Disclaimer: I do not own Dragonball Z.
Author's Notes: So, here's my yearly installment… Really, I don't mean for this to keep on being a yearly thing. I make no excuses. Just know that, as you're reading this chapter, I'm starting on the next one while I still have time.
Chapter 51: Live to Fight
Vegeta wished he could say he'd never run away from a fight in his life. It would almost make his decision a bit more… momentous. However, he could not say that. In fact, running away used to be a pattern for him. It used to be the only way he could stay alive. Hell, he'd even tried to run away from Frieza in that final battle, even when he knew it was pointless.
Or maybe this was momentous, since he wasn't running out of fear.
Vegeta knew a battle was raging in the ever-growing distance behind him, but he tuned it out. He just couldn't concentrate on that right now. He did, however, know that the leech had had a power burst and Goten was starting to do right horribly.
Damn. And I really thought the boy could handle this.
Of course, if he thought Goten could take out the leech, then why had Vegeta resorted to this?
Finally, the house loomed in sight. It was a small house, and seemed to Vegeta too small for the people who lived inside. Every resident of that house was larger-than-life in some way. Vegeta would certainly never be able to live in something that small. It would be like being in a spacepod all over again.
When he landed he suddenly realized how incredibly horrible he felt. Every bone ached. Every muscle felt torn in two. And all this from a simple beating. It hadn't even been as bad as some that Frieza could dish out. He knew he was getting older, but damn. He slumped again the wooden door with a thud, and then hit the ground hard when the door flung open.
"Dad! Are you okay!"
Vegeta was suddenly particularly aware of a teenage girl pouncing on him. He didn't remember Bra being strong enough to hurt him this much, but he also didn't remember being this injured.
"Fine, Bra. Now if you don't mind, my chest is about to collapse." Vegeta kept this as good-natured as possible with her knees digging into his stomach.
Vegeta sort of lost track of things for a few minutes, and woke up to find himself propped in a chair and with the distinctly horrid taste of senzu in his mouth. Bulma was staring at him, trying not to look so relieved. She must have really been worried.
"What have I said about almost dying?" Bulma said in her best mock mom voice.
"Blame your offspring," Vegeta shot back. From his vantage point he could see Pan and Videl slumped over a couch, with Bra and Chichi trying to wake them up. "What happened to them?"
"Thought you could tell us," Bulma said quietly.
Vegeta hauled himself up, completely ignoring Bulma's restraining hand. He hadn't come here merely for a patch-up. "The leech. He probably sucked their power before, so I guess he can do it again from a distance. If you have more senzu, I suggest giving it to them quickly."
"How's my son doing?" Chichi asked abruptly. Bra was taking care of the women with extra senzu. "I know he's alive now."
"He's fine," Vegeta lied. "Fighting the leech right now. It should be over soon. But… just in case, where's Kakarrot?"
Chichi possibly knew that Vegeta was lying, but didn't take him up for it. "By the lake. As usual. Vegeta, there's no way… I've tried…"
"Kakarrot's had a year. Now he's getting over it."
Vegeta found the small path to the lake (he knew Kakarrot's house more than he'd care to admit). Before he took the path, Bulma caught up to him, unintentionally slamming the door.
"It's bad, isn't it," Bulma said.
Vegeta almost laughed. "What do you think, woman? I'm going to Kakarrot for help."
In an impulse, Vegeta went to Bulma and kissed her lightly. Not enough to lead Bulma to believe they were all going to die, but enough.
As he walked down the path, Bulma called out after him, "Don't die, okay?"
Vegeta didn't respond. Bulma would know how he felt anyway.
The path to the lake was well-cleared and only mildly steep going down. Vegeta remembered when he and Kakarrot had once sparred by the lake and completely destroyed the little path. Vegeta didn't know how she did it, but Chichi made him spend the entire weekend with Kakarrot just repairing the path.
Kakarrot looked like he was meditating. He was sitting, legs crossed, facing the lake. His back was ram-rod straight, and Vegeta sensed the tension in the air starting several feet away from Kakarrot.
Kakarrot was sensing the battle and could only just stay where he was.
"Enjoying the scenery, Kakarrot?" Vegeta began snidely. Sometimes just being irreverent was enough to set Kakarrot off. Vegeta had seen sides of Kakarrot that few had ever seen. Probably no one but Vegeta knew that sometimes Kakarrot could just get plain pissy, especially with Vegeta.
"Get the hell out of here, Vegeta," Kakarrot said warningly.
Vegeta smirked. This would be easier than he thought. "And miss all the action? Look… I think I saw a fish jump."
Kakarrot didn't answer.
