The first time Doumeki calls him by his name, he misses it. It isn't until later that it strikes him, and he lies in his too-large bed staring at the gauzy drapes above his head wondering why his blood is pounding in his ears and he can't sleep.

The second time, he's drifted off during dinner and Doumeki is looking him straight in the face and saying his name. He chokes on Yuuko's pipe and hopes Doumeki thinks the flaming of his face is due to the smoke. He doesn't think of the way the other boy's lips wrapped around the syllables of his name.

The third time, Watanuki ignores him, because he's decided that his name on Doumeki's tongue makes him want things he cannot have.

"Sorry for worrying you," Doumeki says, balancing his bag of groceries on Mokona's head.

He bends over to take his shoes off and Watanuki uses this opportunity to check if he's going prematurely bald yet – a boy can hope, can't he? Doumeki has, if anything, more hair than the last time Watanuki checked, so he gives a contemptuous sniff and spits, "Who would worry about you, you useless great oaf? I didn't even notice you weren't here."

"Good," says Doumeki, annoyingly not-bald and unperturbed.

"I just felt like smoking my pipe in the hallway."

Doumeki, just looks at him. He's still a step below Watanuki, so they are eye-to-eye once again.

"Why were you late anyway?"

"They didn't have the beef you wanted, so I had to go to town," Doumeki steps up and brushes past Watanuki as Maru and Moro hurl themselves at him, asking if he had brought them ice cream.

Watanuki's head spins.

He's sitting on the porch one night, puffing on Yuuko's pipe, drinking in the scent of the freshly fallen rain and wishing he could somehow bottle it, when he feels a sharp rap on his head. He tilts his head back and is greeted with a smug looking water spirit.

He spins round. Nope, trick of the light, she's as irate as ever.

"What are you looking at?" she demands, before whipping around so that she is on the grass, standing in front of him, face level with his. She studies him for a while, prodding him at intervals. Once, this would have annoyed him no end, but now he channels Doumeki and asks if she would like to check his teeth also.

He gets a solid thunk on the head for his trouble (how did this not happen more often to Doumeki?). Eventually, she sighs in the manner of one who has just found a terminally untrainable puppy soiling a rug. "So scrawny," prod, "I don't understand what that person sees in you."

This time, Watanuki decides that silence is probably the safest option.

"Don't stay out in the rain, you'll catch something and then die. Pah. Humans – so puny and selfish."

A final prod and she dissolves into the rain.

Watanuki has the strangest feeling that Ame-warashi just checked up on him.

He goes inside and wraps up.

Doumeki sleeps around the first night Watanuki decides to move off the couch and into Yuuko's bed. He's sitting on the porch, almost falling asleep, determined not to spend another night on the couch but equally terrified of the bed.

Doumeki stomps in – which is strange because he moves almost completely silently most of the time – and flicks the back of Watanuki's head. "Sake," he says, "As payment for sleeping over."

Watanuki's outrage propels him upwards and into the other boy's implacable face, "Who asked you to stay over? Don't just wander into other people's houses uninvited!"

Nothing. Doumeki turns and flings his bedding across the couch. Watanuki knows before Doumeki lies down that his legs will be too long for the couch and tries not to think about how big Yuuko's bed is and what Doumeki's hair must look like in the morning.

He's almost grateful that the choice has been taken from him, because he has to sleep in the bedroom now. He's careful not to let it show as he snarls, "This doesn't mean I'm making you breakfast."

His only reply is a light snore.

One day, Watanuki opens his mouth to say, Pass the plum wine, but what actually comes out of his mouth is, "Why do you still come here?" He winces when he hears himself. He sounds pathetic and whiny. He can hear the bewilderment in his voice and it's humiliating.

This isn't the image he's trying to cultivate.

Doumeki passes him the plum wine anyway and says, "Because you're here." His tone is matter-of-fact, but when is it not? He looks at Watanuki, almost expectant, but Watanuki says nothing. He can feel a blush rising up his chest, towards his neck and he wills it back down. He doesn't even know why he's blushing. Stupid Doumeki.

"Don't you ever get lonely?" Doumeki says one day.

Watanuki is used to his non sequiters by now.

Yes, he thinks, during the day, when you're not here, taking up too much space and drinking all the good wine.

"No," he says. He opens his mouth to say something mystical about dreams but Doumeki just grunts and tells him to get more sake. Watanuki makes his usual protestations and then escapes to the kitchen gratefully.

Kohane-chan starts popping up a few days later, with her sugar-sweet smile and her big dark eyes, begging him to teach her how to cook. He obliges after putting on his obligatory show of reluctance. Later, he glares suspiciously over his sake cup as Doumeki polishes off the meal Watanuki has made plus Kohane's inexpert rice balls and muses that really, if anyone benefitted from these new arrangements, it was Doumeki, not him.

He'd been right before – the bed was far too big for him. And the sheets smell like Yuuko, even though he's changed them twice. Everything smells like her some days.

He slips (literally) out of the bed in a sleek sea of silk and lands with a slight thump on the floor. He sighs and makes his way to a cupboard in one of the room's dark corners, shedding bedcovers as he goes.

There's a thin sleeping mat and soft brown blanket. He places the mat by the door of the bedroom, crawls under the blanket and listens.

Doumeki's breathing is slow and steady. It's a fixed point in Watanuki's consciousness, it doesn't slip away from him or wrap itself around him or try to trip him up. It's simply resolutely, unchangeably there. Watanuki matches his breathing to Doumeki's and sleeps peacefully for the first time in days.

