Shadow of the Past
Vejiita reacted to the attack instinctively, sliding sideways while twisting to keep himself facing his opponent. Gokuís fist flew past his ear with a whooshing sound, and Vejiita took advantage of the other Saiya-jinís unguarded moment to ram his own fist into Gokuís stomach, then kick the larger manís legs out from underneath him. Vejiita allowed no moment of hesitation for his opponent to regain his feet, instead lashing out with a vicious kick that sent Goku tumbling away, then leaping into the air and coming down hard, both feet landing on Gokuís chest with crushing force.
Goku gave a short, pained cry, his lips curling upward in a grimace as his ribs nearly cracked. His eyes snapped open and he glared at the small Prince who was crouched predatorily on his chest, an arrogant smirk on his face, his black eyes gleaming.
With a snarl, Goku brought up his hand and shoved violently against Vejiitaís chest, sending the other man flying backward through the air. Vejiita twisted in mid-flight and landed easily as Goku snapped to his feet, eyes still narrowed with anger.
"Vejiita!" he growled, almost shouting. "What is the matter with you?!"
The short Saiya-jin folded his arms across his chest, assuming his typical posture. "Nothingís wrong with me, Kakarrot," he snorted, "Itís not my problem if youíre still clinging to your ridiculous notion of Ďfair play.í"
Goku seemed to bristle in anger. "Weíre only sparring, Vejiita! Canít you even find the decency to do that honestly?!"
"There was nothing Ďdishonestí about my manner of fighting, baka," Vejiita snapped, "Your problem is that you expect everyone to fight like you, the pure-hearted idiot warrior. Itís a wonder youíre not dead by now through your sheer stupidity."
Goku hissed, his lips lifting as he bared his teeth at Vejiita in a display that was so stunningly Saiya-jin the prince paused in surprise. He recovered himself quickly, masking his astonishment with an arrogant smirk. Itís amazing how much Kakarrot has changed, he mused, then scowled at the errant thought.
"There is nothing weak or foolish about mercy, Vejiita," Goku said angrily, "Without it you wouldnít be standing there now."
Muscles in Vejiitaís jaw clenched as he gritted his teeth, a furious flush darkening his skin at the reminder of his defeat at Gokuís hands.
Goku felt a very mild twinge of smugness at Vejiitaís discomfiture, but mostly he wished that the Saiya-jin prince wouldnít let it bother him so much. He honestly wished he knew why Vejiita was so driven to beat him. And not only him, but anyone who showed himself to be stronger than the small man.
"If the situations were reversed now, Iíd kill you," Vejiita ground out, his cheeks still a heated red.
Bile rose in Gokuís throat at Vejiitaís words, along with bitter anger. He knew that he cared about Vejiita, for some reason considered him his friend, but heaven help him if he knew why. What in the hell went on in Vejiitaís head? But he didnít think the other man would really kill him now, despite his words. Would he?
"How can you be such a heartless bastard, Vejiita?" Goku said coldly, "What the hell happened to you to make you like this?"
Even as he asked the question, Goku realized that he really did want to know. He wanted to know what had transformed Vejiita from the innocent child he must have been at one time to the ruthless killing machine he had become as an adult. Because he knew that Vejiita was not truly evil at heart. It might have seemed so at first, but he now knew with certainty that the other Saiya-jin had a conscience buried in him somewhere.
Vejiita laughed. "What makes you think anything happened? Iím a Saiya-jin, maybe I was born this way."
Goku gazed coolly at him, then folded his arms as well. "Bullshit."
Vejiita blinked at him, again surprised at Gokuís mannerisms. Goku smiled to himself, silently blessing Gohan for the wish he had made just slightly more than two years ago now. It was strange that none of them had thought of it until then. His son had gathered the dragonballs and wished that Gokuís original intelligence be returned to him, so that he could be what he might have been were it not for that accident in his childhood. There was some concern that he would turn into a violent, blood-craving lunatic, but he still retained all of his memories of his life from before that point, and he had remained Son Goku, with slight exceptions. He was more aggressive and forceful now, some of his original Saiya-jin personality breaking through again. It was also discovered that he did indeed possess a great deal of intelligence, placing him very nearly at the level of the cunning prince who stood before him.
