Dragon Ball/Z/GT Fan Fiction ❯ Touketsu ❯ Indemnity ( Chapter 37 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]


Bulma filled Vegeta in as best she could on what happened in his absence. She didn't go into specifics; she was not quite ready to revisit the more painful memories, not after those events had transpired so recently. She also knew they would be difficult for Vegeta to hear so soon after what he had endured. She didn't want him feeling guilty for what his other self had set into motion; injured as he was now, he could only take so much at a time. Nonetheless, she knew she couldn't hide the worst of it from him, not if they wanted to begin making reparations between him and Trunks. She held him tight when she told him that through Touketsu's decisions, Frieza was brought back. Frieza killed his son, then her. He said nothing, though his hold on her did tighten a little more. The salve that eased only some of the pain came in the form of the information she and the others received from Goku before they had departed from the Lookout: Touketsu apparently sent Frieza back to Hell. Vegeta felt no elation or sense of closure with the knowledge that, in a way, he had finally had his revenge against Frieza. He felt empty. That bastard should have stayed buried in the past to begin with.

The following morning found Vegeta leaned up against the wall just outside Trunk's room, dressed in a black pull-over sweater and dark jeans. He listened to Bulma speaking to the boy on the other side, mentally preparing him to see his father again. As he had upon his return, he had wrapped himself in their energy signatures, relieved beyond words that they were alive. Whether or not they were well was another matter. It had become heartbreakingly clear that what transpired during his imprisonment nearly destroyed Bulma's soul. Judging by the low strumming of his son's energy on the other side of the wall, he knew Trunks was in a similar state as his mother had been.

A few minutes later he and Trunks were sitting on the edge of the boy's bed, some distance between them. Trunks was still in his pajamas, his hair ruffled from sleep. Neither looked at the other, instead merely focusing on the floor. It hurt Vegeta more than he cared to admit when Trunks didn't run over and hug him as he would have a year ago.

"I'm not the same person, Trunks. Not exactly," he said quietly. "You understand, don't you?" Trunks nodded stiffly, not looking his way; his father still bore an unnerving resemblance to Touketsu. Vegeta tightened his crossed arms and continued. "I never intended to leave you and your mother like I did. I always meant to come back. I left because I was…upset…over what happened during our training." There was a pause for a moment as Vegeta reflected on that night in what felt like ages ago. "I was upset with myself. I…had difficulty accepting responsibility for what I had done."

There was silence before Trunks finally spoke. "Why didn't you come back?" he asked, his voice low.

He looked over to his son. "I had every intention to, Trunks," He said quietly. His eyes became distant as he thought back to where his mind had been before being abducted by the Kagemazoku, and he reflected on Touketsu's words. It was very hard to accept what his double had told him: that he had chosen to become the demon. How could that be so, when he wanted nothing more than to be free of that place and back home with his family? How could there ever be any part of him that would decide to become that half animal, half tyrant monster?

"The Kagemazoku got you," Trunks affirmed.

Vegeta looked to his son, and his shoulders sagged imperceptibly. Perhaps, just perhaps, that decision had been an unconscious one. If his mind was truly pulling him in two different directions, how could he have ever hoped to move beyond that frigid prison? It was difficult for Vegeta to admit defeat, but he finally answered. "Yes. I fought to get back to you and your mother. I resisted those creatures for…a very long time. I don't know how long." Vegeta cleared his throat. "That being, Touketsu. I don't believe he made a conscious decision to join them. I fought them, so he must have. He showed me what would happen if I lost. In the end, he helped me get back to you both." Vegeta didn't tell Trunks how close he came to killing himself instead. He might never tell him. He regarded his son's profile for a moment. "Look at me, Trunks."

Hesitantly, Trunks looked up at his father. Vegeta looked at him very seriously. "You know me well, and you know that I hate losing. I'm Saiyan. We both are. Saiyans fight. I will never stop fighting, do you understand?

Trunks took in his father's countenance, hints of the demon he would become in another reality. But in this reality, that hadn't happened yet. The pale, lacerated face and the fangs were like injuries suffered in battle. He had seen his father wounded plenty of times during his training, and he had heard from his mother and Gohan how he had always gotten back up in battle no matter how hurt he was. This was no different. He was injured, but he wasn't defeated. He would get back up, he would heal, and he would keep fighting. If his father could do it, then he could too.

