Disclaimer: These guys belong the ones who thought of them first. ...Which means Sumari is mine, I suppose. Oh, well, that's what yard sales are for.

Warnings for intimations of men possibly having the right chemistry to get involved with each other sometime in the future, NotEntirelyNice!Hakkai, OFC bashing, and terrible punning, Chinese style. Spoilers for episodes 15 and 16.

o O ( ) O o

Why Gojyo Sticks to One-Night Stands

or

The Origin of the Qi-Ball

by Nightfall

o O ( ) O o

The nameless man had been staying with him for just about long enough for him to get used to having someone else around when the bastardly so-called monk came to take him away and have him killed, and for a long time Gojyo hadn't been able to feel much else besides sad. Except for furious, of course. But eventually, the shock had worn off and he'd run out of empty beer cans to beat the hell out of, and he'd had to go into town to resupply.

It was only natural, once his feet started on the road he'd walked a thousand times, that they should direct him through his habitual route, especially since he was a little less in the moment than usual and not paying his best attention. It was to be expected, then, that he should wind up in the tavern, and once there that he should find himself seated at the gaming table.

And then, back in his true habitat (it wasn't as satisfying, somehow, as siting at his kitchen table playing cards with a listlessly, edgily quiet man who invariably beat the pants off him no matter how well he cheated, but was at least a comforting familiarity), it was only natural that he should relax a little and forget, since his alarmingly ethereal late roommate was no part of anything as earthy as this place, and get into the spirit of things.

And once he got into the spirit of the game, he couldn't help winning. And once he started winning, he couldn't help cheering up, and from there it was barely a step to flirting with every young lady in the tavern. That was just how Sha Gojyo was. And since Sha Gojyo was also a well-built man with a smile that went three times around the room before it got back to him and a spiffy new haircut backed up by a color that most humans didn't know better than to call anything but exotic, it was almost inevitable that one of said young ladies should follow him home.

And since his house had been echoing his footsteps back at him for nearly a month, it was perhaps less of a surprise than it should have been when, in the morning, he didn't expect her to leave hard enough to make her go away. And so she, previously virginal and fancying herself in the grips of True Love, stayed. And if her presence wasn't really satisfying, wasn't what he wanted, well, he couldn't have that anymore, and she was a long sight better than nothing. And having regular sex to look forward to was, he found, not an unpleasant novelty at all.

Then a dead man stole his apple.

After that, he decided, things were going to be perfect. Here was his girl, here was his buddy (who looked like he'd been held upside down and gobsmacked by fate and still hadn't recovered from it, who went even mistier than usual at times and used a smile like fragile chainmail, but who did at least seem a lot more with it than before and had even developed a beautiful sense of humor that Gojyo would have had to call sweetly vicious if it had ever been turned against anybody). Two men and a woman meant home, and this home was his and nobody in it was psychotic, and everybody in it was at least twice the cook and six times the housekeeper he was. And he finally had a name for the dead man, and if it wasn't the name the man started out with, neither was it hard on the ears or in the mouth or to get accustomed to, for either of them. Perfect.

Perfect.

Two perfect weeks.

Then he started to notice things.

Like the way he could never find anything from one day to the next, because Hakkai knew where he liked everything and Sumari had definite opinions about where things should be. But that was all right. He just kept track of who'd been in which room last and asked. They didn't seem to mind, although Hakkai started to hide things and square-dance around admitting it, just for fun.

Then there was the food. Sumari had been visiting family the week Hakkai came back, and Hakkai had drifted back into the kitchen like nothing could be more natural. Gojyo remembered then that he hadn't just missed the man cooking for him, he'd missed the man's cooking.

But then Sumari had come back and taken over again and... well... she wasn't a bad cook by any means, but she overcooked everything but vegetables. She didn't burn the food, but she did make absolutely sure that no one was getting salmonella--which, given that neither of the men she was feeding had bodies as fragile as mere humanity, was unnecessary and even irritating. And there was something about the way she handled sauces that was... competent. Hakkai cooked like a poor man who'd been desperately wringing the most out of every ingredient he could beg, borrow or steal since he'd learned what fire was for.

