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Lighter (fic; Saiyuki)

Title: Lighter
Author: opalmatrix
Rating: PG or PG-13
Warnings: Worksafe (very mild m/m interaction; a couple of swear words)
Pairing(s): a bit of 585, a hint of 393
Spoilers: a bit about Goku's origin
Notes: This started, I think, with this picture. Things were also nourished along by some discussions this past couple of weeks with kispexi2, who also provided the Beta read. Thanks!
Summary: You can't always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need.

It was a cool, bright day in early autumn, with puffs of thistledown blowing and glinting in the clear air. Sanzo sat perched on a rocky outcrop on a steep slope, smoking, catching the late-afternoon sun, and watching the lame comedians who called themselves his companions. In the camp below him, Hakkai had unwisely bent over the pot to stir it, and Gojyo had taken advantage of his lover's exposed position to cop a feel. Hakkai had quickly turned and straightened and - waving the spoon illustratively - explained, as best Sanzo could tell, exactly how he was going to make Gojyo pay for his transgression later on. Sanzo's guess as to the nature of Hakkai's speech was borne out by Goku, who had arrived with an armload of firewood and was making mock vomiting faces in the direction of his companions.

Sanzo was diverted at that point by his own reactions - or rather, by his lack of them. He'd witnessed enough of such nonsense in the various temples in which he'd sojourned over the years to have recognized what was going on with those two quite some time ago. Maybe he should be offended and disapproving, but he found it hard to care. It was true that Hakkai and Gojyo were only adding to their karmic debt, but you didn't blame the lame man for leaning on his crutch, or the blind woman for clinging to the one who led her. In many ways, neither Hakkai nor Gojyo was whole, and there seemed little point in interfering when they turned to each other to seek completion.

And they were good for each other. Gojyo lightened Hakkai's tendency toward darkness and despair. Hakkai reined in some of Gojyo's excesses. Of course the relationship was far from perfect, and sometimes - especially in close quarters, late at night, when the two of them hadn't been able to get some privacy for awhile - he wanted to kill them both. But that said at least as much about him as about them. If he were a solitary man who had to go it alone, that didn't mean he was, in the end, any better than they were. He was well aware, for example, that he had a certain grim pride in how he was carrying the burdens of his life - not a terribly admirable characteristic.

Hunching his shoulders, he ground the butt end of his current smoke beneath one sandal, and pulled out his lighter and a fresh coffin nail. He stuck the smoke between his lips. Flick.


He tried again. The spark simply wasn't catching. He shook the lighter. Empty.

"Damn it!"

He pulled the unlit cigarette from his mouth and stared up at the blue sky a moment. Thank you, Heaven, for that timely little reminder that I, too, have my crutch. He had no intention, however, of relinquishing any of his quiet time away from the other three, even though he would now have to spend it itching for a cigarette.

Sanzo closed his eyes and breathed deeply. Pride was another crutch - a pretty rotten one. He'd known a few priests worthy of respect: now that he was admitting to himself that he could do with some help, why couldn't someone like that just show up? Because sometimes the weight of the sutra, and what it represented, were like a yoke of lead across his shoulders.

When he opened his eyes, Goku was heading up the slope toward him.


The monkey seemed to have filled out a little over the past year. The width of his shoulders was more than could be accounted for just by that ridiculous jacket he'd insisted on buying for the trip. The late sun gleamed and flashed on his diadem. As Sanzo watched, the kid stopped for a moment, staring another one of the rock outcrops scattered up the slope, then continued on up to meet Sanzo. He had something clenched in one hand.

"What, Monkey?"

Goku held out his hand. On the brown, calloused palm was was a battered brass lighter with a design of a dragon wreathed around it: Gojyo's. Sanzo frowned.

"He let you take it?

"Yeah. Well, 'cause Hakkai said he should. But I asked him."

So Goku must have been watching his little moment of exasperation with the lighter. Sanzo felt simultaneously annoyed - especially because Gojyo had become involved - and pleased. "Hnh." He picked up the offering and lit the cigarette he'd been holding uselessly, inhaling with relief. The soothing burn of the smoke rolled through his mouth and down into his lungs. When he breathed it out again, he felt his temper starting to settle into place.

"So what were you looking at, anyway?"


Sanzo gestured to the rock formation below, and Goku's eyes lit up. "Oh ... seashells! I think. But how could that be?"

Sanzo stood up, tucking the borrowed lighter into his sleeve and dusting off his robes. "Show me."

The shells were there, part of the rock face revealed when a bit of the steep hillside had dropped away: a scattering of ribbed spirals, beautiful and unreal-looking, like a piece of a dream. Sanzo traced one lightly with a fingertip. Goku crouched beside him, watching. "How did they get in the rock, Sanzo?"

