:: Treasure ::
Disclaimer: I don't own Gensomaden Saiyuki, which rightfully belongs to Minekura Kazuya.
Warnings: language, shounen ai, fairly fluffy (!!)
Notes: I couldn't resist. I had to name a 39 fic after their loverly song eventually. ^0^ *huggles her mp3*
Seriously, though, this is a bit... odd. I'm not used to writing a mature Goku. Someone that reviewed The Becoming told me I made Goku seem too immature, considering the character development that goes on in Reload... and I'd like to apologize profusely for that. I half would like to blame it on only seeing half the anime series (if even that) bit I'll also admit I'd completely overlooked some important bits. Damn. So I tried my hand at making him more mature-- this is how I see him after the series, after the final battle with Gyokumen and all them.
It was still a bit awkward to write. I had to keep reminding myself I was writing a mature Goku and not Majic from Majutsushi Orphen. ^^; Thus cutting out so many embarrassed/blushing scenes that I could have done if this was an Orphen fic.
And now I'm rambling. I blame that on it being so late/early.
You could see this as a sequel to The Becoming, but some things will be inaccurate if you do. So this is supposed to be a stand-alone piece, but again: you could see it as a sequel to TB if you wanted to.
Phew. Constructive criticism and feedback appreciated, as per usual. Sankyuu. ^^
It would have been safer to approach the man during the night. Not too far into it, when he would just start to relax or fall asleep, but about late evening after the sun had set completely; preferably when it wasn't raining. Sanzo didn't always fall into a foul mood when it rained, but he had more frequently ever since their journey started.
Goku smirked to himself. How long ago had that been? It seemed like ages, but it couldn't have been. Perhaps it was simply because he had grown up so much in such a short time; mentally, if not physically. (Definitely not physically.) Perhaps only two years, maybe three. Time hadn't seemed to matter much; no matter how many times Sanzo had told them every moment counted.
There would be no more of that-- no more of it being necessary, anyway. There was nothing left to do. They remained at Gyuumaoh's castle, mainly because Sanzo seemed so intent on finding something -- only Hakkai really knew what, but the other two could make a pretty well educated guess -- and partially because it was a battlefield that couldn't be left so easily.
Well, that was how it felt to him, anyway. Despite the quiet calm, Goku would have felt uneasy leaving so soon. Here they had fought the final battle, and now most of their adversaries lay dead, discarded in various places inside the castle. No need to move the bodies; Sanzo obviously didn't plan to stay too long, and no one would miss them anyway.
Inside the ruined fortress, however, Goku felt trapped, as though he were slowly suffocating. He had to escape that, and once he slipped out he realized that he wasn't the only one that felt this way. It had taken nearly a full minute of staring at the back of a certain irate monk's head before he strode over to where he sat.
Sanzo's shoulders stiffened visibly, but he otherwise gave no indication that he heard the boy -- was he still a boy, even now? -- behind him. Tendrils of smoke curled in the dusky air, dissipating as smoky fingers tried in vain to reach the softening colours of the sky. Goku tilted his head back, watching in something akin to mute awe as the bright blue of day melted, bleeding into gentle reds and oranges of evening. The various transformations of the skies always fascinated him, especially at the beginning or end of the day. That was when the sun rose or set, and the sudden change it made the sky take on was breathtaking.
Of course, if he tried saying any of this to Sanzo he would only be called annoying and probably be whacked one or two times. Before the battle it seemed as though the fan had been used more often than usual, but lately the irritated thwaps grew fewer and further between, though they had by no means disappeared completely. Goku had the feeling it would take a lot more than just one journey west to kick Sanzo of that habit.
Besides, even if Sanzo didn't brush off what he said, it wouldn't matter because for some reason Goku always found it hard to express these thoughts. There were moments his deeper thoughts shone through his exterior, moments he knew the others saw even if they pretended not to. Sometimes he suspected a part of them didn't want to see it, because then that would mean letting go of the child that had been in their care and watching him grow into something more. While wonderful, it would still feel like losing something important. Really, the others were no more than paranoid parents sometimes. That still didn't change the fact that Goku still had difficulty expressing some of his more intimate thoughts.
