Set Aside Childish Things

Disclaimer: Premise and characters belong to Akira Toriyama, I'm just borrowing them for a bit of non-profit fun.

Epilogue: After Effects

Chiri crept cautiously closer to the brightly lit segment of the way-station. She'd run out of food two days ago and if she waited much longer hunger induced weakness would make it harder for her to steal more.

She pulled the tarp she used as a cloak more tightly around her and left the relative safety of the ruins. 'Relative safety,' Chiri let out a bitter laugh. She knew she was lying to herself. There weren't as many Fighters who got off on hunting the ruins; most of them got enough of that on the purges; but the ones who did hunt there were the worst sort. Chiri had never been caught by the ones who came to the ruins for their sport but that didn't make the ruins safe. She'd just been lucky so far.

Getting caught in the city wasn't as bad. The ones who stayed in the city generally wanted different things. Chiri didn't necessarily like those things but it wasn't anything she couldn't survive. That was the important thing.

Chiri worked her way around the edge of the populated sectors. She knew there was a storage depo not too deep in the city. There she'd be able to find the sort of supplies that wouldn't go bad. If she got lucky it would be a month or more before she had to venture out of her little corner of the ruins again.

A boisterous group of Fighters spilled out of one of the bars. Chiri shrunk back into the shadows and hoped that they'd over-look her. This time luck wasn't with her. Several members of the group had scouters and a life of continuous running and hiding had strengthened Chiri's ki enough for her to register.

"Hey you! You under the tarp! What do you think you're hiding?"

Getting caught by a group was bad. Chiri had made the decision to run almost before he thought formed. She was fast and agile but even if they were drunk they were Fighters and she wasn't. One of them caught a handful of her cloak and ripped it away from her. "Hey! It's a girl! Not bad. Not bad at all." The Fighters laughed.

Not for the first time Chiri wondered what they saw in a skinny bit of camp trash like her. She was nothing like the great beauties of her world. She remembered her aunt's flowing waves of sea-green hair and milky white skin. Her Aunt had brought whole rooms to a standstill just by walking in the door back in the old days before Frieza.

When Frieza's men came Chiri's aunt charmed one of them into sparing their lives. For a few months Chiri had lived in one of the houses in the city as her aunt's handmaiden. It hadn't lasted. After a few months the Fighter found another trophy and they were turned out into the streets. Chiri adapted. Her hands and feet grew callused. Her body grew lean and hard. Her aunt hadn't adapted, she wasted away. Chiri buried her in a quiet spot and wished for the time and energy to observe her people's mourning rituals properly but life on Planetary Way-Station 609 didn't allow for luxuries such as grief.

Next to her aunt Chiri had always felt painfully plain. She never could understand what the gang saw in a no-one like her that would make them want her. Sometimes she thought that the Fighters were so used to taking whatever they saw that they didn't even stop to think about whether or not they actually wanted it. They took everything simply because they could.

Chiri twisted free and ran. She knew there wasn't much hope. She didn't know the territory and they were Fighters but she had to try. She darted around the corner and plowed straight into yet another Fighter.

The impact knocked Chiri to the ground. It had no effect on the Fighter. Chiri stared up at him fearfully. He wore a navy blue body suit with a white armored chest-plate. He had the rangy look of someone who'd recently experienced a growth spurt. He couldn't have been much older than she was, seventeen at the absolute most. He had a flame-like shock of black hair and pitch black eyes that stared at her with an intensity that made her shake. For the first time in years Chiri felt like someone was seeing her not just another disposable bit of camp trash. More than anything it made her wanted to be anonymous and invisible again.

Then the moment passed. The other group pelted around the corner and came to an abrupt halt when they saw the other Fighter standing over their prize. Chiri hoped that they'd fight each other, there was a chance they'd be distracted enough for her to escape. The solitary Fighter dismissed the group with a haughty glance. "Find some other amusement," he said.

"Who does he think he is?" one of the gang began.

"Vegeta, that's who," another cut him off with a hiss. Chiri considered the possibility that she'd stumbled from the frying pan into the fire.

The other Fighters backed off quickly and Chiri soon found herself alone with the one they'd called Vegeta.

"Well, come on girl," Vegeta ordered brusquely. He turned around and strode off without a backward glance.

Chiri thought about making a run for it but who was she kidding? He wasn't just a Fighter, he was the sort of Fighter who's name could put fear in a half dozen lesser Fighters. He had to be one of the Planet Destroyers, one the ones who wiped out whole armies as a warm-up exercise.

