Title: Silence Can Be Golden

LJ: http://kirathaune.livejournal.com/   
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Goku & Gat, with hints of 393
Rating/Warning: PG-13
Summary: Gat gives Goku a lesson in the power of observation, and Goku learns some surprising things about his companions - including Gat.
Disclaimers: This is just for fun, no profit made.
Notes: This is a birthday gift for my lovely friend moshesque. Her prompt was "weight lifting". I hope you enjoy it, bb! *glomps* 5,100 words.

"Heee-YAH!" With Nyoi-Bou whirling in a blur above his head, Goku launched himself at his adversary.

His opponent dodged the attack and aimed a vicious punch at his midsection.

Goku barely avoided the punch and attempted a roundhouse kick to the head. The maneuver had been precisely executed, and would have probably broken the neck of a normal man.

But Gat was not a normal man, and Goku's kick only reached as high as his chest. The big Indian grabbed Goku's foot and hurled him over his shoulder, making Goku land on the ground in a heap a good ten feet away. Laughing, the teen hopped up and dismissed his weapon. "Oh, man, that was AWESOME! You threw me really far that time. I gotta push off harder when I start that kick, cuz m'just not gettin' high enough ta reach your head." At a nod from Gat, Goku tried again and this time his foot reached the giant's head. Gat ducked the blow, and Goku landed harmlessly behind him. "Yeah! Got it!" Gat smiled as Goku punched the air, then plopped down on the soft grass beneath his feet. "This is a great place for our practice, Gat! Nobody around, an' plenty of room ta fight each other!"

They were in a small grassy field a couple of miles outside of town. The two groups had met unexpectedly in town and ended up staying in the same inn, despite Sanzo's loud complaints. Goku, however, had seized the opportunity to get in some sparring practice with Gat. So after a good night's rest (on Goku's part, anyway), the two friends hiked to find a good spot, shed their shirts and enjoyed a morning of intense exercise and competition.

Gat sat down next to Goku and handed him a canteen of water. Sitting up, Goku accepted it with thanks and drank deeply, then poured some water over his head to help cool off. Gat watched the water trickle over the taut, lean muscles of Goku's bare chest, mixing with the sweat that already glistened there.

Goku noticed Gat's eyes on him and self-consciously poked his chest. "Yeah, M' pretty puny, aren't I? I really, really wish I could have muscles like yours..." He eyed Gat's bulk wistfully. "You'd think with all the food I eat an' all the fightin' I do, I'd have bigger muscles. I wanna be built like you."

A corner of Gat's mouth turned up as a ridiculous vision of a bulked-up Goku flashed through his mind. "Goku, your body just isn't meant for such big muscles. And muscle size has nothing to do with true strength - you are at least as strong as I am." 

The teen brightened noticiably. "Ya think so? How can we find out?"

Gat looked around the clearing. There was a small grove of trees off to their left, and one of the trees had fallen over and lay on the ground in chunks of different sizes. He pointed over to the fallen tree. "How about we see what we can lift over there?" he suggested.

Goku grinned. "Cool! Let's do it!" He jumped up and ran over to the tree, Gat following close behind.

They spent the next half hour lifting almost every log that lay on the ground, taking turns raising each timber above their heads. Goku got a little too cocky with one Goku-sized chunk, flinging it up above his head so quickly that he lost his balance and fell over backwards with a thump, the log crashing down a mere foot away. Gat rolled his eyes and picked up the offending chunk with one hand, raising it slowly and deliberately above his head while Goku stuck out his tongue. The two remained evenly matched until Goku attempted to lift a section of trunk that was twice Gat's height, and close to the big Indian's girth. Try as he might, he was unable to keep it above his head, and as the timber fell to the ground Goku huffed in frustration and sat on top of the offending log, defeated. Gat tried the next size piece, with no success. "Well, Goku, I think we met our limit, and I believe we can call it a tie."

Goku shook his head. "S'not a tie - you were able ta lift this one, an' I couldn't!" He thumped the log beneath him with a fist.

Gat reached out and ruffled Goku's hair. "You lifted it, you just couldn't hold it above your head. That's an issue of balance, not strength - this log is four times your size." He was actually quite impressed that Goku had tied him - there was an amazing amount of strength packed into that small frame. And he was wearing his limiter - only the gods knew how strong the boy would be in his demon form. Gat handed Goku his shirt, and put his own back on, along with his vest. "How about we rest for awhile and you can eat your lunch?"

