Published: 1st March 2003
Disclaimers: DBZ is not mine… But this story is, even if it’s not intended for profit.
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::…communication over electronic equipment…::
Chapter 2: The Race
The next day…
Vegeta ran lightly along the forest floor, the dry leaves crunching beneath his feet in a regular cadence. The race was more than three-quarters through and he still felt energetic and strong, his breathing deep and even. The dark browns of the trunks of the local trees blurred as he sped past, dappled sunlight filtering through the dewy, green vaults of overlapping leaves. It was late afternoon, and the air was cool and fragrant with the fresh scents of blossoms and foliage.
He smirked as he took a quick glance at the modified scouter on his wrist. The small device was attached to his wrist with a strap, although the main display and user interface remained largely unchanged. He found it easier to move about without something partially obscuring one’s vision.
The small map on his display showed that he was among the few in the lead. Several small moving dots showed that a small group of the runners were already converging onto the Ridge. This was the last part of the run, and they were now weaving their way through the thick forests around the Ridge. All had entered the forests from different points, for there was no fixed route to follow and the participants were each only given a scouter that showed their positioning.
Slowing down slightly, he reached over his left shoulder for a small piece of light blue plastic. It was the mouthpiece that connected via a flexible hose to the water bag he carried on his back. As he sipped the liquid, warmed on his back by his exertions, he thought about his next step. The climb was the last part and also the most physically strenuous part of the race. Already, he could see the craggy, sheer face of the Ridge looming over the treetops, and he estimated that he should be there in less than ten minutes. He should drink most of his remaining water, leaving just enough for his climb up. Carrying weight over horizontal distances wasn’t as difficult as carrying the same weight up a vertical height.
With that thought in mind, Vegeta paused by a large tree and pulled down his shorts. ‘Might as well off-load any other excess weight now.’ He stared up idly at a couple of rodents on a low-hanging branch, which were chittering in annoyance at the intruder that had dared piss on their tree. ‘Haven’t seen this species before… Then again, I’ve been here two years and I’m still learning new things about the planet everyday.’
The rodents looked like the hamsters his daughter had kept when she was younger, only larger and furrier, with long tails like rats. They were about the size and shape of a small rice bowl and looked as if they could easily fit into the cup of his hand. Silvery stripes ran through their dark brown fur from the tip of their nose to the tail, and the effect was rather striking and beautiful.
As Vegeta pulled up his shorts and turned to leave, one of the rodents leapt from the branch and landed on the side of his right thigh, clinging on with tiny, but sharp, claws. ‘What the…?’ The annoyed prince was about to swat the offending pest off, when the cute furry creature sank its teeth into his bare skin. “Oww!!”
/Nothing, Kakarotto./ Vegeta cursed blisteringly as he closed his hand over the rodent, but the crunch of the tiny bones snapping did little to alleviate his extreme irritation. His tail had brushed out from his waist and was now lashing about angrily. /Just some little shit that bit me./
/Oh…/ There was a slight pause, and then the younger Saiyan spoke again. /Hey, you’re quite near me… Wanna climb up together?/
/If you wish. But I’m not waiting for you./
Vegeta gave the wound on his thigh a cursory examination. For such a small critter, it sure had very sharp teeth and even managed to draw quite a bit of blood. ‘Hm… I was not powered up, but even so…’ Still, the puncture wounds were hardly life-threatening. Scowling, he flung the dead rodent away and started running again.
/Heh… I know./ Goku chuckled. /I’ll see you soon./
As Vegeta ran on, he felt his mate’s ki approach rapidly. “You need not have sprinted here, Kakarotto.” He remarked dryly as the taller male joined him.
“I just wanted to get to you before you started climbing…” Goku panted with a grin. He pointed to the dark, grayish-black rock cliff ahead of them. “Look, we’re almost there.”
Suddenly, Vegeta hissed lowly as a sudden sharp pain lanced through his right thigh and he stumbled.
“Cramp…” His face twisted as the pain got steadily worse, and he was forced to stop. Goku came to a stop beside him as well and waited patiently for his mate to recover.
