Goku knows more than he shows. Sanzo, Goku, free will and enough rope.
Sometimes it feels as though nothing has changed. As though one day he'd closed his eyes and opened them again, never realising that time and who knows how many lifetimes had passed between them, him and Sanzo.
Can he distinguish and mark the days, the moons, the seasons? Can he count that high?
On his fingers and toes, or perhaps scratching faint lines into the wall - five days here, and five more, thus many hands, thus many feet of days. He thinks he could, but he didn't think to keep track until there were more people than he could remember or imagine. And the settling dust would have filled in the scratches anyway.
So. Sanzo is here, his strange, distantly familiar features now scrunched up in a look like disgust, though it is uncertain if the feeling is for Goku or for himself, or if it is another emotion Goku had yet to learn. Sanzo's expressions are always like that, angry and frustrated at some indefinable thing, as though he found even his own existence offensive, yet it remains an unreadable patina, keeping his thoughts and feelings seething beneath, waiting to break over anyone fool enough to chance his temper.
And beneath that, something else, something that glows in the depths of Goku's being like a warm memory, only he cannot decide if it is a faded recollection, or wishful thinking. It was too long ago to tell.
Goku could watch him for hours, trying to decipher the fine lines scratched between his brows and the corners of his eyes and mouth by custom, and Goku would still fail to understand so much noise and fury rushing through, around, past him as though time had just tripped over its feet and now tumbled erratically, skittering faster and faster headlong down the rocky present when it had been accustomed to sitting quietly and waiting for a pale new leaf to turn brittle and brown, then fall and melt into the rich loam outside. For the first snowflake to fall, catch on an exhalation of warm breath meeting rock and grow into a white tooth and then be forgotten as cold whiteness fades back into warm green... No more.
He tries to keep up, bouncing frenetically off walls and trees, off demons and off his friends and Sanzo's stinging fan, not sure if he should catch himself or go with the flood, or so help him, try to learn something from it, retain a lesson of some sort that would keep the next outburst from falling on his head yet again. He knows he was perhaps not so bright as - the others, but even so, he should know better by now. Time is moving for him again. He has changed. He is growing up, feeling his way through all the new and new-old experiences, and still it is not enough.
Too much remains the same. He is still trailing along behind his sun, watching Sanzo with uncomprehending fascination as though the snow and falling leaves had never passed, the intervening seasons missed and lost in the blink of an eye, trying to hold on to something he knows amid the relentless barrage of newness and comforted by the impatient looks and sharp reprimands, a sting of paper like a slap, always turning away from him. It is all too familiar.
But do not speak the name. Do not think on the past. Do not remember who you are, or who they were. Be. Surely Sanzo would not answer, if Goku wanted him by another name. Though he had, and though he'd known Goku's name still. It is too much to ask. Can a mortal mind encompass so many lifetimes, so many identities and still be called sane?
Perhaps Sanzo, too, senses the danger. There are words for this condition, when one answers to the name of a long dead man, or a being that does not exist. He came for Goku, and that is enough.
It doesn't matter. Just because they had lived before, does that make their lives now inconsequential?
They can lead their own lives in the present. Follow their own paths. If they fall back into the old patterns of behaviour, does that matter? Sanzo is Sanzo, as always, nothing less, and if Goku thinks one name and calls another, he is still addressing the same person with a different veneer. Beneath the superficial differences, each action still brings the same reaction. It is easier, more comfortable to follow their instincts than questioning and weighing each move in their long-established dance. There is nothing to think about.
Discrete incarnations? One can hardly tell. It doesn't matter. It is.