Author’s note: The following is a series of Jakotsu-centric challenge fics written from a list my dear friend and writing partner, Vega-chan, came up with for me. It’s is based on Killa Kay’s awesome collection of Gravitation short stories called “A to Z.” (You can find them in my favorite stories section.) Due to the nature of the word given, they can either be what I call “canon timeline” which is set before their first deaths or AU which is set in modern times and will be set in the “world” I created in my story, “Homecoming.”
“Z” is for Zealous
Miriam Webster Online defines “zealous” as:
Filled with or characterized by zeal: marked by fervent partisanship for a person, a cause, or an ideal
— zeal•ous•ly adverb
— zeal•ous•ness noun
FYI: Youkai and oni are demons of varying power.
Jakotsu lay on his side in the futon, watching his lover sleep. Out of all the men he had ever been with, Bankotsu was the one he completely gave himself to; mind, body, and soul. There was nothing he would not do for the younger boy. If Bankotsu told him to “march his ass into hell and back,” Jakotsu knew he would be halfway there before his friend and lover could get the words out.
That was why the cross-dresser had agreed to let him teach him how to use a sword and hunt youkai down. It may have had its scary moments but with Bankotsu at his side, Jakotsu felt brave and he came to enjoy the touch of fear. From youkai, it was a simple matter to become mercenaries and hire themselves out to various armies. That was something the cross-dresser found he enjoyed even more than youkai hunting. The scent of blood, the cries of anguish, and the pretty soldiers he was able to safely toy with before cutting them up, fed some primal need in the cross-dresser’s psyche. The only thing that spoiled it was Bankotsu’s growing disgust at taking orders.
So Jakotsu spent the quiet hours just before dawn, thinking it over, and trying hard to come up with some plan to ease his friend and lover’s dissatisfaction that would not sound stupid. Bankotsu had recently confided in him a desire to be “his own man” and the cross-dresser was determined to help him achieve that goal. The only trouble was that whatever Jakotsu would suggest, Bankotsu would usually find a way to gently explain how bad a plan it was.
Aniki-chan, why can’t you see what a good leader you are? That any man would be a fool not to follow you... Jakotsu reached out and gently stoked the younger boy’s cheek with the back of his forefinger. We could have been killed the other day if not for your quick thinking. Damn you were good! You really showed that asshole general! It makes me hard just thinking about it. The cross-dresser sighed at the memory. He traced his finger over the contours of his lover’s lips, wishing he’d wake up so that he could kiss him and coax him into having a bit of fun in the futon.
As Jakotsu brushed Bankotsu’s hair out of his eyes, the younger boy stirred in his sleep. The cross-dresser froze, his fingers gently poised on his lover’s temple.
Before the cross-dresser could pull his hand away, Bankotsu grabbed his wrist, startling him. “What are you doing?”
“Nothing...” Jakotsu tittered nervously. “Damn it, Aniki-chan, you scared the shit out of me!”
“Sorry.” Bankotsu opened his eyes and let go of his lover’s wrist.
“It’s okay.” Jakotsu smiled. “I’m not mad.”
“I didn’t think you were.” The younger boy chuckled as his lover giggled. Growing more serious, Bankotsu rolled over onto his back and said, “I guess we should get up and go look for some more work.”
“Oh... I was hoping we could stay here and have some fun. Aniki-chan?”
“Why can’t work come looking for us?”
“Because we have to go looking for it, Sweetness.”
“Oh.” The cross-dresser thought it over. “Aniki-chan? You’re a good leader, so why can’t they see that and come asking for you?”
“Yeah?” Bankotsu grinned. “Well, for one thing we move around too much, and for another you think that asshole’s going to let it be known that I’m better at his job than he is?”
“Oh...” Jakotsu frowned.
Bankotsu rolled over and kissed him. “Don’t worry about it, maybe the next job’ll give us enough to settle down in one place and we won’t have to worry about working any more.”
“That would be nice.” Jakotsu smiled and kissed him back.
