Disclaimer: I don't own Dragonball Z (but thanks to xmas and wonderful hubby, now possess the entire manga collection- thanks hun!)
A/N: 26/12/11- Yikes, yikes, yikes! I had not intended to take so long between updates again! I am sorry, and thank you to everyone who is still sticking with this. Between losing half this chapter (broken laptop- now it's fixed) university (finished my law degree, woo!) and all the other muses that are very, very pesky, I just got a bit blocked with this story again. Hopefully it won't happen again!
Chapter 26: On Edge
The door clicked shut, leaving the King of Saiyans alone in his spacious office. He rubbed his face tiredly, despite the fact that the day was still young.
Zorn- his most trusted ally, and one of the few living Saiyans who knew the true extent of the legacy that the former King of Saiyans left behind- had just informed him of rather unsettling news.
"I will see to it that the Authorities look into the disappearance, Your Grace," Zorn's voice echoed in his head. "And you need not worry; no one will know of the connection between you and the guard."
"Better not," the King grunted, reaching for his decanter. He poured out a generous serving of liquor and downed it in one gulp, feeling the strong amber liquid burn down his throat before warming the pit of his stomach.
Despite the drink, the worry still remained. He would put it aside; he had many more matters to deal with, after all, and yet…
The disappearance of his bastard brother- a young palace guard- had not been expected. It was certainly true that the man could have defected, as Zorn suggested. But it made no sense- he knew the man well, and knew him to be a loyal soldier, and above that, a loyal brother, despite the fact that the true nature of his parentage remained a secret to the general public.
It did not make sense. Cron had disappeared into thin air, and apparently no one had seen a thing.
. . .
Bulma winced, lowering herself slowly into the huge bathtub that sat in the corner of Vegeta's private bathroom. It was already two in the afternoon, but despite the fact that she had slept in, she still felt exhausted. She closed her eyes, relaxing back in the tub, and revelled in the sensation of the hot water that left her skin tingling and her breath tight in her chest.
Slowly, she skimmed her hands up and over the tops of her breasts, enjoying the feel of her own body as her mind replayed the events of the night before. Her fingers continued on their path downwards, caressing the flat plains of her stomach, pausing just above the juncture of her thighs. She could still feel the ghost of Vegeta's hands on her skin, the touch of his lips against her stomach, and the graze of his teeth over her nipples. She hummed to herself, remembering the way he had kissed her in the dark, and she licked her lips, knowing that they were still red with the tell-tale signs of hours of lip locking.
She'd never had such passionate sex before. With Vegeta she lost control of herself, giving into every craving and desire she could ever dream of. He was animalistic; biting, clawing, and growling, and in the madness she found herself crying alongside him, digging her nails into his skin with the intent to mark him as hers. It had never been like that with Yamcha.
She shifted, stirring the water around her as the feeling in her chest turned from pleasure to guilt and stress. She'd tried her best to ignore the reality of her situation, but in the silence of the bathroom, she had no choice but to face herself for what she really was. She had willingly climbed into bed with the man responsible for Yamcha's death, and now she lay here in the murderer's bathtub, remembering all the pleasure they had together. What did that make her? What kind of person looked past the murder of billions of people, as if it meant nothing?
A gust of wind blew in through the high windows above the bathtub, and she shivered, an ominous chill running up her spine. She ducked her head under the water to rid herself of the feeling, but even as she resurfaced, she still had the unnerving sense that she wasn't quite alone, as if the walls themselves were watching. Her relaxed mood thoroughly ruined, she scrubbed her hair quickly with shampoo and ducked her head under the water once more to rinse the foam out.
Clean once more, she clambered out of the tub and grabbed at the nearest towel, hastily scrubbing her skin dry. The logical part of her mind told her that she was simply being paranoid- an after-effect of the night before- and yet the spacious bathroom suddenly seemed too small, and far too silent. She'd had this feeling before; an irrational panic that would begin in the middle of the night, or on a dark street, or in an empty forest. The feeling that something sinister was lurking about was a product of her imagination, no doubt, and yet it scared her to death.
She wrapped the towel around her quickly, ignoring the fact that her hair was still dripping wet, and moved briskly through Vegeta's bedroom and down the hall, across the front living space and to her own room.
