He stood as though paralyzed, unable to avert his eyes from the sight that held them. A heavy silence had fallen at the moment of Goku's attack, one so thick he could feel it surrounding him. If there was a sound, would he have been able to hear it? A myriad of thoughts whirled about his head. What had happened? She'd been right there. She couldn't be hurt. He'd never seen her hurt in battle. Not really. All those techniques she knew, ones he couldn't even fathom how they worked, they should have kept her from being hit. Why had she saved him? She'd been right there. Couldn't he have stopped her, kept her from leaving somehow? She'd been right there. Two strides away from him.
A ragged, protesting scream tore through the air, making him aware that there was at least one whose turmoil was greater than his own.
Indescribable shock rapidly evolving into horrifying realization across his face, his grip changed from the gnarled fingers of an attack into a solid press as he hugged her body to his chest, a vain attempt to staunch the blood flowing from her chest. Her knees buckled as she fell limp in his arms. A series of faint murmurs escalated into panicked, voice-cracking shouts.
"NO! Kiori! Hold on, you're going to be okay! Do you hear me, you're going to be okay! Just, please-" He looked wildly around before squeezing his eyes shut tightly and bringing two fingers to his forehead. The two of them disappeared in an instant.
Even now, hours later, it seemed as though the world had been turning at half-speed. In his memory everything was sluggish, with the figures seeming to move as if underwater. Trunks and Gohan sat together in silence, listening to the faint whispering of the wind against the base of the lookout. Goku and Dende remained in the inner sanctum with Kiori, who had yet to stir since they'd arrived. It was just the four of them that had returned, he reflected, a trace of the anger that boiled within him earlier resurfacing. Of her precious comrades, the ones who had inspired all of this, there had been no sight. After Goku's flight, Revan had awoken from a daze, touching in numb confusion the droplets of blood splattered over his chest. He had called for his comrades to move out, and left before seeing whether his order was obeyed or not. Only the white haired man…Jin, had followed. Of the other there had been no sign, at least none that he could detect. When he had looked over where he had last seen the ferocious battle between him and his father, only the lone figure of the Saiyan prince remained standing. He hadn't expected Vegeta to accompany them.
At their departure, Gohan had run up to him, almost incoherently seeking answers for where his father had taken Kiori. It had been a few minutes before they could center themselves and realize that there was only one place he would have gone.
They'd arrived to find little Dende overwhelmed: they'd later heard the account of how he had heard Goku screaming for him, and was met with the sight of the bloody mess he cradled. He'd done as much as he could to stop the immediate bleeding, and until now had Kiori kept inside for rest and to examine the more minute damage.
They hadn't heard anything promising the last time he'd emerged, over an hour earlier.
He turned his head to the source of the small voice at his side. Since he had heard the last report from Dende, Gohan had been almost entirely silent. Though they'd been sitting together the entire time, no words had passed between them. There hadn't seemed to be anything to say.
"I don't want to wait here anymore. Do you think we could go see what's going on?"
The older demi-Saiyan paused, considering. Initially he had accepted Dende's banishment to the outer sanctum to avoid adding stress and pressure for the healing. But it had been an hour with no other news. Their appearing couldn't possibly upset anything now, could it?
He nodded decisively. "Sure. Let's go, Gohan."
The two made their way to the door of the lookout's inner chambers, where Gohan reached up to the center of the door, seeming to waver for a moment between his desire to enter and the polite knocking that Chichi had likely drilled into him. He compromised by slowly turning the ornate golden handle to the door, and opening the door only a crack before softly requesting entrance.
Dende's quiet voice answered him. "Sure, come in guys. Just try to be quiet, okay?"
The two slipped through the doorway, both pairs of eyes anxiously turning towards the bed against the wall. Trunks felt his heart lurch as his gaze fell across the unnaturally still form within it, gaining only slight comfort by detecting the faint rising of her chest beneath the sheets.
"How is she, Dende?"
