Zarbon sighed and sat down in the chaise lounge, watching Bulma splash in the pool with her baby son. Her clear laughter filled the air and he looked up into the sky, watching fluffy white clouds meander across the crystal-blue expanse. The baby's squeals worked their way into his consciousness and he smiled, closing his eyes. It was so nice to hear the sound of new life, especially when they had lost so much.

he heard Bulma say. Are you all right?

He opened his eyes and looked at her, his smile still on his face. He and Bulma had become very close, and although it didn't happen often anymore, she still sometimes crept into his room at night and lay with him, head against his chest as she wept from sorrow or nightmares. She was a precious, precious woman, and he wished that there was something he could do for her, as well as something he could do for himself.

It wasn't that he minded living on Earth, that wasn't it at all. He had been pleasantly surprised to wake up at Capsule Corporation, sitting and staring at the faces gathered around him. Then he had looked up and noticed the sky was dark, a gigantic dragon hovering above him, and had understood what had happened. He had been wished back, along with all the other New Saiyan Empire soldiers that had been killed in the battle. He learned later that Radditz, upon leaving the battle with Freeza, had directed their ship straight for Earth, contacting Bulma and Atlia to let them know where he was headed and what had happened. Bulma had left for Earth immediately with her fellow humans, meeting Radditz's party at Capsule Corporation.

Radditz, along with Piccolo, Pikuhan, Gohan, Atlia, and a few others from the Empire, had gone to Namek in search of the other dragonballs, hoping to wish back Goku and Vegeta, but even that plan failed. Neither the Namek nor the Earth dragon had any idea what had happened to the two warriors. They didn't seem to be dead, but their presences couldn't be located. Freeza, however, was confirmed dead by Kami and King Kai, and rejoicing had spread throughout the universe. It was decided, however, that the Empress should stay on Earth, at least until she had her baby. It was safer for her to be among her own species at such a delicate time, and Zarbon had been the main supporter of the decision. He had taken it upon himself to care for Bulma and her child, as Vegeta would have done, had he been able to, and as he would have done for Bethsena and whatever children they might have had, had he been permitted. Zarbon loved Bulma like a sister, and he absolutely adored little Trunks, who had his mother's coloring and his father's features. It always melted Zarbon's heart when he felt the fuzzy, brown tail wrap around his wrist, and it pleased him that Trunks would have a much happier childhood than Vegeta, and a much safer childhood without Freeza in the universe.

I'm fine, he finally answered Bulma, watching as she waded out of the pool, pulling the infant in the innertube behind her.

Bulma sighed and came over to him, reaching out and fingering his heavy, green braid. You mean as fine as you'll ever be, she murmured, shifting Trunks in her lap. The baby squirmed and blinked up at Zarbon, then held out his arms.

I know, I know, Zarbon replied, taking Trunks in his large hands and bouncing the boy slightly. He caught Bulma looking him over, eyes lingering on the heavy musculature of his torso, and sighed again. It had been hard to resist temptation, after all, difficult not to retreat into the realm of physical comfort in an attempt to ease their emotional pain. Still, they had avoided mishap, but mostly because they couldn't stand to betray the memory of the man they had both loved so much. Odd, that they had competed for his attention, her as a wife, him as a friend, and yet were now so close. But you're the same way.

Bulma pulled her knees up to her chest. I'll always miss him. I hate not knowing if he's alive or dead, because I don't know how to deal with it. If he was dead I could move on eventually, but now my hope just won't die.

I understand. Zarbon put a finger underneath Trunks' chin and tickled, the baby giggling and squirming.

He's a little treasure, isn't he?

Zarbon smiled.

There was silence for a while. I wish he had known his father.

Me, too, Zarbon replied, feeling as if the day had turned dark, even though the sun still shone beautifully above them. He wondered if they would always feel Vegeta's loss like this, although he knew that once Trunks was old enough they would have to return to Arlia. Atlia was capable, but even he couldn't do everythin, not forever.

a voice shouted, and he looked up to see Yamcha strolling across the lawn to them, a beach towel thrown over his shoulder.

Radditz is bringing ChiChi and Gohan over for dinner. You two up to it?

Zarbon replied, holding Trunks close to his skin and breathing in the baby's scent. Trunks was nearly a year old, and it had been even longer than that since Zarbon had died in Vegeta's arms. He wondered what had happened on that far-off planet for the millionth time.

I'm happy Radditz is taking care of ChiChi and Gohan, Bulma murmured, watching as Yamcha sat down next to them.

Yamcha's face sobered for a minute and he looked down at the water in the pool. Yeah. Poor ChiChi. To have her husband die twice.

Zarbon watched as Bulma tensed, knowing that she was about to protest the fact that the two missing Saiyans were dead, and his heart nearly broke anew when she didn't. He prayed silently for Bulma not to give up, for if her faith and stubbornness failed her, they were all lost. Radditz is doing a splendid job helping out at Capsule Corp., he said, trying to lighten the mood. I think ChiChi is glad that there's finally a man in the house bringing in money, and Gohan loves his uncle.

Bulma said, standing up and wrapping a towel around herself. Well, I guess I'd better get ready for dinner.

