A wave of unease passed over Vegeta before he even felt the retrorockets as his ship descended through Earth's atmosphere. He was, for the first time in over ten years, returning to the planet where he was welcomed, the planet he fought to defend, the planet where he would reside with his mate and son. After hoping for an uneventful return, he found himself growing increasingly agitated as he sought out the ki of the other warriors, all of whom had already come back to Earth. However, he didn't sense them; he sensed some being that was incredibly powerful, far stronger than anything he had ever encountered before.
A shudder ran down his spine all the way to the tip of his tail when the hatch lowered and they were met with a haunting silence. There was none of the normal noise of the city filtering across the compound grounds; it was as if every person in the city was in hiding – or dead. The saiyan prince barely took his first step on the firm ground of Earth after being away for a decade before someone appeared right next to him. Kakarrot. And he looked rather battered and bruised.
"Vegeta, boy am I glad to see you." Goku continued urgently, "There's no time to explain, but I need your help. Everyone else is gone."
Raditz rushed out of the spaceship when he felt his brother's ki, leaving Bulma and Trunks to finish packing everything up alone. "Kakarrot, what's going on?"
Goku looked up at his brother, then silently dismissed him as he turned his attention back to the prince. "You're the only one strong enough to help me beat this thing. Here," he said, holding out a strange earring, "put this on your right ear. It'll fuse our bodies and make us powerful enough to defeat Majin Buu."
"Majin what?" Vegeta asked, raising a skeptical eyebrow as he accepted the earring. He didn't put it on, but examined it closely. "And what do you mean fuse?"
The younger saiyan groaned exasperatedly, bouncing as he struggled to maintain patience. He checked over his shoulder before explaining more thoroughly, "Majin Buu is a monster that was revived a couple days ago and he's killed everyone on the planet. Everyone, Vegeta, except for me. All the others are gone: Gohan, Tien, Yamcha, Nappa… they're dead. And I'm not strong enough to fight this thing alone. Not after he – after he absorbed Gohan."
"What do you mean he absorbed Gohan?" Raditz demanded.
"Look, I really can't explain everything right now!" Goku snapped, balling his hands into fists. "Vegeta, if we fuse, we'll become one person and we'll have the power it takes to defeat this thing. We won't have a chance if we don't do it. Trust me!"
Vegeta shook his head and tossed the earring back to Goku. "No way am I fusing bodies with you, clown. Fuse with Raditz if it's so important."
"But Vegeta! You're stronger than Raditz, and we're definitely going to need all the power we can get. Please!"
Raditz stood next to Vegeta and snatched the earring out of his brother's hand. "I'm not as weak as you think I am, brother. I might not be as strong as Vegeta, but I'm still pretty damn strong. Or did you forget I ascended as well?"
"Well, yeah," Goku said, still clearly not happy. "But have you reached the second level?"
The long-haired saiyan shuffled his feet. "Not yet, no."
"See, that's why I need Vegeta for this one. I'm sorry, Raditz." Goku took the earring back from Raditz and shoved it into Vegeta's hand. "You can try fighting this thing without fusing, but believe me, it won't work. I've tried. And Gohan, he was even stronger than me when Buu absorbed him and stole his power. But if we fuse, we have a chance. It's our only chance."
Growling, Vegeta considered crushing the yellow earring in his fist as he flared his ki, almost instantly ascending to super saiyan. "I'm not going to fuse with you, Kakarrot. But I will fight this thing." He turned his gaze to the domed Capsule Corporation building, feeling his rage burning in his chest. Everyone on the planet was dead. Everyone. Nappa and the rest of his pack. The people he fought so hard to protect. Dead before he could return to Earth to save them.
Goku followed Vegeta's gaze and frowned, rubbing the back of his head. "I'm sorry, Vegeta, I tried, but—"
"Sorry isn't good enough," Vegeta snarled. He levitated off the ground as his tail lashed behind him. "Raditz, stay here and keep them from interfering. I'll be back soon."
Raditz nodded, backing away from the other saiyans as they both ascended to the second level, their energy whipping around them and nearly knocking him off his feet before they suddenly disappeared. "Great," he muttered to himself, "what am I supposed to tell Bulma and Trunks? Hey, I know we just got back to Earth, but Vegeta's already gone to fight some incredibly strong monster that has the power to kill him."
He turned to go back inside the ship when Trunks came running out, plowing into him full force. "Where'd my dad go?"
The third-class warrior looked down at the lavender-haired boy and sighed. "Come inside and I'll tell you and your mother what's going on." He put his hand on the boy's shoulder and guided him back inside and down to the lower deck where he found Bulma packing away the furniture she brought from home into capsules.
"There you are, Raditz. I was afraid you were leaving us to clean up by ourselves." She smiled at him and dropped another capsule in a heavily worn pink backpack. "I guess Vegeta's not going to help? You're much more a gentleman than him, honestly. Hey, now that we're back on Earth we need to find you a nice girl so you can start a family of your own."
Raditz laughed nervously as he started emptying the perishable food out of the refrigerator. Choosing to ignore her last comment for the time being, he replied, "Actually, he's not. You see, there seems to be trouble and Kakarrot just came and took him away to help fight a battle."
