Mirror, Mirror

© 2006 by Darke Angelus

Part Four – Brand New Perspective

By late afternoon of that terrible day, Vegeta had decided to give up. On himself. On his family. On his very sanity. He was sitting in one of the lounge chairs on the lower patio deck still wearing the clothes that he had slept in and not giving a damn. In front of him was a sandwich that was untouched and a six-pack of beer that wasn't. He was coming to the conclusion that perhaps drinking and feeling sorry for himself should become his new hobby. Lord knows he was good at it.

All Hail the Saiyan Prince of Beer guts! he thought somberly and cracked the tab on his fourth with grim determination. What else was there for him anymore? What was there really? He had purposely pushed Bulma away before the tournament with the warped logic that she would easily move on with her life after he had lost his own. If she didn't want him now it was his own damned fault, not hers. Kakarrot's infectious stupidity had claimed his only son, turning the boy against him. He couldn't even challenge the bastard to combat over the issue because he knew that the other pureblooded Saiyan would easily kick his ass. He always could. The only person still on his side seemed to be Bulma's mother.

That was enough to get him to start crying. Again. Not for the first time since this unending nightmare started to unfold, Vegeta cursed being wished back. He might have ended up in Hell and back among a sea of familiar faces, but at least he would have been whole. Now ...he didn't know what he was.

Even worse, he was beginning to discover that he no longer really cared.

He felt a prickle on the edge of his consciousness and looked around in time to see Gohan land in the courtyard. He slouched further down in his seat and tried to appear invisible. It didn't work (Of course it wouldn't, he thought to himself, When it involves me it's jinxed!) and the teenager began marching towards him. "Vegeta-"

"He's not here. Try the next house."

"I've been thinking about this all day. What Trunks said was dead wrong. I'm with you on that one. He should never have said what he did. It wasn't fair. But I honestly believe that maybe you two should sit down and have a good long talk-" Vegeta still wasn't looking at him and his hand began pantomiming a duck's beak wagging up and down. "...Are you drunk?"

"Not yet. Go home, boy."

"I didn't come all the way over here to talk to you about Trunks."

"That a fact," Vegeta quipped, staring at him with bored half-lidded eyes.

Gohan voice remained level when he said; "I want to spar with you."

Vegeta released a bark of laughter that contained absolutely no humor. "Your perfect, wonderful, heroic father is back home now. Go fight with him."

"I'd like to, believe me, but he's out of my league now ever since he reached Super Saiyan Level Three. Since you never managed to get that far, I figure now we're pretty evenly matched."

Vegeta could have sworn that his heart actually skipped a beat. The can of beer paused at his lips and his dull gaze suddenly sharpened on the teenager. "...What the hell did you just say?"

"Well, I don't mean to rub your face in it or anything but it's the truth, Vegeta. Dad's just too powerful now. I know it was Babidi's magic that helped you get to Level Two, but I bet you could get close to it on your own if you tried-"

Vegeta slammed his hands down on the patio table and got to his feet, crossing his arms in his usual stressed pose. "Why are you trying to get me angry, brat? What's the reason?" He was studying Gohan very seriously.

The teenager matched his stare; completely calm, perfectly composed. "Since when have I needed a reason? It's how you always are, isn't it? Or have you changed as much as my father has?"

"Watch your tone with me, boy," Vegeta said in a low, dangerous tone.

"What're you going to do about it, old man?" Gohan shot back.

Dropping his arms in surprise, the muscles across Vegeta's chest clenched and unclenched in agitation. His hands curled into tight fists, the knuckles turning white as he increased his grip in his growing fury. He wasn't sure what was pissing him off more; the boy's sheer insolence or the fact that he wasn't backing down from his arrogant conduct. There had been the odd time before when Gohan's smart mouth had gotten him in trouble but this blatant challenge was unprecedented. "You need to be reminded of your place," Vegeta snarled. "If it's a spar you want we'll do it right here."

This time Gohan was the one who crossed his arms. "Why not inside of that simulator you're always bragging about? Or are you out of practice? I hear you haven't trained since we all got back from the Look Out."

Vegeta's dark features flushed to a deep crimson. "Let's go," he grated out from between clenched teeth.

The gravity simulator had long since been moved inside the headquarters building into a specialized reinforced section on the ground floor. It was soundproofed and equipped with anti-blast shielding that was guaranteed to offset any explosion and channel it outside. Vegeta had only managed to breech the wall once and, true to its design, the built-in shields had projected the displaced energy harmlessly into the sky.

Gohan waited impatiently beside the door for Vegeta to slip into a more appropriate outfit for sparring. He could feel his resolve faltering with each passing second but knew backing out of the challenge was no longer an option. He had intentionally provoked this conflict and now had to see it through to its end and make his payment. Probably in blood. Maintaining the gruff façade, he quipped; "I thought you'd run away," when Vegeta came down the stairs wearing his sleeveless dark blue training suit.

Fixing the teenager with a withering glare as he pulled on his gloves, Vegeta shot back with: "You're going to be wishing I had by the time I'm through with you."

Gohan didn't drop his gaze but he managed one swallow. His throat had closed up to the size of a pinhole. "I've never sparred in the simulator before. What shall we set it at?"

