Author's Notes: This was one of those silly, random ideas that came to mind one day that I decided to write out just for fun. There's no real point in canon for Holic but this does take place during the third season of Gallifrey audios, more or less. I had fun writing this so I hope you will enjoy this too!
A Price Too High
With the chorus of "A guest! A guest!" as background, provided by both Maru and Moro where they lingered in the hall, Watanuki let out a sigh.
Just minutes before they had heard a knock at the door Watanuki had been in the middle of preparing a desert for the residents of the shop, much to the demand of Yuuko. Of course this did not go without a few good minutes of arguing first - he had long since grown used to cooking as a part of his job here, but making desert before he could even start on dinner was troublesome. Not to mention the fact before he abandoned the mixing of ingredients to get the door he could hear Yuuko reminding him that he still needed to serve their drinks.
His hand pulling down on his face with a groan he massaged the side of his head before taking a deep breath. Then, with a smile appearing on his face as he opened the door, he greeted the visitor with a bow.
"Good evening, welcome to the shop!"
Standing before him was a man who was, for lack of a better way of putting it, dressed to the nine. A sharp looking suit of deep navy blue with white pin stripes and his hair brushed back and looking well kept. Tucked under his arm was a small package wrapped up in brown paper and a polite smile on his lips. But what stood out the most for Watanuki was his eyes.
For a man who looked like he should be in his thirties had eyes of someone who was much much older than that.
"Good afternoon," he replied with a polite bow of his head. Watanuki noticed that there was an accent to him- British was the one he could think to fit the description. But his Japanese was perfect when he spoke. "Tell me, is the Lady Yuuko in today?"
Watanuki blinked. "Ah, well, yes-"
And with that Watanuki found himself stepping aside suddenly to let the man walk right in as he strode inside. He had paused just long enough to remove his shoes before walking down the hall. Maru and Moro had vanished suddenly and Watanuki was left standing alone by the open door.
Only after snapping out of his surprise did he close the door and stumble after the man, calling out, "W-wait a second!" But by the time he caught up with him the man was already in the receiving room where Yuuko had been relaxing. The raven-haired woman seemed unsurprised by this intrusion of this man.
Observing from the doorway, Watanuki watched as the man brought his arm across his middle and bowed to her. And in return Yuuko, not bothering to get up from her seat, merely bowed her head just a fraction in greeting as a smile tugged at the corners of her lips. The boy blinked as the realization hit him that this man seemed to know Yuuko and vice verse.
Yuuko brought the pipe to her lips and inhaled for a few seconds before exhaling the familiar sweet-smelling smoke. It curled and danced in the air above them. Her attention was now focused entirely on the man before her, the idea of deserts and alcohol seeming to be forgotten now. There was even a playful tone to her voice when she spoke up.
"Irving Braxiatel, just how long has it been now?"
"Too long, my lady," the man called Irving replied, a hint of smile to be seen. There was something about him that seemed... not normal about him. Unnatural even. The odd thing though was that it was not the sort of feeling he felt when around things of the supernatural. The teenage boy couldn't help the puzzled look on his face as he watched while Mokona settled comfortably in his arms. To him there was something un-Earthly about him. And he had no idea how to respond to this.
But Yuuko seemed not to notice. Or perhaps the better explanation could be that she simply did not care. With a wave of her hand she gestured for the man to take a seat across from her.
"You look exhausted, Braxiatel. I can imagine the journey here was a difficult one."
"Not too difficult," he replied as he accepted the offer. The wrapped parcel as held carefully in his lap once he was comfortable. On either side of him Maru and Moro passed by as they went to take a seat on the floor in front of Yuuko. Their usual smiles and giggles had been replaced with blank, solemn expressions. Their sights were focused on the man and did not waver even as Yuuko placed reassuring hands on their heads after she had set aside the pipe.
"Still, you must have come a long way. The last time any of your kind visited was ages ago."
"A visit? I think you mean 'stumbled upon'. There is only one other that I can imagine coming here," he pointed out. While he was calm in saying this there something in his eyes- the friendly look to them had vanished temporarily.
But the smile on her lips widened as a response. Then, looking to Watanuki suddenly, the secretive smile made way for the familiar, jovial one as she waved to him. "Oh Watanuki~! Be a dear and bring us drinks!"
Braxiatel, however, took that moment to start unwrapping the object he held. "That won't be necessary," he interrupted while peeling off the brown paper to reveal a wooden box. He lifted the lid and inside there was amber colored bottle nestled safely that was lined with silver satin. Irving smiled as he held it out for Yuuko to see. "Just glasses will do."
