Vegeta was used to the humming sound of the gravity device being his only companion during the long, excruciating training sessions he endured day after day, night after night – as he kicked and punched the invisible enemy – which was very visible in his mind. Very defined – very unmistakable.
He was used to being alone in the thick, reddish atmosphere of the gravity room the woman had rebuilt – it was his place, it was a sanctuary that no other life force had ever violated – that was, if you didn't count the stubborn woman and, even then, her arrival was always announced by the annoying robotic voice of the manual override getting into gears – the woman rarely did things silently.
So, when a very peculiar ki suddenly and quietly materialized at his back, Vegeta wasted a small nanosecond in bothering to feel surprise – then he turned on his feet and, with a yell, he blindly shoot a white-hot blast in its direction –
Goku had barely the time to stumble under the increased gravity – he saw the blast coming at him and jumped to the side just in time to avoid it; the energy ball collided with the wall behind him with a deafening bang and the entire room shook fiercely.
Goku winced and Vegeta smirked.
"Kakarot," he sneered, still holding his arm out, palm open, ready to strike again. "As I live and breathe."
"That was close!" Goku said, turning to idly observe the dent the blast had left on the wall. He whistled. "Good thing this wall is hard to put down. Do you always greet people like this?" he said, turning his attention back on Vegeta.
Vegeta snorted. "I do not greet people," he said with disgust. "Much less third class scum like yourself."
Goku paused for a moment, then he let out a faint chuckle. He waved a hand dismissively. "Ah, come on," he said. "You're telling me you're not in the slightest happy to see me?"
Vegeta snarled at Goku's choice of words.
"I take it you're ready to die!" he snapped, clenching his extended fist with violence. It had been awhile since the last time he had spoken with the low-class Saiyan – in fact, he couldn't quite recall a moment in which they had been alone in each other's company without being surrounded by smoke and dust in the middle of a blood-soaked, sweat-soaked wasteland. Maybe it had been never – Vegeta couldn't actually say he knew Kakarot. But he certainly knew that the fool was being more annoying than usual. And also, how dare he sneak upon him with his stupid little dirty trick?
"Finally!" he continued. "I was starting to think you conveniently forgot we have a score to settle!"
Goku's eyes narrowed – hardened – but at the same time his lips bent in a little grin Vegeta had never seen on that face and that he immediately decided he hated more than anything else in the goddamn universe.
"Well," Goku said, "with all the time you took to try and catch up I almost did."
At that, Vegeta actually laughed – almost.
"HA!" he exclaimed. "It's funny when you try to be smart!"
"I do what I can," Goku said evenly, his eyes glued to Vegeta's in a way that the prince of all Saiyans found utterly – definitely – unnerving. What the hell? Vegeta crossed his arms on his chest.
"Something's wrong, Kakarot?" he snarled and Goku's expression didn't change a bit when he answered. His smile didn't shift.
Goku's gaze was piercing – he was simply staring, intently – Vegeta scowled as he felt those eyes burning through him, through and through; he pursed his lips in anger as the silence stretched between them – he had the distinct impression that Kakarot was gauging, examining him, assessing him for something – and he didn't like it at all.
"What are you staring at?" he roared and when Goku had no tangible reaction, when the hateful upward bend of his lips stayed in place, Vegeta snapped. He powered up instantaneously and launched himself at Goku, screaming in rage, fist cocked back ready to behead the fool with sheer, brutal strength –
"Answer me, dammit!" he shouted as he attacked, but Goku avoided the punch by hastily stepping to the side.
"I'm not here to fight with you, Vegeta, " he said. "Not yet."
Vegeta growled and attacked again.
"That's too bad..." he said, while throwing a flurry of jabs at Goku, who flashed a lopsided grin as he parried and dodged Vegeta's blows, jumping and twisting out of the way with apparent ease – but not doing anything to counter.
"...'Cause the only reason I'm on Earth is to crush you!"
"Really?" Goku said, sweeping up an arm to bring it over his head, blocking a vicious overhead strike – when Vegeta's arm collided with his forearm he didn't follow suit with a move of his own – he stayed there, holding his arm high, not attacking and not giving in – Vegeta smirked and withdrew his arm, darting a few feet away.