"Huh. A long time ago - millions of millions of years - a lot of places that are land were under water. And some of places that are under water now were dry land."

"But now the shells are part of the rock ... ."

Sanzo shrugged. Geology had not been a big part of the Temple curriculum. "Ask Hakkai, at dinner. He's the teacher."

"Dinner's in about ... 10 minutes now."

"Well, that's 10 minutes more I can have quiet."

Sanzo climbed back to his perch. When he turned and sat, he found that Goku had followed him. With a great show of being quiet, the kid sat down at his feet, his tousled head near Sanzo's knee. Sanzo deliberately looked away and concentrated on his smoke.

For a few minutes, all was as quiet as he could ever have wished. Then he became aware of a soft voice, crooning. He looked down at his feet. Goku was patting the dry ground: "... all under the water, deep down - long, long ago ... ."

There was wonder in his voice, and reverence, and even affection.

A heretical child, born of the Earth.

Sanzo breathed a cloud of tobacco smoke into the cool, darkening air, and watched his hand move, seemingly of its own accord, to rest briefly on the brown head at his knee. Goku turned his head slowly, surprise and concern on his face. Sanzo had no idea what his own face might look like, but whatever Goku saw there made him smile. His eyes gleamed as gold as the sunlight on his diadem, and in them Sanzo saw wonder, and reverence, and affection. In the distance, he heard Gojyo calling them to supper, and when he glanced that way, Hakkai was waving to them. Sanzo stood and stretched.

The sutra on his shoulders weighed no more than thistledown.


( 33 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 15th, 2008 07:47 pm (UTC)
Nmh, that was so beautiful! Lovely description of imagery and awesome insight of Goku's character. Yep, I like the way you wrote Goku much more than Sanzo. He was truly behaving like the curious, pure and innocent kid, yet bearing the intellectual of the Great Sage. And Sanzo admitting his crutches was aesthetically done-- it just adds to his mature character of being able to stand alone.

Thank you for sharing!~ It was a wonderful read!&hearts

Oh and, that was such a lovely picture... just looking at it made me want to use it for designing, hee.
Apr. 17th, 2008 01:21 pm (UTC)

Yeah, it's a really interesting pic, and I'm fascinated by the idea that there's this demi-god hiding in Goku, with a connection to the Earth. So I thought he'd really get into what Sanzo told him about the changes in the landscape, and maybe it would stir some emories or instincts.

I'm glad you liked it!

(Deleted comment)
Apr. 17th, 2008 01:23 pm (UTC)

kispexi2 helped with the flow - she had me trim some unneeded verbage! And there's a lot to think about in that picture - Minekura really rocks in her color work. Thanks for reading and taking time to comment!

Apr. 15th, 2008 09:40 pm (UTC)
I love this sooo much. I like the premise, the feel, your writing style...everything! It's wonderful. :3
Apr. 17th, 2008 01:26 pm (UTC)

It makes me very happy that you liked it! Thanks so much for coming by!

Apr. 15th, 2008 10:51 pm (UTC)
That was just so beautiful i like how you wove everything together with hakkai and goyjo preping dinner and a little alone time together sanzo sitting by himself thinking and smoking ad goku coming up the rock to bring him the lighter and asking about the formation of the mountain and seashells embedded in them was very mature for goku and sanzo answering as best as he could,that was just so beautiful.
Apr. 17th, 2008 01:38 pm (UTC)

I'm glad you liked it! I'm not sure it was all that mature of Goku to ask about the shells - it was more like "Wow! Seashells! Inna rock! Weird!" But the history of the Earth thing teased at his Seiten Tasei nature when Sanzo explained.

Apr. 16th, 2008 02:48 am (UTC)
This was really delightful. I especially liked wise, childlike Goku.
Apr. 17th, 2008 01:39 pm (UTC)

Thanks! I'm so glad you liked it! Yeah, there's more to Goku than meets the eye.

Apr. 16th, 2008 12:07 pm (UTC)
Wonderful!! ç__ç *cries*
I haven't read such a nice angst-free fanfic in a while!!!! Made me all warm inside! ^__^
And YAY! for geology! Never was my favorite subject in school, but here I loved it, especially because you took it as an opportunity to show Goku's attachment to the earth that generated him... ^__^
Lovely, lovely fic! Hope to read more by you!!!!!
Thanks for sharing!
Apr. 17th, 2008 02:57 pm (UTC)

LOL, I don't think it was Sanzo's favorite subject either, but he's as subject to a sense of wonder as any of us, though he likes to hide it! I got to use some old memories in this one - we used to find fossils in road cuts in West Virginia when I was a kid.

I'm doing a bunch of short fics for the saiyuki_time community, but I can't guarantee they'll be angst free! You might like this one, though.

