Choice to be Different
Chapter One: If Wishes were Horses
Disclaimer: Dragonball Z characters and situations belong to Akira Toriyama, I'm just taking them out for a non-profit spin.
Author's Note: This is an older story that's been sitting on my hard drive for a while (actually the story idea was pretty much my first idea for a DBZ fanfic). I abandoned it after getting writers block then deciding that I wanted to avoid messing with cannon as much as possible in my DBZ stories. Still I really like the idea for this story, so I kept coming back to it. I tried rewriting it into different time frames so that it wouldn't come into conflict with the "Saiyaman Saga" but it just works best in the time frame where I originally imagined it. So finally I gave in and rewrote it to try to minimize the changes to cannon. Initially I had Gohan being so distracted that he never actually asked Bulma for the Saiyaman costume and just kept on using the 'Gold Fighter' identity as his secret identity. Since it was the Gohan/Videl plot line that was causing me the most misery, writing it out and just letting things stay closer to what actually happened in the series resolved a lot of the problems I was having with this fic.
Goten stared at the sky listlessly. Worriedly Trunks watched his best friend. "What's wrong Chibi? Are you hungry?" he asked.
"Hn-huh," Goten signed and shook his head.
"Okay, now I'm really worried," Trunks stated.
"I was just wonderin' what my daddy was like," Goten said. "Everybody at your mom's party kept sayin' I'm just like him and, well, I was just wonderin' if I really was."
Trunks thought about that for a few moments. "I know where Mom hides the Dragon Ball radar. We could wish him back," the lavender haired boy suggested.
Goten sighed again. "He doesn't want to be wished back. I heard Mommy and Big Brother talking one night after I was s'posed to be asleep."
Trunks frowned darkly at that. "Well dads aren't that great anyway. All mine ever wants to do is train and most of the time he won't even turn the gravity down enough for me to train with him. You've got Gohan. He's better anyway, he plays with you sometimes."
"It must be a grown-up thing," Goten said. "Big Brother doesn't like playing with me as much anymore. Not since he started getting ready to go to High School. He's always too busy studyin' for his, his 'placement exams'. It's too bad we couldn't have our dads here as kids, I bet they'd like to do stuff with us then."
Trunks stared at the other demi-Saiyan in amazement. "Goten you're brilliant!" he declared.
"What? I am? Why?" Goten asked as he scratched the back of his head in puzzlement.
"On very rare occasions," Trunks qualified. "We'll get the Dragon Balls and wish for kid versions of our dads to play with."
"Will that work?" Goten asked, his eyes huge.
Trunks shrugged. "If a teenaged version of me can come back to the fight I don't see why kid-versions of our dads couldn't come forward to play. Let's do it!"
A small boy with wild, dark hair and a tail watched intently as the last piece of the small model of the Dragon Shenlong was glued back together. Then the elderly Kami restored the dragon to life. And with the dragon the Dragon Balls were restored. "Normally, they would be ordinary rocks for the next year, but this time I'll make an exception and grant your wish immediately."
"Really!?" the boy exclaimed. "Can I go watch everybody come back to life too?!"
"I thought you promised to train here..." Kami reminded the boy.
"You must show three year's patience, you will be able to see your companions at the next Tenka'ichi Budokai Tournament."
The boy looked surprised. "Tenka'ichi Budokai?! You even know about that?!"
"Someone else will come to that tournament - Piccolo - Wanting your life."
"Piccolo!?" The boy exclaimed then disappeared.
Kami and his assistant Mr. Popo blinked at the spot where the boy had been.
Author's Note: Dialogue direct quoted from Dragon Ball Vol. 14
The cruelly handsome emerald skinned mercenary glared down at the flame-haired boy crouched defensively in front of him. The boy's tail was wrapped closely around his waist and his eyes glittered with outrage.
"I am Prince Vegeta of the Saiyans!" the boy snarled furiously as he launched himself at the larger warrior. "You will show me respect!"
"Don't you get it you little brat? You're the Prince of a dead race! The future King of a handful of stardust. In other words you are nothing special." Zarbon said coldly as he knocked the boy to the floor and pinned him there by planting his foot firmly on the boy's chest. "You were a Prince; you were the son of Frieza's ally. Now you're just another soldier in his army. You have no world to go home to. You have no army behind you. You have no position and no rights in this organization beyond those you can earn with your fists. Now I admit you're good enough to survive, even without that idiot of a bodyguard's help and that's not bad for a little brat. But I am Lord Frieza's right-hand man. I am your better and you will acknowledge me as such or you'll be spending the next two weeks in a regeneration tank, do you understand me you stupid little monkey?"
