This semi regular routine of meditation was slowly becoming a daily thing. Centering his mind, and sorting through his thoughts, letting himself catch up to the world by examining it from an objective view point. It was here that he could remove events from the tangle of emotions that tended to give a biased or unreasonable response. It was here that he was able to try and understand the strange relationship between himself and Watanuki.
He'd been trying since the first day they had met; Watanuki had been polite, well spoken, and extremely energetic. People didn't really mind him, but since he was alway yelling and having random outburst at nothing they didn't try and get to know him either. Something about the way he'd acted had made Doumeki want to push his buttons, and he'd found it surprisingly easy, and enjoyable. That had been the first time he had really acted irrationally based on impulse, before then he could say he'd always done things for logical reasons, but not that.
It was also his first fight.
Watanuki had been flushed red from exertion, hair sticking up in every direction, and glasses crooked on his nose. Doumeki could still see the look of pure anger in the other boy's startlingly blue eyes. From then on everything between them had been a contest, because he would keep pushing Watanuki until he snapped and made it one.
He hadn't really expected to be asked for help, dragged into that first job involving the spirits he couldn't see, but had agreed when he saw how it ruffled the smaller boy's feathers to be working with him. Even after so long he still didn't know why he was the one person who could do that by just existing, nor did he know why he enjoyed it so much. It has surprised him that first time he'd put himself in danger to save the other boy's life, acting out of instinct, but it had seemed like the one thing he was meant to do in his entire existence. He also liked the lunches.
Things had continued from there, until they were spending more and more time together. They ate lunch together, walked to and from school together, and often worked together at the behest of Yuuko. That's when things got complicated.
The more he saved Watanuki, the more time he spent around him, the more he began to understand just why he liked picking on the other boy, and just why he'd risk life and limb. He wasn't clear on it yet, but it was making more and more sense.
He'd said it best with Kunogi, love. She'd given up her life because she loved Watanuki, not that she was in love with him. The skinny, hyperactive, trouble attracting boy was the first person to accept the girl despite the harm she caused by simply existing. Even though he had almost died, he refused to stop being her friend, to leave her to be alone as she was so sure she was destined. For thatKunogi had loved him, her first true friend.
Doumeki could say he did too, by those definitions, but it was a more complicated definition. He didn't want to see the other boy hurt, he enjoyed his company, and what was best for Watanuki was all that mattered in the end, despite all the selfish things he did so they could spend time together. The outbursts and free lunches were just a bonus.
With another heavy breath, this one more akin to a sigh, amber eyes opened. Staring at nothing Doumeki realized he was no closer to understanding than before, but it didn't bother him, because the world was not built to make sense, and as long as he was calm and centered again his goal had been achieved.
With practiced ease Doumeki stood from his sitting position on the tatami. It was getting late, the sky turning pinks and oranges with the setting of the sun. Time always slipped by when he meditated, the world moving on as he lingered in the past for a few moments longer as to better understand what may come. The quiet of the temple was good only for that, the silence stretching even to his house and family, but he liked to get away from it. In all honestly, he liked to have his life turned upside down from time to time.
As if that thought had been a cue, the phone rang from the entryway. The harsh sound being consumed by the silence. His feet made no noise as he walked over the hard wooden floors, led by the ringing that could only be one person. Only one person would call this time of day.
"Hello?" Doumeki hated being right, sometimes.
"Be a dear and walk Watanuki home, it's not a good time for him to be wandering alone." Yuuko's words, while carrying an almost care free quality by choice alone were deadly serious. "I'll be by later to check on him."
"Hn." It was an unhappy reply, and she read it like an open book.
"Now is not the time to be angry with me. We all only do what we can." There was a click, and the line disconnected.
Doumeki set down the receiver and slipped into his shoes, sparing a thought for his bow before deciding he wouldn't need it, and heading out the door. If he would need his bow,Yuuko would have at least said that much. She was another who cared for Watanuki.
Arriving outside the empty field, that housed a shop he couldn't see, Doumeki was just in time to catch Watanuki stumbling backwards from what looked to be nowhere. It seemed that Yuko had all but thrown him out. The last time she had done that Watanuki had nearly died on him.
"Doumeki." One blue and one amber eye stared up at him from a too pale face, before Watanuki pushed away, nearly falling over again from the sudden action. "What are you doing here?"
"Walking you home," So she hadn't told him anything, or maybe it was that she couldn't. The witch worked by a set of rules that seemed to tie her hands in just about everything.
