Arm braced on the back of his hip, Gojyo closed his eyes and leaned back, jerking himself smooth and slow. This place had a buffet-style breakfast, the manager had said last night, and even Goku couldn't clear the entire table in one go. Not that he wouldn't try. Gojyo chuckled, and widened his stance a hair, wrist sliding mechanically back and forth. No, it would take the kid a good fifteen, twenty minutes to eat every bite of food in the house, and that gave Gojyo plenty of morning alone time.
He'd need it; some mornings he woke up half-hard with the memory of dark eyes and full lips guiding his hand, and some mornings he... didn't. The yellowing walls and buzzing fluorescent weren't really helping any, either, but dammit, he was going to jerk off, and that was that. Use it or lose it, the old man had warned him, and Gojyo did. Every single day, rain or shine.
(It'd probably fallen off from the pox, but really, why take chances?)
It was funny, he thought, mind wandering gladly away from the memory of the blackened empty space between the old man's thighs. They'd been on the road for almost two years now. That meant that he'd jerked off almost seven hundred times since they'd left Chang'An.
That meant that for almost two years, the only hand on him had been his own.
If somebody had told him two years ago that he'd gladly give up feminine companionship, he'd have laughed them out of the room. Two years ago, he'd have been able to count on one hand the number of nights he'd slept alone (fucked slept, not slept-slept, because he never slept alone, not since Hakkai had arrived... and if his breath caught a little at the memory of Hakkai blinking sleepily in the morning light, well. There was no law against looking.)
And two years ago he needed it. Needed the soft touches and the little breathy sighs, needed the kisses and the nail marks and all the rest. (Yeah. Yeah. And the swell of her breast beneath her cheap fake-silk blouse, the way it swelled out with every breath, straining the material into tiny lines...yeah, just like that.) He still wanted it - fuck, he'd be dead six months in the grave before he stopped wanting to wrap his arms around a pretty girl and make her shiver - but he didn't need it anymore. Something had changed, but hell if he knew what, or when. That kind of introspective shit was best left to the bald types.
Back then, he didn't like being alone, not even for a minute... but now, those few minutes on his own were something to treasure. He wasn't really used to treasuring things, either, but he thought he could become accustomed.
He was getting a migraine.
Refusing to squint into the early morning sun, Hakkai steeled himself against the stabbing glare. He didn't complain, of course. He rather enjoyed swallowing the pain down, allowing the pinprick tingles of overstimulated nerve endings to flood his system with information until he wanted to scream. In another three hours, the sun would rise high enough that it wouldn't be directly in his line of sight any more. In another three hours, the headache would have split his head apart, stirred his stomach into roiling nausea, and rendered him functionally blind. Three hours (give or take). One hundred and eighty minutes. Ten thousand, eight hundred seconds. Hakkai smiled. Ten thousand seven hundred and ninety four. Ten thousand seven hundred and ninety three. Ten thousand seven hundred...
Two years ago, he would never have been able to keep himself under control like this. Two years ago every little thing set him off - dishes in the sink, the itch behind his scar, raised voices, scuff marks in the entryway, storm clouds on the horizon. But when every bend of the road could hide a squad of assassins, and every day brings a new town with new obstacles to overcome (bigotry, violence, inadequate hygiene), then there's no room for him to 'flip out'. He was the driver for Genjyo Sanzo, 31st of China, with all that entailed. Stretching his smile a hair wider, Hakkai adjusted his grip on Jeep's wheel (which trembled the slightest bit beneath his palms as Jeep purred happily), and automatically checked the rear view mirror. He had responsibilities, and couldn't afford the time to tend to his own quirks and shortcomings. He was the driver, and the tutor for the being Son Goku, and the...
