Legacy
1733 words
xxxHOLIC Rou spoilers (the whole thing); implied sex
There is a story that a Doumeki son is told on his fifteenth birthday.

++++++

There is a family legend that is passed down from father to son in every generation. It is not always the oldest son and it is not always the youngest son, but the father will always tell it, come that son's fifteenth birthday. Mothers and sisters and wives may be told if they are curious, but it is primarily a story between men, and considered little more than a curiosity--one any dozen quirky traditions carried out by temple families long after their reasons have been forgotten. There is a special place, the story goes, which can only be seen by those who are in need. In that place there is someone waiting, and it is the family duty to visit him, so as to make sure he has not yet turned to stone. Remind that person of the sound of human voices, the father says to the son, for there is a magic that is too terrible to be stopped, if no-one is alive to maintain it.

On his fifteenth birthday, the boy in question is given a bottle of expensive sake, a stone egg, and an address written in his father's hand on an otherwise-blank card. He is instructed to go to this address and, at that time (it is said), he will know what to do.

+++

Shizuka is named for his great-grandfather's great-grandfather and (his mother likes to say, fondly) aptly so; he is given more to thoughtful silences than words. While his brothers squabble and shout and talk with the ease of the lighthearted, Shizuka is solemn and thorough. He listens and rarely questions, but devotes himself thoroughly to his tasks when they come to him. At school he is part of the archery club and popular among the girls his age, who consider him cool and thoughtful. If Shizuka is working, his family likes to say, then it will get done no matter what.

When he turns fifteen, he takes the sake and the egg and goes where he is directed. What he finds is an overgrown lot wedged between two high-rise business offices, somehow miraculous overlooked despite years of overcrowding. He looks down at the address and when he looks up again, there is a small elegant building where there was none before. A stone pathway leads up to open doors, and two little girls stand on either side of it. Shizuka steps over the threshold. He looks at the girls; they look back at him.

"Master is inside," says one.

"Master is waiting," says the other.

"Happy birthday," they chorus together, and gesture to the open door.

Shizuka nods his thanks and goes up the front steps and inside. He follows the wide dark hallway to a pair of double-doors that swing open at his approach.

The room beyond is heavy with the smell of incense and pipe smoke. It is dimly lit and the shadows on the wall shift and change without anyone to cast them. There is a couch, and on that couch is a boy with mismatched eyes and bone-white skin.

He smiles.

"Welcome to my shop," he says.

+++

The boy's name is Watanuki Kimihiro, and when he learns Shizuka's name, he snorts and says, "I should have known that he'd eventually come back to make my life difficult again."

Then he says, "Sit down," and he says, "I hope your parents taught you better manners at least," and he calls Maru! Moro! as he slides off the couch and leaves the room. Half an hour later, Shizuka is presented with as elaborately fine a meal as he has ever known in his life; even family loyalty cannot make him say that his mother does any better. Watanuki looks at him expectantly, so he eats, and he says, "It's good."

"Of course it's good," Watanuki huffs. "After so long cooking for your family, I've learned pretty well what you like."

Shizuka considers this. "Next time," he says, "chirashi would be nice."

+++

Watanuki snipes and complains, but the next time Shizuka comes back (precisely one week after his fifteenth birthday), the food is there as requested.

+++

It becomes a habit to visit Watanuki every day after school. Shizuka still goes to archery club, but he comes home later now than he did before. His brothers think he has a girlfriend; his mother murmurs that as long as he's careful, she will believe in him; his father just smiles with sad eyes and says nothing at all.

+++

"Did you do this with my father?" he asks once. "My grandfather? My great-grandfather?"

Watanuki tilts his head back and exhales a long thin plume of smoke; it floats around his head like a wreath. All he says in response is, "I've done many things with many people."

+++

When Shizuka is twenty, his father dies of a heart attack. It is abrupt and (the doctors say) painless; he is fine one moment and then gone the next. His mother tries hard to be stoic, but cries herself to sleep more often than she does not. His brothers have both chosen colleges far from home, and so it is left to Shizuka to mind the temple and the faithful. He does not go to the shop for nearly three months: there is simply too many other things to do, with his schoolwork and his duties at the temple and his continued participation in archery.