"You werenít born like this, Vejiita," he continued.
Vejiita snorted. "How would you know, Kakarrot? What makes you think Iím not simply evil?"
"Because no oneís born evil, and I know for certain that youíre not, Vejiita. I know that you care, however much you try to hide it. I just want to know why you hide it. Why are you so vicious to the people who care about you?" Goku asked quietly
"Donít be a fool, Kakarrot!" Vejiita snapped. "No one cares about me, and I donít care about anything! Youíre deluding yourself!"
"No, youíre lying to yourself!" Goku said, frustrated. "Are you going to try and tell me that you donít care about Trunks?"
Vejiitaís lips compressed into a thin line before he spat, "The boy has nothing to do with this!"
"But he does," Goku insisted. "Since Bulma and Chi Chi died, youíve raised him on your own. Youíre claiming that you donít care about your son?"
"He was an infant, Kakarrot!" Vejiita growled, "There was no way he could take care of himself at the time! He was my responsibility! Thatís all!"
"Mmm," Goku said, raising an eyebrow at the prince. "Now heís eighteen, but youíre still looking out for him. Do you think I donít notice that? Yes, you care about him Vejiita. What I want to know is why you hurt the people you care for. What happened to you as a child?"
Vejiita glared at him, saying nothing.
Goku sighed in irritation. "I think Iíve got a right to know why the hell youíre always trying to beat me up, trying to be better than everyone. Iíve known you for more than twenty years now, Vejiita, but I donít know anything about your past."
"What happened in my past is none of your business, Kakarrot," Vejiita hissed at him.
Goku looked at him for a moment before he said, his voice quieter. "Why donít you tell me? Sometimes it helps to talk about it."
Why canít the fool just leave me alone?! Vejiita thought, his hands fisting. I donít want him to care about what Iím feeling!
"It helps to talk about it?!" Vejiita sneered, "What do you know about anything?! You have no idea what youíre asking for! You know nothing about my life!!"
"Thatís exactly my point!" Goku shouted at him, "I think itís time I did!"
Inwardly, he was genuinely concerned about his friend. Saiya-jin telepathy had allowed him to briefly touch Vejiitaís mind at different times during their long relationship, and what he had felt in those brief moments were really what kept him believing that Vejiita could be a good person, he knew. What he had felt also troubled him a great deal. Something was eating Vejiita up from the inside, but until now he hadnít had the opportunity or the courage to confront him about it.
"This is ridiculous, Kakarrot," Vejiita snapped, turning as though he would fly away.
"Youíre a coward, Vejiita," Goku said coldly, angry eyes hiding concern.
Vejiita whipped around to face him again, hot fury sending the air around him trembling.
"What?!" he roared.
"I said youíre a coward. Itís not that you donít think itís my business, itís that youíre afraid. Youíre running away from whateverís bothering you."
"Whateverís bothering me?!" Vejiita nearly whispered, his face now strangely pale, though his black eyes sparkled with rage. "You donít know what youíre talking about, Kakarrot."
"Then why donít you tell me?" Goku said evenly, though his frustration was quickly slipping into rage. He wished Vejiita would just trust him.
"You could not even beat it out of me," Vejiita said quietly, his flat statement disturbing Goku a great deal. Vejiita was no longer bothering to deny that something had gone wrong in his past.
"Fine," Goku growled, "Then weíll do this the hard way."
Closing his eyes, he thanked God for his foresight in making his last wish with the dragonballs. Taking a slow breath, he called on them silently, requesting that they come to him.
The last time he had gathered the dragonballs, he had wished that he would be able to summon them to himself when he wanted to make a wish, instead of having to waste time searching for them.
Now the magical spheres came racing to him from all over the world, leaving slowly fading trails in the wake of their passage.
