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In Any Other World, xxxHolic Side
By Memory Dragon
Warnings: Doumeki's acting a little strange in this chapter, but there is reason. Also, there's a bit more Haruka-san thrown in just because I love him so. There's also a little bit of Watanuki fawning. But like I said, no romance. So it's just his usual fawning. XD
Disclaimer: I do not own Tsubasa or xxxHolic, nor do I make any claim to. Nor can I claim the lyrics from the song "Any Other World" by Mika. Just borrowing it, since it goes so well with the fic.

Tsubasa Side: Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2
xxxHolic Side: Prologue Chapter 1

Chapter Two: Child's Play

“Hey, what’s wrong with the two of you?! Stop that!” Watanuki screamed at Maru and Moru as they danced around him. He was trying to prepare dinner, which was hard enough with the body of a six year old. But to have the two of them constantly dancing around him, especially now that they were slightly taller than him, made things ten times messier than normal. It didn’t help maters that the only children’s clothes that Yuuko had around was a very uncomfortable set that looked right out the 18th century. The shorts and suspenders he didn’t mind, but the shirt was stiff and hard to move around in. And the little grey cap Yuuko insisted that he wear was a constant annoyance on his head.

Watanuki tipped perilously, but caught himself just in time. Maru and Moru continued their chant. He had already dropped two pans of water for boiling and this third pot was dangerously close to falling out of his hands to the floor again. “Would you stop-”

Too late. The pot was spilling on the floor and he was fast in following it. But instead of breaking his nose on the now wet floor, a pair of strong hands steadied him. Maru and Moru squealed and ran off, chanting about how Watanuki had been saved again.

He didn’t have to turn around to see who it was. “Thank you,” Watanuki stammered, still unused to saying it to his rival. At least by now he wasn’t nearly as irked by it as he used to be. If the moron was going to stand there anyway, he might as well be usual, Watanuki reasoned. It certainly wasn’t because Watanuki was taking comfort in his rival’s constant presence. Of course not.

Watanuki didn’t hear a response, but he wasn’t exactly expecting one either. Not from Mr. I-have-no-clue-how-to-interact-with-people-properly. He sighed inwardly and started cleaning up the watery mess (again) and Doumeki refilled the pot, placing it on the stove. A task that was usually so easy for Watanuki, even with the twin terrors dancing around him. He hated the helpless feelings that this child body brought back.

Doumeki helped him prepare the rest of the meal in silence. Watanuki yelled. Watanuki ranted. Because he certainly hadn’t asked for the help. But oddly, Doumeki sat through it all without any of his usual comebacks. Even for that silent jerk, this was too quiet. It was almost if... Doumeki was distracted by something.

It was quickly forgotten when Watanuki realized that his rival actually was a passable cook. Not anywhere up to Watanuki’s standard of course, but he could apparently fend for himself well enough. So why it was up to Watanuki to make all of the unemotional moron’s meals when he could make his own lunches? It irked him slightly, in a way that he couldn’t quite pin down and made him all the more irritable.

He bit back the comment, however. Because if he mentioned this particular thing out loud it would be admitting his rival was good at cooking. Watanuki wasn’t going to admit his rival was good at anything other than getting under his skin. Instead, he mumbled to himself indignantly as he fell into a pattern of chopping vegetables.

Even though he had to stand on a stool to reach the counter top, he found that he was quickly forgetting his small stature as the rhythm of cooking took over. He even found himself humming after a short while. Since Doumeki was off in his own world, Watanuki didn’t stop himself. Cooking was something that he enjoyed. Even stupid Doumeki couldn’t ruin that!

A sight of over-boiling water pulled him out of his pleasant mood soon enough. He had forgotten that Doumeki often did ruin his mood while cooking, even if it was generally by eating something he wasn’t supposed to. “Doumeki! You’re burning the pasta! Pay attention!”

The idiot in question moved the pot off the burner and poured more water into the pot, a look of faint surprise on his face. Again, Watanuki felt something was out of place. Doumeki had barely spoken a word since he had arrived... And it wasn’t like him to be this unfocused.

He moved the stool over and looked at the pasta, stirring it to see if it was still salvageable. He had to stand on tip toe to see over the pot, but most of the pasta was undamaged. Caught just in time.

