a rewrite of Nakaruru by Dot
Chapter 3: Mind Games
"You don't seem surprised to see me here."
Vegita didn't turn around. "Of course I'm not surprised. Kakarrotto couldn't have been the one to suggest that we take our sparring elsewhere; he's not that considerate." He looked around at the lifeless terrain where he and Kakarrotto had once battled for the fate of the planet. "Although I'm just a bit disturbed that you know this much about me."
"I know a thing or two, yes." She strolled to his side, just behind his peripheral vision. "But one can only learn so much by watching from the outside. The rest--including how the little royal bratling became a family man--is a complete mystery."
It would have been pathetically easy to turn her in a smoldering heap of ashes, and she knew it. Which was exactly why Vegita was going to steadfastly pretend that she didn't bother him in the least. "I don't see how that's any of your business."
She made a move as if to approach him, but settled for rocking on the balls of her feet instead. "Come on, Vegita. There's nobody here. You don't have to pretend that you don't know me."
Vegita looked her up and down, taking in her long, black, obviously Saiyajin hair and furry brown tail that betrayed her by swishing back and forth. "All I can come up with whenever I try to think of you is one big, long blank."
She stiffened slightly, but recovered before he could make any comments about her lack of self-control. "Well, then, maybe this will refresh your memory." She leapt up to a pillar, one of the few that weren't vaporized decades ago in Vegita's furtive attempt to destroy Kakarrotto. And once again, Vegita hoped that the selection of this locale was a mere coincidence instead of just another part of this Saiyajin's inexplicable obsession with him. A light breeze swirled around her as she began to speak, and her decidedly ungirlish voice carried easily across the space between them.
"'Get up! You can do better than that'
'I can't.' His body hurt. His hurts had hurts. The slightest bit of motion resulted in searing, blinding agony.
'Stand up, or this is the day you die, Little Prince!' She began to gather a sphere of energy in her outstretched hand. 'You'll be buried in a forgotten grave and replaced with some other nameless brat.' Was it just his imagination, or did her voice break when she said that? 'No one will mourn you, do you hear? No one!'"
The dim vision of a boring lecture tugged at the back of Vegita's mind, but he did not indulge in any reminiscence. "So you know the nursery tale of how a pauper supposedly came to inherit the throne of Vegitasei because the King's only child was female."
This time, she bristled visibly. "It wasn't just a nursery tale, or the government wouldn't have been so eager to ban the 'Lady Kaede' version. I may have only been six at the time, but unlike some slackers I kept up with current events."
The resonance was stronger, but once again Vegita dismissed it. "That was all very enlightening, really, but I have better things do to than sit here and put up with your nonsense."
Just as he stood up, she was standing before him, a glowing sword pointed at his throat. "Well, then, you do remember this little device, don't you?" She peered down the length of it at him, her dark eyes smoldering. "I wonder how it feels to be stabbed with your own life force?"
Vegita grabbed her arm as she lunged forward and twisted it. She spun with it, letting go of the sword and using the momentum of her body to strike at him. Vegita blocked easily, and then roared with surprise as the sword took on a life of its own and swung at him, nicking the edge of his arm.
"Come on, Little Prince, don't tell me that's all you got," she taunted, still quoting the age-old words of some slave's fantasies. And yet, her body language did not read as particularly hostile. The sword, too, merely acted a distraction, cutting in when Vegita got too close to her. "Come on, there's only twenty-eight days of fun and games left."
Vegita blinked. That line had been in the story, too. Something about the former Princess being shipped off to another planet so she wouldn't be a bad influence on the Crown Prince. And then--and then what? He had only read the tale once, as part of the mind-blindingly painful critical analysis course his tutors wouldn't let him skimp on no matter how many times he tried to wriggle out of it. And this blasted Saiyajin dancing in front of him, treating him like a child, wasn't helping matters at all. "What the hell do you want?"
And just as suddenly as she started, she stopped, and the sword dropped harmlessly to the ground. "Vegita. It's me," she said softly in their native tongue. "Why won't you talk to me? Do you really hate me that much?"
