Author: Sybil Rowan
Pairing(s)/Characters: none, just some light teasing at possible Watanuki/Doumeki/Himawari
Summary: Doumeki and Himawari both are bothered when their fellow classmates call Watanuki one particular nasty name. Watanuki overhears and it causes him a lot of pain only good friends can heal.
Warnings: none really
Author's Notes: My first xxxHolic fic.
Disclaimer: xxxHolic, its names and characters, belong to CLAMP.
Beta Reader: WingedPanther73
Date: November 28, 2012, 6:45 am
Word Count: 3,307
"... and then out the window he flew. Who knows why it happened. It's like all the same weirdo stuff that happens around him."
"Yeah... remember back when he was eight and he jumped on that teacher's desk?"
"Oh, man, do I ever. He got in big trouble for that one. You know... all that weird stuff... I'm thinking he does it for attention. Remember when he used to talk about seeing monsters all the time? Come on, you can't tell me he's not trying to get people to pay attention to him."
Doumeki overheard the conversation between Hisoka and Nobu. It was his first day back after sacrificing his blood so Watanuki could survive that fall. He hadn't made his presence known in the archery club yet. He hung back in the shadows, not liking where this conversation was headed. He had transferred to the school when he was around eleven so he hadn't witnessed how crazy all of Watanuki's antics had been as a small child. He imagined it was pretty wild as he tried to make sense of the things his eyes were seeing.
"So you think he deliberately threw himself out of a window? That's far fetched, even for that creepy guy," Nobu said.
Doumeki never deluded himself. He knew all sorts of ugly things were said about Watanuki behind the Seer's back, and the Exorcist's fellow archers were always circumspect about what they said around him.
"Yeah..." Hisoka agreed after a long pause. Doumeki's mouth suddenly got dry and he had the feeling he was about to hear the 'f-word' that bothered him the most when applied to Watanuki. "... but still, he's the biggest freak at school. I don't see why Doumeki bothers with the guy."
Doumeki stepped from the shadows and at least Hisoka and Nobu had the good sense to look embarrassed. "So... I assume you were talking about Watanuki?"
Finally his fellow club members melted under his hard gaze. It was Nobu who babbled, "It... it... wasn't like that... I mean... I like the guy and all..."
"Yet you never invite him to lunch or anything," Doumeki pointedly said, getting his bow out of its case. Doumeki had an open invitation to have lunch with them so long as Watanuki wasn't along; of course, there was no way Doumeki would ever turn down Watanuki's cooking.
Hisoka was the one to flinch; rather than a half-hearted apology or excuse, he got angry with Doumeki. "Come off it! You're going to ruin your reputation hanging around that... freak! You're a nice guy and lots of girls would go out with you if you stopped dragging that spaz everywhere. You really should get rid of him, because he's holding you back."
There was a rustle at the doorway, and Doumeki turned to see the one person he dreaded was there. Watanuki's eyes were glued to the ground. Doumeki took a step towards him, but Watanuki shook his head and marched from the archery club. His hand tightened on the bow rather than around Hisoka's neck.
Unfortunately, the coach got there before he could leave and pursue Watanuki. When he was emotional it seemed to attract more malevolent spirits, so he hoped Watanuki would hurry along to Yuuko's shop.
Rika handed the pink invitation to Himawari with a bright smile. It was a perfect afternoon and she was waiting for Watanuki to walk her home before he went to work. She was still leery of letting Watanuki spend so much time with her, but the Seer assured her he wasn't afraid in spite of his recent fall.
She was pleased to see a couple of the girls from her class as she waited for Watanuki to show up. She was doubly pleased that Rika's parents were throwing her a big birthday party this coming weekend. Himawari was a very social girl, in spite of her unfortunate condition with bad luck.
"This is for my party this weekend. I really hope you can come," Rika said.
"I've been looking forward to it myself," Ume added, lofting her own invitation. "I'm going to bring Tetsuo. You know, Himawari, you should invite Doumeki. He's a real catch."
"I do have two friends. Would you mind if I brought Watanuki, too? They're so much fun to hang around when they're together. It wouldn't seem fun without both of them around."
She didn't miss the other girls' sudden silence and the worried glances they gave each other. "Well... I was just counting on it being the girls and one date apiece."
