The Disclaimer: blah blah blah...DRAGONBALL Z ...yadda yadda yadda ...copyright of all characters... blah blah blah... the great, all-powerful Akira Toriyama... yadda yadda yadda... C'mon an get me ya lousy Feds!...HAH!

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This story takes place right after the "Cell Games" Saga.

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It was perhaps the most important aspect of a Saiyan warrior's personality; to maintain composure during crisis. To retain one's dignity in the midst of conflict. Vegeta, last Prince of the extinct Saiyan Empire, had his limits tested to their extremes when the Android threat finally arrived and he was found to be severely lacking. It had made no difference that he had finally attained his heart's desire. He had finally managed to obtain the coveted ascension of the revered status of Super Saiyan.

It hadn't been enough.

That was the most crushing realization to his already battered composure and it proved devastating to his self-esteem. Three years of fatalistic training to achieve his treasured goal. Another two in the Room of Spirit and Time to surpass that and in the end he had been bested by an eleven-year-old child. That knowledge was unendurable and his pride had shattered like glass even as he now watched Cells ashes scatter to the four winds.

Deprived of his arch-rival, cheated from his sworn revenge, he was left behind to wonder just what the hell had happened. Where had he gone so wrong? Spread out before him were the craters and charred earth that signified his brutal defeat both without and within. The battlefield that had become a graveyard; Android Number 16, Kakarrot, more importantly, Trunks- his son. They had died and he had proved useless, in the end. The satisfaction of becoming Super Saiyan finally withered up and died leaving him hollow inside.

There was nothing here for him now. For the majority of his life, his path had been dictated by the ambitions of another. When he had finally obtained his freedom, he had allowed his insane training to develop into shackles and keep his attentions diverted solely on his goal. Where were the rewards of his success? What did he have to show for his sacrifice? More scars on his body, more damage to his already damaged psyche, more bruising to his deflated ego. His very soul throbbed with a dull pain that no sensu bean could repair. Even worse, he was at a loss as to how he could possibly ease that persistent ache.

Vegeta found himself deliberately avoiding any thoughts of what the future may hold for him now. For his entire life he had struggled and battled to obtain his birthright. He was now the revered Super Saiyan of Vegetasei; a fevered goal that had eaten up over thirty years of his life to attain. The reality of the situation was only now becoming brutally clear to him: Who the hell cared? He had no subjects to lord it over, no Empire to defend with this God-like status, no people at all save two pathetic hybrids, one of whom had managed to surpass him with child-like ease. The battle against the androids, specifically Cell, had been like a slap across the face. Unwilling to see but helpless to prevent it, the blinders around his eyes finally fell. Vegeta was now forced to take a thorough inventory of himself.

He didn't like what he saw.

Chapter One

After Mirai Trunks returned to his former timeline, a semblance of normalcy returned to all inhabitants of the Earth, including the heroes who had emerged during the Cell crisis. Riding on the laurels of the efforts of the Z Fighters, Mr. Satan basked in the adoration of his fans and milked it for all it was possibly worth. An enormous franchise was built on his name that encircled the globe. He became an extremely wealthy and powerful man, not regretting any ill-gained cent.

The rest of the surviving Z Fighters faded back into the deliberate obscurity of their own lives. Tien and Chiaotzu retreated to the mountains to continue their meditations and whatever odd characteristics made up their unique partnership. For Yamcha, the timing of the end of the Cell Games came just as baseball season was gearing up. He wasted no time rejoining his old team, the Taitans, in their pro-tour roster for the upcoming World League. Krillin settled down for a well-deserved vacation at Master Roshi's island. He was frequently visited by Android Number 18, who was trying to keep her initial interests vague and not doing so great at the pretense. Remaining behind at Dende's Lookout, Piccolo decided for once in his life that he craved the company of his own kind and decided to stay.

Acutely feeling the loss of Gokou, Chi Chi and Gohan returned home to Mount Paozu to cope with their staggering grief over the heroes' ultimate sacrifice. Bearing the news with unusual stoicism, Chi Chi maintained her composure for the sake of their son who was rendered virtually monosyllabic from the loss. Bulma wanted to share in the family's lamentation but finally decided to keep her distance for now.

Besides, she had problems of her own.

