Braids had a damned big bulge in his pants that he was grinding up against Sanzo’s ass with hurtful intensity. The youkai was obviously proud of the proportions of that no doubt dirty piece of flesh – – he boasted about it enough, to the enjoyment of the other three youkai who’d settled down upon the patched couch to watch the show. One of them had Sanzo’s gun. He caught the glint of dull metal from the corner of his eye as he was struggling to keep Braids from yanking his jeans down.
Okay. Okay. The gun was here. It was just a matter of how to get his hands on it. It seemed an unlikely event. It seemed like he was going to get raped, mauled and possibly eaten — – and not necessarily in that order – – all while hanging helplessly from the hook in the ceiling..
He hated the notion of going down to the likes of these crass idiots. Hated the fact that they’d probably brag about it afterwards. That maybe – – just maybe word would get back to the inept lot of morons that he was traveling with, how badly he’d bungled this – – how embarassingly he’d ended his present existence on this earth – – and that thought was intolerable. It was the notion of that embarrassment that made his stomach clench and churn with nausea – – it wasn’t stark fear. Absolutely it wasn’t. The likes of these didn’t have what it took to terrify Genjo Sanzo.
Braids interrupted that train of dismal thought by jerking his head back and hissing terms of endearment in his ear.
“I’m gonna split you in two, monk.”
Sanzo seriously doubted it, impressive size or not. “You think you can take me – – me all chained up like this? Maybe you ought to get one of them to hold me still, so you can manage a little better.”
He got hit hard in the side for that little suggestion. It didn’t keep him from gasping. “You afraid you can’t take me, if I’m not strung up here? You afraid of how bad a simple human is, you fucking weak-assed, cowardly youkai prick?”
The other ones laughed at that and Braids hissed and stabbed a finger at them to shut up.
“You think I can’t beat you to a pulp any day of the week?” An open handed slap connected with Sanzo’s face. It was more humiliating, being slapped like a woman, than it was to get a flat out fist in the face. He shook hair out of his eyes and glared. There was fresh blood in his mouth from a new cut on the inside of his lip. It was an irritating presence running down the back of his throat. He laughed – – the most derisive, insulting laugh he could manage, what with his head spinning and his body feeling like he’d been dragged a few miles over rocky terrain.
“Not without help.”
Which got him another slap, this one backhanded and with enough force behind it to rattle his brains and send him over the edge of consciousness.
The darkness ate up a chunk of his awareness, which only came back when his knees hit the hard wood floor and sent fingers of pain up his body from a new source. One wrist was still encircled by the unforgiving metal of the cuff, the other one was free. He managed to take this in, doubled over on hands and knees on the floor, a split second before Braid’s booted foot connected with his gut. He tumbled with the impact, reflexively curling to protect himself from another such blow. It didn’t come. Braids did. Hurling himself onto Sanzo, tangling long nailed fingers in his hair as he slammed his head down onto the floor.
Blackness again. Fucking annoying. He came out of it fairly quickly this time, spurred by Braid’s nails gouging his flesh as the youkai jerked his jeans down. Sanzo cursed, curled his fingers around the loose circle of cuff and slammed that hand with its metal accouterment into Braid’s mouth. He drew some blood of his own then. The impact of metal had driven flesh into sharp teeth. The youkai howled and reared back, mouth leaking red.
The moment of shock didn’t last long. The blow managed to take away what little reason Braids had in his eyes. He might have been a common, run of the mill youkai, but he was still stronger and faster than a human. Especially a human who’d just had the crap beaten out of him. Braids caught Sanzo’s fist when he tried to land a second blow. Jerked that arm across his chest to hinder the other one, then pressed his big body down over Sanzo’s, face so close that blood dripped from his torn lip onto Sanzo’s cheek.
“You’re dead, human. I’m gonna pull out your guts and strangle you with them. Gonna cut off your little human prick and shove it down your smart mouth. I’ll fuck you first – – and maybe during – – and after, before you’re too cold to enjoy anymore.”
Sanzo hissed and tried to buck off the weight. Braid’s chortled, spewing blood and spittle. He used his leverage on Sanzo’s captured arm to jerk him over onto his stomach, twisting the arm up behind his back hard enough to dislocate Sanzo’s shoulder. He felt the grinding slide of the joint popping out of place – – heard the sickening sound of it and had to bite his lip to keep from screaming. Braids was fumbling with his own pants, trying to get himself free of denim and zipper and filthy briefs. He got himself out and wrapped his free arm under Sanzo’s hips, yanking him up close to the heat of his crotch.
Oh – – fuckfuckfuck. Panic came in a crashing wave. He couldn’t stop it. All he wanted of a sudden, more than pride and ego and vengeance, was out. He broke nails – – made them bleed as he desperately searched for purchase on the barren wood floor – – and found nothing that was going to stop this – –
“What the fuck are you doing?” There was the echoing impact of the door slamming open and rebounding off the inside wall. The roaring boom of an angry voice.
At least enough of it, that Braid’s stopped what he was doing and stared in trepidation at the interruption.
