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Title: Down from the Red Hills
Author: opalmatrix
Warnings: (for all parts, taken as a whole) violence, lots of blood, torture, swearing, explicit m/m sex, dubcon
Rating: Part 1 - R (violence etc. only) ; Parts 2 & 3 - NC-17; Part 4 - PG-13 (swearing, adult concepts)
Pairing(s): Hakkai/Gojyo
Spoilers: nothing much
Words: ~33,500
Notes: This started out as a simple hurt/comfort "bedtime story" for myself. Then smillaraaq "adopted" the idea (my notion to help me write longer fics), and I meant to finish it in time for her birthday at the end of August. More than two months later, it's grown into a blessed novelette. Thanks very much to smilla for her support, encouragement, and input along the way, and to her and sanada for beta! Thanks also to vom_marlowe and her Saiyuki Kink Meme and its participants, and to louiselux and emungere and all the good folk at saiyuki_time. All of you have really helped me feel brave enough to write something this huge.
New!   Now with illustrations by danny_sama in parts 2, 3, and 4!
Summary: When a limiter-less Hakkai chases some fleeing youkai into the hills and doesn't return, Gojyo goes after him. The journey back is much longer than he ever expected.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

X.    

When Gojyo woke the next morning, he knew Hakkai wasn't there. Of course it was easy to tell that he wasn't in bed, but Gojyo knew he wasn't in the cave at all.

He kept his eyes closed for a moment, unwilling to let go of the cozy, contented night, or leave the blankets that smelled like Hakkai, and sex. He'd slept like a log, which was hardly a surprise, but he remembered curling up, holding Hakkai, before he nodded off. So good.

There was no point in putting it off any longer. And he could smell rice and tea – Hakkai had made him breakfast, at least. He rolled over and sat up.

OK. Not so bad. Hakkai's stuff all seemed to be there. So maybe he was just out having a crap or something.

Or maybe he just didn't want to be there when Gojyo left.

By the light that was coming into the dim space, he could see that it was at least midmorning. He got up, put on the rest of his clothes, and sat down near the little rock pile kitchen to eat. He wasn't hungry, which was weird but not exactly a shocker, either, when he thought about it. But he had to eat, and eat well – he'd need his strength, and he knew he still wasn't back to himself all the way.

Hakkai had left him some shredded duck meat to put on the rice. He chewed, swallowed, shoveled in some more – made himself go on doing it until most of the food in his bowl was gone. He gulped down the cooling tea. Hakkai had left him a couple of filled water bottles too, and his backpack was next to them. Slowly, he started to separate out his stuff from the pile of oddments Hakkai had arranged neatly on the rock that he'd been using as a dresser.

He heard Hakkai's voice outside. He was talking to someone. Someone he liked – Gojyo could tell from the tone.

Gojyo was on his feet and halfway to the entrance when something came flapping through it and nearly collided with him. He ducked, swearing. His shakujo was in his hands before he realized that it was Jeep.

The weapon clattered to the floor and disappeared. "Holy shit! Where'd you come from?"

The little dragon was fluttering around the cave, tremendously excited, chittering and crooning. He finally landed near Gojyo's feet. Gojyo knelt down and stroked one hand along the downy length of Jeep's back, then wiped his nose with the back of his hand. His eyes felt damp.

Jeep was peering at him. Suddenly he made a funny little cooing noise and stretched out his neck to lick Gojyo's cheek. Then he looked back toward the entrance, where Hakkai was leaning against the wall with his arms folded.

"Yes, you're right, Hakuryu – he's been hurt."

"Heh ... now I know I must look like shit, if even the lizard's feelin' sorry for me."

Hakkai came over and hunkered down next to them, reaching out to thread his clawed fingers into Gojyo's tangled hair. "No, you don't. You look very handsome, as usual – if a bit tousled right now – but you're still not quite yourself. Hakuryu is always very observant."

The dragon was wriggling himself into the space between them and rubbing his head against Hakkai's folded legs. "Hakkai – do you think the others are OK?"

"Yes. He doesn't seem at all upset. Of course he was very pleased and excited to see me. And then he started looking around for you, once he'd greeted me."

"Whoa – so you missed me, huh?" Gojyo rubbed the critter's head. "Hey, Jeep – are Sanzo and Goku OK?" He felt kind of stupid asking a bitty dragon questions, but who else was there to ask?

Jeep peered into his face and then crooned happily. He certainly didn't sound worried.

Hakkai got up and went over to the remains of Gojyo's breakfast. "Are you finished with this?"

"Huh? Oh – yeah, he can have it." Jeep launched himself to his master's side and started licking out Gojyo's bowl and the rice pot. Hakkai stood and watched him, but not like he was seeing anything. "Hakkai?"

Hakkai blinked, and then turned slowly toward him. "Gojyo. Could you please fold and roll our blankets while I pack up the food? Be sure to shake out all the grass. And I think I'll take the medium-sized pot: it's a rather good one, and I can always use another of that size."

Gojyo found that he'd stopped breathing while Hakkai was talking. He gulped air and surged to his feet. "Hakkai! You're goin' with ... ?"

