Vejiita rubbed his palm over his face, then slid his hand around to massage the back of his neck as he looked warily at the junk that had piled up in his closet. Heíd decided he really should do something about it, but now he was tempted to simply hit the whole mess with a small ki blast and be done with it.
Feh, he thought to himself, scowling, I canít believe Iím even considering doing this. I am the prince of Vejiitasai. Someone else should be doing this for me.
Then he sighed. Of course, no one would be cleaning up after him or serving him anymore, and he had to adapt to this lifestyle. Certainly, heíd managed to bend himself enough to get the necessary cleaning done, the dishes and the clothes and such, despite the fact that Dr. Briefsí robots couldíve taken care of some of it. Heíd thought he should at least know how to do it, especially as Dr. Briefs was getting old and tired, and more and more of his old machines were wearing out, the Dr. having no energy left to repair them. Heíd taken care of his own clothing anyway, disliking the thought of those irritating robots poking through his room.
But the closet was another matter entirely.
He circled warily, eyeing his prey from different angles as he tried to determine the best point of attack. Finally he just growled and lunged headfirst into the fight.
Several hours later Vejiita stood gazing contemplatively at the pile of items tossed on his bed, put aside during his major cleaning effort to be sorted later. His hair and clothing were lightly coated with dust and he sneezed from time to time as the tiny particles irritated his nose.
The voice made him look up, toward the doorway. A moment later Trunks poked his head around the frame. "Dad?"
Vejiita raised an eyebrow in question as Trunksí eyes fell on him. For a moment the boy looked confused, then his eyes widened and he stepped forward so he was fully visible in the doorway. For a moment he simply stood with his hands on his hips, staring from Vejiita, to the closet, to the pile of junk on the bed. Then a little smirk crossed his lips.
"I donít believe this!" he grinned. "Is my father actually cleaning up after himself?!"
He continued to grin, walking forward into the room as Vejiita glared at him. He paused when he was only a few feet away from the Saiya-jin prince. "Damn, youíre even all dirty. Are you sure youíre feeling all right, Dad?"
Vejiita said nothing, folding his arms across his chest and snapping his tail from side to side slightly.
"Um, Dad, isnít this one of those things that you always said was below you?" Trunks questioned innocently, struggling to keep from laughing.
Now Vejiita growled at him, baring a perfect set of shining white teeth. Suddenly Trunks leaned forward, staring right into Vejiitaís face, and Vejiita frowned, disconcerted, fighting an urge to step backward. Abruptly Trunks raised his hand, and rubbed his thumb over Vejiitaís nose. "Aw, youíve even got a smudge on your nose right here."
That was too much. With a snarl, Vejiita jerked backward, aiming a moderately powerful cuff at his sonís head. Trunks avoided it easily, laughing as he danced out of the way.
"All right, all right, Iím sorry, Father," he said, not sounding sorry at all. "I just never figured you for the housemaid type."
Vejiita glared. "Watch your mouth, brat!" he snapped, but there was an undercurrent of amusement in his voice.
Trunks heard it, and, assured that his father wasnít really angry with him, he made his way forward again to peer at the stuff on Vejiitaís bed. "Whatís all this?"
Vejiita shrugged, moving to stand beside him as he sighed. "Thatís what Iím trying to figure out. Iím trying to find the motivation to sort through it."
"Oh," Trunks replied, rubbing a hand through his lavender hair for a moment. Then he abruptly bent over and gathered a little over half of the items into his arms before straightening. "All right, letís just bring it down to the den and Iíll help you." He paused for a moment, a faint smirk appearing on his face again. "Unless of course, youíve got some hard-core porn in here you donít want me to see, or something."
Vejiita snorted, muttering something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like, Ďwouldnít you like that, you horny little brat,í as he bent over to collect the rest of the junk.
Trunks smiled, pausing to wait for his father. When Vejiita reached him they started down the stairs together, and Trunks glanced over at the Saiya-jin prince. "I was just kidding, Dad. I know youíve never been into that kind of stuff."
Vejiita grunted in agreement, his gaze briefly flicking to his son before turning forward again.
When they reached the den, they dumped their burdens on the table and Trunks flopped down on the couch in an undignified sprawl. Vejiita raised an eyebrow and sat down in a more normal position, wrapping his tail around his waist to keep it out of the way.
They began making their way through the pile, Trunks making an occasional comment or asking Vejiita a question. The majority of the items were tossed into another pile destined for the garbage.