Bulma paused in her packing. "He's fighting? Already? Raditz, we just got back! Couldn't he have waited just a little while? Honestly!"
"You mean he left without me?" Trunks whined. "I want to fight too! He never lets me fight anyone really strong!"
"I don't think you want to fight in this one, kid," Raditz mumbled. "Maybe it would be better if – if we just left the planet. Again. Just to keep you safe until it's all blown over."
"What?" Bulma shrieked, not caring when both the full-blooded saiyan and her hybrid son covered their ears with their hands. "No way! We just got back five minutes ago! There is no way in hell I'm leaving again. Ever! And especially not without Vegeta. Are you crazy?"
Normally Raditz would have backed down after one of Bulma's tirades, but this time he wasn't quite so willing to back down. He could feel the power of the thing Vegeta and Kakarrot were fighting. He could hardly feel their power next to it, and they were both fighting at the level beyond super saiyan! There was no doubt they were going to be crushed. Unless they fused, and as doubtful as it was that Vegeta would let go of his pride long enough to join bodies with a third-class tailless idiot like his brother, he wasn't sure their combined power would be enough to defeat the monster anyway. He slammed the refrigerator door shut, nearly breaking it off, then turned to face Bulma.
"You don't understand!" he shouted. "Whatever Vegeta is fighting has killed everyone. Everyone! All your friends, even your parents! They're all dead! And if Piccolo's dead you know there's no dragon balls to wish them back. We have to go to Namek. Vegeta might very well die in this battle. We can't sit around waiting for him to return when we might end up with a confrontation with the thing that killed him instead!"
Bulma took a step back, her hand pressing over her heart. "Dead? My parents? No," she said, shaking her head furiously, "you're wrong! You're wrong, Raditz! And Vegeta can't die. Damnit, we just got home!"
"Mom?" Trunks hurried over to his mother and wrapped his arms around her, as much in an effort to hide his own fear as to comfort her as tears rolled down her flushed cheeks. "Don't worry, I'll go help him! Then he can't lose. Right?"
Raditz turned away and leaned against the counter. He took a deep breath as he rubbed his temples. "It's too dangerous to stay here."
"We can't just leave!" Bulma insisted.
He opened his mouth to reply when his senses were overwhelmed with a power so huge he crumpled to the floor in pain. Hissing, he clutched his head in his hands and looked in the direction of the power, though of course he had no hope of seeing who it was. But he knew. It wasn't the monster whose power he felt beating on his senses since landing. And it wasn't his brother or Vegeta. It was someone else entirely, someone much greater than the sum of his parts. This was what Kakarrot meant when he said they would be powerful enough to defeat the Buu creature when if they fused. Apparently Vegeta swallowed his pride – or simply became desperate enough to resort to such a humiliating technique to win.
"What is that?" Trunks asked quietly, eyes wide with awe.
"That," Raditz answered slowly, "is your father and my brother."
"What? What is it, guys?" Bulma asked.
Trunks started jumping up and down excitedly. "Oh, wow! I didn't know Dad was that strong! Awesome!"
Raditz clambered up the ladder to the upper level of the ship and stood at the hatch, bracing himself against the wall as he felt the two colossal powers collide. They were fighting halfway across the planet and he could still feel every blow in his gut as shockwaves shook the Earth to its core and thundered in the sky. It was unreal, and it was terrifying. Powers that huge simply shouldn't exist. He swallowed hard and raked one hand through his hair.
Behind him, Trunks flew up from the lower level and ran over to the hatch, practically trembling with eagerness to fight. He stopped at the open hatch and looked out in the direction Raditz was facing, hoping he could see the raging battle. But all he saw was a clear blue sky. "What's going on, Raditz? Where are they? Can we go watch the fight? Huh? Come on, please?"
"Absolutely not," Raditz answered sternly. "Vegeta would kill me if you got anywhere near that fight, boy."
Trunks scowled and crossed his arms over his chest. Raditz laughed inwardly as he saw the young prince looking like an exact replica of his father. "I bet we could help."
"I don't think they need our help." Raditz stepped back and pushed the button to close the hatch, ready to leave the planet again if he decided it was necessary. He was waiting for some kind of order to be given via his mental link, but there was a strange sense of disconnect from both his brother and his prince, as if neither of them even existed anymore. With Nappa gone as well, he felt strangely alone. It sent a shiver running through his body.
Trunks groaned as he trudged over to the captain's seat to look out the only decent-sized window of the ship. He had yet to actually step outside, not that he minded much. He spent his entire life aboard the little ship aside from stops at various planets where he and his mother would hide out somewhere while his father and Raditz went out to fight soldiers in some evil army. He didn't fully understand the details. But that was the life he knew, and after being promised a stable life where he would be free to go anywhere on the planet he wanted and never be cooped up in a little claustrophobic space again – aside from his bedroom if he got himself grounded or the gravity room when training or being disciplined by Vegeta – he was disappointed that the outside world was closed off to him before he had the chance to explore. And anyway, he really, really wanted to go see the battle his father was fighting.
