Chapter: 5 - Five 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'ed by Car Jack and Sanzo Chama <3
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 didn't know if it was the lack of sleep the previous night, or the infectiousness of Hakkai's new found contentment, but he felt a carefree light-headedness that he hadn't experienced since that day he had knocked on Gojyo's door for the first time and Cho Gonou had come into his life. Gojyo and Goku had returned with their shopping and all through lunch Sanzo felt comfortable enough to just sit back and enjoy the company. Every once in a while he'd steal a glance at Hakkai, replaying their conversation and convincing himself an intangible bond had formed between them.
Bringing up the memory of Koumyou had not depressed him like he'd expected it to. In a way, it had settled his mind. Even in death, his master had never lost his ability to calm his obstinate and recalcitrant pupil. Again, Sanzo was in his debt. Looking at Hakkai, he no longer felt the paralyzing guilt and confusion that made him want to run and hide, but a curiosity and longing that made him want to stay near and find out more. He didn't want any lingering doubts to spoil this moment and he stubbornly pushed them to the back of his mind. After lunch, Hakkai insisted Sanzo and Goku join them back to their place. For once, the idea raised no trepidations on Sanzo's part and he immediately agreed.
The door to Gojyo's house had been crudely, but sufficiently, repaired and the place had clearly been cleaned up. If Goku noticed anything had been amiss, he certainly didn't show it, making himself instantly at home as usual. They drank, smoked and chatted. The food was good and the conversation wasn't strained. But whenever Sanzo's eyes strayed away from Hakkai, he didn't fail to notice Gojyo seemed just as pre-occupied with the brunet as he was. If anything, it was Gojyo who now seemed the more nervous in Hakkai's presence. It was different from the strain he had noticed between them yesterday, which had obviously come more from Hakkai's side. This time Gojyo radiated an unsure protectiveness over Hakkai that raised a strange sense of jealousy inside Sanzo. Had anything happen between them Hakkai hadn't told him about?
It was getting late and Goku had long since fallen asleep on the couch. Sanzo readily accepted Hakkai's offer to stay the night, not only because he didn't look forward to waking the monkey and dragging him all the way back to the temple. He hoped to get another moment alone with Hakkai; another chance to explore Hakkai's thoughts and feelings.
But as Hakkai went to gather extra blankets and pillows, it was Gojyo Sanzo was left with. Sanzo sat quietly drinking the last of his beer when the sound of Gojyo clearing his throat made him look up. The kappa leaned forward and lowered his voice. "What was Hakkai doing at the temple last night?"
The direct question started Sanzo. He slowly finished his beer without answering and took a quick look at Goku. The kid looked soundly asleep and oblivious of the people next to him. "You're following him now?" Sanzo asked back. For most of this day, Gojyo had been remarkably less obnoxious than Sanzo usually found him. But now the resentment of Gojyo's part in the whole mess came pouring back, heightened with his newly raised suspicions.
"Don't mess with me," Gojyo hissed in an odd attempt to both raise and lower his voice at the same time. "I know he went to see you."
Involuntarily, Sanzo leaned away from Gojyo's close proximity. Even though Gojyo obviously didn't know exactly what had transpired, the mere idea that Gojyo had followed Hakkai and knew about their meeting made Sanzo feel painfully exposed. "Mind your own business," Sanzo said, reigning in his anger. "What makes you think I'm doing anything."
"I know what you're up to," Gojyo said accusingly, his finger pointing at Sanzo's chest.
"Jealous?" Sanzo shot back, feeling good to deflect his own earlier feelings back at the redhead and curious to see if Gojyo would rise to the bait. He had expected a rebuke, or at least a sneer, but Gojyo's face suddenly turned surprisingly serious and morose.
The kappa leaned back deflated. "He was gonna leave."
The sudden turn in Gojyo's attitude alarmed Sanzo more than the statement. "What do you mean?"
"What'ya think I mean? Leave! He had his bags packed and everything. Walking out, never looking back, all that shit."
Sanzo was stunned into silence. Hakkai was leaving? He felt like a stone had just been dropped in his stomach. Hakkai was going to leave him?
"You understand now?" Gojyo asked, a hint of frustration in his voice.
Sanzo nodded absentmindedly, his mind still coming to terms with Gojyo's revelation. All this time, when he thought Hakkai was opening up to him, seeking understanding, maybe even comfort, he'd been preparing to walk away.
"So? What was Hakkai doing last night?"
"Talking," Sanzo answered shortly.
"Just talking?" Gojyo insisted, yet again leaning closer to Sanzo.
Right now, Gojyo's lowlife insinuations were the last thing Sanzo needed. "You better not finish that thought if you value your life." Hakkai's plans might not have been directly Gojyo's fault - though the jury was still out on that - but even so, Sanzo was more than happy to shoot the messenger.
"Touchy subject." Gojyo managed to say before Hakkai came back with arms full of pillows and blankets and prevented any retort. Sanzo avoided Hakkai's eyes, mumbled his goodnights and disappeared quickly in the room Hakkai indicated for the night.
