Disclaimer: Standard ones apply.
Author's Note: I wrote this for a contest when every single major requirement was something that I'm not very good at. Romance, first person point-of-view, and non-alternate universe. It was a challenge that I willingly accepted. Who knows, maybe I'm not as bad at it as I thought.
Warnings: Shounen ai and angst.
The Taken Path
I was about thirteen when I realized that I was truly different. Of course, I knew that Saiya-jin weren't native to the planet of Chikyuu, but that had always been something easy to conceal. A little ki suppression here, a little speed reduction there and I was an average human to the general public.
What I discovered the summer of my thirteenth year caused me to view both myself and the world differently. I was already a part of a minority, maybe even the smallest one on the planet, and suddenly I was thrust into another; this one not as small and not as accepted. Although the groups were very different, they were also very similar. There had been risks involved with being Saiya-jin and with being a martial artist, risks that could potentially kill me. The same applied to the second minority. I could only let a selective few know of my true race and fewer still about my discovery. Of the two secrets, the second was harder to keep.
By nature, I tend to not keep very many things to myself. I am vocal, boisterous, and more than a little conceited. These are things I state proudly because they make me who I am. Would I be the same person if I had a different personality? Of course not. I'm comfortable with who I am... but not as comfortable with who I may be in the future. The outcome of that depends upon many things. What experiences I have gone through, whose advice I have taken, and which path I choose to walk.
At this moment, I have reached a fork in the road of my mind. The left path is smooth and touched by sunlight, lush vegetation grows alongside and gently sways in the soft breeze that also caresses my skin. The right path is scarred and pitted, night of the deepest sort has swept across the land. The earth edging the narrow pathway is dry and desolate, no plant life grows and no animal life save crows dare to venture near it. My life's current direction is represented by the left path. It is comfortable and reassuring, an eternal summer filled with many clear days. My discovery presents the second option of the right path. It is filled with uncertainty and fear, an unknown world blanketed with despair. I have to choose one path or the other because living life uncertainly isn't really living.
My choice will be the right one.
By choosing the serene and uncomplicated left path I would be lying to myself for the sake of acceptance. At least in the darkness I wouldn't have lost myself along the way.
Internally making peace on this issue is only half the battle. There was still a matter of love to consider, one that had blossomed that fateful summer. I suppose that it had been developing for quite some time before then, lying dormant within me until I was ready to accept it. The realization had hit me hard and left me questioning all that I had once deemed true. It tormented me for so long, making me see things about myself that I was just not ready to accept. Five years after that moment, I was only just now going to do something about it.
One morning, I called up my best friend in the entire known universe and proposed the idea of an all-day outing. We hadn't really done anything together lately and I feared that we were growing apart. We made plans for that Saturday and I hung up the phone happy and greatly looking forward to the day. A few hours later, that wasn't the case.
Doubt had started settling in because I had decided to tell him a long-kept secret. What would he think? How would he react? Would he still remain my friend afterward? My mind's inner turmoil became so bad that I decided to go for a walk to clear my head.
The neighborhood that I lived in was almost ordinary. I say "almost" because there were a few colorful people living in the apartments down the street. This one woman always opened her window every day at six-fifteen just in time to dump a bucket of water onto a man walking home from work. Then they proceeded to scream insults at each other for a full five minutes. No one knew the reason behind their animosity, but there were plenty of rumors.
Another person, an elderly man, went to the nearby park to feed the ducks. He never spoke to a single soul and I often saw him staring off into the distance with a pensive look on his face. Several times I had almost worked up enough courage to speak to him, but I always changed my mind at the last moment. Today, though, I felt that I was brave enough. It would most likely cause me to push my own troubling thoughts to the back of my mind.
Across from a small, man-made pond and on the opposite side of a cement path was the bench where the old man sat quietly. He wore a long tan coat that went down past his knees, black slacks, and dress shoes. Beside him on the black wrought iron bench was a pair of black gloves. As I sat down, he didn't even look over at me, continuing to feed the assembled waterfowl breadcrumbs from the brown paper bag in his hand without pause.
Unsure of how to proceed, I stuttered out something that sounded very idiotic to my ears. "Uh, you're here every day, aren't you?" Still without making eye contact, he grunted something unintelligible. I took that as a "yes". I've spent years deciphering my papa's nonverbal utterances so I considered myself a pro. "Why?"
His hand's movement ceased and slowly he turned to regard me. His eyes were a intense bluish green color that threatened to suck me in like the depths of a tropical ocean. They sat in a face that was lined with age, small crow's feet rested in the corners of his eyes and there were creases around his mouth. At the moment, though, he was far from being jolly. "It's quiet," he said softly in a voice that held a faint exotic accent, "and the ducks do not judge."
