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In All Honesty

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“I still haven’t come up with any ideas,” Sanzo said.

“Me neither,” Hakkai replied from the cot across from Sanzo and Goku.

They’d stopped for the night at a small, cheap hotel in the last tiny bit of civilization available before they’d reach the wastelands surrounding Houtou Castle. Those areas presented an unexpected problem since their barren, blighted soil wouldn’t provide any cover or camouflage to four people traveling through it on foot or in Jeep and the nothing seemed to go on for days. They’d immediately be seen and attacked. After a meager dinner and baths, they apparently still didn’t have a strategy to avoid that, making this team meeting in Sanzo and Goku’s tiny hotel room futile.

“Unless their plan is for me to come in and personally deliver the Maten sutra to them, we’re screwed,” Sanzo said.

“Now that you’ve put it that way, why are we doing that?” Gojyo asked. “And why hasn’t that come up before?”

“Because we didn’t have any better options? Fight fire with fire, especially if they do manage to raise Gyumaoh from the dead and we have to battle him. Maybe. Life sucks. I’m not the one who put this mission together.”

After about two weeks Goku still couldn’t get used to Sanzo and Gojyo’s new looks. Their group had decided to try to seem more local, inconspicuous, and less obviously who they were--the famous Sanzo party--this close to Houtou Castle. Over Gojyo’s whiny objections, they’d died Gojyo’s hair dark brown, though he still wore a hood outdoors a lot of the time because it still managed to look red in sunlight somehow. Thankfully, the dark brown made his red eyes seem somewhat brown. Sanzo had dyed his golden hair a dull medium brown, which made his skin look paler, aside from the shadows of sleeplessness under his eyes and the sunburnt areas. The whole group wore secondhand clothes, their worn and faded appearance giving more of a feeling of lived-in truth to their new, less conspicuous identities. Also, money had been tight and hard to come since they stopped using the gold card for fear that it would announce who they really were, not that many places even accepted it in payment this close to Houtou Castle, leaving them dependent on whatever odd jobs they could pick up at their stops in towns, Gojyo and sometimes Hakkai’s gambling, and Hakkai’s occasional weird schemes. Not that they even trusted the card as much since the Three Aspects had canceled it for a while. Sanzo didn’t wear his Sanzo uniform anywhere, not even in their hotel rooms, when there even was a hotel room or the money for one available. He kept the Maten sutra rolled up inside of a pack that he kept at hand or on his body at all times. At this moment he had it resting against his bare left foot. Goku remembered Sanzo saying that Sanzos wore their sutras on their shoulders as some kind of metaphor for carrying the weight and responsibility of that kind of power, plus Sanzo didn’t want it out of his sight and reach when so many people wanted to steal it away from him. Hakkai wore glasses instead of a monocle. The four of them had let their hair get shaggy and longer, with Goku using his to cover his limiter diadem. (Sometimes Hakkai looked oddly familiar-yet-not-Hakkai with longer hair....) Today they’d walked into this town instead of riding in Jeep, who’d quietly flown into one of their two hotel rooms later.

It was still weird to see Gojyo wearing one of Hakkai’s limiter ear cuffs. The closer they came to their final destination, the more concentrated the Minus Wave felt and the worse it started to affect Gojyo, who’d become more youkai only recently and had less experience in resisting it. In the absence of being able to get a limiter for him anywhere else--no stores, no godly help--Hakkai had loaned him one of his three, which Sanzo had shown major reservations about, not that Hakkai cared. “We will be each other’s sanity,” Hakkai said to Gojyo, to which Sanzo muttered, “It’s the blind leading the nearly blind.” Gojyo sometimes touched his ear cuff with a sappy look on his face, a look he often extended to Hakkai, who more openly directed them back to him these days.

Goku felt the increasing intensity of the Minus Wave like claws lightly running down his back, not deeply enough to bleed but still distracting, painful, and disturbing. Gojyo had said it felt like spiders walking on the edges of his mind. When asked about it, Hakkai just smiled in a way that made the rest of them change the subject. Sanzo seemed to feel it too, to some limited extent.

With that going on, Sanzo, not wanting to take the chance of being attacked and eaten by his friends, had once again told the three of them to go home and let him finish the mission on his own. Hakkai had answered that they’d follow him regardless, and wouldn’t he rather have them in his sight than behind his back? Sighing, Sanzo told him that if any of them started looking like they wanted to eat him, he’d immediately shoot them in the face, no warning or hesitation.

“It’s a shame that we don’t know when Nataku will be coming to face them; he’d be a nice distraction for us to get in and for you to get the sutras, and he’d wear our enemies down,” Hakkai said. “Maybe we could lure him in somehow so we’ll be ready to go when he arrives.”

“That’s assuming Nataku and his shikigami army don’t try to fight us too,” Gojyo replied.

“Into every life a little rain must fall.”

“Really? Because it’s raining cats and dogs for us way too often.”

“Goku, do you...”

“I don’t know when he’ll attack or how to lure him in, Hakkai. I wish I did,” Goku answered. He really did wish he knew more, the how and when of it all, like how he knew Nataku at all but also didn’t know him, and felt good but also awful about him. Things they’d heard about Prince Nataku suggested that Goku might have been in Heaven with him at the same time and that things had gone horribly wrong somehow. And that Goku might have done something bad enough then to deserve being caged and his memory being wiped for centuries. It gave him a bit of a panicked feeling, like a dangerous chaotic storm in his head and heart, like the bottom dropping out of his world, if he thought too hard about it, and with how close they currently were to the source of the Minus Wave, he really shouldn’t be adding more stress on himself and his limiter dwelling on it.

Nataku hadn’t recognized him at first either....

“Maybe something will come to us if we sleep on it,” Hakkai said.

“I’ll get to that eventually, but I wanna do some drinking first. I always do my best thinking that way. Hey, you two,” Gojyo pointed at Sanzo and Hakkai, “stop looking at me like that.”

“I never stop looking at you like that,” Sanzo replied. “It’s perpetual.”

Hakkai asked, “So this meeting is adjourned? What time should we get up tomorrow?”

