And here’s part 2! BTW, I’ll have some 3D renders of some of the “Awww…” scenes up on deviantArt (at tag0.deviantart.com/ ) at some point over the next few days.
Forget Hakkai. He was going to kill Hong Chao if the moron kept this up. The man’s sheer nerve was astounding; and if it was directed in some other fashion, Sanzo might have even developed a smidgeon of respect for him.
Unfortunately, it was instead directed solely at getting Sanzo into his bed.
Well, hopefully the impact with the wall and the bullet hole in his arm would teach him that when Sanzo said ‘no’, he meant ‘hell no’. He was just glad that Goku had been nowhere near when the moron had ambushed him. And that Hakkai had agreed to stay away from the Temple.
Gods, those two were making this entire situation so much worse. If they hadn’t been in the grips of that gods-damned youkai instinct of claiming, Sanzo would have quite happily used them to help him deter Hong Chao. But they were. Which meant he couldn’t let them be anywhere near the man without supervision, and that was starting to get even more annoying than the original situation.
Hell, Hakkai had almost killed the man yesterday. Which, although it would solve the problem of his persistent presence, would get Hakkai hauled up before the Sanbutsushin on murder charges.
Yes, encourage him to kill youkai during that whole Gyumaoh resurrection mess, encourage that killing instinct of his, and then expect him not to resort to that as a solution to his worst problems? The Sanbutsushin are all idiots. Idiots who don’t understand youkai at all.
Sanzo had known that the first week after their judgment of Hakkai.
During the period before that, Hakkai and Goku had gotten along quite well. And Hakkai had been a teacher. So it had seemed reasonable that when the Sanbutsushin gave Hakkai’s parole to him, he could use Hakkai to tutor Goku. His attempts at tutoring were a dismal failure, since Goku had the attention span of a gnat and he had no patience.
He’d begun to believe it was a mistake from that first tutoring session. Hakkai had been icily polite to Goku, and Goku had been acting up worse than usual. And yet when they weren’t in the same room with each other – and him – they were both their normal selves.
He’d been confused. Hakkai had been confused by his own behaviour. And Goku hadn’t been of any help.
It had come to a head a week after the judgment; Sanzo had been meeting with Hakkai to discuss the topics of the tutoring sessions, as well as a few other matters relating to his parole – like finding a place for him to live outside the Temple – when Goku had barged in, babbling something about his puppy. Sanzo had told Goku to wait, that he was talking with Hakkai. Hakkai had smiled smugly, and a moment later, the two of them had been on the floor, trying to tear each other to shreds.
Sanzo had demanded they stop, but had evidently been talking to thin air, because they’d ignored him. He had then waded in to the fight, and both youkai had frozen. He’d demanded an explanation, but neither of them had spoken. Finally he’d thrown his hands up, told them to get out of his office if they wanted to beat each other up so badly, and then added that Hakkai was to come back when they’d finished, because he still had things they had to discuss.
Both youkai had looked at each other, and then pulled away as though they weren’t sure what they had been doing only a minute ago. Hakkai had apologized, Goku had assured him it was okay and had done the same, and the whole matter had apparently been forgotten.
Except for by Sanzo, who had pulled Goku into his office that evening to explain what the hell had gotten in to them.
“We both have a claim on you,” Goku had said, fidgeting. “It’s… kind of youkai instinct. You’re my guardian, and now you’re kind of Hakkai’s as well, and neither of us were sure what sort of claim the other had on you. That’s why we were fighting.”
“And now?” Sanzo had growled.
“Now… we’ve agreed on what the other’s claim is,” the monkey had replied.
Sanzo had glared at him, and demanded whether he got a say in this at all.
“You made Hakkai’s claim dominant to mine,” Goku had told him. “Which is kind of good, I guess, because if mine was dominant then I’d be able to ignore him. Now I’ve got to listen to him when he teaches me.”
Sanzo hadn’t bothered to ask then how he’d established dominance between them; at the time, he hadn’t wanted to know, and then later the research he’d done had given him a good guess. He’d acknowledged that he wanted to talk to Hakkai first, after interrupting their little spat. That had evidently been enough.
For the most part, it had been useful. At first it had been helpful in keeping Hakkai’s self-hatred and dark streak under control; then it had become very useful, on their journey west. There had been reasons he had been so confident that he had told that mad bastard Chin Yisou that Hakkai would sooner bite his tongue and die than betray him.
There were downsides, of course. There was a reason it was described as a ‘claim’, after all. Both Goku and Hakkai demanded a certain amount of his attention, and Hakkai felt it gave him the right to comment on Sanzo’s health, and worry about him. But those were things Sanzo could tolerate – though he didn’t like them – and certainly spending some quiet time with Hakkai was preferable to battling paperwork or listening to the monkey and the kappa argue.
