AN. Everyone knows about the Kikoho, whether you know it by that name or by Tri-beam (which I don't like, because he's got three eyes and puts his hands in the shape of a triangle; it's still a rectangular beam, damn it!) and we all know what it does... Poor Tien, he's the only one who ever used it...and this is how it ends up...
Chiaotzu flew back towards the cabin he shared with Tienshinhan up in the remote stretches of the Northern Wastes. They had never properly articulated why it was they had finally settled down somewhere so far away from anyone else, so far away from aid or help, but Chiaotzu didn't mind. They were far away from everyone, sure, but they were still together and that was enough for him.
As he flew he thought about the other Z warriors. He still did from time to time, his thoughts drifting back to those he had last seen so long ago. Except for Tien he hadn't seen any of the others for years, ever since the androids. Tien had seen them since, but none of them had asked after Chiaotzu. He wasn't surprised: Tien only went to join them after something terrible had happened, and at times like that even Krillin was too stressed to ask how his former rival was doing.
He sighed softly to himself as he flew. He didn't want to admit it, even to himself, but he did miss the others sometimes. He heard that Gohan had a little brother now, that the boy from the future, Trunks, came to visit his kid self and his parents at Christmas. He heard that Lunch and Yamcha had hooked up, that Krillin had a kid with an android, that Gohan was as hopeless with girls as Tien had been, and that Vegeta had calmed down a lot.
"He's still a jerk," Tien had said, his face twisted with distaste as he'd said it. "But he's a more manageable jerk now. Bulma's got him wrapped around her little finger, even if he won't admit it."
Chiaotzu was pleased to hear it, even if it was second hand news. Tien had never liked Vegeta, and to even admit that meant the arrogant Saiyan prince must have improved a lot.
He sighed softly, crossing his arms against the ever-increasing blasts of freezing wind. Soon snow would start to swirl past him, the wind buffeting him back and forth as he flew towards the cabin. He was used to this; they had lived here for years after all and whenever he left for food or other errands he was treated to blizzard-like conditions on his return.
Then something happened that made him freeze completely, his heart skipping not just one beat but two or three, his mouth dropping open in a silent scream of horror.
"No," he managed to say aloud, no longer noticing the strong winds battering against his small body. "It…can't be…"
A sharp pain sank into him, surrounding him with an almost impenetrable membrane of stabbing pain. He hadn't felt that pain for a long, long time, not since Tien had fought against Imperfect Cell and he had… He…had…
"Tien, you didn't…" Chiaotzu mumbled, then steeled himself, focusing every particle in his body, and rocketed towards the cabin in the northern wastelands.
He didn't bother to land, knowing the snow would be far over his head anyway, and he didn't have the time to struggle through it today. Instead he flew straight to the front door, sitting in its own little hollow in the snow, though it was starting to fill up, throwing it open and shooting inside.
"Tien! Tien, where are you!?" His voice echoed off the walls and furniture, something it had never done before.
He felt that pain again, increasing in intensity, and let out a low cry of pain as he stumbled towards the kitchen, where he felt Tien's ki spluttering and wavering, like a candle in the wind.
"Tien," he panted. "What…what…?"
He couldn't finish. His words caught in his throat when he saw Tien, lying sprawled on the tile floor, his breath coming in harsh, whooping gasps, his eyes half-closed and glazed with pain, his hands curled into loose fists, his legs covered by the tablecloth, which he had obviously caught in one hand when he fell, trying to use it to keep himself up, his entire body trembling and covered with a sheen of sweat.
"Tien! Tien, no!"
Chiaotzu rushed forward, ignoring the pain that assailed him as he ran to his brother, his best friend, stretching both his hands out towards him. As soon as they came in contact with that feverishly hot skin, the pain that surrounded him tripled, making him let out a low scream.
Tien's voice was weak, wavering, exhausted, and Chiaotzu couldn't stop himself from crying just at the sound of it. His vision blurred with tears, he looked down at Tien, still trying desperately to wipe not only the sweat but the fever from his skin.
