Fathoming Love

Chapter 3

Valentino Briefs

I couldn't push down the dread that had at some point locked onto my insides. I felt cold, though I figure it probably had something to do with the dastardly temperature they chose to torment everyone with. The air vents at times even frosted over if you would believe such a thing.

But ah, who needs such details? Shall I dilly dally around or simply get to the point that I'm almost certain would interest you? Fine, then let me introduce you to Valentino Briefs.

The room, like all the others seemed blindingly white, the four walls clashing absolutely hideously with the dull gray of the tiled floor. I can still smell the paint, the wretched taste it even brought to my mouth.

But to this day his face still haunts me, impenetrable and indisputably handsome.

I noticed at first the tight black turtle neck that adorned his finely chiseled throat and shoulders, pulled over his muscular arms like a second skin. This one would be trouble, I told myself. For I had learned on the way, that this "difficult bastard" had refused to subject himself to the apron like clothing that was mandatory for the other patients to wear. True, the chilling temperature was a possible reason for this blatant disregard of the rules, but one look from this monster told me vanity alone could be the culprit.

I had to take a moment to even focus on his face, so indescribably attractive I find myself truly wishing that I had taken journalism in College. How many words in the dictionary are there? And how many of those would pale in comparison to all that he was?

Fear was automatically settled within my stomach, butterflies fluttering about crazily. There was just… I really don't know how to describe it so you'll have to forgive me. But there was just SOMETHING wrong with him. Something unnatural you know? Something that just didn't compute, didn't work or … well, I think you get the idea.

But damn it, to this day I can't place it. If I told you how many nights I've stayed awake just contemplating what it was that made him so astonishing, you'd be baffled. Perhaps it was the tone of his skin, so bronze it seemed his cheek bones glistened with gold fragments. Not glitter, mind you, for I imagine that had I even suggested such a thing, I would indeed not be alive to write these words.

No, it was an unnatural shimmer, just along the area above his cheek bones, or, I suppose you could say underneath his eyes. The flesh of his face was honestly strange. And I know when we hear strange we think automatically negative. But erase that stereotype from your mind precious. His skin was so smooth, so clear, I shake my head even now trying to grasp the words enough to describe it.

It was like shower tile. Smooth. Pure. So perfect it almost seemed as if he'd been air brushed, the bronze God in a movie, too beautiful for practicality. No human imperfections had touched him, no blood vessels or light scars from adolescence tainting his flawless features. And poreless. Entirely, completely, utterly poreless. Is that even possible? I suppose I shall never know. Pity really. He could have been a scientific wonder.

A freak. Freakishly handsome just as Margaret had said.

I was taken back by his eyes, catching my breath and my fingers placing sweaty marks on the paper they held.

They were violent, fierce, uncontrollable. There was anger within them, frustration, undeniable hatred and something more. Pain. A deep pain, unlike any other that even I had felt. Immediately I examined my theory of his being a monster, regretting such a shallow assumption. There was torment within this creature. A savage lifestyle, a suicidal desire, a murderous conscience. Maybe I'd been the only one to see it, the only one blessed with the experience and the pain myself to understand that hurt that bore into me.

His gaze felt almost heavy with grief, weighing even me down with its pressure and force. My God. So much pain. I remember sucking in air finally, realizing that I hadn't been breathing. This was dangerous. This was unchartered territory. And perhaps it was my reckless age, my suicidal lifestyle, or the sheer gnawing of curiosity that coached me forward, made me pull out the plastic chair and sit directly opposite of his glaring stare. Whatever it was, I found myself alone with this man that I was to know, to learn from, to understand.

And it was intimidating.

Like meeting your favorite rock star, I felt suddenly giddy or something. Excited at the prospect of getting to stare at this gorgeous face for hours on end and hear of the reasons his eyes haunted me so. It was like the journey of a lifetime and I was the one to embark upon it.

"Valentino Briefs." I said as casually as my fluttering voice would allow, the damn butterflies within me perfectly content to remain and a cold sweat breaking out on my brow.

His glare only deepened at the strained sound of my voice, putting me even further on edge. Oh there was anger, I'm not going to deny that. For Valentino had always displayed mass amounts of that anger since he'd been forced to reside in the asylum. Throwing food, spouting mind boggling obscenities and insults, a time or two even breaking things in his rage.

But in that anger there was more of an irritance or an annoyance.

"Valentino?" He spat reproachfully, his thick burgundy lips pulled back into a harsh scowl.

"What's your name Doctor?" He demanded, leaning in towards me though I leaned farther back at the gesture.

