Panting and pushing branches aside, the short man growled as another twig snapped into his face. He’d been wandering through these damn woods for too long already: his ebony, upswept hair littered with leaves, and who knows what else; and his shirt and jeans dirty and ripped in various places. Spitting out some dirt that had gotten in his mouth somehow, he wondered how much shittier this day could become.
It had started out fine after all. He was driving to the city for some casual shopping. He liked to take the long scenic route through these mountains, enjoy the fresh air, and cruise the often-deserted road. So as he was driving along, he had spotted something draped across the road. Slowing down he realized it was a long emerald snake stretching into both narrow lanes.
He brought the car to a halt and cursed at the thing to move out of the way. When that had no effect, he sounded the horn repeatedly. However, the snake didn’t seem to want to leave the nice sunny spot it had found and totally ignored him. Putting the car into park and exiting, he cursed colorfully at the reptile. The way it was laying and the tightness of the road would have made it impossible to pass without running over some part of the snake. Sure if he just grazed the tail, it would probably live, but there was a soft spot in his heart for snakes. He didn’t understand why people would go out of their way to run over snakes, but risk their own lives over something furry.
Sighing deeply, he felt compelled to get this snake safely out of the road. Glancing around, he saw nothing long enough to feel comfortable moving the snake with. Gritting his teeth, he moved to the tail end and lightly poked it with his boot. The snake constricted slightly, but still not enough to pass by safely. But the green creature hadn’t even glanced at him after the assault, so he felt emboldened beyond rational thinking. He slowly reached down and grabbed the tail in his hand, watching for any sudden movement. The creature wriggled a little, but showed no other signs of alarm.
Breathing very slowly, he tightened his grip and began to walk in a large arc around the snake’s head, pulling it with him towards the side of the road. The resting reptile still showed no interest in attacking and he was so close to getting it to safety. He let his guard down. He gave a quick tug on the snake’s tail, yanking it completely out of the road and onto the grassy cliff. Suddenly the snake showed a great deal of interest in the man handling it and swung its body around, snapping at its would-be rescuer.
He jumped in shock and fright, taking a step back and flinging the tail out of his hand. The back of his leg hit the guard rail along the side of the road, but there was too much momentum to stop himself from tumbling over. Thankfully it was not a steep drop-off, but bouncing down the long slope was not much of an improvement in his opinion. When he finally crashed at the bottom of the tall hill, he ran his hands over his whole body checking for injuries. There were scrapes and cuts everywhere and a large contusion on his left arm, but nothing seemed broken. He had no doubt in his mind that he would be feeling the drop for days though.
Trying to climb back up the way he had fallen proved futile. The ground was too soft to get a proper hold and there was too much of an incline to just hike up. The only good part about his current situation was that the snake hadn’t followed him over the edge. He had waited there for some time, about an hour by his best guess, hoping someone would have passed by and stopped to investigate upon seeing an empty, running car. But luck was not on his side today and so he decided to start walking. Heading toward the direction he had been driving from, he knew the hills would level out there, and he might be able to find a spot to climb up.
That was how he found himself to be in his current situation. ‘Should have run the fucking thing over.’ He thought furiously, even though it was only his anger talking and he knew he never would do something like that.
It was already dark and he still had not found a way out of the woods. That he was beginning to get nervous was an understatement. He had no food, water, or protection of any kind from whatever else nature threw at him. He was soon going to be in a forest that only grew darker, and by now he was sure his car would be towed, stolen, or dead. ‘Great, even if I make it out of this hell-hole, I’ll still be stranded!’ To make matters worse, he had been forced away from walking along the embankment by a tangled sea of thorns that he didn’t dare try to pass through. At the moment, he could make it out on his right side, but as the darkness grew, he wasn’t so confident he’d be able to keep close to it.
As he trudged along on his journey, he tried to look on the bright side. He hadn’t been badly hurt so far and nothing had tried to kill him other than that damn snake. Stopping dead in his tracks he glanced around as if he had just jinxed himself. He had never really thought of himself as the superstitious type, but the way this day had gone so far felt like more than just coincidence. He drew close to the nearest tree and knocked lightly on its bark, hoping that would satisfy whatever karmic entity in the universe that was tormenting him right now.
Grimacing over how stupid he felt knocking on trees, something out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. It was a light! His eyes widened in hope, but then darkened again and he drew behind a tree. This was already the shittiest day ever, so who would be walking silently through these woods at night? The only answer he could think of was someone up to no good. With his luck, it was probably some serial killer fresh from burying their latest victim. A lump formed in his throat as he was torn between wanting to be saved and not wanting to be a murder victim.
Flexing his strong shoulder muscles, he decided to chance it. He was no stranger to a gym and felt that he could handle one person in the woods. Feeling bold again, he stepped out from behind the tree and was about to call out when he froze again. He saw one light. But that didn’t necessarily mean there was only one person. It was darker further in the woods and he couldn’t clearly make out the person holding the light, much less someone traveling behind them. Even if they were alone, they might lead him into some trap where a whole group of killers jumped out and overpowered him.
Stepping backwards to get into his hiding spot again, his foot landed on a dry branch, sending a loud snap through the silent forest. He gritted his teeth in anger as the light swiveled his direction, searching for the cause of the noise. Soon it was upon him and he was forced to hold up a hand to shield his eyes from the powerful beam.
“Who are you?” a voice called out. It was a rich, youthful voice, definitely a man.
“Who are you?” he retorted, after everything he had been through, he didn’t feel like he was the one who needed to justify his presence here.
The light started bouncing as it neared; he guessed that the man holding it was jogging towards him. His mind panicked. What kind of moral, upstanding citizen didn’t answer who they were and then started running at you in the woods at night? This was the last straw and he took off at a sprint. Fighting to keep his footing as he ran, he could tell by the light casting an aura around him that the man was following close behind. ‘Shit shit shit shit shit!’ echoed through his brain as his luck ran dry and he tripped over a knotted root on the ground.
