by Princess of Pain
Part I: Circling Overhead
~NOTES: There are going to be some things going on in this fic that are going to make readers go "WTF? Have you lost your marbles?!". All I ask, gentle readers, is that you bear with me. I think I know what I'm doing.~
The sun mercilessly beat down on Gojyo and Goku like the fist of an angry devil. The heat baked up from the desert hardpan, just as harsh. It was like being slapped in two different directions at once: your eyes were either blinded from the light, if you looked up, or cooked to soup from the heat if you looked down. The air they breathed seemed to be alive, stabbing bright knives of fire into their lungs. It made his cigarette taste like he was sucking on a burning wood-chip. It was just as fucking hot as it had been in that forest, three months ago, before Gojyo's life had gotten increasingly complicated.
But that was beside the point. The point was, the nice, normal city they'd been in was far at their backs. Hakkai was gone, and Sanzo was still sitting in their hotel room, pretty and peaceful as a lotus blossoming in a pool of dark water. He probably had the AC cranked up to high, the stupid fucker. At their fronts, the youkai were in droves. They cackled and capered, as they usually did, waving their improvised weapons and shouting their empty threats.
In other words, save for their missing teammates, it was like any other day for Goku and Gojyo. As usual--and the hanyo did not think this without a strong spike of bitterness--the saru would run forward and fight the big turd, and Gojyo would sweep up all the little shits. In fact, they would have begun clearing them out already, except for the group of twenty or so children that the youkai had herded into their midst.
Not a one of them was older than ten. They were all still in their uniforms, crying and clinging desperately to one another, huddling in a tight sphere to avoid their captors.
"Sanzo-ikkou!" the biggest and ugliest of the big uglies declared, pointing a threatening finger at the hanyo and the not-quite-youkai. "Turn over the monk and his Scriptures!"
Gojyo raised his hands in a universal sign of surrender. This was not his bag. He was a smooth-talker, a joker and a smoker, but he was not a negotiator. Compared to the stupid monk, he was a universal diplomat, and he was grateful that Sanzo wasn't there; the fake priest would have thrown around his "I refuse"es and "I decline"s until it turned into a bloodbath. Still, he was out of his league. Goku only knew how to really communicate things with his fist, and Gojyo had no experience talking down a bunch of hostage-taking youkai. No one they'd fought had even taken outside hostages in over a goddamn year.
Hakkai, of course, was the one that should be standing here beside him. He should be there, smiling his plasticine grin, managing to stay pale and cool in the bastard heat, politely and artfully talking them into turning over the children, just long enough for Goku and Gojyo to do their jobs and kick some ass. And when it was over, Hakkai would be there, soothing the frightened children with the ease that only a teacher or a parent could have. Goku would try and fight the poor kids (and break a few arms), Sanzo would grunt at them to quit crying and grow up or die, and kids always made Gojyo feel slightly angry and out of place... Yes. Hakkai belonged.
Gojyo glanced over to where Hakkai should be, and there was nothing but empty space. Of course not. The converted youkai was leaving, after all. He'd probably already left, just slipped on his monocle and his boogie shoes and headed right the fuck out of town. In the opposite direction. Back East, with her.
Before that moment--when his need for his loverfriend, on so many levels, was so potent that it made a hard lump rise up in his throat--he never would have thought that he would be capable of hating Hakkai so brightly, strongly, and sharply as he did now.
"Gojyo?" The monkey. Goku reached up and put a hand on Gojyo's shoulder, which probably felt like hugging onto a mountain.
The hanyo opened his mouth to speak, and realized that he had bitten through his cigarette's filter. The smoldering paper tube lay at his feet. He spat out the rest of it. "It's all right, monkey. Follow my lead."
"If you say so, cockroach," Goku grumbled. Gojyo had to grin.
The redheaded man looked over at the band of youkai, and began to speak.
The day before, things had seemed somewhat brighter for the Sanzo-ikkou.
