A/N: I knowww. I shouldn't start up a new story. I know it. But, damn it, I just couldn't resist! I woke up with a craving for watching some horror flicks, and in doing so, I was suddenly inspired by this idea. So, here goes…
I don't own DBZ.
Bulma looked over at her husband out of the corner of her eye. Vegeta was sitting at the kitchen table in the spot he had claimed as his over twenty years ago, his usual morning cup of coffee in front of him. His hand was gripping the mug handle, but the coffee was untouched. The prince was visibly struggling to keep his bloodshot eyes open and not nod off right where he was sitting. Bulma shook her head at his stubbornness, and looked back down at the cup of hot chocolate she was preparing herself.
"Just say the word," she finally said, seeing Vegeta flinch at the sound of her voice. "I can go pick up some sleeping medication for you in an hour."
"Hn. Such things are for the weak," Vegeta grumbled, blinking his fatigue away. He finally raised his mug of coffee for some much-needed caffeine.
"Vegeta, you haven't been sleeping right for weeks now," Bulma said, shaking her head again as she mixed her hot chocolate. "Your nightmares haven't been this bad in years."
The prince lowered his mug with a frown. It was true. Bulma's presence in his bed had slowly, over the course of many years, reduced the frequency of his nightmares to manageable levels. Whereas before he was haunted every night by past tortures, both endured and inflicted, now the nightmares only came back once every month or so.
But several weeks ago, they had returned with a vengeance. He pushed harder in his training, trying to tire himself to the point of inducing a dreamless sleep, but it didn't work. Bulma's soothing touch and words after he woke from the violent dreams didn't work either. He was frustrated and exhausted. This was an old problem he had learned to endure once upon a time, but he was no longer used to getting so little sleep.
However, that did not mean he was about to take medication. He had tried that once long ago, and hadn't liked the side effects.
"They will pass," Vegeta finally said as she sat down at the table next to him. He raised his mug for another sip. "They always do."
Bulma sighed. "One more week, Vegeta. If you don't get at least six, good, uninterrupted hours within the next week, you are taking the sleeping pills."
"This isn't a negotiation," Vegeta said snidely.
"Yes, it is," she told him firmly, looking his exhausted features over. "You're like the walking dead, and I can't get any sleep either with you tossing and turning all night. So either you take the deal, or you start sniffing every meal for potential sedatives buried in your food to force you to sleep."
The prince glared at his wife, and was going to respond when their five-year-old daughter ran into the kitchen, sobbing almost hysterically. Vegeta winced a little; his head was not up for hearing his daughter's high-pitched wailing.
"Mommy!" Bra yelled, running right to Bulma.
"What's wrong, baby? Why are you crying?" Bulma asked, pushing her chair out enough to pick up her daughter.
"My fishies all died!"
"They're all floating in the water! They're all dead, Mommy!"
"Oh, sweetie, I'm sorry," Bulma said, hugging Bra tightly. She gave Vegeta a confused look, and he shrugged with indifference, chugging down his coffee. "Maybe something was wrong with the water. We'll get you new fishies this weekend, and you can pick them out this time. What do you say?"
Vegeta rolled his eyes and got up. He went to put his mug away, and then walked out to the living room, leaving Bulma to handle the latest family crisis. He sat down heavily on the sofa, and picked up the remote to turn on their big-screen TV to check the weather. If the intense gravity wasn't working, then maybe going somewhere with intense weather would finally push his exhaustion enough to where he could get some sleep.
Hell, maybe he could even invite Kakarot for a spar. After all, few things in life made Vegeta feel as good as when he got the chance to punch his rival in the face.
Vegeta put on the news channel to wait for the weather to come on. He tossed aside the remote and rubbed at his eyes, frowning as he listened to the news anchor on the TV.
"We have an update with the epidemic sweeping across South City. Twelve more have died from the mysterious disease which they are now calling Code V. Doctors have reason to suspect that that the disease is viral, and are recommending that anyone with the following symptoms please stay home from work and school, until we have more information…"
Scowling and with his eyes closed, Vegeta patted the sofa until he found the remote again. All he wanted was the fucking weather, not a report on the latest disease that was exploiting human weakness. He shook his head quickly, and raised the remote to change the channel when he suddenly froze at what was on the screen before him.
"Everyone who has been afflicted with this disease has developed this terrible rash, right here," a doctor on TV explained, showing pictures of a woman's profile who was already deceased. She had red hair, but right over her temple there was a painful looking rash that looked almost like a burn in the shape of a V. Her hair was gone around it. "We don't know how or why this is happening, but this mark is prevalent on everyone who has died from this disease." They showed another picture of a young boy with the same mark on his temple.