"I know, Dad." Trunks nodded. "I trust you."

Vegeta nodded, and after a moment he got up to leave. He stopped just short of the door and looked over his shoulder at Trunks, studying his son for a moment. Bulma told him how he had gone Super Saiyan shortly after his disappearance, and how he had fearlessly gone up against both the Kagemazoku and twice against Touketsu in defense of his mother. He shook his head in wonderment, a cocky smirk tugging the corner of his mouth. He would have liked to have seen that. "You're tough as hell, Trunks… damn brave, too." His smirk warmed into a smile. "I'm proud of you."

Trunk's eyes widened in surprise and he felt his heart warm. He smiled a little, his face lightening. "Thanks, Dad."

Vegeta gave his son one last appraising look before leaving the room. It would take some time to mend their bond, but mend it would.


Goku was in disbelief the night he felt a familiar ki appear after he and the others had departed from Dende's Lookout. When he focused on it, there could be no doubt: Vegeta had returned. It was his normal ki, not the strange, distant version that he'd had. What did this mean? Had he somehow transformed back to his normal self?

Goku wasn't the only one who picked up on Vegeta's ki. "Goku," Piccolo sent him telepathically, "Why do you think he returned?"

"I don't know," Goku sent back. "His ki feels normal. I'm not sure, bu I think he somehow came out of that demonic half-Oozaru state."

"What about his memories?" Yamcha asked nervously, his fears of going through a repeat of the Saiyan invasion beginning to trickle back. "Do you think we should band back together, Goku? Be prepared?"

"We could just ask him," Krillin suggested. "I think we should keep some distance, but maybe send him a telepathic-"

"-No," Gohan interrupted. "Just give him some space, guys. We'll just monitor his ki. I think it will be alright, though." Gohan was the only one that could pick up on the subtleties of Vegeta's energy signature. Whatever he was doing here now, he could tell that the prince was not looking for a fight.

Several days passed without incident, and the fighters began to relax. Goku wondered if Vegeta's memories were fully recovered, but without asking him himself he couldn't know. When nearly a month passed by quietly, Goku resolved that at some point he may just have to get in contact with the prince and find out where they stood. As it turned out, he wouldn't be the one to initiate the dialog on the subject.

It was evening, and Goku had returned home with a large conifer over his shoulder. The Kagemazoku's frozen touch had transformed the woods surrounding his home, and so Goku had gone off to untouched forests in search of living trees that could be used for firewood. He was nearly finished reducing it to logs when he heard a familiar voice in his head.


Goku froze mid-swing, the axe raised over his head. He lowered his arms and tossed it to the ground. "Vegeta," he sent back.

The prince paused before he continued. "You're alive." There was no surprise in his voice; he had known for some time, after all.


"I want a word with you, Kakarot. Meet me in one hour."

Goku tensed. "Sure," he replied.

Close to one hour later found Vegeta standing under a starry night sky in the badlands where he had his first battle with Goku. Since his return, the prince's body had been steadily reverting back to normal; the color had returned to his skin, and the lacerations trailing down his cheeks had healed to shallow, red, scratch-like marks. His fangs too had been receding. The old battleground was unrecognizable now, but Vegeta remembered the emptiness and purposelessness he felt when he was last here. From then it was just a steady downward spiral to that terrible night.

Standing in the middle of the blackened earth, he turned and surveyed the scrubbed land that stretched out as far as he could see. There had obviously been a recent battle here, and Vegeta again found himself wondering what else had gone on in his absence. Bulma could only tell him what she knew, and Goku had told her and the others only so much. It was apparent that other events had transpired that she could not tell him about. His face tightened. Not since she died, he thought. He closed his eyes, swallowing. They both died. I couldn't save-

Vegeta started a little when Goku IT'd several feet behind him. He scowled as he tightened his folded arms. Damn that Instant Transmission.

Goku stared at the back of Vegeta's leather jacket for several moments, taking in the prince's rigid posture. He broke the silence. "What did you want to see me for?" he asked quietly.

Vegeta turned his head a little in Goku's direction. The moment he heard that voice after establishing telepathic contact, Vegeta's ever-simmering resentment began to bubble. He had some questions he wanted answered, but could he look that third class fool in the eye without immediately punching him in the face? Keep your emotions on a leash. Vegeta exhaled slowly. Finally, he turned to face The younger Saiyan. Goku took in the prince's appearance, and scowled a little in concern; his ki felt normal, but it was apparent that Vegeta had not transformed completely back.

