I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! And here it is, the final chapter.
Will I cry when it's all over? - Scott Matthews, Be Human
Gohan can hear someone following him, and he almost drops Azuki to turn and attack in his panic (the fighting, the war is so ingrained in him that he is ready to kill at a moment's notice) but realizes it is just Radditz, tearing after him – them.
Azuki struggles for breath, her hands scrambling to find a purchase against his armor, and she finally finds his arm, gripping it in her left hand with such force that he gasps. He looks down at her, then, and immediately wishes that he hadn't – she is staring up at him with such pitiful pleading (how does she expect him to save her, how, he is just a child) that his heart wrenches, and then she coughs, blood spitting up and staining her chin.
"Stop it, stop it," he cries, his voice foreign to even him, utterly broken and defeated and he sounds like a scared child. As he runs, Gohan wipes desperately at the blood on her face, her chest, her torso – there is so much blood, so much blood everywhere that he can hardly recognize her underneath it all. His hand rakes her wound and she cries out, screaming - I'm sorry I'm so sorry - Gohan's eyes are blurred with tears as he continues to run.
Gohan kicks down the door into the room that Bulma is in and she screams, thinking that someone has come to kill her. Upon seeing him she relaxes for a split second – I know you – but then she sees, sees the death and blood and fear in his eyes, sees Gohan's tears making tracks down his dirty face, sees Azuki struggling to breathe through all the blood in her airway.
"Help her!" Gohan screams, just as Radditz barrels in behind him. The older Saiyan takes charge without hesitating as Bulma just stares wide-eyed at them both. Radditz rips her from his arms and Gohan suddenly feels empty without her weight – the Saiyan strides across the room to the rejuvenation tank, his face a mask of fear, and begins connecting wires to her body, her chest, stomach, face.
"You have to clean her first, the blood –" Bulma starts, reaching forward to touch Radditz's arm, her voice cracking in its shock. Radditz yanks away from her with a snarl.
"There's no time! Help or get the fuck away!"
As if snapping out of a trance, Bulma suddenly nods and taps rapid instructions into the rejuvenation tank's keypad, then helps Radditz situate the mask over Azuki's face. She blinks blearily up at them, eyes mere slits, as they heave her body up into a standing position, Radditz's hands underneath her armpits.
His hand hesitates for a moment, brushing her hair off of her sticky cheek, eyes stormy with hidden emotion, conveying what he can't say (I should've been stronger) – her eyes watch him, and if the mask were not on her face she may say something but she can't (it's not your fault it's mine oh it's mine), and then Radditz closes the door to the tank and flips the switch for the fluids to fill it.
Azuki's eyes flutter closed while Gohan's shoot open.
"I couldn't stop her, Gohan, she wouldn't listen –"
Gohan disappears from sight a moment later.
Videl desperately leaps to the side, the spear cutting her skin – too slow, she's becoming too slow with each passing moment. There are hundreds of stinging cuts on her skin and she's fairly sure that her wrist is broken, for the giant had used the butt end of the spear to shatter it.
She's tired and weary and her emotions are on a frayed string, ready to break. They dance around Nappa's dead body, the giant purposefully keeping the battle close to it, and she can taste and smell and feel his blood in her mouth and nose and across her body and face.
Each blow she manages to make, each attack, he simply heals with some freakish skill that she hadn't ever thought possible (and neither had Nappa, he had been so unsuspecting). His ki fluctuates strangely, sometimes so low that she cannot even feel it and other times so high that his great power is obvious.
And then he is there, blocking blows meant for her and dancing around with her and helping her.
No, not another one, please no.
Videl screams at Piccolo to get away but the Namekian doesn't listen, eyes hard, moving with a skill far superior to Videl's own, but he doesn't know, how can he know?
"You can't kill him!" she screams, her voice cracking, and then someone else is at her back, pulling her away.
Gohan steps in front of her and next to Piccolo, ducking and creating a distraction so that the Namekian can get a shot in to destroy the giant, the monster. Videl screams and panics – no one else can die for her, please don't do this.
They work in tandem, Gohan twirling and leaping, Piccolo edging around to the monster's back. The giant lunges at Gohan so violently (he is angry, frustrated, impatient) that their enemy is off balance for a precarious moment, and a spiraling beam goes through the creature's chest from behind and out the other side, narrowly missing Videl. He teeters and falls.
