AN: I suppose I could say that there's really nothing for me to talk about other than what I've already been saying over and over: big changes coming up and keep reading. However, I will venture to say that some of you will not be happy with the events of this chapter.

Keep reading...

Thanks go to my dear hubby who once again read this chapter for me, and once again expressed his irritation at the lack of, well, resolution that we've all been wanting. Oh yeah, and he reminded me about something I need to follow up on, a sub-plot that I'd forgotten about, which in turn reminded me of something else that also needs attention. Whatta guy!

Keep reading...

Oh, and leave me a review when you're done. Vegeta demands that you get him out of this mess.


Disclaimer: Dragonball Z was created by Akira Toriyama. It is owned/licensed by Toei, Bird Studios, Shonen Jump, Funimation, and Viz, not me. However, you will see some characters that weren't created by Toriyama-san, and those are my brainchildren. No money was made in the production of this work, more's the pity.

Chapter Twenty-Three

"The board has reviewed your proposal, Mr. Vegeta, and I must say that we are quite impressed." The chairman of the board leaned back in his chair. "You certainly covered a lot of ground during your trip and have supplied us with much valuable information with which to render our decision."

"Thank you, Mr. Furuta," Vegeta responded, nodding to the man respectfully. "May I assume that the board is in agreement with my recommendations?"

Mr. Furuta shifted a little uncomfortably. "Not entirely," he informed him. "There are those of us who have some reservations about your proposed location in Strawberry Fields."

Vegeta nodded again. "I had expected that," he admitted. "I had reservations of my own until I conducted more extensive research on the area. Much of it was accomplished with the assistance of Ms. Carly Fisher of Metallurgics, Inc. Metallurgics is finalizing plans to expand to Strawberry Fields and Ms. Fisher has done some considerable scouting work herself."

A ripple of murmurs passed around the table. "How did you manage to get Ms. Fisher's assistance with your research?" the chairman wanted to know.

"We were both waiting for tables at the same restaurant when she noticed my son and struck up a conversation with me," Vegeta began. "She realized who I was, however, because of my hair." He grinned a little sheepishly when several people at the table laughed openly. "We decided to eat together so we could talk. I'm confident that Capsule Corp stands to potentially save quite a bit of money by utilizing one of Metallurgics' custom products during the production of Ms. Briefs' energy units."

Another ripple of conversation went around the table. "Are you certain of this, Mr. Vegeta?" another board member asked.

Vegeta nodded and took a small object out of his suit coat pocket, which he slid across the table to the man. "I have personally tested this part, which if made with lixatum ore would cost over 1,000 zeni. This piece would cost roughly between four and five hundred zeni, depending on the quantity purchased and the shipping distance. It is just as good as the lixatum part. This all would depend, however, on whether or not Capsule Corp wishes to bid on the product once it becomes available for sale." He stopped talking when the ripple became unrestrained excited chattering.

"You were aware of all of this, Ms. Briefs?" one of the board members asked.

"Not everything," Bulma responded, having been rather surprised herself. There were several lixatum parts in her device, and if they could save that much on one part, think of how much they'd save overall! "Much of it is in Mr. Vegeta's report. The full details were not." She turned to Vegeta. "I suppose you wanted to use close proximity to Metallurgics as a bargaining point?"

Vegeta gave her an unabashed smirk that made her stomach do a little flip-flop. "You know me too well," he admitted, resisting the urge to toss her a wink. This was too important of an issue to ruin by flirting with her. "As you all know, there are many reasons for my decision. This one would save additional money, as well as allowing for direct production oversight."

The chairman leaned back in his seat, a frown on his face. "I am not fully convinced that this location is the most suitable choice. We will conduct a vote on this issue," he announced.

"I would like the board to know that while I no longer hold a seat on the board, I am in full agreement with Mr. Vegeta and support his decision," Dr. Briefs spoke up. He had recently handed over the portion of his job duties that included his position on the board to his daughter and therefore had no vote on the matter, but felt strongly enough about the project's success that he had opted to sit in on this meeting. "I agree that this is not a decision to be made lightly, but I have full faith in Mr. Vegeta and his abilities to carry out this project and can see the validity of his reasons for selecting Strawberry Fields as the expansion city of choice in Eastern Country."

Mr. Furuta nodded. "I respect and value your input, Dr. Briefs. Let's conduct the vote now."

Vegeta was surprised to find himself decidedly nervous as the vote went around the table. The yes and no votes were coming in very closely, and he hadn't realized how important the acceptance of this project had become to him until now.

"Ms. Briefs, the vote is currently tied," Mr. Furuta announced after glancing at the notepad his secretary handed to him. "Your response will be the deciding vote for this issue."

All eyes were on Bulma as she mulled the decision over in her mind. On the one hand, she could clearly see why half of the board had reservations about Strawberry Fields. She had been surprised by Vegeta's recommendation and wasn't completely sold on the city herself. However, she could also understand Vegeta's reasons for wanting to locate there. Her gut feeling was to vote no. So why was this so hard?

She knew the answer- because she was casting the deciding vote that would make or break Vegeta's project, and whether or not she was willing to admit it, she still greatly cared about him and didn't want to hurt him.

Just cared?

"Ms. Briefs?"

Bulma snapped out of her reverie. "I'm sorry... I'm just not sure on this one," she admitted.

"Bulma?" Vegeta ventured softly.

Bulma turned to him. "Vegeta, I..." She sighed.

He leaned in a little closer. "Our personal issues aside, have I ever steered you wrong?" he murmured.

Bulma felt as though a knife was twisting its way through her heart. He was sincere about this, but she just didn't know if it would work. They stood to lose a lot of money if it didn't. She had to vote according to her conscience.


Vegeta too felt as though she'd stabbed him through the heart. "I..." He didn't know what to say, so he sat back in his seat quietly. He'd worked so hard to help her, worked so hard in her behalf. How could she even think that?

"My vote is yes. I look forward to watching the progress on this venture and hope it goes well." Bulma stood up. "Gentlemen." She looked Vegeta in the eyes. "You're right. You've never steered me wrong before."

Vegeta watched as she left and let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. She'd had the power to shut him down and hadn't, despite her reservations. He didn't know whether to thank her or curse her. Either way she voted would cause him pain- either by her rejection, or by her willingness to send him away for long periods of time.

"Well, it appears that this meeting is adjourned," Mr. Furuta noted as the board room door shut. "Good luck to you, Mr. Vegeta." The remaining board members stood as well, talking amongst themselves as they headed for the door.

Dr. Briefs placed a hand on Vegeta's shoulder, making the shell-shocked younger man look up at him. "Congratulations, Son. I wish you only the best of success with this. Don't forget that you will always have as much assistance as you need from Bulma and me here."

Vegeta nodded mutely.

"Well, let me know if I can do anything for you while you hash out your plans," Dr. Briefs told him, deciding to take his leave so Vegeta could think things over. He hadn't missed the betrayed look on Vegeta's face when he had misinterpreted Bulma's vote, just as he hadn't missed his reaction when he'd realized what she had actually meant, and figured that the younger man had plenty to think about.

Bulma sank down into her chair and leaned her elbows on the desk, her forehead resting in her hands. She hadn't felt completely right about Vegeta's decision, but she couldn't be the one to vote him down either. He'd already put a ton of work into this project, and hadn't done a half-hearted job of it. He'd kept detailed notes every day and had prepared one heck of a report of his findings. She'd been voted down by the board before and knew how it felt to be bitterly disappointed by it. And he'd been right. He'd never let her down as far as business was concerned.

She tried to ignore the biggest reason she had voted yes.

Bulma sighed, forced once again to acknowledge her lingering feelings for her son's father. But no, he was far more than that to her, and she was now the one who would be responsible for sending him away for so long from the only people he cared about.

But she couldn't bring herself to crush his spirit, his pride, either.

At least he would only be gone long enough to head things up and get the ball rolling. Once everything was in place, they could find a suitable person to run the new branch, under Vegeta's direction, of course.

Bulma swiped at her face with the back of her hand and sniffled. "Stop it, Bulma," she chastised herself. "There's no reason to be blubbering over something good."

A project of this magnitude would take time.

Kami, but she'd miss him.

Vegeta looked up from his laptop when he heard a knock at his bedroom door. A weird feeling of déjà vu swept over him as he remembered the dream he'd had while he'd been away. He set down the laptop on his nightstand and got up from his bed to answer the door.

As in his dream, Bulma stood in the hallway. He swallowed. "Hey."

"Hey," Bulma responded.

Vegeta stepped aside and gestured that she should come in. He shut the door behind her. "What's up?"

Bulma spied the suitcases next to his bed. He packed already? But he's hardly been home. "I just wanted to pick your brain a little about Strawberry Fields." She gestured toward the suitcases. "You're not leaving already, are you?"

"Afraid so," he told her. "Carly called to tell me that the parcel I'm most interested in has an offer, and I'd better come back if I want to make one of my own."

"Oh. Do you think you will?"

Vegeta nodded. "Most likely. It's a prime location and well suited for what I have in mind."

"I see." Bulma bit at her lip. "When are you leaving?"

"First thing tomorrow," he told her. "I had just finished booking my flight when you knocked."

"Oh, that reminds me. We should test your viral levels before you go. And this time take a beacon with you to leave there so Geta can bring you back and forth instead of flying," Bulma suggested.

"Both very good ideas," Vegeta told her. "I suppose I could leave the beacon with Carly for now."

Bulma felt jealousy sweep over her again at the mention of Carly, Carly and more Carly. "I suppose you could, but then you'd have to explain what it is and how it works, and the fact that you aren't human will surface much more quickly than you'd hoped," Bulma countered.

Vegeta didn't miss the hint of iciness to her voice. "I... You're right," he admitted. While there were humans on this planet who could fly and use ki the way he did, he certainly wasn't one of them. "Bulma?"

"Yes, Vegeta?"

Oh, but if only she would say that in another context. "Thank you."

