The two boys weren't quite as close to each other as they'd been the last time he looked, but Vegeta's lips twitched into a sneer anyway. His anger had
given away to dark amusement at the two of them. It was simply too much. He'd been enraged at first, especially since the person his so-called 'son' was
sitting with had managed to make a fool of him with that ridiculous machine of his. But looking at the longhaired boy, he could see why Trunks would
ignore his gender. His 'son' was older than he acted, despite the horrible upbringing Bulma had obviously given him in the other timeline. The half-saiyan
was more than old enough to be sexually active and while Vegeta was disgusted by the boy's choice, he did understand it. The strange child was too weak
to be a man, but his long hair and big eyes made him an appropriate female. It obviously wasn't the boy's strength that attracted Trunks, and that
knowledge was what allowed his anger to wan. The boy was a disappointment, but Vegeta saw no reason to blame himself.
Besides that, he didn't have any expectations of the half-saiyan. His own son, the baby he'd spawned with that infuriating woman, was going to be a
saiyan no matter what. The teenage version's choice was irritating, not because the boy was evidently attracted to a male, but because the fool had
chosen one so very weak. If Trunks had to go after another male, the least he could do would be to pick one equal in strength. Staring at the two
animated boys, Vegeta snorted softly. Bulma was to blame for this, as well as Kakarrot's son. They were the ones who'd failed so miserably in raising the
half-saiyan. The longhaired boy's soft laugh reached him and his eyebrow twitched despite himself. He wasn't angry, he reminded himself, turning back to
glare at the doorway. He wasn't to blame for Trunks' behavior. And it wasn't as if anything would come of the boy's blatant attention. The strange child
was far too young. As far as physical looks went, the boy was thinner than Gohan.
Arms folded tightly over his chest, Vegeta glared at the closed door, doing his damnedest to will it open. Instead of that 'wished-for' movement, the air in
front of him shimmered and he abruptly found bright black eyes sparkling at him from an infuriatingly familiar face. His sneer darkened as he resisted the
instinct to move back or lash out. "Kakarrot."
"Hi Vegeta," Goku grinned, his hand falling from his forehead. "Guess I didn't scare you, that's good. Your ki was the strongest, so I sought you out."
Blinking, he glanced beyond the perpetually glaring saiyan to wave at Trunks. The lavender-haired youth looked up in surprise and he grinned. "Hey, you
two, how's it going? I figured I might as well get here a few minutes early. Shouldn't be too long now, and I'm sure Vegeta doesn't want to wait for me to
get that suit out of there so he can train. Ne, Vegeta?" The two boys were moving toward them, but Goku glanced to the side, giving the saiyan a quick
and innocent smile. "Unless you've changed your mind? You could always go in with Duo next."
A thick invisible wall had suddenly appeared in his path and Duo jerked to a halt, his back tensing. There was no way. Wing Zero and a whole mess of
beam cannons wouldn't be enough to make him go into that place with Vegeta. Nope, not him. He planned to live past sunrise. The black-haired man in
question slowly turned to look at him and Duo's mouth went dry, his eyes wide. There was something very scary about that black glare, and he felt as if a
huge weight lifted from him when it shifted to Trunks.
The half-saiyan was staring at him as if he really expected him to think about it and Vegeta smirked suddenly. He wasn't about to take the useless child
into the chamber of space and time with him, but something about Trunks' quick frown made him turn to face the two, his gaze flicking back to Duo. The
longhaired boy looked like he expected an attack, and Vegeta's lips twitched in amusement. Very aware of his son's anger, he let his eyes travel down the
human's black-clothed length, very slow as they rose again to stare into wide violet eyes. A second later Trunks moved in front of the boy, nearly making
Vegeta laugh with his blistering expression. "Do you have an objection to that?" he drawled.
Trunks nearly flinched at the contempt dripping from that low voice, his hands curling into fists. He couldn't stand to have the man look at him like that, but
he knew he had to interfere. Duo wouldn't last two hours alone with the saiyan, even with his Gundam. Vegeta simply could not be trusted, not when he
was smirking like that. "I'm sure you don't need the help," he said slowly, not quite growling at the man. "You train alone."