A big man stood in the door. Human. Fat. Familiar. The fucking, good-for-nothing, lying, thieving mayor of Ho-goh village.
“You were supposed to kill him, not fuck him! What am I paying you for, you filthy beasts?” The mayor yelled, red faced. The man’s skinny, back stabbing son hovered in the darkness behind him, trying to see around his father’s bulk and into the shack’s interior.
Braids growled low in his throat. His fingers tightened on Sanzo’s wrist, threatening to break fragile bones.
“You fat bastard, you don’t come here and tell me how to do my job.”
“It looks like I do. He’s supposed to be dead, you idiot!”
“He will be.” Braids hissed, rising and pulling Sanzo up in one smooth motion. The pull on his arm sent blinding streaks of pain across his vision. More so when Braids used it to propel him across the room and into the arms of his comrades. He went down to the floor, skinning his bare knees, the one arm limp at his side, the other one clutching at the youkai arm that encircled his neck, yanking him back against a foul smelling youkai body. They laughed at his predicament. They snickered at the fat man’s red face and his impotent anger.
“Are the others dead?”
“Yes.” Braids snapped. “Now get out before I rip you a new asshole, you stinking, fat human.”
“Not until I see him dead, too.”
“I’ll bring you his head, if you want.” Braid’s sneered.
The mayor was not at all pleased with that promise. The mayor did a stupid thing. He slapped a pumped up, blood-lusting, aroused youkai right across the face, yelling. “You’ll do it now, you stupid bastard!!”
Braids promptly ripped his throat out, spraying blood across himself, the door, and the mayor’s wide-eyed son just behind him outside it. The big body toppled backwards, writhing, hands desperately trying to cease the flow of blood. It pumped steadily out regardless, until the limbs stopped kicking and the body’s labored breathes stilled.
Sanzo almost smiled. If nothing else, it saved him from having to hunt the fat bastard down. The kid took off running, screaming bloody murder and Braids cast a feral look back at his comrades, stabbing a finger at Sanzo and barking.
“He’d better be in one piece when I get back from sending the brat along behind his papa.”
Goku was onto something, moving so fast through the woods that Hakkai and Gojyo had a hard time keeping up. They’d lost him once, in the darkness and only Hakkai’s intuition had steered them in the right direction and they’d seen the flash of Goku’s cloak as he passed under a break in the foliage and some pitiful, stray bit of cloud obscured moonlight had gotten through to illuminate him.
“Damn fool’s gonna run us ragged.” Gojyo complained with what breath he had. It was hard work, running with a bullet wound in your body. Hakkai grunted, mouth a straight line, expressionless. Harder to read than Sanzo, even when he was upset. Worried, that was clear, as if they all weren’t. They’d been fucked-over but good. Led on a wild youkai chase and betrayed and ambushed. And for what? Damned if he’d yet to figure that out. It wasn’t as if land out here was hard to come by. They weren’t smack dab in the middle of a desert where even little bits of fertile land were valuable. Why the fuck go the trouble of hiring youkai to chase human settlers away? Why go the extreme of trying to murder them, to keep them from discovering the scheme? It made no damn sense. Or maybe it did and his brain hurt too much to connect the dots. Sanzo and Hakkai had the better heads for unearthing subtle conspiracies.
No time to dwell on that though, as a wailing cry cut through the soft, mist-filled silence of the wood. Not a sound Goku would make for damn sure. It sounded like somebody was having their tonsils ripped out.
They veered off from the track they’d been following, not knowing what to expect, but rather certain that whatever it was, it wouldn’t be pretty.
There was a body on the ground, still twitching in the aftermath of an unpleasant death. Between the dark and the blood the body was almost unrecognizable. Almost.
“Its that fucking kid – – the mayor’s son from the village.”
Hakkai nodded, putting a finger on the young man’s torn neck. Somebody had ripped him up and bad. A few slashes down the back, and most of the damage to the front. The throat being slashed open had been a kind end to an otherwise gruesome demise. Gojyo looked away from the things spilling out from the kid’s torn belly, staring instead into the shadowed woods. Whoever had done this hadn’t been gone long. If that last cry had come from this kid – -then he’d only given up the ghost a few minutes before they’d gotten to him.
“Make him scream, Izo.”
“Norio said not to.”
“Norio said to keep him in one piece.”
“Yeah – – he didn’t say we couldn’t have a little fun.”
“Make him bleed.”
Idiots. He was in the hands of idiots. The arm around his throat was cutting off the majority of his air, otherwise he’d have told them so. These three, he thought, didn’t so much want to fuck him as shred him. It was their leader – – this Norio – – who had the thing for humans. Norio was the problem, because Norio had half a brain. These three – – these three he might have a chance with.
He lifted his hands to try and pry the arm from around his throat and the one holding him growled and tightened the hold. Sanzo gasped, bereft of breath altogether. He slammed his balled fist up and into the face of the youkai, which gained him a yelp and a flurry of laughter from the other ones a moment before he got slammed face first onto the floor, with a heavy body on his back and claws digging into his back and neck. He truly despised this position.
