Author's Notes: The inspiration for this story comes from Jack Johnson's song "Flake". It's not part of the "Pieces of Paper" series because it doesn't correspond exactly with the lyrics, but if you listen to the song I'm sure you'll feel it. Anyway, Saiyuki and co. does not belong to me, but to Kazuya Minekura. I own the words typed on the screen.


Flake

Hakkai sat with his back to the fire, wide-awake. It was well past midnight. Sanzo was sleeping on the other side of the flame. Goku dozed near the monk, snoring softly in regular intervals. It was an uncharacteristically warm night, and the fire made it all the more endearing. Fireflies flickered within the forest surrounding their camp, blinking blue lights like stars dotted amidst the trees. The fire burned tranquilly, enhancing the peacefulness of the dark.

But the brunet sitting upright was having a battle within himself. His eyes didn't trick him into ignoring the absent dot of red. Gojyo had waltzed into the woods immediately after dinner, and hadn't returned since. That was at least two hours ago. Granted, he could have gone to have a quick smoke, then inadvertently fell asleep under a tree. Hakkai had came upon that idea, and considered it the most likely situation, but the recent behavior of the kappa made him add just a dash of doubt into his logical conjecture.

Lately, the redhead was wholeheartedly living up to his reputation as a womanizer. It started three weeks ago, when they stopped at an inn and Gojyo went to "scout" after the evening meal. No one thought anything of it, for they all expected him to come back empty-handed to a lonely bed that night. However, Gojyo reappeared later with a lovely blonde girl latched onto his arm.

It wasn't that much of a big deal, because once in a blue moon Gojyo did bring some random girl back. It was unusual, but not completely out of the ordinary. They were also fortunate to have their own rooms that time. As Gojyo and his lay went on about their business, the other three occupants were steadily asleep until morning.

However, as they traveled for another day and found shelter in the neighboring town, and the night came again, Gojyo brought back another girl. Redhead this time, although not a half-breed. Two nights in a row stirred up some attention, especially on Sanzo's part. The monk was never really used to Gojyo's over-abundant sexual energy, so he reacted with a sharp sneer and retreated into the room he shared with Goku.

They had only two small rooms that night. This meant Hakkai was forced to cram into a wedge on the floor between the two beds of his two single companions. It was uncomfortable to say the least. Hakkai woke up with a slightly pained back and a twisted neck.

Normally Gojyo would have been the first one to notice that Hakkai was walking stiffly, and a massage would be offered before breakfast. Gojyo was good with his hands. If he put his mind to it, Hakkai would literally feel like he's melting under the deft fingers. Hakkai took it as one of life's small pleasures.

That morning, Gojyo didn't even emerge from his room until Sanzo was threatening with his bullet on leaving the kappa behind.

The same pattern repeated, day after day. On occasions where they had but only one room, Gojyo would simply vanish. They'd see him whistling down the steps, or into the door, just as breakfast was served. He would joke around Sanzo, pick fights with Goku, and compliment on Hakkai's cooking (if the inn didn't include breakfast) as if nothing had changed. And nothing had, indeed, if one thought about it. And it didn't have to.

That's what Hakkai kept on telling himself anyway.

Because to Hakkai, everything had changed. Ever since he had met Gojyo, the redhead's wayward reputation had merely been a descriptive rumor. Hakkai rarely saw Gojyo actually fulfilling his role, playing more of the part of an untouchable eye-candy than the Don Juan that had slept with half of the eligible female population in town. Once Hakkai had established his residency, it became a past that had been more or less left behind. The never-empty-bed routine Gojyo was pulling now irked Hakkai to the point of lunacy. He didn't understand why.

Perhaps it was because he had started to miss his best friend. Hakkai considered the nights where he and Gojyo spent together as refuges from their destiny. Most of the time they would simply lie on their respective beds and talk, about everything and anything but never youkais or the trip West or Kougaji or blood. The lack of the external reality was enough for Hakkai to take a breath and unwind, pretending just for a few moments that everything was all right, was still, and would remain so until the first light of dawn pierced through the window above his head.

Then there were times when he was injured, or when it just happened to be a particularly draining day, that Gojyo would come up and sit next to him on his bed. They didn't even have to touch; the empty air between them packed enough weight for both to feel it upon their skins. Even better when it did became physical, where a massage mentioned before was offered.

