"Pity the living, and, above all those who live without love." ~ Albus Dumbledore

No, this fic has nothing to do with Harry Potter. I just thought of this quote while writing it. A teenage Vegeta's thoughts on his latest mission from Frieza.

I don't own Dragonball Z. A surprise to all, I'm sure.

"Pity the Living"

The look in her eyes as Vegeta raised an energy-clad fist to deliver the kill shot wasn't one of terror. Neither one of anger or hate. The look in her eyes was something the young prince had never seen from a victim in his fourteen years. It was pity.

The trio of Saiyans had just spent a mere two days decimating the population of Kernit, a plant rich in mineral resources and poor in battle strength, a combination prefect for seizure by the Cold Empire. The inhabitants remained proud to the end, refusing Frieza's "offer" of indentured servitude in exchange for their lives. Instead, they fought, entirely outclassed, to the end against three lone Saiyan warriors.

Vegeta stormed the planet's capital city by himself, while his two counterparts busied themselves elsewhere. He easily overcame the surrounding military and palace guards. He killed the king in his throne room showing no mercy when the old man attempted to defend himself. After a quick check of his scouter to check for additional survivors, he found several small flares of ki located in the palace garden to his right.

When he arrived at the location, Vegeta found three soldiers grouped in a defensive position around a young woman seated on a low stone bench. As he advanced, the soldiers attacked him, desperate to defend the girl at the center, but he killed them all easily as if they were no more than insects on a sidewalk.

After disposing of the guards, Vegeta made his way to the young woman, intending to present her with the same fate. As he advanced, she remained seated until he was only paces away.

"If I were you, I would run," said Vegeta flatly.

The girl rose, meeting Vegeta's eyes intensely.

He knew who she was from his briefing before the mission. This girl was the princess of Kernit, the same age as himself. Surely she realized he had just killed her father. He stopped and raised his fist level with her face. She stared past it, never lowering her gaze. Her eyes remained focused on his.

"I'm not afraid of you," she said simply.

Anger began to boil inside Vegeta. Who did this girl think she was? Didn't she realize she was about to die? The reading on his scouter proved she was even less of a threat than her pathetic guards. "You should be," he retorted. "I'm the one who's about to kill you."

"Yes," she said. "But at least I and my people die free. We will never be the slaves of Frieza. We will never be like you."

Vegeta fired, and the scouter reading flickered to zero.

He turned on his heel and exited the garden. When he reached the gates, he contacted his companions, Nappa and Raditz. The trio rendezvoused soon after and contacted their command ship.

"Lord Frieza," reported Vegeta. "The mission was a success. Kernit is now yours to control."

Over a small speaker mounted on Vegeta's scouter, Frieza scoffed a reply. "Two whole days to conquer such a pathetic planet? You Saiyans need to shape up. I trust the locals didn't give you too much trouble, little prince."

"No. Lord Frieza. No trouble at all."

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Vegeta laid on the cot of a bed in the quarters he, Nappa, and Raditz shared aboard Frieza's spaceship. The other two Saiyans were out, leaving Vegeta alone with his thoughts. His unfocused eyes stared blankly at the metallic ceiling, his mind going over the details of his mission to Kernit. His thoughts kept returning to the girl in the garden. The memory of her words made his skin crawl.

"We will never be like you."

The clarity with which she spoke unnerved him, as if the words contained her unwavering faith. Never during any mission in his career, under Frieza or his early life, had a victim had the nerve to talk back to him like that. It wasn't like the inhabitants of other planets he had conquered in the name of Frieza had claimed to be unafraid or him, or unafraid of death. But their eyes always betrayed them. In the end, all of them either fought for their lives, tried to run, or begged for mercy. At least her weakling father had the courage to fight him, even if he was no match for the young Saiyan.

This girl hadn't tried to run away or even defend herself. She stared death in the face, unblinking. Her eyes burned into his memory. They betrayed no hidden fear, not even anger. In their intensity, they were soft, like she felt sorry for him.

Well, he was the one sorry for her. Sorry that her race was so pathetic that it took only three Saiyans a mere two days to wipe out its entire population.

Maybe it was just that this particular pampered princess didn't understand the harshness of death or destruction or suffering like he did. Maybe until her planet was invaded, her world was peaceful. Peace made the heart soft. Vegeta knew there was no chance of peace in his current situation, but it was a fact that he had long accepted. He had seen millions die, many by his own hand.