"Oh, yeah! M' starved!" Goku had brought along a basket of food provided by the inn's cook who, flattered by Goku's appetite, had made him a generous lunch. Since she had assumed Gat would eat as well she had packed enough for two, and "enough for two" worked out to "just enough" for Goku. He ran to retrieve his lunch and then sat down with Gat beneath the dappled shade of one of the larger trees. Gat munched on the apple Goku tossed to him and watched Goku attack his sizeable meal. Goku soon plowed his way through the basket's contents and then leaned back against the tree trunk, arms crossed above his head. "Hey, Gat?  How come you're so quiet all the time? I mean, we talk when we're together like this, but you never say anythin' when everybody's together. Almost never, anyways."

Gat smiled. "I enjoy talking with you, Goku. As for other times, let me share with you a proverb I was taught by our tribe's shaman when I was young: 'Listen, or your tongue will keep you deaf'."

Goku's brow scrunched as he tried to work through the saying. Gat could almost hear him thinking. Goku opened his mouth, closed it again and thought some more. Finally, the teen shrugged his shoulders and admitted, "M'sorry, I just don't get it. How can your tongue make ya deaf? An' how could your tongue get in your ear? That'd be gross."

Gat laughed. He laughed so hard that the branches shook above them, and a few leaves fluttered down and landed on their shoulders. If he had been capable of tears, they would definitely be running down his cheeks in mirth. Oh, Ancestors, this boy brings such joy to my soul. Thank you for allowing me to know him.

Goku grinned sheepishly.

It took a couple more minutes before Gat was able to look at Goku without laughing. Once he had recovered, he reclined on the grass next to Goku and picked up one of the fallen leaves and examined it as he spoke. "You're being too literal. It means that if you use your attention and energy in talking, you take away from your ability to really listen to what people are saying to you. It is the same for watching - if you are too busy talking, how can you see the small, quiet things that happen around you?"

Goku frowned. "But I do listen to people."

"You might listen to their words, but do you listen to how they say them? And what they don't say? Much can be learned from what a person doesn't say." Gat picked up another leaf. "Just like you can learn a great deal from just watching. People say so much more than the words that come out of their mouths."

Goku considered Gat's words. "Well, I think I pay attention to how they say stuff. I mean, with Sanzo I can tell whether he's really pissed off or is just grumpy by how he says things. An' Hakkai too - he's the scariest when he gets all super polite an' shit." He looked over at Gat. "But whaddya mean about people sayin' more than their words?"

Gat rolled onto his back and watched two squirrels chase each other along the branch above their heads. "If you observe people closely, you can sometimes see them do things they aren't aware that they do. For instance, I can almost always tell when Sanzo is about to hit you or Gojyo with his paper fan - he gets a twitch in his left eyelid. If I see that twitch, I know the fan is coming out."

Goku sat upright. "Really?! You can tell? That's super cool!"

The Indian nodded. "I see it because instead of talking, I watch. And I listen, too. And if you watch carefully enough, sometimes you can see patterns in what people do, like Sanzo's twitch."

Goku's hands flapped enthusiastically. "That is soooo cool. M' gonna hafta look for that!" He cocked his head at Gat. "D'ya think I can do it too? See cool stuff like Sanzo twitchin'?"

Gat nodded again. "You certainly can. You just have to make an effort to watch and listen more, and talk less... but you do like to talk, my young friend." 

Goku thumped his chest. "I can do it! I can be quieter. I wanna try an' see stuff like you do! M' gonna do it today - I'll watch an' listen, an' later on tonight I'll tell ya all the stuff I find out." Golden eyes gleamed with enthusiasm, and Goku hopped to his feet and held out a hand to Gat. "Let's go back now so I can start!"

Gat let Goku help him up, then they packed up the lunch basket and made their way across the grassy field back to the main road. When they reached the worn, rutted road Goku turned back for another look at the pile of timbers and pointed at the trunk that had defeated him. "I betcha if I tried harder I coulda lifted that." He grinned at Gat. "But it's really cool that we're almost the same!"

 "Well, Goku, I know one weight I definitely can lift with ease," Gat said as they started to walk back to town. Goku looked at him questioningly, then squeaked in surprise when Gat scooped him up with one hand and deposited him on a broad, suede-clad shoulder. 

Goku laughed. "Whoa! This is cool! M'up so high! I can see so much from up here!" 

Gat glanced up, smiling as Goku exclaimed about all the things he could see from Gat's shoulder. Gat had traveled so many years with only Hazel, and while the bishop was amiable enough, there was calculation in everything he did and said. Being around Goku reminded Gat that there was joy to be found in everything, and he loved Goku's impulsive eagerness. A joyful spirit of the Earth.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

So for the rest of that afternoon and evening a quieter Goku observed the other members of the Sanzo-ikkou, and Gat watched the watcher.
While Goku wasn't completely silent - Gat reflected that it would have aroused considerable suspicion if he had been - Goku was definitely using his eyes and ears more than his voice. It was going to be interesting to find out what Goku learned about his three companions. In Gat's opinion, both Gojyo and Sanzo were fairly easy tells, in spite of the effort the priest made in masking his expressions. Hakkai was a bit more difficult, but Gat thought Goku should be able to pick up on a few things.