It was then that Watanuki almost dropped Mokona as he jumped back at the sound of Yuuko squealing with joy. His eyes were wide and his back sore from slamming into the door frame, watching as the woman sat straight up in her seat, her hands clasped together in glee.
"Is that Hicks and Healey Cornish Single Malt Seven Year Whiskey? Oh Braxiatel, you shouldn't have!"
"What sort of guest do you take me for?" Irving chuckled as he watched her whisk the box way from his hands.
"They only released a certain number of these bottles!" she cooed. She was careful in taking the bottle in her hands and pressing her cheek to it. "Oh how I had wanted to get my hands on this but I could never find it!"
Irving only sat there and nodded. "I had a feeling you would enjoy it."
"Glasses, glasses! Go fetch us some glasses, Watanuki!"
"And make it three!" chimed in Mokona happily. He had jumped down from the boy's arms and bounced over to where Yuuko stood, finding his place on her shoulder as he rubbed his cheek on the other side of the bottle. "Delicious~!"
"But Yuuko, shouldn't you wai-"
The flabbergasted look upon Watanuki's face slipped away as he hung his head in exasperation. Really now, there was no point in wasting time arguing with the pair of them when they were this excited. Running a hand through his hear he walked on past the others and into the kitchen. All the while Braxiatel watched him. There was no particular emotion to his face. There may have been a brief flicker of curiosity but it had vanished just as soon as it had appeared.
"You've taken on some help," he commented off-hand.
Mokona continued to hug the bottle while Yuuko looked to him, the girlish glee replaced by another one of her all-knowing smiles. "It was time. Besides, he has a debt to pay off and it was only fitting that he take on this job."
"As clever as ever, I see."
"That's quite the compliment coming from you."
It was then that the corners of his lips twitched. The smirk could not be seen had anyone blinked then.
"I only compliment those who are truly deserving of it."
Reclining back onto her seat, Yuuko allowed for the pair of girls once seated on the floor to settle on the seat with her, the bottle now resting on the table between them with Mokona sitting right next to it. Maru was perched on the arm of the seat while Moro nestled comfortably next to Yuuko. The two girls were still staring at Braxiatel, who in return seemed not to have noticed. Yuuko stroked Moro's hair while speaking. From the other room she could hear Watanuki muttering to himself and the clinking of glasses.
"Well then," the witch said, her head nodding briefly in direction of the gift. "I assume the pleasantries are out of the way. A man such as yourself is all about business after all."
"Perceptive as always."
There was a brief pause as Watanuki returned with the empty glasses. In a few moments there were drinks poured. Mokona wasted no time in grabbing his share and tilting back the glass as he inhaled the liquor. Yuuko sipped her own while Braxiatel's remained untouched.
"Then onto business, shall we."
The statement was a usual one for her, Watanuki noted when he stood beside her seat. He always observed her business transactions and each one of them followed a similar procedure but always varied in outcomes. No two clients were the same and neither were the wishes. Looking from Yuuko to Braxiatel, he couldn't help noticing how quiet the two girls were around the older woman.
'Something's off about this guy... I don't know what, but it's not normal.'
"You have a wish."
Yuuko waved away his statement half-heartedly. "You're the not the type to waste time with words when it's something important. Important to you," she amended while gazing at him over the rim of the glass. "Unlike him, you're less inclined to be straight and forthcoming with your requests."
His left eyebrow arched carefully. "I can hardly imagine he would be easy to seek help either. He can be too stubborn for his own good."
"After a bit of encouragement and scolding from his companion he's far easier to deal with. It seemed like he didn't like her having the upper hand in their heated debate," Yuuko grinned. "She's certainly a spirited one."
"Well, she is the sort to speak her mind freely. And often at that."
Watanuki had no idea who it was the pair were speaking of but he could tell that for that brief moment the other man had tensed up and then visibly relaxed in mere seconds when the discussion shifted from this mysterious man to the equally mysterious woman. And then Braxiatel was back to revealing nothing in his body movements.
Taking another drag of her pipe and sip of the amber liquor, Yuuko looked right at him, all hints of bemusement wiped clean from her now solemn expression. "Well then, what is it that you came here for this time?"
At first, Irving did not say. He was quiet as he met the witch's gaze, unblinking.
The atmosphere of the room felt cold to Watanuki. And though there was silence, it was a deafening one. As he looked from Yuuko to Braxiatel, he couldn't help the feeling that this was all wrong. What made this man different felt wrong to him.
