Title: Anniversary

Author: Lykotheia

Pairings: 53, slight HakkaixGoujun

Rating: NC-17

Summary: Post-journey, Gojyo remembers a special day.

Disclaimer: These characters are not mine, but the property of Kazuya Minekura.

Warnings: Uhm, sex? Also, as Gojyo is involved, language.

 

Anniversary

 

The first thing I noticed was the flowers. That damn, sentimental idiot. He would. They were wildflowers, daisies and violets, mostly, and things he could pick around the monastery of Chang'an: plants that grew on the hills in abundance, but took a great effort to actually untangle from uncultivated grass. They were neatly arranged in a small glass vase; where he obtained that, I had no clue.

Sunlight was floating lightly on the breeze from an opened window; the gauzy curtains undulated gracefully, bucking in response to a particular gust. My room faced the East—after six years of searching for it, I'd finally had enough of the West—and in the distance a blinding white orb burst from behind the hills, setting the land on fire as it rose.

            Sliding out of bed, I found myself still clothed in a thin cotton night robe, and I remembered that Gojyo hadn't spent the night, and today was our anniversary.

            That was a tradition he started—I still don't have much use for attaching such importance to days of the week. What we had four years ago wasn't at all like what we have now, and what's the point of marking the passage of each year when we would be together forever? But he took some enjoyment from it, the same way he used to delight in goading me daily during our Journey, and I'll admit—though not to him—it…isn't all that terrible.

            Sometimes he overdoes it. The first year I had been too shocked to do much other than curse him quietly when he woke me with flowers and candy from the nearby towns, and even that had drawn to a halt when he brought out cinnamon-scented oil and dimmed the lamps. That was also when he started what he considers "tradition," and what I regularly abuse him for: kissing me in front of all the others. The harisen did nothing to dissuade him, and the Smith & Wesson had become an empty threat between us, so I had no real recourse. Dragging him aside and away from a murmuring cloud of dark robes, I demanded an explanation, smacking him emphatically with the harisen in impatience.

            "Sanzo! Hey stop it will ya? I'm tryin' to tell you something!"

            "Spit it out."

            "I just think…" and here he paused, turning claret eyes on me until I lowered the fan to my side, "You never let me kiss ya in front of the others, or touch you, unless we're behind locked doors."

            "Why the hell do you think?"

            "Come on. You think they don't all know why I'm here? It's not for their lively conversation."

            "That doesn't mean you're--"

            He cut me off, "I want at least one day of the year where I can show the world how I feel about you." His voice had softened, but loss none of its weight. "It's our anniversary."

            "Anniversary of what?" I had asked very same question the first year too, but mellowed somewhat since then. Or so Gojyo says. "We met in mid-autumn."

            He looked touched that I remembered, and my shoulders rolled in a shrug. "It was when that whole bloody trip started."

            "Yeah, I know when we met, Sanzo-sama," he teased, leaning closer so that his hair dusted my cheek. "But this is the first year anniversary of when we first made love."

            I colored in response, wondering that he'd remember that. It had been early spring, I only remember because there was dew everywhere on the ground, and in the early morning it had been cold, wind whipping over us, though we'd hardly noticed it until long after. And there had been wild violets everywhere, perfuming the air with an almost dizzying intensity. I assumed that was why Gojyo always brought me violets on that day.

            And thus his "tradition" had continued for three years running, and I had little doubt that he'd try to snag me in an illicit embrace sometime that day, too, with as large an audience as he could manage.

The other monks frown on his overt displays of affection, though perhaps less now than they did. I'd traded one demon for another, seeing Goku off after our mission's end, and bringing Gojyo back with me; at least this one, I suppose, doesn't steal from the garden as often.

            "Tch." The corners of my lips twitched—that was becoming, to my annoyance, a more frequent occurrence, and I wandered to the small adjoining bath before dressing and placing the sutras over my shoulders. I was guardian of two, now; my master's and Ukoku's both, though I hadn't since found occasion to call upon either. Just as the thought stole the smile from my face, the door swung open and Gojyo strode in, fully dressed and wearing the tattered boots he still refused to give up, even when indoors.

            "Happy fourth anniversary." He was grinning ear to ear, maybe because I hadn't thrown the flowers at him yet.

