'Ah…the last chapter. It pains me so to end it, but all fanfictions must come to an end…or they should, at least. Anyway, it has been a long, fun journey, and I'm amazed I finally finished this fanfic, seeing as how I was at a loss many moments during it. But you, my fellow fanfiction readers, helped push me along and I am very grateful for you all.
Thank you very much to all my readers and reviewers. Deep Damnation, you inspired to continue, being one of my first reviewers of this story. Thank you Pitkat for being an ever-loyal reader of my fanfics. Sayeh, you're awesome as usual. Miako6, sweet and cool as ever. DBZTeske, a very loyal reader of this fanfic, thank you. FrozenFlower, thank you for all the lovely reviews, it makes my day. Clarobell, I love your reviews and thank you for them. Debje, I'm glad I got to know you through this story. I love your reviews. Crocodile, thanks a bunch! The Angel That Fell, an inspiration as always. Thank you. Skippay, thank you for the ever-lively and awesome reviews. I love you lots like vodka shots! Shineko, I love your reviews and thanks a bunch. Happy-Hippy, Mighty Agamemnon, yume-no-yami, Engelmohr2004, Vegetto800, Raccly e.r17, dbz27, Killjoy, Dark Phoenix, Maia, Nessa, SaiyanSoilder, hyuniejungie, SilentLucidityx, Ice Phoenix, KitsuK8, Pink Cat, DBZAngelX, Raditz65, SSJShadow, Trynia Merin, Benny, dark crow, renee easterling, tweety, two toe, vegetarae, wingedangel, East Elf, Tattered Crimson, Gothic Dream, and Azmidiske, thank you all for the reviews. Your words truly helped this story along. And last but not least, Lupin Goddess. I love your reviews and your awesome pointers. Without you and everyone else, I don't think this story could have been finished. Thanks again!'
Disclaimer: This is a non-profit fanfiction written by an obsessed fan of Dragonball Z, which was created by the genius Akira Toriyama.
Heads turned quickly as a shimmering orange form suddenly appeared in the center of King Yemma's station. Excited and shocked gasps filled the room as all eyes landed on the back of their strong friend, Goku. He remained motionless and still as he faced away from them, but they could see the stained white boots that dangled to his right side and the wild tuft of bloody hair that hung over his left arm.
"Goku?" Dende spoke softly, not used to the happy and childish saiyajin's silence.
Gohan stepped forward, his face grim and tense as he concentrated on the energy of the being in his father's arms. The young saiyajin had been healed by Dende, his power as high as ever and shoulder feeling great. But, his mind was completely focused on his father's emotions and lack of Vegeta's life source.
"Father," he said. "Vegeta's energy. It's…gone."
There was a sharp intake of breath from the earth warriors, but they were shoved aside as the beautiful, blue-haired goddess pushed her way forward. Bulma's blue eyes were wide with shock and her mouth was already open and trembling.
The poor woman had woken up during her healing process in a great deal of pain. Dende and the others had to calm and relax her, telling her that she was ok and going to survive. But that wasn't what she was worried about. The last she had seen of Vegeta was the image of a giant metal contraption being shoved entirely through his body. She remembered the clawed hand that shot through her own abdomen, but obviously her friends had brought her to Dende in time. Through her pain and terror, she thought only of Vegeta and the horror and agony he must be feeling.
And now here he was. She could see just a little bit of his mangled, damaged form. Gohan said he was dead. Goku was not looking at them. Sagging to her knees, Bulma felt her stomach clench and hot tears rise. Her throat closed painfully and she swallowed harshly. A small whimper escaped and her shoulders began to shake violently as a wave of horrible grief washed over her.
"Don't cry, Bulma," Goku's soft voice said.
The room was practically buzzing as it grew quiet and the third-class slowly turned, his eyes shadowed and downcast. Bulma let out a miserable sob at the sight of her once proud and strong prince. In Goku's arms he now laid limp and lifeless, his skin white as a sheet, once black eyes now gray and staring blankly, and his entire body covered in blood. No one could get a good view of the wreckage and gore that tattooed his abdomen as Goku held him protectively, but they had a good idea of the horrible wounds that ended his life.
Yamcha stepped forward and placed a hand on Bulma's trembling shoulder. His eyes remained glued to floor, as he could not stand to see the body that Goku held. Bulma's pain affected them all.
All eyes shot up to the bloodstained warrior as a small smirk rested upon his features. The silence drew on as everyone in the room stared at Goku, and then to Vegeta. It appeared that the earth saiyajin had finally lost it.
