Gojyo lurched drunkenly up the path to his front door, fumbled for a moment at the knob before managing to get it turned, opened the door-and stopped dead with shock.

"You really didn't think I was coming back, did you."

Gojyo tried to puzzle things out. He was coming home late; that was normal. He was pretty drunk; that was normal too. He hadn't come home to Hakkai furiously cleaning the house at three in the morning before, but seeing as how this was Hakkai, it wasn't exactly abnormal. Hakkai's tone of voice, best categorized as "deceptively calm," was not unusual either.

So why did he feel so stunned?

Hakkai continued cleaning methodically. The house still looked as trashed as Gojyo had left it-Hakkai must have just gotten home from his trip. "Either you didn't expect me to come back," he said calmly, "or you were hellbent on punishing me for going in the first place." Hakkai paused in his cleaning for the first time, to look at Gojyo and smile. "Care to weigh in on which motive it was?"

The smile was a dead giveaway. Hakkai was well and truly pissed. Gojyo made a strategic declaration. "I'm too drunk for this shit."

"What shit is that, Gojyo?" Hakkai inquired mildly.

Oh hell. He's more than pissed. "That-shit where you get all mean and twist my words around and I can't ever make them say what I'm saying," Gojyo managed. He had a feeling from Hakkai's expression that he hadn't made much sense, so he kept going. "When we're fighting and you pretend we're not fighting but really you're mad as hell and... and..." Gojyo could not remember what came after and.

"Interesting," Hakkai said. "Would you mind coming in and closing the door?"

Gojyo realized he had, indeed, been standing in the open doorway this whole time. He shut the door, wove his way over to the couch, and collapsed without much grace. He didn't care if he was in Hakkai's way. Nope. He knew Hakkai would clean around him, anyway. It was Hakkai's damn fault for being OCD. The whole thing was Hakkai's fault. Whatever the "whole thing" was.

"I suppose you think it goes without saying that we're about to get into a fight, then," Hakkai said, bending over to viciously yank half a dozen beer cans (that had never done anything to him) out from their cozy nest underneath the end table.

"Well... yeah. I guess."


"You said that already."

"That's because you're a very interesting man, Gojyo. Do you mind sandalwood, by the way?"


"Sandalwood. It smells..." Hakkai paused only briefly, but the words like ass sprang immediately to Gojyo's mind. "It smells like you've been up to your usual pursuits," Hakkai finished. "It's incense or bleach, frankly. Possibly both."

Gojyo hesitated. Part of him wanted to tell Hakkai he couldn't complain, he'd been gone for nine days. Nine days in which Gojyo had done nothing but imagine what kind of masochism-or suicidal intent-could drive Hakkai to visit Hyakugan Mao's castle on the anniversary of Kanan's death. Part of him knew realitistically that bleaching the living room would probably not be unwarranted right now. But what he wound up doing was laughing. It was funny, really-how messy the house was, how predictably irked Hakkai was, how they were having this conversation in the middle of the night.

If there were tears involved in the laughter, it was because he was drunk.

Hakkai didn't say anything. He continued picking up the trash from the living room; then he disappeared in the kitchen for a minute, long enough to let Gojyo pull himself together and reaffirm that nope, he was not crying, not at all. He would never be that relieved to see a dude, especially not one that he was in the middle of a fight with. These were laughing tears.

When Hakkai came back into the living room he had a rag in one hand. He started attacking the beer goo that had ossified onto the end table, with a level of force that might indicate the table's days were numbered. "So," he said. "Since you assume we're going to fight, I'm going to assume my second guess was correct and you did this deliberately to anger me. May I ask why you felt it necessary?"

"It's just old habits," Gojyo muttered. "Don't make a big deal out of it, man."

"It is a big deal," Hakkai said firmly. "The first time I spend a night away from this house without you, I come back to find it looking like I was never here."

"It was nine fucking nights. Not one."

Hakkai paused in his assault on the table to favor Gojyo with a disbelieving look. "And that posed a problem to you somehow?"

Yes. Because I didn't know if you were coming back. "I'm just saying."

"You honestly couldn't refrain from all but destroying the house in a week and two days?" The look Hakkai was giving him now was much worse than the one of disbelief, worse than the angry smile when Gojyo had come in. Hakkai looked hurt. "I admit I expected things to get untidy. But this is cruel."

"Hey, I said don't make a big deal of it," Gojyo said, alarm rising. "I'll clean it up, okay? I'm not cruel."

