A/N/Di: I do not own the perverted old goat or the blue-haired demi-floozie. The fic you are about to read is the result of an idea given to me by a review issued several weeks ago by Stef-chan, who graciously commented 'With your ability to write, I wouldn't be at ALL surprised if you can even manage a Roshi/Bra pairing! Lol!'… … Dakara, at first I did laugh out loud, and forgot it. Then I found myself thinking about it one morning. And then again in school. And then again all week long. Then one night I was doing my math homework, and, upon looking down, was horrified to discover what had actually come out onto the paper, and by that time it was far, far too late.
Warnings: You'd do well to stuff a fist in your mouth. It may be the only way to keep from throwing up.
Dedicated whole-heartedly to Stef-chan, bless her, who probably wishes she'd never opened her mouth. ^_^
-- god's gift to women
Master Roshi was a man who, if caught actively participating in anything or even nothing at all, would try his best to make sure the information was not given to anyone else. He was a man of habitual predilections; none of them being anything to be particularly proud of, necessarily, but all of them ensuring that he was, indefinitely, an individual who did not favor routine. He was a man whose exercise was thus infrequent at best, resulting in a power level that in no way reflected his experience. "You're a sorry excuse for a man," Juuhachigou had informed him once, and she was right.
He was not so pathetic, however, as to let his muscles completely atrophy. He found that if he tensed and overstretched while reaching to click the 'STATUS' button on his remote he could work his biceps, and in reaching down to scratch the back of his heel extend his deltoid and work his trapezius. His neck muscles, though, were the strongest of all. They worked best when Marron, a seemingly permanent resident of the Kame house, invited Bra and Pan over for their weekly slumber parties. Those times, watching the girls go back and forth to empty his refrigerator and lean against the couch with unconscious seduction, those muscles –usually fit enough to escape the aches plaguing the rest of his body, would be so overworked that they would be sore for days afterwards. "That's your sternocleidomastoid," Kuririn had said upon looking it up. As to what the actual condition was he had quipped, "Sternocleidomastoiditis," which soon forced to have to leap to the side to avoid the cane that consequently went hurtling through the windowpane behind him.
On June 16th, a day with no particular significance other than being a Saturday, Marron invited the girls over again. Though Marron was an adult and Bra had just recently become legal, as soon as the lights flicked off and the movie began they fell into giggles like giddy thirteen-year-olds. As it happened, the snickering and movement ceased around one o'clock, signaling that the latest sleepover bash had come to an end. Roshi, true to form, was up late, watching an episode of 'Babes and Babettes'. Kuririn, curled up in a chair, was holding a book under a dying lamp. To Roshi's surprise and disapproval it seemed he was actually reading it. "Kuririn," he said.
A minute shift; Kuririn was looking over the top of his book. Roshi noted the shadows and the creases made deep with weariness, and hoped the effort he was expending staying up was to examine a dirty magazine hidden behind the leather-bound volume. "That's bad for your eyes, son."
"Huh? Oh." Kuririn lowered the book, rubbing his hand over his hair briskly and stretching the foremost locks out in front of him. Pepper streaks trickled out and fell over his nose; he blew at them, looking dispassionately at the gathering of grey locks that remained between his middle and forefinger. "I know. I'll replace the bulb tomorrow. Even if it were good, though, I'd still probably have trouble. My vision isn't what it used to be. I should probably get glasses."
Roshi's eyes narrowed slightly. Time had long ago ceased to hold much meaning for him, but there were some things that always served to remind him of its presence. Kuririn had come as a boy and was becoming an increasingly old man, and Roshi, despite himself, had found he had actually gotten quite used to his company. Most of his students came and went peacefully, though he suspected their departure held significantly more joy than their arrival. None before Kuririn had thought to linger. And linger Kuririn had –caring for the house, marrying, raising a daughter. Looking at him now Roshi could see how the burden of years weighed on his shoulders and deepened his voice, stretching snappy comebacks into the lazy drawl of a man who has ceased to care how others perceive him. "I was referring to your reading habits rather than the light," Roshi said curtly, turning back to the screen. The head Babette was beginning her thigh-xersize. The camera dutifully zoomed in on the action; he contented himself with tilting his head and leering.
"Sorry, sir, but hentai magazines just don't hold the same appeal that they used to. Real books have a certain…charm, I guess. Though you may find this concept foreign and difficult to understand, I find it much easier reading things when they have words in them."
"I had a feeling the madness would take you eventually. Good Lord, boy, is that a dictionary?"
"Nah, just a classic. Looks like it, I know. Damned if it doesn't read like one, too." Kuririn shut the book with a sigh, resting his head back against the chair briefly and staring up at the ceiling. "In any case, I should probably get to bed. Juu's gonna wonder where I am. You know how it is when those girls are up, though, it's impossible to get any sleep…"
"Give your eyes a treat then, instead of reading that garbage." Roshi turned the volume up a notch, then two as the thigh-xersize switched to Glut-ercize. "'Babes and Babettes' is on L.A.S."
"She'd gouge my eyes out first," said Kuririn blandly. He lifted his finger into the air and let an eye close, idly tracing the swirls painted on the ceiling. "She'd gouge them out, primarily with her middle finger, and feed them to a sea turtle. Then she'd rip my toenails out with pliers, one by one, and stick them in my testicles like off-white holiday lights on a tree. My blood would flow like a creek. Spectators would dance in it like pixies in a fountain."
"Nothing wrong with a healthy appreciation for the opposite sex." Roshi watched as everything that was half-heartedly restrained bounced across the screen like jiggly captions. "A reign that tight is abuse."
"It's a matter of honor. Juu keeps her promises –why shouldn't I? I mean, I don't look, she doesn't look. It's actually probably harder for her –she's still good-looking, you know? She could get anyone..." Kuririn's hand dropped to his lap; his eyes slowly drifted shut.
After a moment Roshi moved his gaze from the set slightly. "Go to bed, boy."
A lazy smile. Kuririn's eyes didn't open. "Oh, but, see, I want to finish my book."
"I don't want you snoring in the middle of my show. Ruins the atmosphere. Go away."