Gat made his own tally of things he thought were easily discoverable, and he felt that if Goku noticed even half of them then it would be a lesson well learned.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

It was a clear, crisp night, and Gat sat on the grass with his back against the worn wood of the inn's stable. He heard Goku talking to the horses and giving them apples, and while he waited for his friend to join him Gat gazed at the stars and looked for his favorite constellations. A few minutes later he heard the stable door shut and then Goku plopped on the grass next to him.

"I gotta tell you, that was one of the coolest things I've ever done." Goku crossed his arms behind his head and reclined against the wall. "It was really hard, but I learned some neat things."

Gat was glad to hear Goku had enjoyed their experiment. "So, tell me."

Goku held up his index finger. "Gojyo. He does this thing with his eyes right before he steals my food! He watches my chopsticks while I eat, an' then his eyes drop down to my plate - an' that's when he grabs my stuff! An' he does it all the time!" Goku laughed and waggled his finger. "An' guess what! He wasn't able to steal a single thing off my plate at dinner! He was real pissed." Goku's toothy grin indicated absolutely no remorse.

"Anything else about Gojyo?"

The teen leaned over and whispered, "He likes Hakkai. I-wanna-have-sex-with-you likes."

Gat raised an eyebrow.

"No, really! An' I think Hakkai likes him back. They touch each other a lot - real little touches, but a lot, an' tonight Gojyo had the same dopey look on his face lookin' at Hakkai that he gets when he's gonna put the moves on a pretty girl." Goku plucked at some of the blades of grass beneath where he sat. "I feel kinda stupid that I never noticed it before."

"Well, I'm sure that when you were younger it never would have occured to you that they would have an interest in each other." Gat could remeber being similarly clueless when he was a young teenager. "So what did you learn about Hakkai, other than he returns Gojyo's affection?"

"Hakkai," Goku stated, "is one sneaky bastard. I've wondered for awhile now why Sanzo doesn't get sick with the way he eats - he either hardly eats anythin' or it's real weird crap that's not really good for you." He drew his legs up and rested his chin on his knees. "It's cuz Hakkai has been puttin' healthy stuff in Sanzo's food! I went with him to get supplies this afternoon, and this time I paid attention to what he bought. He got a lot of regular crap, but then he got stuff like vitamins and protein powder and vegetable paste, an' when we got back to the inn I saw him hide it! AND, I saw him put a packet of the protein stuff into Sanzo's ramen at lunchtime! Remember at dinner when he said he forgot somethin' in his room? Instead of goin' to his room he went back in the kitchen an' gave the cook some stuff to mix into Sanzo's dinner!" Goku laughed. "So all this time, Sanzo's been eatin' healthier an' he doesn't even know it!"

Gat was impressed. It had taken him several encounters with the Sanzo-ikkou to notice Hakkai's stealth nutrition agenda. "Very good. So, speaking of Sanzo...?"

Goku's laughter faltered, and in the moonlight Gat saw a blush stain the teen's cheeks.

"Well, I watch Sanzo a lot anyways," Goku admitted, "but it's mostly to look at how his hair looks so cool in the sunshine, or, uh," his gaze dropped to focus on his feet, "the way his muscles move under that black silk stuff he wears." He cleared his throat. "But I never really watched him do stuff before."

"And what does he do?" Gat knew the answer, but wanted to hear it from Goku.

"He watches me." Goku turned his head to rest his cheek on his knees. "He watches me a lot, an' sometimes it's not just lookin' at what I'm doin' but lookin' at me. An' remember tonight when those guys were playin' that music an' I got up an' danced with a bunch of people? Sanzo watched me the whole time, an' he had this funny look on his face... almost like he was hungry."

Ah, there it was - now he sees. Gat could tell that the teen didn't know how to interpret what he saw.  "He desires you."

Goku grabbed his sleeve, his eyes wide and suddenly filled with a fierce hope. "Really? You really think Sanzo feels that way about me?"

Gat smiled at his young friend and replied, "Yes, Goku, I think he does." This was an easy gift to give... the priest had been looking at Goku that way ever since Gat and Hazel had first met them. And everyone else saw it too, except Goku - until now.
Goku released his arm and leaned back against the wall. "I've liked him that way for a long time," he confided, "but he always acts like he still thinks of me like a kid. And m'not a kid anymore!" Goku then ruined the effect of his declaration by pouting.

