Silfrenel + Yousha
by KC Anathema     More by this Writer
An evil tentacle beast arrives from space. Sorry, no tentacle sex. Later, the sequel as Krillin thinks Vegeta's manipulating Goku.



Silfrenel
...no man is so good as to be free from all evil, nor so bad as to be worth nothing...

--Viking saying

*

He ran, never thinking to power up, to zip into the air and make his escape before that black slime and shadow could catch up. He looked over his shoulder, swatting his violet hair out of his eyes. The formless mass ran like water over the ground, pouring uphill towards him and slithering around large stones without losing any speed.

He jerked his sword from its scabbard and sliced straight down just as it reached his boots. A scream came out of the formless mass, and it reared the cut half of its cleaved body up until it matched his height. The two flailing halves stiffened and trembled before wrapping themselves around his body, trapping his arms. He bent his wrists and the blade passed through the slime, but this time the mass resolidified. It crept over the skin on his back and shoulders, moving up his face until he couldn't breathe. He stumbled to one knee and felt the slime's pressure on his legs before it started to press at his mouth--

*

His own scream woke him up, and he found himself sitting in his own bed, the gray tanktop he wore to sleep drenched with sweat. He put his hand to his mouth to slap the darkness away and looked down when there was nothing on him.

The door opened, throwing a ray of light across the bed. "Are you all right?"

Trunks looked up at his father, dressed in his customary blue fighting outfit. "Yeah...I think..."

Vegeta crossed his arms and smirked. "You think? Unless there's some monster under your bed I can't sense..."

Trunks took a deep breath and shook his head. "No. Just a dumb nightmare." He smiled. "Thanks for checking."

The smirk disappeared and Vegeta shrugged, turning to leave. Another scream, this time female, echoed down the hall. Vegeta groaned and shook his head. "Kami, if it's not one brat it's the other..." He slammed the door behind himself and went to look in on his daughter.

Trunks lay back in bed, hands behind his head, and closed his eyes. No monsters, no, but damn that dream felt real. He listened to one of the windows opening and shutting. Vegeta was going out early again. And avoiding mother.

He frowned and narrowed his eyes, looking very much like his father. Vegeta did this nearly every morning, leaving before dawn, coming home late, sometimes forgetting to come home at all...and Bulma didn't seem to mind all that much. All of her yelling had been more about leaving windows unlocked or forgetting not to blast late visitors to Capsule Corps on his way out. Never about where he went or what he did...but then he was only ever at Goku's capsule house. Goku had gone out into the woods for another round of training, and though it again left Chichi to her own house, the two of them seemed happier for it, living close but not tripping over each other. Less yelling, less vases being thrown or plates being broken...just like Vegeta and Bulma were acting. Certainly no plates had been tossed by Bulma before, but the volume in Capsule Corpse had noticeably dropped. It was as if Saiyans naturally irritated humans and were only happy around other Saiyans.

Still brooding on that thought, Trunks sat all the way up, one leg bent with the other curled under himself, fist pressed to his mouth. Odd.

"Trunks?" Bra pushed the door in and peered around the edge. "Are you awa--geez, you look like papa."

He smiled and relaxed, sitting cross-legged. "You all right?"

She nodded and leaned against the doorframe. "Yeah, I just had a bad nightmare."

"I know." He smirked. "I heard you all the way down here."

She stuck her tongue out. "Don't be so smug. 'Two brats screaming at their own shadow'," she said in an imitation of their father's voice. "'At least one of them's a girl...'"

Trunks let the comment slide. "Do you remember what you were dreaming about?"

Bra gave him a weak smile. "Actually, I was screaming at a shadow."

Trunks sat up , and Bra leaned back at seeing the look on his face. "A shadow?" he asked.

"Uh-huh." She twirled her hair around one finger. "Maybe papa's right, maybe I am just--"

"Did it move like water?"

"What?"

"The shadow, did it move like water? Or try to crawl up your body?"

She tilted her head. "And try to suffocate me. Did you dream that, too?"

"Yeah." He scooted back so he could rest against the headboard. "That's weird."

"Maybe we should tell papa?"

"He's gone already. If he's in a good mood later, I'll talk to him."

"He's with Kakarrot again, right?"

A light clicked on behind them, and they looked up as their mother came in, still tying the sash around her robe.

"You two all right?" Bulma asked.

"Yeah," Bra said, "we just had a nightmare. That's all."

"Oh, good." She turned around, giving them a view of the heavy gray firearm tucked behind her back. "Did your father already leave?"

"Yeah, just a few minutes ago." Trunks straightened bolt upright. "Want me to go get him?"

Without turning around, she waved her hand. "No no, just curious." She passed by the open window and shook her head, slamming it shut and locking it. "Stupid Saiyan," she muttered. "Always leaving things open."

As soon as their mother had closed the door behind herself, Bra looked at her sibling. "Is it me, or are mama and papa acting funny?"

His shoulders slumped. "It's not you."

She waited for him to say something else, but he didn't move. "Oh." Twirling her hair again, she turned and left, closing his door again and leaving him in a dark room.

*

The stars were still visible, if fading, and the sky looked more violet than pink. High above the forest, flying just beneath the heavy cloud cover, Vegeta allowed himself to fold his arms together and shiver. No one could see him, even if anyone had been awake. So high up in the air, the wind already cut across his body as if his blue training outfit wasn't there, but he cursed out loud when he saw another stream of snowflakes coming from the clouds.

"Oh, that's just perfect."

He straightened in the air, arms at his side, preparing to make the jump to super Saiyan to burn away any snowflakes coming near, when he noticed the light flickering in an icy clearing below. He floated to the ground, skimming over the frozen ground until he was only half a mile from the house. Out of habit he crossed his arms, and he forced his ki down and started walking.

Within a few minutes he stood outside Goku's little capsule house. Its warm windows lit the falling snow, making a circle of light within the darkness. He was close enough to see inside the windows when the front door opened. After ducking behind one of the larger trees nearby, he watched Krillin step out first, wobbling a little, followed by Tien and the odd little clown Chaotzu. After them came Yamcha, who nearly toppled into the snow before Goku steadied him and sent him out after the others. Gohan was last, carrying Master Roshi over his shoulder and sharing a few words with Goku that Vegeta couldn't hear before heading straight to the air car and helping his friends get inside without collapsing in a heap.

