AN. Yes, it is another one shot. I like them, okay? Anyway, this one is set during the Saiyan saga, just after (I'm talking literally seconds) after the fight with Nappa for at least one little Z warrior. Very friendshippy this...
Every part of his body was strained. His muscles contracted, his heart skipping a beat as it began to spasm. His veins, arteries and capillaries seemed to constrict, then to widen, sending irregular flows of blood throughout his entire body. His grip on the tough armour beneath him tightened as he screwed up his face, concentrating. Concentrating on ignoring the pain that wracked his small frame, the bruises growing on his pale skin, the bones shattering with each collision, the blood spilling out of each new gash. Every cell of his entire being was working, focusing, harnessing all of his power.
And even as he unleashed it all, holding nothing back, expelling his life-force in one huge, suicidal blast, he thought he could hear a voice…screaming his name, telling him to get away…
If there was pain, it was so quick he didn't feel it. One bright flash of soundless light, and all feeling was gone. It was like he was floating on a cloud of numbness, his eyes peacefully closed. He could hear nothing, he could see nothing, he could sense nothing. He had never felt anything like it before.
Is this…what dying feels like? he thought. No, that was silly. He had died before, after all, and all that had waited for him that time had been torture, agony that had ripped him apart with each moment that passed, torment that had plagued him for what had felt like an eternity. This was so different…this was nothing…
What was his name again? He had heard it…not so long ago, screamed in the voice of someone who had meant something to him…a lot to him… What was it? Why was it so goddamned hard to remember? Who had that person been??
Something sharp stabbed into him then, piercing his heart, and he opened his eyes slowly. There was a long path in front of him, lined with strange, blue-skinned men with horns. There was a long line, filled with cloud-like spirits.
"And who are you, oni?"
He jumped at the voice, spinning around. The force of this action was so strong that he tottered and fell backwards, his unsteady footing unable to deal with this movement. He blinked up at the blue-skinned man standing over him, a black clipboard fixed to his hand.
"Oni? Did you hear me, oni?"
"Oni?" He blinked. Was Oni his name? No, that was silly. The man had just asked who he was, and why would he ask if he already knew?
"What is your name, oni?"
"I…I…" He stared up at the man again, then screwed up his face as he tried to think. "I can't remember…"
"You must have died a traumatic death, oni. Only people who do that can't remember their own names, oni…"
"Died…?" His eyes widened. "I remember! I…I… I blew up!"
"Oo, that would have hurt, hey, oni?"
"N-no…" He frowned. "Who am I? Who was that?" He felt that sharp pain again and clenched his eyes shut tight, putting one hand over his heart.
"Are you alright, oni?"
"I can't remember…it hurts…"
"You can't hurt now, oni. You're dead."
"You are the second flesh-and-blood dead person we've had here in only a year. Most of them are just cloud-spirits. You still have your body."
"My…body?" He looked down at himself, staring at his white skin, marvelling at the strange clothes he was wearing. A white undershirt, but nothing over it. Dark pants, green wrist-guards, yellow ankle-guards, black shoes and a red belt… What a strange outfit…why would he wear this?
He lifted his hands and patted his face, blinking in surprise as he felt out his features. Was he as pale as his hands all over? Why was he bald? Did he ever have hair? That was a little premature, as he felt that he did have one hair, though he couldn't see its colour.
"Who am I?" he asked quietly. "Why c-can't I remember?"
"I don't know, oni. You don't look very old, oni. How did a child like you blow up, oni?"
Another flash of remembrance…
"I'm not a child," he whispered. "I just look it…and act it… But that's because I…I…" He clenched his eyes shut as he grabbed hold of the memory, forcing it to form. "I'm a telepath!" he finished triumphantly. "And T-T…" He felt that flash of pain again, clapping one hand to his chest, then continuing through gritted teeth, "he told me that telepaths don't grow up!"
"Why did you blow up then, oni?"
He clenched his eyes shut.
"I blew myself up…it was to…"
If I can save you…then that's worth dying for…
"It was to protect someone..."
"Who is worth killing yourself for, oni?"
You're my best friend…always…
"My…my…" He let out a frustrated sound, hitting his knee with his fist. "I can't remember! But he was important to me! He meant the world to me… I would have done anything to save him…"
"Him, oni? Were you two…romantically involved?"
