Barracks

BY : chayron
Category: Dragon Ball Z > Yaoi - Male/Male
Dragon prints: 18981
Disclaimer: I do not own Dragon Ball Z – it belongs to its respective owners. This fan fiction is not a commercial project, and I am not making any money from writing it.

L.Fantasy: I’m glad you liked the chapter. Aren’t you lagging behind with the chapters, though?

anonanon: I’m not certain if the attack is better than in the canon :) I’m no good what concerns wars and military, and try to avoid the topics. Kind of…lack knowledge and practice. However, I can’t always avoid it keeping in mind the entire setting in Barracks :D


Disclaimer: I do not own Dragon Ball Z – it belongs to its respective owners. This fan fiction is not a commercial project, and I am not making any money from writing it.
Warnings: Alternate Universe. Yaoi (male x male). Goten x Trunks and vice versa. Other pairings.

Barracks

by chayron (lttomb@yahoo.com), beta-read by quatreofdoom

Part 26

Goten was following Berada, who was showing him the way to the headquarters of the National Air Force. From the very first step out of the aircraft and onto the landing pad, Goten had been looking around in amazement. He had never been to Velora. He had seen pictures of the capital, but that was nothing compared to reality. Buildings of glass shot into the sky, signs and showcases shone and flickered with electric colors.

Goten wasn’t very certain but it also seemed as if the air was cooler than he was used to. It was only logical when he thought that Velora was among those rare cities where it rained regularly. There were also trees, bushes, and grass. And all of them had thin green leaves and were not on the verge of falling over. There were even blooming flowers, their scattered colors lining the sidewalks.

Blinded by the neon lights and the sun reflecting off the buildings, Goten squeezed the handle of his suitcase harder. He had never seen such a variety of races in one place: all kinds of shapes, all kinds of colors and sizes. Some of them were carrying suitcases and heading in the opposite direction of Goten’s, towards the airport. They didn’t want to be caught up in the war and were escaping either to their homelands or to neutral planets.

“Hey, you! Stop lagging behind!”

Goten increased his pace and caught up with Berada. He knew the elite wasn’t pleased with the orders he had been given. He understood that Berada thought it was a hassle to see some second-class newbie to the National Air Force. Goten wondered what his reaction would be if he knew that he was a third-class. Probably about the same, only that it would result in more frowning.

When the buildings and masses of people had thinned out, Goten and Berada took off into the sky. Ten minutes later, they landed in front of a tall building. There were five guards stationed at the big heavy door. Goten, who twenty seconds prior had hardly managed to avoid a collision with a drunken Saiyan, saluted smartly.

The guards looked at the short-haired youth. He was diminutive in comparison to the five towering second-classes. He was wearing a dirty uniform from some Officer School with no stripes to denote rank and it was obvious that he hadn’t finished his studies. There was also the fact that he strongly reeked of dried blood.

“What’s with him?” one of the guards asked Berada, ignoring Goten.

“Don’t even ask. I was told to see the kid here.” Berada turned to Goten. “You don’t need to salute them, idiot.”

“Oh.” Goten lowered his arm. He offered Berada a look bordering between gratitude and spite. “Thanks for your help.”

Berada answered this with a cold look of his own.

“Do you have an appointment?” asked the same guard.

The question unsettled Goten. “I’m not certain. I was told I was supposed to report here.”

“By whom?”

“Well, by the prince.”

The guards grinned at him. Their grins disappeared when Berada nodded, confirming. They spared Goten another look.

“Your name?”

“Goten Bardock.”

The guard who had done all the talking up until now turned on the microphone on his scouter. He started speaking to someone.

“Bardock…”

Goten turned to a guard who had repeated his surname as if trying to remember something. The guard looked at his colleague.

“Isn’t that the same surname?” he asked.

His colleague gave him a blank look. “Whose?”

“Well, you know, the one who hijacked a spaceship and escaped from the Ice-jins.”

“Ah, the one who crashed yesterday?” a third guard caught on.

“Yeah, that's the one.”

Goten cleared his throat impatiently. He was overtaken by anxious hopefulness. “Is he Kakarott Bardock?”

The guards turned to him, then they looked at each other. They shrugged their shoulders; it didn’t seem they remembered the man’s name.

“Are you, by any chance, his kid?” asked the one who had remembered the surname first. “You do look familiar,” he added.

Goten’s face remained blank while he carefully regarded the second-class. “I am not certain this is the same Bardock we are talking about. Incidentally, maybe you would be so kind as to tell me where I can find him?”

