|Goku returned from his walk feeling
worse than he had before. Strolling through the forest seemed to make his mind work
overtime, and the gloomy scenarios that emerged from the turning gears made the dark cloud
of depression even thicker.
Just why did Vegeta feel the need to treat him with so much disdain? Goku had never insulted Vegeta; in fact, he respected him a great deal. The ouji was a good ally -- when he wanted to be anyway -- and often an invaluable help in the fight against evil. It was quite ironic when you thought about it, a man who once decimated entire planetary populations helping to thwart evil, but Goku knew that Vegeta had changed for the better... even if the older man himself did not.
He'd begun his walk in high spirits, just enjoying the beauty of the nature around him. The path he'd selected was an old friend and it eventually curved around a lake full of giant fish just waiting to be caught. For half-an-hour he'd sat on the bank of those still waters, trying to clear his mind enough to meditate. Goku thought he'd done it several times only to have Vegeta's familiar figure come to the fore of his thoughts.
If what Goten said was true, then he was subconsciously courting the Saiya-jin no Ouji. For some odd reason that didn't surprise him. He'd always been drawn to the man even when he regarded him as little more than pure evil. They were the last of their kind, the only remaining full-blooded Saiya-jin in the universe. There would be no other.
Goten sighed as he watched his father stare blankly out of the window. "The walk didn't help much, did it?"
"If anything, it made things even worse." Goku placed his hands over his face and groaned. "The only thing the peace and quiet did for me was cause my mind to wander."
"You have to do something about this, Tousan. It looks like it's really eating away at you. The best course of action would be to just tell him how you feel."
Goku stared at him. "That's the best course of action? This is Vegeta we're talking about here, son."
"You could always defeat him in battle. Either he'll be easier to deal with or he'll try to rip your heart out."
"Knowing Vegeta as I do, it'll most likely be the latter."
The teen smiled. "Don't be too sure about that. He did, after all, apologize to you earlier. He's mellowed a lot over the years."
His father wasn't reassured. "He may joke around and even allow me to beat him without threats of death, but Vegeta's still very capable of depopulating this planet. Never forget that." Goku rose from the couch and eased the tension. "We've got hours before dinner. You want to spar?"
Goten gulped. "Go easy on me, okay? I've been lazy lately."
His only response was a cheerful smile.
Vegeta was alternating between stirring a large pot of tomato sauce on the stove and smacking Bura's hand away from the garlic bread. As soon as she and Trunks had returned from the store, the ouji had put them right to work so there had been no time to get a snack. The rumbling of her stomach was slowly driving her insane.
The fourth time Vegeta had to slap her hand, Goku and Goten teleported into the kitchen. The short Saiya-jin stepped backward and right into a firm wall of flesh. He then jumped forward and nearly knocked the pot from the stove.
"How many damn times have I told you not to do that?" Vegeta asked slowly and quietly. Goku and Goten exchanged glances. They knew he was close to exploding.
Meanwhile, while Vegeta was busying himself with trying not to attack Goku, Bura succeeded in stealing a breadstick. She quickly devoured her prize and tried for another. A hand with the strength of steel halted her.
"Bura, leave the kitchen," Vegeta said without even looking in her direction. There were few things that could cause the ouji to yell at his daughter and annoyance wasn't one of them. Bura vanished without protest and Vegeta turned his full attention to the two standing behind him.
"Vegeta-san, we're sorry!" Goten said fearfully. Oh, he would definitely take his father's words to heart. Vegeta had definitely lost none of his bark or his bite. "Please don't... hurt us?" The teen realized that Vegeta wasn't even paying attention to him. Instead, his gaze was focused solely on his father. The hard look in his eyes had softened and a faint smile caused the edges of his mouth to tilt slightly upward. Goku had an equally gentle expression on his face. "I'll just be going now," Goten said before edging out of the kitchen. He doubted that either man heard him.
"Why are you looking like that?" Bura asked before she peeked into the kitchen. "Why are Papa and Goku-san staring at each other?"
Goten pulled her away. "You wouldn't understand."
She frowned at him. "I know I've seen Kaasan look at Papa like that before, but this is the first time I've seen Papa look so goofy."
"Are you spying on them?" said Trunks so suddenly it made the other two jump.
"I'm not, but I don't know about Bura." Goten took a large step away from the kitchen door and crossed his arms. He glanced at Trunks. "Tousan's courting Vegeta-san."
Both Briefs children blinked in confusion for a moment, until his words sank in. "NANI?!"
