by tag [tagwriter(at)gmail(dot)com]

Disclaimer: I do not own Saiyuki; that honour belongs to Katsuya Minekura. Warning for Sanzo's language.

Okay, this story is definitely all Vathara's fault. I was re-reading "Entanglements" (great Sanzo/Hakkai story, especially with the weirdness – I recommend it highly!), and I got to the part where Hakkai throws a youkai off Sanzo with a thought of "he's mine"... and my Hakkai!Bunny went, "Ooooh, I wanna do that!" This was the result.

Beta-ed by Vathara.

Part One

"You know, the bottle is not going to spontaneously combust no matter how hard you glare at it."

Hakkai blinked and looked up, surprised to see Gojyo standing by the table. Even more surprised because Gojyo hadn't come up on his right; he should have noticed him. "What?"

"You're glaring at that bottle as though you want to slice and dice it into small pieces," Gojyo elaborated, red eyes fixed on him. "Bad sake?"

Hm. Slicing and dicing into small pieces – yes, that did sound rather appealing. Perhaps Goku would be willing to help? It might be an effective teaching aid for the cooking lessons he had requested....

"Earth to Hakkai! You in there?"

Right. Gojyo. "I'm sorry, Gojyo – what were you saying?"

The hanyou growled as he dropped into the seat next to Hakkai. "What is wrong with you lately, Hakkai? You've been distracted, and doing a lot of glaring at inanimate objects."

"At this rate, Sun Yin should have no further objections to your vocabulary," Hakkai offered in an attempt to distract Gojyo. It was fairly transparent, but seeing as how Gojyo could go on for over an hour about all the 'improvements' he was making to himself for Sun Yin's sake, it might just work.

"Thank you, Hakkai, but we're not talking about me – we're talking about you. What is going on?"

Oh well. It had been worth a try. "Nothing important," Hakkai demurred.

"Not going to fly this time, Hakkai," Gojyo retorted. "Come on, talk to me." Then a look of dawning comprehension crossed his face. "Is it a girl?"

So close, and yet so far. But then, the hanyou never had given any indication of having certain youkai instincts. If he had.... Well, if he did have those instincts, I suspect he'd know exactly what's 'wrong with me'. Goku does, after all. It's wrong with him as well. "Sorry, Gojyo, but it's not a girl. And even if it was... well, I have been married before." If there was one thing he valued about their journey west, aside from how it had deepened the bonds between the four of them, it was the fact that he could now think and talk about Kanan without feeling the anguish and despair he'd felt only two years ago. He still grieved for her, and always would, but he'd finally been able to move forward.

And then this had happened!

The unlucky sake bottle was the recipient of another glare. It might be satisfying to break it – throw it against the wall, or hit it with a chi blast – but he was the one who would end up cleaning it up, so it wasn't really worth it. Not to mention any satisfaction gained would be only momentary.

Hakkai resumed his daydream about the slicing and dicing idea. He'd have to thank Gojyo for that image... later, though.

"Hakkai! Damn it, you're doing it again! You don't stop it, I'm going to thump you with my shakujou!" Gojyo complained loudly.

He fought back a growl. It was definitely getting too loud in here, and he suddenly couldn't think with the scent of his own anger thick in the room. And he needed to think. If he stopped.... Well, the results would likely be quite bloody. Pushing his chair back, Hakkai stood up and headed for the door. "I'm going for a walk."

"Hakkai, wai—"

The closing door cut off Gojyo's call.

It was raining, Hakkai realized, as he stood outside the house. Well, that was fine. It suited his mood. After all, it had been raining when he'd slaughtered the Hyakugan Maoh's clan.

Choosing a direction at random, Hakkai stalked off, needing to move to try and burn off some of his anger.

It was in no way logical, what he was feeling. He knew that. Because while he'd always been possessive, even as a child, he'd never been as bad as this – at least, not before he became youkai. But now... well, to paraphrase Goku, once youkai instincts laid a claim on someone or something, they did not let go. And when Sanzo had recited the sutra for Kanan, then defended him to the Sanbutsushin, Hakkai had very definitely laid claim to him. His instincts had, at least, and he hadn't been inclined to argue. And the Sanbutsushin had solidified that sense of claiming when they'd made Sanzo responsible for him.

All of which meant that as far as his instincts were concerned, Sanzo was his. He was willing to share Sanzo's attention and time with Goku – they'd hashed that out between them during that confusing first week, and besides, Sanzo was Goku's divinely appointed guardian. So Hakkai had managed to accept that Goku had an equal but different claim on the priest.

No one else was allowed, however – and that was where the current problem lay.

Hong Chao.

Even the thought of the man's name had Hakkai fighting the urge to remove his limiters and go 'play' a little with the arrogant priestling. Just a bit. He wouldn't scar Goku by insisting on the slicing and dicing....

The man had come to Chang'an and the Temple of the Setting Sun a month ago from the south, with the avowed purpose of studying under the revered Genjyo Sanzo; but it had been very clear to anyone with eyes that it wasn't Sanzo's mind that he was interested in – no, he seemed focused on sharp violet eyes and golden blond hair... and he was annoyingly persistent. He obviously felt that no one could resist him for long, and that he had a right to expect that Sanzo would fall for his charms.

Sanzo had provided him with no encouragement whatsoever, of course; he was doing his usual discouragement of ignoring the moron, and going for his gun when Hong Chao got too close. But the priestling didn't seem to be capable of taking 'no' for an answer.

Which of course only made both Hakkai and Goku – but especially Hakkai – angrier. Not only was Hong Chao going after what was his, but he was pushing the issue when Sanzo wanted him to stop.

And to make things worse, the vast majority of the priests in the Temple of the Setting Sun were blind. They didn't see what Hong Chao was really after; they only saw the honour of having a southerner come here to study, because of Sanzo. So they encouraged the priestling. (They ignored the fact that they themselves were terrified of Sanzo – but they seemed to do that most of the time, Hakkai had noticed.)

And thinking about this was only making his temper grow, but he truly couldn't help it. It was the issue on his mind.

Then he noticed where he was walking.

He and Gojyo lived on the outskirts of Chang'an, which meant that the forest that surrounded the city was only a short walk away, and as chance would have it, in the direction he'd chosen to walk. Which meant he had been provided with a perfect solution to his current state of rage: target practice.

Yes, it would be very satisfying to find some dead trees and pretend they were Hong Chao. It might even calm him down some.

A goal now in mind, Hakkai stalked into the forest in search of a target.

"You want me to what?" Sanzo demanded flatly, staring at Gojyo.

"Talk to Hakkai," Gojyo repeated, shoving one hand nervously through red hair. "He's been acting weird lately. He's distracted, and glaring at things all the time. You know Hakkai. He doesn't glare! That's your thing!"

"Your vocabulary improvements are truly impressive," Sanzo stated sarcastically. Fuck. As if he didn't have enough on his plate already, now the hanyou wanted him to deal with a raging, jealous youkai? Goku was bad enough. He really didn't need to be trying to talk Hakkai down on top of that.

"Shut up, monk, and listen," Gojyo snapped back. "He's really losing it. I tried talking to him this afternoon, and I don't think he even heard half of what I was saying!"

"Probably ignoring you," Sanzo said dismissively, turning back to the pile of paperwork on his desk. Maybe if he did that, the hanyou would take the hint and leave him alone. "It's what I'd do."

Before Gojyo could reply to that, the door of his office was flung open and an overly-hyper Goku raced in. "Sanzo, Sanzo, Sanzo! Look at what I found!" his ward said, and thrust his hands in front of Sanzo's face.