He moved the stool back to his cutting station, but kept a keen eye on his rival. If Doumeki noticed, he didn’t show it. Normally, Doumeki would have bluntly and rudely asked what Watanuki was staring at, which bothered him much more than he would care to admit. “Doumeki, what’s-”

“More sake!” came a half drunk voice from down the hall. He sighed, compliantly moving his stool to be able reach to the alcohol cabinet. Considering Doumeki hadn’t even noticed that he had been trying to start up a dialogue, might as well put it off a little while longer.

Perhaps it was fate, but Watanuki never got another chance to ask. Himawari turned out to be in the other room with Yuuko and he had to protect her from the evil witch’s intentions. He was actually a little embarrassed to talk to her at first, due to his 'condition.' But she just smiled and commented how cute he looked. For the first time, he didn’t mind the 18th century western outfit, since Himawari thought it was adorable.

The dinner went well, though he kept having this nagging feeling that something was wrong with Doumeki. He should be pleased that his rival opted out of most of the conversation, making him easier to forget. A couple times he caught Yuuko staring intently in his rival’s direction with a blank expression on her face. That alone was enough to clamp down his stomach and ruin his appetite.

As a result, Watanuki didn’t rant and rave for most of the meal. Yuuko and Mokona baited him a few times, but it was a fairly calm and orderly affair otherwise. This didn’t go unnoticed, for as she was bidding everyone good-bye, Himawari quietly asked him about the ordeal, kneeling down so they could talk eye to eye. “You don’t seem to have your usual energy tonight, Watanuki-kun. Has something happened to Doumeki? He was fine at school, but on the way here and though dinner tonight...”

Jealousy flared up, but this was hardly the time to air it. The pit in his stomach was too deep to really react. “I’m... not sure. He does seem to be acting strangely. He won’t say anything though.” Watanuki didn’t say because he hadn’t asked. Nor did he mention Yuuko’s strange looks between her drinks.

“Watanuki and Doumeki are such good friends, for you to worry this much.” She smiled one of her sweet, oblivious smiles that Watanuki both craved and dreaded.

Annoyance won out this time. “I’m not worried about that jerk. Doumeki can take care of himself.” And anyone else who happened to be overly loud spirit bait. Again, he didn’t say that part out loud, because it would be admitting that he actually needed his rival.

Himawari kept on smiling. It was enough to send him to a euphoria of bright sparkling fireworks and hearts. “I’m sure if Watanuki-kun is watching out for him, Doumeki-kun will be fine. Let me know if I can help!” Shot down right out of the sky with a trail of black smoke. At least Himawari-chan thought him capable? But she was still worried about his rival...

Because of that, Watanuki didn’t bring up his questions as Doumeki left in a daze. The archer could start his own conversation if something was bothering him. Watanuki huffed as he cleaned the dishes from his stool, resolving to put the matter from his mind.

* * *

With a sigh of relief, Watanuki found that he woke up to his normal high school-aged body. It was short lived, unfortunately, since his plain yukata and lack of glasses gave away the fact that he was once again dreaming. So much for being cured.

The faint smell of cigarette smoke and fireflies of the Doumeki dream shine was all Watanuki needed to know who had appeared. He was suddenly glad for it, sitting down in his usual spot on the porch. “You’re worried for my grandson?” a deep voice asked in a light tone.

Watanuki nodded. He had long since realized that trying to lie in a dream was useless, especially when the one he was lying to was Doumeki’s grandfather. “He was acting really distracted. Like, something else was taking up all his attention. It... just doesn’t seem like him at all.” Doumeki was like a hawk, coldly regarding his prey. The archer had never been distracted to the best of his knowledge and memories. Watanuki was the one always distracted, generally giving Doumeki more chances to steal bites his lunch.

Haruka smoked as he regarded the teenager thoughtfully. “Have you asked the Dimensional Witch about this?” he asked, referring to Yuuko in a polite tone of voice. Watanuki wondered if Haruka had ever met Yuuko during his life.

“No,” Watanuki admitted, shaking his head. He had been too busy brooding. “She did seem to notice something was wrong though. Yuuko-san keep looking at Doumeki, like she was seeing something that I couldn’t.”

Haruka pulled back his cigarette, his usually playful eyes reflecting the serious tone. But he did not rush the conversation. He let the silence drag on for a little longer before breaking it. “Then something distant must be occupying his attention.”

“Something distant?” Watanuki wasn’t quite sure what this meant. Unless that... thing... that had attacked him before had also done something to the archer. “Haruka-san, do you know how to make a certain kind of spirit appear? It looked like a really ugly old lady who could age my body backwards.” The question came out in a rush and Watanuki didn’t even know if it was understandable. His agitation from this afternoon came back as he realized he had to know if something was really wrong.

