Chapter Two Warning: Rating upped to R for 39 yaoi and bits of 58 yaoi; as I cautioned before, if male/male sexual content is not to your taste, you may want to leave now and look for another story to enjoy.

Test of Rain: Chapter Two

Goku was the first to pull himself out of his brief stupor. "Might as well get it over with. We can't get much wetter anyway. Besides, I'm starving. I want dinner." He handed Sanzo's pack to him, then grabbed his own things and stepped away from the jeep to check that the rope was fastened well to its mooring on this side of the stream. He nodded to the others, as they joined him streamside, to indicate that it was fine. "So who wants to go first?"

Before anyone responded, Sanzo was already ankle-deep in the swirling waters, giving the rope a firm yank to insure it was fastened securely to the opposite side. Satisfied, he continued, finding that he needed to hang on with both hands as he approached the stream's center, where the current's pull was strongest. Goku followed, with Hakkai behind, Hakuryuu wrapped around his neck under cover of his master's poncho; Gojyo tailed the small party.

Sanzo was approaching the shallower water on the opposite bank when a sharp jerk downward dipped the rope well below the water's surface, off-balancing him. He plopped onto his butt, head momentarily under the churning waters. "Fuck," he shouted as he resurfaced, one hand still clutching the rope. He was pulled down again as a flailing arm struck him and a hand grasped his shirt.

Goku had lost his footing on the slick rocks as he was emerging from the deepest part of the stream, and he had pulled the rope under with him when he dropped into the water. Trying to retrieve the bedroll that had freed itself from the ties on his pack, he grabbed Sanzo instead and yanked on the blond's shirt to pull himself free of the current, instead landing both of them back in the water.

"Let go, bakazaru!" shouted Sanzo as he emerged again, as angry as he was drenched.

"Sorry," Goku shouted back as he regained his footing and grabbed the errant bedroll, which had tangled in the rope. "It's not like I did it on purpose!" He smiled sheepishly. "At least we're clean now!"

Sanzo only growled as he stepped out of the water. His questionable cleanliness did not last long. The bank was steeper on this side of the stream, and the mud was as slick as black ice as he tried to gain his footing on it. He slipped twice before he reached level ground and turned to see how his companions were faring, only to be toppled to the ground by the full force of Goku's weight as the younger man slipped and fell on top of him.

Lying atop the monk, Goku cringed and threw his arms over his head to protect himself from the thrashing he knew was coming. Indeed, Sanzo whacked him across the head before thrusting him off of himself and scrambling back to his feet. "Fucking clumsy idiot!" But the monk slipped again himself as he turned on his heel to continue down the road. Gritting his teeth and growling, he lay on his back for a moment in the muck, propped on his elbows, rain sheeting over his face, almost beyond caring by this point.

Goku loomed over him, his hand extended, chin drooping onto his chest. "Sorry," he murmured apologetically in his best imitation of a remorseful puppy.

"Forget it," muttered Sanzo as he took the proffered hand and allowed himself to be pulled up. When he had regained his footing yet again, he looked for the other pair, who were similarly engaged. "What the hell are you doing?" he barked.

"Same as you I expect…" answered Gojyo, who also lay in the mud near the top of the bank, with Hakkai reaching down to pull him up. Drenched as he was, the healer was the only one who had yet escaped a thorough muddying. Gojyo took it upon himself to remedy that situation. Rather than leverage himself up, he yanked on Hakkai's arm, pulling the brunette atop him. "…Only I know how to take advantage of it," Gojyo told the monk.

Hakkai blinked in surprise.

"What?" asked Gojyo. "You didn't think I was gonna let you get away again, did you?" He rolled over, pinning the dark-haired youkai on his back in the middle of the muddy road, arms above his head, rain splashing into his face.

The dragon, rain dripping from his wings, squawked above their heads. "He is being rather childish, isn't he, Hakuryuu," remarked Hakkai, making no effort to free himself. He smiled into his partner's face expectantly, too tired to fight and long past letting the weather get to him.

