I discussed previously that a lot of speculation has been made regarding Doumeki's feelings for Watanuki. Most of their interactions are layered with some subtext; it's a CLAMP work after all, and the writers usually do lean on male-on-male pairings. Their only canonically recognized gay couple, however, is Touya and Yukito from Cardcaptor Sakura (and, to a lesser extent, Tokyo Babylon's Seishirou and Subaru). Dubbed as DouWata (or 'Donuts'), the relationship between Watanuki and Doumeki throughout the earlier volumes of the manga lean on the fanservice side of things, placing them in scenarios that could be interpreted as comedically 'will-they'won't-they' and having other characters (especially Watanuki's high school crush Himawari) point out how well 'they get along', much to Watanuki's chagrin. A lot of Watanuki's animosity is drawn from the fact that a fortune teller has revealed to him that he will have a male friend he will always argue with but one whom he will have a deep connection with--if he allows it. Watanuki is not a big believer of fatalism, and therefore fights Doumeki every chance he gets just for the sake of being contrary and downright immature. As the chapters progressed, we see Doumeki constantly risking his life to help Watanuki, especially since Doumeki has the power to repel spirits; thanks to his Shinto lineage (his grandfather Haruka is a famed exorcist). He is therefore the perfect partner for Watanuki who is haunted by spirits and otherwordly things, and it only adds to Watanuki's irritation of the guy because he could never accept that he and Doumeki are 'bound' by something beyond human control.
It was by the climactic event in Volume 7 when Watanuki endagered himself by associating with a spirit woman whom he felt strong feelings of maternal connection with that readers found out how much Doumeki cares for Watanuki. In a memorable conversation, Yuuko stressed that in order to save Watanuki, Doumeki exorcised that spirit woman, regardless of how Watanuki may feel afterwards for him. Doumeki didn't care if Watanuki hated him--he made a choice, and that choice is to protect Watanuki. In a moving scene, Yuuko added that Watanuki's continued existence is Doumeki's priority. It wouldn't be the last time that Doumeki would sacrifice things to save Watanuki--especially from himself.
It boggles the mind why Doumeki felt the need to take care of Watanuki since the latter has only shown aggression and animosity towards him all the time. Even when Yuuko has hinted time and time again that Doumeki will be (if he isn't already) a valuable part of Watanuki's life, Watanuki would rather ignore or deny the growing camaraderie, kinship and friendship between them, all because of his instinctive loathing towards Doumeki; a feeling that has something to do with Watanuki's built-in low self-worth (due to him selling the memories of his past during a previous transaction with Yuuko) and unconscious suicial tendencies. Watanuki tends to attract spirits because of his negative energy--it's the reason why he felt more inclined to like Himawari (a girl who will be later on revealed as a 'misfortune carrier') rather than like Doumeki who could possibly save his life and make him happy in the long run.
Later on, their relationship was once again tested when a spider's grudge accosted Doumeki with his right eyesight, and Watanuki traded his own eyesight to uplift the curse. Doumeki was livid about this and Yuuko encouraged him to get angry to teach Watanuki what real sacrifice entails, and why he shouldn't squander the efforts of the people who love him by essentially always putting himself in situations that would only make them worry about him. During a climactic confrontation with an entity known as Jorougumo who abducted another spirit named Zashiki-Warashi (a recently reveled admirer of Watanuki), she made insighful observations about Watanuki's lack of self-worth, pointing out that Doumeki and Zashiki Warashi had saved him because they consider him important enough, and yet Watanuki went against their wishes by once again being a danger to himself. Jorougumo observed that Watanuki does not value himself enough to think he deserves to be loved, much less be saved. With that revelation, Watanuki slowly begins to accept that he is a person worth loving and making a fuss about, and so when Yuuko offers him half of Doumeki's eyesight--a bargain Doumeki himself made to restore at least half of Watanuki's lost eyesight--Watanuki willingly complies. It was a symbolic gesture that highlights that Watanuki does not solely belong to himself, as Yuuko so poetically points out. No man is an island and we are all connected, she says, and to believe otherwise or to act otherwise is a grave mistake.
