Encounters:

Sleepless

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters, stories etc of Dragonball Z or its other incarnations. I only come here to play now and then.

It was a balmy night with just the slightest breeze. Vegeta walked out of the front door of the Capsule Corp. residence. He couldn't sleep. It wasn't as if he hadn't worked his ass off all day in the damn gravity room. He had. And he'd been tired when he had finished. He'd grabbed a snack before going to his room. Then he'd gone to bed and stared at the ceiling. And stared. And stared. Finally, with a growl, he'd given up. He got up and threw on a pair of sweats, (odd names these humans gave their clothing), and left the building. Maybe if he just took a long walk in the night air.

Of course this mud ball would have such boring weather. It was sunny a lot. Everyone did the picnic thing. Although, he couldn't complain too much. He had developed a fondness for the sauce they coated their meat with when cooked outside. One redeeming quality at least. Well, actually, he couldn't really complain about the food at all. Or the quantity. Frieza hadn't been known for his gourmet kitchen, and Vegeta had been too young when he'd been taken from his planet to remember what his native food was like.

Maybe that was his whole problem. He trained hard, very hard. But life here was too…too…easy. Aside from the fact that he was on deadline to face those androids in a couple of years, he had no demands made of him at all. He could eat what he wanted, as much as he wanted, whenever he wanted. Dr. and Mrs. Briefs seemed to like him just fine, which was very baffling. Bulma, well, she gave him looks that were both amusing and a little disturbing at times. And, there was no way to avoid the woman. She did live here, after all.

Vegeta decided that he found humans one of the more complicated and annoying races he had encountered. They should have been easy to dismiss as fools, yet there was something about them, something that Kakarot had picked up living here, that made such a simple judgment impossible. That Bulma creature had it too. He hadn't quite defined it, just that it was an overpowering positive attitude that grated at his nerves and mystified him at the same time.

He looked up into the sky. No moon. He had noticed that right off. Not that it would matter to him now. He had no tail. He hadn't yet brought himself to ask anyone what had happened to the moon. He seemed to recall that when he had originally come to this planet, his information had stated that the planet had one natural satellite. Either his information had been wrong, and he doubted that, or things had changed.

"Damn." He breathed as he stared up at the stars above. "What the hell am I doing here?" He frowned.

No wonder he couldn't sleep. He was living on an alien world. He had lost everything that was familiar to him. He had failed to achieve his lifelong goal, even though he had at least seen the final destruction of Frieza, it hadn't been by his hand. He just wasn't used to living like this. There was no reason to it, except that android threat. And why the hell was he going to fight androids for this planet? Why? Was it just because Kakarot lived here and he was going to fight them?

"Bah!" Vegeta crossed his arms over his chest and sat on a rock. He cast a scowling look up at the glistening stars. He should be out there, not here. He should be conquering worlds again, for himself, not as a lackey for a megalomaniac like Frieza. But no, he was going to risk his life to defend a planet he didn't even like.

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She couldn't sleep. How could she? The android threat was still new to her, and it scared her. She got up and went out to stand on the balcony of her room. It looked out over the vast gardens of the compound. Then she saw him in the distance and by the light of the soft amber lamps that substituted for moonlight nowadays. He sat in the grassy space between the main building and the gravity room. His head was tilted and she could see him staring up into the sky. His profile was sharp in the gentle light. She wished that the light was a little brighter, though. It seemed from where she stood, that he didn't wear his usual frown. His features seemed softer, or maybe it was just the light from the overhead lamps. He sat with a stillness that was almost unnatural, one knee drawn up, his arms draped loosely around it.

Bulma forced her eyes from his solitary figure and looked up into the night sky herself. All of those stars. And how many of them had planets? She'd been out there, and had only been too glad to come home. It had not been a pleasant experience. She preferred to stay on her own world, thank you very much. But, it struck her that maybe he didn't. Then, she sighed, this wasn't even his world, was it? He didn't have a world to go back to.

Why was he staying, anyway? There was nothing really to hold him here. The threat of the androids? That was a threat to this world and its human occupants, whom he had already stated he did not care about. She knew that her father had fixed up the space ship since Vegeta had used it months before to go in search of Goku. So, if he really wanted to, he could take it and leave again. He certainly hadn't asked permission to use it the first time!

Maybe he was staying because Goku was here. Well, she sniffed, not exactly here. Goku was back from space, training with Piccolo and Gohan near his home. And that was quite far from here. But it wasn't exactly like Vegeta didn't know where he was or was pining for his company. In fact, the one time Goku had taken a break and had dropped by for a short visit, they had probably said a total of a dozen words between them, if that many. And Vegeta had exuded all the charm of an annoyed tarantula.

Bulma had no idea what was keeping him here. He trained, slept and ate. But why she didn't know. And being a good scientist, Bulma hated to have questions like that dangling on her mind at bedtime. Maybe that was why she couldn't sleep, and kept finding her thoughts dwelling on the sullen Saiyan. She decided to take the risk of approaching his Royal Highness and seeing if a little conversation was possible. Besides, she thought with a little pang, he just looked damned lonely sitting there on his own like that. She left her room and headed for the nearest exit.

The night was warm as she walked on silent bare feet along the path. She rounded the curve to the grassy space she had seen him in, a tentative smile on her lips.

"Hi Veg….EEEP!"

One minute he'd been sitting where she had seen him, the next he had vanished and reappeared inches from her face with a glowing powerball in his fist, his features taut and his eyes narrowed.

