Strays


Author: lillypuff

LiveJournal: http://lillypuff.livejournal.com

Characters From: Saiyuki & Saiyuki Gaiden

Pairing(s): Tenpou/Hakkai (with implied Hakkai/Gojyo & Tenpou/Kenren)
Rating: R

Written For: minuswave.com, Challenge: Take it Outside

Warnings: AU, a bit of vague m/m smut, angst, implied character death (before the events of the story)

Summary: In another time and another place, it's not Kanan that Hakkai is trying to save, and it's not Gojyo who finds him on a particularly stormy night.
Disclaimer: As always, they don't belong to me. It's better that way, since I tend to put them through hell.  The lyrics at the beginning and end of the fic are from Metallica's "Low Man's Lyric".

 

Random Notes: This was originally written for the Minus Wave: Take it Outside Challenge.  Our task was to write a fic featuring one member of the Ikkou and a Saiyuki character outside the Ikkou.  Unfortunately, the fic didn't really start writing itself 'til a few days before it was due, and I wasn't completely happy with it (I almost didn't submit it).  Since the contest I've revised it a bit, the most noticeable revision being that I added a bit of smut, but I've also added little details here and there that I think help the flow, while still keeping the fic vague, which is what I had wanted.

 

 

 

So as I write to you
of what is done and to do
maybe you'll understand
and won't cry for this man
'cause low man is due


-----

 

 

When Hakkai wakes up for the first time since he fell to the muddy ground -- aching, coughing and shivering -- he has no idea where he is.  His vision is blurred and cloudy, and everything seems dark; too dark, like a bag had been pulled over his head and only the barest amount of light is being allowed in.  His head aches and his stomach feels like it is trying to turn over on itself.  Worst of all, he can smell him everywhere.

 

"Gojyo…?" Hakkai barely whispers, his throat is raw and tingly and the words almost don't make it past his lips.

 

"No." 

 

Hakkai doesn't recognize the voice, but he's heard a similar one before, in his own head, coming from his own mouth.  It's a voice that's smooth as silk, but only until you realize that's because it's trying to hide something.

 

"Who…"

 

"You can ask questions later."

 

Despite his curiosity, Hakkai doesn't have the strength to argue as he falls back into unconsciousness.

 

*****

 

When Hakkai's eyelids flutter open for the second time, things seem to have righted themselves, at least a little bit.  His vision is clearer and everything seems brighter, almost painfully so.

 

Hakkai shifts under the pile of blankets atop him, stopping abruptly when his entire body begins to ache.  It's the kind of ache that goes straight through to his bones, as if it's trying to devour him from the inside out.

 

"You are lucky you haven't developed pneumonia."

 

Hakkai's eyes widen at the intrusion of the silky smooth voice he'd heard the last time he was awake.  Slowly, he turns his head in the direction it came from.

 

"Where am I?" Hakkai asks, more curious about his location then his apparent caretaker, who he can finally see, sitting in a large recliner, his nose in a book.

 

"This is my home," the man replies, not looking up from his reading material.  "I found you about a half mile away, while I was out walking."

 

"Found me?" Hakkai repeats, he doesn't mention that he thinks it strange for this man to have been out walking during a rather fierce storm.

 

"You were lying in a puddle of water, shivering and wheezing.  Despite how weak you were, you put up one hell of a fight when I tried to carry you back."

 

"Why would you do that?" Hakkai asks, far too jaded by life to think that someone would do him a favor and expect nothing in return, even if that was exactly what he'd do.

 

"I seem to be in the habit of picking up strays," the man replies shrugging as he stands, the barest hint of a smile on his face.  When he walks towards him, Hakkai takes note of the man's apparel, particularly his long white lab coat.  If he were in a better state, he'd be tempted to ask where his secret lab was.

 

"I am not a stray," Hakkai insists as his caretaker sits on the edge of the couch where he lays, vulnerable, to practically anything.

 

"No?  Then what were you doing running around in that miserable weather?  Did you loose your way?"

 

"I was looking for someone."  The man raises his eyebrows, gesturing for him to continue on with his explanation.  "His name is Gojyo.  He's…"

 

"A stray?"

 

Hakkai can only stare at his caretaker, who he now believes is more then slightly eccentric.  Not so much because of what he says, but because of the way his hands twitch every now and then, and the way his eyes don't seem to stare at anything in particular for very long.  Not that all his talk about strays isn't strange enough to begin with, but it's the man's body language that really tips Hakkai off. 

 

"Who are you?" Hakkai asks, his voice shaky.

 

"Field Marshal Tenpou Gensui, at your service," he replies before pulling a pack of cigarettes from his coat pocket. "Retired, of course."

 

He doesn't say it, but Hakkai finds it strange that a former high ranking military man would choose to live out his final days in a dusty, rundown house in the middle of nowhere.

