AN. Another Tien-x-Chiaotzu friendshippy one-shot. Once again set during those weeks after Piccolo Daimao's death and everyone's ressurections and when everyone went off to train the way Goku was. Different, but still sweet...I hope...
It was a night like any other. Krillin, Master Roshi and Chiaotzu had only been alive again for a few days, but those days had been packed with so much training, laughter and joy that it seemed as though they had never been gone. Life in Kame House had returned to normal, only the absence of Goku's cheerful voice and the addition of Chiaotzu and Tien making a difference.
This night was quite normal. All of them were gathered around the table, talking, laughing and joking, the remnants of the meal cooked between Lunch and Bulma still on the dining table behind them. Chiaotzu, sitting so close to Tien that the skin of their arms was more fused than touching, shifted slightly as the others laughed at something Oolong had said. Tien looked down at him curiously, raising his eyebrows.
"I'm cold," Chiaotzu mumbled, blushing slightly.
Tien smiled at this trivial matter, relief filling him. Chiaotzu was shivering slightly (unusual, but he was very sensitive to the cold), and he was only in his undershirt and pants. Tien leant down, putting his mouth close to Chiaotzu's ear as he whispered, "Your surcoat is up in our bedroom, under the bed. Don't be too long."
Chiaotzu nodded, then shifted away, standing up before floating over the back of the couch and towards the stairs. Everyone paused for a moment, then seeing where the young boy was heading, continued with their conversation. Tien joined in, smiling enthusiastically, trying to ignore the coldness of the empty spot next to him.
Chiaotzu was absolutely fine until he reached the top of the stairs. Then he paused, staring with wide eyes at the hall in front of him. It was just a shroud of shadows, layer upon layer in the gloom. The corners were inky black, spreading fingers of shadow towards the lighter rectangle he was standing in. He felt a cold shiver pass down his spine and shot back down the stairs.
Tien looked up sharply as Chiaotzu jumped back over the couch and slipped under his arm, his trembling far more violent than it had been before.
"Chiaotzu? Are you alright?"
Chiaotzu blushed as every eye turned on him, inquisitive though not judging. He didn't realise this, thought instead that they were all laughing at him inside their heads, and his blush deepened. He wasn't used to nonjudgmental curiosity unless it was from Tien.
"It was dark," he whispered, and the worry he felt radiating from Tien faded to understanding.
"It's alright, I'll get it," Tien said.
"Why can't he get it himself?" Krillin asked.
"I…I…" Chiaotzu's blush deepened. "I'm scared of the dark," he finally admitted in a whisper.
Tien bit his lip as the others tried to hold back obvious laughter. Oolong (never one for tact) asked, "Really? How old are you, Chiaotzu, five? You shouldn't be scared of the dark anymore!"
"I…I…" Chiaotzu's blush was so intense now that it seemed that both of his cheeks were completely red, his white skin tainted with the blood beneath it. "I can't help it. I see things…"
Only Tien understood exactly what he meant, knew that he meant things far worse than the fabled bogey-man of children's tales, but the others didn't know this and Oolong actually burst out laughing. Chiaotzu stared at him with wide, embarrassed eyes. Tien (who was as highly tuned to Chiaotzu's emotions as Chiaotzu was to his) felt the shame that started to fill Chiaotzu, starting at the very tips of his toes and sweeping upwards in a sickening rush.
"Chiaotzu, don't," he said quickly, bare moments before Chiaotzu jumped to his feet, then soared over the top of the couch and out of the door. Tien sighed, closing his eyes, then stood up, feeling twinges of pain from the various injuries he still had.
"What's up with him?" Lunch (the blonde Lunch, the one Tien felt far too uncomfortable around: at least the blue-haired Lunch treated him like a person and not a slab of meat) asked. She tossed her hair over her shoulder carelessly. "Someone outta beat some sense into that kid."
"I'll get him," Tien said quietly.
"He really shouldn't be scared of the dark," Krillin said. "I stopped being scared of the dark when I was three. How old is Chiaotzu again?"
"I'm…not sure," Tien admitted. "I met him when I was just a kid, at the Crane Hermit's school, but he was the same back then. He could be any age, but I think he's permanently stuck at 10." He paused, then added, "That's just what I think though. It might be different."
He stood up and vaulted easily over the couch, heading out of the still-open door. Chiaotzu was nowhere to be seen, but Tien tilted his head back to look at the stars as he slowly flew up onto the roof. Chiaotzu was curled into a ball, his face buried into his knees, so small he was hard to see.
"Go away," he said as Tien settled down on the roof beside him.
"Chiaotzu, it's nothing to be ashamed of," Tien said quietly. "Lots of people are scared of the dark."
"Lots of kids."