"Goku," King Yemma sighed. "I'm afraid that you're mistaken. I know it is a painful loss for you, but…" the great king hesitated as something seemed to catch his attention. Jerking forward slightly, the red-faced giant eyed the motionless prince skeptically, before narrowing his small black eyes and thinning his lips in annoyance. "I see that the grim reapers are not doing their jobs."
The earthlings all looked back at the spirit king that sat at his desk and then back at Goku. The third-class saiyajin chuckled in amusement and shrugged.
"Technically speaking, I pretty much had to beg the guy not to take his soul. He was really reluctant, trust me…but he let me take Vegeta anyway. Please go easy on him."
King Yemma sighed and leaned back in his chair. Of course, trust Goku to bend the rules of the after life.
"Wait," Bulma whispered. Standing shakily, the blue-haired genius watched Goku move forward until he stood next to her. "What's going on?"
Goku gave her his usual wide-eyed smile and then looked back up at King Yemma.
"The grim reapers didn't take Vegeta's soul. His body is dead, but I guess you can't be considered fully deceased until your spirit is taken completely out, right Yemma?"
The red king rolled his eyes and nodded. There was still a part of him that hoped Vegeta would not have made it. He really didn't want to be on the receiving end of the prince's angry tongue lashing if he made it out. And obviously, the saiyajin was more resilient than he thought.
"Has it always been this way?" Yamcha blurted. "I don't remember any grim reapers when I died."
"That's because you were still on the living plane when you died," Yemma snapped. "It's rare…extremely rare to be alive in the after life and then die, such as what has happened to Vegeta, but if that does happen, you are more likely to see the reapers and communicate with the dead or lords of the dead. I've seen very few cases such as this."
Bulma looked quickly at Goku, then to Vegeta, and then finally to King Yemma. The woman's thoughts were a jumble of screaming ideas and it felt as if her brain was about to burst. Shaking her blue locks, her delicate hands went to her temples and then pinched the bridge of her nose.
"Let me get this straight," she sighed, her intelligent brain moving as slow as molasses. "Vegeta IS dead…but not fully, since his spirit was not taken?" The king nodded and she continued. "But since he died here, in the spirit realm, he's still conscious of the happenings around him, whereas a person who died in the living world is cut off as soon as he dies, but still has to be taken by a grim reaper?"
King Yemma twiddled his thumbs briefly before leaning over the table and looking down at the mess in Goku's arms.
"Vegeta, how are you feeling?" His loud voice boomed.
The saiyajin's dark eyes lifted and he scowled at the large being. The prince wished he could move his hands…just so he could give the ass-hole the finger, but he was entirely numb, as if he had no body at all.
"Absolutely great," he hissed. "I'm going to assume that you are feeling well, too, seeing as how I alleviated your little demon problem for you."
Narrowing his eyes, Yemma looked back and Bulma and nodded. "He's the same as always."
Bulma's eyes widened and she looked up at Goku. The kind-hearted saiyajin gave her an amused shrug and nodded. In a flash, Bulma was at Vegeta's side, her small hands encompassing his and large tears already falling from her eyes. A wave of emotions struck her: relief, fear, worry, sympathy, guilt, happiness. Vegeta was alive…yet not. His soul was trapped in a dead body. He was unfeeling and could not move a muscle, but he was no longer in pain.
Vegeta's face turned to glare at Goku, though only King Yemma and he could see it. Rolling his eyes, the prince nodded at his woman as she gripped his grimy hand and sighed.
"Can you have that little green bean heal me now?" He moaned. "I can't take much more of this not being able to move, having the woman clutch to me like a rag-doll situation."
Goku chuckled and nodded. Turning away, the taller saiyajin made his way over to Dende, his movements pulling Vegeta away from the grieving woman. Placing the prince lightly on the tiled floor, the other Z fighters flocked around Goku's side and stared down at the destroyed body. Many of them instantly paled at the sight of his deformed frame and glanced away. The hole in his back and stomach had been torn open even more when the planet exploded, leaving him almost in half. His armor was basically non-existent, only a few stained remnants of the once white and yellow outfit clinging to his shoulders and chest. So used to his usual glassy, yet fiery expression, the fighters were chilled to the bone as his lifeless, expressionless face stared forward, his eyes blank and pale.
The floor began to darken as the last few amounts of blood escaped from the dead body. Yamcha, Tien, and Krillin backed away as the almost black substance crept closer to their feet. Goku stared at his ally, still surprised that he could see shadowy movements within the prince, almost as if he were translucent. Goku, being dead, could see the trapped soul. It was the hazy spirit that remained hidden within Vegeta that Goku could talk to and hear. Vegeta's spirit could move and look around, but it was just a ghostly image trapped in a dead cage. Shuddering, Goku could only imagine what the prince must be feeling, trapped and unable to escape from his own dead corpse.