 

"You look young for a Field Marshal," Hakkai manages, instead.

 

"Why, thank you," Tenpou replies and even though his tone is soft and amused, his expression stays fixed and unreadable. Hakkai watches as Tenpou slides a cigarette between his lips, and he starts to wonder if smoking is the best thing for him considering his weakened state, but all concerns of second hand smoke drift away when he smells the burning paper and tobacco.  The familiar scent is like a shock to his heart.

 

"Gojyo…" Hakkai forces out through a groan as he turns his gaze from Tenpou.  "No wonder you smell like him."

 

"He smokes Hi-Lites?"

 

Hakkai nods his head slowly and closes his eyes.  The smell of Gojyo's cigarettes had always been a love-hate thing for him, but now it was just a horrid reminder.

 

"I used to be a Marlboro man myself, but a guy I knew, back in the army, he smoked these things like they were going out of style."  Tenpou's voice caries the slightest hint of melancholy, and it piques Hakkai's curiosity.  "I guess he rubbed off on me."

 

Hakkai doesn't respond, unsure of what to say and after a few moments of silence, he feels Tenpou's weight leave the edge of the couch.  "Would you like something to eat?  It's been a couple of days since I found you, you must be starving."

 

Hakkai shakes his head; despite the pain in his chest -- and the rest of his body for that matter -- he rolls onto his side and tries to fall asleep.

 

*****

 

The soup is just warm enough that when it slides down Hakkai's throat, it doesn't scald him, but it does soothe the ache.  Hakkai is amazed at how good Tenpou is at making simple meals seem like extravagant dishes.

 

He feels slightly strange, half sitting up on the couch, eating the soup under Tenpou's close scrutiny.  It's as if the man is trying to learn everything about him with out asking a single question, but instead just by watching him as he goes about his recovery. When Tenpou finally does break the silence, Hakkai is halfway through his bowl of soup and very relieved.

 

"You don't strike me as the type who usually goes around picking up strays."  Tenpou's expression is curious, and Hakkai realizes it's the first time the man has shown some sort of blatant emotion on his typically unreadable face.

 

"No, I don't suppose I am," Hakkai replies softly, unable to meet Tenpou's eyes with his own.  "Perhaps that is why everything is so fouled up, now."

 

"Maybe it is," Tenpou replies soberly and Hakkai doesn't know what to say to that, though he is starting to notice that Tenpou doesn't sugar coat things very often.  "How did you find him?"

 

Hakkai groans.  It suddenly feels like he's been stabbed somewhere in the vicinity of his heart.  He knew the question would be asked, eventually, but that didn't mean he wanted to answer it.  He glances at Tenpou, who is silently sucking on the end of his cigarette, then turns his head to stare at the cushions of the couch that has been his bed for the seemingly endless time he has been under Tenpou's care.  It's the faint veins of red that wind their way through the cushion's fabric that somehow loosen Hakkai's tongue as his fingers curl tightly around the soup bowl.

 

"I was coming home, from my sister's house.  I found him on the side of the road," Hakkai's breath hitches in his throat, but he forces it out.  "It was raining hard.  I don't think I would have stopped if it hadn't been for the rain.  It's like you said, I don't usually go about picking up strays."

 

Tenpou nods, as if understanding completely, which is strange because Hakkai himself never really understood anything that happened on that day.

 

"He was just sitting there, soaking wet and drunker then anything I had ever seen.  And his eyes.  They said so much, they asked for help.  They practically begged for it."

 

"And so you took him in?" Tenpou asks and Hakkai nods slowly as he moves one hand to idly trace the red patterns on the fabric. "What does he look like?"

 

Hakkai turns back to look at Tenpou, "He is tall, with long limbs, and long red hair.  He had the most expressive eyes I've ever seen.  They were so alive, even when it was the last thing he wanted them to be."

 

"An Irish setter then?" Tenpou asks, and this time he is actually smiling, and everything around Hakkai suddenly seems lighter, as if a weight has been lifted.

 

"No.  He was more like a mutt, I think," Hakkai replies and he can't help but laugh just a little bit at how ridiculous it all sounds.

 

*****

 

Hakkai isn't sure if he's on the verge of waking or falling asleep when Tenpou's voice breaks the perpetual silence of the man's house.

 

"Where did he go?"

 

"I'm not sure.  He left a note, apologizing for leaving, after all the help I'd given him," Hakkai can feel the bitterness taking over his voice.  "He said I'd be better off without him, without his problems."

 

"Do you think he was right?"

 

"I don't know.  Maybe he was, but that obviously hasn't stopped me."

