls for anything that stood out.

Doumeki was just beginning to wonder, after a good twenty minutes more of walking from seller to seller, if he was even going to be of any help with locating Yuuko's friend when Watanuki gave a happy "Ah!" and picked up his pace as he honed in on a specific area.

As Doumeki suspected, he was unable to see anything of particular remarkableness. He pursed his lips in resignation and dutifully followed his friend anyway, briefly shutting his eyes in annoyance.

He almost stumbled into someone when he opened them again and suddenly saw a small table wedged between the wall and another vendor, where previously he was certain there had only been a small gap. Doumeki blinked a few times for good measure, but the table remained, its brilliant red tablecloth seeming to mock him by saying "how could you have missed me?"

He knew he hadn't missed it. Yet another side effect of the bond between Watanuki and him. Lately... well lately he hadn't even needed any heightened emotions on Watanuki's part to see some of the oddities that surrounded him. Like now, for instance. And apparently that person who had given the directions in the first place.

As Doumeki hung back a little bit from where his companion stood exchanging words with who he supposed was the red dragon, he inspected the people around him wondering just how many of the costumes walking around weren't really costumes at all. Giving it up for a lost cause (he didn't get vibes like Watanuki after all), Doumeki returned his attention to the dealer. All he could see of the woman, though, was an old-fashioned robe of the brightest crimson, the hood pulled low over its owners face.

He couldn't hear what was being said through the din of all the other conventioneers (none of them appeared notice the bright red table in the least), but at one point he saw Watanuki flush and pull at his skirt again, lips moving in what looked to be something along the lines of "Yes, well she does have a twisted sense of humor..."

The woman's shoulders shook with what the archer assumed to be laughter and said something else to which Watanuki flushed even more and mumbled something through barely moving lips and a clenched jaw. The robed shoulders shook even more and then she disappeared under the table for a moment, leaving her customer to stare at the floor with such concentration that Doumeki wondered if he was trying to avoid looking at something else.

The blush was coming along nicely though. Today was a good day for them.

A few moments later the robed woman popped up again, this time with a medium-sized, brown paper package in her hands. She handed it to Watanuki and paused before he could take it, both of their hands on one side of the package. She must have said something that surprised Watanuki, because he swiftly jerked away from the woman, taking the package with him and jostling her arm enough to dislodge the robe that covered her hand.

Scaled skin of copper, flame, and ruby shone brightly under the artificial light a moment before the woman lowered her arm, covering herself once more with a quick flip of material.

It gave the phrase "dragon lady" a new meaning.

With a brief but polite bow goodbye, Watanuki tucked the package under his elbow took his leave. Doumeki's eyes flickered momentarily from the robed woman to Watanuki, but when he looked back, the table was gone again. There was once again a small space between the next table over and the wall. Six inches at most, barely enough for a person to squeeze through, much less...

Doumeki shook himself mentally and joined the other boy, who was now gesturing impatiently for him to follow. If he started questioning things now, then nothing would make sense anymore.

"What did that woman say to you?" Doumeki asked after a few minutes of wrestling their way through wave upon wave of decorated bodies. They had managed to find a break in the crowd and could actually walk side by side without bumping into anyone else.

Watanuki's eyes rested on him for a moment before returning to the front so he could watch their path. "She told me to be careful. That..." he gulped heavily and paused before going on. "That there were 'playful ones' here today." The blue-eyed boy frowned at that last part and began to look slightly worried, head shifting from side to side, though Doumeki knew he probably had no idea what to look for.

Truthfully, "playful" didn't sound as worrisome to Doumeki as, say, "violent", "bloodthirsty", or "prone to talking a lot." Maybe it was how she said it that made it more ominous than it implied. But if Watanuki was worried, Doumeki would have to trust that playful was not a desirable trait to look for in a spirit.

"We're leaving now, anyway. We'll be gone in less than 20 minutes, so stop fussing."

Watanuki prickled, but still relaxed somewhat from his anxious searching. "I'm not fussing!" He picked up his pace, obviously eager to be out of the building already.

Another minute passed. Then...

"So, what was she saying before that?"

As predicted Watanuki's face flared to life and he stumbled a step or two. "Nothing!"

"It looked like something," he persisted.

"Well you should get your eyes checked then!"


He let Watanuki think he had dropped the subject for a little while longer and they walked (or in Watanuki's case, tramped) in silence.

"I thought I heard my name..."

In a surprising contrast to his earlier state, Watanuki's face suddenly lost all color as he spun on his companion. "You heard?!" The two words were laced with dismayed horror.

He had not, obviously, but...

"So it was my name, then. Pretty interesting what she said..."

He was so full of it.

If possible, Watanuki paled even more. Did people even go that white when they were still alive?

"How much did you hear?" Such wide, wide eyes.


"Well, it was loud, but I still heard a lot," Doumeki hedged. Then, deciding to go out on a limb, he raised an eyebrow and smirked in the way he knew Watanuki hated, hoping he looked like someone who knew a secret.

Color finally returned to the smaller teen's face in the form of two bright spots high up on his cheeks. "You misheard! She was just saying crazy stuff!"

Doumeki would likely have pushed even further (now he really wanted to know what she had said) but at that moment Watanuki was abruptly flung to the side as a group of giggling girls jostled him. With a short cry and before Doumeki could do more than reach out for him, Watanuki went tumbling to the ground in an untidy tangle of limbs with the person standing closest to him.

The package also went flying. Up and up. And then down.

"Oh no!" With a speed no doubt honed to perfection by diving out of the grasp of many a spirit, Watanuki made a spectacular lunge across his unfortunate victim's legs and stretched out to make an equally spectacular catch.

But at the moment it was actually the spectacular view Doumeki was interested in. With sudden inspiration, the archer took the camera out of his pocket and quickly snapped a picture.

Not quick enough though.

