Chapter Eighteen

Yamcha stared absently at the center of the table, lost in thoughts of Bulma, when suddenly Lunch began to laugh. The noise jolted him out of his reverie, literally. He jumped in his chair. Boy, was that embarrassing. "What the heck?" he yelped.

"We're both so pathetic," the blond replied. "I mean, look at us. There's you, just broken up with your girlfriend of half your life, moping around here with me, who hasn't been able to make her man of choice see her as dateable material. We're drinking herbal tea instead of alcohol, and I tried to shoot you on the way in."

Yamcha shot her what he thought was an indignant glare, but Lunch only chortled. "And then – snort – you tell me that you and Little Miss Flashes-Her-Bare-Bottom-at-Roshi were never even – ha! – together in a couple sort of way?"

He felt his face heating up. "No!" he exclaimed angrily. "We weren't! I respected her!"

Something in the tone of his voice caught Lunch's attention, and she stopped laughing. She eyed him curiously for a moment, during which he continued to seethe with righteous anger. Then her eyes widened, and she whistled. "No way," she breathed, digging her fingernails into the table. "No way. I thought this was just a relationship problem, but… Kami… She cheated on you, didn't she?" She had been trying to lighten his mood. She had been trying to make a joke. She cursed herself for not seeing the obvious signs. Her blue-haired self would have made the empathic leap in a heartbeat.

Yamcha winced.

She felt herself growing angry. "Who with? Do you know?"


"Tell me. I'm going to kick him in the rear so hard his guts fly out of his mouth."

Lunch began grabbing an assortment of firearms and knives, cursing the nameless man while she did so. Part of Yamcha wanted to see Lunch take a crack at Vegeta – she might actually damage him. His more sensible self knew Vegeta would probably crush her like an insect without blinking an eye. "Lunch," he said, "I'm not going to tell you."

"Why not?" she demanded.

"Because I don't want to hurt Bulma."

Lunch stopped in her tracks. Her jaw dropped open. "Wait. You mean to tell me she has feelings for whatever scum had the audacity to come between you? And you're going to let her go because of it?" she growled. "Are you that much of a fool, that you will let your woman go without a fight?"

Yamcha winced again and sighed. "Yes, and no."

"What do you mean, yes and no? Which one is it?"

"The situation is very complicated."

Lunch glared at him and took a few steps toward the door. "I'll bet it is. Complicated in the sense that all of your friends are about to mobilize and knock down whoever-it-is' door. That'll make his day. Now tell me where he lives."

"No, Lunch."

"Why not?"

"Bulma says she loves him."

Lunch's weaponry clattered to the floor, and at least three of the guns fired accidentally. She did not notice the resulting spray of wood from the walls, nor the cloud of stuffing that erupted from her unfortunate sofa. "What?" she shrieked. "How? Yamcha, what the hell? She said she loved you!"

"Please, Lunch," Yamcha begged, ignoring how stuffing was settling all around him, including inside his now-cold cup of tea. "Lay off it already."

"Yamcha, she cheated on you! She's disregarding everything you both had and is throwing it to the wind!" Lunch bellowed. "Someone has to put that spoiled – achoo!"

Apparently, there was a lot of couch stuffing and wood dust floating around. Lunch gave him a confused look and blinked. Her hair was now colored dark blue. "Oh, dear, Yamcha," she fussed. "This is quite a predicament. You're such a nice man, you know. I wish there was something I could do to help you." She began wringing her hands in dismay. "Would you like me to come over and cook for you? Clean up your living room? Oh, dear. Maybe we can go out to the movies. N-nothing romantic, of course," she added nervously.

Ah, Lunch, he thought fondly as he watched the woman try her hardest not to fret over him. You're so good at being distracting. This is exactly what I needed. Thank you.

Yamcha smiled. "No, Lunch, that's okay, but thanks for the offer. I have a lot on my mind, and I think I'm going to need to take some time off, away from people, for a while. If I haven't dropped by in a week, you can come and drag me out of my bed," he joked.

Lunch blushed. "Yamcha!"

"I'll be fine," he said. I think, he added in his thoughts. I don't really have an option. I do have responsibilities, my job and Pu'ar. I also have to train for the Androids. I can't let the Earth be destroyed because my heart is broken.

"Well, as long as you remember to go out occasionally," she said, putting her hands on her hips. "I don't want that mean girl to keep you down for too long."

He smiled again, although he thought it came across as rather half-hearted, and she returned the smile. "I think I'll be going, Lunch. Thank you for listening to me."

Lunch walked around the table, carefully avoiding the guns on the floor, and hugged him. "Anything for a friend, Yamcha. Come again soon."

"I think I will."

Yamcha surprised himself by actually meaning it this time.

It was a bright, sunny day when he should have realized Bulma would not stay with him. Yamcha was seated at the table on Bulma's patio with Pu'ar and Oolong. Unfortunately, Vegeta was with them. With the Saiyan within glaring distance, Yamcha's thoughts drifted off. Vegeta had injured himself some time ago when he ruined the Gravity Machine, and Bulma had immediately come running to tend his last thing the Almighty Pain in the Butt had seen was her worried face, before he had fallen unconscious.

Something about the situation made Yamcha very nervous, other than his girlfriend tending to his enemy. There had been something strange about the way her hands rested on the man's arms while she bound his wounds, something that upset him deep down inside. She was not just fussing over him. She was almost caressing him. Why was Bulma so tender in her ministrations? The fact that she was allowing the Saiyan to stay at Capsule Corp. with her did not make him feel any better.

"Man! I'm pigging out here!" Oolong exclaimed happily, diving into another hot dog. Bulma may not have been a good cook, but she could grill with the best of them. She was currently turning over hot dogs, spare ribs, and slices of onion.

