I was just sitting here before the computer, minding my own business, when this bunny jumped out of nowhere and told me to write the following story in the Mirai Dragon Ball Z timeline and, being as nice as I am, I complied with its wishes. I offer you the product of the bunny's insistence and it goes by the title:
The First to Fall
He wasn't one to waste his time—really. There was probably something in his genetic structure that couldn't tolerate indolence, at all. He was physically incapable of just lying on some tiny island ogling at some big chested bimbo all day long—not that big chested earthlings interested him in the first place—or roaming pointlessly around busy human cities with all those weaklings fussing over their petty little problems, or—Hell forbid!—enjoying a lazy day lying on his back in the vast expanses of the Capsule Corporation gardens.
And, thus, he was once again doing what he did best—training. There was nothing to really train for, really, as Frieza had been long since exterminated—and not by him, too, but that was a bitter topic so let's not venture into it any further—and so the Universe was now a raving madman-free place. That is, if you exclude him from that category. Even he himself wasn't certain why he still hadn't done anything—anything at all—since this earthling woman—was her name Bulma?—had invited him to stay at her place for a while until he could stand on his own two feet again.
She had been the first to treat him like an equal. It had shocked him at first, the familiarity that she tried to exhibit to him, the destroyer of worlds, the incarnation of all her worst nightmares, the prince of the greatest race of biologically programmed killers, then it had angered him and finally he had forced himself to come to terms with it. He still had a long way to go down that road, but at least he could let off some steam by having rows with her virtually every time he met her somewhere around the house. It didn't matter what she did—he always criticized her, always made fun of her, always acted detached and emotionless, instinctively afraid—a Saiya-jin prince was never afraid! He was just put off by it!—of being regarded with the same disconcerting familiarity on her part as all those months ago.
He was in the process punching an imaginary opponent in the sweat-suffused air of the gravity chamber when all lights suddenly went out and—with the pressure of the artificially generated gravity gone—he soared across the room, slamming forcefully into the closest wall thanks to the momentum of his punch. He pulled himself as gracefully as he could away from the wall, glaring daggers in the utter darkness at nothing in particular—if only because of his limited vision at the point in time—and then carrying himself in the direction where he knew the door to the premise was—he absolutely refused to fumble around in the darkness! Saiya-jin Princes do not fumble!—with the full intention of storming the accursed woman's quarters if he had to in order to demand what was the meaning of this power outrage.
He nearly unhinged the door when he entered the house which was unnaturally eerie and quiet—and equally as unlit as the gravity machine was, he noted in the back of his mind—for the time of the day. It had been a few hours after nightfall and he was certain she wasn't asleep at this early an hour. She liked to work herself well into the early hours of morning, keeping herself busy while that abomination of a human mate of hers or whatever was away. And since that was almost all the time, she rarely went to bed before three am. He tried not to make a big deal of the fact he knew her habits so well and focused more on finding her to yell her ears off her pretty little blue head.
Instantly, he was thankful for his superior Saiya-jin sight as his eyes grew accustomed to the lack of light and he scanned the dark living-room for her. He found her very soon, sitting as still as the stupid statue that her idiotic ditzy mother had bought and put in the middle of the garden last week, and her eyes fixed very closely on a point on the faraway wall. Had his excellent hearing not assured him that it's not true, he would have guessed she wasn't breathing at all.
Suddenly he felt guarded. It was unusual for her to be so calm, so resigned, so perfectly… still. The odd haired woman was an active human, always making the lives of all those around her much more colourful with her quick wit, brainy conversation or idiotically silly inventions. Her eyes always sparked with determination, with decisiveness, with character, with life. He had grown so used to her spunk over the evanescent year or so he had spent in her company that her sudden sullenness startled him—and a Saiya-jin prince is never startled.
She turned her head slowly to him, as if afraid that if she did it any faster it might disconnect from her neck and shatter like a glass on the floor, and in the scant light from the other parts of the house which still held some signs of people living in it, he could see the hollowness of her eyes and the traces of weakness down her cheeks. They were traces of an activity he had never seen her indulge in, an activity that he had considered her incapable of indulging in, just like he had thought he was before his shameful death at Frieza's filthy paws.
She had been crying before his arrival and—judging from the vacancy of her expression, something that he had thought impossible to bear witness to before—she had been doing it for a while.
All fight drained from him in a heartbeat. All thoughts flitted away from his garbled mind, all intention of yelling at her dissipating as if it had never even been conceived in the first place. He had been in the living-room a thousand times, he had encountered her a million and he had seen her mood swing in the most bizarre of directions but this was uncharted territory that was lying in front of him now. He didn't know how to handle it—the realization that she was just as weak as she was physically, that she was just as flawed as any other pathetic creature on that mud-ball planet. He didn't know what to say, how to react, what to do or what to think anymore. He had been at her mercy all along and doing anything that might make her have a change of heart about her hospitality to him he considered a very bad idea.
So, he did what he usually did when he was encountered with a problem that couldn't be solved just by beating the stuffing out of someone—he waited for it to solve itself.
