Title: Out of the Rubble, Into the Forest

Author: PunkWolf

Pairing: Sanzo/Goku

Rating: PG-13

Warnings: lime-ish-ness, language, angst

Disclaimer: Written for fun, not profit. I own none fo the rights to Minekura's Saiyuki.

Summary: As Goku's absense sends Sanzo into a post-abandonment depression, Goku copes with his own resurfacing memories with an unexpected friend. And Sanzo scrambles to keep Goku from leaving once again.

 

Out of the Rubble

 

Shit.

 

That was the only word Sanzo could think of to describe his current situation.

 

Here he was in Gyumaoh's Castle, wandering around the room that supposedly contained the four sutras besides his own... and the building was falling to pieces around him.

 

"Shit," He said it aloud this time. He had no idea where the others were, having been predictably separated from them during battle... but not before the Demon King made is imposing presence known.

 

And then Goku did what they had all known or suspected it would come to... he removed the divine limiter that had forever graced his forehead. In Sanzo's mind, no sound registered save the clatter of the coronet hitting the stone floor.

 

But time did not freeze, as Sanzo was so sure it had. In real time, everyone else could plainly see or hear the evidence of Goku's transformation- from the lengthening hair and claws to the agonized wails and grunts. It what seemed like forever to Sanzo but no time to the rest... Seiten Taisei emerged.

 

But now Sanzo was utterly and completely alone in the chaotic hall. Seiten Taisei had taken care of the majority of the demons that barred their way, his grisly laughter echoing throughout the corridors. The demonic boy had even taken out Gyumaoh in an epic battle that would have been something to see, but Sanzo was not there to witness it. He only heard the encounter through multiple walls of solid stone. Goku's frenzied roars tangled with the King's rumbling battle cries.

 

The Demon King's defeat had been assured. None of the ikkou doubted Goku's ability. In the three year journey towards India, Goku's sheer strength and combat prowess had increased at least ten-fold... when not in true form. As his alter self, his ability to create destruction and chaos would be justly unleashed upon whomever he deemed his prey. At the moment, battle instinct lead Goku to take out the massive army of Kougaiji's warriors, but who knew how long that would last.

 

The halls had grown quiet since Gyumaoh's fall nearly ten minutes ago, and it unnerved Sanzo that lurking somewhere in the decaying castle around him was Goku, all out of enemies and prepared to pounce on the first living thing he saw.

 

"Dammit," Where were those sutras?

 

Sanzo sulked around the room for a few more moments before pausing long enough to let out a choked sigh of exasperation. The ceiling rumbled above his head and small chunks of stone began to rain about him.

 

Double Shit.

 

A glint of gold caught his eye and his heart stopped as he whirled around, expecting to meet the vicious gaze of Seiten Taisei... instead he spotted something he was sure he had lost nearly two years ago... his master's gold crown.

 

It had grown tarnished and frayed during the time since he'd lost it, obviously having suffered a good deal of abuse since he'd last seen it... at Kami-sama's temple. He thought back on those times fondly. Things had been so much simpler. That had been before Goku had begun his yearlong struggle for control with the beast within himself. Letting himself go right now would be a welcome relief for Goku. The kid, and himself, had lost many a night's sleep during fits where Seiten Taisei had nearly managed to override Goku's control. Countless nights Sanzo had held the boy to him as Goku screamed and writhed his distress, doing everything in his power to keep his friends safe from the demon trapped behind a golden coronet. And Sanzo did everything in his power to protect Goku from himself.

 

He still bore scars from protecting Goku. From Rikudo staff and from the boy's own clawed fists.

 

Sanzo shook himself to rid his mind of those thoughts, but in the brief moment he closed his violet eyes, he tripped over a stray wooden box that escaped his foresight. He grumbled his discontent. Things could not get any worse.

 

He spoke too soon.

 

A dangerously loud creak sounded from just above his head. Sanzo looked up toward the distant ceiling just in time to see an impossibly large portion of rock begin to break free and slowly detach itself from the rest of the ceiling.

 

Sanzo tore his eyes away from his impending doom when another unwelcome sound met his ears.

 

There, in the towering archway to the room, stood a creature he really did not want to deal with right now.

 

Seiten Taisei growled again and took a confident step toward Sanzo, but halted his progress as the crack from the slab entirely freeing itself from the ceiling drew his attention. The ceiling began to fall and just before time sped up to normal, Sanzo was sure he saw something akin to fear flash through Seiten Taisei's feral eyes.

 

As the noises of the crumbling castle merged together to form one monotonous roar, Sanzo closed his eyes, waited for the crushing weight to reach his weak human body lying sprawled on the dust-coated floor. He waited for the death he hadn't feared until now.

 

But it never came. The sound of rock smashing to the ground around him pounded up his heightened senses, but the only thing that touched his skin was the unsettled dust from the crash. He warily opened his eyes to have is cautious gaze met by a similar one of gold.

 

--

 

Hakkai and Gojyo combed the fallen fortress searching for Sanzo's body. They didn't doubt that Goku's awoken animal instincts had lead to his to vacating the castle, and if he hadn't, then they would surely find his broken body among the debris.

 

They reached an area of the wreckage littered with wrecked machinery... Gyumaoh's containment room. If Sanzo had been anywhere during the collapse, it'd be here, searching for his master's sutra.

 

Both men nearly jumped out of their skin when a large pile of rubble began to shift and wobble. It wouldn't have been anything abnormal... if there hadn't of been sound of struggle beneath the quaking mass. Strangled grunts and growls became louder as the larges piece of stone lifted off the rest like a two-ton lid. As it rose, long chestnut hair became visible, just before the straining face of Seiten Taisei... or was it Goku?... came into view. The little monster worked for a few moments longer to finally topple the heavy slab. It shattered against the smaller debris.

 

Seiten Taisei remained still for a few moments, appearing to be catching his breath. Hakkai and Gojyo took the chance to observe Sanzo's charge, taking in all the damage he'd sustained. The majority of his more severe wounds we on his back, probably from the ceiling falling atop him, Hakkai figured. But the wounds seemed too severe to have simply been from the fall of rock. The solution to Hakkai's dilemma surfaced seconds later.

 

Sanzo rose slowly from where he lay. He felt Seiten Taisei's gaze on him, but he knew better. It wasn't Seiten Taisei despite the long hair, elongated ears and deadly claws. But it wasn't Goku either. For the first time in his life, Sanzo found himself looking into the tired eyes of Seiten Taisei Son Goku. And he wasn't afraid. Goku's eyes said it all. No cat-like slits bore down on Sanzo when he met the saru's gaze. Only Goku's wide stare, glowing like it always had.

 

Goku had begun to lift the rock when his abnormal senses picked up Gojyo and Hakkai's voices drawing nearer. It was hard. Every muscle and bone in his body wanted to break under the pressure, but his newfound and utilized power wouldn't let them. He didn't look over at the companions he knew were there. Instead, he opted to catch his breath and allow Sanzo to address them. He didn't know if he could speak anyway.

 

But Sanzo didn't seem to want to speak either - more like just stare at Goku through baffled violet eyes.

 

Hakkai was the first to break the silence. "What happened here?"

 

"Yeah! How the hell did the monkey lift that rock!? I mean, that thing has gotta be at least a ton! I know he's strong and shit but..." Gojyo's tirade was cut off by Goku's head suddenly snapping up, giving Gojyo and Hakkai their first view of his un-changed eyes. Before a comment could be made on the boy's state however... Goku was off, running at break neck speed toward a destination only he knew of.

 

The others followed, though much slower than the monkey's raw, power-fueled pace. They found him in the locating where the throne room used to be--the room they had met Gyumaoh in. The room where Goku had changed.

 

Sanzo's charge didn't even hesitate before climbing over hunk and slab to get to his unknown target. And then he stopped... and started digging.

 

Sanzo sneered at the primalty Goku was displaying. He wasn't supposed to be acting this way. He had Goku's mind... right? "Oi! What the hell are you doing, brat?"

 

Goku didn't respond. He made no indication he'd heard the priest, save one of his demonic ears tilting their direction.

 

All off a sudden, Goku righted himself clutching a dirty object in his dirtier paws.

 

"His coronet..." Hakkai breathed as the object of their attention raised his prize and fitted it firmly on his head.

 

The reaction was immediate. The tenseness that had been present in Goku's muscles vanished along with the demonic traits of his darker half, and he slumped to the ground, but Sanzo was their to catch him. Goku's eyes were closed, but he muttered a faint "Thanks Sanzo..." before slipping into unconsciousness.

 

Sanzo looked at Hakkai, "What the hell is going on?"

 

Hakkai merely shrugged before responding, "I'd have to know the whole story before I could come to an accurate conclusion, I'm afraid," The implications at what the healer wanted were clear.

 

"Ugh, fine," Sanzo complied, "The ceiling began to come down and he came into the room, as Seiten Taisei, just in time to shield me from the rock and ..." Sanzo trailed off, dipping once again into his memories, trying to recall exactly what had happened after Goku saved him from the falling stone.

 

Sanzo remembered opening his eyes to find confused golden ones staring back at him. Neither spoke, but even without words Sanzo could tell Goku was straining himself to support the deadly mass of stone above them. The demon's hands and knees were on either side of Sanzo, but not touching him. The rock groaned above them, asking gravity to allow it to complete its fall. The only thing in the way was one Son Goku, who didn't look like had was going to give up that easily.

 

"Shit," Sanzo muttered, "The brat fucking saved my life."

 

"Aw, thank you so much, monkey. It's just what we all wanted. Sanzo-sama to live on to whap us another day..." Gojyo ribbed.

 

Hakkai looked thoughtful, "I can't say I understand what's going on, Sanzo. If what you say is true, then something inside Goku, even while he was Seiten Taisei, was aware of his surroundings, or at least aware of you. Now, with his coronet on, he seems completely back to normal," Hakkai paused briefly in thought, "The only thing that is stiflingly apparent is that Seiten Taisei has access to untold power that Goku never did. He would never have been able to endure the shock of having and entire ceiling fall upon his back, and still maintain a stable enough condition to support that weight of an extended length of time."

 

"So... basically all that we know is that Goku is way stronger than we thought, right?" Gojyo attempted to translate, "Fuck."

 

"I'm afraid we won't be able to come by any more answers until our little hero wakes up," Hakkai sighed. Sanzo looked down at his charge. For some reason, the boy didn't seem so little anymore... but Sanzo soon forgot about this revelation as they loaded a still unconscious Goku into Jeep and began the trek back to Chang'an.

 

--

 

After almost a year of nonstop traveling and the discovery of two of Houtou's genetically engineered dragons, they ikkou made it back to the temple... and Goku still had yet to awaken from his coma-like sleep, much to the Sanzo-Ikkou's dismay.

 

You can imagine the monastery's surprise when the long absent Genjyo Sanzo strode onto the grounds carrying a very dead looking Goku. Hakkai and Gojyo trailed behind him.

 

They arrived at Goku's quarters to find them horridly unkempt. Sanzo would have a thing or two to spout at those damn monks later. But right now their were other matters that needed to be attended to. Altering their course, Sanzo brought them to his own, well kept, private rooms and quickly placed his charge upon the bed before approaching one of the few bookshelves in the room and selected a promising book.

 

Skimming its pages deftly, he seemed to find what he was looking for. Though both Hakkai and Gojyo could only guess what that was because the monk had not spoken since they had arrived at Chang'an.

 

Sooner than anyone could question him however, Sanzo placed his hand on the very crown of Goku's head, slightly tangling his fingers in the scruffy brown locks, and began chanting.

 

A few minutes later, Sanzo relaxed and released Goku's hair from his grip. The limiter now contained two purple stones embedded in its golden frame.