"He won't die!" Videl screams desperately, running forward and taking Gohan's arm, pulling him back, just as the giant gets to his feet, grinning, his oversized spear pointed at the two children.
Gohan and Videl stand in fear, hands intertwined, eyes wide.
And from behind him, Piccolo digs his hand into their enemy's neck and rips, throwing the head onto the ground and obliterating the remainder of the body with a powerful blast of energy until there is nothing left.
"Recover from that," Piccolo spits.
Vegeta throws his body into the blow, trying hard to get some kind of hit on Frieza, but the Ice-jinn just grins, dancing around him, watching him struggle. He begins to fire ki blasts in rapid succession, trying to slow down his ruler, but Frieza is much too fast.
Frieza phases in front of him, his fist flying upwards and snapping Vegeta's head back, making him see stars.
He is aware, in the back of his mind, of Kakarrot and the majority of the fighters from both sides watching below them, eyes glued to this fight that will change it all. Frieza's men's allegiances aren't simply loyal to Frieza; they are spineless cowards and they are loyal to whoever is strongest.
Vegeta brings his arms up in an X formation to block Frieza's next punch, using his knee to drive it up into Frieza's stomach. Frieza fires a blast into Vegeta's face, making him stagger backwards, and then flies upwards, higher into their arena. Vegeta follows, his golden aura flaring.
"Come and get it, Prince," Frieza taunts with a smirk.
Vegeta rears back his fist and charges with an angry roar, and at the last moment, Frieza cranes his neck to the left, dodging the blow. Vegeta does not relent, fists flying so fast that Frieza can merely dodge. The Ice-jinn brings up his knee and slams it into Vegeta's chest, then digs his elbow into his back, making Vegeta slam into the ground on all fours.
Vegeta flips over to see Frieza dive-bombing him so he fires a ki blast into the ground, using the momentum to catapult himself up into the air. Frieza's foot slams into the floor, making a crater where Vegeta had only just been. The Ice-jinn turns to look up at him with a smirk, then shoots after him.
Frieza swings his right fist and Vegeta catches it. He tries to aim for Frieza's face with his left, but the Ice-jinn does the same, and they are left floating there at a sort of deadlock, staring into each other's eyes.
The Master and the Servant.
"Dear Prince," Frieza sneers, licking his lips, "I'm destined to kill you."
Vegeta snarls, rage and hatred in every pore of his body, seeping out of him in the form of raw power. "Not here," he growls. "Not in this life."
Vegeta clenches his fist tightly and throws a staggering right hook that connects, snapping his Frieza's head back with the force of the blow.
And then they are both throwing punches, both dodging, both so close to each other that one slip up could be fatal. Frieza uses his tail to wrap around Vegeta's ankle, pulling him close, then rams his fist across Vegeta's cheek.
Frieza crosses his arms over his chest, his tail waving behind him. He grins cockily at Vegeta, who wipes the blood from his lip with the back of his glove. "I'm going to kill you, Prince Vegeta. Just like I killed your sister."
Vegeta's father had once told him to use his enemy's weaknesses to his advantage. At the time, he had simply scoffed and offered a sarcastic "everyone knows that" but he is suddenly struck by what his father had truly meant.
Frieza is so arrogant. Frieza is like Azuki – and Vegeta knows how to deal with Azuki.
"You're pathetic," sneers Vegeta, grinning. "A pathetic piece of shit."
There is a falter; Frieza's face falls for half a second, as if wondering what he is playing at. "You little monkey –"
"You're weak and pathetic and a coward. And I'm going to kill you."
Frieza charges with a snarl (they are the same, they have short fuses, they are the same) and Vegeta dodges, smirking. He can play this game, he can do this, this is what he was born to do this is how it is supposed to play out.
"Is that it?" Vegeta snarls, and Frieza's eyes flash. "You're weak."
He can't take what he can dish out, he can't do it. Vegeta used to taunt Azuki like this, when they were younger, and she would become so wild and violent that he would just need to use strategy and precision to overwhelm her.
