Things got so hectic at the end of the semester, and for some reason, they didn't calm down even once I got out on winter break. Of course, they picked up even more once the new semester started. Sorry I wasn't able to update sooner.
Somehow, one of my professors managed to draft me into helping him with his new book. It's about Baptists in Romania. I've been doing proofreading/copyediting for him, and for some reason that I'm still not entirely sure of, I offered to continue helping him with it even once the semester was over. Maybe I made the offer because I knew how much work he still had left to do on it and figured it'd be a lot easier to have the same person keep working on it instead of bringing someone new in to finish up. Also, maybe I offered because he said I was good at it.
I also had to work on getting ready for my senior thesis. I'm writing a comparative study of comics and manga from a certain time period and what social issues they address. Yeah, it sounds pretty nerdy, but it's something that not a lot of research has been done on before. I still have to find a bunch of new primary sources since my original plan was much too broad.
Yeah. This means that updates for this semester will probably be pretty limited as well, but I am still working on the story. I am determined to finish it this time!
Also, yes, I got distracted by my new crack, Axis Powers Hetalia (or Hetalia: Axis Powers if you prefer). It's world history as humor, and as a history major, this is seriously like a drug designed specifically for me. It is awesome!
Since this chapter's so late, I tried to make it nice and long.
He walked slowly down the dark hallway, footfalls muffled by a thick, plush layer of carpet over the floor. There was no one awake to bother him now. He was free to roam the halls as he pleased at this late, solitary hour of the night.
It was driving him mad!
All of the humans kept insisting that he should stay in bed until he was further recovered from his injuries, and Nappa and Raditz were encouraging them out of some morbid sense of amusement. The forced inactivity left his body almost literally aching, demanding for motion and movement, and it left him in an especially foul mood. To help alleviate some amount of his pent-up energy and the worst of his temper, he'd taken to doing some basic exercises like crunches and push-ups when no one else was around, and these late-night walks afforded him some small change in scenery that helped relieve some tiny bit of the boredom that was threatening to crush his already tenuous grip on sanity.
Pausing for just a moment, he flexed his left arm—now thankfully free of the shoulder immobilizer—carefully. It was annoying; the doctors were being overly cautious about him. Yes, they were still a bit worried about him doing something to re-injure himself, but they were becoming more concerned over his recovery rate.
It was too fast.
There was no logical explanation they could come up with for how he was recovering so quickly, and it left them worried that they must have missed something. All of their tests and examinations showed that he had made almost a month's worth of healing in less than a week. Even more perplexing to them was that areas like his shoulder showed none of the usual signs of a serious injury. There was no lingering damage to the nerves or weakening of the ligaments and tendons of the joint. If anything, everything seemed stronger for the injury.
As amusing as it was to watch them sit there and scratch their heads in utter confusion, he would much rather they simply accept what they were seeing and cease their constant hovering about him. He was tired of it.
"What are you doing out here?"
Looking up, he was slightly surprised to see Bulma standing in front of him in the darkened hall. She was wearing a pale green nightgown that hung just below her knees, and her blue hair hung down past her shoulders in loose curls as it relaxed from the braid she wore it in during the day. It seemed that he'd only really known her with shorter hair. That was the person he remembered; that was the person who remembered him.
A part of him wanted to grab that hair and cut it short. He wanted to see that Bulma, his Bulma. He didn't want to see this girl who looked at him as a stranger.
Slowly, one of his hands began to reach out, touching a stray blue curl that hung away from the rest of her hair. He wrapped it loosely around his index finger, running his thumb slowly over the soft strands.
Why didn't she remember? For that matter, why did he remember? Was there a reason why certain people maintained their memories while the vast majority had turned back in mind as well as body? It seemed far too coincidental that other than the person actually responsible for the time shift, the only other person he'd met so far who also remembered the future was his fellow Earth-dwelling Saiya-jin. There had to be some reason why they remembered when almost nobody else did.
Her hand reached up, touching his wrist, and his half-lidded gaze slid over to meet her eyes. They were wide, looking at him confused and questioning, and maybe there was even a touch of fear in them.
Quickly he removed his hand from her hair, bringing the arm stiffly to his side as his gaze fell on the floor. "Don't."
