Author's Note: Much as Dragon Ball Z had it's movies, Chelsee agreed to let me try a side story for Variation Elements. And much as the movies had very little to do with the series, the same applies to this. Generally slips into the series at the end of 1.5 Say Nothing Do't If you haven't read Variation Elements, trust me, this will not make any sense! Some characters in this fic are derived directly from Chelsee's story! And much as with VE, this story is better viewed at her site as it has an illustration there

-Note- Search out either the author Chelsee , or the story Variation Elements to see where this came from!

Warning Contains shonen-ai (male/male) relationship. Hints of lime, but no lemon. Violence and gore warnings I suppose should be included. If you do not like reading such things, or find them offensive, PLEASE do not continue! Go back, I demand it!

Variation Elements: Side Story

"The Breath of Winter"

"The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good."

--Ann Landers

The cold mountain winds blew about the hovel, snow yet light with the early winter dusted and swirled about the dome. The last remnants of the cool out-of doors air settled to the floor after the abrupt exit of the young man. Odd that, Son Gohan seemed in a particular hurry, though he had not verbalized any destination. He was normally very good at stating his intentions, at least to his mother. Or so it had seemed in the short time the prince had found himself in residence.

However, Chi Chi had not pressed the child. He had simply disappeared out into the snow, with a look that could be described as no less than disturbing.

Yes well, perhaps it was not his business. Brilliant green eyes trailed back down to the open book sprawled across his thighs. After all, the boy had been making it quite clear that his thoughts, actions, and indeed his very presence were unwelcome. The boy had clearly loved his father. From his stand point, Jondalar was indeed an intruder. There was naught to be done for that. The boy refused even pleasant conversation, let alone a true talk between them.

The residue of Gohan's departure however, was not necessarily the cause of the chill in the room. It had lingered to long with the fire yet ablaze in the hearth. Intent hidden beneath long lashes, the prince glanced toward the couch. That strange creature, the cat, her eyes were upon him again. That gaze which sent a shiver down his spine. The cat was condemning him. Would it not have gone against his entire upbringing, he may well have hunched his shoulders and attempted to sink back into the confines of the arm chair he occupied. As it was, he found quick interest returning to his book.

"You look a little chill there, Jon. You sure you don't need to go home and chat with your old man? Hate to see a man of your stature catch cold."

Indeed. The heathen thorn that had also taken refuge in the Son abode. "Your concern is heart warming."

He graced the man with a sour look. It was not as though he had picked the fight between them. Jondalar had been nothing but pleasant upon meeting this man, this desert bandit. He had not known of the man's history right then, however, neither had the bandit known of him. On second thought, the man had been volatile from the start. A mere dog with his fur ruffled. However, since the gauntlet had been thrown, the prince of the Blue Monarch Empire was not above biting back.

The desert bandit bared his teeth in something that may have passed for a smile. The scar on his cheek stretched at such an angle as to impose. "And your perfume is nauseating. Went for a Polish shower this morning, hmm?"

The muscle near his right eye twitched as the flame haired prince effected a none-too-kind smile of his own. "At least I know which end of the razor is used for shaving, sir."

The dark haired man sat up then, from his sprawled position on the couch. His blue feline companion compensated easily, repositioning from his chest to his shoulder. The bandit hunched forward, hands clasped between his knees. He cast a quick, speculative glance towards the kitchen and the woman who worked with in before those obsidian eyes rested once again on the prince. The smile had vanished, a snarl still twitching that damned scar into a formidable line. "You've figured out you aren't welcome here."

It was a statement of fact. Perfectly aligned and whitened teeth grit together, lips pursed into a thin line. "I have no choice in my position at this point. In fact, only one of us here does and as far as I know. You are welcome to leave at any point, thank you."

"Well your Velcome to leave too, prince." White teeth ground slightly as Northern accent was thrown brutally back into his face. "In fact, I would recommend it before something happens that one of us will regret."

