GOODNIGHT SAIGON


Disclaimer: I don't own Saiyuki or its characters, and the songs used – Goodnight Saigon and Riders on the Storm. Any similarities with names of people and situations in real life are purely coincidental.

Summary: Four men, each of them burdened with their own past. One war that bound them together. They were comrades, brothers, heroes. This is their path, their memories.

Shout Out: /Stares at the text incredulously/ Well, hell. This is officially scariest and longest finished story I've ever written… with exception of that report on Vietnam War in my primary school. Found Saiyuki, fell in love with the Sanzo party and because there should be more lovin' for all of them I decided to write them out. Besides, the song made me do it. As for other stories, I will get to them in time. Right now, I am bushed. /bleary eyes/. What can I say… I strongly suspect I have some masochistic tendencies…or at least, my imagination is too sadistic for my own good.

Warnings: First thing –this is AU. Timeline is not clearly defined, but it happens in time of Vietnam War and fifteen years later. Also, this is SLASH – meaning Sanzo/Hakkai/Goku/Gojyo. Yup, a foursome. There may be some spoilers from manga and amine, but most of it is original. If after all the warnings you are still here, wanting to read the story… I wish you happy reading.

Dictionary: /Winces/ History geek strikes again. I compiled this little list to help you understand the words and phrases used in the story, because they are not explained as the story rolls out. Mostly, there are military phrases and some in – depth explanation of differences of concepts, borrowed from anime or real life. If you want to know more about Vietnam War or Memorial Wall, look it up on Wikipedia or Google. If you are curious about more terms and slang from Vietnam war, copy this: Glossary of Military Terms & Slang from the Vietnam War into Google browser and it should throw the searched for site. If you want to read the story first, just go on, no harm will be done.

PS: Written in order of an appearance. There may be some terms missing, so if you find any, tell me so I can add it. I think I got all the main ones, although there's still room for improvement.


Stole - A long scarf, usually of embroidered silk or linen, worn over the left shoulder by deacons and over both shoulders by priests and bishops while officiating. In army, chaplains usually wear stole in camouflage colors and with cross embroidery at the ends of the stole.

Sutra – A scriptural narrative, especially a text traditionally regarded as a discourse of the Buddha. Here it's taken in context of being a martial arts text, and a sign of mastery of one particular branch of martial arts, in this case, Maten and Seiten styles. Each style has its own sutra.

Priest - A person having the authority to perform and administer religious rites, in army, this is chaplain

Chaplain - A member of the clergy who conducts religious services for an institution, such as a prison or hospital or army. Sanzo officially holds a rank of chaplain, even if he unofficially commands the troops after their previous leader was being killed. Also, Gojyo teases Sanzo with calling him priest, monk or baldy.

Sensei – Teacher. Japanese suffix added to the name or surname of a person: for example, Koumyou-sensei.

Uncle Sam - The government of the United States, often personified by a representation of a tall, thin man having a white beard and wearing a blue tailcoat, red-and-white-striped trousers, and a tall hat with a band of stars; it could also mean American nation or its people as a whole.

Enlisting – The act of getting recruits, particularly for army. For Vietnam War, they enlisted the Second World War generation, most of which were volunteers. Enlisting as described in this story was very rare.

Bible - The sacred book of Christianity, a collection of ancient writings including the books of both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Squadron - An armored cavalry unit subordinate to a regiment and consisting of two or more troops.

Commandos - A small fighting force specially trained for making quick destructive raids against enemy-held areas, also a member of such force. Look under Vietnam Commandos

Huey- A helicopter, usually Bell UH-1 Iroquois, used by U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps. Soldiers shortly called helicopter 'Huey', or, if in plural, 'Hueys'.

VC – An abbreviation for Vietnam Commandos or Viet Cong

Sarge – A shortened version for Sergeant - a military or police rank. Often shortened and used a term of endearment used out of familiarity. Sometimes heard as "Big Sarge", a further term of affection and endearment. Look down for explanation on Sergeant and Drill Sergeant respectively.

Company- A military unit, typically consisting of 80–225 soldiers and usually commanded by a Captain, Major or Commandant. Most companies are formed of three to five platoons although the exact number may vary by country, unit type, and structure. Several companies are grouped to form a battalion or regiment, the latter of which is sometimes formed by several battalions.

Bob Hope - an American entertainer, his real name was Leslie Brown Hope. In the time of Vietnam War, he entertained the American soldiers in Vietnam with his shows. He also received the declaration of being the "first and only honorary veteran of the U.S. armed forces."

SNAFU – A short abbreviation of saying Situation Normal – All Fucked Up. If you see or hear that in real life , then get the hell outta here, if and when you still can,

Home front - The civilian population or the civilian activities of a country at war.

"Like a dog without a bone an actor out on loan /Riders on the storm"– Two excerpts of The Doors song, named Riders on the Storm. Published in their 1971 album, L.A. Woman. One of my personal favorites. Wanna listen to it, go to YouTube.

Guerilla - is a body of fighters engaging in fighting the numerically stronger enemy force with strike-and-run approach; they also use traps or their knowledge of natural terrain to their advantage. The most known guerilla forces in history are Partisans in (now non – existent) Yugoslavia in the Second World War, and Vietnam commandos in Vietnam War.

Commander – A naval rank which is also sometimes used as a military title depending on the individual customs of a given military service. Commander is also used as a rank or title in some organizations outside of the armed forces, particularly in police and law enforcement. It is officially applied to the commanding officer of army units; hence, there are company commanders, battalion commanders, brigade commanders, and so forth.

Battalion - A military unit of around 300–1,300 soldiers usually consisting of between two and seven companies and typically commanded by either a Lieutenant Colonel or a Colonel.

Communications officer – A soldier, which takes care of radio and the messages.

Absinthe – A distilled, highly alcoholic beverage, usually clear green color, and bitter in taste. Word play on 'absence'

Parris Island - Longer name of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island (often shortened to MCRD Parris Island). Also, the training ground for the recruits before they were sent in Vietnam.

Seiten - Heaven; Seiten sutra, the stolen one

Maten – Hell, Demonic; Maten sutra – in ownership of Genjo Sanzo, its previous owner was Koumyou, Sanzo's teacher.

Boot - a soldier just out of boot camp; inexperienced, untested. To say it simply, a greenhorn.

Zulu report- a casualty report shortened zulu.

Papa Sierra – slang for platoon sergeant – a leader of 13 to 20 people. As for Sanzo being Papa Sierra, usually it's a rule that chaplains do NOT hold any other rank than their own, because of conflicts of interests. (C'mon, a holy man, commanding others to kill little people?) But you could say, any port in a storm… meaning, in battle rules fly through the proverbial window faster than you could say shit.

Kool-Aid – Killed in action

Fucked up - Wounded or killed. Also, to get stoned, drunk, or to be foolish or do something stupid.

Charlie – A name, denotes a person, but it was also used as a codename for Viet Congs /enemies.

Baker – Surname, but can also allude to the Operation Baker in Vietnam War.

Squad - a small military unit led by a non-commissioned officer (NCO) that is subordinate to an infantry platoon. In most armies a squad consists of eight to thirteen soldiers, and may be further subdivided into fireteams. Here, it is meant as a team, made from four people.

Zipperhead - A derogatory nickname for Vietnam guerillas and Vietnam people overall, used by American soldiers

'Nam - A shortage for Vietnam

HQ – Shortage for headquarters - a location where most, if not all important functions are organized.

C-4 - A type of plastic, putty textured explosive carried by infantry soldiers. It burns like sterno when lit, and was used to heat C-rations in the field.

'Fwiend' – mocking, childish use of a friend, a baby talk

Dog tag – A small tag, worn on ball chan around the soldier's neck; the earliest tags are denoted to be used in Franco-Prussian war. It's commonly used for identification of the dead. The dog tag of Marines had inscribed information as it follows: Name, Surname, Date of birth, Army branch, Size of the mask, Religion. As far as I know, there were no Buddhists in American army in the time of Vietnam War but for the sake of story, let's say Sanzo was a Buddhist and leave it at that. (Clashes with Buddhist philosophy, I know, but Sanzo's creed is, as it follows:" Embrace nothing. If you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha. If you meet your father, kill your father. Only live your life as it is, not bound to anything." Yikes. He's one scary monk, don't you agree?)

Boom-boom – Sex, procreation, intercourse, take your pick. Also, Gojyo's favorite activity, besides monkey baiting.

Boonie rats – A name for combat infantrymen

War God - A denotation of being a supreme soldier, or someone who just wouldn't fucking die already. Examples: Nataku and the Sanzo party. Not used in real war.

Acupressure – A complementary medicine technique derived from acupuncture. In acupressure physical pressure is applied to acupuncture points by the hand, elbow, or with various devices. It targets the nerves. If you know about Vulcan neck pinch, then you know what I am talking about. As for acupressure being dangerous and even lethal – medicine can either heal or kill in both measures.

Agent Orange - A code name for one of the herbicides and defoliants used by the U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971. One of the most commonly known substances used is named Dioxin.

Epaulette - A type of ornamental shoulder piece or decoration used as insignia of rank by armed forces and other organizations.

First Lieutant - A military rank and, in some forces, an appointment.

Sergeant – Look it up under Sarge. Also, short for Drill Sergeant - or Drill Instructor. Those men are the ones responsible to whip the recruits into shape.

Hobo- A migratory worker or homeless vagabond, often penniless. The term originated in the western—probably northwestern—United States during the last decade of the 19th century. Unlike tramps, who work only when they are forced to, and bums, who do not work at all, hobos are workers who wander. You could say the real children of rainbow were hobos. Nowadays, the hobo term is more derogatory call than anything.

Fort Knox –Gojyo meant the United States Bullion Depository, commonly known as a Fort Knox. It's a fortified vault building, residing adjacent to Fort Knox, Kentucky. It contains the nation's gold reserves, meaning it's the single richest thing on Earth. Monetarily speaking wise, of course.

Memorial Wall – The wall actually exists, his entire name is Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, and it's located in Washington DC. The wall alone was finished in 1982, although because if it's rather controversional design, they added pieces later on. If you want to know more look it up on Wikipedia.

Mahjong - is a game of tiles that originated in China, commonly played by four players (with some three-player variations found in Korea and Japan).


We met as soulmates
On Parris Island

It was one of those freak accidents. If he hadn't been there, he wouldn't have believed it. If he hadn't been there, his goddamned inner voice, which sounded awfully like Koumyou-sensei, wouldn't have piped up to interfere in monkey baiting.

A tic twitched under his left cheek, a sure fire way to tell that he was pissed. Amethyst colored eyes under dirty gold hair blazed with irritation as the said monkey looked up at him adoringly, those big golden eyes shiny in the late afternoon sun.

He turned away to find some quiet little spot to smoke his cigarette. He was getting low on the cancer sticks, too, and with his temper fraying, it didn't help that the monkey was apparently dumb enough to follow him.

"Tch." He harrumphed, before walking away, only to be stopped by a shy tug on his…stole.

The soldier froze.

If there was any big no-no in interacting with the priest of 31th Company, it was this one.

Do. Not Touch. His. Stole.

The stole was rather unique – instead of being only a scarf in the camouflage colors and with black crosses stitched into both ends, it was a squarish piece of a …fabric, white with black squiggly characters written in some mixture of bastardized Tibetan ideograms. It was lined with rich green, and it sat comfortably on the priest's shoulders, as if glued on here. In fact, the 31th Company had a bet whether or not he glued the damn thing on his shoulders. It seemed that even when they were in biggest, dirtiest, and worst mess, where one could easily lose their head – literally, the stole stuck stubbornly to the priest's thin shoulders. Once, some more idiotic soldiers, who didn't know about the Stole Rule – yes, spoken with capitals - attempted to take the stole off of the priest, in a fit of stupidity.

They failed.

Miserably.

Even if the priest had been wounded at the time, recuperating from the latest heist, he so thoroughly trashed the idiots that the said idiots had to be deported to the hospital. Broken bones were no laughing matter. Add that to the fact that they were all bigger, taller and stronger than him… and the legend of the Demon Priest was born.

Everyone who knew Private Sanzo – they never called him anything else, as nobody knew his name – knew better than to mess with his stole. It they tried to… well, it was their loss.

The boy's breath hitched as those cold, merciless amethyst eyes zeroed on him. The man was taller than him, his body clothed in trooper gear. The man's face was slender, with fine lines, and his lips were thin. But what got the boy's attention the most was the man's shiny hair. Sure, it was messed up, and not quite clean, but it was as if the hair was rays of sunshine given form.

"Sun." It was the boy's only word, but the priest heard it. Golden eyebrows scrunched in irritated confusion. What the hell was the brat talking about?

"Get your filthy fingers off my sutra," He snarled at the miscreant dangerously. The boy snatched his grubby hand back, but to the priest's irritation, he didn't step back. Golden eyes looked at him with the adoring awe that frankly disturbed the man.

Casually putting the cigarette between his lips, Sanzo lit it up. The cancer stick always did make him calmer anyway. He looked at the boy he had saved.

The little brat was thin and clothed in rags, his hair was wild brown mane that reached to the kid's rear and he wore thick iron manacles on his limbs, along with the collar. The skin where the manacles and collar chaffed him was raw and Sanzo could spot blood and bruises underneath the metal. But what really got Sanzo, not that he would admit it to anyone under pain of torture, were those wide, hopeful golden eyes. The kid looked at him as if he was the sole focus in his little universe, and that made Sanzo even more uncomfortable than he already was.

Sighing, he turned around and walked away. It wasn't his problem.

Three steps, and he stiffened.

Somebody was following him.

And worse, he knew just who that somebody was.

"You don't need to follow me."

The kid heard the priest's low, commanding voice, but that didn't stop him. He moved a step closer. The heavy chains clinked together, a mournful sound in the late afternoon. The kid looked at the man's back.

"Sun." It was only one word, but it contained such a wealth of emotions, hopes and dreams Sanzo had to visibly restrain himself from flinching.

In such moments, he cursed his knowledge of Vietnamese.

Sighing, he looked at the kid. He glanced at the crowd staring at the two of them. He had saved the monkey from the idiots, but apparently the said monkey was too stupid to go away on its own.

If he took the monkey in, there would be trouble. To take an enemy in, even if it was just a child…he could get court-martialed so fast his fucking head would spin. And even if the monkey was a kid, his fellow soldiers were not trustful enough bunch for him to foist the brat onto them for any length of time.

If he left the monkey alone… then why the fuck had he rescued it in the first place?

Talk about waste of energy and free time, that's what.

He remembered a flash of memory –

'Koumyou-sensei…'

Sanzo scowled.

The bastard was no doubt laughing in his grave at his predicament.

Damn it.


We left as inmates
From an asylum

Dark green eyes were dull as he allowed them to lead him out of the building.

He was a tall, thin man, with dorky glasses on his face and clothed in dark gray drab clothing. His fingers were thin, like pianists and he would have been noted as a fairly cute, if it weren't for something on his face.

The only thing that was wrong with the picture was that he was in chains – dark, heavy ones were jangling between his feet and hands, interlinking them in such a way that running or more… effective methods of strangling a human were almost impossible.

The guards around the man watched him nervously, waiting for that tic when the man would snap and try something. Run. Strangle someone. Something.

The dark haired head was bowed and the green eyes behind the glasses were blank.

What did he have to live for, anyway?

She was dead.

He still remembered her – how he was helpless to stop her from slicing her throat, how –

And Cho Gonou snapped.

The… culprits… didn't know what hit them.

The man was a genius and a good doctor but for him to turn out into a bloodthirsty beast in order to get revenge….

In the mafia underground, he was known as the Slayer, the killer who brutally murdered a thousand people, almost exterminating one of the strongest mafia families.

It didn't matter that the said family had more people, more firepower and a terrifying reputation of cruelty against their enemies.

The mild-mannered doctor, who everyone thought wouldn't hurt a fly didn't give a flying fuck about overwhelming odds.

The mafia rued the day when some of its members were idiotic enough to get their hands on Kanan in order to satiate their lust.

Cho Gonou may be only one man.

But most of people forgot that this one man was a genius and if motivated enough…

He was terrifyingly ruthless.

Ruthless enough to kill


And we were sharp
As sharp as knives

He flashed a bloodthirsty grin, relishing the challenge, as he eyed his opponent. His long red hair swayed slightly in the evening breeze as he took a stance.

He was an outcast.

His family didn't like him.

His father… was coward enough.

His step mother… was insane.

Insane enough to kill him, at any rate, what with him having red hair and red eyes.

Fucking birth defects.

And fucking step mother, being the fucking religious fanatic she was, she believed that he was the son of Satan, the spawn of the Devil and when he was still innocent, when he was still a little boy, he thought if he brought her red roses, she would accept him, embrace him –

Gods, was he stupid little shit back then.

But that was then, this was now.

The twin scars on his left cheek wrinkled a little as he narrowed his eyes.

Why didn't they just leave him alone?

He just wanted some booze, a cig and a bitch to fuck.

Was that too much to ask for?

The knife glinted in the light of the street lamp.

Sha Gojyo fought the urge to groan.

Of course it was.

He was Sha fucking Gojyo, when was life ever fair to him?


And we were so gung ho to lay down our lives.

The posters were everywhere.

Country needs you.

Uncle Sam was everywhere.

Why don't you come to us?

You will be fed, you will travel, there's only a little matter of killing, but don't worry, you will be paid for it. And killing a man is just as easy as killing a pig or chicken. You will get used to it. You will be doing Momma America a favor.

