Disclaimer: I don't own or profit from DBZ.
A/N: Thank you, guys for all your wonderful reviews. I really do cherish them. I would like to get your feedback. How many of you would be interested in a story of Gohan and Videl set in the Against All Odds universe?
Free My Heart
He led the way without bothering to check if Bulma followed. He knew she wasn't stupid, and there would be no reason for her to loiter now they had safely passed their last hurdle. He came to the entrance to engineering, nonplussed when he found the door sealed. He tried to pry it open, but it wouldn't budge. Frustrated he slammed his fist into it, angered when the hard steel didn't even dent.
"Not everything requires brute force, Vegeta."
Bulma was kneeling at the control panel, prying the hard plastic cover off with a thin piece of metal she found. Seeing what she was up too, Vegeta stood over her, legs planted wide, arms crossed. He waited patiently while she fiddled with the electrical board, testing the circuits until she found the right one. She smiled widely at him when the door slid open, and he couldn't help the small curving his lips in response. Satisfied, she hopped up, standing by the door while Vegeta went ahead to check for danger. Seeing the room was empty, he motioned her in. His black eyes glinted as she gasped at the plethora of technology. She darted back and forth, looking at everything all at once, and discovering the tools she need almost immediately.
"Now get this fucking collar off me, woman. I have business that needs attending to."
She rolled her eyes, holding up a tiny screwdriver she found in a nearby cabinet. She sauntered over to him, a deliciously wicked smirk on her lips as she twirled the tool in her slender fingers.
"Say please," she purred, her blue eyes winking up him.
He gripped her hand, pulling it into his chest so he could lean down until they were nose to nose.
"Now," he growled softly, nipping at her pink lips. She shuddered, her eyes becoming heavy lidded. She loved the taste of him, the feel of him against her skin. She was just a little bit addicted to the man.
She backed away teasingly, but he didn't allow her to go far. He picked her up by the waist and swung her up onto a table, so she could easily reach the collar. He stepped between her spread thighs, leaning into her.
"Work now, play later." It was a command he was hard pressed to make. He wanted nothing more than push her back on the table and indulge in the invitation curving on her lips to kiss her thoughtless, but his power was still restrained by the collar and he had no idea what dangers were waiting to leap on them at any moment. He couldn't protect her if he was still imprisoned.
She wrinkled her nose, her luscious lower lip protruding.
"Fine. Later. But remember, you promised."
His black eyes lit up, but his face remained cool. He dipped his head in acknowledgment before turning around to let her work.
As Bulma carefully scrutinized the collar, Vegeta gradually became aware of the scrolling green text on the computer terminal on the other side of the room. He was too far away to read it, but slow creeping dread gathered in the bottom of his gut.
"Aha, I knew it had to do with the flashing lights. I just need to fire the circuits in a certain sequence. This collar is nothing more than an electronic lock and the lights are broadcasting the key."
The thick, heavy collar came undone with a tiny click accompanied by Bulma's hoot of success. He felt a small, electrical zap at the base of his neck, skittering down along his spinal column. He knew from experience it could take up to an hour for his full strength to return. It took time for synapses to fire, and the nerves his ki traveled though to revitalize. He sighed deeply in relief, his thick chest expanding as he tasted the air around him newly flavored with the spice of freedom.
Needing to know what information was scrolling on the screen, Vegeta ignored Bulma and strode directly to the display, leaving her behind with the collar pinched between her fingers and the beginnings of a scowl on her beautiful face.
"A 'thank you' would be nice," she snapped. "Maybe, 'good job not blowing us up'."
When he didn't respond she hopped off the table and skirted up next to him, examining the screen holding his undivided attention. The writing was foreign to her, but it was clear it was a list of some sort.
"What is it, Vegeta?"
"The dead," he replied distractedly. In every soldier's suit was a biometric that fed the main database the soldier's vitals. As far as Vegeta could see, almost all of the officers stationed on the ship were dead. He flipped a panel on the console, bringing up a standard touch screen, cycling through commands with fluid ease. Those who saw to the ship's functions, and lower level soldiers had jettisoned. He checked the escape pods, noting there were several left. Bulma watched him closely, pulling up her own screen to mimic him. Soon she was navigating through various displays.
Vegeta continued to ignore her, his entire attention focused as he searched through the deceased. Both Zarbon and Jeice were dead. He paused, glancing at Bulma. The tip of her tongue was peeking out from the corner of her mouth as she concentrated hard on deciphering the technology in front of her. She really was beautiful, and now she would be safe from at least two of her tormentors. Some of the tightness in his chest he had been carrying around for the last several days loosened.