His words told me that someone hadn't been very kind to him in the past. His voice and current activity told me that he was a gentle soul. "Most people don't, either." He snorted at my response and went back to the ducks. "I see you here a lot and you always look so depressed. I guess that I just wanted to try and cheer you up, you know? Show you that someone cares."
"Young man, you couldn't possibly understand my pain. You're too young to know anything about life and the way that it works."
"I know more than you give me credit for," I said, smiling at him. Grumpy people don't bother me one bit. "I'm Trunks, Trunks Briefs. You are?"
He didn't say anything for a long moment. "If we talk, you must promise one thing."
"Do not ask questions about my past, my family, or myself."
Slowly nodding, I agreed. He folded the paper bag and gave me his complete attention. "Alright. Can I ask you a hypothetical question that has nothing to do with the forbidden questions?" He nodded. "Let's say that you have a secret that you've kept for a very long time. Let's say that you want to reveal said secret to your closest friend in the entire world, but have no idea how they would take it. What would you do?"
"Would it hurt them physically or emotionally?"
"Iie, not physically. Possibly emotionally."
"Is it important for them to know?"
Boy, that was a difficult question to answer. On one hand, Goten could easily go on to lead a good life blissfully unaware of my attraction. On the other hand, he *did* tell me years ago that I could always trust him with my innermost thoughts. "Hai and iie," I answered finally. "It concerns them but not knowing wouldn't make any difference."
"It would lighten the load of your mind and, yes, it does make a difference to both of you." He stated this as a fact and I knew that he was either incredibly perceptive or he knew exactly what my secret was. "You fear driving your friend away with your revelation, fear that he will hate you or feel disgust for you." He sighed heavily. "Ah, the story of so many."
Was it his story as well? "What would you do?"
Instead of answering my question, he started to tell me a story. "Long ago, a teenage boy developed feelings for his friend that were considered to be abnormal and perverse. In that time, such things were rarely spoken about, but he knew that many would hate him for it. Terrified of incurring the wrath of society and of his parents, he vowed to remain silent on the matter for the rest of his life.
"Years passed and the boy grew up into a man. He saw the world slowly began to change and began to struggle with his previous decision. He felt that things were so different that he could lift the burden from his soul and liberate himself from depression. Even though things *had* changed somewhat, that one thing had remained the same. Fear once again drove him to silence and once again he staggered beneath the weight of his secret.
"The autumn of his life faded and soon it was winter. He had done quite well for himself and had rarely regretted his decision of so many years ago. Then, one day, he received a phone call. It seemed that his childhood best-friend had died after doing battle with a grave illness and had mentioned him in his will. The lawyer cleared his throat and began to read. 'To Vladimir, my long-time friend, I leave you with something very precious to me: my love. You have stolen my heart from the first time I saw you and wish only that I had the courage to say something. Please do not hate me for the truth. Think upon me sometime, dear Vladimir; I will always be thinking of you."
I was stunned by his story and completely amazed to find wetness on my cheeks. Before I could say a word, he abruptly stood and gathered his things. "Trunks, don't wait until it's too late like I did." And, without a backward glance, he went off in the opposite direction.
I thought about what the old man had told me and came to the conclusion that his advice was wonderful. I couldn't continue to put off something important with the promise of "someday" because that day may never come. No matter the outcome, he deserved to know.
Despite my newly positive outlook, Saturday still came too soon in my opinion. I hardly ate any breakfast that morning because of the agitated butterflies fluttering around in my stomach and kaasan noticed. I guess a Saiya-jin not eating would be like ChiChi-san not jumping to conclusions.
She placed her hand onto my forehead and frowned. "Your temperature is normal."
"What's wrong, then?" I stirred my now-soggy cereal around in the bowl, refusing to say anything. I could sense her growing annoyed behind me and that annoyed me in turn. I was an adult now, she couldn't pump me for information like she used to in the past. "Tell me, Trunks."
Papa spoke up, something that he rarely did unless it concerned Bra. "Leave the boy alone, onna. If he wishes to tell you then he would." He then placed his own bowl into the dishwasher and went off to train like he usually did.
Kaasan shrugged with a nonchalance that I know she didn't feel. She hated when things were kept from her and she especially hated when papa called her onna. "Don't destroy my house while I'm at work and remember that you're grounded, Bra. No going to your father and begging for reprieve."