"You know," he said, so suddenly that it surprised himself. "I don't know how you expect us to find whatever we're looking for without us knowing what we're supposed to find."
Sanzo's first response was to flick the ashes from the end of a burning cigarette. "I don't have any hopes you morons will find it," he responded, voice dark and smooth, betraying none of his inner thoughts. It was the same as always.
"Why make us look, then?" Goku inquired, frowning. Really, what was the point? When Sanzo didn't answer, a wide grin spread across his face. "It's because you might be proven wrong, huh? Admit it!"
"Ch'," was the priest's only response.
The following silence wasn't uncomfortable, thought Goku as he stretched his arms behind his head lazily, enjoying the tight sensation in his muscles. He'd been stuck in enough disquieting silences with Sanzo before, and this was anything but. More clearly, Goku could remember the tense moments during the aftermath of being Seiten Taisei. So many times he had been afraid of Sanzo, afraid of his reaction no matter what his gut told him: that Sanzo would never betray him or turn him away. Fear always seized his heart, overriding common sense during times like those. He would be on the razor's edge, always tense and nervous until Sanzo released his anger and stress through the paper fan. Somehow, a simple beating over his skull always made things right between them after situations like that. It was somewhat amusing.
Goku let his arms fall back to his side, smiling against the gentle breeze. It was too warm out here, especially for a place that had been shrouded in dark clouds and cold for so long. A bit of wind was good, felt nice against his skin. Goku wet his chapped lips, briefly glancing down to where his keeper sat. Sanzo hadn't moved at all, save to bring the cigarette to his lips. Goku watched.
"Glad it's over?"
Sanzo closed his eyes. "I'll feel better once we get out of here."
Nodding in agreement, Goku allowed his legs to fold beneath him so he could sit down, one knee drawn toward his chest. The cliff's drop-off was barely yards away from where the two sat. Goku kicked at a rock near his feet, watching it skitter across the ground. It didn't make it to the edge.
"So we're gonna go back to Chang'an now?" Goku asked, allowing his head to fall forward and rest on his knee. With his other foot, he idly kicked at another rock. It didn't even get as far as the first one had.
Sanzo glanced sideways at him. A while ago Goku would have described his expression as unreadable, but traveling with the man had done something to make him realize that if he looked hard enough, he could see flickers of emotion in the supposedly blank eyes. Where he had mentally described this look as cold, Goku could now safely call it hidden curiosity. This change didn't just affect his and Sanzo's relationship, but his and Hakkai's, even his and Gojyo's. So much had changed. Even colour seemed to have changed. Everything held some sort of meaning now, and realizing that was both amazing and frightening.
Goku watched the blonde blow smoke out between his lips before dropping the cigarette to the ground, grinding it out with his boots. "Who knows?" Sanzo said airily. "The minus wave effects may be over, but the trip back isn't going to be safe. We'll have pissed demons on our heels."
"That's pretty unfair, considering they attacked us," Goku muttered.
"Doesn't matter. Just because we got here and won the battle doesn't mean we'll make it back alive."
"Optimistic, as always."
"A smart-ass, as always."
Goku grinned, rolling his head to the side to work the stiffness from his neck. The motion made him wince; he'd forgotten about the large bruise at the base of his neck. Being thrown and slamming directly into a crowd of machines was no joke; he'd hit his back hard and had been tangled in the wires. That had also been his first (and hopefully last) encounter with electric shocks, and Goku couldn't honestly say it had been a fun experience. He'd had to discard his singed clothes after the fight.
The massive bruise on his back hadn't been the worst of his injuries, but it had been the one with the most long-lasting effects. The others had been hurt worse, especially Sanzo. At the time it wasn't amusing at all, but afterwards Goku could think it was actually very ironic that Sanzo tended to have his gut torn open more than anyone else in the group.
Must be because he insists on pissing off the gods or something, thought Goku. He's pretty much broken all the rules of Buddhism by now.