Slamming into the dirt, he tried to crawl quickly to his knees and run again. A strong hand grabbing his arm shut down all plans of escape however. Aided by the flashlight, the man had been able to run much faster than him and easily caught up once he fell. He felt himself drawn up to his feet and again the light blinded him when cast at his face.
“Why did you run? What are you doing here? Are you lost? Hurt?” the voice asked him again. With light directly in his eyes, he couldn’t make out the face of the person it belonged to, but saw a general outline of a man about half a foot taller than him.
“Can you get that damn light out of my eyes?” he growled, wanting to at least be able to see the person who was going to murder him.
“Oh! Sorry!” the man apologized quickly. “But are you okay? I don’t normally see people around here.”
He wanted to run so badly. But after the last test of that strategy, he knew he would be overtaken again. Wondering how much a killer could really do with the little information he had to give, he decided to tell the truth.
“I had an accident and fell off the road. I’m trying to get back up to my car,” he explained. He was beginning to be able to make out the other man. His would be rescuer/murderer had dark hair and dark eyes, but a light colored skin. Broad shoulders and a strong grip as well. He wondered if he could take the stranger in a fight.
“The road? Then you should be heading East. There’s no way to climb up in this direction for another eleven or twelve miles. If you go East you’d reach a little path that could take you up, in about eight miles,” the man helpfully pointed out.
Cursing up a storm in his head, he wondered how close he had originally been to that path. The man seemed perplexed by his reaction and tilted his head to the side.
“Hey, why don’t you come with me to my house? It’s not far from here and you can get cleaned up and then leave in the morning when it’s safer to travel,” the stranger piped up cheerfully.
‘Here it fucking comes. Yeah, I’ll willingly go to your little murder house and spend the night!’ Snorting at the thought, he eyed the man suspiciously.
“I had no choice, but why are you walking around in the middle of nowhere at night? And if you live near here, don’t you have a phone or car? Why do I need to wait for the morning?” he inquired with an edge of hostility.
His impromptu companion laughed, which had the exact opposite effect of putting him at ease.
“Sorry, but I like to keep to myself. Live off the land, that sorta thing. So no car or phone,” he smiled and shrugged. “I was heading home when I heard you. Then you ran off, so I felt like you were in some kind of trouble. My name is Kakarot,” he beamed and held out a hand in offering.
Hesitantly taking the outstretched hand and giving it a firm shake, he replied: “Vegeta.” He didn’t trust this ‘Kakarot’ for a second. Only psychos lived like hermits in the woods in this day and age.
Kakarot repeated the name to himself with a smile. Then with a wave of his hand, he beckoned the stranded man to follow him deeper into the woods.
“I didn’t know it was legal to live in these woods,” Vegeta tested him.
“My family has lived here for ages. Something about a grandfather closet, but I’m not sure what my old timer’s clothes had to do with it,” the man laughed merrily. You could practically hear the cheesy smile in his voice. It made Vegeta shudder.
“Grandfather clause,” Vegeta automatically corrected him. Eyes widening as the man turned to look at him, he wondered if that comment would be the one that got him killed.
“Oh, right! Well that’s what they said anyway. So I’ve been living here my whole life!” Kakarot exclaimed, turning back to keep an eye on where they were heading.
Vegeta breathed a sigh of relief, cursing his habit of constantly correcting others. Making a mental note to carefully watch his words from now on, he followed in silence. Along the way, Kakarot leaned down and picked up a bucket as they passed by it. He couldn’t tell what was in it, but the smell was enough to make Vegeta cover his nose. Presuming that the man had placed it there before running after him, Vegeta guessed it was something dead and hoped that it was only fish and not something far more sinister.
Stars were twinkling through the leaves in the tall trees when they finally reached their destination. Vegeta crinkled his nose at the sight of the structure. It looked like the original structure had been nothing more than a simple shack, but it had obviously been added onto as the years went by, as it looked to be built of different materials in some places. From what little light there was, the faded paint looked to be a yellow or green hue. There was a wide wooden porch on the front that had a lone rocking chair and a smaller shed off to the right of the main building. To the weary mind of Vegeta it looked like every creepy house in all the horror movies he had ever seen.
“This is it,” Kakarot chirped as he opened the door and ushered Vegeta inside. “Just give me a few minutes to get these cleaned up and we can have something to eat!”
The lights snapped on with a click and Vegeta blinked his eyes from the sudden shift. Still slightly squinting, he got a much better look at the man he was with. Kakarot was certainly built like a woodsman, with his broad chest and muscled arms. His hair was wild and stood up at odd angles; it was jet colored, just like his eyes. He was wearing a navy blue tank top that clung to his body and definitely showcased his toned physique. His legs were clad in nicely fitted tan, linen slacks. The material wrapped around his legs as he moved, making Vegeta aware that he was just as muscular on his lower half.
It wasn’t until he noticed Kakarot staring at him that he realized that he had been staring just as hard. There was no denying that the man was attractive. Almost too attractive. Why would someone that good looking hide themselves away from the world and live in solitude unless there was something seriously wrong with them? Vegeta’s cheeks started to heat up at the look of scrutiny he was receiving and he wondered if Kakarot was scanning him for weaknesses.
“You’re pretty handsome, Vegeta, but you look all beat up,” Kakarot frowned and stuck out his lower lip in a pout. “Why don’t you go take a shower while I make dinner? I can give you some of my old clothes, they might fit you,” he offered as he tugged at the sleeve of Vegeta’s shirt, only to tear it even more than it already was.