"I'm not that drunk," Krillin said just before falling into the backseat of the car. Gohan tossed Roshi in after him, the two snoring loudly together.

"Oh, you's drunk..." Yamcha said. "You's sooooo drunnnk..." He stood up straight, stretching his arms out with a loud groan, and fell backward into the snow. Tien grabbed his arms while Gohan took his legs, and together they tossed him on top of Krillin. Chaotzu landed on Yamcha's back.

The scarred fighter groaned and shook his head. "Don't feel so good...*urp*..."

Gohan jumped behind the controls and started the engine. "If you make a mess, you're cleaning it up."

"So hurry up and get me home."

Vegeta waited until the air car was not only off the ground but out of sight before flying the short distance to the front door. He looked up just as he landed and took a quick step back. "Kakarrot."

Leaning on the doorframe, Goku smiled. "Hey, 'Geta. I knew you'd be back soon. Sleepy?"

Vegeta smirked and crossed his arms again. "Not like I had enough time at Capsule."

"Four hours?" Goku asked. He turned to the side and motioned him in.

"More like five, if you count their coming and going." Vegeta shook his head, dislodging some of the snow stuck in his hair, and walked by Goku. He glanced around the living room and the overturned empty bottles, empty cans, chairs, and a pack of cards scattered around the room.

"You could've stayed." Goku shut the door and followed him. "Would've kept the conversation interesting. After Chaotzu and Krillen passed out the first time, things got kinda quiet."

Vegeta turned and stared at him.

"No, I guess not, huh?," Goku said with a laugh. "Oh well, at least the capsule house stays in one piece then." He started turning the chairs back up, gathering the cans on the ground as he did.

"And why would I destroy the only thing that gets you out of that harpy's clutches?" Vegeta swept the cards into a pile and scowled when he saw the pictures on the fronts. "Roshi's deck, I assume."

"Yup. You know I wouldn't have something like that just laying around."

While Vegeta gathered all of the naked girl playing cards and threw them away, Goku finished gathering up the beer bottles and cans.

"He gonna be angry when he finds out those are gone," Goku said.

The Saiyan prince shrugged. "Tell him they soaked in spilled beer."

"Like they haven't before?" Goku dumped the bottles in the trash and stretched, his mouth opening wide with a loud yawn. "Well, even if you're not, I'm sleepy."

"Is that all you ever think about? Fighting, eating and sleeping?"

Goku smiled and stepped behind his companion, putting his arms around the slimmer waist. "I think of other things."

"Really?" Vegeta didn't move from Goku's warmer body. "That's more like fighting, eating and sleeping rolled into one."

His smile turning into a grin, Goku stepped back, one hand behind his neck. "Sometimes. You coming to bed?"

Vegeta nodded and turned out the lights while Goku locked the doors and windows. Once the house was dark, Vegeta stretched his sore muscles, wincing as he pulled the remnants of old injuries along his arms and back. Goku turned around and watched for a moment. All of his mate's movements seemed painful although he hid his face and suppressed any groans anyone else might have made.

"Now I know that's not from any fighting we've done," Goku said.

Vegeta glared at him, a few shades short of baring his teeth.

"Hey, don't get upset my night vision's just as good as yours." He walked behind Vegeta and put his hands on the smaller Saiyans shoulders, gently rubbing. "And the cold doesn't usually make you sore. You all right?"

As Vegeta's throat rumbled with a low purr, and he leaned back until he bumped against Goku. "Well enough."

Goku smiled and lowered his arms around Vegeta's waist again, and in turn the smaller Saiyan put one hand on Goku's and the other in his hair, drawing him down for a kiss. Goku pulled his lover's shirt up and forced the bottom half of the spandex outfit down.

"You love making me peel you out of this," he whispered.

"Why else would I wear it so often?" Vegeta turned and grabbed Goku's sash, undoing it and pulling it away. "Now, Kakarrotto," and he trailed the last syllable out, "are you really all that tired?"

"No. Not really."

*

Later that night, Goku stretched one arm over Vegeta's waist and nestled his head a little further into the pillow, still far from sleep. I don't remember any fights that would've given him such permanent damage, he thought. At least not that we'd see right now. He kinda acts like Master Roshi when his joints get stiff, but worse. But those kinds of wounds would have to be as old as he is, so who...?

Goku sighed. Frieza. Why did it always have to come back to Frieza? Vegeta never gives me straight answers about him...won't even answer questions about his childhood. He looked down over his sleeping companion, staring at him while his defenses were lowered but not entirely gone. Vegeta made no noise at night, didn't even move much on the bed. He lay in the same position he'd fallen asleep in and his breathing was no more than a whisper between his lips. With the scowl gone, his mate seemed relaxed, even innocent, and his infrequent mumbles only made him more so.

Outside the wind howled and swirled against the windows covered with frost, and huge snowflakes tapped on the glass faster and faster. Goku grabbed the blanket and pulled it higher around his shoulders so that it swallowed his lover up and covered the lower part of his face. And like every night, Vegeta tilted his head so that he hid even more. He pressed his face against Goku's chest and snuggled his body closer until he disappeared half-under him. Goku smiled and ran his fingers through the spiky hair that was softer than Chi Chi's ever was. Vegeta purred and nuzzled his chest.

"K'r'tto..."

"You must really be fast asleep," Goku whispered. His hand drifted from Vegeta's face to his shoulder and finally ended stroking his side. "You look so peaceful."

Vegeta's eyes opened halfway and he looked up at his lover's face. "Kakarrot...?"

"Oh, I'm sorry," Goku said, bringing his hand up. "I didn't mean to wake you up."

"Idiot." Vegeta shut his eyes and nestled close again. "Don't move so much."

Goku's smile softened and he lay his arm back around the smaller Saiyan's body. "Gotcha." He yawned, tightened his grip a little, and fell asleep.

