There were many things in the world that didn't make sense to him, but he really couldn't understand how they could both be so small, and yet somehow contained the energy and strength to do what they did. One let him see, kept him warm, shone bright and beautiful in the sky for most of the day.
And the other had somehow given him and his son the power to turn into really big monkeys.
Squinting one eye closed, Goku brought his fist before him, extending his thumb just so…
And I can destroy 'em whenever I want to.
Did that make them weaker, his ability to extinguish that light, close his massive hands around the coolness of the moon and drag it from the sky? Moving his finger, the Saiya-jin admired the silver disc again, sighing before he allowed his arms to drop, closing his eyes as the weight dipped and rippled outward from his hands. He opened them as his weightless body readjusted, fingertips scraping the surface of the water that supported him.
He didn't think so, the making them seem weak. Everything was fragile to him. His friends, his wife…even the planet he protected suffered from time to time. Like a meticulously constructed model in the hands of a child. His ebony brow wrinkled. And somehow they all got upset when he managed to break a piece of it off by mistake.
~ as the sun comes up, as the moon goes down
these heavy notions creep around ~
Wetness dripped from the tips of his bangs, tickling his ears. Shaking his head upset his balance, and he rolled downward, holding his breath as the chill blanket was pulled above his head and slid slowly over his back to nip at his toes before they too disappeared into the blackness of the mountain mirror. Powerful limbs ripped through the pre-dawn placidness as his arms and legs propelled him to the muddy floor. Swimming gave him time to think, an icy touch that brushed his hair away from his face as it caressed his naked form. The Saiya-jin enjoyed being like this--the natural way he and his surroundings coexisted. He felt elated. Comfortable. Accepted.
The howling wind was easier to tolerate than his wife's temper, and the occasional thunder didn't exactly emulate the mocking anger of the Saiya-jin no Ouji.
Or maybe they reminded him just enough not to feel alone. Vegeta had once said Saiya-jins had something that made them want to be with their own kind. He didn't think the smaller man had understood him when he had tried to describe moments like this. That mountain water and towering trees had given him a sense of smallness in the world.
And that's all he really wanted.
~ it makes me think long ago…~
The prince had thrown his hands in the air and called him a baka. Called him worse.
Called him a ningen.
Goku's lungs began to burn, the muscles in his arms pulsing with the sheer force of his catapult thrusting him hard against the wet silken wall. If he couldn't at least touch the bottom, he was hardly ready to fight today.
He didn't like admitting that Vegeta's words got to him. Part of him wanted to understand what little bit the older Saiya-jin was trying to teach him through the sneering insults and the daily threats.
The other part of him wanted to keep swimming.
In was getting more difficult to proceed, the murky water bleeding to an inky black that deprived his senses of anything other than the numbing quality that infused his skin to hypersensitivity.
He had to keep moving down. If he couldn't touch the bottom, he didn't deserve to be a father, a husband…to call himself anything.
Vegeta called him ningen. Goku's eyes narrowed. Energy that had nothing to do with ki, but everything to do with determination, lent him strength to dive deeper.
Maybe he was ningen! The walls around him began to tear, the force behind him rippling in the aftermath of his passage. Maybe he was! What was wrong with that? He was raised ningen by ningen.
But he was taught to fight, defend, and survive. Did it really matter, in the end, what he did that as?
Vegeta seemed to think so. The tightness in his chest intensified, anger igniting a pressure that constricted his lungs to the point of pain. Vegeta--always that damn name! Everything had been fine until that bastard had come to his planet!
If it weren't for him, none of THIS would have happened! Goku wouldn't have gone to Namek. Yardrat would have been nothing more than gibberish. He wouldn't have gotten the heart virus. Trunks wouldn't be born, let alone come back from the future.
And I could just keep swimming. I'd bring fish in for dinner, and Gohan and I would spar afterward for fun. Not survival.
~ I was brought into this life a little lamb
a little lamb ~
A timid piece of him wondered if it would have been better if he'd never hit his head.
I would have been Saiya-jin. Like he wanted. I would have fit easily into someone's idea of normal. Then maybe I wouldn't have spent my entire life defending it from someone else.
He could have killed without conscience. Without guilt. Remorse. People would have died by the thousands.
If I had done that with the Red Ribbon Army…
Sadness enveloped him at the thought, and his spiral faltered. There really was no winning. People wanted him to fight for them, but…he hated killing. Even the enemy.
And when they came back it was always his fault…
The tall Saiya-jin turned his head to look heavenward. Daylight beckoned him hundreds of feet above his head, the hazy reflection of blooming blue printing its name on the first three or four feet of water.
He could just stop. Go no further. Not up, not down, just here. Gentle black closed and he felt himself drawn deeper…his cramped arms unfolded to rise above him and he allowed himself to fall.