"So now what?" he grumbled. "We just wait?"
Raditz nodded as he started entering the coordinates to Namek, just in case. He sighed heavily as he stared at the bright red button that would send them to another planet with a simple push. He lived most of his life traveling from planet to planet, first in the saiyan army, then as Frieza's slave, and then to help tear down the empire he helped build. After so many years of travel, the prospect of another trip to another planet and back made him feel weary to the bone. He wasn't sure exactly when it happened, but as of late all he wanted was to settle down somewhere and live life in some semblance of comfort.
Their return to Earth wasn't supposed to be like this. The ship was supposed to touch down in the back yard of the Capsule Corporation where all their friends would be waiting to greet them. Kakarrot and his family as well as the Briefs would welcome them, and they would be treated to an enormous celebratory feast. Trunks would finally get to play with Goten in person and the young prince's grandparents could fawn over the boy they never got to meet before. Raditz could play with his younger nephew, too, and talk with Goku and Gohan when he went to visit them at Mount Paozu. They could finally live in peace any way they wanted with no more threats of apocalyptic proportions knocking on their door.
It was all a fantasy, but reality didn't hit anyone harder than it hit Bulma. No longer interested in packing up, she went over to the ladder to the upper deck and climbed up to join the others. A bolt of panic swept through her when she saw Raditz sitting in the captain's seat while Trunks was sitting on the floor nearby pouting. Not good.
"What's going on?" she asked.
Raditz didn't turn to face her as he answered firmly, "Leaving Earth."
"What? Why? We can't!"
He shook his head as he slammed his hand down on the launch button. "We don't have much choice, Bulma. I thought maybe Kakarrot and Vegeta would have a chance when they fused. But their power just vanished. They're gone, which means it's up to us to go to Namek to wish them and everyone else back. And hopefully Earth will still be here when we get back."
Bulma ran over to him and clung to the seat as the rockets fired up and she felt the familiar lurch as the spaceship blasted into the sky headed for another destination that took her away from home. Understanding Raditz's decision to leave didn't make it any easier to accept. She was livid with him for leaving before they had a chance to confirm Vegeta's death. She always thought she would know if he was gone, sure that she would feel something in her heart. But she never felt anything, and believing she was leaving him to die alone left a bitter taste in her mouth as she looked out the window and saw the blue marble becoming smaller with each passing second until finally it was a tiny speck of light that sank into the darkness of space.
"I can't believe this is happening," she whispered.
Raditz finally turned, a deep frown etched on his face. "I'm sorry, Bulma. I would have given anything to stay and help them fight if I thought it would have done any good, but it wouldn't. And you know as well as I do that there aren't any dragon balls on Earth anymore, so we need to get to Namek and undo this."
"I know, Raditz, I understand," she assured him. "At least it'll only take a week to get there. I don't think I could stand a longer trip. Oh Kami, how could this have happened? Not even back an hour and Vegeta already got himself killed!"
"He's not dead, Mom," Trunks said from his place on the floor. He glared at the two adults for even suggesting such an impossible thing.
Bulma smiled sadly and nodded, a small flame of hope rekindled. If Trunks didn't believe it either, maybe it wasn't true. Maybe Vegeta was still alive, somehow. Wouldn't at least one of them have felt him leave this dimension? She just couldn't shake the thought that they would know if he were truly gone. And her thoughts were confirmed when, barely an hour later, she felt like a part of her heart had been ripped out as her mate left the plane of the living.
Vegeta blinked a few times as his eyes adjusted to the strange light of a new planet. He was standing in an open area with lush green grass with soft blades bending in a faint breeze. The sky was a darker blue than Earth, as if it were constant twilight, and here there were dozens of moons in various phases glowing dimly. Turning around, he saw a single tree, and under it sat an old man with pale purple skin, a shock of white hair, and a few white hairs on his upper lip. In front of him lay a crystal ball showing what looked like a roiling mass of chewed-up bubblegum floating in space. He was hardly able to stay standing as his knees buckled when he saw it. Buu was there, alive, and the Earth was gone.
Dazed, he half-stumbled over to the tree and knelt down in front of the crystal ball, watching as Buu used instant transmission to move to another planet and subsequently blew it up. He groaned when he saw Buu disappear, no doubt teleporting to the next unsuspecting planet.
The prince didn't bother turning when he heard the other three come up behind him to look over his shoulders at the crystal ball. Kibitoshin, Goku, and Gohan gasped when they saw the destruction. After watching helplessly as Buu obliterated a few more planets, Vegeta stood up and clenched his hands into fists at his sides. That hideous thing killed everyone he cared about, and he was sitting there watching as it continued its mindless rampage. Everyone was gone: Nappa, Raditz, Mrs. Brief, Dr. Brief, Bulma, even Trunks. There was nothing he could do to save them. And there was no time to get Raditz and his family off the planet before it was blown up. He glared down at the crystal ball as it showed Buu appear on yet another planet he didn't recognize.
"Oh no!" Kibitoshin exclaimed, "He's in Otherworld! I think he's searching for you. That's the Grand Kai's planet."