Doumeki’s grandfather blew out a puff of smoke that dispersed into the air above. Watanuki felt his hands clench together, but he didn’t try asking again. Finally, Haruka answered his question. “During the waning of the moon, write its name on a white ribbon. It’s attracted to things that remind it of young women, perhaps because the creature’s goal is to look beautiful. It believes that by sucking the life out of its victims that it gets younger. Must of thought your spirit power would have taken off quite a few years,” he finished with a smile.

It occurred to Watanuki for the first time that buying the dream of an exorcist had been one of the better things hitsuzen had thrown to him, especially with his condition. This kind of spiritual advice would be free, where as Yuuko would have to demand a price for the information.

“So after I find its name and call it, what can I do?” ‘Without Doumeki’s help’ was what he didn’t say. Truthfully, the thought of that now made him a little uneasy. If Doumeki was the one in trouble though... Watanuki wasn’t sure how much he could do in his six year old body, but he had to try.

“It probably has something Shizuka owned, in order to get to him like this. You’ll have to find whatever it is and break it. However, I don’t think the hag will be your main problem.”

“Eh?”

Watanuki woke up with a start, owlishly blinking at the ceiling. He was on the futon that Yuuko let him use whenever he slept over at the shop, back in the body of a six year old. The outlines of everything in the room were blurred, but he didn’t reach out for his glasses.

The hag wouldn’t be the main problem? Then... who (or what) was causing Doumeki to act like this?

* * *

Watanuki stood on his tip toes on the top step of his now customary stool. His arms were stretched out as far as he could reach. Still, he could not reach the top shelf to dust. It was one of the many things that were most annoying about having the body of a six year old.

Muttering to himself, the child stepped down and moved the stool over to something that he could reach. After five more consecutive sneezes in a row, he gave up on the feather duster with a grunt of disgust.

He was bored. Yuuko had gone some off somewhere early that morning, only leaving a note telling him to “be a good boy.” Maru and Moru sleeping today, which for once he wished they weren’t. Even Mokona was no where to be found, probably with Yuuko. So for all intents and purposes, Watanuki was alone in the shop.

But in the body of a six year old, half the chores he usually did to keep busy were impossible. He couldn’t reorganize the treasure room for the same reason; Watanuki couldn’t reach half the items. And there was only so much food he could prepare for Yuuko’s eventual return, whenever that might be. The feeling of uselessness from his lonely childhood came back full force and left him at a loss of things to do. To top it all off, he wasn’t any closer to finding answers about Doumeki.

“Hello?” a light soprano voice called out, followed by a soft chirping. His heart skipped a beat as he rushed out to the front of the store, dismal boredom long forgotten.

“Himawari-chan!” he yelled happily as he sped around the hall way corner. When he saw her standing there smiling sweetly with Tanpopo on her shoulders, he felt like the sun had come out from the clouds to shine down on him alone. “Is school over already? Did I miss much? Would you like to come in for tea?”

Unfortunately, Watanuki realized as he came closer, he had a bit of a dilemma. Since Himawari was so much taller than he was right now, he had to look over her... rather bountiful bust area to see her face. Since he considered his love much more pure than that, it was a little embarrassing. He was glad when she kneeled down again, so they could talk properly. “I’ve got piano lessons, so I can’t stay for tea.” The sun hid itself behind the clouds again and poured down light rain. “I just came by to drop off your school work, since you have to miss class.”

He felt his eyes tear up at the thoughtfulness of her visit. It was just like Himawari to be so considerate. Like always, however, Himawari smiled obliviously while she shot down his hopes. “Did Doumeki-kun drop by?”

The light rain storm turned into a hurricane. Even when he and Himawari were alone, Doumeki had to ruin everything. “Of course he hasn’t. I wouldn’t want to see him if he did, since all he would do is demand that I feed him!”

“So he didn’t come here either.” The sentence stopped him, mid-rant. Chills went down his spine as Himawari handed over his school work with an absentminded look of worry on her face.

“What do you mean, he’s not here either?” he asked, indignation absent from his tone. Instead, a faint tenseness surrounded him as he felt his hands clench the paper work. “Wasn’t he at school today?”

Tanpopo chirped as Himawari shook her head. “I over heard some of the teachers talking. Since he hadn’t called in sick, they called his house. Apparently his parents hadn’t seen him that morning either. They assumed he had left for class early.”

