Note: This story, one of my first Saiyuukis, was inspired by episode 15 of the anime, Fated Guys, which is a melancholy flashback to when Gojou first met Hakkai. It's largely narrated by Gojou, or rather by Hirata Hiroaki. Remember that name. I think you'll be hearing of him, and hearing him, a lot.
It was simple enough, at the start. There were women and there were men. They looked different and they smelled different and you said different things to them, all quite easy and automatic. Women were for leaning close to and speaking to in a low teasing voice and looking straight in the eye while you did it. Then they would look away and blush and put a hand up to fend you off, or they would look straight back at you and smile and reach to bring you near; but even when they seemed ready to run from you like startled deer their bodies leaned towards you as if pulled by a magnet. Then you could smell their hair and the scent that came from between their breasts and sometimes on the outer edges of sense the scent from between their legs. It made you dizzy and churned your insides around and got you hard and it was like the two of you really didn't know what you were doing after that. And when you got inside them into that warm welcoming softness it was more wonderful than there were words for. It was coming home to a lighted house all bright and cozy with someone waiting inside just for you, turning to smile at you when she heard your step at the door like the day was perfect now you were here. It was so wonderful that Gojou thought he'd die each time it happened, from simple happiness. Only it didn't last. When it was over there was the dark cold awakening, lying alone with a stranger beside you, asleep if you were lucky and awake and talking if you weren't. That happiness, that welcome, was only a dream. It hadn't happened like that. It had never been like that. For him there'd been a dark unhappy house with no man in it and his half-brother staying away as much as possible and his mother, the woman who'd raised him, crying each time she looked at him until she couldn't stand looking at him any more and had tried to kill him. That was what it was like, really, and remembering it was the price you had to pay for feeling, for however short a time, that it could be different.
So it was a good thing there were men. Men were for beating at poker and beating at women. Men were for speaking to in a hard high voice, daring them to take you on, and taking them on when they dared. It felt good, throwing punches and taking them, and knocking the other guy out at last, and proving that Sya Gojou didn't need anyone to protect him from anything. And the more you did that the more the women crowded around you and the more the men wanted to take you on, and it all served to make the time pass at least. And sometimes when the women were too much for you you could get drunk with a man and complain to him that women just didn't understand, and because he was a man too he understood that even if he didn't understand anything else about you.
So there it was. Women were for screwing, men were for fighting, and that was the way it was. Unless you happened to be journeying with Genjou Sanzou, and then it got confusing, because then you found yourself fighting women, or at least females, or at least female youkai- but since you were a male youkai yourself, or half-youkai, then the female youkai were women presumably, even if it was only human women who turned you on. And if you were with Genjou Sanzou, with a monk who wasn't really a man because monks aren't men except that Sanzou drank and smoked and swore like any man, it got even more confusing, because Sanzou had lonely dark eyes that wanted someone to make their shadows go away and a crooking unhappy mouth that wanted someone to kiss it into softness and a wormwood tongue that could shrivel the skin off anyone's bones, man or youkai, and a low contemptuous voice that seemed to get into your insides and churn them all around so there was no leaving him alone. You had to come and lean on his shoulder with some joke or insult just to get the smell of his skin and the smell of his hair, and Sanzou would jerk an irritated head away with a muttered 'Korosuzo', and though you knew he meant it and might in fact some day try it, the words still felt somehow like when the women's bodies leaned unthinkingly towards your own. Sanzou looked at you from way far away even when you were standing right next to him, with a crook to his mouth like he knew you were a snotty-nosed kid who cried in bed at night from loneliness and fear, but in his eyes you caught the same fleeting doe look as with the women, something there and gone and hoping you would follow, so you had to follow and of course came up against the stranger, the cold-eyed one with the red shakra in his forehead who saw the universe from the same place as the gods, endless cycles of endless millennia turning inside each other like enormous wheels and not to be understood by any mortal being. Sanzou made you dizzy. Sanzou made you feel drunk all the time. Sanzou showed up at your bedside in the middle of the night or the middle of a siesta with his tight unhappy mouth and the dark look in his eyes, saying nothing, and then you had to do what Sanzou wanted because it was Sanzou who wanted it and you knew, when the chips were down, which of you was the master even if you never let that knowledge get up to your head, because if it did it might stop you doing what Sanzou wanted which would be too bad because of course you wanted it too. Sanzou had a lovely smooth butt and two lovely swelling buns and your cock slid inside them so smooth and easy it could break your heart. But it wasn't soft and good-feeling like it was with the women, it was like being crazy drunk and taking on a guy you knew could kill you and maybe would kill you-- a whirling knife-edged high exactly half-way between excitement and terror, that took you right out of yourself so you couldn't even say what was happening or how long it went on for. You came to, shaking and disoriented, lying half on top of Sanzou who'd already lit a cigarette and was waiting for you to finish so he could snort a little and pass you his cigarette to light your own from and imply without saying a word that you were a big redhaired lunk of a haafu who screwed like an ape and that doing it with the monkey-boy was probably better. And somehow that felt just fine because for however long it lasted the little droop to Sanzou's mouth was gone away.
