The first time they meet is short, and not that odd. But remarkable.
Birds come and go through the mountain all the time. The little stone monkey likes to watch them pass when he looks up at the sky.
A raven from a land he's never seen gets caught in a large web, separated from their flock. They're young like him, downy feathers still growing and their flying clumsy. He helps them and as thanks gives him one of their very few adult feathers. It's black as the night sky, but shows iridescence when the light hits it just right.
“Thank you for your kindness, I promise we will meet again one day.”
He still has that same feather.
The second time makes him start to really think about death.
He has grown a bit more, now The Handsome Monkey King. They are a raven once more, he sees them fall out of the sky.
A larger bird had gotten them, he scares it away, he’s compelled to help the little raven. But there is nothing he can do, He's seen death before but not like this. Death was alway quite or quick. This is anything but that.
They're hurt and crying for mercy, the king isn't sure how to give it to them. He settles on holding them, gently stroking them and keeping them close to comfort. He tries not to look at the blood seeping out of them.
Their last words are “Thank you.”
He buries them under the nicest tree and starts to think about his own mortality.
III. Heart Break
By the time the third time rolls around he has become Sun Wukong, a student under Master Subodi, studying the secret to immortality. Still young, still impulsive.
None of his fellow students believe that this mere monkey can somersault far enough to travel to different lands in one leap, daring him to prove it.
“And you have to bring back proof! Or else it doesn't count.” They insist, and being the headstrong monkey that he is, he agrees, leaping away in front of them all. Thinking of all the impressive things he should bring back.
When he lands it is on his butt as he rolls down a muddy hill, having been lost in his thoughts of grander. As he takes in his surroundings he notices it’s a humid jungle, plant life all around him. Pretty, but not good enough for proof, and so he walks for a moment before coming upon a stranger.
They are his age, long dark hair down and to the side, dark brown skin like amber with dark brown eyes to match. Their clothing simple but colorful, jewelry adorning their neck and ears. They are kneeling next to a river, surrounded by cut up plants and a bowl, busy with some kind of work. Too busy to notice him.
It’s an instant crush, and he suddenly remembers the mud all over him. He’s never jumped into a river so fast in his life.
When he reaches the surface, mud all gone, they’re staring at him in shock and in awe. He has their attention, something for once he doesn't know what to do with.
“I- um- hi.” Is all he can manage to sputter out, tempted to dive back under the water.
They laugh and reach out a hand to help him out of the river.
Their name is Citlalli he learns, and they're training to become a healer. He tells them about training with Subodi, and his other exploits ( although, exaggerating a bit ). They talk and laugh and for the first time in a while, Wukong feels truly cheerful. He's felt kinda lonely since leaving home, and the other students..well they all butt heads a lot.
“Ah, so you need proof?” Citlalli said thoughtfully, Wukong having told them of his latest bet. Smiling, they unclasp the necklace they wore and handed it to him. It was simple, a circular pendant made of jade and bronze, carved with patterns and images unfamiliar to him.
He holds his shiny new trinket up in the light, marveling over it. Thankful, he promises to visit again tomorrow, jumping away back to the mountain. And that is how their friendship starts.
The following year they bring each other food from home to share, swap stories, or just talk about what has happened in the week. Wukong is always excited to visit, and Citlalli is always happy to see him. So when he finds them looking so forlorn one day, he gets worried.
“My father is sending me away to get married. To elevate our family status.” They explain. “It won't happen for a long time but- he thinks I should get to know him beforehand. He's a year or two older than me, a warrior, and I hear he's nice but..” Citlalli sighs, digging their hand in to the grass. “I don't want to leave home, and I don't want to marry someone who will likely die and leave me all alone. I can still be a healer yes, but I'll be expected to have children and-” another deep sigh as they bury their face into their hands.
Wukong is silent and still for the first time in his life, the gears grinding in his brain. He doesn't want them to get married because of his own feelings, but more importantly he doesn't want them to be miserable and unhappy.