~ courageous, stumbling
fearless was my middle name ~
He hadn't gotten a good look at the Otherworld last time he'd died. Maybe this time he'd get to stay a while. Train with Kai-Ou-sama again…make it impossible for them to wish him back.
Why? I don't know what I've done to make so many people want me dead…I just wanted to help…
He could almost understand Vegeta's reasoning. Goku never meant to be more powerful. He never meant to insult the man by inadvertently besting him time after time. Everyone seemed to forget that Goku never really beat him…
Vegeta has something I don't. He has purpose. He had a reason to kill me. I was traitor to him. Maybe…I should have let him…
~ but somewhere there I
lost my way ~
'Giving up, Kakarotto?' The dark Saiya-jin's eyes sparked to life. Blinking, he turned, but was only met with the shadow of his hair as it followed his motion. Nothing.
'Bakayaro. Have you forgotten? I have told you time and again that I will be the one to kill you.' The man's sable eyes widened further. Was he losing what little mind people thought him to possess?
'Listen to me, Kakarotto. You are not ningen…and perhaps you are not Saiya-jin. But you are strong.' There was a pause. Goku would have held his breath had that not already been established. 'That is what matters.'
Strength…isn't that what got him into trouble? Isn't that what made everyone else hate him?
'They will hate you for whatever cause you give them, Kakarotto. The world doesn't give a shit about us.' Us…Goku could only stare, the fire in his body dulling to a smoldering ache. 'We have to rely on our strength. The Saiya-jin in you demands it.' Instinct stirred in his breast and his skin reacted to the familiarity in the voice. 'I demand it.'
Son Goku's toes touched the bottom.
~ everyone walks the same
expecting me to step
the narrow path they've laid ~
He's right…everyone's always wanting me to do what they tell me to do. The light of resolution cast its radiance upon his brow. I'm tired of it! The mud beneath his feet yielded solid as he bent his knees and sprang toward the polished glass overhead.
He was going to fight. He would be strong. It didn't matter what Chichi said, or Vegeta threatened. It didn't matter what the others anticipated him to do. He had a plan and he was going to stick to it.
He wasn't going to play hero this time. It was time to pass that onto someone more fitting for the role. Someone who deserved the power behind the title. Someone others could respect. A person that was intelligent, that did what he was told, that was smarter than his father.
~ they claim to walk unafraid ~
And Son Goku could stop pretending. He could be adventurous. He could watch the sunrise from mountaintops and cook fish for dinner every night. He could eat when he wanted to and amuse himself with gathering the dragonballs like when he was younger.
He wouldn't have to be an adult anymore. Gohan didn't need a father like him. Goku only got him into trouble. And Chichi…the tall Saiya-jin's obsidian eyes hardened.
She'd be happier without him.
~ I'll be clumsy instead ~
He was going to regain something he had been robbed of. He was going to do what felt right to him. The planet had somehow managed to survive before he had arrived. It would do so again.
I'm not going to be ningen! But I won't be Saiya-jin!
His body rushed to meet the morning sun and broke the surface with a straining lungful of crisp air that sent him coughing.
He would fight. Forcing his arms before him, the tall, sopping form stroked his way to shore. But he wouldn't win. Not for lack of trying--it wasn't in his nature to throw a fight.
But because, this time…he simply wasn't strong enough. Flattening his palms on the grass, he hauled his dripping mass from the water and shuddered as a breeze blown in from the foothills bound him in shivering sensation. Reaching up, he began to wring out his water-laden mane. The sun hadn't yet risen over the mist-haloed mountain range, though the amber promise brightened the sky with an orange more brilliant than the gi he gathered. His eyes adjusted to the lightened atmosphere gradually and he canopied them with one hand to search for the moon.
He finally found it fading fast into the glory of dawn and he wished it a silent farewell. He hadn't admitted to being the one to wish it back. He didn't think they'd understand his explanation, that without it he had felt inexplicably naked…
Like each time they'd taken his tail.
The growl in his throat disturbed the serenity of the day's awakening, but he didn't care. They hadn't any right to do that!
Goku shook out his pants angrily. What they'd taken from him was irreplaceable!
'They took it from me, as well. Do you remember, Kakarotto? You encouraged them…'
The younger Saiya-jin felt decidedly nauseous and he bowed his head not to lose the meal he'd caught for himself last night.
I've hurt him so much more than he has me. But they still follow me.
Not anymore. Glaring willfully, Son Goku slid his foot through one leg, then the other. Pulling his navy shirt from the pile at his feet, he thrust his arms through, succeeded by his head. Today they'd take him for what he was, not something they'd made him into.
