Hakkai had often taken to fantasizing of the life he'd one day have. It was different every time. After all, why limit one's dreams? It was true that many of the things he imagined weren't exactly things that he'd likely be good at or even able to do. He liked to consider his future wide open. After the journey to India, the countless trials and threats at his life, and the horrifying final battle at the castle in the west, he was still alive. His dear Gojyo, still alive. Sanzo and Goku, still well, once more living at the temple in Chang'an. They'd made it, if with little to spare. Anything was possible.

That being said, of all the somedays Hakkai had imagined, this had never been one of them. It wasn't supposed to be like this.

The only sounds in the room were the ticking of the clock and the soft buzz of a tiny dragon snoring. Hakuryu had retired to his little sheepskin bed over an hour ago. Hakkai had been mostly just sitting at the dining room table, staring at the nondescript off-white plaster of the wall in an empty trance. His right hand ached, and he realized he had a death grip on the cup of tea he was holding on to. He tentatively took another sip. It'd long gone cold and bitter by now.

His arms and legs were heavy from sitting in the same place all night. Stiffly, he craned his neck up to check the clock on the wall. It was 1:26 AM. Of course Gojyo wasn't home yet. While no longer in the habit of spending the whole night in a young woman's room, he still spent such late hours out playing cards and drinking, and wasn't likely to come home until well past two. Over the months since returning home, Hakkai had developed an insomnia to match. Bed was too cold, too empty without Gojyo. What was the point of trying to sleep without him?

It was in Hakkai's nature to wake up early, freshen up, and fix breakfast. He loved the morning, when the sun cast light over the world from the east and songbirds argued in the trees outside. Hakkai's concept of "morning" hardly fit the dark and lonely hours in which he waited for the man he loved to come and lie down with him, to make him feel safe and loved in return.

At least Gojyo was faithful, Hakkai had no doubt. Before the journey, Hakkai could tell every time when the hanyou was stumbling home from after a fling. He'd smell all over of woman, of perfume, of fluids, and of whatever manner of drink had served as the social lubricant of the evening. After most of those nights, he'd wander in bleary-eyed after first light and collapse into bed, reeking of his indiscretions. The very worst had been the mornings that Hakkai woke up to find Gojyo that way right next to him. Times like that, he'd wanted to crawl inside his own skin and hide from everything. Of course Gojyo would never feel the same towards him. They were both men, and Gojyo's love of chasing after women was beyond question.

Needless to say, Hakkai now knew better. On Gojyo's late return, the two would often make love, then collapse in each others' arms and promptly fall asleep between the thin sheets of their little bed. No matter what kind of worry Hakkai had, the fact remained that they were both deeply in love and nothing was going to change that. Still...Hakkai would've liked to enjoy the morning sun without an eye that burned from lack of sleep, and he really wished that Gojyo could get up and have breakfast with him without being a tired mess.

Dumping the rest of the near-undrinkable tea into the sink, rather than immediately washing the cup and putting it away, Hakkai simply placed it upside-down in the sink and leaned onto the edge of the sink with his elbows. There was this one brownish stain in the sink that he'd never been able to get rid of, and he couldn't determine why. He'd tried every manner of cleaning solution he could think of to make it go away, but he couldn't.

Over the trip back from India, Hakkai had thought of how nice it would be to return home and have his own kitchen again. He loved kitchens. The one at home was rather pathetic, really, with cheap counters and an elderly stove, but he could take care of it himself and cook whatever he liked. He'd looked forward to cooking hot meals for himself and Gojyo again, bringing dishes over for Sanzo and Goku on the weekends, and trying new recipes out of cookbooks he'd picked up while grocery shopping in town. One of his favorite dreams was to have a beautiful kitchen with solid laminate countertops, proper places to keep oven mitts and paper towels, and windows that looked out on a sunny garden.

Hakkai's nightly routine of late had involved keeping the space where he prepared food spotless and shining. He admitted to himself that it was a compulsive habit, but at least it gave him something good to do. This was how he'd come to know that sink stain, just like he'd come to know the counter corner where the plastic was peeling off, the cabinet door with the hinge that tended to come loose from time to time, the one burner on the stove that rattled whenever something was placed on it, and the secret to cleaning the drain out properly.

Cho Hakkai was lonely for the man he loved more than anything. He was lonely for the fantasies he'd had for the future. He was lonely with the memory of the time he'd spent miserable over his and Kanan's future that'd been cut from his heart with a knife while more and more of the present ran into the past. Mostly, he was lonely because he was so unsure of what future he'd really pursue.