Throwing an old newspaper clipping away, something he was sure Vejiita hadnít saved, Trunks pulled a small shoebox over to him and opened the lid. Inside were photographs. He pulled out a few, flipping through them, smiling a little at pictures of Bulma grinning at the camera, or in some cases glaring, pictures of Vejiita, always glaring, and several pictures of himself as a chubby infant, clinging to Bulmaís blouse. His smile was wistful as he gently brushed his fingers over his motherís face. He couldnít remember her. Heíd only been five months old when she had died in a plane crash. The dragonballs couldnít fix things like that.
Reaching into the box, he pulled out the last photo, turning it to face him. Then he stilled, staring at the picture presented to him. Heíd never seen another like it, in any of their photo albums or in frames anywhere in the house.
It was all of them. All three of them. Bulma, Vejiita, and himself, in the same picture. Vejiita was standing with his arms folded, his typical scowl on his face. Bulma was leaning against him, one arm wrapped around his waist as she rested her cheek against his bicep, and Trunks was cradled in her other arm, grinning up at his father. And was it possible that behind Vejiitaís perpetual frown, there was the slightest hint of affection in his dark eyes as he looked down at his family?
Swallowing, Trunks touched the picture almost reverently, an undeniable tightness in his chest. Suddenly he seemed to remember what he was doing and his head snapped up. He looked over at Vejiita to find his father watching him, his face unreadable.
Flushing, for some reason feeling like he had been caught eavesdropping, Trunks dropped the photos back into the shoebox and replaced the lid, not quite meeting Vejiitaís eyes as he handed him the box.
Vejiita was silent for a moment and Trunks could feel his fatherís eyes on him. He glanced at him hesitantly. Then his eyes widened as Vejiita extended the box toward him again.
"Trunks," his father said, his voice as gentle as Trunks had ever heard it, "Do you want to keep these?"
Trunks jaw dropped open and he looked from the proffered shoebox to his fatherís face, then back again. "I-I-" he stammered, twisting his hands together, "Donít you want them?"
Vejiita paused, an odd expression twisting his features for a moment as an old pain glittered in his eyes. Then he smiled faintly, still holding the box out to Trunks. "If I want to see them, I can always ask you."
Biting his lip, Trunks reached out and took the box from his father, holding it in both hands as if it were a priceless treasure. After clutching it for a moment, he carefully laid it on the floor at his feet, then looked up at Vejiita, swallowing the lump in his throat. "Thanks, Dad..." he whispered. "I.... Thanks."
Vejiita shrugged, flushing faintly and clearing his throat. "Donít worry about it," he said roughly, turning his attention back to the pile still left on the table.
Smiling, feeling a surge of warm affection for his father, Trunks did the same, shuffling through the old belongings, asking Vejiita what could be discarded and what he wanted to keep. As he reached into the pile again, his fingers brushed against something surprisingly silky, and, snagging it, he lifted it from the pile. His jaw dropped open as his eyes widened as far as they would go. Then he barked out an amazed laugh.
"What the hell is this?!" he gasped, dangling the flimsy piece of clothing in front of Vejiitaís face. It was a very skimpy piece of underwear that might have just managed to cover the necessary areas. In front, that is, certainly not behind. "Somehow this doesnít look like something that would fit Mom."
Vejiita flushed from his neck to the roots of his hair, even his ears turning bright red as he cleared his throat several times, eyes focusing anywhere but on the offending garment. He nervously fingered his hair, licking his lips and avoiding Trunksí eyes. "Your mother," he began, his voice sounding slightly strangled, "somehow got the idea that I would look good in that... that... thing... and decided to pick it up one time when she went shopping."
Trunks was breathing hard in an attempt to keep from breaking into screaming laughter. "Oh my God, please tell me you didnít actually wear th-"
"No, I didnít wear it!" Vejiita snapped, his flush deepening, if that was possible. Turning sharply, he ripped the underwear from Trunksí fingers and flung it into the garbage in the corner, immediately turning back to the pile and continuing his sorting. Trunks did laugh then, his eyes watering, then he groaned as he pictured the scene that must have occurred when Bulma had offered Vejiita his Ďpresentí.
"Be quiet, brat," Vejiita grunted, still blushing. "I thought you were going to help."
Wiping his eyes, Trunks nodded and once more leaned for the pile. Vejiitaís blush slowly receded as they worked in silence, quickly lessening the amount of items on the table until there was only one box left, about two inches tall and two feet long. Trunks reached out curiously, picking it up and flipping the clasps to open the lid. His lips parted slightly in surprise.
