[ Home | Writings | DBZ Fanfics ]
Raditz's hair streamed behind him as he hurtled through the air just above the waves. The brat tucked under one arm had finally learned to be quiet around his uncle, and the tiny island with its one dwelling was dead ahead.
The long-haired Saiyan tapped his scouter, checking the readings. Only one power level on the island, in the low three hundreds--Kakarott. Raditz grinned as the island came into view; he swooped up, and settled down to land feet-first, facing Kakarott and the mound of corpses beside him.
"So, little brother, you came to your senses," Raditz growled with satisfaction as he regarded the tangle of sprawled limbs and bloody, broken bodies. Kakarott looked at him silently, expressionless except for his hollow, empty eyes. Gohan took one look at his father and began to scream.
Raditz winced at the piercing scream and threw Gohan at Kakarott as if he were a sack of potatoes. Kakarott didn't move, but let the child crash into him and fall to the ground, still whimpering. "The brat still needs to learn manners, little brother. Now, let's count."
Kakarott still said nothing, but silently helped Raditz toss cold bodies from one pile to another as the bigger Saiyan kept count. The first body he grabbed was that of a small girl with short brown hair and brown, shocked eyes; her head flopped loosely on her broken neck as Raditz tossed the body face down on the grass. The ones on top were in the best shape; as they got to the bottom of the pile, the bodies became more disfigured, crushed by the weight of dozens of corpses on top of them. Raditz only recognized the blue-haired girl who'd been on the island from her hair and what was left of her clothes; her face and body were nearly crushed to a pulp.
Crack! Raditz looked up sharply to see Kakarott tossing Gohan's body onto the top of the pile; the boy's head was twisted straight back.
Kakarott shrugged. "Sorry, I only had ninety-nine bodies before. That makes one hundred."
Raditz woke up abruptly, heart pounding. He did not scream; he was a Saiyan warrior and had better control of himself than that. But, damn! He hated the nightmares.
Raditz sat up and mopped the sweat off his face with a swipe of his arm. He took several deep breaths as he waited for his heart to calm down, and then rose to his feet. As his eyes finished adjusting to the dark, Raditz leaned against the wall and ran his hand across the rough, stuccoed surface, reassuring himself of its reality. Sometimes he only dreamed that he woke from the nightmares; sometimes he'd wake to find himself back on Frieza's ship, or under the stars on some world he'd purged, or, worst of all, back in the Guard barracks just before Vegetasai exploded.
At least he eventually woke up from those nightmares, too. Life was merciful that way; in Hell, there had been no waking from the nightmare. But why now? Why did he have nightmares now, and not for all the years as Frieza's slave?
The small bedroom suddenly seemed both crowded and empty--it was small and close like the berthing on Frieza's ship, and empty: just a plain, unadorned sleeping chamber that meant nothing to him. It wasn't a home, and it wasn't a good place to think.
Raditz padded barefoot across his small bedroom to the closet, stopping to run his hand across the smooth wooden jamb. It was real; he was awake. The big Saiyan pulled on briefs, bodysuit and armor and walked over to the window and flung it open. He breathed deeply, inhaling the cool nighttime air and tasting all its myriad scents. The sky was greying in the east as dawn approached. He looked back at the small, dull room. Yeah. He had to get out of here.
Just before he left, he picked up the scouter from the nightstand; he didn't work nights, but he was on call, and duty required him to stay "in touch". The scouter's comm channel would have to suffice for that.
* * *
Gohan was restless, sleeping fitfully. "Too much excitement," his mother would have said, and there was some truth to that. His birthday was only two days away, and his dad would be here for his birthday for the first time since--for the first time in a long time. Finally, just before dawn, Gohan got up and got dressed; he just couldn't sleep anymore. He crept quietly outside to keep from disturbing the rest of his family; the sky was grey with the hint of coming dawn.
What was that? A powerful ki flying southwest... Gohan concentrated on it. Raditz, going somewhere in a hurry, not bothering to conceal his ki. Gohan frowned; what could his less-than-favorite uncle be up to? Gohan's own aura flickered to life, and he rose into the air, following Raditz, his own ki low and quiet.
* * *
Raditz didn't try thinking, he just flew, enjoying the breeze across his face, his hair whipping in the wind, and the fury of his own energy driving him through the air at stratospheric jet speeds. He didn't need to think, yet; instinct drew him back to the same place every time. He arced high, and came down amid the mountains, down onto a high grassy plateau.
Yeah, the same place: over there was the mountain with the notch blasted through it, right here was the crater, and... Raditz circled the crater--it was right here. He looked down; the grass was green and lush and showed no trace of what had happened nearly nine years ago. Slowly he sat down in the long grass, slowly he leaned back, watching the sun rise. He remembered the feel of that grass against his cheek--it had been short, then, cropped back by the livestock that once grazed here.