"Don't look at me like that." She wasn't supposed to be afraid of him. It wasn't right.
"What are you talking about? Is it impossible for you to make any sort of sense?" She sounded more irritated than anything else now. It was familiar enough. Dark eyes slowly rose back up to look at her again. "You didn't answer my first question."
"Walking," he answered shortly.
"Obviously," she retorted with a snort and a roll of her eyes. How many times had she made that expression of annoyance during the time they'd known each other?
His hands clenched into fists, resisting the sudden urge to reach out and grab her, pull her close, hold her tight. Why couldn't she have remembered too? Why?
"You shouldn't be out of bed yet," she said, glancing away from him abruptly, wearing that uncertain expression again. His hands relaxed, and his eyes drifted slowly to stare at a point just to the side of her face, staring down the dark hallway. "The doctors said you haven't finished healing yet."
"They don't know what they're talking about when it comes to me," he said in a flat tone. Why did it have to be this way?
"You're just being stubborn again. It'll serve you right when you rip yourself open again."
Vegeta opened his mouth to say something back, but he paused as he saw a bright flash of light behind her.
Suddenly the world around them erupted in a deafening, blinding explosion. He reached out, trying to grasp the girl and protect her from the power of the blast, but his hand met only with empty air. He called out her name, but the sound of his voice was drowned out by the roar of the explosion so that even he couldn't hear it.
Finally the noise faded into silence, save the ringing in his ears, and the blinding light gave way to thick, dark smoke that was slow to clear and choking to breathe. He coughed and gagged from the dust in his throat, calling her name again once he'd managed to clear it. Only silence answered him.
"Bulma?" He squinted through the thinning smoke, worried now. His eyes widened suddenly, and his stomach dropped into his feet.
Lying amongst some large chunks of rubble, in a bloody tangle of limbs, was the girl. Her head was hanging at an awkward angle, and her eyes were staring sightlessly up into the night sky, made hazy by dust and smoke. A thin trickle of blood leaked out from the corner of her mouth, dripping from her chin and staining her nightgown. "No…"
A chill ran down his spine as a cold, derisive chuckle rang out through the night air. He knew that laugh. He would recognize it anywhere. Looking around, a cold feeling of dread rose up in his chest, threatening to strangle him right there, and his entire body began to tremble.
"Silly little monkey." He spun around, and there stood Freeza, perched lightly atop a chunk of rubble that bore a portion of the familiar Capsule Corp logo stamped on its surface. Dark lips twisted into a smile, but his red eyes were completely devoid of humor. "Did you really think that you could escape from me so easily? You belong to me."
"I don't belong to anyone!" he shouted defiantly. It was all he had.
The tyrant's image seemed to blur for a moment, and suddenly he was standing in front of him, still smiling that mirthless smile. "Oh, Vegeta," he sighed, placing one hand lightly against the boy's chest. "You should know better by now. Of course you belong to me."
The hand shot up to the boy's face, covering it and clutching his head in a vice-like grip. Nails dug into his flesh, drawing blood, and the fingers squeezed tighter, threatening to crush his skull. He gasped, feeling, hearing the bones in his face beginning to crack. "You will always belong to me."
He opened his eyes, staring up at the still perfectly intact ceiling of his hospital room. There was no smoking pile of rubble. Bulma wasn't lying dead in her own blood. Unfortunately, as much as might wish otherwise, there was still a Freeza, and he was still a very real threat. No amount of simple wishing was going to be able to get rid of that, but at least he wasn't here.
"Another nightmare?" asked a voice from over by the door.
"Shut up, Kakarotto," he growled, rolling onto his side, turning his back towards the door and the younger boy.
"That's the third one," persisted Goku. He had discovered the other Saiya-jin was having nightmares when he'd woken up, sensing rather unusual fluctuations in his ki level, and gone to investigate it. He'd found Vegeta tossing violently in his sleep, waking a minute later in a cold sweat and with panic in his unfocused gaze. It was the most unguarded he could recall ever having seen the other look.
"I told you to shut up about it." Fourth, actually, but who was counting? "My dreaming habits are nobody's business but my own."
"You were saying her name."
He flinched at that statement, pulling his knees up to his chest. The message was clear. It wouldn't remain only his business if any of the humans who were forever coming in to check on him were to hear him muttering her name in his sleep.
