Reminders of the lost planet, the stench of blood and sweat permeating the atmosphere as he sat surrounded by corpses, the laugh of something so horrid and powerful. His mind put him in the moments of highest importance. Be that the first battle he’d ever fought, or the day in which Prince Vegeta, the sole heir to the throne, became one of the few of his race to survive the tragedy of Planet Vegeta’s demise.
The tragedy in question being the genocide of the Saiyans, and the cover-up in the aftermath. Not that credence to the latter was officially given before the hour of his death. It was a thought which had leant him a hand in a thirst for power, one which fed his bloodlust and single-minded obsession with being the best. There was a precedent, not only as a royal, but as an avenger as well. To not live up to the expectation was to fail not only himself, but his entire race.
Vegeta had failed several times.“Don’t worry, the pain will subside after a while.” Pure white skin, lips as black as his soul.
If Frieza even had one.
There was always a unique sense of fear instilled in him by the emperor, his sickeningly sweet tone in contrast to unwavering brutality. Every single time his heart pounded, nerves aflame as his mind screamed ‘dangerfightrungetawayFIGHT-’ as he hovered about, the sinking feeling of resignation close at hand. No matter what path he chose the galactic tyrant would stand above all, cosmic dust beneath his feet. While the implications rang loud and clear, he found that the prideful part of him would keep him fighting the choices made for him.
This time, Frieza had chosen for him to die. Vegeta chose to fight it.
It broke the unshakable hold on his pride. As he weeped openly before another man (a lower class, at that) begging him to take the duty he had failed in from the start of the battle. Vegeta lost before he’d even begun. In that moment he had faced his greatest fear.
A dishonorable death.
The stench and taste of blood, hot ground beneath an open wound, muscles that would no longer cooperate. Tears streaming down his face as he babbled on about the tragedy of the Saiyan race as the shock set in. For there was one left to pass on the tale of a tyrant’s merciless ways, and only one to defeat that tyrant.
“Hey, Vegeta!” That annoyingly cheery tone snapped him from the deliberation of past events. The Prince regarded his longtime rival with a scowl. The sudden intrusion of his reverie left his thoughts jumbled, a swirling mass of visions rooted in the past and the feelings that came with them. There was a dull ache in his chest, heightened by the burn in his stomach. He was suddenly hyper-aware of everything around him.
The concept of white was universal.
Absent of color, dispassionate yet powerful.
In this place on the edge of time, he could not escape the sense of something looming over him.
The brunette shook his head, staring up at the younger male. He uncrossed his legs, shifting out of lotus position to stretch his legs.
“We had an agreement, clown. You meditate in your corner of this chamber, and I meditate in mine .” The two warriors made a pact to enter the border between space and time nearly 6 months ago. An action motivated by curiosity rather than a need to prepare for impending doom, as fate had willed before. Both Vegeta and Goku were willing participants in sharing a plane of reality in which all that acted as a barrier between heart and mind was the companionship of one another.
“Well I know that, but...”
“But what ?” Vegeta cuts in, expectant.
“The point of meditating is to get free of all the thoughts in your head. You’re kinda doing the opposite right now.” As an immediate reaction to the criticism Vegeta stood, teeth bared in a display of sheer rage. How dare Kakarot presume to lecture him on the content of his conscience? However right he may have been, the Prince did not take kindly to it..
“Then perhaps the time to sit and think has passed! It was your blasted idea to sit around and delve into the ‘inner self'. We’re going to try things my way for a change!’” Vegeta barks, irritation growing as Goku raised his hands in a sheepish defense. The younger man scratched his nose, a small grin forming.
“Gee Vegeta, if you wanted to fight me that much all you had to do was ask!” Despite the playful lilt to Goku’s tone, the Prince found something beneath that. Easy to miss if you were counting on the man’s stupidity to shine through. Sharing the same headspace taught the prince otherwise. In their time as one being, Vegeta found that his rival’s personality consisted of layers. For each action, there were 3 different lines of thought to connect the purpose and form a greater motivation than the one he started with. In kind, Kakarot had seen into his own mind. The single minded obsession, the sins of pride and wrath. The emotions that came after, that could only be channeled through the expression of said sins.
