::angrily brandishing pocky stick at plotbunny::
Word Count: 621
Disclaimer: xxxHolic is not mine.
Watanuki was invading his personal space. Not that Doumeki minded the physical proximity. At the moment, the other boy was about as close to him as humanly possible without actually touching -- close enough to feel the heat of Watanuki's body and occasionally even feel a warm breath or two against the bare skin of his neck.
What Doumeki did mind, on several levels, was that Watanuki apparently didn't have the slightest clue of just how close he was standing to his so-called rival. To get any closer, Watanuki would pretty much have to sit in his lap. And while that would be an interesting bit of wish-fulfillment, it would be a rather awkward thing to do in the middle of a busy school corridor.
He had noticed that Watanuki had been sticking close to him all day, much more than usual. And now in the last few minutes, Watanuki was practically breathing down his neck. And for a person who was usually quite meticulous about observing social niceties like personal space, except for moments of extreme stress or provocation....
Watanuki wasn't cowering, but he was most definitely doing his unconscious best to lurk in Doumeki's shadow. Doumeki carefully, but inconspiciously, scanned the area. As he half-expected, he saw nothing out of the ordinary. What was more significant and perhaps much more sinister, was that Watanuki apparently didn't see anything, either. Watanuki looked tense and wary as he gazed distractedly at a page of class notes, but he didn't look frightened.
The other boy was obviously reacting to something. And no matter how much Watanuki bemoaned and complained about having to rely on Doumeki's spirit-repelling abilities, he would have mentioned seeing anything seriously weird or threatening, if only to warn Doumeki of potential trouble.
He contemplated his options. He could do nothing and wait for further developments. Or he could question Watanuki. However, despite their slowly growing rapport, it was still perilously easy to rub Watanuki the wrong way. The last thing Doumeki wanted to do was to set Watanuki off and have the idiot go stalking off alone in a huff... especially if there WAS something sinister and uncanny floating around.
And Doumeki trusted Watanuki's instincts. Watanuki was nervy and skittish, but that was understandable, considering the bizarre and sometimes terrifying phenomena Watanuki encountered on a regular basis. Not that Doumeki would ever admit that aloud to the other boy. So if Watanuki felt threatened, consciously or not, there usually was a very good basis for it.
Suddenly, Watanuki, apparently still quite unaware of what he was doing, sidled over those last few millimeters so that their shoulders bumped. And instead of jerking away in surprise or irritation, Watanuki stayed where he was. The tension in that thin, gangly body eased and Doumeki half-heard/half-felt Watanuki's soft, but unmistakable sigh of relief -- rather like a wild animal who had just found shelter from a particularly nasty storm.
The maple leaf floated on the mild breeze, seemingly at random, before suddenly dipping and spinning downward....
... neatly into Yuuko's sake cup.
She stared at the leaf for a moment, then carefully picked it up by its stem. A casual flick of her wrist and the leaf transformed into a neatly folded piece of paper which now dangled from her fingers by a silken thread.
Setting her cup aside, she unfolded the paper. But her expression of mild amusement quickly faded into cool inscrutability as she read its message. When she finished, she slipped the paper into her kimono sleeve, picked up her sake cup and lifted it in a toast to a dear, if distant, friend.
There were many ways to seek fulfillment of a wish, each with their own costs and hazards. She was but one of them. If the one mentioned in the letter came to her shop, then such is hitsuzen.
But she appreciated the advance warning, anyway.