This was inspired by the fact that I just got Volume 9!! ::squeals:: ^____^ R&R, so I'll feel slightly less loser-ish.

Bandages on Wounds

Hakkai
From inside the darkness of half-conscious pain I realize: this is home. This drowning sensation where my eyes cannot focus and my lungs are flooded with the rasp of air is comfortable to me. Shapes move on the backs of my eyelids and I do not try to follow their actions. I do not know whether or not they are real, or the figments of my delirium.

Oddly enough, I like not knowing.

Shadows are less terrifying when you do not know their names.

Then, there is a point where I scramble to remember, grasping at my thoughts, which feel smooth and cool and slippery like glass. I think the ache has filled me again. Why? Certainly, somewhere along the way, I was careless.

No.

No --

Like water, or like blood, through my fingers it returns. The grinding, aching within me stems from --

I put myself in front of him, between him and those double blades. I am always doing stupid things like that. I put myself in front of him and this copper taste in my mouth is my own bitter blood, acrid and foul and somewhat comforting. I know as I lie here, my body heavy and unfamiliar, that I have bled into myself. This is the reminder. The body and the blood.

I will wake and I will receive nothing, no thank you, no acknowledgement. I will be allowed to walk this earth unnoticed, or at least unrecognized.

I will hardly live -- I will be.

I am a fool for thinking my body is a shield, but from inside the pain of my half conscious darkness I realize:

This is home.

Sanzou
I am.

I am surrounded by idiots.

Who asked him to think I couldn't take the sting of metal? Who asked him to defend me? Who asked him to tag along, to stay by my side, to smile emptily and hold out his arms to both sides of him, to shield my body with his own?

I see the back of his neck, which is clean. It is where those dark brown hairs are soft and still wet from the morning, when we stopped at the bath house.

I see the way his pale neck lifts from his shoulders, which are proud shoulders, and his hands form little fists I can only see the backs and knuckles of. He is spread out in the shape of a cross.

I close my eyes.

Koumyou.

I open my eyes.

Kouryuu.

Who the hell asked him to think I couldn't handle it on my own? I would shoot or I would get sliced open but who the hell asked him to presume so much as to take it for me?

I am.

I am surrounded by idiots.

Goku
The room smells like blood.

The blood-smell is familiar but overrides the Hakkai-smell, which is nice, like shampoo and meat-buns and the kitchen, and the warm leather of Jiipu's upholstery. The Hakkai-smell is better than the blood-smell. Much better.

The Hakkai in the bed is pale and odd looking, with all his blood all over him. He looks drained but not wild like the night we first met and I tracked his scent on the ground, Hakkai-scent, that smelled like Sha Gojyo's room and coffee and freshly washed sheets.

The Sanzou in the bed stretched out beside Hakkai smells always, always like Sanzou. He is: strong cigarettes, which make him cough, and beer, store-brand, which Gojyo calls piss-water but drinks anyway, and the fading smell of the temple, fading into sand and Jiipu's leather again -- that was once a cow, low mooing in the grass, big wet nose and sweet mouth smell -- and the gunmetal and the gunsmoke and the tobacco on his fingers, and Sanzou, and blood.

The blood-smell is Hakkai's and Sanzou's. They lie there on the white bed with white skin and I sit on the hard chair before them and I want Hakkai to wake up and make me lunch even though I am not hungry. I would be hungry if Hakkai woke up to make me lunch.

The look on Sanzou's face as he lies there is all smoothed out, like when Hakkai makes a bed and soothes the wrinkles away with the palm of his hand that he's always staring at.

The hands on my lap are palm down.

The Sanzou in the bed does not move and I wonder if I said something loud now, would he hear me?

The Sanzou in the bed has a smooth, smooth cheek, and his hair like the sunlight and the gold and the setting in the West falls over it.

"Get up."

The feeling of my shoulders slumping in the cold blood smell of the room. Gojyo's hand on my shoulder.

"We're going West, Naa, Sanzou?"

Then I know that I want to have thrown myself in front of him, and my body spread out like that, hands in fists, my body would not fail him, I would not let him lie here in a bed like this all as pale as the sheets and as smoothed out. If only I could move fast like Hakkai. If only I could heal like Hakkai. If only I could make things better, like Hakkai.

If only--

But the room smells like blood.

Gojyo
I have a friend and his name is Cho Hakkai.

Jesus Christ, he's some God-damn idiot.

I found him one night in the dirt, like someone's laundry blown off the line in a rainstorm. It was raining real hard and I nudged him with my boot and he grunted and turned over and I saw that his stomach was opened up wide and he was clutching at the earth. If he could have opened that mouth, painted like a whore's only with blood not lipstick, I know he would have said to the earth "Take me, take me, swallow me up."

I picked him up and I put him in my own bed and he bled the fuck all over my new shirt. I've never let a chick do that on me before, bleed, because I don't like the smell of blood. It reminds me of my mother. He put his hands up and knotted them in the shirt that I bled all over and held onto me.

He needed me.

And here he is in bed next to the other idiot, the sour-face blond jerk who isn't my friend, hell no. He's looking like laundry hung out to dry, pale and white and I want to lean down and brush his hair away from his closed eyes.

My hand, next to his face.

My hand's as big as his face, which is delicate, kinda. His head's inclined to the side like he's asking me a question.

"Maa, maa, Gojyo-san!"

The way he is, all polite like that, even being unconscious on the bed, spread out and his hair in his face.

"Don't call me that. We're friends, even though you do beat me at cards in my own damn house."

We're friends, even though he can outdrink me and outsmart me and outfight me, and beat me at cards anywhere we go, any deck we play.

I put my hand on Goku's shoulder 'cause he's looking pretty down but it isn't to comfort him, it's to steady myself.

I have a friend and his name is Cho Hakkai.

Jesus Christ, he's some God-damn idiot.

Dokugakuji
My arms, tucked under his thighs.

His weight, at my back, on my back.

And I, I carry him home, though my own muscles scream and my own body aches.

Guess this is what little brother does -- load the brunette onto his back, hold him tight, carry him back to safety, feel his heartbeat against his shoulder, and love every second of it..

Dedicated, like that. Kougaiji is my prince, and I'm his man. I know there's a look in his eyes he gets when he thinks about his mother, lost and left behind. There ain't no chance for mine. His -- if ever there was someone to break through that stone -- Kougaiji could do it.

Dedicated, like that.

He chose me because my arms were strong but my back was bowed low.

"Stand up proud," he said.

I carry him on my back to where the sun is setting, and his hair is like his blood, red and spread out over his shoulders. His arms lie limp, slung around my neck. He breathes shallowly against my neck.

I stand up proud, my arms tucked under his thighs, his weight at my back, on my back.

Kougaiji
It is nice to trust.

In this stretch of desert I have made sure to surround myself with those that I trust, those that trust me. A prince protects and is protected. Those relationships between king and servant that come a full circle are like a protective shield around you.

His back against my chest is strong and firm.

He is a solid man, my man, Dokugakuji.

His hands are steady.

When he bows down to me he touches his forehead to the ground, the back of his neck bared. He knows I could snap him in half. He knows that, bowed to me, he could lose his head as easy as have it protected.

It is nice to trust.