Title: Zang Fu Theory, Part 1: Herutsu (Heart)
Summary: Sanzo and Hakkai are called away in the middle of the night to help a severely injured farmer and Gojyo is left babysitting a dragon.
Warning: Language, Sexual Situations
Notes: I hate the monocle, so in this fic Hakkai wears glasses.
Zang-Fu theory is a concept within traditional Chinese medicine that describes the functions of the organs of the body and the interactions that occur between them. The organs are associated energetically with the five elements of wood, fire, earth, water and metal. The Herutsu (Heart) is the Home of the Shen (Aggregate Soul) and is associated with Fire.
Sanzo was sitting up, gun leveled at the closed door before it registered what had brought him out of a dead sleep. He held his breath as he strained for it, and there it was, a creak in the hallway and a shadow moving past the strip of light at the bottom of the door. He slowly released the breath and slid his legs out from under the covers, keeping the gun steady. It was warm, so he was sleeping shirtless, in a pair of old worn jeans. When his bare feet touched the wooden floor, purple eyes flicked to the bed on his right. Hakkai was already sitting up sideways on the bed in his drawstring pajama bottoms, wearing his glasses and calmly watching the door as well.
"Damn," Sanzo thought.
He hadn't seen Hakkai move at all, and he had excellent peripheral vision. Which meant the brown-haired man had awoken, fetched his glasses from the night stand, moved out from under the covers and sat up, all the while making less noise five feet away from Sanzo than whoever it was in the hallway fifteen feet away. Either that, or he had become so accustomed to Hakkai's presence that when the other man moved around while he was vulnerable he didn't wake up.
Sanzo preferred believing Hakkai possessed supernatural cat-like stealth.
The shadow stopped at the middle of the door.
Sanzo thumbed the hammer back into place and lowered the gun. Assassins didn't knock.
"Yes?" Hakkai asked, soft voice carrying easily in the quiet.
The door eased open, and Sanzo shot the innkeeper an annoyed glare before shoving the gun back under the pillow. He reached for the pack of cigarettes and lighter he had tossed onto the night stand which had miraculously become neatly stacked next to a clean ashtray that had been half-full of butts when he fell asleep.
The blonde allowed himself a soft snort of amusement as he lit up. Hakkai's face tilted slightly in his direction, but the polite smile didn't waver as he apparently gave the distraught innkeeper his undivided attention. Sanzo took a long drag and fixed his gaze on the window, drawing a knee up and laying his arm across it. Through the stream of smoke, he watched the innkeeper's reflection in the glass as he spoke urgently of a farmhouse fire, trying not to look over at the silent monk.
Sanzo almost snorted again. They always trusted Hakkai. Quiet, polite, smiling, self-effacing, apparently harmless Hakkai. Morons. Out of the entire group, the bespectacled youkai was the most dangerous.
Hakkai walked the innkeeper to the door, murmuring assurances as the overwrought man threw a nervous glance at Sanzo over his shoulder. Hakkai firmly shut the door and walked back to the beds. Squinting through the twisting tendrils of smoke, Sanzo watched Hakkai's fractured reflection in the panes of dark glass. His gaze lingered on the ragged scar snaking up from the waistband of his pajamas.
The first year on the road, Hakkai always managed to keep the scar covered, sleeping in buttoned up pajama tops or shirts even in the most sweltering nights in an airless tent. When had the quiet man become so comfortable walking around shirtless, scar naked? Perversely, Sanzo felt less perturbed about not waking up when Hakkai had earlier. Perhaps he wasn't the only one... becoming accustomed.
The calm gaze was waiting for him in the window when Sanzo's eyes moved up. Green looking through glass into glass and locking with purple. Reflections of reflections. Moonlight struck Hakkai's glasses and obscured his eyes as he bent forward.
"Sanzo, please open the window when you smoke," Hakkai admonished gently, flipping the latch and swinging the wooden frames open.
Grudgingly, Sanzo scooted closer to the window and blew the next stream of smoke outside. Hakkai pulled his bag from under his bed and removed clean travel clothes, setting the neatly folded bundle on the covers. Swiveling on his heels, the healer pulled Sanzo's bag out.
"You don't honestly think I give a crap about some farmer," Sanzo muttered.
Hakkai continued unpacking clothes as if he hadn't spoken. The breastplate followed the robe, then the sash, shirt, arm bands, socks...
"Now, now, I know you don't mean that," Hakkai said.
Smiling, Hakkai picked up the pile of his clothes and went into the bathroom.
"Dammit," Sanzo stubbed out his cigarette and snagged his shirt.
"I don't like it, 'Kai," Gojyo groused, rubbing his sleep-stubbled cheek to wake himself up.
The hanyou was sitting up in bed, elbows resting on his drawn-up knees. Since he was sharing the room, he made the concession of sleeping in a ratty pair of drawstring sweatpants instead of in the nude as he preferred. Despite the "pervert" accusations of the monk, Gojyo's sleeping preference was actually due to the fact that he was a very warm sleeper. Even in the winter he rarely needed more than a light blanket. He raked a hand through his fine red hair, unknowingly making the sleep-mussed cloud stand out more.