Frieza screams, his anger overtaking him. His blows become more wild, less controlled, and Vegeta just dances around him, not throwing a punch, an infuriating smirk on his face.
"You've raised me to kill you, you know? You should've killed me as a child, because the mistake is going to cost you your life."
This has gone on for too long. This control of his mind and body – this slavery, this obsession, it has to end. Frieza is all that Vegeta knows and he wants to know other things (Bulma briefly comes to mind) wants to be able to see and experience and know without that nagging thought in his mind that Frieza cannot be too far behind. Frieza is who raised him, who did this to him, who sent Azuki over the edge and made him a mindless killing machine and destroyed their entire planet – what would they have been like if they had lived their whole life on Vegetasei?
Frieza must die. And Vegeta must kill him. It was not meant to be anyone else – not Azuki, not Kakarrot, it was always meant to be him.
He cannot lose.
"You can't beat me!" Frieza screams, desperately throwing a punch, terribly wishing to cause Vegeta pain because that's all he wants to do he just wants to cause pain, now. There is no strategy, no control, only mindless viciousness; Frieza is insane and it is easy to trick him.
The punch is too far left, and for a moment he can see it in Frieza's face (the sheer fear; the stunning realization), and Vegeta spreads his white-gloved hand out over the tyrant's face, grinning. He fires.
Frieza is sent crashing into the floor, disappearing in a pile of bodies. He explodes out of it a moment later, aura flaring and a snarl on his face, looking around for Vegeta, but seeing nothing.
It worked for Azuki. It will work for Frieza.
Vegeta phases behind Frieza – he can't sense ki, he is weak – and fires again.
And then he is knocking Frieza around, fist connecting with his gut, his face, his bones. For the first time, a flicker of fear appears in Frieza's eyes, and Vegeta relishes in it. He knocks the tyrant around, breaks his bones; Vegeta is a Super Saiyan and he was created to kill Frieza and this is destiny at its finest.
"Afraid? Didn't think this would happen, did you?" Vegeta grins and prepares for the final blow, rearing back his fist and using his ki to enforce the blow. Frieza is still spinning from his last hit so he cannot react in time, he can't.
He throws his body into it, cracks Frieza's head to the side and then slams both feet into his gut. Frieza soars into a lower crater of the dead bodies and Vegeta lights down on a pile of them, looking down at the creature that ruined his life.
Frieza looks up at his creation.
Vegeta has nothing more to say. For a long moment he simply looks down at the Ice-jinn, looks at his red-stained skin and his red eyes and his sleek body, and then he lifts his arm, points his palm at him.
"I killed one of you," Frieza grins, closes his eyes.
Vegeta fires, expelling all of his hatred and violence and pain into that one ball of ki.
He floats down to the maimed body of his former master and sees life still in his eyes. Frieza gargles up at him, not even able to speak due to the destruction of his body. Vegeta crouches and cradles Frieza's face in his hand for a moment, eyes flashing, heart pounding. And then he pulls back, rips, and Frieza's head is severed from its body.
Vegeta looks out at the crowd; his followers and enemies alike, and raises the head of Frieza in a gesture of victory, his face emotionless.
A great cheer breaks out across the room and some of the men embrace each other – so long, they've waited so long – and Vegeta meets eyes with that of Kakarrot (the other Saiyan is golden, too, but there is no time to dwell on this), and it all comes crashing down around him.
There is a child watching her, standing out in the meadow of green and pink and yellow. Azuki can faintly make out a palace out, over the hill, and it looks strangely familiar, but she ignores it, eyes settled on the child.
The little girl has long black hair, dark eyes, and pointed, almost fierce features. She had been running, shrieking happily when she had spotted Azuki, and now she stares at her, eyes calculating and scrutinizing and wondering why this teenager has landed in her domain. The child looks over Azuki's bloody and bruised and broken features with a look of disdain. The younger girl is clean and smooth and perfect, and Azuki self-consciously tries to wipe at the blood on her stomach and chest but it does not stop, spurting out of some wound that she does not remember getting.
Azuki feels a deep, achingly painful sadness that is in her stomach, but she does not know why.
The child seems to feel it too, but she seems just as confused. Tilting her head to the side, she offers Azuki a hand, stretching it out and nearly begging Azuki to take it in all its temptation.
