End Game

***

Part three: Vejiita

Ice with fire's heart, flame never still -
twice perished, thrice cherished - strong, the untapped will.
Rage rules over the night and makes day;
Anger must dry, love fade away.
First - rage made whole, the bearer of life,
Yet first to come is second in right.

***

Ru Sa was completely elated by the success of his revenge. He was thrilled as he physically damaged one version of Vejiita’s son while another version threatened the life of Vejiita himself. The only thing that could have made it better would have been if he could have also brought King Vejiita into this, who had started all of this mess in the first place. Ah, well. One could not have everything.

Ru Sa was aware that he could no longer leave; he was aware that the ship was gone, that there was no way out, and that he was going to die here – and he did not care. With Chive’s formula racing in his brain, he was incapable of caring; he knew emotion, powerful and strong, and nothing else, and the intensity of it was nearly enough to drive him mad.

Perhaps that was why he decided to increase his already poignant revenge factor by making an startling admission.

Grabbing the rather sore Hikari Trunks by the throat, he lifted him off the ground and grinned at him merrily. Trunks, dazed, could do no little than swing in his grasp and try to pry Ru Sa’s fingers off his throat, unable to breathe.

“You know, Vejiita,” Ru Sa said conversationally, glancing back once to where Vejiita still sat frozen. “It really is ironic that it ends like this. I mean, I killed your woman, I nearly killed you, and I’m going to kill your son – even though he’s already been rather stubborn about it. What do you think, eh? Ironic?” He drew Trunks closer, still grinning like mad, and delightedly continued his one-sided conversation. “I killed your mother so easily, you know. All it took was a little poison.”

He laughed, amused by the look of absolute horror on Trunks’ face. Was that ever an expression worth committing to memory. “It would have been so easy to cure her, too. Simple antidote. It was in our files, but you don’t really think we’d go to all the trouble of curing her when we’d gone to the trouble of killing her in the first place, do you? That wouldn’t make much sense, now, would it? Of course it wouldn’t. And we are very logical beings.” He beamed like a banshee, spat in Trunks’ face and threw him to the ground.

Trunks coughed, rubbing his throat; he seemed to be trying to ask why.

Rolling his head from side to side for a moment as though to work out kinks in his neck, Ru Sa ignored him. Powering up to the very top of his ability – which, at this moment, drew even with Gokuu at super Saiyan level three, he continued with his self-absorbed monologue. “You do what you have to, you know. And right now, I simply have to kill you. Pull your head off, something like that. It won’t last long; no worries.” And laughing joyously, he crouched as if to fling himself in Trunks’ direction.

He’s mad, Trunks had time to think, scrambling backwards – and suddenly, his view was blocked by Vejiita.

The Saiyan prince stood between Ru Sa and his son, staring at the captain with shock on his face.

Ru Sa paused. Slowly, he smiled patronizingly and straightened up, crossing his arms. “Have something to say, do you?” he asked casually, absolutely happy; Vejiita had come out of his self-induced trance, and that meant more fun; two Vejiita-family-members for the price of one. Oh, how nice.

Vejiita continued to stare at him. “You… you killed…” he managed, and Ru Sa answered before he finished – no use wasting time here, after all. Kyuujinshu were efficient as well as logical.

“Yes,” he said, and waited.

“You could have… she could have…” Vejiita seemed to be having difficulties with the rudiments of speech; perhaps Kuro Trunks had given him brain damage.

“What, lived?” asked Ru Sa, and uncrossed his arms. “Of course she could have. Would have been easy. Easy to cure her – but do you want to know why we didn’t?” He leaned closer, well into Vejiita’s personal space and enjoying the look the shorter man was wearing, the sweat on his face, the wideness of his eyes…

Oh, delicious.

“We didn’t because she wasn’t necessary to my plan. And in fact…” Ru Sa announced, one finger in the air. “if she HAD been alive when we’d gotten there – why, there’s some chance you wouldn’t have come, wasn’t there? If she had decided not to come with us – well… I have the feeling that you would have stayed on earth too. Isn’t that right, Vejiita?” And he chuckled deeply, impressed with his own twisted logic.

Vejiita blinked. “You… killed her just because you wanted me to go into space?!?” he shouted, shaking visibly.

