Chapter 12

Bulma Brief didn't flinch when she felt an ominous presence behind her. At first it had bothered her when she could sense Vegeta near her but not be able to see him, but over the days and weeks it became the norm. Since the day of her return from East City, she had only rarely seen him, but she knew he was almost always with her. Invisible, close yet distant, like a ghost. More like a poltergeist in his case.

Capsule Corporation had been running smoothly in every department and sales revenue was still increasing. Already the company had broken previous daily sales records six days in a row. Her public announcements and live interviews had gone over well, and as predicted she was cast in the role of victim, which helped Capsule Corporation bounce back from its troubles quickly.

Bulma doodled in the margin of a contract with StarKORP for Capsule Corporation's hostile acquisition, her pen darting up and curving down to the right, then squiggling back to the left. She had no design in mind since her thoughts were on other matters, questions she had been entertaining for quite some time now. Questions about her otherworldly benefactor, mostly.

Trusting him was proving to be more difficult than she imagined. She had always thought trusting was a simple choice; you trusted or you didn't, and you wasted no more energy on it. Not so. Deep down she couldn't help doubting her decision. Images of Faust being torn apart by Mephistopheles plagued her mind, flashing like scenes from a movie whenever she closed her eyes. Each time she would snap her eyes open as an involuntary shudder ran its course through her body. She would remind herself, "He's giving me this power. I can back out if I want." But she could never bring herself to back out, not yet. Later, she would do it later, after she had experienced true power. Besides, Vegeta wouldn't rip her body to shreds and drag her soul to hell, would he? Could he? What was he, anyway? What did she really know about him? Not much.

Her pen moved in a jagged line like a flame of fire and dipped down, arching up and down like she was writing the letter 'M.' Finally she looked at her doodle and saw that she had drawn a picture of herself and Vegeta. Her brows creased in confusion as she stared at it. They both looked so happy in the picture, like they actually enjoyed being together. Face burning red, she scribbled the picture out and hastily signed the contract without reading it.

"Did you do that?" she asked testily. It wouldn't be the first time Vegeta had controlled her actions while her mind was out to lunch. She could sense him moving around her, stopping next to her. She imagined him leaning against her desk with that infuriating self-satisfied smirk plastered on his face. From the corner of her eye she could see a sort of shimmering, an almost indiscernible distortion in the air, but there was no form.

"Why would I suggest such a foolish thing as happiness with you?" She heard him ask this, but his voice seemed to rise from the depths of her subconscious rather than where he stood. His words carried a bit of sarcasm, but they still stung with truth.

She frowned and tapped her pen against the desk. "Do you really hate me that much?" she tried to ask levelly, but her voice still wavered slightly.

Vegeta snorted and suddenly she felt something soft and warm wrap around her wrist. For a split second she interpreted his gesture as consolation, but then he jerked her out of her chair to stand in front of him. His outline became clear first, the way her reflection would clarify as the ripples in a pool of clear water died out. An instant later and she felt herself plunging into the abyss of his eyes. While his tail uncoiled from her wrist he raised his hands and cupped her cheeks, leaning forward. She pursed her lips, afraid he was going to kiss her. He smirked, then started laughing in cruel amusement.

"I do not hate you, woman. Hate implies I care deeply about you, wanting to cause your demise. I have no such desire." As he spoke his hands put increasing pressure on her until she felt like he was crushing her skull. All she could do was whimper in fear and pain, putting her hands on his wrists to try pulling his hands away to alleviate the pressure.

"Stop it," she whispered. She saw a bolt of wicked satisfaction shoot across his dark eyes before he dropped his hands to his sides. Bulma released a shaky breath and took a step back from him, rubbing her cheeks gently.

"You're weak," he said, sneering at her. "I could never care for a creature as pathetic as you."

Bulma turned away from him, her hands balling into fists. "You don't care at all? Then why help me?"

He grabbed her shoulder and spun her around to face him again. She winced as his fingers dug into her skin and briefly wondered why he always had to be so rough with her, but her thoughts were interrupted by his words: "Your success matters to me, therefore your well-being matters. I care little for you, but I do care about your position in this world."