"How about five hundred times earth's gravity?" Vegeta asked seriously as he entered the security code and waited for the reinforced doors to open.

"Fine," the teenager answered without hesitation.

Vegeta knew full well that the teen had never reached that level of training and would be smashed to the floor the instant the gravity emitters engaged. Fighting in here would be a huge advantage in his favor and, not for the first time, Vegeta's resolve lapsed. He stopped at the room's entrance, suddenly lost in thought. Something wasn't right here...

Gohan sensed the hesitation and boldly walked into the huge chamber as if he owned it. "I'll let you pick the setting," he said, adding a distracted wave.

"Don't do me any favors," Vegeta shot back. He walked over to the control panel and eyed the read-out. The highest level he had ever reached was five hundred and four and he was reasonably certain that all the teenager was accustomed to was earth's own paltry gravitational field. His old self, the Vegeta before all of that Majin Buu bullshit, would have entered 'five-hundred' into the console without hesitation. That old Vegeta would have relished watching Gohan's painful struggles on the steel floor with detached, gloating satisfaction. Right now, however, he found that he just wanted it to be a fair fight. "I'm going to set it for ...one hundred."

Gohan flashed him a grin. "That should be okay. I'll try to keep up with you on that one," he said with clear sarcasm.

The older Saiyan hesitated and stared solemnly at him. "This isn't like you."

"How would you know? The only time you talked to me these last seven years was to put me down for going to school. I'm a disappointment to the Saiyan race, right? Here's your chance to prove it, once and for all."

Casting him one more resentful glare, Vegeta hit the 'engage' button and flexed his muscles as the simulator began the steady progression of increasing the punishing gravity. Gohan could feel the pull almost immediately and willed his body not to betray him by trembling from the increasing stress. He had to maintain the appearance of the antagonist and knew that he was a crappy actor. Across from him, seemingly oblivious to the pressure, Vegeta did a few one-armed push-ups and executed a series of nimble back flips before getting into his unmistakable half-front facing posture, legs spread for balance. Gohan stood in a rooted stance and faced him squarely without any fear.

"The simulator has now reached one hundred times earth gravity," the mellow voice of the computer told them. "Maximum safety parameters have been established."

The pair faced off but neither made the transformation into Super Saiyan, wordlessly agreeing that the first to fall back on the change would be unanimously declared the loser and the match would be made forfeit. This was a face-off that pitted youth against experience; enthusiasm against composure; impatience against wisdom. It was a battle that would be waged solely using wits and skill.

For the first few minutes, the two charged and feinted, each evaluating the other's strategy and technique. They had sparred before, sometimes in life-or-death battles, but now there was something different that made Vegeta particularly wary. He tried to tell himself that the motivation behind this challenge was only teenage hormones and chronic immaturity. In the back of his mind, however, he knew that the teenager wasn't one to act on his emotions like Saiyans traditionally did. He was the thoughtful, intuitive one. There had to be a reason for him to be acting so irrational but Vegeta was damned if he could figure out what it was. Because of this, he resolved that he was not going to hurt Gohan.

Too much.

Forcing pictures of past enemies and battles through his mind, Gohan fed on the anger that the memories radiated; Frieza, Cell, even Vegeta himself when he had first appeared on earth. He released a shout of anger and charged. His kicks and blows put Vegeta on an unexpected defensive and the older Saiyan actually gave ground. With a snarl of anger, Vegeta dropped into a low stance and released a straight-up sidekick that collided with the youth's jaw and knocked him back a few feet. When Gohan wiped his mouth there was a streak of blood smeared across the back of his hand.

"First blood," Vegeta remarked smugly. "Might as well give up now, b-"

Gohan suddenly phased out and materialized behind the older Saiyan faster than the eye could track. Vegeta felt a knee connect with his lower back and knew that he'd be pissing blood by evening. If there was anything that he hated more than getting nailed in the nuts, it was a cheap shot to the kidneys. With a growl, he brought his elbow straight back and heard a satisfying exhale of breath as his strike connected with the boy's ribcage. After that he immediately dropped to the floor and knocked Gohan off-balance with a low sideswipe with his right leg. Not to be outdone, the youth fell back on his muscular arms and kicked out with both feet connecting squarely with Vegeta's stomach, driving him backwards.

The Saiyan turned his misplaced momentum into a back flip and rebounded from the wall of the simulator. He executed a series of lightening-fast feints, phasing in and out of sight, before appearing directly in front of Gohan and knocking him backwards. Vegeta avoided a one-knuckle fist punch aimed for his Adam's apple and leapt into the air. Executing a swift flip, he released a side-snap kick that clubbed the teen on the side of the head. It knocked Gohan off of his feet and sent him skidding across the smooth metal floor.

Stumbling backwards and trying not to succumb to the pull of gravity, Gohan squinted through a vision marred by bright colors, trying to shake off the blow. Vegeta regarded him with guarded curiosity, again registering that something was off about the nature of this conflict. "You're holding back," he observed. "Feeling me out, testing my defenses. Why?"

"You're different."

"I'm different?" He couldn't believe it. "I'm not the one who came here half-cocked and spoiling for a fight, brat."

"Vegeta, some of the moves that you're using are my dad's style. Haven't you noticed?"