“Of course,” glibly remarked the captain. “After all – you’re as whipped as they come.” He smiled, thoroughly enjoying his coup de grace and unaware in his current state that what he was doing just might be dangerous. “You weak, pussy-whipped, half-breed son of a bitch; burdened with love for some pathetic, weak version of female from another species. You should be glad we killed her for you,” he hissed, and waited to see what Vejiita would do.

He only saw half of what he expected.

Vejiita made a choking sound. His eyes focused somewhere off to the right away from Ru Sa, on the spot where the other Bulma lay. This could have been prevented. Bulma was dead and it could have been PREVENTED.

Vejiita was not thinking clearly. His strained emotions were finally and too late making connections between “his” Bulma and “this” Bulma – only now, they both were dead and completely out of his reach.

He made the choking sound again. Recalled, strangely, Bra’s birth – how Bulma had borne a second child for him, not seeming to mind that he never told her he loved her, never complaining or even seeming to care that he had never so much as given his word that he would stay, that she was his mate, that he would be there for her for the rest of her natural life.

She’d known, anyway. And now she was dead.

Coughing, Hikari Trunks looked back and forth between his father and Ru Sa. He did not know what was going on, only that his father looked as though he’d just been stabbed – and Ru Sa was smiling and loving every minute of it. And then, Trunks finally spotted the light of the eighth dragonball. He inhaled slowly, in awe.

Gokuu held it up still, his teeth bared and his entire body trembling with the strain of keeping it airborne; and in its holy light Kuro Trunks was still frozen. He could not go forward, he could not go back, and because of this, he was unable to chase after Vejiita. Hikari Trunks was only half aware of that last detail.

The dragonball. The eighth dragonball. There it was – within sight, if not quite within reach. He had to get it, had to touch it, had to hold it in his hands and do… whatever it was he had been so specially prepared to do.

Falling forward onto his stomach and ignoring the pain from Ru Sa’s beating, Trunks began to drag himself toward them.

Vejiita abruptly threw back his head and roared. As he did, perhaps unsurprisingly, he transformed into Super Saiyan.

Oh, GOOD, thought Ru Sa, eager for the upcoming and expectedly satisfying fight and not noting Trunks’ movement away from him. He was barely able to contain himself to let Vejiita have the first move as it was; it would be more fun this way, with at least a marginal challenge, and…

Hm. Something odd seemed to be happening here.

“Trunks!” cried Gokuu, out of strength and no longer able to keep up his barrier. Falling forward, he dropped the dragonball and sprawled in the dirt, shaking physically from exhaustion. Freed from the paralyzing light, Kuro Trunks immediate began moving toward Vejiita again.

“Oh, no,” Trunks said, and started crawling faster.

Vejiita spiraled passed Super Saiyan one; he hit Super Saiyan two, his previous peak of power – and did not stop there.

Bulma – the only thing he could see in his tortured mind was Bulma, giving birth to Bra, not complaining, never complaining – and the only thing he felt was rage.

Power poured out from his body in a torrent, strong enough in its initial rush to knock Ru Sa back a couple of feet and making up for the loss of light that occurred when Gokuu dropped the dragonball. Abruptly his hair seemed even taller than usual, more spiky than it normally was and long enough that it actually started arching downward from the peak of its crest.

Ru Sa blinked.

Vejiita stopped roaring and looked at Ru Sa, veins popping out everywhere, his normally prominent eyebrows nowhere to be seen. In his fury, he had reached Super Saiyan level three – and he was not even aware that he had done so.

“Whoa, Vejiita,” Gokuu breathed quietly, unable to speak any louder.

“You die,” Vejiita pronounced quietly, and flew at Ru Sa.

Good kami, does he have a lot of hair, Ru Sa thought dazedly before getting hit – and then, he was surprised to find himself on the defense.

Vejiita’s power had grown even with his own.

Bra, who was indirectly the impetus for her father’s transformation, did not notice any of this. She knelt over the body of her almost-mother, no longer sobbing but still upset beyond belief, when something more mundane attracted her attention.

“Do you feel that?” she asked of nobody in particular, and looked at the ground. The eighth dragonball shuddered and rolled a few inches away from her, responding to the vibrations going on beneath it. Bra could not have known, but this sudden odd quaking was caused by two powerful and unrelated things: Vejiita’s transformation, and Gai’s increased awakening underground as Trunks drew closer to the dragonball. The female dragon was actually thrashing in her eagerness to come out.

