I watch Chichi pull her purse off the table, and turn to my brother. “Ready?” she asks cheerily, and he nods. Then she turns those sharp black eyes to me. “Raditz, I’m trusting you with Goten.” Her voice is tense, worried, like it always is whenever she hands over the reins of her children to anyone else. “Make sure he’s back by midnight, alright? And don’t let him drink. And keep your eyes on him! And don’t let that Trunks talk you into anything.”

“Chichi,” Kakarot interrupts gently, “I’m sure they’ll be fine. Goten’s a good kid, and Raditz knows to be careful.”

Chichi just snorts, and throws up her hands. “I know, I know…I just…” she looks at me almost pleadingly, and I try to imitate my brother’s reassuring smile.

“I’ll watch them close, promise.” Of course, I have no intention of doing anything else, but I’m not so confident in my own ability to keep two teenage boys out of trouble in a completely alien environment. Better not let her know that, though.

She nods, and take a deep breath. “Okay, you have the number of the restaurant we’ll be at, and we should be home around nine or ten, so you can call us here if there are any problems.” I nod back, patting my breast pocket where the folded piece of paper with the numbers on it sits snugly. Kakarot winks at me over his wife’s shoulder, and I stifle my returning grin. Damn, but my little brother looks stupid in that brown suit. The things Chichi gets him to wear! But his face is still the same over the too tight collar: half knowing and half clueless. Which half is more honest, I still can’t tell.

“Bye, Chichi,” I say firmly, and watch Kakarot escort her out the door, breathing a sigh of relief as it closes behind them. Finally gone!

As soon as I see their small air car disappear over the trees, I pick up the phone. I’ve only used it once or twice, and it’s fairly primitive, but I think I’ve got the hang of it. The only hard thing is to remember to keep it up against my ear and mouth. I dial the number Goten gave me and listen to the tinny ‘ring-ring’.

“Hello?” The voice on the other end of the phone is throaty and low, and sounds somewhat irritated. Oh, Gods. It’s Vegeta.

I pull in a somewhat shaky breath. I haven’t seen him, heard his voice for months, since I first came back. “Is Goten there?” I ask, proud that my voice doesn’t crack or falter. I almost sound normal. Yeah, right.

“Yes…wait, who is this?” He’s suspicious. “Is this Raditz?” Now he’s angry, and I can feel his scowl through the line. I close my eyes, and imagine that glorious face glowering at me. My heart skips a beat and I lean my head back against the wall. Okay, time to do what’s terrified and thrilled me every time I run it through my head, whenever I fantasize about something like this.

“Yeah, it is, Vegeta.” I make my voice a challenge. “Now, can I talk to my nephew or are you gonna keep me on the line yapping all night?” I did it. I did it! Oh, is he going to be pissed.

“WHAT?! Did you forget who you’re talking to, you unevolved piece of trash?” Really pissed.

“How could I forget?” I taunt over the phone, adrenaline pouring through my bloodstream like liquid fire. “You remind everyone around you whenever you open your big mouth. Maybe you should find something to fill it, hm?”

His answering growl is rising in pitch rapidly, and I’m pretty sure I’ve just signed my own death warrant, when I hear Goten’s voice in the background.

“Um, Vegeta? Is that my uncle?” His voice is cautious. He’s smarter than to bait his prince. Not me, though. I can hear the heavy breathing on the other end of the line as Vegeta brings his temper under control.

“Yes,” he grinds out, “It is. Is there some reason he’s calling here?”

“Yeah, uh, I left some of my homework in my room, and I asked him to look for it and call me if he found it. You know, because I have to do it before me and Trunks go out tonight?” Goten is lying, but he’s doing a pretty good job of covering it up. Hmm, maybe he is a bit smarter than his father.

I hear a low growl, then a loud crash. It sounds like the phone got thrown into a wall or something, but I’m still connected. Footsteps, then, “Raditz?”

“Hey, kid. Your folks are gone. You gonna head over?” I can hear Vegeta smashing things in the background, then another voice. Trunks? He’s saying something to Vegeta, and Vegeta is snarling back. Family fight. I can practically hear Goten wince.

“Yeah, as soon as Trunks and his dad stop shouting at each other.” The voices in the background are getting louder. Goten lowers his voice, and adds, “Vegeta doesn’t know you’re…uh…taking us out tonight. But I think he knows something is up. I’ll try to get us out of here as soon as possible, okay?”

