Title: Wands (WIP)
Chapter: 3 - Three of Wands
Email: aeneus111 (a) hotmail (dot) com
Summary: Cho Gonou enters Sanzo's life, turning it upside down. Sanzo needs to cope with the aftermath.
A/N: Written for the 78_tarot LJ community. Beta: lirannutian.
Disclaimer: All of these characters belong to Kazuya Minekura. This is written purely for my own entertainment and hopefully that of others. Tarot cards can have complex meanings. I've picked the elements that best benefited the characters and storyline.
"Sanzo, look!" Goku called excitedly as he shoved some paper underneath Sanzo's nose. Sanzo took a look at what he supposed was some sort of homework assignment. He looked up, not sure how to comment and found Hakkai standing in the doorway, looking at him with a half smile. The man had been coming to the temple once a week to tutor Goku. Afterwards, they would always stop by his room; Goku to show off whatever Hakkai had been teaching him, and Hakkai...Sanzo wasn't sure what Hakkai wanted from him. Maybe approval for his efforts with Goku. Maybe he still felt obligated to report to him as part of his sentence. The fact that Hakkai might come to see him only out of a sense of duty made Sanzo feel uneasy. It made his own reasons to want to see him look more tainted.
Sanzo still wasn't completely clear about his own reasons, but he knew his body and mind were inexplicitly drawn to the man. Those feeling had not dissipated in the slightest. Every week when Hakkai knocked on his door, Sanzo felt the same lightheadedness that made him even more short with Goku than usual and made him feel stiff and awkward in front of Hakkai.
When he was alone Sanzo had gotten used to the fantasy-Hakkai that appeared when he closed his eyes. It was a Hakkai who touched him and could be touched by him; a Hakkai who wasn't comfortable with his silence and understood it. But there were still things that shocked the priest: the crude things his mind wanted to do and imagining Hakkai wanted it as much as he did.
It made the real Hakkai all the more remote and confusing. Every week the discrepancy became more jarring and Sanzo became more fearful of overstepping some line. He would look up at Hakkai and loose himself in the memory of kissing those lips, only to jerk back to reality where it never happened; and never would happen.
Sanzo pushed the paper away from him without looking and lit a cigarette. "Yeah, yeah, it's brilliant," he muttered, much to Goku's delight.
"I'll be off then," Hakkai said from his place by the door. "I'll see you next week?"
Sanzo nodded and watched Hakkai leave. It went like this every week and Sanzo didn't understand why Hakkai still formed the last bit as a question. It wasn't like Sanzo was going anywhere.
Goku hadn't moved from his spot by Sanzo's desk, eyes lingering on the closed door. "Sanzo?" he asked hesitantly after a while.
"What?" Sanzo grumbled as he discarded his finished cigarette in the astray.
"Did something happen to Hakkai?
Surprised at Goku's question, Sanzo looked sideways and met Goku's big golden eyes. His own eyes narrowed. "What do you mean?"
"I don't know, he seemed sad."
Sanzo tried to remember anything different about Hakkai today, but he couldn't think of anything that would make Goku say that. Still, the boy had shown to have remarkable instinct when it came to people. And Sanzo didn't trust himself when it came to Hakkai.
He grunted dismissively and waited for Goku to leave. He lit another cigarette and looked out of window towards the village. What could Goku have meant? For all he knew Hakkai might simply have been exasperated by Goku's limited academic potential, he told himself. If something was really wrong, Hakkai would say something, right?
Sanzo took an angry drag from his cigarette. Maybe he wouldn't. Why, after all, would Hakkai want to confide in him? Sure, they were friendly. But then again, Hakkai was friendly with just about everybody. It wasn't like they were…friends.
The next week, Sanzo was chain-smoking and pacing the floor until the familiar knock on the door finally came. But there was no Goku this time, just Hakkai. "Goku said he needed to go and do some training," Hakkai explained. "I'll see you next week?" he asked as always.
Sanzo looked at Hakkai's face and saw the question reflected there. But it wasn't just the obvious question. It was open-ended, leaving the ball in Sanzo's court to add anything he liked; an invitation to open up a conversation. Sanzo realized he had never taken the time to notice. He was still getting used to the niceties of social interactions that Hakkai seemed to have a degree in.
"Would you like to have some tea?" Sanzo asked. The offer came out a little stiff, but it was a small step he could take. Right now, he would be pleased enough to achieve some form of normality between them first.
