Sanzo sat on the ledge of a tiny stone terrace outside of an equally tiny inn and smoked while the sun eased its way down past the horizon. The innkeeper's wife had been adamant that there be no Evil Tobacco in her domain, so when Sanzo had tried to light up he was shooed out onto the terrace.

It wasn't that bad, actually, he decided; there was a good view of the valley, and it was relatively peaceful.

Sanzo needed some peace these days, as well as some quiet to help sort out some of the changes that had greeted him since they had become an intact group again a few months ago.

Most of the changes were expected and had been ultimately transitory, like the awkward little silences that would follow when a discussion would refer to 'while you were gone', but those silences became shorter and less awkward with each passing day. Their confrontation with Ukoku had shown them in no uncertain terms that their whole was greater than their individual parts, and as much as Sanzo bitterly resented it he had to admit that he needed these idiots.

All of them.

Especially the monkey.

Sanzo had noticed a number of changes in Goku since his absence, and most of them were positive, even welcome.

Goku's increased independence was definitely a good thing. Instead of automatically asking Sanzo for something, Goku got it for himself. He no longer complained when camp chores were assigned but cheerfully and efficiently did what was required.

And now, when Sanzo would go a little ways off to have some 'me time' Goku no longer followed. No more 'Where ya goin', Sanzo?', no 'Can I come too?', and while Goku always had a welcoming smile for him on his return, Sanzo was no longer peppered with questions about where he'd been. He should have been really happy about that change. But even though he still sought his solitude Sanzo found himself looking, expecting…wanting the monkey to follow.

He forcefully expelled a lungful of smoke and rolled his eyes at the sky. He never thought he'd actually miss having the noisy little shit around him all the time.

There was one change that was…troublesome. Weeks apart had shaken up their familiarity, as well as Sanzo's assumptions about this person who was attached to his life. They'd hardly ever been apart, he and Goku, so despite the passage of years Sanzo had always mentally filed Goku under 'Child'. Goku was also filed under 'Bottomless Pit', 'Pain in my Ass' and 'Destroyer of my Peace', as well as another, tightly locked-down mental folder that Sanzo stubbornly refused to name.

But when Sanzo had rejoined the others, he had found a young man where he had expected to find the same 'child'. Where had those inches come from? What had happened to those dumpling cheeks?

Since when did Goku have a perfect ass?

And what the hell was he doing noticing the perfection of Goku's rear? Or Goku's front, for that matter? Sanzo pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to banish the memory of seeing Goku frolic naked in a lake while bathing a few weeks ago. Water had chased its way down the toned, lean muscles of Goku's back, and Sanzo's gaze had followed its path to stare at curved perfection. Then Goku had turned around, and any lingering thoughts of keeping the young demi-god in the 'Child' file evaporated—no child was endowed like that. Sanzo had been both shocked and mortified to experience an intense physical response.

Goku was beautiful. Perfect.

And Sanzo wanted him. Badly.

But how could he ever act on his desires? Even though they were no longer really guardian and ward—they hadn't been that way for years, and their separation had pretty much put the issue to rest—Sanzo was keenly aware of being the person who had rescued Goku from his prison, and he didn't want the monkey responding out of gratitude or obligation. Yes, he'd caught Goku staring at him on occasion, but Goku also stared at the buffet tables in restaurants.

Sanzo shook his head and snorted at the lunacy of the situation.

He drew in another lungful of smoke and then blew it out, watching it dissipate in the evening breeze. The only way anything could happen between them would be if he knew that Goku wanted him as well, and Sanzo didn't have the first clue how to find that out. He was normally a fan of candid conversation, but in this situation 'Want to fuck, monkey?' was simply out of the question.

Sanzo took another drag and grimaced when he tasted the bitterness of the filter. He stubbed out the cigarette in the chipped stone ashtray and headed toward the door. It was late enough for the bar to be open and Sanzo decided that he could definitely use a beer.

...

