It felt good to be back at Kinzan, after so many years.
This was the place Sanzo considered home—not the sprawling, ostentatious compound at Keiun. Kinzan was tiny in comparison; it nestled at the foot of the mountains, where it overlooked two villages and a small, bustling town. It was also just remote enough that Sanzo was only bothered once or twice a month with visiting pilgrims eager for a blessing from the Thirty-First of China, one of the Heroes of Shangri-la.
Of course, it wasn't the same. The youkai attack all those years ago had left the original temple complex a fire-ravaged shadow of itself, and while the complex's restoration was moving at a good pace—a pace that had vastly improved since his arrival—Sanzo knew that the Kinzan of his childhood was gone.
Which, Sanzo considered, was not necessarily a bad thing. He was not the same person as the teen-aged boy who had fled the temple, grief-stricken and newly marked by the gods. He had left as someone almost all the monks disliked and mistrusted, and he had returned as a national hero. The monks who had been so against his elevation to Sanzo status were long gone, and for the first time Sanzo felt truly welcomed in the place where he had been raised.
It was different, too, because Goku was here with him.
Sanzo perched on the wide ledge of the stone windowsill in his office and smoked a cigarette while he watched Goku help a group of monks and novices finish the roof on the almost restored Drum Tower. They moved in a steady rhythm, chattering while they passed the baked pottery tiles from one to another until the tiles reached the men on the roof. The bright, clinking sounds of dozens of hammers interspersed with the men's voices, and every now and then Sanzo would hear Goku's laughter as he carried bundles of tiles over to the tower's base.
At Kinzan, Goku was known as one of the Heroes of Shangri-La, as well as Genjo Sanzo's trusted companion, and he was respected as such. No one resented him, complained about him, or treated him badly. At Kinzan, Goku was an honored member of their small community.
The Wheel turns, Sanzo thought. At twenty-two, Goku was not the same person as the empty-headed, bottomless pit of a boy he had brought down from Mount Gogyou. Well, he still ate too much. But the temple considered his presence an honor, so Sanzo had no pity for them.
Goku certainly earned his keep. He had thrown himself enthusiastically into the repairs, and his strength, sunny nature, and almost endless energy had gained him friends throughout the temple. Because of Goku's help, the Abbot was predicting that all the building repairs would be completed by the time that the winter snows came.
It was late summer now, and to combat the incessant heat, most of the men had stripped to their waists, working only in their calf-length ghi pants. Goku had done the same, and was now just clad in his cargo shorts. Sanzo felt a warm curl of arousal spark in his belly as he watched Goku's back muscles shift beneath bronzed skin.
This side of his office had definite advantages in the view from the wide set of windows.
Of course, the other side of the office had been a favorable location the month before, when Goku and the men had been working on the Bell Tower. Sanzo decided he would start taking his smoke breaks on the porch once they started work on the Records Hall.
Over the last year Goku had finally gained a few inches in height, and while he would probably always look younger than his years, he had lost the plump cheeks and skinny build that made people mistake him for a young teenager. He now looked every inch the young demi-god that he was, and Sanzo had trouble keeping his eyes off of him, especially on days like this.
As if he sensed that he was being watched, Goku set his burden down and glanced over to where Sanzo sat. Their gazes met for a moment, and then Goku smiled and bounded over.
"Hi, Sanzo!" The window ledge came up to Goku's chest, and he leaned his arms on the sill. "Oooh, this feels nice and cool," he said, resting his cheek on the stone slab. "Got anything to drink?"
Sanzo got up and fetched a pitcher of sweetened lemon-water from his desk, and he poured a glassful and added some ice. He handed the glass to Goku and resumed his seat on the ledge.
"Thanks." Goku gulped down half the drink, and then he held the icy glass to his sweaty forehead. "Brother T'en thinks we'll be done the Tower today! There's only a little bit left to finish up on the roof, and then we'll do the inside, which won't take long at all. We're going to do the Lecture Hall next, I think."
"No hurry on the Lecture Hall," Sanzo grumbled, trying not to stare at Goku's glistening lower lip. "You can do that one last."
Goku laughed. "You can't get out of that one completely, but I'll see what I can do. And I know you wanted me to hide the statue of the Merciful Goddess that's supposed to go in the Drum Tower, but Brother T'en caught me and I had to put it back."
