when the candles are out
by Bethany Ten
chapter 1: it's great to stay up late

At that age, the youkai body is substantially less susceptible to change by way of physicality, namely because it's done all the maturing it will be doing for the next handful of decades, like an unripened fruit in an airless atmosphere. Youkai physicality is sturdy, if nothing else; it will always remain marginally exempt from the unwritten law of time so long as the youkai in question has lived to see adolescence. Nowadays, the danger of never experiencing the series of mildly alarming miracles that is puberty mounts ever higher, namely because forcibly paving a westward path are a small band of travellers with unusual strength and an unusual detachment towards the value of youkai life.

Son Goku is really without pity for the younger ones. After all, they threw down the gauntlet; he is in no way obligated to pick it back up.

Receiving sermons on the correlation (or lack thereof) between human and youkai development from Hakkai is similar to reading a textbook on the correlation (or lack thereof) between human and youkai development. Hakkai was very skilled with sugarcoating and euphemisms, but regardless, "the birds and the bees" discussion was postponed until the rare event in which Goku actually had a question to ask.

(Gojyo had happily volunteered to have a lengthy talk with Goku, but he changed his mind shortly after becoming absurdly intimate with a paper fan.)

One morning, however, at approximately seventeen minutes past seven, he awoke with a body structure unusually similar to that of Kougaiji's younger half-sister.

In other words, Son Goku awoke one morning at approximately seventeen minutes past seven, and he was a girl.

He paused, mulling over his inability to see his toes past his breasts.

He strode across the room and shook Gojyo awake.

"…ngh," Gojyo said articulately, rolling over.

"Ero-kappa, wake up."

"Ngh."

"Wake up!"

"Ngh."

"Gojyo, I'm a girl!"

At the mention of the "g"-word (girl, not Gojyo), the ero-kappa in question jackknifed into a sitting position, the antennae-like hairs on his head perking up and around, as though scanning the inn room. They began throbbing as they probed the atmosphere a good six inches away from Goku, and then they lilted towards him almost accusingly, like a pointed finger or deer antlers. Goku found this vaguely perturbing, and flicked them, briefly ignorant of the fact that Gojyo was thoroughly inspecting Goku's new bits.

"Gojyo," Goku repeated with graceless patience, "I'm a girl."

"So I see," Gojyo said with graceful impatience.

They sat in silence for a while.

"So what are you going to do now?" Gojyo asked.

"Are you gonna help me?" Goku asked, doing his best to think and talk at the same time.

"I can only perform sex change operations on men," Gojyo said ruefully, not without a faint laceration of apology.

They sat in some more silence for a while.

"Should I go see Sanzo or Hakkai?" Goku asked.

"They should be up in seven minutes," Gojyo said, inspecting the clock on the western wall.

"Okay," Goku said, and decided to take advantage of those seven minutes by plodding back across the room and going back to sleep.

● ● ●

Twenty-seven minutes later—twenty-seven because Hakkai and Sanzo took separate ten-minute baths—Hakkai knocked on their door and opened it, subsequently, and opened his mouth to recite his usual greeting, but to effectively speak one must move one's jaw, and Hakkai's jaw suddenly knew gravity like it never had before. Hakkai's jaw also realized that the hardwood floors were, in fact, made of hard wood, and by the time he found it within himself to formulate words and sentences, he was massaging the underside of his chin with a grimace. "Goku! You're—"

"Asleep." Gojyo shoved the coverlets off himself and dusted off his forearms with a theatric yawn. "And a girl," he added, almost as an afterthought. Then he tilted over his bedside to rummage for his clothes. "Not a particularly bad-looking one, either. But still a girl." He found a clean shirt and stacked it atop a pair of clean pants, and massaged the spot beneath his left eye as he climbed out of bed. "Are you sure this shirt is clean?"

"Gojyo, Goku's a girl."

"…Hakkai, it's not like I really need the reminder. Where're the towels? And are you sure this shirt is clean?"

"Goku's a what?" Goku mumbled, sitting up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes with his balled fists.

At that moment, Sanzo walked in, and I'd like to say all hell broke loose, but all he did was blink for a minute.

Then he asked, a vein slowly defining itself in his forehead, "Kougaiji has another sister?"

"Hakkai," Gojyo said, rubbing his forehead. "Where the hell are the towels?"

"Sanzo," Goku said, rubbing his eyes. "It's me."

"Who the hell are you?"

"I'm not quite sure," Hakkai said blandly, dumbfounded.

"For fuck's sake. Towels. Towels," Gojyo said, wringing his hands.

"It's me, Sanzo! Me! Goku!" Goku said as though it was the most obvious thing in the world, except it wasn't, unless you were Goku, who was the one most outwardly affected by this, or unless you were Gojyo, who was in desperate need of a towel lest he trod around incurably cold, wet, and naked and give people all across the globe nasal hemorrhages. "And I'm a girl." He poked one of his ample breasts for emphasis. It bobbed agreeably.

Sanzo pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed in exasperation.

He glared at Goku very pointedly.

Goku poked one of his ample breasts again.