He'd never had nightmares as Frieza's slave--well, almost never, he suddenly remembered. There was one nightmare that used to haunt him when he was new there, and would recur from time to time. He'd dream he was alone in the Palace corridors, or alone in the rooms of a dimly remembered home--utterly alone. He'd run through endless empty halls, or, if it was at home, run outside, calling for someone, anyone--and there would be no one, anywhere. Just him, the only Saiyan on an empty planet....
Raditz snorted. That nightmare had been obvious; but what about his nightmares now? Why did the evil he'd done haunt him now? Why hadn't it given him nightmares back when he'd done it? Why'd he get a free ride for twenty-five damned years only to wake up in Hell??
Because I didn't care back then. I didn't have nightmares about what I did because it was nothing to me--and I ended up in Hell. Not that that was all that much of a change--I told Vegeta when I met him in Hell that we didn't have it too bad there. He saw it differently, I think--but he came there from living free on a good world where his wife and child and other Saiyans still lived! I had been the weakest of the surviving Saiyans, despised by Vegeta for being the weakest, barely tolerated by Nappa because I wasn't elite, hated by the not-Saiyans because I was Saiyan, slave to Frieza and living in dread of that monster's whims, alone and friendless and without hope. In some ways, Hell was an improvement; I had friends there. In other ways... at least in Frieza's service, I could sleep and escape the waking nightmare that was my life.
The long-haired Saiyan laid down in the grass, looking up at the ripe pink sky, hands behind his head. His tail stretched out and flexed in the grass beside him.
He'd finally learned to listen to his heart, and it was tearing him apart for thirty years of ignoring its silent counsel. Goku hadn't warned him about this part--how could he? Little brother had always listened to his heart, and had little to regret. He couldn't know what it was to have decades of cruelty and murder crushing one's soul.
I didn't have nightmares at first. When did it change? Raditz closed his eyes, thinking--and did not see the streak of light plummeting toward him.
* * *
What is he doing? Gohan wondered as he spotted Raditz stretched out full-length on the ground. This is a long way to come just to relax and watch the sunrise! I can't believe he hasn't noticed me yet.
Gohan descended slowly, his gaze taking in the surrounding mountains, the grassy tableland, the round hollow that looked like a crater... Gohan suddenly realized it was a crater; he looked around more carefully. A chill ran up and down his spine; he'd been here before.
* * *
A familiar ki intruded on Raditz's thoughts, and a shadow crossed his face. His eyes flicked open--
"Th-th-this is where..." Gohan's voice shook. The boy stood beside him, looking toward the crater.
"Yes," Raditz said, raising himself on one elbow, his black hair a blanket underneath him. "We died here." He looked intently at Gohan, one eyebrow raised.
Gohan's hands balled into fists; anger and other less-identifiable emotions chased each other across his face. "How--how can you stand to come here?"
Raditz's brows lowered. "Perhaps I should ask you the same question, nephew--"
"Don't call me that!" Gohan snapped.
The big Saiyan shrugged. "It's the truth... but no matter. As for me..." Raditz looked around. "Such a vivid reminder of my own foolishness helps me focus my thoughts on... less foolish things."
He sounds tired, and kind of sad, Gohan thought. He looked into the upturned face and wide Saiyan eyes of his father's older brother, and wondered at the sadness lurking there.
Gohan clenched and un-clenched his fists. His earliest bad memories had been of being grabbed by the large, menacing Saiyan and taken far away from his pleading father to be locked up, seemingly forgotten. He still remembered the leap of joy when he heard his Dad telling him to be strong, that Dad would rescue him--then came the terrifying sound of his father's screams of pain. He couldn't remember too well what happened after that, just his insensate rage and terror and things exploding around him. He hurt Raditz badly.
Then later Piccolo told him Dad was dead, and he was alone, so alone in the wilderness. No mother to hold him and to wipe away his tears and tell him it would be all right, no father to tell him how proud he was of him... and all his nightmares were about Raditz. It wasn't until later, when they were training, that Piccolo happened to tell Gohan that his evil uncle was dead as well.
After the evils of Frieza and Cell, and the terrible price paid to defeat Cell, Gohan had all but forgotten his dead and unmourned uncle--only to face him suddenly and unexpectedly in a haunted Japanese village less than a year ago. Raditz was his first, worst childhood nightmare returned to life; Gohan's only thought had been to use the strength that had destroyed Cell and put an end to his old nightmare once and for all--
--and his little brother Goten had leaped into the arms of his nightmare, shouting a familiar, mysterious greeting: "NUNK RATS! NUNK RATS FUN!"--mysterious no longer. And his father's evil brother told him, "I'm not your enemy; I'm here to protect Bulma and Trunks," and everything had been turned inside out.
