Summary: Gojyo isn't sure if he's helping or intruding.
Prompt: Unfamiliar territory – 40min.
A/N:Written for the saiyukitime LJ community. Thank you to Madhumalati for the beta-ing and Chomiji for the tip about the vegetables.
Grunting to himself, Gojyo eyed the kitchen with wariness. It wasn't his usual territory. If anything, it was Hakkai's. Gojyo was far more at ease in a bar or in a bed. Sometimes on a couch. However, probably due to the lack of survival instincts (Sanzo would state it was the lack of a brain), he was no coward. And so, he went for it.
Opening cupboards, oven and drawers, he finally found the pans. Some of them were old and had come with the house. Some were new. When Hakkai had arrived home with them and Gojyo had asked where his beer and cigarettes were, the freak had just smiled and calmly replied that a beer lasted a minute, a pack of cigarettes a day, but a nice, solid, good treated frying-pan was for life. Hakkai could earn a life doing commercials.
Choosing one by chance, he put it on the fire with some oil in and started to cut the vegetables. He had seen Hakkai making stir-fry before and it looked simple. The recipe seemed to be: Take everything you've got in the fridge, mince it and fry it. Easy enough for Gojyo to be confident in his chances of not fucking it up.
He started to think he might have been wrong when the pan started to smoke heavily and seemed on the verge of catching fire when he wasn't even half done with the vegetables. Cursing, Gojyo turned down the fire and took the pan away.
When he was finally done with the mincing, he turned the fire up again and waited until he thought the oil was hot enough. He then threw a piece of onion to the pan. The pan kind of threw it back to Gojyo, or that was his first impression when the hot oil splashed and burned his skin.
He kept on cursing for a while as he watched the lonely dice of onion turn slowly black at the corners. Gojyo's vindictive part was nearly glad the evil onion got its payback, the bitch. His common sense suggested that maybe it was a bad idea that the onion got burned instead of cooked. Even if it deserved it.
Gojyo took a handful of minced vegetables and got ready to toss them in the pan. This time, he wouldn't make the same mistake. This time, he would put some safety distance between himself and the oil.
It was after his more or less succesful shot that he first heard him.
"Gojyo, what on earth are you supposed to be doing?"
Gojyo promptly turned towards the voice. Hurriedly. Like a naughty child caught redhanded. Hakkai had sounded half-horrified, half-amused, but Gojyo had learned pretty soon that Hakkai didn't always felt as he sounded.
"Err…" Gojyo was still unsure if he had been helping or intruding. "…Lunch?"
"Well," Hakkai replied as he put his bags on the table and started to take off the coat, "it looked rather like basketball to me…"
"Hey, it started it! It popped and burned me, see?" It was true;the angry red on Gojyo's outstretched arm supported his version.
"I see…" Hakkai simply replied as he took Gojyo's arm and gave the redhead's wounds the proper attention. "Do you want me to kiss it better?"
SometimesHakkai teased him just to see his startled expression, Gojyo was sure.
"The problem is," Hakkai explained, "that the farther away you throw objects to a fluid, the more violently that fluid splashes." Then, he turned the fire down a notch. "Sometimes, the oil pops because the water in the food gets too hot too soon and becomes a gas that makes a sudden pressure and pushes the oil abruptly out."
Gojyo hadn't asked for a lesson, but he was used to Hakkai's ways and kept his mouth shut.
"So," the teacher continued, "if you put the food in the pan carefully and make sure it isn't unnecessarily wet, the most probably outcome is that the oil doesn't pop."
Gojyo's gesture said that he wasn't convinced. He had gotten over the age when he would be beaten and came back for more. Now, he wasn't that fond of the idea of knowingly getting hurt. Seeing that, Hakkai took his hands and dragged him to the pile of minced vegetables.
"Here," he softly directed as he wrapped his hands around Gojyo's and made him take the pieces of potato. Always covering Gojyo's hands with his, he pulled him back to the fire. "The onion, especially when minced fine, gets quickly burned. Potatoes are tougher, so you should put them in the pan in the first place." Slowly, he took Gojyo's hands to the pan. "Softly. A bit closer. Yes, closer still. Like this."
Hakkai then gently opened his hands, getting Gojyo's hands open, too, and the pieces of potato fell quietly and without splashing to the oil."
"See?" Hakkai's voice always got especially tender when teaching. And sometimes, in moments like this, Gojyo could feel the care, the softness, the truth behind the smiles. The will not to hurt others, instead of the will not to get hurt.
"Now the green pepper."
Gojyo forced himself to look at the food and not at Hakkai.
"Yeah," he whispered.
Once again, Gojyo took the vegetables and Hakkai took Gojyo's hands. Once again, they clumsily walked together to the pan and gently released the load near the oil.
"Did you get burned?"
For some reason, their words had become whispers. As if this was an intimate act between them, even more personal than the conversations they sometimes had at night, Gojyo on the futon and Hakkai in Gojyo's bed.
In silence now, they went back and forth and repeated the same movements until all the vegetables were in the pan.
Gojyo missed Hakkai's hands on his. The soft touch as much as the feeling of being protected. Of someone willing to protect him. Of a shield against the hot oil, umbrellas against youkai bullies or painkillers on the nightstand against a nasty hangover. Hakkai.
"You should take into consideration, too," again, no more than a whisper, "that the bigger amount of food there's in the pan, the hotter you can raise the fire."
While he spoke, Hakkai took a wooden spoon and stirred the contents of the pan. He then resumed his speech.
"It's convenient, as well, that the dices are all of the same size so that they get cooked at the same time and none get burned. We should have taken the singed onion out, by the way, but for some reason, I just forgot."
Drawn, feeling like a stupid moth, Gojyo got closer to Hakkai.
"Salt and spices are a necessity, too. Especially the zucchini is quite insipid, and onions taste sweet without them…" He was interrupted by Gojyo's hand on his cheek. "Gojyo…"
If Gojyo had common sense, he would have backed off. That was another of the things that made him no coward, the lack of common sense. Maybe it really was the lack of a brain, as Sanzo thought. Or maybe it was just that he had been born to mess up.
"Gojyo…" Hakkai repeated, his whisper even softer than before as he held the handle of the pan in one hand and the wooden spoon in the other. His face turned towards Gojyo by the hand resting on his cheek. "You smell like garlic…"
Gojyo kissed him.
The time froze. Or maybe not. Maybe it was them who stood there like frozen, Hakkai's hands on the handle and the spoon, Gojyo's on Hakkai's cheek.
When Gojyo let him go, didn't apologize. He wasn't sorry. He just watched Hakkai fight with his brain to find some words to say, but Gojyo just placedhis fingers (those which smelled like garlic) on Hakkai's lips and, slowly, a bit awkwardly, he came near again and kissed Hakkai's cheek before wrapping his long arms around him in a delicate hug, loose enough for Hakkai to get out of it if he so wished.
Just as gently, Hakkai's arms circled Gojyo's warm body and they stood there, holding each other as the soothing sound of the cooking invaded the kitchen.