            He didn't expect me to answer him.

            "You know this makes it ten years since we've known each other. It hardly feels like a decade."

            "More like a century," I scoffed, drawing the tie of my robes together over denim and leather. I was thirty-three. That's not old. Despite Gojyo's jokes about how his youkai blood would keep him younger, longer, I didn't show any more signs of age than he did. My hair was still a vibrant gold, and my body still endured anything thrown at it, though I suppose some of the hardened muscle from our traveling days had vanished. I had little need for it, as I didn't see many rogue youkai around Chang'an. Gojyo had fought a couple, still reeling from their defeat, but most, freed from the effects of the Minus Wave, lived civil lives. Humans were another story entirely.

            Bending to pluck socks from a lower drawer, I felt his rough hands through my robes, clutching at my backside. I could hear his grin, floating between us like a laugh.

            "So when do you plan on growing an ass?"

            "When you grow a brain."

            "Fair enough," Gojyo chuckled this time, turning me around so that his hands rested atop my shoulders, thumbs rubbing the edges. He smiled. "I love you."

            My insides flinched, as they always had, at the sound of those words. I'd learned to control my exterior, fortunately, long ago. Brushing him off with a "humph," I reminded him caustically that he had all day to spout that nonsense, and had better pace himself. He just laughed.

            "So you gonna let me take you out to dinner this year, yeah?"

            "Since when have I had to let you do anything?" I rolled my eyes, essentially giving him permission to do as he liked.

            "Good, 'cause I made reservations like a month ago. I don't think they'll be happy if I cancel. Be ready around six?"

            "Fine."

 

            The early portion of the day passed as it usually did; Gojyo went into town, giving me my space, and I lead morning prayers after breakfast, and then faced an intimidating mountain of paperwork, battling the papyrus towers for two hours before ceasing out of habit an hour before noon to walk through the courtyard.

            It clears my head, and I'd made a routine of it ever since my return. Two hours of paperwork earned me a half hour break, besides. Some days I wondered if demon-hunting had been preferable. At least it wasn't boring.

            But if I am honest with myself—and I'm honest enough to know I rarely am—I acknowledge that boring can be a good thing. It's an old Chinese proverb that the greatest curse one can bestow upon another is the wish that his life is forever exciting and eventful. Boring was safe, and custom was reassuring. I didn't mind it, and frequent visits from Hakkai and Goku broke up the monotony of the day; Gojyo took care of the nights.

            When the other two would come, it was always as if we were back on the road again. The four of us would devolve into shouting, bitching, and impatient creatures, cursing one another for making vulgar jokes or hogging the food. Needless to say, I enjoyed it. That had, after so long, become a routine of sorts in itself. But there were changes.

            We lived apart, even if we still needed one another as a crutch now and again. No one else could fill the void because no one else had been there, seen the same things and undergone the same trials. Goku was constantly on the move, traveling throughout the world in his eternal youth, aged five hundred plus, and still getting carded in bars. He got along well with strangers, and, to my knowledge, had a small group of friends to fall back on.

            Hakkai never remarried, though I am fairly certain—and Gojyo would bet his life on it—that he had taken a lover. We had both met the suspect, a fair-haired man of about my height, but one with infinite patience and infrequent smiles. His name was Goujun. Although he was introduced as an acquaintance, they stood a little too close together, touched a little too often, for such a clean, sterile line like friendship to have been drawn between them. I was glad to see it because it brought him back, slowly, and of course not completely, but he was starting to thrive again.

            The night Hakkai first brought him to meet us, we invited him to share in a card game while Goku warned him that Gojyo cheated and I had a temper, and Hakkai never lost. Gojyo had tugged out his dog-eared set and vehemently denied the accusation, dealing carefully as if to prove it.

They played well together, and were the only two victors of the evening. It was a good thing we were playing for plastic chips and cigarettes, though I lost half a box of Marlboros to that platinum-haired cardsharp.

            Later that evening when we had gone to bed, Gojyo mused aloud on the situation, tangled in the sheets beside me and smoking like a chimney. "I'm kinda glad, y'know. That he's got someone."

            "Hn." A sound of agreement, or indifference.