"You're right," he said smoothly. "After I'm done with you I do have other reasons to stay here –
He stretched an arm and a ki wave came bursting forth from his hand – when Goku moved out of the way Vegeta was already all over him with a wild backhand –
" – I'll destroy this goddamn planet you love so much!"
At the very last second Goku quickly sidestepped, simultaneously deflecting the direction of Vegeta's punch, swatting his opponent's arm toward the outside, throwing him off-balance; once again, for a second he had the perfect opening, the opportunity to strike back but, once again, he didn't.
"Sure," he just said. "You do that."
Vegeta, who had already recovered and was going for the offensive again, stopped in his tracks and looked up sharply, mouth hanging slightly open for a moment before he crushed his teeth together, his face settling into an expression that was more feral than anything else.
"What are you saying, Kakarot?" he hissed. "You think I won't? You came all the way here to tell me you think I care about this planet? About your stupid people? Think again because I don't!"
Without even realizing it, Vegeta powered up again, blue aura sizzling and thundering around him; the third class idiot was just staring at him, panting slightly – no doubt he wasn't used to the gravity, Vegeta thought disdainfully – and with that useless grin on his lips and in his eyes. And, in that motionless moment, Vegeta felt as though he was being attacked. Not with fists and punches and blasts – but nevertheless, it was an attack. An attack Vegeta didn't know how to counter – for a moment he felt exposed like never before in his life and what pissed him off monstrously was that he seemed to be the only one affected by that condition of crystal clearness. Yes, because as things stood – Vegeta had actually no idea of what was going on in the thick head of the other.
Then – it came.
"But you do."
A firm, sure statement – and every single muscle in Vegeta's body went stiff.
He couldn't possibly have heard right – he said nothing as he felt white-hot burning lava liquefying the walls of his stomach. He could only stare. His eyes stung. His lips were firm in that usual hard, thin line – because his teeth were clenched so tight they were starting to hurt – he had never been that enraged before, ever. Not even during and after the first battle on Earth – not even while fighting Frieza on Namek, not even when he had been forced to face death at the hand of that alien bastard.
Vegeta knew his hands were shaking, so he closed his fingers against his palms with violence, feeling them snap like dead twigs. He was going to wipe away that stupid, omnipresent smile from that face – he was going to scratch, to beat it until nothing but blood remained.
How. Dare. He.
Goku trailed off almost immediately. Not only because it was getting hard to breathe – but the words stumbled on his tongue, they stopped clumsily on the threshold of his lips and stayed there, muted. He didn't even know what he was going to say – or rather, he knew, but even in his brain, even for him, it sounded nonsensical – he wasn't that used into putting stuff into words.
And then Vegeta spared him the effort by snapping altogether.
"SHUT UP!" he shouted. Goku's eyes widened imperceptibly; he was about to point out that technically he wasn't uttering a sound, but then –
"SHUT UP!" Vegeta shouted again, furious beyond reason – and he hurled himself at Goku fist first, blue aura bursting into life. "Fight me, clown!"
"Vegeta – " Goku flew out of the way and Vegeta adjusted his direction at the speed of sound and went for the offensive with a kick that Goku was only barely able to dodge. "Stop, I mean it!"
Vegeta snarled. "You should have stopped me years ago, when you had your chance!" he said with venom, as he continued to throw rapid blows at his opponent.
"You really want to do this?" Goku said, twisting left and right to avoid Vegeta's furious attacks. "Now?"
"I ONLY want to do this!" Vegeta bellowed, as he gathered his strength and then, with astounding speed and fury, he was able to hit the target – he felt pure satisfaction as he rammed his knee square into Goku's stomach. "This is the reason I was born!" Vegeta spat, watching as Goku doubled over and coughed violently.
"This… defeating you is in my destiny, Kakarot! I'll take back the glory and the pride you stole from me – me, an elite warrior!"
He grabbed a hold of Goku's hair and forced him to look up as he charged a sizzling ki blast in his other hand. "And I'll leave you with nothing!" Vegeta smirked and he was about to fire the blast – and then he was reeling back, flying, crashing against the wall at his back – the ki he'd gathered lost.
He sprung back to his feet immediately and dropped on guard – so Kakarot was awake and reactive... finally.
Goku straightened slowly and wiped the droplet of blood away from his mouth.
"You talk big," he said, the gauging expression back in his eyes. "You forget that I can play too."