Jeepu had had no problems traversing the hardpan surrounding this city, so they had gotten into town in plenty of time, before any youkai, sandstorms, or shikigami could interrupt their travels for the day. The fights, in fact, had actually lightened up over the past three months. It was as if whatever capricious soul controlled the Red Prince had seen their plight with Kaiya, and decided that the never-ending wave of attackers could be lightened up for a while. The party sometimes went for as long as a day without hearing the now-familiar battle-cry of "Turn over the sutra!"
Sanzo had even been in a better humor over this time--after all, they were making great time on the road.
Then, the priest had shown up. That weird, fruity Westron, placidly preaching hate and genocide. Not only had Hazel shown up once, but he kept showing up--him and his zombie lunky. A few nights ago, Hakkai had put forth the idea that the priest was deliberately stalking them; Sanzo had turned the color of an old brick, and hissed out all of the reasons why this couldn't be so between his clenched teeth. These reasons mostly consisted of telling Hakkai to shut the fuck up.
Even so, the monk hadn't been in what he'd call a bad mood for most of that day. Sure, the saru was being the saru (loud and annoying), and the kappa was the kappa (perverted and annoying), and Hakkai was Hakkai (subtle and annoying). But these were all pests which Sanzo had come to accept as a scourge visited upon him by that weird he-bitch of the skies. It made their stupidity easier to handle, knowing that his own superior intelligence had doomed him to be cursed by a jealous deity. Supremacy was his bread and butter.
Then, as they'd pulled up to the only hotel in the entire city--as the signs outside proudly declared--Hazel had walked directly past them, grinning and waving one gloved, delicate hand as he and the lunky walked in ahead of them. This was something that really baked Sanzo's brains: they'd left him behind days ago! How did they get there first, for fuck's sake?!
And that, of course, was what made things even more complicated, because Hazel and Gato took one of the remaining four rooms in the hotel. Meaning, that there were only three beds to sleep on in the entire city.
Sanzo, Goku, Gojyo, and Hakkai all stood in a line. Sanzo and Gojyo both ignored the "No Smoking, Please" signs on the walls. Hakuryu, perhaps sensing the tension building up between the four men, uttered a soft "kyu" from his perch on Hakkai's shoulder, then hid his head under his wings. The hanyo and the two strange youkai were both staring at doors 5, 6, and 7--the only unoccupied rooms. Sanzo was not looking at the doors; he was looking at the three keys he held in his hand.
"I'm not staying with any of you bastards," he said, his words as blunt and final as a volley of bullets.
"Fuck off and die," Gojyo snapped.
Sanzo felt a tic develop beneath his eye. He'd liked Gojyo more when he'd had a good reason to gag the fucking kappa. "You can decide who's stuck with who," he said, his voice sounding like it came from an ice sculpture. "I don't give a tin shit what you jokers get up to, as long as I don't have to look at your mugs anymore."
Gojyo snorted, an ugly, scornful noise that Sanzo had come to hate over the time that the redhead had blighted his life. His hand moving faster than the monk would normally give him credit for, Gojyo snatched one of the room-keys out of his hand, and wandered over to the door with the faded blue number 7 painted under its Judas-hole. "You-all figure it out. I want a shower."
"That's 'cause the roach keeps crawling around in the garbage!" Goku said, smirking. "Makes him smell."
"Says Son Goku, the Monkey King of Body Odor," the kappa fired over his shoulder, but he was shutting the door behind him, and not pummeling the monkey with flying fists and stupid insults. That was... weird.
Before Sanzo could consider that any further, Hakkai walked over to room 7. "I think that Goku would like a little space for himself, for once," he said, his voice ringing with its usual cheerful politeness. And the door clicked shut behind him.
The saru snatched up the key to room 6. He burst into his new room, cackling and crowing that he fully intended to eat everything in the hotel's kitchen, once he finished rolling all over his--HIS--bed. The stupid primate had only kept a room to himself on occasion over the course of their journey, and he was happy as all hell not to have to room with Gojyo.
Sanzo barely heard this joy, though. He didn't move towards his own room. He simply stood, staring at the faded door to room 7. The tic under his eye pulsed and twitched like a living thing. A grating, screeching noise filled his skull as he ground his teeth. If someone had tapped him on the shoulder, the stony quality of his tensed muscles might have fooled them into believing he had turned into a statue.