'Now she tries the crying,' Vegita thought, resisting the urge to roll his eyes. 'Even Bulma does a better job at this.'
But no tears came. She just stood there, waiting. "Vegita."
What did she expect him to do? He certainly wasn't about to lie to her, especially not to make her happy. "I can't hate someone I don't remember."
"So you really don't remember. Good." She picked up the sword from the ground. "At least it will make ending your miserable lives easier."
Vegita checked his arm; the blood was already coagulating, and he was otherwise uninjured. "At this rate, you and your spongy cohorts will be the ones to die instead."
She shrugged. "I guess we'll find out twenty-eight days later."
And then she was gone, leaving Vegita alone with his thoughts.
Bra punched in the special keycode using the keypad that Mama had installed at kiddie height when her brother Trunks--but she liked to call him 'Trunch', to tease him--was old enough to use the room by himself. "Okay. Now the fun part begins."
Pan tested out her arms and legs experimentally. "Cool! This is like being at the moon walk, except backwards!"
"It gets even better. Watch." Bra sat down in her circle of dolls and began to concentrate. Slowly, one of them began to rise off the ground.
"Wow," Pan watched in awe as the doll levitated and made an elegant, albeit upside-down, circuit around the room. "How'd you do that?"
"It's easy. See, the line where you begin and everything else ends is really fuzzy, so all you have to do is reach just a little bit and change the shape of the line--" Bra demonstrated by crossing her energies with Pan's.
"Oooooooh," Pan breathed. "Papa can do it, too, but he hasn't teached me yet. He says I should wait until I'm more grown up, first."
Bra, having had more practice, effortlessly levitated another doll. "Grownups are stupid. They whisper and pretend like we don't know anything. Well, we'll show them that we can fight, too."
Pan nodded. "How many more days?"
"Twenty-eight." Bra helped as Pan bobbled a doll, nearly dropping it to the ground. "Nono, you're forcing it too hard."
"Oh, okay." This time, Pan managed to correct the tilt herself, and she broke into a grin at this accomplishment. "This is easy! We're going to kick their butts!"
Bra let another doll rise into the air, joining the others in an intricate dance. "No. No butt-kicking. We just stop them from hurting our Papas and Uncles."
Goten stretched out on the hill, letting his sore muscles get a break. "You've come up with some pretty hair brained ideas, Trunks, but this is your worst yet."
"It got you out of the house, didn't it?" Trunks rotated his arm and winced regretfully. "And besides, it's always good to have a Plan B in case Plan A doesn't work."
"What's Plan A? Ow!" Goten punched Trunks back in the same spot where he had been hit, and groaned as he overextended.
"Come on, Goten! We've only got twenty-eight days left!" Trunks pulled his hovercar capsule out of his pocket and threw it to the ground. "Let's stop by Karin's for a quick break and give it another shot."
Goten groaned again. "You're not going to stop until we get it right, are you?"
"What do you think? Not only do all the motions have to be perfect, we have to make sure we don't repeat the Buu debacle." Trunks extended a hand to Goten. "Can you still move?"
Goten grabbed Trunks by the arm, winced again as another wave of pain shot through his body, and wrenched himself to his feet. "Barely."
Trunks nodded sympathetically. "All right, then only a little light sparring after Karin's, and then we visit the good old boob tube."
Goten grinned. "Now you're talking."
Gohan wrapped his arms around his wife lightly and shared a quick but intimate kiss as she entered his office pulling a large cooler behind her. "Mmm. Lunch and dessert. You spoil me."
Videl made a mock scandalized expression. "Here? Now? What would the neighbors think?"
With Videl still hugged against him, Gohan twirled around dramatically, causing her to shriek in delight, and closed the thick oak doors. "The room is soundproofed. No one will hear a thing."
And of course, by saying such a thing, Gohan inevitably invoked Murphy's Law.
The phone on Gohan's desk sprang to life with the voice of his administrative assistant. "Mr. Son? Your mother sent you lunch again."
Gohan sighed. "I'll be downstairs to sign for the packages right away."
