I'm FINALLY back with the last chapter before the epilogue after five months of writer's block :P If you are actually still reading this and managed to put up with my extreme slowness, thanks for sticking with it! Hope you enjoy the conclusion!

THIS CHAPTER: While Lennon, Myrrh and the prince have all met their deserved fates, whatever became of the doctor? Now that Vegeta realises he may have been the cause of all the disaster, will he choose to stay with Bulma and his family, or leave to stop more harm from coming to them?

"Temporary Peace"

...Beyond this beautiful horizon lies a dream for you and I
this tranquil scene is still unbroken by the rumours in the sky
but there's a storm closing in, voices crying on the wind
the serenade is growing colder, breaks my soul that tries to sing
and there's so many, many thoughts, when I try to go to sleep,

but with you I start to feel a sort of temporary peace...


Vegeta wondered how he supposed to just go home to Bulma and his children now after all of this madness. Even if he could live with the knowledge that he'd essentially caused the terrible assault his wife had suffered, could she live with him? A discussion with her about the matter was inevitable, but it was going to be painfully complicated. Just the thought of the most likely outcome of their fated conversation made his heart sag with defeat.

Once Vegeta had made sure to completely incinerate the bodies of Lennon and Myrrh, the four of them departed for the lookout to collect Bra. Despite the feeling that all these troubles had been going on for far longer than they had, they seemed to end so suddenly and completely, leaving their weary victims in shock and flying along as if in a dream. The fog had not cleared, still choking the life out of the winter's night, but none of them seemed to notice. No one particularly wanted to speak except for Trunks, who kept trying to start a conversation and question his parents, but to no avail. They would quickly put him off, preventing him from asking what he wanted to know before the words were even out of his mouth. As they headed towards Capsule Corps in forced silence, it became clear that the younger saiyan wasn't going to be pacified for much longer, not doing a good job at restraining himself and heeding his parents request for silence as it was. Perhaps he was waiting for Goten to leave before the questioning began in earnest.

'I'm going to head off back home now,' Goten spoke up, as if hearing Vegeta's thoughts about him. 'I'll let everyone know that you guys are safe and well. Don't worry about having to explain anything, I'll do all that.'

'Thank you Goten, we'd appreciate that. And be sure to tell your parents that we apologise for dragging you into this,' Vegeta said meaningfully, giving him a look of tired gratitude. Perhaps only the two of them would ever know what that look truly meant.

'There's nothing to be sorry about, I kinda dragged myself into it,' the young man replied softly, just before taking off in the direction of the mountains where his home was concealed.

'Mum, Dad-' Trunks began the second his friend had disappeared from sight.

'Shh,' his mother chided, her voice floating up from his chest which she was held against as he carried her along. 'You'll wake your sister hun. She's completely exhausted, I want her to sleep as long as possible.' Bulma looked pointedly over at the little girl, who was nestled in her father's arm up ahead, still sleeping. Her continued state of rest had been aided by Dende, who'd managed to give her some tea laced with sedative when she'd woken up to find her father gone and had become hysterical again. The grip around Bulma's waist grew tighter and the barely contained anger could be felt radiating hotly off her son's body, but she said nothing, hoping against hope that he'd remain silent if only for a little longer. Obviously he wanted an explanation for what was going on, but how was she supposed to explain all this? How...

The guess that Trunks was angry was by no means incorrect. He was gradually building up to full blown rage. If his parents thought they were just going to treat this whole event the way they treated arguments between them (by refusing to tell anyone else what was going on and pretending like the problem didn't exist instead of solving it), then they had another thing coming. One night. One night was exactly how long he was going to give them before he demanded a detailed explanation as to what the hell was going on and why.