"At least you're honest," she muttered glumly. She tried to ignore the pain in her heart like it was being pierced with an ice-cold dagger. Cold loneliness froze the blood in her veins. Why did it hurt so much? Why should she care how Vegeta felt about her? As long as he would help her, it was irrelevant if he cared about her for her or her prominence in society. It wasn't as if she cared about him, after all, just the power he could give her. It was a strictly professional relationship between them.

Bulma looked down at her feet and wiggled her toes, free from shoes at the moment but confined to black stockings. She took a deep breath and released it slowly, then looked back up at Vegeta. The intensity in his eyes was unnerving, making her wonder what he saw, what he was thinking and feeling. "Fine, I couldn't expect anything more, could I?" She paused, waiting for some reaction, but she received none. "I mean, it wouldn't be fair to want more from you when the only thing I care about with you is how much power you'll give me."

Slowly his eyebrows rose, then a smirk twisted his lips, revealing the tip of his sharp canine. "And that, little woman," he said, stroking her cheek with his knuckles," is why I chose you."

Bulma swatted his hand away like a pesky mosquito hovering in front of her face. "What does that mean anyway, that you chose me? Since I've agreed to trust you, can't you maybe tell me more about yourself? And saiyans?"

His smirk grew into an irritatingly cocky grin. "You're curious to know if I intend to rend your body to shreds and cast you into hell. No, I don't."

Even as relief cascaded through her in calming waves she blushed when he voiced her foolish fears so plainly. "I didn't really think you would," she mumbled defensively, again looking down at her feet. Shrugging, she glanced off to the side. "I mean, like, what are saiyans? How do you choose humans? Why do you choose humans? How do you get a – a – what do you call it? Compulsion?"

Vegeta brushed past her and stared out the window. He didn't appear to have his eyes fixed on anything in particular, yet he watched something intently. Bulma tried to follow his line of sight, but all she saw was clear blue sky. She wondered what he was seeing that she wasn't.

"Saiyans," he started, bringing her attention back to him, "are beings of another realm. We inhabit the same planet but on a different plane of existence. Along with saiyans is a whole array of species of plants and animals that do not exist on your plane."

Bulma rubbed the back of her neck, processing the information in silence. "Almost like overlapping parallel universes," she breathed in awe.

Vegeta cocked his head to the side. "Perhaps." He shrugged and continued, "For all of human history the saiyans have been choosing humans of a particular drive, a compulsion. It is unknown why or how this practice started, but saiyans cannot deny the call to claim a human."

Bulma crossed her right arm over her chest and rested her left elbow on it, tapping her chin with her finger. "Huh. Why can you see us but we can't see you?"

"The barriers between realms is transparent to us because we can cross them. The only way you can is if we help you." Vegeta reached out, passing his hand through the window. She couldn't see his hand outside. "We can be as much in your world as we want. Most saiyans choose to never enter it physically."

"Why?" Bulma also reached out, but her hand hit solid glass. She was almost disappointed that her hand didn't sink into the glass the way his did.

Vegeta smirked. "Your realm is inferior."

Bulma tried to smack his shoulder, but her hand went right through him. She felt nothing except warmth where he was. "You jerk!"

He laughed tauntingly and disappeared. "Foolish woman."

"Hey! Hey, come back here!" Bulma shouted, spinning around in a circle. "You haven't answered all my questions yet!"

'Should've known he wouldn't tell me everything.' Grumbling, she returned to her seat and picked up the next file to read through in her inbox. The difference in number of papers stacked in her inbox and outbox was staggering, and not in her favor. Well, the day was only beginning; she had plenty of time to get through everything by evening. Assuming she could focus on her work instead of saiyan-human relations.

Bulma reached across the table and squeezed Yamcha's hand gently. They were on their first real date since the Global Series, and as far as both were concerned it had been too long. But Bulma had been kept busy at Capsule Corporation and traveling to give news interviews and introduce new technology to the scientific community of the world. She had also had to testify in court against Ayatsuri Ningyō, which ended with him being convicted to 11 years in prison. The guilt she experienced was only vaguely bothersome, no worse than a persistent fly buzzing around the room. Despite all her work, though, and the satisfaction of regaining power and clearing her company's name, she had missed Yamcha and was pleased to finally get a chance to spend some quality time with him.