Gojyo's heart skipped a beat, and he felt himself flush even as the rain cooled him. Gods, I love this man, he thought as he leaned forward and caught Hakkai's lips with his own.

Sanzo sneered and turned toward the town. "Damn fools. Let's go, bakazaru." Goku watched the pair for a moment, slightly jealous, then sprinted a step or two to catch up with the monk.

"Mmm," murmured Hakkai through Gojyo's kiss. "You make a good rain shield, Gojyo, but I think I'd prefer to get a room."

Gojyo laughed as he rose, then pulled his partner to his feet, and together they followed the others into town to the nearest inn. Hakuryuu sought his usual protected place in the crook of Hakkai's arm. The healer hadn't the heart to ask him to transform and carry them the rest of the way.

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With Goku clamoring for food, Sanzo wasn't certain which he wanted to deal with first, dinner, rooms, or the baths. The innkeeper took the decision out of his hands. Looking askance at the four disheveled men dripping mud and water on the entry hall floor, he answered Sanzo's question about room availability in the affirmative, then added, "But I expect you'll be wanting to bathe, first?"

The four glanced at each other, and all nodded agreement. "Two rooms?" the innkeeper asked, confirming Sanzo's request.

"Yes." Sanzo signed for the rooms and took the keys. "Is your dining room still serving dinner?"

"No," said the man in charge, his eyes widening when he took in Sanzo's signature, "but the kitchen is open until ten, and I can have something sent up to your rooms, if you wish." His voice had suddenly become more gracious. "If you will allow me, Sanzo-sama," he continued, taking the keys back with a brief bow of his head, "I didn't realize I was hosting such distinguished company. I believe I have more comfortable rooms available." He looked over his board of room keys and exchanged them for two others.

Sanzo's eyes narrowed suspiciously as he took the keys, handing one to Hakkai and pocketing the other.

The innkeeper then offered them a short list of meal choices. The four placed their orders and were told the meals would be waiting for them on warmers when they came in from the baths, along with their choice of beer or sake. "I regret to send you back into the rain…" the innkeeper apologized, "but…" He glanced toward the well-appointed common rooms between them and the staircase. "The baths can be accessed from the entrance outside, around the corner. When you're finished, the archway in the sidewall that connects the bathing area to this building will take you behind our sitting room, back to the stairs. Your rooms are across from each other at the end of the left hallway off the first landing. Spacious corner rooms. I trust they will be to your liking."

He continued a little nervously. "You should find all the towels and supplies you need in the baths, as well as terrycloth robes and slippers, if you wish to use them in lieu of dressing there." He looked them over once more. "If you wish to leave your soiled things in the baths, I will ask my laundress to pick them up there and return them to you tomorrow."

Their arrangements complete, Sanzo led the way back out of the inn and around the corner of the building.

"Sounds good," Goku remarked cheerfully, ducking his head against the rain.

Sanzo grunted. Then, as if the day had not gone badly enough already, he tripped and slid, yet again, into a muddy puddle outside the entryway. "Son of a bitch!" he shouted, landing painfully on his tailbone, adding injury to insult.

Following the example Gojyo had set a short while before, Goku dropped into Sanzo's lap, facing him, a knee resting in the mud on either side of his lover's thighs. He took the blond's face between his hands. "Last time today, Sanzo. I promise. No more mud after this."

"What the hell do you think…"

But Goku was not to be deterred by the monk's anger. He planted his lips firmly on the older man's, locking his arms around Sanzo's neck and pressing their heads and mouths tightly together.

He did not get the welcoming reception Hakkai had given Gojyo. Sanzo grabbed his shoulders, struggling to push him off and cursing into his mouth. When Goku persisted, Sanzo's anger mounted and he fought harder, eventually twisting sharply enough that he was able to push Goku to the side, onto his back. Kneeling on one knee beside the youth, he threw the other over Goku and pressed his hands into the younger man's shoulders, pinning him solidly to the ground.

