It was late at night, that was all, and none of them thought anything of it. Hakkai was always tired at the end of a long day of driving, and spent the first half of dinner with his eyes half-closed, especially if it had been a sunny day.
He wasn't usually quite so pale and pinched around the eyes, though, and when the waitress arrived with the pork cutlets Gojyo was startled to look over and see that Hakkai had fallen asleep, neatly and quietly, in his chair.
Gojyo rolled his eyes, stabbed Goku's hand with a chopstick when the monkey tried to steal Hakkai's cutlet, and didn't wake Hakkai up. If Hakkai was embarrassed about it later, it would serve him right; the damn idiot never knew when to stop.
The waitress left with a glance over her shoulder, her hips tilting, deliberately. Gojyo let his gaze wander up over the swell of her ass, the narrow of her waist, to catch her eyes, and let his smile spread. She blushed and giggled, both at once, and ducked into the kitchen.
Sanzo muttered something indistinct into his cutlet about idiots. Gojyo leaned back, smirking, and let his eyes drift across the room.
That was when he realized a funny thing about inns, namely, that usually there were men in them. It was so stupidly obvious that it had taken him three courses to figure it out. The public house where they were staying was crowded and lively, and the food was so good, the waitresses so cute, that it had taken Gojyo nearly half an hour to realize that the waitresses were flirting so hard because their table had the only four men in the room.
Really, he should have known. Of course, it was perfectly natural for him to have all the women in the place draped over him -- but not this kind of woman, and not this kind of place.
"Huh," Sanzo said under his breath, and since Hakkai was dead asleep and Goku was busily stuffing his face with cutlet, it was Gojyo who, reluctantly, leaned forward.
"Battle, you think?" he said softly. Then, because Hyakugan Maoh hadn't been the only youkai with specialized tastes, he suggested, "Predation?"
A faint line appeared between Sanzo's eyebrows. "The townsfolk aren't afraid enough. Or angry."
"Huh." Gojyo flicked a quick glance at the tableful of women to their left. They were seventeen or thereabouts, murmuring and giggly, untroubled, unscarred.
Something was definitely not quite right. He elbowed Hakkai in the ribs. Hakkai made a tired, startled noise in his throat, and said blearily, "Sorry. What is it?"
"Che," Sanzo said. He pushed back his chair and went up to the counter. The round and aging woman who had given them rooms, with what in retrospect had been entirely too much amusement, looked up at him and grinned.
"Excuse me," Sanzo said, "I have a question."
"All the way from the river to the mountain range?" Gojyo said. "No men at all?"
It sounded like an absolute unfolding Eden, until the innkeeper said, "Oh, we get a few boys like you every now and then," and leered at him. That sent a sick sharp thrill through him, and he fell back, aghast.
Goku said, "Oh, I get it. It's like a monastery, backward."
"So it is." Sanzo looked keenly at the innkeeper. "Where do your novices come from?"
"Make 'em right here," she said cheerfully.
"No," Hakkai said sharply. He pinched the bridge of his nose, then went on in a more controlled voice, "That's impossible. There are too many of you. You can't get that many travelers." He was still wan, and Gojyo was starting to get concerned.
"Sharp one, aren't you," the innkeeper said, and chuckled. "Well, I might as well tell you, since you'd figure it out for yourself in a couple of days anyway. You remember that river you crossed, eh, must have been this morning?"
"You mean the one that none of the villagers would row us across," Hakkai said. He really did look sick.
"Ah yes, that would be the one. Did they remember to tell you it was one of the Three Gifts of Kanzeon the All-Merciful? No? Marvellous thing, that river. If someone decides that what her heart desires is a bouncing bundle of joy and there's no man around to help, well, all she has to do is cross it, and poof! she's pregnant." She smirked. "Well, all she or he has to do, I should say. Kanzeon is bounteous. Congratulations, boys."
There was a profound silence. The innkeeper surveyed their faces and snickered.
"I see," Hakkai said faintly. The air around Sanzo was full of white and outraged smoke.
Goku touched his stomach, wonderingly. "So I'm pregnant?"
