Published: 16th November 2003
Disclaimers: DBZ is not mine… But this story is, even if it’s not intended for profit.
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Chapter 6: Dancing Around the Issue
The roar of the excited crowd was loud, even though there were no fights going on at the moment. Momo jostled her way back through the crowds down the steps to the benches where the competitors were, her arms laden with various sticky candies. As she tried to jump the barricade though, a burly guard caught her by the hair and pulled her back.
“No entry for non-competitors.”
“My friends are…”
“You are not a competitor.” The indigo-skinned bouncer looked pointedly at her wrist. All competitors wore a thin band doubling both as an identifier and a sensor that informed the referees if the fighter fell out of bounds of the competition arena.
“Look! They’re over there!” She waved a large stick of blue taffy in exasperation towards a trio of three amused males at a bench nearby.
“Sure, that’s what they all say.” He gave a long-suffering sigh and unlatched the gate. “Sorry, but no exceptions to the rule.”
“I’m going to tell the guard that….” Goku was about to stand up when Zarbon stopped him.
“Don’t bother.” Momo’s blue-skinned lover was grinning. “She can take care of herself.”
Goku was about to rebuke the Readan when a loud groan was heard. Turning his head, he saw the burly guard doubled up on the floor, clutching his groin. Zarbon and Vegeta simultaneously burst into loud laughter.
“Idiot! How dare you doubt my word,” the petite female hissed again and gave him another kick in his ribs for good measure. She was about to walk away when she remembered something. “Oh, by the way… “ The unfortunate fellow raised his head with a baleful glare, but his face paled to a light cerulean as she pointed with her blue taffy candy. “Those were the friends I was talking about. Goku may be a sweet dear but the prince has been known to have a very short temper.”
The Saiyan pair had easily advanced to the finals, literally mopping up their competitors and garnering quite a reputation. The other competitors kept a wide berth from the small pavilion where the Saiyan entourage sat.
Smirking in satisfaction, she sauntered over to the laughing males.
“Using my name in vain, onna?” Vegeta growled. Momo only smiled winsomely at him, batting her lashes. While she was definitely over her crush on the prince, she still flirted with him occasionally. ”I was complimenting you, dear prince.”
Zarbon pouted as she sat down beside him. “What? No mention of me?”
“Would you have jumped to my aid?”
“Well…” He grinned. “Not really.”
“Some lover.” She rolled her eyes. “Useless…”
“Only good in bed…”
Momo tapped her chin thoughtfully. “Are you? I’ve forgotten, perhaps you’ve to remind me again.”
“Watch your mouth, onna.” Zarbon’s response was a growl and a crushing hug that left his petite lover squeaking and breathless. “But you wouldn’t have wanted me to step in anyway….”
“Of course not. I am no weakling; I can easily handle that bozo.” Momo took a delicate bite of the blue taffy, puffing. Zarbon laughed fondly as he snaked an arm around her waist and rubbed her hip lightly as they continued their mild bantering. The two were surprisingly well matched and displayed the easy behavior of a long-time couple. The small-sized Saiyan might appear giddy at times, but she was smart and capable and absolutely hated to be coddled like a weak female.
“All that fuss just to get the candy they’re selling up in the stands.” Zarbon shook his head and eyed the taffy dubiously. “And it doesn’t even look edible…”
“Oh pish.” Momo pulled out another bag of candies and offered them around. Not surprisingly, Goku tried one though the other two declined.
“You want to poison us before our match?” Vegeta eyed the fluorescent balls of sugar suspiciously.
Before she could reply, the announcer’s voice blared out, calling the finalists to the arena.
They had been fighting for the better part of an hour. The volume of air demarked as the competition arena around them thrummed and crackled with mini iridescent novas and golden trails, the very air shimmering with the heat and immense energy that leaked from the thunderous clashes.
Not all of the spectators could keep up with progress of the blow; even the feline announcer had problems as she darted nimbly about just beyond the edge of the fighting zone, large slitted eyes flickering to follow the fight as she kept up a breathless running commentary.
The two combatants were so used to each other, so familiar with the other’s style that they easily skipped through the usual feinting and rapidly powered up to just below the third ascendant level. It was a comfortable stage for them: high enough such that the fight was somewhat decent, and yet not too high that the power that spilled from their blows devastated the surroundings.