"Shit," Sanzo said. He really didn't want the Holy Hag's statue that close to his quarters.
"He wasn't mad though. I think he thought it was funny." Goku finished his drink, and loudly crunched on some of the ice. "I gotta get back. Thanks, Sanzo!" He set the glass on the ledge and trotted back to the Drum Tower, where voices raised to greet him.
Sanzo took one last drag from his cigarette, and then he stubbed it out and rose from the ledge. He picked up Goku's glass, and as he put it on a tray by the door for a novice to pick up, he once again heard the monkey's laughter echo across the courtyard.
Goku was happy here, and that meant more to Sanzo than he cared to admit.
He glanced around his office, at the plain but well made desk and furnishings, and then his gaze moved past the door to the hallway that led to his and Goku's rooms, which were spacious and comfortable. The small building was set far enough back from the main Temple structures that it afforded him a small degree of privacy when he wanted it. All in all, not a bd place to call home.
Was this peace? Sanzo wondered. This new ability to spend his days—and nights—without the constant threat of youkai attacks, to do his work without hearing an unending stream of petty whining and complaints, to sleep in the same bed every night, under the same roof?
He brushed his fingers over the two sutras that rested, finally reunited, on his shoulders. Was this contentment, this knowledge that he had finally kept the promise he had made to himself, and his dead master?
Sanzo had lived more than half his life without either, and now that the two had arrived at his doorstep he wasn't sure whether to let them in or not.
A knock on the office door startled him out of his ruminations. "Come in," he said.
A middle-aged monk entered the office and bobbed a bow. "Good afternoon, Sanzo-sama. Abbot Jiangou has asked if you could please meet with him in his office; several dozen cartons of petitions have arrived from Chang'an that require your attention, and he would like to go over how we may assist you in this new duty."
Sanzo sighed. It seemed that paperwork was going to follow him to his grave, and beyond. So much for peace and contentment!
The late afternoon sun made the thought of crossing the main courtyard unbearable, so Sanzo decided to take the longer way around and walk along the open porches of the compound's other buildings. His arms were laden with the first batch of petitions, those that he and the Abbot had deemed most urgent, and a group of novices were going to bring the rest of the boxes to his office in the morning.
He was halfway through walking in front of the Student's Hall when he heard a familiar voice coming from inside.
"—this last one, and we're done!" Goku said.
"I'm so glad, these statures are very heavy. We could never have moved these so quickly without your great strength, Goku-san."
It was a young man's voice that responded; Sanzo figured it was one of the novices.
"Just Goku," Goku replied. "I'm glad to help."
"Kinzan will be restored faster than we ever hoped possible, and it is thanks to you and Sanzo-sama. Where will you go, Goku, when we are finished?"
"Huh? What do you mean?"
Sanzo was curious to know, too. He stepped closer to the shuttered window so that he could hear them better.
"I—many of us—assumed you came with Genjo Sanzo-sama to assist with Kinzan's restoration. We know that you do not wish to become a monk, so we are curious as to where you will go when you are done your work here."
There was a long pause, and then Goku replied, "I, uh… came to live here."
"You did? Really?" The young novice's voice was full of amazement. "I was sent here because it is my family's tradition that the third son becomes a monk. It is pleasant enough here, but I would much rather travel and see all of China—maybe even other countries! I have heard many tales of your travels, Goku. I can't imagine that you would want to live here, in Kinzan. Do you stay because Sanzo-sama wishes to keep you by his side?"
There was an even longer pause, a decidedly uncomfortable one. "Who knows what Sanzo wants," Goku said, and his tone held a disgruntled note. "Let's get going, okay? Brother T'en wanted all the statues back in the Drum Tower before dinner."
"I'm sorry if I offended you, Goku." The young novice sounded alarmed at Goku's obvious change in mood.
"Nah, it's okay. I guess it's something I should think about," Goku said.
Sanzo heard their grunts of effort, and the scrape of the statue being moved once more. He moved away from the window, picking up his pace as he continued walking back to his office, frowning at the growing tightness in his chest that had nothing to do with walking in the summer heat.
Goku was thinking of leaving Kinzan? Leaving him?
He scowled at the ridiculousness of the thought. Goku had been with him for nearly ten years. They'd spent almost half of that time practically living in each other's pockets, sharing hotel rooms, beds, tents, sleeping bags and the back of Jeep during all the years of their godforsaken journey. The only time they'd been apart for any significant period was the few weeks he'd traveled with Hazel Grouse, right after Goku was nearly killed by Ukoku.
