Passport to Paradise
Things got worse before they got better.
After the collapse of the gateway, and the aftershocks that swept throughout the world, everything seemed as if it would calm down. Life continued in the castle much in the same way as before after the soldiers who'd died in the defense of it were buried with honor. After a week or two of relative peace, however, word began to come in from the various villages and towns under Saiya-jin rule that things were far from being under control. They all tried to manage on their own but eventually was forced to petition the king for assistance. Vegeta sent as many soldiers as he could spare and hoped that would be enough. Unfortunately, things weren't going to settle down again for quite some time.
The last of the Kir were ousted from the castle and put to work in labor camps. If they resisted, they were sentenced to death, their headless bodies put on display in the wide field before the castle as a warning to all those who would think to oppose the Saiya-jin Empire. There were quite a few bodies hanging on pikes outside the castle walls, but there were also quite a few warriors working in the fields and in the mines and quarries. The king hoped that the Kir would emerge in ten years completely reformed after being forced to temporarily abandon their warrior ways, but many of his advisors thought they would only emerge bitter and even more hell-bent on destroying Saiya. Well, only time would tell.
Vegeta regained consciousness just as the concussion caused by the collapsing gateway had shaken the castle. He was lying in a makeshift bed in what had become the infirmary though it had been the great hall prior to that day. He sat up quickly, surprising the young apprentice healer who was helping one of the wounded soldiers nearby, and reached for his boots. The girl reached for him, but he shoved her hands aside. There was only one thought on his mind and that was to go find Kakarotto.
The throbbing in his hand wasn't even acknowledged. He had more important things to worry about.
He fought against the screaming, panicked masses of people who thought to flee the castle until he came to the entrance to the unused dungeons. They had been filled with tortured souls in the time of his great-great-grandfather, but in such a time of peace they had not been needed. It was pitch-black at the bottom of the stairs and the prince cursed before entering the empty kitchen to retrieve a torch.
Kakarotto was lying in the far dungeon on his back, his eyes closed and his body very still. A small orb of glowing white light hovered over him as if worried, its floating pattern agitated. He'd glanced at it when he had first entered the room, but after a brief moment of surprise, he'd deemed it unimportant. The stone walls around him bore scorch marks, apparently from the earlier explosion, as did the floor. Kakarotto, however, was untouched.
"I have to get you out of here," he murmured, refusing to believe that his lover was dead. He started to reach for him then realized that it wasn't possible to even lift him with one hand and the torch was required for him to be able to see where he was going. Cursing again, Vegeta pondered what to do.
"We will light the way, warrior," a voice whispered. It sounded strange as if dozens of voices were speaking at once, but only one voice could be heard. He didn't question it, only blew the flame out and tossed the torch to the stone floor. The light from the orb was more than enough for him to see by. It was as if a tiny moon was aiding him.
He lifted Kakarotto up by the armpits, his hands curled over his shoulders, and dragged him to steep stairs. This close he could feel his breathing, but was still worried because it was so shallow. Step by step, he climbed the stairs backwards and maneuvered him through the still-open door. The orb followed him as far as the hallway, but it did not go any further.
"He will recover, but he will never forget. Care for him well."
"I will," Vegeta promised, gazing fondly down at the boy in his arms. "I love him."
"He is in safe hands." The orb of light floated down to rest briefly on Kakarotto's forehead before vanishing as if it had never been.
The first thing Vegeta did after tucking Kakarotto into bed was to go check on Alain. The healer woman was gone and the room was dim. For a moment he feared the worst. Slowly, he walked over to the side of the bed, his eyes staring fixedly at the pillows. The prince let out a relieved breath when he spotted the young man there fast asleep, almost lost amongst the bedclothes. He was pale and drawn but was breathing with relative ease. With a relieved sigh, Vegeta watched him for another moment before returning to his room to curl up beside Kakarotto. He was afraid to let the teenager out of his sight for very long.
In the time it had taken him to visit Alain, Kakarotto's state of unconsciousness had transformed into normal sleep, but it wasn't a restful one. He tossed and turned, twisting himself up in the covers and the clothing that Vegeta had never removed. It had taken his best effort to get Kakarotto up a flight of stairs because he was so much larger than he was and he had been grateful for the help of one of his father's soldiers when he'd gotten to the main floor. After removing his boots, he'd deemed him undressed enough.