You could be a hero.

Red eyes stared at the poster.

An army?

Are those fuckers serious?

He slouched a little.

"Ch."

As if he didn't have enough of his own problems, thank you very much.

"You interested in joinin', sonny?" A warm voice asked him.

Gojyo blinked.

"Huh?" He asked, not entirely sure if the man meant him or not.

Warm blue eyes looked at him. The man was a little small – but then, almost everyone was small in comparison with Sha Gojyo. Not that he was tallest around, but he had some inches on his year mates regardless. Freakish genes' fault.

The man was still smiling. "You think about joinin' the army? You woulda been perfect." The man looked at him appreciatively – not in that sense – but Gojyo puffed up his chest a little bit.

"Yeah, I s'pose. What about it?" He volleyed back, making the old man cackle merrily as he motioned him to follow him to the bar.

Gojyo's mouth quirked in a smirk.

Why not amuse the oldie?

Half an hour later, he was signing his life away to the army.

This better be fucking worth it… although he would miss the booze. And cigs. And wenches.

Especially wenches.

Whoops… maybe enlisting into army wasn't such a good idea, after all.

Then, there come the razor, buzzing ominously near his head.

Sha Gojyo stiffened.

Oh heck, no.

Not his precious hair.

He clenched his hands into white-knuckled fists.

The enlisting….

Was.

His.

Worst.

Fucking.

Idea.

Ever.

When he came out of the training…. The old fart was so dead.


We came in spastic
Like tameless horses

The entire new group of recruits – fresh meat – was loud, rowdy and uncouth. Dirty jokes flew around, raucous laughter echoed in the morning air as the men ribbed each other on their appearances, sweethearts, questioned their masculinities and gossiped about sergeants.

Gojyo was slouched against the wall, clad in drab uniform that irritated his skin. His head was feeling particularly drafty – the bastards managed to do the heinous deed and sheared his precious silky mass away. As much as he complained about his hair, it was also one of his secret vices and indulgences. Dark red, silky smooth with only two more… naughty locks jutting out, like some kind of weird antennae.

He scratched at his scalp mournfully.

"May I sit here?" Someone asked him.

Gojyo blinked. The man in front of him was a little smaller and wore silver-rimmed glasses on his face, the picture strangely at odds with his also shaved head.

A typical geek.

He grunted. "It's a free country."

The man chuckled. "That it is." The chuckle was self-deprecating, but with a hint of bitterness behind it.

And Gojyo couldn't help feeling that he had said something monumentally stupid.

Such was the first meeting of Sha Gojyo and Cho Gonou.

The drill sergeants were sadistic little fucks. They had to run marches, learn how to dismantle and assemble launchers and guns and how to gut someone – and Gojyo noticed that his involuntary buddy was just terrific at this little sport, learned how to aim and fire and how to interrogate someone and how to fight down and dirty – and Cho Gonou was the dirtiest bastard he had ever had the honor – or misfortune – to fight.

They played poker, and while Gojyo managed to get out decent loot, he found a contender in the smiling bastard that was his bunkmate. They finally settled the matter that Gojyo would get the cigs and Gonou would get the booze – Gojyo pouted at first at the arrangement, but it was better than nothing.

Both of them were renegades. They were not accepted, but not rejected outright either. They gravitated around the other groups like some kind of lonely little asteroids – here and there, but never for too long. They watched each other's backs – not that Gonou needed any watching – Gojyo saw with his own two eyes what happened to the idiots that thought they could bully the meek-looking man into submission.

It was the one time Gojyo was afraid of the man.

Cho Gonou was a mystery. He was polite, he obeyed – the man was a fucking genius, and it baffled Gojyo just why would one such as Gonou even want to be in this little shithole of a training camp. The camp was bare – barracks with bunks were the only luxury – that, and mess hall, and Gojyo seriously doubted that they would get such a luxury in 'Nam.

He did the exercises and marches without complaint, except for placating Gojyo when the Sarges were too hung up on the color of his hair. Seriously, didn't the bastards get the memo he couldn't help that his hair just had to be that blinding red shade? In one instance, he even had to prove that the carpet matched the drapes – not that he had any drapes to speak of, but he got used to the short hair by now.

But back to Gonou. The man was a mystery - a broken one. When Gojyo wore his heart on his sleeves – well, except for the poker matches, Gonou was a shattered, mismatched pile of puzzle pieces that frustrated Gojyo something terrible. When he thought he had Gonou figured out, the man turned around and proved him wrong, Gonou seemed to be one of those pacifistic types and it made Gojyo protective of the man, but that night…

In every regiment, there was a group of bullies that thought themselves top dogs who could piss everywhere and on everyone… and their target, this time, seemed to be one Cho Gonou.

It was a night when they crowded together, like a pack of hyenas.

"Gonou, come with us." The bully number one asked Gonou, who was currently reading a Bible.

"Why would I?" Gonou asked pleasantly as he turned the page of the book. The book, Gojyo noticed, was old and well loved, the sheets were soft from the constant fingering, and yet, Gonou cared for it as if it were made from precious metals.

The bully sneered. "Do we need a reason?" He kicked the book out of Gonou's hands and to his buddies. "Now... If you wanna get yer lil' precious back…" he trailed out meaningfully.

"You bastard – "Gojyo lunged forward, only to be stopped by Gonou. "Gonou?" He asked the man, puzzled.

The green eyed man smiled.

It was a smile that sent shivers down Gojyo's spine, so fake it was. "Of course. You just had to ask."

The bully smirked triumphantly, unmindful of the threat behind the smile.

Gonou stood up slowly, with a casual grace that made Gojyo's teeth feel on edge. "Gonou – "He tried again, but it seemed that Gonou was deaf to his inquiry.

"Leave yer friend back here." The grunt demanded and Gojyo tensed.

But Gonou shrugged. "Alright. And if I come with you, will you return the book to me?"

The grunt snickered. "If you will be a good boy."

Gonou's eyebrow arched.

Gojyo didn't know what happened afterwards. But one thing held true. Come morning, the bullies gave a wide berth to the placidly smiling doctor, their eyes wide with terror. They limped and shuffled and winced with pain, but when the Sarge inquired what the hell had happened to them, they answered they had a small… disagreement.

The 'small disagreement' warranted sending two of them into hospital with broken bones, and the remaining three of them were practically terrified out of their wits when they had to spar with Gonou.

Gojyo looked between the poor bastard that was chosen to work with Gonou and the smiling man. Even if Gonou's smile was, for all intents and purposes, telegraphing 'I'm totally harmless, really' small, close-lipped smile, Gojyo couldn't help but feel as if he was looking at a smiling shark about to gulp down particularly tasty prey. And the glint in those viridian eyes didn't reassure him by the slightest.

Since then, the bullies steered far away from Gonou, and all was good and dandy in the camp.

Four weeks later, the company was deemed ready to take their place in the 'Nam skirmishes.


We left in plastic
As numbered corpses

He looked at the corpses indifferently. He had done his duty – identifying and praying for them. Some of the poor bastards were from his squadron. It seemed that they were the ones to be hit the most times. Their territory was known as the Hell zone, or shortly, Hell. Constantly under fire, food rations were rare to get, and even then, you had to fight for them with those crafty bastards in the jungle.

But the dead will go home and rest. The living had to trudge onward, for one more moment, one more hour, one more day and night.

He closed his eyes and exhaled. The evening air was bitter with ashes, fire and gunpowder, saturated with oppressive, distinctly humid scent of jungle that just waited for the next unfortunate idiot to gobble up. His body ached in places he didn't know it could ache.

This time, he was lucky. A bullet only brushed his side, and his right cheek throbbed dully with pain from the knife slice.

The tug on his sleeve made him look at his small companion.

Dark violet eyes looked down.

The kid was a mess. He was clothed in some kind of a mismatched collection of clothes – black trousers held up with a piece of rope, pilfered from bandits, and modified army shirt - sleeveless, of course, because otherwise, the monkey would be lost in the oversized garment, and even then, they had to hack off the lower part as to preserve the mobility. The monkey's hair was short and he wore a violet bandanna on his head, with the ends of the cloth falling on his back. Golden eyes were dulled with exhaustion and pain, but at least kid wasn't hurt much.

Goku. The monkey caused more trouble he was worth. Their beginning wasn't ideal. When he came back to their temporary camp, Sanzo had to answer inquiries from his fellow soldiers, and deflect some hostile attacks away from the child. Only when he harshly pointed out that the monkey was a kid, and a kid in manacles at that, did the men back off, however reluctantly.

But that wasn't the end of it. The kid was apparently too pretty for his own good, even as a half-starved waif he was. And as they say, any port in a storm, and because Sanzo was too dangerous to fuck with and there were no girls to alleviate the more… carnal needs of the soldiers, the next logical step to getting some was the kid. He was certainly pretty enough – well, not as pretty as Sanzo, who didn't want to tap that – but Sanzo was an adult and positively lethal if any come-ons were aimed his way, imaginary or real ones, not that it stopped the soldiers from extending the invitations when they were feeling particularly lucky or suicidal.

It was one of those quiet nights, when they had the brief respite from the war, before they would be sent back into the red zone. Sanzo was feeling restless for some reason. There was no rain, so he was not in one of his deep snits. He had his smokes, his weapons were in order, and the food was kind of shitty, but he could deal with that. Speaking of food, where was the monkey?

Golden eyebrows scrunched in a scowl. Was the monkey begging around for the scraps again? It was likely, but –

He hauled himself up and stepped out of the temporary hut. Looking around, he didn't see the monkey anywhere near the field kitchen, and there was no rowdy group to egg the monkey on.

He could have gone to the forest, but Sanzo doubted it. The monkey was practically glued to his feet most of the time, and even if he didn't want to admit it, Sanzo felt the loss of his little companion keenly.

"Barret! Where the fuck is the brat?" He asked the bald man roughly. Barret was their cook, and the dark-skinned man was, for some reason, fond of the monkey.

Dark eyes looked at him, confused. "Isn't he with you?" Barret asked, his deep voice concerned. Sanzo growled. "No." he bit out sharply, irritated. One night – just one night of peace, and monkey had to go and ruin it.

He heard the man gulp nervously. "I saw him go away with Higgins." Sanzo's spine stiffened at the remark. "And you let him!" he bit out, furious. It was widely known that Higgins and Sanzo didn't exactly see eye to eye, especially because Higgins was an idiot and Sanzo had a zero tolerance for idiots. And Sanzo would never forgive the bastard for touching his sutra.

But for the monkey to be so stupid to follow the man, especially after Sanzo expressively forbid to talk to him in any way shape or form –

Barret winced. The dispute between the two of them was fairly known, but for Higgins to get his dirty paws on Goku…

Oh, boy. Fireworks were guaranteed.

The sound of Sanzo's gun was known to everyone in a battalion. It was a sharp, resonating sound that was totally different from the sound of any other gun. And then, the howling followed.

What the fuck…?

The soldiers looked at the source of the sound.

It was Higgins.

Nobody particularly liked the man, but for Higgins to get on the bad side of Sanzo…. Bad side enough for the blonde to use his gun…

"You fucking scum…" Sanzo's snarling voice resonated in the dead silence of the camp as he booted the sniveling man into the dust. "How dare you!"

All of them noticed Higgins had his trousers down and his shirt untucked. Their first conclusion was, that Higgins finally lost his marbles and tried to... entice Sanzo with his nonexistent body charms.

However, Sanzo looked entirely too pissed for it to be true. But then, Barret came out of the woods, with a limp boy tucked against his body. The monkey's usually sparkling golden eyes were dull, and he was a mess, and he also lacked trousers. They didn't need to be extremely intelligent to conclude what had just happened.

Higgins' left hand was bleeding copiously. "Sa – Sanzo – "He stammered out, wincing as he tried to get the trousers up.

Sanzo only snarled. Truthfully, they never saw him so pissed as he was in that moment. He was in drab grey undershirt and army-issued pants with boots and truthfully, he shouldn't have any rights to even look intimidating. He had his … stole around his shoulders and his hair was even messier than usual, with his Smith & Wesson gun locked onto the sniveling wreck of would-be rapist, he looked every inch of an avenger god he was. Livid violet eyes were staring at the man who stumbled as he tried to back away from the fury in the human guise that was Sanzo.

"L – Look, he's just a monkey. An' a guy has needs, ya know?" Higgins blubbered out. Sanzo strode forward, swiftly kicking him into the jaw. "So you try to…satisfy you prick by stuffing it into a kid?" His words were razor sharp shocking the witnesses into the motionlessness.

The gun clicked ominously. Sanzo had one of those old style guns, a revolver. While they tried to get him to use updated equipment, the priest stubbornly refused. Oh, sure, he knew how to deal with guns other than his, but his personal preference was still the old thing – it was heavy, cumbersome, and loading wasn't exactly fast if you weren't experienced, but the man was the best sharp shooter in the battalion for a reason.

"Any last words?" Sanzo had calmed down, and his words were like liquid nitrogen.

Higgins gulped noisily.

Fortunately for Higgins, the battalion commander intervened. Unfortunately, the entire sordid affair came to light, and Higgins was dishonorably discharged.

A day later, Higgins was found dead in the nearby forest, all signs pointing that he had been killed by Vietnamese commandos.

However, when they got the news nobody had paid attention to the grim-faced Barret. If they had, they would have seen him palm his bowie knife a little too fondly for their tastes…

Since then, Goku was always near Sanzo, and Ricky got from somewhere a violet-colored sash that Sanzo promptly tied around the boy's head. Any soldier knew not to mess with the property of Sanzo, and the newcomers were quickly cautioned to that unwritten rule.

To survive an encounter with Sanzo, you had to, firstly, keep your fingers away from his stole, secondly, keep your paws away from him, and thirdly, keep your paws far, far away from his monkey. Failure to comply with these three simple rules will get you shot in some part of your body you really don't want to have hurting.

"Let's go, brat." His smooth, low voice, roughened by cigarettes made the boy nod and smile faintly.

After all, Goku supposed, it all would be all right…. as long as he had his Sun.

And if he sneaked his hand in Sanzo's on the way, with Sanzo pretending he didn't notice, it was all the better.


And we learned fast
To travel light

Their first encounter with an enemy was a shock. They arrived with Hueys and been deployed to Delta quadrant, but of course, intelligence had to fuck up and they found themselves in a crossfire.

The air was humid, being in forest sucked, as you didn't know who was you enemy and where was your ally, and getting grenade exploding so near you and knowing that it wasn't kiddy plaything this time –

Oh, fuck.

Well, Gojyo supposed, at least he was together with Gonou.

As most of their things was too cumbersome to carry around, they quickly cobbled together some kind of an emergency packs – and then hailed outta here as if they had the devil on their heels.

Easier said than done.

They were ambushed some times, narrowly evading some particularly nasty traps and when it was all over and done, Gojyo's nerves were frazzled.

Killing an animal was easy. Killing a human…Was not.

What surprised him the most, was that his companion was as cool as cucumber about gutting their opponents. Even if he was caked with blood – most of them theirs, not his, and dirty, his hair messier than ever, as he lost his helmet – the bastard was calmly muttering to himself about some or other coordinates to get them to safety.

And to think it was just first three hours from the beginning of this asshat operation gone wrong.

Gojyo grimaced. He held down the bile, he could hurl his guts later.

Now, where was their group?


Our arms were heavy but our bellies were tight

By the end of the day, they finally managed to reach the nearest friendly camp.

Unfortunately, this camp was in the middle of the Hell zone, and they were some of those lucky fuckers that had the privilege to manage to get in.

"Ah, so that's why we encountered so many of the bastards!" Gojyo exclaimed, as he slapped his forehead, much to the incredulous amusement of his listeners.

"You were either the fucking luckiest or unluckiest idiot to trample right down here," One of the soldiers murmured, the others nodding at his small query. They looked like devils – dark, dirty, bloody, and seemingly unbothered by the insects that swarmed in the air.

Gonou sighed. He was just happy to have somewhere to rest. Their losses were critical. Almost all of their commanders were killed in the first wave, and it was sheer dumb luck that they managed to reach the camp, and even then, they were nearly killed by some kind of a monkey.

When inquired about that, the soldier – Matthew, or shortly, Matt, eyed him with exasperated amazement. "You gotta be the luckiest bastard I've ever meet. If you were an enemy…" he shook his head, wincing as it pained him. Gonou eyed him quickly. "Er… Are you alright?" he asked hesitantly.

Matt grunted. "Eh, just a glancing blow in the head. Will be alright. But seriously, you were lucky. If you were a Zipperhead, you would be a downer. A word of advice – never anger the monkey or its owner.

Gonou blinked, curious. "Owner?" He parroted mildly.

Matt sighed. "Sit down, will ya? You're in for a story. An' if your little buddy can't keep it in his pants, you'd better warn him to keep his sticky paws away from Sanzo and Goku."

Green eyes blinked. "Tell me more."

At the end of the story, Gonou literally reeled with the amount of information. It was too fantastic to be true, and on the other side, it was just that kind of dumb enough story for a person to believe

He was tired, hungry and knowing that he will have to repeat the day in the morning in some sense didn't make him any happier. But listening to Matt's story at least alleviated some of his exhaustion and dark mood.

"And where is he now?" He asked idly.

Matt shrugged. "Checking the perimeter, probably. Son of a bitch is paranoid to the extreme and he doesn't like socializing more than necessary. Makes me wonder just why he became a priest, cranky bastard he is. "

Gonou nodded thoughtfully.

