Shattered

Shattered

 

Vejiita flew slowly, beneath the level of the treetops, weaving around trunks and ducking branches, his thoughts not really on where he was going. He just needed to move, to be outside, and he needed time to think.

He almost didnít want to. He didnít want to be alone with his thoughts, didnít really want to know where they would take him. But it would have been cowardly not to, and so he forced himself to try and understand what he was feeling.

He was severely depressed, that much was obvious, but he couldnít seem to get past it. The feeling clung to him stubbornly, no matter what he tried to get rid of it. It had been three days since the incident with Goku had left him a sniveling wreck on the couch. He hadnít seen the other Saiya-jin since. But this time it didnít really feel like he was trying to avoid Kakarrot. It was more like he had just given up. Once again, the only thing holding him to life was Trunks.

He hadnít told him. He hadnít been able to tell him. How could he make Trunks understand what was happening to him? It was too hard, and he had been unable to speak. But even then, in a show of loyalty Vejiita could barely understand, Trunks had stood by him, providing the simple support of his presence and... his love. He could not believe he had produced such a son. Vejiita smiled faintly, realizing that the boy was likely the single positive effect his life had had on the universe.

Sighing, he glanced around, trying to decide where he wanted to go next, then paused, slowly sliding to a halt in the air as something caught his eye. A flash of movement, of bright red shining through the green of the trees. Mildly curious, he drifted closer, remaining silent as he slipped forward with his ki suppressed.

What he saw surprised him for a moment and he hung quietly in the air, his eyebrows rising as he watched. Then he smirked faintly and settled onto a tree branch, leaning up against the trunk to watch, eyes narrowing critically.

Pan was in the middle of a small clearing, dressed in a red t-shirt and running through a sparring routine. The girl had her black hair tied back in two ponytails and a look of intense concentration on her face as she moved through her kata.

Vejiita tilted his head to the side, his depression momentarily forgotten as he folded his arms over his chest, interested to see what kind of a fighter Gohanís daughter was becoming. His eyes lost focus as he extended his senses to touch her ki, which she was not keeping suppressed. After a moment he pulled back, gazing at the young girl contemplatively. Her ki, while not anything amazing, was substantial for a ten-year-old. She had the potential to be a competent warrior, if given the proper training.

Vejiita noted the intensity with which she performed her routine, all of her concentration on each moment. He shook his head a little, frowning slightly. Not good. It was one thing to be focused, it was another to completely forget about your surroundings. She should have noticed him by now, if she had been paying attention. His ki was suppressed, but he was extremely close to her and she should have picked him up. Curious, he abruptly dropped his barriers, allowing his ki to spread outward. To anyone able to sense it, Panís ki would have been totally lost in the strength of Vejiitaís, reduced to an insignificant speck.

The girl continued to perform her kata, oblivious, and Vejiita frowned in dissatisfaction. Then he smirked slightly, his black eyes glittering.

Setting down the small box heíd been carrying, he slipped silently off his perch and floated down until he was directly behind the little warrior, barely a foot away from her. After watching in amusement for a moment, he reached out and tapped her shoulder.

"Youíre dead."

She screamed shrilly, stumbling as she tried to twist around to face him and fell onto her backside, her scent sharply tinged with startled fright. Wide black eyes stared blankly into Vejiitaís for a moment as he stood over the fallen girl, his arms crossed over his chest as he raised an eyebrow.

After a moment Pan released a heavy breath and pressed a hand to her chest, looking extremely shaken.

"O-Oh... Vejiita..." she said weakly. "You scared me."

"I shouldnít have!" Vejiita snapped, allowing more irritation into his voice than he actually felt. The girl flinched. "If youíd been paying attention at all you wouldíve known I was here a long time ago."

She swallowed, glancing around nervously. "How long have you been here?"

"More than ten minutes. If Iíd wanted to kill you I could have done it easily." In reality he could have killed her easily even if she had known he was there, but that was irrelevant. "Youíll never be a real fighter like that, girl."

An angry flush colored Panís cheeks and the child jumped to her feet, glaring up at Vejiita with her hands on her hips.

"Iím a good fighter!" she said indignantly.

