i won't lie to you: this fic is actually just a zillion or so pages of DBZ vignettes i'm attempting to string together with something resembling a Plot. i'm going to try to avoid making the b/v the Means as well as the Ends, but who knows what will actually happen. i'm really just here for the cake.

the events of the first couple chapters take place *right* after bulma invites vegeta and the nameks to stay at her place. after that, we'll get android-saga-licious and The Twist will rear its twisty little head.

[you will discover i have liberally employed elements of the anime, the manga, and Vejiitasei Ascendant -which as far as I'm concerned is Second Canon; i own none of them.]

chapter one

Bulma regrets inviting the Prince of Saiyans to live at Capsule Corp almost immediately.

Her mother manages an astonishing forty-five minutes dogging the terror-captivated Prince's heels on the tour of the grounds, promising him sweets and lavishing him with undeserved praise, before he reaches the end of what has to be the shortest fuse in nine galaxies and explodes at her intrusive –if well-meaning—parent. His diatribe is brief –though scathing—the general, furious undertone clear enough even if roughly half of it comes out in some throaty, vaguely halting language she's pretty sure she's never heard before.

Unsurprisingly, her mother only titters in girlish delight and lightly taps the notoriously homicidal alien on the cheek while she and the Namekians look on, rapt and horrified. Even Piccolo seems disturbed.

"Oh, my! What a high-spirited young man!" Bulma wants very much to advise her mother to please not provoke the scary-powerful serial killer, but recognizes exasperatedly the futility of such an exercise.

"Mom," she begins, hoping to head off disaster by way of cunning distraction, "would you mind running in and setting the dom-bots on the task of pouring fifty or so pitchers of lemonade for our guests? They must be thirsty." Or…maybe not so much 'cunning' as 'simple and obvious.' "I'll hang back and call dad, and we'll brief everybody on security procedures now that we've finished showing them around." It's subtle, but Bulma, peripherally keeping tabs on the flustered Prince, catches the minute slackening of his shoulders, sharp tension ebbing when her mother nods emphatically at the suggestion and nimbly vacates his bubble.

Approvingly, "What a thoughtful idea, dear!" To her right, Piccolo makes an irritated 'tch'-ing noise under his breath.

"Water would be more appropriate." He informs them sourly, as though it disgruntles him to speak on the subject of his people's eating habits.

She considers him for a quiet interval, this alien who's never been quite so alien as this moment, when he's amongst his kin and hers –no longer an enemy. She smoothly changes the order.

"Water, then." Bulma tilts her mother a grin, who cheerfully returns the gesture and starts toward the house. "Thanks, mom." Vegeta re-stiffens when she focuses her full attentions on him. "I know she's a bit much, Vegeta, but she means well."

"That insipid creature can mean whatever the hell she wants, so long as it's nowhere near me."


"That 'insipid creature' is my mother, tightwad." A breath's consideration has her setting her ire down to a slow simmer, a mantra-style reminder spooling around in her brain, advising her to Proceed with Caution, to at the very least make overtures of civility in the interest of keeping everyone assembled alive and in one piece. Huffing, "You could afford to be civil to her, Vegeta; this's her home you're about to be sharing, too. I'd say chances are high she's gonna spoil you rotten as it is," she looks briefly, grimly resigned, "so an effort not to bite her head off when she's only being friendly would be appreciated." As added incentive, "You should also know, monkey man, mom and I—and a team of exquisitely-crafted mechanical chefs—are pretty much in charge of your food for the foreseeable future." She oozes affability. "Buttering us up may be in your stomach's best interest." He scowls at her. Or anyway, he scowls at her harder.

"Make no mistake, woman; you cannot pin me with your petty manipulations in the already-thin guise of obligation. Deny me access to suitable provisions and I will only have to find something to kill and eat myself."

Great, she muses; and so the threats begin. Not exactly 'beautiful friendship' material, is he?

Graciously, she feels, she decides to let the issue drop. Later, however, she's planning to Strongly Advise him against permanently fucking up the ecosystem by slaughtering every prey animal in a thousand-mile radius –on pain of Death, Facilitated by Science.