Vegeta crossed his arms and sighed. Why did he always have to play psychologist to the Son family? As his daughter would say, that was a family with too much drama.
Goten wiped the blood off his face. There'd been a close call when the leech had almost used the dagger again him, but Goten had gotten control in the last minute. A momentary control.
Goten stood for a second, catching his breath. He was slightly grateful and slightly insulted that the leech merely watched him, allowing this momentary pause. The leech was crackling with energy. If he had taken more than his body could handle, the leech wasn't showing signs of that. Instead, he was casually tossing a ki ball in the air with one hand.
Goten grabbed his shoulder suddenly. The leech had hit him with the ki ball without him even seeing.
"Are you ready yet? I'm getting rather bored. Or would you rather be a stationary target?" The leech smiled at his own witticism. He was obviously enjoying himself.
"Don't think you've won already," Goten shot back. "I have power you've never even dreamed of."
Goten rushed at him suddenly, but the leech merely kicked him down as if he was expecting that.
"When are you people going to get it through your thick skulls that power isn't everything!" the leech exclaimed. "Not in the long run. I mean, look at me. I have the ability to suck the energy out of anything that breathes. And what do I do?"
Goten staggered back. That kick hurt him far more than he'd care to admit. He bided his time while the leech rambled.
"I'll tell you what I do. I take a year out of my life just for your son. To teach him. To form a relationship. Yes, a lot of it was about power. Since you've obviously been trained by a leech-fighter, you know that. But it wasn't the power that mattered. If it was, I might have taken you."
Goten shook his head. "You needed someone who could be easily influenced. Someone young."
The leech grinned. "Boy, you're an infant compared to me. The Buu-monster over there is at least a young adult compared to me. I am eternal. Older than the gods… or any gods living. So you might want to clam up and learn a little from your elders, like your son did."
Goten was frantically looking for a window to attack. He couldn't find any. The leech, no matter how caught up in his monologue, was completely on guard.
"My son would never turn to you," Goten spat back frantically. "He may have done what he needed to do to survive, but don't think for a minute that you have his loyalty. You can't just let him stay up late a few times… maybe give him extra cookies… and expect him to kill his father."
A high-pitched shriek rent the air. Both men turned to behold Jiten, pulsing with power, holding Buu by his head appendage.
"If that's what you think of me, father, you don't even know me."
Goten was barely aware when his knees gave way under him. Jiten calmly passed Goten and walked to the leech, sharing in the newly-acquired power. A field grew around the two, encasing them in power as they incorporated the ki into their own.
"With you and Mom, I was never good enough," Jiten continued. "I was always bad or incompetent. No matter how hard I tried or how much I improved in fighting, I was never good enough. You never let me grow. It was all about you and Mom. And anytime I had something to say, or had an idea, it didn't matter. My point of view didn't matter because I was a baby." Jiten looked at the leech pointedly. "I'm not a baby anymore. You can't make me feel bad anymore."
It was Jiten saying those words. Jiten, looking at him square in the eyes.
"I've already pledged my loyalty to Hoja, my master."
Goten couldn't even say anything. Instead, he dropped the knife, defeated.
"Can't you tell what's going on, Kakarrot? You can read it as well as I can."
"And losing," Vegeta finished for him. "And Jiten just joined the fray, draining Buu in the bargain. Kakarrot, the leech is getting stronger by the minute, and your son can't handle what's going on. Yes, he's strong, but he can't fight this alone."
Goku surged to his feet in a fit of energy. "So, whatever I do, it's wrong. That's it, isn't it? If I stay here, I'll be letting the leech kill my son and who knows who else. And if I join the fighting, I'll just hurt somebody else."
"Welcome to life, Kakarrot!" Vegeta was encouraged, though. At least Kakarrot was standing up. "That's what happens. We hurt each other. We can't help it. It's the nature of all living beings. But if we do nothing, we can't do any good, either."
Vegeta couldn't believe what he was saying.
Kakarrot laughed. "I can't believe what you're saying… you of all people…"
"Yes! Me of all people! Definitely me of all people. I have dealt pain beyond anything your limited mind can comprehend. Do you realize how many people I've killed in my lifetime? Women… children… little asexual creatures… I've done it all. But you don't see me shying away from a fight. You don't see me hiding myself away."
"Aren't you?" Kakarrot demanded.
Vegeta eyed him dangerously. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Kakarrot shrugged. "I mean, you keep complaining about being trapped on this mudball of a planet. Well, you're not trapped. Bulma has plenty of spacecrafts. In fact, that gravity chamber is a spacecraft. I took one myself to Namek; it's comfortable. What's holding you here… Bulma? Take her with you! She'd love to just retire completely and go off into space. In fact, she's complained to Chichi about you always shut down whenever she suggests just that."