 

"The punk's gonna wake up soon," Sanzo muttered as he retreated to the door. He turned around, "He's going to be hungry as hell when he does wake up. I'm getting him some food. You coming?" Both Gojyo and Hakkai followed, relief washing over them knowing that Goku would be all right.

 

The three returned a half hour later to an empty room and a solitary note.

 

I can't stay here any longer. Until I understand what's happening to me, I don't want to be near people I might hurt. I'm guessing since I woke up, you gave me a new limiter. Sankyuu.

I'm really sorry-

-Goku

 

-----

 

 

Into the Forest

 

"Two months..." Gojyo moaned, leaning farther back into his chair at the kitchen table. On either side of hi

m sat Sanzo and Hakkai, both voicing similar thoughts.

 

"Damn..." Sanzo hissed.

 

"I suppose we are all rather at a loss for what to make of Goku's absence, even two months later," Hakkai observed, bowing forward to rest his chin upon his propped arms.

 

Goku, as Hakkai had claimed, had been gone two months. For two months, the rest of the Ikkou had been back at Chang'An, lazing about, wondering what their monkey was up to. Hakkai and Gojyo had refused to leave a depressed and brooding Sanzo to his own devices, and opted to stay at Chang'An until a long term plan of action had been decided upon.

 

Sanzo had, at first, demanded they go look for his charge. He had even gone so far as to wander into the forest searching for the missing boy, but Hakkai was eventually able to reason with him. Goku was much more adept at traversing many miles of wilderness than they were, and he most likely would not stick to any trails that were wide or flat enough for Hakuryu to navigate.

 

So Sanzo moped.

 

After the journey, no matter how many times he had said otherwise, he had not planned on forcing his charge to leave. He would not have barred the young man from doing so, but he wouldn't have kicked him out either. And inside, he had been sure Goku would have stayed with him, no matter what the priest did.

 

Thoughts drifted back to when Goku had been battling Seiten Taisei for the warranted control on all those long nights, filled with Goku's anguished calls that Sanzo could not answer. All Sanzo had been able to do was clutch Goku to his chest as the heretic violently battled himself for hours on end. Whether Sanzo had liked it for not, he had grown closer to Goku during that last year before Gyumaoh's downfall.

 

Sanzo wasn't annoyed that Hakkai and Gojyo had chosen to remain at Chang'An with him; he was just... frustrated. They obviously thought he was a danger to himself right now. Wallowing in some post-abandonment depression. But he was not. Every day, from the early days when he had spent afternoon after afternoon restoring Goku's room to its previous state, to later when he was gazing up into the branches of Goku's favorite peach tree, he would think about the monkey and why he left. Why hadn't Sanzo been enough to comfort him this time?

 

"Sanzo..." Hakkai whispered to the monk gently, "This can't go on forever. If Goku hasn't returned by now... I think he plans to be gone quite awhile."

 

"Yeah, Sanzo," Gojyo did his best not to be his abrasive self, "The monkey, as much as I hate to admit it, grew up a lot over the last couple of years. You were with him through most of it, so I know you know it. And if he's really set on this decision here... who knows what he's doing now."

 

"Yes, the only thing we can be sure of, Sanzo, is that Goku is still alive," Hakkai soothed, "And that will have to be enough to keep us going, because we are obviously not included in whatever divine circle is watching over Goku now."

 

"... It's not enough," Sanzo growled. For nearly nine years, Goku had been a constant part of his life. Hakkai and Gojyo could hardly understand how abandoned... empty he felt. And this wasn't the first time. This was the second time a figure he depended upon had been removed from his life. And once again, he wanted to crumble, but knew he couldn't.

 

Hakkai seemed to piece together the connection, "Sanzo. This isn't like losing your master. As I said before, Goku is still alive out there somewhere, of that we can be sure. And if Goku means as much to you as it appears he does, that should be enough right now. Goku would not like it if he knew he were the cause of your pain like this."

 

"Well, goddammit, he is!" Sanzo roared without thinking. The monk just wanted Hakkai to understand how wrong he truly was.

 

"Fine, Sanzo. Let Goku's absence rot away at you, just like you did with your master before, but know that just like your brooding did to Goku before, it's bugging the hell outta me and Hakkai now. And I'm sure that if Goku knew of it, it'd be hurting him too!" Gojyo roared back at the surly priest. Hakkai decided to take a different approach.

 

"Sanzo. There is no need to let yourself remain stalled like this. My reasoning is this - your master died and could never come back to you. What you fail to see is that Goku is most certainly not dead. The point is, Goku... Goku might still come back. There is always that chance. You have not lost him forever, Sanzo."

 

Sanzo thought about this, and no matter what angle he looked at it from, Hakkai was right. The blond grumbled and stood up, retreating to look out the window at the setting sun in the west they had so recently retuned from.

 

There were a few moments of pregnant silence before Sanzo spoke, "What are you two still doing here?"

 

"Well, I am drinking my rice wine and Gojyo appears to be finishing up his third cigarette of the evening."

 

"That's not what I meant. We've been back for two friggin' months, yet you guys are still here. Why?"

 

"Goku's leaving was a loss for all of us, Sanzo. We all traveled with him, and his disappearance hurt us as it does you. We may not have been in his company as often or for as long as you, but we were still under his influence for quite a long time. Six years in fact."

 

"Yeah, monk. Could it kill us to stick together for awhile?"

 

"It's been 'a while'. I think it's time you two went home. I can't run a temple having you two breathing down my neck."

 

Hakkai smiled. Sanzo hadn't even made an attempt to get back into business at Chang'An. This was a sign of great improvement on their friend's part, "Ah. I can see how our presence would be a hindrance to you. I must agree. If this temple is to have its Sanzo back, I suppose it would be best for us to head home ourselves, ne, Gojyo?"

 

Gojyo laughed, "Fine. But you know where to find us, Sanzo-sama. And we don't plan on going anywhere anytime soon."

 

--

 

Two months.

 

Goku wandered alone, forest spread out on all sides of him. The familiar scent of Chang'An had long ago faded away to be replaced by the rich smell of pine and fresh mountain air.

 

He had no destination. So he just kept walking. Day after day. Week after week. Only once had he consciously picked a direction in which to travel. And that was when the surrounding once again became a mite familiar. All at once, it had come back to him. It had been the area of the woods that he and Sanzo had trekked through after Sanzo had freed him from his confines at the peak of Mt. Gogyo. His revelation was immediately followed by an overwhelming sense of dread, fear and nausea. He decided it best to stay away from Mt. Gogyo.

 

Now, after just meandering for so long without another soul to talk to... he felt the dismal loneliness sink its teeth into his very being. He may be able to roam as he pleased, but he was once again found himself briefly forgetting the sound of his own voice.

 

Only this was different. He now had names to call.

 

Some nights, he would climb up atop the nearest ridge and call out. He'd call Gojyo, Hakkai, Hakuryu and even Kougaiji sometimes. But most often, he called Sanzo. It was the first name he had learned, and the last one he wanted to forget.

 

And now, as the endless forest stretched on before him, he found the silence to deafening to bear, yet to loud to break. It was a silence that he had not experienced in nine years... so to a part of him, it was familiar.

 

But soon, the other part of realized how unnatural this silence was for the world below his cage. Where had the birds gone? The small animals that no longer feared his presence? The wind?

 

The silence unnerved him, but he kept walking, chanting his own name inside his mind with every step. With no one to call him, he did not want to forget his own name.

 

"Goku!"

 

The youkai froze at the sound. It was a voice. He turned to look up into the branches of the tree he had just passed, where the sound had come from.

 

"L- Lirin?" Goku stammered, completely shocked to find another soul out in these secluded woods, let alone a person he knew.

 

"Goku! Goku! Do you have food?" The heretic slowly shook his head. He carried nothing with him, and hunted for meat when his lingering hunger grew to be too much to bear, "Awww..." Lirin sighed, slouching back against her tree, "Is Sanzo here? He always has meatbuns with him for Lirin-chan!"

 

"No," Goku whispered, knowing Lirin's youkai senses could hear him, "No one's here this time. I'm alone."

 

"Wha?" Lirin gasped, "Why are you alone? Where are the others?"

 

"I left them back at Sanzo's temple. I'm too dangerous for them to be around..."

 

Lirin paused a moment before asking, "Were you the one who killed our father?"

 

Goku completely turned to look at the youkai girl, "I don't remember, but I'm willing to bet that I did. I think... I think I killed everybody..."

 

"Everybody?"

 

"They were all dead... except... hey! How the hell are you still alive? We ripped that castle apart."

 

"Me and onii-chan weren't there."

 

"Wha? Why?" Goku could now recall not seeing either Kougaiji or Lirin amid the chaotic battle, even when Yaone and Dokugakuji had joined them fighting Gyokumen's forces.

 

"He took me away when my mom lied to him."

 

"Lied? Lied about what?"

 

"My mother," Goku spun around to meet the new voice. Behind him stood Kougaiji himself, dressed as he always had been, if not a little more worn than they'd seen him in the past.

 

"Kougaiji..." Goku muttered, sizing up the newcomer, silently praying they wouldn't have to fight now that it was all over.

 

"What are you doing out here Goku? You've almost reached the sea. I was aware that Sanzo's temple was further inland."

 

"No. I don't know where I'm going... just away," Kougaiji looked puzzled.

 

"What are you talking about?"

 

"When I woke up, after the fight in Houtou Castle, I was in Sanzo's bed back at the temple. I felt…different, and when I reached up... my limiter had changed." Kougaiji's gaze drifted up to take in the remodeled coronet. Goku noticed his stare. "What does it look like?"

 

The Demon Prince looked back at Goku. "Pretty much the same... except it has two purple stones in it."

 

"What stones?"

 

"I've never seen stones like them before, so I couldn't say."

 

"Oh, anyway. When I realized my limiter was different, I knew that... I'd gotten to be too much. I can only get stronger, I know that. And as long as I keep getting stronger... they wouldn't be safe. So I left."

 

Kougaiji looked at Goku for a long moment before turning to his half-sister still nestled in her tree, "Where did you find him?"

 

"Right here, onii-chan! He just walked below my tree allovasudden." She pouted, "He doesn't have any food, did you find any?"

 

"No. This part of the woods seems unnaturally barren."

 

"Hey, why are you guys out here? And where were you that day when we fought Gyumaoh?"

 

"We were nowhere near the castle. There was no reason for me to be. I had released myself from Gyokumen's service."

 

"I don't get it."

 

"That wench lied to me, for all these years. She told me... if I obeyed her, she'd release the curse binding my mother to the stone pillar," Goku's memory flashed back to a room within the Castle where there had been a demon woman that seemed carved out of the stone she protruded from. His mother? "But she was dead. She's was dead the whole time. Yet that bitch still used her to manipulate me. I killed so many trying to free her. So many who shouldn't have died..." Kougaiji's gaze lowered to the ground below him. Lirin whimpered behind them at her brother's distress.

 

"You're strong, right Kougaiji?" Goku asked tentatively.

 

"'Course onii-chan's strong! That's why the only person ever to fight him and NOT die is Goku!" Kougaiji tossed Lirin and exasperated look.

 

"I guess I knew that," Goku admitted, before looking Kougaiji directly in the eye. The Prince had not expected the look, and started a bit at the intensity of Goku's gaze, "You are strong Kougaiji. I would like to travel with you and your sister. I know I'm dangerous, but at least you stand a better chance against me then they did... and the silence... I can't take it anymore... it's too much like before!" Goku was almost wailing by the time Kougaiji cut him off.

 

"Before? In the mountain?" Kougaiji'd heard the legends, and knew of Goku's true nature.

 

"Yeah..." Goku whispered, eyes downcast, he shuddered.

