Rolling In The Deep
He walked up the rocky path that led into the dense woods, where the vegetation was thick at the sides of the trail. Following a yellow balloon he went further and further, leaving the woods behind – and he emerged onto a steep, exposed cliff. He walked to the edge. He looked down, he recognized the place.
The pond below was frozen solid, it was icy silver and the shores were buried into drifts of snow.
The view before him was lifeless and colorless, unnaturally still and silent. Even the moon was grey. He yelled for her, but his voice had no sound. He turned to go back, but the path and the forest were gone, so with no other choice, with a single step, he followed the balloon jumping off the cliff.
The descent was slow, it was like floating, like being a feather in the wind. He touched down on the ice, not making any sound, and walked to the little house before him when a sudden gale-force wind picked up, tumultuous, destructive, cutting, pushing him backwards. He covered his face with an arm and tried to brave through it, it was imperative that he reached the little house, where the wooden shutters were slamming unrelentingly against the wall.
"Grandpa?" he tried to call, but it was too late because the shutters slammed wildly one last time and the grey moon collapsed from the sky.
Goku jolted awake in the very same instant lightning struck outside his window. With the thunder that followed, he sat up quickly, breathing hard. Sealing his eyes shut, he hunched over, his chest heaving, gasping harshly for breath.
He felt a hand rest warily on his shoulder and jumped a little. He opened his eyes and everything came back to focus. The cold white bedding, something on the wall – an old photograph of the three of them when Gohan was just born. He shivered.
"It's okay. You were dreaming," Chichi's voice said and it sounded edgy.
Goku took a couple of deep breaths, trying to regain some control on himself. For a moment, all he could hear was his blood roaring in his ears as his heart hammered erratically. He thought of the shutters slamming wildly, scarily. He had never felt so lost before.
"I-it was my grandpa's old house," he gasped, to no one in particular, maybe to himself. "And the wind… so strong…"
A rustle of sheets and the lights were turned on.
Chichi's worried voice somehow pierced through the fog in his head. He wanted to reassure her, but the dark moon had crashed on him, the sky had fallen down and he hadn't been able to warn his grandpa in time.
A hand, half guilt, half sorrow, grasped his throat and he wheezed against it, the air scratching badly in his trachea, in his lungs. He was positive he was going to choke.
"Please," he rasped. "Open the window, Chichi." He swallowed painfully. "Let me breathe."
Chichi was standing at the feet of the bed, staring, gaping, petrified. She couldn't recall something like that ever happening before. She snapped out of it and dashed to the window, opening it fully despite the coming storm. The cool November air hit her face full force and she stepped aside, to let it make its way to her husband.
Goku shivered as the rush of fresh air collided with his sweaty skin, but he welcomed the cold as his very best friend. He let himself fall on his back, on the pillow, an arm draped across his face, panting. It was okay. It was just a nightmare. The yellow balloon didn't actually made him jump from a cliff. And, what was more, he could fly. And his grandpa… Goku gasped harshly as the hand tightened around his throat again.
He felt the bed sink slightly as Chichi sat beside him and put a hand on his chest.
"Are you alright?" Chichi asked, her voice unsure.
He nodded. It was just a dream – he was going to forget about it.
"Sure," he said, as level as he could. "Bad dream. Don't worry about it."
Chichi sighed and got up, closing the window only halfway.
The atmosphere around Vegeta was dense and heavy, air thick in his lungs, heavy on his shoulders, on his muscles. The world had hazy edges, not quite recognizable – everything had taken on a scorching red hue and he didn't know if it was real of if his eyes were playing games on him.
From the controls of the gravity device came a mind numbing humming sound. On the display, the number 300 shined in bright green letters – he could feel the blood rushing from his head to pool down at his feet, unable to make its way back to the heart and his heart unable to pump the blood to his brain and his brain slowly turning off due to the lack of oxygen – but he wasn't going to give up.
Grunting, Vegeta powered up and it was a little bit easier to bear the weight of the atmosphere – he continued to extend, to strain his power, his blue aura getting bigger and bigger around him, he was screaming, the veins on his forehead popping out dangerously until suddenly – he collapsed on his knees, heaving.
He clenched his fists on the floor as sweat dripped from his forehead, burning his eyes – staying alive was a struggle and there was only one thing keeping him there – the demon in his head.
Goddamn you, Kakarot.