"It's a mission of mercy, Gojyo," Hakkai said softly, batting away Gojyo's hand.
The brunette produced a comb from his pocket in the same miraculous fashion Sanzo was able to produce that damned harisen from his robes. Very gently, Hakkai began untangling the long, silky strands, smoothing behind the comb with the palm of his hand. Gojyo unconsciously leaned into the caress. Hakkai was the only person he let mess with his hair.
"That's not what I mean," Gojyo murmured, crimson eyes half-closed in pleasure. "First, the pissy priest snags you for a roomie and leaves me stuck with the snoring monkey..."
Both men turned and looked at the occupant of the other bed. Goku was tangled in the covers, arms and legs thrown wide, half hanging off the bed. His mouth was open, a glistening line of drool coming from the corner of his mouth along with an impressive amount of noise. The grating sound reminded Gojyo of a locust. A swarm of locust. A swarm of giant locust...
"Hm." Hakkai gave a firm tug on a lock of hair as he put away the comb with the other hand, drawing Gojyo's attention back to him.
"And now he's draggin' you off in the middle of the night without..." Gojyo almost said "me", but managed at the last second to catch himself. "...us."
It wasn't exactly like he was jealous of Lord High and Mighty with his pretty face and white, flawless skin... Gojyo gave the practiced little flick of his head that let his hair slip over his shoulder and curtain his left cheek, hiding the two parallel scars. It was just annoying how when the crappy monk spent time alone with any of them, it was almost always with his Hakkai, and the quiet healer always went along with it and did whatever Sanzo said. He liked it better when it was just him and Hakkai.
After all, he was the one who found Hakkai; he was the one who gave up smoking for fuck's sake while he was healing up. Hakkai was his roommate. Hakkai was his best friend. Hakkai was, just, well, his. And Gojyo didn't like sharing. He'd had so little in his life that belonged just to him and him alone.
Crimson eyes rose to meet green as Hakkai brushed the hair back from Gojyo's face, cool fingertips ghosting over the scars before his hand dropped to rest on a bare shoulder. Gojyo's face flushed, but he didn't drop his eyes. Hakkai read him like an open book; a large-print book with illustrations.
"We should be back by morning," Hakkai said, squeezing the shoulder and standing up. "I'm leaving Hakuryu here since the farmer's son drove himself here in an ox-cart." Hakkai glanced at Gojyo over his shoulder as he opened the door. "Look after him for me, please, Gojyo."
"Great," Gojyo snorted, fishing around in the small pile of trash on the night stand for his cigarettes. "Another pest to babysit." When he felt Hakkai's smile chill, he held out a palm of peace. "I mean, yeah, sure, Kai. No problem."
Hakkai's smile warmed, and he nodded in satisfaction before leaving the little room, shutting the door behind him.
Gojyo lit the tip of the cigarette, and snapped the lighter closed, tossing it back into the middle of the pile on the table. A yen coin glittered on the table, and he idly wondered if he could chuck it into the Cavern of Winds across the room, then decided a snoring monkey was better than a chattering monkey. Shrugging his shoulders, Gojyo took a deep drag on the cigarette and lay back in bed, folding his left arm under his head.
There was no way he was going to be able to get back to sleep until Hakkai came back.
The farmer's son was a gangly, raw-boned boy perhaps thirteen years old at most, with hands that seemed too big for his wrists, yet wielded the reins on the ox-cart with confidence. Sanzo and Hakkai sat in the cart, their backs against the driver's bench as the boy, Wan Tu, told them what happened. Sanzo smoked silently, while Hakkai gathered the crucial details as painlessly as possible. It wasn't particularly strenuous; partly because the poor boy was in shock, and because the deft extraction of information was an art Hakkai had practiced all his life to the point he sometimes didn't even realize he was doing it. Information was power, and Hakkai had long ago swore he would never be powerless.
It had been a dry summer for this part of the country, apparently. Yesterday there had been an electrical storm, which they knew. Sanzo quirked an eyebrow at Hakkai. The ex-teacher had indulged in a long explanation of electrical storms for Goku when the boy had come running into their room, excited about "the fireworks". While the foursome had been enjoying the heavenly spectacle, it had turned deadly for this boy's father when a ball of lightning had struck the barn and it had exploded into flames like dry tinder touched by a lit match.
Hakkai smelled the charred wood and tasted burnt ozone in the air just as the cart crested a hill in the bumpy dirt road, then the black skeletal remains of the barn rose into view. It looked like a broken hand reaching up to grasp the sickle moon hanging low in the sky.