I estimated that Bra would be officially un-grounded within ten minutes. She was six and her adorable little girl looks still worked. I couldn't wait until she was a teenager. Just what did she do to earn punishment in the first place? A better question would be what *didn't* she do. Bra-chan was too smart for her own good and attempted to create the perfect computer. She took all kinds of circuitry from existing electronics without asking and left everything lying gutted on the floor. Kaasan had punished her for two weeks for that one and that later became a month when she had finished her project in secret and began working on the perfect operating system. My little sister was just conceited enough to name it after herself so Bura OS was predicted to be fully working by next year.
"What'cha gonna do today, Niichan?" she asked as her dirty dishes were removed from the table with my own.
"I'm going to hang out with Goten." Her face lit up at the mere mention of his name. Bra had a little girl crush on him and every time she attached herself to him when he came over, I wanted to grab Goten and shout, "MINE!" Imagine being jealous of a kid. "And, iie, you can't come along."
She pouted and ran from the room shouting, "I'm gonna tell Papa on you!" Personally, I didn't care if she did. This was my chance to let Goten know how I felt and I'll be damned if I allowed her to screw it up. Besides, a serious concussion and several broken bones were about the extent of what he would do to me. I could easily heal that kind of damage.
"He's Goten," I muttered to myself as I pulled on my jacket, "my best friend. I shouldn't act weird around him." As long as I continuously reminded myself of that, there should be no problems.
We were meeting somewhere for breakfast, a place I'd found by accident when I took a different route home from school one day. It was a place called The Crystal Café and they served just about the best muffins in the eastern hemisphere. They were large, too, and it only took about four or five to make a Saiya-jin-worthy snack. I ordered two blueberry, two chocolate chip, and a vanilla latté then I settled down to wait for the perpetually late Son Goten.
He actually surprised me by arriving on time, for once.
"Ohayo, Trunks," he greeted me with a gigantic grin on his face. I handed him a handful of money and, with an even larger grin, he went up to the counter and ordered. He took a huge bite before asking me a question, literally spraying crumbs across the table. I absolutely love Goten with all my heart, but his table manners were atrocious. "What are we going to do today?"
I smiled and answered mysteriously, "A lot."
"That's not a good answer!"
"Well, it's the only one you're going to get."
The day was nicely sunny and warm with the promise of heat to follow. Somehow we found ourselves at the beach and it was definitely crowded at noon. I looked at the glassy ocean and smiled. "You want to take lessons?"
"What kind of lessons?"
"Surfing ones." It had always been something that I'd wanted to try for a while. I went scuba diving, water skiing, swimming, and sailing -- why not surfing?
He placed his hand onto my shoulder and it felt as if an electrical current passed through his fingers and into my flesh. It left me momentarily stunned. "We're at the beach, Trunks, and beaches are located near water."
"We don't have anything to wear in the water, you know. No beach gear whatsoever."
I smiled. "Is that all you're worried about? Come on, there's a shop over there. Pick whatever you want."
Hesitating a bit, he thought for a moment and then eventually sighed. "I'll never get over that. Credit cards are so magical to me for some reason."
"If it bothers you, we can always go do something else," I told him. Making him uncomfortable wouldn't be conducive to a second date.
"Well, I need to get over it if I want to spend a lot of time with you." I smiled in delight and hoped that he didn't understand just yet. His eyes sparkled with humor. "Besides, seeing you fall off the board will probably be the funniest thing I've seen all week."
Ah, a challenge. My blood warmed at the thought of it. "Is that a bet?"
"If you want."
"Oh, I do." We walked across the sand to the surf shop. "I do."
It turns out that I *was* as bad as he thought I'd be. In five minutes Goten was able to ride a small wave while I was still having balance problems. Kendrick, the guy who was instructing us, said that I had a habit of leaning too far to the left.
We paddled out around one in the afternoon, Goten ahead of me in a pair of remarkably close-fitting black and silver shorts and myself in loose-fitting medium blue trunks. I was so busy admiring the beautiful view I had that I was almost knocked into the ocean by a wave.
"Pay attention, Trunks!" Goten shouted above the roaring of the water. "What'cha looking at, anyway? My ass?"
If someone had told me before that I could reach a level of embarrassment that would cause blood to rush to my face so fast that I nearly fainted, I would have laughed at them. I groaned and covered my face with my hands. Throughout this all, Kendrick didn't notice a thing. Thank Kami for small favors.
Eventually, I got the hang of surfing and had a great time playing in the ocean after lunch. We finally emerged from the cool water around dinner time.