He was there – walking slowly towards Frieza. He could see him through the thick red atmosphere – he could see the dark eyes staring at him, piercing through him – belittling him. There was a definite sneer in those eyes, as that hateful face set into an upsetting smirk and the air started to tremble around him – in an explosion of gold the first Super Saiyan was standing before him, aura silently flaming around him like a golden fire.
Vegeta's eyes widened and the willpower prevailed and he leapt on his feet, his fury exploding, the desire to annihilate his rival overwhelming as Kakarot crouched, ready to attack –
"WHY?" Vegeta screamed lunging at him, putting all his strength into a punch strong enough to kill – that went through nothing.
Vegeta whirled on his feet. "What?" he panted, looking around, but the golden warrior had disappeared.
He was the only one standing in the gravity room.
The desperate desire to prevail was keeping him up, no more he could feel the air trying to break him in two. He clenched his teeth, feeling the fury build up in his chest and – tilting his head backwards, he let go.
"WHY?" he screamed again, all the air he had in his lungs leaving him.
The only answer was the maddening buzz of the gravity machine and Vegeta turned around, ki blast ready to be shot – but then – he stopped, letting his arm fall to his side.
He felt as though he was losing his mind.
He couldn't live one day – he couldn't get one breath without the thought of Kakarot, without the infuriating knowledge that that low-level scum had become a Super Saiyan while he, Vegeta, the prince of all Saiyans was struggling to even stand in that goddamn room, he was struggling to even exist.
He loathed his power, his body, what once had been his greatest source of pride – he was going crazy, he wanted to crawl out of his own skin. Why couldn't he obtain what the low-level trash had obtained so easily? It didn't make sense. And it was poisonous.
Kakarot was poison.
He had taken over his mind, altering the fabric of his thoughts – he had gotten under his skin, breaking him apart, taking away everything, defeating him without even making a move.
Vegeta had never asked nor needed anyone's help and Kakarot had saved his life. Vegeta had never felt ashamed a day in his life and Kakarot had sent him to that brink, making him feel useless and helpless.
But he was the prince of all Saiyans, he was an elite warrior and he would not let Kakarot win forever.
He would make him suffer.
He wanted to see him suffer. He wanted to leave him with nothing, he wanted to strip him of that confidence, to leave him with no trust in anything or anyone, not even in himself.
He had to restore the true order of things.
It was in his blood, in his destiny – and destiny was something that was buried within the body at birth, like the heart, like the most vital organs – all he had to do was follow that golden string of fate and try harder and harder, let the fury and the destiny drive him to Kakarot and beyond.
He was destined to be the number one and that was all there was to it.
With a deep breath, he shot angrily in midair and resumed his training.
He would prevail.
The whisper made Gohan raise his head from the desk and look up. His dad's head peered from behind the door of his room for a moment, then it threw a furtive glance down the hallway.
"Dad?" Gohan asked, perplexed.
Apparently satisfied, thinking that he was in the clear, Goku flashed a broad smile and walked in.
"How's the homework going?" he said, giving Gohan a light, cheerful pat on his back.
"Oh, fine," Gohan sighed, unconsciously mirroring his dad's whispering. He closed his notebook and leaned back on the chair. "I just finished with algebra and I was starting this book – it's not a school thing, it's really cool!"
Goku looked at his son open face, the bright eyes, the kind smile. He thought he was amazing, a big heart, a sharp head and a huge spirit. He ruffled the kid's hair and looked at the dark green cover of the book Gohan was showing him. He tried to show interest at the best of his possibilities, even though he knew Gohan wouldn't buy it, but he would at least appreciate the effort.
"Cool," he said. "Hem, what is it?"
"It's…" Gohan was ready to go into the details of the story, then he trailed off and shot his father a skeptical, perplexed look. He arched an eyebrow. "Uh, dad?"
Goku looked away from the green book and smiled at his kid, clueless. "Yeah?"
"Why are you whispering?"
Goku's grin became maybe too big for his face. "Why are you?" he countered.
Gohan frowned, thinking. "I – DAD!" he exclaimed in annoyance when he saw that his father was giggling at his expenses. But Goku was quick to shush him, wagging his hands back and forth frantically.
"Ssst, there is a reason!" he said, then he stretched his ears, listening for Chichi's ominous footsteps and when he heard none, he winked. "How about a little break?" he asked. "It's the first day of sun in, like, ages! Between school and everything, you've been cooped up inside for too long!"
Gohan grinned broadly. "Yes!" he exclaimed, punching the air with a small fist and then bumping his knuckles against his father's. "Great!"
Goku nodded and a moment later he had already launched himself out of the window.