I nod, then remember, “Okay. I’ll be waiting.”

“Man, you gotta tell me what you said to Vegeta when we get over there. He’s really ticked!” Goten laughs, and hangs up before I can tell him he’s not old enough for that stuff yet. Or maybe he is. I don’t know. Both Goten and Trunks act very much like Saiyan teenagers in some ways, but they seem so undeveloped in other areas. Maybe because they didn’t spend their lives fighting. Would Gohan be like that if he had had a “normal” life?

I pace the floor waiting for the boys to arrive, wondering if an enraged Vegeta will get here first and end my short existence on this planet. I find myself not really caring, and the feeling is liberating. If it’s time for me to go, I’ll go down swinging, though. I’m not going to live as anyone’s servant, anyone’s vassal, not anymore. If I have to live with all this crap on Earth, I’m going to get something out of it, too! I have to laugh at myself, and my foolish bravado. No matter how good it feels, it isn’t going to stop me from getting beaten or killed if Vegeta decides to direct his fury my way.

I feel about ten years younger, though. Thirty years ago, before I knew what it was like to have a broken heart, before I knew I had anything to lose, back when I used to pick fights with Zarbon just for fun. I almost won sometimes, too. I find a little extra bounce in my step as I pace, remembering those times. Before Frieza destroyed my home, before I even had an interest in my prince. Is it wrong to remember fondly the times when I used to slaughter entire cities without a thought?

The sound of the door opening cuts off any further reflections I have, and I find myself crouching in the middle of the living, listening, ready. “Raditz?” Ah, it’s Goten…then a low voice murmuring something to my nephew. Trunks. I rise, and walk through the kitchen, spotting the two boys with their hands full of yesterday’s purchases. They grin at me, one light, one dark, and I find myself infected, smiling back. That adrenaline is still running through my system, and it feels damn good.

“We better get changed!” Goten exclaims, passing me a bag. I nod, and notice that Trunks has brought an extra bag of stuff, a black duffel.

“How’d you get out of there without Vegeta stopping you?” I ask curiously. The lilac haired boy just smirks, and Goten bursts out laughing, silvery peals filling the entranceway.

“Oh, Trunks told his dad that Bulma had been bitching about the gravity room, saying it was too much of a pain to upkeep, and she was going to use it for storage. Man, Vegeta was out of there like a shot! So we took off out the window. Hey, what’d you say to him to get him so pissed, anyways?”

I feel a slow flush of warmth over my cheeks. “Never mind, kid,” I say hastily, and Trunks broadens his smirk.

“I bet I know,” he states smugly, and Goten looks over at him, black eyes wide.

“Well?!” he asks impatiently, but Trunks just shakes his head, and starts up the stairs, Goten bounding behind him. “Come ON, Trunks, you gotta tell me!” I hear the older boy’s laughter disappearing into Goten’s room, and I shake my head. Kid’s probably just bluffing, trying to mess with Goten. No way he knows about what his dad and I used to get up to. I retreat to Gohan’s room, pulling out my recent purchases.

It doesn’t take me long to get dressed, and I slip into the hall to examine myself in the full length mirror. Not bad, not bad at all. I smile ferally at my reflection, brushing a hand through my loose hair. The black leather pants fit perfectly, snug against my thick thighs and calves. It was hard finding some not festooned with buckles and chains, but I finally found a nice plain pair in my size. Nothing to interrupt the smooth flow of hide over my legs. They go perfectly with the heavy black motorcycle boots. The shirt had been harder to choose, but I finally decided on a long sleeved black shirt made of a sort of net or mesh. It does very little in the way of coverage, but a whole lot in the way of showing off my broad, scarred chest and back. I flex, and snarl at myself. Very aggressive. Perfect.

Then I have to laugh. All this to take a couple of kids out. It’s not like I’m going to find anyone to take home with me. Just a bunch of humans. But still, I like dressing up, like the formidable image I present, like pretending I’m a kid again, on the prowl. Most of the time I don’t think much about my looks, or how other people perceive me. It’s just too much effort to care. But there’s something marvelous about walking into a room and having people stare at you with that little extra gleam in their eye. It’s a harmless power trip, and if I have to go through the head-ache of keeping these kids out of trouble, I might as well enjoy myself a little, too.