Hakkai just looked at him, expressionless, and then sighed. "Gojyo, please get moving. The day will be half over before we leave, at this rate."

Dazed, Gojyo drifted over to the bedding and started shaking it out. Hakkai was making a completely normal, almost cheerful clatter with the pots and dishes, and Jeep was punctuating it from time to time with his usual kyuu noises. It was all so terribly ordinary that Gojyo stopped being terrified to break the spell.

"Hakkai – why'd you change your mind?"

Hakkai looked up blankly. "Hmmm? Oh –" His eyes turned to Jeep for a moment, then back to Gojyo, and he smiled faintly. "Well, you see ... last night, and again this morning, the omens were very good."

An hour later, they were picking their way over their stream, following Jeep. Hakkai had the big pack with the heavy stuff, like the water bottles and the pot, and Gojyo had his own smaller one. He felt like a total wimp, but the memory of how weak he'd been just a couple of days ago kept him from protesting too much. As they came up out of their little valley on the far side, Hakkai stopped and looked back. Gojyo turned too, watching as Hakkai gazed at the pool, the red rock slabs above it and behind it, the entrance of the cave – you had to know where to look for it – and the faint trail that they'd followed yesterday morning. Finally he sighed and turned away. Gojyo reached out to squeeze his shoulder, and they went on.

They'd been a little worried about whether they'd be able to follow Jeep over the broken, complicated landscape, but in fact it was easy: the little dragon would flutter ahead until he was almost out of sight, then perch on top of one of the taller rock formations until they caught up. Well into the second hour – when Hakkai was trying to insist that they stop to let Gojyo rest, and Gojyo was wondering how much longer he could keep protesting before Hakkai wore him down – they came out from between two formations so large that they almost passed as hills all on their own, and found the road almost at their feet, although they were some 30 feet above it. It was kind of like being on the edge of a cliff. Gojyo thought he might remember passing it in Jeep on the way from the battle site. "Damn! We coulda fell right down that."

"Yes ... ." Hakkai was peering down at the road and looking fidgety. Finally, he stepped back into the shadowy space between the rocks.

"Hey – Hakkai ... ?"

Gojyo found him with his pack on the ground, fumbling with one of the inside pockets. He finally came up with something very small. "Gojyo ... can you help me with these?"

His limiters.

Hakkai shut his eyes tight as Gojyo took the metal clips from him. Gojyo touched his left ear gently, then couldn't help stroking along the beautiful sweep of it toward the tip. Hakkai shivered and leaned his forehead against Gojyo's shoulder.

They were harder to get on than Gojyo would have imagined, although that only made sense – Hakkai had never lost them by accident, no matter what he was doing. Gojyo really had to jam them on and then wiggle them to get them over the edge of the ear. Hakkai kept shuddering from time to time, too. "Am I hurtin' you?"

"No ... well. A bit. But –"

The first one was finally on properly. Hakkai's ear started to change shape under Gojyo's fingers, and the vine markings started to fade. Hakkai made an unhappy little sound, and Gojyo stopped, turning his head to kiss Hakkai's temple. Hakkai licked his lips.

"Gojyo. We ... we need to keep going. Please continue."

So he did that.

It was so weird to see Hakkai now. It was Hakkai, but he looked smaller, somehow. He was so pale – how could Gojyo have forgotten that?

Jeep chittered anxiously from his perch on the rocks, then flew down to sit on Hakkai's shoulder and nuzzle his ear. Hakkai pulled out a water bottle and took a long, long swig before handing it to Gojyo. Then he pulled out the little coil of rope and his shoes and put everything else back.

The rope was for lowering the backpacks down. Hakkai was always so smart – they could never have got down that steep surface carrying them. As it was, there were a few anxious moments with Hakkai already on the ground by the road and Gojyo barely hanging on to the rock wall, wondering whether he'd kill them both if he fell. Jeep seemed as relieved as they were once they were both on the ground and turned into his other form without being prompted.

After that, everything was simple. Jeep rolled along, clearly knowing his way, for a ridiculously short amount of time before turning off into his own faint wheel-ruts where Gojyo, Goku, and Sanzo had looked for a stream almost five days ago. Jeep was a very good sport – he rolled on for at least 50 yards past where he'd stopped last time, until Hakkai ordered him to stop before he hurt his tires.

They got out, and Jeep transformed again, fluttering off toward the trees where the old farmhouse was.

"It's right down there," said Gojyo, quietly.

"We'd better go, I guess ... he'll let them know we're coming."

"They can't read him like you can. All they'll know is that he's excited about somethin'."

Hakkai gave him one of his fake smiles. From the lips up, he looked sad and worried. Gojyo wanted to squeeze him, kiss him, or something – but he couldn't, somehow.

Shit, we're really back, aren't we? I wouldn't have thought there'd be anything I'd miss about that place. But there was no one there to care what the hell we did with each other.

Silently, they hoisted their packs and went on, down into the little dale, to the ruined house under the scrawny trees.