Yamcha smiled at her lovingly, taking in the beautiful sight of her aqua curls almost glowing in the candlelight, the brilliant gleam in her cerulean eyes, and the shine of her pink, glossy lips. "I've missed you," he said softly. "I've barely seen you lately."

Bulma glanced down at their hands and nodded. "I know, I've been busy. There was a lot of cleaning up to do at Capsule."

He sighed and leaned back in his chair, never taking his hand away from hers. "I know, babe, but I wish you had more time for me."

"I'm sorry." She shifted her gaze back to his face and smiled. "Things are calming down at work now, so I should be able to see you more."

Something had changed in Bulma since her stay in East City, but Yamcha couldn't quite pin it down. She had always been headstrong and confident, independent almost to a fault, fiery and passionate, a vixen that ensnared his heart with her charm and quick wit the moment he met her. She was still all of these things, but her spitfire personality seemed almost muted, as if she were standing strong and proud as ever but with the calm assurance that someone stronger was behind her, supporting her. Had she found religion? Yamcha doubted it; perhaps she was simply relying on drugs again? He frowned subtly, almost imperceptibly.

"I – I was thinking," he said. Bulma waited for him to continue, but he looked away and rubbed his hand over his head, exhaling heavily.

Bulma squeezed his hand tighter, reassuring him, urging him to continue. "Yes?"

Yamcha laughed nervously and shook his head. "It's nothing, really. Not a big deal."

She pouted and pulled her hand away, crossing her arms over her chest. "Come on, tell me." Behind her she could feel Vegeta looming over her, making a slight shiver trail down her spine that continued on down her legs and ended as a tingling in her toes. He was upset about something, obviously. Her expression twisted in confusion. When had she started sensing Vegeta's mood, and how? Casting that thought aside for later, she refocused her attention on Yamcha.

"It's just that I thought, maybe, well…" he trailed off, suddenly taking great interest in his fork. He picked it up, examined the tines carefully, attempted to bend one back into place, failed, and set the fork down again, dropping it at the last second so it clanked against the tabletop. He winced and laughed nervously again, rubbing the back of his neck. "We could uh, we could see each other more if, uh, what I mean to say is… if we lived in the same house. You know?"

Bulma raised an eyebrow. "You mean live together?" she asked flatly.

Yamcha waved his hands in front of him. "No, no! That's not, I mean unless you want, I meant we could… get married?" he ended in an uncertain squeak.

Bulma's eyes widened until she thought they might never close again. "You're asking me to marry you?"

"Well, uh… yeah?" Yamcha rubbed his hands together, then rested them on the table. Then he rubbed them together again. Bulma could see sweat marks on the table where his palms had been.

Bulma forced herself to maintain a straight face. "So where's the ring?"

Yamcha stared at her blankly for a few seconds before frantically patting his pockets in desperate search of the ring he hadn't yet shown her. He gasped when he didn't feel it, then blushed a deep scarlet when he realized he didn't have it. "Uh, oh shit. Hold on a minute." He practically leaped out of his seat and ran out of the restaurant to look in his car.

"Okay, Vegeta," Bulma said tersely, "Hand it over." She held her hand out and waited. A few seconds passed during which she felt an increase in Vegeta's moodiness. Then a small black velvet box materialized in her hand. With a roll of her eyes, she spat, "Thank you."

Vegeta sat down across from her, now faintly visible like a prototype hologram. Bulma was surprised to see him, but she knew no one else could. The ever-present scowl on his face was deeper than usual and sparks of violent power shocked the air around him as his body glowed with an ethereal blue light. Bulma almost wished she couldn't see him; though she had known he was upset about something, she hadn't prepared herself to see his raw fury.

"What's wrong?" she asked, now knowing full well what was getting under his skin.

He snarled. "You know damn well what's wrong." She could see his tail lashing at his side like a whip.

Bulma turned the small box over in her hands a few times. "Yeah, I guess I do. You're mad that Yamcha wants to marry me. And you're even angrier that I'm going to say yes."

"You're mine," he growled.

"Hate to break it to you," she said snippily, "But I'm still human and I still need companionship that you can't give me. Deal with it!"

Vegeta brought his fist down on the table. Had he been fully in her realm the whole table would have shaken. She could even imagine the clattering of the plates and silverware as they bounced from the force. She looked up at Vegeta, holding his gaze despite the chilling effect his anger had on her. "And you can't stop me."