However, long seconds crawled by, and instead of recovering, Vegeta was starting to feel worse. It felt as if white-hot needles were jabbing him in his thigh, yet at the same time, a fuzzy numbness was creeping slowly outwards from the side of his thigh, leeching his strength away. Placing a hand out to brace himself against a tree trunk, he was shocked to find himself breaking out into a cold sweat. “This isn’t like any muscle cramp I’ve ever had before…”
Goku looked at the prince with alarm. “What do you mean?”
Vegeta clutched the side of his thigh as he leaned back against the tree and slid down to the ground with a thump, his right leg giving way. He recalled the bite from the small rodent with dismay. “Fuck… I think I’ve been envenomed.”
“By what?” Goku could see the four small pinpricks that marred the prince’s olive skin, just below the hem of his running shorts.
A sudden beeping from their scouters interrupted them. “Runners 5 and 9… Are you both ok?” It was a standard safety procedure; the mainframe that networked the scouters was able to detect if a runner stopped moving for more than three minutes, and the person monitoring would then check in to see if they required assistance.
“Hai… Just a cramp,” Vegeta replied irritably as he slapped his scouter in acknowledgement. “No help needed. Kakarotto is here with me.”
“Of course, ouji-sama.” The person on the other side recognized the prince’s voice right away. The red, blinking light on his scouter faded.
“The stupid rodent… that bit me…” Vegeta squeezed his thigh, hoping to get the wound bleeding again, but the blood had already clotted. The area was slightly red and puffy around the small puncture marks, already showing signs of an infection. With a snarl, he lanced the skin neatly with a tiny bit of ki to bleed the wound.
“Are you sure you don’t want to call for help? We don’t have any emergency equipment to draw out the venom.” Goku knelt down and examined the wound closely.
“No, I do not need help!” Vegeta’s eyes had narrowed into the familiar stubborn glare that his mate knew all too well.
A low growl was his only answer.
“…Hai.” Goku gave in with a sigh. ‘Damn him and his pride. Sometimes, I think I’ll never be able to understand him.’
“At least let me help you.” He had lived in the woods all his life and knew what to do. He crouched over the older Saiyan’s outstretched leg and placing both hands over the thigh around the wound, applied firm pressure.1 “This is going to hurt.”
“You’ve bitten me before.”
“Move your tail out of the way.” The auburn tail had instinctively coiled around the smaller Saiyan’s thigh almost protectively.
“Just hurry up and fucking suck me already!” He coiled his tail back around his waist.
Goku gave a laugh at that remark and then bit down. As he sucked out the envenomed blood, his hands were simultaneously squeezing along the thigh, working inwards and towards the copiously flowing wound. “Damn, I wish I had my belt or something to tie you up…” 2
He frowned as he spat out another mouthful of blood and saliva, taking care not to swallow any. The tall Saiyan was not wearing his customary loose gi, but was dressed in running shorts and tank top like everyone else. “I hope none of the poison has worked upwards.”
Vegeta had his own hands clamped down at the junction between his thigh and crotch where the femoral artery was. “Yeah…”
He groaned again as Goku bent to his task once more. Concerned, the younger stopped and asked, “Does it hurt?”
“No…” Vegeta lied weakly as he closed his eyes.
Meanwhile, in a hovercraft above the jungle…
“Have you checked in with the two who stopped yet, Jen?” Zarbon examined the screen which was scattered with little green dots, each representing a runner. “Hmm… They’re among the first few, almost to the Ridge.”
The young, red-skinned alien beside him nodded. “They are Vegeta-sama and his mate. The ouji said that he had a cramp and wouldn’t need assistance.”
“Your prince takes part in these Games as well?” One of the Dagoon delegates leaned forward with interest.
