Kakarot’s laughter rings through our small bedroom, bouncing gleefully off the walls as he responds to the punchline of one of my better dirty jokes. He lays on his stomach on his bed, propping his head up with his palms. I love that open, joyful expression in his face, tinged just slightly with a sense that he’s not really supposed to laugh at that sort of thing. Must’ve learned it from Chichi, because he sure didn’t get it from his lech of a teacher. I sit cross-legged on my bed, leaning forward to catch the cool breeze drifting in the window. It’s still far too warm for early October, or so Gohan says.

“Hey, Raditz?” Kakarot asks suddenly, cutting through the companionable silence that had settled in the room.

“Hmm?”

“Do you remember me as a baby? Our family?”

“Well, yeah, of course I do.”

“What was I like?”

“Hmmm, kinda whiny, I guess. You cried a lot. But pretty active. You were pretty slow to warm to anybody but me and our mother. In fact, I think you hated Father. It was kinda funny.” I laugh, thinking of an incident shortly before my brother was sent away. “One time, Father had one of his cronies over, and he wanted to introduce his sons. So he had me bring you in, and he told me to give you to him. So I tried to, but you started crying the way you always did…these irritating little high-pitched noises. Father was not amused, and he sort of grabbed you…and you!” I snicker again, leaning back mirthfully.

“You just bit him! Must’ve been really hard, or at least surprising, because he yelled, too, and then you jumped back to me, grabbing onto my neck. I was sure Father was going to beat me to get you off, and then you started banging your little fists into the back of my head, so I took off running, and our father was chasing after us, and I ended up trying to hide in Mother’s closet. I got in so much trouble that night.” I grin fondly at my little brother, and he smiles serenely back at me.

“You took care of me a lot.”

“I guess so.” It’s funny how I keep redefining myself around my brother; look at my own behavior in ways I never thought of before.

“Raditz, what were you like?”

“Me?”

“Yeah.”

“Gods, Kakarot, I don’t know…just a kid, I guess. I wasn’t anything really remarkable. I had a few friends, like most kids, but not very many. Father wanted me to train too often for that. I guess I was kinda quiet when I was younger, too. Not like you.” I shrug. “Not like I am now, either, I guess.”

“Oh.”

“Why all the interest?”

“I don’t know…I guess it’s just that we’ve never really talked much before. You’ve been here, what, three months now? We just never seem to get around to it.”

I think back, and realize it’s true. But then, it’s taken recent events for me to even think of Kakarot as my brother. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” I study him carefully, leaning my head forward to watch him under a curtain of hair, so he doesn’t think I’m staring. The light from the little bedside lamp illuminates that porcelain skin, lending him an unearthly glow. In some ways we’re so different…but he has the same eyes as me, dark and sometimes a little confused, but also sometimes crystal clear. Like when he’s fighting. Father’s hair, great spikes of it, every which way. It would be my hair, too, if I hadn’t grown it out. I’ve still got the spikes myself…mine just tend to sweep backwards. And no one in our family has my severe widow’s peak. Who knows where that came from?

Same build, too, just on a smaller scale. His broad shoulders lead into brawny upper arms and bulky forearms, all hard angles, boxy, not like Vegeta and his son, both of whom curve more gracefully. Big hands, thick fingers, one tapping lightly against his cheek as my brother stares out the window into the night. Long legs…Kakarot’s and mine both thicker than his sons’, though Gohan is built more like his father, has some of our bulk. Big feet, crossed at the ankles, his calves perpendicular to his thighs flat on the bed. It should be a girlish position, but on Kakarot it just looks relaxed.

I wonder how alike we are mentally? Does he get as lost as I do with other people? Does he like the simple, easy conversations, like now? Does he yearn for someone to be next to him, to share everything with him the way I do? The way Chichi doesn’t? Or does he prefer to be alone? No, I can’t see my brother ever alone by choice. He has so many friends…but then, how many does he really open up to? What goes on inside his head? Sometimes he seems so transparent…other times he’s as much of an enigma to me as Vegeta.

