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Equivalent Trade by chaosd
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It was one of those deserted passages in the mountains. They had been encountering nothing but blizzard for days and days of uncharted territory; their only chance of meeting people was small villages - two so-called streets, half a dozen of buildings, seasonal home for hunters, trading place for mountain tribes,- which weren't there until you stumble into a wall of a house.

It was lights of one of those that they greeted in the upcoming night with an under-breath yoshi, too exhausted to shout, too frozen to smile.

There was even an inn. There was even a room for them - small, dusty, one window, one bed, a coffin for four grown-up men, but no one said a word as they dumped their bags near the door along with capes and boots. The dinner also passed in silence, trickling with slowly unfreezing thoughts, and everyone tried to make himself as comfortable as possible - the hibernating dragon curled on the windowsill - as there was nothing much in the room to be comfortable on: not much bed and not much of the floor itself.

'I take the bed,' came a notice from the leader.

'I believe, -' began the only one who, at that point, had willpower or, rather, the strongest habit to doubt the decision. Besides, Hakkai had already taken a vantage point on the bed's edge.

'You can take the other side,' Sanzo swiftly cut off, scrambling over to the wall and dragging the pillow and blankets with him.

'Damn, I should have given it a go,' amusedly muttered Gojyo, nestling on the floor space which hadn't been occupied by the softly snoring Goku.

Hakkai was already stretching on his edge and half-heartedly tugging some of the blankets back and falling and falling...

He could remember sleeping soundly and without dreams. He could remember feeling happy and safe. Most of all he could remember darkness.

He couldn't remember how many times he had woken up. He hadn't even realized he had been flickering in and out of sleep until his third time or so. Those dark warm depths were so nice, but somehow he wasn't able to stay.

Every time, it went in the same circle. The source of disturbance was unclear, but it pushed him out into a fuzzy awakeness, into sensing the familiar presence around him, hearing everyone's steady breathing. Everything was good and alright here as well - and then he lost his consciousness again, for hours or minutes or seconds - he couldn't tell.

It was a new kind of routine for him.

He woke up. An entity touching his head and his toes, and a sharp smell of Sanzo's yet damp hair, and without an effort of analyzing or thinking or opening his eyes he knew that at some no-point of time or another dimension he had turned over and Sanzo had turned over and blankets were around them and the pillow was lost and their arms were carelessly entwined between, and Gojyo and Goku were close - should be there, - a continuation of the same warm nest.

He woke up. Darkness was still. Should be there. Hakkai carefully turned his head and cracked open an eye. Yes, there, sleeping, half-over each other in the entanglement of sheets and blankets. His head rolled back and he was out in a sigh. There was no fear.

He woke up. Darkness, no different from where he had been moments ago. A mindless imperative veined through the body made him access his perception over again. Yes, there, yes, close: touch - smell - listen - alive. Look. His muscles tensed only a fraction, but, perhaps, it was the rhythm of his breathing. He felt a sliding movement somewhere near his chest, extricating itself from his arms and a ghost of pressure against his cheek.

I can see them: everything is okay wrapped around the night, not breaking it, so Hakkai was never sure whether it had been a whisper, or a breath, or a shape of intention forming the words in his mind. He wanted to say: sorry, or thank you, or - but his tongue was as heavy as lead and everything left to him was a tug of lips, a seed of a smile, useless in the dark, but it was felt and the pressure dropped back.

Hakkai closed his eyes for the last time that night and never bothered to think of it later.

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