The second-class gave an inquiring look to Berada, who shrugged in response. “I think he was sent to Dolen Hospital. A few broken bones, apparently.”

“How do I g-”

“You,” the guard who had finished talking on the scouter pointed at Goten, “get inside and go to room five hundred eighteen. It seems they are already waiting for you.”

“Alright, I’m off, then,” Berada said. Not waiting for an answer, he shot into the air and sped away. Goten stared up at the flying Saiyan for a few seconds. The man had been absurdly glad to get rid of him.

Oh well. Goten was positive that they would meet again.

The third-class turned to the guards. They moved away from the door and even opened it for him. Goten gave it a look but wasn’t in much of a hurry to enter.

“Thank you,” he said, nodding. “So how do I get to the hospital?”

“There,” the man holding the door pointed somewhere high in the air. “Do you see that white tower?”

Goten nodded. It was hard not to notice it.

“The hospital is right behind it. It’s red, you can’t miss it.”

“Thanks.”

The second-classes returned to their positions when the door closed behind Goten. A minute later, one of the guards fixed his stare on the white tower visible above the other buildings. “You know,” he drawled, “it just came to me that Bardock was a third-class.”

“Eh? You serious? But they said he broke out of the keep on his own, then single-handedly dealt with the watchers, and then swiped one of their spaceships. He even took a few passengers.”

“He wasn’t very good at steering the damn thing, though. I think he killed most of them while landing. Damn, he nearly killed himself.”

“Well, all of us have our shortcomings.”

The guards were silent for a few moments.

“Really? A third-class?”

“So I heard.”

Inside the building, Goten was demoralized by the endless maze of corridors. They were mostly empty. From time to time, important-looking men would scurry past him and disappear into the hallways. He had spent ten minutes following the signs “To the second floor” and they brought him back to the main door. In the end, Goten resorted to barring an officer’s way and asking him to show him where the stairs or an elevator was. The officer seemed to be surprised to see him there but led him to a staircase. After that, Goten found room 518 on his own.

The third-class knocked softly. The voice behind the door told him to enter and Goten pushed the door open. There was a young second-class inside. He was wearing a uniform with a few stripes on his shoulders that showed he was first lieutenant. He threw a quick look at Goten. The sight of a short-haired second-class in a dirty and bloodied uniform and a large suitcase in his hands threw the first lieutenant off at first, but then he quickly took hold of himself. He jumped off his chair and rushed to Goten.

“Ah, welcome, welcome, Goten,” he said shaking Goten’s hand. “We’ve been waiting for you.” He turned to the door and headed outside. He pulled a key out of his pocket. “This is the key to your room,” he showed it to Goten, who was following him. “You’ll be staying there until five o’clock tomorrow, then you are to come to launch pod twelve. I hope you will like your room. Well, even if you don’t, you won’t be staying long anyway. The food should be prepared already. I bet you’re hungry. I remember the food they used to have at my officer school was disgusting. Well, maybe yours was good.” The second-class opened a door to a room and Goten followed him in. “Nice, isn’t it? Here’s the TV. Ah, I see the food is ready and steaming. Here’s your key,” he said, putting it neatly in the cupboard next to the door. “Eat, rest, and come to launch pod twelve tomorrow at five. Good luck.”

Speechless, Goten stared at the door that had just closed, making it seem as if the first lieutenant hadn’t even been there. Dumbfounded, he scratched the back of his head. He looked around the room. The first things that caught his attention were the food on the table and its wondrous aroma. It was served up as if for a king: there was a bowl of fried chicken legs which were still steaming; a bowl of boiled potatoes; a plate with bread; three bowls of different salads; a pot of soup; a dish with smoked fish; a large bowl of various fruits; a bottle of wine and a carafe of what seemed to be water. Goten set his suitcase aside and walked over to the table. He had no idea what was going on, but at least he got to eat. And he was hungry as hell.

With a chicken leg between his teeth, Goten took in the room itself. It was small but well-furnished. The bed seemed comfortable, but he needed to confirm that bodily. There was even a bathroom with all the toiletries one could need. Goten took a peek at it, then, chewing, walked over to the window. He could see the city, but there was nothing of importance except a web of buildings and scurrying dots among them.

Goten returned to his seat at the table. He took a serviette from its holster, spread it on the table, and put the bones he had picked clean onto it. He took another chicken leg, then tried the salad.

Finally, Goten sprawled out on the bed and sighed contently. He felt as if the world had finally decided to stop being so mean to him. This was absolute bliss.