Gohan, responding to the power surge of Vejiita and Ru Sa’s fighting and feeling the shaking of the ground beneath, awakened again; and for once, there was no one nearby to knock him out.

“What the…” he started, sitting up, and then things entered an entirely new level of madness.

The Black had all but reached its full circle, and in the process was actually beginning to draw in on itself, like a giant whirlpool; the speed at which it had been moving was affected, and it changed its modus operandi yet again.

Instead of merging things, it began to merely crush them altogether – fusion at this speed and intensity was impossible.

Bra screamed as things began to appear and disappear around her – animals, vehicles, people – and above her head, the Canopy started to crack and break into pieces under a rapidly changing sky.

“Bra, look out!” Gohan cried, and, lunging, knocked her out of the way. He was immediately buried in a pile of junsei-aion laced glass. Bra screamed yet again, horrified; Gohan was trapped. Bra did not or could not hear Gokuu’s quiet assurances that everything was all right; he had lost the ability to speak higher than a whisper.

Vejiita did not seem to notice - and neither, all things considered, did Ru Sa. The only thing Vejiita cared about was killing him, and Ru Sa was hard pressed to keep him from doing so; he was beginning to grasp that Vejiita had finally crossed the third Super Saiyan level, and as such, he was equal – or perhaps more than equal – to Ru Sa himself. Vejiita fought with tears streaming from his eyes, seeing the image of Bulma giving birth in his mind over and over again, frenetically working out every possible angle of attack before Ru Sa could possibly do it. His mind had gone into a kind of purified overdrive.

He was beating the captain back, and Ru Sa was beginning to realize there was nothing that he could do to adequately compensate. As he fought, desperately now and in real fear for his life, he lost the concentration required to maintain his Saiyan form, and began lapse back to his original Kyuujinshu appearance. He no longer looked to be Saiya-jin at all; his skin was completely white, his angles all too sharp, too flat, and his eyes were almost completely black. He fought with his teeth bared, frothing, and looking absolutely mad.

Everything within sight seemed to be wavering, like a moving reflection in a bad mirror. Hikari Trunks stumbled and fell, his already shaky balance thrown off by the increased shaking of the ground and his perception of reality bending, contorting, stretching as though it were going to rip and break.

And then Bra, the only person left standing who had not been in Reep’s prophecy and who had no purpose in Reep’s mind, made her move.

“Trunks!” she cried, bending to pick up the eighth dragonball. “Catch!” and she threw it.

The eighth dragonball sailed through the air in a perfect arc, and Trunks, on his knees, caught it.

Gokuu managed to cheer quietly, which no one could hear; and almost everything, at that moment, froze.

Half - becomes what Jouten would have be -
Death to death cause, end of Nothing see.

Trunks screamed as power surged up all around him, blowing his hair back from his face and obscuring him almost completely. His body felt as though it were exploding; such life and intensity as was triggered by his touch was almost too much to bear. Either his purity was going to tear him apart, or this light was. Not, at the moment, that he cared.

Brings light into darkness, gods' only hope;
Time's end, worlds fend; death - quicksilver rope.

In that moment, he was suddenly aware of Gai, and only Gai. Nothing else mattered; not his father, not Ru Sa, not Gokuu who was still cheering quietly to himself, nor Gohan nor Bra nor even his own existence.

He was aware of Gai, and he understood what he had to do.

“Gai!” he cried, shouting the name that meant song of victory at the top of his lungs and forcing himself to his feet. “Gai! Come forward!”

The ground increased its shaking so much that it was nearly impossible to remain upright; Trunks only did so literally because the power of the dragonball he held kept him in stasis.

“Oh, Trunks,” said Bra quietly, and she began to cry as she fell to her knees. She had never seen anything so beautiful.

Trunks grimaced and cried out, straining to keep his body from flying into tiny pieces. Behind him, Kuro Trunks stopped in mid-flight toward Vejiita. He turned, facing Hikari Trunks with a look that could almost be described as interested. Stretching out one hand, he made as if to approach Trunks instead of Vejiita – and then, he paused. This new light from the dragonball was too much; there was no way the darkness within him would be able to stand it, and Kuro Trunks faced a serious moment of indecision; the instinct to possess the most powerful being available versus something very close to self-preservation.

