?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

In Any Other World, xxxHolic Side
By Memory Dragon
Warnings: A little bit of fluffy Himawari/Doumeki friendship. Also, a slightly over-used plot device. Wanted to take my shot at the stereotype, I guess. Hopefully though, it's different enough that I've put my own twist on things. There's only a small cliff hanger this time. Don't get used to it. 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
xxxHolic Side: Prologue

  Chapter One: Strange Predicaments

“Come and get me, little shrine boy,” the hag cackled in its high pitched voice.

Doumeki was on his feet the moment Watanuki disappeared and he pivoted toward the direction of the voice in a blink of an eye. Through the moonlight, he saw (and smelled) an old hag with grinning yellow teeth under a disgustingly grizzled beard. Her skin was so baggy that even it’s warts threatened to fall off at any second. And her smell... Was this what always doubled Watanuki over? He could understand now.

He pulled the arrow tight across the bow, fully intending to send this monster back into oblivion. But he stopped cold when he saw what it held as a shield. “What’s the matter, shrine boy? Can’t hit me?” She held up an unconscious Watanuki to cover her ugly features, holding the teenager in a tight embrace. His best friend’s head lay draped on the crone’s shoulder, his face showing the nightmare that he was having in her arms.

His grip strengthened on the bow, yet he could not hit the hag without also hitting Watanuki. He glanced around for other options, but found none.

“Not going to fight?” the hag crooned in it’s sandpaper soprano voice. If he could just get around to the side of the ugly pile of bones and skin... “Then I’ll start taking this little one’s life away.” Doumeki’s eyes snapped back to the hag, but it was already biting into Watanuki’s neck. He tumbled to the right, drawing his bow again before he even had the chance to straighten out, but the hag also turned and continued to face him. It remained unfazed in it’s ugliness.

The archer was about to try taking a step forward to see the hag’s reaction when he caught something strange happening to Watanuki. His friend looked... younger? And if it were at all possible, the hag was getting older and more hideous.

Watanuki was definitely getting smaller. And if Doumeki waited a few more seconds, the crone would expose just enough of itself for him to get a clear shot. His rational mind told him it was a risk, but it was his best chance. Stepping forward might force it into running with its prey. That, above all things, Doumeki Shizuka would not allow. It took all his control not to move from his position to stop the hag from continuing to drain his friend’s life away.

Six... Five... Four... There! Doumeki stopped his silent count down and loosed the arrow into the crone’s shoulder. It shrieked, a sound more powerful and harmful than any of Watanuki’s yells. His bow fell to the ground as he scrambled to cover his ears from the awful sound. After a few hellish seconds, the noise stopped.

The archer let his hands fall from his ears in relief. The feeling didn’t last for too long however, as his adrenaline chilled when he remembered Watanuki. He kneeled down on the cold pavement, gently pulling the child - for Watanuki was no longer a teenager - into a position that Doumeki could examine him. He pulled the now over-sized shirt collar away from Watanuki’s neck and just barely ran his calloused fingers over the two bite marks he found there. Guilt swelled up, but he pushed it away for now. Better check the child’s pulse on his wrists.

He ascertained that Watanuki was still breathing and had a steady, if faint pulse before the archer let himself relax a little. As far as he could tell, the overly obnoxious teenager was now about six or seven years old. His clothes were way too big for his now small frame, but Doumeki didn’t have anything else that could fit on him. It's not like Yuuko had mentioned the possibility of age regression so he could prepare for it.

Doumeki hesitated. He needed to get Watanuki back to the shop for the witch’s prognosis, but carrying a child over his shoulder like he usually did when the his friend passed out hardly seemed appropriate. Not to mention his clothes would fall off easily that way. The archer slung his bow over his shoulder and decided to carry the child back in his arms, even though he knew the boy would become heavy pretty quickly.

Before he picked up the child, however, Doumeki surveyed the area for the arrow that he had fired. It hadn’t been one that was made of his chi because he preferred to use real arrows when he had them on hand. Considering tonight's errand, he made sure to bring some along. The only problem with normal arrows is that they shouldn’t be wasted if he could help it. The arrow was no where to be found, which lead him to the conclusion that the hag must have gotten away.