*

The storm had paused when Vegeta woke up alone in bed. He patted the side of the bed for a moment before he opened his eyes and spotted Goku coming out of the shower, shaking water out of his hair.

"Morning," Goku said, far too perky for the morning. "Boy, you sure slept in late today."

"I did?" he asked as he sat up.

"Yup, it's already twelve."

The Saiyan prince lay back down on his pillow and purred. "I think I could sleep for a few more hours."

"Well, I'd better warn you that the guys are coming back today. I think they said something about a barbecue." His eyes glazed over at the thought of honey glazed ribs.

"What? It's the middle of winter. I thought you did those things only during this planet's hot seasons." He waved one hand towards the window and the gray storm clouds it framed. "It's going to snow again."

"That's okay, we can just use our ki to stay warm." He sat on the edge of the bed, catching and stroking Vegeta's hand. "Besides, it shouldn't snow for a couple hours, and they'll be here way before that happens."

"Damn." Vegeta groaned and got out of bed.

"You could stay," Goku said. "You don't have to talk to them, just stay with me."

Vegeta gathered his clothes and dressed. "You are so naive, Kakarrot. So naive." He opened the bedroom window and sat on the sill, finishing with his shirt and ignoring the cold air that blew in. "I'll be at the ridge we fought at last, if your human friends leave early."

Goku put his hand on Vegeta's arm. "You don't have to leave. Stay."

"Kakarrot--"

"They're you're friends, too."

Vegeta laughed and stroked his lover's cheek with his hand. "Idiot," he breathed, and his eyes closed while his shoulders relaxed. "They would kill me if they had the chance."

"'Geta?"

"You're so trusting." The Saiyan prince climbed out the window and turned around, hovering over the snow. "You have no idea what I risk coming here every night."

Goku leaned out the window. "You mean Bulma? Hey, if ChiChi found out about us, she'd flip her lid."

"Bulma? The woman's too intelligent to think she owns me." He lifted a few inches off the ground. "At the ridge, Kakarrot."

Goku sighed and nodded. "At the ridge." He watched Vegeta fly off into the forest and disappear. "I'll see you then."

He heard the rumbling engine of an aircar coming closer, and he grabbed his usual orange suit. He frowned as he put it on. Vegeta's the only one who never complains if I answer the door naked. Well, unless someone else is there. Then he just doesn't say anything. I mean, really, what's the big deal about wearing clothes?

As soon as he finished tying his sash, he heard someone knock. He ran over to the door and opened it. "Hey, guys. How're you feeling? You don't look so good."

Yamcha blinked a few times and leaned harder against Gohan. "Just a hangover, is all. It's not that bad, honest."

"Speak for yourself," Krillin said, hands on his head.

Behind them, Gohan smiled and nudged them all in. "Hey Dad. What was Vegeta doing here?"

"Huh?" Tien blinked all three eyes. "He was here? He wasn't bothering you, was he?"

"Trying to goad 'Kakarrot' into another fight to the death?" Yamcha said with a laugh.

Goku waved his hands and grinned. "No no, nothing like that. Training ran late yesterday, so he stayed over. Hey, are you guys sure you're up to a barbecue? You look pretty worn out still."

Yamcha shook his head, not to disagree, but to clear it. "Ah, we'll be fine. Just give us a few minutes to really wake up."

Krillin floated onto the couch and lay down before Roshi could get to it. "Yeah, Gohan decided to wake us all up at the crack of dawn."

"I had to round all of you up," Gohan said. "Besides, it's not that early."

"18 slept later, and she's usually up by seven." Krillin rolled on his side and started to snore.

Roshi grabbed a cushion from one end of the couch, then snuck closer and whacked his head. "Get up, you couch hog. We gotta fire up the coals before Tien an' Chaotzu come back with the food."

"Ow!" Krillin fell off the couch. Before he could get back on, Roshi plopped down and used the cushion as a pillow. "Man, you just wanted it for yourself. Well, see if any of us wake you up when they get back."

"Are you sure they can carry enough?" Goku asked and scratched his head.

"Sure they can," Yamcha laughed. "They learned their lesson last time."

Gohan stretched and went with his father to the backyard, the snow crunching beneath their feet. "I don't think they want a repeat of last time. They made, what, five trips?"

Goku flushed pink. "Heh, yeah. I was kinda hungry that day."

"You're always hungry." Gohan looked up at the sky. "Looks like it might snow a little more. I hope it holds off a little longer."

Yamcha followed behind them, hands clasped behind his head. "I hope those clouds just pass by. Otherwise these drifts'll get even worse."

"What do you mean, worse?" Goku blinked and looked around. Even in the pale light, the snow made everything sparkly.

Gohan shook his head and grinned. "Only we would have a barbecue in the winter."

They started pulling chairs and tables out, setting up the grill, and Goku looked towards the valley several miles out. He could barely make out the shape of the ridge above the river, but Vegeta's ki glowed strong enough to feel, if one looked for it. Goku smiled and kept half his focus on that ki source to make sure it didn't go anywhere.

"Hey, where's Goten?" Goku asked. "And Trunks, and everyone else?"

Hefting one last table over his head, Gohan looked back at his father. "Pan and Goten're over at Capsule Corps. I think Trunks said he'd bring everyone over in half an hour or so."

Yamcha set out the coals and picked up a bottle of lighter fluid. "Goten sure spends a lot of time over there now. How the heck does he handle it?" He twisted off the top and poured lighter fluid over the coals.

"Handle what?" Goku asked.

"Vegeta. Y'know, the walking attitude."

Goku paused and looked at his friend. "He's really not that bad. He's just kind of..." his voice trailed off as he tried to think of the right word.

"Arrogant?" Krillin asked. "Vicious?"

"A planet-killing psychopath?" Yamcha said.

"He's changed," Goku said. "He's not evil anymore, if he ever was."

"I don't know," Gohan said, sitting down on a table. "He's killed billions of people."

"But he doesn't anymore." He saw the look in his friends' eyes and felt their attitudes grow colder than the weather. He sighed and leaned against the wall of his house, crossing his arms. "Hey, how come Videl isn't here?"