"He's in Otherworld?" Vegeta muttered as his thoughts started racing. If Buu was in this dimension, they had the chance to take another crack at him. And now, without Gohan's power, he was surely weaker. Without fusing they would surely have a chance against him. Smirking, he whirled around and stalked away from the tree. "Kakarrot! Brat! If we raise our power he'll come right to us."
"What do you mean?" Goku asked.
"He's searching for the highest energy," Vegeta explained. "So we'll lead him to us."
"Good idea," Gohan said as he came over to where the prince was standing. He spread his feet and started raising his power slowly at first, then like a whirlwind it rushed through him and exploded in a blazing aura of energy. He was soon joined by Vegeta, and finally his father. The three saiyans raised their power to new heights, each having recovered from near-death experiences, each burning with barely suppressed rage and sorrow for the death of their loved ones.
They didn't have to wait long before Buu popped up in front of them, laughing maniacally when he saw them. Ignoring him, the warriors pushed their ki higher, each more than ready to exact revenge on the pink creature. Goku was the first to feel himself reaching a new plateau, as if there was another level just a bit higher, just out of reach. Searching within himself, he discovered a deep well of primal power deeper than any he'd drawn from before, and, delving into it, he felt a new surge of energy spreading into every cell, changing his body as it grew. With a feral roar he completed his transformation, his ascension to yet a higher level.
Vegeta felt Goku's power erupt and felt a vague sense of jealousy, but he wasn't far behind. There was a dull throbbing sensation pulsating in his tail, sending ripples of beastly power up his spine and into his entire body. He felt almost as if he was about to transform into the oozaru; only the lack of blutz waves held him back from transforming, but even without it his power was nearly equal Goku's. He opened his eyes, two pools of icy cobalt, and scowled at Buu with an intensity that would have stricken a weaker opponent with paralyzing terror.
Gohan finished powering up almost the same time as Vegeta and looked up at his father and the prince, eyes widening when he saw them. Goku had hair almost as long as Raditz's, dark blue eyes, and a prominent brow ridge. His aura swelled and billowed around him as if his body was trying and couldn't contain his raw power. Vegeta hadn't changed so much, the only notable physical difference his eye color and the bolts of electricity surrounding his body were larger and lit up his golden aura farther from his body than before. That, and his very skin seemed to be glowing as though he were in the middle of a drastic transformation that he couldn't complete.
"Better get off this planet," Vegeta growled to the two kais still standing under the tree.
Trembling, the two kais nodded and, as soon as Elder Kai picked up his crystal ball, Kibitoshin grabbed his arm and they disappeared to go to another planet for safety while the saiyans battled the seemingly invincible Buu.
"So how are we going to do this?" Goku asked once the kais were gone. Nearly forgetting the threat standing close by, the three saiyan warriors started a game of rock-paper-scissors to determine who would get to fight Buu first.
With three incredibly strong and absolutely furious saiyans lined up and ready to fight, Buu never really had a chance. As soon as one tired, another would step in and try his hand at defeating him while the other recovered his strength. Goku was the first to drop out of the fight completely, his body unable to sustain the new transformation long enough to defeat Buu. Still, his help made a significant impact on Buu, who was no longer able to regenerate as quickly. Minutes dragged by like years as Vegeta was next to take on Buu, starting his fight with a powerful flurry of ki attacks that blew the magical creature apart time and time again, only to have him come together again.
Not willing to stand down, Vegeta continued fighting long after he was knocked back into his base form, his life nearly being beaten out of him as he rose again each time he was slammed into the ground with merciless strength. Strangled, beaten, shocked, cut, nothing could keep the saiyan prince down. If anything, it seemed his endurance only grew with each blow that landed on his battered body. His rage built until he felt he would burst as he faced his inevitable defeat at the hands of the monster that took the only lives he valued.
Eventually, though, he was knocked out cold and it was up to Gohan to defeat the hideous creature. Flaring his ki with a show of confident power, the demi-saiyan stepped over Vegeta's fallen body, mentally noting that he would have to keep the fight a safe distance away so the saiyan prince wasn't hurt further in the ensuing battle. By now Buu was much weaker, though still a dangerous adversary. Gohan clenched his hands into fists and phased over to the monster, kicking his head so hard it spun around without his body following suit. Then, before he could straighten himself, Gohan fired a massive beam of ki at him from above, blasting him into millions of pieces yet again.
With his full potential unlocked, Gohan was unstoppable. Filled with raging fury over the death of his little brother, mother, uncle, mentor, and friends, his power was still steadily increasing even as he fought, pouring enough energy into each attack to consume the planet a dozen times over. Even seeing his father crouching on the sideline panting heavily as blood seeped from the burns and cuts marring his body made Gohan's drive to kill the insane monster greater until he was fully on the offense and giving Buu not a second to recover from each blow. His speed increased along with his strength, enabling him to evade everything Buu threw at him with ease. Almost losing himself to arrogant pride, he found himself drawing the fight out when he could have finished Buu off once his powers of regeneration were almost entirely depleted and his attacks were sloppy and sluggish with fatigue.
