Author's Note: Quick POV from Sanzo, from Saiyuki. Just a mindset study. The phrase, 'bite the bullet' means to make it through a difficult situation just by surviving it, but it also means, 'to grit your teeth, step forward, and endure no matter what.'

Biting the Bullet

He can taste it.

Exhalations extra against his gun and Sanzo's mouth is causing fog to steam against the barrel where he's leaning down against the window.

Three days they've had to wait in the inn too-tiny for all four of them. They're penned up like animals. It took a demon tearing down half the mountain pass they'd expected to take in order to force them to retreat back. Even then, Sanzo had demanded that they push through the rubble that was still sweating granite dust in clouds as thick as bugs in summer over bloated corpses.

Unhealthy to near either of the sources. Dangerous. And no road beside, no path for Hakuryuu to drive upon or the four of them to even attempt to climb.

So they had retreated. Inglorious, ignoble, and most certainly unjust. Their enemy this particular second hadn't had the intelligence to realize that they should show themselves as soon as was convenient for the priest, because the Ikkou had a timeframe that they were following, thank you very much. They didn't have the time to fuck around for other people's amusements though Sanzo was getting the sneaking suspicion that that's exactly what the gods were up to.

Fucking Merciful Goddess, his holy ass.

Not to mention that this specific demon was likely cutting the queue. Wasn't there a reservation line for those seeking to steal the Maten?

If not, there should be.

It means that Sanzo is expecting the whole thing to be a ploy. The inn is a trap; they've been pushed back to wait stationary like so many sitting ducks just waiting to be knocked off at someone else's leisure, bang bang bang. Bang. Whoever was aiming would have a good two shots to spare at the least, no accounting for extra clips or their base magazine, which means that they'd be able to dodge precisely twice amidst the four of them and still be taken down.

Sanzo has one clip in the pocket of his left sleeve and another nudged into his waistband. Betting odds are just waiting for him to encounter an unlucky spasm of chance and have him blow himself up that way but betting odds can wait. The shape of the clips leave imprints when he sleeps on them, but that's the only way he rests well sometimes, just as his fingers are already shaping the curve of a trigger in his dreams.

Hakkai told him once he twitched that forefinger as another man might let his eyelids flutter during particularly violent nighttime hallucinations. Sanzo started tucking his hands in his sleeves after that to hide them.

The priest has been lying against the windowsill because if he's immobile for long enough, he becomes so much of the background noise when glimpsed from afar. His eyes are on the mountain. To look at the road would be too predictable; besides, he had other things for that, other people, other monkeys. Creatures that were being loud and bothersome and that he'd snapped at with his temper rising to beat the roof of his mouth like a bird before Hakkai had taken Goku downstairs. Surveying the path. He'd tempted the monkey with a meatbun. Old swindles always work.

One knuckle is salty when Sanzo touches his tongue to it in an addict's memory. It's from his palm. The sweat of holding the gun for hour upon hour has made his skin reek of metal and flavored him with himself.

It'd be better if he could smoke just to keep his lips occupied, but they've run out of cigarettes.

He'll blame Gojyo for that.

Until they're given more evidence by their enemy, the Ikkou is forced to wait. Waiting means that whatever would enjoy killing them in new and inventive ways has all the more time to plan it. Sitting is surrender. In doing so, control of yourself and your destiny is handed over to an unknown factor while you're left trying to convince yourself over ghosts of tobacco corpses that patience is the best plan of attack. React as your adversary wants you to and you've already lost.

In three more hours, Sanzo will go downstairs, pay their bill, and order everyone to get in the Jeep so they can drive the hell away from here and refuse to play the game at all.

The gun is warm from his mouth nearby. When he swallows hard, the apple of his throat bobs itself against the windowsill and tries to get him to choke. The priest forces his muscles to relax. Play dead. Play waiting. Finger ready, twitching, willing to fire even if they caught him asleep.

The simplest way to overcome this and continue driving ahead would be the method that has all the subtlety of a boar. Go downstairs. Shoot the innkeeper for conspiracy.

Shoot the maids for being spies.

Shoot the cook for trying to poison them with non-lethal drugs, poorly disguised as strong spices.

Use up his own extra two bullets on the porter--Sanzo can't think of a crime for him, but give him time--and then the innkeeper's son, who had stammered when presented by the gold card of the gods. One count of unconsidered idiocy combined with the priest's general apathy for life, bang, bang bang.

Bang.

It wouldn't be any different than leaving them alive for their enemy to kill when it comes.

Instead Sanzo stops leaving teethmarks in the back of his hand, detaching his mouth from his own skin and considering the glisten of spit like a war crime. Gunpowder grit is the truth of stray fantasies that helped pass the time watching nothing change out the window. He stands up. Three hours won't change anything except how quickly everyone in the inn will die.

The film on the roof of his mouth is impatience. It burns like cheap peppers and bloodlust. He can taste it.