Of course, the kappa was already there. Gojyo had a mostly-empty glass of beer in one hand and a pool cue in the other, and he was surrounded by a group of giggling women. Sanzo took a seat at the far end of the bar and tried to ignore him.

The bartender flicked a small napkin on the counter in front of Sanzo and set a frosty pint on it. "Your friend is a real charmer," he said, "those girls have been buying him drinks all night. Wish I knew how he did it."

"He's not my friend," Sanzo said.

The man shrugged and moved on to another customer.

He had nothing better to do, so Sanzo smoked a few cigarettes, drank a few beers and watched while Gojyo flirted shamelessly with the waitresses and several of the tavern's patrons. There was every likelihood that Gojyo would have his pick of several beds to warm by the end of the evening, and Sanzo was fascinated by the way the kappa worked the room.

Sanzo was on his fourth beer when Gojyo slid onto the stool next to his, and the alcohol in Sanzo's system prompted him to find out just how the hell the kappa operated. Maybe he could learn something. "How the fuck do you do that?" he asked, waving a cigarette-laden hand at the crowded room behind them.

The bartender set a fresh beer in front of Gojyo, and the redhead nodded his thanks and took a generous quaff. "Do what?"

"How do you know they want you anywhere near them?" Sanzo gestured at Gojyo's twin tendrils of hair. "It's almost like they are antennae."

Gojyo grinned. "It's the Sha Gojyo charm. Melts 'em like butter."

"Bullshit," Sanzo retorted. "You pick some women, but not others."

The kappa's grin widened. "It's a trade secret, man. What, did your dick finally wake up, and now you want to chat up the ladies?"

"Fuck you." Sanzo realized he should have known better than to attempt to have a conversation with the pervert. He returned his attention to his beer.

Gojyo laughed. "Tell you what, Sanzo-sama—give me one of your ciggies and I'll tell you how. Not that it'll help an icicle like you."

Sanzo glanced at his pack of Marlboros that lay on the bar's counter; it was almost a full pack, so he could afford a little bribery. He pulled one out and handed it to Gojyo, who nicked his lighter to light it.

"Thanks." Gojyo inhaled deeply, and then he blew a cloud of smoke off to the side. "I treat a room full of women like I treat a table full of card players; you gotta read 'em, you gotta run a few…tests, to check out the lay of the land."

Sanzo raised an eyebrow. "Tests?"

"Tests." Gojyo drained his beer and signaled for another. "The first test is the quick touch." He reached over to set Sanzo's lighter next to the pack of cigarettes, and as he did so his hand brushed against Sanzo's.

Sanzo jerked his hand away, and beer sloshed in his glass from the sudden movement.

The kappa grinned and leaned closer. "See? You failed the quick touch test. You're not interested."

"You're goddamn right I'm not interested," Sanzo hissed. "What the hell are you doing?"

"It's one of my little tests, O Uptight One. I'll 'accidentally' brush up against someone while I'm reaching for a drink, lining up a pool shot, whatever. If someone's not interested they might jerk away like you just did, though probably not as much—they would just shift away. End of story, I move on. But if they don't..."

The sentence hung between them, unfinished, until Sanzo frowned and muttered, "Well?"

Gojyo made him wait until the bartender had brought his beer, and didn't continue until after he had taken a long swallow of the amber liquid. "If they don't move away, they might be interested. So I move on to my second test."

"Which is?"

Gojyo waggled a finger at him. "That'll cost you another smoke."

"Fucking extortionist," Sanzo grumbled as he handed Gojyo a second cigarette.

"Dude, you asked me," Gojyo replied, and he stood and moved closer to Sanzo. He leaned over to retrieve the lighter, resting a forearm on Sanzo's shoulder.

Sanzo stiffened. "Get the fuck off me," he said through gritted teeth.

Gojyo stayed where he was, and there was a snick as he lit the cigarette. "This is the second test," he murmured, his lips close to Sanzo's ear. "Longer contact, I move a little closer."