"Then why didnít you feel my ki?" Vejiita said sharply, "Itís not even suppressed!"

For a moment Pan said nothing, fumbling for a reply. Finally she said stiffly, "Well, I was concentrating on my workout. I didnít think anyone would be here and-"

"And thatís why youíre dead," Vejiita interjected. "Being a warrior is more than knowing the moves, brat. You have to think like a warrior. If I had come upon your father like this he would have known I was here instantly, just as I would if he approached me. You must never let yourself be taken by surprise. If you know someone is coming you at least have the chance to run away."

Pan had been standing huffily with her arms crossed in a posture that reminded Vejiita of himself, but he knew she was listening. When he said that last, however, she gave him her best glare, which, needless to say, was less than intimidating. "Run away?! A real warrior never runs away! You wouldnít!"

Vejiita forced himself to keep his face in its normal scowl, fighting the grin that wanted to break free. He snorted. "I wouldnít need to run away, little girl. You, on the other hand, might."

Pan stamped her foot childishly, clenching her fists. "I am not a little girl! Iím as strong as everyone else! Youíre just a big old jerk! I bet youíre not so strong!"

Vejiita took a slow breath in an attempt to keep from laughing out loud. "I see. Very well, girl, come and get me."

Pan grinned and stuck her tongue out at him, blissfully assured of her own youthful prowess. "Fine, I will!" She crouched into a fighting stance while Vejiita remained standing with his arms folded, one eyebrow raised. "And donít you dare go easy on me because Iím a girl, or Iíll know!"

He inclined his head slightly. "I will certainly give you my best," he lied. He had no intention of making it easy on her, but he didnít want to kill her, either.

Un, he grunted to himself, Somehow I think Gohan might be upset...

With a ferocious battle-cry, Pan lunged at him, teeth bared. Having already guessed that she would immediately try the head-on approach, Vejiita merely side-stepped, giving her a sharp, restrained chop to the back of the neck that tumbled her to the ground. She rolled onto her knees and quickly regained her feet, looking slightly disoriented but raising her fists in determination. Vejiitaís tail swayed from side to side slightly as he stood still and awaited the next assault. After several moments of unproductive circling, Pan danced closer to him, then suddenly slid to the side and twisted into a spinning kick aimed at his abdomen. Unable to suppress the slight smile that crossed his face, Vejiita caught her heel in his hand and jerked upward sharply, causing her other leg to slide out from beneath her and once more toppling her to the ground with a crash.

Pan slowly climbed to her feet, spitting grass and glaring murderously. Vejiita smirked at her and shook his head, Ďtsk, tskíing in an intentionally irritating manner. The young girl wiped her face with the back of her hand before resuming her fighting stance again.

Suddenly she screamed in rage and rushed him again, flailing at him wildly with her fists as well as throwing the occasional kick. Vejiita lightly slipped around all of them, every once in a while deflecting a blow that required too much effort to dodge. After several moments of humoring her he abruptly curled his hand into a fist and punched her sharply, sending her flying backward across the clearing.

This time it took her longer to get up. Vejiita had paid careful attention to the amount of force he struck her with. Not enough to do any real damage, but certainly enough to hurt, enough to leave her head spinning.

Pan staggered to her feet and swayed slightly as she looked at him dazedly. Vejiita folded his arms again, shifting his weight at as he gazed back at her. "Think about what youíre doing, brat. Itís quite obvious that you will not be able to take me head-on, yet you insist on that approach. Use your head when you fight! When your opponent is stronger than you, you must try a new tactic!"

Pan snarled at him. "I donít have to listen to you!"

Vejiita nodded in agreement, an amused smile pulling at his lips. "No, you do not. But I promise you that youíll be wishing you had if you continue to try and defeat me with brute force."

"Ahhrrghh!" Pan screamed, dark eyes flashing. "What do you know?!"

She immediately flew at him once more and a few seconds later found herself face-down in the dirt again. Vejiita sighed and shook his head, bending over to dust off his jeans, then straightening and adjusting his leather jacket.

Over the next half an hour Pan proceeded to amaze Vejiita with her stamina, though not particularly with her intelligence. She continued to rush him and he continued to bat her down. Each time she determinedly stumbled to her feet and attacked again, her movements becoming more and more clumsy.

