NOTE: The lemon scenes were edited out to suit this archive's rules, and are denoted by the prominent SCENE MISSING ala the Nine Inch Nails "Closer" video. The scenes can be found at my website, available on my profile page.
Curled together, still warm from the sun, Vegeta pillowed his head on his mate's shoulder and watched the sun sparkle between the leaves. He didn't know how long they'd been there, curled together on the grass. It couldn't have been too long, the sun hadn't even crossed over the river yet, but already the pain crept into his joints, his bones, down his back. It was nothing he hadn't felt before, but after that brief moment when it had all faded, when he'd felt the wind and ground rather than the flaring of old wounds, the sensation of it coming back tasted bitter.
Twinges and old pain played over most of him, an occasional spike in his spine forcing his back to tighten before he could relax it again. No, he wouldn't hunt tonight. Kakarrot could do that, as long as he waited for his prince to fall asleep first. He squeezed his eyes shut and buried his face in Kakarrot's shirt, wishing sleep would come faster.
Beneath him, Goku shifted and slipped his hands onto the prince's shoulders. Vegeta looked up at him in confusion.
"Trust me," Goku whispered. "Don't move."
There was no time to ask. A warm shot of ki penetrated his shoulder, spreading through the joint like a soft injection. The effect was immediate. The pain disappeared as if brushed away, and the sudden relief left his entire arm limp. Vegeta looked down at it to make sure it was still there. Normal sensations, his mate's body, the wind on his skin, crept back into his hand, no longer drowned under the dull burn. The relief was almost pain in itself.
But then the next bolt of ki flowed into his other shoulder, leaving that arm limp yet alive. Vegeta shook his head in a panic. The loss was too much, as if he were dying all over again, slowly, the life slipping out of him in pieces and him slipping out of Kakarrot's hold. Before he could say anything, a plea for mercy he tried to bite back, his mate held him tighter and whispered again, "trust me." It was impossible to obey and Vegeta buried his face in his mate's throat, fighting to surrender.
The first touch on his spine released him. Rendered helpless, he slumped in his mate's arms as pain scattered and disappeared. Tears welled and spilled over. The change felt like it should hurt and the lack of fire confused him and he choked, ashamed and trying to hide from Kakarrot in Kakarrot.
"It's all right," Goku whispered, stroking his hair. For several minutes he held him, waiting as Vegeta adjusted and managed to move his arms and returned his hold. "It's all right."
"This is what you always feel?" Vegeta whispered. "It's all gone."
"All the pain?" Goku asked. He tentatively reached into their bond, hoping to feel relief and joy. He breathed in and clutched Vegeta close. Relief, yes, but even more fear. "'Geta?"
It took all his strength to latch onto his mate, digging his fingers into Goku's arms so hard he heard him wince, but right then he didn't care. He was fading along with his pain and he clung to the one person who might save him from disappearing. Without constant fire coursing through his muscles, his body felt too light to move. The world started to turn black and for a moment he thought he was dying.
As Vegeta passed out, Goku held him close, cradling him. He had to sit back and take a deep breath, staring at the sky. What had he done wrong? He'd only wanted to help his mate. Instead he'd made him panic. Vegeta's pain couldn't be that much a part of him, could it? So ingrained over his lifetime that he couldn't exist without it?
"Not anymore," Goku whispered. "I promise."
If Vegeta wasn't awake, then he couldn't complain about instant transmission. Goku took him home and set him on his bed, pulling the blanket up around his shoulders. The weather around his house was still cold. Pressing a kiss to his mate's forehead, he smoothed his damp hair back into its usual spikes. "I know you'll argue when you wake up," he whispered, "and you'll act pissed. But that's okay. You can't hide it." Even now, he felt his mate's subconscious reaching for him, holding the warmth of his love around him like another blanket. "You can't hide it anymore."
He stood, staring at his mate for a moment longer, then disappeared, reappearing in Capsule Corps. To his surprise, he didn't find Bulma in her lab, but he did find her dragon ball radar. He didn't have to look hard; he knew from experience where she kept it. He went to slip it into his belt and suddenly noticed he didn't have a belt. In fact, he didn't have his shirt or pants, either.
About to go back to the river and gather their clothes, he then remembered that Vegeta didn't have clothes, the borrowed shirt torn apart and borrowed pants forgotten somewhere in a field. He couldn't help a brief smile as he wondered if he could keep Vegeta like that forever, then shook his head. He left the lab, keeping an eye out as he went down the hall and up the stairs to where he knew Vegeta slept. Or used to sleep. That kept the smile on his face.
The room was as bare as a cheap motel: bed, table, cabinet, chair, tv. He went through the dresser drawers but found them all empty, then turned to the closet. There he found Vegeta's usual training outfits neatly folded at the bottom, the white armor set beside them. Hanging above them were all the outfits Bulma had bought, bright yellow pants, pink shirts, green shorts, polkadot sweaters. He winced and looked away as if he'd stared into the sun.
