NOTE: This is the last chapter. I know, it was kind of sudden! But, this chapter is longer than the usual, so maybe that's compensation?
I hope it's not too, uh, weird. And I hope I have succeeded in my goal of connecting up the Cell and Buu arcs, and making sense of Vegeta's attitude and decisions during the Buu arc.
This chapter is supposed to reflect the first one, a bit.
I hope you enjoyed it! Please tell me what you think!
Vegeta was surprised to hear someone rapping on the door to the gravity room. Usually Trunks came in with him—or else entered without much warning. Bulma tended to do the same, except that her entrance was usually preceded by a sudden drop in gravity back to that of Earth. Her parents knew better than to bother him—so did anyone else who would visit. There was one other time that someone had bothered to knock on the gravity room door, but it had been several years ago. Yamcha had stopped by to apologize for something or another. He could scarcely remember what, now, besides that shortly after he left, Bulma entered, accusing Vegeta of this or that in the roundabout way she did when she didn't want to admit that anything was her fault. It was fairly well a blur to him, perhaps largely because after Bulma finally finished fuming, they had had sex then and there, in the gravity room. Something about the proximity of their act to where he so often fought and trained gave him chills.
He shook the thought out of his head. "What do you want?" he called, leaning against the button that transmitted his voice to the outside of the door. There was indistinct mumbling from the other side, as if whoever was there either didn't know how to use the apparatus, or else didn't know how to speak. Vegeta cursed quietly, wondering if Bulma's father's cat had started pressing buttons again—but when he finally decided to discern the ki signature of the being outside the metal panels, he raised his eyebrow and opened the door.
"Thank you," the boy bowed a little and then stepped in, only to crumple to the ground. Vegeta grunted and dialed down the gravity, crossing his arms and waiting for the boy to stand up. "M-Mister Vegeta."
"Why are you here, and why isn't my son with you?" he grumbled. Goten had visited the gravity room very occasionally, but always with Trunks. That aside, Vegeta had been expecting his own son to appear at any time—while he had bent to Bulma's will and started allowing the child to sleep in on the weekends, Trunks often joined him of his own volition, if not as early or as eagerly as Vegeta would have liked. Now that his son was in school, Vegeta found that he had to modify his own schedule—he would do his own training in the morning, but wait for Trunks to arrive home from school and enter the gravity room with him again later, unless the boy had such excuses as "homework" or "working on a project" for which Bulma demanded Vegeta give Trunks some time. He and his son didn't spar much—but he liked keeping track of the boy's progress, and got the feeling that Trunks tried harder when he knew Vegeta was watching him.
"He's, uh, he's eating breakfast." The boy bowed again, for good measure and not sure what else to do as Vegeta continued to stand still, completely silent. "Um, I have a question for you, Mister Vegeta."
Goten shivered and nodded. "Uh-huh."
"Y-yeah. Trunks said that I should ask you because if I asked Miss Bulma she would get mad at him 'cause he wasn't supposed to tell me." When Vegeta's eyebrow raised, Goten clapped his hands over his mouth and mumbled through them, "Also, I wasn't supposed to tell you that. Oops."
"Well, you're here," Vegeta slowly scaled the gravity up, hoping he could make it just uncomfortable enough for Goten that it would shorten the ordeal. Probably he was going to ask something about something questionable he'd found somewhere in the house. When Goten had been over for dinner just weeks ago, in between bowls of rice he'd held up one of Bulma's bras and asked what it was for, and why it had been left dangling over the towel rack next to the shower. Bulma had glared at Vegeta accusingly—as if he was supposed to pick up after her!
"Um, Mister Vegeta, did you know my father?"
Vegeta, surprised, could only blink. "Yes."
"Trunks says that I used to have one, and also that he wasn't supposed to tell me but his mom also said that you used to be mad at him all the time." When the man didn't answer, Goten continued, shuffling from foot to foot nervously as the gravity weighed him down much more than he was used to, "How come you didn't like him?" Vegeta opened his mouth, frowning, but before he could make a sound Goten added nervously, "And, um, and where is he now? I wanna see him."