            "I was always afraid he'd lose it, find someone who looked enough like Kanan…"

            At this I raised my eyebrows, tilting my face in his direction. "Gonou's dead, Gojyo." I said flatly, ending that train of thought.

            "You're right." He kissed my face, and I wrinkled my nose, swatting at him. "Wonder who's on top."

            "Do you think this way about all of your friends?"

            "I can't help but be curious. Come on—weren't you wondering?" An elbow nipped at my side.

            "About his preferred sexual position? No." I glared, giving him my best no-nonsense expression, and he brushed it off with an airy sigh, flopping back into the futon.

            "Well I would put money on Hakkai. Can you see him not in control of the situation? Even if he still wears his limiters, he's strong. He could handle Goujun."

            "Talk about something else," I commanded, receiving a crooked grin in response.

            "Why? This make you uncomfortable Sanzo Houshi-sama?" His hands slid down the centre of my chest, and failed to stop above the navel, plunging beneath the sheets to stroke my thighs. "Still jittery about sex?" He whispered conspiratorially, holding back laughter. Soon he was pressing his mouth to my throat and working his hand against me until all attempts at conversation ceased and he left me as breathless and dizzy as always, limp and malleable in his arms for a good ten minutes before I regained some sense of composure.

 

            That memory floated by, buffeted away by a breeze that shook the heavy bronze chimes near the lotus pond, startling me out of a trance. I had come to sit atop the narrow stone bench, backless and curved at the base, that bordered the dewpond. Wide lotus blossoms stared up at me unblinkingly; a dragonfly alighted on a wide lily pad. Unclenching my fist from cream-colored silk, I flexed the leather streaked muscles, feeling the silver ring at the end of my gloves push into the underside my finger.

            As I wondered what ridiculous embarrassment he planned for that evening, what overly sentimental present he would use to rattle my rigid exterior, I realized that I had never once given him a gift.

            He'd never asked, or commented upon it. And I'd never asked for anything except that he not acknowledge the day he seemed so bent on celebrating. My conscience—a relatively recent development—made a meal of my insides, gnawing at the soft place in my lower chest until I resolved to sneak into town some time before six and appease it with a gift for Gojyo.

            I ate lunch in silence with the others, listening to the tower bells toll and vibrate in the room, making the soup in each clay bowl ripple and lap against the sides. Very few spoke, and none to me. Perhaps they knew, by now, the nature of Gojyo's plans. Maybe they knew mine. It didn't particularly faze me. Noon prayers were spoken, meditation completed, and a little before two I set out, leaving a smattering of paperwork across the desk in my office.

            The nearest town from Chang'an is about a forty minute walk from the monastery, so I knew I had about an hour to find something and get out if I wanted time to finish the rest of my paper work. I was no fan of towns, even the small ones. I'd seen enough to know I didn't care for them—the constant clusters of sweating, swearing, stinking citizens repelled me, and the constant scurry of animals tugging carts across cobblestone streets and vendors screeching their wares into smoky air was enough to drive me off permanently, had there not been necessary reasons for my visits. In the winter, often times I would travel to buy blankets or extra jars for canning, sometimes bedding and always cigarettes and the occasional beer. Usually Gojyo, who frequented the local cities, brought those back for me. 

            That day the open air was slightly chilly; it had been a cold winter, and the ground was slow to thaw. Once I reached one of the town's central streets, the buildings buffeted the winds and locked in the warmth of hearths and forges and simple movement, making my robes sufficient protection.

            Almost everyone recognized my position, if not me. They knew I was a Sanzo—the Sanzo, now, and humans and demons alike offered generous prices on their wares. I wasn't sure what I was looking for, and stepped into a small general store to escape the noise of the streets. The owner was a mustached man in an apron, sorting through various food products atop a counter.

            "Sanzo-sama." He inclined his head politely; I nodded in return.

            "Is there anything I can help you find?"

            I shook my head and thanked him, searching the store without knowing what it was I sought. There wasn't really that much in the way of material goods that Gojyo needed to be happy, outside of cigarettes and alcohol. Actually, Hakkai or Goku would have been easier to shop for: a book or candy. Very simple.

            I glanced over shelves of preserves and canned vegetables, brushed past tables of sweets that might have detained Goku for a half hour, and didn't bother with the small shelf of books available. I knew Gojyo's literacy was no more developed than Goku's, and even if it were, he wasn't the sort to sit still long enough to read a book.