"I doubt it, hon," the innkeeper said, more gently. "The river doesn't work on virgins."
Hakkai laughed hollowly. Gojyo said, "Um."
When Gojyo came down the next morning Sanzo was already seated at the table, well into a breakfast of cigarettes and coffee. Gojyo pulled up a chair, and Sanzo glared at him.
"Hey, man, he'd already been deflowered when I got him," Gojyo said, feeling strangely defensive.
Sanzo tapped the ash off his cigarette. His jaw twitched. "Why aren't you pregnant?"
"Wouldn't want to ruin this studly bod." Gojyo slid his palms down over his chest, and to his delight the veins in Sanzo's temples throbbed.
It was a good question, though.
Hakkai came down the stairs looking pale and determined. "Good morning!" he said. "I hope you had a good night's sleep! We have another two days of hard driving before we get out of the women's country. Fortunately Miss Yueling has assured me there are no magical rivers on the far boundary, ha ha."
Sanzo nearly dropped his cigarette into the ashtray.
"Hakkai," Gojyo said, and stumbled to a halt. He didn't know where to start. Across the table Hakkai sat rigidly straight, his cheerful morning smile fixed in place, his hands clasped on the table before him. There were deep shadows under his eyes and headachey wrinkles between his eyebrows. Gojyo felt guilty all over again.
He cleared his throat. "Hey. Um. You should have breakfast. You're eating for two now, right?"
"Ah, no, thank you," Hakkai said quickly, which was when Gojyo noticed that Hakkai had been keeping his eyes carefully averted from Gojyo's plate.
Gojyo silently shoved his mug of coffee across to Hakkai.
"This is ridiculous," Sanzo said abruptly. "We're not going anywhere."
Hakkai said, affronted, "I can still drive."
"Don't be stupid," Sanzo said. He tapped the ash off his cigarette. "Exactly how do you intend to fight Kougaiji when you're waddling?"
Hakkai didn't answer. He frowned at the ashtray. "Perhaps," he said, "you should cut back. Secondhand smoke is supposed to be very bad for fetal development."
The cigarette snapped in Sanzo's hand. "That does it. We are staying here until this is sorted out."
"But -- " Hakkai began. Then he paused; went pale; blinked; went green.
"Please excuse me," he said, very evenly, and made for the door.
It was nice to have help saving Hakkai from himself for once, even if Sanzo was being a total dick about it.
"But we can't just stay," Hakkai fretted, upstairs. Downstairs Sanzo was grimly interrogating his way through the inn. "Sanzo will never allow us to waste so much time. Miss Yueling says it's going to take more than a month."
"Could've been worse," Gojyo said. "Usually it's nine."
Unfortunately, that was just about all he knew about being pregnant. In his experience, the main symptoms of pregnancy mostly consisted of not showing up at the bar anymore, or, if you were Mrs. Yu the fish merchant, complaining about your feet a lot.
"That's true," Hakkai said. "I suppose I should count my blessings, ha ha."
"Um. Look." Gojyo jammed his hands into his pockets. "Sanzo's determined to find a way to get rid of it. He's enough of a bitch that he'll find one. Don't worry. We'll be on the road again in two days."
"Abortifacents are unreliable and risky," Hakkai said, a sentence like a shrug, unhappy. He smiled down at his hands, neatly folded on the bedspread. "This is all my fault. We wouldn't be stuck here if it weren't for me."
Gojyo was pretty sure the innkeeper had expected everyone but Goku to get pregnant. He considered Hakkai for a moment.
"Huh," he said. "That's a first. I don't think you've ever apologized for being the normal one before."
Hakkai stared; then he laughed, a puff of breath, like someone had hit him in the stomach. "Ah. No. Only to innkeepers."
"Yeah, shut up, the monkey starts it. You sure you don't want anything?" Gojyo tried to remember what Mrs. Yu had said she'd lived on when she was expecting. She'd certainly complained about it enough. "Rice?" he tried. "Tea?"
"No," Hakkai said. He fiddled with the bedspread. Then, in a very small voice, he said, "My back hurts."