"Get. The. Fuck. Off. Me." Sanzo felt the warm, damp puffs of Gojyo's breath as the kappa laughed.

"You fail again, Cherry-chan. You're definitely not interested." Gojyo set the lighter down and then he returned to his stool. "Now, if you were," he continued, "you might have leaned against me, or tilted your head back to talk to me or smile at me." He tapped the ash off into a nearby ashtray. "Although seeing you smile would break my brain."

"Ha ha."

"Gojyo, aren't you going to come back and play some more pool?" A buxom brunette sidled up next to Gojyo and leaned against him. "We've missed you." She glanced over at Sanzo. "Maybe your friend can come and play too, he's cute."

Sanzo scowled. "He's not—"

"My friend's not the fun-and-games type, sweetheart," Gojyo said, and he winked at Sanzo. "Besides, that would mean I'd have to share." He slid an arm around her waist. The woman giggled and Gojyo let her lead him back to the billiards table.

Sanzo watched them go, and he noticed that Gojyo was repeating the same 'tests' he'd just given Sanzo. This time, though, he had a willing subject—the woman was responding to every touch.

She's definitely interested.

A possibility presented itself in Sanzo's hazy thoughts, and he entertained the idea while he finished his beer and paid his tab.

Maybe he could conduct a few tests of his own.

...

Laden with bags, Goku trudged along the narrow, cobbled street, and he squinted his eyes against the rays of the late-afternoon sun while he followed Hakkai back to the inn where they were staying for the night. They had finally made it to a decent-sized town, and after they settled in Hakkai had seized upon the opportunity to replenish their supplies. He had also seized upon Goku to help, and Goku was more than willing to go along—usually when he helped Hakkai shop he could finagle extra snacks.

He looked forward to having dinner soon. He also looked forward to seeing if Sanzo was going to act weird again.

Sanzo had been acting differently since they were all together again, but Goku supposed that he and Gojyo and Hakkai were acting differently too. During Sanzo's absence Goku had learned to fend for himself, and while he had missed Sanzo terribly Goku recognized that their time apart had made him stronger.

Sanzo had been watching him a lot lately. That was a big part of what was different; in the past Goku was used to being benignly ignored for the most part, but now when he glanced at Sanzo he met a violet gaze that had been watching him.

Sanzo was never an easy read, but Goku picked up on a few things. He could see the surprise—and grudging respect—in the monk's expression when he would do chores without being asked, or when he would take care of things for himself. And one time Goku swore he saw a flash of loneliness in Sanzo's eyes when he had returned from wandering off for a smoke—almost like he had wanted Goku to follow him. That had confused Goku a little; hadn't Sanzo always bitched that Goku never left him alone?

There was one other look he couldn't quite figure out yet. It was a look Goku saw more and more often lately, and it always gave him butterflies in his belly. It made his heart pound hard and fast, and it made…other…things hard, too.

Just thinking about it sent a delicious curl of heat down to his groin.

Goku shifted the bags, hoping Hakkai would assume the heat in his cheeks was from the exertion of carrying the supplies. They finally made it back to the inn, and Goku followed Hakkai up a flight of narrow stairs to the room that Hakkai was sharing with Gojyo. The kappa was lounging on one of the two twin beds in the room, and a cigarette dangled from his lips while he idly played a game of solitaire.

"I hope you have an ashtray nearby," Hakkai commented as he set the bags down on the room's tiny table. "If you set fire to your bed, I'm not sharing mine."

Goku snorted and put his bags on the floor next to the table.

Gojyo grinned at Hakkai and gestured at a dented ashtray that sat next to the card box. "I know how you get about ashtrays, so I was prepared." He sat up and peered at the growing pile on the table. "Speaking of ciggies, did you get me a carton, 'Kai?"

"Here ya go," Goku said, and he reached into one of the bags at his feet, fished out a carton of cigarettes and tossed them to the kappa, who grunted his thanks.

"Oh, no."