"It's nothing," she whispered to herself, although she couldn't quite shake the ominous feeling that seemed to have turned Vegeta's wing from a safe haven to something she wanted to escape. In her mind she replayed the events of the night before, remembering the dark shadow in the hall. She had been certain that there had been a person there, but she failed to recall any further details except her general sense of panic, and in the light of day she had to admit that she had been sleep-deprived, and could easily have seen things that weren't really there.
She pulled on a singlet and jeans mindlessly, her mind occupied with thoughts of the night before. A bug landed briefly on her arm, distracting her, and she yelped and swatted at it as it bit her, leaving a small, bleeding wound just below her shoulder.
"Shit," she hissed, dabbing at the cut with a tissue. She grabbed her hairbrush and ran it through her hair quickly, muttering darkly about all the odd alien creatures on the planet. Fully dressed, she left Vegeta's quarters without a second glance, happy that she had a full afternoon of work ahead to keep her mind off all of her unsettling thoughts.
. . .
When Bulma re-entered Vegeta's quarters that night, the Saiyan Prince reassured her that nothing dark lay lurking in his apartment, and given his newfound ability to sense ki- he had practiced at it ever since she had mentioned her friends' abilities to him on Namek- she was inclined to believe him.
An uneasy sense had remained in her mind even as she sat amidst a pile of blueprints on the living room floor, working the evening away, but that had disappeared quickly as soon as Vegeta had strolled naked and dripping from his shower into the room, sporting a very stiff looking erection and giving her one of those looks that meant she should do something about it.
She hadn't complained.
"How are the new bots?" she asked much later, lazily, brushing her lips against his shoulder. Vegeta shifted above her and grunted in a tone that she understood to mean acceptable, and she sighed in contentment, feeling her whole body relax back against her bed. She replayed the night in her mind, trying to recall how they'd ended up in her room, and a small laugh escaped her lips as she finally remembered. Vegeta's teeth grazed the column of her neck, bringing her back to the present, and she licked his earlobe in reply.
He was already hardening again- she could feel it pressed against her thigh, and she shifted her legs underneath him, giving him easy access as she began to trail a hand down the path of his spine to the base of his tail. Her lips twitched in a faint smile as he groaned under her teasing touch, his tail puffing out in a fuzz of dark brown as she ran her fingers up through the fur, pulling the appendage through her hand until she reached the tip. She scratched at the small mound that hid under the fur there- the gland responsible for the oozaru transformation- and was rewarded with an answering thrust between her legs that left her gasping for more.
The next half hour gave no opportunities for discussion of her training bots, and by the time they were through- the activities of the evening having left her feeling utterly boneless- her mind was sufficiently fuddled to have forgotten all about robots, training regimes, and the fact that Vegeta was currently on Frieza's Most Wanted list.
Sometime later she opened her eyes as the chest under her cheek began to move. She muttered incoherently as hands lay her back on the bed, and squinted up at Vegeta's rising form.
"Thought you were staying the night," she mumbled with closed eyes, having decided it was too much effort to keep them open.
She hummed in acknowledgement of having heard his answer, though by this point she didn't care what it was that he had said. She felt as if she were floating on a sea of clouds, and nuzzled further into the pillow beneath her head, surrendering once more to sleep.
. . .
Karo woke with a start, her right hand automatically slapping down on her left forearm. Despite being a half breed, she could see as well in the dark as any full-blooded Saiyan, though without the presence of light, everything appeared to be washed in shades of grey. Lifting her hand from her arm, she could see the small smear of blood- a product of a fresh fly bite- that in the darkness appeared black against her pale skin.
She hadn't moved fast enough to crush the insect, and her eyes scanned her bedspread, and then the room, searching for any sign of movement. Most insects on Vegetasei were relatively harmless, but the idea of waking up in the morning to find her body covered in bite marks had her getting out of bed and shaking her sheets out, just in case.
Job done and sheets laid neatly back on the bed, she moved to hop back under the blankets when a buzzing past her ear had her whipping around and swatting at the offending creature. The small black dot escaped out the open window before she had a chance to catch it, however, leaving her glaring in its wake.
The sky outside was already growing light, and feeling restless, she decided that there was no point in even trying to fall back asleep. Instead, she pulled on a fresh dress and brushed through her long, fine hair, before leaving the comforting warmth of her private rooms.