“Mid-morning,” Sanzo answered. “It’s not like waking up early will do us any good when we don’t have anywhere to go yet.”

Gojyo and Hakkai waved as they left the room together, and Goku wondered if they’d have sex tonight, which prodded him even more to finally have his talk with Sanzo.

“What is it?” Sanzo asked.

“Hunh?”

“I can feel you jittering because I’m sitting right next to you.”

That saved Goku the trouble of working up to it. “We’re almost at the end of our mission. We can see Houtou Castle, and we just have to find a way to go the final distance. We don’t know how things will turn out for us, and there are some things I want to say in case something happens to either of us. I’d regret it the rest of my life if I didn’t do it when I still had the chance.” Even if the rest of his life turned out to be very short.

“I have such a bad feeling about this.” Sanzo turned to face him; he might already know what Goku intended to confess.

It was so unfair to be having this talk when Sanzo didn’t look much like Sanzo, but that sounded so shallow, as if Goku liked him just for his golden hair. At Chang’an, Goku remembered Sanzo looking very elegant and regal, especially when wearing the crown and veil too, at least as long as Goku hadn’t messed him up. Now, after weeks of driving himself harder than usual, the four of them living on the edge and struggling to survive just to reach the end of their mission after years on the road, Sanzo looked nearly as worn-out, faded, and ragged as his cheap, secondhand clothes, mortal. Sanzo could be taken from him forever at any moment, so he damned well better get his feelings across.

“Sanzo, I love you. I’m in love with you. I really need you to know that.”

Sanzo closed his eyes and let out a breath of smoke. “I knew the first. I wasn’t sure of the second.”

Further gathering up all the bravery he had, Goku continued, “Please tell me if you feel that way about me, the truth even if you think it’ll hurt my feelings, even if it won’t let you protect yourself. If you’re not interested in me like that, I’ll accept it and I won’t push you on it any further.”

Gaze distant and maybe even somewhat haunted, Sanzo smoked silently for a few minutes, long enough that Goku started to get frustrated and said, “Sanzo--”

“I just needed a little time to collect myself. This isn’t easy for me, but I know it isn’t easy for you either.... But, like you said, in a few days a lot of things may change....” Sanzo gave the impression of someone laboriously drawing something up from a deep, deep well. “Honesty. All right. I love you. I hope you know that. I don’t know if I’m in love with you; I don’t have much experience in any of this, family love or... romantic love, whatever you’d call it, to know the difference. You’re my... kid; in some ways you’ll always be my kid. This.... I didn’t have a family, growing up. The closest thing I had was my master, but neither of us were people who touched people much and he couldn’t give me much special treatment with all the monks already sniping at us. That’s what I had for my childhood: Koumyou, snippy monks hating me for existing, and Shuuei, who sometimes got a bit... weird around me. With Ukoku sometimes showing up to meet with my master, at which points I made myself very scarce. Then my master was murdered, and I hit the road, where I constantly found out how much worse and depraved people could be. Almost everyone who tried to touch me wanted to hurt me, take my freedom away, or kill me. Years of me struggling to survive everything intact, years of killing the many people who messed with me. I learned not to get too close and spent as much time alone, safe, as I could manage. Besides, I had a mission, which was a hell of a lot more important than wasting time trying to socialize with strangers. At least the dirtier and rattier I looked, the less people wanted to look at or get close to me. I had a lot of time to get set in my ways. Then there was Keiun Temple in Chang’an, more snippy monks, then you when you were a little kid, and... I was already me and no kind of decent father, plus I didn’t want to give those assholes even the tiniest excuse to act even shittier to you. Besides, when you were awake you had too much energy and were too wiggly for much contact and when you were asleep you were a sack of potatoes, dead to the world, and it didn’t feel right to touch you in any way when you couldn’t say yes or no to it. The most I’d do then is carry you to bed. Then we met Gojyo, the overfamiliar pervert who likes to hang on me-- Do you want sex out of this? With me?”

It almost gave Goku whiplash. “Uhm, yes? Sometime? Eventually?” Could he cringe and blush any harder?

“You started this conversation, so you have to suffer along with me. How much experience do you have?”

Shit, he could cringe and blush even harder. “Making out, some snuggling. I haven’t taken it any farther because I don’t want to do that with someone I’ll never see again after one or two nights.”

“The farthest I’ve gotten was from people assaulting me.”

Goku wanted to cry. He wanted to hug Sanzo so hard but didn’t think it’d be appreciated.

“Some people tried to offer me something more... wholesome, but nobody ever wanted me for what I thought were the right reasons and I didn’t feel enough back to try to make it work. I don’t think I’ve ever fallen in love or lust with anyone, and I don’t know if that’s from how my life has gone or if it’s just who I am. Sometimes I’ll feel the urge to reach out to touch someone, but then I don’t do it and the moment passes so I don’t know how far I’d go. Once in a rare while I’ll jerk off, but it’s just scratching an itch. I don’t know if I can change that; I don’t know if I want to change that.”

It was heartbreaking. Goku felt his heart and soul get heavier and heavier and sink to the floor. But if you really loved someone, you loved them as they were, and had Sanzo ever revealed so much of himself to anyone before? He didn’t think so.

“But... I can’t imagine my life without you in it anymore, at least not long-term,” Sanzo continued. “When you were shot down and nearly died, it was terrifying. The thought of you being dead... I completely lost my mind, and I was so fucking useless that if it had been up to me alone you might have actually died. That haunts me. You deserve better. You deserve someone freer who can give you more and be more effusive. I don’t want you saving yourself for me in case I eventually become more like other people and can give you what you need to make you happy. Even if I eventually lose your company completely over it.”

“I don’t want someone better!” Goku replied, smiling in success at how that made Sanzo snort. “What you’re describing is love. Besides, I’ve gone on mindless rampages and been useless to you a few times after you were horribly injured.” Goku figured that Sanzo might not have broken down so badly that night if what happened to Goku hadn’t been so intentionally reminiscent of Sanzo’s dad’s murder right in front of him but didn’t know if Sanzo would take that as he intended it if told that. “I know who you are; I want who you are.”