“He said not to kill me – – you buffoon.” He gasped. There was a hiss of frustration and the claws shifted down between his legs. Oh, fuck, that hurt. He almost cried out. He bit back on a scream and went limp. Don’t fight them and they’d back off. Maybe. Hopefully.
There was the dull glint of the gun by his head. One of them leaned down and snarled into his face. “You don’t talk. You talk and I rip out your tongue. Understand?”
Sanzo stared at him.
“Understand, damn you, human?” The youkai cried out, shoving the muzzle of the gun hard up against Sanzo’s temple.
“For me to say yes would require talking. You said don’t talk.” He pointed out.
“Yeah – – well – – you can talk when we say.”
“Moron.” He hissed.
“Go ahead, fuck him before Norio gets back. Won’t be much left of him then.” One of the others said, goading the one with the gun into mayhem. Maybe he’d been wrong about Norio being the only one with a taste for humans. Maybe these three didn’t care what they screwed.
“Norio won’t like it.” He reminded them. “Remember what he said – -?”
“Shut the fuck up.”
“He’s right. Norio would notice.”
“So, make him give you head. Norio won’t notice that.”
They liked that notion. They caught him by the good arm and flung him face first at the crotch of the one that had his gun. His bloody fucking gun that got pressed against the side of his face in attempts to intimidate him into taking the filthy youkai’s prick into his mouth. It was damned bad enough that he’d gone down on one scoundrel with youkai blood in the last twenty-four hours – – two was out of the question.
“In your fucking dreams. You get it near me – – you’ll bring back a stump.” He ground out and the one behind him pressed close, closing his clawed hand around Sanzo’s balls and squeezing hard. He shut his eyes, grinding his teeth against the bright flares of pain that danced behind his eyes.
“Knock out his teeth, Izo. That’ll fix him.” The third one grabbed his hair, yanking his head back so that Izo could raise the gun to bash against his mouth. All pride aside, having his teeth shattered out of sheer stubbornness on his part seemed a ridiculous price to pay just to keep a dick out of his mouth. Maybe he’d bite it off anyway, despite the threat. He wasn’t quite sure if it was possible – – to gnaw one’s way through that thick a chunk of muscle and flesh in the time he’d probably be given to work on the problem – – before he got a bullet in the head – – he’d never given it much though – – never been an intimate component of a knowledgeable conversation between those who might.
“I’ll do it.” He gasped as the fingers tightened and the one with the gun pulled his arm back to swing the pistol down.
They laughed over that, pleased with themselves. Izo unzipped and presented himself. Already engorged and obviously not washed in recent memory, the red tip of his cock batted Sanzo in the face. Oh, just – – fucking – – perfect. People were going to die. He kept vowing that to himself, over and over. Nobody here was going to spread rumors of this because he was personally going to see them all rotting.
He opened his mouth reluctantly and Izo pushed in, trying to choke Sanzo in that first invasion. He got his good arm free and placed it on the floor to support himself, to try and get enough leverage to push himself back when Izo and the youkai behind him were doing their damnedest to make him deepthroat the despicable thing in his mouth.
But Izo was getting off. Izo leaned over, the hand with the gun resting on the floor, fingers clenching and unclenching about the hilt. And Sanzo wasn’t even trying. It occurred to him that maybe he ought to give it a little effort. That as disgusting as it was, there might be benefit from it if the filthy beast forgot to keep his grip on the gun – – – oh, fucking miserable way to create a diversion – – a goddamned embarrassing one.
Sanzo’s fingertips could just touch the cool metal of the Smith and Wessen. The youkai’s hand still clutched it. He just needed him to lift that hand – – to loosen the tight curl of those long nailed fingers – –
The door slammed open with an impact to rival the crack of Sanzo’s gun. Bang. And wind rushed it with it. Cold as winter rain it blew into the shack, bringing wetness and debris with it. The youkai jumped like errant kids caught with their grimy fingers in an off limits cookie-jar. Sanzo got shoved back, teeth raking the fetid flesh of the cock in his mouth as the youkai in question tried to distance himself from the scene of the crime. Sanzo snarled, spitting and hurled himself in the same direction, clutching after the momentarily forgotten gun. He wrapped the fingers of his good arm around the familiar, worn grip and fired at the closest vital spot in his line of vision, hoping that there were enough bullets left in the chamber to take out these three and their braided leader, who’d no doubt just barged back into the shack.
Blood spattered. A body went down with a gaping hole in its forehead. Youkai screamed, but strangely enough the other two weren’t backing away from him. They were staring wild eyed at the door, hands shielding their faces from the flying debris that the storm brought in with it. Sanzo rolled onto his back, aiming the gun a the door, expecting Norio and finding something else altogether.
For a second, his finger froze on the trigger – – surprise debilitating him. But only for a second. He squeezed and the gun recoiled in his hand. The bullet tore into flesh and out the other side and the thing in the door didn’t even shudder.
It had been a man. Had been a living man only a brief time ago, before youkai claws had ripped into the sagging throat, spewed red life’s blood all down the generous belly and created a corpse. The mayor of Ho-goh village teetered in the eye of the maelstrom, his eyes rolled back in his head, the gaping wound in his neck a grinning mockery of the man’s slack mouth.