"She went shopping for baby clothes," Gohan said.

They all looked up silently. When he noticed that the only ones making noise were the crickets, Gohan glanced around at them. "Oh...I...oh man, she's gonna be pissed. She didn't want to say anything yet."

"Congratulations, man," Yamcha said, slapping his back once. "Girl or a boy?"

Gohan raised his hands and shook his head. "No, I think I'd better leave that for her to say, otherwise she'll have my head."

In the distance, they felt a spike of ki and they looked up. Tien and Chaotzu carried the equivalent of two cows on their backs, dipping up and down in the sky under the weight. Goku's mouth watered at the sight, and he lit the grill with a tiny ball of ki.

A fireball erupted in his face, setting the end of a shock of hair on fire. With a sigh, Gohan pinched his father's hair out and glared at Yamcha, who shrugged.

"Too much lighter fluid, sorry."

*

A soft wind blew through the trees, running along the damp ground. Underneath a tree and sheltered somewhat from the snow, Vegeta leaned back against the trunk and stared at the sky, a thick blanket of clouds layered on top of each other. One looked like a toy duck that Trunks had played with as a whelp. Another looked like the winged species of human he'd never seen except on the sides of certain buildings spread around the city. Two clouds moved side by side, tumbling much like Trunks and Goten just a few years ago.

He growled and closed his eyes, turning his head aside. "Why the hell am I getting so sentimental? Not like the past is such a great thing to remember."

Soft underneath him, the damp dirt provided a cold but comfortable bed, almost as comfortable as having another Saiyan sleeping behind him. Aside from his time on Vegetasei and his recent years on earth, he'd slept either on hard alien terrain or the cold metal bed in Frieza's ship. This snowy weather was hardly noticeable. He curled against the tree and closed his eyes. Kakarrot could wear even a prince out.

A thundercloud rumbled in the distance and he cracked an eye to see it. Still several miles away, it centered over the city, a light drizzle right now but growing stronger. The yellow lights in the buildings stood out even at this distance, highlighted by the dismal sky.

He closed his eyes and reached out, focusing on his son's ki. As expected, Goten's flared beside it. Both ki's floated around each other so close that they intermingled, and he smirked. If the brats didn't say anything soon, he'd surprise them and out them in front of everyone. Sweet revenge for all their little pranks they loved to play.

He moved on to Bra's ki and found her accompanied by 18's brat. All traces of fear from her earlier nightmare faded under the enjoyment of whatever the girls were doing. His senses swept downward. Inside her laboratory, Vegeta could feel the woman sitting beside her father. The two of them felt happy enough yelling at each other while working on eradicating something they could only see in their microscopes.

Satisfied, he turned his attention to his mate and his friends. Kakarrot's appetite and the taste of the freshly charred meat made him smile despite the chattering humans surrounding him. The Namek had just arrived. Vegeta wondered why the string bean bothered to show up when he could only have water.

The thunderclouds rumbled again, and he listened for a few minutes as the creek that had carved the ridge over the centuries slowly swelled with runoff, turning into a river beneath him. Storm breezes whipped up the small waves, lulling him towards sleep. He reached out again, feeling the life force of nature itself as he slipped towards Kakarrot and felt his mate gently touch his ki back, the pulse of Satan city not too far away, the shadow of something slithering along--

"Silfrenel."

His eyes snapped open and he sat up, his hand covering his mouth. A cold chill ran through his muscles as his adrenalin surged. Now that he knew about it, he could feel it clearly in the cooling air, like slime on his skin even though the shadow moved miles away. How long had it been there, hiding away without him feeling it? But the brats had felt it, he remembered. He closed his eyes and focused, sensing its liquid ki through the air and tracking it, feeling the lingering traces of where it had been and its thrust out in its current direction. It was headed for his children.

"Shit." He couldn't reach Capsule Corps in time, but if he could make it to Kakarrot's house, call and warn the woman...

"Vegeta?"

Everyone looked up when Goku said that. He stopped eating and closed his eyes, as if listening to something they couldn't hear.

"Gohan?" Krillin asked. "Can you hear anything?"

"No," Gohan said as he shook his head. "Dad?"

Goku listened as his mate's ki spiked out of fear. He felt further for some feel of the reason until--"the kids?" He put two fingers to his head, concentrated, and disappeared.

The fighters looked around at each other, wondering if someone knew what that meant.

"Kids?" Yamcha said. "Is that bastard going after Goten and Trunks now?"

"No way, Trunks is his own son," Gohan said.

Piccolo nodded. "He wouldn't hurt his own kid, not without a damn good reason."

"I wouldn't put anything past Vegeta," Krillin said, rising into other air. "I'm still gonna go check it out."

"I'm coming with you," Yamcha said as he followed.

"Wait for us," Tien said. Chaotzu flew up beside him.

Still on the ground, Gohan slammed the barbecue top down to smother the flames and then flew towards Capsule Corps, him and Piccolo flying faster than any of the humans could.

On the edge of the ridge, Vegeta stumbled back when Goku materialized in front of him. "What the hell?"

"I heard you from the house," Goku said, his eyes wide. "What's wrong?"

"No time to explain, just get us to Capsule Corps now." He grabbed Goku's hand, and a moment later, they stood outside the main door. Vegeta flew up to his son's bedroom window and looked inside. "Brat, get your head out of there!"

Trunks stumbled out of the closet, a leather jacket in one hand and a shirtless Goten beside him. "Dammit, now what?"

"Get your boyfriend and the girls and get into the air." He turned to go, then looked back again. "Stay at least fifty feet up, and don't go near any buildings."

"What's wrong?" Goten asked. "Another enemy?"

"Ask Trunks," Vegeta said. "He saw it last night."

As Vegeta flew off, Goten looked at Trunks. "Saw what?"

Trunks knelt at the head of his bed and picked up his sword. "A strange kind of monster that moves like water. I thought it was just a dream."

"A dream?" Goten watched him strap on his sword, then ran after Trunks down the hall. "Are you guys sure--"

"It felt damn real before. I'll ask papa more later," Trunks said. He knocked on his sister's door. "Hey, Bra!"

