I stare despondently around the store, listening with only half an ear as Trunks and Goten chatter to each other. Well, Goten chatters, and Trunks injects wry comments and laughter. This place is way beyond my league. Goten told me Trunks was wealthy, but this kind of conspicuous consumption is overwhelming. I find myself unwrapping and rewrapping my tail as I stare at the tastefully placed racks of clothes, noticing the too- hip-for-the-room salespeople staring at me with small sneers.

"Wow, Trunks, I didn't know rich people wore this kind of stuff!" Goten exclaims. "Mom would have a fit if she saw me in here!" Indeed, the selection runs heavily to black leather and things with way too many straps. The salespeople are the type that have multiple piercings, all done in diamonds and gold. Pretending to be dangerous with Daddy's money. I straighten up a little, and glare back at the woman with the thousand- dollar blue dye job, baring my teeth and unleashing my tail, daring her to say something. She blanches a bit whiter than her make-up, and I nod in satisfaction. No way some upstart human is going to make me feel inferior.

Trunks is stalking around like he owns the place, occasionally fingering some unfathomable collection of chains and straps or bit of silk. Goten trails behind providing running commentary. "How do you wear that? Oh wow...is that for a man or woman? Where do your arms go? Oh, that's for...OH! Now that's interesting...how much...good Dende! Jeez, Trunks, do you come in here much?"

"Sometimes," Trunks answers vaguely. "Why do you think they're letting us look around without bugging us? They know me...and they know I don't like people hovering." He pushes a long strand of lilac behind his ear, and looks back over his shoulder at me. "See anything you like, Raditz?"

"This isn't really my kind of...place." I know I sound a bit sullen. But I've finally been starting to feel at home on this planet. Then I get thrust into a place like this, something totally alien to my experiences. I don't belong here, in my plain black t-shirt and jeans. It leaves me feeling confused, shaken. And worse, I have to rely on this smug kid. At least Goten seems as befuddled as me, though he handles it better, with his impenetrable shield of cheerful curiosity. I wish I could be open as he is to new experiences, but I just feel out of it. And the slightly shy boy I met a week ago at the house is gone, replaced by this blue-eyed devil, quick with the scathing comment, perfectly at home with the humans who work here bowing their heads to him, like the prince he is. So much like his father...it hurts my heart. But still, I can't stop watching him.

He's nodding to me, turning around now. "Yeah...you're more of a simple kind of guy, aren't you?" I refrain from baring my teeth again, this time at him. "Clothing-wise, I mean," he adds, and it's impossible to tell whether he really meant that, or if he was poking fun at me. I feel so off balance here! Get me and this kid alone in the middle of the woods, I'd teach him a lesson or two. My blood boils at the thought, even as I remember how much infinitely stronger his is than me. Somehow that makes it even more exciting.

"I don't feel like I need clothes to impress anyone," I growl back, letting my tail swish tauntingly behind me. I cross my arms over a chest that seems massive compared to these two, and Trunks lets a mysterious smile cross his lips. Is he playing with me? Fine, I'll play back. I played with the best, after all, and Trunks is not yet his father's equal.

"No, of course not," he purrs. "I suppose the afterlife doesn't provide much along those lines anyway, does it?"

I snort, letting my eyes crawl suggestively up his body. "No, we were always busy with....other...things." I inwardly grin as a delicate flush of crimson colors his cheeks. He wasn't expecting me to go that direction. Heh. But now Goten is looking at him, then at me, and a careful frown draws his brows down. He isn't as good at hiding his intelligence as his father, and my inward triumph sours. I want to tell him, ‘Look, kid, you have nothing to worry about from me. I went that route once before, and it left my heart broken and bleeding on the floor. I don't need another prince in my life.’ But I can't say anything. Instead I just turn my head away, staring sightlessly at the merchandise surrounding me. A sudden laugh from my nephew draws me back, though.

"Man, Raditz, you like to bug people, don't you?" Trunks is looking in surprise at his friend, and I smile in relief. Maybe he's even brighter than he tries not to look. Aren't teenagers supposed to be terribly insecure? I sure as hell was at that age.

"Sorry, I'll try and tone it down," I shrug, still grinning.

"You better," he warns, "Or we'll make you wear this," holding up an impossible concoction of black and red lace strung together with delicate chains. I can't help it, I wince, and he laughs again. "Come on, Trunks," he urges, "Show us the stuff that won't get us arrested." The young prince throws up his hands in defeat, laughing, leading us to the back of the store where the clothes become somewhat more sedate. At least, sedate enough that I don't feel embarrassed just looking at them. Admittedly, I enjoy sex as much as the next guy, but some things just don't need such complicated props.