 

"For five hundred years..." Kougaiji pressed.

 

"That's how long Sanzo told me I was there." Kougaiji wanted a moment in thought.

 

"You say you killed everyone you ran into back at the castle. I presume that included Gyokumen, did it not?"

 

"I don't know. Well, I know I killed everyone, but I don't remember exactly what happened after Gyumaoh came and I took off my limiter."

 

Kougaiji nodded, "I suppose that if you killed that woman, I am indebted to you, Son Goku. I would be willing to allow you to join me and Lirin in our travels."

 

"Really?"

 

"Goku, you and I have more in common than you realize. I, too, have heard the silence only 500 years of loneliness can bring, from when I was sealed in my father's castle."

 

Goku and Kougaiji shared a sad smile before Lirin plowed into Goku from behind. "Yay! Goku's gonna come with us! Now I got someone to play with!"

 

As Goku and Lirin began to wrestle on the mossy forest floor, Kougaiji wondered just what he had gotten them into.

 

--

 

It wasn't four days later, as Lirin slept curled up next to her brother, that Goku addressed Kougaiji solemnly from across the fire they were camped around.

 

"Ne, Kougaiji. Do you remember things from before? Before you were sealed?"

 

Kougaiji gave Goku a questioning look before answering, "Yes. I remember. Why do you ask?"

 

"Cuz I can't remember anything from before Mt. Gogyo..." Kougaiji looked a little surprised at this.

 

"You remember nothing of Heaven?"

 

"Heaven?"

 

"I see..." Kougaiji looked from Goku into the dancing flames between them. Meanwhile, Goku fumed.

 

"What!? You bastard! You can't just tell someone something like that and not say anything else!!!"

 

"It is not my place to tell you what I know of your past, as little as it may be. Your memories must have been sealed away for a reason that I cannot determine. I do not have the jurisdiction over such matters. That is the Merciful Goddess's place, not mine."

 

"Arg... fine! Then tell me about your past."

 

Kougaiji looked back up at Goku, "You want to know of my past?"

 

Goku flashed a wide grin. "Yeah!"

 

"No one, not even Yaone and Dokugakuji, asked of my life before the revival began. I don't think it occurred to them that I really was born over five hundred years ago..."

 

"Well, I believe it."

 

"What?"

 

"It's not hard to see, really. Just during the past few days, I've noticed a lot of things. Like sometimes you get this really far away look that makes you look a ton older than Sanzo and even Hakkai. And Hakkai told me once... that I sometimes look like that, too."

 

"You really are quite observant."

 

Goku laughed lightly, "Well, you gotta be when it comes to Sanzo, and I lived with him for nine years!"

 

Kougaiji returned the laugh, "I supposed one would have to be fairly adept at reading people if they were to live with that man," he leaned forward to prod the fire's coals with a stick, causing the flames to swell with a gentle crackle, "You wanted to know of my past. Well, I shall tell you a piece of it, for now.

 

"500 years ago, my father ruled as the brutish Demon King. Countless died at his hand, or by his orders. I never understood what my mother saw in him. He was ogre-ish in appearance and had a personality to match. All he seemed to care about was power. But I tolerated him. He made her happy. Until I discovered his infidelity.

 

"He had many concubines living in the very castle where he, his wife and son resided. And my mother knew. She never let it show that his disregard for their mating bothered her, but deep down, I knew it did. And one day, one of his whores announced she was pregnant."

 

"Gyokumen..." Goku whispered into the fire, beginning to piece it all together.

 

"Yes, Gyokumen," Kougaiji sneered, but he let the subject drop, "When she came forth declaring her child to be my father's, he grew furious. He banished her from his castle and went on a rampage, killing thousands of demons and humans in a matter of days. The carnage left in his wake was so great, Heaven could no longer deny the threat he had become. So they sent the Prince of War down to dispose of him."

 

"Homura?" Goku asked, recalling that Homura had called himself the Prince of War.

 

"No. This was before Homura assumed the position. It was his predecessor who was sent by Heaven to kill my father. Do you understand the workings of Heaven, Goku?"

 

Goku shook his head.

 

"I suppose you would not. Well, heavenly beings are forbidden to take a life. The only Heaven dweller with the power to kill, is the War Prince. It is said that the one who holds that title is merely a killing puppet for Heaven, with hardly any freedom, let alone respect. But the respect issue might have to do with the persons who last held the position, and not the title itself."

 

"Why were they not respected?"

 

"Homura was looked down upon by the Gods because he was a heretic. I'm sure you are well aware that you are the same, in a way, Goku?"

 

"Yeah. Homura explained that to me."

 

"Well, before Homura, there was another Prince, the one who was sent to kill my father. I still remember the day War Prince Nataku descended upon Houtou castle..." Kougaiji continued to tell his tale, failing to notice Goku's gaze become unfocused and his breathing speed up.

 

"Nataku..." He breathed. Thoughts swirled within his head, each one coming and going faster than the next. He knew that name. And not like he had heard in passing or in a conversation either. He knew this name. He knew this person. Goku just knew it. And suddenly, a sharp, clean picture appeared in his mind's eye.

 

It was a boy, young by the looks of it, with ivory colored hair pulled back into a wrap, except for a few wisps that hung around his round, doll-like face. The boy was holding up what appeared to be a marker and laughing. And Goku felt the overwhelming urge to laugh as well, but he didn't understand why.

 

Seconds later, his mind pieced it together. Nataku and this boy were the same. The young boy, laughing with the black marker, was Nataku. It seemed, that once his mind figured that out, even more was revealed to him, for the picture in his mind began to move. Nataku was speaking, but only one sound echoed in Goku's mind... it was what sounded like his own laughter. Then Nataku stopped laughing and his own laughter died in his ears. Both looked around cautiously, silent for a few moments, before laughing again. This time, both his and Nataku's laughter rang out inside his mind.

 

With that bit of sound came a flood of memories Goku was sure he had never seen before, but was positive he was reliving again now, as he watched them. Almost all of them featured Nataku, but there were a few other faceless figures as well. But they didn't matter. All that mattered was this dark haired boy from long ago. That boy, and the memories that were now settling themselves into his mind.

 

"Gyokumen and Lirin must have been sealed too, because they were still alive now, but I don't know what happened to them. Lirin can't remember, she was too young... Goku, what's wrong with you?" Kougaiji asked, deviating from his story, having just noticed Goku's glazed eyes and slack jaw.

 

"I remember..." Goku whispered.

 

"Remember what?"

 

"I remember him... I remember... Nataku. He was in Heaven... and I was in Heaven. Best friends... and then... and then... nothing."

 

Kougaiji looked intently at his new companion, "What are you talking about Goku?"

 

Suddenly Goku seemed to snap out of whatever daze he had been in, he looked franticly around before his eyes fell on Kougaiji, who was still watching him closely, "Kougaiji! I remember! I remember something from b'fore!"

 

"What is it?" Kougaiji asked, looking only a fraction as confused as he felt.

 

"Nataku! I knew him! I saw him! He was laughing... he said... he said he had just drawn on the Jade Emporer's face with a black marker... and we were hiding from the guards who were looking for him and... um... someone who was lookin' for me! He was my best friend!"

 

Kougaiji's face relaxed a bit as he put the pieces together, "You knew Nataku?" Goku nodded furiously, "What happened to him? Why did Homura replace him?"

 

Goku's excited fidgeting stopped as he began to look pensive once again, "I don't remember that part..." Goku was quiet for a minute, "I don't remember much at all. Just Nataku, and little pieces that come along with it."

 

Kougaiji looked thoughtful, "Lirin and I have been merely wandering around since Houtou's fall, and I don't suppose you have any plans on where to go from here, do you?"

 

"What's yer point?"

 

"Perhaps... we have a goal now."

 

Goku looked utterly confused, "Huh?"

 

"What do you say we go find your memories Goku?"

 

A smile slowly spread across his new friend's face, "I say wake up Lirin and let's go!"

 

Maybe I'll finally find my answers, so I can go home.

 

--

 

Gojyo and Hakkai had moved back into Gojyo's shack two years ago today.

 

Sure, they visited often enough, and there was never a shortage of work to be done at Chang'An. Yet even so, what was the piece of himself that his heart insisted he was missing?

 

Oh, right. Duh.

 

He hadn't forgotten about his long lost charge. No way in hell. No matter how hard he tried to forget about the monkey for at least a moment, the lasting essence of Goku that Sanzo seemed to have sucked into his pores overwhelmed him.

 

But now, that deep seated worry was accompanied by something else. Burning anger toward his errant charge.

 

Who the hell did that punk think he was, just up and leaving Sanzo not ten minutes after they had finally gotten that damn quest over with? The West was a direction, not a destination, once again. And that audacious, impudent little whelp of a heretic thought he was hot enough stuff to merely leave.

 

Did it ever occur to him to ASK SANZO his opinion on the matter? NO!

 

So now, during a rare moment of peace. Sanzo watched the sun set in the distant west, cursing his charge to all seven circles of hell, and at the same time was wishing... they were back in the west. Where he could still see Goku. Where Goku's scent was once fresh all around Sanzo to the point where he decided that the air didn't smell like Goku, Goku smelled like air. Sanzo ached for those chaotic times when at least, he had his charge to lean on when he fell, and the monkey would clutch priestly robes at night while he battled his mental demons.

 

But each and every day had Sanzo succumbing to the fact that the longer Goku was away, the less likely it was that his monkey was coming back.

 

And then Sanzo would wonder... what Goku was doing at the moment? Did Goku still take time to watch the sunset? Did sunsets even matter to the young heretic anymore?

Sanzo wondered these things because it was just like Hakkai said, if they could depend on anything, it would be the fact that Son Goku is most defiantly still alive out there somewhere. And it was this thought that kept Sanzo from turning the banishing gun on himself.

 

As long as Goku was out their somewhere, Sanzo could keep on living.

 

Today's the 5th of April. Happy Birthday Goku.

 

--

 

With a thud Nyoi-bo smashed through another skull.

 

Goku grunted in time with his rhythmic swinging, steadily adding bodies to the pile. He loved to fight, even after all these years, and with Kou to train with, he had gotten unbeatable. But one thing Goku did NOT love, was where Kougaiji was taking them.

 

It was in the village several miles from their destination that Goku heard about the rabid wolf pack that had been terrorizing the village and killing both human and youkai children. The pack was old and had been a part of these lands for so long, but now, the group was terribly sick, and madness clutched at their minds, driving them to kill without thought or remorse.

 

And Goku knew what he had to do.

 

That night, as Kou and Lirin-chan slept within the cozy confines of the inn, Goku snuck out into the wilderness.

 

It did not take him long to find the pack, they were always near town waiting for a youngster to venture just a little too far out of reach before snatching it up and carrying it away in various wolf bellies.

 

Their once piercing eyes glowed with unchecked rage and their once sleek coats were matted with saliva and innocent blood. Desperation and psychosis tainted their once fluid movements as they lunged at Goku, but Goku was no youngster. He'd turn 23 as today becomes tomorrow. And he'll ring in a new year by bashing some poor wolf skulls.

He couldn't watch the creatures whose howl had once been nature's lullaby wither away into these mindless creatures. They were too pure, too proud for what they had now become.

 

Goku intended to end this downward spiral before anyone else fell pray to its clutches.

 

The next morning, Goku arrived back at the inn, just as dawn broke the horizon. He was not sweaty. He hardly ever broke a sweat any more unless he was fighting Kou. He was not dirty. He never slipped up in battle. Even Kou had complimented him on his morbid grace in the thick of combat. But he was covered in blood. Horrid, sticking, reeking wolf's blood. And if this rank smell didn't wake his demonic companions, nothing would. He was greeted by Kougaiji standing in the door way to his room.

