It was an odd thing, watching someone walk into nothing.
Watanuki said that it was a shop that sold wishes ran by the woman Yuko. A crazy place where the excitable boy was forced to cook, clean and generally scurry about trying to pay off his ever growing tab. He would listen quietly as Watanuki complained about the latest antics of the two girls Moro and Maru. Granted, even Doumeki could hear the fondness in his voice as he spoke of them. Though, Watanuki also said that they couldn't leave the shop. He didn't bother to give the details of why. Just that they didn't mind and always found time to bother Watanuki when he cleaned or stayed the night so that Yuko could get her pancakes in the morning.
Doumeki had to take the boy's word for it.
All Doumeki ever saw was an empty lot over grown with grass and a broken fence. The first time he had walked Watanuki to the shop, the boy hadn't noticed his shock. Watanuki had been yelling as usual and was telling him to go away. The angry boy had been so busy wrapped in his usual rant that Doumeki looking confused at the lack of a building didn't seem to phase him. It was when the rant cut off dead in the middle that Doumeki looked back down to see nothing.
Watanuki was gone; it was like he had just blinked out of existence. Doumeki looked around for the boy, but he couldn't see anything. No Watanuki, no shop, nothing. Just a large empty field with off colored grass that reached up to his ankles. This wasn't like the hydrangea plant where Doumeki watched Watanuki get pulled under. At least then he knew where the boy was (more or less), but now.
Doumeki wasn't sure what to do. Had Watanuki really gone to this shop? Did the shop even really exist? Was Watanuki taken again? Was this normal? Though his face remained stoic, Doumeki's mind was racing with worry and repeated mantras to calm down. Watanuki hadn't shown any sign of nausea or fear, just his normal outrage at Doumeki's presence. It was quite possible that everything was fine.
That didn't stop Doumeki from standing there outside the lot like a fool waiting for the boy to come back.
A few hours later, Doumeki looked away for a brief second to watch a pedestrian pass by. When he realized it wasn't Watanuki, he sighed and looked back to the fence- to see Watanuki glaring at him.
"I don't need you to walk me home, you know. Its bad enough you walked me to the shop!" Watanuki had yelled, his school bag bouncing on his side when his hands met the back of his hips. His arm flared out dramatically as he continued on as per normal; as if he hadn't disappeared into thin air for hours. "You didn't need to come back and pick me up. I'm not that helpless."
Doumeki stared at Watanuki and looked up at the fence. Something was off.
"Creepy, isn't it?" Watanuki turned around and looked at the building. "Even if it is well kept, there's just something about it that chills you. Ah well, you get used to it." Watanuki shrugged and started walking.
Doumeki could only respond with an "Ah" and followed behind the boy. Watanuki didn't realize Doumeki couldn't see the building. That's why he was acting normal: he wasn't aware there was anything amiss. Watanuki didn't know that when he went to work he disappeared into nothingness. Doumeki wasn't sure how that made him feel.
Walking Watanuki to and from work had become habit after that. Doumeki wasn't sure why he did it, but there was just something disconcerting about every time Watanuki disappeared past those gates. The irrational fear that one day Watanuki would disappear and not come back lingered on the edge of Doumeki's consciousness. It was hard to think anything other than that when you saw someone just vanish.
Doumeki would never get used to that feeling or watching it happen. There was neither a slow fade, nor a ripple in the air. Watanuki just stopped existing in this world for a few hours until his shift was over. He was just, gone. Doumeki never said anything to alert Watanuki to how he felt or what he saw. It would only cause the boy worry.
He had enough trouble as it was avoiding the ghosts and spirits that wanted to devour his soul. The last thing Watanuki needed was knowing that his place of employment wasn't of this world and that he disappeared daily. That in mind, Doumeki kept his mouth shut and just nodded each time when Watanuki left. His expressionless face was a blessing in these cases and hid the clench in his gut each time the boy left.
"You're not even listening are you?" Watanuki hissed at him. "If you're going to insist on following me everywhere you could at least pay attention."
"Sorry." Doumeki looked down at his irate classmate as they stood outside the gates of that god-forsaken lot.
Watanuki rolled his eyes and mumbled out of the side of his mouth. "I don't even know why I bothered inviting you inside for tea."
Most likely he gave the invitation as a thank-you for catching him when a nasty spirit pushed him out of a window today at school. However, Doumeki looked towards the gates and wondered if he could even go inside, invitation or not. And he had already made up his mind not to tell Watanuki, so Doumeki shook his head. "I have chores to do at the temple. I want inari-sushi tomorrow for my lunch."
The usual ranting occurred shortly after and Doumeki sighed as the boy started to stomp towards the gates, and also as usual was cut off abruptly with silence as he passed the threshold. The wind swayed softly through the grass and Doumeki gripped his fist. It wasn't fair, really. Watanuki finally invites him somewhere of his own will and Doumeki had to say no. Doumeki started walking past the gate fully intending to see this damn shop for himself.
He stopped short in the middle of the field and looked all around him. Yet again his attempt to follow the high-spirited boy had failed. Doumeki couldn't get to where Watanuki was going. Somehow that hurt more than it should and Doumeki slowly turned to make his way out of the lot. A shop that sells wishes, huh?
Doumeki wondered if that was really true.
"I swear, that woman goes through more alcohol in a day than most people go through in their entire lives." Watanuki sighed as he trudged along the sidewalk carrying the bags of wine he had been sent for. "And who said you could eat that you glutton?"