Goten woke up to the sun rays warming his face. He rubbed at his eyes and sat up. He stared at the room while his memories were opening their drawers, showing him what was stored inside. Goten couldn’t believe he had simply fallen asleep. Suspicious, Goten looked at the food on the table. There was a possibility, albeit just a faint one, that they had used some knockout drops. However, Goten was of opinion that he had simply been tired.

He had intended to go and investigate, find some answers about what was going on. Instead, he had slept. He hadn’t even thought or made himself not think about Toharu. It was as if food and a little comfort had erased everything. Guilt settled in the pit of the third-class’s stomach. Consciously, he knew that the mind, especially a Saiyan mind, had a range of defensive reactions against self-destruction. However, this knowledge only made him feel worse. He knew that very soon pain and guilt would soften and, with time, he would only remember Toharu with nostalgia; the priority of every living creature was to live further. Goten wished to pretend that he didn’t know that. He wished to pretend that the thought of his brother’s death was still as painful as the day he had heard of it.

The third-class rolled out of the bed. He had gone to sleep in his uniform and it looked like a herd of elephants had been dancing on it all night long. Goten tried to smooth it out, but it was useless. It was also dirty as hell and smelled of blood. Unconsciously, Goten looked at the bed to ascertain he hadn’t left any dirty spots on the clean cover.

He sat down at the table and had a full and satisfying breakfast. After that, he took his wallet, locked the door, and went outside into the maze of corridors. He had many things to do.

Goten found room 518, but it was locked and it seemed that there was no one inside. Asking around appeared to be fruitless as well – no one knew anything about him or the man who had welcomed him. It was not particularly strange as Goten couldn’t even provide then man's name. What Goten achieved was to find out what the time was. It was eleven o’clock in the morning. The third-class did a very primitive calculation and knew that this gave him about six hours until when he was supposed to appear at the launch pod.

After unsuccessfully wandering the halls of the National Air Force, Goten left the building and headed towards the white tower in the distance. There were many citizens on the streets and most of them were wearing armor. Curiously, some people seemed to just stand around, doing nothing or roaming aimlessly. The atmosphere was also apprehensive and everyone seemed to be suspended in waiting.

Neither Goten’s uniform nor the dirt on it drew attention. In fact, on his way to the hospital, the third-class had passed and seen many more second-classes and elites from officers schools who had been summoned from their studies. He thought about Ranvera, who had probably also been transferred to National Security. Goten wondered if lectures were still continued in officer schools at all.

Essentially, Goten lacked factual knowledge about what was happening. The prince had only described the situation in general. It was disconcerting to merely have a vague grasp of what was going on. Goten had never liked it when his welfare only depended on the circumstances. The recent events and the lack of information left the third-class confused and lost. He was able to function only by setting himself immediate goals. Like finding his father.

The white tower seemed to recede while he was getting closer and it took more time to reach the hospital than Goten had expected. When he finally arrived at the tall square building, it was almost twelve o’clock. There was no one at the front door and Goten entered undisturbed.

Farther up the hall, there were two men sitting behind a reception desk. A queue of three people had formed in front of it. By the time it was Goten’s turn, one of the receptionists, with a bundle of papers in his hands, had left. Goten mustered up the remnants of his will and, over the high board that separated the reception and the hall, smiled politely at the second-class sitting at the desk.

“Good afternoon. I’d like to see Kakarott Bardock. Would you be so kind as to tell me which ward he is in?”

The receptionist raised his eyes from the computer screen to give Goten an inspecting look, then his eyes concentrated back on the monitor while his fingers started flowing over the keyboard. “Who are you?” he asked. “Do you have permission to visit him?”

“I’m his son, Goten Bardock. I didn’t know I needed permission.”

The receptionist looked up at Goten again. He could see that Goten wanted to add something, but it never got voiced. “He is in the intensive care unit and can only be visited by his relatives,” he said, then looked at the man in the queue behind Goten. “Next.”

The man behind Goten started walking forward but, gently, Goten shouldered him backwards. “So what is the number of his ward?” he asked the receptionist.

The receptionist offered him a cold look. Goten shortly wondered if all hospital receptionists in the universe were bastards.

“Where did you steal that uniform, you third-class ingrate?”

Ah. Indeed they must be.

Goten felt the raft he had built for himself to float above his sorrow, fear, turmoil, guilt, rage, and stress start to crumble. Logs were breaking off and, one by one, caught by the current of emotions, were quickly being swept away. He gave the receptionist a strained smile.

