Smoke

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by nekojita

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The familiar, maddening urge made Gojyo’s body twitch, made his foot tap against the floor and the arms folded over his chest tighten with each breath. He tried to ignore it for a little longer, loathe to move from the not quite comfortable chair he’d sprawled in over an hour ago, tired and furious and still just the tiniest bit scared out of his wits. Well, the few wits he could lay claim to anymore, which was still a hell of a lot compared to some people he wouldn’t name. He tried to distract himself with disdain and creating new insults for those people but nevertheless his hand crept toward the pocket just inches above his folded arms.

Hakuryuu, stretched out along Hakkai’s hip and abdomen, his master lying on his side in the bed with his hand curled up beneath his chin, instantly snapped up his head at the first rustle of cellophane. Gojyo caught the bright flash of tiny flame and the hint of smoke that was the dragon’s way of telling him the only smoking going on in the room would be his charred body. Damn fucking white lizard, he thought with more than a little annoyance as Hakuryuu glared at him in reproach. He wasn’t stupid enough to smoke in here, not now. Really, he was just pulling out his pack of cigarettes, which he’d stopped doing at the first sign of dragon flame.

"I know, I know," he grumbled as he forced his body onto his feet. First riding along in the back of a magical jeep that didn’t know the meaning of ‘shock absorbers’, then a hell of a nasty fight, and finally the vigil in a chair more sturdy than comfortable and his body wasn’t a very happy camper right about now. Oh well, at least it was all in one piece.

"I’m not going to smoke around him until he’s better," he continued as Hakuryuu refused to settle back down. "So I’ll step outside, all right? That make you happy?" He kept his voice pitched low even though there was a better chance of Sanzo waltzing into the room dressed up as a courtesan and announcing that their journey was over than Hakkai waking up any time soon. But something about the tiny dragon’s demeanor drew the explanation from him. Fuck, he’d been around Hakkai way too long if he was carrying on conversations with a stupid flying lizard.

Ignoring the beast, which hissed slightly as he approached the bed and ran a hand over Hakkai’s forehead, he frowned and grabbed one of the clothes resting in the pan of water on the nightstand. Hakkai was still a little too warm so he wrung out one of the clothes and settled it on the pale, hot forehead. He couldn’t resist a caress to a fragile-seeming cheekbone before returning Hakuryuu’s baleful look. Damned thing had a tendency to think of Hakkai as his and to blame Gojyo for anything that happened to the stubborn man.

"He’ll be fine, once he gets some more rest. Watch over him while I’m gone." He didn’t need to hear the dragon’s soft chirp to know that it would guard Hakkai during his absence.

He gathered up the empty bowls and mugs to take with him as he left the small room. Stepping outside, he was relieved to see that Goku had given up on his vigil by the door and had left to either go get some sleep or to eat. Most likely the latter if he knew the stupid monkey at all. That meant that Sanzo was either downstairs with Goku or holed up in his room. Not really caring which it was as long as the bastard stayed away from Hakkai, he made his way downstairs to the kitchen.

The innkeeper’s wife instantly noticed him and rushed over to take the tray from his hands. "How is he doing? Did he eat everything?"

"Yeah, he managed to get it all down before falling asleep," he told her, his now empty hands itching to reach for and light a cigarette. "If you don’t mind, I’d like a little more of the tea and some broth to take him when I come back in, and a few more chips of ice if you can spare them." Sanzo’s credit card would cover the expense.

The plump young woman bobbed her head and smiled. She was very eager to please the ‘great’ Sanzo’s guests, though he thought she might have a bit of a soft spot for Hakkai. His lover tended to draw the mothering types to him, amongst others. "Of course I can manage all of that. How long will you be?"

He thought about how many cigarettes were left in his pack. "At least a half hour, maybe longer."

Another nod and then the woman carried the tray over to the sink. "I’ll have everything ready by then."

Pleased, he grunted in acknowledgement and walked outside. The weather was hot but the sun was starting to fall from the sky so he didn’t have much of a problem finding a patch of shade to stand in. Leaning against the inn’s stucco wall, he pulled out his cigarettes and lit one.

