The Hammock Incident

Author: Nikoru Sanzo

A/N: I wrote this little (little, because it's VERY short compared to my other stories) fic for the 38 Incidents Project (crosses finger and prays real hard). If the story makes you yawn, then it has served its purpose. If it makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside, then it has also served its purpose. If it makes you feel unusually very, very "warm" and then you decided to whack me with a bag of ice because of the ending, then it's not my fault you're such a naughty, naughty creature! (smirks)

Standard disclaimers apply.

Summary: Sometimes, life is better when it gets a little crowded, ne?

Earlier that morning, the ikkou arrived at a quaint town nestled by the foot of the mountain range. Compared to eating mouthfuls of dust in the desert and braving wild animals and nasty parasites in the jungle, the picturesque community with its old- world structures and gentle meadows were a welcome sight.

The denizens of this particular hamlet seemed rather unhurried in their ways. Although the market and town square were bustling with some activity, it was apparent that the people bore none of the scowls and terseness characteristic of those who lived in large towns and cities. It must be their good fortune that their community has no youkai problem. The probability of a peaceful and uneventful overnight stay seemed promising.

They had eaten lunch in a restaurant and each of them went his separate way afterwards. They would convene again for supper, which was hours away. Gojyo had decided to try his luck in picking up a girl in a place where the people's idea of fun seems to involve frolicking in a field of daisies. Goku wanted get some exercise and so he ran off to wander around town, gawk at bakeries and chase sheep with the shepherds who tended their flock in the nearby fields. Hakkai, on the other hand, went on with his shopping routine. Naturally, Hakuryuu followed his master, cooing and flapping his wings along the way. Sanzo thought it most productive to go back to the place where they would be staying and sleep off the rest of the afternoon.

It was Gojyo' s brilliant idea to rent a cottage outside town, rather than the customary inn with its typical crowds, bare accommodations, and its usually cheap and unremarkable meals. If there was anything that a certain horny water monster should be credited for, then this was it. Short of acknowledging Gojyo' s genius, Sanzo just tucked the kappa' s triumph in a mental folder that was labeled: "Reasons Why I'm Not Shooting The Perverted Idiot… Yet". Situated on elevated ground, their chalet had two bedrooms, a lavatory, and a dining area. It even has a small kitchen. Clearly, Hakkai would be preparing tonight's meal.

Sanzo brought a cigarette to his lips and blew smoke rings from time to time. Dressed only in his black top and jeans, he idly reclined on a hammock. Out here in the cabin's backyard, Sanzo savored the stillness of the afternoon. The sun was high upon the clear skies but the trees, by which the hammock was tied to, provided shelter for him. Sunlight beamed through the leaves and a gentle breeze lulled Sanzo into closing his eyes.

For the first time in months, not counting the rainy nights, he felt truly alone. And it felt good. In the absence of anything that required his effort and cynicism, it wasn't hard for Sanzo to momentarily thrust aside his standard scowl and distaste for the world in general. It was much like a monk discarding his marked robes for the meantime. Out here, no dark clouds could summon memories of blood and afflictions. No ill wind bore whispers of futures uncertain and unwelcome. As the hammock rocked gently, Sanzo took no thought for the morrow and the days past. To be isolated and at peace like this for all eternity. For sure, Tenjiku awaits them, but now is now and tomorrow is yet to come. Sanzo stubbed his cigarette and watched the embers die out. The silence was liberating.

He heard the front door as it was opened and slammed shut. The intruder's arms must be full with shopping bags. Sanzo groaned as footsteps and a familiar voice calling out his name approached him.

"There you are. I was expecting you to be in the kitchen with a newspaper and cigarette. I bought us some beer." Hakkai smiled and held up two cans for Sanzo to see.

The frown came unbidden in an effort to dissuade company. But the scowl in itself alone has never worked before. Not even with Hakkai.

"Why waste a perfect afternoon reading about whining creeps and futile exercises?"

"True. But don't you think you should do something more productive than lazing about in a hammock?"

"I'm not too lazy to forgo shooting anyone who accuses me of being unproductive."

Hakkai laughed and parked himself on a large and upraised tree root beside the hammock. He opened both cans and handed one over to Sanzo. They sat in silence, staring at the fields and the sky. In the distance, flocks of sheep grazed peacefully, oblivious to the world and the storm clouds that could only lurk behind the mountains.