The charred wood smell was replaced with the sickening stench of burnt flesh and dying when the trio entered the farmhouse. When Hakkai got his first good look at the ruined mess of a man on the bed, he knew the boy had been overly optimistic going to town to fetch a healer. Hakkai saw Sanzo's fair brows draw down into a frown as he opened his mouth. The healer smoothly slipped between Sanzo and Wan Tu to prevent the blonde from stating the obvious and crushing the fragile hope in the boy's grieving face.
"I'll see what I can do," Hakkai said, ignoring Sanzo's sigh and kneeling next to the bed.
The healer discreetly breathed through his mouth to avoid gagging on the foul odor. He pulled back the worn, rough blanket, brown eyes widening at the gruesome sight. The farmer's torso was red and blistered, but relatively intact, however, his limbs were charred through to the bone, hands and feet reduced to blackened knobs. Bloody bandages were wrapped around the man's eyes, and the rest of his face was the color of raw steak pimpled with yellowish-white pustules. All traces of hair were gone, the ears were merely holes in the sides of his head and his lips were peeled back like melted wax. Thin, wheezing breath rattled through blackened teeth. Even the man's shriveled tongue was black and blistered.
Hakkai had never seen anyone burned so horribly. How had the man managed to stay alive this long? Hakkai glanced up at the awkward boy standing in the shabby house utterly lacking in a woman's touch, and knew. The man had held on for his son. Through unimaginable agony, he had selflessly clung on to the torturous thing his very life must now be. Bile burned up Hakkai's throat unexpectedly, and he swallowed it back down.
"Sir?" Wan Tu asked, hands twisting in the front of his shirt.
"I'm afraid he's beyond healing," Hakkai said quietly, as if saying the words softly would lessen their impact. "But I can ease his pain a little."
The boy's eyes closed, and his bowed head jerked up and down twice in what Hakkai took to be consent.
Hakkai looked back over his shoulder at Sanzo, who scowled at him. The healer raised an eyebrow, inviting the monk to say something. The scowl deepened.
"I'm going outside for a smoke," Sanzo muttered.
The blonde brushed past Hakkai so quickly the brown-haired man wasn't sure if the hand that touched his shoulder in passing was a pat or a shove. Before Hakkai could decide, Sanzo was gone. Dismissing it from his mind, Hakkai took a deep, steadying breath and marshaled his concentration for the task at hand. He visualized the chi resting in his center as a pool of light, and took a deep pull, channeling it up and through his arms. The reverse of swimming; instead of moving through the water, the water moved through him. The familiar tingling ran up under his skin. Attempting to explain the sensation to a curious Kappa, Hakkai had likened the sensation to when a limb falls asleep and comes awake again.
Because this was healing chi and not fighting chi, Hakkai didn't form the flare ball, but instead allowed the force to pool above his palms, creating a shimmer. Turning his hands over, the healer carefully poised the shimmer above the dying man, allowing the chi to flow slowly and steadily into the ruined flesh, cooling the burned nerves, extinguishing the thousand flares of pain.
A choking sound of surprise made Hakkai's eyes fly open, hands still hovering over the farmer. The blind, bandaged face turned towards him, mouth gaping wider. The shriveled tongue writhed like a leprous worm. Thinking the burned man meant to speak, Hakkai bent closer.
It was a dying man's final breath, hardly the first or most foul to brush Hakkai's face, but it was certainly the coldest. Closing his eyes, the youkai swallowed, feeling something hard and sharp go down, like a sliver of ice.
Sanzo squinted up at the night sky through the stream of cigarette smoke. He was pissed. He shouldn't have let Hakkai drag him out to this dirt farm in the middle of the night. He shouldn't be letting Hakkai waste his chi on a dead man. With a snort, Sanzo whipped the cigarette out of his mouth and threw it down, grounding the glowing stub out under his boot. Like anyone "let" Hakkai do anything.
"When did I become such a fucking pussy?" Sanzo muttered, rubbing his face and running a hand through his wind-tangled bangs.
A chill pricked the back of the monk's neck, sending goosebumps down his arms underneath the robe. Right hand sliding into his sleeve to touch the worn handle of the banishing gun, the blond man spun in the pale moonlight and ran back into the shack. His sharp eyes quickly assessed the situation. Boy, kneeling on the floor, praying and weeping. Dead man on the bed. Dumbass healer pouring chi into the corpse.
Raising the same boot that had just crushed out the cigarette, Sanzo kicked Hakkai in the shoulder, knocking the brown-haired man away from the bed to fall sideways in a boneless heap on the floor. Sanzo waited a moment, ignoring the boy rising to his feet with a cry. He could give a shit about the boy. The one he was concerned with was currently busy not moving.
"Damnit." Sanzo knelt beside Hakkai.
The healer's glasses had been knocked askew on his still face, eyes closed beneath the green headband holding back the wild shock of brown hair. With the precise care of a fellow eyeglass-wearer, Sanzo plucked up the spectacles, folded them closed and tucked them away into the sleeve of his robe. Violet eyes narrowed at the brief touch of his fingertips against Hakkai's cheek. Sanzo pressed the back of his hand firmly against the oval face. It was stone cold.
