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The More Things Change
By Femme-Chan

Interlude One: Trust
If you love, me trust in me/The way that I trust in you.
~ Britney Spears, "Sometimes"


Please don't kiss me so sweet
It makes me crave a thousand kisses to follow...

Zukani leaned over the balcony railing, thinking /How long has it been since I've had a night like this?/

The teen sighed and dropped her head. It had been over two months since she'd had one of her restless nights - the last time she'd been unable to sleep was the night she'd rediscovered 'her' lake. A small smile crossed her face as she remembered turning back for one last glance before heading home and spotting Juunana sitting quietly on the rock she'd so recently vacated. It would have been rude to leave without at least stopping to say 'hi'... or so she'd told herself. She now knew that it had been the still-dormant bond tugging at her heart, pulling her back to check on her future mate.

/And once I got home - and took a shower - I dropped right off to sleep, and have been sleeping soundly ever since,/ she concluded in her mind, raising her head once more and hugging herself for warmth. /Except for tonight./

She gazed up at the stars, wondering vaguely if she could find the spot where Vegetasei once shone in the night sky, and tried to figure out what the hell her problem was tonight. She was restless for some reason - most nights she dozed off sometime before midnight, and it was now going on three in the morning.

/Shimatta,/ she thought with a frown, still gazing up into the night sky, /now I know why I'm restless - it's been four years to the day since -/


Zukani jumped slightly, then giggled softly at her reaction. As hard as it was to believe, she sometimes forgot about the telepathic link between her and her mate.

/Hai, Bishounen?/

/Are you all right?/ he asked her, quietly closing her bedroom door behind him. He'd been asleep when he suddenly felt something tugging at his mind. Assuming there was something keeping his girlfriend (for lack of a better term) awake, he decided to find out what.

She let out a frustrated breath and shook her head. "No," she said aloud, her annoyance practically sentient. "And don't ask me what's wrong, 'cause I don't wanna' talk about it right now."

Juunana quickly closed the distance between them and wrapped his arms around her waist from behind, resting his chin on her shoulder. He noticed that she tensed momentarily before leaning into his embrace. She had done that at least one other time that he could remember - the night at the lake, when he'd put his arm around her to pull him closer, she'd tensed up the exact same way. He wondered briefly what could have happened to her in the past that made her so leery of physical contact before pushing the thought aside and asking:

"Do you want me to stay for a while?"

Zukani turned her head slightly to look at him, her expression unreadable. She had momentarily lapsed into her own thoughts again, thinking about the events of that night four years ago, and wondered if she'd just imagined the words Juunana had just spoken. But when their eyes met, she realized she hadn't imagined it.

"Hai," she said softly, leaning her head against his. It never ceased to amaze her that she could find so much comfort in just a few thoughtful gestures of affection from this man. It didn't matter if he wasn't completely human - she herself was only half - all that mattered was the love she felt for him and the love he felt for her. And that love made her complete, for the first time in her young life.

"Bishounen?" she asked after several minutes had passed, breaking the comfortable silence between them.

"Hmm?" Juunana asked, lifting his head a bit to face her.

"Do you -" she began, then stopped to draw a breath before continuing: "do you ever think about the past?"

"Sometimes," he admitted. "I don't remember anything before Gero, though."

"You're lucky, I guess," Zukani said in a low voice. "Sometimes, I just want to forget."

She closed her eyes, sighing softly. Her mate blinked at her comment. He knew (as did the others) that her past was painful, and he never pushed her talk about anything beyond what he already knew. But for some reason, it was weighing heavily upon her mind tonight.

"Nani wa, Zu-chan?" he asked her, stroking her indigo hair soothingly. When she didn't answer, he spoke again: "Please, don't shut me out."

And please don't touch me like that
Makes every other embrace seem pale and shallow...

Zukani opened her eyes again, and he could see the glimmer of the tears she'd been fighting. She stared at him in silence for a moment, then began to speak, slowly and softly. The events of what happened to her four years before all came out for the first time since the incident, her tears flowing in the same slow manner. Juunana didn't interrupt her once, only holding her tighter and continuing to stroke her hair. When she was finished, they both stood in silence for a moment, Zukani wiping at the tears that continued to fall and Juunana holding her.

"How long have you been keeping that inside?" he asked her quietly.

"Four years," she said, wiping at another tear. "Xiram and Touchan were the only ones who ever knew what happened, and they're both gone now. Besides, we never talked about it afterwards. It was... too painful. For all of us."

She fell silent, leaning her head against him as he continued to hold her. He was stunned by the revelations she'd made tonight - he knew she was a strong young woman, but he never really knew why she had so much inner strength until now. No one should ever have to go through what she had, but she was one of the lucky ones. She had survived, and it had made her stronger.

"My poor Zu-chan," he murmured into her hair, closing his eyes and pulling her a little closer. "I never knew...."

"That's the way I needed it to be," she whispered as she wrapped her arms around his waist. "I didn't want anyone else to suffer because I was so weak and stupid."

"Don't say that. Don't ever let me hear you say that, Zukani Briefs Vegeta." She lifted her head and looked up at him through her tears. She had half-expected him to push her away, to leave her because she wasn't as strong as he'd been lead to believe. But he hadn't pushed her away; instead, he seemed to hold onto her even more.

"There are a lot of people who can never recover from something like that," he said softly, locking eyes with her. "You survived, Zukani. More than that, you grew stronger because of what you went through. And that strength in you is part of what makes you so very special to me."

"Honto?" she asked, new tears forming in her eyes - hopeful tears, not ones of sorrow this time. "You mean that, Bishounen?"

"Honto, Zu-chan," Juunana said gently, kissing away the tears as they began to fall. "Seven months ago, if anyone had told me I'd have someone like you in my life, I would have laughed in their faces. But then you came along, strong and gentle and spirited, and turned my world upside-down." He smiled down at her, running his fingertips lightly over her cheek. "And I wouldn't have things any other way."

"Aishiteru, Juuna," Zukani said softly, stretching up to press her lips to his. The kiss was returned gently, gradually deepening to almost-intoxicating passion as always. She drew away somewhat reluctantly, breathing a little heavier than she had been, and gazed into her mate's pale blue eyes. He met her gaze, almost surprised by the amount of love he saw in her dark gaze.

No more words were spoken for the rest of the night, and none were needed. Clothing fell away completely, and sometime during the early morning hours, two souls became one. The last remaining shreds of fear and loneliness vanished in both of them, replaced with faith in both their love and in one another. She clung to him as she had once wanted to do, as she'd once been afraid to do such a short time ago, and was left neither wanting or needing anything other than to remain safe in his arms always. And her love, her mate, was only too happy to oblige, touching her gently and with tenderness that even he hadn't known he was capable of.

Long after Zukani had fallen asleep, Juunana still held her in his arms, wondering at the depth of the love he felt for the young woman. He watched her sleep for awhile, marveling at how beautiful she was, and kissed her gently so as not to disturb her rest.

"Aishiteru, Zukani," he whispered, closing his eyes as sleep descended upon him. Just before he surrendered to the darkness, he heard her whisper back, "I love you, too."

Please don't look at me like that
It just makes me want to make you near me always

..........~ Jewel, "Near You Always"

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