“Tch. You of all people should know that I’ve never been one to ask ” That much was true. Vegeta tended to demand what he wanted, to expect no less than what he deserved. Stepping away from the younger Saiyan, he feels relief in the distance. Something about the other man trying to get under his skin bringing him more discomfort than usual. He was used to the casual, yet invasive tone of Kakarot’s observations.
He sinks into a familiar stance, palm raised outward. The younger Saiyan bounces from one foot to another momentarily, easing out of thick tension and into something more reminiscent of the their unorthodox bond. There was no doubt that the two Saiyans would fight one another until their last breath, breaking limits and challenging the universe's’ most fearsome to preserve their ability to face one another at the end of every battle. Neither man could best another for very long before the other caught up.
Goku leapt, Vegeta meeting him in the middle.
It was a spectacle, the sound of blow against blow echoing throughout the endless nothing of the chamber. The ground did not so much shake as the things that were built upon the floor. It was a liminal place, measured in those who entered. This was no place for the weak-minded, nor the faint of heart. It was a place for warriors, yes. But in order to survive a period beyond an endless fight, one was forced to examine the content of the self. Such a peculiar place granted great wonders, but in return… They were granted truth and reflection.
Goku breathed heavily, a counter for each strike as he faced yet another battle worth pushing himself to the limit for. Vegeta had a fire that burned eternal, and often burned those around him. From Bulma, to Trunks (both of them). He consumed himself in the ash and dust brought about by burning rage and crushed all beneath his booted foot. It was a quality that gained both his respect and sympathy in the same breath. The earth’s savior often found himself at odds with the (former) Prince of Saiyans over the subject. Vegeta’s pride was his rise, fall, end, and beginning. It brought him the same purpose to match the lower class Saiyan, but in return?
It brought Vegeta that same need to sacrifice part of himself in trying to revive an evil deep within. It was every bit as sinister and malignant as the tyrant raised under Frieza hand and heel, the Saiyan Elite who arrived on earth 10 years prior, out to conquer and destroy.
However much he needed that fight, Goku could never agree to the means of that end. And when he linked minds with Vegeta, he’d realized that the prideful prince came to regret giving into his weakness. It was a lapse of judgement that could only be reversed by his death, and for that Goku could admire the Prince’s inclination toward the final judgement. He made the right call. When all the chips were down, and the hour of his death was upon him, Vegeta used his head and his heart.
Right now, both of those things seemed to be drowning in waves of unprocessed thought. When the two men entered the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, they were motivated by their mutual need to track the change of each other’s moves and create a new system to work around from there. It worked when they were fighting, but as far as company went? Not so much. There was a very raw, closed off part of Vegeta. Their time as Vegito fortified said barriers, the man much more guarded when it came to the content of his emotions. Vegeta would admit when he was wrong from time to time, but he would never admit what was wrong.
“Is that the best you’ve got?!” Snarled the Prince, leaping into the air to deliver a vicious kick. The rapid-fire pace of trading blows resumed, their rhythm unmatched by the concept of time. They hadn’t resorted to blasts yet, settling for a good old fashioned brawl. One style against another, fist to fist.
The younger man relied on the defensive, tracking his rival’s moves closely through each strike. Repetition followed repetition, fire and frustration packed into each punch. Lip curled in disgust, eyes shining with a fury reserved for being patronized. Goku found himself unsure of what he’d done wrong, other than comment on the subject of his well-being
“What’s your problem, Vegeta?!?” Calls Goku, blocking another punch.
Then again, Vegeta was always difficult when it came to discussing his problem. He fought it out, and walked away when he could fight no more.
“COME ON, HIT ME!
” The Prince bellows, taking a cheap shot at his exposed abdomen. Goku caught the man’s knee, returning his strike with an elbow to the temple. He looked him in the eyes as he’d done it, a sign he’d been taking the Prince seriously throughout the fight.