Vegeta’s face felt like it was fully on fire now. ‘Who the hell says something like that?! And now he wants me to take a shower and wear his clothes? Is this some kind of sick fetish he does with all his victims? I do want to be clean, but I don’t want to be a part of his twisted game!’ Standing there in shock, he could only watch while Kakarot disappeared into the back with a smile. Peering down the little hallway the man had walked down, Vegeta saw four closed doors along the sides of the hall and another at the very end. He guessed that door led back outside since it had a small round window near the top. Feeling a little better now that he had located another exit, he studied his current surroundings.
Guessing that he was in what counted as the living room, it was sparsely decorated; directly contrasting Vegeta’s previous assumption that it was some sort of hoarder hovel. There was a large black couch dominating one wall of the room and a wooden coffee table that held an empty coffee cup. There were some bookshelves that were dustier than the other furniture in the room, and an orange overstuffed chair in the corner next to them. The main focus of the room was a large red brick fireplace that was black on the inside from use. There was a mantle over it that was decorated with a few pictures: Kakarot in varying ages with different people.
Turning to his right, the living room was adjacent to an open kitchen and dining space. A simple dark wood table and six chairs resided next to a large window. The kitchen was small, but looked functional. Something about it all seemed a bit off to Vegeta. Nothing here wasn’t quite adding up. Kakarot had said that he liked to keep to himself and that he didn’t have a phone or car. But while the wooden furniture did seem like they might be antiques, the rest of the furnishings seemed to be too modern to have been here as long as the woodsman had claimed.
There was electricity too. That meant either a generator was somewhere on the premises or there was a power line underground. Either of those would require money to maintain and Vegeta didn’t see how he could manage to make money while living in the woods with no transportation. The clothes Kakarot was wearing didn’t seem homemade, but he guessed it could have been possible. They didn’t seem torn or worn out however, so that meant buying new ones or buying new material to make them. The hair on Vegeta’s neck was standing on end. He was in the middle of the woods, how did Kakarot manage to live like this by “keeping to himself”?
Swallowing hard at the lump in his throat, Vegeta realized that he must get the money off the people he killed. Maybe he ate them too? The bucket that Kakarot had been carrying was sitting on top of the dining room table. Silently creeping towards it, Vegeta held his breath as he leaned over to look inside. It was fish. Letting out his breath, Vegeta almost jumped out of his skin when he felt a hand clap onto his shoulder suddenly.
“I can make them pretty tasty!” Kakarot chirped as he noticed what Vegeta was looking at. “But it will take me a little bit to get them ready. I put some clean clothes and a towel in the bathroom for you. It’s the last room on the right.”
Vegeta brushed his hand off and turned to face him with a glare.
“What is going on here, Kakarot? You say that you live here with no car or phone, then where the hell did all this stuff come from?” He pointed at the couch in particular. “That can’t be that old, and how the hell do you pay for electricity? How do you even have electricity out here?!” He was livid, not that he had been lied to, he already expected as much; it was more of the fact that Kakarot had made no attempt to cover the lie.
Seeming more bemused than angered or guilty, Kakarot just laughed and kept smiling at him.
“Oh, my friend takes care of all that stuff. I was walking along the road one day, on my way to town to sell some radishes; then she came speeding around the corner and hit me with her car. I wasn’t hurt too bad, but ever since then she’s paid for everything for me. So every time she comes to visit, she always brings something new for me,” Kakarot explained it in a casual, yet still cheery voice.
Vegeta’s mouth gaped a little in confusion. He wasn’t sure what piece of information to process first: that the man had been run over and lived or the fact that a fetish murderer could have a long term friend. He could only nod weakly and back away towards the indicated location of the bathroom. He watched Kakarot smile and carry the fish to the kitchen as if nothing was amiss. ‘What a scary guy, he smiles no matter what. Nobody in their right mind could be that carefree.’
Quickly locking the door after entering the small bathroom, Vegeta carefully started inspecting every inch of it. There was not much to it, which made the task a lot easier. There was a toilet, free-standing sink, a small, mirrored medicine cabinet over the sink, and an old claw tub with a cream colored curtain. The promised wash cloth, towel and clothing were sitting carefully on the edge of the sink. After reassuring himself that there were no peepholes anywhere and it was not in fact a two-way mirror, he began to undress. Unsure of what to do with his clothing, he folded them neatly and left them on the floor near the tub.
Looking at himself in the mirror, he saw bruises already beginning to form on his body: a few on his arms, legs, and one above his left eye. He had a couple scrapes and cuts as well, and his upswept hair had definitely seen better days. Kakarot hadn’t been lying when he said Vegeta looked beat up. Grimacing at his reflection, he only shook his head at the sight. Turning the water on as hot as it would go, he stepped inside.
The water felt good against his battered body. It stung a little as it hit the open wounds, but overall it was like a wave of relaxation washed over him. Sighing, he leaned one hand against the wall and let the water pour over his head. ‘Maybe Kakarot isn’t such a bad guy after all. Maybe he’s only extremely odd from living in the middle of nowhere so long. If there’s someone out there that goes to the trouble of lugging stuff way out here for him, then there has to be some good in him, right?’ It was the most compelling argument he had in the situation. The wild man didn’t see like the type to blackmail someone into paying his living expenses and he didn’t seem the type to take legal action either.
Vegeta frowned as he stood up straight and began to wash the dirt off himself. But does having one friend make someone a good person? Maybe he let them live but killed everyone else that he met? His head hurt both physically and mentally. Vegeta wanted to trust him because that meant that Kakarot wasn’t a psychopath bent on killing him. But on the other hand, how many people are that trusting to take in strangers with barely any questions asked, in these times, without having some ulterior motive for doing so?
And the smiling. Kakarot always seemed to be smiling. So oddly happy. Was that because he was mentally disturbed or was he really that friendly and easygoing?Running his hands through his long hair, he still didn’t know what to make of the mountain man. Sighing, he thought it was a shame that they had met under these circumstances. If they had met in the city somewhere, Vegeta probably would have asked for his number in a heartbeat. He had no problem admitting Kakarot was damn good looking: it was the possibility of him trying to murder Vegeta that was the problem.