"Bulma could tell me only so much about what happened while I was gone," the prince spoke. "I want you to tell me what you know."

Goku's brows drew together in confusion. While he was gone? Just how bad were his memories now? "You don't remember?"

Vegeta looked away and shifted on his feet. He supposed he would have to do a little explaining first. He looked back to Goku. "I and that…demon…that wished Frieza back are not one and the same." Goku looked at him quizzically. "I'm sure the woman told you of my disappearance, and you know all about those demons now, I trust." Goku nodded. Vegeta took a breath. "I was on some other plane. When I first arrived there, Zhernobog called me "Touketsu". After some time, I…" Vegeta trailed off. "I eventually met him."

"Goku frowned in bewilderment. "Who?"


Goku blinked in abject surprise at this. "Wait, what?"

Vegeta closed his eyes and sighed. "There are two of us, Kakkarot."

There were two versions of Vegeta. As bizarre as this revelation seemed, it was far less jarring to Goku than it would have been if he'd never met Future Trunks. In an alternate future, he, Vegeta, and all the Z Senshi, including Gohan, weren't even alive. Goten hadn't even ever existed. Touketsu himself had confirmed the existence of a Multiverse. Who knew how many other realties existed out there? Where the heck did Touketsu go? Goku thought to himself. Did he create another timeline?

"Uh, Vegeta…what hap-"

"Enough already, Kakarot," Vegeta snapped, his eyes hardening. "You're here to answer my questions. Bulma and Trunks could only tell me so much. I know Touketsu was an Oozaru when he and Zhernobog's Kagemazoku invaded Earth. I'm also aware he did some damage of his own. He came here, and didn't remember anyone. He didn't remember himself. Now, I want you tell me what the hell happened."

Goku was itching for some more information himself, but he supposed Vegeta did ask first. "King Kai sensed that something bad was about to happen on Earth, and I was granted 24 hour leave from Otherworld to defend the planet. Zhernobog and the Kagmazoku used Touketsu to open a gateway to earth and invade the planet. After Touketsu came out of his Oozaru form, he started to remember some things."

Vegeta was reminded of his conversation with Trunks and his painful admission to losing. They won. That bastard Zhernobog achieved what he told me he would. "I know about all that other crap, Kakarot. Now, what did he remember?"

Goku remembered being impaled, dying as he stared into a resentful face white as death. He remembered how every uncovered memory triggering a rabid beast. Goku scowled a little. "He remembered his anger."

Vegeta was silent and expressionless, but his fingers began to dig into the leather sleeves of his crossed arms. The material creaked audibly under his tightening grip. After a moment his lip quirked imperceptibly. He knew of Goku's and Yamcha's deaths at Touketsu's hands. Bulma had left out the details, which alone told Vegeta how traumatic it had been to her. It hurt him deeply to know she had been hurt, and it further keyed him into the events that had nearly severed the bond with his family. Nonetheless, as he found himself at last standing across from his hated rival, the one that instilled and stoked within him those feelings of inadequacy, he felt a dark satisfaction stir within. "Bulma told me he killed you and scarface," he said quietly.

Goku kept his unwavering gaze on the prince. "Yes. He killed me before my time was up here. He wanted the Dragon Balls so he could-"

"Yes, I know about that," Vegeta interrupted, his tone clipped. He still couldn't believe he had wished back Frieza of all people, and he didn't want to hear about it again. The bitterness began to bleed into his voice. "Seeing as how you died again, you can't exactly tell me what happened next."

There was silence from Goku a moment, his stance rigid and his eyes hard. He took a deep breath. "Not for a while, no. Not until Touketsu crossed into Otherworld using his teleportation technique. He remembered who he was again." Vegeta's brow arched up for a moment. "Well, to a point. He remembered his life as you up until-"

"Until Frieza killed me," Vegeta finished. No one could have told the prince this; when he met that demon face to face however, he just knew. He looked away and stared at the ravaged land, the site of their first battle. Vegeta knew full well what he would have wanted to do if he ever saw Goku again. Hell, he wanted to do it now. "Touketsu wanted to address some unfinished business, did he?"

"He was resentful," Goku said bluntly, the words spilling out of his mouth without another thought.

