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The most troublesome thing is the bureaucracy, of course.

Watanuki was missing for ten years and presumed dead -- the prefectural authorities want to know where he has been, what he has been doing, if he is who he says he is. Statements and fingerprints are taken, and one official says, very perplexed, "Somehow, you don't look twenty-seven."

Watanuki probably also doesn't look like anybody's idea of a former Space-Time Witch, but he just smiles and attributes it to his mother's side of the family.

Doumeki is waiting for him near the front door. "Well?"

He rolls his eyes. "Watanuki Kimihiro has returned from the beyond. I might have access to my savings account in the next six months."

Doumeki grunts, which can be translated as a complete lack of surprise. "What's for dinner?"

"Nothing, unless you're paying for groceries," Watanuki says, flapping one hand irritably.

"I want deep-fried wakasagi."

"You're going to get fat," Watanuki says, just to be mean. "And then none of your students will love you."

"And taranome with sesame dressing."

"That's not even in season," Watanuki says, throwing his hands up in the air even as he makes a mental grocery list.

***

It's not at all clear what effect being out of space and time for ten years had on his physical body -- he seems to have barely aged since he made the deal, but on the other hand, he came out with a raging addiction to nicotine.

He storms out of the convenience store, empty-handed and nearly shaking with fury, to where Doumeki is waiting with the grocery bags.

"They didn't have the brand you wanted?" Doumeki asks.

Watanuki snarls and starts off in the direction of their apartment. Irritatingly, Doumeki can more than easily keep pace with him.

"Did you not have enough money?" Doumeki tries again.

Watanuki whirls on him and says, with the kind of ominous carefulness that used to make visitors to the shop tremble, "They wouldn't sell them to me."

Doumeki blinks. "Why?"

"Because they think I'm a high-school delinquent!" Watanuki shouts, feeling his face go red with anger and humiliation and increasing desperation for Yuuko's goddamned pipe.

Doumeki processes that information, and then says, "Well, you kind of are."

"You're not helping," Watanuki bites off. He scrubs his hand through the back of his hair, and then sighs. "I should probably quit, anyway. I'm sure the withdrawal will be hell, but it's better than cancer."

Doumeki looks suitably alarmed, which in Doumeki terms, means that his eyes widen just slightly.

***

Watanuki has his pride, and he has no intention of mooching off of Doumeki more than is strictly necessary.

Job-hunting is difficult, though. He has no references. He can't put "Space-Time Witch" under previous employment, which is terrible because he totally has management experience. He never finished high school and he's too delicate for construction work. He's living in a tiny 1K with Doumeki, who is, after all, a professor's assistant and therefore not rolling in money, even though Watanuki knows that Doumeki's mother subsidizes his existence to some extent.

Doumeki talks with his mother once a week, and just when Watanuki has nearly resigned himself to the prospect of working a fistful of part-time jobs to pay half the rent, Doumeki hands him his cell phone and says, "My mom wants to talk to you."

Watanuki takes the phone with some trepidation. "Hello?"

"Watanuki-kun," comes the sweet tone of Doumeki's mother, still unexpected after all this time. Whoever Doumeki inherited his robot manners from, it's not her. "I'd like to discuss something with you."

"Oh?" Watanuki says with polite interest.

"You may think this is a little strange, but I had a dream about my father-in-law."

"Haruka-san," Watanuki says unthinkingly, and there's a startled intake of breath on the other end of the phone.

"Yes," Doumeki's mother says slowly. "Shizuka intends to continue his studies, and I'm not getting any younger. And, well --" she pauses for a moment -- "I hope you won't think it disrespectful to your parents' memory that I've come to think of you as my other son."

"Doumeki-san," Watanuki says, shocked and touched all at once.

"In my dream, my father-in-law suggested you take Shizuka's place. I know you're looking for work, but I'd like to train you to take over the temple. If you're willing."

"I--" Watanuki trails off.

"Take some time to think about it," she says gently. "I'll see you and Shizuka for his birthday next week."

"Until then," Watanuki says, and hits the off key.