"Finish it, Gohan!" Goku shouted when he saw what was happening. "Now's your chance!"
Gohan glanced over at his father, now crawling over to help Vegeta who had regained consciousness a few minutes earlier, and scowled. He didn't want to end the fight. He wanted Buu to suffer for all the damage he'd done, for all the people he'd hurt, all the lives he'd taken. Was that so wrong? Wasn't it justice for him to hurt, to feel the kind of suffering he invoked in each of his victims as he ruthlessly and senselessly tortured them?
Vegeta coughed violently as Goku pulled him into a sitting position. With a shaky hand he reached up and wiped blood out of his eyes before looking over at the fight to watch as Gohan continued beating Buu with an unexpected cruelty. Initial shock gave way to pride; though only half saiyan, it seemed Gohan still had saiyan instinct and his current behavior was almost purely governed by that instinct, the need to avenge and protect his pack. But soon he saw the same thing as Goku had already: Gohan's power was starting to decline, and before long it would drop off the charts, leaving Buu with the advantage once more.
"Brat!" he yelled, nearly ascending back to super saiyan as his anger flooded through him, "Kill him now before your idiocy allows him to win!"
Gohan looked over again, his mouth tightening into a firm line as he became more than slightly perturbed by the interruptions to his fight. Then, turning back to Buu, he made it obvious he was ignoring the others as he hit Buu with two weak balls of ki that left him staggering to stay on his feet but did little real damage. Jumping over the small creature, Gohan whirled around and kicked him into a previously crumbled canyon wall far from his father and Vegeta.
Vegeta growled when he saw Gohan's disobedience. "Fine then. Kakarrot, we're going to have to stop him before he's defeated."
"Yeah, I know," Goku agreed. Then, mustering the portion of power he'd recovered since his fight with Buu ended, he ascended to the first level of super saiyan and stood up on wobbly legs. Energy wove into each muscle fiber, but he still felt weak, as if he were barely clinging to the transformation and ready to fall back into his base form unconscious.
Vegeta also rose to his feet and groaned as his ki burned when he pushed it to achieve the ascension to super saiyan. Though substantially weaker than Goku now, he was the first to take off for the battle to try and force Gohan to finish Buu off while he had the chance. He had no doubt it was a brief window of opportunity that would soon slip away if Gohan didn't seize it.
Jumping into the fray while Gohan was digging his way out of a pile of rocks that cascaded down over him when he was thrown into the same canyon wall he kicked Buu into earlier, Goku kicked Buu in the face and infused his hand with ki to form a sort of blade as he chopped his neck, decapitating him. Obviously that wasn't enough to kill the gum-like monster, but it was a serious enough wound that it would keep him down for a few seconds at least. Goku then leaped out of the way as a beam of blue ki came barreling through the narrow canyon and collided with the remains of Buu's body, blasting him into hundreds of thousands of pieces.
By then Gohan had extracted himself from the rubble and lowered himself to his fighting stance as he waited for Buu to reform himself. "What are you doing?" he snarled.
"You have to end this while you can," Goku insisted.
"I want to make him pay!"
"Don't be a fool, boy," Vegeta spat as he flew over to them and landed behind the demi-saiyan. "I don't give a damn about mercy, but you know as well as I that your power is falling and soon he'll be able to beat you into the dirt."
Tempted as he was to ignore the more experienced warriors, Gohan forced himself to focus on his own ki and finally realized what they knew all along: instead of growing stronger, he was rapidly becoming weaker. Looking over at the writhing glob of pink flesh, he nodded. Sighing, he told them, "I'll end it now. Don't worry."
Vegeta huffed, crossing his arms over his chest as he levitated off the ground to get a safe distance away from the upcoming finishing blow. "Assuming you're still strong enough."
Goku cast Vegeta a hateful glare as he passed by him to wait for the battle to end, not appreciating the prince doubting his son. They landed under the same tree where the old kai sat earlier watching events unfold through his crystal ball. Vegeta was surprised as he watched Gohan gathering energy in his hands for a kamehameha wave that he wasn't more bitter about not being the one to deal the coup de grace. Sure, he wanted the satisfaction of vengeance for the lives of his pack, but he found that it was more important to him for Buu to die by any means than for him to die by his hand. A strange sort of peace crept into his mind as he watched Gohan rising off the ground and chanting the name of the powerful technique he learned from his father.
"It isn't going to be enough," Goku hissed.
"What do you mean it isn't going to be enough?"
"Feel it, Vegeta! There isn't a huge difference, but Gohan's power is already below Buu's. He isn't going to be able to kill him. We need to help him, now!"
Vegeta's eyes narrowed for a second as he focused on the power difference between Buu and Gohan. His lips turned down in a frown when his senses confirmed what Goku said. "Kakarrot, attack from the top of that ridge over there."
Goku looked over where Vegeta was pointing and nodded, powering up as he took off for the ridge. Landing, he cupped his hands at his side and started gathering energy for his own kamehameha wave. Meanwhile, Vegeta flew over to the opposite side of Buu so they were forming a triangle around him, each out of the line of fire in case anyone's attack missed. Vegeta took longer to summon his energy, spreading his arms out to the sides and guiding his power to the core of his being, then moving his arms straight in front of him with his hands together and facing away from him, the power he gathered now flowing into a growing orb in his hands.