There was a loud stamp that echoed throughout the small building, startling all the earthlings. They turned to see King Yemma continuing his judging of the spirits that still waited in line. He had work to do and the small group to the side of his building could not interrupt him now. Bulma sighed angrily and turned back to her prince, her anger building at the lack of compassion the supposed "great" king had. Vegeta was in a horrid state of affairs and Yemma acted as if it were no big deal, when really this whole situation was his fault.
But there was no time to dwell on this as she watched Dende search for an area to place his hands. Bulma almost felt sorry for the young guardian, as it was obvious he didn't want to place his small palms anywhere where there was a massive amount of blood. Unfortunately, it was everywhere. She watched as the young green namek rested one hand on Vegeta's forehead and one on his bloodstained chest. Even past the forest coloring of the namek child, Bulma could see him pale as the prince's icy skin and sticky blood connected with his palms. But Dende kept his composure and concentrated. Closing his eyes, the teenager's face grew tense as he searched for a way to heal the lifeless body. A small stream of sweat ran down his face and he took in a shaky breath.
"This is difficult," he murmured. "His spirit is here and there. I need it concentrated in one area."
Goku watched as Vegeta's agitated spiritual face frowned and glanced up at him. "What did he say?"
"You need to gather yourself up in one area so Dende can find you," Goku replied, feeling a bit stupid knowing that no one else could hear him.
The small namek nodded and cracked open one eye. "Vegeta, I want you to focus whatever energy you have and build yourself up into a cloud-like form in the center of your chest."
Vegeta blinked and scoffed outrageously. "How the fuck am I supposed to do that? I can't even feel myself!"
Goku blushed at the prince's harsh words and turned to Dende. "He doesn't really know how."
The namek grew nervous and closed his eyes again. Concentrating even harder, the small lord of earth hummed quietly as he reached deep into Vegeta's dark psyche and searched for any source of light or power.
"Vegeta, I'm concentrating deeply into your form. Search for me and when you find my energy, latch on and don't let go. Concentrate only on me."
Goku watched as Vegeta rolled his eyes and sighed, but complied with the boy's wishes. Closing his eyes, the prince willed himself through the darkness that surrounded him. Goku watched for a while as the spirit of his friend seemed to just lie there for several minutes, the miserable warrior's face concentrated and tense. The wavering soul leapt suddenly and Goku gasped as Vegeta slowly began to fade, his eyes squeezed shut and "body" slowly disappearing.
"Where's he going?" Goku cried.
The other fighters grew alarmed and moved closer, but Dende shushed them all, his small body almost vibrating as he focused deeply on the task at hand. No breath came from any of the surrounding people as they concentrated their own powers and searched out for any sign of life from the lifeless body of their ally. Bulma moved closer until she was hovering directly over her loved one. Her hands wrung tightly into her ripped pants and her face remained tense and worried.
"Yesss…"Dende whispered. "Now focus on me and me only. Try your absolute best to ignore any pain you feel. Ignore your exhaustion, ignore your fears, ignore everything that you feel or hear, and only concentrate on me."
All the fighters drew impossibly close now as they watched Dende go to work. The familiar green light shimmered around his hands, the angelic brightness moving about Vegeta's torn and mutilated form like gentle waves in the ocean. They watched for any sign of movement or life from Vegeta, but even after five minutes the prince remained lifeless and pale. The gaping hole in his stomach remained large and ripped and the chunks of flesh that had been torn from him remained open and bleeding. The burn mark on the side of his face looked as angry and blistered as ever.
The warriors focused all their power on locating Vegeta's energy. Bulma looked at the nervous and strained faces of her friends and felt her stomach sink further and further as nothing happened. Perhaps Vegeta was too far-gone to bring himself back to life. Perhaps Dende was too inexperienced to center Vegeta's spirit and allow him to spread life throughout this body again.
"I know," Dende suddenly said, his head low and hands shaking from the amount of energy he put forth. "It hurts, yes, but concentrate only on me, Vegeta. Your pain tells you that you are reawakening."
Bulma gasped and closed her eyes. Vegeta was slowly coming back to life…and he could feel the horrific pain that had torn apart his body. She prayed that he could hold onto Dende's warmth and healing power. She hoped her prince had enough energy and life in him to fight off the excruciating agony he would feel when fully regaining his senses. Hopefully Dende would be finished healing him before he woke up entirely.