It was a stone. Goku probably thought it was pretty – it was an amethystine colour; but it was just a stone.

"What is it, monkey?" Gojyo asked, diverted.

Unfortunately, Sanzo suspected that his diversion wouldn't last long. Not when Goku was acting just as bad as Hakkai, if in a different way.

"None of your business, cockroach kappa. I'm showing it to Sanzo. See, Sanzo?" The stone was thrust even closer to his eyes.

"It's a stone," Sanzo stated. If these two got into one of their typical arguments, they would get loud, raise a ruckus, and that moron would undoubtedly show up – which would get on his last nerve, as well as make Goku even worse.

"But see! It's the same colour as your eyes!"

He supposed it was. But it was still just a stone.

"Oooh, has someone got a little crush?" Gojyo asked, grinning evilly.

No, that's Hakkai. Not that I'd call it 'little'....

"Shut up, kappa!" Goku snarled.

Oh, that will convince him, Sanzo thought in irritation. He could foresee many hours of teasing following on from this. As if their arguments weren't bad enough already.

Gojyo looked taken aback at the ferocity of Goku's response for a moment; then his grin widened. "Someone has a crush, someone has a crush," he chanted.

Sanzo leaned forward and grabbed the neck of Goku's shirt just in time, as the enraged youkai lunged for Gojyo. Not that he would care if Goku beat the hanyou up, but once he came back to his senses, Goku would. "Stop that, monkey!" he snapped, then turned to Gojyo. "If I were you, I'd get out."

"What's with him?" the hanyou demanded instead, pointing at Goku, who was snarling and struggling against Sanzo's grip – though not with his full strength. At least he knew who was holding him. "He's acting as crazy as Hakkai!"

And you're only just noticing this? Sanzo felt like rolling his eyes. The way Goku entered the room should really have been the hanyou's first clue; the monkey wasn't sixteen anymore! For that matter... Gojyo had been around occasionally in the last few weeks – after all, Hakkai was making it a point to visit at least once a day. Hadn't he been paying attention?

This is Gojyo. Idiot, remember? The one who has only just noticed how Hakkai – whom he lives with – is acting? Of course he hasn't been paying attention.

Just then Goku – who had still been struggling – froze, his expression intent as he looked towards the door of the office.

Oh, fuck....

Letting go of the monkey's collar, Sanzo sat back down in his chair and piled the paperwork that had been scattered all over his desk into a tall pile right in front of him. With both Goku and Gojyo there, if he at least appeared busy, Hong Chao should leave him alone.

Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed that Gojyo was looking even more confused. Well, he was about to get some answers – even if he didn't understand them.

The door opened again, and an unfortunately familiar robed figure came in. "Sanzo-sama?"

"Busy," Sanzo growled.

"Yeah, he's busy," Goku said, his tone obnoxious and challenging. If he'd been talking to Gojyo, the two of them would have already been rolling around on the floor trying to beat each other unconscious. Then he appeared to brighten. "Hey, have I shown you my Nyoi-bo?"

Considering that they had yet to find Hong Chao unconscious and beaten to an absolute pulp, the answer to that was undoubtedly 'no'. Just like not finding him burned to a crisp or sliced to ribbons meant that Hakkai hadn't decided to show him how to use chi, or what he looked like as a youkai. Both of which Goku had suggested yesterday. In Hakkai's earshot.

At least Hong Chao was intelligent enough to recognize that as a threat. Perhaps it was the way Goku had greeted him. Or maybe it was the way the idiot kappa was eyeing them. But then, he was a moron, not stupid. If he'd been stupid, someone would have undoubtedly killed him before he made it to the Temple. (Or he wouldn't have been sent at all.) Which would have at least saved Sanzo the headache his presence was producing....

"No, but that's quite all right, Goku-kun," Hong Chao assured him. "I'll stop by when you're not so busy, Sanzo-sama." With a wave, he left.

Sanzo silently resolved to start bugging the Sanbutsushin for another mission. Maybe they might need him to go back to India to see how Kougaiji was doing with the reconstruction?

"Huh. That was that Hung Chow guy, right?" Gojyo asked.

"Yes." Sanzo didn't bother to correct the hanyou's mispronounciation of the man's name. Whether or not it was on purpose, it had Goku giggling, which meant the monkey was no longer ready to go for someone's throat. Which was a good thing. Mostly.

"I can see why Hakkai called him 'smarmy'," the hanyou continued thoughtfully.

And you still don't know what's bothering him? Sanzo stared at him in disbelief. Hakkai never insulted people – unless they were particularly stupid enemies. He seemed to believe firmly that if he couldn't say anything nice about someone, he shouldn't say anything at all.

"Surely you've told him to cut out the '-sama' bit?"

Yes, he had. It hadn't worked.

"And why is he using Japanese honourifics anyway?" Gojyo added, sounding confused. "He's not like Hakkai. I thought the guy was supposed to be from southern China?"

"He's trying to impress with his erudition," Sanzo replied. At Gojyo and Goku's confused looks, he rolled his eyes and explained, "He's showing off his education." Eyeing the paperwork pile for a moment, he decided to leave it. With any luck, it would multiply until he would be officially 'too busy' for the next year to deal with Hong Chao. Once the moron left, he could always dump some of it on the priests here to deal with....

"Funny, I thought he was supposed to be here to get educated," Gojyo commented.

"Supposedly," Sanzo agreed dryly, standing up. "You said you wanted me to talk to Hakkai?"

"Ye-es...." Gojyo appeared somewhat confused by Sanzo's return to the previous topic.

Idiot. "Then let's go."

"Um... Sanzo, it's raining," Goku pointed out hesitantly.

Now that he looked, Sanzo could see the signs that the monkey had hastily gotten dried off – his hair was still wet. That might have stopped him under ordinary circumstances, explaining why Goku had been so reluctant to mention it. But to avoid Hong Chao.... "Then you'd better get the umbrellas."

Hakkai licked the last of the blood off his lips as he approached the door to the house, slowly clipping his limiters back on.

Despite the fact that the Minus Wave had been stopped, and the youkai restored to sanity, Hakkai still tended to be reluctant to take his limiters off. For one thing, there was the human fear-inspired backlash against the youkai, because of what the Minus Wave had done – stopping the insanity had only eased that backlash of hatred slightly, not stopped it. For another – Hakkai still had some trouble accepting that he was youkai. He didn't hate that fact any longer, but he still hadn't completely accepted it. (Despite Sanzo's continuing blunt efforts, the effects of the Minus Wave definitely hadn't helped that matter.)

However, he'd had so much anger to burn off that targeting dead trees hadn't helped as much as he'd hoped. Then he'd spotted a rabbit in the undergrowth, and, well.... Hakkai glanced ruefully at the load he was carrying in a basket he'd improvised from the leaves of a canebrake bamboo. It seemed likely that he and Gojyo were going to be living on rabbit stew and roast rabbit for a while. They'd have to invite Goku over for dinner a few times.

Opening the door and walking in, Hakkai was surprised to hear Sanzo's voice from the sitting room. What had brought him here? And in the rain, no less, he realized, spotting the two umbrellas by the door. Sanzo still hated the rain with a passion.

"Hi, Hakkai!" came Goku's voice as the youkai poked his head into the room. "Where have you— whoa!" His eyes widened at the sight of the rabbit carcasses. "Did you buy them in the market? You must have spent a lot!"

"No," Hakkai admitted, heading for the kitchen, through the sitting room. "I... did some hunting in the forest."

Gojyo was sitting in his usual chair, the table in front of him occupied with cards. Sanzo was sitting opposite him, a cigarette in his mouth and a can of beer in the hand that wasn't holding his own cards. Both of them looked up as he came in, and Sanzo's eyes narrowed suspiciously.