After Vejiita had knocked her down for what seemed to him to be the hundredth time, he leaned back against a tree, crossing his ankles and watching her through half-lidded eyes as she lay sprawled in the grass for long moments. Then he saw her stir and begin to climb to her feet again and he sighed, pushing away from the tree in exasperation. "Donít you think itís about time you stopped, brat? Are you trying to prove something by this, or what? You donít honestly think you have a chance of even scratching me, do you?"

Pan paused in the middle of getting up, then suddenly collapsed so she was sitting in the grass, wiping miserably at the blood trickling down her chin. She shrugged in an attempt to appear nonchalant. "Naw... I... I knew I couldnít beat you, Vejiita. I just wanted to try thatís all... I wanted to see how... what Iíd do..."

Vejiita raised an eyebrow at her, beginning to take several steps away. "Well, I hope you enjoyed yourself, kid. Maybe you should stick to your dolls from now on. Itíd be a lot less painful for you."

He smirked, then turned and was preparing to leave when an odd sound halted him. He froze in place, then, almost against his will, slowly turned to look back at her.

"Oh, dammit..." he said under his breath.

Pan was crying softly, her head bowed as she tried to muffle the sounds. Vejiita stood uncertainly for several moments, wanting badly to just leave, but feeling like that would be cowardly. He idly fiddled with the zipper of his jacket for a moment, then cleared his throat.

"Hey, brat, come on. Whatís your problem?"

Pan sniffled a little, wiping at her eyes as her ears turned red. A soft sigh escaped her as she gazed down at her hands. For a moment Vejiita thought she wasnít going to answer, then she finally mumbled, "Nobody takes me seriously."

Vejiita looked at her blankly for a moment. "What?"

Pan shrugged and began tearing at the grass beneath her fingers. "You guys... all of you... Grandpa, Dad, Uncle Goten.... everyone thinks Iím a joke. Even Trunks just humors me, I know it."

"What are you talking about?" Vejiita snapped.

The girl suddenly looked up at him, her large, dark eyes shimmering with tears. "I want to be a fighter, like all of you! But all of you just think Iím funny, or Ďcuteí. No one wants to really teach me anything... Everyone thinks that Iím a weakling just because Iím a girl. If Daddy had had a boy somebody would have been training him for real by now."

Vejiita frowned, folding his arms over his chest. Once he thought about it, the girl was probably right. As far as he knew, no one had ever really seriously thought about Pan as a warrior. And, from everything heíd seen of her as sheíd fought him, she really did want to be one, very badly in fact. Sheíd just never been given any true training. He nodded thoughtfully to himself. On Vejiitasai female warriors had been nearly as common as male ones; every Saiya-jin was expected to learn how to fight. If heíd had a daughter he would certainly have expected to have her trained. Looking back down at the girl sitting dejectedly on the ground, Vejiitaís eyes narrowed. Finally he sighed, shifting his weight self-consciously as he cleared his throat again.

"Well, first of all, your fighting style is too restricted. You attack pretty much the same way every time, and you become predictable very quickly. What you need to do is..."

 

About an hour later Vejiita watched Pan fly off excitedly after thanking him repeatedly, eager to show Gohan her new techniques. He hadnít really taught her anything much, but it was a start, and hopefully it would make her father realize how intensely she wanted to be a warrior. He was mildly surprised that he had bothered to take the time to tell her anything instead of just brushing her off. He didnít know why he had felt compelled to help her, but she had been amazingly grateful and eager to learn. She was a bit cocky, too. She really did remind him a little of himself.

Shrugging Vejiita gathered his ki together and floated over to the tree where he had abandoned his iirlanth, carefully extracting it from the nich he had left it in. Tucking it against his chest, he again flew into the quiet woods, his mood slowly darkening again after the surprising lift Pan had given it. He closed his eyes briefly, wishing for the thousandth time that that day in the woods had never happened, that Goku had never discovered what had happened in his past.

Everything... is so much harder now...

His throat tightened and he clenched his teeth, trying to ignore the emotion, pushing it aside, away from him.

