The Art of Living

Author – cornerofmadness

Disclaimer – not mine. All rights belong to Kazuya Minekura et al, no profit made, just a little fun

Rating – FRM (for language)

Pairing – none

Timeline – takes place within a day or two after the end of Reload #8 with definite spoilers for it

Summary – Everyone around him is hurting and Gojyo hates it.

Author's Note – written for Saiyukitime's art prompt. Took 31 minutes (so I fail. Man nothing goes right this week)

Gojyo remembered Hakkai telling him once that sometimes you just had to find one good thing that went right that day in order to improve your mood. It wasn't hard to find it because it was about the only damn thing that was good right now; they had managed to get out the desert and into decent grassland. Yeah, they still had no money but they had water and Goku proved to be a decent fisherman with his bare hands. Concentrating on the good did nothing for Gojyo's mood.

"Fuck it," he grumbled. Hakkai and Goku just glanced at him. Goku went back to staring up at the stars as they slowly winked on. Hakkai held his attention for a little longer. Both had learned to be quiet around him, not a challenge for Hakkai but Goku? Gojyo knew it was because everything set him off. He needed a goddamn cigarette but there were none and no money to buy any.

He knew Hakkai wanted to talk about what was eating at him but Gojyo wasn't really feeling like it. Propelling himself to his feet, he wandered down to the water's edge. The moon reflected back up toward the sky and it was a perfect night. Okay, the night was perfect, they were not.

"Gojyo?" Hakkai's voice was pitched low.

He didn't look back at his friend. "I'm worried about Goku," he replied barely above a whisper. Hell knew the kid had ears like a cat.

"I know. So am I."

Gojyo turned back to Hakkai, surprised even though he shouldn't be. Hakkai was the type to worry. "What are we supposed to do about it? It's not even about that unholy prick any more. Goku was at least dealing with Sanzo being gone."

Hakkai glanced back to where Goku was lying on a blanket, Hakuryuu curled up on his chest. "He is taking that girl's death very hard."

Gojyo made a disgusted noise. He ignored Hakkai's questioning tone when he asked what was wrong. Instead, Gojyo stalked back up to their camp site and tossed himself down. Hakkai dogged his steps, probably worried about him now. If he was, Hakkai said nothing, merely silently sitting back down on his own bedding.

Goku looked at him. "Did I do somethin' wrong? You guys mad at me?"

"No, we're not mad," Hakkai assured him quickly.

"I am," Gojyo said, shocking them. Goku's face fell. "Not at you, kid. You didn't do anything wrong. I'm just mad at the people around us who so routinely fail at life."

Goku put the dragon on the blanket next to him, rolling onto his side so he could study his companions. "What do you mean?"

"Look at your, Goku. You're all torn up inside, mostly because people are so busy thinking about themselves before they think about others." Gojyo stabbed a finger at Goku. He sighed, wishing for that cigarette once again. "Living right is an art form and the important people in your life are stuck at the finger-painting level."

"Interesting analogy," Hakkai murmured.

Mildly surprised he had earned Hakkai's 'that is honestly smart' expression, Gojyo pressed on. "I'm not saying I have all the answers, no one does, but this art form really escapes too many of us." He slung his hair back. "Maybe I should stop now before I piss you all off."

"I won't get mad," Goku promised, stroking Hakuryuu's back.

"I'm intrigued, Gojyo, please continue," Hakkai said.

Gojyo thought for a moment. "You already know I'm pissed off as all hell at Sanzo. Okay, Hakkai probably has a point that Sanzo couldn't have helped you when you got shot, Goku, and he left you to go tear off the fucker's head who did it and shit down his neck hole but that doesn't excuse him taking off with Hazel. You needed him. Hell, we all do, if for no other reason than he has the money." Gojyo chuckled humorlessly. "He didn't think about you. He's drawing stick figures. The girl back in the village, she didn't have to go and die. There were children who needed someone to take care of them. They needed every adult they could get and she abandoned them for a sure death. That's dumb and it pisses me off." Gojyo never could understand why people treated kids as disposable.

"Yeah," Goku shuddered. "She kissed me first. No one's ever done that before."

"Aw man," Gojyo muttered under his breath, exchanging horrified looks with Hakkai. "Kid, I…there is nothing I can say to that. Choosing death is dumb. I think that's why I picked Hakkai up that stormy night. It would have been easier to pass him by and let him die but what sort of person would that make me? Maybe I've never been that good at putting myself first and that might not be a bad thing. I got used to putting Mom first because that's the only way to keep the peace." He touched his scarred cheek. "For all the good it did. My old man wrote the book on how to fail at life. He couldn't even find the canvas. He should have just dumped me in an orphanage. It would have been better all the way around. Mom would have stayed sane. My brother wouldn't have to live knowing he killed his mom. Hell, even Jien couldn't look at me afterwards. He left me even though I was a kid and really needed him. See what I mean about life being some rare art form?"

"Yeah, that sucks," Goku admitted.

"Lots. I forgive him for it. Jien had horrors enough in his own head after the things she did to him." Gojyo winced, thinking for a moment, he could hear the squeak of an old bed spring. "And Hakkai, I know you loved your sister but when I think about the stories you've told me, it boils my blood. You and her could have dealt with that baby somehow. You can find abortives in any apothecary shop around if that's what she wanted but to rather die than have a half bred child? To have a kid like me? To leave you to mourn when there was no good reason for her to die? I hate it." Gojyo choked. Fuck, it wasn't like he was going to cry, right? He was just furious and it made his eyes sting.

Hakkai put a hand on Gojyo's shoulder, his gaze warm and comforting like soft blanket on a cold winter's night. "I suppose to continue your analogy, Kannan couldn't even find the chalk with which to draw. It makes me angry, too, Gojyo. She left me behind. After all I did, it still wasn't enough. I would have been happy to raise that child, even if it was a child of rape. That wasn't the baby's fault."

"Well, you've got a pretty good handle on the art." Gojyo smiled, grateful for what Hakkai's words implied; that Gojyo himself wasn't inherently bad.

"You, too," Goku said. "You're a pain in the ass and you steal my food but when it's the important stuff, Gojyo, you take care of me first."

Gojyo nudged him with a boot. "Don't go all mushy on me."

Goku grinned a bit, then snuggled down into his bedding. "I'll paint masterpieces some day. I'm still learning."

Gojyo laughed. "Somehow, monkey, I don't doubt it."  Before he stretched out to try and get some sleep himself, Gojyo saw the look in Hakkai's eyes. He had done good. Maybe there was hope for them, after all.