: Rebellion :
Disclaimer: I do not own Saiyuki. All rights go to Minekura Kazuya.
Pairings: Goku/Sanzo, implied Hakkai/Gojyo
Warnings: language, shounen ai, mild manga spoilers from volume 7 and up
Notes: Done in time for Goku's birthday. Happy birthday, Goku!
Inspired by a scene from Tokyopop's translation of manga volume seven (page 176, for the curious). Because I believe Goku grows and changes over the course of the series, and I think this scene was a remarkable one hinting at things to come. Thanks to Becky for helping me when I got stuck.
Constructive criticism and feedback is appreciated.
A "rebellious phase," Gojyo had called it. Hakkai had commented that he could be growing up. Sanzo just thought it was annoying. If he had been forced to choose between the first two, he would have agreed with Gojyo—albeit reluctantly, since they rarely agreed on anything.
Whatever the case, Goku was acting differently. At first, Sanzo had hardly even noticed; he had written it off as the boy being his usual annoying self. The first time had seemed like a strange fluke. Goku had objected to moving forward, leaving their mystery enemy behind. But he was not the leader, and thus either had to follow orders or be left behind.
Finding a pillow suddenly in his face, after being thrown with surprising force, had sparked the first of the priest's suspicions. It would have become full-blown curiosity had Goku not apologized immediately, looking nervous and even a little frightened. That was normal. He was still just a child, after all; someone for Sanzo to look after and make sure was fed and under control.
He had not thought the rebellion would last longer than a few weeks; half a year, at worst. Once the ordeal with Kami-sama was over, they had gone on their way west again. The entire group was there, the tension that had resided amongst them for the past few days dissipated back to its normal level. There was no reason for Goku to continue thinking the way he had. While he could be disobedient, he had always conformed to Sanzo's requests (otherwise knows as orders) before.
The man had thought nothing of the irritable looks his charge would shoot him, especially when Sanzo told him to do something. Even with something as simple as accompanying Gojyo or Hakkai on errand runs. Any annoyance was just another brief surfacing of the "rebellious phase."
"Get more smokes."
The look Gojyo gave him was one of sheer exasperation. Of course, he wouldn't go down without a fight. "Why the hell didn't you tell Hakkai before he left?" the half-breed demanded.
From the corner of his eye, Sanzo noticed Goku's eyes flicker toward them with keen interest. Almost immediately, the brunette returned to shuffling the cards before him. He and Gojyo had been playing poker—and, of course, Goku had lost.
Curious, though not enough to make an inquiry, Sanzo pretended he hadn't seen. "I didn't know I needed more, earlier."
"How the hell could you not know?" asked Gojyo, disbelieving.
It was routine for them to keep a critical eye on their cigarette supply; and Sanzo had. However, he must have miscounted, because the last time he had checked, he'd possessed two packs. Since then he had only gone through one, but the other was missing. Either he had imagined the second one (unlikely) or he had lost it (likely, but not something he was about to admit to).
Flatly, he stated, "Goku, you go."
The mutter was barely audible, but Sanzo didn't miss it. In reality, he was surprised, though he tried not to show it. He knew he had failed from the smug expression on Gojyo's face, but he chose to ignore the man. Goku's response was more important, anyway.
Narrowing his eyes, the blonde turned in his seat to look at his charge. Goku didn't return the favor, seeming acutely interested in his cards.
"You are not," Sanzo said, his voice dangerously low. "Don't lie to me."
To his surprise, Goku set the cards down on the mattress and slid off the bed. His eyes avoided the man, but Sanzo could see enough of them to realize the set expression. "Then I'm goin' outside," the brunette replied. To anyone who might not have known him, it would have seemed as though Goku had left calmly; however, both Sanzo and Gojyo knew otherwise when the door closed harder than even Goku normally deemed necessary. Stunned by the unpredictable reaction, the blonde forgot how to move for a good few moments.
A low whistle sounded, breaking him out of his stupor. "Hell," Gojyo drawled. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say he was hitting puberty."