I never wanted him to know... And I didnít want to know... how I felt...

Ignorance truly was bliss. If he could only have continued to tell himself that he despised Kakarrot, he would not be suffering like he was now. If he had never realized... But in truth, there were things... that he could not give up now. He and Trunks might never have come to understand each other... His son could still be alienated from him now, if not for what had happened with Kakarrot.

But God, it hurt. Feeling him like he did... and wishing...

Shaking his head, Vejiita slipped downward, landing softly on the forest floor. After a moment he crouched and carefully set down the iirlanth, flipping the latches and opening the case. The dark instrument was barely visible in the dim light of the forest as he pulled it out and put it together, the pieces sliding into place smoothly. Still feeling an ache low in his throat, he quietly adjusted the pitch, tuning the instrument until he was satisfied.

Breathing shallowly, he brought the iirlanth to his lips and began to play, his eyes falling closed. The song came to him without thought. He did not try to direct his fingers, merely let them move across the keys in whatever patterns they chose, the music clear and unrestrained. The song the iirlanth sang was grief. It was loneliness and hopeless pain, spun together in a heart-wrenching melody of terrible longing. The whispering ache of the minor key was accented by the soft sound of the leaves rustling around the kneeling prince, the murmur of the wind strangely melancholy as it swept through the branches.

Vejiitaís whole soul was pulled into the song; the music had always been his release, ever since he was a child. He played his feelings, letting conscious thought slip away as he lost himself in the sound, the notes drawn from his very being as he became his music.

But even through the depths of the song, he felt him, when he came. His presence was soft, unobtrusive, remaining quiet and respectfully distant, but Vejiita could feel him. But he could not release his song now, and... that presence... was not offensive. So he continued to play, until his song was concluded.

When the last note faded he slowly lowered the iirlanth, letting the instrument rest in his lap as he felt the coolness of the earth through his jeans. He opened his eyes, gazing at the ground for a moment before he looked a little beyond, at the pair of feet standing several yards away.

"Kakarrot," he said softly, his voice an acknowledgment.

Looking down again, he carefully pulled the iirlanth apart, taking out a soft cloth and beginning to clean it. He could feel the other Saiya-jin approaching quietly as he placed it in the case and shut the latches, setting it against the base of a tree.

When Goku was very close he crouched down, and Vejiita slowly lifted his gaze to meet those dark eyes. And when he did a longing ache built in his chest. His throat tightened. And he knew he shouldnít. He had no right, none at all. Everything in him knew it, knew that he was wrong, that he should stop and move away. He knew it. But it hurt so badly, and in that moment he didnít care.

Vejiitaís eyes closed as he leaned forward, unable to stop himself and not willing to try. He couldnít do it anymore. And so he kissed him.

Kakarrotís lips were soft as their mouths pressed together, warm and gentle against Vejiitaís. He felt Goku start slightly in surprise, then the other Saiya-jinís hand slid around to cup the back of Vejiitaís head, fingers threading through dark hair as he returned the kiss. Vejiita reached up to grip Gokuís shirt in unsteady hands, a soft moan escaping him at their contact.

God... please...

Then a sudden chill touched him and he pulled back, away from the other Saiya-jinís warmth. He could not do this.

He could feel his cheeks flushing faintly as he drew away, his fingers catching hold of the iirlanth as he rose to his feet. What the hell was wrong with him?! He knew that this wasnít for him, even if Kakarrot didnít.

"Iím sorry," he said roughly as he turned away. He was forced to halt half a moment later, however, as strong fingers caught his wrist. He closed his eyes briefly, then opened them again, looking out into the forest with his back still to the other Saiya-jin. "Yes?"

"Vejiita, wait... I... We need to talk... please..."

Vejiita took a slow breath, then turned around. "What do you want to talk about?"

Goku glared at him for a moment. "Donít play dumb, Vejiita! We both know that we have to resolve whatís happening between us."

Vejiita glanced to the side for a moment, then looked down at Gokuís hand, still grasping his wrist. "Itís resolved. Nothing is going to happen, thatís the end of it. Iím... I didnít mean to do that. Iím sorry."

He tried to pull away, then frowned slightly as Gokuís grip tightened. He looked at the other Saiya-jin again.