"Race ya to the river!" he yelled behind his back.
Gohan shook his head to recover from the hasty departure of his father and then he got up, shooting like a missile at his tail.
"Not so fast, dad!"
In a moment, they had left the house far behind, flying above the thick canopy of trees of the forest, the cool air hitting their faces in a refreshing rush. When the river came into their sight, Gohan accelerated, powering up to fly straight at his father, who made a little 'oof' sound before they crash-landed onto the grass below, tumbling and rolling a few feet from the riverbank.
"Did I win?" Gohan exclaimed cheerfully, popping to his feet immediately. Goku sat up and laughed.
"I guess your extreme dedication wins the race," he said, dusting himself off from the leaves and the twigs caught in his hair and clothes. "You okay?"
"Sure," Gohan answered and went to plop down next to his dad, watching the river flow lazily and reassuringly, glittering under the warm sun of the almost-spring. Goku sighed contently, then he looked down and chuckled fondly.
"You brought the book?" he said, nodding his head towards the dark green hardcover in Gohan's hand. Gohan laughed sheepishly.
"You didn't give me the time to put it away, dad."
Goku smiled and lay down on his back, crossing his arms behind his head, like a pillow. "Oh, well," he said with a relaxed yawn, "Let's hear about this really cool story."
Gohan raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Really?"
"Sure," Goku replied with a small shrug. "Why not?"
Gohan looked at his father prone figure for a moment, then he smiled genuinely, all eyes and teeth. "Actually, I think you'll like it," he said, flipping the cover open. "It's called 'Journey To The West."
Goku stared at the bright blue sky, examining the weird shapes of the white clouds as he listened. "Mh-mh."
Gohan smiled, then he concentrated on the book. He cleared his throat and began. "The divine root conceives and the spring breaks forth as the heart's nature is cultivated, the great way arises, before chaos was divided, heaven and earth were one."
Goku closed his eyes.
He was concentrating on the sounds, not really on the meaning. But the sounds suddenly formed a very clear image in his head and it was as though he living in the tale, breathing it.
It was a nice sensation of peace, one that he thought had been lost years ago when his brother had come on Earth. But the peace was back – they had fought hard for it. He and Gohan had gone fishing like he had promised once – and focusing on Gohan, focusing on training, Goku could tell himself that everything was good.
Even if – today was already tomorrow and it would be the same thing. He knew he would wake up again not really remembering what had happened in the last months. Had something happened? He wasn't that sure.
But there was Gohan and there was training and there was his body and his limits to test – it was going to be okay. He didn't have to constantly think about the hole Bulma had left. Even if the hole was very recent and too close and too big to ever be granted the grace of forgetting about it for good.
"Living things had always tended towards humanity; from their creation all beings improve. If you want to know about creation and time… read about the difficulties resolved on the journey to the west…"
Journey to the west. The three simple words hit him in a very peculiar way. Goku opened his eyes and looked at his son, who didn't notice. He kept reading diligently, in a quiet but clear voice.
Those months spent at home hit Goku like a kick in the stomach. Those months of stillness, of standing in perfect axis where he apparently was supposed to be. Motionless, static in one place while things inside him rushed and crumbled and morphed. He knew – he had learned from his battles that it was dangerous to stay still – that it was a kind of heroism that brought nowhere.
Standing still was like going against himself. His basic instinct was to be in motion, perpetually.
"Amid the snowy breakers the sea-serpent rises from the deep. It rises high in the corner of the world, where fire and wood meet."
Maybe it was selfish on his part – but as he listened to the tale of those amazing, colorful, legendary adventures told by his son's young voice – Goku thought that he didn't understand how a world without wanderers and without travels and adventures could ever exist and that he didn't know how he was supposed to feel alive in that reality where one had to stay still in the place he was born instead of going, far away – to gain rough and dirty hands and smooth soles – to search for new things and for someone that could comprehend that, if even a little bit. And when that happened, when you'd find it, to make that connection last as long as it was possible. That was the real meaning of life to him.
"On the red cliffs, phoenixes sing in pairs…"
But maybe – Goku turned his attention back at the clouds. Maybe he had already done that and it was too late. Maybe the connection had been lost and next time he would see Bulma – if he would at all – she would look at him like she looked at anyone else.
It was only fair. But –
Bulma had found him in the forest all those years before. She had walked those woods. She was there, he could feel it.
"…In caves the dragons come and go."
Closing his eyes, Goku hoped Gohan would find his own special, personal way to explore the beautiful thing that was life. He hoped Gohan would never experience that gaping hole in the soul, he hoped he'd never have to settle for a presence in the wind.
