A/N: Originally done in 30 minutes during NaNoWriMo word wars. Has undergone some minor editing since then.
Warnings: None. All worksafe.
Disclaimer: Saiyuki is the intellectual property of Minekura Kazuya. No profit is being made from this story and all the creative rights to the characters depicted herein belong to their original creator.
It was one of those days again. A day when Sanzo was at the bitchiest he could ever get and Gojyo was running out of smokes. Hakkai had lapsed into this usual half-plastic smile that never disappeared from his face, even when Hakuryuu hit a bump in the road or went down a particularly dangerous slope without dropping the speed. Goku was – and that was his only saving grace – sleeping in his seat in the back, partially taking over the space Gojyo needed for himself.
In other words – it was nothing out of the usual. The landscapes still changed, mountaintops still passed by at a distance, trees whizzed past and clouds of dust billowed behind them on empty roads that lead to so many places that one could say they led nowhere at all.
It was noon. Soon the sun would start setting, the world would lose all colour and they would settle someplace for a night's rest. Quite possibly they would be attacked by youkai ten times before they fell asleep and seven times more during the night. It was inevitable. It was part of their mission. Part of their job as the guides and protector-companions of a Sanzo priest.
To say that they hated each other would be to say nothing. Sometimes, they could tolerate each other. Sometimes they could work with each other. Sometimes they got in each other's way and sometimes… Sometimes just the four of them seemed like it would not be enough to pull them through alive, after all.
Yet they survived. In spite of all obstacles, in spite of all enemies, they kept moving forward. They kept getting back up and resuming their fights. They kept forcing their way, their lives, their …everything.
It was nothing out of the ordinary. It was just the same old routine with a few new aspects. The same roads, the same landscapes, different people, different times. Different purposes? Not likely. Sometimes it was all one big feeling of déjà vu, as if some meddling and quite bored god (which Merciful Goddess was) would be playing with them and their lives and their rational thoughts.
This day, quite like many others before, had already had its share of youkai and interfering humans who needed to be saved in the end. Saving people was one thing Genjo Sanzo did not like all that much. People should be saving themselves, fending for themselves, instead of waiting on a caricature of gods to come to their aid whenever they cried out to heaven in frustration. He did not read his scriptures for the dying, or the living. He read them for no one, not even himself.
It was his way of living and it would be his way of dying, if he could choose himself one. (Of course, he could not die, as Merciful Goddess – may she be cursed ten times over – would not allow it to happen until his task was finished.)
Gojyo was thinking back on the days when he had been on his own and – though seldom it happened – he had to admit that now he was happier than he had been ever before. He had found someplace where he belonged. Someplace where he did not feel like a burden or a spanner in someone's wheels. He could be useful to others and he could still be himself. Do as he wished, do whomever he wished (if he got extremely lucky); he had not limitations. Only that one of following one pissy prissy monk on his quest to hell knows where.
It was not all that bad, all options considered. He could have been off worse. He could have been back in that pub with the same ladies whom he saw day after day, year after year. It had been a point of stagnation in his life; one where he had reached everything he had wanted to reach, a point from which he could go nowhere else, because there was no other higher peak to go to (aside from down with one of the pretty ladies, but then they would want commitment and he was just not ready for that.). It was a lucky (or unlucky, as some might see it) chance that he met the people he was travelling with right now.
In his own way, he was happy to have picked up an almost dead Hakkai from the street, happy to have a pissy monk and his ass-kicking monkey boy show up at his door to take away back then yet-nameless Hakkai, happy to have gone through the first nightmarish moments with Hakkai ripping out his own eye and first hearing Sanzo read his scripture (it had been also the last time when he had done it, other times being only to banish bloodthirsty youkai, but that just didn't compare). It had taken him this far, and he was happy to be here, to be with the same Hakkai who had not been Hakkai before, the same ass-kicking monkey boy who was still a boy but was kicking twice as much ass, and the same Sanzo priest who was still the biggest jackass in the whole world, but he would not say it out loud because any time now he would be bumming a smoke from him.
Gojyo kicked Goku's legs aside none-too-gently, making more room for himself in the back of the car. Damn it all, but he liked being in his current company. Even if the girls were out of his life for the most part (but that would change the moment he settled down somewhere again. Possibly after this quest was done.), even if there was no certain stability, nor any outlines for their future and survival, he liked the motion. It was onwards. They were heading somewhere. They were leaving many things behind. They were moving on and on, and on and on. It was – as far as he could see – a never-ending loop. An infinite motion. A definite change.
Goku was snoring. It disturbed Gojyo's reflections, but it also was nothing new. Nothing ever happened the way they wanted it, anyway. If not today, maybe tomorrow they could be dancing with death, flirting with eternal damnation. But that would be tomorrow. Maybe. Not now. Not right now. Not while his smoke still lasted. Not while the clouds of dust still billowed in the wind. Not while the dust had not set back onto the ground. Not while the sun had not set – maybe.
It was peace. It was not salvation.
It was hope. It was not possibility.
It was real. It was something more than he had ever dared to desire.
Something more than any of them could have ever bargained for. Something they had not hoped for, but something they had accepted nevertheless because their lives had reached a breaking point at that one time. They had needed a change and change had presented itself. It may have been a fake hope, a false illusion of something. But it was something they could do, something they could immerse themselves into, and maybe – get lost and forget whom they had once been to emerge as something new entirely in the end.
It was the thing they had needed back then and it was something they now could live out to the fullest. Because it was real. It was temporary – yes, but the feeling was something they would never exchange for something else. Because that might be something less, something just not quite as satisfying.
For the four of them it would mean an empty life again. It would be full of lost chances of seeing Goku kick some major youkai ass. Not seeing Hakkai give off those impeccable smiles of his. Not hearing Jeep rumble and make his funny dragon noises. Not having Gojyo smoke in the next room or try to beat up Goku. Not having Hakkai be the voice of reason. Not having Sanzo smacking Goku and Gojyo around with his harisen. Not having Sanzo smoke in next room on the nights when it rained. Not having Goku being concerned with their wellbeing and going to smash things and youkai into the ground. Not having them. The four of them and the bond they now shared.
All in all, Gojyo figured, it would be quite the loss to not have all of those things in their lives anymore.