A/N: This is it finally! The last chapter!

I know this was a long time in coming out, I've rewritten this several times trying to end this and it took me a while to find an ending I liked. I ended up having to ditch Goku's bit entirely because the idiot monkey just would not work with me! Some of what I tried putting here ended up in Elemental Natures, so think of that series of ficlets as fitting in along with this chapter as to what happened next.

To Mo-Mo-kun and Wind Wanderer who wondered about Gonou's final line in Chapter 9: A bastard is literally someone who's parents are unmarried at the time of their birth, and Gonou wanted that "assumption" corrected (in his own slightly snarky... idiom.)

BranBlack, Hakkai-san and badgerwolf - my computer problems are solved... it was the plot that was killing me for this chapter!

Mia - Here's more!

Amy01 - Well, as far as I know, nothing offical has been written about how Gojyo survived after Jien killed Mom, the stuff about him being sold to the Triads I made up. The home abuse did happen to him though.

lizalou42 - Yeah, those two are rarely in accord, I dropped a little more on that here in this chapter. They understand each other, but how they deal with their pain couldn't be more different.

M-chan - Gonou/Hakkai gets to keep his vision, and Gojyo mentions here what happened with his eye.

Blades of Ice - Thanks so much for your patience (thanks everyone for their patience!), I finally decided to stop beating my head over something that wasn't happening, edited the chapter up and said, that's it! You're getting posted!

Chiefraz - I totally understand the Gojyo jones, he's my unabashed favorite.

UltraM2000 - Yep, Gonou isn't a very "nice" man, and fiercly protective of what he considers "his". He's polite, civilized, and educated... but he's not nice. (Tenpou could get pretty ugly as well, so it's a natural state for him!)

Metajoker - Well, I did write for my high school magazine, but that was 16 years ago...

Kath - Well... I'm kind of a coward when it comes to death fics, especially if it's non-canon. I could kill Kanan, she's supposed to die, but I probably won't ever kill the main four. Hurt, maim, twist their little minds, yes. Kill... hey three of 'em already died once!

krimson - The bit with Sanzo and Gojyo was orignally supposed to have Konzen and Kenren connecting as well, but I just couldn't make it flow right, it worked better without them.

Disclaimer: I attempted to claim ownership of the Saiyuki boys, but Goku ate all my food, Sanzo smoked out my house, Gojyo drank all my booze, Hakkai won all my money, and my cats are scared of Hakuryuu. So I had to let them go, but the footage from the video camera I hid in Gojyo and Hakkai's room ought to retail nicely.

Epilogue

A lone figure trudged through the snow, away from the lights and festivities. He passed through a gate leading into the currently empty temple; the monks were out celebrating with the rest of the city. Making his way through the blanketed gardens, he finally stopped on a small decorative bridge that arced over the ice coated stream. He settled against the rails, dropped a sake flask next to him, and looked westward. "Well Jien, it's another year gone by. Got a little more to tell you about this year, so hope you've got a nice bottle like me." A brilliant green firework exploded overhead, illuminating the long red hair brushing against the heavy coat. Absently pushing the frames of his glasses closer to his face, Gojyo sighed.

"Don't really need to tell you much about my spring; you know I tend to spend that time on the move from wherever I holed up during the winter. Started wandering further south than I normally did, was tired of the cold. Spent a nice month with a young widow, she needed a hand with things a woman needs a man around the house for..." Gojyo let out a small laugh at an imagined sly comment, and took a swig on his flask. "Not just that! Sheesh, mind always in the gutter Jien. I can wield a hammer and thatch a roof too ya know. She was a real sweet lady though, probably got herself a new husband by now.

"Summer though, that's when just about everything changed for me bro." Another tug on the sake flask, and he cupped it between his hands, staring away west. "Had a real bad run in with a group that took exception to me breathing. Pretty much lost everything but what I had on my back, damn near lost my life. Ended up in the Centipede Clan's territory ...yes Jien, I know what happened there, hell I even know who did it, now just shut up and pay attention. Was pretty badly messed up for a while, but I had some help. Fell in with a weird group of guys, in fact I'm still with 'em, so lemme tell ya about them. First off, there's this tall, dysfunctional blonde..."

Three weeks he had been stuck now in this backwater town, thanks to a cowardly barge captain who had fled the area rather than wait for Gonou to stabilize. Three weeks of trying not to kill Sha Gojyo. It wasn't that Gojyo didn't understand personal boundaries, he did, but the fact that Gojyo didn't care that he was intruding in Sanzo's space was what drove the priest insane. He leaned, he touched, he stole cigarettes right from Sanzo's lips. Gojyo had no reverence, or for that matter fear, of Sanzo's position. While Sanzo despised bootlickers, he did rely on the automatic subservience a Sanzo normally received from others to keep people at bay.