"How much chi did you drain, you idiot?" Sanzo demanded, not expecting an answer from the unconscious man, but pissed when there wasn't one anyway. The silence was further proof of the healer's massive demonstration of stupidity. The one man in the team he thought he could leave alone long enough for a smoke and not get himself killed or into some kind of trouble that would cause Sanzo a massive headache.
"W-what's wrong with him?" the boy asked.
"A lot," Sanzo snapped.
Pulling the lean man into a C-shape, Sanzo grasped his wrists in one hand and pulled Hakkai up and across his shoulders. With a grunt, he staggered to his feet, shifting Hakkai's limp body so the majority of the weight was across his shoulders, Sanzo hooking his left elbow behind Hakkai's knees, right hand sliding up from the wrists to grip the forearms. The pervy Kappa had taught them the shoulder carry that could also double as a wrestling throw. The redhead had called it the "drunk's hump" with those laughing eyes and wide, smart-ass smile. Asshole didn't have a right to know something useful. Sanzo would have to make a point of not telling him.
"Bring any clean blankets, and a lamp," Sanzo barked, not bothering to wait and see if his orders were followed.
Stance shortened by the burden he carried, Sanzo walked to the small shed he had seen on the other side of the shack. He wasn't going to stay in that room with the smoldering corpse any longer than he had to, and there wasn't time to bundle Hakkai up in the wagon and haul ass back to town. He had to be warmed up now. He was already going into shock. Sanzo kicked the door and it splintered apart as much as it opened. The earthy smell of roots and vegetables swirled around the cloud of dust. There was just enough room for two men to lay straight between the rows of barrels and jars lined against the low walls. With a grunt of effort to not dump the unconscious man, Sanzo knelt ungracefully and pulled Hakkai around into his lap to keep him off the cold ground.
Sanzo was about to shout for the boy, when the weak moonlight was blocked by a shadow. The boy stood there, a disreputable stack of blankets slung over one shoulder, holding a lit paper lantern in one hand. The monk indicated with a jerk of his chin to lay the blanket down and the boy obeyed silently, setting the rest down in a pile. Carefully cradling Hakkai's head in the palm of his hand, Sanzo lowered him onto the blanket. He felt the boy's eyes watching him, hovering awkwardly by the door, silence heavy with the unasked question. Sanzo felt the weight of it across the back of his shoulders as surely as he had felt the weight of Hakkai's body.
"My father-" the boy started.
"He's dead," Sanzo stated flatly, not looking up from tucking blankets around Hakkai.
"I know." Sanzo tried not to flinch at the sniffle. "In the morning, Sanzo-sama, will you say the prayers?"
Pale hands paused over the blankets, then returned to their task. He could say no. He should get his healer back into traveling shape, walk back to town, wake up the lazy Monkey and Kappa from their warm, cozy beds, and go back to the mission. He didn't have time for a dead dirt farmer or his orphaned son.
"Yes," Sanzo said sharply. "Now, get out," he added so the boy wouldn't get any ideas he wanted to have an actual conversation.
As soon as the remains of the door were pushed shut, Sanzo gracefully folded his legs into full lotus position and pressed the palms of his hands together. With the practiced ease of a lifetime, the monk's breathing slowed as he slipped into a meditative state, holding the image of Hakkai in his mind even as the violet eyes slowly closed.
Long after the farmer's wagon had lumbered out of sight down the road, Gojyo had lounged at the bedroom window, bare shoulder leaning against the wall and smoking. With a sigh, he shrugged himself away from the wall and stubbed out the cigarette in the overflowing ashtray. Hakkai had made it sound like they were going to be gone awhile, so there really wasn't any point in watching the road like some stray dog. Absently, Gojyo picked up the sake bottle and shook it, even though he knew it was empty. He idly contemplated finding a bar, then dismissed the idea. Such thoughts were more old habit than motivated by actual desire. The redhead didn't like going out drinking alone anymore. Sifting through the crap on the night stand, Gojyo snagged a pack of playing cards and glanced over at the snoozing Goku.
He grinned to himself. No reason to share a room with a snoring monkey, when there was a perfectly good, currently unoccupied one going to waste. Silent on bare feet, Gojyo padded out of the room into the dark hallway. His youkai eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness and he slipped into Hakkai and Sanzo's room. He automatically paused just past the threshold, but no curses or other objects were thrown at his head. Sanzo was a supernaturally light sleeper. Gojyo swore the pissy monk would wake up from a dead sleep if a flea in the mattress farted.
Gojyo strolled over to the neatly-made bed he knew had to be Hakkai's and dropped himself down onto it hard enough to bounce. Scooting his narrow hips back, he adjusted the pillow between his back and the wall and stretched out his long legs. Leaning over, he turned up the lamp to a soft glow. Sanzo had thoughtfully left half a pack of his cigs next to the ashtray. Grinning, Gojyo tapped out a stick and flipped it up into his mouth. The grin faded a bit when he noticed the lighter on the table was his.
