The More Things Change
Chapter One: Believe
I believe in love surviving death into eternity.
~ Savage Garden, "Affirmation"
There's just no rhyme or reason
Only this sense of completion
And in your eyes
I see the missing pieces
I'm searching for
I think I've found my way home
.............~ Savage Garden, "I Knew I Loved You"
Juunana glanced away from the television and over at Zukani, who had just dropped onto the couch beside him. She had that solemn expression on her face, the one she always got when she was thinking about something. He couldn't help but be curious.
"Nani wa? What's on your mind, Zu-chan?" he asked as he lowered the volume setting.
Zukani looked at her friend and blinked her deep brown eyes. If only he knew....
"Nuthin' much," she replied, the lie rolling easily off her tongue. "Just a problem I'm trying to work out." She nodded to the physics book lying open on her lap as she said this, then returned to staring blankly at the wall.
/Nice save,/ she thought to herself as the boy returned his attention to the program he'd been watching. /How would he have reacted if I'd been truthful and said 'I was wondering what you would do if I leaned over and kissed you right now'?/ She pondered that question for a moment before shaking her head and focusing on the equation that was, indeed, managing to elude her.
Juunana, however, had been watching her out of the corner of his eye, paying no attention to the TV. Something about his best friend's tone had seemed to indicate that there was more on her mind than physics. Once again, he wondered if she possibly felt some sort of affection towards him.
/Damn it, I love her more than I can stand to, but I just don't have the nerve to tell her./
He tore his gaze away from her, noting that she was now scribbling some notes into her book, and back to the program that he'd long since lost interest in. The truth of the matter was, he'd been ready to turn it off and find something else to do when Zukani had walked in.
/Even if I can't bring myself to tell her how I feel,/ he reasoned, /I can still be close to her. Hell, she is my best friend... though I wish we could be more./
Lost as he was within his own thoughts, he didn't notice that the girl had closed her book and was now looking his way again. Feeling her gaze finally, Juunana turned his head and locked eyes with her, pale blue clashing with deep brown. There was something in her eyes, something that he'd never quite been able to place....
/It couldn't be... could it?/
Neither one moved, unable or perhaps unwilling to break eye contact. Finally, Juunana reached out and gently touched her face, fingers barely grazing her skin. Zukani sighed at the soft touch and leaned towards him, gently brushing his lips with her own. With a low moan, he hungrily returned the kiss, pulling her body against his and wrapping his arms almost possessively around her waist. She wrapped her own arms around his neck in response, pulling him impossibly deeper into both their kiss and embrace.
"Sheesh, get a room, you two!"
Pulling apart quickly, the pair looked over at the doorway to the living room just in time to see Trunks smack Goten in the back of the head. Zukani blushed furiously and retrieved her abandoned book from the floor before fleeing for the relative safety of her bedroom. Juunana was embarrassed as well, and darted through the open window, heading for parts unknown.
Trunks turned and glared at his best friend, who was rubbing the back of his throbbing head and snickering.
"Off the record," he said, "this is a room."
"Don't be so literal, Trunks," Goten replied, walking into the room and slouching on the recently vacated couch. "Besides, everyone knows they're crazy about one another. This can't be the first time someone's walked in on them making out!"
"Actually, yes, it is."
"Nani?!" Goten asked as he looked up in surprise. Trunks shrugged and dropped onto the couch himself, grabbing the remote and changing channels quickly. He smirked slightly at Goten's shocked expression.
"What? Did you actually think that those two hardheads would admit they've fallen head over heels in love with one another?" he asked, a note of amusement in his voice. "Not bloody likely. I was starting to get the idea that they would never hook up!"
I'm so afraid to love you, but more afraid to lose
Clinging to a past that doesn't let me choose
Once there was a darkness, deep and endless night
You gave me everything you had, oh you gave me light
.............~ Sarah McLachlan, "I Will Remember You"
/Okay, Zu-chan, deep breaths, clear your head,/ Zukani ordered herself as she paced back and forth in her room. /You weren't thinking straight... ah, who the hell do I think I'm fooling? That was the clearest I've been thinking in about a month! What the fuck is wrong with me?! I'm actually rationalizing this!!/
Releasing a short frustrated breath, she flung herself onto her bed and glared up at the ceiling, trying to sort her thoughts.
/Okay, that wasn't the first time I've ever thought about doing that. Hell, that wasn't the first time today that I've thought about it! But I never expected him to react that way!/
She closed her eyes and smiled slightly, remembering the feel of his lips against her own and his arms wrapped tightly around her.
/It's almost like he's been waiting for something like this to happen. I wonder... how long has he wanted to kiss me that way?/
Zukani pulled herself into a seated position on the bed and frowned solemnly as she thought back on all the hours she'd spent with Juunana in the weeks proceeding the Andromedan invasion.