"If for any reason, you or someone you know starts developing the symptoms below, and/or you start developing a burning sensation near your temple, please check into the hospital right away. As of now, there has been no cure discovered-"
The TV suddenly turned off. It took a moment for Vegeta to realize that Bulma had walked up to the TV and turned it off, and was staring at him in exasperation.
"Didn't you hear me when I asked you to turn that off? Bra's already upset enough, she doesn't need to see those kinds of things, Vegeta."
Bulma waited, expecting a fight over turning off the TV while he was watching it, something that always pushed his buttons. Instead, Vegeta just stared at her, his eyes distant and a confused look on his face. Bulma's features softened with concern as she walked up to him.
"You okay?" she asked him. He didn't respond until she touched his shoulder. He blinked a few times, and looked up at her.
"Did you hear about that disease they're calling Code V?"
"Yeah. It's really weird. I'm going to call Trunks later and make sure that he's taking care of himself. I know he's got midterms coming up, and sometimes he's not as careful as he should be."
She waited for a response, but Vegeta was zoned out again, his mind focused on that mark.
That mark… the V over the temple… he'd seen it before. There was a short period in his life when he got bored with the regular methods of killing his victims. He had improved his methods of destruction by branding his victims with the mark, burning it into their skin, right over the sides of their heads where it would hurt the most. In his native language, the mark meant "prince." It hadn't mattered who it was: old, young, men, women, children. He left all of their corpses with the brand on the sides of their heads, as a statement that the Saiyan prince was the most ruthless being in the universe, second only to Frieza…
"Vegeta, honey, just go back to bed. Seriously, you look completely exhausted and kind of pale," Bulma told him worriedly, bringing him out of his thoughts when she ran a hand through his hair.
He frowned, and reached up to rub his eyes again. That was a long time ago. He was what, a teenager? 18 years old in human years, just like Trunks? He shook his head, trying to rid the images of the TV from his mind. They were taking him back to dark places where he didn't want to go.
"I'm fine, woman," he finally growled, picking up the remote again. "And stop fucking turning off the TV when I'm watching it. Do it again, and I'll blast you to bits."
Bulma almost looked relieved to hear her husband speaking in his usual gruff ways. She gave him a small smile.
"Alright, crabpants, since you're back to normal. Can you check that tank in Bra's room while I take her to school? I checked it this morning when I woke her up and all the fish were fine. It's really weird that they would all die just like that."
"Fish die. Big deal. Just buy her more," Vegeta said with indifference, before getting smacked in the shoulder.
"Can you please be a little sensitive, you jerk?"
"Fine. How about we cook the fish so they don't go to waste?" Vegeta asked with a smirk.
He raised a hand to block the swat aimed at the back of his head. Bulma tried to hit him with her other hand, but he caught that one too, and hauled her into his lap as she squealed.
"Vegeta! I have to take Bra to school!"
"She can walk," he said with a chuckle, forgetting about the grim newscast as he pulled his wife down into a kiss. For her complaining, Bulma didn't resist him as she deepened their kiss.
He managed to get some decent feeling up on his woman when he finally felt his daughter approaching. He pulled away, and knowing what that meant, Bulma pushed herself off him to smooth out her disheveled appearance. She jumped with a start when Vegeta smacked her in the behind, turning to glare at the smirking prince.
They both looked over as Bra came down the stairs. The little girl was all dressed, her pink bookbag filled and on her back. Bra looked at her parents, her eyes still red from her crying.
"Ready to go, sweetie?" Bulma asked gently. Bra nodded quietly. "Baby, I'm sorry about the fishes. But don't worry, Daddy's going to see what went wrong, okay? Come now, go say goodbye to Daddy so we can go."
Bra nodded again and walked over to her father. She looked up at him, and he could tell she was trying not to cry again when she asked, "Are you really going to check the fishies, Daddy?"
Vegeta gave Bulma a subtle glare, which she returned with a smug look. He looked back at his daughter, who had her blue hair tied up into side pigtails, and he sighed. He had no favorites with his children and cared about each of them in different but equal ways, but his daughter wore him down so much easier than Trunks ever had when he was her age. He attributed it to his old age making him soft.
"Yes, child," the prince finally said. "I will check to see what went wrong so the same thing does not happen again."
The little girl beamed, and launched herself into his chest. Vegeta grunted in surprise.
