Down Here 2



The castle lay open to the airs of the plain. An uneasy wind blew through its halls that night, fickle and gusting-- too cool to be pleasant, too humid to be cool,  the herald of disturbances to come. Homura sat upright, abandoning the search for sleep. His soul felt as restless as the wind that fanned through his chamber.

He got up and padded out through the lightless halls of stronghold, looking out over the low parapets at the sullen blank clouds that hid the moon. Gokuu would be asleep now, somewhere-- wherever it was the Sanzou party was staying this night. Gokuu was still young enough in body that he could sleep anywhere, totally unaware of Homura's mind intent upon him. Or maybe he was aware. Maybe he was lying awake now in some inn or forest camp, wondering why he couldn't sleep, as Homura's thoughts troubled his rest the way the thought of Gokuu troubled Homura's. A small flickering flame ran through him, stretching the corners of his mouth into a parody of a smile. Gokuu. No longer the child he'd been in heaven, closer now to being a man, but still not realizing what it was he carried about inside of him. Strength- strength unimaginable- strength enough to destroy Heaven and build the world anew. Homura stopped and drew a deep breath, trying to calm his spirit. This was the end of centuries of careful planning, this present pursuit-- to track Gokuu, to draw Gokuu to him, to challenge Gokuu's strength step by step so that it would become purer and more focussed with each trial Gokuu endured. For the stronger Gokuu became- the outer Son Gokuu, Konzen's oblivious companion- the stronger that hidden self of his would become too, the Seiten Taisei whose power was to fuel Homura's great dream. He had only to wait, only to wait a little longer, as he had waited for five hundred years. A few more days-- weeks-- only that. But now he was actually here in Under Heaven, now he had come this close, it was torture to have to hold back.
 It would be so easy, to reach out his hand and grab the prize that lay almost within his grasp. Homura closed his eyes for a moment, tormented almost past bearing by the ferociousness of his wantings, and equally by the impossibility of satisfying them now.


He began to walk again, one with the disturbed and unchancy night. Prowled long corridors, paced empty guard rooms and halls, turned a corner into yet another set of rooms, and stopped abruptly as he heard his name.

"Homura," Shien's voice said. The quiet syllables dropped like water into a well. Shien was sitting up in his bed, white night-robe clear in the dimness. Homura walked over to the wooden bedfoot, obscurely relieved to find himself here. "You cannot sleep?"

"Mnh." He felt himself alive with wants, flickering through him like electricity. And it seemed that Shien, cold unmoved Shien, might possibly be the blank nonconductor that would ground them.

"Son Gokuu?"

"Anh," Homura admitted.

Shien turned his blind face a little to the side, as if scenting the wind. "Do you wish my assistance?"

Homura blinked. "Mmh."

"Then command me." He rose to his feet and stood before Homura, closed eyes turned down, self-contained mouth turned down. Complete unto himself, and giving only what he chose to give.

Homura looked at him, his ally and henchman. "Give me your body to use for the next little while."

"Certainly. How do you require me?"

"Here." Homura nodded at the mattress. "On your face." And waited, nerves buzzing inside him, to see if Shien would do it.

Shien turned his back on Homura and undid his sash. The white robe slipped off him. He put it aside. Bent a knee and climbed up onto the bed, with his back still turned modestly to Homura, and laid himself down.

Relief ran through Homura. He opened his trousers and knelt above Shien's crouching body. Porcelain white, the lines of Shien's back and buttocks, pale in the half-light as Shien's robe had been. Homura saw his hands dark on the pearly skin as he held Shien's hips open. Saw his own dark flesh disappear inside the white curve of Shien's ass-- felt Shien willing his passage to give way to him-- felt Shien open to him. He thrust, not trying to hurt but not trying not to, and heard at the edge of consciousness Shien's controlled breathing underlying his own hoarse breaths. Hot about him, Shien's flesh, Shien's body, giving him what he wanted and needed- immediate satisfaction, conquest and surrender all right now in this very moment. Mine, all mine, only mine. He pulled out and entered again, into the quiescent and obedient darkness that was Shien-- darkness that could swallow up his maddening desire and the devouring flame of his wants and even the light of his waking Self. And very soon all thought had left him - of Gokuu, of heaven, of waiting, of being Homura himself- and there was only blackness and heat and what-I-want what-I-want in the endless right now of flesh about him and himself in flesh.

