Kakarot lifts his head, sniffing the air hungrily. “Wow, something smells good,” he announces, standing from his position straddling the bench of the picnic table, peering over his shoulder.

“Yeah, Vegeta just put the hot dogs on,” Gohan answers, leaning back against the table where I perch, and Kakarot spreads his grin eagerly over his face, sitting back down slowly.

“I’m glad you decided to stick around, Gohan,” Kakarot addresses his son, and the younger man glances down briefly, a slight flush dusting his cheeks. It’s strange, I never know what’s going to inspire modesty in him and what he’ll take in stride.

“Well, like I said, Dad, I thought you might want the moral support.” He looks up at me. “I’m glad you’re around, though, Raditz. You’re taking good care of Dad, right?”

I open my mouth to answer, but my brother interrupts me. “Oh, he’s been great! I would have been lost without you, big brother.” He reaches over and playfully tweaks the tip of my tail, sending a rushes of electric sensation through my body, stiffening my spine and making me hiss through my teeth. He lets out a startled oh! and apologizes immediately. “Oops, sorry! I forgot, that really hurts, doesn’t it?”

“Not exactly,” I answer, slipping my tail back out of reach, letting it rest on the bed of my hair pooled on the warm wood of the picnic table.

“Huh? It always used to hurt whenever anyone grabbed my tail, when I was a kid…” he trails off curiously, and I wonder, Am I going to have to teach the Saiyan facts of life to my little brother at his age? Gods, I hope not.

“You never had your tail as an adult, right?” I ask cautiously, and he shakes his head in negation. Now Gohan’s turned around, resting his elbow on the table and listening with interest. Shit. “Well, it’s a bit different when-“

“Oh, my!” A sultry female voice interrupts me, and all three of us swivel our heads to Bulma, standing there in a pair of tight cut-offs and a bikini top. She’s grinning wickedly. “What a lovely matched set. Do you three come with gift wrap?”

I scowl at her, Gohan stares fixedly at the ground, blushing furiously, and Kakarot just stares. Please don’t answer her, please don’t answer her…

“Uh, I don’t think so, Bulma. Why would we?” I sink my head into my hands in abject humiliation. How did my brother ever manage to have not one, but two children? I guess life’s full of little mysteries. The woman’s tinkling laugh simmers suggestively in the still air, heated by the Indian summer.

“Oh, Goku, you’re such a doll,” she purrs, and ruffles his hair affectionately before sauntering off to bother someone else. My brother looks up at me, confusion widening his eyes and twisting his mouth prettily. I shrug down at him.

“Don’t ask me, Kakarot. She’s not my woman.”

Kakarot laughs, a bit nervously, and Gohan turns the conversation back to the previous topic. “So you’re going to have to tell us more about the tail thing, Raditz. Since I suppose we’re all getting them back now.” He seems somewhat amused by the idea, but considering the envious way he looks at mine whenever I let it loose, I figure he must be more than a little happy, as well.

“Well,” I begin, trying to think how I would explain this to a child of mine. Then I have to rethink…these aren’t children, but grown men with their own kids. “Well, as you both probably noticed when you were kids, any sort of rough handling of the tail is pretty painful. In fact, parents often use that as a way to punish or control Saiyan children…just grab them by the tail, and they aren’t going anywhere.” I smile to myself, thinking of the times when Father hauled me around by my tail, screaming bloody murder, whenever I got into somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be.

“But did you two ever have someone stroke your tail softly?” Gohan shakes his head, and Kakarot raises his eyes to the sky, indicating he’s thinking.

“Hm, not that I remember.”

“Well, as a child, it feels fairly nice to have someone do that. Soothing…like someone rubbing your back.” Kakarot smiles at me with that comparison, almost shyly, and I can’t help but return the expression, touching him lightly on the shoulder before continuing. “Saiyan parents use that as well, to quiet crying infants or calm down tantrumming children. But as you go through adolescence, things change.” I glance down again at my brother. “I know Gohan lost his tail in childhood, but when did yours go?”

He shrugs. “I was still a kid, if that’s what you’re asking. No tail during puberty.”

