New chapter up! Thanks for all the favorites and reviews... haven´t much time to respond ultimately, but I appreciate them the same way. I´m glad to know this story is being so appreciated. My biggest thanks to Cyberbat for betaing it for me!
A series of round marks scarred the huge stone block, the newest ones covering the others before them. At every blow, more and more of the rock was shaken from its foundations at the edge of the cliff. Finally it loosened and started rolling along the border, like trying to avoid more punches, but its assaulter followed it closely, never stopping his pummeling. The last punch exploded the block into millions of shards, which fell like a dusty rain to the sea below.
Taking a deep breath, Krillin wiped the sweat on his forehead with a hand. Lowering his raised arm down, he took both hands to the level of his eyes so he could check on them. If he was a normal man, that violent exercise would have completely crushed the delicate bones of his hands, but they had nothing but a few scratches.
"I think I can take a break now." he muttered to the waves down the cliff.
During the last months, Krillin had slacked too much on his training. Too many escapades to West City just to hang around at the mall with Oolong or by himself. After Bulma's birthday, however, Krillin realized he had to push himself much harder, if he really wanted to be of some use at the battle against the Androids. For that, Muten Roshi decided that they should move to a larger place, so they were living again at the peninsula were Krillin and Goku had trained when they were kids. Krillin was grateful to his master´s support, but frequently he thought it would be much easier to concentrate in an unknown place, which wouldn't bring back so many memories. It was funny, now, to remember the way he had tried to overpass Goku at those old times. How stupid he had been!
The movies and books had plenty of stories about people who break their limits just with determination and effort. However, their are barriers that even with all the determination and effort in the universe can't break. In Krillin´s case, his physical barriers were caused by the genetic difference between humans and Saiyans, and, despite how much he tried to get past it, that was getting him down.
"I wonder why I still insist on that." he sighed "I´ll never become as strong as Goku or Vegeta... I don´t even know if I´ll really be of some use against those androids. Perhaps I should give up and look for some good girl to marry and have a family."
A shadow spread over him.
"Hardly. Unless you find a girl who´ll need a support to eat soup."
Krillin spun around even before the last words of the phrase were said. Although he knew the guy and that he was more or less at his side now, Krillin couldn't help the panicked knot developing in his stomach. Confused at this, he held his breath in an attempt to calm himself. Only then he noticed how bizarrely the visitor was dressed. Of course! Those clothes had brought him back to the terror in Namek. So that was the reason why Bulma has required his battle suit? To make new clothes for that psycho?
"Damn you, Vegeta! You almost scared me to death!"
Vegeta´s eyes scanned him from head to toe, in a slow, deliberated manner.
"You´re out of shape. If I wanted to, I could have burned you into ashes a few minutes ago." he stated.
Krillin clenched his teeth in anger, especially because he thought exactly the same thing.
"Have you come here only to insult me?" he asked back.
Vegeta let out the breath from his lungs, as if he was reluctant to give response.
"That information you gave to Bulma´s mother. About how she went traveling to look for Doctor Gero and stop him. Was it true?" he asked forcefully.
That wasn't absolutely what Krillin expected. He blinked for a few instants, initially, then...
"T-That stuff? Oh, yes...n-n-no, no! Absolutely not!" he bellowed, his hands waving and his head shaking frantically as if that could make the Saiyan sure that Krillin was not lying. "Look... my friends and I went to Bulma´s birthday only to find that she wasn't there. Mrs. Briefs thought that Bulma was on a mission and I... I just added some stuff to help. I mean, I couldn't blame Bulma for not wanting to stay in that party with all those boring people around, you know how her parents are about this kind of thing... " A horrible thought flashed through the monk´s mind and his already big eyes stretched to the size of car wheels. "D-Did... did you hurt Bulma because of that?"
Vegeta started turning toward the cliff.
"She is alive" he stated, shooting Krillin a look over his shoulder "But never say a word of our talking to anyone, or I´ll kill you. And the two perverts inside of the house, too."
With that, he jumped and flew down, making a crescent over the sea and opening a trail among the waves.
"I didn't tell you that it was a secret, yes. But this is absolutely not a reason for you to go and gossip about every single thing I do with anyone!"
Stepping away further, Dr. Briefs pressed his back against the wall, almost crushing his poor little cat in the act. He knew he shouldn't have been talked into being his wife´s peace negotiator. It had been five days since that horrible night when Vegeta had left Capsule Corp. Since then, Bulma refused to talk to her mother and her mother insisted on making Bulma talk to her. Despite all the explanations, the innocent blonde still didn't understand (or pretended not to) her role in all that mess. Dr. Briefs had found her with a huge tray of pastries in front of the lab door, trying to persuade the robot guard Bulma had posted there to let her go inside. That was when he finally decided to do something to bring peace back to his family. And now there he was, completely regretful of that.