It was too much; the Black inside of him could not take it.

Half is light that rages, only pure of heart…
Be sufficient then to break apart the Beginning
of End; whole, then, must move to make whole the part.

Kuro Trunks stumbled back from his counterpart, in pain and needing to get away, desire for existence overriding any and all other instincts. However, he did not get the chance to escape.

There were still a few Nameks left on this planet, although they were somewhat injured and mightily confused. Most of them had died in the ensuing opening of the ground and the breaking of the Canopy; however, the four that were remaining came running up in time to see Kuro Trunks stumbling back from his illuminated counterpart as though avoiding poison.

They saw the light, and saw his reaction to it; and in less than a moment, they had a game plan.

With no more than a quick glance for communication, they flew as a group directly into Kuro Trunks’ back and heaved him toward Hikari Trunks and the light.

Kuro Trunks screeched horribly as he was enveloped in the blinding brightness, and then it seemed that whatever was doing the screeching was slightly… removed from him, above, just beyond…

Moving like a bubble of oil in a glass of water, a large, amorphous blob of Blackness was forced out of his body and into the light, where it blurbled harmlessly for a moment and then evaporated completely. Kuro Trunks fell to the ground – Kuro no longer, and once again himself.

He panted. Shuddering and pained but free, at long last finally FREE, he looked up at the alternate version of himself with eyes that were once again blue and wept; everything was going to be okay now. He knew. He had just glimpsed eternity, and it was wondrous.

The ground far to the left of Trunks – he who had been dubbed Hikari by Reep, although such silly details did not matter now – began to crack and break up, large chunks of it falling into the huge caverns below which Cumber had discovered earlier. Nobody noticed that, but they certainly noticed what followed.

Gai burst forth from under the ground and into the air straight as an arrow, and the light that she shone pierced the pervading darkness and removed it completely. She was white, long, slim, beautiful, shaped in a slightly more serpentine way than Porunga had been; in fact, like Shenlon, she resembled the “dragons” that had traditionally adorned buildings and parade costumes of the Orient for centuries uncounted.

And she made song.

Her tail, long and slightly flat, had holes in it of varying sizes and positions, and as Gai lifted higher into the sky, air whistled through her tail, making low, flute-like sounds that somehow penetrated even the tremendous noise Ru Sa and Vejiita were making. After a moment, it was obvious that it was creating actual music, minor in key and lilting, somehow encompassing hope and sorrow and defeat and triumph all at once – and at the same time, none of those. It was the song of she who had almost waited too long for her turn to awaken; who had watched centuries roll by without comment, who had one purpose in existence and who had had only Reep as a constant companion; it was the song of Gai.

Everybody stopped moving and stared.

Gai circled once, twice, thrice in the air, perfectly horizontal and twirling like a pinwheel. She settled above Trunks, vertical again, waving her tail lazily back and forth to continuing the music, and spoke.

“You are the pure one,” she said, in a voice utterly beyond humanoid expression, making every living being there shudder violently. “You are the pure one of God, and I obey your command. You have one wish. Please – word your wish well.” And for the first time, on those last words, her voice lost its complete calmness and had a just a hint of desperation.

Word your wish well, she’d said.

Trunks hesitated just for a moment; it was hard to speak as he listened to her song. Every time more than one note sounded at once, he felt as though his heart were breaking – with joy or sorrow, he could not tell. He was aware of the ground still shaking as if the planet was coming apart, aware that the Black had not stopped moving for the sake of his thinking processes, aware that the Canopy was still falling down in places around him and that he was running out of time. Word your wish well… He would only have one chance to do this right.

“Gai,” he said, shouting almost automatically, making it announcement in a way that his quiet nature had allowed before. “Gai,” he started again, louder. “I wish…” Reep whispered in his mind, Gai sang her tail-song, and eerie nothing-silence reigned throughout everywhere else; the ground was still shaking, the sky was still breaking, and the Real was rapidly coming to its end. Gai slightly increased the tempo of her song.