He came to an abrupt stop in front of the door to Gojyo and Hakkai’s house. Quite without his realizing it, his brooding had brought him here.
Oh well. He’d promised to spend time with Hakkai every day until they managed to get rid of Hong Chao, and the kappa had mentioned something last night at dinner about spending the entire day with Sun Yin. Besides, Gojyo tended to have better beer than the priests reluctantly kept at the Temple for him.
Opening the door with a casual disregard for the custom of knocking – no one ever did it in his office, and he and Goku had both had the run of this house for the past five and a half years (and it irritated the hell out of the kappa, which was a bonus) – Sanzo could hear Hakkai moving around in the kitchen. Probably working some more on the preparation of that truly ridiculous number of rabbit carcasses he’d brought back yesterday.
“Got any beer?” he called out, closing the door behind him and starting toward the kitchen.
“If you didn’t drink it all last night, yes,” Hakkai replied as he reached the sitting room. “Hold on a moment, and I’ll get you a can.”
“All right,” Sanzo agreed.
Glancing around, he noticed Hakkai must have cleaned up from last night. Not that surprising; Hakkai had something of an obsessive personality – which was only adding to the problem of dealing with Hong Chao – and seemed to need things neat and organized. Sanzo sometimes wondered how he could stand to live with Gojyo, who was very definitely a slob.
The thought of Hong Chao had his own anger rising again. Hopefully the fact that he had found it necessary to actually shoot the man, rather than simply shoot near him – which he’d done often enough to the inhabitants of the Temple of the Setting Sun that the head priest and the Sanbutsushin had stopped paying attention to the complaints – would convince everyone that Hong Chao needed to go.
He needed a cigarette. As he heard a fridge open in the kitchen, Sanzo took his current pack from his right sleeve pocket and extracted one. He was just reaching for his lighter when Hakkai appeared in the doorway between the kitchen and the sitting room.
“Here you go, Sanzo,” the youkai said, approaching with the beer can held out to him.
Good – I’m going to need it.
Hakkai was about three steps away when his nostrils flared, and he froze.
Sanzo had become so accustomed to the youkai habit of scenting from Goku and Hakkai, both of whom subtly took in his scent whenever he’d been away from them for longer than half an hour, that he had made the mistake of forgetting about it. Completely. Which meant he hadn’t bothered to shower or change before he came here… which meant Hakkai could undoubtedly smell Hong Chao on his clothes and hands – he’d had to touch the bastard to toss him into the wall, after all.
Fuck, he thought again, as Hakkai’s expression shifted to one of pure, unfettered fury. He looked even angrier than he had yesterday afternoon in the kitchen. Don’t tell me I’m going to have to defend that moron from Hakkai again….
A snarl escaped Hakkai’s mouth….
…And a second later, Sanzo found himself pinned against the wall, Hakkai pressed against him as the youkai’s hands traced the areas on Sanzo’s sleeves that Hong Chao had touched when he’d grabbed him. Hakkai was also growling, almost in Sanzo’s ear, and after a moment Sanzo managed to distinguish a single repeated word amidst the growling.
He almost growled himself once he identified what Hakkai was saying. The thousand-slayer might have some kind of youkai claim on him, but Sanzo was no one’s possession.
However, thanks to the research on youkai he’d done to help Hakkai in the first place, Sanzo was able to recognize that Hakkai was scent-marking him – something about glands in the hands – just overdoing the attitude a bit more than a little. As long as this was all he did, Sanzo wouldn’t object – no matter how uncomfortable it made him. (He was not used to allowing people to touch him. Not even Hakkai or Goku.) If he got ready to go after Hong Chao again, on the other hand….
He might be able to head that off at the pass, so to speak, Sanzo realized. As long as Hakkai could still understand him in this state. If he told the youkai what had happened – including the fact that he’d extracted his own retribution – it might keep Hakkai from doing anything too drastic.
Drastic, with Hakkai, tended to involve a lot of corpses.
“It was about an hour ago. He cornered me in an empty corridor, and grabbed my arms.”
Hakkai’s growl got a bit louder and a lot angrier at that.
At least I know he is understanding me, Sanzo thought ruefully. “I tossed him into the wall – a great deal rougher than you just did to me – and decided he really needed to learn a lesson. He came to learn from me, after all. So I shot him in the arm. I left just after he started sobbing in pain – though not before I pointed out that he was to leave me alone. Or it won’t be his arm I hit next time.”