Bulma paused. "For what?"

"For your vote yesterday," Vegeta told her, taking her hand in his. "I know that you were not in agreement with my recommendation, and I appreciate your confidence in me."

Bulma nodded, willing herself not to nibble at her lip. "I could tell that you really wanted this, Vegeta, and I couldn't be the one to shoot you down. But-"

He placed a finger over her lips gently to hush her. "Do you not want me to go?" he murmured.

Her eyes widened when she realized that he was dead on- she really didn't want him to. "Vegeta, I... I..." How had he gotten so close to her?

"I'll stay if you want me to." Vegeta leaned in even more, his arm snaking around her back. "Just say the word," he whispered, his lips dangerously close to hers.

He was looking at her so intensely that she nearly lost control of her emotions. She stepped back, looking away in an attempt to remain calm.

Vegeta's face fell. Taking her actions as a rejection, he walked briskly to the balcony doors, opened them, and shot into the evening sky before she could utter a single syllable.

Bulma rushed over to the balcony. "Vegeta! Vegeta, come back!" She scanned the sky, but he was nowhere to be seen.

Dropping to her knees, the tears she'd been holding back rolled down her cheeks as she gasped for breath between sobs. Why did this have to be so difficult? She knew her future self was right, that she still loved him and always would. So why...?

Bulma sniffled and picked herself up from the floor. This was her fault, continually letting him get close to her, then pushing him away in an effort to remain loyal to her boyfriend. She'd talk to Vegeta when he got back. They needed to come to an understanding.

Too bad she didn't know just what that was yet.

Bulma pulled on her robe and headed downstairs to the kitchen. She'd fallen asleep before Vegeta had returned despite her best efforts to stay awake. Maybe her mother had made him breakfast, or had at least seen him that day.

"Good morning, Dear," Mrs. Briefs sang as Bulma entered the kitchen.

"Good morning, Mom," Bulma responded. "Have you seen Vegeta today? I want to talk to him before he leaves."

Mrs. Briefs pursed her lips uncomfortably. "He already left to catch his flight, Bulma."

The hopeful expression on Bulma's face fell. "Oh. Thanks."

Mrs. Briefs paused, as if uncertain that she should say what was on her mind. "He seemed rather upset by something. He was trying to hide it, but I could tell." She cocked her head inquisitively. "Is this something to do with why you wanted to talk to him?"

Bulma sighed and sank down onto one of the kitchen table chairs. "I wish I knew what to do about him," she admitted. "It seems like we always end up on the wrong foot."

Mrs. Briefs set down the spoon she'd been using. "Bulma," she began quietly, "Vegeta loves you so very much. All he wants is you. He's tried so hard to help you see that."

"Mother!" Bulma moaned, covering her face with her hands. "Even if that is the case, what am I supposed to do? I can't just dump Hiroshi and invite Vegeta back into my life!"

"Why not?" Mrs. Briefs countered. "After all, Hiroshi doesn't-"

Bulma's head snapped up and she glared at her mother. "Thank you very much for your support, Mom!" she shouted. "I don't need your or anyone else's unwarranted criticism of my boyfriend. Why won't you lay off him for once? No, instead it's always how wrong he is for me and how I should give the man who walked out on me twice another chance because he's sorry about what he did! Maybe if you actually tried to be civil to Hiroshi for once, you'd see what I do about him!"

Mrs. Briefs sighed as her daughter angrily stormed from the kitchen, nearly bowling over Dr. Briefs, who was about to enter the kitchen, in the process. She'd done it again.

Dr. Briefs watched his daughter stomp off and turned his head to look at his wife in astonishment. "Bunny?"

"Oh Shatsu, it's all my fault," Mrs. Briefs said in a wavering voice. "She was looking for Vegeta but he already left for Strawberry Fields and we got to talking about his feelings for her and she said she didn't know what to do about Vegeta and that she couldn't just dump Hiroshi to take him back and I asked her why not and she got upset and I've probably just driven her even deeper into that vile man's clutches and it's all my fault!" she blurted in one long exclamation.

Dr. Briefs hurried over to his wife during her little tirade and drew her close. "Shh, Bunny, shh... It'll be all right. Just give her some time to cool off." He ran his hand gently over his wife's back. "I saw Vegeta this morning too before he left and he seemed a little out of sorts. Whatever happened between those two probably resulted in both of them being hurt, and I'm sure Bulma is just upset over that. Just give her some time."

Mrs. Briefs nodded and dabbed at her face with the edge of her apron. "All right, Dear. I'm sure you're..." She paused, then sniffed. "Oh no, I've burned our breakfast!" she exclaimed, leaving her husband's embrace to rush over to the stove. She poked at the contents of the pot with her spoon. "Damn it! This slop isn't edible in the least!"

The only outward indication of Dr. Briefs' reaction was a slight twitch of his mustache. He'd never tell her so, but he found it hot when his beloved wife's tongue faltered, especially when she was mad, exhibiting what she referred to as 'bad behavior'. His mustache twitched again when she shoved the pot into the sink with a huff and turned on the water, crossing her arms over her chest in irritation.

"Oh, Bunny, it's all right," the doctor soothed. "I didn't really want oatmeal for breakfast anyway."

"Well, I'm not cooking anything else!" Mrs. Briefs retorted. She sighed, immediately looking remorseful. "I'm sorry, Dear. I've been behaving badly today, and all because our daughter can't see what an idiot she's dating."

"It's all right, honey bunny," Dr. Briefs told her, smiling when his wife giggled at the little pet name. "What do you say we go to breakfast, hmm? Just you and me. The others can fend for themselves for once."

Mrs. Briefs smiled. "That sounds wonderful," she agreed.

"All right. Let's go." Dr. Briefs lead his wife from the kitchen outwardly looking happy, but inside his mind was filled with turmoil.

"Hey there."

Vegeta lowered his newspaper. "Hello, Carly. Have a seat."

Carly sat down across the booth from him. "When did you get back to Eastern Country?"

"Just a few hours ago," Vegeta told her, folding up the newspaper he'd been reading. "The flight between West Capital and Strawberry Fields is horrific."

"Freshen your coffee, Sir?" a passing waitress asked.

"Thanks." Vegeta slid his mug over to her. "She'll have a cup as well." He nodded toward Carly.

"No problem. I'll be back in a few minutes to take your order," the waitress responded before walking away.

"I've heard that it's a bad flight," Carly said, picking up where their conversation had left off. "I've never been to Western Country so I wouldn't know." She placed her purse onto the bench beside her. "So, how goes your property search?"

"I've already got a call in to the owner," Vegeta told her. "I made him an offer he can't refuse." He took a gulp of his coffee, frowned, and picked up the sugar dispenser.

"Hopefully you won't have to pay too much," Carly said with a little frown.

Vegeta waved that off. "No, the other guy offered him practically nothing, and I still have money left over in my budget." He had his coffee mug in his hands and was staring down at it as he slowly swirled the coffee around inside of it.

"Are you all right?"

Vegeta looked up at his dining companion. "Sure. Fine."

Carly pursed her lips. "Okay, even though I don't know you well yet, I can tell you're lying to me," she retorted.

Vegeta sighed and looked back down at his coffee. "I... Bulma and I..."

Now it all made sense. He didn't want to just be on 'good terms' with his son's mother. "Does she know how you feel?" Carly asked gently.

He nodded. "I screwed up with her and left for a while to do my own thing. When I got back she was dating the prick she's with now, and wasn't happy to see me at all. I've tried so hard to make amends and let her know how sorry I am that I hurt her, but..." He sighed. "I didn't know what a good thing I had until it was gone. I don't want friendship from her. I..." He shook his head; he'd already said too much.

Carly gave him a sympathetic look, suddenly realizing why he might have chosen to leave the son he was obviously very fond of back in Western Country for so long. "I'm sorry, Vegeta," she told him softly. "I hope it works out for you."

Vegeta nodded soberly. "Thanks." He sat up straight, grateful for the arrival of the waitress.

"Are we ready to order?" the woman asked.

"I'll have scrambled eggs and ham with rye toast," Carly decided.

"And for you, Sir?"

"A slice of coffee cake," Vegeta responded.

"All right. Your order will be out shortly," the waitress said cheerfully.

Carly waited until the other woman was out of earshot. She'd seen how much Vegeta could put away on more than one occasion and figured he was only eating to appear normal. He was hardly drinking his coffee, and she had quickly discovered how addicted he was to it. "Vegeta, it's none of my business, but if you truly love her and haven't told her so, you need to," she told him seriously. "It might seem silly, but women need to hear things like that and be reassured of it."

Vegeta didn't respond and commenced swirling his coffee around in his cup again.

Carly frowned. There was no mistaking what was wrong with him; despite not knowing him well, he had the same look in his eyes every time Bulma came up in conversation. The man wasn't just attracted to Bulma, he was definitely in love with her, and it was tearing him apart. "Vegeta, I-"

"I've hired Banderas and Sons as my architect," Vegeta spoke up. "They have very good references."

Carly held back a sigh. "Yes, they're quite well known in this area," she acknowledged, respecting his decision to change the subject.

Dr. Briefs clicked on the little envelope icon on his laptop and smiled. "Well, Daughter, the message is short and sweet and to the point: 'Got the property and construction plans are being drawn up.' He certainly doesn't waste any time, does he?"

Bulma looked up from the blueprints she'd been working on at her father. He didn't have to clarify who he was talking about. "No, I suppose he doesn't."

Dr. Briefs closed his laptop and went over to her. "It'll be all right, Pumpkin," he said softly.

Bulma shook her head. "I don't know what to do about him," she murmured.

Dr. Briefs had an idea or ten but wisely held his tongue. "Just hear him out, Bulma. That's all he wants." He peered at the blueprints, feeling that a change of subject might be prudent as his daughter was obviously feeling quite emotional at the moment. "That's an interesting idea. What made you think of it?" he asked, noting one change in particular she'd made.