"THIS IS NOT A GAME!" Vegeta said and then, as abruptly as his outburst had been, the silence went back to fill the space between the two rivals, heavy and corporeal, soaked to the bone with things possibly too big to be constricted into words.
Vegeta's jaw ticked – for the longest minute, the only sound was Goku's audible breathing that gradually dissipated –
"We're not fighting here," Goku said at last.
Vegeta smirked. Oh, he knew those words.
"Have it your way," he replied. "It makes no difference."
Bulma examined with a critical eye what had once been her most advanced training bot – now a pathetic pile of metal and wires – courtesy of Vegeta.
"Idiot," she muttered under her breath and she reached for her screwdriver, meaning to free the parts that were still more or less useful to something – when the baby decided to kick and she brought a hand to her belly with a small gasp.
It was late march, the bump was ever growing, the time was almost up and she still had not thought of a name – she had decided not to know the sex of the baby in advance. Actually, she had decided not to do anything – after her first moment of shock, her mother had taken charge of the situation, immersing herself in stuff that made Bulma's brain evaporate – bassinets and strollers, rubber ducks and polka-dot onesies; the endless baby talk was driving Bulma insane. She couldn't count on Vegeta's actual support of course and she certainly wasn't going to engage in dissertations about disposable diapers vs cloth diapers, so she had been more than happy to let her mother gush about that stuff – she had only felt the need to step in when that foolish painter obviously had no idea how to draw a giraffe…
"You stopped working on this thing, huh?"
Her dad's voice brought Bulma back to the lab and she turned to see what he was talking about.
"What?" she said and Dr. Briefs tapped a finger on the white board on the wall. "Oh."
"It's a brilliant equation," her father said, but Bulma shook her head.
"Nah, dad, I racked my brain on that thing, but it's useless," she said morosely. "Guess there are things even a genius like me cannot do. You can erase it if you need the board…"
Dr. Briefs rubbed his chin, humming softly under his breath – then he smiled. "Nah, let's keep it here – you never know when inspiration strikes!" he said.
Bulma shrugged and went back to analyze the poor remains of the robot.
"Brilliant… just brilliant…"
At that, Bulma turned again – her dad was for some reason completely engrossed in the blue writing on the board.
"Well… thank you, dad."
"Hello, my sweethearts!"
The lab's door opened and Mrs. Briefs head peered in.
"Hey, mom," Bulma said. "What's up?"
"Uh, I've been meaning to ask if you know if Vegeta eats pizza."
Bulma scowled and focused back on her work. "And how would I know? He rarely utters more than two sentences a day," she said.
"I think it's safe to assume he's omnivorous," Dr. Briefs said, not taking his eyes away from the board.
"Oh, that's great!" Mrs. Briefs squealed. "Should I order for Goku too?"
The screwdriver slipped between Bulma's fingers. She closed her eyes for a moment.
"I'm sorry, what?"
Mrs. Briefs blinked. "Well, I just saw him flying away along with Vegeta – they were in a great hurry, but I think they'll be back come dinner time," she said. "Maybe they wanted to do some last-minute shopping, it's almost –
"Mom, FOCUS!" Bulma shrieked. "Goku was here? With Vegeta?"
"Well, yes," Mrs. Briefs said. "Those boys! You can spot them from miles away… Bulma, honey?"
Bulma didn't answer – under her parents' perplexed stares she rummaged her drawer with trembling hands, she grabbed an old scouter and scrambled out of the lab in a crazy flurry, full of nervous kinetic energy.
A few miles away from West City, a storm was raging.
Flashes and roars were looming over the canyons, cold pelts were hammering against the ground without relent – Goku zoomed away from a vicious attack, flying above the cliffs and craters trying to put some distance between him and Vegeta. The effort was fruitless – Vegeta was immediately all over him with a punch that he avoided by blurring to the right and disappearing – Vegeta stopped and shifted his eyes around –
Goku appeared at his back with a kick that sent Vegeta reeling, but he recovered at once and went back to the offensive with a loud growl.
They began to exchange rapid blows – Vegeta was quick and agile, the rain did nothing to stall his movements, but Goku was keeping up just fine it seemed – it was as though Vegeta's moves were an open book in Goku's eyes – transparent and decipherable – and Vegeta was not fine with it at all. He was supposed to be mysterious and obscure to the eye of the other, lethal and inscrutable – but it was as though Kakarot could read him… it was maddening.