"Sanzo, it's good to see you," Hakkai called over his shoulder as he entered the kitchen, ignoring the suspicion. "You too, Goku. Are you staying for dinner? I'm going to be making roast rabbit."

"Of course we are," Goku piped up. "Right, Sanzo?"

"Yes," Sanzo said simply. "Sit down. It's your turn, monkey."

"So," Hakkai continued, as he got out the appropriate knife to begin preparing the meat – he'd used his claws to skin them, but that hadn't been the best tool for the task – "what brings you here, this early in the afternoon? Somehow I doubt it was to play poker."

"Oh, his holiness here is escaping from this moron," Gojyo declared. "Name of Hung Chow, or something like that. You're right about him being smarmy, Hakkai—"

Gojyo probably went on, but his words were lost in the rush of red rage Hakkai had last felt when the villagers had told him that Kanan had been given to the Hyakugan Maoh's men – only what felt like a hundred times stronger. The Temple was Sanzo's territory. To hear that he'd been forced to leave in order to escape Hong Chao... Hakkai's hand went for his limiters without a second thought. It was time he showed this upstart what was necessary to earn the title 'thousand-slayer'—

His wrist was grabbed before his fingers reached his limiters.

"Don't you dare," Sanzo growled in his ear from behind him. "Do you hear me, Hakkai?" There was a momentary pause, and then Sanzo's hand tightened on his wrist. "I said, do you hear me, Hakkai?"

The realization that Sanzo was waiting for an answer pushed its way past the red rage. "Yes," he managed to get out.

"Good." Sanzo forcibly pushed his hand down a centimetre or two. "If I let go, are you going to try to remove your limiters again?"

Hakkai snarled, though it wasn't directed at Sanzo. "He's chasing you out of your territory. No one does that!"

Sanzo's hand tightened again – a bit more this time. "I do not need you to defend me, Hakkai," he hissed. "And unless you promise me you will not take your limiters off right now, I'm not letting go."

He could push Sanzo away, so easily. Even with the limiters, he had more physical strength than any human. But... this was Sanzo. He couldn't hurt Sanzo – and if he tried to do anything, he would. Hakkai shivered with the force of the two opposing instincts as he stood deadlocked.

"Are you listening to me, Hakkai?"

"Yes." He couldn't say anything else; everything was locked behind the possessive red rage. But Sanzo was... he was Sanzo. Hakkai could always hear him. To do otherwise would hurt him.

"Are you going to promise me?"

He shivered again. "Can't."

"Hakkai. If you kill the moron, it will be murder. I've had to defend you in front of the Sanbutsushin once already. If I have to do it again, I will be pissed off."

And disappointed, the thought pierced the rage. He saved you once; doing this, forcing him to save you like that again, would be saying that what he did meant nothing.

He could live with the guilt for killing his neighbours, and the result of killing the Hyakugan Maoh's people (even if he hadn't fully accepted the latter yet). But he couldn't live with Sanzo's disappointment.

Hakkai took a deliberately deep breath, held it for a five-count, then let it out slowly, all the while reminding himself that if Sanzo didn't see it as being chased out of his territory, neither should he. Even if it was....

And thoughts like that were not helping him calm down. The recognition of Sanzo's potential disappointment was, however, so Hakkai focused on that.

It took another several deep breaths, but Hakkai finally managed to get enough control of himself to try lowering his hand. The moment he did, Sanzo let go, and came around to face him.

The priest was angry – but it wasn't the type of anger Hakkai feared, just his normal 'pissed off at the world's idiocy' irritation, ramped up a bit. "Idiot. You're just lucky that Goku kept Gojyo distracted," he hissed quietly. "Since you don't seem to want him to know about this."

Hakkai felt himself flush, even as he could suddenly hear the argument that was taking place in the sitting room. Caught in the rage, he'd been utterly oblivious to the raised voices. "It's none of his business," he pointed out weakly. Gojyo was his friend, and an... acquaintance of Sanzo's; that alone made it partly the hanyou's business.

"But it is mine." Sanzo's expression hardened. "Considering it's about me."

His flush deepened. He'd known that Sanzo suspected something, even before what had just happened... but he hadn't known that Sanzo knew why he was acting like this. Though I should have, considering Goku's doing the same....

But he can't know everything – or he'd be shooting. Or running away from you as fast as he is from Hong Chao.

Well, maybe not that last. The problem with Hong Chao was that he was chasing Sanzo – and after Sanzo had made it quite clear that he was not interested, to boot. Hakkai had him. And if it wasn't in all the ways he was interested in... well, that was fine. He still had Sanzo. But yes... he'd probably be shot – hopefully somewhere non-fatal – if Sanzo knew about everything he wanted.

"The reason Gojyo even met the moron was because he came to the Temple this morning to ask me to talk to you about this," Sanzo continued. "I was going to say no... but it's obviously needed."

"Talking... won't help," Hakkai admitted. "It's not something I have much control over."

"I've noticed."

He should probably be irritated with Sanzo for that – and in any other circumstances, Hakkai knew, he would be. But right now, he couldn't. His instincts – the same ones that said that Hong Chao was trying to take Sanzo away from him – wouldn't let him do anything that might make Sanzo decide to negate his claim. Except be ready to kill Hong Chao, of course.

"It's instinct," he explained – or tried to, at least. But Sanzo wasn't youkai, and didn't know how powerful youkai instincts really were. He couldn't.

"That much is clear. It has both you and Goku acting like idiots, while the hanyou doesn't notice a thing." Sanzo scowled. "Until this morning, when your behaviour evidently became too obvious to ignore. So, what do you suggest we do about it, since the moron is – unfortunately – not going to go away?"

"I don't know what can be done about it," Hakkai returned. He was not going to bring the possibility of killing Hong Chao back up, since Sanzo had essentially forbidden it. Nor was he going to mention some of the other possibilities his mind had jumped to. That would get him shot. "I... emotion and instinct don't respond to logic."

Sanzo's frown deepened. "I'm talking about something practical, that will keep you away from the moron. Goku I can control, even if his 'twelve years old again' act is getting on my nerves. You?" He shook his head. "What just happened was a closer call than I like. I was starting to think I'd have to stand there holding your wrist all night."

Hakkai hesitated in answering for a moment as he suddenly realized that the red rage was actually ebbing. He'd been merely holding it back, with the points Sanzo had made and the breathing exercises, but now it was starting to disappear.

And why not? came the thought. Right now, Sanzo is focused entirely on you.

That... was a good point. Hakkai had tried to get that result with his recent daily visits to the temple, but perhaps he'd been going about things the wrong way. After all, Hong Chao was at the temple, which meant that he was making the classic mistake of bringing the fight to the enemy on the enemy's choice of ground. They'd done enough of that on the trip to India. Maybe if he changed the rules of engagement....

"Perhaps you could come here in the afternoons," he suggested. "After all, Goku has requested cooking lessons. And it will serve as a ready-made excuse to help avoid Hong Chao." Hakkai couldn't help but snarl at the man's name, but he figured Sanzo wouldn't mind that.

Sanzo nodded thoughtfully. "A reasonable idea," he approved. "You think it will help you maintain control?"

Hakkai nodded. "Yes, I suspect so."

"Then we'll—"

"Sanzooo!" came a wail from the sitting room.

Sanzo's hands clenched into fists. "Agreed. The cooking lessons start now." He stalked into the sitting room, and a moment later Hakkai heard the thwack of Sanzo's harisen hitting two hard heads.

