Kakarrot's Mask
by KC Anathema     More by this Writer
Vegeta and Goku on Mardi Gras night

Author's Note : Based on the Louisiana idea of what Carneval should be. Which is the correct idea of what it should be. :)

*

No one even thought about Lent or Ash Wednesday, but that was no reason not to celebrate Mardi Gras, and the Capsule Corps Carneval was *the* social event of the season. The lower rooms were filled with purple streamers and green and gold balloons, with dramatic masks on the walls and the partygoers, each in a costume more elaborate than the next. King cake and glittering coins and shiny beads flowed faster than the wine. No one could hear each other over the loud music, but if you had a fist full of beads, no one cared.

Outside, the muted music and lights barely touched the garden. Vegeta took refuge in the quiet darkness, sitting beneath the camellia trees and their glowing white flowers. He held a single large blossom in his hands. Other fallen blossoms surrounded him. In the faint light, they looked like decapitated heads.

"I thought I might find you here."

Vegeta didn't bother looking up. The footsteps came closer, following the path rather than stepping on the grass. They stopped in front of the prince.

"Are you all right?"

"Fine."

Undeterred by the one word answer, Goku sat down beside him and ran his fingers over one of the camellias. He didn't mention the blossom Vegeta held. He knew him well enough to know what would happen if he did. The prince would look away, toss it aside and call it worthless, and the blossom might fall apart into a hundred petals. Goku glanced at him. He couldn't let that happen, not when Vegeta was more intact than he'd been in a long, long time.

"I thought you might be inside."

Not looking at him, Vegeta shrugged. "With drunk humans overeating and screaming and shedding their clothes?"

"They're just trying to have fun."

"Trying too hard." He stroked one of the large petals. "Too much."

Of course, Goku thought. Of course it was too much for the prince, who for all his airs lived an austere life. A gray, cold bunk in a space ship, a borrowed room in an alien house. It would be uncomfortable for him, having to stand under the bright lights and the beating music--

Oh. Goku sighed for not noticing it earlier. It was the music keeping Vegeta outside. Inside, you could practically feel it in your chest. No way anything Saiyan would be able to sleep with that downstairs.

"Why are you out here?" Vegeta asked. "They run out of food?"

"Just getting away from the party for awhile, that's all." Goku forced a grin even though Vegeta hadn't once looked at him. Did he want him to leave? Couldn't be that, he hadn't growled or insulted him, not really. And Vegeta wasn't leaving. Goku's grin broadened. No, Vegeta hadn't left.

He watched his prince. Unlike everyone else, Vegeta hadn't dressed up or grabbed beads to reward drunk girls, or even touched the alcohol. Goku rubbed his hands on the ground self-consciously. The only smell of liquor came from himself. He didn't notice he had squashed one of the flowers until he raised his hand and saw petals stuck to his palm.

It was amazing if he thought about it. Vegeta was one of the strongest fighters in the universe and yet he could touch a dying flower without bruising the petals. Goku looked at his own hands. He'd lost count of all the dishes he'd broken, the chairs, fishing rods, steering wheels... And here was Vegeta doing it effortlessly, without even thinking about it if his distant stare was anything to go by. A softening flower, the petals drooping as it began to wilt, cradled in his hands.

Nice place to die.

"I never noticed," he said.

"Noticed what?"

"Um, the view here," Goku covered, extending his arm towards the horizon. With the way Bulma's mother had sculpted the land, the garden gave them a vantage over the cityscape, spread out before them like jewels on black velvet. Distant cars were more like streaks of light over a facet.

"It's beautiful. I could stare at it forever." He scratched his head out of habit. "Kinda like the city and the stars running into each other."

"You get used to it."

No, Goku thought, something like that you never get used to being lucky enough to have it.

But he wasn't going to argue with him about it.

"It'll be midnight soon," he said.

"So?"

"At midnight, we take off our masks."

"What?" Vegeta said. He wasn't wearing anything unusual. He glanced at Goku to snap at him, and stopped.

A feathered mask covered Goku's face, dark red with gold trim and draped with black feathers. Goku's eyes, wide and innocent, were strange under that mask, familiar and new all at once. Without his usual dumb grin, his unguarded expression, those same eyes looked past Vegeta's walls and defenses right into the prince himself.

Vegeta looked away. "I'm not wearing one."

Emboldened that Vegeta hadn't left, he turned to better face him. "You wear a lot of masks, uncaring, cold--"

"Names your humans gave me."

"Then what are you?" Goku leaned closer.

"Vegetasei's best soldier," Vegeta said stubbornly.

Knowing it could get him punched, Goku pushed again. "I thought that was me."

"No. You belong to earth." Vegeta glared, forced by their heights to look up at him. "You've made that clear."

Goku almost wished he'd been punched. The hurt in those eyes...as much as he tried to help his family and friends, he only ever betrayed Vegeta. Trying not to tremble, he put his hand on his prince's cheek. He stopped breathing when Vegeta didn't move away. The party music died down as the grandfather clock loudly struck the midnight count.

"I'll take off my masks," he whispered, "if you take off yours."

As the chimes rang, neither moved. The partiers were all silent. Then, with the last chime, Vegeta gently took off Kakarrot's mask.

The End

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