Hakuryu came flapping up to greet them again, landing on Hakkai's shoulder and burying his face in Hakkai's hair. Goku was standing in the doorway. At first he blinked like he couldn't believe what he was seeing, and then he turned to shout back into the house: "Sanzo! It's them! They're back!" And then the kid was running up the slope to them.

He gave Hakkai a big hug, and then turned to Gojyo and playfully punched him in the shoulder – the shoulder that Guantan had plugged. Gojyo winced back automatically, even though it didn't really hurt, and then felt like a complete idiot.

"Goku! You'll have to be careful with Gojyo for a couple of days. He was badly injured and lost a lot of blood."

Goku's eye went wide and worried. "Awww, Gojyo! Didn't mean to hurt you!"

Gojyo did his best to grin reassuringly and cuffed the kid's head before slinging one arm around his shoulders. "Hey, it didn't hurt just now – I'm just rememberin' when it did ... how's Sanzo?"

"His arm still hurts, but it looks a little better. An' he's worried and really crabby, an' he's not sleeping hardly at all, an' almost out of cigarettes. I tried to tell him he was smokin' too much but that just made him even more mad. Man, I'm so glad you guys are back!"

"Yeah, now he has two more of us to yell at – right, monkey?"

They stepped into the house. Sanzo was sitting on his bedroll in a cloud of cigarette smoke, his reading glasses sliding off his nose, looking completely pissy but somehow subdued at the same time. He was clutching some extremely worn-out looking newspapers. The late afternoon light coming through the open window picked out the deep shadows under his eyes and the sharp vertical lines between his eyebrows. The top of his robe was pushed down, and the bandage on his upper arm was clearly visible. Hakkai hurried forward. "Let me look at that, Sanzo."

Sanzo slapped the papers down and thrust out his good hand, palm first, to halt Hakkai. "Not so fast. Sit down right there, both of you. I want to know where the hell you've been for four days."

"Sanzo, your arm –"

"It's not infected, it'll keep for a couple of hours. Sit down and talk. Now."

Hakkai dropped his pack and knelt down in front of Sanzo like a good little acolyte. Gojyo shrugged and let himself fold up cross-legged next to him. Sanzo pulled off the reading glasses and looked at Gojyo sharply. "What the fuck happened to you?"

Gojyo's mouth dropped open for a second. "Huh?"

Goku hunkered down to one side. "Sanzo, how did you know he was all messed up?"

"His chi's not right – not quite enough of it, not distributed the same way. What happened, kappa?"

"Shit, if I have chi, why can't I do cool stuff like Hakkai?"

"Everybody has some chi, moron. And being half youkai, you have plenty. You just don't have the talent or brains to do much with it. And you haven't answered my question."

"Um, bounty hunters. Their boss said they were the leading 'demon hunters' in these parts. He had a big pistol – twice the size of yours, Sanzo-sama – an' he drilled me twice. I must've lost a couple buckets of blood."

"What did you do to provoke them?"

"Provoke them, hell! I was asleep when they surrounded me. When I woke up and the boss dude saw my eyes, that was it. He told his guys to take me, and I killed a couple of 'em, no sweat. That's when he shot me."

"That's not all, Sanzo." Hakkai's voice was cold and angry.

"I'm not finished with this one yet, Hakkai. So – you snuck off in the middle of the night, abandoning your mission and us, to bring back your buddy. You fell asleep because you'd stayed up all night. And you were shot and captured because you were stupid enough to run off on your own like that. Anything else?"

"Fuck, Sanzo! You needed him, you needed him bad, for your arm! I didn't go after him just 'cause he was my buddy! We can't do this without him! And I didn't take Goku 'cause I didn't want to leave you alone!"

"Tch. Right."

Gojyo was about to yell at him again, but Sanzo had stubbed out his cigarette and was looking morosely at the half-empty packet near his knee. His hands were trembling. Gojyo bit his tongue.

"Your turn now, Hakkai. What happened with you?"

Hakuryu had his head tucked under Hakkai's elbow, like he was hiding. Hakkai had his eyes closed and was doing some breathing. Sanzo was looking at him much more intently than he'd looked at Gojyo. Finally, Hakkai opened his eyes and started talking in a fast, monotonous drone.

"I could not let those youkai who fled the battle escape and report to Kougaiji, so I pursued them. As I caught up with them, something happened – quite possibly the Minus Wave. As best I can recall, I lost my higher mental processes. My actions thereafter were those of an animal. I killed my enemies and sought food, water, and shelter. When I went hunting the next day, I scented a group of humans and began to follow their tracks. I came across a large amount of Gojyo's blood spilled on the ground and recognized the scent as that of a companion. I tracked the trail to where these men had made camp. I lay in wait for a while, and as I did so, listening to their discussion and scenting Gojyo, my higher consciousness began to return. The leader had been tormenting Gojyo verbally and physically, and proposed a hideous death for him."

"What were they gonna do to Gojyo?" Goku sounded fascinated despite himself.

"They were gonna stake me out with pegs through my wrists and ankles, cut me open, and let the vultures eat my guts while I was still alive."

