There were worse positions that Six-Eared Macaque could have landed himself in, especially after his fight with Sun Wukong’s successor, so all things considered… the immortal monkey was incredibly lucky at the moment.
He was in a very soft bed, firm enough to not give too much when he moved but laid on top of extra plush bedding now that he wasn’t bleeding as much as he had been it was much more comfortable. Half of his body was still coated in bandages, though they were more makeshift casts wrapped around items to keep his limbs still than anything else at this point.
Only his right arm and head had managed to make it out mostly unscathed, both fully healed by now. This meant he wasn’t completely unable to entertain himself, a thing called an “e-reader” held in his hand. And as the door to the house he was in opened he thought about his luck.
There was no way this man didn’t know who he was when he found Macaque. Even if the Kid managed to be taken in, apparently his tale hadn’t been completely lost. This house, what little he saw of it when dragged inside and through the halls, was filled with books and art of the Journey. Not everywhere, but just enough to be noticeable. And the recognition on the man’s face when he found him, laying in the rain soaked ground and covered in blood and mud and looking like death itself was instantaneous.
And yet, despite that… and despite the pictures of the Monkey Kid himself he saw on the walls…
“Macaque, you’re awake,” the man spoke, voice still soft and tentative but with a layer of genuine relief and excitement under it. His name was Tang. “I hope you’re feeling as well as you could be.”
Macaque took note of the fact that he didn’t say “better” or just “well” as he lowered the e-reader, bring pulled from the genre known as science-fiction. “As well as he could be”. He seemed mindful of both his condition and his abilities at all times.
“I suppose you could say that,” He said evenly, watching as Tang prepared some kind of medicine for him. He never bothered asking what it was, just some kind of pills and ointment that numbed him enough to make the pain manageable. “I take it nothing happened today.”
It felt odd. Talking like this. He hadn’t just talked to someone in centuries, not really. But what was there to lie about here? Tang knew that he had manipulated the Kid, he said as much to him when he woke. Tang knew of his history, knew who he was and was apparently angry that he hadn’t elaborated on the fact he could have been the same Macaque from the story and not another one (given the story greatly exaggerated his death… or, well, exaggerated that he had stayed dead).
Tang knew he was evil. Knew that he hurt someone he cared about. Knew that he would have been fine eventually if he left him outside, if in a great deal more pain. So why take him in? Why wash his wounds? Why dress them? Why feed him and give him things to entertain him through his bedridden days? Why talk to him, why ask him about the accuracy of the stories?
He was at first annoyed by all his questions but after a day he had given in and just talked and… and he never realized how much he missed just talking to someone. But he still didn’t know why.
He never built up anything to ask. Tang never explained. It lingered between them like a soft breeze, always there and threatening to grow strong. But not causing any disturbance, not yet.
“No, but there are rumors about something going on with the Demon Bull King…” Tang trailed off, genuine worry peppering his tone. It wasn’t as if Macaque was particularly interested or as if he could actually do anything with the state of his healing as it was… but something about that tone made something sink in his chest and he didn’t like that.
Tang was… different, from most humans he had met. Not entirely unique, he wasn’t that different from others, but still. It had been a long time since he met someone who would talk back to him and tell him to “shut up and let me help you”. Reprimand him, him, for trying to leave the bed before his bones reset. Who took his sass with an unbelieving raised eyebrow and a “yes, I totally buy that” and even had the gall to toss food like pieces of candy into his open mouth when Macaque went on an angry rant just because he could. He knew all about him already and he didn’t take any of his bullshit.
He hated to admit it… but he didn’t hate this human. Tang. He didn’t hate Tang.
Neither said anything as Tang handed him the pills, pain killers he called them, and water once Macaque put them in his mouth. Neither said anything as Tang tested the spots on his arms and legs where there were breaks, his ribs long since beating them both to healing, testing to see exactly where anything needed to be reset or rewrapped due to Macaque’s movements in his sleep.
It had been a long week and a half… Macaque almost didn’t want them to heal.
Healing meant he would have to…
“At the rate you’re going,” Tang started with a mirthful laugh, looking equal parts happy and sad. “You’ll be out of here by the end of the week.
Macaque said nothing, setting aside his water and scowling for a moment. He mulled the thought he just had in over in his mind before deciding that… if Tang had let him stay this long… he may as well say it. It wasn’t like it would change anything except whether or not he was happy when he left.
“What if I don’t want to?”
Tang’s head shot up from where he was inspecting his arm, face one of shock and confusion and… if Macaque looked deep enough into his eyes, he could swear he saw something akin to hope that he was being serious.
So he took a chance.
He lifted his good arm and placed his hand on the back of Tang’s head, pulling him closer slowly as he waited for him to fight back or say something. But Tang didn’t. He let the demon pull him closer and closer until his nose touched Macaque’s and Macaque stopped… and Tang moved forward and pressed their lips together.
Macaque knew then and there that he had made a mistake and both of them would hurt when he left the second a fire lit in his chest and his eyes closed and the kiss deepened.
The next day he finally asked Tang why he had given him a chance.
“I’ve been waiting to get to know you from the moment I first saw you.”
(Tang was right. Macaque was ready to leave by the end of the week. So he did, in the midst of the chaos of the Demon Bull King taking everything over. Tang hadn’t come back one day and he watched the news from the house well outside the city. He stayed around outside, just long enough to watch Tang come home, watch him find an empty made bed, watched him grab the e-reader he had given Macaque and slam it into the wall and yell about how stupid he had had been to fall for the demon monkey. How he should have known he would leave.
Macaque left before he allowed himself to actually feel regret and comfort the man who had taken him in and helped him and made him feel something more than hatred and the rush of victory for the first time in centuries.
They both mourned a relationship they never had.)
And maybe one day Tang came home to sweets and other gifts after the Lunar New Year Festival.
And maybe one day a dark furred monkey mistaken for Sun Wukong helped a certain Monkie Kid from the shadows because he remembered the sad look his father figure held when he watched him talk about him being hurt.
Maybe one day Macaque returned, angry and confused due to plans unable to be finished as he time after time remembered the human who helped him heal in more ways than physically over 2 weeks and that healing, while not enough to change him then, had lead to him second guessing his decisions for the months to come.
Maybe Macaque would ask for a second chance, gruff and hating every moment that he had to be nice to anyone else who wasn’t Tang. But begrudgingly trying. For Tang and no one else.
Or maybe not.
Who am I to tell.