"After playing, the monkeys would go and play in the stream, a mountain torrent that – Piccolo! Hi!"
Goku's eyes snapped open. He hadn't sensed Piccolo's presence getting closer – but sure enough, he was hovering on the other side of the small stream, the white cape waving in the slight, scented breeze that made dandelions twirl lazily in the air.
Goku tensed a little. Not so much because he was surprised to see a six foot tall green alien flying in front of him, but because he suddenly felt as if all his inner thoughts were out on the table. After all, he guessed, being omniscient came with being half a divinity. Or with being an alien from outer space with sensitive ears, a sharp brain and observant eyes.
Goku chuckled to himself. What was wrong with him? He'd never been so paranoid with his thoughts and feelings. He had never had the need to be, though –
"Hey, Piccolo!" he said in a cheerful, loud voice, sitting up and waving a hand.
Piccolo's brow ridge arched. "What is this?" he said, in his usual gruff voice. "Story time?"
Gohan giggled, embarrassed, and closed the book, but Goku smirked. "Want to join us?" he yelled across the river.
He watched as Piccolo snorted dismissively. "Do I look like a brat ready for bed?"
Goku laughed heartily.
"No, actually, not at all," he answered and Gohan burst in another fit of giggles. Piccolo rolled his eyes, perturbed with the lack of effect sarcasm had over Son Goku. But either way, he slowly floated closer to the father and son duo and crossed his arms.
"If I recall correctly, you owe me a rematch, Son. Enough with this disgusting display of laziness!" he snarled.
Goku instantaneously jumped to his feet and stretched his arms above his head, making them pop. A good sparring match was what he needed, what he always needed – the beauty of combat, the adrenaline in his blood, the satisfaction of a successful blow, the concentration it required.
He grinned and stretched his legs, quickly bending them at the knees, left and right. "And a rematch is what you'll get, Piccolo," he said cockily.
Piccolo smirked. "Now we're talking."
Gohan leapt to his feet, book discarded on the grass. "Oh, this is going to be good!" he said and Piccolo glared at him, but his stare had no real threat in it.
"You're next, Gohan," he said. "We'll see if you kept up with your training."
Gohan giggled sheepishly, knowing that for his mentor's standard no, he hadn't. "Hehehe, yeah."
Goku hit his own palm with a fist. "This is the first round of the Forest Tournament," he chirped and Piccolo rolled his eyes. "The strongest of the riverbank!"
"Yeah!" cheered Gohan.
"Shut up, the two of you."
And Piccolo got rid of his weighted cape, ready for the offensive, and so it began. And, for a while, Goku didn't actively think about the gaping hole, even if he knew it was still there.
Bulma sighed and lit the second cigarette in the span of one hour.
She was a smoker it was official – and she liked it. It gave her something to do with her hands since idle hands were the devil's workshop and everybody knew that. And she certainly couldn't busy herself indulging in the pastries and cakes her mother had left on the table of the living room. Kami knew if she wanted to.
Kami knew how many things Bulma wanted and wouldn't get. She was losing her mind. Those months without him, without a single glimpse of him were driving her crazy. She knew it was bound to happen. The distance. Once you have a tryst with your married best friend and he goes back to his wife and son, there really wasn't a way back from that.
The only solution was a clean cut and that clean cut was driving her insane to the point that she had actually listened to her mother's praises of Vegeta's behavior, of how he was hard working and determined, of how he was husband material.
Yeah, well, her mother was crazier than she was, and Vegeta – Vegeta was the craziest one of all. Always cooped up in that goddamn gravity room she had been so stupid to build, always feeding that morbid obsession with Goku, always Goku, always him – was it possible for someone to stop thinking about Goku, please? How was he so special?
Why and how on earth she had gotten to the point that Goku felt like a part of her being more than her own blood?
Bulma snarled and crushed the half-spent cigarette in the ashtray.
She needed to get out of that place. Yamcha had called – reunion at Kame House that afternoon. A little bit of sun and a little bit of breeze from the sea would do her good and there was no danger of running into Goku. In the last months, the gang had gathered together quite a bunch of times and he had never bothered to show up. Caught up in training – oblivious to anything else – at the mercy of his nagging wife. All of the above, Bulma knew it very well.
So at the mirror she brushed her hair that had grown past her shoulders and adjusted the straps of her white sundress.