"I don't need you to walk me home. I know the way without you as a guide." The retort was lacking it's usual energy, everything had for weeks, besides Watanuki was a terrible liar.
"Hn." It was a half laugh, half whatever as he walked with Watanuki despite the protest hurled in his face. He couldn't count how many times he'd been told to go away by the bespectacled boy, but he did wonder if Watanuki realized he'd stopped meaning it a long time ago. It was more of a habit or tradition if anything, just going through the motions. He knew how unhappy the other would be if he wasn't there to rant at, to vent his frustrations, or to just talk to. Though those days were lacking lately, and it was something he wanted back.
Doumeki knew how to watch everything around him, un-focusing his eyes just enough to see everything without missing the details. He could look at the world without being to fixed on one object. That's how he always viewed the world, but it was hard not to lock his attention when Watanuki reached up to rub at his temples as if in pain. He would have passed it off as a headache if not for how the other had stopped and was swaying dangerously on his feet.
"Oi, are you okay?" As an answer, Watanuki pitched forward, face aimed for the sidewalk. "Watanuki!" He only just managed to get an arm around the other's waist, limp body a dead weight that was far too light. Watanuki really hadn't been eating, by the feel of it. This wasn't exactly what he'd meant by 'turning his life upside down'. Then again, when had the spazz ever gone along with what he'd wanted, lunches aside?
Picking the unconscious boy up bridal style, Doumeki could feel how unnaturally cold he was. If anything, he should have had a fever, but he was cold, and too still, almost lifeless. Shifting the weight in his arms to hold Watanuki a little closer he took the first street that would lead back to the temple.
He was starting to dislike phone calls from that woman, they were trouble one way or another, usually involving her indentured servant's life.
With no further instruction from Yuuko, Doumeki did the only thing he could think to for the time being once he had Watanuki back to his home. He put the other boy on his futon, and covered him in blankets with the hope that he could get some warmth into the boy, or at least keep him from turning to ice. Experience told him that he could probably light a fire on top of Watanuki and it would do nothing to warm him back up, but he could stick with conventional methods and hope it would pass or Yuuko would show up soon with the answer to his problems.
He really didn't like dealing with the woman, but because Watanuki attracted trouble, now and then there was no other option. Some things he couldn't just wait out, or fix by being nearby, even his arrows were useless. There were other things he could try, but even all of those were useless for the things that liked to gather around the other boy.
Nearly unblinkingly he watched for any change in condition. Everything seemed to remain the same, after an hour there was no change on way or another. Watanuki just didn't seem to be getting better or worse, and there was still no witch to tell him what he needed to do or not do, if things would go one way or another.
Something told him it was aimed for worse.
The second hour crept by with the same result as the last, and then the third. He could feel his eyelids growing heavier, his fortitude weakened from being awoken night after night by his shared vision with Watanuki, and staying awake for hours, just watching Watanuki's bathroom floor even with his eyes closed. Now was not the time for that to take it's toll on him.
He jerked his head up, blinking blearily as he realized he'd nodded off. He needed to get up and move, keep as active as he could while keeping an eye on the prone form occupying his futon. One hand on his knee for support, he moved to do just so, when a change caught his eye. Watanuki was sweating, a look of pain twisting his before calm features.
Exhaustion evaporating like mist in the sun, Doumeki leaned forward, pressing his hand to the boy's forehead. Ice. But something had to be causing it, something had to have changed. Then the blood caught his eye, just a slash of red behind Watanuki's neck, practically invisible. That was more than enough reason to rip the blankets away.
The futon was soaked. So much blood was there he had to wonder if there was any left to bleed out, but there had to be since Watanuki was still breathing, shallow, ragged breaths that they were. There wasn't a mark on any part he could see, not so much as a scratch marring that nearly white skin. So it was on his back then. He had to flip Watanuki over to get access to the wound, but there was the danger of making the damage worse, whatever it was. He would just have to work as slowly as he dared.
Doumeki's stomach felt like it had worked itself into a tight little knot, an ball centered at the bottom of his abdomen weighted down with led. The shredded remains of the once pristine uniform fell from his fingers, forgotten on the floor. If he hadn't seen so many unusual things before now, he might have thought that what he was seeing now was not possible. Five, deep wounds decorated Watanuki's back, long and narrow from one shoulder to the opposite hip. The same from the attack a month ago.