So there were men and there were women and there was Sanzou. And that was fine. But then there'd been Gonou. Gonou wasn't like any of that. Gonou was completely different, even though he was a man like the village men and like Sanzou except he wasn't like any other man you'd ever met. You knew he was a man, all there with no pieces missing like you might have thought otherwise, because you'd brought him home one night when he was dying and helped the doctor shove his guts back into his belly and stitch him up. You'd watched him sleep for a week, not bothering to ask yourself what you were doing all this for, and brought the pot for him to pee in in his half-conscious moments, and dribbled a little water into his mouth when his dried tongue licked automatically over his lips. And when he came to finally you decided you were sick of sleeping on the floor and moved into the bed with him, perfectly comfortably, because somehow Gonou seemed to take up no room at all on the narrow mattress even though he was nearly as big as you were. But Gonou was like that. Gonou never intruded. Gonou never made any fuss. He spoke in a quiet soft voice that seemed to apologize for breaking the silence, so there was no need to answer him in the high hard way you used with other men. He never mentioned women, so there wasn't any question of beating him there even if there'd been any women around, which there weren't. You couldn't beat him at cards, though that wasn't for lack of trying. Gonou was terribly lucky at cards, and terribly unlucky at everything else, but you only learned that a lot later. The month that he'd stayed in your room, a nameless stranger to the end, his friendly silence had somehow gotten into your soul. The inns and saloons where you gambled and chatted up the women got to be too noisy and too bright, and you left early and came home to where Gonou was lying in bed, looking at the ceiling, and smiling when you came in with his soft-voiced 'O-kaeri' that no-one had ever said before when you came home. You took to playing poker with him when he could sit up, and losing regularly, and not minding, and sharing cups of Nescafe, and saying this and that to each other, unimportant stuff that still felt good because there was another person there to say it to, and then gradually more important stuff, like why Gonou had woken up in your room hoping that he was dead, until for the first time in your life you got the feeling that you actually knew somebody from the inside out, knew what went on in the quiet recesses of that somebody's mind.
And so, when he left suddenly, running from Genjou Sanzou who'd come hunting him down to bring him to justice, somehow you'd had to follow after. It wasn't that you wanted to stop him doing whatever it was he was going to do, however desperate- and you knew now what desperately horrific things Gonou could do-- or even to stop Sanzou from taking him. It was just... something different had come into your life that night you'd carried him home on your back, his blood running down your body warm and wet in the middle of the cold wet rain, and you wanted to keep it there for as long as you could. There weren't any names for it. It wasn't love or friendship or want or anything you'd ever heard talked of before. It was just whatever it was you felt about Cho Gonou. And when Sanzou took him back to be judged and Sanzou told you he was dead and Sanzou asked in his comfortless fashion just what the hell else you'd thought would happen, there wasn't any name for what you felt then either. It was your life gone back to being the way it had always been, easy and pointless and empty. You cut your hair, a pointless gesture too because it would only grow back again, and it wasn't a sign of mourning or anything dramatic like that. It wasn't because Gonou had told you that last night at your place that your hair, the unnatural blood-coloured hair that signalled a half-breed, had been like a sign to remind him who he was and what he'd done in the days when he was trying to flee from that knowledge into the shelter of insanity or death. You cut your hair because even though the difference was gone from your life, your life was different and you weren't the Sya Gojou you'd been before. The girls wanted to know what was the matter with you. There wasn't anything the matter. You'd met your brother on the road, just for a bit, and lost sight of him again, and that was all, and though everything was the same as before everything was quite different.
It wasn't till some weeks later that you found out how different, when you came face to face with Cho Gonou's body, still very much alive, with a soft-voiced smiling person in it called Cho Hakkai, who was and was not the Gonou you'd known before. Something had made a difference to him too. The soft uncertain face you'd lived with for a month was firmer somehow; the puzzled eyes that had always looked away from your own had become focussed and looked straight back at you; and there was something intangibly stronger, harder, underlying the gentle manners, like an invisible silken armour. Sanzou's doing, perhaps, who'd made Hakkai face the reality of himself at last; or meeting the terrible divinities who'd passed sentence on him, which wasn't something you wanted to think about too much; or maybe even the half-monk's vows he'd taken and the monk's shoulder-cloth he wore now over his ordinary clothes, signs of his new identity and his new life. It didn't really matter what had done it, because the difference was back in your life again, along with that inconvenient monk and his brainless pet monkey and later on the long journey he'd insisted you all take. Though sometimes you half-wondered, especially when Hakkai moved back into your room without a by-your-leave or a may I, if just maybe what had made the difference was... And dismissed the thought, because Sya Gojou, that drifting gambler and wencher who'd never loved anybody in his life and still didn't, could never have made that much of a difference to another human being.
MJJ Aug-Sept, 2000