            The shop smelled of food, leather, and faintly of sawdust. Despite the dim lighting, everything stood out against the dark wood of the shelving. Glancing through the last relevant aisle—everything else was women's products—I dusted my hand atop a neatly packaged set of cards. The backs were decorated with a range of mythological creatures, and to my amusement, on the back of the jacks were varying sketches of the kappa.

            Walking back through the town, the small packet tucked into a pocket of my sleeve, wrapped in the receipt, I hoped Gojyo wouldn't read too much into the gesture. It was just a pack of cards, after all.

 

            When I returned, I barely had time to finish the remains of paperwork and discard my robes in favor of jeans and a button-down cotton shirt before a rhythmic tapping at the door stopped me. I slid the pack of cards into the pocket of my coat.

            "Sanzo-sama," Gojyo was grinning again, "You almost done powdering your--"

            I jerked the door open, staring at him flatly, and he stepped back.

            "You look good."

            "I look the same as when you left, idiot."

            "Like I said, you look good." He smiled again, widely, and nipped my cheek in a kiss. "Ready to go?"

            Nodding, I followed him down the length of the portico, which was strangely uninhabited, and we turned into the courtyard to take the side exit out, the same one I had used hours ago. The small gardens were being nudged to life by some of the initiates, and older monks supervised them from benches where they copied scripture or trimmed back dead branches from nearby foliage.

            I sensed the sudden mischievous turn of Gojyo's energy before I caught the roguish gleam in his eye. Quickly he drew me to the stone arch near the wall, a secret smile on his face, and shortly the chilled granite was pressing smoothly into my back.

            "I could ravish you right here, you know," he breathed, lips ghosting across my jaw line.

            "I'd shoot you," came the predicted, hissed response. I felt him smile, and gently he drew me from the wall, one arm about my waist, the other cupping my cheek reverently. I could feel the others looking; the hackles on my neck were rising with their stares; some of the older monks clucked their disapproval or snorted in disgust; others appeared merely intrigued at the strange man their gods had chosen to lead them. And why he would let a kappa paw at him. I myself was a bit mystified by that.

            "Sanzo…" Leaning close, his wide lower lip nudged mine, and suddenly he was kissing me, longingly, far too passionately for public, though to his credit he kept his hands above the waistline.

            When he finally drew back, with no small amount of rough nudging on my part, his cheeks were tinged beneath their bronze surfaces with a rosy hue. I was sure my own were red. "Happy anniversary," he murmured in a throaty tone, one hand reaching for mine and giving it a gentle squeeze. I recoiled, but he knew me well enough not to be offended.

            "Ready for that dinner?"

            "Was that the appetizer?" I remarked cynically, following him towards the main gate.

            "Yeah, wait until you see the dessert."

            I noticed an initiate's cheeks darken as he grasped the innuendo, glancing between the both of us with wide eyes beneath heavy brows, and then, with a glare from me, turned back to his work.

 

            He took me to a restaurant in a different town than the one I regularly stopped in, located about twenty minutes further from Chang'an. It was Liu-pen, and larger than the other, cleaner too. As it turned out, that day he had visited Hakkai and Goujun, and updated me on their progress.

            "I swear Hakkai's in love with the guy."

            "How can you tell?" I couldn't imagine Hakkai being anything but polite and removed towards anyone.

            "It's the way they are together, leaning close, brushing arms. Hakkai even let him kiss him, right in front of me."

            That caught my attention. Hakkai was more reserved physically than I had been. At least I hit people. Gojyo smiled at my expression, "yeah, that was sort of the look I had on my face too. But he obviously trusts him, and there's something between them…" He shrugged, "Whatever it is he's found, I'm glad he's happy with it."

            I made a small sound of accord.

            "You ever gonna kiss me in public?" He wheedled after a moment's pause, and I rolled my eyes back in response.

            "Violet-eyes…I guess I'll just…" Leaning forward, he snatched my hand in his, pressing a soft kiss to the back of it. "Take what I can get," he finished in a breath, a roguish grin spreading over his face, emphasizing the handsome line of his jaw and making my heart thud a little faster. I'd lost control of that muscle a long time ago, and the damage was irreversible.