He reached out to touch one of them, hand hovering as if he weren't sure it would burn.
"It's worse than I though." Letting his hand drop back to his side, he couldn't say he wasn't relieved to hear that voice, despite the words it formed.
"How do I fix this?" Doumeki didn't care how, or what had happened, just the solution. There would be a price for it, there always was when dealing with these sorts of things.
"Are you prepared to pay?" Ruby eyes seemed to bore through him, to his very soul, but even that was a fair price to him. He nodded once to the witch in answer. "His soul is in turmoil, and he's killing himself with his guilt." She turned her attention to Watanuki , expression softening. "You will have to go to where he is, the purgatory he's slipped into, an in between place created by his own feelings. You won't have long to convince him to come back, to accept what has him bound and move on. If you are too long you will be trapped by his world, sucked in, and you will lose your soul as well."
Yuuko turned full force to him, every line of her the dimensional witch, seriousness the only thing she knew. "If you don't succeed in bringing him back quickly, you will both die."
"How long will I have?" One or both, that was the only option Doumeki could see. One could die and the other live, both could live, or both could die. The first and last were not acceptable, so one option.
"I don't know." She shook her head, regret in her features. "I really cannot tell how long either of you will have."
"How do I get there then?" He knew she'd know at least that much, she wouldn't be here if she didn't, she wouldn't be offering this chance.
"I'll send you-"
"Do it then."
"It doesn't matter."
Yuuko shook her head, a small smile, one that was anything but happy, on her lips. "A year of your life, and I don't mean you will die a year sooner than you were supposed to. I mean your memory, of the last year you spent with your grandfather, from the time of his death back an entire year of time in his company, nothing else but the time with him."
"It's fine." His grandfather had meant more to him than his parents, but he was sure that Doumeki Haruka would understand his decision. A year of just the time spent with one person was a long time, but Watanuki was more important to him now, more important than old memories.
"Then you're wish will be granted. Take his hand, you need a physical connection." Yuuko instructed, back to business, back to being the dealer of wishes who could not meddle on a personal level. "Don't waste time."
Doumeki found himself standing in the park, the same park they would gather to have lunch at for holidays, the same they watch cherry blossoms in, one that he'd been to more times than he cared to count with Watanuki . The vibrant greens were muted though, and the flowers seemed withered behind a thick mist hanging over everything. He could see clearly in every direction despite that, but his senses were dulled.
He couldn't stop and contemplate it, he didn't care how this little world was put together, or how it worked. All he wanted was to find Watanuki and drag him out of here alive. The question was: where to look? By the Sakura trees was the obvious answer, and the wrong one. Watanuki would not be there.
It wouldn't hurt to check anyway, there were no other leads. So he walked, the mist shifting and changing around him, taking shapes and echoing the sound of his hurried footsteps oddly. Monsters seemed to claw at him from the corner of his vision, and he found that the world blurred and mutated at the edges into something unrecognizable.
The trees came into view, the petals a deep crimson instead of a pale pink, twisted branches raking at the sky like angry hands bound to the earth. His assumption proved correct, and Watanuki was nowhere to be found. He didn't even slow his pace to take in the wrongness of it all, jogging past to scour the rest of the park.
Not by the pond.
Not by the playground where they often ate lunch.
Not by the hydrangea bush.
Watanuki was not in the park. No where, meaning that this was only a place he had been dropped. How much time had he just wasted here? Brows furrowing into a frown, he exited the park, down the empty, lifeless streets, in the direction of the shop. So much time was spent there, so much of everything that had happened was tied to that place it could be the answer.
The empty lot came into view, but it was not empty. He could see the building he'd only seen briefly before, paying the price of his blood in order to save the same life the hung in the balance now. Without a second thought, he barged in, leaving his shoes on as he tore through the place, checking each room. Kitchen, bedrooms, rooms that seemed to have no purpose whatsoever, and even the store rooms. All were empty, and held the feeling of never having accommodated actual life.
Back outside he headed to his temple, where both of their real bodies were resting. He kept moving as fast as he could, remembering to keep his breathing even and hoping his endurance didn't run out. He could have minutes left, seconds even, but he would keep moving. He could not slow down for any reason.
The same lifeless, alien feeling weighed in the courtyard at the temple. No wind blew to rustle the leaves on the trees, not even the dulled sounds of the passing outside world were here. It was a true silence that made the temple he had grown up in seem filled with life. The empty rooms, the undisturbed, perfectly swept of the entrance, all of it oppressive.
