In which Hakkai takes a comb to Sanzo's pretty hair. Aww.
The Grooming Incident
Hakkai stopped suddenly, sensing something. When he realised the reason for the strange niggling brushes against his ki, he concentrated and released a short, controlled field of killing energy around himself, smiling with grim satisfaction as the life-forces he sensed extinguished. Then he went about hunting down the source of the problem.
Perhaps if it had been anyone else, they would have discovered it earlier. The conditions at the last inn had been positively squalid, but Gojyo, who might have complained, found it rather reminiscent of his days as a bachelor living by himself, and in any case, a quick examination of his bandanna proved he was not the affected party.
Neither was Goku, who yelped in surprise when Hakkai pulled him over and ruffled his hair, but if he thought it an unusual action for Hakkai to take, he was accustomed to such treatment from Gojyo and made no undue fuss that might have warned the others.
It was not surprising that nobody noticed anything amiss for so long, with Sanzo finding it beneath his dignity to complain of personal discomfort.
Sanzo raised his eyebrows and scratched behind his ear when Hakkai called gently to Jeep, and when the little dragon alighted trustingly on his shoulders, grabbed it and carried the protesting creature downstairs to the bathroom. They all stared when a wet and bristling dragon finally flew back in after close to an hour and perched on top of the highest shelf, hissing fiercely when Goku tried to approach it to see what was wrong.
Gojyo peeked warily out of their room to see Hakkai in earnest conference with the kindly middle-aged innkeeper, who made sympathetic and concerned noises, and handed him a bottle of oil and some towels. They all flinched nervously when Hakkai stalked up and closed the door behind him with an air of decided satisfaction. Jeep blew a spark and retreated further into its far corner.
"This won't take long," said Hakkai with bland good cheer, and frowned in concentration as he first patted Gojyo's head, then Goku's. "That's a relief," he said at last, and handed Gojyo Sanzo's card. "Take Goku out for dinner, then you can go to the carnival without us. Please keep an eye on Goku. Jeep, do you want to go with them?"
The insult and trauma of the bath was quickly forgiven as Jeep kyuu-ed in gratitude at the chance to escape from Hakkai and flew hastily to join the others. Hakkai let them out and closed the door again, advancing on Sanzo with cool intent.
Slightly intimidated, because it is a rare fool who knows Hakkai and crosses him nonetheless, Sanzo straightened in his window perch, narrowing his eyes as he rubbed the back of his neck. "Why did you send them all out?"
"I thought you'd want some privacy for this," Hakkai said mildly, handing Sanzo the oil. "Do you need my help? You need to apply it generously."
Sanzo glared from him to the proffered oil in deep suspicion. "What is this for?"
"Your hair," Hakkai said pleasantly. "Wet your hair with hot water - as hot as you can stand, then rub the oil in, cover with a towel and leave it for fifteen or twenty minutes. Then come and sit with me." He smiled and patted a chair invitingly, then began filling a kettle.
Sanzo sniffed at the sharp-smelling oil and scratched his head mutinously. "Why?"
Hakkai's mild expression hardened. "You picked up head lice at the last inn. I want to get rid of them before Goku and Gojyo get infected too. Now go." Wisely, Sanzo obeyed.
Hakkai was humming contentedly to himself when Sanzo returned with his head wrapped in a towel and another towel around his shoulders. He had pulled up his chair to Sanzo's usual seat, as well as a small table with a steaming basin and a comb beside him.
"I did as you asked," grunted Sanzo with ill grace as he parked himself on the chair facing Hakkai. "What now?"
"Here," Hakkai waved him closer and pulled the wet towel off his head. "Get in the sunlight so I can see better."
A dark speck on Hakkai's shoulder caught Sanzo's eye, and he picked it up for a closer look, frowning. It was a dead louse, with a certain fried crispness that was characteristic of the youkais Hakkai killed on a regular basis with his ki blasts. "Why couldn't you just kill them with your ki?"
"I didn't want to take your head off by mistake," said Hakkai pleasantly, carding his fingers carefully through Sanzo's thick hair. He picked up the comb and began teasing out dead lice and nits. Sanzo closed his eyes and allowed the skilful fingers to work their magic on his scalp, soothing the irritated skin with healing energy as they tugged loose the little parasites and untangled his long uncared-for mop.
The process took a rather long time, but Hakkai finally de-loused Sanzo's head to his satisfaction and restored it to the healthy gloss nature had originally intended it to be, accomplishing these all before Gojyo, Goku and Jeep returned from their jaunt. Though they might have been slightly disappointed to have failed to catch the two in a compromising situation, even Gojyo had to admit Sanzo was in a much better temper afterwards, at least until the next headhunter for a modelling agency asked Sanzo to be a shampoo model.