Hakkai rummaged through his bags, and then he bent down to search the ones Goku had placed on the floor. "I think I may have left a bag behind." He glanced at the clock on the wall above Gojyo's bed. "If I go now, I can make it back to the store before they close. Gojyo, Goku, can you two please take care of packing these things away?"

"Sure."

"Okay," Goku said, and after Hakkai left he fetched the canvas bags they used to store their supplies. He unzipped them and then he and Gojyo began to pack up their purchases.

"Hunh," Gojyo said as he handed Goku a stack of tuna tins, "that's weird for Hakkai to forget something. What'd you do, monkey, pester him for snacks the whole time?"

Goku grabbed the tins and shoved them into the pack. "I didn't do anything! An' I only asked twice. Maybe he's distracted or somethin', like Sanzo."

Gojyo glanced at him. "Why do you think Sanzo is distracted?"

Goku shrugged. "I dunno, he's just actin' a little weird. He's been bumpin' into me a lot lately."

"Bumping into you?" Gojyo passed him a netted bag of potatoes.

"Yeah," Goku said. "Like last night, he bumped into me when he was reachin' for his newspaper. An' he did it again this morning when he got his coffee."

Gojyo stared at him, mouth agape.

"What?" Goku demanded.

Gojyo's mouth snapped shut. "Did he…bump into you like this?" He leaned over to put a package of dried soba noodles into the canvas sack, and as he did so his arm and shoulder brushed against Goku's.

Goku shifted away. "Yeah, kinda like that, but bumpier. He almost knocked me off my chair."

One corner of Gojyo's mouth quirked up. "And did he do this, too?" He rested his arm on Goku's shoulder while he tossed a jar of bouillon cubes into the sack.

"Get off!" Goku ducked out from under Gojyo's arm and scowled at him.

"Answer me—did he do it?"

Goku thought about it for a moment, and then he replied. "Yeah, after breakfast, when he was gettin' his glasses off the table before we left. 'Cept it was rougher when Sanzo did it."

"Tell me something, squirt; did you move away from him like you just did with me?"

Goku's frown deepened. "No, 'cause I didn't mind." He wasn't going to tell the kappa that he liked it. A lot. "I mind when it's you, though."

Gojyo laughed.

"What?" Goku poked him. "How come you know what kinda stuff Sanzo was doin'?"

"Do you really want to know?"

"'Course I do!"

"Are you sure?"

Goku clenched his fist. "Tell me," he said through gritted teeth.

Gojyo picked up a canister of tea and tossed it lightly in his hand. "Sanzo used the Sha Gojyo Interest Test on you."

Goku blinked. "Interest test?"

"Interest Test."

"Whaddya mean, interest?"

"Interest," the kappa drawled, rocking his hips in a lewd manner as he tossed the canister into the sack. "I should have known something was up the other night when he asked me how I knew which women would want me; Sanzo never asks an idle question, even when he's had a few beers." He cocked his head and regarded Goku. "Didn't expect him to use it on you, though."

Goku's mouth opened and shut, but no sound came out. His heart began to pound against his ribs.

Sanzo was doing that stuff to see if I was interested in him?

If I wanted him?

Heat flooded his cheeks. "Did I"—Goku coughed when the words came out in a squeak—"d-did I pass the test?"

"Flying colors." Gojyo patted him on the shoulder and reached for the sack of brown rice.

...

Nightfall found Sanzo outside, on another tiny terrace, smoking. Hakkai had claimed his robes for laundering, so Sanzo was clad in his jeans and a button-down shirt. He sat in one of the wrought iron chairs and puffed away on an after-dinner cigarette while he ignored the beginnings of a spectacular sunset.

Stupid fucking kappa, he thought sourly. What the fuck does he know?

His 'test' results over the last two days had been decidedly mixed. Each time Sanzo had brushed against him, Goku had definitely responded by leaning into the contact. He had even looked up at Sanzo and smiled. But Goku had also looked surprised, as well as vaguely confused.