"Damn you! Don't think you can treat me the way that fucking kappa treats Hakkai! I am NOT in the mood for this!" He pulled his soggy fan out of the-gods-knew-where and raised it to strike the youkai.

Goku lay still beneath him, waiting, flushed and breathing heavily, but golden eyes defiant. They had been together long enough that he had begun to trust his instincts on the effect he had on Sanzo.

He was not disappointed. At the look in Goku's eyes, and the deepening flush visible on his face in the dim light coming from the bathhouse windows, the monk paused, his own breath hitching, then deepening.

"Sanzo," Goku whispered breathlessly.

"Damn you! You fucking monkey!"

"I hope so," Goku murmured, a hint of a smile playing on his lips.

Sanzo dropped the fan and braced himself, one hand on the ground either side of Goku's head, then dropped his mouth to the youth's, directing his anger into a ferocious kiss. Goku threw his arms around Sanzo's neck and returned it, greedily taking all he could get before Sanzo pulled away abruptly, rose, and grabbed his backpack. He brushed an open hand through his wet hair and stalked into the bathhouse, leaving his monkey in the mud.

Goku rose unhurriedly, gathered his fallen things, and followed, confident that he had broken through the man's defenses. On entering the building, he was surprised to find, instead of a single large bath, several bathing pools of various sizes and shapes arranged in a loose U around three sides of the spacious room, most separated by tastefully-decorated privacy screens that could be moved or removed as desired. Continuously fed by local hot springs, the pools themselves warmed the room, light wisps of steam rising above the screens from their surfaces, and a faint odor of sulfur scenting the air. Goku began to walk from one bath to the next along a gently curving pathway of smooth slate paving stones. The walkway circled a pleasantly contoured display of plants and abstract statuary arranged around a small, cool fountain in the center of the baths beneath a skylit ceiling of translucent glass panels.

The music of the rain striking the now-dark glass above masked any other sounds in the bathhouse, though Goku listened for his companions as he circled the garden fountain, glancing discreetly into each bathing area in search of his partner. He paused for a moment when he caught sight of Gojyo and Hakkai behind the edge of one screen, already stripped of their muddy clothes and relaxing in the pool nearest the entrance through which they had all come. He blushed and hurriedly turned away as the redhead, kneeling in the bath in front of his partner, leaned in to take Hakkai's lips in a slow, passionate kiss.

Goku's pace quickened, and he felt a tightening in his groin as he recalled the pressure of Sanzo's lips bruising his own a few minutes earlier. A few paces later, he froze near the opening between two screens when he caught sight of the blond sitting on the end of a simple, heavy wooden bench beside a small pool nearly half way around the pathway. He watched as the monk, his shirt already off, bent to remove his boots and socks, then paused, arching his neck back and rolling his head first toward one shoulder, then toward the other, stretching tired muscles.

When Sanzo reached up to rub his sore shoulder, Goku quietly removed his boots and put his things down just inside the screen, then stepped up behind the man and rested his hands lightly on Sanzo's shoulders. "Here, let me," he said.

Sanzo started, and his body tensed. Absorbed in his thoughts and brooding at the sound of the rain beating on the roof overhead, he had not heard Goku arrive. He brushed one of Goku's hands away. "You're filthy. Go clean up. I was looking forward to relaxing by myself."

"Were you?" Goku asked, returning his hand to the man's shoulder and beginning to massage the tight muscles between the fingers and thumbs of both hands. "That's not the impression you gave me outside."

"Yes," said Sanzo, scowling, but he closed his eyes and relaxed a little into Goku's touch. Goku increased the pressure of his rubbing, the mud on his hands and the perspiration on Sanzo's skin providing just enough lubrication to allow his hands to work smoothly. Sanzo's head sank forward, allowing Goku easier access to the back of his neck.

They continued this way for several minutes, then Sanzo straightened and arched his back. "Enough. Go away."

