One

The first Watanuki ever saw of Doumeki was probably somewhere in the first day or two of the school year, but against the background noise of a couple of hundred other students, it would have taken something overwhelming for Doumeki to stand out. They weren't in the same class or any of the same clubs, so it would be a long time before there was any reason why their paths should cross in any significant way.

The first time they met properly was during yet another spirit assault. An unusually bad one at that, where, thanks to just one bad step, even Watanuki's well practiced talent for running for his life had failed him. The fall left him rolling flat on the ground out in the street, struggling to breathe through thick, invisible smoke, pinned beneath a monster that had looked over his shoulder like a storm-cloud with eyes. (Watanuki had not stopped for a better look at the time, and was definitely not in a position to get one now.)

How he was going to get out of this one he really didn't know, despite all prior experience – of which he had plenty, since a month when he didn't see at least one spirit like this one was a really, really good month. Sometimes he'd be lucky enough to squeeze out from underneath and make another break for it. Other times, his struggling would attract another of those monsters and he'd be able to get away while they fought over him. Once or twice, someone had seen him, decided he was having a fit and called an ambulance, and all the fuss and sirens had eventually driven the sprit off, but for anyone else to interfere was exceptionally rare. Treated to the sight of a school boy rolling around on the road like that, the effort people will go to not to notice him really couldn't be understated.

He was not expecting to hear an irritated voice say, "Oi."

He was definitely not expecting to suddenly discover that there was no spirit crushing down on him, and that he really was now rolling around on the ground without apparent reason.

Baffled, he sat up and looked around himself. There wasn't a spirit in sight in any direction. Behind him, there was a pair of legs and a torso in the uniform of his school, but there was nothing overtly supernatural about those. Following the next logical step in the sequence, Watanuki looked up to see a boy of about his age and a little more than his height and wearing a sour expression.

And then the boy said something that very quickly killed any sort of relief or any interesting conclusions that Watanuki might have been about to come to.

"You're in my way. The footpath is for walking on, not rubbing yourself over like a dog."

Watanuki miraculously found the energy to be back on his feet in a second. "Excuse me?! What did you just say I was?!"

"I didn't call you anything," the boy corrected him, with a bland expression. "I said you were acting like a dog."

In all the years Watanuki had had these problems, this was the first time he'd had a reaction like this. "You… you thought that was something someone would do for fun?!"

"If that's what you enjoy I wouldn't know."

"Of course I wasn't enjoying something like that!" Watanuki still couldn't believe he was even having this conversation. "Why would anyone do that voluntarily!"

The other boy gave him an appraising look. "If you were having some kind of fit you recovered very fast."

And here explanations got abruptly tricky. "Well that's because…"

"Oi. Are you going to get out of my way already?"

Watanuki gaped. Then he got out of the way. Anything that prevented this person from leaving any longer would have to be outright masochism.

On the way home, he comforted himself with the knowledge that at least he was guaranteed that he would never, no matter how long he lived, meet anyone ruder or more obnoxious than the boy he had met that day.

The next day at school, a familiar voice casually asked him whether he was planning on having any more fits. Watanuki promptly had one of a different variety.

And the rest, as they say, is history.