Characters: The Sanzō-Ikkō
Genre: Comfort with a bit of humor.
Rating/Warnings: G, none.
Word Count: 1700
Author's Notes: This is the birthday fic I was writing for irana the day after she died. I'd offered to do any prompt for her as she was feeling a little down just after her birthday and she'd given me the prompt: "Saiyuki, undertones of hurt/comfort, with someone in the ikkou being surprised on his birthday when no one has paid attention to his birthday before." So... here it is.
Goku sat on the river bank, and threw rocks into the water. Spring had swollen the water level, so that it was nearly to the roots of the trees; but the river widened by the camp. He'd started by skipping them, but then as the flat stones that did the best skipping got harder and harder to find, he'd gone to just chucking them as far as he could.
That was a considerable distance, given his youkai strength, and he'd gone on to bigger and bigger rocks until the splash from one boulder was nearly as tall as the pine trees by the shore.
"Woah, nice one there, monkey," Gojyo said from behind Goku's back, where he'd been watching the youngster play all alone.
Goku gave the rangy redhead a grin, and said, "Can you beat that, you lazy kappa?"
"Huh... sure," Gojyo's strength wasn't that of Goku's, but he eyed the tree he'd measured the splash against, hefted a good-sized boulder, and rather than just sending it arching out, he sent it nearly straight up.
"Uh oh," Goku said, just as the rock came back down.
With the extra height, the lesser weight of stone still displaced the water hard enough to shoot it a few inches higher than the pines they stood under. Of course, the next thing that happened was that the water came down. On them.
Gojyo swore as the water poured over him and plastered his hair to his head and his clothing to his skin. Just as much, if not more fell on the boy, and Goku fell over laughing, holding his stomach and laughing and laughing until he couldn't laugh anymore.
Given the expression Goku had had on his face when he'd left camp, it was a vast improvement. Gojyo stood chagrined, water now just dripping off him. "Hakkai's gonna be..."
"... mad at us." Goku grinned. "But I don't care, it was fun. Maybe we should go swimming, and blame it on..."
"... on what? Some hapless bear who rolled your clothing into the stream?" Hakkai had come up soundlessly, surprising both Goku and Gojyo; but he sounded more resigned than angry. Jeep perched on his shoulder, wings spread a little for balance, peering around Hakkai's head.
"What, you wouldn't believe a tale like that?" Goku said with a grin.
"No, I wouldn't," Hakkai said with a frown at the dripping Gojyo. "I thought you hated swimming?"
"How in the world can a kappa hate swimming?" Goku asked, a frown on his face, and then he brightened. "Or was it just 'cause you're such a pervy kappa the water won't take you anymore?"
Gojyo rolled his eyes. "Well, if it's the ladies that made me this way, I wouldn't give it up anyway. No, no swimming for me, monkey, it's way too cold, anyway. Baths are a completely different thing..." He looked hopefully at Hakkai.
Hakkai snorted. "As if I have the time and energy to heat the water for a bath while we're camping."
Gojyo sneezed pitifully. The two long strands of his red hair dripped.
"Waaah... you lazy cockaroach," Goku scoffed. "I'll get some firewood, Hakkai. I could build the fire up to dry stuff off?"
"All right, Goku, I'd be pleased to get the help."
Goku ran off, and both Hakkai and Gojyo looked after him. Gojyo noticed Hakkai had nearly exactly the same frown he'd had when he'd watched Goku slink away from the fire to the river.
Hakkai turned and caught Gojyo looking at him. "Is he all right?"
Gojyo shrugged. "I don't know. He... something's eating him, but my accident with the water seemed to have cheered him up." He wrung his hair out with a sigh.
"Maybe we should ask Sanzo?" Hakkai asked, frowning a little.
Gojyo looked at Hakkai. "If you're that worried, yeah, maybe we better."
Hakkai nodded in acknowledgement.
Sanzo was sitting in a camp chair by the fire The spring morning still held a touch of chill, so he was dressed in all his robes. He was reading a book, glasses perched on his nose, his mug of coffee steamed by his elbow. He glanced up as they approached, but continued reading a moment longer as they both stood and stared at him.
"Now what?" Sanzo said, while still looking at the pages.
"Somethin's wrong with the little guy," Gojyo started. "He's acting..."
"Sad," Hakkai supplied into the silence of Gojyo trying to figure out what it was he'd spotted. "Sad. A little forlorn."
"You sure he isn't just hungry?" Sanzo said, putting his book down. He neatly took the glasses off and set them to the side as well.
"He actually didn't eat that much at breakfast," Hakkai said pensively.
"Okay, now you really got me worried," Gojyo growled. "The boy's off his feed? That's..."
"Unheard of," Sanzo said with a frown, startling them both.