~ hold my love me or leave me
It was when he reached for the other that he paused. Work-worn fingers traced the insignia carefully; he could remember when he'd first donned it. He had studied under the Turtle Hermit then, and bore his mark. Goku titled his head. After that, Kai-Ou-sama had claimed him for his student …and while he had enjoyed learning under both, the sight of it now made him feel…
Betrayed. Collared. As if he were no more than a guard dog and this was his tag. He was tired of being owned. Claimed.
For student, for human, for Saiya-jin.
Snarling, Son Goku ripped the patch from his gi. Holding it in his hand, he stared at the black on white marking and felt righteous. Liberated.
I fight today because I want to.
He watched it flutter it to the ground.
Turning toward the woods to his left, he slipped into the comfortable garment, tucking both the over and under into the waistline of his pants. The sash was last, and he tied it as he had every day of his life for fifteen years.
Whispering a final sayonara to the moon, Son Goku began to walk home.
Years of stealth guided his bare feet through the forest with little sound. Chichi had once called him an animal. She hadn't been talking about his ability to walk undetected, but he'd taken it as a compliment nonetheless. Ducking his head beneath the branches that sought to comb and catch his damp hair, Goku pushed aside the curling thickness of new summer foliage to reveal the carefully manicured clearing buffeting their house from the woodland beyond.
He'd built part of that with his own hands. Taken the planks from these very trees and molded, shaped it…to please her.
~ say "keep within the boundaries if you want
to play." ~
Sighing heavily, the Saiya-jin ran weary fingers through his bangs. It used to be he could make her happy. Things he'd crafted made her smile--like Gohan's first crib. A ghost of a smile graced his lips. He'd searched for days to find the perfect tree, a white birch that had seen enough seasons to grant him the luxury of a branch or two for his purpose. It took weeks to fashion the sweetly scented timber into something he could be proud of. When he closed his eyes, he could see the overjoyed smile of the pretty little girl he'd married. That was the woman he loved, the gentle touch that explained to him in the simplest terms that they were going to have a child.
The blushing, halting words that described what hand he'd had in that.
Bracing his hand, fingers quietly memorizing the harsh bark and soft shedding patches below, Son Goku rested his forehead against his knuckles. His stomach twisted and, for the second time this morning, he felt decidedly sick.
It took him a moment to recognize the alien sensation.
It was fear.
Taking a deep breath, the man breached the boundaries of nature and began to walk the slight incline to his home. He couldn't leave without seeing her first. The earth-raised Saiya-jin wasn't sure if what he felt for her was still marital love, but it didn't change the fact that he cared for her.
~say "contradiction only makes it harder."~
The cement stairs were cold against the pads of his feet, the loose doorknob numb in his hand. Holding his breath, Goku eased it open, slipping inside with a practice born of reoccurring insomnia and an impulsive desire to see the sun rise. The kitchen still smelled of the carefully constructed dinner his wife had prepared, the last hints of Gohan's birthday cake stinging sweetly in his nostrils.
Tiptoeing deliberately through the living room, he crept down the short hall to their bedroom. The door was ajar, as he'd left it. Years had taught him not to use the window; her hearing was too keen, the old latch too rusty.
Swallowing hard, he pushed it open.
The room was awash in spectral tones of evening blue and dirty-water grey. Her sleeping form was turned toward him, as though she'd rolled over in the night to curl against him. His severely determined brow softened and he sniffed, the meat of his hand wiping at the tears he unwittingly shed. …It was better this way.
Chichi…I think I do love you, but not the way you want me to. You need someone who's around more often and can give you all the pretty things you want. I don't know why you settled for me.
But she would never admit it, leaving him to do it for her.
Subconsciously avoiding the creaks in the floor, Goku walked slowly through the play of waxing light that filtered through the faded checkered curtains she'd made from an old tablecloth when Gohan was still a child.
Because he's not anymore, Chichi. He grew up when you weren't looking. He's going to fight today and he's going to win.
The bed gave easily under his weight and he allowed his knees to support his elbows as he stared at the worn floorboards past his bare feet.
"Gomen nasai, Chichi," he whispered, fingers tugging habitually at the navy bands around his wrists, still wet from his swim. "You said once that I just had to trust you." He glanced up through the sway of his hair. "I did. And I didn't regret it." Encouraged by the sound of his own voice, he continued. "But I have to go now. It's just not working," he shifted, straightened, drew one bent leg up close to the lax fingers splayed across his pillow.
"I know you'll miss me…" Timid fingertips tenderly removed the soft black hair from her face. She was beautiful in this light…delicate. "But I only got you mad. Got Gohan into trouble. He's a good kid, Chichi…" his voice wavered as he glanced guiltily to the bedside table, pulling back his hand defeatedly. "I hope you'll see that once I'm gone.
