by Princess of Pain
Part I: Making a Break
SECTIONS: 1 of 7
SPOILERS: References to the end of Volume 7 of the manga, and to the Shuuei/Rikudo saga.
WARNINGS: This section contains cussing, nudity, and a bit of bloodiness.
"Hey, Hakkai...?" Goku's eyes were perfectly round, as they tended to be when he was clueless. It was as if he tried to soften the blow of how silly his question might be by making himself as cute as possible.
"Mm?" Hakkai looked up from his book. One of his eyes had disappeared behind the shield of his monocle. The other, a green that made Goku think of ripe melons, provided only a mild stare. You could never tell what Hakkai was thinking when you looked in his eyes--he wasn't like Sanzo or Gojyo, both of whom Goku found easy to understand. With them, almost everything was up-front and in your face. Hakkai kept all of that under lock and chain.
"When's Gojyo going to get back?"
A near-imperceptible shift of his oddly delicate shoulders. "Whenever Gojyo chooses."
"But why'd he have to be so stupid and storm off in the first place? All I did was pull on his hair, and it's not like a huge clump came out--"
"You broke the cardinal rule of mock-combat. No hair-pulling, especially if you actually pull the hair out."
"Sanzo, is that true?"
For a moment, Goku didn't think that the monk would respond. His head was buried in the local paper, and he normally didn't respond well to reality until he reached the Classifieds. Then, after a brief rustle of paper: "I wouldn't know. I never play when I fight."
Goku blinked. As with most things Sanzo said--things that did not contain the words "Bakasaru", "NO", or "Shut up or I'll kill you"--it unsettled him. And as he did with most things that unsettled him, he promptly forgot about it. "D'you think I should apologize, Hakkai? I think I can buy him some new hair... "
Light, staccato laughter. "Now, now, don't worry about our friend Gojyo. I suspect he's suffering from a mild case of cabin fever. He'll come back when he gets tired, or hungry."
"Or in a pine box," Sanzo said. The voice behind the newspaper sounded slightly hopeful.
"Then how come," Goku said slowly, as though he was trying to verbally solve a complex math problem, "we only got a room with three beds?"
"If he's gonna pitch a hissy, he can pay for his own damned room," the voice behind the paper snarled.
"So... what if he doesn't come back?" Goku asked.
If Sanzo had something to say to that, he did not share it. The laughter quickly slid off Hakkai's face, though, like rain rolling off a sheet of glass. Goku fidgeted under the almost-stern gaze that the youkai fixed him with; he hated making the others get too upset, or too serious. "Not again, Goku."
"But what if he doesn't?"
"What if your head exploded?" Sanzo grumbled.
"He has hardly been provoked enough to leave again," Hakkai said. His seriousness was drifting away just as quickly as his laughter, being replaced by his usual placid expression. "After all, he left his cigarettes in Jeepu, and he spent all his money in the last town. He can't leave his addiction behind, if nothing else."
"Well, yeah. But maybe I should apologize anyhow. He was being a stupid kappa, but I did pull out a lot of hair... do you think I should apologize?"
"Perhaps that would smooth things over more quickly," Hakkai said, noncommittal.
"If you're asking for permission to leave, get the hell out. Maybe then I'll get two seconds' peace."
Goku (after making absolutely certain that Sanzo was not peeking over the edge of the newspaper) stuck his tongue out at the monk, pulling down on one of his eyelids for good measure. With a "Thanks, Hakkai!", he bounded out the door. If he could just find Gojyo, things might work out for the best, in the end.
In spite of Goku's wonderings, Hakkai did not begin to seriously worry about either of them until several hours later. Sanzo and he passed the time amiably enough--reading, for the most part, in silence. Given their interesting companions, and their interesting quest, it was almost impossible for monk and youkai to find the time to sit and delve into their respective reading choices. Hakkai accepted the opportunity gratefully. After all, nothing too horrible could possibly happen to Gojyo and Goku--nothing that, put together, would not wind up with its ass thoroughly punished.
Concern sank into his heart as the sun sank into the west. It had been at least three hours since Goku had so eagerly ran off. Surely, it would not take that long for him to find Gojyo, apologize, and come back... unless, of course, they had both been thoroughly stopped. Visions of impossibly strong bands of youkai, not to mention more rebel gods, danced in his head. Even if Goku wasn't killable, he was certainly woundable. And Gojyo was a lot more susceptible to death than he liked to let on.
As the sunlight filtering in through the hotel room's windows caught fire and turned a burnt orange-yellow, his concern mutated into flat-out worry. Not only was something being wrong with Goku and Gojyo becoming more of a possibility, he had no idea of how to suggest to Sanzo that they needed to be looked for, in such a way that Sanzo would actually accept.