Doumeki, the oaf, kept chewing on the cookie held in his hand and staring forward with that same blank expression. Watanuki had made those cookies quite specifically for his beloved Himawari and notfor Doumeki. The bottomless pit. "Just because Himawari wasn't at school for me to give them to her today doesn't mean you can eat them."
The idiot kept munching, silent as ever.
Watanuki huffed and moved his hand around a bit to resettle the bags so he could carry them easier. He never did understand why Yuko always wanted him to buy such heavy things. Doumeki looked down at the bags and bit into the cookie. Watanuki knew that look. It was the "Ask for help, moron" look that Doumeki seemed to be giving him more and more often. Watanuki refused. "I don't need help. Eat the damn cookies that I the great Watanuki had made for the lovely Himawari."
Doumeki did just that.
Watanuki wanted to just scream and rip something apart. The man was so infuriating all the time. He had to do it on purpose. Watanuki was distracted however, by Yuko's shop looming in the distance. It's odd shape and wooden fence almost glowing in anticipation of his cooking and loving care. Heaven knows Yuko didn't take care of that place. The dust alone could attest to that. Watanuki's face softened just slightly when he caught a glimpse of Moro and Maru playing in the yard. "Ah, they're energetic as usual."
"Hm." Watanuki frowned when once again the oaf next to him replied with a single syllable. "I swear, one of these days I'll make you baby sit the two of them and we'll see how calm you are."
Watanuki stopped in front of the gate and looked at his stoic companion. He was staring at the shop again, like always. You'd think someone who studied the building that intently day after day would just suck it up and go in. Yuko wasn't that bad of a hostess. "I really don't see what's so interesting. It looks the same as it did yesterday and the day before that."
"Ah." Doumeki shoved the last cookie into his mouth and put his hands in his pockets. "I'll see you later."
"I don't need to be walked home!" Watanuki screeched even if he knew it was pointless. Doumeki would find some way to show up and walk him home whether he wanted him to or not. "Whatever, I'm going to be late."
Watanuki walked into the gate and waved at Moro and Maru who were chasing Mokona around happily. He got a few feet into the yard and stopped and turned around to see Doumeki staring at him. Watanuki was sure the archer would have left by now. "Hey, what are you staring at? You'd think I needed an escort all the way to the door the way you're watching me!"
Doumeki didn't answer him and just kept looking forward, his eyes trailing the yard like he was looking for something. Just like the idiot to space out. "Hey! Stop ignoring me!"
Receiving no response yet again, Watanuki dropped the bags to the ground and stomped off towards the gate and stood face to face with the towering punk. "What is your problem!?"
Doumeki flinched and backed up a step. If Watanuki hadn't know better, he would have thought the jock had been surprised to see him. Watanuki's eyes softened just a bit as he saw Doumeki's eyes widen slightly larger than normal. Had the man really been zoning out that badly? "Are you okay?"
"Fine." Doumeki looked at him and gave him the normal attention he always received. Watanuki took in a breath and sighed. "Stop zoning out or you'll get hit by a car or something."
Doumeki smirked slightly. "Worried about me?"
"Don't be ridiculous!" Watanuki started and then took a breath and controlled himself. He was already late for work as it is. "Whatever. Just go home and practice with your bow or go clean. Just as long as you make yourself useful somewhere else."
Watanuki shoved his glasses up on his face and stalked back to gather his bags from the ground. He turned briefly to see Doumeki start walking away past the fence and shook his head. Doumeki was really hopeless sometimes. Though, Watanuki couldn't quite get his surprised expression out his head. What had caused him to zone so badly he lost track of his surroundings?
"Watanuki! Bring me my sake!" The boy turned house servant sighed as he heard his name hailed by the slave-driver called for him. He'd have to deal with Doumeki and his issues later.
Doumeki was never going to get used to Watanuki going in and out of that shop.
He had sworn his heart stopped when the boy appeared so suddenly in front of his face, clearly angry. And now he knew something important: Watanuki could still see Doumeki from his side of the fence. After a moment to think about things, Doumeki understood why Watanuki had been upset. The boy had probably been talking to Doumeki from across the threshold and the archer had been unable to answer.
Doumeki didn't even realize he was being addressed.
It was just another thing to add to his list of troubles. Doumeki lurched away from the empty lot to head home to the temple. If he hurried and finished his chores, he could walk Watanuki home and maybe get some dinner out of the boy depending on his mood. One thing was for certain: Watanuki's home cooked meals were worth every ounce of worry, stress, or anger that the boy caused.
They were just that tasty.
Doumeki was almost drooling at the thought when he heard an exaggerated "Wait up you idiot!" Come from behind him. Turning around, Doumeki was met with a slightly out of breath Watanuki huffing with a bag in one hand. "Yuko said I needed to go with you and help clean the temple. Something about payment for yesterday and my boxed lunch not being enough. I think she just likes to make me suffer."
Doumeki nodded and continued walking with Watanuki following close by his side. His mouth was running constantly, but Doumeki had learned long ago how to drown out the noise. His eyes trailed down the boy's arm to the bag of food he was holding. Apparently Doumeki was definitely going to get dinner after all. That put him in a good mood.
Though not nearly as good as a mood as knowing he wouldn't have to spend the next few hours wondering whether or not Watanuki was going to come back from Yuko's shop or if today was the day she decided to keep him. Watanuki could shout, scream, and curse Doumeki all night for all the archer cared.
If Watanuki was here, Doumeki was happy.