Inside, cushioned in a soft velvet bed, lay what was obviously a woodwind instrument. Long and slender, made of a near-ebony wood with keys and holes along its length, it was beautifully carved, strange and delicate designs engraved into the dark wood along itís entire length.
Trunks examined it carefully. "Whatís this?"
Vejiita looked up, and, seeing what Trunks was holding, reached out and snatched it out of his grasp, slamming the lid shut and rising from the couch, moving away several steps as another light flush swept his skin.
Trunks raised his eyebrows. "Is that yours, Dad?"
Vejiita said nothing, but his silence was answer enough.
"Oh, wow," Trunks said, standing as well and moving toward his father a little. "Wow, I didnít know you played the flute."
"Itís not a flute!" Vejiita snapped, his blush darkening. "Itís an iirlanth."
Trunks walked forward until he was standing next to Vejiita, who had tucked the instrument under his arm and was avoiding Trunksí gaze. "Thatís cool. You can play it, canít you?"
Vejiita hesitated, apparently embarrassed. Then he sighed and nodded his head once.
Trunks looked at his father for a long moment, seeing him in an entirely new light. He had never imagined Vejiita to be someone who had any musical inclinations at all; his father had never struck him as being particularly artistic. He himself only knew how to read a little sheet music from what they had learned in school.
"Itís a Saiya-jin instrument, isnít it?" he asked.
"Un," Vejiita grunted, his flush not dying. "No, itís Relkaen. They were a species that the Saiya-jin conquered, and many of them served in the royal house. One of them, a gardener, played this instrument."
Trunks nodded. The instrument had seemed oddly graceful and delicate for something of Saiya-jin origin.
"Can I see it?" he asked.
Vejiita paused, seemingly reluctant, then sighed again, handing Trunks the instrument. Trunks laid it on the table, opening the case again and carefully pulling it out. The wood was smooth and cool, shining softly as Trunks examined it, following the designs with his eyes as he turned it over in his hands. It was obviously played very much like a flute. He turned to his father.
"Hey, Dad, play something."
Vejiita stiffened, flushing a little more as he protested. "What?! But, no, I havenít played anything in years, I-I couldnít-"
"Oh, come on, Dad, whatís the big deal?" Trunks cajoled, "Itís not like Iím going to laugh or anything; I couldnít play an instrument to save my life. I just really want to hear you play it. I think itís cool."
He held out the iirlanth to his father, who eyed it warily, as if it were a snake that was readying itself to strike.
"Come on, Dad, please? At least play a few notes and let me know what it sounds like."
Vejiitaís mouth twisted irritably, but he gave in and grabbed the instrument out of his sonís hands, muttering under his breath while he looked it over, fingering the keys and adjusting things here and there.
Trunks smiled and settled down on the floor, leaning his back against the base of a chair as he watched his father. Vejiita was looking extremely flustered as he continued to tune the instrument, then aligned his hands in what must have been the proper grip, experimentally tapping out a few fingerings without blowing into it. Then he became very still, closing his eyes for several moments and breathing slowly. Eyes still closed, he raised the instrument to his lips, adjusted his fingers, and blew gently; just a single note.
The sound was full and mellow, a clean strain of surprising beauty that would have been difficult for any human-made instrument to match. Trunks closed his own eyes for a moment, stunned by the purity of the sound. Then it ended and he opened his eyes again, hoping his father wasnít going to put the instrument away now, deciding that one note was plenty.
But Vejiita hadnít moved except to lower the instrument slightly. He gazed unseeingly ahead of himself for several moments, then, almost as though he were moving without conscious thought, he again brought the iirlanth to his lips. This time he played a lilting, gentle melody, his eyes closing as the sounds rippled through the air in a beautiful array of eighth notes and triplets, suspended by whole and half notes. The music was surprisingly light and free, yet the instrumentís voice made it deep and full at the same time. Vejiita drew out the sound, then suddenly dropped into a minor key, the tone becoming one of mourning, deeply sad without becoming ponderous.
A moment later Vejiita stopped, seeming to almost come out of a trance as he opened his eyes again and allowed the iirlanth to fall to his side.
Trunks was still seated on the floor, his lips slightly parted as he gaped at his father. Vejiita glanced at him briefly, clearing his throat uncomfortably and idly tapping the instrument against his thigh.
"And- And you say youíre out of practice?!" Trunks gasped after several seconds. "Father, that was amazing!"
