Brought to you by Boboleta and Gue22
Grey clouds of water vapor moved languidly under the dark cover of night below them. And as they sped past the nuclear plant, Gohan couldn't help but gaze out with admiration through the tinted windows of the Son Inc. jet. Those twinkling lights blurring down below belonged to his facility - a fact that often put a smile to his face. He could literally smell the clean emissions as they puffed out harmlessly from the wide cooling towers.
He sighed, reclining back against the velvety nap of the suede chair. Across from him, his mother was curled up comfortably on the concave couch with a book, her other hand occasionally stroking the glossy finish of the four-star ball affectionately while her face randomly scowled as she flipped through the pages. The four star ball may have represented Grandpa Gohan to his father, but to his mom...the ball was a tangible reminder of her husband. Sometimes the young executive worried that her fixation on the thing was a little unhealthy, but...who was he to judge? His own personal fixations of late could be argued the same and besides, they all dealt with the loss of his father in different ways.
Next to her sat a sulky Goten with his arms folded stubbornly as he gazed disinterestedly out the window, the thin cord of his headphones dangling down his neck. Gohan didn't know what to say to his brother anymore - Goten was still angry and appalled about the nature of his new relationship with Videl.
Somehow, he'd naively expected the teen to pat him on the back and offer his congratulations, but Goten's reaction had been anything but. It had been far more explosive than Yamcha's and Gohan had been shocked that he'd had to physically hold his brother back from lunging himself at Videl. It still sent chills down his spine - perhaps it had been too soon to introduce them.
He sighed, sinking further into the plush chair, his forearms rising slightly as he lifted his arms off the thick armrests, reaching for the glass of water that was slightly humming to the jet's glide. He took a few sips, then placed it back down on the tray, closing his eyes. It had felt so weird, seeing such an enraged emotion on that face - a face that was the splitting image of their father's. The two were similar in so many ways: physical attributes, personality, mannerisms, tastes and general luster for life. Because of these similarities, Gohan sometimes forgot that, although care free, Goten was still his own person. He didn't just wave everything off like his father would have. No, his anger at Trunks the other week and now this botched up introduction to Videl had reinforced that.
Time, he decided as he let his head rest on the edge-roll of his chair. What Goten needed was a little time to get used to the idea of the two of them.
Caught up in his thoughts, Gohan only noticed their arrival at his grandpa's house when the autopiloting system made the announcement. The landing was smooth and uneventful as always and the doors swished open a few minutes later.
It was late and they were all tired, so the walk from the landing pad to the house was rather quiet. Effortlessly Gohan slipped in, his mother's luggage slung over his shoulder - Goten was more than strong enough to carry his own, of course.
He placed the bag on the floor, smiling affectionately as the large figure of his grandpa walked in from the study to greet them.
"Grandpa!" Goten exclaimed excitedly, rushing forth to pounce on his enormous grandparent with a hug only a large man like Ox King could withstand without toppling over. Laughter bubbled easily from his throat as he embraced the larger man, a big child-like grin plastered on his face. Yeah, he may have his own personality, but in many ways he was still as excitable as his father.
"Oof! Did you get stronger while I wasn't looking?" his grandpa teased.
"Of course," boasted Goten, folding his arms in agreement. "I'll be catching up to Gohan's strength in no time," he said haughtily. There was something about the way he was standing - arms folded, back straight, chest puffed out - that made him think of Vegeta and Trunks. Ah well, influences, what could you do? But then he went on to flash their grandpa a grin so much like their father's, it almost knocked him down.
"Humph! Too strong if you ask me," Chichi piped in, moving in swiftly to give the large man a hug and kiss of her own. "I told you how much poor Gohan had to pay for that wall he destroyed when he punched Trunks through, right?"
Gohan felt sorry for his brother; that was the incident that had nearly seen him back to homeschooling. His brother cringed, looking away, but thankfully their grandpa was somewhat skilled when it came to handling their mother's wrath. He swiftly sidestepped the issue without touching it at all.
"And how's my oldest grandson?" he boomed instead, much to Goten's obvious relief.
"I'm great Grandpa," he said, moving in to give a hug of his own. "No matter how big he was, he still felt tiny in his grandpa's large fold.
"You look it," the larger man ruffled his hair like he was still just a boy. "The rooms are ready Chichi, for you and Goten like you asked. There's one for you too Gohan, if you want to stay the night. We can catch up."
"I'd love to stay," he said, glancing at his watch. "But it's late and I have something I have to take care of tonight."
Goten scowled at that, but he didn't say anything thankfully. The threat on his life and everything else that had to do with Videl and her agency was being kept strictly as a secret from their mother. They both knew how she'd react if she ever found out. No place would be too far to keep Videl from her clutches; it would be an absolute catastrophe for all of them. Of course, Goten didn't exactly share his opinion on the matter, but...
"I'm just going to fly myself, so I'll leave the company jet behind, if that's okay Grandpa."
"Of course, of course," the large man waved it off. "We'll have plenty of time to catch up on Saturday."
His mom waved off his offer to take her luggage to her room and said her goodbyes hurriedly - muttering something about needing her rest and the whipping of the staff about their disorganization for the upcoming party. Gohan watched her disappear down the corridor, effortlessly tugging her bags along as she did so, her purse slung over her shoulder with the bulge of the dragonball protruding from its sides.
"I'll see you on Saturday at the party, Grandpa," he said before smiling fondly. He then turned and wrapped an arm around his shorter brother's shoulders. "Walk me out, Squirt."
"Hey, I told you not to call me that!" Goten protested as they stepped up, to which he only chuckled.