"No, you're not," Gat agreed, in spite of the pout. "Treating you like a child might be Sanzo's way of avoiding admitting he wants you as a man. Tell me, what you saw tonight, did it look like he sees a child?"

The pout disappeared, and a small, secret smile appeared on Goku's face. "No... no, it didn't."

"There you go, then." Gat returned to his contemplation of the night sky, thinking that Sanzo's life was about to get very ...interesting. Goku was a very determined young man, and while the priest was just as determined in his denial Gat couldn't see him being able to resist Goku for long.

"Hey, Gat?" Goku's hand was on his arm again.

Gat turned his head to give Goku his attention, and was startled to find Goku's face right next to his as the teen knelt beside him. "What is it, Goku?"

Goku's expression was solemn, but there was a spark of curiosity in his eyes. "Well... I, uh, noticed that you were watchin' me too."

"I was watching you observe your companions," Gat pointed out, not quite sure where Goku was headed with the conversation.

"Well, yeah... but there were a coupla times you were watchin' me ...kinda like Sanzo did."

Gat quickly looked away. He had underestimated Goku - he had not expected that the boy would be able to see quite so clearly. Although he probably should have known better - Goku was also the Great Sage Equaling Heaven.

The hand on his arm gave a gentle squeeze. "Does that mean you like me like he does?"

"I..." Gat could feel Goku's eyes on him. As much as he wished he could brush it off and deny it, he owed his friend an honest answer. "I... yes. But not quite the same way." Gods, this is difficult. "Sanzo wants to be your lover, but I... can't."

"Cuz you're not really alive anymore, right?"

Gat nodded, keeping his eyes on his hands. He never dreamed he would be having this conversation with Goku.

"Gat?" Another squeeze, and this time Gat turned to look at Goku.
"I like you too," Goku whispered, and leaned forward to press his mouth against Gat's.

Goku's lips were warm and soft as they moved on his, tentatively at first but then with increasing eagerness. Gat's long-dead body remained unmoved, so he reached back into his memories to recall a living time, and imagined how it would feel as he was kissed by this warm, ardent earth spirit...

His heart that had been silent for years would beat faster, pounding in his chest and thundering in his ears. Air that was now only used for speaking would enter his lungs as his breathing quickened, and then would escape as a moan when Goku's tongue brushed against his lower lip. And heat would begin to curl low and tight in his groin, sending tingling warmth pulsing through his body to make him hard and aching with want.

...But those responses were for a living body, so Gat tucked them away with his memories and savored what he could. He parted his lips to let Goku explore his mouth, and enjoyed the hot, wet slide of Goku's tongue against his. Goku's chest was pressed against his arm, and when Gat felt the fast drumming of Goku's heart against his skin it echoed through his body - and for those few suspended moments he was alive again.

Goku lifted his mouth from Gat's, then grinned and touched Gat's lips with his fingers. "Well, your lips work just fine. That was real nice." 

Gat laughed and tugged a lock of spiky chestnut hair. "Good to know something still works." He was immensely glad that this intimate moment hadn't really changed anything between them.

Goku dove back in for another quick kiss, then sat back down on the grass next to Gat. A satisfied smirk played on his lips, and Gat was amused to realize that the look on Goku's face was almost the same expression he would have after a particularly good sparring session.

"This was really cool, what you showed me," Goku said as he toyed with the suede fringe of Gat's vest. "I can't do it all the time like you do, but it was neat ta see all this stuff I woulda missed otherwise. Like the things Gojyo does when he tries to steal food off my plate, an' how Hakkai messes with Sanzo's food." Gold eyes flicked over to the inn, focusing on a window on the second floor. "An' Sanzo... M' real glad I saw that. I feel better, knowin' that he likes me too." Goku smiled up at Gat. "And you, too. M'glad I saw you." Gat returned the smile with one of his own.

There was a companionable silence for a few moments, and then Goku leaned back against the wall and pointed a finger at the sky. "I saw you were lookin' at the stars when I came out here - what do your people call that bunch of stars?" He drew an imaginary circle around a constellation of seven stars. "Hakkai taught me that one is called Shēn Xił, an' it belongs in the White Tiger. I like it cuz it's easy to find in the sky."

Gat looked up where Goku was pointing. "Ah, that is the Canoe Race. See that line of three stars? That is the Big Canoe, and those small stars underneath them are the Little Canoe. They are racing to catch a salmon in the
Great River" - he gestured at the milky band splashed across the sky - "and the Little Canoe is winning."