Not that it was difficult to confuse the monkey on any given day.

Sanzo shook his head, took a final drag off his cigarette, and stubbed it out in the ashtray. He fished inside his shirt pocket to retrieve another, and he frowned when he found that the pack of Marlboros wasn't there. Neither was his lighter—he realized he must have left both on the table in the sitting-room. "Fuck," he muttered to himself.

"You lookin' for these?"

The sound of Goku's voice made Sanzo turn his head, and he saw Goku standing at the top of the terrace steps, holding a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. "It's times like this that you make up for being a pain in my ass," Sanzo said.

Goku grinned and clomped down the stone steps, and then he walked over and put the pack of cigarettes on the table. As he did so his arm brushed against Sanzo's.

What—? Sanzo started at the contact, but he didn't pull away.

"Sorry, didn't mean to startle you," Goku said. He then rested his forearm on Sanzo's shoulder while he leaned over and set the lighter on the table with a soft clack.

Sanzo felt the warmth of Goku's arm seeping through the fabric of his shirt, and he marveled at how different it felt when the touch was a welcome one. Does he even realize what he's doing? he wondered, and he glanced up at Goku.

A twinkling, honey-brown gaze met his in the fading light, and Goku's earlier grin was now a shy smile. "Am I doin' it right?"

"Doing what right?"

Goku leaned a little closer. "The test thingy," he said.

Sanzo couldn't decide whether he was relieved that Goku had finally caught on, or horrified that he had obviously been talking to the kappa. "It's not really a test if you tell the person about it, dumbass."

Chestnut-brown eyebrows scrunched together. "Umm…but don't you already know about it?"

A laugh burbled up from the depths of Sanzo's chest. He reached up and traced a fingertip along the sharp angle of Goku's jaw, pleased when he heard Goku's breath catch, and saw golden eyes dilate. He shrugged off Goku's arm, and then he retrieved his cigarettes and lighter and rose from the chair. "Come on, you moron," he said, and he walked toward the terrace steps.

The monkey was thankfully quiet as he followed Sanzo up the stairs and down the hallway to their shared room. Even so, Sanzo could feel a change in Goku's energy, could feel the want crackling in the air, and it only heightened the arousal that coiled in his groin. He waited until they were both inside the room, and then he shut the door and shoved Goku against it, slapping his hand against the worn wood next to Goku's head.

Goku's hands shot up to rest against Sanzo's chest. His eyes were wide and dark, and short, panting breaths escaped from parted, glistening lips. "Sanzo," he said.

Sanzo leaned in, his mouth a mere inch from Goku's. "You want this?" Sanzo wanted to be—needed to be—absolutely, crystal-fucking-clear.

"Oh, fuck yeah," Goku replied, and he gripped Sanzo's shirt. "For a long time. But you've always treated me like a kid."

"You were a kid."

"Yeah, well, m'not any more." Goku tilted his head up and closed the distance between them, bringing their lips together.

Such a small action, but it was enough to banish the last of Sanzo's doubts. He deepened the kiss, sliding a hand into soft, spiky hair. Goku responded ardently, and while his kisses were clumsy and a little sloppy they were also full of hunger and passion, and when their bodies moved closer together Sanzo felt the hard ridge of an erection pressing against his leg. He broke off the kiss and pulled Goku's polo shirt up and off, and Goku worked at undoing Sanzo's shirt. Several buttons pinged across the room as Goku yanked at the crisp cotton.

"Stop that." Sanzo smacked his hand. "You're going to find those buttons later and sew them back on—I am not explaining to Hakkai why my shirt is missing buttons."

Goku laughed, and it was a low and surprisingly sultry sound.

Sanzo pushed him up against the door again and took his mouth in a ravenous kiss. He slid his hand down to squeeze the generous bulge in the front of Goku's cargo pants, enjoying the noises the monkey made in response. He then ran his tongue along Goku's jaw, and when he reached Goku's ear he whispered, "Take off the rest of your clothes and get on the bed."