Musing further, he remembered what Kakarot had said to him earlier. ‘You’re pretty handsome, Vegeta.’ Many people had told him similar things before, women and men, but none under such an unexpected scenario. He wondered if the man was attracted to him, or if he just said those kinds of things like they meant nothing. Rolling his eyes he turned off the water and grabbed the towel. What was the point of thinking things like that in this situation? Besides it might be even worse if he truly was attracted to Vegeta. Maybe Kakarot kept the ones he liked locked in that shed outside for his twisted gratification. He ruffled the towel through his pitch black hair roughly, trying to get it to fluff back up. Maybe he was being too harsh on the man. Kakarot might be one of those people who trusts everyone and is actually a complete innocent. It was a lot nicer to think of that than the alternative, so Vegeta decided to give him a chance.
That didn’t mean he would completely let his guard down, oh no. Just see where things went, but be ready to act if need be. He felt confident enough in his own strength that he wouldn’t go down without leaving Kakarot unscathed. Nodding, he picked up the shirt the man of the wilderness had left him and looked at with a raised eyebrow. It was a short-sleeve, pink button-up shirt with the words “Bad Man” on the back. ‘This is the type of thing Kakarot wears?’ Vegeta wondered where a shirt like this was bought and who had bought it. ‘It’s probably a good thing he never leaves the woods if this is his normal wardrobe.’
Slipping it on and buttoning it, he noticed it fit fairly well; judging by their current size difference, Kakarot must have worn it when he was a teenager, which made Vegeta slightly more forgiving. However the yellow pants that were left along with the shirt received the same look of disbelief. Thankfully though, Kakarot had spared him the indignity of leaving a pair of underwear. Vegeta didn’t trust the other man enough to go commando, so he decided to just slip his own boxers back on before pulling on the pants.
Fully clothed and hair starting to perk back up, Vegeta stepped into the hallway silently and looked around for signs of the house’s owner. Not seeing him anywhere, Vegeta crept over to the back door and inspected it. It had a simple lock on it and Vegeta peeked out the window to confirm that it did indeed lead outside. Even if he had decided to give the other man a chance to not be evil, that didn’t mean he couldn’t have a backup plan.
Wondering if Kakarot was aware of him being out of the shower yet, he decided to press his luck a little more. Walking to the door across from the bathroom, he tried the doorknob. Finding it unlocked, he cracked open the door a few inches, just to get a quick peek inside. It looked like a large bedroom, as sparsely decorated as the rest of the house so far. A bed, dresser, and a bookcase that held more pictures than books. There were some clothes strewn on the floor, so he guessed it was Kakarot’s bedroom. From what he could make out without flipping on the light, it didn’t seem ominous at all. He closed the door with a sigh of relief. Not having blood-splatters and chains seemed like a good sign.
However there were two other rooms in the hallway, either of them could be the kill room. Vegeta reminded himself that he had just said he was going to give the man a chance. But checking the rooms would give him extra peace of mind, so he thought it was for the best. Opening the door next to Kakarot’s bedroom, he was surprised to find it almost completely empty save for an old bed frame against one wall. The woodsman’s decorating style seemed to be minimalist to the extreme.
Moving on to the last door, he hesitated as he reached for the doorknob. Would this be the room? Would it be empty? Glancing around to make sure the owner was still occupied elsewhere, he opened the door. If the rest of the house was empty, this room seemed to be the repository for all the unwanted things. There were boxes stacked four and five high against the wall opposite the door. Various pieces of furniture were pushed into another corner and several miscellaneous items were haphazardly dumped on the floor. Nothing that he could see seemed too out of the ordinary. If Kakarot’s family had truly been living here that long, then it would make sense that they had accumulated a lot of junk over the years.
Closing the door, Vegeta felt better. None of the rooms seemed to indicate he was dealing with a trophy-collecting murderer. Now he could actually make good on his promise to not think the absolute worst of the man. Stepping into the living room, only slightly nervous instead of incredibly paranoid, the smell of cooking food began to waft his way. His stomach growled as it caught the scent, reminding him that he hadn’t eaten anything since the early morning. Turning the corner, he saw the man of the wilds stirring something in a pan while humming softly. Since Kakarot didn’t seem to notice his presence, he cleared his throat to announce his arrival.
Kakarot turned to him and smiled at the sight. “So they fit? They look better on you than they did on me,” he laughed and turned his attention back to the stovetop.
Vegeta found himself fighting off a blush again. He had always been one to put more meaning into people’s words than they did and was quick to read between the lines. It was both a blessing and a curse to be constantly over-analyzing conversations. In this situation though, he decided it was probably the latter.
“Did you need help with anything?” Vegeta casually asked, trying to cover up the slight embarrassment he had suffered.
“Nah, it’s actually ready. I was just waiting for you to get out of the shower,” Kakarot chuckled and began to move pots and pans to the table. Watching him scurry around the kitchen for plates and utensils, Vegeta tried to keep the amusement from showing in his expression. He hadn’t expected Kakarot to serve him straight from the pan, but in hindsight he realized he should have.
Once everything was in place to Kakarot’s apparent liking, he took the chair at the head of the able and motioned for Vegeta to sit down as well. Since the table was too long to pass hot cookware around, it was necessitated for him to take the chair directly to the left of the cook. Staring at the abundance of food prepared, Vegeta thought it looked more like a meal for six people rather than two.
In addition to the bounty of food, it seemed that radishes played a large role in the menu. There were roasted daikons cut like fries, pickled radishes, some sort of radish and cucumber salad, sautéed radishes with other vegetables, and even a dish that looked like potato cakes; but Vegeta guessed it had radish in it too. He began to wonder if Kakarot had cooked so much just to get rid of all these radishes.
