A Dragonball oneshot
Characters/Pairings: Raditz, Pan; [N/A]
Summary: Raditz would have chosen continued damnation over babysitting. Unfortunately, it wasn't his choice to make.
Darkness was terrifying to most people. Those who feared emptiness, who feared the unknown, who feared the possibility of nothing—to such people as these, darkness represented all that was bad and fearful.
Raditz was not one of those people. He was a saiyan warrior, a conqueror of peoples and destroyer of worlds. In life he had relished all the cruelties and barbarities and excesses of violence to which his kind had long ago sunk, forgetting what little they had ever known or practiced of kindly virtues, and in death he had been found guilty of nearly every conceivable sin of violence, and was therefore justly sentenced to a long and brutal damnation.
It was not a gentle sentence, nor was it a sentence undeserved. Some who deemed themselves great or firm or hard of will, especially those whose careers lay in the fields of death and destruction, might jest or boast of their prospective futures in Hell, thinking it made them seem tougher or more impressive. Such people were fools, and the words they spoke in that regard were of less worth than the breath that was spent on saying them.
Hell wasn't where people went who were only kind of bad, or who merely failed to be good enough for Heaven. It was the destination of those souls which had immersed themselves completely in evil, without any trace of remorse, and the deepest depths of its agony were reserved for those whose deeds of cruelty could not be repaid even by an eternity of lesser torment. Raditz was just such a person, if not for the magnitude of his sins alone (the enormity of which even the phrase "planetary genocide" could only partly encapsulate), than for the absolute absence of regret or repentance he showed even when faced with the final, unquestionable judge of souls.
Compared to damnation, darkness held no fear for Raditz. Even utter annihilation, the reduction of his being into perfect nonexistence, the complete and final cessation of his consciousness beyond all restoration and retrieval, would seem a mercy and a relief after that. So when the pain suddenly stopped and he saw only darkness, Raditz briefly, hopefully wondered if this was indeed oblivion.
His hopes were soon dashed when he felt the weight of bone sheathed in muscle, the rhythmic pulsation of a beating heart and flowing blood, and reflexively he drew his first breath in almost two decades. The awareness of his body confused Raditz, and almost he wondered if the memories of his death and time in Hell were just the product of some morbid and unpleasant dream. That hope was also dashed: this time when he heard the distinct and unforgettable voice of his estranged little brother.
"Hey! Are you up?"
Raditz opened his eyes. Belatedly, he realized that he was naked. This did not perturb him nearly as much as the sight of that damnable, smiling face.
"Kakarot...! What are you doing here?!" Raditz sprang to his feet and clenched his fists. "And where are we? Tell me now, or I'll end your miserable existence! The green one isn't here to help you, now."
Son Goku, Raditz's brother Kakarot, smiled. He appeared unfazed.
"I brought you back to life," he said cheerfully, making this sound completely unremarkable.
"Wha—?" Raditz glowered and shook his head. If it were possible, he clenched his fists a little tighter still. "Don't try to confuse me. Shouldn't you be dead, brother? There's no way you could have survived that attack, if it killed even me!"
Kakarot laughed and waved a hand dismissively, as if he saw no need to explain things.
"C'mon, bro!" he said, making it sound like this was the first time he'd ever used any variation of the word brother to address someone. "Let's go. I need you to watch Pan for me!"
He then put a hand on Raditz's shoulder, bypassing the angry saiyan's defensive, threatening stance as easily as a master martial artist might slip through his most junior student's guard. Raditz was taken aback by this, and he felt a pang of momentary worry at the seeming weight of his little brother's hand. He felt an immense strength and firmness in even this soft, casual grip.
Then their surroundings—surroundings that Raditz had barely had the time to register—suddenly changed. Raditz felt a wave of vertigo crash over him. He was staggered by an impression of immeasurable acceleration despite their perfect bodily stillness, and with a swooping sensation in his belly he fell flat on his backside. There were so many questions in his mind that, quite apart from knowing where to start asking, Raditz could barely even remember what it was that he actually knew.
He tasted bile. A grimace. Gagging, he rolled onto his hands and knees and shuddered in an abject misery of sickness, before upheaving the sour, acidic contents of an empty and unfed stomach. Nothing came out. There was nothing that could come out. Still, the inside of his throat burned, and his head swam dizzyingly. He felt like death warmed over.
Again, Kakarot laughed.
"Are you okay?" he asked lightly, not sounding too seriously concerned. He seemed to find it funny. Raditz resented this, even if he would have been similarly amused were their positions reversed. Kakarot continued smiling, regardless. "Don't throw up! Chichi would kill me if that rug got ruined."