He tried, as always, for diplomacy (being the subtle art of letting someone else have your way, of course). "Goku has certainly been gone for a while."
"Perhaps something has not gone according to his plans."
"We're his friends, aren't we?"
"If he dies, it's his own stupid fault."
"I care about them."
"That's your mistake, not mine."
This was not going particularly well. "I suppose it is," he said, his usual smile firmly in place. "Still, though, I worry about their livelihood. And perhaps the Sanbutsushin worry as well."
"Pardon me?" That got his attention.
"You know... Kanzeon Bosatsu did come down to save you, during that business with Rikudo. I suppose she'll be willing to make another visit, if Goku and Gojyo are in too much trouble."
Sanzo glared at him over the edge of the newspaper. "I hope not. That creepy bitch."
He laughed. "Do you think she'll suck out your blood, if Gojyo or Goku needed it?"
The monk visibly shuddered. "I guess checking up on them might not be a bad idea."
"I think it's a wonderful one," he said, his smile widening. "But then, you're not our fearless leader for no reason at all, are you?"
"Are you making fun of me?"
"Would I do that to you?"
Sanzo put down his rather-crinkled newspaper. With a sigh, he pulled off his spectacles. "Yes. Although I get the feeling that I wouldn't know if you did."
Hakkai emitted more of his canned laughter as he stood. "Maybe you're right. Where do you think we should begin to look for them?"
Hakkai was halfway to the door, before he realized that Sanzo was not following him. Sanzo also wasn't saying anything; his sentence had been neatly amputated. The youkai looked over his shoulder, to ensure that there was nothing wrong.
What he saw was Sanzo staring out the window. Sanzo had frozen halfway between sitting and standing--both hands still resting on the table at which he'd sat, his butt still hovering a bit above the chair. The burnt-orange light of the sunset caught in his pale hair and skin, making them glow with an almost unnatural beauty that would make anyone's heart ache. Eyes the color of a cloud swollen with thunder and rain were wide; his mouth was hanging quite open. He was squinting, his head cocked ever so slightly in a classic expression of confusion. What he was thinking could not have been more clear if someone had written "WTF" on his forehead.
"Hakkai," he said, his voice sounding almost strained. "I want you to come over here, right now, look out this window, and tell me what you see."
Feeling rather confused himself, Hakkai moved to stand next to Sanzo, and trained his gaze out the window. The sunset's light was beautiful, bringing out all the green of the trees surrounding the village's central street. The street itself was crowded with the after-work, before-dinner shoppers, who appeared to be splitting and making room for someone in their midst. Hakkai couldn't help but focus on that; it was odd, all of those people shifting and making room for someone...
Suddenly, he realized who that someone was. In an unintended parody of Sanzo, his mouth dropped open.
"... is... is that Gojyo?"
"Yeah." Sanzo lit a cigarette. "I was hoping I was wrong. Guess not."
"... is he naked?"
"What..." For the first time in a long time, Hakkai found himself truly at a loss for words.
"Beats all fuck out of me. Maybe he's snapped."
"But where's Goku?"
"Not with Gojyo, apparently."
Hakkai quietly prayed for patience. "Well, shall we go see what's going on with him?"
"Sure, why not. If he gets arrested, I don't want to have to pay his bail."
He liked this. The sun felt good on his naked skin, except for the parts where the blood was getting sticky and thick. Ugh. That wasn't so good. So he sat down and tried to scrape some of it off, but then, it only got dirt in it. Fuck it. Didn't matter. Besides, the sun was so lovely. He wanted to walk into it, but he decided that it would be a shorter walk over to that food stand. Oh, an apple never sounded so good before! He stood and quietly ate, savoring every bite. He thought he heard a noise in the background, something that kind of sounded like someone telling him to pay, but he didn't listen. Who cared? He thought about not eating the seeds or the stem, but decided it would be too much trouble. They hurt his stomach, and that was bad, but the sun was still so nice, and the air felt so good rubbing against every bared inch of his body. People passing, he didn't see their faces. They didn't matter. It was all a soft rumble in the background of his mind. All was well.
That noise got through; why? He turned, his body swaying awkwardly, as if he was not used to using it. Oh. The noise came from a person he knew. Hakkai. He remembered this person very well. They had been friends for years now. He loved Hakkai. Hakkai was his friend. Not like the little shitsucking saru from before, and thank the powers that be that he wouldn't have to deal with HIM anymore. His stomach itched. He ran his nails over it. "What?"
"Ah... Gojyo, are you feeling okay?"
"Fine. Great. Awesome. Never been better." Why wouldn't he be? The sun was nice and warm, and the blood was caked on thickly enough so that it felt like a second skin stretched over his own, no longer sticky. And now Hakkai was here, his friend, whom he loved. Everything was marvelous.
"Where the fuck is Goku, you retarded kappa?"