Sanzo couldn’t quite look Goku in the eyes and suddenly looked younger, though a tired and worn-out young. “I could... try some things with you. See what I can tolerate. Maybe I’d like some of it, if it’s with you, though I can’t make any guarantees....”

Hope bloomed in Goku’s chest, so warm and full. “Yes! But if you really don’t like it, we stop. I don’t want you to do things you hate to try to make me happy or make me stay with you; I want you to want it yourself. That you’re even willing to make the effort for me means a lot. Could we try a hug?”

“...yeah.” Sanzo stubbed his cigarette out in the ash tray then stood up. At Goku’s confused look, Sanzo said, “This cot’s so damned rickety that it’s probably safer not to test how well it’d hold up.”

“Good idea.” Goku stood up, came in close, and gently, lightly, put his arms around Sanzo despite how tightly he actually wanted to hold him, hoping to give the impression that Sanzo could escape it at any time he wished and wasn’t trapped.

“I’m not that fragile.” Sanzo pulled him in closer and awkwardly and somewhat stiffly hugged Goku, though it felt less forced and more natural as Sanzo gradually relaxed his body.

Still cautious, Goku didn’t tighten his hold much but applied slightly more pressure to the places he touched with his hands: the back of Sanzo’s neck and the small of his back. Having spent years staring at the back of Sanzo’s head while riding in Jeep and wishing he could get closer and touch, Goku enjoyed the softness of Sanzo’s freshly washed hair beneath his fingers but still dreamed of getting a chance to untangle and brush it after a long drive in the wind. This close, he could feel Sanzo’s heart pounding and better breathe in Sanzo’s comforting scent. But Sanzo felt way too bony and thin; when (when!) they finished their mission, he wanted to feed him up to a healthier weight.

(What would they do with their lives afterward? Could either of them even go back to their old lives and where they’d been before? Would they want to? Goku wasn’t a kid anymore, and who knew what the monks would think of his relationship with Sanzo and what would they do about it. Maybe they’d make enough of an uproar that Sanzo would be forced to care about it if he stayed.)

“You keep getting taller,” Sanzo said, his breath ruffling Goku’s hair.

The top of Goku’s head was currently level with the bottom of Sanzo’s nose. “I might even get taller than you some day.”

“If that happens, I’m kneecapping you.”

“You’ll still be able to put your hand on the top of my head! I’ll just need to sit or kneel for it.” No way Goku would miss out on one of the gestures of affection Sanzo had already been comfortable with for years.

“Not helping.”

“This won’t help either but... can I put my head on your shoulder and snuggle in a bit?”

“Sure, go for it.”

Goku did so and positioned himself so he’d have his head under Sanzo’s jaw and smiled as Sanzo’s arms around him shifted to tighten a little more, especially as Sanzo’s hand cupped the back of his head, some of Goku’s hair sliding through Sanzo’s fingers. Despite how warm and protected and loved he felt like this, it also made him a bit shaky to actually be getting something he’d wanted so much for years. Could he have gotten this sooner if he’d just asked, or had they needed to have this much time together and the possibility of impending death to make it happen? They’d both changed during their journey, and Goku knew he’d grown and matured a lot, which would help get Sanzo past that “my kid” reaction more. Could he get more than this if he just asked?

Maybe, but first he needed to make sure Sanzo truly was okay with and hopefully even liking it and not just tolerating it. He so wished he could see Sanzo’s face to get a better gauge of his reactions. Sanzo’s pulse had calmed down some, at least until it spiked and he shivered a little when Goku nuzzled into his shoulder and rubbed his hair against Sanzo’s neck.

“...how long are we supposed to do this for?” Sanzo sounded only half serious.

“You’re ruining it....”

“No, I’m not.”

He wasn’t, not really. Goku knew who he was with.

“Doing this makes you happy?” Sanzo asked.

“Does it do anything for you?”

“Answer the question, monkey.”

“Right back at you.”

“It... feels good.”

“Physically? Emotionally?”

“Shit, ask the easy questions. I don’t think I could do a lot of this a lot of the time, but sometimes, yeah. Though is this the most you’re gonna try for?”

“Are you daring me to?” It would be completely in-character for Sanzo to risk damaging himself if he were told he couldn’t do something or thought he was showing weakness otherwise, and Goku really didn’t want that. “I didn’t want to push you too hard at once or make you think that when I ask for some basic affection it’s always the start to working to get sexier stuff from you. I could be okay with just this for tonight.”

Taking in a deep breath, Sanzo said, “We’re doing the honesty thing and having a moment right now, but I know my... armor will go back up in a little while. Maybe we should see what I can do while we still have the momentum going.”

Goku pulled himself back out of the embrace to try to get a better read on Sanzo by seeing his face. Sanzo’s hair, clothes, and gauntness might be new to Goku but Sanzo’s eyes remained the same: such a pretty purple, and tilted slightly downward at the outer edges. (They were not “droopy,” Gojyo!) Sanzo looked flustered, annoyed, somewhat affectionate, but also....

Goku couldn’t figure out all the rest of it, but Sanzo’s emotions, some of which he camouflaged, had always been a complicated mixture. There was nothing easy about him. A lot of people couldn’t see past his hard, prickly exterior, and he seemed to prefer it that way, thinking it had saved his life a lot of the time. Especially before Chang’an. It made Goku think a bit more about the things Sanzo had just told him.