In this remark Raditz detected the only sense of fear or gravity to come from his brother since his inexplicable resurrection. He snarled again, and recovering his equilibrium he rose back to his feet, wiping his mouth.
He was still naked.
"What the hell did you just do?" Raditz demanded. "Where are we?!"
"My house," Kakarot said simply. "C'mon, let's get you dressed. Pan's asleep right now, but she could wake up any time. I don't wanna be stuck here all day!"
Raditz snapped, his patience at its limit, his bewilderment forcing him to default to the conditioned reflexes of two decades and more spent fighting battle after battle. He raised his hand and readied himself to fire a ki blast, preparing to put this idiot in his place once and for all.
Kakarot grabbed his wrist. He did this without the slightest hint of visible effort, moving so quickly that Raditz didn't see even the slightest twitch until his hand was already trapped in his brother's iron grip.
"Hey, don't do that!" Kakarot said, just a little reproachful. "Chichi doesn't like people fighting inside the house. Something could get broken."
"That was my intention," Raditz hissed, trying to extricate his hand from Kakarot's grip. It seemed futile, and this fact further confused and angered him. When had his worthless failure of a brother become so strong?
Kakarot frowned disapprovingly, a mild expression with little apparent ill will behind it.
"Eh? That's not very nice," he said.
"Why should I care?" Raditz growled. "I'm not nice! I'm a warrior, Kakarot. A proud saiyan! I won't be made a fool of by some brain-damaged weakling!"
In his anger he willed the blast of ki to fly from his pinned hand, unleashing his power in a red-violet bolt of energy.
Kakarot caught the shot straight to his chest. It splashed over him as harmlessly as the contents of a wineglass, and it did even less damage. Wine, at least, might have stained the fool's gi. Raditz's attack didn't so much as singe a solitary thread, much to his increased dismay and bewilderment. There was just a little soot left behind by the blast, as fine as a rubbing of dust from some uncleaned shelf. It was as though Kakarot had attained an aura of ki dense enough to protect even his clothing from Raditz's energy blast.
But that was impossible, wasn't it?
"Come on, bro!" Kakarot said, repeating that known yet unfamiliar address. "We don't have time to fight. I need to get you dressed so you can watch Pan for me. Videl will get angry if you're naked when she and Gohan get back from their date."
"Let go of me so I can kill you, dammit!" Raditz snapped, feeling ever more vexed and perplexed. "Why should I care what you want, Kakarot? You're a traitor to our family and all our race. You're better off dead!"
He then paused, frowning as one of the mentioned names registered itself in his brain.
"Wait, Gohan?" he said. "Isn't that the name of your mongrel bastard?"
"My what?" Kakarot stared at him uncomprehendingly. "No, Gohan's my son."
"Right. That's what I said," Raditz growled. He flexed the fingers of his trapped hand and tentatively raised the other, still free hand by a centimeter. "Your son. The half-breed."
"Oh. Yeah. Okay, you should've just said so. Yeah, that's him."
"And who or what is this... Videl?" Raditz added, as tense as a cat held over a bath. "Or that Pan you keep mentioning?"
"Videl is Gohan's wife, of course," Kakarot said, as if this was the most obvious thing in the world. "And Pan's his daughter. I want you to babysit her for me. Chichi's off visiting her dad, and Goten's at a sleepover with Trunks. I wanna go train, but Chichi would kill me if I left Pan here all alone. I don't think Gohan or Videl would like it, either. That's why I thought of you!"
Raditz blinked. Kakarot had let go of his hand somewhere in the midst of his rambling, but Raditz barely registered this. Among all this talk, these unfamiliar names and wholly obscure references, one thing struck him more than any other.
There was a question he simply had to ask.
"...Kakarot, exactly how long have I been dead?"
Kakarot smiled. There was little to no contrition in the gesture.
"A long time?" he said, crossing his arms behind his head. "Dunno. I'm not good at math. How old was Gohan when we fought?"
Raditz twitched, and the last thread of his nonexistent patience snapped.
"How the hell should I know?!"
Raditz sighed, looking down at the burbling baby Pan. He was dressed in one of his brother's spare outfits. If there was anything more mortifying than being forced to wear this hideous gi, he sourly mused, or being made to watch this mongrel daughter of a mongrel bastard, the second-generation product of his idiot brother's xenophilic miscegenation, then it was likely the bruise forming over his eye, and the memory of said brother apologizing—apologizing!—for punching him so hard in the first place.