"Actually, I've already signed for it and it's outside your office."
"Thanks." Gohan opened the door and grimaced at the number of boxes sitting in front of his office. "This is still too much, even for me."
Videl flopped down on the couch as Gohan brought them in. "She still sends you lunch?"
"She used to drop them off in person and wouldn't leave until I ate all of it." Gohan sighed again. "And she used to cook twice as much as this."
Videl took the last package and forced a smile. "Well, at least we don't have to worry about dinner tonight."
Gohan unpacked one of his mother's labors of love and wondered whether he should drop the other bombshell. Maybe later. After all, the threat didn't quite feel real enough yet, and although Videl tended to be a bit more progressive in certain matters, she was just as fiercely protective of Pan as Chi-Chi had been of him.
Videl stared into an open lunchbox, chopsticks poised thoughtfully above a morsel. "Do you think those Suponjin are serious? About--you know."
Gohan nearly choked an a spear of asparagus. Did she just read his mind? "I don't know, but it's best to assume the worst."
Videl nodded, still not eating. "Pan's starting to take an interest in martial arts. I told her I'd think about letting her take lessons."
Well, no point in avoiding the topic now. "I could teach her."
"That'd be nice," Videl answered absently.
Gohan pulled Videl into a hug. "It'll be all right, Videl. Things will turn out fine."
Videl squeezed back, holding on as if for dear life. "I hope so, too."
Bra put a hand on Pan's shoulder. "Relax, Pan. She's not the enemy."
"She is too!" Pan snarled. "I heard Papa and Mama talk about her! She wants to kill all of us!"
The stranger's lips quirked upward in a manner that reminded Bra of her father. "Will you try to stop me then, little warrior?"
"No," Bra cut in before the fuming Pan could actually try to start a fight. "My name is Bra, and this is Pan."
"Ah," the stranger nodded. "I suppose I should say 'nice to meet you'."
"HEY!" With that furious shout from her brother, Bra felt herself being swept up into his arms.
Bra sighed. This was not going to end well. "Go away, Trunch."
Pan was similarly unhappy, attempting to squirm from Goten's grasp. "Put me down, Ten-ten!"
The children were, as usual, ignored as the 'adults' discussed 'grown-up' stuff. "What are you doing in my house?" Trunks demanded.
"Your mother," the stranger replied, pausing just long enough to watch Trunks squirm, "invited me over to help with her research. I suppose I should be a bit more worried given the fact that said research is most likely on how to kill me, but--" and here she shrugged.
Trunks did not look happy about his newest houseguest. "So why are you wandering around?"
"You're so cute when you do that 'Chief of Homeland Security' face, Little Prince." The stranger reached out to pinch Trunks' cheek, but he batted her hand away.
"Answer the question," Trunks all but hissed, hands clenching into fists and the barest hint of a golden glow lighting his sour features.
"Not that it's really any of your business, but I have the rest of the day off." She shook her head. "And you really need to relax. I'm no so stupid as to attack your precious baby sister in your own house a month before the rest of the happy fun genocide is supposed to start."
Pan's eyes went wide. "Ooh, I think she just dissed you!"
Bra slapped her forehead with her palm and grimaced. Leave it up to Pan to say the worst possible thing at the worst possible moment. Goten, meanwhile, went into a coughing fit as he laughed backwards into his throat, and the stranger herself seemed on the verge of guffawing as well.
Trunks was, needless to say, Not Amused. "I'm warning you--"
"Don't even try, Little Prince. There is absolutely nothing you can threaten me with." Bra shuddered a bit as the stranger's now completely cold eyes swept over her. "And if I really wanted to have my way with her--or any one of you--not even Vegita himself could stop me."
Trunks made the mistake of trying to grab the stranger in the arm.
She intercepted him easily, snatching his wrist out of the air and twisting it just far enough to cause pain. Trunks winced, but his hold on Bra did not falter.
"If it were not in my best interest to hold back, you would be short one limb right now," she informed him quite matter-of-factly. When Trunks' only response was to flare slightly, the stranger let go. "Good. You're finally starting to learn how to pick your battles wisely, instead of charging into everything like some reckless spoiled brat that's never really fought anything tougher than itself."
