Hakkai was humming as he puttered about straightening up their rooms and pulling together a breakfast of muffins and fruit and cheese. He wished the room had a stove so he could make eggs and rice. He was in the mood for a large breakfast today, and he knew Gojyo would enjoy that too.
Sanzo pulled the blanket over his head and scowled. Hakkai's pleasant mood amplified his own bad temper inversely.
"How are you feeling this morning, Goku?" the healer asked the youth as he handed him a glass of juice and two more pain pills.
"I'm okay. I don't need those this morning," he said, refusing the pills.
"You're awfully quiet. Anything on your mind?"
Goku paused before responding, "Not really… I'm getting bored, I guess." But Hakkai didn't miss his eyes darting first to Sanzo, then back to his lap.
"Well it's a beautiful day," Hakkai told him. "And there's a lovely garden surrounding this inn. Gojyo and I plan to go out after breakfast. If you're not dizzy and you're feeling up to it, you should join us. The fresh air will do you good. You too, Sanzo. I think we've all been cooped up in here long enough."
"Breakfast is on the table. Are you up to joining us, Goku?"
The younger man tried his feet, and found that he was stable today, only a hint of dizziness if he moved too fast. He smiled at Hakkai. "Yeah, I seem to be okay. And I'm starving."
Gojyo came in from the other room at that point. "Shit, the monkey's back in business. Guess I better get in here and get my share before it disappears." He winked at Goku as he slid into his chair, and deliberately made a grab for the muffin for which the youth was reaching.
Goku slapped his hand away. "It's mine, stupid kappa, and you know it." He grinned back at Gojyo, and the redhead let him have his way.
"Glad to see you're feeling better," he told him.
"So what's on the agenda for today, Hakkai?" asked Gojyo
Sanzo joined them, dropping moodily into the fourth chair and pouring himself a cup of coffee. "If you're all so cheerful and ready for action, then it's about time we move on."
Hakkai's stare back at him was challenging. "No, it's not. Goku is not well yet. And you look like you're ready to collapse. We're not going anywhere until you get some decent sleep… And eat something today." The healer put a helping of everything on the table on a plate and put it in front of Sanzo.
The monk glared at him and growled, taking a sip of his coffee.
* * *
Hakkai had to argue with Sanzo to get him out of their rooms, and in the end Sanzo only gave into him because the healer had threatened to stay inside and badger him into talking about what was so occupying his mind that he hadn't slept for nearly a week. Above all, Sanzo did not want to discuss that.
Once in the gardens, Sanzo took a seat on a carved stone bench away from the others, beside a stream that flowed through the terraced gardens, dropping from one level to the next in small burbling waterfalls. He stretched his legs, leaned against the back of the warm stone seat, and closed his eyes, soaking in the sunshine and light fall breeze, and allowing his mind to go blank. He wouldn't have admitted it to Hakkai, but he felt more relaxed than he had in weeks, and he was grateful that the healer had forced him to come out.
It wasn't long before his peace was shattered by the irritating squabble between his other two companions. "Go away and get your own, cockroach. Hakkai got these for me. You've got your stupid cigarettes!" Goku pulled a small box of pocky out of the redhead's reach and stashed it behind his back.
Gojyo responded by splashing a handful of water from the stream into the younger man's face. "Greedy monkey!"
Goku slipped, falling onto his butt. "No fair! You're taking advantage of the fact that I still can't run without getting dizzy!" He scrambled backwards, toward Sanzo, as Gojyo dipped both hands into the water, scooping up as large a handful as he could.
Goku ducked aside, and the water spattered Sanzo.
Before the youth was halfway to his feet, Sanzo was swatting him with his harisen. "Enough! Can I never have a moment of uninterrupted peace? Will the two of you never grow up?!"
Goku threw his arms over his head for protection as the fan came down on him a second time. He was torn between feelings of relief that Sanzo was, at last, behaving normally toward him, and indignation that he was getting hit by the man yet again. A third strike with the fan pushed him past the divided feelings. As the fan made contact with his head, he yanked it out of Sanzo's hand, simultaneously surging to his feet.
"Why are you hitting me? He's the one being a jerk! And he's the one who splashed you!" Before he could stop himself, Goku cracked the fan over Sanzo's head and shoulder. "I told you to stop hitting me with this stupid thing!"