As soon as they were outside, Gohan fixed a serious expression on his face. "Well, Mom should be well distracted by the preparations for the party to be suspicious so-"
"I know Gohan, I know, I won't let what's going on slip alright? I've kept my mouth shut so far; you can count on me."
"I know Goten, I know I can. And hopefully you guys will be safe here until King Furry's team takes care of business, but if anything happens-"
"I'll protect Mom," he said with confidence. "You don't have to worry about that, you should be more worried about yourself. Can you really afford to close your eyes at night now that you're...you know, sleeping with the enemy?"
"You almost died! I can't...I won't forgive her," he said stiffly. His anger was still so raw and palpable, and the emotions on his face...
"I only ask that you tolerate her," Gohan said quietly, he had no right to force Goten on this issue, no right at all. "For me okay? Please..."
"Just...watch your back alright?"
He flew off then, his gut twisting at the anxiety on his brother's face. Videl was waiting for him and the knowledge both thrilled and shamed him. He was being selfish in this, disregarding his brother's feelings, Yamcha's feelings, but he just...
He sighed, speeding up as his aura enclosed him; there was nothing he could do - nothing he wanted to do. He was determined to see where this thing with former Agent Del Tan went.
Gohan definitely didn't mind having Videl warmly pressed against his body, but after hours of flying he could feel her squirming and adjusting her position ever so often. Her surprisingly strong arms were starting to tense up around his neck and something told him that their quiet, peaceful journey was about to become anything but. Gohan knew neither of them all that well, but he was pretty sure that one thing both Videl Satan and former-agent Del Tan had in common was a lack of patience.
"For God's sake! Where are you taking me?" she finally blurted out. "The other side of the world?!"
"Close enough," Gohan responded with a shy smile. Her feistiness was definitely a turn on as far as he was concerned, but sometimes it just got a bit... scary. He tried not to think of how she resembled his mother in that aspect, but alas... no such luck. "Actually, there it is."
His chin tilted up, directing her attention to a bright dot in the horizon. Even though the hour was late, he knew the residents of the Kame House to be some sort of night owls - at least the younger adults - so there was still a pretty good chance that they'd be up when the two of them were to arrive.
It was an executive decision coming over unannounced, but it was essential security-wise. Gohan couldn't risk a phone call being traced to warn them of their arrival as much as he didn't risk some kind of tracking device having been installed on one of Capsule Corp's ships or hovercars. The Briefs' residence was only a suitable safe house because of Vegeta's presence, but unfortunately the same deal as for the Satan manor applied: too many people, too much probability for disaster.
A moment of silence deluded him into a feeling of acceptance on her part, but it was ephemeral for her voice shrieked into an echo that tingled his sensitive ears. "You can't be serious! It's in the middle of the ocean!"
"Well, thanks to you, my house is not off the grid anymore and you didn't want to stay at Capsule Corp. so..."
"You try and be under the same roof as the guy who tortured you for a month! See if you like it!" Videl snapped and it pinched his gut to know exactly what she meant by it. He had seen so many things throughout his life, all sorts of things, and he was mostly sure that she did too. His father's and his friends' deaths still rattled his sleep from time to time, but being forced - by none other than himself - to watch her being tortured like she had... If nothing else would do it, Vegeta was certainly fuel for nightmares and she had her fair share of him to last her a lifetime.
"I know that and again I'm sorry, but..." he said, solemnly, pausing to organize his troubled thoughts as his eyes wandered far away. "I just want you to be safe."
"I'd be plenty safe in my father's mansion."
"You don't honestly believe that," Gohan retorted. "The more people you surround yourself with, the greater the chance of one of them being a spy and turning on you."
"But you're surrounding me with people anyway! People I don't even know, might I add!"
"I know them. And I'd trust them with my life. I have, actually, in the past. They're good, honest people."
"Hmpfh... I'll be the judge of that."
The only thing he could utter to follow that was a sigh that he kept brief and quiet so as not to add to the tension. This was the right thing to do. He'd made plenty of wrong choices and poor decisions ever since he met her, but this was definitely not one of them. Or at least that was what he kept telling himself over and over again. Even if somehow the agency found out about Master Roshi, how he was his father's former sensei, or how he was associated with himself or Bulma... even so, the damn island was so undisclosed that it might just be the most secret little place on the planet. He prayed as much.
Swiftly touching down, Gohan shifted his hand from around Videl's waist to her hand and gently pulled her towards the door, adjusting the small backpack's position on his shoulder. Normally, he'd been announcing his presence with a well-placed shout, but even if the adults of the house were yet to retire for the night, it was most definitely past Marron's bedtime, so he paced quietly and knocked on the door.
"Hey, guys. It's Gohan," he spoke, not too loud.
The door was invariably left unlocked, but it was only proper etiquette that he'd wait for it to be opened as he always did whenever it wasn't ajar. It didn't take too long anyway and Krillin was the one to greet them.
"Gohan?" the short man inquired unnecessarily out of sheer surprise. "Wow, Buddy, I haven't seen you in forever!" Krillin beamed with a finalizing chuckle. He stepped out for a hug that the young Saiyan was quick to reciprocate, indulging in the comfort that only an old friend could bring. A true friend.
After their moment, Krillin's eyes were quick to lock onto the unknown face next to them and Gohan couldn't help but feel a small speckle of pride for his friend. The look in Videl's eyes would be just enough to have scared the small monk shitless once. Heck, it would have scared him too! But not anymore, not after what they'd seen in life. Nevertheless, they told him to not cross their owner and so his next question didn't address her identity, but their purpose there. "What's wrong?" he asked, stepping aside to let them in.