Her friends and the sea and the sun was what she needed. And maybe she could punch Master Roshi to relieve her pent up tension – there was always a good reason to punch the old timer.
She lingered on her reflection for a moment.
Goku had scanned her face a few times, as though he was looking for some deeper meaning in her features. It was unnerving, but she had let him because staring back at his awed expression was like finding a piece of herself she didn't know was missing. But she couldn't dwell about that anymore - she could not run to those glances of the past just because the future was scary and she didn't know what to do with it.
So she turned her back to the mirror and left her room with big, determined steps. In the hover car she listened to the radio, and once she reached the sea she flew low enough that the water that rose was hitting her face, salty and cool and glittering and she laughed it off and went on gliding on the blue trail.
"Guys, I'm here!"
She hopped down from the car and onto the sand and Gohan and Puar welcomed her cheerfully and she felt all the blood leave her face and gather at her feet, where it was less than useless.
"G-Gohan," she stuttered, her voice at a rather high octave. "I – I wasn't expecting to see you! How are you?"
But she didn't pay attention to the boy's answer because the sound of his voice from inside the house made her feel lightheaded and she bowed her head, trying to take an inconspicuous deep breath.
"…and mom was in a good mood, so she said I could come too!" Gohan was saying.
Bulma swallowed hard and nodded, a tight smile on her face.
"That's great, kiddo," she managed to push out, thinking that maybe she was still in time to flee from the place, but Krillin, Master Roshi and the others were already strolling out from the front door to meet her and before she knew it, Goku was standing there, and he was muscular but lean and he was wearing his same old orange gi and his eyes were black and warm and his scent of sunbathed woods was the same as always.
And while the others talked, their eyes briefly met and something came over Bulma. She took a step towards him then, as soon as she had, she wasn't sure anymore of what was her intention – she saw him hesitate and she hesitated in turn and, finally, they ended up in a brief, stiff, clumsy hug. She awkwardly patted him on the back, then they broke apart immediately.
Hopefully, no one had noticed. Hopefully, yeah.
They had never, in a million of years, greeted each other with a hug. She wanted to sink through the sand and die from the shame.
Goku's face carried a pinched expression she didn't recognize and she suddenly hated him. She excused herself from the conversation and went inside, in a desperate need to do something with her idle hands, since she had the feeling that punching Master Roshi wasn't going to cut it and she certainly couldn't punch a Super Saiyan or whatever he was out of nowhere without raising suspicions.
With the corner of one eye, Goku watched as she walked at a leisurely pace out from the front door and onto the shore, drink in hand, and as she disappeared behind the house.
He tried to concentrate on what Krillin was saying, but he couldn't anymore.
Her presence was going through and through him, taking a firm hold on him, altering his mind. He thought that he had to get near to her, or he'd die. It wasn't a joke. He needed her eyes, he needed her voice, he needed her closer.
"…and what did he say? Ha! Goku, do you remember what Yajirobe said? Goku?"
Goku forced himself away from the magnetic pull Bulma was having on him and it took everything he had. He blinked.
"Uh, yeah…" he said vaguely and he ignored Krillin's skeptical stare. "Krillin, I'm going to grab another of those sandwiches! Or another three, or four… you want something?"
"Yeah, sure, as if you'd really spare something for us! No, go ahead," Krillin laughed good-naturedly.
Goku didn't need to be told twice.
He flashed a broad smile to his best friend a dashed towards the inside of the house. At the table, he stuffed two small sandwiches in his mouth, because they surely wouldn't hurt and with a loud, clean, huge swallow, he made them disappear. He punched his chest twice to help the process and once that was out of the way, he went to the back door, peering outside.
And there she was.
She was huddled on a deck chair, staring at the sea, giving him her back.
He could see the top of her aqua head and one of her arms was lazily hanging sideways. Between her fingers, there was one of those weird, icky sticks that made smoke. But he could still sense her scent – her primordial scent of burnt rosewood and hot honey and ancient memories. He felt a shiver build in the small of his back and then spreading up his spine, making all his hair stand.
"Hey, you," he said before he could even think.
Bulma turned in her seat. She shot him a lopsided smile when she spotted him, and she didn't seem surprised.
"Hey, friend," she answered, casually.
Goku raised his eyebrows at her jibe, knowing he was still in time to avoid a potential catastrophe, but he had to be there. He just had to.
He closed the distance between them as she took a drag from the cigarette and went back to stare at the sea. Her bare legs were curled up on the chair, white and perfect. And she sat there, silent, giving him nothing until the silence became of lead.