"I'm sure Doumeki would be happy to escort you. He'd be really lucky to have you invite him."
Himawari suddenly felt strange about the invitation and the direction the girls pushed her in. She knew the girls all gossiped horribly about Watanuki and she was always the first, and only one, to defend him. She decided to give it a test.
"Well, Doumeki might be busy with his parents coming into town this weekend. Maybe I'll just invite Watanuki as my date."
The look of distaste was obvious on both girls' faces. Ume was the one who shook her head. "Seriously? He's a bit weird. I mean... he talks to himself."
"He may have a very good reason for it." Himawari knew that reason well, but she wasn't about to divulge all of Watanuki's specialness to these girls. "I really think you should get to know him. He's such a kind person and so responsible. I'll bring him to the party and you'll see."
"So you're going to bring the freak? Really?" Rika asked. Her expression was truly distressed.
Himawari handed back the invitation. "I think I'll be busy that night. Thank you so much for inviting me. I hope your birthday is a good one."
The girls looked at one another as Himawari turned to walk away, totally feeling comfortable about her decision.
"She could do so much better than the freak," Ume said, just loud enough for Himawari to hear as she looked over towards a tree. Her heart stopped as her eyes met Watanuki's; he'd been hiding behind the tree and obviously heard, too. Before she could say anything, Watanuki ran off towards Yuuko's shop.
Her elation at doing the right thing crashed into pain at the look in Watanuki's eyes. Rather than go home she wandered back onto the school campus.
He slammed the door to the wish shop open and then kicked it shut. That horrible word, freak, kept echoing through his head. It was bad enough hearing it whispered behind his back every couple of days, but it stabbed him in the chest when it was said behind his back to his friends. Not just once, but twice today. He should have known better, because he was all the talk of the school after falling from that window and coming back with not a scrape to show for it.
Watanuki was grateful Maru and Moro weren't out and doing their frantic happy dance to greet him. Not even the pipe fox was there to greet him, which wasn't normal. As a matter of fact, everything was abnormally quiet. He breathed a sigh of relief, grateful for a little solitude, and trudged towards the kitchen.
He dumped some carrots into a bowl and stared rinsing them. He picked one up and started ferociously pealing it. "I wish I didn't have any friends!"
"You should know better than to say something like that in here."
Watanuki swirled around at Yuuko's voice. "You startled me! Didn't you see I was holding a knife?"
"Do you really wish to be friendless?"
With a huff, he turned his wrath back on the carrots. "I'd be easier."
"For you... or for them?" Yuuko asked.
He froze, his heart pounding, face flushed. Watanuki looked over his shoulder, eyes narrowed. "You could grant me that wish? Have Himawari and even that stupid oaf ignore me from now on?"
"You wouldn't be able to afford the price." He had a feeling she was referring to something other than the actual cost of the wish.
"I could leave school and work full time! I think that's what everyone would like! I'd just like to disappear into this shop for the rest of my life sometimes!"
"Like I said, be careful, you may just get what you ask. My dinner guests have arrived. Would you be good enough to get us some tea?" Yuuko ordered and left with the rustling of her red gown.
He sighed and leaned over the sink, quivering at the question she'd asked. Wouldn't it be easier on Himawari and Doumeki if he wasn't around? Most certainly. And it wasn't just the silly, social things, but it was mostly the danger he attracted that worried him. In the pit of his stomach he was sick at the thought of all the high cost Himawari and Doumeki paid for his friendship. He wasn't worth it in his estimation.
Watanuki put aside dinner preparation and started tea for the dinner guests. It wasn't long before he had the tray laden with his homemade cookies, fresh fruit, green tea, and cream. He opened the door to the front parlor and halted when he saw Doumeki and Himawari on the sofa across from where Yuuko was lounging.
"What are you two doing here! You're the dinner guests?"
"Yes! Isn't it wonderful? What's better than friends to lift your spirits?" Yuuko said with a warm smile and a clap of her hands.
"Doumeki certainly is NOT a friend!" Watanuki shouted, pointing at the stoic teen who put his fingers in his ears.
"Too loud," Doumeki complained.
