Title: Hatsumōde
Series: xxxHolic
Character/pairing: Doumeki/Watanuki, Yuuko.
Rating: PG
Author's note:

Fic_promptly: until the dawn.

.

The bells ring out through the snowy dark. One-hundred and eight, for every sin and worldly desire. It brings up memories in him, ones that flit just beyond full realization. He can't tell names and faces, but they're very warm.

"Ah, the bells. They always make me want to drink," Yuuko says. She sounds nostalgic, and Watanuki balls his fists.

"Yuuko-saaan. I don't think that's something to be doing shots to!" He bursts out.

She laughs, the sound of her echoing through the night. He can't feel any spirits near. The streets are crowded. She's all decked up in a beautiful kimono, a striking blue furisode with a design of waves over its long sleeves. Her hair is up in combs, though tresses escape in little messy wisps of black. By comparison, he's in a dull forest green men's kimono. Yuuko's attempts to 'prettify' him and get him to dress up like her niece failed.

(All things said, it was one of her more interesting drunken plans.)

There's a thin layer of snow, which Larg bounces around in, leaving a spray of white dust in the air with each jump.

"You know, in the west, you kiss your sweetheart on new year's eve," Yuuko says. He doesn't even have to look around to know that she's smirking.

"For the last time, he's not my sweetheart!" Watanuki says in exasperation.

"Ahah! I never said that I wasn't talking about Himawari-chan~ Perhaps Methinks the lady doth protest too much–?"

Watanuki flushes bright red, and turns away, stomping further along towards the shrine. The sound of her laughter carries through the night, mixing with the sounds of another toll of the bells at the Buddhist temples.

Hatsumōde is a tradition he's kept for as long as he can remember. It's crowded here, and there's an energy to the crowd. He has the omamori from the past year, yet he always feels a little sad to let them go. They've worked so hard to keep him safe, after all. When he burns them, it's with the graveness of laying to rest an old friend. He buys Yaku yoke omamoris every year. He can use every ward against evil he can get.

He sees Doumeki across the crowd of people, attending to his duties as usual. The jerk doesn't wave, doesn't even give him a nod. Watanuki turns away and tries to convince himself about how much he doesn't care if Doumeki isn't talking to him at the moment. It's not like they're fighting–at least, not anymore than usual.

But it's a new year, and he has other things to work with, so he keeps walking. There's a large queue towards the inside, but he catches sight of Himawari-chan and waves. Tanpopo is perched on her shoulder. She's talking with some girls from school, careful to stay just beyond their touch.

She stops mid-conversation and enthusiastically waves. There's too many people to make his way to talk to her, but her smile is bright, and her voice carries a greeting across the murmur of the crowd.

He leaves a five-yen coin. He takes a breath, closes his eyes and reaches into the box. He needs good luck for this year, because if it's anything like the last, it may be what saves him. He opens on eye and dares to look at the new year to come. He reads each character with rising excitement.

Great blessing. marriage proposal or engagement.

He flushes, clinging more tightly to his omikiji.

"Y-Yuuko-san! I got a good fortune!" he calls out. It isn't a surprise that she's suddenly beside him. She always finds her way to be in the most inconvenient places, especially if it's annoying to him. But...she's always there when he needs her, too. But mostly when he doesn't. She smirks as she looks over his unrolled omikiji.

"Looks like he'll make an honest man of you yet," she says.

"There's nothing honest about it!"

"Oho! What a delinquent worker I have!"

Watanuki shrieks in rage. It only makes her laugh more...and makes him the center of attention for a moment. Watanuki awkwardly makes his way through the crowd, towards the stairs. He's lost sight of Himawari-chan again. Maybe she's gone back home with her friends? He thinks he'll send her a traditional card later.

Doumeki sweeps the steps despite the crowd. Nothing can phase him, not even crowds. Watanuki already feels a little grumpy, just seeing him there, surrounded by girls giving him shy glances. And while they are perfectly nice girls, none of them can make the food like Watanuki could. He wants to go straight up and remind Doumeki about that. But then there's the realization that he just had that thought like a smirking Yuuko straight in his brain that makes him want to scream.

By the time he actually gets to Doumeki, he's cranky. He glares at Doumeki, who either glares back or simply gives his default expression. It's rather hard to tell at times.

"Good fortune?" Watanuki asks crossly.

"Marriage blessing," Doumeki says.

Yuuko's smirk is so wide. Watanuki knows she'll hold this one over him, teasing him for ages, and never letting him forget it.

"Yours?" Doumeki asks.

"Nothing important," Watanuki grumbles. He looks away, his cheeks red from the cold and only red from the cold.

"Hmmph."

"Hmmph what?!" Watanuki demands.

"You're acting strange."

"I am not! You're the one who's suddenly becoming a ladies' man."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Doumeki says.

They stare each other down, and Watanuki's cheeks grow more and more red. Because of the cold, and only that reason. Even though he's feeling all flushed and warm now.

Yuuko comes near, and for once he's glad for the interruption. "How will you be spending the new year?" She asks.

"I'll be working until dawn, and then watch the first sunrise," Doumeki says. "I hope you have a good first dream of the year."

"Oh, yes," Watanuki says.

And that's it, Doumeki is already back to work, without even saying goodbye. Watanuki storms off, while Larg chatters away on his shoulders.

"I think there's steam coming out of your ears," Yuuko says.

"Steamy! Steamy steam!" Larg joins in.

And for once, Watanuki doesn't even deny it.

.

Yuuko does shots and argues with the wind. She isn't even that drunk yet, and yet the whole rest of the night is ahead of her. Like every holiday, tomorrow will be a day of moaning and suffering in the dark for her. Watanuki has already stocked up on hangover remedies. He turns in early, sure of a long day ahead of him.

That night, he dreams of a bride in a white kimono and wearing an elaborate golden Tsunokakushi with her head bowed. Beside her is Doumeki, who wonder of wonders, is smiling while Haruka looks on in the background. Watanuki tries to look into his pockets, searching for all the recipes she's going to need, but he finds he doesn't have any pockets, and he's wearing white.

He looks up to catch a glimpse of his reflection in the large mirror. It sinks in that heis the bride.

In the reflection, he can just catch the glimpse of Yuuko's triumphant smile.

.

He wakes while the sky is still grey. After stumbling up, he makes his way to the kitchen and brings out the ingredients. He can practically make Doumeki's favorite foods in his sleep, which is good, as soon it will be dawn.

Fifteen minutes later, he walks out dressed for the winter, and yet the cold still stuns him awake.
Even the spirits have drunk themselves into hangover states, and they linger in corners, too lazy to chase after him.

When he reaches the shrine, Doumeki is at the crest, staring up at the sky. The first hint of pink and gold morning is coming through the gray sky.

"Did you have a nice dream?" Doumeki asks.

"I don't want to talk about it," Watanuki says.

He thrusts the bento box into Doumeki's hands. And that in itself is an answer of sorts.