"I know mom didn't mean any harm when she mouthed it off, she NEVER does!" Bulma carried on, "Just like when I was five and peed on my bed, and momma told that to all the mothers of my class colleagues, just because she found it was 'cute'! Remember that? You had to transfer me to another school because everyone started calling me 'Bulma Leak'!" her voice shook at the memory of that humiliation. Touched by his daughter´s distress, the old scientist left the wall and ventured a few steps forwards.
"I don´t know why," he said innocently. "Every child urinates in bed at least once in a lifet..."
"And every time Yamcha and I fought, every girl in the neighborhood came here bringing pies and low-necked till their bellybuttons! How did they always know? And momma had the nerve to scold me because I hadn't told her that Vegeta and I were together! Why? Just to gossip around about her daughter´s new 'boyfriend' so I would loose all my friends?"
"Do your friends hate Vegeta that much?"
Bulma ignored her father´s question.
"Besides her utter disrespect to my privacy, her indiscretions might put us all in danger. Any Red Ribbon spy could get all the info he needed just by coming here dressed as a deliver boy or something alike. If Dr. Gero discovers that we´re preparing a welcoming party for his androids within three years, he´ll certainly make provisions."
The old man´s naturally pale face went completely white.
"I... I hadn't thought about this. I´m going to have a good talk to your mother. But you should have told me about the androids earlier, my dear. I could have helped."
The change of subject seemed to soothe Bulma a little. Sitting in front of her computer, she touched absently at the small, still sensitive cut on her neck, caused by a small shard of china that had caught on her neck at dinner. Dr. Briefs walked to stand behind her.
"Are you sure that those pills from future will help Goku's heart?"
"Absolutely sure, no. Goku hid the bottle before I could remember to ask him for a sample for analysis. I've been researching about heart diseases, but I haven't found one caused by a virus... it´ll probably appear only within three years." she sighed.
Even for the usually absent Dr. Briefs, it was very clear that her dismay was not caused by her unsuccessful research.
"Don´t you really want to have our people get Vegeta back? We could find him easily with any of our satellites."
Bulma couldn't help but smiling. Her sweet, naive dad had seen what Vegeta could do and yet he purposed to risk the lives of their poor employees!
"Thanks, but no. If Vegeta flew away, that means he doesn't want to be bothered. If we found him that would just make him angrier. He´ll have to come back. He has no money, no friends or allies - and, more importantly, training with the Earth gravity is not the same thing." she paused, remaining in silence for a few moments, as something went into her mind. Slowly, small points of light appeared from the back of her blue eyes, her chin hardening in a resolute expression. "Besides, I have my pride, too."
Looking over her shoulder, she cast a glance toward the contents on a metal table behind them.
"Will you please take those pastries to our employees, dad? I'm on diet." she added matter-of-factly.
"Ok." with a nod, the old scientist took the tray in his hands and left the laboratory, with his cat eternally hanging upon his shoulder.
"Y' know, Scratch," he started "I wonder what was wrong with Yamcha or even with that nice boy, Goku... Women have such a funny taste sometimes."
"I can tell that by my own experience. My wife, for example. She always liked handsome, strapping men, and yet she chose me to marry. I never got to figure out what did she ever see in me - especially because we started dating before I became rich."
Bulma had the same taste as her mother for brawny, good-looking guys. However, Yamcha and Goku had muscles, too. No, her father suspected that the reason for Bulma choosing such a cruel, rude man among others was very different. And much, much deeper.
Dr. Briefs´ greatest love, even stronger than his love for inventing, was the stray animals he sheltered and took care of. Cats, dogs, even baby dinosaurs... One of the joys of becoming so rich was to finally have space and enough money to take care of so many pets. Many of them had been badly treated in the past, taking months or even years to ever trust someone again. And although Bulma occasionally made sour comments about her father´s obsession, deep down she had that in common with him. Instead of animals, she sheltered stray people - humans, talking animals or aliens. In part it was for this reason that the old man always had allowed her to bring strangers to their home, because he felt happy to see she had inherited more from him than the hair color and brains.
Deep within, animals aren't so different from people. Humans also become scarred inwardly because of the things someone does to them. And Vegeta, whom looked more like a wild animal than a human being at the doctor´s point of view (a tiger or a lone wolf, for example), he was indeed a very scarred man. Maybe that was why Bulma felt so attracted towards him, being more patient with Vegeta than with her friends and her own parents. Her words to her mother that terrible night had been marked in the doctor´s mind.
It was hard enough to regain the trust of a scarred animal. Of rational beings, whom are far more complex, it would be even harder. Despite being an optimist by nature, Dr. Briefs didn't believe much in that Bulma would win back the Saiyan´s trust, if he really had ever trusted her.
The doctor only hoped that, by falling for such a scarred man, his cheerful little girl wouldn't become deeply scarred, too.
