Disclaimer – (looks at empty hands)  …still don't own it…

Beneath the Skin - Finale

Gojou sat on the bucket, and did a quick job of cleaning.  Sanzou tried to ignore him.  What Hakkai had said before was still on his mind, but the feeling of the room was now different, like the bit of coolness that Gojou let in for that second the door was open changed everything.  His muscles were tightening again, as were his nerves.  He leaned back against the tiles.  Well, if the kappa wanted to get in, he would have to wait.  He wasn't done yet. 

Hakkai, as always, was the one that built bridges.  'How's Goku?" 

"Dead to the world."  Gojou poured the bucket down his front.  "Kid could barely change.  I'm pretty whipped too though so I just…didn't want to wait any longer." 

"It's all right.  I was getting out soon anyways."  To emphasize his point, Hakkai wrung out his wet cloth outside the bath.

"You just got in."  Sanzou gave him a pointed look.

"But, as you said before, I'm pretty clean now so-"

"So, don't either of you guys worry about it."  Gojou was already by the side of the bath, stepping in.  "Just scoot over, Bouzu, and we'll all fit.  All happy and close-like."

"Is that what you think we are?"  Sanzou shifted over as Gojou climbed in.  Now all three sat there, side by side.

"Nah, but play nice for the kids, will you, dear?"  Gojou gave him a sweet smile from the other side of Hakkai. 

Sanzou just snorted and sat back.  Wonderful.  "Goku's asleep right?" 

"Sawin' logs." 

"Well, at least it can't get any worse."  Sanzou grumbled and brought the washcloth back to his face.

"This isn't bad though…"  Hakkai let his head drop back against the wall.   

Gojou turned his head to his friend.  Hakkai's eyes were closed.  He looked really…peaceful.  His hair was slicked back with a few strands springing free.  Hakkai brought a hand to his face, feeling his jaw, and water drops slid down his arm and neck.  Gojou just watched lazily.  It was too warm to think.  Just sitting here was nice.  Here, and Hakkai and…his eyes narrowed.  "You missed a spot."

"What?"  Hakkai turned to his voice.

"Right here."  Gojou's hand went to the back of Hakkai's neck where a dark mark lay across.  Automatically, he wet his finger with his tongue and rubbed the spot.  "Mm?  It's not coming off." 

"Well, surprise, surprise."  Sanzou lifted his washcloth to where Gojou's hand had been.  "Your spit isn't the end all be all of soap." 

"Ah, bite me, Bouzu."  Gojou looked back at the spot.  "See, it ain't coming off for you neither." 

"What is it-"  Hakkai lifted his hand to the back of his neck.  "Oh…"

"Oh…what?"  Gojou asked.

"That's not dirt.  That's a scar." 

"From what?" Gojou peered at it again.  "I've seen you naked before.  I've never seen that one."  Gojou couldn't tell if Hakkai was blushing after he said that or if it was just he heat from the bath.  All three of them were a good shade of pink.  

"I think that one is from…"  Hakkai took a moment to think.  "Shien.  His whips.  Even with my shield, one broke through once.  That's the mark it left."

Gojou felt the dark patch with his finger.  The skin wasn't scabbed over, but smooth.  "Yeah, I guess we got a lot of scars from them." 

"We were pretty lucky though, weren't we?"  Hakkai laughed low.  "To only get a few scars from all of them."  He sighed.  "They lost a lot more."

"They were ready to die for what they wanted."  Sanzou stated simply.  "And Homura's wish was to die.  Don't start regretting others getting what they wanted." 

"I don't regret."  Hakkai looked down at the water and his feet shimmering beneath the surface. 

Silence fell between them.  Gojou finally cleared his throat and looked over to Sanzou.  "You got a hefty one, right, Bouzu?  From Homura." 

Sanzou sat quiet for moment, and then he shifted slightly in the water.  He pointed to a scattering of thin, white lines across his chest.  "Impact of his sword here and here."  He fingered the lines, lightly following them down to right below his chest. 

"Oh, yeah, check this one out."  Gojou lifted his leg.  "Bullet grazing by Zenon.  Not bad, eh?"

"I remember that one."  Hakkai touched the mark lightly.  "It looked a lot messier than it was."

"Hey, I'm a messy guy.  What can I say?"  Gojou grinned and shrugged. 

"Understatement of the century."  Sanzou countered.

"And this one was…"  Hakkai hand touched Gojou's chest, right above his heart.  "That one was…oh…"  He face darkened slightly.