Worst of all, Gojyo knew. Thanks to the actions of the out-of-control Scripture, Gojyo knew. Abandoned river trash didn't rank very far above bastards after all. Especially when said bastard at least knew who his father was, and carried his name. There was a twisted irony that in this little group of revered high priest, paroled heretic, half-bred abomination and cursed murderer, that the only one who didn't know who he truly was... was him. Even Goku knew his own name. Sanzo wasn't very fond of irony.

But there was not getting rid of Gojyo, not when there was an almost tangible thread tying his and Gonou's lives together. It wasn't very hard to recognize, after all, he saw the same sort of thread every day, running from Goku to himself.

"Sanzo! Hey Sanzo, there's a barge on the river!" Goku came crashing in on his brooding, but for once, the disruption was welcome. The sooner he brought Gonou before the Sanbutsushin, the sooner he'd be rid of both men. Rid of them before the threads that reached from them succeeded in linking up to him and bound them together... again? Yes, somehow he had known them before, and knowing them had led to his death.

"It's about damned time." One more week of travel and he could put this behind him, and get back to his search for the Seiten Scripture.

Somewhere else, a goddess laughed.

"Sanzo hates everyone, and would probably end up never leaving his little cloistered world if he wasn't looking for something. That and the little airhead... heh... don't tell anyone, not even Blondie, but that monk would probably kick down the doors of Heaven for the kid." Gojyo shivered for a moment, a hazy vision skittering across the surface of his mind before vanishing again. A smaller Goku, a library, nothing he could grasp. It was like a forgotten memory...

"The kid... man that monkey has me confused. Sanzo says he's over 500 years old, but I'd swear he's not much more than 15. I've never seen a demon like Goku before, and he's got gold eyes... yeah Jien, gold. He's devoted to that crabby monk, gets upset if he doesn't know where Blondie is. Apparently the monk sprung him from some prison, but no one knows why the kid was even in there, not even Goku. Good guy to have at your back in a fight though, been through a couple of scrapes with him and he's damned good. Just try not to get between him and his food."

Gojyo tipped the last of the sake down, and let the flask slip to the wooden planks. The fireworks erupted into a furious finale marking the moment of midnight, and Gojyo watched them silently. When the last sparkle vanished, he dropped his head down, chin resting against the fur lining his collar.

"Which brings me to an unstable head case with a pretty face. How do you describe someone who saved your life? Who knows my secrets? Someone who... who didn't leave me, and did at the same time?"

Cho Hakkai was content to simply sit and watch the streams of revelers pass by the small tavern where he and Dr. Yang had taken refuge. The energy flowing outside was threatening to overwhelm his senses, it was better to remove himself from it and fortify his still uncertain shielding. Perhaps he should have stayed home, despite Gojyo's argument that this was the first year of the rest of his life... and the last year of his old life.

"Feeling better now, Hakkai?" Yang asked as he sipped from his tea. "You aren't so pale anymore."

"I... I just wasn't prepared for how noisy it gets in the city. I guess I just lost my concentration there for a moment." He idly turned his own tea cup under his fingers, blushing faintly at his lapse. His ability to sense chi energy had been steadily growing over the past few months and his control was still shaky. Yang did the best he could with teaching the young demon mental techniques, but it was much like a housecat trying to instruct a tiger to hunt. He could pass theory to Hakkai, and with Sanzo's aid, they had managed to construct some rudimentary shields, but the rest was up to Hakkai.

He had started sitting in on Yang's chi-healing classes. It was awkward, Hakkai was essentially working backwards. Yang's other students were already healers; they were there to learn how to harness chi. Hakkai had more power than any of them could ever dream of possessing, but he had no knowledge on how to apply it.

As the fireworks exploded, heralding the turning of the year, Hakkai signaled the waitress to bring him a flask of sake and two cups. He carefully poured out a measure for Yang and then for himself. Slowly he raised the cup, "Farewell, Cho Gonou and Kanan. May you rest in peace."

Yang met the toast and answered it, "Welcome, Cho Hakkai may your life be long and full of joy."

Gojyo exhaled heavily. "Hakkai never really said what happened to him when they took his old name. This old doctor that lives at Sanzo's temple took the both of us in. He was shocked that I never had any real education 'cept for the little bit of reading you taught me, and he's been teaching the both of us along with Goku. He looked at my eye, but he said that it'd been too long since the damage was done, and he couldn't reverse the effects. So I hafta wear glasses... oh stop fuckin' laughing Jien, it's actually not sucha a bad thing. The pair I wear has a tint that hides my eye color. Makes 'em look brown, and hey, presto, I'm just another guy.

"So I don't hafta keep running anymore. Been here five months, new record for me. Thought you'd like knowing that. Of course, I don't even know if you care, Jien. It's been ten years now, do you even think of me? I pretend you do, pretend sometimes it was just an accident that you left me behind, that you're still looking for me." Gojyo stared into the night, absently wiping away the moisture on his face. "I hate you sometimes, Jien, but for tonight, I just wanted to let you know. I'm doing OK. Happy New Year."

He scooped up the fallen flask and began walking back towards the lights, and home.