When Hakkai fell asleep again, Gojyo made his way downstairs. Sanzo had alienated every person in the inn and had stormed out to the fields to smoke and stew. Gojyo leaned on the counter and gave the girl scrubbing the floor one of his best smiles, friendly and slow and only a little wicked. He lifted benches for her, flirted, patched a broken roof tile. He finished up in the kitchen, helping with the dishes from breakfast and lunch. The room was tiny, and the innkeeper was perched on a low stool only a foot from his elbow. She was plucking a chicken.
"How's he doing, then?" she asked.
"He's resting," Gojyo said.
"Ah, it takes some hard," she said. "Course, if you do it by the stream it hits you harder. I had one the slow way and two from the stream, and the ones from the stream were ten times worse. Not that it made any difference for the children." She dropped the bare carcass in a basket at her feet and reached for another. "He's yours, isn't he?"
Gojyo was grateful for the hair screening his face. "Didn't know we were that obvious."
"Hmph," she said companionably. "You weren't exactly trying to hide it. Can't say I blame you. He's cute."
He slotted a couple of plates into the rack to drain.
"How do you know," he blurted, "when you're pregnant?" He'd meant to lead up to the question a little more, try not to even ask it outright, but he was desperate to change the subject.
She stopped, propped an elbow on the counter, and looked at him for a moment. "Hanyou, are you? Oh, don't stiffen up on me, I've been around for a while, I don't care." She sighed. "Look, hon. Have you ever seen a mule have foals? If you were pregnant, you would know by now."
"Huh," he said, and looked down into the dishwater. He could see his face reflected in the soap bubbles, tiny, multiplied, and upside down. He picked up a plate and scrubbed. "Always wondered if I was shooting blanks. Didn't think I'd ever know."
"The stream has to have something to work with."
"So it's not mine, then," he said, and was surprised at the wash of disappointment that came along with the words. It was Kanan's, then; Hakkai had only ever had sex with two people in his life.
She grunted. "Heavenly gifts are Heavenly gifts. But the odds are against it. Here." She handed him a cup and he was distracted enough to knock it back without thinking. It turned out to be baijiu. While he was coughing, she sat back down heavily, settling her skirts around her.
"Mostly, though," she said, "it's his."
Of course it was Goku who found the solution.
Dinner was strange and off-balance. Gojyo was too preoccupied with making sure Hakkai wasn't about to fall over sideways to keep the monkey from stealing his food. Sanzo sat curled tightly in on himself, and kept starting little twitchy looks out of the corner of his eyes. The common room was twice as crowded as it had been the previous night, and every single woman there was staring at them and giggling, like the four of them were the prime exhibit in a zoo. It made Gojyo uncomfortable, and it was kind of hot, which was worse.
"This sucks!" Goku said. He dropped his bowl with a clatter. "What's wrong with everyone? I don't understand! We can just stop by the spring on our way tomorrow and everything will be normal again, so what's the problem?"
Sanzo's eyes narrowed, and he set his chopsticks down, very precisely. "What spring are you talking about?"
"The Ending Spring," Goku said, and blinked. "You know. The one that makes people not be pregnant anymore."
"I knew it," Sanzo said. Weirdly, he sounded more reassured than smug. "There's no way a power like that river could go unbalanced." Then he glowered and added darkly, "What I don't understand is why nobody told me."
"Aw, I know that one," Gojyo said under his breath. "It's this thing where you're a total asshole."
"Ah, Goku," Hakkai put in hurriedly, leaning forward, "exactly how did you find out about this spring?"
"This lady told me this afternoon! She makes these awesome pancakes and she's really nice, she gave me a bunch for free. She asked what I was doing here, so I told her, and then she told me that it was sweet of me but I didn't have to worry, because we can use the spring. Then she invited me up to her place for more pancakes, but it was almost dinnertime, and I had to come back. She said it was up in the forest. The spring, I mean. Can we go by her house tomorrow? The pancakes were really good."
Gojyo snickered -- they must really not get any men through here ever, if someone was trying to pick up Goku. Hakkai stepped on his foot under the table. Gojyo kept laughing, though, if more quietly, because Sanzo's jaw was making little popping sounds again.
