The More Things Change
by Gutterball     More by this Writer
Sometimes, even a monumental change doesn't affect the course of the future. But though the scenery on the journey doesn't change, the feel of the trip most certainly can. This is what might have happened during the ultimate smack-down between Goku and Vegeta that led to Buu being released. It doesn't stop the inevitable, but I like to think it makes it that much more fun.

Art Source: Sky Upside Down (site no longer around)
Graphic Violence Deathfic

The More Things Change
Mountains break and the world falls down, and still we clash. Two warriors, glowing to rival the sun above, locked in a battle to the death that might not end even then. Two warriors at the crossroads of what has been a tempestuous rivalry and what is now both more deadly and less comfortable.

And I thought we were actually beginning to respect each other.

Words are wasted, though we throw a few around. Vegeta always talks when he fights, and I can't fault his taunts. He has a nearly poetic way with insults. But it's the accusations that really sting.

Do I really trample on his pride? Have I truly spat on my friend's entire destiny? Wouldn't I remember doing something so...personal?

The fight is cataclysmic, yes, and devastating to the scenery, but the feel of it is all wrong. Despite my smirk, I find no joy in this. No exultation. I can't help but regret the cause of it, even as I feel time slipping away from us. Every punch is a dent in our future, but...what does it matter if Vegeta is truly as furious as he claims? What does it matter if whatever I did to piss off him is bad enough to cost him his soul?

Again and again, my eyes are drawn to that hateful M on his forehead. What it means. What it cost. What it will still cost.

~Vegeta, how could you?~

And though my fury rises again, though I punch harder, kick faster, and throw more furious energy than before, I still mourn the loss of that comfortable, if dangerous, rivalry. At least I understood that.

This, I can't even begin to fathom.

It seems so much more personal. More...hands-on. He resorts to more submission holds than is remotely usual, more grabs and throws. I'm not used to the feel of Vegeta's hands. Not like this. Punches, yes. Palms, no. Fingers, never. He even slapped me, once-twice, across the face. Forward and backhand, while I was pinned to a cliff. Slapped me.

It's as disturbing as everything else about this fight. As if he wants to collect the debt he claims I owe him with his own two hands. To steal it right out of my skin.

~"Every breath you take is an assault to my honor."~

Had he really said that? Worse, did he mean it? Is it...true?

~Dammit.~

A ferocious blow upside the head very nearly puts the lights out, and a thick, brutal arm wraps around my throat from behind. How did he get behind me?

My fingers pry at that punishing arm, but he simply grabs a handful of hair to go with the armlock and throws us both toward the ground below. I fight. I struggle. I even panic a little, too col'-cocked to concentrate enough to throw energy between myself and the ground to slow us. Apparently, Vegeta doesn't care if he kills us both, so long as he kills me first.

Worse, no matter how hard I struggle, I can't stop the dive. Can't shake him off my back. Can't prevent the collision that might well put a hole in the world. My whole body clenching, I close my eyes, jerk my head back against Vegeta's shoulder, and wait for the pain.

It doesn't come.

With my teeth still grit together, I wince one eye open. The ground is a bare foot below, the sharp rocks churned up from our fight just waiting to pierce flesh and grind bone. But Vegeta holds me a foot above the mess, arm still locked around my throat, hand still clenched in my hair.

~What the--?~

"Vegeta?"

A sigh, the hot breath of it fanning my cheek and nose because my head is still twisted to the side. Now that I have a moment to think about it, I realize I've almost buried my face in his neck.

"I can't do this anymore, Kakarot."

A shove of power blows away the worst of the debris. To my shock, instead of slamming us both into the now-flat ground, he simply lowers us to it, face-first. The grip around my neck eases, though he doesn't let up completely. And, instead of getting up, he just lays against my back, slumping there. Resting.

Tense, I lay still for a few moments, waiting for him to play his trump card, but he seems content to just...be. My adrenaline still pumps for the fight, though, so I let go of the arm around my throat to press my hands to the ground and shove him off, to get back into the fight. Before I can gather my strength, thought, a soft sigh freezes me.

"I'm so tired." His face turns until his nose touches my cheek. "I...can't fight anymore. I'm tired, Kakarot."

Stunned, I check my own resources. If Vegeta is too tired to fight, I ought to be exhausted. But no, I still have plenty of energy at the ready. Resisting the urge to throw him off of my back, I frown and try to read his energy. Still high. Still plenty of punishment to unleash on me.