Yamcha watched from the corner of his eye as Vegeta tried not to stare at the food on the grill. Mr. Badman himself. Hah! Bulma had given him the pink shirt some time ago, and with the yellow pants he was currently wearing, Vegeta looked like some kind of garden-variety flower. Yamcha snickered about it behind his back on a regular basis.

Suddenly, Vegeta slammed his fist on the table, knocking over his cup. The glass shattered all over the patio. He did not care. Yamcha and Bulma both stared at him in surprise. "So he failed after all!" the man growled. "Frieza's still alive! And he's coming!"

Yamcha gaped at him for a second before pulling himself together. He tried to be rational. "Wait, how do you know? Maybe it could be somebody else! Come on!"

Vegeta looked over at him, a furious glare on his face. "I know! I make it my business to know! Unlike you."

If there was one thing Yamcha did not like, besides Bulma trying to paint his nails in his sleep, it was being insulted in front of his girlfriend. That it was Vegeta doing so made him see red. He jumped up from the chair, knocking it over. "What's that supposed to mean?" he exclaimed angrily.

With uncanny timing, Bulma diffused the situation in the best way possible. "Hey, Vegeta," she called sweetly, "would you like more barbeque sauce on your spare ribs?"

Yamcha could not believe his eyes. The Saiyan actually turned his attention to the woman. "Sure, why not," he grumbled.

"Well, my money's on you guys," Oolong said around a mouthful of food. "We can leave if you want to fight him here." Yamcha and Vegeta both ignored him, now intent on the large ki approaching the planet.

The meal was finished not long after that, and the two men took to the air. I can't believe how fast Vegeta is! Yamcha thought as he followed the Saiyan. I can hardly keep up with him! To make his embarrassing situation worse, he had no idea where Vegeta was actually going. For all he knew, the man was leading him somewhere out of the way so he could ditch him.

They landed after a few minutes, in a rocky clearing far outside the city. The land was barren and desolate. Oh, well, Yamcha thought, at least any fighting we do will be well away from civilization! He looked around in trepidation, growing more anxious as the seconds ticked by. He tried, without much success, to calm himself down.

Vegeta must have sensed his nerves and decided not to put up with them. "This is the place where he'll be touching down," he told the other man.

Yamcha turned around and looked at him. "Are you sure, Vegeta?" he asked. To his ears, his voice was an octave higher than it should have been.

"Yes, I'm sure," the Saiyan growled. "Now zip it! I don't want him to know we're waiting."

Yamcha had no idea how Frieza would be able to hear them from outer space, and he was just about to make a comment along those lines when he heard the roar of an engine and a female voice from somewhere above them.

"Hello down there!"

"It's Bulma!" Yamcha exclaimed. He was dumbfounded. How was the woman able to follow them? And in an aircraft, no less? Intellect notwithstanding, she was a normal human!

Vegeta snorted.

"Vegeta, Yamcha, I'm coming in!" she called.

The aircraft touched down a moment later, and Yamcha was confronted with an animated ball of fur. "Yamcha!" Pu'ar squeaked, flying up beside Bulma.

If they had been hoping for a warm reception, they had thought wrong. "What in the world are you two doing here?" Yamcha demanded.

"We came to see Frieza," Bulma replied belligerently. She squared her hips and fisted her hands against them, looking for all the world like she was going to face off against the alien herself. "I missed him on Namek, and I am not going to let that happen again."

"Are you crazy?" he yelped. "Do you realize what he'll do to you when he finds you here?"

"Yes, of course I do. He'll come down and blow up the planet. But I want to see him before he does it. What's so wrong with that?"

Yamcha just stared at her. He could hardly believe what he was hearing! Behind him, Vegeta was paying close attention to the woman. Whether he was amused or annoyed, Yamcha could not tell. Truthfully, he did not care. It was one thing to risk one's one life like this. It was another for your girlfriend to come along for the ride!

"Besides," Bulma added slyly, "I hear he's kinda cute."

Yamcha's jaw dropped.

Vegeta grunted. "It's amazing how every time you open your mouth, you prove you're an idiot."

By this time, the other warriors were beginning to arrive. First, Tien and Chaozu. Tien was none too happy to find Vegeta there, and Yamcha had had to dive between them to prevent the triclops from settling a grudge right then and there. "How do you stomach him, Yamcha?" Tien asked in disgust. He pretended he did not hear him.

Piccolo had snuck in amidst the arguing (or possibly before; one never could tell with him) and stood sentry on a jutting ledge nearby. His cloak billowed out behind him in the wind. When Yamcha asked him how long he had been there, Piccolo replied with, "Long enough to hear all of your senseless bickering." Then the Namek had glared over his shoulder at them.

By the time Krillin and Gohan arrived, Yamcha was well and truly freaking out. He tried his best to hide it – at least, he thought he did – until Frieza's ship came into view in the atmosphere. The memory of dying in an explosion of ki came back to him in force, and he staggered backward. He knew what fate awaited them all if they confronted the monster aboard that ship.

And Bulma, by virtue of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, would share that fate.

Yes, the second half of this chapter is taken almost directly from the anime. I had to set up a scene in the next chapter here. Sorry, all.

There are only a few more chapters left – the flashbacks and the current storyline are converging. I think three chapters (at the most) should do it, and perhaps an epilogue of some sort. Let me know what you think!

I can make excuses for why I've waited four and a half years for this unexciting chapter to come out: the death of my hard drive, health problems, an undergraduate thesis, moving halfway across the state to attend graduate school, a graduate thesis… I can keep going. I won't. What I would like to say is thank you for sticking with this. First time readers, welcome, and long-time fans, welcome back, and why the heck have you put up with the hiatus? (grin) Thanks so much for reading. 'Til next time!