"It sounded like something bad happened."
"Drop it!" he ordered, sitting up abruptly and turning to glare at Goku, who looked unphased by it as usual. His tail lashed angrily as though in warning. "Just leave it alone. I meant it when I said that this isn't anyone else's concern, and that includes you."
"But aren't you worried about suddenly having nightmares?"
"No," he answered in a deadpan voice. He didn't have to wonder why he was having nightmares now. It was Dr Brief's fault. The man had made him think about the true danger he was putting himself and everyone else into and had reminded him of just how powerless he was in comparison to the Ice-jin tyrant.
Sighing heavily, he caught his tail in a light grip and began to stroke the tip gently, trying to calm himself. His scowl deepened slightly as his fingers ran over the fur, remembering Bulma's remark over the softness of it. Begrudgingly, he was forced to agree with her assessment.
It had always been that way, he recalled. Even as an adult, his fur had always been very soft—"fuzzy" as Freeza had mocked him on occasion—causing him some amounts of embarrassment. Typically, only cubs were supposed to have fine, plush fur, which was replaced with coarser hair as they became adults. For some reason, his had never made the change.
"Nightmares are just dreams. As unpleasant as they are, they're not real, and there's no deeper meaning behind why I've started having them now. It's this forced inactivity allowing my mind to become restless that's the problem," he said, allowing his tail to slip out of his grip. "I need to train."
Pushing himself to the edge of the bed, he hopped down and walked over to a small closet situated within a set of cabinets against one wall. He opened the door, pulling out a new set of clothes that Mrs. Briefs had insisted on getting for him to replace the ruined ones he'd arrived in. They were much the same style as his previous attire except that the new oversized T-shirt was stamped with the colorful image of some popular—he assumed as much anyway—cartoon character along with some inane catchphrase printed in large, bold letters across the front.
At least it wasn't pink.
"I didn't think you'd actually stick to bed rest this long."
He snorted, pulling the thin hospital gown off and beginning to dress himself. It was nice to get back into real clothes. "Don't be ridiculous. Do you really think that I would just lie around, doing nothing for five days straight? No, I've been doing some basic exercises when no one else was around to bother me over it, but I need a real workout."
Tilting his head slightly to one side and frowning, Goku asked, "How're you going to do that? You don't have the gravity room yet, and no one's really strong enough to be a very good training partner."
"I managed to train before the gravity room, and I've been without decent partners before as well," said Vegeta as he slipped his tail through a newly created hole in his shorts and wrapped it around his waist. He needed to get back in the habit of keeping it like that again.
"Are you sure you're healed enough for it?"
"What kind of stupid question is that?" growled Vegeta, spinning around to face the younger boy. He pointed a finger emphatically at a pale line running across his bare abdomen. "Does this look 'recovered enough' to you?"
"Yeah, yeah. I was just asking," he said, raising his hands in a placating gesture. "You know everyone else is going to give you trouble about being outside and especially if you start training."
"Do you think I really care?" he asked dryly as he pulled the shirt on over his head.
"You care about some of them."
"That was a rhetorical question—especially the part about you thinking," he said, walking over to the large window in his room.
"Hey!" exclaimed Goku as he realized he'd been insulted. "That's not nice."
Looking down into the back yard where Nappa and Raditz were doing some light sparring, Vegeta allowed himself a small smirk. "Since when has anyone ever used the word 'nice' to describe me?"
Placing one hand on the back of his head and giving a small laugh, he said, "I guess you've got a point…though I have heard Bulma use 'nice' to describe parts of you."
A red blush instantly stained his cheeks, and he bit back an angry curse aimed at that woman and her infuriating love of embarrassing him. He would need to pay her back once they finally managed to return time to normal. "Sh-shut up, you idiot! You're the last person I want to hear things like that from!"
Waiting until his face ceased burning, he pushed the window open and jumped up onto the ledge. He glanced outside, making certain that he wouldn't be dropping into any shrubbery or other plant-life. He'd learned to always check after one time where he'd ended up tangled in a large rose bush. It had taken him nearly an hour to pluck all of the thorns out of his hide, but he'd fared better than Mrs. Briefs' beloved roses.