Goku slid around him and slipped onto his lap, face-to-face, his right leg slung over the bench around Sanzo's hip, his left over Sanzo's thigh, foot braced on the floor at the end of the small bench. His hands never left the man's shoulders, sliding smoothly around his neck and across his collarbones as they moved from back to front while Goku changed position. The youkai lightly kissed his obstinate partner and continued the massage, now rubbing his shoulders, upper arms, and chest with the full expanse of his palms and fingers. Sanzo sighed as Goku directed a small amount of ki into his hands, warming Sanzo's skin and soothing the sore muscles. "I'll go if you really want me to," the younger man murmured, leaning close to kiss the blond again, this time flicking his tongue on the man's lips.

Sanzo's breath caught briefly. "Stubborn asshole," he protested. "I told you what I want." But his actions belied his words as his arms loosely circled Goku's waist, and his lips and tongue answered Goku's gentle exploration.

As their kiss deepened, Goku pressed his hips tighter against Sanzo, and his hands slid around to the man's back. Sanzo's arms tightened around him, the protests dying and their kiss stretching into prolonged exploration of each other's mouths and tongues. Goku could feel Sanzo's heart beating against his own chest and the slow expansion and contraction of Sanzo's lungs as his breathing deepened.

A few minutes later Sanzo pushed him back. "You're a mess. Get this muddy stuff off." He fumbled with the buttons on Goku's shirt, then pushed it off the youth's shoulders.

Goku stood up in front of him, his golden eyes locked on Sanzo's violets, and removed his shirt, then stripped off his wet jeans and briefs. He stood still for a moment, allowing Sanzo to look him over from head to toe, then he took Sanzo's hands in his own and pulled him to a stand. He traced the recent scar on Sanzo's chest, then drew his fingers down the monk's firm abdomen to the waistband of his jeans. He tilted his head back, inviting Sanzo to kiss him again while he unfastened the snap and pulled down the zipper; then he lowered Sanzo's jeans and took them off as the monk stepped out of them.

When Goku stood up, Sanzo rubbed his fingers firmly across the young man's cheek to remove a smudge of mud, then shook his head hopelessly.

"What?" asked Goku.

"You look like a silly kid with your face dirty."

Goku smiled. "So do you, you know." He stood on his toes to kiss a dark smudge on Sanzo's cheek, then took the older man's hands in his own again. "And your hands are even dirtier than mine, in case you haven't noticed. Come on, let's clean up." He drew Sanzo to the bath, and they both sank into the hot water.

Sanzo grimaced slightly as he sat on the wide ledge that circled the tub, serving as a seat. Ever attentive to his lover's feelings and injuries, Goku's brow furrowed with concern as he looked into Sanzo's eyes. "Are you okay?"

"No, actually." An impatient edge had crept into Sanzo's voice again as he was reminded of the day's trials. "My tailbone was not helped by your dropping me on my ass in the road this morning, or by my landing on it twice again this evening.

Goku reached to brush a damp lock of hair out of Sanzo's eyes. "Sorry. You did have it coming this morning, though."

"Ch'," Sanzo responded.

Half floating in the water in front of the monk, Goku pushed himself closer and leaned in to kiss him again, then nibbled his earlobe and whispered, "I'll make it up to you."

Closing his eyes, Sanzo slouched further into the water and tipped his head back against the sidewall of the pool. "Stop being distracting. I'm tired. I just want to get clean and relax," he insisted.

"If that's all you want…" said Goku, an audible pout in his voice. He reached for a bar of jasmine-scented soap from a basket sitting beside the pool. Straddling the monk's thighs, he lathered his hands with the soap, then resumed his massage of the man's shoulders and neck, spreading the lather in gentle circles over them. Sanzo closed his eyes and sighed, finally relaxing enough to let his partner take charge.

Goku lifted Sanzo's right arm out of the water, and Sanzo let it float on the surface while Goku continued rubbing soapy circles around his biceps, his elbow, his forearm, and his wrist, then gave just as careful attention to his hand and palm and each of his fingers. He finished the arm by bringing the hand to his mouth and placing a light, nibbling kiss on each fingertip. Sanzo's head dropped further back, his neck arching, as a small moan escaped his lips.

