Disclaimer: I don't own or profit from DBZ.

A/N: Thank you so much for all your patience. I feel badly that it took me so long to get out the last chapter of this story. I've actually had it outlined for months, but haven't had the time or the energy to get it typed out. I had a bouncing baby girl in October, 10 pounds, 2 ounces and 22 inches. She's a whooper. At the time I'm writing this she's not quite five months. She is however, sleeping through the night, a WHOLE SIX HOURS, and I have rediscovered that yes in fact I have a brain and it didn't leak out my ears due to sleep loss. Again, thank you for all your patience and your reviews. I hope you have enjoyed reading this story as much as I have enjoyed writing it!

Chapter Twenty-two

Vegeta stared into oblivion. He had been orbiting the dark side of the Earth's moon for a day and a half, sheltered in complete silence in the small celestial orb's shadow, and he still could not order his thoughts to his liking. They weren't the thoughts of a prince or even a warrior. They certainly weren't the thoughts of a villain. They were thoughts of a man. A very angry man who would dearly like to reach into his own brain, rip out the offensive thoughts, and stomp them into the ground.

"I'm missing you already."

Bulma's plaintive last words echoed in his head. What possible response could he make to that? No one had ever desired his company before. Even his men, who were bound to him in more than just duty, but an uneasy sense of camaraderie, had needed to get away from him from time to time.

He was aware that with Bulma he was different. He wasn't the monster driven by anger and a thirst for revenge that he had been under Frieza's subjugation. Nor was he the master of the universe that he could be if he would just rally the desire to fill the void Frieza's death left in the universal hierarchy.

No, he was something altogether different. Not what he was or what he should be. It was something completely foreign, completely unmanageable and one hundred percent completely unacceptable.

And that was that.

And it should be. Except he was still parked under the moon, staring into space like a goddamn buffoon.

Vegeta just couldn't quite pinpoint the problem. He knew he could leave Bulma. Though it resulted in a strange byproduct of a sick, uncomfortable churning in his stomach, he knew that leaving was for the best. Regardless of what she said, he did need to become stronger and he would confront the androids. However, Vegeta was uncertain if his reasons were still the same. He no longer felt the overwhelming ennui in his bones urging him to leave this existence. He still desired to destroy the androids and to defeat Kakarot, but sometime between wishing that he had stayed dead when Frieza murdered him, and teaching Bulma to be stronger, a bright blue spark ignited inside him. It urged him to live, to become better. A better warrior, a better prince, a better man.

No, the niggling pinprick of unease in the back of his brain didn't originate from leaving Bulma. He knew he would be back for her. The unease arose from the thought that she wouldn't be there when he did. The Earth dragon balls could only resurrect a murdered individual once. Bulma had already used up her only pass and Genzo was still alive. Bulma seemed to think that she was safe now that he was locked up, but Vegeta had seen a lot of prisons in his time, far more secure than those pieces of crap human ones and there was always one common element. Cages were meant to be broken out of.

Vegeta had no idea how long he would be gone. There was no way he could protect Bulma from the trouble she would more than likely get in to, but he could eliminate one sure threat. He could eradicate Genzo. Galvanized he prepped the short range surface pod for launch, his ivory canines glinting in the dim stellar light.

Officer Ramos swiped the sweat off the back of his neck. The summer sun was hot and heavy, pressing angrily down on the world. It burned the dirt into hardened clay and in the distance he could see waves rising off the flat horizon. Outwards from his tower he could only see desert for miles. It was achingly empty, but beautiful in its own natural way. Squatting behind him, the institutional gray compound curled around itself like a stone dragon, sharp and ugly, it had no place amidst the stark beauty of the desert. Nor did the abominations of nature that inhabited it. A religious man, Ramos believed the criminals were destined for a hotter place than where they currently resided. He just wished they would go sooner than later.

