Close Your Eyes
Bitterness can be folded and hammered like metal, beaten down in the heat of fury and then quenched in drowning despair. He'd left Heaven, and still it hung on him with the weight of obligation, robe, and shackles. He'd come down to walk on the grass of Earth and to look out at its flowers, and every time he did that, he felt her presence at his shoulder. He looked at the heavenly soldiers who swore that they would follow him, or the youkai who begged to join his service, and all of them, all, had the same passive slavish eyes.

Only Shien and Zenon were truly real to him. Only his closest allies . . .

. . . and his most intimate enemies, his heart's brother, his tool, his forge, and those who stood around him like a constellation, still the same though centuries had passed. Goku. Kenren. Tenpou. Konzen.

Konzen was real.

Perhaps in reality he might find refuge from the illusions of the past, for a little while.

And so Homura went out into the night, robe shifting and trembling like a flame, his mismatched eyes both glittering, and the night air was warm and damp against his skin like a promise.


Sanzou leaned on the table and let his cigarette spiral a long coil of smoke into the dusty air. Crushed empty beer cans made a small junkpile in the corner of the room, and each occasional drop of beer which came trickling out was promptly investigated by the busy ants and roaches.

Heat hung in the air, thick and encompassing, wrapping round windows and doors like a stifling wall of warm damp, promising rain and thunder. The other three would be asleep by now. They'd gone up to their rooms, one by one, Goku yawning and casting glances over his shoulder at Sanzou, Gojyo rolling his shoulders and stretching his arms, the sweat-slick cloth of his shirt clinging to his skin, and Hakkai as quiet as ever, with a murmured non-committal farewell that hung in the air behind him.

Heat pooled in the room like a sickness. His robes hung around his waist, but there wasn't even the thread of a breeze to touch his bare shoulders.

The world was a sordid place, full of other human beings as hateful as himself -- or worse. Petty desires clouded their minds, petty lusts inflamed their bodies, and petty wants and needs kept them clinging tightly to each other. Nothing seemed worth doing; even the effort of making his way upstairs to sleep, or joining Gojyo or Hakkai to try to wear out his body and empty his mind in the process, seemed pointless.

His cigarette grew shorter between his fingers.

A gust of air; no, not wind, but the rush of sudden movement caused by the man now sitting in the window. Man, god, whatever. Those strange differing eyes regarded him thoughtfully, and the length of chain between Homura's shackled wrists swung slowly, oscillating gently towards a stop.

"There's no beer left," he said, and took a drag from the end of his cigarette.

"Konzen." The voice from the window was calm, untroubled, utterly certain of itself.

The blond man didn't look up. "No."

"I don't know why you keep denying it."

"You're thinking of someone else." Sanzou ground his cigarette butt against the table, crushing out the remains of the fire in a brief stink of scorched wood.

"You even look the same. Just as proud. Just as unconcerned. Just as much a liar."

"Asshole. You're one to talk about pride." The monk leaned his head on one hand, and looked up at Homura with unchanging eyes of dark amethyst, as cold as stone, as deep as wine. "Why this time?"

"It could be all sorts of things, Konzen." Homura swung one leg into the room. His cloak hung in thick folds of drapery, unruffled by any breeze. Light danced behind his odd-coloured eyes. "What do you intend to do about it?"

"I could kill you." The gun lay on the table, near his hand. He might be able to pull the trigger before the other reached him. It was a gamble. He was used to gambles. He was used to winning gambles.

"Perhaps," Homura agreed.

"So why don't you get the fuck out of here?" Bitterness claimed him again. He reached for his cigarette packet.

"I don't want to." Homura swung his other leg into the room, and straightened to lean against the wall. The brief movement set the chain between his shackles swinging again, a cold iron pendulum; tick, I am chained, tock, I am restrained, tick, look at me, tock, look at me, tick, do you wonder what it feels like? tock, do you wonder what would happen if I let go?

"You're boring me." Sanzou flicked a cigarette out of the packet, and slid it between his lips. The lighter clicked. Flame jumped. Another trail of smoke rose to add to the room's ambience.

"Everything always bored you, Konzen. You used to be able to see it in your face." Homura pushed away from the wall, and began to pace idly. "You'd be looking at the rest of Heaven with a casual sneer, as if you didn't even rate them worth genuine anger."

Sanzou reached out with his free hand to cover the butt of his gun. "Shut up."

"That's right." Homura circled the room towards him, cape floating out behind him silently. He was smiling that cat-smile which -- like Hakkai's own mild smile -- was a curve of the lips which concealed emotions rather than displaying them. "Even now you aren't more than irritated. Or are you? Are you angry enough to shoot me?" He took a step further in.

"Try and find out. Asshole." Despite the cans of beer, Sanzou's aim was steady. He kept the gun levelled at the kami's chest.

And the heat in the room was rising. It had gone beyone fever heat to blood heat, to a quick-paced hammer in the veins and a rising flood through the body, a prickle on bare shoulders and uncovered arms, a tension in the muscles, a recognised spark in the eyes of the other.

"I'll take what I want, Konzen." Homura moved forward in one of those quick sliding steps too fast for human vision to register, and came back into focus with the muzzle of the gun resting against his chest.

The chain swung


and Sanzou bared his teeth in a snarl


and Homura leaned forward


and their lips met


and Sanzou's eyes said I'm still going to kill you and Homura's eyes said I know and I'm burning with it.

The room was silent.

"You can't take what I don't give."

"I couldn't take it if you gave it."

Silence again.

