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At last! It's been a while since I've had something but vagaries and complaints to post about this story. I had to scrub some of what I'd written and try again. *sigh* But here it is! As a bonus (for myself, hahaha) I've figured out that Wanderers will have a total of nine chapters. Now, how long those chapters will be, I have no clue.

This story is rated PG-13/light R overall. There are plottings aplenty and a brief mention of le mansexings, but nothing else deserving of a warning (I think.)

Part 1 found here.

=====

Sanzo woke with a start: it took him a few seconds to realize that the awful noise he was hearing was not a meteor shower blasting the Maten's hull or electromagnetic interference over the com system or some other cosmic phenomena, but rather Gojyo singing, loudly and off-key, interspersed with Hakkai's aggressive snoring. Sanzo gave the bulkhead separating their cabins a good whack. It didn't seem to do any good. Gojyo continued to sing and Hakkai, apparently inured to the noise, slept on.

Living in such close quarters had its disadvantages, to be sure. It was times like these that made Sanzo question his decision to let the two of them aboard. He could always kick them off on the next inhabited planet. Sanzo ignored the vague, muddled sensation in his stomach this thought gave rise to. He'd as much as promised them a place on the ship for as long as they wanted it, and he wasn't the sort of person who made—or broke—promises.

The blip of an incoming transmission shook him out of his thoughts.

"What?" said Sanzo.

"It's from home." Goku's voice came over the com system, but it was the wash of emotions that came along with it that really made Sanzo pay attention.

"Oh?" said Sanzo.

"It's compressed," said Goku. "But it's urgent. It's time-stamped yesterday. They sent it on a really high band."

Sanzo's eyebrows raised without his say-so. The usual message-sending protocol meant that, this far from home, it could take a week or more for a message to get to them. It must have been urgent indeed to risk scrambling its contents by sending it on such a fast, high band…Sanzo felt his muscles tense. It had to have been from Her.

"Put it through," said Sanzo.

"Gotcha," said Goku.

Sanzo's chakra warmed and he rubbed it, more out of habit than any other reason. The message began playback, a voice talking insistently in his ear, as if the speaker were hanging off his shoulders.

"Sanzo, it's your favorite auntie. Look, darling, I need a bit of a favor. Ostensibly, you're being sent to attend the coronation of the Ox-King nebula's latest ruler. After all that nasty business with the war, it's policy for us to check up on them once in a while, on special occasions."

Sanzo already knew all this. It was his mission brief, after all. After the so-called Ox-King tried—and failed—to take over five hundred years ago, it had somehow become the responsibility of his people to keep an eye on the Ox-King's people, in case they should foment rebellion and make another bid for the galaxy. The coronation of a new king was definitely cause for concern, and none of the council would be satisfied unless Sanzo traveled there, in person, and vetted out the new leader. It was, in all honesty, an issue of galactic security. A pain in the ass to be sure, but it wasn't a duty Sanzo could shirk.

"Here's the thing," continued the message. "I've heard a little rumor. I need you to find out the truth. If need be, you'll take direct action. I've heard, through very reliable sources, that the Ox-King's people have uncovered a relic from the war: one of our people thought to be lost. And while you're finding out the truth of this, you can certainly work on your little pet project of a certain renegade Sanzo's whereabouts as well."

The Merciful Goddess's voice dropped all pretense of lightheartedness.

"They've found Nataku. And he's alive. Find him, Sanzo. Find him, bring him home, and destroy whatever research the Ox-King's people may have done on him."

Sanzo thought that was it; the transmission went silent for some time. Then, out of the blue, The Merciful Goddess spoke once more.

"If he won't come willingly, kill him."

The message ended, and Sanzo's chakra pulsed. He didn't bother re-playing the message and, instead, opted to delete it. He sat at the little desk in his cabin and tried to figure out how, exactly, he was supposed to sneak around at a coronation, assassinate someone, and, possibly destroy a whole lot of sovereign property without causing the biggest intergalactic incident since the Ox-King himself. This was, of course, assuming that this rumor was even true. Sanzo pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to stave off an incipient headache. Nataku? A legendary name, yes, but an old one, from the days of the war. One of the greatest warriors of their side, said to have taken down the Ox-King, but Nataku had then disappeared, been assumed dead. And here Sanzo was, supposed to verify and then kill this legend?

Hakkai's snoring ratcheted up a notch and Sanzo startled. Hmm. Was it possible those two could be of some use in this? They did say they had a contact on the planet: they'd been invited. Maybe he wouldn't maroon them the first opportunity he had.

Sanzo thought it over as he changed into a clean ship's-suit and exited his cabin. But, instead of going to the cockpit, he went further into the ship, following the awareness of…something through his chakra. The Maten wanted his attention.