And nothing was fine. Nothing was good. There. The stupid fucking monk. The wicked smart-mouthed evil hypocritical heartless useless monk. Flowers died wherever he went; his voice struck anger in his heart. The monk never had a good word for him or for anyone. He hated him. He decided that he wanted to kill him.
Hakkai wondered whether or not the weight of his sins had finally driven him mad. Seeing Gojyo naked wasn't a shock (it's hard to live with someone for three years without walking in on them in the bath at least once); the context of his nudity certainly did. There he stood, right in the middle of the street, thick bloodsplatters inkblotting over his stomach and his legs and matting into the dark curls nestled around his--Hakkai turned a little red. He honestly had no idea how he was supposed to respond to this situation, so he tried to simply ask Gojyo how he felt--and then Sanzo opened his mouth, and everything quickly went straight to Hell.
The look that the hanyo bestowed upon Sanzo chilled Hakkai's marrow. He'd seen Gojyo angry before, dangerously so... but never anything resembling this naked, unbound fury. There was hate there, and murder. In that instant, he realized that Gojyo looked like Gonou, and he knew a creeping, horrid fear.
"I killed him," the redhead said. Despite the anger in his eyes, his voice sounded like it was discussing nothing more important than the weather.
"I know I didn't hear that right," Sanzo snapped. "Speak up, jackass."
"I. KILLED. HIM." Gojyo tilted his head, as an animal expressing curiosity at some new noise. "He was loud and rudish. Didn't like it. Didn't like HIM. Hated him, so crude. So I sliced him up until he died. I think that I'll kill you."
A smirk cut into Sanzo's face. He opened his mouth, probably to observe that Gojyo could not successfully shave without cutting himself, much less properly handle his shakujou, and that Goku would not die even if he were killed. At the same moment, his hand dropped down to grip the butt of his pistol.
This was as far as he'd gotten when Gojyo fell upon him.
It was incredible, really--even Hakkai did not precisely see the hanyo moving. It was almost an exercise in teleportation. Gojyo simply appeared before them, the moon-shaped blade of his shakujou spinning and looping crazily through the air, the chain grinding and whirling behind it. His sunset eyes blazed with violence and cruelty. He looked as though he planned on taking a shit in Sanzo's chest cavity, once he messily cut out an appropriate hole.
"S--" And his chi-barrier was up and in place, the shakujou's blade bouncing off the humming shield of light. Hakkai glanced over at Sanzo. The monk had not so much as flinched. He'd drawn his weapon, but kept it aimed towards the ground, his index finger laying flush against the barrel instead of tucked against the trigger. His smirk had given way to a glare of cold contempt.
Gojyo kicked the barrier. It was a wild, childish kick, like a teenager who is angry with his parents slamming his bedroom door. "Stupid--fucking--" The ire he fixed on Sanzo would have made a redwood wither. "You motherfucking hypocritical bastard! You waste of space! You spout all of that shit about living for yourself because you're afraid that if you called it selfishness, everyone would realize what a hole you are!"
"Is stupid catching, Hakkai?" Sanzo said. To the youkai's amazement, Sanzo seemed more amused than angered at Gojyo's words.
"I would think that you would have been infected long ago, were it contagious," he said.
"I--what does he think he's doing now?"
Hakkai looked to Gojyo, then realized that the hanyo was no longer there. In the last ten seconds, he had apparently wandered away. Accordingly, the chi-barrier disappeared, and the youkai gave the crowd that had gathered an embarrassed smile. "We're terribly sorry for the trouble," he said to them; to Sanzo, "Where do you think Goku is?"
Sanzo did not respond until he had lit himself a cigarette. "Not dead, certainly. Probably he's wherever Gojyo was when his brain got scrambled. Where did he go after he pitched his fit and stomped off?"
"Ah, the woods."
"How do you know?"
"I watched where he went from the window." He felt strangely exposed under Sanzo's gaze. "I was worried about him. In case something happened, I wanted an idea of where he had gone."
The monk shrugged. "So who gets to wrangle the crazy, and who gets to go tromping through the woodlands?"
Hakkai could have pointed out that Sanzo was a much better wrangler than he. The image of Sanzo shooting a naked Gojyo until he ran out of bullets, then standing on his corpse and screaming out his victory to the gods and everyone, kept him silent on that accord. "I'll try my hand at calming him down. Since Goku might be.... hurt, you should take some bandages with you."
"Fucking forests," Sanzo griped. "You watch. More of Winnie-the-Pooh's rabid brethren are going to eat the stupid saru before I even get to him."
Hakkai smiled. "I admire the courage and fortitude with which you face your troubles, Sanzo."
Next section: "Ever So Slowly, Thumping Away". Sanzo goes monkey-hunting, while Hakkai tries his hand at hanyo-wrangling.