First rule. NEVER under any circumstances give a patient your full name. Such was dangerous, for with even that municipal amount of information, it put you and your loved ones at risk. While I admittedly thought nothing of my loved ones' welfare, the idea of being approached by this monster reminded me quickly of this rule.

"Doctor Tazial." I said sternly, giving my chin and extra inch into the air and trying my best at the intimidating teacher stare. Well my friends, apparently it didn't work.

"Tazial hm?" He smiled, leaning in towards me so that our faces were an uncomfortable distance apart, his hot, steamy breath making my eyes water as I pressed my back against the chair nervously.

"Well Doctor Camden, I guess I shouldn't expect you to know my name seens how you don't even know your own."

My blood ran a few degrees colder and I simply looked at him until my eyes could no longer hold their painful focus and I was forced to look away shamefully.

"H-….." I'm swallowed, unsure if I wanted this assignment suddenly. "How'd you know my name?"

A smirk formed on his lips, fitting his look so unbelievably well it was as if his wicked grin just molded to his cocky personality. Like that damn grin belonged there or something.

"And you wont know my name either Doctor." He continued, as if not hearing nor caring about my mundane question.

"That is, not until I get my own name tag."

Day 2.

The chilling cold air threatened to dissolve the thick fog that remained around my vision from the hangover. And I would guess as much that you would be doubting that any such results from a night of drinking would be pleasant. But alas, I welcomed it. It was calming, familiar, known and understood.

I could still feel the hardness of a stool beneath me, the harsh gaze of the bartender sweeping over me as the clock warned of closing time. God how I hated clocks in bars. As if to remind those wretched souls that inhabited the area of their meaningless, boring little lives that they simply drank away to forget. Reminding them that this blissful feeling could never last forever and reality was only a footstep out that wooden door in the corner.

And now reality was setting in much too quickly for me as the crisp, lemony scent of bleach and cleansers assaulted my sensitive nostrils and the white walls once again enclosed around me.

It was safe to say that yesterday's encounters had been an utter failure, the patient's ruthless stare making me feel naked even now. There honestly was something evil in that man. Something unnatural. Something out of this world. Only, I couldn't place it. If he'd told me he wasn't human, I wouldn't have even been surprised. Or so I had thought at the time.

And there, yet again he sat, as still as a statue upon the uncomfortable plastic chairs, adorned in a tight white t-shirt and black pants. For all the cave man vibes he set off, the man had impeccable style and fashion sense. The vanity, yet again.

"Mr. Briefs." I spoke sternly, trying my act of superiority over him once more, though just one glance from those hate filled eyes nearly made me fall to my knees. I was careful not to say his name, or I guess I should say the name he denied was his own. For it seemed to me at the time that perhaps that was what had set him off in the first place.

I scanned his information quickly, completely forgetting all that I had planned on saying on the drive up to the asylum. I found him interesting, I'm not going to deny you that. I've always tried to at least be honest with others, even if I'm not always with myself. And to tell you the truth, as much as I was beginning to hate this man, I also had this strange respect of him. Maybe it was his composure or that arrogance he seemed to coat himself with. Whatever the case, I both respected him and envied him.

"Shall we start from the beginning? How about your childhood?" I leaned closer to him, taking a seat in the chair opposite to his glaring form, steadying my hands as they folded over the cold countertop that separated us.

"My childhood?" He asked curiously, cocking his head to the side though it seemed as if there really was nothing misunderstood about the question.

"Yes." I said overanxiously, giddy at the idea that perhaps he would open up to me. "Can you tell me something about it? Anything that may or may not have to do with Mrs. Briefs' death?"

Ok, so I'll admit now that those questions were absolutely absurd. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that perhaps they were incredibly insensitive and insulting, especially to a man such as Vegeta (or so I later learned was his name) who tended to be easily offended. But I was a young fool doctor at that age, reckless and selfishly uncaring to others.

I've just read over everything I've written and now again have to apologize. I've skipped ahead, I've used pathetic detailing and seemed to have failed in expressing even the emotions that propel me to write this story at all. Again, bear with me, for like I've said, I'm no writer and many facts and ordeals that happened within this tale are nothing more than vague memories to an aging old man. Can you truly expect me to remember everything so clearly?

And so he simply glared at me, crossing his arms and leaning back angrily into his chair, the fluorescent lights adding only more shadows to his piercing eyes and unnaturally smooth skin.

"Let me guess," He said savagely, the words spat between his teeth as his temper began to rage within him. "You want me to tell you some horror story, some vile tale of my wretched upbringing that will sedate your hunger for knowledge. Am I right? The gorier, the sicker, more perverted the better?"