"When did the monk pinch my lighter?" Gojyo wondered. He tossed it back on the table after lighting up and taking a long drag. Not his preferred brand, but twice as sweet for being pilfered.
Pulling the rubber band off the deck, he slipped it onto his wrist and began shuffling the worn cards. These cards were so beat-up, no one would play him with the deck, figuring they were marked, but they were just a favorite set, so he used them for practice. His long fingers coaxed the old, bent cards into bridging. Gojyo also liked the snap and slick feel of a brand new deck fanning crisply in his hands, but there was something to be said for old friends.
"Chirrrup?" A large, white object glided down out of open closet.
"Shit!" Cards flew everywhere and the cigarette dropped from Gojyo's mouth. "Shitshitshit." The redhead quickly snatched the lit stick from his bare stomach and stuck it back between his teeth as he brushed cooling ash off his skin.
Leaning his palms on his thighs, Gojyo leaned forward and glared at the white dragon perched at the foot of the bed. After a moment, the small, round red eyes blinked and Hakuryu turned himself around three times like a damn cat and curled up between Gojyo's feet. Since it was kind of pointless to glare at something that was pretty much ignoring you, Gojyo shook his head and picked up the cards scattered over the bedspread.
"Hakkai did tell me to look after you," Gojyo conceded, rubbing the dragon's side with his foot.
Hakuryu pushed back into the touch just enough to let Gojyo know yes, he was allowing himself to be petted. The redhead smiled. The little dragon wasn't purring and arching in ecstasy like he did when Hakkai handled him, but he also didn't let just anyone mess with him. Hakuryu had actually bitten Goku more than once. As a matter of fact, Gojyo was the only one in the group besides the healer who could basically touch the dragon whenever he wanted.
"I know I'm just a stand-in," Gojyo laughed softly. "But, we can keep each other company until he gets back, okay?"
"Cheep." Red eyes slit open, then closed against a wide, toothy yawn.
Sucking on the cigarette, Gojyo began laying out the cards.
The first impression impinging upon his awareness was cold. Severe, knifing cold slicing through his insides like a ferocious ice storm howling in his bones. Beyond the clacking of his own teeth and stuttering breath, Hakkai heard the calm, low monotone of chanting. What was wrong with him? It had to be serious for Sanzo to perform a healing chant. Blinking his eyes open, Hakkai forced himself to focus on the white figure sitting next to him on the floor, golden head erect. It was like trying to peer through a frosted pane of glass. He frowned.
"May all dangers be averted and all disease be gone."
Hakkai tried to relax his spasming muscles, imagining the words falling from the monk's moving lips were landing on his face, releasing pockets of peace and warmth. Slowly, his jaw unclenched and his teeth stopped chattering.
"May no obstacle come across your way."
Peace and warmth. Relax, relax... He tried to drink in the words, filling the empty chi channels... The howling in his bones became a muted roar.
"May you enjoy fulfillment and long life."
Unclenching his left fist, Hakkai pushed his hand through the blankets and touched the tips of his fingers to the monk's covered knee. It was the slightest of touches, a brush of butterfly wings, but the violet eyes instantly snapped open and latched onto Hakkai's face with blazing intensity. For a moment, Hakkai lost his breath all over again, and almost started shaking, but this time because of the fierce beauty that was Genjyo Sanzo when he practiced his vocation. For a moment, the last word hung in the air, the power of the chant lifting Sanzo's hair up around his face in a nimbus of spun sunlight, the red chakra visible through the shifting strands. In the dim light from the paper lantern and the broken light sifting through the slats in the door, his alabaster skin and white robes almost glowed. He seemed more divine than mortal.
It was easy to forget, in the day-to-day toils of travel and the sharp tang of blood and gunpowder, that Sanzo was no ordinary man. As Hakkai had witnessed himself in those early days at the temple, this was a revered person, chosen as a child by another Sanzo, and proven over and over again a favored of Son of Heaven.
Prayerful hands lowered, then disappeared into the voluminous sleeves as the Chosen One leaned forward.
"You're a pain in the ass," Sanzo said.
Hakkai's startled laugh turned into a cough that hooked painfully into his chest. His eyes watered. Without realizing it, his left hand clenched in Sanzo's robe as he struggled to regain his breath.
"Damn it, you're going to tear my robe," Sanzo muttered.
Hakkai felt his hand pried open and the fabric pulled free before miraculously, another set of fingers laced through his. Sanzo maneuvered the two of them so Hakkai's head rested in his lap. The effect was startling. Everywhere their bodies were in contact, even through the material, Hakkai could feel the heat radiating off the monk, clean and healthy as summer.
"S-sanzo, s-s-s-so w-warm," Hakkai managed to stutter.
"Yeah, you're still like fucking ice," Sanzo said.
"F-from ch-chi drain?" Hakkai frowned.