Hovering back in the shadows of Capsule Corporation like some insubstantial ghost, Vegeta prowled the rooms and corridors restlessly. He had since moved back into his previous quarters inside of the main building instead of living in the cramped confines of Capsule 3. His efforts of actually fighting alongside of the rest of Earth's heroes instead of turning on them had not gone unnoticed by either of her parents. Dr. Briefs felt particularly awful for his past treatment and actively tried to resolve the still-existing tension between them, to no avail. Vegeta purposely ignored him like he did the rest of the Briefs, including Bulma and their infant son. He kept his own brooding council either in his room or out on the veranda, immediately moving somewhere else whenever someone came too close or when the questions would start. His cold demeanor, fortunately, did not appear to be one of viciousness or spite. If anything, it was almost the act of someone who felt terribly ashamed...

...or grieving.

Observing him from a distance, Bulma alone knew what he was feeling. The alien really was the last of the full-blooded Saiyan's now, a prince with no people to rule and having no more purpose to his existence. There was no threat looming on the horizon that he could prepare for. His unusual inactivity was perhaps the most disturbing thing of all for her to witness. The gravity simulator sat on the grounds untouched and ignored. All that Vegeta did now was watch TV in his room, eat or sleep. His pattern was much like his disposition: unpredictable, solitary, without direction.

As much as she would like to extend some measure of comfort towards the stricken Saiyan, Bulma too, was coping with some issues of her own. She had lost her best friend during the Cell crisis. She and Gokou had been nearly inseparable companions since she was a teenager and on the hunt for the revered dragonballs. She'll never forget that spunky little fighter with his tail trailing along behind him, innocent and trusting and already powerful beyond belief. He had been four years younger but hadn't hesitated to join in her travels, becoming her unofficial 'body-guard' along the way. Gods, the adventures they had gotten into! This time there was going to be no miraculous resurrection on his behalf. Gokou had been given the choice and had opted to remain in the afterworld for the good of Earth. That choice hadn't sat very well with Bulma. She still couldn't believe that her dearest friend wasn't coming back.

Every time she turned to her infant son for comfort, she saw the face of the teenager that he would grow into. Slightly taller then her own five foot, three inch frame, with her blue eyes and exotic hair color but with the darker skin tone, sharp features and athletic build of his sire. Another Bulma, not unlike the present one in disposition, had raised Mirai Trunks in that harsh environment. She had focused all of her resources into their mutual survival, remaining alone and unloved herself.

From what little Bulma had heard, the future the androids had created had been absolutely brutal and the teenager that had emerged from the ruins had possessed the same rage and propensity for violence that characterized the Saiyan breed. Fortunately he had been tempered by his mother, trained by Gohan and had never known his father. The Vegeta of that time-line had died shortly after his birth. He'd never had the opportunity of influencing his son into embracing the darker side of their lineage. There was so much that the present Bulma wanted to know. It was obvious that both time-lines were drastically different with similar variables resulting in divergent out- comes. What she wanted to know most were questions Mirai Trunks could not answer. Had the Vegeta of the future fallen prey to a condition known as the V'Nhar? In his weakened state, had he allowed an earth woman to nurture his ailing body and soul? Had the two shared intimacy and confidences as they became something less than friends and something more than lovers? According to Trunks, his mother had very little good to say about the Saiyan. That led Bulma to speculate that the boy's conception had not had the endearing and lasting consequences on her doubles life, as it had on her own.

Before he returned to his own time-line, a resurrected Mirai Trunks and the others had told Bulma of the events of the final battle that the Saiyan would never have admitted voluntarily. Intrigued, she listened to how Vegeta had over-reacted to his son's death during a crucial point in the conflict and had nearly cost all of their lives in the error. As if to atone for that weakness, he had tipped the scales in Gohan's favor. In an unexpected move, he had succeeding in a direct attack that had distracted Cell and allowed the boy to finish the villain, once and for all.

Everyone's words had carried barely veiled surprise at Vegeta's selfless actions but, to their added shock, Bulma was hardly fazed by the admission. She had viewed Vegeta's potential in a too brief fling back in a sumptuous hotel suite over two years ago. She was able to recognize the similarities in his present temperament and wasn't assured by what she saw now. Prone to depression, the Saiyan had lapsed into another one of his deep apathetic moods. Torn between past resentment and her current worry, she locked the Dragonball radar in the company safe as a precaution and kept a keen eye on his eating habits. Since he wasn't absorbed into an active workout schedule, his food intake was dramatically reduced. More often than not, he filled his plate only once and left the table without a word.