Vejiita shrugged, flushing as he pulled a cloth out of the case, carefully cleaned the iirlanth and began putting it away. Trunks climbed to his feet and moved to stand next to Vejiita, still staring at his father in amazement. He had never thought Vejiita could play something so remarkably beautiful.
"It was really good, Dad," he said again, quietly. "Why did you ever stop playing?"
Vejiita finished putting the instrument away and straightened, turning to look at Trunks. His mouth opened as if he would speak, then he seemed to change his mind, simply shaking his head. His face hardened. "It was a waste of time. There was no possible benefit to it, for a Saiya-jin or a prince."
Trunks said nothing, but he wondered if that wasnít his fatherís true opinion, but instead his grandfatherís, King Vejiita.
"Well," he said after a moment, "I think itís a great talent. Itís really neat that you can do something like that."
Vejiita didnít respond, sighing and running a hand through his hair. Trunks grinned as a puff of dust rose from the thick black spikes. "I think you need to take a shower, Dad, and maybe get out of the house for a while. Youíve hardly been outside at all the past few weeks."
Vejiita arched an eyebrow at him. "Keeping an eye on me?"
Trunks shrugged. "Well, itís kind of noticeable, especially when you used to be outside doing something everyday. How long has it been since you sparred with Goku, anyway? I havenít seen him around here for a while. Eh, you donít want him to think youíre scared of him do you?" Trunks grinned. "Now that youíre both level three I wouldíve thought youíd be doing anything to goad him into fighting you. Maybe-"
"Thatís enough!" Vejiita snapped, his voice harsh. Trunks stopped abruptly, looking at him in surprise. His fatherís body had noticeably tensed, muscles standing out in his arms and visible in his back even through his shirt. What the hell? Had Vejiita and Goku had a fight or something? A real fight?
"Dad? Are you.... Are you mad at Goku or something?"
Vejiita made a negative gesture with his hand, turning to face Trunks. "Donít worry about me and Kakarrot, boy. Itís nothing. But youíre right. I should get out of here for a while. After a shower."
Vejiita abruptly left the den, pausing to put the iirlanth on the kitchen table before heading up the stairs. Hardly fifteen minutes later he was coming down again, swept-up black hair damp from the shower, dressed in combat boots, a tight-fitting pair of stone-washed jeans, a ribbed white beater and his black leather jacket. Briefly acknowledging Trunks, who was now sitting on the couch again, he headed out the door.
Goku slipped around the punch intended for his head, maneuvering until he was behind his opponent and delivering a solid blow to the back of his neck, effectively ending their sparring session. Goten collapsed to the ground, groaning loudly as he lay on his stomach, then slowly rolled over onto his back, glaring up at his father as he gripped his nape.
"Dammit, Dad," he grumbled, "You know Iím not as strong as you."
Goku glanced down for a moment, flushing a little and mentally reprimanding himself as he realized he had indeed been going too hard on Goten. His second son was the weakest of all the Saiya-jins and demi-Saiya-jins, excluding Pan, who didnít count at her age. With a sheepish grin, Goku held out his hand for Goten to take and pulled him to his feet.
"Sorry, Goten, I wasnít thinking. Maybe you should ask Gohan to spar with you for a little while; heíd probably be able to teach you better than me right now. I guess Iím kind of used to fighting with Vejiita."
"Un," Goten grunted, "I could never spar with Vejiita. Heíd beat me bloody without blinking twice."
Goku gave his son an amused grin. "Nah, heíd just beat on you bad enough to make sure you were really embarrassed, then send you home."
Goten snorted. "Yeah, that sounds like Vejiita." The younger Saiya-jin rubbed a hand through his black hair. "Itís been a while since you twoíve sparred, hasnít it?"
Goku frowned, his mood darkening. It had been days since he had so much as laid eyes on the prince, much less sparred with him. Obviously, Vejiita wanted nothing to do with him after their last confrontation, and it was driving Goku crazy. Heíd wanted to give Vejiita the space he needed, but that approach was getting old very quickly.
He nodded vaguely in response to Gotenís question. "Yeah, itís been a while now."
His son dusted himself off and prepared to head into the house. "Maybe you should go pick a fight with him," he grinned, "I think you need to burn off some energy. Iím gonna head over to see Trunks."
Goku gave his son a weak smile. The last thing he wanted to do with Vejiita was pick another fight with him.
Goten vanished into the house and Goku sighed, stretching his hands above his head, then flopping onto the ground to stare up at the clouds as he tried to decide what he should do about the Saiya-jin prince. Heíd thought that if heíd just left Vejiita alone for a while, he would relax and be willing to at least speak to him again. Obviously, heíd thought wrong.