"You're a cruel, unsympathetic man, sir." Kuririn eased himself from the chair with a groan, shaking out stiff joints. "See you tomorrow. Try to refrain from peeking in at my daughter and her friends while they're changing. It annoys my wife."
A subtle shift of his head concealed a potential smile. "And you don't disapprove?"
"I've given up trying to get you to stop. If Marron hasn't learned to cover her keyholes by now she deserves what she gets. You just better never let my wife –or me, for that matter—catch you in the act." He reared onto his toes for a full body stretch, then headed off to the stairwell. "G'night."
Roshi returned his attention to the TV. 'Babes and Babettes' soon yielded to weary-looking anchormen, who pointed out the various upcoming weather patterns with the pinched, flatline smile adopted by those just realizing they're wasting something important. He picked up the remote and flipped through the channels, hoping to find one that indulged the bittersweet pleasurepain that came from 'look, not touch' situations. He was not disappointed. Setting his feet up on a coffee table wounded by generations of indifference, he let his fingers trail in a bowl of long-finished popcorn and settled down to watch.
Barely ten minutes went by when he heard a light scuffling. Without turning his head he called, "If that's you, boy, could you get me a soda from the refrigerator?"
A voice that was decidedly unmasculine snapped: "Get your own stupid soda."
He thumbed the side of his mustache. "Pan?" he guessed.
No reply. He looked over his shoulder and into the kitchen. In the gloom he could see the rippling of white fabric and a glint of aqua hair made pale by moonlight. He slumped, slightly disappointed. Though possessing the best body of the three girls, Bra Briefs was also the most standoffish and most definitely the most 'off limits'. With Marron he could get away with a peek or two, maybe even an 'accidental' squeeze if he felt like risking Juuhachigou's wrath, and Pan usually settled for giving him a non-lethal whack across the face. Bra, however, could summon the Prince of Saiyajins with a twitch of her finger, and while Roshi was always fairly certain he would survive an assault from Juuhachigou or Pan he was equally as certain he would not survive Vegeta's method of retribution. Still, he was the turtle hermit, infamous and devilishly handsome, and restraint had never been his strongest virtue. "So you, ah, couldn't sleep?"
A click, and the kitchen was suddenly flooded with light. Bra shrugged, heading toward the refrigerator. "I'm getting a snack. How is it any of your business?"
He checked his response, deciding not to mention it was his house, his food, and therefore quite understandably his business. "I was just curious."
"Hmph." After a moment's inspection she got out the milk and a carton of eggs and pulled a pan out from the cupboard beside the stove. "I think you're just being invasive."
"That's nice. Have I mentioned that you look positively fetching in white?" Roshi flipped up to channel 27, curling his lip as a large-breasted male chef dropped a sickly-looking lobster into a pot of boiling water. "And that that hairstyle makes you look like a goddess?"
Bra laughed derisively, though he noted that her hand lifted to pat at the carefully disheveled bun. A careless twist turned the burner on high; she spread some butter on the pan and set it on the rapidly heating rings, then took out a bowl and began cracking the eggs. Roshi frowned slightly. Though the swell under the thin material was a pleasant distraction, another, far more disciplined part of him was beginning to pick up something else. After a moment he saw it again; a certain fluidity that had previously escaped his notice. (Daylight revealed a number of different, more interesting things; the outfits worn during those hours revealed even more.) Bra, humming absentmindedly and altogether tunelessly, poured some milk in the bowl along with the yolks and took out a fork to begin scrambling them. A directional knee to shut the drawer confirmed his suspicions. "Bra," he said.
She gave him a sideways look. It was an expression characteristic of all young, unmarried women who met him, and it didn't faze him in the slightest. "Do you study martial arts?" he asked.
The blue gaze rested briefly on the ceiling before lowering back to the bowl. "I don't like to fight."
"That's not what I asked." Roshi pressed mute, made curious by the evasion. "I asked you if you've studied it. Surely you picked something up from your father…"
The yolk hissed as it tumbled into the pan. Bra's tone was sour. "Of course I picked up something. Daddy's wonderful. He taught me things when I was a little girl, back when I didn't know that fighting was unfeminine."
"That's all that's stopping you?"
"That's more than enough reason to quit," said Bra indignantly. "Honestly. Only boys get sweaty and dirty and like it. Well, them and Pan, anyway."
Roshi blinked when an empathetic flounce sent things jiggling, then shook his head to bring himself back to attention. "That's too bad. You have a lot of potential. I would know."
"You would know." She swept the eggs from the bottom of the pan before they could burn and pushed the rapidly congealing mass toward the center. "You're not even a tenth of what Daddy is. He could destroy you with a sneeze. What could you possibly know that matters?"
Roshi smiled, turning the mute function off. Channel 28 was another disappointment; he briefly entertained the notion of getting up and inserting an exercise tape, maybe even venturing into the kitchen to grab a drink, then dismissed it, realizing that any attempt to bend over after so many hours of sitting would probably throw his back out. Bra lifted the pan from the burner and nudged the eggs off onto a plate, looking over at him. "Well? Aren't you going to say anything?"
"I'm not in the habit of answering stupid questions."
She scowled, turning off the stovetop. "None of my questions are stupid."
Roshi went up through the thirties, halting on the animal channel to oversee the sexual activity of two prairie dogs. Bra retrieved a fork and came to stand by the couch. "I said, none of my questions are stupid."
"That's fine." He checked the clock on the VCR. 1:27. He wasn't the least bit tired. "Do you always make eggs in the middle of the night?"
"Only sometimes." Bra perched on the arm of the couch and began to eat. Glancing over, he was both pleased and discomforted to discover her breasts were in his direct line of vision. For some odd reason he found himself flushing –something he had not done in years—and wondered how long he could get away with staring at them. It was, apparently, not very long at all, because the next moment she looked down her nose at him, lowering her utensil pointedly. "Are you staring at my boobs?"
"Ridiculous question," he said briskly, returning to the TV. Another cooking channel with another large-breasted male chef; he watched in a kind of horrified fascination, fingers flicking at the butter-smeared kernels along the bottom of the bowl.
