Title: Longing 3: The Sunset Road - Chapter 3
Disclaimer: I have absolutely no rights whatsoever. For melancholy daydreaming purposes only.
Rating: T for language. Shounen-ai.
Summary: "All I have are the ashes… one small spark from your glow."
"To live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go." – Mary Oliver
"If you pressed me to say why I loved him, I can say no more than that he was he and I was I."
– Michel de Montaigne
Throughout that year's "celebration" – Sanzo's 69th and Gojyo's 68th – (which typically lasted through the night), Gojyo maintained an outward calm and joviality.
But while the others engaged in catching-up talk, he watched Sanzo with hooded eyes, already memorizing every last detail, every angle, every nuance, every last inch of the man who had been "home" to him for the past forty-five years. He never did settle down, he never quit his vagabond life, and Sanzo had long ago ceased to press him about it. He just wandered where the fancy took him, ever roaming, visiting and re-visiting old haunts – any excuse to fill up the time until the ache was almost unbearable, until the yearning was so ripe as to be almost sweet… and he returned to the only home he knew these past forty five years. Until he returned to his corrupt, beautiful, arrogant monk. His home… not Kinzan, strictly. Only because Sanzo was there. Sanzo was home. Where the heart is…
Gojyo watched as Hakkai, relishing every minute of his "bachelor" time away from his cozy nest of wife and the remaining child at home, poured himself another measure of sake, engaged in the usual animated discussion with a decidedly sober Sanzo.
Goku had fallen asleep hours before. The ikkou had the whole courtyard to themselves. The saru was sprawled back in his chair, the sumptuous feast having left a big grin on his face. Gojyo smiled fondly. Of all of them, Goku was the only one who seemed not to have changed, apart from his exposure to various cultures from his travels. He still had the insatiable appetite, he still slept like a log, he even looked the same. Forever young. Even the big golden eyes still retained the same innocence, the same childlike purity. He's going to outlast us all, Gojyo mused, with a trace of envy. Damn bakazaru is going to survive, and go on forever.
Whereas he… not that he was anywhere near old age, despite his being sixty eight. By half-breed standards, he was still in his prime, albeit he now had a few lines on his own face.
So did Hakkai. Glancing once more at his best friend, he felt a lonely pang in his gut at the thought that they shared the same silent pain. Hakkai had married a human, and the last time he had seen Sakura she had looked well and radiant and happy; but there was no denying that she was an old woman now, approaching her twilight years.
Gojyo lit another Hi-Lite, blowing out the smoke lazily. He noticed that there were only three Marlboro butts among the heap in the ashtray. He also noticed that Sanzo had drunk the grand total of two cups of sake the entire evening. Hell, if it weren't for their "double celebration", he doubted if Sanzo would even have indulged himself.
His eyes drifted closed, feeling the hopeless anguish of this morning descend and surround him again. He felt… cheated, somehow. Out of the blue, it had risen up like a sucker punch, leaving him gasping for air. He couldn't fathom it, couldn't begin to get his arms around it… the idea of a world that continued to revolve, of life going on, without Sanzo.
His eyes opened, gazing once more at the human. So frail he seemed, all of a sudden. All too mortal. So little time left…
"Oi erogappa. You've been whining about how this is your celebration too. So why aren't you celebrating?" Sanzo cut into his morbid thoughts.
"Oh! That's right!" Hakkai exclaimed, leaning over unsteadily to top up Gojyo's cup. "Sumimasen, Gojyo… you should've just told me – there are plenty of bottles left…" Hakkai smiled. But the keen emerald eyes caught a flash of deep pain in the crimson orbs, before it was swiftly shuttered.
"Sankyuu," Gojyo drawled. "I didn't want to interrupt your talk just then. What is it this time, abstract art? Pointless philosophy? Mumbo-jumbo…"
"'Ch," Sanzo snorted, with a withering look. "It would do you good to exercise your brain sometimes, kappa."
Gojyo winked saucily and ignored him, pretending to listen while Hakkai enlightened him about the latest book he was reading – which he'd given a copy of to Sanzo for his birthday – The DaVinci Code. His present to Gojyo was a handsome leather jacket "for all his wandering about".
"What about you, Gojyo? Come to think of it, what did you give Sanzo this year?" Hakkai inquired, yawning from the sake.
Gojyo grinned. "The exquisite delight of my company, of course. My being here is the greatest gift anyone could want," he declared teasingly, waggling his eyebrows at Hakkai. Hakkai shook his head with a rueful grin; but as Gojyo turned to flash Sanzo a mocking smile, his breath caught at the raw feeling burning in the beautiful purple eyes.
But I speak the truth, don't I?
… Dammit all. You do.