Bulma remained silent for a moment before answering. "It's what I imagine he would have suggested. He's quite ingenuitive about stuff like this," she managed before hurrying from the lab.

Dr. Briefs sighed, at a loss as to what he should say or do to help. Part of him said to stay out of it and hopefully the two would come back together on their own, but the rest of him grew continually more worried. While he was supportive of Vegeta's project, Vegeta had declined Dr. Briefs' offer to send some employees to help get the ball rolling and shorten his stay overseas. It was like Vegeta was going forward in reverse, and the doctor didn't know what to think about it.

Geta looked at his cell phone as it buzzed, then briefly typed something in response to the text he'd received. "Do you mind pausing it for a moment?"

Bulma picked up the remote control and paused the movie they were watching. "Sure, I need to use the bathroom anyway," she responded, getting up from the couch and making sure her son was still sleeping before heading for the door.

"Thanks." Geta placed two fingers on his forehead and disappeared.

"Bye, Da!" Vegeta sang, not at all surplussed by his father's teleportation.

"What was that all about?" Bulma asked.

Anya just shrugged. "I have no idea."

Bulma shrugged in return and headed for the hallway bathroom. As she was washing her hands, she heard loud shrieking coming from down the hall.

"Hi, Ganpa!"

"Da-ee! Da-ee! Da-ee!"

Wiping her hands dry on her jeans, Bulma headed from the bathroom to the den, where she found her now awake son in the arms of his father, who was holding the boy close, his face nestled against his hair. She knew what Vegeta was doing, as he'd sometimes liked to scent her hair when she was in close proximity. She would never admit it, but her heart was racing a little faster at the sight of him. "Hello, Vegeta."

Vegeta looked up from their son to her. "Bulma..." She was wearing jeans and the hoodie he'd given her. Her hair was pulled back into a sloppy ponytail and she wore no makeup.

She was beautiful.

"How are things going there?" she asked. He'd been gone for three weeks, and she hadn't heard anything from him that hadn't been received by anyone else.

Vegeta crouched down to receive an enthusiastic hug from his grandson, VJ still in one arm. "All right, I suppose, other than the fact that I'm not terribly happy with my architect, who came highly recommended," he responded. He chuckled when little Vegeta threw his arms around his neck and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

"I missded you, Ganpa!" the boy exclaimed.

Vegeta held his grandson gently in one arm. "Grandpa missed you too, kiddo," he informed his beaming namesake.

"Now, now, Vegeta. Don't maul Grandpa," Anya told her son half seriously.

Geta laughed. His son was quite pleased that his beloved Grandpa had returned. "I think Mama is right," he added. "Let's let Grandpa get settled in, then we can spend some time with him, okay?"

Little Vegeta sighed. "Okay," he conceded, climbing off of his grandfather.

"Come along, Sweetie, and you can have a cookie before bedtime," Anya suggested, instantly making both children perk up.

"Yum-yum!" VJ exclaimed, his attention momentarily diverted from his daddy.

Vegeta cracked a crooked smile. "You did that on purpose, didn't you?" he accused his daughter-in-law.

"Guilty," Anya admitted. :I figured you could use a little time to catch up on stuff around here.:

"You're a good woman, Anya," Vegeta told her as he handed off his youngest son to his eldest.

Anya merely smiled as she lead Geta and the boys from the den.

"Has she been feeling all right?" Vegeta asked once they'd gone.

Bulma nodded. "She's had a few bad spells, but they haven't lasted as long this time around."

"That's good." Vegeta sat down on the couch. "You're looking well."

Bulma frowned at him and sat down at the other end of the couch. "You're such a liar. I look like death warmed over," she contradicted him.

He laughed openly, surprising her. "I've seen far worse, trust me."

"Hmph." Bulma crossed her arms and looked away. "Thanks."

If she was death, he'd gladly accept his fate with wide open arms. He sidled up a little closer to her. "Tell me, sweetness. Would you have cleaned up had you known I was coming?"

Bulma felt her cheeks go pink. "Vegeta, please." She looked over at him. He was gazing at her with heavy lidded eyes, wearing one of his rare true smiles. "What?"

He shrugged. "Just you."

Bulma didn't know how she should respond to that without either encouraging him in the wrong way or hurting him further, so she opted to change the subject. "You look tired."

He nodded. "It's been a long day. I didn't go to bed yet, just came here."

Bulma did a little quick math in her head. "You've been up all night?" she asked incredulously. "I know you don't typically need as much sleep, Vegeta, but you do need some!" She pursed her lips in disapproval. "Tell me you're not doing this all the time. Daddy said he offered to have some employees go with you but you refused-"

"Shhh, I promise I don't do this all the time," Vegeta interrupted gently. He'd never tell her, however, just how often he'd go back to his hotel room and drink himself into a stupor, or go to a club and stay out until the middle of the night. He wouldn't tell her how many nights he'd lain awake in bed, mentally abusing himself for all the mistakes he'd made with her; forget about all the other atrocities he'd committed before he'd known her, before she'd come into his life and changed it so greatly.

Bulma sighed, not convinced. "All right, but you're going to bed when we do," she informed him. "Are you hungry?"

Almost as if on cue, there was a knock at the door and Mrs. Briefs peeked in. "Vegeta, Dear! It's so wonderful to have you back home again," she gushed as she scurried into the den. Giggling, she placed a kiss on his cheek and grabbed his arm to pull him up before hugging him tightly. "You look famished. I'll cook you some dinner."

"Bunny, you don't have to do that-" Vegeta began, but he didn't get far.

"Pfft! Pish posh," Mrs. Briefs shushed him. "I'm sure you're tired of eating out all of the time, aren't you, Dear? You must really miss home cooked meals."

Vegeta's stomach decided to let out a loud growl right at that moment. "Yes, I do miss them," he admitted, making her squeal with delight.

"Come along then, and we'll make you something tasty and nutritious. It will do you some good because I'd swear you're getting thinner," Mrs. Briefs told him as she hauled him from the den. "I know! I'll cook that nice pork loin I bought yesterday."

Bulma gave Vegeta an apologetic smile as her mother carted him off. While she agreed with her that he didn't look quite right, she would have liked to have spent a little more time talking. They had a lot to catch up on.

"So, how long are you staying before you have to go back?" Mrs. Briefs asked as she removed the aforementioned pork loin from the refrigerator and began unwrapping it.

Vegeta shrugged. "I don't know. A long weekend, I suppose."

Mrs. Briefs turned to face him. "Just the weekend?" she asked, disappointment in her voice. "Couldn't you stay at least a week or two? We all miss you so."

"I miss everyone too," Vegeta told her, "but things are progressing nicely and I don't think it would be wise to hold them up. I'll visit frequently."

She sighed, a frown on her face. "I know. It's just that..." She sighed again.

"It'll work out Bunny, you'll see," Vegeta told her softly. "Once things are going smoothly there I can hire someone to run the branch and come home permanently."

Mrs. Briefs nodded. "It just doesn't feel right when you're gone," she told him. "I mean, you were gone before, but somehow this is different." She placed the meat on a cutting board and began seasoning it. "How does mashed potatoes sound?"

"Sounds great. I'll even peel for you." Vegeta took a large sack of potatoes out of the pantry. "He's been around a lot, hasn't he?"

"Ugh, yes," she responded, a grimace on her face. "You'd think he'd have someplace else to be, but no, he has to come here." She paused, then went back to her preparations.

It appeared that she had something else to say, so Vegeta set the potatoes on the counter and placed a hand on her arm. "Bunny?"

"I think he's cheating on her," Mrs. Briefs whispered. "I've seen hairs on his coat more than once that couldn't have been Bulma's because they were red or blonde. Even if he hung his coat in the same closet as his assistant they couldn't be hers, because Bulma says the girl is a brunette."

Vegeta realized that his jaw was set quite tightly and loosened it. "Have you told her?"

She shook her head. "No, every time I say something about that man she only gets angry and goes running back to him. And I just know that if I confront Hiroshi about it, it will only come back to bite me," she said sadly. "What should I do, Vegeta?"

"Where would you like me to dispose of the body?"

Mrs. Briefs turned to look at him. His voice had been completely serious, as was the expression on his face. "Vegeta! I don't like the man one bit, but that doesn't mean I want him dead," she chastised.

Vegeta pulled a vegetable peeler from its drawer and took a potato from the sack. "Come now, Bunny. Be honest." He began to peel the potato into the sink.

A little giggle came from beside him. "Well, I suppose it wouldn't hurt if something nasty happened to him, but I still don't want him to die," Mrs. Briefs admitted.

"Tsk, tsk. Shame on you, Bunny. You don't even squish spiders," Vegeta reprimanded, making her giggle some more.

"You're such a delightful young man," she reminded him. "Maybe if he gets some wretched disease from one of these little trollops he's with, Bulma will dump him." She paused again. "But... Oh, my..."

There was along moment of silence in the kitchen, ruined only when Vegeta dropped the peeler in his hand. "Is Bulma, you know. Are they?" He couldn't bring himself to ask.

Mrs. Briefs sighed and placed the meat in a pan on the stove to sear it. "I don't know. She hasn't shared any details with me, and truthfully I have no desire to know them."

"I get what you mean, but at the same time..." Vegeta trailed off.

"I know, Dear." Mrs. Briefs washed her hands and turned to him. "I just..." She trailed off, frowned slightly, and peered closer at him. "Is that a piercing I see, young man?" she demanded sternly, hands on hips.

Vegeta's hand went up to his left ear and touched the small stud in his earlobe. "It's just a small one," he told her in defense. "It's not like I got a tattoo that covers my entire upper body or anything. I've seen people like that."

She frowned in disapproval. "You're not a girl, so why would you pierce your ear?"

Kami, if she thought one tiny earring was bad, he had no intention of telling her he intended to switch it to something else, most likely a small hoop, once he was sure he could remove it without the hole closing up. "Something to do, I suppose."