The sense of – – wrongness – – in the air was so strong that it made Sanzo’s gut churn. Why hadn’t he noticed it before? Probably because his gut had been churning from the dick shoved down his throat and it was truly hard to focus around such things.
He fired another bullet and this one took the mayor though his blank eye socket, imploding the soft tissue of the eyeball, and tearing a hole in the back of the man’s skull. The body rocked, the head snapped back on the thick neck. The feet shuffled forward and the air turned so cold that the touch of it burned. The youkai screamed, eyes gone feral with terror. One of them charged for the door and the mayor lifted one flabby arm catching the youkai by the edge of the sleeve.
The youkai screamed. Sanzo did, head suddenly filled with a malignancy that punched its way through his skull and pierced the gray matter shielded behind. At least it felt that way. It was all ethereal. It was all inside his head or encapsulated within the cultivated range of his metaphysical senses – – it might not have been pain so much as revulsion.
When he could see again, the youkai was a bloody pulp of ground meat on the floor, the other one was a spatter of meat and blood and bone against the far wall. His own finger was repeatedly pulling the trigger of a gun long since empty.
The mayor’s one eyed blank stare fixed on him and he ground his teeth, scrambling backwards, wanting as far away from the body and whatever terrible, foul spirit possessed it, as he could get. He didn’t have the sutra, but he started chanting anyway, not even sure if his voice was really shaking or if it were his senses betraying him. A mantra against evil. A mantra to dispel malignancy. Without the meten sutra’s power to back him, he didn’t know if he had the strength to phase this thing.
It took a step towards him and the floorboards curled under its feet, warping wood screaming in a high pitched screech. Sanzo narrowed his eyes, backed against the wall, and refused to relent.
And then, without warning – – without, he was sure, urging from him – – the wind stopped. The foulness in the air dissipated and the ponderous body of the mayor of Ho-goh toppled off its feet, hitting the floor with a thud that raised dust and debris.
Sanzo faltered finally in his chant – – eyes tearing from the stinging wind or maybe from hair whipped brutally into them. He sat there, shuddering for a few moments, not quite certain he trusted the still body to remain still. He most certainly had no inclination to crawl over and nudge it. If he’d had a bullet he would have happily put it into the skull from a distance.
He pulled on his pants, one handed, wincing at the ache in the one shoulder. He shoved the empty gun in the waistband and retrieved his one sandal before sidling past the body and the gore on the floor. He hesitated just outside the door, where the body of the mayor had initially fallen. Through his bare foot, he felt a lingering coldness seeping up out of the earth. The fading traces of – – something. He wasn’t sure what. Hastily, he stepped away and out into the night dark forest.
Woods, woods and more woods. The shack sat in the middle of the forest. He had no notion where he was, or how to get back to a more familiar setting.
Vision went wavery for a second. Just a breath where his balance threatened to desert him and the shadows tilted alarmingly. He willed it away out of sheer stubborn determination. He had not survived all that only to faint now.
A flash of movement in the shadows to his right. His night vision wasn’t good enough to distinguish details. Just a glowing glimmer of youkai eyes and a hissing curse that proved a damned good clue that this was no good thing. He pulled the gun, empty of bullets or no and aimed it towards the fast approaching youkai.
It was Braids. Most certainly it was. How horrible could one night get? How bad his luck?
Another flash of movement. A hiss and a snarling thud as bodies impacted and crashed against the side of the shack.
Sanzo stood there with his gun arm extended, squinting into shadows human vision was in no way equipped to pierce. All he saw was a flash of claws, the whites of eyes and the glimmering sheen of a staff that grew out of nowhere and connected soundly with the flesh and bone of a skull. Braids yelped and scrambled out of the fray, out-matched and smart enough to know it. He darted for the pitch darkness of the woods and Goku almost followed – – but paused, shifting to look back into the faint light cast from the door of the shack at Sanzo.
“Sanzo – -?” A worried sounding Goku who stepped out of the shadows, with leaves and debris in his hair and a little of the wild look still in his eyes.
“You okay, Sanzo?”
Did he look okay? He felt like shit. He didn’t grace the question with an answer. He had to force himself to lower the gun.
“Goku . . . Sanzo!!” there was a weak beam of light dancing through the forest. Hakkai held the source in his hand, battery fueled and waning. Gojyo trailed after, the shaku jou in hand.
“Sanzo, are you all right?” Hakkai mimicked Goku’s question and Sanzo was no more inclined to answer him. Hakkai held his outer robe in his arm and what looked to be the sutra and various other of his possessions. He was only interested in one thing at the moment.
“Give me that.” He reached for the robes, riffling through the inner pockets for bullets. Found a handful and began to shove the robe back at Hakkai, then had second thoughts and rummaged about for his pack of smokes. A little nicotine would be a good thing around now. Hakkai got the robes. Sanzo started feeding bullets to the gun.
“What the fuck happened in here?” Gojyo was at the door. Gojyo’s voice sounded vaguely aghast. Sanzo didn’t spare the shack a further glance. He wanted away from it. Wanted a little distance – – or a great one – – to clear his head and get his nerves under control.
