BY : Felix_McKraken
Category: Dragon Ball Z > Yaoi - Male/Male
Dragon prints: 1872
Disclaimer: I do not own Dragon Ball Z or any of the characters. This was made purely for entertainment purposes and no profit is made off of it.

Nowhere: thir ty f our

The summer has been relatively mild here, causing the forest canopy to be bountiful. It shades a vast swath of the area, but it cannot conceal Vegeta’s potent chi.

Master Roshi taught Krillin and me not just technique, but how to read the alignment of an aura - whether it was good or evil. For a long time, I didn’t notice that I could perceive more than that. It’s hard to describe what a person’s chi feels like because it’s another form of sense. How do you explain to a blind person what something looks like, for example? The best way to characterise my conception of reality is through a fancy word called “synesthesia.”

All my friends feel the intensity – the amount –  of chi, and most of them feel the intent – good vs evil. I, however, can also observe colours and shapes, even when the chi is not being projected outside the body. Of course, at a distance most of the energies are so low that they essentially become background noise. Vegeta doesn’t have that problem, even as handicapped as he may be at the moment. However, he feels off. He hasn’t felt distinctly evil in a long time. With him, it was always a sort of spike depending on the situation. Right now, it’s certainly not evil, but neither is it good. I wouldn’t call it neutral though, either, which is part of what makes it so strange. It’s nonsensical, but it’s like an illuminating darkness.

I land a couple dozen meters away and make a slow, cautious approach. He can be very finicky about having company. Bulma warned me he’s been out of it lately, and running off like this confirms it if I didn’t already know myself. I’ve been making an effort to come by Capsule Corp at least once a week, to keep tabs like King Kai suggested.

Figuring it’s best that I announce my arrival, I call out, “Vegeta?”

“What?” his voice barks out acrimoniously from above. I spot him sitting on a large, low-hanging bough with arms crossed and a scowl on his face.

I continue forward at the same pace, “Whatcha doin’ out here?”

“What business of it is yours?” he snipes back. He’s been so amenable that it takes a moment for me to switch gears. There’s a saying that the best offence is a good defence, but when it comes to Vegeta and talking he’s the master at vice versa.

I don’t want to rile him further, so I try to keep it casual. I shrug while advancing, “I dunno. It’s not, I guess.”

“Then fuck off,” he levels a glare. I’m under the branches of his tree, so we’re close enough that I don’t have to shout.

I’m going to have to appeal to him if I want to get any information. You can get him to speak by needling at his pride, but I’ve only done that in a joshing manner. To do that for real guarantees he’ll give his words, but they’re only going to be composed of vitriol. Vegeta meticulously holds grudges up to and including the point where it’s detrimental. “Is it so unreasonable for me to visit my friend?” I ask, putting my hands on my hips.

I’ve miscalculated: His face contorts into a sneer and he empathically states, “We are not friends.”

This isn’t an argument or debate for me. I probably sound flippant as I assert, “Sure we are.”

“Just fuck off already,” he shouts, leaning back and pressing himself into the trunk.

Normally, I’d honor – or at least consider – his request, but with things the way they are it’s not exactly an option. Not when safety is called into question. Stubbornly, I plop myself on the ground and loop my arms around my knees, “I can’t just leave you here in good conscience.”

These words are another mistake because Vegeta has an uncanny knack for interpreting them in a wildly different fashion from my intention. His glower is matched by his chi which is like some conglomerate of dark, thorny vines writhing and choking one another. “So you are here to babysit me,” he somehow deduces and of course takes it a step further, “You are looking to soothe your conscience instead of challenging me outright.”

He lost me in the second half, “What do you mean challenge you?”

“Come now, Kakarot, you’d have to think me a fool that I wouldn’t know of such a tactic.”

I try to score a few points by displacing the insult onto myself, “Well, maybe I’m a fool because I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

His eyes narrow, and his chi sorta… tightens? It’s only a short moment that passes, but it turns out my self-depreciation works. “It is not uncommon to hold another to an unknowable standard, and then punish them for not meeting it under the guise of maintaining law or order,” he explains condescendingly.