He fell through greater darkness, the Battle God falling through black skies down to the world Under Heaven. And came to, the Battle God still, in the dark night of this youkai castle, couched on the naked body that breathed calmly beneath his own. He pressed his face against Shien's cool skin. Did nothing warm the man, ever?

"Are your desires satisfied?" Shien's voice said beneath him, a civil inquiry.

A pause. "No," Homura said. His hand reached up and touched the silken square that bound Shien's hair into a topknot. He felt the stillness of Shien grow more still again.

"If you mean to undo that, it might be well to remove your own chains first," Shien suggested.

"Anhh," Homura said, stroking the tempting silk. Strength. The strength that lay bound in Shien, as it lay bound in Gokuu and in Homura himself. "No," he said. "Not yet. Not until it's time." His finger found the edge of Shien's jaw and touched it briefly. The unknowableness of Shien, of Shien's body even though Homura had been within it, of Shien's soul always.

"Why did you do this?" Homura asked. And felt the little contraction of Shien's flesh closing itself against the question.

"You are the Toushin Taishi. I have sworn my loyalty to you. Whatever is needed to accomplish your plans, that I will do." A good enough answer, if Homura hadn't been lying against him skin to skin to feel another Shien hiding within the one Homura had his arms about.

"Yes. You swore your loyalty to me," Homura said to the back of Shien's neck. "I need you to accomplish my plans. I need all of you, Shien, and I will use all of you and I will have all of you. Otherwise my plans will fail. Do you understand?"

A pause. "I understand," Shien said, expressionless.

Homura waited.

"Obedience," Shien's quiet voice said. "I must obey the orders of the Toushin Taishi. That is the punishment for the crime I committed in Heaven five hundred years ago."

"What crime was that?"

"I obeyed orders."

"Indeed?" Homura murmured.

"I was ordered to leave Gyuumaoh for Nataku to take alone, and not to aid him though he was my commander. I stood outside the castle and listened to Nataku's screams within, and never moved."

"You and the whole western army," Homura reminded him.

Shien shrugged minisculely, disdainfully. True. Shien was not to be ranked with the usual officers of heaven.

"When he came out, wounded and victorious, I would have given him at least my arm to support him. He told me not to touch him. I obeyed. And because I obeyed when I should not have, I must obey ever after."

"If you'd defied Li Touten, he'd have broken you. Kenren barely got away with it, and he had Tenpou on his side. What makes you think you'd have fared any better?"

"Kenren was ready to dare the consequences," Shien said. "It vexes me that I was not."

"You were no coward," Homura said.

"No. Merely conventional and unquestioning. But I could at least have consoled Nataku-sama. There was no-one else to do it."

"He didn't want you," Homura said, brutal.

"No matter," Shien said. "I should have broken through his isolation, whether he wanted me or not."

"Annh," Homura said. His arms were still about Shien's body. "Like this," he said.

A pause. "Like this," Shien agreed.

"Do you resent that?"

"Resent it? No. Did you want me to?"


"I do what is necessary, Homura, to make your dream come true. I have no other hope in eternity besides that. If you want my body, you have it. Equally, you have my soul and my intelligence, and my loyalty. Use them as you please."

"And your heart?" Homura asked.

"I have none," Shien told him. "My heart I gave to Nataku-sama, and he took it with him to wherever he went to. As Nataku is now, so am I."

"But when I have built a new Heaven, then--"

"Ah yes," Shien said. "Then."

Homura smiled. Shien's cool porcelain skin lay pressed against his chest. Peace held him in the palm of its hand. When I have built a new heaven... He didn't notice when his eyes closed and he fell asleep



Heavy darkness and heavy oppression. Pressing his lungs so he couldn't breathe. The weight of water, rivers falling from the sky, water all around him, drowning him- filling his lungs so he couldn't breathe- couldn't breathe--

A hand, solid on his arm, pulled him out. Sanzou forced his eyes open. He sat up, panting and gasping in the muggy darkness. Put the heel of his hand to his sweaty forehead and tried to calm the hideous pounding of his heart.