Breaking the kiss, Bankotsu said, “Let’s forget work; I feel like having some fun instead.”
Their next job involved hunting down some youkai that had been terrorizing a small village. It was not as much fun as fighting an opposing army since it was hard, smelly work that required patience, which was something Jakotsu found boring as youkai and oni tended to be as ugly as they were stupid. Unfortunately, this one proved to be more cunning than they thought.
They fought long and hard, neither side giving quarter to the other.
Jakotsu was rapidly tiring and in desperation he whipped his sword out, the blades of the Jakotsutou wrapping around the demon like a lover’s embrace. Unfortunately he lacked the strength to pull hard enough to kill it. Still, it proved to be enough of a distraction that Bankotsu was able to come down with his Banryuu, neatly severing the youkai’s head. Jakotsu, startled by the unexpected reprieve, stepped back, pulling his sword with him and, slicing the demon to bits. Pieces of it flew everywhere.
“We did it!” Bankotsu laughed and stuck his halberd point first into the ground.
“Yeah!” Jakotsu agreed. “You were amazing, Aniki-chan!” He dropped his sword and hugged the younger boy.
“Yeah?” Bankotsu said, patting Jakotsu on the back as they held each other close.
“Yup!” The cross-dresser giggled. “Except you look and smell like shit. Hehehe...”
Bankotsu took a step back and, holding Jakotsu by the shoulders, he said, “So do you!” He laughed.
They were both covered in grime from the youkai they had just destroyed.
“Hmmm...” Jakotsu thought it over. “Maybe we should take a bath and get some clean clothes.”
Bankotsu nodded. “Yeah, but where are we going to get them?”
“We could ask the people who paid us for new clothes,” the cross-dresser pointed out as they retrieved their weapons.
The younger boy looked up at his taller partner in surprise as a grin slowly spread across his face. “Good thinking, Jakotsu!”
“Yeah?” The cross-dresser blinked in surprise.
“Uh-hunh! I never would have thought of that. So let’s go!” Bankotsu threw a grimy arm around the cross-dresser’s shoulders, or would have if he were taller, and settled for resting his hand on Jakotsu’s shoulder instead.
“Okay! So I said something smart, hunh?” The cross-dresser giggled.
Jakotsu giggled happily. “Aniki-chan?”
“What?” Bankotsu said as they headed back to village headmaster to see about a change of clothing and a bath.
“I think one day you’re going to be the most powerful man in all Japan.”
“No, I’m serious, Aniki-chan. You’re very brave; you’re smart and powerful too. Anyone would be a fool not to stand by your side,” Jakotsu said earnestly.
The cross-dresser nodded.
“I like the sound of that, Jakotsu.”
Bankotsu took one last look at the dead youkai he had been hunting. He had been annoyed to discover another youkai had killed it before him and he idly wondered if he should take credit for the kill and collect the reward when his friend and partner Jakotsu found him.
After expressing his disappointment in missing all the fun and, making sure Bankotsu was alright, Jakotsu asked what they should do now.
“Okay, Jakotsu, let’s go to war!” Bankotsu grinned wickedly only to have the cross-dresser stare at him blankly.
“I thought you were tired of people telling you what to do and that’s why we’ve gone back to hunting youkai.”
“Well, uh, yeah...” Bankotsu said, looking somewhat crestfallen.
“Oh, so are we going to war with just the two of us?” Jakotsu asked. He scratched his cheek while he waited for Bankotsu’s answer.
“No. I thought we could get some men together. Didn’t you say awhile back that anyone would be a fool not to follow me?”
The cross-dresser frowned. “I did?”
“Okay! Can we get some cute looking men?” Jakotsu grinned wickedly.
“Ummm, don’t you think men with fighting skills would be better than cute ones?”
“Yeah... but I was hoping I could cut them up when we’re done,” Jakotsu said as if that was a perfectly reasonable thing to do and Bankotsu was hard pressed to suppress a chuckle.
“If you do that, then we’d have to keep getting new ones all the time.”
“Oh yeah...” Jakotsu laughed. “I’m being stupid again, hunh?”