Sanzo's hands moved lower down the slope of his nose, and he grunted and swiftly strode far, far away from Goku and Gojyo's room.

Hakkai's mouth opened and closed like that of a dying goldfish.

Gojyo waited until Sanzo's robes swished out of his line of vision, and said, "Sanzo has an aversion towards honkers." Then he walked off to steal Hakkai's still-damp towel, because it didn't really look like he'd be getting his hands on a dry one anytime soon, and besides, Hakkai's towel smelled nice, and it wasn't a crime to smell nice. Goku opened his mouth, presumably to ask about honkers, but then closed it when he realized he really didn't want to know. Instead, he asked about breakfast, and was directed downstairs. Hakkai stayed behind because he felt like it.

Later that morning, Gojyo walked out of the shower, incurably cold, wet, and naked. He walked out of the bathroom, incurably cold, wet, and not so naked because he'd thrown on his boxers, and Hakkai had stolen his towel back, so basically he just walked around cold and wet and sort of naked for the rest of the morning, because it seemed like a good idea at the time.

And it was. It really, really was.

● ● ●

"Well, judging by the rate of pass and influx of this irregular chi," Hakkai proclaimed as though people knew what he was talking about, "twelve to fifteen weeks."

"Twelve to fifteen weeks!" Goku gasped dramatically. "That's—that's almost—"

He trailed off.

Sanzo pointedly looked at the wall behind Goku—which proved difficult, because Goku's natural aptitude for getting in his face seemed to simply shimmer that day—and said, "And how did he become a girl again?"

"Well—erm—a spell, perhaps—well, we have made our fair share of enemies."

Gojyo chose that moment to chime in in all his sort of naked glory. "Yeah," he said. "They decided we don't suffer enough, so they made Goku menstrual."

Sanzo pitched over in a dead faint.

● ● ●

Gojyo, for all his bloated khakis and rumpled muscle shirts and vests, did have an eye for women's fashions. Perhaps he simply knew what he liked to see on his nightly catches; perhaps he was a simple pro at separating the hideous from the aesthetically pleasing. Perhaps he was a homosexual in denial. In a very saintly manner, he left that morning and returned post noon with an assortment of blouses, corsets, vests, and short skirts for the movement-happy boy-turned-girl. He also purchased a pack of women's underthings with the days of the week printed on the ribbon, although Goku wouldn't touch them with a ten-foot barge. ("You'll understand someday," Gojyo sighed paternally, ruffling Goku's silky, if not slightly mussed, hair.)

Goku did, however, take it upon himself to bind aforementioned ample chest, because it would get in the way while fighting.

"Gojyo," Hakkai had said, "you can see up his skirt if he kicks. And he kicks."

Gojyo reasoned that anyone within immediate skirt-peeking range was probably due for a foot smashed into their face, anyway, and Hakkai thought that was logical enough, and that the skirt was a pleasant shade of blue. He told them so, and Gojyo beamed.

"He looks good," Gojyo said, still beaming, looking mightily proud of his ability to transform people into Barbie dolls.

"Yes."

"No, he does not look good," Sanzo said through his gritted teeth, holding a chemical icepack to his temple. "He looks like a girl."

"Young woman, actually, if you please."

Sanzo blinked, slowly, and his eyes flicked automatically to the front of Goku's skirt.

Goku followed Sanzo's gaze, and then turned a very uncharacteristic shade of red.

"But Sanzo," Gojyo whined, "what about your honker aversion?"

Technically, they all should have realized something was very wrong when Sanzo didn't rip out Gojyo's eyes and feed them to sewer rats. But they were all very distracted by the prospect of Sanzo being distracted by Goku's skirt, which was a pleasant shade of blue and accentuated his slender hips, the bones of which no longer jutted out so awkwardly. Come to think of it, Sanzo had been particularly isolated from close contact with females. If only Gojyo had offered to procure Sanzo a semester of sex ed lessons.

"Well," Gojyo said at last, feeling uncomfortable with his state of good health, "better late than never, I always say." He swiveled around Goku, swiveled around Sanzo's chair, and opened his mouth, prepared to belt into an alto rendition of the actual song titled "The Birds And The Bees". Hakkai quickly realized Gojyo was long overdue for some measure of physical harm, and ground the heel of his boot into Gojyo's toe, eliciting a masculine yelp.

"What was Gojyo gonna say?" Goku asked, placing his hands on his hips, and they were very nice hips.

"Nothing," Hakkai said, his smile aching.

"What's 'menstrual'?"

"Nothing," Hakkai said with considerably more effort, and resisted the urge to burst into tears.

● ● ●

"Goku is now to be referred to with feminine pronouns," Gojyo announced as Goku followed a grievously mentally injured Sanzo downstairs for lunch.

"Gojyo," Hakkai said, his brain feeling very much like a dense, crumpled sponge, "Goku is, in essence if not in body, a boy. Therefore, we shall utilize masculine pronouns in reference to Goku."

"Goku does not look like a man I've seen. Except for that one drag queen back in the desert. But Goku's are real, so that doesn't count, either."

"I feel uncomfortable dwelling on the subject of Goku's breasts, Gojyo."