There was no doubt; the room temperature had dropped ten degrees in a fraction of a moment. The same moment as that dark threat had passed the bandit's lips. He was royalty, he could not back down. It would go against everything he knew, everything he was trying to be. What would his father say? That didn't matter, Jondalar was quite certain his father had never been faced with such a malevolent power as what the man before him seemed to be exuding at the moment. What had he called it in reference to Son Gohan? Chi?

Jondalar stood. Book closed and placed gently on recently vacated cushion, he maneuvered to the coat rack and pulled on the fur and leather apparel he had worn between his own capsule house and that of the Sons that morning. He tightened his boot laces and reached for the door handle. "I believe that I will go for a walk."

With out a backwards glance he stood straight, doing nothing for the red strands of wily hair being whipped into his eyes. Pulling what was left of his shaken pride together, he walked unhurriedly away from the comfort of shelter and toward the woods. He ignored the dusting snow that hazed the surroundings and the chill that tried to burrow instantly down the back of his neck. He hadn't thought to grab a hat. It was of no consequence. Jondalar could survive a walk with out a hat.

Lunch had come and passed since the prince had stuck his nose in the air and stalked out the door. Chi Chi's question of his where abouts was innocent, and expected, but something of it still ground on Yamcha. She should have been pleased with out the added nuisance around. She should have been able to … what? Loosen up? That wasn't a term used for the Son Matriarch, it just didn't suite.

Dinner had come and passed. Concern, true and unbridled had risen in those beautiful dark eyes. The prince wasn't back yet. Yamcha made vague attempts at humor, at light heartedness; he played with the baby, convinced Puar into a game of pounce. However, as the darker clouds rolled in, and the true blanket of snow that the Paozu Mountains were infamous for developed un hindered, Chi Chi's worry began rolling onto panic.

"Yamcha, if he's only wearing that jacket in this weather… He doesn't know this area… He could be anywhere by now! And he'll be cold. Please, you have to go find him; he could freeze to death in this!"

The ex bandit wanted to know why it mattered, why she should care? The man was just butting into her life and tearing her eldest son apart. Why should she want him back? Why should she want him safe? What ever it was that pushed her worry, it involved more than simple human compassion. Could it be that she felt an honest attraction to… An image of Goku burned permanently onto his memory ignited a flame of anger in his belly. It couldn't be!

"Yamcha," The fire that she was known for wound its way through her voice this time. "You will go out there, and you will find him!"

Grudgingly, he complied. What else could he do? He had no interest in the prince himself, but he supposed some level of guilt would arise if the frozen corpse were found sometime next spring. And much as the red head had done before him, he pulled on his sturdy woolen jacket and snugged his boots. "I should be back by morning, with the prince. Puar, you stay here."

He stepped out into what was developing into a mountain blizzard. Closing the door before either could protest. The cold was instantaneous in its desire to cling to and burrow into uncovered flesh. Yamcha closed his eyes for a moment and flared his chi about him. Jon was probably freezing in this weather, if he were even yet among the living. A grimace graced his lips. It wasn't as though he were worried.

Now if he could manage to find the Prince's weak chi. In a burst of trained power the bandit was above the trees and off into the darkening sky.

Knees hugged to chest, nose buried between them, dazzling red hair was soaked through. He was lost, he knew that. Jondalar grimaced into his cold clinging pants. He hadn't been thinking straight when he left. It didn't help that he was unfamiliar with the area. And, apparently under considering of its weather. Snow simply did not fall like this with in the reaches of Blue Monarch. That he knew of.

It didn't matter. Hunkered down beneath a thick pine, the prince decided not much mattered at the moment. He couldn't feel his toes, and hadn't for the last few hours. His fingers were another question. Grudgingly, he lifted his eyes to the sky, a layer of snow fluttering from the tops of his knees. It was getting dark. It wasn't that he wanted to give up. It wasn't that he wanted to die. However… his body had made the decision for him. The snow, in open areas, was waist deep. He simply couldn't press forward anymore. He had no way of knowing where he needed to go.