“Nah, just cute. So I figured we should start looking as soon as we reach the next town.”
“Sounds like a good plan to me, Aniki-chan!” the cross-dresser said zealously.
“I was hoping you’d say that.” Bankotsu laughed
“What if we find a man with good fighting skills that’s cute?” Jakotsu asked as they walked along.
“I hadn’t thought about that, but ummm...” Bankotsu fell silent as he thought it over. “What if I let you cut them up if they don’t work out?”
“Let’s have some fun with the new recruit, Aniki-chan!” Jakotsu said as he leaned towards his lover.
“Which one, Sweetness? We have two new recruits,” Bankotsu replied.
“Oh yeah!” the cross-dresser said.
As the young leader of the Shichinintai and his paramour had been walking ahead of the others, they both looked back over their shoulders at the three men trailing along behind them and laughed.
“How about the monk?” Jakotsu said saucily.
Renkotsu groaned inwardly as he plastered a smile on his face. He had been trying his best to ignore the cross-dresser but he was fast approaching the limits of his patience. He knew the cross-dresser was testing him according to the claw-bearer, just like their leader was, but enough was enough and he longed to punch the smirk off Jakotsu’s face. He also found himself wishing he could rip their leader’s left arm off as he was getting tired of seeing it reaching over to fondle the cross-dresser’s bottom.
Just when it felt like he would explode and ruin his chances of becoming a member of Bankotsu’s band of mercenaries, a reprieve of sorts happened unexpectedly. Somehow the conversation had turned to whether or not the fire-breather was a “man” yet. Jakotsu had just uttered a catty “too bad the fire-breather had wasted himself on a woman,” when Renkotsu quipped in reply that he was happy he had not wasted himself on the cross-dresser. A few moments of extremely tense silence followed before Jakotsu had a hissy fit. Unfortunately, while it calmed the cross-dresser down for the moment, he later came back with a vengeance, only to later on that night cut his over zealousness towards Renkotsu off with a “now that I’ve groped your mouth with my tongue, I’m going to ignore you.”
“Jak, don’t you think you’re a little over zealous in your support of Oo-Aniki?” Renkotsu said. He had been sent on a mission alone with the cross-dresser and he was getting very tired of hearing how wonderful their leader was. The closer they were to home, the more he wished the cross-dresser would shut up as he had the feeling Jakotsu was leading up to a litany of Bankotsu’s skills in the futon, something he would rather not hear about.
“Over what?” Jakotsu stared blankly at the fire-breather.
“Over zealous, you know, very enthusiastic about him.”
Renkotsu sighed. “Filled with so much love for Oo-Aniki that you don’t notice his faults,” he patiently explained.
“Oh...” Jakotsu giggled.
“So let’s ummm, agree to say that Oo-Aniki is the best at everything, okay?”
“Okay!” the cross-dresser said as Renkotsu breathed a silent sigh of relief the subject of Bankotsu had been dropped, although a part of him grudgingly agreed with everything the cross-dresser had said.
They were sitting around the campfire, discussing their upcoming mission. Bankotsu looked across the flickering flames at his comrades in arms and grinned. They may have been the motliest looking band of mercenaries around, but they were good, in fact very good. So good, that when the cross-dresser asked if they would finally have enough money to settle down somewhere, the others ran with the possibilities.
“I think you may be on to something, Jak,” Renkotsu said and there was no mistaking the look of approval he wore.
“Yeah?” The cross-dresser blinked.
“Yup! So, Oo-Aniki, are you going to demand we get the mansion as part of our payment?”
“Hunh? No...” Bankotsu frowned.
“Why not? If you’re going to be the most powerful man in all of Japan, like Jak is so found of telling us you’re going to be, then you should look the part. A mansion is just the thing you need.” Renkotsu grinned.
“But nothing, Aniki-chan! Ren’s right; we should have mansion to live in! All the powerful daimyo have one!” Jakotsu said excitedly.
The others agreed.