"Go away!" Marron yelled. "No boys allowed."

Bra stuck her head out of the doorway. "Was papa just here?"

Trunks nodded. "He said all of us need to get out of Capsule Corps and get into the air."

"Why?" Even as she asked, she flung the door wide.

"That dream we had was real."

As Trunks grabbed Bra, Goten cradled Marron and followed Trunks out the window. Their fathers already stood outside on the roof, with Bulma inside her hover car high up in the sky. They dropped the girls in with Bulma and flew back down towards their fathers.

"What is it?" Trunks asked.

"Silfrenel."

"But what is it?" Goku asked, sniffing the air. "An animal?"

"It's evil." Vegeta also breathed in, but through his mouth, tasting the air and running the cold wind over his teeth. "I should have suspected something when my brats had their nightmares. They'd already sensed it, even if they didn't realize what it was. Children seem to notice these creatures more readily than adults."

"We're not children," Trunks and Goten said at the same time, but they were ignored.

"What does it do?" Goku asked.

"It will search out the strongest breeders on a planet, choosing them by their high ki levels, mate them, then leave."

"Mate them? They let it do that?"

Though he never looked away from the snowy landscape, Vegeta's face obviously tightened as it always did when his mate said something particularly stupid. "No, Kakarrot. They don't."

"Huh?" Goku scratched his head and thought about that. After a minute, he winced. "Oh."

Beside them, Trunks squinted and shielded his eyes with his hand. "It can't just be the bad light," he said.

"What?" Goten asked.

"I can feel it coming," Trunks said. "It's getting close, but I can't see it. Is it underground?"

"You'll see it soon," Vegeta said. "It will look like a moving shadow."

Minutes passed. Snow started to fall, huge heavy flakes that only added to drifts around them. It was more of an annoyance than anything else, and Trunks tied his hair back so it wouldn't plaster itself in his eyes. Goku had to flip it out of his face a few times, but the moisture wasn't nearly enough to bring Vegeta's hair down. Goku looked at the prince and smiled.

"I guess it's good in a fight," he said, "if your hair doesn't ever get in your eyes."

"I guess," Vegeta said. "I've forgotten what those spikes in front of your face feel like."

"Huh?" Goku tilted his head. His mate had bangs before?

Goten pointed straight ahead. "Is that it?"

The size of a large dog, it looked like a black puddle pouring itself towards them, racing over the ground and wet grass. As it came closer, dark tentacles spread forward like arms, waving around for its prey. It stopped directly under them and whipped its tentacles back and forth.

"What's it doing?" Goten whispered.

"It's blind," Trunks said.

"Yes," Vegeta nodded. "But it can still feel us."

"Looks kinda weak," Trunks said. "It can't even fly."

"Don't underestimate it," Vegeta said. "Those tentacles are strong, and it can grow as many as it likes. Whatever you do, don't get too close."

"So we'll just be blasting it," Goku said, raising his hand and shaping a ki charge.

"No!" Vegeta lunged and grabbed his hand.

The blast went wild, plowing into the ground next to the silfrenel. It made a screeching sound and slithered over the spot of scorched earth, rippling and digging its tentacles into the dirt.

"Don't blast it," Vegeta said. "That'll only make it stronger. It absorbs ki."

"What?" Goten asked. "Then how do we fight it?"

"There are a few ways," Vegeta said. "It can be incinerated, but the temperatures needed are too high and it could slither through any trap we made. We could freeze it, but we'd have the same problems."

The silfrenel coiled in on itself and stretched its tentacles as high as it could, gathering them together to reach higher. They flew out of its reach, the tip of its tentacle waving just a few feet beneath them.

"If we keep it here," he thought out loud, "and hold it in place with close ki blasts to the ground, we may be able to starve it to death, or at least weaken it. It must be starved already, it's small, and the cold weather's making it sluggish. Then we could throw it into space."

Goten turned upside down in the air and batted at the tentacle. "Why not throw it now--aah!"

Before Vegeta could wrench him out of its reach, the silfrenel coiled its tentacle around Goten's wrist and yanked him down. Goten tried to pull free, but even transforming once didn't slow his descent. The tentacle split into a dozen more, the ends wrapping around his other arm and legs, one coiling about his neck while another grabbed his waist. He kicked and flailed harder when he felt it searching for an opening in his clothing.

"Trunks," Vegeta yelled, "cut him free!" Before he'd finished speaking, he was diving in and amongst the tentacles, distracting most of them from Goten. Goku followed him in.

His sword unsheathed, Trunks lunged forward and slashed the thickest tentacle around Goten's waist. His blade easily severed it and the top half dripped off like water. Goten used his new leverage to pull as hard as he could on the remaining lines, giving Trunks the room to cut two more apart.

Behind Trunks, one of the cut tentacles suddenly split off into two that whipped around his ankles. While he was cutting those, several more curled around Goten again.

"Dammit!" He transformed once and began slicing again as fast as he could, but for every one he cut, two sprouted out. He looked up at Goten. One of the thickest tentacles was prodding at his mouth, trying to force its way in. "Father, I can't cut them all! There's too many!"

Vegeta looked up, watching his son struggle to cut Goten loose. Kakarrot was distracting well over half of the creature's arms, but their efforts weren't enough. As much as he hated to strengthen the beast, there was no help for it. He flew clear of the waving tentacles, aimed for two of the bigger ones holding Goten, and fired a single, thin blast that cut them as well as Trunks' sword. More blasts followed, but without Vegeta distracting it anymore, they made little progress. Finally Trunks flew just behind Goten and put one arm around his waist. As the tentacles blew apart, he pulled Goten up with all his strength.

The silfrenel's hold on the ground started to slip. The ki it received with each blast didn't make up for mass it had lost. With two super Saiyans pulling in the same direction and its tentacles being sliced, the target was becoming less worth the effort. Vegeta noticed its weakening and fired faster, only narrowly avoiding the two trapped inside. He glanced at Goku, still flying around the rest of the creature's arms, and swallowed once. If his mate became trapped, he wasn't sure he could get him free.