"Maybe she's color blind," he thought, and gathered everything Vegeta had folded up. A small lump under the clothes caught his attention and he spotted his mate's old scouter tucked in the corner. He picked it up and stared at it, remembering the first day he'd met the prince. "Heh...only took twenty years to bring him around."
He set the scouter on top of the blue uniforms and stood, looking around the room one more time. Just as he was about to leave, he spotted a small, unframed photograph on the corner of the table. He picked it up and found Trunks and Goten, their training outfits torn and muddy, smiling at the camera in startled delight. Goku tilted his head. If anything, he would've expected Vegeta to have a photo only of Trunks. Why would he have a picture of both? Goku knew Bulma must have thousands of photos of Trunks. He supposed Vegeta simply felt affection for both boys.
"Goten's over at Capsule Corps more than here," Chichi had said once. "He's even been talking about going to the same college as Trunks, and while I'd love to see him studying at a prestigious university, I don't know where we're going to get the money, since you never have a job and kami knows we barely have enough to keep the house going but you never even--"
Goku winced and shoved the memory out of his mind. He set the photo on top of his bundle and appeared back inside his living room. While he set the clothes down and fished for an empty picture frame inside a drawer, he thought about finding some new clothes for his mate. As much as Vegeta lived in those training uniforms, the prince probably avoided earth clothes only because of the humiliation of Bulma's lack of taste. There. He picked out a simple wooden frame and slipped in the picture of the boys, then took it to the bedroom, intending to set it next to the other photos. Instead he found an empty bed and the window wide open, the curtains blowing in the breeze. "Vegeta?" he whispered. He set the picture down on the nightstand and leaned out the window, scanning the forest around his home.
Vegeta was nearby. A constant hum in the back of his mind reassured him of that. He climbed out of his window and stepped into the air, feeling along that link to find his mate. Not knowing quite how it was working, he relaxed and followed where it felt stronger, flying through the trees for awhile. After a few minutes he caught the scent of a fresh slaughter, and then spotted Vegeta standing over a dead deer, taking it apart at the joints, having already skinned it. Goku's breath hitched. Blood covered his mate's hands and arms, his feet and legs, and a good portion of his waist.
Vegeta noticed he was no longer alone and looked up, brushing a stray bit of hair from his face and leaving a stray mark of blood on his cheek. When Goku came closer, standing right next to him, he leaned back, looking up at him.
"We already had breakfast," Goku whispered, looking him over.
"I...I just wanted to hunt without the pain," Vegeta said softly. "I didn't know when it would come back. And you said you hadn't restocked your kitchen, and..." His voice trailed off as Goku took his hand, raising it to his mouth and licking off the blood. "Kakarrot?"
Goku leaned close and licked the bit of blood from his cheek. "You look good in blood," he whispered in his ear. He touched their link, lightly sweeping over Vegeta's emotions. A second later he felt Vegeta touch back, but tentatively, as if afraid he'd be burned. Goku let him in, feeling his mate's curiosity brushing his emotions. Love, a little lust...He smiled despite himself. Okay, a lot of lust.
"Why does that make you laugh?" Vegeta asked.
"I..." Goku's smile broadened and he put his arms around his mate, drawing him close. "I love you so much, and being so close makes it even better. I feel kind of greedy for wanting you that way too when I have so much of you already."
Vegeta stared at him long enough to make him squirm. Now it was Goku's turn not to understand the emotion from his mate, a strange feeling of lightness, like a bubble. Then Vegeta smiled, and the bubble filled up.
"That's how I felt when I took you last night," he said.
The smile turned into a smirk. "Well, that and a little frustration. I'm never having you on rocky ground ever again."
Goku grinned. "That leaves a lot of other places," he said, going back to lick Vegeta's bloodied hands clean. "No pain right now?"
"None..." Vegeta watched him work, tending his hands like a puppy. "It'll come back. I've worked that same trick, just never so efficiently."
Holding Vegeta's hands in his now, effectively trapping him, Goku leaned down and stole a brief kiss before looking into his eyes. "I got your clothes from Capsule Corps. They're in the bedroom."
Vegeta looked down at his caught hands. "Good. I'm not about to try yours again."
Goku smiled. "And I got you scouter and the photograph on your table."
"I put it in a frame in our bedroom," Goku said. "And the scouter...it reminds me of when I first met you."
"I'm surprised you'd want to remember that."
"...you won that fight, you know," Goku said softly. "If Yajirobe hadn't cheated and cut off your tail, you would've had me."
"I hated you so much then," Vegeta said. "To allow your friends to interfere and claim such cheating as victory...Yajirobe, hmm? That's the fat samurai, right?"