Hakkai gave a contented sigh. Driving around non-stop for days and camping out, rain or shine, was truly exhausting. The respite from youkai attacks and the good weather permitted in this place served to lift his spirits for the meantime. Out here, under a tree next to Sanzo, time seemed to stand still. Hakkai noted that this was the only time he'd seen Sanzo so relaxed, what with all the days they've been traveling. A faint scowl was still present, but perhaps, with an eternity to spend in this place, a smile might find its way into Sanzo' s consideration. But that would be asking for the moon. Right now, Hakkai is grateful that he hadn't been sent away or shot at.

Having finished his beer, Sanzo crushed his can and carelessly tossed it away. His companion merely shook his head as he took another drink.

"Really, that man needs someone to always pick up after him." Hakkai thought warmly.

Sanzo leaned back in his hammock. As much as the presence of another creature annoyed him, he wasn't about to give up his blessed spot just to get up and lock himself in his room. Sanzo tried to conjure the same stillness that got away from him. But the futility was irritating him. He stole a glance at his companion, still seated but already leaning against the tree. The awkward position made Hakkai tense and he fidgeted restlessly. Yet, his eyes were closed.

"Idiot! Stop making it hard for yourself. Why don't you get up now and go to your room?"

Hakkai opened one eye as his lips curled into a smile. "I'm sorry. But I can't afford to waste a perfectly wonderful afternoon outdoors."

Sanzo gave an irritated grunt. Hakkai' s stubbornness and insistence on personal discomfort was annoying him now more than the intrusion into his quiet time. He sat up and beckoned to Hakkai.

"This hammock has room enough for two."

"Ah, but won't it be a little too crowded?"

"Shut up. You're a fool and a masochist who leans on trees and calls it resting. Now get over here before I change my mind and shoot you instead."

Hakkai stood up and crossed his arms. "For someone who has been lazing about all afternoon, you sure still pack in a lot of tension."

"Ch! I was fine until you came."

Hakkai took off his shoes and sat in the hammock. "I will take that as a yes."

A poet would say that Hakkai has accepted it as an invitation into Sanzo' s life. One could even expound further and say that Hakkai took it as an acceptance of Sanzo' s stubbornness. And one could go the extra mile and say that it was Hakkai' s acceptance of Sanzo' s decision to confront whatever life has so rudely doled out to him- Hakkai being the unwelcome but acknowledged gift.

Nay, but for the meantime, let it suffice the world to read that Hakkai took it as a rare invitation. An infrequent request to share a hammock with someone who'd bristle with unseen quills at the thought of letting anyone invade his personal space.

Sanzo squirmed as Hakkai settled himself into the hammock. As it was obvious that two grown men could not properly fit into such a narrow space, Sanzo turned over on his side to make more room for Hakkai. If there was anything that Sanzo disliked aside from inconvenience, it was giving up and taking back what he has already cast off to the world.

"Thanks, Sanzo."

"Don't get too comfy."

"If that's what you want."

Hakkai closed his eyes and felt his entire being slip into tranquility. The hammock swayed soothingly and the gentle wind stirred the leaves. Suspended between heaven and earth, he could only think of one thing before giving in to rest.

The warmth. It isn't Kanan' s, but I could get used to it.

It wasn't long before Hakkai truly fell asleep. Sanzo could tell from the way his face gave up its pretense of mirthless smiles. His chest rose steadily with his unruffled breathing. Hakkai' s lips were slightly parted, and yet he made no sound. There was no trace of the restlessness and disturbing dreams that had visited him in his sleep.

He gazed over Hakkai' s sleeping form. It dawned upon him that he had never let anyone get this close to him, not even Goku. Perhaps, it is with silence that one can almost seamlessly weave his way through another's resistance.

Sanzo allowed himself to relax. He clasped his companion's shoulder and draped one leg over those of Hakkai' s. He buried his face in the other man's hair, his lips nearly touching Hakkai' s ear. Sanzo just had to reason with himself.

I'm only doing this to make myself comfortable, so don't get cheeky on me.

As if in response, Hakkai moaned contentedly and turned his head slightly towards Sanzo. And as if a reply of inaction, Sanzo closed his own eyes and allowed his lips to stay pressed to Hakkai' s forehead.