The first few puffs he savored, not thinking of anything but how good the smoke felt sliding into his lungs and then back out again, how his nerves settled down and the craving started to fade. He managed to keep that up for about a half a dozen drags and then thoughts and emotions crept back in, chasing each other around and around in his head and making him tense once again. Nothing left to do but smoke his troubles away.

He’d picked up the habit from his brother. One of the few precious memories from his childhood was sitting underneath a star-filled sky one early spring night while Jien sneaked a cigarette. He’d asked his brother why he’d picked up the habit, and was told that it was relaxing.

"I take in a deep breath," Jien had told him, the amused smile on his face twisting the marking that ran across his tan nose. "Then I think about what’s bothering me while I hold it in, and when I let out the smoke I see my troubles vanish with it, into the air."

Of course he’d known better than to ask Jien what was bothering him, and a couple of months later his brother was gone. He’d thought of him when he’d picked up his first pack of cigarettes and when times were difficult he found a quiet place to smoke his troubles away. And these times were definitely difficult, he thought with a humorless snort.

So he took a nice, long drag on the cigarette and held his breath for a few seconds. The first thing he thought about was Sanzo and how the bastard monk had dragged them into this mess. About how he lorded it over the three of them; the big, important human entrusted by the gods to set the world aright. There was another snort as he let out his breath in a rush and then he tried again. Sanzo was always good for a few cigarettes before he’d smoked away enough of his annoyance at the man.

But today it was more than just Sanzo’s insistence that he, Hakkai and Goku were only there to humor the gods and cater to him. That he didn’t need any of them and they were just troublesome pests he’d been saddled with. That they were youkai, never to be trusted. Oh, he usually smoked at least two cigarettes a day over those familiar themes, even more if he’d been smacked or shot at for disturbing the mighty Sanzo.

No, what made him finish the first cigarette and start on another, taking slow drags all the while and trying to imagine his turbulent emotions to vanish like the smoke was how stubborn and stupid Sanzo could be. How… suicidal. One didn’t need to be as smart as Hakkai to know that Sanzo hated life. Hell, Goku could figure that out all on his own. Normally he couldn’t care less that Sanzo was the most miserable bastard he’d ever come across and had a death wish as big as the chips on his sutra-bearing shoulders. But when that hatred of all living things, even himself, threatened Gojyo’s friends….

He took a deep drag from the cigarette, his hands shaking in anger. The bastard had welcomed the youkai attack, had even smiled his sliver of a smile at the thought of the boredom of traveling coming to an abrupt end. At the thought of killing youkai. He’d whipped out his gun and started firing, completely uncaring about the mayhem that sprouted up around them or the fact that they were grossly outnumbered. That several of their attackers knew magic and hurled spells at them that charred the very ground they stood on.

Hakkai kept them safe. He’d created a barrier to withstand the spells, lowering it after each attack so they could take out more of the enemy, his chi spheres seeking out the spell casters. Sanzo fired at anything and everything, almost hitting Goku one time. It had been difficult but they finally dealt with the wizard youkai – which still left almost four dozen regular youkai for them.

And Sanzo hadn’t cared about anything but killing them, not even his own life. Gojyo let out a shuddering breath as he dropped the cigarette to the ground, his toe stubbing it out violently as he lit another one. Sanzo hadn’t even cared when he’d been injured, when any of them were hurt. Hell, he seemed to welcome the pain and damage, sick bastard that he was. He even swore at Hakkai when the man took a blow meant for him.

Gojyo ran his hands through his hair at that memory. He held his breath an extra long time and concentrated on the fury inside his chest melting away into the air as he let it back out. That was the past, there was nothing he could do to change things. They’d killed all the youkai and Hakkai, already pressed to exhaustion from the fight, had healed them all. Had wasted precious energy on Sanzo because the stupid monk didn’t give a damn how badly he was injured as long as he took a youkai down with him.

He inhaled, held it and slowly let out his breath several times, well into the third cigarette until the fury and almost-hate turned into the familiar annoyance and almost-humor he felt when he normally thought about Sanzo. There were lost causes and then there were lost causes, and Sanzo was definitely the latter category. All Gojyo could do was make sure that Sanzo was the only one to pay the price for Sanzo’s actions.