Then, why...?

Another long moment of silence passes before I think to voice the question. "Vegeta...what do you mean? You have plenty of energy left."

Another sigh, the heat of it stirring the hair over my ear. "I've been fighting you from the moment we met, Kakarot. Have you never tired of it?"

Frowning, I tense again and ready myself to throw him off and get back to the fighting, but a sudden thought relaxes me. For this moment, we aren't sending energy to Buu. Maybe a break in the action isn't such a bad idea. If we don't fight, Buu can't get stronger.

~Stall him. Let him talk, if he wants. Might be a good idea to get him off you, though. And for the gods' sakes, don't drop out of Super Saiyan.~

"I never wanted to fight you, Vegeta. I still don't."

"I know."

Silence falls, interrupted by the occasional collapse of a mountain in the distance. We've weakened the entire area with our battle, so I won't be surprised if the landscape continues to crumble for a week or so. Unfortunate, but unavoidable when fighting at our level.

Just as I begin to fidget -- both at the inactivity while my adrenaline still pumps so high and at the continued weight of Vegeta at my back when I'm not used to anyone being there for so long -- he shifts, rubbing his face against my cheek.

I can't fight the blush, though I do swallow the urge to shove him away.

"I let Babidi take me over, Kakarot. I welcomed him in. I wanted to stop being tired. I wanted to stop fighting so I could fight with a pure heart."

Frowning again, I clench my hands into fists and wish he'd stop the cheek-rubbing thing. It's distracting. Or maybe he just isn't making sense. The Prince of All Saiyans -- insert capitals at will -- would never allow someone to take him over, would never allow himself to be a slave. And how can he stop fighting...to fight?

"I wanted to destroy you once and for all so you would cease to haunt me. I knew that if I could just...but I can't. Even with that ridiculous wizard's magic gripping my mind and increasing my strength, I cannot be rid of you."

"We're not done fighting yet, Vegeta. You're the one that wanted a break."

To my surprise, he chuckles softly. His whole body moves with it, reminding me that he's lying on top of me and has been for who knows how long now. I wish he'd get up. I'm not used to talking while flat on my face. And I'm not used to talking with Vegeta at all. Trading taunts, I can do. This...conversation...is unnerving.

"You cannot understand how much I've hated you, Kakarot."

I tense again, ready to fight. Is that his strategy? To lull me out of readiness with bizarre chitchat? I hate to admit that it's almost working.

"I think I have a pretty good idea."

He shakes his head, his nose brushing mine. I want to turn my face to the other side, but I'm not sure how to do it without seeming...rude. Stupid, but true. The gods only know what Vegeta will take as an insult right now.

"You don't. I hate you because I cannot...because I will not...." He stops himself, and I feel his body tense, his fingers tightening in my hair again. "But I'm so tired of it." His voice is harsh now, and I realize that before, his tone was soft. Almost soothing. "And even the magic of an evil wizard cannot stop me from wanting what I can never have. It cannot make me destroy you, and I think I hate you even more because of it."

I frown, tense and almost shaking with the need to throw him off and face him, fight him, put us back on familiar ground. Buu be damned, but I can't take this much longer. I don't know what's going on, and it makes me edgy. Reckless. Besides, I'm not sure he's not insulting me worse than ever before, and I can't help but lash out at him just a little.

"I dare you to make less sense, Vegeta. I thought I was supposed to be the idiot."

But he doesn't take the bait. His fingers relax in my hair, his body slumping again. His breath is almost hot against my face, and I'm tempted to jerk away and glare at him.

"No, Kakarot. At times like this, I realize that I am the idiot. I am the one blinded by stupidity. And my pride, of course." A bitter chuckle jerks his chest against my back, but his voice softens. "Decades spent wasting our battles because all I ever wanted was you, like this, below me not because I have beaten you but because--"

He stops himself again, his grip around my throat shifting. He buries his face against mine and I feel...tears? The wetness scalds my skin, and, almost repulsed by the sensation, I stare down at his hair, which is all I can see from such an awkward angle. Vegeta is crying against my face, my neck, his arm around me and his hand in my hair, and suddenly it's as if he's hugging me instead of holding me, and I have no idea what to do.

"Hey, Vegeta--"

His voice, so strained as he tries to choke back whatever emotion is strangling him, cuts me off. "Because you want to be here, dammit!"