Goku had heard bits and pieces of them before, often out of order, in the past. Sanzo hadn’t lied to him then, there were just things he’d held back or hadn’t elaborated upon because he’d apparently thought a child wouldn’t understand or be able to handle them. As Goku thought about the new picture that emerged, he started to wonder if the Sanzo he had such nostalgic memories of in Chang’an hadn’t been the true Sanzo, just a version of him while he... took an unwanted break from his real life? Rested and refueled before returning to his mission? The Sanzo he’d known had always worn fine robes and gold, commanded the monks about as if he were a king dictating to his servants, and stayed indoors doing paperwork while usually sending Hakkai and Gojyo out into the field to do his “dirty work” for him. (Goku had appreciated him sending them out, because that meant he stayed with Goku.) He knew that Sanzo hadn’t been happy at Chang’an and thought it a natural reaction to scolding, killjoy monks and endless, boring paperwork. Who’d want to stay inside doing boring stuff all day when there were trees and rocks to climb, lots of foods to eat, new places and treasure to discover, ponds and streams to cross, animals to befriend... or to run away from if they didn’t want to be friends, since he might hurt them and himself if he fought to defend himself? Or if he had to stay inside during the winter, he could create adventures for himself wandering the monastery. So many fun, interesting things to do! When he asked Sanzo about it, Sanzo had replied that he did this to get to what he wanted to do, which Goku had glossed over as incomprehensible adult business.

But there’d been something so reassuring in knowing that when he wound down from whatever he’d been doing that day and came inside for the evening, Sanzo would be there to talk to and eat a meal with, the sun he revolved around. He’d bring the outside in to Sanzo by talking about the things he’d seen and done and sometimes by giving him flowers, pretty rocks, or, more rarely, interesting small animals, which he never got to keep, at least not indoors. (He’d have been more annoyed about the animals if Sanzo hadn’t explained that he should never “keep” something living if he didn’t know for sure that he’d be able to take care of it and that maybe he should reconsider the whole idea of “keeping” a living creature at all.) On days when he had to stay indoors, he’d tell Sanzo about the things he found or what he saw the monks doing or gossiping about.

Sometimes Goku would wake up disoriented in the dark at night and think that he was actually still imprisoned in that cave, alone, but then he’d hear Sanzo’s soft breathing or reach out to feel his living warmth and he’d be reassured and remember how full his once empty life had become.

When Sanzo had mentioned his time on the road looking for his (murdered) dad’s scripture, Goku had originally seen it as an adventure. Being on the road later gave him a better idea of the hardships and uncertainties, but even then Goku had food, friends, a vehicle to ride in, hotel rooms to sleep in most of the time, a good fight now and then, and people to watch his back. The fuller, clearer picture he’d gotten tonight showed Sanzo out there alone, probably clad in rags and dirt (and determination, rage, and grief), searching for word on where that sutra had been taken and not finding much, constantly attacked, having to be wary of anyone who approached him (especially if they reached out to him), always on the move, scrounging for food, sleeping on the ground, wounded, shedding blood and his humanity to survive. Sanzo hadn’t gotten much time to be a kid before that and sure as hell didn’t then, going right to a grim kind of adulthood. Had he even had a chance to fall in love with anyone? Life had beaten him down into something hard and cold. Yet he hadn’t wanted to take up residency at Keiun Temple in Chang’an, with its food, beds, and shelter; he’d wanted to continue his tough life of looking for the Seiten sutra and trying to avenge his dad. He’d only stayed because the Three Aspects had demanded it. It seemed strange, but he knew Sanzo had some masochistic tendencies and a disdain for bodily limitations.

As much of a pain in the ass it was and how much Sanzo bitched over it, the Gyumaoh mission, and the chance it presented to get the sutras, must have been what Sanzo had waited for, read and stamped endless paperwork to get to. Getting back out into the world and fighting to put things right, the way they should have been.

And the Three Aspects had thought they could just tell him and the rest of them to return home and forget about it after they reached India?

But it meant that the sleek, cared-for, safe-at-home Sanzo Goku remembered from his younger, simpler days was an aberration. The real one stood before him now, a tired, worn, hungry delinquent. Had everything else just been about getting justice for Koumyou Sanzo? If Sanzo survived stopping Gyumaoh and recovered the sutras, would he still want to be a Sanzo, let alone return to Keiun Temple?

Would he have any reason left for going on... if he decided Goku wasn’t enough?

Part of tonight’s confessions suggested that Goku might be enough. Maybe. If one person could balance the scales against a life’s obsession now finished.

So did this mean he actually didn’t know Sanzo?

But their Gyumaoh mission hadn’t been the same as Sanzo’s time alone on the road. Sanzo had friends to talk to, hang out with, fight with, and support him, even if he didn’t always want to admit it to them or often himself, living and working inside a team. Hopefully, he’d really realized that he didn’t need to be alone to be safe, that some people could be trusted. Sanzo had opened himself up more and let Goku in a bit, while also giving him more respect and responsibilities as he matured. Sanzo was trying. He lived a somewhat easier life and had more distance from old traumas, more perspective and experience. He hadn’t talked much about that tonight.

At Chang’an, Goku had seen him as a child would, not knowing or understanding everything that had happened before his arrival in the world and not noticing the nuances of the people around him. Over the years, Goku had gotten more perspective and experience too, which allowed him to let that image go. He loved the version of Sanzo he’d spent years on the road to Houtou Castle with. Wherever they ended up after this mission, Goku would look after him and their life would hopefully include good food, nice clothes, less stress, and more fun. It’d be nice to stop traveling and settle in one place for a while, but it didn’t have to be Keiun Temple, which could be left to the snippy, killjoy monks. Hakkai and Gojyo might not even want to return to Chang’an, since they’d been away for years on this mission and who knew how long it would take them to get back. Someone else might be living in their house or it might not even be there anymore. If so, he wondered where they’d decide to live, since it’d be nice to be able to visit them.

Sanzo’s expression shifted, which made Goku wonder what his own face was doing to inspire that. Goku said, “You’re not the same person you were at Chang’an, on the road looking for your dad’s sutra, or a kid. You’ve told me that yourself. So, I think you’ll be fine with me if you let yourself.”

“That’s... interesting. Maybe I should confide in you more often.”

Really!? When Sanzo put his hand up and prepared to speak, Goku knew what would come next and replied, “I won’t get a swelled head over it.”

“Good, because I said ‘maybe.’”

“I’m not going to expect anything too wild to happen with that. Now, I’m going to try to kiss you. I hope you’ll help me with it, since otherwise I’d either have to pull your head down to me or settle for kissing your neck or collarbones. Not that I don’t like those, but I’d really prefer your lips right now. When I get taller, it won’t be a problem!”