Ever since they'd discovered Myrrh and Lennon's dead bodies, his father hadn't said a word about where he'd been for the last few months, why those two aliens had gone after him, or even why there was some maniac running around that looked exactly like him. Every time Trunks had tried to open his mouth and question them, one or both of them would rebuff him. His mother hadn't bothered to reveal what had happened to her either, despite the fact that she'd been seriously injured when he'd found her lying still and soulless, having somehow left her body and entered the other world with Goten and his father. Didn't that warrant some kind of explication?! Not even Goten had made a move to explain what had happened, probably because he'd been told not to. That seemed like the likely scenario. It was bullshit, they couldn't all just be silent and sweep it under the rug like it was nothing! Goten had been tortured and almost died for fuck's sake, and he didn't even have anything to do with this!

This train of thought continued in the young man's mind, not slowing down upon reaching their home, or upon seeing his parents wander into the house slowly to put his sister to bed, not seeming to notice that he was following them. Trunks stopped and sat down in the play room near Bra's bedroom, knowing that they'd have to come back this way after they'd tucked her in. Yes, he'd decided that he would leave his questions until the night was over, but they needed to know right now that that was the case. They had to get it through their heads that they were confessing everything tomorrow. Every single detail, he thought to himself as he stared out the window opposite the chair he was sitting in, the forceful determination inside him growing with every passing second. The only thing visible outside was the maple tree close by the window, as everything else was hiding in the unabating fog. It's bare branches swayed back and forth in the wind, scraping insistently at the window every so often, as though they wanted to be let into the house. A twig snapped loudly as one branch scratched against the glass particularly hard, startling him. It fell swiftly and silently to rest on the window sill, lifeless and unaware of its observer's eyes steadily narrowing.

A gasp from the doorway across the room pierced the silence of the room.

'Trunks!' Bulma breathed. 'I didn't even know you were... geez kid, don't do that to me. You scared the-' she broke off, seeing the look her son was giving her. The nervousness in her tone was clear when she spoke again. 'Something wrong hun?'

'Is something wrong?' he repeated incredulously. 'Is something wrong? No, nothing's wrong, it's just been a bit of a stressful day, you know, with you, Bra and Goten nearly dying and all, but since you guys haven't bothered to tell me what's going on and won't answer any of my questions, obviously there's nothing really, seriously wrong. Clearly.'

The enraged teenager's voice had been getting louder and louder with every word he uttered, and when both of his parents opened their mouths to try and placate him, the tirade continued, effectively silencing them. Trunks' withering glare zeroed in on his father, who he could almost sense was calculating, planning, trying to figure a way out of this situation, if the wary expression on his face was anything to go by.

'I apologise for being so curious and all, but where were you for the last few months? Were you in that cave with those freaks the whole time? What, were you volunteering for a science experiment or something? How the hell did they manage to trap you like that?! What are we supposed to do now, knowing that there are more psychos like that are out there in space somewhere,' he gestured wildly towards the barely visible sky out the window, barely pausing for a breath, 'probably looking for you, who know you're here and where you live now? Yes, that's right, they'd know where we live, because the cone heads had another mole planted, besides you're evil clone. You know that woman who was there watching the fight in the cave? The one that was pretending to be my girlfriend for the last 3 months? Ever met her before? She must have really fucking had it out for you to go to the lengths she did to help those other two. I have to give her credit I guess, she was a pretty amazing actress. Sure had me fooled-'

'...Brie,' his father said quietly.

'Brie what?' came the demand from his son.

'I met her a few times, years and years ago, long before I came to earth. She's the daughter of a man I used to work with under Frieza, a man I killed on namek. He was on the Ginyu force.'

'No way,' Bulma whispered. 'Those guys? I can't believe it, she was here in this house so many times. Did she work for Frieza once too? '

'No, she worked for the Southern Star army, the last I heard. But why... what would she be doing here now, after all this time... how would she even know that I was the one who- it doesn't matter, it's not important right now. Trunks, I know you're angry, but this isn't the time to speak of these things. We're all tired, we need to rest. It's a very long and complicated tale, and I need to clear my head before I can answer your questions.'

