Author's Note: Takes place in the time period where everyone is training in preparation for the androids to arrive.
Rivalry and Friendship
A quiet moment, after they were both too exhausted to do anything but lay in the grass side by side. Both of them panted, covered with sweat, grinning at the feeling of pleasant emptiness at the physical exertion.
Goku moved first, struggling with his weighted shirt. Now that he'd used up most of his ki, it was almost too heavy for him to move. Or breathe. He managed to pull off both layers, and flopped back onto the grass bare from the waist up. He closed his eyes and breathed deep, enjoying the breeze on his overheated skin.
Bejita watched him, squinting against a droplet of sweat that wanted to fall into his eye.
Goku, sensing the scrutiny after a few minutes, rolled his head to the side and looked at Bejita.
"I don't hate you, you know," Bejita said. "Whatever it is you think."
Goku was puzzled by this. "Um…"
Bejita sighed and looked up at the sky, watching wind whip the clouds along across the blue expanse. "It's not personal."
Goku opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He decided to be silent.
Bejita glanced at him, assuming that Goku hadn't followed the conversation. "Our rivalry."
Goku stared at him. "Huh?"
Bejita sighed and looked away. "If you could remember, you'd know hatred is not why I want to kill you. That's just the way it is. In our culture. If you meet someone stronger than you, you have to vow to kill them. Someday, you have to surpass them. Or else you're not a man." He realized by now through observations of Goku and his friends that Earth's culture did not work this way. Or at least, the culture among these islands was not the same.
He studied the clouds. "I never thought I would find myself in this position. I thought I was the strongest. But becoming your rival has brought me meaning."
Goku was silent, awed. Finally, he said, "So you're telling me that Sayajin don't have friends?"
"Friends?" Bejita frowned at him. "That word is a constant source of irritation to me."
Goku flinched and looked away.
"Just listen," Bejita said. "I am not trying to be rude. Nor do I reject categorically the concept that you have grown up with."
Goku reluctantly met his gaze.
"I don't know what friendship is," Bejita said. "You have to remember that this is not my native language, nor my native culture. I simply have not found sufficient information to tell me what a 'friend' is." He glanced away. "We've been a little busy to squabble over simple definitions."
"I'm sorry, Bejita." Goku looked at Bejita anxiously. "I'll tell you what a friend is."
Bejita snorted and smiled at him ruefully. "If you can. I wonder. Many concepts seemed ingrained in culture. Perhaps friendship is something I will never understand from you humans. Or in your case, adopted human. So much of what we learn is nurture, over nature. You are proof of that." He added lightly, "Perhaps I should hit myself on the head and start anew, fresh, clean slate."
"Don't say that," Goku said. "Please. If I can't explain right away, I'll just keep trying until I can explain what a friend is."
Bejita felt he should have known this would be the result. "Very well. If this is to be another challenge to you, I will allow you to explain until the concept of friendship is sufficiently understood."
Goku grinned. "Thank you, Bejita!"
Bejita rolled his eyes and smiled up at the sky. "You can't let anything go, can you?"
"Nope," Goku said cheerfully. He rolled onto his side towards Bejita and rested his head in his hand, propping his elbow up on the ground. "Friendship is the most wonderful feeling in the world. It's when you love someone. And no matter what happens, you always want to protect them. You could disagree, you could argue, you could even be mad at each other. But when there's trouble, you rush to their aid. Because it doesn't matter what you argued about. You still love each other." He beamed. "That's what a friend is, Bejita."
Bejita blushed at that description and glanced away, avoiding Goku's sparkly-eyed gaze. "Are…Are you sure?"
Goku nodded. "Yup!"
"Love each other," Bejita muttered. "Kakkarot…doesn't that sound a little…romantic?"
Goku burst out laughing. "But friendship can be every romantic."
Bejita looked at Goku uncertainly. "Are you pulling my leg?"
"No," Goku protested. "It's true. This is what friendship is. It's all about love."
"It sounds unmanly," Bejita said, with the beginnings of a pout.
"It's the manliest thing in the world," Goku said. "All my friends are men. Except for Bulma. And she's almost a man, because she's really bitchy all the time!" He grinned. "She intimidates you, Bejita. Doesn't that make her manly?"
Bejita looked away with a shudder. "Yes."
Goku laughed. "So, you see? Love is really manly! Love is what makes you strong in battle, so that you can beat up all the badguys. Love is really strong. It's the ultimate motivation. If you love something, you don't want it to go away, after all. You'd do anything to keep whatever you love. And that's the essence of being manly!"
Bejita found it hard to argue with that. "So love is what gives you strength."
Goku nodded. "Superior love is superior strength. Hey, Bejita, maybe you're not as strong as me because you don't love enough."
Bejita glared at him, flushing angrily. "That's not –" He stopped himself. "You mean, expressing your love for people without shame is what makes you strong."
Goku nodded, puzzled. "Well, yeah. What good does it do to be ashamed?"
Bejita felt unusually vulnerable. "I…don't know," he admitted, looking away.
Goku shifted over so that he could wrap his arm around Bejita's waist. "Awww…Bejita's ashamed. Why, Bejita?" He snuggled against Bejita, resting his head on Bejita's chin.
Bejita would have normally tried to ki blast Goku in the face. He felt somehow it wasn't worth it at the moment. "I don't have anyone to love me," he mumbled. "It's not as simple as loving other people. If I don't get any love in return, there's no use to it. I would end up protecting everyone else while no one protects me."
Goku was flustered. "W-Well, that's not true. Lots of people love you, Bejita. I love you. I'd protect you, no matter what happens. And what about Bulma? She loves you enough. She's always trying to take stuff away from you before you hurt yourself."
"Bulma can't go into battle," Bejita said wryly.
Goku squeezed him. "I can, though. And I will. You know I will."
Bejita looked at him. That earnest face. "Kakkarot." He considered his words and took a deep breath. "You're alone. Alone as a person can be when it comes to people to protect you. Your 'friends' try and continually fail. Doesn't that mean they don't love you enough, by your own logic? What's the difference in that? If I'm not strong enough because I don't love enough, what's the problem with them?"
The light drained from Goku's expression. It was replaced by hurt.
Bejita immediately regretted what he'd said. "I didn't mean that. Forget I said that."
Goku hugged Bejita tightly, burying his face against Bejita's collarbone and crying.
Oh, crap. Bejita felt like a fool. "Kakkarot…"
"Every time I failed them, it was because I didn't love them enough," Goku choked out. "That's what I told myself. Because it was true. I could do it. I just had to love them enough. I had to love them enough to save them."
"Well…" Bejita felt awkward. A man – his rival – his friend? – crying on his shoulder was the most awkward, embarrassing thing he had ever experienced. "I wasn't trying to condemn you." He added. "If we're keeping score, I'm pretty sure they've failed you more times than you've failed them. If that's any consolation…"
"Strange kind of consolation." Goku sniffled. "That would mean we're all failures."
Bejita had severely underestimated his ineptitude. "Forget it. Forget everything I said."
Goku raised his head and looked at Bejita with red-rimmed eyes and a watery smile. "You…you're kind of funny when you're embarrassed."
Bejita's eye twitched. This time, he did fight back. He punched Goku in the head, relatively lightly, and sat up. "Get off of me." He gave Goku a shove. "Go eat dinner, or whatever it is you do with your family after you're done with me."
Goku sat up and got off of him, grinning. "Okay."
Bejita wondered if this strange give and take, this satire, this I-won't-kill-you-today, could possibly be friendship.