I don't even think I answered him before he went on.

"You want me to tell you these things so you can go home, write your stupid report for the pathetic human justice system, mark me as a psycho due to childhood cruelties and sleep well at night. So you can be some sort of fucking hero who cracked the case am I right? Am I getting closer?"

I was so shocked by his intelligence, by just the way he spoke that I remained speechless. But not only that. Not only that at all. For a beautiful voice and a wide vocabulary had never wooed me into silence as much as the plain and simple truth that he had formed into words. Whether I had even known it previously, everything he said was true.

"Well spare me." He growled, leaning forward and placing his hands on the table, only mere inches from my face. "I'm not your fucking puppet."

"Mr. Briefs….. " I protested angrily, watching as he simply stared at me. "I think you forget who you are dealing with here."

Now I suppose there is something you should know about me before I continue, though I suppose a true author wouldn't have failed to inculcate this earlier. I pride myself on being slow to anger and calm but if provoked, I will NOT hesitate to defend myself, and when doing so…. Well, I tend to take on that sophisticated air that tends to anger people all the more so.

"I think it has apparently slipped your mind that it is I who virtually decides your fate. If I choose to say that you're a complete nut case, then THAT is what you are. If you work with me and behave your tempestuous little self, than perhaps I would be more eager to defend your case in court."

One of those long, uncomfortable silences passed between us, both just sizing the other up and silently waging our own war. Slowly he stood, the sheer size of him absolutely putting me on the edge of my seat, both mentally and physically.

While he only stood a possible 6 feet tall, 5'11 according to his papers and information, his massive muscle structure was enough to intimidate even the most obsessive body builders. Now don't get me wrong, he wasn't the bulgy type, with huge veins and that almost fat looking physique. No, he remained very compact and thin, the swell of his breast pushing against the tight cotton of his shirt and his tan skin clashing with the bright white walls.

It was the first time that I'd seen all of him, the sharp hair and exquisite face. He was the type of person you saw on the front of a magazine and thought to yourself, "do people that beautiful truly exist?" And I would have believed that perhaps he'd even undergone plastic surgery, as was the fashion of many humans as of late. His lips held that pouty, adorable shape that sent many prepubescent girls into near hysterics, and quickened even the older woman's heart.

But for all his beauty and unnatural appeal, it was not long before I saw the scars that dissolved every fabrication of his vanity that I had built within myself. Pretty boys didn't have that many scars. His knuckles were borderline deformed, the top of his skin thick and calloused, even the bones beneath mutated into a strange shape. Long scars and unhealed tears marked his exposed collarbone and I was morbidly curious about the rest of him.

He was a fighter this one, I decided though I could scarcely convince myself to believe it. The idea that another man's fist had at one time raised itself against that pretty flesh of his face almost seemed appalling to me, though at this point, my frustration had reached new levels and I could hardly steady my own hand upon the countertop.

A flash came out of nowhere over the counter top and looking down I noticed the top of my tan folder was laying open, several papers fluttering as if a slight wind had teased the air.

"Lets see, Valentino Briefs….." Came his voice casually and looking up in amazement, I saw that within his grasp lay his personal information papers.

"Ten year husband of Capsule Corp President Bulma D. Briefs. Father to Trunks Briefs. No other family ties….…. Son-in-law to ….. Yada yada yada…."

He trailed off as if none of this meant anything, a careless, insensitive attitude making itself apparent in his tone. I was breathless, hardly able to control my amazement at the sheer speed it must have taken to obtain those papers from the envelope. I hadn't even seen it! It was remarkable! He apparently thought nothing of it, continuing to sort through the mindless information that the reports had scrapped up about him.

"Italian male, standing 5'11, 200 pounds... Unemployed….."

He looked at me humorously, laughing scornfully, a sound I soon began to detest.

"My, they just have it all don't they? I suppose there would be no reason for you to ask me questions about my life, I'm sure if you sort through this crap long enough you'll find it."

I stood up quickly, nearly knocking the flimsy chair to the floor in my haste and snatching away the crinkled papers.

"So tell me Doctor Camden." He continued much to my dismay as I attempted to shove the papers back into their confinement. "What about YOUR childhood?"

I growled deep in my throat. It was a common trick among patients. For all their attention seeking ways, they simply adored trying to pull information out of the doctor. I don't know why really. Perhaps it is a way to direct blame and focus away from them for a moment, to forget about the consequences and the reality of what they had done. Whatever the case, I knew better than to reveal anything about myself.

"That's not why I'm here Mr. Briefs." I said indignantly, sitting down once more and treating him the same way I would treat a child.