I blink once, then frown in confusion. Did he just accuse me of something?

~Walk soft, Goku. Something is very wrong here. Something more wrong than Babidi. Something more wrong than Vegeta being possessed. Something more wrong than this whole wrong, messed-up day.~

"Vegeta, what do you want me to say? I don't want to be here. I want to stop Buu from hatching, or whatever. I want to stop Babidi. I want to take that stupid M off your forehead. I--"

Another bitter chuckle. It stops my babbling. Somehow, I've said the wrong thing. As usual.

"Forget it, Kakarot." His hand releases my hair, and he pushes back to his knees, straddling my legs. "Forget everything I said. I was a fool to think you might understand."

Wary of some new ploy, I roll over without pulling away from him. He allows it, though he sits back on his heels, which leaves him sitting on my thighs. Weird, but better than him lying on my back. I guess.

He stares at me, and unless I want to immediately reenter hostilities by throwing him off, I have little choice but to stare back. To be honest, I'm tempted to reenter hostilities. My muscles twitch with the need to fight, to exert, to release the build-up of tension and the adrenaline that has accumulated. But...he stares, and I stare back. It's almost as if he wants me to see something that I simply can't.

But he isn't disappointed. Just...tired.

I can't just lay here. I know the break is a good thing on the surface because it stalls Buu's almost inevitable release, but I cannot lay here and stare. Cursing internally, I break the silence.

"Vegeta--"

"Have you ever thought of me as anything but your enemy, Kakarot?"

I blink. "Of course. You may never admit it, Vegeta, but we've been...you know...friends."

But this obviously isn't what he wants to hear. Some of the anger seeps back in, clouding the tired lines of his chiseled face. "We have never been friends, idiot."

I frown, too, my own anger growing. "If you're just going to insult me, let's get back to the fighting. At least I understand that."

He sneers...and then abruptly straightens his expression. Almost like he...doesn't want to sneer at me. But that doesn't make any sense. Sneering is as natural where I'm concerned as breathing to His Highness.

"Believe it or not, Kakarot, I did not intend to insult you." He shrugs as if this isn't an important statement, but he has to see my astonishment. "I...I meant to...ask...."

He stops and frowns -- not at me this time, but at himself. He frowns down at his hands on his thighs, then abruptly clenches them into fists, and I tense up all over again, ready to fight.

"Kakarot, have you ever felt anything for me at all?"

Why does he keep asking me the same question over and over? Am I not answering it? Obviously not to his liking, but what other answer do I have? What the hell does he want from me?

It occurs to me that maybe I should ask him that instead of myself. "What do you want from me, Vegeta?"

His face -- surely much more gaunt than before I died; has he not been eating? -- scrunches up in fury, but he restrains himself with visible effort. His fists tighten until I can see the knots of his knuckles under his gloves.

"Truth." But before I can even think how to respond, he shakes his head once, shortly. "No. I want...I want you to...dammit, why is this so hard?"

I try not to sigh with frustration, still unsure what will set him off in such an unpredictable mood. "I want to help, but I don't know what you're asking for." I shrug carefully, my eyes on the bulging muscle of his biceps, the grit of his teeth, the twitch in his jaw. "Tell me what you want me to say, Vegeta, and I'll say it. I don't want us to always be enemies. What will end this between us?"

He hunches forward, and I panic for a moment, wildly thinking that he's about to puke all over me. He certainly looks ready to forcibly eject something -- his face is taut and straining, his eyes squeezed so tightly closed that the lids are streaked white, his fists still clenched into knots. But he doesn't throw up.

He kisses me.

I'm too astonished to do anything but lay there, blinking up at his eyebrows. It's not a hard kiss, nor an intrusive one. He simply moves his lips over mine in one of the oldest gestures of affection known to the sexes.

When he's done, he lifts his face a breath away from mine, his eyes closed, his face solemn but no longer tight with inner tension. I blink, wondering if I should say something, wondering what on earth I can possibly say, wondering whether or not I feel anything or should feel anything or am capable of feeling anything like that for Vegeta, of all people--

He sighs, breaking my rampaging thoughts, and a single tear escapes his closed eyelids. His breath is warm on my face, as is the droplet that plops onto my cheek from his.

"I wish I could kill you, Kakarot," he whispers. "Or that you would kill me."