"You were having a nightmare," Hakkai said. Cool wetness- a glass put into his other hand. Sanzou drank. Water wet his panic-dry throat. "Thanks," he said, and drank again. Pulled himself together. The inn, the heavy autumn rains, their third night marooned here. "Sorry for waking you."

"I wasn't asleep," Hakkai said, quiet presence by his bedside. Sanzou nodded sideways, a minor invitation, and Hakkai sat down next to him. Solid and real in the night, and smelling of Hakkai. They sat and listened to the rushing of rain falling out of the gutters.

"I'm not much good on rainy nights," Hakkai said, with the painful smile in his voice.

"Anh," Sanzou agreed. Was that it, then? Just the rainy night? Not the three strangers who'd crossed their paths, calling themselves Gods? Not the shadow on his soul at the sound of that name- Konzen-- Just the rain, the same as when Shuei had come back, carrying the putrefied corpse of the past within him... "Me neither."

The rushing sound filled the room. All the water in the heavens falling on them now. Water drowning the world, wiping out the little traces of mankind like a sponge across a slate. This is the end. Nothing left after this. The dark feeling pulled at Sanzou and the panicky unease threatened to rise up and smother him again.

"It's like the world's ending," Hakkai said in a low voice.

"Shut up."

"I'm sorry."

"It's alright." Sanzou rubbed his hands together. He was real, solid still. The water hadn't dissolved him yet. "It's the rain."

"Yes." Hakkai looked down at his own hands.



The heavy thud of rain on the roof. The hideous gurgling as it filled the eaves to overflowing. All around them, not to be escaped. Some day the water would have him entirely. Fill his lungs, choke his breathing, drown his screams. He reached out a hand to Hakkai, like reaching for a branch in the middle of the flood-water, hoping it would take his weight. He took hold of Hakkai's shoulder, lay back and pulled Hakkai down with him. Hakkai's body was stiff with surprise, lying on top of him. Then it relaxed. Good. The heaviness, the steadiness of it. Sanzou held onto Hakkai, felt the soft warmth of Hakkai's breath next to his ear, smelled the clean, living smell of him. Alive.

After a moment Hakkai's fingers touched Sanzou's hair, tentatively exploring. Touched Sanzou's jaw. Warm and dry, the tips of Hakkai's fingers. Sanzou looked at the night as Hakkai's hand moved down over his shoulder and ribs to stop at his waist.



"Take this off?"

"I never do."

The painful smile in Hakkai's voice. "I know. But would you?"

"What difference does it make?"

"It's- the rain. So muggy. It'd be- um- more comfortable."

"Mnh." I never take it off except to be totally naked. It's the mark of a Sanzou, as much as the sutra, as much as the diadem. "Move."

Hakkai shifted off him. Sanzou undid the fastenings and pulled the thin leather off his sticky skin. Hakkai was removing his own shirt, the thin cotton t. Hell, why not? Sanzou thought. He took off his gloves, peeling them down his arms and off the anchoring middle finger. Threw them over the side of the bed.

"That what you wanted?"

"Mmh. Thank you." Hakkai took an edge of the crumpled sheet and wiped Sanzou's chest and back.

"No use trying to get away from our sweat in this kind of weather," Sanzou said.

"I know," Hakkai smiled. "But still. If we're going to lie together like that--"

Lie together. Well, that was what they were doing, wasn't it? Sanzou lay back, and Hakkai came on top of him again. Skin to skin now, and yes it felt different- Hakkai's cool skin and his own sweaty one lying together. He could feel the beat of Hakkai's heart muffled into his own chest. What do I think I'm doing? Holding on to Hakkai as if to a talisman, something to keep him safe from night-bogles.

"I'm pathetic," Sanzou said.

"So am I," Hakkai said.

"Anhh." Silence.