The next cigarette was for Goku. Sure, Sanzo was the monkey’s sun but he still felt molten anger at the memory of Goku pleading with an obviously drained and wounded Hakkai to tend to Sanzo first. For him acting as if Sanzo was the only one of them that really mattered. For failing to see that Sanzo, as with most things, had brought the wounds on himself with the disregard for any safety.

But he could never stay angry with the kid for long, and it only took a few puffs before that anger cooled and vanished into the darkening sky. He could never stay pissed off at Goku for any length of time because there was no real malice in the kid, and the way he tagged along after Sanzo sometimes reminded Gojyo of the way he’d follow Jien everywhere. Besides, he had to feel sorry for the stupid monkey. Sanzo was never going to feel a tenth of what Goku felt for him. Cold bastard, too busy wallowing in his own misery to see what was right in front of his face. Gojyo felt a bit sorry for the both of them.

Now the simmering tension and anger that still resided inside him was directed at one other person. He brought the cigarette to his lip as the wind picked up and blew ash all around him. Inside his head he heard Hakkai chiding him about being careful he didn’t set himself on fire. Funny how his friend fussed over all of them but didn’t give a damn about himself. Funny how a man so smart as Hakkai would push himself beyond all reason, would sacrifice himself for a man who would only miss his usefulness and a kid who would miss his cooking skills….

Gojyo shook his head, the breath caught in his throat as he thought that the last wasn’t true or fair. But dammit, when would Hakkai realize that he was worth just as much if not more than the rest of them? When would he stop putting others first, especially a surly bastard of a monk?

He let out his breath as jealousy tingled through his body. Jien had never warned him that sometimes, while trying to smoke your troubles away, you ended up with the very truth behind them staring you straight in the eyes. He had more than enough reason to be upset with Sanzo and Goku, had every right to be furious that Hakkai had nearly killed himself today by pushing too hard and too far. But what really had been burning inside him was that it was Sanzo that Hakkai had pushed that far and hard for today, that it had been Sanzo who Hakkai had defended with his own strength and body. That was the reason he was standing out here jealous as hell.

When was he going to learn? he wondered as he leaned his head back against the stucco wall, staring up at the sky as the stars slowly revealed themselves. Yes, Hakkai was the only one of them that never drove Sanzo to smack him on the head or threaten to be shot. Yes, it was Hakkai who Sanzo always tried to share a room with when there weren’t enough for all of them to sleep alone. Yes, Hakkai and Sanzo seemed to have some sort of weird bond when it rained. But Hakkai was *Gojyo’s* lover. Hakkai was alive because he – not Sanzo – had picked him up from the mud and took him home, had healed him and given him a reason to cling to life long enough to have his head straightened out. Hakkai had chosen to come back to Gojyo and not stay at the temple with Sanzo after the monk had taken him away.

He chuckled as he let out his breath, his head falling forward until his chin touched his chest. His hair clung to the wall, slight tugs that reminded him of how Hakuryuu would pull on the strands whenever Hakkai sent the dragon to wake him up. His lover was upstairs lying in bed, still bearing some wounds from today and drained almost completely dry of chi. Some of the anger that he’d been feeling was directed at himself for not doing a better job of watching over, of protecting the man he loved. But just as Sanzo wouldn’t allow them to protect him – well, other than Hakkai occasionally with his chi shields – Hakkai wouldn’t stand for being coddled and pushed away from danger. A shame, that, because Gojyo wasn’t going to lose someone he loved again if he had anything to say about the matter.

The last few puffs were spent while he enjoyed the now twilight sky, the air already cooling. The one good thing about being this high up – while the days were hot as hell the nights were cold. Perfect weather for snuggling besides someone nice and warm and who always smelled wonderful.

Time to go see if that nice and warm someone could be woken up for a little more tea and broth. Hakkai needed to regain his energy as quickly as possible; there was no telling how long Sanzo would agree to stay here while their friend healed. Granted, Hakuryuu wouldn’t leave Hakkai’s side and neither would he, but if Hakkai found out that Sanzo and Goku were continuing on without them, he’d force himself out of bed.