Struck by a sudden thought, Goku leaned back on his hands. "Hey, Sanzo?"
He nudged at a rock with the toe of his boot, kicking it. More dirt was stirred than anything else; the stone bounced precariously close to the cliff, but didn't fall over. Goku frowned, but hastened to finish his question before Sanzo got irritated. "D'you remember what you told me a few months back?"
From the corner of his eye, he saw Sanzo shooting him a look of disdain. "Anything in particular?"
"Mm..." Tilting his head, Goku kicked at the ground. This time the rock went clear over the cliff, sailing down without a sound. "You said if I lived, I could ask you something." If he hadn't spoken, he might have heard the sound of it connecting with something.
"Don't remember," the priest answered shortly.
Goku's head snapped up; he got to his feet almost as quickly. "Yes, you do," he insisted, narrowing golden eyes at his keeper. "I know you do. You don't forget things easily."
Sanzo wasn't surprised, nor did he continue playing ignorant. "If you know, why do you ask?"
"What's wrong with wanting assurance?" When Sanzo didn't answer, Goku took a deep breath and asked a different question. "Why are you talking to me like this?"
There was a rustle of cloth as Sanzo folded his arms over his chest. "Like what?"
"Like... like how you talk to Hakkai. Like..." Berating himself for not being able to express his thoughts clearly, Goku closed his eyes and struggled to find the right words. "Like... I'm something more than a child."
He must have been either really moody or really thoughtful, because Sanzo didn't answer. His lips pressed together as though he were determined to keep his inner monologue inside. Sighing, Goku glanced at the castle, back at Sanzo, over the cliff, and back at Sanzo again. The reddish hues of the sky had temporarily transformed his hair into a dusty orange, as though the sun were demanding that he match the surroundings. Like a chameleon.
It was pretty.
What he did was impulsive, but not something he hadn't thought about doing before: Goku sidled behind the monk, slipping his arms over the man's shoulders and letting his chin come to rest on the top of blonde hair.
Sanzo stiffened beneath him. "Get off."
"Mmph," was Goku's muffled response as he turned his face into the man's hair. His next intelligible response was a childish, "Make me. You usually never do," he added hastily, fearing Sanzo would actually rise to the challenge. He had to explain himself to better his chances. It was true enough anyway; often he would grab onto Sanzo for one reason or another, but he was the only person Sanzo didn't physically force off. With anyone else he would slap their arm away, tug his sleeve out of their grasp, or shrug off, but Goku was allowed to maintain contact.
It was said actions spoke louder than words. If that was the case, Sanzo's actions weren't spoken, but screamed. There were few things he acted subtly upon; all one had to do was watch him, really watch, and one would be able to grasp his meanings quickly.
Sanzo's body shifted beneath him. "You're hurting my neck," he said flatly.
"Brat." Despite his words, Sanzo still didn't move to force the boy off. As thought not wanting Goku to realize this, he started searching for his cigarettes.
Goku grinned. He hadn't often dared to touch Sanzo like this; normally when his arms were wrapped around the man, he was unconscious for one reason or another. It was almost odd to feel Sanzo's chest rise and fall with normal, steady breaths; definitely odd for him to be fully aware of what was going on, and fully capable of doing what he wanted about the situation.
"We're both alive," Goku finally said.
"Here's to stating the obvious," Sanzo muttered.
Ignoring that, Goku went on. "Mind if I ask... what we'll do when we get back to Chang'an?"
He heard the metallic click of Sanzo's lighter, and a moment later the air was polluted with cigarette smoke. Goku wrinkled his nose, but stubbornly refused to move. If that had been Sanzo's intention, it wasn't about to happen.
Sanzo didn't even seem to notice. "Who knows?"
"It'll be weird to go back," Goku admitted.
"It'll be just as weird not to."
"What now? Why are you bothering me with your inane questions?" the irate monk asked.
