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Title: The Steps of Quiet Days
Author: Ceaena
Fandom: xxxHOLiC
Genre: Gen
Rating: G
Spoilers: None

Shizuka finds his grandfather at the back of the temple, crouching with his broom forgotten at his feet as he runs his hands through the air. The young boy hangs back respectfully, not interrupting. Sometimes he thinks that he would like to see what his grandfather sees, but he also thinks that he would miss these moments when it looks as though his grandfather is sculpting the wind with his hands.

"Come here, Shizuka." He can barely hear his grandfather's voice; it's the same low, soothing croon he uses around the cat when he wants to convince her that she's safe and can retract her claws at any time. Shizuka moves closer, and the old man smiles down at him without breaking the rhythm of his movements. "We have a special visitor today," his grandfather murmurs. "He's a young one, but you'll have good dreams tonight."

Shizuka squints at the air in front of him; he knows it won't do any good, but he doesn't want to offend a spirit that his grandfather approves of, and he's worried that his inability to see it might be a little rude.

His grandfather can somehow always tell what he's thinking (and Shizuka trusts his grandfather implicitly, but he can't help but be a little suspicious of this. His grandfather assures him that it's just a Grandfather Thing, a lot like how Shizuka's mother always knows when Shizuka has rushed through his chores and needs to redo them more carefully. Shizuka finds this remarkably uncomforting), and he laughs now, a soft sound in the back of his throat. "Would you like to pet it too?" he asks, and Shizuka nods. His grandfather continues to stroke the air with his right hand, but his left drops down and finds Shizuka's. The back of Shizuka's hand fits snugly against the old man's palm, and when his grandfather resumes his fluid, repetitive motions, he guides Shizuka's hand along with his.

That night Shizuka dreams of his grandfather's warm, rough hand and the feel of the air against his skin.

Doumeki has already spent several minutes staring idly out the window (less because there is anything particularly interesting to look at than because it's a moderately successful way of blocking out the rapidly rising babble coming from his classmates as they wait for the teacher to show up and start homeroom; at any rate, he is decidedly Not Hearing the trio of girls behind him giggling over how pensive he looks, and that's enough for him) when the boy enters his line of vision. He is walking quickly, swinging his schoolbag purposefully and wearing an expression that says quite plainly both that the boy is fully aware that he has less than three minutes to make it to his classroom and that, in his mind, the situation has come about through no fault of his own. Every few steps he glances back at the empty schoolyard behind him and says something Doumeki cannot hear, somehow managing to look more annoyed each time.

Doumeki is mildly interested now (he's beginning to wonder, in a vague sort of way, if there is a limit to the amount of irritation the boy can convey through body language alone), and he leans forward slightly to get a better view just as the boy's steps suddenly shorten and become erratic, feet tangling together, although Doumeki can see no greater obstacle than a tuft of grass in his path (though to give due credit, it is an especially large tuft of grass). The boy manages to save himself from landing face-first on the offending tuft by flailing wildly and inelegantly, and instead he sits down hard, legs splayed uncomfortably but his body remaining more or less upright. He looks stunned at first, blinking hard, but instead of the outpouring of rage Doumeki is expecting, the boy puts his head down and begins to shake. Doumeki thinks for a moment that he's going into a fit, but then the boy shifts and he can see that he's laughing, making half-hearted batting motions at the air in front of him. His face relaxes into a gentler expression than Doumeki would have given him credit for being capable of as he begins to stroke the air with both hands, his schoolbag forgotten at his feet.

The bell sounds after a few moments, and the boy jumps to his feet in an awkward scramble, panic instantly replacing the soft expression as he glances around nervously, then bolts for the door at a speed that suggests the track team has a thing or two to learn about the effect of properly-applied motivation. Doumeki exhales and is almost surprised to remember that he cannot see ghosts.

The lecture is marginally more interesting than the now-static schoolyard and the three giggling girls have moved on to passing notes instead, quiet aside from the rustle of paper, but Doumeki stares out the window for the rest of the lesson anyway.
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