Despite the foot on is chest and an eye that was rapidly swelling shut the boy contrived to look bored. "Blowhard," he muttered. "In love with the sound of your own voice."
Zarbon drew back his foot to kick the downed boy and in that second the boy was back on his feet. He smirked smugly. Zarbon smoothly changed the angle of his attack and smashed his heel into the boy's stomach. The young prince crumpled to his knees. Zarbon kicked him viciously then grinned at the sound of cracking ribs.
A hulking warrior stepped out of the crowd. He wondered how he was supposed to get his prince out of this mess.
The boy glared at him. "Nappa! Stay out of my fight!" he snarled as blood dripped from the corner of his mouth.
"Yes Nappa, let the brat learn his lesson," Zarbon said mockingly. "The next time he mouths off at me I might just kill him." He sneered at the boy. "But today I'm in a good mood so I'll let him off lightly."
Zarbon aimed another kick at the boy's head but this time his foot passed through empty air. The force of the kick was such that the green-skinned fighter over-balanced himself and fell on his butt.
"Your wish has been granted!" the Eternal Dragon declared then vanished. He left behind four boys, two ecstatic and two confused.
"Hey, where'd Kami go?" Goku asked. He looked around curiously as if the elderly god were hiding somewhere.
Vegeta gritted his teeth and forced himself to his feet. "Where the fuck am I?" he demanded. Every movement sent slivers of pain lancing though him as his broken ribs protested but he was determined not to show any weakness.
"We did it!" Trunks exclaimed triumphantly. The two boys studied their young fathers with great interest.
"I am Prince Vegeta! I demand you tell me what you've done with me!" the flame-haired boy yelled.
"Yep, he's your dad alright," Goten remarked.
Vegeta snarled at the boys. He was injured and alone in some strange place. He was supposed to be waking up from Zarbon's beating in the infirmary or after having his wounds treated by Nappa depending on the severity of the beating. He was not supposed to be on an alien planet without even a scouter. 'Has Zarbon abandoned me here?' Vegeta worried. 'What am I supposed to do?' He was Saiyan. Most of the galaxy had celebrated the news of Vegeta-sai's destruction. Outside of Frieza's army he had no where to go. As bad as things were within Frieza's forces it would be worse without their dubious protection. He wasn't ready yet, he was supposed to have Nappa and Radditz with him when he broke free of Frieza.
As Vegeta's thoughts sank into a panicky spiral Goku noticed something. "You have a tail!" he announced. "You're the first person I've ever met who had one like mine! When I was little I used to think Grandpa was weird because he didn't have a tail. But then I met Bulma and she didn't have one either. I thought it might be because she's a girl She was the first girl I ever met ya know. It turned out no one else had a tail! My taileven vanished a couple of times then I didn't have a tail either, but it grew back. Do you know why we have tails and no one else does?"
Vegeta's tail, which had been dragging tiredly behind him, curled around his waist when Goku drew attention to it. "I have a tail because I'm a Saiyan you dolt!" Vegeta snapped.
"What's a Saiyan?" Goku asked innocently. "Do you think I'm one?" He turned around to show off the tail curling behind him. "See, I have a tail too."
Vegeta stared at Goku skeptically. A part of him was excited at the idea of having found another surviving Saiyan, especially one who looked to be about the same age as he was and not being alone in this strange situation wouldn't be a bad thing but... "You don't act like any Saiyan I've ever heard of," Vegeta accused. "Even if you do have a tail."
"What do you mean?" Goku asked.
"He means you're smiling, you're friendly and you like people," Trunks explained.
Goten nodded. "You hit your head when you were a little baby and forgot you were Saiyan," he added.
"Oh, okay," Goku said. Then his eyes got big and he turned to Vegeta worriedly. "Does that mean you don't like people or smile?" he asked. "That doesn't sound like much fun."
"Feh," Vegeta spat in disgust. He glared at Trunks and Goten. "Why have you brought me here?"
"You've got an owie," Goten noted Vegeta's blackened eye with concern. When he tried to get a closer look at the damage Vegeta jerked away defensively. The little prince's broken ribs decided enough was enough, the wave of pain left Vegeta curled up on the ground with his arms wrapped around his chest and coughing up blood.
