Till the Loneliness Shadows the Sky

by sf

Begun : October 14, 2002

Edition III: February 1st, 2005

Edition IV: November 1st, 2005

Till the loneliness shadows the sky
I'll be sailing down and I will know
I know I can clear clouds away
Oh is it a crime.. to love?
- Crucify My Love, X Japan

Foreword, edition IV,

At the time this fic was started, I was experimenting with characterization -- to whit: Throw a character into a sticky situation and see what happens. Naturally, I was experimenting with Sanzo, and delighted in throwing him into a situation he would be ill-prepared to deal with: love.

Much has changed. The manga has moved on and its respective characterizations with it. The original plot bunny ran away because it didn't like the direction that the fic was taking. My style changed. My OTP has come, and gone. Saiyuki as a favorite fandom has come and gone.

I was challenged one fine day to finish this fiction. I stared at it in abject horror at

1. The writing standard
2. The japanese
3. The plot

And decided that tearing out half the fic and re-writing it was the best idea. I intended to finish it by Lent, vowed instead to finish it by the end of Advent, and hopefully that's where the fic leaves us.

Like I said in the foreword for edition III, this is largely goodbye. Venturing outside the Saiyuki fandom has given me the exposure to finally do this fic justice, but it's also told me that, for now, it's time to embark on different paths. Maybe I'll be back one day, but I doubt I'll be experimenting with the Sanzo/Goku theme again. Frankly? I don't think I could do anything better than this.

I have to say that edition IV is the first version I'm really happy with. I've been struggling with the ending and the general theme of the fiction all the way since 2002, and this showed. Also, my reasons for trying to write this have changed dramatically – initially, it was simply to write a better Sanzo/Goku than I saw out there. Today, there are tons of good, believable fics with this pairing, and my incentive changed to writing something less one-sided in Sanzo's favor.

So what's different in the fourth version? Since version I, I've cleaned out the japanese almost entirely, for one, and made subtle changes to words and phrases just to improve the general flow and tone of the story. Some of Hakkai's words to Goku in chapter 2 were rewritten to fit into a character mold that I find more believable. The biggest deviation is from what used to be chapter 5 onwards, when Sanzo is in Chun Xiang. Finally, I rewrote a major scene -- the confrontation between Sanzo and Goku in chapter 3.

From version III, I've added more scenes in the beginning, streamlined a lot of interaction, and basically added to the general wistful poetic feel that I wanted this piece to have. Of course, I rewrote the plot entirely. I've left a lot of the old scenes in for posterity, though, so there's a change in style midway. Chapter 5 onwards is completely new. If I were striving for perfection I'd rewrite the old bits, but I'm on a schedule here! I'd like to say that this showcases how much my style and technique have improved since 2002, and but I'll leave you to be the judge of that .

Thank you all who waited patiently while this fic was in stasis. Your support and reviews are greatly appreciated. Thank you also for those who pushed me to finish it. It's been a long trip, but a worthwhile one.

Elvaron, November 1st 2005.

Summary:

The Journey has ended, and an older Goku begins to see Sanzo as more than just a guardian. The road to maturity, however, is a long one.

TILL THE LONELINESS SHADOWS THE SKY

Prologue -- Freedom

-

Lately, he's been reaching for the sun in his dreams.

The sun's a glowing globe of light, suspended just out of reach. His arm is wedged through the stone bars, outstretched, fingers straining as he attempts to overcome that last, treacherous inch. But the stone is mercilessly unyielding, cutting into his shoulder even as his fingers stretch, and just when he thinks he's got it, his fingers fall again.

His fingers aren't the only things that fall. Something in his chest twists: a sharp ache that has nothing to do with the protest of sore muscles or the cruel bite of the winter cold. Water pools in his eyes, and he bites his lip to hold it back… to no avail.

He is alone. The cave is cold and dark, and even in his dream, he knows that this cage is not the mountain, but his own room in Chou'An Ji. Cold and dark and empty. And the sun lies just out of reach.

He awakes to tears.

-v-

"Hurry up, damn you!" the all too familiar voice drifted... well, shot through the door and the walls like a bullet from the Smith and Wesson.

Goku's reply was somewhat muffled as he struggled into his shirt, stuck his head through a sleeve, and ended up royally entangled. There was silence from the other side of the door, but it certainly didn't mean that Sanzo was waiting patiently. Quite the opposite, in fact.

"Blast.. damnit.." Goku snarled, emerging from the shirt like a whale from the water... only to find that it was on backwards. "Sanzo, one minute!"

"Bloody ape! I'm leaving you behind!"

"He won't," Goku muttered to himself, as he put the shirt to rights. "Where is my belt!" Frantically, he rummaged through piles of discarded clothing. "And this new pair of pants is so loose..."

It took him a full minute to locate the wayward belt, a minute that drained Sanzo's patience to dangerous limits.

"If you don't get out of there right NOW, I'm sending a bullet to look for you!"

"Coming, coming!" Goku fumbled for the door and leapt out.. a little too fast to avoid smashing straight into Sanzo.