In the middle of all of the tension, little Trunks continued his endearing antics initially unfazed by the intentional disinterest from his father. He had developed an odd habit of singling Vegeta out and extending his arms to the Saiyan whenever he was within sight, often babbling in delight. Casting him only a disgusted sneer, Vegeta gave him a wide berth and went on his way. It wasn't surprising that the baby began reacting to the aggression on some unconscious level. Before long, he began a plaintive wailing through the night that no member of the family could placate.

Tolerating a full two weeks of Vegeta's sulking, Bulma finally decided that enough was enough and a confrontation was in order. The direct knock on his door was ignored, which didn't come as much of a surprise. What she saw when she entered his room, certainly was.

Vegeta was just in the process of encapsulating a large duffel bag when she boldly walked in. He glanced up in surprise but just as quickly dismissed her as he pulled on a windbreaker hanging on the bedpost.

"You're leaving," she stated in a small voice.

"Yes," he said without emotion.

Chewing the inside of her cheek she said, "It... it's going to take me some time to prepare the Capsule for- "

"-I'm not going back into space."

A wall of silence fell between them as each one regarded the other. Motherhood had been generous to Bulma who had quickly regained her svelte figure soon after her pregnancy. Very little had changed in her appearance but her personality had evolved considerably. Gone was that spoiled, self- centered immaturity so mocked by the other Z Fighters, who had been her closest friends. Giving birth had matured her very quickly and she now knew that her days of gallivanting around the planet, much less the galaxy, were over. To be honest, it came as something of a relief.

Vegeta's dark eyes narrowed in agitation as her scrutiny continued. The intense training he had subjected himself to had molded him into a faultless muscular physique that was not grossly contradictory to his small stature. Unless he was powered up, he still had that attractive litheness to his form she remembered so fondly. And intimately. The only thing that had changed in his appearance, was the addition of subtle lines on his face and around his eyes from his prolonged experiences in the Room of Spirit and Time.

When it became apparent that he wasn't going to volunteer any information, she attempted, "Where are you going to go?"

"Anywhere but here."

"B-but this is your home now! Your son- "

He released an animalistic snarl and zipped up the front of his jacket in preparation to leave. "That repulsive little creature is yours. This home is yours. I want no more part of any of this!"

Beginning to get angry, Bulma said through stiff lips, "I never forced any responsibilities on you, Vegeta. All I ask is that you stick around and- "

"-You ask too much," he snapped, pushing her aside as he stepped past her and out the door.

Following him doggedly down the stairs, she started yelling after him, "You don't know the first thing about Earth and it's customs. All that you're going to do is cause trouble! I know you, Vegeta!"

He turned in mid-step and pointed a rigid finger at her midriff. "Too much time has passed for our familiarity to matter, woman. You are as much a stranger to me as I am to you. Let's keep it that way."

The mocking, sarcastic side of his personality that had endeared him to her now appeared to have been beaten into submission by his more sinister characteristics. She should not be challenging him right now; deep down she knew that he was in no shape for a moral debate but her maternal instincts pressed on, unbidden. "You're forgetting one thing, Vegeta. Our son! What do you have to say about that?"

Her parents were just rushing into the living room, alerted by the arguing pair. They were stunned witnesses when the Saiyan turned on her again and snarled through clenched teeth; "I wish that you and that bastard half-breed had died during the birth, then have the pair of you mock me with your existence!"

There were horrified gasps from Dr. and Mrs. Briefs at his heartless statement. Locking eyes again, Vegeta and Bulma waged a silent war of outrage and hatred. In as steady a voice as she could manage, Bulma hissed out; "I want you to leave right now. Don't even think about coming back, Saiyan."

Growling, Vegeta spat on the carpet and bared his teeth at her. "You've no worries there, bitch. Not after what you've done- "

"-!GET OUT!" she shrieked, pointing at the front door.

Permitting her the luxury of the last word, the Saiyan turned his back on all of them and strutted outside. A flash of blue ki fire and he was gone. As if in response to the sudden tension, Trunks woke up from his afternoon nap and began crying inconsolably.

