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An Exchange of Hearts

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Violet eyes cracked open to the soft rays of the morning sun. The blond priest was pleased to know that his decision for closing the thick curtain the night before really served its purpose. It would have been a pain in the ass to have the blinding light kill his mood early in the morning. He truly needed the rest, after all his energy drained in the awfully unbalanced fight. Not only his physical body wrecked, that last fight also took a toll on his mental state. Staring at the dark ceiling above reminded him of the dreadful nothingness he was about to be sucked into. His forehead scrunched as he shut his eyes close.

It had been a few days since the Sanzo-ikkou had their run in with Ukoku, a priest that wore an outfit similar to Sanzo's but in all black, and with a sutra that carried a deadly power. The ability to remove something, or someone's, existence was truly terrifying. Sanzo had nearly experienced it first hand but was rescued by Goku and the others, the heretic grabbing onto the monk's wrist and pulling him free from the void of nothingness.

Now the group was holding up in a nearby city, taking it easy as they took care of their injuries. Hakkai couldn't heal as much as he wanted to, being hurt himself, but they had plenty of bandages and soothing medicine to help with the aches. Sanzo was still in rough shape, but much better than when they discovered him curled up in a pitiful state. Since it was going to be a long time before they got to another town, Hakkai suggested they stay in their current location for a while to fully heal and stock up on supplies, which quickly got Sanzo’s approval.

The young heretic had just finished having breakfast with Hakkai and Gojyo, Sanzo not joining as he claimed he had not been hungry when Goku went to check on him earlier. He was worried since Sanzo hadn't eaten well the night before. Gojyo on the other hand was feeling lively that day and mentioned wanting to shop around. He was going off about needing a shave so he could continue looking as handsome as possible, causing Goku to roll his eyes and Hakkai to chuckle. Not long after the two left, Hakkai instructed the young man to try and get Sanzo to eat something. Gathering up some bananas and a toast with butter, Goku headed to the room that Sanzo was in.

Goku knocked gently at the door, not sure if the monk was asleep. "Sanzo?" There was no response so he quietly turned the knob to gain access to the room. It was dark thanks to a curtain blocking out much of the sun, but a little bit of light peeked in and showed the monk's outline. "Hey, you awake?"

Sanzo knew exactly who knocked even before he heard Goku’s voice, it had always been him who tended him the most in times like this. He braced himself to answer his guest, “What do you want?”

Goku entered the room and moved over to a nearby table. He placed the food for the priest, noting there was still a half full glass of water. Good, at least Sanzo was still drinking something. Not enough for Goku's liking, but he'd work on that. Over the years he picked up on Sanzo's mannerisms and knew if he hovered too much that he'd get a cold shoulder from the blond. The heretic was pretty good about knowing how much to push Sanzo into taking care of himself without ticking him off too much.

"Came to check up on ya." Golden eyes roamed over Sanzo's frame, noting all the gauze wrapping his injuries even in the dimly lit room. Sanzo's robes and sutra were nearby, the garment still lightly stained with blood. It would need more washes but even then it wouldn't ever be pure white again. Goku's eyes flashed with something akin to anger, still feeling rage that the dark monk had hurt the man he cared so much about to such an extent. But Sanzo was tough. This wouldn't be enough to keep him down. "Since you didn't eat anythin' this mornin' I brought ya some breakfast." Giving Sanzo his usual grin, he pulled a chair near the bed and sat down, hoping to get the priest to eat something. "Hakkai and Gojyo went to town to get supplies, so they'll be gone for awhile. I wanted to see how you were doin'."

As much as he did not want to move, Sanzo felt his stomach rumbling at the invitation of breakfast. Even he knew that he needed some energy supply if he wanted to get out of the pitiful state he was in fast. “Tch,” the blond priest propped his body up to a sitting position. Watching Sanzo trying to get himself up was painful to watch and Goku moved to help the monk get into a more comfortable position, propping up pillows so there was less strain.