Goku was on his feet. "Where are they? I'm gonna kill 'em!" Sanzo shook his head, and then looked like he wished he hadn't.

"They're dead, you idiot. Right, Hakkai?"

Hakkai was looking at the ground. "Yes, although the leader had his pistol to Gojyo's head at the end, and then turned it on me as I approached. Gojyo managed to spoil his aim, fortunately. I healed Gojyo a bit, but I knew I'd need my strength to carry him to the cave I'd found the previous evening. The journey was rough on both of us, and as you know from your own experiences, Sanzo, my powers cannot replace lost blood. Gojyo was not fit to travel very far until this morning."

"And?"

Hakkai raised his head slowly. "And what, Sanzo?"

"I know you, Hakkai. There's something else you're not telling. Hnnnh. Probably more than one thing."

Hakkai shivered. Gojyo clenched his hands into fists. "Sanzo!"

Sanzo simply looked at him, infinitely weary and completely unimpressed. Hakkai eventually shook his head and sighed. "I ... after I got Gojyo to safety, I blocked the entrance of the cavern to keep out intruders and went back ... to get supplies from the bounty hunters' camp. And I ... cut out and ate the leader's heart."

"And?" Sanzo sounded merely deeply annoyed and disapproving.

"Then ... I was still hungry, so I ate some more of his flesh as well."

Merciful Goddess, how can Sanzo not be blown away by that?

There was a thump as Goku sat down again, abruptly. "Whoa. What did it taste – ?"

"Shut it, monkey," snarled Sanzo, and whacked the kid with the fan. Then he grimaced and winced even more than Goku had, and licked his dry lips. Gojyo's mouth parched up in sympathy, and he started rummaging in Hakkai's pack for a water bottle. Trust Goku to ask the one question everyone's thinking and no one wants to say.

"Hakkai. Look at me."

Hakkai looked up. Gojyo did too, water bottle in hand. Sanzo raked Hakkai over with bloodshot violet eyes. "Huh. Did Gojyo know?"

"He figured it out while I was gone. When I came back, I found he'd been sick."

"But he got over it."

" ... yes."

"I'm not surprised. Well, what else?"

"Sanzo, what do you want of me!"

"You're still not meeting my eyes. You used to be the calmest, most sensible, most dependable of my followers. I'm trying to figure out whether that's changed."

Hakkai took off his eyeglass and rubbed his eyes. "I didn't want to come back. I was happy out there because I had no concerns about losing my self-control in a crowded place and revealing to everyone what a monster I was. Out there, in the wilderness, I could be a monster without bothering anyone. I enjoyed it. Hunting, watching the weather ... it was all so simple and easy."

"Easy. Yeah, I get it. See food? Eat. See water? Drink. See bedtoy? Fuck."

Hakkai flushed. "He's more than that, Sanzo!"

"Still not looking at me. Is there something else?"

Hakkai pressed his lips together. He was digging his fingernails into the packed dirt floor, like he thought he still had claws. "Maybe ... Goku should get out of earshot."

"Tch. I don't think so. He's not an infant. If he's old enough to risk his life for us, he's old enough to hear anything you have to say."

"I ... hurt Gojyo. On purpose."

Sanzo pulled out a cigarette at last and stuck it between his lips. "I can guess how. The question is, why?"

"He said he would leave me there to return to your ... our mission. He meant it."

For the first time, Sanzo looked mildly surprised. "Hnnh." He gazed at Gojyo for a moment, the cigarette apparently forgotten. Gojyo glared back. But when Sanzo looked away and fumbled for his lighter, one handed, Gojyo found himself putting down the forgotten water bottle and automatically getting out his own lighter for Sanzo's smoke. Fucking priest! Gojyo took a quick look at Goku. He looked sad and worried, but not like he was completely freaked out.

Sanzo took a drag on the cigarette, meditatively. "OK. I think I have the picture."

"What are you going to do about me?" Hakkai was looking at him now – as Sanzo had certainly noticed.

"Fffft. About four years ago, more than 1200 people were killed – mostly youkai, but also a number of humans. All ages – infants, elders, everything in between. They died because some of them had helped harm the lover of a human man named Cho Gonou and placed her in clear danger of death. Then, about four days ago, a small band of human men were killed. They died because they had tortured and were about to kill the ... 'best friend' of a youkai male named Cho Hakkai." The smoke he had blown out wreathed around Sanzo's calm face. "Perhaps you can explain to me why you're so certain that you're a monster now."

They all stared at him.

"Sanzo – I ... I ate their leader's heart, and, and ... ."

"Yeah. That was disgusting. But he was already dead, You'd already prevented him from continuing on his path and making any sort of amends for his sins – although with a much better justification than many killers can claim. Anything that happened afterward –" Sanzo shrugged. "As far as I'm concerned, that's your problem. Your greed for vengeance and your treatment of his body as meat have added hugely to your own burden of karma. That's all. Unless you're planning on making a habit of it?"

"N-no!"