“Thank you for the…food…,” Vegeta started to speak, but was taken aback at the rate the other man was consuming the meal. Kakarot certainly wasn’t shy about eating and now Vegeta saw why there was so much food. That Kakarot lacked basic table manners was an understatement. Mouth gaping at the sight, a realization dawned on Vegeta that if wanted any food, he had better act quickly. Filing his plate while he had the chance, any thoughts of the food being drugged or poisoned were pushed from his mind. If anything adverse had been added, it surely wasn’t slowing down Kakarot.
Taking a bite of the fish first, just to see if it somehow had radish in it too, he was surprised that it was so flavorful. His stomach reminded him that it wanted more than one bite and his taste buds agreed. Hungrily eating, Vegeta tried to keep up with the rate of Kakarot’s consumption. He imagined that the two of them would have been quite the sight if anyone happened to look in at them. There was no conversation during the meal, just the sound of forks tapping against plates and the rattling of pots and pans.
When the two were done, there was barely anything left, despite the amount of food that had been placed on the table. Kakarot leaned back in his chair with a satisfied sigh and patted his belly.
“It’s nice to have company to eat with,” he grinned at his guest.
Wondering how much different than eating alone it could really have been, since they didn’t talk to each other, Vegeta merely nodded in agreement. His stomach was satisfied and he didn’t think the food was poisoned, so that was the important part in his mind. Glancing at the mound of dishes they had left behind, he forced himself to rise from his chair and start cleaning up. If the woodsman was nice enough to cook and shelter him, then the least he could do was help wash some dishes. Kakarot looked at him in surprise and practically hopped out of his chair.
“Don’t worry about the dishes, Vegeta! I’ll clean up!” Kakarot stumbled over his words slightly in his hurry to speak.
“The rule in my house is one person cooks and one person washes the dishes,” Vegeta stated firmly, carrying an armful of dishes to the sink and depositing them there. From across the room he could hear Kakarot mutter, “But this is my house,” causing a small chuckle to escape him. He turned back to grab more dishes from the table and saw the other man pouting by the countertop. A smile threatened to crack Vegeta’s face. Even with such a childish expression, Kakarot was handsome. Maybe even more so in spite of it.
Gathering up the last items and dumping them in the sink with the rest, Vegeta mentally sighed. He was supposed to let his guard down just a little, not stand around thinking about how attractive the man was. Again he thought about all the preferred scenarios he would have liked to have met Kakarot in: buying him a drink at the bar, running into him at the local coffee shop, or maybe reaching for the same radish at the grocery store. He felt like even if the two had engaged in a battle to the death on their first meeting, it would be preferable to this because at least then he’d know where they both stood.
This was the worst. Finding a friendly, handsome guy that was self-sufficient and trusting enough to give this level of hospitality to a complete stranger? Vegeta thought it would be nearly impossible in the city. Even if he did find a guy like that, the man was probably already taken. If he truly was as nice as he seemed, then Kakarot was a diamond in the wilderness. But all of Vegeta’s past experiences screamed at him not to take people at face value and that there was no way this wild man could be true.
Having been so focused on his own thoughts and scrubbing dishes, Vegeta realized that he had completely left his guard down. Glancing up quickly to see where his host was, he was relieved to see that Kakarot was not coming at him with a knife or anything. The reality was still a little unnerving though, as Kakarot was just standing there calmly watching Vegeta wash the dishes. His sudden movement seemed to catch the woodsman’s eye and the tall man straightened with a smile.
“I’ll go make the bed for you, Vegeta. You should probably rest up after your accident,” he paused for a little longer than necessary, seeming like he either wanted to say something else or was waiting for a reply.
“Thanks,” Vegeta mumbled, his brain temporarily frozen by the reminder that he had to sleep here.
Kakarot nodded and walked out of sight. Chewing his lip, Vegeta returned to his serial killer thoughts. Maybe this was Kakarot’s plan all along! Play the nice rescuer; give Vegeta food, clothing, and a place to stay— then as soon as Vegeta was asleep: slaughter him in cold blood! What if it had all been an act leading up to this critical moment?! His nervousness returned full force. Glancing down at the soapy water, he saw that he only had one dish left to wash. That one plate could be the last item keeping him alive. He immediately stopped scrubbing, longing to extend his life.
Taking a deep breath, he forced himself to calm down. Kakarot could make the death bed, but that didn’t mean he had to sleep in it. ‘I’ll just stay up all night. If I hear him trying to get in the room or anything, I’ll jump out the window!’ He couldn’t actually remember if he had seen a window in Kakarot’s bedroom, but felt sure that there was one. ‘Good. A backup plan.’ Nodding to himself, he felt more assured again. ‘But just in case, I’ll just borrow this,’ he thought to himself as he slipped a small paring knife into his pocket. Better safe than sorry.
After a few minutes of simply standing at the sink and wasting time, he heard the soft footsteps of Kakarot returning. Quickly trying to look busy again, he nodded when the other man came around the corner. Vegeta scrubbed the plate increasingly harder with each step the man of the forest took towards him.
“Go ahead and get some rest, I’ll finish up here,” Kakarot assured him and reached into the soapy water to grab the sponge out of Vegeta’s hand.
The feeling of Kakarot’s fingertips, as they briefly made contact with his hand, jolted Vegeta and he wrenched his hand back quickly; flinging water and suds all over them both as a result.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you,” Kakarot laughed and rubbed the back of his head with a touch of embarrassment.
“It’s fine,” Vegeta recovered himself. Looking at the damp spots on the taller man’s shirt, he felt foolish for reacting the way he had. “Sorry for splashing you,” he mumbled awkwardly.