Something else did catch his eye, however. He found a smooth red stone with the moon’s light. It obviously didn’t belong to the grey stones of the grave yard. Thinking that it might be important, Doumeki pocketed the stone and wondered what sort of payment the witch would want for Watanuki to be returned to normal.

* * *

Watanuki awoke with a start. He sat up suddenly, wishing his better instincts had told him to stay as he had been. The boy didn’t argue as a fuzzy figure pushed him back down on the bed. That hurt far more than he had expected. Though, really he should be used to it by now. First falling from a window now... whatever had just happened. Especially after the nightmare he had been having, he really should have expected at least some form of pain. He hadn't expected the majority of the pain to be in his neck, however.

Closing his real eye, he left the one he shared with Doumeki open in an attempt to see better. Lines were a little less fuzzy now. He’d feel better with his glasses, but Watanuki was surprised to find he could actually see better. Well, with one eye at least. “What-” he started to ask, his voice cracking with dryness.

“You were too impatient,” came a calm reply of a smooth alto voice. Watanuki groaned. Yuuko-san... “You know, if you had waited 15 more minutes, the hag would have shown itself without being able to take you hostage and none of this would have happened. It would have gotten too impatient to get to you.”

The witch chuckled softly, letting the unspoken ‘if you had just followed instructions’ sink in. He wasn’t sure if it was that or a small amount of pity that had crept into her voice. He was fairly certain it was one of the two that made him want to bash his head against the wall.

A ceramic cup touched his lips as he felt cool water trickle down his parched throat. Watanuki drank it gratefully. When the cup pulled away, he felt a little better. At least, the pounding of his skull was retreating... “How much this time?” he asked, before the headache decided to come back. Not like Yuuko’s answer would be anything less than a migraine inducer.

If he could have made out the faint blur that was her lips, Watanuki had no doubt that those lips would have been smiling wickedly. “The price is being paid. Before I can grant this wish, however, you have to gain back what the spirit took from you. A task, might I add, that just got harder on multiple levels.” A soft hand pushed away some of the hair on his forehead, forming a gentle caress. Was Yuuko’s hand a little bit bigger than usual? He was probably just imagining things...

He thought about what the witch said for a few moments. The price already ‘being paid’ meant Doumeki had probably given up something else to help save his life. His chest tightened in pain, though not from whatever had happened to bring him to this state. Watanuki knew that guilt wasn’t how he should be feeling. Recent events had taught him that much. But still, he couldn’t help...

Watanuki was beginning to realize just how much bigger the bed seemed. It hadn’t been too long since he had last woken up in this very same bed, but now he felt dwarfed by it. Automatically, his hand reached out for his glasses, but came up with only empty air. “Doumeki-kun is getting you a new pair for your current condition. He should be back shortly.”

Current condition? That didn’t sound very good. “They were broken?” he asked, trying to keep the dread from piling up too high through denial. He was pretty good at denial, so it worked for the moment at least.

“Ah, Doumeki-kun. Come in, come in.” Yuuko said, not answering his question. He could hear some shuffling towards the back of the room as a blurry Doumeki came in. “Watanuki is awake.”

Doumeki came closer, becoming a little less blurry. He passed the glasses to Yuuko, not looking his direction. Watanuki felt the level of uncomfortable silence rise significantly. Another pang of guilt hit Watanuki. Just what had happened?

When he felt the oval pair of glasses put in his hand, Watanuki wasted no time putting them on again. Thanks to Doumeki, he could now get around if he had to without his glasses. Still, he much preferred having them on. Clarity returned, he noted happily.

What he saw was disorienting, though he couldn’t quite put his finger on why. Yuuko was at his side, a small, sad smile on her face. Doumeki had taken up residence leaning against the far wall, looking down at his feet intently. But something... Did the two of them seem bigger than normal? The room too. He looked down at his own body to find he was in an over-size shirt and he was, point in fact, smaller than he usually was. Watanuki laid back down slowly, piecing together what all of this meant.

This was obviously not one of his better days at the shop.