I nod. “Things start to change for most Saiyan children about ten years old or so…though I’ve heard of it as early as seven and as late as fifteen. First, you start having these occasional shooting pains through your tail and spine. They come pretty randomly, and some people have far more than others…I don’t know what determines the number or severity. After that is a period of time when your tail is highly sensitized…any little touch is somewhat shocking. Not necessarily painful, but uncomfortable…like when you hit your funny bone.” Gohan winces in sympathy at the thought of that, but Kakarot just looks intrigued, tilting his head to the side as he listens like an overgrown dog. Honestly, it’s kind of endearing.

“That lasts a month or so, and then things go back to normal…well, normal for an adult Saiyan. The tail is still sensitive to pain with rough touches, like grabbing or squeezing too hard. But for softer touches…well, it fells very nice. In a sexual way, if you catch my drift.”

“Oh!” Gohan blinks, sitting up straighter. “Like an extra erogenous zone.”

I nod, grinning. “Exactly!” My own tail sways slowly behind me now, echoing my pleasure at Gohan’s quick absorption of the facts. “I imagine Videl is going to enjoy your new appendage,” I add slyly, mentally crowing to myself as I elicit a deep blush from my nephew.

Kakarot is watching my tail intently, his brow furrowed in thought. “Then...when I grabbed your…” Gohan’s eyes track to my weaving tail in response to his father’s words, then both gain twin painful expressions as the implications hit. I clear my throat.

“Uh, yeah. But don’t worry about it. I mean, you didn’t know, right?” Saiyans are actually a bit more free with casual touching and sexuality between siblings than humans…but Kakarot and Gohan were raised human, and I can’t expect the same cultural attitudes. I try to imagine that Kakarot was my father doing the same thing…yep, okay, that is uncomfortable. I find myself clearing my throat again, searching for another topic.

“So, uh,” my brother begins, “How is it that when you first came here, grabbing your tail really hurt, but it didn’t seem to do anything to Nappa or Vegeta?”

I skate shakily onto the firmer ice of Saiyan training with a little mental sigh of relief. “Well, that has to do with conditioning more than anything else. Actually, most adolescents are a little oversensitive, just because they’re not used to the new feelings yet. But as you get older, you get more accustomed. Then there’s a whole other level for warriors. Both Nappa and Vegeta went through a rather rigorous training to be able to withstand that kind of pain. So it still hurt when someone grabbed their tails, they just were able to block it out. I didn’t go through the same thing myself…” I’m actually a little embarrassed to talk about it. After all, I had it continually pounded into my head how undisciplined I was for not choosing to go through that little ordeal.

Kakarot is nodding slowly. “Ah, that makes sense.” He seems about to say something else when Gohan turns his head to the side gate of the garden with a huge grin. My brother and I turn to look, and see Videl carefully balancing seven or eight boxes on one shoulder, two little girls orbiting her with a tinkling profusion of giggles.

“Videl’s back with the drinks,” he says, getting to his feet quickly and hurrying over to help his wife. Not that she can’t carry four cases of pop and three of beer, but they are a bit hard to see around. The darker haired of the two girls latches on to her father’s legs happily, while the one with the blue-green hair skips over to Vegeta, sweating at the grill. He glances down at her and lightly touches her cheek, but she’s wearing an identical expression to her companion, who’s been hoisted up onto her father’s shoulder. Both look blissfully happy to be the object of their respective father’s attention.

As Videl and Gohan start unloading the drinks into an enormous tub of ice, I saunter over to give them a hand. Pan has a different idea, however, and leaps from her father neatly into my arms, never doubting that I’ll catch her. Of course I do, and swing her around playfully.

“Uncle Raditz!” she cries, and I can’t help but warm to the sound of her voice. I don’t think I’ll ever have my own children, but I’m happy to pretend for awhile with this little one. “Let’s play rocket ship!” she suggests excitedly.

I glance over to Gohan, and he nods indulgently, while Videl shoots me a sly grin. I think she realizes how happy I am in the role of doting uncle, as does Gohan. I’m continually surprised at how quickly he trusted me with his only child; after all, when he first met me I was going to kill him. I felt some regret over it, felt it was a waste, but just the same, I was ready to put down a five and half year old child. Did being dead do something to me, soften me? Or was it this family?

