On Monday morning Hakkai takes out the trash early, long before Gojyo’s alarm rings and before the sun has a chance to spread. He figures this is the best way to get rid of Gojyo’s socks that have become sentient -- a part of the evolutionary chain -- rather than attempt darning, or washing, or dropping them in a vat of acid.
All the doors and windows are opened before first light, which lets the cold breeze in to wash out the smell of stale beer and cigarette smoke from the previous night.
Gojyo’s dented kettle is put on the stove and water is set to boil no later than seven, a pack of cigarettes is always left on the ashtray and there is always a loud thud from the other room that indicates the awakening of Sha Gojyo to a bright new day.
Hakkai knows when to put the pan on the stove by simply counting the amount of blaspheme that leaps out of the open door.
‘Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.’
They have scrambled eggs for breakfast on Mondays, always, and Hakkai dumps the used eggshells into the pot of a little fern; he’s read, in one of many arcane gardening books, that they make good fertilizer and by the size and vibrancy of leaves it seems to indicate that something, somewhere, is going right.
Gojyo, who takes catnaps after breakfast, heads off to wherever Gojyo goes and Hakkai re-reads old classics because he doesn’t have anything else to do besides sweeping out the space behind the couch where cigarette ash falls.
When Gojyo leaves in the mornings, he usually attempts to prop up a few books in the bookcase, as it is the only part of the house that is messy.
Books are piled around the rickety thing in heaps and wobbling towers, and they sway with the breeze, toppling over frequently. Since it was hand-made by Gojyo, the legs are uneven and thus need to be propped up by the thinnest of Hakkai’s books or the most boring novels. The bookcase itself can only hold fifty texts, so nonfictions are kept under the bed and the occasional how-to can be found in the kitchen cupboards.
‘I’m going to fix this one-day.’
‘Whatever you say.’
By the time Hakkai finishes his eleventh tome of war-stratagems, Gojyo is back home, early, with pockets full of cash and alcohol breath that could bowl over a dragon. Hakuryuu, appropriately, ends up hiding underneath the kitchen counter for two hours.
They play a few hands of poker after a dinner of fish that Gojyo caught.
Gojyo loses and ends up drinking a case of beers before launching into a long and very slurred soliloquy on the merits of women. Hakkai helps him with the words he seems to stumble over and then holds his hair back when he pukes.
Between watching Gojyo dry-retch and wiping his companion’s mouth, Hakkai pleasantly discusses the merits of the Western poets he’s read about that afternoon. They “discuss” prose for all of fifteen minutes before Gojyo stumbles to Hakkai’s bed and passes out.
Hakkai pushes him out. Tells Gojyo to brush his teeth with the patient tone only a teacher could have and falls into a deep sleep.
Gojyo, mulling over his hangover and the merits of sleeping on cold wooden floors, knew there was a reason he shouldn’t have taken strangers home with him.
For breakfast, they have congee. It’s made with eggs, rice, and rice wine. Gojyo nips a bit of the rice wine, gets sick because it’s not the kind one should attempt to drink, and tries juggling three brown eggs but fails and ends up with a big mess.
‘I swear I didn’t mean to do that.’
When Hakkai cleans it up, he smiles and reprimands and doesn’t get angry.
It’s Tuesday, so Gojyo stays home and smokes. No girls come out on Tuesday nights, he bemoans.
‘...So it’s a good thing I have my own wife at home.’
Gojyo goes back for seconds, thirds, and fourths of Hakkai’s meals and tries to read the paper over Hakkai’s shoulders. He gives up after a few minutes because Hakkai turns the pages so fast that, along with the smell of Hakkai, it makes his head spin. If Hakkai’s bothered by the warm breath across his shoulder he doesn’t show it, much.
‘You’re blocking my light.’
‘Sorry, how about here?’
He can hear each one of Gojyo’s breaths against the nape of his neck, his hearing is dulled by the limiters, but he can still count each inhale and exhale no matter how silent. Sometimes it’s a little blessing to notice these things, things that remind him they’re alive.
‘Much better. Thank you.’
They go grocery shopping at noon; Gojyo is made to carry all the packages and has to be verbally directed around town by Hakkai, who believes in buying everything in bulk and making other people carry them.
Mothers from the local school wave and pretty young girls giggle.
Gojyo has always believed that going home, with it’s side-trips and visits along the way, beats smoking, drinking, and fucking, any day. He doesn’t mind that the celery is poking him in the ribs or that he can hear the girls talk about whatever the hell he did last night, or the night before.
He winks, and they giggle some more because not all things you’re born with have to suck.
On the way home Hakkai buys apples and carries them himself, for a change, while Gojyo tries to balance a bag of flour on his head. He trips as they cross the threshold of the house causing flour, rice, and onions to scatter everywhere.