This last word is almost spat out, bitterness in Chiaotzu's deceitfully young, high-pitched voice.
"Not just kids," Tien said gently. "You can't be angry because of your youth, Chiaotzu. It's not your fault that you're still a kid."
"I'll be a kid forever," Chiaotzu said bitterly. "I'm always going to be scared of the dark, Tien. I see things in the shadows…"
"They frighten me, Tien… What I see there is so much worse than anything I've ever seen in real life…"
"I know, Chiaotzu. Believe me, I know."
"Why did they laugh?" Chiaotzu asked. "It's not that funny…is it?"
"No, not the things you see," Tien said. "They think you see monsters and stuff like that."
"I do see monsters," Chiaotzu whispered. He lifted his head slightly, his wide eyes reflecting the pinpoints of stars as he tilted his head back. Tien was pleased to see that the deep red of his cheeks had faded back to their usual white, except for those two red circles that were always there. "They just look like regular people, is all…"
"They don't know that," Tien said. "They think you see things like the bogey-man or some cheap rip-off of Frankenstein or Dracula."
"Frankenstein's monster," Chiaotzu corrected automatically. "Frankenstein was the man who created him. The monster's name was Adam."
"Yes, but saying you see Adam in the shadows won't ring any bells," Tien said, his lips quirking up in a rare smile. Chiaotzu didn't smile back. He relaxed out of the ball he had been sitting in, spreading out his legs and leaning back, supporting his weight on his hands. He wasn't shivering anymore, though the air out here was much colder than the air inside.
"Why do they do things like that?"
Tien faltered for a moment, trying to figure out what Chiaotzu was asking, which 'they' he was referring to, then said, "Because there are bad people in the world, Chiaotzu. You should know that better than anyone…"
There was a long silence. In it, Tien saw the slight tremble to Chiaotzu's lower lip and put one arm around the boy's narrow shoulders. They sat like that, both of them staring up at the stars, before Chiaotzu suddenly stiffened, then buried his face into Tien's side and started to bawl.
"Tell them to go away!" he wailed as Tien automatically gathered him into his arms. "I don't want to see it!"
"Chiaotzu, there's nothing I can do," Tien said, trying to comfort the suddenly hysterical child.
Chiaotzu turned in Tien's arms, shouting to a phantom only he could see, a shadow etched into the sky itself, an image of something happening far away. "Stop hurting her! You bastards!! She's just a child! Stop!!"
He burst into louder tears, turning back into Tien and burying his face into Tien's chest. Tien hugged him tight, trying not to imagine what terrible thing Chiaotzu had seen, unable to stop his mind flitting between the choices of rape or murder.
"S-she didn't stand a chance," Chiaotzu sobbed.
"Don't take on other people's pain," Tien said quietly, soothingly. "There's nothing we can do about it, Chiaotzu. It's already happened."
"I k-know," Chiaotzu said. His sobs were starting to die down again, showing the way any child can switch moods in an instant. "B-but it hurts. She was Krillin's age…"
Tien held the young boy close until the last of his tears dried up, rubbing his back and staring up at the stars.
"I wish I'd just ran through those damned shadows," Chiaotzu mumbled. "Then I wouldn't have made such a fool of myself…"
"You haven't made a fool of anyone," Tien said. "Especially not yourself. They haven't known you as long as I have, Chiaotzu, and they will probably never understand everything about us, but they won't make fun of you. This is serious, and they know that."
"T-thank you, Tien. You're always there for me…"
Tien's lips quirked up in that smile again, and this time Chiaotzu's face broke into a luminous smile of his own. Tien bent and lightly kissed Chiaotzu's forehead, the white skin cool and smooth beneath his lips.
"You're my brother," Tien reminded gently. "I would be an awful sibling if I wasn't."
Chiaotzu giggled softly, then nestled easily into Tien's arms. His voice was soft when he spoke, his tone level despite the hysterical tears that had twisted it mere moments before. "I'm not cold anymore… I don't really need that surcoat…"
"Good. Let's go back inside; they'll be wondering what happened to us."
Chiaotzu nodded, but made no effort to shift from Tien's arms. Tien stood and easily flew back down to the ground, then went back inside. There was a sudden, respectful silence as they entered, but Chiaotzu's wide, shameless smile was hard not to return. Tien settled back into his spot, Chiaotzu sitting comfortably on his lap, leaning back into him as his small hands rested on Tien's forearms.
They didn't join into the conversation again; they were happy to sit and listen and watch, feeling part of the group without actually participating. When they did finally go upstairs and into their bedroom, Chiaotzu kept his eyes shut through the darkened hall, his hand tightly gripping Tien's until he was actually at their bed.
AN. Sorry about the ending... I'm not very good at endings... Oh well, whatever shrugs Review if you want! I really appreciate it!