Title: Promised Land
Disclaimer: Mine, not hers.
Summary: In the desert, divine mercy takes interesting forms.
It was taking forever for them to cross the desert. Days and days of nothing but sand and rocks and more sand and then rocks again. No water, no trees, definitely no food, the sun so bright you had to squint until you couldn't see anything but your eyelashes. Eyelashes and dust. Not like it mattered, since what you did see wasn't even there. Cool water shimmering away on the horizon, always just out of reach. No wetter and no more real no matter how much closer you got to it. The further they traveled, the further it went away. They'd been traveling forever, and they were still no closer to it than they had ever been.
It's just a fucking mirage, Monkey. Quit your whining already.
Nothing behind them but a cloud of their own dirt. Nothing in front of them but the back of Sanzo's neck. He'd been staring at the back of Sanzo's neck for weeks now, watching that long perfect arch sweeping down from clouds of sandy hair like a desert rainbow, disappearing into rolls of scriptures as untouchable as the man himself. Sometimes the wind would sweep the hair away for a heartbeat, and when it did everything in him would fix on a little spot of skin behind Sanzo's ear that the sutras couldn't hide, no matter how hard they tried. His chest would go so tight he had to keep his arms wrapped around himself just to keep his heart from exploding. A second later the spot would vanish back into the desert again, its promise forgotten. Sometimes Goku would spend half his day waiting for it to show itself like that. Just like he was doing now. Hakkai looked at him from the rear view mirror, laughing.
Don't worry, Goku. According to the map, there's an oasis just ahead. We should be there by nightfall.
Goku knew that was a lie, too. There was no oasis, because no matter how far Jeep drove they never got any closer to anything. Hakkai looked back at him again, then went back to watching the road. After awhile he asked, Goku, have you ever heard the story of the Israelites in the wilderness? Nope, he hadn't; not that he remembered, anyway. Maybe Hakkai thought he was bored, or hungry, or both, because the story was about some people who got lost in a desert for so long their god snowed some kind of special food on them every night, just so they'd have something to eat until they found their way out again. Every morning they had to go out into the desert to pick it up. Gojyo snorted, asking Hakkai why the passive-aggressive bastard didn't just snow a compass on them or something. Sanzo shook his head at the idiocy of the world in general, and of manna eaters in particular.
Don't even try praying for food, you idiot. The last thing this crowd needs is more divine intervention.
Goku scowled at the back of Sanzo's head, pissed they were all bugging him about food when he hadn't said anything about being hungry for hours. Hakkai looked back at him again, smiling just like he always did, but like he was thinking about something else at the same time. Then you could tell he was looking at Gojyo again instead, so Goku stared out of his side of Jeep for awhile, wondering what manna tasted like. It sounded kind of nasty. Dry and tasteless. The kind of food you could eat and eat and never feel full from. The gods don't save anyone, Sanzo said so all the time. Instead, they gave you mirages and snow food and vague promises, just enough to keep you going while they made you wait in the desert for that milk and honey they told you was at the end of the rainbow. Gods or no gods, there's no way in hell he'd wait that long for a decent meal.
He'd been kind of zoned, just watching the pattern of the waves billowing around in Sanzo's hair when out of nowhere the kappa clopped him alongside the head. Barely had time to swear before the asshole had him in a headlock and Goku swung out, kicking and screaming as he struggled to crowbar the knuckles off his head. His foot missed Gojyo by a mile but got Hakkai's seat hard enough to make Jeep scream and the whole lot of them careened around in a circle, kicking up a big cloud of dust. It was all over in a second, no one got hurt, but even though they both apologized to Jeep once they got back on the road Sanzo gave them the verbal abuse anyway. He never once even turned around to look, just sat there with the sutra riding high around his ears and his gun cocked over the top of it all like a big exclamation point. Goku rubbed the noogie burn on his head and frowned at Sanzo's hair, about to complain about how it wasn't his fault when Gojyo tapped him again. Gojyo shook his head, looking Goku right in the eye as he started digging out a smoke. Leaned way over like he was having trouble getting his lighter out of his pants pocket. Talked low as he could around the cigarette.
