Disclaimer: I do not own any part of Dragonball Z. I only like to play in their universe for a while.
Ounce of Good
The room was quiet now. He had stopped his delirious rambling about Goku, and then Frieza. Bulma sat in the chair at the desk and watched him. Beneath the oxygen mask his breathing was steady and even. He looked nothing like the insane villain she remembered from Namek. There, she had trembled at the mention of his name, and had taken each breath afraid that he might suddenly drop from the sky. She couldn't help but recall the dream she had experienced on Namek when she was guarding the dragonball. The dream that had seemed so terrifyingly real. He had been there; he had found her hiding the dragon ball. His features were contorted with rage; his eyes were wild and irrational. She had seen her death in them, and she had tried to scream at him to take the dragonball, just take it! But he hadn't heard her. He had walked towards her and lifted his hand, and she had seen the glow in his palm of the energy ball he was going to kill her with.
And she had awaked alone. And frightened out of her wits. He had terrified her from the first moment she had seen him; when he had arrived from space to take over the planet with his huge henchman. Then, she had been terrified again when she had found out he had followed them, somehow, to Namek, searching for the dragonballs just like they were.
And he had further terrified her when he had battled the one he called Zarbon, and killed him right in front of them, then threatened Krillen and her, and took their dragonball. Just hearing his name had made her shake uncontrollably.
But he didn't scare her now. Well, not as much, anyway. For all of his arrogance, she could tell that he was in a situation that, for once, he couldn't control. When they had first arrived on earth in answer to the dragonball wish, he had actually seemed numb with shock for a short time. That had helped her overcome her gibbering fear of him. There had been no need. He had still been a sociopathic bully, but the others were there to control him. And he seemed to know that he couldn't take them all on at once. He was alone, and on an alien world he couldn't conquer. He had no choice but to cooperate, no matter how reluctantly.
Strange how he didn't look like a murderous planet-purger lying there swathed in bandages. He just looked like a man who had gotten hurt. Kind of like Goku looked now and then when he ended up on the worst end of the battle. Somehow, she had never seen Vegeta as someone who could get hurt. He was always the cause of injury, not the recipient. Yet, she knew that he had been hurt by Goku and the others the first time he came to earth, and had barely made it off the planet alive. And then, only because Goku had been too kind to let Krillen finish him off.
Bulma let her eyes drift over his unconscious features. When she had told him he was "kinda cute" on that first day back on earth, she'd done it more to ease her own discomfort than because she had really noticed anything more about him than his disagreeable expression. Then, just a week ago, he had startled her speechless when, in the middle of a disagreement, he had dropped the cynical façade and had switched into a charm mode that had rendered her in such a state of shock she hadn't moved for five minutes after he disappeared from view. She had thrown out a challenge to the man and he had taken it. She had spent the past week with that image at the surface of her mind. Never, ever, had she expected to see any sort of civility in Vegeta, let alone the kind of charisma that made her blood heat up and her knees go weak.
Now, she had to admit, "kinda cute", wasn't exactly accurate. He was more than that. He was the opposite of her dear friend Goku. Where Goku was tall and strong, and had mobil, easy to read features, Vegeta was strong, but in a compact way. His features were proud and haughty, yet his feelings for the most part, were hidden beneath a mask of superiority and scorn. What feelings did this Saiyan Prince actually have? That was an interesting question. Bulma wasn't sure she could even begin to guess. But, then, she recalled a conversation she had had with Goku when he had slipped back to Capsule Corp one day not long after his return from space
Bulma stood on the balcony off of her bedroom and stared out over the pale blue sky. She signed. She was tired of complications. She hadn't recovered from the whole "Namek" thing yet really. Her nerves might never be the same. She sighed again. At least the Nameks had all gone to their new planet now, and things were a little more normal. If you could call having a mass murderer living in your home "normal". Her eyes slid to focus on the Gravity Room her father had completed for Vegeta to train in. Since he heard that's what Goku had done on his voyage to planet Namek, then of course the Saiyan Prince had to do it too. Why was it that her father would jump to fix anything for him? Why was it her mother practically idolized him? Sometimes the Vegeta worship got so thick Bulma wanted to remind them all of all the people he had killed, or had caused to be killed. People they knew, friends, that were only alive now because of the dragonballs.