"So now my questions are ridiculous?"
"Of course I was staring at your boobs."
Bra nodded thoughtfully, then resumed eating. It was nearly three minutes later when she asked: "Do you think they're attractive?"
Master Roshi choked as saliva caught in the wrong tube, banging on his thin chest with a tightly clenched fist. Bra polished off her eggs and set the bowl on the coffee table, folding her arms expectantly. "Do I…?" he gasped.
"Find them attractive." Bra smoothed a stray aqua strand behind her ear. "I mean, I know you're a perverted old goat and you'll look at, like, anything, but do you find them genuinely attractive?"
"I will not look at everything." He coughed a final time, eyes watering, and pressed 'mute' again. "I don't allow women over sixty to excite me."
"What remarkable restraint," she said wryly. She leaned forward, causing the front of her shirt to dip enormously, and wiggled her torso. "Come on. Are they nice or not?"
Roshi wondered with a kind of absent morbidity just how many organs Vegeta would rip out if he caught them in such a compromising situation. "No."
"Oh?" To his surprise, Bra sounded faintly amused. "Why's that?"
"Because they aren't."
Bra slid off the arm of the couch and landed neatly beside him. After a moment the hastily prepared shred of control frayed. He surrendered to the inevitable and faced her again. Her grin was surprisingly feral; bright yellow lights from a fast-food commercial flickered oddly in her eyes. "You don't like them? Honestly?"
Roshi slowly removed his sunglasses. He knew exactly what she was trying to do, though he couldn't figure out what he had done to deserve it, and for a moment he was extremely tempted to play along despite the consequences that they both knew would occur. After all, if he got close enough he could probably dive in for a squeeze or two, or three, and manage to escape with most of his limbs intact. He studied the shape of her eyes and the predatory smile dimpling her cheek, and in her was unnerved to find Vegeta. "You're attracted to me," she observed.
"Not half as much as you must be attracted to me," he murmured, sliding the glasses into his breast pocket. His gaze lifted and studiously refocused somewhere past her head.
She adopted a look that hovered somewhere between indignation and indulgence. "But you're a perverted old man and I'm just a sweet, barely legal, wholly innocent princess."
She lifted her shirt to casually scratch an itch. Master Roshi turned his head away and quietly had a nosebleed. "I'm so disappointed you don't find me attractive," she continued wistfully, seemingly oblivious.
Ever fiber of his being wanted to leap onto the girl and do… and do something, dammit, even if she was only teasing him and trying to get a rise out of him. Vegeta, he remembered, and chewed the inside of his lip until it bled. "It's not that I don't find you attractive," he said carefully, and swallowed when the grin turned wolfish. "In fact, I wouldn't mind showing you a thing or two, but the fact is, I don't think you're mature enough to appreciate my charm, sparkling wit, and exquisite male beauty."
"Is that so?" Her hand, well-manicured and soft with peach-scented moisturizer, found his knee and squeezed. Her voice held a note of barely suppressed mirth. "Are you sure about that?"
Heat instantly flared in places he figured it ought not flare. He closed his eyes, tight, and by the time he opened them again his distorted perception darkened the greens in the room into cerulean, the credits were rolling on the show, and Bra was still looking at him, a picture of loveliness and of virtue. "Go away," he said.
She pouted then, and it was fantastic, like a curve of rose quartz on an ivory figurine. "I thought you liked me."
"I don't," he lied.
"What's the matter? You wouldn't hesitate if it were Pan or Marron."
He spent several moments struggling to refrain from making up for his lapse. "That's Pan and Marron. You're you."
"But why…" Her eyes suddenly widened. "Ooh, it's because of Daddy, isn't it?"
"That's not it."
"Yes it is. You coward! You're afraid he'll come and beat you up!"
"That's not it at all."
"Then what is it?"
He counted slowly to seven, backtracked to five when she scratched another itch, and continued the count to ten uninterrupted. "Go away," he said again.
The pretense vanished. "Fine!" she snapped. She snatched her dishes from the table and stomped toward the kitchen. "I was just teasing you. As if anyone could ever find you attractive anyway. How about you get a life and stop being such a pervert?"
"How about you stop acting as if you were available?" he suggested, somewhat relieved she had moved. "It makes you seem easy."
For a second, despite her relatively low power level, he was positive she was going to go super-Saiyajin. She whirled, nostrils flaring, and fixed him with a look of such utter wrath he found himself blanching slightly. "How dare you," she hissed. "Where do you get the gall to say I'm easy when you're the one that sleeps with anything that moves?"
"Only things with breasts."
"Your mother?" she tossed back nastily.
His looked at her in all her righteous anger, taking in her flushed face and the way she shook, and couldn't help himself. "Yours."
Bra shrieked with fury, hurling her dishes at him. Instinct took over; his left hand snatched the fork and redirected it into the wall. It stuck, quivering. The plate went wide. Lunging backwards, he pushed off the back of the couch and went up into a flip, catching the plate between his feet before landing neatly on his hands. The plate dropped gently to the carpet. Roshi righted himself slowly, hiding a wince as pain shot through his back. Terrific, he thought grumpily, bending gingerly to pick up the plate. As he straightened he realized that Bra was still in the room. "You shouldn't throw things in the house," said Roshi, and he went to the wall to retrieve the fork.
Bra folded her arms across her chest, tapping her foot slowly. Her previous rage had abruptly vanished, replaced by an air of speculation. "You're good," she said slowly, as if suspicious.
Roshi shrugged, tugging futilely at the utensil. "… Looking?"
"No. I mean, you're good at martial arts."
"You think so?"
Bra's jaw worked. She looked deeply disturbed. "But… you're an old man."
"And you're a young lady." The fork finally came out. Roshi stood, shuffling past her and manfully resisting the urge to grope at various different parts of her anatomy. "And the scene back there was, on the whole, pointless. Go to bed."
"What else do you know?" she asked, ignoring him.