Mom's been chastising him for the better part of the trip home, horrified to learn he'd lost all of his text books and assignments on the trip, furious at him for having been gone so long (-and without calling!), troubled to think what awful, terrible things he must've seen on that frightful planet so very, very far away from her, only just right after she'd gotten him back from the 'fiendish clutches of that green devil' –when suddenly she pauses, voice shaking to a halt.

Her foot eases on the pedal, and the vehicle slows its breakneck pace. Her anger thaws, transformed by sudden, heavy sadness; with hard eyes and a child's heart, he watches his mother steel herself against despair.

At length,

"I s'ppose your dad'll be a while comin' home?" The ring of perfect certainty in the question is unmistakable; there's irritation, grief in the understanding that the man they love is dead, and no doubt in her mind he'll eventually return.

In the habit of the childhood he feels almost behind him now, Gohan reaches across the seat to catch his fingers in her skirt.

His Royal Jerkface's manners do not improve as the morning wears on.

While Bulma and her father lead the weary Namekians through the necessary Standard Operating Procedures of the day-to-day (listing through security clearances, access codes, the fundamentals of capsule technology, etc.), Vegeta somewhat gleefully fits in another smug-flippant reminder of the single-handed devastation he'd wrought on one of their villages back home, and in a surprise burst of Righteous Fury, she rounds on the jackass and proceeds to lay down The Law, emphasizing the importance of Not Being an Enormous Prick to the already-beleaguered pacifists, especially while he's a guest in her home, because damn it there are rules and he's got to freaking respect them if he plans on staying here for any length of time.

Bulma's just gotten to the part of her sermon where she's vowing retribution of the unexpected, exploding variety if he continues to terrorize these kindly, peace-loving people, drawing stares of open amazement from several and gaping, frantic alarm from others –when she finds herself abruptly mute on the receiving end of an agitated, growling snarl.

Bulma reflects abstractedly that it's been a long, long while since anyone'd full-out growled at her, and as she has no way of knowing just how familiar she's to become with this behavior in the coming weeks, she can't help the instinctive flinch backward at the startling sound, rolling steadily, loud and low in his throat.

She also can't help but to notice he seems pleased with this reaction, his lip curling up into an unpleasant smirk even as the growl tapers to a soft rumble in his chest. It is both odd and very, very disturbing how…subdued she feels.

Clearing her throat,

"Anyway," Bulma snaps, recovering, "stop salting wounds, dammit. You're an evil jerk and you shun happiness –we get it already; there's no need to make everyone else miserable, too." She has, by this point, nearly entirely forgotten her earlier wariness of inciting Vegeta to murderous rages, caught up as she is in one of her own.

Dende, stunned and silent on the sidelines thus far, has obviously been keeping better tabs.

"Miss Bulma." It's a warning, diffident though...weirdly grave, entirely too serious for such a little guy. At this age, Son-kun was running around the world, hopping from one adventure to the next, living carefree and half-wild and having the time of his life. Her heart aches for this kid, and for Goku's little boy –for the violence they've been made to suffer so young.

Gazing placidly back at the feral-looking Saiyan, she blows out a quick breath and pastes on a hard smile.

"Don't worry, kiddo. We're good." When it seems like Vegeta's about to insist something quite the opposite is true, and then maybe decapitate her to illustrate his point, "I might've gone a bit far. I'm sorry." His rage melts gradually into something more on the order of frustrated bewilderment, and she turns back to the Namekians, spotting Piccolo along the fringe of the group, watchful. "What say we take a break? Mom's probably got the refreshments ready by now, and I for one, am parched." She pivots and indicates everyone should follow her, deliberately avoiding the cross sneer of the unhappiest bastard in the entire goddamn universe.

A hand's breadth shorter than himself and ribbon slim, the shrieking native is all pale contours and vibrant wrath, a spill of blue hair and the flash of too-bright eyes, all neatly compressed into one unconscionably defiant little package.

