Disclaimer: Will trade brownies for anime. I do good ones, with chips and orange flavor and toffee on top. From scratch! Any offers? Anyone?

Warnings: shonen-ai

Notes: Some kind of spoilers for Episode 23 (Scapegoat: The Cost of Resignation), and bonus points to anyone who knows where I nicked the summary from. ^_^

Chinese Vocab: Daifu: doctor.


Muscles Used In A Smile

by Nightfall


Lip corners curl upward through contraction of zygomaticus muscles; crow's- feet show when the zygomaticus muscles are strongly contracted, and/or when orbicularis oculi muscles contract. In the polite (i.e., intentional, weak, or "false") smile, lip corners stretch sideward through contraction of risorius muscles, with little upward curl and no visible crow's-feet.

--David B. Gibbons. Read the whole article at http:// members. aol.com/ nonverbal2/ zygosmi.htm. Without the spaces, of course.



That one there, skittering along the floor on all its filthy feet, does it pride itself on the shine of its carapace, the supple wave of its antennae? Maybe it looks at its sensitive, thieving pincers and thinks, Clear the way, Momma Bug, I am Hot Stuff! Is a cockroach vain?

This one is.

Vain, and I forgot my own reputation. Lay 'em sweet and leave 'em easy, Gojyo the mule. No hard feelings, no lingering complications, no inconvenient third parties entering the equation a few months down the line. Sterility, the gift of freedom to a perennial playboy.

But I'm not the sterile one here. Neither is Mr. Holier-than-thou, come to that. Saru's no paragon of emotional cleanliness himself, but dirt cleans easy off a kid. Bouzo and me, we get attached. He can fight it all he wants, sweating and smoking himself into a holy stink in the middle of the wet, but you can't smack or shoot a ghost away. Me, I don't try.

Gonou didn't try.

Passion's poster boy. I only saw him once, Gonou, the real man, sweet and bewildered and out of his goddamn mind. The last of Cho Gonou, twisted in the muck and trying to shiver into it, grinning up at me with just that desperate curl of a smile, like, Look at this life, look at this bloody red wound of a life. Too much for me, stranger, the colors are too bright and they promise not to test you too hard and who got me mixed up with someone who can take it, and isn't it funny to see you last of all when I don't give a damn about you, so laugh with me, stranger.

Made my life look grungy and tepid.

Maybe it was the dying that made him shine in the dark, and maybe things get bright when the darkness closes in, and maybe he's always been like this, really, but I say no one who can get that stubborn about burying a three-month old corpse has it in them to be as boring as Hakkai wants to pretend he is, as empty as he's afraid he might be. It was when he knew he was going to have to live that he told himself to die. Or let Them tell him. It's the same thing in the end, if he lets them.

He makes me miserable.

That was what started it; him making me miserable with that 'Here, let me jump in front of that thing, and the next thing, and the next thing, because it doesn't matter if I die because I'm walking dead twice already,' smile I want to chase so far off his face it never comes back. Some day it's going to be third time lucky, and he won't get up from it. What gets me is, he'll probably be happy.

Screw that. I'm not making it easy for him.

I gave Baldy every chance, the way he moons out from under those droopy lids like nobody would dare to pay attention because he's All Great Worshipful Sanzo, woohoo, and hangs on 'Kai's every word like a sensible person, no matter how much of an knee-jerk bastard he pretends to be. I would have stayed clear for him if he'd moved, because Hakkai deserves a brain to match him and if there's one thing you can say for Sanzo (and there is only one thing you can say for Sanzo) it's that he knows what's what.

But Blondie don't do no one no favors. Himself included. He clearly knows that a Hakkai would be a nice thing to have, and not being completely braindead (no comments about anything below the neck) he's probably figured out that the man needs something to hold onto like nobody's business. You'd have to sneak up from behind in his sleep and beat the crap out of him before you could make him do anything practical or humanly kind or even more than nominally selfish, though, and even then he'd probably just shoot you. So no go.