Hakkai missed it. He missed Gojyo's touches. Gojyo's words. As small as they were, they were the pieces that held Hakkai together.

He felt . . . empty. Not exactly a fire consuming his heart, or a craving gnawing at his stomach, but an utter blankness wrapping around his very core. There was something vital missing, and Hakkai couldn't name the mislaid piece if his life depended on it. He could only feel it, and that was disturbing in itself. The fact he could feel it at all.

A small twig snapped not too far from the campsite. Hakkai let out a breath of relief: Gojyo must be on his way back. Or at least he hoped it was Gojyo . . . More twigs crackled as a figure stepped closer to the fire.

The anticipated redhead emerged from the midst of the woods, looking like he had just woken up from sleep. Ah, so he did take a snooze under some random tree, Hakkai thought with a smile. He shifted his position so his legs folded comfortably under him. His hands slipped in the dirt.

"You still up?" Gojyo asked quietly, in consideration of Sanzo and Goku, although it would be hard to wake Goku even if an earthquake happened right then. Sanzo was a different matter. The monk always slept light, and the hours were few in general.

"Unfortunately," Hakkai nodded. "Couldn't sleep at all. It seems to be the case with you, too."

Gojyo flopped down in front of the brunet, next to the warmth of the burning wood. "Oh me? Nah, I just woke from a nap. Kinda zonked out when I was smoking out there. Sure is a quiet night."

Hakkai smiled. "Well, I rather not complain about that . . ."

Gojyo grinned. "Is that an indirect protest for what I've been doing for the past couple of days?"

"Days. Really, Gojyo?" Hakkai's residual smile contained an edge.

"Alright, alright, past month. Hey, can't help that I'm popular." The redhead half-gloated.

"May I ask you something?"

"Sure, anything."

Hakkai hesitated for a second. His heart started to beat faster. "Why the sudden change?"

Gojyo looked at him sideways. "What change?"

Hakkai gave him a don't-kid-around-you-know-what-I-mean look.

Gojyo shrugged.

"I don't know. Lady Luck decided it's finally time for good ole Gojyo to get some action. Again." He glanced at Hakkai. "What does it matter anyway? As long as it doesn't interfere with the mission, I'm clear to do whatever, right?"

" . . . Yeah." Hakkai replied. He couldn't think of anymore to say after that, even though his throat was still filled with words. It matters because you've never had trouble picking up girls before. It's not luck; it's your choice. You suddenly choose to actually accept every invitation you yourself elicited, and I'd like to know why. Why, Gojyo, why?

But all Hakkai managed to say was a simple agreement. His eyes focused onto a distant spot among the dark trees.

Gojyo didn't miss that. "Hakkai," he said softly again, just enough to recapture Hakkai's attention. "Is there something else that's bothering you? You know you can tell me."

The brunet again shifted his position. He distinctly felt the fresh mud against his palm. "It's nothing. I was just –"

Just what? Again, he couldn't finish his sentence. This time because he really had nothing following his start. Hakkai chided himself for being inarticulate, and looked up directly into Gojyo's red eyes.

A vast mistake on his part, he immediately realized.

The firelight had brought out the blaze in Gojyo's eyes. A golden glow shimmered against the scarlet strands, kissing them subtly in the breeze. His expression was sincere, open, yet with a hint of the sass that made up Gojyo. The shadows accentuated his cheekbones, brought out the sharpness of his nose and the angle of his jaw. Hakkai's gaze lingered for a brief moment on Gojyo's lips, but they were dragged back up to the half-breed's eyes again.

He found himself unable to pull away despite great effort. Unconsciously Hakkai leaned forward, as if the elimination of distance would help him search further, see clearer just what it was that held his attention like magnet to steel –

"Hakkai!"

With a gasp he flinched back as the familiar voice called out his name. A blush rapidly swept up his cheeks. "Uh, um, I'm sorry, I –" Hakkai stuttered, "I don't know what has gotten over me, I must've –"

Suddenly he knew.