He recoiled as if physically struck. Shaking his head, he forced himself to play back their brief skirmish. The teenager was right. There only two different moves he could see, variations really of his two favorite kicks, but it was enough. "No ..."

"I watched my dad's kata this morning and it's the same with him, he's adopted some of your stances into his routine. I'm not the one holding back here, Vegeta. You are."

"Shut up, boy," he snarled. Kakarrot had warped his mind, body, and emotions and now that taint had even reached his fighting style; a Royal kata that had been handed down through one thousand years of Elite selective breeding. It was final damned straw and he felt that familiar old rage and hate rise from the ashes at last. He was damned if he was going to allow the moves of some Third-class piece of shit pollute his proud lineage.

"It's true, you're fighting like my dad," Gohan persisted. "A part of you realizes that, I think. You're fighting me in here as much as you're fighting him-"

"Shut up! Just- SHUT UP!" he shouted back, lashing out with fists and feet. There was a desperate intensity behind his assault and Gohan was genuinely shocked by the strength, skill, and speed of the Saiyan's myriad attacks. The transitions between the man's moves were effortless and fluid. All motion was the height of perfection; aerial maneuvers, flexibility, posture, and stance. Gohan's panicked eye took note of everything as he desperately avoided key blows and returned others point for point.

Saiyan and hybrid flew into one another; a blur of strikes, kicks, and blocks. Gohan quickly recovered his wits and he moved like a possessed soul with several of his punches and kicks actually getting through Vegeta's defenses. One palm heel glanced off of his cheekbone while a knee barely missed connecting with his groin. It was at this point that Vegeta resolved to stop humoring him and show the brat just what the Prince of Saiyans could really do in a fight.

Jumping back to avoid a hammer-fist strike that would have easily shattered a rib, Vegeta let the battle lust drop over his mind and transform everything around him into a crimson veil. All at once, Gohan found himself on the receiving end of the Saiyan's unique repertoire of martial arts; gainer flash, whip back, spear-fist thrust, reverse kick, ridge-hand strike, dagger lunge- He could find no defense against that alien technique and in the span of twenty swift heartbeats, the teenager found himself back on the simulator floor, barely conscious.

The rage deserted Vegeta as swiftly as it had come, leaving him hollow and cold. He felt absolutely no sense of victory at the sight lying at his feet. He had lost his temper. It was something that hadn't happened since Trunks had been eight and caught him off guard with a Super Saiyan transformation. No trip to the park is going to smooth this one over, he thought morosely.

He knelt down beside the teen and reached out to touch him, drawing his hand back and curling it into a fist instead. "Gohan, I-"

The teenager stirred. "... would have ...killed me if you'd ...wanted to..." he rasped out from between swollen lips.

"No-YES! But I wasn't- I-I'm not..." He almost said it out loud: I'm not the man I used to be.

As if catching that thought, Gohan wearily raised his head and actually smiled at him. "...How much more proof do you need that you're ...a better person now, Vegeta?"

All of the blood drained out of his face as he struggled to respond. With a growl, he turned sharply and walked away. Gohan thought for sure that he was heading for the exit but he walked over to the console instead. After a few seconds, the computer informed them: "The simulator has now returned to standard earth gravity. All safety parameters are no longer in effect."

Gohan immediately felt the strain leave his battered frame and he released a sigh of relief, sitting up. "That's better. Thanks, Vegeta," he said sincerely, rubbing his aching shoulder.

"You tricked me," Vegeta said in a low voice, not turning around. He had not escaped unscathed from their frenzied skirmish; there were a number of bruises that marked his arms and face but the injuries were mild in comparison to what he had inflicted on the teenager. He squeezed his eyes shut in shame.

Pulling off his sweaty T-shirt, Gohan wiped his face. "No, you knew what I was up to right from the start," he said, his words muffled by the fabric. "I could see you figuring it out while we fought."

This time the older Saiyan looked around at him. "Idiot. What purpose did it serve? Look at the state of you!"

"It could have been worse and you know it," the teenager said. When he received no denial he plunged on, "The only language that you and my dad understand is combat. Trying to talk to you when I first came here would have been useless. I know that you wouldn't have listened to me."

"I'm listening now."

Gohan's bruised face became serious. "Good, because I have a lot to say..."

Trunks maintained his direct course west while struggling with everything that his mother had told him earlier. His young mind was frantically trying to process all of the information before he began the fateful chore of facing his father and atone for his earlier misconduct. Bulma had been surprisingly calm when she had dealt with him, but he knew better than to expect that treatment from his father. If past experience was any judge, the man was going to be brilliantly pissed.

"His own father just handed him over to Frieza like he was some- some unwanted pet. How could he do that?" the boy wondered bitterly, unable to comprehend the logic behind the action. At the age of five, his dad would have been old enough to grasp what was happening to him. He would have felt betrayed, abandoned, unwanted... left at the mercy of the butcher responsible for the extinction of his race.

He suffers from nightmares to this very day from what that-that miserable bastard did to him, his mother had confessed with unusual spite. She was a woman who never held onto a grudge and so the fierce hatred behind her words came as a brutal shock. His father was a full-blooded Saiyan; beatings wouldn't have fazed him so it had to have been something else. Something... worse.