Raditz took Gohan's long silence as another question, and continued, "I was tested here, in honor, courage, strength and wisdom--and I failed badly." He looked away briefly. "I learned a lot from that failure--more than I ever did from victory."
Gohan's sharp ears caught the rough note in Raditz's voice. He's--sorry? Raditz's next words confirmed it.
"I didn't... It shouldn't have happened that way." Raditz closed his eyes and looked away again; his voice was hoarse.
Gohan sat down abruptly, still watching Raditz. He'd gotten to thinking of Raditz as like Vegeta--cold, dark-hearted, not a person Gohan could like, but someone to be tolerated for Bulma's sake, and as an ally against worse evils. Gohan had felt pity for Vegeta just once--when he watched helplessly as Frieza brutally murdered the Saiyan Prince, and the broken, weeping Vegeta had begged Goku to avenge him--and never afterwards.
Gohan had put his feelings about Raditz aside to save Bulma and Trunks and his little brother Goten from the Opawang--but had he needed to? What were Gohan's feelings? He'd watched Raditz die after throwing himself between Bulma and the Opawang, and he'd found himself respecting Raditz's courage, and hating the Opawang for killing him. He, Gohan, had been sorry that his once-cruel uncle was dead; somehow, sometime Raditz had stopped being one of the very small group of people that Gohan was happy to see dead and had become one of the vast majority of people that the gentle-souled boy hated to see hurt.
That didn't mean he liked Raditz; it just meant that Raditz was a person, and not a monster any more. Gohan's nature was to care about people, whether he knew them or not, whether he liked them or not. He didn't like to see even bad people hurt; he just wanted them to stop doing bad things. And... hadn't Raditz stopped doing evil?
"But it did." Gohan finally spoke.
Raditz drew himself to a sitting position, shaking his hair loose and curling his tail around his waist as he did so. "Yes, it did," he agreed, still not meeting Gohan's eyes.
Raditz spoke, seemingly at random. "I don't know exactly how Vegetasai years translate into Earth years, but a long time ago I was that age where you're considered an adult, but you don't feel like one--still awkward and not yet at my full strength, but expected to be responsible and capable and strong and not having a clue how to be." The big Saiyan drew in a deep breath, and exhaled. "Kinoko--my mother--died badly purging a world just a few months before, and father did not accept it as a warrior should. He had me sent away on a long-distance scouting mission--my first--because I reminded him too much of her." He glanced at Gohan, who was listening intently. "I look like her, you know, and little brother looks just like father." Raditz sighed, looking away again. "So after months out on the back edge of nowhere, with no report from father or anyone, Frieza's ship picked me up, and I found out that everyone was dead and there was no home anymore."
Raditz finally looked Gohan in the eye. "You, too, have been orphaned and alone, with no way home," the big Saiyan said abruptly.
He knows! The sudden realization struck Gohan--somehow he knows what happened to me afterwards! But no, that's impossible--he was dead. Even Dad didn't know how alone and miserable I was. And yet... Gohan abruptly understood; this was Raditz's way of telling Gohan that he regretted the sorrow he'd caused the boy. But...
Gohan's eyes were wide. "How did you know?"
Raditz looked away again, and then stared at his hands for a while before speaking. "Every tear that I caused to be shed, every cry for mercy that I scorned, every consequence of every evil deed I ever did was a witness against me when I was Judged. I know what I did, all of it; I will always know." He lifted haunted eyes to meet Gohan's steady gaze. "Be grateful, nephew, that you were not born a Saiyan on Vegetasai!"
The long-maned Saiyan turned away, whispering so quietly that Gohan could barely hear: "We have so much to answer for."
So many thoughts and feelings churned through Gohan's mind: his lingering dislike of his uncle--yes, his uncle; the stark understanding that Raditz regretted the evil he'd done; his own guilt... Gohan wrapped his arms around himself and stared at the ground, remembering listening to Mom cry herself to sleep night after night after... after Cell, and knowing it was his fault that Dad was dead. If only he hadn't given in to his hatred of Cell! It shouldn't have happened that way!
Gohan looked up at Raditz, mouth hanging open, startled by his own realization; his eyes met the Saiyan's own puzzled gaze. If only he hadn't given into anger and his hatred of Cell... Dad wouldn't have died-- and if only Raditz hadn't given into his own anger, Dad wouldn't have died! Everything stood out in perfect clarity for a long, silent moment.