"We're here to talk about your wife's death."

He turned his back to me, the same way he would do for months to come when I was to receive no more information from him. It was the coldest shoulder I'd ever been given and I learned to respect it as much as I loathed it.

"Mr. Briefs, please sit down." I nearly commanded, watching as his strong back and shoulders tensed in anger at the tone.

"Mr. Briefs, I hate this situation even more than you do, I assure it. So why don't you just make it easier for both of us, tell me some bullshit story about your innocents and we'll work from there."

See, I told you I was reckless and insensitive.

"I have nothing to say Doctor." His voice came calmly. "You know neither my name nor my heritage. You know less about me than I know of you. Why should I tell you anything?"

I was about to protest once again, when he rudely cut me off, turning sharply and staring at me through enraged eyes.

"Why don't YOU put your childhood out on a platter? Why don't YOU tell me your life story, why you do the things you do? THEN and ONLY THEN will I talk. Not before."

And with that, he closed up to me, unresponsive and silent for many many days to come.

'Damn these chairs.' I remembered thinking as I leaned back into the uncomfortable and deformed plastic. I swear, they couldn't have possibly found anything more painful to sit in for hours on end. And that's what it became too. Sitting, in silence, for hours. Nothing. Not a word from him. He wouldn't even answer my questions, as rude as I found it to be.

I would threaten, reason and at some weaker, lesser points of the day I would beg pathetically. "Just give me something!" I just wanted a purpose, a reason to drive those three hours in the morning to the asylum, only to sit in this freezing cold room and ask questions, each stupider than the last, for hours on end with no reply. I just needed something to keep me going. It was only a few months until the trial and yet I had nothing. Nada. Zippo.

And it was driving me mad. Now at the time I may have been a fool doctor like I said, rash and naïve. But I knew what I was doing. I truly did. And Valentino was not the first patient to give me the cold shoulder, though he'd by far lasted longer than any of the others in his cruel ignoring of me.

And so I guess at some point I must have simply given up trying to goad information out of him. He was as stubborn as he was intelligent and had obviously no problem with simply glaring at me and rolling his eyes for those long periods we spent in that dreary, freezing cold room.

I tapped my fingers irritatingly along the countertop, my bottom lip curled over my top as I blew a strand of hair out of my eyes. It was as frustrating as it was hard to do what I did next. But all the same, I knew what it would take and I did, what I still think was the right thing. I did what I had to do.

"My name is Tazial Camden. I was born in February of 1966 to Claude and Nadia Camden. I lived in Arlington, Washington for several years before my family was transferred to Hartford, Connecticut."

"What did your father do?"

I was startled by his raspy voice, fully prepared to ramble on and on with these needless facts whether or not he responded at all.

"He…. He was in the military." I said politely, watching as he blinked thoughtfully for a moment before gesturing for me to continue.

"Anyways, we lived there for a few years before moving once again to Ontario, Texas where we resided for awhile before moving once more to Madison, Wisconsin."

He looked at me strangely, his head absentmindedly cocking to the side slightly.

"Did this bother you? All the changes?"

I remember once more commenting privately on how intelligent this man was. He seemed to perceive things much quicker and different than others did and he was a natural observer. You know the type I'm sure. Not really one to be the center of attention by choice, but the more standoffish type, simply watching and studying what they see around them. He was very smart to say the least.

"Well," I began, looking up and thinking to myself. It was a difficult question to answer, as many questions are. For there was a time in my life when I simply despised my father and then there are times even now that I thank him privately, knowing that I'm lucky to have seen so much of this world and what life has to offer me.

"I suppose it was hard. Some moves harder than others. And making friends? Well…. ." I chuckled, closing my eyes. "Well I guess making them took time that I didn't have. And keeping them was near impossible. But," I sighed, glancing up at him as my pointer finger drew circles on the smooth table. "I should be thankful to have met so many different kinds of people I suppose. I've learned to adapt and understand things that maybe others couldn't. I guess… well either way there is nothing I can do now to change it."

He stared at me calmly for a minute before straightening up in his chair and observing me coolly.

"Yes, but it made you strong did it not?"

I don't really know what I responded or even if I responded at all to that question. But it was true and stands true up until this very day. Strength isn't obtained by an easy ride. Strength is given through work and the bullshit that life throws at you. But again, I've gotten away from the story.

"Strength and hardship is something I can understand." He said calmly and a small spark of hope awoke within my defeated soul. But I knew this wouldn't be so easy and sacrifice would, in the end, be my only key to opening up the mysteries that had made this creature what he was. And so I continued.