~ how can I be
what I want to be?~
"It's just too hard, Chichi…I'm not what you want me to be. I have this feeling inside me," one fisted hand was brought to his chest, "that's not a light switch--I can't just turn it off when you want me to. I need to fight." Black eyes burdened by betrayal lighted on her obliviously peaceful form. "You knew that when you married me. I don't…" the pain intensified, "understand…how you could…just disregard that!" His lip rolled defensively. "You tried to change me…" The Saiya-jin's face contorted in mute fury.
~ when all I want to do is strip away
these stilled constraints~
"To make me smarter. You wanted me to wear suits, and go to all those things you thought would make you look good." Glaring, he again turned his head, now to the window where daybreak was imprinting its golden ink on the grainy sill. "I am smart. So maybe I can't do Gohan's homework, and I can't understand all the words you use when you yell, but," his ebon eyes hardened, "I can cook and fight and I'm good with my hands. I gave you a strong son…"
His voice lost the edge and he dropped his head. "I bet even Vegeta couldn't do Gohan's homework…" He sighed. "I tried to be a good husband. And you tried to make me more nin--" Goku blinked.
'What's wrong, Kakarotto? Afraid to admit it? She wanted to make you more human and you couldn't stand it.'
~ and crush this charade ~
'Hai. Delude yourself a little longer, Kakarotto. Persuade yourself that you are indeed human, that it's the Saiya-jin in your blood that's a lie.'
~ shred this sad masquerade ~
The Saiya-jin closed his eyes. Vegeta hated Goku on very simple grounds: he forced the smaller man to see the truth of his weakness.
Goku hated him now for a similar reason.
"It's true…" he thumbed the pale angle of her cheek, "you wanted me to be human, and I couldn't." Bending at the waist, he pressed warm lips to her temple.
"I can't," he amended, placing a hand on her shoulder as his posture rightened. The cup of his palm followed the curvature of her bare forearm and over the sensuous valley of her waist, cradled the faint tracing bulge of what she would only think of as 'that last piece of cake' when she got on the bathroom scale in the morning.
"You treat me more like your son, Chichi. I think you can be happy now," his voice thickened and he swallowed past the residue of regret. "I've given you that."
I'll miss watching him grow up, but Gohan'll take care of him. I hope every time you look at him, you know that I did it for you, Chichi.
But his mind was not to be deterred. He was going to do this for him instead of her. It was his turn to be happy. Goku stood, tugging the blanket up over her shoulders. When he turned, he didn't look back.
He left the door open.
Goku faltered as he passed Gohan's room, hand inches from the knob. He was sure to see him later in their designated meeting place and he wasn't sure he wanted to disturb his rest. Gohan needed to save all the strength he had for what was yet to come.
Curling his fingers and hanging his head, he steeled his resolve and proceeded down the dark corridor.
~ I don't need no persuading ~
He had left his boots by the door earlier in the evening and he sat on the arm of the living room chair to don them.
"Otousan…?" Goku's head snapped up at the inquiry, eyes drawn instinctively to the hallway. They shifted as the blue-cast shadow on the couch moved.
"Gohan?" He yanked the left the last few inches over his ankle. "What are you doing up?" The patchwork quilt that had masked him from the Saiya-jin's sharp eyes the first time was fastened more tightly around his shoulders as the younger Son stood.
"I heard you leave. I wanted to wait up for you." All the resentment he'd felt at the boy's mother dissolved and he smiled broadly as his son approached, halting but a meter from where he sat.
"You didn't have to do that!" The right boot followed suit. "You should be resting…"
The demi-Saiya-jin was unusually quiet and he transferred his weight from one foot to the other. "I couldn't." The elder Son was equally unsettled by his offspring's lack of eye contact. Something was undeniably wrong.
~ I'll trip, fall, pick myself up and
walk unafraid ~
"Gohan." His voice adopted a sense of command. "Look at me."
Slowly, the adolescent lifted his eyes from the floor. His cheeks glistened wetly in the weak light of dawn.
"Gohan…" Goku's hand extended to gently smear away the evidence of his tears. "You've been crying…" His chest constricted as Gohan stepped backward from his touch. In his eyes…The Saiya-jin's breath caught unexpectedly. Green eyes. Saiya-jin eyes.
The father swallowed, suddenly feeling very uncomfortable. He'd shed the perpetual Super Saiya-jin state when he'd reached the lake, something indecisive within him begging for normality. He'd wanted to recognize the face in the water.
But now he saw what everyone else did--the wild, golden hair, the likewise untamable will behind the unreadable emerald wall. For a moment he couldn't distinguish his own son from the animal fierceness of Vegeta, the unearthly determination of Mirai no Trunks.
It scared the shit out of him.
