Title: Feeding Demons
Hakkai paused to draw a deep breath and push damp hair out of his eyes. He'd lost track of how many hours he'd been at work here, how many wounds he'd labored over. So many youkai warriors, old and young, male and female; Gyumaoh's defeat had come at a grave price.
At least it hadn't cost the one he'd most dreaded losing. He glanced down the length of the makeshift infirmary--hastily set up in the castle's audience hall--and caught a reassuring glimpse of rose-red hair. Gojyo had thrown himself into the thick of the final battle, distracting the mad, roaring giant for the crucial moment that Goku and Kougaiji had needed. They'd felled him, but not before his ragged talons had nearly torn the fearless hanyou in half; Hakkai closed his eyes against the memory of that moment. He might have died himself, recklessly pouring ki into the terrible wounds, if it hadn't been for Yaone and Kougaiji…
…Kougaiji. Hakkai smiled wearily. The prince had more than proven himself ready to be king, and a great king at that, he thought. No sooner had the battle been decided than he'd been here among the wounded, praising, soothing, encouraging just by his presence. He'd given Yaone full authority over the healing staff, with dragon couriers at her disposal to fly in any medicines or herbs that might be in short supply. And when one youkai physician had protested at using the castle's resources to nurse a mere half-blood, Kougaiji had turned and rebuked him with a ferocity that had won him Hakkai's gratitude for life. This is the Royal Consort's brother and a hero of the battle; he's to have the best care we can provide, and anyone who refuses to treat him is dismissed from my sight. At once. --If not for that, quite possibly Gojyo might not have pulled through; Hakkai would have drained himself trying to heal him alone, but with Yaone's best work on their side, his prognosis seemed excellent. In fact his pride would probably take longer to rebuild than his body, Hakkai thought with wry affection; he was so sweetly vain of the fine physique the Bull King had so thoughtlessly maimed.
--But he couldn't waste time thinking of Gojyo, who was at least in stable condition. So many more here needed his help. He paused to wipe the mist of dust and blood from his monocle, shook his head to clear the dizziness of fatigue. Had he seen the next row yet? And where was Yaone working? They should confer--
A flicker of light at his elbow, and a quiet voice. "--Hakkai-san."
He glanced up in surprise. "Kougaiji-sama?" reckoning the courtesy appropriate. It was indeed the prince, no longer in battle armor but otherwise unchanged from the day, dressed in his familiar open jacket and trailing scarf. He was carrying a tray of food, unexpectedly enough: two covered steam baskets, a pot of tea and a small oil lamp, its glow picking out the bright triangle earrings and the dull streaks of dried blood in his copper-chestnut hair. "Are you still not asleep?'
"Neither of us, it seems." Kougaiji indicated the tray, and again Hakkai was struck by his modesty and humility. A king who never thinks it beneath him to take care of others; just what's needed, after so much mistrust and hate.... "Yaone-san retired half an hour ago, and told me you were still at work here. Stop and eat with me, if you would. It's no good exhausting yourself."
"You're most gracious." (And sensible; he'd quite forgotten about food, unwise as that was.) Kougaiji cleared space on a desk piled with notes and prescriptions, and uncovered the baskets. Plain rice, pork buns and jasmine tea--it smelled better than any meal Hakkai could remember, and he'd created some memorable ones.
They spent a silent few minutes gratefully immersed in the pleasure of good, simple food. Thoughts of cooking, and of those he'd cooked for, reminded him of what he most wanted to say.
"If your people hadn't cared for us, several of us might not have survived. We're in your debt."
"Not at all." The prince refilled both teacups. "Without your healing skills many more of my warriors would have died tonight. If anyone's in debt, it's I. " Slight smile. "Be sure you say that to Yaone, though. She's the only one here with any experience in human medicine; Sanzo gave her quite a challenge."
"I'm certain. But she was splendid," Hakkai agreed wholeheartedly. He had never seen the beautiful healer call forth her powers with such determination; she had absolutely refused to let his comrades die…
Lilac eyes regarded him amusedly --and a bit keenly-- over the teacup's rim. "Are you fond of her?"
Taken aback, Hakkai glanced at him in surprise. "I admire her as a colleague. As I believe she does me."
"Ah." Kougaiji took another bun. (--did he sound just perceptibly relieved?) "Well, it's more than that. You're quite a hero to her."
