AN: I'm almost done with the series (chapter 195), and even though I was going to wait to write this, the whole idea of Watanuki just waiting for Yuuko to return just wouldn't leave me. It's sad, yet romantic at the same time. So, those feelings eventually gave me this. I hope you all like it! Also, this is my ninety-sixth fanfiction! Four more, and I've reached one-hundred! :)
Disclaimer: I do not own XXXHolic. CLAMP does.
Shortly after he had taken over the shop, Watanuki turned every mirror in the store into a portal and began taking an interest in the other worlds.
No matter what Dasuki said, it was not an obsession.
The way Watanuki saw it, seeing as he was the new Dimensional Wizard, it was his duty to be well informed on the many different worlds that his shop might serve. Although his magic allowed him to communicate with anybody, no matter what their language might be, there were many things that he could only learn from observation. Nothing that Yuuko had left him explained the many proper ways to greet someone, nor did it make any distinction between the seemingly similar cultures that might have developed after years of growth. And even with his powers, there were certain things, fruits and items and such, that had no name in his tongue, things that he needed to know about if he was to properly do his job. Besides, it was always good to be aware of the different political turmoils of the worlds. By spending so much of his free time watching the worlds that lived around him, he was just doing everything he could to become the best that he could be.
That was the answer he would have used to justify his actions if any who had known him well enough to ask had. But those who knew him well enough to question the way he spent his time also knew him well enough to know that he would have been lying.
Instead, he was really looking for them.
In many of the worlds he had observed, using his mirrors to watch from that universe's beginning to end, the two of them had never met. Whether it was because she had died long before he had even been conceived, or, when they did live at the same time, because they had just been destined to walk different paths, never once did they ever lay eyes on each other. It was from these worlds that he gained the least, only some notes on potential future customers and some time to figure out the perfect price for them to pay once they finally made their way to his doorstep.
In others, they had just met in passing, strangers who sat across from each other on the bus or who bought coffee at the same shop at the same time. Both would see the other, for a single moment they would make eye contact, and every time, a single thought to talk to that person would cross their minds. But in the end, whoever had had the thought would decide against it, and they would both continue on with their lives, quickly forgetting that the other person ever existed. These were the worlds that pained him the most, for with his powers he could see just how amazing life would have been if they had just followed those impulses. Even still, he would watch those moments with hawk eyes, memorizing every moment that the two unknowingly shared to store for himself before moving on to continue his search.
Although there weren't many of them, there were actually a few worlds where they became friends. Whether it was through the job he had taken as her employee in the shop she almost inevitably ended up owning or because one of them had taken the initiative and talked to the other, somehow, they would eventually find out that there was something interesting about the other that kept them in contact. They each had their own lives to live, their own friends and interest, but once or twice a week, for only an hour or two, they would sit and chat, examining the other's views of the world. They trusted each other to keep their secrets better than any of their other friends, for there were no other connections between them that they could possibly exploit. They were treasured companions, and there was no need to be anything more. These were some of the scenes he loved to watch, for as the time passed, it was easy to see their bond growing, connecting them more and more to each other. However, even these worlds left him wanting, for they never showed the futures that he longed for the most.
Out of all the worlds in existence, only four showed the two of them being in love.
In the first, they were dead.
She had been an herbalist, he a servant to the local lord. When he had accompanied the lord's son to the local festival, the man had fallen in love with her, though she had rejected his every advance. When the son had turned to him, begging him to use his every skill to win her heart, the servant had done just that, though the result had been different than what they had wished. Instead of gaining her love for his master, the herbalist had fallen in love with the servant instead, and he with her. It was only for a short while that they were able to keep their relationship a secret, eventually betrayed by a friend that they had once thought worthy of their trust and able to help them escape. Prompted by his scorned child, the lord had had her arrested and tried as a witch, the judge he had paid quickly sentencing her to burn for her cries of 'not guilty.' In memory of all the years he had served him, the lord had spared his servant's life, forcing him to watch his love burn as punishment instead. His hands tied, standing on a platform that looked down onto the pyre, the servant had been forced to listen to his love scream.
At the very last moment possible, the servant had fought for his freedom and leapt for her, joining her in the flames and ending both of their lives, together, with a kiss. It was this final scene that he would rewatch over and over again when he decided to check in on this world, for it was this final act of love that always twisted his heart.
In the second, they were destitute.
Between her addictions and his refusal to take the medicines that would 'make all the monsters go away,' they had nothing. Any money that was made was quickly spent on opium or alcohol so that she could drive away her pains, and job after job was lost to him as employer after employer turned into a creature right before his very eyes. When necessity forced them to buy food instead of her drugs, her hands would begin to shake and her breathing would come fast and heavy, forcing her to grit her teeth as she struggled to keep him from seeing her so weak. When necessity forced him to find some form of work to support them, he would often find himself in the back room, biting the palm of his hand until blood coated his tongue to keep himself from screaming as the monsters waited for him to return. They were nervous wrecks, and both knew that there was nothing they could do to fix themselves.
But still they were happy.
When her body was racked with fever and pains, her eyes hollow from the lack of her drugs, he was the one who held her, rocking her until exhaustion forced her to sleep. Then, when he was sure that she couldn't protest any longer, he would supply her with her vices, his own stomach going empty as he did his best to keep her content. When the visions became too much for him to handle, she was the only one who retained her humanity, able to walk him through the terror until his eyes returned the people to him, freeing him from his creature-inhabited hell. When her hangovers were too bad for her to go to her own place of employment, he was the one that made her bosses understand, saving her job as well as bringing home a cure that, by the afternoon, made sure that the pounding was no more than an ache. And when he was awoken by nightmares, she was the one who held him until sleep came once more, helping to lead him into dreams much sweeter than they had been before.