He was half-tempted to just let it go, telling himself that Vejiita didnít want him and it would be better if he didnít push, but he couldnít. He closed his eyes, sighing. He was in love with the prince, he couldnít just give him up without a fight. And, as heíd promised before, even if Vejiita wasnít in love with him, he still wanted to help him overcome what had happened to him in the past.
He continued to lay on the ground for long minutes, trying to decide what was the best course of action. Finally he gave up, cursing as he quickly rose to his feet, his eyes glazing briefly as he touched two fingers to his forehead and concentrated...
Vejiita stood on a grassy bluff, several feet back from a sheer drop off into the valley below. The edges of a forest began about a hundred yards behind him, and he closed his eyes as the light breeze combed its fingers through his hair. The sun was warm against his face as he sighed quietly, then brought the iirlanth back to his lips and once more began to play.
The music came to him naturally, without any real effort on his part, his fingers adjusting to each note without hesitation. The song was wild, free, but at the same time full of a painful longing and an underlying pain. As a child, playing the instrument was one of the only ways he ever expressed his true emotions, even as he himself hardly realized that was what he was doing. It had been a way to escape. At first, when he had heard the gardener playing it, heíd condemned it as being weak and pathetic, but heíd been undeniably interested. When heíd first asked the gardener, his name had been Tylesh, to show him how to do it, the man had been extremely reluctant, almost fearful, though Vejiita had only been five years old at the time. Heíd suspected a trick, was afraid of being caught, but eventually came to believe that Vejiita was truly interested. And seeing in the already-arrogant prince a lonely little boy, he had consented to teach him about music. Vejiita had caught on quickly, listening to Tylesh carefully and following his instructions precisely, though he still somehow managed to maintain his image of royal haughtiness. Despite his attitude, though, heíd become truly attached to Tylesh as the Relkaen treated him with grudging affection. One of very few real friends.
Now Vejiita brought the song to a finish in a flurry of notes that abruptly paused on a last, clear tone, then fell into silence. Sighing, he held the instrument out in one hand, grimacing as he looked down at it. Throughout his life it had been a source of pain, comfort, and embarrassment all in one. Shaking his head, he fell into a crouch and was beginning to clean it when he heard a very faint rustle behind him and began to feel, uncomfortably, like he was being watched.
Muscles tensing into readiness, he rose and swung around, his teeth bared in a snarl. Then he stiffened, cold tension sweeping his body as his mouth went dry and a violent blush tried to creep its way up his cheeks.
"Kakarrot!" he snapped, "What the fuck are you doing!?"
How long has he been here?! he thought wildly, trying to keep his emotions from reaching his expression. Oh, God dammit, I hope he didnít hear... Oh fuck!
Goku lifted one shoulder in a kind of sheepish half-shrug, but he was looking at Vejiita intently, his dark eyes lit with interest.
"I was looking for you," he said simply.
There was a long silence in which the two looked at each other, Vejiita glaring furiously, Goku watching him carefully. Finally Goku spoke again, his voice soft. "Vejiita, I didnít know you could play an instrument."
Feeling his face flush hotly, Vejiita turned stiffly away from the other Saiya-jin, hurriedly packing the iirlanth away. God dammit, he hissed to himself, trying to control the anxious trembling of his hands, more from strung nerves than fear. What is he thinking now? How ridiculously pathetic is it that I would play something like this. This is the appropriate time for mockery. Now he can throw all Iíve ever said back in my face.
"Fuck you," he muttered, half under his breath as he finished putting his instrument away, still crouched on the ground, and closed the clasps. He more felt then saw Goku flinch, then stiffened when the other Saiya-jin moved to stand behind him, hardly more than a foot away.
"It was beautiful, Vejiita. I... think itís amazing."
Vejiita sat very still, refusing to look up at the other man, instead staring down at his hands where they rested on the instrumentís case. The silence lengthened awkwardly, Vejiita unwilling to make the first move, waiting to see what Gokuís purpose was. The other Saiya-jin shifted his weight, running a hand through his black hair and gazing at their surroundings. Finally he stepped forward, moving until he was next to Vejiita and then falling into a crouch beside the prince. Hesitantly, he reached out his hand toward the iirlanth, letting it hover uncertainly without actually touching the case.
"Can I... Can I see it?"