A little anger and jealousy remained but Gojyo only had a few cigarettes left. Besides, he’d just smoked enough to leave the ground littered with butts and his throat sore. But he was calm enough to go back inside and spend the night watching his lover, after taking a few steps away from the inn to relieve himself.

The innkeeper’s wife – he hadn’t caught her name since all he’d been able to concentrate on was the fact that Hakkai was alive even if covered in blood and paler than death when they’d arrived here – ladled some broth into a bowl the moment he walked into the kitchen. She also put some hot water into a waiting teapot, and there was a plate with some noodles, vegetables and a dubious type of meat on the tray, along with some meat buns.

"Here you go. Be sure that you both eat all of it, neither of you can spare a pound," the woman fussed as he took the tray. "And smoking isn’t good for you!" she chided as he walked through the door.

He was filled with amusement as he thought about her telling that to Sanzo. He could see the monk’s left eye twitch in anger as Sanzo tried to control the impulse to whap her with his fan. Now *there* was a person who did *not* like being told what to do or what was bad for him.

Going up the steps, he wondered briefly how Goku and Sanzo were faring but decided that he wasn’t going to worry about the two of them. Hakkai had healed them right up, all they’d needed was a nice bath and some food and they should be fine. Maybe tomorrow he’d get Hakkai down to the bath for a soak, even if he had to carry his friend. There was no way in hell they were doing any traveling for the next day or so.

Expecting to find just Hakkai and Hakuryuu in the room, he was more than a little surprised to see Sanzo sitting in his chair, an unlit cigarette dangling from pursed lips. "What the hell are you doing here, and don’t even think about smoking in here," he snapped as he set the tray down.

Sanzo glared at him as if affronted by his very existence and with a grunt pushed himself out of the chair. "I stopped by after dinner to see how he was and found him alone." He jerked a thumb in Hakkai’s direction. "I thought you said you were going to watch him."

Just banked anger flared back to life. Gritting his teeth as his hands clenched into fists, he reminded himself that hitting the cold bastard would either end up with him being shot or Hakkai having to heal Sanzo again. "I have been. I stepped out for a break after he ate something and fell asleep. Hakuryuu was here to watch him while I was gone." He barely managed to stop himself from adding that Sanzo had been more than happy to leave Hakkai in his hands earlier.

The damned monk just sniffed in disdain and smoothed down his robes. "We need to be back on the road as soon as possible."

"We’ll leave as soon as he’s regained his strength and not a moment sooner." By nature he wasn’t a very serious person but his tone left no doubt that he was perfectly serious now. If Sanzo wanted to go west he could do it on foot if Hakkai wasn’t rested enough to drive him, and Gojyo would sit on his lover to keep him in bed. Hakuryuu would probably help him out, even if he and the dragon didn’t exactly get along most of the time.

They stared at each other for several minutes, and for once it was Sanzo who looked away first. "Two days. That’s all we’re staying here." With that he brushed past Gojyo and left the room. Maybe it was Hakuryuu’s hiss that made him turn and look toward the bed, or maybe it was a very rare spark of guilt. Either way, Gojyo didn’t like to see the monk’s expression soften as his sight lingered on Hakkai for a few seconds.

The door closed with a soft ‘click’ and he was left standing there, desperately wishing for another cigarette. But he forced his fists to unclench and the anger to subside as he sank down on the bed beside his lover. Hakkai hadn’t budged at all during the last half hour or so, his hand still curled up beneath his chin. His skin was still so pale, his hair seeming almost black in comparison to the white skin and the dimness of the room.

Gojyo nudged Hakuryuu and was hissed at for his trouble. "Stop that," he told the dragon, aware that only the fact that the stupid beast was lying on top of Hakkai had prevented him from being burned. "If you want to flame something, light a candle or two, all right? I’m gonna make sure that sleeping beauty here gets something to eat."

Hakuryuu stared at him for a few seconds and then with a smoky huff stretched and climbed off of Hakkai. Once clear of his master, the dragon lifted himself into the air and did as he was bid. Really, they got along for the most part when they were both concerned about Hakkai. It was their jealousy of the man’s attention that had then snapping at each other on occasion.