Unfortunately, Vegeta's spirit seemed to fully filter throughout his broken and damaged frame again. Lurching back suddenly, a wheezing gasp came from Vegeta's aching and bleeding throat. His back arched and his hands fisted viciously into the tiled floor, his nails scratching and breaking against the rough surface. The broken saiyajin's eyes squeezed shut as the pain in his entire damaged body hit him full force and his mouth opened in a silent scream.
The earth warriors surrounded him quickly, holding him still as he began to flail and writhe. A stream of blackened blood poured over his white lips and he choked violently as he tried to draw a breath into his throbbing lungs. Bulma remained at his side, her face suddenly as pale as his, her eyes wide with fright, and hands fisted at her mouth. The sight of her powerful and brave love convulsing so horribly sent an icy wave of terror and grief throughout her shaking frame. A shocked horror crept through her as she could only imagine what kind of pain he must be feeling.
Vegeta coughed once more, his eyes fluttering open briefly and rolling around in his head before he let out a high-pitched, agonizing scream. He convulsed more as his body cried out in pain, his destroyed organs and ripped muscles struggling to function.
"Dende!" Gohan cried as he tightly held one of Vegeta's weakened bleeding arms.
The namek breathed deeply, his face pouring sweat and body practically vibrating against the strain of sending enough energy into Vegeta to heal him enough to live.
"Concentrate…on me," the boy gasped. "Look for my energy and latch onto it, Vegeta. Please…ignore…the pain…ignore…"
For one terrifying instant, the warriors watched as Dende's hands curled up loosely and his small caped body swayed back and forth dangerously. The amount of power it took to bring Vegeta's spirit fully into use again AND heal all the tremendous wounds appeared too much for the little namek. His dark eyes opened briefly before he sagged forward and groaned, his light green power fading more and more. His right hand slid from Vegeta's forehead and his left slowly began to do the same as it glided from Vegeta's heaving chest. But delicate smooth hands gripped Dende's shaking fists and placed them together over Vegeta's heart. The small namek looked with bleary eyes at the two lovely hands that carefully covered his and followed them up until staring into two watery blue eyes.
Bulma clasped Dende's small hands in hers and together they placed them against Vegeta's heart. The blue-haired woman closed her eyes, a few tears falling in the process and she began to repeat, "concentrate", "concentrate", "concentrate", over and over again. Dende's eyes widened in surprise briefly, before he nodded in agreement and turned back to the task at hand. His green light grew brighter this time and the fighters that restrained Vegeta's wounded form were shocked at the waves of energy emitted from the exhausted namek. With wide eyes they watched as Bulma held Dende's hands against Vegeta's chest, the action miraculously lending strength to the little namek's energy.
Vegeta's struggles seemed to ease slowly and the fighters stepped away in amazement as the wounded flesh that outlined the horrid injuries began to shift and meld together. Dende's green light crept across Vegeta's body, the shimmering power leaking into the deep holes, making its way to his back and healing his insides. The prince's face still remained pale from the blood loss, but his expression relaxed greatly. The small lacerations and cuts all over his weakened form slowly faded and disappeared, leaving his skin smooth and healthy again. With a strange sucking sound, the gaping hole in his abdomen closed up and left his muscular abs bloodstained, yet strong. The holes that had been stabbed into his legs and arms earlier healed up, though, his skin was still red and bruised.
The fighters of earth gasped lightly as Vegeta's dark eyes fluttered briefly before cracking open. His heavy lids gazed at all of them as if he couldn't recognize them, before gazing up and to the side. His strained, pale face seemed to brighten suddenly as his black irises landed on Bulma's bowed head. The warriors of earth were amazed to see Vegeta slide one shaking arm across the tiled floor, his trembling fingers brushing against Bulma's arm.
The blue-haired beauty did not even jump or appear startled. Her shimmering eyes opened slowly and she looked down at Vegeta, a peaceful smile appearing on her face. Lifting one hand from Dende's smaller hands, she placed her fingers around Vegeta's stained fingers, the two remaining silent and at peace. Vegeta's tired lids blinked in a way as if to say thank you before nodding off into a restful sleep. Bulma remained gripping her prince's cold hand as he remained finally at ease. His face showed the true emotions of peace at last and the relief of the whole end of the ordeal.
Dende finally sagged and fell onto his back against Bulma's chest. He let out a tired sigh of air and wiped his sweating forehead in exhaustion.
"That's all I can do," he gasped. "He's not entirely healed…but his saiyajin immune system is back up and as healthy as ever. Give him a day or two and he'll be back to his usual training before you know it."