And what would her people never be? Vegeta knew the obvious answer. Her people would never have to answer to Frieza. They would never have to do his bidding. They took the easy way out. Their suffering was short.

Still, he could not force the image from his mind. The words she had spoken had triggered his answering ki blast. His original intentions were to give the girl a head start. Make the chase into a short game, but at her words, he cut her life short, ending it before she could say anything else. Before she could actually say the words. Before she could say she pitied him.

He didn't want to hear those words, but he wasn't sure why. What would it matter if she said she pitied him?

Vegeta rolled over onto his side on the cot.

He hated her, he decided. He hated her more than any other person on her planet. He hated that what she said was getting to him, and he hated himself for allowing it.

"I don't care what she thinks of me," he said quietly to himself, as if vocalizing the thought would make it truer. But personal reinforcement didn't come.

The more Vegeta thought about it, the more he started to pity himself.

This wasn't the way he wanted to spend the afternoon, holed up in his barracks contemplating the intricacies of self-pity, and he tried to shake the thoughts away. He was a Saiyan, he told himself. Saiyans didn't pity others, and they certainly didn't pity themselves. They were proud and strong and didn't let the dying words of weakling females get to them.

The door to the quarters opened, and Nappa entered, sweaty from an intense training session.

"Vegeta," acknowledged the balding Saiyan as he flopped down on his own bed removing his massive boots. "You missed quite a workout. Raditz challenged Kiwi to spar. Bet you can't guess who won."

"Hn," breathed Vegeta, uninterested. He rolled over until he faced the wall.

"What? No snarky remark about a certain someone's lack of power level? I'm surprised."

Vegeta was silent. Jokes about Raditz's low-level power classification usually lifted his spirits, but today, he just didn't feel like making the effort.

"You know," said Nappa with a small hesitation. "Zarbon noticed you weren't training today. He's going to wonder why."

"What do I care?" said the prince.

"Why didn't you come?" said Nappa. "I've never known you to miss a workout after a mission."

Vegeta pushed himself into a sitting position facing Nappa. "I just didn't feel like it. Got a problem with that?" He meant it as a threat, but Nappa laughed.

"Teen angst setting in at last, your highness?"

Vegeta was taken aback. "What? No! How dare you speak to me like that, Nappa!"

The larger Saiyan chuckled. "I'm sorry, Vegeta. It's just that you've been moping around since we got back from Kernit. I'm beginning to wonder what's wrong."

"Nothing's wrong," Vegeta spat. "I just didn't feel like training today. What does it matter?"

Nappa didn't respond.

Vegeta rested his arms on his knees and leaned back against the wall. Nappa was the closest thing he had to a mentor, but he still felt stupid asking his next question. "When you're on a mission, do you… do you ever feel pity?"

Nappa was silent for a moment, and Vegeta began to worry his question made him seem weak. But then Nappa spoke. "I do. Most of the time for the races we don't wipe out. The ones that join Frieza."

"Not the ones we kill?"

"Not as much. They'd be wiped out by one force or another eventually. Survival of the fittest is the way of our world."

Vegeta nodded.

"No, I think it reminds me of the history of our own race when I see planet pledge allegiance to Frieza. You weren't alive before we started working for him. It was a very different time. When I was your age…"

"Spare me," pleaded Vegeta, adjusting his sleeve. "I don't think I can listen to any more of your fairy tales of times passed, Nappa."

Nappa laughed. "No? They always make me feel better. And what about you, young prince. Do you ever feel pity?"

Vegeta thought for a moment about telling Nappa about the Princess of Kernit, but then thought better of it. Why feel pity for her? She was the lucky one, wasn't she?

"I think you're the pitiful one, Nappa," Vegeta mocked.

"Oh?" said the older Saiyan.

Vegeta shook his head. "Always going on about the good times. Feeling sorry for the races we let live. Next thing we know, you'll be sitting in a field chaining flowers together."

"Wouldn't that be a sight," chuckled Nappa.

Vegeta let his head lean back to rest on the metal wall behind him. He smirked at his mental image of his mentor in a field of flowers. But his thoughts soon returned to the princess of Kernit in the garden. If she really did feel pity for him, wasn't it well deserved? He had killed so many in an effort to stay alive himself. Maybe she was right. Her suffering was over. She pitied the living.

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That's it. Please let me know what you think. Reviews are appreciated. :3