by Talya Firedancer

"When I was twelve, I discovered that my brother was sleeping with my mother."

Gojyou tilted his head; exhaled a streamer of gray smoke. He shifted a little on the broad sill of the window. Outside, beyond his lean body and the pane of glass that separated him from the night, the dark was still and thick and undisturbed by moonlight. There was tension gathering and the smell of ozone filtered in even indoors. "Of course, the only reason this was so upsetting to me was because I wanted him to notice me that same way."

Hakkai gave him a slight smile. "I see," was all he said, voice low and calm as ever.

Gojyou peered at him from the side, one red-maroon eye looking at him steady and reflective. "Well? You're not shocked."

"Should I be?" Hakkai said consideringly, tilting his head. He smiled again, but the expression did not warm his eyes. "Oh. Because he was your brother, you think this was shocking."

"Yeah." Gojyou turned his head to look at him fully, placing his cigarette between his lips, observing Hakkai with a brooding expression.

"It's not shocking to me," Hakkai said in a low tone. Perhaps this was time for full disclosure. He had been depending on Gojyou for a long time. Had, because of him, gained the longevity for repentance. In time, even, because of Gojyou he had gotten a reason that made his prolonged life worth living.

He wanted to ask Gojyou why he was telling him this now. Hakkai wasn't sure he was prepared to be burdened with the weight of someone else's secrets. But Gojyou was a little drunk, and he had come home alone again, eyes dark and his red hair glistening like fresh blood as he came in from the rain. He was a little drunk and he had lost money and it was, he proclaimed, too late to shower outside.

Hakkai knew what that meant. Any tensions he needed to dissipate were still clogged up in his system.

He used to watch Gojyou under the waterspout. Then, as the lean body of his friend stood under the spray that clung and soaked over tanned naked skin, he watched as Gojyou tucked a hand between his legs and sought a steady climax. He pulled it from himself more naturally than breathing. Watching him was all the erotica Hakkai needed. It was enough, just watching him under the water, to release his own tensions.

"When I was twenty..." Hakkai swallowed harshly, considering the weight of his own words. Gojyou's confession had been harder. His had been the guilt of wanting, an ache unfulfilled. Hakkai's confession was already done, his sin performed over and over, but for some reason it was harder to say. "When I was twenty, I found my twin sister. And we lived together as lovers until she was taken away, and died."

Gojyou's expression turned bleak.

That look, that familiar easygoing face with his eyes turned hard as glass made Hakkai flinch and look away. Even this kind of friend couldn't understand. Even Gojyou, who confessed the same kind of feeling, could condemn. He wanted but he had not done.

"What a pair we are, huh?"

His voice was still light and easy. It made Hakkai look up in surprise. Now his friend's face was turned away, reflected in the dark bead-streaked pane and his eyes were shadowed black pits. Hakkai couldn't fathom what he was thinking.

"I suppose," Hakkai managed. He looked at the kitchen table, scattered with the remnants of dinner. Any moment now, he would get up and begin to clean. He would put this small house in order again. It was something he could control, at least. For now, all he could do was fold his white-knuckled hands on the tabletop and look at Gojyou.

"I've already heard the rest of your story." Gojyou's cigarette was burning dangerously close to his fingers. Ash dripped on raw wooden boards below the sill, already smudging them here and there in half a dozen places. "Your sister...she would've had a kid like me, right?"

"Yes." Hakkai wished suddenly, fiercely, that the other man would stop talking. This was something he didn't want to hear. This was a reality he didn't want to face.

"Is it so bad...being what I am?" Gojyou said, sounding now as if he talked more to himself than anything. "Mother...she tried to kill me, because of what I was. Even though I wasn't hers, it drove her crazy in the end. Red hair and red eyes. They never stopped taunting her mind, like blood, she said."

"Gojyou," Hakkai said, troubled. Enough, he wanted to say, stop talking.

"And Jin left because of my bastard blood," Gojyou mused. "He'd killed his mother because of me. I'm the one who drove her crazy in the first place, me and my blood and the man who left her."

"Gojyou," Hakkai repeated, pushing himself away from the table. He could gather the dishes, he thought, and the movement would break the momentum of his friend's conversation. He didn't need to hear this. And Gojyou didn't need to say...

"And you," Gojyou said, turning now to give him a direct look. His eyes burned like coals. He didn't look drunk at all. "My red hair and my red eyes will always remind you of blood. That's what you said, isn't it? And my half-breed blood will always remind you of her--"

Hakkai's chair crashed to the floor.