Sanzo sighed and tapped the ash off the end of his smoke. "Hakkai. Can you tell me honestly that your passions – and I'm not talking about what you and the kappa get up to after the lights are out – are any stronger now than when you were human? That your anger burns any hotter? That you're any more possessive about your stuff than you were as a man?"

"I ... don't know. Of course my senses are much sharper, my reflexes are much faster –"

"What you feel from your five senses and what you feel in your heart are not the same thing. Myself, I don't know for sure that you were affected by the Minus Wave five days ago."

"But what else could it have been? I wasn't thinking at all!"

"A person with enormously strong passions, who has spent more than four years keeping himself rigidly in control, suddenly slips his leash and leaves all witnesses behind. He has justification – even holy orders – to do exactly what he wishes to do anyway. So you let yourself go – even more than you did later, when Gojyo was there to see what you did. Like a man who got drunk and committed a crime, you say to yourself 'I don't remember. I was not myself.' Except you were yourself, Hakkai. Your youkai body gave you with a better set of killing tools this time, but your mind was right back where it was almost five years ago: a mass of righteous, murderous rage. You enjoy killing – when you feel you can let yourself. Why do you think you were transformed back then? 'The blood of a thousand youkai'? Bullshit. That was only an excuse. You let yourself go, committed unspeakable acts of violence, and were rewarded by becoming what you hated most at that moment."

Hakkai's good eye was crying: tears were flowing down his stony face. "Sanzo, if that's true, how can you possibly want to have me along on this mission?"

"You were my mission before we were ever ordered to go west. And you're learning – changing – as we travel. You use your powers to heal – or to disarm others, when your instinctive tendency would be to rip into them first. You think about us – especially about him before you give in to your rage. I can't imagine all the possible reasons the Three Aspects ordered that you be a part of this, but some of it's plain enough. It's a good thing you came back – and not just for the sake of our mission. You have a chance to get back on the road and move forward again, after backtracking."

"You mean, I can make amends for what I did. Sanzo, that can't be enough. How can I forgive myself for –"

"Hakkai – drop it. I don't try to give you orders very often, but I'm telling you this now: you've got to let go of your anger. And that includes anger at yourself. It doesn't make up for anything and besides, it's too easy for you."

Hakkai licked his dry lips and looked over at Gojyo, a raw and miserable look that hurt Gojyo's heart. He shook his head and tried to put his feelings into his voice, despite the fact that the other guys were there. "Life's too short, Hakkai. And too chancy. I told you: any minute – bam! Flat, like bugs."

Hakkai's face shifted a little: a smile flickered there for a moment. "You also reminded me that no one had ever promised me 'easy.'"

"Now I'm really impressed," said Sanzo dryly, after a moment. "The kappa had two good ideas? Huh."

"Dammit, Sanzo, you are so –"

"Anyway-" Sanzo's calm voice rode his down and pinned it. "Hakkai. Let go of the anger. And don't do things the easy way – the easy way for you. You know what I mean. That's it."

"That's all?"

Sanzo raised his eyebrows and ground the stub of his cigarette out. "I think that's plenty. If you manage that for the rest of this trip, I'll be surprised. Now, can you take a look at my damn arm?"

Hakkai stared at him for a few moments, his mouth open, before he produced a rag in place of his usual handkerchief and wiped his face and blew his nose. Then he very carefully and gently examined Sanzo's arm. "It's been well tended ... I don't need to open it up again." There was the usual glow and faint hum, and Sanzo's face lost some of his haggard look.

"That's better," he said, gruffly. "Now I think I need a nap, and then a decent meal. I'm not sure what our supply situation is – monkey's probably eaten most of it. And I want to get on the road early tomorrow."

"I'll do what I can about dinner. And I'll need to look at the map again, but if I recall correctly, there's a town less than a day's drive from here. Goku, can you show me where there's water?"

Gojyo stood up to follow them out and was halted by Sanzo's growl: "Not you, kappa. Lie down and rest. Blood loss is nothing to fuck around with – I should know."

"Whoa ... ! Sanzo-chama, I didn't know you cared!"

"Shut up and chill out, you pervert. I'm going to sleep."

Gojyo dragged his pack over to the bedding he'd abandoned almost five days ago, fished out his blanket, and lay down. The blanket smelled faintly of Hakkai, still, and of sweet grasses. He could hear Sanzo's breathing, already evened out into the rhythm of slumber, and farther off, the sound of Hakkai's and Goku's voices, Goku questioning, Hakkai reassuring. He smiled to himself and fell asleep.

Dinner was a fairly relaxed meal, all things considered. Gojyo actually found himself enjoying Sanzo's grumbles and the argument with Goku over the last of the potstickers Hakkai had managed to make with the smoked duck – although Hakkai and Sanzo made them break it up too soon. Goku insisted on helping Hakkai with the dishes, and Sanzo went straight to bed again, so Gojyo took his cigarettes and wandered outside.

The moon, fractionally plumper than last night's sliver, was still up. He sat on one of the unbroken sections of the stone wall around the farmyard, with his back to the house, and lit up. Somewhere off in the dark were the red hills, with the cave, and the crazy huge rocks, and their little bathing pool. They'd probably never see any of it again. Funny how something so important could seem like years ago already. He was surprised at how much he wanted to remember some of it.