Master Roshi appeared behind Krillin, most likely leaving the television show he was so fascinated with. He had a frown on his aged face, knowing all too well that a midnight visit to his secluded island could only come as a last resort, a solution at the bottom of the list. Without a word he listened.
"I'm sorry to have come at such an hour," Gohan begged politely. "I need your help."
"Of course, my boy," the elder assured. "You know you can always count on..." he trailed off as he stared right at Videl.
"Hey there Baby!" his lecherous voice exclaimed loudly, any pretense of seriousness dying a quick death. "Where have you been all my life?"
"Thank you, Master," the young man said anxiously, adding a respectful bow. The last thing he needed at the moment was Roshi going into full-pervert mode. He slowly turned around and looked back at Videl, trying not to blush about the fact that he considered introducing her as his girlfriend in an attempt to keep Roshi at bay. Instead he opted for "My friend needs a place to stay."
They all knew what that meant. The young woman needed to vanish from the face of the Earth for some reason, because only that was motive enough to make the tiny Kame House a suitable place to accommodate an extra guest.
"What's her name?" a female voice spoke from the corner, leaning against the wall at the bottom of the stairs.
"Oh, I'm sorry," Gohan began, sheepishly. "This is Videl. Videl, these are Krillin, Master Roshi and 18."
"Don't you worry, my boy, we'll take real good care of her," Roshi immediately said. "Come here girly, let's get better acquainted!"
For the tenth time in as many minutes, the young woman looked at her wristwatch. Heaven forbid he'd actually show up on time for once.
She stood just beside the large window of the Java the Hut Coffee Shop, her usual spot since it was just around the corner from home. And they had those amazing cinnamon rolls, baked in-house on a regular basis - even at such an ungodly hour like midnight - and her ''comfort food" of choice on those (thankfully) rare occasions she needed that extra dose of butterflies and rainbows at any given day. A fresh batch was clearly in preparation and all that sugary and cinnamony scent was starting to make its way to the streets surrounding the small caffé. She could just imagine how incredibly divine it'd smell inside and breathed deeply in and out and slowly, a trick she told herself was like eating one of the delicacies without the actual calorie intake. Maybe it wasn't true, but hey... it was that good.
The work day had been a tough one, not only because they had a lot to do, but also because Sasha fucked up - again - and she had to clean up her mess - again. All that she really wanted right now was to go home and take that damn bra off. Why did she have to insist on "beautiful" instead of "comfortable?" And those shoes were no good either. Where was he?!
"Hey, gorgeous!" she heard a guy call and the specific timbre of the voice made her smile even before turning around to meet him.
"Hey, Handsome!" Erasa shouted excited and ran those few steps to meet her friend in a tight hug. Sharpner's chest felt cozy and comfortable even if touching it wasn't really a habit for her. It made her go back for some reason. Not exactly to a simpler time - because the "teen years" hardly were "simpler" - but to a better time. A happier one.
She took her moment but was quick to let go of him, looking up into his chocolaty eyes with that frown she could only pass as "real" with strangers and distant acquaintances. Her friends knew better and as such, the blond man started to snicker even before any words came out of her mouth. "How could you?!" she scolded, slapping the very area on his chest that she had previously taken as a pillow. "You didn't return my messages or answer any of my calls. I haven't seen you in months!"
"I know, babe. I'm sorry. You know how it is," Sharpner sheepishly offered as an excuse.
Erasa's expression switched to wry for a couple of seconds, remembering how his job could be really demanding time-wise. She was so damn proud of him, all important and sophisticated - how could she stay mad? With the flick of a switch her bubbly self was up and running again and she suggested taking it inside. "Let's get that coffee then, ok?"
"Sure," the tall man responded, stepping to and reaching for the door. He opened it for her like there was nothing to it and Erasa couldn't curb the grin that instantaneously took over her face. He had always been a hottie growing up, but these "grown man" actions and the way he carried himself nowadays just added to the view. His jaw was more defined too Erasa noticed as she passed by and entered the shop, so the change was also a physical one, even if just slightly.
They took their seats and ordered their coffees, indulging in general chit-chat about the weather and their crappy jobs and all those things that adults apparently talk about in such occasions. Their beverages came along, hot and steamy in short espresso cups and they did their part in the preparation while enjoying the comfortable silence that enveloped them both. Sharpner took the sugar packet and ripped it open before dumping its entire contents into the dark liquid and Erasa did her thing, bypassing that step entirely and going directly for the little metal spoon, swirling it around the contents of her cup. A pointless gesture given that there was nothing to mix in, but one that she got accustomed to before pledging to cut sugar altogether from her diet. All apart from that teeny-tiny chocolate square after dinner, of course. She couldn't say no to that.
"I missed this," she said after a while, with a smile as warm as the memories that came back to her.
"Yeah, me too," Sharpner agreed softly and even if she couldn't take her eyes off the miniature whirlwind her spoon was creating inside the small cup, his smile was obviously infused into his words.
"I miss her." The words came out of her as a whisper, more to herself than to anyone else, but a sense of melancholy had taken over her and she couldn't keep that confession inside any longer.
Sharpner didn't respond, but she could see that he missed her too. Videl was their best friend after all, and even if she had died a long time ago it was a non-retractable membership; life or death had no influence and nothing to do with it. Nonetheless, he was the one to break the silence again, his words heavy and sad. "Did you see it? On the news?"