"What the hell are you doing?!" A furious screech assaulted his ears as he carefully placed the camera back in his pocket, lest certain people get the urge to throw in the trash, or out a window, or at certain other people's heads...

Definitely getting doubles.

"Just didn't want to forget before I left." It had nothing to do with the fact that Watanuki was currently stretched out across the floor, rear end stuck up in the air over the knees of some lucky bast- er, poor guy. Or the fact that he now knew Watanuki's underwear were white.

Absolutely nothing.

Watanuki scrambled angrily to his feet. "Dammit Doumeki! Give me that camera or I'll- Oh! I'm so sorry, sir! Are you okay?" Finally realizing he had practically been lying on top of another person, Watanuki was all guilt and apologies.

"That's alright. I didn't mind," the guy assured Watanuki as the flustered boy bowed over and over in embarrassment. Doumeki narrowed his eyes at the young man who was currently raking his eyes up and down Watanuki's form. Barely older than them, the stranger was normally dressed except for some face make-up, bright green "cat eye" contacts, and two long, black tails attached to the back of his pants. He looked like he hadn't minded at all

"We'll be going now. Sorry for the nuisance." With that, Doumeki grabbed Watanuki's arm and practically dragged the still apologizing boy across the room. A glance over his shoulder confirmed his suspicion that the guy was still watching after them. Doumeki didn't like the look he saw in those eyes.

Excited and hungry at the same time. Like a cat that had found a particularly tasty–looking mouse.

He dragged Watanuki a little faster.

"Ah! Thank goodness they're still here. I can't wait to get out of this thing." Watanuki practically skipped a beeline to the corner their bags were stashed in, tugging the tiara and blonde pigtails off with one hand, the package still held in the other. Doumeki briefly wondered how much of a fit Watanuki might throw if he told the other teen he was just going to wear his own costume home.

Glancing around as he trailed behind his friend, Doumeki noticed the rather empty state of the restroom in comparison to their earlier visit. Not one person could be seen in the waiting room on the benches, standing in front of the row of mirrors and sinks, or in any of the stalls. It was... eerie.

And that never meant anything good when one hung out with Watanuki.

"You look much better with short hair, I must say."

Watanuki started and whirled around to see who had broken the unnatural quiet. Doumeki already knew who it was without having to turn, but did so anyway, placing himself slightly in front of the other boy just in case.

Of course it was him.

"Oh! It's you. Ah! Th-this isn't what it looks like!" Watanuki hastily shoved his hands behind his back, as if hiding what was in them would somehow make it less noticeable that he was wearing a girl's sailor outfit.

The stranger tilted his head, curiosity in the raise of his brows. "Oh?"

As Watanuki launched into his "I am not a cross-dresser" explanation, the strange cat-guy began to edge closer to them. Gracefully, and lightly balanced on the balls of his feet. He also had a pair of tiny pointed ears almost completely camouflaged by messy black hair.

They twitched as Doumeki watched.

"I don't really care either way, though you do look awfully cute in it." While Doumeki may have whole-heartedly agreed with the stranger's statement, he really didn't like the slow grin that spread over the guy's face as he said it.


Doumeki sidled a quick look over his shoulder and, sure enough, Watanuki was gaping like a fish, and blushing like... well, like a young school girl.

The cat-guy took another step closer and Doumeki figured enough was enough. The archer stepped directly in the young man's path and looked him in the eye. The stranger's pupils constricted to an almost perfectly straight vertical line as his eyes narrowed in displeasure.

Not contacts. Great.

"What is it you need? He's already apologized for running into you."

The displeasure flickered away to reveal a more curious expression as the cat-guy attempted to skirt around Doumeki and get closer to Watanuki . "I wish to talk to him."

Once more, Doumeki blocked his companion from view. "Why?"

A sudden thump on his shoulder was accompanied by an annoyed voice from behind. "Stop being an ass, Doumeki. What's wrong with you?"

The taller boy twisted a little to look over his shoulder at Watanuki. "Open your eyes, idiot. Can't you see it yet?"

Watanuki scowled at the endearment, but looked around anyway. "See what?" But the grumble was no sooner out of his mouth before the light bulb finally went off.


The stranger perked up when he saw Watanuki was addressing him again, his small cat ears moving to give the shorter boy their full attention.

"You're not... human?" The end of the statement lilted up in to a question, as if by asking the person in front of them for confirmation, it would be more polite.

All Watanuki received in response was a toothy grin which, Doumeki noted, contained a few more dainty points than most people he knew.

"Aw, I knew it. I just knew it was too good to be true!" Doumeki stepped sideways a little to watch the show. "We were this close!" Two fingers, about an inch apart were shoved in front of the archer's face. "Another ten minutes and we would have been out of here, and then the worst thing we would have had to worry about was perverts on the train. But no, of course having to prance around in girl's clothing-" The wig came dangerously close to hitting Doumeki in the nose with one of its ponytails. "-and lugging around a freak in a tuxedo-" Should he take offence at that? "-weren't enough to complete the day. Why not throw in a cat spirit as well?"


"That would just- huh?" Belatedly, Watanuki realized he had a rather attentive audience in his midst, one of whom was not accustomed to his rants on a daily basis. Though from what Doumeki could tell, the stranger was finding it just as amusing to watch.

Another wide grin was flashed, showing off even more points. "I'm not a spirit. 'Nekomata' is what humans call me, but I'll give you my name if it would please you." The grin slipped easily into a charming smile.

A scrap of information popped into Doumeki's head then, and he remembered that a nekomata was a cat whose split tail could control the dead.

They sure knew how to attract some weird ones, that was for sure.

Watanuki blinked and stuttered for a moment, as if unsure what the appropriate reply was to that comment. "That's not, I mean, I don't, well you can if-"

Doumeki interjected between sputters. "You still haven't told us what you want."

The charm disappeared as quickly as it came and Doumeki found himself being assessed under a cool gaze. Another smile formed on the nekomata's face, but this time it extended no further than his mouth.