The prince buried his face back into the depths of his silk (and entirely unfit for the weather) pants. If only he could manage to ignore that brutish man's scathing remarks. He would still be safe with in the confines of a home, warm and snuggled up with his book and his daydreams. His daydreams were not doing so well here.

Genevah. He supposed she was safe and tucked away in his father's castle. Just wonderful.

Would… would anyone look for him out here? Chi Chi, he hoped she would at least worry. A stronger concern burned through him however. Concern would be touching, but he sincerely dreaded the idea of her out looking for him. No one deserved to be out in this wretched weather, especially not such a woman as her.

Honestly, it wasn't as though the desert bandit would come looking for him.

That man was probably beaming at the delightful idea of loosing a prince. That thought burned him. What could any one see in such a man? Except that his prospective wife was friends with him. And he seemed to get on well with Gohan. Jondalar silently went over his every conversation with the bandit. Still, it was entirely lost on the prince as to what had prompted the man into aggression. And for that matter, what was it about him that made the hackles on his own neck crawl?

Yet further disturbing, why did it bother him so much as to what the bandit thought of him?

A sigh, a warm breath against the back of his frozen knees. Of all the things to be doting on while freezing to death in the middle of some god-forsaken back woods, the crude bandit shouldn't be it. Shivers coursed the length of his body. Teeth, clenched as they were, resisted chattering, though occasionally an uncontrollable spasm would click them of their own accord. Hindsight suggested that he should have begged his father harder for the survival training tutor he had desperately wanted so many years ago. There were a lot of things he would have done had he known he'd find a situation like this. Like, bring a compass.

"Get up, prince. I'll be damned if I'm waiting all night to save the likes of you."

Instinct born of years of training drove him up and back, shoulder blades pressed hard into the tree behind him. Scimitar in hands to numb to feel the hilt. Jondalar narrowed his eyes and as such squinted into the unforgiving snow. The dark, undistinguished figure who had roused him could have been no more than four foot away, and yet he could see no features. The tone, the words spoken, this had to be that intolerable heathen.

The bandit… had come to find him? In the deaden silence that snow was prone to induce, a scraping of blade from sheath met his ears, and a throaty growl. "I'd put that away were I you, Jon. Might hurt somebody."

He sounded more animal than man under the circumstance. A wolf in bandits clothing. "I don't need your help, sir. Nor your advice. Leave."

A low chuckle. Jondalar dearly wished for once that the man would step closer. He wished he could determine his features. His true intent. Would the bandit butcher him, out in these woods? He gripped the hilt tighter. Something in his soul, the sense that couldn't be described, that had saved him countless times in battle; it spoke of lurking danger. Whispered threats. He would not go down so easily.

"So you don't need my help. You plan on slicing your way back to civilization with that toy sword of yours?" A darker sound, as undistinguished as its owner was emitted. "Or maybe you would just like to fall on that blade of yours out here, and save us all from the royal crap you keep spewing."

Could it be that this man disliked him to such a point? "I have no reason to fall on my blade, thank you. I've done nothing so drastically wrong as to resort to such an act. I'll just… find my own way back."

A pause, he could have cursed himself. This was not the conversation or the adversary to show weakness to. "You'll find your own way back by cowering under a pine tree? Do tell, how does that work?"

A scowl, his blade wavered, though was not put away. There was no way to respond to that. The bandit made a valid point. Adrenaline wearing thin, he felt his knees begin to quake. Perhaps from threat, though he would rather say from the cold. He allowed the ruff bark of the white pine at his back to support more of his weight. "Step forward, bandit, or leave."

He could feel the fellow's feral expression. "Do I make you nervous, prince?"

Without warning the sound a metal on metal wrung out in the area, only to be muffled further out by the ever falling snow and the occasionally howling winds. A blade was with in a hairs breath of his throat. His own Scimitar rose between life and death. A moment passed, neither attacker nor prey gave an inch. Emerald clashed with obsidian in an unflinching, unforgiving stand off.