"You are so different from the other Juunana, but in a way you're just like him."
"Honto? In what sort of way?"
"I liked HIM, too. Hell, to be honest, I like YOU better! You're probably the best friend I've got, Juunana, you know that?"
"Hai, I know that. You're my friend, as well."
/There's something about the way he said that,/ she thought, eyes narrowed slightly. /Almost as if there was more he wanted to say./
Her eyes flew wide suddenly. Later that day, on the beach shortly before she'd died....
Juunana had cried.
She had never really been sure, but deep in her heart, she always knew. He'd been deeply affected by her death, moreso than any of the others besides her family. She had the feeling that it was only his pride that kept him from mentioning it to anyone, including (and most of all) Zukani herself.
/Has he really cared for me - has he loved me - for so long?/ she thought, afraid to believe it but feeling in her heart that it was so.
And more afraid to admit that she'd loved him for almost as long, as deeply and as passionately as she could ever love another living being... almost as much as her father cared for her mother. But that depth of love wasn't possible for her. Unless....
/Iie! No! This is impossible! I'm too young to have - to be -/
She groaned and fell back onto the bed again. It wasn't impossible, because it had happened.
She had bonded with the Jinzouningen.
/Tousan is not gonna be happy about that. Then again, he never expected to bond to a human, either. But there's nothing I can do about it now. If I try to fight it, it'll only grow stronger... but I'm little more than a lost child in a dimension so like my own and yet so different. There's nothing that could possibly make him love me as deeply as I love him./
It was true, she had nothing to offer... except for herself. Much of her past was still shrouded in mystery - there were still things that she couldn't bring herself to reveal to those she cared about - and she found that she clung to the past for security when she was frightened, clinging to the memories of friends who were gone....
/You can't keep doing this to yourself, Zukani Briefs Vegeta,/ she scolded herself. /You're afraid to admit that you're in love - that you will never love another as deeply - but you're even more afraid that you're going to lose him the way you've lost so many things before. Let the past go. Stop clinging to ghosts and start clinging to life. And start by clinging to him, here and now./
Feeling as if a weight had been lifted off her shoulders, Zukani stood and walked over to her window. She opened it as quietly as she could, then leapt out and began flying towards the one place besides Capsule Corp. where she could always find her
best friend... the one place that was truly his alone....
A thousand other boys could never reach you
How could I have been the one
I saw the world spin beneath you
And scatter like ice from the spoon
That was your womb
.............~ The Goo Goo Dolls, "Black Balloon"
Juunana cursed himself silently and threw open the door to the cabin. Everything was as he'd left it the last time he'd been here, only a few days ago. Even though he was living at Capsule Corp. with the Briefs family, he still went into the woods when he needed time alone to think things out.
And that was definitely what he need now.
/Alright, Juunana-gou,/ he asked himself as he sat down at the kitchen table, /what exactly happened to you back there? Your best friend in the world kissed you, and you want to believe that you lost control. Well, stop lying to yourself, kiddo, you knew exactly what you were doing. But why on Chikyuu did it happen in the first place? And why did you take off like a bat out of hell when Goten and Trunks interrupted?/
Those were the questions he was finding toughest to answer. He'd been embarrassed more than anything else when the guys had walked in and caught them - but to be honest, a part of him had wanted to chase Zukani to her room and pick up where they'd left off.
/Baka! What is your damn problem lately?! Ever since you first laid eyes on her, you haven't been thinking straight! And that incident at the lake a month ago..../
He leaned back in the chair and stared out the window, remembering all too well...
He watched breathlessly as she climbed solemnly out of the water, skin glistening from the water that clung to her body, and leaned back onto the rock. She stretched, trailing one slim hand in the water even as she tucked the other one behind her head. The starlight gave her a silvery glow, and she gazed up at the sky without really seeing it.
He sat down, ignoring the fact that his jeans were going to get soaked, and dropped his chin to his knees and closed his eyes. His mind was a jumble of thoughts, all of them revolving around that strange, quiet half-Saiyan girl and the fact that he had just spent the past half-hour watching her and wondering what it would be like to...
/Hentai! Stop thinking about that! You don't even know if she loves you or not... even though that kiss was pretty convincing - shimatta! You're doing it again!/
The sound of someone landing quietly outside drew his attention, and he stood, instinctively preparing to fight. Soft footsteps almost echoed in the silence of the cabin, entering the cabin and proceeding unerringly, although almost hesitantly, to the kitchen. His eyes widened when he realized that he already knew who owned of those footsteps even before she walked into the kitchen.
Juunana sank into his chair once more just as Zukani walked into the kitchen. She placed her hands on her hips, and tilted her head to gaze at him solemnly.
