|Goku began to uncharacteristically mope once
he'd reached his home, and was helpless to stop himself from doing so. All he could see
was his dream fading from sight as time wore on. He supposed it had been unrealistic
anyway, so it was good to move on to things within his reach. Right?
"If it's so right," he whispered, "why does it feel so wrong?"
The front door opened and Goten entered the house. "Tousan? You here?" His words were met with silence. Shrugging, he dropped his overnight bag beside the door and wandered off to the kitchen. He'd started on his way home from spending the night with Trunks at Capsule Corporation before he'd eaten lunch. The boy froze in the doorway and stared at his father (whose head was down upon the table) in shock.
"Tousan?" Goten asked, placing a hesitant hand upon Goku's shoulder. There were few things that could take away the ever-present sunshine in his father's demeanor. "Are you thinking about 'It' again?"
"It" was his mother's death. Goten couldn't bring himself to say the two dreaded words aloud. He knew that his father had loved her very much -- although it was more sisterly than anything else -- and it usually upset him to think about the assault. When Goku raised his head to look at him Goten knew that it was bigger than that somehow. It was as if the very light had gone out in his father's soul.
"I'm thinking about it now," Goku answered with a sigh. "But iie, son, I wasn't before."
Goten opened his mouth to say something more when the phone rang. Casting another worried look in his father's direction, he answered the call. "Moshi moshi."
"Give Kakarotto the phone, boy."
He blinked. "Nani? Is that you, Vegeta-san?"
"I need to speak with him."
"Okay, sure." He covered up the mouthpiece. "Tou-"
Goku shook his head and, once again, dropped it to the tabletop. "I don't have anything to say to him."
Goten frowned. "Vegeta-san, did you and tousan have a fight or something?"
"When don't we have a fight?"
"I meant other than a sparring match."
"I know that, you baka! Look, it's none of your concern. Just tell your father to remember my words." Vegeta hung up, leaving Goten even more confused than before.
"If you need to talk I'm here," the demi-Saiya-jin said after he'd hung up the phone. For a moment his words were met with only silence, but then his father sighed.
"It all started a few weeks after your mother died." Goten flinched at the words and Goku silently apologized with his eyes. "I started to really consider both your mother and Buruma's last words, started to think that they were related in some way. Do you know what Buruma asked of me, Goten?"
He shook his head. "No one knows other than you, Tousan, and no one really wanted to ask."
Goku chuckled and it was not a happy sound. "She asked me to look after Vegeta, said that he was going need someone. I've been trying, but he won't let anyone get close enough to help. Not even Bura-chan. It's like he holds us all at arm's length because of some irrational fear."
"Maybe that's why," Goten mused. "A lot of good things in his life have been taken away from him. He might be afraid of that happening again." Suddenly the connection between Buruma and ChiChi's words hit him. "Tousan, I think I know how their words are linked."
"You do? How?"
"First, you have to promise not to get angry no matter what I tell you."
His father rolled his eyes. "When do I ever get angry, Goten?"
He chuckled nervously. "I know, I know, but you aren't acting like yourself. My words might push you over the edge."
"Just tell me."
Goten got up and walked to the other side of the room. He had a feeling that he was being silly, but he hadn't survived this long by being careless. "First, Buruma-san asks you to take care of Vegeta-san and, then, kaasan tells you not to stay alone. Tousan, I think they're telling you to, um..." He looked at his father who still had the patient look on his face. Goten sighed. "Buruma and kaasan both thought that you and Vegeta-san should be a couple."
"A couple of what?" Was the response. Goten looked at Goku as if he'd lost his mind. Surely he couldn't be that clueless... could he?
"A couple like you and kaasan were." The boy explained. When comprehension failed to dawn, Goten let out a frustrated explosion of breath.
Goku suddenly grinned and laughed, his dark mood lifting slightly. "I know what you're talking about, son. It was just fun to mess with you."
Goten went back to his chair after deciding that his father was far from angry. "So, you're cool about that?"
"Sure, why not? It would explain a lot of things that's been going on lately." His smile faded. "It's like I'm obsessed with proving myself to Vegeta. I've never wanted to do that before, but now..." He shook his head and briefly searched for alternate reasons. There weren't any.
Goten gasped. "Are you serious?!"
A nod. "I can't get him off my mind at all. It's been like that for a couple of weeks now."
"Oh man," Goten said as he began to pace the length of the kitchen. "I hope Trunks was wrong. Please let Trunks be wrong for once!"
Goku was starting to get a little dizzy watching him rapidly move back and forth. "Calm down and tell me what you're talking about."