The monk was paralyzed, not with fury, but with a thousand small observations he hadn't realized he'd made, all weaving together into a disturbing tapestry in his mind. Hakkai, almost sounding ashamed, saying that he convinced Gojyo to let him continue living in the hanyo's home. Standing together in the background; fighting together in the fore. Hakkai actually ripping him a new asshole when Gojyo left to hunt Kami-sama, after he'd only been telling the truth about the stupid kappa. Hakkai, standing in the doorway of the tent, saying nothing, then stepping out into the night--and the two of them in the morning, laughing and mellow and too tired to have slept long, if they slept at all (he shuddered). Hakkai staring out the window after Gojyo leaving with that other hanyo, the fake smile on his face. The youkai tormenting them because the idiot fucking kappa was too goddamn proud to apologize; Gojyo doing that stupid flirty hair-flip when he did say he was sorry. And had either of them actually been talking about Gojyo's failure to clean the hotel room when Hakkai was ill? Sanzo was no longer sure.
God... fucking... damn it.
The monk considered himself a simple man, who currently only wanted one thing out of the whole of reality: that some loving being would cut the images rising up in his head out of his living brain. And knowing hir, se was probably enjoying the holy hell out of this.
Sanzo marked over to the door, his movements a jerky parody of his normally strong and fluid steps, and slammed his fist like a battering-ram against it.
A shifting noise of cloth came from inside. A few murmured voices. Footsteps, then the door creaked open. Hakkai was there, looking at him rather quizzically. The only difference between the Hakkai that had stepped into this room and this one was the sudden lack of a headband (and Sanzo got a strong, unbidden image of Gojyo pulling it off the youkai with his teeth, something that made him want to projectile vomit). "San--"
His voice was imbued with the righteous anger of Moses on the mountaintop. "I don't want to hear anything."
Emerald-green eyes widened, ever so slowly. "Hear... anything?"
"No. Stop talking." Sanzo's fingers itched for his pistol, but damn it, he needed Hakkai to drive Jeepu and sort out the trash. "This is not a conversation we are having. This is me, talking to you, and you listening. And when I am done talking, you will nod and say 'Yes, Sanzo', and this will never have happened."
The converted youkai appeared to be puzzling all of this out. His head lowered slightly. His monocle and youryoku limiters somehow summoned enough light to reflect and glitter, obscuring one eye and downplaying the other. He said nothing.
"I don't want to hear anything." His voice took on the exasperated tones of a teenager who has finally Had It with his parents, something that annoyed him even more about this whole situation. "I don't know what you two plan on doing in there, and I don't want to know what you plan on doing. I don't want to hear it, I don't want to see it, I don't want to smell it. Nothing. Not a word will pass through these walls--and neither will anything else," he added, a bit too quickly. "What I want to hear is beautiful, blissful silence. And so help me, if I hear anything but the sound of nothing fucking happening, I will come back here, but I will not knock and I will not talk. I will kick in the door, and I will shoot you both. Many times. And leave you to rot."
Over the course of this lecture, Hakkai actually turned a little pink.
"Now is the part where you say 'Yes, Sanzo'," he snapped. He felt almost ("almost" being the key word) like blushing himself, but he only pinked when he was drunk, and sake-roses were hardly something that could be helped.
His voice lilting the words into a question, Hakkai obediently said, "Yes, Sanzo... ?"
"Excellent. I never saw you here."
He stamped back to his room, his wooden sandals making a noise that sounded like a series of bowling balls being dropped on the hardwood floor. He could feel Hakkai staring after him, and ignored it. That was no longer his concern. What was his concern was taking off the sutra, hiding it under the floorboards, stripping off his robes, and blending into the crowds of the city as a wonderfully anonymous and unknown person. Without having to worry about being recognized as a Sanzo, he would be free to walk into the nearest bar. And fucking drink it.
"What in hell was he going on about?"
