Gardia laughed unmercifully as she drove blow after blow into the young man's body. Her eyes lit up like firecrackers as she drove a final fist into his stomach, and her callous grin widened at his pained gasp. He fell, plummeting to the ground, and he hit it with a yelp. Trunks lay there, whimpering like a lost dog, and Gardia sent a last beam down to put him out of his misery.

Trunks' last thought before he hit the ground was: "How will my mother know what happened to me and who will protect her?"

Vegeta had watched his only son's defeat without saying a word, although his heart burned with each blow that connected with the boy. Although it was widely know about Vegeta's selfishness, he found himself harbouring guilt over this battle, and, on top of that, fierce pride over Trunks' heroic efforts. Vegeta glanced up, just in time to see his offspring drop to the ground, death written on his features. He followed the beam of energy in disbelief, and as it tore through Trunks' body, Vegeta found himself screaming along with his son. With eyes only for Trunks, he didn't see Gohan leap at Gardia, or feel the rise in energy as Gohan blew her up. Vegeta half ran the last few metres to his son's body, and clasping his hand and demandingly shaking his shoulder, he finally elicited a response. "I'm sorry I wasn't good enough for you, father," he gasped. Violent spasms shook Trunks' form, and unconscious tears ran down his blood stained face. Raspy sobs caught in his throat, and with his eyes still rolling back into his head, Trunks gave a final jerk, and was still.

Goku and Piccolo stood behind the crouching Vegeta and heard the half sayain's last words. They turned their pained faces to each other, trying to gain solace in each other's gaze, but even then they couldn't block the sound of Vegeta's keening cries.

"Trunks...not Trunks!" moaned Vegeta. He glanced down at his hands, and saw blood, both real, and fictational. He stepped slowly away from Trunks' broken body, shaking his head, teeth chattering with terror, face ashen from shock. He felt a hand grasp his shoulder. He froze. Hesitantly, he turned, and locked eyes with...Goku. Struggling to control the dam of emotions that threatened to rupture inside of him, he pulled away. A heart- rending howl escaped his throat, and Vegeta burst into ki flames and blasted into the air. He was soon just a speck in the distance. "I'm going after him," Goku informed the others. "I don't think he's going to be ok if he's by himself,"

He couldn't take it. His life was too unbearable; he couldn't see a reason behind his existence. Why? Why is it always me? Why does my heart always feel like a thousand knives are stabbing it? He thought suicidally. No one else feels my pain; no one else understands my sorrow. As a child, Vegeta had been taught to ignore all emotions, to become hard and callous like countless sayian ancestors before him. But now he couldn't obey his troubled past. He wasn't like that anymore. Vegeta knew that killing innocent people like he'd done for the first twenty years of his life was wrong, and he had paid heavily for his mistakes at the hand of Frieza. And now, he lived on Earth, and still his past followed him, a homeless dog looking for scraps. More often than not, it fed quite well, thanks to the remarks from people like Tien and Chioatzu. The sayain prince stared at the darkening fields below. Dark as they were, none of them could match the darkness in his heart. Tears flooded his eyes and he pulled up in mid flight. Hiding his outburst of emotion beneath his hands, Vegeta didn't notice when Goku crept up on him. Goku took his hand and gently led him back to solid ground.

As soon as he felt ground beneath him, Vegeta felt a deep desire to run; run away from his problems, just leave, as if nothing had happened. But he also felt a trusting hand in his, and as Goku eased himself away, Vegeta knew that running wouldn't help anyone, let alone himself. Sobs caught in his throat, and he closed his eyes, ashamed of his pain.

Goku watched him through soft eyes. Wordlessly, his hands drew Vegeta's body to his warm embrace, an understanding look on his face. Goku just held him, rocking his body like a child.

Vegeta crumbled under Goku's hug, falling to sobbing pieces under his fellow sayain. "Why?" he cried. "Why Trunks?" Goku muttered soft reassurances, hoping to ease his grief-stricken nemesis.

"I couldn't help him..." lamented Vegeta through his tears. "No one could," agreed Goku. "He choose this way for himself, there was nothing any of us could do to help him, you can't blame yourself," Vegeta studied Goku's face closely. Seeing the truth and caring in his eyes shocked the exhausted Prince, and he fell deeper into his embrace. Goku gave a sad smile. "There now," whispered Goku. "Hush, it's alright," He stroked Vegeta's hair reassuringly. Slowly, Vegeta cried his strength away, and left him a shaking emotional wreck. Clinging to Goku's arm like a leech left Goku watching him through worried eyes and with an anxious heart. "Vegeta?" murmured Goku tentively. Vegeta sighed and pulled his face away from Goku's shoulder. He looked up at his comforter, fearful of seeing scorn or rejection. "Are you going to be ok?" he asked. Biting his bottom lip, Vegeta nodded his head in a wordless reply. Relief swept over Goku's features, but worry for Vegeta still nagged at his heart. "Do you to stay here tonight, Vegeta?" questioned Goku. Vegeta nodded again and painfully pulled away. Goku put a hand on his arm. "Ok, we'll do that, shall we?" he grinned. Goku started to walk away, but a soft cry from Vegeta stopped him. "Why?" Vegeta asked softly. "Because I'm your friend," replied Goku, a secretive smile on his face.