They laugh, because that’s the thing to do.
It rains all Wednesday and Hakkai stays locked up in the bedroom.
Gojyo stays home and smokes. He can’t leave the house because of the rain and he doesn’t have anyone to play poker with, or drink with, or to flirt with, so he convulses in his chair and fills up the ashtray.
It’s still raining when the sun goes down. Gojyo eats all the apples and leaves a pile of pips and cores on the table before going to sleep after the moon starts poking out.
Hakkai leaves his room near midnight, after Gojyo’s padded to his cot with his face to the wall, and before the steady dripping from outside softens.
He puts the kettle on and empties the ashtray.
Hakkai spends Thursday tutoring the neighbor’s girls.
They cover a week’s worth of math in about two hours and he gets paid handsomely for his efforts.
The eldest girl reads carefully, like Goku does on the odd days that he finds something he likes among Hakkai’s shelves, and swears under her breath, like Sanzo on bad days. The youngest tends to jiggle her knee insistently, in the way Gojyo does when he’s losing at cards or can’t find something he’s just put down. The middle child blushes whenever she’s asked a question and bites her nails, she reminds him of a ghost of Kanan.
‘The variable is always constant here, and when you divide this...’
They get through all their homework and review mistakes made on old tests faster than usual. He speaks in the slow, soft, tones he uses to coax Goku to eat vegetables. They reply with the uncertain look Gojyo had when he asked whether he could stay. There is something of Sanzo’s haughty look when they can get through a problem quickly and don’t have to plunge into the living hell of algebra.
The girls’ mother leaves a bag of cookies that Hakuryuu finishes off in three minutes. She praises him, mentions that she has a friend whose son needs extra tutoring, and walks out smiling. The middle child leaves last and wiggles her fingers in goodbye toward his direction as she closes the door.
He puts half the money away and buys a large handsome novel and some old fabric with the remainder. He spends the rest of the day alternately reading and patching together some curtains from the fabric and an old pair of Gojyo’s jeans.
Gojyo left early that morning, skipped lunch, and doesn’t return that night.
Hakkai goes to bed late, and finishes reading his novel well after midnight.
The ashtray is left empty, but the pips from yesterday’s apples stay on the counter.
When Gojyo stumbles in for lunch on Friday morning, Sanzo and Goku are already sitting at the table and digging into a vegetable stir-fry dish and the remainder of a fat bighead carp.
He grunts when he sees the curtains, which whisper in front of the open windows, steals Goku’s fish straight from his chopsticks when the monkey asks him why he has a black eye, and dodges a stray bullet from the monk who is none too pleased about the volume or consistency of Goku’s whining.
‘Stupid cockroach! Get your own!’
‘Shut your face, monkey.’
‘I’m not a monkey!’
‘Yes you are!’
They spend the afternoon playing mahjong, which Hakkai wins eight games in a row, because they’ve given up on playing poker together years ago.
‘You’re cheating. You must be.’
‘Would you like to bet on that Sanzo-sama?’
Baldy smokes all his cigarettes, but uses a coaster so Hakkai just smiles at him pleasantly. Gojyo gets a glare when he puts his beer on the glass table and has to fish out a coaster from between the couch cushions. He finds about twenty yen and a pair of socks while he searches. Hakkai pockets the money and tosses the socks into the laundry hamper while Goku steals a sip of his beer.
Sanzo shoots three holes into the chair that the monkey occupies and mutters about under-age drinking. Goku points out that he is older than Sanzo by several hundred years, to which Sanzo responds by hitting him in the face with his fan. Hakkai beams at everyone and anything that he is facing, and Gojyo sneaks a peak at his pai while he smiles at Goku’s words.
‘What the fuck! You have all pairs!’
‘And they’re all lucky numbers too.’
‘Saaaanzooo, I’m huuuungryyy.’
By the time the monk and the monkey leave, there’s no more beer in the fridge and Gojyo ends up staring mournfully at his empty boxes of smokes.
‘So did you do something in particular to deserve that black eye?’
‘Did it involve a young lady?’
‘I will take it you do not want to discuss it further, yes?’
‘...Hakkai, you’re kind of evil.’
They all reminisce about the road, but no one’s sorry for having to leave it.
On Saturday Gojyo starts the day off by smoking like a chimney.
Hakkai knows that Gojyo will be out the door by the time the sun goes down, whisked away to some bar where he can find a pretty girl to whisper to in the dark. He kicks Gojyo out of the hall for scattering ashes everywhere.
There are unspoken rules about why Gojyo isn’t allowed to smoke in the bedroom, which belongs to Hakkai, and why Hakkai is not allowed to burn half of Gojyo’s old furniture, which held “a lot of sentimental value” for Gojyo, who had probably fucked on all the mismatched furnishings before Hakkai had started living there.