Yamcha didn't trust him at all. He told Bulma that often enough. Krillen was wary of him, but then he had fought with Vegeta against Frieza. Gohan, now he gave really complicated views on Vegeta for a kid. There was a certain admiration and respect. But at the same time Gohan didn't completely trust him either. Neither Tien nor Chaotzu liked him at all. Yajirobe was simple terrified of him. Bulma frowned.
"Heavy thoughts, there Bulma." Came a cheerful and familiar voice from above. Bulma's eyes snapped up and she saw Goku hovering a few yards above the balcony.
"Goku, you made me jump!" Bulma couldn't be irritated at the big goof no matter what he did. That smile of his just warmed her up inside.
"Sorry." He grinned crookedly and floated down to eye level. "I was just making sure you weren't busy before I said anything. Got a minute?"
"For you, maybe two minutes. Come on and land." Bulma smiled back at him. She stepped back as Goku touched down on the balcony. The minute his feet were planted on the floor, Bulma heard the deep rumble of his stomach. She laughed. "I might have known. What happened? ChiChi run out of food or something?"
"Heh!" Goku gave a sheepish grin and shook his head. "No, not really. Been training with Piccolo and Gohan a lot. Burns up a lot of energy."
"Well, come on in. Goodness knows, after all this time I should know to have plenty of food around at all times." Bulma led the way from her room out to the corridor and down to the kitchen. Goku fell in with her, used to matching her pace.
"So, how are things going?" He asked casually as they reached the kitchen and he pulled a chair out from the table.
"Fine." She said. She went to the cupboard and started pulling out containers and boxes with ready to eat snacks in them. She juggled them over to the table, where Goku grabbed an armful and helped her set the rest down. "Hang on. I'm sure there are some leftovers in the fridge." She crossed to the refrigerator and opened the door, reaching in and coming out with an armful of plastic containers. "This should hold you for an hour or two." She set them down on the table and pulled a chair up across from Goku. For a few minutes, she just watched. No matter how often she had seen the man eat, even when he was just a kid, she never lost the total sense of wonder at what he could devour, and the short time it took him to do it.
"Good. How thoughtful. Food."
Bulma jumped at the sudden voice from the doorway behind her. And cursed herself for letting him see the reaction. She was sure that Vegeta loved to think that he made her nervous. Still. She twisted in her chair to see him standing there, with the ever-present curl of his lip firmly in place.
"Oh, hi Vegeta!" Goku waved a chicken leg at him in greeting. Bulma saw the narrowing of Vegeta's eyes and glared at him in return. He ignored her and walked to the table, eying the pile of food in the center. Bulma looked from him to Goku, and while Goku's genial expression hadn't really changed, she had the sudden impression of two ferocious wolves, staring each other down, getting ready to battle over a freshly killed carcass. She felt a chill run up her arms. Then Goku smiled more broadly. "There's plenty here. Help yourself."
"Thank you, Kakarot." Vegeta said, his tone reeking of sarcasm. "Are you not training today?" He sat down and reached for a container.
"No. I needed to see Bulma. So I took a break. Piccolo and Gohan are at it though." Goku said, polishing off the drumstick.
So much for polite conversation, Bulma thought, as the eating competition began and both Saiyans dug in with single-minded focus. Two of them now, and while Vegeta might be smaller, he could match Goku bite for bite, on eating volume. And, the really nasty thing about it was, neither of them ever gained a pound. Some things were unfair.
"Don't slack off too much." Vegeta said, rising form his chair after the food was gone. He gave Goku his customary smirk.