Hakkai was starting to look as though he thought he wasn't earning his keep. It wasn't like Gojyo gave a damn about that, but he was beginning to be afraid that Hakkai did. Or worse, meant by his silent worry that he felt unappreciated. And either way, what if he left?

And then there was the way she reacted to Hakkai, which was weird as all hell. It wasn't resentful; she seemed to like him. And neither did she seem to like him too much; Gojyo had nothing to be jealous of. Frankly, he wouldn't have been if there had been anything. It would have just one more thing of his Hakkai was welcome to share. There was just this... this thing going on between them that he couldn't pin down. He wasn't sure Hakkai understood it either.

There was the time she'd washed a red outfit of her own together with Hakkai's clothes. His everyday shirt, being a deep green, had survived the experience without ill effect, but his pale slacks and layman's sash had come out eye-shattering pink. His smile at her thoughtfulness had set into something stony for a moment, and he'd walked around in a robe (they'd taken to sitting cross-legged on the floor for picnic meals, since there weren't enough chairs, and Gojyo's deliberately baggy spare pants had Hakkai tripping over himself when he got up) while she waited expectantly for Hakkai to do only she knew what until Gojyo had been able to buy him some bleach. She'd looked disappointed at this resourcefulness.

Then there was the hair thing. At least, he thought it was about hair. All he could say for sure was that Hakkai had started fingering the nape of his neck and laughingly calling himself names with connotations of shagginess, and then all the scissors had disappeared. Nobody could find them. Ever again.

Sumari and Gojyo were all right with the careful application of kitchen knives. Hakkai was as deft there as he was with everything else, which Gojyo felt he should have been surprised at but wasn't. But Hakkai taking a butcher knife to his own scalp upside down and backwards was out of the question. Gojyo took Hakkai gambling with him so they could afford a barber, and Sumari looked like she was holding back screams of frustration. New scissors were eventually bought, and disappeared right on schedule. Hakkai's smiles began to look fixed in place and frayed around the edges, and he finally let his bangs, at least, grow a little longer. Gojyo was pretty sure this was to hide the set of his eyebrows.

She started taking her work home (she was a seamstress) and using Hakkai as a tailor's mannequin. Gojyo couldn't fault her for that, since Hakkai was the only person he'd ever met who could stand still for long enough to be useful for such a task without the motivation of knowing the clothes were for him. Also, it couldn't be denied that a man who had been eye candy even while lying mostly dead in the road covered with filth and his own insides probably made her work a lot more pleasant than any cloth dummy ever could.

But Hakkai, although unfailingly polite about it, was clearly not enjoying himself. Gojyo thought Sumari should probably be a little more sensitive to this, being female and all. Her answer was a determined, "Hakkai will learn to like it if it takes me all year!"

Which was weird in and of itself. And Hakkai, when he mustered up the backbone to protest that he wasn't suitable (being constitutionally unable to use any other argument) had a point: she was using him as a hanger for dresses, but whatever had made him had used up the whole of its allotted hip budget on his shoulders.

Finally, there was the way she corrected his speech. Now, Gojyo could almost have understood this if she'd gone about it differently. It drove him crazy sometimes himself, the way Hakkai talked. He, Gojyo, like every other self-respecting male he knew, used the me-and-my-bad-self 'ore' to discuss himself. But he wouldn't have minded Hakkai's using the polite 'boku,' since Hakkai had been polite even before he'd been Hakkai, except that he felt half the time that the other man was half a breath away from my-humble-selfing everybody with a 'sessha' or two. But he couldn't understand why Sumari tried to make Hakkai call himself 'watashi,' like a girl.

It came to a head one day when they were all making a grocery run. Sumari had gone to the butcher's shop on the assumption that no man could choose a good cut of meat to save his life. Gojyo had already obtained his toxic necessities (ah, glorious nicotine!) and had for lack of anything better to do trailed along after Hakkai, who wanted to pick up some fruit for the little white reptile that he'd been hiding from Sumari since she'd reacted so badly to it.