Vegeta snapped his attention back to Goku, his expression cold. He slowly uncrossed his arms as he turned to face the other, his shoulders squaring and his hands tightening into fists at his sides. "I wonder why that was," he drawled sarcastically.

Goku's features fell a bit, and he sighed inwardly. It seemed he would indeed have to have this discussion twice. "Vegeta…I always planned on it. I planned on it as much as you did. But sometimes there are circumstances beyond our contr-"

Goku was punched right in the face. He lay sprawled out on his back, looking up at a livid Vegeta. "Don't give me that shit, Kakarot. You CHOSE not to return! Beyond your control, my ass - You controlled ALL of it, you fucking hypocrite." Goku shot up to his feet.

"I didn't choose to die, Vegeta! Cell was going to destroy the whole planet! I had to think fast!"

"Yes, I know that thinking is one of your biggest handicaps! YOU put the responsibility of an entire planet on the shoulders of a BOY!" Vegeta shouted, jabbing an angry finger up into Goku's face. "THAT'S why you died! It was your mistake, but that didn't change the fact that your son still had to pay for it and face that creature!"

"I believed in Gohan, Vegeta! And I was right about him! He did it!"

"If he did it alone he would have DIED!"

"But he didn't, did he?!" Goku countered. "He wasn't alone, he was never alone! I wouldn't have stayed in Otherworld if it meant leaving him alone, Vegeta! I already knew he had people that cared about him. I care about them! All of them! I care about this planet! That's why I didn't return! I stayed away to keep them safe!"

"Is that so!? Tell me, do you believe you made the right decision?" Vegeta asked, sweeping an incredulous arm out to the destruction surrounding them. He looked back to Goku. "Did your absence protect your friends and family?"

"I did my best and made a decision! I did what I thought was in their best interests!"

"Oh really?! Their best interests. You were thinking only of them, are you sure? When did you attain that Super Saiyan 3, huh?" he demanded with a flick of his chin. "You certainly couldn't do that before you up and left." Goku faltered. "Yes, I know all about your new technique," Vegeta sneered. "Trunks described it to me. You obtained it during your seven years in Otherworld, training with gods and pitting yourself against other dead warriors." At Goku's speechlessness, Vegeta continued to lay into him. "You may not have even been aware of it at the time, but you can acknowledge it now. There was some small part of you that wanted to leave this life behind so you could battle endlessly and ascend to new heights. Go ahead. Confide in me, Kakarot."

Goku was again experiencing that self-doubt when Touketsu laid out the consequences of his decision. "At that time, I really did believe that my existence on Earth attracted enemies." His eyes cast downward as he reexamined his feelings. Ever since Touketsu left and the lives of his friends and family were restored, he had been reflecting on the demon prince's condemnation. He lifted his eyes back up to Vegeta. "But… looking back now…there may have been some small part of me that wanted to stay in Otherworld for my own reasons, too."

"...Hn. As much as it pains me to say it, we may not be all that different," Vegeta said quietly. He stared him down for several moments. "I heard how Gohan died defending his brother against Frieza." He narrowed his eyes. "You're alive now. Perhaps you should ask him if he felt alone then."

Goku swallowed as he held the prince's penetrating gaze. "When I decided not to return…I may have made a mistake," he said quietly.

Vegeta snorted softly. "Everyone makes mistakes. Apparently, even Earth's champion." Goku actually looked away, and Vegeta felt himself reveling in his rival's vulnerability. He closed in like a shark detecting blood, leaning in with a sneer on his face as he looked up at the other. "Your absence didn't protect the Earth after all, Kakarot. Perhaps it even encouraged an attack." Goku swallowed, his eyes reddening. He finally looked back to Vegeta's piercing gaze. "You thought nothing of our rematch." It wasn't a question.

Goku hesitated a moment before replying. "At the time…no."

Goku easily caught the next punch Vegeta threw. "HE JUST COULDN'T LET IT GO!" he shouted, and Vegeta faltered. Goku tightened his grip, his expression clouding with growing anger. "The sad thing, Vegeta, is that he almost did. He almost did, and it was for all the wrong REASONS!" He pushed Vegeta away, letting go of his hand. Vegeta backed off and eyed Goku warily. He had never seen the younger Saiyan look so pissed.