As much as Goku's chatter sometimes annoyed the living piss out of him, Sanzo couldn't imagine not having the monkey around. Especially now, when he had finally, after years of vigorously fighting any such attachment, allowed himself to entertain the possibility of bringing Goku to his bed.
Goku was interested, Sanzo knew he was—you couldn't spend over four years in painfully close quarters with someone and not know when they were attracted to you. And Goku, he admitted, probably knew the interest was mutual. If the brat could smell dinner cooking in a village a mile away, he could definitely smell arousal on someone sitting in front of him. Sanzo had spent most of the journey back East enduring cold showers and wondering what the hell he was going to do about the whole situation.
But he wouldn't try and keep Goku here if he truly wanted to leave. After spending five hundred years imprisoned, alone, Goku deserved every freedom. And after surviving—and winning—the final battle at Hontou, he had certainly had earned the right to live the rest of his life as he wanted.
Sanzo had just assumed Goku would live it with him.
And he thought that Goku was happy here.
"That's what happens when you assume," Sanzo grumbled as he entered his office. He threw the petitions on his desk, not caring that they fell out of order, and he yanked open the bottom drawer, retrieved a bottle of whiskey, and poured himself a generous shot. "You make an ass out of you and me both." He downed the drink and poured another.
He was an ass, he decided two shots later. He was an ass for ever letting those golden-brown eyes get to him, and an even bigger ass for getting so attached.
"Honrai muichimotsou," he recited softly, emptying the rest of the bottle into his glass.
It was past ten before the raucous laughter and cheering finally died down in the temple's dining hall.
About fucking time, Sanzo thought. He had extricated himself fairly soon after dinner, leaving Goku with the others to celebrate the restoration of the Drum Tower. Now he sat reading in his bedroom, in a small alcove outfitted with his books, a reading lamp, and a surprisingly comfortable chair.
He looked up when he heard a knock on his door. The only person who would be outside his bedroom door at this hour was Goku. "Yeah," he said.
The door opened, and Goku stepped inside the room.
"Hey, Sanzo," Goku said, closing the door behind him, "you should've stayed longer, it was fun tonight. Abbot Jiangou busted out an old stash of sake and everyone got drunk. Old Brother Xang said we were doing 'mindful drinking.'"
Goku had clearly partaken of the sake; his eyes were over-bright and there was a flush to his cheeks that would have been considered adorable, if Sanzo wasn't in such a sour mood. His mood did allow him to take in Goku's crisp, white changshan-style shirt, worn over snug-fitting jeans. A few of the top buttons were undone, revealing Goku's collarbones.
He tore his gaze away from the tempting expanse of tawny skin. "The fact that I could hear the celebrating all the way over here means that I was smart to leave when I did." He frowned at the large jar that Goku carried. "What's that?"
"It's a jar of the old sake, it's a gift from the Abbot. Since you weren't there, he asked me to bring it to you. It's really good." Goku set the jar on a nearby table, and then he walked over to where Sanzo sat. "And look!" He stuck out his left wrist, which bore a woven leather cord with an old coin knotted at its center. "This was for me," he said. "They found some old coins while we were fixing the tower, and the Abbot had this one made into a bracelet for me." Goku pointed at the raised kanji on the coin's face, on each side of the square hole in the middle. "Abbott Jiangou said this says, 'Buddha's Fortune,' and he said you and me are Buddha's gift to the temple, so he wanted me to have it. Isn't that cool?"
Sanzo leaned forward and examined the coin. It did indeed say 'Fortune of Sakyamuni,' and it was no small shock to Sanzo that Goku had been given such a meaningful gift—and by the Abbot, no less. "Kinzan is very different from Keiun," he finally said, and then he sat back and lifted up his newspaper again.
"It sure is! I like it here," Goku said. "Everyone is nice. It's prettier here, too."
Sanzo flicked the newspaper open. "And yet you are thinking of leaving."
Goku stilled, and Sanzo sensed a sudden tension in him.
"What makes you think I'm gonna leave, Sanzo?" Goku asked, his voice neutral.
From behind his paper wall, Sanzo repeated the conversation he'd overheard.
"Do you want me to leave?" Again, Goku's tone was curiously flat.