A low growl slid from Vejiitaís throat as his tail flicked from side to side slightly. He almost snarled at Goku to get the hell away from him, then deflated on a sigh. Mumbling something unintelligible, he gave the instrument a slight shove toward the other Saiya-jin. Goku flipped the catches on the case, opening it and letting it rest against the ground. Reaching forward, he carefully picked up the instrument, running his fingers over the cool wood. Eyebrows drawing together slightly in concentration, he brought it closer to his face, gazing at the near- ebony wood, lined with lighter, red-tinted grains and polished to a shining finish. Delicately, he fingered the keys, lightly smoothing his hand over the design engraved on the instrumentís surface.
"This isnít Saiya-jin," he noted after several moments, and Vejiita looked at him in surprise, his tension momentarily forgotten. He still was not completely used to Gokuís intelligence, and was often surprised at his observations.
"No," he acknowledged gruffly. "Itís Relkaen."
"Itís what?" Goku asked, puzzled.
Sighing, wondering vaguely why he was sitting on the ground talking to Kakarrot instead of simply leaving, Vejiita told him briefly about the instrument and how he had come to play it. Goku listened carefully, his eyes alight with what seemed like genuine interest, and for some reason that inspired Vejiita to continue. He spoke, almost forgetting that he was talking to Goku, about Tylesh and the hours he had spent sitting in the garden with him, listening to him play, learning from him.
"He was quite intelligent and very... mild, I guess," Vejiita said quietly, his eyes elsewhere, "He wasnít... meant to be a servant..."
Goku looked at him curiously, still holding the iirlanth and absently pressing the keys. "What happened to him?"
Vejiitaís face darkened, his black eyes clouding. He said nothing for a moment, looking at the ground and smoothing his fingers through the thick grass beneath him, his tail briefly curling around his ankle before loosening again. When he spoke his voice was cold and emotionless. "King Vejiita learned of our relationship, and of the fact that Tylesh was teaching me about music and art. He had him tortured and killed as an Ďexampleí for the other servants."
Goku looked stricken, staring at Vejiita in horror. "Vejiita," he whispered, instinctively reaching out and laying a gentle hand on the princeís back, "I canít- Iím so... Iím so sorry..."
Vejiita did not respond to the touch, but neither did he pull away from it, remaining motionless but for the fingers stroking the little blade of grass.
There was a long silence, broken by nothing but the sound of branches rustling in the breeze and the occasional bird song. Goku ran his eyes over Vejiitaís crouching body, unable to keep himself from appreciating the image the prince presented. His faded blue jeans clung tightly to his buttocks and thighs, revealing well-sculpted muscles that shifted slightly to maintain his balance. His white beater hugged his chest and stomach in an extremely flattering fashion, bronzed skin contrasting against the lightness of the material, and the black leather jacket... Few people looked as good in leather as Vejiita. The prince was simply stunning.
Sighing, Goku closed his eyes and pushed away the urge to place a soft kiss on the back of Vejiitaís neck. He didnít want the prince to spook on him now that he finally seemed to be relaxing. Trying to find somewhere else to focus his attention, he looked down at the instrument in his hands, remembering the sight of Vejiita playing it. An odd desire to try it himself welled up in him, and he turned it in his hands, pressing the keys again.
"Um, Vejiita?" he began hesitantly, waiting until the prince grunted in acknowledgment. "Do you, uh... Do you mind if I try... um, try this?"
Vejiita twisted to look at him, one black eyebrow raising sharply. Goku flushed lightly and glanced at the ground, then met Vejiitaís gaze again.
"Do you know the slightest thing about music, Kakarrot?" Vejiita snapped.
Goku flushed more deeply, twisting the iirlanth in his hands and swallowing as he shrugged. "Well, I... I mean, not..." He looked away again, suddenly humiliated. He must seem so completely ignorant to the prince. "I just... kind of wanted...." he trailed off miserably.
There was a short silence in which Goku contemplated handing Vejiita the instrument and leaving before he embarrassed himself further. Then Vejiita shrugged, sighing impatiently. "Go ahead, then, Kakarrot."
Goku shook his head, "No, nevermind, itís-"
"Shimata!" Vejiita snapped, glaring at him, "If you want to play it, do it!"
Goku hesitated again, uncertain, and Vejiita made an irritated sound. Flinching, Goku hurriedly brought the iirlanth to his lips and, clenching it tightly, drew in a deep breath, blowing hard across the mouth piece. No pleasant sound resulted. Instead there was mainly the noise of his exhalation, accompanied, by a very faint, somewhat unpleasant gasping note from the iirlanth.