“Sanzo?” Goku asked, sidling up to him when he started to stalk into the shadows of the wood. It didn’t matter that he was worried, or scared or concerned about Sanzo. If he touched him – – he was goddamned going to shoot him.
“Back the fuck off!” He snarled, not sparing a sideways glance.
Goku was smart enough to recognize that tone. Goku reluctantly shuffled to a stop, whining to Hakkai about where Sanzo thought Sanzo was going and oughtn’t they follow him to make sure he was okay?
Hakkai didn’t know. Hakkai didn’t think dogging Sanzo’s heels at the moment the wise thing to do. Hakkai, Sanzo heard part of the response, thought there was something quite disturbing about this place.
Ha. He didn’t know the half of it. Sanzo didn’t know the half of it. He wasn’t sure he wanted to.
* * *
Gojyo stood in the doorway and gaped. There was blood. Lots of blood. He didn’t think much of it was Sanzo’s. He hoped not. The priest had been walking and if he’d spilled that much blood he’d have been a puddle on the ground. There were smears of what looked like ground meat on the floor and the wall. He saw splinters of white bone in the mix – – bits of cloth and maybe teeth. The sliced up, bullet ridden form of the fat mayor of Ho-gah village lay at his feet, face down on the floor. As for the one youkai that wasn’t ground into hamburger – – well, being pulverized as a whole almost seemed a happy way to go, opposed to having your pecker blown off. The gaping wound in the youkai’s bare genitals was most certainly made by a gun. The youkai hadn’t died right away, the drying blood on his hands as he’d tried to clutch at the wound attested to that. Why he had his pants half way down and his dick out to begin with was another matter.
Gojyo glanced back to the shadowed woods where Sanzo had stalked off, a set of handcuffs dangling from one wrist, a look in his eyes that just boded bad things for anyone suicidal enough to get within miles of his personal space. He narrowed his eyes, coming up with notions that he in no wise liked.
“Oh – – my.” Hakkai came up at his back, taking in the contents of the cabin.
“My sentiments – – sorta.” Gojyo agreed. “The monk didn’t do all this.”
“No. Most certainly – – no. Leaving one to wonder what did?”
“Yeah. Wouldn’t want to run into it.”
“Its dark.” Hakkai whispered.
“Yeah, dawn’s a few hours away.”
“No. No. There was something here that was – – pitch – – black – – foul – -” Hakkai swallowed convulsively and backed away. A stumbling step backwards, a horrified look on his normally imperturbable face.
“What?” Gojyo followed him out, staring nervously about the woods. “What is it, damn it?”
Hakkai shook his head. “I don’t know. We ought to go after Sanzo. He shouldn’t be out there alone.”
“You heard what he said.” Goku said, shifting from foot to foot, clutching his bo. “He’s gonna shoot the first person who bothers him. But, I’ll go get him if you think – -”
“I’ll do it.” Gojyo cut him off. “He’s already shot me twice – – maybe I’ve had my quota for this week.”
Goku pouted – – focused and single-minded when it came to Sanzo and Sanzo’s well-being, but smart enough and just wily enough to let Gojyo take the brunt of Sanzo’s ire if he wanted to. The kid had no idea – – no earthly notion of what had gone on in that shack, other than the slaughter and the eerie feelings that Hakkai had complained of. He hoped he was wrong – – because as irritating as the monk was – – the notion of a pack of youkai putting hands or other things, on him was damned infuriating. He supposed when you fucked a man you got a little sensitive about such things. A little – – protective. And wouldn’t Sanzo just put a bullet in his head if he got wind of that silly notion. Oh, absolutely he would.
“Just give me a few minutes.” He suggested over his shoulder, taking the flashlight with him into the woods on Sanzo’s trail. “If you hear gunshots, come and pick up the pieces.”
Sanzo hadn’t gone far. He wasn’t that stupid, to put too much distance between himself and backup just in case something was out in the wood waiting for a victim. He was a shadow against the trees, staring silently out into the darkness, one hand wrapped about his ribs where a gash in the black cloth of his top bared pale flesh. The dangling silver of the cuff caught a stray glint of light. Sanzo had to know someone was there, waving the weak flashlight beam about. He didn’t bother to turn, though Gojyo thought he saw his shoulders stiffen a little.
“Hey . . .” He identified himself with a meaningless greeting. Slid up within arms reach and stood there, quite bereft of action. “You . . okay?”
Nothing. No response. No anger. No ramifications of Gojyo’s presence when Sanzo had distinctly asked to be left alone. Gojyo smelled blood. The faint acrid odor of it. His sense of smell wasn’t up to Goku’s standards, but it was sharper than a full blooded human’s. Sharper than Sanzo’s.
“Sanzo?” he reached out a hand, got his fingers within a hairbreadth of Sanzo’s shoulder when the monk whirled, slashing out with the hand encircled by the cuff. The metal caught Gojyo across the cheek. He staggered back a step, blood of his own flowing.