For his trouble he received a fist to the jaw, knocking him back. Goku moved to the air to account for the stagger, putting some distance between the two
“I’m not done with you--!” He shot into the air, every bit as vindictive as expected of him. Each fight of theirs was personal, a decade of battles fought side by side and against each other. As yin met paths with yang, Goku met paths with Vegeta. Goku touched his fingertips to his forehead, disappearing from the space for a fraction of a second, reappearing much closer than he was before. Less than an inch before his target, he struck, sending his opponents back several feet and into the opening area of the chamber.Whoops.
Vegeta collided with one of the pillars, bouncing off as a sickening crack resounded.(From the structure, thankfully).
“AGH--!” For a second his world shifted into a state of black and white. The pillar struck a pressure point as his spine collided with the obstacle, bringing an uncontrollable flood of memories back. “I thought I should give you a sporting try. The sharp stab of knuckle to spine, Frieza’s fist colliding with bone. It was as close as one could get to a knife without blood . His lungs ached under the weight of his own screams, abject misery in each one. He was a ragdoll, a puppet in the hand of the puppetmaster, dangling limply by the hair. Frieza intended to make him pay for his defiance, the option of cowardice far from even plausible. It was an inescapable destiny, to pay his penance for a life of atrocities. To have what he’d given returned to him in full.
“I was just checking your reflexes and they seem to be fine. Let’s try it again just to be sure, shall we?”
Thy mortal sin is pride, thy punishment: Death.
His mind clouded itself in fog, body seized. Before he knew what was happening, Vegeta found himself on his knees, chest contracting painfully. He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t speak, couldn’t think beyond his senses. Danger was everywhere, he had to fight, had to overcome the feeling, for he did not fear death. Not in the slightest, as the prince of a warrior race. It was something much more than that.
Tightening his fists, Vegeta choked out small gasps, trying to find his breath. A vice-like presence settled around his throat, tightening with his climbing panic. He was sinking into the ground, drowning and he couldn’t swim up. The world around him was blindingly bright as he faced a violent presentation of the past.‘Snap out of it! You are not dying, you fear nothing! You are a mockery to your race!’
Comes the insistent hiss of his mind, his body uncooperative with what was meant to be dual effort. He was disconnected from past and present. They were one in the same now. White was stained with red, no matter how hard one scrubbed away at it. It was power, it was death.
Bones snapping, victims screaming. The stench of blood and viscera could never be washed away, the only solution was to bathe in more and adjust to this life. No survivors, no prisoners, satisfaction in it. Having no choice and having all the choice in the world. Being the conqueror and the conquered, a bigger cage than the one built for the bodies beneath their feet. Neverending decay
“Vegeta?” The shadow cast itself before he understood his name was being called. The prince made a strangled sound, instincts between fight and flight.Thud-thud. Thud-thud. Thud-thud.
He clutches his chest with one hand, the other curled into a fist.
“Vegeta, it’s me.” He hears it again, cutting through the fog. He kicks out at the man before him, the action forcing him back against the pillar. Caged, trapped, nowhere to run and sapped of the energy to fight his way out. His body refused to cooperate, refused to let him stand.
He clutched his head in his hands, feeling the blood pounding in his ears‘Get a hold of yourself.’
There’s a shift in the air, a little bit of wind kicked up by someone flopping down onto the ground. As soon as the tension in his head subsided enough to allow him, he cracked an eye open. Kakarot sat across from him, legs crossed. His expression a mix of confusion and concern. Vegeta shut his eyes again, breathing deeply.
“No.” Comes the firm reply.
Balling one hand into a fist, he let the back of his head rest against the wall. They sat for a while in silence before Goku cut in.
“You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t wanna.”
“What do you know, Kakarot?!” Snapped the Prince, hands shaking with restrained fury. He was not a charity case, nor a patient. No one was to fix his struggle.
“I know you’ve got a lot going on in your head, and you’re not ready to deal with it.” The quiet calm of his tone both infuriated and relieved the older man. Goku didn’t seem to be pushing past boundaries. His hands were in his lap, gaze focused and intense, but lacking the expectation that Vegeta pour his heart out like some pathetic whelp. It was… strangely comforting. Even if Vegeta loathed sympathy.
“Astute observation.” The brunette says dryly, feeling the weight around his neck subside. Enough to manage sarcasm. At that his rival let out a small laugh, scratching the back of his head.