Full dark had come and passed, but even the thick clouds and falling snow could not entirely press out the moon's glow. The landscape held an unnatural and eerie hint. It reflected the effect ten fold off of the desert bandit's scarred features. Features he was now with in inches of. Clear, yet unrefined. Wild raven hair, long lashes, almost misplaced on that ruff honed face. Jondalar felt something in his chest flutter in that instant that had nothing to do with fear. Or, perhaps it did…

"Maybe you're not totally helpless after all." The bandit's sword was withdrawn, though his stance was unfazed. "However, if I would have been trying, we wouldn't be having this conversation right now."

The bandit leaned forward, deliberately pressing his exposed throat against Jondalar's frozen Scimitar. The prince swallowed, he would have backed up, but the tree that once was support was now an unforgiving wall. The desert bandit was entirely to close, and at the same time, not nearly close enough… "Wh… what are you doing?"

To his amazement, his voice did not quake like his jellied legs were attempting to do. "I'm giving you an opportunity you'll never see again."

"I do not like you," Lies all lies! "But I have no wish to kill you, sir."

"I despise you," A tight sneer, a flash of something in those deep eyes. Fathomless. Genevah… "But killing me wasn't the opportunity I was talking about."

"Then, what…?"

The man pushed forward, Jondalar shifted the blade between them, but not fast enough. He felt the metal cut through cloth and skin alike, burrowing down into muscle, aware to some extent that the other man's chest was being similarly rendered. Warm blood welled from the wound, silk shirt wicking it across his chest and into the lining of his fur jacket. Calloused hands, free of sword, caught the sides of his head, fingers entwining in hair. The back of his skull was rammed none too gently into the pine bark…

All of that meant nothing. Nothing to the punishing, bruising force that was exerted on his lips.

The prince couldn't respond. How could he? The bandit… was kissing him? Why couldn't he bring himself to push the man away? In a vicious move, teeth that were sharper than they looked sunk into exposed lip. Jondalar opened his mouth to gasp only to find it invaded by the other man's tongue and the taste of his own coppery blood. The Prince squeezed his eyes closed. He should have been upset; he should have been panicked about such an act. However…

He wanted it.

Never had he experienced such sensations at once. The tormenting pain of rendered flesh, the warm stickiness of mingled blood, the fiery passion of the man that pinned him. The utter helplessness and lack of control or choice. The very flavor of the desert bandit.

As abruptly as the kiss had been initiated, the bandit pulled his lips away. Jondalar was left gasping for breath, chest heaving. The sword cutting them both further with each jerking breath. The ebony haired man was still to close. His piercing eyes watching the prince's every expression. Jondalar knew for a fact that he could never keep his thoughts from his features. Not even a glint of pain registered on the scarred visage before him, though. The wry amusement of an eagle watching its prey in the final death throws. No, that wasn't right. The wolf, its prey pinned and still breathing.

"Wolf…"

He hadn't realized he'd breathed the word allowed until something unnamed gleamed bright in the eyes across from his own. "Wolf. Yes, you witless sheep, a wolf."

Jondalar nearly chocked, he wished now that the man would remove his hands, he felt more than a little trapped. "You… you never answered the question."

"I'm giving you the opportunity to prove to me you are worthy."

The bandit slipped his cool hand back behind the prince's neck and leaned forward again, yet headless of the weapon between them. This time he latched his teeth onto Jondalar's frozen ear lobe. A shiver again coursed his body, not due to cold. "W… worthy?"

A breathy whisper, a hint of wet tongue. "Worthy of the gifts you don't even know you have. Worthy of knowing the Son's, their friends. Worthy of courting Son Goku's widow. Worthy of …" A hitch, the pounding of a heart that was not his own, "The feelings you bring up in me."

"And…" He relaxed into the touch, despite himself. "How would you have me accomplish this?"

The prince's eyes drifted closed as that mouth, that brutish yet delicious mouth blazed a trail from his ear lobe down his neck to the zipper of his fur and leather jacket. That trail was left icy in the winter air, his ear colder than before the attention. The bandit found distraction in his jugular. The raven hair, strangely untamed, tickled his chin and nose. A strange sensation of wooziness was taking him. Blood loss, what was left of his rational mind informed him.