Turning his concentration back to the terminal, he typed in more names. Unbelievingly, every single member of the Ginyu Force were also dead. Vegeta didn't know how to process the information. The elation he felt in his soul was overwhelming. He had no greater enemies than Frieza's elite personal guards. With them gone there was no one standing between him and his destiny to kill Frieza. Soon he would be strong enough to avenge his people, to finally make his father proud of him.
"Goku," Bulma whispered in awe beside him. He jerked his head to the side, glancing at her screen. He saw a tall man with dark jutting hair, talking to a group of human prisoners. There were on the dungeon sub-level just above where they had been incarcerated. They must have passed right below them, and because of the collar, Vegeta hadn't felt a whisper of his enemy's presence.
He looked at him closely, seeing his rival for the first time. He smiled lopsidedly at the group, his hand scratching the back of his head. He didn't seem to be much of a threat. His physique and hair told of his Saiyan heritage, but Vegeta didn't see a tail. Without it, he was impotent. The Saiyan tail was the source of their power and without he was nothing more than a eunuch.
Bulma brushed her fingers over the view screen, touching the man's face almost lovingly. Vegeta's upper lip curled in disgust as he watched her. He dismissed the man as a physical rival, but Bulma's apparent affection for him twisted Vegeta's guts. He turned away with a snarl, refocusing his attention on his console. He needed to rid himself of the animal possessiveness he felt over her. They were free now. He no longer had to suffer her presence if he didn't want to. He was free to walk away from her at anytime.
He closed his eyes against the wave of sorrow cascading through him. He told himself repeatedly his emotions were nothing more than a by-product of sleep deprivation. Coldness crept into his bones, and even with his reawakened ki, he couldn't seem to warm himself. He needed to concentrate on what was important to him. What was necessary. He had the expectation of an entire race to keep him warm. The pride of his family.
Breathless anticipation and gut-clenching dread unfurled through his veins. He typed in one last name.
"Oh my God," Bulma gasped at the exact moment Vegeta rocked back on his heels in shock. He could feel Bulma vibrate with intense emotion beside him, but he couldn't tear his eyes away from the words on his screen.
It wasn't until she collapsed to her knees, her hands flat on the panel, her forehead pressed against cold steel console that Vegeta shifted his eyes catching her view screen. All he saw was a vast asteroid field, large chunks of rocks floating listlessly in space. Bulma gave a keening wail, jerking Vegeta's attention to her.
He reacted on instinct, dragging her off her knees by one arm. He expected her to stand, but she just hung limply from his grasp. She wasn't crying. There was no expected river of tears flooding down her face. Her eyes were screwed shut, her head lolling back on her shoulders as she wailed. The sound was ear-splitting, soul-cringingly sad. It was the sound of loss. The sound of unequaled pain.
"What the fuck is the matter with you, woman?" Vegeta growled at her, shaking her to gain her attention. She fell forward into his chest, tucking her head beneath her chin as she took a deep shuddering breath. She wrapped her arms around his waist, using him as a support.
"Earth. It's gone. It's completely gone."
She sagged against him, and he instinctively held onto her so she wouldn't fall to the ground. He glanced back at her view screen, watching as another chunk of dirt drifted by. Her planet was gone, and he could understand her loss. It was a terrible thing to realize you could never go home. That you were lost and alone in an unwelcoming universe. That there was no one left to comfort you.
He understood, but he didn't have time for it. He didn't know how or why, but it was a fact listed in black and green on the view screen as plain as could be. Frieza was dead. And along with him, Vegeta's destiny was destroyed. Before he was taken prisoner by the lizard tyrant his father told him that if the Saiyan rebellion was to fail then it would be Vegeta's duty to avenge his people and kill Frieza. Vegeta never forgot his father's last words to him. He lived and breathed them for twenty years, but now his enemy was dead and there was no voice of his father in the back of his mind to tell him what to do.
Vegeta's arms tightened around Bulma as she heaved against his chest, holding her against his heart, as he thought about what his father would do in this situation. The highest ranking officers in Frieza's army besides himself were dead. Millions of soldiers were still left, waiting king-less and soon lawless if someone didn't step in. The universe needed a new ruler. His father had been a king, a leader to an entire race of people. It stood to reason that he would want the same for his son. There was nothing Vegeta could do about Frieza's death, that destiny had been lost to him, but if he moved quickly he could fulfill his destiny to rule. It was what his father would have wanted of him.