Vejiita was gaping at him as the dragonballs settled to the ground at Gokuís feet.
"Nevermind," Goku interrupted, "Iíll tell you later."
Nodding in determination, he resolved that he would indeed make his wish. He called out to the dragon, summoning the great beast, and as it coiled in the sky above the two Saiya-jins, he spoke his wish.
"Show me what happened in Vejiitaís past to make him what he is."
There was a choking gasp. "Kakarrot!" Vejiita screamed, the panic in his voice shocking. "No, stop!"
"Your wish is granted," the dragon rumbled. Then he faded from the sky, and the dragonballs arched away from Goku, spreading across the world once again.
Goku glanced over at Vejiita. The Saiya-jin princeís face was drained of color, his dark eyes fixed on Goku in horror.
Suddenly life-sized images flickered into being before them, as though an enormous television screen had appeared out of nowhere, but the two of them were drawn into it as the woods around them melted away, revealing in its place the cold gray walls of a space ship.
"Oh my God," Vejiita whispered, sounding nothing like the confident warrior Goku had always known. He again glanced over at the prince and saw that the small manís gloved hand had unconsciously gone to his throat. Goku felt a faint twinge of anxiety in his heart, but he said nothing.
Goku and Vejiita watched as two figures appeared in the room. Goku hissed as he recognized both of them. The first, small figure was Vejiita himself, but much younger; a little Saiya-jin child with a furry brown tail wrapped around his waist. The next was Frieza.
Goku unconsciously growled low in his throat, his hands curling into fists. Next to him, adult Vejiitaís hand had also curled into a fist against his collar bone, and the other arm was placed against his stomach in what seemed a strangely protective gesture.
Gokuís attention was drawn back to the two images as Frieza began to speak.
"Well, little princeling, it seems your father has seen fit to deliver you into my care. Surprised? You didnít honestly think he would worry about what happened to you, did you?"
Young Vejiita said nothing, his arms folded over his chest and his royal head raised haughtily.
Frieza chuckled deep in his throat and stalked slowly toward the Saiya-jin boy. His clawed fingers trailed lightly over Vejiitaís squared shoulders. "So proud for such a young child. Only nine standard years."
Bending over so his lips were next to Vejiitaís ear, he whispered, "Iíll take good care of you, princeling."
Vejiita gasped in surprise as Frieza shoved him forward suddenly, causing him to lose his balance and fall to his hands and knees, his tail snapping from side to side in the air. Frieza caught the furry tail in his clawed hand and squeezed tightly, causing Vejiita to scream in pain and collapse forward onto his belly. Then the little prince clenched his teeth to stifle his cry, and Frieza chuckled again, releasing his tail.
"Now," he hissed, "Donít move."
Goku stiffened in horror as Friezaís claws shredded through Vejiitaís shirt, then ripped it off him. There were light scratches down the boyís back, tiny beads of blood beginning to well up in them.
"No," Goku whispered as he watched Frieza roughly tear off the rest of the Vejiitaís clothing. Vejiita fought violently as Friezaís body came down on top of his, pinning him to the ground, but his struggles only served to amuse his captor, who gripped his shoulders tightly, claws sinking deeply into Vejiitaís flesh.
Goku remembered the scars on Vejiitaís shoulders. His eyes slitted, he could hardly bear to watch what was happening.
After tormenting him for long moments, alternately clawing and fondling him, Frieza came into him violently, and Vejiita screamed in pain, still trying futilely to twist out of the alienís grip. Gokuís heart felt as if it were being torn in two as he watched crystal tears spill down the young princeís cheeks, dripping from his chin to splash onto the floor beneath him.
A long time later, Frieza left him. Vejiita was as still as death, lying naked on the floor, blood and tears smeared across the cold metal beneath him. Then, very slowly, the young Saiya-jin sat up, trying to keep his face blank and emotionless. His hands were shaking as he gradually dragged himself to his feet, limping over to what was left of his pants. He did not cry again. Very carefully, he drew on the tattered piece of clothing, then picked up a scrap of his shirt and began to wipe the blood from his shoulders and arms. His face was set in stone. One last tear slipped down his cheek, in contrast to the startling emptiness of his expression. It dripped, sparkling onto the floor, and Vejiita gazed at the blood soaked rag clenched in his fist.
