A/N: my first Saiyuki fic with dialogue. I hope I got Gojyo right. Anyway. Spoilers for the Kami-sama arc, and knowledge of it is necessary, I think. Review, please.

Hating the bullet

'We made it,' Gojyo wheezed, flopping backwards onto the bed, sprawling with a child's glee, or that of a convict on death row mysteriously granted clemency. 'Alive. Damn, I'm years older. Jackass monk.'

'Come now, Gojyo, it wasn't that bad.' Hakkai sat down beside him.

'Okay, okay, so who was clutching the dash so hard Jeep screeched?'

'That was just once.' Hakkai cleared his throat tentatively, his signal that he wanted to Talk. 'Gojyo. Why did you try to save him?'

Gojyo looked up wearily. He knew this talk was coming, had known since he caught Hakkai looking speculatively at him in the jeep (when he'd had time off from clutching anything available to save himself from Death by Driving, Sanzo-style, that is. The man was a maniac), but he hadn't expected it to be quite so soon. He thought Hakkai had the decency to wait until he didn't feel like road kill, but apparently the brunet's curiosity ran deeper than he thought.

'You made so much effort to kill him. You left us–' left me was implied, but Gojyo wasn't in a mood to attack that particular angle, not now '-in the middle of nowhere, went hunting for that……madman. And then, when he was dying, you tried to save him. You really would have saved him.'

Well, finally. He'd got Hakkai puzzled. It was bound to happen someday.

'I thought you hated him, Gojyo.'

'I did.' He stripped his jacket off, removed the blood-sticky shirt with a wince. He hadn't been healed yet. Hakkai had offered, but Sanzo had snapped I am not driving tomorrow, and if you're in no shape to do it because you're healing these idiots I'll shoot them both myself. Which was as close to take care of yourself as Gojyo's favourite (not) priest ever got. Hakkai had smiled in that pseudo-helpless manner of his, and Gojyo had refrained from pointing out that it was all very well for Sanzo to say that, he wasn't hurt at all, because Hakkai wasn't in any shape to deflect Sanzo's wrath and Gojyo had been whomped on enough for one day, thank you very much. 'I only left to kill him.'

'So why?'

'Because I realised that he wasn't the one I really hated. He was a pawn, Hakkai. He was just a kid himself. It was different once I realised that. Someone else made him the way he was, manipulated him into it. Really, he was no different than those kids. Just a victim. A powerful one, yeah, but I couldn't help but feel sorry for him, you know? It wasn't his fault he was nuts.'

'You're saying you condone what he did?'

'No! No. I don't. But he was just the means, see? Someone else did that to him. Convinced him he was Kami-sama, just as he convinced those kids. Taught him how to do that weird bead shit of his, told him to take the sutras from Sanzo.'

'Yes, he told us about his master.'

'See? That's the guy I really wanted to kill, except I didn't know I wanted to kill him, so I went after the guy I thought I wanted to go after instead of the one I should have actually been going after.'

Hakkai's brow twitched as he unravelled that statement. 'Ah,' he said when he finished. 'I see. But whether or not it was his fault, he did brainwash those children, and kill them, and do God knows what else. He was going to turn you into another toy, Gojyo.'

'Yeah, I know. But……' he huffed. Too much thinking for a night like this. He supposed it was too late to just nod off in mid-sentence, though. 'I couldn't, really. It's like hating the bullet.'

'Hating……the bullet?'

Why was it that the one night he really really really wanted to sleep was the night Hakkai wanted to talk? And why was he being so dense? He was the bright one; he was supposed to know what Gojyo was thinking without the bother of his having to speak it out loud.

'Yeah. I mean, he was just a tool. Just another toy. He'd been left behind for us like a booby-trap, or a loaded gun. He was just another bullet, like all those youkai we have to fight. I couldn't hate him for that.' Gojyo closed his eyes, trying to focus the mess of ideas in his head into a coherent answer.

'You hate the guy who pulls the trigger, not the bullet that comes out of the gun. Even if it's the bullet that kills you, it wouldn't happen without that guy……maybe I'm an idiot, 'Kai, but I know this much. You hate the killer, not the bullet. Hating the bullet doesn't do any good at all. It just……makes everything worse.'

'Gojyo,' Hakkai said, and he sounded so strange that Gojyo opened his eyes. The healer was staring at him with an odd tenderness in his eyes, and wonder, as if he were seeing something that he couldn't quite believe existed. One hand reached out to brush hair from his eyes, and the gesture looked almost unconscious, except that Hakkai never, ever did anything without thinking it over a hundred times……

It was too much, and he turned away. 'There's no need to sound so surprised. It's not like I'm stupid, you know.'

'I wasn't thinking that at all,' Hakkai said, still in that strange tone, and that was when it clicked. He was telling the truth. He really hadn't considered that possibility.

Which made sense, really, because Hakkai had always hated the bullet. Maybe it was because under that calm-and-housewifely façade there was a severely pissed-off guy who only had a nodding acquaintance with sanity, maybe it was because there had been so many bullets in his life that he'd forgotten there was a shooter (unlike Gojyo, who'd always had to take shit from one person at a time, and who found it easy to remember as a result). But he'd never been able to separate cause from effect. Even if they'd all barged in there with the intention of doing damage to Gojyo, they'd wanted to beat Kami-sama as well; and Hakkai had taken it rather personally for some reason.

Still hating the bullet, Gojyo realised. Both he and Sanzo did. It was why they brooded and hid and attached way too much importance to stupid things. Goku did too, but not so much.

Heh. Gojyo the bright guy. Who'd have guessed he'd live to see the day.

'I think I see,' Hakkai said, and his voice was more normal now, and it was easy to look at him again and grin as if that strange moment of realisation hadn't existed at all.

'But do you understand?' he pressed.

'Good night, Gojyo.'