That same feeling that came over her when the news anchor opened up the dinner time broadcast last week, that one that made her break the pricey vase she had on her kitchen counter against the damn TV rushed to fill her up again. "How could someone do that?! She was a heroine! How could someone vandalize her statue like that?!"
"Calm down, babe. It was probably just some drunk asshole who didn't even know what he was doing," Sharpener tried to reassure her, but his eyes were not abiding by his words either. The sadness was stirring his insides too and it wasn't something that her blonde friend would show all that much - he was a skilled actor when it came to masking that particular emotion. It quenched the fire instantaneously since he was probably right, after all. Videl was well loved all around the world and people in SatanCity were incredibly proud of sharing the same provenance as the Savior and his daughter. This person couldn't know what he or she was doing because no one in existence would hold such a resentment towards Videl, such a hate and such a fury for everything that that statue stood for. No one would knowingly discharge all of their wrath on the daughter of the city's memorial. There was no reason and no way.
A playful smile etched itself on her face now. "Speaking of drunk assholes..." she said, pausing for dramatic effect. "Do you remember that Halloween?"
Sharpner laughed in that distinct way she loved and was quick to respond. "How the hell can a person forget something like that?"
"The first time we all got really hammered..." she recollected. "And our first real hangover. God, it hurts just to remember it." Erasa giggled her words and agreed. How can someone forget how it felt to nearly die - even if she now knew it was a common feeling the day after one's first drinking spree. So much alcohol...
"Pfff, 'it hurts'," Sharpner mocked. "You didn't have to endure a pretty messed up beating the day after at Mr. Satan's dojo. He really gave it to me! Like I was the only one to blame."
Erasa's giggle turned into a full-out laughter. She didn't remember that part, but then again the horrid "day after" was still a confusing blur altogether, so... One thing she did remember though. "You were the one who got us the booze!"
"Yeah, I guess..." He joined in her chuckles, looking down at the empty cup and saucer and ripping the empty sugar packet into tiny little pieces.
That thought that would come popping out in her head from time to time appeared again and she took the opportunity to ask for his opinion on the matter, her words wishful and far away. "What do you think she's doing right now?"
"Ha! I know exactly what she's doing," he blurted out like he'd thought of that very same thing many times before. His grin was contagious. "She's beating up some fugitive hell-dwellers and kicking their butts back to where they belong. Keeping the order up there, for sure."
Erasa's girly pitch made the nearby customers turn around to face her laughs, but she wouldn't care even normally, and so now she just discarded it altogether, not attempting one of her usual "can I help you" cheeky lines. She shook her head from side to side at how true Sharpner's words were. There was no other option. A deep breath calmed her jiggling insides. "That's Videl for ya..."
"Hey, she died doing what she loved. I just wish I have the same fate."
At that, her eyes narrowed and she tried with all her might to come across as all wicked and serious. "Don't you dare die on me, you hear?!" It seemed to have the opposite effect though, and his amazing smile just got bigger.
"I'll try. I promise," was his answer just as the rattling sound of his vibrating cell phone clattered the ceramics and silverware across the table. He checked it and puckered his lips to the side.
"Work?" Erasa asked softly. Unfortunately this kind of thing came with the job as she came to realize. It wasn't his fault.
"Yeah," Sharpner said, stretching the word to show his displeasure and placing a couple of coins on the table. Enough for both, she noticed and smiled. As much as he insisted he wasn't one, she knew her friend was a true gentleman and it warmed her heart for some reason. "Sorry, babe. I have to go."
"That's ok, sweetie," she reassured, getting up with him and going for a final hug. Her arms were wrapped around his waist, lazily at first, but then squeezing with all her might when she felt him tighten his own embrace and bringing her body closer. Extremely snug, extremely long, and she welcomed every single second of it.
"I promise I'll make more time for you," he pledged, cupping her face between his hands and looking into her eyes.
"Soon, ok?" Erasa whispered.
He left quickly after and jogged across the street and out of sight. Erasa took a deep breath and watched him through the window while she plopped herself on the upholstered seat, her mind blank and tired to boot. The city was still buzzing with activity even if not nearly as much as with the daily grind of your common "daytime worker." She hated late shifts, but there was some sort of tranquility that only a darkened sky and the fluorescent lights on her home route managed to bring her. And those glances she exchanged with the random individuals that crossed her path, like they shared a secret or an understanding. Like they had their own little club. "The Midnight Workers," she mused, but quickly discarded, reminding herself of prostitutes. She snickered to herself at the thought, wishing that Sharpner was still there so she could share it with him.
That friendly waitress she loved came over. "Can I get you something else, honey?"
"A cinnamon roll, please. It's one of those days."
Videl's scowl was impeccably kept throughout the whole interaction, even if due to nothing else than force of habit itself, though having to put the old pervert in his place added to its intensity. Gohan's slight blush and corny behaviour would have been adorable, and she would definitely have forgiven him for addressing her as his "friend" - not that she wanted him to call her that other thing - but her mind raced away at the mention of that name once she got her emotions together.
Master Roshi... Where had she heard that before...? And master of what, by the way? Not to mention 18... Was that even a name?! Strange people with strange names living in a microscopic island somewhere in the middle of the ocean. These are the kind of people that Gohan not only associated with, but actually called "friends."
"Welcome, Ms. Videl," Master Roshi said in a more acceptable manner, a hand rubbing his cheek where a very red handprint was. "You're welcome to stay for as long as you need."
Videl felt her eyebrow twitch. Although the old man was being cordial, his eyes were clearly not looking at her fac - wait, was he checking out her breasts?!