And with that, the young guardian of earth fell into a deep sleep, as well. Bulma laughed lightly and patted the young boy's head. Looking up at all her friends the blue-haired woman broke out into a wave of giggles. Her happy voice lifted throughout the spirit check-in station and swept across snakeway. Even in the depths of hell the joyous woman's laughter could be heard. The Shadow Demons had been defeated…and it seemed that the nightmare was finally over.
It took about an hour for Vegeta to wake once more. In an almost dream-like state, the prince stood quietly before King Yemma's desk as the group of earth warriors confronted the red-faced giant at last. Vegeta blinked slowly once in a while, but mostly allowed his eyes to fall shut as the occasional ache and stabbing pain would shoot through his insides. He was quite grateful that he no longer experienced any of the agony he had felt only an hour ago. Dende had done his best to heal him, but the loss of blood and almost complete annihilation of his innards was too big of a job for the youth to heal entirely.
"I already discussed this with King Kai. I will absolutely ensure the complete detailed examination of a person's soul before judgment," Yemma told them snappily, trying to regain the time that had been wasted over the past few hours.
"That's not good enough," Bulma shot back. She rubbed the hole in her bloodstained shirt subconsciously and shook her head angrily. "We all almost died. I had a fucking hand stabbed through my back and out my stomach. Th-that isn't supposed to happen to me! I'm not a fighter, King Yemma. I'm a goddamn scientist! Yamcha gets hands stabbed through his stomach, not me!"
"I understand, Miss Bulma," the giant king replied gently. "And believe me when I say that my emotions are here and there since this entire situation started. I, and all the other Kais, shall investigate behavioral changes and actions of those of the condemned and those of the heavenly passage. Please understand…that I have been in a living hell since this whole situation started. I cannot easily admit it when I'm wrong…but I have seen the errors and lazy actions of my ways."
"He's been in a living hell?" Vegeta muttered.
Bulma smirked at her still dazed prince and turned back to King Yemma. "What about Vegeta here?"
The red king seemed to shrink back slightly, a look of fear entering his face as he looked at the haughty woman.
"What about him?"
"Heaven? Hell? What's to happen to him when he dies again?"
King Yemma took a good look at all the earth fighters as they stared intently up at him. The collar around his shirt suddenly felt extremely tight and he tugged at it as he thought of what to say. The king glanced down at the pale, bloody prince and sighed.
"I told you I would be truthful and judge accordingly…so that I will. Prince Vegeta, of the Saiyajin race, your actions in the past have been horrid, downright evil." Yemma watched and waited for any movements or reactions from the prince, but he received none. "Your whole life, it appeared, seemed to be nothing but murder, torment, and selfish actions. It seemed that you would never change. But…I guess even we kings can be wrong sometimes." The giant ogre looked at Bulma and smiled warmly. "People change and obviously you have. Over the past years, your actions have changed and it seems that the prince of the saiyajins actually has a heart." To this Vegeta groaned in great annoyance. "But two or three years of peaceful nature does not make-up for years of torture and evil-doing on your part. Yes, you were trained this way and yes you were raised in a horrid environment. There didn't seem to be much of an option for you to escape…but your actions were still wrong. Had you died today, I would have sent you to hell."
The fighters remained quiet as Yemma's grand voice boomed throughout the small station. The words were harsh, yet wise at the same time. It seemed that even through his thoughtless, biased actions, King Yemma was still a judge, and could view things in a different way.
"But just because that is what I would have done today, does not mean it has to be that way in the future. Give it a few more years and we shall see how your behavior and actions change. You're on your way, Vegeta. You have a decision to make, Prince of all Saiyajins. I think you know what path you want to take. I'm not here to explain what actions you need to do to ensure a door into heaven or hell…only you can know. Though, right now you are pretty thin ice. Killing Frieza…" the king shook his head in annoyance. "Not smart or wise." He turned his head to the side and gave Vegeta a curios glance. "Though, you already know that."
Vegeta's dark eyes lifted, but he remained silent.
"You're changing already," the king said with a smile. He could see the emotions and feelings of Frieza's death on the saiyajin's face. Sighing loudly, the enormous ogre stacked some papers and tossed them into the large bin next to his desk. "I feel I must tell you all, though, that you have done amazing work. Jumping into the mouth of the beast is insanely brave. The shadow demons were vicious monsters. I would never have hired them if I were king long ago," he said with a hearty scoff.
"Oh sure, King Yemma," Krillin mused.