I poke my head into Goten’s room to see if the kids are done, but frown into the blackness. No one. Then I hear young male voices in the bathroom, and duck back out into the hall. I knock on the bathroom door and hear a giggling “Come in!”

Neither of them have gotten dressed yet, they’re both standing around in their t-shirts, messing with some sort of face paint. I frown, trying to puzzle it out, but give up quickly. “What are you guys doing?”

“Make-up!” exclaims Goten, giggling again, and wiggling his fingers at me. The nails are covered in shiny polish, like Chichi wears sometimes, except black.

“Just a little,” adds Trunks, staring intently in the mirror as he uses a black pencil to outline his eyes. His longish hair is tucked behind his ears, but it comes loose silkily, and he frowns, pulling back from the mirror. “Maybe it’s time to cut it again,” he mutters to himself. I start at Goten’s little cry of dismay.

“Man, Trunks, you’re always cutting it before it can get really long! Let it grow for once, huh?” Silently I agree with my nephew…I’ve seen pictures of a younger Trunks with short hair, and thought it made him look like a little kid, despite his well developed body. “Besides,” Goten continues reasonably, “Your hair grows so fast, it’ll only take another six months or so for it to get past your shoulders!”

Trunks laboriously tucks the errant strands behind his ear again as he turns back to the fastidious application of eye-liner. “Well, maybe,” he concedes, rimming the left eye in kohl. “What do you think, Raditz?”

“I like it better long,” I admit, shrugging. “But then, I’m a little biased.” Goten grins at me, and turns to Trunk’s reflection.

“See! And doesn’t Raditz look cool with all that long hair?” he crows, sure he’ll win.

“Why don’t you grow your hair long, then, Goten?” Trunks teases, running a hand through his friend’s short spikes, ruffling them. Goten sticks his tongue out, grimacing.

“I wish I could! But it’s just like dad’s hair…it doesn’t really get longer, it gets…well, bigger, just sticks out a lot more. I suppose if I let it go for a few years it might get heavy enough to hang down, but who wants to look like a bottlebrush for two years?”

“You didn’t mind when you were a kid,” Trunks grins to himself in the mirror, pulling out a small compact of black eye shadow.

“Trunks!” Goten hollers, punching his friend in the arm.

“Your grandfather had hair like that,” I comment quietly, and Goten turns his attention to me. Trunks, too, watching me out of the corner of one deep blue eye.

“No, granddad had grey hair…oh! You mean…you mean your dad? From Vegeta- sei?” Goten’s eyes seem enormous, rimmed with a rather sloppy line of black eye liner. Trunks notices this, too, and grabs a tissue, wetting it in the sink before grabbing Goten’s chin to hold it still. The younger boy ignores him as he continues to look questioningly at me.

“Yeah. My father, and Kakarot’s. His name was Bardock. He died when Frieza destroyed our home.” I can’t keep the slow sorrow out of my voice, and I remember my father. He was a harsh man, totally uncompromising. I wonder what Kakarot would have been like had he been raised by the man. “You look a lot like him. Your father looks exactly like him, except he had scars on his face, here,” I run my finger along my cheek. “And slightly darker skin. It was your grandmother than was so pale.” Goten is staring at me, one eye squeezed shut as Trunks removes the liner and reapplies it neatly.

“Wow,” he says quietly. “Dad never talks about him.”

“Your father was just a baby when he was sent here. He probably doesn’t even remember our father.” I think back to the screaming infant that was my little brother before Father sent him away. I was still a child when he was born, and I had been looking forward to have someone younger than myself to push around, to show off to, to take care of. I sigh, and shake off the melancholy, watching the two boys with some amusement.

“You look like you’ve done this before, Trunks,” I note wryly as the older boy finishes with my nephew and turns back to the mirror.

“Oh, it’s not hard,” he says airily. “Mom taught me how when she burned her hands fixing one of the air bikes, because she couldn’t do it for herself. Bra’s always bugging me to play dress-up with her.” He grimaces into the mirror, then leans back, studying himself thoughtfully. “Well?” he asks me, turning and gesturing at Goten’s face.

I’m pretty surprised, they actually both look pretty good with eyeliner. Goten’s eyes stand out starkly against his pale skin, his black irises looking even larger than usual. Trunks has opted for a dark smear of eye shade as well, and his gorgeous blue eyes seem to be swimming in shadow. “Not bad,” I offer, smiling.