“You’re an open book.”
“Are you going to continue picking at the content of my mind?”
“I mean while we’re actually sitting down and talking instead of punching each other’s brains out, yeah. Why not?”
“Tch, you are insufferable.”
“So I’ve been told!” And then, as if a switch had been flipped… The other saiyan’s expression turned serious.
“I’m gonna sit with you until you’re alright.”
“If I say I’m alright, will you leave me be?”
“Depends on whether or not you mean it. You said it yourself, you’re not one to ask--” Vegeta opens his mouth to speak, cut off by Goku’s continued speech. “-- And I get that. You’ve got your pride, I’m not trying to make you give it up. I’m just here to give you what you can’t ask for because like it or not, we agreed to come in here together for the same reason. It was a team effort whether or not you want to think about it, and I think that means I sorta have a responsibility to look out for you.”
“I’m not a child
.” Sneers Vegeta, lip curled in contempt.
“No, you’re my friend.” Goku didn’t even bristle at the glare sent his way. “And that’s what friends do, they watch your back.”
Vegeta grumbled, folding his arms. The pressure on his chest had since faded, replaced by mild annoyance.
“If you expect me to hug you, you can forget it.” And just like that, the tension flooded out of Goku’s face, replaced by a wide grin.
“Oh, so that means I can hug you?”
“I said nothing of the sort!”
“That’s the sound of someone who wants a hug!” Before Vegeta can protest strong arms are wrapping themselves around him, his rival’s bulk keeping his legs down. A soft flush spread across his cheeks as he thrashed, kept still by the tight hug. No longer did he feel caged in the same sense as before.
It didn’t mean he LIKED engaging in such sappy displays. If someone were to walk in and see, his reputation would be ground into the dirt.
“Let go of me, idiot!”
“Only if you say please!”
“I refuse!” The prince of all Saiyans, begging? Absolutely not.
“Ahah! That means you DO want a hug!” Goku nuzzles his face into the crook of Vegeta’s neck to further illustrate his point. The older man thrashed yet again, before slumping with a frustrated huff.
“I could blast you to smithereens for that.”
“Could, but not currently blasting me.” The younger man came to regret that remark as he felt the sharp sensation of Vegeta elbowing him in the ribs. Nonetheless he held to the older man, loosening his grip. Goku would give him the option to break out, if he truly wanted it. So when Vegeta remained in his grasp without more than a deep sigh, he found himself pleasantly surprised.
Then again, that was Vegeta for you. His actions tended to be the antithesis of your expectations when you think you’ve figured him out. Almost like he kept you on your toes, whether he was conscious of it or not.
“You're..." So many words, but none that Vegeta could pick to describe what he thought of the earth-raised Saiyan. None could say everything he wanted.
"A fool.” The Prince settled on.
“You and I both know that’s not what you think… All the time.”
“How do you know what I’m thinking right now, Kakarot?” Vegeta climbs out from his rival’s grasp, sitting across from the younger man. In response, he’s given an earnest smile. In that instant Vegeta found himself studying the man’s face. He was every bit the warrior the Prince devoted himself to surpassing. Worthy of being a goal to strive toward, to surge above and beyond that prowess. There was nothing, living or dead that could keep the two from finding their way back to each other. Be it for a destined battle or to train for the next.
“I… Don’t? Not unless you tell me.” Says Goku, tilting his head.
Time seemed to stop as his confusion filled the space between them. He wanted to ask what Vegeta was thinking, he wanted to help.
Suddenly, warm lips met his own. Insistent, yet soft. The earth’s warrior went slack, unsure of what to do for the moment his brain processed what was happening. Then he began to kiss back, leaning forward and into his friend. The two Saiyans continued for as long as they could stand to be linked down to their breath before pulling away. A light flush crept along Goku’s face as he scanned Vegeta’s own, curious of what this meant.
“I’ll keep you guessing.” A smirk adorned the prince’s face, gaze burning with something akin to passion.
However long it took to figure his opponent out, Goku felt he was willing to give it a try, for they had all the time in the world.
They were on the edge of forever.