Eighteen has something disturbing to tell Krillin that she is sure will be the end of their fragile relationship. But she underestimates the strength of his devotion to her.
"Man, when he spit you out, it was the grossest… thing… I've ever…"
Yamcha trailed off as Eighteen got up and left, very abruptly. His laughing expression morphed into worry, and he looked at Krillin.
"I didn't mean to offend her or anything," he said apologetically. Krillin was gazing out the window at the woman stalking towards the edge of the sea.
"I don't think she likes talking about Cell," he murmured, and then excused himself and followed her outside.
It was a gray, stormy day, late in the afternoon. The sea was restless, and Eighteen was standing just outside the reach of the waves. Krillin approached her with trepidation, though he did not let his hesitation transfer to his footsteps.
"Hey, babe," he said when he was in earshot, and attempted to loop his arm around her waist. She pulled away slightly, and he dropped his arm, taking another few steps forward so he could see her face. She was staring pensively out to sea.
"I need to tell you something," she said in her low monotone.
"Okay," he said. She glanced at him, and then looked back at the house, before turning back to the sea.
"Not here," she added, and lifted off into the air. He followed her, concerned as he often was for her emotional wellbeing. In truth she was a very fragile person, though she hid it well behind indifference and disdain.
Once they were high in the air and well away from the house, she stopped and hovered above the clouds, eyes unfocused as she searched for any stray energies. Finding none, her eyes refocused on Krillin, and behind the mask her eyes were sad. He took her unspoken invitation when she drifted slightly towards him, and put his arms around her. She leaned her forehead against his and sighed.
"Cell…" she began, and it was a moment before she could speak again. "Dr. Gero created him using cells from all of you. I don't—" She leaned back slightly to look into his eyes. "I don't know how much you know about cloning, Krillin. But in order to create Cell Dr. Gero took that genetic material and put it inside an egg. An ovum." She swallowed. "My ovum."
She placed a long-fingered hand on her abdomen, almost absently and in much the same way that a pregnant woman might. Krillin's mouth dropped open, and he experienced anew the hatred and disgust he felt every time he thought about Dr. Gero and what he had done to the woman before him and her funny, violent, broken little brother. He pulled one arm back from around her to caress her face, but the moment he released her she darted back. In the tiny moment during which he could see her expression her eyes showed the protective emptiness that was her way of dealing with emotional pain. Then she jetted away.
Krillin hovered, frozen with shock, for one moment. He wondered absurdly if he should just give her space, something she had often requested during the early portion of their courtship. But he very quickly dismissed the idea, and blasted after her at top speed.
It was still difficult to sense Eighteen, not having the large, bright ki signatures of the other warriors that, when they weren't suppressing them, stood out against the backdrop that was the low, persistent glow of humanity like light bulbs. But having spent a lot of time with her in the past few months, he had grown to recognize the faint, unique pattern that was Android Eighteen, and out in the open, straining every sense, he found that it was possible to find her, despite the very large lead she already had on him.
Though Eighteen could not increase her battle power through training and practice, the way a human could, Krillin, a man who had been at the top of his prime for some time now, had already accepted that she would always be stronger than him—and this meant also that she was much, much faster than him. He strained against his limits, certain in the deepest part of himself that if he let her go now something would be irreparably broken between them, and just as unshakably certain that he could not bear to let that happen.
Krillin bumped up against his top speed and pushed, and found that he could go faster. His heart was doing something strange, beating sideways, almost, and unevenly, but he was gaining on her and that was all that mattered.
All he remembered later was tackling her in midair so hard he was afraid for the first time that he'd hurt her, and words were tumbling out of his mouth—I love you, I don't care about Cell, you're wonderful, please come back with me—and then he blacked out.
Eighteen caught him automatically as he fell, cradling him in her arms like a child. She could feel his heart still beating wildly against her cold skin, and then she felt it skip—and she was racing back to Kame House, heart in her mouth.
Roshi stood like a sentinel on the porch, expression grim.
"Bring him inside," he said, and turned to go inside himself. She set Krillin down on the couch, and Roshi crouched beside his pupil and bowed his head, concentrating. Eighteen felt disconnected from her body; and, distantly, as through hearing voices in another room, she could hear her jumbled thoughts: he's going to die; I think I love him; why did he have to push himself so hard; what is Roshi doing; I feel so useless just standing here; I'm going to kill him when he wakes up.
After forever had passed, Roshi straightened and turned to her.
"He'll be fine," he said. "He burned up most of his energy, so he'll need a lot of rest for the next week or so, but he should make a full recovery."
Eighteen felt her shoulders relax and thus realized that they had been up around her ears the whole time. Roshi pierced her with a knowing gaze.
"He really loves you, you know," he said. Her brain processed it as a non-sequitur.
"What?" she demanded stupidly. All she could think about was that Krillin was not lying there dying, that he was only sleeping, and she watched the rise and fall of his chest hungrily out of the corner of her eye.
"He loves you," Roshi repeated. "More than I think you realize. He's a strong lad, and he can take a lot of abuse, but he's only human. You need to remember that."
She glared at him, but he only stared back impassively from behind his shades and then went to the kitchen.
Krillin awoke all at once, with no lingering drowsiness clouding his mind, though his body felt heavy and he knew distantly that if he moved any of his muscles they would be painfully sore. He opened his eyes (eyelids burning) and saw Eighteen sitting next to him, eyes already boring into his.
"What is wrong with you?" she demanded.
"Good morning to you too, babe," he croaked. Her frown deepened.
"You really are a moron," she said, and as far as he had come in learning to read her, he still had no idea what was going on behind her impassive face. He attempted to sit up, and she placed a hand on his chest, pushing him back down. Even if he'd been at full strength, he still wouldn't have been able to resist that hand, so he settled back down on the bed, neck muscles screaming.
He maintained eye contact with her, though, and she stared defiantly back, as though daring him to do something. Krillin was coming to terms with the fact that this emotionally fragile woman needed him, and he was also, amazingly, beginning to see that what she needed from him was himself, nothing more.
"I love you, babe," he whispered, and she looked away first.
"You're not getting up for a week," she said eventually, taking his hand voluntarily. She looked at him again, and the love in her eyes did more to take his breath away than the soreness, and he squeezed her fingers as hard as he dared.
"Okay," he said.