"It's the rain," Hakkai said. "It'll be different when the sun's shining again."

"Don't humour me."

"I wouldn't dream of it."

There was a smile in the voice, and amazingly Sanzou felt his chest jerk in a snort of laughter. Something in him relaxed a little. A knot unloosening inside him.

Breathing warmth against his body. Another human being in his arms. Unknown, this sensation. Weight against his chest, his pelvis, his crotch, and his body telling him yes this is right this is what I've always wanted. And Hakkai could feel it, no doubt, because he shifted a little in Sanzou's arms. "Ahh- do you want--?" His hand touched Sanzou's groin, briefly, shyly.

"I'm not asking you to."

"Yes but-- would you like me to?"

"You ever done it?"

"Only with myself..."

"Good enough." He gave a little jerk of his torso and Hakkai rolled off him. Sanzou undid his fly and pulled his jeans down.

"Lie over a bit," Hakkai said. Sanzou turned on his side, and Hakki lay down against his back, propped on an elbow. "There."

A warm hand around his cock. Sanzou caught his breath in surprise. Someone else's hand-- how strange that someone else's hand should feel-- so very different so different from one's own, so- Warmth and strength moved up and down him and Sanzou gasped each time. Held-- fastened-- Hakkai holding on to the centre of him, making his head swim and his stomach flutter even while Hakkai anchored him to the earth. Hakkai's palm moved across the head of Sanzou's cock and Sanzou reached desperately for something to hold on to. Found the pillow, grabbed it, buried his face in its sweaty linen and grunted into it. The fierce urging of Hakkai's hand pushing him closer-- closer-- ever closer--

Warmth all around him, Hakkai pressed against his bare back, Hakkai's leg lying over his, Hakkai's clever dry hand taking him right out of himself to that place where everything was alright, everything was perfect just for an instant of eternity--

Sanzou arched and gasped in the lovely dissolution, everything falling apart and coming together at the same time. Lay in the stunned aftermath looking at the night but not seeing it. Vaguely felt the body next to him doing something-- Hakkai-- A little niggling something in his mind stopped his smooth descent into sleep. Hakkai.



"What did you do that for?"

"Mmh? Ahh-" Pause. "Mmh."

"Very enlightening."

"Anhh. Just-- mh-- paying back something I owe you."

Sanzou frowned. "You don't owe me anything."

"No," Hakkai agreed cheerfully.

Silence. "So?" Sanzou prompted.

"You wouldn't remember. Three years ago. When you brought me to the temple."

"I remember three years ago when I brought you to the temple. What about it?"

"I stayed in your rooms for a month, with you and Gokuu. You used to talk to me about the Way, and about karma, and retribution, and--" Hakkai was smiling-- "how you didn't believe any of it."

"What of it?" This was like pulling teeth.

"You never left me alone, for a month. I was so afraid of being alone." Hakkai might have been talking about the weather, but Sanzou's eyes went wide in shock. "Those three months, when I was trying to get to Hyakuganmaoh's castle-- I was alone all that time and--" Sanzou could almost see Hakkai's strained smile-- "I was terrified of being like that again. But I never was. When you went somewhere, you left Gokuu with me, and when Gokuu went out, you stayed."

Sanzou shifted, impatient. "I wasted a month looking for you, and then I had to do some fast talking to get Them to let you stay alive. I wasn't having you die on me the minute my back was turned and waste all my time."

"You think I would have?" Hakkai said in surprise.


"Anh." A pause, and he said in a low voice, "It is hard to let go of something you really want."

Sanzou snorted. "So I waited till you'd gotten enough into the habit of being alive that you didn't need a nursemaid any more." He stopped. "You're not nursemaiding me, by any chance?" he asked dangerously.

"I wouldn't dream of it," Hakkai said smoothly.

Sanzou frowned. Hakkai- paying him back-- and just what way did Hakkai mean that?

"Vengeful little bastard, aren't you?" Sanzou asked.

"Annh," Hakkai agreed cheerfully. "That I am."

"Hmnh." Sanzou smiled into the dark, where Hakkai couldn't see him doing it. "I can live with it."



August 2001