            "Would you stop acting like a moron in public?"

            "Aw Sanzo, don't be mad. I planned a special evening for us. You'll like the 'dessert' better, I promise."

            He still had his hand atop mine when the waiter came with wine he had ordered, and I jerked my wrist back so quickly it took Gojyo a moment to realize it was no longer beneath him and the table cloth. The server blinked between us, quirked his eyebrows, and said nothing other than the house specials for the night. We placed our orders and he vanished, casting an over-the-shoulder glance back at us on his way to the kitchen.

            I must have had "what the hell is his problem" written across my face, because Gojyo answered before I could raise the wine glass to my lips.

            "Your chakra," he explained, dusting his fingertips across my forehead to brush strands of hair across it in a curtain of gold. "Guess he's not too used to seeing monks on dates. Or drinking."

            "Tch." I had the backing of the Merciful Goddess Hirself. I wasn't about to lose my job.

            Reclining a bit in the seat, he tossed back half of the glass in a single swallow, "you remember the first night I told you I loved you?"

            "Yes." I was grateful for our relative isolation in the restaurant, and the gentle tone Gojyo was using. Although I made it a habit not to care what people thought of me when I smoke, drank, swore, or shot at people, a part of me was still embarrassed at the idea of a relationship. It wasn't that it was with a male, or with Gojyo in particular; if it were just sex, there would be no need for the constant blushing and aggravation because it wouldn't indicate attachment. But throwing words like "love" around was serious, and after over fifteen years of denying its very existence, it was difficult for me to turn around and accept it.

            "You know, I'd known I'd liked you, even cared about you for months before that, but I didn't know I loved you until I came out and said it." There was a pause, and he continued. "The second I said it, I knew it was true, and if I had realized it any sooner, I would've been too afraid to tell you." He smiled again, "Rightly so, I guess."

            I remembered clearly what had followed; it stung him to dredge up those memories.

            "I've been rejected by people before, and I guess I never anticipated how much it would hurt when it was from someone I really loved. To tell you the truth, I felt lost, knowing I'd lose you the second the mission was over, and probably never even see you again."

            "But that's not what happened," I corrected, not wishing to turn down this path again. Gojyo was bent on reliving the most excruciating moments of his life. I knew he often withdrew the scarring recollections of his mother's abuse and his brother's sacrifice, and, unlike my dreams, pushed aside the moment I awoke, these were brought out of the dark closet of his memory by choice. As if he thought seeing them over and over would make the hurt less. I'd seen my own enough to know that wouldn't happen.

            "You never have told me, you know, what made you change your mind."

            I had been wounded in battle, almost a month after Gojyo's declaration and my violent refusal, and the kappa had stuck by my side the entire time he thought I was unconscious. I wasn't, but temporarily paralyzed by a toxin in the fangs of the demon that bit me. I heard every word and every movement within the room. At first Gojyo had been quiet, save for a few remarks along the lines of "get well fast, priest." Hours passed and I, with nothing to do but lie immobile and listen, heard Gojyo as he began to explain, believing his listener to be out cold, how sorry he was for tearing down whatever semblance of a structure of friendship we had managed to form over the years.

            "Four years I've known you, compared to the twenty-six I've known myself, and I still can't figure out how you got me." There was the sound of an ironic smile, and then the lightest of touches to my shoulder, quickly removed. "I love you and it's killing me that you can't. That what I feel disgusts you so much. But I guess I can't blame you, really." Fabric rumpled, a shrug.

            "I wouldn't love me either. You're a priest, and I'm a curse; it's like pitching yourself into a puddle. Who would willingly dirty themselves?" And then there was silence, stretching between us for what seemed like eons until Gojyo spoke again.

            "But I just want you to know, if there's a part of me that's not dirty, that's the part that loves you most. It has to be—I can't imagine anything that feels like this coming from anyplace else."

 The moment I regained control of his body and begun to stir, Gojyo had called Hakkai in. It had felt like a dream then, but now, in my memory, it has the harsh bite of reality.

            Thinking he might put me ill at ease while he recuperated, Gojyo had left posthaste, letting Hakkai tend to me and promising to come back if I required watching. I could feel his eyes on me, always.