"My mother did small jobs here and there, never really keeping one for long as you might have imagined. I think….." I smiled, deep in thought. "I think it was harder for her than she let on but all the same, she was a good mother and a kind wife to my father."

"What about your father?" he asked almost impatiently, leaning over the countertop towards me in an almost accusing manner.

"What do you mean? What about him?" I asked, unsure exactly why the topic of my father seemed to interest him so.

"What was your father like?"

The small, fraction of a smile had left my face entirely and I was finding myself frantically trying to grasp for an ending to this topic. For it wasn't one that I had ever wanted to discuss, not as a child, not then, not now.

"My father was…" Now like I said, I try to be honest and wasn't about to make my life look like an ice cream sundae complete with a cherry on top. Because it wasn't. No one's life is. Think about this…. Who in this world is completely happy? …. Hm?... Have you met ANYONE in your ENTIRE life that is completely at peace with their physical features, their childhood, their life course and the people that surround them? No. And mine was no exception, though I down played the horror that had been my life at some points when I told him of it.

"My father was a ruthless man. He… Well, you've seen the military type. He was an absolute perfectionist, expecting the most out of himself and expecting nothing less from his family." I laughed despite the morbid memories I was suffering. "I think he treated some of his troops with more kindness than he did me and my sister Tara. But we learned to accept it I suppose, making sure the house was tidy and that we were seen rather than being heard."

I can only imagine what he must have been thinking at that point. Weakling. Sissy. Brat. For as I later learned, such a lifestyle as I was complaining about was nothing more than a walk in the park for him. But that is for later.

"Tell me about now." He commanded none-too-gently and I felt the slight indignation rise within me at the tone, though I ignored it surprisingly enough and continued.

"I have a wife named Laura, I've been working as a psychologist for 4 years, before that I was a college professor. And…. I guess that's about it."

"What about children?" he asked. My blood slowed in my veins, feeling thick and cold under my skin. I know that my breathing had to have stopped and with the wretched quiet of the room, the thundering of my heart must have sounded like the furious beat of a bass drum.

I faltered, trying to stick to my morals as far as honesty and yet feeling my very stomach sink at the idea that I would have to reveal part of my self hatred, my denial, my guilt and my suicidal wishes that, had I been a stronger man, would have already projected themselves into action.

"I did." I said calmly, wondering why it had been so easy for me to say it. It must have been my heart, rotting like old cabbage within my ribcage. It must have finally decayed enough to stop working altogether, now nothing more than a stinking, festering piece of meat inside me.

"Did?" he asked, watching me carefully with his accusing eyes. I suddenly felt claustrophobic, like he was all around me with those piercing eyes, like the walls were caving in over me and when I died, the medics would find me and discover that wretched, unliving heart that had still beat when I breathed.

"Yes. He….." He just looked at me and I couldn't do it. I froze. "He's gone to live with his mother now. My first wife. She lives in Seattle."

He leaned back in his chair, those horrible, horrible eyes sliding over my nervous face, seeing the wet print of my fingers on the top of the table surface.

"So he's died hasn't he?" he more stated then asked. I realized than that nothing I could do or say would remain unnoticed and unobserved by his eyes. He knew. And somewhere, somehow, he must have known about that wicked monster that beat wretchedly within my chest. He knew.

I think I must have nodded and was completely startled when I found him standing, gazing down at me with only the slightest bits of pity in those merciless eyes. It wasn't that he was feeling sorry for me, as I despised so much at the time. It was so much more than blind pity and remorse. It was understanding that I saw in his gaze.

Slowly, he pulled open the yellow enveloped that I had been trapped at one point underneath my elbows. Still staring at me seriously, he gently placed a piece of newspaper before me. It really was no different from the rest, facts and vague information placed into typed words on the gritty, gray surface.

But as I looked at the top, I saw the oh-so-familiar word "obituary" written in bold print. I felt a lump form in my throat as I continued searching and I imagine it would have been quite some time before I would have found it, had it not been for the smooth, glossy surface of Valentino's fingernail guiding me to the name that churned my stomach acids.

"Trunks Brief"

I gasped at the name, my fingertips quickly fleeing to my lips as I gazed at it, trying so hard to understand what it meant and yet knowing all the same.

"Come back tomorrow." He whispered, beautiful face drawn with the look of age and eyes weary. His voice was tight and he turned his back to me, perhaps, though I guess I shall never know, hiding away the emotions that had unwillingly betrayed his face.

"Bring a tape recorder."

Thank you guys for the reviews. I really appreciate the support and wow, it's awesome to know that this is well received here.

Love Camaro