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Self Indulgence

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         In the rare moments that Sanzang was left alone with his eldest disciple, he finds that the monkey was always terribly eager to show off his skills to onlookers. And though this usually meant that the male would be displaying his obscene strength or magical prowess, Sanzang couldn’t help but enjoy the displays. He wonders if the male did so to prove himself strongest over humans, or if it was an attempt to impress his master. Look at how strong I am, he’d boast, no one can lift as much as I can, Master! Or it was: Look at this trick, he’d snort haughtily, they always fall for the same thing!

         Perhaps it was also a way to prove that he was useful to the monk, even after all this time. Though WuKong was never sent away for his abilities—only how he abused them. After a particular stunt that made crowds cheer for the King in all of his glory, Sanzang could only sigh with amusement. He did so love to be the center of attention, his first disciple. Briefly, he considers the reasoning behind in, and believes it purely to be how his disciple functions best. He’d claimed to be the leader of a monkey troop, and he’d gone to war against Heaven so many times that Sanzang could nearly recite his disciple’s history himself.

As the disciple made his way back to his master’s side, almost nothing could wipe away the smug grin that curled his lips. “Master,” he begins. “Did you see? They all loved it!” He’d made quite a bit in their alms bowl, and if he’d counted correctly, Sanzang believed it would be just enough to tide them over until they could reach another pass point. At least, that’s if Sandy had anything to say about it. The fish demon was terribly shrewd as their money holder. He made for an excellent accountant, and privately the monk was pleased that the fish demon would take on so much responsibility as the youngest brother.

         “Yes, they did,” Sanzang says indulgently. “But it’s rather hard not to appreciate your hard work.” The praise had been hard earned, admittedly. And though it was earned, though his master wasn’t a cruel man nor was he one to withhold such a thing, the monkey can’t help but beam with pride. And it was at that moment that Sanzang realized something off about his disciple. Something truly, wonderfully, particularly strange that the disciple did when he was so built up.

         The forked ears that sit on either side of his head, the very ears that pointed straight to the Heavens themselves, were twitching. Entranced, he watches it for a few moments. When they stop, he realizes that his rather short disciple was peering at him. Golden eyes, ones that peer through illusions and crinkled in a clever way when he sees the truth, narrow just the same as if he’d caught his master in a lie. “WuKong,” he murmurs. “We should return.”

         And with that, it’s not difficult to find their way back to the temple they’d sought shelter from for the next couple of days. Idiot was making a mess of himself and the table, so sloppily he ate. Sandy, true to form, was arranging their belongings so it’d be easier to carry for the next section of their journey. And WuKong, once he was finally rejoined with his brothers, plops himself down on a cushion near the table and plucks a single fruit from the selection in front of them. A persimmon, light and sweet, quickly coated his tongue.

         It was a quiet moment for the group, one that Sanzang was pleased to see. And he briefly wished that the journey would never end, knowing full well that they would be apart should his mission reach completion.

         It doesn’t take long for Idiot to stand up and saunter his way out of the room, and once Sandy finishes tidying up their belongings, he takes the alms bowl into another room. It was to count out and factor into their already tiny budget, but it was the most effective way to do so. Seeing that they were alone, he expects that WuKong would jump at the chance to speak to him about something or another. And he was proven correct as the disciple finishes his fruit and sidles his way to his master’s side.

         Staring the monk in the face, the King holds perfectly still. That, in and of itself, was an impressive feat. Until he could see that the ears were twitching, wriggling freely. “How do you do that,” he asks incredulously. A smug grin curls the monkey’s lips. Sanzang could see a quick gleam of fang before it’s hidden away behind a careful movement. He noticed that the monkey did that more and more often—when he smiles at the monk he hides his teeth. Curiously, he tilts his head. “And you do not smile like you used to.”

         That seemed to sting the monkey who thought he’d been so careful with his habits. Unfortunately, he was a male who wore his heart on his sleeve, and believed that honesty was usually the best policy. “You react better,” he states. “When I hide my teeth.” Admittedly, the motion of showing teeth for monkeys was one of aggression. But Sanzang never had reacted too well when he saw the gleaming fangs of his disciple.

         Frowning, his master seems to consider his words very carefully. A hand reaches out, and touches his shoulder. A sign of connection, an intimate motion for humans, the gesture isn’t lost on WuKong. “When you usually showed your teeth,” he chides. “You were always about to attack something. Or someone. But you’ve learned since then. And you’re not nearly as eager as you once were for a fight.” It was true that the monkey had grown up some during their journey. And he’d even understood why Sanzang would fear such a show. He was right in such assumptions.

         Hand rising up, he clasps it with his master’s. “Master,” he begins. There’s a look that’s oddly serious on the monkey’s face. And Sanzang found himself holding his breath, waiting to hear that his student had indeed learned the lessons he’d taught so well. “If you think for a single moment that I am not, and was not, ever eager for a fight then you are wrong. I’m always ready for a fight.” A grin, filled with monkey mischief and humor nearly splits his disciples face in half it’s so wide.

         The monk finds that he can only sigh. He wouldn’t expect anything less of the Monkey King if he were being truthful. “At least you don’t show it so often in front of me.” It was a start.

The monkey begins cackling, tipping over with his hysterics. Sanzang watches, his lips pursed as he lets the monkey have his fill of laughter before his fingers finally release their hold on the eldest pilgrim’s shoulder. In a daring motion, he lets his fingers drift under the monkey’s chin, a tickling motion there in hopes to distract WuKong.

         The reaction he receives is not the one expected. And he wasn’t sure what he was expecting, but then again, WuKong always had a way of reacting oddly.

         The laughter stops abruptly, and he makes a sound that Sanzang had never heard the monkey make before. He squeaks, startled by the sudden touch before rolling himself up to be eye level with his master. WuKong’s eyes were wide, curious as he stares the monk down, as if he wasn’t sure of his own reaction. And, with utmost care, Sanzang brings himself to repeat the motion. WuKong doesn’t react at first, the corners of his eyes twitching before Sanzang notices that his first disciple was reacting. WuKong’s fingers were twitching, almost kneading the fabric of his pants, and his ears were began twitching in the telltale sign of being pleased.

         The sound that starts is what startles the monk most. A low cooing sound, entirely more monkey than it was human, comes from WuKong. And the monk isn’t sure what to do with this information, finding it both adorable and entirely engaging at the same time. That is, until the monkey’s hands come up, wrapping around Sanzang’s hand and yanking it from his chin. When he opens his eyes, the pupil is so fat it practically consumes the gold he knows is there.

         A chittering sound follows after, monkey chatter that the monk knows absolutely nothing about. He didn’t stop until Sanzang held up his other hand and begins the process again. The monkey coos and chitters until the monk finally stops and pulls both of his hands away. It takes the reddish haired monkey a moment to process this.

         When he does, he frowns at the monk. The bald man had learned a weakness. That simply won’t do. He opens his mouth to speak, but the monk beats him to it. “In 500 years,” he begins. He always speaks in a calm, knowing sort of way. WuKong likes it. “You haven’t had much, if any, friendly touch. I’m sorry if I overwhelmed you.”

         Tilting his head, the monkey considers the words carefully. Then he snorts dismissively, shaking his head. “As long as it’s you,” he murmurs. “I don’t mind a bit of self-indulgence.”