Krillen's 100'th Proposal – And After

The beach was beautiful at night. The sand, white as it was, glowed in the starlight; the waves swelled and breathed around him. It must have been show stopping, he figured, back when there was a moon. It was the kind of thing he would have liked to have shown Marron. He would have brought a blanket out, a picnic basket maybe, a bottle of whatever wine he could afford after the latest shopping trip.

Then they'd sit together and watch the wave come in. She'd wear something little and red, or little and yellow, or little and blue to match her hair, and she'd sit sideways, knees together like the girls in the magazines.

Then, like it always happened when there was wine and moonlight, she'd lean toward him. Like sometimes you can move ball bearings with a magnet. That subtle pull-in that you just barely notice, but feel all the same. And she'd kiss his cheek or rest her chin on his shoulder, slide her hand up and down his chest, and he would suspect that she wanted him to…

But he was never sure, so he'd swallow nervously. Tell her she looked great. And Marron would pout just a little, but smile at him all the same, like maybe she was glad he was so slow about some things.

Of course, that was never going to happen again. That evening, Krillen had let her go. And then he'd gone to the Kame house, where everyone had congratulated him on making the right decision – except Gohan, who had smiled at him sadly, who'd seemed to get it in the same way that Goku had always seemed to get it.

But Gohan went home with his mother, after several nervous glances over his shoulder. And everyone else was so happy about the breakup that he didn't really feel like putting a negative spin on it. After all, the whole point of the laughing, happy entrance had been to convince everyone that he was fine. There was no sense undermining that by telling someone how he really felt. Which was that the thing with Marron, it wasn't perfect, and maybe she didn't want him, wouldn't have been happy with him. But that might be the closest to "working" that he'd ever come. Because he was short and bald and awkward, broke all the time, didn't know the right moves to make about women because he was terrified he might offend them like he'd offended Bulma or Chichi so many times.

Especially Bulma. Who thought he was a complete idiot. Who had always thought so.

Who, he figured wryly, was completely right.

Krillen drew his knees up to his chest, rested his chin on them, curled his arms around his shins.

He knew that he should get up and fly home. That it wasn't healthy to sit there like that, watch his footsteps and Marron's fading into the high tide – which had never been as high, he thought, as when there was a moon to pull it – but he couldn't help himself. He didn't want to go home. Change his answering machine message. Put his pictures away.

He would have thought of more reasons not to go home. But at that moment, a car passed by, and the headlights cast shadows on the beach. His, and a much larger shape, large and blocky and…

"GAH!" Krillen cried, half falling backward and scrambling a few feet sideways like a crab. And sure enough, there was someone standing beside and a little behind him. A familiar, green figure in a familiar white cape and turban with a familiar smirk on his face.

Krillen stopped scrambling. "Holy…geeze, Piccolo, do you HAVE to do that all the time?"

The former demon shrugged. "No," he said simply.

"…you get a kick out of this, don't you," Krillen said. "Scaring the bejeezus out of people."

Piccolo smirked just a little wider.

Krillen dragged his hand down his face. "Thanks," he said.

"Any time," Piccolo said.

And that's when it occurred to Krillen. Piccolo was standing with him. On a beach. The two of them. He looked left. He looked right. No sign of Gohan anywhere. Which was usually what it took to get the former demon out in public, even if "public" was just Krillen.

"There's no one else," Piccolo said.

"So…huh," Krillen said. "You like beaches?"

Piccolo raised an eyeridge at him.

"I mean, no offense big guy, but you don't seem the type. I don't think I've ever even seen you take your shoes off, and the mental image I'm getting of you with a surfboard is…uh…" he trailed off when he saw Piccolo's eyes narrow more. "Sorry," he said.

Piccolo looked away.

"Nervous habit," he added.

The former demon didn't say anything.

"I mean, not that you make me all that nervous anymore, it's just when I don't know what to say, I say all kinds of things, because…"

"What about you," Piccolo interrupted. Sharply.

Krillen blinked. "Me," he said.

Piccolo nodded to the beach.

"Oh," he said. Looked at himself. The water. The still visible (if fading) sets of footprints.

"I like beaches," he said lamely.

"Looks it," Piccolo said.

Krillen sighed. Gave up on dignity, and leaned back on his elbows, no longer looking at Piccolo. "You've been there a while now, haven't you," he said. Just as lamely.

"About the last half an hour." And Krillen was pretty sure he wasn't imagining the little bit of smugness in the tone. Which was warranted, he guessed, because if he could sneak around like that, he'd be pretty smug, too.

"Great," Krillen said. Then, wryly, "so is this the part where you give me a really big lecture on why I should pay attention to stuff like the location of gigantic guys who can kill me with their little fingers?"

Piccolo didn't answer. But Krillen heard a rustle and turned his head as the much-larger fighter put a knee into the sand, then folded the other leg – sitting down lotus style beside him, a little more than arm's length away.

"I don't have little fingers," Piccolo said. Deadpan.

"Oh, man," he said. "I have…I actually have no idea if you're joking or not."

Piccolo said nothing.

"And you're not gonna help me out on that at all, are you?"

"Where's the fun in that?"

Krillen flopped back onto his back. "Y'know, big guy," he said. "I think I'd almost rather have the lecture."

"Not really on my to-do list," Piccolo said. He folded his arms as he always did.

And Krillen took a moment to contemplate the weirdness of it. The two of them. By themselves. On a beach at night. Talking almost like they were friends or something. Which was crazy because if Bulma thought he was a complete idiot, Piccolo for pretty sure must have thought he was some kind of tapeworm. Always freaking out at the wrong time, always the first one to fall behind, need saving. Even his attempts to protect the other in the Garlic Junior battle a few weeks ago had been an amazing failure, as Piccolo had actually had to save HIS butt. Again. Half-dead because of Kami getting zapped, no less.