"Iím not sorry, Vejiita," Goku said, straightening but not releasing Vejiitaís wrist. "And nothingís resolved. I think I at least deserve to know whatís going on before you run away on me. I want you to explain to me... what you said before."

Vejiitaís chest tightened in apprehension. It was clear what Goku meant by Ďbeforeí. He wanted Vejiita to explain everything he had said when he had told Goku to leave him three days before. And he did.... he did deserve an explanation. But he was so.... he didnít want to talk about it. He had never talked about it. He wet his lips, feeling a faint tremor shake him. He had to.

After a moment of silence he pulled against Gokuís hold slightly. "You can let go of me, Kakarrot, Iím not leaving."

There was a slight hesitation, then Gokuís grip fell away and he stood quietly, watching Vejiita. The Saiya-jin prince took a deep breath, idly adjusting his jacket as he stared out at the shifting leaves of the trees surrounding him.

"What," he cleared his throat, "What, then, do you want me to tell you?"

For a moment Goku said nothing, shifting his weight and sliding his hands into his pockets as he regarded the smaller Saiya-jin. Finally he said quietly, "I want you to tell me about you. You said if I really knew you, I would want to kill you myself. Just... tell me about your life. I want to know you."

Vejiita gave a short, harsh laugh, completely devoid of humor, more a sign of nerves than anything else. "Getting right to the point, I see." He brushed his hands off on his jeans, exhaling slowly. He pulled back into his mind, trying to find the coldness, the distance, so the memories would not hurt. When he spoke his voice was flatly monotone.

"As you know, I was born on Vejiitasai. My father, obviously, was King Vejiita, and my mother was Queen Kukembura. As far as I understand, she was called Bura by those closest to her. I never knew her, however. She died giving birth to me. I was their first living child. My sister, who did not survive long enough to be honored with a name, was stillborn. I, myself, was not called Vejiita until I had reached four years of age. By then I had proven I would be worthy of the name."

Goku looked at him oddly. "You didnít have a name until you were four? What did they call you then?"

Vejiita shrugged, lifting a shoulder carelessly. "Brat, whelp, runt... Or, if they were feeling kind, they might call me Ďchildí or Ďboyí."

"Thatís terrible..." Goku trailed off for a moment, then frowned as another thought occurred to him. "But if Saiya-jin children arenít named until theyíve Ďearnedí it, how can I have a name? I was only a baby when they sent me to earth, but they still named me..."

Vejiita nodded in agreement. "Yes... Kakarrot... Children of the common class are named when they are born. It is only within the royal household that names are with held until the child has proven himself. Or herself, as the case may be. The name of the heir has always been Vejiita. Until they show that they are worthy to be the next King or Queen, the name is not given."

Goku realized that they were drifting away from what he really wanted to know, but he found himself becoming interested in how things had worked on Vejiitasai. "So, could a woman become the next ruler as easily as a man?"

Vejiita tipped his head slightly, considering the question. "It was considered preferable for the heir to be the firstborn male child. If the child was female, however, that alone would not remove her from the line of succession. If she proved herself and was able to demand the respect of her Saiya-jin warriors, she would be the next Queen. Also, if the firstborn male was deemed unfit for succession, the crown title would fall to the next sibling in line, whether they were male or female, until a child was accepted."

Goku started to ask something else, then stopped, shaking his head. He did not want to talk about Vejiitasaiís history right now. "Anyway," he said, releasing a breath, "Vejiita... tell me. Please."

The Saiya-jin prince remained still for a time, then hunched over and began idly tearing at the grass on the forest floor. "After... After my Naming Ceremony I was truly the crown prince, and the warriors were expected to treat me as such. It didnít take long for me to earn their respect, as I was already stronger than some of them by the time I was six. My life, such as it was, revolved around my training." For a moment he glanced at the iirlanth that lay next to him. "This.... was my only other interest...." There was a brief silence. "And then I... there was Frieza."

Another, longer silence this time. Vejiita straightened, brushing his hands on his pants and then tucking his fingers into his pockets, moving with forced casualness to stand next to an enormous tree, looking out into the woods. After a moment he brought up a hand and lightly ran his fingertips over the bark, still gazing blindly ahead. The movement seemed relaxed enough, but when Goku looked closely, he could see that the princeís fingers were trembling faintly. His tail flicked back and forth very slightly.