"I know you women need a little bit of lovin'." He dropped the dish in the sink, frowning when he spotted a small chip along the edge. "Fortunately for you, the sexy turtle hermit Roshi is here to remedy your feelings of distress. You may call me anything you like, but my favorite pet name is 'Lucky' because I'm Magically Delicious—"
"That's not what I mean!" she interrupted impatiently. "I meant about martial arts. What else do you know?"
Roshi moved to the refrigerator, opening it and scanning the bottom shelf for a soda. One can of orange and one can of grape. Remembering that grape was Kuririn's favorite, he selected it, nudging the door shut. He wasn't especially fond of the flavor, but the indignation on Kuririn's face when he found out would be worth it. "I'm a martial arts teacher by profession," he said. "I know just about everything there is to know. I used to be the best."
"Back when dinosaurs still pulled carriages," she sneered, though the earlier bite was subdued. "Do you know any ki attacks?"
Roshi wondered whether or not he should feel affronted. "I created the Kamehameha."
"Daddy says he won't allow anyone in our family to use that attack. He says it's a Son technique only."
He shrugged, popping the top on the can. "His loss."
She played with a piece of hair brushing against her cheek. Noticing the change of atmosphere and recognizing it, he leaned back against the counter, pretending to be concentrating on something else to give her time to formulate her question. "Do you know…" she hesitated, then squared her shoulders. "Do you know any katas?"
Though he had been prepared for any odd question, he was surprised despite himself. "I'm sorry?"
"Katas." Her fingers fumbled; her hand lowered to play with the hem of her shirt. "Daddy never taught me any –he says that they're a waste of time. But Gohan taught Trunks and whenever Trunks does it it looks really neat."
Roshi sipped at his drink, keeping his face impassive. "I thought you didn't like fighting."
"It's not fighting!" Harsh kitchen lights glinted off her hair as she shook her head in irritation. "It's… it's… it's pretty! It's art! Pan does them all the time and Marron's dad taught her some, so I'm the only one who doesn't know them and that makes me feel really stupid."
"Katas are a series of movements that are only to be performed after the student has mastered sufficient skills to do them adequately," he replied evenly.
"So?" Bra lifted her chin, her resemblance to Vegeta giving way to her mother's influence. "Like I said, Daddy taught me a lot when I was little. I'll be more than capable of performing them well."
"You won't learn unless you go in with an open mind."
"Fine, I will."
He sighed, glancing at the microwave clock and trying to convince himself that he was tired. He wasn't. "I suppose we can practice one or two."
"Really?" She hopped up and down, eyes bright with excitement. "Now? Where should we go?"
"Out on the beach. We'll have plenty of room there." Here he paused, scratching the base of his chin. "And, ah, there's a certain fighting outfit you're required to wear if you're training with me."
The look she gave him was of unbridled disdain. "Like I'm going to buy that? I'm going up to the room to change. I'll be down in a couple of minutes."
She bounded up the stairs. Roshi entertained the notion of going up to peek, but dismissed it; the trudge of the stairs would be laborious and the silence of the night would do nothing to help him remain unnoticed. Cricking his shoulders wearily, he turned off the TV and headed out through the screen door.
The night, as was typical for mid-June, was mild, though the breezes from the ocean gave it a nip. Roshi undid a few more buttons on his obnoxious flower-print shirt and stretched his arms over his head. Breezes helped roll the grains of sand over his toes and into his sandals. Kicking them off, he performed a few preliminary exercises to loosen the rest of his body up. The muscles in his calves half-heartedly protested the effort. "Shut up," he muttered, slapping at them. Uselessly, he discovered. "I didn't say you could start hurting."
The screen door banged open. Bra, in the process of retying her hair into a ponytail, thumped down the steps. At the sight of a halter-top and cut-off jean shorts all semblance of focus vanished. "I think," said Roshi, "that we should start with a couple of stretches. You don't want to… tear a muscle. And you missed a button. Here, I'll fix it for you."
Bra smacked at him as he descended. "Etchi! I don't have buttons! Besides, I'm already warmed up. Very warmed up. Get off!"
"Are you sure?" he asked, and rubbed his jaw to make sure it wasn't dislocated in some way. "Maybe a little toe-touching would be in order, or, perhaps, jumping jacks to loosen the—"
"No. Let's get on with this, okay? This doesn't have to take all night."
Roshi shrugged, hiding his disappointment. "Fine, but don't blame me if you strain something. And, just so you are aware, katas take a very long time to learn. I'll tell you right now that you'll never get one right."
"And why not?" She was indignant. "I'm not stupid!"
"I never said you were. I'm just telling you that you'll never get one right. Nor will you ever get one wrong."
Bra's nose crinkled. She shifted her weight from foot to foot, looking uneasy. "You're talking in circles," she whined. "Just teach me the stupid kata!"
Roshi briefly wondered if Goku or Kuririn had ever been so annoying. "A kata," he said, "is about interpretation of ideas. It's a seamless transition from technique to technique."
He bent his knees and slid his feet shoulder-width apart. Bra mimicked him. "So they are art."
"Of course they are. Straighten your back." Roshi extended a hand, curling it slowly into a fist. "Set your thumb on top," he instructed. "No, no, not across the knuckles. On top."
"That's stupid," she argued, though she reluctantly agreed. "Nobody punches like that."
"Well, you and I will be the first. Are you going to cooperate or do you actually want this to last as long as you say it could?"
She didn't reply for a moment. Roshi tried to see her expression through the gloom. Though the moon and stars provided suitable enough light for maneuvering it also succeeded in throwing shadows over her face, and, he suspected, his own as well. "I'm listening," she said at last, sullen.
"Good. Now, do as I do." He stepped out as the form dictated, then raised his hands, palm facing inward and fingers slightly curled. "Up against the chest," he said, then brought both fists down, "a reverse strike into the groin…" he turned to the side and struck out with the side of his fist, "a hammer fist, and then a strike under it, follow me?"
Bra copied as best she could. "Are there names for these strikes?"
"Of course." He moved into the next section, spinning ninety degrees and repeating the set of movements. "But you're not going to learn them."
"Because you won't be able to remember them and that, you see, would be a waste of my time. You're falling behind."