"I should think it was obvious what I want." And his eyes slid back to Watanuki, warming as they left the taller boy and settled on a more surprised face.

Ah. Doumeki could commiserate.

Watanuki caught on quickly and took a step back, the beginnings of anxiousness showing itself in his shoulders and back.

"N-now, wait a minute. What do you want with me?"

"I want you."

Over Doumeki's dead body, maybe.

"But for what?"

Doumeki shot a disbelieving look at the other boy, and sure enough, Watanuki looked genuinely confused as to what the cat-guy wanted him for.


"Ha! So innocent. So adorable!" The nekomata clapped his hands gleefully and beamed. "I knew I was right about you. As soon as I saw you, I thought, 'That one is special.' I have good instincts, you know." His expression turned more serious and he took another step towards Watanuki. "I would like to play with you a while. I would like..." Here was a look that even Watanuki couldn't misunderstand, "to feel that innocence for myself."

Crimson. "Wha-wha-wha-wha-" With each exclamation, Watanuki backed up a step until he was suddenly flat against the room's rear wall and looking as though he was contemplating the success of trying to press himself through it. The wig, tiara, and package lay forgotten and discarded on the floor in front of him.

Laughing green eyes followed the costumed boy's retreat across the room, but as soon as the rest of him made to pursue, Doumeki grabbed his arm.

"You can't have him."

The look he received was displeased, but not yet angry. "He isn't taken."

Doumeki made sure his words were low and clear, so not to be misunderstood. "Yes. He is."

Green faced off against gold for a moment. "Hmm." The stranger's attention reverted back to Watanuki, who was watching them with a wary expression. "It's true that he does reek of you." Doumeki let the reek comment pass unchallenged and was secretly glad Watanuki apparently couldn't hear them. "And he may be linked to you, but..." He faced Doumeki again with a triumphant air. "He is unmarked."

Giving body parts didn't count as marking? Picky, picky.

"Ha! Ah ha! That's it!" They both looked over to the other side of the room and stared at the jubilant look the costumed teen wore. "I'm not a girl!"

Complete. Idiot.

"Look, look!" Watanuki slapped his hands against his chest several times. "Nothing! I'm a guy, okay, not a girl."

A beat, and then...

"Yes, I know. You explained that earlier, also."

Doumeki observed the sinking in of that statement. Watanuki's expressions of frozen, dawning revelation were always entertaining.

"But! But! Then why..." That was all he could come up with though, so the nekomata turned back to Doumeki and picked up their earlier debate.

"So, he belongs to no one and I am free to claim him as my own."

"I already told you he's not available." Rarely did Doumeki lose his patience, but this subject was sorely testing them. It was an effort to not just shout, 'No! Mine!' and run off with Watanuki flung over his shoulder.

Whether he sensed the change in Doumeki, or was just beginning to get a little agitated himself, the archer couldn't tell, but the nekomata's playfulness was abruptly replaced by chilling callousness.

"I can make him come to me if I have to."

"Watanuki isn't one of your dead to control." He said it, but a tiny shiver of fear crept down his spine anyway.

"I told you. That one is special. " The foreign eyes glittered dangerously. "I could control him, though it would be an effort, and I would rather have him willing."

Doumeki stored that information away for later musings and reached for an idea to keep them both out of trouble. Something that would keep Watanuki from being dragged off against his will and keep himself from probably getting killed trying to stop it.

"Then..." An obvious answer popped up almost immediately, but he wondered if it was too simple to work. "If he was marked...?"

The severe aura surrounding the nekomata disappeared almost instantly as he smirked confidently. "He doesn't like you enough."

So it was that easy. "You won't take him if he's marked as someone else's, will you?"

The smirk wavered. "It's not polite. I do have some rules, you know."

"Good." Doumeki turned to leave, but stopped when his arm was grabbed, just as he had done to the stranger a few minutes ago.

"But he doesn't like you. Can't I ju-" The words were cut off as Doumeki yanked his arm back.

"That may be true, but he doesn't even know you and, occasionally, he does choose the lesser of two evils." He walked back to his friend then, trying to convince himself that it this was just the most direct path to their freedom. It had nothing to do with jealousy and he was definitely not excited at the prospect of marking Watanuki.

It was fear he was feeling. Absolutely. Fear of what Watanuki was going to do to him afterwards. Not fear of what he would say beforehand, though, because it would just be stupid to tell him what was going to happen. No need to give him a chance to run.

Watanuki's eyes darted back and forth between him and the nekomata at his back, and he couldn't see what kind of expression the stranger had on, but it must have been encouraging because Watanuki was casting him hopeful looks.

When Doumeki was finally within whispering range, Watanuki pounced on him for information.

"So? What happened? Did you talk to him? Is he leaving? He's leaving right? He'll leave me alone?" It came out as a nervous babble, but Doumeki got the gist of it and felt encouraged by his decision.

Okay, so maybe he was a little excited.

"Well?" Watanuki was practically bouncing from foot to foot.

"Yeah." The archer looked back to his rival and was relieved to see the cat-guy was only slightly pouty.

"Great, then let's get the hell out of here." He would have moved, except for the hand Doumeki placed on his shoulder. "What?"

"Just... one thing first. Before he'll leave us alone." His hand dropped.

It should have been simple. In theory it was, but suddenly Doumeki could feel his heart pounding a nervous tempo in his chest. He swallowed and took off the top hat, letting it dangle from his fingertips.

"So..." An expectant look. "What is it?"

A little, a lot. Same thing.

"Close your eyes."

Watanuki looked as if he was going to protest, but glanced behind Doumeki instead and clamped his mouth shut. He looked to Doumeki once more in worry. "You didn't... I mean, you aren't..." A thin line of pink crossed over the bridge of Watanuki's nose.

Doumeki realized what he was getting at and felt his racing heart skip one of its erratic beats. "No. There's nothing. We're both safe."