There was rain trickling along the roof, beads connecting and forming silvery interlaced trails down the window. It slid down the pane beyond Gojyou's face. After a while, it began drumming along the thin roof as its pace picked up.

Hakkai released Gojyou's mouth and stood apart from him, his breathing sped up and frantic, but he was unable to meet his eyes. Instead he looked off to the side, in the swept neat corners that had been unswept and full of cobwebs before he had come here.

To each of them, the other had made a difference.

Until now, Hakkai hadn't been quite sure of the nature of that difference.

"Hakkai..." Gojyou sucked in a breath and moistened his lips. It was a quick nervous gesture.

Now Hakkai could look up, meeting his friend's eyes steadily. "Do you think that matters to me?"

A frown gathered between the smooth arches of Gojyou's dark red brows. "But you said..." he began uncertainly, seeming every bit the younger man.

Gently, Hakkai cut him off. "Do you think that matters to me now?"

"I don't..." Gojyou looked down at the arm braced on his leg, half-cocked on the sill; he looked down at his knuckles and the burnt-out cigarette still dangling between his fingers. Right then he seemed every bit the younger man. "How am I supposed to know?"

"Because I'm telling you," Hakkai said firmly. He pushed away his past on most nights. Tonight was no different. He would always miss Kanan and the ache would always be there...but he lived now for the living. "How long have I been living here?"

Not for the dead.

"Over a year," Gojyou said right away, "nearly two years. Hakkai, I thought you weren't interested."

Hakkai looked at him steadily, this time offering a genuine smile. "I didn't know what I wanted," he replied, "except to be left alone. It was like dying."

"Oh?" Gojyou retorted, but despite his tone humor lurked in his eyes. "And how many times have you died, Chou Hakkai?"

"Only once."

With a careless confidence that he didn't really feel, Hakkai leaned against the windowsill, looking into the face of the other man -- almost looming.

"He was a fool," Hakkai told him, voice hoarse now with the urgency to impart an overlooked truth.

"Huh?" Gojyou's expression registered confusion, and interrupted lust. He pitched his stub of a cigarette into a corner of the windowsill as he began to reach for Hakkai.

"Jin," Hakkai said briefly, letting the younger man pull him closer with fingers laced together at the small of his back.

Gojyou shook his head at that, but closed the gap between them until none remained. His lips were firm and bitter with the traces of smoke and beneath that, the hint of sweat and beer. Hakkai could marvel at this augmented sensory perception for a fraction of a second before Gojyou's mouth claimed his full attention, roaming over his lips briefly, restlessly, then parting them with a forceful tongue.

Almost, Hakkai protested the invasion. I'm not a woman! His manner was mild but he didn't yield, not unless he willed it so. Before he could struggle or even put his hands to Gojyou's bare shoulders the other man shifted tactics, rubbing his mouth against Hakkai's, wet velvet lips and the slickness of tongue entreating him to follow.

It was so quick and sudden. But this was what he wanted. Hakkai responded in kind, leaning into the radiating warmth of a naked chest and spearing his own tongue between smoky lips.

He wondered who would win the tussle for top.

"I thought you didn't want me," Gojyou said when they broke to breathe, standing too close for friends but still too awkwardly for lovers.

His hand was tucked on Gojyou's bare waist. "How can anyone see you and not want you?" Hakkai replied, feeling distant amazement.

"Oh, it happens." The corners of Gojyou's mouth turned up. His eyes were distant and angry.

Stop that, Hakkai wanted to say, but nothing would erase that hurt. Hakkai touched Gojyou's face, making those eyes turn in his direction. There was still light there, warmth for him. "Have you been waiting for me?" he asked directly.

Gojyou blinked. "The hell d'you mean?" Still, his hands were welcome pressure on the small of Hakkai's back.

"Since I came here, you haven't brought anyone home," Hakkai said indelicately. "You haven't stayed out particularly late, either. And then, there was something that Sanzou said..."

"That damned, meddling monk," Gojyou said without heat. He pushed himself off the windowsill and stood until their bodies were close, separated by a hair and unspent desire. "Forget it. We got here, didn't we?"

"Yes," Hakkai agreed.

The bed was right behind them.

The rain continued into the night, coursing across the roof, bringing reminders that sluiced away just as fast. They didn't notice, twined together, otherwise occupied. Their disclosures now went deeper than words. And the tensions that had been gathering for over a year drained away by the time the rain had stopped.

There would be no more lonely nights.