"Trunks, I think we better take your dad to one of our moms," Goten said.
Trunks nodded, seeing an expression of pain on his father's face was, quite frankly, freaking him out. "How are we going to move him?" Trunks said to himself. "I don't think me carrying him is a good idea."
Together Goten and Goku shouted, "Kinto'un!" The golden cloud obediently shot out of the sky and hovered in front of the boys.
Trunks shook his head. "I don't think Kinto'un will let Dad ride it, even if he is still a kid, it never let me."
Goten sighed as his friend spotted the hole in his plan.
"Oh that's no problem," Goku said. "He can hang on to me like Kuririn used to."
"I don't need help from the likes of you," Vegeta hissed. He tried to climb back to his feet.
Trunks frowned. "We can all see you're hurt."
"I'm not weak!" the flame-haired boy shouted, his eyes wild. "I don't need help!"
"Fine! Have it your way," Trunks said angrily as he stalked past the chibi version of his father.
"Trunks!" Goten protested.
Trunks smashed his elbow into the back of Vegeta's skull and Vegeta crumpled without a sound. "Problem solved," Trunks said. "Goku get on Kinto'un and I'll hand him up to you. We're taking him to my mom."
"Trunks! You knocked your dad out!" Goten exclaimed.
A very Vegeta-like smirk crossed Trunks' face. "He was being a brat. You ready Goku?"
"Yup," Goku replied as he sat down on Kinto'un and held out his arms for Vegeta.
"How 'm I getting back?" Goten worried. "I can't fly yet either."
"Don't worry. I'll carry you," Trunks said. He grabbed Goten beneath the arms and took to the air, Goku followed with Vegeta cradled in his lap.
Goten giggled. "I hope Vegeta-san doesn't wake-up before we get there," he said.
Gohan sighed in relief as he walked out of Orange Star High. The Entrance Exams had been a piece of cake, no where near as hard as his mom had made it out to be. "All that worrying and studying, the Exams were almost a let down," he said to himself. Now all he had to do was go pick up his younger brother after a day of playing with Trunks and hope the boys hadn't caused as much trouble as he suspected they had.
Gohan flew to Capsule Corps and let himself in. After several minutes of searching he heard voices and followed them. Gohan opened the door looked inside. Then he shut it and opened it again; the scene hadn't changed.
There was Vegeta standing on the far side of the room, his arms crossed over his chest with a scowl on his face. Trunks stood on one side of the room, the lavender-haired boy looked thoroughly chastised. Two Gotens flanked Trunks and a mini-Vegeta was getting his ribs taped up by Bulma.
"Do I even want to ask why we've got two Gotens and two Vegetas?" Gohan asked.
"I'm not Goten, I'm Goku! See, I've got a tail."
Goten looked a bit downhearted at his lack of a tail so Goku patted him on the shoulder consolingly.
"Dad?" Gohan asked in disbelief.
Goku glanced at Goten questioningly.
"Yep, that's Gohan, he's my big brother," Goten confirmed. Bulma and Vegeta shared an exasperated look.
"Wow, I've never been a dad before," Goku replied. "I never even had a dad. I used to have a Grandpa but he got squished by a monster."
"Kakarrot, shut up," Vegeta said.
"Huh, who are ya talking to?" Goku wondered. "I mean I was the only one talking but my name's Son Goku, not Ka... carrot? Or whatever."
"Kakarrot is your Saiyan name, I refuse to refer to you by that ridiculous earth appellation."
"But my Grandpa gave me that name," Goku protested.
Vegeta smirked. "It's either Kakarrot or Moron."
"It's okay if you call me Carrot," Goku sighed.
"Don't worry about it Son-kun," Bulma said. "Vegeta's just being Vegeta, you'll learn to ignore him like the rest of us do."
"Woman!" Vegeta snapped.
"See," Bulma said. "Now Gohan, I trust you noticed our unscheduled solar eclipse this afternoon?"
Gohan nodded. "I was hoping it wasn't what I thought it was."
"Yes, well these two troublemakers decided they needed more playmates so they wished child versions of their fathers into our time. Seeing as how I don't have a working design for a time machine yet we've got two choices: either we wait a year while the Dragon Balls recharge or we go on a field trip to New Namek and borrow their Dragon Balls."