After the third month, though, his mother begins to pick up some work around the temple again. Though her cheer is less bright than it once was and she has aged years in the space of those months, she no longer seems quite so much like she is on the verge of collapse. Satisfied by this, Shizuka goes back. He finds the shop as easily as always and immaculate as before, but the girls Maru and Moro hide behind two trees as he approaches.

"Master's angry," chirps one.

"He's really angry," the other agrees.

"You made him very mad!" they cry together, then join hands and dash back into the shop. Shizuka watches them and rubs the back of his neck, then follows.

Watanuki is standing in the entrance way. Today he wears a kimono that is very much like a furisode in its cut and style; it is jet-black with ash-gray cranes stitched into its folds. His expression is flat and unfriendly, and Shizuka holds up his bag.

"I brought sake," he says.

"It had better be the good stuff," Watanuki snaps. He turns abruptly on his heel. "Well? Come on." And he stalks down the hallway with Maru and Moro capering in his wake. Mokona is singing a song about alcohol. Something smells very good. Shizuka toes off his shoes and walks down the hallway.

+++

On Shizuka's twenty-third birthday, he goes to the shop. His mother has been making noises about marriage and has started bringing girls to the temple to arrange meetings. They are all good girls, strong and graceful and beautiful; many of them have a temple bloodline that matches his. One of them in particular has lovely hands and a long white neck and only smiles when he meets her eyes, instead of blushing.

When he goes to the shop, there is an elaborate dinner waiting. Watanuki sits cross-legged by the entire setup, wearing an apron and a kerchief for his hair. He has a dress draped across his lap--a frothy white confection of lace and ruffles, and his needle flashes occasionally as he works like some small silver fish. He says, "It took you long enough."

Shizuka sits beside him and pours them both sake. Mokona snatches the cup that was meant to be Watanuki's and pirouettes off. "I haven't decided yet," he says.

"You have so," Watanuki says with a snort. "You're impossible like that, you Doumeki men. Your heart's decided, your head just hasn't caught up yet."

He looks up at the moon, round and heavy overhead, and says, "Will you come to the wedding?"

"I have better things to do with my time," Watanuki snipes. "If you haven't noticed, I have a shop to run, and I keep getting these guests who insist on ridiculously elaborate meals for no good reason, and who's never grateful and some of us work, after all--"

Shizuka kisses him. It is a dry and closed kiss that smells like dust and tobacco smoke. Watanuki's lips are thin and dry and he makes a startled noise, jerking away. Up close, his face is very young--younger than Shizuka's own, now. Behind his glasses his eyes are wide.

"You," he says, and then, "I don't," and his face crumbles and he adds, "I can't--"

"Yes, you can," Shizuka says, and kisses him again.

+++

Stripped of his heavy robes and all their layers, Watanuki is all angles and edges. His skin is cool to the touch and takes a long time to warm. At first he lies stiffly and keeps his head turned firmly away, teeth bared as if enduring some terrible pain. Shizuka puts a hand on his belly and says, "Look at me."

Watanuki resists for a long moment, then turns. He stares at Shizuka's face and his face slowly goes red. He draws a breath and is suddenly spitting mad, half-sitting up and pushing against the hand on his middle. "You," he growls, "you're the most infuriating, idiotic, ridiculous, selfish, awful--stupid--"

"You're going to repeat yourself at this rate," Shizuka says, and kisses him again.

+++

In the dark, in the warm dark place between two bodies, Watanuki takes his hand and doesn't let go until morning.

+++

Shizuka's wedding day is bright and clear: a sky straight out of a fairytale, impossibly blue and clear of any clouds. It is warm, but not unpleasantly so, and in the shade it is comfortably cool. The cherry trees are in full bloom, casting pale dappled shadows.

He closes his fingers and looks up. For just a moment, he sees a tall slim figure, dressed in red and gold, standing across the temple courtyard from him. He blinks and that person is gone. A breeze rustles the branches overhead, and when he opens his hand a single pale pink petal settles upon his palm.

Shizuka presses it to his lips and goes inside. The ceremony is about to begin.
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