Disclaimer: I do not now, nor will I ever, own Dragonball Z. It belongs to Akira Toriyama.
Curiosity killed the cat. Good thing for Bulma Brief she wasn't a cat. Infinitely, insatiably curious girl that she was, she couldn't help but notice – and become intrigued with – the very strange boy she saw on the street one cloudy spring afternoon. She was on her way home from middle school when she saw – no, felt – the boy's dark gaze following her as she skipped along the bustling sidewalk. But when she turned to see who was watching, he immediately took his eyes off her and ducked into a nearby alley.
Needless to say, her interest was piqued. She looked from side to side before taking a deep breath and running over to the alley. She was shocked to find it deserted, considering there was no other way out than the one she came in. She turned in a circle, looking around, and fell backward when the boy appeared right in front of her seemingly out of nowhere. She yelped and rubbed her aching backside as she stood up and smiled brightly at the reason she had wandered into a dark alley.
"Hi there!" she greeted him cheerfully and held out her hand for him to shake. "My name is Bulma, what's yours?"
The boy glanced at her outstretched hand before batting it away with a sneer that made him appear years older than he was. Bulma shook the tingling sensation out of her hand. 'What's his problem?' she wondered angrily. 'I was just trying to be nice!'
He snorted when she fixed a sullen glare on him. Why such a weak, pathetic little human girl thought she could intimidate him he couldn't fathom. He likewise couldn't figure out why she tried following him. 'She must be incredibly stupid,' he concluded with a mental shrug.
Had she known what he was thinking she would have been very indignant. She was Bulma Brief! At the tender age of nine she had already skipped three grades in school and the whole world lauded her as a child prodigy in mechanical engineering, the next great genius to grace the world. It could only be expected; after all, her father was the great Dr. Brief, inventor of the DynoCaps and founder of the booming Capsule Corporation.
After her short moment of speechlessness at the stranger's rude behavior, she stamped her foot and planted her hands on her hips. She grew angrier when he looked less than impressed with her oncoming tantrum.
"Look, I don't know what your problem is, but around here's it's polite to shake hands when a girl introduces herself, you little creep!" she raged. "What do you think you're laughing at, bud?"
The raven-haired boy couldn't help but laugh at the human girl's temper. Weak, but a spitfire. Still not worth his time though. He laughed harder as her face flushed red with her rising fury. 'She must really think she's something special,' he mused.
"Do you know who I am?" she screeched.
His laughter stopped abruptly as he cringed and covered his sensitive ears. He revised his earlier evaluation of the girl: Weak, but loud enough to kill. He didn't appreciate the smug expression plastered on her face. He scowled at her.
"Do you know who I am?" he replied icily in Saiya-go.
Bulma's eyebrow rose. She'd never heard that language before. She couldn't even recognize what it was. She slapped her hand over her mouth when realization dawned on her. He didn't speak her language and probably didn't know her customs! Maybe she had been acting rudely to him! Embarrassed, she blushed and hung her head as she stuttered out an apology.
The boy rolled his eyes. He didn't want her apology. He could understand most of what she said, but that didn't mean he had to let on to that little tidbit of information. After spending over a month in the city, he'd easily picked up the language. It was actually pretty simple compared to some of the others he'd learned.
In an attempt to rectify the situation, Bulma put her hand on her chest and enunciated slowly and clearly, "My name is Bulma. Bul-ma." Then she pointed at him and asked, "Your name?"
He sighed and grumbled in his mysterious guttural language about her stupidity. After a moment of internal debate, he decided there was no harm in telling his name. If he was lucky, the backwater planet will have heard of his reputation. "Vegeta."
"Vegeta?" she asked, trying to get her mouth to form the foreign name in his exotic accent. "Where are you from?"
He pretended not to understand her question. He was vaguely disappointed that his name didn't strike fear into her heart. With a shrug, he turned on his heel, ready to rid himself of her annoying presence. But, much to his chagrin, she ran after him and grabbed his elbow to restrain him from leaving.
"Wait," she pleaded, "Don't go yet. Where are your parents?"
She stepped back nervously at the fierce intensity of his glare as he shook her hand off. He was done humoring her. "Dead," he answered tersely, then stalked away while she was left gaping at him in shock.
'Maybe I heard wrong,' she reasoned as she trudged back home after her encounter with Vegeta. 'It was probably some word from his language that happened to sound like dead.' But the more she tried to convince herself this was so, the less she was able to believe it. There was no doubt about it: He said his parents were dead. Her heart was crushed as she was overwhelmed with pity for the orphan. Did he even have a home? She couldn't shake that question from her head. She was about to go back and try to find him again when there was a loud clap of thunder followed by a steady drizzle of rain.
Shoving her guilt aside, she started running home. She still had six blocks to go and didn't want to get completely soaked if she could avoid it.