Time for Bra to the rescue, or something. "He helped saved the world twice." All right, so one of the times wasn't exactly Trunks, but his time-traveling alter ego, but the stranger didn't have to know that.
"Did he now?" The stranger examined Trunks up and down a few times, causing him to look rather uncomfortable. "Well, well, well. Appearances can be quite deceiving."
"You can put me down now, Trunch," Bra said, taking full control of the situation. "I was just going to show my new friend here all your embarrassing baby pictures."
"Like you know where they are," Trunks muttered, complying nonetheless. He knew that Bra always got her way, no matter what, and he was still undoubtedly smarting from the lesson in why it was a bad idea to mess with an unknown threat.
"She does too!" Pan chirped, giving Goten a hearty thump on the back of his head. "Now put me down, Ten-ten, before I clonk you another!"
"Ow! Okay! You don't have to hit so hard, geez!" Goten lets Pan drop unceremoniously while he puts on a melodramatic display of mock pain.
Bra rolled her eyes and took the stranger's hand into hers. "Come on. Let's get away from these boys."
The stranger smiled again, and this time she was genuine, even kind. "As you wish, my Lady."
Trunks rubbed his shoulder ruefully as they walked to their part of the house, jokingly dubbed the 'Den of Solitude'. "Thanks for being ever so helpful when your best friend since childhood was in dire peril."
Goten shrugged. "Hey, I had my arms full with Pan. Blood is thicker than water and all that, you know. Besides, I'm not stupid." Like you, his annoyed expression seemed to imply.
"She was in my house," Trunks all but growled.
"Your mom's house," Goten corrected a bit too cheerfully, almost getting clobbered in the head a second time as a result. He headed to the miniature fridge and pulled out two sodas, tossing one to Trunks. "Geez, and I thought your dad was the overactive violent one."
"And that's the weird thing. Dad hasn't done jack shit. He's twitchy as hell, though." Trunks opened the bottle with his teeth while he leafed through his extensive game collection. He spat the cap into the recently empty bowl, smiling a bit at his mother's angry note declaring that she's not his maid, and then scowled again. "I can't believe Mom--" he shook his head. "No, actually, I can. She's always been the type to take charge and face trouble head on." Even if it might kill her, he almost said.
"Yeah. My Mom's taking all of this surprisingly well, too." Goten sighed. "I think she's totally lost it. Not only is she acting more normal than she's ever been in years, she--" and here he blushed furiously. "She's encouraging me to go out and 'expand my horizons'! What the hell is that supposed to mean!"
"I think it means, 'go out and get laid, son'." Trunks couldn't help but laugh as Goten turned even redder. "You should totally go for it, before she reverts to her usual paranoid self."
"No freaking way!" Goten exclaimed, looking like he was about to explode from embarrassment. "She'd kill me!"
"So? You already died once and you're gonna bit the big one permanently someday. Might as well get your cherry popped before that happens."
Goten sank further into the couch. "You don't have to make it sound so crude."
"And you don't have to sound like some uptight old church lady." Trunks gave him a look. "You do like girls, right?"
Goten colored again. "Of course I do! It just--feels wrong to look at a girl and want to--to--"
'Fuck her into next week?' Trunks thought, but he knew better than to state that out loud. The poor kid was so sheltered that the mere thought of holding hands with a girl that wasn't family could make him faint. "All right, all right. Back to what's 'really' important." He turned the speakers to full blast and basked in the resultant ocean of music.
Goten picked up his controller and grinned. "Yup. What's 'really' important."
Bulma blinked as Vegita (Vegita?) set down a steaming mug of coffee in front of her. "What's the catch?" She asked, looking back and forth between the coffee and the husband she thought she had figured out.
"I didn't put anything in it, if that's what you're implying," he answered. "Other than coffee, obviously."
Bulma wasn't sure whether to feel touched or paranoid. "And why, pray tell, did it occur to you to give me coffee?"
