Bulma's visits were always calm.
Because she knew him well, they talked of everything but what had happened. The subject of when Vegeta thought he would leave the Lookout and finally come home was also never broached.
As silent and separate as they appeared in their meetings, their bond was loud and strong. His appreciation of her sang out in their long pauses, which never felt strained, and her patience with him was clear in her enduring stare that never pressed or pried.
"It's a prototype," she said. Vegeta was looking out the window at the new, pristine aircraft, which Bulma had flown there. "But it's very fast. Fastest yet."
He didn't need to ask why a faster craft had taken such precedence in the Capsule Corporation production line. The image of the abandoned vessel and discarded Dragon Radar in the woods, and the stinging smell of hot dust in his nose were ever accessible in Vegeta's memory. He wondered for the first time if Bulma felt a measure of responsibility for what had happened.
As she went on to explain some of the upgraded features in the new craft, Vegeta studied her.
He wanted to tell her that there was nothing she could have done differently, that the Lookout and the Earth's people would have been destroyed and there was nothing that she nor any faster aircraft could have done to change that. Instead, he reached out and placed his hand firmly over hers.
She went silent and looked at him. After a moment, her eyes turned glassy and solemn, and her mouth spread into a sad smile. Suddenly she looked down, wiped something from her eyes. She cleared her throat and went on describing some of the newer updates to the aircraft.
"You'll leave early tomorrow?" came a voice behind Vegeta.
Vegeta turned his attention from the half-packed bag on his bed. "Yes," he said. "Just wanted to enjoy one last quiet night." He gave Dende a weary smile.
Dende, who had no kids of his own, had nonetheless overseen his fair share of broods in the temple, and knew that when Vegeta got back to his Earthly life that his still-young children were not likely to give him the space nor privacy to which he'd grown so accustomed at The Lookout
"You're feeling well enough then?"
Vegeta stared at the Guardian, who was regarding him furtively. They both knew that he wasn't referring to the Saiyan's physical health.
"Yes," Vegeta said curtly, then went back to folding his clothes. "Anyway, I'm bored of the heights. It'll be nice to feel solid ground beneath my boots again."
"Well, you're welcome back any time."
"Oh?" Vegeta quirked a brow at the Namekian. "Will I have my own room made special for me?"
"Of course," Dende answered with a twinkle in his eye. "You'll have your pick of the whole guest wing. We do get so busy here, you know, but I'll see if I can reserve a room for."
"Anything for the Savior of the Earth."
There was no joke in this, though Vegeta might have suspected it from almost anyone else. On the Guardian's face was only that genuine smile that Vegeta had come to know.
As Dende was leaving, Vegeta spoke up.
"It isn't fair what you did, you know."
Dende turned to look at him.
"Robbing me of my hatred that way."
Dende regarded him a moment, then nodded and quietly left.
Vegeta stared up into the dazzling night sky. This high up above the city lights and noise, the stars were always brighter.
When he had trouble sleeping, Vegeta would come out to the balcony to watch the stars and it always soothed him. He felt fine tonight, peaceful even, but he wanted one last look before it was time to go back down to the world.
Usually, when he came out here this late he was alone, the rest of the Lookout's inhabitants all nestled away in their rooms. On his last night, he expected no different. Still, he wasn't surprised when he felt another presence on the balcony.
"What are you doing here, Kakarot?"
"Oh! I—uh, like to walk around out here at night sometimes. Trouble sleeping. I didn't know you were here. I can go if you want to be alone." Goku babbled and began to slowly retreat.
"It's fine," Vegeta said, feeling the calm of the stars seeping into him. "Stay."
Goku appeared first surprised then cautious. He seemed unsure of how to proceed and looked to be gauging whether or not he was imagining this. When Vegeta didn't suddenly dissolve into air, Goku slowly moved next to him on the balcony. He didn't come too close but kept a rigid distance. Vegeta thought he could feel the tension in the man.
After a taut stretch silence, the Earth Saiyan erupted into speech. "I don't think there's anything I can say to express to you how horrible I feel about what happened, but I want to try—"
"I'm not gonna stop trying to make this right, Vegeta. You can act like it doesn't matter, but I know that you're hurting. You have to be after everything that happened. I understand if you want me to stay away—"
"I even understand if you hate me—you have every right. But please don't push me away. After everything, we can't just leave it—"
"Kakarot, stop. I don't hate you."
"I know you don't, but I'm not gonna stop trying to— " Goku broke off suddenly, staring in wonderment at the other Saiyan. "You don't?"
"No," Vegeta said calmly. "I don't."
"Oh." Goku seemed unprepared for this. He stared at the other Saiyan for a while, looking like he meant to say more, but Vegeta's unprecedented response had thrown off his plans entirely. Eventually, Goku too turned to look out in the sky, and the two Saiyans gazed together at the stars.
"You weren't the only one Buu used against me," Vegeta said after a while.
Goku turned to him.
"Dende," Vegeta said, answering the question in Goku's eyes.
