A/N: As before, these are a mix of all genres and characters. Though I seem to have an interest in Goku this batch. Enjoy!
(Aid): Despite their constant proximity, Sanzo and Goku were often tense with each other and ill at ease handling each other's breakdowns; Hakkai and Gojyo, however, due to the nature of their first meeting were always comfortable seeing the worst in each other, and pulling each other through it.
(Anger): Anger was expressed freely inside the ikkou, and they were all aware of each other's styles: Gojyo would flare up quickly and settle down just as quickly; Goku would persevere in his anger until something changed so the situation made sense, and then drop the matter completely; Sanzo was angry all the time, so he could never convince the others of it when he was really angry; and Hakkai was rarely angry, but when he was everyone backed up a few steps, the memory of a thousand dead youkai on their minds.
(Best): "Because I'm at my best with you," Gojyo replied flatly, after Hakkai finally dropped enough subtle hints that he would like to know why Gojyo had supported him with no questions asked for so long.
(Beyond): Sanzo neither wanted nor expected much from others, and even from the three that wound up becoming (very much against his will) his personal companions, he asked only competence in battle and the ability to take care of themselves without his help, the things he absolutely had to have; he was always surprised, even after years had gone by, when one of them took the time to deflect an incoming nuisance or offer a well-timed distraction or pick up a newspaper or a cup of coffee for him, without his having asked.
(Bleak): Their prospects for victory had been bleak to begin with, and as they got further east and learned more about who and what they were dealing with, there was not a one of them who made plans that included returning home again; but they ignored all this as blithely as they could, and when pretended ignorance was no longer possible, a spate of dark humor and a simple refusal to die would always keep them moving forward.
(Book): For a while books were banished from the house, for even the slightest reminder of Gonou was prohibitted by Hakkai; but gradually Gojyo, who had never before read for pleasure, developed an intensely suspect interest in "y'know, whatever kind of stuff you used to read," and finally Hakkai told him to stop asking for "recommendations" and just help him get a bookcase set up.
(Center): They each had a secure place in the group dynamic, a role they knew was theirs and performed without complaint; it was Hakkai whose job it was to instruct them when things grew complicated, Gojyo whose job it was to lighten their mood when things grew dark, Goku who was the center of their momentum, and Sanzo who was the center of their will.
(Child): Goku was simultaneously the oldest and the youngest member of the group, and as such embodied both a child's simplistic wants and an equally simple wisdom that was older and deeper than the earth itself--and if the other three were known to drop a battle into his hands one moment and rush to protect his innocence the next, it was perhaps less incomprehensible than it seemed.
(Confess): As a child Hakkai had been taught to regularly confess his sins to a priest and could do so like clockwork, spinning appropriate and believable lies; he never once made an actual confession until the day he sat down to a battered table, across from a man who asked not even so much as a name to call him by, and found himself pouring unedited truth into the silence.
(Dare): All of them were susceptible to dares, and any task that had at least two of them engaged in it could be counted on to be delayed by pranks and challenges; Hakkai did the math one night and announced with amazement that they could have shaved three to four months off their journey so far if they had simply dared each other to refrain from daring each other.
(Dirt): Unclean they were told, and they believed it to the depth of their souls; but as Hakkai and Gojyo settled into life together, half in shadow and half in light and completely content, they realized the word unclean was not necessarily a criticism.
(Energy): Each of them had their ups and downs, their "off" days and their addictions that kept them going; most of them time they worked around each other's moods, but when it was Goku who was "off" the whole group would grind to a halt until he got himself back together, and it was a sobering reminder both of how deeply Goku could be hurt and how much his steady strength was necessary to balance out the neurosis of the other three.
(Event): They made a point of stopping whenever they wound up in a town that was having a celebration or festival of some kind, and though they made excuses about the need to rest up a bit or acquire supplies, they all knew what they really needed was some time spent with people who were not each other.
(Face): Even though Sanzo disliked being fawned over because of his status, he never went anywhere dressed in anything but his robes; part of this was pride in what he had inherited from Koumyo, but part of it was prudence, for Sanzo had been given the lesson all his life of how a boy with a face like his was perceived, and the robes created a barrier between himself and those who either hated or coveted a male who looked like he did.
(Fidelity): Gojyo was allergic to the very concept of fidelity, preferring to be viewed as footloose and fancy-free; but although he kept all the girls at arm's length, he was loyal to a fault to those he called friends.
(Final): They did not look forward to a final battle that would end this conflict; the "final battle" would be the one that claimed their lives, and up until then even if maps were redrawn and experiments ended and alliances made, even if peace seemed to have settled in for a time, they knew that battle would find them again someday.
(Grow): When Goku was released from his cage he was thrilled to discover he was hungry; but when his renewed eating took effect and for the first time in his memory his body began to grow and change, he was unnerved and bombarded Sanzo with questions that Sanzo would rather have done just about anything than answer.