"Master," Gohan uttered gratefully, albeit embarrassed from the first introductory exchange. The young man's voice was almost in a whisper and he was bowing even deeper than before. The respect was palpable across the entire room and it made Videl feel like she got to know a little bit more of his personality from that gesture alone. It was cut short though, by the actual words being spoken.
"That's it?!" she asked, almost appalled. Despite the lecher's grabby hands and her subsequent reprimand, these people were taking her in as if this happened every day; and this wasn't including the fact that Gohan had only asked them to help them! All eyes turned to her at her outburst. "He just says he needs something and you people just... give it away?! Just like that? I could kill you in your sleep, for all you know."
"Videl!" Gohan rushed in with his own frown, a surprised one.
"It's quite alright, Gohan," Master Roshi stepped in, reassuring the young man with a straightened palm. Oh great, now he was trying to be serious. Calmly, he addressed her again. "Miss Videl, I've known this young man here since he was but a tyke. Four years old I believe." He turned his head back. "Was it four, Krillin?"
"Hmmm,... yeah, I think so."
"Four years old," the elder continued, returning to Videl. "And before that, I knew his father ever since he was a child himself. You may not believe in trust, but in our world it's as precious as the air in our lungs and we live by it."
"And what kind of world is that?" the young woman asked almost in a dare, crossing her arms across her chest.
"A world very few get to enter."
A simple statement that Videl took as nothing less than an insult, and old man or not she'd slap him right across the face - again! The nerve of him to come and lecture her about different worlds. She knew of it better than anyone! All the misery and pain, all the corruption, the unfairness, she'd seen in all. Famine, torture and death... heck, she'd even administered two of those herself!
The old master must have caught on to her musings because he continued accordingly. "I can tell that you have a knowledge beyond most, but since I'm assuming you are aware of our mutual friend's... special conditions," he said, momentarily tilting his head towards Gohan, "you can understand that there's more to this world than what meets the eye or what makes the headlines."
The alien thing, she deduced. That had to be the world he was hinting at. One could easily forget that the tall man to her side was - all things considered - not exactly a man, but not her. Having been on the receiving end of his wrath and power it was something that was extremely present in her mind, even though it was all that she knew about it. That it existed. Ok, he was different, but how different? What happened to the other aliens? When did his father come to Earth and why? All these questions surfaced with the information about his true self, but it wasn't her place to ask them at the time. Now, however...
"I trust Gohan with my life," Master Roshi continued, "as I'm sure he trusts me with his. We all do in our little group and that's what kept us, you and this whole world alive. I trust his judgement and his word, so if he needs my help, I don't need to know anything other than just that."
What a naive way of life she thought. Trust was as precarious as the object it applied to and given the premise of human nature, it definitely wasn't something she'd put her money on. And what the hell was he talking about, keeping the whole world alive?! She didn't dig that much into the matter, but the alien thing was quickly taken care of, even if the military took a huge toll in the process. All this secrecy was giving her a headache and an ill humor, and a cigarette was definitely not far in her future.
"Thank you again, guys," Gohan said with a soft smile, quickly ending things like he was afraid that they would escalade beyond repair. "You have my number in case of an emergency and I'll come by as soon as I can, ok?"
"Gohan, can I talk to you outside?" Videl ordered more than asked, stomping towards the exit and through the threshold, halting only when the tide came rushing to meet her. He followed her after a moment - a long moment, she thought. Too long, which only added to the frustration. Harshly, she spun around to him, piercing gaze and threatening frown, and her words cut right before his. "You are not leaving me here with these people."
"No! Don't say anything else, don't try to convince me. I can very well take care of myself."
"You of all people should know what the agency is capable of. If they ever found out that you switched sides, that you were helping me take them down, they'd be after your head as well as mine! And you used one of the most dangerous biological weapons in existence to try and kill me; imagine what they could do to you!"
"They don't know where I am and even if they did... you can protect me." Those last words got out, but struggled and laboriously like she had to go search them out of the dictionary.
"Yes, I can. But then there would come a time where you'd put it in your head that I'm just babysitting you and you'd go out all by yourself and do something stupid."
His words cracked something inside. Of course. How could she ever think that all of this came out of the goodness of his heart or out of those things he promised he felt for her? Yeah right, as if someone like him would actually choose to be with someone like her.
"Oh, so that's what this is all about?!" she snapped. "I'm not here to be hidden, it's because I can't leave!"
"It's not like that." He sounded tired, sighing. Poor Mr. Half-alien. Maybe she was boring him.
"Of course it is! It's obvious now. You let me believe that I'm actually free, that you actually like me so that I'd see this whole thing as you looking out for me. You just want to lock me up here! But since it's outdoors, well then it's not like the previous hole you threw me into, is it?!"
"How can you say that?!"
"It's the truth! I'll never be free again because you'll never truly trust me again! You'll always be there to make sure I'm behaving, watching me, and following me. I... I can't live like that!"
He grabbed her by the shoulders a little tighter than she felt comfortable with, but what made her shiver were his eyes, piercing right through to her soul. She was expecting some sort of excuse, a sweet talk to mellow her out into submission and damn him if he wouldn't be able to get his way with just a glimpse of that glorious smile of his. But that wasn't what she got. Instead his face was stern, demanding nothing less than her full, undivided attention. It made her feel small, defenseless... exposed.
"Just because someone likes you doesn't mean that they're going to take over your life," he said, pausing to let it sink in. "This is the safest place on Earth for you right now and that's why you're going to stay here. You can kick and scream all you want, but it won't change anything because this is the one thing I can do for you and I will do it. I really don't care if you believe my intentions or if you believe that I genuinely like you because this is more important to me than your ability to see the truth. I will keep you safe."