Apr. 16th, 2008 12:42 pm (UTC)
i like the interactions, with the emphasis on goku being earth-born and how it manifests.

a burden is always easier shared with friends,
it matters not how the sharing happened -
and this is wonderfully illustrated in your fic.
Apr. 17th, 2008 07:45 pm (UTC)

It seems so unfair that Goku can't have access to any conscious knowledge of his powers - especially because he gets little hints of it from time to time, and realizes what he's missing. But he has such a naturally bouyant personality, he doesn't let it get him down. Amazing.

I hope someday Sanzo will realize that yes, that's what they are: friends.

Glad you liked it!

Apr. 16th, 2008 03:13 pm (UTC)
I love all your little details and your metaphore abou the crutches <3
Apr. 17th, 2008 07:53 pm (UTC)

I'm glad! I sometimes get carried away with the details - it's lucky I have good beta people to say "enough already!" But it's fun to think of exactly how things look, or whatever.

The crutches ... the first line about Sanzo comparing the guys to a lame man and a blind woman came weeks ago, when I was first thinking of the fic. But it wasn't until I started actually writing it down that Sanzo realized his ciggies are a crutch too! And his conclusion about pride didn't show up until after kis' beta comments came back. The writing process can be very strange.

(Deleted comment)
Apr. 17th, 2008 07:55 pm (UTC)

I actually had a little scene show up in my mind ... but it's without plot or context at the moment! Maybe it will grow into something eventually.


(Deleted comment)
Apr. 28th, 2008 11:33 am (UTC)

Wow, what a compliment! I'm so glad to hear that. I've had Sanzo a lot on my mind lately, probably from the conversations I've been having with kispexi2. The thing I just wrote for prompt #6 on saiyuki_time focuses on him too. Gojyo and Hakkai are my guys, but I can sympathize a lot with Sanzo.

May. 7th, 2008 03:22 pm (UTC)
finally catching up. I really enjoyed this.
May. 10th, 2008 03:19 am (UTC)

I'm so glad! Thanks for coming by!

(Just peered at your interests ... Sohma Hatsuharu is a favorite of mine as well.)

(no subject) - cornerofmadness - May. 10th, 2008 04:04 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - opalmatrix - May. 14th, 2008 11:44 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cornerofmadness - May. 14th, 2008 02:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - opalmatrix - May. 16th, 2008 03:32 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cornerofmadness - May. 16th, 2008 04:28 am (UTC) - Expand
May. 29th, 2008 10:42 am (UTC)
He was well aware, for example, that he had a certain grim pride in how he was carrying the burdens of his life - not a terribly admirable characteristic.
Interesting character trait; I'm not sure I agree though.

In the distance, he heard Gojyo calling them to supper, and when he glanced that way, Hakkai was waving to them. Sanzo stood and stretched.
The sutra on his shoulders weighed no more than thistledown.

May. 30th, 2008 11:26 am (UTC)

To me, it always seems that Sanzo, isolated by circumstances, has decided to make a virtue of the fact that he can manage on his own. It's the public side of the fact that he doesn't want to get close to others, and that's definitely driven - at least in part - by his certainty that getting close to others - and God forbid, learning to depend on them in any way - will only lead to heartbreak.

It's one of those YMMV things, but it seems to have struck a chord for some of the Sanzo devotees. But that's one of the wonderful things about Minekura - she has so much depth that multiple interpretations are possible.

I'm glad you liked the ending!

(no subject) - lilyoftheval5 - May. 30th, 2008 11:45 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - opalmatrix - Jun. 2nd, 2008 11:18 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 23rd, 2008 03:30 pm (UTC)
Goku was patting the dry ground: "... all under the water, deep down - long, long ago ... ."

There was wonder in his voice, and reverence, and even affection.

Eeee!! Goku is so sweet, and Sanzo is his usual crabby self! I like his moment of introspection, and his observations of the others; I think you got quite neatly into his headspace. :)
Jul. 2nd, 2008 03:06 am (UTC)

It's scary how easy it is to get into a Sanzo mood sometimes ... the only issue that isn't quite clear to me yet is how he regards his own sexuality, which is why I don't usually Go There very much with him.

Minekura mostly shows Goku's attention catching fire for food, but there are other little moments - with the bird during his imprisonment, with little kids, with Hakkai, with Gat - that make me think he can be very enthusiastic on a variety of levels. It seems to me also that he ought to have an affinity for the earth - there's a Minekura illustration that I bought at Katsucon in poster form that shows him as Seiten Tasei, embracing the Earth.

(no subject) - purpleicicles - Jul. 3rd, 2008 10:32 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - opalmatrix - Jul. 9th, 2008 01:34 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - purpleicicles - Jul. 9th, 2008 10:24 am (UTC) - Expand
( 33 comments — Leave a comment )


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