"Thanks, Daddy!" she told him happily, before reaching up and kissing him on the cheek. Vegeta frowned and awkwardly patted her on the back. She withdrew from him and flashed him a smile missing a tooth, before running over to her mother. Bulma smiled and winked at him, making Vegeta roll his eyes.
After they left, he put the news back on. He leaned forward and listened with interest to the reports on the strange new disease, frowning in thought as he did. Finally, when all he was seeing and hearing were things he already knew, he checked the weather. There was going to be some intense heat about fifty miles from the city. Perfect.
He got up to get dressed and go fetch that third class dog Kakarot for a good, old-fashioned Saiyan spar, when he remembered that he had to check the fish tank in Bra's room. Grumbling to himself, he went up the stairs to get it over with.
Other parents might have just gotten their kindergarten-age daughter a fish bowl with one or two fishes. Bulma and Vegeta though had put a wall-length, four foot high, first-class aquarium tank in their daughter's room for her third birthday. At night, the tank lit up and gave the room a soft blue that helped Bra sleep when she was learning to do so without her crib. She'd had the same, rare, exotic fish since.
Vegeta entered his daughter's room and froze at the sight of the tank. Indeed, there were fishes floating above the water, clearly dead. What caught his attention though was the fact that the water was completely red.
The prince scowled and made his way over to the tank to investigate further. He leaned in close, looking carefully through the glass. Was that blood? How was that possible? His daughter would no doubt have mentioned such a thing. And there was no way the fish could possibly have so much blood to fill the entire tank. Any bleeding should have been diluted.
Utterly confused, Vegeta straightened and levitated into the air until he could reach the top of the tank. It was bolted high enough so that Bra could not meddle with it, but it was also out of reach for both him and Bulma. He lifted the top of the tank easily and his nose twitched a little at the strong stench that greeted him. He peered down at all of the fish. All of them were dead.
He dipped his hand into the water, scooping a handful of it up, and he blinked in surprise. If he didn't know any better, he would say it was body-temperature blood. Far from feeling diluted, it felt fresh from a kill. He hadn't felt this type of fresh blood on his hand in years, but it suddenly felt like it was only yesterday.
Vegeta frowned and shook his head, wiping his hand on the edge of the tank, and then he examined the fish. He reached down and picked one up. Bringing it up close, he examined it for any sign of bleeding. Turning it over to the other side, his brows furrowed when he didn't see anything unusual. He put the fish back and picked up another, and another, and another. None of them were harmed in any way that he could see that would make the tank so bloodied.
He put all of the fish back in, shaking his head in confusion. He was going to need to take the whole tank out of his daughter's room and probably throw the whole thing away. He put the top back on and fastened it as best he could, before lifting the entire tank off the wall. Turning around, he walked out, shaking his head the whole time.
Must've just been a bizarre, fluke thing…
"And you're making sure you carry the hand sanitizer with you everywhere, right?" Bulma asked, balancing her cell phone against her shoulder while she mixed a pot of soup for dinner that night. Bra was sitting at the table behind her, kicking her legs as she drew a picture of her family in her sketch book.
"Mom," Trunks sighed quietly on the other end, glancing back into his dorm room at the half naked girl laying on his bed. He wouldn't have answered, but he had already ignored one call from his mother. Ignoring a second meant he got a visit from his angry father, and that wouldn't be good tonight.
"Don't Mom me, Trunks. Those dorms are infested with germs, bacteria, and who knows what else. All I'm asking you to do is be careful."
"I am careful. You don't have to worry about that weird Code V thing getting to me. I'm half-Saiyan remember? I don't get sick."
"Oh, yes you do, don't give me that," Bulma argued, right as Vegeta finally walked back in. She looked over at her husband, and frowned in disapproval at how dirty and bloodied he was. No doubt, a spar with Goku. The prince made eye contact with her and smirked, making her roll her eyes before she mouthed to him not to make a mess on his way upstairs. "Now, what is the deal with your poor score on that Calculus exam, Trunks? You better not be getting distracted with any hoochies over there!"
"Daddy?" Vegeta grunted in acknowledgement as he removed his dirty boots. "What's a hoochie?" the little girl whispered.
Vegeta chuckled and left his boots outside, before slowly walking over to Bra. His spar with his rival had been just what the doctor ordered. He was sure that a hot shower, followed by the delicious dinner Bulma was preparing, would do the trick and that he would probably get two whole days of dreamless sleep.
"Don't worry about that," he whispered back. He leaned down, resting his hands on his knees as he got close to his daughter.
"Daddy, you stink," Bra told him, her nose crinkling in disgust.