Easily dodging another series of rapid punches, Vegeta growled and caught the taller male’s wrists with his hands, holding their forearms together as he kneed the other in the gut. “What are you holding back for?” He drove his knee in again for emphasis. “Fight me!” Angrily, he released his grip and twisting nimbly, dropkicked the other into the arena below.
Goku slewed through the air but caught himself in time just before he hit the ground. Somersaulting and using his momentum, he leapt back up into the air. “I am fighting!”
“Stop holding back!”
“Didn’t we agree to limit ourselves to this level?” A hiss of pain as focus wavered for just a split but oh so crucial second in a fight as fast and savage as this.
“Dammit Kakarotto!” Punch, punch, kick, block, kick. It was too familiar. “We agreed not to go beyond the second level, but I know you are capable of much more even with that restriction!”
Vegeta growled as he directed his anger into his blows. He had always felt that the other was somehow holding back, for reasons he could not fully comprehend. The only time the younger had ever fought him unreservedly, in his opinion, was when they had first met. And that was only because he had threatened Earth. Since his defeat, the thought of a decisive re-match had consumed him. Well, to be precise, Kakarotto hadn’t exactly won, and he had required help from his son and friends, but in the royal’s mind, no victory meant a defeat.
However, despite the entanglement of their lives after the tumultuous first meeting, it seemed to him as if everything else had conspired to forestall the fight he desired. And it was a fight that he wanted, needed. A friendly spar would not do.
He needed a hard, savage fight, where nothing was held back. Only Kakarotto matched his level, challenged him, intrigued him, inflamed him, and he wanted to know just how much their power and skills differed.
When he had finally forced the younger Saiyajin’s hand, and he admitted privately that it was quite a dishonorable gambit he had to resort to, even the threat of Buu had intervened. However, even though that fight had been interrupted, one of the reasons he had agreed to stop to ally against the actual threat was because he had been somewhat satisfied with the glorious fight…
Until he had died and found out that Kakarotto had been holding back on him.
Kakarotto had never fought him just because he was a worthy opponent, only if he was a threat to something he held dear. Sure, the other Saiyajin had loved to spar with him; it was in his blood despite his initial denial, but he had never really, truly, fought him.
It galled him, angered him, and absolutely infuriated him. For a warrior race, the highest respect one can pay to an opponent was to take him seriously, and Kakarotto’s refusal to fight all out struck a deep nerve. Something that the Earth-raised Saiyan could not understand.
He had ranted often to his younger mate, but somehow that softhearted fool thought that once the prince had moved from ‘enemy’ to ‘teammate’, he could not harm his friend. This refusal to go all out became worse once they had mated. Vegeta snorted. As if he would be that easily killed.
To him, the insult that Kakarotto was stronger was not as great as the insult the younger implied by holding back. His mate had said that it was because he didn’t want to hurt him, or that there was no need to fight like this. The former excuse – yes, he knew; done out of love – only confirmed that the other thought him weaker, that the younger thought he could not handle it, even if Kakarotto had never said it to his face. As for the latter reason – there would always be somebody out there who was stronger, somebody who may not be friendly.
“Is that all you’ve got?” Vegeta taunted, a scornful sneer on his face despite the jarring shocks that lanced through his arms as he blocked the taller male’s blows.
Goku frowned as they exchanged another volley; Vegeta had the upper hand for this match, and despite what the prince might think, he was trying his darned best.
…He really was!
It’s just that his best when he was fighting with Vegeta wasn’t really his best. He winced as he received another blow to his gut again and flipped back for a moment’s breather, panting. He tried, he really did, but sparring…no, fighting with Vegeta wasn’t the same as fighting some powerful enemy. How could he go all out?
How could he fight Vegeta; his mate, just as if he was battling some unknown foe?
He didn’t know what to think, what to do. If he defeated Vegeta, if he could summon the power Vegeta wanted from him, the prince would be angry about his defeat. In more ways than one, he wasn’t sure if he could beat his own mate. Yet, if he lost to Vegeta, the prideful royal would be furious with him anyway.
Caught up in his dilemma, his concentration wavered and a careless opening was all the alert prince needed to slam in his victory with a merciless flying kick that sent him slicing through the air past the shimmering detectors to land in the buffeted safety zone.