A thought suddenly strikes me as I sit there, staring at my little brother, the room silent but for the low sound of two male Saiyans’ breathing and the gentle background of trees sighing in the breeze. In all my desperate longings for a romantic partner, have I overlooked something? Someone? Here my brother sits before me, the easy silence between us blessedly free of tension, our occasional words drifting lazily through the air with no thought of censure. Has it been my sibling that’s been missing from my life, my little brother that was ripped away from me before I was old enough to fight for him?

“Raditz? Why are you staring at me?” Kakarot’s voice is casual, mildly curious.

“I was just thinking about you,” I answer, never once thinking to amend the thoughts that spill from my lips with him.

“What about me?” He turns those inky eyes back to me, then smiles. “I can’t see your face. Move your hair.”

I comply, pushing my fingers through the thick locks and trying to gather it at the nape of neck. “Better?”

“Mmmhmm. Now answer the question.”

It’s strange, I feel a sense of surreality drift through me, making everything seem dreamy. Not distant, not foggy, in fact it seems as though every detail is not only sharp, clear, but also brilliant. The sable of my brother’s hair a sea of night; the pale blue of his jeans a symphony of summer sky; the cream of the sheets a rich delicacy I can almost taste on the tip of my tongue. “I was thinking how alike we are. And how different. And how I’m not sure how I missed you there in front of me this last few months.”

He pillows his crossed arms under his head, smoothing out the arch of his back to form a straight line as he leans his chin down, still looking at me. “What do you mean?”

I don’t know what I mean. “I mean, that we…well, that we work so well together? But that’s not quite right. We complement each other? It’s just that it’s easy to be around you, even though we didn’t grow up together. Do you know what I mean?”

He nods slowly. “Mmhm.” He twists on the bed, flipping over onto his back and letting his head fall down the side so he can continue to watch me.

“Now why are you staring at me?” I ask in a lightly teasing tone, smiling softly.

“Because I like looking at you.” He settles his hands at his stomach. “You look a little bit like Vegeta, but you look like me, too. I missed having a brother growing up. I’m glad I have one now.”

“Me, too.”

“So what were you coming to talk to me about?”

“What?” I can’t follow.

“Last night…well, maybe you weren’t coming to talk to me. When you came home, you looked a bit upset.” Big understatement, I probably looked furious.

“Oh, that. Well, it’s kind of a long story.” Not one that I feel like telling to anyone. “Piccolo sort of came on to me.” Hey, why did that slip out? Wasn’t I not going to say anything?

“Really?”

“Yeah, it was strange. He said he wanted to know what sex was like…you know, from a Saiyan perspective, since I guess Nameks don’t have sex.” My mouth runs blissfully on, ignoring my mind which is trying to become alarmed. It can’t quite make it though, as my eyes continually catch on little details. The way Kakarot’s mouth moves when he’s talking. The little moth that sits motionless on the nightstand beneath the lamp. I know it’s not dead, if I were to flick my finger at it, it would clumsily climb into the air again.

“So did you?”

“What, did we have sex?”

“Mmhm.” A pale shade of pink, his lips, slightly roughened by the sun, a delicate layer of dryer flesh perching on the moist softness beneath.

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I told him no.”

“Why?”

“I felt like he was using me. Also, I don’t know if he actually can, and it would be awfully disappointing to get partway through and then be stuck.”

“But couldn’t he…” I watch my brother search for the words of this unfamiliar language. Clearly, he’s rarely, if ever, talked about such things. Probably not even considered them between two men, if Goten’s attitude is any indicator. “You know, do something for you even if he can’t…you know, with his mouth?”

“I suppose so. I didn’t think of it. But still…it’s not the same if the person you’re playing with isn’t getting anything out of it.”

“Playing with.” His eyes are far away, dreamy, echoing mine, I think.

“Screwing, fucking, making love to, whatever.”

“What is it with Piccolo?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t done anything with Piccolo. It’s confusing to me. I don’t understand why he wanted to…” I shake my head, letting my hair fall into my face again as I lower my eyes to my fingers playing idly with the seam in my jeans. I feel like a teenager again, having some friend stay over a night and exchanging secrets. Except it’s pretty one-sided at this point. “I’m not good at understanding people, the way they…interact, with me.”