"I have a very good memory," she said with dignity, but hastened to catch up. "I'm sure that if I put my mind to it I could get it right away."
"I'm sure you could. Shut up." Roshi concentrated, executing a flawless sweep step. At that moment he began to feel himself focus, as he always did when performing a kata; it was peculiar, in fact, that in focusing he was not as much centering as he was expanding, light as the grains of sand at his feet and relentless as the tide. The pressure that had gathered behind his eyes vanished, as did the pain in his leg, and every movement –was he moving as much as flying?—grew more graceful with the execution of the last. After several minutes a vague portion of his mind realized he could no longer hear Bra's footsteps, but by that time he was too far gone to care. As the kata drew to a close, he set his knuckles quietly against his palm and hung, in time and the spaces between the stars, for a long, reluctant moment before crashing back to Earth. The dull throbbing returned to his temples and burned down along his calves. "Damned Earth," he muttered, hand straying to his back reflexively. "Damned gravity."
A slight shift of grains behind him reminded him of protégé pro tempore and he turned, preparing himself for a dour lecture. To his surprise, the girl's eyes, black for lack of light, were wide and disbelieving. "That…" she began, and began to scowl. "That was amazing."
"Eh?" He blinked, genuinely confused. His hand lifted to rub the back of his head. "It… it was?"
"Of course it was." Bra crossed her arms, still looking strangely agitated. "It was as pretty as I knew it would be."
He folded his own arms, barely able to restrain a chuckle. "But?"
The wide eyes narrowed with annoyance, though he wasn't entirely sure it was directed toward him. "I can't… I couldn't even…" She spun away from him, raking stray tendrils of hair back with vicious swipes of her fingers. "Look, you lost me back there, okay? I couldn't even do half the things you just did. You did them totally without effort, and I… even though I was trying my best, I…"
"I've had quite a bit more practice," he reminded her, though his gaze became pensive. "And you were doing fine. With what you had, anyway."
She turned her head. Roshi hesitated, trying to discern the expression that was struggling to surface from beneath the annoyance. After a moment she relaxed. "If I asked nicely," she said, and smiled winningly, "would you do it again for me? And go slower? Pretty please?"
There were several pseudo-forevers in which Roshi came to the conclusion that with those doe-eyes on him, and with that much torso showing, he probably couldn't have refused her anything if he'd tried. "I suppose I can spare the time," he said.
Bra's grin widened. "Great! Let's get going! It started like this, right?"
She crouched, legs spread much further apart in an attempt that, after all the deliberate flirtation, was alarmingly innocent. Roshi almost passed out. "S-somewhat," he mumbled, and tried to think of Saiyajin princes and the agony of evisceration. He squatted into the starting position, deliberately slowing the motion so she could see her error herself. "This."
"Okay." Bra looked triumphant. "See? At least I remembered the stance!"
"Yes, you did." For what had to be the thousandth time that night, Roshi had a brief battle between lust and his rigorous sense of self-preservation. The latter ended up prevailing. Not quite trusting himself to speak, he eased up, walking over and reaching down to gently reposition her right leg. Though her eyes flared slightly in surprise, she made no sound of protest. Relieved, Roshi pointed to her feet. She looked down and made the correction herself. "Good," he said. "Now, raise your hands palm-up, remember?"
"And down into the groin. Not my groin."
"Now a hammer fist. Shift your center into an open 'L'."
Bra followed. "You look different when it's dark."
"Hm?" Roshi, who had been staring as Many Things shifted their center, was jerked back to attention. "Pardon?"
"Are you aware that your hearing sucks?" She threw in another groin shot to her invisible opponent with the unparalleled glee of a habitually hounded female. "I said, you look different in the dark. I guess everyone does, but still…"
Roshi smoothly jumped on the opening even as he concentrated on her form. "Am I still a hot stud monkey?"
"You're now just 'ugly' instead of 'butt-ugly'."
"I'll settle for that. Watch your stance."
Bra stepped around and began repeating the movements. Roshi's brow furrowed. "Stop."
"Do that again."
She performed the palm-up motion, fingers rigid. "That," said Roshi, "is not what I showed you."
Bra lowered her arms, tone becoming arch. "Pardon me, but it is dark out here and even someone as brilliant as me can't always pick up on visual clues."
"It's a simple maneuver."
"Well, if you'd shown it a little better I—"
Fed up, Roshi grabbed her wrist and raised her hand, swiftly repositioning it. Bra trailed off, watching his fingers with rapidly widening eyes. Realizing his mistake, Roshi froze, fully expecting an indignant yelp and the sudden, miraculous appearance of Vegeta, thus marking the beginning of the systematic extraction of his testicles and his spleen. Even as he waited, however, he couldn't help but notice how smooth her skin was, and how warm it was, too, despite the subtle nip in the air. After a long period of silence he chanced a look up. To his surprise, Bra's gaze was no longer focused on his hand, but on him. "Well?" she asked. Her voice was faint; he had to strain to hear it. "Are you going to show me how to do this or are you going to stand there until sunrise?"
A flippant comment was on his tongue. He caught it between his teeth before it escaped and gulped, as if the levity were something tangible to swallow. "As appealing as that sounds, m'dear, I do have other plans for tonight. Here." He stepped back to study her, only then realizing how wildly his pulse was hammering. Her scent –vague snatches of peaches and vanilla—clung to him like a stubborn breath of spring. "Let's try it again."
They began to move, sending shadows gliding over the sand. Roshi's foot touched down on the surf as it clambered up the shore; a moment later Bra's settled a few feet from his, leaving a dainty impression that was rapidly smoothed out again. Roshi spun forty-five degrees, turning them out to face the ocean, and continued the form without pause. There was something in the calm whisper of the waves and the intensity of the starlight that turned the frank motions into something sensual; for once he didn't feel the tug of the sky as much as that of the Earth and what was on it, and next to him, if only for the moment. At another turn he could admire his partner without hindrance, and as much as he loved the view he had he was sure that, when the 180 degree turn came about, she was curling her lip at her own unobstructed view of his body even as she marveled at the beauty of the movements it made. Sighing, he spun around quickly and thrust his hands toward the ground.