On the night of Watanuki's birthday, after everyone's gone but he can still hear the combined sound of Himawari and Kohane's laughter ringing in his ears, he does the washing up with Doumeki. Heady with the memories of the day and the more-than-usual-amount of sake he's had, he lets his shoulders brush with Doumeki's and allows himself to breathe his scent. The man even smells calm, like incense and rain.

When Doumeki shuts the water off halfway through and takes a breath, Watanuki cuts in.

"I'll do the rest – you've been here all day. You should go home." He's had a good day. He can afford to be polite.

There's a funny look of Doumeki's face now. Watanuki notices it because Doumeki rarely deviates from his usual I-dare-you-to-surprise-me-go-on-try-it expression. Something twitches in his jaw and then he just says, "No," and turns back to the sink.

The strange look worries Watanuki, and he does what he always does when Doumeki makes him uncomfortable. He draws in a lungful of air and –

Doumeki says, "Stop it."

Watanuki blinks and says, "Stop what?"

"Waiting for me to leave. I'm not going to." Doumeki glares into the sink a little longer, and then turns the tap back on. Watanuki mutely accepts each glass and dries it off, concentrating on keeping his breathing even.

It's one of those nights when Watanuki has had a little too much to drink and the fumes from the incense seem to creep up his nostrils and wind themselves through the neurons of his brain.

He's been holding Doumeki's eyes with his own for far too long.

There's something funny about that thought, so funny he could cry, but it's too hard to think with the other boy (man, really – Doumeki definitely beats him in the manliness stakes these days) so close.

The smoke settles a little deeper into the nooks of his mind.

Doumeki is speaking, Watanuki can feel the vibrations in his chest from where his shoulder is leaning against it, but he's not listening, not beyond the sound of Doumeki's voice, the subtle (they were there if you knew to look for them) lilts of his speech.

And now he's shifting slightly and Watanuki muzzily thinks he must be leaving, so he leans back from the warmth of Doumeki's body, heaving a sigh, but Doumeki's leaning forward, following him.

Watanuki looks into those heavy-lidded eyes into his eyes into his eyes into his eyes.

He tells himself later that his eyes flutter closed at this point because he's dizzy.

Doumeki's lips are a lot softer than they look. And – he's drunk enough to admit this, to himself at least – he's been looking.

Doumeki's lips are moving teasingly over Watanuki's, never staying long enough for him to catch then. Of course he's a tease.

Doumeki's lips are like the touch of a priest – cleansing the musky embrace of the incense from Watanuki's mind.

Doumeki's lips – But he's thinking clearly now, and it's not fun.

"I didn't want it to happen like this," says Doumeki, pulling away.

Watanuki bristles at the assumption that "it" was going to happen and forgets to pretend not to know what "it" was.

"You're drunk," the other boy says. Watanuki can detect a slight note of mournfulness in his voice.

It takes a moment for Watanuki to riddle this one out, but when the penny drops, he is overcome, for the first time in his life, with the need to comfort Doumeki.

He wants to tell Doumeki that he didn't want it to happen like this either, but he's too scared to act like this sober, too scared to let Doumeki touch him and kiss him and be with him sober.

The thing is – he's no longer drunk enough to tell him.

Doumeki's staring into his sake bowl, the corners of his mouth turned down ever so slightly. Watanuki realises that he must be very, very drunk.

Watanuki sighs. He rolls away and pours himself some sake, putting out the incense as he goes. He promises himself that their next first time will be perfect.

He wakes up one morning to find a tiny pink head on the pillow next to him. He is immediately suspicious, and looks blearily around for a matching blue head of hair. Nothing.

No-one jumps at him, yells at him, or throws water at him. His hair is still attached, nothing with more than two legs seems to be in bed with him and there are definitely no eggs.

Watanuki is willing to concede that there don't seem to be any signs of any early-morning hijinks, but he's not discounting the possibility entirely. Mokona certainly, is cunning enough to lull him into a false sense of security.

He cautiously lifts the corner of the blanket and almost drops it again when he notices the dried tear tracks running down Moro's sharp-angled little face. He looks around frantically but Maru is nowhere to be seen. He sits up, trying not to jostle the bed, but when he looks back at her, her eyes are open.

She doesn't seem confused or sleepy, she's just looking straight at him, clear-gazed.

"Watanuki?" she says.


"Mistress is returning?" her gaze is entirely trusting.

"Yes." He says it firmly, "She's coming back, that's why I'm waiting for her."

"Maru and Moro will wait with you. Mistress is returning." At these words, there's a twinge at the back of Watanuki's mind, a thought that he will not let himself think trying to establish itself. He swallows down what feels alarmingly like guilt and only nods.

After a short pause, she says "Doumeki is waiting too. For Watanuki."

He says nothing, and after a while she jabs his thigh with a sharp little chin and drops immediately off to sleep.

The guilt crawls back up his throat, bringing shame with it, and they sit, cool and metallic, in his mouth as he strokes Moro's hair.

Doumeki says, "I'm here."

Watanuki says, "I know."

This is just a huge amalgamation of every scrap of DouWata fanfic I ever wrote over the years, which hopefully accounts for the fragmentation and the huge variation in quality of writing and subject matter. All of it was written waaay before the end of the series, which puts a bit of a depressing spin on what I thought was a pretty hopeful ending. Sorry about that.