"I will be the strongest," the Saiya-jin whispered.
Slowly, the scene melted away, and Goku and Vejiita were once more standing in the bright, cheerful forest, birds twittering happily in absurd contrast to what they had just seen.
Goku wanted to vomit. He wanted to cry. He wanted to hug Vejiita. God only knew how many other times Frieza had come to the prince.
Hesitantly, he turned to look at the short man standing a few feet away from him. Vejiitaís face was drawn and pale, and he seemed to be shaking very faintly. He took a slow breath and licked his lips, then suddenly turned to look at Goku.
A stunning rage crossed the smaller manís face, his features twisting violently, his bared teeth gleaming in the sunlight.
"Kakarrot, you fucking son of bitch, Iíll kill you!!" he screamed, his voice almost cracking in his rage.
With shocking speed, Vejiita blasted into Super Saiya-jin level two, the air around him singing with his energy. With a furious roar, he launched himself at Goku, his now aqua eyes glittering madly.
Goku narrowly slid out of the way, adrenaline rushing through him as he watched Vejiita carefully, flickering up to SSJ2 as well, if only to match Vejiitaís stunning speed. He only wanted to be able to dodge Vejiitaís offensive, he didnít want to hurt the other Saiya-jin.
Vejiita attacked him blindly, swinging his fists at Gokuís head with all of his considerable strength behind them. The air crackled around the two Super Saiya-jins as they moved at speeds too fast for the normal eye to follow, Vejiita trying with all of his might to destroy Goku, Goku seeking only to remain unharmed while Vejiita spent his rage. The battle moved from the forest floor to the clouds above and back again.
Vejiita launched a vicious punch at Gokuís sternum, but Goku had seen the move coming and slid to the side, only to have Vejiitaís other hand chop into his neck, the clever prince having anticipated Gokuís movement. Goku winced and blasted away from Vejiita, the prince following him closely, his face a frozen mask of anger. Then Goku suddenly flipped around in his flight, completely reversing directions and flying back underneath Vejiita, who cursed as he tried to check his own speed. Goku slipped up behind the prince and locked his arms around Vejiitaís upper body, pinning the Saiya-jinís arms to his sides and locking Vejiita in place with his back against Gokuís chest.
Vejiita roared in rage and struggled violently, twisting like a fish in Gokuís powerful grip. Goku swore as he felt himself begin to lose his hold on the smaller man, and in desperation summoned his ki, an explosion of power rocking the area as he increased to SSJ3.
Vejiitaís struggling suddenly became much easier to handle, and he clamped the prince against him firmly.
"Vejiita, stop!" he shouted, hoping to break through his friendís insane rage.
Something that sounded disturbingly like a sob ripped from Vejiitaís throat, then transformed into a blood-curling howl halfway.
"God damn you, Kakarrot!!" he screamed, and there was such angry, desperate pain in his voice that Goku felt his throat tighten.
"NO!," Vejiita continued to scream, tearing his throat raw, "God dammit, I wonít let you defeat me again!"
Vejiitaís words then melted into an enraged roar, and Goku tensed as the air around the Saiya-jin prince distorted with energy waves, crackling and popping as it rippled away from them like water in a pond. There was a tearing sound, and Vejiitaís scream increased in strength, his eyes going completely white. Suddenly Vejiitaís already wild golden hair exploded in Gokuís face, nearly tripling its length as Goku felt Vejiitaís muscles bulge noticeably, his body increasing in size and weight. Gokuís eyes widened in surprise and terror.
Vejiita had just become a Super Saiya-jin level three.
In his shock, Goku loosened his hold slightly, and, with his newly acquired strength Vejiita easily broke out of his arms, twisting, his hand curling into a fist and striking sharply across Gokuís face.
