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Orange Peel

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Gojyo smoked.

That was what he did. Goku complained about being hungry, Sanzo got pissed off, Hakkai smiled, and Gojyo smoked.

It used to be that Gojyo would leer at the pretties and issue multiple invites to his bed. He was not worried about rejection from women. The way he saw it, out of ten women at least seven would accept his request, and that was all to the good.

Nowadays, though, Gojyo smoked.

He wasn't sure why he had lost interest in the girls these days. Oh, he still made passes, but half-heartedly, and the ladies could sense he wasn't really looking to pick them up for a night of fun and frolic. At least Gojyo could say he picked the smart ones.

"Gojyo, at the rate you're smoking we'll have to pawn your luggage to pay for your cigarettes," Hakkai said as he emerged from the shower. He waved the acrid smell from his face and opened a window. "You really would need to cut down."

"Yes, yes..." It was an old complaint. As a human-turned-youkai, Hakkai was immune to all poisons, including the deadly nicotine Sanzo and Gojyo inhaled endlessly. Yet he was the one who would complain the most – albeit with a smiling face all the while – and most times Gojyo would give in and stub out his cigarette.

The hanyou stretched and tugged off his t-shirt. "My turn now," he muttered and strode to the bathroom.

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Hakkai sighed as his friend entered the bathroom. He picked up the t-shirt tossed on the floor and grabbed a change of clothes from the pack, laying them out on the bed. His friend always forgot to prepare a set before he bathed, and would risk a chill rummaging through his bags looking for what he wanted to wear.

The cigarette pack was almost empty, down to the last stick. Hakkai made a mental note to buy another four cartons. No telling when they would come to another town.

"Fuck," swore Gojyo, his voice muffled from inside the shower. "Kai, there aren't any towels!"

Hakkai resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Gojyo must be blind. "They're next to the sink." He cocked an ear.

"... damn."

Hakkai smiled. What would the redhead do without him?

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Sanzo lay down and shut his eyes.

"Nah, Sanzo, I'm hun-"

"Shut up or I'll shoot you."

"Sa-a-a-aa-n-nn-zo," Goku wheedled, hopping off his bed and propping himself on Sanzo's knees. The monk almost groaned with the impact made when Goku hopped on without as much as a 'by your leave'. "I'm hungry."

Sanzo kicked the monkey off. "You're always hungry."

"But we can have room service!"

"No."

"Sanzo..."

"I said no. I want to sleep."

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Hakkai and Gojyo tried not to laugh as the conversation from next door drifted through the thin walls. The brunet returned his attention to the damp red hair in his hands. Carefully untangling the long hair could take up to half an hour, and usually by the end of it Gojyo's hair would be dry enough for bed.

Hakkai liked this particular task.

It had come about on another stormy evening, around a year after Kanan's death. Hakkai remembered staring out the small window in Gojyo's kitchen, watching rivulets run down blurred panes.

Gojyo had then sauntered up to him, dripping wet and naked from the waist up. His hair had grown up by then. "Hey, Kai. My hair's tangled."

"Hmm?" Hakkai had answered, distracted by the wind howling outside through the thick forest.

"My hair's tangled from washing. Help me undo the tangles."

His innately helpful nature was engaged in the simple but tedious task before Hakkai fully registered what was happening. By the time he noticed his hands' activities, he was already perched on the side of the bed with a towel across his lap, and Gojyo was seated on the floor with his tangled ruby tresses being gently handled by Hakkai's clever fingers. By the time the strands were dry and tangle-free, the storm had petered out to a drizzle.

Almost four years on, and here Gojyo was still sitting on the floor, with Hakkai on the bed, a towel in his lap. Long red hair that was still easily snarled by Gojyo's style of hair washing felt even more like silk in Hakkai's battle-roughened hands.

Gojyo had stretched out his long legs, and his slender fingers were tapping out an unknown beat on his knee. Thankfully there was no cigarette in his mouth. Hakkai didn't like the smoke getting into his eyes.

"There, done," said Hakkai after forty-five minutes.

"Thanks." Gojyo dug his last cigarette out of the box, only to have it unceremoniously plucked out of his fingers. "Kai..."

Hakkai was unmoved. "That is for tomorrow when we go shopping. Bed, now."

Something in Gojyo's heart leaped when he heard the last two words uttered as a command, but being Gojyo, he didn't give more thought to his own reactions.

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The fact that his companion fell asleep almost immediately upon hitting the mattress was amusing. Hakkai himself was having some difficulty. He tended to over-think, especially since he was in charge of taking care of three rebellious half-grown men with adolescent attitudes and even more childish tempers.

Hakkai remembered the many nights when he had been forced to stay awake to play cards or chat with the hanyou, especially when Gojyo lacked alcohol, smokes, and/or women. He also recollected the times Gojyo stayed up with him just to listen to the rain or listen to the insect symphony. Those were times his brain could pause, and exist in the now. Sanzo tried teaching him meditation before, but Hakkai found it tough to just sit. Whereas when Hakkai had Gojyo next to him, Hakkai knew he had nothing to be too concerned about; whatever happened could be taken care of later, and if it was an emergency, Gojyo wasn't as immature as to not know how to handle himself. And if it was something Gojyo couldn't handle, he would try anyway, and then he would return to Hakkai with a confident smirk and self-deprecating swagger.

In some ways Hakkai was glad Gojyo turned to him in those times. He liked being reminded that he wasn't living just for himself, he was there for Gojyo too, just as it were true conversely. Needed, but not needy. It was good that Gojyo would always want to have Hakkai watching his back. Gojyo needed Hakkai, who also needed the redheaded hanyou.

Somehow, the last thought stirred something deep in Hakkai's psyche. The healer didn't manage to catch that stray thought though. His last coherent thought was to purchase more cartons of cigarettes for both incorrigible smokers.

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A/N: It was supposed to be a PWP, but turned out this way. Guess my muse is interested to see what develops. Very probably a yaoi, because there aren't many strong female regular characters in Saiyuki, and the boys are HAWT.

Oh, and I have no idea why Orange Peel is the right title for this story, but it is.