Gohan, having seen the others joining him to help eliminate the monster, held his attack until they were all ready to fire. Surprisingly, Buu was taking long enough to regenerate himself that they had enough time without having to worry about him relocating or dodging before their ki beams could converge on him. Nodding to the others, Gohan released his beam of ki as he shouted, "Ha!"
Two waves of brilliant blue power rocketed toward Buu simultaneously with a beam of yellow energy. For a split second there was silence, then a massive shockwave led an explosion with a slight green tint that sent the saiyans spinning out of control away from the point of impact. They landed on the ground hundreds of feet from the explosion and rolled across the quaking ground, bits of debris battering them and cutting into their skin. There was no way Buu was recovering from that attack. Each saiyan's wave of energy had anger, hatred, and grief poured into it, magnifying the raw power until it consumed even the tiniest shreds of the monster's body.
Bulma strapped herself into the captain's seat of the spaceship as she prepared for touchdown. She sighed as she felt the ship bouncing and shaking as it entered the planet's atmosphere and the retrorockets started up to slow their descent. When they were safely on the ground, she unbuckled the safety belt and pushed the button to open the hatch, calling for Raditz and Trunks to come up from the lower deck. She clutched the dragon radar she brought along as a 'just-in-case' in her hand and walked to the open hatch to look at the alien landscape. It was backwards from Earth, with short blue grass and pure green water cutting through the dry land. The sky was a brighter shade of green with three suns hanging in the sky. It wasn't home, and it made her sick.
She didn't notice Raditz was standing next to her until he said, "I don't believe it. Trunks, do you feel that?"
The lavender-haired boy, who was standing between them, looked up at the saiyan inquisitively before looking back out over the strange land with an expression of intense concentration. Then he broke into a huge grin and jumped into the air, giving a whoop of excited celebration. "Yeah, it's Dad!"
"Huh?" Bulma looked at her son and Raditz, extremely confused. "What do you mean it's Dad? How could he be here?"
"Simple, really," she heard the husky voice of her mate drawl, "Kakarrot and I have been waiting for you to arrive here for four days."
"Vegeta? Where are you?" she squealed, running out of the ship and looking all around. Her heart hammered in her chest as she searched for him, not even thinking to look up.
Finally, she tilted her head back and saw the two saiyans hovering in the air above the Capsule Corporation ship. At first she stared at them with her mouth gaping open, unable to believe they were really there, in the flesh. "But you were – we thought you had – what are you doing here? You can't be!"
They finally landed at the bottom of the open hatch. Vegeta crossed his arms over his chest with a mischievous smirk while Goku grinned and rubbed the back of his head. "Stop your babbling, woman," Vegeta purred.
"Dad! You're okay!" Trunks vaulted over to his father and nearly knocked him over as he embraced him. "I knew you couldn't die. No stupid monster would ever be strong enough to hurt you!"
"Yes, son," Vegeta said proudly, gently patting his son's back before pulling him off and setting him on the ground. Then he turned to Raditz, who had just capsulated the spaceship and tucked it in his pocket. He hid it well, but he was as much in shock as Bulma when he saw both his brother and his prince alive and well – and on Namek.
"Vegeta, I'm glad to see you're well," he muttered stupidly.
The prince snorted with amusement. "Thank you, Raditz."
"Keeping them safe. I was afraid they were killed when Buu destroyed Earth."
Raditz's eyes widened. "He destroyed Earth?" he blurted.
"What?" Bulma shrieked.
Vegeta sighed, nodding. "That's why we're here now, woman. We couldn't return to Earth because it is no longer there. But we've gathered the dragon balls and we will wish Earth back along with everyone Buu killed."
"Oh Kami, I can't believe it," she breathed. "Good thing Raditz made us leave before that happened. Man…"
"Hn." Vegeta picked Bulma up and levitated off the ground. "Kakarrot's brat is in the village with the eldest Namek where the dragon balls are gathered. We decided to wait for you to arrive before making the wishes."
"Oh, wow, that's great! You already have them!" Bulma gave a sigh of relief and laughed as she held onto Vegeta when they started flying toward the village.
It didn't take long to cross half the planet where they landed in a small village filled with Namekians of all ages. In the center of the group stood a very old Namekian wearing a red vest. At his side stood another Namekian who appeared to be a teenager, close to Gohan's age. He was wearing a white robe with a long red vest over it. Seeing their arrival, the Namekians parted for them to come forward to where the dragon balls were gathered on the ground, shining with a warm orange glow. Gohan emerged from one of the white buildings holding one last dragon ball, the one-star ball. He grinned and waved when he saw his uncle, Bulma, and Trunks with his father and Vegeta.
"Gohan!" Trunks yelled as he broke ranks with his parents and raced over to the older demi-saiyan, enveloping him in a hug nearly as strong as the one he gave his father.
"Hey, Trunks," Gohan said, smiling as he shifted the large ball to one hand so he could hug back with the other.