His words touched her much deeper than she was expecting them to - if at all. More than liking her - if it was actually true anyway - this man cared about her. Former-agent Del Tan knew people - her job demanded nothing less than that since it was an invaluable asset when it came to finding them - and selflessness was definitely not a normal trait of your average person. To have someone tell her to her face that he'd rather have her disregard his feelings - disregard him - than risk her own safety...
His dark eyes were on her blue ones and as much as they were uncomfortable they pulled her into them, making her not wanting to look anywhere else. This couldn't be true. How could anyone care for her like that by their own accord? He wasn't family. She wasn't even sure if he was a friend, even though he was friendly enough. He had no obligation to feel like that about her. Hell, he had no right!
The frown that he valiantly kept to make his point was losing its fight with the awkward silence that surrounded them, softening ever so slightly into a concerned expression that loosened the unyielding grip he had on her. His voice was raspy, mixing in with the waves crashing on the background. "I have to go," he said and she nodded slightly in response.
A strand of hair left its place with the breeze, touching her face, but he was quick to put it back with a gentle tuck behind her right ear. His fingertips tickled her skin coming down, goosebumping the hair on the back of her neck before settling to cup her warm cheek. Gently, he let his thumb brush it like if tracing the blush she just knew was tinting her pale skin.
And then his eyes wandered to her lips and Videl swallowed dry, knowing fully well what invariably would come with that look, with that touch. But then again, did she really want to run from it this time around?
His movement made her trap the air inside her lungs, even if absentmindedly. It was different this time. It was paced and deliberate, not fueled with overwhelming passion even if she could feel it charging the air around them.
His delicious breath clenched her gut and closed her eyes shut, intoxicating all of her senses like she didn't even realize it was possible. Not with her. Never with her. All of her doubts kicked in at the same time - childish ones and legitimate ones, rational and not. He was tricking her, she didn't deserve him, she was hideous, everything and anything popped up and died down in the matter of a second and when all was said and done... she couldn't care less anymore
Her instinct kicked in - the one she had always relied on her entire life and that kept her alive more times that she dared to consider - and she took those last inches, instantly taking notice of how different their skins felt against each other. His soft and warm. Hers dry and chapped. Irrelevant now though, as everything else around them.
For a moment he made her believe all of it. All of the things he said and all of the things he did that were supposed to have come out of his feelings towards her. For a mere, simple moment, she didn't have to choose between truth or lie, past or present. He made her see her future with that kiss and he made her wish that he was there with her. Damn him. These sensations were not for her to have and she had come to terms with it a long time ago, but now that they were here, now that she couldn't, shouldn't, wouldn't send them away, it made her feel... embarrassed. A grown woman shouldn't melt like this at his touch, but what a touch.
It ended way too soon with the characteristic "pop" of their parted lips and he looked into her eyes again, this time with a small smirk like he was proud of himself to have been able to take the risk. It made her feel like a prize and she would violently knock it right out of him if it wasn't rubbing her hot just the right way. Sexy son of a bitch...
In no time at all, he was lifting up into the air and booming away with a shockwave that blew at her fringe and exposed the glossy skin beneath, but she didn't care and so she skipped her usual rush to cover it up again. His spell was still bathing her like the moonlight on that small beach and in an obscured corner of her mind she knew that that was exactly the reason why he left so fast. Sexy and smart... dear God in heaven...
She didn't want to trust him. She didn't want to fall for his words or abide by his decisions, but here she was doing all of the above. And she was pretty much at peace with it.
A harsher gush made the scarce vegetation ruffle around her and she hugged herself for warmth. With a deep, final breath Videl turned around and slowly walked inside again, wasting no time to retrieve the cigarette pack she had tucked away in her jacket pocket. If Gohan came tomorrow without a new, full one he'd better not come at all because alien or no alien he would freaking die at her hands.
The click of the closing door behind her was all the sound on the otherwise silent living room where none of her three hosts were to be found anymore. She shrugged it off, not really in the mood for small talk anyway, and took the few steps to the nearest window, opening it up slightly. In a well practiced move, the small box in her hand was opened and closed and one of the sticks was dangling from her mouth, ready for duty. She put it back in her pocket and patted her jacket for her lighter, but it wasn't there, making her close her eyes and sigh in exasperation. A plan to search the premises was about to be formed in her head, but something beat her to it. Or someone.
Looking to her side, the blond woman from before was pointing right at her face and a single dot of light was sitting on the tip of her finger. Videl remembered the trick from when Gohan did the same for her while she was still caged back at Capsule Corp. and she leaned in, letting the little orb ignite her cigarette.
18 brought her hand down and grabbed one of the two bottles she was holding, silently extending the other one to Videl. The label read BEER so she took it without a word, following her hostess lead to look outside into the dimly lit night.
They drank quietly, hypnotized by the crashing waves and gurgling beer in their hands. The woman smelled nice she noticed, a hint of vanilla enveloping them both. There was something about her, about her presence, but nothing she could put her finger on. Like she was standing next to someone, but at the same time she wasn't. The previously comfortable silence was starting to feel heavy somehow and Videl decided to break it. Some random question would do the trick. "Where will I be sleeping?"
"Marron's room," 18 responded without a glance back. "Up the stairs to the left. Krillin went to move her into ours."
