Title: We Know About Time
Author: Laeta (fka Aeneus)
Summary: A day of remembrance.
Word count: 1308
A/N: Character death :(
Beta by indy_baggins. I touched it last, so all remaining mistakes are mine! Written for the Minus Wave 'Anniversary' Challenge.
The glass is cold where he touches it, but he doesn't move his hand. Outside is whiteness, framed by his fingers. He moves his hand along the windowpane, as if to brush the snow of the branches of the peach tree.
The terror of the snow has long since gone, but Goku can still recall it - when he focuses hard enough. The memories are still there, a 500 year blend of loneliness, fear and confusion. He used to shy away from those memories, but now he's strong enough. He can float back and feel them, but no longer be dragged back into them.
Warmth fills him, despite the chill in the room; like hot sake, making him slightly lightheaded. He leans his weight against his outspread fingers, re-connecting with the cold. It had taken years to gain that strength, to be truly strong enough to make Sanzo see he was ready.
A knock on his door disturbs his thoughts. He calls out his permission to enter without turning round. He hears one of the monks enter, a shoveling of feet as Goku doesn't acknowledge him.
"Honorable Sanzo, I've brought more wood for the fire," the monk says.
Goku pulls the folds of his robes closer around him.
"Leave it," Goku says.
There's a pause. Finally Goku turns around. The monk's there, head bowed, a large bucket filled with wood hanging from one arm.
"I will tend to it myself," Goku says, his voice softened with melancholy. The monk will surely know what day it is. Five years since the passing of their last Sanzo. Five years since Goku became the 32nd.
The monk leaves the bucket near the fireplace and retreats, shoveling reverently backwards out of the door. The monk's too young to have been at the temple when Sanzo first brought him here. There are only a few monks left in the temple now old enough to still remember the wild kid stealing peaches, the young man come back from saving the world, the man who became their Sanzo's lover and finally the man who inherited that title.
They look at him distrustfully. They fear his continuing youth and call him an abomination behind his back whilst barely managing to spit out his title to his face.
But he's not young anymore, Goku thinks as he turns back towards the window. He has felt the years aging him - slowly, but still... He closes his eyes and leans his forehead against the windowpane. He can feel the chill in the room more keenly now than he ever used to; his knees ache in the morning and he finds himself forgetting meals. He feels he has aged more in the last five years then in all the years before it.
He has wondered whether the loss of his Sanzo has caused this. He hadn't needed the Merciful Goddess's confirmation to know that the bond between them had been forged in the Heavens, even if she was kind enough to confirm this on her last visit.
The memory makes Goku grin. Sanzo had already been ill for some time, despite stubbornly and vocally denying it. Bringing breakfast, Goku had found The Merciful Goddess perched on Sanzo's bed one day. Sanzo was scowling, his hand shaking as he tried to light a cigarette. The Merciful Goddess had smiled indulgently as she had told both of them it was time. The next day Sanzo had bestowed his title on Goku, the day after he had passed away. Goku wondered whether it was Genjyo's redemption or his that had finally allowed him to join the Karmic circle but decided it wasn't worth troubling The Three Aspects over. It's enough that he can feel it and know that one day, he will be joined with his Sanzo again.
At last Goku turns from the window and goes to feed the dying fire in the fireplace. Sanzo hated the cold, turning even surlier every year whenever winter came around. Some days he would refuse to leave the bed in the morning, holding on tight to Goku and complaining to all the Gods and Heavens for the invention of the seasons. Days like that had made Goku love the coming of snow. Sanzo's unspoken reliance on him had made him feel more important than any saving of the world could have done.
Goku looks around for his fur-lined cloak; he will need it today when he goes out to visit Genjyo's grave. It's in the temple graveyard, next to Hakkai's and Gojyo's. Sanzo had made sure their lifelong friends would be buried there, ignoring any protestations from the head priests.
Goku finds the cloak neatly hanging inside the door of
his wardrobe and pulls it on, careful not to disturb the sutras on his
shoulders. As he walks through the corridors monks nod and bow their heads, seemingly
all knowing his errant. It had taken time for him to get used to the reverence most
of the monks bestow him now. He can understand why Sanzo would get so
exasperated at times. When they had come back from
It had raised eyebrows at first, but Goku found it didn't bother him. Sanzo didn't care of course. He never changed in his contempt of other people's judgments of him. In those early days of their relationship, their bond had shifted and grown, letting Goku discover a calm he didn't even know he had. As it turned out, it balanced perfectly with Sanzo's moods. And there were monks who had seen and accepted that change, even if only because they knew Goku made sure at least some of the temple's business got done. Still, over time, they set the tone of the rest of the temple's occupants, acknowledging Goku as a valued member of their community - even when by some, he was only merely tolerated.
The charka on his forehead, were once his coronet had been, had initially brought new distrust and jealousy with it. But today, as Goku walks through the corridors, he only feels the shared mourning and respect the day demands.
The snow is pristine, preserving Goku's footsteps as he makes his way to the graveyard. He stops in front of the modest headstone, no bigger than those marking the graves of his friends. He takes off his gloves and feels inside his robes until his fingers touch the edge of this yearly offering. He carefully extracts the packet of Marlboro - four cigarettes missing. He pulls out a fifth, lights it and inhales. The smoke hits him. Goku has to squeeze his eyes for a moment - hard enough to see stars behind his eyelids. He opens them slowly, wiping away the sting. He takes another hit, more slowly this time.
"I miss you," Goku whispers, the words drifting on the exhale of smoke. He flicks the ash from the tip of his cigarette. There's no breeze and the ash floats lazily down to the ground. Goku watches the random pattern grow as he finishes the cigarette.
He takes a deep breath of cold air, pulls his cloak a little tighter and turns back towards the temple. Another day of duties, another year of living Sanzo's legacy awaits. And breakfast. Goku smiles.