When he had first learned how to channel his chi, he had accidentally drained himself to the point of unconsciousness, to be revived by a very irritated Sanzo. Eventually he had learned to listen to his body's warning signs when it was time to cease expending chi and begin reserving again. It had never felt quite like this, however. He wondered if it was because the man he was healing died while they were still connected? No, death should have instantly severed the connection, releasing Hakkai.
"Maybe." Sanzo lifted the edge of the blanket and wriggled his way underneath in the narrow space.
"W-what are you d-doing?" Hakkai's normally sharp mind still felt numb with cold, his thoughts hazy and heavy like a low winter mist.
"Shut up," Sanzo said as he spooned around Hakkai, tucking his head under his chin. "The stuttering is annoying. I'm keeping you warm until morning. If you tell the others, I'll have to kill you."
Hakkai almost laughed again, except his eyes filled with tears of relief. Sanzo's heat wrapped around him like a blanket, until he felt as if he was curled up beside a banked fireplace. The healer had thought only Gojyo could generate this kind of extreme body heat. Perhaps it was only because he was so cold... Without thinking, Hakkai snuggled back into the wonderful warmth, a sigh of pure bliss escaping him. The body behind him tensed a moment, then relaxed and actually pulled him in closer.
As Hakkai's eyes drifted shut, he realized absently that Sanzo was still holding his hand.
Sanzo knew he shouldn't be so comfortable. After chanting, there was always a peaceful afterglow that made him less inclined to argue or to visit violence upon the idiots around him. However, that in no way could account for the pleasant feel of holding Hakkai in his arms. He moved his chin, nuzzling his face deeper into the clean, soft brown hair. The healer always smelled slightly of soap and herbs. Even though he knew Hakkai and Gojyo used the same shampoo, they smelled completely different. At the thought of the redhead, Sanzo's right arm crooked, instinctively drawing Hakkai in closer. The sleeping man sighed and pushed back into him.
"Ch," Sanzo frowned.
He shouldn't even like this, let alone want it. He had lived a life of such extremes, sometimes he was incapable of predicting his own reaction to people, which was annoying as hell. He went from being by himself to living in a temple crowded with monks, sleeping in a room with other acolytes, then his master. It wasn't until he was alone out in the world again that he realized how much noise sleeping people make: breathing, murmurs, the rustling of clothes, small movements on straw mats. Such sounds somehow made the night smaller. He learned to adjust to the long nights. Even when he returned to the temple, he always slept alone, needing the space of the empty room so he wouldn't get used to the sounds; so he wouldn't need them again to sleep.
During this journey, somehow the sounds had invaded him again. On the rare occasions when he could demand a room to himself, they still seeped through the walls; laughter, snoring, whispers, movements. The living presence of these three creatures permeated every moment of his life to the point that Sanzo thought he couldn't bear it.
What would happen to him if it were suddenly silent again?
"Cold," Hakkai murmured.
The healer released his hand and turned around in his arms, pushing his face into the crook of Sanzo's neck through the gap in the front of the robe. Hakkai's trapped breath quickly created a warm spot, making Sanzo's skin goosebump above the high neck of his black shirt. Somehow, in the reshuffling of positions and blankets, Hakkai's clever fingers had managed to untie Sanzo's sash and practically crawl into his robe with him. Sanzo clamped his legs tight on the knee that was pushing between his thighs and grasped Hakkai's forearms even as they tried to wind around his waist.
"What the fuck?" Sanzo demanded.
Instead of answering, Hakkai licked the skin under Sanzo's jaw and started sucking as cold hands found skin between the black shirt and the waistband of the monk's jeans. Now Sanzo was the one having trouble catching his breath, heart pounding so hard he was sure the healer could hear it, could feel it through his mouth and hands. Failing to pull Hakkai back by his arms, Sanzo grabbed a fistful of hair and jerked the healer's head back sharply.
"What the hell are you doing?" Sanzo growled.
"Generating heat through friction," Hakkai said, calmly meeting Sanzo's glare.
Before Sanzo could reply, he found himself on his back, Hakkai firmly nestled between his legs. He always forgot how strong the mild-mannered youkai was. Trying to ignore the pressure Hakkai's thigh was exerting on his erection, Sanzo quickly brushed back the brown hair and checked that the three limiters were in place on the healer's ear. There was also no tell-tale sign of vine tattoo. All of his senses were telling Sanzo that this man on top of him was Hakkai. That didn't mean something wasn't fucked.
"Need more heat," Hakkai murmured against his throat, sucking his earlobe.
Sanzo had to resist the urge to tilt his head and offer up his neck to the touch. It had been so fucking long... Reaching up, Sanzo grabbed the sides of Hakkai's head and lifted him up enough to meet his eyes. The pupil in the left eye was dilated so wide the green iris was almost lost, while the artificial eye remained unchanged. For a moment, the monk could only see the small, distorted reflection of himself in the glass, then he saw it. A flash, so quick he might of missed it if he blinked. Then Sanzo knew Hakkai wasn't alone in there.
