“Hi Raditz, you caught us on our way out.” Videl smiles affectionately at me before hugging my waist, her head resting against my chest. She’s so short! But I grin, and hug her back. Videl is intelligent, strong, and could almost pass for Saiyan with her thick black hair. She’s a very warm woman, but there’s a core of steel in there, a coldness that would lash out at anyone who dared threaten her family. I like Videl quite a lot.
My grandniece, Pan, tugs demandingly at my pant leg, and holds her arms to be picked up, a sweet little scowl directed up at me. She’s got her mother’s willfulness, that’s for sure. I laugh and scoop her up, and she wraps her small arms around my neck, pressing a sticky face into my shoulder. I kiss her soft cheek, and she laughs in delight, clambering up to sit on my shoulder like a little monkey. Not for the first time, I wonder if she, too, has lost her tail. Maybe she was never born with one. She’s only a quarter Saiyan, after all.
“I’m staying,” she declares to her mother stubbornly, but Videl just shakes her head.
“Raditz, would you be so kind as to relinquish my daughter?” she asks me, one expressive brow raised. I heave a dramatic sigh, but dislodge Pan from my shoulder, handing her back to Videl.
“I’ll see you later, little one,” I promise her, and she beams, loud complaint averted. Her mother smiles at me, touching me lightly on the shoulder as she carries Pan and a large shopping bag full of Tupperware out the door deftly. I turn to see Gohan watching me with quiet amusement.
“You know, you’re a completely different person around here,” he remarks quietly as he leads me into the living room. Books cover the walls, crammed into too few bookcases. If Kakarot doesn’t seem like a brother to me, then it’s Gohan who’s taken his place. He understands me almost intuitively, and has almost from the first. I feel comfortable around him, like I don’t have to always be on the defensive for something unexpected, some new scary feeling. I just nod at his observation, shrugging.
“You know how it is, Gohan.” He nods back, sitting down on the couch and inviting me to do so with a subtle gesture of his hand.
“I do. So what brings you here today?” Maybe it’s because he’s a bit of an outsider, too. He had to grow up so fast as a kid. I’ve gotten over most of my guilt for my part in that, but it still hurts to realize that he was only five and a half when he was taken away from his family, forced to become the defender of a planet he had only seen about two square miles of up until that day.
“Well, it seems I’ve been roped into taking Goten and Trunks out this Friday. Because of you,” I add, scowling at him. He just laughs, holding his hands up as though helpless.
“Hey, Videl has been bugging me to take her out for ages! With school just starting, I’ve been really overloaded at work. I’m not about to break our date.” I can only smile understandingly. I wouldn’t want to break a date with Videl, either. She has one wicked temper, more dangerous than her mother-in-law’s for how cold it can burn. Of course, Gohan rarely had it directed his way...he and Videl seemed so crazy in love it was hard to remember they’d be together for years now.
“Anyways, your dad cleared me up on what this club is for. Dancing,” I exhale a heavy sigh. I love dancing...but not in front of a bunch of gawking humans. “But I have no idea of what to expect at this place! And Trunks is saying I have to wear some strange clothes, and Chichi wants me to be sure I keep those two out of trouble and...” I trail off lamely. I would have never agreed if I knew what kind of headache this was going to be.
“And you want me to fill you in a little, right?” asks Gohan. “Poor, alien Raditz,” he singsongs mockingly. I just snort.
“Yeah, yeah, Gohan, just give me the details and you can call me your auntie for all I care.” The easy rapport we share allows for a great deal of leeway. Sometimes his more human ways make me want to scream, but honestly I can forgive Gohan most anything.
He grins at me, and the lost child flashes through. “Well, I’m not sure where to start. Because there’s a lot of trouble to get into. You’re going to Manmade God, right? The place Yamcha used to take Bulma waaaay back when?” I nod apprehensively.
“Huh. Well, there’s the bar, and Trunks at the very least is probably going to try and get you to buy them drinks. They’re too young. And a drunk Trunks and Goten is more than you can handle on your first time out, I think. There’s also a rather a lot of predatory men and women there that would just love to get a taste of some fresh meat like you'll be escorting, so you’ll have to watch out for that. It’s pretty noisy and dark in there, too, so you may have a difficult time keeping track of them if they decide to ditch you. I think some people do E in the bathrooms, maybe a little coke, so there’s another thing to watch out for. Hmmm...” he considers me thoughtfully. “I think that about covers it.”