Gojyo couldn’t help but smile as he reached down and brushed aside the thick bangs falling onto his lover’s face. "’Kai? Wake up." He repeated the words softly as he carefully squeezed Hakkai’s shoulder. The candles were all lit and Hakuryuu curled up on the bed again before his lover finally woke up.

Hakkai was clearly still groggy and pain clouded his lovely green eyes, but he managed a slight – but real – smile when he saw Gojyo. Murmuring his name, he rested his head against Gojyo’s chest.

"Hey, none of that. Now that you’re up you’re staying awake long enough to eat."

"Already ate," Hakkai slurred, his body limp against Gojyo’s. "’m fine."

Yeah, right, and he was Buddha, Gojyo thought with an amused snort. "No, Hakkai, you’re not. Now you can sit up and eat something or I can ask Goku to come in here and help me out. Loud, obnoxious Goku who will be wailing about how pale you look while complaining about how hungry he is as he’s shoving the soup down your throat. Does that sound like fun, mmmm?" He was hard-pressed not to smile when Hakkai’s eyes drifted open with a distinct if still slightly groggy glare.

After that threat, which he’d only ever had to put into action one time, he managed to get his lover to sit up in bed. That involved a lot of plumped pillows and worried chirps from Hakuryuu while he fretted about the bruises and bandaged cuts that Hakkai hadn’t been able to heal before passing out, but Hakkai’s mouth had only tightened slightly in pain during the ordeal. He even insisted on holding the bowl on his own as he sipped the broth.

Gojyo poured them both a cup of tea while keeping a careful eye on his lover. "How are you feeling?"

Hakkai seemed to think about his answer for a few seconds. "Tired." He set the half empty bowl down on his lap as if he didn’t have the energy to hold it any more. "Maybe as tired as you look, Gojyo."

That got a nervous chuckle from him as he tucked back his hair. "Well, it’s been a long day. Riding with a hungrier than usual Goku for several hours and then fighting crazed youkai tend to take it out of a person, if you know what I mean." He reached for one of the meat buns and took a bite. "Hmmm, I think I forgot to eat today, too. Nothing but cigarettes since breakfast."

Hakkai managed to lift the bowl for another few sips before setting it down on the bed right in front of Hakuryuu. "I know, I can smell the smoke." He wrinkled his nose. "You need some rest, too."

"I’ll get it, ‘Kai, as soon as you drink your tea." He handed over a meat bun. "Here, have this too since you didn’t finish the broth." He scowled at his lover until the stubborn fool relented and accepted the bun. "Don’t worry, we’ll both spend the day in bed tomorrow. Nothing to do but sleep and eat." Done with the buns, he picked up the plate of noodles and flicked the mystery meat into the now empty bowl for Hakuryuu to eat. At least the buns had tasted like pork, but he wasn’t taking any chances with this stuff. Hakuryuu could eat anything, much like Goku.

The way Hakkai nibbled on the bun, taking one small bite at a time almost made him choke on a carrot chunk, a shock of desire rushing through his body and pooling in his groin. Dammit, the first time they’d been able to have a room to themselves in over two weeks and it had to be under these circumstances. He forced his body to ignore the desire and stared at his plate until he ate most of the noodles.

"Gojyo, the tea, please."

Looking up from his almost empty plate, he found Hakkai staring at him with a small frown marring his handsome face. "Ah, okay. Sorry." He scraped the rest of the noodles into Hakuryuu’s bowl before picking up the two mugs. "Here ya go."

His lover smiled in appreciation and took a careful sip. Doing the same, he one handedly cleaned off the bed, setting the empty dishes back onto the tray. Hakuryuu gave a contented burp before nudging Hakkai’s knees and then flying out the window. Hakkai wished the dragon goodbye.

"Here, scoot over a little." Gojyo kicked off his boots and shed his shirt before sliding an arm behind Hakkai’s back. "There should be room enough for the two of us."

"Yes." Hakkai didn’t say anything else, even though his wounds had to have been jostled a little then. Soon enough they were both comfortable on the bed, Hakkai resting against Gojyo’s chest.

