They watch me, their eyes following me wherever I go, whatever I do. It matters not if the place I am in is a barren wilderness, devoid of any life barring a few coarse bushes and some low-lying, thorny cactus, or at the centre of a teaming multitude of people busying about their daily lives. Their attention remains on me, their senses recording my every move. The attention is not meant benevolently, and it is not out of respect, or even fear. They wait for me to take one step out of line, to make a single mistake and that will be their excuse. Kakkarrot does not see, or is wilfully blind to the antipathy his friends hold for me, the alien outcast trapped within their midst.
And outcast I am, in culture and in species. He at least is nominally human, but I am alien in all things, from my birthplace to my upbringing, to my taste in food. And they watch. They wait. Concealing their amusement at my fumbling with their traditions, stifling their laughter at my small errors. I do not fit in here. I would not fit in anywhere, even if Vejiita-sei still existed. I am a Saiyajin, raised and then killed by a Tsirujin, to be brought back by a combination of Namekian and Saiyajin bungling of the worst sort. I was not supposed to survive, and I am not supposed to be here. I can see it in their eyes, every time I have occasion to look at them.
In the gaze of my hostess I find curiosity, and lust. Behind it all there is that professional, scientific detachment that views me as a challenging puzzle. But overriding everything is the contempt for what she sees as my barbaric ways. And I do not doubt that to her they are barbaric. Different. Wrong. Just as the Saiyajin ways were viewed as backward amongst Frieza’s many henchmen. Now I am a monkey with the manners of a lizard. But she doesn’t know that. She only sees my alien ways and judges me lesser. Intriguing, but still inferior.
From her on-again, off-again lover, all I see is envy and hatred, and that peculiar fascination that all fighting races have had for me. There is equal parts curiosity and loathing in his gaze, a jealousy that borders on the psychopathic. We share his lady between us, though she has chosen me to sire her children. It is he that she turns to in all things important though, he that she trusts in everything. I am… a plaything to her, but one that she will not give up. And he hates me for it, even as he wonders what it is that makes her keep me. I avoid him now, for I do not wish to be leashed by a second human. It is hard enough keeping out from under her scalpel, without having to avoid his groping as well.
His cat… does not care one way or the other about me. I am merely a hindrance to her master’s continued happiness, and an uncouth one at that. Mannerless, bad-tempered and ill-spoken as I am, she sees in me nothing that would make me so attractive to one of the opposite sex. And her pig friend sees in me only something to be feared and mocked. Still alien to them both, still not a creature to be accepted, or even tolerated.
The old turtle master… he looks at me with pity sometimes. But most often with resigned contempt. I make too many mistakes for him to ever account me a good fighter, overestimate myself or underestimate my opponent. He does not see the deliberate way I place myself in danger, caring only that I seem to disregard the safety of his precious students and their friends. And that is something he believes is a weakness in me, something that, if properly trained, I could overcome. I have been trained by the best, I know exactly what I am doing, even more than he does. I am glad that his eyes do not see anymore than the others; an alien that does not fit in.
As to his resident student and the bald midget’s wife… She sees me as an uncultured insect, something to destroy should it ever become annoying. He… Krillin is an odd one, as odd as his best friend perhaps. His eyes are kindly, even when I snap insults at him, he laughs at himself rather than at me. But even in his nervous gaze there is an uneasiness that is not born of fear but of confusion. I do not fit into his pigeonholes. For him I am the proverbial square nail in a round hole.
The triclops and his breathing marionette are rarely seen and even more rarely express any opinion. The little one accepts all things as they are, without question or complaint. The taller one despises me. He says nothing, but it is most often his attention fixed on my location, his eyes watching my every move to see me fail and falter in some rudimentary, human activity. I would despise him in return, but I find I do not have the energy to do more than throw out weak insults to the freakish pair. It is not as though they bother me often anyway.