Vegeta growled a little, and turned away, apparently distracted by the console, and Goten was once again comfortable with the gravity. When Vegeta turned back to the boy, he did not answer the question, but marched out of the room. Goten followed on his heels, and was glad to have done so as the doors slid shut right behind him. He trailed behind Vegeta through several hallways and eventually they were back near the main area. The man seemed to survey the area critically before taking a seat on one of the sofas nearby and speaking quietly, "Dead."
"Your father is dead."
"Oh," he seemed to mull it over before his eyes lit up. "Gohan says that there's magic dragon balls and that's how this guy who visits sometimes who was dead before but isn't now, 'cause he talks about something about being dead sometimes, you know, and something he learned from some guy, and anyway, Gohan says that that's how come the dead guy is alive, from the magic balls." Taking a deep breath, he plopped down on the couch next to Vegeta, who shifted away uncomfortably as he glanced down at his arms, crossed over his chest. "So we can make my dad not dead anymore, right? And I can have a dad like Trunks does, you know, like you? I think it would make my mom happy 'cause Trunks' mom is happy and I think it's 'cause of how my dad is gone and all that my mom sometimes gets real sad and stuff."
Vegeta opened his mouth again, and Goten added, "'Cause Gohan always says how I look just like him. Like the dad I used to have, I mean."
"Are you mad at me like you were at my dad?"
He paused, still not meeting Goten's eyes as he spoke. "No. But if you keep talking so much—"
"So can we make my dad alive again? Or go to the place where he is and bring him back here maybe without the magic balls?"
"No." His fists clenched a little. He had not been prepared for this—had, in fact, quite successfully put the entire matter of Goku out of his mind for some time. There were the occasional flashes—the periodic outbursts—but that was all. It had taken him six years, but he was finally beginning to feel what he suspected was the thing the others called peace.
Vegeta breathed slowly, gathering his answer. He'd found that children—or, at least, his own son—held the uncanny ability to know when he was dodging the question, no matter how cleverly he did it. "He refused to be revived with the dragon balls. And there is no other way to remove him from the afterlife."
"Oh." The boy frowned. "That sucks." His eyes darted worriedly to Vegeta, as if the man might be offended by his word choice. "So I'm never gonna have a dad, huh?"
"You'll never have your father back," Vegeta clarified, and Goten shivered a little at the way his words seemed to be charged with power, the way the air had felt when Trunks had shown him that he could get stronger and have different colored hair and eyes. Of course, that was before he had managed it himself—he wondered if Vegeta was feeling the same way on the inside that he did, when he was just on the edge of the thing his mother and Trunks both called 'Super Saiyajin.'
"You seem kind of mad."
"I am," he grated out.
"I'm kind of mad, too," he admitted, eyes watering. "It's not fair."
"No," Vegeta rumbled, "it's not."
"Um," Goten sniffed, wiping at his eyes, "um, Mister Vegeta?"
"What?" It came out sharper than he meant it to, and even Vegeta himself flinched a bit.
"Um," he ducked down a bit, and before Vegeta could react, slid up underneath the man's arm. When Vegeta started to push him away, Goten muttered, "Just one sec. Okay?" He nuzzled up against the man abruptly, and then, just as suddenly, jumped out from beneath Vegeta's arm and ran off in the direction of the kitchen, stumbling over his own feet a few times and sniffling as he went.
Vegeta rolled over and pretended to sleep as Bulma entered the room. After Goten's intensive—if scatterbrained—questioning, he had been embarrassingly incapable of returning to his training, and Trunks had taken his father's unwillingness to go back to the gravity room as a signal that he should try to convince Goten into helping him with some scheme.