Vegeta growled loudly, the sound echoing and resonating through her head. "You will not, or I will leave you."

She crossed her arms over her chest, her jaw set stubbornly and eyes narrowed. "You can't. I'm yours, as you continually remind me. You claimed me because I'm the only human who can satisfy your compulsion."

Vegeta scoffed and mimicked her posture. "You know nothing about that."

"Only because you won't tell me!"

"Why should I?" he sneered. "If you intend to marry that fool anyway –"

"He's not a fool!" Bulma yelled. Immediately she slapped her hand over her mouth, horrified when she remembered she was still in a restaurant. Glancing around, she smiled apologetically at the other diners who paused in their conversations to glare at her and her obscene lack of etiquette.

"He's not a fool," she repeated, this time in an indignant hushed tone. She forgot no one else could see Vegeta and so didn't concern herself with the fact that she looked insane having a heated argument with a chair.

Vegeta snorted and shook his head. "He won't make you happy."

Bulma eyed him warily. "And how would you know?"

"Whereas you care only about power," he said, leaning over the table, "he cares nothing for it."

"Maybe that's not such a bad thing," she bit back, pushing her chair back a few inches to escape the shadow of his imposing form.

"Maybe." Vegeta's eyes shifted to the side. A flame of hellfire flashed through them as he turned back to her. "Don't forget what I said."

Bulma glanced over to where he had been looking and saw Yamcha coming toward her with his head bowed and hands shoved deep in his pockets. She turned the little box around in her hands a few more times before setting it on the table and folding her hands in her lap.

"Kami," Yamcha mumbled, taking his seat, "this is so embarrassing. I have no idea where…it…went?" He looked up questioningly when he heard Bulma giggling.

"It's right there," she said, dipping her head toward the table.

Yamcha groaned when he saw it. "You've got to be kidding! It was here the whole time?" He rubbed his hand over his face. "Man, I fucked that proposal up."

Bulma shrugged one shoulder. "Yeah. Why don't you try again and do it right this time?"

Relief washed over him like a splash of cold water after a long game. Nodding dumbly, he snatched the box off the table, slid out of his chair, and knelt on one knee. Grinning, he flipped the box open and held it out to her. "Bulma, will you marry me?"

The question hung in the air, but Bulma discovered she was having trouble making a decision. She wanted to be with Yamcha, but Vegeta's words continued echoing in her mind. Would he really leave her? Would she lose her power? She bit her bottom lip as she hesitantly accepted the ring.

"Yes. Of course." Bulma slipped the ring on her finger and turned her hand from side to side, admiring the glittering diamonds as they caught the candlelight. "It's beautiful."

"I hoped you'd like it."

Bulma smiled and hugged him as he stood up, burying her face in his shoulder when she heard a deep growl that raised the hair on the back of her neck. "I love it. And I love you."

"I love you too, B." His words should have set loose a bunch of butterflies inside, but all she felt was emptiness. Seconds turned to minutes as she waited for them to hatch from their chrysalises in her heart, but they never emerged. She knew then that she had made the wrong choice, but her pride wouldn't let her recant her answer.

'You're right,' she admitted reluctantly to Vegeta.

"Of course I'm right." Vegeta appeared behind Yamcha, an expression of disgust marring his face. Spitting, he turned his back on her and faded away.

'No! Don't go! Oh Kami, Vegeta, come back! I need you!' Tears filled her eyes when she heard no spiteful remark. She had made her choice and she would suffer the consequences. Now all she could hope was for happiness with Yamcha despite Vegeta's warning.

Kakarot stood in front of Vegeta, trying to block his path, but he kept getting pushed aside. "Come on, Vegeta, wait! She's right, you know, no one else will satisfy you."

Vegeta only quickened his pace, growling when Kakarot stayed in his path, walking backwards as he tried to reason with him. "Get out of my way, Kakarot. I don't need her for anything. She didn't heed my warning and now she'll pay for her disobedience."

"But Vegeta—"

"Enough!" Vegeta roared. An orb of deadly blue ki erupted to life in his hand, shining hauntingly in his eyes. "Get out of my way, fool. I have lost patience with your insolence."