"Yes please. I'd love to," Hakkai said and entered the room.
Sanzo rang his bell and ordered the tea. Hakkai set down on the other side of Sanzo's desk and folded his hands. Sanzo lit a cigarette to steady himself while they waited for the tea. Now that he was alone with Hakkai, he wasn't sure where to start. Once the tea had arrived, Sanzo busied himself with pouring them both a cup and taken a few sips to test the temperature.
Sanzo wasn't much of a tea drinker, but he had seen Hakkai drink tea and since he didn't have much of a clue what else the man liked, it had seemed the most obvious choice. And Hakkai seemed pleased enough with it, cradling the cup between his hands and sniffing the smell coming off the warm liquid.
"How it's going with Goku?" Sanzo finally asked after a moment of silence.
"Very well," Hakkai said, looking genuinely pleased. "He has a lot of potential."
Sanzo couldn't help but huff at the statement. "Even monkeys can be trained."
Hakkai gave him a look that went right through him and challenged his true feelings behind what he just said. Sanzo felt like he was blushing. It was a look that Koumyou used to give him when his Master would doubt the sincerity of Sanzo's trademark petulance.
"He only needs a little encouragement," Hakkai said.
Sanzo shrugged and looked away, feeling like he'd been caught. Was this what had been bothering Hakkai? "Thank you for doing this," he mumbled from behind his teacup.
"It's my pleasure, really," Hakkai said and sipped his tea. "It feels good to teach again."
Sanzo shifted in his seat. Hakkai hardly ever talked about this previous life as Gonou. Sometimes Sanzo found it hard to imagine Hakkai had a life before he met him. It must have been such a different life. He felt like he should say something encouraging, something to help Hakkai open up. But what the hell did he know? Maybe it was better to let the past lie. He spun the teacup around in his hands, watching the liquid turn in circles like his mind was doing. The longer the silence stretched, the more Sanzo felt like he was failing.
"Sanzo?" Hakkai hesitantly broke the silence.
"What?" Sanzo replied uncertainly.
Hakkai's hand was playing with his teaspoon in an uncharacteristic nervous gesture. "Do I make you uncomfortable?" he finally asked, looking into his cup.
Sanzo felt like all the air had suddenly left the room. His eyes were transfixed on Hakkai's face. "Why -- what makes you say that?" he stumbled.
"You seem uneasy," Hakkai said, still not looking up. "Maybe you'd prefer it if Goku came to our place for his lessons. I'm sure Gojyo wouldn't mind."
"No," Sanzo said a little too quickly. Finally Hakkai looked up to meet his eyes. Sanzo became aware his heart was racing and he tried to even his breathing. Hakkai was still looking at him expectantly, but Sanzo didn't know how to explain himself. "I don't mind, really," he said awkwardly and put his now empty cup on the desk a little too hard. "I like it."
The moment he said it he felt a wave of panic course through his body. The words had left his mouth without thinking. "Goku likes it," he added hastily.
Hakkai's face softened and he gently put his own cup down on Sanzo's desk, not giving any indication he had found anything odd about Sanzo's reply. "That's okay then," he said. "I am sorry if I made an incorrect assumption."
"Don't worry about it," Sanzo said uneasily and lit another cigarette to compose himself. "I've been told I have that effect on people."
Hakkai laughed, all the earlier worry leaving his face. "Thank you," he said, though Sanzo had no idea what Hakkai was thanking him for.
"It's such a lovely day," Hakkai said as he looked out the window. "Would you care to take a walk?"
Sanzo wasn't sure about the sudden change in conversation. It was often hard to judge what Hakkai really meant with anything he said. But after he had just assured Hakkai he wasn't uncomfortable with him, he surely couldn't refuse the invitation for a stroll outside. "Sure," Sanzo mumbled and got up to follow Hakkai towards the temple gardens. He could feel the eyes of several monks following him as he and Hakkai wandered aimlessly through the gardens. Sanzo wasn't exactly known for 'taking walks' just for the sake of in. In fact, he usually avoided leaving his rooms all together as much as possible.
At first he felt self-conscious as he walked beside Hakkai, his head down and hands tucked away in the folds of his robes. But Hakkai seemed perfectly at ease and unconcerned with the lack of purpose of the exercise. After a while Sanzo felt himself relax until slowly, on some level, he guessed he was sort of enjoying the experience. It actually felt good to walk beside the man; just the two of them.