The growling eased slightly, becoming somewhat less angry – and a bit smug.
Sanzo began to feel warier at that. Smug Hakkai was dangerous – and worse, he was unpredictable. Even for Sanzo.
Then Hakkai’s hands went from rubbing the sleeves of his robe to under them, rubbing over his hands and kote.
“What are you doing, Hakkai?” Sanzo demanded. This was more than just scent-marking over the places Hong Chao had touched.
“Mine,” Hakkai interrupted his growling long enough to say clearly. Then he went back to growling. Only the sound was starting a metamorphosis; it was becoming less a growl, and more a purring noise that reminded Sanzo of the temple cat at Kinzan. It had been aloof from everyone except Koumyou Sanzo – but Koumyou had only to look at it, and it would start purring as loudly as Hakuryu’s engine when he was in jeep form.
Sanzo was starting to have a really bad feeling about this.
The bad feeling intensified when Hakkai began sniffing at his hair.
This was one of the times Sanzo wished that the researchers whose papers on youkai he’d read had gone into greater detail about claiming, and the different types of and reactions to claims. He’d been wishing that quite a bit, lately. ‘Laying claim is an instinctive process of the youkai deciding that they want the company of whomever they are laying claim to. As a result, the claimer demands a certain amount of time and attention from the claimee, and in return has an instinctive revulsion for the idea of the claimee being harmed’ was all very well and good when he was trying to figure out how to handle Hakkai at first. It didn’t help much now.
“Okay, Hakkai, you’ve erased his scent. You can let me go now,” Sanzo ‘suggested’.
Hakkai pulled back slightly – though he didn’t let go of Sanzo’s arms – and blinked at him. Then he stated, “No. Mine.”
Enough was enough, damn it. “Hakkai, let me go!”
The youkai stepped forward again, his chest pressing against Sanzo’s. “No.”
Not good. But at least Hakkai was still listening to him, even if he wasn’t obeying. “Why not?” Sanzo demanded.
Hakkai’s tone had a touch of incomprehension to it, as though he didn’t understand why Sanzo was even asking. “Mine.”
Sanzo rolled his eyes. “Are those the only two words you can say in this state?” Sarcasm might not be the best idea at the moment, but he was feeling very uncomfortable.
“No,” Hakkai said again, and smirked as one hand touched Sanzo’s face.
When did he– Fuck, I am so screwed….
“Sanzo. Mine,” Hakkai declared.
Then Sanzo’s thoughts whited out as Hakkai leaned forward and kissed him.
Sanzo tasted like he smelled, Hakkai decided, closing his eyes to better focus his other senses – incense and cigarettes and the ozone-sharp flavour of power. Delicious. Heavenly, even. He moved his hand around so his fingers could run through Sanzo’s hair, and his purr deepened. Yes, definitely heavenly.
Only… Sanzo wasn’t responding. Hakkai reluctantly pulled away and looked at the priest – and winced as he saw the stunned expression on Sanzo’s face.
That was when the full weight of what he’d just done slammed into him.
He hastily pulled his hand out of Sanzo’s hair and took several steps back as Sanzo blinked, and awareness came back into his face.
They stared at each other for a long moment, then Sanzo raised his left hand and rubbed at the bridge of his nose. “What the hell was that, Hakkai?” he demanded, in a… surprisingly calm voice.
Hakkai had been expecting yelling and gunshots.
“Hakkai.” Now Sanzo was starting to sound irritated, but that seemed to be more because he hadn’t answered yet.
“I… don’t know,” Hakkai said slowly, hearing the confusion in his own voice. “I just….” What had happened?
He’d brought Sanzo his beer – or started to, at least; but before he’d got close enough to hand it to him, Hakkai had automatically scented the priest – it was habit, and very useful for when Sanzo was wounded and trying to conceal it. He’d recognized Hong Chao’s scent covering Sanzo’s, and… lost it. Completely.
Hong Chao’s scent, on Sanzo, which meant he had to have touched Sanzo… he’d taken it as a challenge to his own claim, Hakkai realized, as he began trying to analyze his reactions. He’d felt a fury a bit like the red rage of yesterday, only stronger – and focused on a different objective. He’d had to scent-mark Sanzo himself, and more than Hong Chao had, in order to negate the priestling’s attempt at a claim and renew his own.
And Sanzo had let him – which had supported his hope that Sanzo also wanted Hong Chao’s claim erased. Erased by him. It had been further supported by Sanzo explaining what had happened, though he’d been made even more furious by the fact that Sanzo had been ambushed and unwillingly grabbed.