Vegeta watched from his perch on the roof of a tall apartment building as the nosy blue-haired girl sprinted down the street, shielding her eyes from the rain with her arm. He frowned. Why had he allowed himself to interact with her at all? He'd noticed her walking around the neighborhood nearly every day for the duration of his stay there, but he couldn't explain why she stood out to him among the rest of the humans. She certainly wasn't the only regular passer-by. But she was most definitely the only one with such a fascinating color of hair. He'd never seen anything like it in all of his dealings with aliens from across the galaxy. That, he convinced himself, was the only reason he remembered her when he wouldn't recognize anyone else who passed him by daily. It was simple. He liked blue and she had blue hair. So he noticed her.
He smirked to himself as he thought about the lack of magnetism in her personality. What a brat! He only said two words to her and yet she screamed at him with a horribly shrill voice and acted as if he should be groveling at her feet. Just who did she think she was? "Insolent wench," he muttered before pushing himself forward to drop off the building. He landed in a crouch on the ground below, ignoring the wide eyes and shouts of surprise directed at him and sauntered down the sidewalk. Everyone else seemed to be in a hurry, more than usual, because of the dreary weather, but he didn't mind it. He rather enjoyed the feeling of the cool rain washing over his face, trickling down his neck and back, and beading in his flame of hair.
Silently he stalked through the streets of the city. He drew no attention to himself, not because he feared the humans, but rather had no interest in dealing with them on any level. He could effortlessly kill them all, but there was really no point. He had no orders to purge the mudball and didn't want to waste the energy it would take to do so. It was a small planet, but it had a very high population. It would be a pain flushing out all the miserable vermin and eradicating them.
He glanced up at the sky, hoping he would catch a glimpse of a small, spherical object falling to the ground, but as usual, there was nothing. No sign of hope. Not that there was any hope to be had anyway. What did he have to look forward to when someone came to get him? He would return to his life of endless beatings, honorless killing, near-starvation, and humiliation. It wasn't as if he'd fallen from paradise. Most likely he would face a beating that would bring him within an inch of life when he finally got back to his slave-driver even though it wasn't his fault he was stranded where he was. Still, he'd take that life where he could release his frustration with the hand fate dealt him through aggression over the one he was living now. Lying low and living in relative peace with an inferior race were not his favorite pastimes.
'Perhaps if I can repair my pod I'll be able to leave sooner and lessen the degree of my impending punishment,' he thought bitterly. 'As if that would save me. But at least it would get me off this measly hellhole.'
Waiting was not a game he took much pleasure in. Already a month had gone by. He had no idea how much longer it would be before someone would get to him to take him away. Too long, in his opinion, even if it were only one day longer. Unfortunately for him, the planet he was stranded on was on the edge of the galaxy, insignificant, unwanted, not even worth destroying for target practice or purging for a practice mission. There wouldn't be anyone around for hundreds of light-years. It could take months for anyone to reach him, and he doubted anyone would come running to save his hide. Except maybe Nappa and Raditz, but no doubt they were busy mucking up the mission they were on and wouldn't be allowed to find him as their punishment. He cursed his poor luck. If only his pod hadn't malfunctioned and crash landed!
He wrapped his tail tighter around his waist as he walked, feeling rather insecure about his near future. His 'master' would be positively furious with him for allowing something so stupid to happen to him. He had a tight schedule for purging planets, and the lizard wouldn't be happy about a slow-down in his hostile takeover of every habitable planet in his quadrant of the universe. Besides, now who would he use as a living punching bag to vent his foul moods?
It might have been safer to let them all think he was dead so they wouldn't bother coming after him. 'No,' he thought hopelessly, 'They would have come after me eventually anyway. And then when they found out I hadn't tried contacting them, I would really get a beating. Wouldn't want to think I was running away.' He snorted and shook his head. He had no choice. He was a slave and would be until he could become strong enough to overthrow the lizard tyrant.
After walking aimlessly for hours, he finally grew bored and returned to his temporary home. It wasn't much, really. He was living like a common peasant under a stairway. He'd surrounded the small space with boxes and could only get in through a small hole near the ground he crawled through. Inside, it was dark and warm, almost comfortable as he had formed himself a sort of nest out of whatever satisfactory materials he could find: leaves, grass, abandoned clothes and other cloth. He didn't need luxury to survive. He scoffed at that idea. He hadn't known luxury for years; he hardly remembered what the word meant.
He curled up and rested his head on his arm, his tail still protectively wrapped around his waist. Without bothering to take off his boots, gloves, or armor, he fell into a fitful sleep plagued with nightmares of his tortuous, blood-filled eleven years of life.