“I’d rather tilt my head down, thanks.”

Goku came in close to him again, loosely put his arms around him, and lightly, repeatedly, brushed Sanzo’s soft lips with his own, which tingled in response. Sanzo tasted a bit smoky. Whether he tried for a firmer or deeper kiss next depended on Sanzo’s reaction.

While Sanzo seemed to like it, he also seemed a bit nervous, which made Goku say, “You really don’t have to do this if you don’t want to.”

“...I’m surprised you even want me this way, considering your thing for big, muscular men.” That didn’t respond to what Goku just said, so Sanzo was trying to deflect.

“That’s purely a lust thing.”

“So you’re saying you want me for my personality? That’d be a first.”

As if Sanzo didn’t perform a lot of that personality so loudly and often to drive people away.

“It’s not all bad.” Goku didn’t mind Sanzo giving his head a swat for that, it felt like home. “Would it be weird for you if I became big and buff?”

“Probably, but you can already kick everyone’s asses without the massive muscles so why bother?”

“But I like the aesthetic of it! It looks good and shows that I work hard!” It’d also be much harder for Sanzo to still see him as a kid if he were huge.

...he’d let Sanzo derail him. He actually had a better attention span than this! But Sanzo knew him, so maybe he should give himself a break. Then again, he’d given Sanzo the opening to distract him.

Maybe he could use words to fight back a little. “But I like the way you look: shiny and pretty and sharp. Though you’re too skinny right now and need to get your real hair color back.”

Goku knew Sanzo well enough to feel Sanzo’s difficulty in processing this compliment to his looks. “Pretty” he could and often did rail against, but the others were unusual. Happily, he didn’t just sneer at the “shiny,” because it was true. Sanzo tried to bypass all that by saying, “...it might be in my best interests to stay too skinny while the Minus Wave is going on.”

“You still look delicious to me,” Goku replied, looking up at him with a big grin.

“You really want to get shot in the face.”

Somehow that made Goku feel so fond that he had to hug Sanzo tighter, to which Sanzo muttered, “That’s not the reaction that sentence should get.” But Sanzo actually hugged back instead of stiffly, awkwardly, lightly approximating it.

“I won’t bite,” Goku murmured into Sanzo’s neck before kissing it. Although Goku would like to nibble on him eventually--in a sexy way, not a “nom nom” way--he wouldn’t try at a time when Sanzo had to worry about being literally eaten and when Goku had to really think about the cause of some of his instincts and motives while so close to the source of the Minus Wave.

“I’ll be suspicious of licking too.”

“There has to be some licking.” And sucking. He really wanted to give Sanzo a blowjob, but would Sanzo be worried about it the whole time? Which sucked--heh--but was kind of funny too, enough that Goku couldn’t help laughing a bit.

“What.”

“If I tried to blow you, would you be afraid, uh--”

“Afraid that you’d try to devour me dick first? That’s why you’re laughing? You’re an asshole.” But Sanzo sounded somewhat amused. “If anybody’s gonna die that way, it should be the kappa.”

“Yeah, totally!”

Sanzo’s head tilted down, providing easy access to his lips, so Goku brushed them with his own then kissed them and kept on kissing them, applying more pressure and intent than before, wanting to purr as Sanzo responded in kind. Wanting more access to bare, hot skin, Goku slid his hand up the back of Sanzo’s shirt and stroked up his spine, feeling a few of his scars, mostly the raised ones, and the perpetual tension in his tight shoulder muscles. Sanzo shivered hard and pulled some of Goku’s hair, the pleasure/pain of it making Goku moan, which startled the hell out of Goku and made him feel a little embarrassed.

As Sanzo let go and pulled back a bit, he said softly, “That... seemed to be unexpected on both sides.”

“Was that a good or bad thing for me to do to you?” Goku really didn’t want his loving actions to remind Sanzo of bad moments from his past. “I mean, should I have told you I was going for that before I did it? Are you... self-conscious about the scars?”

“...now I am.”

“Sanzo.” Goku felt proud that he nailed the exact tone of voice that Sanzo had used on him many times.

And that it worked. “No, I’ve had them for years, and I’m all right with them. Are you all right with them?”

“I hate that you have them because they mean people hurt you, but I wouldn’t punish you for it. They show that you made it through some rough stuff, and they’re part of the whole package of you.”

“Baggage,” Sanzo muttered, sounding annoyed with himself.

“We’ve all got baggage.”

“You shouldn’t have to call out everything you intend to do to me before you do it.”

“Like calling out the names of battle techniques? ‘Seductive butterfly kisses!’”

“Please don’t call them that.”

“Maybe I shouldn’t have to give you advanced warning, but I will if it helps you. And that’s not me being self-sacrificing, that’s me selfishly wanting access to you for my own loving and lustful purposes. Insert evil laughter.”

Sanzo snorted at that, at least. “It... felt good; I was just startled and my defensive instincts turned on. I can deal with it enough that you won’t have to do a play by play warning of each move.” Then he smirked a bit and asked, “So, how often should I pull your hair?”

Goku burned with embarrassment. “I don’t know! I’ve never done that before! I didn’t know it was a thing for me!”

“It’s okay. It’s... cute.”

Cute? That made it worse! But if Goku’s moment of weakness made Sanzo feel a little better about his own, at least something good had come of it. Still, he had to fight back a little. “Maybe you have a thing or things too but we just don’t know about them yet. Maybe you have a lot of things!”

“That doesn’t seem likely.”

“You said you wanted to find out tonight.” Goku had given Sanzo several chances to back out, and Sanzo refused all of them. Going forward, Goku wouldn’t stop unless Sanzo asked him to or reacted really badly to something. “I’m going to back you up against a wall, unbutton your shirt, and kiss you.”

“Why the wall?”

“You’ll need the support.”

“Flattering yourself?”

“We’ll see.”

