It almost twilight. Almost, but not quite. The sun still shone a bold gold streak through the evening sky, but it was apparent that darkness would claim its brilliance soon.
Goku hated twilight. Hated to see the sky flare with the dying sun’s rays. It may be a pretty sight to many, but to him, it brought unwanted analogies to mind.
He sighed softly, the sound dispersing in the air like smoke.
‘Goku.’ A quiet whisper, came out of the trees, followed by what should have been a familiar sight, but Goku didn’t turn, his eyes fixed stubbornly on the dying light.
The man sighed and came closer, the white robe of his station whispering on the swept grounds of the Chaangan courtyards. ‘Goku.’ He whispered, a gnarled, bony hand gripping Goku’s shoulder with the brittle strength of old age.
It was only a weak, aged hand, but Goku suddenly felt as though he was trapped immovably under a heavy weight. He raised his head to the sky, gulping back the sudden heaviness in his chest and the heaving need to let out all the motions tumbling in his brain like tidal waves.
The hand tightened briefly before it was gone and instead, the old man’s arms wound about him, so brittle, entwining like a vine around a banyan tree.
And he broke. Under the weight of that embrace, which clung like the whisper of a shadow.
He brought one of those hands to shield his face as he wept like the child he looked like even after sixty years of his freedom on earth, his breath coming out in gulping sobs. The sun’s rays shone even behind his closed eyes. So strong, he thought sadly, so strong even at the end.
The old man’s put his head on his shoulder and nudged him gently, his hands still covering Goku’s eyes, a vestige of how he had been shielding his charge all these years. Or had it been his charge shielding him? A smile touched the man’s lips like a leaf falling on a still lake.
He turned and pressed wrinkled, but warm lips on the boy’s head, as though by force of that touch alone, he could suck out the sorrows haunting his companion.
Goku let out a pained whimper when he felt the lips touch his forehead, gripping the other hand as well and holding them both to his face, almost as though he were praying with those hands instead of his own, tears flowing out of his pained form and wetting the wrinkled skin.
Slowly, the sun died out and darkness crept across the sky. The evening fog set in, bringing its icy tendrils upon the holy grounds of the temple, as though determined to prove that no, one not even the holiest of the holy can be exempt from the decree of fate and circumstance.
The old man felt the cold creep across but clung steadfastly to his charge, as though prepared to present his own front, however feeble, to the tides of time. He held onto Goku as the eyes ran dry and the boy placed the fingers on his eyes reverently, kissing the tips gently as he always did. Only now Sanzo’s fingers were too worn to feel the deep kiss.
Goku let go of the hands and turned, , winding his own arms around the slender, old body, shielding his sun from the cold in the natural warmth of his arms. ‘It’s late.’ He spoke for the first time, his voice slightly hoarse.
Sanzo tried to give a firm nod, but it came out as more of a shaking waver. ‘Yes.’ He rasped, melting into the boy’s embrace as his feeble form was carefully borne into the warmth of the temple. ‘Yes.’
High in the sky, the stars began to twinkle.