Disgust filled him at the very thought. Yet at the same time, he could feel a flash of this person's arms around him, comforting him, protecting him. The warmth of being near this person, this man, the sheer contentment in just knowing he was safe, that they were together, just like they'd promised.
"No. We were…"
He broke off, spinning around. There was a quiet noise, and then another cloud-spirit appeared on the path. It froze there for a second, then raced towards him. He recoiled slightly, but the spirit didn't hurt him. Quite the opposite; it reached where he was, then enveloped him. It wasn't like being swallowed, it was like being embraced. And it wasn't frightening, it was like coming home.
"You…" he whispered as the spirit let out quiet noises of joy at him. "You…you…died…"
The spirit froze, then sank away from him. He grabbed it with both hands, feeling the shame emanating from it, and closed his eyes tight. Words, sounds, feelings, memories. They flooded back into his mind with trails of fire, burning through the fogginess that filled his brain. He jerked, then concentrated hard.
With a silent burst of smoke, the cloud-spirit disappeared. In its place was a tall man, his chest bare and scarred across the right pectoral. He wore green pants, the same green wrist-guards, yellow ankle-guards and red belt that were so strange. His three eyes were wide with surprise.
They blinked at each other, each one taking in the golden halo above the other's head, before the triclops spoke, his voice hoarse and quiet.
Chiaotzu stared at him, then dived forward, his small fists thumping uselessly against Tienshinhan's hard muscles as his face screwed up in fury.
"You jerk!" he shouted, anger flooding his high-pitched voice. "You stupid, insensitive jerk! How dare you!?"
"I can't believe, after everything I've ever done for you that you would disobey me like this!!"
"I told you not to die!" Chiaotzu shouted, then burst into loud tears, burying his face into Tien's shoulder as he sobbed. Tien held him gently, rubbing his back. "I told you…" Chiaotzu whispered. "I told you…"
"I know…" Tien sighed as his grip around Chiaotzu tightened.
"Then why did you…? Why didn't you get out of there? Why didn't you stay alive!?" Chiaotzu pulled away slightly, his hands gripping Tien's shoulders as he tried to shake the larger man. It didn't do any good; his strength was nothing next to Tien's. "I wanted you to stay alive!!"
"Chiaotzu, calm down."
"No! I didn't kill myself just so you could die!! I KILLED MYSELF TO SAVE YOU!!"
"Well it didn't work…"
Tien let out another sigh, then pressed his face close to the side of Chiaotzu's head. When he did speak, his voice was choked with tears. "I couldn't…I mean… When you died, I just lost it…"
Immediately Chiaotzu's rage faded, replaced by deep concern. "You…what?"
"I fought him… I fought with everything I had left…"
"B-but, Tien, you only had one arm. There was no way you could win."
"Do you think I cared? You'd just died, Chiaotzu. There was no way you could ever come back… I wasn't thinking straight…"
Chiaotzu felt his anger melt away, though he tried to keep a hold on it. He had expressly told him, the only command he had ever bestowed in his entire life, not to die. But what Tien was saying was disarming Chiaotzu. His loyalty was touching, and sapped at Chiaotzu's rage.
"You're still a jerk," Chiaotzu said stubbornly. "Disobeying me like that... You could've…" He trailed off, realising that the phrase 'you could've gotten yourself killed' would hit too close to home. Tien seemed to read his mind, and grinned suddenly.
"Chiaotzu," he said, "you should know better than that."
"Quiet," Chiaotzu said, blushing. "You suck, Tien."
Tien's grin remained, though tears filled his eyes again. He hugged Chiaotzu tighter, his strong arms surprisingly gentle around him, pressing his face to the top of Chiaotzu's head.
"Don't do that," he whispered. "Don't leave me like that again. Don't go, with no way of coming back."
"He didn't die…did he…? Was he even hurt?"
"No. You messed up his armour a bit…but he was fine."
Chiaotzu clenched his eyes shut, suddenly understanding why Tien had lost his cool. Nappa, the Saiyan who Chiaotzu had killed himself fighting, had been unharmed in the explosion, while Chiaotzu's body had been blown to miniscule pieces. He didn't have a body anymore. It was dust. And Tien wouldn't have stood by that, he wouldn't have wanted to see Chiaotzu sacrifice himself for nothing.