I saw what you were doing, kid. Trust me, it don't help. So just stop it.
Goku asked him what it was that didn't help, but Gojyo just shook his head again, glancing over to the front seat like he didn't want Sanzo to hear what he was saying. He sat up and hunched over his lighter. After he got a few puffs he leaned back and stretched out his legs again. End of discussion. His free hand dangled over the edge of Jeep, fingers catching the currents in the wind as he stared at the back of Hakkai's neck.
Hakkai was wrong; it was another whole day before they reached a town. A half dozen dirty buildings around a pit of muddy water. No beds, but they got food and fuel and a place to put their sleeping bags in, so it could have just as easily been heaven. Could have just as easily been hell, listening to Sanzo sleep. Goku lay on top of his bag, the quiet breathing filling his head with too many thoughts. Ears still full of Sanzo he shifted carefully onto his belly and dug down in his pants, moving quiet oh so quiet as his lips slid against his arm, the grit of the desert in his mouth until his breath began to come in short, hard bursts, his arm muffling the sound of it when he came. Stars behind his eyes that were almost painful, then… nothing. Nothing good, nothing bad, just… nothing, like he was all hollow inside. Face still buried against his arm he laid there for a long while, feeling empty. There was nothing inside of him, because you couldn't drink water from a mirage. Try it and that's what you got, a big fat nothing. He finally flipped back over, staring into the night. In all of that nothing Sanzo's breath continued to quietly fill up the room, crowding out everything else.
Watching from the back seat the next day, the mirage looked further away than ever. Bigger too. Goku stared blindly at it, Gojyo in the seat next to him staring at his own mirage. They were three hours out before he finally got up the nerve to ask.
Gojyo started, looked at him like he'd never heard a voice before. Goku thought maybe he hadn't heard him, so he asked again. Gojyo gave him that weird look, the same look he gave two days before. He finally shook his head and went back to staring straight ahead. He was talking low again, low enough that Sanzo couldn't hear.
Not sure what, Monkey. But that only makes it worse. Trust me.
Goku stared at Gojyo, trying to figure him out. Gojyo ignored him, leaned back and closed his eyes. The kappa looked tired, like he hadn't been getting any sleep lately, either. Goku watched him until it looked like he really was asleep, not just hoping for it. Then he looked at Sanzo again, because… well, he wasn't exactly sure why. Sanzo's hair was flying in the wind, an angry sandstorm rolling in over the sutra mountains. At least the gun seemed to be gone for today. One more good look at it all then Goku moved over, laid his head in Gojyo's lap. Gojyo shifted under his cheek, adjusting for the added weight. A gentle hand came down and rested on the top of his head, pet him once. Let him know it was ok. Lulled to a half-sleep by the rhythm of the bumpy road his eyes drifted open every once in awhile to check, but the sandstorm was no closer than it had ever been. Then his lids got too heavy, and he stopped looking altogether.
Hakkai drove until he stopped. Just stopped, like they'd run out of gas only they hadn't. No more towns until the foot hills, he said. Tonight, it's under the stars. The tent pegs weren't holding, so they packed the tent back up and tied off one side of the tarp to Jeep and the other side of it to their gas cans to make a roof. Everyone huddled too close together on the dirt, not doing much sleeping but doing a great job of twisting their sleeping bags into knots until Gojyo finally said fuck this, grabbed his stuff and took off into the desert. Hakkai quietly followed him a little while later. Sanzo snorted good riddance and spread himself out, taking both their spaces. Goku lay next to him, listening to the wind and the little noises that were always everywhere in a desert night until Sanzo's snores became louder, and he was alone again.
Gojyo was right; it just made things worse. Sanzo was so close tonight, so close. Goku imagined touching, a phantom touch that he could almost feel, his hand reaching-but-not reaching out to stroke the soft, pale skin he never got tired of looking at day after day. Eyes closed as lips pursed against the ghost of bare flesh. His chest tightened and his entire body curled up into itself, not daring to cross that last little bit of space between them to make it real. He knew that if he ever tried, it would all disappear just like a mirage- if Sanzo didn't kill him for it first. He curled up tighter and tried to wait the ache out.
