It shouldn’t have turned out the way it did.
Over in the other pod, Nappa can hear ragged breathing and his fist clenches of its own accord.
That pit stop seemed so unobtrusive and now, the last of the Vegeta Royal line is in danger.
Nappa should never have assumed.
“Prince Vegeta?” he asks slowly within the dark confines of his pod.
A weak grunt answers, followed by a shuddering sigh. Thank everything that Earth isn’t too far away.
They’d split up, confident that they could handle themselves while waiting for their pods to refuel. Nappa whittled away his time by wandering through different markets, scoffing at the amount of currency individuals were asking for and sampling free offerings. He was never one to deny his stomach, after all.
They’d communicated on and off throughout and it wasn’t until Vegeta murmured about being followed that Nappa felt any reason for caution at all.
“Pretty sure I’m being followed,”
“Tch…nothing I can’t handle.”
But he hadn’t handled it.
Uneasiness had filled his veins the longer the scouter stayed silent and in the end, Nappa’s decision to use the tracking system on the scouter saved Prince Vegeta’s life – barely. They’d got the drop on him somehow and Nappa made sure it would never happen again. Their ashes should be scattered on the wind somewhere by now.
He wonders how much blood Vegeta is losing and his heart flips as they start plummeting through the Earth’s atmosphere.
“Hang on, Vegeta, we’re nearly there.”
A moan of pain is all he gets.
The landscape is silent, save for the wind and the pleasant natter of crickets. This bare plain has seen many things, many battles of all shapes and sizes. It is secure, safe in the knowledge of its continued existence. The two white pods smashing into the red rock and pale dust are just another pock-marked scar.
Nobody is around to see the door of one pod sail out of its sockets and hit the ground fifty metres away. A bald Saiyan scrambles out, hands already reaching for the door of the other pod and his fingers dig in viciously into groaning metal and he yanks at the door, feeling it crinkle – and then catch on something.
“Fuck everything!” the Saiyan roars and he rips, tears, pulls apart every part of the pod he can lay his hands on.
It’s not like he cares about going back to Frieza anymore. If they have their way, they won’t be going back to Frieza ever again.
He reaches in, now deceptively gentle, and scoops out a smaller Saiyan, who shudders at the loss of artificial warmth. One gloved hand rests weakly on a deep wound, which only accompanies a whole set of various wounds. He’s lost so much blood already, his armour and blue suit stained a dark reddish-brown, and his dark head lolls against the taller one’s chest.
Hazy eyes blink slowly up at his guardian.
“Stay awake for me, little one,” Nappa hushes distractedly, barely realising his slip up as his eyes rove the landscape frantically.
Vegeta hasn’t heard that name in so long…
Nappa snarls at the emptiness.
“I WILL find people,” he growls and takes off into the sky, Vegeta cradled against him.
It doesn’t take long, however, for them to be intercepted and Nappa bares his teeth in a protective warning as he hunches over the Prince of all Saiyans slightly.
“It’s them, Mister Piccolo!” the child with the Namekian cries, his big eyes wide with shock. “The big one feels so strong!”
He’s forgotten that they were supposed to be challenged on this planet at all.
The Namekian’s eyes are locked on Vegeta and Nappa growls in the back of his throat.
“The only way you’re permitted to look at the Prince is if you’re going to give him aid!” he snaps, causing Vegeta to whimper softly at the raised volume as it vibrated through him.
A hand immediately brushes his soft hair.
The boy is staring at Vegeta also.
“He doesn’t feel too good, is he okay? His ki is really low.”
Nappa has a split second of confusion. There’s no scouter on the boy’s face, so how can he tell, apart from the obvious physical signs of injury?
The bald Earthling’s brow creases in concern.
“I thought we were in for a fight today, but I guess not,”
“Dad’s gonna be confused when he gets here.”
“I’m sure he won’t mind, Gohan,” the man chuckles with a kind smile.
The one named Piccolo floats forward a bit, putting Nappa on the defensive.
“How bad?” he asks gruffly and Nappa feels a cautious hope.
“I think he’s dying,” he states, nodding at the unconscious Saiyan, keeping a cool face on. Vegeta’s tail dangles limply instead of being wrapped tightly around his waist and he hates seeing it. “Prince Vegeta needs medical aid!”
After a moment, the Namekian jerks his head to the south, clearly conflicted despite the decision.
“There’s no honour in killing him; this way.”
