Watanuki wakes up in a dream. He is lounging outside the shop on a moonlit night and he turns, half-expecting to see Haruka sitting there next to him. Instead there is a blond man wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, somehow managing to look hunched over and defensive despite sitting up and looking around a bit frantically. "Hey, do you know where we are? I'm pretty sick, don't worry, it's not catching, and I probably shouldn't be… wherever this is." Which, perhaps surprisingly, explains more than it doesn't.
"I wouldn't worry about it," Watanuki advises. "It isn't really important anymore."
"Oh… Oh!" the man replies with dawning comprehension. He runs his fingers through his hair and looks himself up and down, as though just noticing the missing signs of a fatal illness. He takes in the surroundings again, a good deal more leisurely than before. "This is much nicer than I thought Hell would be," he comments off-handedly.
Watanuki feels somewhat offended, but manages to keep it in. He's gotten a lot better at controlling his temper lately, around customers at least. "That's because it's not Hell. Even if it might feel that way sometimes," he adds with a grimace.
"Well it isn't Heaven," he responds, with a surprising amount of conviction for such a meek person.
That is such a patently ridiculous idea that Watanuki doesn't know whether to burst out in an angry rant detailing all the reason the shop was nothing like Heaven or burst out laughing at the sheer insanity of it. He settles on making a mild noise of agreement.
"Where am I then? And why am I here?"
Watanuki ignores the first question, because honestly he's still not quite sure of the answer, in favor of the second. "You're here because you have a wish."
"What are you a genie?" the man asks and Watanuki thinks for a moment that maybe he was just imaging the timidity he saw earlier, until the man sinks back in on himself again. "Besides it's too late for my wish anyways."
"Which is?" Watanuki prompts, which is all it takes to unleash the verbal flood, and not for the first time he wonders if there isn't some magic in the shop encouraging people to share their secrets.
"Penny. It's always been Penny. I came close once, twice even. The first time she was dating Captain Hammer," he half-spits out the name, as if trying to bring back hatreds long since forgotten, "but she leaned in so close and I thought… She died after that and I just wanted to bring her back. I built a Resurrection Ray and I was sure it was going to work," he trailed off, sounding confused almost.
"And did it?" Watanuki says, only half paying attention and half trying to remember why the man's story seemed so familiar.
"If it did, she would be alive wouldn't she?" he answers, which isn't exactly a no. "I stopped for a while after that for some reason… Then the doctors told me why I was getting on all those migraines and it seemed a bit pointless after that."
Watanuki doesn't even notice the end of the story, too busy letting memories click together. Yuuko, a month before she left (other more fitting words present themselves, but he can't bring himself to use them), ranted about having to travel to another universe to stop some guy from destroying the multiverse trying to bring his dead girlfriend back to life, and, really, didn't she get enough of that already? "Billy?"
"Yeah?" the blond responds, apparently unsurprised that Watanuki knows his name. He almost tells Billy about her, but decides not to. The other man won't remember her anyways, so really there's no point in bringing her up.
"Your wish is to be with Penny?" he asks instead, because he needs to say something.
Billy nods. "I wanted the two of us to be able to live together. But that's impossible." The utter finality in his voice only makes the small bit of uninvited hope that crept in all the more painful. And Billy is right, bringing the both of them back to life should be impossible, but Watanuki knows well enough that the man wouldn't be at the shop at all if he didn't have a wish that could be granted. And what does impossible mean to him anyways? If Syaoran can do the impossible doesn't that mean that he, Watanuki, can by definition accomplish the same? That's when inspiration strikes. It isn't really what Billy meant by his wish, but its close enough if definitions can be stretched a bit, and more importantly it may be possible. Of course the price might still be too high, depending on other factors, but it could work.
"Give me your left hand," Watanuki commands, and if Billy is confused by this apparent non sequitur, he complies readily enough. Grasping the hand in both of his own, Watanuki concentrates until a red thread shimmers into being around Billy's left pinky. The thread stretches forward in front of the two men where the other end is tied around the left pinky of the specter of a pretty woman with auburn hair.
"Penny!" Billy cries and reaches forward with his free hand, but the sudden noise startles Watanuki, breaking the spell and making the thread and the woman both disappear. "What did you just do?"
"A reading of your fate lines. You and Penny are already connected by the red string of fate, so your wish is grantable. I will require payment, however, both for the wish and the reading." Watanuki replies, already calculating what might work to cover the price of the two.
Billy sticks his hand back in his pocket and pulls out what appears to be most of a roll of some kind of coins. "This is all I have on me. Leftovers from laundry day," he says with a desperately casual shrug. Watanuki wants to protest that the coins won't be nearly enough to cover even the price of the reading, but somehow finds his hand reaching forward instead. Hefting the coins, he almost wants to ask what was so special about laundry day, but he can sense that the payment is enough, and aside from that it really isn't any of his business.
"This will cover the reading. As for your wish, how long has it been since Penny died?"
"Three years, five months, and twenty-two days, and I could tell you hours and minutes but I'm not sure what time it is right now. Not that I was counting. I mean, obviously I was. I mean, I just have a good memory. For dates and stuff," Billy answers, his speech starting smooth and automatic, before devolving into embarrassed stuttering.
"One year, ten months and six days, and I couldn't tell you hours or minutes even if I did know the time," Watanuki replies with a small smile that Billy tentatively returns. They may be from different countries, from different worlds even, but in this they understand each other perfectly.
"That's seven years between the two of you, which is payment enough in time between soul mates. I can assure the two of you are reincarnated in the same place and time, and fate will take care of the rest."
"You know, that's not exactly what I meant when I made that wish." Billy comments, though he doesn't really seem upset by the change.
Watanuki nods. "I know, but there are limits. I deal in wishes, after all, not happily ever afters."
"There are no happy endings, not for me anyways," Billy says.
"Well this I hope is something like a happy ending at least."
And for the first and only time Watanuki sees Billy's expression morph into a genuine smile. "Yeah, I guess it is."