Goku smiled mischievously as he re-lathered his hands and returned to Sanzo's shoulders, then worked his way down the other arm. By the time he reached the monk's fingers, and kissed each fingertip, Sanzo's face and chest were flushed, his breathing was becoming ragged, and his moan was more satisfied when Goku nibbled the tip of his left pinky finger.

Goku adjusted his position and leaned in to Sanzo for a long, slow kiss, their tongues twining and tasting, but not dueling. The next time he lathered his hands, Goku rubbed his soapy fingers on Sanzo's brow, smoothing his hair back from his eyes, then he traced soapy lines down the blond's nose and along the prominent bones of his cheeks. He used the pads of his fingers to rub small, soothing circles on his temples, around his ears, and along his jaw, washing away Sanzo's tension while he cleaned the mud from his face. With Sanzo's face and neck lathered, he reached again for the basket, digging through it until he found a scoop. Shielding Sanzo's eyes with one hand, he ladled warm water onto his face and hair with the other, rinsing the soap away and preparing his hair for shampoo.

Goku placed a butterfly kiss on each of Sanzo's eyelids, then kissed a drop of water from the tip of his nose before relaxing back onto the monk's lap. Sanzo cracked his lids open and watched his lover through lidded eyes as Goku soaped his hands yet again. Goku raised himself a little to reach forward and work the lather into Sanzo's golden hair, and he shivered slightly as the cooler air caressed his shoulders and upper back. The firm, smooth muscles of his chest brushed against Sanzo's lips, and he had to pause in his work, his fingers twining into Sanzo's hair, his back arching, and his breath catching when he felt Sanzo's lips and tongue and teeth find his right nipple, and then his left, while the man's hands caressed his lower back under the water. The two froze in that position for a moment, Sanzo intensely aroused, but too relaxed to move more than he was, and Goku struggling to keep his rising ardor under control so he could finish the job he had started.

Goku closed his eyes and focused on the steady rhythm of the rainfall on the glass skylights until he regained enough focus to continue. Then he worked the shampoo into Sanzo's hair, slowly massaging every inch of his scalp with his fingertips. When he was finished washing the blond locks, he slid off of Sanzo's lap to kneel on the seat beside him. He gently pulled Sanzo away from the edge of the pool, supporting his shoulders as his body floated in the water. Sanzo tilted his head back into the water until his hair fanned into a halo around his nearly submerged face, the lather rinsing from it.

Freed from his tranquil stupor, Sanzo extricated himself from Goku's hold and ducked under the water to more fully rinse his hair, then returned to his seat, water streaming from his wet locks over his face and shoulders. He slicked his hair back with both hands, pressing some of the water out of it, then he sat up and turned side-ways toward his partner. "Come here," he commanded, pulling the smaller man into position in front of himself, Goku's back to his front. Further turned on by the ripple of Goku's firm muscles under his hands, he dropped his head and kissed the back of Goku's neck, his arms encircling the youth's torso, fingertips caressing his chest.

Pulling back after a moment, he picked up the bar of soap from the edge of the pool where Goku had left it, lathered his own hands, and began to wash Goku's hair. As Goku relaxed to the touch of Sanzo's fingers on his scalp, he placed his arm on the edge of the pool and laid his head on it, enjoying the intimacy they so seldom had a chance to share. After Sanzo had massaged the lather into his scalp, he dropped his hands to the back of Goku's neck, then rubbed the soap into the skin of his exposed shoulders, upper arms, and upper back with gently circling fingertips. He then pried Goku up from the edge of the tub. "Don't go to sleep on me now," he warned him. "Rinse." He gently pushed Goku under water in front of him.

When Goku resurfaced, water pouring from his hair over his tanned, well-sculptured face, he thrust himself at Sanzo, locking him in a passionate embrace. "I love you so much, Sanzo," he whispered in his ear.