Hakkai shut the door, a blush still coloring his pale cheeks. He looked vaguely stoned. "I... I'm really not sure. I think that was Sanzo's way of saying that he doesn't want to hear us having sex."
The hanyo snorted. That was a regular laff riot. Gojyo and sex had not been very well acquainted since this journey had begun--any sex that involved a partner other than his hand, and even that was scarce, with how often he had to sleep in a room with either all of them or with Goku. He was never quite desperate enough to risk a) Sanzo hearing and shooting him, b) Goku hearing and wanting to know what he was doing, or c) Hakkai hearing at all.
What was worse, as far as the hanyo was concerned, was the rather complicated situation beginning to build up between himself and Hakkai. Gojyo was an imaginative boy, and he only had to close his eyes in order to properly summon up exactly how soft the youkai's lips could be, or how damned good he was at using them. Any spare moment over the past month had been spent (very well-spent, in his opinion) on getting Hakkai alone and attempting to suck all of the air out of his body. What was happening between them was not precisely discussed, not the way they'd laid themselves bare four weeks ago, but both of them quietly and actively worked towards stealing those scant seconds with each other.
Which wasn't a bad thing, unless one knew Sha Gojyo at all. It might then occur to one that the redhead's balls were shifting through the spectrum, from a bright blue to solid fucking black.
Solid lack-of-fucking black. Oh, he didn't want to prove every thing about his libido that Goku and Sanzo had ever said correct, but did he ever need to get laid.
"I think Sanzo's a little too focused on everyone else's business," he grumbled, which was all he was willing to give away of his mental monologue. "Somebody needs to bake him a nice Mind Your Own Business Cake. Top it with some delicious Shut The Fuck Up Frosting and everything."
Hakkai laughed, in that irritating way that said, "I'm not really listening to you at all." Or was he just a little too on edge? It was getting hard to tell.
Gojyo kicked back a bit more firmly onto the bed--the only bed in the room, of course, just big enough for two to cram in side-by-side. Given that this was the town's only hotel, they could afford to skinflint, and did they ever--in his brief look-over of the room, he'd noted only the barest essentials. Bed, night-stand, lamp, crappy ink-painting on the wall. The commode didn't have a ring on it, half the floorboards squeaked, and the fan on the ceiling only had two blades that swung drunkenly through the air. Lovely. The smoke from his cigarette billowed up thickly and stuck around the ceiling in a haze--no window to let it out. Even though he'd tossed his jacket aside, he was still sweating in his A-shirt and jeans.
"Take off your shoes if you're going to put your feet on the bed, please," Hakkai said, in that tone of command he got whenever anything not suiting his cleanly sensibilities came up.
Gojyo looked down at his mud-and-sand-caked boots, shrugged, and kicked them off onto the ground. One glare from Hakkai, and he sat up to arrange them neatly side-by-side. Christ, but Hakkai could make the neatest of men feel like a domestic terrorist, and Gojyo was far from neat--
"Could I get you to put out that cigarette?"
The hanyo could feel his thin patience beginning to chomp at the bit. Nobody but nobody told him to put out his smokes. "What did you just say?"
"I asked you," he said, "if you could put out your cigarette." He moved across the hotel room as smoothly as a dream, kicking off his own shoes as he went. His long, refined fingers worked on the clasps of his leaf-green overshirt, pulling them open one by one. There was a smile on his face that Gojyo had only gotten to know over the last month or so--a playful, subtle smile with a sharp and raptorial edge to it. It was, he'd learned, Hakkai's version of what the girls called a come-hither stare.
The redhead stubbed out his coffin-nail in the room's cracked plastic ashtray, even though his cigarette was more than half intact. He could buy more cigarettes; time alone with the man he had begun to mentally refer to as his loverfriend (a girly sentiment if there ever was one, and not one he could really help) was a rare bird indeed.
The lamp clicked off.
"I'm looking for this man. Have you seen him?"
The bartender looked over the filmy photo that the woman held out to him. The picture looked like it had been thumbed, folded, pocketed, carried, creased, and handled into oblivion. It made the guy in the picture look almost like he had jaundice. No one he'd ever seen. "Sorry, babe."