He swept the perimeter, noting the other guards in their towers, and the eleven a.m. group lounging in The Yard for their daily constitutional. Ramos paused, his dark hawkish eyes blinking. For the span of heartbeat he thought he saw a dark figure on the scaled spine the main dormitory, but just as quickly as he saw it, the shadow disappeared. He shifted his weight, considering his options. It was more than likely nothing, a vulture casting a shadow from the sky above. Besides men didn't have hair shaped into hell flame and move faster than the wind. Ramos looked back out into the expanse of the desert. And if the Devil came to collect his due, he was no man to say otherwise.

Genzo had his back pressed against the twelve foot chain link fence topped with glinting loops of razor wire that surrounded The Yard. The prisoners only received one hour of outdoor time a day, and most clustered near the far side of the fence that looked out into the desert. It amused the Warden to allow his prisoners to see what they couldn't have. Though they were miles from anything considered to be civilization, and a lone wander would more than likely die after only a few days in the heat, he knew his wards dreamed of the great sandy expanse just outside the gate. They dreamed, and connived and concocted, and his guards watched them from their sniper towers, waiting for the chance to lodge a bullet in some cocky dimwit's brainpan.

Genzo had chosen a spot well away from the other inmates. He edged a little to the right, trying to press his body into the dwindling shadow cast by the narrow alley between the administration building and the guard barracks that stood behind him. Those grounds were off limits to prisoners, and this area of The Yard was met with derision by the prisoners. They disliked being close to anything that reminded them of their captors.

The men were broken up into different cliques like a goddamn schoolyard. Only these cliques were dangerous. Divided up by race or affiliation the various colorfully named gangs were the movers and shakers of prison society. It was a hierarchy that was dominated by the number of members at any given time and respect for the godfathers, the men who had been on the inside the longest. If you wanted to survive you needed protection from one of the groups. Loners might as well be dog chow. These societal bottom feeders weren't picky about their group members. Like any club there may be prerequisites for entrance, such as race or belief, but there was usually a place for everyone. Strength in numbers after all. So if one of the bigger groups wouldn't take you in, then maybe one of the smaller ones looking to expand.

Rarely were there those that were universally denied membership by every group. No one, not even the race hating Nazis or the world-ending nihilists would extend protection them. Kiddy rapists were at the bottom of this food chain. They were the bone, and the inmates were the dogs. Sometimes the guards would let them have a bite before they got moved into protective custody.

Men who raped and tortured women over a period of weeks were only just above them. Most of the inmates loved their baby mamas in their own way. Sure they complained about them being bat-shit crazy, and "that dumb bitch," did this and that, but the thought of them being preyed upon while they were locked up and unable to protect them just made them bee-stung mad.

The Warden denied Genzo's request for protective custody. Told him to get his lawyer to file the proper paperwork. His court assigned guppy hadn't got around to it yet, and more than likely wouldn't soon. His funds frozen and his property in rebate, he couldn't afford a shark. Everyone here was out to get him. They had no idea who he was, who his father had been. They would regret threatening him this way. But until he could get the money for a real lawyer he had to bide his time. He had to watch his back.

"I saw my first real monster on the eve of my sixth year." At the sound of the familiar dark voice behind him, Genzo nearly lost his bladder. While in the hospital, his jaw wired shut, his limbs encased in plaster, he floated away into morphine drip dreams. His beautiful lover's eyes staring down at him, her rose red lips curled into a smile, but there was always something behind her. A hint of a shadow looming over her shoulders like bat wings. The dark-haired man come to take him away. Fear froze him in place. He cast his panic stricken gaze over the crowd of inmates, his milk blue eyes bobbing rapidly in his skull. His jaw dropped open as if to call out to them, but his heavy lungs couldn't produce the air needed for even a tiny squeak. "He looked exactly like a monster should. Reptilian scales, pointed claws and a sick sharp smile. I didn't know it then, but I was looking at the King of monsters, the Emperor of all things evil…and he taught me everything I know."

Vegeta could see the delicate bones of the man's vertebrae in his scrawny neck, the tightening of his smooth hairless skin across his bones, the quiver of his stooped shoulders. Vegeta watched him telegraph his every thought through the byplay of his muscles.