Now entirely off balance, the turned-youkai spoke carefully. "I honestly doubt that's the case. Though she does seem impressed with my combat abilities--"
"That's not it." And suddenly he was held in the direct regard of those intense, pale-violet eyes, and the effect was somewhat breathtaking. It might have been Hakkai's sleepless state, but he had never before realized how handsome the youkai prince was, how flawless his golden skin looked in the lamplight.The three hooking stripes on his cheekbone seemed enticingly fierce and exotic. His mouth felt so dry that the tea barely touched it.
"Yaone knows," said Kougaiji, voice low and steady, "that you weren't born youkai. She knows who you killed to become one of us. So do I." There was no contempt or anger in the level gaze. "She came very close to being sent to him herself."
Hakkai caught his breath, shocked. "I didn't know--"
The prince nodded. "When Yaone learned you were the slayer of the Centipede Demon, she poured out her heart to Dokugaku and me. Every woman she knew had lived in fear for her life, for her sisters and friends; had sent away, even scarred their daughters to save them. That reign of terror ended because of you." He looked up at Hakkai. "You may have thought a turned-youkai was like a Taboo Child, not truly welcome in either world. But I hope--I personally hope--"--he could literally feel those clear eyes on his face--"that when your quest is done, you'll come back to live at Houtou Castle."
He was obviously hallucinating in his fatigue; it was not remotely possible the prince was flirting with him. The quite unnervingly beautiful prince. --Hakkai cleared his throat, feeling obliged to point out that he was already spoken for.
"And Gojyo-san. In fact, his brother would insist." The prince's smile was genuine. "We have a long task ahead of us…your skills would be welcome. And as I say, you're already a hero."
He needs to stop saying that-- "Even though Maoh was only one of the youkai I killed?" He couldn't force back the bitter words. "Even though I exterminated an entire clan?"
Kougaiji touched the stripes of dried blood in his hair. "You've unselfishly healed youkai all night long. And I killed my own father last night. It's not so black-and-white a matter, Hakkai-san." He set down his cup. "But you don't need to decide now. Do you know where your sleeping quarters are?"
He'd been told, but the day's work had driven it from his mind. Everything was driving it from his mind. He really was just too tired.
"I don't think so. It doesn't really matter--"
"I'll show you." Sublimely unselfconscious, the prince gathered up the dishes and set the tray by the door.
"I want to check on Gojyo before I go."
Again that genuine smile; it was quite lovely on him. "Of course."
Hakkai stood and feasted his eyes on the sight of his dear one soundly asleep, the peaceful rise and fall of his bandaged chest, the steady pulse in his throat. He'd live. He'd be long in healing, but he'd live.
"So much magic…" murmured Kougaiji. "I can see it. Your ki and Yaone's herbal skill and a Sanzo priest's blood, just to keep this one alive. I think my father's claws were venomous."
"--Sanzo's blood?" Yaone hadn't mentioned that. "I wouldn't've thought he was in any condition to spare it."
"On the contrary, he insisted. Something about repaying his debts."
"Ah, of course." Hakkai laughed softly, smoothing the long sunset hair. "And an old debt it was, too."
The prince stood watching them; there was an unexpected gentleness in his voice when he spoke. "I've been told how he suffered as a child. His brother says that the greatest joy in his life is you."
"I'm honored that he trusts me with him." Hakkai checked the bandages once more--matching scars, he thiought sadly and tenderly--untangled one of those absurd antennae from a glucose tube, and stepped away from the bed, Kougaiji following him.
In the hallway outside, the prince caught his shoulder and turned Hakkai to face him. "Cho Hakkai," he said with quiet and honest warmth, "you are a remarkable man." And kissed him, just like that, long-nailed fingers framing his face with just a trace of sharpness, warm mouth soft and open on his.
Hakkai did not think for a moment that it was unseemly to kiss another man within a few strides of his true love's bedside; he did not even think that, realistically, it was probably unseemly of him to kiss soon-to-be-King Kougaiji just about anywhere. What he thought was that he was bone-weary, that he'd been pouring his life energy into heartbreakingly wounded soldiers since hours before dawn, that he was nearly exhausted with helpless grief and worry, and quite frankly, a kiss seemed like the best idea imaginable.
He didn't think anything else until he felt Kougaiji's back thump into something solid, and realized that he'd allowed Hakkai to back them into one of the pillars that ran the length of the corridor. He was pressed so close to the prince that the long legs were parted around him, and their arms were wrapped around each other, and it was obvious this kiss had gotten much more interesting in the past few seconds.