“You can… you can do it, Trunks,” said Mirai Trunks, panting still and weakened from such a long possession by the Black. “Do what... whatever you’re meant to do.” He could not take his eyes off Hikari Trunks; kami, he was so beautiful

Hikari Trunks took a deep breath. “I wish,” he announced, firmly, surely. He had to make this CLEAR… “I wish that you…” clear and concise and POSSIBLE, even for her…

“…would make everything be whole again.”

The moment the words left his mouth, he knew they were right – and he also knew that they meant something far more than he could possibly grasp.

Gai spun in the air, throwing off light and altering her song slightly so that it now entered into a major key. The sound of it was pure joy, unrestrained victory and passion and pleasure and LIFE in a music that would never end, MUST never end, or leave its hearers forever wanting.

“IT IS DONE!” she said – and then began to do just what he had asked.

She made the Real – ALL the Real – whole.

There was a nearly physical jolt as Gai began by moving everything at once into the Original timeline - that timeline which was whole, uncorrupted, and could not be tainted, even by the Black.

The moment she did so, the Black ceased to exist.

It was almost anticlimactic, the way that happened; it was there one moment, and gone the next, never to exist outside of those deepest hells again – but it was impossible for Gai to move on to her next task without preventing further destruction of the little that still was.

She then proceeded to do what, in essence, the Black had started to do – but she did it seamlessly and causing a balance that the Black could never have achieved. She began to fuse all remaining Realities together.

All people remaining in all the bitterly worn scraps of alternate timelines she began to mold together in a way similar to the Black’s - but this molding created continuity, peace; in a moment Vejiita, Gokuu, and everybody else were filled with ALL remaining alternate versions of themselves, and they felt complete. Whole. Not shaken and shattered, not pained or miserable or suffering loss. It was right, and harmony; it was balance.

Mirai Trunks disappeared into his purer counterpart with a smile, tired and weary and glad for the chance to live his youth over again – to do it RIGHT, with no loss of innocence along the way for the sake of power or gain… For this Trunks would now have all the acquired wisdom of himself. Mirai Trunks fused with himself with a sigh of joy and relief – or perhaps, release.

Although no one could hear it in all the commotion, Ru Sa abruptly started screaming. The captain was maddened now by Chive’s formula and only vaguely aware anything around him. His lungs seemed to be burning, and his mind was on fire. He would have given much at that moment to be free of that pain, to get away from it, have peace, healing, something...

Then it was over. The pain stopped, and it took him a long moment to come back to his senses and realize he was still alive. Not only that, he was sane. He had fused with himself in this dimension the same as the others had, but... something seemed to be different.

He was nowhere near earth.

Ru Sa looked around, clueless as to where he was, until he spotted a very strange sort of mountain range off to the right; it was distinctive, formed in a large, V-shaped pattern by the ragings of Oozarus some hundred years before. Ru Sa knew that because he had seen it before. Panicked, he stood up and looked around, trying to place where he was, what was around him, what was going on...

A moment's observance confirmed it; he was on Vejiita-sei. The planet Vejiita, whole as it was before Freeza destroyed it.

Only it was empty.

It was a dead world, as though Freeza had decided to merely wipe the surface clean without blowing up the body of the planet itself.

There were no buildings. No plants. No people. Nothing at all but the dust and those very distinctive mountains. Ru Sa was trapped - exactly, and perhaps ironically, the same way he had trapped all those Nameks, on a dead planet, with no way to get off, no communication, and no food. He shouted to the empty sky, helpless, hopeless - and for the first time in his life, regretting to be alive.

It could never be said that Gai did not have a biting sense of humor.

Meanwhile back on earth, Bulma’s corpse which had been dead stirred as several different essences of Bulma entered into her body from a dozen different sources; in a moment she was gasping for air, sitting up, a look of total disbelief on her faced because she was alive, she was whole - and she felt no more loss at all.

Gokuu sat up slowly, his youth and power mysteriously restored – perhaps a gift of Gai for he who had been so faithful – and looked around in amazement. People were appearing as if by magic all around him now, popping back into existence because although they had ceased to exist in THIS timeline, they had not ceased to exist in others. “Ooooh,” he said as he saw Yamucha flash into existence, Mr. Satan, Mr. Popo, Tenshinhan…

Perhaps Gai was not completely unaware of humanoid experiences; she dropped Chi Chi, alive, whole, and well, practically into Gokuu’s lap.