Bulma looked out the window at the unrelenting downpour and sighed. She couldn't concentrate on her homework anymore. It wasn't particularly challenging, but her mind kept drifting back to the boy she met that afternoon. He was very, very strange. Eyes as black as coal with hair to match, and his hair stood straight up as if he spiked it with gel, but it didn't look like there was any gel in it. And he spoke some unknown language, apparently had no parents, and for all she knew he was homeless too. He was wearing really weird clothes that actually kind of looked like some weird kind of armor. He was gruff, maybe because she accidentally offended him, and he didn't seem to recognize her as a young celebrity. Not that she minded the last part.
"Vegeta," she said again, testing the way it felt to say his name. She couldn't help but think that it was a very strong name. What it meant, she had no idea, but the way it sounded made her think he was born to be a great man. Powerful. "I like it."
She found herself doodling a picture of him in her notebook when her bubbly mother came into her room to check up on her progress. "How are you doing, Bulma?" she asked as she came up behind her daughter and looked over her shoulder. Instead of seeing algebraic formulas scrawled across the page she saw a very detailed portrait of a young boy who appeared to be about Bulma's age. She giggled. "That doesn't look like your homework, dear. Who's the boy?"
Snapped back to reality, Bulma blushed three shades of red and slammed her notebook shut. "No one, Mom, just someone I met today."
"You met him at school? Is he a new student?"
Groaning under the persistence of her mother's questions, Bulma shook her head. "I met him on the way home from school. He's weird though. He doesn't speak English and he doesn't seem very friendly. And I think he's an orphan."
"Oh my!" Bulma's mother squealed. "Why didn't you bring him home with you, dear?"
Bulma started wringing her hands in her lap as she answered, "He kind of scared me and then he left. And before I could find him again it started raining so I ran home. Should I have invited him to come home with me?"
"Oh, that poor boy," Mrs. Brief murmured sadly. "All alone out there in this weather!"
Both looked out the window again as a streak of lightning lit up the darkening sky. That wasn't too inviting, and anyway, Vegeta could be anywhere. Bulma sighed and looked down at her desk, ashamed of herself for letting him get away when he might need a good home. "Well, how about if I see him again I ask if he wants to stay with us?"
Bulma smiled when she saw her mother's cheery grin return to her downcast face. "That would be good of you, sweetie. Now, finish your homework before dinner." Her motherly duties done for the time being, she left her daughter to do as she ordered and went downstairs to finish cooking. Already the savory smells of bread and spices were filling the air.
When she finished her homework, Bulma raced downstairs and set the table while her mother finished up the final touches for dinner. Dr. Brief meandered into the kitchen reading his evening newspaper and sat down at the table, muttering to himself about the absurdity of some news story and stroking his mustache. He fit the description of absent-minded professor very well, despite not teaching at any university. It was his eccentricity that endeared him to those who knew him well, and it was how hard-working, determined, and driven he was that earned him the prize of his wife's hand in marriage. She supported him through the years as he worked tirelessly on his 'crazy' invention that eventually earned them billions of dollars: DynoCaps.
He set his newspaper aside and pulled his daughter into a hug and pecked her cheek before she sat down at the table next to him. "Anything interesting happen today, dear?" he asked.
She nodded, her mind again drifting to the mysterious boy she met. "I talked to a boy I saw on the street today. I think he's an orphan and he might be homeless and he doesn't speak English and I want to invite him to stay with us if I see him again," she prattled out in one breath.
Used to his daughter's fast words, Dr. Brief chuckled and nodded. It sounded like an acceptable plan to him. He was never one to turn someone in need out, even if that person was an unknown boy who he'd never met and didn't know if he should trust around his little girl. That was his nature, though. Trusting and compassionate, he would take the whole world under his roof if he had the space and the world needed a place to stay.
Bulma grinned and jumped up to hug her father again. She knew he would understand. It wasn't as if she hadn't learned her caring ways from her parents. She was still beaming all the way through her meal despite being reminded that she needed to go to bed early that night because she had a field trip in the morning and had to be at school half an hour earlier than usual. She was a bit of a night owl and would much rather stay up late, but she agreed and, after helping wash the dishes, bounded out of the kitchen to go watch her favorite TV show before bed.
At 9:00 she forced herself to go to bed, but it wasn't until almost 10:00 that she was finally able to go to sleep. It wasn't that she wasn't tired, but she couldn't stop herself from thinking about Vegeta and her parents' approval to ask him to live with them if he needed a place to stay next time she saw him. Assuming she saw him again. That idea plagued her mind until she was almost crying. What if she didn't see him again? What if he had to live on the streets forever because she'd been too stupid to ask him in the first place? She prayed to Kami that the opportunity to take him home would arise soon.
A/N: Thus begins another freaking epic long story. I love AU's... they're the most fun to write. So much 'artistic' freedom. Anyway, this story is not actually finished yet, but I think I have enough of a head-start that I can post fairly regularly and not get behind. I'm not sure how it'll go with posting and writing like this, but I'll try it. I hope you enjoy. Leave me reviews and tell me what you think about the story concept!