Videl nodded, assuming that Marron would be their daughter or something. She took a moment to consider if she'd thank the blond. Videl Satan would, just as certainly as Del Tan wouldn't, so... where did she fit right now? For the second time in her twenty-something years, Videl's life was spun around violently, leaving her aimless... again.
She didn't want to think about it though. It became something of a routine to ignore her feelings and the thoughts about herself and her life so now that she was more than ever forced to face them and to deal with them, it became somewhat overwhelming. It wasn't what she needed right now. Or ever.
"How do you know Gohan?" 18 asked, seemingly uninterested.
What could she respond? It wasn't like she wanted to be there in the first place, but she didn't really wanted to be thrown out anyway. And to where exactly? There was nothing but water for miles! She tried to remember how to be diplomatic and formulated her answer accordingly. "...it's complicated."
18 simply snorted, intensifying Videl's resident frown - if it was even possible.
"What?!" She asked.
"I met him after he killed a biologically engineered chimera that regurgitated me out of his body. That's complicated."
Videl stared at the other woman, not really sure if she'd heard her right. She had to be joking...right? There's more to this world than what meets the eye, the old man's words came to memory. She didn't really use to believe in aliens either - not before joining the agency - but there you have it. She was kissing one now.
"I tried to kill him," she finally admitted, low in tone and in volume. It wasn't like she was ashamed of it - it was her assignment at the time - but she didn't need the scolding as she didn't need pity or compassion, either.
"Many have tried," the blond woman responded without elaborating. It wasn't what Videl had expected to hear, she had to admit, but as she thought about it maybe it was just this woman's way of transmitting endearment, even if in a laconic, almost mechanical way.
"Yeah, it's a common offense," another voice added from behind them and Videl turned around to face the small man that was coming down the stairs. "I couldn't count them all with my two hands."
His words were lazily thrown around like they meant little or nothing and it kind of took her aback. That couldn't be true. She knew Gohan wasn't exactly "normal" and his power was something she didn't quite understand to its fullest extent, but the guy wasn't even near his thirties! How could he have gotten so many threats to his life like that? Sure, he had an important job within an important company that dealt with a sensitive, precious commodity, but even so. There's more to this world than what meets the eye. Damn it old man...
Videl stalked Krillin as he entered the kitchen area and heard him move stuff around, clinking and clanking as he went. Her mind wandered, fueled by her curiosity more than anything else. Who, when, and why. In what seemed like an instant Krillin was back and sat at the table next to the two women, drinking what her sense of smell decided was strong, freshly brewed coffee.
Its aroma was quick to take over the whole room and she found herself craving for a cup. She must have been staring back at the man's own cup because he stood up and said through a small smile "I'll get you one."
Her cigarette was but a stub and she pressed it against the outside ledge of the window. Suddenly she stopped, just before her next move, one that would come absentmindedly, but that was now freezing her in place. What should she do with the butt? The indecisiveness scared her since it was definitely not something Del Tan would allow in any way. She was actually thinking it wasn't polite to toss it outside to her hosts' front yard, an action she couldn't care enough to even register doing before. Videl stared at it like she didn't really know what it was when a faint click sound brought her back to reality.
The blond woman had closed the window and without request or suggestion took the thing from her hand and tossed it into a nearby trash can, taking a seat and a cup next to the small man - who had apparently returned from the kitchen himself.
A lonely cup of coffee was sitting across from them, steaming and waiting for her, so she obliged to it and sat down, slowly, wrapping her hands around it for warmth.
Videl looked down at the dark liquid and focused on how her soft breaths disturbed the milky vapor into whirlwinds. She was changing, as they were. After all that she'd learned about the agency and about that worthless piece of shit that used to be her boss, she knew her life would never be the same again. She'd killed for him and as it turned out, not every one of her targets deserved the fate he attributed. It caused her stomach to churn and what was left of her heart to clench, but the revenge that she would die to have would help quench the fire. Or so she hoped.
But then what? She didn't even know who she was right now let alone what she was becoming. Was she bringing Videl Satan back from the dead? Was she softening Del Tan's innate frown? Or was she turning into something else entirely? How would she know? When? Her mind knotted yet again and she closed her eyes for a second, only reopening them with the voice of the man she now knew as Krillin.
"You must have a whole bunch of questions, huh?" he asked and she hurried to look up at him. He must have read it in her features that her mind was running haywire and even if the subject wasn't the one he presumed, it was still bugging her immensely, so... she took the bait, nodding.
"What do you want to know?"
"What happened to the aliens, eighteen years ago?"
"One died, one lived." Krillin responded after thinking for a moment and looking up to the ceiling as one does when accessing distant memories. Eighteen years was a long time ago indeed.
"Where's the one who lived?" She continued.
"He lives at Capsule Corp. His name is Vegeta."
Videl's eyes widened severely at the mentioning of that... man. No, that was not the proper noun - there was nothing humane about him.
Krillin chuckled quietly. "I see you've met him."
She didn't respond, discarding the shiver down her spine and moving along, adamant to milk this opportunity for all that it would give her. "How about Gohan's father?"
The small man's features lowered into a light frown and for a moment Videl thought she'd ruined her chance of getting more answers, taking notice of how she'd hit some sort of a nerve.
"Goku died a long time ago," he said softly.
"He was an alien too, right? Like the others?"
"He was not like the others!" Krillin snapped, his scowl now controlled and tightened defensively. A deep, calming breath brought him back to normal after a moment, his tone low and solemn. "They were from the same alien race, but he was a kind, amazing man. He was my best friend and the best thing that ever happened to this planet so please, don't compare them."