Goku glowered at the prince. "He was drowning so much in his own hatred and despair that he nearly destroyed everything. Even when he had the chance to wish Bulma and Trunks back, he chose not to. He CHOSE not to!" Vegeta blinked, his back straightening. "He was convinced of making his own hell a reality. He wanted to destroy Creation just as Zhernobog did. That's all he wanted. The Supreme Kai himself gave me his life so I could stop him. We fought and I kept trying to remind him of them, but he wouldn't listen." Goku took a breath and calmed himself. When he spoke again his voice was subdued. "You know, since he came here I saw glimpses of you. When I was fighting to stop him, you finally emerged. It wasn't the person who came to live on Earth. It was the person I met here. It was the person that died on Namek." Vegeta stood stock-still as he listened, tense and silent. "Touketsu didn't choose his family. He chose a rematch. Out of spite he brought us here so he could destroy me and the Earth before doing the same to the rest of Creation"

Vegeta regarded the younger Saiyan silently for a moment. "That obviously didn't happen," he said soberly.

"No. Zhernobog and his army recaptured him. They almost enslaved him again."

"Your resentment towards Kakarot isn't worthy of you." Touketsu's warning rang through Vegeta's head, and he felt his ever-present anger towards his rival temper. He looked begrudgingly at Goku. "You saved him, didn't you?"

Goku shook his head once. "I helped him. He saved himself." Vegeta didn't know what to say to this, and he looked away. There was silence between them before Goku spoke again, his voice taking on that serious tone he reserved for addressing an opponent. "I have some questions I'd like answered too, Vegeta, while we're here. Touketsu couldn't remember your life when he first came here. He didn't remember how he joined the Kagemazoku or how he was transformed-"

"-He may have…eventually had some inkling," Vegeta interrupted, remembering Touketsu's accusations leading to his near-execution.

Goku was silent for a moment. "Do you remember?"

Vegeta lowered his eyes. "Yes," he answered quietly.

"What happened, Vegeta?" Goku asked, his voice low.

Vegeta struggled to continue. He didn't feeling comfortable opening up to this clown, but he felt obligated. Goku fought to reunite Touketsu with his family. He wished his family back from the dead after the mayhem the demon created. Goku had fought to save the Multiverse and Otherworld. The very souls of those he cared about could have been lost if he hadn't. At the very least he owed the younger Saiyan some answers. Vegeta crossed his arms defensively, his words clipped and to the point. "I was on Mount Eroso. I was angry." After a moment he looked back at Goku and amended, "I was furious."

Goku's shoulders dropped. "Vegeta, my decision to stay in Otherworld wasn't to spite you-"

"Don't flatter yourself, Kakarot," Vegeta snapped. He looked away again and scowled. "You didn't help the cause, but you weren't the only factor involved." He was already revealing more to the younger Saiyan than he was comfortable with. He wasn't about to confess that he was more angry with himself than anyone else the night he was abducted. A full minute went by before Vegeta went on. "They were waiting for me. Zhernobog told me he was waiting for me practically my whole life. That night on the mountain they had somehow reached out through my shadow and…" He trailed off, his arms tightening across his chest as he cleared his throat. "I found myself there, stripped of my power. I could do nothing. I stayed there with those creatures for a long time."

"How long?" Goku asked quietly.

Vegeta shook his head a little. "No idea. It could have been years for all I know. But, I don't know if time even existed in that place. Finally, Touketsu appeared."

Goku's eyes widened a little. So he figured it out. But somehow, he traveled back in time to a plane where it sounds like time doesn't even exist. Goku thought back on his chaotic battle with Touketsu-Vegeta, and some dread settled into the pit of his stomach. If Touketsu had managed that, had they in fact been traveling through space and time into different universes while the demon prince had been lost to his rage? King Kai doubted this was possible without Zhernobog's aid; the prince's personal universe should have been limited to his own experiences on the physical plane and his brief experience in Otherworld after dying on Namek. Nonetheless, Touketsu-Vegeta had managed to open a gateway not just into Zhernobog's realm, but to a point before he had been transformed. Perhaps that place was now a part of Vegeta's personal universe, even if Touketsu-Vegeta didn't remember it on a conscious level. Hopefully, his travel there marked the extent of his inter-dimensional and time-traveling abilities.

After a moment Vegeta continued. "He destroyed Zhernobog and his soldiers. Then… he was going to kill me."