Finally, the last ball was united with the others and they were ready to summon the dragon to get Earth and all its inhabitants back. The old Namekian, who introduced himself as Moori, gave the teenage Namekian a gentle nudge and an encouraging nod toward the dragon balls, giving him the honor of raising the dragon and speaking the wishes.
"Go on, Dende," Gohan said, patting the young Namekian on the shoulder. "We're counting on you to get our home back."
"Don't count on me," Dende replied humbly, "Leave that to Porunga."
"Get on with it already!" Vegeta snapped.
Smiling apologetically, Dende raised his hands over the dragon ball and started speaking his native language. Then, as they had seen on Earth so many times before, the sky darkened to black, lit only by lightning until a coiling ray of light rose out of the dragon balls and took the form of a dragon, much larger than Shenron and at least ten times more terrifying.
"What's your first wish?" Dende asked when the dragon was ready to grant their wishes.
Gohan answered, "Wish for all the planets to be restored to the way they were before Majin Buu destroyed them."
Nodding, Dende turned back to Porunga and made the wish in Namekian. A few moments later the dragon's eyes glowed and he told them, "It is done. Name your next wish."
Dende looked to Gohan expectantly, waiting for him to tell him how to word the second wish. Gohan rubbed the back of his neck as he contemplated who to bring back. "I don't think we'll get the dragon balls back on Earth if we wish Piccolo back this time. When he fused with Kami they became inert. So who do we wish back? There's only two wishes left."
Moori started laughing when he heard the dilemma the saiyan-human hybrid was having. "Don't worry about the old rules," he told Gohan. "When I became the elder I gave Porunga the power to bring back an unlimited number of lives with one wish. It seemed like a good idea after what happened with Frieza."
"You're kidding!" Gohan exclaimed. "Great! Dende, wish for everyone Majin Buu killed to be brought back to life except for all the really, really bad ones."
While Dende made the wish and they waited for Porunga to complete the wish, Gohan turned to the others and shrugged. "So what else do we ask for? There's one more wish and that covers everything we need."
"I say we wish ourselves back to Earth!" Bulma suggested. "I'm tired of this space travel crap."
Raditz shrugged one shoulder. "We could. It would save us from having to take the ship back or have Kakarrot take us with IT."
"What's wrong with IT?" Goku asked.
Raditz's cheeks flushed a little. "It's a little, er, disorienting."
"So are we going to have to come all the way to Namek every time we need to make a wish?" Gohan asked.
Goku nodded before his face lit up. "Hey, maybe not!" Without explaining, he strode over to Moori and told him, "So the Earth is in need of a new guardian since ours fused with one of our friends. Do you think anyone here would be interested in the job? It would be great if we could have a set of dragon balls on Earth too."
"Amazing," Vegeta remarked snidely, "Kakarrot had a good idea for once."
Moori smiled and guided the young Namekian Dende over to Goku, assuring him, "Dende would make a fine guardian. He's never made dragon balls before, but I think he'll do just fine."
"This is great!" Gohan said. "Dende, you do want to come to Earth with us, don't you?"
Dende smiled a little at Gohan. They had quickly formed a friendship when Gohan came with Goku years ago to wish Chi-Chi back from Otherworld. Leaving his home world would be hard, but he was glad that he was going somewhere where he would be with friends and could do good and create his own set of dragon balls. "Yes, I'd like to come and be the Guardian of Earth, if that's okay, that is."
"I'm sure Mr. Popo will be happy to have a new guardian," Goku said. "So, I guess for our last wish we want to go back to Earth."
"Okay," Dende said, but before he translated the wish into Namekian for Porunga, he went back over to Moori and some of the other villagers to say his goodbyes, certain he would probably never see them again unless some dire circumstances brought them together again. Finally, after his hasty farewells, he addressed Porunga and stated their last wish. As he spoke, Bulma wrapped her arms around Vegeta and rested her head on his shoulder. She closed her eyes and waited a few seconds, then opened her eyes and gasped when she saw she was in a forest of trees with green leaves and a bright blue sky above. Earth.
Ignoring the others around him, Vegeta picked up Bulma and gestured for his son to follow as he took to the air and headed southeast toward West City. Back to the Capsule Corporation, back to his pack. Finally, after a decade, after countless battles, after tearing down an empire, after traveling to Otherworld and back again, he was finally on his way to the compound to stay. It wasn't until he landed on the front lawn of the compound and looked up at the yellow domed building that he was sure he wasn't dreaming. He set Bulma down on her feet and stood there silently for a few minutes, gazing at the building where his pack lived.
Finally, he relented to her tugging on his hand and followed her into the compound. The scent of chocolate cupcakes baking was already wafting into the front hall from the kitchen and he could hear a small blast from the door that led to Dr. Brief's basement laboratory. They were here, alive. He could hardly understand the relief that swept over him when he knew without a doubt that the dragon managed to bring them back.
"Mom! Dad!" Bulma called. "We're home!"