Harried and frustrated, Bulma managed to get him settled and sat in the rocking chair beside the child's crib. She kept a protective eye on the boy as he kicked restlessly at the blanket covering him, clearly upset. She wondered uneasily if the child was sensing his father's absence from the Headquarters building. It was the first time that Vegeta had left the compound since he had moved back in and this time it appeared to be for good.

"Hnh. Good riddance," Bulma sniffed but her eyes betrayed her by immediately rolling towards the window and looking skywards. Trying to get the Saiyan out of her system was like trying to quit smoking; she knew it was bad for her but –damn!- it just felt so good when she did it! Of course, her last time with Vegeta had been in the living quarters of Capsule three just before he had left to train in space. By then, she had purposely stopped taking the pill and had resolved to couple with him before she lost him entirely to his ambitions. The one time had been enough. After she had left him, she had gone to her bedroom and laid on her back with her feet braced against the headboard. For the next few hours, she allowed his thick essence completely permeate her fertile womb...

It hadn't been an easy pregnancy by any stretch of the imagination. It had been further complicated by her not being able to confide to her obstetrician about the fetus's extra-terrestrial origins. She was constantly weak, even though her food intake had tripled, and when the baby started moving she would be driven to her knees by a super-human kick or flailing arm against her fragile uterus. Questions and concerns plagued her but she insisted on keeping her pregnancy a secret from her friends. Part of it was stubborn pride, a virtue she possessed in as much abundance as the alien who had impregnated her. She had chosen to do this of her own accord and had weighed all of the advantages and disadvantages before she had insisted on making love with Vegeta. She didn't need anyone giving her second doubts about her decision and she certainly didn't want to hear speculative horror stories. She was scared enough. Reluctantly, another reason for her self-imposed isolation was a small sense of shame. She knew the other Z Fighter's thought little of Vegeta and still distrusted him. He had few redeeming qualities and what little he did have; he kept well hidden from prying eyes. No one would believe her reasons for defending him and Vegeta would never forgive her for betraying his confidence. It was for the best that she stayed close to home with only the support of her parents easing her apprehension.

But it had been so hard...

Six months into her pregnancy, Vegeta had finally returned to earth for provisions and repairs. She had expected him much earlier, when her stomach hadn't been so noticeable. Actually, she went out of her way to avoid him as he waited impatiently for the Capsule to be space-worthy again. She would never know his motivations for deliberately seeking her out that day. Her father had a work crew detailing the gravity projectors and her mother had cooked a huge banquet that could have fed an army. His two life essentials had been fulfilled; why, then, had he decided to look for her? To brag about his training accomplishments? To piss and moan about some design flaw in the capsule?

...To say hello?

She would never know. She had resolved to leave the main building shortly after his arrival, stating to her confused parents that she had some last minute errands to run. For perhaps the first time in her life, shopping was really the last thing on her mind. Her feet were throbbing and her back was killing her and the baby had decided to pick that day to practice his kata in her already bruised womb. Sitting at a settee outside of a quiet bistro, she was nursing a lemonade and some melba toast to curb her nausea, when a figure in blue and white dropped out of the sky and landed right beside her.

"Filling your face again," Vegeta said in that smug, condescending tone of his. "I should have known. You're not a hard person to find."

"Vegeta!" Bulma said in shock. Several of the patrons were murmuring to themselves over the Saiyans sudden appearance. In his form-fitting blue body suit and white armor he made for a striking sight on the normally quiet shopping district, certainly a break from the ordinary. He ignored the comments and stares he was receiving and kept his ebon regard trained on her face. There was no malice in his calm features, only that gloating smirk. It was as if he had a secret to tell and was eager to confide it to the only person he trusted in the entire universe.

Bulma was caught entirely off guard and her hand spasmed around the glass and spilled the contents. Juice and ice cubes ran across the small table and into her lap and she got to her feet with a gasp, brushing off the moisture with frantic hands. She grabbed a handful of napkins and was patting her slacks when she registered a sharp intake of breath. Looking up she saw that his gaze had dropped to the gentle swell of her stomach. His slanted eyes were wide with surprise, the pupils had contracted into tiny pinpoints of concentration. The normally healthy flush of color across his cheeks had paled considerably.

"Vegeta, I can explain... I-I-" Bulma stammered helplessly and then lapsed into stricken silence, waiting for his reaction.