He dreams that night, and rolls his eyes when Haruka shows up. "You're completely crazy," he informs Haruka.

Haruka takes a drag off his cigarette, and Watanuki experiences a pang of nicotine craving so intense that he thinks very seriously about bumming one off Haruka. In a dream. "Well," Haruka says, that familiar sly look in his eye, "You are at loose ends, after all. And no one could say that you lack the basic skills."

Watanuki snorts. "I don't have powers anymore. Remember? Wish granted, the end."

"Are you sure?" Haruka asks blandly.

"Am I sure I'm not being chase by malicious spirits anymore?" Watanuki asks sarcastically. "I'd think I would know the difference."

"Well, that may be true," Haruka allows. "But that's not the same as having no powers left. Otherwise, how would you be talking to me?"

"I assumed it was part of my lot in life to be plagued by the entire Doumeki clan," Watanuki bitches.

Haruka take a slim silver case out of an inner pocket of his kimono, and then proffers a lit cigarette.

Watanuki holds out for almost five seconds before taking it and smoking gratefully.

"We're not so bad, are we?" Haruka says. He gives Watanuki a sidelong look. "Then again, you already knew that or you wouldn't be sleeping in my grandson's arms."

Watanuki sputters. "He only has one futon, we're not doing it on purpose!"

"Are you sure?" Haruka asks.

"This dream is over," Watanuki huffs, but he sticks around long enough to finish his cigarette first.

***

Living outside of space and time suspended more than just aging.

It suspended desire.

It seemed strange at first, but while managing the shop, Watanuki was completely unmoved. Awake or asleep, he wanted no one at all; he had no fevered daydreams, and nothing turned his head. After awhile, it seemed completely normal, and ceased to trouble him at all. It was one less distraction, and he came to be grateful for it.

Nothing had prepared him for the torrent of want that suffused him once he returned to this world. He notices people again -- well, that's not entirely accurate. He notices occasional strangers, but he can't even lie to himself anymore -- almost all of his desire is unidirectional, and focused on Doumeki Shizuka.

The close quarters aren't helping -- the tiny apartment that Doumeki used largely to store his books during the years that he slept at the shop nearly every night is all but claustrophobic with two full-time inhabitants. There's no room to escape, so that every second he spends at home is filled with Doumeki's presence and scent and occasional touch. His mouth goes dry when he watches a bead of water slink down Doumeki's nape after a shower, to disappear into the collar of his yukata.

And the one futon thing -- well, it probably is asking for trouble.

***

Watanuki is actually very glad to be able to do the shopping again. Through a combination of shouting, careful explanation, more shouting, and anal-retentive lists, he had gradually trained Doumeki to buy remotely acceptable groceries during his ten years in the shop. Still, Doumeki only ever did what he was told, and it wasn't like Watanuki was able to tell if the negi all looked like shit that week at the store. Back in the real world, he can grocery shop with extreme prejudice and change his plans on the fly according to the freshness and availability of produce.

So it pleases him to have full control over their food again, and thus makes him exponentially more infuriated when Doumeki forgets his bento on their tiny kitchen counter.

Watanuki thinks of letting Doumeki starve as punishment, but -- goddammit, he'd put a not-trivial amount of work into that bento, and he's not going to be responsible for wasting food. So he grabs his coat, grabs the bento, and stalks off to the train station. It's mid-morning, so the Chuuou-Soubu Line isn't crammed to capacity, and when he gets off at the stop for the university, he's not so angry anymore. It's a cold but beautiful morning, and he still appreciates being able to walk wherever he wants.

He's only been there once, so it takes him a a few minutes to find the building with Doumeki's department. But he remembers the way to to the professor's office, and there Doumeki is, hemmed in at a small desk by stacks and stacks of books.

"Hey, jerkface," Watanuki says, holding out the bento by the knot in the furoshiki.

Doumeki looks up, plainly startled out of whatever he was concentrating on. "Is that my bento?"

"Of course it's your bento, did I make a bento for anyone else?"