"Mom would kill me if I tried to leave on the Dragon Ball hunt right before I'm supposed to start school," Gohan said. Goten nodded in agreement.
"I can't stay on this backwater mudball for a year!" the younger Vegeta exploded. Beneath the anger the look in his eyes was panicky. "Nappa and Radditz will fall apart without me there!"
The older Vegeta gave a disgusted and disbelieving snort. Without their Prince Nappa and Radditz would be fully absorbed into Frieza's army. They'd become two more nameless mercenaries rather than the last pitiful remnants of the Saiyan Empire. Vegeta knew that he had always been the lightening-rod for trouble among the survivors of Vegeta-sai. He knew that the boy's real concern was that returning to Frieza after a year's desertion would be a death sentence and without Frieza's army around him the Saiyan Prince would be an easy target for all those who had reason to hate Saiyans. The boy wasn't strong enough to survive without Frieza yet.
Goku looked worried. "I promised Kami that I'd train with him. Just before I ended up here he said something about Piccolo coming back. After last time I think it's really important that I get ready for him."
"Oh don't worry," Bulma reassured the two boys. "We're talking about time travel here. We'll just ask Shenlong to send you back a moment after you left. You won't lose any time."
"Neat," Goku said then frowned again. "Still, I can't just take a year off... I know, I'll go find Kami in this time and he can start my training now."
"But Dende isn't a fighter," Goten said. "And why are you fighting Piccolo-san anyway; he's-"
Gohan clapped a hand over his younger brother's mouth. "Just because someone's good now doesn't mean that they were always good," he whispered to Goten. "And we can't just go around telling people about their futures."
Goten flushed and turned his eyes toward the floor. Vegeta and Bulma had already lectured them about that, but he kept forgetting. And by the time Trunks and Goten received the lectured they'd already shared quite a bit.
"There's a different Kami?" Goku asked. "And he's not a Martial Artist?" The boy sighed. "I guess I'll just have to keep training on my own while I wait. I hope I don't lose any ground."
"Son-kun! You can't just go off on your own!" Bulma exclaimed forgetting the fact that he had done exactly that all the time when they were younger. As a teenager she wouldn't have thought twice about Goku deciding to take off on a solo training trip to who-knows-where. But seeing Goku standing beside Trunks and Goten looking like his young son's twin Bulma couldn't help but react like a mother. If Goten was too young to be on his own then the same must hold true for Goku who looked no older.
Bulma's face lit up with inspiration. "I know! You can train with Vegeta until you go back."
"He can do WHAT!!!" Vegeta exclaimed while Gohan stared at Bulma as if she were mad.
Bulma pulled Vegeta aside and whispered. "I remember that fight, it was brutal. We can't ask Piccolo to train him and Gohan has High School, it has to be you."
"And if you're not helping him I won't have time to keep the Gravity Room repaired," Bulma smiled sweetly.
Meanwhile the younger Vegeta was thinking about the possibilities. He'd reappear in the middle of his fight with Zarbon completely healed and with a year's worth of improvement. Surely in a year he'd be strong enough to defeat Zarbon. "I'm going to train too!" the young prince declared.
Goku stared at Vegeta with pleading, hopeful eyes. The younger Vegeta's gaze was arrogant and demanding. "No repairs to the GR for a year," Bulma whispered.
"Alright, I'll do it," Vegeta said. He hardly believed the words coming out of his own mouth.
"Yippeee!!" Goku cheered.
Gohan frowned worried by the thought of his younger and infinitely more vulnerable father training with the mercurial prince given their history together.
Trunks scowled; he'd wished for a younger father to play with him but even as a child it seemed that all his dad cared about was training. Not only was his young father not playing with him, the brat was going to cut into the time he spent with his real father.
"Can I train with you too?" Goten asked Vegeta. He didn't want to be left out.
"Sure, why not? The more the merrier," Vegeta agreed unhappily.
Bulma beamed at her husband. "Now that that's settled there's just the matter of where you'll be staying. Gohan, I'm sure you want Goku staying with you..."
Gohan's expression twisted with embarrassment and unhappiness. He caught Bulma's elbow and pulled her away from the group. "Bulma, please can he stay here?" the teenager asked quietly. "I mean he's my dad but he's not my dad. It's like - It's hard having him almost back but not really, it's like looking through a window at a Thanksgiving feast you're not invited to. Mom's having a hard enough time. I - I don't want to remind her of what she lost." There was a look of pain and guilt in Gohan's eyes that broke Bulma's heart. "I can almost pretend he's Goten's twin but Mom knew him when he was that age."
