Gokou lay on his bed in his father's house, staring out the open window at the star-strewn sky. Sleep was not coming, though he had not really rested in three days. Tomorrow would be a long day. The fleet would take its leave of Yardrat-sei and journey to a new world, green and teaming with game, uninhabited by any higher life forms for millennia, the astrometrics charts and scouting runs said. There would be a lot of things to do…
But in spite of the presence of Anyan, warm and drowsing beside him, in spite of Radu's small body sleeping soundly, little head resting in the crook of his shoulder, the house was too cold and empty for sleep.
The Saiyans had born their honored dead back from Tsiru-sei.
It wasn't their custom to do so, but no one had wanted any of those who had fallen in that last battle to share a grave on the same world as Frieza and his people. Gokou knew Vegita had taken Nappa into the desert last night by himself, and burned the big man's body. Saiyan's believed that a man's pyre should be built by those who had called him friend. So, Vegita had gone alone.
Gokou sighed sadly. He couldn't cry anymore. Maybe he was just too tired. Jula was at Scopa's house. She couldn't sleep in the bed she and Toussan had shared. Zarbon had formally taken her as part of his household the minute the fleet returned to Yardrat-sei.
Toussan had asked him to, so no one could lay claim to her after his death, so she could grieve in a house full of friends and bear their son in peace, so she could be free to choose if she ever found anyone to love again. Even through the deep sadness that seemed to be smothering him tonight, Gokou's heart leapt again at the thought of the baby Jula carried. His little brother.
Jula had already said the baby's name was Bardock. Gokou turned his eyes back to the brilliant night sky again, thinking how he would have to come up with a different name for his and Anyan's first baby in a few years. He smiled, faint and sad. Krillan was a good boy's name…
He knew death wasn't the end. He had seen it revoked with his own eyes, seen his friends return through death's door to tell the tale of the judge with the book of lives, who looked a little like the Ox King of Fire Mountain, only much, much bigger. But the ache of missing those lost, was simply missing them, because he had known they would be judged and found worthy. Oh Toussan…did he condemn you for all the things you did before Kannassa? Or did you balance the scales at the end of your life? The not knowing was like a splinter twisting inside his heart.`
They had built a pyre for his father this evening, every hand that had loved him adding wood to the bier, watching together as Gokou sent a ball of blazing heat to burn his father's body to ash.
Saiyans, Toma had told him solemnly, were sky and fire. And their dead did not lie in the cold earth.
He closed his eyes, sinking down into a fitful, half-dose…and he dreamed. It seemed like a dream anyway, but it was all clear and brightly-colored, with no fuzzy edges. Toussan was standing strong and whole, clad in clean, gleaming armor. He looked confused and a little annoyed as he glowered down at a big, round, rather friendly-looking blue…bug man.
"They'll be fine, my friend," the blue bug man told his father. He cocked a measuring eye at the Saiyan beside him. "You should be more concerned about your own fate."
"What the hell is this place?" Bardock snapped irritably. "And why and I here and not…someplace else?"
"You've got potential, my boy," the bug man said cheerfully.
"And a rather large pile of debt to work off, kharmically speaking. I pulled a few strings and called in an old favor or two to bring you here. The galaxy is bigger than you Saiyans imagine, and from time to time needs…problem solvers. Warriors who fight the gods' battles in situations and circumstances where the we may not intervene. The job is yours if you want it."
His father appeared to be considering, his habitual, tense frown smoothing out as a thought occurred to him. "Sort of…a chance to absolve the deeds of my youth…"
"You got it!" Said the bug man brightly. "Of course, I'd have to train you to my satisfaction first, and I'm a hard sensei. It won't be a cake walk."
"Training?" Bardock grinned suddenly. "I accept, master bug. Does this 'job' mean I would ever return to the mortal realm if my people need my help?"
"Don't put the cart before the horse, boy!" The blue bug man eyed his father silently for a moment, antenna twitching merrily.
"Now…first things first. Tell me, Saiyan. Do you know any good jokes?"
Gokou blinked awake. The sun was just beginning to rise over the rusty desert horizon, painting the sky every shade of orange imaginable. The realm of the gods…It hadn't just been a dream, he was sure. The few times he had been to Kami's palace, he had seen and felt that clear, timeless taste of being that flowed through the veil between the mortal worlds and the celestial. He recognized it again, unmistakable, even if his mind had only wandered there in a dream. What he had seen had been real.
His spirit dwells in the Halls of Eternal War, Toma had said. Maybe, in a way, that was true. Fighting the battles of the gods in a place outside of time…And maybe, just maybe, Bardock would return one day. All of his and Bulma's friends who didn't believe in resurrections or dragonballs would be really surprised if he did.
Were there other dragonballs out there, he wondered suddenly. Space was so big, there might be. And if Bulma could build of strong enough dragon radar---He smiled.
Time to think about all that tomorrow. He turned to kiss Anyan awake. Today was going to be a big day.
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