Too late, Goku realized his slip, and through the bond felt the same bloodlust as when Vegeta had killed the raptor. He tightened his grip on his mate's hands. "'Geta, no. No. You can't kill him."
"I won't kill him," Vegeta said with a small smile. "Not right away."
"No, I won't let you hurt my friends. It was almost twenty years ago, we were fighting to save our planet and I'd lost."
Vegeta's eyes gleamed. "Say that again."
"What? We were fighting--"
"No," Vegeta shook his head. "The last part."
"Yes..." He stepped closer, putting his head against Goku's chest. It didn't matter that Goku had his hands trapped between them now. "Say it again."
"I lost to you," Goku said slowly. He'd known his mate still harbored dark feelings and desires, but actually feeling them left him uneasy. Vegeta's urge to kill slipped away, replaced by a rush of power. He looked into his mate's mind again, the sexual lust mixed with a need for violent domination, and shivered. "You defeated me."
"Mmm." Vegeta stretched up a little to kiss his mate's mouth, then slowly dropped to his knees, never once trying to tug his hands free.
After a few seconds of catching his breath, Goku drew his mate back to his feet, still holding onto his wrists. They both looked down at the prince's trapped hands, and Vegeta looked up.
"You can let me go any time now," he said.
"I don't want to," Goku said, "ever."
"Well, you'd better, or the deer is going to start rotting." He leaned up again and kissed him, then stepped back, and Goku reluctantly let go. "I think you can bring the pieces home. We can clean the up there."
While he groaned about having to carry so much, especially when it wasn't in one piece, he was a little relieved when Vegeta picked up the bloody fur. He didn't know what Vegeta intended to do with it, but no doubt his mate had an idea. He'd wait and see. As they flew back, a thought struck him. He turned the image over in his mind.
"Um, next time we do...that," Goku said, "or something like that. You know?"
"Yes...what is it?"
"Do you think maybe you could wear the scouter?"
They landed, and Vegeta disappeared with the skin while Goku took everything to the kitchen to further butcher it and wrap it up in plastic and stick it in the refrigerators. Stripping the deer took longer because of the sheer amount of meat and blood, and he spent a good amount of time just cleaning up afterward. Once done, he searched out his mate and found him a little beyond his backyard, the skin stretched neatly on the ground and clean. Vegeta sighed and stood up, apparently just finished as well. He stretched and glanced at his mate.
"As much as I like having you naked all the time," he said, "I think I'd like to shower and get dressed."
"Aww..." But showering with his mate was compensation enough, as was returning Vegeta's favor in the forest. Though he'd had to promise repeatedly that he wasn't hungry and that he wouldn't let his mind wander onto food.
When finally released, Goku got to his feet and put his arms around Vegeta, holding him close. "It's coming back, isn't it?"
A brief shrug, which meant yes. The twinges in his legs, the fire across his shoulders, the needles all through his spine, not too strong yet but slowly growing. The near-scalding water only slowed it down. He couldn't complain, though. He'd enjoyed his mate for several hours without pain. Wordlessly he drew back and stepped out of the shower, toweling off before dropping it on the floor.
"You said my clothes are here?"
"In the living room." Goku rushed to turn off the water and dry off, but Vegeta was already ahead of him.
Spotting his things on the table, Vegeta walked over, intending to grab a change of clothing. Instead he paused and stared at the bundle on the table. Specifically, the dragonball radar on top of his clothes. He picked it up just to make sure he wasn't seeing things, then turned around. He nearly bumped into Goku, who'd come up behind him. "Kakarrot? Why do you have this?"
"I'm going to find them," Goku said. "I don't want you to feel any more pain."
"Don't come complaining when your friends hate you."
"They're not my prince." Goku took the radar out of Vegeta's hands and set it aside.
"They will confront you. You know they won't idly stand by--"
"Then I'll stop them."
"I'll..." Goku considered, then shrugged. "I'll think about that when it happens."
"Idiot," Vegeta said, about to start snapping at him when he remember he'd promised not to call him names again. He growled softly, then louder when Goku grinned.
"No, that's okay," Goku said, reaching over to the table again. He picked up the scouter and set it on Vegeta's face, positioning it over his eye. "There we go." Before Vegeta could react, he picked up his prince and brought him over to the sofa, plopping him down and putting one arm over him on the back of the chair, using his other hand to block him in. "You can be as growly as you want right now."
Unable to stop himself from growling even louder, Vegeta still let him push his legs apart and hold one arm down. More annoying was the scouter reading Goku's power levels as off its charts and blinking green warnings at him. He hadn't looked through it in years; doing so now felt like going back in time.
"Aren't you gonna taunt me?" Goku asked, nuzzling his cheek. "Call me weak and stupid?"
"Kakarrot, you asked me not to--"
"Just for now, 'kay?" Goku sat up and grinned, eyes wide and naive. "This is fun!"