Goku's eyes moved from father to son, his smile disappearing swiftly. He hadn't expected this. It almost looked like some sort of stand-off, and for the life
of him he wasn't sure what to make of it. He didn't expect Vegeta to change his mind about not using the boys' suits to train, but Trunks had understood
the usefulness. Looking at the half-saiyan, he almost asked why the boy was discouraging Vegeta. A glimpse of Duo's wary expression made him close
his mouth with wide eyes and faint warmth rising to his cheek. Surely not... "Um, guys?" The short saiyan near him moved suddenly and Goku had a
sharp rush of panic when Vegeta started toward the two young males. "Vegeta-"
There was something interesting about Trunks when the boy stood up to him, and Vegeta was actually tempted start something. If he hadn't heard the
door slide open behind him, he might have. As it was, the sound made him pause and turn, not Goku's startled call. The namek came out for a moment,
green shape turned black by the bright light behind him, and Vegeta sniffed when Goku went inside the chamber to fetch the suit. Now wasn't the time to
torment his wayward 'son.' With a brief smirk at the glaring youth, he turned and resumed his place just outside the door. It would only take a moment for
Goku to take them out, and then it was his turn.
Before he'd left Bulma's house, she'd told Trunks that Goku would take the suit back there instead of leaving it on the tower, so Trunks used that excuse
to forget about his father. That short confrontation had almost seemed like a challenge to him, and he didn't want to think about it. Duo looked at him with
visible uncertainty and he forced a hesitant smile to his lips. "I forgot to tell you, Goku decided to take the suit directly to Bulma's. There isn't much room
up here for it."
Nodding sharply, Duo watched the lavender-haired male's face. "That's fine," he said quickly. He still felt nervous, but now he wondered if he should
apologize or something. Trunks had seemed as against the idea as he was, but he thought it probably wasn't nice to be so afraid of the boy's father. But
he couldn't help it. The man simply didn't seem very...safe. Someone came out of the door behind Trunks, and Duo blinked when Piccolo walked past
Vegeta, launching into the sky without a single word. The black-haired saiyan looked back at him with a dark glaring smirk and Duo swallowed sharply, his
muscles tense until the man disappeared into that bright doorway.
Trunks was startled when Duo heaved a long sigh and seemed to slump. The boy was still standing, but his head was bowed. "Duo?" Stepping to him, he
put a hand on the boy's shoulder, concerned eyes blinking when Duo gave him a dull smile.
"Sorry about that," Duo muttered softly, running his fingers through his dangling bangs. "But your father's...intimidating."
"I'm the one who should apologize," Trunks frowned, glancing back at the closed door. "I don't know why he said that. He hated having me there when he
trained, so I *know* he wouldn't have really wanted you with him."
"Well, let's just forget about him. Piccolo just took off, so Quatre should be out, right?"
"Yes." Trunks blinked for a moment, wondering why the Namek hadn't just gone with Goku in his instant teleportation, but he didn't think about it for long.
Duo caught his attention again with a bright, surprising smile.
"Give me a lift?" His smile seemed to break away most of Trunks' clouded expression, and Duo blinked at him, tilting his head.
"Oh, of course." The boy moved to retrieve Bulma's bowl and Trunks managed to return his smile as he wrapped an arm around Duo's waist. Oddly
enough, it was easy to forget his father when Duo smiled like that.
* * *
Sandrock was already settled in Bulma's shuttle holding by the time Duo and Trunks got there. Moving past his 'ride,' Duo hurried over to his fellow pilot,
ignoring the blonde boy's greeting. His eyes moved over Quatre's face for a second, then he frowned and circled the boy. Finally he stopped under
confused blue-green eyes and frowned, his arms folded over his chest. "Well, that sucks."
"Excuse me?" Quatre's eyes widened in surprise and he wasn't sure what to make of the boy's expression. If he hadn't known better, he'd think Duo had
just insulted him. But that wasn't like the boy.
"You don't look any older," Duo explained. "Oh, you're a little shaggy around the edges, but you didn't grow at all."