"Hey, Gonou." Gojyo plopped down beside him. "Want a cig?" He offered, but Gonou shook his head. "More so for me, then, " Gojyo grunted, before he lit one of his cancer sticks. "So what'cha gossip about?"

Gonou sighed. Gojyo was incorrigible. "About Sanzo. You know, the priest. By the way, you do know the rules of engagement with him?"

The redhead blinked. "I heard something about it, yeah. The Infamous Three, or some such shit." Red eyes rolled heavenward. "Is His Prissiness really such a tight ass to warrant the extra rules?"

Matt winced. "Don't let him hear you talk about him like that." He grimaced as he leaned back at the makeshift support. "And yeah, he is."

Gojyo snorted. "How the heck did he bullshit you into making 'em?" He asked idly, his fingers playing with dirt absentmindedly.

The veteran winced. "Hard, rough and painful." He answered, making Gonou choke and Gojyo leer at his frank answer. "And really, if you value your life, better follow those rules as if your life depended on it." He eyed leering redhead dryly. "Because it just might."

Gojyo's grin widened. "Oh, that I've gotta hear." He licked his lips sensually, making Gonou face palm at the sheer simple mindedness of his friend.

At the rate Gojyo was going, they wouldn't need to be careful about Zipperheads lurking around. A certain priest would strangle the cockroach first...


We had no home front
We had no soft soap

They were finally deployed back to the base. It was only for a week, but what the heck, when you are a grunt, you take what they offer. The guerilla tactics the VC's were using were getting old, and really, even if they tried to be paranoid, it was the lull of battle that was the most dangerous. When you thought you knew it all, you became cocky and cockiness usually led to carelessness and death.

Gojyo could cry with relief. One week was more than enough, thank you very much! Even if Gonou didn't say so, he too was relieved to be back to the relative safety of the base.

"Sweet, sweet relief," Gojyo breathed reverently, as he waited for his turn to wash himself off. It wasn't anything special, just dumping water over his body, soaping himself with a hard-won piece of soap and then dumping another bucketful of water on his head. The grime was in places it had absolutely no business to be in, and really, the only one saving grace was, that his hair was a little longer. And no, this time the Sarges could go fuck themselves. He won't sacrifice his precious mane again! No way, no how.

Gonou chuckled at his friend. It was almost a habit for the soldiers to go wash in pairs; not because they wanted to be frisky, but because while one was washing himself off, the other took care of the buckets. They had to manually fill the buckets, and if one was prissy enough, they could wash themselves with hot water, but they had to heat it themselves. However, not many took the advantage of this, simply because it was waste of time at most. If the water was lukewarm from sun, it was already good enough; and even if it was freezing cold, they enjoyed the rare privilege of being squeaky clean afterwards. He gently tapped Gojyo on his shoulder. "Hey. It's our turn."

Gojyo blinked. "Already?" he parroted, confused. He shrugged. Oh, well.

He entered the washing area and stopped cold.

There, in front of him, was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen.

It was slender, with long limbs and golden hair plastered to its head, sparkling under the waterfall. It has some wounds, the most prominent one was on his left shoulder blade, which was still healing but…

Wow.

Gojyo gaped as the creature turned around and the cold amethyst eyes pierced his soul.

"Uh… Hello, pretty." He squeaked out, waving awkwardly.

The cold droopy eyes narrowed, as one hand threaded through that temptingly glittering hair of the color of dark gold.

Then, those thin, sensual lips opened up.

"Who the hell are you calling pretty, you moron?"

The 'pretty's' voice was low and cold and it jerked Gojyo from his fantasies faster than he could say Huey.

"S-Sanzo! You damn monk, what are you doing here!" Gojyo fairly squeaked out as he tried to cover his body as best as he could.

The priest turned his head back and called out something in Vietnamese to his partner. A moment later, he was engulfed in another splash of water, and even if he was mortified, Gojyo's eyes greedily watched the water droplets sluice down that tempting body.

"Obviously I am taking a shower. If anyone should be concerned about chastity, it would be me, you damned kappa. Quit drooling and wash yourself." The priest growled out, making Gojyo bristle with irritation.

"Gojyo? Are you ready?" Gonou's voice called, stalling Gojyo's daydreams about choking the prissiness out of the man who was too pretty to be legal for a man.

"Uh, yeah! Hang on a sec!"

Gojyo called back, hurriedly moving to get the clothed off of his back, restraining his urge to glare at the monk. Instead of that, he made a sexy show, but when he finally nonchalantly turned around, Sanzo was nowhere to be seen.

Gojyo was only too happy for the freezing cold water that was dumped on his head.

He just didn't ogle His Prissiness, did he?

He scowled as his little buddy rose up despite the cold.

Yes, he did. Damn.

Such was the first meeting between the elusive priest of the 31st company and one troublesome kappa.

And much to the ire of certain monk, it wasn't the last.


They sent us Playboy
They gave us Bob Hope

"Oh, yeah, baby, that hits the spot," Gojyo groaned as he imagined one of those pretty girls taking care of him.

Preferably the one with long blonde hair and big blue, almost amethyst eyes –

He licked his lips as he imagined how soft and warm would her skin felt like under his own body, the lustrous, slightly curly blond hair and –

"Gojyo? Bob Hope and his crew will be entertaining us tonight. Will you come?"

Gojyo glared at the culprit who interrupted his daydreams about the play bunny of a girl. Shane smirked. "The gals will be there, too." He offered, watching with amusement as Gojyo perked up.

They were lucky enough that they came just in time for one of famous shows of Bob Hope. And where Bob Hope was, there was guaranteed to be the female half of army and thus elevate the chances of getting laid.

And Gojyo definitely needed to get laid. Even Gonou, as patient as he was, was getting tired of Gojyo's whining about that fucking monk. Soldiers were amazed that there was anyone with sheer balls to go against the Demon Priest and live. Although, watching Gojyo scuffling around with priest's pet monkey was an entertaining show all by itself.

It seemed that monkey had some kind of a grudge against the red haired private, and thus began stealing Gojyo's rations and eating them in his vicinity, while Gojyo helplessly fumed. If Gojyo found the rations first, he stole the monkey's portion as sure as the sun would rise. Surprisingly, Sanzo didn't send Gojyo into the hospital for his misdemeanors against the monkey… yet. Although he did shot around them an awful lot… and Gojyo learned the Vietnamese the fast way, even if it was mostly insults.

"Heh. Watch and learn how the master scores, kiddies," Gojyo bragged as he swaggered confidently to the girl in agreen shirt with short blonde hair.

Matt and Gonou looked at each other. "Hey, you think we should have told him….?" Matt asked hesitantly.

Green eyes looked at his friend. "That he will be hitting on Sanzo?" He asked, sighing with exasperated dread. If he hadn't seen the priest before, he too would have mistaken him for a girl. Sanzo was, for some reason, clothed in full uniform, sans his ever-present stole. And he looked delicate enough – from the back – to be mistaken as a female, if one disregarded the fact that he wore the male uniform.

Matt snorted. "Do you really think it would work?" He asked dryly as he jabbed at Gojyo's unsuspecting prey.

Gonou looked at Sanzo and grimaced. "No, it wouldn't." he conceded with a sigh.

Both of them settled to watch the show that was about to begin.

"Hey, beautiful." Gojyo all but purred out. "Want to go with me for a drink?"

The 'beautiful' in question stiffened.

"… You are a glutton for punishment, aren't you?"

The well-known scratchy voice made Gojyo instantly backpedal in horror.

"Y-You!" He exclaimed, pointing at the surly priest childishly. "What the hell are you doing here, you fucking priest?"

Amethyst colored eyes flashed at him disdainfully. "Contrary to your belief, I have some social life, moron. Now get out of my sight so I can drown the horror of you hitting on me in peace."

Gojyo spluttered indignantly. "Well, if you didn't look like a girl – "

He stared into revolver's barrel that was shown under of his nose.

"If you want to die today, I can accommodate you." The priest snarled coldly, making Gojyo shiver at the sub-zero tones of his voice.

And gods, wasn't Sanzo sexy, threatening him like that.

Gojyo gulped.

"Sanzo! Sanzo!"

'Whew. Saved by the monkey. '

Said monkey skidded in front of Sanzo, bumping into Gojyo harshly, making him stumble a little.

Wait.

Gojyo's eyebrow twitched as he caught the smug smirk the monkey gave to him.

'Screw being saved by the monkey, the chimp is gonna die!'

However, Sanzo interrupted his plans, as he grabbed the said chimp by the back of the oversized military shirt and dragged it off somewhere, the said chimp blissfully smiling at the golden-haired priest, who pocketed his revolver back to its place while lecturing him about something.

Gojyo glared after them.

Yeah. The chimp was gonna get it, no ifs, ands or buts about it.

He didn't think where did that homicidal little thought came from. He didn't think it was a little strange to be angry with the kid – well, not a kid, more like a teenager – for interrupting his little unconventional tete-a-tete with Sanzo.

He didn't think that his preference were blonde bombshells with sharp blue eyes, he would prefer them to be violet instead.

Still fuming, he stomped back to his smirking companions. Well, Matt was smirking, Gonou was trying for a polite smile instead, but something in his viridian eyes told Gojyo he was also having fun at his expense.

"All hail Master Gojyo." Matt mocked, sketching a small bow to the mortified red head.

Gojyo glared. "Shut. Up."

At that snarled out retort, Matt laughed out loud, ducking Gojyo's swipe of hand at his head. Gonou chuckled.

The show was a smashing success, but the men were not happy when Gojyo burned their copy of Playboy, just because they teased him about his… sudden inclination to blondes.


We dug in deep
And shot on sight

Back in old hell again. Or was it a new one? Gonou didn't care. What he cared about, was digging his temporary hole deep enough to be at least marginally safe from the bullets and shrapnel from exploding grenades.

Gojyo was somewhere else, they had been forcibly separated, and Gonou had to make do with his rifle, some grenades and his bowie knife. Oh, and his shovel.

Finally. He deemed the hole deep enough to hide him, and he quickly slid in, just as someone almost crashed in him –

He would have shot the prick or at least gutted him, if he hadn't seen that stole on the shoulders and dirty blond hair.

Only one man was wearing this kind of clothes and had hair of such an unusual color.

"Shit." The man cussed.

"Could say the same," Gonou snarled out. "What the fuck are you doing here?"

He heard the click of emptying the cartridges and he caught a glimpse of steel as Sanzo reloaded the gun.

"Probably same as you." Was the short answer. Gonou would have rolled his eyes, but grenade exploded a mite too near for his tastes, so they both reflexively ducked down.

They both were dirty, their faces sooty and hot and they stank to high heavens with sweat. This particular skirmish exploded at noon, and right now it was, what? Two in the afternoon? Three?

None of them knew.

"Where is your cockroach?" Sanzo asked, as he quickly shot at the enemy, before ducking down again.

"Where's your monkey?" Gonou returned the question back, not in mood for any pleasantries.

"Sent it for some medical supplies for Barret. Any idea how to kill the bastards?" Sanzo was short to the point, irritating Gonou.

"He's a kid." Gonou activated grenade and threw it to his left. If he despised anything, it was using kids in this fucking war.

"He's a monkey." Sanzo told him coldly.

The next moment, Gonou knew, was that he slammed the irritating son of a bitch into the muddy ground, his fingers clenching around that slender throat.

"He. Is. A. Person." He snarled into that dirty, scratched face, trying to ignore those blazing violet eyes that glared at him defiantly. "And for fuck's sake, treat him like it!"

Sanzo gasped, and Gonou felt the throat muscles shifting under his hands.

"You… know jack shit about us. "Sanzo snarled, and Gonou felt the cold steel jabbing into his sternum. "Get off or eat lead."

Viridian green stared into amethyst, but suddenly, Sanzo pulled him down, making Gonou almost choke him as he reflexively tightened his hands around Sanzo's throat and at the same time, Sanzo swiftly moved his armed hand and fired.

Once.

Twice.

Thrice.

Gonou lay on top of the priest, frozen with shock.

"Next time, dig a deeper hole, idiot." Sanzo's breath tickled his ear, as the priest snarled the insult at him, gasping for much-needed air. "And you fucking owe me."

When Sanzo shoved him off of his body, Gonou didn't protest. He slowly looked in the direction Sanzo fired his shots, and his blood chilled.

If it weren't for Sanzo's timely intervention. Gonou would've been one dead son of a bitch right now.


And prayed to Jesus Christ with all of our might

"Jesus Fucking Christ," Gojyo snarled out. He wasn't in charitable mood today, and even if he had been, it would have passed pretty soon.

He lost his cigarettes, he was tired, dirty and hungry and his nerves were high strung from all that shooting, ducking and avoiding dangerous sharp implements on his way.

Their way, rather – for some reason, he was stuck with the monkey, who was whining about finding its sun, if he interpreted its gibberish correctly.

He had been parted from Gonou earlier in the day, as the VC bastards attacked when they least expected it. They were assured that it will be ordinary mission, but the entire thing had gone to hell in a hand basket faster than they could say SNAFU.

Gojyo found the monkey helping Barret – the man's foot had been torn off cleanly under the knee, and after a few seconds of fending off the panicky monkey, he managed to tie and bind it somehow to stave off the flow of blood, and then the medic came – apparently the monkey stole the medical supplies, and Leslie was less than pleased, but that changed as he saw just why the monkey took his precious materials.

Now, he was floundering in the skirmish somewhere, with the monkey along the side, acting as a babysitter for the brat. Not that monkey needed it, but he still had to find Gonou, and the monkey was the only partner available at the time.

There was smoke and noise and cries and screams – Gojyo got a bullet in his shoulder, but luckily, it got through the meaty part and the only danger he was in was from the loss of blood.

Cursing colorfully, he shoved the monkey down as the shadow jumped at him and some ten frenzied minutes later, he managed to kill his attacker by breaking his neck with the scarf – an unconventional, dirty move he had learned on the streets, but never thought he would have used in real life to such an extreme.

"Let's go, kid." He barked, motioning monkey to follow.

Large golden eyes looked at him, and then, the monkey nodded, climbing on his legs, and shyly offered Gojyo a hand.

After a moment, Gojyo accepted it, allowing the boy to haul him up. For such a small, wiry monkey, the boy was surprisingly strong.

Then, they dashed forward, the temporary truce established…

… for now.


We had no cameras
To shoot the landscape

It was the kind of silence that gnaws at the man's nerves. The kind of silence, that makes you tense, uncertain of what would happen next. The absence of sound – except of whistling wind between rustling trees.

Their squad was decimated… again. If they didn't know better, they would have thought that someone up here had it in for them.

They got together by sheer dumb luck. Or better, it took one stubborn monkey and the distinguishable sound of Sanzo's gun. The monkey was dumb enough to get into the fray, just to get to its owner, and Gojyo had no choice but to follow it. And if luck would have it, Gonou was with Sanzo.

Gonou stared at the glen blankly. The evening was approaching, and if he were an artist, he would have bemoaned not having camera to shoot the landscape. The patch of the sky was steadily darkening blue that bled into red and violet, but the green-eyed man didn't have a lick of appreciation for it right now.

He was still shaken by his brush of death, and feeling guilty for his little strangulation episode in the forest. His eyes flicked to Sanzo, who was lighting his cigarette, much to Gojyo's chagrin. Goku was snoozing away, the poor kid, his messy-haired head leaning on Sanzo's thigh.

Both of them were a mess – dirty, sweaty one, but at least, they were a mess that was alive. For how long, none of them knew. All of them were silent, too tired to banter.

The day had been long, and the night would be even more so. They were in the middle of the enemy's territory – no matter what the higher-ups said, the VC's clearly had the home advantage and really, nobody relished the thought of being gutted like a pig in the dark of the night.

Closing his eyes, he still could feel that rail thin body under his, he could still smell him – gunpowder, dirt and sweat and something uniquely Sanzo – sharp tang of Marlboro cigarettes and something that reminded him of autumn and rain.

He still remembered those amethyst colored eyes – dark and bitter, like absinthe, only not the signature green color. They were the eyes that saw too much, and not many of what they had seen was good.

And yet…

Gonou clenched his teeth. Yet, this strange priest saved him.

Him, the sinner.

Him, who had almost killed Sanzo, even if it was unintentionally,. But Sanzo had irritated him with his devil-may-care attitude about the monkey – really, Goku was just a kid, even if he was, by all means, a teenager in years. Add that to the fact that Goku was an experienced killer –

Gonou closed his eyes.

All of them were killers, but for Goku to be in this mess…

Sanzo frustrated and bewildered him at the same time. The priest behaved as if he didn't give a flying fuck about anyone or anything, but the inclusion of the monkey in the Infamous Three into regular rules dictated otherwise. From all he had seen, Sanzo was grouchy, bitter and prickly like cactus and woe betide anyone who dared to mess with him or those he claimed as his…

It made Gonou's head hurt. Did Sanzo care or not? And why did he, Cho Gonou, care to know whether the man cared or not?

Huffing softly, he tilted his head back to look at the darkening sky.

It didn't matter.

There was no redemption for him, anyway.

His hand clutched around small cross that hung around his neck.

No redemption. No forgiveness.

Nothing.


We passed the hash pipe
And played our Doors tapes

Back again. It was night and it was raining, but they had the reprieve of being relatively safe. This was no home front, but it felt almost as good, what with barracks above their heads, half – decent food in improvised kitchen, and glory of glories, they could clean themselves and their clothes again without fear of being vulnerable.