Not that it's my mission in life to get Hakkai laid. He's had girls throw themselves at him so hard even he can't have been able to ignore it. I figure, sex is there if he wants it, and you've got to respect a man's lifestyle choices.

Well, not if you're Bouzo, you don't have to, I guess.

But he did jump, right in front of this week's youkai--never going to look at bats the same way again--and let's all just take a minute here to appreciate those legs in a skirt, because hot damn on a pogo stick, you with me?

It should have been the monk. If we were playing this trip by the rules of what makes sense instead of what Sanzo will put up with, it should have been the monk. Should have been Sanzo up in that room facing one youkai, however high level, because he has the gun. The gun that runs out of bullets. Should have been Hakkai on the distraction run with Saru, cause the gun doesn't have half his stamina. Should have been His Holiness stumbling downstairs with that girl's dress whipped to tatters and lashmarks on his face.

It's not that I have it in for the guy. --Yeah, okay, we can all laugh now, but not when it comes to something serious. But even if the gun hadn't been enough, Hakkai's better at healing other people than himself. For one thing, he actually does it.

Fine, so that's not fair. But he argues less.

I can't keep my hands off him when he does something like this, the selfish pig, and puts all my hard work to waste. I carried bedpans for that man. Never, never, never doing that again. But when I tell him that, he pretends I mean it's because I won't do it, not because he won't make me. He's good at selective interpretation. He can stop a fight in its tracks, just by pretending to hear what he wants.

I picked him up and carried with him when he reeked of his own insides. I held his stomach closed while Zhou Daifu stitched it together. I gave him sponge baths when he was pain-sweaty and stinking; I turned him to keep away bedsores and moved his deadweight gangly ass so I could change his sheets; I dribbled soup and water and medicine into his mouth and rubbed his throat to make him swallow. I also stopped going out and cut down my smokes and slept on the floor for a month, if we're talking about things I wouldn't do for just anybody, but that's not the point. The point is there isn't one part of that man's body I haven't touched and fought to keep whole and he knows it, and he keeps pulling this crap anyway.

So he doesn't argue or even stiffen up when I throw an arm around his shoulders or wrap my hands around his arms. I guess he figures I've got a right to know my handiwork's still in one piece, like I'm his curator or something. Whatever he thinks, I'm not complaining.

Even he couldn't explain it away when I couldn't stop stroking where the lashes were, though. Just touching his face over and over and thinking to myself that it was fixable this time, but what about next time? And the time after that? And the time after that? With his skin all soft under my fingers and those sad eyes looking at me like one of us ought to know better, and finally he says, "I did wonder, Gojyo, when you would get around to me." And what do you say to that?

He's doing one damn-all good job of pretending nothing's happened, like it didn't mean anything. Maybe it didn't, to him. He's the one who writes his life sterile, after all. I'd *prefer* awkwardness. I'd *rather* he avoided me. I could do something about that. This way, I get to wonder whether he thinks I think he's just a fling like some girl who means nothing or he thought he was doing me a favor, just between friends.

But we talk same as always, and if I look like I'm going to bring it up he gives me that same boasting-about-your-conquests-is-rude smile he always did. We don't touch any more or less than we did before, and he doesn't act self-conscious at all. I wouldn't mind panting after him, if that was what he wanted. Hell, I've got practice. As far as I'm concerned, what Hakkai wants, Hakkai gets. So if Hakkai wants normal, I'll break my back giving it to him. Not my heart, though. He's made it clear he doesn't want any part of that, in pieces or otherwise.


How fortunate for Gojyo, to be able to take incidents of intimacy so lightly in stride and remain unaffected. Perhaps the ashes of repudiation and the humiliation of being clearly forgettable will somewhat lighten my karma. Perhaps I, too, should have acquired more practical experience of no particular importance, and learned how to make it easy to say 'the end.'