(Hang): "Hanging out" was not something Sanzo would ever admit to; if he frequently wandered down to Gojyo and Hakkai's place it was because the food was good, or because the monkey was missing and would undoubtedly turn up there, and if he stayed the night if was because said monkey was asleep and couldn't be woken, or because he was drunk and couldn't be arsed to walk home... all of which were flimsy excuses for why it felt better to crash on that couch night after night, in closer quarters than they would ever suffer on the trip to India, rather than sleep in the comfortable, quiet room that was his at the temple.
(Humane): Gojyo knew even before the spark of consciousness had faded from the eyes of the man lying on the side of the road, knew from a single glance that it would be more humane to walk past and let him die; he could never convince himself that he had saved Hakkai's life for any reason that was not selfish.
(Last): The last thing one expects is always the thing that happens; the last thing Gonou expected was to find someone he could love, and having found her the last thing he expected was to have her forcibly removed, and having committed so many crimes in her name the last thing he expected was the forgiveness of strangers and the absolution of the gods.
(Late): When they finally arrived in India, Lady Gyukumen Koushou scowled at them and said, "What could possibly have made you so late?" and although each member of the ikkou would have liked to say a great many things in response to that, none of them could quite find words strong enough.
(Lurk): A monster lurked beneath Goku's innocent smile, a monster they had all met and done battle against; and although Goku occasionally felt ashamed and wondered how they could bear knowing he might turn on them at any moment, most of them time he understood that his companions would have given anything to be more disassociated from their own monstrous sides, and would never blame Goku for lack of control.
(Money): One night, as part of a thoroughly intoxicated attempt to badger or wheedle the gold card away from Sanzo, Gojyo referred to the monk as the group's sugar daddy; Hakkai managed to prevent homicide, but there was no undoing the damage to Sanzo's dignity, and the incident was brought up anytime anyone was given the slightest provocation for months afterwards.
(Mother): It was inevitable that Hakkai would occasionally received a sarcasted "Yes, mother," as a reply while nagging at the other three to shape up, but the one time Gojyo flippantly said it, Hakkai gave him a shocked look and then subsided into a hurt mood that lasted for more than a week; and Gojyo tried to find the neccessary words to explain he hadn't meant it that way, and failed, and just swore to himself that it wouldn't happen again.
(Myth): There were myths aplenty about the monster who lived on the mountain, cast out of heaven and caged long ago for inconceivable crimes; and even though Sanzo realized early on that they really did mean Goku when they said those things, he still rolled his eyes and dismissed the legends, convinced of his own original opinion of Goku: just a kid, innocent and stupid and well-meaning and utterly incapable of being left behind.
(Natural): If things came a bit too naturally--if they were too comfortable together, too quickly, if everything was established with too much ease--if it felt like they'd known each other forever, it was dismissed as simple compatability, and the truth was never guessed.
(Neglect): Sanzo was rarely disturbed by the plight of others, but over the course of the first few months with Goku--in which Goku asked questions no four-year-old would be unable to answer, and couldn't grasp how or why people acted the way they did, and constantly discovered new favorite foods and people and trees and sunsets--Sanzo found himself amazed in spite of himself at the amount of sheer neglect that must have summed up Goku's existence till now.
(Never): Through all the years of solitude, killing more and more people while seeking the lost scripture with less and less hope, Sanzo never asked for aid; when he finally swallowed his pride and sought help from the gods, his life began a series of bizarre and unwanted changes that brought him no closer to the scripture, but left him surrounded by people he hadn't known how much he needed.
(Ordinary): Despite all the difficulties in their journey, and despite the incomprehensible fears and rigid boundaries they each possessed, the four of them managed to settle into a pattern of behavior so worn-in that even the extraordinary became ordinary, and the unbearable became bearable.
(Out): "Rather crowded with all of us in this closet," Hakkai remarked in a cheerful whisper; and although they were, in point of fact, crammed into a closet hiding from a sudden invasion of youkai at the moment, he received glares of death from Sanzo and Gojyo both, to which he responded with his most innocent smile.
(Piece): When Gojyo left the group in pursuit of Kami-sama, it was illustrated clearly and emphatically that they could not function in the absence of even a single piece, and that the gods had shown some wisdom in throwing the four of them together.
(Power): There was much discussion inside the ikkou of who was physically strongest, whose strategies were smartest, whose reflexes the fastest; but there are many kinds of power in this world, and just as present but undiscussed was the struggle of whose will was strongest, whose need the most overpowering, who by merely meeting another's eyes could cause something to happen--or not happen.
(Prime): "Well, at least we're all in our prime," Hakkai remarked vaguely, in response to complaints as they climbed up a road too steep for Jipu's wheels; Gojyo threw a pebble at him, which missed Hakkai and hit Jipu, and the group was delayed a further twenty minutes by a spat between the roommates and the necessity of calming a nerve-wracked dragon.
(Redeem): Redemption was the last thing any of them ever thought about; even with their pasts littered with bodies of enemy and friend alike, even with their hands covered in blood and their lives wreathed with smoke, they did not seek to achieve any state they might have fallen from--they embraced the state in which they lived, and chased the dying sun.