She tsked and turned back to her pork loin. "Couldn't you just read a book or something?"

He laughed. "Come now, Bunny. It doesn't look that bad, does it?"

"I suppose not," Mrs. Briefs admitted. "At least it's not in a weird spot, like on your face or your chest or something like that."

Vegeta had gone on occasion to a local gym in Strawberry Fields and had seen a man with his nipples pierced in the locker room. The thought of a piercing through a sensitive area like his nipple made him shudder, as he could easily see it being ripped out during sparring or training. "Ugh, no. My ear is enough, no need to worry about that."

"Just the other day I saw a young lady with a chain running between her lip and her ear, and her boyfriend had a pierced eyebrow." Mrs. Briefs made a sound of disapproval. "They were such nice looking people otherwise."

"Don't worry, Bunny. I don't plan on expressing myself like that." Vegeta resumed peeling the potatoes.

The door opened and Dr. Briefs came in. "Vegeta, m'boy, so good to have you back home."

"Thanks, Shatsu." Vegeta wiped his hands on his pants and shook the doctor's proffered hand.

"There are several things I'd like to discuss with you." He paused, squinting as he looked closer. "Is that an earring?"


Vegeta looked up from his laptop. "Hey."

"Mom fed you?" Bulma sat down on the recliner.

"Yes, I'm very well sated. I dare say I could go right to sleep," Vegeta told her, closing the laptop and setting it onto the sofa next to him.

Bulma nodded. "That's probably a good idea. It's getting late. We should catch up on what's going on in Strawberry Fields tomorrow. How does lunch sound?"

Vegeta nodded. "Sounds good to me." He stood up and yawned, stretching, and picked up the laptop. "Hopefully Geta will be done soon."

Bulma cocked her head. "Geta? What's he doing?"

"He's using the shower in the hallway bathroom because Anya is giving Vegeta a bath in their bathroom, and I don't really want to traipse across the house wet and naked," he teased, earning himself a blush and a roll of the blue eyes he loved. "He would have waited, except that our son crapped on him," Vegeta explained, smirking when she began to giggle.

"Poor Geta," Bulma crooned. "You can use my bathroom if you want," she offered. "You look tired enough to fall over."

As much as he'd have liked to take her up on her offer, Vegeta knew it wasn't the best of ideas. There were too many memories involved, too many temptations to deal with. "That's all right. I can wait."

The way he was looking at her ripped a pain through her heart. He was trying to hide it, but she could see the pain, the longing, in his eyes. "Okay. If you change your mind, my offer still stands."

He wanted to ask her if anything else was included in her offer but refrained, not wanting to start another ugly scene. "Thanks. I think maybe I'll just head to bed and shower in the morning."

"I probably will, too." Bulma got up and headed for the door. "I'm pretty tired myself."

Vegeta didn't know what else to say and so simply followed her toward the bedrooms. Along the way, they passed the aforementioned bathroom.

They both paused outside the door. "He's singing in the shower." Vegeta gave Bulma a weirded-out look. He had half a mind to bang on the door and tell him to stop. Princes didn't sing, especially Saiyan princes!

Bulma smiled. "He has a wonderful voice," she commented.

Vegeta grimaced. She was right, but... "Saiyans don't sing."

Bulma gave him a sideways look. "Oh? Your father never had royal singers at the palace?" she challenged.

Vegeta found himself trapped. "Fine, Saiyan princes don't sing," he clarified.

Bulma still didn't buy it. "Well, he certainly didn't inherit such talent from my side of the family," she informed him. "The best singer in the Briefs family is my cousin Lacey."

"Lacey?" Vegeta repeated with a little snort of amusement as they headed further down the hallway. "Lacey Briefs, that's pretty good."

Bulma scowled at him. "I'll have you know that Lacey was our great-grandmother Briefs' name. She was very dear in our family," she retorted.

"Calm down, I was only trying to rile you up," Vegeta told her, not sounding very apologetic as he did so. He stepped in close to her. "I think I've told you before that you're beautiful when you're angry, haven't I?"

Gods, he was so close that she could feel the heat radiating from his body. "You're just being silly."

"Am I?" Vegeta whispered, and she realized that she had whispered as well. He moved a little closer, and she suddenly found herself pressed up against the wall, her ex-boyfriend leaning over her with one hand on the wall on either side of her.

"Vegeta..." He'd been just about to kiss her when the bathroom door opened and Geta came out. Seeing his parents standing in such close proximity in the hallway, he immediately did an about-face and went back into the bathroom.

Bulma's cheeks flushed pink. "I... I suppose I should get to bed," she stammered, stepping out from beneath the shield of his body. "I have a breakfast appointment tomorrow morning."

Vegeta held back a disappointed sigh and nodded. "I should get some sleep too," he acknowledged. Stepping closer again, he kissed her cheek. "Good night, Bulma."

"Good night, Vegeta." Bulma slipped into her room and shut the door, conflicting thoughts running amok in her mind. On the one hand, she'd wanted him to kiss her and hold her close the way he used to. On the other hand, she knew such an act would have been playing with fire.

After all, it was Hiroshi who would be having breakfast with her tomorrow.

"Welcome back, Mr. Vegeta!" Hina exclaimed as he walked through the door. "I didn't know you came home already."

"Yes, just last night." Vegeta tossed his jacket over a chair and sank down onto it. "Kami, I'm tired."

"Coffee with cream and triple sugar?" Hina offered.

He smiled at her gratefully. "You're a gem, Hina. Thank you."

"You're welcome." She smiled in return and left to get the coffee.

Vegeta looked around the office and sighed. Never had he imagined that he would ever find himself working in an office, or anything remotely similar. Was he in over his head?

Of course, neither had he ever imagined himself hopelessly pining away over a woman, mourning her loss as she carried on with a man even worse than he was.

They were supposed to meet for lunch to catch up on things, so he had decided to check in with Hina to see how things were going before then. Vegeta shifted in his seat, crossing one ankle over the opposite knee. He was becoming antsy waiting for Bulma to arrive. Why that was he couldn't quite put his finger on.

His phone rang, startling him out of his reverie. "Hello?"

"Hey Vegeta, it's Bulma."

Vegeta allowed a small smile to escape, mentally chastising himself for having worried. "Ready for lunch?"

He heard her sigh. "That's just it, Vegeta. Something's come up and I won't be able to meet you. I'm sorry."

"Oh." Vegeta was glad she couldn't see him. He was more disappointed than he realized he would be if she canceled. "Did you want to meet up later?"

"I'll try. Let me call you back, okay?" Bulma responded.

"Oh, he'll get over it. Don't stress yourself over him."

It was faint in the background, but there was no mistaking whose voice Vegeta had just heard. "Yeah, sure. Give Hiroshi my regards." He flipped the phone shut before she could respond and got up.


He picked up his jacket and headed for the door. She'd just made some big decisions for him, important decisions he'd been mulling over since before he'd even come home and another since he'd arrived.

The door opened before he got to it and Hina entered, coffee in hand. "Mr. Vegeta? Are you all right?"

He accepted the styrofoam cup from her. "Yes, fine. Something came up and I have to leave. I'll be in touch." He nodded to her and left the room.

Hina frowned. He'd only just arrived and already he was leaving before they could discuss anything. But even more disconcerting to her was that he didn't look right. Something was going on with him that he didn't want to talk about, and most of the time when he looked that way that "something" had to do with Bulma. That woman was just stringing him along, enjoying the attention she got from him but rejecting his affections. She shook her head and sank down into her chair. The sooner he got over her, the better.

"Are you sure, Father? You only just got home," Geta asked, disappointment in his voice. "The boys miss you. I was hoping you'd have a little time to spend with them before you go."

Vegeta sighed, the knife in his heart twisting further. "I... I have to go. It isn't good for me here right now."

Understanding suddenly hit Geta and he realized what must have happened. Hiroshi had picked up his mother for breakfast, and had probably delayed her from meeting with his father as they'd planned. "I'm sorry, Father."

"Yeah, me too." Vegeta zipped up the suitcase he'd been packing and opened a new one.

"You're packing an awful lot," Geta noted. "Do you expect to be gone longer this time?" A sick feeling hit his gut when his father paused in what he was doing long enough to give him a look that only meant one thing.

He didn't intend to come back again any time soon.

"Father, if there's anything I can do..."

"I'm sorry, Son. This is just the way it has to be for a while. Your mother has made it clear to me where her priorities lie, and that they don't include anything to do with me. Even business related garbage was blown off in favor of that son-of-a-bitch, and I don't have the time nor the inclination to sit around and scratch my ass waiting for her." Vegeta yanked open his closet doors and began removing items to pack.

Geta frowned. This was not a time he enjoyed being right. "All right, Father. I'll be sorry to see you go again so soon. Let me know when you're ready."

Vegeta paused long enough to acknowledge his son. "Good."

Not a "Sounds good," or even a "Thanks." Just "Good." Geta sighed and left the room, wishing that there was something, anything, he could do to help bring his parents back together and alleviate their suffering.

Bulma came into the house through the kitchen and tossed her things onto the counter. The house seemed oddly quiet, too quiet, and she found it a little disconcerting. "Hello? Anyone home?" She wandered out into the main area of the house, where she found her mother watering some houseplants in the front room. "Mom, have you seen Vegeta?"

"Try his room," Bunny suggested, not stopping what she was doing long enough to answer or even looking at her daughter. "Hmm, I think I'll need to fertilize these tomorrow," she murmured as she examined one of the plants.

Bulma knew that when her mother didn't look at her and changed the subject, it meant that she was not in the mood for whatever was being discussed and had no intention of carrying on the conversation. "Thanks."

"Mmm-hmm," was the only reply.

Frowning, Bulma took her leave and headed for Vegeta's room. What was her mother's problem? As she neared, she noted that the door was ajar, which struck her as strange because the very private Saiyan always kept his door closed. "Vegeta?" She knocked lightly. "Vegeta, are you in there?" She pushed open the door when he didn't respond, and gasped at what she saw.

