Tarble frowned as the planet in the window grew larger. "I'm not so sure about this."
"Oh, you'll be fine," his wife giggled. "We've been gone for a couple of years, and we're only staying for a week."
The Saiyan remained unconvinced. Over the past years, he and his wife had found a nice little planet to settle on, one full of various peoples who had lost their homes one way or another. They were a community that was self-built, and that suited the couple nicely. They had settled down, built a home, and were quite comfortable there. Gure used the equipment gifted to them on Earth to help not only establish themselves on their new world, but to keep in contact with Bulma as well. The ladies even had a scheduled time every two weeks when they talked, and in spite of the fact that the clocks on the two worlds were different, they made it work. They swapped stories, laughed about their husbands, and promised that someday they would meet again. And after a little more than two years, that was going to happen.
While Gure was quite excited about visiting Earth again, Tarble had practically needed to be dragged on the ship. He had fought to stay behind, almost terrified of the idea of returning to Earth. Their departure had been, from his perspective, abrupt. It almost felt as though they had abandoned the planet, rather than leaving for a trip. And when they had managed to find a new place to live, and that trip turned into staying away, Tarble had anticipated that more than a little wrath had been incurred. Gure insisted that through her talks with the human woman, she was certain that there was no ill will, and that good tidings would greet them. Tarble did not entirely believe her.
"Maybe I'll just stay with the ship," Tarble said. "Someone needs to watch it."
"No we don't," Gure calmly answered. "It goes right in that cute little capsule we've been keeping it in. Nice try, mister, but you have to see your family again."
The Saiyan pouted slightly. "I still don't see why I had to come."
Gure rolled her eyes. "Remember that part about them being your family?" she pointed out. "Besides, we promised we would be back some day, and that day has come. Now suck it up, you'll be fine."
Tarble shot a glare at his wife. "If I haven't mentioned it yet, may I just say that ever since we went to Earth the first time, you've had an aggressive vocabulary change and are a lot less sympathetic."
"I know, it's great, isn't it?" she teased back. "And for the record, you have told me that. Many, many times."
"Just wanted to clarify," the Saiyan sighed.
"Good for you."
Tarble shook his head and sat down. Seeing the others was not something he had wanted to do. Bulma had always been nice enough to him, and there were extremely few people in the universe who got anything other than friendship and goodwill from the likes of Goku, but it was no secret that Trunks had formed a bond that was adversarial at best with his uncle. The closest they had been with one another was civil. It had never been anything more than that.
There was no denying, though, that the person Tarble was most anxious about seeing was his older brother. There had been no communication between them since the tense goodbye, and even that was barely considered communication. In fact, their respective wives gave them grief over it for weeks. No matter what Tarble's original hopes had been, and in spite of the wishes of the wives, Tarble and Vegeta had never gotten truly close. They were simply too different. The severe lack of commonality had never been conquered, nor was it likely to ever be. In his time away, Tarble had only made mild improvements, ones he was sure his brother would be scornful of. And his peaceful habits were near certainly going to gain harassment. The calm life Tarble had wanted had more or less been achieved, and from what the younger prince had learned from his brother, it was a shameful way for a Saiyan to live.
"You know," Gure pointed out, "once upon a time, you would have given anything to get to see your brother."
"Once upon a time, he was nothing more than a legend to me," Tarble responded. "The stories about him scared me, but, well, he was still my brother. I wanted to get to know him."
Gure looked up and smiled. "You did."
"No, I didn't," her husband countered. "I met him, and I discovered his routines and habits, and I learned that he has a very territorial son and a wife who makes everyone's business hers, but I didn't learn anything about him."
The woman shook her head. Tarble's dream of an idealized family unit was probably never going to be achieved, a fact that Gure had realized long ago, and one that she had honestly believed her husband had understood just well. Their marriage was good, but they would never produce children. Their respective home worlds and peoples were lost to them and could not give them community. And with Tarble's only known living relatives being those on Earth, it seemed unlikely at best that there would be regular holiday type visits. But the prince sometimes seemed to believe that his fairy tale would come through in the end, making him that much more upset when it inevitably did not happen as he dreamed.
"You know," Gure tried pointing out again, "Vegeta might not have turned out to have been the brother you were necessarily hoping for, but all things considered, he has been good to you. He took us into his home and helped you quite a bit."
"Bulma took us into the home," Tarble countered. "And considering that she took in Vegeta in the first place, the standards were not hard to meet."