Chiaotzu rolled Tien carefully onto his back, his head rolling on the hard tiles, kneeling beside him. Tien's eyes slipped closed for a second, then opened and settled on Chiaotzu. Then, despite the pain he must be feeling, despite the fever that heated his skin, despite the sweat and the trembling, his lips twitched up in a slight smile.
"T-th-thank Den-Dende," Tien breathed, his voice hoarse and painful for Chiaotzu to listen to, almost seeming to grate out of Tien's throat. "I… I wa-wanted you h-here wi-with m-me…"
His hand lifted and wavered in the air uncertainly, hovering inches to the right of Chiaotzu's face, and Chiaotzu couldn't hold back his sobs as he grabbed Tien's hand, bringing it closer and resting it on his cheek. Even his hand was hot, his skin burning with the fever.
"Tien, what's happening?" Chiaotzu asked in a frantic voice of panic. "Tell me, I'll help, I swear…"
"It's the K-Ki-Kikoho," Tien mumbled, unable to get the words out cleanly, his mouth unable to form the right shapes without conscious effort. "I-it's time… I'm…d-dying, Ch-Chiaotzu."
Chiaotzu broke down hearing those words. His head bowed as he sobbed and wailed, tears pouring from his eyes to splash on his clothes, his entire body sagging lower. Tien murmured a soft comfort, but whatever he said was indistinguishable even to Chiaotzu and he sounded distracted.
"Tien, you can't," Chiaotzu sobbed, holding tight onto Tien's hand with both his own, nuzzling his cheek into the heated skin of Tien's palm. "You can't die. Please, don't…"
"I'm…s-sorry, Chi-Chiaotzu," Tien mumbled. He clumsily used the ball of his thumb to wipe away Chiaotzu's tears, running it carefully beneath his eyes and along his cheekbones, making his breath catch into sobs yet again. "I…I d-don't have a ch-choice…"
"No, that's crap!" Chiaotzu wailed. He didn't let go of Tien's hand, but hunched forward and pressed his face to the feverishly hot skin of Tien's chest. "It's crap, Tien! You can't die, you don't deserve to die, not like this!"
"We kn-knew this w-was c-coming, Chiaotzu," Tien said, his smile evident in his voice. "We knew i-it would be s-soon."
"Not this soon!" Chiaotzu was now screaming, his denial and deep agony making his voice emerge much louder than he meant it to from his mouth. "You're meant to stay with me! You promised!"
"I…I know… I'm so s-sorry. I..want t-to stay…"
Chiaotzu didn't need to look at him to know he wasn't smiling anymore. The lift in his voice was gone, the light note of gentle teasing gone, and when Chiaotzu looked up Tien's face was twisted in a grimace of pain.
"Ch-Chiaotzu," Tien mumbled, clenching his eyes shut. "It…h-hur-hurts… M-make it st-stop."
Chiaotzu didn't have to delve into Tien's mind to feel his pain. He could feel it already, wracking his body with agony no person should ever have to feel. He stood up, gently laying Tien's hand back at his side, then bent to kiss the sweaty skin of Tien's forehead.
"I'll be right back, Tien."
He tried to leave, but Tien's hand caught in his shirt, twisting in the material, trembling hard now. Chiaotzu turned and saw the terrible fear in Tien's eyes, mixed with dazed confusion and deep pain.
"D-don't le-leave m-m-me," Tien begged. "P-please…"
"I'm not the one leaving," Chiaotzu said, then added soothingly, "I'm just going to get some things. I won't be long, I promise." He gently detached Tien's panicky tight grip to his shirt, kissing each knuckle before putting it back on Tien's chest. "I promise. Don't leave without me here, okay?"
Tien's eyes slipped closed again, relief relaxing his urgent features, and Chiaotzu turned and rushed towards the bedroom. There he grabbed a pillow and a blanket before rushing back to Tien's side, praying that he hadn't taken too long, though the trip itself only took a couple of seconds.
