Ponder the Starry Night
Part Two: Stars
In the darkness as Hakkai lies in bed, the covers pulled up around him, he hears the sounds Sanzou makes when readying himself for bed. The gun he sets on the bedside table. His sandals his kicks off, tossing aside. In the morning Hakkai will find one underneath a chair and one underneath the dresser drawer and he will put them side by side next to the bed so Sanzou will find them easily.
Sanzou puts his pack of cigarettes down on the table. Next to them Hakkai hears the sound of two empty beer cans and one full one clinking down on the wood. In a rustle of sheets and a sinking of the mattress around his own body, Hakkai feels Sanzou slip into bed beside him.
He draws down the covers, and draws them up again.
In the creaking, rusty-bedspring, almost-silence, Sanzou presses his body up against Hakkai's back, just enough to show him he's there and too little to ask for anything. Hakkai remains facing the wall for a minute longer, hair falling in his eyes, the darkness of their room all-encompassing and heavy and somewhat comforting, too. His t-shirt rubs over his skin, pulling too tight in some places. He rolls over onto his back, then onto his other side, facing the oddly warm body of the dourly cold blond beside him.
"Konbanwa," Hakkai says. Every night, the same. As in their daytime lives, it is easier and more fitting to have a routine to follow. There are places where certain things go, a time for everything.
"Mh," Sanzou grunts.
That, too, is the usual.
Hakkai sees Sanzou now as just a gold glimmer against the pillow, and that is only because the moonlight pools from the window, against his face and hair. He is illumined in the darkness of the room. Hakkai has the odd feeling that a star has fallen brightly from the sky, swift and hard, to land beside him in his bed.
The brunette begins to smile. He brings his lips to Sanzou's chin, mouth against his jawline, breath against the soft skin of his face. That golden hair tickles over his nose.
Sanzou lifts a hand to brush through Hakkai's own, darker bangs. Parts of their bodies are thrown into endless shadow: the wrinkles in their t-shirts, halves of their faces, the knuckles on the backs of their hands and the life-lines on their palms. Sanzou's hair is bright and vivid in the bruise-colored darkness. Hakkai kisses the corner of Sanzou's mouth.
Angry purple eyes close. That hand, which has tobacco stains on the fore- and index-fingers and smells of gunsmoke, tightens in his hair, guiding him to the left. Hakkai's lips move to the left, fully against Sanzou's mouth. They part, friendly-like, companionable. Hakkai isn't a danger.
People just shift their attention to him and suddenly they find they can't pull their eyes away.
Hakkai's hands are soft. Sanzou can feel the lines in them as they move up underneath his t-shirt, tugging at the cotton fabric. Cool air hits his skin. He arches his head back, into the pillow. Hakkai climbs up over him, a knee between both of Sanzou's. The blonde thrusts against it, shallowly, his hips moving helplessly: a butterfly pinned down, ripping its wings to break free, and finding suddenly there is no reason to struggle any longer. A butterfly in ribbons, the dark, bruise-colored purple blue of a hot summer night.
Kanan sings to Gonou, her voice like silk and silver:
"Kawaita kaze ga fuku
Machi wa kogoete-iru
Ikutsu no kisetsu ga sotto oto mo naku
Sugisatta no darou."
"Kawaita kaze ga fuku
Sanzou grasps the hem of Hakkai's shirt, tugging it insistently up, over the great scar on his belly. Hakkai, torn in two. Hakkai, emptied from the inside out. Hakkai, who stumbled forward through the trees on that dark night, with Sanzou's gun grasped tightly in his hands, leaving a trail of blood behind him.
He has lived this long.
He will not readily give up.
He will walk this earth until at last the hands of the dead can find his ankles and drag him down.
Sanzou runs his fingers over the scar. Hakkai turns his face away, burying it against Sanzou's neck. The blonde traces the aimless lines it makes, feels the odd swelling of flesh, hard in some spots and so weak, so soft in others. Hakkai's muscles tense. Sanzou feels his shoulders sag slightly. He traces a light circle around the center of Hakkai's belly, fingers splayed out against the now-pale rift in the brunette's abdomen.
"Yukikau hito wa mina omoi nimotsu seotte," Hakkai says to Sanzou's neck.
Gonou cups Kanan's breast in his hand as she arches above him in the moonlight. They are in their bed. She laughs, her eyes shut, as he touches her. She is softer than anything he has ever wanted to feel, the lines of her body so, so alive. He watches her, eyes focused and intense.
"Itsuka wa kitto chikadzukitai ano kumo no takasa," Hakkai kisses between words, speaking between kisses. Sanzou arches his neck into the familiarly soft lips.
"Urusee," he says.
In the dark, dark, dark night, the sheets tangle around them. She laughs softly until she begins to cry, the tears coursing down her soft cheeks. He hesitates, fumbles, and begins to kiss them away. He tastes salt. There is wetness against his mouth. He does this until he, too, begins to cry slow, hot tears.