"He even left half a roll uneaten on his plate and didn't come back for seconds. That's what worried me to start," Hakkai said quietly as both the other men stared at him. "So what are we going to do?"
"Ask him?" Gojyo offered and both of them looked at him like he was nuts. "What? What's so wrong about just asking him what's eating him?"
"What if something is eating him?" Hakkai asked seriously. "If it's some youkai curse or one of those possessing things and Goku's not really in control of himself? He's never been this serious."
"I saw him laugh his guts out on the river bank. It's still Goku." Gojyo rolled his eyes at the other man's fears. "He's just... I wonder if he's just feeling... well... lonely or something."
"Lonely? Living with the four of us day in and day out?" Sanzo snorted. "I can't even get enough time alone to read anything... how could he be lonely?"
"We're not kids," Gojyo said with a frown. "He doesn't get to play the way he should."
Hakkai sighed and sat down on a log. "No, he does not, and none of us are particularly well equipped to supply him a normal childhood."
"He's three-hundred-years old! It's not like he could..." Sanzo broke off as whistling approached the fire, and Goku appeared with a load of wood in his arms.
"Hey! Why's everyone lookin' so serious? Did something happen? Huh?" Goku stopped under the combined stare of the other three, and he squinted back at them. "Why're you all looking that way at me? Is my fly open or something?"
Gojyo snorted a laugh. "Yeah, that's it."
Goku checked his fly, and Gojyo crowed, "Ha! Got you to look!"
Hakkai groaned and then said, "I stand corrected."
"You idiots," Sanzo had the fan out, and both Goku and Gojyo grinned at each other before pretending to cringe. Sanzo took a closer look, "Why in the world are you two so wet?"
"Uhm... I was... uhm.. throwing rocks into the river," Goku started to say.
"And then I threw one, too," Gojyo said with a grin.
Goku started giggling, and everyone relaxed.
Hakkai shook his head with a smile, and took the firewood from Goku's arms to place the pieces on the fire. "Get out of those wet things. I'll get some blankets and make some hot chocolate for you two."
Sanzo went back to his book while the two men shucked their clothing and wrapped themselves in the blankets Hakkai provided. Hakkai pinned the clothing to a nearby line, and it dripped quietly into the forest loam as they sat and sipped their hot drinks.
Goku was just watching the fire quietly. Gojyo watched him, and when the boy started looking sad again Gojyo couldn't stand it.
"What's up, monkey?"
"Huh?" Goku looked startled.
"Why are you so sad?" That got the attention of the other two. Hakkai pinched his lips in disapproval, but Gojyo ignored him. "You've been actin' weird all morning, shrimp. Spill it."
Goku blinked golden eyes up at Gojyo, and the boy looked so lost for a moment that Gojyo had to close his eyes. "Uhm... it's nothin'."
"It is not," Hakkai suddenly burst out. "You didn't even finish your breakfast. What is going on?"
Goku looked a little shocked at Hakkai's statement. "I.. uhm... I didn't... oh. It was a good breakfast, Hakkai. I just..."
Hakkai looked a little mollified, but glanced at Sanzo.
Sanzo sighed and put his book back down. He looked at Goku from over the rim of his glasses. Just looked.
Goku's eyes filled all of a sudden, and he frowned and rubbed the tears away. "It.. it's nothin'. Really."
"Come on. Spit it out, monkey." Gojyo said softly.
Goku looked even more ready to cry, but he took a deep breath. "It's... it's really stupid, but... today's my birthday."
"Your birthday?" The three adults looked at each other in surprise.
Sanzo frowned, and Gojyo fiercely willed him to not ask if Goku was sure or not after so many centuries. The priest caught sight of Gojyo's face, and rolled his eyes before turning to Goku to ask, "What would you like to do to celebrate, Goku?"
Goku blushed. "Uhm... gosh... anything would be.. I'd like it if we celebrated."
Hakkai stroked Jeep's head gently as he asked the little dragon. "You think we could make town tonight?"
Jeep chirped an affirmative.
"Maybe we could find you a cake at a bakery or somethin'," Gojyo added. "And..."
"Pork buns? You think we could find some pork buns?" Goku asked hopefully, eyes shining at all three of them.
Sanzo got up from where he sat and laid a hand on Goku's wild hair. "I'm sure there will be pork buns."
For a moment, Gojyo simply had to look away at the adoration in Goku's golden eyes.
Then the four of them got on with the work of packing up the camp. They headed off to town, with Gojyo and Goku's clothes flapping and drying on Jeep's frame, and the two of them fighting happily in the back seat again, when Goku suddenly stopped and grinned at Gojyo.
"Hey... thanks, Gojyo. I think this is going to be my best birthday ever."
Silently, Gojyo vowed that it was only going to get better for the boy, but he just answered. "You're welcome, squirt."