“What is it with Vegeta?”

“Huh?”

I feel strong fingers brushing at my hair, moving it languidly out of my face, and I raise my eyes to see my brother arching his back to reach me. I automatically push my hair out of my face again, and he smiles lazily.

“Would it be playing, fucking, screwing, or making love, with Vegeta?”

“I guess that would depend on him.” My voice is barely a whisper. “How did you know?”

“Oh, it was something Gohan said earlier. He’s said before…several times, since he got old enough to stop being embarrassed when he talks about his personal life with me, that all us Sons have a Vegeta phase. That’s what he calls it, a Vegeta phase.” His laugh is low, intimate. This is the secret, shared between brothers. “He went through his when he was sixteen or so, before the whole thing with Buu. Had a crazy crush on the man, wanted desperately to have sex with him…Gohan called it fucking, so I’m guessing it was a lust thing more than anything else. Goten had his a little younger, at thirteen or fourteen, Gohan estimates. Goten never told me about it, but from what his brother says, it was more of a moony, romantic thing.”

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

His eyes pull back from the window they were drifting out of as he spoke, back to me, and he smiles again, this time with a bit more mischief. “Patience, big brother, I’m getting to that. Anyway, today, when he was leaving, he said, ‘I think Raditz is going through his Vegeta phase.’ Gohan’s really good at reading people. Is he right?”

I nod wordlessly.

“I thought so. I watched you, after he said that. You watch him a lot, Vegeta. Of course, you stare at Trunks a lot, too, but it’s different. I can’t figure out how, but it is. Were you two…did you used to be together?”

Again, I nod.

“Hmm, that makes things make a lot more sense now.” He’s just looking up at me now, and I’m gazing back, but there’s still no tension, just two dark pairs of eyes exchanging wordless information, the language of the heart.

“Kakarot, you said Gohan said all the Sons went through a Vegeta phase. What was yours?”

He lets out a soft exhale from between half parted lips. “He wouldn’t take me.”

I’m surprised at his words…had my brother…? “Did you ask him about it?”

“Yeah. I felt so stupid afterwards. I told him how I felt, and he told me…well, he said he wouldn’t take being second place. I wasn’t ready to leave Chichi. I should have known better. But I guess that’s part of the Vegeta phase, too, being carried away with him. Acting…rashly.”

My mind takes hold of this new information, twisting and turning it over slowly, like wet clothes on a clothesline being tossed in the summer breeze. “But now you’ve left Chichi.”

“Mmhm.”

“Are you…are you going to talk to Vegeta again?”

“I don’t know.”

The silence hangs heavily between us, a comforting weight that gives gravity to my thoughts. I uncross my legs, stretch out my long body and flop it across my bed as Kakarot had done earlier, letting my legs dangle off one side, pillowing my head on my arms. The comforter feels warm, solid against my stomach. My face hangs about a foot and a half from my brother’s. His sable lashes…so long, shuttering his eyes as he blinks slowly.

“Oh,” I say, wondering what exactly I’m conveying with that little syllable.

“Do you want me to?” he asks me curiously, resting his hands on his chest. Do I? No! Yes…I don’t know.

“I want you to be happy, little brother.” And as ridiculously sentimental as it is, it’s true. His upside down smile returns to me, and I find myself reaching out that tiny distance, brushing the backs of my fingers across his cheek. Rough. He leans into my hand, fluttering his eyes closed, and I watch the flicker of dark lashes along the line of his cheek. So beautifully familiar.

I let my hand drop with a slow sigh, and Kakarot allows his eyes to fall open again. “We should probably try to get some sleep, since we want to make an early start tomorrow.”

I nod my agreement, though I don’t really feel tired. Kakarot pulls himself off the bed, and stretches, arching his back like a bow, hands clasped high above his head. Then he strips quickly out of his clothes, and slides under the covers. The entire time I remain splayed across my bed, resting my chin on the backs of my hands. He reaches over and flicks off the lamp.

“G’night, Raditz.”

“Night, Kakarot.”

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