"I'll give you heat," Sanzo said, and flipped them over again.
Holding Hakkai's face firmly between the palms of his hands, Sanzo dipped his head and pressed his lips hard against the healer's. They were cold, but warmed quickly beneath his mouth and parted willingly when Sanzo's tongue stabbed forward. Ignoring the hands pulling at his hips and the body writhing beneath him, Sanzo's right thumb slipped down Hakkai's cheek to push his chin down, opening his mouth wider. Sanzo sucked Hakkai's breath into his body, pressing down hard, crushing their mouths together. When it finally came into him, he was pulling so hard, Sanzo almost swallowed it himself. He managed at the last moment to tear his mouth away from Hakkai's, turn his head and expel it with a violent cough.
"Bastard," Sanzo panted, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
That was when the world exploded into lightning and fire.
Gojyo lowered the hand of cards he had dealt himself and peered down at the white dragon who had crept up the bed from his feet to lay between his thigh and the wall. The redhead frowned. That wasn't a normal Hakuryu sound.
"You okay, little guy?" Gojyo asked around his cigarette, bending down.
Cautiously (just because he hadn't been bitten yet didn't mean he wouldn't be), Gojyo reached down and with the tips of his fingers gently stroked the soft white mane of fur tufting from the top of the dragon's head. The response was more than Gojyo was expecting. Hakuryu laid his long ears against his skull and pushed his nose up, half-wrapping his sinuous neck around Gojyo's tanned wrist. Through the contact, he could feel the low thrumming of the dragon's odd heartbeat, and a vibration that barely reached his Hanyou ears as purring.
"Like that, huh?" Gojyo smiled.
Setting down the cards, he used his other hand to stroke the soft fur down the length of Hakuryu's lithe body, all the way to the tail. As his hand moved, the dragon arched up into the touch, a rolling wave of vertebrae. Gojyo was pleasantly surprised. The little dragon was usually only this responsive to Hakkai. Sometimes watching the two of them constantly snuggling made him feel a little put out, and he would deliberately sling an arm around the brunette's shoulders just to keep the flying rat away for five minutes. Petting Hakuryu like this made him feel kind of... privileged.
The dragon crawled onto Gojyo's stomach, tail wrapping firmly around his thigh, wings slightly spread for balance. The long neck stretch out flat on his chest until the angular head was nuzzling Gojyo's neck. The redhead kept up the long, light strokes, enjoying the feel of the low, purring vibration and cool, soft scales flexing against his warm belly and chest. Something soft flicked the sensitive skin below his jaw and Gojyo jerked reflexively.
"You licking me?" Gojyo laughed. "Not that I'm against a little lovin', but you're sorta the wrong, what is it, species, you know?"
Stubbing out his cigarette in the ashtray, Gojyo flattened his hands against Hakuryu's torso and tried to lift the dragon off him. Hakuryu growled, and two sets of claws dug into his abdomen, pricking the bare skin above the waistline of his sweatpants. The strong tail pulled up hard against the redhead's groin, binding his balls up against his dick. Gojyo froze.
"Aw, crap," Gojyo muttered.
Another flick, a hard bump of the angled head to tilt Gojyo's chin up, and he felt a sharp pinch on his neck. The redhead fought the instinct to pull his head away and jerk the dragon off of him. After the first bad bite Goku had received, Hakkai had given them a little lecture on dragon physiology. The canines were longer than the other teeth and curved. Once Hakuryu had chomped down onto something, the only way to get him to let go was to press up into the bite, otherwise whatever it was (like Goku's hand), would be ripped instead of just perforated. And, Hakkai had said something about the dragon's jaws having so many pounds of pressure per inch, which Gojyo didn't really understand. He had seen Hakuryu hunting when they were camping out, though, and knew the dragon could snap a squirrel's neck in half a second. Gojyo figured ripping out a human jugular wouldn't really be much of a challenge.
The pinch tightened, and Gojyo winced at the sharp pain that shot down his neck. If there was one thing Gojyo knew, it was body language. The redhead forced his body to relax; he knew tension could be transmitted easily, and he didn't want to upset the little dragon any more than he already was. Slowly, he began stroking Hakuryu again, and was rewarded by the bite on his neck easing up a bit. The relief was short-lived, because the dragon's triple-toed claws dug in for a solid grip, pricking tiny beads of blood to the surface. Hakuryu spread his wings wide, and began undulating up and down the length of his body against Gojyo.
"You gotta be shitting me," Gojyo groaned.
He definitely knew body language. He was being humped by a dragon.
Hakkai threw a palm out, and a chi shield arched over him and Sanzo as a cloud of lightning whirled around the tiny shed before balling up and bursting through the door. Allowing the chi to dissipate, the healer slowly sat up and stared at the smoldering remains of wood hanging off the hinges. Around the two men, shelves were broken, barrels overturned, and the air was filled with the overwhelming odor of burnt ozone.
"Fucking fire oni," Sanzo muttered.