"Chin Isou's fucking doll."  Gojou's touched the spot.  "Little love mark from the toy man." 

Sanzou eyed Hakkai warily.  "I see some scars never heal." 

"Oh, I'm fine."  Hakkai dismissed the look, "It's just…"

Sanzou and Gojou both looked at him, waiting. 

"It's just…all our past ghosts leave scars, even when they're long gone.  Sometimes the ones they leave under the skin hurt the longest."  Hakkai tried smiling again, but faltered, and stopped.  "I feel like my scars are open to you all.  After that, and after this."  His hand went to his right eye and touched it gently.  "Even the ones underneath my skin, I feel like others can see." 

They sat there silent in the bath.  Gojou finally broke it. 

"You wanna trade?"

"What?"  Hakkai brought his hand down from his eye and turned.

"Trade.  Trade scars.  You wanna trade?"

"What the fuck is that supposed to mean?"  Sanzou looked over Hakkai's shoulder. 

Gojou just pointed at him.  "I'll show you."  He stood and rose his leg up, placing his foot on the side of the bath.  "See this?"  He pointed to the thin red line on the inner side of his thigh. 

Hakkai was looking.  Sanzou was giving him a sideways glance.   Gojou, never shy, flexed his leg in the light. 

"I've seen that one before."  Hakkai said.  "But what is it from?"

"My mom."

Sanzou was looking at him fully now.  "Your mother gave you that?"

"Yep."  Gojou brought his finger to the line and slid it across.  "I dropped a plate while washing dishes.  She lost it a lot on me, but that day she really did.   Took one of the pieces and…" He made a motion down on his leg with his hand.  "I think she was going to punish me more, but Jien came in, and stopped her."  Gojou's look turned far-away.  "He took her to the other room to calm down, but he helped me up before he left, and gave me a rag and told me to hold it there and that he'd come back to help.  It took awhile but he did.  He came back."  He bit his lip and looked down at his leg.  With his story over, Gojou slid back under the water. 

"Gojou…"  Hakkai trailed off. 

"S'okay.  She was pretty crazy, my mom."  Gojou stared at the water before him.  "I got a few others from her, but that one really stuck.  She was so…"  He shook his head. "Mad at me.  I said I was sorry and all.  Tried picking the pieces up, but she was just…always…so mad." 

Hakkai placed a hand on his shoulder and squeezed.  Gojou looked back at him.  "See?  Wanna trade?  My leg for your eye?" 

Hakkai gave a low chuckle.  "There's an idea."

"Or maybe Bouzu has a better offer?"  Gojou looked over, one eyebrow raised.  "Whaddya say, Sanzou?  Can you outbid me and my crazy mom and the killer plate?"

Sanzou replied only with silence.  He stared straight off, not acknowledging that he heard. 

Hakkai looked from the monk to Gojou, giving a small smile.  "It's okay, Gojou.  Your trade will be plenty for everyone-"  But then Sanzou cut him off.

"This."  Sanzou fingered the dot on his forehead. 

"That's not a scar."  Gojou pointed out.  "That's your ole' Sanzou mark.  Doesn't count."

Sanzou shot him a glare and then continued.  "My…my teacher, the one who was Sanzou to me, died protecting me one night.  From that, I have this."  He tapped his forehead.

Hakkai waited a beat, letting it sink in.  "And that's how…you became Genjo Sanzou?"

Gojou whistled.  "That's a hefty requirement."  He leaned back and stared at the ceiling.  "I don't know why everyone would want to run up to be one if someone's gotta off themselves to do it."  He then sucked in his breath, "Ah, wari, Sanzou.  I didn't mean…I mean…sorry to hear…about your teacher and all."

Sanzou kept staring off.  "It's not a requirement.  To die.  He passed it on to me right before it happened.  He died because they wanted it, the youkai.  But they killed the wrong person."

Hakkai opened his mouth to say something, but Gojou's voice came out first.  "That's not what yer teacher thought, or else he would have done what most people do, and stood back and saved himself."  Gojou's fingers made small circles in the water.  "Like ya said before, don't go regretting when others get what they wanted.  He wanted you to live.  Do you regret that?"

"Sometimes."  Sanzou turned from the wall to him.  "Sometimes I do."

"Then why you keep goin'?"  Gojou waved towards the mark on his forehead.  "If you regret it, why you keeping being Sanzou-sama then?"