At the very end of the corridor, there was a new doorway. His chakra throbbed: this was what the Maten wanted him to see. Sanzo opened the hatch and climbed in.

"Lights," he said.

And the lights came on, illuminating a room bare save for one thing: a stasis pod. Sanzo frowned. The ship carried no stasis pods, and besides which, this one looked old.

Sanzo approached the pod. He inspected it from several angles, frowned, and turned the possibilities over in his head.

At last, he was left with only one thought.

It had to be Nataku's. The Merciful Goddess would have told Sanzo if she'd put it on his ship, and it seemed unlikely, given that she had only sent word of Nataku to him now. Sanzo frowned harder. The Maten had led him here.

So. Even the ship believed Nataku was alive.

Sanzo thought, briefly, of Goku, another survivor from that age.

He was careful not to let his thoughts leak through their bond while he verified the pod's ID numbers against the records the Maten carried. It was genuine. Ambivalence overwhelmed Sanzo. He had a ship to run and a renegade to find. He didn't need this mess dumped on him as well, didn't need the conflict that was sure to dog him all the way to the Ox-King Nebula's first coronation in five hundred years.

"Lights off," he said.

The room went dark. Sanzo interfaced briefly, with the Maten's security systems. No one was getting into that room but him. Not even Goku. He ignored the uneasiness in the pit of his stomach this decision caused.

Sanzo closed the hatch firmly behind him when he left.



Gojyo finished dressing before Hakkai even got up. This was the new normal, the after-Hakkai's-world-flamed-out routine they'd developed aboard the Maten. Gojyo woke first, showered first, and dressed first. Then he'd wake Hakkai, if Hakkai hadn't tossed and turned all night like he did all too often, and Hakkai would stumble out of bed, shower, dress, and follow Gojyo's lead to the galley. Then, Gojyo would spend the next hour or so coaxing Hakkai to eat just a little more while Goku hovered annoying, offering to "help" Hakkai with his breakfast and Sanzo scrolled ceaselessly through data pads and glared at anyone who got within three feet of him.

It was almost the opposite of how they'd lived before, when it was just the two of them in the middle of acres of farmland. Hakkai had always been the early riser, the go-getter, and often as not he'd bring Gojyo breakfast in bed once the sun was fully up and streaming warmth through the windows in their bedroom.

And then there was the part where Hakkai used to smile. He didn't any more, not really, not so it reached his eyes. The troubled lines at the corners of his mouth and etched into his forehead never went away.

Gojyo heard Sanzo leave his cabin, and he figured it was safe to get Hakkai up now: one of the worst things was to encounter Sourpuss first thing. Hell, Hakkai and Sanzo could have been twins or something, the way they went around all quiet and pinched. Seeing Sanzo every morning screwed Hakkai up even worse than just living on the ship. Gojyo patted the bulkhead fondly.

Not that it was a bad ship. The Maten was really pretty plush, and he'd never been on a smoother ride. She just kind of…slipped through space, whether it was Sanzo at the helm or, more often, the kid, Goku. Gojyo had had a quick turn in the cockpit, once, and he was surprised at how much pull the Maten had. The ship was like nothing he'd ever seen. How strong did Goku have to be to handle her like he did? Gojyo shook his head. It was something to think about some other time.

He walked the narrow space between Hakkai's and his bunk and shook Hakkai by the shoulder.

"Hey," Gojyo said. "Time to get up."

Hakkai's eyes were closed, but his breathing went from long and regular to short and regular, and Gojyo felt his heart sink as Hakkai lay there, pretending to be asleep. From the looks of it, he was already in a shit mood. He must have been having nightmares or something, though he'd kept it under wraps well enough. Gojyo was used to how Hakkai snored, and that was really all the noise he remembered Hakkai making.

Gojyo bent to tighten the laces on his boots, and his butt gave a distinct twinge. He rubbed at the ache reflexively. Okay. So snoring wasn't the only noise Hakkai had made last night. But it was only the noise he made when he was asleep that counted.

"I'm sorry," said Hakkai.

Gojyo jerked his hand away and tried to act as normally as possible, like Hakkai hadn't done him hard and heavy the night before. His eyes slid over to Hakkai's, which were now cracked open.

"Good morning," said Gojyo. "You didn't hurt me."

Even half asleep, Hakkai was a master of the skeptical look. Gojyo smiled at him and brushed the bangs out of Hakkai's face. Hakkai'd always been a little wild, but ever since they'd boarded the Maten, he had turned a kind of corner. There was a fine edge on that wildness now, and Gojyo could feel him holding back when they were alone. Holding back what, Gojyo didn't know, but Hakkai had never done that before, and it made Gojyo pause. He wasn't going to complain. He was going to be keeping a close eye on things, though, and if it got worse—if Hakkai got worse—he'd think of some way to handle it. He hoped.