Seeing that he was clear, he dropped down onto the ground outside, using his ki to slightly cushion his landing. He cast a glance back over his shoulder a he heard a scuttling, shuffling noise and saw the younger boy climbing out of the window as well. Turning back around, he walked off across the lawn towards the other two men.
Goku hopped down and broke into a quick sprint to catch up with Vegeta. "Are you okay? You still seem a little flustered?"
A faint hint of pink spread over his face. "Are you doing this on purpose? Every time you open your mouth today, you say something that makes me want to throttle you."
"I didn't mean anything by it," he said in an almost apologetic tone. The sincerity was infuriatingly genuine. "But you know, you're the last person I would've expected to get so easily embarrassed about stuff like that."
"Shut up!" he snapped back as he felt his face beginning to burn hotter. This was no way for him to be seen. "Moron…"
"I am not!" objected Raditz, becoming distracted from his match just long enough to receive a punch from the larger man that sent him skidding over the grass. He groaned as he slid to a stop.
Nappa frowned, lowering his fists and relaxing his stance slightly. "Are you sure about that? You're too old to let your focus keep slipping so easily."
One arm suddenly rose up, blocking a foot as it swung at his head. His dark eyes shifted, looking at the boy still hanging in midair with his leg extended and an amused smirk on his lips. "I'm going to assume you haven't been cleared for release by the doctors yet."
"Doctors guess. I know when my body is recovered." He lowered his leg and came at the man again, throwing a series of punches at him. "Now I have all this pent up energy, and I need something to spend it on."
"So you came to spar," he said, grunting as he caught one of the boy's fists in his massive hand.
Pulling his hand free, Vegeta's smirk seemed to twist into a slightly more predatory expression. "Of course, and aren't you curious to see how my style's changed? It won't be like what you remember from me."
Glancing briefly over at Raditz, who'd regained his feet a minute ago, Nappa asked, "Two against one?"
"Three, if Kakarotto wants to jump in too."
Nappa's brows furrowed and his jaw shifted in a moment of uncertainty as he glanced over at the youngest member of their group. Without the scouter, he couldn't tell the boy's battle power—he mad a mental note to have Vegeta teach him that sensing technique at some point—but he remembered watching as the boy dropped out of the sky, having exhausted his ki trying to lead them to West City. He couldn't have very much power. It would be all too easy to accidentally injure the boy, and that would only slow them down more.
Opening his mouth to state his opinion on the matter, he was quickly cut off as the prince stated, "He is a Saiya-jin too. Do you think that you can really stop him from fighting?"
"Fine," huffed Nappa, making a show of appearing appropriately irritated. "Let the runt risk his neck if he wants."
"It's three against me then. Let's see if any of you can even land a decent hit," he boasted, looking at the others. His eyes paused on Goku for a moment. "Don't expect me to hold back so much on my strength this time."
"You know I wouldn't," he responded casually. It was their usual sort of verbal exchange.
That seemed to be taken as some sort of cue as Nappa and Raditz suddenly attacked. For a few minutes they traded light blows, testing each other's style and ability, renewing the lapsed familiarity between them. Quietly, Goku stood back, watching the trio engage. He didn't really understand it, but he knew that this part was not for him to join in on.
There was a momentary pause in the action, and he could almost sense something in the atmosphere between them change. It was getting serious now. An eager grin spread across his face as he raced towards the group, diving in as they began fighting again.
For a good hour they fought, sparing little energy to snark back and forth at one another but thoroughly enjoying themselves just the same. Although he was easily stronger than the other three even when fighting together, it had been quite a while since Vegeta had been involved in any sort of extended combat against multiple opponents. It required him to have a greater range of focus than he'd become used to, but his ki sense was certainly of benefit to him. Even in the instances he became too focused on one of them, he never completely lost track of the others.
"Oh my!" Their fighting screeched to a halt at the sound of that exclamation.
Mrs. Briefs stood in the back yard, holding a large watering can and staring at them with an expression that seemed astonished but was difficult to read due to her closed eyes. Regardless, the fight was effectively over.
"What're you all fighting about? Is something wrong?"
"No," answered Nappa, swallowing his discomfort at dealing with the woman. "There is nothing wrong. We were only having a mock fight. It wasn't anything serious."