Very slowly, he raised a hand palm-up several inches from her stomach and the fingers glowed a pale yellow. Barely five seconds passed before he lowered his hand to his side again, the limp fingers curling into a tight fist. It seemed an eternity before he finally raised his eyes to hers. The betrayal in them shocked her to the marrow.

Oh, dear Dende, he knows. Just like that, she thought with a mixture of terror and hope. "I know what you're going to say. I know that you-"

He didn't give her any chance for explanations. Releasing a terrifying roar of anger his ki burst into blue fire around his body. He bared his teeth at her in hatred before he took to the sky in a desperate retreat.

Watching the aftermath of his energy scar the atmosphere, Bulma collapsed into the nearest chair and held her face as she started weeping in shock and grief. This had been her biggest fear; confronting Vegeta about her pregnancy when he had made it clear to her that he had never wanted to be a father. She knew she should not have avoided him. However, she felt that the explanation would have come much easier after the birth, when he could see for himself the miraculous life he had helped to create. As things stood now, the only thing worse then his reaction was that he could have killed them both on the spot. From the look on his face, he had been very, very close. Why he had chosen to leave her, them, alone, would forever be a mystery to her. Shivering as an after-reaction to the near- tragedy, Bulma lost her battle with her stomach and vomited stale lemonade onto the patio stones. She cursed the wetness between her thighs and blotted away the spilled liquid as she staggered to her feet. Pulling the soaked napkins away she saw that they were smeared with blood. Her surroundings dimmed as she became lightheaded and she fell strengthlessly to her knees. Dimly, before she fainted, she could hear someone talking urgently into a cellphone, calling for an ambulance.

When she woke up in the hospital, both of her parents were by her bedside. And only them. "...Vegeta?" she asked through paper-dry lips, staring up at their worried faces through a veil of tears.

Mrs. Briefs was too inconsolable to form words and her father took one of her hands and said, "He's gone, Bulma. He went back into space several hours ago."

"Did he... did he say anything?" she managed to rasp out.

Dr. Briefs hesitantly shook his head but she could see the lie in his eyes. She decided that she did not want to press the issue. She could well imagine the Saiyan's harsh words, spoken in a moment of hatred and betrayal and did not want that condemnation hanging over her head. Had she really thought she had weighed all of the options in her decision to become pregnant with his child? The reality was becoming brutally clear: she hadn't even come close.

By her third trimester Bulma developed placenta previa, severe vaginal bleeding, and spent the last two weeks before delivery confined to a hospital bed. Ironically, the birth had been the least painful of her ordeals. Consenting to a Cesarean, she had been blissfully numb from the waist down and had her son in her arms in mere hours. Just looking at his pudgy, wrinkled face had made all of the pain and fears of the last nine months worth it. Holding him in the delivery room, she had wept tears of relief and joy, counting every little finger and toe to assure herself that he was healthy and perfectly normal.

And he would have been, if it hadn't been for the little tail flailing in distress behind him. The surgeon and nurses around her had been thunderstruck at the sight of it. The tail immediately curled around Bulma's wrist in a panicked, instinctive gesture, the soft downy brown fur coated with birth fluids. Bulma's tears of relief turned into plaintive sobs and she cradled the wailing babe even as the nurses were trying to retrieve him. The tail was just too much for her to cope with, a reminder of the absent Saiyan who should have been by her side instead of coldly leaving her to her fate. She felt brilliant hatred towards Vegeta at that moment and in a fit of spite made a decision that she would later regret. No one, not even her parents, ever knew the truth of the fate of that innocent appendage. It was a secret that Bulma was prepared to take to the grave.

Getting up from her chair, Bulma moved over to the window and looked out through troubled eyes at the sprawling buildings of the Capital. There was a sense of foreboding to Vegeta's departure, a crushing finality that she could not put her finger on. In the pit of her stomach she knew that he would not be coming back; pride and honor be damned, there was only anger and betrayal in his heart at the moment. He was now loose on an unsuspecting planet, whose most powerful defender was dead. A rash of goose flesh erupted on both of her arms at the implications the future may hold.

Give me a sign, Bulma thought desperately. If I've made a mistake telling him to leave, please give me some kind of sign.

At that precise moment, Trunks drew a deep lungful of air and screamed.

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Chapter Two: Now completely on his own, Vegeta decides to play tourist and make the attempt to 'blend in'. You know that this can only end in disaster...