Sensing that he needed his space, Goku made no attempt to approach him, instead remaining silent and simply waiting. Vejiita coughed.

"He, ah.... He honed me for fighting... Even more intensely than my father. Everything centered on being the best, on conquering everyone. He didnít seem to have any motive other than the desire to dominate, to subjugate... To destroy. As a Saiya-jin fighting, and, yes, conquering, were in my very blood. But even I.... I had never seen such a ruthlessness as Frieza possessed. He could not be satisfied. Nothing was ever enough. As soon as he had conquered a people they were forgotten. All of his pleasure was taken from the process, the act of destroying. The end result was only a byproduct...

"He raised me to kill. At first I thought... I thought only of fighting him, of killing him, but then I... He kept... kept me in line." There was a twisting, jagged bitterness and humiliation in Vejiitaís voice as he spoke, and Goku didnít have to guess at how Frieza had kept him in line. He closed his eyes for a moment as bile rose in his throat. "And I hated him. I hated him with more violence, more utter, mind-destroying passion.... I donít think... I canít even describe to you what it is to feel it, Kakarrot. You couldnít understand it, youíve never imagined it." Vejiita looked at him for a moment, his eyes burning darkly. "And I donít want you to ever feel it."

Vejiita looked away again, taking a slow breath and gathering himself before continuing. "But... as time passed, the hatred I felt for Frieza, it.... It didnít grow less... If anything, it matured, but... That hatred was transferred to other things. To the people I fought, to the people I killed. I hated everything, Kakarrot, you donít understand. You donít even know what hate is." Vejiitaís voice was ragged as he spoke. "You think Iím noble, Kakarrot? You think Iím good? You have no idea... I killed those people, all of those people, and I enjoyed it. The one time when I felt any pleasure for myself was when I was inflicting pain on others, when I was in control, and watching them cower and beg for their pitiful lives."

Goku felt a faint touch of alarm, watching the prince. Caught in his memories, Vejiitaís face was twisted cruelly, teeth together in a vicious snarl even as he spoke. There was such a hostility, a frightening coldness to him...

"It made me laugh, to watch them. To listen to them whine, how theyíd promise to serve me, theyíd do anything if I would let them go free. As if I cared. As if I would spare them. But I knew how to play, and I did. Iíd let them hope, for a moment, and then Iíd kill them, and I smiled when I did it. All that mattered was that I was powerful, and I forced others to acknowledge it. They would know, they would know that I was not weak... I was never weak!"

There was a fevered intensity to Vejiitaís voice now, an almost insane gleam in his eyes, his muscles tight as he nearly quivered with the violence of his thoughts. Goku stared at him, feeling horrified, but at the same time deeply moved, and extremely saddened. He watched the prince, and realized where everything was focused, where it had always been focused.

"It was because of Frieza," he whispered, hardly realizing he had spoken aloud. Vejiitaís gaze snapped to him. "Everything... you wanted Frieza, so your hatred turned on others."

"Yes," Vejiita hissed, "It was Frieza. But I still did it. And every time I killed someone I imagined it was Frieza who was dying, Frieza who was screaming. Every time I killed someone, someone innocent they were merely a release, a vessel for my hatred. I killed them for my pleasure, I used them for their deaths. And Frieza loved it. He knew I hated him and he used it, used it to further my power, the blood I shed for him." Vejiitaís voice was clipped and hard as he nearly threw the words at Goku. "He even increased it, he... he pushed it. The moment I showed the slightest streak of independent thought or action he punished me. And he punished me in the most humiliating, horrifying ways. And I knew what he was going to do and I couldnít stop him and he loved it."

Goku vaguely realized he was pale. "You mean," he whispered, his voice raw, "He still... Even when you... When you were... were an adult, he still... still..."