Gure sighed. "You two might not have been chummy with one another when we left," she relented, "but can you at least admit that you weren't exactly enemies, either? He was not horrible to you, and I honestly do not know why you are showing this level of distress over the idea of seeing him again."
Tarble offered her only silence as his answer. He could not put it into words, for even he was not quite sure why he felt such a sense of dread.
Only a few house later they found themselves parking the ship in the large yard of Capsule Corp, and Gure had a wide grin on her face as the door opened. "Hi!" she called out once the door lowered, happy to see Bulma alone waiting for them. As she quickly descended the ramp, Tarble found himself reluctant to follow suit. It was not until Bulma called out for him to come along that he went inside the compound with the others.
Inside stood the rest of the family. Trunks stood quietly, his gaze hovering somewhere between his relatives and the floor. While Tarble was not entirely certain, he thought there was a sense of embarrassment in the stance. It was something the man did not remember having seen in the boy ever before. Little did the man know that his own posture was giving off a very similar vibe. His shoulders were slightly slumped, his weight shifted nervously from foot to foot, and he, too, was avoiding direct eye contact.
The two wives simultaneously rolled their eyes at the behavior before striding up and embracing one another. "It's been too long!? Bulma gushed. "How have you been? How was your trip? Tell me everything!"
Gure giggled. "We're good, the trip was uneventful, and there's really nothing new to tell since our last call. But what about you? You've borne a child!"
With a proud laugh, Bulma brought her toddler out from behind her leg. "Come on, Bra," she coaxed. "It's time to meet Auntie Gure and Uncle Tarble!"
The girl peeked up and studied the newcomers for a moment before whimpering and hustling as fast as she could to her father, seeking protection from the strangers. "Go," she meekly commanded from behind her father's calf.
As Vegeta placed a protective hand on his daughter's head, Bulma chuckled. "That's Bra-ese for 'I have sensed a threat on the territory of my parents' attention and you are to make it go away immediately'." She looked at her son and smirked. "It must be something in the water."
A hint of pink appeared on Trunks' cheeks, and his eyes went straight to the floor. With over two years to think about it, it was no secret to him that his behavior the last time his aunt and uncle had been stupidly aggressive and extremely childish. It had been a turf war that Trunks had come to realized in the past years was totally unnecessary. Tarble's stay, no matter how interminable it had seemed back then, had always been destined to be temporary. Trunks was predestined to win that fight. It had not stopped him from fighting it as hard as he could, though, and he was more than a little ashamed of his previous actions.
Gure smiled up at her sister-in-law and added, "Or maybe it's genetic. Goodness knows those two are hardly the only ones to exhibit such behaviors." Apparently it was Tarble's turn to look away ashamed.
Bulma laughed and clapped a hand on Gure's shoulder. "Come on," she chuckled. "Why don't you, me, and the kids go to the kitchen and we give these two a chance to catch up."
Tarble's shoulders shot from slumped to straight almost in an instant. Was his wife really going to abandon him that quickly? Sure enough, Gure was already laughing and walking out, leaving her husband to his fate. "But…but…"
"Give it up," his brother advised. "Those women will screw us over every time. Though at least in my scenario, I get an alternative version of that phrase that yields positive results."
"It's nice to see you again, too," Tarble sarcastically responded.
Vegeta snorted. "If not for the fact that you are clearly insincere, I would feel it necessary to point out that you would obviously prefer evisceration over my company."
Tarble shook his head and finally raised his eyes to his brother's. They were near the same height now, though Tarble remained leaner than his powerful brother. It was odd for both of them to look one another in the eye. In an odd way, it was almost unnerving. They were closer to being equals. Not in strength or speed or power, but as people. Tarble was no longer a lost adolescent looking for a father figure. He was a man in his own right, though standing next to his brother was not doing wonders to prove that point.
"I don't want to avoid you that badly," he lamely explained.
"Just close to it?"
Tarble shrugged. "Well, yeah," he admitted. "What are we going to talk about other than that? You know we're going to be quizzed on it."
Vegeta leaned against the wall. "Then perhaps we should turn to the only conversational topic you and I have ever held any commonality on and discuss the more annoying habits of our respective wives."
"I can do that!" Tarble quickly responded, his face lighting up. When his brother raised an eyebrow at the response, he felt himself blushing furiously. "Sorry," he apologized. "I probably shouldn't be so enthusiastic about it."
Vegeta shook his head. "No need to worry. I am hardly going to report that outburst to your spouse, and it is one of the rare areas where I sympathize with the need to get it out of your system. You are not the only one married."
Tarble smirked. "It would appear that the struggle for dominance in a relationship spans the systems."