“Marry me.” He blurts out, they look at him, eyes wide, but he keeps going. “I mean- I'm a king, that'll make your dad happy right? And you come with me to learn from the master like I am. We can stay together and you can come to my home- you can do whatever you want and don't have to worry about having kids-..” He trails off, he knows its sounds ridiculous, but it's all he can think of to help his friend.
Well violence is always an option, but he doubts they'll like that.
Citlalli takes his hands in theirs, a sad smile on their face. “Wukong, thank you for thinking of me but- I think we both know that wont work..” He can only nod before pulling his friend into an embrace. They'll both keep thinking they promise each other. They'll find something.
And a month later, they do. It's the day before they're supposed to leave. A shaman had come to their village to help heal the sick, and they told her of their dilemma. She had then made them an offer, become her apprentice. They would learn more of their craft and travel all over to help those in need, they would not have to worry about paths forced upon them.
“I would have to leave tonight, and we will go to the village where other shamen live and are only allowed and-” a lump catches in their throat. “-and I won't be able to see you anymore.”
Wukong takes this all in, his emotions conflicting all inside him. He doesn't want that, he doesn't want to lose them. He wants to beg for them to come with him instead but- he sees their face and the tears welding up in their eyes. He wants to still see them, but he wants them to be happy even more.
In a rare moment of maturity, he explains to them to do what they need to. He has nothing to give them, so he hands back the necklace they gave him. Insisting that they have ‘horrible memory, you'll need something to remind you of me.’
They cry into his shoulder and promise to someday, somehow, make their way back to him. He promises to hold them to that.
IV. Familiar Stranger
A long time has passed, many things unfolded. Several his own fault ( that he so far refuses to admit ) and now only has his thoughts to occupy him as he is trapped under this mountain. But being all alone with only your mind to keep you sane, can be a dangerous thing.
Only his head and his hands are exposed to the world outside around him. All he ever hears in the sounds of nature, a small comfort. He isn't really sure how long he's been here, or how much longer. Maybe he'll be here forev-
“Want one?” Wukong blinks, pulled from his mind. A fruit is right in front of his nose, a mango. He can't remember the last time he had one, or the last time he ate real food at all, really. But not all of his self preservation has left him yet. He looks up at the stranger offering him the fruit.
It's an animal demon like him, a lynx. Large ears and wide brown eyes that seem somehow familiar and comforting. Which is strange because he's sure they've never meet, but it's enough to make him take the fruit. He rips into it instantly, desperate and wild. But the stranger doesn't seem to mind, taking a seat next to him, leaning against the base of the mountain.
He doesn't ask what they're doing here and what they want from him for the fruit until he licks the pit clean.
“‘Eh, just being nice and passing through.” they replied, handing him another mango. “Heard all about you on the way over though. Was told to ‘keep away’ and ‘turn back’ by a manner of all kinda spooky ghosts and such until finally some big ol tuff guy came down and said to ‘not let the accursed monkey free or else be smited by all of heaven’. Never said anything about being nice though.”
Wukong rolled his eyes, but it was a good enough answer. He'll take what company he could get. “Did he have a third eye?”
“Yeah that guy hates me, gave him a good kick in the balls once though.”
He doesn't know why he finds a warm comfort in their laugh and smile.
Wukong asks questions, mostly about what's been going on in the world since he's been cut off. He learns it's only been 90 years and will probably be there much, much longer. Heavens, he'll probably go mad by 150 and says as much. The stranger then makes him an offer.
“I'm a shaman- well, was a shaman? Anyway, I know a spell of sorts that'll keep you asleep until you're supposed to be let out from under there I mean. In theory.”
He readily accepts, anything to pass the time and keep his sanity at this point. The fact that he can so easily trust them bothers him a bit, maybe it's the food. So as the lynx gets to work, he asks what exactly they're doing all the way over here.
