"Okaeri nasai mase, goshujin-sama."

Doumeki walks into the store—today a house, for the lack of customers—and makes his way into the living room. The children sprint ahead of him, blue and pink pigtails sailing happily in the air. He has half a mind to remind them yet again that he is not the owner of this house, nor is he a formal resident, but he refrains. He might as well be, as often as he is here.

The living room is shrouded with smoke, and in the midst of it all, reclined in Yuuko's giant divan, is the true Master of the house. Watanuki says nothing to acknowledge his presence, but the limber wrist supporting the smoking pipe flexes and lowers the fraction of an inch, in a flowing little gesture of 'come in'.

"Goshujin-sama is home, oyabun," the children chime in unison. Doumeki does a double-take; Watanuki lifts his head and glares balefully at Mokona.

"You will stop telling them to call me oyabun, Mokona."

"Why should I?" Mokona leers playfully. "It fits, doesn't it?" These days, Mokona is willing to resort to any manner of underhanded devilry to entice a flicker of life from Watanuki. Doumeki does not blame the creature for such drastic measures; if anything, he thinks Watanuki deserves a little jarring from his stupor of wine and smoke.

"If you don't, I will withhold sakefrom you for a week," Watanuki glowers, a formidable threat. Mokona draws an animated gasp.


"No excuses!" the mage rises from the divan, leaving the pipe behind. The pipe never enters the kitchen. "Besides, why does he get to be goshujin-sama while I am oyabun?" Watanuki continues to grumble to himself as they span the quiet hallways toward the kitchen. After a moment of silence, Watanuki asks him, "Will you be staying for dinner, Shizuka?"

By now this is but a question of formality. He always stays for dinner, but Watanuki asks nonetheless, and in turn, he answers, "Yes." It gives him inordinate pleasure to hear his name within the melodic lilt of Watanuki's voice.

He stays behind and watches Watanuki command the kitchen, the one place where the mage can pretend that nothing has changed. Through the four years since Yuuko's death, the food remains the same, meticulously prepared, as if to be presented to the Mistress herself. But when they adjourn to the table, it is only the five of them, and Yuuko is not there.

"How was graduation?" Watanuki asks. Watanuki likes to be told stories of outside life, as if he could live through Doumeki's tales. Or at least, Doumeki likes to think so.

"Dull," he dips tempura into soy and wasabi. "Too much formality."

Watanuki graces him with a rare and thoughtful genuine smile. "You, of all people, should know the importance of formalities."

"I do, for the ones that have real worth," he asks for more rice. "Today's ritual did not have worth. It makes one want to have the last three hours of their life back."

This time, Watanuki chuckles. They eat in silence, until finally Watanuki says what Doumeki thinks he has wanted to say since earlier. "Are you sure you should be here?" he says. "Don't you want to eat out with your friends?"

"I prefer to spend tonight with you."

Doumeki likes watching the gradual flush of red into the mage's cheeks. It has been four years, but even until today, Watanuki refuses to be forthright with regards to their relationship. Doumeki does not mind; he can be forthright enough for the both of them.

Much later, when they retire for the evening and sit by the pond, Doumeki slides behind Watanuki and fits his chest against the mage's back. He wraps his arms around his friend, tonight his lover, and rests his mouth against the side of a slender neck. Together they watch the waxing moon climb to its zenith against the smooth mirror of the pond water. Through their shared eye, he briefly glimpses the flitting shadows that Watanuki constantly lives with, and though they cannot get past the wards and boundaries, they are there, waiting, biding their time. He will not show mercy if they touch Watanuki.

Not that they will dare, he muses quietly, drawing Watanuki down to the polished wooden floor. He can feel the shimmer of power underneath Watanuki's skin as he drags his tongue across a thin and delicate collarbone. He is well aware of the reputation; he knows of the fear and grudging respect Watanuki's name garners from the shadows. Watanuki is powerful now, adequate and able to protect himself. There would almost be no need for Doumeki to be by his side, except—

"I'm proud of you," Watanuki whispers, and Doumeki lays his head against Watanuki's chest. He feels Watanuki's fingers slide and tangle into his hair; he feels more than sees Watanuki's fleeting smile. "You've finished university."

"So I have," Doumeki rises with renewed vigor and gently lands a kiss on Watanuki's mouth. "Where's my gift?"

It is in Watanuki's delighted quiet laughter that Doumeki lives and draws strength upon, and forever if need be, he will stay by Watanuki's side, in hopes that one day he would be able to give Watanuki as much happiness as he draws from him. Tonight as they drown in the warm pleasure of each other's skin and breath and spirit, Doumeki vows to the moon as he had vowed to Yuuko that he will bridge the gap of time and keep Watanuki's happiness, even if it costs him his life.

The following day, Doumeki kneels to Watanuki before the divan and solemnly declares, "I have a wish."