"I don't think we could see any of it from here even in the daylight," said Hakkai, from behind him.

Somehow it didn't surprise Gojyo that Hakkai's mind was going the same direction. "What the fuck are you standing way back there for? Come here."

Hakkai came closer and started to comb his fingers through Gojyo's hair. Fingers, not claws. Gojyo could feel Hakkai's warmth along his back and ass. He leaned into him a little and ground his cigarette out against the stones of the wall. "Where's Goku?"

"In bed by now, I hope. He hasn't been sleeping much either. A growing boy needs his sleep."

"Is he all OK about – this shit?"

"I think so. Sanzo's right – he is growing up."

"Was ... was that other crap Sanzo said right? About you?"

Hakkai stopped playing with Gojyo's hair and wrapped his arms around his friend's shoulders, resting his cheek on top of Gojyo's head. "It could be. I'm not sure yet."

It would be nice to go to bed with Hakkai, right now, and fuck all those heavy thoughts away. But bed tonight was on the farmhouse floor with the other two. "Hell. You know, the whole time we were there, I wanted to be outta that place. And now, I kinda miss it."

He felt Hakkai smile. "That was a long, strange journey you took to find me, wasn't it? I hope you never regret it."

"Hakkai, for a smart guy, you say the stupidest shit sometimes. Oh – look!"

Illustration of this scene, by danny_sama

A faint thread of silver stroked across the sky. They waited and watched, and eventually there was another. "Heh – someone still had another package of sparklers left up there."

Hakkai's arms tightened. "They're not as bright with the moon up. And the shower is almost over anyway, I suppose."

"Hakkai?"

"Hmmm?"

"Are you sorry that you came back with me?"

"Well ... not really. It's rather strange, but in a way, it felt a bit like coming home."

Gojyo shifted in the circle of Hakkai's arms so he could see him. The cool moonlight shone thinly on his pretty, pale face, gleamed off the three metal bands on his ear, and showed Gojyo his faint, soft smile. Gojyo swung his legs all the way over onto Hakkai's side of the wall, wrapped his arms around Hakkai's waist, and nuzzled into his bony chest with a happy little growl. Hakkai chuckled and tugged at his hair, pulling his face clear for a kiss. "Hey, Hakkai," he said, when he could breathe again.

"Yes, Gojyo?"

"Welcome home."

 

~ the end 

 

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

 

 


Notes on the setting of "Down from the Red Hills"

 

Comments

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tentiqa
Nov. 15th, 2008 07:35 am (UTC)
I have no words to express my adoration of this fic. Mmn, all the right doses of near n/c and h/c in one fic. ♥ Good job! *adds to memories*
opalmatrix
Nov. 19th, 2008 02:35 am (UTC)

Oooh,wow, thanks! I'm so pleased you liked it so much!!

snaphappy_fma
Nov. 15th, 2008 07:49 am (UTC)
This was really a great read - you had Hakkai and Gojyo so IC and more - it was like a character study of each of them. Gojyo especially... this is one of the most mature portrayals of him I've read in fanfic, and yet, he is still utterly in character. This is the adult Gojyo that you just know really exists under the adolescent pose. And the images of Hakkai as his unbridled, wild youkai self, the details of it, all fantastic. Thanks for posting this story!
opalmatrix
Nov. 19th, 2008 02:42 am (UTC)

Well ... Gojyo was facing some serious shit, as it were ... I mean, he did do a certain amount of whining! That was part of his problem, of course - he didn't have Sanzo there to run things, and Hakkai was so clearly off - even thought Gojyo desperately wanted him not to be - that he had to handle things himself, even though he was physically such a mess.

I'm really glad you enjoyed it.

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twiyah
Nov. 15th, 2008 10:53 am (UTC)
Thank you. I like your Gojyo so much. There were a lot of lines that I could be quoting now. This wasn't something I read every day, Hakkai's manners and all, but you were very clever to not just cut it with going berserk without limiters. An interesting idea. And for some reason, I like your depict of Sanzo, as well.
opalmatrix
Nov. 19th, 2008 02:47 am (UTC)

I'm actually quite fond of Sanzo, even though Hakkai and Gojyo are my favorites. And I like him in his counseling role, like when he explains things to Goku. So I'm glad that part worked for you as well.

Hakkai ... yes, well, my beta sanada pointed out that he's essentially made up this whole role for himself, and he actually has convinced himself that's what he is ... he's delusional. But as Sanzo says, he's got to accept responsibility for his actions.

Thank you for reading!

purpleicicles
Nov. 15th, 2008 05:40 pm (UTC)
*Is rendered speechless* I think I have just discovered the best 58 fic ever!!! Youkai!Hakkai is always a fun idea to play around with but you did this with such depth and complexity that I was completely blown away! Gojyo being looked after by him was great, and the back-and-forth between normality and ferality was shocking and awesome. I like how we got to see more of Hakkai's passion, and that it was from Gojyo's POV that we saw this. I'm nnot sure I'm quite making sense, but the ending made me wanna cry, and the shooting stars really captured the fleeting, emotional tone of the story. Memories!
opalmatrix
Nov. 19th, 2008 02:52 am (UTC)

Awww! I'm so touched! (Complexity ... heh, did you read the story notes I posted at the end?)