"No," Trunks choked, his eyes burning with unshed tears. He shook his head to try and drive the suspicions away. He had barely scratched the surface of what he suspected and even that mere glimpse was enough to cause him to shudder. It was too awful to consider. Too- too evil.

As evil as his father had once been.

Trunks realized he was actually terrified to face his father now that he knew the truth of his terrible past. An interstellar butcher responsible for the deaths of an incalculable number of alien lives. A celestial bad-ass who had no equal until the moment he set foot on earth and set forces into motion that were still in action to this very day. He had the entire universe to roam but here he stayed: playing house with a wife and son. Why?

His mother's voice was back: What matters is that Vegeta loves you very much. He can't say it out loud but it's true. He's so proud of you, Trunks. To become a Super Saiyan at so young an age and so powerful-

He and his father had been drifting apart over the last few years; a distancing so unperceivable that the boy barely noticed, too wrapped up in his own life with friends and school to realize that perhaps his absence had been noticed. And missed. Vegeta wasn't the only one at fault here, not by a long shot. It dawned on Trunks that he had been acting like a self-centered little rich kid who believed that the world revolved around him. His cheeks flamed with shame at how often Gokou's name entered into conversations at home, oblivious to his mother's veiled glances at his father, or of the older Saiyan's tendency to lapse into silence when the name was mentioned.

He had to make things right, he knew that, but he was drawing a blank on how to do it.

His senses picked up a familiar ki as he neared the Capital and was astonished to see Gohan streaking by in the opposite direction. The teenager slowed his pace long enough to offer the boy a wave and Trunks' keen eye caught sight of a split lip and bruises on the older hybrid's face. He had a pretty good idea where the teenager had come from, and that knowledge filled Trunks with increasing dread.

When he landed in the courtyard, he found his father standing in the shade under one of the trees apparently waiting for him. He was wearing one of his blue training suits and it looked like it had endured some light combat. There were also bruises on his face. That meant that Trunks' earlier suspicions were confirmed; Gohan and his father had gotten into it. He couldn't think of a reason why but when Vegeta snapped his outraged glare solely on the boy, he couldn't think of much else. His fear had returned with a vengeance.

"D-Dad listen, I'm really sor-"

"Shut up. I've been thinking hard about what you said earlier. About you wanting Kakarrot for a father-"

"I-I didn't mean it-"

"Yes, you did. Listen up boy, and listen good. Maybe Gohan rattled my brain a bit or maybe I'm finally losing my mind for good. Whatever the case, it's my turn to speak and I don't want to hear a peep out of you until I'm finished. This is a once-in-a-lifetime-never-to-be-repeated offer and I don't want to lose my train of thought. Got it?

"I-" Trunks had a pretty good idea of what his father was going to say and decided not to interrupt him. " ...Sure, sure dad," he said in a meek tone, easing down into the nearby bench. He was squaring his shoulders and waiting for the barrage to come.

Taking a few seconds to consider his words, the older Saiyan surprised the boy by speaking in a calm, measured voice that was completely uncommon to his usual impatient nature. If anything, hearing it made Trunks even more anxious and so he listened closely, not interrupting. "If it hadn't been for a simple blow to the head caused by a senile old human, Kakarrot would never have become who and what he is today. He would have attacked the Earth, probably destroyed it because that's what Saiyans do-" Vegeta shook his head and corrected himself, "No, that's what Saiyans did. What I'm trying to say is that because of that one thing, Kakarrot's destiny was changed. He was raised among humans and believed himself to be one. As a result he adopted ideals that no Saiyan would have ever been able to accept under normal circumstances; respect, friendship... and that cursed 'L' word that your mother uses every damn chance she gets.

"I didn't have the comfort of an upbringing like that. I had a throne, an empire, and a proud race torn away from me until all that I had left was my own name. I've had to fight for every single scrap I could get my hands on ever since I was your age. A life like that makes you hard. And cold. And pitifully grateful for any little speck of simple kindness you can scrounge. Your mother gave me that gift over ten years ago and I've never forgotten it.

"Our argument made me aware that you take your life for granted, just as Kakarrot does. That circus clown has two strong sons and a spitfire for a mate, and yet his greatest ambition is to do nothing more than bum around the planet. You have more wealth than you can imagine. You're one of the most powerful beings in the universe. You have your freedom. Yet none of that seems to be enough for you. You're not content with your station and that pisses me off to no end. Sometimes I just want to lock minds with you and show just you how bad things can get for a boy-" he swallowed and looked away. "But no matter how disrespectful you are, there's no justifying that punishment. You'll just have to take my word for it. If the worst thing in your life is thinking that I'm a lousy father then you're an idiot- Just like your revered idol."

Trunks was shaking his head. "Stop it, dad! I don't want to hear anymore-"

Vegeta suddenly shouted: "You will LISTEN! You piss and moan that I never talk to you! Well damn it, I'm talking now so shut up!"

The boy's mouth closed with an audible snap.

