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In Any Other World, xxxHolic Side
By Memory Dragon
Warnings: Some fun zany parts coming up. There's a bit of Shizuka torture too, but nothing too bad. The last time I had a scene like that the character was much worse off. Shizuka had it easy. 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. Also, the poem quoted in this chapter is a real poem that doesn't belong to me. I don't want to give it away here, but do know I don't claim it.

Tsubasa Side: Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3
xxxHolic Side: Prologue Chapter 1  Chapter 2 

Chapter Three: Mind Games

"He's gone." The deep voice said, giving Watanuki the mental image of a very big, very scary man standing behind him with an evil glint in his shaded eyes.

Watanuki spun around, only to have his heart fail when he saw the owner of the voice. "M-m-m-Mokona!"

The black pork bun bounced in Yuuko's hand, grinning from ear to ear as it laughed. "Scared you! Scared you! Watanuki really is the April fool!"

He was too relieved to feel too angry at the black marshmallow. "How did you make your voice so low like that? And what are you two doing here anyway" he asked as it jumped over to his arms. Yuuko leaned in the door way, her Victorian blue dress sweeping the floor as she walked.

"It's one of Mokona's secret techniques!" It said happily. Watanuki had always thought that Mokona was very small for something made by Yuuko. She was the type to make things completely over the top. But at his current size, Mokona seemed much bigger and it could more than hold it's weight in liquor.

Yuuko answered his other question, putting a hand up to her forehead in a mock fainting motion. "I got home and I was starving." Dramatically, she draped herself over a chair to emphasize her hunger. "And my faithful Watanuki wasn't there to welcome me home and wait on my hand and foot."

"I'm not-" Yuuko placed one sensual finger over her mouth. Watanuki felt the heat spread from his ears to his cheeks when he realized how loudly he was talking. Mokona playfully poked his cheek, laughing mischievously. His fists balled as Mokona jumped to his shoulder, though the motion reminded him of his un-moving pinky finger. It served to deflate his anger. Watanuki finally settled on changing the subject. "Where has he gone to?"

Yuuko's face became serious. It was the exact expression Watanuki had been dreading. Something was seriously wrong. "He was taken away, both willingly and unwillingly." Yuuko's eyes stared intently at the section of the mess he had been working on clearing. Though, what she saw there, he couldn't fathom.

"How can he be both?" Watanuki asked, stomach falling. Mokona hugged his neck comfortingly as he waved his childish hand at the mess. "And who did all of this?"

"Doumeki-kun was the only person in the room. He made the mess himself."

"It doesn't make any sense though! Why would he do this? And why..." Watanuki trailed off. Yuuko stood up and crossed the distance between them. Kneeling down next to Watanuki, she gently caressed his young face with her hand. "How can we get him back?" he finished weakly, looking up at Yuuko with child-like faith. Watanuki felt his small body trembling, though he had too many emotions waging war at the moment to tell just which one caused the movement.

Yuuko smiled. Not her scary smile that made Watanuki wish he had never come to her shop in the first place, but the sort of smile that was almost a little sad. "Watanuki is such a good child," she said. He tried protesting, but since he was a child at the moment a protest wouldn't have done a heck of a lot of good. "Take the handkerchief from Doumeki's desk and go back to the shop. I'll be there shortly."

The child was troubled, but he followed her orders and left Yuuko alone in the hurricane ravaged room. She silently sifted through the clothes and books Watanuki had been sorting and pulled out a small egg. "It's not yet your time," she told it, placing it on the desk where it wouldn't be stepped on or noticed by normal people. "But you..." Her hand strayed on the desk, picking up a recently made arrow. "You have another purpose."

She took the arrow with it's head made from the hag's blood and glanced around the room once more. Her work there completed, Yuuko followed after the child who had wished himself into her care.

* * *
 

Watanuki folded the handkerchief as Yuuko instructed and listened as she chanted out the incantation. He had seen it once before, but it still mystified him with the childish joy of watching real magic. This time, however, the handkerchief didn't turn into a butterfly. It was a bird, one that was made for long ranged flying.

His heart sank, already guessing the truth. "He's quite far from here," Yuuko confirmed. "It won't be easy to get there."

