Disclaimer: I don't own xXxHoLiC or any of its characters.

Shi Monogatari

"Come on in!" Watanuki said brightly and stepped aside to let his friends enter the shop. Although her dark curls were streaked with gray, Himawari looked as beautiful as ever. The crow's-feet at the corners of Doumeki's eyes did nothing to improve the blank expression that had always infuriated Watanuki, but the affectionate gesture of his hand resting on his son's shoulder did.

"And this is Taiki-kun, is that right? It's nice to meet you."

Taiki bowed. "It's nice to meet you too, Watanuki-san. I'm sorry my mother wasn't able to make it."

"There's no need to be sorry; I know Kohane-chan gets very busy with her work sometimes." He glanced at Doumeki over Taiki's head, and the look he got in response confirmed that Taiki didn't yet know the full truth about Watanuki's shop. If he can see and enter the shop, that means...

"These are from a gourmet bakery near my house," Himawari said, handing Watanuki a box tied with a gold ribbon.

Watanuki delicately pulled off the bow and lifted the lid to reveal four square chocolate brownies. "Mmm, they smell delicious! We can have them with our tea. Mokona!"

"Tea and alcohol!" Mokona corrected him as it bounced into the room with a teapot on its head.

"Whoa, what is that?" Taiki bent down to look at the small black creature.

"Mokona is Mokona!" it explained.

"Please, everyone, take a seat," Watanuki said as he set out plates and teacups.

After they had eaten the brownies (which were just as delicious as Watanuki would expect from anything touched by Himawari's hallowed hands), Watanuki sat back on his cushion and lit his pipe. "I was thinking that we could have a hundred-ghost-story night. An abbreviated one, of course."

"Aren't those usually done at O-Bon, in summer?" Himawari asked. "It's almost November now."

"That's true," Watanuki replied, "but this is exactly the time for ghost stories in America." He glanced at Taiki. "Where your older brother's studying."

"Hey, that's right!" Taiki nodded vigorously. "He mentioned something about it in his last email. I guess they have a lot of parties on campus and stuff. He and some of his friends were going to go visit this old theater in their town that's supposed to be haunted."

"I know how much you miss him, and and I thought you might feel closer to him if you could do something close to what he's doing at the same time."

"That's a wonderful idea, Watanuki-kun!" Himawari beamed. "Should we each tell one story?"

"Yes, I think once around the table should be enough." Watanuki got up and used his pipe to light candles that were placed all around the room. Then he turned off the electric lights and returned to his seat. "Since I'm the host, I guess I'll start." The candlelight flickered, and the shadows it cast seemed to flit over the walls, as if someone were slipping from one concealed spot to another. "This story is about something that happened back when I was a kid and Yuuko-san still ran the shop. Taiki-kun, your father and Himawari-chan are part of it too..."

A/N: If you've been following me for a while, you may have noticed that I usually publish a ghostly or otherwise creepy story around Halloween. The previous ones have generally been one-shots, but this year I'm intending to do a (relatively short) chaptered story. There will be four chapters after this one, and my goal is to post the last chapter on Halloween.

Regarding the mention of Kohane being Taiki's mother: there's an OVA for xXxHoLiC set post-series in which it's mentioned that Doumeki and Kohane are engaged.

The Hundred Ghost Story Night tradition, which plays a role in one of the stories in xXxHoLiC, has its origin in a game/ritual from Edo Period Japan. The name of this tradition in Japanese is Hyakumongatari Kaidankai, with the "Hyakumonogatari" part meaning "one hundred tales/stories." Shi is the Japanese word for four, so the title of this fic means "Four Stories." But the Japanese word for death is also pronounced shi, so an alternate reading could be "Stories of Death" or "Stories of the Dead"...which seemed appropriate for a Halloween story.