And it did so quite soon, in the form of a feeble, barely forced to calmness woman breaking the absolute silence of the room.
"He's…" He could tell by the pause that she was fighting a fresh batch of tears from spilling down her cheeks. She could barely keep her voice steady as a simple sentence—though hitched—exited her mouth. "He's… dead, Vegeta." She swallowed almost audibly before she continued, in a hoarse whisper. "I just thought that… you'd want to know."
Vegeta only nodded, though he wasn't sure whether or not she could see him doing so but venturing to guess she couldn't care less if he did. He didn't need to ask her to know whom she spoke of and didn't need to say anything more to her statement before turning around to stroll for the door without complaint, without demanding the power be restored for him to go back to his excessive training.
Having the large dome of Capsule Corporation plunged in encompassing darkness was the least way Bulma Briefs could honour the loss of Goku Son, hero, now former bane of Vegeta's existence and closest friend on the entire planet for the woman which now sat stiffly on the couch of her living-room.
Bulma always knew better than to disrupt her alien guest's lengthy training sessions. She had made the mistake once and hadn't repeated it since. He had thrown a major tantrum and she hadn't been too happy about it. But she knew that he would want to know that Goku—or Kakarott, as he liked to call him for reasons unknown to her—had passed away after weeks upon weeks of excruciating suffering.
Somehow, Goku had caught some heart disease while in space which could take down even a powerful Saiya-jin like him and, no matter how much she brainstormed over trying to create a cure for the illness, it had eluded her. In the end, she had been too late. Her time to save the person who had so selflessly saved thousands, millions, billions of lives so many times with such ease that he made it look ridiculously easy to cheat death, had run out before she had the chance to let the thought she he was slipping from her hit home with her. He had passed on, leaving her, a doting wife and devoted son behind in such a cruel manner that was so atypical of him, a complete contradiction to his actual character.
Bulma knew Vegeta would want to know because she knew of the prince's complicated feelings towards her best friend. Her late best friend, she shuddered at the mere thought. She knew because the flame-haired Saiya-jin had to be the proudest individual she had come across in her entire thirty years of lifespan. She knew because she was familiar with failure like he was; she knew because she felt that force that drew people to Goku too; she knew because she kept up a façade too.
In the days following what Bulma dubbed in her mind as the Earth's most tragic loss, the young genius had become increasingly irritable, edgy, stand-offish and scathing in her remarks. It didn't help that her supposed boyfriend was nowhere in sight, dealing and thinking firstly of his own pain rather than caring for her first, for considering it a good idea to share the burden of the news with someone that had been just as close with the deceased hero. In those days, she had had more fights over the tellyphone or whatever that moronic contraption was called with the Scarface than she had probably in her entire life prior to the event.
For some unfathomable reason, her parents were also nowhere to be found, off on business trips, or some other excuse they might come up with. She figured that maybe they thought they should give her some personal space, a bit of time to come to terms with her loss or some other idiotic reason that their deranged minds might conjure. What she wanted wasn't space, or alone time, or solitude, or the damn loneliness that seized her entire being and shook her to her core every morning she woke and was overwhelmed by the knowledge that there was no longer the reassuring presence of her lunkheaded best friend somewhere along the wilderness, always ready to pounce on any and all threat that might rise. It was silly, really, to feel secure just by the idea that somebody was out there, way too far to be able to come to her aid if something were to happen to her, but she had felt like that her entire life, unaware of the peace that her acquaintance with Goku provided her with.
And now he was gone. Forever. He wasn't coming back. He had deserted her, he had deserted them all. He had left and he wasn't coming back. She repeated it to herself over and over in her mind in hopes that she'd finally be able to grasp the concept. She thought it several million times a day, just to let the notion sink in. She tried to ward off the paranoia, the anger, the utter helplessness that overcame her every single time she thought it and failed miserably. Slowly but certainly, she was becoming just a shadow of the person she was.
Little she knew that this was just the prelude to The End of her relatively peaceful days.
Vegeta was definitely the farthest thing from a specialist in the emotional turmoil department, especially when it came to creatures as horrendously odd as human women, but you didn't need to be one to see that Bulma was withering.
Slowly, but surely, she was letting her grief consume her, strip her of all the qualities that made her uniquely her.
And for some inscrutable reason, her behaviour enraged him. It infuriated him beyond belief.
By the second week, he had had quite enough of her moping around, sniffing loudly during meals, lying in bed for hours on end and just generally acting out of character. It pissed him off how meek she had become, how her arguments were no longer as solid as they were before, how her voice wouldn't rise in volume anymore, no matter what he said, and—this had to be the prize winner—how he couldn't get a reaction—a normal reaction—out of her, regardless of what he did or said to her. It maddened him; it made his blood boil, his insides churn and his teeth grit to a breaking point. He couldn't bear the pitiful sight of her for even a second longer.
And so, he did the one thing he knew well how to do—he confronted her about his thoughts on the matter.