Some of men were smoking a hash pipe, the acrid scent weaving in the space between them as they talked, teased and goaded each other, in an effort to forget the war and its horrors for a little bit.

Somewhere in the background played a familiar song.

Golden eyes glinted around, as its owner crouched in the darkness. The song was soothing him with its soft cadence.

"… Like dog without a bone, an actor out on loan…"

The boy hummed to himself inaudibly swaying slightly in the rhythm. His tanned skin was even darker in the shadows. He was clothed in an army-issued camouflage shirt with its sleeves torn off and wide black pants that were tied at the ankles with ropes. He didn't wear shoes this time; his bare feet were a little dirty from walking around in the building. Around his waist, he wore a wide sash that plastered the shirt against his body, along with the pants. He didn't have long hair anymore, but he kept his violet bandanna anyway. The veteran soldiers knew the boy and trusted him by now, but the newbies didn't know that and it was always better to be safe than sorry. Even if the boy knew how to defend himself against any untoward attacks, courtesy of his unofficial guardian and the cursed duo.

He saw the cursed duo – the one with red hair and the one with green eyes. They were playing poker with some of the other soldiers, and by the soldiers' cursing aimed at the grinning redhead, it would be safe to bet that Gojyo had an exceptional luck tonight. Usually, it was the green-eyed one who dominated the poker table, but for some reason, he wasn't totally in the game tonight.

Maybe because it was raining.

His Sun was the same. Whenever it was raining, the man was sharp, moody and unapproachable – Goku learned fast, even when he didn't know English. Now, he was at least passable in it, even if he still mixed some words, but it was enough, especially when he was insulting Gojyo.

He didn't like how the redheaded man looked at his Sun.

Since their unintentional rendezvous in the jungle that fateful day, when they lost Barret and Leslie – the help came too late. Because of Barret's injury, they were sitting ducks, and one grenade later, all that was left of them was a bloody mess.

They had found out the news two nights later, when Matt arrived and they regrouped. Goku had bawled his eyes out that night; he cried like he hadn't since that fateful attack on him. He liked Barret and Leslie – they were the ones who taught him what little he knew of English in his effort to impress Sanzo. They were like his big brothers, and then, they were gone.

It made him scared, what would happen if his Sun would vanish like that someday. He shivered at the thought.

If it did… he wouldn't want to live.

Back then, he had dragged along the redhead in an effort to find his Sun. Luckily he had sharp ears, and the sound of Sanzo's gun was distinctive enough to be followed. He may not have liked the redhead then, but when Gojyo saved him, they formed a temporary truce.

He found Sanzo, had been harshly reprimanded for his stupidity by Sanzo and Gojyo found his companion.

Because all four of them were outcasts in some way – Sanzo for his prissy ways and being a priest, Goku for being a kid and potential enemy, Gojyo for his cockiness and red hair and his silent companion for just being creepy, they fell together in a weird little group that was all and nothing. They had no specialization, but their skills were just diverse enough to be deployed to anywhere that was needed to be. Their team may be small and not make any sense to outsiders, what with Goku and Gojyo squabbling all over, Sanzo's bouts of temper and their healer being…lethal prey to any VC who was dumb enough to think that attacking a healer because he was most vulnerable in the group was a good idea. But… they worked.

"Riders on the storm…"

Goku's lip twitched. This song described them to a T. All of them unwanted, all of them alone, until they found each other –

Was he selfish if he wished for a war to last forever, so that he could stay with them, with his Sun for just a little longer?

Golden eyes closed. It didn't matter that he had to kill. He should have felt guilty for betraying his people, but Sanzo rescued him. It was not his fault if he had different colored eyes, and they thought he was a demon.

He may be selfish, but he deserved to be selfish, and if being selfish meant taking lives to stay by Sanzo's side… he would do so without questions.

If Sanzo was the Demon Priest, it was only appropriate that he, Goku, was the Demon in his care.

The song faded into the background gently, allowing the sounds of the rain falling on the roof coming forth.

And Goku smiled.


And it was dark...
So dark at night

This time, there was no moon, no stars, nothing. They were camping in the jungle, and it was an oppressive feeling that made them jumpy, for the lack of a better word. It was,\ as if they were blind when just a moment before they could see everything. This time, they won, and they forced the enemies to flee. Sadly, the squad leader was injured fatally, and it was only the question of when he would die.

Gonou had done everything he could for him… but it wasn't enough.

Sanzo's mood was thunderous. Everyone could feel it, and the group unanimously decided to be safe than sorry, leaving him be. Even Gojyo, who usually mercilessly taunted Priss Miss, as he called the blond priest, held his tongue behind his teeth tonight.

The reason was simple. 'Priss Miss' was their new leader for the time being and they would rather not deal with Sanzo's special brand of encouragement.

No one wanted to get burned by friendly fire after all, especially if that fire included one pissy monk with a gun and a scarily good aim.

"Tch. What a drag." Sanzo snarled to himself, making Leo chuckle weakly. "So spit out your sins… and fast."

Really, searching absolution from Sanzo…

Even if a person was on his death bed…

Was absurd.

Sanzo was not one for hearing confessions and giving soft words and gentle guidance.

His hands were too bloody for that.

His tongue was too sharp to soothe the dying with some meaningless assurances of 'yes, you were a good boy and yeah, sure you will go to heaven.'

And yet…

Yet, in this darkness, his harshness was strangely appropriate.

And when the man died, Sanzo's voice began murmuring the prayer, lulling the listeners in comfortable silence and easing their grief.

They were thankful… that Sanzo was praying, not for the dead ones, but those who were still alive.


And we held on to each other
Like brother to brother

Shivering, Goku pressed against Sanzo, and even the man's grumbling and snarling didn't detract him from curling against the blond. Some dumb shit decided it would be great idea to get the company into the mountains, and with temperatures being below zero and them not having adequate equipment, they were forced to keep up the temperature in small man-piles. It didn't help that Sanzo's party, as the men called them, had been chosen to do some guerilla actions behind the enemy's back.

Goku wasn't happy, but as long as he had Sanzo, it was doable.

He heard Gojyo grunting as he tried to burrow himself deeper into their little pile, only to yelp as Hakkai pinched him painfully. Sanzo's body was tense, ready to strike at any moment if needed be. The priest wasn't a fan of touchy-feely behavior, and with him being in the middle of their strange little bundle, it was safe to say he wasn't happy by a large margin.

At first, it was only Goku and Sanzo, while Gonou huddled with Gojyo, but somewhere over the course of the night, the cursed duo managed to gravitate over to Sanzo and Goku, promptly curling in and around. At first, Goku was happy, as any additional warmth was welcome as it kept away the cold and hunger, but when Gojyo began to hog Sanzo for himself – or tried to, at least, Goku was rapidly becoming displeased.

Sanzo was his, and no fucking cockroach had the right to take him away!

When Gojyo exaggeratedly placed his arm over Sanzo's shoulders, temptingly near Goku's mouth, the latter didn't even try to stop his impulses. He bit the appendage, sharp teeth sinking into the soft skin effortlessly.

"YEOWCH! YOU STUPID MONKEY!"

Gojyo's voice thundered across their little abode, making Goku smirk smugly at his adversary, before both he and Gojyo yipped with pain as unforgiving fist clocked with their heads.

"Be quiet, you idiots!" Sanzo's voice was sharp as knives as he berated the two childish subordinates he was stuck with.

A blessed silence.

A moment later – "But he started it!" Both of the dumbasses whined in unison, and Sanzo didn't need light to know that both of them were childishly pointing at each other.

Blond eyebrow twitching, Sanzo had had enough.

"Enough." His voice stopped the complaints in the tracks. "Monkey, go cuddle the moron. Moron, monkey will be your bed warmer for the night. Don't. Come. Back. Here. And that's a command."

Both of the nuisances were taken aback. "But Sanzo! You will freeze – " The monkey began, concerned.

"Yes, Cherry-chan. You will definitely need a warm body to snuggle against – "The idiot dared to leer at the seething priest.

Twin yips of pain echoed in the night as the duo was unceremoniously thrown out of their pile on their ears.

"I have Hakkai. Now go to sleep!"

The green-eyed man, who was listening to the banter with silent amusement, was startled to find the slender body pressed against his, but he automatically curled around his comrade, even if he was a little cautious as he didn't want to irritate their already irate commander further.

"Sanzo?" He questioned softly, as he inhaled the man's scent into his nose.

A grunt answered him.

"Sleep." The command was absolute, and Hakkai had to smile at the man's gruffness. Green eyes closed with contentment, and a moment later, Hakkai was sleeping contentedly in his leader's arms.

The next morning, there were gunshots and yelling, as the idiot duo somehow managed to cuddle against Sanzo in the night.

Nobody wanted to admit it, but it was the best sleep each of them ever had in years.


We promised our mothers we'd write

The post was sporadic, and even then, there was barely any time to read or write it.

Gojyo exhaled a smoke as he watched Baker writing to his mother. The man was one of the rare ones Gojyo actually found tolerable. Baker was small and stout; he was their communications officer, always carrying the radio and with his glasses on the face, he looked like a dork, but he was a useful dork, who was calm under the fire, even if he stuttered a bit.

Sighing, he closed his eyes. He had no one to write to. Well, that wasn't entirely true, he still had his half-brother, but he was never for sappy letters. Besides, their last contact was years ago, when Gojyo had had enough of his wench of a step mother and left the house in hot fury.

He never came back.

His life was here. There was war, and death and blood with fires, explosions and high-strung nerves, but Gojyo felt alive.

He had his buddies – the monkey, Hakkai and Sanzo and that strange dog they rescued – well, Hakkai rescued him, to be precise – and they were all he needed to be alive.

Violet eyes looked over the men – they had some time to rest before they would receive their orders for the next move. He silently scoffed at Baker, who was trying to scrawl together something legible for his mother.

Sam Baker was a momma's boy, as they jokingly called him, as he wrote his mother every chance he got, and Sanzo was wondering just what the dumbass was doing here. Not that he wasn't useful, but his mother was sick and she had to tend to their little farm with Baker's little sister. It was absurd for the able – bodied young man to be on the battlefield, leaving his parent home with little to no support, the soldier pay notwithstanding. But Baker insisted on being a soldier, citing some patriotic quotes that seriously raised Sanzo's hackles.

One of them was: "All that is needed for evil to prevail is for a good man to do nothing."

Sanzo almost shot the imbecile.

Why did he have to see the glimpse of Koumyou-sensei in the idiot?

Golden eyes stared curiously at the man. The soldier was writing a letter again, and Goku was confused. He knew why Baker was writing – Hakkai had explained to him, but Goku didn't see any need to write himself to anyone. All he had was the three soldiers – his Sun and the two cursed ones. And a dog. Still, it baffled the boy, because the man could do so many things that would be better than to write on this scrap of paper – for example, do the maintenance on his weapons. It always irked Sanzo that Baker was so good with telegraphing under the fire, but when it came to battle, he was hopeless, because he didn't take care of his weapons. Luckily, Rider covered him, even if the sandy-haired man complained about his 'duty', with Baker hastily placating him and promising him he would do the maintenance next time, much to the amusement of the company.

But Goku liked the man's stories about the little farm and his small family.

Green eyes looked over their communication officer. Every time he had seen him write, something in his chest twanged painfully, and he unconsciously put his hand on stomach. He would have had someone to write too… but she was dead and buried.

He had his revenge, and sometimes in the night, he thought about her and what happened that day. He liked to pretend she was with him, and he still had the small cross she always wore around his neck. It was one of his precious treasures, right along the Bible. If Sanzo's untouchables were his stole and monkey, then Hakkai's were his Bible and the cross. The Bible was in a sorry state now, but Hakkai didn't want to part with the miserable thing anyway.

Sometimes, he still wondered what would be different if she had still lived. Would he be here, with them still? Would he still have met the cocky redheaded kappa, mischievous golden-eyed monkey and surly priest with amethyst colored eyes that were bitter like absinthe?

Maybe. Maybe not.

But he was here, and he was with them, and that was all worth of it.


And we would all go down together

"Cho Gonou." The judge's voice boomed in the small room. Gonou's hearing was private, as nobody wanted to cause mass hysteria with media. Mafia didn't like the fact that just one man took out a large chunk of their forces, the state didn't like mafia sticking its nose where it didn't need to be stuck into, and the law had to be appeased somehow.

The man's green eyes were blank.

"The jury recognized you as a guilty of killing Don Alessandro and his two nephews along with their families and employees. " The man's voice was factual and flat, as if it didn't matter.

"However, as you have done the state a favor, yet we cannot overlook that you have, in essence still done a crime, I sentence you to an asylum for a week to allow you to fully recuperate from injuries and then, you will be deported to Parris Island for military training. Upon completion of the training, you will be sent to Vietnam to serve your country with honor and repent for your sins. You will be there until the end of the war, or until you are killed in the skirmishes. Meeting adjourned."

The gavel crashed on the plate with finality, and the man hung his head.

Cho Gonou was told to be a living weapon.


We said we'd all go down together

"And don't come back, you Satan's spawn!" The woman's screech echoed through the house.

"Fine!"The redhead hollered back, his crimson eyes dark with fury. "Go die in a hovel, you old, prudish hag!"

He stormed into his room, snatched a small backpack and stuffed in some clothes, took his money and snatched his bowie knife from under the floor board. This knife was his treasure, as it had been gifted to him by his brother, Doku.

"Son - you don't mean –you know she didn't mean to - " A small voice sounded from the doors.

Gojyo whirled around. "Shut your pie hole, old man," He snarled out, his fist clenching. "I am fed up with you defending her as if she were a saint. Ya knew I can't help the color of my hair or that I have red eyes. Ya know what she had done to me. Ya knew it, and YOU DID A JACK SHIT TO STOP HER!" He hollered, not caring who heard him. It hurt too much – it was too much.

The man flinched. What Gojyo said was true, and he felt guilty enough to be silent.

Gojyo grabbed the documents and stuffed them into the backpack.

"Don't call me. Don't search for me. I was dead to you all those years, bastard. "The redhead's lips curled into a horrible sneer. "You can have your perfect family now, without the Devil's spawn to mar it."

He closed the bag with decisive movements, hanging it on the shoulder; he got past the white – faced man.

"From today on… You are dead to me."

With those last words, Taishou Gojyo stepped past the man that was his biological father, going out of the house that ceased being his home so long ago.

That night, Gojyo went away and never looked back.

That night, Taishou Gojyo died, and in his place was born Sha Gojyo, street rat, chain smoker and a man without a future.


Yes we would all go down together

Gasping, he woke up, his mind still replaying those last moments of his master' s life. His master's sacrifice.

His master's words.

"Be strong, Genjo Sanzo."

Golden eyebrows scrunched in pain and irritation.

His life was empty. He lived – he existed – only to find his master's murderer and to recover the other sutra.

One was his.

The other… was stolen away.

Both scriptures consisted of descriptions of the moves of one of the deadliest martial arts in the world. If only one of the scriptures came into wrong hands –

Sanzo shuddered.

The Heaven one was stolen, and that was a spot of luck in otherwise dark situation. He shuddered to think what the thief come murderer would have done if they came to posses the Hell one.

The Seiten was like the Yin principle. Defense only, with attacks that didn't harm the opponent… too much.

The Maten one was Yang – dark, brutal and some would call it sadistic. Sanzo knew all too well the destructiveness of the Maten techniques, even if he rarely used them.

One of those moments was when some fuckers wanted to rape him.

He had been young, pretty and looked like a girl, and without an adult companion to protect him - the fuckers who called themselves Koumyou's disciples were all a bunch of scaredy cats, 'allowing' Sanzo to repent for his mistakes in the shape of ordering him to recover the Seiten scripture.

Greedy assholes, the lot of them.

He had been on the way for seven years, until he finally found a lead.

The next morning found him in front of the recruitment office for army.

Six months later, he was on board of USMC Lancelot, on his way to Vietnam, clothed in army clothes and with an unusual stole on his shoulders.

He knew jack shit about being a Christian, but if his squadron needed a chaplain, he would fill the position – especially if it guaranteed than none of those bastards would get touchy feely with him.

He exhaled the smoke as he casually shot one of his more… persistent admirers scarily near his left ear.

Violet eyes, cold as ice, cut at the unfortunate fellow.

"Next time, I won't miss."

They quickly backed off after that.


Remember Charlie?

Zulu reports were always the hardest. Whenever they regrouped, there was the old question all of them dreaded to ask or find answers to.

Who had been zipped? Who was lost? Who would survive?

Every day, those were the questions that tormented them the most.

Gojyo could still remember one man – still a boy, almost, who, after finding out that his brother was dead, fell in hysterical crying fit, calling out for his brother, promising and apologizing, if only Charlie would come back, wouldn't have left him behind in this no man's land.

Sanzo was always even grimmer after those reports, even if it was just because he was responsible for laying them to rest.


Remember Baker?

He was kind, shy and a little clumsy, but he was one of the vest communication officers they had. Calm and steady under fire, even if they teased him about his little stuttering habit.

Momma's boy, still dutifully writing to her, whenever had a scrap of time, paper and something to write on.

Goku liked him, because he was one of those that didn't call him a zipper head behind his back. Even with Sanzo's backing, Goku still had troubles because of him being a Vietnamese; and it didn't help his eyes were such an unusual color.

