Title: Five Days in Summer

Fandom: xxxHolic;

Genre: Hurt/Comfort;

Characters/Pairings: Himawari, Yuuko;

Rating: PG

Warnings: Spoilers for Book Ten. Girl-talk, partial nudity, scabs.

Summary: Himawari has a problem and Yuuko's all about helping people in their time of need, for a reasonable recompense. Gen. No, really: gen. Oh alright... mostly gen.

DISCLAIMER: The setting and all named characters belong to CLAMP, and I use them without permission.


Yuuko eyed the form before her with the eye of a critic, which is to say, appreciating all its qualities. A white torso rose out of a welter of fabric, as bountiful and elegant as Grecian sculpture – full hips and a nipped waist, the spread of shoulders promising a fullness in front to balance it all. It was as bountiful and elegant as Grecian sculpture and as damaged: scars ripped all over the back, wound over slender neck and arms, curved around ribs as if an unseemly archaeologist had attacked it with a chisel and then hooked his fingers in ochre and daubed the gashes red like fire.

The owner of the torso shifted, became human again. The weight of red-black hair coiled precariously on her head with black lacquer sticks began to topple, and she reached up quickly with one hand to steady it. As she moved, one of the scabs broke open and began to bleed in a slow trickle over inflamed skin.

"The scar tissue is hardening," said Yuuko. "When you move suddenly it can't flex with the rest of you, so it breaks again."

The girl, Himawari, twitched, half-turning to look at the witch.

"Truly," said Yuuko. "Watanuki is fine; Doumeki is with him. They are on a journey. The blood is not a sign of their distress, only, a need for medical attention." Around them, summer seethed in the witch's garden: cicadas droned, bees drifted over veridian grass, a small yellow bird darted through the swaying branches of a cherry tree. Himawari nodded, a quick tip of the head and began to gather up her clothing.

"Antiseptic would be wise," the witch observed. "Also softening cream to keep the scars from breaking open again."

Himawari smiled sunnily. "Thank you very much, Yuuko-san!" She shrugged a blouse embroidered with small blue flowers up around her shoulders.

"Can you reach to do it yourself?"

Himawari beamed. "I'll be fine!"

"Ah, but a close friend or family member would be ideal to help you with this..."

Himawari said nothing as she buttoned a high collar. Yuuko refrained from commenting. Sometimes it seemed that the witch could pull a whole crashing thunderstorm around her shoulders and still be quieter than when she was Refraining From Commenting. Himawari's fingers paused on the top button. "... Would you?"

"If you wish."

"How much?"

"What you can easily afford."

Himawari blew air through her nose once, and nodded. Yuuko clapped her hands and one of her minions, the pink-haired one, brought a tray with a steaming bowl of water, clean white cloth, and a jar of something that smelled like parsley.

Himawari was glad that they were doing this outside, on the witch's veranda. The summer heat had been oppressive even passing through the house to the back garden. And simply, for a moment, Himawari had been in the depths of Yuuko's house, in a dark room stinking of incense and blood, sick to her stomach as the Time-Space Witch put a bowl of bloody water on the table.

She couldn't help from flinching, when Yuuko touched her. Once, the witch had grabbed a fistful of something pink and squirming from a black bowl, had slapped it, still writhing, onto Himawari's back and gone back for more, working methodically in a room of blood and incense and the sound of too many people breathing. Once, Himawari had bought another person's scars from Yuuko-san, and it had hurt.

But soon enough it was only about having wounds cleaned, a warm damp cloth soaking away the blood and scabs. Yuuko was never gentle but she was careful, and did not cause unnecessary pain. She worked methodically. The water dried quickly and the green ointment was cool on Himawari's back. Damp air sighed across her skin.

Afterwards, Yuuko's long robes slithered as she rose and shifted to sit beside Himawari, where they could look each other in the eye if they wanted. "So. Regarding the bill. Bring me... home cooking. Maru and Moro try hard, but they're just not up to the standards of my kitchen-slave."

Himawari beamed. "My mother is a wonderful cook!"

"No. Food made with your own hands." Himawari's beaming smile got a little soggy.

She was back at the store that evening, with a basket of warm muffins coloured green with parsley, wrapped in a snowy-white napkin. Yuuko plucked one from the basket and cut off a steaming slice with a silver knife. She tasted it with distant eyes. Then, "It is acceptable. Come back tomorrow."

Himawari walked five paces before breaking into a run. As it happens, a car that swerved to avoid her crossing the street ran into a lamp-post, with minimal damage to one light. Two days later, residual glass from the accident burst the tire of a cyclist racing to reach his daughter's first ballet recital. But these things happen every day.

No particular reason for the Fire, Water whatsits – they're just what the kanji in the relevant days read (starting with Tuesday). I used them as a secondary prompt when I was stuck with moving a scene, but that's all their relevance.