Disclaimer: I do not own Dragonball Z. I only like to go and play in their universe once in a while.
He knew that she was watching him on the monitors now. He wasn't quite sure why. Perhaps she was afraid he would blow the Gravity Room up again. Or perhaps she was trying to anticipate how many defense robots would need repair this time. He found it surprising that she had suddenly taken over repairing the things herself, and sent her father off to do other things.
They were an interesting family, the Briefs, the brilliant father, the oddly vacant mother, and the girl…. no, woman, Bulma. Even though Vegeta acted as if he paid little attention to what was going on, he was instinctively aware of almost everything that went on around him. That came from years of needing to guard his back constantly. He had never fully relied on Nappa or Radditz to guarantee his survival. He made sure himself that he was never caught off guard. Old habits die hard, and this was one he wasn't about to abandon, despite the apparent and possibly deceptive safety of this planet. At least now.
He resisted an urge to give the monitor camera a glare. She had her nerve, that one. Ever since he'd misjudged his power and had blown up the damned Gravity Room, she'd started to hover. Not noticeably, but just enough that he was aware of her presence. He could feel those penetrating blue eyes on his back, but when he would turn, her gaze would be on the weakling Yamcha, or she would be talking to her mother, or tinkering with some electrical devise. He never caught her in the act. And then, she would casually glance up at him with an innocent look, as if she had done nothing, and he was the one who was staring.
Infernal nuisance, that's what she was.
"Damn!" He'd lost his concentration and took a hit from one of the robot beams. Enough foolishness. He dodged to the control panel and shut down the program. The lights returned to normal. For a moment he stood still, catching his breath. He nearly forgot and started to look towards the camera. Grinding his teeth together, he turned and stalked to the exit.
Vegeta cringed. It was the mother. Even Bulma's presence was preferred to the vacuous company of her mother. Vegeta's eyes scanned the outdoors quickly in search of an escape route. There was Bulma, just coming out of the main building, where, of course, she had been watching him. No matter. Attempting to converse with her mother was sheer torture. And while he had no problem with just turning his back and walking away from most silly humans, he knew that she was besotted with him in her dreamlike way, and that helped him get things done when he needed them. He couldn't offend her too much.
"No, not now." He said, curbing the sharp edge to his voice. "I'm still working." He gave her a brief nod of acknowledgement, then turned and walked to where Bulma was now idly sitting in a chair under a tree, reading a book. He felt his temper rising as she pretended not to know he was approaching, and kept the book up blocking her view. He had to go through with this contrived conversation, at least for a moment, until Mrs. Briefs wandered aimlessly off to annoy someone else.
She saw him coming towards her out of the corner of her eyes, and quickly pretended to be engrossed in her book. He had that stormy look in his black eyes, and his eyebrows dipped down into an irritated frown. Not surprising, her mother had just tried to seduce him with lemonade again. Bulma tried not to giggle. That was her one secret delight, watching Vegeta's expression whenever her mother ambushed him. The terror of the known universe, killer of thousands, was totally out of his depth in her mother's presence. For some reason, known only to the Prince, he was also never out and out rude to her mother, despite her effect on him. Everyone else could go to Hfil, but her mother at least received civil words from him.
He stopped a few paces from her. She could just see the tips of his boots beneath her book. In her imagination, she could also feel the heat from his exertion radiating from his frame. That was a direction she did not want to go. Since he had forgone the alien armor, and its neck to foot covering, it had been impossible not to notice him. Really impossible. No matter that she had spent a better part of her life as friend to the world's strongest fighters, something about Vegeta drew her eyes whenever he appeared. And now, with him standing right in front of her, only wearing those snug black short pants, it was a strain to remain…. aloof. She wasn't exactly sure when it had hit her that the Saiyan Prince was gorgeous. It had obviously happened around the same time she had realized that she was no longer the least bit terrified of him, when she had actually looked at him clearly and saw that he was just a man. Just? Not really. He was a man who was from an extinct alien race, who was royalty, and who was incredibly powerful. Of course, the downside was that he also had spent his formative years annihilating races of people on planets Frieza wanted to own. He also had the manners of a troll, and and ego the size of a super-nova, with a personality just as explosive. But, there was also no doubt that he had an equally immeasurable amount of charisma beneath that sour exterior. And, finally, Goku liked him. That had to be why he didn't scare her now.