Zarbon watched her start to leave, the exuberance drained from her beautiful face and posture defeated. How could they ever have known that the arrogant, stubborn man would have affected them like this? he said, wanting to comfort her but unsure how. After so long, what else was there to say?

Don't act like you're not hurting just as bad, Yamcha said sharply, interrupting his thoughts, and the two men watched Bulma walk away. How long is this going to go on?

Zarbon sighed and looked up at the sky, ignoring Trunks yanking at his braid. I don't know, he murmured. Hopefully not for much longer.

Dinner had gone well, Zarbon decided as he rifled through the refrigerator. ChiChi's spirits were starting to pick up, mostly because of the humorous interaction between Radditz and Gohan. Radditz and Dr. Briefs had spent a good part of the evening discussing new Arlian technology that might be implemented on Earth, and the conversation had distracted Bulma for a while as well. Mrs. Briefs cooked a phenomenal dinner, with ChiChi's help, and it had been a good experience for all involved. It was like things were getting back to normal.

Sighing, Zarbon realized he wasn't really that hungry, and so settled on a glass of water instead. He pulled a chair out from the kitchen table and sat in the dark, hands clenched around the glass, when he started to cry. It had been so long, but he still couldn't help wishing things had gone differently. Vegeta had been like his brother, the only person he had belonged with since the death of his planet.

The tears rolled down his face silently as he sat in the darkness, gazing at the twinkling of the stars through the window. After a moment he bowed his head, wiping at his eyes, starting when he heard the sound of the back door being opened behind him.

Stop your blubbering, he heard someone say, the voice freezing him where he sat. Hope and fear raced through him all at once and he turned slowly, afraid that it would be a dream.

Oh my god, he whispered as he turned around, recognizing the silhouette. Instead of ceasing, the tears just began to course down his cheeks more fiercely. Without thinking, he rushed forward and caught the other person up in a bear hug, lifting him off the ground. Thank god!

Stop it, the newcomer hissed, and Zarbon set him down, taking a step back. You always were overemotional.

I think I have a good excuse this time, he replied, a thousand questions and exclamations racing through his head. The only thing he was certain of, however, was his joy.

Silence ruled the room for several moments, the air thick with unsaid words. Listen, I wanted to thank you. For everything. I'm glad you're my friend, and it...Well, it means a lot to me.

Zarbon felt a lump in his throat and had to push down more tears. My pleasure, he replied. I have a thousand questions for you, but they can wait until morning. It's enough to know that you're here. He took a deep breath, finally gaining control of himself. I think you should go upstairs now. Bulma has a surprise for you.

Very well.

Zarbon watched as the man moved passed him, waiting until the man was at the door until he spoke again. I'm very proud of you. You did well.

The man paused, then turned and smiled smugly. I know, he replied, and disappeared into the night.

a voice said softly through the darkness of the room.

She groaned and rolled over in bed. she muttered, then snapped wide awake as she realized someone was lying down on the bed next to her. Strong, brawny arms wrapped around her and pulled her close, and suddenly a familiar, longed-for scent filled her nostrils. Tears formed in her eyes and she reached up to touch his face, fingers dancing over the heavy, plunging curves of his eyebrows and his thick, unruly hair. Am I dreaming? she whispered.

A kiss was her answer. he replied. I made a promise and I kept it.

I'm not going to wake up and find you gone again?

he repeated, and kissed her again.

She collapsed in sobs and let him sit her up, throwing her arms around his neck and pressing her to him as hard as she could. Don't ever leave me again! she said, laughing through her tears.

he agreed, holding her tightly.

Does Zarbon know you're here? she said with a gasp, pushing away from him slightly.

I met him downstairs. He said we'll talk in the morning.

You have no idea how badly I missed you.

There was silence, as if he was weighing his words before he spoke. I missed you, too. I wanted to come back sooner, but the journey was long.

Goku's with his family?

Radditz met us when we landed.

Bulma snuggled against him again, feeling as if a piece of her had been restored. I have someone you should meet, she whispered against his neck, closing her eyes and reveling in the feel of his skin against hers.

Very well, he replied, letting her take his hand and lead him to a crib in the corner of the room.

Meet Trunks, heir to the New Saiyan Empire. She reached down and picked up her son, walking to the window so that the child was visible in the light of the stars.

Ridiculous coloring, but that's to be expected, I suppose, came the grumbling reply, and the child was taken out of her arms. As the baby rested quietly against the muscular chest she saw him smile and run a finger across the baby's cheek. At least he has a tail.

And your temper, too.

She watched as he gently placed the baby back in the crib and returned to her, his strong hands gripping her waist and pulling her to him. He buried his nose in her hair and inhaled deeply, and the rise and fall of his chest seemed to her the most wonderful thing she had ever seen. I'm proud of you, he murmured into her hair. You've done everything so well.

Thank you. She meant the words with her whole heart, knowing how difficult it was for him to say them. I'm proud of you, too. His smile stirred the hair on her head and she sighed, leaning into him. I'm so happy you're home. I missed you so much.

I feel the same, he replied haltingly.

I love you, Vegeta.

He crushed her to him then, and she could feel his mind slowly stealing into hers, one once more and separated no longer. I'm with you, now and always, he replied, and kissed her.