The blush spread down to the top of his cheeks. "I wasn't worried for you. Idiot." And without having to be told again, Watanuki closed his eyes.

He must have expected Doumeki to walk back to the nekomata or something else, because as soon as he felt Doumeki's hand touch his cheek he jerked in surprise and probably would have opened his eyes, but the other boy didn't wait to find out and quickly bent his head to do what he had to do.

Doumeki had meant to be swift. Get it done as fast as possible before Watanuki realized what was going on and started flinging appendages around. Bend down, make a quick mark, and out again, hopefully without more than one black eye.

He had also meant to go for Watanuki's neck. Instead, somehow his mouth ended up pressed solidly against what was most certainly another pair of lips.

Oh well, best to work with what you've got.

A short gasp parted the lips beneath his own and though he was sorely tempted to take advantage of the sudden opening, he really didn't feel like getting his tongue bitten of right then.

Watanuki was a terrible kisser.

Though to his credit, he probably wasn't really trying. In fact, by the way his hands kept insistently pushing at Doumeki's shoulders and beating on his chest, he was pretty sure Watanuki wasn't trying at all.

He also wasn't breathing.

In an effort to minimize his bruises (Watanuki could hit hard. Who knew?), and simultaneously give Watanuki a chance to get some air, Doumeki grabbed the smaller boy's hands and pressed them against the wall behind him as he drew back. His hat fell off in the struggle to pin Watanuki's hands.

"Doumeki! What the hell are you doing?! Get off me, you-"

Okay, that was enough air.

Doumeki didn't even pretend he was going for the neck this time and cut off Watanuki in mid-tirade. It was still awkward, but Doumeki was always a believer in the "practice makes perfect" way of living. He kissed the top and bottom of his captive's mouth, ignoring the muffled protests created.

The struggles were lessening, probably more due to the fact that Watanuki was running out of energy than the possibility that he was becoming more receptive to Doumeki's advances. Or at least the archer assumed so until he felt Watanuki's hands momentarily tighten around his own and a small tremor run through the slender body.

He softly bit into the warm flesh of Watanuki's bottom lip and thrilled at the sharp intake of breath. He threw caution to the wind and risked a taste.

If he did get his tongue bitten off, it would be a good day to die at least.

The tip of his tongue hesitantly soothed the tiny bite he had just given before daring into further, unmapped areas. He took the lack of swearing for a good sign and traced the inside of each lip, taking small steps for his own blood pressure's sake as much as for Watanuki.

All in all Watanuki tasted very good.

There wasn't a certain taste the archer could associate with to describe just how he tasted, but if he had to try, Doumeki supposed he would say if warmth had a taste, this would be it. Watanuki tasted warm. And comfortable. Like a place you wanted to come back to again and again.

Doumeki suddenly wanted to know if all of him tasted like that.

With some reluctance, but the promise of new skin to discover, Doumeki pulled away from Watanuki's mouth and dipped his head to the curve of chin and jaw and renewed his exploration.

Soft, but not as soft as his lips. Warm, but not as warm as his tongue. Salty, ever so slightly, and oh so wonderfully. Clean, fresh, delicious. Doumeki savored and filed away each piece of information his mouth gave him. Not enough though...

It had occurred to him a little while ago that Watanuki was no longer fighting back, but that had been a background thought at best. However, he now used that to his advantage and released the hands he'd been holding and reached up to tangle one hand into Watanuki's perpetually messy hair, while the other played lightly across the skin of his upper arm.

He was only going to have this moment, after all. Doumeki wanted everything he could get out of it.

One soft tug and Watanuki's head bent to the side, exposing a long, smooth line skin. Doumeki took a second to breath in the other boy's scent ( a faint mixing of soap and a heavier, more human smell that was impossible to describe in words other than "wonderful" or "perfect") before placing a gentle kiss over the rapid pulse point of Watanuki's neck. He could feel the silent pounding of blood through the other teen's vein just under his lips, and Doumeki couldn't resist trying to soothe it with a sweeping lick.

Watanuki's throat vibrated faintly as he made an unheard noise, and hands that had previously been hanging limply at his sides unexpectedly rose to grab at Doumeki's shirt just above the beltline.

Doumeki shivered as goose-bumps broke out along his arms at the unanticipated contact. He experimented with another lick and received another small noise and accompanying hand clench from his victim. It was probably useless to do so, but Doumeki still made another mental note of the sensitive spot.

He gave Watanuki's pulse one last kiss and dropped down to the open triangle of flesh visible outside of the costume, below the little red chocker adorning his neck. He could see the ends of Watanuki's clavicles charmingly displayed for all to notice. It had been tempting enough even without the threat of a nekomata kidnapping, but now that the opportunity presented itself, Doumeki happily fell prey to his earlier urges and nipped lightly along each collarbone before giving a solid kiss to the small hollow under Watanuki's throat.

By this time, the heat radiating off of Watanuki's entire body was reaching fever-like temperatures. He moved his hands to the run down Watanuki's back and sides; even through the material of his costume, Doumeki could feel the warmth.

But he still wanted more.

Slow, wet trails were made across hot skin as Doumeki's hands sought to find an opening under Watanuki's costume, but there was only the seamless expanse of Lycra under his fingers. He tugged uselessly at the material above the short skirt, but it wouldn't give. The archer huffed, irritated, into Watanuki shoulder.

"It's a leotard, stupid," came a breathless response to his frustrations. "It only snaps on the bottom."

The bottom, huh.

As if reading his mind (or maybe his hands had made some sort of movement in that general direction), Watanuki growled, "Don't even think about it."

Well, Doumeki figured his liberties had to end somewhere, so he wasn't very surprised by the comment. Didn't mean he wasn't disappointed, though.

Since it looked like Watanuki's patience might be coming to an end, not to mention the fact that Doumeki's own will power was beginning to wear thin, it was probably best to finish what he originally set out to do.

He was almost amazed he remembered what that was.