One who does bother me more often is Kakkarrot’s wife. His mate is shrill and vicious in her hatred of me, not willing to allow a past battle to lie quiet in the ground. I fought her son once – twice if you count the test after Namek – and never truly to kill him. I paused so often in my battle with the boy, to give him as many openings as possible, that I was hard-pressed to do anything but stay still. Slow movement does not come naturally to me in a fight, I must concentrate to prevent myself from fighting too quickly and too hard, but at times my attention would slip and I would attack too hard for the child. He was not truly hurt, at all, in any fight he has ever been in against me. But still, that his her primary complaint, that I mean ill to her son. And to her as well, I am uncouth, uncultured, insensitive and tactless. I make no effort to stem the tide of her invective. It is enough that I may retreat from it.
The insults seem to embarrass her children though, particularly the elder. Gohan, as a child, accepted me for what I was, with neither morbid curiosity nor overblown contempt. That has changed as he has grown. As he became more aware of the ways of his world, he became more aware of the fact that I did not fit here. Now he is uncomfortable in my presence, knowing that I am not a harmonious piece of the puzzle. I am hard put not to care. At least his brother is yet young enough that he does not worry about my differences, is not embarrassed by my inability to do things right. Though my own son shows signs of following in the elder boy’s footsteps. I cannot find it in my heart to make him understand, for that would set him apart from the group just as much as my behaviour does me. Let him gain a set of eyes like Gohan’s, let him think of me as his mother thinks of me. It would serve him better on this planet, than to have the outlook of a space-mercenary. As it serves the other hybrids. Even those whose best friends are even more alien in appearance than I.
The Namek has little trouble fitting in to the group, perhaps because of his role here prior to my arrival. I think… he sees me as something of a rival. A foolish, arrogant rival. It is a part I play to the hilt, because one day I will find a way to provoke him badly enough to send me to my final rest. Or, failing that, to see me broken and bloody on the ground. Either way is the same. From him, I think, I get some measure of respect, though he still views me as a childish monster. Far too prone to temper tantrums…
And then the last, the most confusing to me. To be an outsider is not truly new to me, though the… discomfort caused by it does not fade. But to be accepted, and by one whom I have fought and insulted at every opportunity… I have yet to understand Kakkarrot’s attitude to me. He is even more accepting of me, and my strange ways, than any of the others put together. His eyes follow me, all the time, wherever I go, but it is not with the same suspicion as the others, not with the same veiled contempt and fascinated horror. It is as though my death on Namek washed me clean in his eyes, as though I started anew. Kakkarrot does not see my mistakes, he sees only my successes. He does not accept that I have failed, only that I have tried. And his eyes are warm when they follow me, gentle in almost the same way they are when he looks at the children. But it is not only his eyes that are gentle on me.
When we spar… unless I provoke him, I know he fights so as to cause me the least pain. And if he has beaten me and left me exhausted on the ground his hands are gentle when he helps me stand, and gentler still when he has to carry me home. I have felt – or thought I felt – touches along my face and lips, like a butterfly’s caress. But I am always partially aware, at best, during those times. So I cannot be sure.
Even when it is not just the two of us, he goes out of his way to touch me more often than he does his other friends. More often, I think, than he does his wife. And he is friendly, eyes warm and welcoming as he talks to me, or even if he is only sitting near me. No matter where we are, or what we are doing, he always has a smile for me. He smiles at everyone else too, but he smiles at me, at a creature who cannot remember being smiled at simply for being present in a place ever. The others all take it as commonplace, normal, but for me it is rare and unusual, even on this planet with its casual affections. None of the rest of the group smile at me simply for being me – sometimes they do so because they want something, but more often they simply do not smile at all. Except the children. But they are growing out of it far more quickly than I had expected, as much because their human parents teach them not to as because it is not something they feel I would accept.
Sometimes I wish I had learnt to smile, truly smile. I practice sometimes, late at night, when all the others are asleep and their attention is fixed elsewhere, but I cannot make my mouth be anything other than melancholy or vicious. I think, perhaps, it is something you have to learn when young, or else you never can learn it. It is not something that I had occasion to practice as a youngster, and now I lament that fact, lament the loss of an expression I never had any use for until now. Much as I mourn my inability to be either as happy or as friendly as any of the others.