"How are things going at Gojyo's place?" Sanzo asked after a while, feeling comfortable enough to initiate a conversation.
"It's going well," Hakkai answered contentedly.
Sanzo didn't miss the slightly forced casual tone. Personally, he couldn't imagine anyone voluntarily sharing a house with an empty-headed cockroach. He wouldn't be surprised if Hakkai found it more trying that he wanted to admit. "You're sure?" Sanzo prodded.
"We're -- adjusting," Hakkai added somewhat reluctantly.
Again Sanzo felt there was a lot more behind what Hakkai said. Even one word held a world of possibilities. It could mean anything from figuring out a schedule for who's doing the dishes to the two have them being seconds away from killing each other. Sanzo considered both options a real possibility.
Hakkai merely sighed and looked away.
All the times Sanzo had seen Hakkai after his departure from the temple, the man had seemed at least quietly content, occasionally even happy. Sometimes it had come across as a fragile construction, but Hakkai had managed to keep it up nonetheless, building himself up again underneath.
But in this moment, the man seemed lost. It was only for a moment, but Sanzo's heart cringed as he saw it. The confidence and cheerful humor had fallen away and it was like he was looking at Gonou again, that night he had talk to him in the cell; when there had been nothing but sadness and defeat. Now he could finally understand Goku's words.
Sanzo had the absurd urge to take the other man's hand, but immediately the fear of betraying himself paralyzed him. Instead he shoved his hands deeper into his pockets. It made him want to murder Gojyo for whatever he was doing to make Hakkai unhappy. Painfully and slowly.
"I didn't think it would be this hard," Hakkai said barely above a whisper.
They were still walking, though their pace had slowed down. Sanzo stayed silent, matching his steps with Hakkai in some odd form of unity. Normally he would say something cynical, but he didn't want to break Hakkai's train of thoughts. The sun was going down, leaving them caught in a web of twilight and long shadows. For a while now they had been the only ones still outside. It provided an atmosphere of intimacy that Sanzo was unaccustomed too.
"I have this life I didn't think I would have and now I feel uncertain what to do with it," Hakkai continued beside him. "I'm not sure if I should…"
Hakkai left the thought unfinished.
"It's hard living with someone new," he said instead, slipping back into his neutral composure, like that would explain everything. But his voice faltered almost unnoticeably, hinting that there was more at play than the matter of new living arrangements.
Sanzo wondered why Hakkai was telling him this. Did he expect some comfort from him as a priest? It wouldn't be the first time someone poured their heart out in front of him, believing he could give some magical form of absolution or words of wisdom from the Gods. But he doubted that was what Hakkai was after. He doubted Hakkai had much Faith left in him at all, all things considering.
Then why him? Certainly Hakkai would be much more comfortable talking with Gojyo. But then, Hakkai's problem seemed to be related to Gojyo. And there was no way anyone could have a sensible conversation with Goku. The ultimate realization left Sanzo feeling cold. Was he the last resort?
"Maybe you should live on your own for a while," Sanzo suggested, his voice more rough than he'd intended.
"No, it's not like that. I like Gojyo, really. In a way, he's helped me a lot." Hakkai suddenly stopped dead, bringing Sanzo to a halt as well. He looked away towards the disappearing sun. "I just don't know anymore," he said softly.
Again the feeling of loss was almost tangible. Sanzo stood next to him and thought how Gojyo would easily put his arm around Hakkai's shoulders, or how Goku would hug him without a second thought. Without thinking, he reached out and put his hand on Hakkai's arm. The man turned, his face catching the last rays of sunlight. A smile appeared and Hakkai put his hand over Sanzo's.
"Thank you for listening," Hakkai said warmly. "I do value our friendship."
Sanzo grunted. His hand burned and his first instinct was to turn away. But he stayed and nodded almost unnoticeable.
That night Sanzo dreamed he was in the temple garden, his body warmed by the dying heath of the sun. Underneath him was Hakkai, his body bathed in soft light. There were tears in his eyes and Sanzo kissed them away. He laid himself over Hakkai's body, shielding it and warming it. His hands held Hakkai's face as he kissed the lips, tasting the salty moisture. Their naked bodies curled around each other, holding on to each other with a desire never to let go.
Unaware, Sanzo clutched his blankets tightly around himself. In the morning he would have to wash the crusted streaks from his face.
A/N: Three of wands: progress, result, offspring.
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