Azuki hesitates, and its as if the child expected this, for she laughs. Her laugh is mocking and rich and painful to hear.
Azuki cries out as her younger self turns, leaving her behind.
"Not yet," younger Azuki says, looking over her shoulder at her older self, a grin on her face and eyes alight with a knowledge of something (innocence) that older Azuki will never know. "Not yet."
Some kind of raw emotion is tugging at his chest, pulling, constricting his lungs and making it very hard to breathe. At first he thinks that Frieza has somehow managed to cast a spell over him with his last breath, but then the sensible, rational part of himself tells him that this is no curse – this is fear; panic. Azuki's energy level – his sister's energy level – is decreasing rapidly, not at all what should have been happening if Gohan had managed to get her to Bulma and into a tank. He hears the pained, rapid breaths of Kakarrot behind him; he, too, splattered in the blood of their deceased enemies.
He passes over Nappa's body as he runs and briefly closes his eyes, knowing that there will be a time to dwell on his loyal bodyguard's death, but not now.
They burst into the room simultaneously, Saiyan eyes finding what they are searching for: there she is, floating in the liquid of a regen tank. But the tank is not the color it is supposed to be – it is not the cool blue of healing, but a sick, faint tinge of red – her blood, he realizes – is making the liquid appear purple. Gohan sits just in front of her, his legs crossed, blood (his own, his enemies', and Azuki's) seeping through his clothing and skin, making the boy seem like some sort of demon from hell.
Bulma stands at the controls, rapidly typing in calculations and numbers, and she swings, her blue eyes wide as she takes in Vegeta – from the blood and torn armor to the swinging head of Frieza gripped tightly in his fist. Their eyes lock, and Vegeta's heart falls – no. Radditz stands next to her, his eyes downcast, focused on something that Vegeta cannot hear.
"Vegeta," Bulma says weakly, "you won."
As if sensing his presence, his sister's youthful black eyes fly open and land on him. Wordlessly, the Prince of the Saiyans lifts the head of Frieza, their destroyer, for her to see clearly. Her eyes light in victory, and she lifts a hand and rests it against the pane of glass, leaving a blood-streaked handprint that fades quickly in the fluids.
He can see the fear, the pain, the sadness in her usually sharp eyes - they are dulled, and it scares him.
"She wants to be let out," Radditz says softly, eyes downcast. Vegeta's eyes snap to attention, defiantly staring down his sister, whose watches him sadly (this can't be happening she won't die she won't).
"No," Vegeta answers, and he is embarrassed by the weakness of his voice, so he says again, firmer, "No."
"Vegeta," Bulma says to him, her eyes on the monitor and refusing to meet his gaze, "It says – it says that it will take seventy-two years for her to fully heal."
And he understands – understands that the wound had torn a hole in her heart, and the rejuvenation tank is not complex enough to heal such wounds as it could others. He understands that it is either she lives the remainder of her life in the tank, alive, or die here, now. The tank cannot heal her. Not now.
Azuki is afraid to die, but she is much more afraid of being unable to live.
"Let her out," Radditz says, voice hollow. "She knows it's pointless. She's dying."
"How do you know this?" Vegeta snaps, turning a hate-filled gaze on Radditz.
"I can hear her. Inside my head."
The bond had been made between Azuki and Radditz, Vegeta realizes. His cold eyes widen in realization, and his body stiffens. When did this happen? he wants to demand, wants to act in control, but he can't find it within himself to respond.
Bulma's hand hovers over the controls and she hesitates, but Radditz nods at her, and she finally presses the button. The rejuvenation tank begins to drain and the door opens with a soft hiss.
Vegeta crosses the room in two great strides, shoving Radditz aside and taking his sister into his arms, settling them both down on the floor. She lies limply in his lap, the only thing moving being her eyes, dripping the fluids and not-quite-washed-away blood all over the floor.
Azuki begins to struggle, to move, fear and desperation in her eyes. The tank had given her but a few moments – this is it. "'Ge-'Geta…bushna, bushna," Azuki whispers through the blood and the pain, cutting into the thick silence - not like this, don't do this.
Vegeta is stiff, face emotionless, as he stares down at her, unable to speak and return the sentiment.