The guard outside her door looked surprised to see her out so early, and she smiled apologetically at the older woman, before continuing down the hall. At first she had only meant to take a stroll about the gardens, where she could almost imagine being free of the palace walls and the ever-watchful gazes of the palace guards. Coming to the door that led through to her father's private wing, however, she acted on impulse and nodded at the two guards that stood outside her father's chambers. They too looked surprised, though not concerned, and pushed the ancient hardwood door open for her.
She winced as the door swung closed behind her with a bang that echoed against the walls, and her tail swished behind her nervously. The noise would have woken her father for sure, and he was sure to yell at her for it.
She pushed the next door open with more care and entered the first reception room within her father's wing, her eyes automatically darting in the direction of her father's bedroom. She jumped as her gaze landed on her father himself, standing only in a pair of loose shorts, his dark eyes boring into her with an angry intensity.
"I…" she began, blood blooming beneath her cheeks. She paused, uncertain of what to say, words- I didn't mean to wake you, I wanted to talk with you, I missed you these past years, when you were down in Hell, and I was in Heaven- all stuck in her throat.
Quite suddenly her face felt hot, and her eyes burnt with unshed tears. In the weeks since their return to Vegetasei she had hardly spoken to her father, instead carrying on with the routine that she had had in her previous life; spending hours in the palace library, in her small private patch of garden, or watching all the exotic animals her father had amassed over the years in the palace zoo. Now, stepping foot in her father's rooms for the first time in decades, she finally acknowledged the loneliness she had tried her best to ignore, intensified by the fact that all her father's alien women- ladies that she had known and loved her whole life- were still dead.
Embarrassed by the tears, which had by this point broken free and ran streaming down her cheeks, she turned away and all but ran for the ottoman that sat under the large bay window in her father's expansive living room. There she curled herself into a ball, shoulders hunched against the world, and focused her eyes on the distant horizon. She heard her father's footsteps as he crossed the carpet towards her, but didn't dare turn to face him, knowing that like all Saiyans he detested such displays of weakness. The thought forced a sob out of her throat before she could stop it, and her body shook with suppressed emotion.
Her father had stopped behind her. She turned her face away from him as he sat down beside her, and although he made no noise, she could feel the burn of his gaze on her. Waiting for him to make some remark on the uselessness of tears, she jumped when his hand landed gently on her shoulder, smoothed its way across her back, and wrapped around her, drawing her back against him. Instinctively she turned to face him, not bothering to hide the tears any longer, and sobbed loudly against his warm chest, taking comfort in the strong arm that wrapped around her.
She didn't know how long she stayed like that, but when her sobs had mostly subsided, and her father's chest was drenched in tears, she lifted her head a little to see that both suns had now risen, and sat glowing above the horizon.
"Are you going to tell me what this is all about, child," her father spoke softly, the deep gravel tone of his voice soothing in its familiarity, "or do I have to read your mind?"
She gave a small, embarrassed laugh. "Can you?" she asked, closing her eyes and pressing her cheek once more against him. He smelled the same as he always had, spicy and strong, and this close to him she felt the same as she had as a small child, when he would occasionally hold her.
That had been so long ago.
"Can I read minds?" he rumbled. "No; I am a warrior, not a psychic. You'll have to speak."
She paused, feeling shy once again, but she had already cried all over him, so decided there wasn't much point in holding back now. "I missed you, father," she whispered, and another sob racked through her. "I had never thought before, before we died, about where we would go, and then…" She took a deep breath, pressed herself further against her father, trying her best to maintain her sense of calm. "I am more afraid of death now than I ever was before, because I know that next time will be permanent, and I will spend eternity in Heaven, and you will spend eternity…" she paused, unable to say the word, and another sob escaped her lips as a fat tear rolled down her cheek.
Her father's arm had tightened around her, his fingers digging painfully into her arm.
They sat in silence, the suns of Vegetasei shining down on them.
. . .
Chi Chi paced back and forth in the small bathroom, the locked door a thankful barrier from the screaming children, moody adults and general nervous atmosphere that filled the Capsule Corp. ship. She took a deep breath, then another, and placed her hands flat on the bathroom sink, peering at herself in the mirror.
My breasts do look a little bigger, she thought, examining her chest and trying her best to compare her image in the mirror to the memory in her mind, and they have been more tender than usual.
"Damn you Goku," she muttered with a frown, although the sentence was accompanied immediately by the thought Please let him be okay.