“I told you to leave me the fuck alone!” Sanzo snarled. Oh, a feral sounding, wild eyed Sanzo, with blood on his face and blood trailing a line down the white strip of belly visible between jeans and shirt. One of his arms was held awkwardly, protectively close to his body.
Gojyo carefully touched the gash in his cheek. It was long, but shallow, following the sharp line of his cheekbone, crossing the twin scars that already decorated that side of his face.
“Leave me alone. I don’t want your sympathy.” Sanzo said again, a little calmer this time, a little less likely to commit murder on a whim. He turned his back, the cuffed arm going up to test the limits of the damaged shoulder.
It pissed Gojyo off. The casual infliction of pain. That dismissal of him when he’d come to help. When he’d been goddamned worried.
“Fine. You’ll get none from me, you prick. I’m glad you got your sorry ass kicked.” He took a step closer, daring in his exasperation. “I’m glad you got to see a youkai gangbang up close and personal – – you give as good as you got?”
Sanzo’s head jerked up. The one fist clenched.
“Maybe not from the looks of you.” Gojyo sneered. “Looks like they fucked you up right good – – or just fucked you – – huh?”
That did it. Oh absolutely that did it. Sanzo spun, the gun quite suddenly in hand, face as pale as Gojyo had ever seen it, eyes as killing wild. But he didn’t pull the trigger. Not yet.
“Shut up!” Sanzo hissed. “Shut the fuck up.”
“Why? What difference does it make?” He stood his ground, the muzzle of the gun level with his chest, Sanzo’s finger twitching on the trigger. Oh, a dangerous place to be. A very dangerous one. A smart man would have backed down. Would have slunk back into the woods with his tail between his legs. Gojyo had never been that smart. “You don’t want anybody to give a fuck, anyway. So, I don’t give a fuck. That make you happy?”
There was something in Sanzo’s eyes that wavered then – – a little surprise – – quickly covered – – a lot of weariness. He was on his feet by the grace of stubborn pride alone. That was clear in the way his arm shook, trying to keep the weight of flesh and bone and metal perpendicular to his body. Whatever else had happened, he’d taken a lot of abuse tonight. More than he was capable of easily coping with from the look of him. At least not now, in the direct aftermath when he probably ought to be sleeping it off somewhere.
Gojyo took a step forward, towards that gun. Expressionless, steadfast, because to show hesitation would have set Sanzo off. He lifted a hand, smooth as silk and brushed the gun aside and Sanzo just stood there in shock over that bit of ballsiness and let Gojyo put hands on him. Let Gojyo pull him close, all lean, hard body under shredded skin tight shirt, hair sweat dampened silk against Gojyo’s forearm. Not returning anything, just standing there, mute and frozen in Gojyo’s embrace.
It didn’t last. Of course it didn’t last. He hadn’t even let Gojyo wrap his arms around him in the aftermath of sex – – much less here when pride and ego and pretending that he wasn’t walking wounded was an issue. The gun came up between them, shoving Gojyo back. Hard. He didn’t stumble near as much as Sanzo in that distancing. He felt his stomach lurch though, from the look on Sanzo’s face.
Disdain. Utter contempt. “Get your hands off me. Do you think, just because I let you fuck me that I want anything else from you? It wasn’t even that good a lay, you moron. You talk so big and can’t even last – – what? A minute? If that. You think I need you or anybody to help me – – with – – anything? You’re wrong. Now get the fuck out of my face.”
It hurt. It was embarrassing and cruel and – – god, probably true. At least the part about lasting a minute – – and it made him want to smash Sanzo’s teeth in. Complete turnabout in the span of one mouthful of nasty words – – he’d gone from wanting to help that damned cold-hearted monk to wanting to beat him senseless.
“Stay here, then. We’re leaving. And I hope the damned youkai come back and finish what they started – – or whatever it was that shredded the two in the cabin. It would serve you fucking right – – goddamned antisocial monk!”
ha. Not that good a lay. Like Sanzo was a qualified judge of good lays. Like Sanzo had the track record that Gojyo did. Ha. As if the monk had ever let anybody close enough to get between his long white thighs that hadn’t had to knock him out to do it, or get him drunk enough or guilty enough – – – Aw fuck. Not a good lay. That hurt.
Just calm down. He had to repeat that to himself. Had to stop and take several deep breaths to urge the return of rational thought. He halted in his head long retreat and put his back to a tree. Waiting in the darkness for Sanzo to either follow on his trail now or get over whatever it was he had to get over out there by himself and come back on his own. After a few minutes he heard the quiet shuffle of footsteps. Gojyo stepped out from the shadows, not wanting to startle an already rattled monk and get a bullet for the trouble. Sanzo didn’t even give him a look. Just passed on by, the gun tucked back in his waste band. So Gojyo followed, having little other choice and padded into the clearing around the shack in Sanzo’s wake.
Goku scurried forward, face all bright and happy to see Sanzo back and in one piece. He started babbling questions, but Hakkai cut him off, worried and skittish and wanting away from this place.
“We need to go. Now.” Hakkai wasn’t waiting for debate. Hakkai was striding off, with the flutter of white dragon wings over his shoulder.