"I do-on't wanna die, Vegeta," Azuki's voice breaks, cracks with her weakness, and it is such a childlike thing to say, so innocent. He can't believe that she's just accepting it, just letting it happen - she needs to get back in the damned tank, because how many times had Azuki said she was going to be the oldest fucking Saiyan to ever live, how many cocky remarks had she made about it?
And then Azuki turns to Goku and their eyes lock; she opens her mouth to say something but only a frothy, pink bubble spits forth. But he can almost delude himself into thinking that he can hear her thoughts tumbling around his brain as if they are his own; he can feel her jealousy of him (he is golden and she is not) and can feel her tangible regret and immense thankfulness for what he's done, and he can feel her fear, largest of all. Her hand lifts feebly, and the blood trickles down her chin, choking her airways, she can't breathe and oh this is death, this is what it is.
Goku can do nothing but nod.
There is a gargling noise as Azuki chokes on the blood in her throat, spits it out, her eyes widening and her hands gripping Vegeta's arms violently.
And Azuki begins to cry.
She begins to sob, tears running down her cheeks and creating tracks in the blood and dirt, and Vegeta just stares down at her, because he's never in all his life seen her cry – a few tears in her eyes, the tremble of her lip, but never tears leaking out of her eyes and running down her face.
She is so young, so young at only sixteen years of age, and as tears stream down Azuki's face and she cries desperately, fear in her eyes, blood dribbling down her chin, hands grasping Vegeta's own, Bulma realizes that this girl of sixteen years is afraid to die, and she must turn away and choke back a sob, because she's just a child.
"I'm so sorry, Vegeta," Azuki cries in anguish, raking her hands against her brother's chestplate. "I'm so sorry, please forgive me, brother, please forgive me." There is so much desperation in her plea, so much emotion, and Vegeta just stares down at her in shock, unable to find words to say what she needs to hear, unable to put her mind at ease in her last moments.
Please say something, Bulma thinks, watching the display with her own tears in her eyes. Vegeta, you must say something.
Blood trickles down Azuki's chin and lips, and her eyes start to lose focus.
"You are forgiven," Vegeta says, voice husky and dry.
A peacefulness comes over her - she stops trembling, her eyes dim.
"Please – I'd r-rather die by y-your hand than h-his," Azuki whispers through the blood, the pupils in her eyes quivering; she is so close, so close. And Vegeta blinks down at her, her words setting in.
It has all come down to this; he has always been destined to kill her, from the moment they were born and the moment Frieza's red eyes looked upon them both.
She begins to choke on the blood in her throat, swallowing desperately for air and hacks up a great mouthful, staining his front, and then there is one last desperate rattle of her chest – her hands find Vegeta, her eyes wide in a last moment of fear (are you going to let me die this way please don't let me die this way), and Vegeta's eyes harden, he whispers, "Bushna, Azuki," he cradles her in his grip, his muscles bulge in preparation, and he snaps her neck with one quick jerk.
The room echoes with a loud CRACK and Bulma cries out and looks away whilst Radditz's face drains of color, unable to tear his eyes away from Azuki, whose eyes almost pop out of her head in her last moment of living. And then she stills, hand falls to the ground with a loud thump, head lolls to the side eerily, last tear slides down her cheek.
There is a tense moment of silence where everyone just stares and Bulma sobs once. Before she can do much more, she is being hauled to her feet by Radditz and shoved out of the room. He barks a command at Gohan to follow and both he and his father scramble out of the room (the smell of death permeates the air and they are all too ready to be rid of it and away from Azuki's glazed over eyes). Radditz slams the door shut behind them.
"What are you doing?" Bulma shrieks, lunging for the door, but Raditz grabs her arm and pulls her back before she can get far, sending her flying painfully to the floor. "He needs us!"
"It is customary that, following a death of Saiyan royalty, the Saiyan's closest of kin keeps vigil over them for the entire night. Alone," says Radditz, his voice low and soft, and without any more explanation he leaves. Bulma turns to gaze upon Gohan, who avoids her look and slowly walks away. Goku slides to a sitting position directly across from the door, buries his head in his hands, and does not move.