He remembered the clue from earlier and brought it out so Yuuko could see. Watanuki's heart beat sped up, hoping that it might help. "I found this when I was searching for clues earlier. Can you translate it?"

Yuuko glanced over the poem, smiling softly. She recognized the poem at least, which didn't surprise Watanuki. He had been hoping for that. "Tennyson," she replied. Then in perfect English, she spoke the verse that had been highlighted out loud.

Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott.

"It's a pretty poem," she said, after translating for Watanuki. She looked very reminiscent of something long gone, an expression Watanuki caught her with only occasionally. "A very tragic love story from Arthurian legends."

Light shined down from the heavens. Watanuki had found a clue! "That's it! The mirror in Doumeki's room was cracked, like the one in the poem! The mirror has to have... some... connection?" Yuuko had been shaking her head in a silent 'no' through out his brilliant idea. "Well, if it's not a clue, why were those lines highlighted!" he asked in frustration, since he finally thought he had been onto something.

Yuuko grinned, this time a smile full of mischievousness. "Homework?" She asked, piling up Watanuki's frustration with failure. He suddenly felt like crying somewhere in a corner where the world wouldn't be able to laugh at him anymore. But no, he still had to save that jerk before anything else came up to remind Watanuki of his failures.

Mugetsu, who had been clinging to him ever since he returned to the shop, rubbed its triangle head against his cheek. Like Mokona, it tried to give him some comfort where it could, but Watanuki still felt his heart racing. The last time he had felt this upset was when... was when he barged into the shop asking Yuuko what to do about Doumeki's eye. "How much will it cost to get there, then?" he asked, eyes shining behind his glasses with a sincere wish.

"No ranting about having to save Doumeki? No whining about how you have to chase after the person you like the least?" Yuuko poked his other cheek, teasing him as she leaned over just so they could be eye level.

He looked away, staring at his child sized feet. "It's my fault, isn't it?" he growled, annoyed at having to make this concession again. "Because I was impatient and got changed like this... right?" Yuuko confirmed his suspicion cheerfully. "I'm not mad... I learned after last time. But I still don't want to just sit here and do nothing. So what do I have to do?" he ended, crossing his arms in front of his chest in a very child-like pout.

"The brave Watanuki will go through unknown dangers to save his friend from the lion's den! Too bad Himawari-chan won't see your heroic deeds," Yuuko said, after showing a real smile. Maru and Moru danced around her cheerfully, repeating the words "Rescue Mission!" over and over again.

That blew the top off the already boiling pot. "What is this, some manga you're just going to read and laugh at?" Wrong question. Yuuko laughed slyly behind her hand with a look that told him 'It is now.' Before Yuuko could say something snide about him being the comic relief, he continued on with his rampage. "Would you guys just cut it out already? What do I have to do?"

"What do you have to do? What do you want, Watanuki?" Yuuko asked in a bored tone, lounging back on the couch. Maru and Moru continued on with their dance, unfazed by the change in their mistress' attitude.

"You know what I mean!" he huffed impatiently, unable to see what Yuuko was playing at. The pipe fox hugged his neck tightly as he waved away its affection.

"You have to say it!" Mokona bounced up, not having to bounce too high before they were eye level. It was grinning broadly, which meant something had to be at Watanuki's expense. "Watanuki wants to save Doumeki!"

He felt his face turn red, equal shares of anger and embarrassment taking their toll on his poor cheeks. "W-why? How come I have to say it? You know what I want to do!"

"Wishes are spoken contracts. You don't want to be ambiguous and get something you didn't wish for," she smiled the sort of smile that Watanuki knew meant trouble. "You have to say it."

Though he highly doubted the truth of this statement, Yuuko was in one of those moods that nothing would get done until he obeyed. Watanuki mumbled something that was barely audible. This prompted a chorus of "What did you say?" and "We can't hear you!" from the peanut gallery. He tried again, this time just above a whisper. The chorus responded by only getting louder.

"I said I want to save that ungrateful jerk, Doumeki!" He was breathing heavy by this point, both hands by his sides, balled up into little fists. The pipe fox squirmed joyfully, nearly tickling him and completely ruining the moment. "Mugetsu, stop that!"