I feel my nose crinkle which means my entire face probably scrunched up too. I reply while smoothing my features, “That’s not fair.”

“No,” he agrees, over enunciating, “it’s not.”

I can tell by the look in his eyes that this is what he thinks I am doing, whether I know it or not. I better clear the air, “Well, I have no interest in doing something so underhanded and mean. Friends don’t do that to one another.”

Even from this distance I can see his fingers dig into his arms in frustration, “Then why can’t you leave me in good conscience?”

Telling him is likely going to insult him, but I’m stuck trying to diminish the inadvertent affront to his pride from multiple fronts. Interacting with Vegeta is almost like a test to see if you won’t get waylaid by a catch-22. “Because I need to make sure you’re going to take care of yourself,” I do what I can to convey benignity.

His abrupt burst of laughter does not sound amused, “So it’s not that you think of me a threat, but that you think I’m so incompetent that I will become a threat to myself? I would spit on you for your grossly patronizing evaluation if I didn’t think you’d somehow construe it as a gift.”

Yikes. I went to avoid a pitfall and stepped on a land mine. “It’s not like that!” I huff childishly.

“Then what is it like?” he prompts. And all I can think about is King Kai’s words. That something inexplicable occurred that not even the gods could alter. I take too long to formulate a response and he comes to the conclusion that I was bluffing, “That’s what I thought.”

“It’s not that simple,” I contest, “I just…” …can’t have you act impulsively. But I can’t say the last part out loud.

“Hm,” he assesses my behaviour, “Your softness is showing once again. Earthlings have a tendency to complicate issues to spare feelings. It’s adverse to the ultimate end result. I am a Saiyan, Kakarot, and so are you.”

It impresses and irritates me when he’s persuasive. It’s impressive because it shows how capable he is when he doesn’t resort to brute force tactics. Then it’s irritating because I don’t necessarily want to agree with him. We do tend to have a lot of similarities that he places on our shared species. However, that fraction of a percent that gives us genetic diversity accounts for a whole lot. It helps make me me and him him. It’s lucky my train of thought wound around like this because I’m able to take advantage of an unintentional opening he’s just given me. “I thought you said it wasn’t fair to hold someone to an unknowable standard,” I point out, not unkindly, “So why do you expect me to adhere to Saiyan customs or ideals when I have no knowledge of them?”

His chi bourgeons like a sudden introduction of an overabundant oxidant to a fuel. “Because you are a Saiyan,” he answers, bristling with indignation. There’s more to it than that. That’s not to say it’s not one of the reasons, but it’s that in conjunction with others. As I stare at his features, both tangible and not, I can tell he is as raw as he was when he first came to Earth. How can he in one breath extol our heritage and in the next kill us? It can’t be that scarcity makes sanctity because he would never attack someone he considers brethren. He claimed to only value the strongest, but if he was to be the pinnacle of our people then wouldn’t that mean he really only valued himself and no others?

Then what does it matter unless in Saiyan culture it’s the strongest that reflect on the race as a whole?

 Oh. OH. I think this is it. The other half of the equation.

“Is it because you think I’m stronger than you?” I ask, a bit awestruck at the notion. I feel giddy, as if I were on the cusp of being laureated. And I may as well be.

Then, so faint that I wonder if I actually heard it, he says my adopted name through clenched teeth. I don’t get time to process anything when all it once his hands are around my throat, the intent plain in the curl of his fingers. I’d say I haven’t seen him move that quickly since Namek, but I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed him moving so fast. His chi is like a spectrogram made of overlapping polyhedra. I should have been focused on my lack of air flow from the start, but the anomalous representation of his energy was able to distract me. I pull myself out of shock while I likewise pull his fingers off of my windpipe.

I want to disengage, but he attempts to strike me again. We twine together, grappling for dominance before I pin him to the forest floor. He struggles, writhing, like a feral animal in a trap. “Fuck you, Kakarot!” he rages palpably, “I am not and will never be a sycophant, especially for the likes of you!”

“I’m not asking you to be!” I shout back into his face, unable to withhold my own anger, “I just want to know what it means to be Saiyan!”