These words seemed to fall on deaf ears. Trunks was quiet, staring at the floor with his eyes glazed over as though drowning in thought. 'You didn't see it,' the boy said suddenly, the volume and emotion now absent from his voice. It was like watching a balloon deflate; it spiralled around angrily and noisily for a short while before finally losing the air that gave it substance, then fell suddenly to the floor, flat and still. 'You didn't see what he did to Karen and Clarice next door. You didn't see what he did to Goten. I saw them, afterwards. It was worse than... God, I don't even know, it was disgusting. You didn't see it, you didn't see,' he kept repeating, the words echoing in Vegeta's ears, raking over his heart like clawed and frozen finger tips.

There was that strange sensation again, of time moving very slowly, of it closing in on itself like a caterpillar as he watched Bulma walk over to their son slowly, sitting beside him on the couch and wrapping her arms tightly around his shaking body. The chilled fingers tightened further around the organ in his chest, digging in and piercing with their claws. He had seen, in fact. He'd seen what had been done to them, and he'd seen a million other things like it. So many of them over the years, those same soughts of horrors that he'd never wanted his children to see. To see them crying and suffering because of him was worse than any and all carnage, but what comfort could he possibly offer? Neither Trunks nor Bulma noticed Vegeta's footsteps as he wandered out of the room and away from them, searching for another room in another part of the house, somewhere where he could sit in the darkness and silence to think.

It wouldn't be long before Bulma came looking for him, wanting to have the inevitable discussion. That's why he'd chosen to sit in their bedroom, since there was no point hiding from her. In a way Vegeta had already made his decision, but he wasn't going to refuse to discuss it with her as he would have done in the past. Many things had changed in such a short space of time, but there was one thing that was certain. While he would never actually leave the earth (it was necessary to remain close in case danger should strike again), the notion of leaving capsule corps was beginning to seem like the best thing for everyone. Obviously he would still visit his children, but continuing to live here after all he had caused just seemed... very wrong. A firm grasp of right and wrong was never something he'd claimed to have, but even still, it only seemed right to allow Bulma to be free of their union without any protest from him. The wrong that had been done to her was not only unforgivable but was also undeniably his fault, the result being that she had every right to leave. This realisation drew him into a deep pool of thought, where the waters swayed insistently, drawing the focus away from every other ripple in the cave of the mind.

...Bulma has always been in the process of leaving.

From the moment I first looked into her eyes as a lover, no, before that even. When she glanced at me over her shoulder without hostility, when she first saw me as a friend and not an enemy, even then I sensed her leaving. She was wandering, walking out, receding into the distance before the first time I held her fragile body in my arms as the moonlight broke over her, illuminating her nakedness. Before she ever came to me, before she was mine, I saw her leaving me, and knowing this would happen eventually I too began to leave. I was aware of myself slipping away, fading from her life bit by bit in those brief moments when she wasn't watching, so that when the time finally came for her to run from me I wouldn't have to watch her go- I would have already escaped her leaving. This is the way it has to be, because in the end I find she is just like all other living things I have known, as impermanent and intangible as the wind. I cannot catch her, cannot contain her, any more than I could the other elements...

'...Hey,' a voice called out gently from somewhere in the distance. At first he ignored it, wanting to flesh out these thoughts further in the hope that a flaw could be found in them, any little crack in the glass surface of their logic, any wild excuse to remain here. But the voice became more insistent as it repeated itself, forcing Vegeta to turn his head and see who it was.

'I've been standing here for fifteen minutes,' Bulma chided quietly. 'Couldn't you sense me?'

'I was thinking... I'm sorry.'

There it was again, that sorrowful look in her eyes, just like when they'd been in the cave. The look that questioned why he had to abandon her and at the same time seemed to understand exactly why. Many emotions passed through those watery irises that were so much like the ocean, especially now. Regardless of what she was feeling, he had faith in her to understand and be strong now, just as before. Though many things may alter the surface momentarily, like storms, strong winds, heat or cold, the ocean remains constant at heart.

'You... you're thinking of leaving aren't you?' Her voice was barely there this time.

