As the fire finally sparked to life and the flames grew steadily larger, Yamcha leaned back to watch the flames dance with a satisfied smile. A cool breeze whipped strands of his long black hair into his face and he tucked them back behind his ear, wondering if he should cut his hair short again. He liked to have it long; it reminded him of his youth in Diablo Desert and always seemed to bring forth that same reckless attitude when he grew it out. Then of course something bad would happen and remind him that he wasn’t Lord of the Desert anymore and he would cut it short again. But the memories of Cell were over a year old now, so the long hair was back.
Stirring the stew in his camp stove, he had the odd sensation that he was being watched. Pausing to quickly scan the area, he couldn’t sense anyone and didn’t see anything out of the ordinary either. Shrugging it off as paranoia, he remembered that was the reason he had decided to come here in the first place. After everything that happened in the Cell Games, he had tried to keep everyone upbeat with a cheery grin. But after months of everyone still grieving their loss, Yamcha had needed a retreat. He had never visited the Royal Nature Park before, but had heard about its beauty, and decided it would be nice to go camp and unwind. Krillen and Tien had both declined his invites, but that didn’t deter him from coming anyway.
It was a nice change of pace to get away from everything and relax in nature. It would have been even nicer if there was a warm body to cuddle next to under the stars, but Yamcha had learned to roll with the punches in his lifetime and take what he could get. This was enough. Besides, he wasn’t exactly the Lord of Relationships, so maybe it was even better this way. Pouring a little wine into the boiling pot, he took a small sip to taste the concoction and grinned in satisfaction. Everyone else was missing out the tastiest lamb stew ever created and that only meant more for him.
The air changed suddenly and Yamcha had the feeling he was being watched again, only much stronger this time. Standing to look around, when he turned to glance behind him he was shocked to see a young man standing there with his arms crossed and a hint of a smile on his lips. Yamcha stared at him for a second, taken aback by this sudden unexpected appearance: black hair to his shoulders, a long, dark aqua-colored coat over a black shirt and red scarf, jeans tucked into green socks and blue tennis shoes. A smile tugged at Yamcha’s mouth despite himself. It was the kind of ridiculous outfit that only someone this powerful could pull-off.
“17,” Yamcha greeted the man with all the degrees of caution the situation warranted. Nobody had encountered the android since the wish with Shenron and Yamcha honestly didn’t know what to expect.
Nodding politely at the scarred man, Number 17 stepped closer and smirked, “I hope you have a permit for starting that fire. I would hate to have to confiscate whatever you are cooking there and take you in for destruction of park property.”
“What are you talking about? Since when did someone need a permit to,” Yamcha cut his outburst short, eyeing the android closely. “Are you…did you just make a joke?” he asked, confusion setting in deeper as the twinkling in those pale blue eyes of the android only intensified.
No longer able to hold back the laughter, 17 doubled over holding his stomach as he laughed at the dumbfounded expression on Yamcha’s face. “You should have seen the look on your face!” 17 managed to speak between his loud laughs. After a few seconds to gain control of himself again, the android stood and wiped his watering eyes with an air of smug satisfaction. Walking past the still stunned Yamcha, he lifted the spoon from the simmering stew and tasted it. Setting it back down with a shrug, he sat down in the grass near the fire, neatly folding his legs underneath himself.
“What are you doing here anyway,” 17 inquired nonchalantly, tilting his head slightly to the side.
“Me? What are you doing here? And more importantly, did you just shrug at my stew?! I’ll have you know that my cooking is top notch!” Yamcha huffed as he resumed his place at the stove, stirring his creation with pride and love.
The android grinned and cocked his eyebrow up. “Can’t you tell? I’m a park ranger,” 17 calmly stated, patting his jacket as if that somehow confirmed what he said. “As for your cooking,” he shrugged again with the same twinkle from earlier in his eyes.
Torn between wondering how someone goes from destroying the world to becoming a park ranger and the indignation suffered at the insults to his cooking, time stood still for a moment in Yamcha’s mind. Was this for real? Was it a trick? Had the android just been waiting for a chance like this to get back at Goku and the others? Had there been a natural gas leak somewhere nearby and he was hallucinating the whole thing? Frowning, he put a spoonful of the stew into his mouth and tasted the mix of savory flavors and perfect seasonings. No. There was no way something so delicious could be a hallucination.