Now fully sitting, Sanzo’s gaze fell on two golden orbs belonged to the very person he almost lost a while ago. Time stretched as Sanzo's mind went back to the gruesome memory. The monk still did not want to fully accept that there was anyone in the world who he cared that much, or who actually cared about him at all. Yes, he was totally against the notion, but what happened back then when the nothingness slowly absorbed him showed otherwise.

He knew those memories which popped up when the crow activated his spell were not just any memories. He remembered each of them as clear as day, those moments he spent with the guys and those enemies he came to understand more. Those filtered memories were not the ones he ignored, like the faces of those plenty of jerks he met in his teen when he wandered to look for his late master's sutra. Those filtered memories were the ones he… cherished. His heart clenched as memories of Goku hauled away  flashed back in his mind. He did not know when exactly the stupid ape had filled a big space in his life, in his heart, but now one thing was clear. He definitely did not want to lose his monkey, regardless of his big mouth and everything. "Goku," he said without thinking much.

While the older man was good at hiding how he felt, it wasn't uncommon for him to be more relaxed around the heretic, something Goku always noticed but never brought up. He never missed the small smirks that only Goku's eyes were allowed to see, how Sanzo would speak in a less gruff tone around him. It filled Goku's chest with a warm feeling, but he dared not speak out loud how he felt, unsure how Sanzo would feel. "Yeah, Sanzo?" The young man looked up into those violet eyes he adored so much.

Goku could still see the haunted look in those eyes, but Sanzo looked much better than the first day they had found him. In fact, if Goku could be so bold to think it, perhaps the monk had looked more alive after spending a night sharing a room with the heretic? "Do ya need something? Are ya achey? I can fix up your bandages. It's been awhile since Hakkai wrapped ya up." Goku moved a hand over the gauze that wrapped around the older man's shoulder, being careful as his fingers grazing over the paler skin of the priest.

I just spoke one single word and the ape can't shut his damn mouth close, the recovering priest really had low tolerance for loud noises, but countering that would not do him any good. His voice cord was still sore and his neckbone screamed in pain when he spoke of the brunette's name. It was only Goku anyway, he should be able to tolerate it. He was in no position not to tolerate it, in a matter of fact. He had fucking abandoned this young man when he was needed the most, and for that, Goku deserved an honest apology. Said young man had all the rights to be mad at him, and yet Goku was caressing his wounds ever so gently. It was almost like magic, the light touches soothed his agony and gave him much energy and life. Goku, on the other hand, was just as glad that Sanzo didn't recoil from his touch. Sometimes he would wince if Hakkai or Gojyo placed a hand on him, but for whatever reason that wasn't the case with the youngest of the group. Goku waited a few moments for Sanzo to speak, noticing the monk wouldn't meet his gaze.

Now's the perfect chance, Sanzo thought. It was the first time he got the chance to speak with his ward properly, without disturbance from the other two, and without him fighting to endure hell's fire burning beneath his skin. "I-," scared of his turmoil exploding in front of the purity of Goku, Sanzo lowered his gaze even more, staring at anywhere but those sincere orbs. He winced at the excruciating pain creeping up his neck and head caused by the slight movement, but it was never going to stop him in finishing what he started, "-shouldn't have left you."

The words came out but didn't carry the same gruff tone that Sanzo usually had. Goku knew the man all too well and how hard this must be on him. The heretic took a moment to think over the words Sanzo has just said, and how to answer them. He was never one to shy from his own honesty, and he wouldn't do so now, but he also knew Sanzo wasn't in the best state of mind despite managing to survive Ukoku's vicious attack. "We can't change what happened. I aint gonna lie, it hurt so much when you left."

Sanzo knew Goku had the right to bring out his feelings, he just did not realize it would hurt himself that much. His heart clenched when Goku said that he was hurt. God no, hurting Goku was supposed to be the last thing he ever did, if not at all. But he was not given the time to think as the younger man gently took hold of his paler one. Violet eyes followed moving hands which ended on Goku’s chest, near his heart.