“Okay, then, your turn,” Trunks commands imperially, and I find myself taking a step forward, then stopping.

“No, not for me,” I shake my head, backing up again.

“Oh, come on, Raditz,” Goten coaxes, smiling at me hopefully.

“Face paint, that’s for boys,” I mutter. I’m far too old for this sort of thing. Wasn’t I just thinking there was no reason to even get this dressed up? So what would I do with that face paint that screamed predator?

“You’re not THAT old!” Goten laughs. “I mean, you’re older than Dad, but you were dead for twenty years or something!”

“I’m 28,” I mumble. It’s funny how easily my young nephew can disarm me.

“There, see, not even that much older than us!” he exclaims, walking over to tug me by the arm into the bright light of the bathroom.

“You’re way too tall,” Trunks looks me over critically. “You’re going to have to sit on the toilet lid.” He waves me over, and I sit, a bit hesitantly. It puts my face about level with his chest, and he looks down at me thoughtfully. “I think we’ll go with the red, too,” he decides, reaching over to grab two of the slender pencils. “Okay, hold still.”

His fingers feel cool against my forehead as he tilts my head back to get a better angle. “Close your eyes,” he directs, and then I feel the cold, soft tip of the eyeliner pressed against my right eyelid. I take in a quick breath in surprise, and my nostrils are filled with an almost delicate scent. Musky, the slight tang of young male sweat, and something underneath, something dark and enticing. I can feel his breath on my upturned face as he draws a slow, deliberate line across my eyelid, and I can hear a very quiet noise of moisture. He’s licking his lip…no, the pencil as he continues it’s careful tracery.

All of a sudden my heart feels trapped in my chest, and I surreptitiously draw in a deeper breath. “Okay, open your eyes.” Uh-oh. I try to gain control of my racing pulse as I blink my eyes open, staring into his face only inches from me. Those eyes…it’s so easy to lose myself in their indigo depths as he pulls forth another pencil, this one a bright scarlet. Golden fingers pull down on my lower eyelid, and he colors the very inside of the lid, between the lashes and whites. Then he runs the black pencil below the lashes.

“What do you think, Goten?” he asks, admiring his handiwork. How can he not notice how he’s trapped me? I can feel my tail dancing slowly behind me, rubbing across the cold porcelain. My nephew peers over his shoulder, and I force myself to look at him, calm myself with that familiar black stare and sunny smile.

“Awesome!” Goten declares, and Trunks nods as though he knew it all along.

“Close them again,” he murmurs, as he moves in to work on my other eye. Everywhere he touches tingles, little miniature electric shocks running through my body. I have no idea what’s happening. No, I’m lying to myself, I know exactly what’s happening, I just don’t know why it’s happening with him. When he commands my eyes open again, I take my time, staring up at him while it’s safe. After what seems like hours, he finishes. “Go look in the mirror,” he smirks, and I stand, repressing a shudder as my body brushes past his in the small space.

I stare into the mirror, almost shocked. The red combined with the black make my eyes stand out boldly…in an almost exact duplication of the coloring of Oozaru form. It lends a sort of primitive ferocity to my face that I can’t help but admire. I grin, exposing my slightly elongated canines. Normally, they don’t look much different than human teeth, but with the eyes, they suddenly stand out. I laugh in delight. Goten grins behind me, and with our matching eyes, the family resemblance is suddenly apparent.

“Okay, if everyone can take time off from admiring themselves, me and Goten need to get dressed,” Trunks grumbles good naturedly, and I throw myself one last smirk before allowing myself to be shooed out.

“I’ll wait downstairs,” I call to the closing door, still chuckling to myself as I jog down the stairs and settle on the couch to wait. I turn on the radio, humming softly to myself, bouncing my feet in time. I hear footsteps on the stairs, but only one pair? Then my nephew’s head pokes around the corner. He smiles at me, a bit hesitantly, and I wonder what’s going on.

“Where’s Trunks?” I ask as he sidles into the room. I’m distracted from his nervous expression for a minute by his outfit.