'It would be for the best. It's not as if I'd disappear or anything, I'd still be around, but continuing to live here-'

She was holding out a hand to stop him speaking, closing her eyes as she drew in a shuddering breath.

'I want you to do one small thing for me, before you make your final decision. Just promise me this and... and I won't keep trying to convince you to stay. Because if it were up to me I'd never ask you to leave. There would be a lot of things we'd have to work out between us, sure, but I'd never give up on you. Don't get me wrong, I understand how serious the situation is, with what's happened. I only wish you could also see that I'm willing to try and get past all this, as impossible as that sounds. So just promise me one thing.'

'What do you want of me?' he replied, bowing his head and waiting for the final word.

'Think about this decision, just for one more night. You can go out, be alone if you need to, just think about it some more. It may seem pointless, but maybe you'll see differently when morning comes. Maybe you'll see...' she trailed off, slowly brushing away a few stray tears gathering in her eyes.

'I will do this, I promise you that. It's difficult to explain why I'm considering this course of action with words alone, but just know that-' he paused as Bulma moved closer and took his hands in her own, watching him meaningfully. If only she wouldn't make this so much more painful than it already was.

'Know what, Vegeta?' A whisper. Were the words even said out loud, or had their thoughts become interwoven after all these years, making it hard to tell them apart from words?

'Just know that whatever I do, I do it out of love,' he said, leaning down slightly to kiss her forehead. It was a very unusual gesture for him and the words were strange too, but he found that he was no longer above the human gestures that were once so alien to him, not in moments like these anyway. His wife pulled him into a hug, taking advantage of a moment that was tender despite how much sadness there was lingering just below it's surface.

'Thank you hun, I love you too. I always will.'

After an indefinite amount of time had passed, Vegeta released his hold on her and walked slowly towards the bedroom window, opening it wide before making his exit. Bulma sat back on the bed to watch the empty window, sightless and thoughtless as though everything else around her would fail if she failed to keep her mind empty. The low lying fog outside began to seep into the room by the entrance, but the cold failed to touch her or even to draw her notice, managing only to create a pleasant, pale haze in the room. It was like being in a dream, where one ought to be wary of the drop in temperature but wasn't, because after all, it wasn't real was it? Someone might have been calling her name, but she doubted it. Obviously she'd fallen asleep, too tired and afraid to think about what might happen tomorrow, about the direction life as a woman and as a mother would take once her husband gave his final verdict.

Now someone was touching her shoulder in a gentle and solid way that was somewhat more reminiscent of reality than a dream. Well, a bit more than somewhat.

'I'm sorry to wake you Bulma, but I need to tell you something very important.'

The voice had emerged from the darkness gathered in the corners of the foggy, partly moonlit room. Bulma sat up at break neck speed, immediately awake and about to scream when something silenced her. It was light, light was filling up her room like the sunrise on a spotless blue morning. She sighed in relief when she recognised who was materialising before her.

'Do not be alarmed, it's only me,' the doctor said casually.

'Jesus, don't do that me! Can't you enter a window like a normal person?'

'Now now, no need to take the Lord's name in vain,' he replied humorously. 'And you do realise what an odd statement that was?'

'Why... oh. Yeah I guess there isn't really a normal way to enter a window is there?'

'Not really. Do you know why I might be here, Bulma?'

She shook her head. 'No, but I imagine it's got something to do with what happened tonight. Vegeta and my son wouldn't be real happy about me speaking to you. I'm not gunna lie, they don't trust you.'

'It's alright, I understand. What I came here to do was to give you a message. I see your husband is gone?'

The expression on Bulma's face changed rapidly from mild caution to despair as she sucked in a deep breath and put a hand over her mouth, trying to hold back the tears that sprung to her eyes.

'Please, there's no need to weep. I'm here to let you know that I will bring your husband back to you. This I promise you. Do not doubt it,' he said firmly and yet still with a smile.

Letting just a few tears fall, Bulma stared up at his face. Had the man, or ghost, or whatever he was, ever glowed the way he did now, the light gentle and white around his hair? She could have sworn...