In the end, Hakkai hadn't left, had he? That was the most important thing, Sanzo thought as he watched Hakkai go over Goku's sums yet again. Their routine had continued uninterrupted, as if the whole incident had never happened. Hakkai was his usual patient self, Goku equally oblivious and enthusiastic as always. The weather had been good all day and Sanzo had been looking forward to his time alone with Hakkai. But still…
The tutoring session was coming to an end and Sanzo was ready to order tea.
"I don't suppose you have beer here?" Hakkai asked as sat down across from Sanzo.
Sanzo raised an eyebrow. "I didn't know you were a beer drinker."
"Ah well, on a fine day as this, I might indulge in a few," Hakkai replied with a sly smile. It certainly seemed like nothing was troubling the other man, but then, Sanzo had been wrong about such things before. Maybe he should stop worrying and get back to the original plan of enjoying spending time with Hakkai.
Although the monks in the temple didn't openly berate him for his indulgence of alcohol, they wouldn't go as far as actually stocking it for him. So Sanzo made sure to have his own personal supply in his room. The walk from his office was only a short one, and soon they were both settled comfortably and enjoying their beers.
It was both familiar and strange having Hakkai sitting in his room again. The bright daylight dispelled any repeat of that fateful night's surrealism, but still Sanzo could feel that same sense of suspended normality lurking underneath the surface. Not that Sanzo could be really sure of anything, it had been a long time since he had experienced 'normality' anyway. There had been such a flood of new and startling feelings and emotions, he had simply lost track. He had tried to swim against the tide, but in the end it seemed the effort was useless. He could only drift with the current.
Hakkai had finished his first beer surprisingly quickly and Sanzo handed him a second. But Hakkai didn't open it yet, instead playing with it in his hands. It was clear there was something on his mind.
"This person you lost," he finally began, "who was he?"
Sanzo closed his eyes for a second to control the memories. He knew it was only to be expected Hakkai would want to know more after what Sanzo had told him then. When he opened his eyes, Hakkai looked on the verge of apologizing. "My Master, Koumyou Sanzo," Sanzo began before Hakkai could say anything.
"Ahh." The swallowed snicker stopped Sanzo in his tracks. Hakkai looked embarrassed. "I just thought, when you said 'he'…"
A violent blush heated Sanzo's cheeks. Hakkai had thought he had been speaking of a lover? For a moment Sanzo was too taken aback to respond.
Sanzo's startled reaction must have alarmed Hakkai, who looked genuinely contrite. "I'm so sorry, I hope my foolish assumption did not offend you," he quickly said.
If anything this made Sanzo blush even more. Was there something about him that would make Hakkai assume such a thing? Or was there something about Hakkai that made him consider the possibility so casually?
"No, of course not," he mumbled while he tried to untangled his mind from all the possible implications for Hakkai's words. He felt that whatever he said, he was revealing something he might not want to. And for a disturbing second he considered that Hakkai had made the comment precisely for that purpose.
"I'm sorry I interrupted you," Hakkai apologized, apparently glossing over the moment of awkwardness. "Please, tell me more about this Koumyou Sanzo. You said he was your master?"
Sanzo took a few sips from his beer to bring himself back to the topic. "He was more than just my master," Sanzo explained. "He raised me, after fishing me out of the Yangtze."
"You were found in the river?" Hakkai asked surprised.
"My parents must have left me there," Sanzo shrugged. "He named me Kouryuu, after the river." Sanzo took a moment to taste the name in a treasured streak of nostalgia. It had been so long since he had said it to anyone.
"So you're an orphan, like me." Hakkai was leaning forward attentively, his beer seemingly forgotten.
Sanzo quickly finished his own beer and got himself a second. "I guess. I never thought of it that way. Koumyou was always there." He opened the beer and took a long gulp. "Till he was killed."
"He was murdered?"
"Yeah. He was killed by a gang of youkai." Sanzo concentrated on his beer to ward off the flashbacks that threatened behind his eyelids. In his effort he almost dropped his bottle when Hakkai's hand touched his arm.
"I'm sorry," Hakkai said. The sincerity echoed through his hand.
"He died protecting me," Sanzo said, his eyes fixed on the image of Hakkai's fingers against his sleeve. "And I couldn't protect him." No matter how many times he had relived that moment, saying it out loud made it feel even starker and final.
"More things we have in common," Hakkai joked gently, pulling Sanzo away from the darkness. Sanzo sighed and quickly downed his bottle. The warmth of the alcohol spread through him and Sanzo imagined it move from his arm into Hakkai's hand. The combination of the beer and Hakkai's sympathetic presence was intoxicating. Sanzo let his head fall back. What was happening here?
"Tell me about Kanan," Sanzo said to the ceiling. He knew he was deliberately pouring salt in the wounds, but still Sanzo needed to hear it. He needed to be sure.
Hakkai's hand left his arm. Sanzo breathed through the sudden cold.
"She was everything I had," Hakkai said simply. Even though the physical connection was gone, Sanzo could still feel Hakkai close to him. "I know that the bond I had with her is something I will never find again. You see, she was always my sister first; my only family."