She smiled at them again, accepting the answer easily. "Well, that's quite a relief. I was worried that you might've gotten into a disagreement about something from the way you were fighting."
"Our practice looks serious to those who don't know better."
Nodding her head, the woman walked over to a nearby flowerbed and knelt down onto the grass, staring down at the plants for a long moment. "That makes sense, I guess. I mean, I don't know anything about fighting, so a punch or a kick always looks like something serious to me, and you were all ganged up on poor, little Vegeta—" Raditz snorted and began laughing quietly, but he was quickly silenced as the prince gave him a swift kick to the stomach. Gasping and gagging, he sank down onto his knees, clutching his midsection. "It made me worry that he might've been trying to run away again."
"I don't run away!" he snapped almost reflexively.
The woman just smiled absently as she reached into the flowerbed. She pulled her hand back a few moments later, clutching a fistful of dead plant material. Her mouth pulled into a rare frown. "Oh, I just don't understand it. I'm doing everything just the same as I always do, but my gardens just keep getting worse."
Brows furrowing thoughtfully for a moment, Vegeta glanced around at the backyards, for the first time taking real note of its condition. The flowerbeds were surprisingly sparse, and the grass beneath their feet had acquired a decidedly unhealthy brown color. The trees and larger shrubs seemed to be suffering similarly as well. The grass he might've been willing to dismiss as a product of seasonal change—not that he was entirely certain which season they were currently in—but the trees were certainly strange. If they'd been changing due to the seasons, the leaves would have been turning red, orange, and yellow rather than this dull, dingy brown.
"I noticed this when we met up with you, but I didn't think anything of it then. The grass there was yellow and dead-looking," he said in a thoughtful tone as he looked at the younger boy. "What season is it?"
"Um…" Goku pursed his lips for a moment, looking briefly skyward before shrugging his shoulders. "I don't really know, but it feels kind of like early fall or mid-spring maybe."
He grunted, mentally criticizing himself for having thought he could expect better than that from the brain damaged Saiya-jin. "Woman," he called, drawing back slightly in discomfort as he addressed Mrs. Briefs. "What month is it?"
Looking up from her flowers, she smiled again and answered, "It's August, dear, and you don't need to address me that way. You can call me Mrs. Briefs if you want, or you could even call me 'mom' if you preferred that. I heard about your parents, so feel free to think of me as a second mother while you're staying here."
"I would not prefer that, woman," he responded sharply. With a huff, he turned abruptly and stalked away from her.
"Oh… Did I say something wrong?"
The two men traded helpless glances as Goku sprinted off after the other boy. What could they really say on the matter?
"Hey, Vegeta! Wait up! There's no need to be so mean like that."
"Don't lecture me."
Sighing resignedly, he asked, "So why're you suddenly so interested in what time of year it is?"
"Look around," said Vegeta, halting but not looking back. "Does it look like August? Does it feel like August?"
"No, not really."
"There's something wrong. I'm starting to get an idea of what that guy might be up to, but it doesn't make sense why he'd go to the trouble of shifting time for something like that."
"What?" asked Nappa as he and Raditz came up to them as well. "What's he doing?"
He looked back over his shoulder, glancing up at them before saying, "I think he may be a harvester."
"Are you serious?" asked the long-haired man. "What would someone like that be doing all the way out here? There are plenty of other planets he could go to that aren't so far out in the frontier."
"Do you think I don't know that?"
"The planet does seem to show some of the signs of being harvested," commented Nappa as he looked slowly around at the environment as well. Even lacking familiarity with the normal appearance of the planet's native vegetation, he could still see the unhealthiness of it. "We haven't seen enough of the planet to know for certain though. It could just be a phenomenon in these places only."
"We'll be able to find out for certain once we leave to find the dragonballs."
"What's a harvester?" asked Goku, looking back and forth between the others with a curious and somewhat confused expression. It was another reminder of just how isolated—sheltered some might try to argue—he'd been on this planet. There was so much he really didn't have a clue about. "You guys make it sound like a bad thing."
"It is," answered Vegeta flatly, but he offered no further explanation. He was becoming quite tired of explaining things to people.