They tell him that in short, the sun and moon ( Huitzilopochtli and Coyolxauhqui ) are two gods who will fall from the sky next eclipse. The sun god's body will be made into a bonfire to grant the new sun his power. While the moon be pushed out of the sky by the new moon. She will seek out all the gods, everything else in the world, and kill them all. But, they know where she will fall, and how to kill her.
“Problem is it will probably kill me.” They shrug, mixing herbs and the like into a bowl. Wukong can only look at them in shock at how...casual they seem about dying maybe. “I mean, I'll be reborn sure, but not as strong as I am now. Might not even be able to do any magic at all.”
“So why do it? Why not have someone else do it?”
“Eh no one really believes me right now, besides, apparently Coyolxauhqui has it out for me specifically too? I pissed her off in my first life and she killed me or whatever.”
“..you really don't know what you're doing do you?” Wukong states, eyebrows raised.
“Hey! To be fair I'm going off of dreams, visions from a dying panther god, and a weird mind trip from an old lady who tried to eat me.” they exasperate, waving their pedestal in the air. “Look if I don't do it, who will?”
He argues no further, the potion is ready. As he drinks from the bowl they sing a song he can't understand as a blue glow shines from their eyes and the air around them feels like electricity for a moment.
As his eyes feel heavy, he asks them one last question.
“What's your name?”
“Citlalicue.” They tilt their head, dark brown eyes he’s sure he's seen before looking at him. “It means star.”
Citlalli also meant star, but by the time he puts two and two together, he slips into sleep.
It’s starts off when Wukong finds a dead body in a river.
Wait- scratch that, a very much alive body, in the water. He can’t see their face, they’re face down, arm tied with a rope around a log. He pokes them with his staff as they drift over to the edge, it takes a few more to finally rouse them.
Their head snaps up and they’re covered in dirt and scratches, short brown hair wild and untamed, brown eyes wide and alert. They only stare a moment at him, which he returns, tilting his head.
“I- um- hi.” they sputter out.
He laughs and reaches out a hand to help them out of the river.
He brings the stranger back to camp, Sangzang instantly fusses and hands them a bowl of food. Bajie, Wujing, and Longma look to Wukong in unison, who gives them a thumbs up. Just some unlucky human he found, not a threat. The trio relaxes and greet the stranger as well.
Their name is Mancio ( “But call me Manny!” ) and they’re on a quest given to them by their gods. And is also from the future? Manny insists the whole thing is needlessly complicated but they’re stuck with it for now so might as well get it done. Sangzang insists they travel together after hearing their story, saying that it’s far too dangerous on their own.
Wukong is skeptical at first, but Manny proves very quick to be a useful and welcoming companion. They even actually listen to him! Which is a first since heavens knows how long. After a few run ins with demons, ghosts, and a fish monster man who Manny kicked in the nuts, the two are close as two peas in a pod at this point. They’re in sync and somehow, Manny always seems to make him feel awe in the things they do. He feels warm and light when they smile...almost like-...like he felt with them before..
“Wukong the longer you stare at them the more obvious you are.” Wujing says not for the first time as Wukong watches Manny light the campfire.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Wukong snaps back quick, too quick.
“Okay lover boy.” Wukong only huffs. He’s not in love. He can’t be- He’s still waiting.
They’ll come back to him...right?
One night Manny and him are a bit away from camp, laying on a grassy hill top, staring up at the night sky.
“Wait, you actually have a last name?”
“Yes! Wukong did you think I was just called Mancio this whole time?”
“I thought the river gave birth to you.” He laughed, that got him a playful punch in the arm. “Seriously! I won't judge, I came out of a rock!”
Manny just rolls their eyes, but smiling all the same. A smile he liked to pretend was only for him.
“Alright, time for a etymology lesson-”
“Booooorrrrriiiinnnngggg-” He gets another punch in the arm, a bit harder, still playful.
“Shut up! Okay so Mancio means ‘fortune teller’ and my last name is Vega, it means ‘meadow’ in Spanish!-”
They had their ‘teacher’ voice on, ah time for Manny to drone on. Not that he minded, he liked that they talked to him a lot, and listening to their voice.