Vegeta just glared. "Since when did it come to my problems, O Depressed One?"
"You were calling me a coward when you're really the coward. You don't want to show your face, either because you're afraid of someone itching for payback… or because this is the only planet in the universe that doesn't hold you as a cold-blooded killer… because of me. You're afraid to leave my… protection."
Vegeta let the tirade wash over him with a smirk. "Interesting… I don't remember using the word… 'coward'… before. Freudian slip there?"
"Who-de-what-y?" Goku asked. He was frustrated that Vegeta wasn't storming off already.
Vegeta rolled his eyes and crossed his arms. "Read a book, why don't you? A Freudian slip means you said what you thought of yourself by accident, without any help from me."
Goku had had enough. He advanced to Vegeta, spiking his ki and using his superior height to his full advantage. A few inches away, he looked down into Vegeta's face. "Get… the fuck… out of here."
Vegeta smirked. "Why don't you push your head further up your ass if you like talking shit that much?"
In a blur of speed and power, Vegeta found himself on the ground feeling like his head had caved in.
"You don't know!" Goku yelled. "What he showed me? I've killed innocent people. My grandfather, for one… For years, I didn't know I was the monster who killed my grandfather."
"It happens," Vegeta said, pulling himself up. "You don't think there where ever any accidents with children on Vegeta-sei? I killed one of my bodyguards when I was two."
"There were innocent people in the Red Ribbon Army. Did I care? I just killed all of them."
"It doesn't matter!" Vegeta yelled. "Fuck, Kakarrot. This… is what kept you depressed all year? It doesn't matter what you do. Kakarrot… there's not an evil bone in you. That's what annoys me so much about you. Those… Red Ribbon people? They're the ones who killed those innocent people. And I know about evil armies that draft innocent people… I was in one! I was nine when I was drafted, and at the time, innocent. But just like those soldiers, I didn't have a chance. They were going along with it, following orders, just like I was. Imagine if someone had killed little innocent nine-year-old me. Imagine how many people wouldn't have died by my hand."
Goku shrugged. "But someone else would have just done it anyway…"
"Vegeta, you're not making sense."
Vegeta was ready to scream. "Kakarrot, what I'm trying to say is that it's useless to second-guess yourself. You can't know what would have changed if you had done anything differently. You can't know what would have happened if you'd tried to do anything differently with Jita."
"Just stop trying to be a hero," Vegeta continued. "Then you're only worried about how heroic you are. Hell, that's what Hercule does all the time, and look at him.
"You can only be what's true to you. Right now, you should be fighting, but you're not because you're paralyzed… afraid that you might screw something up. You really are a coward. And I'm done talking."
Vegeta began walking away.
Darjili landed before the others, eager to see Goten. What she saw was a Goten who wasn't doing very much, Buu down for the count, and Jiten and the leech looking very much more powerful than anything she'd ever seen in her life.
"Goten-sensei!" she yelled, running up to him.
He didn't respond.
"…What's going on?" she asked tentatively.
Goten still hadn't responded when Trunks landed right beside the two. "Darjili, I told you to stay behind with the others."
Darjili shrugged him off. "Danton and Krianan are staying with the dragonballs. What's the big?"
Pecon landed third. Trunks heaved a big sigh. "The big is… never mind." He turned his attention to Goten. "Goten, you all right?"
Goten jerked his head up, almost as if he hadn't noticed them until right then. "I've failed, Trunks."
Trunks laughed a bit. "What? You've barely even fought him. Haven't even gotten past the prelims."
"It doesn't matter. Jiten is loyal to him. I've failed."
Trunks wanted to hit his friend. He wanted to snap Goten out of it. He wanted to tell him that they still had a wish on the dragonballs, and that they still had plenty of fight and fighters, and that Goten just needed to get over himself.
"Screw that," Trunks spat out. He didn't have the time. The world didn't have the time.
"Hey ugly!" he yelled, angling himself in front of Goten so at least the leech wouldn't focus on his defeated friend.
The leech looked over casually at the newcomer.
"Yeah, I'm talking to you. Think you've won? Think you've drained me of my power? We haven't even gotten this started good!"
The leech got up slowly. Jiten remained where he was, yet watched his master closely, obviously ready to step in the fight whenever he was needed.
"Haven't you had enough, little Saiyan? Shouldn't you be in the boardroom, not the battlefield?"
Trunks shrugged. "Same dif. And I'm about to negotiate the life right out of you."