"You see, like you, I'm a monster, unlike you, I'm not depraved. It wasn't until I came to know a victim that I really understood the difference. I knew that there were varieties of perversion, but a monster is just that, a monster, I thought. But we really can't call Bulma a 'victim' in this story can we? She's more like a heroine. I used to look at her and think she was a weak, sniveling thing. A wounded animal that needed to be put down. But for all her physical weakness, for all her psychological damage, she bested you. You tried to break her down. You stalked and terrorized her, tortured, raped and murdered her. Yet, she got the better of you. In fact, she is so much more than either you or I, because in the end when she had you by the balls, instead of squeezing until you squealed, she turned away and showed you mercy. I dare say she might even be capable of forgiveness some day. I don't know about you, but to me that's awe inspiring."

Genzo hunched his shoulders against the soft spoken onslaught. The man didn't speak. He growled, like a predatory animal. Surely he couldn't reach him through the fence. All he had to do was spring away and alert the guards of an intruder. Genzo tensed, ready to flee when suddenly Vegeta's fist burst through the chain link fence like it wasn't even there. His arm snaked around Genzo's neck and pulled him back tight. Through the hard diamonds of steel, Genzo could feel the unnatural heat of the other man's body.

"Please," Genzo spat between bloodless lips.

"Please, what? Please allow her to forgive you? She can do that with you dead or alive."

"You can't kill me." Genzo cast around for a reason, for anything that would deter the demon at his back.

"Oh but I can. I'm the Prince of All Saiyans; there is nothing I can't do."

"They'll blame her. They'll say she sent you." Genzo could feel warm breath on the back of his neck as the man snarled.

"They would have to prove it first. You humans and your ridiculous laws." Vegeta chucked and Genzo spasmed with fear. "But we were just getting to the most important point of my visit. My recent revelation. I accept that I am a monster, and yet I cannot accept that you and I are the same, and by rejecting you I can finally reject Him."

Genzo quivered like a love sick school girl in Vegeta's arms. "Him?"

Vegeta pulled him closer and the diamond fence branded itself into Genzo's back. He would have whimpered, but Vegeta's arm was a steel bar across his throat. "My first monster of course, who else? You see my affiliation with Bulma has made me realize something. A perversion like you enjoys the kill. Savors it, feeds on it. For you the kill is just the disposal of a broken toy. How many women have you tortured before finally ending their misery? Ten? Fifteen?"

Vegeta tightened his grip on Genzo's throat when he didn't respond. The man clawed at Vegeta's bicep, but the pressure only eased when his struggles became languid. Genzo inhaled quickly, coughing as the air burned his lungs.

"Twenty-two. I've collected twenty-two in all."

"Hmm, have some bodies hidden out there do we?" Vegeta snickered, and Genzo felt dirty. He leaned closer to whisper in his ear. "I've killed billions. Do you think that an outrageous number?" Vegeta didn't pause for an answer. "I've decimated entire worlds. Wiped entire races from existence. I'm a planet killer and population purger. And yet you are the perversion, while I'm just the monster. Do you know what the difference is?"

Genzo carefully shook his head.

"I don't enjoy the kill. It is quick and clean, and hopefully over with before they can draw the breath to scream. I don't savor the kill. I don't revel in the hunt. And now that I'm free of Him, I'll never have to do it again." Genzo went limp in Vegeta's embrace, only to stifle a cry of despair when the demon chuckled. "Oh I didn't mean to say that I would never kill again. I have no problem destroying my enemies."

"I never did anything to you." Genzo's voice quavered with empty hope.

"True, but Bulma—." Vegeta's breath tickled the back of Genzo's ear. "Now, don't go telling anyone, but…" Vegeta's arm tightened across Genzo's throat as he paused. When he spoke again, his voice was low and conspiratorial. "I think I might love her."

Genzo stiffened with shock. Not at the confession. A man saying that he loved a woman was not unheard of. Genzo himself loved Bulma with a deep abiding affection that he would gladly sing of on the rooftops. No, what terrified him was the sense that the dark-haired man had shared a terrible, filthy secret with him. A secret that could not, would not, ever be repeated, and there was only one way to be certain that it wouldn't. Sensing the end was near; Genzo erupted into a frenzy of motion. He struggled uselessly against Vegeta's grip, his breath ragged as he spat out furious words.