Homura reached up, and his hand curled around the barrel of the gun. "If you pull the trigger," he said, voice pitched caressingly low, "they'll hear. Tenpou. Kenren. Son Goku."

"They aren't who you say they are." Sanzou felt it important to emphasise this point. "I'm not who you say I am. Listen to me." He leaned forward, spitting out each word, and Homura swayed back for a moment like a willow tree before the south wind. "I. Am. Not. Konzen. You delude yourself."

And I do not delude myself. I see you as you are. You're insane. You're burning. And for tonight, I only want to lose myself for a little in fire; the fires of the flesh, the oblivion of the physical conflagration rather than the samadhi diamond flame of enlightenment. I'm not looking for someone who isn't here.

Homura closed his other hand around the gun, fingers folded around the weapon as though in a meditative mudra. "There's no delusion where I am. I've left heaven and come down to earth to bring a new mercy." His eyes burned. "Am I as gracious as Kanzeon Bosatsu, Konzen? Would you have knelt for her?"

"She's an asshole. You're an asshole." Sanzou's figger tightened on the trigger. And there is more than one kind of death. "What does it take to make you open your eyes?"

"What does it take," Homura whispered, "to make you scream?"

Sanzou bit back the first response that came to his lips. "Would Konzen have screamed?" he probed.

"Ah, that's the problem," the kami murmured. His hands tightened round the gun, and with a quick jerk he pulled it out of Sanzou's hand.

And Sanzou let him.

"I don't know."

Homura dropped the gun to the floor casually. It bounced once on the rough floorboards, and lay there, gleaming dully in the harsh light from the single bulb that hung at the centre of the ceiling.


Sanzou took a breath. The air seemed so thick and heavy that he felt his lungs would burst.

Muichimotsu. Disinvolvement. Why are you still carrying her, I left her behind several miles ago. Each decision I take is my own. Each choice I make is my own. This is why God saves nobody; we must save ourselves, for each moment belongs to us alone.

Homura leaned in again, and the cloak slipped off his shoulders as he did, baring his pale arms, leaving the lines of his torso in harsh relief through his thin top. He smelt like lightning rather than like human flesh. "Yet," he repeated, turning so that Sanzou was between him and the battered table, and brushed a finger against the side of Sanzou's neck, running his hand down across the monk's shoulder till it rested on the bare flesh between glove and torso.

"Are you afraid?" Sanzou touched the shackle on the wrist of Homura's other arm. The iron was cold, despite the heated flesh that it was fastened around.

Homura raised both eyebrows. "I?"

"You wear these." Sanzou let the chain slip between his fingers. "I don't."

Something flared behind Homura's eyes. He bent his head to kiss the other man, fierce and bruising. The chain was trapped between their bodies, cold through the thin leather of Sanzou's garment.

Homura was the first to break the kiss. "I don't take them off," he said, "yet." His breath was warm and dry against Sanzou's skin. "Take yours off. Konzen."

"I wear none." The fire was in his body now; loins, chest, head, eyes. "Understand this; what happens now is my desire. Mine. Asshole. You say you want Konzen. I'm the only one here." His hands locked behind Homura's neck, and his lips were forcing the kami's open, and his tongue was in Homura's mouth, and then Homura's hands were round his wrists, and the two of them were moving together, Sanzou working to keep his grip, Homura forcing the wrists down and away, and they were still kissing through all of it, harsh and hot and furious.

Again, Homura was the first to separate. He laughed, the sound mocking and yet uncertain, some fundamental flaw running through it and splitting it at the bedrock. "You're Konzen. That's who you always have been." He forced Sanzou's wrists further back, bending the slighter monk back against the table, pinning him with his body. There was still no wind, but his black hair stirred around his head like flames. "I told you that I'll take what I want."

"You're only giving me what I want," Sanzou hissed. Then he gasped and closed his eyes, body tensing as Homura's lips began to move over his throat and down his neck, warm and wet even through the leather of his garment, burning as they moved over his nipples.

You're only giving me what I want.

Homura kept him off-balance, leaning against the table. He felt the kami's hand leave his left wrist, and move to the girdle of the monk's robes. They fell in a thick cascade of damp silk to drape across the table and tangle around his ankles.

You're only giving me what I want.

He gave himself up to the fire.


And when Homura drew his cloak over his shoulders again, Konzen looked at him with those cold, cold eyes, and there was no closeness in them; no connection, no warmth, nothing that said I know you or I see you, Homura or I want you or I hate you. There wasn't hatred. There wasn't even anger. There was only those dark amethyst eyes which said I see you and I know you and you cannot hide from me. The bruises and bites which tracked the pale flesh of Konzen's torso stood out crimson against the alabaster skin, but they were part of him, not in any way separate, not something which Homura could look at and say I did that, but merely the aftermath of something they had shared.

There was a wind now, and it blew cold against his soul, against his heart, against all the things that he had laid open -- no, that Konzen had laid open with his sharp tongue. All his fires could not warm him again. Delusion, Konzen had said. Why was it that he felt so empty?

And now he could remember where he had seen eyes like that before. They had been the eyes of Kanzeon Bosatsu, and she had looked at him with a face that was full of a strange compassion, an angry charity -- as if mercy could be angry, or stern, or harsh -- and with a fire that even he, Toushin Taishi, Lord Flame, could not endure.

And this time the night sky was empty around him, the heat spent, the wind coming to foreshadow a cold dawn. The stars were spread above him like a field of bright flowers, but they held no possibility for him.

No matter. He would wipe them out and start again. Heaven and earth would be reborn in fire.


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