It was all Doumeki's fault. To Watanuki it didn't matter if it wasn't the Doumeki of this world that left him with this mess, it was still the big jerk that screwed everything up in the first place. Doumeki had no way to explain the actions of another man that bore his name.
Steam billowed up into the evening air as Watanuki prepared a late dinner for his employer. Pots bubbled on the stove top as a cake continued to bake in the oven. He grumbled as he pulled down a large serving plate from one of the cabinets and started to remove the now cooked gyoza from the pan. Yuuko normally let him leave early during the week so he could have time to work on his homework, but come Friday afternoon it was an all night drinking fest with Mokona and, sometimes if his luck really ran out that week, Doumeki too. Of course, Yuuko and Mokona would need extra snacks to go along with their drinking so as to avoid an even bigger hangover the following morning.
Watanuki secretly hoped Yuuko's head would someday explode from the headache. While he might have to clean up the blood it would also mean Yuuko would no longer have a mouth in which to shove all of the food and alcohol she owned down her throat in one night.
At least tonight Doumeki was not over for dinner, though with the full moon Yuuko would likely call him to walk Watanuki home. The moon viewing party would go late into the night and it would be foolish for Watanuki to try to go home alone with all of the spirits that were crawling around outside the walls of the shop.
"Watanuuuuuki~!" The dimensional witch called from the veranda. "Where's our dinner?"
"We need food!" Mokona yelled in agreement.
"Do you want to eat it raw?" He asked incredulously. "It's still cooking!"
"Hurry!" Yuuko despaired over her nearly empty glass of wine. "Your generous employer is wasting away!"
"Wasting away! All away!" Maru and Moro chanted by the door. "Mistress is wasting away!" The strange girls clasped hands and twirled in place while they giggled.
Watanuki sighed in exasperation as he pulled the cake out of the oven and set it on the granite counter to let it cool. "Five more minutes!" That infuriating woman had no patience!
True to his word after five more minutes of teasing and yelling the teenager carefully balanced a full serving tray on his arm and two bottles of alcohol in hand and made his way outside.
Yuuko clapped her hands in glee as the food was presented before her and her glass was refilled. "Oooh! Watanuki is such a hard worker!" She deftly picked up her pair of chopsticks and swallowed a dumpling whole. The teenager didn't even think she bothered to chew it. "Yum!"
"Where's dessert?" Mokona demanded.
"It's still cooling!" Watanuki stomped his foot. "The frosting will melt into a disgusting mess if I put it on too soon!"
"Watanuki, do sit down and eat something. This is a moon viewing party, after all! Enjoy yourself!" Yuuko instructed as she happily bit down on a piece of fish.
The boy tucked the now empty tray under his arm and sat down stiffly. "I'll enjoy myself when I can go home and rest." He grabbed a set of chopsticks and chewed on a sushi roll, too tired to really taste it.
Yuuko paused, her wine glass halfway up to her full red lips, and stared at something in the distance. If someone had asked, Watanuki would have said it felt like something had shifted, like the area they occupied experienced a sudden change in air pressure.
"We have a customer."
"What?" Watanuki asked in surprise and dropped his food.
The witch stood up from the table, her eyes not leaving the spot she was staring at. Maru and Moro rushed up to her and straightened her loose kimono to be more presentable. "Come," Yuuko's dark red eyes smoldered. "We must greet our guest properly."
Watanuki scrambled to his feet and untied the apron from around his waist. "Yuuko-san, how do you-"
The picture of the full moon above stretched and simmered like melting cream. Watanuki watched with wide eyes as the sky pulled itself around and around and dropped to the ground in front of them like a drop of rain. He remembered what it looked like when a customer came to Yuuko's shop from another world. He wondered if this person would have to travel just like Syaoran and his group to pay for the price of the wish.
Night sky colors peeled away and finally revealed the person that was left behind. A man was kneeling on the ground, two small children asleep in his arms. Blood ran down in a steady stream from his head, down his cheek and dripped off his jaw. Some of the red stream slipped down his neck and disappeared in his black armor.
Watanuki found himself shocked and utterly flabbergasted. "D-Doumeki?"
The man panted heavily and looked around him, taking stock of his new environment. He certainly looked like Doumeki. Sharp yellow eyes were narrowed in a strong face, forehead relaxed and black hair askew. This man looked older than the Doumeki that Watanuki last remembered seeing. There were dark gray areas under the man's eyes and his mouth was creased with age lines.
"Yes," the man panted. He was injured by the looks of things. His arms tightened around the toddlers sleeping in his arms. "I am Doumeki Shizuka. I was... expected then?
"You have a wish," Yuuko said, because whenever Yuuko said this phrase it was never a question.
Watanuki could only gape at the scene before him. This was not the Doumeki he knew.