When Sanzo called the innkeeper over to demand an explanation, her eyes said uptight asshole like Gojyo thought, except it came with a side of resentment that left Gojyo baffled. Usually no one resented Sanzo except for Gojyo, and he wasn't sure he liked strangers muscling in on his territory.
All the innkeeper said out loud, though, was, "Because it's impossible. No one can use the spring anymore."
Sanzo said coolly, "Why is that?"
She shrugged, and now she only looked weary. "All the youkai went to the forest after they went crazy. No one can get to the spring now, not even our best fighters. Everyone who's tried has been eaten."
"Oh, youkai!" Goku said. "We can handle that!"
Hakkai coughed and said, "Ah, for the sake of argument, suppose we could make it to the spring. What would I need to do? Bathe in it?"
"Drink it," she said. "As much as would fit in two tea cups."
"We'll go tomorrow," Sanzo said. "Will you draw us a map?"
She folded her arms and stared at Sanzo, a long, level look. "You really think you can reach the spring, don't you, pretty boy priest. Well. Bring back a barrel of the spring water, and I'll draw you any map you want."
Sanzo looked back at her, just as evenly. "We'll bring you a barrel. But it won't solve the problem for you."
"Don't try to teach me my job," she said sharply. "I just like to have something set by for emergencies."
It was shaping up to be a good day to pound some youkai. The morning was clear, only a few thin clouds high in the east, and the wind was cool. Gojyo came outside, swinging his arms to limber up his shoulders, and halted mid-stretch.
Jeep was pulled up in front of the inn, idling. A large barrel took up most of the backseat, and Sanzo was waiting behind the wheel. He was already smoking.
This would be interesting.
The cigarettes, at least, weren't a bad idea. Hakkai had forbidden Gojyo from smoking in their room, mostly by looking ominously long-suffering whenever Gojyo pulled out the Hi-Lites and genuinely happy whenever Gojyo put them back away. Gojyo sat down on the steps and lit up, savored the warm spread of the hit. The rumble of Jeep's engine seemed more subdued than usual, almost dubious. Gojyo agreed; he wasn't sure which was scarier, Hakkai passing out behind the wheel, or Sanzo trying to maneuver Jeep through a forest.
"Ah, Sanzo," Hakkai said from the doorway, full of sweet consideration, "how very thoughtful of you. But I thought you didn't have a license."
Sanzo took a draw on his cigarette. He did not look up. "You can't fight. You're staying here."
Hakkai said, with a politely immovable laugh, "Perhaps you might not have appreciated that pregnancy is a natural process. It has not unbalanced my qi."
"Let's go!" Goku came barrelling out of the door, nearly tripped over Gojyo, and skidded to a stop. "Sanzo?" he said. "Why are you driving?"
"You're riding shotgun," Sanzo said. "Get in."
Goku threw a wide-eyed glance over his shoulder at Hakkai, and edged across to Jeep.
Hakkai said, "Do you really think this is wise? Four people are safer than three."
"Don't be stupid," Sanzo said. "Your balance is shifting and your qi is depleted. You aren't used to fighting like this, and these two idiots will watch your back instead of covering their own. You're not coming."
"Diverted, I would say, not depleted," Hakkai said thoughtfully. "Still, perhaps you have a point. I certainly wouldn't want to endanger the party."
That was awfully easy. Gojyo looked warily up at Hakkai, but Hakkai's smile was only bland, not manic.
Sanzo tapped his ashes over the door of the Jeep, frowning. Then he pointed at Gojyo and said, "And you're not coming, either!"
Gojyo sat bolt upright. "Hey, what the hell -- "
"There is no way," Sanzo sneered, "that I am going to go fight a group of all-female youkai with you at my back."
Well, if Sanzo wanted him to stay and keep an eye on Hakkai, that was more than fine with him. He lounged back on his elbows and drawled, "Hey, if you'd rather have a battle than an orgy, don't let me get in your way."
Sanzo shot at him, which was not much of a thank you.
"If you want to get drunk you're paying for it," Sanzo said. "We'll be back in two days."