"It hurt real bad in my chest, like my heart was gonna squeeze out." Closing his eyes, Goku thought about the days where he stayed up late wondering if the monk was okay. He continued on in a soft voice, wanting his tone to be quieter as Sanzo was still unwell.  "I still dont really get why ya left... but I can't really be mad. I found you again." Goku's hand instinctively squeezed Sanzo's, the motion quick and gentle. "I want to know... but I know you aren't feelin' too hot, so I can wait until you're better." Sanzo needed to eat something, not have Goku bombard him with questions.

Goku’s powerful words and pounding heartbeat beneath his hand made the blond priest tremble. ‘I can't really be mad,’ the monkey said, but it was not supposed to be like that. Goku should be mad at him. It was good that Goku was that strong he did not have to die, but it did not erase the fact that Sanzo failed to protect his most precious ones again. Overwhelmed with guilt, the monk wanted to pull his hand back, but the brunette squeezed his hand before he could do it. The motion was once again gentle and calming, and Sanzo suddenly felt pathetic and useless, being cared for by the one he hurt.

“Why?” He could not hold it, “Why do you care? I failed you.” All his bottled up feelings started to burst out, “I fucking left you to death, why are you not mad?” He raised his head and locked gaze with Goku’s once more. His own violet eyes were full of frustration, anger, burning questions and probably desperation.

To say the heretic was shocked at Sanzo's desperate words was an understatement. Sanzo was normally the more reserved member of the group, able to keep back his emotions. Which was unlike Goku who wore his heart on his sleeve. He had seen Sanzo like this a couple times in his life, but this felt different. The paler of the two trembled as his words came out, hoarse from his still injured throat. The last thing the heretic wanted was for Sanzo to hurt himself even more. Goku kept a hold on the monk's hand when their eyes made contact, seeing the desperation in those violet eyes. He felt a pain in his chest again, before shaking his head. "At first... at first I was kinda mad. I guess upset more than anythin'. When I woke up Gojyo told me you ditched us... but I couldn't really believe it."

The priest had expected a counterargument, but instead Goku consoled him like an experienced psychologist. When did his monkey grow that much? Goku’s shaking his head in a calm manner made Sanzo listen to the following words closely. It did not take a lot for him to understand Goku’s disappointment when it was Gojyo who brought the news about his leave. The blond averted his gaze, but not for long since Goku let go of the monk's trembling hand, only to carefully move his hands up to cup Sanzo's face.

With Goku in the chair he had a slight height advantage, and he wanted Sanzo to see his face. Violet eyes widened as he caught the depthness of those golden eyes. "I did a lot of thinkin' while you were gone. I wanted to be mad 'cause ya weren't there when I woke up. You've always been there. I didn't know why ya left!" Goku took a deep breath. Memories of those long days without Sanzo coming back to him in that moment as he closed his eyes." I decided the only way I'd see you again is if I kept goin'. And I did. And I found ya. I wanted to hear what ya had to say, Sanzo. I dont wanna think you left cause I was weak or somethin'."

Sanzo’s breathing quickened as he listened more to this mature confession from Goku. His once stupid bottomless pit of a monkey had not only thought deeper about things, he also found hope and pursue it with his life. Those were definitely things for grown ups. Sanzo had calmed a bit, but Goku’s last words made him slightly weary. “You’re not weak,” he spoke too quickly. “You’re not dead even when that crow bastard tried to kill you,” giving emphasis in words made him lose some breaths, but the monk still held his gaze firm. The heretic could feel himself becoming relieved when Sanzo said he wasn't weak. Goku always wanted to be strong, someone the priest could depend on. Sanzo saved him from eternal loneliness, and the young man wasn't sure if he could ever repay back such a debt. He smirked a little at the remark that Ukoku had not killed him. "Like I said... I gotta make sure not to die." 