Sanzo grimaced. Of course, Gojyo's remark was ridiculous; Goku was fairly well into his nineteenth year. He had gone through the typical physical changes some time ago. Sanzo couldn't recall exactly when he had first noticed the fleeting glances his charge would give girls his age, sometimes even women older than him. Nor could he remember just when the youth had started to take responsibility for his actions. Oftentimes he still didn't, but when comparing him to the pre-teen Sanzo had released from Mount Gogyo, there was a notable difference.
A bit stranger still, the man couldn't even remember Goku's voice cracking before it deepened. It seemed he was going through life more slowly than most, given that he still sounded, looked, and acted a few years younger than he really was. But Sanzo did recall waking up one morning and being greeted by a startlingly different voice at breakfast. At the time, Hakkai had seen his reaction and had asked if something was wrong. Realizing he had been the only one not to notice, Sanzo had waved the concern off and started peeling his orange.
That had been just last month.
When Goku returned for dinner, he acted as Sanzo had expected him to—like his typical, annoying self. At first the man was skeptical, wondering if it was just an act. Quiet, covert studying told him Goku wasn't faking it; the boy would have been nervous and obvious in his actions otherwise. Sanzo relaxed.
Morning came with deceptive pleasantry. Or at least, with deceptive normalcy. Sanzo ground two knuckles into his temple in a vain attempt to quell the headache swelling. Honestly, after almost two years of traveling, he would have thought Gojyo and Goku would have given up on their typical routines. If nothing else, at least in the mornings.
But some things never changed. The two "children" egging each other on, his own annoyance, and Hakkai's humoring smile were all were predictable in the face of breakfast.
While attempting to wrestle a small plate from Gojyo's hands, Goku knocked his glass over with his elbow. Sanzo started at the clatter, scowling as he looked down and saw water seeping into the white tablecloth. He opened his mouth, prepared to rebuke the boy and tell him to clean it up.
Before he could utter a sound, Goku immediately relinquished his hold on the plate. Without a glance at any of his companions, he grabbed the cloth beside his plate, righted the glass, and immediately soaked up as much of the liquid as he possibly could. He ruined the efficiency by dropping the wet cloth in a clump beside his plate, but the damage was done. Sanzo was left with his mouth partway open and nothing to say—quite possibly, the most awkward moment of his life.
It took longer than it should have for him to process Hakkai's question. Pressing his lips together, Sanzo avoided the man's gaze. He could feel it anyway, and knew it was a subtle yet obvious, I know what you're thinking look. And that was annoying... especially since it would leave Hakkai the perfectly safe opening of giving his unique version of I told you so.
Rather than answer, Sanzo said, "You're wasting time. Hurry up and finish."
The next remarkable instance happened the day after a heavy rainfall. The nearest town was a good three-day drive away; circumstance enough to require camping out in the meantime. However, because of the damp surroundings, finding provisions and firewood was not a task anybody wanted to be stuck with.
Normally, the problem was solved easily.
"Goku," Sanzo said, more out of habit than anything else. "We need firewood."
The brunette made a rude noise that caught the man's attention. "Yeah. So?"
Looking up sharply, Sanzo scrutinized the boy. For once, Goku was gazing toward him in his defiance—but he did not look his master in the eye. It seemed he had not quite gotten past that barrier, and for that Sanzo found himself grateful without completely understanding why.
"And we need food," he pointed out.
Right on cue, Goku's stomach cried out in agreement. The boy made a face, but didn't budge from his spot beside the half-erected tent. "Anyone can get that stuff."
Beginning to lose his patience, Sanzo said flatly, "You do it."
The flat-out refusal made Sanzo narrow an eye dangerously. "And why not?"
Stubbornly, Goku said, "Because you never do anything. If you want it done, you do it."
That was definitely not expected. Blinking, Sanzo stared at his charge, unsure of what to say. Hell, he couldn't even think of a reaction other than blinking stupidly.
"Goku." Hakkai's gentle voice broke through the silence; a rude reminder to Sanzo that others were present. Hastily, he looked away from the boy, scowling when Gojyo met his eyes with a smug expression. He almost missed what Hakkai said next. "Will you please acquire some provisions for us?"