The fact that his burgeoning, violent rampage had been shut down with a single blow left Raditz feeling a soreness more acute than any black eye. It stung his pride deeper than any demon's pitchfork, and it left him feeling even smaller than the giggling babe on his knee. While he'd never been the strongest saiyan, Raditz had always considered himself fairly powerful. Rather than a source of shame, the fact that Nappa and Vegeta were so much stronger than himself had been something he took a sort of pride in. Even the weakest living saiyan was stronger than the mightiest warriors of many races!
But being stopped by Kakarot—Goku—and completely floored by a single punch from that grinning imbecile left him experiencing a slight crisis of identity. He'd felt the gulf between himself and Kakarot in that punch, a vast and yawning chasm of difference in their respective powers. He couldn't begin to fathom it. He had no ability to sense ki, whether it was released or suppressed, yet he had felt the instant of pressure in the air, had sensed it down to his marrow when his brother's eyes kindled with that instinctive anticipation of conflict, stirring a deep and immeasurable power that dwarfed anything else Raditz had ever experienced.
He couldn't sense energy, but he had detected Goku's incredible strength as surely as looking up at a mountain. He didn't need to know geometry or geology or any other sort of math or science to understand that this was something huge, a tremendous thing as far beyond him as a star was beyond a candle. The vibration of Goku's tensing muscle, the flare of a briefest visible aura, the shimmer of something unguessed and unknowable behind that grinning face, and the impact of that fist—harder than adamant, heavier than a planet, more focused than a laser, and more destructive than a supernova—all betrayed the fact of his monstrous strength.
Worse still, by all accounts it seemed as if Kakarot had been holding back. Not just a little, either. He'd struck with nearly as much restraint as a parent lightly swatting a rambunctious child, and still it had defeated Raditz utterly. The only thing worse than that was the apology. Saiyans didn't DO apologies, either given or received. It wasn't natural. If a saiyan had a grievance, they settled it with their fists. That was just how it worked.
But Goku seemed to think otherwise.
Raditz shook his head, dismayed and bewildered. He looked down at Pan, this quarter-saiyan infant who waggled her arms and bounced on his knee. She seemed delighted by the most mundane things, babbling and giggling with an ear-to-ear grin on her face. The child was just an infant, small and defenseless. Raditz had more than once considering killing her. Some of the impulse came from pure spite, a swiftly growing resentment for his brother and his brother's family. There was also an aspect of habit, a mind so conditioned to violence and brutal conquest that it was almost incapable of fathoming anything else.
Mostly, though, it was annoyance. Partially annoyance with the child, not only for her relation to his degenerate sibling, but for her own existence and behavior, seemingly so inane and stupid. He was barely willing to deem this pink, squirming thing a sapient being. She was so small, so squishy, so underdeveloped. Why wasn't she gestating in an incubation pod? Were these earthlings so backwards and primitive that they still needed to manually raise and nurture their offspring? Raditz could think of no other reason for a child in such an early stage of development to be let out to get underfoot and hinder her parents.
He felt his contempt for this planet and its inhabitants grow a little greater. His parents might have been indecently bonded for saiyans—might have perversely valued their biological union as something more than just a means of reproduction—but even his mother hadn't been so vulgar and backwards as to not trust her children's early development to the infant incubators. She'd had at least that much self respect.
But his brother lacked even that, it seemed. He was entirely hopeless, devoid of even the barest saiyan pride and dignity. It was repulsive. Barbaric.
"I despise you," Raditz said to Pan, glowering down at the infant.
She stopped burbling and cocked her head, looking up at him with the quizzical glance of a simpleton. She stared at him with wide eyes, raising a finger to her mouth in a gesture that parodically resembled thoughtfulness. Her mouth hung open, mostly toothless, and she slowly blinked.
"Buh," she said, a careless and barely shaped vocalization. "Bwah."
"Don't mock me," he grumbled, holding his arms stiffly at his sides. "You pathetic wormling. Look at you. You're a disgrace. You can't even make a proper fist, can you?"
His voice did not rise in volume. His feelings weren't running hot. There was a weariness in his voice, a clear fatigue of emotion in his half-hearted glare. It was not a violent, active anger that he felt.
Raditz raised a hand, slow and deliberate, curling his fingers and clenching it into a great, hard fist. This hand had killed more people than Raditz could begin to count, and it had been stained by blood and equivalent substances of every color in the spectrum. His hand practically radiated with the unrestrained power of his body, a saiyan of even the lowest caste possessing greater might and firmer constitution than the most powerful champions of many races.
Pan smiled, unwitting of all this—and perhaps she would have been uncaring even if she had known, too young to grasp the real enormity of his life's deeds, barely yet able to comprehend of thinking existence apart from herself. Had she even developed object permanence, yet? It was doubtful if she had any power to intuit his potential threat, or any notion that he might wish to try and harm her.