What happened, Sanzo?” Goku wanted to know. “That was a mess back there. You didn’t do that, did you? They ambush you? You want your robes back? We found your robes and your sutra and – -”
“Shut the fuck up.” Sanzo growled.
“Why? What’s the matter?” Goku whined, oblivious. “You’re bleeding. Your shoulder okay? You’re holding it funny.”
“Leave him alone, nagging little ape. You heard what he said.” Gojyo was no more in the mood for Goku’s persistent questions than he was for Sanzo’s inevitable replies.
“Don’t call me that and you can’t tell me what to do, stupid ero-kappa.”
Gojyo had to retort to that. Just had to. And Goku screeched something back loud enough to make the crickets pause in their song.
Smack. The inside of Sanzo’s palm connected to the closest flesh possible, the side of Goku’s head. It had to hurt one or the other of them from the sound of it. Goku stood there, with a hand to his face, blinking in surprise and Sanzo shook out his hand, growling – – literally growling in his frustration. “Will you both – – shut – – the – – fuck – – up!”
Sanzo let Hakkai touch him – – eventually – – once they had reached the road and had piled into Hakuruu’s vehicular form. He just sat back with his lips pressed tight and his eyes distant and sealed tight from emotion while Hakkai focused his chi and shared his healing force.
“Should we just – – leave?” Hakkai wanted to know. A hesitant question, but one he needed answered if they weren’t to sit there all night at the edge of the forest. Hakkai was spooked. Hakkai kept casting glances back at the forest as if he expected something to lunge out at them. Gojyo wished something would. He needed something to beat the crap out of. He needed to make something bleed.
“Not until I put a bullet in that son of a bitch’s head.” Sanzo said softly. Dead cold and dead serious.
“Which son of a bitch?” Goku wanted to know, leaning over the seat a helluva lot closer to Sanzo that good sense warranted. Sanzo half canted his head towards the boy, lips pulled back in a hint of a snarl. Personal space a definite sore subject at the moment. More so than usual.
Sanzo didn’t answer right away.
“The mayor’s dead.” Hakkai said tentatively. “His son is . . .”
“The youkai working for them.” Sanzo finally hissed.
“Oh. The one that got away in the woods?” Goku surmised. “He wasn’t all that much – – I’d have gone after him if you’d asked.”
“You should have in the first place.” Gojyo said, “Now we’re going to have to track all over the damned county looking for him.”
“You shut up! I was worried about Sanzo – – he didn’t look so good.”
No argument there. Sanzo had seen better days. He smelled of sweat and blood and youkai. He didn’t smell of sex – – didn’t smell of youkai ejaculation – – even though the evidence that at least one youkai had been attempting it had been lying there for all to see, gunshot on the shack’s floor.
“Back to Ho-Goh village.” Sanzo said flatly.
“That such a good idea, when they set us up to begin with?” Gojyo asked. “At least not tonight when a safe place to lick our wounds would be nice.”
“He’s right.” Hakkai said, when Sanzo’s silence spoke eloquently enough of how set he was on that course. “You and Gojyo are both injured. It only makes good sense to rest for the remainder of the night and go back to the village when its daylight. We could go back to the inn. There are no other patrons left alive – – so I imagine the innkeep will be happy to have us.” He finished dryly.
Sanzo lifted a brow. “What happened at the inn?”
“Youkai came after Gojyo.” Goku said. “Woulda got him too, if we hadn’t come back. Couldn’t even fend off a few clumsy youkai.”
Gojyo opened his mouth to reply in turn to that.
“Don’t even start.” Sanzo beat him to the punch, lifting a hand without bothering to turn. “I swear to God that I will shoot the both of you if I have to hear you bickering all night.”
It was back to the inn, then. Mostly because Hakkai wanted it and Hakkai was driving and Sanzo wasn’t being vocal enough to argue the point. Sanzo wanted silence and he got it, slouched in his seat savoring it.
A half hour’s bumpy ride down the dirt track that served as a road in these parts and they reached the little road house. There were bodies piled out front. What was left of the youkai and the one poor traveler that had fallen victim to them. The inn keep and his girls had the door locked down tight and it took a great deal of pounding and promises to get them to open it.
“Have the priest bless this place.” One of the girls gibbered, white around the eyes and still terrified. “There’s evil here now with all the dead and what not. Have him banish it.”
“There’s no stain here.” Hakkai said kindly, when Sanzo turned his back on the frightened girls and proceeded upstairs. “Just misfortune. But mostly misfortune for the youkai who attacked you.” He smiled, trying to ease her mood.
“Not for that one poor man.” The other girl said.
“No. That was too bad. But the three of you came away with your lives, no?”
They couldn’t argue much with that.
Goku wanted to know what was edible in the kitchen. The girls looked vaguely sick at the thought of food with all the blood staining the walls and the floor. Gojyo wasn’t much in the mood himself, though a beer or a shot of whisky would have been nice. He glanced at the ceiling and wondered if he dared go upstairs and see how the priest was. It wasn’t a thing he usually found himself guilty of – – being concerned for Sanzo’s state of mind. He generally went out of his way to avoid that care. He supposed fucking a guy sort of effected you that way. Made little things like being beaten and raped a matter of concern, even though the monk in question had clearly stated he wanted none of Gojyo’s pity.