What seemed like hours later he finally gave up and crawled out of his sleeping bag, muttering something about a pee in case Sanzo was still awake. Walked away until he was just far enough out that he couldn't see Jeep anymore. After he finished pissing he stood there with everything still hanging out, not enough energy to stuff himself back in, wondering if he should do… it… again. Out this far, no one would hear him, and he wouldn't need to be so careful. Like Gojyo said, it didn't help- but at the same time, it did. It was like manna, you begged for what little you got and even though you ate it, you were still hungry. But you ate it anyway, because eating something still made you feel better than not eating anything at all. He was still thinking about whether he should do it or not when he heard a soft hey from somewhere on top of the dune. He looked back and there was Gojyo, motioning for him to come on up. He stuffed himself back into his pants and climbed back up to where Gojyo stood, nothing but boots and underwear, cigarette end glowing in the darkness. Goku asked him what was up; Gojyo patted his shoulder a few times as he took one more drag and flicked the stub out into the desert. He jerked his head towards the horizon.
You're gonna freeze your ass off out here all alone, Monkey. C'mon.
He put his arm around Goku's shoulders, squeezed like they were best buds, and then started pulling him along the top of the dune towards nothing in particular. Goku let himself be dragged along like he was hypnotized, didn't even ask where they were going but he found out soon enough because over the next dune there was Hakkai, sitting inside the pair of sleeping bags he and Gojyo had zipped together. Goku stopped a few feet away when he finally realized Hakkai wasn't wearing anything but his monocle. Hakkai smiled at him in a Hakkai way. Hello, Goku. Goku's chest tightened again, choking off a response. Gojyo stepped behind him and long arms slid under his shirt, pulling him in. He could feel the heat soaking in through his tee from Gojyo's body as he held Goku close, cheek rubbing circles against his hair. Hakkai opened up the sleeping bags wider and moved over. Gojyo rocked him lightly side to side like a baby, giving him time to get used to the idea. The whisper of breath against Goku's ear felt almost too hot in the cold night air.
Time to let it all out, kiddo, before it eats you alive.
Gojyo walked him gently forward, one step, then two. Never letting go, hands slowing petting Goku's belly, touching the side of his face as he kept murmuring little encouragements almost too soft to hear. In case he was confused as to what it was all about Gojyo's hard on dug into his back, becoming more solid with each step. Goku thought about telling them no fuckin' way, that this wasn't what he wanted. But like everything else in the desert, it was a lie. He did sort of want it, he was as hard as a rock and his heart was nearly out of his chest just thinking about it. Still, when his toes hit the edge of the sleeping bags he dug in, leaning his weight back into Gojyo. Gojyo didn't push it, but he didn't pull back, either. His voice raised up just enough for Hakkai to hear him, quietly and evenly as if he were coaxing an animal into a cage.
Do what I told you to, Hakkai. Just like I said.
Hakkai paused, like there was a part of the conversation that was maybe not being said, before he shifted and rolled over onto his belly, propping his head up with his arms like a pillow. He turned his face away, becoming nothing but bare flesh and a long expanse of neck. Goku found himself sinking, sinking, pulled down to the earth by the kappa's weight until he was sitting in the man's lap, legs straddling either side. Gojyo held him tight, one arm wrapped around his chest, the other hand cradling his crotch. Soft, dry lips rubbing lightly against the back of his neck, over and over. The touch felt good despite who it was that was doing it and Goku cocked his head to the side, stretching out his neck for more as the tickle of long hair shivered its way all the way down to his cock. It leapt against the hand still holding him in place; the hand squeezed him lightly in return before letting go. Fingers trailed their way up to Goku's arm, ever so gently until they slid over the top of his hand, threading them both together. Gojyo leaned over the sleeping bags; on the man's lap, Goku had no option but to follow. Their intertwined fingers hovered just over Hakkai's neck, then slowly stroked down across the skin. Softer than Goku had ever imagined. They stroked again. Gojyo quietly let his hand go. Goku stared at his fingers, resting alone against the cool flesh.