It was 1:00 PM when a low buzzing sound woke Bulma out of a not so deep sleep. Cursing, she tossed her hand and slapped down the alarm clock along with almost everything resting on her bed table, but the annoying sound was still there, insisting. Only when she grudgingly sat on her bed and held out her hand to light the lamp on she realized that the buzzing came from her wrist alarm. Now completely awaken, she turned the small thing off, jumped from her bed and marched toward the window. Out there, a faint red light blinked through the windows of the spaceship.
"So soon?" Bulma whispered in disbelief.
Two days after their fight, she had turned her GR wrist alarm on. It was the same alarm she had used months ago, in order to keep Vegeta from training because he was still too injured. She just didn't expect that he would return so soon.
Well, that was up to him. Perhaps a few things were actually above his treasured pride, after all. At least she could sleep better now. Turning off the light, Bulma climbed back to her bed and laid on her side, her face turning to the wall as she pulled the blankets over herself. A few seconds past and her body laid on the other side, her face turning to the window. Against her will, her eyes opened, as if her eyelids were pulled by invisible fingers, turning automatically at the window.
"Stop that" Bulma mumbled to herself "If Vegeta can play hard to get, I can, too."
Whirling in the air, Vegeta gave a series of kicks and punches. He had missed the gravity chamber during those few days away from the Capsule Corp. He didn't turn around when the smooth light of the holographic screen came to life at his back. The woman´s self-respect had more ups and downs than an elevator. However, instead of the screaming and whining Vegeta expected, he heard nothing but the buzzing of the gravity machine. Funny. Even without looking, he knew perfectly well she was there. What was happening?
Bulma had prepared a beautiful defense lecture all the way to the laboratory. Every phrase, every word had been carefully prepared even before she turned the communication screen on; however, now nothing of this seemed proper to say. She sat staring at the tanned back that shone with sweat at the redness of the chamber. Like usual, he was clad only in a pair of training shorts and the vision of so much exposed flesh reminded her of those two crazy nights they had spent together out in the meadow, his awkward but almost gentle touch like a teenager´s in his first...
"What do you want?!" Vegeta bellowed suddenly as he turned around, so quickly that Bulma couldn´t even notice the movement "Speak at once and go away. I can´t concentrate with you staring at me!"
Bulma almost fell from her chair. That man seemed to have eyes on his back!
"You´ve really got a nerve!" she shouted back "You won't talk to me, but you can use MY dad´s gravity room!"
"One thing has nothing to do with the other. It wasn't your 'dad' who I thought that had betrayed me."
"Then you mean... what?!" Bulma started to say when her mind absorbed the implications of Vegeta´s second phrase, making her gasp. Vegeta snickered cruelly.
"What a shame. I ruined the explanation you had prepared so carefully, didn´t I?" he sneered.
"B-But... how? I mean... how did you realize? Ah, I got it." Bulma´s face lightened. "You realized that I never would have done that."
Vegeta couldn't decide if he should laugh at the woman´s foolishness. Sometimes she was smart, but in other moments she said things that would make even Kakarot fall on his back. Carefully, he chose his words, avoiding to mention his encounter with the bald dwarf. To know the truth about that damned misunderstanding hadn't brought him any relief. Actually, he had needed much of his self-control to not reduce the little nosy guy to dust.
"Wrong again. It´s just that, as soon as I chilled down I realized that the story told by your stupid mother couldn't be true." He made a pause and raised his eyes to make sure she was paying attention. "Your mother said that Kakarot had gone with you. I knew that was impossible, because I fought him a few hours before we met in the party. After that, he never left his family. If he left the Earth or fought another enemy, I would know by his ki signature."
Bulma batted her eyes. That crackpot was such a godamn Sherlock Holmes.
"Is that all? Good." he gave a half-smirk, satisfied at her lack of reaction "Now go and don´t come back. And don´t wait for me. This training session will be long and tiring." giving the subject as finished, he turned around for a new series of punches. He heard her breath becoming heavier, but that didn´t give him any alert.
"Is that all?" Bulma repeated slowly, in that falsely calm tone that announces a storm coming. Vegeta just gave her an irritated glare upon his shoulder.
"IS THAT ALL?" she exploded "You... deduced I didn´t do anything to Dr. Gero, then everything is alright and you come back to train as if nothing has happened! As if you hadn´t almost killed my parents and I, and destroyed part of the kitchen! Look at this! A shard of glass cut my neck! I could have gained a scar!"
"What else do you want from me? To kneel and apologize? I´m not going to do that! It´s humiliating enough for me to know that I committed a stupid mistake and admit that. Beside, that was all YOUR fault! Nothing of that would have happened if you weren't such a coward to the point of lying to your bloody parents instead of telling them to fuck themselves!"