Watanuki wasn't here either.
This was more frustrating than he could think to put into words. A game of hide and go seek with all of Tokyo as the playing ground. He'd just have to keep going through every little corner until he found what he was looking for, and his next stop would be Watanuki's apartment.
His breathing was getting heavier by now, more labored, and his movements felt sluggish as he forced his pace to stay the same, down the empty sidewalk, racing over empty streets. Nearly half way to his goal before he stopped dead. In the middle of the street it hit him. Not just any familiar place like the park, the shop, the temple, or even Watanuki's own apartment. It was none of those places, or any place the other boy had spent a lot of time.
Changing directions abruptly, he bolted full speed down another street, trying to close the distance and save time now that the answer was so obvious. A right down this street, down the ally between these two stores, over a small fence so he didn't have to go around a small garden, a left down this next street, and there Watanuki was. Not just Watanuki, but Kunogi as well.
He stopped, staring for only a moment at the girl sitting on a bench in front of a small store, Watanuki's head in her lap as he lay across the bench. She was petting his hair soothingly, quietly, as the boy cried. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." The smaller boy was repeating over and over, seemingly unaware of the blood dripping down his back to soak into the ground, and all the while Kunogi never changed.
It was not the Kunogi either of them had known, but the last Watanuki remembered of her. Her face was all but unrecognizable, half crushed and twisted, broken bones making her limbs rest at awkward angles, hair tangled and matted with blood, and one arm missing, having been violently torn off. She wore a small, sad smile on the still intact portion of her face, her good eye focused on her one hand running through the messy black hair of the boy in her lap.
"Oi." Doumeki called out, his voice swallowed up almost before it reached his own ears. Neither of the other two looked up at him, they only continued as Watanuki repeated his mantra. Swallowing deep breaths to calm his heaving chest, lungs still burning for oxygen, he pressed forward, closing the distance between him and his goal. If he could not be heard he would make himself heard. "Answer me." The demand received no reaction still, and he knew he was not so quiet as to not be heard standing directly over the pair.
He reached down, taking hold of one skinny arm, mostly bone from lack of eating, and hauled Watanuki to his feet giving him a good shake. "Snap out of it." Mismatched eyes blinked, seeming to clear, and focused on him, and at the same instant Kunogi disappeared.
"Doumeki... why... what are you doing here?" The smaller boy's voice was weak and raspy from crying, thickening and slurring his words. It seemed that only Doumeki's grasp on him was holding him upright either.
"I could ask you the same thing." There was a limit to how guilty someone could feel about another giving up their life for you, and it had long since been reached. "What was that?" His voice was an angry hiss, startling even himself with its intensity.
Glaring, Watanuki pulled himself out of his grasp with more strength than he should have had. "I was apologizing."
"For what?! For... for, damn it, for being a selfish bastard!" Watanuki screamed at him, pent up frustration trying to find an outlet as he threw his hands into the air in a vague but angry gesture. "That is what for."
He blinked, once, twice, and it just didn't make sense. "How is her willingly giving up her life for yours selfish?"
"I just-" Watanuki snapped his mouth shut suddenly, cutting himself off, and shaking his head violently before dropping his chin to his chest. "I don't need you to hate me too. I can hate myself without losing you too."
"No." Doumeki grabbed the front of the other boy's bloody shirt, pulling him closer so their eyes were forced to meet. "Tell me." If he didn't know he couldn't fix it, and he had to fix it. "Look at me." His other hand came up to grasp Watanuki's chin as he tried to turn his head away, guiding it back so they were looking at each other.
Unshed tears shown in mismatched amber and cerulean eyes, lashes fluttering in an attempt to blink them away before they fell. Watanuki's mouth worked, but no sound came out, as if all the words he should say refused to be spoken. "I," He took a deep, shuddering breath, "When I was attacked, and when Himawari chan jumped in the way," He stopped again, squeezing his eyes shut, and his voice choked when he continued. "I didn't think about her, I only thought about how I didn't want to die. All I cared about was me living."
"You idiot." With one quick motion he had Watanuki wrapped in his arms, holding him to his chest as tight as he could without risking breaking the other boy in half. "You are such an idiot. That's nothing to feel guilty over, no one wants to die."