"Otousan…" the uncertainty in the pleading jerked him back from his mirage and a moment later his son's smaller arms were wrapped crushingly around his waist and the ambiguous tears renewed. "I kept having these horrible dreams, Otousan! We were on Kami's lookout, but you weren't there…and I--" his lungs demanded air, and the half-breed hiccupped against the familiar scent of his father's gi. "I couldn't find you…"
Gohan…His wife he could bid a wordless goodbye, but what had made him think for a moment that he would be able to simply leave his son…
"It's ok, Gohan," his firm arms enveloped those of the young hybrid and he pressed his own damp cheek into the mass of gold that smelled achingly familiar--of shampoo and Saiya-jin. "I'm back now, ne?"
I'm going to miss you, Gohan.
~ I'll be clumsy instead ~
An awkward hand patted down the bouncy blonde spikes, smoothing over his quaking back. Swallowing, licking his lips uncertainly, Son Goku took a deep breath. Gohan had to fight today; he was the only one strong enough to save the planet. If he were allowed the smallest grain of fear…
But you're too smart. If I don't tell you the truth, you'll know. The older Son sighed gently, burying his face into the deceptive softness of the demi-Saiya-jin's hair. And you'd hate me more for that. I've never lied to you, Gohan…I don't think I want to start now.
"Hey…you hungry?" Disbelieving eyes the colour of shady seawater blinked back the encroaching tidal wave of tears.
Plastering on a smile he didn't really feel, the pureblood stood, pushing his first born to straighten. Laying his hands on Gohan's shoulders, he could only marvel at how much he'd grown in such a small amount of time. Two weeks ago, the young man before him had been determined, but clumsy, lacking the control required to defeat his opponents. A year had passed between that time and now, and a sense of pride, perhaps something Saiya-jin passed through him and he felt honoured to call the boy his son.
Gohan was going to do well today, he could feel it.
"C'mon." Throwing his arm around the slim shoulders of the shorter, the Saiya-jin guided his clueless progeny toward the adjoining room. "I'll make you something to eat."
"Otousan, I'm not really--"
Squeezing that familiarity close to him, nauseous with the knowledge that this may be the last time he held him, Goku forced a hearty laugh.
It sounded fake, even to him.
"Every good fighter needs to keep up their strength. How do you expect to defeat Cell if you pass out from hunger?" Gohan sat in the chair his father offered, the forgotten cover sliding from him to accordion around his waist.
"But I'm not going to be fighting him, Otousan. You are." Goku closed his eyes tightly, thankful his back was turned away from the optimistic adolescent. This is why I've got to leave, Gohan. You can't depend on me the rest of your life. Not when you're so much better than I am…in so many ways…
"I…" Never good with words, Son Goku settled for a topic he could be comfortable with. "You want butter in your rice?"
He heard his son sigh, shifting slightly, the tips of his toes whispering to the floor.
"Sure." Mindlessly rehearsing the motions, the Saiya-jin prepared food for his boy, nervous in the silence between them. Something was bothering Gohan; he could tell.
'And something is bothering you, Kakarotto. Do not belittle his instincts.'
"Otousan," Gohan began quietly. Goku's back stiffened and he held his breath, afraid of the words yet unspoken. "You're not…" The contrasting sound of the chair scooting closer to the table interrupted his tentative inquiry. "I was afraid you weren't going to come back when you left last night." The taller Saiya-jin's hand trembled over the knob on the stove and he didn't move. "When you fight today--you're stronger than Cell, right, Otousan?" The last was blurted hopeful, needy. Gohan needed reassurance.
But I can't lie to you…
~ hold my love me or leave me
"Gohan…" Puppet: draw string one, hand lift pot to burner. "You know I've always done my best to protect you and your mother, ne?" Tug on two, place lid over heating water. "And I'll fight my hardest today." Three, turn and face him.
The hardest part, by far. The half-breed's face was shrouded in translucent shadow from his hair, gaze cast downward in defeat.
"You were saying goodbye to Okaasan, weren't you." Caught, tangled in his own thread, Goku could only stare. The younger Son's eyes found his father's, discovered the resignation treasured beneath the opaque surface. Aquamarine sparkled a cataclysmic green before Son Gohan nodded and bowed his head.
"Hai. Butter and pepper, please."
The moon had disappeared completely when Son Goku stepped back onto his front stoop. Still cool from the morning, the air was beginning to thicken with the promise of sunlight. Drawing a fresh breath, the Saiya-jin stretched both arms above his head and simply basked in the sensation of being alive. Relishing the rich woodland scent, he closed his eyes.