With a faintly amused face, Quatre shook his head. "I wasn't gone *that* long, Duo. And I've probably already grown as much as I'm ever going to."
"Now that's nonsense," Duo smirked, "a few months is all it takes for a growth spurt." The blonde boy's mouth opened and he interrupted merrily. "I'd bet
you sprout up at *least* three inches before you're eighteen."
His friend was certainly animated, and it made Quatre feel at home, somehow. Noticing the lavender-haired youth standing a foot or so away from Duo,
Quatre nodded to him. "Goku said it was late, so he went home."
"That's fine," Trunks said, "It *is* late. You two can come in the house and talk, if you want to. Bulma fixed up the extra bedrooms, too, for when you get
tired." His gaze shifted as Duo promptly smothered a yawn, making him smirk at the boy. "Coffee, or sleep?"
"Talk first, then sleep," Duo frowned, rubbing his eyes for a second before pointing at Quatre. The blonde boy blinked in surprise. "Can't sleep till he
A long minute passed before Quatre managed to clear the shocked expression from his face. It took a little longer to give his friend what he thought was
an innocently confused look. "Spill what?"
"What do you mean, spill what?" Duo prodded, taking the boy's arm and turning him toward the exit. "Tell me what it was like. I'm going in there in next,
remember? So what's it like? Is there room to fight in? I can't really imagine there being that much room inside that little building."
"Oh," Quatre said, a faint smile tugging his lips. "Yes, there's plenty of room, too much room, actually. It really is like an alternate dimension inside there.
There's a small building, a pavilion almost, and then it's just space on all sides that stretches out...forever."
Pausing in the doorway, Duo gave his comrade a long, doubtful look before shaking his head. "I guess I won't have to worry about claustrophobia, then."
"No, but it's very unnerving at first, not being able to see a sky or anything above you." They moved inside quietly, following Trunks to the kitchen, and
Quatre smiled when the lavender-haired teen offered to pour him some tea. "Thank you."
"Well," Duo commented, flashing Trunks his own smile and grabbing a mug for the coffee sitting on the counter. "As long as there's a bed, bathroom, and
plenty of food inside that...pavilion thing, I guess I'll survive."
"Are you still hungry?" Trunks asked. He knew the boy probably was, so he moved to the counter after him. "Quatre?"
"I'm fine, thank you."
Shaking his head at the boy, Duo poured some coffee and raised it in a mock toast. "I'll live till morning. Just need something to keep me up for a little
longer, then I plan to sleep for at least four hours."
"You can sleep as long as you want," Trunks said, following the boy back to the table and sitting down across from him and Quatre. "I'm sure my father will
be in there for a full day, so there's no rush."
Duo took a long drink of the hot coffee and wagged a finger at Trunks. "I cannot allow myself to be spoiled. Believe it or not, but I actually don't sleep as
much as people think. Four hours is excellent compared to trying to find time to doze during missions."
His own tea was rather stale, but Quatre looked into it thoughtfully. He'd spent considerable time with Duo after they met, and he had to admit the boy had
always seemed to be awake. As for himself, he wasn't really tired, but he knew he could sleep if he tried. In fact, now that Duo was silent he felt a return of
his gloomy state, and sleeping it away sounded like a good idea. The violet-eyed pilot was looking at him and he sighed. "It's odd. I haven't even thought
about missions in quite a while."
"No wonder," Duo muttered, "six months is a long time. But I doubt there's much to think about." His eyes clouded and he snorted, shaking his head.
"They've probably given us up for dead and beat OZ without us."
That pessimistic statement was one Quatre would normally have countered, but he didn't feel like it at the moment. Instead, he thought about the others.
Heero and Trowa had certainly met up with Wufei by now, and he wondered what they would do when they didn't find the shuttle. Even after having seen
definite proof of other dimensions, after spending time in the chamber, he still didn't believe they'd fallen through some odd warp or something. He was
fairly convinced they'd simply managed to find a planet far enough away from their earth that it hadn't been noted before. That was more plausible, and
more hopeful. "You know," he said slowly, frowning into his cup, "we could try setting off a beacon in the shuttle. I know we can't risk taking off now, but it
would at least let them know we're still alive."