Goku looked up at the monk, uttering a question he just had to ask, "You wont leave me again...right?" Sanzo felt relieved when sparks went back to fill the golden orbs. He brought his hand up to touch the tanned hand still nested on his own cheek. “I won’t,” Sanzo answered firmly. "I'll hold ya to that then," Goku nodded and relaxed his body in the seat.

The blond priest closed his eyes, but then flashes of memories of Goku being hauled away haunted him again, sending shivers down his spine. He squeezed Goku’s hand by instinct. “You,” Sanzo started his own confession, “That bastard tried to take away memories of you, from me.” He frowned at the possibility of it almost happening,

Goku listened quietly as Sanzo spoke about his ordeal with the dark monk, and he was surprised at what was revealed to him. While the monk was recuperating he barely spoke about what happened. Even on that day when he found Sanzo curled up in such a broken state being surrounded by a void of darkness, the monk didn't talk about what he had seen. Goku didn't want to press the matter, even though he could tell something felt off with Sanzo. Not to mention he was pretty banged up himself. But in that moment, Goku saw so much emotion flash through those violet eyes, Sanzo's hand squeezing his own. “It was-” the most frightening thing I ever experienced, Sanzo could not make himself say it out loud.

It took the heretic a moment, but he had a feeling Sanzo was having trouble voicing what he wanted to say. Goku always had an easier time with his emotions. Leaning forward, he pressed his forehead against Sanzo's, touching the monk's chakra. Sanzo’s breath hitched when Goku suddenly barged into his personal space. His body reacted by instinct to drive Goku away, but instead his hands stopped at the brunette’s chest, feeling the same heartbeat he felt minutes ago. He swallowed at the sensation of warmth touching his forehead.

"Sanzo, if I said..." Goku paused for a moment, before pressing on. "...that I wanted to stay with ya forever... would that be okay?" Slowly, he twined his fingers with the monk's much lankier ones. The blond priest felt Goku’s breath when the brunette offered his plea. Then, more warmth as calloused fingers intertwined with his. Too close, too much, Sanzo was overwhelmed with all the sensations Goku was giving him. Even so, he still gave full attention to Goku's every word. "Those weeks we were apart, I felt... I dont know. Real empty. I dont ever wanna leave you." 

He would never admit it out loud, but the more he recalled, the more the monk agreed with his monkey. Traveling with Hazel and Gat instead of the ikkou made him realize how the three somehow completed him. Sanzo-ikkou was not just a term anymore, it was them, it was him. And being far away from them, specially the stupid ape, had made him... empty as well. He could still hear Goku's voice from time to time, even if they were miles away, and that brought him to one emotion he rarely felt, longingness.

As his mind went back to the present, Sanzo decided to accept all Goku had to give with a new perspective. Yeah, they found each other again, and it was not that bad. He felt the burden in his heart partly lifted up and the tension on his body loosened up. “I don’t-,” his pale hand squeezed with a bit more pressure as he struggled voicing his honest feelings, “-want you to leave.”

Goku knew he was closer to Sanzo than he had ever been in such an intimate way. He watched intently, noting how the monk would handle him being so close. The young man always knew he felt something for the man who he once considered more like a guardian, but as he got older, experienced more in life, Goku knew he wanted more. Goku always tried to drop little hints, thinking the older man would pick up on it, but either he was being stubborn or naive to it. The returned squeeze and words was more than enough. Sanzo didn't even have to say anything anymore. The heretic gave a small chuckle, then let out a soft sigh as he pulled away from Sanzo, giving him some space.

Sanzo was definitely relieved, having his personal space back, but now that his body had experienced that closeness, some part of him was also curious about how it would end if Goku went further. Shit, Sanzo knew his face had gone some degrees higher and he would not ever want the monkey to notice. Since when he had weird ideas about Goku?

"That sounds good to me. I wont leave your side ever." 'I love you too much to do that.' The thought came clearly in Goku’s head, not knowing if the monk could hear them. He hoped he could.