With that, he pushes to his feet and turns to walk away. One step. Two. I stare, still flat on my back, my mind -- admittedly, never the sharpest weapon in my arsenal -- stalled. He kissed me, and now he's walking away. A moment ago, he was trying to kill me. I can't keep up. Do I even want to?

Does any of this make sense?

~You can't just let him walk away.~

I blink, turning my head to stare up at the sky. Letting him walk away is probably the best thing I can do. If he leaves, we won't fight any more. No more energy will go to Buu. The threat is over. Problem solved.

~Don't let him leave. Who knows what he'll do like this?~

I shoot his receding figure a considering glance. He doesn't look up to anything horrible. Admittedly, I can only see his back, but I've gotten used to gauging his mood from the set of his back over the years. In fact, I think there are whole years of time where that's all I saw of him. But he doesn't look hellbent on retribution. He looks...finished.

~Go talk to him. You're his friend, even if he's not yours. You can't let him leave like this, Goku.~

I sit up and rest my arms on my drawn-up knees, my hands dangling and bleeding from the knuckles, still staring at him shrinking into the distance. What good would talking do now? I have absolutely no idea what happened here.

~Just go! You'll think of something when you get there, idiot!~

A rockfall off to my right gets me on my feet, at least, and I glance around at the devastation we caused. Miles of desert destroyed in our fury. The land will heal in time, of course, but it'll never be the same.

He kissed me. Will our...friendship, for lack of a better word...heal? Is there enough time for something like that to grow over, to fill in, to be right again?

One thing is for sure: it'll never be the same.

"Heya, Vegeta!" I throw myself into a run, waving frantically in case he looks back. He does. "Oi, wait up!"

He doesn't turn around, but he does stop. Ah, now his back is stiff and forbidding. His fists are clenched again, his hair practically bristling.

"We need to talk. Don't you think?"

A snort. He crosses his arms without even glancing at me.

"Vegeta...."

Now that I'm beside him, I have no idea what to say. I'm not even really sure why I stopped him, other than curiosity, I suppose. I guess that's a good enough place to start.

"Why did you do that?"

Silence from His Highness. I probably shouldn't get mad, but dammit, I'm tired of not having a clue. I spend entirely too much time not knowing what's going on.

"Dammit, Vegeta, why did you do it?"

He grunts. "I lost my mind."

I roll my eyes and snatch him by the arm to yank him around to face me. He won't budge, even when I really try.

"Vegeta--"

"Leave me alone, clown! I could explain a hundred ways, and it still wouldn't get through that thick skull of yours. Since you will never understand, I refuse to dwell on the subject a moment longer."

To my shock, he gathers a ball of energy and shoves it in my face until I have to either let go or be burned. I let go and duck away, then spin around and slip my right arm under his and up around his neck in a half-nelson, his back to my front. He bucks, trying to throw me off, and twists suddenly in my grip. Grunting, I grab a fistful of hair in my right hand and snatch his other wrist in my left, bending it back and jerking his fist up to his shoulder blade between us.

I know he can break the hold, but he'll probably have to break his arm and lose a fistful of hair to do it. I don't think he's that pissed yet...but I didn't think he'd kiss me, either. Hell, that wasn't even on my list of possibilities.

He squirms for a moment to test how serious I am, then subsides, panting. "You have my attention."

Despite my irritation and confusion, I quirk a wry grin. It's just so...Vegeta.

"Actually, you have mine." I nudge his fist up a little higher until he winces. "So talk."

"You are the one who wishes to talk, fool. I have nothing more to say."

I roll my eyes. "Vegeta...." He doesn't fill in the silence, and I can't bear it for long. "If you don't talk, I'll have to do something...I dunno...drastic."

A snort. "As if you are known for drastic measures, Kakarot. You have to be goaded into everything, and even then, you never finish what you start."

~Ouch.~

Is that true? Didn't I reach Super Saiyan first? Isn't that a drastic measure? Admittedly, Frieza had to kill both Vegeta and Krillin before I really got worked up, but....

And what about this fight? Completely against my nature -- a death match against a man I respect and consider a friend, a match that might well unleash the greatest threat this world has ever known -- and yet here I am...or was, anyway. Fighting with Vegeta. Going against all my principles. Admittedly, Vegeta had to sell his soul to get me...to fight...him....

