in my nature

They were stuck overnight with a group of strangers round the campfire. Sanzou could live with that.

Some of the strangers were (a) noisy, (b) morons, (c) noisy morons. Sanzou could live with that too.

But what rankled was that in the absence of Gojyo (wandered off to "check on Jiipu" with Hakkai's "assistance", after failing to score with either of the two women in the other group), Sanzou was forced to resort to bumming cigarettes off the blond cook.

"Here," the cook said, tossing his pack over. "Have one. Hell, have a few. Life's too short."

"Mm?" Sanzou queried, shaking several out into his hand. Nicotine withdrawal was hitting hard, exacerbated by stress. He still wasn't entirely sure that he trusted these strangers.

"Life's too short," the cook clarified, "to be without a cigarette, or a plate of food, or a glass of wine. Or a woman. Though I'm guessing that's not your thing, if you're ordained or whatever."

Sanzou nodded neutrally. He lit one of the cigarettes, slid it between his lips, and took a long deep draw of blessed nicotine. It almost resigned him to the cook sitting down beside him and lighting up too.

"Tell me," the cook said. "Is that kid always that hungry?"

Sanzou nodded. He took the cigarette out of his mouth. "No insult to your food," he said, moved by the tobacco to some degree of courtesy, "but Goku always shovels it down."

The cook shrugged. "So does the captain," he said, nodding at the moron in the straw hat who was busy pulling faces at Goku on the other side of the fire. "Still. One likes to know they're eating well."

Sanzou remembered, like a wind against his skin, the endless white freezing slopes where he had found Goku, where the monkey had been sitting alone and starving for centuries.

He couldn't have let the monkey starve for longer still. He'd fed him. But the cook had a point. There was a difference between just giving him any food, and giving him good food.

(Peaches. Why did he remember the taste of peaches, golden and bursting, and warm air on his skin, and a complicated smile?)

There was, of course, no reason for him to tell the cook so. "Mnh," he grunted, and took another drag on his cigarette.

"So what do you like?" the cook asked. "To eat, that is."

"Food." Sanzou thought about it. "Alcohol," he added.

"Nothing more precise?"

"Why do you ask?" Sanzou gave him his best withering sideways glare.

The cook smiled back sidelong, and drew on his own cigarette. "Because it's in my nature to feed you."

"Hnh." Sanzou twitched his shoulders. Finally he said, "Ramen. With mayonnaise."

The cook's visible eye widened visibly. "Ramen. With mayonnaise."

"Right," Sanzou said. He stared at the fire until the cook stopped looking at him.

The next morning, breakfast was ramen.

With mayonnaise.

And it was good.

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