"I didn't say that," Sanzo said.
"Do you want me to stay?" There was a different note in Goku's voice now, one flavored with hope and… something else.
Sanzo wasn't ready to have this conversation. "Do what you want," he said.
There was a tearing sound as Goku ripped the newspaper out of Sanzo's hands and threw it across the room.
Sanzo goggled at the monkey's temerity, and he rose from his chair. "Why you—"
"If you want me to stay, Sanzo, tell me. I'm sick of you saying 'Do what you want,' and hiding behind your fucking newspaper!"
There were only a handful of times that Sanzo had seen Goku genuinely angry, and this was one of them. His lip curled. "You want to stay? Stay. I'm sure as hell not going to beg—"
"I'm not asking you to beg!" Goku bellowed. "I just want you to tell me that you want me here with you." He lifted his chin, defiant. "I've been following you almost all my life, Sanzo. At first I followed because I didn't know where else to go, and then I followed because I didn't want to be left behind. I followed you to India because I believed what we were doing was right, and I followed you here because I wanted to help rebuild the place where you grew up, but…" he faltered.
Goku's rush of words reminded Sanzo of a game of mahjongg, several years before. "But?"
"I thought… I hoped…" Goku paused, and then swallowed heavily. "I don't want to follow you any more, Sanzo."
Sanzo blinked at the forceful statement. "I never asked you to follow me."
"You're right. And you never asked me to leave, either." Goku swallowed again. "I'm not a little kid any more, and we don't have to worry any more about what happens when my limiter comes off. I'm not your responsibility any more."
Sanzo gaze was drawn to the now finger-thin band of gold that encircled Goku's head, worn these days only because Goku preferred his human form. "Then why are you here?" he asked.
He knew the answer. He'd known the answer since the day their fingers had touched through the bars of Goku's mountain prison.
"I think you know why," Goku said, his eyes never leaving Sanzo's face. "I'll stay by your side forever, Sanzo, but only if I know you want me to. Tell me you want me to stay."
There it was. A confession, although not quite; Goku was guarding his heart, too.
Sanzo had built higher, stronger walls around his own heart, and the words that would keep Goku with him refused to come.
"Sanzo?" Goku's determined gaze bore into him.
Fuck this shit, Sanzo thought, and he decided on a non-verbal approach. He pushed Goku back, once, twice, three times—ignoring Goku's confused curse—until the backs of Goku's legs bumped into Sanzo's bed, toppling the monkey onto the mattress.
Sanzo climbed on top of him and took Goku's mouth in a ravenous kiss, pouring into the meeting of their lips all the frustration and pent-up desire that had been building in him over the past few months—no, he admitted, finally, the past few years. Goku groaned, his lips parting in response. Sanzo took immediate advantage and deepened the kiss, groaning himself when their tongues touched and slid wetly together.
He lost track of how long they lay there, exchanging hungry, passionate kisses. Finally, when his lungs demanded air, Sanzo broke off the kiss.
Goku stared up at him. "Holy shit," he said, as he tried to catch his breath.
Sanzo noted Goku's dazed expression with satisfaction. Equally gratifying was the rock-hard erection pressing against his thigh. "Is that good enough for you?" he asked, nipping at Goku's kiss-swollen lower lip.
Goku looked at Sanzo for a long moment. "N-no," he said. "It's not."
Sanzo scowled at him. What was the monkey playing at? He proceeded to yank open Goku's shirt, ignoring the ping of buttons hitting the wall and floor. He licked along Goku's collarbones, tracing the notch between them with his tongue.
"H-hey,"Goku protested weakly, "I just bought this shirt!"
"Sew the buttons back on," Sanzo replied. He continued his onslaught, moving his mouth down the valley between Goku's pectoral muscles before he veered over to lap at a dusky nipple with slow, lazy swipes.
Goku made a strangled keening noise in his throat, arching his body against Sanzo's while he reached down to thread his fingers through Sanzo's hair.
Sanzo raised his head and gave Goku a challenging look. "What about now?"
Goku shook his head. "No, s-still not good enough."
Sanzo renewed his assault. He dragged his mouth across Goku's taut, quivering abdomen, delving his tongue into Goku's navel while he made quick work of the button and zipper of Goku's pants, yanking the garment down and off.