Goku cleared his throat and Bulma looked up at him.
"I'm sorry for…" he started. " You know," he said, motioning with his hand and she understood he was talking about their less than graceful, more than awkward greeting.
She smirked around her cigarette, before pulling it away from her lips. She shook her head, bringing her eyes back to the ocean.
"It's okay," she said in an even tone. Then something exploded in her chest, and the connection mouth-brain went haywire. "If you want to apologize to someone, go home and apologize to Chichi."
The silence that followed was one of the longest of Bulma's life and she had already endured a lot of heavy, pregnant silences in her doomed relationship with Goku.
It was a dead silence that told her right away she had struck hard.
She bit her lower lips, fixing her stare on the seagulls at the horizon, not wanting to turn and face his eyes, because she knew what they looked like when he was hurt – and she hated it.
For a fleeting, crazy moment she had thought that hurting him would have made her feel better, make her feel normal, but it didn't. She wondered idly if she would ever feel normal again, before shaking her head slightly.
"I'm sorry," she said, still not looking at him. "I didn't mean it."
Goku took a few steps closer to the shore, giving her his back.
She watched as he let his shoulders rise and fall in a deep breath of salty air – and thought of his bare back, of how her nails had plunged into his flesh, of how desperately she wanted to be the only one to ever do that. It was maddening. But what was more maddening was Goku's surprising reaction at her comment.
"It's the truth," was his neutral reply.
His voice didn't bear sadness, nor rage, nor it was bitter – it was a clear statement and it left Bulma bewildered above all sense – she had been sincere in her apology. And as soon as he had spoken, she had known that she wasn't ready to let go of everything – she wasn't ready for Goku to resent openly what they'd done. In fact – she had the crazy, selfish hope that he never would.
"I didn't mean to say it, then," she reiterated with more strength.
Goku stared at the sea for a moment longer, then turned to look at her.
"Do you have to do that?" he asked, motioning with his eyes towards the cigarette hanging between her fingers.
Bulma scoffed. "No," she replied and brought the cigarette to her lips, taking a long, drawn drag. She exhaled towards the sky. "But I want to."
She returned her eyes to him and he was standing there, tall against the glittering sea, his hands clasped together behind his head. And those eyes that had the power to drew her in, because they were warm, and kind, and sparkling and yet firm and they had won. Again.
Bulma scowled at him, at herself, at everything. "Don't give me that face!" she snapped.
"What face?" he countered quickly, and he kept doing the exact opposite of her demand and he did so innocently enough that Bulma felt awful.
She threw the cigarette in the ashtray at her feet and leapt up from the chair, giving him a look as to say 'are you happy now, dummy?'
And he actually smiled as she closed the distance between them and went to stand at his side, glowering, but at his side nevertheless. And when they locked gazes, Bulma thought she would never get rid of their silent connection – the one that ran deeper than their souls – the one that said I ask you smile. You smile I see.
She saw – she thought that it was pretty rare to catch a glimpse of the infinite in someone's eyes. Actually no, scratch that – it wasn't simply rare. It was their particular brand of magic. And those silences – they spoke volumes. They spoke about starry nights and laughs and kisses – crazy adventures lived together and explored skies and skies they would never explore, chances they lost.
Those silences were deafening and she couldn't bear them. Running away – was always the best thing to do. Keeping it casual was wise. Be wise, Bulma Briefs, she told herself. Don't look at him and, in the meantime, keep standing beside him because it's his presence. It's him, his scent, his elbow that barely brushes against yours. It's him and he's dumb, and it's him at your side. And you're dumb, so stay there –
"So," she said, breaking off from his stare. "Vegeta's dead set on killing you."
There was a small pause, then Goku chuckled. "Is that right?" he said.
Bulma nodded, her eyes focused on the blue horizon, the sky and the sea were of the same exact deep azure.
"He's barricaded himself in the gravity room," she said. "Three hundred times gravity."
"You can't take him seriously, can you," Bulma stated as a matter of fact and, suddenly, it wasn't only a way to deflect his eyes, to get away from him. It was a real talk they need to have, an important one, the kind that made his black eyes shine with blazing, fierce flames. And, surely enough, Goku's expression changed into the serious frown of the delicate issues.
"I take him and his training very seriously," he said. "I just don't think he's in for the kill next time we fight."
Bulma had no choice but to turn to give him a good look. "Are you insane?" she inquired, in the most rhetorical question ever. "He hates your guts!"
"Yeah, yeah, I know…" Goku replied, absent-mindedly and Bulma raised an eyebrow. "He's not my favorite person in the world either, but… still."