"But you and Doumeki get along so great," Himawari said, with a sweet smile.
"What? Me and this oaf? NEVER! We have NOTHING in common and you have to have something in common to be friends. The big idiot isn't even listening me!" Watanuki shouted, getting absolutely animated.
"Not at all. The best friend you could make would be someone who complements your weaknesses and strengths," Yuuko said. "Now, why don't you two boys run off and finish dinner while us girls talk."
"That oaf is NOT coming into MY kitchen!" he shouted as Doumeki rose and started dragging him to the kitchen by the collar. "You let me go, Doumeki! Right now!"
After they were gone, Yuuko served Himawari tea and dropped her smile. "So, you were upset today about something Watanuki overheard?"
"Yes, I worry about him."
"Don't worry about anything. Just assure him that you don't regret paying the price for his friendship."
Himawari nodded and smiled. "But it doesn't feel like I pay any price for his friendship. He gives so much."
"He fears you are." Yuuko's fingers flicked up and Rika's party invitation appeared. "He doesn't want that word associated with you because you choose him for a companion."
Himawari grew somber. "I don't regret that decision one minute, but what word are you talking about, Yuuko-san?"
"Freak," she answered as the invitation caught fire and disappeared in smoke.
Doumeki was peeling vegetables for Watanuki as he chopped them and dropped them in boiling water. He could tell Watanuki, rather than being aggressive, was more deflated than anything else. It had to be dispiriting to be so kind and generous to every person around him, yet be so utterly rejected at large. Himawari and he had shared what happened after school and decided Watanuki needed some reassurance.
He didn't even get a rise from Watanuki, just a glare and tense shoulders. "What?"
"Remember when we were thirteen?"
Watanuki sighed and asked in a brittle tone, "When exactly? The whole year or one day?"
"One afternoon in May. It was the last time I watched you cry when people called you a name. It stood out to me because it was the first time you met my mother."
Watanuki shivered after a few still minutes. His eyes locked onto the vegetables and knife in his hands. "I don't remember ever crying in front of you. Not ever. I would never do that."
"I was about to leave school when..."
"Please don't say it!"
"... Himawari came and got me. She was crying so hard and begging me to come and help you. I went with her and there were those two older boys..."
"No... no such thing happened. You're making this up."
"... beating you up in that empty classroom. You were on the floor and they were kicking you. And over and over, they kept saying one word."
"It NEVER happened!" Watanuki looked over his shoulder; his eyes were so full of an intense anger and pain.
Doumeki had no choice, but to press on. If he didn't, Watanuki would remain stunted by one, simple word. "What was that one word, Watanuki?"
"Stop lying!" Watanuki's voice was choked up as he started chopping with shaky hands again. Of course, he sliced his left, pinky finger deeply, and in a flash, he crumpled to the kitchen tiles. He balled up and clenched his hand to his chest. He was suppressing his emotions, for once, but it wasn't elegant, which Doumeki expected. There was snot and lots of tears and saliva everywhere.
It told Doumeki exactly how much this memory was poisoning Watanuki. The boy faced down evil spirits on a regular basis, yet didn't Watanuki say something about words being living and like bonds or chains? This one, simple word was paralyzing Watanuki.
He remembered how Watanuki struggled so hard to give the older twin college girl words of encouragement so she could live her life unfettered. It was obvious Watanuki needed the same kind of encouragement because that one, simple word was certainly a fetter to him. But Watanuki, unlike the older twin, hadn't to want to change how that one word bound him.
Doumeki grabbed a dish towel and sank beside Watanuki. He wrapped Watanuki's left, pinky finger up and held it tight to his chest. He said, "You're bound to that one word. Reject it."
"But I am a... FREAK! Everyone knows it! You and Himawari should ignore me!"
"Denounce that word. Replace it," Doumeki said, impassively.
"What?" Watanuki lowered his eyes and tried yanking his hand away, but Doumeki's grip was too firm.
"Unique, different, special..." Doumeki tilted Watanuki's chin upwards. "Or how about every time you hear that word just think of the word 'extraordinary.' That suits you perfectly." A subtle pink tinged Watanuki's face. "Also, remember the good that happened that day."