As Goku walked toward him, Sanzo walked backward, step by step, making it almost seem like a dance, which Goku liked. As Sanzo set his back to the wall and Goku got in close enough to breathe on him, Sanzo said, “Hold on a moment,” and took off his holstered gun he had clipped to his waistband and set it on the windowsill beside him. Safety first, plus they got attacked by youkai a lot at all times of the day so best to keep it in reach. Besides, Sanzo’s gun was like a part of his body, more than the sutra, and its metal always contributed to his scent. Sometimes its gunpowder too. It would seem wrong if Goku didn’t smell any of that on him.

Faced with an opportunity to finally take off Sanzo’s clothes, Goku couldn’t help feeling disappointed that it wouldn’t be the outfit he’d dreamed about removing for so long: the bamboo breast plate, robe, sash, skintight black top and kinky long gloves, and the jeans. With all those layers, it would have been even more like unwrapping a gift. What Sanzo currently wore would be easier to remove but so boring. But he didn’t get to touch Sanzo often and definitely didn’t get to ever strip him in non-injury situations, so Goku would be taking full advantage of his current opportunity and show Sanzo how good it could feel.

He pressed his body into Sanzo’s, though not enough that Sanzo should feel pinned in place against the wall, and mmm’ed in pleasure as it let him feel that Sanzo was half-hard. Goku had gone fully hard already. As Goku undid the top button of Sanzo’s shirt, he kissed his neck then kissed his lips as Sanzo angled his head down in a silent offer. After the third button, Goku started to kiss Sanzo’s revealed chest, enjoying the heat of his skin and the way it felt like Sanzo’s heart was pounding against Goku’s lips, hopefully pounding in a good way, with the heavy breathing seeming like a good sign. Sanzo was definitely too skinny though. After they succeeded in stopping Ukoku Sanzo, Gyumoah, and the Minus Wave, Goku would get Sanzo’s weight up if he had to handfeed him himself. Actually, handfeeding sounded great. Maybe he could talk Sanzo into it.

When he looked up, he saw that Sanzo had his head still tilted down and his eyes closed, though not squeezed shut. “Sanzo,” Goku said, “please look at me. Please touch me. I really want that.” Maybe Sanzo felt like he needed permission to touch. “Are you okay? Is it good?”

When Sanzo opened his eyes, Goku could barely see the purple in them, not with his pupils so dilated. “I’m okay. It’s good.” Sanzo’s voice came out deep and breathy, and it blew Goku’s mind that he’d been the person who’d made him sound like that. Sanzo put his right hand into Goku’s hair and stroked, lightly and carefully and caring, and whenever his fingers brushed Goku’s limiter diadem it sent an additional wave of heat through Goku that felt so good. When Goku pushed his head against that hand, Sanzo took the hint to pet a bit harder. He would’ve thought that Sanzo would remember from Goku’s reaction to getting his hair pulled earlier that he knew he could get a bit rough with it, but when he thought about it more, like about the things Sanzo had told him tonight, he realized he should’ve expected this. After all, Goku might have moaned from getting his hair pulled but the moan had obviously been an unconscious physical reaction and he hadn’t told Sanzo that he’d liked it and wanted more of it. It looked like Sanzo wouldn’t assume that consent had been given unless he got something more concrete that said Goku wanted it, like Goku pressing himself hard into the touch.

“What else do you want from this?” Sanzo asked.

If Sanzo wanted words, consent, permission, and an idea of what could happen and be asked of him, Goku could definitely give them to him. “I want so many things! I want to touch and kiss you everywhere. I want to suck you off. I want you to fuck me; I want to feel you inside me.” He even had a little bottle of oil just in case. Maybe someday Sanzo might even allow Goku to fuck him, but that probably wouldn’t be happening in the near future. “But we don’t have to do all of these things tonight! Or even half of ’em. Whatever you’re comfortable with is fine with me.” He’d already gotten more than he’d dared hope for. “You can feel like I won’t waste your time because I asked Hakkai a ton of questions about this stuff.” Goku figured that Sanzo probably didn’t know how to do a lot of these things and it’d be uncomfortable to him to admit that, so Goku made it so he wouldn’t have to. (Though there was something very appealing about them both coming to this as beginners, that they’d be each other’s firsts.) Plus, it’d be difficult enough convincing Sanzo to try this stuff, let alone fumbling around cluelessly while they tried doing it. He wanted Sanzo to love what they did together.

That must have been it because Sanzo’s nervousness faded a bit and his body relaxed a little more. “...I’m sure he was thrilled.”

“He used the most, like, clinical language he could, but I didn’t let it put me off.”

“Better him than the kappa.”

“No kidding. Take a chance on Gojyo telling me bullshit just to mess with me then blabbing about it to everybody? Hell, no.” Take the chance of Gojyo leering at Sanzo about it and making the kind of comments that would make Sanzo never want to have sex with anybody ever? Hell, no.

“But no blowjobs from you tonight.”

Goku had said Sanzo didn’t have to do or be part of anything he didn’t want but wanted to make sure he had a good reason. “Maybe you’d like it!”

“Maybe, but not when we’re this close to the source of the Minus Wave. You just joked about it a few minutes ago. Maybe some people get off from the possibility of real harm, but I’m not one of them. It just makes me want to shoot people.”

“Aw. Putting you against the wall was part of my blowjob plans.” Sanzo would’ve needed it when he went weak in the knees.

“We could do other things here.” Though Sanzo blushed a little and couldn’t look Goku directly in the eyes saying that. Was it weird that getting to see Sanzo being cute made Goku even more turned on? Which seemed impossible partly because even before this he already felt more turned on then he’d ever been in his life. His whole body throbbed with wanting, so much so that it took a bit of effort to keep his approach slow and gentle.

“I could get you to come with my hands,” Goku murmured against Sanzo’s collarbone as he undid the last two buttons on Sanzo’s shirt, with Sanzo shivering against him the whole time. At this rate, Goku might be able to get off just from being pressed against Sanzo, without any direct touches to his cock necessary. “Though I’m really good with my mouth. You’ve seen it.”

“I’ve seen you eating things. I just told you how that would be problematic at the moment.” But Sanzo’s voice didn’t sound steady, in a very good way.