'How can you be so sure? What kind of power do you have that would make things that simple? Vegeta's right you know, at least, he's kind of right. It won't be that easy for this family to go back to the way it was. Not easy at all...'

'Don't trouble yourself Bulma, just have a little faith. I will keep my promise. It's time for me to go and speak with him now, so I'll bid you farewell. This will be the last time we meet. Sleep now, you need to rest. All will be well in the morning.'

As the doctor spoke, her limbs began to feel warm and soft like kneaded dough, and she sensed herself drifting backwards through the air, feather light and more at peace than she'd ever felt in her life. '...wait,' she murmured, trying uselessly to fight the unseen force that was willing her eyelids closed. 'I just wanted to say... thank you, for helping my family, and... tell me... who are you... what are you?'

'You've no need to thank me. Really, I ought to thank you. I suppose it's alright to tell you who I am, since you won't remember it when you awaken,' his voice just barely reached her, dulled as if it had first passed through layers of earth. Bulma could see him mouthing his final words, but couldn't hang onto their meaning for the life of her. Finally, blissful unconsciousness drew her under.

(Vegeta's POV)

Vegeta was standing over Brie's body and watching the corpse in silence when he felt the telling chill that signalled the doctor's presence. Not that there was much heat left to be sucked out of the atmosphere in this dry, barren place where only wilting tundra had managed to half heartedly escape from the confines of the icy soil. It was a cruel choice of a grave for the unfortunate woman, whose soul had recently departed to make room for that of the man who'd just joined him. The doctor hadn't even bothered to bury her.

'Why am I not surprised that you show up when I'm alone?'

'That's often how it is. You're not easily surprised,' the doctor answered, and Vegeta could almost feel the being smiling behind him.

'I'd prefer to dispense with the small talk if that's alright with you. It's time you answered my questions. I believe you owe me that much, with all the trouble you've caused,' he ground out, trying to contain his anger. Getting answers wasn't going to be easy, but it would be completely impossibly if he lost control of his temper now.

'Of course. The time for answers and an ending is now. What is it that you want to know?'

'Why did you kill this woman? Despite what she may have done, she didn't really deserve a fate this harsh.'

'I'm afraid there was no other way. To exert my powers to the extent required to stop Lennon from escaping, I required a vessel. My abilities are limited in the pitiful form I normally exist in. It was imperative that he be stopped by any means necessary,' came the firm and emotionless reply. 'It's uncharacteristic of you to desire mercy for your enemies, least of all the daughter of that man. Why the change of heart?'

'So you do know who she is.' It was more of a statement than a question.

'As far as I know, she's Jeice's daughter. Am I correct?'

'Yes. Not that it will make any difference now, but I would have preferred that her life be spared since I didn't spare her father's. Her father and I... had a rather long and unfortunate history together. Though I killed him years ago for a vast number of reasons, I've had this strange desire to forgive him lately. It probably sounds stupid, and maybe it is. It's a concept popular with humans and other soft hearted races like them; supposedly if you forgive someone who wronged you, you can move on and forget about what they did wrong.'

'Yes, I'm familiar with forgiveness. But how would you propose to forgive a dead man?'

'Allowing Brie to live seemed like the only way. It doesn't matter any more, but I need to know why you did it, why you did all of this. You never wanted information from me about my past, that was only a lie to cover up your real purpose of stopping Lennon from acquiring information about you and where you originated from. If you knew he would come here and carry out his plans, then why not tell the truth? You could have stopped all this from happening,' Vegeta growled, voice rising despite his determination to remain calm.

'You are wrong. There were very few things I could have stopped from happening with the meagre power that my state allows. My only purpose was to be a guide who would lead you in the direction of Lennon's defeat. Everything up until the moment I possessed this woman was fated.'

