Disclaimer: It all belongs to CLAMP and their cracked out genius.
To Usher In A New Year
It wasn't entirely necessary, Watanuki reflected, to go to Doumeki's temple for the New Year. It wasn't like he was religious or traditional or anything. And putting that whole thing aside entirely, it wasn't even like it was the only temple in the whole of Tokyo anyway.
However, as much as Watanuki hated admitting it to himself – it was the closest.
That, and he would rather spend a lifetime of New Years' in Doumeki's temple than spend another minute in Yuuko's presence when she insisted on taking one shot of alcohol for every New Year celebration she had ever lived through.
It was cold though. Watanuki shivered, and rubbed his gloved hands together. The narrow, crooked street he walked down was suspiciously free of streetlamps and it was very quiet. His eyes darted from left to right. All in all, it was a perfect situation to be caught off guard by some spirit looking for a midnight snack
In fact, Watanuki sighed, as his nose picked up the familiar reek of a spirit with way too much time on its hands (or tentacles, or whatever), hitsuzen practically demanded it. Watanuki bit his lip, considered his limited options, and bolted around a corner.
He came to a screeching halt not two seconds later, after almost bowling straight over Doumeki. The spirit smell began to disperse.
"Watch where you're going!" snapped Watanuki, almost as soon as his heart had returned to its normal rate and he was sure he wasn't about to lose his balance straight into Doumeki's chest.
Doumeki stared at him for a moment, face unreadable.
Watanuki glared back. "What?"
Doumeki kept on staring. "You're late," he said.
"Who's late?" Watanuki retorted, pointing a finger at him. "I'm about as late as you are responsible! Which means not at all, obviously – don't you have work you're supposed to be doing?"
There was a very long pause in which the fuse of Watanuki's temper shortened considerably each half a second.
"—Because you make all those poor shrine maidens do it for you, obviously! You—"
"Come on," Doumeki said, grabbing one of Watanuki's wrists.
"Don't manhandle me, you irresponsible excuse for someone who lives at a temple!"
Doumeki plugged his ear with his remaining hand as he continued to drag Watanuki down the street.
" . . .And another thing! If you leave my wrist all bruised up like the last time you—"
"We're here," Doumeki interrupted.
"—We will have words, Doumeki Shizuka! And— What?"
"We're here," Doumeki repeated. And indeed, they were. Watanuki's eyes narrowed as he took in the table set up near the front of the temple, and the the line of people waiting to ring the bell to usher in the New Year.
"Who said I was going to your temple?" he growled, trying to loosen Doumeki's hold on his wrist as Doumeki marched them up to the table set up near the shrine. "Don't just assume things!"
They had reached the table by that point. Doumeki opened his mouth. "Toshikoshi-soba," he said, "and amazake."
"I'm not making them for you!" Watanuki replied instantly. "You— what?" Watanuki trailed off as a bowl of extra long soba noodles and a steaming cup of amazake was pressed into his hands as his wrist was suddenly released. He stared at them, and Doumeki tugged him out of the next patron's way by his elbow.
"Doumeki, did you make this?" Watanuki asked, voiced tinged in disbelief, not really paying attention to where they were going as they wandered away from the main group of visitors.
Doumeki nodded. Watanuki's jaw dropped.
"The soba was instant."
"Then don't take credit for it!"
They stood in silence for a while, watching the throng of people congregating around the temple. A wind blew through the bare trees, rattling their branches and casting crooked shadows where the light from the temple faltered. Watanuki's cheeks burned with cold. He brought the hot amazake to his mouth and blew on it, watching the steam float away into the darkness. He stole glances of Doumeki's silhouette, and decided not to notice how close they were standing, or that if he hadn't been holding a bowl in one hand and a cup in the other, their fingers would have been brushing.
"Happy New Year." Doumeki's voice was bland and soft. Watanuki turned fully to look at him.
"Happy New Year," he mumbled back, a bit uncertainly. He took a sip of the amazake.
"Next is Osōji," Doumeki said.
Watanuki spat out the amazake. "You're supposed to have already done that!"
"Later," Doumeki clarified.
"I'm not cleaning your house for you!"
"Y-yes?" Watanuki stuttered, taken aback by the use of his name.
Doumeki held up his hands. His gloveless hands. "My hands are cold."
Watanuki stared at him, words absolutely failing him. "Well, you're not wearing gloves," he said finally. And then, his voice rising with every word, arms waving, "Why aren't you wearing gloves, you idiot?" He put the cup and bowl down as the amazake sloshed over the sides, "You want to get hypothermia?"
"You—!" Watanuki's shoulders sagged. "I don't believe you."
"Whatever," Doumeki said.
"Who forgets gloves in the middle of the night in the middle of winter?" Watanuki snapped. "Stupid Doumeki."
"My hands are still cold," Doumeki reminded him.
"Put them in your coat pockets then," Watanuki said irritably.
"They have holes in them," Doumeki replied. "See?" He stuck his left hand into his pocket and wiggled the fingers that came out. "Holes."
"I know what a hole is!" Watanuki hissed. Doumeki's expression didn't change. After a moment, Watanuki sighed. "Fine," he bit out. He took off his right hand glove and shoved it at Doumeki without looking at him. "Take it. Bask in the glory that is my sympathy."
Doumeki took the glove and slowly put it on. His hand dropped back to his side.
"But," he said.
But what?" Watanuki growled, exasperated.
"My left hand's still cold."
Watanuki glowered at him. "Not even a thank you," he grumbled. "Stupid Doumeki." In a sudden, jerky movement, he grabbed for Doumeki's hand and clenched it tightly as he drew both their hands together into his own pocket.
"I'm only doing this because I don't want you to get sick and have Yuuko-san make me bring you hot soup or something," Watanuki said, staring determinedly off in the opposite direction, cheeks feeling very hot. "That's all."
"Ah," Doumeki said.
"That's all!" Watanuki repeated, the back of his neck and his ears now flushed too. "Because she would. Yuuko-san, that is. She'd make me do it."
"Okay," Doumeki said.
Watanuki didn't answer. Doumeki's calloused hand was warmer now, but still gripping his tightly. In the quiet, with Doumeki solid next to him, shoulders barely touching, steamy breath mixing together in the cold, Watanuki thought that maybe, just maybe, it was okay that Doumeki's temple was the closest.
Notes: I use a few references to Japanese culture here, so let me explain them:
Amazake is 'sweet sake' drunk traditionally on New Years Eve. Most Shinto shrines pass it out to the people who come to the shrine on the New Years Eve, in order to usher in the New Year. It's not very alcoholic and tends to have lumps in it. This is partly why I don't really like it.
Toshikoshi-soba are extra long soba noodles (another traditional New Years Eve food, surprise, surprise).
Osōji is the traditional cleaning (replacing paper in the sliding doors, airing out the tatami mats . . . etc.) done before New Years. It's often done on the day of New Years Eve.
There is a special "Happy New Year" phrase used in Japan only on New Years: Akemashiteomedetou. I thought "Happy New Year" got the main point across, so I decided not to use it, but that's the phrase I imagine them saying if you want to get technical about it.
Because Doumeki's family owns the temple, it would be Doumeki's duty to help take care of all the visitors. In this fic, obviously he's not, which is why Watanuki's on his case about being "irresponsible."
The whole "ringing in the New Year" thing: Lots of shrines have a big cast iron bell. Traditionally, it's rung 108 times for each of the earthly desires believed to cause human suffering. I've also seen it done where each person rings it before they clap and bow to the shrine.
Thanks for reading!