Warnings: Language, violence (mentioned in passing). No real spoilers, though I assume a familiarity with the manga up to Reload 8 or so. Kinda dark... Also there may be a hint of 585, if you tilt your head and squint.
Word count: 984
Notes: For challenge #75, "3/4". Time allowed: 75 mins. Time taken: approximately that, plus some extra for a cursory read-through and edit.
Structured with exceeding looseness around the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, which I don't claim to understand or to have interpreted correctly (warning: fic powered by Wikipedia/Google "research"). Using the Noble Truths as a sort of jumping-off point only. I really hope I don't offend anyone's Buddhist sensibilities with my ignorance...
I didn't really intend each section to be from the same point in time of the manga -- Hakkai is probably pre-Journey (at least pre-Yisou), Gojyo is probably in the aftermath of the fight in Reload 7, Goku is somewhere post-oasis incident. Not really clear from the way it's written, sorry to say, but there you go.
Concrit, as ever, is adored and appreciated. Thanks for reading .... :)
1. Life means suffering.
From the earliest time he can remember it seems to be all that has characterized his experiences. The pain of being abandoned to that orphanage; that sterile place, with its stern nuns and stupid children; the longing for his other half, out there somewhere – the fear that he’ll never find her again, that even if he did she will reject him, or not live up to his expectations… When he does find her, when they are together, even then happiness eludes him. In her arms, he finds moments of such sweetness that it terrifies him. He knows he hasn’t deserved this, he knows that what he’s doing (with his own sister, no less) is wrong, and though he tries to tell himself that it is irrational he knows that it can’t last.
It doesn’t. And then everyone knows suffering.
More painful than the death he had sought, more painful than the punishment he deserved, was stumbling onto someone willing to accept him for the mess he was (and still is). Confined in the form of a hateful youkai, he has been condemned to the ultimate suffering: he has to continue to live, knowing his past and the horror he is capable of committing. His penance is to keep trying, with these blood-soaked hands, to build something worthwhile out of the ragged shards of his past self. To smile and be polite; to pick up empty beer bottles and do laundry; to treasure this second chance, rather than despise it as the cruel torment it is, the hopeless task.
Will he succeed? Will suffering ever cease, for Cho Hakkai?
He’s not terribly optimistic.
2. The cause of suffering is attachment.
Things had usually been pretty shitty for Gojyo (not that he would bitch about it; like whining ever got anyone anywhere), but this is a whole new dimension to “sucks.”
When he’d been on his own, living like a punk moment to moment, scoring whatever cheap pleasures (or enduring the passing pains) his situation could offer, yeah, it had felt empty; yeah, he’d known himself for a piece of shit stuck on the world’s boot, and that hadn’t been what you would call satisfying. Yeah, maybe he’d wished for something that would last, that could maybe fulfill him; you know, something to put his heart into – assuming he could find it, the heart that is; it didn’t get much play back then. (Not that he would EVER have admitted this, under torture even; if Banri heard him talking about having a heart Gojyo would have never gotten the fucking end of it.) Maybe in those days it had seemed like it would be an improvement: something to hold on to, something to make life worthwhile.
Now he’s got it, in the form of a beautiful fucked-up bastard called Hakkai, and a monkey, Goku, who’s kind of like a kid brother except for when he goes all insane-elemental and tries to kill them all; even the prissy goddamn monk gives Gojyo something to hold on to, even if it’s only annoyance or confusion, like trying to put together a puzzle when you don’t know what the picture’s supposed to look like, and the puzzle keeps insulting and/or trying to shoot you. Gojyo has enough now to keep his hands and heart (yeah, he found it) busy for a lifetime or more.
Sometimes it’s nice. Some parts of it are nice. Mostly it’s fucking terrifying.
Like watching Hakkai tremble and collapse. The monkey torn to pieces. The monk, his back turned, running away; or pierced with the scorpion bitch’s poison. Time running out, and only Gojyo there to hold together the pieces and try to rescue everything in his world that means a damn; everything he needs. The constant fear that Goku will go nuts and need to be put down; the constant fear, for the past four years and more, that Hakkai will flake out, or just decide that he’d rather be gone. Abandonment, loss. Never having this fulfillment didn’t – couldn’t have hurt as much as having it, and nearly losing it, again and again and again. No loneliness can match the utter fucking agony of caring about someone.
He shoves Hakkai’s guts back in (lost count now of how many times he’s had to do this); tries to hold the bits of himself together.
Being on his own was never this bad.
3. The cessation of suffering is possible.
Goku doesn’t always remember why it’s important to keep going, to keep fighting, to stand up again, to never give up; he just knows somehow that it is.
He doesn’t always know exactly what he is fighting for, but he will fight until there’s no breath left in his body, until his muscles scream and bones break, because that’s what he has to do.
He knows that things aren’t right, when Sanzo is lost in brooding, when Hakkai smiles too sharp and Gojyo frowns and won’t talk to him; when he hears kids crying, or sees men and women afraid of each other, or finds youkai deranged and beyond reason. He knows there is suffering, and that this isn’t right.
He knows there has to be a way out of this. There has to be a way to make it right.
Goku knows, like bedrock. That’s what he fights for, that’s why he won’t let up, that’s why he won’t be stopped or turned around.
At the end of this journey, there is a way to make things right. Goku knows he has to get there, and find it.
That’s all the reason he needs.
4. The way out of suffering is the Eight-fold Path.
Sanzo knows what the eightfold path is, of course, but he doesn’t think about it much. His feet have only been able to carry him in one direction, all his life.
Still, three out of four ain’t bad.