He stood before the glass and for a split instant he was shaking. Then, just like every other time, he wasn't. Absorption. Nothing good could come of it, he knew. However, nothing good ever came out of an earthquake either.
The only times Watanuki Kimihiro ever looked at his reflection in the mirror was to make sure he wasn't shaking. For so long he had wanted to see a proof of his existence looking back, but it never came. It's a life he barely remembers. After all, he had found it elsewhere. But now… well, she was gone, wasn't she.
Every day he could feel and every day he could remember added a drop in his vase, and though there were many passing days he did not feel, many he could forget, and many he simply slept through, soon enough the vase became too heavy for its precarious place on the stand of his stability. If he did not continue to absorb, he knew he would soon have to lose something to compensate. He was afraid, not really knowing what he had left that could be taken, and so he went on.
Day after day, drop after drop.
Every once in a while, Watanuki Kimihiro would catch himself looking at his hands. Perhaps the folds and folds of fabric around him had inflated his head, or maybe it was the pipe fumes that had done him in; now when he looked at his hands, he could not help but find them elegant. It was a quality he almost never thought about before, but every once in a while now he would examine them, their paleness, their smoothness, their agelessness, like a retired samurai looking at new recruits, with a sense of awe.
Slowly, maybe to compensate, they became the only part of himself he liked.
They ate in silence that day, neither having much to say. It was a common setting in common air, the same mix of nearly suffocating undercurrents and dripping memories. Ten years' worth of memories all featuring the same deck, the same kitchen, the same cage and a chockfull of blurry ones from before that. As to why they were dripping and draping and chocking along with their undercurrent acolytes, who wants to know that their reason for being is as ephemeral as their capacity to recall it in detail?
They had skipped the how-was-your-day, the could-you-stop-for-cabbage-tomorrow, the did-you-get-any-visitors, did-your-class-behave, how-is-kohane-chan, do-you-also-wear-that-expression-to-work-too, Himawari-hasn't-called-in-a-while, I-wonder-when-the-construction-close-to-the-university-will-be-completed, the mundane ritual of mouths moving and sound wafting through the webs they had weaved around and between one another in order to carry this arrangement out.
"How was your day?" Only to return to them because they didn't know what else to say.
Watanuki wasn't even looking at him. His hands curled and uncurled before his eyes like strings and ghosts and limbs and smoke, so much smoke he didn't know what he was made of, what he looked like, was he shaking? He hoped he wasn't, but he was, wasn't he. Why? This was the way they lived, the way they never thought about dying and always thought about not thinking about it. A normal moment, a typical conversation, a mundane instant amongst too many others. Why was he shaking? He looked at his hands, no longer waiting for an answer.
Doumeki got closer, something he never did for so many reasons. He reached out, maybe out of concern, maybe out of care, maybe out of worry. He froze, reprimanded himself, took back his extended hand. He looked at his lap, the empty dishes, the cloth of the kotatsu; they still ate outside in winter; the temperature inside the gates could be so different from the outside world sometimes. He looked at his face, his neck, his shoulders; he was shaking, ever so slightly. He tried to reach out again and he tried not to stop himself. When was the last time they had touched? Searching the surrounding memories with a net, he couldn't come up with anything.
Typically, the aura would have gone. The shaking would have stopped. The air would have gone cold for a slice of fifteen seconds while the intents and relics were suppressed and released back from their lungs, his mostly. Usually, there would have been an indent in the line followed by the same flatness he couldn't help but see and feel and rebuke with all he had.
Instead, the monitor changed for the first time in ten years, the line went upwards, slowly but surely, it frightened him. He looked at his face, his chest, his hands, his bare cold feet. He was still shaking, harder and harder and the cups shook with him, adding to the clatter of teeth.
Watanuki couldn't see, couldn't feel, couldn't bring himself to bring himself back together, didn't even have the will to try. He was so cold, so hot, so numb, tingling, shaking. He was shaking, wasn't he? Was that why it was getting colder? He'd seen the snow melting on Doumeki's coat. It was cold out there. Was it seeping in? Is that what he thought he was feeling? Why was he warm? He couldn't tell where it was coming from until he got cold again. Tears. Was he crying? The warmth came from his eyes and the cold came from tears down his cheeks attracting a change in surface temperature. His feet should have started to complain by now from poor circulation and this unbearable cold, but he couldn't feel them, his whole body felt like tremors on the earth's surface. He couldn't breathe.
"Oi." He heard it but it didn't register. He couldn't move. He was spastic. A small smile threatened to emerge, his lips quivered and then—
Pressure. Intense pressure he felt around him, painful and tight and so full of everything he'd never felt before. What was it? Every day his skin felt fabric, metal, wood, air, bodiless souls, soulless bodies… a body with a soul in it.
How long had it been since then?
"Oi, Doumeki…" Gradually, without him noticing, he'd stopped shaking. Still even then he couldn't find the right words, the right questions.
Doumeki didn't know either. What was he doing? What was he trying to do? A body with a soul in it. Maybe he needed to make sure. How long had it been? Ten years sounded so long on their own but superimposed with their condition seemed so much shorter than the stretch of time they lived on. Through the fabric he felt like he could feel everything. Every bone, every muscle, blood vessel, thought. How long had it been since they could tell what they were thinking? Around them floated memories but the undercurrents had all emerged to the surface now, concentrating into an intensity they could not fully comprehend.
There were no further words and no further questions, no further actions. They had reached the peak of the line and were slowly coming down, neither knowing how to cope with that. Where were they compared to each other? Where had they been just now? All those years passed. Where did they stand? They'd both lost their footing and no longer knew how to get back on, if that was even an option.
Slowly he let go. Slowly he tried to find something to say.
Nothing could chase the memories away. Not until they could be replaced by new ones powerful enough to change the past, to make it disappear. Was that what he wanted? For the past ten years to disappear? The less they said the more was understood, the less words were needed the less they spoke the less space they filled the more they could breathe.
Had this really just been an arrangement? From the start none of it had ever been spoken. From here on out, what would change? Every day he would come here to this cage, pat away the snowflakes, the pollen, the petals, the leaves, sit down at the kotatsu, make small talk.
Nothing could change the flow of time passing every day making Doumeki older and Watanuki stay the same just as nothing could make them forget that nothing could be done about it, just as nothing could be done to stop them from realizing that they themselves were changing every day like drops in vases on stands that need to break sometimes so they can be restored with an intent touch.
If we are meant to stay like this then can we make it bearable?
Show me your soul like you use to wear it on your sleeve.
Let's stop missing the days we're striving to find again.
He looks at his hands, hangs them in front of his eyes like he's trying to see more to them then what they remind him of. He is so bent, he doesn't notice the presence in the room weaving through the memories to come closer and express his intentions.
Doumeki takes both of his hands and squeezes, drops trickle out of the vase so it may remain stable in its waiting. They breathe.