So it was with slow reluctant movements, Doumeki brought his hands to rest on Watanuki's shoulders and withdrew his mouth from the bliss of the smaller boy's skin.

Raising his head, Doumeki saw Watanuki still had his eyes squeezed tightly shut beneath his glasses and his lips were parted slightly to accommodate his accelerated breathing rate. The flush on his cheeks was both endearing and alluring, and Doumeki followed his pattern of caving to urges and removed Watanuki's glasses to places a kiss on the pink glow just below each curve of black lashes. Then he placed a kiss on each closed eyelid, smiling to himself as he felt them tremble beneath his delicate touch.

With one last feather-light bush of lips, Doumeki turned is head to whisper in Watanuki's ear, even as he started to pull the costume away from the shorter teen's left shoulder.

"This will hurt." And so much for being sneaky about it. He grabbed Watanuki's right hand with his own, holding on tightly when the other boy tried to pull away. "You can hurt me back if you want." He gave quick, hard squeeze to illustrate his point. "Just stay still for a few seconds."

And with out further ado, Doumeki bent his head again to the junction between Watanuki's shoulder and neck and gave it one apologetic kiss before biting down.

He knew it had to have hurt. Badly. Watanuki screamed, and struggled and completely forgot about Doumeki's hand around his own until he realized he couldn't get away and tried to break his fingers in retaliation, or maybe just in pain.

It took longer than he had hoped it would. As soft skinned as Watanuki may have seemed, Doumeki still had trouble breaking through with his blunt teeth, and he suddenly wished he had the nekomata's own tiny fangs to make it easier on his friend.

It probably had a little to do with his own reluctance to hurt Watanuki, and as soon as the realization hit that he was prolonging the other boy's pain just because he didn't want to hurt him, Doumeki bit even harder and finally broke skin. The coppery tang of blood assaulted his tongue.

He drew back immediately and began to kiss Watanuki over and over, punctuating each break with "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." His lips, his cheeks, his tears, his neck, his ears, his jaw. Every place Doumeki was allowed access to was covered in his apologies, though he stayed as far away from the shoulder as possible.

"You... you can stop. I'm fine."

Doumeki stopped, but didn't move away. He watched hesitantly for what to do next.

Watanuki didn't meet his eyes, but didn't push him back right away either, which Doumeki found encouraging.

"It worked. Whatever the hell that was. It worked; he's gone. You can...l-let go of me now." The receding blush threatened to flare again, and while normally Doumeki would have enjoyed watching it spread, he knew he was on unsteady ground, so he simply followed orders, released Watanuki's hand and handed back the glasses. Turning his head, he saw that the nekomata had, in fact, left them alone.

"What kind of- ow!" The beginnings of what mostly going to be a grand bout of flailing was cut short with a sharp gasp. Watanuki brought his right hand up to touch his shoulder but the softest probe proved too painful and he ended up with his hand hovering uncertainly over the wound, as if unsure what to do with it.

With a sigh and a pointed glare at Doumeki, the bespectacled teen marched over to the nearest sink and gingerly drew back the material of costume's shoulder.

"Doumeki! You asshole! What the hell were you thinking!?"

Well... several thoughts actually, but he was pretty sure Watanuki wouldn't have appreciated him sharing any of them.

He joined Watanuki, who was gaping into the mirror with a mixture of horror, pain, and disbelief. The wound wasn't as bad as such things went, but he could see how Watanuki might freak out about it. It was a nasty area of swollen red flesh, beginning to turn purple in about a three inch radius surrounding two semicircles of bloodied teeth marks.

His teeth marks.

Doumeki reflected that maybe he shouldn't have been as happy about that as he was, but the thought of Watanuki carrying around a small proof of his existence gave the archer a tiny thrill.

Watanuki did not look so thrilled, though his thought process was along the same lines.

"Jeez! Did you have to bite so hard, Doumeki? This is going to scar you know!" Watanuki scowled at him through the mirror as he turned the water on, stripped off the gloves, and began to soap up his hands. He then grabbed a few paper towels and did the same soaping process to them. "Do you have any idea how many germs you have in your mouth? And I mean yours especially."

He dabbed at the bite and winced. "If I get an infection and have to be sent to the hospital, you're paying the bill." Another wince, but he was winding down and his voice only held a trace of annoyance. "Honestly, I'm never going to get rid of this thing, you maniac. You're lucky it worked. Though why you biting me would chase a, a..."


"A nekomata away, is beyond me."

"I had to mark you."

"Yes, well obviously, but it doesn't explain why it worked." Watanuki gave the bite one last rinse and then patted it dry. He grinned suddenly and then turned to face Doumeki. "Your germs must make me taste bad to them."

Well, he was going to wait until later to tell Watanuki, but...

"Actually, it was because I marked you as mine. According to that," Doumeki pointed to the wounded shoulder. "You belong to me."

Watanuki was silent for a minute. He blinked. Blinked again. Made an attempt to laugh, but saw that Doumeki was actually serious and slowly, very slowly, the words sank in.

As red as his face had been before, it was just as deathly pale now. "No..." It was barely a whisper. "No. No. No." The whisper didn't last long. Neither did the pallor.

"No! No way! What have you done?!" Watanuki rushed to the mirror and pulled the cloth from his shoulder to stare at the wound once more.

He spun on Doumeki in a whirlwind of fury. "You!" He stomped to his foe in those loud, loud boots and grabbed at the front of Doumeki's cape, shaking as hard as he could. "I don't want it! Take your stupid mark back now! Get it off! Now! Now!"

Doumeki struggled to keep the grin off his face. "Don't be stupid. How am I supposed to take it off you?"

"I don't know! Gah!" He released the archer and danced about madly, hands covering his eyes in agitation. "What if someone sees it? What if Himawari-chan sees it? Or worse, what if Yuuko-san sees it? I'll never hear the end of this. Do something! I know, burn it, or maybe I can- wha?!" Watanuki stumbled when a dead serious Doumeki grabbed his arm and pushed him back against the sink, forcing the shorter teen to look up to see him.