“Chi Chi!” he cried, and grabbed her up quite fast; and so, celebtrating, both were completely unaware of anything that followed thereafter.

The land and sky seemed to be undergoing the same transitions as the living beings around them; trees and grass appeared, flickering for a moment as though on an ancient movie projection screen, and then solidified as Gai took what was left and put it all together.

The flashing in the sky seemed to grow brighter, quicker, and then a completely inexplicable thing occurred. Something like a band of light – all colors contained it its girth – stroked rapidly across the sky in one long wind-shield wiper arc of movement, raining something that could only be described as sparkles down on everybody’s heads.

Bulma looked up, laughing, as these things rained down; playfully, she tried to catch them on her hands. But they were fleeting as snowflakes, disappearing the moment they touched her and leaving a slight, pleasant tingling in their wake. Still smiling, she turned and looked for Vejiita.

Gai began to cry out, still in that low, soft voice that penetrated the very mountains of rock beneath them, and thrashed back and forth. She was coming to the final stage of Making All Whole, and it was straining even her very considerable powers.

Buildings and cars and trees and animals and plants and EVERYTHING seemed to flash around them, flickering in and out, never containing the quite same amount or quality of people and things that had been on this world before – but somehow, it was better. Gai was holding nothing back; she was blending all that remained of reality together at once, and striving to only let the best be the base for everything. All the world as it flashed seemed younger, cleaner, more right.

Vejiita had moved so far as to reach out toward Bulma’s shoulder, his movements slow and trance-like, unable to speak - and then Gai demanded attention once more.

Everything stopped flashing; everything settled, solidified, and the pure and new sun was blinding and the air smelled so sweet.

“It is finished!” she cried, flying into the air and circling once more; her color had gone ashen gray, and her size, it seemed, had dwindled – but that may have been because she had never been seen in the light of day before, with green grass beneath and blue sky above and good KAMI the air was so sweet

“Done! The wish is fulfilled! IT IS DONE!” And with this final announcement, the eighth dragonball abruptly flew out of Trunks’ hands and into the air. It hovered there, motionless, and Gai twisted and spun around it, moving faster and faster as she circled it in a perfect pattern.

And suddenly, she changed her angle and flew into the dragonball, head-first, and disappeared.

There was a huge bang - as if the mother of all firecrackers had gone off, or perhaps a giant had just dropped his rock collection onto a wooden floor. The eighth dragonball, colorless now and without pattern, fell unremarkably to the soft and springy grass and moved no more.

There was a moment of complete silence. And then – the first bird ever started to chirp for the very first time.

The many people gathered there could do nothing but stare around them, unable to speak or even think in the wake of such wonder. Butterflies darted about, and off in the distance some version or other of Satan City gleamed in the sunlight, perfect, whole, untarnished by pollution or wear. And then, Bra saw her mother.

“OKAASAAAAAAAAN!” she cried at the top of her lungs, and ran over to where Bulma was still seated.

This Bulma was younger; younger even than the one that Bra had known, for she encompassed all Bulmas, including ones born later. Vejiita still stood where he was, one hand reached out as if to touch her shoulder. He appeared to have gone back into shock.

Trunks abruptly moaned and fell over; Bra beamed at her mother and then ran over to Trunks, whom she gently pushed into a sitting position, trying to rouse him. Vejiita blinked once, then finally managed to put his hand on Bulma’s shoulder.

“Woman,” he said, and very gently, very slowly, reached up to brush her cheek with the back of his hand. He held it there for a moment, then turned away without another word to tend to his son. And that was okay. Bulma had seen the tears in his eyes, and she knew what they meant. She looked inanely happy as she followed him, kneeling over her son with pride.

Gokuu was still hugging Chi Chi; he had been doing so, eyes closed, since the moment she had appeared. Now, he finally looked around.

“Hey, what happened?” he said, blinking at the sunlight and everything that had so many bright colors.

Chi Chi just sobbed and clung to him again; she had lost her husband before, and had no intention of so much as losing sight of him again for a very, very long time. “Gohan!” she cried. “Oi! Where are you?”

“Gohan,” said Piccolo quietly, nodding once at the young man – who was, at present, very busy looking for his wife and daughter.