"I'm not trying to offer you excuses but you have to understand this, Trunks: I am a pureblooded Saiyan. I'm the last true prince of an extinct race of warriors that killed solely for pleasure. Bloodletting was a sport to us, nothing more-nothing less. To us, all other races were inferior. You can pin it on genetics or evolution all you want but the truth was that I liked the way I was. I was the most feared killer in the universe and I reveled in that title. Was I insane? Your mother and her friends would like to think so. The brutal truth is that I was completely sane. I didn't actually lose my mind until I endured my first defeat at the hands of Kakarrot. That's when I went fucking crazy. And that madness remained right up to the day I sacrificed myself to kill Majin Buu-" he stopped suddenly, realizing that he had been close to raving. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, forcing himself to calm down. "It was the fusion that caused all of the problems," Vegeta told him in a softer voice. "The Potara Earrings were meant to create a permanent amalgam of Kakarrot and myself but we broke apart inside Majin Buu. I'm seeing things from Kakarrot's perspective but that isn't the worst of it. He's in my mind and soul, effecting my emotions, my fighting style, everything that's important to me. I lost something integral after that damned Fusion. I'm no longer the person I used to be and ... I honestly don't know what to do."

"Dad, I-I ..." Trunks was at a loss for words. His mother had told him earlier what happened but actually hearing his father confess the truth was not something he could have prepared himself for. It wasn't the victory he thought it would be. To see his father so vulnerable was more terrible than the first time he had seen him fall in battle.

He got to his feet and put a hand on his father's arm and was briefly encouraged when Vegeta made no move to shake him off and widen the distance. "What can I do for you?" he asked sincerely.

"Stop bringing up Kakarrot for a start. I know he's you're hero. I know for a fact that he's stronger and more powerful than me but I don't need to be reminded of it every goddamned day." There. He finally admitted the painful truth it out loud for the first time since he and Kakarrot had first met. He was surprised to find that it rolled off of his tongue easier than he'd thought it would. And damned if he didn't feel better for saying it. He felt ... felt ...


He savored that odd feeling, testing it, while Trunks stood beside him and started to cry. "I'm sorry dad! You're my father! Not him! I never should have said it. I'm sorry!" Tears were starting to spill from his blue eyes and run down his cheeks, and he wiped his running nose on the sleeve of his shirt, chest hitching miserably.

Watching his son struggle with his grief, Vegeta considered this odd unburdened sensation deep within him. It was as if someone had lanced an infected boil and released the poison trapped inside of it. The only difference was that this infection had been deep in his soul, festering for decades.

He suddenly recalled some of Gohan's words after their fight. The teenager had prepared quite a sermon and he had lectured with the skill of a Baptist minister. Vegeta had listened as best he could but he hadn't retained much beyond the salient points. He was a Saiyan, after all, and the boy had been dead-on when he had said that combat was the only language Saiyans really understood. Still, he remembered enough, and those words came back to him now.

" – My father is back, but when he was gone you were as close to a father to me as any man I knew, next to Piccolo. I'll always respect you for it. Deep down you're a good person and now you've been given the chance to finally prove it. Make it work, Vegeta. I know you can do that."

There had been more, an hour's worth of babble, but those five sentences summed it up perfectly. He had been given a second chance to make things right for his family and the time had come to shelve the self-pity and get back to living.

Cool! Gokou was back to cavorting around in the background of his thoughts. It's about time, Vegeta. Let's get down and par-tay!

Not you, dumbnuts, Vegeta thought back. I'm taking back control of my mind once and for all.

Oh yeah?

You'd better believe it.

Sure, right. And how you gonna do it-

With his mental control back on track, Vegeta envisioned a huge stone slab dropping out of the sky and squishing the orange-clothed irritant like a bug under a rock. A crimson pond began to quickly spread around the pillar. He could even see Kakarrot's fingers and feet twitching spasmodically under the heavy weight and he absorbed the sight with private relish. It was only a mental representation, but one took the victories you could get. Finishing off the vision, a mountainous broom swept the grisly mess into a dark, rarely used corner of his mind and he sealed the door shut with deadbolts and chains.

You got into my body and emotions, even my damned kata, but I'm taking my mind back. It's the only thing of mine I've got left. Understand? he yelled at the door.

There was no answer, which was precisely what he expected. He nodded in satisfaction and returned to the real world.

Trunks was still bawling and Vegeta rolled his eyes and lightly batted the side of the boy's head, ruffling his already mussed lavender hair. "You get that emotion from your mother. Quick to temper and speaking without thinking, you get that from me. You're our son, all right," he muttered. When Trunks looked up, he was astonished to see his father was smiling down at him.

"Dad ...?"

"Let's go inside and get something to eat," Vegeta offered and he watched his son release an excited shout, one small arm punching at the sky in a gesture of victory.

That painful tension in the center of his being loosed even more. Vegeta felt a little like celebrating himself.

Bulma had noticed over the evening meal that something about Vegeta was different but she couldn't quite put her finger on it.

He had been unusually polite at the table, and receptive to Trunks' banter about friends and school (but nothing about Gokou, the boy had taken his father's words to heart and it would be a long time before he would ever bring that name up in front of him again). She was relieved to see that the two had apparently made their peace but she saw bruises on Vegeta's face that weren't there the night before. Trunks was unharmed, she noted gratefully, but she felt that familiar worry start to return to her weary muscles. She was wondering if her husband had gone to Mr. Satan's mansion to visit an old pink friend ...