When Mugetsu had finally settled down, Watanuki saw that Yuuko was smiling again. While he hadn't been looking, she had gotten the Tengu fan out and now held it up. "Hey, wait a second! Not right-"

"We'll just put it on your tab, Watanuki-kun. Have a nice trip!" she said simply, as Maru and Moru waved good-bye in unison from behind her. That was the last thing he saw before she brought the fan down and he was blown away.

* * *
 

Doumeki was systematically looking for a way out of the room he found himself in. It was a well lit room, though he couldn't tell where the light was coming from. Clean too. It almost looked like his bed room at home, though it was bare of any windows or doors to the outside world. All the furniture was in the same places, like his desk and futon. But since this wasn't his room, he felt the need to get out. His grandfather had once told him the first obligation of prisoner is to escape.

Knocking on all the walls had proved they were all solid. Trying to climb them was equally useless and the ceiling was too high to reach. Sitting down cross-legged on the futon that had been laid out for him, Doumeki contemplated his next course of action.

How he got there was a question he simply didn't bother with. He had woken up in this room and hadn't the foggiest idea of how he got in it. No point in dwelling on it. There was nothing in the room that could possibly help him escape either. So the only logical thing he could do was sit and wait. Whoever had put him here had to show themselves eventually.

He had no sooner decided to start meditating when he heard a voice from behind him. What was curious was that the lights seemed to dim slightly. "Do you always keep this place so bare? Spartan ideals or no, this is just ridiculous."

Doumeki turned quickly, surprised at the familiar voice. He was even more surprised to see it was Watanuki. The seer hadn't been there the last time he had scanned the room. Not to mention Watanuki was back in his normal body and wearing some weird outfit. It was a black Chinese cut shirt with brightly colored red butterflies adorning the cloth. Almost something more like what Yuuko would wear. "Oi."

"My name isn't 'oi.'" came the eerily calm reply.

"How did you get here?"

"The same way you did." Watanuki waved the question off. He sat down in a chair that Doumeki also hadn't seen on his initial (and very thorough) inspection of the room. Again, the lights seemed almost unnoticeably dimmer.

He watched as Watanuki leaned back in the chair, calmly regarding him in a way that just seemed off. And it came to Doumeki that realization was a slow and painful bullet.

"You aren't Watanuki." The fake Watanuki smiled back calmly, with the same cat-like slyness the real Watanuki occasionally had. It made Doumeki second guess himself, but wouldn't-

"You're right. I am not the person who usually wears this face." The fake Watanuki paused, waiting for Doumeki to respond. For his part however, the archer simply regarded the fake with suspicion.

Watanuki laughed. There was a disturbing cruelness to the sound that put Doumeki even more on his guard. The fake's eyes, one blue and one gold, held an unnatural amusement in them. "How does anyone put up with you like that? You really are a poor audience."

"Who are you?"

Again, Watanuki looked amused. "I'd say a figment of your imagination, but with scenery like this-" he motioned to the door-less room with cat like grace, "-I highly doubt you have much to begin with."

Doumeki held his anger in check and continued to glare at the new comer. "Who are you?" he asked again, not letting the subject drop.

"Persistent, aren't you?"

"Who-"

"A simple scavenger, if you will. You can call me Crowe if you like. Knowlton Crowe." The fake Watanuki stood up and walked over, smiling cat-like all the way. "I ran across an old hag the other day. After I absorbed her, I found she had already absorbed part of this young man's life. Originally, I just wanted her since she was already nearly dead, but upon finding such a... treasure map, I thought I'd dig for x."

As he said this, Wata- no, Crowe- pulled out a long piece of cloth. He unfolded it to reveal Doumeki's missing arrow. The room got a little brighter, but for some reason the archer felt a little out of breath. "It's quite hard to hold, you see. Very useful, regardless. The left over residue from your energy combined with this face made it only a matter of time before I was able to enter this place and trap you here."

Doumeki let the information sink in as the fake Watanuki re-covered the arrow, careful not to actually touch it. If this person with Watanuki's face was to be believed, the problem of killing the hag was taken care of. Since the other task Yuuko had set for him was mostly completed (though he had been unable to give it to her), Watanuki could be changed back to normal. Killing this person who still had the missing parts of Watanuki might also be necessary, but now he didn't have to go out looking for the spirit. It was trapped in here too, just as he was.