“My mouth isn’t all about eating things,” Goku answered before he licked a stripe down Sanzo’s neck while stroking down the length of Sanzo’s fly, feeling the bulge beneath it twitch and hearing Sanzo’s breath hitch as he gave out a hot little moan. That sound and the way Sanzo moved made Goku need to press his own hard cock against Sanzo’s leg. But he sensed Sanzo resisting things a bit, so he asked, “What do you need me to do to get you to come?”

“I’m not coming in my pants.”

“That’s an easy thing to take care of.” Goku undid Sanzo’s fly, happily not finding any underwear beneath, licked the palm of his hand, curled it around Sanzo’s cock, and stroked hard. Sanzo immediately climaxed, shuddering, breathing hard, and yanking on Goku’s shirt. To Goku’s further surprise, that was enough to get him to come too, the rush of pleasure and success surging through his body. He felt so good, and it looked like he’d gotten Sanzo to feel so good too.

After that, they both sagged against the wall and each other, spent and sleepy. Goku grinned as Sanzo put an arm around his shoulders and leaned his head against Goku’s, with a small, rare, contented, gorgeous smile on his face.

When Sanzo roused out of his afterglow more, he looked a little worried and asked, “Do you...?”

“I’m already finished and happy. I’m not as particular as you are.” In a few minutes he might start to care about it and feel uncomfortable in his pants, but for now it didn’t matter at all. It wouldn’t matter all that much then either, actually, not when he was intertwined with the person he loved so much and he’d given Sanzo pleasure and gotten him to enjoy sex, something both of them had thought might not be possible.

“Pft.”

“Whether I opened my fly or not, from how we’re positioned somebody’s pants were going to get messed up when I came. Might as well be mine.”

“I wasn’t much use to you.”

“I disagree!”

“I’ll do more next time. If you want a next time.” Sanzo sounded almost insecure. After all this?

“I want a next time! Just give me a few minutes.”

“Maybe give me a few more minutes than that.”

“You’re not that old.” It sometimes seemed to Goku that as he got older, Sanzo got younger. Not literally younger, more like the gap of maturity between them gradually closed and Goku realized that Sanzo hadn’t been as old as he’d once assumed.

“I’m only human.”

While Goku wasn’t. That might lead to trouble in the future, but Goku refused to let it ruin the current moment, especially when he had other, more immediate things he could worry about. “You do want a next time?”

Sanzo slid down the wall to sit on the floor, and Goku went down with him, snuggling him a bit, pleased that Sanzo let him. “Yeah,” Sanzo replied. “I didn’t know it could be like that.” Sounding thoughtful, he said, “Nobody ever really tried to seduce me before.”

Goku knew exactly what he meant. When a lot of people came on to Sanzo, they usually gave him some flattery about his looks, made really vulgar sexual remarks, grabbed at him, or some combination of the above, then got mad at him, sometimes violently so, when he refused them. They didn’t try to please or entice him or apparently see him as a person, just as an object to have sex with or use as a trophy.

“No wonder you think people are idiots.”

“I feel so validated and seen right now,” Sanzo replied dryly, but Goku could tell that it wasn’t all sarcasm, which made him so happy.

“Good.”

“Maybe next time I’ll last longer,” Sanzo said, sounding rueful.

“To be fair, I was trying to get you to come quickly.”

“Thanks. It’s your fault, then.”

“Yep.”

But the hard floor and the cooling squishiness in his pants started to bother Goku. “I gotta do something; I’ll be right back though.” Goku stood up and stripped out of his pants and underwear, leaving him wearing only his shirt, which was long enough to just cover his butt and most of his dick. He used the already messed up pants to wipe himself off so his shirt would stay clean(ish) and dry. “Do you think it’d work if I put the two cots right up against each other to make one wider bed? I’m worried they’d move and just dump us on the floor if we spent much time like that.”

“There’s a way to find out.”

“True.” As Goku walked over to the cots, he could swear he felt Sanzo watching his ass, which made him happy. With all his movement, the shirt might not be covering it as much. He hoped Sanzo liked the view. “Crap, this cot feels super flimsy, and it’s noisy.” Even if they didn’t fall off the pushed-together cots, Sanzo wouldn’t want to do much if he had to worry about them being so loud that Gojyo and Hakkai could hear things in the room next door.

“You could take the mattresses and bedding off to make a bed on the floor.” Sanzo really wanted to share a bed!

“Great idea!” It wouldn’t leave much room in the room, but he didn’t want Sanzo far from him anyway.

The mattresses might be kind of thin, but they’d be just as thin on the cots. The improvised bed looked kind of cozy once he had the sheets and pillows on.

While he and Sanzo had shared a bed and slept together many times before, they’d never slept together before. What would happen next? Would Sanzo be willing to have more sex? Would he lie closer to Goku than usual? Touch Goku more? Would Goku be able to hold himself back from touching Sanzo too much? If Sanzo didn’t want more sex but Goku felt excited anyway because of course he would after they lost their virginity together tonight, would Goku be able to hide it enough that Sanzo wouldn’t be disgusted or think Goku was trying to pressure him into more? If he took his shirt off and got into bed naked, would Sanzo also see that as pressure to have sex, since all of them usually wore at least some clothing to bed since they got attacked by enemies so often?

When Goku turned to look at him, Sanzo had his holstered gun and the pack containing his sutra at his bare feet and was using Goku’s pants to wipe himself off. Might as well. If Sanzo had any worries similar to Goku’s, his face didn’t show it, which almost seemed unfair. Some major parts of Sanzo’s worldview had been shifted tonight, so how could he seem so stoic? When Sanzo looked up at Goku, he asked, “Are you psyching yourself out right now?”

“...mmmmmaybe?”

“You’ve already gotten through the most difficult things without me killing you. You don’t have any more planned, do you?”

“Not that I know of!”

“Then you should be able to find a way forward from here on.”

“Wait, are you giving me a pep talk?”

“That makes it sound stupid.”

“No, I like it! Thank you.”