Gohan hurries away from the room with Vegeta and Azuki's body (no, not body, no), sprinting in the direction of Piccolo and Videl's ki's and trying very hard not to cry. He has to be strong, has to be grown up and strong and not cry for Videl, because she needs him, now. Piccolo had helped her to a tank after the battle had been over and he had left her to return to Azuki.
Piccolo meets him outside the door before he can enter, a stern look on his face. Gohan nearly bumps into him and blinks a few times to steady himself – he's finding concentrating on his surroundings particularly hard.
"Gohan," Piccolo says, and Gohan looks up at his former tutor. "She's not talking."
"What do you mean she's not talking?" Gohan asks dumbly.
"I mean that she's traumatized from what has happened to her. She wouldn't go in the tank either, and screamed and kicked when I tried to force her. I'm going to go help clean up and leave you to her."
He knows what clean up means. Clean up the dead bodies. Nappa's. Azuki's.
Piccolo turns to leave, but before he goes, says, "It's not your fault, Gohan. Don't blame yourself." And Gohan thinks that the fact that this could be applied to two different situations, two different moments that night, means that it truly is his fault. He opens the door.
Videl is sitting motionless on the floor, staring down at her hands, eyes blank. The blood is still painted on her, creating a rather gruesome appearance. Her hair is matted and her left hand is twice its normal size and bruised and purple.
Belatedly, he realizes that he, too, is splattered with blood.
Gohan sits next to her, crossing his legs neatly. He picks at the dead skin on his thumbs for a moment, stares at his bruised knuckles, and then says, as if conversationally, "Azuki's dead." And it's like he's commenting on the weather; the simplicity of it all makes his voice crack. Videl doesn't move. And then the dam breaks, and Gohan can't stop, frustration filling him and pain and everything hurts, his wounds and his insides; Gohan begins to unravel at the seams. "You can't do this. You don't get to break," he cries, and the tears that he had been holding in begin to pool in his eyes. "I went through it all too. I k-killed people too." Gohan sniffs loudly, wiping his nose with the back of his torn sleeve, trying to stop the onslaught of pain and tears and hurt.
"It's my fault," Videl says softly.
"What's your fault?"
She struggles for a moment, her face screwing up, as if she doesn't quite know how to say it without completely breaking down. Gohan knows the feeling, and after a few moments, she finally blurts out, "Nappa."
"So?" Gohan angrily growls, turning so that he can look into her eyes as he spits, "Azuki is my fault. She died protecting me. And Nappa is my fault, too. I should've sensed that you were in the room, I should've known –"
"It isn't your fault!" Videl cries hastily, but Gohan doesn't let her keep the blame.
"It is! It's all my fault, and there's nothing I can do," he won't break down, he won't. "It's my fault that I let you come on the ship, it's my fault that Azuki died, it's my fault that Nappa died, it's my fault that you had to see all of that –"
He has never wanted his mother more than this moment, wants her to hold him and rock him and tell him that its going to be ok.
"I went in the room, Gohan! I was stubborn and stupid and thought I could handle it!"
And she begins to cry, the walls around her crumbling, and it's like its contagious. They both break down into a heap of crying and sobbing and he pulls her against him, holding her. He tries to clean off Nappa's blood from her face, but it has dried and he can't get it off, and for some reason that makes him cry harder than ever.
Bulma wonders aimlessly to the place where the battle had been held, first. She does not know what draws her there, but she follows whatever is pulling at her, entering the place where it all ended with wide eyes.
There are bodies everywhere. Piles and piles of them from both sides. Blood stains the floor in thick puddles, and there are body parts strewn across the floor. Some of the survivors have begun to stack the bodies of their comrades together, leaving their enemies behind. The remaining soldiers glance at her and recognition light in their faces (that's the one, that's Vegeta's), but they ignore her and return to their gruesome task.
The room is thick with silence. No one speaks. It is grim and dark and bloody and Bulma's throat constricts.
The won, she reminds herself. They won.
She doesn't know how, but Nappa's body is easy to find. He is face-first in the ground and no one has moved him, and she leans over to pick him up, tugging and heaving but he's so damned big, he won't move –
It starts with one dry, painful sob that wracks her body and breaks into the silence and then it is all it takes, and she can't stop now, can't stop the tears; she begins to dissolve, to melt. Her hands shake, fumble, why is she so useless -
"I've got him."