Vegeta watched, again and again, as his son's body went limp. Gardia's grin pierced the nightmare, and her lurid face turned to that of Frieza, and as he stared, completely stunned, as Trunks turned into his father, and he found himself scream;

Goku awoke with a start. He glanced bewildered over at Vegeta, who was thrashing wildly in his sleep, yelping, "Don't leave me alone!" over and over again. Goku sprang out of his heavy sleeping bag and rushed to his side. He shook his shoulder frantically. "WAKE UP, VEGETA!" he gasped frantically. Vegeta shuddered and fearfully opened his eyes, as if he was afraid his dreams had gained substance and would be there when he awoke. Goku whistled through his teeth in relief. Vegeta felt tears coursing silently down his cheeks, and a lump grew in his throat as he fought back sobs. Goku put his hand on Vegeta's cheek. He leant down closer to him and whispered; "What were you dreaming about?" Vegeta whimpered and turned away from Goku "I don't want to talk about it," he replied flatly. Goku looked like he was considering something. "Well, I want you to talk about it, you're my friend, and I can tell it isn't just Trunks your mourning over, I think it's more involved than that," voiced Goku. "What do you know?" snarled Vegeta, sitting up quickly. At Goku's silence he raised his hand, and as it continued, Vegeta grew more and more agitated. "Tell me, what do you truthfully know about me?" he spat. "That I'm you're friend," replied Goku easily. Vegeta gaped. How can he say that? Is their something wrong with me because I can't be friendly as easily as him? Why? Why, why, why? He berated himself. Vegeta threw off his blankets entirely. He stood, and marched over to sit be the fire, nose in the air. Goku followed, and sat on the other side of the embers, fiddling with the metal bar they'd used to poke at the flames. Tension filled the nippy night air, so much so Vegeta felt like screaming. "What?" he asked gazing fiercely over at Goku. Goku threw his hands up innocently. "Did I say anything?" he asked rhetorically. Vegeta wrinkled his nose up in disgust. His lips curled. "I'm not telling you anything," he spat venomously. "I understand completely, Vegeta," Goku replied, still wearing an innocuous look on his face. Face clouded over with anger, Vegeta got up and stormed off, heading back to his sleeping bag. "It was about your father, wasn't it?" Goku spoke in a low voice, but it carried over easily to Vegeta on the still night air. Vegeta flinched like he'd been struck. He turned his bloodless face to where Goku sat, still tending the fire. "How did you know?" he croaked. Goku frowned and put down his stick. He dusted off his hands on his pants, and rose from his seat and began walking over to Vegeta. "That's not important, but I see now why Trunks' passing brings you so much grief; you never had a chance to mourn for your dad when you were younger. That may just be why you never let death get to you, except now," he paused, mid-sentence. "Maybe because you were powerless then, as you were today, it brought out memories of your father," Vegeta absorbed this news with an uncomfortable look on his face. "Kak...Kakorot?' he inquired. "I'm just going for a walk....I've got to think," Goku nodded understandingly. He walked right up to Vegeta and ardently held his shoulder. His eyes burned protectively. "You...just go clear your head, ok? But promise me you'll come back..." Goku trailed off. Vegeta put one hand over Goku's. "Yeah, I promise," He gave a feeble grin before walking off into the darkness. If it hadn't been so dark, Goku would have noticed tears flying off Vegeta's face as he walked hurriedly away, from both Goku, and himself.

After about an hour, Goku started getting worried. He waited twenty minutes more, before heading in the direction Vegeta had taken just over an hour before. Half an hour along the forest path, he found Vegeta, who was curled in a shivering ball just off the trail. Goku put one hand over Vegeta's clammy ones, and his other on his burning forehead. Vegeta moved his mouth feebly, searching for moisture to wet his lips that just wasn't there. Vegeta turned his ghostly pale face to Goku's and whispered; "I couldn't come back," Goku smiled weakly. He picked Vegeta's spindly frame off the ground: For all his muscle, he was surprisingly light. Walking carefully back to camp in the early hours of the morning, Goku had a bitter smile on his face.

Vegeta yet again walked through his dream world, but this one was happier, brighter, and cheerful even. Little did he know that his dreams were fevered, and his body's system was fighting a losing battle with a terrible illness. Nor did he know that Goku held him all night, and took each blow his red-hot hands inflicted on him during his feverish dreams.

Someone was rapping on the door. Go away thought Vegeta miserably. Then Vegeta realised something. It wasn't a door; it was his head. He jerked awake and sat up suddenly, but froze in the process and brought up his hands to hold his aching head. Glancing down he realised Goku was leaning on him, one arm flung wildly over Vegeta's stomach. Wait, think Vegeta, He told himself. What happened last night? Hey, I remember! I got sick...and someone must have brought me back here...Kakorot!!? Vegeta's eye's widened with realisation as he stared at the child-like innocence portrayed on Goku's face. And after all I said to him... His face fell in shame.

Goku slowly awoke as Vegeta stirred. Looking up at him with half closed eyes, Goku realised Vegeta might still be sick, even after Goku had given him some of his ki the night before. Goku sat up next to the shame-faced Vegeta. "Are you feeling better?" Goku asked.

Vegeta was stunned for a second, and all he could do was open and close his mouth like a land bound fish. "Yeah," he gasped, blushing embarrassedly. He looked terribly fearful as his eyes rested on Goku's face. "I'm ahh, sorry Kakorot," he apologised humbly. "For what I said last night," Goku looked surprised. "No, its fine, you weren't yourself, I understand. But I wish you had told me about your father..." replied Goku matter-of-factly. Still looking hesitant, Vegeta told Goku about how he had missed his father as a child, and how he felt guilty over his death. Goku understood, and he gently pointed out how it was wrong to be guilty over something that wasn't his fault. As they packed away the supplies, Vegeta realised that it didn't matter that he didn't have a purpose, he had a friend, and that was more important.


Wednesday, 25 June 2003