All the stress of the last few days and all his pent up feelings poured into Goku's temper now, and he swatted the monk a second time. "That's for being so stupid!" And a third time. "And that's for all the times you've hit me!"
Sanzo was so stunned when Goku first hit him that he stood still for the second smack, dumbfounded. By the third swipe, his own temper returned. Goku never got a chance to strike a fourth time. Sanzo's fingers were digging into the youth's wrist as he held him off, their arms locked a little above their heads, the fan poised between them. Their eyes locked together, Sanzo glaring at the range of emotions passing rapidly over Goku's face.
Goku flushed, knowing he had gone too far and fearing Sanzo's reaction, but so frustrated that he was unable to back down, certain that he had lost Sanzo now, one way or the other. I don't want it to be this way between us, his soul cried out. And every nerve in his body quivered with everything he did want their relationship to be. The same wave of hot desire that had overtaken him the other night flooded over him now, and his body was rigid with the same charged tension.
Sanzo read every emotion Goku felt in his wide eyes, and Goku's unspoken words last night echoed in his mind. Goku's rising heat burned into him just as it had three nights before. But this time he couldn't maintain his anger; he couldn't subdue the sense of defeat that he had successfully fought back the other night. He was the first to avert his eyes today. He released Goku's arm and dropped backward a step, glad for the support of the stone table behind him. He sagged onto the edge of the table.
Fighting both his exhaustion and the emotional overload, Sanzo drew his cigarette pack and lighter from his pocket, and fumbled to light a cigarette, his hands shaking.
Goku had dropped his arm and allowed the harisen to fall to the ground, but he had not taken his eyes off Sanzo's face. The moment he caught the flicker of the lighter flame in the corner of his eye, and the brief flash of the cigarette tip igniting, he lashed out, striking the cigarette from Sanzo's hand. "I don't care how much madder you get at me. I won't let you smoke those damn things while your lung is still hurt!"
Sanzo closed his eyes and clenched his teeth, beyond reacting except to hang onto the last shreds of his composure.
Gojyo, who had watched the exchange, fascinated, from his vantage point by the nearby stream, sensed the monk's surrender. He quietly goaded Goku. "Goddamn, monkey boy, haven't you figured out yet some alternative to those stinking cigarettes to keep his hands and mouth busy?"
Goku, confused, risked a glance in Gojyo's direction. Gojyo briefly kissed his own fingertips, then waved his hand toward Sanzo. Goku hesitated, but he had trusted Gojyo before, and a smile and a brief nod from the older man were all he needed to act on the cravings that had besieged him for the last two weeks. A single step brought him in reach of Sanzo, and he leaned over him, planting his lips on the blond's, surprising him with a warm, wet kiss.
Sanzo was, at first, so shocked that he froze for a moment. Then he tried to pull away, simultaneously raising a hand to Goku's shoulder as though to push him back.
Without thought, Goku stepped closer and leaned in to follow Sanzo's backward motion. He instinctively put one hand on Sanzo's shoulder and the other on the back of his head, winding his fingers into Sanzo's hair and pulling him into the kiss. When he registered the weight of Sanzo's hand on his own shoulder, and realized that it was no longer pushing him off, his breath quickened. He pressed his mouth tighter to Sanzo's and traced the man's lips with his tongue.
Sanzo at first tensed with the same kind of confusion Goku had experienced when Yanane had kissed him; but the insistent heat radiating from the youth overcame him, and he settled onto the table's edge. His own breath quickened to match Goku's, and he felt his pulse increase and his heart beat harder. His arm slipped further around Goku's shoulder, pulling him closer, and his other hand—of its own free will, it seemed— snaked around Goku's waist. His lips parted slightly at the touch of Goku's tongue. When Goku reacted by nibbling his lip and thrusting his tongue deeper, he ventured to taste Goku in return, and he shivered in spite of the fire coursing through him.
Any semblance of anger that Sanzo still felt melted out of him along with any further resistance. With his mind no longer analyzing, and his conscious thought suspended, his heart and body took over, and he yielded to the feelings he had been suppressing. A fleeting memory of himself and his former master observing the birds drifted through his mind, and he heard Koumyou whispering in his thoughts: Even though they can fly as they desire, if there isn't a place to land or a branch where they can rest their wings, they may even regret having wings to fly. The true freedom may mean having a place to return. He at last knew that his true place was where his heart had come to rest, with this thoroughly perverse monkey boy. And he tightened his arms around him.