She never could stay angry at her husband for too long. His good-natured personality, cheerful smile, and all-round innocence always melted away any icy thoughts in her heart.
But now… now she could only hope that she was wrong, could only hope that it was stress, and not her husband's stupid, impulsive decision to try for another child that had caused her period to be over a week late.
"Oh please, Kami," she whispered, despite the fact that Kami was currently the size of a toddler, who spent all day running around with the other children. "Please, don't let me be pregnant."
She was only just holding herself together as it was. With no home, no planet, and her husband halfway across the universe, the last thing she needed right now was to be pregnant. She wasn't sure how the Saiyans would treat her husband, let alone their odd group of refugees, but was certain of one thing; she could not trust people who would send innocent babies light years away to act as murderous weapons.
She didn't dare think about the fact that Goku was born as one of them, and she refused, though it pressed firmly at the back of her mind, to acknowledge the question of what these aliens might do or want with her son, who also shared their blood.
He is mine, she thought, one hand pressed over her belly, suddenly remembering the feel of her son as he had grown inside of her, their connection one of blood and love and flesh.
They have no claim over him.
. . .
Launch peered up through her dark blue bangs as Chi Chi stormed past, and frowned worriedly at the younger woman. Everyone's nerves were on high, which was understandable, being cramped in the spaceship and all, but Chi Chi had a bad temper that had a tendency to flare up at the most unexpected of things, and Launch always found herself feeling especially nervous around the Ox Princess.
Well, maybe not always, she admitted to herself, peering down at her notebook. The top of the page was headed with yesterday's date in a messy scrawl that was so unlike her own handwriting that no one would ever believe that it had been written by her hand.
Except that it had.
She shook her head, reading the other Launch's messy words. Today I'm going to kill Son Chi Chi, it read. I've got my automatic ready and loaded. Also, I'm going to seduce Tien once and for all.
"Oh dear," she whispered to herself, picking up her pen and marking today's date in the diary. Being a shape shifter with Multiple Personality Disorder was extremely difficult, and the only way she managed to keep track of what her other self did was through communicating in their notebook. She had learnt to get over what the other Launch did long ago, but every now and then there'd be an entry in the diary that was either extremely embarrassing, or very, very bad.
At least, she conceded, her personality and looks changed every time she sneezed. She'd never been thrown in jail for something Blonde Launch had done, and no detective had ever connected her doe eyes and deep blue hair to Blonde's golden waves and bright green glare.
Still… it wasn't good being trapped inside this ship with all these people, knowing full well that her blonde self had probably offended every single one of them already.
She chewed on the end of her pen thoughtfully. I think you should let Tien be, she wrote in the diary, taking care to dot every 'i' with a love heart. If he's interested, he will make a move. Did you ever read that book I left out for you? He's Just Not That Into You really is a good read, Blonde, she added. She paused, thinking things over. Tien had a nice build, but she found his third eye a little creepy, and couldn't really imagine being in a relationship with him. He always seemed to treat her with caution, anyway, which made her wonder exactly what her other self had done. We need to find a guy who wants all of us- both of us, she wrote, hoping that for once, Blonde would obey her words. Also, please don't kill anyone.
Love, Launch, she finished off, and drew a smiley face, before closing the small black book and slipping it beside the rest of her belongings. Then she stood up, fluffed out her hair, and chanted her daily good-luck mantra.
"Today I will not sneeze," she whispered repetitively under her breath, too caught up in her own world to see the odd looks she received from the ship's other passengers.
. . .
Krillin didn't need the ship's computer to tell them that they were approaching Vegetasei. He'd first sensed the mass of evil ki days ago, and the sense of foreboding doom had only grown from there. Now he stood watching the image of the blood red planet on the ship's computer screen, feeling sick to his stomach as the computer announced that landing would commence in no more than ten minutes.
"Are you ready?" he asked, peering up at Goku. The taller man had his game face on, which said more than words ever could about the gravity of their situation. If Goku was worried about something… well, usually that meant things were going to be pretty tough.
"I don't think I'd ever be ready for this, Krillin," Goku said, his voice deep and serious. Krillin wasn't sure whether Goku was referring to the fact that they were about to land on a planet that practically glowed with the dark ki of evil beings, or the fact that the planet that they were about to land on was actually the place where Goku was born, or the fact that pretty soon- if everything went to plan- they would be breaking the bad news about the Earth to Bulma, and then asking the Saiyans, who weren't known for mercy, whether the surviving Earthlings could stay on Vegetasei for a while.