As if the boy's resemblance to his father wasn't enough to nag at the corner of Vegeta's mind, the topic that Goten had insisted on discussing had certainly brought Goku front and center. And now, Vegeta felt as if he was stuck in that same rut that kept him from training years back. He heard Bulma meander into the adjoining bathroom and turn on the shower, and decided that there was no better time than now to keep himself from letting that lethargy overtake him again; for what if it disabled him for good this time? Yes, he'd dive beneath the thick layer of protection he'd built from himself, for beneath the helplessness that he was begrudging to acknowledge that he was alone, now, that his chances to defeat Goku were gone—beneath this helplessness that was also sensibleness and an acknowledgment of the truth, he was certain there was rage. It had been put aside when he'd traveled to Namek—put to use when he found out about Goku's ascent, as he fought to ascend himself, but then put toward lesser foes, whose defeat could not mean as much to him—the androids, the cyborgs, Cell. After Cell's defeat he and the other Saiyajin would have finally done battle, but—
"You fucked it up, Kakarrot," he murmured as he walked briskly down the hall. He considered hurrying, lest Bulma catch up to him and start asking what all the fuss was about, but he was certain she would be in the shower for a few more minutes, at least; and then, on finding him in the gravity room, she wouldn't bother him. When he trained like he meant it, she was scared of what she saw, and tended to avoid interrupting him.
It had been—he tried to count, but after a point could not remember—ten, or twelve, or thirteen years that he had spent carefully gathering that boiling anger. The waxy, waterproof coating he built over it was strong, tempered with practice and with layers of things—like his family—things he was beginning to suspect he loved. And that wax, now, was keeping him from hearing the howling from within, and was keeping him subdued; it made the thoughts of the other Saiyajin sobering ones rather than sparks that could rouse his anger as they had once been. It would take only a small puncture of that safety coat for him to feel it, to be invigorated by that which he had systematically, if somewhat accidentally, hidden away since Goku's death.
As if it were a thread of his being he punched the code to get in without thinking; at the main console his fingers knew the buttons that Bulma had tried to keep secret, to protect him from turning the gravity too high. The way his bones and tissues sank closer together was cathartic; he shuddered at the feeling of being pushed until he could hardly stand, enjoying the calm for what it was. He closed his eyes and beneath his lids could see the storm rolling in, and wondered how best to capture its lightning. How could he finally let the dam burst forth? All at once? Ought he try to control it? His hands shook as he imagined that which he had not been able to do for so long, it seemed; was it six years, or ten? How long had it been since he'd released everything and let his power burst forth, unbridled? Vegeta shivered and took in a heady breath of his sweat, all over the room, wondering how it might feel to know that it hadn't leaked from him in vain. He felt his body twitch at the thought: calves, thighs, abdomen, shoulders, eyelids gave in to spasms in succession. Vaguely he wondered whether letting everything out at once would destroy him; wondered if that would be so bad. He glanced down at himself and clenched his teeth, willed himself not to wonder what the hell was wrong with him; willed himself to do and not think.
He released his power—a little, focusing intently on the small burst of the feeling of losing control, a feeling he'd missed. The power of it—of lack of restraint, of sparks tickling up and down his body as it threatened to ascend of its own accord, without his permission—he chuckled a little, and felt a rush of hot blood through his body to accompany the skyrocketing of his confidence; despite his softening around his family, he was no weaker than he had been, surely—
But the thought was a wrench in the churning of his well-slicked system as it awakened from years of rust. He bit past it—of course, they were of no relevance to his power, anyway; and he did not need them in order to fight. The thought returned him to his decades before them, before Earth, the inconvenience and offensiveness of being made to do something for someone else nearly balanced by the fact that he would have been doing the same thing anyway, given the choice; carrying out that which his people had done for as long as their history recalled. The Earthlings thought of the rainbow as a thing of beauty; and so did he—but for him it was that it contained each hue of the innards of the things he'd killed, of the rubble of inconvenient planets, of his bruises after a hard-won fight. His breath rattled a bit at the thought—for how long had he been deprived of such a thing, of a hard-won fight? The very act of imagining one was pleasing in a way that his time on Earth had taught him not to admit. Yet even as his bitter sentiments of the humans stung his throat, he knew that Bulma would understand—she always understood; and if she didn't, she pretended, and did so proficiently. Quivering as abstractions of battle grasped his consciousness, Vegeta succumbed to the odd association that was always a hazy line away for a Saiyajin, and a less visible line for one deprived of the right to fight and kill as he pleased. With more fighting, it would go away—but that would never happen, would it? So he bit his lip and let his fingers meander downward so that he could satisfy his bloodlust in the only other way he could think to; and it was tried and true, and he remembered why this was the case as the psychological static built when he touched his own skin, farther and farther and farther down.