A huge flare of ki behind him was his only warning. A split-second after he felt it, a blast struck him square in the back, sending him sprawling towards the silfrenel. He stopped himself and dodged left just in time to avoid the creature's attempt to grab him. Without time to see who had attacked him, he flew closer to his son and between them managed to sever the last few tentacles holding them. He grabbed their arms and flew them out of harm's reach. Breathing hard and covered in sweat, Goten sagged against Trunks who held him with one arm, his other hand holding his sword.

Another ki blast was launched at Vegeta, but this time he turned and deflected it in time. He snarled as he saw who'd attacked him, and he would've sent a big bang shot their way except Goku came up beside him and grabbed his hand before he could raise it. He brought up his other hand only to have Goku snatch that one, too.

"Stupid humans!" Vegeta yelled. "What the hell are you doing?"

"Stopping you," Krillin said. "I knew you were evil, but attacking your own son?"

Gohan lowered his hand. There was no need for another blast, now that Goku had Vegeta firmly in his grip. "Are you two all right?"

"Are you fucking blind?" Trunks yelled. He sheathed his sword so he could better hold Goten. His mate's adrenalin rush was over and he was starting to tremble, clinging to Trunks as if his life depended on it. "Can't you see it? It nearly got me and Goten!"

The small group looked down at the ground beneath the two demi-Saiyans, but only Gohan and Piccolo saw anything besides a small, flickering shadow. Something in Kami's memory stirred, a half-forgotten image of liquid shadows forcibly breeding with anything compatible, hunting and swallowing strong life forces, and Piccolo strained to remember anything else about it.

Beside him, Gohan sensed nothing beyond a slimy feeling. He didn't know where that sensation came from, only that the shadow beneath him seemed to project it. But Trunks and Goten and his father were treating it like an enemy, and Vegeta had been firing ki blasts, so he shot off his own blast directly into the creature's center.

While the small group of Saiyans and demi-Saiyans yelled at Gohan, the silfrenel curled around the blast, seemingly folding in on itself as if wounded. Its tentacles disappeared back inside itself, making it a round black ball, and its diameter increased several inches as it digested Gohan's ki.

"You moron..." Trunks said.

Piccolo glared at Gohan. "I think you just screwed up."

"I think you're right."

On the ground, the silfrenel sensed the amount of ki sources around it, at least half of them hostile and the other half slowly figuring out what it was. All of them seemed able to fight, and if it attacked any one of them, the rest would tear it to pieces. No easy targets there. The rest of the ki sources on the planet were pitifully low compared to theirs, or set out across the ocean, and it couldn't go into the water without slowly dissolving. Snow was bad enough. But now it was starving and small and there were no suitable breeders nearby--it paused. It swept its senses out again. There, across the city.

It had missed one.

Giving up on its present prey, it flowed along the snow like quicksilver, flowing faster than the Saiyans could follow. Before anyone else had moved, Vegeta followed after it, flying low to ground to keep close. The snowfall had lessened but few shops were open, leaving him mostly empty streets until it led him into the upscale shopping districts. The pair moved so quickly that everyone nearby only felt a strong winter wind.

As they flew down a long avenue, Vegeta glanced ahead. It was a dead end, a narrow strip of stores that converged at one giant mall. There at the entrance he saw its target. Videl.

Just before it reached her, Vegeta put on a burst of speed and overshot it, landing directly between her and the silfrenel. It tried to stop but slid along the snow until it collided with him, caught in his arms as he grabbed it and flew straight into the air. Feeling a slight breeze, Videl had only started to turn when he'd already disappeared, and she only saw a blur that she figured must have been a rushed shopper.

Climbing steadily into the atmosphere, Vegeta struggled to keep a grip on his prey. Its slithering through the snow and the colder air around them made it possible to hold, but it still moved like half-frozen water in his hands. He closed his eyes. It was only a matter of time before it grew desperate and--

A tentacle shaped like a spear point pressed against his chest for a second before it stabbed through his body, pressing an inch out of his back.

Vegeta jerked in shock but he didn't let go, not even after the second and third strike. Thinner tentacles like needles stabbed through his arms and hands, retracting and lashing out again and again. Blood ran freely down his arms and body, but his ascent never slowed and as they went higher it was no longer able to move, frozen solid by the high altitude. When he felt it stop, he held it out in one hand, pulling free the thin tentacles embedded in his hand, and flung it hard into space. He managed to stay in the air long enough to watch it disappear, fading into the darkness, before his eyes fluttered shut and he fell back to earth.

Back at Capsule Corps, Goku left Trunks to explain or rather shout at his would-be saviors while he took off after Vegeta, flying over the city for a better view. He expected to hear emergency sirens, his mate yelling in anger, at least screaming humans. Nothing. Even the city itself was quieter than usual, leaving him alone in the sky with just the sound of the wind around him. He shivered as he flew, but the chill he felt didn't come from the snow. Vegeta's ki had suddenly faded.

Despite the faint trace, he followed his prince's ki over rooftops and buildings, slowly making his way across the city entirely. It was over the outskirts of the city that he spotted a small shadow on the unbroken field of white. At first he thought it might be the silfrenel but as he came closer, he recognized Vegeta's body sprawled in the snow. The darker shapes around him were his own blood.

If he hadn't felt his ki, Goku would have sworn Vegeta was dead. He landed and put his arms around his prince, lifting him halfway. Vegeta's head came to rest on his shoulder and Goku lay his fingers on his face, turning him gently. Blood trickled from his mouth, and in the cold air his faint breath looked like red vapor.

For a moment his eyes fluttered open, staring unfocused at Goku. His hand, mangled and dripping, came up to rest on Goku's, holding still. The pain was gone but he still felt cold, colder than the snow around him. But his mate was comfortable and warm. He closed his eyes. "Why are you shivering?" he whispered. "You're so warm..."

Before Goku could say anything, Vegeta's hand slipped away and his body relaxed. He cried out, feeling Vegeta's ki fading fast. His mind raced for a solution and he remembered that a new crop of senzu beans had come in. Krillin might have it. He teleported back to Capsule Corps, Vegeta's body cradled in his arms.