So he’d known, down to the core of his self, that Sanzo was supporting his own claim. Wanted his claim. And… he’d decided to seal it.
It hadn’t exactly been a romantic kiss, Hakkai realized a moment later, as that thought sunk in. It had been an affirmation of the claim he already had, and a declaration that he was taking his claim to the next level.
Which was not going to go over well with Sanzo. Because if he’d been possessive of the priest before – which he’d really, honestly tried not to be… well, Hakkai knew himself well enough to realize that he was going to be worse now.
“Hakkai…” Sanzo said, in his ‘if you don’t answer right now, you’re going to regret it’ tone.
“I… thought you’d shoot me,” was the only thing Hakkai could think of to say.
Sanzo’s eyes narrowed in irritation. “If you want to be shot, I’ll oblige you. I’d recommend against it, though. I’m told it hurts.”
Hakkai blinked at the priest in confusion. Why wasn’t Sanzo shooting him?
“Or,” Sanzo continued, his tone becoming more pointed, “you could stop stalling and just tell me what the hell happened!”
Okay, that was more like Sanzo. In which case, he really ought to figure out what to tell him… quickly.
“He…. You’re….” Oh, yes, this is going so well….
The sound of an exasperated huff distracted him. “I’m not going to shoot you, Hakkai. But I need to know what’s going on. After all, it is about me.”
“I can’t let him think he has any claim on you,” Hakkai offered after a moment’s thought. “He was… encroaching on my claim.” Please don’t let Sanzo realize exactly what I mean by that….
“Therefore the scent-marking. I do understand that part, Hakkai. It’s the rest I’m not sure I understand.”
What do I tell him? What…. “I needed your attention focused on me,” he blurted out, and flushed. To try to distract from his embarrassment, he added, “I… needed to make my claim in… some way he couldn’t.” Oh, gods, that wasn’t much better. If it was any better at all.
“If he tried that, I’d shoot him somewhere fatal,” Sanzo agreed, frowning.
Hakkai was shocked – and even more embarrassed – to find himself purring again at the statement. His ‘inner youkai’ was interpreting that as Sanzo agreeing to everything he was feeling….
“Yo! Hakkai, you in?” came Gojyo’s voice, and Hakkai immediately stopped purring.
Sanzo scowled. “I thought the kappa was supposed to be gone all day.”
“So did I,” Hakkai managed, taking a deep breath and trying to calm down.
“Hakkai! Hey–” Gojyo started, as he walked into the sitting room. Then he came to a stop. “What are you doing here so early, monk? And where’s the chimp?”
“Goku’s not here. And I was looking for a beer,” Sanzo replied.
“What, like this?” Gojyo picked a can off the floor, and it was only then that Hakkai realized that he’d dropped Sanzo’s beer when he’d caught Hong Chao’s scent on the priest. And… where was Sanzo’s cigarette? He was pretty sure Sanzo had been holding one when he’d come out….
“Don’t you have beer up at that temple of yours?” the hanyou continued, popping the can open and taking a long sip.
Sanzo’s scowl deepened.
“I’ll get you another one,” Hakkai assured him quickly, heading into the kitchen. Truth be told, he was just as glad Gojyo had shown up when he had. Any longer, and he might have found himself telling Sanzo something he really, really didn’t want to.
“So what are you doing home this early, kappa? That girl of yours kick you out?” Sanzo demanded, as Hakkai opened the fridge and took out another can. It looked as though he was going to have to go shopping soon.
“Oooh, someone’s in a really nasty mood today. Didn’t get your morning coffee, Sanzo-sama?”
The next thing Hakkai heard was the click of Sanzo taking the safety off his gun.
“I’ve already shot one person this morning,” Sanzo growled, as Hakkai hurried back out, catching sight of the dropped cigarette by Sanzo’s right foot. “Would you care to make it two, kappa?”
“Don’t call–” Gojyo started automatically; then he seemed to remember who he was actually talking to as Sanzo pointed the gun between his eyes.
“Please don’t, Sanzo,” Hakkai said mildly, as he placed the can of beer in Sanzo’s right hand – incidently stepping on the cigarette and grinding it into the floor, so Gojyo wouldn’t be able to tell whose it was. “Blood is so very difficult to clean out of wood, after all.”
“Hmph. You’d do well to remember that yourself,” Sanzo retorted back, but he lowered the gun and slipped it back into his sleeve.
Gojyo breathed a sigh of relief, then turned to Hakkai. “Sometimes, Hakkai, you scare me.”
“For stopping Sanzo from shooting you?” Hakkai asked innocently.
He groaned. “Not stopping him, but how you stopped him! I saw enough of our blood on the trip, I don’t need to think about it here!”