He went back to polishing the light oak of the bar, until he noticed as she walked out that her fine shoulders were shaking, her head hanging down. Poor girl was crying. Maybe the guy in the photo was a boyfriend of hers, or something. Although he couldn't imagine a man who would run out on such a pretty lady.
"Miss? Is he a traveler?"
She turned--sure enough, those big eyes were frosted with tears. "Y-yes..." She sounded unsure herself.
"Might wanna try the inn. We only got the one, it's three blocks down and two over. If he's here, he's there."
He'd give a lot to keep her here and make her smile like that on a normal basis. She bowed, thanked him, bounced out of his life. He grumbled to himself as he went on polishing. Gads, nice girls like that were always getting sucked in with deadbeat jerks. He probably had run out on her.
Careful, exploratory kisses--growing bolder in the pitch blackness that acted as a shield. Hakkai curled up on the bed beside him, one of those deadly hands of his pressed back on the hanyo's chest, pinning him down like a target. It went unsaid that Hakkai, though willing, was still somewhat afraid, and kept everything firmly under his control as a result. Fine with Gojyo; he'd been dying to kiss him for the past four days, and if it meant being thrown back onto the bed, so much for the better.
So he kept his arms looped loosely around Hakkai's shapely hips, and he kept his attention on the youkai's equally-shapely lips. This was not hard. Hakkai tasted cold and sweet, like an oasis, and he had this maddening habit of somehow making each kiss that much more involving and sensual. The more Hakkai kissed him, the more the youkai feathered the tip of his tongue over his lips, the farther Gojyo slipped into the convoluted tangle of emotional and sexual yen that had been threatening to drown him for years. Not the sea of blood--it was more like a sea of, what was that word he'd heard Sanzo use once, sarx, something like that...
And Hakkai was getting up and turning back on the light, and no, it did NOT look like Gojyo was going to get laid that day, or ever again, hallelujah, amen.
"Where are you going?" he said, no longer able to hide the irritation from his voice. He fumbled for his lighter and his stubbed-out cigarette, which he replaced between his lips and re-lit. He'd heard that cancer-sticks cause impotence, and only wished that they worked more quickly. Once, a girlfriend had hissed at him that all men were dogs, and he guessed that was true enough; he only needed to be petted every now and again to be kept under the porch indefinitely, but this was just sad.
"I need to pick some things up before we can comfortably settle down for the night," Hakkai said, the glass quality of his voice at odds with his kiss-colored lips. He picked up his monocle and adjusted it on his nose. "Including some things we'll need."
"Need, for what?" Gojyo said, still grumbling.
"I think you know," the youkai said as he stepped out of the hotel room, casting a rather wicked smile over his shoulder as he shut the door.
Oh. Oh. That was... oh. Holy hell. He had to shower. And brush his teeth. And drink a bottle of Listerine. And shave. And--
He could barely stumble to the bathroom fast enough.
He took forever and a day in the shower, as per usual, using up all the hot water in the entire building, singing in his soft, off-key fashion as he soaped and scrubbed. When he opened the bathroom door, he could swear that it had warped slightly from the steam, which drifted forth from the bathroom in a solid brick-shape into the rest of the hotel room. He was dressed in his jeans and nothing else, a towel turbaned around his blood-red hair, which was rather kinky and needed to be--
There was a knock at the door.
Gojyo blinked, his telltale eyes examining the doorframe. Sanzo didn't knock so softly and unassumingly (Womanish, he thought). Hakkai wouldn't knock at all. Who...
He stepped over, and opened the door. It was a woman--voluptuous hips, large in the breasts, nice waist. Her eyes were crystalline with tears. He was at once positive that he had never seen her before, and struck by a weird sense of deja vu.
"You're Sha Gojyo," she said, her voice filled with wonder.
"Uh... guilty," he grunted, trying to figure out how in hell she knew his name.
"I'm looking for Cho Gonou."
Gojyo's heart fell loose of its moorings.
Next section: "Fairy Tales Lie". In which Gojyo and this woman reach something approaching an understanding.