Hakkai liked him because he was innocently naïve. Even in the army, people were wary of him – well, not Gojyo, Sanzo's monkey or the priest himself – but his name, Cho Gonou, was infamous enough to be ostracized and shied away from, not that he would like to associate with the soldiers. It was kind of ironic - all of them were murderers in some capacity, and they were shunning Gonou because he was a murderer on a bigger scale.

In this dark, mad world, where nothing made sense, Baker was a tiny star of solace. When Hakkai asked him why he wasn't afraid of him, those deep brown eyes looked at him for a moment.

"We all will die someday, Gonou. Whether we are killed or die in our beds, it doesn't matter. Besides, as far as I am concerned, those bastards deserved what they got. And if you were really dangerous to me, I would've already been dead."

Gonou was speechless.


They left their childhood

Most of them were still kids when they came to fight in the war. However, they were quickly disillusioned of their 'bang bang, you're dead' little dreams.

Hakkai had seen that transformation all too often.

Wide eyes still sparkling with wonder and excitement changed after that first more serious brush with death, in dulled ones, pupils still wide with shock as they were forced to take a life. And the longer they were in that hell on earth, named Vietnam, the duller, and yet sharper their eyes became.

It wasn't something that you got at once. If you took the boot and placed him beside the veteran, the change couldn't be more pronounced.

The freshly-faced, clean-shaved little boy with dreams of heroes and grandeur even the harsh training couldn't get out of his empty little gung ho head, prissy as he can be, and then the veteran, slouched, in greens that were sometimes fit for garbage, dirty most of times and twitchy at the sounds that could or couldn't be the announcement of enemy's approach, with a prickly three days beard, lugging around his worldly possessions on his thinned out body. The jungle was literally drinking their blood and sweat and tears.

But the most telling were the eyes. Narrowed a little, with that glassy sheen of an animal that was put through a shock it still didn't get over with and was resigned to get through the same thing again… and come out alive, if possible. That far away, disillusioned glance of eyes that were brutally stripped of their innocence.

"Baker?" Sanzo called out as he performed their little roll call. Even if he was a chaplain, he acted as their Papa Sierra right now, leading them through the mess.

"Kool-Aid." A scratchy voice replied, the soldier who spoke hunching into himself.

Goku froze.


On every acre

That little phrase meant the soldier in question was dead.

"How?" Gojyo demanded, red eyes wide with shock.

"Fucked up the same as Charlie had been."

The answer was tired.

What could they say?

"Fuck." Sanzo hissed, annoyed. Baker was their communication officer, and now, they were stranded high and dry and this was a logistics nightmare.

If they waded into friendly fire…

They would be done for.

Hakkai hung his head, rubbing his eyes tiredly.

Sanzo continued the roll call.

Luckily, only five out of thirty were killed, and three were more seriously wounded.

But losing Baker…

They became sitting ducks.

Bummer.


And who was wrong?
And who was right?

"Don't you know? He's the Slayer!" One man spat out the nickname as if it were something foul, and to him, it probably was. "He's just a fucking murderer and honestly, what the fuck did they think to send him there? We all could be killed in our sleep!"

The air was almost crackling with tension. The platoon had to be divided in smaller squads to get past the enemy lines, and then join together after they were behind the enemy's back in one force again.

However, question was which squad would take Cho Gonou.

The men bristled. They all were tired, cranky and hungry. Honestly, those C-rations were shit.

"So what? We all are murderers here, princess." Gojyo snarled back, red eyes flashing dangerously. Anyone who knew the redhead would know the signs of eruption close under the surface. "Suck. It. Up."

"Heh, you poor dimwit. Let me enlighten you on the past of your little friend." Smith sneered out. He was a tall, lanky man, who was the second best sharp shooter in their platoon, but he was a terror with combat knives. His longer than usual canines earned him the nickname of Dracula.

"Your humble little boy here is a convicted killer. Gonou had killed thousand men back home, just because some of them protested against him fucking his own sister."

The silence was so thick you could knife it.

Gonou stiffened. "You bastard." He snarled out, green eyes blazing with fury. "You know fucking nothing about – "

Smith's fangs glinted. "The fuck I don't. You killed my entire family – urk!"

He choked as Gonou grabbed him by his throat. "Oh, of course. I was wondering just why you reminded me that I forgot to take some trash out." Gonou's smile was homicidal, making Smith's body stiffen with dread.

"Besides, wasn't said an eye for an eye somewhere? If I remembered right…"

Gonou reached for his right eye –

"I owe you one."

And with those words, he crushed his eyeball.

He would have done the deed, if a small blur wouldn't have got him off balance.

As it was, Gonou only heavily damaged his eye.

"You crazy bastard," Gojyo hissed at the man, as he hurriedly tried to stop the flow of the blood. "Why did you do that?"

Gonou's eyes were empty.

"He's right. I am a sinner." His voice was low – so low Gojyo barely could hear him.

"So what?" Sanzo's sharp voice cracked in the air. "You idiots are making an issue where there is none. And if you knew as much as you are bragging about – "Violet eyes cut to the fuming Smith –

"You would have known that Cho Gonou was proclaimed dead a week after they sentenced him."

Smith spluttered, dark eyes wide."You're lying! He is Cho Gonou! I know it!" His voice rose to feverish pitch. "Who are you trying to fool huh? He's still the same bastard that killed my family – my father and two brothers and – "

"He wouldn't have had to kill them if they hadn't been stupid enough to get their noses where they weren't needed," Sanzo snapped out sharply, revolver in his hand clicking, the noise unusually loud in the air.

"I don't give a rats ass about Cho Gonou." Sanzo continued, disregarding the mentioned man's flinch at his admission. "Cho Gonou is dead and buried. But it pisses me off that you are biased against Cho Hakkai. They may be the same, but Hakkai is a comrade that wouldn't betray us no matter what."

Wide green eyes stared at the furious monk as he picked the bone with the soldier.

Cho… Hakkai.

A new name.

His name.

Him. Trusted.

"If ya are so fuckin' sure, then you take the fucker," Smith spat out, sneering. "An' don't come cryin' to me when the little shit stabs you in the back in the night." The men murmured their assent.

"Enough!" Leo, their commander, barked out, his eyebrow twitching with irritation. Leo was a veteran of the skirmishes in 'Nam, and this little squabble was getting on his nerves.

"Sanzo, you will take all responsibility for Cho… Hakkai's actions. One step out of line, and it's your hide." He commanded, gray eyes sharp.

Smith smirked. But Leo rounded at him. "I should've reported you for deliberately making a mess of things." He snarled into Smith's paling face. "Sanzo was right – Hakkai hasn't done anything hostile against us, and you deliberately provoked him. But for you going so far as this…" He shook his head disgusted.

"There's still the matter of separating in squads. Because you all are against having Hakkai as a teammate, he will be in group with Sanzo, his monkey and Gojyo." Some soldiers tried to protest – Sanzo was a valuable comrade, what with his shooting skills, but Leo lifted his hand, silencing all protests at once.

They were clever enough to know he wouldn't budge from his decision.

And so, the Sanzo party was born.


It didn't matter in the thick of the fight...

Once again, their luck struck. Not that it was anything spectacularly good – if anything, it was spectacularly bad. For three days, they had some peace, which made them relaxed, but one particular monk was pissy as ever, thinking that these Zipperhead bastards were bound to give them hell – and he was right.

The song of explosions, gunshots, screams and cries echoed in the forest.

"Doc! Doc!" The screaming was familiar, but Hakkai didn't think about it. All that mattered was that someone of his was wounded, and he had to –

He ducked and knifed his opponent, his hands slick and wet with red.

"Doooc!" The voice was hysterical.

He ambled through the foliage and five minutes later, he almost fell on the hysterically shouting man.

"Shut up!" He yelled at the man, who eyed him with a half incredulous and half crazed glint in his eye.

He expertly ripped the fabric, exposing the thigh, dark brows furrowing as he assessed the damage.

Quickly, he opened his satchel with sanitary materials and dug out the things he needed.

Dark eyes looked at him. "Why are you helping him?"

Hakkai snorted at the absurdity of the question. "Why shouldn't I?" He quickly pressed the gauze on the wound and wrapped around the tape.

The moment he finished the taping, he sprang away, leaving the two stunned men alone to contemplate the absurdity of the moment.

And if later in this battle Dracula covered the healer a little bit more than usual, it was alright.

They may have squabbles within the unit, but when all hell broke loose, they stood together, arm to arm, man to man.

It was just a 'Nam thing.


We, held the day...
In the palm of our hands

They had won. The day was theirs. They could walk in the bright sunlight, laughing, smiling and talking – this was one of the rare moments they were free. The sun beat down on their backs, all warmth and light and even if it was hot, it didn't matter much.

The only things they had left were securing the perimeter and prisoners and Willie was already trying to get in contact with HQ to get the additional orders.

Goku was happy. His Sun was alright, and for once, the food was actually edible. Their usual rations were warmed up with C-4, and it was nice to get some nice, piping hot broth in his grumbling stomach. Hakkai was teaching the dog they rescued some new tricks, and Gojyo was smoking some hard – won cigarettes.

All was right with Goku's world – until he heard a commotion.

Curious little monkey he was, Goku had to see just who it was.

Golden eyes widened as he froze when those unmistakable orbs looked around and zeroed on him.

It was a boy, the same age as him, but with long black hair, pulled into messy ponytail. He was dressed in dirty white shirt with black pants and red sash around his hips.

The boy was bloodied and his hands were tied on his back, and his ankles were also tied with a rope.

It was…

… The War God himself, Nataku.

Goku blanched.

That… couldn't be true.

Could it?

The name of Nataku and his deeds were well known in this hell zone known as Vietnam. Nataku was one of those guerilla fighters that was just insane, lucky and fanatic enough to be considered a major pain in the arse for anti-communist forces.

"…Nataku…" He breathed out, still frozen with shock.

Nataku's face was bloody and swollen and one of his eyes was half shut and on his cheek, there was a dark bruise already forming.

The soldier pushed the boy forward harshly, sneering smugly at him.

This jolted Goku out of his stupor.

"Nataku! Hey! Nataku! Let 'im go!" He shouted, as he ran into the cluster, unmindful of the cursing men he unknowingly elbowed in sensitive places.

Nataku's eyes were dull, not those mischievous glittering orbs Goku had known them in the past.

Goku gritted his teeth.

"Hey! Nataku! It's me!" He tried again.

"Leave 'im, kid." One of soldiers growled at him. "The brat had done us enough trouble and he will finally get his dues." The men murmured in agreement, making Goku snarl. "No! Nataku is my friend! You can't - !"

The soldier backhanded Goku with enough force to sprawl him on the ground. "What was that, brat?" The man asked, sneering, dark eyes flashing at him threateningly. "Ya collaboratin' wit' im?" he threateningly stepped forward. "Whaddya think, guys? Shall we torture him a lil' bit beside his lil' companion?"

"Davis – " One of men tried to stop the overzealous idiot. "'E's one of ours."

Davis sneered again, as he stepped on Goku's chest, making him heave with weight. "'E's a Zipperhead if I ever saw one. That little Nataku brat is 'is fwiend," He mocked Goku, who snarled under his boot helplessly, as some of the soldiers laughed at his unenviable predicament.

"Gerroffa me!" Goku screamed, as he pierced his nails in the man's lower thigh muscles around his knee.

"FUUUCK - !"

Davis screeched out a curse as he almost fell on the brat, but he automatically jerked away. Snarling, he made to kick the nuisance, but Goku already rolled on his feet, ready, willing and able to gut the asshole, golden eyes glinting with murderous intent.

"What the hell is going on here?"

A sharp voice questioned, and the men parted to let the redhead through.

"'E brat tried to free th' rebel, that's what!¨" Davis snapped still smarting from his loss of first round.

Goku's golden eyes widened. "Nataku is my friend! Nataku is good!" He called to Gojyo desperately as he moved to shield Nataku with his body.

Red eyes looked at the two boys – one in the improvised uniform of American army, and other in the torn and bloodied threads of natives.

Red eyebrows quirked up. "Hoo? Monkey, you didn't tell us you have friends in such high places," He teased the monkey, but his eyes were serious.

The said monkey growled. "Tell them to let him go!" he demanded, stomping his foot on the ground like a petulant child.

Gojyo stared. "Hey, what, wait – " He pointed at Goku incredulously. "Ya wanna keep him as your pet or what?" He shook his head mockingly. "Like master like pet," He sighed mock – despairingly. "And what would Sanzo say?" The crowd chuckled at their verbal spar.

"… Sanzo?" Davis asked, eyebrows arching. The man beside him rolled his eyes. "Yo, you're a total newb' here. Figures, otherwise you wouldn't be as suicidal to attack the monkey here," he pointed at Goku vaguely.

Davis blinked. "'E's jus' a brat." He snorted dismissively, only to be stopped with the man's chuckle.

"The brat, as you call him, is Sanzo's property. Sanzo is the surly bastard with white and green stole around his shoulders, totes his revolver around and has a less than holy vocabulary." The man told him, smirking. "Ya know th' three rules? Don't mess with his stole. Keep your paws away from his person. And lastly, keep yer paws away from his monkey. But if ya wanna risk the wrath of the Demon Priest, be my guest."

Davis blinked. "That him?" he pointed at the still arguing redhead. It seemed that the monkey had managed to hit a particularly sensitive nerve, prompting the redhead to grab him in a headlock and give him a noogie.

The soldier shook his head. "Naw. He's Gojyo, also called Red Devil." Davis choked. This – loud, brash idiotic man was one of the famed Sanzo party?

He swallowed. "Th' one with the dog is Slayer, Cho Hakkai." The soldier pointed out the approaching pair amiably. "Ah - And here he comes."

"What the hell are you making a ruckus for, morons?" The low voice snapped out, making the two culprits – and the witnesses - flinch at the severe crankiness packed in it.

The soldiers parted like the Red Sea, making a way for the fuming princess – err, priest.

Davis' eyes bugged out. The man that came through was anything but how he imagined him.

First, he was too pretty. Golden hair, deep amethyst eyes and slender figure that called for a lover –

He swallowed. But that swallow denoted his dread.

The gun glinting in one hand was enough of a warning, even for such a dimwit as he.

Golden eyes sparkled, and even those dark red orbs brightened some.

"Sanzo!" The monkey yelped out happily.

"Oi, Cherry-chan." The redhead greeted the man lazily, only to yelp as priest cuffed him with rolled up newspaper as if he were a disobedient dog.

"Shut it, idiot." Sanzo snapped, aiming his glare at the monkey.

Suffice to say, Nataku was transferred to the guardianship of the Sanzo party.

However, three days later, they found Goku unconscious and Nataku's rope bonds on the floor of their temporary hut.

Sanzo was not amused.

So much about monkey's assurances that their prisoner was honorable.


They, ruled the night
And the night, seemed to last as long as six weeks

The nights were the worst. There was either the silence, or there was a noise. Neither of the two alternatives was good. If there was silence, you could be assured to expect an ambush or some other unpleasant surprise in the bushes or the trees. If there was a noise, it was usually the rattle of guns, the explosions, or the snappy thwupping of Hueys above their heads.

Each night was anticipated with dread, and each morning, they greeted the day with a relief that was almost palpable.

But this night –

"SANZOOOO!"

The monkey's howl was heartbreaking with its intensity.

It should have been their last mission before returning to the base.

But as always, something had gone terribly FUBAR, and Sanzo, the prissy, dumbass idiot he was, stayed behind to cover their retreat – Gojyo had been wounded, Hakkai was a medic that took care of the kappa and Goku had to take care of the both of the idiots. And that left behind Sanzo.

Not that Sanzo was incompetent – far from it. But this time, they were overwhelmed on all sides, and even with Sanzo's sharpshooting, it was doubtful they would come out alive if not without scratches and various other wounds.

And this time – this time, it seemed that their luck had finally run out on them.

Hakkai's sight was blurry with smoke and tears, and his face was ashen with shock –

…he could only imagine what Gojyo's reaction would be – the redhead was blessedly out of it with pain, and he was swaying and stumbling with the loss of blood; Hakkai suspected that he had a slight concussion – the rebels were clever this time, starting an avalanche almost on the top of them, and it was just their luck and Hakuryuu's instincts that got them from the worst assault. Even if that meant Sanzo having a broken arm, the side of his face was bloody as the sharp piece made a deep gash on his temple, Goku got it out relatively well, thanks to Sanzo covering him, and Hakkai was out of the range, if he had been hit, it was only with minor sized rocks, and not major ones, like Sanzo and Gojyo had been.

But when some dark-haired man called out Sanzo for an one-on-one fight – from what Hakkai could understand, it was some kind of a ritual or something – something that dealt with Koumyou – Sanzo wasn't happy with the challenger, but for the sake of his teammates – and this – man – had the same kind of stole on his shoulders, openly mocking Sanzo with it –

What followed left Hakkai, Gojyo and Goku breathless with wonder and fear. All of them knew that Sanzo was named the Demon Priest, but very rarely did they see just why he had been named such.

That night was the longest one. All they could remember was the two demons dancing in the light of fire and smoke, intangible, swift and deadly, the dark – haired man overwhelming Sanzo almost effortlessly, before their prissy monk commanded them to get the hell out of there and leave him behind.

Goku didn't want to go, but the platform was crumbling and in a moment or so, the fire would engulf it completely.

They managed to get out, the rebels ceasing to follow them, thinking they perished in the inferno or under the avalanche they narrowly dodged in their effort to get to safety.