Yamcha looked over at the smiling Number 17 and rubbed the back of his head. 17 wasn’t acting hostile, more playful than anything, and he hadn’t heard of the android causing any trouble…. Maybe he had simply calmed down like 18. The former Lord of the Desert knew firsthand how learning of the power gulf between yourself and Goku could cause a person to lose their fighting spirit. Perhaps the androids weren’t immune to that realization either.
He looked into the icy eyes of the young-looking man; they were both more alike than he had ever thought. Rebels without a cause, both smugly thinking they were the big fish in the pond until a certain Saiyan surpassed them. Now they had both left to follow their own quiet paths, neither actually fulfilling their dreams. He was chuckling before he realized it, quickly covering his mouth and looking away; he hoped he hadn’t offended the android he suddenly felt a sort of kinship with.
Seeming more puzzled than offended, 17 frowned at Yamcha from across the fire. “What is so funny?”
Biting his lower lip to stifle his laughter, Yamcha rubbed the back of his head and grinned widely. “Nothing bad, I promise! You just reminded me a little of myself right now is all,” Yamcha smiled warmly. “While you’re here, would you like to have dinner with me? You can’t judge someone’s cooking by one tiny taste.”
“You do know that I don’t actually have to eat to keep living, right?” 17 asked, running a hand through his long, straight hair.
“That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some damn fine food, does it?” Yamcha smiled and pulled out two bowls, spooning a healthy portion into both before handing one to his guest. “Better than eating alone at any rate,” he nodded as to convince the android.
17 accepted the food and gave a small nod of consent. “Thanks then. But if I end up not liking it then you’re a dead man,” the boyish-looking man warned with a teasing grin.
This time it was Yamcha’s turn to shrug, “Then I’ve got nothing to worry about.” He watched 17 with interest from the corner of his eye. He had only met the androids very briefly when they visited Kame House looking for Goku. Krillen had brought 18 around once, but it made the others a little fidgety to be in her presence so soon after the fight and he hadn’t seen her since. But as she seemed to be very serious, 17 seemed to be the playful one of the twins. It was a surreal twist that Yamcha hadn’t anticipated, but he found himself enjoying it nevertheless. Everyone had been so serious lately and now he was in the company of someone he didn’t act as if the world had stopped turning.
Speaking of turning, Yamcha couldn’t keep his eyes from wandering to his present companion. He was just as beautiful as his twin and the mischievous nature of the android was an added perk. A sneaky thought wormed its way into Yamcha’s brain and he was suddenly glad that the others had turned down his invitation. The fire was between the two men, but that could easily be remedied. Reaching into the cooler nearby, Yamcha pulled out two bottles of beer with one hand and walked over to the android. Making himself comfortable beside the android: close, but not in violation of anyone’s personal space—yet. Extending his arm out, he offered 17 a bottle, smiling when the android accepted.
“Is this something else I don’t need to live, but you seem intent to give me?” 17 sarcastically asked, taking the proffered bottle and cracking it open.
“There are lots of things that I could give you that you don’t need to live, but I promise that they all enrich the experience of living,” Yamcha laughed. Roll with the punches and take what you can get, that’s the life of a bandit—even if one is no longer a bandit.
The statement seemed to initially startle the android, but then he turned his gaze fully on Yamcha—searching for answers as lapis eyes met jet ones. A small smirk flashed across 17’s face, declaring silently that two could play that game.
“Oh? And what would those things be exactly?” the artificial human asked in an innocent tone.
Nervously laughing, Yamcha tried to buy time to come up with an answer. He had always been a shameless flirter, but when someone actually flirted back, it usually left him flustered. “Well you know, like a rice cooker or something. You can boil rice in a pot, but with a cooker you can set it and have time for other things,” he blurted out, blushing a little at how random and bizarre it sounded, even to him.
“Time for what other things?” 17 prodded him on, seeming to be suddenly very interested in prolonging the discomfort of Yamcha.
“Um, well if you’re cooking rice, then maybe you’re cooking chicken to go with it and you need to be free to prepare that.” Yamcha closed his eyes as he spoke, not wanting to see the look of disbelief on the other’s face. When there was nothing but silence in answer, he opened his eyes to see 17 staring at him in pure amusement. “Look the point is that you don’t need a lot in life to survive, but there’s lots of things to make life better,” Yamcha said quickly, looking the other way so 17 wouldn’t see the pink tint on his face.
“I heartily agree. I was merely curious what things you were offering me,” the android replied coolly. “Maybe some of them were more interesting than food and beer.”