 

"And just where have you been?"

 

Goku flashed a wide grin at his friend, attempting to dodge the question he really didn't need to answer at this point. Kougaiji sighed as he moved aside to let Goku into the room. Both he and Lirin were already awake it seems.

 

The minute he was in the room, Lirin launched herself at him, "Happy Birthday Go-chan!" She squealed, wrapping him in a monstrous hug that would have killed a lesser youkai.

 

"Sankyuu, Lirin-chan." Goku wheezed though the vice-like hug. When he was finally released, he turned to Kougaiji once more, "Why are you guys up so early, Kou?"

"We will be at the mountain's base today. Tomorrow we will ascend to the summit. Just because it's you're birthday does not mean you're off the hook."

 

"Aww... why do I gotta do this, Kou? Is it really necessary?"

 

"Yes, Goku. How many times have I had to explain this to you? You're so close. These last two years you have discovered so much about the past you'd forgotten... yet you're still trapped by the life which you were released into. This fear needs to be faced. And maybe, with conquering it, you'll find that last piece."

 

It was true. During the last few years, Kougaiji and Lirin had dragged Goku all over the continent, teaching him, training him and helping him gather bits and pieces of his memories as they surfaced. Now, only the faces of those first figures remained shrouded by mystery.

 

He even remembered why he had been trapped in the prison in the first place. Well, everything until his vision went black. He guessed that this blank was the aftermath of Seiten Taisei's breakout. The last thing he could remember was a faceless man dressed in lavender crumpling before him.

 

Besides his lost memories, Kougaiji and Lirin had helped him solve some of the mysteries surrounding his actions the day that Houtou Castle was destroyed.

 

Like, how he apparently slept for over a month after he had placed his limiter back upon his head where it belonged. Kou reasoned that if his previous limiter had no longer been able to effectively subdue his other half, then his body would have subconsciously been able to recognize that imbalance of power, and would have gone into a temporary shock-like state to contain the darkness within. Sanzo's new limiter could effectively contain a much higher level of demonic energy, and thus gave Goku the room he needed to grow. Lirin helped him take care of his coronet and the accessory had not failed to keep his demon in check at all in the last two years.

 

But why he had reverted back and saved Sanzo was still a mystery.

 

"Come Goku, Lirin. We depart for the mountain now," Kougaiji announced as he left the room in long graceful, princely, strides.

 

It was two seconds later that his retreat was followed by a loud, offended scream form both Lirin and Goku.

 

"WHAT ABOUT BREAKFAST!?!?!?!"

 

--

 

That had been a total and complete waste of time. No, time might as well have gone backwards during the last few hours, because that little escapade was so utterly, and completely unproductive.

 

They had climbed Mt. Gogyo for the first time since Goku was released, and without the presence of his guardian, Goku slowly fell prey to blinding fear and depression.

 

When they reached the top, they were greeted by frighteningly familiar stone bars plastered with talismans. Kougaiji stared only for a moment at what had been his now best friend's home for 500 godforsaken years. But he was also the first to overcome the numbing shock and step forward. Something cracked under his foot.

 

The sound drew Goku's attention away from the cage and he looked down to where Kou's foot was now lifting off the ground, also curious to what had made the noise. His foot raised to reveal the broken remnants of a small bird skeleton.

 

A whimper escaped Goku's throat as his knees gave out and his legs collided with the earth below him. Silent rivers of tears began to pour down his cheeks at the sight of the broken remains before him. He could not take his eyes off the bird's shattered body.

 

Having lived with Goku for two years now with hardly any other human/demon contact, Kougaiji felt he knew the young man as well as either Gojyo or Hakkai, especially since he had been helping the heretic track down pieces of him memory. Kougaiji had been told about the lonely bird that had befriended Goku atop the windswept mountain. And he was quick to put two and two together.

 

He was at Goku's side in a second, followed closely by Lirin, obviously worried for their companion as well.

 

Breathless sobs began to wrack Goku's lithe body as memories and feelings tore at his mind from his endless stay within the cave. He was not ready for this. He was not. He needed... he needed...

 

"Sanzo!" Goku wailed to the distant clouds, even as Kougaiji wrapped him in a comforting embrace, Goku could only silently keep calling, aching for something to ward off his impending breakdown.

 

--

 

Sanzo sat straight up in bed, gasping at the implications of what he had just thought he heard. The sound woke Gojyo and Hakkai, who had deemed tonight the perfect night for a camp-out to get Sanzo out of the temple for awhile before he killed one of the monks.

 

"Oi, Sanzo-sama. What's up?" Gojyo groaned as he lazily rubbed the sleep from his wine-red eyes.

 

"No... it can't be…" Sanzo whispered, straining to hear whatever it was again, just to be sure he had heard correctly. No sound came, "Did you guys hear...?" Sanzo couldn't finish his question. How crazy would he look if he claimed he heard Goku's voice calling for him through the quiet night air?

 

"Sanzo, are you alright?" Hakkai pressed and now both were looking at Sanzo, worried expressions splashed across their faces. It had been over 18 months since Sanzo had had a nightmare of any sort, though they had been frequent during the months where Goku's disappearance was still fresh.

 

Then Sanzo remembered... and he refocused his senses internally...and there it was. Deep inside his mind, a voice, slightly deeper, but still undeniably Goku, was calling to him.

Never, in all his years with the boy, had Goku sounded so... desperate.

 

"I hear him," Sanzo whispered. Both Gojyo and Hakkai knew that what he was referring to was not a voice either of them could hear.

 

"Are you sure Sanzo?" Hakkai asked cautiously.

 

Sanzo tossed him a half-hearted glare, "I haven't heard it in two damn years; I think I'd know when his voice suddenly invades my mind again. Damn bakazaru," Sanzo growled, though inside he was growing frantic. What was out there making his charge so distressed?

 

"Well? What's he saying? "Gojyo prodded, curious to tonight's turn of events.

 

"Nothing," Sanzo muttered, "He's just calling... like he did before but... this time..."

 

Hakkai waited for him to continue, but when Sanzo offered no more, the healer gently set his explanation in motion once more, "What's different this time Sanzo?"

 

"He's upset. It's like, he's having a breakdown or something. He's never sounded so... defeated before. So... weak." By the end, Sanzo was whispering.

 

The voice quieted a bit but still called in the back of his mind.

 

Goku... what's happening to you? Why can't I be there?

 

--

 

Sanzo...Sanzo... Sanzo... Sanzo...

 

Goku chanted over and over in his head as Kougaiji rocked him back and forth while Lirin calmly stroked his hand. Tears still cascaded from his heretical eyes, but his voice had long ago left him.

 

It was amazing how Kougaiji and Lirin had become the closest thing to a family he'd ever known. Things were just different with them than it had been with Sanzo, Hakkai and Gojyo.

 

Gojyo may have been big brother-ish, but nothing like Kou. Kougaiji had offered him guidance and a rival while Gojyo had merely offered him an invitation to a wfwap on the head from Sanzo...

 

Sanzo... Sanzo... Sanzo... Sanzo...

 

Lirin, though she was three years younger than him, was more like his twin sister than anything else. And both the demon siblings mother-hen'd over Goku in a fashion that could have rivaled Hakkai.

 

But neither of them were Sanzo.

 

Sanzo... Sanzo... Sanzo... Sanzo...

 

Sanzo's presence in his life had been... unlike anything else Goku had ever had. He didn't know what to call it, or how to describe it. Not a father... no. Sanzo was only 5 years older, in theory, than Goku. Sanzo had not been a brother. If anyone had been such, it was Gojyo.

 

What had Sanzo been to him?

 

Sanzo... Sanzo... Sanzo... Sanzo...

 

Eventually, his quaking stopped and Kougaiji slowly loosened his hold on the boy.

 

Goku was tired. Mondo tired, in fact. He felt him body slump against the welcoming bodies of his quasi-family as darkness played at the edge of his vision. His last coherent thought-

 

I'm gonna kill Kou for dragging us here.

 

--

 

A week after they hastily departed Mt. Gogyo, Goku still had not recovered mentally or emotionally. He was sullen and jumpy, and did everything in his power to keep from being touched. Both Lirin and Kougaiji sported many bruises from the monkey's lashing out.

 

Eventually, Goku's sour mood got to be too much for Lirin to handle, her outburst grating in the silence of the oncoming night.

 

"Go-chan! I'm sick of your attitude mister. Now cheer up and play with Little Lirin!"

 

Goku only murmured an offhand reply. Lirin pouted a moment before turning about-face to call out to her half-brother lounging in a tree behind her.

 

"Onii-chan! I'm going to go explore, call me when Goku comes back and kicks this poop-head's butt!" Lirin squealed before dashing off through the trees. Kougaiji didn't think about stopping her. She and Goku had gone off in the same fashion numerous times. They were both capable enough to handle whatever the forest threw at them.

 

Kougaiji turned to Goku. The earth child was facing away from him staring into the unknown of the dark forest in front of him.

 

"Goku..."

 

No response.

 

"Goku. What's wrong with you? We left the mountain a week ago, yet you're still brooding."

 

No response.

 

Now, Kougaiji was getting ticked. During the past few years, he felt that he and Lirin had become the family Goku never had. It was like they were long lost siblings. The former Prince could no longer imagine fighting with Goku the way they had during the time of the Journey West. When Goku refused to speak to him about what was troubling the young man, Kougaiji felt betrayed and worried by the uncharacteristic behavior.

 

They sat alone in the small clearing for hours. Eventually the sun rose and the sounds of birds returned to their ears.

 

"Goku-"

 

"Where's Lirin?"

 

Kougaiji scanned the clearing from his lofty perch. Lirin was nowhere in sight. Had she not returned yet? It seemed unlikely that she would stay away on purpose. When the younger two of the group explored, they were typically back within and hour or two. "Has she not returned?"

 

Goku shook his head. "No. And I can't smell her. She's nowhere near here. And it's..." He didn't have to say it. It was breakfast time. Lirin was always on hand when it was time to war with Goku over food.

 

Goku stood up suddenly, surprising Kougaiji.

 

Neither said anything until Goku began to walk off in to the forest. Then Kou called out, "Where are you going?"

 

Goku stopped but didn't turn. He merely twisted his head to cast Kougaiji a one-eye glance, "I'd have thought that would be obvious. We aren't familiar with this area and Lirin hasn't come back. I'm going to look for her."

 

That was partly a lie. This place did seem very familiar, but Goku couldn't place it. At one time, Goku knew that he would have recognized it instantly, but with the recent trekking and newfound memories, his mental vision still remained a bit dysfunctional and clouded. His mind was still settling around all the new information it had received.

 

Goku vaguely registered Kougaiji leaping gracefully down from his tree and coming to stand next to him, "I'll be coming too, of course."

 

Goku did not object. With only a silent agreement between them, Goku vanished into thin air as he dashed off to locate their missing cohort. Kougaiji followed to the best of his ability at a distinctly slower, but still rapid pace.

 

--

 

Sanzo sat beneath the peach tree in blessed silence. He had a splitting headache. During the past week since he'd heard Goku call for him, he'd been acutely troubled by the unknown factor that had caused Goku such distress. The only time Goku's voice had ever been so clear was just before Sanzo had freed him all those years ago. It would take a something very disquieting to make a being as strong as Goku so troubled.

 

Sanzo sighed. But as long as Goku remained separate from his life at now, he'd never know what had upset Goku so deeply.

 

Hell, he didn't even know Goku's everyday life at this point. Was Goku still alone after all these years, or had he found a companion or group to latch onto. If so, who? Was Goku wandering the continent? Or had he found a town to settle down in? Was Goku even ON the continent still, or had he found a way to escape to far off shores? Sanzo sorely hoped that was not the case. He still held onto a slim ray of hope that he'd see Goku again someday. And if his charge was off in America or some other far off place, he'd probably be determined never to see Sanzo again.