"And why does there have to be a 'why'?" Vegita leaned over her, peering at the screen Bulma had been studying, and she felt her heart skip a beat when his arm brushed against hers. "Well, well, well. Did you wrangle a confession out of that girl, or did you figure all of this out by your genius self?"
It was beyond silly to be blushing like a teenager for this infuriating Saiyajin (worse because he surely noticed and would give her no end of teasing), but something about the lilt in his voice and the posture of his body put her in the mood for mischief. "A little bit of both, I guess. Talking to that girl was worse than squeezing blood from a rock."
"Wouldn't it be more productive to find out who's pulling her strings and using your charms on them instead?" Before Bulma could sock Vegita in the arm for that, he continued. "Of course, they probably won't care for a solution that doesn't involve exterminating us, but it might be worth a shot."
Pretty much every romantic inclination fled at that thought. (Whether this was for good or for ill remained to be seen.) Bulma sighed. "Why do these kinds of things always have to end like that?"
Vegita shrugged. "If you come up with any plausible alternatives, I'm all ears."
Bulma found herself staring even well after Vegita left the room, wondering whether he had been replaced by some sort of non-evil twin.
"--and this is a picture of everybody on my birthday!" Bra handed the album to the stranger and got up. "I need to go potty, I'll be right back, okay?" She ran out of the room without waiting for an answer and quickly found Papa, who was heading her way.
"Hey there, Princess," Papa greeted, picking her up and swung her through the air before setting her on his broad shoulders.
"Shh!" Bra admonished. "You'll scare her away!"
"Oh, right." Papa dropped his voice to an exaggerated whisper. "Is this better?"
Bra giggled as quietly as she could. "You're so silly, Papa!"
"Yes, yes, quite." Papa began walking again, swaying like he had too much to drink. "My, you're getting big, Bra."
Bra grabbed two large fistfuls of Papa's thick, spikey hair and twisted them to the right. "No, no, the other way!"
Papa gently took Bra's hands into his. "As you wish, Princess."
Pan easily picked up the heavy photo album and put it back on the shelf, then got the stranger another one. "This isn't fair, you know."
"What isn't fair?"
"You know a lot about us, but we don't know anything about you." Pan sat facing the stranger and crossed her arms. "And you won't tell us anything, not even your name."
"Why should I tell you anything? You'd think I was lying."
Pan thought about this long and hard. "I could pretend to believe you," she finally offered.
The Saiyajin blinked and stared at Pan in stunned silence for a good minute. "That'd be nice, wouldn't it, to pretend?" she mused out loud. Her hand rested on a picture of a group picture taken at one of the reunions held long before Pan had been born.
The clock on the wall began to chime, indicating that Pan's favorite show was on. "Um, I can't talk to you right now. Maybe another time, okay?"
The Saiyajin turned the page and began looking at a new set of pictures. "Maybe."
"That's a promise!" Pan called as she ran as fast as she could to the nearest room with a television with barely a backwards glance.
They--the Briefs, the Sons (all of them!), and the Saiyajin--somehow managed to fit in the kitchen. Bulma claimed this made for a more intimate dining affair, but Trunks' suspicion was that she simply didn't want to go through the trouble of setting up the formal reception area.
Bulma presided at the head of the table, along with two sets of unused silverware for her deceased parents. Vegita was to her right, and Trunks to her left. Next to Trunks was Bra, who insisted that the Saiyajin eat with her, and of course that meant Pan sat with her too, but due to space constraints she was actually in Gohan's lap. Videl shared the end of the table with Goten rather awkwardly, since she was left-handed. However, the only other lefty at the table was Chi-Chi (whose appearance at Capsule Corp was not entirely a surprise, but not entirely welcome, either), and she was on the other side of Goku so that his large body mostly prevented the two women from glaring at each other.
Bulma kept most of the conversation going, talking about safe, superficial subjects in a running monologue that was occasionally interrupted by the two girls piping up to put their two cents in. Vegita behaved himself remarkably well, keeping a straight face through some of the things that even Trunks had a hard time not rolling his eyes at. Gohan was trying to eat and feed Pan, something he couldn't quite do simultaneously. Goku and Goten stuffed themselves, oblivious to everything else going around them.