Vegeta floated to land with a light tap in front of the fallen Saiyajin, his eyes coldly angry as he simply regarded the other silently. The excited chattering in the background was loud and annoying, almost drowning out the commentator’s voice, though there was no need to announce the result. Goku sighed wearily; this was all too familiar as well, regardless of who was actually lying on the ground. Somehow, Vegeta would be angry and he would be sorry. Unmoving and still prone, he looked up at his mate, his expression unsure and hesitant and pleading…
Then something in those piercing obsidian eyes softened. Vegeta stretched out his hand, his lips turning up ever so slightly.
“Get up Kakarotto,” he muttered gruffly as he pulled the other upright. “You’re Saiyajin royalty now. Behave like it.”
Goku smiled. It might have been worded as a reprimand, but he saw it as an affectionate gesture. Perhaps one day they might resolve this difference between them, or perhaps never. But it sufficed that despite everything, they were still together.
Turning together to face the dignitaries’ box, they watched keenly as Icenia stood up and walked forward. She had been hidden within the shadows, only stepping forward once to open the competition and now to close it.
They hadn’t been sure what to expect of the female Ice-jin; there were few reports and fewer public images of the surprisingly reclusive ruler. From the small official shots, she had looked tiny and delicate, but appearances could be deceiving. Frieza, in his final transformation, had looked puny as well.
Even so, they were pretty surprised when they first saw the Ice-jin. She was short, slender and rather beautiful as conventional standards of beauty went. Much like Frieza in his most powerful form, she was smooth-skinned, lacking the protective armor plates and scales that many of the Ice race sported. Her skin was a smooth ivory, her features were fine and regular, though her expression was hard and closed; she was definitely not a pushover. The crimson decorative markings on her body, matching her eyes and lips, held a connotation of danger.
They hadn’t known what to make of her, though they had come to the conclusion that she was not to be underestimated. A genial mask now replaced the stern expression, but the warmness of the full lips that curved up into a smile was not reflected in the shuttered ruby eyes.
“It has been a glorious competition.” Her sharp look swept over the crowds and arena, lingering for a while on Goku before coming to a stop on the royal. “The Saiyan prince and his consort have certainly astonished us.”
Vegeta did not hear the rest of her polite speech as he returned her unwavering, unreadable stare calmly, wondering at her intent. The crimson eyes were alert and uncomfortably fixated on him, but as far as he could tell, he could read no ill will in those burning eyes. He started slightly as a tail brushed against the side of his leg.
“…and I hope that you will accept the invitation to tonight’s celebratory dinner as the winner of this tournament and as my invited guest.” Icenia inclined her head towards Goku. “Of course, this invitation extends to your admirable consort and any others from your entourage as well.”
“We will,” Vegeta replied simply.
“Once again, I must congratulate you on your well-deserved victory and your mate for an extremely close fight.”
Turning to his mate with a small, tight smile, he clasped their forearms together in one of the many common gestures of sportsmanship, his mind still on the look the Ice-jin had given him. Goku grinned back, raising their arms to the cheering crowd. And then to his surprise, Vegeta pulled him in for a quick but possessive kiss.
Breaking apart quickly, the prince released his hand as well before he turned and walked out of the arena, the taller Saiyajin a close step behind.
Vegeta scanned the large room as he sipped his drink idly. He had done his part; he had made the requisite rounds and expected greetings. Now he only wanted to get away from the throng of aliens in the middle of the ballroom. He was trained as a prince and a diplomat; even under Frieza, he had been expected to represent the Saiyajin race. However, while he could mouth the social niceties smoothly, it was not really his forte. He lacked the patience; the knowledge that he could actually blow up the idiots in front of him did not help at all.
Zarbon and Momo were mingling around; a pair of politically experienced socialites flitting from flower to foreign flower as they systematically worked the room. This was one of Zarbon’s numerous roles under Frieza; he wasn’t so much a common grunt but more of a commander and diplomat. For the physically weaker Saiyan female, it became not so much a job as it did a survival skill. The two were quite a keenly honed diplomatic team.