"Sure it would," Duo snorted, "if they're close enough to read it. But even if they are, that would be the same as us taking off, wouldn't it? I mean, think
about it. If they registered a beacon from us, Trowa would definitely come to investigate it and then Cell would see his ship. It's just as dangerous as us
trying to leave now."
Frowning at the boys, Trunks caught Duo's attention. "If we can't defeat Cell in his tournament, he's going to kill all of us, and destroy the entire planet.
Whether he notices or not, it would be safer to try and leave now." He'd thought their shuttle wasn't ready for flight, but now he had an idea they were
simply hesitating on their own and while he was glad for it, he knew it wasn't a good idea. "We could distract him long enough for you to take off. I doubt
he'd distract himself from us, so he probably wouldn't follow you even if he noticed."
"He wouldn't have to, though, right?" Duo smirked when the half-saiyan blinked at him, and he glanced to Quatre, sharing a nod with his friend. "He could
shoot us down without setting foot off the planet. In fact, we were thinking about that. Your power. It was probably one of those beams that caught us in
the first place. After all, we did get hit by *something*, something our sensors didn't detect, and something that left burn marks but no debris."
He could have hit himself for not thinking of that, but Trunks sufficed with a mental berating. "You're right. I've seen ki attacks shoot a long way past the
edge of the planet, off into space. That probably *was* what hit you. Cell might not try to follow, but with Goku's kame-hame-ha, he wouldn't have to."
"Besides that," Duo continued, "even if we managed to get away without him killing us, it wouldn't do much good. After all, if he wipes out this planet, I'm
sure he's going to be looking for another target, right? Our earth was close enough for us to get here, so there's no reason he couldn't get to us."
"Bulma mentioned that," Trunks sighed. He really hadn't thought that much about the actual location of the boys' home planet, and he should have. "She
said they've had visitors from dozens of planets, but nothing like another earth. Her guess was that you came from a different side of the galaxy. But
you're right about Cell. He *does* have Frieza's cells in him."
The boy was scowling at the table and Duo raised an eyebrow curiously. "Frieza?"
"It's a long story," Trunks shrugged. "I'll tell you about it tomorrow if you're still interested."
"Okay," Duo nodded. "In the meanwhile, there's no point in us trying to leave before this tournament. At least here we can make a difference. Besides,
what sort of fighters would we be if we turned tail now?"
"You don't actually think you can take part in the tournament?" Trunks said, his eyes wide at the ridiculous notion.
The teen was staring at him as if he'd just suggested self-detonation, and Duo's eyebrow twitched. "I wasn't, but what if I did? You guys didn't so much as
scratch our suits, so don't try to act like it's such a crazy idea."
"Physical attacks," Quatre said, his eyes catching Duo, "the energy blasts don't do anything, but physical attacks are different. If Cell's anywhere as
strong as they are physically, he could demolish us."
"Oh." Trunks nodded at the blonde boy and Duo frowned, not liking the two of them teaming up against him. "Well, that still doesn't mean we can't be
useful. As long as we don't get close enough for Cell to use physical attacks on us, there's no problem. The Gundams can block any tricks of his, just in
case he tries to blast you instead of fighting one-on-one."
"It's a bad idea," Trunks said, shaking his head when the longhaired boy scowled at him.
"But it isn't up to you, is it," Duo reminded him, smirking suddenly. His eyes glinted when the boy frowned at him and he propped his chin on his hand.
"Goku's the leader, right? I'm sure he'd agree with me. After all, *he* was the one who said you could use us. I wouldn't be surprised if he already plans
to have us there." His words obviously struck a nerve in his half-saiyan friend and Duo smiled pleasantly. That was what the boy got for placing so much
worth in one person. Goku wasn't as stringent as Heero, but it was the same concept. "I'll just have to talk to him about that, tomorrow maybe."