The room was completely bare.

The closet door was open, revealing nothing inside. Not a single piece of furniture remained. Even the wall-mounted television was gone.

A sick feeling spread over Bulma as she took in the room. She'd only spoken to him a couple hours ago. Why would he clean out his room? Had he decided to move out? But why would he do that, unless... Bulma didn't want to finish the thought.

He had left, and wouldn't be back for quite a while if he'd taken every piece of clothing and even his furniture. She wanted even less to think about the reason why that could be.

Wordlessly, she headed back to where she'd last seen her mother. Mrs. Briefs was gone, so she searched her out and eventually found her starting dinner in the kitchen. "Mom, what happened to Vegeta's room?"

Mrs. Briefs sighed and put down the knife she'd been using. Surely her daughter wasn't an idiot. "He went back to Strawberry Fields, Bulma."

"But he took everything with him," Bulma noted, "even his furniture. Is he really planning on being gone that long?"

"It kind of looks that way, doesn't it?" came the cryptic response.

Bulma frowned. "Did he say when he would he back?"

This time Mrs. Briefs turned to look at her daughter. "I think maybe you should be more concerned about if he'll come back rather than when he'll come back, Dear."

Bulma's frown deepened. "You're blaming me for this, aren't you?" she accused her mother.

"Now, whatever would make you come to a conclusion like that?" Mrs. Briefs countered, a hint of sarcasm in her voice. "Do you think it could be that he got tired of being blown off by you in favor of people you feel are more important?"

"I don't have to listen to you badmouth me or Hiroshi-"

"Ah-ha. So you were with Hiroshi when you said you would meet him for lunch. I thought so." Mrs. Briefs turned back to her vegetables.

"What I do none of your business, Mom," Bulma spat, angry at being called out on her selfish behavior.

"It is when it involves members of this family, Bulma," Mrs. Briefs retorted. "This even involved business. You used to be so considerate of others and their needs and concerns. Now you seem to be concentrating on what you want and what makes you happy, and to hell with everyone else. Not everything is about you. You should think about that once in a while."

Bulma let out an affronted gasp. "That's a completely unfair accusation, Mom!" she objected. "How could you think something like that about me?"

"I observe far more than you think, Dear. Tell me, have you tried calling him yet?" Mrs. Briefs asked casually.

"I..." Once again, Bulma found herself trapped. What could she say in her own defense?

"I'll let you know when dinner is ready," Mrs. Briefs said, effectively dismissing her daughter.

Offended and embarrassed, Bulma grabbed her things, left the kitchen in a huff and stormed to her room. "Stupid Mom, she thinks she knows everything. What does she know about Vegeta or me?" she grumbled, sitting down heavily onto the bed. She took her phone from her purse and found Vegeta's number in her contact list.

The phone rang multiple times before connecting. "Hello, this is Vegeta. I am unable to take your call at this time. If you leave your name, number and a detailed message, I will return your call." She waited while the greeting was repeated in Eastern Standard, wondering if she should just hang up or leave a message.

A beep indicated that she should start speaking. "Vegeta, this is Bulma. Look, I'm sorry about lunch today and I thought we were going to talk later. I don't understand what happened to make you leave so quickly and take everything with you. Call me when you get this. Bye." She placed the phone on her nightstand and sighed. Part of her thought he was selfish and overreacting. The rest of her knew better, that her mother was right.

This was her fault.

"All right. Thank you." Vegeta hung up his phone and tossed it onto the bed beside him. He didn't like any of the apartments in the city he'd been shown or had called about. They were expensive for only getting a couple hundred square feet and zero storage space. Some of them even had shared restroom facilities. Nothing would be included in his rent- no utilities, no heat, no electric. There were not even coin laundry facilities in most buildings or a laundromat nearby. Those inconveniences aside, he couldn't see himself being comfortable living in the city. It was noisy with people and traffic at all hours. It was dirty. Prostitutes loitered at the street corners at night, and gangs roamed the streets during the day. Perhaps he could live closer to the city limits instead of being right in the thick of it, or perhaps one of the suburbs would work.

Perhaps he had made a mistake in choosing this city.

His gut feeling still told him that this place had a lot of promise despite its problems and he picked up the listing magazine he'd acquired again, this time flipping through the houses section. Nothing jumped out at him.

He kept turning through the pages. He liked a couple of the suburbs in particular but none of the homes. There were a few homes that appealed to him, but he didn't like the areas they were located. If he found a location he liked, none of the houses suited his needs. Why couldn't he find a listing that covered both?

He sat up straighter, an idea suddenly occurring to him. There was no reason why he couldn't have both. He just needed to stop looking at homes, and start looking at vacant lots. He'd build his own house, and end up with a home that perfectly suited his needs.

Well, all except for one thing which was out if his control, anyway.

Vegeta sighed, folding the corner of the page he was on down and tossing the magazine onto the nightstand. He'd happily live in a cardboard box if it meant he could hold her in his arms at night. But what he was doing now went against everything he'd longed for since returning from space the last time. He was thousands of miles away from her, and by his own decision. Until she decided to stop playing her games, it would remain that way.

He sighed again at the loud voices arguing in the hallway as they passed by and the sounds of cars honking and traffic driving by outside. Yes, he could drown it all out, but wherever he was, it wasn't a place worth being without her.

"Stop it, Vegeta," he growled to himself. "She's moved on. Get over it." He knew in his heart that he never would. She'd called his phone the day he'd returned and left some lame ass message claiming that she didn't understand why he'd left. Didn't understand, right. Bulma wasn't stupid, only when it came to her damn boyfriend.

He got up from the bed and put on some shoes and a jacket before leaving the hotel. It would be dinnertime soon, so he decided to to grab a bite to eat and hit a nearby bar he'd passed by on his way here. Maybe a few beers would cheer him up.

Bulma hung up the phone and tossed it into her purse in frustration. This was the third time in as many days that she had tried to call him. He hadn't responded to either of her other messages, and she was well aware that he'd been in contact with her father. It wasn't as though he had been unable to return her call.

Guilt riddled her mind. While part of her was forced to admit that he had left because of her, the rest of her said she had done nothing wrong and reminded her of how badly he'd hurt her. Hiroshi had never hurt her the way Vegeta had. If Vegeta wanted to go stomping off like a child and keep right on doing his own thing because he didn't get his way, well, that was his prerogative.

"Then why does it hurt so badly?" she whispered to herself, drawing her knees up to her chest and wrapping her arms around them.

Vegeta looked up from his newspaper as Carly sat down in the booth opposite him. "Ready?"

"Yup. I know exactly what I want." Carly looked at him inquisitively. "Have you found a place to live while you're here yet?"

"Yes. Have a look." Vegeta slid the listings magazine over to her.

Carly looked up at him inquisitively. "It's a piece of property. Are you saying you're going to build a house?"

"Yes. I couldn't find anything I liked, so I'm going to design and build my own house..." He trailed off, a thought hitting him.

"What is it?" Carly asked, noting the contemplative look on his face.

"I'm not happy with my architect," he told her. "Maybe I'll design Capsule East myself, too."

Carly drew in a breath. "Vegeta, I know you're brilliant, but have you any idea what's involved in designing a building, especially one that size?" she asked incredulously.

Vegeta gave her a saucy grin. "Watch me."

She let out a little disbelieving chuckle. "Okay, I'm very interested in seeing what you come up with." She leaned forward. "Why would you build instead of just renting an apartment? Don't you plan on going home once everything is in order?"

Vegeta opened his mouth to answer, then shut it and lifted his newspaper back up.

A bad feeling washed over Carly at his reaction. "Vegeta? Is everything okay?"

"Yes, I put in an offer-"

"That's not what I'm talking about," Carly interrupted.

"No, Carly. I'm not going back to Western Country, if that's what you mean by 'home'," came the rather bitter response from behind the newspaper. "I'm tired of trying and being blown off. I'm tired of watching her carry on with that miserable worm. I'm tired of it all. I..."

Carly's eyes teared up as he folded up the paper and tossed it onto the bench beside him before resting his head in his hands. It didn't take a genius to figure out that something bad had happened between them while he was gone. "I'm so sorry, Vegeta," she whispered.

"Yeah, me too." Vegeta sat up straight but didn't look at her.

He looked awful. "Vegeta, any time you need to talk, I'm only a phone call away," Carly offered. "I'm a woman, so I might be able to offer some insight on chick stuff which makes no sense whatsoever to you."

He looked up at her with a crooked little smile. Already he regarded her as a good friend. "Thanks, Carly."

She returned the smile. "Any time." She paused. "Want to get out of here and go for a walk? It's nice outside right now, and there's a little roadside stand across the street that has excellent banana-nut muffins."

He nodded. "Okay. Sounds good to me."

She stood up and tossed some money onto the table. "I've got your coffee. C'mon, let's go."

He stood up and followed her out of the café. She was right, it was nice out, but he still felt like sulking.

"You sure you're okay?" Carly's voice interrupted his thoughts.

Vegeta shrugged. "As good as can be expected, I suppose," he muttered. "My attempts at getting her back have failed utterly, so I just have to figure out how to let her go."

Carly stopped walking and took his arm to turn him so they were facing each other. "Vegeta, we've talked about this before, so be honest with me. Do you truly love her or not?"

Vegeta looked down at his feet.


"Yes," came the tiny answer.

"Would you do anything to get her back?"

He nodded. "I'd do anything for her," he agreed, "whatever it takes to have her back."

"Then don't give up," Carly told him softly. "I understand if you need a little time away, but don't ever give up."

He let out a long sigh and started walking again. "I just don't know if I can take any more," he told her. "It tears at me deeper every time I try and she runs back to that bastard." He snorted. "Listen to how soft I've become. My father must be scoffing at me in disgust from Otherworld."

Carly frowned. "Vegeta, why would you think that?"