"You learned that last time you were here when my son broke your jaw," his brother pointed out.
Once again the younger prince blushed. "Why did you have to bring that up?" he whined.
"As is my understanding," Vegeta answered, "it is my inalienable right as a brother to point out every stupid thing you have ever done over the course of your life, particularly if I was involved in any way, shape, or form."
"You do that to people anyway," Tarble sneered.
It could not be denied, not that Vegeta cared. "Even more reason for me to do so."
Tarble pouted and slumped into the couch. "This isn't fair," he pointed out. "If I turned around and pointed out any stupid thing you had ever done, you would beat the crap out of me."
"Apparently another inalienable right."
With a groan, Tarble asked, "If, as the older brother, you are allowed to exercise these rights over me, then as the younger brother, do I not have the right to become as annoying to you as mortally possible?"
Vegeta quirked a brow. "Have you already forgotten what rights I have?"
From the next room over, Bulma smirked as she poured tea for herself, her son, and her sister-in-law. "You know," she chuckled, "I think they're finally getting this brother thing down."
"Took them long enough," Gure laughed as she took her cup. "Your prediction was spot on, though. All they needed was space from one another."
"It hardly took a genius mind like mine to figure that out," Bulma responded with a laugh. "Those two were spending so much time with one another that I'm honestly still shocked that the violence level was as low as it was. I promise you, if I had been forced to spend that much time with Vegeta in confined quarters with him constantly telling me that I'm weak and failing, I would have found some way to kill him with my own two hands."
Trunks quirked an eyebrow at his mother. "What?"
The heiress made sure Bra was secure in her booster seat before sitting herself down. "Don't sound so shocked," she told him. "And don't pretend you wouldn't do the same thing."
"No I wouldn't!" the boy insisted.
"Trust me, you would," Bulma calmly pointed out. "As you would if you were stuck in those conditions with Goku, Gohan, Goten, Chi-Chi, Piccolo, Yamcha, Krillen, Eighteen, Marron, Videl, Tarble, Gure, me, or Bra."
The little girl glared at her brother. "I get you first," she pouted.
Trunks gawked. "Oh, come on!" he complained. "What did I ever do to you?"
Gure laughed as Bulma explained, "It's not about what anyone's done, it's about being trapped with someone. It would put anyone at odds."
"And with those two, it was probably amplified," Gure supplied.
Trunks looked away. It took a moment for him to find the words, "I'm sorry."
Gure put her teacup down. "What for?"
The boy swallowed and kept his gaze away. "I know that I was totally immature last time," he quietly apologized, "and I really was a jerk. I shouldn't have done that. I'm sorry."
With a small smile, Gure reached across the table and put her hand on her nephew's. "Trunks," she explained, "you were never anything but good for me. You owe me no apology. If you owe anything to anyone, it's Tarble." Her smile grew a little more. "I'll bet he's got something to say to you, too."
"You think?" the boy shyly asked.
"I know," Gure assured, hearing a telltale noise signaling something needed to be pulled from the oven.
Bulma, too, got to her feet to field the treats her mother had gotten cooking. "Had the 'you damn well be good' talk with Tarble?" she quietly asked her sister-in-law.
"Yep," Gure giggled. "We'll compare notes."
As the women continued to laugh with one another, the two who had been in the living room entered. "What is going on in here?" Tarble asked.
Vegeta snorted and muttered, "If the two of them are conspiring, nothing good for us."
"Aw, isn't it cute how well he knows me?" Bulma said.
Before Vegeta could retort, Tarble pointed out, "Actually, I came to the same conclusion."
"You're just saying that to side with Vegeta," Bulma teased.
"Believe me when I say he is not," her husband snorted. "He would not change an opinion or claim something he had not actually accomplished simply to impress me."
Tarble crossed his arms defiantly. "That's true."
"He knows I would beat the crap out of him if he did."
For the first time since the two had first met, they owed each other nothing. There was no obligation, no burden or forced agreement between the two. They were no longer teacher and student, nor were they in a mock father/son situation. Vegeta was not the keeper of skills and knowledge that Tarble required to thrive, for the younger had grown and matured enough to not rely desperately on the elder prince. In spite of the fact that both had been dreading the thought of seeing one another again since the moment their wives announced that the reunion would be happening, they had fallen oddly into sync. Never would they have a shared childhood or family experiences formed while growing up, but they had somehow managed to grow the formations of a bond.
Years would go by before either one of them would feel comfortable saying it out loud. But one way or another, they had become more than a necessity to each other.
They were brothers.