Vegeta shouted as he went for a front kick – Goku darted back to avoid it, then he turned and countered with a back piercing kick that Vegeta tried to avoid by skipping sideways and it half-worked – Goku's foot didn't smash his ribcage, it only collided with Vegeta's arm with a sickening crack.
"Damn you!" Vegeta yelled.
Luckily it wasn't broken, but that didn't anger him any less – with a feral scream he started to power up, blue aura dancing and growing around him in furious patterns –
Goku shoot backward and tried to blink the rainwater out of his eyes. The rain was unyielding, the air was heavy and opaque – no wonder he felt like he was drowning. He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, willing his lungs to behave themselves, his heart to stop with that uncomfortable staccato – then he refocused on Vegeta's growing aura, squinting,
It took him a second to figure Vegeta out.
"You can stretch your aura all the way to Yardrat!" Goku said. "It won't work!"
Vegeta's eyes seemed to bulge out for the rage.
"SHUT UP!" he yelled and dived at Goku again, putting all the ki he had gathered in the momentum – his kick finally collided with Goku's jaw and it was as though electricity coursed through Vegeta's veins when he felt the satisfying crunch of his rival's bones.
He went for another blow to the head, but Goku blocked it and shoved him off.
"Hey, it was just an advice," Goku said, his words muffled by the way he was massaging his jaw. He winced at the metallic taste of blood in his mouth. "No need to get all worked up."
Vegeta was seeing red.
"The day I need your advice is the day I die, Kakarot!" he seethed and powering up again, he shot a barrage of ki blasts that pierced effortlessly through the thick rain.
"Whoa – harsh!" Goku said as he dodged left and right. "Would it kill you to say thanks?"
"How dare you talk to me this way?" Vegeta yelled, and he closed the distance between them with furious speed – in a moment he had pulled back his uninjured arm, fist clenched, and he threw it forward with a force that sent Goku flying backward when it impacted. "How dare you talk to me at all?!"
Goku recovered and shot forth like an orange and blue missile – and the match went on – and the rain kept falling and falling. For several long minutes, they seemed to be evenly matched, then Goku changed his tactic – he started to only block and parry the blows, once again not putting up a great effort to counterattack, maybe to lure him into a false sense of security, Vegeta thought. Or maybe, he thought, his ears buzzing with rage, since Kakarot had made no attempt to transform, he was simply not giving his all – the notion made Vegeta seethe with rage.
"Don't hold back with me, Kakarot!" Vegeta bellowed. "I'm the Prince of all Saiyans! There is nothing a third-class clown like you does that I CANNOT DO!"
Goku widened his eyes as Vegeta let out a throat-ripping shout – he felt Vegeta's elbow smash into his ribcage and had barely the time to register the pain and the wind knocked out of him when a ki blast hit him point blank and sent him rocketing toward the cliff below where he crashed – hard.
For a moment, there was nothing except the incessant pounding of the rain and his harsh breathing – and the smell of dirt and water mixed together.
Laying on his stomach in the mud, Goku clenched his teeth, cursing himself – this wasn't going to end well. Maybe he had exaggerated a little, earlier in the gravity room – if a time in which Vegeta had not felt the need to murder him had ever existed – well, it was gone. Goku laughed weakly as he recalled his conversation with her on that matter – oh well, it didn't mean that he wasn't still right.
He could still get a good fight out of it. A good rival – maybe. Maybe Goku just wanted to punch the lights out of Vegeta in retaliation at the moment.
He just needed to rest for a minute –
Goku heard as Vegeta landed next to him on the cliff and that was it – he couldn't lay around anymore. He gathered his legs beneath him and sprung to his feet.
"I wasn't kidding, you know!" he yelled through the rain. "The Super Saiyan transformation doesn't work like that!"
Vegeta clenched his fist. "You –
The wind that picked up all of a sudden cut Vegeta off and he looked up.
"What the hell…?"
The source of it made his jaw go slack for a moment. He immediately set his face into a deep scowl as he watched the small Capsule Corp. helicopter hovering in circles above the cliff.
Goku looked up as well and his heart started hammering in his chest worse than ever. Vegeta smirked and took advantage of Goku's distraction –
"Vegeta, wait –
Goku was fending off a series of blow to the face when the helicopter finally landed not without difficulties and Bulma barreled out of it as fast as she could under the circumstances.