He got back and was reassured by the tremors running through Tien's frame, his muscles jittering just under the skin, his head tilted back so tendons and veins stood out in his neck, his teeth bared in a grimace of pain. Chiaotzu threw the blanket over him, hoping that it might relieve some of the shivering, then lifted Tien's head carefully to rest the pillow beneath it.
"Ch-Chiaotzu!" Tien cried, a panicky scream that echoed not only in the kitchen but also in Chiaotzu's head.
"I'm here, Tien," Chiaotzu said, grabbing Tien's hand and holding it to his cheek again as if to prove it. "I'm right here. I didn't leave, I wouldn't leave."
Tien relaxed a little at the sound of his voice, though he continued to tremble and sweat beaded on his skin to run in thin rivulets to pool on the floor. Chiaotzu pulled off his shirt and gently started to dab away the sweat, murmuring nonsense words to comfort his distressed older brother.
"Ch-Chiaotzu," Tien mumbled.
"Shh, Tien," Chiaotzu murmured, bending to kiss the dry but still horribly fevered skin of Tien's forehead. "I'm still right here. I'm not going to leave you, not ever."
"I'm…I'm sor-sorry for b-breaking my p-pr-promise."
Tears filled Chiaotzu's eyes, spilling down his cheeks and splashing onto Tien's cheeks. He wiped them away as fast as he can, but he saw by a little twitch at one corner of Tien's mouth that he had felt them, that he knew what they were.
"It's okay, Tien," he murmured soothingly. "We'll find a way to stay together after this, I promise."
"N-natural d-d-death," Tien mumbled. "I ca-can't be br-brought b-back…"
"No," Chiaotzu admitted. "But I'll find a way."
Tien nodded as best he could, nothing but a slight inclination of his head, and Chiaotzu's chest tightened painfully. This wasn't fair. Tien was a great warrior, a noble fighter who had sacrificed himself more than once to save his friends. And this was how he had sacrificed himself, this is what he had earned as a result of his work, of his overuse of the Kikoho.
It wasn't fair.
"Chiaotzu," Tien mumbled.
"E-everything h-h-hurts. It's s-soon now, right?"
"Probably." Chiaotzu bit back another sob as he caught hold of Tien's hand, squeezing it tightly, blinking away the tears that filled his eyes faster than ever. "I…I don't want you to die…"
Tien let out a choked little laugh, strained and forced through his pain, and his hand tightened around Chiaotzu's in a seemingly involuntary spasm.
"Th-that makes t-two of us, little b-broth-brother," he said, and Chiaotzu cannot help but giggle at the joking tone in his voice. "I…I'll mi-miss you."
"I'll miss you too," Chiaotzu whispered. "I love you, onii-chan."
"L-love you t-too, li-little br-brother."
Tien let out a little gasping cry of pain, his face screwing up so it was almost unrecognisable, and he groaned loudly. Chiaotzu couldn't stop himself from crying now, soft sobs breaking from his chest, and he rained tearful kisses on Tien's cheeks.
"Don't go," he sobbed, holding tight to Tien's hand. "Please don't go. I don't want to be alone, not here, not without you. I…can't…"
"G-goodbye, Chi-Chiaotzu," Tien mumbled, his lips tweaking up in one last smile. "Th-thank you f-for everyth-thing."
He stiffened, every muscle in his body locking up, his head snapping back as he groaned and panted and gasped in pain. His skin paled to a dull ashy colour Chiaotzu had never seen before and never wanted to see again, sweat shining from his skin, beading as fast as Chiaotzu could dab it off. He shook and trembled, muscles spasming at random. Then he fell limp, his body relaxing, the last violent tremors dying away, his head lolling to the side. His hand relaxed in Chiaotzu's and the boy let out a loud sob, not bother to covering his mouth to muffle the noise. What was the point? There was no one out here to hear him anymore.