Vejiita snorted and Goku swallowed, feeling very insignificant and stupid. Biting his lip, he handed the instrument back to Vejiita, beginning to rise as he mumbled, "Sorry..."
Vejiitaís rough grasp on his wrist halted him though, and he glanced at the prince.
Vejiita released him. "Baka!" he snapped, faint scorn lacing his voice. Goku began to get up again. "Look!" the prince said sharply, "You arenít holding it right. Do it like this."
The other Saiya-jin arranged his hands until he was holding the instrument correctly, displaying his grip to Goku.
"Youíre holding onto it like itís one of those bats humans use to play that idiotic sport. This is an instrument, Kakarrot, treat it like one. And you donít need to blow so hard."
Finished speaking, Vejiita against demonstrated, raising the iirlanth to his lips and blowing gently over the opening. Of course, a clear, beautiful note resulted.
Vejiita offered Goku the instrument once more, and at first the bigger Saiya-jin made no moves to take it, then sighed and grasped it gingerly. "I donít know. Youíre probably right, Vejiita, I canít do this. I donít know anything about music."
"Be quiet, Kakarrot. Just hold it the way I showed you." Vejiita said roughly.
Biting his lip for a moment, not wanting to embarrass himself again, Goku tried to remember the exact placement of the princeís fingers when he had held the iirlanth. Adjusting his hands, he gripped the instrument more lightly this time, his fingers resting on the keys but not depressing them. After another moment of minuscule fidgeting, he glanced at the prince.
"Is... Is this right?"
Vejiita glanced at his hold and sighed, sounding mildly exasperated. Goku felt his cheeks heat again. This was stupid. All he was doing was making himself look more and more foolish, and God knew he had done plenty of that during his lifetime.
"Look, forget it," he began, starting to push the instrument back at Vejiita.
The prince ignored him, refusing to take it. "Donít be stupid, Kakarrot."
With another small sigh, Vejiita rocked forward onto his knees and slid a little closer to Goku. "Here, look," he said quietly. Reaching out, he placed his hands over Gokuís, adjusting his palms and deftly maneuvering the Saiya-jinís larger fingers into the correct position. "There," he said, leaning back and withdrawing his touch, "Thatís the basic grip."
Gokuís lips were parted slightly. He wanted to say something, but nothing came out. He had never expected Vejiita to do something... just... so plainly nice. Drawing a slow breath, suddenly wanting desperately to kiss the prince, he looked down at his hands, trying to remember the placing of his fingers.
"Now," Vejiita said, "Try it again. And remember not to blow so hard this time."
Closing his eyes, Goku again brought the iirlanth to his mouth, taking a breath and then blowing softly across the opening. It wasnít an ugly sound this time. There was simply no sound at all. Opening his eyes again, he allowed the instrument to fall to his lap, sighing defeatedly.
"Itís no big deal, Vejiita. I just canít do it, thatís all," he grinned unhappily. "Iím just too big and clumsy."
"Youíre being ridiculous," Vejiita said, extracting the instrument from Gokuís grip. "It takes more than a few minutes to learn how to play this." He sat still for several seconds, apparently thinking, and Goku took the moment to shift into a more comfortable cross-legged position, finding it difficult to believe Vejiita hadnít simply laughed at him and told him to give up. "Here," Vejiita said a minute later, "When you were young, here on earth, did you ever take an empty pop bottle and blow across the top of it so it made kind of a low whistling sound?"
Goku looked over at him. "Um... Yeah, I guess I did. Why?"
"Thatís kind of similar to what youíre doing here. I imagine you didnít just pick up the bottle, blow into it and hit the right spot, correct? You had to adjust until you found the right angle to make the sound. Itís the same here. You have to blow across the mouthpiece in the right way to make it play. Look."
Raising the iirlanth, he parted his lips slightly, forming kind of an oval and blowing across the opening, his lower lip touching the instrument. It sang softly. Goku watched carefully, leaning forward slightly, and Vejiita tilted his head a little so Goku could see better. Stopping, he held out the instrument again. Taking it, Goku thought for a moment, then adjusted his hands into what he thought was the correct position. He glanced at Vejiita, then felt a slight flush of pleasure when the prince nodded. Raising the instrument, he rested it lightly against his bottom lip, then blew gently. Nothing. Frustrated, he started to lower it, but Vejiita caught his wrist, holding the iirlanth in place against his lips.
"No, donít give up. Just adjust it a little; turn it until you make the sound. Try it again."
Goku blew into the instrument again, and again there was no sound. Leaning further toward him, Vejiita sat his hands on either end of the iirlanth.