So, here he was, standing in front of her with annoyance pulsing in waves from his sweat-streaked form. She didn't have to look up from her book to know what expression was on his face. Why had she ever though he was expressionless? His eyes spoke volumes, and the way his dark brows arched with his mood changes, well…now she could imagine those brows curved into that deep frown. The eyes were narrowed; the lips were tight and straight. Most likely he was clenching and unclenching his jaw and his fists. The Prince as not a patient man. So, Bulma took her time, waiting until he actually spoke before acknowledging his presence.. She didn't know why she made every effort to try his limited patience. Maybe it was her way of exerting some sort of control over someone who seemed uncontrollable. She was surprised that it actually worked…sometimes.
"The timing is off." He said curtly, standing in front of her. She lowered the book and let her eyes drift up slowly to his face. He felt his features tighten at her casual disinterest.
"Is it?" She said. "It was fine earlier."
"It's too slow." He said.
"Maybe you've just gotten too fast for it." She smiled. He took a breath. She would not make him loose his temper. Not today. Every time she did, he ended up feeling as if she had done it on purpose, just to make him look ridiculous. He could feel his jaw clenching and he had to restrain from letting his hands close into fists.
"Don't mock me." He said, his expression darkening.
"Mock you? Come on, Vegeta. I gave you damn compliment." Bulma set her book down on her lap.
"Of course you did. Just as you always do whenever you do or say something foolish so you and your friends could have a good laugh at the Saiyan." Vegeta said, lip curling.
"My God, you aren't over that yet?" Bulma's brows arched. "Look, sometimes you acted like a spoiled snot so I treated you like one. It's over. You've improved. I know you're standing here to avoid my mother. I saw her zero in on you the minute the GR door opened. I don't blame you, so don't think I do. But there is nothing wrong with the program timing."
"And I tell you there is." He dug in his heels. Her blue eyes took on a decidedly stormy look for a moment. Her lips parted and he waited for the inevitable scathing remark to fall on his ears. He was preparing for the usual verbal battle. Then, she seemed to exert some inhuman control and smiled.
"All right. Do you want me to look at it now, or were you taking a break?" She asked. He hesitated, a little wary of this sudden change to easy cooperation. He didn't trust her. She had proved to be an enigma to him. That she was brilliant, he didn't doubt. He'd seen her work. Yet, she had moments of pure hysteria, where he doubted her sanity. Her moods could switch in an instant. He had been witness to a few screeching arguments with that boyfriend of hers, and had retreated quickly so as not to be caught in the crossfire. He, who prided himself on his courage, hadn't felt the least cowardly for avoiding the wrath of Bulma Briefs.
"Now." He saw her lips tighten, and her fingers curve around the edges of the book. He could almost feel her settle her weight more firmly into the chair, as if anchoring down for a long stay. He cleared his throat roughly, as his brow creased and his eyes twitched into slits. "Please."
"Well then," She gave him a smile that practically sparkled. "Put like that, what girl could refuse?" She hopped up out of the chair, dropped the book and hooked her arm though his before he could react. She led him back to the Gravity Room, bantering on about something. He was too startled to pay attention, or to snatch his arm back.
Once inside, however, she changed into that other Bulma, the one who was the scientist. Gone were the girly chatter, the inane posturing, and the silly games. Now, she settled in and started checking the systems with such speed he was reluctantly impressed. He had thought the father was a genius. It appeared that she was as gifted if not more so. The questions she asked him were to the point and exact. He made every effort to answer just as intelligently. Her fingers flew as she tested and adjusted. Finally, she stood back from the console.
"There." She said, brushing a few strands of pale blue hair back from her eyes. "It did need a tuning, and that may have made it seem sluggish. But, it wasn't really running slow. I mean it, you have just gotten faster, and that's all. I may joke about some things, Vegeta, but I would never take your training as one." Her eyes met his.
"I...good." He said, a peculiar confusion clouding his mind. Blast the woman!
"See you at dinner, then." She smiled at him again, started to walk past him, then reached out with one delicate hand and gently patted his bare shoulder. "Don't work too hard, just hard enough to keep us all safe." The hand withdrew, and as he stared at her, she gave him a wink and sauntered casually out the door.