The large king eyed the short human skeptically and cleared his throat. "You know, what I said to Vegeta applies to all of you. Careful judging will be starting."
The once bald monk waved his hands nervously. "I was just joking! Just joking!"
Jumping behind his taller friend, Krillin peeked out from behind Goku's broad back. The third class chuckled and shook his head. He was glad that the whole ordeal was over. It was a horrific nightmare he knew he would not be able to forget as long as he existed in the universe. It appeared that the Kais had not been honest with him and that had destroyed the kind-hearted saiyajin, but he was glad to see that they were willing to fix it.
Turning away, Goku began to trudge toward one of the open doors that led out to snakeway. His heart suddenly began to pound and he could hear the feet of his friends hurrying after him. King Yemma watched curiously as the orange clad saiyajin simply exited his building, but smiled knowingly as he knew it was time for the hero of earth to say goodbye to his friends. Sighing and looking at more papers on his desk, the red king was startled to see Vegeta turn and glare at him as he, too, followed Goku.
"I guess this is goodbye for now," Vegeta's dark voice rumbled.
King Yemma nodded nervously. "So it seems. You had better hurry up. Goku appears to be leaving."
Vegeta scoffed and shook his head as he watched his rival stride proudly out of the building. "Always looking for ways to get rid of me," Vegeta mused. "Just be thankful I'm missing more than half my blood and had my organs almost completely ripped out. At full power…I'd have already kicked you through the wall."
And with that simple threat, the tired prince turned and chased after Goku, leaving Yemma trembling at his desk.
Entering the warm outside, Vegeta watched as the earthlings surrounded Goku, hugging him and begging him not to go. With a happy grin Goku patted his teary-eyed son on the head and supported all his other worried and dreary friends. The prince watched from the side as pure joy and love surrounded the happy gang, their hearts crying out as they bid Goku farewell. Vegeta took a deep breath and stared into the yellow sky. His face remained blank but a whirlwind of emotions swept through him. He knew he would never have such support or love from such a large group of friends as Goku did. He didn't really want it, though. He didn't need love from anyone to survive. He could return to earth at that moment, hop on a spaceship and leave, and feel no regret.
But as he continued to watch the sad, loving faces of Kakarotto's friends, he realized that there was someone he would miss. There were people back home, at Capsule Corp., that he would definitely miss. There would be simple joys such as Panchi's cooking and her cheery voice that very often aggravated him to no end that he would miss. Dr. Brief's mild voice and mellow attitude had always made him admire the genius. And then there was his son. The purple-haired Trunks with his fiery attitude and amazing power-level was surely something that Vegeta loved. His son would grow up to be a great fighter and it would be Vegeta's hard work and training that would get him there. And then there was Bulma. The grim reapers of earth could easily see his love for her, even though he would never admit it. Hell, wasn't this entire situation proof enough that he loved the loud-mouthed, outgoing woman?
Staring at Bulma as she hugged Goku tightly and cried made Vegeta's heart swell strangely. He had felt Bulma's presence as he was being pulled back to life. Dende's power almost disappeared completely, and had that happened, he would have been trapped in his own dead body for good. But the little green namek's energy returned over his heart, and Vegeta swore that he saw Bulma's warm hand reaching out for him. Through the horrific agony and torturing pain, the dead prince was pulled back to life as he heard Bulma cry out for him and grab a hold of his fading life. The human girl with no power to speak of had saved him, not only once, but many times. Even when he came back to earth for good, she had saved him, invited him to live with her, fed him, clothed him, and gave him a home to call his own. He couldn't imagine where he would be without the crazy female. She faced the Shadow Demons head on for him. And hadn't he done the same for her? Vegeta, the selfish, self-centered, power-crazed prince, had gone out of his way to protect Bulma, and she had done the same for him.
This realization made Vegeta uncomfortable. He had never even acknowledged these bizarre facts before and it was not common in his life to relate these occurrences to himself. He knew that he had decisions to make about his future now, and it was going to be difficult. Whether it was his duty to take a path of good or continue down a path of evil was up to him. It would be a long time before he could decide.
The prince was pulled from his thoughts as he heard Goku's clicking boots approach him. Looking up slowly, the weary saiyajin stared into the warm face of his rival. Glancing at the ground and then back up at the powerful warrior, Vegeta crossed his arms and waited for the idiot's dopey goodbye.
Reaching a large hand out, Goku rested his palm on Vegeta's right left shoulder and smiled softly.
"I really don't know what to say," the earth-raised saiyajin sighed. "I've experienced things I never could have imagined. I…I really am a naïve creature, Vegeta."