 

            "What you said," I murmured quietly in reply, fingertips sliding from the stem of the crystal glass, leaving it atop the thin tablecloth. "about loving me from the part of you that wasn't dirty."

            Gojyo nearly choked, garnet eyes snapping open wide in his head. "What?"

            "I figured," I said with a generic wave of my hand, "that if you were stupid enough to think everything was so black and white, I might as well stick around and educate you."

            The kappa still stared. "You heard that?"

            "I heard everything. You wouldn't shut up. Idiot." I smiled very faintly, and he caught it, leaning forward to cup my hand between his own.

            "I never knew you heard."

            "I hear a lot that you don't say, Gojyo."

 

            We walked along the streets, and although it was nighttime, they weren't silent. People opened and shut their front doors, the doors of their business, and crates were loaded and unpacked, squeaky wheels and nickering horses passed alongside us. I had my hands stuffed in my pockets against the chill in the air, and Gojyo slung his arm about my shoulders, walking close.

            "Moonlight looks good on you, ya know," He commented off-handedly, squeezing my shoulder with a smile. "Lights up your hair. Your skin too," he added almost clumsily, as if he realized as he said it what it might imply. "You look like you're glowing," he amended more smoothly, brushing his lips against my temple.

            "I rented a hotel…"

            I glanced up at him with arched eyebrows and he had the grace to blush, shaking his head. "Not for that. I mean—not just for that. It's more of an inn…yeah, I know, we've had our fair share of those." Grinning, he steered me down a different street that became wider as it wound away from the city. "It's a special kind. They have these little cottages out near the woods, real private. I thought it would be nice—and a helluva lot quieter than any place in the city. I just wanted to take you someplace different, you know…so you don't have to worry about muffling everything to appease the baldies," Gojyo joked. "Besides," he added more truthfully, "you seem to open up more to me when you let your guard down a little. I really like it, hearing how you feel. About me."

            I heaved an internal sigh and promised myself to at least make an attempt that night.

            When did I get so soft?

 

            The cabin was small, three rooms, but spacious enough for two people. Maple wood glowed in the dim light, and a heavy mantle hung over the stone fireplace, unadorned save for a small ticking clock. The floor creaked contentedly beneath our feet as we walked from the small central room to the bedroom. From there, a door led out into the forested back yard of sorts. Despite the darkness, I could see the sharp green of dew-slicked grass and the moonlight glinting off of it. Within the denser copse there were harsh lines of black and brown, trunks of mammoth trees gnarled with age. Their twists and angles swallowed the moonlight. But, tucked amongst almost every surface were tiny dots of violet; the small blossoms poked their heads up through heavy grass as the breeze dusted them of dew.

            "Made me think of you. You know." I felt him shrug behind me, and a sudden hand on my shoulder. "Our first time."

            That brought a flush to my face, and I shooed him back a few steps, shrugging out of my jacket. "Sentimental."

            "Yeah." He grinned bashfully as if he were proud of it, sitting back on the edge of the bed, atop a quilt, and then nudged my calf with his shoe. "You like it?"

            The hesitance on his face combined with a genuine desire to please, so different from the desire to be pleased that everyone else saw, caught me off guard. I bit back a growl, a defense against unfamiliar emotion, and nodded.

            Emboldened, the redhead rose to wrap an arm about my waist, kissing the length of my nape as he nudged the top buttons of my shirt open with a free hand. "So I thought...maybe we could go outside…"

            "It's cold out," I said bluntly, tilting my head aside to give him access to the curve of my throat.

            "I'll keep you warm," Gojyo promised, hands skimming up my chest and down again, over the fronts of my thighs and, teasingly, across their junction. "Promise," he breathed, lips hot against my ear.

            "Alright," I choked out, following him through the sliding door to the damp lawn before us; already I shuddered at the chill in the air, thinking as I looked about that somehow, out here in the darkness, I could see more clearly than I had been able to in the light of the city.