The barrier dissipated. Trunks kept on his toes, really not wanting to make the first move. He just wasn't confident enough.
The leech didn't look like he was going to attack, anyway. He looked more in the talking mood. "Really, what's the deal with this planet? I mean, I was prepared to get a lot of power, but this is crazy-ville. Who's come to attack me? A long-out-of-practice demi-Saiyan – one of the weakest – and a couple of humans. All the other strong fighters have either given up or run away. You people had a year to prepare. Did you do nothing? I wanted a fight, but this is just sad."
"For someone who wants a fight so much, you just keep talking," Pecon interjected.
The leech clapped his hands decisively. "Right. Let's fight. Whatever."
With that, the world seemed to explode.
Vegeta paused. He smiled. Ten seconds exactly.
"What makes you think we're going to win?" Goku asked reluctantly. He was stubbornly staring away from Vegeta.
Vegeta shrugged. "Nothing. We might die. If we wait longer, we're probably going to die. We don't know how to get Jiten away from the leech, and he just might be lost forever. I did what I could with him, and that has to be enough."
Vegeta rolled his eyes. "Kakarrot, I'm tired of being your counselor. If you're in, you're in. I'm getting bored around here, and I know you are, too. We're in it for the fight, psychosis be damned. Are you in?"
"I don't suppose you have a plan to back up your insults," Goku said.
Vegeta frowned. This was the part of the plan that was least fun. "Let me give you a hint. It begins with an F and ends with an N."
"Fusion!" Goku's voiced changed pitch about five times.
"Right now, neither of us are a match. Together… fused," he spat out the word, "even I have to admit we're much stronger. The fight with the leech has gone on too long. We need to end it now."
"But we don't have the earrings…"
"I've seen out kids do that fucking dance a million times. I hate to admit it, but it's the best solution."
Goku still hesitated.
Miles and miles away, he felt the fight begin again… or at least the leech fighting. The others were merely trying to stay alive.
He had not other choice.
The flight to the battle ground was short. The two Saiyans weren't conserving energy since they knew when they fused they would have more than enough.
The fight was going badly, Goku could tell. Goten wasn't really fighting; mostly avoiding the fight. Trunks and the two Spider students were trying to fight, but nothing was getting in. And the leech wasn't even trying.
Why am I even coming to battle? Goku couldn't help but think. He'd sworn not to fight this time. He hadn't even exercised for a year. What did he expect to do?
I have no right to fight. I don't care what Vegeta says. I only hurt people whenever I fight. It's this urge to fight that killed the Red Ribbon Army – I could have easily stuck in and gotten the dragonballs. This urge killed my grandfather… I don't know how many times I almost killed him when I was a child. I hurt Chichi, Gohan, Goten… Everyone I love has been hurt by this stupid, mindless fighting. Why did the Saiyans become like this…
Goku looked over at his fellow Saiyan, who seemed entirely focused on the battle ahead. He loves fighting as much as I do, but he never really hurts anyone. Sure, at first, but he never really directly hurt Bulma and Trunks. Just people he didn't really care about. How does he manage it?
Goku suddenly realized Vegeta had stopped and was heading for the ground.
"Vegeta, we're not there yet," Goku said as he landed beside Vegeta.
"Do you think I want anyone to see us fuse? We do it now while there's plenty of time and no one looking. Plus, if we actually do screw this up, we can bide our time until we can try again."
Goku conceded. It made sense, and he probably would have thought of it if he weren't so preoccupied.
Goku assumed the familiar position. He may have been severely out of practice, but he never forgot a technique.
Fusion generally takes a relatively short amount of time. A bright flash of light and two people are instantaneously one. That's to outsiders. For the participants, there is a melding of consciousness that seems longer. Everything is at the speed of thought, but the thoughts are in real time.
Goku remembered the first time he'd fused with Vegeta. The Potera fusion held that same melding of consciousness. What he'd felt during the fusion was… strange, to say the least.
During the fusion, he'd seen his and Vegeta's earlier fight through different eyes. It was as if he had Vegeta's perspective for an instant. What he'd seen was betrayal. He'd sensed a lifetime of desperation for strength and power. While Goku had always had a chance to be strongest, Vegeta had always felt like he was the lowest when only a few people were stronger.
During fusion, the personality of the fusion is also established. It is usually a fair blending of the two, but it also leans more to one side, choosing a dominant personality, especially when the two personalities are fairly polarized. At the time, Goku had been preparing to enter the Potera fusion as the dominant. He didn't trust Vegeta to get the job done, or to try to save the children. However, when he'd experienced that moment of melding, he'd decided to give Vegeta the chance. Hence, Vejito.