"You will not do something so ridiculous. Ask Yuuko to take it off if you're willing to pay the price for it, but if you do something as stupid as hurt yourself to get it off, I'll never forgive you. Do you understand?"

Watanuki gave a watered-down glare. "Like I would really care if..." But in the end he dropped his eyes, shamefaced. "I understand," he muttered.

"Is it really so sickening? Being marked by me?" Doumeki had meant for the question be impassive and maybe even a little flippant, but he couldn't quite manage it and it came out just as serious and hurt as he felt.

Shocked blue eyes met his own and Watanuki opened his mouth, but was unable to answer.

"You let me kiss you." A simple statement, but full of questions.

Pinked cheeked, Watanuki looked away. "I wasn't exactly in the position to refuse." He frowned. "Besides, I know it was just a distraction, so I can't really blame you for it. Much."

Exasperated, Doumeki rolled his eyes and forced his companion's face back to look at him. "Idiot. Is that really what you think I was doing the whole time?"


"It's a yes or no question."


"Yes. Or. No." He released Watanuki's face when the other boy closed his eyes angrily.

A series of unintelligible mutters flowed steadily from Watanuki's mouth and with each passing second, his face got redder and his body became more tense, until Doumeki wondered if he was about to explode, or maybe implode.

The archer had just managed to work out a few of the less garbled words and was attempting to piece together a sentence that contained something along the lines of "egotistical bastard", "so far up your", and "jaws of life" when Watanuki really did explode.

At least it was the non-messy kind of explosion, though.

"No! Alright?! No, I don't think- I mean, you were too serious to just be- Anyway, are you happy? Is this horrible day over now? Can we go home please?" Watanuki elbowed his way past Doumeki to pick up the discarded accessories from the floor. He then retrieved the package and looked it over carefully for damage, sighing deeply when it looked to be intact.

He glared at Doumeki as he brushed by the archer on his way to their bags, pushing the top hat into his hands as he swept past. "Don't just stand there and gawk. Hurry up and change so we can leave."

Following his own advice, Watanuki tucked the package, wig, and tiara away in his bag as he grabbed his street clothes. A moment later, and despite the fact that they were still alone, Watanuki was locking himself into a stall and pointing (pointedly) between Doumeki and the other bag.

But Doumeki's brain was not feeling up to complicated orders at that moment. It was, to be completely honest, still endeavoring to process a particularly troubling piece of information. Because his ears were telling his brain something that they couldn't possibly have heard. So either he was going deaf, or...

Watanuki had just said he didn't mind being kissed by him.

In a roundabout way, to be sure, but wasn't that what it broke down to? Maybe he was reading into it too much? Maybe Watanuki had misunderstood the question? Maybe he really was going deaf?

But whatever angle he looked at it, Doumeki could only come up with the same answer. He didn't want it to be wishful thinking though.

He walked to Watanuki's stall and leaned on his shoulder next to the crack between the doors. The sounded of rustling clothes and a half muffled hiss of pain floated toward Doumeki. He closed his eyes and steadied himself.


He heard the sound of a knee connecting with the side of the stall and a sharp yelp. A smile tugged one corner of his mouth up involuntarily.

"What? Are you done already? Jeez, that was- okay, I'll be out in a second, hold on." Rustling, more hurried.


The movements stopped. Presumably Watanuki finally noticed the tone of voice being used.

"W-what's the matter?"

"I want you to say it again."

The sound of something being dropped and then hastily being picked up again. "What- no way! If your tiny brain can't retain information for more than five minutes that's your problem, not mine."

At least he hadn't denied he said it in the first place. Doumeki could work with that.


"Stop that!"

Surprised, Doumeki did as commanded. "What?"

"Stop saying my name."

That was a confusing demand, even if it was Watanuki. "I thought you wanted me to say your name more often."

"Yeah, but not... that way."

Doumeki grinned, glad Watanuki couldn't see it. "What way is that, Watanuki?" he asked that way.

"Oh, just shut up you bastard." The voice sounded decidedly embarrassed. Movement and the shuffling of clothing resumed. The next sentence was muffled, presumably by the pulling of a shirt over Watanuki's head, but still clear enough for Doumeki to catch his breath at.

"And next time you pull that surprise attack crap, I'm not going easy on you."

He waited a moment for the shock to wear off before responding quietly. "Next time?"

Watanuki didn't reply right away, but Doumeki could hear him moving around still, folding the costume maybe, or just stalling for time. The archer jumped back when the door suddenly opened in front of his face.

A pink-cheeked Watanuki stared defiantly out at him, looking a little more comfortable in a blue t-shirt and shorts. "Did I misunderstand?"

"Uh," was all the archer could come up with. Higher forms of verbal interaction seemed to have fled in the face of what appeared to be the world turning up-side down.

"'Cause it seemed like, you know," A touch to the left shoulder where the mark lay concealed beneath a thin layer of blue cotton material. "It was more than just... That maybe you wanted... well..."

There was a skittish edge to Watanuki by then and Doumeki was suddenly afraid the twitchy boy might just up and run away if he didn't say something soon. He was just opening his mouth to adamantly agree to Watanuki's assessment when the subject was abruptly changed.

"Why the heck are you still in that get-up? Get changed, would you. I want to get home before dawn." With that, Watanuki turned back around and gathered up his (yes, folded) costume and went to pack it way in his garment bag.

It threw him a minute, the unexpected shift of topic, until Doumeki realized that Watanuki had misinterpreted his stupefied silence for disagreement.

Well obviously this mistake needed to be rectified immediately. His early mischievous idea popped up again, and Doumeki went with it.

"I'm ready to go. I was just waiting for you."

It produced the desired results, and Watanuki whirled around in alarm. "You are not going out into public like that."

Doumeki shrugged. "It's comfortable." That wasn't a lie. It actually was.