Goku came hurrying in a minute later. "Sanzo said we're going to start my cooking lessons!"

"Yes," Hakkai agreed. "The first one will be roast rabbit with braised vegetables and mochi for dessert."

"Yum!" Then Goku gave him a more serious look. "Sanzo says we're going to be coming over every afternoon for them."

"It gets him away from Hong Chao." Hakkai headed over to the cupboards and pulled out a roasting pan.

"And into your territory," Goku added seriously.

"Yes," Hakkai admitted.

The other youkai looked thoughtful for a moment, then nodded. "Good." Then he looked around the kitchen. "So, where do we start?"

Part Two

Sanzo fumed as he stalked through Chang'an, only vaguely aware of the crowds that moved hastily out of his way.

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.

Oh, fuck.

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."

"And Gojyo?"

"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.

"We're here."

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...."

Part Three

Sanzo felt... foggy. This was unusual enough to alarm him. His left hand reached automatically under his pillow for his gun... only he discovered that his hand felt limp and slow, and his pillow wasn't there. More importantly, neither was his gun.

I've been drugged, because that was the only explanation for the grogginess and weakness, since he didn't remember being sick or wounded, and moved from my room in the Temple. How? Who could get in there?

Silly question, he reflected a moment later. Anyone could break in here – there. The better question is why? Is someone after the sutra again? And who is it? Not to mention, where did they take me?

He opened his eyes to mere slits, and took a quick glance around.

Well, at least he was still in the Temple. He recognized this as one of the storerooms that hadn't been touched in years until he'd had Gojyo and Goku clean it four years ago, as punishment for the incident at Keiun Temple that had stuck them with their weapons. And it probably hadn't been touched since.

Until a few days ago, by the looks of it. He was lying in a cleared area on the floor, but a careful – and annoyingly slow; this drug was proving alarmingly effective – look around showed that he was surrounded by boxes on all sides. A cursory search wouldn't find him, unless Goku was with them.

Of course, Goku would probably be with any searchers – or would search on his own. And the monkey could handle anyone – even someone who would drug him – with one hand tied behind his back. Dealing with Kougaiji's people had finally taught Goku a certain amount of subtlety – and how to deal with the enemy being more subtle than you. Goku would turn the Temple upside down and inside out to find him.

And so will Hakkai, Sanzo's mind pointed out.

He'd done his best to avoid thinking about the Hakkai situation over the past few days. He knew he wasn't being entirely fair to the youkai, but he really couldn't work out what he wanted to do. The thought of accepting what went along with Hakkai's claim... if he was to be completely honest with himself – which he had to be in this case – it scared him. More than dealing with Gyumaoh ever had.

On the other hand, the idea of rejecting Hakkai... didn't appeal in the slightest. Hakkai was... a friend, if Sanzo was willing to admit to having any friends. He... didn't want to hurt Hakkai, not really. He never had. Much as he hated to admit it to himself – and he would never tell anyone else – when he'd given Hakkai the chance to leave their journey west to deal with his own ghosts, it hadn't been only because a distracted Hakkai would be a burden rather than an asset. Which meant something, Sanzo was sure; he just didn't know what.

And yes, if the monkey was idiotic enough to let Hakkai knew he was missing, the youkai would definitely join the search. Sanzo just hoped he would be smart about it, and not go to Hakkai.

Oh, who the hell am I kidding. Of course Goku will head straight for Hakkai.

In other words, I'm going to have to rescue myself, if I don't want Hakkai murdering his way through the Temple. Same as usual.

Opening his eyes a bit more, Sanzo took another quick look around the area he found himself in, and relaxed slightly. There was no sign of anyone. Good.

Though... come to think of it, why hasn't Goku found me already? Am I going to have to rescue myself anyway, because they simply can't do it?

Wonderful. Well, best to get started....

The first thing he tried to do was sit up unassisted. Tried being the operative word – his muscles were all watery from whatever drugs had been used to knock him out, and he couldn't get them to respond fast enough to get him moving. The same thing happened when he tried to use his arms to push himself up.

The only good thing was that trying to move around had told him he was still wearing his jeans, armour shirt and kote.

Fuck, I'm screwed, he thought grimly. He was having that thought quite frequently lately. Things seemed to be going to hell in a handbasket over the last several weeks. Was the hag playing games with his life again? He certainly wouldn't put it past hir, not when half the issues of the journey west were apparently solely for hir amusement....

The sound of the storeroom door opening brought his mind to full alertness, and Sanzo closed his eyes back to slits, just in case this was his kidnapper.

Footsteps approached, closing the door behind them, and Sanzo saw monk's sandals come around a corner of boxes. Given there was no surprised outcry at his presence, he was likely right about this being his kidnapper. But why would one of the monks want to drug and kidnap him? (Well, aside from his habit of continually terrifying them....) Unless it was simply someone disguised as a monk....

No, he was not too paranoid.

"Here's your breakfast, Sanzo-sama!"

That's it. I am so fucking screwed. It was Hong Chao.

"Hakkai! Hakkai!"

"Damn it, that kid is too energetic way too fucking early in the morning," Gojyo groused, downing a slug of coffee from the mug Hakkai had just placed in front of him.

"He's hardly a 'kid' anymore, Gojyo," Hakkai reproved mildly, returning to the stove to fetch their breakfast, and grabbing another plate for Goku along the way.

"He'll always be a snot-nosed brat to me," Gojyo muttered.

"Hakkai!" Goku yelled again, and they heard the front door slam open. A moment later, Goku appeared in the kitchen doorway, and Hakkai nearly dropped the plate as he felt a surge of alarm go through him. The younger youkai looked panicked.

"What is it, Goku?"

"Sanzo's missing!"

For the third time in a week, a red rage raced through Hakkai. He left his limiters on only by sheer force of will – he didn't want to panic people. Yet. Still, he could feel both teeth and claws straining against the power of the limiters, aching to break free, even as the plate clattered to the floor and broke. But that wasn't important.

"Where?" he growled, vaguely aware that Gojyo was staring at him, but not caring.

Goku seemed to understand him, at least. "From his room at the temple. I'm not sure where he was taken – there was something really strong-smelling in the hall outside Sanzo's room, and it kinda overpowered the scents. And there's the smell of some kind of drug from the food left in the room from dinner last night."

Drugged. The thought seared through the rage, increasing its intensity, and Hakkai's hands clenched into fists. Kidnapped. It was the only possible explanation for Sanzo being missing and drugged.

A challenge to my claim. It was the only conclusion he was able to come to in this state. A cowardly challenge.

"Connection?" he demanded, debating whether or not to call Hakuryu from where he was napping with the part of his mind that could still concentrate on the practicalities. But Hakuryu wouldn't be able to get them to the temple any faster than they could run.

"I don't know!" Goku wailed. "It says he's still in the temple, somewhere, but I can't figure out where! It's not that precise!"

Hakkai snarled. "Take me there." If Goku couldn't scent Sanzo's trail, and the connection between the two of them couldn't ferret out where Sanzo had been taken, then there was only one other way he could think of to find what was his.

"Wait a minute – what's going on?" Gojyo demanded.

"I told you, kappa – Sanzo's been drugged and kidnapped!" Goku snapped, dancing impatiently. "C'mon, Hakkai!"

He just nodded, still fighting the urge to remove his limiters – that could wait until they got to the temple.

Being able to feel everything his vines did was a benefit at times.

"Sanzo-sama, it's time to wake up," Hong Chao caroled, shaking Sanzo's shoulder.