No one seemed to have moved from where he'd seen them. Everyone was on the ground wincing as Trunks yelled at them, cursing enough to make his father proud. The only one who escaped his wrath was Goten, still clinging to Trunks.

When he saw Goku, Trunks froze. He tightened his own grip on Goten. "Papa?"

Gohan stared at the blood covering his father's gi, saturating it so much that it was dripping too. He closed his eyes and looked away. The humans stood transfixed. They'd all seen Goku and Vegeta injured before, but never so badly, never so much blood.

"Krillin," Goku said. "I need a senzu."

Krillin froze as everyone looked at him. He glanced back at Vegeta. He winced at the slashed and pierced body, but he'd never liked the prince. He'd been the cause of most of their problems, and if Goku had let him kill the Saiyan the first time, there wouldn't be any of this constant trouble. He hadn't seen this silfrenel thing Trunks kept squawking about, but the whole affair had Vegeta's name written all over it.

"I don't have any," he said. "I haven't gotten anymore yet."

"What?" Goku frowned. "But there was a new--"

"None of us have gone," Tien cut in. "It was peaceful until now. We didn't need them."

Goku looked back and forth between the humans, unbelieving. "But you always..."

"A senzu's not enough for him anyway," Piccolo said. "Get him to Dende. That's his only chance."

Without another word, Goku disappeared. The moment he was gone, Piccolo flew up behind Krillin and grabbed the back of his neck, turning him upside down. While the other humans yelled or moved to stop him, he shook the small monk a few times. Krillin's wallet and a few coins spilled onto the ground. Piccolo put his hand out and caught the two small beans as they fell from Krillin's pocket.

"Thought so," he muttered, dropping the monk.

Gohan stared at the senzu in Piccolo's hand, then glared at Krillin. "Why on earth--"

Krillin opened his mouth, but Piccolo cut him off. "I can tell you why," he said. "They don't like him, plain and simple."

"You son of a bitch..." Trunks whispered. He raised his hand to fire a blast and to Krillin's horror no one moved to stop him.

"Hey," he shouted, "don't you dare blame me! Vegeta's nothing but a pain in the ass. He causes more problems than he's ever fixed here. We'd be better off without him!"

"Trunks, no!" Yamcha said, moving beside Krillin. "You can't kill him. He's your friend."

"Like hell," Trunks said. "He as good as tried to kill my father."

Tien and Chaotzu landed on his other side. "He's only doing what's right," Tien said. "I know he's your father, Trunks, but--"

The blast caught them all by surprise. The ground at their feet exploded, sending them backwards in a spray of mud and snow. When they looked up, Trunks was lowering his hand, the heat turning to vapors in the cool air. When he spoke, his voice was little more than a whisper, hard to hear over the wind.

"Krillin, if I ever see you again," he said, "I will kill you."

"Trunks..." Krillin said. "You can't--"

"Don't test me. Leave."

Covered in mud, the monk got to his feet and flew off, followed soon by Tien, Chaotzu and Yamcha. Trunks watched them disappear, then sighed and put his arms back around Goten. "Come on. Let's go in."

"Wait," Gohan said. "We can go to Dende's--"

Pausing, Trunks shook his head. "No. I'll know soon enough, one way or the other. Goten needs me. But..." He looked up at them. "Could you go and see for me?"

"No problem," Piccolo said. He watched them disappear into Capsule Corps, then turned. Gohan was staring at the pair as if he'd just figured something out, and his jaw was in danger of hitting the ground. Piccolo sighed and put his hand on Gohan's shoulder. "C'mon, I'll explain on the way to the Lookout."

*

When Vegeta opened his eyes, he expected to be back in front of Lord Enma's desk or in a familiar section of hell. Instead he found himself in a soft bed, the small group of candles on the nightstand beside him the only light in the room. He pushed the blankets to his waist and sat up, wincing as he moved muscles that had been severed and run through only hours before.

"You're awake!"

Vegeta groaned as someone threw their arms around him and squeezed. At first he wondered who would be happy he was alive, but then recognized his mate's scent. He sighed and relaxed. In his state, there was no way he could shake Goku off. "Calm down," he said. "I'm fine."

After a few seconds, Goku leaned back but kept his hand on Vegeta's shoulders, afraid he might disappear into the darkness around him. He cupped his palm against his mate's cheek and was a little surprised when Vegeta didn't shy away.

"I was worried," he said. "You've been asleep for so long..."

"What? How long?"

"A couple days." He tilted Vegeta's face towards him, staring into his eyes. "I almost didn't make it here in time. Dende said he was amazed you were still breathing. And then Krillin..." His voice trailed off and he lowered his head.

"Krillin? What about him?"

"He..." Goku sat down on the bed beside Vegeta, still holding him close. "I asked him for a senzu and he said he didn't have any. Yesterday Piccolo stopped by and told me he was lying."

"Mm. Is that all?" Since Goku was slightly behind him, Vegeta used him as a pillow, leaning back on him and resting his head on his mate's shoulder. "And you're surprised?"

"I thought I could trust them. They're my friends. They..." He sighed and lowered his head, nuzzling against Vegeta's hair. "I might have lost you."

"I told you they would kill me if they had the chance."

Goku didn't answer. Instead he reached down to the blankets and pulled them back around Vegeta's shoulders, holding them in place. "You should stay covered. The lookout gets cold at night."

"That hardly matters," Vegeta said, though he didn't yank them back down either. "I've slept in worse conditions."

"Yeah," Goku said. "But you don't have to anymore."

Vegeta shrugged but didn't argue. "Does anyone else know I'm still alive?"

"Uh-huh. Piccolo came by and saw you after you were healed. He said he'd tell Trunks and Bra you were all right. Um...he also said Kami recognized the silfrenel. There was a meteor shower a few weeks ago. It might've come down then."

"Explains why it didn't do much damage," Vegeta said. "Probably thought it could last out the winter and came out when it realized it couldn't."

"Uh...Piccolo also said he figured out it was Videl you saved, and that her an' Gohan are grateful."

"Mm."