He tries desperately to hit me in some way – any way – but only his words can affect me now. “You’re an idiot! A fluke whose mere existence is an affront to my honor!”

“But why though!?” I retaliate, “Just because I was born a particular way!? I can’t help that, Vegeta! I can’t help that I was sent to Earth! If I hadn’t, I would be dead, and where would you be?”

“You son of a bitch,” he murmurs, and I can’t tell if his violent motions are to hurt me or get away from me, “You mindless, meek-faced son of a bitch.”

And I feel it, like I did when we first fought, except it’s different now. But of course it is because now is a different time with different circumstances. I manage to gird myself, tightening my grip to immobilize him so that I may explore this intersection without worry. His eyes meet mine for a brief moment. Too long for him, yet long enough for me to confirm the unintentional broadcast of our suture. When he feels, he feels so much, it inundates his very being. When his veneer fails, he is effectively, extensively blinded. Despite the deluge, everything is clearer now than it has ever been before, and it allows me to divine a key facet of his personality.

Others may think it is his pride that is his biggest sin. With startling clarity, I know it is actually his envy.

I feel like an idiot for not realising it sooner, but literally no one was noticing or going to explain this to me. Vegeta never would. And not because he doesn’t know, but because it’s entirely too painful for him. And… I get that. Sometimes I want to talk to people, but I just can’t.

We simply breathe together, heaving, gulping for air as our fury begins to subside.

I’m not going to address it outright. It’s better to keep the focus on me, the category mistake. “I’m willing to learn,” I plead my case, “And I don’t want you thinking that I think it’ll be easy. I’m not going to understand everything right away, and I can’t promise I’m going to do or be what you want me to. But we can’t keep doing this. I’m your friend. You not being mine isn’t going to change that. That’s ok. We have all the time in the world, Vegeta.”

His eyes meet mine and I think I’ve reached him.

But then, it all turns to shit.

It’s chaos. His chi just… I don’t know: kaleidoscopes, inverts, fractures? All of the above? It’s so jarring yet, as he stares at me, all I can think about is how dark his eyes seem, how inhuman they are.

“Where are we?” he inquires softly, searching my face, “What happened?” He moves against me, but it’s without real strength or effort. I naturally relinquish him, pulling back and sitting up. He tries to follow likewise but he moves as if he’s dizzy or disoriented. He brings a hand to his temple as if that will steady him. I’m not sure what to say so I abstain. “Kakarot?” he presses for a reply, “What’s going on? I remember…” He trails off, his eyes peering down, albeit vacantly into space.

I don’t know what else to do other than answer, “You had gone off to this forest and I came to find you.”

“Yeah,” he agrees rather reluctantly, “I remember a forest.” He looks at our surroundings and then back at me, “I…It wasn’t this one.” The statement has just enough lilt that it could also be a question. Eyebrows scrunch as his countenance sours. A few moments pass with his breathing growing ever more exaggerated. “What the fuck,” he whispers to himself before he turns to me, “How did we get here from Namek? No, I mean, after. Shit, shit, shit, what the fuck?”

I reach out to help him keep his balance, but hesitate. Touching him usually isn’t a wise move to make so my hand stays hovering over his shoulder as a sort of backup plan. “Just, uh…stay calm,” I nervously request.

“I know I was here, but I also wasn’t. Fuck! This doesn’t make any sense!” he raises his voice while his body trembles slightly.

“Vegeta, look at me,” I try my best to help him focus, “You’ve had an accident, okay? You’re just having a moment of amnesia. It’s going to pass. You’re going to be okay.”

Just from the very look in his eyes, I know that he knows I’m lying. I’ve been told I’m a terrible liar, but anyone else would have been placated by my reassurance. Anything I categorise as a little, white lie comes out convincingly because while I know lying is bad, I know the fallout of the truth can be worse.