He cannot comprehend the god-awful female or any of her consistently confounding –and often shrill—behaviors; neither can he reconcile this sharp-tongued harpy with the vapid, cowering creature he'd encountered on Namek. Gone is the stammering dread; missing, too, the rich scent of terror and the adrenaline-giddy hammer of her pulse, replaced instead by appalling impudence and the stink of shameless confidence. As though he were now somehow less likely to end her life at whim than before. (Which, for the record, is pure foolishness.)

It doesn't take him long to decide he can't stand her, or to begin questioning his earlier decision to accept her offer of lodging –even if only as the temporary means to a violent, bloody end.

Ever mindful of Knowing Thy Enemy, Vegeta watches her distribute refreshments with her obnoxious mother, genial smiles and light banter for all –except the Earth-Namekian, for whom she wears a milder expression –not unfriendly, necessarily, though undeniably a good deal less…open.

"Don't take this the wrong way or anything, Piccolo, but I'm kinda surprised you're still here. I'd've figured you'd be the first to split." From across the crowd and over the quiet ripples of conversation, Vegeta hears her clearly, absently annoyed when the faintest whiff of something-not-unlike fear wafts through the air, inspired in her by this green freak whose power level his own unquestionably dwarfs.

This woman makes no fucking sense.

"Trust me, I'm not staying for me." Piccolo assures her cryptically.

"…what the heck does that even mean?" The oversized plant shows her one pearly fang, grinning nastily while she remains carefully stoic to bely the eclectic assortment of tells she exhibits, which reveal that her instincts are calling loudly for her to flee in terror. She sets a hand against her hip and levels her gaze at the taller alien, affecting impassivity. "Well, whatever; guess it's really none of my business in the first place. Anyway, you're welcome to stay as long as you like, so long as you promise not to deliberately provoke Prince Hothead over there into any sort of blowing-things-up competition or…you know, other destructive-type activities." The Earth warrior brusquely inclines his head, silently consenting, and as the woman scurries off, obviously glad to be doing so, he considers the Namekian in a new light.

Being still new to the whole 'sixth sense' business, Vegeta has no skill for discerning the finer expressions of an opponent's ki; relative power levels, yes, the occasional distinguishing glimmer of a familiar individual's aura, sure, but nuances are generally beyond him.

Nevertheless, he has sensed, from near the first moment of their meeting, something tellingly familiar in the hybrid brat's pet Namekian; at last, he identifies the source of his intuition, sprung from an affinity by far more fundamental than a shared disposition –this one, too, has known iniquity. Has reveled in it.

How long, he wonders, has the caped shrubbery been on Kakarrot's side? And how tenuous are the ties keeping him there?

Before he can consider the matter further, the blue of the woman's hair catches his eye; she approaches him with a petulant air about her, cradling a beverage in her hands.

She holds the cup out for him, stiffly, drawing no nearer to him than she absolutely needs to be to make her offering. "Here."

Despite his better judgment, cautioning him to mistrust the intentions of this woman who has every reason in the world to want him suffering or dead, he accepts the drink, nudging it out of her fingers and pulling it to his lips with hardly a thought.

"Piccolo's planning to stay for a while, too, I think, and I've already asked him to pretend for a while that violence isn't the answer to Every Single Problem, and I'll warn you now, too: you guys start something here and I'll throw you both to the curb so fast your heads'll spin." The claim is ridiculous, of course; the woman clearly has no capacity for delivering on such a threat. Still, she seems perfectly earnest, and he finds himself weighing the possibility she is somehow more than she seems –which is laughably weak and almost certainly deranged. The notion passes as quickly as it occurs, and he resumes being annoyed at virtually everything about her. "Although," she winks at him –again, "maybe you should give each other a chance; you've both got that Angry Brooding Villain thing going on –maybe you two'll hit it off and be best buds." When she appears to realize she's trying his patience with her unceasing inanity, "Or…not. Look, mom and dad're gonna finish up here and lead the Namekians back to the terrarium to start setting up, and you can follow me to the main compound, where you'll be staying."