He closed his eyes and the thunderstorm was wild as it approached, and in haste he grabbed at what he would not have imagined to have become so aroused so quickly, wondering vaguely why there was ever a line drawn there, when the same adrenaline rushed through him either way, and his hand was shaky at the magnitude of it—that he could somehow equate this to what he so desperately wanted, that some recess of his mind urged him to it. His grip grew surer and he felt the pulse of blood beneath his palm and fingers, and Vegeta's other arm supported him as he leaned back into the console, dialing the gravity up as his blood shot through him in ways he'd hardly remembered, the gravity challenging him as it dared to pull him from the trajectory of the darts of pleasure he was feeling. Just as he was certain that the ability to breathe had escaped him, his mind reeled with his body and he collapsed against the console at the rapid change in gravity.
Bulma stood at the door, arms crossed over her loosely tied robe. "What the hell were you thinking?" she demanded before he was even sure his lungs hadn't collapsed on him, or that his eyes hadn't burst at the depressurization. Before he could draw enough air into himself to answer, she had crossed the room and was staring him down—the nudity he'd left their room in, and everything on his mind plain for her to see. "What's going on?" she stepped closer, threatening to brush against that of him which projected forward the most.
"Don't do that," he managed. "Don't change the gravity like that." His body shook.
"Did you notice that you were turning it up?" this time she stepped forward, apparently oblivious to her positioning as his hardness prodded into her loosely covered stomach. "I think you would have blown up the entire compound without even realizing it!"
As the dizziness in his eyes and chest abated, it was replaced by resuming excitement, inexplicable besides that perhaps it had carried over from before the interruption. "Maybe so," he smirked, with the distinct feeling that there was a dizziness beyond the physical one he'd felt which had yet to leave him entirely.
"Don't you start with that," she shoved him, and her hands lingered on his chest. "I don't fall for the bad boy act when it could've meant my life!"
"I disagree," he leaned closer to her, taking her arms from his chest and holding her by the forearms.
"What's going on, Vegeta?" she fought against his grip, hoping that he would release her of his own will, since there was no way for her to remove herself otherwise. "Something is seriously wrong, here." She narrowed her eyes. "Why did you come over to this room?" After a calculated pause, she added, "Is masturbating that much better in high gravity?"
Having the words to go with it caused him to flush a little, and his grip on her forearms lessened, allowing her to pull herself free. "I wasn't...exactly..." but he trailed off weakly as she nudged up against him again, this time untying her robe so that his erection touched her skin.
"Really?" she raised an eyebrow, speaking dubiously as her actions proved her point, but gauged his embarrassment with the usual accuracy and abated, leaning into him more gingerly as she slipped the robe the rest of the way off. "Anything I can do to help you?"
"I want to fight," he choked out, and her alluring smile fell. "But I can't," he continued, as if this pained him, "so—"
"Same old thing, huh?" she breathed. "It's Goku again, isn't it?" He growled, and she shrugged it off.
"Bulma," they were suddenly against a wall, and he held her up against it by her waist. Her head jerked forward as the motion caught up with her. "I want to..."
Bulma's mind spun with thoughts, with trying to catch up on what he possibly could have been thinking in the few minutes he was away from her while she showered—what he seemed to be thinking now, still, and saw in him the same hopeless desperation that had plagued him years ago—angrier, now. With the way he hoisted her up so that she was pinned against the wall a good head above him, nipping at the undersides of her breasts, she was sure he wanted to have sex with her—but couldn't quite put her finger on the oddness of this occurrence, the feeling that he had initiated it with some sentiment other than the usual. The last time they had done it in here, the aftermath was mildly unpleasant—but he'd seemed to like it. She supposed he didn't share her feeling of disgust at having been in full contact with a floor that wreaked of sweat and of feet; must have been used to it. But she was in no position to complain then, just, as it seemed, that she wasn't now, as his mouth trailed lower.