"A while ago, when I was twelve, Trunks told me about something that Vegeta-san had told him." Goten forced himself to sit down and be still. "It's about Saiya-jin and how they choose a lifemate."
One dark eyebrow rose. "I can't really see him having the birds-and-bees talk with his son."
A bright grin. "Imagine him having it with Bura-chan." Both took a moment to do just that and the image made them break out into hysterical laughter. "Anyway," the boy continued once he'd caught his breath, "a Saiya-jin picks a mate by how well suited they are for each other. Since there wasn't such a thing as a marriage ceremony on Vegeta-sei, they go through a bonding ritual instead." He blushed. "It's pretty intense stuff."
"I think I need to know," Goku said quietly. "Vegeta and I... It's like we're two different sides of the same coin."
Goten was starting to see what he meant. His father had a faraway look in his eyes every time he mentioned Vegeta, something he'd never had when speaking of ChiChi. "Okay, Tousan. When someone wants to make someone else their mate, they first announce their intentions. Then they prove their worth. That's basically what you're trying to do now. I think it's instinctual. Next, if the one they want to claim doesn't object, they initiate the ritual."
"Hai? Go on?" Goku urged.
There was a moment of silence and then Goten placed one hand behind his head in the typical Son gesture of sheepishness. "Um, my mind is completely blank. Trunks may not have told me about it." He looked disappointed with himself.
His father smiled at him. "Don't worry about it, okay? Until I defeat Vegeta none of it really matters anyway."
"He said to remember his words."
"Vegeta-san told me to tell you to remember his words." He closely examined the look on his father's face. "What was he talking about?"
Goku sighed. "We were sparring this morning and he hit me with a surprise ki blast. Knocked me out cold. I woke up and he was cooking lunch for us. Then he apologized for hurting me."
Goten's eyes grew large with disbelief. "He apologized? I don't believe it."
"It shocked me too, son. Talk about strange behavior."
The phone rang once more and Goten rolled his eyes as he answered it. "Moshi moshi."
"Can't you ever say konnichi-wa or something, first? It's really rude not to greet the person that you're speaking with."
He could hear the disapproval even through the phone line. As a matter of fact, he could even picture the frown on the small Saiya-jin's face. "Boy, do you have a death wish?"
"He sounds fine, Tousan," Goten smiled. "Perfectly fine."
"You and your third-class baka of a father are coming over here for dinner tonight. Don't be late." Once again, the Saiya-jin no Ouji hung up without saying goodbye.
Goten frowned at the receiver. "This can't be a date because I'm invited, too."
"He invited us over there?" Goku asked with wide eyes. "To the Capsule Corporation?"
"Hai. For dinner tonight."
They stared at each other in silence for a long moment. "We must be in the Twilight Zone," Goku said while shaking his head. "I'm going for a walk."
When Vegeta arrived home that afternoon, he was immediately pounced upon by Bura. She squeezed him around the waist as hard as she could and refused to let go.
"How come you never take me with you, Papa?" she asked. "I wanna see you fight Goku-san."
"I doubt you could even see majority of it," he commented, hoping that she would drop the subject.
Bura wouldn't give up so easily. "So teach me, then. I bet Pan could follow the fight with no problem."
He couldn't walk normally with Bura wrapped around his lower body so Vegeta was resorted to waddling like a penguin. The little girl giggled and he silently prayed that Trunks never saw him like that. "Kakarotto's been training Gohan's brat since she was a toddler. You've only been taught how to control your ki so that "innocent" ningen wouldn't get blown to bits if you ever became mad at them. It was all your mother would allow me to teach you."
The wound was still fresh but no longer was it raw and bleeding. Bura only felt a moderate amount of sadness at the mention of her mother and no longer felt anger at her father for his lack of grief. Trunks explained to her that he and Buruma were never really that compatible. The girl didn't really understand all of it, but what little she had did make sense.
Vegeta made two phone calls to the Son home, spoke to Goten each time, and cursed himself once again for hurting Goku. He felt his conscience try to make an appearance again and firmly closed his mind to it. There would be no more speaking with imaginary beings, especially around other people. The last thing he wanted was to be looked upon as an escapee from a mental hospital.
"Niichan told me to tell you that we don't have any food left." She finally released her father. "He said that you have to go shopping."
"I have to go shopping?" he asked incredulously. "He invites Goten over here, knowing that boy has a black hole for a stomach, and expects me to replenish the food supply? I don't think so." Vegeta raised his voice. "Trunks, get your ass down here!"