Yamcha looked back at his guest; 17 ran a hand through his hair to push it behind his ear again, flicking a finger against his gold hoop earring before lowering his hand. Was the android playing with him now or was this some sort of invitation? Yamcha had mastered his fear of women long ago, but asking out a male still made his stomach squirm a little. When you ask out someone of the opposite gender of yourself, the worst you can get is rejection. It was a little more complicated with someone of the same gender—you were exposing something about yourself that other people didn’t always understand or accept. Yamcha knew it was stupid and he shouldn’t care what other people think of him, but that nervous sixteen year old from the desert was still in there somewhere.
“Oh, hey, well Jupiter is visible tonight, if you’re interested? Or we could…” Yamcha trailed off with a frown. What had he been about to suggest? The words had come out of his mouth without him fully thinking things through. Number 17 was leaning forward expectantly now, waiting for him to continue. The look in the android’s eyes made Yamcha’s mouth go dry. Returning to his earlier thoughts about cuddling with someone under the stars, the scarred man swallowed the lump in his throat, willing moisture to return to his mouth. When that didn’t work, he took a long swig of his beer, avoiding all eye contact and opting to stare up at the sky.
“Jupiter is…” 17 grabbed ahold of Yamcha’s chin and pulled the Earthling’s head back in his direction, “Over here.” He smirked at the surprised expression on the former bandit’s face and jerked his thumb over his shoulder.
Eyes widening, Yamcha’s brain couldn’t keep up with his body once he felt the android’s hand on his face. Using the momentum from his head being forcibly turned, he kept moving until he reached Number 17’s lips. Feeling the contact of lips under his own, his brain finally processed what was happening and he recoiled back immediately.
“S-Sorry, 17, I’m really sorry about that,” the color drained from his face as he saw the annoyed look on his companion’s face. He had come to the woods to camp and get away from stress, not be killed by a pissed off artificial human.
Icy blue eyes narrowed at the hasty apology. “If you think you’re going to get off that easily, then you’re mistaken, buddy,” 17 said in a low dangerous tone.
Yamcha started scrambling backwards from the threatening figure, but didn’t get very far before 17 pounced on top of him. Using his knees to pin Yamcha’s arms to his sides, 17 put his weight down on Yamcha’s stomach, holding him completely helpless and trapped.
Leaning down to whisper in Yamcha’s ear, “You’re going to pay dearly for that little stunt just now,” 17 warned him briefly. Cracking his knuckles to Yamcha’s growing horror, he looked like the evil threat the future Trunks had warned them all about.
Squirming as best as he could, Yamcha didn’t have near the amount of strength needed to throw off his attacker. Watching as Number 17’s hands slowly descended towards him, Yamcha winced in anticipation of the blows that were surely coming and then—started laughing uncontrollably?
“No! Stop...please…I’m really sorry!” Yamcha cried out as the android tickled his sides without mercy. Tears were welling up in his eyes from the onslaught and struggle as he may, he could not get free. Twisting his body and thrashing his legs, nothing seemed to stop those nimble fingers from finding all his weak spots. “Please…17…I can’t breathe!” he gasped out between peals of laughter.
Smirking in victory, 17 finally stopped and crossed his arms over his chest in triumph. “I warned you earlier that you would be a dead man if you displeased me, so you only brought this on yourself.”
Chest heaving as he tried to regain his breath, Yamcha looked up at the smug man and gave a half smile. “Heh, I guess you’re right. Sorry again.”
“Stop apologizing and make it up to me,” 17 commanded softly. Placing both his hands to the sides of Yamcha’s head, he leaned down until their noses nearly touched, letting his black hair cascade around them.
Yamcha wasn’t sure if it was the lingering after effects of the tickling or the sudden closeness, but his head was spinning and he didn’t think it would ever stop. Mesmerized by the clear blue eyes staring at—through—him, his only option in the situation was to obey and he did so gladly. Lifting his head to close the distance between them, he pressed his lips against 17’s again, not daring to pull away again. Maybe because the man was an android, or maybe because he just had a cool air about him in general, Yamcha had expected Number 17’s lips to be cold. But quite to the contrary, they were warm and pliable.