The prince stared into the face of the brave fighter with a concentrated expression. It was an odd thing for the usually happy-go-lucky warrior to say, seeing as he had never been afraid in any situation.
"I'm sorry for ever judging your actions, your attitude, or ideas," Goku continued. "To be raised in such an environment and forced to experience such things…" he trailed off and shuddered. "We shouldn't judge things we don't understand and we shouldn't assume the worse in people if we don't know what has caused them to act in such a way. You've had it rough, Vegeta, and I know that you get stronger with each new experience you encounter. You amaze me more and more and after seeing your bravery today, I am even more in awe of your powers. In the future, when we fight again, I know it will be an awesome battle."
Vegeta couldn't help the true smile that appeared on his face. He could feel the heat of embarrassment from such kind and complimentary words that he so rarely received, but hearing them from Kakarotto made him swell with pride.
"Kakarotto…" the prince clicked his tongue, trying to find the right words. "I can sense a battle in the near future, and trust me, baka, I will pummel you into the ground so hard King Yemma will wonder why you returned back to him so soon."
The third class blinked in surprise and then laughed. The earthlings watched in surprise as Goku simply cackled at Vegeta's subtle words and they, too, found themselves laughing. In the face of the horror and anguish they had met that day, the world suddenly seemed much lighter and the heavy and terrifying burden was lifted from their shoulders. Goku slapped Vegeta playfully on the back and turned to his laughing friends as they wiped tears from their eyes and smiled. Tying his blue sash tighter around his waist, Goku gave them a short salute and took to the air.
He waved goodbye to his friends and gave them a classic Goku grin. Turning to Vegeta, he smiled confidently, and to this the saiyajin prince gave the powerful fighter a determined nod and smiled back at him. Goku brought two fingers to his forehead and waved once more before shimmering and vanishing from their sight.
With their heads still upturned, the small group let out a collective sigh and peered at each other as if not knowing what to do now. Bulma smiled and trudged over to her prince's side and nuzzled up against his arm. Vegeta remained staring at the spot where Goku once floated, a million thoughts going through his head. But one idea sounded the best, and he couldn't help but voice it.
"I'm going home…and I'm taking a hot a bath."
Bulma giggled and pressed her face against the torn blue material on his arm. Returning to the group of fighters, the seven tired people made their way to Dende and teleported back to earth.
Vegeta whimpered again and tossed back and forth in bed, his brow creased and lips pressed together as they trembled. Running her fingers back and forth through her prince's feathery hair, all Bulma could do was to try and relax the scared prince as his nightmares invaded his mind.
It had been a week since the battle against the Shadow Demons, and Vegeta's nightmares had been worse than ever. Thrashing in his sleep, crying out, and ripping through the sheets were only a few of the anguished actions he took as images of demons and shadows of the past controlled his dreams. Murmuring about Frieza and the other monsters he had met in his life very often woke Bulma up early in the morning. Usually the two had slept separately, but ever since returning home, Vegeta's fears of the dark led him to Bulma's bed.
The blue-haired beauty didn't mind, though. She silently thanked the downtrodden occurrences for allowing her love to share a bed with her. Vegeta wouldn't express his fears or his concerns, but just crawl into bed with her, sometimes cuddle a bit, and then fall into a fitful sleep.
The week seemed to drag on and Vegeta would go throughout his days in an exhausted act of training. He had gained his strength back since the battle, but his lack of restful sleep affected him greatly. Very often he couldn't make it through the day without collapsing on the couch in the living room before having to be woken up again by his son or other family member for crying out in his sleep. After one particular outburst of terror, Trunks came running to his mother as she prepared dinner in the kitchen. The poor boy had been disturbed by incoherent words his father spoke and begged his mom to go make him feel better.
Bulma approached her sleeping prince as he lay on the couch, tangled neck to toe in sheets and sweating profusely. A look of deep distress rested on his features and Bulma couldn't bare the look of agony and fear etched in his expression. Leaning forward, the blue-haired goddess lightly tapped Vegeta on the cheek and brushed a hand through his locks. The saiyajin immediately calmed before cracking a blurred eye open and peering at the worried face of his loved one. Sitting up slightly, Vegeta pulled the sheets tightly around his shaking frame and allowed more room for Bulma to sit.
Doing so, Bulma rested at Vegeta's toes and gave him a pitied smile. Wiping some sweat from his brow with a shaky hand, Vegeta merely gripped the pale bed sheets, the closed curtains of the room casting a deathly glow on his pale features.
"You were dreaming again," Bulma whispered.