Kakarot searched his face for some sign of indecision, but all he saw was stubborn determination. Unyielding as always. Kakarot knew better than to try his luck with the prince. "Okay," he sighed, stepping aside, "but I still think…"

Vegeta bumped his shoulder roughly as he passed. "I'll let you know when I'm concerned about what you think. Until then, keep your stupidity to yourself."

Clenching his fists, Kakarot watched him as he stalked away, tail slashing the air behind him. "Why does he have to be like that?" he asked aloud, frustration and exasperation tightening his throat.

"He always has been an obstinate brat."

Kakarot jumped and whirled around, simultaneously dropping to one knee and crossing his right arm over his chest when he heard his king. "My lord, forgive me – I didn't mean to insult…"

King Vegeta held out his hand to silence him. "You have a right to your anger," he said, "and frankly I share it, though for a different reason."

"I don't think it's good for him to leave her."

King Vegeta frowned and shook his head sadly. "Not entirely, no, though I think he has become too attached."

Kakarot nodded slowly, unsurely. "My lord?"

The king was silent as he contemplated something. "You can't let him abandon the human girl. Make him realize his mistake, but I also don't want him with her too much."

"Er…" Kakarot rubbed his head. "How am I supposed to do that?"

"You'll find a way." King Vegeta turned to leave.

"But sir, he won't listen to me!"

King Vegeta waved his hand dismissively. "He'll listen. Just make him think it's his idea."

"But…" Kakarot stood up and rested his hands on his hips, head cocked to the side. Great. Wonderful. Fantastic. How was he supposed to convince Vegeta of anything? If he wouldn't listen to his father, the king, why would he listen to a third-class warrior?

"Think of it as a battle," he advised himself. "A head-on attack never works on him." He sighed. "But I'm terrible at deception." It seemed impossible, but he had to find a way to use honesty to trick Vegeta into believing he reached the conclusion on his own that he couldn't simply leave the woman for a single act of disobedience. So what truth could he use to get Vegeta to see reason through his rage and jealousy? He knew in his heart that marriage was righteous, something sacred and pure, but Vegeta cared little about that. He stood still for a long time thinking about human culture and marriage and what he knew about it, but in the end he decided he needed to do some research. He looked around, peering through the barriers between realms to orient himself in the human world, and headed for the nearest newsstand in the city to start his education on human marriage. Simply by reading the headlines of several magazines and tabloids he made two important observations: the first was that divorce among the rich and famous was expected, yet ridiculed; the second was that weddings were celebrated even if the chance of divorce was looming in the future. Kakarot didn't think this was much to go on, but it was a start in his assignment to push Vegeta back to the human woman.

A week had passed since Yamcha's proposal and already everyone in the world knew Capsule Corporation heiress Bulma Brief was engaged to baseball superstar Yamcha Bandit. For once Bulma didn't mind all the talk about her personal life; all the excited reports gave her confidence that she really could be happily married to Yamcha.

But during that week she had not once felt Vegeta's presence nearby. He was gone. Maybe she would have Yamcha, but she was bound to lose her power if Vegeta was as angry as she believed. Probably he was angrier, actually. She was haunted by the vision of him fading away, leaving her life forever. Sometimes she thought it had all been a delusion and she had finally regained her sanity, but he had been too real to believe that theory. She could remember him so vividly it was almost like he was with her again, feeling his eyes chilling her heart or setting her afire with energy and creativity to pour into her business dealings. Over time she found she even missed his alien odor, so strong and masculine, somehow comforting yet invigorating, almost instilling a sense of ferocity in her when she caught the intermingled scent of blood and death on his breath.

"Please come back," she would whisper and press her fingers to her temples as she waited with bated breath, straining her senses until she got a headache from trying to hear him. But no matter how long she waited or how persistently she begged for his return, he never came.

Bulma sat down at the kitchen table after a date with Yamcha, sighing heavily. Her chiffon and satin dress rustled softly as she crossed her legs. "Mom," she said quietly, "do you think marrying Yamcha is a good idea? What if it doesn't work out?"

Mrs. Brief turned from the sink where she was washing the dinner dishes and pulled her yellow rubber gloves off. "Having doubts, sweetie?" She frowned sympathetically and sat down in the chair next to Bulma. "I think that's normal."