A heavy pause weighed in the air above them. Even Gojyo had stopped in what he was doing; an eyebrow quirked in what could be nothing but amusement as he surveyed the spectacle playing out before him. Sanzo turned his glare back to Goku, which darkened at what the boy did next.
"Okay," Goku agreed. Taking exaggerated care not to look at the irate priest, he quickly made his escape into the forest, leaving Sanzo to deal with the others.
Right now, that was the last thing he wanted.
"Well, whad'ya know," Gojyo said, drawing the words out teasingly. "Seems the monkey has less respect for his owner."
"Or perhaps just a new respect for manners," Hakkai said mildly. He smiled, but it was not the usual, patient smile. This was the painfully polite but still somewhat condescending, Everyone else saw this coming smile.
Sanzo hated them both.
Clearly intending to make things worse, Gojyo took on a patronizing tone. "Ah, Hakkai... our children have grown up so fast."
"At least one of them has," Hakkai agreed, playing along.
Sanzo felt his eyelid twitch, and vainly hoped it wasn't noticeable. But it had to be, because both were antagonizing him just to get a reaction. However, he refused to give them the one they wanted. Instead, he said with a mild note of disgust, "What, are you two a married couple?"
The other two exchanged glances; seemingly innocuous. They communicated in a way Sanzo could not grasp; even after knowing them for years, he still had yet to understand how they could say so much with so little. He knew it was like how he "communicated" with Goku on occasion, and yet not because the connections were far different.
"One does wonder," Hakkai said sagely.
"Some don't even have to wonder." Gojyo feigned an air of mystery.
Rolling his eyes, Sanzo grasped his backpack and went on a search for his cigarettes. He had lost yet another pack, and was rapidly becoming irritable. At this point, he needed as much distraction as he could get.
By the time Goku returned evening was rapidly closing into nighttime. However, he had done a remarkable job—most of the sticks he returned with were dry, and what food he could find was edible. Strange, when Sanzo could still clearly recall the days when the wood Goku brought back hadn't done well for feeding fires, and he had not been able to tell the difference between safe and poisonous foods. (Of course, anything digestible was safe for Goku, but the others would have had quite the time keeping it down.)
With a start, he realized that had been several months ago.
"Sanzo, Sanzo! Look, I found strawberries!"
Staring at his eager charge, the priest found himself struggling to place who Goku was. For so long he had just been a child, but now... now he was still a child, he had to be with that stupid look on his face. But there was something different as well; a new quality of some sort.
Sanzo had never thought he'd be uneasy around Goku. He didn't like realizing it when he was.
With an inn came private rooms. With private rooms – usually – came privacy. The setup was so convenient that Sanzo should have been able to rest easy.
The instant he returned from a quick cigarette-run and found Goku closing the door to a bedroom – more specifically, his room – he knew that would not be possible. The acknowledgement made him irritable fast. As though Goku hadn't been the focus of many of his problems enough as of late...
The brunette looked up just as the door clicked shut. Guilt crossed his face immediately, though he tried to hide it. This time, Sanzo was not going to let him off so easy.
"And what the hell are you doing here?"
One of the boy's hands remained on the doorknob. Sanzo's gaze flickered down to it, taking note of the taut fingers and white knuckles. His charge was nervous, possibly even scared. He made no move to alleviate his discomfort.
After a too-long pause, Goku mumbled, "Wrong room."
From the way he had exited, Sanzo knew whatever had just occurred had been no mistake. Goku had gone in there deliberately. Determined to force an answer from him, the man said, "Took you long enough to realize it, didn't it?" The brunette blanched at the implication. Good. Let Goku think he had seen it all.
When his charge made no move to answer, Sanzo lowered his eyes to the boy's other arm. It was hidden just slightly behind Goku's side, in just enough of a position to look unnatural. The muscles from his wrist to where they disappeared beneath his loose sleeves were tense. Sanzo could even see the faint prominence of a vein.
Finally, slowly, Goku allowed the arm to fall limply to his side. It brought the object scrunched in his hand to view. The instant Sanzo saw, he solved the mystery that had been nagging at him for some time now.
"And just why do you need those?" he growled. There shouldn't have been any reason for the brat to steal from him—and what would he want with his Marlboros, anyway? Goku didn't smoke; he hated it.