"You brought it to me," Doumeki says slowly, like he's been hit on the head.

"I don't like wasting food," Watanuki snaps.

Doumeki stands abruptly, and if he had been a towering lug at seventeen, he was now officially a looming giant. He gently plucks the bento from Watanuki's grasp, their fingers brushing in the hand-off. "Thanks," Doumeki says.

Watanuki feels his face flush, which is stupid, stupid, stupid. "That's right, you'd better be grateful."

Doumeki brings his big paw up to Watanuki's face, and his fingertips just brush Watanuki's scaldingly warm cheek.

There's a polite cough behind them, and Doumeki drops his hand in an instant. "Professor," he says, and Watanuki turns around to see Professor Inoue.

"Ah," he says. "You must be Watanuki-kun?"

"Oh -- yes," Watanuki says. "Sorry for the intrusion. I was just leaving."

He slides the door shut behind him, but can still hear Inoue say, "Ah, Doumeki-kun -- please understand, it's not that, well -- but isn't he a little young for you?"

Watanuki doesn't stick around to hear Doumeki's reply.

***

Annoyingly, Haruka is right.

Watanuki does still have some power, and when he gently persuades a spirit to detach from an old man, that it's hurting him and not helping him, Watanuki forgets himself -- ten years of habit kick in, and he performs the exorcism casually in front of Doumeki's mother.

"I don't think you need much training, after all," she says faintly, after the old man pays Watanuki with a half dozen satsumas and some marbled beef. He's surprised that he can feel the rightness of the transaction, the sense that the correct price was paid.

Later that night, in Doumeki's room, he's a bit mortified to find out that Doumeki's mother apparently thinks that her son has been hitting that for years, because there's a double-wide futon set out for them. He's just come from the bath, and he decides that he is going to towel-dry his hair and not talk about it. Doumeki is already on the left side, his head propped up on one arm.

"You could still see the spirit this afternoon," Doumeki says quietly. He doesn't sound actually upset, but he does sound concerned.

Watanuki just scrubs his hair a little harder before hanging up his towel and joining Doumeki on the futon. It feels strange to be so far from Doumeki while still in the same bed. "I wanted to see it, so I did," he says after a moment, taking off his glasses and setting them on the floor above his pillow. "The spirits don't chase me like they used to, and I expected not to see any, so I just assumed Yuuko had taken my powers. I of all people should have known better."

"Oh?"

Watanuki pulls the string on the overhead lamp, and the room plunges into darkness. "The price for that is far too steep. She couldn't give me that, so what she gave me was control."

There's a rustle of the covers, and then Doumeki's hand clasps Watanuki's shoulder. "And you're all right with that?"

Watanuki smiles into the darkness. "Yeah," he says softly.

A few minutes pass in silence, and Watanuki keeps trying to get comfortable, but no matter which way he turns, he can't seem to get settled.

"Oi."

"My name's not, 'Oi,'" Watanuki chastises him, almost automatic by this point.

"Kimihiro," Doumeki says, completely unexpected, and pulls Watanuki close.

The kiss is a moment of revelation, like realizing how Yuuko had granted his wish -- that this has always been between them, and that he can see it if he wants to, that he can have it if he wants to.

"You are not deflowering me in your mother's house," Watanuki says. He means it to be stern, but it comes out a little breathy.

He hears Doumeki's sharp, indrawn breath at that, and hits him on the shoulder. "Oh my god, everybody's a pervert," he complains.

"Kimihiro," Doumeki says again in his ear.

Watanuki feels his face warm, and he can't blame it on the heat from his bath. "Oh, fine," he says. "Maybe just a little."

"Can you deflower someone just a little?" Doumeki asks, sounding as if he is genuinely curious.

Watanuki whacks him in shoulder again, and then pulls his head down close. "Why, now of all times, are you talking so much?"

"I just have something I want to say," Doumeki says, and then is mostly quiet for some time, except for rampant abuse of Watanuki's given name, but in the spirit of things, Watanuki decides to forgive him -- just this once.