"Yeah, I guess so." Bulma leaned over and rested her head on her mother's shoulder. Mrs. Brief put her arm around her and hugged her tightly. "I'm just afraid that by marrying him I'm losing something even better."

"Like what?" Mrs. Brief rubbed Bulma arm soothingly. "You already have everything you need."

Bulma closed her eyes and inhaled the sweet, comforting aroma of sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla that had become engrained in her mother's hair and skin after many years of baking. "You're right. I'm just a little nervous. You like Yamcha, don't you? You think we'll be happy together?"

"Of course, honey!" Mrs. Brief stroked Bulma's hair and kissed the crown of her head. "He's a wonderful man, sweet and charming, very handsome, and very much in love with you."

"You think so?"

"It's the most obvious thing in the world." Mrs. Brief smiled at Bulma when she sat up and brushed some loose hairs from her face.

Love. Wasn't that the key to happiness? Wasn't that the thing many people searched for their whole lives and never truly found? Why, then, wasn't it enough for Bulma to know Yamcha loved her? Loved her for her, not her money or fame or beauty? She forced a smile and nodded. "Thanks, Mom." Bulma stood up and stretched, feeling only a little relieved. Maybe she was being nervous about nothing. She needed to relax and trust her own judgment. If she said yes to Yamcha, there had to be a damn good reason. She loved him! Just because she didn't always feel it didn't mean it wasn't true.

"And love," she assured herself, walking to her room, "is more important than power. Right? Right."

She pushed her bedroom door open and dropped her cheerful façade when she felt loneliness in the room. No more phantom lurking behind her, no more voices in her head, no more frightening shadows on the wall. She was absolutely alone here for the first time in…she shook her head. The first time in a really long time. It should come as a relief. And yet…

"Vegeta," she breathed, "where did you go? Why won't you come back? Can you even hear me?"

No answer. She collapsed on the bed and gave only a half-hearted fight against the tears flooding her eyes. Sniffling, she buried her face in her pillow and cried until she fell asleep.

Kakarot dodged a ki beam, throwing himself into a series of handsprings that quickly moved him across the training grounds. Breathing heavily, he only barely managed to duck under a roundhouse kick but was unable to escape the follow-up ki blast aimed at his back. He fell forward and rolled over, crossing his arms over his chest to block Vegeta's next kick.

Vegeta cursed under his breath and landed a few feet away, crouched in a defensive position. While Kakarot staggered to his feet he started gathering ki in his hands. "You should concede, clown," he panted, "before I kill you."

Kakarot rested his hands on his knees, trying to catch his breath. He had been sparring with Vegeta for over three hours, so ending the fight sounded good, but he wouldn't end it by giving up. Once his breathing had almost returned to normal, he straightened and shook his head. "No way. I'll never concede."

"Fool!" Vegeta shot his ki at Kakarot and followed him with it when he leaped out of its path. Tired as the other saiyan was, his ki caught up rapidly and overtook him in a blinding explosion.

"Too bad it wasn't enough to kill him," he spat, walking through the billowing dust to Kakarot's limp body. "How pathetic."

Kakarot wasn't unconscious thought. Groaning, he sat up and shook some of the dust out of his hair. "Wow, that was really good, Vegeta."

Vegeta snarled. "What the hell does it take to knock you out? Your damn skull is too thick."

"Maybe." Kakarot grinned. "Do you really believe she won't be happy with him?"

"I don't know who you're talking about." Vegeta flew high above the training grounds and began gathering energy for another devastating attack.

Kakarot got to his feet and cupped his hands at his side. A blue glowing sphere started building as he prepared his counterattack. "You care about her, don't you?"

Vegeta nearly lost his control over the ki in his hands he was so surprised by Kakarot's question. "You fool, I don't give a damn about a filthy human!" In his rage he released his attack.

"Then why –" Kakarot grunted when he fired his own wave of ki and they impacted in the air between them. "Why are you so mad about her getting married?"

"This topic is not up for discussion!" Vegeta roared, thrusting more energy behind his attack.

"Cause I mean, I figured you would want her to marry eventually," Kakarot ground out. He felt his arms burning as he fought to keep Vegeta's attack in check. "Wouldn't it help her?"