Bulma eyed him suspiciously. "What?"
Goku seemed to suddenly snap back into himself. He tore his eyes away from the sea and flashed her a grin. "Nothing."
Bulma scowled, for once not impressed by his broad smile. "Spill it," she said curtly.
Goku's shoulders rose and fell with a deep sigh. "I…" he began scratching his head. "You see… Vegeta didn't get away after our fight."
Bulma narrowed her eyes, listening.
"I asked Krillin to let him go."
Goku giggled nervously and brought a hand behind his head. "Yeah, probably I shouldn't have mentioned that."
Bulma couldn't believe her ears. Or her eyes. There was Goku, giggling like a moron, telling her that he had let that annoying, murderous, annoying, dangerous, nasty, annoying Saiyan live. Her first, instinctive reaction was to smack him over the head and knock some sense to him, but she was struck dumb, at loss for words.
She blinked stolidly. "But… why?"
Goku's grin widened on his face, so much that she feared he would break a facial bone or two. "To fight him again," he said, good-naturedly. Yeah, as though it was the most reasonable thing to say or do or even think."And to win, this time. What else?"
Bulma snapped. "WHAT ELSE?" she exploded, and Goku went 'ssst' on her, moving his eyes for a millisecond to the other side of Kame House. Bulma ignored his attempt at secrecy. "Are you kidding me?" she continued. "The guy's dangerous! He could have easily blown up the entire planet just for giggles!"
Goku made a face. "Nah."
Bulma's mouth hung open. "What are you trying to say, that you trust him?"
"It's not that I trust him," Goku said slowly. He hesitated for a second, then shook his head. "It's… complicated."
"I'm a genius."
Goku smiled, apologetic. "I never told anyone," he said quietly, before planting his eyes on her face. He did a panoramic tour of her lips, her chin, her forehead. And he settled on her eyes – that were hard and fiery – not leaving them. He stayed there, slipping inside, like a river that had traveled a lot and that could finally return to the sea.
Bulma didn't falter. "You can tell me," she said, quiet and firm.
And Goku knew he could. He breathed deeply. "I think, on Namek, I saw how I… I think I saw what being a Saiyan could be about."
Bulma felt her breath hitch in her throat. Goku had never really said anything about that - about the revelation of actually being an alien. She nodded for him to continue. "And what is that?" she asked, keeping her voice level.
Goku turned his head towards the horizon, falling silent for a long moment. "It's about pride… above all," he said, in a pensive voice. "And strength. It's about overcoming your rival. But being stronger than someone doesn't necessarily mean you have to kill that someone. For me, it's about the challenge."
Bulma furrowed her brow. "As in… breaking limits?"
Goku smiled. "That's right."
Bulma stared for a moment, then she shook her head. Leave it to Goku to refuse to see the bad. He only wanted to see the beauty of things and she was afraid he was trying to delude himself in his attempt to embrace his Saiyan heritage.
"But Goku…" she began, reasoning with him. "That's what you are. You can't just assume… why do you think Vegeta was a murderous intergalactic monster?" she asked. "Or your brother for that matter? He was the reason you were killed in the first place!"
"Yes, but Frieza played a heavy hand in that."
"You really think so?"
"I know so," Goku said, a hard, confident scowl on his face.
Bulma snorted. "And does Vegeta know?" she asked, pretty much knowing that her sarcasm would be lost on Goku.
"He's as good as told me," Goku answered firmly.
Bulma frowned deeply. "And you believe him?" she said loudly, indignant. "Are you trying to say that the Saiyan race was harmless and pacific? That you forgive everything? I'm sorry, but I don't buy it. The Saiyans were cold-blooded murderers and that's all there is to it! "
"I'm not forgiving anything," Goku explained firmly. "I'm just saying… very few people are hopeless, you know that! Frieza was hopeless. Vegeta's not. We've given him a second chance and he won't blow it," he said, confident and sure, and Bulma felt the luminous sensation of safety Goku often brought along with him. It was magical, it was the mark he left on people's soul. On her soul.
He motioned with his hands. "He lives at your house!" he said as if to prove a point.
Bulma snorted again. "Yeah, he does, and apparently I have to thank you if my fridge is constantly under siege!" she exclaimed and Goku laughed heartily.
"Hehehe, sorry!" he said, giggling. "But the thing is… have you ever been truly afraid of him? Honest."