Bulma flailed her arms in shock, and started to topple backwards. A steel hard, unwavering arm caught her around the waist and prevented the fall. The electric current she felt cascade through her frame had nothing to do with the ball of lethal energy flickering in his other hand. She stared at him and he stared back.

"Damn!" Vegeta let out an explosive breath. His narrowed eyes returned to normal and his brows retreated to their customary arched position. "Don't you know better, girl?" His arm tugged her upright and he withdrew it, backing away. Confusion clouded his mind. She'd weighed nothing when he had instinctively caught her. But he'd felt her closeness as if he'd been burned.

"Know b.b.b. better than what?" Bulma swallowed, her eyes fixed on the fist that drew slowly away as the sparkling glow of power faded and died. "I just….started to say hello."

Vegeta took a step back, his expression derisive. "You claim to have grown up around the fighters of this world, yet you know no better than to walk up without warning behind a warrior's back?"

"Listen mister," Bulma bristled, "This is my own back yard and there aren't any bad guys here." Just you, she thought, you and your really, really strong arm.

"If I let myself feel as secure as that I would have been dead long ago," he turned and walked a few paces away. "There is no predicting when something or someone dangerous will appear. One must always be prepared." And he had definitely not been prepared for that shocking moment when he had held her. What was wrong with him?

"So what should I do? Start shouting about a block away just in case there's a paranoid Saiyan sitting on rock nearby?"

Bulma realized she was shaking just a little. She wrapped her arms around herself. That little incident suddenly made her recall the extremely vivid dream she couldn't seem to forget that she had experienced on Namek, the dream where Vegeta was slowly walking towards her with power glowing in his hand to kill her. But was the shaking from that, or from the heat she'd felt with that closer, very real, contact? She realized uncomfortably that he was staring at her.

"It might save your life."

"I never had to before," Bulma's teeth were rattling a little. "The boys always knew that it was me."

"I am not one of the boys," he studied her a moment with those dark eyes of his. "You wanted something?" How could this woman's mere presence manage to rattle him?

"Oh. Umm…no," she shook her head and saw him frown. No, indeed. He wasn't one of the boys.

"As usual, you make no sense. You came down here and nearly got your head blown off for no reason."

"I did have a reason! But, as you pointed out, I nearly got my head blown off, so I sort of forgot," Bulma let her arms drop and glared at him. "Maybe I just wondered why you were roaming around my backyard at midnight."

His eyebrows arched as his lip curled. "Do I have a curfew?"

"Should you? The neighbors might feel safer."

"You seem to take offense at my making use of your garden at night. And besides, you don't have any neighbors."

"Ohhhh. Look, Vegeta. This started out wrong," Bulma waved her hands as if shooing away something unpleasant. Vegeta watched her with a slightly wary expression. She took a slow breath and met his eyes. "I didn't mean to startle you. I expect that everyone is a little jumpy right now, and you're right. I should have let you know I was coming. I came down here because I saw you from my room sitting down here by yourself, and I thought that maybe you were…lonely."

He stared back at her. Of anything she could have said, this wasn't what he had expected. His mind refused to offer him any sort of glib comeback. As he had spent most of his life technically alone, (he didn't count Nappa and Radditz as companionship), the condition was normal to him.

"I have no need to be surrounded by constant babble, like some. And, you didn't startle me."

"Damn well looked like you were startled to me," Bulma grinned, arching her own eyebrow. "If you weren't startled, why the attack mode?"

"Practice," he muttered and walked a few more steps away.

Bulma sighed and sat down. She tilted her head to look up at the stars above. "If you weren't lonely and I didn't startle you, then I guess everything is fine now. Do you know all of those stars?"

"Huh?" Vegeta turned and looked at her, his expression momentarily baffled by the sudden shift of subject matter.

"Those," she waved an arm to encompass the pinpoints of light that were scattered across the black sky. "You've probably been to most of them, I'll bet. Do you know what they are from here?"

"If I'd been to those I'd be dead. Those are suns," his lip curled.

"Well, duh. I'm a scientist, remember? But stating the obvious, since the planets don't light up I pointed out the suns. But, I guess you'd rather be mister smart-ass and make snide remarks rather than just answer a simple question in a courteous and civilized manner. Never mind," she planted her hands on the grass behind her and leaned back, braced on her arms. Why? Why must he always be so damned defensive?

There was silence, except for the occasional chirp from a cricket. Then she heard a faint sound, which a side glance confirmed, was made as Vegeta sank down to sit some distance away in the grass. He bent his knee again, and wrapped his arms around the bent leg. His eyes went up to the night sky. He took a slow breath and let it out.

"Probably," he said faintly.

"You would? Have you been to most of them?" Bulma said in a quiet voice.

"Probably," his voice was equally quiet, and from the corner of her eyes, Bulma saw the trace of a smile curve his lips.

"I'll bet you miss it," she turned her head to look at him. His dark eyes met hers for a moment, and she felt a chill. "I, um, guess I shouldn't ask any more, should I?"

"Not if you wish to sleep without nightmares," his voice was still low, but there was no menace in his eyes, nor did he turn them away from her. The cricket chirped once, twice, three times, then fell silent.

"Do you think we can win, Vegeta?" Bulma asked. "Do you think we have a chance against the androids?"

"Of course," he smiled, and even in the uneven light of the amber lamps, his eyes held a glint. "I'm here."

Bulma felt herself smile in response. "That's right. You are here."

She slept like a baby that night.

He didn't.