He, too, wears tight fitting leather pants, but these are laced up the sides, exposing a line of flesh all the way up from his black boots to his hips, showing off the lean muscle there. His boots are ankle length lace- ups, army type boots. Two shirts, the first long sleeved, black-and-red striped, the sleeves falling to just below his wrists. Over that a black t- shirt with some sort of white writing on the front, lots of small words. I peer at it curiously, and see that it’s just the word “fuck” in various styles of lettering. Both shirts are fitted well to his long, slender frame, but not so tight as to be obscene. Topping it all off, a black collar at his throat, adorned with vicious looking spikes. All and all a very assertive little outfit, different from his usual attire. I smile up at him, proud of my nephew, happy to see his Saiyan blood displayed so blatantly.

“He’s still dressing,” Goten mumbles, coming to sit over next to me, his demeanor completely at odds with the in-your-face clothing. “Uncle Raditz,” he continues, not looking at me. ”Are you gay?”

I blink. I have no idea what he’s talking about, but it’s obviously a very important question to him. ”How do you mean?” I ask cautiously.

“I mean, do you like other men? Like, sexually?” his words rush out, and I can see the crimson flush staining his cheeks. The kid’s embarrassed about this! I can’t for the life of me figure out why, and I get an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach. I don’t know what I’m supposed to say here, but I have the very strong suspicion if I say the wrong thing, it’s really going to hurt Goten. So I decide I’ll try to be honest here, hope it’s the right thing.

“Yeah, Goten, I do. I always have. Why?”

“Well, don’t you feel, like, bad about it? It’s not supposed to be that way.” I can hear the shame in his voice, and I wonder, with anger kindling, who told him that.

“I don’t know anything about supposed to’s…it’s just the way I am. Why should I feel bad about it?” I let a little of my anger through, and I see his shoulders hunch.

“It’s just…it’s just not right. You know, men aren’t…” he trails off quietly, his voice almost a whisper. I’m really pissed off now, and it doesn’t take much to see that Goten’s nervous about this because he feels the same way I do, and somewhere down the line, someone’s drilled it into his head that there’s something wrong with him because of it.

“Look, Goten, I don’t know who fed you what line of bullshit, but that’s all it is. Bullshit.” My voice is low with my outrage. “Who the hell cares who fucks what, as long as everybody involved wants to be there? I like men, yeah, so fucking what? I don’t give your dad a hard time because he’s got a woman for his partner, even if she doesn’t turn my crank! People are different, that’s it, and it’s nobody’s business what you want to do and who you want to do it with.” I smile suddenly, “Unless you like to do it in public, and then it’s on your own head, but I still say more power to you.”

His face is still flushed and embarrassed, but I see a small smile creep over his face, and I let out a quiet breath of relief. Looks like that was the right thing to say, after all. I lean forward and pat him lightly on the shoulder, a bit awkwardly. He turns and hugs me. I’ll never get used to how easily that kid’ll just grab onto somebody. Through the thin mesh of my shirt I can feel a slight wetness…has he been crying? He pulls back, looking down at the floor again, swiping at his eyes with the back of his hand.

“Am I interrupting something?” Trunks’ voice holds a note of sarcasm, and we both look up at him silhouetted in the doorway. I know my mouth falls open, and I think Goten’s does, too, but I don’t know for sure because I can’t stop staring at the young prince.

He’s shorter and stockier than Goten, broader through the shoulders, but with slender hips. Everything he wears looks poured on, emphasizing every well-defined muscle in his body. Black pants of some shiny material, maybe vinyl, adorned with multiple buckles and zippers ride low on his hips, held up just barely by a studded belt. There’s a tantalizing flash of flesh, the jut of hipbones, then a skin-tight sleeveless shirt, grey-green, looks like it’s made of python skin. Heavy, clunky black boots merely serve to contrast the perfect flow and curve of his legs as he stands there, practically posing. Stout leather cuffs grace his wrists, dangling heavy steel d-rings. His shining lilac hair hangs in his face, for once not tucked behind an ear, and it lends a sinister cast to his normally friendly features.

“Wow, Trunks, you look great,” Goten finally gets out, his natural enthusiasm suddenly back full force. I simply nod my agreement, and Trunks flashes a grin, spinning in the doorway, young once more and showing off. Not that young, I note, swallowing audibly at the flash of an amazingly tight ass, before closing my eyes and groaning. Gohan was right…tonight was going to be hell. But for very different reasons than he thought.

Part Nine | Back
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