"Blow," he said quietly. Goku complied, and as he breathed across the mouth piece, Vejiita carefully adjusted the instrument, turning it against his lip and changing the angle. And suddenly a tremulous note rang against the still air.
Goku started slightly, then, realizing that he had actually played a note, he broke into an elated grin, raising his head and smiling at Vejiita like a fool. "Yes! I- Vejiita, did you hear- I played it!"
Reaching out, he excitedly gripped the princeís shoulders. He had never realized how satisfying the simple act of producing music could be, and he laughed a little, feeling deliriously happy. He had played the note, and Vejiita had helped him. Vejiita had been leaning toward him with his face just inches away from Gokuís as he watched his lips and adjusted the instrument for him. The past few moments with Vejiita somehow meant a great deal, and he continued to grin, still holding onto Vejiita, who was holding the instrument he had abandoned. Then he suddenly wondered what Vejiita was thinking of his display and looked quickly at the princeís face.
Vejiita was smiling. As impossible as it seemed, the Saiya-jin prince was smiling. He was not sneering, he was not smirking. He was smiling. The expression was faint but it was there, and, for what might have been the first time, it was genuine.
Stunned, thinking that Vejiita was beautiful beyond words, Goku swayed toward him unconsciously, nearly shaking with the sudden strength of his love. Then he forced himself to stop, becoming still and simply looking at the prince, still holding on to his shoulders. Vejiita looked back at him, and for long moments there was silence, but the tension was of a different kind then before. They hardly breathed, staring at each other, and for a brief moment Goku thought he felt Vejiita start to move toward him. Then the prince seemed to rouse himself, shaking his head and clearing his throat, leaning back slightly. Goku slowly allowed his hands to fall.
"Do you want to try again, Kakarrot?" Vejiita asked, his voice seeming just a bit off.
Goku blinked, looking at him blankly for a moment, then shook his head as he tried to concentrate on Vejiitaís question. "Wha- Um, yeah, sure."
Vejiita handed him the instrument again and allowed him to try to play once more. After several attempts Goku was able to find the note without any words of assistance from Vejiita. As the prince continued to speak to him about playing the instrument, the tension slowly faded and they settled into an odd kind of rapport they had never had before. Goku laughed often out of sheer enjoyment as Vejiita began to demonstrate several basic fingerings on the iirlanth, showing him how to produce different notes, then string them together to form the beginning of a scale. Their heads were close together as they both bent over the instrument, Vejiita briefly running over each of the keys, but explaining that Goku didnít need to worry about most of them right now. Goku hesitantly asked Vejiita if he would play another song, and with only a few minor grumblings Vejiita complied, the instrument singing beautifully beneath his skilled fingers. Goku lay sprawled on his stomach in the grass, resting his chin in his hands as he listened, his elbow braced a few inches from Vejiitaís knee. But he didnít touch him. Somehow something deeper was forming between them here, and he didnít want to lose it. When Vejiita finished his song, flushing a little and shrugging off Gokuís praise, he continued to show Goku another few basic things about the iirlanth, and when the two finally decided to wrap it up, the sky was beginning to streak with orange and pink.
After Vejiita thoroughly cleaned the instrument and packed it away, they rose to their feet and stood silently for a while, a small distance between them as they both watched the deepening sunset. Then Goku shifted his gaze to look down at the small prince beside him, his eyes measuring as he tried to decide whether or not to make his offer. Finally he sighed a little and said softly, not wanting to disturb the quiet, "Vejiita?"
The prince stirred slightly, still looking at the setting sun. "Hmm?"
"I... I wanted you to know... that if you ever needed to talk.... you know, about anything... that... Iím here. I... Iím willing to listen... whenever... if you need it."
Vejiita turned to look at him. His black eyes were unreadable pools in the fading light as he gazed at Goku unwaveringly, neither accepting or rejecting. Goku thought he saw him swallow. Then he nodded and looked back at the sunset, his voice sounding slightly odd as he whispered, "I know."
Goku closed his eyes, bowing his head slightly and folding his arms across his chest, just reveling in this moment to love him, without thinking of anything else. Of course he would have liked to hold him, to kiss him, to make love with him, but, right now, this was enough. After long minutes he looked at the prince again, wanting to make sure. "Vejiita?"
The other Saiya-jin turned to him once more.
"Are we all right? Are we friends again?"
Vejiita looked back at the sunset. There was a very long silence.
"Weíre friends, Kakarrot."