“But I already agreed to a price for this mission,” Bankotsu said helplessly. Jakotsu’s zealousness towards him was something the young leader of the Shichinintai was used to; it quite another thing to have them all behaving that way. “Alright...”
Betrayed... It was an ugly word, but it summed up the situation nicely. The very men who had hired them had turned on them without a moment’s hesitation.
At least Ren is now so busy running for his life that he doesn’t have time to complain, Bankotsu noted wryly as he hurried along with his friends. Damn it, why did your zealousness have to be so damned infectious, Sweetness? Why did I stupidly think demanding the mansion was a good idea? He groaned inwardly. “Hurry, Jakotsu, we’re almost there!” Bankotsu reached back and pulled his lover along.
“I am!” the cross-dresser panted.
Damn it! This isn’t good at all! The snow’s starting to fall again! I hope we don’t get trapped up here cuz it isn’t gonna be pretty if we do! the young leader of the Shichinintai thought worriedly as they raced towards the mountain pass.
Arrows whizzed past them as they ran for their lives. Too late, Bankotsu realized they were being herded towards their eventual capture. Backs against the sharp craggy mountain, they turned and faced the men who had hired them. The young leader of the Shichinintai eyed his men proudly. They may have reached their final stand, but Bankotsu had the feeling they were going to be a credit to him and go down fighting.
A quick movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention and Bankotsu turned in that direction. He was greeted by his paramour’s warm smile.
“We can do this, Aniki-chan! You’ll see!” Jakotsu said confidently.
Bankotsu nodded, his smile quickly turning into a frown, as Kyokotsu rushed forward. “No! Kyo!!” Bankotsu looked back at the cross-dresser for answers.
“Kyo’ll get us out of here and then you’ll make them pay for this!”
“We’re outnumbered, Sweetness! There’s no way we can get out of here alive. Damn it!”
“Then we will die fighting for you. Remember I told you, Aniki-chan, that anyone would be a fool not to follow you? Well, we’ve decided to follow you into hell,” Jakotsu said zealously.
They watched as Kyokotsu picked a lone archer from his horse. Bankotsu was horrified when the archer took advantage of the situation and fired off an arrow, hitting the giant right between the eyes. Kyokotsu wore a look of surprise as he let go of the man and staggered backwards. Seconds later he slumped to the ground, dead.
“No...” Bankotsu moaned. He turned to look at Jakotsu in time to see the cross-dresser send Mukotsu out. For the first time in this fiasco, Bankotsu felt a ray of hope that maybe they could get out of here alive. The diminutive poisoner knelt and opened one of his canisters, pointing it at the combined armies of the daimyo that had banded together to get rid of the Shichinintai. The poisonous fog spread out like the smoke from one of Renkotsu’s fires, its causticity designed to sear an enemy’s lungs. When the fog lifted, Mukotsu was confronted by a group of taijiya who easily captured him.
The nightmare repeated itself as each remaining member of his army zealously strode forward and tried to take out as many as they could, before being captured. When Jakotsu was captured something seemed to die inside Bankotsu and the seventeen year old gave up without a fight. It was one thing to realize that even in the face of death his friends still maintained their zealous faith in him; it was another to come face to face with a zealousness that far outweighed their own...
Author’s end note: Unfortunately, I’ve run out of letters. That being said, I would like to thank the following: Killa Kay, for inspiring me to do this with her fic. Vega-chan, for being the great friend that she is, and for providing me with a list of challenges, some easy, some hard. I would also like to thank her for her help here and there. Notoes, another dear friend, for taking the time to beta this for me. Jen, for her help here and there behind the scenes, most notably her help in making sure Ban got the most enjoyment he could get out his time with Jak in Yes! I want to thank Catrioan, Inu Hanyou Nikkie, & Lhunial glomps you for your reviews and discussions on various chapters. Chocolatemaltesers for her many reviews. And last but certainly not least, Ranuel for her insightful reviews which really made my day! I would also like to thank in advance, those of you who took the time to read this now that all the chapters are finished and posted and were kind enough to let me know how much you enjoyed it!