They were both so breathless when Goku finally released Sanzo from their kiss that neither could speak. Goku beamed at the man he loved, trailing his fingers through his hair, and Sanzo gave him one more brief squeeze before letting him go.
"So I guess you've solved your differences," Gojyo observed wryly, echoing Sanzo's casual remark when he had walked in on the half-youkai and Hakkai after their first night together.
Sanzo looked up to see him grinning at them, but before Gojyo said even one more word, he found himself staring into the barrel of Sanzo's pistol. "Another word about this, kappa, and I'll fire." The monk's voice was deadly serious. He glanced to Hakkai, who was hovering just out of sight. "If you value his life, Hakkai, remove him."
Hakkai wiped his own grin off his face, but couldn't suppress a chuckle as he beckoned to his partner. As they walked up the path toward the inn, they paused to exchange a brief kiss themselves, then each wrapped an arm around the other's waist as they continued to the far side of the garden.
Sometime later Goku and Sanzo joined their companions for lunch. Afterwards Hakkai insisted that they both get some rest if Sanzo wanted to get back on the road within the next few days. They started off napping in their own beds, and Sanzo, at last, fell into a deep and restful sleep. But when Hakkai looked in on them later that afternoon, Goku lay curled against Sanzo, spoon-fashion, in the older man's bed, with Sanzo's arm thrown over him, holding him close. Sanzo's head rested on Goku's shoulder, and their tousled hair fell over each of their peaceful faces.
Hakkai smiled contentedly and rejoined Gojyo.
* * *
They continued on their journey three days later, rested and relaxed, anticipating the next stage of their battle to save Tougenkyou. Outwardly things weren't all that different. Hakkai still drove Jeep most of the time and smiled enigmatically. Goku and Gojyo still found plenty to bicker about and still fought over meat buns and noodles at the dinner table. Sanzo still got crabby, smoked too much, and pulled his gun on them when he wanted peace and quiet.
But Hakkai's smiles almost always reached his eyes and were warm and frequent in Gojyo's presence. Gojyo road shotgun a lot more often without complaint from Sanzo. Sanzo's fan was rarely seen flying at Goku, and when he dozed off in Jeep, it was, more often than not, on Goku's shoulder. Goku was taller, helped Hakkai with some of the healing and cooking, and was, perhaps, a little bit quieter.
They all still traveled West.
*** Owari ***
Thank you to everyone who has reviewed this story at any stage, sung its praises, and otherwise shared your thoughts on it with me, especially a handful of you who have been with it from the start (or nearly so) and have taken time to comment repeatedly: Mabaroshi, Bakasaru Boi, Crimson, Gallatica, Fogwolf, Blades of Ice, K.Firefly, Maaya, Lacewing, Ethereal t, Kitiara, and Keistje; to Me-Nuriko for glowing praise and enthusiastic response to every single chapter; to Naye for the lengthiest remarks and most consistent praise I've ever seen on multi-chapter stories, as well as for much satisfying squeeing. To Koori No Kokoro, R.A.Ducko, and Yuki Kurai, thanks for making yourselves known last chapter.
To All: whether you reviewed once or repeatedly, you made writing this and posting it fun and worthwhile! I hope none of you were disappointed in the ending, and I hope you all enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Lacewing: Interesting ideas you and your friends are posing about our favorite monk. I don't see telepathy as one of his abilities generally; but I do think he and Goku likely have a telepathic connection born of their close relationship and former life together. I am fascinated by Goku's potential powers: as a child of the earth and of the ages, I think he probably has untapped abilities of all kinds that might develop as he matures and gets some training to harness them, starting with his heightened senses, ki, telepathy/empathy, (sexual prowess?!)… I barely touched on them in this story; great fodder for more fics, all you Saiyuki writers out there! Kudos to Kazuya Minekura for creating such wonderful, attractive characters and ideas for us to enjoy and explore to begin with.
And finally, VERY BIG THANK YOUS to Gnine, who was beta on this story and who helped me work out problems, plot (what little there actually is of it), and action from the day I conceived of it last November—and who, incidentally, is in large part responsible for how much longer and more complex it got than I originally intended! And to X-parrot—whose wonderful stories and excellent writing inspired me to write this in the first place—for her incomparable, detail-oriented copyediting of each chapter before I posted it. I love you two muchly!! ^_^ — Stitcher2ficcer