Sanzo spent about a minute debating whether or not to reveal that he was awake, before Hong Chao shook his shoulder even harder, almost banging his head into one of the boxes. "'M 'wake," he mumbled, opening his eyes fully, and scowled internally. Gods-damned drug. What the hell had the man used on him?

And why the hell didn't I notice it?

Hong Chao frowned. "You don't sound awake, Sanzo-sama."

Not to mention, why the fuck is he still calling me that?! "'S stupi' dru'," Sanzo slurred. And a fucking annoying one. How the hell am I going to deal with this moron if I can't even speak properly? And why the hell aren't Goku and Hakkai here already? Surely it's been enough time that they've noticed I'm not there....

Why did the bastard smell like that strong-scented lemon cleaning product that the idiot monks here had used to clean the temple before he'd brought Goku back?

"It shouldn't be affecting you this badly," the other priest said, frowning.

The implications of that were... mildly horrifying, though they didn't come as an entire surprise, considering his current situation. He's done this before. Right. I really am fucking screwed. If this is your idea of a good time, hag, I may just tell Hakkai to go ahead and let loose.... It would serve hir right.

Especially if he did something that has kept Goku and Hakkai from finding me.

Sanzo felt almost like slapping his forehead at that. Maybe the drug was also affecting his thought processes? Like using a cleanser too strong for Goku's nose to muddy the trail....

"Maybe he got the dosage wrong...."

And that... would make altogether too much sense, Sanzo thought, if Hong Chao had an ally in the Temple who had dosed his food – because it had to be his food that the drug had come through; he couldn't think of any other way that would have managed to conceal it, and he'd been unusually hungry last night. Very few of the priests had any idea that he was, as Hakkai often put it in tones of careful concern, rather underweight. "Wh' are y' doin' this?" he managed, with another internal grimace. At least it might make Hong Chao think that he was as dazed in mind as he sounded. He only hoped he wasn't. "Rev'nge?"

Hong Chao laughed. That didn't make Sanzo feel any better. "Revenge? For what, Sanzo-sama?"

Sanzo's eyes darted to the sling encasing Hong Chao's arm. "I sho' y'," he reminded the other priest. It might not be the smartest move he could make, but at least it would get him some answers....

"This? Oh, this is nothing, Sanzo-sama," Hong Chao stated. He was really starting to creep Sanzo out with his constant 'Sanzo-sama's. "No, I have no reason to try to take revenge on you." Then he reached out, and ran his hand through Sanzo's hair.

Despite his weakness, Sanzo felt a shiver of revulsion pass through his body. Hakkai's hand in his hair had felt... nice. Pleasant. Something he'd be willing to repeat – and wasn't that an interesting revelation? This... felt disgusting. It reminded him unpleasantly of that scorpion youkai, in the desert – the one who had killed another Sanzo and kept his sutra. The one that had set off that stupid Kougaiji-Seiten Taisei mess.

Yes, this bore a definite resemblance to that situation – Sanzo just hoped that Goku and Hakkai wouldn't go through any retaining walls to get to him this time. The storeroom was fairly far from the temple entrance, after all. And that he'd be able to maintain enough control of his own anger to calmly shoot Hong Chao through the head when he got a chance. If Hakkai and Goku between them left enough of him to shoot.

"You're very beautiful, you know, Sanzo-sama?" Hong Chao continued.

He'd been told that before. 'Too beautiful for a man' had also come up a few times. He usually just shot whatever idiot was saying it – or at the very least shot at them. But he'd already given Hong Chao a warning shot. The next one would definitely be to his head.

"And very wise. You must be, to be a Sanzo."

Koumyou Sanzo had been wise. And kind. Genjyo Sanzo was neither.

"Not to mention powerful, to control one of the Tenchi Kaigen scriptures."

Two. Not that most knew that And that... well, I'll give you that. It wasn't something Sanzo thought about much, given it had been one more thing that the monks at Kinzan had resented him for, but he didn't lie to himself. Much. Whoever his parents might have been – whether Ni Jianyi's story was the truth or not – he was powerful. At least so said everyone, from Kanzeon Bosatsu on down. Goku had told him more than once that his personal scent was like power.

And if he could just get the mental and physical focus for reciting a sutra, Hong Chao might find out how powerful he was....

"All of which makes you eminently desirable," came Hong Chao's conclusion.

"Fu' off," Sanzo replied.

"Now, now, Sanzo-sama, you shouldn't be using such language," the man scolded. "What would the Sanbutsushin say to hear that?"

They've heard worse from me. Not often – some of the rare times he tended to show actual respect were in dealing with the Sanbutsushin (Master Koumyou had respected them, after all) – but they had heard him swear before. And they knew what he was like. He'd never made a secret of it. "Fu' off," he repeated.

"As for my own qualifications, I am intelligent," Hong Chao went on, evidently deciding to ignore Sanzo's commentary. That irritated him even further. "And ambitious – I will admit that. That is why I was sent here, to learn from you. When I first came here, I was expecting a pious, wrinkled old man. It was a pleasant surprise to find that you were the Sanzo priest I was to learn from instead."

Sanzo did his best to scowl; and then did frown, as he felt something tickle his left hand. What the—

He looked down – carefully, in an effort not to attract Hong Chao's notice – and saw a black, vine-like tendril twine up around his little finger and brush against his kote.


The relief he felt was surprising, and more than a little irritating, as the vine-tendril proceeded to curl around his wrist and squeeze just enough that he could feel it, then coil up around his arm. This was not the sort of position he really wanted to let Goku and Hakkai find him in – much less Gojyo – though they'd seen him in worse; but at the same time, Hong Chao's attitude worried him a little. At least Hakkai's obsession with him was a safe one – for him, that was. And he didn't really give a damn about anyone who was attacking him.

"So you see, Sanzo-sama," the waste of space was saying, drawing even nearer, "we really would make the perfect pair."

Fucking moron. He's even worse than Gojyo, pervert that the kappa is.... At least the hanyou knew how to take 'no' for an answer. To think just because some people happen to see him as intelligent that he would be attractive to everyone – that's some of the worst sort of arrogance I've ever seen. The only thing worse was the 'holier than thou' idiots and the hypocrites.

Once again, the moron reached out to touch Sanzo's hair. This time, Sanzo was able to shudder properly.

The drug's starting to wear off— was all he had time to think, before the vine tightened reassuringly around his arm, and six others shot along the floor and up Hong Chao's legs to bind him. They did a much better job on him than they had done on Goku at first after Ni Jianyi shot him, as they pulled the moron against one of the walls of boxes and held him there, spread-eagled.

"What the hell—" Hong Chao got out, before the vine-tendrils crossed his face and forcibly closed his mouth.

Sanzo couldn't help the dryly amused chuckle that escaped. "Shoul' watch your lan'age," he remarked, trying again to sit up. Despite the support of the vine coiled around his arm and the weakening effect of the drug, he still couldn't.

The vine around his arm coiled tighter again for a second, and Sanzo could almost feel Hakkai's panicked urgency. Then two more vines came racing around the corner of the boxes; one coiled around his right arm, the other around his stomach and chest, and together the three lifted him into a sitting postion and leaned him against the boxes opposite Hong Chao – who was staring, eyes wide in shock.

"Di' you forge'?" Sanzo asked, amused despite the position he found himself in. "My people are youkai."

It was clear from the look on the man's face that in spite of seeing Goku every day, and having seen Gojyo a few times – not to mention having planned for Goku's nose! – he had indeed forgotten that very relevant fact.

Moron. Can't even plan his crimes right.

The door slammed open, and a moment later Hakkai, in youkai form with his expression one of pure and utter fury, came sliding around the corner, his feet bare and each controlling the vines in turn. Goku – and, oh gods, Gojyo... why did they have to drag the kappa along – came hurrying after him.

