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The Warmth of the Sun

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"You forgot to put on sunscreen again," Hakkai chided, as Gojyo came in and Hakkai saw the red of his skin. Gojyo refused to admit that he burned more easily these days, and so, more often than not, after a day of gardening he'd come in with the back of his neck as red as his hair had once been.

He kept it cut close to his scalp now, as his hair had grown pinker as it shaded toward white. His eyes had never lost their scarlet intensity, though, and Hakkai watched them narrow in his direction. "Ever occur to you that maybe I did put it on? And burned anyway? Because the sun's crazy hot today?"

Hakkai arched his eyebrows. "Did you?"

Gojyo held Hakkai's eyes for a full three seconds before his gaze dropped. "I could have."

"Could have," Hakkai said, his voice dry as toast.

"You can heal me up anyway." Gojyo sounded a little defensive.

"I can," Hakkai chided. "But the more often you're healed--"

"I know, I know," Gojyo said. "But honestly, I burn through the sunscreen half the time anyway. I'm gettin' too old for this."

"I suppose we are," Hakkai said. "We could ask Mrs. Pan's children to help with the weeding."

"We could," Gojyo said. "But I like doing it. Good for me to get out in the sun."

"And I'd complain when they trampled the plants."

"You might," Gojyo said carefully.

Gojyo knew him far too well. "Perhaps next year we should just plant a smaller garden." After all, it had been some years since they'd needed all they canned. Last year they'd given dozens of jars to the temple for the monks to distribute to the poor. Come to think of it, Sanzo had rolled his eyes a bit.

"I don't know," Gojyo said. "I mean, we've only got a storeroom full of vegetables. In July."

"Yes, yes," Hakkai said. "I suppose I'm still anticipating the worst."

"Guess I am too," Gojyo said, scratching at the red skin at the back of his neck.

"What do you mean by that?"

"Well," Gojyo said. "I didn't think I'd live this long, you know? Doesn't matter what you do to your skin if you're gonna be dead in a month." He dropped into a chair at the kitchen table. "I mean. Who cares about sunscreen then, right?"

"I suppose we're both victims of our success," Hakkai said wryly, and crossed over so he could heal Gojyo's sunburn. "But I do wish you'd remember the sunscreen. Or you could wear a hat."

"A hat," Gojyo said, disdain dripping from his voice.

"I know it might affect your 'cool,' Hakkai said, indulgently.

"Shut up, I just don't like hats."

"Hmm." Gojyo's skin wasn't as burnt as he had feared, though it was still quite pink. They were getting older, and Hakkai had never stopped asking as much of Gojyo as he had when they were young. Or himself, for that matter. "Perhaps we should do something...different today."

"Haven't I done enough crap today?"

"That's what I'm thinking," Hakkai said, as the chi hummed under his fingers. "We've done enough. We could take the rest of the day off. Perhaps tomorrow, as well."

"That sounds better," Gojyo said. "Though I can't help wondering what the catch is."

"No catch," he said. "The house will be fine for a day or two."

"You feelin' okay?"

"I'm feeling fine," Hakkai said. "Appreciative, I suppose." Gojyo was right. They'd both been given more time than they'd ever anticipated. Perhaps more time than they deserved. Why not take a day or two off? Why not just...enjoy being alive for a change? "Do you remember that inn?"

"Which inn?"

"The one with the hot springs. It's north of here. We stayed there, once, when we were looking for that artifact--" Hakkai searched his memory before the inevitable 'What artifact?'-- "The jade statue--the rather distinctive one--”

"The one that looked like a dick!" Gojyo said, happily.

Gojyo wasn’t wrong. "Yes. That one."

"That place was pretty nice," Gojyo said. "You think we can afford it?"

"We both know we can," Hakkai said, finishing up. "We were just in the habit of not being able to afford anything for so long, we've just forgotten."

"Yeah, I guess you're right."

Hakkai brushed his fingers across Gojyo's hair. "And we can share a room, that will save money."

"One bed," Gojyo said thoughtfully.

"I heard they have couples' massages."

"Hmmmmm." Gojyo closed his eyes and rubbed a hand across his face. "But is that...I mean, you're just watching each other get massages, right? Is that sexy?"

"I thought it would be relaxing."

Gojyo shook his head. "If you say so. I might just soak my ass."

"That would be fine," Hakkai said. "Should I see when they might have a vacancy?"

"Guess we've earned a vacation, huh?"

"We've fairly earned our retirement, several times over. A vacation certainly seems in order." After they'd returned east, it had felt like they had so much time. It was strange to think how much had happened since then. To realize that the time behind them stretched much further back than the road ahead.

He rested his hands on Gojyo's shoulders. "Do you remember when you used to have to tie up your hair?"

"Took forever to dry," Gojyo said. "That was before it started thinnin' out."

"I rather liked it long."

"Didn't look right long and pink, and I never could dye it." He shook his head. "Never really wanted to. This is easier to wash."

"I remember." He'd been so delighted the first morning out of the shower. I'd almost forgotten how easy this is, he'd said, and had grabbed Hakkai's wrists, passed his fingers through the new, short hair--

They'd been younger then, even if Gojyo's hair had started fading. Hakkai remembered the moisture on Gojyo's neck, remembered bracing him against the bathroom door, how different it was when he could see the long span of Gojyo's neck and the dark pattern of his youkai mark as they moved together.

They hadn’t done anything like that in a while.

The warm baths would do them good.

"You're thinking," Gojyo said, his tone not quite a warning.

"I'm fine," Hakkai said. "Just thinking of what they had at the spa."

"We can figure it out when we get there," Gojyo said. "Should we tell the monkey and the monk where we're going?"

"We probably should, so no one will be alarmed. Perhaps not our precise location."

He could hear Gojyo's smile. "Want some time to ourselves?"

"Don't you?"

"It doesn't sound too bad," he said, reaching his hands up to touch Hakkai's. Hakkai felt the old, familiar current between them.

“I’m sure Mrs. Pan’s children can’t do too much damage in a few days.”

“Give you something to complain about if they do,” Gojyo said.

"You're too kind."

Gojyo tilted his head back. "How's this sound? We get the kids to weed and I keep you distracted. We have to fix something when we get back, we fix it."

After all these years, Gojyo could still make his heart beat just that much faster. "That sounds all right," Hakkai conceded.

"I'll ask--"

"Nah," Gojyo said, and Hakkai could hear him grinning. "Not just yet. I’m gonna distract you first."