Dad forgave me... and in the end, he forgave Raditz. But... Gohan reflected briefly on the loss and loneliness of first few months in the wilderness, of his terror at hearing his father's agony, of the anger he'd held in his heart long enough to throw in Cell's face nearly six years later... I never forgave Raditz. And Raditz never... no. I don't know that.
Gohan said hesitantly, "I hurt you, I think, when I was young. I don't remember it very well..." He trailed off, not sure what he meant to ask.
Raditz's eyes widened a fraction. "You don't remember? Ah. I remember it... very well." The big Saiyan leaned forward slightly, and frowned. "You hit me harder than anyone had ever hit me in one blow--damn near killed me outright. You did crack my breastbone--because of that injury, I couldn't pull myself free of Goku's hold."
"And you hated me for that." Gohan was sure enough to state it as fact. Raditz's answer surprised him.
Raditz looked at him quizzically. "No, not really. I was half-mad from pain and battle-rage at the time, but," he smiled that wicked Saiyan smile, "I was proud of you, too. Kakarott was such a disappointment--weak and tailless," Raditz almost spat the word, "but you--your power staggered me. You had the power of a first-class Saiyan warrior at an impossibly young age; I was proud that you were my nephew."
The big Saiyan lowered his voice. "I found out I was as wrong about Goku as I had been about your power very shortly afterwards--and so died. But I could not hate my little brother for his courage; I respected that. The only ones guilty of my blood are Piccolo, for striking the death blow, and myself, through folly," Raditz snarled softly.
He never held it against me? Gohan wondered. Raditz--Raditz!--forgave me before he even died, and all these years I've held on to my hatred and never forgiven him. Gohan stared at the ground, unable to look Raditz in the eye and was deeply ashamed. I couldn't let go of my hatred of Cell and I did the same thing I couldn't forgive Raditz for--I tortured my opponent instead of doing what I should have done. Both of us cost Dad his life.
* * *
Raditz wondered at the gamut of emotions roiling Gohan's ki. What does he struggle with? He's too young, and too innocent for such guilt as mine--no regrets, no nightmares of slaughter for him. Raditz remembered the terrified child he'd kidnapped so long ago, and the bitter loneliness of the boy's desert exile--every tear he wept had seared Raditz's damned soul, and added another regret.
He knows that now, but it doesn't wipe away the pain he's carried all this time, does it? I well earned his hatred! Yet he set it aside to fight beside me against the Opawang and Cacodemon--little brother indeed has a son to be proud of.
I understand now; the nightmares started when I--when they became people instead of targets. They will always be with me; they are price of my deeds--but a lighter price than I have already paid.
* * *
Gohan started to stand up; his shadow stretched out across the field as the morning sun rose behind him. "Raditz, I, um---"
A brief flicker-flash of light alerted Gohan, and suddenly Goku appeared, two fingers still touching his forehead. He looked slightly surprised to see the two of them.
"Dad!" Gohan jumped to his feet with a shout of welcome. "What--?"
Raditz merely raised one eyebrow in silence. He regarded Goku calmly from his place on the grass.
Goku frowned slightly. "Raditz, why did you bring Gohan out here without telling anyone? Chi-chi has been worried sick ever since she got up and found Gohan missing."
"Raditz didn't do anything!" Gohan interjected, "I followed him here." The rest of Goku's words penetrated, and Gohan looked sheepish. "Mom's up already? Oh man, I'm in trouble--" Gohan's stomach growled. "--I hope I don't miss breakfast!"
Goku put one hand behind his head. "Ah, you know how your mother has been ever since Goten was kidnapped; you shouldn't worry her so much. She was really scared when you didn't show up for breakfast."
Gohan smacked himself. "Oh man, I didn't think about it! Can you take me back right away, Dad?" He glanced at Raditz, suddenly thoughtful. "Dad, is there any breakfast left?"
Goku looked sheepish. "Chi-chi wouldn't let me eat until I'd found you, but we'd better hurry--she might make us eat cold oatmeal!"
The look on Gohan's face at the thought of having to eat cold, gray, congealed oatmeal was so comical that Goku burst out laughing; even Raditz couldn't hide a smile.
"It won't be that bad, I promise!" Goku finally said as he raised to fingers to his forehead. "But we'd better get back right now."
"Wait! Dad, can we--," Gohan paused and regarded Raditz. "Uncle Raditz, would you come home with us and have breakfast?"
Raditz got to his feet, a barely-hidden smile quirking his lips. "Yes, I think I will."
Disclaimer: See Credits.
Copyright 2000-2005 by Dragoness EclecticLast Updated: Mar 9, 2009