Just then, the front door slammed open. “Hakkai, do you know where Sanzo is?” came Goku’s shout.
It was Sanzo’s turn to groan. “In here, monkey.”
“Sanzo! Priest Wakaru told me to come and get you! He needs to talk to you!” Goku blurted out, as he joined the rest of them in the sitting room.
Hakkai saw his nostrils flare, and then Goku looked at him with a flicker of surprise, before turning his attention back to Sanzo. “Did you really shoot Hong Chao in the arm, Sanzo?”
“Yes. Let’s go, monkey,” Sanzo declared, throwing back the last of his beer and tossing the empty can into the trash basket Hakkai had placed in the sitting room for that express purpose.
“Okay! Hakkai, I’ll see you later for our lesson,” Goku added as he followed Sanzo out.
“All right,” Hakkai agreed.
Then Goku stuck his head back in. “Hey, kappa, weren’t you supposed to be with Sun Yin all day? What happened? She throw you out?”
“Don’t call me kappa, monkey!”
“I’ll call you anything I want, pervert ka– urk!” Goku finished, as Sanzo’s hand shot back in and grabbed the neck of his shirt.
“We don’t have time for this. Come on, Goku,” the priest snapped.
The two of them disappeared back out of the room, and Hakkai heard the front door close a moment later.
“Geh. Stupid monkey,” Gojyo groused.
“He did have a good question, though,” Hakkai pointed out, hiding a smile. “Why are you home so early?”
Sanzo didn’t quite stalk back in the direction of the temple, but he came close to it. He was pissed off, and thoroughly confused. Pissed off about Hong Chao, and the fact that he’d precipitated this mess… and confused about what he was supposed to feel about Hakkai’s actions.
The youkai hadn’t told him the entire truth about what had prompted that… kiss. Or at least, not directly. How much of that was because Hakkai himself didn’t understand – and therefore connected to youkai instinct – and how much of that was because of Hakkai’s feelings for him….
He glanced down at Goku, and raised one eyebrow.
“What happened? Why did you shoot Hong Chao? You told me and Hakkai not to hurt him!” There was a distinctly ‘not fair’ whine to Goku’s voice at that last.
How to put this so as not to enrage the monkey completely…. Oh well. “I don’t like being ambushed.”
Goku made a point of sniffing the air around him. “Is that why Hakkai scent-marked you? Because Hong Chao touched you?”
“Yes,” Sanzo replied flatly. “He grabbed my arms – before I flung him into the wall and shot him.”
“Oh. Okay!” Goku added brightly. “Wish I could have seen you do that….”
As Goku started going on about what else he’d like to see happen to Hong Chao – causing Sanzo to wonder for a moment if Hakkai’s tutoring included details on how to express bloodthirstiness – Sanzo’s thoughts returned to what had happened with Hakkai. And what he was going to do about it.
Mostly the latter.
How should he respond?
That was a question that he’d better figure out the answer to, especially if Hakkai’s feelings were as heavily involved in this situation as he thought they were. There were other ways to back up a claim than a kiss… weren’t there?
This might be embarrassing, but he needed to know. If he was careful, Goku wouldn’t realize what he was asking, exactly. And there was also the matter of Hakkai’s overdone scent-marking, even before the kiss.
“What is it, Sanzo?” the monkey asked eagerly.
“I need some information on youkai claiming. How much do you really know about it?”
Goku stopped in the middle of the street and toed the ground with one foot, and for a moment Sanzo had a flash of the twelve year old youkai he’d rescued from the mountain. “I know… a lot, but I don’t know how I know,” the monkey said after a moment. “Just that I do.”
“That’s fine,” Sanzo replied. Truth be told, he wasn’t sure he wanted to know how Goku knew whatever he did. The fact that he had the information was the important thing. “What happens if more than one youkai claims the same person?”
“Like me and Hakkai have claimed you?”
Sanzo felt his mouth tighten. “Yes.”
“Well… kind of what happened in your office when we couldn’t agree that first week,” Goku started.
“I mean after that – once the whole dominance issue is decided. Or is it fully a matter of dominance?”
“Mostly,” Goku said slowly. “It’s kind of like – we were defending our right to have a claim to you.”
“What would have happened if I hadn’t intervened?” Sanzo asked, frowning at the explanation – or rather, lack thereof. Goku wasn’t really saying anything different than he already had.
“We’d have fought, and whoever won would have decided whether the other had any right to share a claim,” the monkey answered.
“So there are shared claims.”