Sanzo revved Jeep and pulled out onto the road out of town. Goku twisted around and waved to them, his eyes solemn and wide, as Jeep swung around a corner and disappeared. The growl of the engine rattled around the street in their wake, erratic, and then faded into the clatter-chatter of village life.
The dust swirled in the air for a long strange moment before it settled back down onto the road.
"Oh dear," Hakkai said. "I should probably buy some treats for Jeep. He'll need them."
Gojyo squinted up at him. The sun was bright behind Hakkai's head, and caught on the pulled edges of his smile.
"You holding up all right?"
"Ah, yes, thank you. Luckily I never did eat much for breakfast."
Gojyo rolled his eyes. "Sit down. You're giving me a crick in my neck." Hakkai hesitated, and Gojyo said, "Fuck, man, I'll do the laundry this time. Sit down."
"Ah, well, then." Hakkai sat, with a weird careful hitch at the end, not at all like his usual invisible ease. He stared out at the swerving tire tracks Sanzo had left in the dust. "Maybe I should buy some bandages, too."
Gojyo put his cigarette to his mouth. "They'll be all right."
"I suppose the worst that is likely to happen is that they will crash Jeep. Ha ha."
"Eh," Gojyo said, "if we're really lucky they'll kidnap Sanzo and make him serve wine in skimpy costumes."
Hakkai laughed, and didn't hide it.
"I'm surprised you wanted to stay behind," Gojyo went on. "I would pay money to be there to see that."
Hakkai looked down at his hands, clasped between his knees. "Ah."
Gojyo flicked his ash off with a thumbnail and waited.
"Well, Sanzo had a point," Hakkai said, lightly. "My body is changing. It can be disconcerting."
"Mm. I think my nipples have gotten darker," Hakkai said, and a smile edged its way into his voice, one of the real ones, slow and sly. "I could be mistaken, though. You should have a look."
Gojyo grinned, and stubbed out his cigarette. "Yeah."
He figured he knew when he was being diverted, but it was a hell of a good diversion. They didn't get much time alone.
Gojyo lay propped up on one elbow and ran his hand down the warm slope of Hakkai's stomach. He knew it pretty well by now, soft skin interrupted by the tough diagonal smoothness of the scar, the faint trail of hair. He thought it might be starting to swell outward a little.
"This is weird," he said.
"It is," Hakkai said. He was looking pensively up at the ceiling, one of his hands absently tangled in Gojyo's hair. "Wouldn't you imagine that by now I would be more accustomed to having my body magically changed? But it doesn't work that way. It's just as strange the second time around."
"Um," Gojyo said, and slid back up the bed to get a better look at Hakkai's face.
"I can feel it growing." Hakkai's hand strayed down across his belly, his fingertips not quite touching his skin. "It's like an encapsulation in my qi."
"Look," Gojyo said reluctantly, because there was no way around this. "Have you thought about what happens if Sanzo and Goku can't get the spring water for you?"
"Mm. I'd have to have the baby," Hakkai said. "I'm afraid we'd be stuck here for a while. I don't see any other way."
"Right," Gojyo said. "About that. How is it going to get out?"
"I've been doing some research," Hakkai said. He looked eerily chirpy. "When vaginal birth is not indicated, the usual recourse is to open the abdomen. While I admit I'm not entirely clear about the, ah, anatomy involved in my particular case, I believe this is the best option. I will, of course, sterilize the knives for you beforehand."
Gojyo stared at him. "You don't seriously think I'm going to slice your belly open."
"It's actually quite appropriate!" Hakkai said brightly. "And convenient. I've already got a scar!"
Gojyo put a hand on Hakkai's shoulder, very carefully. "Hakkai."
Hakkai laughed, and then kept laughing.
Gojyo silently wrapped an arm around Hakkai's shoulders, and felt less helpless when Hakkai curled in against him. Hakkai stayed there until his shoulders stopped shaking, and another moment further, quiet.
Then he looked up, his face twisted and wistful, and said, "It would have looked like you."