It took Sanzo just a split second too late to put the pieces together. By the time he had, Goku was already speaking.
"I don't like it when you smoke in front of me," he explained, his voice strangely flat. "The stupid smoke gets in my face. So I took 'em."
Sanzo didn't want to believe it. He refused. Goku had been so sneaky about it; taking only one carton every other week or so. It wasn't like him; it was too clever, too cautious, too mature, too...
As though sensing the priest's confusion, Goku stole the opportunity to move. He darted past the man, ducking when Sanzo reacted by attempting to grab his collar. His fingers brushed fabric, and then held nothing but air. And the brat was fast; he had disappeared around the corner within seconds. When had he gotten so fast? When had he learned to become so evasive?
Too frustrated to want a smoke anymore, Sanzo ended up tossing the newly bought carton to the bed in disgust. Damn Goku. Damn him for ruining so many things, for jolting his world out of perspective, for invading his privacy...
Damn him for growing up when Sanzo wasn't ready for it.
Despite the privacy of the room, he no longer felt it was a sanctuary. Goku had violated it by entering without his knowledge; pilfering his nicotine and making him think he was losing his mind. And he'd been doing it for weeks before Sanzo had found out. No, his own room was definitely not safe. Outside would lure out more demons, and didn't guarantee him any sleep, but it was his only option left.
With his luck, especially as of late, he should have known he would not get the chance to relax. Indeed, just as he reached into his robes to search for his lighter, a Marlboro Red already caught between his lips, Sanzo was abruptly aware of bold eyes pressing into the back of his neck. He tried to ignore it. When that didn't work, he attempted to shrug it off as an amateur assassin spying on him. When that didn't work, he whirled angrily to meet Goku's gaze.
For a moment, surprise was naked on the boy's face. Then it was gone as quickly as it had come, but Sanzo had no illusions. He refused to believe he was the one going crazy; not anymore. No, it was Goku who was losing his mind, and he was half tempted to put his charge out of his misery.
His voice low, Sanzo said, "Stop that."
Goku lifted his chin slightly, looking the man straight in the eye for the first time in days. "Stop what?"
"You know what."
"How do you know what I know?"
Seething, Sanzo didn't realize he was biting on the end of his unlit cigarette until he felt it break between his teeth. Repulsed, he plucked it from his mouth and tossed it over the porch railing. Running his tongue over his lower teeth to rid himself of the excess tobacco, Sanzo chanced a glance into the dark window to his left. Nobody, not even a night clerk, could be seen. It seemed everyone had retired, and this particular inn didn't believe in welcoming nighttime travelers. Of course, that was the general rule for most establishments now. No one wanted to welcome a demon inflicted by the Minus Wave, especially not when they could possibly be plagued by exhaustion.
"You're a goddamn brat," he spat.
Golden eyes narrowed. For a fleeting instant, Sanzo was reminded of Goku's other form; the slit pupils and murderous intent, marks of a predator. The image was gone in a flash, and instead he saw Goku as he was: a teenager well into his transgression of a young man, determined to be treated like an adult. Like an equal. The concept was so foreign Sanzo didn't know what to make of it.
Goku took a step forward.
Sanzo felt more than heard his breath hitch. It was as though his body knew what was to happen, long before his brain could process the information of everything. Cursing his traitorous human form, Sanzo said firmly, "Don't move."
Goku took another step. The challenge was easy to read in his eyes, hard and clear and almost taunting. Sanzo gritted his teeth.
"If you touch me, I'll kill you," he warned.
Another step. Goku was too close; he shouldn't have been able to get within such close proximity in so few steps. And he seemed taller than Sanzo remembered. Last he had noticed Goku's eyes had barely come up to his shoulders; now the brunette could hold himself straight and look at Sanzo's mouth. And that meant...
"Then kill me," Goku said, before pushing himself up on his toes and pressing a kiss to the man's mouth.