The beginnings of anger trickled into the skinny frame before him. "I don't care. Change. Go! I refuse to ride the train and stand next to you while you still have that ridiculous costume on."

Instead of following Watanuki's orders, Doumeki placed the hat he had been holing his hands on top of his head slowly, deliberately.

Watanuki glowered. "I'll go by myself then."

Doumeki sent what he was sure Watanuki referred to as his "superior look." "It's already dark out." He had been given instructions not to let Watanuki be out alone tonight, and by the pissed-off look on the bespectacled teen's face, he must have received similar instructions.

"You've got to be kidding me! You aren't seriously going to walk outside like that, are you?" The expression was hopeful. He must have though Doumeki was toying with him. He was, but no need to let an opportunity slide.

Doumeki studied the ceiling. "Well... If you give me something..." He looked down again in time to see Watanuki roll his eyes.

"Of course, I should have guessed. Fine what is it? You want me to make you dinner I suppose?" A bored resigned look.

Doumeki smiled. "No, something else."

The declining of food seemed to shock Watanuki, and Doumeki wondered what was so surprising about him wanting something other than a meal. Just because he never turned down something made by Watanuki, and always requested lunch as payment, and liked to have snacks sometimes too, and...

Okay, well maybe he could see how Watanuki might be a little surprised, but still.

"Then, what?" Did Watanuki have to look so suspicious of him?

In lieu of answering, Doumeki simply smiled and pointed to his mouth.

Watanuki stared a moment. "I, uh, didn't bring anything with me..."

The smile dropped. Doumeki closed his eyes and rubbed two fingers between them. Time to be a bit more direct. He opened his eyes and met Watanuki's gaze.

"I'll go change if you kiss me again."

Misinterpret that.

There were several second when Doumeki was sure Watanuki might just flat out reject him, but instead the other boy merely cleared his throat and fixed his eyes somewhere above Doumeki's head before he replied.

"You do realize that blackmailing for a kiss is still forcing it, right?"


Watanuki heaved a sigh and lowered his eyes in a half-formed attempt at annoyance. "But I suppose I can't expect too much from you, since you are socially retarded and all."

It turned out Watanuki was a much better kisser when not simultaneously trying to lay the smack-down on someone.

Heaven was pulled away all too soon, leaving Doumeki lightheaded and impatient for more. He reached out to grab Watanuki and bring him back, but the shorter boy was already out of reach. For the second time that day he found a garment bag being thrown at him.

"Now keep you part of the deal and change." Doumeki noticed that although Watanuki tried to sound calm and disinterested, his hands shook slightly when he crossed them over his chest, and he was licking his lips nervously.

He considered holding out for another.

"And you better make it quick, or I really will leave without you." By the triumphant gleam in Watanuki's eyes when he said that, Doumeki could tell the other boy knew he would be able to blackmail the archer just as effectively.

He changed quickly.

When he emerged from the stall for the last time, he found Watanuki back at the mirrors, shirt pulled back, and studying the mark on his shoulder with a serious and contemplating face. Doumeki turned so his back was to his companion and closed the door with a loud click, before facing him again.

Watanuki was hurrying to gather up his bag and trying to hide the embarrassed tint on his cheeks with his bowed head. Pretending he didn't see anything, Doumeki headed for the exit.


He heard the soft thud of sneakered feet behind him and a short, "yeah."

The first thing to greet them when Doumeki opened the door was the nekomata, leaning casually against the opposite wall, inspecting his nails. He looked up when the door closed behind them, face brightening.

"Ah, you're done! Wonderful! May I walk with you?"

The two of them had already started down the hall, and the stranger trailed along, even as he asked.

"Why are you still following us?" It was Watanuki that asked, though Doumeki was wondering the same thing.

"Oh, you know," The nekomata waved a hand gaily. "These things are the same old, same old. They hardly get anyone truly interesting. You guys are much more curious than the other humans here. I wanted to spend some more time with you before you left."

The cat-guy skipped ahead of them and began to walk backwards to face them as he walked. "Don't worry; I'll just walk you to your train. I promise." And he smiled so winsomely that Doumeki was inclined to believe him. Watanuki actually smiled back.

"Besides," The smile turned serious. "There are things out tonight that are feeling even more restless than me." He centered his gaze on Doumeki. "They may be repulsed by you Doumeki-san, but they will obey me."

There was a moment were both boys could feel the intense aura of the creature before them, just enough to figure out how powerful he was. Then the nekomata was all grins again.

"So, I'll be your escort!"

Watanuki gave a shaky laugh and glanced sideways at Doumeki. He shrugged. Was there really anything they would do if the guy wanted to tag along?

The walk to the train platform seemed eventless enough, but Doumeki noticed that several times the nekomata had raised one or both of his tails in a particular direction for a short amount of time, though he never stopped the idle chatter. Doumeki wondered if he wanted to know what it was that had required the interference.

For his part, Watanuki seemed to be happy for the company, something Doumeki found to be rather galling. He had know the nekomata for less than half a day and was already so friendly and chatty with him, but whenever Doumeki tried to innocently cop a feel, all he got was an elbow in the stomach.

Completely unfair.

When the time came for their train to arrive the nekomata gave another pointy smile. "Well, it was nice to meet you guys, and maybe we'll see each other again. Do take care Doumeki-san, Watanuki-kun..." Here the nekomata leaned in to whisper something in his ear. The shorter boy blushed from the top of his head straight down to his neck in less than a second, and Doumeki felt a pang of jealousy.

"That... that..." But he didn't seem to have anymore to say.

The train pulled up behind them and started to slow down into a stop.

"Have as safe trip home, you two!" he called as they climbed into one of the cars. "Do tell Yuuko-san I said hello!"

Watanuki perked up at the name. "How do you know Yuuko-san?"

The nekomata brought a hand to his mouth in exaggerated surprise. "Oops, maybe I said too much?" And with a wink and one last cheeky grin, he skipped away.

