Title: Swamp Magnolia
Characters/Pairing: Himawari, Yuuko
Rating: G for Gen.
Summary: the gift of hope has no price. Yuuko & Himawari gen.
Author's Notes/Warnings: in the floral language, swamp magnolia means 'perseverance' I took most of the prompts literally. For dimension shop's er, fourth round? The recipient was shadowsinfire.
Himawari watched as Konoko-chan and Hana-chan took out their homemade bento, the riceballs shaped as animals. Cute, as usual. Konoko's was a rabbit with bits of ume for ears, and Hana's had a small cat that was slightly more misshapen than her friend's.
"Buying again, Himawari-chan?" Her classmates giggled to themselves. Her smile never faltered.
"I inherited my mother's cooking," she said.
Perhaps she could cook, if she tried. It didn't look so hard, and even Watanuki-kun could teach her. She knew he would be more than happy to. Himawari carefully removed the plastic, and discarded it before anyone else could touch it.
How much bad luck could accidentally be infused into a simple cake or riceball?
The risk was not worth the chance of finding out.
It wasn't that she was particularly unhappy. The sun shone down and even in her well-made world, free of touch and close human contact. She couldn't deny the beauty. Her grandmother had always said she was a naturally bright person, like all that light and beauty of spring and summer had gotten caught inside her.
She never doubted the happiness of the world around her. It was just that for every sunny day, there was dark clouds on the horizon.
With the store bought lunch in hand, Himawari made her way to the house where Yuuko-san lived and Watanuki worked. It wasn't a short walk, but she never minded it, even when it was raining or the cold winter winds whipped at her. If anything, Himawari had grown to understand and expect adversity. If adversity came to knock at her door, she would invite it in for tea.
Tanpopo twittered on her shoulder as she walked. It rarely flew far from her, and she knew this one tiny friend would stay. It had been Yuuko's promise to her.
Her pet bird nuzzled close and Himawari laughed. "You're always happy to go back there, are you?"
Tanpopo's chirp sounded like an affirmation.
When she reached the house, she found it empty of the usual noise and bustle that was often to be heard upon approaching it. No cursing and screaming, or sound of things being moved roughly, no rhythmic sweeping throughout. The metal grates opened before she reached up to knock, and she heard a happy songs of the two little twins as they skipped by, their hands clasped together to form their own secret land of wonders.
Yuuko wore a long scarlet dress with a low neck and a several strings of pearls, some that were strung in long loops that dipped into the front of her low cut dress and others that were worn tighter, like a choker. The dress itself seemed far more like something one would wear going to a ball than a for a simple day spent lounging around the house, but Yuuko had always been a unique person. Himawari thought it fitting that she would spend even an idle afternoon at home dressed like a queen.
"Watanuki-kun is out on an errand," Yuuko said. "Why don't you stay a moment?"
Himawari nodded and stepped beyond the gates and into Yuuko's realm. Funny, it seemed different here from the outside--like stepping into a faded old sepia photograph. She liked the smell of the house; a bit stale no matter how much Watanuki scrubbed and cleaned. It retained a dryness, a mystery much like the dwellers it sheltered inside its walls.
"Tea?" Yuuko asked.
Himawari beamed. "I'd love some."
Yuuko laid out a teapot, fragile porcelain with golden inlay, flowers and butterflies painted on it. There were mountains in the far distance, like a reverberation of spring thunder. Whispers of fairytales were imprinted in these cups and saucers. When Himawari stroked the side of her cup, it felt warm, not cold as she had expected the porcelain to feel.
The tiny black creature, (Mokona, wasn't it?) poured out the steaming tea. "Carefully, carefully~" it said. It finished first hers, then Yuuko's, and then it's own small, cuter cup that was not a part of the set.
Himawari waited for the fragrant tea to cool a moment before she took a sip. This would be traditionally the time to make idle conversation, but Yuuko was oddly silent. Even simply drinking tea Yuuko was mysterious. Her eyes were veiled with unknown intentions and, although Himawari trusted Yuuko, a part of her wondered if that trust wasn't misplaced.
But then, visiting Yuuko's shop was like visiting a fortune teller's. You never stayed to talk about the weather or the latest idols. Not with someone who seemed to know fate on a personal basis, someone who seemed so sublime in their knowledge of the universe.
Yuuko poured an extra 'creamer' into hers, something that looked suspiciously like rum. Himawari just smiled. For all her wisdom and knowledge, Yuuko could be act very happy and carefree at times. She wondered which had come first: the silly, fun loving drunk, or the solemn dimensional witch? Or had they always been together as facets, as inexorable as the endless cycles of day and night.
When it had finally cooled enough, Himawari sipped at her tea. It smelled wonderful and the taste was hard to explain. A little bitter, a little sweet. Much like life itself.
"I don't think I've ever had this kind before, it's very good," Himawari said..
"It's Jasmine," she replied.
"Oh? I've always wanted to try Jasmine tea."
"They're fragile flowers. They only open at night during the fullest of full moons and must be picked quickly before they fall. It must be in early morning when the petals are closed and the plant is fast asleep."
Yuuko set her rum-tea aside for a second and regarded Himawari with a more grave countenance.
"Seeing, contrary to popular wisdom, isn't believing," Yuuko said. " It's where belief stops, because it isn't needed any more."
"Oh really? I never knew," Himawari said. She smiled because she couldn't think of anything else to add and a smile always sweetened things, even if it wasn't completely real.
Ghost stories, fiction, false smiles...they were all alike in the end.
She couldn't help but think that Yuuko had just given her a clue, some veiled message pertaining to Watanuki, and yet she didn't fully understand. Was it the spirits or in fact the truth about Watanuki himself?
Without another word Yuuko rose and left the room for but a second. It didn't take long until she returned something in her hands. The flower was as pale as Yuuko's skin. The gossamer white petals fanned out from Yuuko's cupped palms.
"It's a swamp magnolia."
The name conjured up images of desert roses, and those tiny weeds that even manage to grow in cracks of concrete. Even in putrid swamp, beautiful flowers could rise towards the sun.
"But," Himawari asked, "don't I owe you something in return?"
Yuuko smiled. "The gift of hope has no price."
Those words had a cleansing effect on her, like rain on dry grounds of the desert. And that time when she smiled, it was completely true.