The monk had also sat up, and now poked a finger through a burn hole in the sleeve of his robe. Hakkai glanced down. The blankets looked as if a bucket of hot cinders had been dumped on them; they were covered with scorch marks. In the increased illumination from the open doorway, Hakkai could clearly see Sanzo's face, and noticed that his bottom lip was burned.
"Sanzo," the healer said softly.
The blonde faced him, and Hakkai automatically lifted a cupped hand out to the other man, then hesitated. A moment ago, he had literally been crawling all over Sanzo, his libido completely out of control. A hot flush crept up Hakkai's neck into his face. Even if he had been... influenced... by an oni, his behavior was still embarrassing to say the least. Violet eyes watched him, then a pale eyebrow rose.
"You're burned," Hakkai explained.
The eyebrow quirked higher when Hakkai's hand hovered between them.
"Ch," Sanzo snorted. "Get on with it, then."
Given permission, Hakkai's hand completed its path and cupped Sanzo's jaw. The amount of chi required for such a minor wound was negligible, and the flash of light barely registered before the burn was healed. The hand lowered along with Hakkai's gaze, and he took a deep, steadying breath as he searched for the appropriate words. They were a small, intimate group, and issues had to be addressed immediately. As a healer, Hakkai knew the dangers of allowing something to fester. He and Sanzo would need to discuss what had happened.
The sound of rustling cloth made Hakkai lift his eyes from the tightly clasped hands in his lap. Sanzo was shaking out the blankets and laying down. Automatically, Hakkai grasped the corners and helped straighten the makeshift bed, finding himself laying down beside the monk again before he quite realized it. There wasn't enough room in the chaos for both of them to lay shoulder-to-shoulder, so Hakkai lay on his side facing Sanzo while the monk lay on his back.
"Sanzo," Hakkai said softly.
"Go to sleep."
"I think-" Hakkai began again.
"Don't be annoying," Sanzo interrupted. "I have to chant in the morning, then we have to get back to the two idiots."
Swallowing a sigh, Hakkai studied Sanzo's profile. He knew, as unhealthy as it was, Sanzo's firm belief in Not Discussing Anything. Hakkai himself was highly selective about what topics he chose to discourse on, preferring to redirect conversations to issues concerning the other members of the group.
"Quit staring," Sanzo said suddenly without opening his eyes.
"I wasn't," Hakkai protested, even though, of course, he had been.
Sanzo's hair glinted in the moonlight as he turned toward Hakkai, purple eyes almost black, cheekbones cut in sharp relief.
"Unless you want to finish what you started," Sanzo challenged.
Hakkai's heart jumped up into his throat, choking any sound that might come out. Sanzo's shadowed stare was as indecipherable as his flat tone. Was the monk testing him, or just trying to silence him so he could get some sleep? Suddenly, Hakkai remembered when his legs were tangled with Sanzo's, his knee pressing up between jean-clad thighs, the hardness he had felt there. The flush returned to the healer's face, burning to his ears and emphasizing the cold pinch of the individual limiters on the left auricle. Although his inhibitions had been overridden by the oni's driving instinct to seek out and absorb heat, Sanzo had been aroused by... Hakkai.
The healer floundered, struggling to find a solid piece of calm in the sudden turmoil he found himself plunged into. If this had happened with Gojyo, it wouldn't have been a surprise; the redhead was an inherently sensual and sexual creature whose body had very strong reactions. But, this was Sanzo. Hakkai had developed the habit of thinking of him as almost asexual. And now, laying here inches apart, so close beneath the covers that he could feel his body heat, his breath on his face, Hakkai was very much aware that Sanzo was a man.
Why the fuck had he said that? Pissed at himself, Sanzo glared at Hakkai and refused to look away or back down. Whatever the reason, the words were said and there was no taking them back now. Not that he'd ever take anything back. He couldn't afford the luxury of appearing weak. Sanzo watched as the usually unflappable healer dealt with the awkwardness of the situation, obviously embarrassed and startlingly unsure. It was the vulnerable look in the green eyes that made Sanzo's chest tight.
Before he could think about it, Sanzo reached out and grabbed a fistful of Hakkai's tunic. Jerking him close, he pushed his left arm under the healer's neck, tucking his head under his chin. The monk flared out the blanket and shifted his grip to push his palm against the flat of Hakkai's back. At first, the muscles beneath his hand jumped with tension, then he felt the other man relax into him.
"We're just going to sleep," Sanzo said roughly.
Hair tickled his cheek as Hakkai nodded his head. A tentative hand slid around his waist, and Sanzo felt an unexpected flood of warmth at the touch.
"Of course," Hakkai agreed quietly.
Closing his eyes, Sanzo listened to the changing sounds of Hakkai falling asleep. They were as familiar to him as his own; the pattern of breathing, the extra deep breath at the end of every other inhale that was almost a sigh. However, it was completely different observing those sounds from across the room and experiencing them up close.
For one, he could feel Hakkai's heartbeat.