Sanzo swore inwardly, taken by such surprise at the bold move that he jolted backward. His head smacked against the wooden pillar. The contact was broken, but this time Goku grasped the fabric of his sleeves for better balance. He kissed the man again, clumsy but insistent. Sanzo wanted to hit him, because Goku clearly had no idea what he was doing; he wasn't doing anything right, for crying out loud. And yet the earnest actions only encouraged Sanzo to bring his hands up, grasp the sides of his charge's head, and correct the position to something more comfortable. And yet still, somehow, Goku managed to retain control. He decided when to pull back and rest his forehead against Sanzo's neck, breathing his scent deeply. And all Sanzo could do was keep his fingers tangled in the boy's hair, because he didn't know where else to put them.
His breath warm against Sanzo's throat, Goku asked, "You gonna kill me now?"
The man didn't reply right away. Instead he flexed his fingers lightly, frowning at the slightly course texture of Goku's hair. It was so unruly, always tangled and mussed. So this was one of the things that kept the image of his childlike self in his mind...
Finally, he said, "Yes," but made no move to follow through.
Goku finally pulled back. Sanzo had no choice but to let go; and he did, folding his arms over his chest. He scrutinized the boy – no, young man – again. For the first time he could see the strong set to Goku's jaw, the almost wicked slope of his eyebrows, even the narrower appearance of his eyes. He looked the same, and yet was nothing at all like the child Sanzo had released from the mountain.
"Well," Goku finally said, smirking in a manner that reminded the priest of himself. "You're gonna have a hell of a time doing that."
For once, Sanzo was not surprised to find himself nodding in agreement.
A startled female cry sounded. Out of habit, Sanzo looked up, annoyed to see it was Goku who had caused the reaction. From the looks of things, he hadn't been looking where he was going and the backpack half-slung over his shoulder had collided into the girl when he had shrugged it off.
Sanzo opened his mouth, prepared to snap at him, but after a brief second thought closed it again. As he had come to expect, Goku was quick to rightly take fault—most importantly, without reminder from anyone else.
"Sorry," the brunette apologized, setting the bag completely on the ground. Concern stitched his brows together. "You okay?"
The female looked to be about his age; which meant she looked older than him, given Goku's unnaturally youthful appearance. Still, a light flush tinted her cheeks, and she nodded emphatically. Smiling, Goku only nodded back before retrieving his things and walking away. She stared after him with a look Sanzo recognized; it was similar to the way older women stared at Gojyo, albeit with a clear note of chastity. A daydreamer, it seemed.
Great. As if they needed another Gojyo on the trip with them.
"Satisfied?" he inquired dryly.
His charge shot him a sideways look, frowning as though he felt insulted. A comeback seemed to occur to him, though, because he shot back with faux innocence, "Jealous?"
Sanzo scoffed, about to reach for his lighter. He paused with his hand halfway into the sleeve, and then pulled it out empty. "You're a..." He paused briefly, before deciding to finish in a slightly different manner than usual. "Little bastard."
He watched the brunette's reaction from the corner of his eye. Goku blinked, and then grinned broadly. He had caught the difference.
As they dropped their belongings into the back of the jeep, Gojyo was the last to join them. He stared at them, one eyebrow raised. It was similar to the look Hakkai had given Sanzo that morning, when reminding him it was sunrise and about time to leave. They knew. Sanzo was more than well aware of that. Still, he refused to bite and climbed into the passenger seat.
"It's a beautiful day," Hakkai noted. The jeep gave way slightly as Gojyo hopped over the back and settled into his designated spot. "Shall we hope to avoid oddities today?" he added with a note of humor.
Scoffing, Sanzo closed his eyes. The vehicle rumbled as the engine came to life. "Oddities are impossible to avoid with you lot."
"Ain't that the truth," Gojyo chimed in.
Chuckling, Hakkai shifted the jeep into gear. "A relatively peaceful trip, then?"
As the scenery whizzed by, Sanzo glanced into the side mirror. Goku was barely visible from where he sat; his expression was bored, something that Gojyo was likely to rectify sooner or later. More than likely, sooner. For an instant, golden eyes reflected directly back at him. Time suspended, and despite the comfortable seat, Sanzo suddenly felt as though he were pressed against the wooden porch pillar again.
The moment passed, and he shook his head. "Now you're asking for the impossible."
Behind him, he could feel Goku smile.