“Lots!” Goku replied immediately. “Like Kougaiji’s pack – they all share a claim to him. Lirin’s is strongest, since she’s his half-sister and he puts her first, but I’m not sure how Dokugakuji and Yaone’s rank.”
“‘Pack’?” Sanzo repeated. It was a term he’d occasionally run into in his research on youkai, but none of the research had ever really defined it. He’d considered it to be somewhat like a wolf pack… but something about the way Goku had used it suggested that it wasn’t, quite. “Goku – what is a youkai pack?”
“A group of youkai with shared claims to each other,” Goku answered as though it were obvious. “We’re a pack.”
Reaching automatically for his fan, Sanzo brought it down on the monkey’s head. “I’m not a youkai, idiot.”
“Ow! I wasn’t saying you were, Sanzo! But Hakkai and me both have claims on you, so we see you and each other as pack.”
“Hakkai has a claim on him,” Goku replied immediately. “It’s not as strong as his claim on you, but it’s there. That makes him pack too.”
Sanzo nodded, storing the information in his memory. He’d think about all of it later, when he had all the answers Goku could give him. “What about erasing another’s claim? What does that?”
“Umm… usually killing them,” the monkey admitted. “If that can’t be done, then scent-marking over everywhere they’ve touched.”
“And re-affirming a claim?”
“Scent-marking,” Goku repeated.
“In any particular locations, or just in general?” Sanzo asked carefully.
“Usually around the wrists – the neck depending on how strong the claim is,” Goku said after a moment’s thought. “Those two areas carry scent really well, and it mixes with your own personal scent there. That adds to the sense of claiming. The hands also, so anything you touch also carries the scent of the one with a claim on you. That’s why I sometimes grab your wrist.”
Well, that explains why he was rubbing my kote and hands.
Then the monkey shot him a sidelong look. “Why?”
“You know how much on edge this whole situation with Hong Chao has both you and Hakkai,” Sanzo snapped. “Hakkai took me by surprise when he started scent-marking me this morning. I want to know what to expect.”
“Oh, okay. Well, claims can also be re-affirmed by things other than scent-marking. Giving gifts – though that’s often for minor claims, or to show someone else that there’s a claim. Touching without rubbing to scent-mark – depending on what the type of claim is, different touches can be used to affirm or re-affirm it,” Goku explained. “But that’s usually only in private – it’s affirming or re-affirming the claim to the one claimed. Unless… well, unless they feel the need to be really blatant if they’re being challenged. Then they might do something in front of the challenger.”
It sounded like it was a very good thing that he had arranged for Hakkai to not be around the temple. The last thing they needed – other than Hakkai killing Hong Chao – was for a demonstration like earlier to be made in public.
Something occurred to him then. “You said we were like Kougaiji’s pack. But he’s youkai; does he have claims on the rest of them?”
“Of course,” Goku replied, as though it was the most obvious thing in the world. “Accepted claims are two-way.”
Sanzo felt like pounding his head against a handy wall. “You couldn’t have mentioned this before, monkey? And how are we like Kougaiji’s pack, then? Gojyo and I don’t have claims on anyone.”
Goku blinked up at him. “Of course you do! You’re our guardian, mine and Hakkai’s, and you’re Hakkai’s friend! And even Gojyo – you keep him and me in line. You’re like Kougaiji.”
Yes, a private wall to pound his head against would be handy right now. “Goku, I am not youkai. Which means, by definition, I cannot have a claim on someone,” Sanzo explained patiently. He was starting to regret not having researched this in greater detail before.
“But you do!” Goku protested. “You act like it, all the time! You’re the alpha!” There was a momentary pause, then Goku corrected himself. “The main alpha.”
It was potentially a mistake to ask the monkey this, but…. “How is that possible?” Sanzo demanded. “And what do you mean, the ‘main alpha’?”
“Well, you accepted my claim, and you accepted Hakkai’s claim, and that means you made a claim on us as well,” the monkey said slowly. “I don’t know if you feel it the way we do, but it’s still a claim, Sanzo. An’… well, Hakkai’s alpha too, but he’s not the main alpha. You tell us where we go and what to do. Hakkai takes care of us while we’re doing it.”
All right, so perhaps it was almost like wolf packs, at least in general make-up. Two alphas – and he was not going to think about the details of what that involved for wolves, not with respect to himself and Hakkai – and the rest of the pack, and the alphas led and took care of the pack. That made a certain amount of sense. And he guessed that Goku’s statement about accepted claims being reciprocal also made sense to a certain degree.
None of which helped him make sense of the kiss, not really. Aside from Goku’s comments about touching being a way to affirm or re-affirm a clai–
“Goku. What is the difference between ‘affirming’ and ‘re-affirming’ a claim?” Sanzo demanded.