Taking the silence as a cue, Nappa said, "They're world destroyers of a different kind than those like us. Harvesters go to planets that are not claimed by the Kold Empire of the Federation and steal their energy, leaving them dried-up, dead rocks incapable of supporting life."
"Why do they do that?"
"The collected energy is processed and refined into power cells that are then used by interstellar ports and weigh stations that have no natural ability to sustain themselves. They're illegal, of course. According to Federation mandate, all stations are supposed to use energy cells that are produced synthetically, but many feel that real energy is better quality."
"So he's trying to kill the planet? We have to stop him!"
Vegeta snorted, the corner of his lips twitching in faint amusement. Predictable. "We can't do much of anything so long as we can't find him."
"The planet isn't dead yet, Kakarotto. Drawing off a planet's energy is not a quick process, and he won't want to make another big time shift before he's done with the job." A grim smirk played over his mouth. "For now, we have time."
Opening, his eyes, he wasn't immediately certain of what had woken him. He blinked a couple of times, taking note that the room was still dark except for the slats of light coming in through the window blinds. It was definitely still night. He felt as though he couldn't have been asleep for more than a couple of hours.
"Raditz, are you awake?"
Grunting, he mumbled, "I am now." He rolled over, looking through sleep-hazed eyes at his younger brother. "What?"
"Um… I was wondering…"
"What was our planet like?"
He blinked again, brow furrowing as he looked at the innocently curious face in front of him. "That's what you woke me up for?"
"Yeah. I just started thinking about it, and I wanted to know what it was like."
A curse with no venom behind it slipped out between his lips as he grudgingly pushed himself up into a sitting position. It didn't seem that he was going to be getting back to sleep any time soon. "I'm gonna guess the brat prince was never very talkative about it."
Goku shook his head.
"No surprise," he grumbled, scratching his scalp absently. "He probably doesn't really remember all that much about it anyway."
He paused, looking down at the blankets that still covered the lower portion of his body. Dropping his hand down into his lap, he looked back up at his brother. "He's not that much older than you, and you were just a newborn when the planet was destroyed. He just wasn't alive long enough to have a whole lot of memories about the planet."
"Oh." He wondered how much Vegeta really did remember. Of course, he never expected that he would actually find out the answer to that. "So what about the planet?"
"It was very different from this planet..." began Raditz, smiling in spite of the fact that it seemed he wasn't going to be getting back to sleep any time soon.
I really debated over having the ending scene be with Vegeta or Goku. Obviously I eventually decided on the latter, but that was not without testing a couple of different scenes out first. It just felt like a needed to write a bit more that didn't actually have him making an appearance, and I felt in the mood for a bit of brotherly bonding. I can be a bit of a sap at times, yes.
First, thanks to everyone who pointed out the missing quotation marks in the previous chapter. Somehow, when I uploaded the chapter all of the quotation marks got deleted. It was definitely not intentional. I usually check my chapters before I post them, but this was, of course, the one time I forgot to do that.
Thank you to gamegirl07, Kiomori (Yes, the dragonball hunt will be starting soon.), Solitary Hawk, JollyVenturer, divad relffehs, Connor S., Whatev3691 (Yeah. I'd really been thinking that I needed to give the other Saiya-jins some more development.), GoldenKitsuneHime13 (My school is not evil. I'm actually quite fond of my college and professors and classes even. They just sometimes take up much of my time so that I can't get more writing done.), GCTIGERFAN1 (They may find out some things, but I don't want to give everything away.), mynameisthedoctor, Stiehl (I know. Dr. Briefs is supposed to a super genius in his own right, but we only ever really see it in the things he's created rather than in his character. I wanted to give him a bit more depth, but I felt like leaving Mrs. Briefs alone. It's more fun to write her if she's a complete airhead.), supersaiyaman (Well, if you think about it, alternate timelines really must exist. Every time we are presented with a choice, each decision creates a divergent timeline. Basically, every instant creates an infinite number of divergent universes.), darkryubaby, killing u with umbrellas, birdy (Actually, I just deleted all the old chapters and started over from the beginning of the story.), and j. (Sorry. There's no B/V in this chapter. Well, unless you count the bit with Vegeta's dream. I did toy with actually putting some in this chapter, but I decided that I wanted to write some interaction between just the brothers.) for reviewing the last chapter. Sorry about the long wait.