This realisation sunk in and he began bawling like an infant, sitting on the cold, tile floor, his head thrown back and his wails echoing off the ceiling and walls to ring in his ears. He lifted Tien's hand again, but there was no help behind it and it hung heavy and limp in his hands. Despite this he pressed it to his cheek, nuzzling into the still-warm skin, weeping, his grief etched on his face.
"Goodbye, Tien," he sobbed. "I'll see you again in the next world…"
He froze then, his eyes flying open, staring at the still face of his best friend. Tien's face was calm in death, no sign of the agony that ripped his body apart mere moments before showing on that still visage, and Chiaotzu got a brilliant, macabre idea.
He lifted up one of Tien's arms, struggling a little with the sheer dead weight of it, and slipped beneath it, joining Tien on the ground. The arm draped heavily over him, but he didn't care. Why should he? It wouldn't matter in a few minutes anyway.
He settled himself comfortably there, wrapping his arms as far as they would go around Tien's chest, before tilting his head back and looking up at that still face. He smiled despite the tears rolling from his eyes, and boosted himself up to kiss that relaxed, still mouth.
"I love you, onii-chan," he whispered. "I'll see you soon."
He moved back down and lay underneath his dead brother's arm, closing his eyes as he prepared himself, thinking through every single option before he committed himself. Something occurred to him and he concentrated, sending out his thoughts towards the Lookout, searching for Dende's ki.
He latched on and quickly opened a mental link, relying on his telepathy as he sent, Dende, it's Chiaotzu. Listen; I'm going to die in a few moments and I don't want to be brought back.
There was a moment of surprised silence, then Dende ventured cautiously, Chiaotzu? But…why would you want to stay dead? Surely you don't…
Bring me back, Dende, Chiaotzu sent, opening his eyes and looking up at Tien. And I'll just do it again. And again, and again, until you guys stop bringing me back.
Okay, Dende sent, and that's all he needed to hear. He cut off the connection and gripped tight to Tien, smiling adoringly up at him.
"Okay, this is gonna take a minute," he said aloud, partly to Tien but mostly to himself. "This is tricky; I've never done it before…"
No, he hadn't. He hadn't practiced or rehearsed or perfected. Then again, he hadn't practiced the move against Nappa either and that would have been very effective against a slightly weaker opponent. He kept his eyes open, kept them fixed on Tien's face, and slowly started to concentrate.
Soon his entire reservoir of power was welling inside him, pulsating in a light blue aura that surrounded not just his body but Tien's as well. He smiled widely, no more tears in his eyes, and murmured, "I love you, onii-chan…"
Then he focused all that energy inwards, concentrating on first slowing every vital function within him, then stopping it completely. His power swept through both of their bodies, freezing them completely solid, turning them slowly, inch by inch, to stone.
Tien couldn't feel anything. He was no longer here, after all. Chiaotzu, on the other hand, could feel it, and it was wonderful and horrible at the same time. He couldn't turn them to stone all at once, no, he wasn't nearly powerful enough to do that, and so he was forced to work his way through, starting down at the feet so the brain would freeze last.
It was cold and strange, the feeling of turning to stone. First his skin and muscles would tingle, then slowly chill until they were so cold he couldn't feel them anymore. Then with the feeling of crunching ice between teeth, they would turn abruptly and silently to stone.
His eyes tried to clench shut, but he gritted his teeth and forced them to remain open, fixed on Tien's face. He started letting out little gasps as that crunched-ice feeling spread from his legs to his lower torso, his teeth digging into the soft tabs on either side of his mouth. His grip around Tien tightened, and as his chest started to freeze, the skin of Tien's chest beneath his hand abruptly turned to smooth stone, the heat of his fever quickly dissipating into the air.