However, the price was too great.

When they were huddled together against the small fire, Goku felt something dangling around his neck.

Violently trembling with exhaustion and feelings that left him reeling – his Sun was gone, gone and he was helpless –

His fingers scrabbled around, feeling for the item.

He tugged out the ball chain with a pair of dog tags – actually, they were two necklaces and dog tags, one was his, and another – Goku swallowed, but he didn't stop the flow of tears that slid across his cheeks, blurring his vision.

He touched the other dog tag with trembling fingers - it was dirty and slick with sweat and warm, as if it were alive.

But what finally cemented the fact that Sanzo was gone –

Were the words.

SANZO

GENJO

23-1129

USMC M

BUDDHIST

Hakkai traced the dog tag in Goku's palm gently, as if caressing the face of its now deceased owner.

"This… is his tag." He choked out, green eyes glistening with tears.

The pain was even worse than when he had lost Kanan.

This… was agony.

Gojyo only closed his eyes, not wanting to see the final proof that their prissy priest was gone.

"He must have slipped it to you yesterday," he murmured, his voice choked up. His head was pounding with pain, and he was still dizzy and he still didn't want to believe that they were alone now.

Goku keened, his voice loud and desperate and hopeless, making Hakkai wrap his arms around him awkwardly, and a moment later, Gojyo joined in the hug, all of them commiserating and mourning the loss of their pillar.

"And we didn't even know his name…" Gojyo muttered out sourly, but it came out as a choked gasp of air.

"Stupid, prissy bastard…"


On Parris Island
We held the coastline

"We are surrounded!" The report came, the soldier who spat the dreaded sentence out, was panicked but still somewhat resigned.

Everything had changed.

Red eyes looked at the trembling man. "Oh ya? We're surrounded, you say? "The red – haired man smiled a feral smirk that made the courier simultaneously want to shit his pants and get on with whatever the man had in thoughts. "Well, then, we will just kill the bastards in any direction." The courier wanted to protest, but the wild light in those crimson orbs made him nod and scuttle away to pass the message forward.

"Hold the coastline!" The green – eyed man roared, as he fired his gun – the gunshot was so distinctive that the masses of rebels instinctively flinched at the sound.

It was too well-known not to know it.

Five shots in total, each in its target, before the gun was loaded anew.

The Demon Priest may be dead now, but his legacy lived on…

… in the shape of his three comrades.

Whenever the rebels heard the distinctive shot, they became wary. The three War Gods, as they reluctantly named the Sanzo Party, were not an opponent to be trifled with.

In the army, they were legends – even if they amassed more than enough hours to be sent home –at least Gojyo had, Hakkai still had that sentence hanging over his head, and Goku was... auxiliary at best, belonging neither here nor there, as there were no official records about him serving in the army, none of them was willing to leave the battlefield. All three of them had risen through the ranks fast – Hakkai the fastest, Gojyo behind him, and Goku was… Goku. He couldn't be included in it, but he was regarded as the duo's helper anyway.

The coastline was successfully defended.

Sanzo would've been proud.


They held the highland
And they were sharp

Hakkai's eyebrow twitched.

This was getting ridiculous.

He didn't know what their superiors were thinking, but the head-on assault their… superiors commanded to execute, was turning – even with his considerable experience – into their worst nightmare.

He would have fumed if he had time for such an unnecessary action. But right now, he didn't have time. He had to think, plan and execute the assault with minimal losses available.

It didn't help that they were on lower terrain – it would be a bitch to get the battle around.

Those fuckers were smart. And as much as Hakkai appreciated intelligence, there were moments he wished his opponents were just a little bit dumber. It would greatly reduce the stress he was feeling, thank you very much!

In such moments, he felt a great urge to get homicidal on those dumbasses in Washington.

"Hakkai?" A soft voice questioned him, and the green eyed man forced a smile on his face.

"Goku." He acknowledged the boy– no, young man now. Since Sanzo's death, Goku had matured a great deal. His usually bright and innocent eyes were now dull with pain and loss, and it took all Hakkai and Gojyo had to keep the monkey from following its master. They understood his sentiments perfectly, but –

It hurt. It hurt like bitch. Gojyo lost his boisterous nature, and Hakkai noticed, with detached surprise, that the cockroach was serious about Sanzo. It had been a shocker – all of them had thought that Gojyo was suicidal, what with flirting with the surly priest, but to see the man weeping in the night and then refusing the chance for some boom-boom, when they were in base – there were some very pretty nurses that would have been Gojyo's type – but Gojyo refused their advances, and the best the women got out of once famous playboy was a weak smile, while before, they would have gotten a sultry grin and a seductive glance.

He even got so far as to cover his signature crimson mane with dark brown piece of fabric in pirate style – the man stubbornly refused to wear a helmet.

Not that any of the three of them wore the things, of course.

It was a wonder they weren't dead yet, what with the amount of bullets whizzing around their heads. Every time, Gojyo scoffed that Sanzo would have been a better shot, even if the man was as drunk as a skunk and blind as a bat.

Green eyes flicked at the distance. "We'll have to get behind enemy lines." Hakkai muttered, calculating the odds.

This… was the only plan that would work.

But who to send?

This mission was a suicide, plain and simple. Golden eyes were determined.

Hakkai eyed Goku sharply.

True, those two had unbeatable teamwork, but –

"You could die." He murmured softly, crossing the arms on his chest.

"And that's different from any other day, how?" A gruff voice snapped from his right side, but Hakkai didn't budge.

"Ninety five percent odds say you could get back in body bag." He replied tonelessly.

The answer was immediate. "Don't care. Lemme have the fucking thing."

Hakkai smiled a mirthless smile. "Then we'll have to buckle up."

Red eyes blinked. "Wait, wait – you want to abandon your cushy chair to join us lowly boonie rats on our adventure?" Gojyo asked incredulously.

Hakkai's razor sharp smile answered him without doubts.

It was time for the three War Gods to wreak havoc once more.


As sharp as knives

This time, the operation was silent. It was ambush and kill style under the decoy of a furious hail of bullets.

Unconventional as ever, Hakkai had chosen to get the things gone and done over within the sharp light of the day. It would have been a suicide, true, but it was also the only one thing the Charlies wouldn't have expected.

Of course, he was defying the orders, what with him leaving his post, but he didn't care.

Gojyo's eyes glinted as he spotted another victim. Silent as a snake, he crept closer, and with a flash of knife and muffled gurgle, the enemy was dead.

And to think that just five years before, he had to puke his guts out because it had been his first time killing a human.

Somehow, it became easier, because it had been repeated through days and nights – but that didn't mean he didn't have an occasional nightmare or two.

Sometimes, he dreamed he was drowning in sea of blood, with nobody to haul him outta the mess.

It became easier to dehumanize the people he was fighting against. They were enemies. True, they were also fathers, brothers and so on, but he tried his best not to think about them in such a context.

But if he wanted to survive – what did he have to live for? – It was best not to think about them as people.

Their dark faces, dark eyes, their swiftness – like shadows within shadows they materialized only to struck down, fast and true –

Fifteen minutes to their meeting point and counting.

Hissing, Goku twirled his… unusual weapon around.

He had cobbled it together while he had his free time. It was a pole, with blades fashioned from machetes at both ends. Some would say that such a weapon didn't have any use on a modern battlefield, and for the most of time, they would be right. The staff was singularly cumbersome in small or narrow places, but it was perfect for assassinations. Two or three swings, fast and precise, and the opponent was dead.

It was Sanzo's idea, to get the monkey a pole. Within a few months, Goku became quite proficient in its use, and latter, adding blades on the staff, the already dangerous weapon turned out downright lethal in the monkey's hands.

The wood was dark red, the rich shade that could only be reached with blood soaked in.

This weapon was something of a legend in army's ranks, much like Sanzo's gun and Hakkai's dog. Seeing – or in the case of Sanzo's gun, hearing - either one of them in battle was guaranteed to bring the opponent of the owner's weapon a great misfortune; usually in the shape of death.

Just like when they saw Gojyo's blood red locks…

Pausing for a moment to scour his surroundings, Goku then quickly nabbed the soldiers' weapons – mostly grenades and some clutch belts – he wasn't greatest shot, but he was a decent one, and they may have need of some more firepower when they opened the pass for the other men.

Ten minutes to the meeting point and counting.

Hakkai squinted. His vision had been impaired, what with his right eye not working perfectly, and it irritated him, because he lost some of his much coveted eyesight.

It had been a foolish gesture of him, to almost crush his own eye so thoughtlessly. But he hadn't been the most rational at that time, so…

What was done was done.

Duck!

However, his instincts were as good, if not better than ever.

His attacker missed, and Hakkai turned around like a viper, and three seconds later, his opponent was dead.

Acupressure was, in hands of a master, a terrible weapon.

Five minutes to the meeting point and counting...


They counted the rotors
And waited for us to arrive

Even now… the sound of the rotors was the sweetest and the most terrible sound they had ever heard.

It was ironic.

They came with Huey, and now, they were preparing to depart with Huey.

But in the contrast of their arrival, both Hakkai and Gojyo reminisced, this time; it was the deadly silence of the jungle.

The war… Was over.

Funny. They all heard the rumors, but nobody believed them until the last possible minute.

It was just too… impossible. This war became such a large part of their lives they began to think it would continue into eternity.

… was there anything else out there, other than killing, warm blood on their hands and the sharp acidic scent of Agent Orange in the air? What were they going to do now?

In some sense, war was their home. It became their routine - to be alert, to make some cumshaw with the other guys whenever they had the chance, to curl around and against each other in those dark nights, always ready, always prepared to strike if needed be.

They'd forgotten the careless hustle and bustle of civilians, how they were speaking so loudly and carelessly as if nothing had happened – and indeed, for them, it was always the same. They saw happy reunions of families and the heartbreaking sights of the people who lost their sons, brothers, daughters, mothers….

It was the same, and yet, it felt as if they stepped into some completely new and strange world.

Hakkai and Gonou looked at each other over Goku's messy haired head.

"So… What now?" Gojyo asked slowly, as he moved awkwardly, shuffling his duffle bag higher on his shoulder, feeling extremely naked without his rifle… although he did save his combat knives, and he knew that both Hakkai and Goku did the same, and Hakkai managed to stash away Sanzo's gun.

They were squeaky clean and in their parade uniforms, although both Gojyo and Hakkai refused to wear their rank and awards, stuffing the ribbons somewhere to the bottom of their bags as soon as they were able to get away with the deed. The only thing they couldn't change was their ranks – Gojyo got Sergeant epaulettes and Hakkai wore his First Lieutenant ones. And even then, this wasn't their true rank, but it was the lowest one they could find the jackets of.

Hakkai closed his eyes.

Yes… what now? It was as if they woke up from some kind of collective nightmare – and even as relieved as they were to be back, the world that awaited them was no less cruel than the war in which they fought.

Nobody waited for them. Nobody welcomed them. There was no one to smile at or be hugged by. There was no excitement at the thought of going home.

Home.

Where was their home?

Behind his eyelids, there was a flash of gold and violet and gruff, scratchy voice –

Their home was dead.

"I'm hungry!" The monkey piped up, tearing Hakkai out of his musings and prompting Gojyo to give their youngest member a noogie.

Hakkai chuckled at their antics, half-expecting their leader to roar at them to hold their silence.

Golden and red eyes looked at him. "Hakkai?" Gojyo asked, head tilting a little. "You okay, man?" The redhead still held Goku in the hold, with Goku standing in a half – squirm.

"Goku has the right idea. Let's go find something to eat, shall we?"

Goku yipped happily, as if he were a little pup, almost dragging both of them through the crowd, much to their amusement and half – hearted protests.

They were safe. They were together.

As for the future… they would take it as it would come.


And we would all go down together

Life slowly returned itself in its old ways. All of them settled together in an old house, away from civilization. Not that they opposed technology, but they just wanted peace away from all the nosy bodies everywhere. The days trickled by in the sign of repairing the old building, tending to the livestock and taking care of the fields. It was dirty work and equally as exhausting, as nobody of them knew a whit about farming. But they managed – not that they needed much for their survival.

The seasons came and went, and slowly, their minds healed – even if just for a little bit – from the horrors of war. Goku had adapted the fastest, always awed at the sights of nature, and most of his free time, he could be found somewhere outside, riding his palomino – the horse had beautiful golden coat and a blond, almost white mane. Goku had immediately fallen in love with the horse, even if sentiments weren't exactly reciprocated at first. But with time, both of them became almost inseparable, and Goku named the stallion Solaris, or shortly, Sol. It was actually Hakkai's idea, when Goku said that the horse reminded him of sun. Funnily enough, Sol didn't like Gojyo, almost always playing pranks on the redhead, much to Goku's and Hakkai's amusement. It was like having Sanzo in horse shape. The comparison should have worried them, but instead of that, it roused only bittersweet feelings.

Hakuryuu, their dog, came to them three months later. The dog was blind on one eye and partially deaf, but he was still an effective shepherd, as ever. His only weakness was little chicks – he was absurdly overprotective of them. At first, the hens were not happy with the self – proclaimed canine guardian, but they seemed to relent after some time, resulting in some very amusing pictures of Hakuryuu snoozing under the warm summer sun, with little chickadees all around and over him, and one particularly daring one nestled on the top of his head.

Hakkai was content. He loved the little cottage that had, little by little, become their home. He had his little library – it was smaller than the one he had as Gonou – reading was nice but he didn't need to rely on the books anymore. Of course, on long winter nights, some light reading was preferable, if there wasn't any other manual work to do, like shelling the beans from their pods, sewing the ripped clothes or sorting out dried herbs, and of course, teaching Goku how to read, write, do basic math – if Goku and Gojyo didn't… distract him first. He missed Kanan, he always would, but she was a gentle shadow in the past now. Gonou had died in Vietnam, just like Sanzo had. And Hakkai remained, to survive, live and to bring the monkey up to the best of his abilities, just like Sanzo would have wanted him to. He watched many sunrises and sunsets paint the land with soft colors, and he marveled at the sight of winter sky full of stars, like black velvet, embroidered with white diamonds. If he had regrets, they were few and far between.

If someone had told him that he would have been content with living in some godforsaken piece of land and doing manual labor day in and day out without complaints, he would have socked them a good one. Or two. Or three, before he would have laughed until his ribs hurt with mirth. And yet, it was exactly what he had been doing for the last six – soon to be seven- years. His hair was long now, to the middle of his back, and he usually bound the red mane in a ponytail, with two bangs left to frame his face. Usually, he wore a cowboy hat and sleeveless shirt with old, ratty military shirt and in autumn, an old brown leather jacket. His body was tanned from the exposure to the sun, although the first time it had been a bitch, because he forgot to slap on sun tan lotion, and in the end of the day, he had been red as a lobster and whining with pain because his skin was so sensitive. Hakkai had scolded him and Goku… Goku just laughed uproariously at the kappa's misfortune. The next day, Gojyo poured a jar of honey on the monkey and set the bees on him. Ha. Revenge was sweet. Hakkai's punishment… not so much. He never contacted his family – true to his word, they were dead to him. However, life, as unpredictable as it was, almost threw Jien on his path, as if mocking his resolution.

It was ironic – while Gojyo fought, bled and killed in Vietnam, his older, responsible brother joined to one of flower power groups, renamed himself as Dokugakuji, or shortly, Doku, smoked the weed, dressed in weird clothes and propagated being a Child of the Earth, whatever that meant. They met when Gojyo had to buy some new seeds for the fields, as they couldn't get them in the nearest town. Goku had to mind the animals, Hakkai was responsible for the garden and thus, Gojyo was the only one available to go to the town and pick up the necessities.

"Sir… could you give me some pennies, please?" Gojyo twitched at hearing the beggar. He had had it with the dumbasses. This was the fifth one in half an hour. What was he, some kind of Santa Claus, or what? Usually, his tolerance was high – or as high as it could get for a redhead, because he had nasty temper if provoked. The years of peace had calmed him down somewhat, but seeing those street bums singing, smoking weed and generally being useless – it made him shudder when he thought that he could easily be one of them, if that old man hadn't gotten to him first. Not that war had been any better, thank you very much. "What do you take me for, Fort Knox?" He growled at the man, as he tried to walk past him, but the beggar grabbed him by a shoulder.

"Please si – urk!" Gojyo's reflexes were ingrained as good as ever, and in a moment of vindictiveness, he used a classic move to bring the hobo down. In doing that, his ever – present cowboy hat fell off of his head.

Dark eyes widened as the man got a good look at his prey turned predator. The man was clothed in working blue jeans trousers and checkered black and dark green shirt with thin yellow stripes vowed in that looked comfortably worn out, along with brown jacket. But what got the beggar's attention the most was that unmistakable crimson mane of hair, and equally colored angry eyes.

"Go – Gojyo?" He choked out, incredulous. Gojyo blinked, confused. "Who the hell are you?" The dread – haired man looked at him, tears of shock, happiness and relief in his eyes. "It's me, Jien." Now it was Gojyo's turn to be shocked.