"What are you doing?" she yelled hoarsely. "Stop, stop!"
Goku spun and with a kick he sent Vegeta crashing on the ground a few feet away… Vegeta rolled and leaped to his feet at once, ready to go again, but Bulma was already running towards him.
Goku felt his heart drop as he strained to see her through the rain – he got a glimpse of the white shape of her forehead, like a crescent moon, and of the darkened turquoise of her hair, heavy with water. She looked thinner than he remembered, she looked like a blue and white candle – and it was from the thinness that her baby bump stood out –
"Vegeta, I said –
The white hot ki-blast shot towards Goku at the speed of light – a split second later he was kneeling in the mud, holding his left arm, hissing in pain.
"NO!" Bulma screamed, but Vegeta was laughing madly.
"Ha!" he said. "An arm for an arm."
"An eye!" Bulma yelled and Vegeta merely shifted his eyes towards her. "It's an eye for an eye, you moron!"
Goku's laugh hurt when it left his throat. "Ugh…" he said, cradling his arm to his side. He said her name for the first time in months and he did so chuckling. "Bulma… don't give him any ideas."
Bulma turned to look at him. Her eyes were undecipherable – around them there was only water; it came crashing down in violent buckets.
"Back off, woman!" Vegeta snapped suddenly, making her jump. "This doesn't concern you!"
Bulma whipped her head towards him. "Like hell it doesn't!"
"This is a matter between Saiyans!" Vegeta raged. "Who do you think you are?"
A hand draped protectively over her belly, she took half a step back, as though Vegeta's voice had physically burned her. She opened her mouth, only to close it a second later; she allowed her breathe to go up her throat, but then she pushed it back down immediately. Vegeta was staring at her with a cold, distant glare she usually would have been able to just shrug off – and call him an idiot. But something in the ice of those black eyes told her that that wasn't a good idea.
She swallowed painfully.
"…Vegeta…?" she murmured, but Vegeta's eyes were already focused on someone else. Bulma could not believe what was happening.
"He's right," she heard and she felt her whole body going rigid.
He had not spoken in a particularly high voice, he had not even used a precise tone – just sounds and syllables sullenly thrown together – but it was more than enough to catch her attention. To put her whole being into overdrive, every single muscle in her body tense in anticipation –
"What?" she hissed – twirling on her heels so pissed off at him, at his words and at her own reaction to them that she wanted nothing more than to storm over there and kick him while he was down; but then Goku looked up from his kneeling position and she could only freeze again, stuck on the spot as though she had sprung roots.
His black eyes sank into hers and all the grinding pieces came together and made a whole.
She remembered now…
"Do you trust me?"
Months ago, or maybe a lifetime ago, in the clearing the crickets were deafening and the moon was impossibly bright and Bulma was feeling excited to be alive.
She was rushing towards the ground at a maddening speed, shrieking in glee at the top of her lungs – she wasn't scared, she was in his arm. She trusted him with her life – and the wind that was whipping her cheeks had a distinct scent of summer and of fresh grass and of all the most lovely things Bulma could think about –
A moment later, the world spun on its axis and Bulma was laying on top, for half a second she found herself staring down at Goku's smiling black eyes before everything spun again, and then again, and then they landed in a somewhat controlled crash onto the soft grass, tumbling and rolling and laughing in each other's arms and Bulma fleetingly thought she never wanted that moment to end.
But then, of course, the momentum gradually started to diminish accordingly to the law of physics – they came to a stop. Bulma raised her head just enough to look down at Goku's face, her eyes full of unabashed joy, wanting to kiss him more than anything else in the world – but then Goku blew harshly and Bulma frowned.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"I think I ate your hair," he said.
"What?!" Bulma shrieked, a hand immediately going at her scalp. "Why?"
"It's not like I meant to!"
"Well, it is you we're talking about, Goku."
Goku giggled then reached out to brush her bangs away, exposing her white forehead.
"You should cut it off if we're serious about our travel all around the world," he said at last. Bulma didn't react the way she normally would have – hitting him on the head and shrieking 'mind your own business!' at an ungodly volume. She was too excited about their project to be mad at him. She simply swatted his hand away from her hair and fixed her fiery blue eyes on him.
"I'm serious," she said. "And you?"