They had by-passed the main compound earlier in the afternoon, during the 'tour' portion of the entertainment. The woman had identified it then as the building where she and her insane parents reside. Gradually, the thought connects itself with the understanding that he's going to be sharing quarters with these three lunatic Earthers. The idea is not an appealing one. He's on the verge of 'sharing' this opinion when she adds,

"We thought it'd be easier to keep you where the food's gonna be, since I figure, like Son-kun, you'll be eating twelve times your own body weight a day. The main compound's the one with the biggest kitchen and the most domestic units; it just made sense."

…perhaps he can suffer the proximity, after all.

Unhappily, he steps into rhythm behind her.

Nail is becoming a problem.

For the most part, in the aftermath of the anticipated period of adjustment, he can't even feel his stranger-kin's presence; the mesh is too finely-woven, so to speak, and –as promised—the Demon King is still essentially himself.

…except for those disconcerting moments where he finds himself abruptly –displaced— in his own damn mind, as though he's been psychically sucker-punched, resurfacing an instant later only to find himself (inexplicably, outrageously) offering words of comfort, extending a casual touch of solidarity or reassurance, or even –worst of all— smiling, most often at the little runt Gohan and Baldie befriended on Namek, for whom his shiny new Alter Ego apparently has a soft spot, though he's gradually realizing the warm-fuzzies for the sproutling are just the tip of the iceberg; more recently, he's stumbled across untoward fondnesses for other members of his family-tribe, insightful impressions of people he's never met filtered through a full compendium of personal histories not his own. Every once in a while, he even finds himself performing some simple show of rote deference toward the newly-appointed Eldest Namekian. Piccolo decides this, especially, is a farce.

Knowing he's not the source of all these nauseating, touchy-feely behaviors is one thing; effectively suppressing the unconscious emotional impulses of the guy quite literally in his head, separating them from his inventory of behaviors befitting earth's future Demon Overlord –that whole process is turning out to be kind of a bitch.

And that's not even taking into account the once or twice now Nail's deliberately volleyed some insidious coercion at Piccolo, threading some persuasion or other so delicately into the textures of his mind that he's realizing it's impossible to tell anymore where his volition begins and ends.

Case in point:

"Piccolo, brother, will you stay with us? We would be elated if you wished to learn the lifeways of the people, the family you've never known, and have nevertheless fought so fiercely to defend." The Elders' faces wrinkle (further) with mirth.

He can admit an objective, intellectual curiosity in the culture of the species that spawned him; knowledge of his heritage, after all, can only enhance knowledge of himself, and perhaps open paths to still greater power. Beyond that, his interest in the pacifist customs of his (largely) sedentary relatives wanes quickly.

…which means the suddenly powerful idea that he cannot abandon his people now, when their destinies have altered so drastically, when they need him most–probably hadn't started with him. But the sentiment, once engineered, refuses to be destroyed.

He curtly explains to them what he will, moments later, repeat in a more or less unaltered (rude, non-answering) fashion to Goku's loud, blue friend right before she offers to let him stay:

"Guess I don't really have a choice." He grumbles, Not Responding to the mystified looks the assembled Elders cast at one another.

The runt, though –Dende, some increasingly obnoxious, subconscious part of him amends— beams up at him, broadcasting all sorts of happy-sunshine emotions and making him extremely uncomfortable.

What manner of Cosmic Strangeness had culminated in the Demon King collecting toddlers?

Bulma leans against the doorframe, watching Vegeta's curt perusal of the bedroom, absently imagining all the million-myriad alien accommodations to which he must surely have been privy in the course of his life as an intergalactic mercenary, and mourning for all those million-myriad alien worlds he must surely have habitually destroyed.