Both brothers spent the afternoon talking and exchanging news, Doku going so far as to invite Gojyo to the community, saying that he would fit in right fine, what with his hair and whatnot. Gojyo declined. He already had his home and people, thank you very much. However, the news he had gotten was very informative. After Gojyo denounced his name, the things went down into hell in a hand basket. Of course, at first, it was all good and dandy, but then, Jien's mother began harping at her husband and son and the situation became so bad she had to be sedated for the most of the time. Father tried to rein the situation in, trying to mold Jien into a perfect son, but Jien had enough of bullshit, he was failing university and he didn't want to be under his parents' heel forever, so he ran away. At first, he worked some random jobs, but then Kougaiji found him and introduced him to hippie side of life – and well, he went off kilter ever since. They lived in communes, or on the streets, everywhere and nowhere, without obligations and concerns. Doku refused to enlist into the army – in fact, he protested against the Vietnam War, and he even had to hide from the recruiters from time to time – this was one of the main reasons they were on the road most of the time.

It was a strange thought – Gojyo became more mature and responsible, while his brother still floated somewhere in imaginary worlds far beyond Gojyo's understanding. And this was… just fine.

However, Gojyo wasn't amused when Doku appeared on his doorstep a week later, with his cheesy grin on his face and asking if he could live with them for a time.

The only consolation was that Sol disliked the idiot even more than Gojyo, and that was saying something.

A month later, Doku disappeared as suddenly as he came, snatching some of Gojyo's shirts and his favorite jacket, along with Goku's supply of meat buns and some of Hakkai's money, leaving behind only a short note of thanks with a peace sign doodled on.

The only consolation was, they could be now as loud as they liked much to Hakkai's relief.


We said we'd all go down together

It was that day. For the world at large, it may be nothing special – but for them, this date was one of those things that weighed down on them no matter how much time had passed since … since then.

It was the anniversary of Sanzo's death.

And this time – they all decided to go see the Memorial Wall. This time, they decided, they would be strong enough to see the name of their leader and most precious person without feeling wretched.

They had traveled to Washington by rail. The journey was long, and none of them spoke much. They didn't need to.

They reminisced of their pasts – both shared and not. They were older now, and maybe a little bit wiser, even if they didn't think so themselves. Gojyo may have teased Goku about being a brainless monkey still, and Goku more often than not returned the jibe with saying that Gojyo must have been a stupid cockroach, and most of the time, their teasing erupted in brawl – Goku was now taller and stronger, and there was fifty – fifty chance as to who would win their little mock battles.

Their ribbons and medals had been stored in a middle-sized oak box that was then put away on the shelf above the fireplace. The box was never opened, and most of the time, it was hidden behind one of Goku's wood carvings. It was here but otherwise not present. The only time it was when Doku had dragged the rag tag group of his to the small farm and practically forced the three to house them. Lirin, curious little girl like she was, poked around the room, and found the oak box. It was more like she had knocked one of Goku's early carvings off the shelf – she swore it was accidentally, but no one, except Kougaiji believed her – and the ensuing accident resulted in spilling the whole little story out. Yaone and Kougaiji were mortified about the girl's brashness – truly, the little one seemed to be an expert in asking the most difficult and uncomfortable questions. Even Goku, cheerful and open as he was, became noticeably distant to the girl after her constant prodding.

War was nothing glorious. There were no heroes; there were the ones who lived, and then, there were those who survived and remembered.

Lirin's hero – worship made Goku uncomfortable, and when the little girl announced that she would marry him when she would grow up… Goku firmly put his foot down, along with Hakkai and Gojyo.

None of the three of them married. True, Lirin still badgered Goku from time to time, but Goku stood firm – Lirin was, despite of being almost the same age as Goku, too young and too foolish for him. She was a civilian. She knew nothing of the world, despite her living with her brother. True, she may know more about the world than most, but she knew only the brighter sides of life. Goku had grown up knowing the darker side of life – he took lives in cold blood while Lirin was peacefully snoozing the night away in the old tent.

Kougaiji and his group still visited the three veterans from time to time, but since Doku inherited his father's estate – his mother had been put into an asylum, what with her going mad, and his father being dead, their visits were sporadic, twice or maybe thrice in one year, much to Lirin's pouting and Goku's relief. All three of them were making their living as farmers, with Goku selling his carvings from time to time under a pseudonym, of course. It was enough for comfortable living, at least.

The black expanse of stone was a terrifying, but also awe – inspiring and humbling sight. The air became chilly – it was cloudy day and because it was late autumn, the degrees were lukewarm at most, if not outright freezing. Their slow trek was one of the hardest walks they had ever to make. And they remembered. Their friends – Charlie, Baker, Leo – Dracula survived, but he lacked legs – Barret, Leslie and so many others…

So many of lives had been lost, given, sacrificed, stolen…

Their legs were heavy, as they remembered those days of unrest and death and prayers to get out alive of that green hell on earth.

They were clothed casually, and nobody who would have seen them would say the three of them were some of the most famous soldiers that ever fought in the Nam war. Gojyo wore a brown bandanna on his head and blue jeans with black shirt and a worn out brown leather jacket, while Hakkai wore beige trousers anda green Chinese shirt witha black shirt underneath, Yaone's gift. A peculiar style of clothing, but he liked it. Goku wore a sleeveless black shirt and an army jacket over it, with light brown trousers, and his signature violet bandanna around his head.

All of them wore their dog tags around their necks, with Goku wearing both his and Sanzo's.

Their trek was slow, and the sun was setting slowly. Hakkai traced the letters with his fingers gently.

CHO GONOU

It was an oxymoron. They had sent a murderer into the war, certain that he would die under the enemy's fire, but instead of that, he had found a new life. It was true in a sense – Gonou had died when Hakkai was called into life… because only one person trusted him enough to vouch for him.

Somewhere in his heart, Cho Gonou still lived –but he didn't have any notable influence on Cho Hakkai's life. Even if they were one, they were still different persons, like two faces of the moon. Gonou had been the dark side, an ugly side that was shown rarely, and when it was, it wasn't pretty. Hakkai was the serene, light, and healing one, while Gonou was darkness and destruction incarnate.

And yet… both of the sides were loyal to him.

It was funny – he never did believe in gods and heaves, and yet, an encounter with one pissy monk, as Gojyo called him, turned all his beliefs on the head. He still didn't believe in god, but –

Even if his actions contradicted his image, Sanzo somewhat made him believe. Sanzo gave him hope.

Slowly, they neared the end of the wall. The sun rays made the table glow in golden and orange shades that contrasted the black. Even Gojyo, who was usually bitchy and unappreciative of beautiful sights, had to admit it was a beautiful sight.

Almost at the end of the wall, there stood a person. He was clad in black trousers and a white jacket with a soft white scarf around his shoulders. But that wasn't what stopped Goku in his tracks.

"Goku? Are you alright?" Hakkai asked, concerned. Goku looked as if he had seen a ghost.

"Oi, monkey – " Gojyo teased him, but he was interrupted as he too looked the direction Goku was staring

The man was almost glowing in the sunset. He looked like an angel, and when a strong gust of wind playfully lifted the ends of the scarf, it seemed as if he had wings.

Gojyo paled chalk white.

This man had golden hair. Long golden hair, bound into low ponytail that reached almost to his hips, with bangs framing his face, as he pressed his right hand onto the black-and sunset-lit wall, bowing his head, the bangs obscuring his face –

"It can't be – " Hakkai choked out, green eyes wide and desperate.

They sped up, until they were practically running toward the ephemeral sight.

The man didn't heed them – why would he? He turned away, his hand slowly trailing the letters as he began to walk away.

Desperate now, Goku opened his mouth and screamed.

"SUN!"

Only one word that stopped the man in his tracks. And when he was coherent enough to move, it was already too late.

Goku's running speed was nothing to sneeze at, and he barreled into the man with full force – or he would have, if the man hadn't half-pivoted and flipped him on his back effortlessly, making him yelp in pain.

Violet eyes narrowed. "What the hell, monkey! Didn't anyone tell you it's rude to barge into a person full force?"

Despite of the man's scathing voice, Goku couldn't help but grin with ecstasy. The man's chopped up mix of English and Vietnamese made him smile goofily.

"Sanzo?" Hakkai managed to get out, eyeing the man hopefully.

The man snorted. "Tch. Who else did you expect?" He lightly kicked Goku in the ribs, prompting him to get up, which Goku did happily. "And I see the cockroach is still alive." He addressed Gojyo snarkily. Gojyo just grinned. "Prissy as ever, eh, Princess?"

A moment later he yelped in surprise as the rolled up newspaper connected with his head sharply. "Ow! Geez, d'ya wanna punt the brain out of my skull or what?" Gojyo complained half – heartedly, grinning all the while. Sanzo snorted. "Your perverted ass probably deserved it anyhow," he retorted, a tiny smile veiled behind a smirk spreading across his lips.

"Ooh, kinky," Gojyo leered as he slung his arm around the monks' shoulders. "Just a shame you are forbidden to test – drive it."

Hakkai chuckled as a small flush spread across Sanzo's nose bridge. Sanzo was so cute when he was flustered. Then Goku latched onto the other side, and finally, Hakkai stepped into their little circle.

It was unreal. But he was here, clad in white, his unique golden hair longer than ever, making Hakkai's hands itch to stroke those surely sinfully soft strands, and those unusual violet orbs, and faint scent that was uniquely Sanzo…

"Welcome home, Sanzo." He said, his sight blurring a little with tears of happiness.

Sanzo grunted, but didn't refute him.

They stood there for a long time, embracing, reminiscing and silently thanking whatever good deity allowed them to survive and meet again.

Later that night, they were sitting in Sanzo's living room and Sanzo explained what happened when he had supposedly died.

He had managed to kill the clever bastard – the man was the one who had killed his sensei and stole the Seiten sutra - but the platform was crumbling too quickly, and with the fire spreading, there was no guarantee he would get out alive.

Exhausted from the blood loss and effort from fighting with Nii, he had blacked out.

The next thing he knew, he was laying in the makeshift bed somewhere in the jungle with a golden – eyed brat attending to him and no idea who or what he was, or even why he was in jungle.

Nataku had taken care of him, and gave him a new name –Konzen. He had lived in the jungle for seven years until the itching in his brain finally became too much, and he decided to go to America. His memory was still in pieces, but little by little he was building up the whole picture. Meanwhile, he learned from the monks in Vietnam more about martial arts, and when he was proclaimed as a Master, they let him go. Of course, Homura wasn't exactly happy, but…

Gojyo twitched. "What was that guy to you?" he demanded, almost growling at the thought that someone other than them dared to touch their priest. The other two had the same sentiments. While Hakkai was frowning mildly, Goku's jaw was clenched and golden eyes blazed with jealously and anger.

"Tch. We trained together." Short and simple answer, but like everything, there was something more. Hakkai nodded. "Of course," he agreed mildly. "Could you tell us more about him?"

"Hakkai!" Goku protested, but Hakkai quelled his temper with one well-placed glare.

Sanzo blinked. Something was going on here… Why would they were so interested in the guy, anyway?

"He wanted me to stay with him."

Oh. Was that a bad thing to say.

"Did he really?" Hakkai's inquiry was sub-zero silkiness incarnate. Even if Sanzo had spent only some two, or three hours with the morons, he knew that this overly polite voice suggested nothing good for the recipient.

And unfortunately for Sanzo, this time, the recipient of this frigid fury was him.

Violet eyes blinked.

"What the hell are you playing at?" Sanzo snapped out, his tone edgy. It didn't make sense. The idiots were behaving as usual... well, most of their little meeting, but as soon as they heard about Homura, they began behaving very strangely. Almost motherhennish, but not. If Sanzo had to compare their behavior to anything, it would be likened to the behavior of a very possessive and jealous girlfriend.

… What didn't belong in the picture was their gender. They were all male and besides… they just didn't have any reason to be jealous of the monk. True, Homura hinted more often than not that Sanzo was more than welcome to stay with him, and that he was willing to be more than a friend…but Sanzo didn't have any intention to spend the rest of his life in place that practically reeked of blood and death. Besides, that was their first meeting in what… ten, fifteen years?

Goku growled. The thought of his Sun belonging to anyone else than them was more than a little unsettling, and Goku felt the urge to massacre the damned bastard that dared to get so close to their Sanzo into tiny, itty bitty little pieces. And he knew, without looking at his two comrades, that their feelings were mutual.

Gojyo's eyes were dark red pools of feelings. If Sanzo had been a lesser man, he would have been terrified of looking the Red Devil into the face – those burning crimson eyes, and a flash of equally colored mane were usually the last thing the enemy saw before he was sent to death.

"No, Sanzo. What the fuck are you playing at?" Gojyo snapped out, irritated. This day was almost more than he could bear – it was emotional rollercoaster of depression, memories and then, the surprise in the shape of their leader being alive and kicking –

Gojyo's feelings, the ones he thought he had buried into deepest, darkest corner his heart, were now bleeding all over the place. He was happy, shocked and content at first, but at the mention of that Homura person, he found himself in throes of jealously so great they literally made him see red. Sanzo may have not believed it and heck, he may have been even right at the time, that Gojyo's feelings were superficial, a crush at most, but a crush doesn't survive being with two lovers and the length of time they had been separated, however by any means. And his patience had officially run out. Fifteen years had been enough.

"And to answer your question, Princess," Gojyo literally spat out the mocking title vehemently, "We are sick and tired of waiting. Fifteen years and still carrying a torch for you, however prissy, stubborn, idiotic and unreasonable you are, more than guarantees us at least one honest answer out of your holy mouth, you god-fucking-damned priest!" At the end of his tirade, he was bent in front of Sanzo, both of his arms clutching on the armrests of the couch, cutting off any method of escape, as he practically roared the last words into Sanzo's face.

The silence after that particular proclamation was thunderous. Gojyo stared into those wide amethyst eyes – for once, they truly were windows to the soul. In their depths, he could see surprise, vulnerability and confusion… and was that a small gleam of hope? But a moment after he had spotted it, the eyes darkened into their usual veil, making Gojyo wince at the impassive expression they conveyed.

Then, Sanzo glanced at both Goku and Hakkai. Goku was pale and shaken, and Hakkai seemed to be his normal implacable self, but looking into those green eyes, Sanzo knew that this would be a battle he would lose no matter what. Hakkai was just… stubborn like that.

"Hakkai… is it true?" Sanzo asked his voice low and measured, as if the revelation wasn't any more important than deciding which C-ration they would have for lunch.

Green eyes stared into amethyst ones. This... was the moment of truth. Mentally, Hakkai whacked Gojyo for his impulsiveness, but he couldn't help but want to congratulate him for his choice of words. Indeed, fifteen years was more than enough waiting for their Sanzo.

"Indeed." He murmured out gently, but his soft voice was underlined with a hint of steel that was characteristic for Cho Gonou. Cho Gonou, after all, had been a selfish bastard when it concerned the golden – haired leader of their little band, and Cho Hakkai was no different. "And before you ask me, it has nothing to do with Kanan." Sanzo closed his mouth with a snap and scowled. There went the chance for escape. If the situation wasn't so serious, Hakkai would have smiled at Sanzo's expression of pouting, however short-lived it was.

Sanzo closed his eyes.

"Goku?"

It was only one word, but all of them knew what it meant. Sadly, Sanzo didn't count on his ex-monkey becoming more intelligent since he had last seen the brat. He knew the kid had an unhealthy amount of adoration for him, but surely –

Surely the monkey wasn't idiotic enough to fall head over heels in love with him!

Golden eyes stared at the priest seriously. "I love you."

Three words that were spoken in such firm and resolute voice Sanzo could only half – heartedly glare at the ape who uttered them.

"You are all fucking insane." He grumbled out. "Don't you have any other person to bug with your lovesick whining?" He placed his right hand in the middle of Gojyo's chest and pushed him away, Gojyo allowing it wordlessly.

Getting to Sanzo was like taming a wild animal. Move too fast and he would retaliate either with threats, punches or by shooting you. Move too slowly – well, he was oblivious to what people felt toward him, except for awe, fear and worship and some vague sense of companionship.

But love?

It spooked him. He never was one for lovey-dovey attachments or even plain out fucking as it were. He was uncomfortable with his looks, not that many observers could tell that – he snarled, cursed, threatened, his unusual violet eyes blazing with wrathful light of ire, and only very rare observers noticed the hint of uneasiness underneath all that bravado.

Hakkai noticed it when Gojyo was attempting to flirt with the priest back in 'Nam. And he was noticing it now.

Goku – well, he had some kind of a Sanzo-sense that never ceased to work, even after fifteen years of disuse.

Gojyo only noticed it because of his experience with reading body language and knowing Sanzo. Even if that knowledge came with painful consequences via sharp thwacks with rolled up newspaper or an occasional punch into his gut.

Damn, for such a slender and delicate looking person, Sanzo packed hell of a lot of power.

Sanzo looked at the troublesome visitors. It was on a whim he had gone to see the monument, and he clearly hadn't expected anything outside his normal trek and some reminiscing about the past.

But someone up there had to hate him, because the moment he heard the 'sun' word, he stopped like a well trained dog. It was mostly because of shock – he didn't expect someone to scream, and in Vietnamese, at that, and the onslaught of memories was almost more than he could bear.

Fifteen years, and yet – in that moment, he could almost feel hot, humid air on his skin, smell the dirt and the jungle and stale sweat and for a moment, he could almost imagine the light, yet heavy weight of the sutra on his shoulders and he could feel the weight of his trusty gun in his hand.

It was as if he had never left the battlefield.

And then, they were here.