“Okay, beansprout,” I agree with my grand-niece, going to one knee and placing her on the ground, my hands snugged securely under her armpits. “But we need the countdown from Mission Control!”

She claps her hands, and begins counting slowly backwards. “Ten…nine…eight…seven…um, six…five…four…threetwoONE!” At one, I straighten, and fling her upwards as hard as I can, sending her shooting into the perfect blue sky. She climbs, higher and higher, and I hear Bulma gasp as I power up and go flying fast and hard up after Pan.

She reaches the peak of her arc at about a thousand feet, then gravity claims her, and she shrieks happily at the sensation of her stomach being left behind. I spiral around her on her descent, and she keeps letting out these cute little screams, her black hair fluttering as she hits terminal velocity. Down, down, down…until about thirty feet from the ground, I snatch her out of the air and slow our descent, bringing us to a gentle halt three inches above the grass. She clings to my neck, her eyes streaming tears from the rush of air, but her gap-toothed smile stretches widely.

I set her down gently, and she laughs, running a few circles around me before spotting Kakarot. “Granpa, Granpa! Did you see me? I was flyin’!” She takes off in his direction, and he scoops her up, listening patiently to her childish ramblings.

“I swear, that girl has the attention span of a gnat,” Videl comments to me fondly, and I turn to her.

“Well, that’s the way kids her age are, right?” I ask, though not from any personal experience. I grab a beer from the now filled ice tub, twisting the top off and taking several long swigs, grateful to the cool rush of liquid down my throat. As I wipe my mouth, I catch two sets of eyes: Vegeta is looking at me with a thoughtful expression, his dark eyes seemingly sizing me up. His daughter is doing the same thing, her small face as solemn as her father’s. She looks a bit older than Pan, but nowhere near old enough to have such a serious expression. It seems Trunks and his sister have less in common than one might assume. I watch curiously as she slowly walks over to Kakarot and Pan, then says something, prompting my brother to put down his granddaughter and let the two little girls begin whispering to each other.

Shaking my head, I wander back over to the picnic table, until I hear from behind me, “Trunks! There you are! Can you put out the potato salad and the chips? I think your father’s almost done with the hot dogs.”

I don’t really want to turn my head…no, that’s a complete lie, I want to turn my head, stare, howl, and drool. Gods, I’ve only just managed to get in the habit of not staring lustfully after Vegeta, broad back so nicely defined in black cotton again. The conversation with my family had been a grateful respite from fighting my raging appetites. I feign a casual attitude as I perch on the picnic table again, scanning the garden seemingly at random.

Trunks is still wearing those loose cotton pants, complimented by a simple white tank top. A tight white tank top, outlining the angular lines of his chest. His back is to me, thank the Gods, and I can see some sort of doubled leather thong around his neck, like a necklace, but tighter. He straightens, and scratches briefly at his stomach, pushing his shirt up a bit. Those black pants are slung low on his hips, and the muscles of his back slide oilily into that raven cloth in such an intoxicating manner…things can’t get any worse.

Oh, I’m so wrong. Because he’s turned around, responding to something his little sister has said, something I can’t hear with the way the blood is pounding in my ears. And I can see the aching line of his hipbones, diving into his waistband. Oh gods. Ohhh….

“Raditz?” I have the feeling this is not the first time my brother has said my name. I turn towards him, and I’m sure my eyes are glazed over. Kakarot looks at me, somewhat puzzled, but has not, apparently, noticed what I was looking at, and I thank all the gods of this Earth for that little detail gone undiscovered.

“Yeah?” My voice sounds out of whack, even to me. Kakarot smiles suddenly, a knowing, sly sort of grin that seems out of place on his face. What does he think he just figured out?

“Food’s ready,” he says, silently refusing to enlighten me.

“Oh,” I parry back with great wit, and he leaves me, trotting eagerly towards the card table being used to hold up prodigious amounts of food. Well, three full blood Saiyans and three demi-Saiyans will doubtless dent even that colossal offering. I trail behind my brother as usual, moving slowly to give myself time to perfect my friendly, slightly bored expression. I finish the beer in a few gulps, and wonder how I’m going to make it through the afternoon.

Part Fifteen | Back
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