Kanan's baby. The baby she'd sliced herself open to kill, half human, half youkai, the child who would have been born red, like Gojyo, like blood. Gojyo knew that, Hakkai knew that, and in all the years they had known each other they had never spoken of it once.
Something tangled in the back of Gojyo's throat. He gripped Hakkai's shoulders as if sheer mute strength could keep Hakkai from slipping back into his old shadowed world of long nights and brittle mornings; and then the bottom dropped out of Gojyo's stomach all over again when he realized he wasn't sure which baby Hakkai meant.
The first sign that Sanzo and Goku had made it back from the spring with was a streak of white that shot in through the window and swarmed about Hakkai's neck in agitated circles before it dove beneath his sash to hide, quivering.
Figured. Gojyo had actually been about to win this hand.
He tossed in his cards. He faintly heard the door slam downstairs and then, unmistakably, "I'm hungry!"
"Right on cue," Gojyo said. Hakkai smiled, nervously, and put his cards down in a tidy stack exactly parallel with the edge of the table.
Goku thudded up the stairs and slammed the door open. Sanzo came in behind him, his customary pissy self. He saw the beer and cards, and went even pissier.
"Hey! Hakkai!" Goku said. "We got it for you!"
"Oh," Hakkai said, softly, and put Jeep gently aside on the bed. Goku's shirt was torn and bloody, and there was blood crusted over his eyebrow and dried at the corner of his mouth.
"Hey, ape, you got scraped up," Gojyo said, trying not to sound too concerned.
"Don't call me an ape! You stupid kappa!"
"I'll call you an ape since you are one," Gojyo shot back, and took a careful look at Goku. It didn't look too bad -- Goku moved easily enough, and the dark flash Gojyo had seen underneath his shirt looked to be mostly bruises, and someone else's blood.
"I am so very sorry," Hakkai said. "What happened, Goku?"
"We had a big fight!" Goku said. "It was fun!"
"Were you hit in the chest, or in the stomach?" Hakkai said. He leaned forward, the low hum of his qi gathering, and raised his hand to hover over Goku's chest.
Sanzo knocked it away.
Hakkai looked up, startled. "What -- "
"Later," Sanzo said.
He held out a cup.
"Ah." Hakkai smiled, the quiet terrible smile Gojyo trusted least of all, and took the cup from Sanzo's hands. "Yes. Thank you."
He cradled the cup in his hands for a moment before he tipped his head back and drank it in one long swallow.
"What does it taste like?" Goku asked. "Sanzo wouldn't let me try."
"It just tastes like water," Hakkai said. He wiped his mouth and set the cup neatly on the table. "Well, that's that." He gave a smile that wanted to be cheery but came out sideways. "Gojyo and I were just playing poker, but perhaps now we should get -- " He stopped then, his eyes wide, and his hand flew to his stomach. "Ah, ha," he said weakly, "it seems to be working."
"Hakkai," Gojyo said, and stopped, helpless.
Sanzo pulled out a chair and sat down. "Deal me in," he said.
Hakkai was busy holding on to the edge of his chair and looking pale, so Gojyo scraped the cards together and shuffled. He dealt Goku in too, for good measure, and laid out the three common cards face up down the center of the table. He asked Sanzo, "Do you even remember the rules?"
"Of course," Sanzo said. He picked up his cards. "Spades are high, right?"
Gojyo snorted. "Yeah, sure. Ante's a buck."
Sanzo won both of the next two hands, which, fine, Goku never could bluff for shit, but it was pretty pathetic for Gojyo, let alone Hakkai. Hakkai laughed in a way that was more apologetic than irritated, and dealt the next round.
"I need a smoke," Gojyo said to no one in particular. He went out into the hall to light it, even though there wasn't really a reason to now.
After a while Goku came out too, looking shaken.
"I didn't realize it was going to hurt him!"
Gojyo shrugged, and looked down at his cigarette. "Having a baby is supposed to hurt worse."
Goku held still for a moment, and then said, almost angrily, "Really? That's stupid. Why is that?"