“Oh, good Gods,” I groan, leaning forward to bury my face in my hands. “No wonder Chichi didn’t want Kakarot to go.” Gohan’s laughter is hardly comforting as he chimes in his agreement.
“On the plus side, they’re going to love you there,” he adds impishly, and I meet his dancing black eyes with some annoyance.
“Oh, club goers like anything new and unusual. And you pretty much fit that bill, my giant uncle.”
“Great, just absolutely fan-fucking-tastic.” I sigh and flop back against the couch. “Hey, Gohan?”
“Yes, my sadly doomed friend?”
“What do you think about Trunks?”
His face gets a suddenly serious expression, like a light going out. “What do you mean, Raditz?” he asks, voice quiet. I’m startled, and look over at him, my face openly curious. He sighs, and touches his fingers lightly to his forehead.
“It’s a long story,” he begins before I can even ask. “And it has nothing to do with the Trunks you know, so don’t worry about it.” I’m completely baffled, and say so. He doesn’t seem to want to talk about it, but I keep staring at him, and he finally collapses backwards in his chair, covering his eyes fully with his hand.
“You’ve heard about Mirai Trunks, right?” he asks, and I curse myself for a fool. Of course, if it’s not the Trunks I know, it must be this other one Kakarot told me about. I start to nod, then remembering he’s not looking at me.
“Yeah, I’ve heard about him.”
“When he was here, I was just a child. But I had seen...a lot. More than I should have, I think sometimes. I didn’t feel like a child most of the time. And how I felt about him wasn’t very childish, either. I was in love with him. Hopelessly, of course, Trunks had no interest in me as anything other than...well, a friend I suppose. You see, he was in love with another version of me, an older version he remembered. It was all pretty confusing, I guess. Then everything ended, he went back to where he came from, and I was left wondering if I had said something, would he have stayed?” His voice softens on this last question, and it holds a deep sorrow I instinctively understand. Regret for things not said, not resolved. “Would he have waited for me, until I was old enough to know what love really was?”
I’m shocked to hear this from Gohan, though. He seemed so deliriously happy with his wife. “What about Videl?”
“I love Videl very much. I’ve never regretted marrying her, and now I have my beautiful daughter. But I hope Trunks never comes back.” He finally uncovers his eyes, looks at me with a terrible indecision there. “I hope I’m never faced with having to choose.”
I don’t know what to say. It’s overwhelming, to hear this secret side of my nephew, to realize that he trusted me with it. I blurt out suddenly, “I won’t say anything, Gohan.”
He smiles tiredly, and suddenly I feel like he’s the elder of us. “I know that Raditz. I wouldn’t have told you if I didn’t know that.” He glances over at one of the groupings of photos on his wall, this a collection of Pan at different ages. “That’s a part of my past, though. I suppose you’re concerned with the here and now, with your Trunks.”
My Trunks? I have to think a moment back to my original question. “Oh. Yeah. He struck me as kinda...odd, I guess.”
“Odd?” Gohan sounds slightly taken aback. “Well, he’s a bit of a hellion, honestly. He was always the one getting him and Goten in trouble when they were kids, and since they’ve gotten older, he’s been taking the whole teenage rebellion thing pretty seriously.”
“Is this the same Trunks we’re talking about?” I ask, thinking to that neatly pressed young man who had seemed so hesitant with me. He was a troublemaker? Admittedly, he seemed to get a bit cockier around Goten, but not that much cockier. Maybe he did take after his father.
“Why, what was your assessment?”
“Well,” I consider my words carefully, “He seemed like he had a stick firmly lodged up his ass, if you ask me. And he was so quiet, almost nervous, at first.”
Gohan rubs his chin speculatively. “He used to be that way when he was much younger, whenever he met someone new. I thought he’d left that behind with his baby teeth, but I guess you triggered something.” He grins suddenly, onyx eyes flashing. “He’s got a pretty big daddy complex, maybe you feed nicely into that.”
“What?” Then again, he did say I looked a bit like his dad...oh, Gods, what am I getting myself into?
Part Seven |