            Gojyo drew his shirt off, bronze skin flashing in contrast with the silvery light puddling at out feet. He drew me close, mouth pressing softly over mine in languid, velvet strokes. Out of instinct and habit, I felt for his hair, threading my fingers through it and moaning my appreciation against his tongue. It was hard to believe that this sturdy, scalding embodiment of protection and care and a thousand emotions I'll never acknowledge…wanted me. It was only with him that I ever felt fragile, delicate. But not weak, more as a thing to be treated kindly, caressed rather than touched. I lost sense of myself in his kiss, drowning in red heat and wine-dark eyes, letting him have his way because I felt safe enough to relinquish control, even if it was only for a few brief moments.

            We untangled one another's clothing with the practiced art of lovers, hardly parting from one another to do so. His hands, strong, callused entities capable of so much on their own slid through my hair with the greatest of reverence, tracing the hard line of my jaw and then further, over each shoulder and clavicle. His lips followed.

            Endurance wearing thin, I drew him close with a sharp gasp, pressing my heat to the hard muscle of his thigh, reminding him that he wasn't the only one who wanted this. What you do to me…

            I came undone in his hands, and that it didn't make me feel weak, or disgusted, told me better than anything that I loved him. He must have known.

            "Sanzo…" My name reverberated against the night air, and suddenly we were locked in a heated embrace, touching and stroking and pulling; my nails cut his shoulders, his teeth scratched mine, and a moan trembled over the ivory surface. 

            I could feel his heart thudding against my chest; the sweat beginning to bead on the small of his back slicked my palm. He was as lost to himself as I was, perhaps more so. Gojyo was always so intent on giving himself completely; he managed it in a way I never could. My thanks was understood in my acquiescence, lying back on the grass with a hard shiver, welcoming the bronze shield of his body over mine with an accompanying shudder. This was the only time I would ever allow him to protect me.

            We lay together, mouthing each other possessively until a whimper slit the air, and Gojyo drew back in retreat, letting the cold wash over my front until he returned, a small container in his left hand. He bit the cap off, tossing me a shy smile, and I looked up at the series of asterisms overhead, my breath catching each time.

            We were joined at once; I could feel him close, sheathed in me and throbbing with a fire I could never have. He moved, pressing and pushing and pulsing until I gave into him completely with a struggle for breath, opening under his touch like a flower and yielding to his pleasure.

            He wasn't gentle; neither of us could tolerate that; we were of impatient natures. His body found a rhythm against mine, nudging the place that he knew drove me wild, further away from myself, so that all I could sense were his presence and the thick scent of violets, crumpled beneath us. The tension between us, connecting us, thickened. Then it broke.

            I cried out, making myself vulnerable in a way no one had, or will ever, hear except him. Blazing heat remained when he broke our link, falling to my side and panting my name. Lately, it was taking me longer and longer to come back to myself afterwards. I breathed.

            "Sanzo…" I let him kiss me for a time, responding between gasps, and then pushed up with a shiver. It was suddenly freezing.

            "Mngh." I swatted at his hands, and he realized the crack in my shield had been repaired, and I was no longer in need of his. "It's cold." I reached for my shirt, and a tanned hand stalled my wrist. I remembered that I hadn't brought another change of clothes, and collected them silently before following Gojyo back inside.

            "Shower?"

            "Yeah."

            He followed me in and pinned me to the tiled wall, nudging my thighs apart with his own. This time was different, rough and fast, the way we both need it sometimes, full of hissing and cursing and sharp, hot bites, the way sex is supposed to be. Making love in itself was a rarity, and dangerous besides. It didn't serve to make oneself vulnerable so often, and Gojyo knew well enough that I wouldn't do it regularly, and never for anyone else.

            "Fuck." The kappa groaned, nipping the backs of my shoulders one last time before disentangling his limbs from mine. "You give 'tight-assed monk' a whole new meaning."

            I snorted in derision and snatched the soap out from under his hand, finishing under the hot spray before giving him a chance.

            "I'd complain if I wasn't still so damn stunned," Gojyo purred, draping himself over me until I managed to nudge him off and step out of the shower. I heard him finish as I dried and reached for my jeans; once again, his hand stalled mine.

            "Nuh uh. C'mon." Sopping, he stepped out, wringing his hair over the rug before leading me into the hall. "You're not sleepin' in those."

            "It's fucking cold out you moron."

            "I'll keep you warm," he promised once again, drawing me close under the bed sheets and kissing me with fervor, his hands slipping up and down the length of my sides, fingering the protruding bones at my hips, tracing the lines of my lower ribs, and every scar that crisscrossed them.

