'What's that?' Gojyo said, peering at the long tubes of colourfully wrapped paper lying on the table.
'It's henna, ground into a paste. It dyes the skin temporarily. A gypsy passing through town was kind enough to sell me some. I thought Goku would like it.'
'It feels really cool,' Goku chimed in. The monkey was sitting shirtless on the table, legs swinging impatiently from being still for so long. His entire back was covered with an elaborate intricate pattern of a bird rising into flight, looking so lifelike that the redhead half expected it to fly off his back. 'It tingles a bit.'
'You can wash it off now,' Hakkai said, giving Goku the warm smile he reserved for him; part caring parent, part fond brother, part exasperated teacher. It annoyed Gojyo. How come the monkey got the real smiles when all he got was the plastic souvenir version?
'Great! I'm hungry! I need to eat.'
'Bottomless pit,' Gojyo said not-so-quietly, relishing the ever-predictable response.
'Now, now, Goku, if you fight before you wash it off it'll smudge.'
He subsided, although with a dark glare that promised revenge later, and carefully walked out of the room.
'Patterns, huh?' Gojyo said. 'Sounds interesting.'
'Would you like a design too?' Hakkai said, picking up a fresh tube. 'I could do the bird for you, too, but I don't think you'd want that.'
'Anything's fine,' Gojyo said, lying down on the bed. 'As long as it's not what the monkey's wearing,' he cautioned. 'I'd never hear the end of it from him.'
'It's usually done on the palm,' Hakkai observed.
'Sounds okay.' For a brief moment, he thought back over whatever sins he may have committed over the past three months and decided that there hadn't been anything major enough to warrant severe revenge from Hakkai. The green-eyed youkai had a nasty combination of a twisted sense of justice, an even more twisted brand of humour and an excellent memory for grudges.
Hakkai handed him a book. Gojyo leafed through the book quickly; it had a number of patterns drawn as they would look on the hand. He chose a geometric pattern that he liked. It covered the centre of his palm, leaving his wrist and fingers bare.
'That's quite traditional,' Hakkai observed. 'It's usually supplemented by a border of some sort.'
'Is it?' Gojyo eyed him carefully before seizing a paper and scribbling quickly. He was no artist, but his skills were more than enough for the simple border he wanted.
Praying that he wasn't making a fatal mistake, he handed it to Hakkai.
The healer took the paper and studied it with little expression. Noted the vines that trailed in a circuitous pattern over and around each finger, brushed the tip of his palm and wound down to circle his wrist in an unbroken band.
'I'd like that on both hands,' he said, not looking anywhere except the pillow.
'Interesting choice,' Hakkai commented finally in a very neutral tone.
'I go with what I like best,' Gojyo replied.
This option was looking better with each moment. It was a nice vague declaration, something that Hakkai would understand – hell, he picked things out of Gojyo's head all the time, it was surprising he hadn't understood this yet – but which he didn't have to react to if he didn't want.
And apparently, he didn't want.
It wasn't like Gojyo was terribly subtle. He had all the subtlety of a brick in the head, and it was a dead give-away the way he hung all over Hakkai at the least excuse. Even Goku had noticed; of course Hakkai had. God, he'd probably got it years ago and just wasn't reacting because he was waiting for Gojyo to understand that he wasn't interested without having to hurt him by actually going out and saying it.
That was fine. About as good as having his guts slowly pulled out his nostrils, but hell, it wasn't like he could have expected anything else. Right?
'Well?' he said, trying to summon up his normal face. His normal face was apparently on holiday, because it sure as hell wasn't listening. 'You gonna stare at that paper forever?'
Hakkai started visibly. 'O-of course. Forgive me, Gojyo. My thoughts were elsewhere.' He took a significantly larger, rougher hand in his own and began to work. Gojyo stared moodily at the unruly mass of brown hair just under his chin for a while before he flopped onto his back and closed his eyes.
Great. Just great. Now he was going to be relegated into the 'Politely Ignore Except for Necessary Conversation' category and left there to rot for the rest of eternity.
He should have known. He had known, and he'd gone ahead and spilled the beans anyway.
It was official. The monkey wasn't the dumbest creature in the world anymore.
And if he did something idiotic (more idiotic, he thought sardonically) right now, like yell or get sappy, he was going to go accuse Sanzo of being gay again and not dodge the bullet. Because that was just too much really.
Hakkai's quick movements and the pleasant chill of the henna were soothing, and it had a subtle tangy scent that he liked. He lay on his back on the bed and let the healer work, keeping his hand carefully stiff; and after a while he slept.
When he woke up, the pattern had already dried on his hand, and Hakkai had apparently wiped it off as well, because there was no trace of the henna left. The geometric pattern was nearly the colour of his hair now, and he knew that it would only darken further after he washed it a few times.
There was no sign of Hakkai or any of the others. That was odd. Even stranger, someone had tied his hair neatly in its customary ponytail. Hakkai probably, he couldn't imagine Sanzo touching him except under duress, and if Goku had done it there would have been Magic Marker involved, or something equally embarrassing.
Absently fingering his cheek – something was stinging there as if he'd scratched there in his sleep – he sauntered into the bathroom to wash his hands.
And froze when he looked at himself in the mirror.
The twin scars on his cheeks had been neatly covered in henna. In a very familiar twisting vine pattern. One trail wound down from his cheek to his neck, and another to his ear. They covered his scars better than his hair could have done; it was nearly impossible to see what lay under the design unless Gojyo was looking for them.
'Well, I'll be……' he breathed, running gentle incredulous fingers over the pattern.
A wide, delirious grin insisted on spreading over his face. He let it.
Things were looking up.
He was humming when he left to find Hakkai.
A/N: pointless, plotless. But who cares? And I believe this is my first Saiyuki fluff, if it can be called that. No, wait, there was that 85 drabble. Oh well.