Too tired to fully grasp the situation, he went with the easy questions. “Can this be fixed?” His own voice sounded weak and childish to his ears. Shock? Or maybe just a little bit of hysteria? Honestly, he wouldn’t have been all that surprised to have both. How else should one feel when one has been shrunk?

“Eventually. The wish has already been taken care of. Until then, you get to relive your childhood days as a six year old.” Yuuko sounded far too cheerful about this prospect.

Not shrunk then. Just a victim of reverse aging. And Doumeki seemed intent on taking the brunt of Watanuki’s mistake. Again. What else could go wrong?

“It’s impossible to get you back to normal before the specter that took the years you’ve lost is dead,” Yuuko continued, not taking note of Watanuki’s falling confidence. Of course. Why else would he still be stuck like this if perfect Doumeki had already made the wish? “And now that it’s wounded, it probably won’t come out again for a while. Not even to finish off it’s earlier snack.”

Watanuki closed his eyes with a sigh. This was just ducky. He figured wishing he could become smaller so he could avoid Yuuko’s gaze was a particularly bad move given his current situation. He ignored that part of his conscious. “How long then?”

Yuuko paused. Not a good sign... “Maybe a week? Maybe a month-”

“A month!?” Watanuki sat up quickly, eyes shooting open. The world started spinning again, but that wasn’t about to keep him down now. “I can’t miss that much school! I’ve already missed so much because of...” Something he didn’t want to bring up at the moment. He shut up quickly, trying instead to stop his head from whirring around too much. Watanuki closed his eyes agin. “Is there anything that can be done to bring it out sooner?”

Someone walked out. He opened his eyes to see that Doumeki was gone. Yuuko’s mouth showed no wickedness now, just a weary smile. “All in good time. For now, just rest. Your body still needs to adjust to the change.”

Watanuki laid back down, closing his eyes for the last time. The smell of incense Yuuko kept around the shop got stronger, making him sleepy. The last thing he remembered was a pair of graceful hands gently slipping off his glasses.

* * *

Doumeki quietly sat in the empty space that the archery team used to practice. Not quite meditating, but he wasn’t actually practicing either. His eyes never left the target, though he had no bow in his hand.

It was lunch time, but without Watanuki at school there was no point in going to their usual spot. He much preferred actually being alone to being alone in a crowed place. Now he was isolating himself rather than everyone else isolating him. Here, he could also avoid admirers who simply couldn’t break through his walls.

Maybe that was why he helped Watanuki so much. Blind hatred was hard to come by when one was viewed by the world as perfect and mysterious. Watanuki was as high maintenance as kitten (all that waving about, chasing after things only he could see), but it meant he was actually needed. Funny, that, needing someone to make him feel needed. It was the sort of give and take of their relationship that never failed to seem one sided, even if the opposite was the closer to the truth.

He heard footsteps behind him, but didn’t turn to look. This was where she always found him when something had happened to Watanuki. She knew that the lanky teen wasn’t in school that day and nine times out of ten that meant something had happened. “Will he be at school tomorrow?” Kunogi asked, coming to sit down next to him. The unlucky girl didn’t have to clarify who ‘he’ meant.

Doumeki shook his head, not even looking up at the girl. Her long wavy hair was all he could see out of the corner of his good eye. “He’s at the shop. If you’re going to visit, I’ll need to be there too.”

“I know.” Doumeki heard Tanpopo chirp happily on Kunogi’s shoulder. He figured that she was smiling and petting the bird, even though he couldn’t see her. “It’s not your fault. Doumeki-kun always tries his hardest to protect Watanuki-kun.”

He stubbornly stared at the target, trying to avoid any view of Kunogi. What he didn’t say was that she couldn’t have known that. She hadn’t been there. What she didn’t say wasn't that it was his fault because it was probably hers. Neither of them were willing to break the silence of the unspoken conversation and share the guilt.

Finally, Kunogi spoke up again. “How is he? Was it serious?”

“Not... like the last time.” he wondered how much to tell her. A normal person wouldn’t have believed it, but Kunogi was a different story all together. “He’s reverted back to being a six year old.”

“In mind or body?”