“This uniform was given to me. Can I see my father? Please?”

“What do you take me for?” snarled the receptionist. “Get lost, you ill-bred third-class!”

Goten leaned over the top of the desk, his eyes boring into the receptionist’s. “The number. Now,” he hissed. “Don’t make me beat it out of you.”

The receptionist opened his mouth to tell him off, but then, urged by the same instinct that had preserved the Saiyan race for thousands of years, closed it. From up close, the third-class smelled of blood and death. He could feel the hair on the back of his neck tingling. There was something awfully wrong with the third-class.

“One hundred twenty-five.”

Slowly, Goten moved backwards. He almost wished that the receptionist had refused to tell him the number. Right now he needed a stress reliever. Anyone and anything would do.

In the mist that his head had become, Goten knew he was losing control and this trail of thought was dangerous. He needed no problems. Besides, the receptionist had grounds for thinking he had stolen the uniform: his father’s data showed that he was a third-class, yet he was wearing a uniform of an officer school.

“If you’re worried that I’d do something to him, you can send a guard to follow me,” Goten said, his eyes indicating to the call up button on the desk.

The receptionist shrugged. “Who cares? He’s just a third-class.”

Goten smiled at him, then, by an enormous effort of sheer will, made himself turn away and walk past the reception desk. He kept his eyes trained on the far end of the corridor, even though he could nearly hear the second-class’s nose cracking under his fist. However, he tried to convince himself that there were more pressing matters than some loud-mouthed second-class. There was no point in fighting if he wanted to visit his father and then leave the hospital before five o’clock.

Some second-classes despised third-classes even more than elites did. Goten wasn’t very familiar with that kind of thinking, but he had once been told that it was not exactly their fault. Looking down on third-classes made them feel better about their own position in society. However, as far as Goten was concerned, he didn’t like to be someone’s scapegoat just so they could feel better about themselves.

Ward 125 was at the end of the corridor. Goten knocked loudly and, not waiting for an answer, entered. He was taken aback by the rows and rows of regeneration tanks. Some of the tubes were empty, but most of them were occupied by a grayish body floating in the green liquid. Slowly, Goten closed the door and entered the ward.

So this was the intensive care unit?

The third-class started walking along the first row of the tanks. A parade of men with missing arms, legs, chunks, and bits of their bodies unfolded before Goten. The faces of two men were so mutilated that Goten had to look at the plate on the tank to assure himself that it wasn’t his father.

By the time Goten found his father in the third row, he was a nervous wreck. After having passed so many crippled bodies, he feared for the worst.

“A few broken bones, huh?” Goten repeated numbly, staring at his father’s body floating in the tank. There was a considerable hole in his father’s left side. His leg on the same side was between two splints. His breathing was normal though, the oxygen mask clouding and clearing regularly.

Goten circled the tube to check for any other visible injuries, but it didn’t seem there were any. He returned to face his father, then read the tablet on the tank: a laceration to the left side with two ribs partly missing; a broken femur on the same side. No internal organs damaged.

Goten raised his eyes back to his father’s side, but averted them at the sight of a few bare ribs poking out. Some of them were broken off. Sighing, Goten slumped onto the floor. From the short description on the tablet, it appeared that his father had gotten into an accident on some kind of aircraft.

Relieved, Goten eased himself backwards until he was leaning against the tank opposite to his father’s. The wounds were serious, but this was not the worst he had been afraid of. These wounds would heal. The ribs would never be the same, but who cared about a couple of ribs?

Kakarott’s legs floated lazily in Goten’s vision. He had intended to question his father about so many things, but it was impossible for now. In fact, Goten was glad about it. He didn’t think he was in any state to absorb more information. Right now, all he wanted to do was to simply think that everything was alright.

The third-class stood up and headed for the exit; he had seen a vending machine somewhere near the entrance to the hospital. Making his way through the regeneration tanks, he met a doctor who gave him a curious look but didn’t stop him.

Goten passed the reception and headed towards the large vending machine at the door. After inspecting it for a few seconds, he went for a bottle of soft drink with some green fruit on its label. It cost him two credits. After a moment of hesitation, he pulled his credit card out of his pocket again and bought another one of the same kind.

Carrying the two bottles, he returned to the intensive care unit. The doctor had wandered over to the first row of regeneration tanks and was now reading something on the floating patient’s tablet. The doctor raised his head to see who had entered the ward, then lowered it again.

