AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a sequel to PICCOLO AND CHI CHI, which, if you haven't read it, is more or less paraphrased in Bulma's introspective bit below.


TWO DAYS AFTER GOKU'S RETURN FROM THE AFTERLIFE

Five-year old Trunks plastered his face to the window of Bulma's aerial machine, his face alit with a barely contained enthusiasm. "I see Goten!" He waved vigorously through the glass pane. "Mom! I see Goten. HI GOTEN!"

Bulma smiled as she saw the little raven-haired boy below do cartwheels at seeing her son. She carefully landed the tiltrotor helicopter in a clearing by Chi Chi's home, and unlatched the door. Trunks bolted, but she collared him back, her hand gripped tightly in the neck of his dress shirt. He looked up at her impatiently.

"Now Trunks, you can go play with Goten on ONE condition," she waited for him to settle enough to absorb her words. "NO getting your suit dirty, understand? This is a wedding, not a summer camp."

His blue eyes saucer-wide, Trunks nodded vigorously, radiating energy like a caged ferret. She released him just in time to be tackled down by Goten.

"HI TRUNKS!" the boy cried as he pinned him down with an ear-splitting grin on his face.

The roughhousing immediately developed into squeals and giggles, and she shook her head as the two bolted out of her copter like rockets from a launcher. Bulma sighed.

At least he's smiling, she thought painstakingly, recalling the frown Trunks had been wearing all day after Vegeta had dismissed the boy from the training room - again. She could rally the prince's negativity all day long, but their son seemed to absorb it. And Vegeta, having all the sensitivity of an elephant in a crystal shop, just kept on dishing it out. She sighed and shook her head. He's such an ass, sometimes…

She took a deep breath and grabbed her clothes bag, stepping outside. A lot of people had already arrived, chatting amiably on the front patio of the gorgeous two-story home. She recognized the Ox King, Chi Chi's father. Of course he would be here. The man was crazy about Piccolo. After all, it was Piccolo that had transformed his little Chi Chi from an embittered Hera into an empowered Aphrodite.

He was speaking to Hercule - that puffed up nincompoop that had stolen Gohan's glory for defeating Cell. But he served his purpose, she figured. After all, he gave Piccolo an immense salary to care for the family, under the pretense of compensation for occasional mercenary work. A small smile curved her lips. Mercenary work? Not likely, she thought snidely. It's life insurance, so Piccolo won't kill your sniveling ass, Hercule.

The buffoon had brought his pretty little vixen of a daughter, Videl, which delighted Gohan, naturally. The two were talking separately under the awning out front. It was also good to see Gohan smile. She knew the boy had to be pained by what happened between Chi Chi and Goku.

Goku… The thought of his pain bit at her like an old wound. She had known him longer than any of them had, having endeared herself to his good-natured innocence from day one. She was his first friend, and the adventures they had gone on were the stuff of bedtime stories… She chuckled at the memory of the spiky-haired boy. Never a dull moment…

But her reverie was cut short by a more sobering recollection. The one of Eighteen over the telephone about the incessantly cheerful Goku reduced to tears and tatters, not eating, not sleeping… Bulma forced herself to quell the aggressive instinct to defend him. It's not like she could blame Chi Chi for severing the ties. At least Krillin and Master Roshi are with him, she thought conscientiously. At least Chi Chi had the good sense to make sure they didn't come to the wedding so they could comfort him instead.

Bulma made her way through the smattering of Chi Chi's co-workers into the house. Piccolo was nowhere to be seen, which didn't surprise her. The namek hated attention, especially when he was the center of it.

She made her way up the spiraling staircase and found Chi Chi dressed in her undergarments, tweaking her hair in the vanity room. The woman's eyes widened and then crinkled in a smile when she saw Bulma. "There you are."

Bulma went up and stood behind her, folding her arms across her chest as she stared at Chi Chi's reflection in the mirror. The morena's shiny, black hair was curled in large ringlets that bounced delightfully about her ivory neck and shoulders. It was pulled away from her heart-shaped face in front with several escaping wisps falling about her brow, and tickling her ears. Her large eyes, the color of shadow, gleamed with all the enthusiasm of a bride-to-be, her full, glossy lips parted in a perpetual smile.