Trunks shuffled his feet nervously as he waited for the grandparents he never met in person to show themselves. All he knew about them was the stories his parents and Raditz told him during their travels through space, as well as a few brief conversations via video communicators on the ship. He thought he would like them, but there was no way of knowing until he actually spent some time with them. He did know already he liked the smell of his grandmother's cooking, and he definitely liked their house. It was huge, roomy, and comfortable, definitely a contrast to the spaceship he grew up in. He jumped, startled, when the first door on the left flew open and a slim woman with a pile of blonde curls on her head ran out and rushed over to them, first hugging Bulma, then his father – also planting a kiss on his cheek – and then him.
"Oh, my, you're just adorable!" Mrs. Brief squealed, dabbing at the tears in her eyes with a handkerchief she pulled out of her apron pocket. "I'm so happy you're finally home!"
"Hi, Grandma," Trunks mumbled, a blush of embarrassment tinting his cheeks.
She was still gushing over her grandson when Dr. Brief came up from his laboratory and shuffled over to the small family. Vegeta noticed that he moved slower and his graying hair was more white. Scratch, the little black cat that always sat upon his shoulder, was still there, though she, too, looked older. It was strange that they seemed to age the full ten years, but Mrs. Brief appeared as young as ever, hardly a wrinkle on her pretty face, wearing a green sundress with white polka dots and a frilly, pale yellow apron tied around her waist. She hadn't changed a bit since the last time he saw her.
"Bulma, dear, you're looking well," Dr. Brief said as he hugged his daughter, holding her longer than he normally did. Finally, he pulled back and moved over to Vegeta, shaking his hand first, then going in for a hug as he decided it was more appropriate. "You haven't aged a day, son."
Finally, with cracking knees and a soft groan, Dr. Brief knelt down in front of Trunks and rested on hand on his shoulder. "And you must be Trunks," he said. "My, you must be nearly nine years old now. It's good to finally have you home." That said, he pulled Trunks into a hug and stroked his lavender hair affectionately.
"So where's my room?" Trunks asked once he untangled himself from his grandfather's arms.
Bulma chuckled as she took her son's hand and led him to the stairs to show him where he would be living from now on. His grandparents followed after them, asking a myriad questions and making countless comments about how well Bulma looked, how much Trunks resembled his father, and how the company was doing, both updating them on the news of Earth while begging for news of the universe and stories of their finished expedition.
After they were gone, Nappa walked out of the living room and went over to his prince, resting his hand on his shoulder as he followed his gaze to the stairs, silently showing he was happy to have him back, content to let the family reunite without his interference. Vegeta stood in the hall, unmoving, as he watched his pack disappear up the stairs, chatting happily as if they had been together for the past decade. Then he felt it again, the dread that came with absolute freedom. But that dread was soon squelched by the overwhelming peace that blossomed in his mind. There he stood, shadowed by the pride of his bodyguard and longstanding father figure, the smell of Mrs. Brief's cooking, the sounds of a happy family just around the corner. Two times he had left this place for space, seeking to destroy the creatures who tormented him. It was the third time he stood in that hall after landing on Earth. And this time, he knew he belonged here with everyone he held dear, and he would never leave it again.
Memories flashed through his mind of the first time he met Bulma, of her first invitation for him to come stay at Capsule Corporation. Back when he was a lost, homeless orphan stranded on an alien planet with no one to help him, no one to care for him. He returned years later, a desperate, homeless slave clawing for a way out of his living hell. Now here he stood in the hall after his last long journey, at peace. Through his time here, he had built many memories, forged unbreakable bonds with others, and learned to trust and love.
This place wasn't just a building anymore, a place where he could reside. After searching for thirty-seven years, he had finally found home.
A/N: The End.
Story stats at time of posting:
Other notes for anticipated questions: Goku and Vegeta both reached SSJ2 through training over the years. Goku ascended to SSJ3 because he had the strength and motivation, and in my theory, a saiyan can only reach the third level if he has no tail and is in a different dimension (Otherworld or Hyperbolic Time Chamber, for example). Vegeta, having a tail, could not reach SSJ3, but he did have the strength required to reach SSJ4 – he just lacked the required blutz waves to transform into the golden oozaru and subsequently SSJ4. Gohan was stronger than both of them once Old Kai unlocked his true potential power. As mentioned in the last chapter, I might write companion stories for the battles that were mostly glossed over. Maybe.
I'd like to sincerely thank everyone who has reviewed this story, added it to a favorites or alert list, or simply enjoyed reading it. Congratulations for sticking it out through the end! It means a lot to me when I know my story brings enjoyment to others.
Here I present a challenge to my readers: Not only would I like you to review this chapter, but I'm curious to know what your favorite chapter of the story was (and why). If you wouldn't mind taking the time, now or sometime later, would you kindly review your favorite chapter and tell me why it's your favorite? It would be extremely useful information as I continue writing stories. If you can't review a chapter because you already have, it would suffice to provide the information in a review to this chapter. Or a private message if you're shy about sharing your opinion. Thank you so much for taking a minute of your day to share your thoughts with me.
And one last special thanks to my beta-reader, lilpumpkingirl. You've stuck with me since chapter 35 and provided invaluable help correcting errors and developing the plot. You have my deepest gratitude for your input and patience with me through it all.