~Oh. My. Gods.~

My grip loosens with my shock, and he takes full and devastating advantage. With a simple twist, he yanks himself loose and spins into a roundhouse kick to my unprotected head. I don't even flinch as his foot knocks me flying, I'm so stunned at my realization.

Do I never finish what I start? Is he right all around? And if he is...have I truly disrespected him this whole time? Is that possible?

I crash into the ground and stare up at the sky, unblinking. I did let Frieza live, thinking he might change his ways. Vegeta's own son had to come back from the future to end that debacle. And I did just walk away from Cell, thinking Gohan would live up to his potential on his own, would understand his place in the world. I had to die and Gohan had to nearly put himself into a coma to finish that monstrosity.

Even this fight...a battle that means so much to Vegeta, that cost him his soul and our comfortable rivalry and my friend....

His foot on my chest squishes out whatever air I still have, but I can only stare up at him, unsure if I should be sickened with myself or just a little surprised at my naivete. One thing I know for sure: to someone as decisive and ruthless as Vegeta, that little personality quirk of mine must seem like a gaping weakness. It must infuriate him.

~Maybe that's why...he hates me....~

I blink, suddenly feeling the lack of air, and grab his boot in both hands. He tenses for my attack, but I merely hold his ankle, keeping his foot from putting on any more pressure.

"I'm...sorry...." The words don't carry much force under his weight, but I gasp them out. And I mean them.

Black eyes narrow, and his body clenches. So wary, even when he has the upper hand. I should take it as a compliment. "Sorry for what, clown?"

I suck in a tearing breath, then focus my energy to shove him away. He isn't surprised -- I know he felt me gathering my strength -- but he still goes flying with the force of the wave, riding the crest with his furious eyes fixed on my own. I stand and wait for him to catch himself barely ten feet away. We face off, yet again, our energies bared as lightning twists around us and sparks off of the little remaining landscape.

After a long moment, I force a hard little grin -- one I know he likes because it's so very saiyan. "Sorry for the drastic measure."

Before he can do more than frown in confusion, I touch my forehead and blink out of sight, instantly standing right before him. He jerks back, eyes wide in surprise, and I take full advantage.

This time, I kiss him.

He's just as surprised as I was before, and I press my advantage. Never thought I'd kiss Vegeta, but now that I'm doing it, I might as well do it right. He pulls back, but I wrap my arms around him and tilt my head for better access. His mouth opens as he pushes against me, and I don't even think about it. I thrust my tongue inside and flinch when he bites it -- not teasingly but with obvious intent to hurt. It does hurt a little, but I don't care.

After all, he kissed me first.

I pull back just enough to nip at his lower lip, but when he starts to curse and reaches back to lay a hell of a punch upside my face, I press right back in, putting my height and weight to good use. He squirms and kicks at me, but I keep right on kissing him. He'll quit sooner or later, and then maybe he'll tell me what the hell is going on. Until then....

Well, until then, I'm actually enjoying myself. His lips are surprisingly full for how much time they spend scowling, and his mouth tastes nice. Not sweet -- nothing about Vegeta could ever be called sweet -- but definitely...nice. Hm.

He finally stands stalk-still in my grip, his body thrumming and his tongue stiff as a board against mine, so I give in and release his mouth, though I keep a loose hold on him to keep him close. It's a risky move, as closeness usually favors his shorter reach, but something tells me this is an up-close kind of situation.

I open my eyes, feeling a sloopy grin stretch my face, and look down at him. He's scowling. No, he's all but vibrating with fury, his eyes blazing with it.

~Oops.~

"What in all the Hells in all the worlds do you think you're doing, you fucking idiot?"

~Double oops.~

I jerk away, letting him go and putting a hand to the back of my head, the sloopy grin turning sheepish and nervous. I can almost feel that side I know he hates coming to the fore, but I can't stop it. I feel like an idiot. What on earth was I thinking?

"I...uh...."

"Imbecile!" He takes a step forward, arms straight and straining at his sides, fists so clenched that his gloves tear along the seams with the force. "What the fuck is wrong with you??"

But that's a little strong, and I shove away the sheepishness in a wave of irritation. "Hey, now. You kissed me first."

To my admittedly petty amusement, he flusters to a stop, all that fury blooming into a glaring blush over his nose and cheeks. He sputters a few times, then actually stomps his foot like a child throwing a tantrum. "Idiot!"

And it hits me. The whole day suddenly clicks into place. I see The Big Picture.