Piccolo changed you, all right, Bulma thought as she smiled and placed her hands on the woman's shoulders. Bulma had enjoyed the transformation in Chi Chi almost as much as anyone. She stopped by with Trunks at least twice a month, and the boys would stay home while they ladies would go out; shopping, dining, watching movies… They'd become closer friends than she would have ever imagined possible. And it was all due to Piccolo. Hell, she thought wryly as she thought of the handsome namek who, against all odds, had rescued them from poverty, been a devoted, loving, father figure to her sons, and a full supporter of anything that made Chi Chi happy. I'd marry him, too.

"Well," Bulma finally said as she opened her hanger bag. "You're off to a good start. Let's see if this last minute dress does you justice." With that she pulled out a seashell-white, sleeveless dress, and helped it on the grinning woman. Chi Chi stood, and Bulma zipped up the back. Bulma looked appraisingly at the snug, and very flattering dress. Hmph, she thought bemusedly, admiring Chi Chi's figure with a pang of jealousy. Who would have thought you packed the body of a buxom teenager underneath all those baggy clothes you used to wear… "Not bad for a 24-hour notice," she said. "You look like a fairy-tale."

Chi Chi spun and giggled as it flared out and fell back around her calves. For a moment, Bulma was caught up in the oddity of it all. Giggling. Chi Chi… Unbelievable.

"It's beautiful, Bulma."

"No, YOU'RE beautiful. The dress is just adornment."

"I think Piccolo will like it."

Bulma snorted. "Please. I've seen him gape at you in your ugly old house robe. Of course he'll like it," she said good-naturedly, recalling then the phone call that had confirmed her suspicions all along. "I TOLD you he was attracted to you. Men can't fake googley eyes like that. Especially green men with such a limited range of expression."

Chi Chi smiled. Bulma was suddenly reminded of the woman's wedding day with Goku, but brushed aside the memory. Now wasn't the time for fond reminiscing of Chi Chi's resurrected husband.

"Mom!" Gohan cried, and Bulma could hear his footsteps up the stairwell. "Dende and Mr. Popo are here! They're ready to start!"

Chi Chi sucked in her breath and her eyes widened in last-minute jitters. She suddenly threw her arms around Bulma's neck. "Ack! I'm nervous! Can you believe it?"

Bulma laughed, and patted her on the back. "You'll be fine." Gohan peeked his head in, and gawked.

"Is Piccolo downstairs?" Chi Chi asked her grinning son.

Gohan nodded. "He's speaking with Dende."

"Well, then. Let's go."


.

The ceremony was beautiful. Bulma sat between Goten and Trunks, holding each of their hands so that they'd behave. Dende had performed it in the namekian tongue, and even though she couldn't understand the words of Chi Chi's and Piccolo's vows, Bulma still felt her eyes sting at the tenderness of it.

Piccolo made a good counterpart to Chi Chi, in his low-waist, straight-legged pants, and white vest. Chi Chi had even talked him into wearing gold loop earrings. He reminded her of a genie, as portrayed in those old Sinbad movies. Sure, the clothes were weird, but not on him. His body was too unique and intricate to be totally covered up. It'd be like getting the best facial of your life only to wear a veil when you were done.

A wedding…

Something I've been planning since I was six years old, she thought somewhat sadly. With a seven-tier cake, crystal centerpieces, and ballroom dancing… She sighed heavily. Yamcha had been distracted at best, and then there was Vegeta…

Ugh. Vegeta… Her attraction to the raging, power-hungry Saiyan was more opportunistic than it was genuine. Marriage was a topic they didn't even discuss. It's not like she could sit down and write a list of all the good qualities he had. Aside from saving the world there just weren't many. She'd been drawn to him, and it was that simple. And now there was Trunks… The poor boy worshipped a father who was incapable of expressing love, and it pained her more than a little.

Even though her romantic life seemed stuck in a downhill rut, she'd still find herself fantasizing about meeting Mr. Perfect; a man who could love her son as much as she did…

And then I could have my wedding, she thought wistfully. With all the bells and whistles

Her thoughts were distracted when the vows ended and Piccolo locked Chi Chi in his stare. Suddenly the whole hoopla of the event seemed to stop bothering him. Bulma thought she had never seen so much emotion in the namek's eyes.

Un-uh, she realized, as her vision blurred. To hell with the glamorous wedding. All I want is someone who'll look at me like THAT.

The groom said nothing, but his thoughts were evident in his face; You're my life, more precious to me than breath. I love you.

Then he softly ran his fingers across the bride's glistening cheek, lifted her face and kissed her.

The water in Bulma's eyes spilled over.

She had never felt so hopelessly alone.