Besides one was better than a gang wasn't it? It wasn't as if this were the first time this had happened to her. Chiri decided it would be best not to make him mad. She jogged after Vegeta obediently.

He led her to a spartan hotel near the space port. Chiri followed him into his room then stood there nervously waiting for his next move.

For the first time since their initial collision Vegeta looked at her. "Shower," he instructed with a gesture toward the bathroom.

Chiri quickly scuttled past him. She breathed a sigh of relief when small barrier of the bathroom door closed between them. Quickly she shed her clothes and stepped into the shower. Warm, clean water, enough for bathing in was a rare luxury for her. She was almost smiling as she vigorously massaged soap into her scalp. After she finished bathing she risked a few minutes to scrub her clothing as well.

As she pulled on a hotel-provided bathrobe Chiri paused in front of the mirror. There was no doubt that this one, this Vegeta had seen her. She wondered what he saw that caught his interest. She wondered what she needed to change to make herself more invisible. A shower was nice, but it wasn't worth what she knew would come next.

The mirror showed her nothing she found particularly note-worthy. Her hair was the same color as her aunt's but never so thick or shiny, and these days she kept it cropped pragmatically short. She'd cut it herself, it formed a wild halo around her thin, pale face. Her features were sharp, high cheek-bones, a small, pointed chin and small narrow nose. Her emerald eyes were wide-set and had a perpetually startled look to them. The scarcity of food kept her body from developing much in the way of curves but she was a good enough scavenger and thief to keep her ribs from showing too prominently.

'It was probably my eyes,' Chiri decided bitterly. What was commonplace for one species often seemed exotic to another. 'I didn't mean to look at him. He startled me.'

'I'm stalling. He'll get mad,' Chiri thought. She opened the bathroom door and stepped back into the main room. Chiri noticed that there was food on the table now as well as a stack of ration boxes sitting by the door. She didn't let herself look at the food directly.

"Eat," Vegeta said. A faint redness suffused his face. "I don't want to listen to your stomach," he justified.

Tentatively Chiri sat at the table and began to eat. Vegeta sat across from her. He picked at the food distractedly. 'He's not hungry,' Chiri realized. The food was simply for her benefit. Chiri felt something like hope welling up inside of her. 'Maybe it wouldn't be too bad this time.'

When the food was gone Vegeta stood up and walked over to the bed. He pulled his armor over his head, then removed his boots and gloves. Chiri noticed an odd, fuzzy brown rope wrapped around his waist. Against the dark blue of his body suit the skin of his hands and feet looked shockingly pale.

After a brief hesitation Chiri joined him. He reached out to grab the neck of her robe then paused. His hand rested against her neck. "Tell me if I hurt you."

"Y-yes sir," Chiri stammered. She shivered.

Vegeta looked irritated. "Tell me so that I know to stop," he clarified. Again his face colored, this time more brightly. "Almost never touch anyone unless I'm trying to kill them," he muttered. His eyes dropped in embarrassment.

For the first time Chiri realized that they were of similar heights. The way he carried himself had made him seem much taller. "Thank you," she said quietly.

Vegeta slid the robe off her shoulders and allowed it to fall to the floor. He stepped back and just looked at her for a moment. His eyes were curious and Chiri felt herself blushing. Vegeta tentatively reached for her again. His fingers brushed lightly across her cheek then through her hair. He traced along the outside of her arms again, mimicking the movements of removing her robe. This time when he reached her fingertips he brought his hands back up, along the insides of her wrists. As he continued upward he shifted to tracing the lines of her body. His hands skimmed across her hips, followed the narrowing of her waist then came to rest cupping her breasts.

At first Chiri stared blankly over Vegeta's shoulder, her eyes focused on nothing.

The fuzzy rope around Vegeta's waist revealed itself to be a tail as it absently unwound itself. Chiri squeaked in surprise when it wrapped around her wrist. She looked at Vegeta's tail in surprise. Then found herself watching him as he touched her. Her expression took on a vaguely puzzled expression. The other times she'd been caught they'd gone about their business with her body while she'd gone away, deep inside her mind. They'd known what they wanted from her and hadn't hesitated about going at it. Vegeta's curious exploration of her body, so different from what she'd come to expect, kept Chiri present.

'Maybe something beside passivity was expected?' Cautiously Chiri brought her hands up to rest on his waist. The material of his body-suit felt slick beneath her fingers, it was stretched tight over the tempered steel of his flesh.