'Oh, so you can see the future now? How can I believe anything you say when you're so full of contradictions? You must realise how ridiculous your own words sound. Go on then, this is about the time you usually vanish into thin air isn't it? When I don't blindly believe what you tell me-'

'I know it's difficult to make sense of all this, but please know that it had to happen the way it did. If it's any consolation, I will soon cease to exist in both this world and the next; my light will flicker from existence entirely. This mortal woman's life was sacrificed so that I could change something that was destined. Such a sin is punishable by eternal darkness, but I'm certain that it was worth it. If I allowed Lennon to escape, then there would eventually be more beings like me in the world. We are abomination who do not belong here, as you might be able to see from how much trouble my presence alone has caused,' the doctor explained, never wavering, never allowing any feeling into his words and belying the absolute faith in his conviction.

'So you'll die soon, for good this time. It's true that I knew you once, that you were also Lennon's captive. The memory is slowly returning to me, but what else is it that I know that he'd go to such great lengths to steal it from my mind? Have I known other's like you, or been to the place of your origin?'

'You are close to the truth. I swear to you that the memory will return to you in time and that things will make more sense to you then, but there are more pressing matters at hand than that,' the doctor pressed on, ignoring the hateful look on Vegeta's face at being denied an answer to his last question. 'You know as much as you need to know for now. I'm here to ask you to return to your family.'

'What do you care about something like that? You've got what you wanted, Lennon is dead.'

'That is true, and yet it feels like this story lacks a proper ending. This whole situation reminds me somewhat of my own, many years ago when I chose to leave my own family. They were mortals, and for the longest time I believed myself to be the same until my abilities awakened. When I discovered what I was, I chose to leave them because I believed myself to be a danger to them, and eventually I was discovered by others like me. Once you join them there's no returning to your old life, but of course I regretted the terrible mistake of leaving my family and tried to return to the mortal realm anyway.'

Vegeta noticed that there was finally some hint of emotion or something close to it in the being's voice. Extreme weariness, perhaps.

'Is that when you were captured by Lennon?' he asked, unable to help his curiosity.

'Yes. I think that allowing me to be captured by a mortal was a punishment from my superiors for trying to escape them. Over time I caused Lennon a great deal of trouble, and finally I escaped. He was forced to kill me or be killed himself and of course he wasn't foolish enough to give up his own life. Ever since then he has searched for information about others like me. All of that has come to an end now, leaving only one last thing that I need to accomplish. Do not make the same mistake I did. Return to your family Vegeta.'

'You know it's not that simple,' the saiyan hissed angrily. 'You saw that creature, you saw what's inside me-'

'No my friend,' the doctor cut in, sounding determined now. 'All that I saw was what you could have been. You and him were never meant to be separate beings, and you would never behave like that had you remained as you truly are. All that Lennon ever did with his pathetic life was to squander the gift of his intelligence on creating abominations that should never be. Don't ever believe for a moment that the double was the same as you. Together is the way you've always existed, and apart you are something else entirely.'

'What would you know? You said it yourself, you aren't mortal. You can't claim to understand our kind-'

'I knew you would resist my message, so I've made it slightly easier for you to mend the bond you share with your wife.'

'What did you do to her?! I swear if you-'

'All I did was to make her forget that terrible thing your clone did to her. You may not believe me now, but you'd never do something like that, not to her or anyone else. Destroying the memory is best for everyone, especially her.'

To say that Vegeta looked shocked was an understatement. Caught between anger at the doctor's meddling and extreme gratitude that Bulma would be saved from the pain of harbouring such a memory, all he could think to do was question the strange phenomenon.

'You can do that? How do you know she won't remember it some time in the future?' he questioned hopefully.

'I know how to erase recent memories,' came the confidant reply. The technique Lennon used on you to steal your memories is something he learned from his experiments on me, but his technique was much more advanced, allowing him to access and manipulate memories from any period in a person's life. It has taken him many years to perfect it.'

'...oh. I see. I hope you're right. I suppose it's best that she forgets about what happened, not for my sake, but for hers. Thank you for doing this for her, it means a great deal to me, but you have to understand that it still isn't an easy decision to return to my family.'