Vegeta nodded and swallowed, his throat sore and incredibly dry.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
Shaking his head, Vegeta swallowed again and asked for some water. Bulma nodded and reached into her pocket, pulled out a remote, pressed some buttons, and in a few minutes one of the cleaning droids entered carrying a large glass of ice water. Vegeta snatched the liquid up quickly and downed the whole drink, then replaced the empty cup on the robot's little tray.
"Vegeta, you've been having these horrible dreams for a week now. I'm worried."
The prince laughed lightly at her nervousness and glanced around the dark room. He could tell the sun was setting as the closed curtains glowed with a deep red light. Everything in the living room was dull and covered with a rich maroon color and Vegeta felt jumpy, as the haunting shadows seemed to jump out at him.
"Woman…Bulma. I go through these bouts of nightmares and anxiety all the time. It'll last for a week or two and then I'll be fine. We really don't need to talk about it."
About to lie down again, Vegeta stopped as Bulma reached out and gripped his clammy hand. His dark eyes peered at her delicate fingers and then up into her serious blue eyes.
"Then we won't talk about the nightmares you're having. We'll talk about the nightmares you've experienced in real life." Vegeta groaned and tried to lie down again, but Bulma harshly pulled him back up by the scruff of his shirt. "Listen mister," she snapped. "You and I both know the pain and horror of the shadow demons. We both know the terror that was relinquished on us. I think it would be better if we talked about it."
"No, Vegeta. I want you to tell me exactly what you're feeling. I want you tell me what you're afraid of now that the Shadow Demons are gone. You're a brave warrior and you're one hell of a smart guy. I can understand that an experience like this will give you bad dreams but-"
"Hold on. But I know you have the power to forget and move on. Letting your past effect the present is just-"
"Bulma I am worried about the present, but it's not what you think!"
The intelligent woman was at a loss for words as she stared at Vegeta in the ever-darkening room. His face was serious and brooding, and she refused to continue on. He sighed and leaned back slightly against the couch's arm rest. Pulling Bulma into his lap he held her close as they lay in the sheets together.
"My nightmares, they've been about my past experiences, yes…but they have mostly been about…you." He hesitated and pressed his forehead against Bulma's back, listening to her steady heartbeat. "You were almost killed, Bulma. You got involved in my battle and experienced something that should have only been my problem. I fear that someday my reckless actions will get you hurt, or worse, killed. I fear the future and I fear myself."
Bulma's eyes widened as she stiffened and stared at the bottom of the stairs that entered the room. She shook her head as if trying to hear him right and then turned so they were face to face. She placed both hands on the side of his face, her expression remaining calm and collected as she stared into his almost innocent face.
"Vegeta," she stated, her voice heavy and slow. "I got involved with the Shadow Demons because I wanted to. I love you and refused to sit there and allow you to get killed. I saw what you went through and I knew that I would not let those monsters get you. And I saw what you did for me. I know that you will never let me get hurt. I know that you will do anything to protect me." Vegeta opened his mouth to respond, but Bulma placed two delicate fingers over his lips. "We make mistakes in our lives, Vegeta, but you should never beat yourself up. As Yemma said, you have a chance to improve or you have the choice to remain the same. To me, I don't think you can improve anymore, because I love you now, as you are. You don't need to dream about my getting hurt or killed. I know that as long as I'm with you, I am safe."
"I cannot make an instant decision to change my ways, Bulma," Vegeta said softly. "A person can only change over time."
Bulma nodded and draped herself along Vegeta's reclined body, her arms swiftly rising along his arms.
"We have all the time in the world, Vegeta," she sighed. "And you no longer have any monsters in the shadows to fear. Just friends and family."
Vegeta leaned his head back against the soft armrest of the couch, his dark eyes gazing at the ceiling as Bulma fell asleep against his stomach. With one arm under his head and one hand dreamily running fingers through Bulma's hair, Vegeta felt his eyes fall closed. It would be a long path to discover himself. He felt fear toward his future and his permanent way of life, but decided that he would just run with it and see how life would turn out. He felt warmth deep within him as Bulma slept soundly with him. He smiled softly as he felt Trunks clamber upon his mother's back and instantly fall into a slumber. A heavy relief overcame him as he realized that the monsters that haunted him finally disappeared. He could be himself and lead his own path.
He fell asleep and no creatures of the nightmare bothered him during his slumber.
'Aw, sweet and sappy as most of my fan-fictions end. Well, thanks again to all those that read and reviewed. I am so glad that you found it interesting and disturbing and I love all the feedback I got. Thanks again!