Vegeta looked at her. "I haven't told you very much about myself and my people, have I?" he asked as they stepped up to the crosswalk.

"Your people?" she echoed. "No, you haven't. Who exactly are you?"

She was going to find out anyway eventually. He was wondering exactly how much to tell her when the walk light went on and they stepped out into the street to cross it. "I'm not from around here-"

"Kami!" Carly cried as a car ran the red light and whipped around the corner, directly into their path. "Vegeta, watch out!"

Vegeta turned just in time to see the car bearing down on them, its tires squealing as the driver attempted to stop. Instinct took over as he stepped in front of the other screaming pedestrians and put his hands out, literally picking the front end of the vehicle up and stopping it as it reached him.

The screaming abruptly stopped at the sight of the short, wild-haired man standing in the street and holding up the vehicle which had almost hit them, mutterings of awe taking their place. A little boy ran up to him, his eyes shining with excitement. "Holy cow, Mister! How did you do that?"

Coming back to his senses, Vegeta immediately put the car back down, shaking his fist menacingly at its freaked out driver as he grabbed Carly by the arm and hauled her down the street. "Let's get out of here."

"I need to rephrase my question," Carly informed him as they rushed down the street in an attempt to avoid passersby who had whipped out their camera phones. "What exactly are you?"

Carly put down her coffee cup, eyeing him closely as she mulled over his story. She had known that there truly were aliens living on Earth, but she had never actually met one. That is, she'd never met one until today. "Wow. That's some story," she murmured.

Vegeta met her gaze silently for a long moment. "You don't believe me, do you?"

"Oh, I believe you," Carly contradicted him. "Actually, it explains a lot about you." She smiled at his startled expression. "Think about it Vegeta. How did I recognize you when we met?"

"All of the males of the house of Vegeta have hair like mine," he told her. "Had hair like mine, I suppose I should say. It was bred into us, a distinction of the royal family." He sighed. "Not that it matters any more. My people are dead, my planet destroyed. Only one other pure-blooded Saiyan exists, and he hardly acknowledges his heritage, or what my bloodline means." He shrugged. "He thinks I'm his friend, but he's really just a big clown."

Carly couldn't contain a giggle at the sour expression on Vegeta's face. "I take it he lives on Earth, too?"

Vegeta nodded. "Yes, about a half-hour's flight from Capsule Corp," he acknowledged. "But he knows a technique called instant transmission, so he's always popping by unannounced and scaring the crap out of people." He snorted. "Fool."

Carly giggled again. "Admit it, he's your friend, isn't he? After all, who else shares your heritage in common?"

Vegeta scowled at her. Damn. "I suppose," he admitted. "Despite being a retard at times, he would give the shirt off his back to someone in need, and he cares greatly for his friends and family. He even gave his life defending his son once."

Carly's eyebrow rose, and he immediately realized his error. "He gave his life for his son?" she echoed. "You were talking as if he's still here."

"He was granted a second chance at life, since he was needed to protect the Earth at the time," Vegeta told her, grateful that he had come up with a satisfactory answer that hadn't involved dragonballs.

"Really?" Carly sat up straighter. "From what?"

Vegeta sighed. He should have known this was coming. "From me."

Carly's eyebrow rose. "Okay..."

"I wasn't exactly what you would call a good person for most of my life, Carly," he told her. "I did a lot of bad things just to stay alive. One of the things I was involved in was an attack on the Earth," he muttered, not looking at her. Kakarrot defeated me, and I withdrew."

"Kakarrot?" Carly interjected. "You mean the other Saiyan?"

"Yes," Vegeta confirmed. "He had his family, friends and the planet he grew up on as his motivation to succeed, whereas mine was a selfish motivation. I understand now how he is able to come out on top with a fraction of the effort that I ever put out. He has the right reasons to win the battle."

Carly digested this. "So I guess it's safe to say that you're a changed man."

"Indeed." Vegeta found himself grateful for her diplomacy and the change of direction in the conversation. "Bulma was instrumental in that. She must have seen something about me that I still am not sure of that compelled her to invite me into her home, her life and her bed. She took me in and treated me well when everyone else would just as soon have cast me aside, or even do away with me. She changed my life for the better, made me a different person, a better one. But I foolishly equated those changes as having made me soft and weak, since I was conditioned through bitter experience that only the strong survive. What I didn't realize until it was too late was that having people to care about makes one strong, not weak."

Carly didn't say anything, but simply waited for him to continue.

"If someone attempted to harm one of the people I care about and I was present, he or she would be dead before they hit the ground. I guarantee it." Vegeta looked over to Carly to gauge her reaction.

"I believe you," Carly told him in complete seriousness.

Vegeta looked at her with surprise. "You aren't put off by that?"

Carly shrugged. "Maybe a little by the thought of it, but not when I consider everything you've told me you went through." She reached over to place a hand over his. "I can't imagine being taken as a child by a horrible monster who killed almost my entire race and enslaved me, forcing me to do his bidding," she said softly. "I actually give you a lot of credit since you're not a complete psychopath."

Vegeta snorted. "No, just a psychopath."

Carly laughed. "Don't be so hard on yourself," she chastised gently. "You've come a long way. Anyone who's heard your story would know that."

Vegeta nodded glumly. "Yeah, thanks." But it wasn't enough; just look at where he was now.

"Hey. Let's talk about something a little cheerier for a while, okay?" Carly suggested.

He gave her a grateful little smile. "What did you have in mind?"

Carly shrugged. "I dunno. Anything I can help you with as far as Capsule East goes?" she asked, pleased when he suddenly brightened.

"Yes, there is something you can help me with," Vegeta agreed. "I think I will need an assistant sooner than later. This individual would have to be able to follow directions, work on his or her own, know how to run an office efficiently, and be able to deal with all sorts of people, including a bastard like me," he told her, making her wonder exactly how much he was serious and how much he was joking about the dig on himself. "Know anyone strong willed who's looking for employment?"

The corner of Carly's mouth curled up. "As a matter of fact, I do," she informed him.

"Great, have them e-mail me their resumé," he told her. Vegeta wasn't sure what to make of that, given the glint in her eyes.

"Oh, I will. I think she'll suit you just fine," Carly assured him.

"Who is it?" Vegeta asked, curiosity getting the better of him.

Carly smiled. "My niece, Lauren," she told him. "She had some schooling in Western Country and speaks fluent Western."

Vegeta sat up straighter. "I hadn't even thought about that," he admitted.

"Yeah, that's as important as putting up with a grumpy pants like you, huh?" Carly teased. "Don't worry, she may be a bona fide spitfire, but she's also a big sweetheart. You'll really like her, and her little boy too."

Vegeta's eyebrow rose. "A spitfire, huh? She can't be as hard-headed as you are."

Carly laughed. "Oh, good heavens, no. She's much worse."

"Vegeta, so good to hear from you, my boy," Dr. Briefs exclaimed, leaning back in his chair. "How are things going there?"

"Ground breaking is tomorrow," Vegeta told him, cradling the phone against his shoulder so he could better look at the plans in his hands. "Do you think you could stop by for an hour or two tomorrow?"

"I'd love to, but I just can't," Dr. Briefs said regretfully. "I'd send Bulma, but she's stuck in meetings all day tomorrow too."

Vegeta's stomach had jumped a little at the mention of Bulma's name. He wasn't sure if it was a good or a bad thing that she couldn't come. "Then I'll definitely have to have you by soon," he responded in as neutral of a tone as possible. "Are you certain that you wouldn't like to see the blueprints before construction begins?"

"No, no, I'd like to be surprised," the doctor insisted. "I've enjoyed each and every surprise you've given me. This one'll be incredible, I'm certain."

A soft chuckle came over the line. "I certainty hope so. But I'm sure you'll be pleased," Vegeta told him. "I hope to get this facility built and staffed relatively quickly."

"I'm not at all worried about whether I'll be pleased," Dr. Briefs assured him. "And speaking of staffing, I have decided to make a change around here."

"Oh? What's that?" Vegeta asked, his interest piquing. "Have you hired your new executive yet?"

"Not yet," Dr. Briefs told him. "I have decided to recommend a promotion to the board."

"Ah. Are you retiring and promoting Bulma?" Vegeta suggested. He wasn't quite sure that he liked the idea, despite knowing that Bulma would be the ideal candidate for the job. She was far too emotional at the time, according to Geta, and he knew that it had to do in part with him.

"No, I've decided that I'm not ready for that yet," Dr. Briefs responded. "Rather, I am recommending that Bulma's title be changed to 'Vice President West' and that you be promoted to 'Vice President East'," he said, pride for the younger man clearly coming through in his voice. "You've done such a bang up job that I'm sure the board will give their approval."

"I... I don't know what to say," Vegeta stammered, completely surprised by the doctor's revelation.

Dr. Briefs chuckled. "Just say 'Sure, Shatsu, that sounds great!'," he told the flabbergasted Saiyan. "After all, this is your project and I have to say I am very impressed by your work thus far. You certainty deserve such a distinction. It only makes sense, as none of this would be happening without your hard work."

Vegeta held back a sigh. Unfortunately, this only made his ultimate decision easier to deal with. "Thank you, Shatsu. I appreciate your confidence in me."

"Of course, m'boy, of course. This position will also guarantee that once Capsule East is up and running, you'll be able to train someone to manage its operations while maintaining control over the project you've worked so hard to implement. The contacts you've made and the accounts you've negotiated will also prevent Bulma from taking on too much herself," Dr. Briefs told him. "So, Bulma will oversee operations at Capsule West while you oversee Capsule East. You can easily do that overseas, traveling there a few times a year if necessary. We'll definitely be incorporating video conferencing as part of the process. How does that sound?" he asked, not prepared for the long pause at the other end of the line. "Vegeta?" he continued, thinking that perhaps the call had been dropped.