Goku spun backwards in the air, wincing at the strength of the blow. Dammit, Vejiita had become powerful.
Just as he righted himself in the air, Vejiita charged at him again, his golden aura blazing brightly around him.
At first, Goku again tried to simply avoid Vejiitaís blows, but Vejiitaís speed had increased along with his strength, and he was not doing well. He noticed, though, that Vejiitaís attacks were a bit clumsy, lacking the princeís typical grace. He blasted away from the Saiya-jin, looking over his shoulder and trying to decide what was happening. He then noticed the way Vejiita slapped angrily at the long hair that swung over his shoulder and smiled faintly. Vejiita had never been a SSJ3 before. He was not used to dealing with the added distraction of his long, heavy SSJ3 hair. But it wasnít enough of a distraction to keep his fists from connecting with Goku more often than Goku liked. He was going to have to fight back.
Twisting sharply in his flight path, Goku abruptly summoned his energy and hurled a ki blast at Vejiitaís quickly approaching face. It was not enough to seriously injure the prince, but it did force Vejiita to stop his pursuit for a moment, dodging out of the way and cursing. Goku rounded on him, slamming his elbow into Vejiitaís cheek and snapping the princeís head to the side. He brought up his knee and drove it into his friendís stomach.
Vejiita grunted in pain, and Goku knew he had hit him so easily because the prince had not been expecting him to suddenly attack, as he had only been running from Vejiita during the rest of the fight. But he couldnít let up now. No mercy, not yet. He had to take advantage of Vejiitaís inexperience with SSJ3, and of his initial quick attack. Steeling himself, he quickly smashed one fist, then the other into Vejiitaís face, watching blood begin to spill from Vejiitaís nose. He twisted into a spinning kick, sending Vejiita flying through an enormous tree, and dove after him, seeing that the prince was dazed. Lacing his hands together, he brought them down with crushing force on the back of Vejiitaís neck.
Crying out, the prince fell to the ground, landing with a crash. His golden aura slowly faded as his hair settled, returning to its normal black color. For several moments he lay very still, face down in the dirt, and Gokuís eyes widened in alarm. He could not have hurt Vejiita badly
enough to knock him unconscious!
Then Vejiita moved, slowly twisting onto his side and pulling his knees up to his chest, one arm wrapping around himself as his other hand clenched into a fist against his face. His body trembled as he remained curled in the fetal position, and it took Goku a moment to realize what was happening.
The prince of all Saiya-jins was crying.
Goku pressed his lips together for a moment, guilt flooding him as he tried to decide what to do. He knew Vejiita was humiliated, and wondered if it would be better to leave him alone and not let the prince know he had witnessed this final break-down. But Vejiita had to know he had seen him already, why else would he cover his face?
He looked down again as his keen senses picked up the sound of badly stifled sobs and had to swallow the ache in his own throat. He had seen Vejiita cry before, but never like this. In the past the princeís tears had always been silent.
Vejiita knew he was here. The least he could do was be the princeís friend, whether or not the Saiya-jin would appreciate it.
Quietly, he descended to the ground, releasing his Super Saiya-jin form as he did. Vejiita heard him land and his body tensed visibly. The smaller man snarled something at him in Saiyago through his sobs, but Goku had no memory of his native language and only moved to stand next to the prince. Carefully, he sat down beside him, his gaze on the other manís averted face. Vejiitaís whole body was shaking with his tears, and Goku could almost feel the edge of his pain through their telepathic link. Desperate to ease him, he reached out and clasped Vejiitaís bare shoulder, trying not to look at the scars that hadnít held any meaning for him until now.
The muscles under his palm flexed as Vejiita jerked, twisting to slap his hand away.
"Donít touch me, you stupid bastard!" he nearly screamed, lunging forward on his hands and knees to put distance between them.
Then, abruptly, the prince sagged to the ground, collapsing to lie on his stomach as though his strength had simply deserted him. His left hand was thrown out across the grass, the gloved fingers digging into the ground, his right arm pinned beneath his body. He pressed his forehead into the grass as he wept, seeking to hide his shame.