Krillin gulped. No matter which way you looked at it, their situation at the moment seemed pretty shit, and he had a bad, bad feeling that it was about to get a lot worse.
. . .
"Do you know what's going on between those two?" Bulma asked, peering down at the Gure's bald head. She had been walking through the palace with both Tarble and his wife when they had bumped into Vegeta, who had come striding down an adjacent corridor. Both Saiyan men had immediately bristled at the sight of one another- literally- before Tarble had huffed and pushed past his brother, striding angrily away. Vegeta had whirled around in turn, barked something at Tarble's back in an alien language, and had then stormed past the two women without any acknowledgement, leaving them both blinking with surprise.
"No," Gure replied, shaking her head and avoiding Bulma's eye. Bulma pursed her lips, noticing that while Gure looked worried, she didn't look confused, and figured that the little alien did in fact know what was going on.
"Is it why I've hardy seen you and Tarble all week?" she pressed, crossing her arms over her chest and giving Gure a hard look. The alien's beady eyes widened nervously, fresh blood tinting the pale skin of her cheeks.
"You know, I just remembered I have to tell Tarble something!" she squeaked, turning and running in the direction of her husband. Shocked, Bulma watched Gure's retreating figure for a moment, before her mind kicked into gear once more.
"Oh come on!" Bulma yelled, her voice echoing in the cavernous hallway. "You can tell me! I'm your friend! Gure!" She huffed and crossed her arms, not bothering to follow after the alien, who had now turned a corner and was already out of sight.
Looking up, she noticed that one of the place guards was staring at her as if she had two heads, and glared angrily. "What are you looking at?" she snapped, before storming off with a small "Hmf!"
She had noticed, of course, the odd tension between the two Saiyan Princes, but had assumed that it was due only to the fact that the brothers had not seen each other since they were both young children. But it had been six days since Tarble had last visited Vegeta in his apartment, and the younger Prince, although always cordial, had seemed in a much darker mood this week than he had before, making Bulma suspect that something much more serious had actually occurred between the two brothers. With a sigh, she resolved to speak to Vegeta about it later, and headed out towards the palace gardens in the hope of catching some sun.
Her afternoon had begun peacefully enough, but the rest of it passed in a blur. Though she had taken the afternoon off at Gure's request, she managed barely fifteen minutes in the gardens before her scouter went off, calling her back to the labs in an emergency. Kaiware had been missing on some business errand with the King- Bulma had rolled her eyes when one of the scientists told her that, emphasising the word 'business' in a way that made clear exactly what those two were up to- and as a result Bulma had spent the following few hours fixing up an experiment gone wrong.
She was almost ready to call it a day when the sound of voices rising in panic, and the thudding of running feet alerted her to a commotion in the corridor outside the labs. Poking her head out the door, she found herself watching as an entire troop of soldiers ran down the hall, all heading for the nearest exit.
"What's going on?" she yelled, but received no reply. The words 'ship', 'alien' attack' and 'Frieza' were said loud and often enough, however, for Bulma to catch them over the sound of the stampede, and she reached her own conclusion that some spacecraft had landed on the planet.
"Impossible!" she hissed, running back to her own desk station in the lab. Fingers darting across the keyboard, she pulled up the latest data from the satellites she had hooked into when she had first arrived on Vegetasei. Just as she had expected, given the fact that no alarms had gone off on her computer, the satellites hadn't registered anything entering the planet's atmosphere.
She frowned, and checked the satellite connections, just to make sure that everything was working. Nothing appeared broken, and the data log noted only Tarble's ship arriving, two weeks before.
She had made sure that everything coming in would be picked up by the equipment, using the same kind of security system that she had worked on with her father in order to protect Capsule Corporation and all of their trade secrets. It was the most advanced security system in the world, and she was certain that only someone who knew exactly how it was made could make something that could shield a ship from it.
The thought sent a jolt through her, making her gasp. If only she and her father knew enough of the technology to get around it…
"It can't be," she whispered, even as hope bloomed through her, threaded with worry. For how could anyone from Earth have found Vegetasei, a planet that- according to all records- no longer existed?
And what would that mean for her, if they had?