"I'm here." Although Vegeta had spoken with Bulma once the initial hurt had cooled down and their conversation had been civil, Geta had admitted to him that his mother had made no move to break things off with Hiroshi. In fact, she seemed rather melancholy and was not home much in the evenings. This equated to one thing for Vegeta: she was spending more time with her disgusting boyfriend rather than less time.

Dr. Briefs hesitated before speaking. "Is everything all right?"

"I have purchased a piece of property in Blackberry Farms and secured permits to begin construction," Vegeta told him in a neutral tone.

There was another long pause as Dr. Briefs realized just what Vegeta's statement meant. Blackberry Farms was an affluent suburb of Strawberry Fields with a large residential population. Vegeta had no intention of returning to Western Country. "I see. I hope you will reconsider, Son."

Vegeta felt guilt wash over him at the crushed sound of the doctor's voice. "I don't know. It's just not good for me there right now," he mumbled. "I'm sorry, I have to go." He ended the call and sat down on the bed heavily, his head in his hands. As much as he missed his family and the place he'd come to think of as home, it was too painful waiting for any chance at reconciliation with Bulma and watching her always run back to her boyfriend after repeatedly stirring up such powerful emotions in him. He loved her fiercely, and it hurt too much to be so close to her, yet so far from any resolution with her. He just couldn't do it any longer.

Reaching into the bedside drawer, he pulled out a fifth of scotch. It would be a long night otherwise.

The phone rang, interrupting the activity going on in the kitchen. "I'll get it." Geta wiped his hands on a dish towel and looked at the caller ID. "It's from Eastern Country," he announced. "I think that's Father's private business line. Hon, could you tell Gram and Gramps?"

"Sure," Anya agreed, getting from the table where she had been feeding their son. "Bulma, could you watch Vegeta for me?"

"Of course," Bulma agreed, sitting down in Anya's vacated chair and reaching over to ruffle the boy's hair.

Anya kissed her son's little cheek and left the kitchen as Geta picked up the call using the speakerphone. "Hey, Father. Good to hear from you."

"Son," Vegeta acknowledged. "How's it going over there?"

"Good, good. You doing okay?" Geta hadn't seen his father in nearly a good two months, other than the time he'd popped over to get a blood sample to test for viral levels. Vegeta claimed that he had been so busy lately overseeing the construction of Capsule East that he couldn't visit yet, but Geta knew that not only was his father busy, it was a convenient excuse to avoid seeing his mother and her wretched boyfriend. "You sound tired."

"I am," he admitted, not knowing Bulma was in the room. "I don't sleep much lately. I've been so busy. Besides, I think maybe the stress of this project combined with getting used to the extreme time difference here has been taking its toll on me."

Geta put a finger over his lips and shook his head as he saw Bulma open her mouth to comment. She, too, had easily seen through his flimsy excuse. "Yeah, you'd think you'd be used to that by now." He chuckled. "You'll survive just fine, if anyone would."

Vegeta paused; perhaps he'd detected his son's hesitancy to buy his excuse. "Say, do you have me on the squawk box again? You sound distant."


"Sorry... I'm picking up stupid expressions from the interns here." Geta could imagine his father rolling his eyes in annoyance. "I meant speakerphone."

"Ah. Yes, you're on speakerphone. It's hilarious, because your grandson is looking quite confused that he can hear your voice but not see you." Geta grinned. "Say hi to Grandpa, Vegeta."

"Where Ganpa? Don' see Ganpa!" Vegeta objected, his little face distorted with a pout.

"I'm using the phone, Vegeta. Are you being a good boy and taking care of your mama and sister?" Vegeta asked.

Vegeta's face brightened. "Hi, Ganpa! Mama okay. I help lots. I a big boy!"

His grandfather chuckled. "Yes, you are. I bet you're even bigger than before I left."

"Miss you, Ganpa. When you come back?" the boy asked.

"Grandpa misses you too, Vegeta. I'm not sure when I'll be able to come home," Vegeta told him. There was a barely detectable tremor to his voice, but anyone who knew him well would detect it. "I'm going to talk to your daddy now, okay?"

"Okay!" Vegeta responded. "Wuv you, Ganpa!"

Geta could hear his father take in a deep breath. "You too. Keep being a good boy." He paused. "Geta, I... I'm glad it was you who answered. I was hoping for either you or Anya. Even though I've known both of you the least amount of time, you two understand me better than anyone else there."

Bulma's heart twisted in her chest. He was right. It wasn't her. It should have been her. She looked down at her hands sadly.

"I'm glad to hear from you, Father," Geta said softly.

"So am I. I... I miss you, Son. Both of you," he murmured. "Why don't you and Anya come visit? You could bring the boys with you. Well, if Bulma allows it, anyway." He'd mentioned the possibility of Bulma bringing VJ by on multiple occasions, or at least letting Geta do it, but she'd always found some excuse not to do it.

"I miss you too, Father." Geta found himself blinking back tears. His father wasn't one to express that kind of sentiment, and it felt like a knife turning in his heart to hear it. "And I'd like that. I'll talk to Anya and Mother about it."

"I heard my name," Anya announced, coming back into the kitchen. "Come here, you little stinker." She scooped up her giggling son. "Pops, Shatsu and Bunny will be here in a couple of minutes once they finish up with a phone call they're having. They said not to hang up before then."

"All right," Vegeta agreed. "Thanks, Anya."

"No problem. As for you, young man, it's time for your nap." She headed for the door with her son. "I'll be back in a sec."

"I no sleepies, Mama!"

"Yes, you are..."

Vegeta paused for a moment as Anya left the kitchen, figuring that they were now alone. "How's Anya doing? Still sick?"

"She's doing better." Geta told him, glad for the change of subject. The last thing his father needed to hear was him breaking down. "She's mostly tired now. Her baby bump is definitely showing. We went grocery shopping yesterday and another patron saw her and said, 'Oh, yeah! I forgot pickles!'" Both men chuckled. "She said she's glad she looks pregnant now and not just fat. She's never looked fat, but she won't believe me."

"It's a female thing," Vegeta said with conviction.

"I think so too."

"Your mother always used to say the same ridiculous thing. Of course, I was too stubborn to tell her how beautiful she is." There was another pause. "How's she doing?"

"She's good," Geta responded, eyeing his mother. She was nibbling at her nails, her eyes full of tears. "Working a lot."

"I know the feeling," Vegeta said softly.

"I think she really liked the flowers you sent for Mother's Day," Geta commented, remembering the large and quite spectacular bouquet of flowers which had arrived over the weekend, along with a card reading 'To the beautiful mother of my son.' Bulma had been very touched, to the point of tears. She had not ever expected him to do such a thing, but the moment had been ruined by a snort and a rude comment from Hiroshi.

"That's good," came the very quiet response. "I'm glad to hear it. Lauren helped pick them out. I'm not very good at that sort of thing." He'd been grateful for the suggestion, not even having known that such an observance existed.

"Lauren?" Geta queried, sneaking a look at his rather emotional mother.

"My personal assistant. She's very smart and has excellent taste," Vegeta informed him.

"Oh. I'm glad you found someone reliable," was all Geta could think of to say.

He heard Vegeta take in a long breath. "I- I'm glad she's doing well. Take good care of her for-" He stopped before he could finish with 'me'. "Take good care of her."

"I promise." Geta wondered whether or not he should ask the question he had in mind, especially with his mother crying silently at the table. "You could have picked anyone to go, Father. Don't you still... I mean, how do you feel-"

"I know where you're heading with this, Son," Vegeta interrupted. "What are you trying to do, help me to finally find the courage to off myself?"

Geta's eyes widened. He knew that his father was depressed enough that he often drank too much, but he hadn't known he was entertaining suicidal thoughts. "Father, of course not! That's absurd! It's just that..." He trailed off; Bulma was mopping at her face with a napkin she had taken from the holder on the table.

"I'm just..." Vegeta sighed tiredly. "I got my hopes up when your mother visited from the future because of a couple things she said, one in particular. Bulma is no idiot. She knows how I feel, but she recently made her feelings on the matter clear to me." He took a deep breath. "I guess I'm having trouble making myself let go, with accepting the harsh reality that I'm done, for good. It's just easier to remain here, where I don't..." He paused. "I don't have to see it here."

Bulma got up from her chair and fled the kitchen, unable to listen any longer.

"What was that?" Vegeta asked, hearing her chair scrape across the floor slightly.

"Oh, nothing. Just bumped into a chair is all," Geta lied, not wanting to humiliate his father by admitting that the subject of their conversation had been present in the room. "Just hang in there, Father. Please don't give up."

Vegeta sighed raggedly. "I know what you're saying, Son, but you of all people know what it's like to lose someone you care about. I know she's not dead, but I might as well be to her."

Geta frowned sadly. He hated to even think of his father in such terms. "Father, there's always hope that someday she might change her mind."

"Oh? Has she dumped the cretin yet?"

Geta's face fell. "Father..." What could he say that wouldn't completely destroy any lingering hope his father might have left?

"Well?" Vegeta pressed, although his son's hesitation was enough of a confirmation.

Geta didn't want to answer the question, holding back a sigh of relief as the kitchen door swung open. "Hey, here they come."

His grandparents came into the kitchen, closely followed by Anya. "Hey Pops, guess who's here?" Anya called out.

"Vegeta, Dear, is that you?" Mrs. Briefs asked. "Oh, I miss having you here. I always end up cooking far too much!" She laughed airily.

"I miss you too, Bunny, and I really miss your wonderful food. Why don't you whip up some of those tasty deviled eggs I like and encapsulate them for me next time Geta stops by?" Vegeta teased.

Mrs. Briefs burst into peals of laughter. He was such a dear boy. "I just might do that."

"Hello, Vegeta. How are things going in Strawberry Fields?" Dr. Briefs had Kitty on his shoulder and put the cat down to get some milk for it. Geta eyed the cat warily, keeping his distance.

"I can sum this place up in four words, Shatsu. Easterners are weird people."

Everyone laughed. "Oh, they're a different breed of folks, all right," Dr. Briefs agreed.