"Babuh," she said, sounding pleased with herself. She blew a spit bubble. "Gwah."
"You're a daughter of bastards," Raditz said surlily. He lowered his hand with only some hesitation, and his expression was an impotent glower. "But your grandfather is strong."
Raditz had to accept this. Kakarot was clearly a warrior of significant power, whatever the feebleness of his mind. Son Goku was strong; strong enough by far to kill him in retribution, should he earn it. No, Raditz wasn't a fool, and he wasn't suicidal. He'd only just gotten out of Hell, and he wasn't about to buy himself a second trip thither. Not, at least, until he was certain of a way to escape and survive.
This wasn't an idea that filled him with pride. However, while his saiyan blood cried for him to fight and overcome strong enemies, reason and long experience tempered this desire with a streak of something like prudence. If he knew an enemy was out of his league, he would step aside. Partly this would be to save his own skin, but more largely it was a habit born out of deference to his superiors.
If there was an enemy too strong for him to easily fight, then very likely that opponent would draw the attention of Nappa, or maybe even of Prince Vegeta. Raditz's role had usually been to clear away the chaff and draw out any prospective challengers. He'd still fought many warriors, but like a sapling at the foot of much larger trees he'd never really had a chance to grow. Any enemies who might have been strong enough to push him to improve were usually taken by Nappa, since warriors of the old officer's caliber that didn't get snapped up by Vegeta were already scarce enough.
It was a trickle down system. Vegeta would take the strongest enemies, and doing so would grow the most, facing sufficient challenges to make him improve. Nappa would take mostly those too weak to deserve Vegeta's notice, and with the cap of "strong enough to interest the prince" on how powerful an enemy he could fight, his growth was slower. Raditz got the weakest, and with his and Nappa's powers being comparatively much closer together (even if the multiplicative factor of the difference in their power levels was around the same, with Nappa about four times as strong as Raditz and Vegeta about four times as strong as Nappa), he had even less room for such challenge as would instigate meaningful growth.
This was how the saiyan class system reinforced itself. The strong grew exponentially stronger while the weak stagnated at their heels.
But this wasn't the point. The point was that Raditz couldn't afford to harm this child, no matter how much he might have wanted to. He couldn't afford to cross his brother, not until he had a better grasp of his situation. Clearly there had been a fairly significant amount of time since his death, if that bastard of Kakarot's had grown to full stature and taken a mate for himself, if the sniveling little creature that he remembered was now old enough to have offspring of his own.
What was the situation with Nappa and the prince, he wondered? If Goku was alive, then what might that mean? Presumably, if that idiot had in fact died alongside him, then whatever means had been used to resurrect Raditz himself had likely been employed to revive his brother much earlier. Early enough that he could have fought Raditz's comrades? No doubt it was a power of those dragonballs which had been mentioned to him, when he lay at the brink of death, that brought Goku back to life.
Did the mechanism which raised a saiyan's power upon recovery from injury or near death apply to mystic revivification, to literally coming back from the dead? Raditz didn't know, but maybe it did. If so, then it might have been a very great leap in strength that Goku experienced, the severity of a hurt enhancing the growth of power. It was how female saiyans retained relative martial parity with their male counterparts even after mating, the muscular atrophy brought by months of incrementally reduced activity, and the lost opportunities to grow through battle, being at least partially ameliorated by the zenkai boost from surviving childbirth, which was typically a bloody and taxing experience.
Could Goku have grown strong enough to beat Vegeta and Nappa? Raditz wasn't sure. He'd intially thought his brother to have a power scarcely more than a quarter his own, but the man had been able to fluctuate his combat strength by a significant degree. He was able to suppress his power, and to multiply it through his techniques, by some obscure trick in the manipulation of his ki being able to concentrate a power greater than what ought to have been the sum total of all his abilities into single techniques. At one point, he'd charged up an attack with enough power to nearly equal Raditz's rating.
Raditz had never taken any formal study of mathematics. Saiyans didn't hold with science or scholasticism. He wasn't sure about the calculations, either the base numbers or the modifying factors, and he couldn't work out anything close to an exact estimation of what Kakarot might potentially have managed, but he supposed it could have possibly been very great. Then, too, there was that sudden and astonishing leap in his son's power to consider, a dormant strength that had far surpassed Raditz's own seeping out in a moment of rage.
With all else that had happened, and all the seeming evidence to his brother's adoptive home world's continued survival, things didn't appear hopeful to Raditz, as far as the survival of Nappa and Vegeta. If they were alive, then they probably wouldn't help him. Maybe they'd never even bothered with coming to this planet.