 

Another sigh. This time, Sanzo let fly the orange paper airplane within his grasp. The ground around him was littered with the things. He knew he was going against something by flying them in the dull light of the early morning, but he didn't care. They helped him think clearly about his lost charge. It reminded him that no matter what Goku did or where he went, there was an undeniable connection between the two of them that neither distance nor time could break.

 

Sanzo was fairly sure that even death would fail to snap these bonds.

 

And he wasn't sure if he liked that idea.

 

To be in this kind of empty pain for lifetimes to come, did not sound like an ideal situation to him.

 

Sanzo hated emotions. And he was fairly sure...

 

...he'd fallen in love with Goku a long time ago.

 

Sanzo's alone time was cut short by a shriek near where the forest ended just beyond the monastery. He turned to see a very unwelcome presence quickly sprinting towards him.

 

"What the hell are you doing here?" He spat as the visitor ground to a halt just before him. It seemed with age came maturity. It had been over two years since he'd seen her, after all.

 

"Sanzo-chan!!!" Lirin squealed with delight. She hadn't changed at all, with the exception of a few added inches to her height and miraculously, her bust, "I didn't know you lived around here!"

 

"How the hell would you have found out anyway?" Sanzo growled, slightly unnerved by her resemblance to Goku.

 

"Go-chan would have told us!" the girl squeaked, drawing her hands up to her face, hiding her broad smile. It must have been a habit she'd picked up during puberty. Insecurity. Sanzo thought numbly. Something Goku had never experienced during his own period of growth.

 

Wait... Go-chan?

 

"And," Sanzo patiently asked, not wanting to give away the anticipation he felt, though it must be pulsing off him in droves, "Just who the hell is 'Go-chan.' And how how the fuck would he know where I live?"

 

Lirin looked confused for a moment, before she seemed to catch on, "Oh, right! You wouldn't know! I never heard anyone call him that before we found him!"

 

Sanzo didn't respond, just waited for the frustrating little girl to continue.

"Me and onii-chan have been exploring with-"

 

"Liiiiiiirriiiiinn!" a voice called from within the forest. Sanzo tensed. It was defiantly not in his mind that time, "Liiirrriiin!!!" it called again.

 

Sanzo was surprised by the maturity and patience that voice seemed to be displaying,

"Lirin you get back here now or I'll kick your ass! We're missing breakfast!!!!" …Maybe not.

 

Lirin looked bashful, "Whoops. I think I was gone too long..." She brightened instantly, "But at least Go-chan sounds better now!"

Sanzo tore is eyes away from the forest to glance at Lirin, "Better? What was wrong with him?"

Lirin immediately looked sad and downtrodden at Sanzo's words, "We've been traveling with Goku collecting his memories from before... And he hasn't played with me or anything since onii-chan took us... up the mountain."

 

Memories... MOUNATIN?!?!?!

 

"You took him up Mt. Gogyo?!" Sanzo growled. He had the sudden urge to smack her with his absent harisen, "When?"

 

"We got to the top about a week ago, but we left quickly... cuz Go-chan cried," Lirin turned to Sanzo just as the bushes at the edge of the forest began to rustle violently, "He called for you, you know."

 

Sanzo's gaze drifted to the ground, "I know," Lirin looked confused, but was distracted by a very angry figure barging out of the woods.

 

"Liriin! Where the hell have you b-" Goku stopped short, just realizing where he found himself. He instantly recognized the familiar smell that had been present for days. Chang'An.

 

Goku eyes scanned the memorable courtyard, and inevitably, his eyes fell upon his peach tree. (Yes, he thought of it as his.) and the figure sitting stock-still under it, staring directly at him.

 

A second later, Kougaiji emerged from the forest behind him. He saw Goku just standing there with Lirin a good hundred yards away. He was about to ask Goku what was up, when he spotted the figure Lirin was with.

 

The demon had no time to completely process this before Goku spoke to him, "I remember the faces now," He whispered. Kougaiji didn't need to be reminded what his friend was talking about, "I remember you... Konzen."

 

-----

 

Back to Where I Belong

 

Sanzo couldn't get his body to move. Every fiber of his being was locked on the young man looking right back at him from across the courtyard. Goku turned and said something to Kougaiji that Sanzo's human hearing couldn't discern. Thoughts clogged Sanzo's mind.

 

That was most defiantly Goku across from him. His clothes were exactly the same as when he left. From the shoulder guards to the cut off jeans. That must have meant Goku hadn't grown all that much height-wise. In truth, not much about Goku had changed all to drastically in the two years they'd been separated. The most noticeable thing was the distinct muscle definition that his cropped sleeves and pants displayed. It was a tempting sight, just as it had been two years ago.

 

Then it hit Sanzo. Goku must have been with Kougaiji and Lirin all this time. He wasn't alone like Sanzo had been.

 

Lirin had said they had been out collecting Goku's memories. What the hell was that all about?

 

Goku looked rather surprised to see Sanzo here. Why would that be? Where would Sanzo be if not Chang'An?

 

Goku had recently been atop Mt. Gogyo, apparently the same night Sanzo had heard his voice in for the first time in years.

 

The most prominent thought in Sanzo's mind, though, was: Exactly HOW close are Goku and Kougaiji now?

 

Goku was looking back in his direction, but it didn't look like he was going to speak soon. But Sanzo had been wrong before. Goku opened his mouth to speak...

 

...but not to Sanzo.

 

"Lirin, c'mon. We gotta go get breakfast," Goku called over to the hyper girl next to Sanzo under the peach tree. Both Priest and Demon Girl looked confused.

 

"But, Go-chan, Sanzo-"

 

"We're leaving Lirin. Now," Goku emphasized as he turned to walk back into the forest. Kougaiji looked torn between objecting and following Goku's lead, so he remained where he was.

 

Lirin pouted for a moment before walking back toward her sibling.

 

Goku was almost to the forest edge.

 

"Wait!" Sanzo called to his charge's retreating back. Goku stopped but didn't turn. Sanzo paused. He hadn't planned on calling out, let alone what to say afterwards, "You can eat here."

 

Lirin immediately brightened and went charging back towards their prospective host, "Yay! Onii-chan, I wanna eat here with Baldy Sanzo!!!" Again, Sanzo wished he had his fan, but he didn't turn her away. If he were to get Goku stay even a little while longer, he'd just have to put up with it.

 

Kougaiji turned to Goku and said something again, that Sanzo couldn't hear, but Lirin cheered as she resumed her long abandoned post atop Sanzo's shoulders, so the former Prince must have decided upon accepting his offer. Kougaiji looked back at where his sister sat upon Sanzo's shoulders, and Goku's gaze followed. He didn't look like he'd be joining them.

 

Sanzo couldn't let that happen, "Please..." he whispered, knowing Goku could hear him. He stressed his desires by pulling slightly on the metal link between them.

 

Goku's face fell and he sighed, resignation etched all over his still youthful face. The heretic turned to Kougaiji and nodded. They began walking toward the temple doors together, too close for Sanzo's comfort, but he withheld a growl, keeping in mind the littlest demon still perched atop him. He walked over to meet his guests at the temple door.

 

He reached it before them and quickly extracted his keys. Only he, the head priest, Gojyo, and Hakkai had keys to the temple. It seemed demons still enjoyed attacking Sanzo, even if the majority of them had regained their sanity. Unlocking the door, he stepped aside to allow the entourage of demons to enter. Kougaiji and Lirin sized up the temple with an air of slight awe. Without Goku around to wreak havoc upon the grounds, it had been well maintained.

 

A pair of monks walked past, eyes drawn to the two obviously demonic visitors, but only paused when they caught sight of Goku, both of them recognizing the young heretic. Sanzo let his growl loose this time and grabbed one of the acolytes by the scruff of their robes.

 

"Show these two," He gestured to Kougaiji and Lirin, "To the kitchen and have them prepare all the food we have on hand. I'll be there in a minute," The monk obeyed and scurried off with the demon siblings in tow.

 

Sanzo turned to take in Goku at close range. He now noticed another distinctive change in his charge. The innocence in his eyes was almost entirely wiped out. Sanzo feared the cause of this was now on his way to the kitchens, well out of shooting range. Also... the joy in Goku's eyes seemed to have all but gone out as well. Though that bit may be attributed to the boy's recent trip to Mt. Gogyo.

 

Next, Sanzo's eyes traveled up to rest upon Goku's brow, where his limiter lay. It was the same purple-gem encrusted one Sanzo had bestowed upon Goku mere minutes before the young man had left.

 

"How's the limiter working?" Sanzo asked, willing every ounce of his being to keep his voice calm.

 

Goku eyes glanced up unseeing towards where his limiter sat beyond his eyesight, "Good. It hasn't broken yet." He paused and his face took on a questioning look, "What gems are these? Me and Kou were never able to find out."

 

Sanzo looked once again at his most recent handiwork. He knew what they were, but didn't know if he wanted to tell Goku just yet. Goku looked ready to take off as soon as he could. Maybe withholding the information would prompt Goku to stay longer. Also, Sanzo didn't even know if he was ready to admit what the stones were just yet.

 

"Maybe later." Sanzo answered. Goku's face fell again. Sanzo sighed. looking away from Goku before looking back, allowing a fraction of his feelings to mar his perfect mask for only Goku to see, "Where have you been?"

 

Goku glanced away, "Everywhere."

 

"How long have you been with them?"

 

"Two years."

 

Sanzo didn't know what else to say, so he turned to take Goku to the kitchens. "C'mon." He heard Goku obediently follow behind him, and slowed his pace to walk beside the earth child, "What are you doing back here?"

 

Goku didn't respond for a minute. "Life has been... hectic lately. I didn't realize where we were until... I saw you and the temple with my own eyes."

 

"Hectic? You mean busy collecting your memories?" Goku turned quizzically toward his former keeper, "The pest told me," Sanzo responded, answering the question Goku hadn't had a chance to ask.

 

They walked in silence before Goku spoke up, "You didn't need to have them make everything. I can control how much I eat now. I don't need to be full all the time."

 

"But you're still hungry all the time?"

 

Goku's head dipped slightly, "Yeah."

 

Sanzo just shrugged, "500 years is a long time to go without food. It's going to take a long time for your body to compensate for all that time. You might die with that massive appetite."

 

"I'm immortal," Goku stated simply. Sanzo stopped in his tracks. Goku stopped as well just ahead of him.

 

"What?"

 

"Immortal. I can't die of old age," Goku smiled sadly, "I guess it comes with equaling heaven, huh?"

 

It took a moment for Sanzo to realize why that fact might depress the young man. Knowing you're going to have to watch everyone you love die... just as Sanzo had done once. But Goku might have to watch them all die slowly, gradually, over time. Watch them grow old without him. This also explained why Goku didn't look much older. Once puberty was over, his anatomy must slow to a crawl, except for his metabolism, of course. Goku looked as fit as ever.

 

"I'm sorry," Sanzo offered. Goku's sad smile gained strength knowing Sanzo had caught immortality's implications.

 

"S'okay. Nothing you could do about it anyway," Goku turned to continue on to the kitchens.

 

"Goku..." Goku stopped a little farther down the hall and turned to look at Sanzo curiously. Sanzo spoke softer this time, knowing Goku was paying attention. "...Why did you leave?"

 

Goku presented his sad little smile again, "Maybe later," was all he said before turning the corner down the hall he knew the kitchens resided in.

 

--

 

"Go-chan!" Lirin wailed as Goku nabbed the last spring roll form the plate.