"Mmm," said Sanzo. "I'll love you better cleaner," he said matter-of-factly. He gently pushed the younger man backwards, lathered a washcloth with soap, and handed it to Goku. "Wash," he commanded.

A few weeks earlier, Goku's confidence might have been shaken by Sanzo's apparent coolness and withdrawal at the height of a romantic moment. But now he calmly backed away a step or two and stood up in the pool in front of Sanzo, eyes locking on the older man's as Sanzo slipped back into his relaxed position against the wall of the pool. Sanzo's desire to watch him as he bathed, and the erotic effect that had on the man, were not lost on him, as they might have been even two or three weeks before, and he was learning how to make the most of such opportunities.

Goku shivered under Sanzo's intense gaze, the air on his skin cooler than the hot water that was continually replenished by the springs feeding the pool. He dipped the soapy cloth in the water, then slowly washed his face and neck. Allowing the cloth to float on the surface, he sank to his knees on the pool floor, then closed his eyes and sat down on his haunches, submerging his head again. He rose slowly, and met Sanzo's gaze again, conscious of the steam rising around him and the water streaming off his body. He paused for a moment, enjoying the satisfaction and attraction that infused Sanzo's expression as he watched.

He picked up the washcloth and stepped close to the monk again. "More soap," he requested quietly, releasing the cloth and caressing Sanzo's hand and forearm as the monk's hand closed on it. As Sanzo re-lathered the cloth, Goku lifted one foot and ran his toes along the inside of Sanzo's thigh. He was gratified to see the monk freeze for a moment, breath hitched and eyes shut, before he pushed Goku's foot away and handed the cloth back.

Goku stepped back again, and watched Sanzo's eyes intently as they closely tracked his every motion. He took his time rubbing the lathered cloth over every inch of his arms, chest, and abdomen. He rinsed the cloth out, and slowly drew it, dripping, over the same path across his body, knowing how Sanzo enjoyed seeing the water ripple off his skin as he rinsed off. When Sanzo's eyes drifted to his face, he slowly licked his lips in anticipation and saw Sanzo's breathing speed up in response. He watched Sanzo's desire spike again when he dipped the cloth below the water's surface to wash the regions of his body that Sanzo could see only vaguely through the water and steam. His own arousal increased proportionately, and he could no longer stand not to be touched.

He let go of the washcloth and sank into the water again, approaching Sanzo with only his head above the surface, his eyes glued to the monk's. This time he sprawled atop Sanzo, wrapping his arms around his neck. He shuddered when Sanzo clasped him in a nearly smothering embrace, and their bodies pressed together almost of their own volition, aroused by the slow lovemaking to a point where they were already craving release. There was no holding back when they kissed each other this time, each nearly devouring the other, their hands roaming all over each other's bodies as their mouths attacked each other.

Goku drew back when he could barely breathe, his eyes glittering with desire. He reached for the tube of waterproof lubricant he had found in the poolside basket when he had looked for the water scoop, and he squeezed some into his own hand and some into Sanzo's. By unspoken, mutual consent, they agreed to maintain the relaxed and gentle manner that had ruled their lovemaking tonight, and they adjusted their positions so each could use his hands to bring the other maximum pleasure.

Their caresses and strokes paralleled one another's as they took turns driving each other to the peak, then pulling back just before the pleasure crested so they could ride another swelling wave before climax. Between and during strokes, their mouths were all over each other, alternately kissing, nipping, licking any spot they could reach. Moans and cries repeatedly rose in their throats, though they did their best to hold them back, both just barely conscious of their near-public surroundings and the proximity of their companions.

"Sanzo," Goku finally moaned, his whole body quivering with suppressed tension, his cries and his seed ready to burst.

"I love you, Goku," Sanzo whispered through clenched teeth as his hand stroked yet again, giving Goku the release he asked for. A mere second later his own body shuddered, and he couldn't suppress an incoherent cry, as Goku gave him the same gift.