“Hey, do you want some?” Goten asked, walking over to him and holding out one bottle.

The doctor gave him a questioning look, shrugged, and took the bottle. “Thanks.”

“No problem,” Goten said, unscrewing the cap of his bottle and walking to where his father was.

The doctor pushed the binder he had been carrying under his armpit and followed him. Goten stopped in front of his father’s tank.

“Your father?” the doctor asked, coming closer to read the tablet. “Kakarott. Hmm… A third-class,” he read after Goten had nodded. He looked at Kakarott’s side. “He’s lucky. It was a close shave.” He retreated away from the tank and patted Goten on the shoulder. “Will be as good as new in a couple of weeks.”

Goten sat down on the floor and leaned against the same regeneration tank as before. He raised his bottle into the air. “To your health, Dad.”

“Yes, to you, Kakarott,” the doctor agreed, sipping his drink. “Hmm… Doesn’t taste that good,” he said, sitting down next to Goten.

Goten liked Saiyan doctors. He had seen many of them and somehow all of them made it all better. They literally made the pain go away. It usually hurt more at first, but eventually it went away. They also didn’t differentiate that much among classes. From the inside, everyone looked the same after all.

“So what happened to you?”

Goten took a gulp of his drink. “I wouldn’t even know where to start.”

“Why not to start with your uniform? Whose blood is it?”

Goten chuckled. “I seriously love doctors,” he said, leaning his head against the cold glass of the tank. “You’re so cool about everything.”

“Thanks. Hmm… Comes with the job, I guess.”

“The blood belongs to the Ice-jins who attacked Hataro Officer Training School.”

“Oh, I heard about that one. It happened yesterday, right?”

This came to Goten as a shock. “Only yesterday…” he muttered, taking a sip of his drink. He swallowed and shook his head. “Seems like ages ago.” He looked at the doctor. “My friend died there. Many of the guys did.”

The doctor nodded his head. “Even more will die.”

“Yeah,” Goten agreed, taking another sip. “Gods, this drink is disgusting!”

“The taste of life, the taste of life,” the doctor said, drinking with pleasure and frowning at the same time. “Lad, when I was your age, all I cared about was victories, trophies from distant planets, fame, and sex.”

Goten laughed. “I bet you still care about sex.”

“Sure I do. However, there was a certain point when I woke up in the morning, on a spaceship, in a stinky cabin with twenty other men, and I thought to myself that in a day or two most of them would die. Maybe even I would die. And what the hell for?”

“For the Saiyan Empire?”

The doctor smiled at Goten’s sarcastic voice. “I wondered how many more worlds would finally be enough; how many deaths would be enough.”

“There’s no stopping this wheel now,” Goten said. He raised his eyes to stare at his father’s forehead. “The Ice-jins started it, we tagged along. And it is never enough. I don’t think there will ever be enough. There never is.”

“It’s going to collapse, all of this. It already has.”

“It will start rolling anew. There’s always someone who starts pushing, be it us or anyone else. The grass is always greener on your neighbor’s lawn.”

The doctor sighed. “So young and already so pessimistic.”

“Yeah,” Goten agreed. “I was so happy at that officer school. I was never supposed to be there. But damn, I was so happy there! It opened my eyes again. I found friends. I finally found joy in life. I finally found some peace. It’s all gone now. I don’t think I will ever return there. I will probably never meet them again. And it’s so unfair! I know I wasn’t even supposed to be there, but it’s so unfair to give it all and then take it all away! I don’t even know what’s going to happen to me now. Where are they going to send me now? They just do whatever they want with me! It’s so unfair! Well, I did like the school, but…”

The doctor patted Goten’s head awkwardly. He pretended not to see the third-class wiping his tears and snot on the sleeve of his uniform.

“Nothing’s fair in this fucked up life, son. But look on the brighter side – your pops is alright.”

Goten swiped at his wet cheeks bitterly. “For how long, I wonder?”

“You can’t carry the whole world on your shoulders, son.”

“I should at least carry my father.”

“Ah, so now we are back from self-pity land.”

Goten choked on his laughter and tears, then nodded. “Yeah, I think I am.” He was somberly silent for a few seconds. “I think I could have saved him. My friend, I mean. Probably. Maybe not. I don’t really know. I didn’t think it would really happen. I just thought it was a dream. Actually, I forgot all about it.”

“Hmm?”

“It doesn’t really matter anymore. I don’t think I could have changed anything.”

“I see.”