It worked because Sanzo was right. Goku telling Sanzo he was in love with him, talking Sanzo into trying to be more physically intimate with him, and gently and gradually helping Sanzo enjoy it (by holding back a bit instead of impatiently and heartily sexing him up) were easily the most difficult things Goku could have done, and he’d survived and succeeded in all of them, even surpassing his expectations with the physical intimacies. By contrast, his most recent fears about sharing a bed with Sanzo were just details that could be worked out, especially since he’d done pretty well talking with and reading Sanzo tonight. (After Sanzo had talked much more about his past. Had he withheld that information before from the worry that it would allow people to understand him? How much did he worry about that?) While Goku shouldn’t get overconfident, he shouldn’t panic either.

“No more psyching myself out,” Goku said as he sat on a mattress. “Get in bed with me?”

Goku realized that Sanzo seemed to have trouble deciding what he should do with his clothes too, fasten things back up or take everything off. Maybe Sanzo felt some anxiety and uncertainty too.

“Would you like a pep talk?” Goku asked. Sanzo answered by flipping a middle finger at him. “That looks like a ‘no.’” Goku patted the mattress in what he hoped looked like an inviting way.

“If you say, ‘Hey, c’mere, boy’....”

Goku had to fight down the urge to giggle instead of letting it out. “You’d kill me, I know. I won’t!”

Sanzo tucked himself in but didn’t zip or button anything on his clothes, which suggested being neutral about what might happen next? When he turned out the light, only the moonlight coming in through the thin curtains illuminated anything in the room. Goku no doubt saw much better under those conditions than Sanzo did. Sanzo crouched down to set his sutra and gun near the side of the mattress he claimed and pull back the covers for himself. With the moonlight and darkness washing away colors, Goku didn’t have to deal with the distraction and wrongness of Sanzo’s dyed brown hair anymore and just saw him. Goku felt a crackling tension in the space between them, a pull, that made him want to close up the distance and touch him. From the way his breathing changed, became a little faster, Sanzo noticed.

“Is that how you’re going to look at me from now on?” Sanzo asked softly. “It’ll make it difficult for me to tell if the Minus Wave is making you want to eat people or if you personally just want to devour me.”

“It’s just about me and you. And I’m sure you’ll see the difference. I’ll try not to do it in front of other people though. Especially not Gojyo. Is it okay?”

“It is what it is. It’s okay. I’ll tell you when it’s not.” Sanzo got onto the mattress and moved in closer, close enough to let Goku smell his familiar Sanzo scents mingled with a hint of sex and Goku on him.

If Goku let out the rumbling purr of pleasure and satisfaction he felt building inside him, would it make Sanzo worry about the Minus Wave affecting him? Did monkeys even purr? But: “You shouldn’t feel, like, obligated to do anything with me. If you don’t want it, I can handle my excitement alone and jerk off elsewhere.”

“Honestly, I don’t know what I want when it comes to this.” Open and vulnerable, two things Sanzo didn’t like to let himself be.

Sanzo’s answer reminded Goku that while he’d been fantasizing about Sanzo for years, Sanzo hadn’t seriously considered things like this until tonight, hadn’t thought and wanted and longed for them. Maybe he’d even been repulsed by them. It left Goku wondering again what would be the right thing to do, but he also wanted to respect the choices Sanzo made and not condescend to him, all of which made him feel more sympathetic over what Sanzo must have gone through dealing with him for years.

The part of him that wanted to get everything he could from Sanzo tonight just in case Sanzo wouldn’t ever be willing again could shut up.

Then Sanzo’s leg touched Goku’s bare thigh, at which point seemingly a hundred illicit pornographic fantasies of having Sanzo crashed through his brain simultaneously.

“That looked like it hurt,” Sanzo said, his expression far too neutral. Was he deliberately being a brat?

“It still does.” His aching dick.

When Gojyo was being a brat, Goku could recreationally argue and wrestle with him to pay him back. But Sanzo argued more seriously and his anger could burn much longer--and colder, colder than ice--than Gojyo’s. As for the wrestling, there was no way that would end up as just wrestling and he wouldn’t want Sanzo to feel like that was punishment. He also didn’t want to totally discourage Sanzo from being playful with him.

“I have so many things I want to do with you,” Goku said. Wait. “Not just sex stuff!”

“I know.”

“So many things, I don’t know what to do first, and it’s not like I’d even have enough time in one night.” He had even more reasons now to survive this Gyumaoh mission.

“You’ll just have to not die so we can find the time for them, at least the ones I’ll agree to. I’ll try my best not to die too... which I was gonna do anyway.”

“You better.”

“If I have my way, I’m not leaving you anytime soon.”

Sanzo may have said earlier tonight that he had occasional urges to reach out to people but didn’t act on them, but he had done so years ago and changed Goku’s life forever with it, climbing Mount Gogyou and releasing Goku from his centuries of imprisonment and loneliness, even if he’d set out on that mission just to tell Goku to shut up and stop talking inside his head. Considering how annoyed Goku would be if he had some rando’s voice randomly talking inside his brain, he could understand Sanzo’s pique. While Sanzo could’ve just told him off and left him there, he’d physically reached out to Goku through the bars too, which broke the seals on Goku’s cage and freed him. When Goku reached out in return and his hand met Sanzo’s, that contact had been so thrilling, something he’d missed and hungered for, but it also somehow felt like a missing puzzle piece clicked perfectly into place, like he’d lost Sanzo ages ago but finally gotten him back. Then Sanzo took him home to live with him, and Goku’s life really started.

Turning to face him, Goku reached out, moving his hand toward Sanzo’s face slowly enough to give him time to say no or move away, but Sanzo’s eyes merely widened and took on a somewhat more vulnerable look as he let Goku’s hand settle softly along the side of his face and cup it, before leaning into it and closing his eyes, as if to help him feel and process it better, trusting Goku. While Goku thought he might explode with love and joy, he kept still, not wanting to ruin the mood and moment or jolt (or annoy) Sanzo into moving. He couldn’t help the quiet pride in himself that mingled with the love and joy, because learning self-control had been a bitch at times.

 

End