In response to her touch, Vegeta tugged her forward. He pulled her body flush against his. Chiri felt his breath catch as they came into more intimate contact. His hand slid to the small of her back to hold her more firmly against him. His hips flexed into her. Then he shoved her onto the bed and impatiently pulled off the rest of his clothing.

Chiri watched the play of muscles under his skin as he stripped with fascination. His body was lean and every muscle stood out in sharp definition. Her fear, the feel of being prey, returned as he crawled across the bed to her. Then he hesitated again, as if he needed a moment to figure out what he supposed to do next and Chiri relaxed.

Vegeta pulled her to him, her back to his chest. He pressed the flat of his hand into her stomach to hold their lower bodies more tightly together. When his other hand began exploring her again it was more purposeful. His hand slid between her legs and Chiri allowed them to fall open, obedient to his unspoken wishes. She squirmed and whimpered as his fingers abruptly delved into her. Then she was on her back and he was on her, pushing into her. Chiri stiffened and let out a choked-off scream as her mind began to retreat.

But he pulled back as well. "I'm sure that's right." The mix of uncertain embarrassment and frustrated worry in his voice brought Chiri back to herself.

She almost resented the return of her awareness. "It always hurts," she told him raggedly. "Get it over with... please."

Vegeta gave her an exasperated look. "It's not supposed to. I know that much." He pulled her back to lie cradled against his chest. His hand slid between her legs again, exploring her more cautiously and more thoroughly.

Chiri shook as his fingers found flesh that was becoming sensitized.

"What?" he rasped in her ear.

"Don't know," Chiri gasped. "Not hurt."

She felt his lips curl up. He bit her ear playfully and she moaned. She felt a liquid warmth fill her.

There was less resistance as he entered her the second time. A feeling of discomfort at being invaded but nothing like before. Chiri's gaze fixated on his gleaming white teeth biting into his lower lip as he slowly pushed deeper into her.

"Okay?" he asked his voice strained and harsh.

Chiri nodded. She gasped as he pulled back then thrust into her again. Then again and again. Each thrust more forceful than the last. Chiri's fingers scrabbled convulsively against Vegeta's shoulders. It was good, and it hurt but it was still good. Then it just hurt as his strength overwhelmed her.

"Stop, stop," Chiri cried. Not really hoping but... Vegeta's movements gentled. They came back into sync. Skin slick with sweat, moving together. He shuddered within her then went still. For the first time Chiri felt an ache of disappointment rather than relief that it was over.

Vegeta lay beside her for a moment then rolled to his feet and walked to the bathroom. "Get your clothes out of here," he ordered roughly.

Chiri scurried to obey. Along with her still damp clothes she grabbed a rag to clean up with.

Vegeta shut the bathroom door behind her as soon as she was outside. After a moment Chiri heard water running in the shower. Slowly she pulled her clothes back on. She glanced at the door out, at the ration boxes then back at the bathroom door. Hesitantly Chiri settled of the edge of the bed and waited.

After several minutes the sound of running water ceased. Vegeta emerged from the shower wearing a second robe. He gave Chiri a puzzled look then proceeded to ignore her completely. He folded his clothes and set them on the chair by the bed with his chest-plate with his gloves lying on top and his boots neatly lined up beneath the chair. When he started stacking up the bowls on the table Chiri ran to help. They set the dirty dishes on the ground outside of the door. Then Vegeta went to bed and Chiri retreated to a chair in the corner.

After several minutes Vegeta announced "I'm asleep. Steal the ration bars and run off."

Chiri quickly picked up the boxes by the door then hesitated. He'd made multiple efforts not to hurt her. He'd given her food. He could protect her. "Could I?... I'll be useful... I'm... My name..."

Vegeta stopped her stammering proposal with a hand over her mouth. The fear in his eyes left her stunned. "Don't," he ordered. "Get close to me and you'll die. Don't be a fool. Don't give Death your name. Take the rations and go. If anyone asks you never met me. Get out of here!"

Notes: Not particularly romantic but it wasn't meant to be. The culture I've been playing with for the Cold Empire is 'might makes right', Vegeta is at least trying to be decent in that he gave Chiri opportunities to run away, didn't want to hurt her and tried to give her something of value in return but he can't quite open himself up to rejection by actually saying "If you don't want to have sex with me you don't have to." And Chiri is too damaged to realized that he would have allowed her to run. Choice, unless you have the might to enforce it, isn't a part of their world.