They sat silently, side by side. At one point, the doctor felt the third-class relax against him, his head lolling sideways, settling onto his shoulder. His breathing was even, soft. The youngster stank of blood, dirt, and sweat. The doctor’s fingers ruffled through Goten’s short hair. He looked at the man floating in the tank opposite them.

“You’ve raised a good kid. Now try and get out of there faster to make sure nothing bad happens to him.” He sighed. “I wish I’d at least done that for mine.”

About ten minutes later came the insistent sound of one of the tanks beeping, and the doctor left Goten’s side. Goten slept through all the beeping, the voices, and the sound of shuffling feet. He woke up only when the doctor patted him on the shoulder. Goten’s bleary eyes concentrated on the doctor’s face, then slid down over the man’s white clothing which was now speckled with blood.

“I don’t mind you sleeping here, but you probably have things to do.”

“Wh-?” Goten blinked, pointing at the blood on the white gown.

“Well, we’ve lost one,” the doctor said, motioning his hand in the general direction of the tanks. Then he realized they were surrounded by them and just waved around.

“Oh.”

“Nah, your pops is okay,” the doctor said after noticing Goten’s eyes quickly concentrate on his father. “There’s no danger to his life. After a day or two, he’s going to be moved to a common ward.”

Goten seemed to finally shake off the remnants of his sleep. He rubbed at his face. “How long have I been asleep?”

“Not long. An hour or so.”

“I see. I’d better head back to the headquarters.”

The doctor nodded. “Yeah, it would be a good idea. You can come here once he’s transferred.”

Goten reached out for the doctor’s hand. “Thanks, really.”

The doctor chuckled. He shook Goten’s hand firmly. “No problem. It was nice to meet you. I’d say ‘come again’, but you’d better not. Unless we can still save you.”

Smiling, Goten looked around for his empty drink bottle.

“I threw them away.”

“Oh. Thanks.” Goten stood up. “I’d better get going, then.”

When Goten returned to his room in the National Air Force headquarters, it was about three o’clock already. At best, he had an hour and a half left to have a late lunch and take a shower. Thus he quickly set about finishing off the cold leftovers. Once full, he opened his suitcase. It was the first time he opened it and, in fact, he had been a little apprehensive about what he would find in there. But everything was in order: he did find the spare uniform he wanted so much. Actually, all of his things were there. Trust Kyon to take care of matters like these and nothing was going to be missed. There was also Kyon’s cookbook.

The third-class lifted the recipe book carefully and opened the battered cover. There was a hastily scrawled note on the first page:

Goten,

I’m not certain when we are going to see each other again, so I wanted to give you something that would remind you of me. Don’t think that I’ll forget you; I don’t care about that thing with classes.

Kyon

P.S. This is my most prized book. Take good care of it. If it is in a bad shape when we meet again, I’m going to have your ass. Hmm…probably literally.


It didn’t actually feel like he was reading a love letter. It probably was one, though. Goten rubbed the back of his neck and felt his cheeks turning warm. He closed the cover and took a good look at the book. Its shape wasn’t that good even now.

He was already missing the guys.

Before he could be engulfed by sad thoughts, Goten quickly put the book aside, grabbed his spare uniform, and went to the bathroom. He hung his clean clothes on a hook, then quickly shed his dirty ones onto the floor and climbed into the shower stall.

The shower felt heavenly. He probably had been enjoying it for too long as, when he stepped out of the stall, he could hardly see anything because of the steam. Dripping wet, he grabbed one of the towels off the hanger. While toweling himself dry, he saw that he had forgotten to grab a change of underwear.

The bathroom door opened, letting out a whiff of steam. In a beeline, Goten headed for his open luggage on the bed. He retrieved his underwear.

“Ahem.”

Goten, who was about to let go of his towel, froze. Then he spun around to see the prince comfortably sitting on one of the chairs at the table, holding Kyon’s cookbook. Instinctively, Goten’s tail came around his waist with a wet flop. Goten wasn’t certain which fact worried him most: the prince’s presence itself, the fact that he had Kyon’s book, or that the prince’s looks had changed so much.

“Mh... But... wha? Why? What?”

“You are unexpectedly eloquent today.”

“Err. Your hair, sir?”

The prince brushed over his now considerably shorter hair. “Well, they had to shave some of it here to stitch me up.” He turned to show a patch on his head where Goten’s luggage had struck him. “So I figured it was about time I got myself a haircut.”

“I see, sir. To tell you the truth, sir, short hair suits you much better.”

The prince chuckled. “Thank you.”