Sanzou kicks free and naked first. Hakkai does the same a moment later. They press their bodies together, Hakkai making high sounds in the back of his throat, Sanzou's breathing ragged and labored. The brunette curls around the blonde, hooking one slim leg up over his shoulder. Sanzou's body is thin, the ribs outlined in his pale skin. Hakkai follows the dips and curves as a blind man uses braille, learning Sanzou's body when he can, taking each opportunity as it comes.
Sanzou grabs his shoulders.
Hakkai thrusts into him, and the world is as Hakkai sees it for the both of them. It is all through Hakkai's eyes.
Sanzou is in his little cocoon of air, where they are both of them blind to the world. Things happen. People pass. Animals shuffle by with their muzzles pressed to the earth. The wind blows and it feels good as it ruffles their hair against their cheeks. The moonlight shines onto the grass and a chorus of grasshoppers lift their swelling songs to the pregnant sky. There is birth and rebirth and birth and rebirth and the world is spiraling on and on to the point where it will merely begin spiraling once more. As if it is not up to the heavenly bodies what happens or what does not happen, life lives on and everything is caught in a circle.
Even their bodies pressed together form a circle, both of them a semicircle each, two pieces slammed suddenly and unexpectedly together. There are sounds, there are people sleeping, there is the old lady who has kindly let them rest in her house snoring, and there are the trees, branches bowed respectively to the wind as it shuffles past in the sleepy night.
The grasshoppers hum, fiddling their legs against their bodies, green hidden against green. Tomorrow will be summer. Tomorrow's tomorrow will be summer. Then winter will come after all their tomorrows are used up and they will be eaten by the birds or be covered by snow and not be there when the white melts away. In the distance the sun has set, like fire, like blood, like a violent circle of gas and heat, the biggest star of them all. That is the West. That is where they are going. And when they get there, when they reach the West and the journey is done, there will be another.
"Nh! Nh!" Hakkai is making those sounds as if he is talking to himself, but Sanzou is a part of himself now because they are sharing this pocket of air. His hips thrust forward. Sanzou's body thrusts back against them. They press close together and pull far apart. They press close together and pull far apart. They press close together and pull far apart. A pattern they follow, unchangeable and therefore irrelevant, unnoticed.
The things you cannot alter simply are.
The things you are you cannot alter.
You breathe and you fuck and you live and you die and you are the earth which exhales and exists beneath the feet of the living while worms burrow deep, deep, deep.
The world is a great wide globe but that is just a circle and nothing else.
The sky wraps around it, filled with its many stars and the curve of the solemn moon, which sometimes smiles a crooked grin in the darkness, and the heavens make love to that which is merely dirt and flesh and blood and brittle bone. Like two bodies -- a man and a man, a man and a woman, a woman and a woman -- lying together, their semicircles suddenly pieces of a puzzle that interlock leg on shoulder arm around waist lip on lip together.
Cho Hakkai sweeps the autumn leaves from the steps of the temple.
"Do you want to die?" The wind in golden hair.
Outside the window the grasshoppers make a sound that swells and rises, a tidal wave of unimportant things, a great ripple riding the anticipant air.
"Yes." The leaves swirl in circles, dancing on the wind.
Their sweat mingles. They breathe from each other's mouths.
"And so," he looks at his hands, "I believe I must live."
"Hn." Cho Gonou, Cho Hakkai; the voice is right.
The penitent man lives.
Their hands clasp, finger twined with finger. It is an intimate touch. It seems as if they are made for prayer.
But Cho Hakkai does not pray, he is appeasing the over-soul by keeping himself alive in an empty world.
And Genjyo Sanzou is a priest but he does not pray either, is living to punish himself, is clinging to life by the skin of his teeth.
"Yukikau hito wa mina omoi nimotsu seotte." The clouds are white and lingering against the blue sky.
Hakkai lies against Sanzou's chest, their legs still twined. They are flat lines against the bed. Horizon lines. A goal is not a goal, but rather the travel time it takes to reach it. An orgasm is over soon enough, bright and burning and transitory, but the two bodies that form a circle together last before and after that brilliance fades away into the darkness of a summer night.
Their hands are clasped tightly together. Their fingers form a winding pattern, one of Sanzou's, one of Hakkai's, one of Sanzou's, one of Hakkai's, until they move on into their wrists and the wiry muscle-upon-bone of their forearms. Sanzou's arms are bent, forming right angles at the elbows. Hakkai's are stretched out straight and long.
The clouds are passing faster and faster.
"You will never see those same clouds again, no matter how hard you look for them."
"And soon, these clouds will fade away to the stars, which will last the endless nights -- you will never be able to see them all, and they will burn over more than a thousand of your lifetimes. Look how they taunt us! They pretend to be so close, and twinkle in laughter." Koumyou Sanzou folds his arms over his knees and watches the sky with a lost look on his face and his gray hair blown in the wind.
His toes are on Sanzou's. The arches of their feet arc together.
Cho Hakkai thinks to himself that some stars are backwards.
Look how they taunt us: seeming so far away when they are close enough to touch --