Hakkai resumed scrubbing the beer stain, still with more vigor than was warranted. "Did it occur to you," he said quietly, "that it might have been nice for me, after going on that trip, on this anniversary, to come back to my home? Not just someplace that I'm allowed to live?" He got up to take the rag into the kitchen, but kept talking over his shoulder. "It's like by my taking this trip, you've revoked my right to live here, by erasing every change I've made in over a year in nine days. I was actually looking forward to coming home, to having company and being somewhere familiar. And you've made me feel unwelcome."

Gojyo got to his feet about halfway through Hakkai's speech, and wove his way into the kitchen where Hakkai was rinsing the rag out in the sink-way too many times. Gojyo walked straight up to him-he meant to put his hands on Hakkai's shoulders, but being drunk and not balancing too well, he wound up more or less draping himself over Hakkai's back instead with his chin on Hakkai's shoulder. "I was afraid," he said quietly.

Hakkai didn't say anything; he kept rinsing the rag. "I was," Gojyo went on. "I didn't know if you were coming back. I really was afraid of that, okay? And I was scared even before you left, but I knew I had to let you go, and then you were gone nine fucking days when I know it's not that far away, and I knew you would probably come back but I wasn't sure.And so I told myself you weren't, so I could kind of get it over with. Maybe I was punishing you for going, I don't know, maybe I was trying to convince myself I'd still like it here if you were gone. But I swear I was not trying to make you feel like I want you gone."

Hakkai didn't push him off or get all stiff over being touched, so Gojyo could tell he wasn't a hundred percent opposed to forgiving Gojyo-but he didn't say anything, either. "I'll clean up the mess," Gojyo offered into the silence.

"No," Hakkai said with a sigh. "We both know your definition of 'clean' doesn't match mine. I'll do it."

This man is the ultimate guilt tripper. The tired resignation in Hakkai's voice made Gojyo feel like shit, and it only helped a little that he suspected Hakkai was playing this for all it was worth. He couldn't be sure; the man was going through a shitty anniversary, after all, there was no telling where his head was. "Nine days?" he said quietly, hoping Hakkai would cough up some info.

"Well-it was a bit of a disaster."

"Big surprise," Gojyo said, before he could stop himself.

"No, I agree. But it wasn't the kind of disaster I'd planned on."

"Dude-you plan your disasters out beforehand?"

From the pause that followed, Gojyo was afraid he'd pissed Hakkai off again. But then Hakkai started to laugh. Tension flowed out of his body, and a genuine-if self-deprecating-smile touched his lips. "That does sound like me," he admitted ruefully.

"Hell yeah." Hakkai was still chuckling; the kind of nervous, verging-on-tears laughter that Gojyo had experienced a moment ago in the living room. Gojyo reached around Hakkai and took the rag out of his hands. "Hey, you look beat. At least get yourself a drink and put your feet up for a minute before you do all this. Play a few rounds with me. And don't tell me shit about your trip, I don't want to hear it," Gojyo added with a grin.

Hakkai smiled, correctly interpreting Gojyo's statement as tell me about it, but not until you want to. "It's three in the morning, Gojyo," he pointed out.

"Exactly. What kind of freak goes on a cleaning spree this time of night?"

"The kind that has you as a roommate." But Hakkai was pulling a couple of beers out of the refrigerator. Gojyo grinned and pulled the cards out of his pocket.

This is it, he thought as they settled into the game, not really talking except to play. This was the way to celebrate an anniversary with Hakkai. Silent about the things that mattered, occupying the necessary healing time with trivial tasks, knowing that sooner or later if he was patient there would be trust. This was exactly where they had been a year ago. Only this time Hakkai wasn't stranded here, waiting for injuries to heal. This time he'd chosen to come back.

When Gojyo woke up the next day, he found the house sparkling clean-ruthlessly, vehemently clean. There was not the slightest sign that Hakkai had been absent from it for so much as half a day. As territory displays went, it was a pretty civilized one, but that was unmistakably what it was. Hakkai was sitting at the kitchen table, red-eyed and drinking black coffee.

Gojyo grinned, and slapped Hakkai's back as he went past him to grab his share of the coffee. "You know, you gotta love a man who refuses to lose a battle. Even to a house."

"You are not forgiven," Hakkai replied, but his tone said otherwise. In fact, from the way his eyes were boring into the table, he might have been talking to the house. Or the coffee.

"Fair enough." Gojyo gently pulled the coffee cup away from Hakkai. "You know... you won. You can get some sleep."

"Don't act endearing." Gojyo wondered if he'd seemed this loopy last night, when he was drunk. Hakkai looked like he'd been punched one too many times. "You made this mess. So if I won, that means you lost."

Like hell I did. You're staying. "C'mon. Bed."