(Ring): Limiters aside, neither of them wore jewelry, but Gojyo and Hakkai had a pattern of behavior towards each other that was easy to read and understand, and rings would have been redundant.
(Secure): Goku attached himself to Sanzo the moment they met, instantly assuming Sanzo would always be there and instantly falling to pieces if he was not; Sanzo, who had learned early and harshly not to rely on the presence of others, was confident in his own lack of attachment to the pest who followed him around until he realized that he, too, had come to expect Goku's presence and react to the lack of it as an indicator that something was gravely wrong.
(Settle): Sha Gojyo, the ladies' man, the free agent who scorned settling down as an early grave, nearly choked to death on his own cigarette smoke the day Goku told him sternly that he shouldn't make plans for the evening without checking with Hakkai first.
(Shrapnel): The shrapnel from a bomb can do just as much damage or more than the central explosion; but when one of the group was targeted, deliberately picked out and attacked, the other three ignored their broken limbs and bullet holes and crushed windpipes and, for his sake, denied the impact of the shrapnel.
(Sick): Hakkai and Sanzo were both prone to withdrawal, to quiet spells and darkened eyed; certain days, certain sights, even certain weather sent them retreating self-indulgently into old illnesses, to places where silence is death--fortunately for them, they had each picked up a companion who knew their symptoms and was adept and making a great deal of noise.
(Skin): Hakkai was not self-conscious of the scar on his stomach, as some people thought he was; what Hakkai was self-conscious of was his skin in its entirety, his blood, the way he smelled, and dozens of other real or imagined signs of his transformation into a demon that he did not know how to conceal.
(Squeeze): Goku was strongest member of the group, and Sanzo the weakest; and even though Hakkai and Gojyo knew it was a matter of life or death, they couldn't help laughing on those occasions when Goku won an argument by squeezing Sanzo tight in a hug and cheerfully refusing to let go.
(Step): The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step; this they knew, and they were most definitely on a journey of a thousand miles, but defining the single step where it had begun (when the gods commanded them to go west? when the four of them met? when they were born? before that?) proved impossible.
(Taste): Goku's tastes were indiscriminate, praising anything that allowed him to eat it, and Gojyo had lived out of microwaveable cartons for too long not to appreciate it when someone cooked for him; but Sanzo rarely enjoyed food or ate much of it, so it was his tastes that Hakkai tried to puzzle out and cater to, and it was only when Sanzo had reached for second helpings that Hakkai would be pleased with himself.
(Team): Though there were times they each bitterly resented being part of a team, unable to act without affecting three others and unable to achieve anything without compromise, none of them wasted effort denying that they were included in this particular "we."
(Terror): Fright was a rational response to danger, a warning signal they all needed and relied on, but terror was irrational and unhelpful and lurked in different triggers for each of them: for Sanzo, terror was a memory, locked into nightmares and denied the right to exist in the present; for Gojyo, it was the moment when a loved one grew angry and he flinched, ducking blows that had come a decade age; to Hakkai, it was coming home to a house that was unexpectedly empty; and to Goku, it was turning to speak to Sanzo and finding him gone.
(Trick): Hakkai gave every appearance of being the most mild-mannered, courteous and responsible young man one could hope to meet; Gojyo tried in vain to convince friends and acquaintances that he was living with a vile trickster who could have you cleaning the entire house or running errands for a lazy-ass priest before you knew it, but Hakkai had only to smile with an amused yet wounded expression and whomever Gojyo was talking to would scold him for maligning such a nice young man.
(Victim): No matter how aptly it might describe the situation, each of them recoiled from the implied helplessness of the word victim, and one of them using it to refer to another was grounds for a serious quarrel.
(Voice): Goku sadly said that he wished things were the other way around, that he could hear Sanzo's voice all the time and know he was okay and Sanzo wouldn't be bothered by hearing Goku's voice; but Sanzo either could not or would not explain to Goku how it worked, and punished any repetition of the subject with a few hits from the harisen.
(Worth): Gojyo had the certainty of his own lack of worth instilled into him at an eary age, and so he was constantly measuring himself against others and finding himself lacking; within the ikkou, he measured himself against the others' physical strength and determined that he again came up short, never realizing it was his attention that quelled Goku's restlessness, his anger that gave Sanzo's anger a chance to play out and dissipate, his friendship that held Hakkai's darker thoughts in check--never stopping to think how many ways there are to assess strength.
(Year): The first year was the hardest to get through, in part because Hakkai never told Gojyo what day it was; but Gojyo understood the need to not speak and helped Hakkai keep silent vigil past a small calendar of events--the day he reached Hyakugen Maoh's castle, the day Kanan died, the day he and Gojyo met, the day he'd returned to the castle and found it in ashes--and on the day Gonou had died and been replaced by Hakkai, Gojyo told him enough, and Hakkai agreed the time to mourn was over and let Gojyo take him out to celebrate his rebirth.