Sanzo looked down and saw that Hakkai had closed his eyes. He seemed lost in his own world; a gently smile played across his face. The sight transfixed Sanzo. How could he ever do without this?
"You were gonna leave?" Sanzo asked. He hadn't meant to bring it up, but he suddenly couldn't go further without knowing for certain.
Hakkai didn't move, only his face seemed to betray a slight tension.
"Yes," Hakkai finally answered. He didn't even ask how Sanzo knew. Maybe Gojyo had told him.
Hakkai inhaled deeply before explaining, "There were a lot of things -- new things…" Hakkai started, his hand waving vaguely in front of him. "New people; a new me, I guess," Hakkai's head leaned to the side, as if it took him effort to find the right words. "I felt overwhelmed."
Sanzo didn't dare to breathe in fear of interrupting Hakkai. His mind raced with all the things Hakkai could be referring to, beyond the obvious ones.
"I didn't know who to be anymore. I -- I was scared."
Scared? Overwhelmed? It sounded so familiar. It made it all so tempting to make the assumption. If only it could be…
Hakkai had leaned slightly forwards, his eyes still closed. Hakkai had stopped talking; like he was waiting. Sanzo felt they were both waiting; for something. They were so close and Sanzo knew if he didn't do anything now, he would never do it again.
His fingers touched Hakkai's face. The skin trembled underneath his shaking fingers. Hakkai's eyes opened slowly; he looked at Sanzo questioning - waiting? He hadn't said anything, he simply stared at Sanzo. The next moment, Sanzo had leaned forward and his lips touched Hakkai's. He didn't know what to do, but he knew this much. It was a kiss; and he was kissing Hakkai.
He heard a quick intake of breath but Hakkai didn't pull away. Sanzo didn't dare go any further. They sat frozen in this intimate gesture for what seemed like eternity. Suddenly, Sanzo felt terribly self-conscious. Was he doing anything wrong? He pulled away so he could look at Hakkai. The other man still hadn't moved. He hadn't run or pushed him away. That was good, right? Hakkai simply looked at him.
"Is this what you want?" Hakkai asked hoarsely.
Yes, Sanzo's mind screamed. There was no more place to hide; no turning back after what he had just done.
"Do you?" Sanzo asked tentatively.
Hakkai's hand rested on his cheek. Sanzo could feel it burn against his skin.
"I owe you my freedom," Hakkai whispered.
Sanzo froze, a sickening feeling rose up in his stomach and caught in his throat. He pushed himself away from Hakkai. Is that what Hakkai thought this was? He stood up, he eyes fixed on Hakkai's stricken face.
"I didn't mean it like…" Hakkai stumbled, one hand hovering to touch him, but Sanzo flinched back.
He didn't know what to say. It felt as if the whole world had dropped away. Hakkai had gotten up and moved towards him while Sanzo still backed up until his back was against the door. "Sanzo, please, sit down," Hakkai pleaded gently.
Sanzo shook his head. He couldn't stand this exposure; he needed space, he needed to be alone, he needed to pretend this never happened. Sanzo turned around and ran out the door. He could hear Hakkai call his name as he ran through the corridors. Heads were turning, completing Sanzo's total mortification. He burst into his office and immediately locked the door behind him.
Sanzo sagged down to the floor. What had he done?
Sanzo leaned against the door. He could hear Hakkai's voice pleading on the other side, mere inches away.
"I'm sorry, I didn't know. I didn't mean it -- I'm so sorry."
Sanzo buried his head in his hands to drown out the sound, but he couldn't make himself move. Even now, the thought that Hakkai was so close, right beyond the door, calling his name, burned in Sanzo's heart. He wanted to claw through the wood and hold Hakkai's face between his hands and kiss him again.
But he had messed it up. He couldn't face Hakkai, not now. Sanzo waited and waited, till he was sure the hallway was empty. Hakkai was gone.
Only in the silence could Sanzo hear himself cry. He cried till he was numb and it was already getting dark. He still hadn't moved. The scene kept spinning in his mind. In that moment, he had been so sure. Everything Hakkai had said, everything Hakkai had done had made sense. Had he gotten it completely wrong? Or had he really overreacted? He almost didn't dare to hope after running out on the man so dramatically and locking him out. Maybe he had fucked up either way.
The commotion outside and the sound of heavy footsteps pulled Sanzo from his mental torture. The loud banging on the door came as a welcome relief. Sanzo knew he had this coming.
"You fucking son of a bitch!" Gojyo's voice bellowed. "I'm gonna fucking kill you!"
Gojyo's kick reverberated through the door to Sanzo's back.
"I told you not to hurt him!" Gojyo raged on. "Open this door !"
Sanzo let it wash over him, while Gojyo shouted abuse and death threats. By now the whole temple probably knew. It couldn't get any worse and it was everything that he deserved.
A/N: Five of wands: trouble, competition, instability, conflict, power struggle, doubts, fear, loss
Yes, I'm evil. But in my defense: did you see the card I had to work with? No way was this going to be a happy chapter. But if you know your tarot, you'll know that Six of Wands will be better ;-)
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