"Hn. So much like your mother," Vegeta grumbled, before his expression turned serious as he carefully regarded his daughter. "Bra, I had to take that whole tank out of your bedroom."
"Yeah, I saw," Bra said quietly, pouting a little as she looked down at her drawing.
"Before you left for school…did you see anything…strange, with the tank?" Vegeta asked her quietly.
"What do you mean?"
"How was the water?"
"I dunno. Looked okay to me," Bra said with a shrug. Vegeta frowned and fell into thought, and so Bra asked, "Why?"
"No reason," he smoothly answered, looking over her shoulder. "What are you drawing?"
"This is us! See, that's Mommy, that's me, and that's you, and that's Trunks with Goten!"
"Hn," Vegeta grunted, a smirk of amusement spreading over his face at the drawing. Bulma's head was ridiculously large, and Vegeta was way too tall. A very goofy-looking Trunks was playing video games with an even goofier-looking Goten, and Bra was standing alone with a sun around her.
"What do you think?"
"I think it's perfect, princess," he whispered in her ear, as if telling her a secret. Bra beamed with pride as Vegeta straightened and walked away to take a much-needed hot shower.
The rest of the night passed by as it normally did. The three sat down and had dinner together, while Bra told her parents everything that happened at school. Bulma updated her husband and daughter on Trunks and how he was doing. Vegeta just ate and listened as best he could, but by this point, he was completely exhausted. The adrenaline of the spar he'd done was washing off and he finished his dinner with extraordinary effort.
Just because there was still a hint of masochism in him that would never fully disappear, Vegeta forced himself to engage in one last training session before bed. He wasn't going to take chances. He needed to sleep, and he was going to beat his body into the ground to make sure that he was far too tired to dream. He did an hour of hard work, and then went back upstairs for another shower.
When he walked out of the shower, though, he was met face-to-face with his angry wife.
"Didn't I tell you not to make a fucking mess when you came in, Vegeta?" Bulma hissed at him. Vegeta frowned at her.
"What the hell are you babbling about, woman?" he barked as he wrapped a towel around himself.
"You left blood and dirt footprints all over Bra's room!"
Vegeta froze, and rapidly replayed the events of the day. He hadn't gone to his daughter's room when he came back from his spar with Goku. He'd come straight to where he was now, taken a shower, and then gone back downstairs to join his family for dinner…hadn't he?
"…That was you, right, Vegeta?" Bulma asked worriedly, cutting the tense silence.
His brows furrowed as he looked his wife in the eye. After a few seconds, he shrugged, looked away, and grumbled a noncommittal, "Must've happened when I was taking the tank out."
Vegeta left out the fact that he was barefoot at the time he'd done so, and had made sure nothing was spilled. But he was also fighting fatigue that would've crippled nearly anyone else. Maybe he had accidentally wandered into his daughter's room after the spar after all.
But hadn't he removed his dirty boots before even entering the house?
"Well, just be more careful, okay? It took a while to clean and get that smell of blood out of her room." Vegeta nodded distantly, still looking off to the side, and Bulma reached out to his face. He turned his gaze to her, and she kissed him briefly on the lips. "I'll have Bra come in to say goodnight so you can get some sleep."
"No. I'll go say goodnight to the child in her room," Vegeta surprised her by saying. Bulma blinked a bit, but finally smiled and nodded.
She kissed him again and left the room to continue getting her daughter ready for bed. As soon as she did, Vegeta went over and sat down at the edge of his bed.
Something was wrong. Something was wrong, and he didn't like it. He ran his hand down over his face. He scowled and thought to himself for a while, mentally doing a ki sweep. No one was there except his wife and his daughter. Bulma's parents had moved out years ago to give the pair their privacy while they raised their children, but they weren't very far.
He shook his head, and then stood up. He exchanged his towel for a pair of comfortable shorts, and then went over to check on the only two women in the universe that he cared about.
Vegeta leaned his shoulder against the doorframe to his daughter's room, crossing his arms over his chest. He relaxed at the sight of them in bed together while Bulma read Bra a book. They both glanced up at him, and he nodded in acknowledgement. When they turned back to their task, Vegeta swept the room with a critical eye that he hadn't used in years. He examined every last inch of the room, until his gaze finally settled on the carpet.
Bulma had scrubbed the blood, but his trained eye could still see the small pigments of red in the pink carpet of their daughter's room.
Footsteps. Walking up to his daughter's bed.
That was where they stopped.