~"I've been fighting you from the moment we met, Kakarot."~

~"I wanted to destroy you once and for all so you would cease to haunt me."~

~"Even the magic of an evil wizard cannot stop me from wanting what I can never have."~

And perhaps most damning: ~"All I ever wanted was you, like this, below me not because I have beaten you but because...because you want to be here, dammit!"~

Oh, my gods above and below...he'd been all but pleading with me, and I hadn't understood. His words echo in my empty head, a cacophony of wanting, and I simply stare. How could I have missed it? How can I have been so blind, so deaf, so...so damned stupid?

His eyes meet mine and widen, then narrow. He knows. He knows that I finally get it. But he's not happy.

"Idiot."

With that quiet, empty utterance, he turns on his heel and walks away. Again.

Again stunned into immobility, I again watch him go, unable to even fathom my responsibility here. How long has he lived with this? How long have I been insensate to his want? His need?

Is there any way to fix this?

I don't want Vegeta -- at least, not like that. I have ChiChi. Hell, I'm dead. And there are bigger things at work here than a saiyan prince and his idiot pauper.

But he's walking away. And I can't help but stare.

~So go after him.~

I can't. I can't give him what he wants. I can't be that for him.

~Why not?~

Because I'm...and he's...and there's ChiChi...and Bulma....

~You're dead, and they're not married. They don't even particularly like each other.~

I blink. Since when does my inner voice know more than I do? It doesn't matter anyway because whether they like each other or not, they have Trunks.

~Maybe that's all they wanted from each other. He obviously wants something else.~

I frown. That...actually makes sense. But I can't just....

My feet move of their own volition, following Vegeta's tracks in the dirt. He isn't quite out of sight yet.

I'm not doing what I think I'm doing.

~Yes, you are.~

Nothing good can come of this. At the end of the day, he'll still be alive and I'll still be dead. Any minute now, I'll stop walking and let him go and that'll be the end of the whole mess. Gohan and Supreme Kai will take care of that little rodent, Babidi, and Vegeta will just have to find someone else to fight. To want.

~Then how come you're still following him?~

Why does my inner voice sound so damned smug? And why am I speeding up?

"Vegeta."

He doesn't turn around. He doesn't even slow down.

Frowning, I stop walking...all right, running...and force myself to think instead of arguing with myself. I can't give him what he wants, even if I do what I think he wants me to. I'm not even sure I can do it, nice kiss notwithstanding. He has wanted me for a damn long time, and a quick bang in the boonies probably isn't what he's after.

And I'm still dead.

My fists clench. It's not fair. For the first time in my life, I actually have a good reason to stay alive...and I can't.

~Good reason, huh? You're not fooling yourself, Goku. You wouldn't care if you didn't care.~

But that one's easy. Of course I care. I never wanted Vegeta to be alone. I knew he'd have Bulma. I knew he'd have Trunks. His son from the future told me that much before I even....

Another realization hits me like a ton of bricks, and I'm pretty sure I'm gaping like a moonbrain. That future Trunks never said anything about Vegeta and Bulma having a...a relationship. Not a lasting one, anyway. Admittedly, everyone died in that future before anything enduring could set up, but....

~But maybe they were never supposed to be together. And maybe you being dead in the here and now means you don't belong to ChiChi anymore.~

I blink, completely numb.

~And maybe you ought to move your ass before he walks right out on you and you never get a chance to figure out if what he wants is what you want.~

In a fog, I lift my fingers to my forehead. I focus on the energy I know as well as my own and let myself go to it. It doesn't feel like an IT; it feels like a revelation.

And when Vegeta all but runs into me, I simply lower my head and kiss him again, eyes closed, arms going around him like they belong there. He goes stiff and unyielding, but he doesn't pull away. I don't try to make the kiss anything but what it is -- an experiment. A possibility.

A hope?

For long moments, I feel nothing. A man in my arms, which is weird. The knowledge that it's Vegeta, which is uncomfortable. My lips on his, which should probably be funny but isn't.

And then...his lips move. Just the tiniest bit. The slightest give. Suddenly, it's an actual kiss, and I feel...I feel....

His arms, stiff and awkward, come up around me hesitantly. He tilts his head a bit. Sighs. Relaxes a fraction.

And I feel....

"Kakarot."

"Vegeta."