"What the heck was that?"
Once again he was jolted from his thoughts. "What was it? It was a dump."
She looked skeptical. "A dump?"
"A dump." Roshi eased out of stance, cracking his back. "Useless once you've learned how to fly, but effective enough in ground battles."
"Oh." She seemed to have a brief internal struggle before she blurted, "show me."
"How to fly?"
"The dump," she said impatiently.
"What? I can take it!" Bra stepped forward, throwing out her arm for emphasis. "I'm not some weak little girl! I am the daughter of Briefs Vegeta and the princess of Vegeta-sei. I've got more than enough to handle you."
"Females have a tendency to get excited when I touch them." Even as he formulated his cheeky response, Roshi took advantage of the darkness to study her waistline. Altogether too thin and fragile; he wasn't sure he trusted himself with… with. "Contact would turn you into a wild woman."
"With you?" she snorted. "Your ugly wrinkly hands would be enough to make a rock turn green. I think I'll be able to control myself."
"They're as deadly as my kiss," he continued, unperturbed. "In fact, none have ever survived my Liplock of Doom. Ladies die of heartbreak because they know they can't have me."
"You're full of it," she snapped. "No man is ever bringing me down. Got it? Now teach me the dump!"
Ignoring her, Roshi rubbed his shoulder wearily and glanced at his watch. Toying with all that was forbidden had been entertaining for a time, but it was nearing three in the morning and the constant surges of adrenaline and arrhythmia had served to settle fatigue on him like lead. He turned to begin trudging off toward the house, tossing curtly over his shoulder, "Best get to bed, unless you're looking to be cranky in the morning."
"I am not finished with you yet!"
Roshi grunted in surprise as her hand snatched onto his wrist with surprising strength, yanking him backwards. For the second time that night instinct kicked in; spinning, he pulled his elbow down on the other side of her arm and shoved her own toward her. As she bent over slightly in anticipation of the blow he brought his left elbow down over her right shoulder and thrust a heel into her hip. She went sprawling into the sand with a startled yelp. There was a pause in which he came to the realization that he had flung Vegeta's favorite offspring to the ground, and he backed up in trepidation, swallowing audibly. "So," Bra managed, sitting up slowly, "that's how it's done."
"Are you all right?" he asked warily.
"I don't know." She looked up at him from under lowered lashes. "Aren't you going to help me up?"
Still half-expecting the storm clouds to gather and Vegeta to descend amid the screams of small children, Roshi edged forward and offered his hand. Bra was a quick study, he admitted, and was not at all surprised that, as soon as she was on her feet, she executed the exact same move and effectively knocked him off of his. As he pulled himself up, spitting sand, she moved in to stand over him, face alight with triumph. "Never challenge a Saiyajin princess," she said, "unless you're looking to lose."
"I'll take my chances," he muttered, and, in a move that officially demonstrated his lack of foresight, expertly kicked her feet out from under her. The effect was instantaneous. With a shriek she threw herself on him, pummeling him with her fists. Swearing under his breath, Roshi fended off her attacks as best he could considering the position he was in –like a turtle on its back, he realized with a sense of grim irony—but she was in a full-blown rage and it didn't look as if she would be slowing down any time soon. "Bra…" he gritted.
"Jerk! I swear, I'll get both Daddy and Mom down here…"
"That's really not necessary—"
"… and they can both kick your ass! How do you like THAT? HUH?"
Roshi winced as her voice steadily rose in pitch. He had a sudden, vivid mental image of Juuhachigou hurtling down from the upstairs window, followed by Pan and an indignant, sharp-nailed Marron, all of whom would be spitting fire. Out of ideas and in no way looking to die by the hands of four females, no matter how beautiful they were, he did the only thing that he figured could shut her up, if only for a second or two.
He kissed her.
Too surprised to react, Bra didn't pull away at first. As the kiss continued, stolen as it was, Roshi couldn't help but notice the velvety texture of her lips and the way her breasts pressed against his chest as if it were actually real, and with her consent. After several moments Bra finally snapped from her stupor and yanked back, delivering a vicious slap across his face. He crashed back down to the sand, ears ringing. "You bastard," she said quietly. Her voice was strained. "Oh my god. You bastard."
Roshi looked up at her dizzily, licking his bottom lip and grimacing at the combined taste of blood, vanilla lip-gloss, and buttered eggs. Absurdly, he found himself remembering the pictures he had once seen of various different angels of death, in all of their terrible beauty, and found he couldn't recall one that could even hold a candle to a look of such naked ferocity. "Bra, listen, I--"
She bashed him across the face again, cutting him off, and drew him up by his collar. "No man," she whispered, "has ever kissed me without my permission."
She tightened her grip fiercely, effectively cutting off his air supply. "Furthermore," she said, "I have always been the one to start a kiss."
"A truly admirable track record," he gasped. The lack of air was a source of acute discomfort, but some vague, pseudo-rational portion of his consciousness was grateful for death by asphyxiation –if death was necessary at all-- rather than dismemberment, perhaps, or a slow, millimeter-a-day circumcision with a serrated blade. "But I told you… my Liplock of… Doom brought about heartbreak…"
"Followed by death. Isn't that so?"
Darkness began creeping up from the sand and encroaching upon his vision. He tried to remember the specific name he had jotted down in his old Will in regards to the possession of his house. Kuririn Kuririn? Sennin Kuririn? "I still win," he mumbled, and released the last of his air in a sigh. At least I'm dying in the arms of a beautiful woman…
The pressure suddenly eased slightly, redistributing itself between two small fists. Roshi's eyes flew open as soft lips found his; his fingers gouged holes into the cold sand beneath the surface of the beach. When she pulled back –and it actually took him several moments to figure out she had pulled back –he began to breathe freely once again. It hurt. "Well," Bra said, "I guess your Liplock of Doom wasn't so deadly after all." Though her voice was flat, her eyes were glittering with satisfaction. "Stupid old man, I never lose. Not in anything. My record has been redeemed."