"Ah, wait!" But he was gone, and a second later, the door closed.

They were both silent for a minute.

"So... Is it me, or does Yuuko seem to have a hand in pretty much anything weird that goes on?"

Watanuki was staring petulantly out the window. "It's not just you." And that was it for the subject.

And since he couldn't help but be at least a little curious about all things that made Watanuki embarrassed, he asked, "And what did that guy say to you before?"



"His name, that's all!" Obviously a lie, but Watanuki was doing his damnedest to imitate a tomato, so Doumeki didn't prod too much.

"So what was his name, then?"

Apparently that was safe enough to talk about because Watanuki answered without trying to evade. "Yukio."

Doumeki hmphed. A pushy name for a pushy guy. Watanuki actually grinned at the small noise, and the rest of the trip was spent in equal amounts of companionable silence and easy conversation.

And Doumeki couldn't help but think it was a nice change.

The two of them were greeted outside the gate to Yuuko's shop with a chorus of "you're back!' by the esteemed owner and her tiny cohort, followed by a cry of "gimme, gimme!"

With a roll of his eyes, Watanuki dug out the package and handed it over to his boss. "I hope you appreciate the trouble this took to get," he huffed.

Yuuko looked up from her ripping, "Oh, did the dealer give you a problem?" Her innocent act probably wasn't fooling a single person there.

Watanuki glanced over at Doumeki and back to his employer. "Well, no. Not the vendor."

The ripping resumed. "I see, so you ran into someone else then?"

A twitch, then. "Don't act like you don't know! He said he knew who you were. No such thing as coincidence, remember?"

The final piece of brown paper fell away, leaving a red silk wrapped bundle. "He?" she asked as she gave one corner of the knot a tug.

"The nekomata, Yukio. Er, he sends his greetings." Watanuki lost steam when, as usual, his indignation had no effect on the woman in front of him.

"I see. Be sure to thank him properly next time, Watanuki." The knot came undone and the silk fell away to uncover a black lacquer box with a single cerise dragon on the top.

"For what? Wait, what do you mean 'next time?'" The bespectacled teen looked positively appalled at the thought.

Yuuko lifted the hinged lid and inch or two and took a peek inside before snapping the lid shut with a satisfied smile. She then turned her full attention to the boy in front of her.

"Nekomata's don't generally waste their time on things that don't interest them." Her slow, knowledgeable smile left little to argue against. "I imagine you'll probably be seeing him again."

Which meant, of course, they would definitely be seeing him again.

Watanuki snuck a glance at Doumeki. It might have been his imagination, but he thought maybe the archer looked a tad irritated about the news. He wondered at the lack of delight he usually felt when getting a reaction from the zombie-like demeanor.

Things were surely becoming very confusing lately.

It was decidedly uncomfortable thinking about exactly why things had become so confusing, so Watanuki diverted his attention instead to the first available distraction.

"So, what is that?" He pointed to the box in his employer's hands.

She tilted it so the lid caught the light from the streetlamp across the road. The dragon seemed to shift and Watanuki shivered, hoping it was just a trick of the light.

"It's a box."

"Yes, well I can see it's a box." He glared as Doumeki made a small throat clearing sound that sounded suspiciously like something else. The black furball actually giggled. "I meant, what's in the box."

"Oh, that." Yuuko flashed a bright smile. "That's..."

"Yeah?" He leaned forward, eyeing the box in anticipation, and wondering what treasure might be obtained from such an unusual person.

"...gonna cost you extra."

Watanuki jerked forward and nearly fell on the ground, but righted himself quickly. "Whaat?! After all that, I can't even see what it is?"

Yuuko merely gave an enigmatic shrug.

"Hmph. Stingy," he muttered under his breath.

Ruby eyes flashed. "What was that?"

"Uh, well, if you don't need me for anything else, I'll just be going."

"Yes, yes. You can go. You should go home put some antiseptic on that shoulder anyway, right?" Teasing eyes peaked out from half-closed lids, giving her concerned statement a distinctly lecherous feel.

Of course she knew.

For once Watanuki managed to hold his tongue and walk away without embarrassing himself even more.

"Aw, not even a good night? Tsk."

Watanuki tried to ignore her as best he could, but unfortunately he was close enough to still hear her last parting comment to Doumeki.

"Now see you're not too rough with him tonight Doumeki-kun, or the wound won't heal properly."

All the bastard said was, "Hn."

He hunched his shoulders and walked faster.

"In a hurry?"

"Yeah, I have to go burn something before it gets too late," Watanuki ground out. He shook the garment bag for emphasis.

"What a waste."

"Yeah, well you're free to parade around your house in yours if you want, but mine is going straight in the incinerator."

"Do you even have one of those?"

"I'll find one!"

Doumeki hmmed and stayed quiet. They walked in silence for a few minutes more.

"She could have let me just see it least."

"Are you still upset about that?"

"She was just being greedy!"

"Get over it."

"I will not! It was totally unreasonable. She makes me dress up in this humiliating thing, sends me halfway across the country-"

"It was a 30 minute train ride."

"-I end up getting propositioned by a cat-demon and then... er." He trailed off, unwilling to talk about it in public. Even if it was in the middle of the night.

"I saw it."

"Huh." Watanuki blinked at the short comment.

"The box. I saw what was inside it."

"What? You did?" The shorter boy stopped walking and leapt in front of Doumeki. "Well, what was it?"


Watanuki bounced on his toes. "Well?"

"...gonna cost you." And then he pointed to his mouth.

Falling heavily back on his heels, Watanuki stared sourly at the boy in front of him.

"You're a complete ass, you know that right?"


"Can..." Blue eyes darted from side to side. "Can you wait till... we get inside?"

Doumeki nodded, a strange half-smile on his face that even Watanuki had to admit wasn't really a smirk at all.

They continued walking. Maybe just a little faster than before.

AN- That's it! Thanks for reading!