'What you're saying is true, but when is a decision ever really simple? Every decision we make, even about the most mundane things, can have disastrous consequences. You can choose to walk out the front door in the morning and go to work, and end up in a terrible car accident that costs you your life. We never know what's around the corner,' the doctor replied, smiling.

'If you're trying to convince me to change my mind, you're doing a terrible job as per usual,' Vegeta grumbled, wondering where this odd line of reasoning was going.

'As I was saying, we never really know what comes next, but most of the time when we walk through the doors of our lives there isn't a train wreck, an accident or a natural disaster waiting around the corner for us. Sometimes there are tragedies, but we often sail past them and through the rest of our years unimpeded, drifting along in the tedium and uneventfulness of ordinary life until it ends.'

'Is that so? And what is the source of this wisdom of yours, if you don't mind me asking?'

'Statistics. I was a doctor in my mortal life you know. You can't be a doctor without having knowledge of science and other relative fields. What I'm telling you may seem hard to believe because you haven't lead a very ordinary life, but even you must recognise that your existence could have continued in a far more insane manner than it has. And yet here you are, having lived on earth for the last twenty years in relative peace,' he concluded with a twinkling of mirth in his misty green eyes.

'Well I can't really argue with you there. You're starting to sound like my wife, she's always saying that everything will turn out fine and using statistics as an excuse. I don't really agree with that line of reasoning, but I admit that she hasn't been wrong yet,' he conceded, but not without a decent glare in the other man's direction.

'I believe women are far wiser than we men give them credit for. Anyway, I'm not asking you to put all your faith in science, what I'm asking you to do is to put your faith in your family. Believe me, the four of you can pull through this together. If there's one thing I've learned from all this, it's that they're very strong people just like all of the other friends you've made here on this planet.'

They stared at each other for a few moments before Vegeta looked away, choosing to watch the tundra landscape surrounding them once again. The funny thing about this place was that come spring its wretched, wintry appearance would change entirely, coming alive with vibrant wild flowers and grasses. Even in a bleak expanse like this where the long enduring winters were harsh and the soil partly frozen, life could regenerate itself. It was resilient. On every planet he'd been to along the travels his missions had involved, there had always been places like this where the extraordinary resilience of life made them more splendid because of it. Perhaps people could be like that too.

'Admiring nature?' the doctor inquired after a protracted period of quiet. 'I don't mind it out here too much. Anywhere is better than the concrete jungles of the cities. I always preferred to be out in the wild and away from all the noise and ugliness of civilisation when I was alive. My family and I lived out in the woods,' the doctor mused with a kind of dreaminess cast over his features. He then added an offhand and seemingly irrelevant thought. 'Nothing here is made of stone. The leaves have finally fallen.'

Vegeta raised an eyebrow at that, noticing that it sounded vaguely familiar as if the being had said something similar once before, but he couldn't quite place it. 'Lived in a cottage in the woods did you? From what I've observed there's a higher concentration of backwards idiots living in those kinds of places. Kakkarott and his family live out in the mountains, for example.'

A deep, throaty chuckle was the doctor's response upon hearing that, the sound flowing smooth and freely like a river. 'I think we're getting a little off topic, but it doesn't really matter. After all, how hard can it be to convince someone to do what they already wish to do?'

'And here you say you don't read minds,' Vegeta griped, rolling his eyes. 'Speaking of veering off topic, if you were really able to roam the universe long after you died, why didn't you just return to your mortal family? They knew you while you were alive so it's not as if they wouldn't be able to see you. Answer me that, if you regret leaving your family as much as you say.'

'I did return to them. However, all I found were graves out there behind our home in the woods where I left them.'

'Oh... I'm sorry to hear that. I guess it should have been obvious.'

'From what I gathered lingering around the nearest town, soldiers from Southern Star had come to my family looking for more information about me and weren't satisfied with the answers they got. Now you see why I regret leaving them so much. It was my one regret.'