“Oh, yes!” Gion replied. The Dagoons were a portly race, and the more important one’s status, the less one had to move. Judging from the size of the Dagoon delegates, they appeared to be rather high up in their society’s social structure. In fact, Gion had only allowed two representatives aboard the hovercraft for safety reasons, each seated at opposite ends of the small craft. The Saiyans privately sneered at the Dagoons, for they respected physical prowess greatly. “Our prince and his mate are usually among the top few finishers, in fact.”
“Amazing!” The lanky Algeran ambassador remarked as he looked out the window of the covered craft at the lush expanse of the jungles below. “And your prince fights as well…?”
“None can beat him,” Gion boasted. Except Goku. But the foreign delegates did not need to hear that.
“Why is this dot still blinking?” Zarbon looked at the screen. “Ah… Goku must have forgotten to acknowledge his scouter.” He pressed one of the many buttons on the console, initially intending to contact Goku to ask him to turn his scouter communication link off.
Static crackled. It was almost as if something like a piece of fabric was rubbing over the microphone on the other side. Goku’s voice came over the intercom, ::This is going to hurt.::
And then the prince’s deeper baritone growled. ::You’ve bitten me before.::
::Move your tail out of the way.:: Zarbon could not stop the snicker that escaped him.
::Just hurry up and fucking suck me already!::
Everyone on the small, open-top, flying vehicle flushed as imaginations worked overtime. They heard Goku chuckling and then a very loud silence, broken up only by some groaning and slurping noises.
“Umm… right,” Zarbon chortled. “I think Prince Vegeta does not require our assistance for his …cramp.” He was about to reach over to turn off the intercom when Goku’s voice came over it again.
::Damn, I wish I had my belt or something to tie you up.::
“We really do not need to hear that.” Gion rolled his eyes just as Zarbon closed the communications line. He turned to the wide-eyed delegates. “Sorry about that.” Saiyans were famous throughout the galaxy for their lusty appetites, and the grizzled fighter sighed, knowing that their prince had just pushed that reputation up a notch. The elder grinned to himself. A notch? It was probably as legendary as their race’s Super Saiyan rumors and would probably get as outrageous once the delegates got home.
Zarbon coughed, interrupting the silence which resulted from the delegates’ embarrassment. “Well, bring us back to the Ridge, Jen. Even with the first two runners out of the picture, I think we’ll still see a finisher within the next hour.”
“Hai.” The young pilot grinned as he turned the craft around. He couldn’t wait to tell the others about this!
Vegeta leaned back against the tree trunk. Though his face was still pale, Goku could see color returning to his skin. “Feeling better?” He had sucked until the blood he spat out no longer contained any black streaks; he assumed the dark, blue-black liquid was the poison. Reaching for his own water bag, he rinsed out his mouth. 3
Vegeta nodded slowly, his eyes still closed. The pain in his thigh was receding rapidly, although his entire right leg still felt slightly numb. Already, he could feel his body’s immune system kicking in, and he had no doubt that even if there was any poison left in his blood, his body would be able to handle it.
“Shit… The race must have finished by now.” He had no idea how many minutes had lapsed, but it felt like a long time.
“Ah, don’t worry about that, Vegeta. Take your time, I’ll wait here with you.”
“I hate this…” Vegeta grouched. “Freaking hamster.”
“Hamster?” Startled, Goku just realized Vegeta hadn’t said what exactly had bitten him.
“It was a rodent, dark brown fur with silver streaks, that looked just like the hamsters Bra used to keep, only a bit bigger.” He indicated the size with his hands.
“Oh.” Goku frowned. “I’ve never seen anything like that before.”
“So? Neither have I.” Vegeta shrugged. “I’ll just tell the others to keep an eye out for these pests in the future. And tell the lab to come up with an antivenin.”
“Yeah, but I run in these forests all the time.” His brows drew together in concentration as he tried to recall. “How could I have missed seeing that?”
The tall Saiyan ran his hand through his black spikes in agitation. He probably spent more time than any of the other fighters training in the forests that surrounded the Ridge and considered himself to be the resident expert on the local wildlife. Goku had grown up in the open, natural areas back on Earth and loved the wild outdoors. Since coming to New Vegetasei, he had spent much of his time exploring the rich, exotic treasures of his new home.