The young Namek sighed, his antennae drooping slightly as he bowed his head. "I healed her injury, but her body is in some sort of shock. There…was a lot of damage to her vital organs, and she's not healing like a Saiyan would. And you guys are most of the practice I've had, so I- I'm not sure how much more I can do." He lowered his voice and case a worried glance toward the chair pulled up next to the bed, where Goku sat silently, chin resting on interlaced fingers, his elbows supported on his knees. Though his body gave the illusion of composure, his eyes held a distant pain as he did his best to contemplate the floor beneath him. "What exactly happened down there, Trunks? Ever since Goku came here, there wasn't time to ask. Did one of her teammates turn on her, or something?"
Before the demi-Saiyan could respond, Goku's strained voice issued from the corner. "It wasn't one of them, Dende. I did this to her."
"Don't say that." Trunks protested. "It wasn't your fault, Goku. You couldn't have known what she was going to do."
Before the words had fully left his mouth, the dark-haired Saiyan was already shaking his head. "No. I should have been able to do something. I should have been more aware of what was going on, should have had better control over my own attack! Something to keep this from happening." His voice cracked again, and his hands moved to tangle themselves in his hair. "I'm so sorry." He whispered.
Gohan ran to his father's side, throwing his arms around him as best he could. Dende shuffled his feet and opened his mouth once or twice to offer something consolatory, but couldn't seem to be able to find anything to say. It was so rare that Goku had any reason to lose his composure that it wasn't a situation any of them knew how to deal with.
"I-I'll leave you alone for a while." He finally stammered, taking up his guardian's staff and exiting from the room.
Trunks remained at his post by the door, solemnly surveying the situation in front of him. He could only imagine how Goku was feeling. He knew the Saiyan must have felt anguish before. He had heard stories of the deaths of his friends during childhood, and again on Namek. The loss of friends through battle was a hard thing to accept. He knew. Yet how must it feel to one such as Goku, who only desired to protect, to have caused such harm to another? One he likely considered a friend? He could only imagine the guilt he must be feeling. But guilt wasn't going to help anyone right now. They needed a solution. He could not allow her to die. Particularly not after knowing what little he did of her life. What little she knew of her life. She deserved to have more than a life she could only half-remember, with the years she did know spent in service to a group of mercenaries. That was his purpose in coming to the past in the first place, wasn't it? The belief that sometimes people deserved a better life than had been dealt for them. If it was within his power to make that happen, then he was going to. There must be a way. He just had to think.
If Dende didn't know how to heal her, he had no reason to suppose that normal medical facilities could do any better. And bringing her to anyone other than his mother's trusted medical staff would only raise questions about her origins. He had no idea in what ways her anatomy differed from that of a human, but he didn't want to risk a doctor who would know that something was amiss. And if she was in shock…he didn't know what capabilities medicine had at this time to-
At this time…what about 20 years into the future? Of course. The underground hospitals of his world would have experience dealing with patients in shock. With some of the injuries the androids had caused…shock of various kinds was something they'd had to learn to deal with. With all the on-site amputations and high-risk surgeries he'd heard about from the physicians who met at the basements of Capsul Corp for what supplies his mother could give them, they must have developed ways to help the body cope with trauma. And there were too many survivors indebted to his mother for Kiori's origins to be any problem. Yes, that was it!
Except that…he had already seen, from traveling through time himself, what changes could be caused. And he'd have to return her to this timeline, to prevent her living alongside her future self. It was difficult enough to come back and see himself as an infant, and with her mental capabilities he didn't know what kinds of trouble could arise from having the same person existing twice within the same plane for a lifetime. And with the way she said her people felt about machines, would she even consent to use the time machine to return to her proper timeline? And what if the time travel itself did more harm to her? He didn't notice any adverse effects, but would a healthy Saiyan notice forces that could damage an injured person of a strange species?
Suddenly this problem seemed even more complicated than it had at first.
A pattering of feet altered him to Dende's presence a moment before the door opened to reveal the Namekian's wide eyes.
"Trunks, Goku, there's someone here. I didn't know what to do, he says he wants to see Kiori."
Movement behind him sent the young guardian scurrying into the room. Trunks felt himself bristling as he registered the ki signal in the hallway, his animosity increasing at the appearance of the white-haired man in the doorway. He stopped short of entering the room, straightening up despite his obvious fatigue from the earlier battle to face the glare directed at him.