She swiftly detours from that avenue of thought, deciding she doesn't need more reasons to think he's an evil-dangerous assface. She's got plenty enough as it is, and she should probably be trying to avoid (actively) looking for grounds to antagonize him, anyway, now that they're going to be living together and all…

"Just so you know," she begins, pausing when he pins her with a sharp flick of his eyes, the cut of his profile coldly imperious, "you're, uh, welcome to crash here for as long as you need –on the condition you behave yourself, of course –meaning no violent rampages or senseless destruction of people or property, and at least some effort spared to avoid emotionally crippling anybody, especially my parents and employees and our Namekian guests." She realizes even as she says it that the likelihood of Vegeta reforming his much-esteemed Kill Everything ways at her command is…well, not great. Still, she feels compelled to make her opinions regarding his notorious fondness for meting out pain and suffering and death known from the get-go. "Beyond that, all our facilities are available to you for use –except the labs and workshops, which're strictly off-limits. If you've got that same sort of…genetic aversion to science and technology Goku does, you'll probably wanna steer clear of the engineering wings, anyway." She teases light-heartedly. He looks like he's about to start growling again, unless she's wrong, of course, and what he's actually about to do is dissolve her with a well-aimed ki blast; either way, she decides to quit while she's ahead. "Anyway, I'll let you get settled in; I'll be back and forth helping mom and dad move everybody in, so just come find one of us if you need anything." He waits expectantly for her to leave, radiating his anticipation to be rid of her.

Bulma finds that this irks her.

Testily, "Dinner's still a few hours off; if your delicate Saiyan constitution can bear the wait, I'll buzz you when it's ready. Otherwise, we're busy and you can help your own damn self to whatever the hell you can find. If you're even capable of preparing food for yourself, that is." She spits at the last, before calmly turning on her heel and walking out, remembering only after she closes the door behind her that she was going to try to stop provoking Vegeta.

...in hindsight, perhaps advising the alien assassin-for-hire to 'help himself' to 'whatever' had not been the best choice of phrasing.

Maybe two hours had passed between her initial parting with the Prince before she'd found herself confronting him yet again, this time at the far end of the terrarium, where (she'd learned immediately) he'd apparently flash-fried one of her father's beloved saurian pets (the imaginatively-named 'Rexy') for a light evening snack. Far from appearing guilty or repentant, Vegeta, catching sight of her horrified consternation, had instead cleanly separated the animal's head from its trunk with a sickening twist of flesh and muscle and the hard snap of splintered bone. Bulma had promptly swallowed whatever furious tirade she'd been preparing to deliver.

To his credit, she reflects wryly, long after she's fled the scene, he had offered to share. She wonders if the massive, proffered haunch could conceivably be equated to some Saiyan facsimile of contrition.

It's a notion just as quickly smothered; the little Prince doesn't strike her as the sort to apologize for anything –ever. She supposes it's probably safe to assume the gesture's also best not construed as a peace offering; the maddeningly self-satisfied smirk he'd given her as he'd indicated the steaming pile of bloody flesh at his feet went a long way convincing her of that.

Exasperated beyond her limits already –dealing all day with a hundred or so hapless, alien tenants (two among them formerly -still?- Bad Guys determined to subjugate and/or destroy the world) would wear on anyone – Bulma throws herself back into the task of keeping her father well and thoroughly preoccupied in the lab, possibly for the next couple days, hoping if she diverts his attention for long enough, maybe he'll just forget he ever had a building-sized reptile buddy.

"Alright there, kiddo?" Comes her father's mumbling cadence from somewhere in the thick jungle of bundled wires, and it takes her a belated moment to realize she's been sighing –in aggravation, anxiety, and more—a lot the past few minutes.

"Fine, dad." She bats at him cheerily, and steps into the techno-carnage to join him.

Just trying to figure out what the hell I've gotten myself into -she keeps to herself.

'bout time i wrote something dbz, dammit.

[.just in case.]

-to the inimitable JEANNE BURCH,

your fic is at the nexus of my understanding of akira toriyama's world. i've been coming back to both every once in a while for about a decade now, and so find myself frequently getting canon confused with your universe; often, i find myself preferring your version (veggie-kins and zarbon are so bffs). you *get* story-telling, you've a freakish-awesome kung-fu grip on relationship dynamics and dialogue and character development and...i'll stop before this gets embarrassing.

just saying -cheers, many kudos, please finish it someday...?