Another nice moment shared by DouWata is when Watanuki, as a begruding display of gratitude for Doumeki's sacrifice, offered him a homemeade bento which included all Doumeki's favorite hence why it was heavy. Watanuki complained ruthlessly about its weight, so Doumeki takes it in one hand while Watanuki still holds onto it, and proclaims that they could at least share the burden. It was a seemingly small moment but one rife with meaning--if not foreshadowing. Doumeki will always be there to bear some of Watanuki's burden, particularly when the other boy least wants it, and this had gone on even at the very end of the manga where Doumeki's descendant--a boy who even resembles him; a complete doppleganger--became a companion to Watanuki who remained imprisoned in the wish shop as an immortal, unable to move forward from Yuuko's death. With these examples, it is truly no wonder why fans have speculated that Doumeki has been in love with Watanuki for the longest time. It's a damn shame we never really get an actual acknowledgment of it from Doumeki himself (though it's so fucking obvious), nor find out if Watanuki eventually started feeling the same way. There were instances in the depressing ROU arc when there is a palpable tension between the two, allowing readers to theorize whether or not both men are aware of how the other felt, especially Watanuki regarding Doumeki's pining for him. Many fans believed that Doumeki may have only cared about Watanuki during their high school years out of a sense of obligation and one-sided friendship, but it was after six years later when he continued to stay by Watanuki while he was imprisoned in the shop did his feelings really become more than platonic devotion.
It is worth pointing out that Doumeki was never shown to date or express interest in other people in romantic terms. There was neither a woman or another man he formed any kind of deep relationship with outside his close peers who were also harboring intense feelings for Watanuki. One of them is Kohane Tsuyuri, a gifted young psychic whom Watanuki rescued from an abusive mother when she a little girl of nine of ten years old. It will be later revealed that Doumeki has married her decades after even though most of the scenes where we see them together alone are always about them talking about Watanuki and why they're the only two people who can look after him from now on. As it turns out, Doumeki and Kohane only married each other so they can sire children who will then grow up to become companions to an ageless Watanuki who was still waiting for Yuuko. It was a tragic and most disheartening arrangement and inevitable ending to the story where two of the most valuable people in Watanuki's life never received a reciprocation of their feelings for said man at all, and so opted to get married instead with the promise that their own children will also look after Watanuki until such a time he is ready to let go of Yuuko. That's true love for you, and Watanuki never even gets to realize he had it twice over than most people will ever get in a lifetime. At some point he may have realized that both Doumeki and Kohane were in love with him--but perhaps it was only when they were dead and gone that it hit him.
It's no wonder I was drawn to writing stories about these relationships especially involving Watanuki as a character. This was why I decided to write Frequency. That story focuses on Watanuki's 'devolution' because his refusal to move on from Yuuko's death, I believe, will eventually turn his character into something dark, and that story of mine explores his potential to become a villain. It also examines his relationships with both Doumeki and Kohane--individually and as a pair--and why it might actually be unhealthy for the three of them to be so entwined as people.
CLAMP has always been great with tragedies and unspoken, unrequited love that often breaks not just the heart but the spirit of unfortunate readers who would come across any of their manga. xxxHoLic is no exception. Thankfully, they are writing a sequel entitled xxxHoLic REI which is set before the hundred-years-later time jump of the original manga's ending. I for one which they could retcon that goddamn ending because Watanuki deserved so much more than be destined to wait for a dead woman, no matter how much he loves and misses her. Doumeki and Kohane also deserve to find happines with the one they truly love. As a DouWata shipper, my money is on these guys, but I consider Kohane to be a very relatable character, and I find her relationship with Watanuki to be just as bittersweet.
In my next post, I promise that I will finally start discussing the concept and idea behind Frequency. I've been saying that since two entries ago, I know, but this time I mean it. I just have to discuss these backstories first because understanding xxxHoLic as a work of fiction, its world and themes, especially the characters and their ties with one another, is essential in my re-telling of its tale with Frequency and my other pieces for Snapshots.