All three stopped to take in the situation – Sanzo was not pleased that Gojyo was seeing him relying on Hakkai's vines to keep him in a sitting position – and then Hakkai started taking slow, deliberate steps forward. Hong Chao cringed back against the boxes he was being held against, but Sanzo noticed that aside from a quick glance to see who he'd caught, Hakkai hadn't even looked in the moron's direction. Instead, all of Hakkai's attention was focused on him.

Gojyo started to follow Hakkai, and Goku grabbed him, pulling him back towards the space in between the boxes where the three of them – and Hong Chao – had entered from. Oh shit, this doesn't look good.... The hanyou turned to glare at Goku, but before he could do anything, Hakkai had reached Sanzo and crouched down next to him.

"Sanzo?" The youkai's voice held the same odd, abstracted note as it had the day Hong Chao had ambushed him in the hall, and even as Hakkai spoke, he was rubbing his hands around Sanzo's wrists and arms.

"Some kin' o' dru'," Sanzo explained.

He didn't think Hakkai's expression could get any angrier, but he was proven wrong – and the youkai began growling as well. Hong Chao squeaked – the vines must have tightened unpleasantly around him – and Hakkai raised one hand and rubbed it carefully against his throat, being careful to keep his claws away from Sanzo's skin. "Mine."

This time it was Gojyo who squeaked.

Fuck... he said it clearly.... The kappa was unlikely to forget about this, unfortunately.

Hong Chao grunted in obvious protest as he began struggling against the grasp of the vines. He was then pulled firmer against the boxes, and the vines holding Sanzo up tightened slightly, in a protective manner, as Hakkai's expression went absolutely blank. Except for his eyes, which... were they actually red-tinged? Even the right eye?

Goku's words from several days ago echoed in his memory, "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," and Sanzo knew what the youkai was going to do.

Before he could do or say anything – like, 'Goku, get Gojyo the hell out of here,' – Hakkai had raised the hand rubbing his throat to his hair, and leaned forward to kiss him.

This time, Sanzo was more aware of the sensations as they were happening.

Hakkai's lips were thin, and fever-warm where they pressed against his own.

Hakkai's hand was running through his hair in soothing patterns, erasing the memory of Hong Chao's touches.

Hakkai's other hand had also moved up, to rub gently against his throat.

Hakkai was purring.

He felt warm, and oddly safe, in a way he hadn't felt in years. Is this why people like kissing so much? Sanzo wondered, as his eyes slid closed and he relaxed into the touches.

Then Hakkai used the hand buried in Sanzo's hair to pull his head to the side and back slightly, deepening the kiss, and without thinking, Sanzo found himself responding.

Sanzo's lips moved against his, and Hakkai felt his purr deepen at the acceptance.

He was distantly aware of the other sounds in the place, and his captive's struggle, but the majority of his attention was focused firmly on Sanzo. Sanzo, who tasted even more like power than before, and anger, and acceptance... and a heavy dose of a sedative.

Rage seared through him again at that, and he deliberately tightened the vines holding his captive so that the man would barely be able to breathe, let alone struggle. Let him feel what he had almost done to Sanzo with that dose, Hakkai thought grimly, deepening the kiss even more in an attempt to erase all signs of the sedative.

A soft noise of protest came from Sanzo, even as he continued to respond to the kiss, and Hakkai realized then that he'd also tightened the vines supporting the priest further – protectively, but he'd still tightened them. He didn't want to loosen them – Sanzo was his, and his to protect – but he knew vaguely that if he didn't, Sanzo would kick up a fuss about it later.

Loosening the vines around Sanzo – slightly, less than he'd tightened them this time – Hakkai focused his full attention back on what was his. It was only fair, after all. This wasn't just a negation of that man's challenge; it was an increase of his claim on Sanzo. Sanzo deserved to hold the full focus of his attention.

Sanzo's hair was so soft – like sun-warmed threads of silk – as Hakkai ran his hand through it. His pulse was beating a bit faster than normal – Hakkai could feel it through the hand stroking Sanzo's throat and through the vines twined around his wrists and chest, and it gave him a heady feeling to know that he could affect Sanzo to that degree. The scent of his power and his acceptance, blended with Hakkai's own scent, created a delicious perfume that filled the air between them. Hakkai just wanted to stay like this forever.


Goku. Goku, who had a shared claim on Sanzo. Reluctantly, Hakkai pulled away from the kiss, though he left his hands where they were.

Sanzo opened his eyes and blinked dazedly as Hakkai met his gaze. Only this time, Sanzo wasn't showing the lack of awareness he had last time – just the aftereffects of the kiss. Good. Mine, Hakkai thought in satisfaction, licking his lips. A faint flush crossed Sanzo's face, and Hakkai's purr deepened again at this further sign of how he was affecting the priest.

"Hakkai!" Goku repeated.

Hakkai blinked, regaining the full sense of himself at the call as he stopped purring, then turned to look at the other two, slowly pulling his left hand out of Sanzo's hair. He didn't move his right, though, except to resume rubbing it along Sanzo's throat. He was going to make sure that Sanzo was covered in his scent. He wasn't going to go through another challenge. Sanzo was his, damnit, and everyone would know it!

Goku was dancing from foot to foot, looking worried and impatient. Gojyo was... well, Gojyo was staring at him as though he'd never seen him before.

Hakkai winced internally at that, but judging by Goku's actions and urgency, they didn't have time to deal with Gojyo's reactions just yet. "What is it, Goku?"

"The search party is coming," the younger youkai replied hurriedly. "I kinda think Sanzo would be pissed if they found us here like this."

With me kissing him, Hakkai completed silently. It was more than likely.

"No kiddin'," Sanzo commented dryly. "Pro'lem, though – I can't si' u', much less stan'. An' he ha' help – someone else pu' the dru' into my foo'."

"And almost killed you," Hakkai growled, brushing his thumb over Sanzo's cheek. He almost wanted to purr again when the priest leaned slightly into the touch. "The way you're still slurring your words...." He shot a fanged snarl in Hong Chao's direction. "In a dose as high as you got, it could have stopped your breathing. And I can help you stand up."

"Then do i'!" Sanzo snapped at him.

The sharpness didn't upset him – Sanzo was no doubt feeling quite vulnerable at the moment, and that was the way he dealt with it. Hakkai merely nodded, and manipulated the vines holding Sanzo so that they stood him up.

He wasn't very steady, of course, and even the addition of two more vines – one for each leg – didn't help that much; so Hakkai moved a bit closer, and wrapped his arm around Sanzo's shoulders to provide more support. Just because he needed it, of course. It had nothing to do with the fact that he wanted to make sure that no one else challenged his claim on Sanzo, or wanting to be close to the priest.

Sanzo turned his head to glare at him just as the sounds of more footsteps came into the room, and followed the single vine-tendril Hakkai had left as a guide to the search party – he'd at least been thinking straight enough for that.

Head Priest Wakaru in the lead, the search party that had been formed while Goku had fetched Hakkai came around the corner, and they all stopped short at the scene.

Trying to see it from their perspective, Hakkai felt himself wince for a second time.

He was standing there, full youkai without his limiters, as they'd never seen him – ears, claws and vine tattoos completely visible. The most revered (and feared) Genjyo Sanzo was leaning on him, dressed only in his jeans and undershirt, with visible vine-tendrils coiled around his legs. (The vines around his arms and chest being effectively invisible, since they were black against the black of his undershirt and kote.) Their honoured visitor, Hong Chao, was trussed up in more vine-tendrils. And Goku and Gojyo – Goku was almost vibrating and Gojyo was just staring at himself and Sanzo, looking as stunned as the priests themselves did.

