A Little Late
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A daughter's reflections. Bra, Vegeta
“The wind's so cold, Papa!” she cried, shrinking against his side. The pink marshmallow jacket enveloping her small form was not enough to stop the wind from piercing her skin.
She clung tightly to him with one mittened hand, and her little legs stopped in the middle of the sidewalk. He could feel her distress through the leather of his glove.
“Brat,” he said, his voice a bit warmer than the wind. “A Saiyan should not be beaten by a little cold.”
Even so, he lifted one palm and pushed back the wind with a bit of his energy. Her tangled bangs stopped fluttering in her face, settling across her forehead in an unruly but serene fashion. A smile lit her chapped lips, and her eyes worshipped him.
“Thank you, Papa.”
“Come on, brat,” he tugged her along, gently. They walked in a bubble of stillness as the wind howled around them. “We'll be late.”
They walked, side by side, quietly, as the autumn leaves drifted from trees. She tucked her hands in her pockets, having forgotten her gloves. The road was strewn with red and orange patchwork that shifted as the wind blew.
“Take a walk with me,” he had said an hour earlier. A command, his typical style of speaking. An invitation at best, but never a request.
As a young teenager, she had begun resenting him. He never seemed to take any interest in anything she did in school, with her friends, or in her mother's laboratory. Whenever he did give her any attention, it was to demand something in his curt manner. Get out of my way. Clean up this trash.
Now as a young adult she didn't resent him so much as understand and tolerate. This was the way he was. Her father, who didn't know how to show his love. She couldn't remember the last time he had done something nice for her, the way normal fathers did things for their daughters.
The wind was strong today. She shivered and slackened her pace. Beside her, he slowed down as well. His movements were generally slower as of late, his reactions not as lightning quick as they used to be.
Sick—a word she never imagined could hold any meaning for him. He was, after all, a Saiyan, and Saiyans “should not be beaten” by anything short of a ki blast from a stronger warrior.
But he was slowing, and he didn't want to admit it, but he was dying. Her family grieved silently and separately, knowing the only way they could make it a little more bearable for him was to leave him alone. No one spoke of it, not even when the coughing had started, or when he had begun waking up at noon more often than at dawn.
“Cold,” he commented as if in greeting. They had not spoken since they had set out on this aimless stroll in the park.
“Yeah,” she assented, her voice cut short as the wind snatched at her breath. She kept brushing back the strands of hair that strayed across her eyes. The parka she wore insulated her body well enough, but her face was white with cold. She tried to say something else, but the wind once again stilled her words. For a few seconds her lungs fought a battle with the wind, struggling to breathe against the current.
“Turn your face away from it.” The suggestion, or command, nonchalantly given, gave her pause.
She buried her nose beneath the scarf wrapped under her chin and turned her head away from the wind, as he had advised. He had turned too, away from her.
“Dad,” she said.
She knew he appreciated brevity. But not ambiguity. So she had to add more into the silence between them.
“It's nice to spend time with you. I've missed it.”
He didn't reply. He seemed to be looking through the surrounding trees, intent on something beyond that was obscured by the dense forest.
“I remember when I was little, we walked through here to get home every now and then.”
She had tasted different modes of silence enough in her father's presence to know that this time, it was tolerant of words.
“And I guess…thanks. It was a long time ago, but I like thinking about it. I remember you told me you could command the wind, and that I could too, if I stopped wasting my time on dolls and frippery long enough to learn.
“And I guess…sorry. For never wanting to learn. Was…” she hesitated, thoughts whispering to be free. “Was that why? Why we stopped talking and going on walks?”
He didn't answer for a long time. She tucked her hands deeper into her pockets as the leaves swirled at her feet.
“We're talking and walking now, aren't we?”
She didn't answer. It was getting dark, and soon her cell phone would ring, and it would be her mother nagging her to bring her father home. Out of all their family and friends, only her mother could still fuss over him like that. Some things didn't change.
Her father was not a tall man; they were about the same height now. When she was young, he had towered above her like an iron sentinel. Her hero, and a Prince. Sometime between teenage years and adulthood, he had become just a man. He had no shield from the elements except his own body. Some time ago he had stopped using ki altogether. She knew better than to ask if he still could.
“Mom's probably going to get mad…but do you wanna stay out a while longer? I mean I know it's almost dark and it's pretty cold…”
She didn't notice that he had turned his face toward her again.
“Even so,” he said, his voice reminding her suddenly of a nameless day long ago. “A Saiyan should not be beaten by a little cold.”
She smiled at her father. “Yeah. We can be a little late.”
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