A chill went up Goku's spine. Did he hear that right? "What?" he whispered. "Why would he do that?"

"Because he hated me."

Disappointment settled in Goku's heart. After everything the demon prince had been through, it seemed he was still making the same self-destructive decisions. The demon prince made the decision to leave in order to protect his family, so how could he still not realize that killing himself would have hurt the ones that cared about him? Goku then took stock of the obvious: Vegeta was alive and standing in front of him. "Why didn't he then?"

Vegeta shrugged. Touketsu must have suddenly experienced some renewed faith that Vegeta could get things right. "He changed his mind. Instead, he freed me. He created a gateway, and I was able to return."

He rescued himself before he could be changed. He actually reunited himself with his family. Even as a demon, Vegeta apparently had a small ember of self-compassion that hadn't been snuffed out. "I'm glad you're back, Vegeta," Goku told him sincerely. There was silence between them for several moments before Goku added hesitantly, "You know, we can have that rematch now."

"Huh. What, with you at Super Saiyan 3?" Vegeta snorted, looking askance at Goku.

"Hey, I can only do it for a little while. It's not really all that practical-"

Vegeta waved him off. "Spare me. Rest assured that you won't be ahead of me for much longer." Vegeta looked back at Goku, correctly interpreting his silence as trepidation. "Kakarot, you've been to Otherworld. You obviously learned a few things in Heaven. I'll have you know, a man can learn a few things in Hell, too." He held Goku's gaze for a few moments before looking away. "I won't let what happened here happen again, understand? I have a family to protect too, you know." Without another word, the prince turned and took to the sky.



Within those 130 days since friends and family were wished back, their lives were spent in shadows. When the Namek Dragon Balls were at last recharged, Goku returned to New Namek to again summon Porunga. The Earth was restored to its original state before the Kagemazoku arrived, and, with the exception of the truly evil, all those killed by the shadow demons were brought back to life. The Dragon of Dreams had enough power left for one final wish, and it was decided that the people of Earth forget the shadow demons' nightmarish invasion. The Z Senshi and their families opted out, however; they carried with them a degree of responsibility in defending the planet, and it was decided that this was something they could learn from. In the next several months, Goku would attempt to wish back the worlds and people Touketsu-Vegeta had wiped out. He hoped it was possible.

The early afternoon sky was a blazing blue. The two Saiyans, powered to Super Saiyan 2, clashed in the air as they met each other blow for blow. They had been meeting up regularly for their sparring sessions, which Vegeta found wonderfully therapeutic. His body had since returned back to normal, erasing any physical signs of his ordeal. Life went on around him as though nothing had ever happened. For Vegeta however, a part of his mind lingered over that dark place where he had been imprisoned for so long. Gratefully, landing a good punch on his rival's face provided an excellent distraction.

Their spar went on for the next several hours. Vegeta still wanted that rematch with Goku, and he would work towards achieving a level on par with the younger Saiyan. In spite of what Goku claimed - and indeed, what he probably believed at the time - Super Saiyan 3 turned out to be more practicable and sustainable than he had let on. With some annoyance Vegeta had concluded that Goku was downplaying the transformation when he remembered that Goku nearly lost to Touketsu. The demon prince must have forced Goku's abilities to new heights. It wouldn't be a surprise. Goku, after all, had always had the same effect on Vegeta. Yes, he still wanted to defeat the other in battle, but the motivation was now different. It wasn't to prove his worth to himself or his father. He had a family to protect. If he could defeat someone as powerful as Goku in battle, then he could likely win against any opponent. Much like Goku, he just wanted to get stronger. With the younger Saiyan as his sparring partner, that would be inevitable.

Vegeta was determined to move forward from here on out. However, Touketsu showed him that doing so was easier said than done. His double made choices that he thought would break a cycle, when in fact he was just walking that same circular path. What if somehow, somewhere along the way, he slipped, setting himself up for failure again by making the same, wrong decisions without even realizing it? He wondered what else he could have learned through his double's mistakes. Touketsu was the incarnation of his dark nature. Could he ever really come to terms with it? Could it coexist within him and not threaten to destroy all he cared about?

Vegeta was jarred out of his thoughts when a fist met his face, knocking him back midair. Goku stopped fighting immediately. He could tell Vegeta was distracted.

"Hey, uh, you ok?"