"Ow, fuck," the irate priest swore in a most unpriestly manner, saved from a complete tumble to the floor by a convenient banister. "Damn ape, look where you're going!" He shoved Goku off, smacked him over the head out of sheer habit and stalked towards the stairs.

Goku grinned roguishly and hurried after the older man. "Hey, Sanzo, wait up!"

-v-

Goku paused in surprise when they reached their location. He hadn't asked where they were going.. well, he'd known they were going out for dinner, and that had been enough. He hadn't expected...

'Posh' was the first word that sprang to mind.

'Expensive' and 'Famous cuisine' came tumbling after.

"San--" he glanced at the priest, who raised one eyebrow at him that clearly read : 'Shut up and don't ask'.

It was the newest restaurant in town and commanded the latest buzz, as well as, if the rumors were correct, the most famous chef in the land. Which, hopefully, meant the best food in the country.

Oh, he'd been dying to come here since it had opened, a month or so back, but Sanzo had been too busy and even given the generous monthly allowance that the priest showered on him, a single meal here was quite, quite out of the question for him.

-

Goku was half-surprised to find themselves directed to a table for two. He couldn't recall a meal outside the temple since their return from Tenjiku that they hadn't had with Hakkai and Gojyo... but given the prices... Sanzo's generosity had its limits, even if his credit card didn't.

Glancing at menu, he felt a twinge of regret that he was past the days of ordering every dish in double portions. Age and physiological changes had brought a slowing of his metabolic rate and a subsequent decrease in appetite. Under normal circumstances, it was probably a good thing, and Sanzo had been indescribably relieved when his seemingly endless demands for food had slowly whittled to a pale shadow of their former selves. But when everything looked so good that he couldn't decide which to order...

"Everything on the menu?" Sanzo asked, with just a shade of dry humor.

"You know me so well," Goku replied. "But... believe it or not, I don't think I can finish it..."

Sanzo snorted in reply and glanced at the waiter, who promptly stepped up.

Goku propped the menu on the table top and made a few random choices. "I think I'll have--"

"--Everything on the menu," Sanzo interrupted smoothly, without batting an eyelid.

"But--" Goku glanced up.

"But nothing." The reply came in a voice that brooked no argument.

"But you don't eat very much!" Goku wailed.

"You do. I have faith in your appetite," Sanzo looked mildly amused as he waved the flustered and dumbstruck waiter away.

Ah, but they'd changed, since the journey west. If his appetite had decreased, then so had Sanzo's temper. Granted, not getting mortally injured by every passing youkai had something to do with it...

Given a few more eons or so, Sanzo might actually start smiling.

But even given how they'd changed over the years, Sanzo was being particularly nice.

"Is something happening?" Goku asked. Sanzo frowned in askance at his question. "I mean... ah... Hakkai and Gojyo weren't free for dinner?" Goku's brain fumbled at words, trying to piece everything together.

"We're joining them for lunch tomorrow. Seeing the kappa once a week is bad enough. Twice in two days is out of the question."

No, that wasn't quite what he'd been looking for by way of an answer. However, any further clarification of the issue was forestalled by the arrival of the first dishes, and Goku was more than familiar with Sanzo's disinclination to talk during a meal. This place was inconveniently efficient...

Then the smell.. no, the aroma assaulted his senses, and any further thought was waylaid by the instant clamoring of his stomach for Food. Now.

"Itadakimasu!" he cried, grabbing his chopsticks and nearly upsetting his tea cup in his haste. "This stuff smells fantastic!"

"Control yourself, ape," Sanzo muttered.

"Mmmphfff. It tastes as good as it smells!" Goku shovelled dumplings onto his plate and began piling them into his mouth, en masse. "Say.. does seconds sound like a good idea to you?"

"We have fifty five more dishes," Sanzo pointed out, his tone betraying dry amusement. "And you don't have a kappa to share with."

"Oh yeah, that's great!" Goku enthused, and increased the rate of consumption from five mouthfuls a second to ten. It'd been so long since he'd enjoyed a meal this much...

-

Across the table, Sanzo picked at his own food and sighed inwardly in fond annoyance at his companion's antics. Some things never changed, and Goku's enthusiasm for anything edible was one of them. His appetite hadn't so much shrunk as gone into hibernation, waiting for the right opportunity and the right cuisine. This could certainly be classified as both.

And there was silence, blessed silence, while he was eating...

-

Goku slammed the bowl down called for a second bowl of rice and more tea, and returned to decimating the dishes laid in front of them, garnering stares from restaurant staff and other diners alike. Sanzo distributed a few scowls, and curious onlookers hurriedly became curious not-lookers.

-

"Ahhhhhhhh..." Goku heaved a long sigh. "I don't think I can move any more..."

"Dessert to follow," Sanzo said ruthlessly.

"Oh. Dessert. I have a separate stomach for desert," Goku quipped, bouncing back immediately. "Na, Sanzo, where are we going for lunch tomorrow?"

"Hakkai's cooking."

"Hakkai's cooking? YES!" Goku crowed, punching the air. "I miss his cooking!"