~ if I have a bag of rocks to carry as I go ~
Because after today, it was something he could no longer take for granted. He was going to die. Just as the son he had kissed goodbye moments ago could sense it, so could he. Intuition had spoken to him once before, when his 'brother' had appeared on his old master's doorstep demanding he come fight for a prince he had never acknowledged.
The same beckoning sang its sad song; this time he paused to listen.
And he was ready.
~ I just want to hold my head up high ~
When the martyr opened his eyes again they were wild, blue, and untamable. Breeze blew through upswept amber and an unfathomable energy infused his lethargic limbs. It told of ancient ancestry and instinct, of moonlight and stardust. It made him feel young and unconquerable, as though he could take on the world with one hand and laugh at the opposition.
Empowered by his strength, the Saiya-jin began to run. Braches ripped at his clothing, at the soft sides of his arms and face. Pumping his limbs to their maximum, he savored the raw physicality. So long…since he had simply…enjoyed…
No ki, no control, no push, no help, no human, no restraints…
I don't belong to you, or her, or them…like this, I want to live like this doing this, breathing this…
It felt good to sweat, to gasp for breath he otherwise took for granted as well. He swore a silent vow to the lake as he passed that he'd never do it again. From this moment onward, every second was precious, treasured, coveted.
Because he only had hours left.
The thought made him laugh and he closed his eyes as the animal power drove him to sprint, instinct and scent guiding him through the wooden density.
He was going to die.
He laughed again.
He couldn't possible expect anyone else to begin to understand; he knew Chichi would cry, and Gohan probably wouldn't get it until he was older, when this same desire to wander, conquer, and live would whisper freedom in his ear and he would follow the footsteps of his father.
Like Son Goku was more than likely doing at this very moment. Something…he furrowed his brow as he ran, navigating easily between the overhanging foliage. I feel like I've done this before…like maybe my father did it. Vegeta said that Saiya-jins die honourably in battle, that they know when they're going to die. I wonder…if my father…if Gohan…
~ I don't care what I have to step over ~
Tradition handed him the torch, and he accepted it with a lightened heart. No one's gonna know why except…maybe…
The older Saiya-jin knew everything. Fact and fiction, myth and legend, the proud prince knew things about being Saiya-jin that the younger man couldn't even begin to imagine, and he'd seen quite a bit!
But wish-granting dragons and colour-coded enemies hadn't even compared to the challenge that had only granted him strength through death itself.
The obstacle that eluded him even as he fought to find justification within it. The alienation that had finally presented him with a reason for the insults and the anger, the 'haven't you had enough?' 'He can't possibly be that strong' 'Why do you always have to embarrass me by…'.
He hated being Saiya-jin. But what he couldn't stand more than that was being not right.
Vegeta had never looked at him strangely for eating as much as he did, not once made a face when he accidentally broke something, and only scoffed at the Son's attempt at normality.
Though the shorter, angrier, more arrogant mirror of himself hardly acknowledged him as a breathing person, it didn't matter to Goku. Vegeta did it in his own way.
When the foreign prince had first arrived, he had waited for the taller warrior, stalled until the traitor had literally gone through Heaven and Hell to return.
To fight him.
The Saiya-jin no Ouji was the only one who had never asked for his help, had actually sneered at all availability for camaraderie. But the compact bundle of seething sentiments couldn't mask them all. And once, if only for a moment, Goku recalled seeing something that had made him want to bond with the prince, a look that spoke of kinship, that said 'We are the last of our kind, Kakarotto. The fight is our life, the blood that stains a constant reminder of our strength. The day that blood becomes our own is the day we die'.
He couldn't remember if he'd actually said it. Vegeta's voice had this strange tendency to insert itself whenever it felt like it.
'The last of our kind…'
And when Goku was gone…
Blue eyes awash with carnal determination opened and he began to run faster.
~ I'm prepared to look you in the eye ~
Whether it was the steady pulsation of Vegeta's ki, or the unique scent of the Saiya-jin prince, like earth in autumn and the sweet burn of base energy, that lead the man to find him, Son Goku would never be able to say. If the Ouji had not wished to be interrupted, the taller man wouldn't have been able to detect him, let alone be standing ten feet behind him, staring at the rigid back and royal posture of a creature that claimed to hate him with more ferocity than anything he had yet encountered.
Admirable. That's what he was, a being that exuded purity--of passion, of rage, of insurmountable will and superior purpose that far exceeded anything Goku could hope to feel. Sure, he fought when he was needed, defended his friends and all that, but…to simply exist for the fight alone…
I think…I envy you…
So he didn't start with hello. He didn't scratch his neck and stutter an excuse as to why on Kami's-once-earth he would be in the slightest proximity of the Saiya-jin prince.
Goku narrowed his eyes, squared his shoulders, took a deep breath. Vegeta had yet to recognize him, as if his existence was inconsequential to that of the impenitent Ouji.