Vegeta punched him in the face. Smirking, the prince watched Goku cup a hand to his damn-near broken nose. "Now I am."

"Ow..no fair, Vegeta," Goku grumbled.

"Consider it a lesson," he chuckled, crossing his arms. "Don't let down your guard."

Wincing, Goku gingerly touched his nose. "Ugh. Right." The sun was beginning to set behind them. Goku dropped his transformation and sighed. "I'm hungry. Think I'll head home and get something to eat. Call it a day?"

Vegeta's hair returned to its raven black as he likewise dropped his transformation. "Fine." He hesitated a moment. "Same time tomorrow?"

Goku put a hand behind his head. "Oh, uh. Well, I was thinking I could do some training with Gohan and Goten. You know I've been training with them one on one, but uh… I was thinking it would be good to, you know, set aside a day and have them both team up and-"

"It's fine, Kakarot." A small smile broke through Vegeta's perpetually hard expression. "You do that." He looked away, his countenance growing serious as he looked down at the lengthening shadows being cast on the land below.

Goku could see that distant look in his eyes. He knew what he was thinking about. "Vegeta…you - he did the right thing in the end."

After a moment Vegeta looked to Goku. "And what did that bring him? Exile?"

Goku's shoulders sagged a little. "I don't think he'd want you dwelling on that, Vegeta. He did what he did to give you and your family another chance. Please - don't squander it."

Vegeta huffed through his nose. "It matters to me, Kakarot. We're different, yet we're one and the same. As long as I know he's in that place, I am too, in a way. The things he told me…" Vegeta sighed and shook his head. "His aim was to break the cycle. I'm not sure he succeeded."

"Well that's up to you as much as it was to him, isn't it?" Goku asked.

Vegeta looked over to the other Saiyan, regarding him thoughtfully for a moment. He gave a conceding nod. "Don't worry about it, Kakarot. Go on home."

"Alright. Take care, Vegeta." Goku put two fingers to his head and disappeared from sight.

A short while later, Vegeta touched down on the front lawn of Capsule Corp, his home off to his right. He caught sight of his shadow at the corner of his eye to his left, and he turned to face it. A part of him was exiled in that dark prison; he would always have a connection to that place. In a way though, it seemed as though he always had.

"Somehow that shadow behind you demanded more of your attention than the light that was right in front of you."

Why was it that the darkness called to him constantly? Why did it seem to overshadow the good in his life? Was he simply more receptive to it? Did he invariably keep going back to it because it was familiar? Was it conditioning from the time he was handed over to Frieza? Zhernobog told Vegeta he felt his energy essentially ever since he was given to that tyrant. But, was that really when the darkness began to follow him?

"It's a part of you - it has always been."

Vegeta was now fully aware that Touketsu and Zhernobog's Kagemazoku had been traveling through time ever since the demons succeeded in transforming him. Who was to say where the beginning or end was? Perhaps he had in fact always been connected to the darkness.

"You have dominion."

Touketsu saw something in him. He had given Vegeta a fighting chance. Through his double, he learned what would happen if he succumbed to his fears and hatred. Yes, the dark side of himself knew things that he didn't. Conversely however, Vegeta had wisdom to share with Touketsu. His demonic half had little recollection of his life on Earth before he began remembering his previous incarnation as the Saiyan Prince. He would never really know of the family he could have had, or of the light they brought Vegeta. Vegeta knew, though.

"We were always destined to serve. Be sure you serve those that are worthy of you."

He wouldn't fail them; not his family, not himself. Vegeta would move on, just as he always had. Only this time, he would be cognizant every step of the way that he was moving forward rather than in a circle. It would be a challenge, but then he was never one to shrink from a such a thing. The information reflected back to him from himself and from those within his circle would help guide him on this new path. They taught him things about himself that he had never seen before, or at the very least, refused to see. Bulma was the first to show him this. He was grateful for the people in his life. Bulma, Trunks…yes, even Kakarot.

Vegeta sighed. Touketsu made mistakes. In the end though, he tried to rectify some of them. For his family, ultimately, it hadn't been too late; he succeeded. One day, Vegeta would make peace with his dark side. He owed himself that much. He looked appraisingly at the long shadow stretched out before him. I won't screw it up this time. He turned his back on it and walked up to his home. Vegeta opened the door, entered, and rejoined his family.