 

For some reason, this ritual did not bother Sanzo this time around. Instead, he relished in it... because Goku had to be here for it to happen.

 

"Ha ha! Too slow, Lirin-chan! Ha ha!" Goku crowed as he popped his prize into his mouth whole. Sanzo pretended that sight didn't severely bother certain parts of his anatomy.

 

They had been eating the colossal spread of food for over an hour. Sanzo and Kougaiji had long ago finished eating, the human of the two pulling out his cigarettes for an after dinner smoke. Goku and Lirin seemed quite content to devour the meal their counterparts had left untouched.

 

Kougaiji looked startlingly tolerant of Goku's shenanigans. Far more tolerant than Sanzo had been after two years with Goku. Again, this prompted Sanzo to think up various undesirable scenarios to why that may be. Most of them featuring Goku under Kougaiji on a bed, writhing wantonly. Sanzo with held a growl for the sixth time that meal.

 

Goku seemed to remember something as he turned to Sanzo. Surprisingly, he swallowed his mouthful before attempting communication, "Ne, Sanzo. I need to talk with the floating heads before we leave."

 

'Before we leave.' Sanzo didn't let his disappointment show.

 

"Have all your new memories erased your old ones? Only high ranking embers of the clergy can enter the Temple of the Setting Sun."

 

"I think they'll see me," Goku insisted, returning his concentration to the food once more.

 

A vein in Sanzo's head pulsed. He didn't like his words being dismissed, whether he loved the one that dismissed them or not, "Oh, and what makes you think that?"

 

"Because you can't stop me, and neither can they."

 

Sanzo blinked. Since when had Goku become so openly defiant of Sanzo and the gods?

 

"Since he become more powerful than any god in existence," Kougaiji muttered to the priest sitting next to him. That's another thing. Sanzo had never expected to find himself seated around a dinner table with the very demon who had tired so hard to wipe him off the face of the earth. And he was a mind-reader to boot?

 

"Did I ask?" Sanzo snarled. Kougaiji was definatly on the list of Those In Danger of Being Shot.

 

Kougaiji gave him a knowing look. Sanzo glanced over at the younger two. Goku seemed to be oblivious to the fact that he was being discussed, infinitely more focused on battling Lirin for every little scrap of food.

 

"If he had to, he could even defeat former War Prince Nataku," Kougaiji continued, following Sanzo's gaze. He turned to look at Sanzo once again suddenly. "That's what started it you, know."

 

Sanzo was confused, "Started what?"

 

"His quest for his memories. Not a week after he latched onto us, he asked me if I remembered anything before I was sealed in Houtou Castle. I mentioned Nataku, and it's been all downhill from there. Anything will trigger the recovery of a memory, so we've been traveling searching for things that might remind him."

 

"What does Nataku have to do with anything?" Sanzo asked, genuinely curious. He hungered to catch up to Kougaiji in his knowledge of his charge.

 

Kougaiji seemed to recognize this, because the demon smirked, "It is not my place to tell you that... Konzen."

 

Sanzo glared. There was that name again. Wait... did that name have a relation to Goku's past?

 

Sanzo's thoughts were cut off by Goku drawing his chair back and standing up. "I'm gonna go see the Three Aspects, then we're gonna go 'kay?" he asked Kougaiji across the table.

 

Kougaiji looked over at Sanzo expectantly and the look surprised the priest. What would Kougaiji expect from him? If he and Goku were truly lovers than wouldn't he want out of here as bad as Sanzo wanted Goku to stay?

 

Whatever Kougaiji was implying he do, Sanzo would be more than willing to do it, if he knew what it was. Anything to keep Goku around as long as possible.

 

Sanzo wouldn't admit it, but he had been terribly lonely in the years since Goku's departure.

 

"If you're going to sees those bastards, I'm coming, too." Sanzo decided, a distinct air a of finality in his voice.

 

Goku looked reluctant to allow this, but decided against fighting with Sanzo on the matter, "Fine. I'm going now, if you're coming," Goku notified him before turning tail and exiting the kitchen. Before Sanzo could follow, Kougaiji grabbed the sleeve of his robe.

 

"Don't let him do this. Our visit to Mt. Gogyo has damaged him more than he is willing to admit. He needs someone right now, and me and Lirin can't be there like he needs us, to be. You were the only one around him after his release, and only you can heal him. It wasn't me he called for when it become too much for his psyche to bear. I know you heard him that night."

 

Sanzo couldn't meet Kougaiji's eyes.

 

The demon continued, "I know you very well Sanzo. He spoke of you so much, how could I not? Do you want to know why he left?"

 

"No!" Sanzo bellowed, stopping Kougaiji in his tracks, "I want him to tell me. Not some orphaned demon who's been babysitting him and other things the past two years! I want him to tell me why I wasn't good enough anymore!" Sanzo didn't give his audience a chance to respond before he stormed out of the temple towards the Temple of the Setting Sun.

 

Kougaiji couldn't do anything but stand and stare at Sanzo's exit. The priest's reaction left him with a lot of questions.

 

"Onii-chan?" Lirin tugged on Kougaiji's coat.

 

"What Lirin?"

 

Lirin didn't say anything, she just looked over to where a group of monks stood staring at them. Kougaiji suddenly felt self-conscious.

 

"Please direct us to Genjyo Sanzo's chambers please."

 

--

 

"Goku!" Sanzo called ahead to his rushing charge, "GOKU!!!"

 

"What?! You don't need to yell, Sanzo, I can hear you fine," Goku called back.

 

"Slow down dammit!"

 

"No!" Goku denied, picking up his pace. Sanzo growled before speeding up.

 

Goku must have heard the increased tempo of his footsteps, because in a flash the heretic had disappeared, speed taking him quicker than the eye could follow toward his destination. Sanzo sighed in defeat, slowing down to a manageable pace once more.

 

Damn.

 

When Sanzo arrived, the attending monks directed him straight into the chamber where he'd find the Floating Heads. They also told him about Goku muscling his way past them and into the chamber. The monks Goku had come in contact with looked frightened and severely flustered. Sanzo smirked.

 

In the chamber, Goku was sitting cross-legged on the floor before the giant panel that the Aspects spoke from. Right now, all three were in attendance listening rather intently to whatever Goku was telling them. Sanzo frowned. He didn't take kindly to feeling excluded.

 

"Oi, Goku."

 

"Ah, Genjyo Sanzo. Good to see you have arrived." the male Floating Head addressed him formally. Goku turned to see Sanzo standing regally in the doorway as the monks pulled it shut behind him, "Please, come in. Goku was just describing his recent expedition to regain his lost memories of Heaven. It's quite the tale wouldn't you say?"

 

"I wouldn't know," Sanzo spat, directing an almost hurt glare at Goku on the floor, "I haven't heard it."

 

The Aspects looked at each other, obviously surprised at this information. They returned their gazes to Goku not a moment later, "If it is not to see Genjyo Sanzo, then why have you returned to this area after having been absent for so long?"

 

"I didn't mean to," Goku mumbled.

 

"Well, it does not matter. The issue with your recovered memories is subject to discussion with the Jade Emperor though. They had been meticulously sealed for the safety of Heaven before now, but your new limiter has not had a problem with containing Seiten Taisei, I presume," Goku nodded. "I see. We shall consult the Merciful Goddess, on the matter, be it that she is the one to have been looking after you since your first induction into Heaven."

 

"No." Goku said suddenly. The Aspects regarded him warily, "Konzen looked after me."

 

The Aspects looked surprised once more, "You recall Konzen Douji?"

 

"As of recently, yes."

 

"Interesting. Kanzeon was instructed to permanently erase all knowledge of the gods defeated in the battle for your life. You recall General Kenren and Field Marshall Tenpou as well?"

 

"No..."

 

"Ah. In any case, Kanzeon must be questioned concerning what she intended when she locked such information up with the rest of your forbidden memories."

 

"Hold up a minute," Sanzo spoke this time, thoroughly confused, "Who the hell is Konzen?"

 

"Konzen, Genjyo Sanzo, is your previous incarnation. If you desire more information on the subject, please consult Goku, for at the moment, he has the majority of his memories from that time."

 

"Wait..." Goku balked, "At the moment?"

 

"There is a good chance you may not be permitted to keep your memories, Son Goku. Either that or you will be brought to Heaven once more so an eye can be kept on you at all times. You are a dangerous being, Goku."

 

Goku inclined his head toward the floor in shame, "I know," he whispered.

 

The Three Aspects looked thoughtful for a second before calling their meeting to a close, "We shall look into the situation and summon you when a verdict has been reached. Good day to both of you."

 

--

 

Sanzo and Goku walked back to Chang'An in silence. Until Goku shattered said silence, "You really weren't needed you know."

 

"I don't care."

 

Goku growled but said nothing. They reached the temple soon enough to find a monk outside waiting for them.

 

"Sanzo-sama? Will Master Goku be residing in his previous rooms during his stay?"

 

"I won't be staying," Goku corrected. The monk looked confused.

 

"But your... companions claimed that you would be remaining at the temple for awhile yet."

 

"What?!" Goku yelped, "What the hell? Where are Kougaiji and Lirin now?"

 

"They, er, left a not two hours ago. I am fairly certain they left a note in Sanzo-sama's chambers."

 

The second the monk had finished speaking, Goku disappeared, flying down the familiar hallways toward Sanzo's annex.

 

Sanzo arrived at the room to find Goku scanning what must have been Kougaiji's note. When Goku noticed Sanzo's arrival, he hastily stuffed the note in his pocket. "I guess I'll be here a for a couple of days," Goku grumbled, refusing to meet Sanzo's gaze. He looked up when Sanzo locked the door, pocketing the key.

 

"Why did you leave?" Sanzo asked again as he passed Goku to sit at his desk. He opened a drawer while waiting for Goku to answer him.

 

"It's not my fault if you can't remember what my note said," Goku sneered at the priest.

 

"I had no need to memorize your note," Sanzo retorted, even though he most definitely had memorized every word. He cast a blank look at Goku as he set a worn piece of paper on his desk. Goku stared wide-eyed.

 

"My note?" He asked shakily.

 

Sanzo only nodded.

 

"Why do you still have it?"

 

"I... I couldn't bring myself to get rid of it," He met Goku's golden stare, "I mean it when I say I missed you. This damn temple's too quiet."

 

There was Goku's sad smile again. But the young heretic said nothing.

 

"You called me," Sanzo stated simply. Goku should know the implications of this by now.

 

Goku nodded.

 

"While you were on, Mt. Gogyo." Goku's nearly imperceptible cringe was not lost to Sanzo.

 

"Kougaiji made me go," Goku whispered, casting his eyes to the wooden floor beneath him. It was Sanzo's turn to cringe.

 

"How does someone MAKE the Great Sage Equaling Heaven do anything? You're a goddamn force of nature, Goku."

 

"Kougaiji's important to me Sanzo. I wouldn't purposefully hurt him or Lirin."

 

"I still don't understand why you left."

 

"I couldn't stay."

 

Sanzo snorted, "That much is obvious."

 

Goku turned away.

 

"I've kept your room clean," Sanzo said softly, "The monks wouldn't do it. So I did."

 

Goku turned around and looked at Sanzo with an expression akin to shock. He seemed to reconsider something, "If I had asked you before I left, would you have let me go?"

 

Sanzo turned to look out the window. The sun was setting in the West as it did every night. And every night it made him think, "You know that the last time I talked to you before today... was before we battled Gyumaoh?" Sanzo turned back to Goku. "That's three fucking years Goku! The only reason I'm alive right now is because I knew that you were still alive. Do have any idea how many times I've been seconds away from pulling the trigger?!" Sanzo bellowed tossing his coveted gun on the desk with a clatter. "It was my master's death all over again. Gojyo and Hakkai didn't leave Chang'An for months, cuz they wouldn't leave me alone with myself. Do you understand Goku?! Can you possibly comprehend how fucking lonely it was without you after you ALWAYS being there for years?!"