“Just water,” Kakarot brightened at the apology. “Come on, I’ll show you to my room.” He put a hand on Vegeta’s shoulder and led him in the direction of the hallway. Vegeta bit his lip, not wanting to let slip that he had already visited Kakarot’s room before, and allowed himself to be led the short distance.
Stopping in front of the open door, Vegeta could see that the bed had been hastily made, with what he hoped were clean sheets, and the clothes had been removed from the floor. He smirked as he realized Kakarot had tried to clean up for him. The man’s hand was still resting on his shoulder blade though, which only brought to mind a sudden wariness.
“Where will you sleep, Kakarot?” Vegeta asked, as his turned to the face the man in question. He had secretly hoped the movement would dislodge the lingering hand, but Kakarot had only adjusted his loose hold as Vegeta’s shoulder swiveled beneath him.
“Well there’s no other bed, so I’m going to sleep on the couch. It’s pretty comfy though!” He grinned. The hand still remained.
“Oh. …Goodnight, then,” Vegeta mumbled after a long pause and turned to leave the man and his hand in the hallway. He could feel slight pressure being applied to his shoulder, as if longing for him to stay.
“Vegeta,” Kakarot murmured, locking eyes with said man. Then he leaned forward hesitantly at first, then rushed forward at the last second to place the smallest trace of a kiss on Vegeta’s lips. “Goodnight.”
Eyes going wide as he saw what was coming, Vegeta was frozen in place by the kiss. It wasn’t romantic or needy feeling; it was literally just Kakarot putting his lips on top of Vegeta’s. But living out in the woods probably didn’t give one much opportunity for practice. But a kiss is still a kiss; and Vegeta didn’t know if he was more outraged that a murderer would dare smooch him or disappointed that it was over before he could teach Kakarot how to kiss properly. The two emotions didn’t mix well and only ended in Vegeta’s exasperated reaction.
“What the hell was that for, Kakarot?!” Vegeta sputtered, trying to sound angry while also stopping the blush from spreading across his cheeks.
“Did I do it wrong?” Kakarot asked with a sudden nervous expression. He held up his hands in a show of apology.
“Yes! No! I mean, why the fuck did you kiss me?!” Vegeta roared louder now, the man’s innocent act only provoking him more.
“Bulma told me that sometimes when you like someone, you kiss them. Is that not right?” Kakarot said with a frown. He tilted his head to the side as if in thought, “I’m sorry, Vegeta. I didn’t mean to make you upset.”
Vegeta gritted his teeth and covered his face with his palm. ‘This is not fucking real! This guy should have his own fucking reality show or something!’ Uncovering his face, Vegeta let out a hiss and glared at the wild man.
“It is true, I suppose. But it usually involves some form of consent!” he snapped angrily, causing Kakarot to look down at the floor glumly. Vegeta sighed wearily at the sight. Seeing the forlorn look on the usually chipper man’s face seemed so out of place. Steadying his nerves, he knew the strange situation was once again to blame. Any other time, he would have pushed this man against the wall and ravished those delectable-looking lips without hesitation after such an invitation. But here, he was out of his element. And anger was a very good cover for nervousness.
“Kakarot,” Vegeta called out sternly. The woodsman looked up with a hopeful expression. Vegeta gave him a lopsided attempt at a smile. “Goodnight.” He saw Kakarot’s beaming smile return and the other man waved before heading off to the living room. Vegeta rolled his eyes, wondering why he cared about Kakarot’s feelings so much if he had just met him and presumed him to be a monster. He closed the bedroom door and after a small debate, decided to lock it after all.
Unable to hold any lingering doubts against the handsome man, Vegeta believed that he really was just a reclusive, inexperienced-in-the-world man. But locking the door still seemed right. If anything, it would keep Kakarot from trying to come in and wake him with a kiss or something more extreme. Grinning at the images that came to mind, he wondered if he should indeed unlock the door. Shaking his head, he left it locked and got undressed. Making sure to neatly fold the borrowed clothing, he placed them on top of the dresser before sliding between the sheets.
Sighing, he began to think of tomorrow. Once Kakarot led him out of the forest, it would be a long walk. Seeing no reason to look for his car as a possible source of transportation—if it wasn’t already gone, the battery would be sure to be dead by the time he got back to it—he planned to go straight to the city and get a taxi. Then he’d have to check to see if his car really was gone and then fill out paperwork with the police. It was enough to make his head hurt. Thankfully he did still have his wallet, so not all was lost. He never kept anything of particular value in his car, so he wasn’t worried about that either. If his car was stolen, which was highly likely, even that didn’t bother him too much since he had it fully insured. Everything he had lost could be replaced; it was just filing all the necessary forms which had him dreading the morning.
Rolling over and burying his face in the pillow, he could smell Kakarot—an earthy mixture of sweet and bitter scents, even on the clean linens. Vegeta hated to admit it, after all the horrible accusations he had come up with for the man, but he was going to miss the man of the forest. Just spending the last few hours with him, Vegeta could see why Kakarot’s other friend—Bluema? Buluma? Bulma!—had kept coming around to visit him. There was something magnetic about his personality that drew you in. Vegeta pondered on it. ‘His openness.’ That was it. He didn’t seem to hide anything or hold anything back. It had initially made Vegeta uneasy because he was so unused to being around people like that.
Vegeta smiled and closed his eyes, weariness, both physical and mental, was descending on him. Even though the day had been one mishap after another; he had ended up here and met an amazing man. ‘Bless that stupid, fucking snake.’
Vegeta groaned as the sunlight streaming through the window roused him from his dreams of Kakarot. He had been right in the middle of educating the man on other ways to show someone you liked them besides just kissing. The quality of his teaching was evidenced by the unmistakable tent in his boxers. He lay in the bed a little longer, not wanting to go outside and have Kakarot witness him in such a state. When he was finally under control again, he got dressed in the ridiculous borrowed clothes and walked to the bathroom. After freshening up a little and collecting his own clothing, he made his way into the living room. Not immediately seeing his host, he turned the corner into the kitchen—then stopped dead in his tracks.