"Settle down, idiot."

Further conversation was again forestalled as dessert arrived, and the next half an hour or so was dedicated to eating. By the time the meal was over, Goku slumped over his chair, quite incapable of movement, but very, very happy. "I can safely say that that was one of the best meals of my life," he commented. "By the way, what's--"

"Let's head back," Sanzo cut him off. "It's getting late." He stood, waiting a moment for Goku to stagger to his feet, then headed for the door.

-

Goku caught up with Sanzo as he stepped out of the restaurant. The sun had set while they were eating, and now the stars shone gently in a cloudless sky of black velvet. A lively breeze sprang up, frustrating Sanzo's attempts to light a cigarette.

"I was asking," Goku said, as the dog end finally caught and glowed red. "What's the occasion?"

Sanzo took a drag on the cigarette, and glanced over. "Occasion?"

"Dinner," Goku indicated the restaurant with a tilt of the head. "Lunch tomorrow. And you've been so busy these past few weeks with that business of humans killing youkai..."

Sanzo didn't reply immediately, and they shared a moment of silence as they headed up the road and back to the temple. "You really are a silly ape." The reply, when it came, was not quite what Goku was expecting.

"I'm not an ape!" he retorted indignantly. "I--"

"You're 21 today. Or haven't you noticed?"

"I--... oh." It had completely slipped his mind. He'd remembered, in a vague sort of way, a few days ago, but one thing after another had driven it out of his mind. "21. Wow. Isn't it supposed to be significant? To humans, at least."

"Some places regard it as the age whereupon you reach adulthood," Sanzo replied.

"So Gojyo can't call me a kid anymore. Hah."

"Unless, of course, you keep acting like one."

"Are you implying something?"

"But of course."

Goku only snorted in response.

They didn't talk after that, each content to walk in his own thoughts, their paths lighted by gentle moonlight.

--

"Goodnight, Sanzo!" Goku called, as he headed back to his own room. There was a grunt of acknowledgement from the priest, and the door clicked quietly shut behind him.

Goku paused in the hallway, a stray thought nagging at the back of his head.

So, twenty one, the thought seemed to be saying. You're grown up now.

Make that five hundred and twenty one, he thought back at it. I've been grown up for ages.

No you haven't. Admit it.

In fact, it seemed that the reverse was true. Five hundred years in a cave on a mountainside had robbed him of memory and he had emerged from it as innocent and ignorant as a newborn babe, trusting on blind instinct. His teenage years had been spent catching up on a lost childhood. When eighteen, he hadn't acted eighteen... certainly, not the way Sanzo had acted when he was eighteen. At twenty one, the hyperactivity was just beginning to show signs of slowing.

After all, we're only young once. What's the point of depriving ourselves?

His thoughts strayed back to his guardian, and the brief exchange they'd had, standing in the temple gardens by the lake. The stars shimmered in its depths as they talked, the reflection turned to ripples by the breeze which followed them.

"Are you planning on staying here?" Sanzo had asked. He had discarded the cigarette a long time ago, and now stood with his arms crossed, posing the question with an air of disinterest as he stared at the sky.

"Of course, this is my home," Goku had replied without a second thought. He selected a smooth pebble from the shore, and flicked it towards the water. It fell, skipped three times, then sank with a merry 'plop'.

"Ah."

"Why do you ask?" Goku glanced up in sudden concern. "Is something wrong?"

"No. One wondered, however, if you had any desire to get out of these walls.. live your own life..."

"I've seen enough of the world outside, thank you. What's wrong with the temple?"

Sanzo paused, then swiftly retrieved another pebble and flicked it towards the water. "There is no change here." The pebble hit the surface and bounced, once, twice, thrice, and sank quietly. "It is not, I think, for you. And you are not bound to this place."

Unlike me, were the unspoken words.

"What is freedom?" Goku asked. Sanzo glanced sharply across at him.

"You told me once," Goku said. "Freedom is not freedom if you do not have a place to return to. Even the birds may well loathe their clear skies if they do not have a branch to rest their wings upon."

Sanzo grunted noncommittally.

Goku paused, considering the ramifications and the possibilities ahead of him. To leave.. to see the world. To live as other people did. Sanzo was right, he did not truly belong here, in this sanctuary and ivory tower that was the Temple of Chou'An. Where people barricaded themselves away from the real world and hid behind mantras that they did not truly understand. But he'd seen the real world and...

"My place .. may not be here," he said, finding new insight and new strength with each word that he spoke. Sanzo was a motionless figure in the dark, staring impassively off into the distance. "But my place.. is with you. And you're here." I swore to protect you, Sanzo. Not for a day, not for a year, but for as long as you.. and I... live. I don't intend to break that vow.

"I don't need your protection," the reply came, soft and emotionless.

"So you said. And you nearly got killed a dozen times on the trip West. Sanzo, you're a magnet for trouble."

"Hah. Very well, if that's your answer... suit yourself. But remember, you are always free to go." He turned, heading away from the lake. "It's late."

My place is with you, Goku thought, quietly letting himself into his own room.

TBC