“I’m gonna go upstairs – – make sure – – umm – – everything’s okay up there. No youkai hiding in the shadows and all.”
Hakkai lifted a brow. “I really don’t think there are, Gojyo. I think I’d have sensed it – – or Sanzo, certainly.”
Gojyo shrugged, having no more excuses on the tip of his tongue. “Yeah, well, I’m gonna check anyways.”
He shoved his hands in his pockets and clomped up the narrow stairs. Sanzo was in the room they’d shared last night, standing by the basin on the sideboard, his tattered shirt and arm warmers discarded. The monk was scrubbing diligently at the blood and grim staining his torso. He was taking little care for the none too shallow gashes in his skin. New blood was trickling down pale flesh from his efforts.
“What the fuck are you trying to do?” It wasn’t his most political opening.
Sanzo turned narrowed eyes his way, bloody rag poised over his shoulder. The look plainly enough said, go the fuck away. The monk didn’t bother backing it up vocally.
The gun was close on hand on the sideboard to back him up physically if need be.
“You’re making the wounds worse.” Gojyo tried to be reasonable. “Why not have Hakkai come up and take a look – -”
“I don’t need Hakkai to take a look. Leave me alone.”
“Uh – – looks like they fucked you up right bad.” Gojyo fumbled for words and cursed himself for that particular choice. God, he felt like he was fifteen and trying to impress a woman way out of his league. Look what one decent fuck did to his head.
Sanzo glared at him narrowly, lips thin and white. Oh, not happy with the world at the moment, not happy at all. A smart man would have backed the fuck up and retreated to safer climes. Half of Gojyo stood there out of sheer perverseness – – the need not to let the monk think he was intimidated by that stare and the radiating hostility – – the other half – – the sentimental one – – just couldn’t let go the desire to make things right.
“Listen – – ummm – -I didn’t mean what I said – – back there in the woods – – you know, about – -” Not giving a fuck. No couldn’t say that. Couldn’t let that weakness out in the open. ” – – all that stuff.”
Sanzo’s stare didn’t waver. The hand on the rag tightened, then he carefully put it back down into the red tinged water of the basin.
“I did.” He said. “I meant what I said – – so get the fuck out, Gojyo. You want someone to alleviate guilt with – – go talk to Hakkai.”
Oh, that just figured. A man tried to be decent – – tried to have a rational conversation and damned if the monk didn’t twist it and make it bitter and nasty. So he turned on his heel and walked away. Went back downstairs where Goku had scrounged up some food and Hakkai sat stroking Hakuruu and folks in general didn’t freeze a man’s blood with looks or words.
“So – -” Goku finally broke the silence, licking the last crumbs off his fingers, looking only marginally sated from the kitchen leftovers. “What do we do now?”
“Get drunk, if there’s any more booze in this place. Go to sleep.” Gojyo suggested sourly.
“Go to sleep at least.” Hakkai said. “Getting drunk might not be the best idea. And we ought not all sleep at once. We don’t know if there are more youkai on the prowl.”
“But – – the mayor’s dead and they were working for him, right?” Goku pointed out.
“True.” Hakkai conceded, fingers steady on the dozing dragon’s long neck. “But not all of the youkai he hired might know that.” He smiled softly. “I don’t think I could sleep anyway, so I’ll sit down here and keep watch.”
“Is Sanzo okay?” Goku directed that question to Gojyo, too much damned concern on his face for a man that wouldn’t appreciate it.
“He’s a fucking prick.” Gojyo muttered and got a frown from Goku. “Why don’t you go and see for yourself? He’s in a prime mood.”
The frown deepened, Goku obviously debating just that course of action. Hakkai, not wishing more bloodshed tonight, intervened.
“Why don’t we just let him gather his wits by himself tonight. He’ll be in a better mood tomorrow.”
Gojyo snorted, but the assurance from Hakkai seemed to alleviate Goku’s fears. “Okay, but still – – what are we gonna do next. After we sleep and Sanzo’s speaking to us again?”
Hakkai exchanged a look with Gojyo, the frownline between his brows growing a little deeper, but that was the only sign of unease he let slip.
“I don’t know. I suppose that depends on what Sanzo wants to do.”
“He’s going after the youkai that got away.” Gojyo said. “He’s got a grudge to work out and you know how he is with grudges.”
“He hurt Sanzo – – this youkai?” Goku spoke more to himself than them, gnawing on his lip, brown eyes narrowed.
“Yeah, he probably did.” Gojyo said.
“Then I’ve got a grudge, too.”
Hakkai sighed, obviously wishing otherwise. Gojyo shrugged, no commenting, though in his gut he wanted more than a little taste of vengeance himself. The monk might be a major pain in the ass, but it didn’t mean he was fair game for all and sundry.
Reckonings were due. It was just a matter of how much grief they’d have to go through to get them.