"Yes, I have a wish." He looked at the children in his arms. A boy and a girl that looked no older than four.
"What is your wish, Doumeki Shizuka?"
"My children," he said, his voice cracking. "I wish for my children to live."
There was a long pause as Yuuko stared at him, measuring his ability to pay the fee. "The price for this wish is very, very high." Yuuko's face was more serious than Watanuki ever remembered seeing. There was not even a hint of a smile, which was her usual countenance.
"I will pay it," the man said firmly. "Please, let them live. They will die in my world. I cannot... I cannot keep them safe anymore," he admitted, a brief flash of shame crossing his face.
"No," Yuuko agreed. "After tonight, you will not be able to."
"What? Yuuko-san..." Watanuki tried to wrestle with his words but every attempt ended in distraught disbelief.
"I will pay the price," the other, older Doumeki repeated.
"The price," Yuuko said softly. Her lips thinned. "For your children to live, you may never see them again. When they die, their spirits will remain in this world, and they will be reincarnated in this world. You and your wife may never, ever again see them or speak to them, in this life or any of the ones to follow."
Bright yellow eyes widened. That was a high price. Still, though, they were his children and they deserved to live. "Very well. I... accept the price." His body shuddered, but whether it was from exhaustion or grief Watanuki couldn't tell.
"Watanuki, please collect the children," Yuuko bade.
The teenager stepped off of the veranda in stunned silence. He could hardly believe it. Hardly! Why was this other Doumeki doing such a terrible thing, leaving his children without their parents! He knelt down next to the panting man and held out his arms.
Doumeki Shizuka looked at him with an unreadable expression. "Watanuki," he said quietly. "That was my wife's maiden name."
"Y-your wife?" Watanuki squeaked.
"Watanuki Kimihiro." Doumeki looked at his daughter. "It took me eight years to get her to accept my name."
"Are you saying I was born a girl in your world?" The teenager demanded, clearly distraught over such a wild idea. His mind was cleanly ignoring the horrifying statement that this girl version had married dumb Doumeki and even had children with him! Certainly it must have been the awful female hormones that were to blame.
The man shrugged. It was a very Doumeki-like response. "This is my son, Haruka." He handed over the sleeping child, his eyes dark and hooded. "And my daughter, Kimiko." Watanuki tucked the girl into his other arm and adjusted himself. The small kids were actually kind of heavy. Doumeki ran a hand down his daughter's head. "Haruka is four, Kimiko is two years and eight months old. Please take care of them."
"Why are you leaving them here?" Watanuki asked panicked. "Where is their mother?"
Doumeki sat back on his heels and clutched an arm to his chest. Blood glistened in the moonlight on his black armor. "Dead. Murdered."
The color drained from Watanuki's face. He stood up shakily and stumbled back to the shop's porch.
"You need to get home," Yuuko pointed out. "The price is your bow."
Doumeki winced and stood up on unsteady feet. "That's fine. I won't need it anymore." He carefully removed the large hunter's bow from his back and handed it to Maru and Moro as they padded up to him.
"What, wait!" Watanuki yelled. "You're wounded! You need bandages!"
Doumeki smiled at him. Smiled, which was jarring to see because the Doumeki that Watanuki knew didn't ever smile. "It's not necessary." The man drew his sword and nodded to Yuuko, ready to go home. He looked up at the full moon above them, his expression resigned to a terrible fate. Yuuko's seal lit up beneath him to transport him home.
"Good luck," Yuuko offered.
Doumeki Shizuka closed his eyes and tightened the grip on his sword. Faintly Watanuki heard the man say to himself 'Wait for me Kimihiro, I'm coming.'
It was such a horrible, final statement, that Watanuki finally realized what would happen to the other man. Doumeki Shizuka was going home to die.
It felt like his heart shrank into a ball of lead and landed in his stomach. He felt suddenly very ill thinking about that man's fate. Even Doumeki didn't deserve such an end.
The shop's yard cleared and was suddenly empty. Watanuki blinked and looked at the place the other Doumeki once occupied. The children in his arms were heavy and warm. "What now, Yuuko-san?"
. . . . . . . . . .
Doumeki Shizuka yawned behind his hand as he walked down the sidewalk to the invisible shop. Yuuko had called him in a fit of giggles and said he needed to come and pick Watanuki up to see him safely home. There was something very important that he needed to help Watanuki with and it had to be tonight.
Hearing Watanuki screeching like a mad man in the background confirmed it was something rather unpleasant to Doumeki. Usually Watanuki put up much more of a fuss if it was a mission versus a simple walk home.