Like mirages – but mirages that were only too real – they were now older, the monkey was taller and the kappa had longer hair, tied in ponytail with two locks to frame his face and his cockroach antennae were longer than ever. Hakkai was now wearing a monocle – strange thing, because glasses would do just as nicely, but for some reason, Sanzo thought a monocle fit the green-eyed man. Goku's hair was long and messy but he lacked his signature long mane, although he kept the old ratty thing of a bandanna Sanzo had given him in an attempt to protect him from some of the more vicious men. They were not looking half – starved and sleep deprived anymore and in some very secret piece of heart, Sanzo was glad they were doing well.

However, that didn't excuse the monkey for barreling into him.

But the first shock was almost tolerable – was tolerable in comparison with the second one.

Humph.

'Carrying a torch,' indeed.

Somehow, they managed to persuade him to let them stay in the apartment for the night. The apartment alone was a small place, furnished with only bare necessities. Sanzo never was one for lavish surroundings and his little abode was a testament to that fact. It seemed to be almost bare in comparison with their little cottage but it had a presence that almost screamed 'Sanzo'. Clean, simple and straightforward. Nobody would have thought it was a bachelor pad, but the three visitors knew better.

An ashtray in the kitchen and another one in the living room and a small potted plant here and there with the scent of light, exotic incense that clung to Sanzo like second skin – even in Vietnam, Sanzo's scent was unique, even if it was buried under sweat and dirt. It made the reality seem all so real and true and their minds were slightly heady because of it.

It was the scent their cottage lacked – the scent of home.

The next day, they departed home, but not before promising they would visit as often as possible, and extracting a disgruntled promise from the priest himself to visit them.

The way back was like a dream. They all wanted to go back, to make sure it was real and not a figment of their desperate imagination, even if Hakkai had the phone number he had sneakily written down while the other two were distracting the grumpy monk.

The first thing they had done, when they came back to the cottage, was to barrel for the phone and call him. Well, Goku did, at any rate, and even the scathing tirade that made Goku's ears burn and Gojyo tease the monkey mercilessly didn't diminish the good mood they all found themselves in.

Three months of visits, begging, wheedling and whining and following the grumpy man around Washington, much to his ire. Nobody could say that they weren't persistent. Three months of being whacked with harissen both Gojyo and Goku hated with a passion, especially when they found out it was one of gifts from Homura, and because it left behind a stinging pain – Hakkai was the only one Sanzo had spared the punishment, with the monk citing the man was at least intelligent enough not to be annoying. Three months of almost constant persuasion, until Sanzo finally gave in, packed his belongings and one day appeared on their doorstep.

It was funny in a sense – Sanzo appeared on their doorstep while Goku and Gojyo were away, apparently to bug him, and Sanzo didn't feel generous enough to give them notice about changing residence. Even Hakkai almost dropped the pot he held in his arms when he answered the door and that was saying much for usually unflappable man.

Six hours later, they got telephone call, with Goku wailing loudly that Sanzo was gone and Gojyo urging Hakkai to drop the work and join them in searching for the damn baldy. Hakkai's placations were unsuccessful, and Sanzo was tired and annoyed.

So he snatched the phone out of Hakkai's hand and pressed it to his ear. "Monkey, shut up and get both of your asses back here." He snarled out, eyebrows twitching with irritation.

He could almost see the idiot duo's jaws flapping somewhere on the ground.

Hakkai stifled a chuckle.

"Wha – Sanzo?" Goku stammered, and then, there was some scuffing.

"Where the fuck are you, you shithead of a monk?"Gojyo's voice was angry and shaking slightly from shock.

Sanzo glared lightly at Gojyo's choice of words. "Check the phone number, moron." Then he hung up the phone.

"You sure can deliver happy news, Sanzo." Hakkai commented mildly, making Sanzo look at him crankily. "It's not my fault they are still idiots who can't find their way out of a wet paper bag." He commented, huffing lightly as he searched for cigarette to smoke.

Hakkai laughed happily.

Sanzo would always be Sanzo – and Hakkai wouldn't have it any other way.


Yes we would all go down together

Not everything had gone smoothly in their little not-relationship relationship. Firstly, Sanzo got another shock in shape of finding out that the three of them slept together in one room. And of course, they expected him to… conform to their habits. Sanzo had put his foot down firmly, and they reluctantly backed off, leaving him living room to sleep in. However, that didn't stop a certain monkey from sneaking – or trying to sneak - underneath Sanzo's covers. Sanzo was understandably pissed off, but there was nothing he could do, except whacking Goku extra hard and even that didn't have much effect on the lively young man. Finally fed up with invasion of his privacy, he once in a fit of extreme exhaustion and irritation wandered into the three morons' bedroom to teach them a lesson, but instead of that, he fell asleep onto the top of the end covers.

The next morning was mortifying, although he had to admit the three were convenient bed warmers, if nothing else. He could always deal without the cuddling, snuggling and groping, though.

The work was hard and long – they had to man the fields, take care of the buildings and make sure that the livestock was healthy. Sanzo was not happy when he found out that he had to ride a horse - it meant lessons under Gojyo's watchful eye, and Sanzo didn't, under any circumstances, like the redheaded cockroach's hands-on approach. Luckily, he was always a fast learner, much to Gojyo's dismay. Much to their amusement and Sanzo's fervent denial, he was natural with animals. That sure didn't help him with their cat Sweetie – Goku was blamed for the name choice. Sanzo was allergic to felines in any way, shape or form, but Sweetie didn't let that little fact deter her – every time Sanzo was working outside, Sweetie was following him or sitting beside him. It had gotten so far that Gojyo joked that the cat was in love with Sanzo, because the monk was, hands down, her favorite person, despite his grouchy attitude. The joke earned him some nice shots whizzing dangerously near past his ears. Hakkai, however, was sneakier and managed to procure some very nice photographs of their surly man dozing in the sun with Sweetie either lying on his stomach or lap. Though he never did show those incriminating photos to Sanzo, all three of them had one in their wallets, along with each other's.

Slowly, Sanzo integrated into their way of life, although to them, it seemed he slid into his role seamlessly, filling the empty spot in their lives and hearts completely. They worked together, played Mahjong or poker, argued about trivialities, helped each other and lived. Sanzo of course still had occasional nightmare or two of his time in Vietnam, as did all of them. He was still moody and cranky when it rained, but they learned to tolerate it.

It took almost half a year before he was comfortable enough to be intimate with them. He still couldn't believe that the three morons loved him – and what was more, he loved them back. At first, he had doubts that this little liaison of theirs would work - but they were stubborn and determined enough to prove him wrong in spades.

Gojyo still appreciated fine ladies, but to Sanzo's astonishment, he didn't outrageously flirt with them like he had before. Although his status of being taken off the dating market made him all the more interesting for teenage and grown up females. Gojyo just had the air of 'will-fuck-you-like-an animal' down perfectly, even if the vibes were tuned down to the lowest degree possible when they were in public. When they were alone – oh, all bets were off. And clothes too, not that his lovers complained much… most of the time.

Goku had finally grown up. He still had an almost bottomless stomach for food, and he was still awed by nature. Animals liked him almost as much as Sanzo, and he firmly established his name in the world of art, under the name of Seiten Taisei. He had finished middle school, but then he opted to help on the farm – besides, he never did have a head for numbers or letters. That was Sanzo's and Hakkai's domain. Sanzo just thought he was a lazy-ass brat with the attention span of a gnat if it didn't involve something he was truly interested him. Sanzo half-expected him to find a nice girl and settle down with her somewhere, but the monkey didn't show even the slightest signs of settling down and making little monkeys with some female. Even if that Lirin girl was quite persistent in her attempts…

Hakkai… Hakkai was a wildcard. With the other two, Sanzo could guess what went in their empty heads ninety percents of time, but Hakkai was different. The man was bipolar. Even if he was generally kind and smiling benevolently at everyone and everything, Sanzo remembered, only too well, Cho Gonou's prowess in killing their enemies. Those hands, which were so gentle, when handling and caressing him, were the same ones that had almost choked Sanzo's life out of him and the same ones that were soaked in blood of thousand Mafiosi, which was no mere feat. Generally, Hakkai had a slow temper, but when he was pissed off, then you'd better run and hide – well, no, better to stand down and take the punishment as it came. Running would only prolong the agony, anyway. The man wasn't called a tactical genius for nothing. If it seemed to an outsider that Sanzo gave liberties to Hakkai, what with not whacking and insulting him, Sanzo alone knew Hakkai was allowing him liberties what with Sanzo grouching and snapping at everyone more than half of the time. Even Hakkai had sore spots; he just hid them more effectively than most of people. For instance, he could be quite vicious in revenge when Goku or Gojyo accidentally got him in their little prank wars back then in Vietnam. Once, he procured some handcuffs from gods-knew-where and cuffed the duo together for three days. The worst thing was, he cuffed them in their camp, meaning the idiots had to take showers and meal times together. Gojyo's style of charming the ladies was severely hampered when he had a whining, grumpy monkey on his hand. It had been a great amusement to everyone else, though the soldiers even went as far as to ask them when the wedding would be, making Gojyo fume and Goku exclaim that if anyone, he wanted to marry Sanzo. This earned him a nice big thwack with rolled up newspaper on his thick skull. So… The moral of this little lesson. Never. Ever. Piss. Hakkai. Off. Fifteen years later, Hakkai had mellowed out a little, but he was still possessive of Sanzo to boot. Especially when Yaone tried to flirt with the golden – haired priest. Even if Hakkai was on friendly terms with Yaone, and knowing that she was firmly in relationship with Kougaiji, that didn't stop him from channeling Gonou when she flirted a little too much for his tastes.

Nevertheless to say, Yaone got the memo.

Sanzo mused wordlessly about them, while he was doing his usual routine of evening exercises. It was the one thing that stayed with him all the years, from before, when he was Kouryuu, a parentless brat rescued from river, and then Genjo Sanzo, the vengeful successor of the Seiten and Maten styles of martial arts, tasked with finding and retrieving the Heaven sutra, even if it meant he had to get into hell and back to get it; and finally, Konzen, a simple man that lived in a temple, studying the fighting techniques.

His life had come around a full cycle. True, there had been trials and tribulations, and there were times when he felt he could easily blow his head with his gun, but he persisted. And… it was all worth it. Closing his eyes, he began the last sequence of movements, as natural to him as breathing.

Three pairs of eyes watched the glowing silhouette moving fluidly over the ground silently. It never became old, watching Sanzo practicing martial arts. It was a summer now, and Sanzo was clothed in simple loose white cotton pants andblack sleeveless shirt that accentuated the contours of his body.

"He's beautiful, isn't he?" Hakkai blinked at Gojyo's low murmur. Gojyo was leaning against the tree trunk casually, clothed in a dirty white sleeveless shirt and working blue pants with scuffed brown boots on his feet. In the light of the setting sun, his skin was darkened to the warm bronze color, and his red hair was warm, like fire. He didn't have his customary hat on, preferring to go without it. Red eyes were deep and warm, like velvet, as he glanced at Hakkai.

Hakkai smiled. "Yeah." He felt Goku move against him, and he embraced the young man across the shoulder absentmindedly. Goku was still a little smaller than him, although he was definitely taller than Sanzo; much to the latter's consternation. Goku was shirtless and only had brown pants on, preferring to go barefoot for most of the time. He claimed the shoes were making him feel stuffy, and he never wore them more than he absolutely had to. His skin was tanned deeper than Gojyo's, in a dark caramel tone. His hair was shorter, due to recent haircut, but he still wore the bandanna, this time one in saffron color with black Aztec motive. Hakkai himself wore tan colored trousers that were baggier than his usual style and a short sleeved emerald green shirt that was also a little baggy. Even if he did have fine body, Hakkai preferred to wear clothes that were a little bit loose, because they were more comfortable than his size. Hakuryuu was dozing peacefully beside his right foot, uninterested in the human's doings.

He stared at Sanzo, a small, true smile playing on his face. If Sanzo heard them talking about him being beautiful, Hakkai hadn't any doubts their prissy lover would be less than amused. For some reason, it irritated Sanzo when they complimented him on looks. Even now… But it was true; the man was beautiful, inside and out. In the fading sunlight, he looked like a statue, cast from gold. His hair was in his usual hairstyle now. Even if Hakkai regretted the loss of the luxurious golden mane, he had to admit the man looked better with short hair. It was more… Sanzo, if that made any sense. Green eyes trailed the form as Sanzo jumped high in the air, executing perfect roundhouse, before landing into a crouch and getting into series of offensive moves.

"Wow." Goku breathed out, awed. It never ceased to amaze him that Sanzo managed such difficult movements with seemingly breathless ease. Goku had tried to imitate him, and even if he was a fairly good hand to hand fighter, he just didn't hold a candle to his sun. These figures were, despite of their seemingly easy execution, hellishly difficult, making Goku feel like an elephant in a china shop. But Sanzo was…Precise, razor sharp and lethal. Sanzo had long ago stored the two sutras, and they almost never saw him wearing them. When asked about it, Sanzo said that this was in the past, and the past was better left forgotten. "He's like fire," Goku said softly. Hakkai made a sound of agreement. "Look, but don't touch." He murmured, enchanted with the view.

"Heh. Who knew that such a cold ice cube could be hot as hell in bed?" Gojyo snarked, ducking Hakkai's half-hearted swipe easily. He muffled his snicker behind the cigarette. His lips curled into a wistful smile when he remembered the one time when he saw Sanzo practicing in the rain. Water – slicked skin gleamed in the morning light like polished marble, crisscrossed with old wounds that only enhanced the monks' feral beauty. Golden hair was a shade darker and violet eyes were enhanced with wet eyelashes. It was one of the rare times Sanzo trained topless, and it was, in Gojyo's opinion, even more of a treat than him doing his thing in the sunset. Gojyo always liked rain, but this sight had made him absolutely love it. And someday, he would get the prissy man to make love in the rain. The slickness, warm skin as contrast against the coolness of rain drops and the feeling of being free…Gojyo sighed. All in good time, though.

"We're damned lucky." Gojyo muttered thoughtfully. Green eyes looked at him inquiringly. "We are together. What were the chances of all of us surviving the war? And that we would meet again? Almost none. But it happened, and we're here. We got each other."

Hakkai nodded thoughtfully, surprised at Gojyo's train of thoughts. "If Goku hadn't called him – "He nodded toward Sanzo, before fondly ruffling the young man's hair, making Goku grumble slightly, "It would've been … sad."

"And if the cockroach hadn't hollered out about us carrying a torch for him, it would have been even worse," Goku cheekily added, not minding Gojyo's dirty stare one bit. Hakkai chuckled at Goku's description. "Yes. At the time I thought you had lost your mind, no offense meant." He addressed Gojyo, who idly flicked the ash off of his cigarette. "Nah, I thought so too." Gojyo responded, his voice fond. "Truthfully, I was shocked and mad. Here we were, mourning and pining for him, and then he came like the bastard he is. I just… lost it. But it had been embarrassin', nonetheless."

Goku laughed. "No more embarrassing than when we found out he was waiting for us at home." He pointed out good – humouredly, making both of his companions laugh with mirth. "Well, yeah, I still see your stupider than usual face in my memory," Gojyo teased Goku, who growled slightly. "As if you were any better, crap face." Goku returned, making Gojyo growl. "You will pay for that insult, monkey. With your hide."

Golden eyes glinted with mischief and interest. "Oh, will I? Make me, cockroach." He returned the volley, shivering at the smoldering look the redhead sent him. The night will be very enjoyable indeed.

Hakkai only smiled. "Finished already?" he called out, leaving the two to their bickering and heading to Sanzo, offering him a towel to wipe away the sweat.

Sanzo was panting lightly, his skin shimmering with sweat and making Hakkai lick his lips in appreciation. "Yes. It will begin to rain soon anyway," Darkened eyes looked at the green – eyed man, for once calm and open. Hakkai smiled, nodding.

"Let's go into the house, shall we? The dinner tonight is lasagna and green salad with lemonade." He told the man, stifling a chuckle when Sanzo swatted Goku and Gojyo with a towel as they passed them, eliciting twin yelps of surprise.

This little ritual never got old. It happened every time. They would watch Sanzo, the monkey and the kappa would begin scuffing, and then Sanzo would finish his workout. Hakkai would offer him a towel, and after he wiped his sweat off, Sanzo would swat the idiots to gain their attention. He could've called out to the squabbling duo just as easily, but it wouldn't be Sanzo.

"Ow! Hey!"

"Ouch! What the hell, baldie!"

Sanzo stopped, looking at the idiotic duo across his shoulder. "Want dinner or not?" He growled out, amethyst eyes flashing in irritation.

Gojyo leered. "Only if there's a dessert," He purred out, licking his lips as he eyed Sanzo, leaving no doubt what kind of dessert he had in mind.

"We will eat dinner first." He told them sternly, leaving the three of them blindsided with surprise at his words as he walked toward the house, the towel hung over his right shoulder tantalizingly brushing against the slender, yet muscled back.

The tree of them looked at Sanzo's retreating back, stunned.

"Has he just…?" Goku whispered, half-afraid and half – hopeful.

"Uh – huh." Red eyes were wide with wonder, before the man grinned happily.

"Together?" Hakkai asked, smiling. Receiving two enthusiastic nods, all three began to run after Sanzo.

Their pasts didn't matter. All the blood, war and shattered hearts and times, when they had been so lonely they wanted to scream, die or just do something to alleviate the feeling of being painfully hollow. None of them knew just why or how they came together like they did.

What mattered was that they were together, the invisible red thread connecting them in good and bad became just a little stronger.

And hearing the well known footsteps hurrying behind him, Sanzo smiled.

/The End/