Vegeta had never told Buu exactly what had happened during those nightmarish two days in the cave with Bow. He didn't like to dwell on it. Still, maybe some part of it could bring Goku comfort now, even if it was just the knowledge that he wasn't the only one who haunted Vegeta's nights.
"Dende?" Goku said, appearing to deeply process this information. "But why would he use Dende against…" his voice trailed off as if something in Vegeta's face had answered his question.
Vegeta caught the look but didn't understand it. What did Kakarot think? That in his absence Vegeta had grown closer to Dende? That Dende had somehow replaced him in his role as…well, as whatever he was?
Vegeta didn't like to discuss his relationship with Dende any more than he liked to discuss his relationship with the third class Saiyan. Still, the odd uneasiness in the other man as the possibilities played across his face made Vegeta feel a rueful sort of triumph. So, instead of explaining that there was nothing more than mutual respect between he and the young Namek, Vegeta let the other Saiyan's imagination go a little while.
"Bow knew that I trusted the Namek." He said finally. "He thought it would rattle me." Vegeta thought he heard Goku release a sigh.
"Didn't work," Vegeta went on. "Turns out, Bow wasn't as cunning as his maker." The rueful edge to his tone was sullied by the memory of the events that followed the failed Dende incarnation, and Vegeta turned his face away.
"I did that to you," Goku said beside him. "I lead him there. I let him have you."
"And when I found you in the woods after…what he did to you. You were so…"
"Never speak of what you saw as Buu." Vegeta snapped, tone sharper than he'd intended. The way Goku spoke of Buu— recalling the mutant's memories as if they were his own— it made something twist in Vegeta's gut.
Goku swallowed, visibly shaken as much by the memory as by its effect on Vegeta. He watched the slighter Saiyan regretfully a moment before turning to look out over the empty courtyard again.
There was something wholly tense about the man. Vegeta wished he would just calm down. He seemed to be brimming over with electric energy and it was taking everything in him to contain it. It was making Vegeta antsy.
All Vegeta wanted was to go to sleep and forget about the whole thing, to somehow live on as if none of this had happened. Yet here was Goku, who seemed to want nothing more than to talk about it and breath it and live it until the whole thing finally made sense. It would never make sense though. Vegeta had long resigned himself to that. It was just a freak occurrence and all they could do for it now was to just leave it behind them. And here again was Goku, clinging.
"I used to feel this constant pulling. All the time I had to fight it. Now that I'm out, it's like…air. I can't remember if I always felt this way or if it's different somehow."
As Goku spoke slow and thoughtful, he stared out into the sky, as if he didn't need or expect a response, but only needed to say it aloud. So Vegeta listened silently.
"Dende says I'm just not used to being completely my own. Says it'll just take time. Now it's a different pulling. It's… you. I feel this constant pull when you're around, to be near you. And when you're not around, I wonder where you are and what you're doing."
Vegeta too stared out into the black distance. A star shot a small distance across the sky before blinking out. He wondered if perhaps Buu, who had been so changed after absorbing the powerful Saiyan, had, in the end, changed Goku.
Vegeta turned and looked into the large, shining eyes that glinted with stars.
"Did you mean what you said when I—when Buu asked about me?"
Vegeta took a moment to think back to what Goku was referring to.
It was the day he'd asked Buu to take Goku's form for the first time. The mutant had asked him why and Vegeta had to say something to convince him without revealing his motives. What he'd wound up saying was more revealing than he'd intended, but ultimately effective. How was he to know that the dolt would remember everything?
"You said," Goku went on helpfully. "That you and I bonded…that when I was gone, you felt like you lost a part of—"
"Kakarot," Vegeta cut in. "Never speak of what you saw or heard as Buu."
"Ok, Vegeta." Goku nodded but looked disheartened as he turned to stare out over the glowing courtyard.
Could things really be that simple, Vegeta thought. Could he and Goku really go back to the way things were? he studied the strained furrow in Goku's brow that made the youthful face look aged, and he wondered if it really was as easy as never speaking of it again.
That was how it had always been between them, after all. It wasn't in them to be anything else. To dwell on feeling was for other people, weaker people.
Goku's hands, large and strong, clasped the top of the banister. Vegeta eyed the tension in them.
But maybe, he thought, it wasn't in them to go back to the way things were, not after everything that happened. Maybe it wouldn' be like it was before, but it wouldn't be like it was with Buu either. Maybe, all that was left was for them to be something else entirely.
And maybe, Vegeta thought, maybe that was alright.
"Yes," Vegeta said, and Goku turned large, confused eyes on him.
Vegeta blinked, took a breath, and smiled. "I meant it."
Goku's eyes brightened.
A/N: So I originally posted this in 2010 on so it's been a work in progress for almost ten years! Holy cow! Thank you guys so much for the supportive comments. They both encouraged me and broke my heart. Seriously, you guys really helped get my butt in gear so thank you for sticking around.
I've had most of this chapter sitting around for a while but never posted because I felt like it was missing something. It still might be missing something but I'm ready to share with you guys anyway. Thank you guys so much and I love to read your final thoughts!