"T-Tien," he mumbled, his eyelids drooping. "It…it's so…cold…"
The part of his body that was still flesh and blood started to tremble violently, his hands jittering as they curled into fists, but he forced them to relax. If they came (which they would) and saw their bodies (which they would), then he didn't want to look as though he was in pain. That wouldn't do at all. And so he relaxed, still looking up at Tien's face, even as his shoulders went numb, then his arms and hands. Finally the numb feeling crept up into his face and he let out a soft sigh of relief. Finally, it was over.
His vision went dim though he hadn't closed his eyes, and then the next thing he knew he was dead. It wasn't painful, not like the first time he had died, and this time it had a sense of finality to it that his previous deaths hadn't had. They had been more like commas, this was a full stop. The end. Goodbye, cruel world, and welcome to oblivion.
He landed with a thud on a hard surface, his knees buckling and making him fall back onto his bottom, his hands moving to catch his weight. He opened his eyes blearily, and smiled when he saw the long path stretching down through the clouds, lined with blue-skinned men with horns with a long line of cloud-spirits stretching as far as the eye could see. Well, his eye at least. Tien could probably see the building at the end of the line with almost unreal clarity, and probably a bit of the way down Snake Way as well.
He let out a little laugh at the scared little question. He didn't blame them; they didn't get flesh-and-blood dead people often down here, and he would be the second one in as many minutes.
"Did Tienshinhan come through here?" he asked the blue-skinned man who was looking at him with wide eyes.
"That other flesh-and-blood person, oni? Yes, he was heading for Snake Way."
"He…" Chiaotzu looked down, frowning. "He didn't wait for me?"
"Are you..." The man checked his clipboard, "Chiaotzu, oni?"
"Yes, that's me." Chiaotzu clasped his hands together. If Tien had started down Snake Way then Chiaotzu would never, ever catch up with him. His older brother was much faster than him, and with his stamina could run further before he had to stop. "Did he leave a message?"
"He said…uh…" The man checked his clipboard again. "He said he will wait for ten minutes, then if you haven't joined him he will assume you've decided to live your life and continue to King Kai's planet to wait for you there."
A cold bolt elbowed its way through Chiaotzu's gut as he asked nervously, "How long ago was that?"
"Around five minutes ago, oni," the man said. "Maybe a little longer."
Chiaotzu's entire body froze and he shot to his feet.
"Shit," he mumbled, a swear word he had learned from Tien but only used in moments of extreme distress, then took off and zoomed towards the front of the line, skimming over the top of the cloud-spirits.
It was not easy. Just like when he had self-destructed against Nappa, a move which had used all of his power, he was exhausted after the death he had just experienced. His muscles ached, his strength was ebbing, and he was having trouble seeing straight.
"No, no, no," he moaned desperately to himself, ducking his head to making himself more streamlined. "I'm not going to miss him. It will take me three weeks to get down Snake Way by myself…I can't wait that long…" He growled softly to himself, his hands clenching into tight fists, his arms rigid at his sides. "I can't…I won't… I refuse."
He zoomed up to the check-in station, then right through. King Yemma called his name, but he didn't stop, didn't even lift a hand in greeting. He just flew through the door leading to the path to Snake Way, the long winding path. His body was starting to give out, some of his muscles starting to twitch uncontrollably, and he gritted his teeth as he forced himself onwards.
He saw the start of Snake Way eventually in the distance. He heard a soft, sad sigh, something so quiet there was no possible way he should have heard it at this distance, and yet he did and it tore at something deep inside him. A figure, one which had been sitting on the nose of the ornate snake statue that marked the start of Snake Way, stood up, stretched both hands above its head, then turned its back to look at the road stretching into infinity before him. Another soft sigh echoed in Chiaotzu's head, and the figure stepped up to the start.
"No!" Chiaotzu cried, throwing a hand forward desperately as the last little dregs of his power shot out in a net to wrap tight around the figure at the start of Snake Way. It didn't work as it should have done; his power gave out half-way there, spluttering out of existence, and he let out a low, frustrated cry. "Tien! Don't leave without me!!"
