He was there, in that small, sparse room from his childhood. She towered over him, tears streaming down her cheeks as she vented the rage, pain and hatred she felt for others upon him. He had long since stopped trying to get her to see him when she was like this. Fighting back was unthinkable. She was his mother – the only one he had ever known, and he loved her. He picked myself up from the floor, where he had fallen from the last blow and stood before her, trembling.
This was not defiance; spindly child with his head bowed and shoulders stooped, presenting his body unresisting for the next blow. It was easier when he did this, defusing her fury a little by assisting it. He just wanted her to stop crying. That was all he ever wanted. If only he could make her understand. He was tough enough to take the blows when they came; the tears were far more painful to bear.
She swung her arm out toward him. Stars exploded in his left eye, and he was unaware of having fallen again until his vision cleared and he could see her again. There was something different, far more dangerous in her eyes this time. His gaze met hers, and he knew absolutely that she meant to kill him now. No matter what the repercussions might be, she could no longer live with the betrayal that had spawned this half-breed child before her.
He was frightened, but stronger was the calm, weary resignation that overtook him. If he were gone, she would be okay again. Time seemed to slow as he watched his mother stalk toward him with murder in her eyes. She raised her hands, claws spread wide, intent upon forever extinguishing this red flame which provided daily witness to the cause of her grief. Hot tears rolled down his cheeks as he offered up silent apologies for causing her such pain. He shut his eyes as she closed in, prepared to make this sacrifice, even welcoming it.
His body clenched itself, expecting a blow that never came. He heard a tearing noise that made his blood run cold then a spurt of hot blood covered him. He was amazed to discover it was not painful. Perhaps the final blessing of the gods was that mortal wounds did not hurt.
Opening his eyes, he realized that he was not wounded at all – at least not more than he had already been. His mother was lying on the floor, deep gouges in her back pouring her life out on to the wooden floorboards. He raised his eyes to his half-brother, who stood above her body, eyes dripping tears, claws dripping blood…
…Sha Gojyo woke with a ragged shriek trying to tear its way out of his body. His red hair was sticking to his face, held by sweat and the tears spilling from crimson eyes. Sitting up, he tried to control his grief and terror, stifling the scream into a muffled sob. After all these years it still hurt so much. So damned much.
Managing to get himself under control, he wiped the sweat off his brow with his forearm then looked around for his clothes. Spotting them in a heap at the foot of the bed, he scooted that way and leaned down to grab his pants. One thing for the guys to know that he slept in the buff, but something else entirely for him to go padding about the room that way. Gojyo shot a glance across the room, to where Hakkai slept. Of course, his clothes were folded or draped neatly across the seat and back of the chair. Gojyo figured that Hakkai would fold his hair, if he could, so it wouldn’t get messy while he slept. A small snort escaped him as he tried to hold back his laughter at the thought, and pulling on his pants, he slunk across to the table where his cigarettes lay in a crumpled pack.
Gojyo stuck his hand into his pocket and pulled out a pack of matches. He had long ago figured out that this was the only way to keep that arrogant monk from stealing them when he wasn’t looking. Sanzo would go to some lengths to keep from having to venture out for smokes or something to light them with, but digging into Gojyo’s pants was definitely beyond what he was willing to do. Another chuckle escaped him at that thought, along with a puff of air that blew out his match before he could light the cigarette. Damn.
Striking another match, Gojyo slid his lanky frame into the chair he had moved near the window, which was left open a crack to allow the smoke to escape. He didn’t want to disturb anyone else with it too much. Normally he wouldn’t really care, but sharing a room with Hakkai…well, the polite just had a way of seeping in. There was a hiss as Gojyo sucked in the first drag, relishing the blast of the nicotine in his lungs. He pushed his hair out of his eyes and leaned his head against the window frame. The night time air had cooled the wood and it felt good against his heated forehead.
Why was he dreaming about that day again now? Was his subconscious just torturing him? It had felt so damned real, but it wasn’t even right. He reached up to touch the scars on his cheek. She had cut him with an axe; Jien had killed her with a sword. Neither of them had used their claws, but wasn’t the idea of bare-handed murder much more painful than the truth?
He heaved a sigh and watched his breath fog the window, obscuring the dirty street below and creating a nimbus around the lonely lantern set outside the inn door. Memories drifted in and out of focus as he smoked and breathed and watched and…cried. Hot tears were streaming from his eyes again. He let them. Maybe once in awhile it wasn’t so bad to let the pain in, as long as the others didn’t see it. Maybe once in awhile it was okay to remember and to feel it all again; keeping her memory alive through the sacrifice of his peace of mind. Maybe he owed it to her.
Maybe I’m just a fucking masochist, he thought, and flung his cigarette butt out the window.
Immediately Gojyo pulled another out of the pack and placed it between his lips. Another match, another hiss, another tear. He just couldn’t stop himself this time. It was breaking his heart all over again, as if had only just happened. A choked sob escaped his throat, and he leaned forward, putting his head in the crook of his arm on the sill.
Cool fingers touched the back of Gojyo’s neck, and he jumped, whirling round with a snarl and one fist clenching, ready for battle. It was Hakkai. Gojyo’s body relaxed. He looked up at Hakkai, helpless to stop the tears, though he desperately wanted to. He didn’t want anyone to see him like this. He opened his mouth, trying to speak, to tell the younger man that he was okay, but a broken sob tore out of him instead.
Hakkai knelt down, stretching out his arm around Gojyo’s shoulders, and pulled him close. Any other time, he would have cracked a joke about not being gay. This time Gojyo sank into the embrace, his head cradled on Hakkai’s right shoulder and gave in to both the tears and the comfort. Gojyo lost track of things after that. Time and physical sensation were broken, fragmented. There were fingers in his hair, strong and soothing as they stroked his scalp. Now he could hear gentling sounds and soft words promising that everything would be okay. Soft lips brushed his brow once, and slowly Gojyo calmed under these gentle ministrations until the tears stopped flowing and his breathing returned to normal.
Picking his head up from Hakkai’s shoulder, Gojyo once again opened his mouth to speak, perhaps to explain this sudden attack of tears, but Hakkai placed the fingers of his right hand against Gojyo’s lips.
“Shhh,“ he whispered, and shook his head. No explanations necessary, it seemed.
He watched the lithe form of the dark haired man pad back across the room and slide into his bed, turning to face the wall. Gojyo accepted this, was even grateful for it. He didn’t have the strength to explain, and he didn’t really want to share, either. He had no idea why this was coming back so strongly now, or where it would take him, but he knew now that he didn’t have to bear it alone.
Somehow, he knew that he would never be alone again.