"Juu-kun," she said softly, "we have to talk."
He mutely nodded to one of the empty chairs, and she dropped gracelessly into the one closest to him, propping her feet up on the table and leaning back before fixing him with a steady gaze. Something was on her mind; her solemn expression was proof of that. He wondered what could possibly be so important that she would chase him out into the woods to talk to him.
/Masaka, Zukani, you aren't even sure if it's possible for him to bond to you! You should wait for a while... either that, or stay as far away from him as you can, no matter how much it may hurt./
"No," he said suddenly, in a voice barely above a whisper. "Don't even think that, Zu-chan."
When he spoke, she blinked at him in momentary confusion, and then stunned surprise appeared in her eyes. In fact, she was so surprised that she fell backwards out of the chair she was sitting in. She scrambled to her feet within milliseconds, propping her hands on the table and staring at Juunana with that stunned expression still on her face.
"What did you just say?" she asked once she managed to find her voice again.
"'Don't even think that'?" he replied, thoroughly confused by her reaction.
"That's what I thought you said," Zukani said with in a hushed voice as she sat down again, this time careful not to lean back. She was silent for a long time, just sitting with her chin resting on her hands, eyes distant. Juunana waited politely for her to speak again, but it didn't seem that she was going to.
/Why did that freak her out so much?/ he thought. /She should know better than to think out loud around me by now./
"That's just the point, Bishounen," Zukani said, interrupting his train of thought. "I wasn't thinking out loud."
"Of course you were," he replied. "It's not as if I can read your m-" his eyes widened as he realized the full impact of what she had just said: "Y-you weren't?"
"Nope," she replied, still gazing off into space, before continuing mentally, /and I didn't think you'd be able to hear me this way either./
Juunana shook his head, still not quite believing that he could actually hear what she was thinking. "There's no way. I'm not even mildly telepathic!" He shot her an accusing glare, "And I thought Saiyans were only able to communicate telepathically with other Saiyans."
"That's the general rule," she said, a note of wry amusement in her voice. "My mother's not anymore telepathic or Saiyan than you are, but she and my father communicate this way a lot." She paused, taking a deep breath but finding that she couldn't continue.
He spoke before she could find the words she was searching for: "What did you mean when you said 'bond'?"
"Technically, I never even mentioned it," she said with a small smile, "but I can try to explain. Bonding mostly occurred within the lower classes of Saiyans - it was supposed to have been bred out of the royal line. In other words, Tousan should never have been capable of it, and neither Trunks, Bra, nor myself should either. There's some sort of gene that predetermines that tendency, but a bond won't develop unless there's already some form of love between the two bonded souls. It lasts for all time, and only grows stronger the more one fights against it. Hell, even if I was to walk away now, I'd never be able to bond to another living being."
Zukani fell silent, eyes still distant and staring. Her mind was still in turmoil, trying to sort the situation, but her most prominent thought at the moment was /And I'm not entirely sure I'd want to bond with another./ Juunana tilted his head to the side, watching the half-Saiyan silently. She hadn't deceived him in any way, so why was he acting as if it was all her fault? And, if what she said was true, then she cared as deeply for him as he did for her.
/Aishiteru, Zu-chan,/ he thought, knowing instinctively that she'd be able to hear him as she had before. /To be completely honest with you, I think - no, Iknew I loved you from the first time I met you./
She turned to face him, dark eyes meeting pale blue once again. "H-honto?"
"Hai," he replied, taking her hands and pulling her out of her chair and into his lap. "And I would never hurt you. You should know that by now."
"What about all those times you slammed me into the ground?" she asked teasingly.
"Training not included," he said, smirking slightly. "Besides, you're Saiyan. It didn't do any permanent damage."
Zukani growled at that remark before leaning back to rest her head on his shoulder, closing her eyes. Juunana wrapped his arms around her waist once more and gently kissed her cheek. They sat that way for a long time, not moving and not needing to speak. Only when the last light of day began to fade did they finally leave the cabin and head back home.
Singing the rendition
Of hope in my condition
Caught up in defending
That truth is never ending
.............~ Collective Soul, "Full Circle"
It didn't take long for everyone to realize that something had changed between the half-Saiyan girl and the dark-haired Jinzouningen. Trunks realized it almost the instant they walked in the door that evening; Goten teased the two about "going off somewhere and making out all afternoon"; Bulma thought it was "sweet" that they had finally seen what everyone around them had known months ago. Only Vegeta knew exactly what had changed between the two.
And the others all found out during dinner that night.
Goten decided to stay for dinner, causing Bulma to complain to unsympathetic ears about how much food could be consumed by four Saiyans with huge appetites. The four Saiyans in question ignored her complaints and dove into their meals. Bra made a face at her elder siblings and father before beginning her own meal, while Juunana merely shook his head and picked at his food.