"I was not expecting apologizes. That´s a thing any decent person would do, but you´re not a decent person. No, I´m talking about your complete inconsideration to me. Do you have some idea about what I´ve been through these last days, Vegeta? I haven´t slept, I´m having to apply ice everyday to disguise these purple circles under my eyes! Worse, I felt... terrible, because, I... hurt you, even though that wasn't my fault. And when you finally came back, you ran directly to this blasted gravity room! Did it cost so much for your pride to look for me and say 'Bulma, I thought better and I believe in you when you say you wouldn´t try to back stab me. Now leave me alone, I´m late for training.' she said, mocking Vegeta´s dry tone.
"Of course it costs. Isn´t that obvious?" Vegeta thought "If I didn´t need your help so desperately, I´d never would have come back here. I thought you understood me. Or is that another way for you rubbing, again, my debt in my face? The truth is that my life now is not much different from the way I lived before. Of course, I´m no longer tortured, but I still have to live in a place I don´t belong and I´m reminded of that all the time. I thought that by making you mine, I would make all of this mine too, but everything I did was to sink a bit further."
As selfish and unfair as these thoughts were, they were completely according to Vegeta´s mentality and experience of life. Although Vegeta recognized human´s feelings, he was still unable to understand them in their totality, so he interpreted Bulma's affection for him as a mixture of lust and sympathy. He had gotten used to her scolding and nagging, and even to her maddening motherly fuss whenever he got hurt; but that situation was completely new for him. Back to his old life, the maximum that could happen to him was to be chewed out if he didn't presented himself immediately when summoned, or if he left the Ice Planet bases without permission. But nobody would ever be worried at his absence. All the alive beings in the universe would be relieved if his body and soul were wiped out from existence.
And certainly nobody ever had worried about hurting his feelings. All that disturbed him, especially because Vegeta himself couldn´t understand what had hurt him so much about Bulma´s supposed betrayal. Too many times he had been back stabbed in his life and eventually got infuriated at this, but his anger was for having been fooled. Betraying and lying were just part of his world, and he never hesitated in using both for his profit. Like when he allied with Gohan, Krillin and Goku back on Namek, planning to kill them when they were no longer needed. Deep down he suspected they knew that, too. However, when Vegeta realized that Gohan, Krillin and the Namekian brat tried to summon the dragon and make the wishes without him, something had stirred inside of him. It was an usual feeling, almost a physical pain, but different from any pain he had experienced before. The feeling came even stronger when he thought that Bulma had tried to slay Gero behind his back. It was like he had been cut inside. Worse, she had noticed that! Bitch...You´ll see it... Feverishly, Vegeta searched his mind after something to hurt her as much as she had hurt him. Unaware of the turmoil of thoughts inside his head, Bulma kept ranting and whining on the hologram screen.
"When did you plan to tell me?" she insisted "When you´d need another invention of mine or a warm body on your bed?"
"And you don´t want to be called a slut." Vegeta thought, concealing his embarrassment with a smirk. "I still don´t understand why you´re making such a big deal about that. You should be used to being forgotten. Wasn´t that how Yamcha and your so-called friends did to you?"
Her eyes promptly registered the impact of his cruel words over her. But differently from what Vegeta expected, Bulma´s response came calmly and even toned.
"Did you get used to be tortured when you worked for Freeza?"
Vegeta´s silence said everything for him.
"Nobody becomes used to be abused, insulted or neglected,Vegeta." Bulma carried on. "You, from all people, should know that. I thought you were different. No, don´t cut me off. I know perfectly well how selfish, petty and cruel you are. However... I was starting to think that somehow you valued me. But you´re just like the others... nothing but a brute with his mind set on fighting and fighting."
"I was wrong, you´re just like Kakarot and the rest of the hypocritical little saints." Vegeta´s voice echoed into his own ears, repeating over and over the accusation he done to her during that cursed dinner. Without any specific reason, he felt his stomach sink.
"I´m tired of always being second best, or even less than that." Bulma sniffed, narrowing her eyes to keep tears from coming. "I want someone to take care of me, someone who´ll really love me and not just looking for my services and then pushing me aside like an old tool when they´re not necessary. Don´t worry, I´ll no longer interrupt your precious training. And don´t you ever enter in my room, or I'll tell Goku you raped me and he'll come after you." Raising to her feet, she held out a shaking hand to the computer board, in a clear sign that the discussion was over.
Vegeta´s voice still reached her. "If you wanted to be pampered, then you should never have became involved with fighters like us."
But the hologram screen had already been turned off. He dismissed that with a shrug. It was just another silly fight. In a few days she would be picking on him again.
Suddenly, all the lights were turned off and the gravity went back to normal. Caught off guard, Vegeta couldn't stop in the air and collided with the ceiling, almost opening a hole in the ship.
"#$% *&*PIECE OF A SLUT#$%!