And then he had Goku's hard length in his mouth, and Goku's moans filled his ears even as he breathed in the heady scent of Goku's arousal, mixed with the warm, wild-earth smell that was simply Goku. It was an intoxicating combination, and the way that Goku responded to every touch just increased his own ardor all the more. He felt Goku's hands in his hair again, carding through the soft, silky strands while Goku's hips rocked up. Moments later Goku shuddered and came with Sanzo's name on his lips.
Sanzo released him, and then he looked up at Goku once more.
Goku closed his eyes and took a deep, shuddering breath. "No," he said, opening his eyes again. They were dark, with just the barest rims of amber, and they were filled with a mix of desire and frustration. "You gotta say it, Sanzo."
Sanzo inwardly cursed. The monkey was being infuriatingly stubborn. Maybe he should have done this months ago, Sanzo thought, as he trailed his lips back up along Goku's heaving chest. Or even earlier. Maybe if he'd done this when he'd first realized he wanted Goku, they wouldn't be having this confrontation right now.
Sanzo paused, feeling the racing tattoo of Goku's heartbeat beneath his lips.
No, he realized. This… thing had been building between them for years; waiting for the journey to be over, waiting for when it was finally time to live their lives without the pressures of a mission, the search for a scripture, or vengeance. Waiting for Goku to be a grown man, able to make his own choices.
That time was now, and Goku had made his choice. Now he wanted Sanzo to make his.
Sanzo knew, with a sudden certainty, that he would lose Goku if he didn't tell the monkey what he wanted to hear.
And when, honestly, had he ever not given Goku what he wanted?
"I want you to stay," Sanzo growled against the throbbing pulse point along the side of Goku's neck. "I want you here, in my bed. In my home. In my life." He raised his head and met Goku's dark, shining gaze. "Is that good enough? Are you satisfied now?"
Goku's smile could have powered the temple for a year. "Yes," he said.
Next thing Sanzo knew, Goku used some sneaky-ass maneuver to flip them around, and he found himself on his back and being very enthusiastically kissed. Goku's hands tugged at the silk of his top, pushing it up to allow him access to Sanzo's skin, and Sanzo drew in a hissing breath when Goku's callused thumbs dragged over his nipples.
"Yes," Goku said, and he dipped his head to lick and suck at a stiffened nub.
The sensations were exquisite. Sanzo groaned when Goku's teeth scraped against his sensitive flesh, sending jolts of pleasure-pain straight to his already achingly hard erection, which strained against the confines of his jeans.
Goku's mouth then blazed a hot, wet trail down Sanzo's abdomen, while he worked at undoing the fastenings of Sanzo's jeans. Before Sanzo could find his voice to issue a warning about dicks and zippers, Goku had already carefully pulled down the zipper and eased Sanzo's jeans off.
Sanzo took in the sight of Goku, sprawled between his legs, his mouth tantalizingly close to Sanzo's throbbing length.
"Yes," Goku said, and he bent his head.
Sanzo bit back a groan when Goku's mouth engulfed him, and he gripped the sheets beneath him with one hand while he tangled slender fingers in Goku's soft, spiky hair. Pleasure built up inside him while Goku's agile tongue wreaked havoc with his senses, pushing him closer and closer to the edge until he finally gave himself over to a pounding, shuddering climax.
Through the hazy after-shocks of pleasure Sanzo felt the butterfly touches of Goku's lips on his stomach, chest, and neck. "I'll stay," Goku whispered, his breath warm and damp against Sanzo's throat.
"You damn well better," Sanzo said, gasping for breath, "after all that." He felt Goku's lips turn up in a smile. Goku flung an arm across Sanzo's stomach, and while Sanzo felt that it was dangerously close to cuddling, he decided to let it be for now.
"So, is there going to be fucking?" Goku licked the shell of his ear. "I think I'd like fucking."
Several images flashed through Sanzo's mind: Goku, beneath him, writhing in pleasure while Sanzo took him hard and fast; Goku, above him, driving into him with slow, deep thrusts.
"I think that can be arranged," he said.
He felt Goku's shoulders shake with silent laughter, and as he listened to Goku's breathing gradually even out in the rhythms of sleep, Sanzo reflected that things were going to be different all over again.
But this change would be a welcome one.
"What is here now," he murmured, brushing a sweaty lock of hair away from Goku's sleeping face, "is definitely not what we were then."