The doctor's most recent admission made the saiyan feel somewhat guilty for having brought the issue up whilst simultaneously feeling that the spirit was counting on the question being asked all along. The implications it was supposed to have for Vegeta's decision regarding his own family were obvious, and so he chose his next words carefully.

'I still don't know if you caused more disaster than you averted, and yet I find myself wanting to give you the benefit of the doubt even now. If you hadn't stepped in to help, both my wife and Goten would be dead now. Whatever mistakes you've made or whatever trouble you may have caused for myself, I thank you for saving their lives and stopping Lennon in the end when you knew it meant sacrificing yourself. Do you think you have much time left?'

'I don't imagine so, but it makes no matter to me. All is well and that's all that matters. There's no need to thank me by the way,' the doctor added, pausing to look at him with an enigmatic grin. 'It's a rather ungodly hour of the morning wouldn't you say? You ought to be getting home to your family.'

'How very subtle you are,' Vegeta grumbled, but couldn't help the ghost of a smile that made its way to his lips. 'Before you move on, are you at least going to tell me your name or what you are? You've been dodging the question like a bullet since day one.'

'Well... our kind are called many things by mortals. They call us sirens, spirits, faeries, angels, even gods. Humans, if I'm not mistaken, call us demons, but truly we are none of these things. We are nameless. As I've told you before, you'll see things clearly someday when your memory awakens. As for my own name, I will tell you it, but only if you regard it as a curse and promise never to speak it again,' he warned gravely.

'Sounds manageable. It also sounds ridiculous, but whatever. I give you my word.'

'My name is Asael. Thank you for persisting through everything that's happened Vegeta. Things could have gone much, much worse than they did had you given up. There was a time when I didn't look upon you with much more favour than I did Lennon, but now that has changed and I admire your strength, among other things. I trust you completely to do what's right and return to your family. Farewell.'

Asael's voice had grown progressively quieter and more peaceful as he'd spoken. At the same time, his body had become translucent and wispy, dissolving into the fog around them. Vegeta thought he felt the hint of a memory being triggered in his mind when Asael revealed his name, but unable to hang onto it he let it go, focusing instead on the waning spirit before him.

'Goodbye. May your journey be swift.'

Just before Asael disappeared completely, a painfully bright light exploded around him, shooting off in all directions towards the stars like comets and forcing Vegeta to look away. When his eyes recovered, the solid pattern of the fog had changed dramatically, having almost completely cleared so that only a fine, wavering white trail of it remained. A trail that just so happened to be wandering off in the exact direction of Capsule Corps, beckoning as if to guide him home.

'Yeah, real subtle,' he muttered, hoping that the crazy, eccentric old man could hear it, where ever he was now. For the first time in what felt like an eternity, a peculiar, insistent sense of hope began to sneak its way into his heart as he stared down the ethereal pathway. After a fleeting moment of hesitation Vegeta began to follow the trail, knowing that this was the road to hope and peace no matter what the future held. It was time to go home.

...Deep inside the silence, staring out upon the sea
the waves are washing over half forgotten memories
deep within the moment, laughter floats upon the breeze
rising and falling, dying down within me

and I swear I never knew how it could be
when all this time all I had inside, was what I couldn't see

and there's so many, many thoughts, when I try to go to sleep,

but with you I start to feel a sort of temporary peace,

as I drift in and out...

NEXT CHAPTER (EPILOGUE): Vegeta and his family are going to be reunited, and they'll have a little talk about their future and such. After all the tragedy there just had to be a happy ending :P. We might see how Goten's doing too... if there's anything people wanted to hear about in the epilogue, like unanswered questions or anything like that, please R & R and let me know! If it works with what I have planned I could possibly put it in :) It would also be awesome to hear your thoughts about the story as a whole, like whether you enjoyed it, if you learned anything from it, etc :)

Thank you so much to those who stuck with this story, especially Savvy who helped me out a lot. It was a pretty weird tale and it took a long time to get it out, but I said I'd finish it and I finally did. Hope you enjoyed it folks :)