Kakkarrot, alone of all of them, does not seem to mind that I cannot reciprocate in his open happiness. He is pleased if I am even there at all, uncaring if all I can offer is my ferocious sarcasm and sneering contempt. While his friends and family go out of the way to avoid me at gatherings, to prevent me from speaking or to ignore my words, he does the opposite. I have been bribed by him to come to picnics and parties where all the others would prefer I be anywhere else. I have been needled and nettled into replying to the most mundane of questions – from what flavour jelly I like to how long I think the summer will be – when he has not been willing to accept my noncommittal grunts.
And he is never willing to settle for a wordless answer, preferring to tease and taunt me into saying something, anything, so long as I speak. I am never quite certain what his goal is, in these forced conversations, except perhaps to bring me to talk. In a fit of fancy I once thought of asking him whether he liked the sound of my voice that much, but I do not want him to say yes. Or even to say no. He makes my head spin, and I cannot brace myself against it, no matter how hard I try. And yet his eyes steady me against all the others. With him I feel safe. Safer than I have felt in a very long time. But I could never tell him that. I do not want the warmth to turn to contempt.
So I try to avoid him, try to keep our contact to a minimum. But even as I field his attention, attempt to avoid it, I become the subject of his hunt. He is gentle, forgiving, accepting but relentless and I… I find I am… uncomfortable with his behaviour, far more uncomfortable that with the behaviour of the others. I understand lust far more than this gentle affection, and I know I behave like an uncertain adolescent whenever he shows his interest more explicitly. I am surprised he is not frustrated with my attitude, but I truly cannot bring myself to believe that Kakkarrot – gentle, innocent, idiotic Kakkarrot – could truly feel that way for one such as me. I thought he suffered from the same peculiar bigotry that the majority of this planet seems to suffer from, that those of one sex may not take pleasure in each other’s bodies.
I fear that I have misjudged him badly in that respect, for even if I am misreading his intentions towards me, I know that he and his noseless friend have been lovers from time to time. His wife does not know, and Krillin’s… the android adores her mate with every fibre of her being, and would give him the world if she could. She certainly does not begrudge him his times with Kakkarrot. Though she is as possessive as a hawk with a single egg, it is as though, to her, sex means nothing. His safety is all-important, his emotional happiness paramount. Hence her overwhelming aversion to me; not only am I insignificant in strength and skill, but I insult her love over and over again. I am surprised she has not killed me for it yet.
Ah, but I forget. My invincible protector. He does not see their hate, yet still he manages to counter it. I have yet to decipher how. It is as though he merely needs to smile, grin that happy grin of his and call out some sort of greeting to me and all the others bury their hostility as deep inside themselves as they can. For some it is not buried very well, but that they make the effort at all is… surprising. And every time I turn around, if one of them is there then so is he. He spars with me everyday, dragging me out of the gravity room to some remote, uninhabited place, where he proceeds to overwhelm me with his strength, sublimely innocent of the envy I bear him. I wish, often, that I could at least come close to challenging him, but I know that he must hold back to fight with me. It would serve him better to train with his sons, for they, at least, have the potential to equal him. I have reached my limit, can progress no further no matter what I do. I have accepted this. It does not mean that I have to like it.
He does not accept it though. He pushes me, always challenging me to fight harder, to be stronger. The subtle taunts are gentle, almost too soft to provoke me, but just enough that I find myself motivated to train harder, become stronger. I have yet to see any progress. Kakkarrot, however, continuously tells me that I am stronger than before. Perhaps he compares my strength now to what it was on Namek. It would not surprise me in the slightest.
Little about his eternal optimism surprises me any more. Though his continued… joy at my presence does. I know he finds me as fascinating as the stars and a multitude of other things that hold his interest, but it is not a fascination that sees me as being otherly, or unwanted. In his eyes my place is here, in his opinion I fit in a way that another being might not. He is the only one who does not see me as some outsider, an intruder in their midst. It does not make it any easier, when I feel the eyes of the others on me, but it helps, sometimes, to mitigate the twisting uneasiness in my belly. And I find that for all my discomfort in his presence, I would not give his attentions up, no matter the disapproval of the others. On this planet, amongst its many peoples, upon its many continents and in its many seas I am the only one who has no place. Except with him. He has given me a place, and for all the stares and disfavour in the Universe I will not give it up. Their eyes hurt me, but they will not drive me away. It is the first place that I have not been completely an alien in all of my life. I will savour it.