Besides his much shorter hair, the prince was also wearing Saiyan armor. It was the usual blue and white with yellow straps, but it seemed to be that of the best quality. There was also the royal flame on the prince’s left breastplate. Goten found him different. He was used to the prince’s officer uniform or his ragged denim jackets and jeans. The Saiyan armor made him look firmer, stronger, more masculine.

Goten noticed that he was not the only one interested in the other’s appearance. He was aware of the prince’s eyes having trouble staying concentrated on his face. Only now Goten remembered that he was still holding his underwear in one hand while grasping the ends of the towel around his waist with the other. He waved his underwear in the air to get the prince’s attention.

“Err… Sir, could I dress?”

“Oh yes, by all means!”

“Did you actually knock, sir?” Goten asked, not being able to keep an accusing note from slipping into his voice. He turned around and started going back to the bathroom.

“Yes. Three times, in fact.”

Goten hummed skeptically and closed the door behind him. When he left the bathroom two minutes later, he was fully dressed in his uniform, except his socks and shoes. His hair and tail were still damp though, and he tried to keep his tail off his waist a little.

“Actually, I have news about your father,” the prince said when Goten sat down on the bed and started ransacking his suitcase for his socks.

“Yes, I’ve already seen him, sir,” Goten muttered, stealing a look at Kyon’s recipe book, which now was lying on the table among empty plates. “It wasn’t a pretty sight, but he’s going to live.”

“How did you…?”

“One of the guards here said my surname sounded familiar, sir. He told me about the accident and the name of the hospital.” Goten retrieved a pair of clean socks and started pulling them on.

“I see.”

“Sir?”

“Yes?”

“I didn’t exactly expect you to come here.”

“Err… Why?”

Goten padded over to the table and took a seat opposite the prince. He pulled his chair in closer to the table. “It’s because it’s all over, sir. I don’t think that now there will be enough time for you to look for amusement in third-classes.”

Goten was being defensive. But he had expected as much. Actually, the prince was surprised about another thing. Goten was taking everything far better than he had expected. He had thought he might meet a total wreck. He doubted that Goten was alright, he couldn’t be, but he was managing to keep it all together.

“Have you talked to your father?”

The prince was dodging the issue. Goten shook his head. “No, sir. He is in a regeneration tank.”

“Oh. I see.” The prince shifted in his seat. “Actually, I talked to my acquaintance in the Air Force and he said that they are sending you off to space.”

Goten’s chair clattered to the floor when he stood up suddenly. “What?! To space? Me?! What the hell for?!”

The prince gave him a look. “And what in the world did you expect, Goten? It’s war. We need men to defend our borders.”

“Fu-” Goten glanced at the prince.

“You can curse freely. B-”

“Fuck!”

“…But I don’t think it’s going to help. Besides, didn’t you always want to go to space?”

“Well, sir, that was before I found out that I get sick in anything that spins!”

The prince laughed. He watched Goten pick up the chair and sit down again. “The test and actually being on a plane or a spaceship are two different things. Well, unless you’re attacked. Then it might be much, much worse.”

“Thank you very much, sir, for encouraging me.”

The prince grinned at Goten’s pouting face. “There’s no need to worry. Everything’s going to be alright.”

“Now this, sir, makes me think you know something I don’t.”

He chuckled. “Well, maybe I do.” The prince looked around in his pocket and pulled out a thin slip of paper and held it out between his fingers. “Here. Don’t lose it. It’s my personal phone number. Call me if something weird starts going on, or when you just feel that the world hates you.”

Hesitantly, Goten stared at the slip of paper. It was best to refuse it. Once he did, it would probably be over. He wondered if the prince knew that the slip in his fingers was shaking. He looked at the man’s face. The prince was watching him silently, then he lowered the slip onto the table between them, leaving Goten the choice.

“Sir?”

“Yes?”

“I… I’m not very certain this is... Why did you come here, sir?”

The prince gave him a serious look. “I think you know why. You wouldn’t be hesitating about that phone number if you didn’t.”

“I do want to take it, you know.”

“Then take it.”

“It wouldn’t be right.”

“No, it wouldn’t be.”

Goten lowered his eyes to stare at the number. “I won’t take it, sir,” he said a few seconds later.

“Yes,” the prince nodded. “I figured as much.”

“But… I have a request. If you could do this, sir, I would be eternally grateful. Certainly, I am already grateful for many things you've done for me, but…”

“You’ve saved my life, Goten. Twice now, I think. There’s nothing you can’t ask.”