"Eh, Sanzo-sama would probably say some deep shit like `death hurts, life hurts worse.' I don't know. That's just how it is." Gojyo slung an arm around Goku's neck. "C'mon, kid, I want to hear what happened. How the hell did you let some youkai chick slice your forehead open, anyway?"
"Hey, there were a lot of them!" Goku said as Gojyo steered him down the stairs. "I had to hold them all back while Sanzo filled the barrel. A couple of 'em were pretty good! This one, she had a hook -- "
"Yeah? Wanna show me?"
The innkeeper told them off later for smashing up the courtyard. Sanzo put the damages on the gold card, and only shouted at them once.
They only got in a half day of driving.
The innkeeper had come out onto the steps to wave them off. The serving girls, who turned out to be her daughters, had clustered behind her and waved kerchiefs. Hakkai had waved back, which had made them giggle; Gojyo had blown them a kiss, which had made them giggle more.
They pulled over by a meadow as the sun was setting, and camped there for the night. "No more inns," Sanzo had decreed.
"Aw, what's the matter, pretty priest-boy can't handle having his holy ass ogled?" Gojyo had purred from the backseat, mostly because then Hakkai could be politely strained about Sanzo waving his gun around instead of being off somewhere silent and unreadable inside his head.
The meadow was fenced in and overgrown, a sheep pasture where there had not been any sheep for some time. A stream ran across one corner. Gojyo filled the pans there for dinner, while Goku and Hakkai got the fire going. After dinner, they swapped a few desultory jokes, and bedded down in Jeep.
The monkey snored.
Gojyo kicked him. Goku snuffled, shifted over, and started snoring in a different key.
Gojyo heard then the rustle as Hakkai sat up, the muted thump of the door closing. Hakkai did something with their luggage that made it clank, and then he was gone, his feet swishing through the grass, down towards the stream.
Gojyo waited enough time for Hakkai to take a piss, and then again, and then once more. Hakkai didn't come back.
The monkey was still snoring.
Gojyo blinked his eyes open and stared up at the moon. "Damn."
He found Hakkai crouched on the bank of the stream, refilling their water bottles. Hakkai looked up as Gojyo approached, his face a pale flash in the moonlight.
"Thirsty?" Gojyo said.
"I thought it would save us time in the morning," Hakkai said. His voice was thick and tired.
"Mm," Gojyo said. He leaned against the fence and waited.
Hakkai screwed the cap back on the water bottle and set it neatly on the grass. He came over and sagged against the fence beside Gojyo, his breath puffing out, not quite a sigh. Gojyo could just see the outline of his head against the sky, and the glint of moonlight on his hair.
"Does it still hurt?" Gojyo asked, very softly.
"No," Hakkai said. "Not at all. It's like nothing ever happened."
Gojyo almost didn't say anything, because he wasn't sure, not really, and if he was wrong, then it was much better to have never said anything at all. But he knew that voice and hated it, hated the bleakness of it, and he knew the way Hakkai was standing, stiff and pulled into himself, like he didn't deserve to disturb the air.
Gojyo tipped his head back and looked up at the moon. He took a deep breath.
"If we took the same route on the way back," he offered, "we'd have to cross the river again."
Hakkai didn't say anything for a while. Gojyo could feel the warmth of him near his shoulder, not quite touching.
"Ah, so," Hakkai said at last. His voice was almost wistful. It sounded like indestructible wives, and not like Kanan.
That was all right.
Gojyo stretched his arms out along the fence. The weathered wood was rough against his skin. "Yeah, so. How's the road look tomorrow?"
"Not too bad," Hakkai said. "It should be easy driving, if the weather holds."
"Ah," Gojyo said. They stood like that for a while, listening to the crickets.
"Gojyo," Hakkai said suddenly.
Gojyo heard Hakkai take a breath, then let it out. "Nothing," Hakkai said. He settled against Gojyo, his shoulder solid against Gojyo's own. "It is a nice night, isn't it?"
"Yeah," Gojyo said, and smiled into the blind darkness. "Damn crickets are louder than the monkey, though."
"I sort of like them," Hakkai said. "They always sound so alive."
"Pfft," Gojyo said.
He put his arm around Hakkai's shoulders, though, just because.