The realization only sent even more blood rushing to his face. Hakkai closed his eyes. When he opened them again, he saw Gojyo frowning at him. Not a disapproving frown, more of confusion and concern and . . . slight disbelief. Odd, wasn't he the one that's supposed to be in a state of disbelief? Plus, what was there for Gojyo to be disbelieving? Definitely not what he himself had realized, Hakkai decided.

He subconsciously leaned closer once again. It was only to discern the real expression Gojyo displayed on his face.

Gojyo opened his mouth to speak.

Another vast mistake, on Gojyo's part, because it made Hakkai dread the incoming words and concluded that he must shut the redhead up. So he did it in the most effective way: he leaned further to plant a kiss on Gojyo's open lips.

The kiss didn't even get a chance to blossom into anything more than a light graze of skin against skin before he felt the redhead slid back, one strong hand firmly pushed itself against his left shoulder.

Hakkai regretted it at once. He had crossed the line.

But it was so tempting . . .

"Just, what, do you think, you're doing?" Gojyo whispered. The breaths from his lips an inch away blew past Hakkai's mouth. Hakkai could still vaguely taste the brief contact of silky flesh. The hair on the back of his neck stood up, despite the fact it was quite warm.

"I –"

For the third time, Hakkai was rendered speechless. Gojyo's hand was still around his shoulder. But he felt the fingers started to glide over the fabric, slowly down his arm.

A lopsided smile formed on Gojyo's face.

Hakkai frowned slightly.

The redhead brought up his other hand. He caressed Hakkai's face, following the jawline and the pointed chin in a liquid flow. "Don't tell me," he said in a dimly exasperated tone, "that this happens after I decided to give up on you."

Gojyo's fingers now were tracing Hakkai's lips, lingering on the gentle dip and pushing just past the line into the warm cavern. Hakkai was beginning to feel lightheaded. He almost missed the meaning of Gojyo's words. Almost.

"Is that the reason for your . . . recent activities? Your . . . 'giving up'?"

"What do you think?"

Hakkai scoffed lightly. "You're a fool."

"A fool, am I?" Gojyo grinned. "Well, you didn't give me much choice."

"How so?" the brunet was confused.

"Heh," Gojyo chuckled. "Would you have acted this way if I didn't start sleeping with a different woman every night?"

Hakkai was silent.

"Thought so."

With that, Gojyo pulled Hakkai closer, and eased his mouth solidly upon the brunet's lips. The chaste kiss soon turned into a mesh of tongue and teeth, battling for the sake of more contact rather than dominance. Gojyo slid his hands down to the small of Hakkai's back, scraping against the slender man's spine as they went. Hakkai arched into him, hands failing at an attempt to pry the arm away from his sensitive spot. Gojyo used the momentum of Hakkai's weight to fall backwards, landing on the dirt with the brunet nestled perfectly on top of his body.

They didn't break their kiss.

Gojyo stuck one of his hands down Hakkai's back pockets, let the other slip under the green shirttail and the black inner shirt, touching sweet skin in all the right places. He knew Hakkai's body, whether from the past life or from four years ago, when nursing a bed-ridden man required some kind of exposed nakedness. He squeezed the muscles under his fingers, listened with satisfaction for the small moan originating from the brunet's throat.

Hakkai finally broke the kiss. His breathing was ragged, and his lips were swollen from the prolonged usage. He stared at the man beneath him; a rare tenderness seeped through his left eye. It soon turned into teasing humor. "You're not allowed to sleep outside our designated inn rooms again."

"Oh, well, as long as I can bring guests back . . ." Gojyo smirked.

Hakkai's hand drifted near a very sensitive part of Gojyo and gripped hard. The redhead bucked up in reflex, but his grin did not fade. "Try and we'll see what happens." Hakkai said politely, as if his fingers were not holding Gojyo's vital organ like a full water balloon.

Gojyo retaliated by suddenly rolling over, almost right into the campfire but adequately squashing Hakkai's hand into the dirt beneath. "Is that so?" he replied. "Hmm, guess I'll just have to get it all back from you . . . with interest added, of course."

There were no more words following. Only the sound of clothes rustling, heavy breathing, and the occasional grunts and moans permeated the small campsite.

The monk "sleeping" on the other side of the fire almost laughed out loud from the irony of the situation's predictability, then promptly started to look for soft objects to stuff his ears with.