Kakarotto was still eating with a group of Dagoons. While the delegates who visited New Vegetasei were fat, at least they could still move by themselves. These mounds of lard required motorized chairs! Vegeta shuddered at the sight and turned his gaze away, wondering how Kakarotto could even eat with all that pinkish and purplish flesh jiggling around him. The Dagoons seemed to be very taken with the tall Saiyan; loud proclamations and praise at his mate’s eating abilities reached his ears. It was beneficial for the ex-rebels; the Dagoons were a prosperous race with many commodities to trade, and it was prudent to stay on good terms with as many races as possible.
The crowd was well heeled and well behaved. The music was unobtrusive and elegant, soothing strains with a generic classical air. It was very different from the rowdy Saiyajin gatherings, but Vegeta did not mind. He preferred the peaceful atmosphere anyway, especially when he was troubled. He couldn’t say what unnerved him exactly; perhaps it was the look in Icenia’s eyes back in the arena. Perhaps it was the fact that she had yet to make an appearance…
A cool, feminine voice interrupted his thoughts and he stiffened in surprise. He had not noticed her approach. Turning around warily, he raised a brow in question. Absently, he noted the careful presence of hard-faced guards that carefully kept the rest of the room from intruding too close to them. It was obvious that she wanted a private conversation even if they were in fact on public display to the rest of the room.
The smaller female did not respond, but regarded him with a neutral expression for a few moments. Clad in a tight wine-red gown, she looked fragile but Vegeta knew impressions could be deceptive. Her ki was low, but then again, many fighters knew how to suppress their energy.
“What do you think of Ice-jins, Prince Vegeta?”
“Why do you ask?” Vegeta replied guardedly. He had many thoughts about Ice-jins; many strong opinions that he strove to keep from his stony face. Icenia was probably like every other Ice-jin he had met, but now was not the time for belligerence. “I’m sure you are aware of my history.”
“Hai. I am.” Icenia rolled the stem of the wineglass she held in her right hand slowly, thoughtfully. “You …served under Frieza.”
It was a common habit at stiff meetings, Vegeta noted as he glanced down at his own glass, trying hard not to let the chosen term irritate him. She was merely stating an undisputable fact; he had spent much of his teen hood in unwilling servitude.
He stared intently at his glass, his gaze relaxing, letting the sparkling play of rose and burgundy distract him from roiling dark memories. It was half-full. People needed something to play with in their hands, something else to look at; crossing arms or pocketing hands was an inherently closed gesture, and while he wasn’t feeling chummy with the Ice-jin, he couldn’t afford to come across as unfriendly either. Not yet. However, simply letting arms dangle felt odd. Bulma, Vegeta remembered, used to smoke in similar situations: flicking her cigarette at intervals during such conversations and bringing the crooked white stick up to her mouth to inhale while buying time for a reply.
“Did you know him?”
Icenia frowned. “Unfortunately, yes.”
Vegeta blinked slowly, wondering what to make of that remark as he looked up again at the female opposite him. He knew Ice-jins were generally not all that loyal to their own kind, but was this response common – he had not spoken to any Ice-jin civilly before--or did she genuinely dislike him? “Why?”
“Why did you dislike him?”
“He was an Ice-jin male.” Her frown deepened, scorn and wrath dripping from her voice. “They are power-hungry brutes, too enamored with themselves and presume too highly of their place in the universe. They think with their balls and they assume power and strength is everything. Bakayaros. Frieza was all that and a bit insane to top it off. What’s there to like?”
“Males in general? Or just Ice-jin males?” Vegeta found her reaction interesting. He snorted derisively. “A bit? I’d say he’d gone off the deep end.”
“Many males. Ice-jins in particular. It must be our nurturing culture.” The sour look disappeared abruptly, replaced by a playful, calculating smirk. “Well, I can’t say all males are like that. I have met admirable males. And you’re a male.”
“Last I checked,” Vegeta said dryly. ~Shit, maybe I should have gotten Momo to speak to her instead. But, why does she keep focusing me particularly when the information on all in our party is open knowledge?~
She appeared to have read his mind. “I’m not a misandrist; I have a realistic view of life and I’m simply stating observations I’ve noted.” Her red eyes raked down his creamy-nutmeg shirt and black dress suit of jacket and slacks appreciatively, a cynical yet flirting lilt to her voice as she smoothly changed the topic again. “Interesting fashion. From Chikuyuu I presume?”