"Are you kidding me? I can't wait!" Goku said and Bulma snickered at his child-like enthusiasm. "It's going to be awesome!" he exclaimed and, with a swift move, he rolled over and it was now Bulma's turn to be pinned down on the grass and to look up at his face. She raised a hand and brushed a thumb on Goku's smooth cheek.
"A new adventure," she murmured. Goku nodded.
"Yeah… " he said. "Just like the old times. I could teach you how to fly this time…"
"Uh," Bulma frowned. "Thanks but no thanks."
"But it could be fun!"
"Goku, no, I'm too delicate for that stuff!" Bulma said, ignoring Goku's eye roll. "Besides, what's the point? I've got you!"
Goku grinned. "Yeah, but I could always dump you."
Bulma scoffed. "What? You would never dump me!"
"What do you know," Goku mused, sticking out his tongue. "I might."
Bulma scowled and pushed up on her elbows, Goku moving back to accommodate her movement. "You wouldn't dump me," she said firmly and Goku put his knees below him and hauled her up in his lap, wrapping his arms tightly around her and she threaded her fingers into his crazy hair as they kissed.
"You're right," he chuckled, breaking off the kiss. "I wouldn't."
Bulma giggled and kissed him again, open and deep; his mouth was fresh and cool like a mountain spring.
"Vegeta's right. You shouldn't be here."
Bulma blinked as Goku's voice forcibly pulled her away from her memories and into the present.
So that had been their last kiss before the disaster. Now Bulma remembered, but that didn't help her at all. It had been a casual kiss – no doubt they had not been thinking, not even remotely, that it was going to be their last.
And, as she remembered the kiss, and his eyes and their laughs – she remembered the feeling. The way she craved him – the way she craved his proximity, the way it – he – made her feel good. The way she was addicted to him.
The way magic had brought him to her and her to him.
Goku coughed a little and finally managed to get to his feet, rubbing a hand on his chest in circles, a slightly pinched expression on his face. Bulma watched him, still as a stone the whole time, and beside her she could feel that Vegeta was tense as a fuse, a line of heat and hate – it was the most dangerous version of the Saiyan she had ever witnessed first-hand. So, she figured, it was better to try and reason with the Saiyan who was currently hacking as though he was going to cough up a lung.
She forced herself to take a step forward.
"Goku…" she said, her voice squeezed too small for her liking. " Please, don't do this…"
Goku straightened and shook his head, a faint smile stretching on his face as he crouched back into his defensive stance, his eyes completely averting Bulma's.
"Get away from here, Bulma. Fast as you can," he said, in a voice far too calm for someone who had just taken a beating, or for someone who was feeling even a small fraction of what Bulma was feeling – Bulma only had half a second to gape at him before she felt, rather than saw, Vegeta rushing head on toward Goku like a blue thunder, an insane battle-cry echoing throughout the canyon, cutting through the thick rain that wasn't going to let up anytime soon.
Goku blocked the attack and the pair of them started to steadily rise from the ground, gradually getting higher and higher as they traded blows that made the air and the ground tremble – leaving Bulma behind, her feet glued to the ground thanks to gravity – like it was only normal it would be.
That was when it hit her – the sheer ridiculousness of the situation, the absurdity of it.
"FINE!" she yelled at the top of her lungs, arms flailing madly, trying to keep up with the direction of their flight by taking huge steps in the mud.
"Fine!" she continued. "You know what? The two of you can kill each other for all I care! You may actually solve a lot of my problems! Do you hear me? I'VE HAD IT!" She kicked the ground at the edge of the cliff violently, sending dirt and water flying everywhere. "I've had it with stupid, brainless, battle-junkie SAIYANS! I –
That was the moment when the air around her exploded and the earth beneath her feet crumbled – rock smashed and cracked apart – then the ground simply… disappeared.
Maybe she was screaming, maybe she screamed the whole way, but it didn't register – she wasn't even that sure she had actually heard the explosion…
She was falling – falling…
And then she wasn't anymore.
Something, someone had grabbed her – she sensed the arms, arms she knew from somewhere, from a half-remembered dream. She was still falling, but not dropping like a stone – she was flying.
And then everything was quiet and chill and the rage of the storm had been dampened down; she could only hear her own harsh breathing, heaving in and out synchronized with someone else's breath, and there was a slight echo too –
It felt like hours later when she dared to open her eyes – a pair of glacial teal eyes staring back at her from up close.