The sun rose in the east as always, unchanging and heedless of the death and destruction that had taken place below. Many would come to say that morning had been blindingly bright; a dazzling daybreak to cleanse the earth of its sins. Certain others would say that was a load of bullshit.
Sanzo awoke in darkness. If there was one thing the last two years had taught him, it was to test his body’s threshold for pain. He flexed his right hand and grimaced; bearable. Pushing himself up to rest his weight on his left arm; not so much. His stomach roiled and throat convulsed, though there was nothing but a little bile to throw up. He spat and shakily wiped his mouth against the back of his right hand.
When his eyes failed to adjust to the darkness he reached up, unsteady fingers brushing against thick bandages. It wasn’t the room that was dark. Mouth dry and sour, his stomach lurched again at the thought he might be— that he couldn’t see. His memories were nothing but a jumbled mess of blood and incoherent snapshot images.
Shit. He tugged at the bandages roughly, the sharp pain that lanced through the left side of his head leaving him struggling for breath against the pillow; the room fucking spinning and lurching without even being able to see it.
So damn pathetic. At least it seemed like he was alone – though maybe if someone else was here he might have a chance at getting a fucking cigarette. His breaths were still shaky, but the desire for it itched at his fingertips and lips.
The sound of a door opening caused a rush of adrenaline so strong his whole body tensed with it, hand awkwardly grasping for a gun that wasn’t there.
“Oh? Welcome back to the world of the living, Genjo.”
The slightest twist of his neck only worsened the dull throbbing in his head as he turned unthinkingly. “What…”
He almost choked on the hoarseness of his own voice, throat so dry he could only rasp out a single word before coughing.
“Don’t overdo it.” Her footsteps came to a stop beside him. He felt hyper-aware of every noise, of the scent of her skin and smoke and sweat, of the dirt that came from long hours working outdoors. “Drink some water,” she said, voice firm, “and then I’ll go and get someone.” The hand that eased itself under his neck was strong and solid, cool against the uncomfortable damp heat of his skin. “Nothing’s broken,” she added, “though with this amount of bruising you were pretty damn lucky it wasn’t more serious.”
He gritted his teeth, spine and head screaming in protest as she angled him up a little. After he caught his breath, the worn rim of a cup was being pressed against his lips. Though it hurt to swallow, the water was a soothing balm against his throat. But it wasn’t enough, and he choked on it. “Slow down.” Sanzo knew his desperation was laughable, water dripping down his chin, but she didn’t sound amused.
Easing him back down against the pillow, a cool cloth pressed against his mouth, his cheeks, then came to rest against his forehead. Pathetic.
Sharak didn’t even hesitate. “Gone.” The ache in his skull seemed to intensify at that. “Ukoku was feeling petty, I’m told. Your right was damaged, but not beyond saving. Once it’s time for the bandages to come off, it shouldn’t give you too much trouble.”
His mouth twisted in a bitter smile, fingers flexing instinctively. Sharak snorted.
“Yeah, all right, shooting won’t be the same, I get it. Though there shouldn’t be so much need for that, now.” He heard her stand and brush off her robes. “You did good, Genjo. So have some sense and stay fucking put for once. Rest.” Footsteps, and then, “your friends should be back soon; I’ll let them know you’re awake.”
Something eased in his chest at that; a worry he hadn’t been willing to consciously acknowledge. If he was the worst off, that was a pretty damn good outcome.
Only when the door clicked gently shut did he realise he’d been smiling.
It was sobering to realise just how much Goku had changed. He’d sat by Sanzo’s bed and clutched at his hand, of course, for as long as Sanzo would put up with it; spoken brightly of how they were all helping with the reconstruction efforts—but then he’d just squeezed Sanzo’s hand gently a final time and disappeared, telling him to focus on getting better.
“He doesn’t want to overcrowd you,” Hakkai had said, and Sanzo hadn’t known how to respond to that – a strange, creeping sense of loss heavy in his stomach. Even the soft warmth of Hakkai’s hands encircling his head, speeding the healing along couldn’t take the edge off the chill that had settled in his chest. Gojyo’s shitty jokes about his beauty now being ruined were something of a distraction, at least, familiar and safe.
But it felt like they were both avoiding the major fucking question of: what next? The urgency of it felt like it would choke him, while they just sat there and laughed.
"The monkey'll be back," Gojyo had said as they stood to leave, and Sanzo had almost said I don't give a shit, the words on the tip of his tongue. But the lie wouldn't come and he'd turned away instead, throat tight.
He’d just woken up, but time had ceased to have much meaning. Maybe it was the middle of the day, maybe the middle of the night; Sanzo didn’t give a fuck. He needed a piss, and he was sick of lying there doing nothing. Sitting up still made him grit his teeth in pain, but thanks to Hakkai’s efforts earlier it at least didn’t make him want to throw up anymore. He fumbled at the bandage around his head – if he could just shift the right side of it up enough—
The room was dimly lit, swimming in and out of focus. But he could see, and felt sick with relief even if it was only one eye. He stood and steadied himself against the bed frame as the room lurched. By the time he reached the door, he was breathless and only remained standing through pure fucking stubbornness.
When he pushed the door open, the corridor beyond was dark and silent. Night, then. Thankfully it turned out that the next door along contained a toilet, and beyond that, a bathroom. After pissing and then stumbling along to the bathroom to rinse the worst of the sweat and clamminess away with cold water, he clung to the wall as he made his way back. The front of his jinbei hung open, the air chill against his damp chest as a violent shiver ran through him.