Vegeta gave a curt nod, hackles rising as he started to realize that reports had been underestimating the seemingly weak female. If there was one thing he had learned from Bulma, it was that there could be traits more fearsome that raw strength. ~She’s been reading up on me. What else does she know?~
“It’s strange that you would talk about males being power-hungry when you control quite a fair portion of space yourself.”
“Touché,” Icenia laughed, lightly and coldly. “The best defense is an offense. One does what one has to do to survive. I’m hardly considered power-hungry. I’ve heard of rebels’ liberation movements, the most successful being a certain group of Saiyans.”
“Of course.” The focus of their pointed exchange was neatly swung back to him.
“Of course,” Icenia repeated mockingly. “Are you no less power hungry? Many are surprised at the speed at which you have expanded your territories.” She looked directly at him. “I’ve heard many tales of the Saiyajin race. Warriors and fighters; you are no strangers to having to fight for your survival. You can be just as ruthless and cruel.”
“Yet your race also embraces the idea of cooperation and alliance.”
Vegeta was silent for a while, thrown by the abrupt change in tone, before he spoke up carefully, promising nothing. “Are you offering one?”
The tiny female nodded, all traces of mockery gone, her expression deadly serious. “It would be foolhardy for me to fight a war, or even maintain a heavy military presence on two fronts. With Coolant gone, Tundra is feeling the need to assert his dominance. I will admit it candidly; it will probably be public information soon enough anyway that he has been massing his troops.”
“And you think he would target you?”
“Yes. We had a previous neutrality agreement before you killed Coolant; war is extremely costly after all. Tundra seems to think that the agreement died with Coolant and that I am but a mere, weak female for there have been recent skirmishes at my borders. I have no evidence that he’s behind them though I am quite certain ordinary space pirates would not be able to afford such fast ships and powerful weapons. They are either his own troops, or he is funding them. The hit-and-run attacks on my border outposts have been increasing in frequency; he is building up to something bigger.”
“That is your problem, not mine. Get to the point.”
Unruffled by the Saiyajin prince’s curtness, Icenia replied back coolly. “An alliance. Even back then, Tundra’s territories were bigger than mine or Coolant’s. Since you killed Coolant, he has been quietly but aggressively expanding. My spies tell me that his troop numbers have been increasing rapidly and many new war factories have been set up.”
Her candidness was certainly unexpected. Vegeta’s scowl deepened as he crossed his arms. “We will not work with an Ice-jin.”
“If my territories were to fall to Tundra, it would be disastrous for you.”
“It would be far worse for you. You are in a far more precarious situation; why should I help you?” Vegeta’s lips curled with a disdainful smirk. “Whether you fall to Tundra or not is none of my business.”
Icenia narrowed her eyes, the temperature seeming to drop a few degrees around them. “Your stance on Ice-jins is public knowledge. There is no love lost between our races. You are rebuilding the Saiyajin Empire, and it will only be a matter of time before you will seek to expand your territories.”
“And why not?” Vegeta snapped angrily as he shifted back a step unconsciously even as his body twisted to face away slightly. The tension between them abruptly stretched tight and brittle and with it the allowable comfortable distance – hostilities required much more space. “Your race has disseminated mine. Destroyed my home world and enslaved the few remaining subjects.”
“That wasn’t me. I do not bear you or your race any personal enmity. I have no Saiyajins in my employ…”
“That’s because any would have defected. Why would they want to remain under an Ice-jin?”
He broke in snidely, somehow not wishing to hear the seductive voice of reason. What she said made sense… but it was …wrong. Just wrong. A betrayal of his principles. All Ice-jins were the same; he was certain of that. This female just had a more silvery and forked tongue as was common to those of her gender.
At the back of his mind, the Saiyajin prince knew he should perhaps be more diplomatic; as strong as the Super-Saiyajins were, they were too few in number, and should both Icenia and Tundra attack the fledging empire, it was likely that they would be hard pressed against the two combined. He knew he should rein in his temper; he had not come so far only to have his struggling race destroyed again. Yet, it was hard to when personal experience and emotions came into play.
And he could tell from the hard set of her jaw that she was trying to hold in her temper as well. Inwardly, he was gloating smugly, knowing that he currently had the upper hand. The female Ice-jin was obviously in a much shakier position and stood to lose a lot more, bracketed by two hostile opponents.
Icenia tossed her head angrily. “I treat my subjects well; just look around you. Do not be so bull-headed. If not an alliance, then I only want your promise that you will not attack me, and I will return the favor.”