"You." He growled at the newcomer, hands forming into fists at his sides. "What are you doing here? Haven't you and your so-called leader done enough here?"
"I haven't come to fight." Jin replied defensively, his voice lowering slightly as he caught sight of his former comrade. "I was just…hoping to see her. That's all."
"What, just you? What about the one who got her into this mess? Where is he?" Trunks demanded, fighting the urge to unleash his frustration upon this man who was so recently his enemy. And still was, as far as he was concerned.
"Revan….he isn't doing much leading right now. Even if you don't believe it, he's pretty shaken up. She's been one of us for years. I wanted to know…I couldn't sense her very well. I won't stay long." He seemed to gain some resolve, matching Trunks' glare with a resolute stare of his own. "But I will see her before I leave."
"Enough." Though the command wasn't loud, Goku's voice instantly attracted the attention of everyone in the room. He was still far graver than they were used to seeing him, but there was no trace of his earlier breakdown. "He can stay, Trunks."
A quick glance cut off the objection before it could begin, and Trunks grudgingly stood to the side, his eyes tracking every move of the man who skirted past him. He reached the bedside and knelt down, after a moment of hesitation enclosing one of her fair hands within his. Trunks felt a twinge he couldn't quite identify within him. Kiori had said that this man was a comrade to her…was that all he was? And why did it matter?
"What can you do for her?" Jin asked, directing his question to the room in general.
After a moment of silence, Dende explained in tremulous tones the limitations of his ability.
Jin shook his head. "I'm afraid I can't help. She'd begun to teach me how to heal, but I'm nowhere near that advanced.
Another bleak silence fell over the room. Trunks cleared his throat. "Actually, there is something I was thinking. But I don't even know if it would be possible."
Goku looked up, breaking his gaze from the floor for the first time since they'd entered the room. "What is it, Trunks? We need all the ideas we can get right now."
"Well…even if you don't have the technology or ability to heal her, I might. In my time, I mean. I know that because of all we've been through with the androids, we have better medicine than exists now. And there's a good chance that my mother would know what to do for her if I took her home."
Gohan's eyes brightened instantly. "That's a great idea, Trunks!"
"Yea, I thought so too, except that there's still a lot about time travel that we don't know. Really the fact that my mother built the machine at all is a miracle. I still don't know what made this timeline alter from my own. So there's always the danger that I could cause a disturbance by having two of the same person in the same time, or someone living out their lifetime in an alternate universe."
After a moment of contemplation, Jin spoke from his position on the floor. "You're talking about time travel."
"Interesting. There probably aren't many in the universe who could manage that. I'd love to be able to get my hands on that sort of machine. But…how far into the future would you be taking her?"
"Roughly 20 years from now. Why?"
A sardonic laugh emitted from his throat. "Then you won't have to worry about creating a disturbance. There very likely isn't a Kiori 20 years into the future."
Trunks stilled, feeling as though all the blood had rushed into his head. "What do you mean? Why wouldn't she be there? If no one went to New Namek in the future we never would have seen each other, and none of this would have happened. None of this did happen. What do you mean?"
He sighed. "You've seen how bad off she is. If you hadn't screwed up our plans on Namek, and Revan had gotten that wish, he'd be out securing his own personal corner of the galaxy, and taking us along with him. No matter how powerful he would have been, we still would have had to fight other battles for him. Using her powers as sparingly as she has been has already started wearing her out. Honestly I'd be amazed if she was still alive after 5 years. But twenty?" He shook his head. "No, the only way Kiori will be in your future is if you take her there yourself."
So. That was it then. Whether or not he had come back, she would have been dead either way. If he'd tried, he could have been angry at her supposed comrades, for being the ones to endanger her in the first place. Though he by no means trusted the man in front of him, on this he trusted him entirely. Wasn't that why they were all here now, because Kiori had been willing to give her life in the service of her leader? Was it unrealistic to assume that she would have done the same, in another time? Only in another time, in this time, they wouldn't have been able to help her. But in his time, they could. He could. There was little chance she would recover if left here, and a fair one if he entrusted her to his mother's care. Wasn't it worth the risk? And really, what other options did they have?