Slight warmth against her wrists and ankles forced her eyes to snap open, and Vegeta's hands were no longer on her waist as they gripped lightly around her legs; she was being fastened to the wall by four glowing rings. "Vegeta," she demanded with a single word, and he smirked a little—guiltily, and she wondered if he'd had this odd ring technique up his sleeve for a while now, waiting to shackle her in a place of his choosing.
"What's going on?"
"Ssh," he insisted, pressing one finger into her lips, and chuckling as his nose brushed against her freshly trimmed hair.
"Vegeta," she persisted, if more weakly.
"What makes you think something is 'going on'?" he asked so quietly that Bulma wondered if the message had traveled up her spine into her head.
"I don't know," she snapped sarcastically, though it came out less a snap than she'd intended, "something about you jacking off in a thousand times Earth's gravity clued me in, somehow." Her expression darkened. "I know I built this thing to go that high, but there's a reason I kept the function locked." His eyes finally met hers. "I'm serious when I say the whole compound could have blown up."
"I was...trying to..."
"How many lives is a good fight worth to you?" she bit. Her eyes widened. "And not even a real fight. You were just imagining you could fight a dead man."
"Weren't you?" She didn't wait for him to respond. "He's dead, Vegeta. You want to go blow something up? The capsule for the spaceship is in our top dresser drawer." His eyes widened. "Yeah. You want a good fight? Don't just start using me as a substitute," she motioned to the rings with her chin. "Got it?"
He swallowed, bringing himself to his feet. How did she always know?
"If you've got somewhere better to go, then scram. It's abundantly clear to me now that you don't give a damn about Trunks and I!"
"No," he stepped closer, and Bulma was left frozen in place by the rings as he leaned his head against the side of hers, wrapping his arms around her as her back arched toward him to accommodate their presence behind her. "That's not true."
"That so?" she whispered, feeling the rings disappear and quickly wrapping her arms around him for support.
"It is so," he kissed her shoulder, and mumbled even more softly, "it is very much so." Vegeta guided her to the ground. This wasn't the first time he'd admitted such things to her—nor the first time he'd been this gentle—but still, somehow, it seemed he would be stripped of something if he saw her eyes shine in response to the statement, so he kept his eyes closed. He felt a nudge against his shoulder and complied with its force, letting his shoulder roll back until it touched the floor. Against his back the surface was cold, and the shock of the feeling snapped his eyes open to find Bulma kneeling above him, her hands resting on either side of his arms as she leaned down to look at him.
"Are you okay?" she leaned down to kiss him, lips landing just above his eyebrow, and Vegeta shivered.
"I think I will be," he breathed. "I think I'll be okay."
"I'll make sure of it," she giggled, pressing her lips into his before leaning down to his ear to whisper, "think we can have sex in here without you just off and thinking of fighting?"
"If anyone could distract me from fighting," he grabbed her by the hips and prepared to flip her over, "it's you."
"Not so fast," she resisted his motion, and he paused. Bulma stuck her tongue out. "If we're doing it in here, there is no way I'm getting the crap on that awful grimy floor all over my back."
"As you please," he smirked a little, returning to his position beneath her.
"Damn straight," she grinned, lowering herself to press against his skin. Vegeta's eyes drifted shut at the comfort of it, of Bulma's presence and of her touch, and the liveliness of spirit that she and her son shared; at her persistence at what she wanted. He smirked a little, and could distantly hear teasing accusations from Bulma that he was off in his own world.
And he was—and he knew it. He was in his own world, now. This was his world.
The thunderstorm rolled closer, but he would wait until it arrived—to decide whether to tame it or let it take him. At this moment, his attention was stolen away to other places, to the lips of the woman who was constantly saving him from whatever that thunderstorm contained.