Lights were flickering merrily in front of his eyes. Roshi stammered something he himself couldn't quite catch, then cleared his throat. His heart was beating so rapidly he was afraid he'd have an attack. "Not yet," he croaked, and exhaled shakily, amazed at his own audacity. "You just took back the one I stole. You still haven't won your record back yet."
He was half-joking, expecting her to sneer at him, or slap him yet again, both of which he was prepared for. What he was not prepared for was for her to draw him in again for another kiss, deeper than the last. A part of his mind was screaming at him to get away before things got out of hand --as tempting as that sounded –while another, much more prevalent part of his mind urged him to take advantage of the situation, to kiss back, though he couldn't even remember the last time he had done it and was therefore badly out of practice. As it turned out, she ended up making the decision for him. "You're about as responsive as a dead trout," she muttered as she pulled away, though it lacked malice. "When was the last time you kissed somebody?"
"M'not sure," he mumbled, dazed. He couldn't recall the last time he'd been so furious with himself. How often did a chance like this come along? "Couple of centuries, I think."
"You really expect me to believe that when all you do is walk around thinking you're god's gift to women?"
Utterly perplexed by the constant changes of mood, he shook his head, trying to spur his thoughts into action. "I am," he said slowly, and licked his lips, wondering whether or not she was aware that her hand was lingering on his shoulder, "but I find it difficult to convince them… you… of that, or to get any of them… that is, close enough for…" Pressure rose from his chest and into his throat, and he fumbled unexpectedly, struggling to pick up the string. "… For…"
"For anything." Her gaze was surprisingly intense. "You're just an ugly, perverted, lonely old man, aren't you?"
Roshi stared back at her, trying to decide whether or not to take offense. Bra looked away, fingers tightening unconsciously on the material by his collar. "And I'm a stupid, lonely little girl," she whispered.
Sand wandered up in uncomfortable places as he shifted his weight, trying to figure out if she was still angry with him. Perhaps it was just the affect of the moonlight, or that his imagination, already indulged, was once again taking liberties with his perception, but he thought he could see the faint glimmer of tears in her eyes. "You're not alone," he ventured, then rallied when she shook her head. "You've never been alone. You have Pan, Marron, and your family. Not to mention your boyfriends."
She didn't seem to mind the use of the plural. "What about you?"
She bristled. "I swear, one more smart-ass comment…"
"I have Umigami," he said –very evenly, he thought, considering he was being harangued by a nineteen year-old girl—and nibbled his bottom lip, thinking. "And I have… well, let's see, there's—"
Roshi blinked. She turned her head, a faint smile on her lips. "That's what you call him, isn't it?"
He opened his mouth, shut it. "It's cute," she said, and gently scooted away to face the ocean. "I mean, he's like, sixty and stuff, but… yeah, it's cute." She nudged at the sand with her heel, creating a tiny dune. "I wish someone would do that kind of stuff for me. I mean, you know, like giving a term of endearment. It's Bra, Bra, Bra, all the time. It gets old, you know?"
Roshi followed her gaze out past the shoreline, rubbing a thumb absently down a scar at the side of his knee. Though Bra didn't seem to need an explanation, he felt one should be forthcoming. "Kuririn is…" he began, and frowned. "Kuririn is… Kuririn, I guess."
Though she didn't look at him, he saw her lip curl in derision. "How utterly profound."
"It's difficult to explain." He hesitated, then said lamely, "He's been here for a while."
"So has his wife."
Roshi had a brief vision of a rope and a dangling, flailing turtle. "Which is implying…?"
"So has sex."
For the umpteenth time that night, Roshi choked and spent the next few moments whacking his chest. Bra patted him helpfully on the back. "Dammit, girl!" he snapped. "Where are you getting all of this?"
"Nowhere in particular. I just like seeing you flustered." Her teeth flashed, and Roshi got the distinct impression he was being laughed at. "It makes you look hot."
Enough was enough. "Well, keep your yearnings to yourself. I'm going to bed."
Bra's smile faded as he stood. "Hey, wait a minute!" she objected, snatching a hold of his shirt. "I didn't say you could go!"
He looked down his nose. And further, too, once he realized just exactly where looking down his nose allowed him to look. "You didn't say I could what?"
"Go," she said, and looked uncomfortable. "I mean… it's, you know, rude to leave in the middle of the conversation. Especially a conversation with a lady."
Roshi stared at her for a moment, folding his arms slowly and feeling a sudden surge of suspicion. What was it she had said to him before?
"And I'm just a stupid, lonely little girl."
Come to think of it, how much attention did she get at home, really? She was obviously her father's girl and he gave her everything that was in his power to give, but was he really in the habit of talking to her or seeking out her company? And Bulma… knowing the woman over forty years had given him a healthy appreciation for her dedication to her work; he had no doubt that, for all her good intentions, she would honestly rather spend her time tinkering with her latest invention than spending time with people. Trunks, though a protective older brother, was too busy managing the company to be around much. The only attention she probably received, then, was from the men she managed to reel in, and even then their affections were probably fleeting. Bra was everything a guy wanted for a one night stand, but once it was discovered that there was more underneath the leather and lace than they had initially bargained for they most likely fled the first chance they got. Roshi surprised himself by feeling a rush of pity. "And?" he said quietly.
"And what? God, you're such a jerk!" She released his shirt abruptly, wrapping her arms around her knees. "You know what? Never mind. Just go. See if I care."
Roshi licked his bottom lip pensively, suddenly reluctant to leave her. "I don't have to go," he said. "If you genuinely need to talk I can—"
"You know what else you have?" she demanded, interrupting him. "You have your art. You take being able to do those katas and everything for granted, but I would do anything to be able to do them that well. When I was doing them with you… I felt like I was free. Like I belonged to something for once, or, or…" She shook her head once, angrily. "Never mind. Just go away. I don't need you or anybody else."
Roshi folded his arms. "You're being ridiculous."
Bra blanched, then recovered quickly and slammed her fist down into the sand. "You see?" she cried. "That's exactly what I'm talking about!"
He exhaled slowly. "Bra…"
"Everyone sees me as this stupid, naïve little girl. You, Daddy, Pan, Marron, everybody!"