There are unspoken rules, too, for why, exactly, Gojyo is allowed to smoke inside the house when it was both unhealthy and a fire hazard. Hakkai’s rather haunted by the scent, he used to catch himself wandering through the rooms Gojyo smoked in to catch whiffs of the lingering tobacco smell.
It’s no surprise that Gojyo manages to set the waste paper basket on fire with one badly timed flick of his wrist. He manages it at least twice a month but is slow to learn about waving potential hazards around.
On days when this happens, Hakkai gets agitated easily, and especially by the way Gojyo paces, as if the man were a shark. Like a shark, Gojyo could drown if he stood as still as Hakkai for one second, one minute, because Gojyo buzzes with energy and the itch to do something to calm the wild. It’s on these nights; when the moon, or sun, or stars, start pulling at the youkai in Gojyo, that makes Hakkai feel worse than if it were raining because he can’t keep those eyes from roving around the room like a trapped animal.
They don’t look at each other, or say a single word.
Gojyo taps his cigarette against the ashtray and leaves the thin white stick lying there before grabbing his coat, predictably, and heading out the door. He’s so fast that Hakkai doesn’t even have a chance to tell him to pick up more eggs.
Hakkai forces the muscles in his body to relax, one by one. Gojyo will be on the hunt all night, if possible, to relieve that part in him that itches when enclosed and won’t be back that night, for sure.
If anyone could write a book about the habits of one Sha Gojyo, it could be him. He has memorized each twitch of Gojyo’s muscles and what the pace of his breathing means. He knows a million little details and remembers a million little quirks.
Gojyo always licks his lips when he’s lying. Gojyo stabs at his eggs with his chopsticks. Gojyo hasn’t said “goodbye” to him in years. Gojyo doesn’t turn back to look at him before he leaves, either, Hakkai thinks as he pulls the chicken out of the freezer. He’s oddly comforted by the thought.
He knows that the day Gojyo says “goodbye” is the day that he isn’t going to be coming back.
Hakkai puts the cigarette in his mouth and inhales twice. It pulls at a buried memory he can’t quite place his finger on, before he chokes.
They both sleep in on Sunday.
Gojyo smells like ash and managed to, after coming home swaying and cussing, steal himself under the covers of the bed that he once slept in, but which belonged solely to Hakkai. The bed, because of it’s blood stains and something between compromise and polite strategic comments, went straight to the hands of Hakkai the day the supposedly-dead man walked back into Gojyo’s life.
Gojyo hadn’t slept in it since.
The rules of polite society, however, were meant to be broken.
Gojyo, who —- unlike Hakkai -- doesn’t have the air of a crushed butterfly, and thus doesn’t know about things like personal space and hygiene and exactly how foul his breath is. This is probably why he’s wrapped around Hakkai and not respectably passed-out on the floor, snoring into the floorboards rather than his roommate’s right ear.
Hakkai can still count each breath his traveling companion, and long-time friend makes, if only because Gojyo is pressed right up against his back, as if they were made to fit perfectly together.
He nudges the arm curled over his hip but it just shifts lower and tightens, which is rather unfortunate and awkward and will be interesting to explain when Gojyo wakes up.
When he turns his head, he can see Gojyo’s eyelashes and past him there’s the ashtray, which is full. He can feel the urge to tidy the bookshelves, and sweep the floor, and empty the ashtray, which will only end up getting filled again after breakfast.
But there’s nothing to worry about now, he thinks, calm and drowsy.
There is always tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.
I am but a humble writer, and thus do not claim to own Saiyuki.
Congee (which is the closest word I could translate the Chinese to) is a Chinese rice gruel dish commonly served for breakfast. The king I’m talking about is actually common and pretty tasty with the rice wine giving it a “sweet” taste, though most of the alcohol is burned off in the cooking process.
Pai means “piece” (shut up, I’m trying to make it sound plausible) as in the pieces for Mahjong, which is a pretty awesome game. The pieces are lined up in front of a player and it’s actually very hard to cheat by sneaking a glance from the side because you have to lean all the way out. A way to win a lot of money is to have a "hand" of all pairs. “Lucky” numbers in Mahjong (that everyone aims for) are two, five, and eight (I am subtle like a brick to the face). You can go ahead and imagine Hakkai going niko niko during the mahjong part and yes, it is very disturbing.
This particular fic is scrap, which is basically what I write when I’m sick (this was written during a nasty head cold), or need something to do with my hands (besides grope around for more Kleenex). It’s not perfect, or particularly smooth enough for my tastes, but it will hopefully be revised whenever I may have the time/energy/inspiration.
What the hell, I might as well post it anyway, yes? Reviewing is optional, but it makes me all warm inside.