Goku stared wide-eyed at the sky. "That's so cool! Do you have stories for the other stars too?" When Gat nodded, Goku scooted over and wound his arms around the Indian's waist, resting his head on Gat's chest. "Tell me more!" 

Gat drew him close. He rested one hand on Goku's back while he gestured at the heavens with the other, enjoying the steady beat of the heart beneath his hand and the warmth that radiated from the body pressed against his. "That one over there is called the Grizzly Bear..."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Gat was outside the inn, filling up their canteens in preparation to depart when Sanzo walked up to him, the morning's newspaper in one hand and a cigarette in the other. "So, what did you say to the monkey yesterday morning?"

Ah. The priest was a watcher himself, after all. "Goku asked me why I don't talk much, so I shared a lesson in listening and watching that my shaman taught me many years ago. He wanted to try it for himself."

"Figures. Monkey see, monkey do." Sanzo lit his cigarette and inhaled deeply, then blew a puff of smoke off to the side. "... and he practically hero-worships you." The priest's eyes narrowed beneath blond bangs. "I can't imagine that your demon-hunting master approves of you spending so much time with a 'heathen monster'."

"Goku is a delight. I consider it a great, great honor that he names me as a friend." Gat reached for the next canteen and began filling it. "I have never known someone so full of life, and who gives so much love to everyone around him." A corner of his mouth turned up in a wry grin. "Except for Hazel. I don't think he cares for Hazel very much."

Sanzo snorted. "None of us care for Hazel very much."

"No, I guess not." Gat shut off the spigot and turned to face the priest while he fastened the cap back on the canteen. "Sanzo... whatever Hazel's thoughts are concerning the boy, please know that I will not let any harm come to him. I have a great ...affection for Goku."

"'Affection'," Sanzo spat the word. "Bullshit. It's more than that."

Gat drew himself to full height and looked down at the now hostile priest. "I could say the same about you."

"You don't know what the fuck you're talking about." 

Gat eyed Sanzo steadily and continued, "And if I were a living man, I might consider you a rival."

Suddenly something hot and dangerous blazed in the young priest's eyes. Oh, yes... Sanzo had very strong feelings for his young companion, and Gat was glad he wasn't truly a rival for Goku's affection - Sanzo was deadly enough on a good day. Almost as if he sensed Gat was seeing too much, Sanzo's expression became shuttered and neutral, and he took a long, too-casual drag on his cigarette. "But you're not, are you?" The priest blew out a cloud of smoke, aiming it at Gat. "A living man."

No, I'm not," Gat agreed affably. "And besides, the boy gave his heart to you a long time ago. I am content to have his friendship." And his kisses.

"Hmmpf." Sanzo took a final drag and crushed the spent cigarette under his boot heel, and the tension radiating from him began to dissipate. "Well, at least the monkey has learned the value of shutting the fuck up once in a while. The kappa hasn't been able to steal any of his food since yesterday."

"Gat!" Goku came running out of the inn's side door and launched himself at Gat, wrapping his arms around the Indian's waist in a crushing hug. "You guys are leavin'?" He tilted his head back and grinned. "I wish we could spar some more - I had a lot of fun yesterday!"

Gat smiled and ruffled Goku's hair, keenly aware of the violet gaze watching his every move. "It's time for us to go, my young friend, but I'm sure our paths will cross again. Until then, may the Great Spirit guard your path and keep you safe." He glanced over at Sanzo, and seeing the tell-tale twitch of a left eyelid, removed his hand just in time. 

WHACK! The paper fan landed on top of Goku's head. "Stop making an idiot of yourself, monkey," Sanzo hissed. Goku winced at the blow, but the grin stayed on his face as he released Gat from the hug. His smile got wider when Sanzo grabbed the back of Goku's shirt and yanked the teen back against him. Goku winked at Gat, clearly pleased by the display of possessiveness from the priest.

Fighting to keep a straight face, Gat picked up the remaining canteens and inclined his head toward Sanzo. "Sanzo, I wish you good journey." 

Sanzo nodded curtly. "The same to you." His hand moved from Goku's collar to his shoulder and stayed there. 

"Bye, Gat," Goku said. "An' Gat? Thanks." Their eyes met, and Goku smiled warmly while another, different farewell passed silently between them.

"Come on, monkey. I'm sure breakfast is ready." Sanzo turned on his heel and started walking towards the side entrance, and with a final wave Goku followed him. As Gat watched the retreating pair, he saw Goku reach for Sanzo's hand and noted with satisfaction that the priest didn't pull away, but allowed Goku's fingers to twine with his as the teen tugged him along through the door.

A smile spread acrosss Gat's face. Sanzo didn't stand a chance.

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