None. And from what he could read from everyone's faces, they knew it as well as he. Too bad. He'd have liked to have a less grave departure from this time, a true celebration of the friends and family he'd known here before returning to his own life. But there was no time for it now. The sooner he prepared the machine, the sooner she could get help. Who knew? Maybe he would come back again, after a while, to let everyone know how things were going. Whether he'd ever get Kiori to willingly set foot in the time machine remained to be seen.
But one thing was certain: she would be there to have that argument.
I was surprised by breath. The cool, gentle rush of it into my lungs, filling my chest and waking my mind. That first cleansing breath that precedes the rejuvenation of waking from a deep sleep. Such a simple thing, yet something I hadn't entirely expected to feel again. Where was I? The atmosphere I sensed around me felt almost the same as Earth, yet there was a difference. As I'd grown accustomed to, I confirmed that there was no one present in the room with me before I showed any sign of being awake. Likely an unnecessary precaution, but useful habits were the hardest to break. I was in a room constructed much the same as the one provided for my use at the Capsul Corporation, yet with less furniture and plainer coloring than my own. Odd. I supposed I could have simply been moved to another room, yet why would I when there was nothing wrong with my own? And what could explain the subtle difference I felt about me, the lack of the tranquility I had sensed as background to Earth city noise? This I felt was more of the absence of noise, rather than peaceful existence.
I sat up slowly, listening for any protest from my body at the movement. When I felt no pain, or even discomfort, from the motion, I looked down at myself. I was wearing clothing similar to what I would wear under my battle dress, a simple dark blue tank top with soft black shorts. In curiosity I slipped my left sleeve of my shoulder. Nothing. Not so much as a scar marred my skin. But how? It was true that the last moments I remembered were little more than a blur of indistinct sounds, but I remembered that pain. That fire screaming from my chest had been real, yet there was no trace of it. Yet…
I looked over to a neatly folded stack of black clothing placed on a small stand near the bed, my crystal necklace lying atop it. I was grateful to see someone had salvaged my cloak from the battlefield. I would have regretted losing it. And underneath were the remnants of my armor. I picked up the short battle dress I had worn for so long, intact save for the left shoulder. What plating remained was horribly warped towards a gaping hole where the shoulder plate should have been. How was I recovered so untouched from the blast?
Still gently fingering the warped edges of my armor, I let my gaze drift out of the window nearest the bed. The skyline was far different that what I was used to seeing from this place. There were none of the towering buildings interrupting the view of the sky, and what structures were present looked broken and uneven. Towering machines were visible next to some of these half-formed buildings, appearing for the purpose of finishing their construction. Why was this world so altered from the one I knew?
I turned my head towards the door as I detected a well-known energy moving down the hallway. One that had not changed in the slightest. It seemed as though he was intended to go elsewhere at first, as he passed by my door. However after a few feet, he paused, and I felt someone mentally probing into the room. He wouldn't be able to sense my energy precisely, of course, but my awakened state was likely giving off a stronger signal. I smiled to myself as I felt his indecision, and saw the cautious opening of the door. The familiar sight of a lavender-haired Saiyan youth met my eyes. For a moment he simply stared at me, relief flooding his features.
"Kiori." He breathed. "I-I couldn't really tell…I'm glad you're awake."
I smiled as I met his eyes. "As am I. But tell me: where am I?"
He hesitated a moment, seeming at a loss for what to tell me. Finally he decided.
"You're home. For as long as you want it."
Should I have been surprised? Where else could I be that bore such resemblance to Earth, than Earth itself? I looked out again at the sights of construction in the background. There was much to be done here. Here I could have a purpose, a use. I had purpose and –I stole a glance to the Saiyan youth waiting in the doorway- here I was wanted.
Here I was home.
There is it, Final Chapter! Since this is the first story I've ever actually finished, I'm aware it wasn't pristine. As you should know, I'm planning a sequel, which will be the actual romance story, though I won't post it until I have a few chapters written out and am back in a groove, so that hopefully I can avoid this crap of months in between updates.
Thanks to everyone for your continued support, and to all who reviewed/favorited my story! If anyone had criticisms or praise they'd like to offer for me to keep in mind for the sequel (other than romance) than please let me know. I welcome feedback!