"So," Duo said brightly, turning to Quatre. "Did the green guy give you any trouble while you were gone?" His blonde friend's eyes widened and Duo
smirked at him. "I didn't think so. He's about as friendly as Trowa. I'm glad you went in instead of me. I'd have gone absolutely nuts."
"It was fine," Quatre sighed, his shoulders relaxing slowly. "The days seemed to pass quickly enough. In fact, it was a good opportunity to test Sandrocks'
resistance to damage, with all the falls."
"That's my fellow pilot, always thinking of his Gundam." With a bright smile, Duo finished off his coffee and pushed the cup away. His eyes twinkled and he
leaned toward Quatre with a knowing look. "You keep training Sandrock the way you do, and I wouldn't be surprised if he starts fighting on his own, one of
these days. I might have to let you talk to Deathscythe for me." Pale blue-green eyes blinked at him and Duo laughed softly when Quatre smiled and
shook his head. "You and your Gundam..."
"I don't know what I'll do when the war's over," Quatre admitted.
"But first things first, right?" Silence reigned for a second, then Duo stood and flashed a grin at Trunks, the lavender-haired teen blinking up at him. "Bed
time for me. How about those rooms?"
Trunks nodded quickly as he stood and started for the doorway. He paused, glancing back to Quatre. "And you?" The blonde boy stood as well and he
led the two to the guestrooms Bulma had readied for them. Gohan and he had the other two rooms since the other half-saiyan had wanted to stay close to
the interesting strangers, but there was more than enough room in the large Capsule Corporation. Bulma's home was much larger than the dilapidated
building he stayed at in his own time. His mind was still twisting around the idea of them on the battlefield when they faced Cell, but he pushed the thought
aside. Despite Duo's certainty, Trunks didn't think Goku would be foolish enough to risk them like that. Using the suits to train was one thing, putting the
boys in direct danger was another matter entirely.
* * *
The stars were bright after the unending white of the time chamber, but he couldn't tell if they looked different from the way they looked on earth. He'd
never really looked at them during his brief stay there, and no one paid any attention to such things on the colonies. But Quatre looked at them now, his
hands curled around the cup he'd used earlier. He would have gone to sit with Sandrock, but he didn't know if Bulma had an alarm system on the hangar,
so he he'd gone outside instead. The lawn was wide, and the buildings beyond seemed far enough away that he didn't feel as crowded as he might have
expected after the emptiness of the chamber. There were no lights on the lawn, and he welcomed the darkness. The kitchen had been too bright,
reminding him of what he'd lost. It was over now. The time he'd spent in that chamber seemed like a brief instant in a long, long lifetime and he sighed,
leaning tighter on his knees. After months of blissful, uninterrupted sleep, the nightmare had returned without fail, as if nothing had happened. Somehow,
he'd hoped it was gone for good. He should have known better.
Piccolo had left as soon as Goku came in, and that silent departure spoke volumes. Finishing off the long cool tea, he sighed and set the cup aside. He
wouldn't gain anything from mourning what had happened. If he had any sense at all, he should have been grateful to have at least known what it was like
to have someone with him, even if only for a short time. But now he wondered if it wouldn't have been better not to know. Before, he'd been alone, and
reconciled to that existence. Now, he couldn't help but want it back. He tilted his head back, warm breeze ruffling his hair as he looked at the sparks filling
the sky. And for a moment he thought he felt something, his eyes flying around the yard. His heart fell again as he found himself alone and he smiled
sadly, wrapping his arms around his knees. What did he expect? The Namek had left without a word, and that was the best way. A complete and clean
break. He knew that was best, but he couldn't help the pain that closed over his chest as he buried his face against his knees. It was a clean break, but
he wanted something more, a smile, a solemn look...he wanted at least a goodbye...
Something touched him and his head whipped back. His lip trembled, and he closed his mouth, blinking hot eyes at the man crouched beside him. He
wanted to grab him, to bury his face against that strong chest, but he clenched his arms around his knees, holding still.