Relief nearly splinters him in two and Nappa surges forward, not wanting to waste any more time.
“But know this,” Piccolo says calmly. “If you try anything, I’ll kill you both.”
Without another word, he flies off, the child sheltered near him, and Nappa glares at his back. The man flies at a slower pace.
“Don’t wanna jostle him too much now,” he babbles, nervous at being near the giant in spite of his kindness. “I’m Krillin by the way,”
“Nappa,” the other answers vaguely, more concentrated on Vegeta’s struggle to breathe. “And he’s Vegeta.”
Krillin is quiet for a minute, rolling the names over in his head.
“I like that name…Vegeta, I mean. It sounds nice and strong without being too your face about it.”
Nappa glances at Krillin, knowing that he’s only being polite, and wonders if the man knows how correct he is.
The bed makes the Prince look uncomfortably tiny. But it’s in a hospital, despite the lack of regeneration tanks, so Nappa can deal with it. He brushes a thumb over Vegeta’s chalk-white cheek, a gesture of comfort for his own benefit more than Vegeta’s. Then he straightens his back, knowing that he was lucky to get away with that.
Nappa’s always been more tactile, happy to hug and slap people’s backs. Vegeta is withdrawn and angry and unhappy and lonely. Nappa knows that, even though Vegeta is cold and hostile to go with it.
“So, we have to wait for this…senzu bean?”
In the time it took for Vegeta to be admitted into Intensive Care, a whole host of people have shown up, including Raditz’s little brother, Goku. Nappa idly thinks that name suits him better than Kakarrot.
“Yep,” said Saiyan beams, cuddling his small son, Gohan, in his lap; the boy doesn’t need to be by sheltered by the Namekian right now, that’s for sure. Nappa’s not sure whether to be disconcerted at the Saiyan’s odd behaviour or not.
“The bean will heal him up in no time!”
“And why haven’t we got one NOW?” Nappa demands, annoyed and trying to stay patient.
“Korrin needs to grow them, Mister Nappa,” the boy speaks up nervously. “They take a while.”
He looks like his parents, he thinks, watching his mother smooch Gohan on the cheek for the sixth time. Thank everything he has some Saiyan balls in him, despite the half-breed status.
Chi-Chi (he thinks that’s her name?) looks up at him with distrust.
“So…you’re like that brute who took my son and husband away from me,” she intones, anger in her voice. Maybe the courage doesn’t just come from his Saiyan father.
She seems strong, unable to be cowed – a good choice in mate, at least.
“Yeah, we’re Saiyans,” he replies with little concern.
The woman watches him lay a hand on Vegeta’s leg absently, like he’s not aware he’s doing it.
“You’re staying in the hospital?” she asks and Nappa shrugs, seeing no point in getting angry at the questions.
“He’s my Commander, so I stay.”
Something in her gaze softens.
“You could stay with us,” she gestures to her family as she speaks. “That way, I can keep an eye on you – make sure you don’t cause trouble for my Goku-sa!”
Nappa admires her for the steel in her spine – he may as well be polite to her. On Vegeta-sei, back-talking a Saiyan female was very likely to leave you with your head on a pike, after all.
“With all due respect, I think it’s wise if I stay here,” he rumbles through gritted teeth, his tail wrapping a little tighter round his waist. “Vegeta’s…vulnerable.”
A sentence he hated saying, let alone around people he still doesn’t trust, for all of his grudging respect.
Chi Chi considers this for a moment, then nods.
“I understand,” she says, her face stern. “I AM a princess myself.”
Holy shit, Goku HAS done well for himself!
Visitors come and go and Nappa is restless, watching over his Prince and listening in to various channels on his scouter. The PTO is abuzz with talk of Frieza and how the two Saiyans apparently disappeared in search for some “Dragon Balls”.
Crap, he really doesn’t want to think about how they found THAT out.
He doesn’t understand why these “Z-Fighters” keep coming to see Vegeta either (they barely know them at all!), but he’s pathetically grateful for the displays of kindness. So he decides to come clean about what he’s learnt – and about what he suspects.
“So, you basically ran away?” questions Goku around a mouthful of noodles.
Nappa bristles at that implication, but forces himself to nod, swallowing down his own food. Earth makes amazing food, something to keep in mind when deciding its fate.