The fruitseller, a charmingly buxom older lady, was flirting outrageously with him while Gojyo watched contentedly from the doorway, and he was haggling back in a way so courteous that anyone could have been forgiven for thinking he was flirting back. In the end she did convince him to buy some unspoiled (and therefore more expensive) objects for human consumption as well as the half-price (well, quarter-price, by the time he was through with her) bruised fruits for his pet, and the deal was concluded with good feeling and many compliments all around.

When they turned to leave the store, they found Sumari waiting for them with a lovely dead chicken (since the time she'd heard one of the neighbors politely addressing Hakkai by his surname, she'd seemed to feel that pork was a delicate issue) and an astonished, speculative expression that Gojyo didn't understand. Hakkai looked at her warily, but didn't say anything about it.

Everything would have been fine if she'd only kept her mouth shut. But on the way home, once she'd recovered from her shock, whatever it was, and walked for a while lost in quiet thought, she turned to Hakkai and put a grave hand on his arm and said, "I wish you'd told me."

When it became clear that she was the only one who knew what she was talking about, she went on. "Here I've been, trying to get you to relax and be your real self around us--trying to show you that you don't have to be afraid of my opinion--I mean, I know traveling is always dangerous when you're alone, and it's wise to take precautions on the road, but after all, you're here and settled with us now. But I've just been making you uncomfortable, haven't I? Trying to force you into a role you put away on purpose. I just didn't understand!"

Hakkai and Gojyo exchanged a baffled look.

"Oh, Hakkai, you should have just told me you were a lesbian!"

The men stopped dead in the road and stared at her, stared at each other in wide-eyed surprise, swallowed unbelieving grins, looked back at her. Her expression was sweet and concerned and, worst of all, in earnest, and now she was saying how much more comfortable and sisterly it would be now that everything was out in the open, and didn't Hakkai feel better now? It was always such a mistake to keep secrets.

Gojyo snuck another look at Hakkai, prepared to burst out laughing and tease the crap out of him for being taken for a woman.

But something was strange there. For one thing, there was no expression on Hakkai's face. At all. His eyes were blind green flame and his face was a blank, and his hands were raised almost to the level of his heart, held open like he was going to strangle her.

And between them was white fire.

He stood there, furiously vibrating in an otherwise perfect stillness, the light between his hands growing, clearly seeing absolutely nothing, while Gojyo backed away swiftly with flying eyebrows and Sumari shook her head in sad speculation, gazing into the middle distance with one graceful hand pressed to her pink cheek.

The light leapt away from him, and where Sumari had been was, a moment later, nothing but a thin ashy residue.

They both stared at it for a long time, and then Gojyo looked at Hakkai, who was blinking. His face was as full of what-on-earth-was-that as Gojyo's, and then it shifted into an impressed look, and then realization and a guilty 'oops,' and from there into--well, in the case of Hakkai, it was probably only 'oh, dear,' but on Gojyo the expression would have meant something stronger.

Their eyes met. Gojyo knew he probably should have been feeling something along the lines of murdering-traitorous-bastard-just-killed-my-girlfriend, but he couldn't get Holy-@#%$-that-was-awesome-how-the-hell-did-you-do- that?! out of his eyes, and slowly Hakkai relaxed.

"Well," he said.

"Ch'!" said Gojyo, still impressed, and a little of Hakkai's everyday smile came back.

"Let's not," his friend suggested mildly, nodding at the ashes, "have any more of that sort of thing, shall we?"

"Just the two of us?" Gojyo grinned. "Fine by me."

"Ah. Good." Then a little frown line appeared between suddenly worried eyes. "Gojyo..."

"Yeah?"

"We'll have to go back to town."

"Huh? Why?"

Hakkai gestured helplessly at the ashes, and just as Gojyo was preparing to talk him out of whatever damnfool idea he had now, especially if it involved policemen, he explained, "We're going to need another chicken."

"Oh," Gojyo said, crestfallen. Then he brightened. "Hey, how about those mantou(2) of yours instead?"

Hakkai smiled.

[end]

1: No one here needs to be told that Hakkai's surname is Cho and means Pig, right? Right. Just checking.

2: mantou: pork buns. Heh. A common Chinese appetizer/snack which Goku keeps asking for in the series, these are hot bread-like pastries with a heavy and slightly sweet dough, stuffed with a paste-like pork filling and glazed with probably egg white.