"You all right? You need to, ah, take a piss or anything?" Gojyo asked as his hands once again brushed back his lover’s hair. The strands were so thick and soft… and stubborn as hell. As soon as he tucked them back, they fell onto Hakkai’s face once again.

"I’m all right. Thank you for your concern," Hakkai said as he handed over the empty teacup with a yawn. His head dipped forward to rest on Gojyo’s shoulder. "A little more rest seems like a good idea right now."

He had a sneaky suspicion that his dear friend actually believed that a little rest was all he needed. "You’re not getting out of bed tomorrow, Hakkai, other than for a nice soak or two. If we have to, I’ll bite you on the legs while Hakuryuu singes your feet as soon as you try to walk out of this room." The weak chuckle he got from Hakkai made him smile like a fool and hug his lover close.

"While I’m slightly tempted to see the two of you work together for once, I’m afraid I don’t care for singed feet." Hakkai tilted his neck until he could look up at him, the slight smile fading. "Sanzo won’t be happy about that."

"Well then, Sanzo should’ve realized that he can’t take on a five youkai at the same time, especially when two of them are lobbing fire spells in his direction," he couldn’t help but snarl. "’Kai, the last thing you should be worrying about is Sanzo." He tried a different tactic when he noticed how his lover’s expression became blank. "Besides, we can all use the rest and a chance to stock up on some goods. This town might not be much but I bet if you give Sanzo a shopping list, him and Goku will be able to find most of the items." He almost gloated at the thought of Sanzo being reduced to grocery shopping.

Hakkai smiled, his expression turning from impassive to one of exhaustion and pain. "You have a point, Gojyo."

"I know, a rather big, thick point, and it’s one of the things you love the most about me," he teased as he leaned forward to place a kiss against Hakkai’s temple. His lover managed to shift enough so that their mouths met, the kiss sweet with just enough heat to make him squirm a little and pull away. Dammit, he really wanted to beat the shit out of someone right now, and Sanzo and the dead youkai from earlier were at the top of his list. "Maybe you are getting a little better," he managed to croak out past a tight throat as he brushed his thumb along Hakkai’s bottom lip. Then he noticed that his lover was a little too flushed from just a kiss and quickly reached over for the bowl of ice water and one of the clothes. Where had the towel from earlier gone?

"You even taste like smoke. I should be fine by tomorrow." Hakkai frowned as the damp, cool cloth was pressed against his forehead but he didn’t push it aside.

"That would be nice, but we’re not moving on until you really are better. Should we run into trouble again, we’ll need you back at full strength." He wondered if he should go close one of the windows and leave the other open just enough for Hakuryuu to slip back into the room. He didn’t want Hakkai’s fever turning into a cold or something.

As if reading his mind, Hakkai held onto his hand. "Don’t, the air feels nice right now. I’ll sleep better if the room’s not so stuffy and hot."

He didn’t point out that, judging by the way his lover was yawning and his eyes drooping, he’d sleep regardless but had to admit that it would be nice to leave the windows open while they slept. "All right, as long as it doesn’t get too cold. I’ll just have to stay here and make sure you’re warm enough."

There was another slight flash of a real smile, quickly overcome by another yawn. "Thank you." Hakkai seemed to give up the fight just then and closed his eyes as he relaxed some more against Gojyo. After a few minutes, Gojyo fussed with the blankets, making sure his lover would indeed be warm enough during the night. Then he felt exhaustion pull at him, making him yawn as well. He was pleasantly full, nicotine craving satisfied for the time being, and had Hakkai curled up against him. All in all, things weren’t too bad. He’d give anything for Hakkai to be well and for them to be curled up in their bed back home but he could make do with this.

Right before he drifted off to sleep, Hakuryuu returned and chirped slightly as he stuck his small head in Hakkai’s face. Seeming satisfied that his master had fared well during his absence he rubbed his cheek against Hakkai’s chin and curled up in a tight ball on Hakkai’s stomach. His eyes met Gojyo’s for a moment, and then the dragon closed them and went to sleep. Deciding that it was a pretty good idea at the moment, he stopped fighting to remain awake.

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