Goku didn't know what to expect going in to this fusion. He didn't even know that memories so deep could resurface like this.
"But father, if we threw everything we had at defeating Frieza, including our allies, we would stand a chance. But we don't even try."
Goku wanted to shy away from this memory. It was obviously a private moment between the very young Vegeta, obviously pre-abduction, and King Vegeta. However, he felt like something was physically holding him there.
"At what risk, my son. The risk of the lives of every Saiyan alive? And still we might not win? That is too much to ask of our people. We bide our time and learn to fight another day."
"But that's not the Saiyan way, father."
King Vegeta laughed. "You still have a lot to learn about the Saiyan way. Tell me, what is the defining characteristic of Saiyans?"
Vegeta shrugged. "Besides the tail thing… we love to fight?"
"Exactly. But why do we fight?"
Vegeta scrunched up his face. "Is this a test?"
"Just fighting to be fighting is meaningless. It's empty. Except for the empty goal of getting stronger, we don't gain anything from it.
"We do it for love…"
"I lost sight of that, Kakarrot… just as you have."
The words came unbidden in Goku's mind, just as his mind was combining with another. Goku didn't have time to think about it. He didn't have time to sort out the moral implications, or figure out the Saiyan way of life.
In that instance, before becoming all the way fused, he just accepted it.
Pecon was unconscious. Darjili was still trying to fight, but she hadn't seemed to realize she had a broken arm. Trunks was just trying to keep his wits about him while attacks came from all sides.
And Goten was fighting again.
"I thought you were down for the count," Trunks said tightly through the pain.
Goten had his back against his, trying to fend off at least half of the attacks. "Sorry about that. I guess I sort of…"
Goten laughed. "Kind of stupid, wasn't it?"
Trunks didn't respond.
"… I guess I couldn't stand watching all of this."
Trunks sighed. "I can't blame you for wanting to give up. But now's go time. You were in the afterlife for a year. Yes, you're stronger, but surely you have something else up your sleeve."
Goten smelled burned hair. He wondered whose it was. "I have… something. But I need time. I need to get inside the leech's head, but I can't do it with him concentrating on me even a little bit."
Trunks fell down from a blast that struck home and immediately got back up. "Wish I could help you."
"You need diversion?" Goten heard two voices ask. Goten looked around and then realized the voices were inside his mind.
"D-dad? Vegeta? Dad?" he asked telepathically. He was glad for all the psychic training – he didn't even have to break his concentration.
"Yes and yes," the voices came back. "I'm about to step in. Make sure you're ready."
Goten's eyes widened. He grabbed Trunks's arm. "I think we need to duck."
The attacks ended and the black sky turned white.
When the smoke cleared, the leech was picking himself up and dusting off. "Well, I was wondering when the real power would get here."
A Saiyan entity, crackling with power, stood in the middle of the battlefield turned wasteland. The figure smirked and said with double voice, "You're lying. You had no idea I'd be coming."
The leech frowned. "Wait… you're not just Goku."
"I'm not just anything. I'm everything. I'm the man who's going to kill you."
"Watch out, master," Jiten yelled, "it's a fusion!"
The leech smiled. "Thank you, Jiten. I had figured that one out. Well, what's next… I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name. I can't just call you Vegeta… or Goku, for that matter…"
The fusion straightened his yellow and black vest. "Name's Gogeta. And, next? We fight."
The leech seemed to slump in frustration. "What is it with you Saiyans? All you live for is fighting. Don't you ever get tired of it?"
Gogeta smirked. "Sometimes. But it's been a long time and I'm itching for a good fight… and maybe some payback to go along with it."
Jita looked over her shoulder at Shin. "How much time left for quarantine?"
Shin looked up, as if consulting the barrier. "A little less than an hour. Why do you ask?"
Jita grinned. "I may get there in enough time after all."
Dark Wolf: I did prove you wrong. It's not November, is it! Ha-ha! Well, my hard drive crashed before, so it would have been November otherwise. Anyway, luv ya!
Ilex9: Gogeta smash! (I was so tempted…) Anyway, if you like hubris, here's more!
PannyGirl: I just finished watching YuYu Hakusho (it took me forever to download… I mean BUY, of course… don't arrest me…). I guess that strangely got me back into the DBZ fanfiction mood. I guess it's the sheer amount of drama… Anyway, I haven't quit yet!
Crazed fanatic anime fan: I'm glad to have rekindled your lost love of DBZ.
Shahi1990: Sometimes one must wait.
Lady Gryffin: Yes, it does suck to be Jiten.