The Saiyajin finished first and rose, nodding towards Bulma. "It was a nice meal, but I'd rather not impose on you like this on a regular basis."
"I don't plan on feeding you every day, either," Bulma replied half-jokingly. "Only when I invite you over to be my guinea pig."
The Saiyajin shrugged almost imperceptively. "At least you're honest about it."
"Always the best policy, right?" Bulma poked Trunks in the ribs. "Be a gentleman and walk her out."
A chorus of "me too!" sprang up from Pan and Bra, which of course turned into a cacophony of whining as their respective parents vetoed the idea.
"Why does Trunch get to go?" Pan asked, twisting this way and that in Gohan's arms. "It's not fair!"
"Life isn't fair," the Saiyajin and Vegita answered simultaneously.
Trunks shoveled a few extra mouthfuls of food in the silence that followed, then stood as well. He cleared his throat. "Let's get going."
The Saiyajin resumed her air of neutrality. "Yes, let's."
Bulma blinked several times to make sure that her lack of sleep wasn't causing her to imagine that the Saiyajin girl was sitting in the Capsule Corp living room looking through the remainder of the photographs that she had been perusing before the meal.
When she was sufficiently certain that this was no hallucination, Bulma stepped into the doorway. "You can turn the lights on, I won't mind."
The girl only continued to examine the pictures. "I can see just fine."
"What about coffee?" Bulma offered, entering the room.
"No, thanks." Now the girl raised her head. "Do you have some sort of death wish?"
"You don't have any reason to kill me, not right now." Bulma sat down next to the girl. "And if I were going to die anyway, I'd do it in a way that might make a difference, instead of cowering in a corner somewhere."
The girl smiled slightly. "A sentiment worthy of a Saiyajin. No wonder Vegita's so taken with you."
Bulma snorted. "Taken? If I didn't know any better, I'd think that he was trying to drive me crazy."
"He might be," the girl remarked thoughtfully. "But he certainly has a strange way of going about it."
Bulma wondered just how old this girl was. "You sound like you're pretty familiar with Vegita."
The girl's attention went back to the pictures. "I thought I was."
'What's that supposed to mean?' Bulma wanted to ask, but thought better of herself. She knew from her earlier experience that afternoon that if the girl didn't want to talk, there was nothing Bulma could do about it. 'And I had thought Vegita was good at dodging questions. Sheesh.'
The girl's eyes were on Bulma again. "Is there something on my face?"
Bulma was about to apologize when she had an idea. She gave the girl a coy smirk. "Guess."
The girl chuckled. "Playing hard to get, are you? If I didn't know any better, I'd think you were trying to seduce me."
Bulma pretended to ogle the girl. "Now that you mention it, you are quite the looker. Too bad I'm already married and not into girls. Besides, I think my son's closer to your age anyway."
"The Little Prince?" It was the girl's turn to snort. "He's even more spoiled than his father."
"That he is," Bulma agreed. "By the way, he didn't give you any more while he was walking you out, did he?"
"Nah." The girl closed the album with a quick flick of her wrist. "All right, it's been fun, but that's enough reconnaisance for the day."
"Just a sec." Bulma took out her wallet and quickly found the most recent photo of the group together. "Here."
"That's a very nice gesture, but--" the girl gestured to herself. "As you can see, I don't have any pockets."
"Oh, right." Bulma scratched her cheek sheepishly, examining the girl's armor more closely this time. In addition to the typical 'glorified spandex', as Bulma jokingly dubbed the suit, the girl also wore a belt upon which hung something that looked like it could have come off the set of a science fiction movie. Bulma wondered what the odd symbol stitched just beneath the golden shoulder band meant, but she had a feeling the girl wasn't in any mood to talk about it. "I'm sure you can figure something out."
"I guess I could try." The girl stood. "Good night."
Unnecessarily Long and Tiresome Authoress' Notes:
Dialogue more realistic, action condensed, and I still managed to cover most of the necessary information. W00t.