Goku's shoes were the first to go flying, landing with a pair of thuds against the wall. Sanzo watched him fumble with the rest of his clothes while he removed his own. He was probably making Goku nervous by staring, but he had spent far too many months sneaking glances and feeling guilty about it. He didn't need to feel guilty any more, so Sanzo was going to watch as much as he wanted—and from the hungry way Goku's gaze traveled over his own naked body, Goku was thinking the same thing.

How much time had they wasted, he wondered, both wanting each other?

Sanzo enjoyed an unobstructed view of Goku's ass—and the flash of a hard, stiff cock—while Goku climbed on top of the mattress.

Right up until that moment Sanzo had thought they would just get each other off—hands, mouths, whatever—but when he saw Goku, naked, on his hands and knees on the bed, something in Sanzo's brain short-circuited. He walked over and ran a hand down Goku's bare back, tracing along the knobby line of Goku's spine, and Goku arched his back against the touch, almost like a cat. Sanzo dipped a finger into the cleft at the base of Goku's spine and teased at his entrance, and when Goku moaned the sound went straight to Sanzo's dick.

"Get the lotion off the nightstand," Sanzo said, his voice hoarse.

Goku scrambled to retrieve the bottle, and he dropped it twice before shoving it into Sanzo's hands.

Minutes later, Sanzo was balls-deep in that tight, perfect ass, and in between muffled moans Goku was urging him on.

"Ngh, Sanzo," Goku fisted the rumpled bedsheets and rocked back against him, "do it harder … faster."

"Bossy little shit," Sanzo said, trying to catch his breath. He should have guessed that Goku would approach sex with the same reckless abandon as he did fighting, sparring and eating. Sanzo gripped Goku's hips and drove in deeper, his eyes sliding shut at the sensations that coursed through him. And then, as always, he gave Goku what he wanted.

There were no tender words, no gentle caresses, only rough, hungry fucking that made grunts and groans escape their lips. Bedsprings creaked as they moved together, and Goku buried his face in the pillow in an attempt to quiet his moans. When Sanzo reached around and grasped Goku's dripping cock, Goku shuddered and bucked against him, and the sudden tightness that enveloped him sent Sanzo into a pounding, dizzying climax. He came hard, straining against the trembling body beneath his, and for a few suspended moments he was only aware of the tight heat that enveloped his dick, the sweaty warmth of Goku's ass pressed against his hips, and the aftershocks of pleasure that continued to spike through him.

They collapsed on the bed in a sweaty tangle of limbs, and then Sanzo eased out and rolled onto his back.

"Wow." Goku's voice was muffled by the pillow.

Sanzo grunted in response. He lost track of how long he lay there, staring at the wooden beams of the ceiling, listening to his heart thump against his ribs while his breathing evened out. He glanced over at Goku. He would have sworn that the monkey would have been a talker—and a cuddler—but Goku seemed perfectly content to remain sprawled on his stomach, his eyes closed and a dopey, satisfied grin on his face.

Another surprising change. Looked like those tests had been useful after all.

But that meant—

Sanzo flung an arm up over his eyes and groaned. "Fuck," he said. "The kappa knows."

Goku opened his eyes. "Is that so bad?" he said. "If he hadna told you about his test thingy we wouldna done what we just did. Besides, I don't think we hafta worry about Gojyo."

Sanzo snorted. "Have you met him? You practically handed him a winning lottery ticket. That jackass will be riding me—and you—about this all the way to India."

Goku shook his head. "Gojyo was teasin' me until I said that Hakkai must know all about the test, since I've seen him do those same things to Hakkai. Gojyo got all funny lookin' an' he begged me not to tell. So we made a deal."

Sanzo smirked. "Not bad, monkey," he said.

Goku grinned at him, and then he rolled over onto his back and stretched luxuriously.

A tendril of heat curled in Sanzo's belly as he watched toned muscles move beneath bronzed, sweaty skin. Beautiful. Perfect.

Mine.