Vegeta pushed even more into his ki beam until he could no longer see his opponent around the bulge of burning energy in the middle. How dare the fool tell him what would help Bulma gain power! He knew nothing about it. Besides, Vegeta was less concerned about the probable rise in power and more about the woman's disobedience. If he told her she couldn't do something, she couldn't do it. But the foolish wench defied him. He wouldn't forgive her. And anyway, how would marriage help her gain power? What a ridiculous idea. Marriage between humans was based on love, and love was well known to be the greatest weakness to infect any sentient being.

Kakarot pulled back some of his energy when he felt less resistance from the other side. Now he could dimly see Vegeta beyond the brilliant light, and he could see a frown growing as his brows scrunched in thought. "Hey, Vegeta?"

The saiyan prince shook his head and looked down at the ground where Kakarot was still holding off his ki. Quickly, he poured the last of his ki into it, watching as it took Kakarot by surprise and swept over him. He remained hovering in the air for some time before dropping gracefully, his boots tapping lightly on the hardened soil near the crater where Kakarot lay unconscious. His tail flicked a few times before coiling around his waist. What a fool, planting annoying thoughts in his head. Annoying thoughts that made too much sense.

Bulma had been sitting in her car for nearly twenty minutes parked in front of a small shop. She glanced over at it periodically, almost curiously, then her eyes would dart back to the odometer and her fingers would resume tapping against the steering wheel in a rapid, impatient rhythm. She had no reason to be impatient. She wasn't waiting for anyone. She stole another glance at the shop door. It welcomed her with the assurance that the shop was open for business. She looked away again.

"What the hell am I doing?" she wondered aloud. Kami, she had no idea. She resituated herself in her seat and began tapping her foot to give her hands a break. "Just go in. Sheesh, it's not like I have anything to be afraid of in there."

Sighing, she covered her eyes and released the tension in her shoulders. She was being childish. And why shouldn't she be excited to go in instead of apprehensive? She didn't know. Sometimes she felt like she didn't know anything anymore the way she was always second-guessing herself. "Maybe this isn't a good day to do this." Not that any other day would be better.

'Okay, Bulma, one more minute, then you're going in.' She rested her forehead on the steering wheel and counted the seconds. At sixty she gritted her teeth and lifted her head. Before she could change her mind again she opened her door and stepped out. At that instant a large truck sped by in the driving lane, blowing Bulma's skirt up, which she almost used as an excuse to dive back into her car and drive away. But no – she was Bulma Brief, and she was going to do this!

Smoothing down her skirt, she marched to the shop entrance and yanked the door open. It was like walking into a winter paradise with all the pure white, lace, and glittering jewels around her. The angelic beauty of it stole her breath away. "Wow…"

"Miss Brief?"

Bulma looked over at the woman who had spoken to her. She was very short with platinum blond hair that stopped at her chin. She had soft hazel eyes and a kind smile. Bulma nodded. "Yes, that's me."

"Pleased to meet you," the woman said, shaking Bulma's hand. "I'm Lillie Blanc, but you can call me Lill."

"Hello, Lill."

Lillie turned and made a sweeping gesture with her arm around the shop. "You're free to look around, but did you have any particular style in mind?"

"Not really." Bulma glanced around, overwhelmed by the vast selection.

Lill's smile faltered a little. "Oh. Well then, let's start trying things. Here," she said, guiding Bulma by the elbow, "you can use this fitting room."

"Thank you," Bulma mumbled. With a soft sigh she opened the door and hung up her jacket and purse. "Guess I'll start looking around." She stood in the center of the shop turning in a circle with no idea where to begin. Honestly she didn't feel like beginning at all. She was tempted to grab her belongings and leave without trying a single thing on.

Seeing Bulma's dilemma, Lill pulled her to the nearest rack and started looking through the selection. "What size do you wear, Miss Brief?"

"Uh, four." Bulma, somewhat startled, watched wide-eyed as Lill started pulling a variety of gowns off the racks, carrying them all to Bulma's fitting room and hanging them up. Long before she was done Bulma was holding her face in her hands and shaking her head. 'This is going to take all day.'

Hanging her head, she trudged to her fitting room to start the long process of choosing a wedding gown. If she was lucky the first one would be "the one" and she'd know it without comparing it to any others.