So far, the date Goten knew nothing about was going very well. He would eventually find out the truth about what was going on, but I'm reserving the announcement for later. I know not to keep putting it off until it's too late, but everything was going so well I didn't want to ruin it.
"After dinner, I have a surprise for you," I said as we walked to a casual restaurant. As much as I would love a romantic dinner in a quiet place without loud children everywhere, neither of us were really dressed for it.
The meal was filling and delicious. Goten's eyes grew wide at the total amount listed on the check, but I could easily handle it. Besides, between the two of us we ate enough for fourteen ningen; it was more than reasonable.
"Close your eyes," I whispered to him as the light of day began to fade. I had carefully led him up a hill after we made the short flight out of the city. I'm sure that he felt the sun's fading warmth on his face, but hopefully he didn't know just why he was facing in that direction. "Okay, you can open them now."
I watched his face as he watched the sunset and the expression made me smile. His mouth was slightly parted in awe for the entire time it took for the sun to finally sink below the horizon. I saw the oranges, reds, pinks, and purples reflected in his eyes. He looked at me and said in a quiet voice, "It's the second most beautiful thing I've ever seen."
My mouth was dry as I asked, "What's the first?"
Goten leaned very close to me, so close that I could feel his body heat, and said, "Your eyes." I swallowed hard and frantically tried to come up with something intelligent to say.
"We're wasting time!" I blurted, mentally slapping myself as hard as I could. My words caused his face to fall and his eyes to avert. Why did I have to panic when things were finally moving in the direction that I wanted? Maybe, because it was so unexpected, I didn't know how to handle it. "There is one final stop we should make, Goten, a place that looks its best at night." I tried to convey an apology with my eyes and I think he understood.
A carnival had been coming yearly to Satan City since the time it had been known as Western Capital. Kaasan had gone to it as a little girl and she, in turn, had taken Bra and I. Now that I was an adult, I felt that it was time for me to find someone special to share the experience with.
The lights of the Ferris wheel were the first thing I saw as we drew close to the usually vacant lot it was occupying. The majority of the small children had been sent home to bed; it was a time for couples in love. I didn't know what Goten and I were, but I knew that we'd reached the "more than just friends" stage.
"Let's go on something gentle and play some games until our food digests," I suggested. "I don't want you getting sick all over me on the Tilt-a-Whirl."
He grinned. "I would sit on the outside."
"Oh? So you're willing to squish me, then? You weigh more, Goten." The centripetal force would literally crush him against me. While not a bad thing in theory, the exact same effect could be accomplished if we switched places.
Standing in line for the Ferris wheel was boring and uneventful. Apparently it was a favorite among couples because the line was filled with them. I wanted to say something to fill the silence between us, but nothing would come. 'Patience,' I told myself. 'Just have patience.'
Finally, it was our turn to ride. I allowed Goten to sit first before sliding next to him. "Did I upset you before?" I asked as soon as the wheel was set into motion. The carnival stretched below us, a sea of multicolored lights against the darkness as if thousands of stars had fallen to the ground. "I'm a baka when it comes to speaking sometimes."
Goten shook his head. "It's my fault, don't worry about it."
I frowned, more than a little confused. "Why do you say that?"
"My compliment about your eyes freaked you out," he sighed. "I should have kept that to myself, but what I felt about them just rose to the surface on its own. Gomen nasai, Trunks."
"I repay your compliment with one of my own. Goten, I think that you're the sexiest man on the planet." He blushed and started to shake his head. "Iie, really. I've always thought you were cute." Suddenly, the entire conversation seemed hilarious to me. Here we are, casually making compliments about each other's appearance as if we were a couple.
"What's so funny?"
I wiped a few stray tears from his eyes and turned to him. "I was so scared this morning about how I would tell you how I felt. Hell, I've been scared for years!" I took a few deep breaths to rid myself of the last of my chuckles. "It's funny because I didn't need to be. Stupid."
He took my hands between his own. "Not stupid. You valued our friendship so much that you didn't want to risk it. That was my reason, too."
I was feeling a little overwhelmed. My dreams had come true, despite all the things against it, and I needed a little more time to process everything. Goten seemed to have a plan already in mind. "There's one more good thing about all of this," I said as the wheel slowly stopped and the operator raised the bar over our laps.
I grinned. "At least you don't have to meet my parents." As I thought about it, that made it worse. Now, instead of being Goten: best friend, he was now Goten: lover. Amazingly, the thought didn't frighten me as much as it could have.
Things may become a little rough, but I have faith that Goten and I could get through it all as long as we have each other.