Bulma's sorrow was suffocating. He had to get away from it. He had to distance himself from her now, or he would never be free. There was no place in his life for a woman such a she, so fragile and vulnerable. His life was blood and mayhem. Death and carnage. It certainly wasn't a life he wanted her to be part of.
He detangled himself from her, ignoring the freezing cold seeping into his chest. She huddled against the console, staring sightless at the remains of her world. Her friend was on the ship. Even now he was freeing her people. She would be protected. Everyone who sought to threaten her was dead. The most dangerous person on this ship was him. If he left now she would be safe.
He knew this day would come. Their time together had been nothing but a passing entanglement. His surprising affection for her was a side-effect of his sleep deprivation, nothing more. They had different paths to take. His future held no place for a woman, no matter how enticing she was.
He turned on his heel, leaving her behind before he could possibly change his mind.
Bulma snapped out of her stupor with sharp-eyed clarity. Vegeta wasn't in the room with her, and she knew, deep down inside where only instinct and primal knowledge reigned, he was leaving her.
She jumped to her feet and darted out of the room, catching him at the far end of the corridor. He couldn't leave her, not know. Not when she needed him the most.
"Vegeta!" She cried out desperately. He came to a standstill by the door, his back to her. He didn't answer her call, just waited emotionlessly for her to say her peace. The light in the hall flickered, leaving her behind in shadows, but he remained in a pool of light. She could see the bronze gleam of his skin as she came to a stop several steps behind him, knowing he wouldn't welcome her any closer. Honestly, she didn't know if she could bear to touch him. She might humiliate herself by hanging onto him for dear life, begging him to stay with her forever. There was a moment between pride and pain, where you had to decide if you had the strength to walk away with you head held high, or you crumpled under the deluge of agony so intense it didn't seem possible to survive it. Bulma stood at the cusp of that moment, staring at Vegeta's back.
"You promised," she gasped, the painful tightness in her chest squeezing all the air from her lungs. "You promised me." He promised to stay with her, to make love to her, to show her the wonders of his ki dancing on her skin. It was a feeble promise, but she was willing to latch onto anything to keep him by her side. She didn't want to see him go. She didn't want to be abandoned by him. They were enemies, brought together by circumstance, and now there was no reason for them to be together. No reason except for her unexplainable need for him. No reason except for the heat that arced between them.
She watched as the beautiful muscles across his back bunched and rippled. She soaked it in, watching every minute dance, knowing it would be the last time she would see his unspoken response. His hands fisted at his sides, but he refused to turn and face her.
"Promises are made to be broken." His voice was hollow, sounding as dead as she felt. The pain in her chest expanded, wrapping around her ribs until her spine ached, and her lungs burned. Her lips parted as she breathed through her mouth in an attempt to push down her tears. She pressed her hand flat between her breasts, massaging her heavy heart. Her stomach clenched, and every breath seemed to be a struggle.
For just a little while she had allowed herself to indulge in the girlish fantasy of 'Happily Ever After,' with the handsome and brooding hero. But this was real life. And in real life people walked out on you. Whether it was to the latest socialite ball or the next big invention, they always left. People never stayed unless there was something in it for them. Money, fame, maybe a quick fuck. Relationships were down and dirty, there only purpose was to satisfy whatever selfish needs each person had, because there was no such thing as true love. As much as she wanted to believe otherwise, soul mates didn't exist either. It's just people passing the time with each other before moving on. That's why everyone from her college days were divorced. No matter how fervently they claimed to have found 'the one' it was only a few years before they started looking for the next best thing. Someone prettier, younger, handsomer, richer. In the end, no matter how hard you search everyone ends up alone, so maybe it was time to stop looking. Stop hoping.
When she didn't respond, he took a step away, widening the chasm between them.
"You never told me your heart's desire," she whispered across the distance, but he could hear her clearly. His head twitched to the side, and his muscles fluttered. He was silent for a long moment, and Bulma felt hope well up inside her. She bit her bottom lip, her hand clenching into a fist between her breasts as she waited.
"I have no heart," he finally pronounced, before walking out on her. She watched him leave with shocked, wide eyes, staring at the closed door he disappeared behind.
"I won't cry for you!" she screamed with all her might, knowing he would hear. She fell to her knees, choking back the sobs. She had cried so many tears in the last few weeks she was dry and raw inside. Empty and vast like the desert. The only moisture she had was blood and even that was thinning in her veins. She knelt in the dark, forever caught in the moment between pride and pain.
"I won't cry," she sobbed dryly to herself, wondering if she would ever be able to cry again.
A/N: Be sure to check out the sequel Free My Soul this summer.