When supper was over, Vegeta went back to cleaning the rest of his neglected fish tanks and Trunks stayed close by his side. Bulma wanted to talk to her husband about this miraculous turn-around to his behavior but she figured it was more important for the pair to interact and make up for lost time together. When she had received Gohan's call over what had happened that morning, her first instinct had been to simply chastise the youth. Telling the boy about his father's dark past had been her absolute last choice, but it was one she was glad she had made. Trunks was human but he was also half-Saiyan and responding enthusiastically to powerful figures was an instinctive thing in his alien make-up. She had now ensured that he would give his father the proper respect he deserved.

What worried her now was Vegeta's reaction to his son's knowledge of his past. While they were together, Trunks would no doubt be fishing for juicy tidbits about his father's past life as a soldier. He might become irritated by the boy's curiosity but she had a pretty good idea that if he was going to lose his temper over the issue it was going to be at her. She had betrayed his confidence in her by telling Trunks everything. There was no telling what his reaction might be and for that reason, she kept her distance until bedtime.

When she finally braved up the nerve to go into their bedroom, Bulma found it empty but noticed the double doors to the balcony were open. A gentle breeze was blowing at the curtains and they were billowing gently in the breeze. She peered outside and saw her husband sitting on the railing of the balcony, looking out at the lights of the Capital. She hovered in the doorway, watching him and committing every detail to memory. Recalling the details of his past, Bulma's head now felt swollen with all of the contradictions this enigma had exhibited over all the years she had known him; villain and hero, murderer and lover, traitor and friend, loner and father.

He was freshly showered and clad in a pair of simple sleep pants, his damp hair was undisturbed by the slight breeze that was hitting this side of the headquarters building. He usually had his arms crossed in that constant gesture of tension but this time his fingers were loosely laced together and lying on his stomach. When he finally noticed her, he inclined his jaw and gestured to the city; an unspoken invitation to join him.

"It's a beautiful night," she said, standing beside him.

He nodded mutely. "Hell of a couple of weeks, though."

"Yeah, it was that," she admitted and in the back of her mind, he caught; Hell of a couple of months, truth to tell...

"I know you spoke to Trunks."

She cast him a startled glance. "What makes you think that I said anything to him?"

"Obnoxious brat in the morning, regretful child by evening. It didn't take a genius to figure out why."


He passed her an absent wave. "I'm not angry." He lapsed back into his strange silence and then added in a softer voice, "It takes a lot more than that to get me angry now."

"Is that really a bad thing?" she dared to ask.

Turning his head, he looked into her face – her beautiful, trusting face, and admitted, "No, I don't think it is."

Troubled, she examined him closely in the light of the half-moon overhead; a moon that she had wished back six years ago in a time when they had been newlyweds, lost in love with each other and oblivious to the pressures and trials that would almost rip that union to pieces. His face was calm while he let the examination linger, watching her eyes, familiarizing himself with their luster and assured to see the concern there, and the love.

Those eyes suddenly narrowed in suspicion. "Are you drunk?" she asked.

He had been expecting anything but that. "Am I- What? No!" He swung his legs off the railing and stood to face her. "I'm trying to tell you that I'm starting to make my peace with what's happened to me."

She was still eying him shrewdly. "Uh-huh. And what brought this suddenly around?"

"Gohan, Trunks," he flushed slightly when he added, "... your mother."

That surprised her. "Mom?! What did she do?"

He was shaking his head. "I will never tell you even if a live to be hundred." He could start to see the gears turning in that genius mind of hers and added quickly, "and neither will she."

The doubt was finally starting to leave her face. "And how do I know that come morning you won't be right back to your old evil self?"

"I don't think he's a tenant anymore."

"Oh, come on!"

"I'm serious, Bulma. I faced my share of trials today and there wasn't one hint of that usual homicidal compulsion-" He suddenly broke off, considering, and felt compelled to add; "Well, I did lose my temper with Gohan when we fought earlier but he purposely goaded me into it."

Now she had her answer about the new bruises on his face. "Gohan! When was he here?"

"It was probably around the time you were talking to Trunks. He's one smart son of a bitch, I'll give him that much. He let me win just to test my self-control. I could have killed him."

"But you didn't," she said, relieved.

"It wasn't even close. And that's not like me in a fight."

"No, it sure isn't."

He actually betrayed an absent shrug. "Perhaps that's not such a bad thing. Today I finally realized that all that I really care about are you and Trunks. You two are the only people that matter in my life. The rest on this world are of no consequence." He let those words sink in for a moment and then continued, "I'm trying to say that I want to try and make things right between the three of us. If you'll permit me, that is."

"I've put up with you killing my boyfriend and nearly destroying the earth," Bulma spoke carefully in a neutral tone. "You scared the shit out of me on Namek and treated me like some damned employee when you were training to fight Cell. I've stayed by your side through the V'Nhar, Dorothy Pereaux, Installation 15, and Frieza's poison. I've put up with more years of your stubborn, self-righteous bullshit than I'd like to count. Do you know what all of that means, Vegeta?"

He opened his mouth to respond and found himself at a rare loss for words. All he could get out was a meek, "No."