Vejiita sneered at him. "Of course, Kakarrot! You think that just because I was a Ďgrown upí now Frieza was suddenly going to be nice! Donít be naive! Youíre so pathetically innocent! You have no comprehension of the things that go on, the abominations that live inside peopleís heads. You want to know what hell is, Kakarrot? Other people are hell! We are hell! We create it, no God needs to do it for us! We are... I am... the most perverse, most disgusting of all living creatures. If you really want to know, the last time Frieza had me was a whole week before I first met you!" Vejiitaís face twisted as he said viciously, "I was still aching from that fucking! But I was feeling better, you know why? Because I was going out. I was going somewhere where I could dominate, where I could be the master. I was ready to drag myself from the pit of my worthlessness by causing the destruction of others...."

Vejiita slowly turned to face Goku fully, seemingly shaking with rage, his breathing harsh. "And you know what happened then? I met you."

Goku blinked, his lips parting but nothing coming out. Vejiita took a step forward, his body taut with fury. "I met you..." His voice suddenly rose as he screamed, "And I lost!"

His chest heaved as his hands curled into fists, eyes glittering. "I lost!! Everything, everything I had ever believed, anything I had left was gone! We fought and I... I had never even conceived that I could lose! It had never... I-I-... But then you came and y-y-you beat me! You never knew, you have no idea!! Kakarrot, you bastard, you destroyed me! Never, I could never be the same again. The little world I still had was shattered and I could never, ever get it back! Because I wasnít the strongest, I wasnít the best, not even among my own people! And so I was worthless and utterly, completely wretched, and it was you! Itís always been you! Everything is because of you!" As Vejiita spoke, his hair began to slowly stiffen, brightening, his irises gradually growing lighter. A choked, sobbing laugh escaped him. "And then, when you had beaten me, you didnít even have the decency to let me die! You fucking spared me and you forced me to live with my humiliation. You shamed me with your mercy! And I- God!"

With that sudden, despairing cry, Vejiitaís hair and eyes blazed and he lunged at Goku, fully powered up to SSJ3. Goku barely had time to dodge the attack, his brain still reeling with everything Vejiita had just told him. As it was Vejiita clipped his shoulder, spinning him to the ground. The Saiya-jin prince immediately rounded on him and kicked his ribs sharply, sending him flying backward through the air. Gasping in pain, he managed to right himself, then snarled and made the jump to SSJ3. But even as he let the anger consume him, needed the anger to maintain his power, he was detached from it, and he knew that Vejiita had not truly angered him. But he knew, too, that Vejiita needed the fight. He did not want to be coddled, he did not want to be pitied. He needed the release, and, honestly, with everything he had just heard, Goku needed it too. Some of Vejiitaís tension, his agony had spilled over into him, and the fight, the mindless, brilliant art of it was something they both craved.

The two Saiya-jinís met each other head on, and in this fight their was no holding back. There was no casual air, no feel of a sparring match, only a desperate intensity, an almost fevered pitch to their combat. Their was no use of energy, no expending of ki for this battle. It was punishingly physical, brutally intense as they pummeled each other with bone-crunching force, relying purely on the greatness of their strength. Goku did not hold back. He did not want to, and in Vejiita was the person for which he didnít have to hold back, who wouldnít tolerate it. Vejiita would take his blows and return them point for point, matching his ferocity in every way. Goku was, in fact, amazed at the princeís strength, astonished by his skill. They had been closely matched before, when Vejiita had first reached SSJ3, and now he had his tail once more. Goku was pressed painfully hard to keep up with his prince, and it left him with a faint but growing sense of urgency.

A vicious strike to his gut doubled him over, followed by the tip of Vejiitaís combat boot meeting with his nose, snapping his head backward, and he felt blood beginning to trickle over his lips, joining the crimson liquid already spilling from numerous other cuts. As Vejiita twisted into a follow up kick, he spun and struck out with his own foot, blocking Vejiitaís attack with a painful kick to the princeís thigh. Vejiita grunted but recovered amazingly fast, whirling with astonishing speed and cracking his elbow into the back of Gokuís neck.

Pain lanced up Gokuís spine and for a moment he saw white, then shook his head sharply, gathering his wits enough to slide around another attack from the prince. He was nearly shaking with nerves.

He could not lose.