"You didn't hurt him either, did you?"
"Not really." Chiaotzu felt Tien's lips quirk up in a smile even as tears continued to splash onto his skin. "I messed up his armour more than you did…but he wasn't bleeding…or bruised…or anything…"
"I'm sorry, Tien. What I did was stupid…"
"I'm just glad he didn't manage to grab you," Tien whispered. "Oh Kami, I hurt just imagining what he would have done…"
Chiaotzu felt a chill. It was true… If Nappa had managed to get Chiaotzu off his back… Chiaotzu shuddered slightly, clinging tighter to Tien, unable to help the images that filled his mind. His body was small, weak. It wouldn't have lasted long in Nappa's big, burly hands unless the Saiyan wanted it to, and Chiaotzu felt that he would have. He could easily imagine Nappa slowly tearing him apart, limb by limb, joint by joint, first breaking, then dislocating, then removing completely. And he would have done it to torture both of them, both him and Tien, because every injury Nappa would have bestowed on Chiaotzu, Tien would have felt as well.
"Don't think about that," Tien said hoarsely, and Chiaotzu realised that Tien must have delved lightly into his mind, must have seen all of those images.
"Sorry," Chiaotzu whispered. "I…can't help it. He almost had me, Tien… Then he decided to fly into all of…"
"Once I was on I couldn't have gotten off," Chiaotzu said. "You know that, right? He would have killed me for getting past his defences like that."
"That's why you shouldn't have gone in the first place," Tien said, his voice harsh. "I would have been fine if you hadn't…"
lie," Chiaotzu mumbled, burying his face into Tien's throat, closing his eyes. "You know I don't like it when you lie…"
Tien fell silent, silently comforting him until the blue-skinned man interrupted them.
"Oni!? You are a flesh-and-blood dead person as well, oni!? But you were a cloud spirit just before, oni! How did you do that, oni!?"
"Chiaotzu…gave me back my body, I think," Tien said, looking down at himself. He held up his left hand and clenched it in a fist, grinning. "He even gave me back my arm." He kissed Chiaotzu's forehead gently. "Thank you, little brother."
"I just needed to see you," Chiaotzu mumbled, his eyes still closed. "I couldn't stand the thought of you just…floating around as that thing."
"But how did he do that, oni? That is impossible!"
"Chiaotzu's a telepath," Tien said, a note of pride in his voice. "He can do anything with his mind if he really wants to."
"So your name is 'Chiaotzu', oni. Why didn't you just tell me, oni?" the blue-skinned man said.
"Because I'd forgotten it," Chiaotzu said, his voice muffled as he nuzzled closer to Tien. "Tien, I'm tired… Dying like that is exhausting… I want to sleep."
"Stay awake a little longer, Chiaotzu. Not for very much longer, okay?"
"Your name is 'Tien', oni?" Now the blue-skinned man's question was directed to Tien, though he looked surprised when Tien made a confused face.
"Not really," Tien said. "Chiaotzu calls me 'Tien', but my real name is Tienshinhan." He smiled down at the small head of Chiaotzu. "Chiaotzu's the only one who's ever called me 'Tien'."
"Sleeeepy," Chiaotzu mumbled.
Tien laughed quietly, lightly jostling the small boy. "Just a few more minutes, okay?" He looked at the blue-skinned man. "How do we get to King Kai's place? We want to train with him."
"You two, oni? But he's just a kid, oni."
"He's strong, and that's all that matters," Tien said, and Chiaotzu felt that quiet rush of pleasure people get when they hear a compliment about them said to someone else. "Look, just how do we get there?"
"Down the path to King Yemma's place, oni," the man said. "Then he'll direct you to Snake Way."
"Thanks." Tien paused, then turned to the long line in front of them. "Yamcha! Are you there!?"
His voice echoed along the path, startling many of the spirits and men alike. One cloud spirit, about three metres away, jumped higher than the others, then raced towards them. It hovered in front of them, excitement radiating from it.
"Chiaotzu, can you give Yamcha back his body?" Tien asked, shifting the young boy so he was sitting in his arms.