She closed the distance between them and suddenly kissed him. "It means that I'm sure as hell not going to let you off the hook now," she said softly, smiling for the first time tonight. "Not when there's finally a reason to hope that things will change for the better."

They embraced and kissed again and Bulma was encouraged by the fervor of his lips, not to mention the accuracy. Their disastrous first attempt at reconciliation was still fresh in her mind and she was cautiously optimistic that the man she loved seemed to be back at the controls.

Gently moving aside a few stray strands of her sea-foam colored hair, he softly pressed his lips to her forehead, kissing her gently before moving down, following the shape of her eyes, the curve of her cheek, the outline of her jaw with his lips. Tasting the soft flesh of her neck, earlobes, eyelids, he ran the tip of his tongue across her lips, tracing their contours before slowly sliding his tongue between them, teasing her lightly.

As the kiss deepened and began to get serious, Bulma thought that her trembling legs were going to betray her. She reached down and was relieved to find him hard and throbbing with need. Oh yes, her Vegeta was back at last!

He caught that thought. When they parted for breath, he told her, "No, I'm not the same person. I'm different. Better, I think." Gohan had said the same thing but now, right now, was the first time that he actually believed it might be true.

"I think so, too. Let's see what else you are," she said in a husky voice. She took his hand and led him back into their bedroom. Spurred on by their mutual excitement, clothes were shed in short order before they collapsed eagerly onto the bed.

With a subtle shift of her hips, she accepted the entire length of him with a gratified sigh. Two months, she thought absently, arching her back beneath him and grabbing firm hold of his muscular back. It's been too damned long-! They became a delicious tangle of limbs riding the sea of navy blue sheets.

The two melded into one, each feeling, giving and receiving pleasure. It was intense, it was beautiful, wonderful, and more. Much more. It was the rejoining of two souls that had been separated for too long and were aching from neglect. Two soul mates consummating their union as if it were the first time they ever met. Their pleasures spiraled higher, both of them riding the edge of their union to the brink and holding it there, reveling in the intimacy. Their kisses were fevered, hands roughly tender as they grew reacquainted with each other, purposely delaying the inevitable, becoming familiar with each other's body through the delicate senses of taste and touch.

Softly murmured words were exchanged as each reached the edge time and time again. They were trapped in the fleeting eternity of their lovemaking before their passion sent them tumbling over the edge, falling down into the sweet transcendence of the moment; the touch of softened skin to hardened muscle. The one, soon returning to two as they finally drew apart, the swift beat of their hearts slipping to a slower rhythm and their heavy breathing gradually easing.

Feeling all of the muscles of her body relaxing from their efforts, Bulma settled in under the covers and felt his muscular body settle into place behind her, molding against her as close as he could. She took one of his hands and kissed it and felt his lips softly brushing against her shoulder. His hand traced the swell of her breasts and then went down to rub back and forth against her belly. Comforted by his touch, Bulma felt herself beginning to drift off. Her passion and lust sated in the act of their mutual love.

All was silent for perhaps ten minutes when Vegeta suddenly murmured, "I'm curious. Do earth females have to endure a fertility expiration date?"

Her eyes snapped open like window shades and her entire body stiffened against him. "...What?"

"Nothing. Go to sleep."

"Vegeta, what did you say?" She waited for more from him and got nothing. By the time her shocked mind began to process the possible implications (Was he asking if I could still have children? Was that it?!) he was asleep and snoring, another one of the side-effects he had gotten from merging with Gokou.

Bulma rolled over and watched him as he slept, her mind whirling. Unaware that she had begun doing it, she began to caress her own stomach.

Standing out side of the bedroom door clad only in nightie and housecoat, Mrs. Briefs shared the same look of stunned amazement that her daughter presently wore. She had heard every word (and a great deal more), her ears were very keen for a woman of her age. She eavesdropped just to assure herself that things were going to be all right between the troubled couple, or so she tried to tell herself anyway. Regardless of her motives she had heard enough and eagerly ran back to her bedroom.

Mr. Briefs was sitting up in bed and reading a thick tome about String Theory when his wife pounced on the bed like a little kid. "So, Bulma and Vegeta are getting along, are they?" he queried neutrally, knowing about his wife's odd voyeuristic tendencies where the odd couple was concerned.

"Better than that, honey! I think that they might decide to have another child, isn't that wonderful?" she gushed.

Mr. Briefs dropped his book into his lap while his wife discarded the housecoat and slipped under the covers. She gave him a sweet peck on the cheek and then rolled over onto her side. "Just think, we might hear the sweet pitter-patter of little feet soon. I can't wait!"

She fell quickly asleep, unaware of her husband sitting bolt upright and saying over and over in a hoarse whisper; "...the horror ...the horror ..."


Bulma slammed her palm down on the snooze button of the blaring alarm clock and rolled over to stare groggily at the ceiling. It had been a peculiar night's sleep. At least two times an hour throughout the night she had snapped awake and looked for Vegeta, convinced that having him once more in her bed had just been a dream. She found him in the exact same place each time; lying close beside her and sleeping peacefully. That annoying new tendency to snore had been replaced by his endearing purr-like rumble. To convince herself that this wasn't some cruel vision, she actually poked him to confirm he was real.