“Piccolo!” Gohan said, giving his teacher a well-meant half-hug, still looking for Pan and Videl. “Have you seen – “ he spotted them, and darted off; talking with the sensei would have to wait.

Well, that was all right, too; Piccolo was very proud of Gohan just now, anyway. He knew that the boy had done something crucial to fix everything – and nobody would ever be able to convince him otherwise. Not that anyone would be very inclined to try.

Goten raced passed him, diving for his parents with a mad joy and unutterably thrilled to be alive again; growing up could wait. Not being dead was definitely better.

Dende sat up and looked around, absolutely dazed. “Wow…” he said, and that was when he heard his name – sort of.

“Oh, the-wonderful-Kami-that-is-Dende!” Reep called, bouncing happily toward him and seen – for the first time ever – in full daylight.

Dende stared with wonder; there was nothing grotesque or absurd about Reeps’ features at all. The little creature was odd, no doubts about that, but he was beautiful too, in a way that couldn’t be described, in spite of his cuteness, in spite of the weird proportions and too small head and eyes that took up fully half of his face…

“Look!” Reep cried. “Look at happy reunions and wonder – oh, Gai is very good, very good indeed…”

And indeed, beyond Reep, a very interesting reunion was taking place; it appeared that Bee was unable to decide who got licked the most. He bounded happily between Moot and Mr. Satan, who both looked to be in the peak of health – and, fortunately for Moot, fully clothed. Mr. Satan had his legs and his sanity and seemed to be quiet all right.

And beyond them -

Dende suddenly scrambled to his feet and pointed, looking very upset in the bright, bright sunlight. “What are you doing here?” he snapped at the large, hulking figure standing silently beyond Mr. Satan – the figure who, of all things, appeared to be clad only in a jacket wrapped around his waist.

It was Android Fourteen. Fourteen ignored him completely, looking around in a quiet, emotionless sort of way; and without another word, he took off.

Dende stared after him, his mind making calculations, taking in what Reep had said, the wish that Trunks had made, the…

Oh, dear heavens. EVERYTHING that had remained in ANY single reality had been returned? But that meant…

Oh, my. Buu – evil Buu – could be back. As could Hildegarn, Freeza, Broli, or any of the other numerous nuisances that had bothered them all in the past. Oh, dear, oh, dear, oh, dear…

Dende realized he was saying that out loud when a small Namek he had never seen before tugged gently on his robes and tried to get his attention.

“Why are you saying ‘oh dear,’ papa? Whatever is the matter?” the little Namek said, and Dende felt a decided wave of dizziness coming on. Oh, DEAR…

“So EVERYTHING is back?” Bulma asked Trunks, confused.

“No… just everything that was left in the timelines that the Black hadn’t completely destroyed. I… I think Gai somehow merged them all into one. More stable that way, or something,” Trunks answered, still looking pale and exhausted but better than he had. The imprints of stars from the dragonball were burned into his hands, and they would serve as a permanent reminder of the vessel he had been.

Bulma considered this. “Gah,” she said. “How many timelines WERE there? What do you think, Vejiita, was this the right thing to do here or is it just going to make things more confusing, I mean considering that – “ she stopped, finally seeing that Vejiita was staring at her. He looked with no comment, casually holding Bra in his lap in an unmistakably fatherly fashion and not looking away. Never looking away - it seemed he simply could not get enough of her features.

Bulma gulped and forgot completely what she was going to say.

Trunks shook his head with a small smile and looked at the grass; he had knowledge that he could not share, dared not share, for it would be too much. He knew too much already; he had more that “glimpsed” eternity. For a time – he had been IN it.

Everything was different now, he knew; the worlds had all been combined, and while new timelines might end up breaking off again, right now there was only one. Somehow, though, he doubted that there would ever be more again.

There would be many new things in this world – some that had never been seen by most of those present, and some known by all, if slightly different. After all, who knew how many snippets of dimensions Gai had had to tie together in order to create one that was whole; she had certainly left nothing out. There could be old friends and enemies here, forgotten things, powerful things, things that no one could understand or ever WANTED to see in this life.

But there could be beautiful things too; and knowing Gai and what she had done, he was sure that was the case.