Torn by compassion, Goku ignored Vejiitaís desperate command, once more moving to his friendís side. Slowly, he again extended his hand, laying it very gently on Vejiitaís back, between his shoulder blades. The prince stiffened but did not move again, whether because the touch was not so hateful to him or because he simply lacked the strength.
"I-" Goku began, then had to pause at the constriction in his throat. "Iím sorry, Vejiita. I didnít... I didnít realize...."
Vejiita shifted his body slightly so that his head rested on his forearm, still making certain not to look in Gokuís direction.
"Kisama," he hissed, his voice slightly muffled.
Goku winced at the insult but did not try to defend himself, instead beginning to rub Vejiitaís back gently, frowning at the hard knots of muscle he found. He knew the other Saiya-jin would not want to hear him go into a speech about how he understood him now, understood Vejiitaís need to be stronger than everyone around him. The prince was already crushed by his failure to defeat him, he knew, compounded by having to watch himself be raped before his eyes, in addition to having experienced it first hand.
How many times? Goku wondered painfully. How many times had Frieza raped him?
He cursed himself now for having allowed the alien to die so easily. The bastard deserved a thousand times worse. But then, he hadnít really died. He had returned, only to have Mirai Trunks destroy him. He was glad the boy had been able to help, but he wished Vejiita had been able to defeat him by his own hand, wished the prince could have at least had that small satisfaction.
His eyes were again drawn to his friendís half-hidden face, grieving at what the proud man had suffered. But he could not offer him words of sympathy. That would only serve to drive the prince further away, humiliated at what he perceived as his own weaknesses.
Vejiita hated himself, he realized suddenly. How could he show love to others when he had none for himself? They had always thought that the prince loved himself above everything else, but his ego had simply been a cover, almost an attempt to make himself believe what he was saying... His arrogance was a shield to protect himself from the scorn of others. He fought to be the strongest because that was the only time he felt he had any worth, when he could defend himself from everyone else.
Frieza had taught the prince of the Saiya-jins to hate, and the first person he had hated was himself.
Goku swallowed. "Iím sorry," he whispered again.
Wanting to comfort Vejiita in any way the prince would allow, he focused on his hands, strong fingers kneading the rock-hard knots of muscle flanking Vejiitaís spine. Letting his hands splay outward, he pressed his thumbs along the muscles at the edges of Vejiitaís shoulder blades, then slid his fingers lower to the muscles just beneath them, pressing firmly.
"Kakarrot..." Vejiita said lowly, and Goku could hear the uncertainty in his voice.
He didnít respond, only continued to work the princeís painfully tight muscles with his fingers. Vejiita made a slight movement as though he would get up, then grunted when Goku pressed him back down.
For long moments Vejiita remained tense and wary under his touch, his muscles not softening at all, but then Goku felt him give slightly, and a trace of a smile touched his lips. Slowly, gradually, his fingers forced the tension from Vejiitaís muscles, gently working out the painful knotting.
He made his way down to the small of Vejiitaís back, wondering at the princeís tolerance of his touch for so long. Pausing at Vejiitaís waist, he slid his hands upward again to press his fingers into the muscles at the base of Vejiitaís neck. Glancing at Vejiitaís face, he noted in surprise that the prince was lying with his cheek pressed to the grass, his eyes half-closed and his lips slightly parted. He smiled a little, pleased at his the success of his effort to make Vejiita relax. Gently, his roughened fingers kneaded the nape of Vejiitaís neck, and he was rewarded with a very soft, barely audible moan as Vejiitaís eyes closed completely.
Sitting back a little, he continued to use one hand to massage Vejiitaís back, more for the princeís continued comfort than to work out any remaining tension. A short time later he paused, becoming still to feel the steady rise and fall of Vejiitaís breathing beneath his hand. He looked at his friendís relaxed face, surprised at the tenderness that rose in him.
"Vejiita?" he called very quietly, just to make sure.
There was no response, and he smiled. Vejiita had fallen asleep.