She had just had another fight with her imbecilic boyfriend over the phone and she swore to all the deities they were that this time they were over for good. She couldn't stand him and his excuses any longer. He was never there for her when she most needed him, being the coward that he was. She would have felt her temper rise at the thought if she wasn't so overcome with numbness. Over the last two weeks, she had become so horribly used to the pain that she no longer remembered what it felt not to be in pain. She could no longer remember the time when she had somebody to lean on, somebody to rely on, someone to comfort her and tell her that things would be alright, even if it was clear that they wouldn't be. She wanted to feel again but seemed to have forgotten how to, seemed to have lost the ability to.
"There's nothing for dinner," a cold voice from behind her informed her, making her slowly turn her head to the source. Her eyes didn't narrow, her brow didn't furrow—she just stared vacantly at him. It pissed him off, though he tried not to let it show on his face. "Your moronic mother's weeds are dying off and I swear that if I hear that damn cat mewl once more I'll blast it to the next dimension."
She listened half-heartedly to all of his complaints, not doing much other than blinking as he did so. This pushed him further towards the precipice. But it was her comment that actually did it for him and his flammable temper.
"I'll do it all later."
"Look, woman, if you want to wallow in your self-pity for the rest of your life, fine! Be as pathetic as you want to be, it's your choice after all." Here her eye brows narrowed slightly. "But no matter how much you wish it was different, no matter how much wail and scream, it won't bring him back and it won't make your coward of a mate more of a man or your so-called friends any more reliable! This is reality and real life is a bitch, if you still hadn't figured that out with that puny head of yours. Instead of clinging to your childish infatuation with Kakarott, you could make yourself useful and aid this mud-ball of a planet to become a better place or whatever you do with your free time."
It had happened before she had time to consider it. Her hand had flown up and had slapped him—really, really hard—across the cheek. The action caught him off-guard. So much so, in fact, that his head whipped to the side by the force of the impact.
Once it registered with him what had just transpired, his eyes had widened and his nostrils had flared with anger and disbelief. She had actually hit him! The weakling earthling woman actually had the nerve to slap him! Him! The Saiya-jin prince, the destroyer of worlds, the genetically defined killer! He couldn't even wrap his mind around it. They had had many quarrels before, most of them bordering on vicious but never before had either of them resolved to physical violence.
As if just realizing what she had done, Bulma's hands flew to her mouth as she sucked on a breath, her eyes almost bugging out of their sockets while she watched him, slowly turning his stormy onyx eyes to her again, tentatively reaching a hand for his molested cheek. It was that action, that simple, understandable reaction to her act that brought to light the fact that he was strong, powerful, and proud and all that stuff he flounced with every goddamn day but he wasn't invincible.
She also knew that she had released all her pent up frustrations with her traitorous parents and friends and her disloyal boyfriend on him, the only person who actually cared enough—for reasons beyond her—to tell her to get a grip, the only person who stuck around with her—even though strictly speaking he didn't really have much of a choice—in her time of need. And what did she do when he tried to make her understand how stupid it was of her to act as if the end of the world was coming just because one individual—regardless how important he was—had died? She slapped him in the face.
She figured that he was probably terribly awkward to live there with her in the first place. She figured that it probably went against everything he had ever been taught to be dependant on a weak female, to be completely at her mercy. She realized that he was probably uncomfortable with the change in her as he was as inadaptable to changes as ever. He probably had a hard time coping with Goku's death as well, what with his matters of pride and honour dying along with the odd-haired man.
Overcome by her desperation, her need for physical comfort and God only knew what temporary insanity that might have seized her, she embraced him and started murmuring excuses in his chest, her voice muffled by the fabric of his shirt as she did so.
Her mood swing was so sudden and drastic that Vegeta had a hard time understanding all of it. He didn't know what to do or how to comfort her. He felt suffocated by her closeness and her bold invasion of his personal space.
She soon drew back only to have her hand that had assaulted his side so ruthlessly now caress the slapped cheek with a tenderness that floored him. He stared directly into her clear sapphire eyes where there was so much pain, so much regret and frustration built over the past couple of weeks. The closeness of her naked creamy skin drew him to her with a force that nearly rivaled gravity. He could read all the bitter emotions in her eyes because they had been a permanent part of his world since he was born. And somehow, it perturbed him to see them in her eyes, it angered him even more than her bouts of self-pity to see her so distraught. He wanted to have her back to her usual spunky self that anchored him in a world so foreign and unsettling.
And so in his selfish search for the woman he had grown accustomed to dealing with the last year, he didn't feel when he had leant towards her and captured her mouth in the briefest, most innocent of lip locks.
Unbeknownst to them, it was just the beginning of so much more than just a mere physical contact.
It was a beginning of a search for oneself and for hope in a hopeless world. It was a beginning of a search for something much more significant than just physical comfort in time of need. It was a beginning that would lead to the saving of some lives and the loss of others. It was a beginning that would make a tear in the time-dimensional matter and an irrevocable distortion. But it was a beginning no less.
Goku's death had shaken everyone, but it was just the beginning of the end. He was just the first to fall.