"So, uh…not that I'm not glad to see you," he said. "But what are you doing here?"

Piccolo shrugged one shoulder. Seemed to find something interesting to look at where the waves were touching the sand. And for once, something in his posture made even Krillen know that it was better to keep quiet for a few seconds.

"It doesn't suit you." Piccolo said at last. Gruffly.

"What, my trunks? I didn't think you were that kind of…" Shut up, Krillen's mind warned him firmly, shut up shut up shut up. Nervous joke or not, that's the kind of implication that'll get you killed.

"This thing." Piccolo said. Still not looking at him. At all. "About that girl."

And that shut him up. Floored him, in fact, as his jaw actually dropped a little. Because he'd never thought that Piccolo even KNEW about Marron. Much less that he knew they'd been together, or that they weren't together anymore, or that he was sitting by himself on a beach and moping about it like a fifteen-year-old DnD nerd who just got turned down by the prom queen.

"Man, not much gets by you, does it?" he said after a moment or two, weakly.

"I don't get cable," Piccolo said. Flatly, again.

Krillen laughed. Nervously. And let the silence draw out for once.

"I've known many humans," Piccolo said after a while. "They're cowards. Almost all of them."

Krillen blinked. As this was the single longest Piccolo-speech he'd ever heard and, even if he *was* basically just laying the total verbal smackdown on Krillen's species of origin, he wanted to hear where he was going with it.

"They're selfish, insolent little beasts who run around all day looking for new, menial idiocies to waste their lives on."

Krillen felt his face flush. Looked down at his knees.

"You aren't like that."

Krillen blinked. "Come again?" he said.

"You aren't like the rest of them. I would know."

"Holy crap, Piccolo," Krillen said, "you better be careful. If I didn't know any better, I'd think you were trying to cheer me up or something."

Piccolo huffed, said nothing.

Awkwardly, "You're trying to cheer me up, aren't you."

Silence, again.

"Damn," Krillen said. Then, more quietly, "Y'know, I'm really bad at this, too."

Piccolo nodded once. And Krillen managed not to heave one of those giant sighs of relief, as he decided this was probably the most exhausting conversation he was ever going to have.

They sat quietly for several more seconds before Krillen couldn't stand it anymore. "So, uh…not that I'm not grateful and everything. But why are you, uh…"

Piccolo looked at him sidelong. Raised an eyeridge.

"…here," Krillen finished. Even if it wasn't exactly what he meant.

Piccolo looked back at the water. And there was a faint grinding sound that Krillen recognized as him gritting his teeth together. Which meant something bad, if Piccolo was having such a hard time saying it.

"I was wrong," the Namekian said at last. Which was a shock and a half, all by itself. "On the lookout a month ago." He added, as if as an afterthought.

"What, the part where you threw yourself at the giant gaping hole of death in the sky like some kind of looney? Yeah, that was crazy even for you," Krillen said.

"No," Piccolo said. Took a deep breath Krillen could almost actually hear. "It is no…dishonor," Piccolo said. So very slowly. "To be under your protection. I was wrong to say otherwise."

And the fact that Piccolo was being so formal even for him, it meant he meant it. Not to mention the fact that he was sitting with him on a beach in the middle of the night, when Gohan wasn't anywhere in sight.

"I knew you didn't mean it," Krillen said. "I think. And I mean, it's not like I did the greatest job with the whole…"

"And you shouldn't lose your confidence," Piccolo said sharply, standing up in one smooth motion, "just because some silly human girl can't see that."

Krillen slapped his hand to one ear several times, leaning head the other way as if to get water out of his ears. "Okay," he said, realized his face was hot again, slapped his ear one more time. "That little dip earlier musta left some water in my ears, because…"

"Not," Piccolo said, his back to him now, "that you have any kind of confidence to start with."

Krillen blinked.

"Or technique."

Krillen blinked again. Wondered how in the world Goku and Gohan always seemed to understand exactly what Piccolo was saying when he wasn't really saying what he meant at all.

"Or sense."

Oh, Krillen realized, all of a sudden. It's so I know I'm hearing him just fine.

Krillen cleared his throat. "Y'know, big guy," he said. "You don't have to be such a stranger all the time."

"I have better things to do," Piccolo said.

"Like not watch cable?" Krillen offered.

To his surprise, the former demon actually laughed very softly, almost too soft to hear. "Yes," he said.

And Krillen almost said, they were right about you all along, both of them, and I was a real jerk not to listen. Almost said, I'm glad Goku gave you that senzu all those years ago, even if I kind of almost wet myself at the time. Almost said, hey, you're waiting for him to get back the same as the rest of us, aren't you, because you miss having someone around besides Gohan who has the guts to talk to you. Almost said, I look up to you, you know, more than just about anyone, because you always know exactly what to do even if you don't want to do it.

"Well if you ever want to not watch cable together," he said instead, and tried not to think about how stupid and pathetic that sounded. "Or, you know, I actually HAVE cable, if…"

"Don't push it," Piccolo advised. He started to walk away.

"Right," Krillen said. Put his hand behind his head. "Thanks, Piccolo."

Piccolo stopped walking. Stopped dead. And it seemed to Krillen the tips of his ears might have turned purple.

Before he could ask about it, though, Piccolo was gone, just a blue light moving farther and farther away in the sky. And Krillen leaned back on his blanket, put both hands behind his head, and very slowly, he started to grin for no apparent reason. And wondered if this was how Goku felt all the time. Like somehow, everything was going to be fine.