"What happened?" Priest Wakaru demanded sharply.

He's learned that tone from Sanzo, Hakkai thought dryly. "It seems, Head Priest, that Hong Chao attempted to kidnap Sanzo."

Hong Chao mumbled something against the vines keeping his mouth closed, and Hakkai tightened the vines around the rest of his body for a moment (again). "You shut up," he snarled – he was having a hard time not actually killing the man, but the fact that Sanzo had accepted his claim was letting him maintain control. Then he shot a sharp look at the group of monks behind Wakaru. "You almost killed Sanzo with that drug," he added deliberately.

One of the monks at the back of the group went pale and abruptly turned to flee. This time Hakkai let Goku handle the situation; he had handled Hong Chao, after all, and Goku had been just as stressed as he was, so it was only fair.

Goku rose admirably to the occasion, calling Nyoi-bo and slamming it on top of the monk's head before he got more than two steps away, knocking him out quite firmly.

"What was that for?" Wakaru snapped.

"Hong Chao di'n't pu' the dru' in my foo'," Sanzo slurred out, sending another spurt of protective anger through Hakkai. It had come so close – the slurring and inability to stand were evidence enough of that.... "He ha' someone else do i'."

The entire group of (conscious) monks looked horrified at the statement, and at how badly Sanzo was still slurring his words. Wakaru took a step forward, and looked pointedly between the unconscious monk on the floor and Hong Chao. "Such a crime is quite a serious thing. If you will surrender custody of Hong Chao to us, Cho Hakkai, we will take care of him."

Hakkai hesitated. He wanted to kill Hong Chao himself, and undoubtedly Sanzo felt the same. Yet... that would be murder, and he had sworn to Sanzo that he wouldn't do that. If it had been done in the heat of the moment, when they'd first found Sanzo, it would be different – but if he did it right now, it would be done in cold blood. And while he knew he was capable of such a thing – it had taken him two months to find the Hyakugan Maoh's stronghold and get in, after all – he had made the choice, when he had first surrendered to Sanzo after that, not to do it. All the same....

"What will you do with them?" Hakkai demanded, pulling Sanzo a little closer to him, protectively. He could feel, from the way that Sanzo tried to tense up, that he objected – but the priest couldn't even stand unaided, much less struggle against him. And this might be the only time Hakkai got to hold him like this.

"They will be placed in the disciplinary cells, and the Sanbutsushin advised of the situation," Wakaru replied firmly.

He didn't want to let the monks take care of Hong Chao and his accomplice. But.... "Sanzo?"

"Lea' them t' the Sanbutsushin," Sanzo said, as firmly as he could.

"All right," Hakkai agreed reluctantly. But before he pulled his vines away from Hong Chao, he had them slam the man into the boxes they were holding him against, knocking him unconscious as well. He then removed the vines from the man, and pulled all of them – except those helping support Sanzo – back to him, and offered Wakaru a mild smile. "That should make him easier to handle."

"Sto' scarin' them," Sanzo muttered in his ear. "Tha's my jo'."

Hakkai ignored the comment. Sanzo wouldn't be able to scare them in his current condition – not to the full extent possible – and since he was turning Hong Chao over to them, Hakkai wanted to make sure they understood the potential consequences of failing to hold and punish him. "We will be taking Sanzo back to our house with us," he continued, still in his firm, mild tone. "He needs somewhere safe to recover from the drug used on him." And he was starting to wish that he had woken Hakuryu up, since getting Sanzo back to their place was going to be awkward with him in this state.

Wakaru drew himself up. "That will not be necessary, Cho Hakkai. Genjyo Sanzo will be perfectly safe here."

Raising a sceptical eyebrow, Hakkai looked pointedly at the two prisoners, who were being gathered up by some of the other monks. "Oh, yes, very safe," he declared sardonically. He wanted Sanzo on his territory, damn it!

Goku stepped forward, catching Hakkai's attention, and whispered youkai-soft, "We can guard him in his room, maybe?"

That... was a point, Hakkai had to admit. And the temple was also Sanzo's territory. But he hated to back down in front of the monks....

Sanzo's muscles tried to tense again. "No' gettin' dragg' through half o' Chang'an," the priest said vehemently.

Well. That made Hakkai's decision a bit easier. "Very well," he said, though he gave Wakaru a look that made it clear he was agreeing only because Sanzo was insisting on it. "We will escort Sanzo to his quarters and remain there with him, to guard."

"Do as you wish," the head priest stated with a sigh, waving one hand in dismissal before turning back to the group of monks. "Some of you lift them up and bear them to the disciplinary cells. Do not put them in ones next to each other. I will notify the Sanbutsushin of the situation."

There were several bows from the monks as four of them – two for each – picked up the prisoners by the simple expedient of grabbing their shoulders, and dragged them out of the storeroom. They've also been learning from Sanzo.... Wakaru and the rest of the monks quickly followed.

As soon as they were out of human earshot, Goku hurried over to Sanzo's right side. "Are you all right, Sanzo?"

"Asi'e fro' the dru', yes," Sanzo replied. Then he wavered, despite Hakkai's grip on him, and Hakkai tightened his hold, both arm and vines.

"We need to get you lying down," he said, concerned, letting a few more vines twine around Sanzo's legs. Hopefully they would help keep him steady until they could get him to his rooms. "Goku, can you support him on that side?"

"Sure," the younger youkai replied eagerly, before Sanzo could say anything. He took Sanzo's right arm and draped it over his shoulders. "There!"

"Thank you, Goku," Hakkai stated. "Gojyo, can you please lead the way?"

Gojyo started, blinked at them a few times – out of the corner of his eye Hakkai saw Sanzo scowl at him – and then shook his head as though coming back to himself. "Right. Okay, let's go."

By the time they reached Sanzo's rooms – luckily not running into any other inhabitants of the temple on the way – Sanzo was about a breath away from collapse from the combination of the sedative and the exertion. He didn't fight Hakkai's insistence that he lie down in his bed, which had Hakkai almost more worried than the kidnapping itself. Sanzo did nothing that was for his own health without protest (unless it was his idea – or Hakkai could manage to make him think it was his idea).

Then again... he might simply be too exhausted to protest at the moment. They'd find out when he got back up.

Sanzo closed his eyes as soon as he lay down, and a minute later Hakkai heard his breathing deepen in sleep. The rhythm was familiar, well-known, and Hakkai relaxed into it, sitting down on the side of Sanzo's bed and brushing his hand through Sanzo's hair again. Hong Chao had touched his hair – Hakkai had been able to scent that during the kiss – and he wanted to make absolutely certain that all memory of that was erased from Sanzo's mind.

"Hakkai..." Gojyo said, his tone pointed.

I suppose I do owe him something of an explanation....

Reluctantly pulling his vines away from Sanzo – it felt good to feel his breathing and pulse resonating through them, but Gojyo had a thing about the vines – Hakkai reached carefully into his pocket and pulled out his limiters. Clipping them on to his ears, he felt his form flux back into his human seeming, then looked up at Gojyo. "Yes?"

"You're doing that damn oblivious thing again," the hanyou grumbled. "You know what I'm asking about. What the hell was all... that?"

Hakkai took a deep breath, and let it out slowly as he resumed stroking Sanzo's hair. How do I explain it... especially when I don't understand half of it myself?

"It's youkai instinct, idiot kappa!" Goku snapped.

Gojyo blinked. "Youkai instinct made you kiss the monk?!"