He came in with a sheepish look on his face. "Bura told you, huh?"
"Of course she told me. You knew she was going to when you said it to her." Vegeta opened the fridge and groaned. There was nothing in there except for half a grapefruit. He then proceeded to go through the cupboards one-by-one, groaning each time he discovered the absence of snack food.
Bura went into the fridge and got the fruit. "Well, I'm hungry and this is all we have left." She glared at her brother. "Not that one little grapefruit half is enough to fill a demi-Saiya-jin!"
"Blame Goten, not me. We had food this morning, remember? Before Papa went to spar with Goku-san, he ate breakfast."
"Apparently there went the last of the food right there." The thought of the spar with Goku made him frown even fiercer than usual. "Look, you have to go grocery shopping today. Baka and Baka Jr. are coming over for dinner."
Trunks looked shocked. "You let them invite themselves again?"
"Er, iie," he mumbled. Then he sped up so his words were barely distinguishable. "Iinvitedthemmyself."
"Did I hear you correctly?" Trunks asked, astonished. "You invited them yourself?!"
Vegeta frowned and began to pace. "I tricked Kakarotto this morning, okay? I'm feeling guilty and that's an unfamiliar feeling for me. So, in order to alleviate my guilt, I'm cooking dinner for him. Had to invite Goten because he's his son." He paused to glance at his children. Both had expressions of disbelief on their faces. "I don't have to explain anything to you!"
"Okay, okay!" Trunks made a "calm down" gesture with his hands. "Well, I guess I'm going to have to take you with me, Bura. We're going to need two or three shopping carts."
"Try five," his father muttered. "You only have four hours."
"No problem, Papa. We'll be done in half that time."
"We're not going to be home in time, are we?" Trunks asked his little sister.
Bura shook her head. "Nope. We're not going to make it."
The supermarket had been having a sale that Trunks completely forgot about. He and Bura had been waiting in the same checkout line for ninety minutes (after spending an hour acquiring various foodstuffs). They had to outdo the ningen shoppers and sometimes even steal food from them. Between the two of them, they'd only obtained three-fourths of the list. There would have to be a trip to another store.
Trunks stood on tip-toe and tried to see over the heads of the tall people while silently cursing his father for passing on his short genes. He gave up doing things the ningen way and levitated slightly. "The cashier has his light blinking. I think he needs help."
"Papa's gonna be mad," Bura sighed. "I wonder if Goku-san and Goten-niichan will try to eat him if they arrive and there's no food."
He looked down at her in shock. "They're not cannibals, Bura-chan. Besides, Papa's too small to fill them up."
There was a choked sound behind them and the two demi-Saiya-jin turned to see a middle-aged blonde woman staring at them in horror. "What's wrong?" Bura asked curiously.
"You know people that eat ningen?" the woman asked, eyes wide behind her glasses.
"Oh, don't worry," Bura said reassuringly. "Papa's not ningen. He's Saiya-jin. In fact, you're in more danger than me, Trunks, and Papa are."
Trunks covered up her mouth. "Excuse my sister, she's not well... if you know what I mean."
Bura bit his finger and he hissed in pain. "Don't tell people I have mental problems!"
"There's no sense in scaring the woman, Bura! Goku-san and Goten don't eat people!"
"Oh, that's it," she pulled out her cell phone and speed dialed. "Papa, Trunks is being mean to me."
He growled at her and snatched the phone away. "Papa, come get your little demon spawn! She's going around telling people that you're in danger of being eaten by our dinner guests!"
"Where are you?" Vegeta asked in an impatient voice.
"The grocery store."
There was a moment of stunned silence then, "WHY THE HELL ARE YOU STILL AT THE GROCERY STORE?!" Trunks jerked the phone away from his ear and cringed.
"Bura-chan? You've got this one."
"Papa, calm down. We still have to go to another store, but we'll be home in plenty of time for you to cook. There's a sale going on and ningen are crazy when it comes to discounts."
She heard him growl. "Fine. Tell your brother that he has forty minutes to bring his slow ass home. Don't mince words."
Bura hung up and smiled sweetly at Trunks. "I have a message for you."
"Oh?" He was less than thrilled.
"Hai." She cleared her throat and impersonated her father. "You have forty minutes to bring your slow ass home."
He shuddered. "I can just imagine the 'or else' he neglected to tack onto the end of that."
"Since we haven't moved in ten minutes..." Bura hugged him tightly. "I'm gonna miss you, Niichan."
"I'm going to miss you, too, Bura."