            "Oh, I almost forgot." Sitting up, he turned to the pile of his clothing on the floor, rummaging through the pocket of his pants so that the sheet slid down, revealing his lower back and a thin white scar that ran almost straight down the centre.

            "I got you somethin'." For a moment I thought he was going for the lubricant again and rolled my eyes.

            "I'm exhausted you pervert."

            "Not that." Smiling, he held out a small box, nudging it into my hand. "Open it?" I was too used to his sentimentality by now to argue.

            I flipped the lid with my thumb, surprised to see a narrow ring sitting atop the thin layer of velvet. It was sterling and consisted of two tiny bands woven around one another; the dim lighting of the room glinted off of the polished surface. It stung my hand with the cold.

            "I know it's not your thing," Gojyo charged forward with his monologue, "but it's not for your ring finger; it's to fit your middle finger. I figured you could wear it under the metal ring of your leathers." He shrugged, "No one but you and I would ever have to know it's there."

            His consideration sapped my sardonic retort of its strength, and I hesitantly slid the band about my finger, watching him lift my hand happily and press affectionate lips to the icy metal. It warmed instantly under his touch, and I gave in, shrugging. "Do what you like."

            Gojyo beamed.

            "Oh." And, bending over with as much nonchalant grace as I could muster at this point in the evening, I slid the pack of cards from my coat pocket, tossing it across the bed. He caught it effortlessly.

            "What's this?" Opening the container, he raised his eyebrows, "A gift for me, Houshi-sama?" Fluttering his lashes in mock appreciation, he couldn't argue that he had it coming. Lacking the harisen, I struck him across the head with a pillow.

            "Asshole."

            "Hey no—I was just teasing, Sanzo!" He slid the cards out, glancing over the designs with interest and pausing when he came to the kappa. "Wow. I guess I owe my human side for makin' me so damn sexy."

            I rolled my eyes, and before I could so much as right my vision, I was pinioned to the mattress beneath 190 pounds of kappa.

            "Oi Gojyo! What the hell?!"

            His face was buried at my neck, and his voice emerged muffled. "Thank you."

            "You could have just said it instead of trying to break my larynx." I pushed him off, slipping back under the sheets and letting him stretch out beside me in the dark, one arm draped heavily over my hip.

            "I love you, you know." So simple. So basic. The truth.

            I heaved a sigh. "I thought we got past that part."

            For a moment he was silent, and I thought he might have fallen asleep. Then, with a breath, I could feel his lips smiling against my skin. "We're never past that, Sanzo."

           

 

            We returned to the monastery, and everything fell back into place. Hakkai and Goku visited—Goujun too, more and more frequently. I couldn't help but get the feeling that he knew quite a bit more about us than I would have liked. We stayed up late, arguing, drinking, and bitching while we played cards or mahjong, and annoying everyone from the initiates to the elders. Goku mentioned that Gojyo's cards looked crisper, and he winked at me across the table before answering. There were no more public kisses, though I won't say Gojyo didn't try for it on occasion. He seemed to respect my need for subtlety, and was overall quite content with what we had established, or so I must assume, now after ten years together. 

            I wore a silver band, and still do, beneath the heavy ring of my leathers; only Gojyo ever saw it. I still surrender myself to him, though perhaps not as completely as he does to me, but that is to be expected. He knows me, and he knows what I will be.

            I'm beginning to think that, for all my disparaging remarks, Gojyo is a more complex creature than he's ever given credit for. I'm just now beginning to know him. There are some constants that are self-evident: his bad habits, for one, many of which are the same as my own, and his tendency to act without thinking. But there are other, more subtle things too. For instance, I know when I ask him something, he'll give it to me wholeheartedly, whether it be the solitude I so often crave, distant affection, or a piece of his past. He gives knowing I am unable to do the same in return. I know he is unselfish, and I know he's proud. I know he loves me, and would offer his protection in a heartbeat if he thought I needed it, if I stumble.

And though I don't know where he finds them, especially in the dead of winter, or how he manages not to wake me, I know that in the morning, whether we've spent the night together or distanced, I'll find a violet pressed to the sill of my window.    

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