Vegeta’s oxygen mask becomes a little crooked as the Saiyan turns his head. Nappa reaches over to adjust it, but Goku beats him to it, straightening it out with a smile. He’s smiling most of the time and Nappa enjoys that, even when he’s disbelieving of the other’s kindness. It’s so…abnormal for a Saiyan and the giant wonders how at how far their race may have fucked up in retrospect. He’s pretty sure Vegeta is going to hate this third-class Saiyan.
“We were sick of him ordering us around,” Nappa continues, stirring his noodles with his chopsticks. “And I was sick of purging planets with people who couldn’t fight back!”
The other’s dark eyes narrow.
“You sounded like you enjoyed the idea of killing us all off,”
“I…” Nappa struggles for a second. “I enjoy the rush, the fight and, yeah, I have more bloodlust than you probably do,”
His gaze is pulled to Vegeta.
“There’s no honour or decency in killing for the sake of it, but I don’t think he sees it that way.”
There’s a silence punctuated only by the smaller Saiyan’s unsteady breaths under the mask.
“DAMMIT!” Nappa cries out suddenly. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this! He was supposed to be our King one day! He should have been raised differently!”
Running a hand over his bald head, Nappa looks at the ground in shame.
“…I should have raised him better, should have tried harder.”
Goku’s gaze is critical, before his face splits into a genial smile.
“Sounds to me like you care about him a lot; that’s pretty good, right? I don’t think you could help the way he’s turned out. If he doesn’t at least respect you after this…well, that’s his problem.”
“You’re a rare space case, y’know?”
“Yeah, I got that impression from Raditz!”
His face and tone becomes sombre.
“Look, I’m sorry about that- I wish it’d been different,”
“Honestly, that was his own fault,” Nappa sighs. “He always did get rash. Plus, he was weaker than Vegeta and I combined. Still wanna bring him back though, weird as that sounds!”
At that moment, the door opens and a blue-haired woman steps in.
“Hi, am I interrupting anything?”
“Nah, come in, Bulma!” Goku chirps and he grins over at Nappa. “Nappa, this is Bulma Briefs! She’s gonna help ya find the Dragon Balls!”
Nappa stares at them both in shock.
Whatever he was going to say is lost as a small moan cuts him off. Hazy grey eyes peer blindly around and Nappa’s instantly by his side.
“Vegeta! You’re awake!”
The Prince blinks as the back of a hand touches his burning cheek and he leans into it for a second before twitching away, his pupils dilating as his breathing becomes rapid.
Nappa carefully reaches out a hand, trying to soothe the panicking Saiyan.
“Vegeta, we reached Earth! We did it, you’re safe-!”
Vegeta lashes out in defence, catching Nappa on his chin. Blood runs down from it as the giant cups it. Even when Vegeta is weak, he still packs a punch.
“Safe?!” He laughs hysterically, completely devoid of recognition and eyes wild as he pushes himself as far into the bed headboard as he can go. “We are never safe, get away from me!”
He’s clearly scared and Goku seems sad for him. Rubbing his chin almost ruefully, Nappa cautiously tries again, scolding himself for touching Vegeta when he was unaware. He should know better than that by now.
“Vegeta, do you recognise my voice?”
Hyperventilating, Vegeta’s head tilts to the side as he struggles, curling in on himself in instinctive fear. His guardian keeps talking, voice low and calm, until he finally sees the spark of recognition in ebony eyes. The chest stops heaving a few moments afterwards, but the hands still shake. An awkward atmosphere ensues, furthering the Prince’s humiliation and anxiety.
“Where are we?” he snaps, exhausted already.
Goku takes it upon himself to explain and Vegeta’s remembered the sound of his voice (from Raditz’s scouter as the other Saiyan convulsed and died) if his sneer is anything to go by.
“Yeah, er, you’re in hospital. We managed to find you both when you landed and get you fixed up!”
Vegeta makes an aborted attempt to get up, hissing in pain.
“I-I don’t FEEL very “fixed up”,” he grits out and Nappa takes over before any arguments start.
“Vegeta, they don’t have any regeneration tanks here,”
The Prince snorts weakly.
Bulma Briefs scowls, insulted by such talk, and Nappa sighs internally; Vegeta is so good at causing trouble.
“They do have something called a senzu bean, though. Once it’s grown, apparently it’ll heal you instantly!”
Wary interest shows on the small Saiyan’s sharp features and Goku decides to introduce Bulma. The look Vegeta gives her (the tiny widening of his eyes, a faint glow on his cheeks that deepens his fevered flush) cements Nappa’s resolve.
They were right to come here.