“If we were to go to war, I am confident we are more than a match for you,” Vegeta sneered. “If the recently concluded competition has been any indication, I‘d say your fighters are sadly lacking.”
“But can you stand against an army of such fighters?” Her frown deepened and she exhaled with a reluctant breath as she changed track. “All right, name your price. What do you want?”
“What? You wish to buy us off?” Vegeta was incredulous, his pride kicking in with a vengeance. Comparatively, the Saiyan Empire was not as financially well off as the other races, but they were hardly starving. “Forget it, there’s no sum of money…”
“Who was talking about money?”
“What else can you wish to offer? Weaponry, supplies; all these are just other aspects of monetary commodities that we can afford.”
A drawnout silence. Something flickered within that hard ruby stare, almost as if she was deliberating about something. “Nothing at all that you could possibly want? I assure you, if it was within my means…”
“No,” Vegeta interrupted her curtly, his anger waning in the lack of aggressiveness on the other’s part. “Look, my apologies and all that shit, but my personal principles aside, I cannot promise you an alliance on my word alone. I am sure my other …comrades share my views on working together with an Ice-jin. Even if it were a neutrality agreement.”
The two monarchs stared at each other tensely, and to Vegeta’s surprise, Icenia abruptly capitulated. “All right. That …is your prerogative.”
Vegeta’s dark brows twitched as a small vein started to throb in his left temple. What was that sly female playing at? He did not believe for a moment that she had simply given up; it was more likely that she knew when to beat a strategic retreat.
Suddenly, the two rulers noted quite a number of curious, surreptitious eyes on them. Vegeta swore silently, the hair on his neck rising. Damn. Of course, people would notice their conversation, and even if they had no idea what words had been exchanged, even the densest idiot could read the tensed atmosphere between them. Not just a talk between two wary politicians; more a pair of sheathed swords which danced around each other, playing the game and flashing the occasional glint of steel but neither willing to take the game to the very edge.
A razor-fine line between careful diplomacy and calculated posturing.
“Yes?” His smile was brittle and didn’t quite make it past a few degrees above the horizontal.
“Would you care to have this dance with me?”
“Nani?!” Vegeta spluttered. Once again, the tiny female had managed to shock him.
Icenia stepped closer, a wicked quirk to her lips as he fought hard not to back away, all of his instincts screaming an alert as red as his opponent’s eyes. He recognized that same smile; it was one Bulma wore routinely when she wanted to get him to do something, regardless of how he felt. Shit.
“Come now, it’s just a dance,” Icenia said calmly, eyes dancing in sardonic amusement at the slightly pale Saiyajin prince. “A common diplomatic gesture. I am most certainly not hitting on you. Your honor is safe.”
‘”I don’t dance with every dignitary I meet,” Vegeta hissed angrily under his breath, but the small female had closed the distance between them and gripped his wrist in a steel clamp. He could easily pull away, but he had no wish to cause a commotion. A waiter appeared and his wine glass was deftly taken away. “Let go of me woman!”
The petite Ice-jin looked up at him with a hard smile. “I insist. This is my way of showing that I bear you no ill will.”
Vegeta took a calming deep breath, and then expelled it. Fuck, what was he afraid of? Certainly not a weak female. The idea of touching an Ice-jin was repulsive, but so far she had not shown outright animosity towards his group. He would be a poor guest if he refused this. And, a small corner of his rational mind reminded him that the new Saiyajin Empire could not afford to offend too many neighbors. It was a very precarious line: that between honor and practicality. After all the Ice-jins had done to his people, his planet… His mate…
But that was Frieza and that was Coolant and both were now gone, and all he had at present was a struggling, fledging group of ex-rebels. Growling very, very softly, he affixed a smile that matched hers to his face and ungraciously led her towards the dance floor.
For god-dammed diplomacy.
He placed a hand lightly on her hip, resisting the urge to curl his fingers and snap the fragile hipbone, and took up the other, holding the clasped hands warily away from them in a common dance opening. The saurian’s smile became brighter as she rested a hand on his shoulder, the feel of her bare hand cool.
For the pale demons with burning crimson eyes and icy touches that still rattled the cages in the deepest recesses of his memories. Well, fuck you.