Relief. That's what I feel. His nose bumps mine, and I kiss him again, my arms tightening around him. It isn't awkward now, this feeling. A man in my arms. It's just Vegeta. Just me.

He kisses back, a slight and wonderful suction against my lips. I make some small noise -- surprise? satisfaction? -- and open my mouth. He allows it. Opens his mouth to mine.

Heat flares. Suddenly, there is nothing tentative in my hold on him. I know what I want. I don't know if it's right, but I don't care. I'm gonna by the gods do something drastic. And I'm gonna damn well finish what I start.

~About godsdamned time.~

Smirking, I thrust my tongue along his, swallowing his grunt of surprise. His arms tighten around me, and I know this is what he wants, too. Finally, we agree on something.

My hands flatten against his back, my fingers pressing into the hard muscle there to hold him tight against me. He rumbles down in his chest and squirms -- not to get away, but to get closer. His body against mine, hard against hard, muscle against muscle, feels...incredible. There is nothing soft or curving about him, and I don't care at all. In fact, I want more of it.

I don't stroke him. He doesn't caress me. Our touches are nothing so tame, nothing so gentle. Clothes tear almost as if we're still fighting. Maybe we are, in a way. Connecting in some new, no less violent, way. I press my hands to bare, tough flesh, feel the glide of his sweaty skin, the thick velvet of his hair and the sparks of energy running through it, the lack of give in muscle as taut and straining as my own. He does the same, and we can't seem to touch each other enough, even naked and pressed skin to skin.

He pushes at me, but I refuse to budge. He forces a grunt past my tongue down his throat and...to my astonishment...gives in. We tumble to the ground, him grudgingly beneath me and giving me a good, hard bite on my lower lip to express his discontent. I only laugh into the kiss, though, because he is arching against me even as his teeth draw blood. I don't have to look at him to know that he isn't really angry.

Unfortunately, now that I'm here, I don't know exactly what to do. The mechanics are clear, but the implementation is beyond me. He must sense my dilemma, because he snatches my hand away from his hip and jerks his mouth from mine to lick my fingers. I blink down at him, distracted by the odd feel of spit on my hand and how amazingly right he looks in the blue and gold of Super Saiyan. It suits him in a way I've never really noticed before.

When he's finished with my fingers, he glances up and then stares, apparently as caught by me as I am by him. It's a strange moment. Not quite uncomfortable. Strangely intimate. Deep, somehow.

Then, he blinks, and the moment is over. He shifts one leg aside and shoves my hand down between us, raising an eyebrow expectantly. I give him the slightest roll of my eyes at the oddly smug look on his face, then do what he wants. I stroke him where I never expected to stroke anyone, and it's okay because it's him. It's Vegeta, and it's what he wants.

Suddenly, that's all the matters.

His head tilts back as I slide my fingers inside, and I lose my breath at my sudden understanding of this moment. Nothing will ever be the same after this. The Prince of All Saiyans has allowed someone...me!...inside him. Not into his heart, though I may well have been there all along, all unknowing. But into his body, which is more. I don't have to ask to know that I'm the only one he has ever invited inside.

My heart clenches painfully at the gift he has given me, and if I hadn't wanted him before, I most certainly want him now. I'm wild for it, in fact. I need him, to be inside him. Right now.

He winces as I press inside, and I force myself to slow down. It hurts to stop, to not just plunge inside him as far as I'll go, but I do it anyway. He has given me something priceless, and I won't hurt him to get it. I won't.

His fingers grip my upper arms hard enough to bruise, and a bead of sweat trickles down between my eyes to drip off my nose. I quiver, half in and half out, and wait in agony for it to be all right. His jaw clenches, but he lifts his hips the slightest bit. My eyes roll closed at the feel, and I sink in a little further, my body screaming to finish, to thrust, to take and release. Another inch, and he arches again. Another inch, and he bucks hard against me, crying out.

I open my eyes, cursing myself until I realize that the taut expression on his face isn't pain but ecstasy. His thighs come up along my hips, his legs wrap around me, and I sink that final inch into him with a vicious shudder that he mimics against me. His head is thrown so far back that I can only see his chin and the straining line of his neck. His hands clutch my back so hard his short nails break my skin. His body grips me almost painfully inside, the heat and clench of him exquisitely perfect.

