They walk back from school together more often than not. It doesn't matter for what reason, because Watanuki denies them all, "It's only a coincidence!"

"Whatever you say." Doumeki replies, effectively crushing all of Watanuki's counters without a second of wasted breath.

So today was one of those days, after the first snow of winter, where they walked in companionable silence to their respective destinations. Until the used bento in Watanuki's hand reminded Doumeki of one vital thing he had overlooked.

"I want Goya Chanpuruu for lunch tomorrow."

He automatically plugged the ear closest to his walking partner as he started on a tirade gravitating around the subjects "How the hell am I supposed to get bitter melon this time of year?!" and, "Why can't you eat Miso soup and rolled eggs like the rest of us?!"

Doumeki had gotten exceptionally good at tuning out Watanuki while keeping the rest of the world in focus. So when a small nya piped up from a nearby pile of garbage bags, he didn't pass it by.

It took a moment for Watanuki to stop shouting indignities long enough to realize that his deadpan acquaintance was rooting through trash. "Uh, Doumeki? What are you doing rifling through other people's filth?"

"I'm looking for something." He replied curtly, unfazed.

"What could you possibly find in that heap of garbage?" Watanuki rested his hands on his thin hips. "If you want a can of coffee or something, I'd rather treat you than have people stare at me while you look through trash for spare change..."

He continued on said tangent until Doumeki stood up again, now with a dirty ball of fur in his right hand.

"It's a kitten." The taller boy explained, as if it was obvious this was his intention all along.

"I can see that." Watanuki replied, with a slightly disgusted look on his face. "Is it even alive? Geez, who knows what kinds of diseases that thing could be carrying."

"It's alive." Doumeki could tell, it was still warm. "But it looks lost."

"Doumeki, that thing is obviously a stray." He took a step back, unwilling to touch it. Watanuki was too logical to get attached to something that could very well take over his life. "It can't be lost. It never belonged to anybody in the first place."

"I mean from its mother." He turned it around to examine it more closely. It was a plain, gray tabby, with one yellow eye and round black markings that resembled spectacles over its nose. The other eye seemed to be closed shut with some sort of crusty discharge. But over all, it had a look to it that said; I think the entire world is out to get me. You feel bad? No, I'm cool with it. Kind of.

Doumeki was strangely compelled.

"I'm going to keep it."

"What?" Watanuki made his objections known right away. "Are you sure you can say that right away? I know it's cute and all, but cats can live a long time! It's a big responsibility!"

"It'd die if we left it here." Doumeki countered rationally.

"Yeah, well..." He wasn't against Doumeki keeping it, really. It was just that... "Are you sure you can do this? I mean, young animals need affection to survive." Watanuki looked to his deadpan companion, unceremoniously holding the kitten by its scruff, "So someone like you would effectively kill the poor thing."

The kitten gave a grumpy "meow" in agreement.

"I'll take care of it." He persisted calmly.

Watanuki sighed, and waved him off with a flick of his wrist. "Whatever! You take care of your kitten. I have, you know, actual work to do."

Doumeki watched as he turned the corner to leave. As soon as Watanuki was out of sight, he brought the kitten to eye level for one last inspection.

And the kitten stared at him flatly in return, as if to say, "Now what?"

------------

Doumeki was afraid that he had just taken on the prickliest kitten in the world.

It certainly wasn't a bad animal. It didn't hiss or spit; it wasn't even shy. The problem was, well, that it lacked any semblance of the natural kitten archetype.

First, when he had washed it off, it didn't complain at all. It went limp in the water-bin like it had been stripped of all his kitten pride, and was purely ashamed of its current existence. When he tried to play with it, improvising with some string, a feather, and a stick, the kitten just looked at him like it was dealing with a moron. It then proceeded to be unsociable by sitting in a corner and staring at the wall.

"Pretty ungrateful to the person who just saved your life." Doumeki commented to the kitten off-handedly, sitting and watching it's back from a few feet away.

The kitten responded with a casual flick of his tail; hearing, but not listening.

This wasn't a problem for Doumeki. Tentative silence was one of his specialties.

He made it a point to turn around and not look at the kitten as he sat, completely silent and motionless. If the cat wanted to ignore him, then he would reciprocate the feeling.

A good hour passed before Doumeki felt a nudge against his back. When he looked over his shoulder, there the kitten sat, staring straight back at him with its single yellow eye.

"What?" He asked, almost expecting an answer from the somber animal.

"Nyao." The kitten replied in a sandpaper rasp. It shifted from one paw to the other, then butted his back with its head, the same thing he had felt before.

"So now you want attention?" Doumeki turned around to face the animal, focusing on it's unopened eye. It was obvious that he still had the appendage, it was just stuck closed.

"Why won't you open that?" He thought aloud, and reached forward to touch the kitten's eye.

He was then promptly reminded of his place with a sharp bite.

The kitten refused to let go. Its small but sharp teeth sunk so deep into Doumeki's skin that it's entire dental record became embedded in his hand.

"That hurts." He remarked, like it was an offhand compliment.

There was a glint of amusement in the cat's eye, as if to say, "It better, jackass."

Doumeki made no effort to remove the kitten's jaws. "I think there's a saying about this. Something along the lines of biting the hand that feeds you."

Neither party made a move to retreat for a good while, until the kitten decided he was tired of the taste, and let go, spitting dramatically before going back to it's newly appointed corner-of-sulking.

Whether or not that entire fiasco was pre-meditated by the cat didn't cross his mind. Instead, Doumeki looked at his blood-soaked hand, and then to the back of the kitten.