Goku frowned; that was unfair. "You're the one answering them." He traced his fingers over the front of the man's robes, over the white cloth, the tips of his fingers raking over the flimsy wood, ghosting over the sacred scriptures that seemed to be forever draped over Sanzo's shoulders. "This," he said, his tones softer. "You're looking for the seiten kyomon, right?"
At last, an admittance. "What're you gonna do once you have it?"
Eerily quiet, Sanzo shrugged. Goku felt the slight tremor of muscle rippling beneath him; he shivered, unconsciously tightening his embrace. There was darkness, and he realized he had closed his eyes, curling around the man as though seeking some form of comfort. It was silly, thinking that Sanzo of all people would provide it... but then, knowing Sanzo now, perhaps it wasn't as silly as it once would have seemed.
As though to confirm that thought, Goku felt a larger hand cover his. Calloused fingers tightened briefly around his hand, sliding up to grip his arm. Goku sighed, unable to fight a smile.
Sanzo may not have been able to see it, but he likely sensed it. Sometimes Goku felt he knew the boy too well. "Stupid monkey."
"You always say that," Goku mumbled into his shoulder.
"I only say what's true," Sanzo replied, his voice giving away much less than his actions. Truly, Sanzo was the type to show more through actions than words. That was troublesome, as Goku had difficulty understanding things that weren't outright obvious, but he was slowly getting better; he was improving. Someday it may not even prove to be a problem.
"But I'm getting better, aren't I?" Goku nagged, tugging on the priest's robes. "It's been a while since you called me that, you know. So I'm getting better, right?"
"You're no less annoying." And that was all Sanzo would say about that, which was as good as a yes to Goku's ears.
Lifting his head, Goku saw that the sun was almost finished setting. There was a bare sliver of gold left in the sky, and it made him start to see a brief green flash before the light disappeared completely. The crimson seeped from the heavens, draining into a bluish hue. All the while their surroundings were perfectly silent. Being so far away from any real civilization, Gyokumen's fortress didn't even have crickets. It had been that way the entire two days the four hellions had spent there, and it still disconcerted Goku.
He was only partially concerned about that, though. Right now, standing there with his savior, absorbing the moment with him was most important. Every brief touch was soothing, comforting. He had to memorize their wordless conversations so that he'd never forget the feel of Sanzo's hand on his arm, or forget the softness of thick blonde hair beneath his nose, or forget every slight movement that brought them that fraction closer together. It was precious; comfort in the aftermath of a horrible battle.
"Since we're alive," Goku murmured, "are things going to be different?"
"Since you insisted on living, yes," Sanzo replied calmly. "I did say you could ask again if you lived."
"Bastard. You did remember."
Goku had to straighten up; his back was beginning to ache both from wounds that hadn't completely healed and from being in an awkward position for so long. "Will you let them be different?"
For the first time, Sanzo tilted his head back so that he could directly meet his charge's eyes. Something akin to amusement flickered in violet irises, but it was hard to determine if that was what it really was. Despite Goku's enhanced vision, nighttime was still nighttime, and it was still harder to discern emotions in the dark.
"Once we reach Chang'an," Sanzo was saying, "they'll be as different as they can get."
"Because things change-- like that goddess woman said."
Sanzo visibly flinched; for some reason unknown to Goku -- likely unknown even to Sanzo -- the mere mention of Kanzeon Bosatsu had started to make him uneasy. "Yeah."
Goku's hands slid up to rest on Sanzo's shoulders. "Traveling east is gonna feel weird, you know."
"Being alive feels weird."
A knowing smile touched the brunette's lips. "After that, yeah, I guess it does."
Something changed Sanzo's expression drastically, though to anyone else it would have looked slight. But Goku knew Sanzo, and he realized that the sudden open display of solemnity was a surprising change of expression.
"I won't ever say this again," Sanzo said quietly, "but I'll admit that you've changed a lot-- and I'll even admit that it's a bit frightening."
Taken aback by the words, Goku tightened his grip on the man's shoulders. After a tense moment, he managed to say, "Why?"
The grim expression closed off. "No reason."
Great. He was back at square one. Goku tried to advance. "Is that why you're talking to me like this... because I've changed?"