Vegeta didn't want to wake him, but he also didn't want him to choke to death in his own shirt. He approached the distressed teen and firmly grabbed his shoulders, shaking him briskly. "Kakarotto, wake up. Come on now."
When he started to moan (and not in a good way), Vegeta became anxious. He shook him hard enough to rattle his teeth but he still did not wake. Kakarotto was trapped within a nightmare of his mind's making, unable to escape. And Vegeta was all out of ideas.
"Kakarotto!" he shouted, hoping to penetrate the fog of terror around his lover's brain. It only made the moaning louder and caused Kakarotto to begin to fight him. Somehow, the prince thought, his mind was warping everything that happened to him in the real world before it transmitted it into his dream. Desperate now, the prince nearly ran to the cup that lay upside down on a small silver tray and flipped it over, pouring into it clear water from the nearby ceramic pitcher. He'd had no cause to believe it would be there as it had been every morning before he'd left since he hadn't slept within the castle walls in quite some time, but fortunately it was. 'A servant must have dropped it off after we took off for the lower levels of the castle,' he thought briefly.
Without a moment's hesitation, he upturned the glass of water over Kakarotto's head. The boy awoke spluttering. "What's happening? Why am I wet?"
"You were having a nightmare and I saw fit to wake you an alternative way when shaking didn't work." He took a seat on the edge of the bed, placing the glass on the bedside table as he did so. "How are you feeling?"
"Tired," he answered. "Worried. What happened after I passed out?"
"The Kir are either dead or imprisoned and Alain's doing fine. You're a hero, Kakarotto. I knew you would be able to save the world." He smiled at him or, at least, came as close as he would ever come to doing it. "You have all the makings of a hero, you know."
Kakarotto shook his head negatively. "I'm not a hero. I only did what I thought was best. What anyone would do if they could."
"No, not anyone. Most people would have taken one look at the Darkness and ran away as fast as they could in the opposite direction. Even I came close to retreating, but I only had to think of you facing it to stop myself. You saved countless lives and defeated that evil for all time. Believe it or not, you're a hero."
The teen sighed and gave up trying to convince his lover otherwise. He'd stood up to the dragon because he'd had no choice. The voices of the dead had made that perfectly clear. In truth, they had been the ones to save the world, not him. He'd only provided the bow; his people had been the arrow to pierce the dragon's black heart.
Until the end of his days he would be in awe of what had occurred in the dark dragon's dread realm. He had never seen the likes of it before, had never known that such a thing was even possible. To have the spirits of his people help him to completely eradicate the Darkness for all time... It had been amazing. Few things, if any at all, would be able to top the glorious feeling he'd experienced when he'd avenged the death of his entire clan. And there would never be any more Nohin to hand down the traditions and stories he had grown up with because he found the thought of lying with a woman distasteful. He made a promise to himself to put that thought right out of his mind as he could do nothing about it. At least the Saiya-jin race -- nay, the world -- would live on.
"Vegeta?" he said suddenly.
"What about your father? Is he okay with us?"
The prince looked away, very uncomfortable. "I, uh, never told him."
"Well, he had other things on his mind. Things that couldn't wait. And he still does."
"We can't hide this, you know. Even if we try, some term of endearment or lingering touch will slip through our defenses and then he'll be angry because you tried to keep this from him."
"I know," Vegeta sighed. "I'll tell him tomorrow."
Kakarotto sat up, scooting down the bed a little so that he could swing his legs over the edge. "No. We're going to tell him right now."
Vegeta looked at the teen now sitting beside him, marveling at how strong and resolute he still was. Most people would have collapsed beneath the weight of the things Kakarotto had been through. Knowing that Kakarotto believed that this was the best course of action gave him courage. "Alright then, we'll go right now. Anything for my prince."
The teen smiled. "Thank you, Vegeta. If I have to be labeled a hero, then being able to stay by your side is the perfect reward for a job well done."
A/N: I still can't believe that this only took me two months to write. Passport to Paradise was an experiment to see if I was still capable of finishing a multi-part since the last time that happened was in 2001. I have a bad habit of starting stories with multiple parts (whose parts have multiple chapters) and then going off to start more when another idea hits me. Did you like this story? If so, feel free to review. But please don't be too critical because I honestly can't handle it.
Final word count for those who are interested: 50,111 (which is the equivalent of 200 pages).