Everything in him screamed it. For whatever reason, right now, at this moment, he could not lose. Regardless of anything that happened in the future, or what had gone on in the past, he could absolutely not afford to lose this specific fight. He had to win, he must...

He felt it more strongly, more intensely, than he had ever felt anything in his life, and from somewhere he pulled out the strength. Gokuís power had always been in finding seemingly impossible reserves at the moment they most needed it, at finding the strength from somewhere, dragging it from inside himself seemingly from sheer will. He could do it. He had to.

Moving impossibly fast, Goku snapped around behind Vejiita, locking his arms through the princeís and slamming his knee into the smaller manís back. Vejiitaís momentary look of surprise turned into a hiss of pain, lips curling away from his teeth, and in an impressive burst of struggling, he managed to break free. But now Goku could not release what had gripped him and he followed, pressing Vejiita without mercy, taking painful blows himself, but never letting up.

Finally after what seemed hours of exhausting struggle, Goku dealt a crushing blow to Vejiitaís head, blood spraying from the princeís mouth as his head snapped to the side. Vejiita went limp, his long locks bleeding into black as he lost his golden form and plummeted toward the ground, landing heavily. He did not get up.

Goku immediately dropped out of SSJ as well, his lungs screaming with exhaustion as he fell to the ground beside the Saiya-jin prince. Trembling with weariness, but somehow also desperately relieved, for long moments he lay quietly, very slowly recovering his breath. Finally he turned to his right, bracing himself on his elbow to look at the prince lying motionless beside him. The smaller Saiya-jinís eyes were closed, blood streaking his face, which was twisted into a mask of pain. Gently, his hand shaking faintly, Goku reached out and brushed his cheek.

"Vejiita..."

Slowly, the princeís eyes opened, his gaze shifting to Gokuís. The black irises shimmered with tears and Goku swallowed, his heart aching.

"Kakkarot...," Vejiita whispered back, licking blood from his lips, "please... just... end it. Please... It seems you are fated always to win and I... I want... to stop. I want it to be over." The tears spilled, tracing paths down his cheeks in the slowly fading light. "Iím so tired, Kakkarot. Iím tired of everything. I donít deserve to live, we both know it now... You know... you know what I am. I kind of wished once... that... you might not have to know. Because you are innocent... But I..." The prince closed his eyes for a moment, taking a shuddering breath. "Please... Kakkarot... tell..." Vejiita hesitated looking up at the stars that were slowly beginning to appear in the deepening sky. A slow sigh. "Tell Trunks that I love him."

For a moment there was an odd silence as they both realized that it was the first time Vejiita had said those words aloud. Then Goku seemed to startle awake, shaking his head. "Vejiita," he said, his voice hard and gentle all at once, "I will not let you do this. I will not do this. You are the prince of Vejiitasai, and you are a worthy person. I want you to stay, Vejiita, please. I wonít kill you. And I donít think... I donít think thatís really what you want.

Vejiita stared up at him for long moments, the hazy pink-orange sky casting long shadows around them. "Kakarrot," he whispered finally, his voice tight and strangled, "how can you not hate me? Why donít you hate me? I hate myself..."

Goku tried unsuccessfully to swallow the lump in his throat, feeling the tears rise in his eyes. Gently, he pressed his forehead to Vejiitaís, simply looking into the princeís eyes. His voice was a barely-audible whisper. "Oh... Vejiita-sama..."

For long moments nothing was said, the two Saiya-jins unmoving as they gazed at each other. Finally Vejiita looked away, shifting slightly. "Iím... Iím sorry, Kakarrot. Iím sorry for breaking down like this. Itís... Of course Iíll... Iíll go on living. I just..."

He flushed lightly, gradually dragging himself into a sitting position, groaning as he did so. Goku staggered to his feet, wobbling slightly, then reached down and clumsily helped Vejiita up. For a moment they leaned against each other before Goku said softly, "Why donít we go over to my house and find some bandages, or at least some antiseptic." He laughed softly. "I think we both need it. Gotenís not home tonight; heís out with some school friends."

After a moment of silence, Vejiita nodded. "Yeah I... I guess."

The two took several stumbling steps forward before lifting gracelessly into the air, heading toward Gokuís home with a slow, swerving flight.

 

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