More surprising though, was the feeling of a tongue being introduced into the kiss. Pleasantly surprised by this turn of events, Yamcha smirked against 17’s lips and not wanting to be outdone parted his lips in welcome. However, as soon as he felt his mouth being entered, his own tongue entered the fray and wrestled with the androids in a battle they both could enjoy. Underneath the flavors of their meal, the android tasted sweet and heady, leaving Yamcha hungry for more.
Wishing he had the use of his arms to pull the slender frame on top of him even closer, Yamcha let out a small whimper at not being able to touch the silken hair that brushed against his face or the soft, pale skin of 17, or any of the lean body that hovered just slightly off his chest.
Pulling back with a flushed face and heaving chest, 17 managed to smirk at the taller man. Yamcha knew he must look equally affected, his own breath coming in slow gasps from both the intensity with which 17 had kissed him and the desire to take the man on top of him into his arms and start it all over.
“Have you learned your lesson to not disappoint me again, Yamcha?” 17 asked, catching his breath quicker than his companion.
“If you mean that I get awesome kisses every time I do, then yeah, I learned to keep disappointing you at every chance I get,” Yamcha answered cheekily before giving the android a smirk of his own.
“No, then you get tickled again—more every time!” 17 snickered at him and lightly ran his fingers teasingly against Yamcha’s sensitive sides again.
“No! Okay, okay, I got it!” Laughing and wiggling, Yamcha smiled when 17’s hands retracted with the promise.
Nodding in satisfaction, 17 pushed himself up to stand, but as soon as Yamcha’s arms were freed, he reached up and snatched the arm of the android, tugging him back down. Catching the android as he tumbled towards the ground, Yamcha snuggled the smaller man into the crook of his arm as they both stared up at the sky.
“Jupiter is out and cuddling someone while you watch the stars is one of the best things in life,” Yamcha stated matter-of-factly. Glancing over at the handsome man next to him, his breath caught in his throat at the devious look on 17’s face.
“Idiot,” 17 whispered, not with malice, but pure affection. He then rolled over top of the scarred warrior and laid perpendicular to the man, resting his head on Yamcha’s chest. “Jupiter is over here,” he teased and pointed up to the bright speck in the sky before letting his arms cross loosely over his waist.
Yamcha looked over where 17 had pointed and chuckled softly. Wrapping an arm loosely over 17’s chest and kissing the top of his head, the reformed bandit sighed happily. “Well the view over here is just as good,” he whispered into the black strands.
The younger looking man laughed briefly and rolled his head back to get a look at Yamcha. “You’re right, I’m feeling my life is getting enriched already,” 17 smiled warmly at the man curled around him. Slipping one of his hands into the one Yamcha had lain on his chest, he turned his gaze back to the stars.
Grinning like a fool, Yamcha lay in complete contentment with the world. He had come to the woods with only the desire to unwind and get away from the memories of their last battle. However fate had brought one of the main causes into his lap, quite literally, and it was actually the happiest he had felt in a long time.
“Don’t try to act cool by not saying anything. I can hear your heart beating quite quickly,” Android 17 smugly informed him.
Only laughter could convey the light feeling inside him at the moment, so Yamcha let it out, squeezing the small hand within his own tightly. “Sorry, I was just thinking that of all the things I thought would happen today, this was never among them. But I’m glad it turned out like this,” he answered honestly, letting his free hand stroke through the long, dark hair splayed across his chest.
Turning his head to the side to look at Yamcha again, 17 grinned playfully at the admission. “Then you should stick around with me, I loathe being bored and can come up some inventive ways we could stay entertained,” he chuckled in a way that was both a little intimidating, but also very enticing.
Yamcha returned the grin and nodded his head, “I look forward to giving you lots of things you don’t need to live.”
“That had better be a promise,” 17 said in a mock warning, his eyes glittering with excitement.
“Of course. Promise,” Yamcha gave the android the most genuine smile that had crossed his face in over a year. Seemingly content with this answer, 17 returned his gaze to Jupiter and Yamcha kept his gaze on the handsome figure at his side. It was a promise he fully intended to keep. He had never been the Lord of Relationships, but this time, this once, it felt different and right. Looking forward to a happy future had been a little difficult ever since the arrival of Raditz, but now it never seemed brighter than ever.
Smiling at the twinkling stars above him, Yamcha silently thanked Dende for whatever good deed he was being rewarded for. Closing his eyes and focusing only on the feeling of 17 pressed against him, Yamcha let himself drift off to sleep; he wanted to be well rested for the adventures that lay ahead for the two of them because he was sure they would be marvelous whatever they may be.