"After I got the boys to run off, I took you to my mother. She was in the kitchen in our house. She took one look at you and totally went all soft on you. She cleaned you up and gave you a snack. Remember?"
Doumeki remembered poor Watanuki that day and felt his stomach clench in pity. Watanuki was on the floor with a bloody nose, a black eye, and several bruises. The two boys kept kicking Watanuki over and over while chanting the word "freak" repeatedly in some sort of twisted attempted to brand it on Watanuki's psyche. Watanuki was sobbing hysterically and begging them to stop.
"Stop that!" Doumeki yelled, glaring and using his unusually tall stature to scare off the two bullies. After they had fled, he knelt down by the sobbing balled up Watanuki and tried to touch his shoulder. He flinched and scrambled to the corner in terror.
"Come and get a snack," Doumeki offered simply. Watanuki had looked over after sniffling several times. He nodded slightly, after several long minutes, and silently followed Doumeki. They were followed by Himawari; her worry was certainly high. When they got to his parent's house his mother fawned over Watanuki and Himawari.
"Yeah, she did mother me when I needed it. She is so awesome and you're so lucky to have her."
"You know, she wouldn't mind if you came over more often."
"I don't want to be a pest. I cause you enough trouble," Watanuki said flatly, his blush now in full force.
"You do, but it doesn't mean my mother doesn't want to see you every now and again."
"Big jerk!" Watanuki said, yanking his hand back from Doumeki.
"Your pot is boiling over," Doumeki pointed out. Watanuki screamed and leaped up, hysterically tending the stove while hurling a steady stream of insults Doumeki's way. Doumeki stood up and continued to chop just muttering the word, "Idiot."
"This was all so delicious, Watanuki," Himawari said. She, Doumeki, and Yuuko all polished off Watanuki's deftly executed dinner.
"Yes, certainly one for the books! My compliments," Yuuko said. Watanuki blushed and smiled at the compliments. "A meal like this is certainly an expression of your friendship for us."
"Speaking of friendship, I think I should do something to show my appreciation for what a good friend you are," Himawari said, giving Watanuki a warm smile.
"You don't have to do anything for me. I'm glad to cook for you."
"Why don't I take you to the movies on Friday night?" she asked. He chuckled a little and paled; there was a hesitation she didn't understand. "You don't like the movies?"
"Lots of spirits will try to attack him," Doumeki supplied. Watanuki flushed and was about to yell at him.
Himawari giggled and cut Watanuki off by saying, "Is that all? Well Doumeki will have to come with us then."
"Oh, Himawari-chan, you just killed me," Watanuki said with a drooping head.
"How about Friday night?" she asked.
Watanuki looked up at her, confusion in his eyes. "You're sure you don't have anything else you'd rather do?"
"I'm positive I want to hang out with you. It'll be fun," Himawari said enthusiastically. Watanuki seemed to absolutely melt and that made Himawari happy.
"Awe, so sweet. Sort of a twisted double date for you Watanuki. You really do get around," Yuuko said with a sly smile.
He whirled on the wish shop owner with a furious expression. "WHAT is THAT crack supposed to MEAN!"
"Well, it would seem you have two people going on a date with you. What would you call it?"
"Arg! THAT," Watanuki pointed at Doumeki with a trembling finger, "is NOT my date! He's only tagging a long because Himawari is TOO sweet to me and wants to make sure I'm COMFORTABLE! Wait a minute!" He smacked his face and shook his head. "What did I just say?" He gave an exaggerated sigh and hung his head. "Will I always be doomed to drag Doumeki around and not getting any alone time with Himawari?"
"Do you really want the answer to that one?" Yuuko asked.
"NO!" Watanuki shouted, then got a meek expression. "Um... Yuuko-san, may I have Friday night off?"
"Sure! I'll just add it to your time," she said. "I think going to the movies with your friends is certainly worth the small price of adding time. After all, everyone pays some price for friendship. The greater the price, the more value is placed on that friendship. It should be cherished and returned when you realized your friends cheerfully pay the price for your friendship. You should never disrespect their sacrifices, Watanuki. Even the ones that seem small in the larger picture."
Watanuki, rather than protesting loudly, nodded and smiled at her. "Thank you, Yuuko-san. I appreciate it."