Just use your imagination, kiddo. It'll be good, trust me.
He stared at Hakkai's neck for what seemed like forever until his hand moved again, almost by itself, stroking downward across the spine. So beautiful. So perfect. So real. His heart in his throat he slid off of Gojyo's lap and leaned in closer, closed his eyes and pressed his lips against it, the feel of it and the memory of sandy hair flying in the wind filling up the nothing inside to bursting. Hakkai's legs widened as bodies shifted; helpful hands pulled him up and over, pressing him into the naked back. His hungry lips tasting, touching, hips already hitching while arms wrapped around from behind again, pulling his pants down and away and then he could feel it all right up against him, feel Sanzo's mirage hot against his heartbeat as he rubbed, sticky wet and shaking all over, his mouth never leaving that spot just below the ear that was soft, so soft… faster and harder as he spurted out all over everything. Hakkai pushed up against him, rubbing and then Gojyo's hands stroking here, there, hot lips trailing wetly across his back as his hips kept right on pumping. Finally spent he lay there, trembling as Hakkai turned underneath him, pulled him in close. Floating away in the embrace his cheeks were gently pulled apart and a long wet tongue licked, more beautiful than he could have ever imagined. He spread his legs and pushed up against it, the sweetness spreading through his thighs, whining as his hips started their rhythm again. Then Hakkai stroking, and Gojyo's fingers pushing into him, him pushing back for more. The taste of Gojyo's tobacco in Hakkai's mouth as they kissed, their lips clinging together and only parting when he came again. Warm flesh surrounding him, letting him drink his fill, bathing him clean in the warm mirage waters before the sun burned it all away in the morning.
Oi. Up, Goku. Gonna be dawn soon.
Goku turned tightly in their shared bed and plastered himself up against some warm flesh, burying his nose in the scent while behind him Gojyo sat up, leaned over to dig in the pile of clothes for a cigarette. Hakkai let him cuddle while Gojyo rolled out of bed for a smoke. Goku yawned, struggling to wake up. There was an odd taste in his mouth, old smoke and sweat and desert sand. He wondered if it was what manna tasted like. Hakkai apologized as he sat up and started pulling on his clothes. Goku watched him for a bit, then began to do the same. They were all too quiet; it felt like he should be saying something, but he didn't know what. Gojyo was still sitting buck naked in the sand, already on his second cigarette. It was funny, between Hakkai and himself the pile of clothes had managed to disappear. But still the kappa's clothes had to be out there somewhere, or he'd just pulled those cigarettes out of his ass. Things in asses reminded him and he couldn't help it, the whole thing just made him snigger now. Kind of childish, he knew that, but it all seemed kind of goofy when you thought about the bits and pieces. Embarrassing even. He whacked Gojyo's leg. You're such a bloody perv, kappa. I can't believe you did that thing to me with your tongue.
Gojyo grinned back, cigarette cocked to the air. What's that make you, monkey? You were moaning like a bitch in heat. Behind them Hakkai coughed like he disapproved of the tone of the conversation, but he still laughed anyway, which only egged Gojyo on. Hey, Sanzo likes having his ass kissed so much, maybe you should try it out on him sometime. If you need any help… he whacked Gojyo again for that, harder. Hakkai was standing on top of the dune already, holding the sleeping bags. He was looking out into the desert, towards a horizon that was just beginning to become clear.
Look, Goku; there's the mountains. We should easily be there by tonight. No more wandering in the wilderness.
Gojyo ended the clothes mystery by standing up; he'd been sitting on them the whole time. He picked up his boxers, shaking out the sand. Yeah, well, I'm sure the gods think being with Sanzo is punishment enough for anyone. It's the gift that keeps on giving.
Goku's eyes squinted at the distant horizon. The first rays of sunlight were just starting to turn the peaks a bright, fiery red that said time for that milk and honey you've been waiting for. About fucking time, too. Still grinning from ear to ear, he raced Gojyo back to Jeep, more than ready to hit the road.