The boy's eyes were far too bright, and Piccolo let out a slow sigh, sinking to his knees. This was exactly what he'd expected to find, and the very reason
he'd hesitated on coming here. He hadn't planned to draw this out, knowing it would hurt that much more when the boy left the planet, but he couldn't
quite resist those eyes. Quatre was obviously fighting himself, and Piccolo shook his head at the boy, his hand tightening on that slight shoulder. "I did
not mean to come here."
"I'm sorry..." His eyes burned fiercely, and Quatre winced when he felt dampness trail down his cheeks. This was his fault, he was to blame. With a shaky
breath, he tried to smile at Piccolo, his fingers clenching the light material of his pants. "I'm sorry. You didn't have to...check on me. I'm fine."
Piccolo's lips twitched at the boy's tremulous smile and he sighed, pulling Quatre against him. Arms immediately grasped his waist and he shook his head
at the soft sounds muffled against his chest. "You don't look fine."
He couldn't help himself. A mournful whimper escaped his lips and Quatre pressed as tightly as he could to the man's strong chest, unable to stop his
racking sobs. He couldn't help it. He'd give up anything not to have this end. "I'm so sorry," he cried, his voice muffled by fabric. "I just don't...it hurts...so
Running light fingers over the boy's soft hair, Piccolo looked at the boy's shaking shoulders with dull eyes. "You don't want to be alone," he said, his own
voice soft. "I understand."
"I know it's wrong," Quatre whispered, not relinquishing his hold. "But in my heart...I don't *care* if it's wrong."
"Wrong?" The boy nodded against his chest, and Piccolo sighed, his narrow eyes flicking upward. "You humans. Few people want to be alone, Quatre.
You just seem to have more of a need for companionship than anyone I've ever met. There's nothing wrong with that. But I'm not the one you need."
Damp eyes turned up to him and he smirked fondly at Quatre's doubting expression. "If there's something 'wrong' with us, it's me, not you. You have a
world to save, and a human you love. Remember?"
"Piccolo..." Part of him twisted at that calm statement and Quatre shook his head furiously. "I didn't use you--I wouldn't...I *do* care about you, I swear I
"I wasn't doubting that," Piccolo murmured, brushing a bit of hair off the boy's forehead. "But you love that boy of yours more, don't you." Quatre's mouth
opened and he sniffed softly, smiling at him. "You do. I *know* you do. And I'm certain you won't be alone when you leave here. People like you...if you
tell him how you feel, I don't think you'll be disappointed."
"Trowa. You don't know him," Quatre said. "I don't think I could risk telling him. I just...don't think I could do that."
"You will." Uncertainty and sadness fairly radiated from the boy's downcast expression and Piccolo pushed Quatre's face down against him, his arms
wrapped around the boy. He wouldn't stay long, but at least he could give him the comfort he obviously needed. This was why he'd come despite his
misgivings. He'd thought it would be better to simply stay away from the boy now that they were back in the real world, but he couldn't stand the thought of
Quatre like this. The young human needed someone to hold him more than anything, and Piccolo knew he was the only one who could do that right now.
A small part of him darkened when he thought of the other boy, the one in space who held a 'place' in Quatre's heart, but that boy was far away. Until the
two were reunited, there was something he could do to help ease that loneliness.
It would have been easier if they were alone, but at least Vegeta was gone. Although Piccolo felt little shame in his actions, he knew Quatre would be hurt
if anyone noticed them. One hurtful word would be enough to rip the boy to shreds, and that was one of the reasons he'd severed their tie the moment
Goku had arrived in the chamber. But there wasn't much to worry about now. The only person watching them was too young to interrupt, and Piccolo was
certain he wouldn't talk. He'd noticed the watcher before he went to Quatre, spotting the light hair to the side of the building. The boy had been better at
sneaking before he'd turned super-saiyan. But Quatre hadn't spotted him, even though the pilot had heard him earlier. Now that the blonde boy was
content, Piccolo finally turned his head to look back at he voyeur, his eyes glinting when the shadow disappeared quickly. He had an idea Gohan was
embarrassed to have been noticed, but he really wasn't worried. The worst the half-saiyan would do would be to ask him about it in the morning. Until
then, Quatre held precedence.
* * *