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Not for All the Tea in China

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It had started as another aimless conversation, the kind Goku always began with a 'why' question (or five, or ten) and Sanzo always ended with profanity. This time, though, Goku had been attracted to the gleaming of gold from the nearby temple, its roof ornaments shining bright in the afternoon sun, and he'd asked about the Buddha.

Thirty torturous minutes later, Sanzo finished his crash course on Buddhism, mildly amazed he'd even bothered to waste his breath. Then he saw Goku's eyes narrow and oh, hell, the monkey was thinking.

"But, what's the point then? What do you do, if you can't want or have anything at all, ever?" It was like trying to contemplate antimatter, or the entire universe crammed into a space smaller than nothingness. Goku's reality just refused to process the concept. "How can you live with nothing?" Living without wanting, without needing, without others-- that meant living without Sanzo, which was simply not possible. Beyond that truth, the rest was moot.

"To live is to suffer."

"Well, yeah, if you live like that of course it sucks - HEY! Why are you hitting me for saying stuff like that, it's not like you follow those rules anyway!" Goku leaned out of reach and kept right on talking, he knew it just made Sanzo even angrier but he couldn't help it. It was the truth, and Sanzo maybe didn't hear honest things as often as he thought he did.

"The idea is to escape life in the end, birdbrain. It's something that has to be endured, is all."

"Escape life? So does that mean looking forward to death? Hey, heystoppit!" Goku ducked a second swipe from the rolled-up newspaper. "That doesn't make any sense to me, I mean, you sure seem attached to plenty of things, although you don't ever take good care of yourself." Goku blithely ignored the deepening crease in Sanzo's brow and his grip tightening on the paper. He had something to say and he wasn't about to let go of it just yet, Sanzo distracted him most of the time but this was more important. "You smoke, you drink... okay, so you don't care that much about food, but monks aren't supposed to eat meat, are they? You're attached to things, they're just not the same things everyone else gets attached to." Goku paused, frowned, concentrated. "No, that's not it. You're attached to things, just not the important things-- dammit, that's not quite what I mean either." He huffed and glanced up--

--just in time to see Sanzo scrape his chair back, stand up and stalk out the door. "Hey, where the hell are you going? I'm still talking to you!" He ignored the slamming door and climbed out the window instead, plopping down square in Sanzo's path as he moved towards the balcony railing.

"Dammit, bread-for-brains, do you WANT me to beat you up?" Sanzo really did look mad, Goku noticed then, not like his usual reflexive grumpiness. Some small part of him was pleased at that and he didn't know why, but he kept pushing.

"No, I want you to answer me."

"You didn't ask me a question."

"Fine, then I want you to explain."

"I don't have to explain anything to you. Go bother Hakkai with that shit." The anger was frozen in place now, and Goku could either make it worse or leave Sanzo to stew in his own self-loathing per usual.

That routine was getting kind of old. Well, then: variety was the spice of life, right?

"If you're not gonna explain anything, then you can listen to me." Goku felt that same reckless flash of satisfaction when he saw Sanzo's eyes widen in irritated disbelief. "You think you don't need us but you figured it out just like Hakkai and Gojyo did - we have to work together to get anywhere. That's important. We're all strong but that doesn't mean we don't need things. Hakkai needs people to take care of, and Gojyo needs friends, and I need to be near you. Or is it wanting? They always feel the same, to me, so I'm never sure..."

As Goku's reasoning trailed off into circuitous one-sided conversation, Sanzo rolled his eyes. Third time was the charm - Goku had forgotten about the newspaper. It made a very gratifying thwack as it connected with the back of the monkey's head.

"DAMMIT! That hurt!"

"That's what you get for being annoying and foolish. I told you, go bother Hakkai."

"Fine." Goku stomped inside, taking his turn to slam the door. The sound echoed with disappointment.

Sanzo leaned against the railing, taking another drag from his cigarette, and glowered at the countryside below. His gaze studiously avoided the sprawling temple complex at the edge of town, its roof tiles blazing like fire in the setting sun.