“K-Kakarot! Why are you naked?!” he screamed as his whole face turned red. He felt like the right thing to do would be to look away, but found his eyes locked on the sight. The entire woodsman was on display: his whole body was so well toned that Vegeta wondered what exactly he did in the woods to keep that way. Vegeta’s eyes lingered on his perfectly sculpted rear and thighs, suddenly wanting to reenact a few scenes from his dreams. He hoped he wasn’t drooling from such a glorious sight.
The light hit Kakarot’s muscles playfully as he turned to face Vegeta, and—Vegeta’s eyes widened. ‘Is he a god or something?! A great body and a great package to go with it!’ Vegeta’s dreams had underestimated Kakarot’s size and he now was forced to turn away from the sight lest his own body give away his thoughts.
“After I took a shower, I tried to get dressed, but you locked the door. So I just waited for you to get up,” Kakarot explained as if it was completely obvious. “Are you okay, Vegeta?” he worriedly asked as Vegeta’s whole body had begun to tremble.
Not turning to face him, Vegeta nodded slowly, hoping that was enough. He was actually shaking from the internal struggle between his body wanting to take full advantage of the situation and his mind screaming at him not to do it. Part of him saw the kiss last night and this display as a clear green light for any further activities. Another part argued that Kakarot was too naïve to know what he was doing to Vegeta, and that this was just another example of a complete lack of shame on the man’s part.
Vegeta felt a hand touch his arm and he nearly screamed. ‘Why does he always have to touch me?!’ he wondered as his hands curled into fists in an effort to relax. He just kept staring at the floor, unable to meet Kakarot’s eyes, fearing what he might do. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Kakarot bending to look at his face, but Vegeta avoided his gaze.
“Just put some damn clothes on, Kakarot,” Vegeta rasped out barely above a whisper. He could see the other man nod and walk down the hall. Once he was sure Kakarot was in the room, Vegeta let out a growl and started throwing wild punches in the air, trying to burn off the adrenaline pumping through his system. ‘I could have had him. I could have had him right fucking here. He would have probably let me too! He would have been putty in my hands! Why the fuck am I such a nice person?!’
He stopped punching the air and took slow breaths to calm his heart rate. Kakarot would really be worried if he came back and saw him like this. Not knowing what else to do at the moment, Vegeta flopped onto the couch and crossed his arms over his chest. He was not the kind of man to take advantage of someone without their full and knowing consent—he had a little more pride than that. But he was definitely going to be dreaming about the eyeful he just glimpsed for a long time.
Vegeta absentmindedly chewed his lower lip. He knew Kakarot “liked” him, whatever that nebulous word implied. That was why Kakarot had kissed him after all. Patting his pockets for any scraps of paper, Vegeta looked around for anything to write on. Not seeing any paper nearby, he walked into the kitchen and started opening drawers. Finally finding a small notebook that seemed largely unused, he ripped out a piece of paper. Luckily there were a few pens in the drawer, so that was one less search he had to conduct.
“What’re you writing?”
Vegeta turned with a smirk and held out the scrap of paper to the man of the wilds.
“Kakarot, I know you don’t have a phone now, but maybe you can get that friend of yours to bring you one or use hers. This is my phone number, in case you ever want to get in contact with me again.” It was the most nervous Vegeta had ever been while giving someone his number. He wasn’t even entirely sure Kakarot knew how to use a phone, much less the meaning of Vegeta giving him the number to call.
“So…I can talk to you with this?” Kakarot looked intently at the numbers written on the page.
Vegeta nodded at him, unaware that he was holding his breath. Kakarot’s face lit up like a child’s on Christmas.
“I can call anytime, when I have a phone?” Kakarot excitedly inquired.
“Anytime,” Vegeta replied, finally letting out that breath with a genuine smile.
“I’ll ask Bulma next time she comes! But I’m not sure when that will be, is that okay?” Kakarot suddenly got nervous, as if Vegeta would rescind his offer on these uncertain terms.
“That’s fine, Kakarot. Now I have a lot of walking to do and a lot of paperwork to complete, so we should probably leave soon,” Vegeta answered smoothly, proud that he was able to cover the fact that he had not felt so awkward since he was in middle school.
Kakarot nodded and smiled as he set the paper carefully on the kitchen counter. Walking over to the door to don his shoes, he waited for Vegeta to do the same before grabbing his flashlight and leading the way out of the house.
As they walked through the woods, Kakarot chatted merrily to Vegeta about a variety of topics: how his grandfather had used to scare him by telling him about a monster that came out on nights with a full moon, how every time he saw his friend, Bulma, she looked different, and about all his favorite foods. Vegeta had tried to participate in the conversations at first, but found keeping up with Kakarot’s chattering to be exhausting. So now every time there was a pause for reply, he would just make small sounds of acknowledgment. Kakarot would just laugh and change the topic to something else, but he seemed to enjoy it. Vegeta enjoyed it too, secretly; he was a much better listener than a talker after all, so the two of them complemented each other perfectly.
The sun was high overhead when they arrived at the path that Kakarot had mentioned the previous night. Vegeta frowned, not quite ready to leave his present company; Kakarot had offered to walk to the city with him, but Vegeta had refused. The man had been run over already and Vegeta thought that once was enough. Vegeta finally held out his hand to the woodsman.
“Thank you for everything, Kakarot. I would probably still be lost somewhere in the woods if you hadn’t found me.” Vegeta was quite serious about that.
“I’m kinda glad you fell off the road actually, Vegeta,” Kakarot said sheepishly, grabbing the offered hand in a warm hold.