"Okay, you guys look around," Trunks commands, "See if you like anything. But I've got presidential veto. Okay?" Goten nods eagerly, and I just shrug again. I wonder if any human store is going to be able to cater to Saiyan tastes...but then, Prince Vegeta seems to be able to find plenty of stuff, so there must be something. I can't trust all these demi-Saiyans. Gohan, while being a rather fine example of our species, has a tendency towards button-downs and vests. Nice, especially on his frame, but hardly aggressive enough. Goten seems to go more for loose casual, hiding his lean and muscular frame, and making him seem sometimes far younger than he is. My brother is as bad as the rest of them; he would wear his gi all the time if Chichi let him, and tends to let her pick his clothes. I remember that awful brown suit...

After some searching, I finally find some pants that don't seem too overdone, and a shirt that seems appropriately fierce. It takes more digging to find them in my size. I hold them up for Trunks' approval, pulling him away from he and Goten's conferral over a pair of leather pants. Finally, he nods, but then tells me I have to find some shoes. Groaning, I make my way over to the rather small selection they have on the wall, and peer at them. They run heavy to boots, but that's okay, I like boots. If I have to cover my feet, it might as well be with something militaristic. I try to ignore to small human man who stands hopefully nearby, but I can't help muttering as I pull down yet another pair, "These are never going to fit. Why have they only got one shoe of each out here anyway?"

The man clears his throat, and I look over in irritation. "If the size you'd like isn't on the sales floor, I'd be happy to get a pair for you in the back," he offers, delicate fingers pushing nervously at his longish brown hair.

"Yeah, fine," I growl, shoving a black boot at him. He takes it hastily, but then just stand there, staring. "What?"

"Um...I need to know your size, sir," he murmurs, looking down at my feet, then up at me. A bold smile crosses his lips, and he adds, "You must be rather...large...sir."

"Yeah, no shit." Wow, do these humans have a penchant for stating the obvious! Of course, I don't actually know my shoe size...sighing, I reach down and pull off one of the battered canvas sneakers that pass for my footwear when I'm not allowed to go barefoot. Peering inside, I can barely make out the little number printed into the side. "Nineteen," I read off, looking back up at the guy. He's staring at me again, and my tail dances my aggravation out behind me. "What?!"

"Ah...I'm not sure we have them in that size," he explains. He talks as though in a trance, but at least he isn't staring at my tail. I growl, and he snaps out quickly, "But I'll go look, sir!" He disappears into a little curtained doorway at the back of the store, and I settle down to wait. But masculine laughter turns me around. Goten and Trunks are standing behind me, my nephew with his hand behind his head like his father, and Trunks directing a dry grin at me.

"Wow, maybe you can get a date for tomorrow," the pale prince taunts, and I frown.

"What, the shoe guy? Not my type." I run a hand through my hair, shrugging.

"I would hope not!" Trunks snorts, and I notice the slightly hurt flinch in Goten's eyes. I wonder what it's for?

"Yeah, humans really don't do it for me," I continue in explanation. "I've never really liked guys that couldn't beat me in a fair fight."

Both Trunks and Goten look surprised...Goten, in fact, looks shocked, when the salesman comes back, effectively cutting off further conversation. "It's your lucky day, sir!" He's beaming ecstatically, you'd think he'd just won Shoe Guy of the Year, or something. "My manager had these special ordered a while back for another customer who never picked them up." He holds up a box. "Would you like to try them on?" He seems eager, but having a new perspective on his attentions makes me wary.

"Nah, I'm sure they're fine." I turn to Trunks and Goten. "You guys done?" My nephew nods, a sunny smile lighting his face and replacing the look of surprise. Trunks mimics the gesture, but a thoughtful expression darkens his eyes. With a start, I realize they're the exact color of the sky at sunset; a blue so deep and fathomless I feel like I could fall forever into them.

"Then let's get out of here," I say, and Trunks sighs.

"I do have to pay for all this stuff, first," he says, and Goten turns that brilliant grin on his best friend.

"Oh yeah! Thanks so much, Trunks! But I guess we better keep this stuff at your place. Mom would get really pissed if she knew I was going to wear that," he laughs. Trunks nods in agreement, a wolfish smile making him look positively wicked. I wonder if they can hear how loud my heart is beating?

"No problem," he says airily. "It's worth it to see you guys in this stuff." Goten colors, and punches Trunks in the shoulder lightly. He trails after the prince to the counter, and I remain near the door, grateful that this confusing afternoon is coming to close. The two boys gather up the bags, and head for me and the door.

Goten chimes out happily, "Oh, hey, let's go get some ice cream while we're here!" As Trunks nods in agreement, I sigh. This afternoon, it appears, is far from over.

Part Eight | Back
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