Trembling, I carefully lower my chest to his and lay my face against his neck, then brush the slightest, most gentle kiss against the hollow under his ear. A noise escapes him, his body poised at some pinnacle I have yet to reach, and I shift inside him with a murmur. Too soon to thrust. Too soon to pull away from that incredible heat, though I'm almost sick with the need to finish.

For now, though...this is enough.

I shift again, deliberately, and he jerks against me, another vocalization lurching from his throat. I could do this forever, wringing noises from him, buried inside him, his body wrapped around mine as if he will never let go.

"Kakarot...." His voice is tortured, strained. "Please...."

I would move the world for that word from his lips. It costs me nothing to do as he wishes. So I do.

I feel the first thrust all the way up my spine, and his harsh cry touches something in me that I didn't even know existed. Tenderness leaves in a rush of need so great that my energy skyrockets with the force of it. His rises in response, sparking against mine and sending a rush of sensation over my skin. Shuddering, I thrust again, and again, driving shouts from him until I feel my own blood trickling down my back from where he has clawed me. I don't care. I want him to claw me.

Desperate with need, crazy with the feel of him around me, with being inside him again and again, I lose myself enough to feel that insane click inside me, and all of that energy I bottle up and hide from the universe erupts out of me. I can't stop it, can't stop my scream that drowns out his, can't stop the hair exploding down my back or the increase in my bulk over and in him.

I take him at Three, and he takes everything I give him. I don't know how long it lasts, if I hurt him, if he cares. I don't know anything, but I feel everything. His skin between my teeth. His fingernails shredding my back. The hot, tight connection between us where I give and he receives, where my thrust is his desire, where his body is mine and mine is his.

The blinding, unfathomable crest of release.

I know I scream. I know he nearly rips out most of my hair. And that is all I know for a long, long time.

--

He's gone when I wake up. Not gone from beneath me, but gone.

I jerk to my feet, heart twisting in my chest. I search for his energy, but I know I won't find it. He's dead. Not in Otherworld, but completely beyond my reach.

I sense some huge energy, unpredictable and oddly diffuse for its power, but I don't care. I know what it is, know that I've failed and used too much power and let Buu out even without fighting Vegeta, and I don't care.

The world is in danger. I should be on my way to the fight, to save the day, to squeeze in a little hero worship before flitting back to my comfortable After Life, where I'll train to impossible strength and win useless Otherworld tournaments that mean absolutely nothing to me. My future stretches as long and empty as Snake Way before me, and for all my strength, I cannot make myself walk it.

Who cares anyway?

I close my eyes, trying in vain to feel him. My friend. My other half. The dark to my light. The chaos to my balance. The fury to my joy.

His voice in my memory barks at me to move, to function, to stop being a weak, useless imbecile and go kick the shit out of whatever we unleashed with our one chance together. Despite myself, I smile. If he were here, he would have already killed me for just standing here when there's a fight to be had.

So, still smiling despite the vast, empty hole right through me, I go.

--

There's no one left.

I tried. The gods know I did. I'm still trying, but thanks to Buu sucking up Piccolo's cunning, even Gohan is gone and I have no one but Dende and...no one but Dende to fuse with.

I debate, even knowing that I could be losing even that last option, but I have no other choice. I can't beat this Buu on my own. I could have with Gohan, but not now.

I have no choice.

I haul back to throw the earring to Dende -- and gods, please don't let that blundering idiot get in the way somehow because Mr. Satan makes me as furious as I know I used to make Vegeta-- and then stop cold.

It can't be....

~Don't get your hopes up.~

It's...it's....

~No, it isn't. Even you aren't that lucky, Goku. Do not get your hopes up.~

But...I'd know that energy anywhere. It's....

I don't let myself think about it. I put my fingers to my forehead and go, and as I materialize bare feet away from the energy I never thought to sense again, I remember how it didn't feel like IT-ing before. It felt like a revelation.

And seeing him there, real and aware and scowling at me as if I'm the last person in the universe he wants to see, I feel it again. The revelation.

He's here.

It doesn't matter that now he's dead and I'm alive. It doesn't matter that a crazy-strong Buu is on his way and that our children and friend have been absorbed and need rescuing. It doesn't even matter that he looks more likely to strike me dead himself than ever let me touch him again, that I feel guilty even now for hiding a level from him because I know he hates me for it and I can see that hate in his eyes.

None of it matters. I look at him and smile. If he's here, everything will be all right. Even an idiot like me knows that.

"What are you doing here, clown!?"

Music to my ears.

THE END

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