"At least someone around here eats normally," Bulma continued. "I don't know what's worse, the ones who eat everything that's not nailed down or the one who eats at most one meal a week!"
/Yeah, you do seem to have a bottomless pit for a stomach, Zu-chan,/ Juunana thought with a slight smile.
/At least I have a healthy appetite, Juu-kun,/ she thought back, giving him a mock-glare.
Vegeta looked up at this point and glared at the two of them. "Argue later," he growled. Zukani and Juunana blinked at him and nodded mutely, while three of the other four parties at the table looked on in confusion - Trunks had 'heard' the conversation between his twin and the other teen, and was more surprised than confused.
"Nani?" Goten asked. "I didn't hear either of them say anything...."
"They didn't," Trunks stated, staring at his twin and wondering what the hell was going on.
Vegeta continued his son's unfinished thought: "Not out loud, anyway."
"Excuse me," Bulma spoke up for the first time since the conversational thread changed, "but did I miss something here, or are you 'tactfully' trying to tell me that my eldest daughter -"
At this point, Zukani reached across the table and grabbed a slice of turkey from Juunana's plate. She answered his glare with a shrug.
"You weren't going to eat it," she explained.
"True, but you could have at least asked," he complained in response.
"Shimatta, I don't believe it!" Trunks suddenly blurted out. Zukani shot her brother the scolding glare that she received from him so often.
"Trunks! Watch your language!" Bulma scolded her son. "Bra's right here at the table.
"Oh, like I've never heard anyone in this house say that before," the youngest child muttered under her breath.
"Trunks?" Goten asked, still confused about the whole situation. "What's up?"
All eyes turned to Vegeta at his words, then back to Zukani and Juunana. Neither man paid any attention to the stares they were receiving.
"Like it's such a surprise," Zukani said, rolling her eyes. "How long has everyone around here been saying 'They're so cute together' behind our backs? Hell, Goten thought we were already a couple anyways!"
"Ano, aren't you, like, a little young to be... ya know?" Goten said after a few minutes of silence (during which Trunks, Vegeta, and Zukani polished off the last of the food left on the table).
"Obviously not," Trunks answered for her, sensing her aggravation at the question before she managed to glare at the boy. "Plus, think about how she was raised."
"You did have a primarily Saiyan upbringing," Bulma said to her eldest daughter thoughtfully. "Even if you'd had more of a human influence in your life, you would have bonded eventually."
"As the other two will someday," Vegeta concluded, glancing at each of his children in turn. "Never would have expected it from you so soon, though," he said to the older girl with a hint of amusement in his tone.
"Doesn't surprise me," Juunana stated with a shrug. "Hell, that's just the sort of thing I would expect from Zucchini Girl here."
"Just because we're bonded doesn't give you the right to insult me," Zukani said, amused by his comment.
"So what now?" Bra asked curiously. "Are you gonna move out or anything? 'Cause if you do, can I have your room?"
"Bra..." Bulma began, even as her older children, Goten, and Juunana snickered behind their hands.
"I dunno," Zukani said, shrugging her shoulders and still giggling a bit. "Whatever happens, happens. I'm perfectly content the way things are right now. Bishounen?"
Juunana shrugged as well. "If you're happy, I'm happy."
"Well, that's settled," Bulma said, clapping her hands together. "Now, who's going to help me clear the table?"
Four Saiyans and one Jinzouningen vanished. Zukani giggled and shook her head.
"Do they ever change?" she asked her mother as she stood and began gathering up the plates.
"Nope," the other woman said with a smile, "but you get used to it."
The teenager nodded her head and smiled herself, then carried the dishes to the kitchen. Bulma followed slowly, watching her daughter thoughtfully.
"You haven't been with us very long, and you're already so grown up," she said quietly as she entered the kitchen. Zukani looked over her shoulder as her mother continued: "But if you ever need someone to turn to..."
"I'll always come to you with anything, Kaasan," the teen interrupted. "I grew up without a mother, and now I've got a second chance. I'm not going to throw any of this away. Besides, who else am I going to talk about raising a bunch of unruly little brats? I'm sure Trunks was no angel!"
"He was a good baby," Bulma protested, a slow grin appearing on her face. "It was when he got older that I started having trouble with him!"
Zukani sighed. "I never want to have kids."
Bulma smiled at her daughter, eyes glittering in amusement. "Tell me that again in five years, and maybe I'll believe you then."
The teen stared at her mother, then smiled back. Bulma was right, and Zukani had the tendency to change her mind a million times before reaching a final decision.
But for now, she was happy with everything as it was.
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Back to the zone...