 

Goku finally met Sanzo's gaze, "Yeah, I think I could." Another thing had changed about Goku- he could pull off a decent glare when he wanted to, "You haven't answered my question."

 

"No, goddamn it!! Like hell I would've let you leave!"

 

"It doesn't matter what you want, or wanted," Goku supplied evenly.

 

"What the hell?"

 

"I left so you guys could live, Sanzo."

 

"THAT'S why you left?" Sanzo scoffed, "You lived with us for years and we were fine."

 

"But I needed a new limiter-"

 

"And you got one!"

 

"But-"

 

"Do you even understand that what that limiter holds?"

 

"No! Cuz you won't tell me!"

 

"Do you really want to know Goku?"

 

"YES!"

 

"Those purple stones are pieces of my soul Goku."

 

Goku was shocked into silence by Sanzo's confession.

 

"When we got back to the temple after the Journey, I used a different chant to instill part of my soul into your limiter. As long as it's there it's like me chanting for every second of every day," Sanzo looked sadly at Goku, "Do you know how painful it is to be separated from part of your soul for two years Goku?"

 

"So you only missed me cuz I had your soul? Well, you shouldn't give pieces of your soul to people who are free to do as they please, Sanzo, cuz they could walk off with it WITHOUT KNOWING!!!"

 

"I didn't think you would leave!!!"

 

"Why would I possibly want to stay when I could have killed you all!"

 

"Because I was here! You once told me you would never leave me, and god-fucking-dammit I BELIEVED you, Goku!" Sanzo breathed before continuing, "You know me better than anyone, Goku. Have I ever, EVER, given in to anyone enough to give them access to my feelings, let alone a fucking piece of my soul?"

 

"Sanzo..." Goku stammered softly. "Sanzo... do you love me?"

 

Sanzo froze. He knew that if did not answer now, he would lose Goku forever. No matter what the boy felt for Kougaiji. Even if Goku didn't feel the same. Sanzo couldn't lie... not about this.

 

"Yes..." He whispered. He heard footsteps as Goku approached where he sat at his desk. He couldn't bring himself to look at the golden-eyed heretic now standing next to him.

 

"Sanzo..." Goku insisted. "Sanzo look at me," When Sanzo didn't move, Goku brought himself up so that he was sitting on the desk in front of Sanzo, "Sanzo, why won't you look at me?"

 

Sanzo growled.

 

"If it's because of what you said..."

 

"Of course it's because of what I said."

 

"I still don't understand-"

 

"Because you love Kougaiji," Goku didn't respond for a moment.

 

But he recovered. "What the hell, Sanzo? Where did you get that idea?" Goku grabbed the sides of Sanzo's face and brought it so the priest was looking directly at him, "Kou and Lirin are like the family I never had, Sanzo. When you're born from the earth, you don't exactly have siblings," Sanzo tried to look away again, but Goku's grip held firm. Sanzo struggled against Goku's strength, though he knew it was futile. His protests were cut short by Goku's lips covering his own gently.

 

The kiss wasn't demanding or passionate. It was more chaste than anything. Just Goku's soft mouth pressed lightly against Sanzo's. Sanzo didn't know a person's lips could be so warm until he felt Goku's muted heat radiating into him through his charge's lips.

 

They remained that way for a few moments before Goku pulled away, leaving a stunned Sanzo in his wake, "I love YOU, Sanzo. That's why I had to leave. I'd have to kill myself if I ever hurt you when I got out of control. I was too scared of losing you to keep you with me."

 

"Goku... I... I don't understand."

 

Goku looked confused, "What is there to understand, Sanzo?"

 

"How the hell you could love me."

 

Goku laughed for the first time since Sanzo'd laid eyes on him this morning. He hadn't heard that laugh in years, "It's surprisingly easy," Goku managed between breaths.

 

Sanzo wouldn't have it. "How do you know?"

 

Goku cocked his head and regarded Sanzo. "How did YOU know?"

 

Sanzo thought. He didn't know how he knew. Over time, the nagging feeling in his head just wouldn't over look this growling feeling toward his charge. Never mind the explicit attraction he'd felt toward his charge since even before the Journey west. This was something... a feeling that made him want to grab a hold of Goku and never let go. Fuck, Sanzo couldn't describe it, it was just there.

 

"I don't know," Sanzo answered honestly, "I just did."

 

"When I'm gone, does it feel like your heart is being squeezed by a demon the size of China?"

 

"Interesting way of putting it."

 

"Does it?"

 

"Yes. Fuck, you're persistent."

 

"I feel that way when you're gone, too. But the fear of being the cause of your death hurts more than any demon could. That's why I gotta leave, Sanzo. I won't let you die because of me. I get stronger everyday, and someday, you won't be able to fix me Sanzo. You're only human."

 

Sanzo felt something die inside of him at Goku's words. He couldn't bring his body to obey him and shake some sense into the young man that was now sliding off the desk and toward the door without looking back. Sanzo's mind scrambled for a remedy. It found one on the far corner on his desk.

 

Goku stopped walking when he hear a familiar click behind him. When he turned around he did not find the banishing gun pointed at him as he had expected... it was instead pointed directly at Sanzo's temple, Sanzo's finger tensed at the trigger.

 

"Sanzo..." Goku's voice wavered.

 

"You step out that door..." Sanzo warned, "And I'll do it. You'll be the cause of my death whether you stay here or not," His eyes closed and he took a shaky breath, "And I wouldn't want it any other way. I'd rather die by your hand than for some stupid reason like cancer or old age," From his position behind the desk Sanzo watched as a grin began to take over Goku's face.

 

The heretic made his way back across the room and climbed atop the desk between them. On his hands and knees, he traversed the desktop until he was in front of Sanzo. He swatted the gun away from Sanzo's head before pulling the priest into a firmer kiss.

Sanzo let the gun fall to the floor a second after his hand automatically reinstated the safety. His hands took up a more preferable position on Goku's hips as the boy swung to sit on the desk's edge, pulling the willing body closer. He sighed as Goku's mouth molded easily against his own, neither making any move to deepen the kiss, both content to just absorb each other's presence.

 

Goku's hands wound around Sanzo's neck to tangle in the priest's distinctive blond locks as Sanzo's own hands snaked farther around Goku's waist, locking his captive in a tight embrace. The monk shuddered as a jolt of arousal traveled through his core before winding its way through the rest of his body, coming to a burning halt at his groin.

 

Goku moaned into the kiss, sending vibrations through Sanzo's mouth. Sanzo couldn't help himself. He allowed his tongue to slide through his parted lips and prod Goku's pliant mouth. Instantly, Sanzo was granted access to Goku completely. Pushing his tongue farther in, he took his time mapping out every surface to Goku's maw.

 

Another pulse of arousal shot though him as Goku's tongue responded and soon they were warring inside the moist cavern Goku presented to him.

 

Eventually, Sanzo remembered the suddenly unimportant need to breath. He pulled back although all he wanted was to feel Goku pressed against him once more. Without separating too far, Sanzo's purple eyes locked on Goku's golden ones.

 

All the tension that Sanzo had accumulated since the beginning of their insane quest instantly vanished. Here he was, Sanzo's complement, wrapped in Sanzo's arms, and the said possessive priest didn't intend on letting him go, anytime soon.

 

The newly risen moon cast the surreal glow over Goku's tanned skin and Sanzo prayed to the Merciful Goddess that this wasn't a dream, that he wouldn't wake up and find himself surrounded by his ocean of orange airplanes once again. But the way Goku's eyes gleamed as he stared into Sanzo's own unique set told the blond that this was indeed real.

 

Goku wasn't leaving again.

 

Kougaiji could go fuck himself... though now he knew that that his suspicions had never seen reality anyway.

 

The Three Aspects could go fuck themselves, cuz Goku was NOT going back to Heaven as long as Sanzo could still breath in the air tinted with Goku's overwhelming essence.

 

It was at this moment of resignation that a monk knocked upon the door briefly before opening it, unbeckoned. And did that monk get an eyeful.

 

Goku was wrapped in Sanzo's intimate embrace, his paws tangled roughly in Sanzo's hair. Sanzo's own hands were steadily making their way down to cup Goku's toned ass, and the monk caught sight of them just as his fingers slipped between the fabric of Goku's pants and the boy's supple skin.

 

"Sanzo-sama!" The monk gasped at their leader's provocative position. Sanzo growled and rolled his eyes as he and Goku pulled back an inch farther to regard the intruder. Chastity be damned. Goku had always been more important to Sanzo than the monks' opinion of him. It's not like they could revoke his title or anything. But he bet they'd want to after this.

 

It was official. Sanzo was the most devious priest alive and he could honestly say that he didn't want it any other way. Goku pressed so erotically against him was a stunning feeling... and the intruding monk wasn't leaving.

 

"Are you quite done staring?" Sanzo barked. In his arms, Goku audibly growled a warning at the trespasser. It seemed Goku wanted move things along as well. Even Sanzo's biting remark had not been enough to shock the monk out of his stupor. So Sanzo did the next best thing. He leaned forward and captured Goku's lips in another searing kiss, immediately bypassing lips for the dark space within. At the same time, he fully inserted his hands down the back of Goku's pants and proceeded to grope his charge for all he was worth. Sanzo would admit, the way Goku's ass curved within his insistent hands was a definite turn on. When Sanzo began to knead Goku's rear sensually, the monk snapped to attention.

 

"W-w-will your guest be requiring a room for the night?"

 

Sanzo broke the kiss and impatiently glared at the monk in his doorway. He rested his chin upon Goku's shoulder and let loose one rumbling syllable, "No," when Sanzo turned back to Goku, he vaguely noticed that his subordinate had yet to leave. After bestowing Goku with a brief kiss, he snarled, "You're dismissed," before devouring Goku's mouth again. This time the monk took the hint and closed the door with a slight bang.

 

Goku pulled back and gazed past Sanzo out into the night beyond the window, "It's getting late," he whispered, as if not wanting to break the fragile air about them.

 

"Yeah," Sanzo hazily acknowledged, "C'mon."

 

He dragged Goku off the desk and out the door, retreating a few rooms down to his sleeping quarters. After closing the door, Sanzo deftly pinned Goku to it in one smooth motion. Goku looked up into his eyes and saw, instead of the hunger he expected, extreme sorrow and fear, "I won't let you leave again. You have no say in the matter."

 

Goku smirked at Sanzo's way of conveying desperateness, "As you wish, Sanzo-sama." He mocked. Sanzo pulled back to allow Goku to shed his cumbersome outer clothes. Sanzo followed his lead and divested his robes. The disrobing left Goku in nothing but his boxers and undershirt and Sanzo in his jeans and leathers. The priest climbed into bed and pulled the covers down, gesturing to the spot next to him. Goku took the hint and climbed in next to Sanzo. Once there, Sanzo's arms snaked around his waist once more and pulled the young man against his chest.

 

Both fell asleep, thoughts and arms consumed with one another.

 

--

 

"Oi Sanzo-sama!" Gojyo called, pounding on the front door of the temple.

 

"Now, now Gojyo. I do have a key, if you'll recall," Hakkai placated behind the impatient water sprite. It was time for the duo's weekly visit to their local brooding priest. It was 10 o'clock in the morning and Hakkai had a picnic lunch packed in a basket hung on his arm.

 

Soon, they were in and wandering the halls of Chang'An toward Sanzo's annex. As they got closer, they heard out of place noises from beyond Sanzo's door.

 

Moans and grunts met their ears. And if anyone knew what moans and grunts coming from a bedroom symbolized, it was Gojyo.