You're all I want, too. You're all I'll ever want. If I had a wish for every cold, distant, indifferent star up there in the heavens, all my wishes would come down to one thing: You.
It's killing me. Forty-five years and it's still killing me.
Fuck it all, hage bouzu, you're dying anyway. The light of my life is fading, and I'm powerless to stop it.
Sanzo frowned, and looked away. He leaned over, groping behind him, then straightened back up and tossed a small gift-wrapped package to Gojyo. Gojyo caught it easily, then pinned the monk with a quizzical look.
"'Ch. Open the goddamn thing and be done with it," Sanzo rasped in an embarrassed voice.
"Let's see! Let's see!" Hakkai said enthusiastically.
"Matte," Gojyo drawled, reaching inside his jacket and pulling out a small packet. He placed it in front of Sanzo as well. The monk glared at him, his cheeks flushed. Hakkai looked from one to the other expectantly, oblivious to the undercurrents.
Gojyo shrugged. "Fine, I'll go first." He tore off the wrapping carelessly, making Hakkai wince. And then he stared at the object in his hands.
It was a keepsake box, the grains of the woodwork polished glossily, glinting in the light of the lamps. The lid opened with brass hinges, with a brass clasp. On the box's surface was inlaid a serene landscape: sunlight dappling through the canopy of tall trees… the trees marking out a path in the woods. His fingers caressed the surface softly, the lump in his throat making it impossible to speak.
Hakkai leaned over. "Sandalwood," he breathed admiringly. "That will last you a lifetime, Gojyo."
Gojyo lifted his gaze and thanked Sanzo with his eyes. "The box is really from me and the saru," Sanzo muttered, "something he picked up in Italy." And then Sanzo looked away. "Open the box, baka," he said gruffly.
Gojyo did so with reverent hands. He looked inside, and closed his eyes. And then he started to chuckle.
"Nani? Nani!" Hakkai demanded, leaning close. Gojyo quickly shut the box and waved his hand, signing to Hakkai to wait.
"I can't believe it…" Gojyo sputtered merrily. "Did we go to the same guy?"
At this, Sanzo's eyes widened, and he quickly opened the package that Gojyo had set in front of him, being more meticulous about the wrapping, to Hakkai's approval. He drew away the last sheets of crackling tissue paper, and then sat back in disbelief. "I'll be damned…"
Hakkai impatiently grabbed away Sanzo's hands framing the object on the table, and caught his breath in pure delight. It was a miniature oil portrait of Sanzo, complete with the tiny frame. The artist had brilliantly captured the subject's exquisite beauty and forceful, charismatic authority.
Hakkai turned to Gojyo, burning with curiosity, and this time Gojyo let Hakkai flip the lid open on his box. Hakkai gasped as he revealed the identical miniature painting of Gojyo, with his taunting, mocking smile intact, and the red eyes smoldering out from the canvas. Even the frame was the same.
"Serendipity, that's what it is," Hakkai declared. "Incredible…" he mumbled, lifting up the two portraits and laying them side by side. And then he turned on the kappa and the priest. "You must tell me the name of the artist!" he begged. "This is the perfect present to give Sakura…"
Gojyo sighed, reaching inside his jacket once more. "I was gonna give this to you for Christmas, but what's a few weeks…" he drawled, tossing Hakkai another tissue-wrapped packet.
"Gojyo…" Hakkai breathed, overwhelmed. "Arigatou gozaimasu…"
Gojyo waved away the thanks with an embarrassed, foolish grin, and then both Gojyo and Hakkai stared as Sanzo gasped and chuckled and wheezed.
"Sanzo?" Hakkai inquired worriedly.
Sanzo shook his head. "Serendipity indeed…" he drawled, with a meaningful look at the bakazaru.
"You mean…?" Gojyo stared disbelievingly.
"You think I should give him his Christmas present now, as well?" Sanzo raised golden eyebrows mockingly.
Gojyo collapsed in a fit of merriment, while Hakkai blinked. "Sonna!"
The next week, when Sanzo remembered his birthday gift and wanted another good look at it, it was gone. What he had instead was the portrait of Gojyo, and a small note on the back. He adjusted his spectacles, and read.
" 'We must embrace pain, and burn it as fuel for our journey.' – Kenji Miyazawa. You better take good care of yourself, hage bouzu. I expect to torment you for at least another 20-30 years. Many happy returns, Beautiful. Cheers – Gojyo."
"Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same." – Emily Bronte
A/N: Chapter 4 next week! Damn, but this is difficult to write… And I don't mean technicalities; I mean, I can't bear the thought of any of the ikkou fading away… This (Longing 3) is all already mapped out in my head, down to the last scene. But somehow my fingers refuse to obey my brain when I start to type… Somebody tell me that none of this is REAL! XD
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