Above all else, he knew was that getting back the arrow was imperative. But the cloth with the arrow disappeared into the air as the fake Watanuki took a few steps closer. This time, Doumeki was sure that the lights were getting dimmer. He also felt his stomach twisting the closer Crowe came. Fighting the urge to double over in pain, the briefly wondered if this was how Watanuki felt while surrounded by malicious spirits.

"You don't like me very much, do you?" Crowe asked, taking a seat on the floor directly across from Doumeki. "Your purifying light keeps trying to reject me. You shouldn't resist anymore. It's already over and it will hurt you much less if you just come along quietly like good bait."

Bait. Doumeki was breathing heavily by this point. The light was getting stronger again, but he felt like he had just run a marathon. Beads of sweat trickled down his face at a painstakingly slow pace. Bait for who? "Where..." was all Doumeki could gasp out as Watanuki leaned in, their noses almost touching.

"Where are we?" Crowe finished for him. He was smiling now with a very un-Watanuki-like expression. It was a cruel smile of one who enjoyed suffering. The lights got stronger as he felt anger rise up at the monster who defiled his friend's features with such an expression.

Watanuki jumped back, shielding his eyes. The moment was short lived, however. He began to chuckle and tisked a few times. "I told you, this is already over." The fake reached out and grabbed Doumeki's neck, pulling him off the ground with inhuman strength as Crowe stood up.

Pain engulfed him.

The fingers around his neck seared through his skin. The heat sped through his body, like an electrical current burning him from the inside out. He could barely hear a scream echo through the room and the breath that had been so short in coming before was now non-existent.

As suddenly as it all started, Doumeki found that he could pull air though his painfully raw throat. The searing pain and screaming was gone, replaced by his own coughing and gasping for sustenance for his lungs. Had he been the one screaming?

As he became aware of his surroundings again, Doumeki realized he was now against one of the walls. The lights were at half power, but the wall was cool to his touch. It was comforting and solid behind his back.

The fake Watanuki was still there, waving his hand around like he had just touched something hot. He also looked worse for the wear after the encounter. "Damn light..." Crow smiled as he saw that the archer had come around, but kept his distance this time. "It's going to be a lot more painful than I thought to finish you off," he announced with forced cheer. "I'm not sure if it's worth it in the end to eat you. Maybe I should just kill you off and be done with it. But right now, I still need you as bait for that other precious treasure to come seek me out. Can't have the hostage die too early."

Doumeki evened out his breathing using meditation techniques, though his raw throat objected to every breath he took. If he was going to get out of here, he had to be calm. He had to think, not just react.

Crowe was distracted for a moment. He tried to gather his energy together to attack the fake, but his attention was turned back to the archer before he could move. "Ah, it seems like the treasure has finally arrived. If you'll excuse me now, I have some traps to attend to. I'll just leave you here for now, in the prison of your own mind." With that closing statement, the atrocity that wore Watanuki's face disappeared.

It was much easier to breathe once the fake was gone and the lights also regained a little of their lost luminosity. So this was his mind? The thought calmed him, even though he was still trapped there. The lights must be his own mental projection of his latent powers.

What disturbed him was the thought that he was being used as bait to lure someone else here. Though, with his grandfather dead, Doumeki couldn't think of anyone who would...

He was on his feet and pounding against the wall, even though the motion made him dizzy with fatigue. He head to get out of here. Now. Because Watanuki was a self sacrificing idiot who probably would willingly walk into a trap if he thought it was his fault.

"It's a stupid thing to do," he muttered to himself, letting some of his anger out on the wall. The lights were still far too dim, much too his own frustration. Sometimes he didn't know who was worse, Watanuki or himself.

~TBC~
-To Tsubasa side

Quote of the chapter.

"The first obligation of a prisoner is to escape."
"Ah. So if one is a prisoner of love, one must escape to solitude? If one is a prisoner to joy, must one escape to sadness?"
-Captain Sherridan and Lorien, Babylon 5