"I'm sorry," said Hakkai, again.

He got out of bed, avoiding looking at or touching Gojyo unnecessarily. Hakkai dressed back to him and, while Gojyo appreciated the view, it worried him because it wasn't like him to hide like that.

"Hey, Hakkai," said Gojyo. "Want me to see if the shower's clear?"

Hakkai turned around and smiled. Gojyo could tell it was fake.

"Thank you, Gojyo," he said. "If you would be so kind."

This meant that Gojyo would be leaving Hakkai alone, which in turn meant that Hakkai would brood and possibly refuse to let Gojyo back in. Gojyo kicked himself for volunteering in the first place.

"Honestly, Gojyo," said Hakkai. "I'll be fine."

Gojyo gave him the hairy eyeball. Hakkai hadn't been fine the whole time Gojyo had known him. He was even less fine now.

"I wish we were home," said Hakkai. "No. I wish..."

Gojyo knew what Hakkai wished, and it cut him deep. Because he wished it too. He wished they had a home, period.

Hakkai waved one hand vaguely at the bare-bones bolts and plated metal of the cabin walls, then crossed his arms. Gojyo could almost believe he was comforting himself, except for the way his claws dug into his skin. Shit. Gojyo strode over and eased his arms apart, inspected those claws for blood, then threw his own arms around Hakkai's bony shoulders. Hakkai shivered, and Gojyo held him tight. Hakkai wasn't going to pull back from him, not today. He did it too much lately, and Gojyo wasn't going to let him get away with it.

"There's nothing you could have done," said Gojyo. "I'm not going to let you hurt yourself over it."

He looked into Hakkai's eyes and didn't like what he saw there. How long was it going to take for Hakkai to see Gojyo was right, that everything that had happened wasn't his fault? He'd tell him every hour of every day, if he had to, until Hakkai came round again.

"I could have killed Sanzo," said Hakkai.

His voice was all twisted up, even if he kept smiling that same, placid smile.

"Quit trying to what-if yourself to death," said Gojyo. "I could have activated our shielding before they even landed."

"I suppose it was a miracle we hadn't gotten into trouble before," said Hakkai.

Gojyo could tell Hakkai didn't mean it. He didn't know what to say, though, except that he didn't know what to say, and that wasn't good enough. So he gave Hakkai a squeeze around the middle instead, still afraid Hakkai was going to run away but dumb enough to hope he'd stay.

The comm system crackled to life.

"Hey guys," said Goku's disembodied voice. "You comin' to breakfast or what?"

Hakkai slipped out of Gojyo's arms then, giving him his sad smile.

"We'll be there momentarily," said Hakkai.

"'Kay!" said Goku.

The intercom blipped off, and the two of them were alone again.

"Hakkai," said Gojyo.

He reached out with one hand. Hakkai took it, threaded his fingers through Gojyo's, and then let go.

"We'll talk later," said Hakkai. "I'm going to wash up before we eat."

And Hakkai left before Gojyo could say anything else.

Gojyo sat on his bunk, studying the backs of his hands. There never was a later, not with Hakkai. He'd just smile and fake his way through everything, out-stubborning Gojyo until he finally dropped whatever it was that Hakkai didn't want to talk about. He was infuriating that way.

There had to be something Gojyo could do to reach Hakkai. He just didn't know what. And he was damn sure he was the only one who would do anything. Goku was just a kid, and Sanzo…Gojyo sighed and shook his head. That settled it, then. He'd just have to cook up a good plan to shake Hakkai out of it.

Things would get better. They had to.
=====

So I continue the battle of italics...The only thing that seems to work reliably is (unfortunately) when I actually call up a copy of the story with italics and go line by line and put them in all over again in the posting window. It's tedious. Very, very tedious when I've been littering my stories with italics. -_-

Also, it is difficult to post when you have bandaids and burns and things impeding your ability to type. Preparing for the upcoming holidays is a dangerous business! (If I can avoid mangling myself further, it will be its own Christmas miracle. XD)

~later

Date: 2011-12-15 02:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jessiedark.livejournal.com
keep typing damn the pain!!!!

Date: 2011-12-15 02:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] obsolete-theory.livejournal.com
XD I am now bandaid-free!

Date: 2011-12-15 07:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] purpleicicles.livejournal.com
I usually just put the markup LJ uses in the word document so I don't have to do it later! It's messy, but saves a load of time :)

Date: 2011-12-15 10:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] obsolete-theory.livejournal.com
I tried that, but it totally didn't work for me. *sadface* tbh, that's ususally what I do anyway, so I have no idea why it isn't working.

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