Red eyes stared back, warm with concern. ...concern that quickly faded into a a bratty grin. "Hey, where's that thermos?" Gojyo asked, just a bit too loudly, ducking out of Hakkai's line of sight to root around in the bundles at his feet. Goku's indignant protests shattered the air a split second later, and Jeep squeaked a complaint as the shoving in the back seat rocked the entire carriage of the vehicle.
The five-gallon thermos held punch that had been intended for lunchtime, and possibly dinner. Hakkai's smile widened as Goku, crowing triumphantly, popped the spigot off the bottom and fastened his mouth to the open hole. The little things no longer set him off, especially now that he could see the reason behind them.
The sun bored a hole right through the top of his eye into his brain, and Hakkai allowed himself a sigh of contentment. The little things no longer set him off quite so badly, and even a small improvement was still an improvement.
Ten thousand six hundred forty-eight. Ten thousand six hundred...
Sanzo slouched lower in his seat when the morons began squabbling, hoping vainly to be able to tune them out. Or maybe that he'd be able to slouch far enough to have the sound of their voices go right over his head. Or maybe that they'd suddenly be stuck by lightning, or swept out of the back by a freak windstorm... He'd probably even pay to see that.
And of course it didn't work - it never worked - but if he turned around then they'd just get even louder. His hand twitched in his lap, itching to grab the fan from his sleeve and lay into their thick stupid heads...
"Hakkai," Goku moaned from the back seat, suddenly disturbingly still. It was always bothersome when Goku stopped moving, and Sanzo gritted his teeth as the headache he'd been fighting all morning exploded into glorious technicolor behind his closed lids. "Hakkai, you've got t'pull over. I've got t'piss."
...or maybe he'd have better luck with the Smith & Wesson.
"We're not stopping," he growled, not bothering to sit up. They'd only been on the road for about an hour, and like hell was he going to permit a delay this early in the day. Jeep bounced over a pothole, and Sanzo shot him a furious glare from the corner of his eye - Hakkai, you bastard, what are you playing at? - as Goku whimpered. Sanzo briefly considered sticking his fingers in his ears to block out the sound. All the way up to the knuckle. The second knuckle. "It's your own fault for drinking so much."
Goku exploded into whining protest, but through blank force of will Sanzo finally managed to tune the noise out. He didn't enjoy having the three idiots around him twenty-four hours a day (and he'd shoot anyone who suggested it), but neither did he miss row after row of bowed heads and stifled whispers, of silence when he entered the room and immediate, frantic obedience. Two years ago, he was trapped in a world of frightened, disapproving puppets. It wasn't unusual to go an entire week without ever looking another person in the eye... save for Goku, of course.
Two years ago, he was trapped, period. Unable to leave, unable to breathe, hardly; he'd smoked more cigarettes in a day sitting behind his gaudily carved desk than he did in a week here on the road. There was something liberating about being here under the open sky, something that he hadn't felt during those first few years of wandering.
But like hell was he going to think too hard about that. "Shut up!" he threatened, fan-fist clenching. Two years of these fools. It was a wonder he'd survived. It was a wonder he hadn't killed them all.
Goku whooped gleefully as the brilliant golden stream arced up nearly at eye level before pattering into the dust behind them. His whoop died just a few seconds later, however, when Gojyo's piss stream peaked a good six inches higher than Goku's. "No fair!" Goku shouted, bracing his foot against the back corner of the seat and angling his hips higher. "No fair, you're taller, that's cheating!" Gojyo laughed, and shoved Goku's shoulder away - a clear challenge, if ever one was issued - and the two of them started up a one-armed pushing match, both still trying to out-piss the other. "An' your thing is bigger, that's not fair!"
Goku wasn't one to think about yesterday, much less the day before. There was an empty place inside him that ached like a deep bone bruise whenever he thought about it, so he tried never to dwell on things that had happened. There was too much happening now to waste his time thinking about things that were long gone. Every day was special; every day was a memory to treasure. Every day, that empty place got a little bit smaller, a little bit easier to ignore. Soon, he wouldn't feel it at all.