~ I will not allow the ghosts of my past to control me. ~
Slim fingers tapped him on his lapel near the junction to his neck. “Relax. While I adore the feel of all that gorgeous muscle bunching under my hand, you’re going to trip over your feet like this.”
“Shut up.” Vegeta glared at her above the forced set of his lips as he strove to kennel his thoughts. He knew the media would be lapping this up. Devious female.
They moved in simple steps, his movements mincing and a bit wooden, but he did not stumble. He twirled her around once, twice, and she flashed him a saucy grin. Finally, the beat winded down slightly, signaling a lull and he dropped her hand abruptly.
“Nice meeting you too, Prince Vegeta.” He heard the mocking lilt behind him as he walked away. Doing a quick scan of the room, he felt Kakarotto’s ki together with the other two to one side and headed for them.
The three were standing together, curious looks on their faces. Zarbon and Momo’s were impassive: a flicker of wry understanding in their expressions, empathizing with the awkward situation. Kakarotto beamed at him, clueless to the turmoil within his lover. Vegeta’s mental shields were firmly slammed up, and outwardly, he appeared no more irritated than usual.
“I’ve had enough,” Vegeta said curtly. The short meeting with the Ice-jin had brought up unpleasant memories, and he only wanted to get the hell out of the ballroom, away from the press of the people around. He felt weary. “Stay or leave if you wish…I don’t care. But I do not wish to be disturbed tonight. I’ll be going back to the rooms and I’ll explain more in the morning.”
Without waiting for their replies, he turned and walked out, his brows drawing tighter into a dark scowl.
That night, his sleep was restless, his dreams troubled.
Vegeta tumbled though haphazard flashes of memories: poignant scenes he had not thought about in a long time engulfed him rapidly and then withered away, leaving him battered and wanting. He was running through the palace corridors on Vegetasei again, short chibi legs moving all too slowly as wide eyes darted from side to side looking… finding…
He caught glimpses of his parents. He saw the stern visage of his father as he ran past the throne room with his circle of equally hard-faced guards ringing him, and he lingered for a while before shaking his head and running on. No, that wasn’t it… He saw his mother in the training room, her lean graceful body spinning through the air, heavy braid swinging behind her. He saw faintly familiar retainers and servants moving through the palace. Young shouts hailed him and he turned to wave at childhood friends before running on. Throughout it all, a faint sense of unease.
He saw his father again, this time leading a group of crack fighters into a room. His mouth opened in horror and he ran after them into the room… to find his father and the troops gone. His eyes widening as he looked around him in confusion, he backed out of the room and ran away. No longer on his home planet, he was now running through the dull gray corridors of Frieza’s warship. The artificially controlled atmosphere was chilly and slightly stale; despite the efficient filters, the engineers couldn’t quite remove the rank smells of the various aliens aboard the ship. Sniffing, he caught a faint whiff of something ...warm and musky. Something familiar. Another Saiyajin? His heart rabbiting in his chest, he turned around another corner, hoping to track down that elusive scent.
Throughout his dream, the undercurrent that he was looking for…
For what? Or …for whom?
Vegeta ran on.
Goku slipped into their bedroom quietly, already stripping off his formal clothing. He had left the festivities, along with Zarbon and Momo, not too long after Vegeta. Sliding under the covers, he closed his eyes with a sigh. The trip had been interesting, the tournament fun despite the lack of real competition, but he couldn’t wait to get home.
Beside him, Vegeta shifted and mumbled, and then fell quiet again.
Goku was almost about to fall asleep when he felt the mattress rise slightly. Blinking open sleep-dazed eyes, he turned his head to the side and saw Vegeta sit up. Thinking that his mate merely needed to go to the bathroom, he closed his eyes again.
He wasn’t sure how long he lay there, drifting in that state between true sleep and wakefulness. He was tired; it had been a long day, but something was nagging at him and he simply could not fall asleep until he figured out what it was.
Groaning, he turned over, blindly reaching out for a familiar warm body when he realized what was wrong. He patted the cool sheets beside him. “Vegeta?”
Sitting up and knuckling heavy eyes, he looked around. Shouldn’t Vegeta be back in bed by now? How long had he been gone? Then it hit him. Abruptly shocked awake, he extended his senses, automatically searching for that presence he knew intimately.
Vegeta was not in the room.
Onto Chapter 7
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