"I'm talking about your current behavior, not your IQ. Now would you please—"
"Nobody cares about me. I swear, if I were to throw myself off a cliff or something right now no one would even—"
She fell silent, swiping angrily at the tears on her cheeks. Hesitating a moment, Roshi reached out and tentatively rested his hand on the top of her head. She stiffened at his touch, but didn't pull away. "You are a remarkable young lady," he said quietly. "Which is why, I suppose, I'm not completely understanding why you're being so hasty to discredit yourself. To be honest, it's completely out of character for you. It's much easier dealing with you when you act like a brat."
She was silent. Roshi sighed as her ki began doing awful things, too tired to try to verbally backpedal, and waited for the first blow to fall.
"… What did you say?"
Surprised, he chanced a glance down. There wasn't a trace of anger on the perfect features; confusion, perhaps, and something else that he couldn't interpret. "What did you say?" she repeated.
"That it's easier to deal with you when you act like a brat?"
He redirected his focus off into nowhere. "I just said I'm not sure why you're so willing to discredit yourself. And, so you know, I have no doubt you are able to take care of yourself. It is not, however, necessary to do so. Are you aware your hearing sucks?"
Her eyebrows drew together sharply, though the ire seemed reflexive. Her gaze had grown curious. "What do you know?"
"I know enough to know that there are plenty of people who would rather die than see you hurt."
He dragged his eyes from Nowhere reluctantly. "And me, what?"
Bra shifted, fixing him with a stare that, considering the absence of proper lighting, had no right being so blue. "Would you rather die than see me hurt?"
Roshi watched the way her teeth worried her bottom lip, the way her hair was teased by the wind –she looked so much like her mother had—and felt a stirring that edged past perversion and into something so real that it frightened him. "Yes," he said quietly, "I believe I would."
She searched his face for a moment. "You're serious," she said. Her tone was incredulous. "You're actually being serious for once."
Roshi lowered his hands slowly, finding his pockets. He was embarrassed to discover his face was burning. "Well. Now that that's settled."
"Mm." Bra faced the ocean once more, fingers combing through the bottom of her ponytail. "I guess that's that."
He walked back to the house, sparing a glance over his shoulder as he neared his porch. Bra had drawn her knees up to her chest and had set her chin on top: unmoving among the shifting grains of sand. He opened his mouth, preparing to say something meaningful, and realized there was nothing to say. Shaking his head, he retreated inside, letting the screen door fall shut behind him with a dull whack of metal on wood.
The house seemed unnaturally dark. Roshi stood by the doorway uncertainly, wondering what to do. He was too tired to do anything but sit or lay down, but he wasn't all that certain he would be able to sleep. He couldn't remember the last time he'd had something weigh so heavily on his mind. "Silly girl," he muttered to himself, and wondered if he meant it.
The clock in the kitchen gently chimed three. Sighing, he rubbed the back of his neck wearily and headed for the couch, sinking down onto the middle cushion. His fingers reached toward the controller; fell short. Feelings and thoughts rose to the forefront and faded just as quickly, creating a vague sense of discomfort.
"You take being able to do those katas and everything for granted, but I would do anything to be able to do them that well. When I was doing them with you… I felt like I was free. Like I belonged to something for once…"
He stood. The path to the kitchen was obstructed by another table and an understuffed armchair. He slammed into both of them as he made his way to the kitchen.
There the moonlight streamed unchecked through the window, brightening the room considerably. He ran his fingers over the knobs of the drawers under the sink until he came to the right one, and pulled. After a moment's inspection he located a tablet and pulled it out, unhooking the pen from the spirals on the side.
"Would you rather die than see me hurt?"
"Silly girl," he whispered, and began to write.
When he was finished he tore off the sheet and folded it in half, scribbling 'BRA' on the outside, before beginning the climb up the stairs. The door to the girl's bedroom was slightly ajar; focusing his ki, Roshi lifted the majority of his weight off the floor and tiptoed over to Bra's sleeping bag, placing the note on her pillow. On the floor beside his right foot Pan stirred slightly; he froze, temporarily lowering his ki. After a moment she calmed down, muttering in her sleep. Relaxing, he raised his energy again and slid back out the door silently, heading into his own room.
Nearly twenty minutes went by when he finally heard Bra on the stairs. He held his breath and listened. There was a creak as she pushed open the door to the girl's room, and a faint rustle of her sleeping bag. Roshi waited, but no other sounds came from the room. Certain she was finally safe in bed, he bent his arm and set his head on the crook of his elbow. Exhaustion, stubbornly held at bay and tempered with adrenaline, came crashing down on his bones brutally. Think I'll sleep in tomorrow, he admitted drowsily, and closed his eyes.
It was barely two minutes later, however, that a faint scuff penetrated the fog. Instinct tried to prod him awake. Reluctant to relinquish his hold on sleep, he remained still, keeping his breathing steady. The floorboards creaked; his nostrils flared as the warm scent of vanilla and peach invaded his senses, gently driving away the crisp smell of fresh sheets. His heart skipped a beat as warm lips pressed themselves to his forehead, lingering for a segment of eternity before pulling away. "Thank you," Bra whispered. A subtle rustle on his nightstand, and she was gone again, leaving spring in her wake.
Heart pounding, Roshi waited to make sure she had gone back into her room before carefully propping himself up on his elbow. The note was lying open on the nightstand. He read it over silently, then permitted himself a slight smile. Lowering himself onto his pillow again, he closed his eyes, pulling the sheet up tighter around his chin. A few moments later sleep claimed him.
The room darkened momentarily as a cloud passed over the moon, then lightened again, exposing the sheet to the moonlight. One set of characters, brisk and precise, stood out boldly at the upper right hand corner.
There is always a kata here for you when you need it. If you feel lonely, keep in mind that I'll do everything I can to help you. I am, after all, god's gift to women. One day he will mail me to you and we can sit up all night together, popping the bubbles on the bubble wrap.
And along the bottom, dainty and graceful:
God's Gift to Women--
Just as long as I get to keep the receipt.