"No, listen." He wasn't much for words, but he knew the basics of what needed to be said. "It's just self preservation, something I thought you didn't have for a long time. But you are so stupid, placing others before you. You didn't do anything wrong. You just thought what anyone would have." He pulled away, looking back at Watanuki's face. "So don't let her sacrifice be for nothing."
"I just, how could I not think about her life at all?" Tears broke free again, and he let Watanuki slide to the ground, he knelt before him, hands on narrow shoulders to keep the boy from completely falling over. "She gave up everything for me, thought about me enough to throw her self into my place."
Doumeki gave him another shake, this one much more gentle. "She knew what she was doing, and why she was doing it." All he could do was say it bluntly, the truth of what Watanuki had never been able to understand. "Everyone makes sacrifices for their own selfish reasons, everyone takes from others or gives to others for selfish reasons." He pulled Watanuki into a much less fierce hug, but one with more to it than the last. "You can be selfish too. Everyone is, or do you think I keep saving you because it's good for my health."
The shaking in his arms was mostly tears and exhausted nerves, but some of it was a bit of a chuckle. "Don't think I'm making you lunch for this."
Groaning as he noted how everything managed to hurt at once, Watanuki opened his eyes to be met with the blurry world. Someone had taken his glasses, and had left him laying on his stomach. As more things registered he noted his back was a sticky and unpleasant, something drying on it cracking as he moved, and his hand was tangled with what he could only assume was another hand.
"Welcome back." He knew that voice, oh yes, he knew that voice very well.
"Yuuko, what happened?" He pushed himself up into a sitting position, a little awkward when the hand grasping his wouldn't let go. He managed though, glancing around and feeling about for his glasses, placing them on his face to bring the world into sharp contrast.
"Before or after you fell asleep?" His boss was sitting by the shogi door, sipping at a cup of sake and her pipe in the other hand.
He shook his head, saying he really didn't want to know, not with so much blood everywhere. Taking in the sight of the archer laying beside him, and how the futon he was in was soaked it didn't take much to figure who's blood it was. He reached out with his free hand, hesitating for just a second before he brushed the hair from the big jerk's forehead. "How bad was it?"
"Bad." Yuuko exhaled a stream of perfumed smoke into the air. "The price was steep."
"Of course." Watanuki should have expected no less, Doumeki had never hesitated to pay what it took to save him. He disentangled their two hands, turning to fully face the sleeping boy. "Wake up you big oaf, how am I supposed to clean up this mess if you're sleeping in the middle of it?"
Doumeki didn't respond.
Panic gripping him, he grabbed the bigger boy by the shoulders and shook him roughly. "Doumeki!" Wide eyes turned to Yuuko, pleading. "What's wrong with him?"
Yuuko's red eyes stared off into the distance, not seeing him as she spoke, but perhaps another world all together. "There was a time limit."
"And if he didn't make it?" He demanded, but his only response were those crimson orbs focusing on him. "DAMNIT! Please wake up, damn it Doumeki, don't do this to me. If you don't wake up right now I'm going to kick your dumb ass!" His eyes were stinging, and he fought back tears, shaking and shaking the other boy. "Wake up right now... wake up..." Slowly the strength drained from him and he slumped forward, burring his face in Doumeki's shirt. "Wake up you stupid bastard." He couldn't believe this was happening.
"Would you stop making all that noise?"
Watanuki sat bolt upright, looking at a stoic face with open amber eyes staring back at him. "YOU JERK!" He screeched, pushing himself away from the archer, tears trailing down his face freely, but he couldn't help but smile. "HOW COULD YOU SCARE ME LIKE THAT? DO YOU WANT TO GIVE ME A HEART ATTACK?"
Doumeki sat up, plugging the ear on the side Watanuki sat on, wincing just a tad for effect. "Hmm. Will it make you stop yelling?" Watanuki did, mouth hanging open. "I guess I don't have to go that far then." Watanuki's mouth snapped closed with an audible click of teeth, and he glared at Doumeki, but the larger boy missed it as he turned his attention to Yuuko.
"I'm afraid that's one price you could never pay." The witch laughed, shaking her head. "You'll just have to put up with the yelling."
Doumeki shrugged, and looked back to Watanuki, who had calmed down after his initial outburst. "Why?" For once, he really, truly wanted to know the idiot's reasonings for doing what he did.
"I told you, everyone is selfish." As if on cue, Doumeki's stomach gave a loud rumble. And he gave Watanuki a very serious look. "I'm hungry."