It was really starting to piss him off.
The blonde Saiya-jin closed the distance between them in three steps. Bold, brazen, decisive, Son Goku, earth-raised and passive, punched the unsuspecting prince of his people in the nose.
Consider that my way of saying hello, Vegeta.
~ look me in the eye! ~
"I don't want your recognition, your titles, your 'I'm the son of a third class' this and that bullshit, Vegeta," Goku stated quietly. He didn't bother to help the other man up, only tightening his lip as the silent prince pushed himself into a sitting position. Taking a cue from his prostrate counterpart, the Son folded both arms over his chest and braced his feet.
"I just want you to listen. Just once." He accentuated it by bending at the waist, by growling the word into annoyed syllables of incoherence directly into the prince's face.
Vegeta did not grant him the satisfaction of flinching.
"I know you think I'm stupid, that I don't know when people are using me or making fun of me, that I'm just big and dumb and couldn't tell my fist from my ass if they weren't on completely different parts of my body." Tensing, fingers digging into his forearms, the upright figure continued. He had something to prove, dammit. "I know what you think of me, and you can shove it, Vegeta. I never did a damn thing to you--I didn't even beat you!" he declared, somewhat incredulous that everyone had been so ready to credit him with Yajirobe's bravery, Gohan's victory, Krillen's understanding of an instinct he wasn't even sure of himself.
The Saiya-jin no Ouji remained impassive. Unmoving. Focused.
"They all think I'm this super hero, that I don't bleed or hurt, that I can just will these bastards out of existence and that it doesn't cost me anything to do it!" Grinding his teeth in frustration, the taller man unwound his arms and fisted his hair, falling to a desperate crouch before the only one who could even begin…
"Who am I kidding," he murmured, dragging both palms over his face, "You don't give a shit. Something…" Goku draped both arms over his bent knees, "…maybe you'd care, or understand, or…I mean…we're both…" Squeezing shut his eyes, the Son fought the vertigo, the anxiety. Base instinct was clawing him apart, screaming at him to make this man feel what he was failing to say. Connect…he needed to connect…to someone…
~ and if you see familiarity
then celebrate the contradiction ~
The breath was flushed from his body the moment his back hit the ground.
Not that it mattered. It belonged to Vegeta anyway.
There was the taste of blood from the prince's nose, the wet softness that simply couldn't come from a mouth as foul, as abrasive…
'Kakarotto…' Vegeta's hair was coarse and thick between his fingers, the body of the smaller man warmer than summer sunshine on his torso. Ignoring the unyielding breastplate, Goku's instinct smirked, nudging his powerful hands to glide flawless and hypnotic down the hard muscled plane of the Ouji's back to encircle the sensuous curve of his waist.
"Ve--" The word was bitten prematurely, reduced to a simple sound amongst the insistence of the older Saiya-jin.
~ help me when I fall to
walk unafraid ~
'We are Saiya-jin, Kakarotto.' Vegeta's hands tangled luxuriously in the golden mass of his hair and he moaned at the erotic sensation. ' Doubt will kill us.' But always, his lips…licking, sucking at his tongue as though hell-bent to see it from his body, uncaring as the younger man embraced him crushingly. 'We must be confident.' Silken fingers smoothed the worry from his face and he shivered, back arching as the kiss concluded. . 'We must trust our strength.' Goku swallowed painfully at the passionate black of the man above him.
Understatement said shock.
Reality said astonished.
"And I know what you think of me, Kakarotto," the prince countered, weight balanced backward onto his knees. "And you are probably right."
Using the platform of Goku's thigh, the composed Ouji helped himself up.
"But we are still the last of our kind." Elegantly slanted eyes of secret obsidian narrowed slightly. "And someday you will realize that you are Saiya-jin first and everything else," he gestured flippantly before crossing his arms, "…later."
~ I'll be clumsy instead ~
Stunned, Goku only stared as Vegeta turned from him again to gaze at the object of his attention, what had snared his dark eye before the broader Saiya-jin had inserted himself into his line of vision.
The sun had risen.
Dense as to what had just occurred and completely misplaced, the Son could only blink as the Saiya-jin no Ouji glanced fleeting over his shoulder to the man on the ground.
"Don't give me your ningen crap, Kakarotto. If you ever speak of it, I'll invent new ways to permanently incapacitate you." Absolutely dumbstruck, Son Goku swallowed and nodded, a light touch to still-wet lips the only acknowledgement between them.
Vegeta's deep eyes followed his unsteady hand. What seemed like a shiver passed through his stoic frame and he altered his eyesight to its previous occupation.