The figure had frozen at the first shout, it didn't seem as though his desperate slingshot of power was necessary, and turned back with a disbelieving laugh.
His voice was so different now, so loud and full of life, and he lifted a hand to wave in the air. Chiaotzu laughed joyfully, though tears were filling his eyes, as he flew as fast as he could towards the waving, laughing figure of his older brother.
He flew straight into Tien's outspread arms, settling close as he clung as tight as he could to the laughing, weeping man. Tien's arms wrapped tight around him, filling him with a deep sense of contentment.
"Oh, Tien! You were about to leave!! You were about to leave without me!!"
"I wasn't sure," Tien mumbled. "You might have chosen to live life without me, gone to visit the others, gone to…"
"I'll see them when they die," Chiaotzu said, then giggled. "That sounds so morbid, but it's true. I'll have time to catch up then. I can't live without you, you know that." One small fist lifted and hit gently on Tien's shoulder. "Oh ye of little faith. How could you think so little of me, of us?"
"S-sorry," Tien said, laughing a little, then pressing a long kiss to Chiaotzu's forehead. "Oh, little brother, I never really thought you'd do it…that you'd follow me."
Chiaotzu hugged Tien as tight as he could, giggling and sobbing, and trying to fight back his own hysteria.
"C'mon, Tien. We've got all of eternity to train now. Just wait till Yamcha and Krillin get here: they won't recognise you."
Tien let out another soft chuckle, then nodded, kissing Chiaotzu's forehead again.
"Okay, little brother. We'll go train on King Kai's. I bet you've missed Bubbles, haven't you?" Chiaotzu giggled and flushed and Tien grinned. "I'll carry you the start of the way, okay? Dying unnaturally exhausted all of us, but I have to say dying naturally is great. I feel better than ever." He grinned. "You should try it sometime."
"No thanks," Chiaotzu mumbled. He was getting very tired, his eyelids drooping as he leant on Tien's chest. "I'm fine with dying like this…to be with you." He nuzzled into Tien's shoulder, letting out a soft contented sigh. "It's not so bad…I'm just sleepy for a day or two, then I'm just fine. You watch."
Tien laughed. "Okay, okay. Let's just go already. I'll carry you for a bit, then when you get your strength back we'll go on together."
Chiaotzu giggled. "Yamcha had trouble keeping up with me…he wouldn't have a chance now."
"Yeah," Tien said, grinning. "But he was always lazy and you're hardworking and dedicated. Of course you beat him every time."
Chiaotzu laughed, flushing, then mumbled, "Stop it. Let's just go, okay?"
"Okay." Tien put a hand on the back of Chiaotzu's head, the other arm hooked around the back of the boy's knees to keep him up. "We'll go. Sleep for a while, Chiaotzu." He hesitated then asked, "Before you do, can I ask how you did it?"
"I…turned us both to stone," Chiaotzu mumbled. "It wasn't easy. And it was so…cold…" A shudder twisted through him, his hands curling into fists on Tien's chest, but he relaxed at Tien's soft, soothing murmur.
"You turned me to stone?" Tien asked.
"How? I can kind of understand how you would do it to yourself, but I'm not…"
"Yes you are," Chiaotzu whispered, nuzzling closer. "You're part of me, an extension of me, and that's how I could do it. It was tricky, but it all worked out in the end."
"Okay." Tien sounded proud, a smile evident in his voice. "You can sleep now. When you wake up we'll be maybe," he paused, eyeing the road before them before finishing, "a quarter way down."
"Okay. Love you, onii-chan."
"Love you too, little brother."
Chiaotzu giggled, then fell asleep holding tight to Tien, his face pressed to the nook between Tien's shoulder and his neck.
AN. And thus ends the legend of Tien and Chiaotzu...on Earth at least. Who knows what they'll get up to in the next world?? I certainly don't, and I'm far too busy to speculate now ;) Review if you want, anonymous are accepted!