 

*****

 

Hakkai only intends to get up to go to the bathroom, but on his way back to his makeshift bed, his curiosity gets the best of him and he half stumbles over to were Tenpou appears to be sleeping, curled up in his recliner.  The fact that Tenpou didn't have a book in his lap, or nearby for that matter, had caught his attention on his way to relieve himself.  When he gets closer, he notices a piece of paper gently clutched in the man's hand.

 

Trembling slightly and apparently already tired though he'd only be up and about for a few minutes, Hakkai reaches out and slides the piece of paper, which turns out to be a photograph, from Tenpou's hand.  He squints at the picture, lit only by the moonlight trickling in from the nearby window.  The first thing that catches his attention is that the photo looks old, far older then Tenpou, which is impossible, considering Tenpou is one of the two men in it.

 

The second thing that catches his attention, however, throws all thoughts of Tenpou's age straight out the window.  Hakkai stares, confused and unblinking, at the picture, his eye taking in the sight of the man who is leaning up against the wall next to Tenpou.

 

The unknown man is tall, taller then Tenpou by a couple of inches, and he is wearing a familiar smile that works its way under Hakkai's skin in the best, and worst, of ways.  His posture, the way his cigarette dangles from his lips, the way he grins knowingly, it all reminds Hakkai of Gojyo, but it is the man's eyes that make him whimper unconsciously.  If it wasn't for the man's short black hair -- where Gojyo's fine red hair would have been -- Hakkai would have thought Tenpou's acquaintance was, at the very least, Gojyo's brother.  Idly, Hakkai wonders if the cigarette perched between the look-alike's lips is a Hi-Lite.

 

"You really shouldn't be up and about," Tenpou whispers from his chair and Hakkai nearly drops the photograph.  "The last thing you want to have is a relapse."

 

"I was just coming back from the bathroom," Hakkai replies as he turns away from Tenpou, holding the picture up so his caretaker can see it.  "Who is this?"

 

For a second, Hakkai doesn't think he'll get a response, but Tenpou is suddenly standing right behind him, hands squeezing his slender hips and pushing him towards the couch.  When Hakkai is settled and Tenpou takes his customary spot on the edge of the cushions, he smiles.  If there is anything Hakkai knows, it's a fake smile.

 

"That," Tenpou says, not looking at anything in particular as he takes the photo from Hakkai's hand, "is just a stray I picked up in the army.  They were going to kick him out, but I took him under my wing; straightened him out a bit.  Leash trained him, so to speak."

 

"His eyes…" Hakkai replies, suddenly weary.  Apparently an unassisted trip to the bathroom was still too much for him.  Tenpou turns to look at him and already Hakkai's eyes are starting to flutter closed. "They are so…"

 

"Alive?" Tenpou finishes for him.  "Yes, they were.  He was more alive then anyone I've ever known."

 

"Where did he go?" Hakkai mutters as his need for sleep starts to take hold.

 

"To a better place, or perhaps not, I don't know," Tenpou replies in a whisper, the words whirling around in Hakkai's head like a dream, and for all he knows it could very well be.  "What I do know is that he's gone."   

 

*****

 

The aching in his bones returns and Hakkai shivers from the piercing cold.  It's always the worst when he is asleep, when his body tries to fight of the illness and the fever fights back, unwilling to go easily.  But he knows how the saying goes: it's always darkest before dawn, so it makes sense to him that his fever would be at its worst right before it's gone.  Despite the pain, Hakkai is relieved.  It means that soon he'll be able to resume his search.

 

Hakkai squirms under the blankets and curls into as much of a ball as he can.  When a hand trails through the slightly damp hair that is sticking to his feverish forehead, Hakkai flinches out of surprise, then moves his head so that the hand is cupping his face.  The skin that touches him is cool, his fever too intense for anything to match it.

 

Moaning, Hakkai turns away from the back of the couch, not bothering to open his eyes.  He knows who the hand belongs to; he knows that Tenpou is staring down at him, watching him with his intense eyes as his other hand snakes its way under his shirt, tracing a jagged pattern across his stomach, as if something should be there, but isn't.   When soft, warm lips press against his, Hakkai squirms and reaches out blindly to run a hand through Tenpou's hair.

 

When Tenpou's hand leaves his stomach and pulls back the blankets, Hakkai shivers and fights the desire to curl up into a ball again, but then Tenpou is on top of him and Hakkai can't help but arch his back so that his stomach rubs against the other man's.  Instinctively, if not a bit desperately, Hakkai begins to unbutton Tenpou shirt, glad that the man had already removed his lab coat.  When the shirt is fully unopened, Hakkai immediately slides his hands to Tenpou's stomach and runs them over his firm abdominal muscles.  He can feel Tenpou twitch and shiver and Hakkai opens his eyes to stare up at him.