“Why not? They are pretty small, and at the speeds you run, it’s unlikely you would have seen them.” Vegeta grunted and pushed himself off the ground. His right thigh was still ever so slightly numb, but it was nothing he couldn’t handle.
“You really shouldn’t be moving,” Goku fussed.4 “You don’t have to finish the race, I’ll stay with you…”
They ran in silence for a while, and then Goku suddenly teased with a grin, “Unlike you, I don’t run with horse blinders.”
“You know what I mean,” Goku said cheekily. The Earth-raised Saiyan was not as accustomed as the other ex-rebels to more confined spaces. He could not understand how Vegeta could spend so much time training in his gravity room when there were lush, open spaces outside. They had had this disagreement many times before, neither backing down from their own opinions.
“When I run, I notice stuff. If I had run past that rodent, I probably would have noticed it.”
“But you didn’t,” Vegeta retorted snidely.
“That’s not my point, Vegeeeta!” Goku exclaimed in exasperation. “I’m saying you should spend more time training outdoors, getting out from the stuffy gravity room.”
“It is called focus, Kakarotto,” The prince sniffed loftily. His right thigh still hurt and he wished his cheery mate would stop being so …chirpy. He childishly felt like giving a hard kick to the other's leg. Just for fairness's sake. “I concentrate when I train. And I do train outdoors.”
“Hunting. In fact, I probably have a more balanced training program than you, so shut up. Unlike you, I don’t stop to smell the roses and play with the squirrels.”
“Horse blinder,” Goku stated firmly. “See, that’s the difference. You have a training program. I just train.” They stopped as they reached the base of the cliff. Reaching up for a secure handhold, he prepared to hoist himself up. “You’re just so… so rigid!”
Vegeta did not reply, but instead stuck his tongue out at his mate and started climbing. Goku was so startled by the normally dour prince’s reaction that he missed his footing and slid down chortling.
“What’s so funny?” Vegeta turned to look down at his mate. He rolled his eyes and stuck out his tongue again. “Baka.”
“You!! Oh Kami!” Goku was rolling on the ground by now, his eyes tearing. “Your... your expression was just so kawaii!!”
Vegeta smirked and started to climb faster. He could hear the younger Saiyan howling in laughter as he rapidly increased the distance between them. Suddenly, the laughter stopped.
“Hey! That was a dirty trick! Wait for meeeee!!”
Vegeta hated to admit it, but his right leg was hurting like hell and he was panting so hard, he was starting to see white spots. The climb was much harder than he had thought it would be, and he knew he was still suffering from the after-effects of the venom. However, he adamantly refused to allow his mate to help him and slapped the proffered hand away defiantly.
/I don’t need your help, Kakarotto!/ Breathing too hard to talk, he still managed to doggedly push himself up and on.
/Why?/ The undercurrent of hurt in his mate’s question drove a wedge of guilt deep within him and sparked an ember of resentment from the black, bitter coal that had never really left him. He felt insulted; time and time again the younger surpassed him. And he always made it seem so easy.
/Why won’t you let me help you?/
Vegeta couldn’t really explain why; it was a matter of ego and pride and something more for him. He did not need, nor did he want anybody’s help. Nor did he want to explain why; it was personal, private… It was an integral part of him that was shaped by his past, for better or for worse, and a part of himself that he felt nobody had any business questioning or even knowing. Not even his mate. He was who he was. Kakarotto was raised in a totally different environment from him, carefree and humble and open. His anger flared; he did not need to explain himself!
/This is MY race,/ He growled finally when he took a breather, leaning his flushed cheek against the cool rock to glare at the younger male. /Go on ahead, Kakarotto./
/We’re not rivals anymore, Vegeta…/
He had no ready answer to that. It was the race, but it was not just the race. It was …everything. Kakarotto was his mate, and yet still his rival. He was the only one who kept besting him, yet at the same time, he was the only one who could challenge him and keep him going. ‘Goddammit!’ Vegeta muttered one last curse, took a deep breath and just kept climbing.