Raditz stared at Pan without really looking at the child, absorbed in his rumination. There were many things he'd not had the time to consider in Hell, and the confusion of his situation prompted a ongoing stream of thought.
"Nng," grunted Pan, staring up at Raditz. "Mauwgoo."
Her eyes were wide, and her expression seemed to communicate an open and undisguised fascination, as though everything she saw was new and strange and wonderful. Her mouth worked inattentively open and closed, an action with no intent or consideration behind it. She flailed her arms in a stiff-seeming manner, wiggling them at either side and moving them with imperfect control. She bent her elbows marginally, almost experimentally, and she curled her fingers one after another, slowly flexing and unflexing, fondling the air.
Her lips were glossy with a salivary leakage—drool, to put it vulgarly—and her cheeks were rosy with a flush of life, a complexion well and fairly suiting her youthful visage. She was not as giggly or bubbly as before. She had quieted with Raditz's steady gaze, now staring into his eyes with an infantile sense of wonder and curiousity. Almost one could have seen the faintest turning of gears behind her eyes, the rudimentary processes of a babe's thought taking nebulous shape, neurons firing erratically as they established new, tentative paths of reasoning through the mire of an unformed brain.
Pan wiggled her arms again, and she reached them forward, staring at Raditz with an unabashed curiousity. She squared her legs, short and chubby, and she pushed up off of the couch, managing somewhat precariously to stand in Raditz's lap.
Raditz was torn from his increasingly hopeless and cyclical ruminations by the feeling of Pan's shifted weight, and he blinked and refocused his attention just in time to see the child plant her hands on his chest. He looked at her, feeling perturbed.
"Aw'hp," she burbled, barely able to form her words. "Awp, gwamba."
Raditz frowned. He was stiff from discomfort at the child's touch, feeling a reflexive surge of hostility that was his usual response to fear or uncertainty. His arms were at his sides, and his hands curled halfway into fists before he could stop them. He did stop them, though, even if he couldn't think of an immediate reason to do so.
"What?" he said, nearly growling in his frustration. "What do you want?"
"Auhw'b," said Pan, her mouth curling into a smile. Her eyes crinkled, and she pulled her hands away. "Wah' awp, gwampa! Awp!"
She clapped her hands once, and then brought them back down on Raditz's chest.
He felt the air rush out of his lungs, and his mouth snapped open in a pained and hissing cry. The couch splintered beneath him, cushions rent as his form was driven suddenly and violently downward. The floor shook when his backside landed thereupon, and the contents of a nearby shelf leaped down to join him.
Raditz lay stunned and spreadeagled amid the wrack of the couch. His eyes stared blankly upward, wide in disbelief and uncomprehension. He wheezed, feeling as if Nappa had just elbowed him out of the way to get at a fresh, juicy carcass.
Briefly, he wondered if this wasn't actually a new circle of Hell.
Pan stood on top of him, and she gazed down into his eyes with a guileless grin, unaware perhaps of how severely she had just hurt and startled him.
"Awp, gwampa!" she repeated, toddling on unsteady legs. "Wah'n auwp!"
She then began to float, repeating her mantra and interspersing it with giddy giggles. A visible aura now enveloped her.
Raditz whimpered, reminded unhappily of the child's father.
"I—I'm not grandpa," was all he could bring himself to say. It was hard to speak at present.
He was still wheezing.
"Nah' gwampa," she said. "Naht. Naaaht!"
Pan squealed happily and flailed her limbs in the air. An errant ki blast flew from her hands. Raditz had to roll to the side to evade it, even though his ribs still smarted. It hit the floor with a small crack like the detonation of a miniature firework, and he looked with a twinge of fear at a black, charred patch of soot where he had been lying just a moment earlier.
Briefly, Raditz wondered if he was going to die a second time.
Kakarot couldn't get home soon enough.
A/N: I don't actually watch much anime, these days. Don't usually have the time, or so it feels like. Yet I have lately been following DBS. I dunno if I've seen any of its actual arcs all the way through—I basically know what happens, but I haven't finished any of them. Actually, I mostly watch it for the breather episodes between the arcs: the character fluff and stuff like that. This is what I really care about in Dragonball.
Also, as I've been seeing more of my niece and nephew of late, since Sky's moved back in with us and all, I feel like writing non-parental family fluff. So there.
Also, also, I actually wrote most of this fic, like, half a month ago. Not sure why I haven't gotten around to posting it until now. Suppose I'd just forgotten.
TTFN and R&R!
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