"Sanzo is mine," Hakkai snarled, feeling a growl start to rise in his throat. "Hong Chao had no right to try to take him, and needed to be shown that."

There was a long pause, then Gojyo shook his head and held up his hands in a gesture of surrender. "You know what? I really don't want to know. Do whatever you want with him – just don't tell me about it!"

"Stupid pervy kappa! Claiming isn't like that!" Goku protested immediately.

Oh, no....

"Then what exactly is it like, you dumb ape?"

"Don't call me an ape, kappa!"

"Then don't call me—"

"Out!" Hakkai snapped sharply.

Both of them turned to look at him in surprise. After all, he never interrupted their arguments – at least, not without being obviously polite about it. Sanzo was the one who snapped at them.

"Get out," he repeated. "Sanzo is sleeping, and needs to sleep. I will not have him woken up by the two of you arguing so loudly. Go stand outside the door and argue if you must, but be quiet about it."

They stared at him.

Hakkai growled. "Get. Out."

That got them moving, and a minute later the door was closed behind Goku. Hakkai could still hear them through the door, but they were muffled enough now that Sanzo's hearing wouldn't be able to pick them out.

Relieved, Hakkai let his breath out in a gust of air. Then he turned back to Sanzo, and called up his chi to examine him. He really was worried about what damage the sedative might have done. It could so easily have stopped his breathing....

His tension eased further as the chi-healing examination showed that there had been no permanent damage done; the drug was being expunged from Sanzo's system, slowly but surely. It might take a few hours, but Sanzo would be just fine.

And Hong Chao was being taken care of. His challenge was lost, and he was going to be punished. And Sanzo had accepted his increased claim.

Running his fingers through Sanzo's hair again, Hakkai felt another purr building, and this time didn't try to resist it. This, this, was Heaven. Sanzo safe, with him.... He shifted, lying down on the bed next to Sanzo, and resumed his scent-marking.

Slowly, without his realizing it, his eyes slid closed, and he fell asleep.

This time, when Sanzo woke up, he came to full alertness immediately, though he could feel a lingering weakness in his muscles that suggested that the drug hadn't worn off completely yet.

He was in his room – he could feel the lump under his pillow that was his gun. But he could also feel a familiar hand in his hair – and since when had Hakkai's hand in his hair become familiar? – and an arm draped around his waist, and hear a purring sound in his ear....

What the fucking hell? What does Hakkai think—

Oh, shit.

So much for making an actual, conscious choice about things, Sanzo realized, groaning silently as his memory of what had happened returned. He'd responded to Hakkai's kiss, which meant he'd responded to – accepted – Hakkai's 'increased claim'.

Next to that, the fact that Gojyo had seen them kissing was minor.

Opening his eyes, he stared at his wall for a moment, debating what to do. Hakkai had been half out of it during most of that period in the storeroom – even after the kiss, from what he'd been able to sense. The youkai had sounded all right, and perfectly sane – or at least as sane as he ever got; but Sanzo had felt the way Hakkai had been gripping on to him. It had not been simply to help him stay standing. It had been possessive.

Which raises the issue – was that the youkai claiming, or was it him?

He could tolerate it if it was the youkai claim. He knew what to expect from that – at least in general. Hell, he'd been dealing with that for the last five weeks, from both Hakkai and Goku! And it should calm down, now that Hong Chao was being taken care of.

If it was a matter of Hakkai's own emotions, on the other hand... Sanzo wasn't too sure that he could handle that. A youkai's claim was at least somewhat predictable. Hakkai was not. Only a fool – or the Sanbutsushin – would think that he was. The appearance of predictability was just as much a mask of the youkai's as the politeness was.

When Hakkai let loose with that unpredictable part of his nature... Sanzo tended to lose all control of the situation. The which he did not appreciate.

And any time Hakkai's emotions got involved, he became unpredictable.

Not to mention... I never figured out what I feel about Hakkai's feelings.

It had become doubly important now that he figure that out quickly. And honestly. Because he had the exceedingly unpleasant feeling that Hakkai's emotions were involved, and strongly. And he'd already decided that he didn't really want to hurt Hakkai.

So... what did he think of Hakkai?

Loyal. Resourceful. Able to protect himself. Useful. A minor annoyance.

A friend.

And feel for him?

Gods, I want a cigarette. And a beer. Or five.

He hated dealing with emotions. They were messy, and complicated – and, as Hakkai had mentioned, they responded to neither practicality nor logic. Not to mention that if he wanted to know exactly what he felt, he had to meditate to get at that information. It was the only way to be sure that he was getting to the truth.

All right. Ignore the feel of Hakkai's hand in his hair. Ignore the sound of purring from behind him. Concentrate on the flow of air, in and out of his lungs. Concentrate on the sense of tension as he breathed in, and relaxation as he breathed out.

Question: What do I feel about Hakkai?

Warmth. Safety. Friendship. Trust. Affection.

If he wants... everything, can I give that to him, and stay true to myself?

Concentrate. Breathe in, breathe out.

Maybe. It's who I am that he loves, for whatever reason.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Sanzo opened his eyes slowly, re-focusing his attention to the outside world.

And blinked in confusion when he saw not his wall, but the green fabric of Hakkai's usual shirt.

His face was pressed up against Hakkai's shoulder, Sanzo realized a moment later. Somehow he must have turned around while in trance.

How fucking wonderful... he thought sourly, trying his best to ignore the way he could feel Hakkai's purring thrumming against his forehead and chest, from how he was lying against the youkai. The way Hakkai's fingers moved idly in his hair, almost massaging his scalp, despite the fact that the youkai was also asleep. The way Hakkai's arm was draped protectively over his waist.

Warmth. Safety. Trust. The emotions he'd felt about Hakkai while in trance resonated through him, and despite his determination, Sanzo felt himself actually relaxing – truly relaxing, not just in-trance relaxation – for the first time in a long while.

Hakkai would never hurt him. And Hakkai was strong enough to defend himself – he'd never need Sanzo to defend him.

The combination of Hakkai's purring and the scalp massage had his eyes slowly closing, and before long, Sanzo fell back to sleep.


Kanzeon Bosatsu crossed hir legs and smiled in satisfaction at the image in hir viewing pool of Sanzo and Hakkai curled up together in bed, Hakkai's hand wound in Sanzo's hair. Hm. Wonder if Tenpou had that much of a fetish for Konzen's hair? Se smirked at the thought. Perhaps this will encourage him to grow it longer?

"My lady?"

Kanzeon looked over to where Jiroshin was standing. "What is it?"

"The Sanbutsushin have an inquiry concerning the actions of the monk Hong Chao, from the south. Since you have taken responsibility for Genjyo Sanzo, they wish to speak with you about the matter."

"Ah, yes, that matter." Waving hir hand, Kanzeon caused the image in the pool to rise so that it would be visible to Jiroshin. "Aren't they adorable together?"

Jiroshin had been getting a great deal of practice at that wary expression over the past three years, se reflected in amusement. "Kanzeon Bosatsu?"

"Yes, Jiroshin?"

"Please... tell me you didn't have anything to do with 'that matter'," hir aide requested solemnly.

"Ah, but that would be a lie, and a bodhisattva such as myself should not lie," Kanzeon replied, smiling calmly. Then se gestured to the peaceful image se'd been watching. "It would have never occurred to Genjyo to do anything about Hakkai's interest in him; and Hakkai would never have done anything without a push. So I provided the push. I didn't intend for Hong Chao to actually kidnap Genjyo, but it all worked out, see?" Se gestured again to the image of the two floating in front of them. "Isn't that just the cutest thing you've ever seen?"

"Kanzeon Bosatsu!"

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