Bulma looks up through her wet eyelashes as Piccolo easily hefts Nappa's body up and over his shoulder. They make eye contact for a moment (what could have been had this not happened? Would they still have been enemies?) and then Piccolo is gone, hefting Nappa's huge body to the side of the allies.
She's no help here – no help. She's no help anywhere. She could've been strong, could've fought with the warriors, and maybe, just maybe, something would've been different.
She's needed elsewhere. Bulma doesn't belong here.
War had always been so glorified. In the novels, the movies he saw back on Earth - no one ever spoke of the children that were left motherless, fatherless, of the deep tears that the deaths of loved ones would make - they glazed over it, didn't speak of it, because it was sad and depressing and now Goku knows.
Azuki had been a child, Nappa had been in his prime - this isn't fair, isn't fair.
She had just been withdrawing that insanity in her mind, he had only just been getting to know her, and they could have had something so great. Azuki could've been his friend for life, Nappa could've been a father to Videl - it isn't fair.
Goku's perception of death has always been off; death was never particularly intimidating or anything to be afraid of because if someone died they could always be brought back with the dragonballs. But now there's nothing; nothing to bring them back, they're gone forever.
Goku wonders what would have happened if Earth hadn't been destroyed. If, by some rare fate of chance, Vegeta and Azuki and the others had come to Earth and learned to live with them and Chi Chi would've lived and Gohan would've somehow met Videl, he just knows it. He would have had more children, Vegeta and Bulma would have children, and Azuki would always be there, teasing and joking and being her provocative self, tainting both his and Vegeta's children's minds with her words; Chi Chi wouldn't like her -
He's speaking of her like she's alive.
Radditz knows – knows – that Vegeta will want to have had the honor of destroying Frieza's throne room, for the floors are more stained with Vegeta's blood than his own, and Radditz knows that Vegeta deserves it – but that is Azuki's blood there, too, Azuki's blood and pain and fear.
And it isn't fair, he thinks, isn't fair that though Vegeta has lost her, he still has Bulma and he still has victory and he still has the reign of the Universe – he may have lost his sister, but he has gained so much that it is outweighed. And his pesky sister is gone, the crazy one, the one that always brought him trouble and never listened to him and –
She was going to fix it, she was going to change things –
Radditz has lost everything.
Vegeta will have no need for him, anymore, so what will he do? He would have at least had Nappa to be with, but Nappa is dead, too. He will be left to start his own life, make new beginnings, and what can one Saiyan with no knowledge but how to kill and no experience but violence do with himself?
His inner mind aches with having a new bond so recently severed; he feels so empty, her mind is supposed to be in his, because they were supposed to be one and it had been so new, they had only just begun, why is she already gone?
Why did she have to wait so long?
Her last words echo despairingly in his mind, aching with the pain of what could have been ("I'm sorry we didn't get to have what we were supposed to I'm sorry I wasted it I'm so sorry").
Her worst fear had been death, and his stomach churns and aches with the thought that she has simply ceased to exist – Azuki no longer breathes, no longer thinks, is no longer there. And if the afterlife does exist, then she is in Hell alongside the rest of their people and Nappa (and Frieza), in the midst of fire and darkness and despair and she deserves it, she truly does.
Radditz heaves Frieza's throne in his arms and throws it across the room with all his might.
It isn't fair, because Radditz now has nothing left and Vegeta has everything.
Goku is still where he was when she left (how much time has passed? Minutes or hours?). She briefly considers sitting next to him, but as if reading her thoughts, Goku shakes his head and says, "He needs you." Bulma nods and slips into the darkened room.
He is still where he was when she left, seated on the floor with Azuki's body in his lap. She takes a seat beside him silently, and he continues to stare ahead, eyes hard and emotionless. Bulma's eyes are involuntarily drawn to Azuki, and her once mischievous eyes still stare up at her, so she leans forward and closes them silently. Her heart thumping so loudly she is sure that Vegeta can hear it, Bulma wipes the drying tears from Azuki's cheeks.