In fact, he nearly jumped out of his kin when he felt a hand touch his sleeve. Clapping a hand to cover his yelp, the boy looked down to see that it was Maru. She was tugging at his sleeve and looking up at him with that blank gaze.
"Maru, what's wr-"
But the soulless creation shook her head to silence him. She continued to tug on his sleeve before pointing to the door to the kitchen. Again he looked puzzled, all the more so when Moro was suddenly standing there and tugging on his other sleeve.
"What is it you two? Are you hungr-"
But he was forced to swallow his question when Yuuko's piercing voice interrupted him.
"Maru, Moro, he stays."
Alarmed the boy looked abruptly at his employer but saw that she was not looking at them. Her eyes were still staring right at Braxiatel's and she showed no signs of looking away either. "Watanuki stays. I want him to observe."
'Okay, this is strange, even for me. What's gotten into everyone?' "Yuuko, what's going on?"
"It's alright," she assured him. "Don't mind them. They're just a little nervous, but everything is fine. Trust me."
But it was hard for him to take her word when both Maru and Moro were each holding his hand and hiding behind him. The both were staring at the strange man and gripping Watanuki's hands for comfort. Mokona seemed to not be bothered by him though, what with how he was already downing his third class of alcohol and noisily announcing his content.
"You're not the sort to waste time like this, Irving," Yuuko dismissed Watanuki's concern instantly. She sipped her drink and studied the man across the table from her curiously. "Tell me why you're here."
And when Watanuki looked at Braxiatel his eyes widened.
There was no words he could think of to use in order to describe what it was that he felt from this man. Something about him seemed so old about him. The mysterious air about him only intensified at Irving suddenly climbed to his feet. His voice was steady and calm as he spoke while walking towards Yuuko.
"There are rumors now of something to come. Something is coming and I'm not prepared for it. Not yet."
"Oh?" Yuuko, by all appearances, looked bored by this but Watanuki knew that was far from being the truth. Her body was relaxed where she was lounging on her seat but she was paying every ounce of attention to him she had. "So this isn't about another little trinket I've found that's caught your interest?"
"This isn't about my collection," he stated bluntly. "There is something coming and I need your help."
"And what help is it that you're coming to me for? Since when do Gallifreyans require the assistance of outsiders?"
'Gallifreyans?' Watanuki was staring at the man as he stooped just inches from where Yuuko was. 'What in the heck is that? A type of spirit?' But he knew that wasn't right either. There was nothing about this Irving Braxiatel that seemed like a spirit or any other supernatural being out there.
"This is something that could very well involve all of us given the universal scale of the matter and you are the only one I can think of trusting with this matter. Only because I can think of no one who would think to go to you," Braxiatel explained. He was holding his arms behind him while looking down at her. His tone, his expression, his posture, everything about him gave off a serious vibe, one in which that no one should take lightly.
"And what might that be?"
Silence fell upon the room. No one said a word. Even Mokona had stopped indulging himself in the alcohol to look at the two speaking. For what felt like hours was only minutes in reality before the witch shifted in her seat. Sitting up once more she reached out a free so that her finger tips were brushing the lapels of his suit.
"A cure?" she repeated curiously. "For what sort of ailment?"
Braxiatel opened his mouth to respond, but instead of Japanese, Watanuki heard a completely new and different language spill from his lips. Dumbfounded and completely confused the boy noticed that he wasn't the only one. Even Maru and Moro had lost their nervous expressions for just a moment as their eyebrows furrowed in bafflement.
But it seemed that Yuuko could understand every word of... whatever it was Irving was saying. What Watanuki could tell was that her expression had gone from vapid dullness to full on dedicated attention. And even- worry?
When Braxiatel was done speaking there was silence once more. After a few moments Yuuko rose to her feet, her raven hair spilling down her shoulders. The man was taller then her but Watanuki felt that the two were on equal footing. Folding her arms over her chest, the sleeves of her robes hung at her sides, the light reflecting from the gems sewn into the silk.
"What you're asking for is something that will take time to procure," she said finally.
"You know full well that time isn't a problem in my case."
"That may be, but the problem doesn't lie in that, Irving."
Again Braxiatel looked down at the witch curiously. "Then what is it?"
"You cannot afford the price," she said bluntly.
"And just what sort of compensation are you asking?"
But Yuuko shook her head. Watanuki could see that she was looking at that man now with pity in her eyes. Something he had rarely, if at all, seen her show to a client in the pass. And it was a look that this Braxiatel person wasn't pleased to see.