"Hmph," the blond priest averted his gaze away when Goku declared his cheesy devotion. Goku knew the monk wasn't one for sappy words, but he wanted the man he had grown to adore so much to know how he felt. Finally, Goku felt at peace. "Alright, now that we got the important stuff out of the way..." His eyes roamed over the bandages that were all over the blond, looking almost like a mummy. "Now I get to take care of you properly!" With Hakkai and Gojyo not there, Goku could care for the monk without the latter teasing them.

Once the healthier man said something about taking care of him, the monk's stomach rumbled again. The need for energy supply in the form of food rarely became an issue, so when it did, Sanzo realized he was totally depleted. As usual, he chose to say nothing about it.

One more gentle squeeze and Goku pulled back completely to look seriously over Sanzo. "You said that weird guy tried to take your memories... did he try anything else?" His eyes flashed for a moment, looking almost as though Seiten Taisei lurked under that expression. "I'm going to kick his ass if he ever shows his stupid face again."

Sanzo noticed how Goku's eyes had gotten slightly slit, as if it was both Goku and Seiten Taisei who spoke the oath. The energy emitted from the smaller yet stronger man was giving fuels to his own. There was rage building up inside as he answered that question inwardly, what you mean like him trying to get my attention every now and then? The thing with Kami bastard? How Hazel came to know about Seiten Taisei? They way he tried to kill you in front of me? I get the feeling he's trying to torture me in purpose for whatever fucking reason. What's the deal with him, anyway? Sanzo tched, "I'm going to kick his fucking ass first when he does." The monk then moved his body aside, trying to stand up and walk to the table, ignoring the sting from every cracking bone and strained muscle in every movement.

Golden eyes widened as Sanzo forced himself to stand, then wincing when he could see how much pain the monk was in. He knew trying to force the stubborn blond to lay back down would result in the older man probably getting irritated with him, being a very prideful being. Goku wasn't much better, so he understood. Instead of scolding him to rest, Goku stood up so Sanzo could ease into it, then moved to sit across from the monk so they could continue to talk.

Finally, out of bed after being in a sleeping position for days like the dead. Sanzo looked at the breakfast Goku brought, banana and toast. The toast looked hard, but at least the banana seemed like something he could eat. But first, he had to deal with the stinging pain before he could start eating, so he went silent as Goku talked again.

"How about first one to see him kicks his ass?" The youngest of the men chuckled, though it wasn't quite a true Goku laugh. Honestly, at the end of the fight, he had been shaking horrible. That monk that controlled some dark powers had nearly killed him and Sanzo. And his entire being seemed... off. Goku didn't know how to explain it. The monk noticed the fake laugh and raised an eyebrow towards Goku's hesitation, guessing that Goku was probably scared of the crow. But the hesitation was not there for long, and Sanzo took note of Goku's growing up once again. "Scratch that. We double team and kick his ass." Goku nodded to himself, this seemed like a fool proof idea.

"Damn right," the monk took the banana and allowed some time for his hand to adapt to the grip. "We fought him once and we know what that bastard's capable of. Next time, he's going down," he said while peeling the fruit. He opened his mouth wider and his jaw cracked with the movement. His face scrunched as he forced himself with the pain. At least the banana was rather sweet.

Goku couldn't help but feel a little sad as he watched the older man struggle a bit with eating. Goku healed fast naturally, even without Hakkai's ability to mend wounds. He wished, somehow, that Sanzo could borrow his ability to heal quickly. However, Goku knew how tough the monk was. He wouldn't stay down for long, too stubborn to waste time on that. It was something the heretic admired about him. There was no time to waste on moping, keep moving forward.

"Yeah, he wont get the drop on us again!" Goku's bright smile was back, confident that with Sanzo there was nothing they couldn't do. It was like that time they had to deal with Kami. The group would get stronger, keep going on their journey, take down anyone who tried to stop them, and then once things calmed down, Goku and Sanzo could maybe settle down back at the temple. Or perhaps continue to travel. Wherever Sanzo went, Goku would be by his side.