"I never should have told Son-kun that he attracts trouble," Bulma muttered. "If I hadn't planted that stupid, stupid idea in his head he would have come back."
"No," Gohan protested. "If I hadn't let my powers go to my head-"
"Stop it," Bulma said resolutely. "We don't gain anything from playing the blame game." She pasted a smile on her face and stepped toward the center of the room. "Okay! Goku you'll be staying here. Vegeta-chan, naturally you're welcome to stay as well."
"What did you just call me?" the younger Vegeta snarled and leapt at Bulma. His older counter-part flickered out of sight. He reappeared between his mate and the enraged boy. Casually he swatted the boy to the floor.
"Vegeta," Bulma breathed half grateful for the rescue half shocked at the violence toward his younger self.
The older Vegeta lifted the younger off the floor by his throat. "You kill anyone on this planet you answer to me," Vegeta told the boy coldly. "You harm my family and I won't leave enough of you to make a decent smear on the wall."
The boy glared back at Vegeta banefully. "You can't hurt me, I am you."
Vegeta smirked. "We've dealt with time travelers before," he informed the boy. "My past is immutable; your future is not so secure."
A fearful look appeared in Vegeta-chan's eyes for a brief moment only to be buried behind the boy's mask of indifference. Vegeta dropped his youthful counterpart certain that the boy had taken his threat to heart.
"Well okay now," Bulma said uncomfortably. "Gohan, Goten, you'd best get home before Chichi starts worrying."
Gohan glanced at the clock and his eyes widened comically. "We're gonna be late for dinner!" he exclaimed as he scooped up his younger brother and dashed outside. "Kinto'un!" he shouted.
After the two brothers had left Bulma turned her attention to making arrangements for her two unexpected guests. "I hope there's enough food in the house for four Saiyans," she muttered. "And as soon as I've got them fed I'm dragging Vegeta-chan to the infirmary and getting him a full check-up. I know Vegeta, he never admits the whole extent of his injuries."
It was late when Vegeta finished working off his irritation at being blackmailed into training Kakarrot, of all people, so he was surprised when he came up to his room and found Bulma still awake.
She was standing out on the balcony, smoking. Vegeta joined her after a moment's consideration.
"Did you even bother with a room back then or did you just sleep in a regeneration tank?" Bulma demanded furiously. "I know you Saiyans get stronger by recovering from injuries but were you insane?" She punched Vegeta then collapsed against his chest. "His body's completely tapped out. Regen tanks speed healing but they use your body's own resources; he doesn't have any left!"
"You know what happened to him," Vegeta said quietly.
"Frieza," Bulma said, her voice was thick with hatred. "Yes I knew but seeing it, seeing you-him... Goddamnit, he's just a kid. If Frieza were still alive I'd kill him myself!"
Vegeta smirked at her reaction. He always found it oddly endearing when she got angry on his behalf. And this time it was almost as if she needed him to comfort her because of his younger self's condition. Vegeta wrapped one arm lazily around Bulma's waist. "It would have been amusing to watch you try."
"Bastard," Bulma replied with a faint smile as she leaned into him. After a few minutes she sighed. "They both look so small but they're closer to Gohan's age than Trunk's."
Vegeta shrugged. "Saiyans only have one major growth spurt. It minimizes the annoyance of adapting your fighting style to different body dimensions."
"I guess Goku did go from being a little squirt to all grown up all at once but then I didn't see him for three years. He was always like that, always off to find another adventure," Bulma said.
Her tone shifted back to concerned. "Vegeta-chan is going to have to heal the old fashion way unless you've got a senzu bean stashed somewhere. At this point the regen tank would only make things worse."
Vegeta grimaced. He remembered a few years when the regen tans hadn't worked so well. Frieza had finally stepped in and ordered an end to the fights between Vegeta and Frieza's officers. Needing that disgusting lizard's protection, having it spelled out that he needed it that blatantly had been one of a long line of humiliating experiences in Vegeta's life. Frieza had never missed an opportunity to rub it in.
Bulma's light touch brought Vegeta back to the here and now. "You okay?" she asked.
Vegeta nodded, he wrapped his arms around her and together they stood and watched the stars come out.