"We shouldn't do this," he said, though he couldn't actually think of a single reason why not.
"The ones we love need their sleep. Let them rest." Kougaiji pulled him closer, long fingers sliding down his back to his waist, and kissed him again. "We've both had enough death and loss for one night."
Of course he was right, and as his tongue slid against the green-eyed youkai's with a sweet, tea-jasmine taste, there was something else, something that made Hakkai's drained ki reserve tingle: he could feel the electrical rush of magic under the sleek golden skin. Magic--the youkai prince was a creature of it, an artesian well of it, flashing like a river that could never run dry; he could drink all he needed without harming Kougaiji in the least. And he did need it. Oh, he did.
He pressed into him, hard enough to feel the sharp definition of the prince's chest and abdomen through his tunic--he had always privately admired that--and soon-to-be-King Kougaiji purred and arched his back against the pillar, gripping Hakkai's hips with his knees. "Mmm. Yes." Hakkai shivered, using the long scarf to pull him close as he kissed him, already imagining. So hungry for it, dry and hungry, he'd given far too much of himself away.
Kougaiji abruptly let go and pushed him back. "Not here. This way--"
The room they found had been used for no-idea-what--orgies, or Roman-style banquets, perhaps. It contained long low tables, a carpet deep enough to dive into and approximately two hundred pillows. They fell into the carpet and wrapped around each other in earnest, Hakkai stroking the cut planes of the prince's chiseled torso, filling his hands with the silky solid warmth of muscle and bone, as Kougaiji worked on undoing his tunic and enjoying the same indulgence. When strong arms slid around his bare back and they were finally skin to skin, Hakkai simply buried his face in the long autumn hair and breathed the smell, indefinable but so certainly not human, repulsive and exciting at once. The sharp hips pushed into his and he felt how hard Kougaiji was, getting harder as he touched him, and Hakkai panted at the thought of taking him in--
A long fingernail picked under the edge of his uppermost limiter. "Be your true self."
With his last remaining shreds of resistance he began to say no, I'd hurt you, because he always said that, had said it a dozen times to Gojyo at least--he always asked, as if he didn't know that youkai claws could cut bone and punch thru metal.
But Kougaiji--pureblood, aristocrat, no trace of human frailty--would probably be much harder to hurt…
And the pale violet eyes were burning as they stared at him, wanted him, wanted both his selves…
was so hard and his heart raced so fast he could scarcely breathe.
He remembered saying it: might as well eat the plate.
He held very still, shivering, as the youkai prince picked off the silver cuffs one by one.
He was full and hot in Hakkai's throat as Hakkai took him greedily, grazed him with sharp teeth and pinned him with sharp claws and licked away the blood. The beautiful prince rocked and shuddered in wild bliss, thrusting hard, groaning. Even his blood was like incense, and when he came Hakkai cast all restraint and swallowed him to the hilt, sucking him, drinking him dry. He could feel it flow into his body, filling him, feeding and healing him. He could feel the vines on his skin tingle and bud into leaf with the rush of what Kougaiji gave him. Magic. Pure life. The prince kissed him and said he was beautiful.
"I hope you aren't tired--"
"Not at all, no, not now--" He stroked the curved birthmark with his talons."Tell me what you want."
"Anything. Fuck me." The pureblood aristocrat's eyes glittered hungry and hot.
As the prince's long legs wrapped around him and he pushed in slow and deep a memory came to him--of all things--Gojyo speculating late one night, so whatchathink, 'Kai, is he screwing my brother? And who do you think's on top? He rocked deeper into the tight, delicious heat and long nails scored his shoulders--
I'll tell him, he thought, I'll tell him what you like, because he's going to live (and he remembered the flash of swift guilty lust in the ruby-red eyes as Gojyo had added, big bro's probably hung like a horse, and oh gods they had fucked all night after that)--tighter and hotter and he was so glad they'd done this, so glad, but he was never, ever going to tell anyone--
And still he pulled Kougaiji up to his heart and held him tight as he came.
He was dressed and back at work when Yaone came back to the infirmary in the morning, and he assured her he'd eaten and slept and thanked her for her concern. And he bowed politely to Kougaiji, who bowed back, gentleman that he was.
But when he stopped by Gojyo's bedside his green eyes gleamed with mischief, and he told him a secret.