The shop was lit up like a Christmas tree. Nearly every available lantern and candle was lit. Gold colored light spilled from the window and washed the veranda in an amber colored glow. He was rather glad he could see the shop now and enter it, even if it meant there was something in the shop he needed. Doumeki had not pondered what that thing was yet but suspected it had a great deal to do with his fellow classmate.
Mokona bounced up to him as he made his way up the walkway to the door. "Doumeki's here! Doumeki's here! Welcome back, pops!"
"Pops?" Doumeki raised a single eyebrow up in question. Where had that name come from?
Doumeki paused as a furious Watanuki blocked the doorway and pointed a finger at him in accusation. "This is all your fault!"
"Doumeki-kun!" Yuuko cheered from behind the angry teenager. "Daddy's home!"
"Daddy's home! Daddy's home! Daddy worked all day and brought home bacon!" Maru and Moro sang in delight.
"No, no no!" Watanuki shrieked. "This is not happening!"
Doumeki plugged one of his ears as the flailing teenager continued to screech. "What happened?"
Something small and clumsy shoved passed Watanuki's legs and trotted up to him. Doumeki looked down at a little boy with a messy head of black hair. Small yellow eyes stared up at him and chubby little hands gestured at him, begging to be picked up. "Dadda!" The boy cried again.
Doumeki decided to humor the child and pick him up. The little boy squealed with delight and wrapped small little arms around him and clutched his shirt in tiny little fists. "Yuuko-san?"
"Congratulations!" Yuuko beamed. "You've just become a father of two!"
"Momma! Momma! Momma!" Another small voice called next to Watanuki's legs.
The boy looked ready to explode. His face was red like a sunburn. "I keep telling you, I'm not momma!"
The little girl's lips trembled and she held her hands up high, ready to be picked up. "Momma," she cried again.
Watanuki sighed and picked the child up.
"Watanuki-kun, I keep telling you they're too young to really know the difference between genders. Of course you're still 'momma.'"
"Don't encourage them," Watanuki growled.
"What's going on?" Doumeki asked again.
"I'll tell you what's going on," Watanuki groused. "Some Doumeki Shizuka from a different world had to go and make an idiot decision to die so he left his children here so they could live. Why do you have to be a moron in every dimension?"
"... Say that again?" There was no way Doumeki heard that correctly.
"You heard me, you big lumbering oaf! You left your children here for us to take care of!"
"I didn't leave any children here. I'm certain I've never even had sex."
Yuuko giggled girlishly and Watanuki blushed right to his ears. "Maybe you didn't, but another you did!"
These multiple dimensions and multiple versions of himself made very little sense to Doumeki. "Where is their mother?"
The little girl pulled at Watanuki's collar and gurgled happily. "Dead," Watanuki looked away. "The other Doumeki said she was murdered."
Murdered. Doumeki felt his stomach lurch. That was awful.
"Doumeki-san's world is currently having a witch hunt for any people that can see spirits. There has been a lot of deaths recently. Doumeki Kimihiro was the strongest Seer of their time and her husband did the best he could to hide her and their children. Eventually, they could run no further," Yuuko supplied. It was surprisingly descriptive and helpful, which was unusual for the witch.
Doumeki's mind got stuck on the name. "Doumeki Kimihiro," he repeated.
Yuuko giggled. "Doumeki-san's wife, of course! It looks like Himawari-chan is right when she says you two are such good friends!"
"Never!" Watanuki defended himself. "Never in a million years! I would never like that idiot it that way!"
As Watanuki continued to rage Doumeki managed to gather everything that had happened in his head. "What will happen to the children?"
"That is up to you," Yuuko said slyly. "You can send them to the orphanage, or find a foster home for them, or-"
"Never!" Watanuki repeated his earlier statement. "I don't care if the dumb ass is their father, they are still my kids! I will not send them to the orphanage!"
Doumeki's head reeled. "We're still in school," he said aloud. "How do you plan on taking care of kids while you're in school?"
"I..." Watanuki struggled to find an answer. He really didn't know how he was going to take care of them. He didn't have a lot of extra money and it would be very difficult to get a job that paid actual money when he had to worry about spirits all the time interrupting work. He probably wouldn't even be able to go to college, now that he thought about it. "I'll..."
Doumeki walked up to him and looked at him. The boy really was an idiot.
But still... he looked at the children. A boy and a girl. They were so small. "What are their names?"
"...The boy is Haruka," Watanuki whispered, "and he's four. The girl is Kimiko, and she's two years and eight months."
Haruka was already asleep in Doumeki's arms. "She looks like you," Doumeki commented.
Watanuki puffed his cheeks and blushed. "I'm not a girl."
"Well!" Yuuko clapped her hands and interrupted Watanuki's outrage. "You two certainly have a lot to talk about! I'll let you go home and work things out!"
"...What!" Watanuki shrieked.