Well, in his own weird way, Hakkai really loves him, but there's a lot of possessiveness to it ... yes, I like Hakkai tending to him also. That's the part that came first, when it only had to make me happy!

The stars just kind of happened - I think I was trying to make up to Gojyo for putting him through the non-con stuff!

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ginnyvos
Nov. 15th, 2008 08:51 pm (UTC)
This was... Wow. Wonderful. Amazing. Lovely. Extremely well written. Deep. Strong. Intense. Lots and lots of wow. And still it doesn't really sum up how much I love it. I added it to memories after only reading the first part because... Well, it´s just that good.

I read the whole thing in one go, took me 6 to 7 hours and it was time very well spend. I have yet to come down and really become rational about the whole thing, but it´s just so GOOD. All of it. And maybe I´ll be able to pick out specific stuff later but now it's just one blur of very well told story and very intense emotions.

<3
opalmatrix
Nov. 19th, 2008 02:58 am (UTC)

Owww, 6 to 7 hours! That's probably why some people haven't read it yet ... .

I'm certainly glad it felt like time well spent! And I'm very touched that you added it to memories.

So now ... do you have parts you liked best? Now that it's had a chance to sink in?

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avierra
Nov. 15th, 2008 10:07 pm (UTC)
Yay! Well, that was well worth the wait. I have a soft spot for h/c, and as was mentioned, having borderline non-con (or at the very least seriously dub dub-con) in the same story and making it work well together is wonderful.

But I also really enjoyed how you made Hakkai examine himself: he keeps telling himself that's just the way he is (e.g., I am a monster, therefore it is inevitable that I will do monstrous things), as if he doesn't have any say in being different, and I LOVE that both Gojyo and Sanzo call him on it. I like your Gojyo voice: he doesn't take crap from Hakkai, even though it's probably his instinct to do so, and he calls it like he sees it. And his willingness to leave Hakkai even though it isn't what he wanted to do -- just because it was the right thing to do made me sniff.

I also REALLY like your insightful, thoughtful Sanzo here, working in his role as a sort of confessor. And that he is compassionate and caring of Gojyo and what he's been through. (As you know, I am not big on stories where he and Gojyo hate each other... I just don't see that in their relationship). But even with everything, I like that he's also compassionate with Hakkai, and provides him with comfort even after all Hakkai has done. You can really see him shining in his role as one of the four corners of the ikkou.

Oh well, I have written a book here, there were so many things I loved, and so little room to mention them all. :D
opalmatrix
Nov. 19th, 2008 03:05 am (UTC)

It's so bizarre how much I like writing as Gojyo. He feels emotionally right, even though he's so different to me in every other way. But smilla was a great help here - I tend to write like the bureaucrat/tech writer that I am, if I don't watch it, and she caught me when I slipped back toward that.

I'm fond of Sanzo - he reminds me of my Mr.! Minekura has shown how good he can be as a teacher/counsellor, though, especially in some of the scenes with Goku. So Gojyo can forgive Hakkai, but Sanzo has to make the situation right for him ethically. Because in his bizarre way (as soli pointed out in her Hakkai MBTI profile), Hakkai has very strong standards that way, and now that's he's decided to go on pretending (from his viewpoint) to be human, he needs to be able to stand himself.

So now that it's had a chance to digest, is there any part you liked best?

dznerchick
Nov. 15th, 2008 10:29 pm (UTC)
OMG! Great work! I like the way you portray their relationship, no over the top fluffiness, no over the top sex scenes, but just the right mix of both! I definitely enjoyed this! Brilliant!
opalmatrix
Nov. 19th, 2008 03:08 am (UTC)

Ohhh, thanks for that! Yes, they are not really fluffy guys: Gojyo has a huge heart, but he's had that tough, tough upbringing, and Hakkai can be domestic, but there's always that deep, deep darkness ... but I love 'em anyway!

I'm so glad you liked it!

geri
Nov. 16th, 2008 04:44 am (UTC)
Now that is what i would call a happy ending and a very welcome home indeed.

And sometimes sanzo surprises me with his logic but he was spot on.

Way to go for happily ever after.^_____
opalmatrix
Nov. 19th, 2008 03:22 am (UTC)

Thanks so much for reading! I enjoyed your comments on the way through it. I was lucky to have good betas. Also, sanada reads Japanese and knows a lot about the culture, and she said that Sanzo's take there was pretty much right for Buddhism, which was a big relief to hear!