"They will never understand us, Kakarotto. And perhaps…" a wistful note entered his murmured melancholy bass. "Perhaps…you are too ningen…" Spinning abruptly, Vegeta bent to retrieve what Goku had failed to notice in his haste.
The Ouji had touched him without his gloves.
Jerking the pristine material over flawless fingers, the prince did not speak for several moments. The taller Saiya-jin was reluctant to trust his voice--ningen reasoning said everything his prince feared: it was wrong to kiss him, wrong to let him, wrong…to like it…
But instinct said a simpler thing, and the more he heard it, the more sense it made.
The last of our kind…
"Our ancestors traveled in groups they called velit." The eyes that looked up from their task, fingers interlacing to push the fabric down, were surprisingly open. "Do you know what that means, Kakarotto?" Hardly waiting for the inevitable shake of his head, Vegeta continued, "It's Saiya-jin for family." A two step turn blazed his angular profile against the sun, a veritable god in the new golden dawning of day. Breathless, Goku watched a beauty he had never truly appreciated emerge in the older man.
Beautiful like fighting, like danger. Like the anticipation before battle. Like fresh blood on new clothes. Lethal. Invigorating.
Goku shoved the protesting human half into the background. Vegeta was too nice to look at, and it all made a sticky sort of sense…
"Most Saiya-jin are orphaned by the time we can talk. Velit means more than the whore that birthed you, or the man that raped her. It means more than the bastards they had before you, or after. It means…" Sighing quietly, the diminutive Saiya-jin wrapped his arms crosswise around his midsection. "It means more than that, Kakarotto." Goku wasn't sure what was happening, but he knew it was too important to fuck up with words of his own. This is the most the man had ever said to him that didn't involve the interjection of 'baka'.
When Vegeta turned to him again, the familiar coolness cast a glittering sheen over his onyx eyes. For a moment, Goku was certain it was all a mistake, that the Ouji had taken him for someone else completely, and now that he knew exactly who he was talking to, he was gonna blast him to Hell.
Slowly, catlike in his grace, the smaller man stalked toward him. Stuck on the slight scuff marks marring the toes of his boots, the grounded Saiya-jin couldn't look beyond it, couldn't raise his eyes above the thick, corded calves, the sculpted thighs and…powerful hips…
"Kakarotto." The man in summons snapped his head upward, wide-eyed and enraptured by enchanting ebony.
~ hold my love me or leave me
So soft. "Your intentions, like your emotions, have always lain in your eyes." Nani? The Son tilted his head in misunderstanding. Drawing a deep breath, the Ouji humoured him for perhaps the first time since they had met.
"Velit, Kakarotto. Gohan will know the meaning of this word." The sitting Saiya-jin started. Vegeta's eyes narrowed meaningfully. "Your unborn brat, as well." But…how does he…?
'How do you?' It suddenly struck him to ask Vegeta about the voice in his head when the other man did something so unexpected, Son Goku hadn't the coherence to form the words, let alone make them make sense.
Mouth slack in a semi state of shock, Goku licked his lips apprehensively.
~ walk unafraid ~
And then his shaking hand extended to clasp that of the other Saiya-jin.
If Vegeta had ever been known to smile, the Son would have sworn this was it--a gentle curving corner of his mouth, a lightening of eyes too dark to be chocolate, almost too light to be black…
~ I'll be clumsy instead ~
"You're an idiot, Kakarotto." Their hands met briefly and the younger man was struck with the intensity of his warmth, the amiability in his eyes.
He knows…just like Gohan did. Goku swallowed at the sincerity. And he isn't trying to stop me. He knows…he…understands…
~ hold my love me or leave me
"We have somewhere to be," the man remarked as he hauled his broader counterpart to his feet. Another press, so soft as to be nonexistent brushed momentarily over his lips…
"We will fight again, bakayaro."
And then the Son was watching the trailing path of his smaller companion's ki as it papercut the clearing blue of the sky. Part of him was still on the ground in shock, but he forced himself to concentrate on what was important. The Ouji was right--they would fight again. Destiny dictated it. But now…Resolve set in his brow and he nodded decisively.
Hai. There were things he had to do.
And only the day with which to see them through. Brushing the grass from the back of his gi, the Saiya-jin prepared himself for battle. Now was not the time to doubt.
'…will kill us…'
Son Goku inhaled deeply, reveled in the freshness of the air as it slid silken smooth down his throat. Brushing a swatch of gold from his eyes, he felt his excitement return. Soon…all of this would belong to Gohan. And I can finally be what I want to be.
And whether he wanted to admit it or not, he was going to miss the Saiya-jin prince. If only for moments like that. Looking again to the fading pinpoint of light, he touched his lips and smiled.
Pushing from the ground, the earth-made Saiya-jin proudly followed his prince into battle.
Song: Walk Unafraid by REM