"Are you sure, Goten?" Trunks placed a hand on the taller demi-Saiya-jin's forehead. "Funny, you don't have a fever..."
"I'm not sick!" He jerked his thumb at the kitchen door. "Tousan and I talked about this before. You should see him when he's away from Vegeta-san. He's so depressed."
Trunks shook his head. "This is bizarre, Goten! You know that, don't you?"
"Why is that, Trunks?" His eyes grew cold. "Is it because they're both men?"
That threw the older demi-Saiya-jin completely off. "That has nothing to do with it! Where in the world did you get that from?"
Goten instantly regretted his words. "Doesn't matter. Why do you think it's so bizarre, then?"
Bura looked back and forth between the two of them, wondering whether or not she should interfere. She knew the reason Trunks said that, though she hadn't seen it personally. Her father had been different by the time she was born. "Niichan said that because Papa is supposed to hate Goku-san. He spent years trying to be stronger than him, remember?"
"I remember, but don't you see? Lately, Vegeta-san's been happier than he's ever been before and so has Tousan."
The kitchen door swung open and Goku started out. He stopped mid-step when he saw three embarrassed demi-Saiya-jin attempting to act completely innocent. "Okay, what's going on here?"
"Nothing," they chorused.
"You can't fool me, kids. I'm not as stupid as I look." Goku smiled at them. "Oh, I know..." He trailed off and pretended to think as the three sweated. "You were discussing what to buy Vegeta! Christmas is coming up, you know."
Trunks and Goten just stared at him and Bura's hand flew to her mouth. "I completely forgot!"
"BURA!" both young men cried in unison.
"Nani?" she asked. "Well, I did."
Goku chuckled to himself as the three disappeared into the living room. He knew very well why they were outside the kitchen door and had even heard part of their conversation. If he truly did decide to pursue a relationship with Vegeta, Trunks might be resentful and the last thing he wanted to do was strain the relationship between father and son.
Then it hit him. He was thinking as if he actually had a chance with the Saiya-jin no Ouji. The man was practically untouchable, a pretty little glass bauble to look at but never to come within six feet of. He could admire from afar, but that was about all.
On that depressing note, Goku sat down on the floor next to the kitchen door to wait for dinner to be ready. There had to be some way to make the best of the situation. He was usually a pro at that, after all. So absorbed in his thoughts, he didn't notice Vegeta until the smaller man grabbed a lock of Goku's hair and yanked. Hard.
"ITAI!" Goku squealed and jerked away. He pouted and looked at Vegeta with pained tears in the corners of his eyes. "That really hurt."
Well, Vegeta couldn't very well maintain his stern countenance when Goku made such an adorable face. "You were ignoring me," he said and, despite himself, the words came out doleful.
"Well, well, well. Look who's softening up!" The chibi angel popped into existence and hovered around Goku's left shoulder. "I knew that it was only a matter of time." He blew on his fingernails and buffed them on his white kimono. "Damn, I'm good."
Vegeta's face twisted into a look of absolute annoyance. "Why can't you just leave me the fuck alone?!"
"Ooh! Such language!" the angel reprimanded as he settled upon Goku's shoulder. The prince tensed up instantly and wondered if Goku would notice. He half-hoped that he did. At least it would mean that he wasn't insane.
Goku lazily brushed at his shoulder, but his hand froze when he encountered nothing but air. He stared at his shoulder for a moment before staring at Vegeta. "I have the strangest feeling that I'm missing something."
"SHIT!" Both Vegetas cursed vehemently. When the prince wagged his finger at the angel, he stuck out his tongue and vanished.
"Uh, Vegeta?" the younger Saiya-jin said as he watched the gloved finger move back and forth. "Are you going to do something with that?"
The finger froze and a faint blush rose up on Vegeta's cheeks. "Dinner's ready," he said gruffly before fleeing to the relative safety of the kitchen. Goku was seriously confused at his behavior but decided to let it go. It was highly unlikely that he would discover an explanation for it, anyway, seeing as Vegeta was rarely forthcoming.
Dinner was actually pretty pleasant. Vegeta had made an excellent meal of spaghetti, meatballs, salad, and garlic breadsticks. Goku remembered when he discovered that the prince knew how to cook. It had been one afternoon when Trunks had been young and Buruma had been sick. The three-year-old was hungry and pestered Vegeta until the man decided to do something about it. So the prince went to the cupboard and pulled out three cans of alphabet soup. Then he proceeded to heat them up and serve it to his son. Trunks was so grateful that he out spelled his thanks in the noodles.
