Title: The Trouble with Tanuki
Characters: Watanuki, Doumeki, with supporting roles by the cast of xxxHolic and Man of Many Faces
Summary: Er... Doumeki goes down the tanuki hole.
Notes: This story is tucked in just after Book 10, except the seasons are a bit wacky. It is a not-sequel to "Five Days In Summer," which is unnecessary to read, but does explain what Himawari was up to in Yuuko's shop, and the source of the tanuki's grudge. (Other notes at ends of chapters.)
Disclaimer: Pauper sum ego, nihil habeo.
Warnings: Super-verbosity. Super!Grumpy!Watanuki. Super!Hungry!Doumeki. Cheesy, cheesy innuendo. Crack. Inept writing.
Chapter One: Someday, In the Rain
It was a terrible day, and the end of a terrible week of similarly terrible days spent trudging between spooky-spiritual sites set like beads on a string about the backside of Japan with an antique camera and that idiot Doumeki in tow like a laconic, irritating dinghy, a dinghy who broke his own arm with malice aforethought and made Watanuki mix metaphors because that was just the kind of maritime vehicle he was like – irritating.
"You mean similes," said Doumeki.
Today should have been slightly less terrible, because at least they were back in his home city, but today it was raining. Terribly. Also, stupid Doumeki had insisted on walking Watanuki back from the station. It wasn't his fault that they'd lost one of their umbrellas plugging the tiny puckered maw of a Thing that looked like a balloon and wanted to eat him through a straw (which had never yet put Watanuki in a good mood) and that meant they had to share and it was awkward and jostling and also annoyingly soggy.
So they trudged through water falling like grey and silver sheets around them, their only company the myriads of dour, suited businessman returning from work, who were also having a terrible week, or so said the bags under their eyes – dark like raccoon rings – and their silent, splattering journeys up and down the wet street.
Once again, Watanuki was shoving his umbrella more over the other boy, so that his plaster cast didn't dissolve in the rain, which would be troublesome, when another businessman – this one tall and burly under a heavy jowl and paunch – almost walked through him as if he wasn't there, and would have knocked him flying with his brief-case if Doumeki hadn't steadied him.
Then the jowly businessman stood on what looked like a small, squeaky, pink elephant toy and overbalanced over a set of steps ahead of them in the street, and Watanuki reached after the obnoxious man trying to catch him, and Doumeki who was already off balance tried to pull Watanuki back but failed, and failed again to catch himself with his other arm in a cast and sling, and then they were all
He opened his eyes. It was blurry, but he could make out the shape of someone squatting over him, elbows and legs folded like a daddy-long-leg spider, hair sticking out around the head like a bedraggled kitten's.
"Are you quite sure you're not dead?" Watanuki said, dark blue eyes worried.
Doumeki blinked. It was still blurry. Ah, yes: "Rain in my eyes," he said.
"Oh!" Hands fumbled around his face and slid something warm around his ears. Glasses. He was wearing Watanuki's glasses. It was still blurry. But nice.
"Can you move your fingers and toes?"
"Working on it."
"You did not have to land under me," the other boy said precisely. "Idiot."
"Hn," said Doumeki.
Doumeki had a dream, a fantasy, perhaps a bit more carnal than a boy who was going to be a priest should have but whatever, he was young. He'd rescue Watanuki from some monster or other and then, because the boy was injured just a little, or maybe shocky (he wasn't picky), Doumeki would pick the boy up, cradle him tenderly, and take him home. Probably to Watanuki's flat – there were always people around his home temple – and then, once they'd towelled each other off and any minor wounds were bandaged, then, when it was just the two of them, alone, Watanuki would look him straight in the eye and make him food. Oh yeah. Hanazushi with the coloured rice spilling out like flowers, fox-eared inari-zushi, those little three-flavour riceballs... and then there was shogen ryori cooking, which took days. The glasses steamed.
But, since his dream didn't look entirely likely to come true tonight, what with being flat on his back on a rain-sodden street, Doumeki would have to fall back on the old standby – trading injuries for snacks.
"I think I might have cracked my other arm," he said thoughtfully, still looking up. Watanuki's worried frown deepened to a scowl visible even through the blur of the glasses. "I... may not be able to feed myself tonight." The other boy started to twitch angrily, and Doumeki subsided, lifting his arm and wiggling his fingers to prove it wasn't actually broken.
He squinted through the borrowed glasses – the lens on the right wasn't bad to see through, just damp. Over Watanuki's shoulder he could see little men in suits with tired rings under their eyes gather around the other fallen man.
Watanuki's eyes were doing that thing again - the left was the normal dark blue, the right had shifted to a murky yellow he was familiar with from looking in the mirror every morning. Watanuki squinted at him. "Maybe it's just the glasses... but, one of your eyes just turned blue." Now, over Watanuki's shoulder, Doumeki saw all the tired businessmen – without seeming to twitch or move at all – become smaller, their noses sharpening, and striped furry tails protruding from the slits at the back of their business suits, and, somehow, they had been like that all along. One of them kicked the prone man and was applauded briskly by the others.
Doumeki frowned. "I think I'm borrowing your Sight again."
"I'll ask Haruka-san about that when I see him next: he'll know why that happens," said Watanuki, looking rather happy at the thought.
Doumeki said nothing. Watanuki regularly took delight in pointing out how Doumeki of Dreams was wiser, nicer, and all around cooler than the junior article. This was fine. He, too, admired his grandfather as a paragon of all things a scion of the Doumeki family should aspire to be. But, and he felt this should be made clear if only in the quiet fastness of his own mind, there was only one member of the Doumeki family who got handmade bento lunches cooked for him every single day and it wasn't the dead one. Top that, Honourable Grandfather.
Over Watanuki's shoulder, the tiny, furry businessmen were moving off in semi-random directions, leaving their victim to slowly pull himself upright. Then one of the little guys met Doumeki's eyes, pointed, and called the others, who began moving towards them with an intent look on their sharp-nosed, ring-eyed faces. He levered himself up on an elbow, then staggered to his feet, ignoring Watanuki's protests.
He might regularly dwell on all the delicious foodstuffs to be extracted from Watanuki's kitchen through means innocent or nefarious, because they were tasty, or tease the boy into spitting like a drunken cat, because the enthusiasm was warming, or hang around even when Watanuki claimed he wasn't wanted, just because, but there was only one element of his little fantasies that he couldn't be without - the part where Mr 'Excuse Me While I Throw Myself Back Into Mortal Peril' Watanuki survived. "Get moving!" he said, shoving the boy away with his uninjured arm.
And then they were swarming all over him.
tanuki Japanese raccoon-dog. Sometimes translated as 'badger' in stories in English. Often appears in J. fairytales as a trickster figure with magical powers, along with foxes (kitsune), and tengu (crow). Possessed of an unusually large scrotum which (in the stories) is unusually transformable. No, I am not explaining this further.
tiny puckered maw... I once, for various reasons of my own, did basic research on Japanese Buddhist sects in a book printed in the Meiji Era (seriously, how cool is that?), which started with a description of various unseen monsters and burning hells and such, and the Thing with the enormous appetite and tiny mouth turned up there. In honour of doing any research at all, here 'tis.