“Well, sir, last time it was my luggage that attacked you.”

The prince laughed softly. “So what is the request?”

“I’d like to know how my friends are getting on, sir. Ario especially. It must be very hard on him. My roommates as well. My father, too.”

“You’re asking me to keep tabs on very many people.”

“Yes, I know, sir,” Goten said tentatively.

The prince watched him for some time, then nodded. “Alright, I’ll keep an eye on them.”

Goten brightened. “Thank you, sir!”

The prince motioned at the cookbook on the table. “I saw Kyon left a hearty love confession.”

Ah. So he had read it.

“Yeah,” Goten mumbled out. “I mean, yes, sir.”

“It seems you told him that you are a third-class?”

“Yes, sir. He was becoming a little bit too insistent.”

“But he doesn’t seem to mind it, does he?”

“He doesn’t, sir.”

Goten wondered how he should handle this. He didn’t have much experience in things like this. The prince’s voice was monotonous, but there was a nervous undertone to it. And now there was no Toharu to help him deal with this. He might as well plunge forward.

“I do like him, sir. A lot, in fact.”

“Enough to…?”

“Yes, sir. Enough to take him as a lover.”

The prince’s fingers were now pushing the paper slip backwards and forwards on the table, polishing it. It was making quite an unpleasant scraping sound.

“I see. And I can do nothing about this?”

Silently, Goten watched the paper slip moving to and fro. “You can, sir,” he admitted finally, in a soft voice. “But I don’t think you should.”

The insistent scraping sound stopped. “I see.”

Goten knew that the prince didn’t know which way to take his words. It could go both ways: him wanting the prince to interfere or not wanting him to. It somehow felt good to know that he was not the only one confused. He wasn’t certain what this was about exactly, but it was becoming harder and harder to deal with it. They had never talked about this openly, and Goten didn’t think that they ever would. It wasn’t something a third-class and an elite could talk about.

Goten started pushing himself off the table. “Sir, I think I should head for the launch pod.”

“You still have a whole hour for that.”

It was pointed out in a cold and matter-of-fact voice. It was probably to be taken as an order not to go. Goten shrugged. He hesitated for a moment, then pushed his chair back to the table. For a few seconds, they sat in complete silence. Goten wondered if the prince was aware that he was emitting such a complex scent. It was very faint, as the prince was of mixed blood, but it was unmistakably there. Some half-bloods, generally those with Human blood in their veins, were much less perceptive to the scents of others and their own. There was something off with their sense of smell.

Goten blushed brightly.

Confused, the prince looked at Goten’s red face. “What?”

Goten cleared his throat. And yet it seemed that the prince really didn’t realize. And…even if he did, it was not something one was able to control. “No, it’s nothing, sir.”

Goten could not decipher all of the signals, some of them probably didn’t even make any sense as the prince was of mixed blood, but what he could decipher were streaks of nervousness, frustration, and even anger. All of that was overlaid by a strong sheen of possessiveness.

“I don’t think we’ll ever meet again, sir. And I don’t think we should.”

The prince raised his head and Goten was suddenly caught and pulled in by those incredibly blue eyes. “You are right, of course,” he said softly. “However, I’m not going to let go of you.”

Goten inhaled sharply at the admission. He shook his head, feeling his heart beating faster. “Sir…” He closed his mouth at the look the prince was giving him. Goten laughed. “This is insane.”

“Probably. I don’t think I care anymore.” The prince lowered his head again. “Let me ask you, Goten. Just answer me truthfully. Do you want me to let you go?”

Goten fingered a tiny crack on the wooden table. “No, not really, sir,” he finally said in a hesitant voice. “But I think you should.”

“Yes, I have already agreed to that. But I don’t want to. And neither do you.”

“This is insane,” Goten repeated.

The prince was on the verge of shouting that nobody cared, but he knew they did. Everyone did. And he was at a loss of what to say.

“Where are your bodyguards?”

With his head, the prince motioned at the door. “Outside the door.”

“I see. So beating the idea out of you would not be a smart move on my part.”

For a fraction of a moment, the prince wondered if Goten would really try and do that; sometimes Goten could be unpredictable. “No, not really,” the prince said after a pause.

“And if I pretend that this conversation never happened?”

“I won’t let you. It’s too late for that.”

“You really aren’t leaving me any way out.”

“That’s the plan.”

Goten stared at the prince’s meaningful face. “Shit,” muttered the third-class, covering his eyes, a blush starting to creep over his cheeks.

TBC


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