Bulma takes a deep breath, presses her body against Vegeta, and takes his hands in her own. She pulls off his gloves slowly, tossing away the blood-stained clothes. He does not object, and she squeezes his hand in assurance.
"It's alright to cry," she whispers, curving one hand against his cheek and up into his hair, smoothing it away from his eyes and out of his face.
He ignores her for a long time, and then, after what seems like hours, Vegeta says, "Stay." One word, so simple, and yet there is so much concealed emotion in his voice that she immediately must blink back tears. And she knows what he means; knows that he does not just mean here, now, but after this, for forever.
"I will," says Bulma.
She rests her head on his shoulder and closes her eyes. He looks at her for a brief moment, eyes cloudy, and then quickly looks away.
None of this would have happened without her, Vegeta knows. He isn't delusional. It was not until they purchased Bulma that this crazy chain of events spiraled out of control. He wouldn't have left Frieza so soon, he wouldn't have looked for the Resistance, because he wouldn't have accepted help. He wouldn't have turned Super Saiyan at the moment he did, because he would not have had that trigger to push him over the edge.
Would he still be mindlessly killing, Azuki and Nappa and Radditz at his side?
And as he steals a glance at her, he is glad that he found her.
He briefly considers pulling his hand from Bulma's because he doesn't like the way it feels in his own - he is sweaty, clammy, and the blood that had seeped through his gloves and painted his hands is staining her unblemished, pure skin - but he stops himself and let's her comfort him. Just this once.
Many hours later Vegeta rises and Bulma startles from next to him, her hand immediately shooting out and gripping his arm. "Come," says Vegeta, "It is morning." He lifts Azuki's body in his arms and her limbs hang, lifeless, still.
When they emerge Goku, still in the same place, nods and leaves, then returns with Nappa's great, hulking body in his arms. Their group finds them, Gohan and Videl appearing, Radditz trailing after them, and the six survivors and two bodies exit the ship and out onto the dusty, barren soil of the planet that they had crashed onto. The sun is almost up, casting a red light upon them all.
Radditz sets about gathering the wood from nearby and Goku helps, sitting Nappa's body down and piling the branches high. Radditz makes Azuki's funeral pyre higher, showing her status, and then Vegeta gently sits her body atop it, Radditz doing the same with Nappa's, off to the left.
They step back, eyes solemn, and Vegeta lifts his palm, fires, and the two bodies are soon engulfed in flames. Smoke fills the sky, and the six remaining watch without speaking.
Vegeta looks over at Bulma and finds that her eyes are already on him. There are tears in her eyes, but whether it is from the smoke or actual sadness, he cannot tell. And he can see in the rich blueness – can see that they will be ok, that this will work.
He briefly does a check on her ki, as if to remind himself that she is alright, and is startled by what he feels – a second ki, thrumming inside of her, barely there but coming into existence, thriving, living.
He feels another pair of eyes on him and turns, meeting the gaze of Kakarrot, and he knows that the other Saiyan has sensed it, too. The third class simply inclines his head, and Vegeta gives the barest of nods in return.
Bulma is giving him a questioning look, and he simply shakes his head – she will find out the news, soon enough, and now is not the time, in front of the smoke and death and sorrow.
A death, a birth.
Radditz can serve underneath him just like always and Kakarrot can train with him and keep him strong and Gohan and Videl can live with them.
They will start over. A new life, here. Bulma will never have to be afraid again, nothing will ever hurt her again, he will be sure of it.
He will make it right.
I can't believe I actually finished this story, guys. I can't believe its over. I would have never even reached the end if it weren't for you, reviewing and encouraging and reading. So thank you. So damn much. I hope that the end didn't disappoint, and I hope that you all liked it.
Thank you for all the reviews, the alerts, the favorites; each one has brought a smile to my face and you guys have been so kind. I couldn't have asked for more.
As I said before, there won't be a sequel. This story has come to a close. I do plan on writing other stories, however, so be on the look out. I'll have to think up a plot, first, of course - those are kind of important XD I might even write a Zutara? Who knows. Definitely another Bulma/Vegeta, though, and the turnout was overwhelmingly in favor of having Azuki in it. So, depending on the plot, she'll probably be back.
I encourage all those who have read silently to drop a review now that it's over - I'd love to know what you think.