Trunks told Goten who, in turn, told Goku several years later. The younger Saiya-jin teased Vegeta about it for a week straight until the prince got the upper hand by quickly powering up to Super Saiya-jin Level Three. He then proceeded to straddle Goku and tickle him until he nearly wet himself. The younger man quickly promised to never bring it up again. And he hadn't... until now.
"Hey, Vegeta," Goku said with a huge grin on his face. "When was the last time you had alphabet soup?" Bura and Goten looked blank, but Trunks started to snicker.
"That was a long time ago, Kakarotto, and I thought I made you promise to never speak of it again." What his father was talking about suddenly dawned on Goten and he joined his best-friend in the laughter.
Bura was intensely curious. "What is he talking about, Papa?"
"It's nothing. Go back to eating your dinner." Vegeta tried to get everyone to forget about that topic, but knew that it was doomed to failure. Why was he doing it in the first place? He really shouldn't be ashamed of something like that, especially now. Everyone already knew that he wasn't quite the bad ass he used to be. Dangerous, yes, but not bad.
"When I was a chibi and Kaasan was sick, Papa made me lunch." Trunks loved to tell the story. It was one of the few father-son moments he'd had with Vegeta as a kid. "I didn't even know he could turn on the stove let alone make something edible. Granted, he only heated up a few cans of soup, but Kaasan couldn't even do that without scorching it." He smiled. "Do you know how hard it is to spell 'domo arigatou' out in noodles? I was three at the time and could barely spell my own name much less spell something as long as that."
Bura smirked at him. "I doubt you could do it even now."
"Shut up, Bura." He glared at her.
She gave him an equally irritated stare. "Make me."
They began to talk at once, each demi-Saiya-jin detailing exactly what they would do to the other if they didn't leave them alone. Without pausing in his meal, Vegeta held up his hand. His two children fell instantly silent.
"Wow!" Goten exclaimed. "I've never gotten Trunks to stop talking that quickly."
"It's amazing what you can do when people are intimidated by you." Vegeta leaned back in his chair, completely full. No one spoke or moved an inch. The prince waved his hands at the table. "These dishes aren't going to take care of themselves."
Bura and Trunks hopped to it. Even Goten felt compelled to help clear the table. The Saiya-jin no Ouji gave Goku a look and the younger man smiled. "I'm not the least bit intimidated by you, Vegeta. Won't work on me."
"I knew it wasn't going to." He stretched and Goku found himself entranced by his feline grace. "Are you too full to spar?"
"Are you going to trick me again?"
He looked ashamed. "I apologized for that, remember? I was under the impression that the slate was wiped clean."
"Just joking." Goku grinned. "You really need to loosen up, 'geta."
The prince's eyes widened and he thought to himself, 'Did he just call me by an affectionate nickname?!'
"We're losing daylight, 'geta." He gently pushed him towards the door. "C'mon!"
He was too shocked and pleased to reprimand Goku for being so familiar with him. It would have been a knee-jerk reaction anyway, more habit than anything else. The last thing he wanted to do was push the younger Saiya-jin away.
Later, as they lay pleasantly exhausted underneath the stars, Goku asked a question. " 'geta, tell me about Vegeta-sei."
"Nani?!" To say that he was surprised was an understatement. Vegeta was completely floored.
"Hai. I've never really heard anything about it besides the information about the Legendary Super Saiya-jin. What was it like?"
The prince thought for a moment. "Harsh," he said, "and uncomfortable. You know that I was only a small child when our planet was blown up by Furiza, but before then I had spent most of my life training to be the best. All the elders would talk about was how I was going to be the strongest in the universe and that I was destined to be the Legendary." He gave Goku a look. "We both know how that turned out."
Goku blushed and he chuckled. "Look Kakarotto, I'm over it. That was almost twenty damn years ago. You help keep this planet safe and, in turn, help to keep my brats safe. I thank you for it."
The words just did not make sense. "I'm going insane, 'geta. I could have sworn that you just thanked me for something."
"Hai, I did. So?"
The next thing the prince knew, Goku's warm hand was on his forehead. "You're cool. So that means that you must have been the one to lose his mind."
"I'm fine, Kakarotto!" Vegeta then proceeded to grumble mostly to himself. "When a man starts doing the right thing, after twenty-three years of being preached at by a third-class baka, he's looked upon as a mental patient! Why bother in the first place? I should go back to killing everything in sight just so no one will think anything's wrong with me."
"I- You- I mean-!" Goku stuttered.
It was Vegeta's turn to grin. "Just joking."