"You've grown up." After a brief pause, Sanzo added shortly, "Minimally."
Increasingly, the evening was falling into night. They would have to turn back to the fortress soon if they wanted to be able to make it back alive. Despite knowing this, neither moved to do what common sense told them.
Goku wasn't sure exactly how it had happened; it sort of felt like gravity had suddenly pressed down, or maybe even a ghostly hand. All he knew was the first try had ended up with noses bumping painfully and a soft curse, but the second somehow managed to work despite the awkward positions. Sanzo's fingers tightened around his arm, drawing him down. It didn't matter if he kept his eyes open or not anymore-- it was too dark to see much now, and Goku was positive he'd once heard that keeping your eyes open was rude. Then there was just a pleasant feeling of fluidity that only ended when the bruise on his neck began to cry out on protest.
Something tugged at the back of his mind as the kiss ended, something that told him it had been brief in comparison to what could be. He wasn't sure how he knew this, being as inexperienced as he was, but he felt no need to prolong it though, no desire to try to draw more from Sanzo. It was enough; it was a direct answer that someone like Sanzo certainly couldn't put into words, not the way he was now.
"I hope I'm not interrupting anything."
The mildly amused voice made the two start; Sanzo's hand immediately dropped from Goku's, even though the intruder wasn't in a position to see it. Goku stepped back, amazed that he could say, "No, not really," so calmly, without stammering. He really had changed so much...
Hakkai was barely more than a silhouette, but the few steps be took to lessen the distance between himself and the other two was enough to make Goku see the smile that never left the man's face. This was a more tired smile than usual; tired but calm, like someone who had just had a good long cry over a beloved's grave.
"Gojyo found this," he was saying, holding something out to Sanzo. "I thought you'd like to have it as soon as possible."
Sanzo accepted the gift, though he didn't look twice to see if it really was what he was looking for. "I'll take a good look tomorrow," he said, getting to his feet. "While you're driving us back."
"Understood," Hakkai replied. Goku thought he was looking his way, but it was hard to be sure. "We should get some rest, then." Without waiting for an answer, he added a bit of a forced, "Good night," before taking his leave.
Goku watched him, waiting until the man was out of earshot before murmuring, "Hakkai's really tired."
"You and Gojyo wear him out," Sanzo said, starting after the healer. "I can't say I blame him."
Goku bristled. "That's not fair! You were the most injured out of all of us; Hakkai was tending to you the most!"
"Quiet, monkey," Sanzo snapped. As an afterthought, he added, "And if you ever do something like that again without warning, I really will kill you."
"You always say that, always, but you haven't done it yet," Goku argued, trying to meet the man's strides. While he had matured, he hadn't grown much physically. It was such a pain being the smallest of the group; he still had to scramble at times to make sure he could walk alongside them. "Geez, slow down," he complained, grasping a hold of the monk's long sleeve.
I'm always doing that-- reaching for him. Holding something. Anything. Just to make sure he's really there, he thought, fingers curling to grip the fabric. It was vaguely familiar; he always got a prickling sense of déjà vu, as though there had been someone else very much like Sanzo he had always reached for...
But of course, that was impossible. Sanzo was Sanzo; no one else could be like him. Whoever this other entity was that kept trying to confuse him, Goku would have to put it out of his mind if he wanted to keep on living in the present. And, really, the present was all that mattered. No worrying about the past or future would get anything accomplished. That was how all four of them -- him, Sanzo, Hakkai, and Gojyo -- tried to live.
Living for someone else, dying for someone else-- how could anyone live like that? All that would result would be pain and guilt when one couldn't follow through to the end. It was very different from living for oneself and taking advantage of the most important thing in one's life.
The one that saved me from the darkness...
Sanzo glanced back briefly, and Goku smiled. Somehow, despite the annoyingly long sleeves of the man's robes, fingers managed to touch, to intertwine loosely.
"What's wrong with wanting assurance?"
The answer came belated, but Goku didn't miss it, nor was he confused by the seemingly random statement.