This was going to be just a touch harder than he thought.

------------------------

For the rest of the week, formalities between Doumeki and the "Cat" had been static and predictable. It had developed a sort of ritualistic sadism designed especially to torment the archer.

It was like it knew that Doumeki had this deep, deep down urge to touch it, even just a little. Logically, cats were made to be stroked. Why else would people keep them in this day and age? Surely not to just sit there, right?

Well, this cat certainly seemed to think otherwise.

Not only did it follow him around where he cleaned, sit next to him while he ate, sleep an exact centimeter away from his arms reach, but he did it with an air of flirtatious supremacy. There was a flick in its tail, a certain slink in its step, that way it held it's eye open just enough to see him, it was oozing unspoken but well known words.

"Well, look at this. Aren't you so responsible, sweeping the front path again. I think I'll follow you around for a bit, just for some amusement. Look at how my fur glistens so luxuriously in the sun! I really am so beautiful. So what if one of my eyes is stuck shut? It intensifies the pure beam of charisma that I generate."

Doumeki couldn't believe he was imagining monologue for a cat.

----------------------

Now normally, Doumeki was a very patient person. It'll warm up to me eventually, he thought, It's probably just overly wary from being stray.

"Eventually" never seemed to come.

After being bitten five times in the span of three days, twice on his bowstring hand, no less, Doumeki was about ready to give up. There was no getting around it, the kitten hated him, what was the point of keeping it if he just made it's life miserable? Maybe he could slough it off on one of the girls that followed him around?

He thought these things in his usual quiet manner, as he walked home from school alone after archery practice. For some reason, his heart felt heavy at the prospect of letting the kitten go. Even if he was the bane of its existence, even if he couldn't decide on a proper name for it, there was a strange connection between them. Doumeki felt like he'd be letting someone other than just himself down.

There was a scuffling noise coming from the inside of the temple. Later, Doumeki would blame himself for taking so long to hear it.

The gates were left open during the day for parishioners to come and pray, and that meant animals could come in and out at their pleasing as well. Why that crazy-looking dog would come in there, he didn't know, why it wanted to pick a fight with his kitten, he didn't know. All he wanted to do was get in-between them.

There's a way that animals move that's faster, more frantic than humans, it was hard to tell where to split the fight up. Doumeki settled for letting the dog bite his arm as he picked his kitten up by the scruff, separating them. All he could remember was looking at the dog before it slowly backed away, and ran. He was pretty sure you had to kick a dog to make it do something like that. Somehow he had done it with just his eyes.

The kitten, or rather, what looked like was the rest of it, was in pretty bad shape. The fact that it wasn't biting him should have been indication enough to start running to the local animal hospital.

The veterinarian was a little surprised by a high-school boy coming in with a beaten kitten, usually it was the girls that took care of that sort of thing. But there was something in the back of his amber eyes that made him want to hurry. Doumeki waited in the little white reception room with a hand tight around his bite, staunching the blood, but not really registering that it hurt. He was worried for his unnamed kitten, the one that bit him daily, that one that hated his guts.

For a split second, his lips twitched up into a grin. He really seemed to have a thing for spiteful relationships.

About a half hour later, the Vet came back with a white carrying box. He Doumeki that at a place like this, there wasn't a whole lot more he could do. He said to take it home, keep it warm, and see what happened from there.

Doumeki's walk back home was stiff and quick. The case that the vet had given him wasn't moving. In his room, he was experiencing emotions he hadn't quite grasped before, over a cat, no less. Fear, panic, reluctance to open the box and see what was inside. What if the kitten had already died?

When he finally did work up the nerve to open the box, he wasn't disappointed. The kitten was alive, yes, breathing, yes, but no, not the same. Doumeki almost wanted it to bite him, to know that it was normal, that everything was okay. It just hung there, limp in his grasp, both eyes closed. This wasn't right.

Things like this happened, sometimes, where he was uncomfortable and out of his element. Behind the temple, there was a plum tree, where he sat with his grandfather when he was a boy. Now, it was his place during times of trouble. Sitting cross-legged under its boughs, his back against it's steady trunk, Doumeki placed the kitten in his lap, and meditated.

Soon he realized that it was dark. He probably had fallen asleep sometime during his visualizations. But what had woken him up?

There was a rough, tickling sensation on his arm. Two shining eyes looked up at him from the blackness, licking the bite the dog had given him earlier than day.

Doumeki had decided on a name.

-----------------------------

"So you got inbeween that dumb cat and a feral dog?"

"Yeah."

Having to explain how the rather large bandage on his arm got there over the weekend to Watanuki went about as planned. It mostly consisted of him berating Doumeki for being an idiot, and Doumeki in turn plugging his ears against the screeching sound that Watanuki managed to make when he was complaining. Everything as usual.

"Still, I can't believe you doing something like that." Watanuki looked up at the sky, then looked down again and shook his head. "I can't even picture it."

"It happened." Doumeki shrugged, and stopped in front of the temple, ready to break off from Watanuki. A small, furry torpedo beat him to the greeting. It rubbed all over his ankles, eyes closed in pleasure, purring up a storm.

"Geez, it sure seems to like you now." Watanuki placed his bag down and crouched in front of the kitten, holding out his hand. It gratefully accepted a chin-scratching. "What'd you name it?"

"Kimihiro."

"What?" Watanuki looked up in surprise at hearing his given name being called, by Doumeki no less.

"No, the kitten." He correctly calmly, "His name is Kimihiro."

Having heard it's new name twice, the kitten looked up to Doumeki, pleased.

One of it's eyes was pale yellow.

The other one, was blue.