"Look elsewhere, Irving Braxiatel. The compensation I seek is not one you can give me in return."
Braxiatel stood there and stared at her. He seemed to be trying not to let his emotions show but when he spoke Watanuki could detect a hint of a plea to his voice. "What is the price?"
Yuuko, staring long and hard at the man, finally gave up and sighed. She shrugged her shoulders before resting a hand against his chest.
"To save the lives of your people, the payment is the heart of your people. I always require equal exchange for every transaction. Nothing more, nothing less."
At first Braxiatel was puzzled by this answer. With eyebrows narrowed, deep in thought, it took him a minute of thinking before he came to the conclusion. And when he had, Watanuki noticed an abrupt change in... well, everything about him. His expression grew cold, his posture stiffening before he pulled away from her touch. Yuuko, on the other hand, was phased by his response.
"As I said, you cannot afford to pay the price."
Still he said nothing. His hands, while still held behind him, were clenched tightly now. Watanuki felt Maru and Moro tremble behind him and even he couldn't help suddenly wishing that Yuuko had allowed the pair to take him out of the room. While Braxiatel showed no emotion even a blind man could tell that he was furious with Yuuko's answer.
"I'll pay anything else. I'll give you my collection even," he bargained. "Yuuko, this could very well effect you should this happen. Just because you reside here and can cloak your presence well, there is no telling how long before you're dragged into it as well."
But Yuuko shook her head.
"That is the price I require to give your cure. Look elsewhere for what you need."
Braxiatel and Yuuko stared at each other, neither f them wavering in their stances for a few minutes, until finally his shoulders fell and the man lifted a hand to run through his carefully styled hair. Braxiatel said nothing at first. He only turned away from the witch and took a few steps away from her.
"Very well then," he said, his back to everyone in the room. The sudden frigid atmosphere had melted away as the man put his hands into his pockets. "I thank you for your time, Yuuko. Enjoy the whiskey."
"Be careful, Braxiatel," Yuuko warned him as he started walking towards the doorway to the hall. She had reached out her hand to him, fingers curled slightly so that her fingertips were pointing to the ceiling. "This path you're taking is a dangerous one. The answers you seek, the desires you have, none of them will end well for you or your companions."
That was enough to make the man stop just long enough to glance over his shoulder at her. And for a fleeting moment the young man looked unimaginably old to Watanuki as the faintest of smiles seemed to flicker on his lips.
And with that, he vanished into the hall before the sounds of the door opening and closing were heard.
The silence in the room was broken only when Yuuko sighed. Watanuki saw her press her hand to the side of her head while it shook. It was then that Maru and Moro left his side to return to hers, tugging at her sleeves and looking to her with their questioning gaze.
"Yuuko-san, what... just happened?" Watanuki heard himself ask as she picked up her glass once more, tilting it back to drink the remains in one gulp. "Just who was that guy?"
Studying Watanuki for a moment Yuuko waited to answer him until she had poured herself another glass and down that as well. Then, after tugging at the sleeve of her top to adjust it so that it was no longer slipping down her shoulder, she took the whiskey bottle in her hand and held it to her lips. She was staring at the doorway where the man had left through and was clearly deep in thought.
"That, Watanuki, was a Time Lord."
That earned her a deadpan stare. "A what?"
Instead of answering however, Yuuko only waved him away just as she took another swallow of the liquor. The serious expression on her face was replaced by a comedic, frustrated one as she waved the bottle at him.
"You forgot the snacks! Whatever happened to those eclairs you said you would make!"
When he felt hands tugging on his sleeves this time, Maru and Moro had returned to smiling happily as they sang together in unison, all the while pulling him along. "Eclairs! Eclairs! Let's make tasty eclairs, Watanuki!"
"Whoa, wait, hold on a minute you two! Ack-!"
The glass neck of the whiskey bottle was pressed to her mouth as Yuuko watched the two girls successfully drag Watanuki out of the sitting room and into the kitchen, Mokona bouncing along cheerfully after them. The smile died from her lips once she was left alone.
Fixing her gaze on the half empty bottle of whiskey, she couldn't help shaking her head. She fell back onto her seat, her robes floating along with her as they settled around her. Strands of hair fell out of place but she paid them no mind. She simply sat there, swirling the contents of the bottle and watching the liquid amber waves sway too and for inside.
"... I wish you luck, Irving Braxiatel. To you, your brother, and your Lady President."
Reviews, critiques, and comments are always welcomed!