“Affirming is kind of like establishing a claim, or increasing the… intensity level, maybe… of the claim. Re-affirming is just reminding about a claim or level of claim.”
“And – touchwise – how would one go about affirming a claim?” Sanzo asked warily.
“It’d be… a new touch,” Goku said slowly, thoughtfully. “One that hasn’t happened before. And it would be at the same time as the claim is being re-affirmed, if it’s… upping it a level.”
Underneath his sleeves, Sanzo’s hands clenched into fists. So that’s part of what Hakkai was trying to hide from me. “And… how do you accept a claim?” was his next question. If Hakkai’s instincts thought he had accepted this….
“Well, you accepted both mine and Hakkai’s claims when you took responsibility for us,” Goku said after a minute. “You… have to respond somehow. To accept or to reject.”
Sanzo thought about that for a minute. If Goku was right, then he hadn’t accepted – or rejected – Hakkai’s attempt to increase his claim. Which meant… he was going to have to make a decision, one way or the other. Which meant, in turn, that he was going to have to figure out how he felt about Hakkai’s feelings – and Hakkai himself.
It was at that point that they arrived at the Temple of the Setting Sun. Sanzo automatically started to turn towards his office, but Goku tugged on his sleeve. “Priest Wakaru wants to see you,” he reminded Sanzo.
“Right.” Sighing, Sanzo turned in the direction of the office of the Head Priest of the Temple of the Setting Sun.
He and Wakaru generally got along… well enough. Sanzo left the administration of the temple alone – he had no interest in further duties or paperwork – and Wakaru didn’t bother him with petty issues. The only time they clashed was generally when Sanzo felt someone needed to learn a lesson – or when the gardeners’ complaints about Goku reached some critical point.
Unfortunately, given Goku knew he’d shot Hong Chao, Sanzo suspected this was not going to be one of the more pleasant meetings.
Hakkai looked up from his book to see Sanzo and Goku entering the living room.
“What are we going to make today, Hakkai?” Goku asked eagerly, bouncing over.
Putting the book down on the table, Hakkai offered him a smile. “Rabbit stew. We’ll go over the general details of making a stew as well, so you can use other meats in it.”
“Yum! Rabbit stew tonight, then! Will Gojyo be here? Where is he, anyway?”
He was glad of Goku’s exuberance this afternoon; it let him concentrate on the other youkai and avoid looking at Sanzo too much. Sanzo… who was watching him with an oddly sharp gaze, as though searching for something. Yes, much better to concentrate on Goku. “Gojyo’s gone back to Sun Yin’s. It seems he only stopped by to pick up some rabbit – she likes roast rabbit, apparently, and he promised her some of what we have.” Though the look on Gojyo’s face at the repeated suggestions that Sun Yin might have thrown him out had been more than amusing. “And no, he’ll be dining with Sun Yin. So, shall we get started?”
“Yeah! C’mon, Hakkai!” Goku almost pulled him out of his chair.
“I’m coming, I’m coming….” Hakkai stood up and followed Goku into the kitchen, noticing out of the corner of his eye that Sanzo sat down in one of the chairs, pulled his cigarettes and lighter out of his sleeves, and grabbed one of the books on the shelf next to the chair.
Once they were in the kitchen, and Hakkai had closed the door to better concentrate on teaching Goku, the other youkai seemed to lose a bit of his overexuberance.
“So, what happened with… Priest Wakaru, was it?” Hakkai asked, as he began pulling the things they were going to need off the shelves and out of the cupboards.
“Yeah – he’s the head priest of the temple,” Goku replied. “He wasn’t too happy about Sanzo shooting one of the priests – especially a visiting one. But Sanzo pointed out that he wasn’t too happy about being assaulted,” and Goku growled that last, “by the visiting priest. He said that Hong Chao got exactly what he deserved. Priest Wakaru couldn’t argue with that, since he knows that most of the time, Sanzo shoots near the monks to make a point. If he shot at Hong Chao, that means that he did something Sanzo really, really wanted to stomp him for.”
“Yes,” Hakkai agreed, with a growl of his own. Since… the kiss, he’d felt a bit more in control of himself, despite the fact that Sanzo hadn’t accepted the… declaration. He hadn’t rejected it out of hand, either – though it had taken him a while to calm down enough to realize that was what the lack of bullets meant.
“So there’s no punishment, unless the Sanbutsushin decide to get involved, and they figure Hong Chao has been punished enough for his own transgression,” Goku continued.
“Maybe,” Hakkai said.