Even with him destined to be hit by a bus while running from his monsters and her fated to die shortly after from an overdose, he still loved this world because, no matter how much pain they put the other through, still they stayed with the holder of their heart.
In the third, their relationship was a game.
From birth they had been given to each other, the two only children of rich families that wished for nothing more than to expand their wealth through a well-planned wedding. As children, they had spent their days growing up together, learning their whims and their ways, until their future spouse was better known to them then they to themselves. They were good matches, with many similarities in both mind and spirit that would help to make their future marriage strong, and for this they were thankful, for both had friends engaged to others that they had never met, strangers that their futures were already bound to. If they had to get married, then they both rather that it was to someone that they already loved instead of someone they would meet for the first time in the marriage chambers.
That is, this was their wish, until they became old enough to understand their lack of choice in the matter. It was their wish until they came to hate each other as teenagers.
Although the feelings that had begun to blossom between the two still existed, anger towards their parents for sealing their fates before they had been old enough to even understand was turned on the other, each blaming their beloved for the prison they unwillingly found themselves running to. However, only Death itself could free them from their bonds, and so they were forced to live with the decisions their parents had made. But they didn't have to be happy about them. Instead, they used their closeness to try to break each other, alternating between cruelty and kindness to see who it would be that would snap first. Presents were presented with harsh words, just as hateful actions were combined with tender looks and tones. Smiles were worn when the other experienced pain, and pain was felt within their hearts when the other smiled. They loved to hate and hated to love each other, but because both emotions went hand in hand, they were trapped within their own twisted webs. It was the world that he watched with the sickest of pleasures, jumping between one and the other over who he wished to win this battle of wits, and it was only in the deepest part of his heart that he wanted it to end, for it was far too entertaining to give up completely.
And in the fourth, they were a family.
Their first meeting was astonishingly normal, in a bookstore while he was picking up the books he would need for his final semester at his university and she was searching for a gift to give to a friend. As if fate had guided them to it, both had reached for the same book at the exact same time, the tips of their fingers brushing ever so slightly before they pulled away. For a couple of minutes they had stood there, arguing over who should have the book, until she had finally convinced him to take it, saying that her friend's birthday wasn't for another couple of weeks, so she could get the book closer to then. In return, he had insisted on buying her lunch, forgetting at the moment that he himself had eaten not too long ago. Refusing to accept no as an answer, the two had quickly found themselves sitting together in a nearby café, laughing at some shared joke that neither could quite remember the punch line of. After their food had been eaten and paid for, they had parted ways, both sure that, although it had been a wonderful hour, they would never see the other again.
This would have been, had thoughts of the other not been so constantly on their minds.
For weeks, random pictures and words would float into being at the worst of times, drawing their minds away from whatever important situation needed their full attention. His grades slowly, but surely, began to drop as time continued on, tests and homework taking a backseat to the remembered sound of her laughter and the glint in her eyes that he wanted to see once more. Her customers began to complain about her service when her eyes drifted away into oblivion, her lips curved into a smile as she contemplated the twists of fate that had brought the over enthusiastic college student with the kind smile into her life instead of tending to the task she had been assigned. For both of them, the situation only grew more and more unfavorable as time continued, eventually leading them to find a way to fix it.
In a wild chance that was too well planned to be coincidence, they once again met in the store, reaching for the exact same book that would supposedly help them once again regain their focus and forget about the person they would never again meet.
From there, everything just fell into place.
Deciding that it had been mutual interests in many different subjects that had drawn them together once more, they decided to keep in touch, remaining in contact through phone calls, e-mails, and the occasional lunch meeting. By doing this, the two became close, good friends even despite their age differences. Their focus returned as well, eventually allowing her to regain her reputation as a shopkeeper and him to return his grades to their former glory. Things moved at a comfortable pace, and for a long, long time, they both believed that friendship would be the extent of their relationship.
It wasn't until his graduation, with his diploma in hand and while surrounded by friends that had gone through the trials with him that, after finally catching sight of her, without even a greeting of welcome, he walked over and kissed her.
By the end of the summer they were officially engaged, and before the first snows even threatened to fall they were husband and wife. And if any remarked on the shortness of their courtship, all they said was that it had just felt right.
It took them awhile, but, eventually, things settled down for them. He, after a friendly recommendation from one of her clients, was hired as a chef at a restaurant, where his inherent talent at cooking quickly made him one of the most sought after food masters in the country. Her shop slowly but surely grew, granting the requests of anyone who entered, until she began to cater to the highest of the highs, her beauty and charm making many hearts curse the day that she had said 'I do.' But for the most part, the thing that made them happiest was the fact that they had each other.
The daughter that she had just found out she was to bear when Watanuki had finally found them within their world had only made them grow even happier.
It was this world that Watanuki found himself watching the most, observing their children growing and examining their every word for its minute details. It was the world that lightened the burden of his heart, and for every victory he cheered, and every sorrow he cried. When their third child, a second daughter, was stillborn, he tore apart every piece of his world that he could reach in his grief, expressing himself in such a way that the other man could not while holding his crying wife in the hospital. When their son got married, he held a party the likes of which had never been seen within the shop, all while keeping the reason a secret, and when their first grandchild was born, he had shared the man's tears of joy, content to just sit there and watch the newborn infant squall in its grandmother's arms. But all too quickly it was over, and too soon for his tastes, the man and the woman whose life he had shared passed away, leaving behind a family that loved them, something that Watanuki would never know.
But even though the main purpose of his spying into other worlds was gone, still, Watanuki was content. For although they had gone by different names, different origins, and sometimes even different faces, he had still been allowed to see the world he had always wished that he could have built with Yuuko and had been denied.
Even if he couldn't have her in this world, at least he could have her in others.