One other thing, he knew: there was no more Black. Not in this timeline, and nowhere outside of the lower hells; even if it got loose again, it could never spread and destroy the way it had. This world was too much for it.

There would never again be a need for the eighth dragonball or Gai, and that made sense; it had had only one wish available – just one, and fortunately, he had not messed it up. Trunks had to wonder, only briefly, about the mind that had laid that dragonball and that dragon aside so many eons ago, the Mind that he had only touched only so superficially when he was being made “pure,” and had in fact been imbued with part of Jouten’s very essence.

That essence was gone, now. He felt like weeping; he felt… almost empty without it.

But then, as he looked around, as he watched his father look at his mother and cradle his sister with a love he knew papa would never show on purpose… as he watched Gokuu and Chi Chi, Goten, Gohan, Videl, Yamucha, Tenshinhan, Kuririn, and dozens of other people and random Nameks he did not know walk and talk and shout happily at each other and embrace and rediscover themselves… as he watched ALL of this, shuddering with his brief inner glimpse of all of life…

He was grateful. And he was actually glad – because he knew they would never need the eighth dragonball ever again.

Smiling, he snatched Bra off his father’s lap and started tickling her; the sound of little-girl giggles was the most beautiful thing he’d ever heard right now, and besides… he suspected his father would be wanting to have his hands free for other things soon.

One person alone stood separately from the rest; and that was Cumber.

He was not sure why Gai had brought him back; he understood that she had, and he was grateful – but it was very hard. He was alone, kinless, friendless, and he had lost Chive – an odd thing, which for him was very hard indeed. He had loved her.

He watched Bra almost distractedly, wondering just how much of Chive had gotten into the child, and thought almost bitterly that it would have been nice of Gai to bring back Chive, too. At least… it would have, for him.

A hand on his shoulder startled him very badly. Cumber whirled around, fist raised awkwardly in a frightened instinct for self-defense. Gokuu grinned and raised both hands, smiling, a harmless interruption.

“Ohayoo, Cumber,” he said gently, beaming full-out at the Kyuujinshu.

“Um… hi,” Cumber said, looking down as though guilty for something.

“We were just wondering if you’d like to come and stay with us for a while,” Gokuu pressed on, apparently unaware or unconcerned by Cumber’s uncomfortable expression. Chi Chi clung to his chest, safely under his arm, and smiled at Cumber. For the first time in her life, she really had nothing to say. “Reep thought it would be a great idea,” Gokuu continued. “And I’d like you to, and then you can get to know Bra better over a really long period of time, and - “

Cumber stared. “Get to know… what?” he interrupted, taken aback.

Gokuu shrugged. “Well… that’s what Reep said. I don’t know what he’s talking about, do you? Something about being complete, and waiting until... um… something comes to fru….ition… or grows up, or whatever. So – you wanna come?” Gokuu beamed again, his body language considerably more expressive than his words.

Cumber stared.

“You think he’s going to go for it?” Dende asked Reep, peering down from his post on Kamis’ lookout.

“Oh, yes,” said Reep, bounding wildly on the edge and fear of heights be damned. “He must go, for his is the chosen seed, and his will be in the making – “ Reep abruptly fell silent and continued to bounce, smiling in a most sly and devious way.

“Reep, what are you talking about?” Dende asked, sitting up and letting his legs dangle over the side, unable to ignore the giggling, playful sounds of his child – some version of him somewhere along the line had had a CHILD, and that child was in the background now, playing with Mr. Popo.

“Oh… nothing,” Reep said, and promptly hopped away to join with Dende’s child and Mr. Popo in play. In a moment, his oddly formed speech and odd laughter joined in with their own.

Dende was silent for a long moment, watching everything on earth being sorted out, and getting into contact again with the vast myriad of gods – elder and otherwise – that had previously been in charge of this universe and were again. He thought about what had just happened, the fact that it seemed to be over, and then – well, then he changed his mind. Smiling, he stood.

“No, it’s not over,” he said quietly, speaking aloud and with a soft, wise smile on his face. “No – this adventure has just begun.” With that, he turned and went to properly meet his child, the boy called Nai, who was his in another time and was his now.

Happily, Dende played the afternoon away and pondered no more.

FINE


(thanks for the pic, Kunika!)

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