“I’m so sick of lies,” his voice is hoarse with sullen anger, “You must really think so little of me.” He swiftly turns away which causes him to be overcome by his wooziness. He doesn’t go far and ends up sagging into my arms rather than the ground. I can feel how much he shudders like this. I want to reassure him otherwise of his line of thinking, but I get distracted by his face. Even with his eyes closed, I can make out how dark and… wet his eyelashes are. I’ve seen him cry twice now: once in the throes of death, and once for an indeterminable reason. This situation likens more to the first, at least in terms of grief. The knowledge that I’m the cause is worse than a punch to the gut on a full stomach.

“No, it’s me,” I decide to explain myself in hopes that it will diffuse the situation, “I don’t like making people feel bad, regardless of whether they can take it or not. And I know you can take it, because you’re… you.”

“Do you even know who I am?” he asks dolorously, yet markedly.

“Of course I do,” I state with conviction.

At this, he turns to look at me. Tears are gathered in his eyes, but he resolutely holds them at bay. His tenebrous gaze stares at me, dissecting and accusing me all at once. Then he merely shakes his head in denial, but resignedly, as if it wasn’t really worth the effort.

And I feel so saddened.

It’s not the connection this time. Well, it could be, but the point is it’s not just the connection. It’s not just him. It’s me too. I’ve failed on so many fronts.

I failed to protect him.

I failed to save him.

I failed to gain his trust.

I failed to be his friend.

And because of all that, I’m disconsolate. I cannot fathom what he has experienced. I can’t even begin to imagine what happens to a person when their soul is damaged. Am I lucky to have saved him at all? Or am I just being selfish again? Everything feels compounded in this small breath of time where I know he’s utterly devastated and there’s nothing I can do about it.

I might be losing him. Fuck, I may have lost him already.

And this isn’t just a life and death thing. This is losing him forever.

“Kakarot,” his voice, so soft and full of awe breaks my train of thought and manages to interrupt the influx of feelings. His expression is astoundingly gentle. I don’t think I’ve witnessed it before, and it takes me aback. His hands reach up and cup my cheeks, and that’s when I notice the dampness he brushes away.

I’m crying.

I don’t cry.

I don’t cry, on principle. I can’t even remember the last time I have cried. I had a perfect method for constructing a wall around sadness and snuffing it out of my head. I transubstantiated it into anger most frequently, but anything else – even apathy –- was more positive in terms of constructiveness. People took advantage of me when I showed them that side. I haven’t been able to afford to share it – to expose it even in the slightest. Not in years.

And the person I expected most to mock, to belittle, or to exploit such a display does the opposite. He says nothing, although his eyebrows are twisted in concern, and his clothed thumbs benevolently caress my face. The relief is frankly overwhelming. I choke on a sob, because I’m having difficulty processing this. My sorrow isn’t superseded by my relief; rather they both startlingly fill my heart. The thing I hate most about this entire loss of control is that the alleviation I feel from Vegeta’s embrace makes me love it. Consequently, I lament my constant stream of failures as I have to add this to the list. I’m failing him. And my family. And my friends. I weep for every sacrifice, every lost opportunity, and every dream and desire that was suffocated. I weep for Vegeta, that he inadvertently was laden with bestowing me such a gift as it is not his responsibility.

Many minutes pass. Him, in my arms. Me, in his hands. I want to tell him everything I’m sorry for, but I know he doesn’t want to hear it. Apologies are typically wasted breath on him. The damage is already done. The words said are only as good as the action that couples it. I don’t think there’s anything I can do to repay this kindness. The despair abates, and I’m almost sick with solace. I offer him a hesitant, modest smile when the tears completely wane. His thumbs halt their movement as one hand rather fondly fixes my bangs.

I should let him go.

I don’t want to.

I should let him go.

I should really let him go.

His hands slide down to my arms and a lump forms in my throat. His lips turn, offering a reassuring smirk. It’s not quite out of place, but it does feel like some form of role reversal. No words could be fabricated that would express this… thing… between us. It’s complicated, to put it lightly. The pressure he applies is barely there. I’m procrastinating, I realise. Furthermore, he realised it first. My smile shifts, a little more bashful. His gains an edge of amusement in reaction.

Only we could understand this. What was said without speaking.

Just because I’m releasing him doesn’t mean I’m letting him go.

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