“- but in latin it means ‘star’! Which honestly I think is way cooler.”
The moment they say that a switch flips in his head. Things start to click together, fast, he is so stupid they’re here they were right here they-
They made their way back to him.
Next thing he knows, he’s got his arms wrapped around them. The hold is tight, like if he lets go they’ll fly away from him.
Manny asks if he’s okay, he says he’s alright, he’s just never been more happy.
He’s proven wrong when Manny finally gets the nerve to confess to him a few weeks later. He tries not to cry in front of them and promises to never let them go.
V.II Wukong Lets Go
“Okay but, what if I don’t want to go back?” Manny pleads with the giant serpent in front of them, they’ve never looked more scared, but they hold Wukong’s hand tight. “What if I just- stay here, with him. No one will miss me, right?”
The serpent only shakes it’s two heads, Wukong holds his staff so tight his knuckles turn white. He just got them back, he’s not losing them again. He’s fought hundreds of gods, he’s fought all of heaven, one more god to the list won't matter to him.
“I’m afraid that is not how it works young one, now you’ve done well in your task. But they must finish theirs, without you.”
Before either of them can get any say, or a fist, a gust if magic comes from the mirror and grabs Manny. Wukong holds onto them for dear life, but the magic and the wind is too strong. Something is holding him back.
Next thing he knows, he is alone, again. Manny screaming his name still ringing in his ears.
V.III I Will Wait
Centuries have passed again this time, how many he is unsure. Still he can’t find them, but he knows he will. One day, he has to.
On a whim, he decides to visit a museum, maybe it’s nostalgia for past a bit. He takes his time, but a few times he swears he hears their voice, or sees the back of their head- but when he looks, nothing. Until finally, he sees them.
Their back is towards him but he can see their face from where he is, hear their voice. So many emotions run through his mind and all he wants to do it run over to kiss and hold them, no matter who stares.
But he also sees their stiff stance and the two men inching closer as they keep taking steps back.
Oh hell no.
“Ah, I found you!”
He places an arm around Manny’s shoulder, pulling them enthusiastically towards him into a side hug. He looks down at them, eyes shining, grinning wide, he hasn’t felt this happy in so long. They only look up at him in shock, but first time to get rid of the trash.
With just a well place glare he scares the two men away, laughing he pulls them out of the exhibit. His chest is light and his heart warm, he has so much to tell them! So much he wants to do! He just can’t believe he finally-
“Thanks- um- I’m Mancio, but you can call me Manny. Who are you?”
That one sentence makes his heart shatter so fast he doesn't know what to do. He found them but, it’s the wrong moment. They haven’t meet him yet, they don’t know him. He must have come off such a creep now, oh heavens what if he actually did kiss them-
Fuck time travel.
The museum announces it will be closing soon and Manny excuses theirself, hurrying over to an exhibit they missed. He can only say goodbye as he sees them run off.
He looks down at his hand and feels like he wants to cry, but it’s alright. They’re here, they’re alive, it just means a little bit more waiting. He can do that, he’s done it so far.
Turns out he doesn’t have to wait long.
He walks a few blocks to the train station, and by the time he reaches the entrance he hears someone yelling his name from behind him.
He turns around and there they are, it’s Manny. Chest heaving for air but they keep running. He thinks he can see them crying.
He’s never ran so fast in his life before.
He swoops them up into his arms, spinning them as he clings to them tightly. Neither of the two caring who sees it seems. Manny sobs into his chest, not daring to let go. Wukong lets out tears that he’s pretty sure he’s been holding in for centuries.
They look up at him finally and cup his face in their hands. “I-I, I promised. I would make my way back to you.” they manage between sobs, smiling up as they looked at him.
“Yeah, Yeah you did.” He leans into their hands, lowering his head down, giving them a kiss he’s been waiting for a very long time to give.
He feels his heart soar.