"Oh, I'll be ready." Goku said, with a typical charming grin, totally unaffected by Vegeta's prickly attitude. "See you." Vegeta turned and left the room. Bulma lifted an eyebrow as she looked at Goku. He had a thoughtful look on his face, one that Bulma knew most people never saw.
"I don't know why you try to be nice to him." Bulma said. Goku's eyes shifted from the empty doorway to her. "He isn't a nice person at all, Goku. Especially to you. Actually, he's a full fledged ass-hole."
"Yeah. I know." Goku said. He took a breath. "So, he hasn't gotten any better."
"He hasn't murdered anyone lately. So I guess that's an improvement. And he's only threatened a few people with annihilation this week." Bulma said. "Maybe he is getting better. So, Goku, tell me. You have been determined to be nice to him. Why? I just don't understand." Goku seemed to think a few minutes. He took a slow breath.
"Whether you like him or not, he did help us on Namek." Goku said. "He helped me, healed me in that rejuvenation tank. I'd have died otherwise."
"You know he only did that because he needed you. His motives were always selfish. The man hasn't got a decent bone in his body." Bulma started to clear off the table.
"I saw Frieza kill him." Goku said suddenly, and looked up at her, his expression uncharacteristically somber. "And before he died, Bulma, he cried." Bulma stopped what she was doing and stared at him. Did Goku say 'cried'? Mean, nasty Vegeta? With tears? Goku went on, " He had a very difficult life. A life most of us would never have survived. The only reason he did survive was so he could destroy Frieza for what he'd done, to him, to his whole race. But he failed. In the meantime, though, he had lost himself in the maze of walls he'd built around himself. Oh sure, he was Saiyan, and Saiyans were warriors. I doubt they would have been considered nice under any circumstances. But that was different than what Frieza was. And he knew it. So, Bulma," Goku's eyes met hers across the table. "There is someone in there who can be…more human. He's buried very deeply though, and I'm not sure if he'll ever come out. But, that's why I try to see past how he acts. He's very damaged right now. And if he needs to put on a show of superiority, I don't mind. I think his pride is the only thing that kept him alive for so long."
"You know, Goku." Bulma sat down in the chair next to Goku and took one of his strong hands in hers. "You must be the most sympathetic person I have ever met. Only you could excuse Vegeta for a lifetime of vicious murders before he's even tried to redeem himself. But if you say he has an ounce of good in him somewhere, Goku, I will believe you."
"Good." Goku smiled, and gave a little nod as if he had just accomplished something very important. His eyes were distant as he saw hope flicker in blue eyes similar to Bulmas, set in the face of a lavender-haired young man. He blinked, and saw Bulma watching him. "Good." He repeated.
Maybe, Bulma thought tiredly, as she propped her head up with one arm on the desk so she could continue to watch him, that was why she felt that she couldn't leave him alone tonight. Goku had said that there was some good in this man. She hadn't seen it, but maybe she felt it in some way. His isolation was something that she felt as a real ache in her own heart. He was so alone. No one cared about him. Oh, her mother got all fluffy around him, but from his expression that was one of the few things that could strike terror in him. He would escape as quickly as he could. Her father admired his tenacity, but aside from that had little to do with him. Everyone else treated him with suspicion and fear. Despite the fact that, yes, he had come up with the way to bring Krillen back by wishing him to the Earth way station first, so he wouldn't materialize in deep space. No one remembered that. So, maybe that was a hint of that goodness Goku had felt. And there was that moment when he had dropped the evil mask and had smiled and kissed her hand….
"We'll see, Vegeta." Bulma murmured, letting her head drop to her folded arms on the desk. "We'll just see. Goku gives everyone the benefit of the doubt. And he's not always right either. He wants everyone to have that ounce of good. But, maybe you do." She felt her lids grow heavy. Her voice began to fade. "You like challenges Prince Vegeta? Well, I dare you to show that ounce of good. I really dare you."