Sheesh... ok. Some sort of a man crush going on there, Videl thought and promptly put behind her, proceeding to face the blond woman that kept staring profusely at her. Was she even blinking?! "So, is this the ET club headquarters or something?"
"Err... what do you mean?" Krillin asked, confused.
"She did that thing with her finger. Gohan did that too so I assume she's one of them," Videl explained, looking for nothing else than confirmation of her theory, since it was the only rational justification.
The former monk was even more confused than before and quietly addressed his wife. "What did you do with your finger?"
"I lit her cigarette," 18 answered without removing her cold blue eyes from the ones that stared back.
"Oh, that!" Krillin finally grasped. "No, anyone can do that. See?" His index finger pointed up and sure enough, a small dot of light appeared hovering above it.
Anyone can do it...? Really...? She sure couldn't and her father couldn't either, Videl was sure of it. A weird feeling ran up her spine and clenched her gut like her brain was trying to tell her something that she wasn't being able to see. Her father... he wasn't capable of doing those fireball thingies and he sure couldn't fly without a backpack or something. Videl's mind lost itself in the shiny orb like it was hypnotizing her, talking to her. Her father couldn't... but the others could - the fighters at the Cell games. The pieces of the puzzle started aligning through the cobwebs of that specific part of her memory and the dots connected, one after another and another, only to culminate in a blanched expression that came from the only logical conclusion... he couldn't have done it.
"Are you ok?" Krillin asked, genuinely concerned. She didn't really know the answer to that question, although she was feeling a little bit light headed even if her pride would never let her admit it. A sip of coffee would do it she thought, trying to remember what it was that coffee did to blood pressure exactly. She was mostly certain it helped increase it.
Quickly, she decided to evade the question with another one and let that bomb of a realization for later. It couldn't be true... Her father wouldn't have lied about such a thing. He was a good, honest man even if it ended up rubbing on infuriating at times. No, she wouldn't believe it. Not until he told her so. Or Gohan... yes, she had to hear it from Gohan's very own mouth and he was going to tell her the truth. The whole truth. Her mind produced yet another random inquiry and she placed it as naturally as she mustered, pointing over her shoulder with her thumb. "Who's the old man?" Her damn voice cracked...
"Who, Master Roshi? He's the founder of the Eternal Turtle School of Martial Arts," Krillin explained.
The Turtle School, of course! Her eyes rolled up in annoyance for not being able to remember it all by herself. That obsolete "Way of the Turtle," or whatever that was. She thought the old man had died already.! She remembered seeing his picture in some crinkly old book - the Tenkaichi Budokai's... something something - and he already looked only a few weeks away from kicking the bucket, then! She couldn't help but feel impressed though... and a little creeped out.
"Was Gohan his student?" She asked.
"Not directly, but his father was and he was one of Gohan's teachers, so... in a way, yes," the small man clarified and his choice of words spiked her curiosity.
"One of Gohan's teachers? Who are the others?" Videl pursued and she must have used that specific tone of voice that she normally did when trying to "persuade" random individuals for intel, because his body language changed dramatically. Anxiety, uneasiness, doubt. Her frown deepened to press it further. Now she really wanted to know.
"Hmm," Krillin hesitated, "maybe you should ask Gohan that."
"Why? If you know it, tell me."
"It's... not that simple," he muttered.
"Give me a break! I saw people shape-shifting into all sorts of creatures when I was in the agency. Nothing surprises me anymore," Videl said, although "surprises" wasn't the best word. It wasn't like those things didn't amaze her... she just didn't make a big fuss about them anymore. Maybe "jaded" was more suitable.
Krillin sighed, looking over to the blond woman as if silently asking for her opinion. She didn't respond - or move for that matter - but he talked anyway, albeit in a rush. "His name is Piccolo and he's an enormous green alien from a planet called Namek." He paused. "Also he has antennae."
The young woman just stared at him, blinking and skeptical. "... a green man from outer space. Really?"
"A big green man, yes."
A short lived staring match ensued, but she was quick to shoot it down with a glimpse of her growing frustration. "How original... You don't have to make stuff up, you know?"
"Why is that harder to believe than the Saiyans transforming into giant apes when they look at the moon?!"
"What?!" Videl shrieked, something completely unbecoming of her.
The man's eyes widened severely to match her own, surprise and shock more than evident, but obviously for different reasons. "Oh, no, no, don't worry. Gohan had his tail cut off years ago! It doesn't happen anymore."
This time she tried to control the pitchiness, but managed only barely. "Tail?! What tail?!"
"Oh, boy..." Krillin whispered to himself.
"Everything you think you know about life," 18 interjected abruptly, droning her words, "Gohan knows ten times more than that because he lived ten times more. There is a lot that you don't know and that you will probably never understand but either way," she paused as she stood up, "you should ask him about it."
Her words would cause Videl to be offended - and show it - but coming from this woman she couldn't avoid actually believing them. Maybe it was her authoritative tone or the way she carried herself - "efficiently" was the most suitable adjective. Every action and every word, meticulously calculated and proficiently delivered. How could she not believe what she was saying? Her previous joke about being regurgitated by... something came to mind, but Videl just added that to the extensive mental list she was carving out for Gohan, watching the couple take their leave with some sounds she assumed to be their good nights and a couple of further instructions on how to operate around their home. She'd figure it out.
Her coffee was cold now so she stood up towards the kitchen to pour the rest down the drain, only to stop in her tracks as she reached the archway. That damn feeling again... like she was second guessing herself, like she suddenly was not comfortable anymore with the actions her own body was taking as per instinct. She walked back after a sigh and took the other two empty cups.
It was only polite.