His zipper was being pulled down; the gap between them widened for a moment, pulling blade from flesh. The scimitar fell from nerveless fingers into the crisp snow below. A spattering a blood staining the perfect white of the winter scene. It was to cold for this. And yet, the both of them were to hot to care. Silk pulled roughly down, those wolfish teeth found his clavicle, biting the flesh surrounding the bone. Marking him. He gasped again, his knees fully giving out with out warning. The bandit followed him down into the snow, teeth still clenched deep in flesh.

The mouth let loose then, their knees in the snow. Soft tongue graced the abused flesh in its place. "The game is up when you pass out."

Jondalar grunted, wishing he could force his limbs into some kind of reaction. "M… my question, sir?"

"Doesn't matter. Come tomorrow, this never happened."

Silk tearing, ripped open down the center of his chest. Cold, exploring hands straying from neck down to the smooth flesh beneath the shirt. Smearing in the blood, toying with the wound. Tongue and mouth suckling a line down the torn flesh. "But…"

"Forget it, Jon."

Chest abandoned, the bandit returned his attentions to the prince's mouth. The taste and sensation of blood was overwhelming, but not entirely disgusting. Forcing stiff fingers into action, the prince raised a hand to the bandit's own chest, smearing his own fingers in the sticky red substance. The hand was then brought to the bandit's check, bare flesh of chest pressed hard into rough woolen coat. Blood mixing with blood. Tongues battling for supremacy.

The world slipping from his grasp. It… no. Not now! Once unconsciousness claimed him, it would be over, the bandit had said as much. Tomorrow, they would go back to thier baseless rivalry. Tomorrow, they would throw each other hateful glares. Tomorrow they would battle again for the attention of a woman. Sensation faded, the present was no longer of concern.

Tomorrow would come too soon.

Happy gurgling and amusing little sounds that weren't quite words escaped the child's wide happy mouth as he bounced along. Yamcha sat on the Son couch, one leg keeping a steady rhythm, diaper bumping along on his knee. Chi Chi worked on breakfast in the kitchen. Gohan was of course, out hunting. Puar had curled herself into a contented little ball beside his right hip. The prince was… yet to make an appearance.

"Master Yamcha, you look a little stiff this morning. You aren't yourself. Why won't you say what happened last night, sir?"

"I told you, Jon and I had a little disagreement. That's all."

The blue cat raised her head and aimed him a look that did not at all believe. Mindful of the woman in the kitchen, she lowered her voice. "You came back last night with you clothing covered in blood and cut. I don't believe the prince is good enough to do that to you. And you would not let us see him, just dropping him off in his capsule home as such. You did tend to his wounds, right?"

The man smiled, an expression that didn't reach his eyes. "Of course I tended to him, he may be a little weak this morning, but no worse off than I. Hopefully he has brains enough to where something that doesn't reveal the wrappings to Chi Chi. As to his abilities…" The baby was bounced perhaps a little harder than necessary, Goten squealed in delight, "Strange things happen on winter nights."

There was no doubt that his furry companion was less than appeased. To bad, she wasn't getting any more out of him. There were some things he dared not talk openly about, especially with his jealous companion. A light tap on the door heralded the entrance of his dark thoughts.

The man stood straight, perhaps a little too rigid. His face was slightly to pale, a hint of freckles around his nose. His green eyes strangely dull, upon acknowledging Yamcha's presence in the room. He moved stiffly from the room, into the kitchen, to greet the hostess appropriately.

Yamcha grit his teeth ever so slightly. For once, this wasn't the prince's fault. It was he, the ex bandit, that had taken it upon himself to complicate matters. Why couldn't he ever keep it simple?

"Hey Jon, you look like all the turkeys who lost their feathers to your damned ugly quilt came back for revenge on you last night."

A concerned look from Chi Chi, and a half smile from Jondalar. "Those turkeys are all quite dead, thank you."

Finis