 

In the darkness of the room, Hakkai can barely make out the outline of the other man, but what he can clearly see are Tenpou's eyes, like violet beacons in the darkness.  It's comforting and nightmarish all at once, like his soul is being scoured by the man's eyes, but still Hakkai can't help but look away, at least not until Tenpou moans audibly at the attention Hakkai's hands are giving to his nipples, without Hakkai ever remembering that he'd actually slid his hands up the man's chest.  

 

After that, everything becomes a bit of a blur, something Hakkai is grateful for, and laments all the same.  Shirts are slid off, pants are removed with great haste and finally, for the first time since he'd arrived, something besides soup feels warm when it comes in contact with his body. 

 

When Tenpou slides inside him, Hakkai gasps and pulls Tenpou down to him, their lips meeting in a bruising kiss as their tongues entwine with each other.  Every thrust pleases Hakkai in ways he never imagined, and yet, every thrust hurts, too. 

 

It's not a physical pain, but it wounds just the same when he realizes that if he keeps his eyes closed and breathes deep the perpetual smell of Hi-Lites, he thinks he might be able to pretend its someone else that's screwing him senselessly; and he can't help but wonder if Tenpou is thinking the same.

 

*****

 

Hakkai's bones no longer ache with the steady thrum of stinging cold.  He can feel himself becoming strong again, though the body pressed up against his back might also have something to do with his sudden warmth.

 

"You are leaving soon."  It's not a question, or at least, Hakkai thinks, not one that Tenpou doesn't already know the answer to.

 

"I have to find Gojyo," Hakkai replies, knowing he doesn't need to justify himself, not to this man.

 

"Just be prepared for what may come," Tenpou whispers as he runs his hand through Hakkai's hair.  "One day he'll be resting with his head in your lap, thinking you are the most important thing in the world; and the next you'll be hearing from the neighbors that he was hit by a truck while trying to chase a squirrel across the street."

 

Hakkai stiffens as the words flow from Tenpou's mouth -- bitter and so very real -- against the back of his neck.  "Is that…"

 

"I should have kept a closer eye on him," Tenpou interrupts with the slightest hint of remorse in his voice, and suddenly Hakkai understands, all too clearly.

 

He'd thought that the man's use of the term strays had simply been an eccentric little tick for Tenpou, but he was beginning to realize it went much deeper then that.  It wasn't some silly little thing, but instead the man's own denial taking form.  He'd lost something -- someone -- dear to him, and he couldn't face it, couldn't live with it, unless he pretended that that someone hadn't meant all that much to him.  But Hakkai knew things didn't work that way, and it was obvious in Tenpou's bitter voice that it was eating him up inside. 

 

Hakkai shutters involuntarily and instinctively pushes himself back against Tenpou's body, trying to fight off the sudden onslaught of emotions he is feeling.  He can almost picture himself a few years from now, and he wonders if he'll end up like Tenpou is now if he doesn't find Gojyo.  Not so much rambling about the one that got away, but the one he couldn't save.

 

Hakkai shakes his head, buries his face in the pillow underneath his head and breathes deep the stale smell of tobacco and sex.  It reminds him so much of Gojyo and his resolve is suddenly doubled.  No matter what Tenpou is trying to prepare him for, he won't let Gojyo become just another stray.

 

"I'll find him," Hakkai mutters.  For both of us. 

 

For a moment, he isn't sure that Tenpou even hears him, until he feels a strong hand squeeze his hip.

 

*****

 

It's not like him to leave with out giving his thanks, but Hakkai knows he hasn't been himself for quite sometime; not since he found Gojyo on the side of the road.  He sighs as he steps out into the moonlit night and feels the first drops of rain from the newly approaching storm.  Silently he curses Gojyo for running off during the rainy season.

 

"Leaving already?" 

 

Hakkai cringes when he hears Tenpou's voice behind him, not because he is afraid, but because he is suddenly embarrassed for sneaking out on him. 

 

"You…were sleeping.  I didn't want to disturb you," Hakkai mutters, barely audible to even himself, though he gets the feeling Tenpou hears him none-the-less.

 

"You wouldn't have disturbed me," replies Tenpou.  His voice floats lazily through the wind and Hakkai shivers when he suddenly feels a warm breath against his ear.  "You won't fail him, like I did."

 

The rain falls faster, trickling down Hakkai's face like tears that hadn't meant to fall.  He turns around to look at Tenpou one last time, but when he does there is nothing behind him, except for the little house that looks like its been abandoned for years.  The front door is closed tightly against the coming storm and no light trickles out through the windows. 

 

With a sigh, Hakkai turns away from his former shelter and begins to walk away, determined to find Gojyo, no matter what it takes.

 

 

-----

So low the sky is all I see

All I want from you is forgive me

So you bring this poor dog in from the rain

Though he just wants right back out again

_____________
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