Goku was slightly hurt by the curt rebuffs, but he was also used to it. Gritting his teeth, he reminded himself that not only were the full moons making anyone with Saiyan blood edgy, but also that Vegeta was probably bad-tempered…more bad-tempered than usual because his leg hurt. He couldn’t help grinning a bit; he had noticed Vegeta favoring his right leg when climbing, though the prince stubbornly refused to say anything.
He gave a resigned sigh and prepared to continue. Looking up, he caught sight of the curvy, royal butt and promptly forgot his irritation as his attention was now captured by something more distracting. His tail waving cheerfully, he followed on below his prince.
The sun was low in the horizon by the time they pulled themselves up at the summit, almost hidden by the treetops, and the portable lamps that hovered over the open courtyards were faintly lit. These lamps had light meters that allowed them to adjust their power in accordance to the luminosity level of their surroundings. The moons were starting to rise as well, and the flattened, dark, rocky grounds were curiously illuminated by a mixture of warm amber from the setting sun, cool silver from the twin moons and a neutral ivory-white from the incandescent lamps.
Once they had crossed the finishing line and reported, they each grabbed a cool drink from the insulated boxes lying around and walked about slowly, looking at the times displayed on their scouters as they cooled down. Vegeta was limping imperceptibly as he favored his right leg, and he wondered in irritation why some of the hovercraft pilots who were idling near the finishing line were snickering at them.
To their surprise, they were among the top thirty finishers. It turned out that the winner, Koron, had only come in about twenty-five minutes ahead of them.
“Hn.” Vegeta had a smug smirk on his face as he examined the times. “I’m sure that if that hamster hadn’t bit me, I would have won.”
“You??” Goku looked insulted. “I was nearer the base of the cliff! In fact, I had to turn back to meet up with you!”
“Who won the last time?”
“That doesn’t mean you would have won this time.” Vegeta scowled. He just hated being reminded that he constantly lost to Kakarotto, even if the younger Saiyan was his mate. He crossed his arms in irritation as he glanced around. “Where’s Gion? Or Zarbon?”
Goku grinned, knowing he had won their little argument this time round. Feeling magnanimous, he threw an arm around the shorter prince’s shoulders. “Well, you might have won this time.”
“Don’t patronize me, Kakarotto,” Vegeta growled, pushing the arm off as he caught sight of a tall blue-skinned figure.
“Geta!” Goku hurried after his mate.
“Zarbon! I need to tell you something.” The miffed prince ignored his mate, who was hovering behind him.
Goku wrapped his arms around the prince’s slim waist, resting his chin on one broad shoulder as he crooned into the other’s ear. “Aww… Don’t get angry, koi…
“What is it about, Vegeta?” The blue-skinned male looked harried. Little tendrils of hair had slipped out of his normally immaculate braid as he kept flicking it over his shoulder.
“It’s about what happened in the forest…”
“Look, although I can be as much of a hentai as you Saiyans, I really do not have the time for it now,” Zarbon rolled his eyes impatiently as he interrupted Vegeta.
“Tell me later, ok? No, on second thought, don’t tell me about it. I really don’t need to know about your horny little escapades. Now I’ve got to go. A hundred and one little issues to settle… Maybe next time I’ll just run instead and leave Gion to handle all the administrative details.” He grumbled to himself as he stalked off.
“Horny?” Goku raised an eyebrow as he nibbled on a royal earlobe.
“Zarbon you ass! Get back here!”
1 Actually, mouth contact with venom isn’t advised, but we’re talking about macho Saiyans here. Putting firm pressure on the area to retard blood circulation has been found to be helpful though, but it depends on the type of venom.
2 A firm bandage on the wounded area, but not too firm to cut off all blood circulation is also recommended. A tourniquet is not recommended however.
3 It is not advised to rinse out the wound; venom samples may be collected from the skin for identification.
4 Heh. Goku’s right; the victim should not move but remain calm and prone.
Onto Chapter 3
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