"But they have such wonderful food and shopping," Mrs. Briefs interjected. "That means they can't be all bad, right?"

The little noise Vegeta made sounded like a cross between a snort and a laugh. "I ate at a couple of so-called 'authentic' Western restaurants here. One was acceptable, but the other was disappointing to say the least."

"Well, you'll be home soon, Dear," Mrs. Briefs said consolingly, unaware of his decision not to return to Western Country. "Won't you?" she added when Vegeta did not respond promptly.

"I'm not sure, Bunny," Vegeta finally answered, not wanting to upset the poor woman, who obviously had her hopes up that he would be returning soon. "I might be here longer than I originally anticipated." He sighed. "Will be here longer than I originally anticipated."

"Oh," was all she said in a tiny voice. Her husband wasn't looking at her nor did he look surprised, so she knew he must have known all along. Something was up, she decided, and she'd have to question him later.

There was another long pause. "Is Bulma in the room?"

"No, she's not," Geta answered a little uncomfortably.

"I think she went to check on VJ," Anya added. "I saw her going into the nursery a couple minutes ago." :What's going on?: she mentally asked her husband.

:I'll tell you later, suffice to say that what she heard of my conversation with Father left her in tears,: Geta responded glumly. :For now, you're completely ignorant of the fact she was in here at all, because Father would never have discussed the things we did had he known.:

:Okay... Should I go check on her?:

:No, I think-:

"I'm here, Vegeta." They all turned to see her in the doorway, VJ in her arms.

"Oh, good. Now we can discuss how things are going on both ends," Dr. Briefs commented brightly, completely unaware of the uncomfortable conversation earlier between his grandson and Vegeta.

"Sure, but first things first," Vegeta began. "Bulma, I wanted to-"

VJ's eyes widened at the sound of his beloved father's voice. "Da-ee!" he shrieked, bouncing up and down excitedly in his mother's arms.

"Hey, is that my big boy I hear?" Vegeta said softly, struggling to maintain his composure. It was harder than anything he'd ever endured to be away from his son. That is, harder than anything other than his estrangement from the boy's mother.

"Hi Da-ee!" VJ shrieked again.

This time Vegeta chuckled. His son always seemed to be able to lift his mood. "Hi, Vegeta. Have you been a good boy?"

VJ said something in response that sounded unintelligible to Bulma's ears, but Anya giggled.

"Aww, that's so cute!" she exclaimed.

Bulma smiled at her son. "Of course he's cute. He's my son, after all," she said haughtily.

"Yes, well, that too," Anya agreed. "But what I was actually referring to was what he said."

"What..." Bulma stopped talking when she heard Vegeta's deep voice say something in his native tongue, only to hear her son respond in kind. This happened several times as father and son conversed. She stared at the child in astonishment. "He- he speaks Saiyan already?"

"Bits and pieces, a few words here and there," Vegeta confirmed in the same soft voice he'd used with his son. "Not complete sentences yet, but his speech is certainly intelligible."

Bulma was astonished. Her son hardly spoke many Standard words, but he spoke enough Saiyan ones to carry on an understandable conversation? "Wow. So, what did he say?"

Vegeta was silent for a moment. "He wanted to know where I am. Why I haven't been there. I think he thinks that he must have been bad, and that I am angry at him for it and have gone away because of him." His voice sounded sad. "Nothing could be farther from the truth."

The boy had also told his father that he missed him, and Vegeta had assured the boy that he was indeed missed by his father as well. Although it was sometimes difficult to understand what small children learning to speak were saying unless you were used to hearing them speak, Anya had been able to grasp this. Given her father-in-law's pride, she was not about to disclose what else had been said to the others. He would have done that himself, had he chosen to. She couldn't help but feel pity for them both, and resentment for the woman who was actively driving a wedge into their family.

Her thoughts were interrupted when Bulma spoke again. "How is that cute?"

"He also greeted his daddy. That was cute," Anya spoke up. "I agree- you are a nice Papa."

Vegeta hmphed, but they could tell he was touched, not that he was brushing aside his son's affections. "Sure."

The softness in his voice gave away his true feelings. Anya could almost see his smile. "So when can we come visit you, Pops?" she asked in an attempt to brighten up the mood in the room. "Do you really have an indoor swimming pool at Capsule East? If so, I want to try it out." She'd heard a few rumors from her husband, who regularly kept in touch with Vegeta, one of which was the possibility of an indoor swimming pool.

"Indeed we do! It is Olympic sized, heated, and lighted as well," Vegeta confirmed, his voice brightening. "I budgeted my money well enough that I was able to put in an entire gym for the employees here to use," he said proudly. "It even has a track, a basketball court that can be converted for use with other sports, and day care for children while their parents use the facilities."

Bulma's eyes widened. "Where on Earth did you get the money for that?" she exclaimed. "You're talking about a huge expense here."

"As I told you, I budgeted my building allowance well. The majority of the savings came from firing my idiot of an architect and using someone else," Vegeta told her, omitting the fact that he'd rolled in his living expenses. He could pay for his own food and lodging, including his newly constructed house in Blackberry Farms.

"Who did you get?" Bulma pressed on, curiosity getting the better of her.

"Nope, I'm not going to say. You come look at it and tell me who designed it." The challenge in his voice was evident, but it was short-lived as he decided to speak his mind. "Say, I think it would be perfect for everyone to stop by during Vegeta's birthday. The weather is already nice here, and I have enough room for everyone to stay overnight."

"That sounds wonderful," Dr. Briefs agreed, glancing at his daughter as if to say that he was not open to any argument. Bulma had been stubborn and selfish long enough, and it was time for her to be fair and allow his grandson to see his father, at the same time spending time with her family rather than her despicable boyfriend. She hardly even spent any time with her own child, for Kami's sake!

"Yes, what a wonderful idea," Mrs. Briefs agreed. "Will everything be done by then?"

"If you mean Capsule East, construction was completed well ahead of schedule," Vegeta gloated. "I will come by and get Shatsu for a couple hours on Friday for the official ribbon cutting."

"Oh, that's wonderful, Vegeta!" Mrs. Briefs exclaimed, then paused. "You knew about this, Shatsu? Why didn't you say anything?" she demanded.

"It was supposed to be a surprise," the doctor defended himself. "You know you would have gotten all excited and made all sorts of food and decorations and everything else in between, and would have wanted to throw a huge party there."

Vegeta's chuckle came over the speaker. He could almost see her scowl. "No harm was intended, Bunny. You'll get your chance for a party, as I am planning a gathering for the employees here soon. Anyway, back to Capsule East. I found a reputable contractor who was willing to either break his back to get it done or get lost. With a project of this size and the zeni signs that accompanied it, they decided to haul ass on the job, especially when they realized that they'd get a bonus for every day they finished ahead of schedule."

Anya's laughter rose above the chuckles of the others. "Haul ass, you're so funny, Pops."

"Hmph. Funny, right." They could hear the amusement in his voice. "So... Can I count on all of you to be here next weekend?" he asked hopefully.

"Oh, for certain," Mrs. Briefs piped up. "I'll even make VJ's birthday cake!" This was so exciting! And maybe being with his family would make him want to come home sooner than he planned! "You can move any appointments you have for a few days, couldn't you Bulma?"

Bulma had her reservations. After all, she wasn't too keen on Strawberry Fields and she'd never seen Vegeta's home. VJ was toddling around the house now, and when he wasn't walking he could power crawl faster than she could keep up with him much of the time. How did she know if the place was baby-proofed? But, why would Vegeta put his son or grandson at risk of being hurt? He was a good father, a very good one in fact, and he lived in a suburb, not the city itself. A wave of guilt washed over her for doubting him. "I'll have to check my calendar, but I don't think I have much scheduled around then because of VJ's birthday," she responded. "I guess it would be as good of a time as any."

"Sounds like a plan," Vegeta told them, holding back a sigh of relief. He'd almost expected another excuse from Bulma, and realized that he would have been devastated had she rejected him for this event. He'd missed everything else other than the boy's first word, and didn't want to miss this. "Just so you know, there's a nice park and a beach nearby where the children can play. Make sure you pack their swimming clothes. I can get some toys for them."

"I can't wait to come see you, Pops!" Anya exclaimed excitedly. "I want to see your new place, and Capsule East, too."

"I'll give you the grand tour," Vegeta promised. "I'm looking forward to everyone visiting too." They could hear a muffled tone. "Stupid phone, who's calling me after six? Oh. I've got to get this, it's an important client."

"All right, we'll talk to you again soon," Dr. Briefs told him. "Bye, now." A smattering of goodbyes followed.

"Bye Da-ee!" VJ squealed, making everyone chuckle.

"Bye, Vegeta. Be good for Mama," Vegeta told him before the line disconnected.

"What a nice phone call," Mrs. Briefs commented.

"Yes, it was good to hear from Father," Geta agreed, although thoughts of his conversation with his father earlier niggled uneasily at his mind. Should he talk to his mother about it or let it go? He looked over to her, his eyes meeting hers.

She held Geta's gaze for a moment before dropping her eyes, afraid that she'd lose her composure. "I should go feed VJ," she murmured before scurrying from the kitchen with her son.

Mrs. Briefs frowned. "My, but she was in a hurry. She's probably a little anxious about visiting Eastern Country. I hear Strawberry Fields is a rough city," she ventured.

"That could be, Bunny," Dr. Briefs began, "but I think perhaps-"

"Oh Darling, I know she's anxious about facing Vegeta more than anything else," Mrs. Briefs interrupted gently. "After all, everyone knows that her boyfriend is an incredible jerk and Vegeta has only been good to her since he got back. Of course she's confused."

Anya and Geta exchanged a surreptitious glance. "I think you probably hit the nail right on the head, Bunny," Anya told her. "We'll see how it all goes." She had no doubt that she and her husband had a lot to discuss, and her mother-in-law had a lot to think about as well.