Goku nodded his agreement, then tilted his head and looked at Hakkai thoughtfully. “So, you kissed Sanzo.”
Hakkai felt his mouth drop open in shock as he stared at Goku. What…. How….
The other youkai scowled at him. “I’m not stupid, Hakkai,” he declared firmly.
“I… I never thought you were,” Hakkai managed to get out.
“It was kind of obvious,” Goku continued. “Gojyo’s nose isn’t as good as mine – and he’s kind of oblivious to how you feel – so he didn’t notice. But I did.”
“What took you so long?”
His mouth dropped open again. “What?”
“What took you so long?” Goku repeated. “You’ve had that claim on Sanzo for almost six years now. You’ve had the right to do that since then.”
He was in shock, Hakkai decided. He had to be. Goku hadn’t just encouraged him to– “I doubt Sanzo thinks that,” he said, relieved that he could at least speak again.
“Huh. I’m not sure what Sanzo thinks. He was asking me a lot of questions about claiming and packs on the way back to the temple, though.”
“Packs?” Hakkai repeated, puzzled.
Goku stared at him. “You don’t know about packs either?”
“Goku. Everything I know about being youkai has come from you and Sanzo, and from our interactions with Kougaiji’s people and that village in the desert. No one has ever mentioned ‘packs’ to me.”
“Huh,” Goku muttered, looking a little embarrassed. “I guess everyone else just assumed you knew, because you were youkai…. And I thought you knew because you knew how to share a claim.”
Hm. It was true that – with the exception of Chin Yisou, who had been there – no one they’d met on their journey west had known that he was a thousand-slayer, and so originally human. Not even Kougaiji’s people had ever mentioned it – even after they’d dealt with Gyokumen Koushu, Ni Jianyi, and Gyumaoh’s resurrection. But why had Goku– “What does sharing a claim have to do with packs?” Hakkai asked, remembering that first week, the fight that had broken out, and the way Sanzo’s intervention had soothed the monster in his soul, who had wanted Sanzo all to himself.
“Packs are built around shared claims,” Goku explained. “Like ours on Sanzo.”
Which brought Hakkai back to the immediate issue at hand. “You think… I should have… kissed Sanzo sooner?” he asked, rather proud that his voice didn’t squeak over the word ‘kissed’. Gojyo was the only one of them who got any enjoyment out of discussing things of a semi-explicit nature.
“You had the right to,” Goku stated with a shrug. “We’re the only ones with a real claim on Sanzo – well, and Gojyo, but he prefers Sanzo as an opponent so that’s what he gets – and to me, Sanzo’s kinda big brother and father-figure in one. At first, I thought you wanted to claim him as a big brother too, which is why things kinda got as bad as they did during that week.” Goku looked guilty at that. “It wasn’t just about dominance, though that’s what I told Sanzo. It was also ’cause I thought I’d have to share my specific claim to Sanzo. And then, when he interrupted our fight, I figured out you weren’t claiming him as a big brother.”
Hakkai flushed at the memory. It was the first time he’d realized that perhaps his interest in Sanzo wasn’t entirely platonic; of course Goku would have picked that up, if he’d been anywhere near the level of high alert Hakkai had been during that week. “At least Sanzo didn’t know,” he mumbled, not realizing he was talking out loud. Though he does now, of course.
“Oh, Sanzo’s known for a while how you feel about him, though I think he thought it was just a crush until recently,” Goku blurted out.
At this rate, Hakkai wasn’t sure he was going to survive the evening, with the number of shocks Goku kept giving him. In fact, he was almost surprised his heart hadn’t given out already. “Sanzo… knew?” he croaked out.
“Yep. So, when are we going to start cooking, Hakkai?”
He held out one hand. “Just… give me a minute, please, Goku.” Sanzo knew? The priest had never given any indication that he had any inkling of what Hakkai felt for him.
Then again, this is Sanzo we’re talking about. He treats emotional issues as though they were armed bombs about to go off – at the best of times. If he knew, he would have never said anything unless forced.
Though I suppose that explains why he didn’t just shoot me on general principles after… the kiss.
“Jeez, will you relax, Hakkai?”
“You’ve been spending too much time with Gojyo, Goku,” Hakkai declared automatically.
“Sanzo took care of Hong Chao – he’s not going to bother him again. And it might take a little while, but I’m sure Sanzo will accept your claim,” Goku added confidently.
I’m not, Hakkai thought… but Goku had a point about getting on with the lesson. “All right. The first thing you have to do is brown the meat. If you’ll turn the stove on to medium-high….”
Reminder that all flames will be passed on to my Hakkai!Bunny, but comments and constructive criticism come straight to the author….