When dawn broke and she woke up to continue the odd ritual, she found his side of the bed was empty and almost panicked until she heard rustling in the room. Vegeta was up and changing into his jogging clothes, another familiar hobby that she was pleased to see him returning to. Seeing she was awake, he walked over and kissed her. "I'll see you later," he promised and left the room.

Bulma made a mental note to clear her noon hour for a quickie and then slapped her forehead in exasperation. It would have been the perfect time to ask him what he had meant about 'fertility expiration dates' and the moment was lost. "Damn it!" she cursed, wondering if her intelligence was on temporary hiatus. When she and Vegeta had first started courted, he'd had that effect on her; disarming her, making her second-guess herself, (driving her crazy) and damned if he hadn't taken up the reins and started doing it all again.

She rubbed her stomach again and allowed herself a small, wistful smile. Perhaps the time had come to stop taking the Pill once and for all ...She would have a deep discussion with him before doing it, though. This time, she had a deep suspicion that he just might be receptive to the idea.

Over breakfast, it was just her and Trunks with Mrs. Briefs flouncing all around the kitchen as if someone had slipped Ecstasy into her morning tea. The boy was shoveling food into his maw but he was more asleep than awake. Vegeta had dragged him out of bed to join him on his morning jog through Western Capital Park and now he was already exhausted even though it was barely eight o'clock. Bulma wasn't sure if it was her husband's method of bonding with his son or punishing him, but she found it hard to contain her amusement as she watched the boy struggling to keep his head up. She imagined that she would get a call from school today informing her that he had fallen asleep in class. It wouldn't be a first time.

She snapped her fingers beneath his chin and he jerked upright in surprise. "Trunks, go upstairs and take a quick shower. Hurry now, or you're going to be late for school."

"Uhm, 'kay mom," he mumbled and dragged himself out of the chair to go upstairs. It was almost painful to watch.

Bulma turned to her mother. "Has Vegeta been in for breakfast?"

Mrs. Briefs flashed her a beaming smile. "Not yet, honey!"

"...Mom, are you alright?"

"I couldn't be better!" she said happily. "It's just such a beautiful day!" she executed a near-perfect pirouette and danced off into the pantry.

Bulma shook her head and decided it was time to get to her office. The emergency with her family seemed to be resolving itself quickly and she had to get caught up on her work before there was a crisis of another kind. She had been ahead of things when Vegeta had been training for the tournament (after all, during that lonely period there hadn't been any other diversions to occupy her time), but now she was almost two weeks behind on paperwork, requisition orders, personnel reports, meetings, agendas and all other tasks that directly concerned a company President. Since stepping down to permit his daughter's control of the company, Mr. Briefs just tinkered around in the labs. Bulma envied her father that freedom and wondered how long it would be before she could turn the reins over to Trunks.

She went downstairs and was immediately aware that something was brewing. All of the staff of Research and Development were standing in the corridor, milling around and talking in excited undertones. The first thought to go racing through her mind was; Oh crap- Mutiny! And she started backing up towards the stairs when Charles McNeal spotted her and came racing over.

"He's back! He's back!" he was spouting over and over. "My little buddy's back!" Some of the other scientists and engineers responsible for Capsule Corp.'s prototypes now noticed her and applauded, grinning wildly. A few even cheered.

"Keep it down out there, you morons!" a voice shouted from inside the lab and they all recoiled like a bunch of children, shushing themselves and moving further down the corridor to resume their excited chatter.

Bulma knew that voice. She peered around the side of the glass door and saw that Vegeta was standing at the drafting table scribbling furiously onto a blueprint. He was still in his jogging suit and he was so engrossed in what he was doing that he didn't even notice her. He had a pencil behind either ear and, assured that he was alone, he put on an old pair of Charles' glasses and began to fill in some fine detail. Bulma ducked back before she was spotted.

"How long has he been here?" she asked Charles.

"I got in at six-thirty and he showed up about fifteen minutes later," he told her. "He stood in front of the GravTab blueprint for close to an hour, just reading it over. Then he started making revisions."

She stole another peek. "It looks like he's redrafting the whole thing."

Charles was close beside her. "No, that's something else," he whispered. "He finished the modification for the GravTab in about five minutes. I don't know what he's designing now but whatever it is, it's big."

That explained the staff's excitement. Vegeta's blueprints were like unexpected Christmas gifts for the Research team and they actually started some scuffles among the employees as they squabbled about who would be lucky enough to get a crack at unraveling the designs and engineer a workable prototype. Down here, the Saiyan was regarded by Bulma's old department as a hero who had thrust Capsule Corp. into the limelight with its technological marvels. Not for the first time, Bulma thought it was ironic that her husband would command all of this respect for his talent and not his power.

"How did you do it, Bulma? The last time he was here, he was a wreck," Charles' voice broke and she was astonished to see that he was near tears. Whether it was from the excitement or genuine concern for the Saiyan, she wasn't sure.

She gripped her old friend's arm and offered him one of her most dazzling smiles. "It doesn't matter now. Like you said before, he's back."

My Vegeta is back, she thought, relieved, watching her husband as he worked. Her heart was glowing with love and pride for her man. And he's better than ever.

They would all live happily ever after.

It was about damned time!

The End.