"Is that what that two-timing bitch told you? She plays all sweet and innocent; begging for it with big, wet eyes, and quivering lips, but underneath she's just a lying whore like the rest of them."

Vegeta's arm slid away until he could palm Genzo's throat. Under his splayed fingertips he could feel the thrumming of the man's panicked pulse. A vision of Bulma's eyes, wide with earnest, prodded Vegeta's consciousness. Her visage was so full of pain and longing when he told her that he was leaving that it haunted him. Her scent was still clinging to him like a ghost, refusing to let him go. If he was any kind of man he would leave her behind, granting her the mercy of being rid of him. His fingers flexed and the Genzo's tirade fell off his fear-numbed tongue.

"There are many things I this universe that I am uncertain of, but the one thing I do know is that Bulma is incapable of lying." Even if her mouth formed the words, her body, her luminous eyes couldn't deceive. It just wasn't in her nature. Just like it wasn't in her nature to use people. He could claim to see ambiguous motives in her actions, but he would only be lying to himself. She had meant what she said. She wanted him for him, not for what he could do for her. "Unlike us, who were reshaped by the monsters in our lives, she can't be remade in our image. Even after being bathed in our evil stench she somehow remains pure. Her mercy is boundless. It is something to be in awe of, even as it is sickening to the core."

Genzo's entire being had been centered on the strong, crushing hand around his throat that he almost didn't feel the burning fist that tunneled its way though his spine. By the time the fingers wrapped around his heart, it was too late to scream, he was already choking on his own blood. The last thing he heard was the other man's breathing in his ear.

"Yes, I understand. Thank you for telling me." Bulma sat her iphone down on Italian pink marble vanity in her mother's immaculate master bath. She barely registered the conversation she just had; her entire focus was solely for the object in her other hand. She knew that if she glanced up at her reflection in the gold-gilt mirror that hung over the sink her beautiful oval face would be ashen.

"What did Detective Wong have to say, dear?" Bunny sat tucked away on the commode, her hands, usually fluttering around like a pair of excited doves, were clasped on her lap. Her bright bird eyes were intently watching her daughter.

"Genzo was murdered."

"Oh my, one of the other inmates?"

Bulma shrugged, her attention still focused elsewhere. "His heart was missing."

"Oh, I see." A knowing look shadowed the older woman's face, before it was brushed aside with an artful glance. "Undoubtedly one of the other victim's family members had their revenge."

"Undoubtedly," Bulma parroted in the same knowing tone.

Bunny sat watching her daughter frozen at the sink for what seemed an indeterminate length of time. She could see that Bulma was in shock, but there was a glow about her that was reassuring to the mother.

"What will you do now?"

Bulma didn't answer right away. She hunched her shoulders and brought the stick closer to her eyes to make absolutely certain that she was seeing a tiny pink plus.

Bunny's seemingly serene hands clenched in her lap, knotting in the light yellow chiffon skirt she was wearing. She glanced away from her daughter, suddenly afraid of what she might say. Her long hem had risen a few inches and she could see the toes of her white pumps peeking out. She should smooth out the material in her lap before it became creased, but she couldn't seem to relax her hands.

"I'll wait," Bulma stated quietly.

Bunny cautiously rose from her sink and wrapped her arm around Bulma's shoulders. Still uncertain she stared down at the stick with her daughter.

"And shop?"

Bulma white-knuckled the stick. She took a deep breath and carefully placed the stick down on the counter…far from the wastebasket.

"And shop," she confirmed.

Bunny exhaled the breath she hadn't realized she was holding. She tightened her grip, pulling her daughter closer for a one-armed hug.

"And love?" she asked.

Bulma collapsed against her, hugging her mother back in a fierce, full-bodied embrace.

"Oh, mama, I love. I love so much."

Bunny smiled through her tears as she wrapped her other arm around her baby. She held her close and dreamed of a grandbaby in nine months and if Kame smiled on them, maybe a strong son-in-law who crushed the hearts of his enemies.