I'm very happy that this worked for you.

meicdon13
Nov. 16th, 2008 05:32 am (UTC)
This was just all sorts of awesome. Definitely going into my memories! Youkai!Hakkai will always have a special place in my heart and the way you portrayed him just made me squee all over the place. Loved the way you showed the other boys as well. This was just the right combination of fluff and smut and angst ♥
sharpeslass
Nov. 17th, 2008 03:25 am (UTC)
Wonderful and well done and an excellent ending. You know, I was just recently discussing the idea that the 1,000 youkai thing might be a myth and that somehow it was Hakkai's intent that turned him into a youkai. What I can't recall is if there is any basis for this concept in canon. Did it just occur to me as a possiblility, or did I read somethign that planted the idea in my mind? Since you seem to have had the same idea, perhaps you know?
Again, great fic and wonderful fun to read on many levels. I hope you do more 58 soon!!!
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akuchan_47
Nov. 17th, 2008 03:40 pm (UTC)
Words fail me, I loved everything about this story, and I'm just so glad that I was able to read it all in one sitting. It was a perfect balance of horrifying (because feral Hakkai was at times) and touching, and telling the story through Gojyo's eyes was the best. Awesome story and thank you very much for writing and sharing.
opalmatrix
Nov. 19th, 2008 12:01 pm (UTC)

Awww, thank you for reading! Yes, Hakkai was very scary, and yet Gojyo has to love him - and yet again, he can't abandon his other friends. I once read a statement from a screenwriter who said what makes a story interesting on the human level is when the protagonist has to make choices, and Gojyo has to make some very tough choices here. I do like writing from Gojyo's POV, and smillaraaq was a big help as a beta for that - she called me on it when I used language that was too fancy! He's interesting to write because he's definitely not stupid, but he's almost completely uneducated.

fouloldron
Nov. 17th, 2008 10:19 pm (UTC)
Amazing fic.
Very well written and characterised.
Thanks for posting. :D
opalmatrix
Nov. 19th, 2008 12:08 pm (UTC)

Oh, thank you for those kind words! I'm so glad it worked for you! Thanks for reading.

candika
Nov. 18th, 2008 06:42 am (UTC)
That was an amazing piece of work! I loved kindly, forgiving everyman Gojyo, scaryscarysexy Youkai!Hakkai and your wise, tough, compassionate, straight-talking Sanzo. We didn't see very much of Goku but he was very sweet and understanding.

Truly lovely!
opalmatrix
Nov. 19th, 2008 12:14 pm (UTC)

I really do like me some Sanzo, even though Gojyo and Hakkai are my favorites. And Goku can be very sweet, but this wasn't really his story. I guess I was thinking about people going through changes, and the effects that can have on a relationship, really! Only you get that filtered through Hakkai-as-youkai and our big-hearted, potty-mouthed Gojyo ... .

Thanks for the kind words, and for reading.

pfmoi
Nov. 18th, 2008 07:19 am (UTC)
There are no words to express how I feel about this fic. Just....perfect. I almost wish this wasn't a fanwork, so you could publish it at a store for the rest of the world to see. I love every single bit of this.
opalmatrix
Nov. 19th, 2008 12:19 pm (UTC)

Awww, you're so kind to say that! My sister, who's sort of on the edges of fandom, keeps saying she wishes I was writing things that could be published, but I'm all about the relationships (which is where my Gojyo connection comes from, I guess!) - sharing the stories with people who enjoy the same kinds of things, and talking about the characters, seems much more important.

I'm really pleased that this worked for you!

karuune
Nov. 18th, 2008 01:25 pm (UTC)
What a phenomenally written series! I'm blown away by how descriptive you are with the characters and settings, and how beautifully you show the relationship between Hakkai and Gojyo, no matter what the circumstances. I really, really enjoyed reading this.
opalmatrix
Nov. 19th, 2008 12:24 pm (UTC)

Oh, I'm so glad you liked it! (Did you read my notes about the settings? I'm OCD like that ... .) Yes, it really was about the relationship, and loving someone even as he's going through some changes - but not letting him get away with abandoning his responsibilities, either. That's part of why Sanzo is talky in the end - Gojyo can't always express what he's observing, even though he sees a lot.

blue_hobbit
Nov. 19th, 2008 02:40 am (UTC)
I haven't read Saiyuki fic in ages, but this was so good, I couldn't stop. Probably missed a ton of details going through it so fast too, but the h/c was so nice, and I just love, love, love your Gojyo to no end! Plus the way you didn't start or end it abruptly and found a way to really make Sanzo and Goku part of the story as well, even though it revolved so much around Gojyo and Hakkai was awesome. I really enjoyed every minute of reading it.
opalmatrix
Nov. 19th, 2008 12:32 pm (UTC)

Oooh, hobbit-san, thanks! Yeah, I guess it really shows that Gojyo is my favorite - it's that big heart of his. The h/c came first, of course, but then I started wondering how exactly they got to that place, and how they were going to leave it. And they needed Sanzo to break it down and explain it in the end - Hakkai was being totally delusional about himself (in her beta notes, sanada said: "Hakkai has ISSUES. Hell, he's got a daily subscription to ISSUES" and that sort of sums it up) and Gojyo has trouble expressing what he feels - and isn't going to give Hakkai the kind of structure he needs to move on.

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