Bulma thought about it. No. In all honesty, since the day Vegeta had stepped inside Capsule Corporation, she couldn't say that she had ever feared for her life of for the safety of her parents or of the Earth even. But that didn't mean that she had never feared for Goku's wellbeing, for his life. Even if he was more than capable to defend himself, even if he was the strongest of the universe. She suddenly regretted building the gravity room just to get Vegeta out of her hair.
"No, you're right," she offered quickly, hastily moving on to what mattered the most to her, and that was opening his eyes. "But Goku… he hates you because of that second chance, don't you see?" she said, her eyes flickering on his face.
Goku smiled and waved a hand dismissively.
"Yeah, yeah," he said. "Well, what do you know? Maybe he'll give me a better fight because of that!" he concluded with a wink and Bulma surrendered to what she now completely, profoundly understood was his nature. It was in his DNA as much as it was a result of how he'd grown up.
Goku was like that – always striving for a new fight and a new challenge. And Bulma would never dream of changing that – it was a search for perfection, a journey to always better himself and she couldn't admire it more. And she loved his thirst for the unknown, she comprehended it because – even if in different ways – it was her thirst too. She was the other side of that same thirst. The other side of him.
She rolled her eyes playfully. "Of course you'd say that," she said and Goku grinned unabashedly and Bulma in turn felt her heart swell and her breath hitch. She turned serious as she finally allowed herself to touch him on the arm briefly.
"Just…" she said, her voice catching slightly in her throat, "Just tell me we're going to be okay."
Goku smiled and took her hand, squeezing it gently. "We're going to be okay," he said, gazing into her eyes, and only then Bulma could believe that it was true.
Goku let go of her hand and gave her a strange, lopsided smile. "I like talking to you," he said.
Bulma was the only one he felt could be able to listen to what he had to say without judging him – maybe throwing a few jokes and screams here and there, but ultimately understanding him and that was precious beyond words to him. She was precious beyond words to him, beyond right and wrong – he knew he wouldn't trade a minute with Bulma with the whole world.
And talking to her made him wonder if life was really supposed to be like that – a few moments of superb intimacy, of perfect closeness and a lot of void days without that spark. Days he filled working hard on what he loved, with training and fights, and flights and games with Gohan – but he missed the spark, he missed the connection. And really, he didn't know what he was missing until not long ago when he'd found out he was missing her eyes. Those eyes – you could live without never ever encountering them because you wouldn't know of their existence and, therefore, they could not be missed. But once Bulma had given him those glances, those deep and intense and sacred long glances – there was no way back from that, from her hard and fiery gaze.
The one she had right now.
"I'll get another drink," Bulma said in a daze.
Goku blinked twice. "I'll walk you," he automatically replied and Bulma scoffed.
"You don't drink, Goku," she said, turning to make her way towards the house, but Goku was walking beside her.
"What?" he said, indignantly. "Of course I do!"
"No, I mean drink as in..." Bulma rolled her eyes. " Never mind."
Inside, Master Roshi, Yamcha, Oolong and Puar were at the table, playing a game of cards and even if they didn't look up, Bulma didn't stop there, she took the stairs while Goku attacked the desserts on the table, chatting comfortably with his friends, asking questions about the game. Oolong was quick to shush him anyway.
Bulma closed the bathroom door just as she heard Oolong scolding Goku for distracting him. She banged the back of her head on the door, her eyes gazing ahead without really seeing, she started counting.
At 5 there was the knock on the door and she quickly opened it and he took her in his arms without a moment of hesitation, the door closed sharply and he was kissing her against it, his hands roaming on her body, searching, Bulma's hands pulling him closer and closer, he was never close enough, they kissed with a passion that left them breathless, their desire impossible to ignore and they knew they'd rather die than stop right there, their blood was pumping in unison.
Goku grabbed her right leg and pulled it above his waist. He made sure that Bulma was firmly pressed against the door and he pulled her other leg up – and his arms went under her shoulders. Bulma's breath was already quivering, each breath she took accompanied by a vibrating pant. He was gazing at her with hungry, clouded eyes when she spoke in a low voice, a whisper that trembled in her throat.
"I'm yours," she said.
"Say it again –
"I'm yours and I'm yours…"
They made love quietly, staring into each other's eyes the whole time, breathing into each other's breath, and there was a maddening thrill in knowing that someone was playing cards a few feet from them while they finished together silently – his breath hot and wet in her ear and her nails sunk deeply in his back.
She went downstairs first, her hair perfect, her white dress straightened. When Goku followed after several minutes she had already left, but he already knew that.