“Body. He still has part of my eye though, so it’s not quite reverting...”

Doumeki wasn’t all that surprised when he finally looked over at the girl to find that Kunogi looked positively gleeful. For once, however, he didn’t feel like joining in her plot to tease Watanuki. She clapped her hands and smiled up at him brightly, trying to pull him from his somberness. “I always wanted to know what Watanuki-kun was like as a child! Would you wait for me after the student council meeting?”

He nodded. Kunogi stood up and reached into her bag. She pulled out a store bought lunch and put it next to Doumeki. “Don’t forget to eat,” she said by way of parting. “Though, I suppose the only one who could cheer you up properly is Watanuki-kun.” With that, she left the archer staring after her, alone with his thoughts once again.

The shrine boy glanced down at the lunch with a sigh. She was right. He did need to eat. Doumeki picked up the lunch set and began to work his way through one of the sandwiches. He needed to remember to thank Kunogi for it later. Or perhaps, it was a small token of gratitude for allowing her to visit Watanuki. Either way-

A sharp pain in his chest nearly caused him to double over. He dropped the sandwich, though he managed to save the rest of the meal. It was over as quickly as it came but his breathing took a lot longer to even out again.

Going to Yuuko’s shop after school was becoming more and more appealing.

* * *

Watanuki smelled the faint sent of tobacco before he saw Doumeki’s grandfather. His dream senses noted that in this place, at least, he was back to his normal age. The simple yukata he wore and the lack of glasses marked this as a dream. Of course, Haruka showing up clued him if he was in a particularly dense mood.

“Having a bit of trouble?” Golden eyes and an encouraging smile greeted Watanuki as he took a seat next to his rival’s look-a-like. Haruka’s cigarette glowed faintly between his fingers as the older man regarded him with a gentle gaze.

Watanuki nodded. The kind expression on Haruka’s face still took some adjusting to. He wasn’t used to seeing a smile on Doumeki’s face...

“What’s on your mind?”

“Doumeki keeps paying the price to keep me safe.” Watanuki said, eyeing his so often useless hands. “But I... I don’t feel like I give him anything in return.” He watched a small frown flicker across Haruka’s face. The dead man brought the cigarette up to his lips and inhaled. “All I really do is make him lunch everyday. Hardly payment for everything he does. I know... I know it’s not something that I should fault myself or Doumeki for. But still, I...”

The frown eased slightly, returning to Haruka’s normal gently teasing smile. Watanuki wasn’t naive enough to be able to deny why it had been there. But his answer had satisfied Haruka sufficiently. “It’s more than just lunch that you give Shizuka.”

“Eh?”

More than just lunch? Watanuki looked up at Haruka, wondering what the older man meant. But Haruka exhaled, smoke disappearing in the dream like air. “Just remember that.”

Watanuki nodded, unsure of what else to say. The dream air of the temple smelled so fresh, just like after a storm was over. The smell of cigarettes couldn’t even mask that. A firefly drifted by, even though they were currently out of season in the real world.

He was trying very hard not to ask the obvious question, as Watanuki doubted he would receive an answer. In the end, however, his mouth started to form the question before he could stop it. “What more... What else do I give to Doumeki?”

Haruka smiled, this time amusement and light teasing showing through broadly. “You’ll have visitors soon.”

“But-”

“Wake up.”

~TBC~
-To Tsubasa side

Memory: Yes, I know the "Let's turn the main character into a child!" plotline is completely over done. But since I'm not using it as a device to get the two main characters together, Watanuki still has the mind of teenager, and Mem enjoyes tormenting him later on because of his shortness, I figure it's different enough to go ahead and try it.

Conversation of the Chapter

"I can see every detail of the earth surface as I'm seeing it now. But after my father died, I tried to remember his face. But it always slipped away from me. Why is that, I wonder?"
"Maybe it's because we can't decide which face to remember; the face of father when we were children, the face of our father the first time we left home, the face of our father the last time we saw him. They all blur together, we lose the details, but Earth is constant. Earth is forever."
"You're too young to be having thoughts this old, Lieutenant."
--Captain Gideon and Lieutenant Matheson, Crusade