Vegeta chuckled, he had been glad too. He gazed up at Kakarot’s smiling face and licked his lips. ‘Sometimes when you like someone, you kiss them.’ Not letting go of Kakarot’s hand, he leaned up on his toes, to softly kiss the handsome man. Pressing their lips together, Vegeta flicked his tongue against soft lips that tasted sweet and earthy. He could feel Kakarot trying to respond, but the taller man seemed unsure of what action to take. Pulling back ever so slightly, Vegeta smirked and gently nibbled on Kakarot’s lower lips before pressing his own against it again to soothe it.
Kakarot let out a small sound of pleasure, so Vegeta cupped his hand around the nape of Kakarot’s neck and pulled down so he could get more access. Running his tongue across Kakarot’s lips again, he slipped it slowly between and into that sweet mouth. The woodsman seemed surprised at the contact, but didn’t pull away. Vegeta took this as an invitation to enter further and opened his mouth to press completely inside. He could fully taste the hot, earthy tang of Kakarot now as he stroked his partner’s tongue with his own. He wanted to taste every part of the man, lap up his full essence. Running his tongue everywhere it could reach, Vegeta learned the texture and flavor of every inch: the roof of Kakarot’s mouth, the inside of his cheek, his gums and teeth, and certainly his playful tongue that tried to match his movements with as much vigor as Vegeta gave him.
Feeling Kakarot’s free hand wrap around his shoulder and pull him against that strong, broad chest, Vegeta heard himself moan out his own satisfaction. Normally he would have been embarrassed to react so strongly to a kiss; but Kakarot’s lips were electric and he felt a heady rush each time they came in contact with his own. Letting go of Kakarot’s hand, he brought his up to the chest he was pressed against. He could feel the muscles right beneath the skin, feel the wildly beating heart of his companion, and as he slid it down slowly across washboard abs, he could feel the larger man trembling in pleasure.
Vegeta desperately wanted to slide his hand further down, to really feel how much Kakarot was enjoying their kiss. Both men were already panting hard and Kakarot’s soft mewling was driving Vegeta way over the edge of wanting. But not yet. It wasn’t the time or place to go further. He knew that Kakarot would call him. With a man as special as Kakarot, there had to be a certain order to things. He wasn’t just somebody you fucked and moved on from. The man of the wilds was someone for the long term, Vegeta was sure of that. Retracting his tongue slowly from the sweet depths of Kakarot’s mouth, Vegeta sucked hungrily at the swollen bottom lip momentarily before releasing Kakarot completely.
Kakarot opened his eyes and looked at Vegeta as if he was in a haze.
“That’s how you kiss correctly, Kakarot,” Vegeta said with a cocky grin.
“Vegeta,” Kakarot opened his mouth as if to say more, but instead he just raised a hand to his lips, like he was unsure if that really happened or not.
Vegeta wanted to laugh, but he honestly didn’t blame the man. His own lips were still tingling from the intimate contact and certain other parts of his body had certainly responded as well. Taking advantage of Kakarot’s momentary distraction, Vegeta surreptitiously glanced down to see he had experienced a similar reaction. Smiling to himself, Vegeta pulled away and locked eyes with the tall, handsome, and brawny man that come to his rescue and come to be the current object of his affection.
“I’ll see you later, Kakarot,” he said with a smile and turned to climb the small footpath.
“See you later, Vegeta!” Kakarot hurried to call after him.
Vegeta couldn’t wipe the grin from his face as he walked to the crest of the slope. Turning back when he reached the top to glance down at Kakarot one more time, he saw the cheerful man waving excitedly at him, one hand still on his lips. Vegeta waved, a bit more reservedly, and started the long walk to town.
It had been two weeks since that fateful night in the woods. Vegeta had gone through countless headaches filing form after form over his stolen car. But that was not what was concerning him now. The fact that he had yet to hear from Kakarot weighed heavily on his mind; more and more with each passing day. Frowning, he wondered if Kakarot’s friend was ever going to go visit him and give the man a phone. Or maybe somehow Kakarot had lost his phone number. Or maybe he had told his friend, but she had filled his head with homophobic nonsense and now he was ashamed to call.
Vegeta growled lowly in frustration. He had considered, multiple times, driving back to the path and trying to find his way to Kakarot’s house. But it was a long hike from the road to his house, and Vegeta wasn’t sure he’d be able to find it. And what if Kakarot wasn’t around to rescue him this time? He could end up lost for days. Not trusting his orienteering skills, he was forced to wait for the call that never seemed to come. It was like a special kind of hell, where you were so close to getting what you wanted, but it was always out of reach. He wondered if he should change his name to Tantalus. As he angrily slumped on his couch, he heard the familiar ring of his phone. Practically leaping up to grab it off the coffee table, he grinned as he saw it was an unfamiliar number. Normally he would never consider answering unless he knew who it was, but he had high hopes that the person on the other end would be Kakarot.
“Hello?” he answered, trying to hide the excitement in his voice. Hearing that it was a woman, he frowned and was about to hang upon her, until she asked if he was Vegeta. “Yes,” he replied, wondering briefly if she was someone he had given his number to in the past but never talked to again. There was silence on the other end and then a familiar and exuberant voice came on the line. He had to hold the phone away from his ear as Kakarot seemed to be screaming into the receiver. Chuckling softly at the excitement in the man’s voice, he acknowledged it was the same excitement he had felt earlier.
“Yes, Kakarot, I’d like that,” he smiled and listened to the man chatter away excitedly for a few more minutes until the conversation was concluded. “See you soon, Kakarot,” Vegeta replied, and hung up the phone. Storing the number in his contact list, Vegeta lay back on the couch with his hands behind his head. He had gone from Hell to Heaven in just a few minutes. A smile spread across his face, everything was coming into reach now. Closing his eyes and letting the bliss spread through his body like a wave of electricity, he thought again about the last kiss they had shared and all the events that had led up to it.
‘Bless that stupid, fucking snake.’