His stomach became a pitfall and his grip on the paper couldn’t be tighter. His words came out in a rush and with a lack of feeling behind them. “The jerk. Probably skipping class and having a good time while other people worry!” See if Watanuki made him any of those outrageous requests again! Completely inconsiderate and totally unlike Doumeki. But Watanuki rallied behind the excuse, because it meant nothing was seriously wrong.

Himawari excused herself politely, seeing Watanuki’s real state of mind for what it was. She promised to let him know if she heard anything else and left him with a worried smile.

Watanuki went back to work, attempting to clean while mourning the loss of Himawari. It wasn’t working well at all. Sure, he was doing a little better dusting, but he couldn’t convince himself that he wasn’t even the slightest bit concerned about his ungrateful rival. Especially since, regardless of Watanuki’s previous statement of his rival being inconsiderate, it wasn’t like Doumeki to just vanish without contacting anyone. The chill in his blood told him the truth. Doumeki was many things, but not the sort of person who would thoughtlessly worry others.

Finally, he threw down the dusting rag in disgust. “Stupid Doumeki. Probably got himself into some sort of trouble,” - that was probably Watanuki’s own fault to begin with - “That the great Watanuki-sama has to help the pitiful Doumeki out of.” He nodded to himself, searching for paper and pen to write Yuuko a note about his own whereabouts.

Yes, it was the perfect excuse. Watanuki put on his shoes nearly humming with satisfaction. No, not excuse. Reason. Perfect reason to visit the Doumeki family temple. It was finally -finally? No, that wasn’t right either. It was once again his turn to outshine his rival and save the day. In fact, he was so gleeful about the whole thing that he had nearly forgotten to bring salt. He ran back to get some of his fail safe before leaving the shop.

* * *

The trip to the shrine was uneventful. There were no unusually large spirits that came after him and those few that did try were easily dispersed with the salt. This only proved to pivot his feelings skyward as proof that he could undeniably handle himself and didn’t need Doumeki (most of the time).

Thankfully, Doumeki had given him permission to just enter his room. Watanuki had only seen his rival’s family (with the exception of a certain member who was currently dead) a few times and he didn’t feel like explaining how he had changed into a six year old, even if they did recognize him. And if they didn’t recognize him, he highly doubted they would have let a six year old go through a high schooler’s room for clues to their son’s disappearance.

Watanuki snuck into Doumeki’s room after he received no reply to a few tentative calls. He slid open the paper door and instantly knew two things. The first was that the normally neat chamber he was used to was a complete mess. The second was that someone else had already been through the room looking for clues. Probably Doumeki’s parents or the police, after having found this mess.

No trace of his rival was found.

His heart fell as he thought over the implications of the mess. It looked like there must have been some sort of fight... Still, Watanuki fell into cleaning mode diligently, going through he mess looking for clues. Since he highly doubted the police could solve this case, he had no qualms destroying the ‘crime scene’ and saving his own sanity from such a horrendous mess.

The cracked mirror in the corner Watanuki consciously avoided looking at. Truthfully, he wasn’t quite sure why seeing a cracked mirror sent chills down his spine. He rather suspected it had something to do with the fact the cracks looked like a spider’s web, however. Just like if someone had punched mirror and it cracked around the point of origin. But that pattern brought up some unpleasant memories... Best to avoid that corner.

It was a good thirty minutes before he came across anything interesting. Underneath one of the blankets that had been thrown carelessly to the floor was a sheet of paper. On it was a poem that he didn’t recognize. Something that Doumeki’s class had been working on? What caught his eye was that several lines toward the end of the poem were underlined and highlighted.

The problem was the poem was in English. There were a lot of words he was unfamiliar with so he couldn’t figure out exactly what it meant. He could pick out a couple words, however. ‘Mirror’ and ‘web’ he knew, though the poetic language the poet used confused him. And the word ‘doom’ was vaguely familiar. Something like death, if he remembered correctly.

Once again, his eyes drifted towards the mirror on the other side of the room. Watanuki shivered, as the autumn cool penetrated to his rival’s room. He had an awfully bad feeling about it. Looking back down, he continued to sift through the mess as he thought. His hand bumped against something smooth and egg like in shape. Curiously, he was just about to pull it out to see when-

“What are you doing here?” A deep voice came from behind him. Watanuki froze. He hadn’t expected to be caught.


~TBC~
-To Tsubasa Side

On to the quote of the chapter.

"Nobody sees a flower - really - it is so small it takes time - we haven't time - and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time."
--Georgia O'Keeffe