They were suspended for a moment in time and space, nearly unconscious, the agitated hot water lapping over their bodies. Slowly Sanzo came back to awareness and relaxed again onto the underwater bench, his legs outstretched, his eyes closed and head dropped back against the side of the pool, his chest heaving. Goku lay on top of him, head on his shoulder beneath his chin, the water lapping at his own chin and cheek. He sighed deeply as his breath returned, and the two squeezed their arms around each other, as close to being one as it was possible for them to feel.

"I love you so much," Goku repeated, his voice choked. Sanzo responded by caressing his lover's hair and placing a kiss among the wet locks. Goku was satisfied. He didn't often hear open words of love, and on this of all days, in pouring rain, when Sanzo had been pushed to his limits, he had not expected to hear them at all.

A few more moments passed before Goku's stomach growled, and Sanzo felt the rumble against his own abdomen. "Oops," Goku said.

Sanzo sat up, gently pushing Goku off. "Your dinner will be cold."

"Yours, too," replied Goku, still clinging to Sanzo and leaning in for another kiss.

"Yes, but I'm not especially hungry." He accepted the kiss and lightly returned it. "My appetite has been satisfied tonight, I think."

Goku's eyes twinkled. "I told you I'd make it up to you."

Sanzo pushed him off more firmly. "And I told you I just wanted to clean up and relax."

"What? You're clean. You're not relaxed?"

Sanzo climbed out of the bath and walked to the low shelving on the wall. He tossed a towel to Goku, now sitting on the edge of the pool, and pulled one out for himself. "I suppose I should be glad sometimes that you don't bother listening to me. Damn monkey. Let's get going." He toweled his hair dry, then wrapped himself in one of the thick terrycloth robes that hung on hooks near the towels. He slipped his feet into a pair of the matching slippers, then brought a robe and slippers to his partner.

Goku stood as Sanzo approached. He walked into the older man's arms, hugging him and snuggling into the terry robe. Sanzo briefly returned the hug, then pushed him away and held the other robe for him to slip his arms into. Goku's stomach rumbled again. "Let's go eat," Sanzo told him as the younger man tied the belt on his robe and slipped into his slippers.

They left their soiled things in a large basket that appeared to be for that purpose, shouldered their packs, and headed for their room. Gojyo and Hakkai were apparently long gone, the bath they had used empty and already cleaned up, and their mud-stained things already removed. As the two followed the center pathway under the skylight, Sanzo paused for a moment to look up at the wet glass and listen to the continued rainfall. "I'd almost forgotten it was raining," he said before continuing.

Goku wrapped his arm around Sanzo's waist and pulled him close. He grinned to himself, happy beyond words that even on a rain-drenched day like this, his love could make Sanzo forget the rain.

===== Owari =====

AN: I realize that I took liberties in this chapter with public bath etiquette; if that disturbs you, forgive me for putting my desire for this setting—and Goku's and Sanzo's rapacious desires—ahead of commonly understood etiquette. But this is, after all, fanfic—in a fictional world with different traditions than ours and written as fan service for the 39 community.

Thanks to all of you who took the time to review chapter one. K.Firefly, Keistje, Zelgadis, Rhoda, Me-Nuriko, and KarotsaMused, it's gratifying to have you back for another ride and to know that you're glad I picked up where I left off with "Awakenings." It was nice to write a story in which I inconvenienced them and got them a little dirty, but didn't feel inclined to beat them up until they recognized the truths about each other that they might have seen without getting hurt if only they weren't so stubborn.

Welcome to my take on the Saiyuki world, NekoMegami-chan and Celeste, and thanks for your compliments.

Nightfall, your review is as well-crafted and delightful to read as your stories. I'm glad to have you aboard for this one. I hope you aren't too disappointed that this chapter doesn't address the memories evoked by the rain. I'm afraid the diet of Sanzo/Goku relationship angst, fluff, and sex that Keistje has been feeding me for editing left me with an appetite to write my own version of such events. After the abundant angst in my previous story, I was looking to write something lighter weight and fun, mud notwithstanding. Hope you enjoyed it anyway.