Because of course, his body was a damn traitor and wouldn’t even let him accomplish the most basic of tasks.
The world dimmed, and he hadn’t even realised he’d hit the floor until a distant voice filtered through his consciousness.
“Genjo!” A strong arm around his shoulders helped him to his feet, the room seeming infinitely wide as he took a slow step forward. “You should’ve called someone.”
His mouth twisted into a savage smile. “Didn’t,” Sanzo’s breath caught in his throat. “Didn’t need to.”
Sharak did laugh at him then, long hair brushing against his cheek as she shook her head. “That would be more convincing if I hadn’t come running because I heard the thump of you collapsing.”
He grunted and looked away, squinting as they reached the bed and she flicked on a small lamp. As he eased himself back against the pillows, Sharak sat down on the edge beside his legs and lit up a cigarette, taking a deep drag before offering it to him.
Her eyes were narrowed, gaze dark as she studied him, but he couldn’t bring himself to care as the smoke bled the tension from his body.
“Just couldn’t leave the bandage alone, huh?”
The smoke hung in the air, softening any animosity he might had felt. “You try going blind for days.”
She grinned. “Got plenty of scars of my own already, thanks.” Silence fell and he watched her smile fade, Sharak’s eyes fixed on the ceiling as she leant back, hands splayed against the covers. “Genjo, we have something of a problem.”
“Yeah?” He exhaled, knowing what she was going to say the second she opened her mouth.
“The sutras, we—”
Even though it weighed practically nothing, his shoulders felt somehow lighter without the Maten sutra draped over them. Of course it wasn’t just the Maten sutra, now. “—we have five of them,” he finished.
“And only two of us.” She glanced over at him, brows drawn together in thought. “Do you still mean to keep Maten?”
He took a last drag of the dying cigarette, the silence lengthening.
“I don’t know,” he said at last, tone flat. It hurt to admit ignorance of his master’s intentions, of his master’s past – but here in the quiet stillness of the night, with only Sharak and fading cigarette smoke, the pain of it felt muted somehow. “He never told me how he came to have it, or why. When the Seiten sutra was stolen, more than anything it was my responsibility to get it back.” He shrugged. “And I did that. One Sanzo was never meant to have two.”
“And we have five under one roof.”
Sharak sat up and leant over him suddenly, hair curtaining his face and warm breath on his neck. The unfamiliar tightness in his stomach paralysed him until he realised she was reaching for something under his pillow. As she drew back his breath caught, and she held up the two sutras. “Sorry,” she said, though her expression was anything but. He stared fixedly at the scrolls in her hand, warmth prickling his skin. “Thought you would want them close by. Mind if I take a look at Seiten?”
“Do what you want.” His head was aching again, and whatever state the left side of it was in, it itched insufferably. He didn’t feel—anything for the Seiten sutra, and narrowed his eye as he watched her unfurl it. Why was he being so fucking sentimental about this? “It’ll all come down to the Sanbutsushin’s decision anyway.”
His gaze dropped to the Maten sutra resting in her lap. It had only become his through some morbid twist of fate, though it had served him well.
“Genjo.” He looked up to find Sharak holding the Seiten sutra up to the light, angled so it could be examined more easily. “Stop brooding, will you?” Her gaze slid sideways to find him, and there was such understanding there it made his skin crawl. “This one suits you much better.”
“Hn.” He couldn't help but think that Goku would agree with her.
“Don’t you think it’s kinda poetic?” She lowered the sutra and gently began rolling it back up. “Exchanging yin for yang.” Sanzo didn’t reply. He hadn’t ever thought this far ahead. Hadn’t really allowed himself to think about after, especially a scenario in which they all lived. “You don’t have to rush it, you know?”
“Everything.” She gave a lopsided smile. “Your friends seem pretty content to stick around for a while, too.”
“I’m—” He closed his eye and frowned, conscious of the warm weight of her against his legs. “I can’t—think.” Hakkai and Gojyo had seemed so calm, but his thoughts just wouldn't stand still. The bed dipped under her weight as she leant forward again, sliding the sutras back under his pillow.
“I can leave—”
Sharak froze, and when he looked up at her she was so close he could see the freckles on her nose from long hours in the sun, cut through with the pale ridges of her scars.
Later, he wouldn’t be able to say exactly why he kissed her—or had she kissed him? But it chased everything from his mind except the warmth of her lips and the way her fingertips traced along his jaw. It was desperate and awkward, his inexperience probably obvious in the way he moaned into her mouth, chasing the smoke of her tongue.
She pulled back and gave a rueful smile.
“Why?” he murmured, and wasn’t sure whether he was talking to Sharak or to himself.
She shrugged. “You’re not sticking around forever, right? And you don’t seem the type to fall for me.” Sanzo felt some of the tension bleed from his body, left only with a deep sense of exhaustion. “So sleep. Rest. Learn to shoot again. None of us are going anywhere; we’ll sort all this shit out with the Sanbutsushin in due course.”
It had felt like everything was ending, collapsing around him into ruin. But the nothingness that Ukoku had so wished for had, in the end, swallowed only himself. That night had seemed interminably long, but dawn had broken.
And the sun would rise tomorrow, too.