"Because…"  Sanzou drew out a breath slowly, and then looked over at Hakkai. "Because that would be listening to the easy part."

"The what?"  Gojou asked.  Hakkai sat silently and looked back at Sanzou.

"The easy part.  The part in you that says, "Do this.  It's so easy.  Do it."  The part that you know is wrong, but because it seems easier, you want to believe its right."  Even in the steam, Sanzou's eyes shone clear.  "Because there's another part that always seems to win out over the easy part.  It's the part of you that says, this might be harder, but it's right.  It's the way it's supposed to be."

"What happens if the easy part wins one day?"  Hakkai kept his eyes on him.  "What do you do then?" 

Sanzou didn't miss a beat.  "Then I shoot it in both legs and kick its ass until the other part wins."

"Ahhh…"  Hakkai leaned back, smiling.  "That could work."

"Sounds pretty fucking painful though."  Gojou snorted.  "Leg wounds fucking hurt." 

"Oh, does baby kappa have a scratchy-watchy?"  Sanzou flicked water over at him. 

Gojou flicked right back, "Yeah.  Just don't tell mommy.  I wouldn't want her to kiss and make it better." 

Hakkai turned from one to the other, tense for a second that a fight would break out, but was relieved to see that both were laughing- Gojou with his wide grin, Sanzou's with his slight smile, half covered with his hand.  He rose his hands up and spread a wall of water out that slapped both sides.

"Hey, you're supposed to be the ref!"  Gojou splashed him back. 

"Che- It's always the quiet ones that do the worst damage."  Sanzou held his cloth over Hakkai's head and wrung it out, letting the water stream down.

Hakkai covered his eyes.  "You're beating up a half-blind man!"

"Oh ho- I knew he'd bring that card up someday."  Gojou glanced over at Sanzou.  "Whaddya say, monk.  Should we let him live?"

"Fuck no.  Dunk his half-blind ass."

Both turned towards the middle of the bath, but Hakkai, laughing, was already climbing out.  "My my, I think I'm clean enough."  He dodged Gojou's reaching hand and ducked when Sanzou threw his balled up cloth at him.  Still laughing, he backed up towards the door.  The last step to freedom became his loss though when he slipped on the tiles, and with cry of surprise, fell to the floor. 

Rubbing his side, he looked up to see both Gojou and Sanzou hanging out of the tub, watching him. 

"Oi, Hakkai, daijoubu ka?" Gojou started to get out.

"Heiki, Heiki.  Just…"  Hakkai looked at the ground and then found the cause of his fall.  "Just look out for the soap." 


Finally, getting dressed, all three made their way back towards their rooms, when Gojou suddenly stopped.

"Gojou, what is it?"  Hakkai asked, turning around.

"Nothin'.  Just-"  Gojou scratched his head.  He had pulled his hair back into a pony-tail.  "The kitchen is still open, right?  I think I'll go get a bite to eat before bed."

Sanzou nodded.  "I'll go with you.  A beer is always nice after a bath."

Gojou grinned.  "Now, that is a fine idea, monk.  You wanna come, Hakkai?"

Hakkai smiled.  "Sure."  He looked back down the hall.  "I think I'll get Goku up though.  He probably won't be as antsy in the morning if he gets something to eat now."

Sanzou frowned.  "Antsy's not the word."

"Point."  Gojou nodded.  "Besides, Saru's starving while he's eating.  He'll never be full." 

"Maybe I should just let him sleep then."  Hakkai turned back to them.

Sanzou paused and then spoke.  "Tell him to hurry up.  The innkeeper mentioned the kitchen closed at 11pm.  If he wants a full meal, he won't have much time, and I don't want to hear his whining."

"Understood."  Hakkai nodded and walked down the hall towards Gojou's and Goku's room.  He could still hear Sanzo and Gojou talking as they walked downstairs. 

"Damn, I think I got water in my ear…" 

"Water in the brain, ero-gappa." 

"Oooooohhhhh…there's an idea.  I didn't check out the maids when we got in.  Were any cute?"

"Why do you think I'd notice these things?"

"Ah, so monks don't have balls…I thought you were hidin' something back there."

"For that, you're buying your own beer."

"Oi, Sanzou!  Joke, joke!  Oi!"

Their voices trailed off.  Hakkai smiled.  That was their language.  Underneath everything- the scars, the anger, the regret- after that was all cleaned away, they still had themselves and that was alright.  Not always easy, but alright and he guessed, that is the way it's supposed to be.   

 Owari ^^