 

Gojyo was shocked. Especially when they didn't recognize the voice making the noises alongside Sanzo.

 

"Shit," Gojyo whispered to Hakkai, "Did Sanzo bag himself a whore?"

 

"I don't know what to make of the situation, Gojyo. It seems all we can do is wait-"

 

"Oi, Oi! Sanzo! What did you go and get yourself a whore for? You coulda just asked me and I'd have hooked you up with a slutty chick for free!"

 

"Shaddup, ero kappa!" called the unknown voice. But those words put a much more familiar spin on the character.

 

Gojyo turned to Hakkai, "No, way. The monkey?" before barging into Sanzo's inner sanctum. Goku was pinned to the bed under Sanzo, both were at least shirtless under the protection of Sanzo's sheets.

 

Goku looked homicidal. "I am NOT a monkey!!!"

 

Gojyo threw caution to the wind and jumped onto the bed in an attempt to tackle his long absent friend. "Goku! Where the hell have you been, bakazaru!?!?!" Sanzo blocked Gojyo from tackling his captive, but didn't move to shove Gojyo away, preferring to stay where he was above his charge.

 

"Don't call me a saru, kappa!" Goku hollered, but was smiling all the same. Goku sat up on the bed and Sanzo slid back to allow him to do so. They could finish later. Gojyo was relieved to see that both were wearing pants.

 

Hakkai joined them sitting on the edge of the bed, "Goku. When did you get back?"

 

Goku sighed, "It's a looong story, but yesterday."

 

"We'll explain everything later," Sanzo finalized, "Damn, I forgot what day it was."

 

Gojyo grinned, "Yup. It's our weekly visit to depressed ol' Sanzo-sama. But now we'll call it our weekly visit to our hentai bozou and his long lost monkey!"

 

"Shut up," Sanzo growled.

 

Goku laughed.

 

Sanzo didn't feel so angry anymore.

 

Hakkai noticed this effect and smiled. Whatever had happened to bring Goku back to Sanzo, Hakkai was glad it happened. Sanzo had been withering away without his charge, and to see Sanzo alive again was a refreshing sight. His thoughts were interrupted by a loud squeal from the doorway.

 

"Go-chan!!!!" A bouncing ball of Lirin suddenly catapulted toward the bed, and before anyone could stop her, she collided with the bed with incredible force.

 

"Shit," Sanzo moaned before the bed collapsed with a groan and a smash.

 

Goku, Gojyo and Lirin were doubled over laughing while Hakkai and the recent newcomer, Kougaiji chuckled to themselves.

 

Sanzo noticed Kougaiji's presence and automatically bristled. Goku noticed.

 

"Hey, hey. Kou! Guess what Sanzo thought! He thought we-" Goku was silenced by Sanzo securing a hand over his mouth.

 

"Shaddup!" he hissed at the errant heretic. Goku glared at him, and shook him off, but didn't move to continue his sentence. When Sanzo turned away, Goku caught Kou's eye and mouthed 'I'll tell you later.'

 

"My, my," Hakkai admired, "It seems our little group has doubled as of late. I think I'll go collect more provisions from the kitchen so we can all enjoy a picnic. It is picnic weather after all," the healer smiled and Goku's grin grew wider if possible.

 

"I'll come too, Hakkai!" Goku announced as he hauled himself out of bed to join his friend on his way to the kitchens. Taut muscles rippling under smooth skin caught Sanzo's eye; he grabbed the boy's wrist before he had completely left the bed. Hakkai was waiting the doorway.

 

"No, we're going to catch up with them later," Sanzo maintained, allowing his eyes to roam over Goku half-naked frame but nothing more while there was still an audience in the room. Goku's face flushed but he didn't argue.

 

The heretic turned to Hakkai, "Sorry, Hakkai. I guess we'll be catching up," Goku surrendered as he crawled into bed next to Sanzo again.

 

Sanzo turned to everyone else, "Everyone. Out. Now." he growled. Everyone but Kougaiji fled the room in fear. The demon just glanced at Sanzo knowingly before following the others, closing the door behind him.

 

"Now," Sanzo rumbled, turning to his lover, "Where were we before we were so rudely interrupted?"

 

Goku purred and straddled Sanzo's lap, "Right here," he whispered over the priest's lips before kissing with passion pent up over the last three years.

 

--

 

"I'm hungry." Goku groaned as Hakuryu sped down the road.

 

Sanzo fwaped him over the head.

 

In the back seat, Gojyo and Lirin snickered.

 

From his shared seat with Sanzo, Goku glared.

 

They had all piled in the Jeep two weeks after Goku's return and were out on yet another road trip. Goku hadn't yet been summoned by the Aspects, but he didn't care what would happen when he was. The Gods couldn't really make him do anything he didn't want to do. Kougaiji was right. He was stronger than any god in existence.

 

Now, they were on their way to a much less foreboding mountain- the far off Mt. Kaka, the mountain where the earth's aura gathered. The mountain of Goku's birth.

 

Up front, Hakkai still commanded Jeep's steering column, while Sanzo took shotgun, only to share it with Goku in order to make room for the three bodies that had to cram in back - Gojyo, Lirin, and Kougaiji. Kougaiji was humbled by the experience.

 

"How the hell did you guys travel all the way into the West in this thing? My leg's falling asleep!"

 

Goku laughed. Sanzo was once again reminded why he'd been so calm lately.

 

"It's a lot worse when you got the kappa taking up all the room with his noodle-y legs. At least he's being nice enough to give everyone fair room this time," Goku quipped.

 

"Shut up, you lying bakazaru!" Gojyo bellowed from his place to the right of Lirin.

 

"Now, now. If everybody would hush for a moment, you'll see Mt. Kaka just up ahead," Hakkai announced. Goku sprang from his seat to lean forward and get a better look. Sanzo took the chance to spread out more on the seat.

 

They reached the mountain, but no new memories presented themselves. So they just decided to rest up in the early spring air. Lirin, Goku and Gojyo were playing some inane game while Hakkai and Kougaiji discussed various topics under the shade of a nearby tree. Sanzo, under his own tree, marveled at the mountain before them.

 

This was were Goku had been born all those hundreds of years ago. This was the one place on earth capable of creating a being such as Goku. Speaking of his charge, Sanzo adjusted his position to watch his lover screw around with his friends. Eventually, Goku retired from the game and began to walk towards Sanzo. Sanzo sighed as the heretic sat behind him so they were leaning against each other's backs.

 

"Whatcha thinkn' 'bout, Sanzo?"

 

Sanzo looked back up toward the mountain's peak, "You and this crazy mountain," Sanzo scoffed, lighting a cigarette, "How the hell can someone as nuts as you have been born from a boring rock like this?"

 

"Well, how am I supposed to know Sanzo? All I know is that it happened. S'not like you can remember being born, now can you?"

 

"How do you know I don't?" Sanzo responded snidely. Goku laughed again.

 

"I guess I don't," Sanzo turned slightly and grasped Goku face, turning it towards him as well.

 

"But you're right. I don't remember it. I don't even remember my mother," Goku looked sad for a moment. "But it doesn't matter, now, does it?" Sanzo soothed, bringing Goku face closer to him own, kissing the young man deeply. Or as deeply as he dared in present company.

 

"Now, Konzen. I highly doubt this is the place for PDA. You are in the presence of Goku's mother after all."

 

"Damn," Sanzo cursed as he turned to face the newcomer. "What do you want, ya old hag?" he growled.

 

Goku looked a little fearful. Sanzo turned where he sat and pulled Goku closer to him in a loose embrace.

 

The others began to notice the new presence and wandered over.

 

The Merciful Goddess spoke again. "I have a surprise for you, Son Goku," She cooed.

Goku looked skeptical, "What?"

 

"Well, if you want to be technical, it's a present for both Goku and his keeper. I'm sure Goku's told you by now about your previous lives in Heaven?"

 

Gojyo and Hakkai nodded. Sanzo waited for the Goddess to continue.

 

"A verdict has been decided concerning Son Goku's fate," She paused for effect, "He shall remain with in the care of Konzen Douji, now known as Genjyo Sanzo, serving his lifelong sentence, here on the mortal plane."

 

Goku looked downtrodden and confused at the same time, "But... what about when Sanzo..."

 

"Dies? Oh no, my dear monkey!" Kanzeon scoffed. "That brings me to Konzen's surprise!" She giggled, severely creeping out all who heard her, "Towa Genjyo Sanzo, I hereby strip you of your title as the 31st of China," She knelt down in front of the stunned Sanzo and slightly confused Goku. She placed her pointer and middle fingers upon Sanzo's brow, over his fading chakra, "Confer divinity," She uttered clear enough for all around to hear. She removed her fingers to reveal a chakra identical to the previous one, albeit a bit brighter.

 

"What the hell have you done to me you hag?" Sanzo snarled.

 

"Why, don't be so crude, Konzen. After all, I just made you a god once again."

 

Bewildered silence reigned for a few beats before Goku and Sanzo both broke it at the same moment, "WHAT?!"

 

"You heard right. Your Genjyo Sanzo is now a deity once again, as decreed by the Jade Emperor. After all, you can't watch over Seiten Taisei Son Goku if you're dead, now can you, Konzen?" Sanzo arms tightened around Goku's waist. Goku stared off straight ahead, eyes glazed, "This has been made possible so that you can remain Goku's caretaker as you have been since he was brought into Heaven just after his birth. We wouldn't want him going on one of those little rampages now would we?" She leaned closer to Goku, "And if I'm not mistaken, someone has a nasty fear of being left alone," She leaned back and stood up, "Of course, Konzen, you must remain on earth along with your charge for this sentence," She sighed, "Though I don't suppose that would bother you. Heaven always did bore you before the arrival of this little monkey. Hell, I suppose I envy you, me being stuck up there an' all. So please do try and make your lives exciting. I'll be watching after all," She smirked as she faded into thin air.

 

Gojyo was the first to speak, "So, Sanzo-sama... isn't Sanzo-sama anymore?"

 

Hakkai chuckled, "It appears it would now be proper to refer to him as Sanzo-kami."

 

Gojyo snorted. "Yea, whatever. He don't look any different. Like hell I'm referring to that trigger happy bastard as Kami." A gunshot ran out.

 

"Bow down, kappa." Sanzo sneered.

 

--

 

"So you're a god now Sanzo?"

 

"It seems that way, though I don't feel any different."

 

"But wouldn't you have crazy God Powers? Like Homura?"

 

"Don't know, baka. I've only been a God for a few hours."

 

"You didn't have powers before, though. All you did was stamp papers."

 

"Ch'. That's all I do now. Besides making sure you don't blow up the planet."

 

"Hey!"

 

"Well, that's my real job now, after all."

 

"Didn't they give you a new Gold Card, since you don't have a paying job anymore?"

 

"No."

 

"WHAT?! How're we s'posed to eat then?"

 

"Platinum."

 

"Huh?"

 

"I got a Platinum Card now. And it's in my name, not the Three Aspects'."

 

"Oooh."

 

"Yeah."

 

"Ne, Sanzo? Where we gonna live."

 

"Temple of the Setting Sun."

 

"Wha? Why not Chang'An?"

 

"Because it'd be weird to live in a temple watching people come and go like that for

hundreds of years. At the Temple of the Setting Sun, we have the Aspects who are also immortal, so it won't be as strange to be alive forever."

 

"Oh. Ne, Sanzo-"

 

"Shut UP bakasaru! We have eternity to answer your questions, why ask them all now?"

 

"I guess you're right."

 

"'Course I am."

 

"Sanzo?"

 

"What now monkey?"

 

"I love you."

 

"Ch'. I love you too, Goku."

 

-----

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