Chiaotzu yawned, blinked a few times, then reached out one hand. It rested lightly on the top of the cloud-spirit, then with a poof it was gone and Yamcha stood in its place.
"Wow, thanks a lot, Chiaotzu," he said.
Chiaotzu yawned again, then nestled back into Tien, his eyes sliding closed. Tien smiled, lightly jostling him again.
"Not just yet."
"But, Tien, I'm sleepy," Chiaotzu mumbled.
There were two more quiet noises, so close together they seemed to happen simultaneously, and then Kami and Piccolo were standing on the path. Piccolo made a noise of disgust, while Kami blinked at them.
"You're all flesh-and-blood?" he asked, disbelief in his voice. "I was only granted that because I was guardian of Earth, and Piccolo because he is connected to me… How did…?"
"I was flesh-and-blood when I came here," Chiaotzu said in a tired voice. "Then I made Tien and Yamcha people again too." He looked up at Tien, a devoted but completely exhausted smile on his face.
"Great," Piccolo said. "Very nice, but now what do we do? We're all dead. This is just fantastic. That brat had better not die too."
"So, how did you die, Piccolo?" Tien asked. "And was it enough to keep you out of hell?"
"Gohan pissed off Nappa," Piccolo spat, crossing his arms and glaring at Tien. "Nappa shot a blast at him. I wasn't going to let the kid die like that. I said I'd look after him, didn't I? So…I…" He faltered, then his glare intensified. "I got in the way of it, okay? I took the blast meant for the kid and died."
"Very noble of you," Tien said, an appreciative smile on his face.
"Yeah…" Piccolo said, his glare softening a bit. "Now I understand why you two killed yourselves…for each other. These emotions are pretty annoying, you know. That kid's not going to be able to walk all over me the way you two walk over each other. I'm not going to stand for his pathetic whinges."
Tien and Chiaotzu blinked at him, then at each other. A moment of reflection brought to light the fact that they did indeed find it very hard to say no to each other, no matter what the circumstances.
"We're going to King Kai's place," Tien said finally as Chiaotzu shrugged and nestled closer. "Do you want to come, Piccolo?"
"Fine," Piccolo said gruffly, crossing his arms. "I'd like to see the kind of training that Goku went through. He'd better have gotten a lot stronger, otherwise that kid's as good as dead…"
Though his words were harsh, a look of intense sorrow passed briefly over his face, showing how he would feel if Gohan did indeed die.
"Let's get on with it then," Yamcha said, and the four of them started down the path, edging past cloud-spirits and blue-skinned men alike. They made it to the head of Snake Way about an hour later, and just stood for a moment, staring at it.
"Do you reckon it's really as long as it looks?" Tien asked. His eyesight, much better than that of Piccolo's or Yamcha's could see three or maybe even four times as far as they could, and he couldn't see the end anywhere. It seemed to go on forever.
"Only one way to find out," Yamcha said. He banged his fists together, then started down the path at a run, his footsteps heavy on the tiled path. Piccolo followed, a strange ease and grace to his movements. Tien was about to follow, when Chiaotzu stopped him with a hand on his shoulder.
"Can I sleep yet?" he asked when Tien looked down at him. "I'm still sleepy."
Tien laughed, then nodded. "Sleep for a while, Chiaotzu. When you wake up we'll be well on our way to King Kai."
Chiaotzu nodded, then shifted in Tien's arms, moving so he wasn't cradled in them but rather resting on Tien's chest, his face pressed to Tien's throat as his arms encircled Tien's neck. Tien shifted his grip accordingly, one hand on Chiaotzu's back to keep him there while one arm caught the back of his knees.
He started to run down Snake Way, Chiaotzu's weight like nothing to him, because it seemed a part of him. He caught up with the others within moments, and kept running, ignoring Yamcha's question of why Chiaotzu couldn't do this himself.
Chiaotzu was awake for a few moments, marvelling in how Tien could run as fast as he was without jostling him in the slightest, when sleep claimed him and everything went dark for the second time that day.
AN. And off to King Kai's! I've just realised that the order I wrote these mostly appears chronologically in the series. What an amazing coincidence! Ah well. Reviews are appreciated and light my writing fire :D