His stomach churned as his lip twitched. The tank wasn't in that direction. It had been bolted to the opposite wall. He took in a breath of air. A human would have only smelled the air freshener, but Vegeta could also smell the faded blood, the lingering smell of dead fish, his wife's perfume, his daughter's shampoo, and his own distinct scent from earlier.
No one else had been in this room. He frowned in confusion as he looked back down to the carpet. Had it actually been him? Was he really just losing his mind?
"Vegeta," Bulma called out to him.
He snapped out of it, and pushed himself off the door. Bulma walked past him, letting her fingertips graze his arm on her way past. He nodded to her and walked over to his daughter's bed, purposely following the barely visible tracks. Still, he smelled nothing.
Vegeta finally sat down on the edge of Bra's bed as she snuggled deeper into her blankets. He glanced at her briefly before looking down at the carpet by his bare feet, frowning as he did.
"It wasn't you, was it, Daddy?" Bra whispered. Vegeta immediately looked back at her in surprise.
"Mommy said it was you, but I saw you take off your boots when you came in."
"It was from earlier. When I was taking out the tank," Vegeta replied with an indifferent shrug, not wanting to frighten her.
"But when I came home from school-"
"Bra," Vegeta said firmly. "It was me. End of story."
"I don't think so," Bra meekly said, burying herself even more in her blankets.
"Who else would it be, brat?"
"The bad people."
"The who now?"
"There are bad people in my room, Daddy."
"No one has been in your room, child. You watch far too much television," Vegeta grumbled, already making a mental note to talk to Bulma about reducing the little girl's hours.
"Nuh uh. I hear them sometimes, saying your name."
Vegeta shifted over a bit. He reached over and put his palm on the other side of his daughter so he was leaning over her. He could see her visibly relax at the gesture of protection.
"You want to know a secret, kid?" Vegeta asked quietly. She nodded eagerly as he smirked. "There isn't one person on this planet who your father can't scare the living daylights out of."
Bra giggled. "I already knew that."
"Then you know that as long as I'm here, there will never be any bad people in your room, correct?"
"Good. Now sleep," he said, drawing away as he stood up.
He watched her for a second, before walking around her bed over to the window as he scanned it over. Exceptionally overprotective of his daughter, he had chosen her room to be on the third floor, one above his and Bulma's. There was no easy way for a human to reach the little girl's room. He had even gone so far as making his wife put up steel bars across the outside of the window.
Vegeta looked over his shoulder at his daughter to make sure she was asleep, and then checked the bars. He applied enough strength of a powerful human, but not enough strength for him to break the bars. They were rock steady. Nothing could possibly break those bars without him hearing it in his bedroom. And if he ever caught anyone trying, he would kill them without hesitation. He might have been reformed or whatever, but he was not above ripping someone's head off if they threatened his family. Bulma knew what Vegeta would do to anyone who dared trespass in their home with ill-intent, and had an extensive security system put into place to try to avoid anyone being murdered on her property, criminal or not. The alarms would have been triggered first before anyone got to Bra's bedroom window. He frowned and closed the window again.
Minutes later, Vegeta walked back into the bedroom he shared with his wife. Bulma was sitting up in bed, reading over a magazine. She briefly glanced up at him, before going back to her reading.
"How'd it go?"
"Fine," he answered curtly. He walked over to the screen door leading to the balcony, shut it closed, and then locked it.
"No," he answered, testing the lock's strength. It was fine enough. He drew the curtains closed, and then added, "Just not sleeping here tonight."
"What?" Bulma asked, looking back up at him. "Why not?"
"You're not sleeping well with me here. I will spend a few days sleeping in a guest room until things are under control," he explained, walking back around the bed.
"Vegeta, I really don't mind."
The prince sighed deeply as he looked over at her. "Woman, I won't be gone long."
"Well, alright," Bulma sighed as he came up to her. He surprised her by giving her a deep, passionate kiss.
"Try to sleep well without me, foolish woman," he whispered teasingly.
"Oh, whatever," Bulma laughed, shoving him away. He smirked and turned away, walking out of the room and closing the door behind him.
Vegeta's smirk disappeared as a focused look settled over his features. He did another ki sweep before prowling the compound, his senses on alert. He made sure all of the alarms were properly engaged, before finally walking back upstairs after he was satisfied with everything. Instead of going to a guest room, though, he went back to his daughter's room. He cracked open the door and peeked in, but everything was as he left it. Bra was sleeping peacefully and soundly. He frowned and closed the door again, before finally deciding that maybe it was just his exhaustion getting to him.
He finally fell into his first deep sleep in a long time, sitting upright on the outside of his daughter's door.