The candles beside them flickered though there was no wind. Vegeta glanced at them, watching the wax puddle around the flames, drip down the sides in winding sheet patterns. One of the flames drowned in its wax and guttered, smoke drifting up in a narrow spiral. Goku followed his look and spotted the candle, and relit it with a bit of ki at his fingertip.

"I wanted to ask you something," Goku said. "You mentioned that kids can sense a silfrenel, but Goten says he didn't."

"Really?"

"Yeah. How come Bra and Trunks sensed it but Goten didn't? Or Marron, either?"

Vegeta didn't answer for awhile. He snuggled further into Goku's arms and closed his eyes, relishing his mate's fingers running through his hair and carefully hiding how much he liked it. For a moment he considered pretending to sleep, but he knew Goku wouldn't forgot the question, and later he might ask it in a crowded room with everyone around to bother him.

"Probably..." he said, "probably because I've encountered them before and you have not. A kind of genetic memory, perhaps."

"When did you see one before?" Goku asked. "Did you have to fight it alone?"

"One?" Vegeta gave a low laugh. "I purged a planet of them once."

"What? They--they had a planet?"

"Did you think all my victims were helpless civilized creatures? There were just as many vile and vicious creatures as not. More, actually. Intelligent life is not as common as some think."

"A whole planet of silfrenel? How'd you do it?"

"It wasn't easy. We couldn't blast them, so we had to try different things. Nappa had the idea of dropping huge boulders on them. Raditz set the forests on fire. For all their ideas, though, I found that my sword worked best."

"Sword? Like Trunks? But doesn't that mean you'd have to get close to them? You could've been grabbed and..." His voice trailed off as Vegeta turned aside. "Vegeta?"

"I was." He took a deep breath and sighed. "Fortunately for some reason, our two species are not compatible."

"Huh?"

"...I did not conceive."

"Oh." Goku's eyes widened. "Oh...'Geta..." He gently touched his mate's face only to have his hand swatted aside.

"Don't act so stupid," Vegeta said. "It's not like it was the worst."

"Worst?"

Vegeta winced. He hadn't meant to slip like that. "I meant worst injury. It hardly even hurt."

That didn't pass, though. Goku had been with his prince for too many years, had started to understand how his mind worked all too well. He cupped his hand around Vegeta's cheek again and forced him to meet his eyes. Vegeta squirmed in his grip but even after being healed, he was still too weak to struggle much.

"Kakarrot--"

"You don't have to hide anything from me," Goku said.

"I'm not--"

"Vegeta." Goku stared into his mate's eyes, watching as they slowly brightened and spilled over. His prince never sobbed or whimpered, but the tears came all the same. Goku hugged him closer and brushed them away. "I love you. Please, you don't have to keep this bottled up anymore."

"It's nothing."

"Then there is something. 'Geta...sometimes it helps to talk about things."

"How would you know? What horrible things have happened to you? You've never gone through the kind of hell I have. You've never...you were never..." His voice trailed off and he looked back at the candles. Anything to keep from letting Goku see him cry. "It's not important anyway. It's in the past."

"And it's hurting you now." He slipped his hand into Vegeta's, running his fingers over the small scars on the skin where the hardened tentacles had run him through like needles. "You knew it could do this...were you stabbed like that before?"

Vegeta shook his head once. The tears were slowing now. "Not as such. They...they could harden their arms like whips. That's where the scar on my shoulder came from."

"Mm." Goku kissed his hand. "You're amazing."

Vegeta snorted.

"You are," Goku repeated. "You knew what could happen and you still...you never even hesitated."

"You'd have done the same."

"I...I don't know. If I had known it could do that...heck, I was freaked out just looking at it, and then to know it could turn into n-needles..." He took a breath. "You're right, I haven't been through anything like you have, and yet you still keep going. I don't know how you do it."

"Kakarrot, I swear to God if you even think about pity--"

"No, not pity. It's...'Geta, I don't know that I could survive half of what you've gone through. But..." He sighed and hugged him again as if the prince was a teddy bear and he was the wounded patient. "I don't want you to be in pain. I wish I could take it all from you. If you would just try talking--"

"Never."

"'Geta--"

"Don't be so stupid," Vegeta said. "You think I was some suffering victim? I earned my pain, I won't have you--" He broke off, trying to collect his thoughts. "I won't...allow you..."

Goku leaned forward and whispered in his ear. "I love you. Nothing in the past can change that now."

"It will." Vegeta shook his head and wouldn't look at him. "You won't, not after you know."

"I. Love. You." Goku felt soft teardrops hit his arm. That his mate's voice was shaking too told him just how much more he could push him. "I'll never stop loving you."

"And if I tell you what you want to know?" Vegeta's tone turned mocking and hateful, sounding for all the world like his first day on earth. "That those brainlesss animals were just warm-ups to the real slaughter? How I enjoyed killing every intelligent creature on each planet I visited? That I laughed at their pitiful attempts to stop me? They tried to hide from us...built shelters beneath the ground and hid their children there. Every time it was the same, hide the children, try to fight. And each time it was the same."

Goku hesitated. He'd gotten his mate to talk without realizing it and he didn't want to ask something stupid and make him retreat back into familiar masks. "What would've happened if you hadn't killed them?"

"I wouldn't have lived very long. Frieza despised anything he thought was insurrection."

"What did he think was insurrection?" Goku hoped it wasn't obvious that he didn't know what that was.

"Disobedience. Questioning him. Refusing anything..." his voice trailed off again.

"And the punishments?"

Vegeta didn't answer for a long time. When he did, his voice was a whisper. "Everything he could imagine."

Slowly, piece by piece, Goku drew more from him. The candles melted to nubs and went out one after the other, and the two Saiyans sat in the darkness, one holding the other, speaking in hushed voices. Occasionally tracing a scar, explaining an old injury. And when Vegeta finished, at least for that night, he sat rigid in Goku's arms and wouldn't meet his eyes, expecting a little of the same animosity the humans felt towards him.

There was a soft touch on his skin and an even softer murmur, "I will always love you."

No relieved sighs, no tears of joy. Just tears, and a small prince leaning against his mate, wrapped up in his arms in the dark.



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