But the first wasn't "the one." Nor was the second, the third, fourth, or fifth. In fact, after the tenth dress Bulma wasn't any closer to finding it. The problem wasn't that she didn't look like a princess in every dress she tried; no, the problem was that she simply couldn't see herself marrying Yamcha in any of them, and she knew the reason wasn't the dresses. She just didn't really want to marry Yamcha. She frowned at her reflection in the mirror and scowled when it frowned back at her. She shook her head. "This isn't the one."

Lill barely managed to hide her exasperation. "What's wrong with this one, Miss Brief?"

Bulma shrugged. "Nothing. I just don't want it." This was pretty much what she'd said about every one of them so far. Not very helpful when trying to narrow the search for the right one. "I'm sorry. I don't think I'm for this today." And probably she never would be, but she kept that to herself.

Lill gaped at her for a moment, then cleared her throat. "Yes, I understand. Would you like to make an appointment for a later time?"

"No." Bulma went back into her fitting room and started tugging the last dress off. Lill rushed in to help her before she ripped it in her struggle.

At first Bulma appreciated the assistance, but soon she felt like she was being forced back into the dress more than helped out of it. "What the hell are you doing?" Bulma growled.

"I might ask you the same thing!" Lill snapped.

"I'm trying to take this thing off!"

Lill paused to exhale slowly through her nose, releasing some pent up frustration. "Then why do you keep pulling it down?"

"I'm not!" Bulma told her acidly. "You're the one doing that."

"I can assure you I'm not."

Bulma felt like her knees were going to give out. "You're not?" She stood still, her head engulfed by white satin and organza. "Vegeta?" she whispered.

"You're a fool, woman." Vegeta flipped the dress back from her face.

"What are you doing here?"

"Excuse me, Miss Brief?"

Bulma turned around and shoved Lill out of the fitting room. "Excuse me for a minute!"

"But Miss Brief –" Bulma slammed the door shut.

"What," she repeated, resting her forehead against the door, "are you doing here? I thought you left me."

Vegeta shrugged and leaned against the wall, crossing his arms over his chest. "I did, but I've changed my mind. As have you, I see."

"I – I didn't – not yet," she finished in a mumble.

He snorted. "And you're not going to. You're going to marry that fool, but not for love; you're going to marry him to save your pride."

Bulma finally turned around to face the saiyan. Her face was flushed and her hair mussed, standing on end with the static from the layers of fabric she had been fighting with a moment earlier. She looked wild. "What the hell! Last I knew you wanted me to yourself! Now you want me to marry Yamcha?"

"Yes." Vegeta laughed at her dumbstruck expression. "Were you hoping I wouldn't so you would feel justified in calling off the engagement? You fool, do you know what that would do to your public image?"

"My image?" Bulma slid down to the floor and hugged her knees to her chest. "It would be ruined."

He nodded slightly. "In your world image is power. Do you want to lose that?"

"But – but I won't be happy." Bulma tangled her fingers in her hair. "Oh Kami, what do I do? I can't win."

Vegeta huffed. "It would have been better for you to have obeyed me."

"I guess." Bulma groaned miserably and buried her face in the white cloud of fabric that surrounded her. "Couldn't you make him out to be the bad guy?"

"Would you really want me to ruin him?" Vegeta watched her shake her head and scoffed. "You're weak. Besides, marrying him would improve your image more."

She looked up at him. "Why?"

"Humans value family, do they not?" Vegeta pushed away from the wall, his tail flicking as a smirk grew on his lips. "So you will live up to their ideals."

"I'd rather change their ideals," she groused. "Why should I meet their expectations? I'm the one with the power! I should be free from ass-kissing!"

Vegeat crouched down in front of her, his cold onyx eyes holding her captive. "You are an idiot. It takes more than a few well-spoken words to change an entire society's values. It takes years of gradual change, more years than you'll likely live."

Bulma grabbed the front of his shirt and was momentarily distracted from her building rage by her curiously about the stretchy material. She pulled it and watched it pull away from his chest where she held it, but the rest still fit snugly against his body. Shaking her head, she raised her eyes to meet his again. "What's the point of having power if I can't change society if I want?"

"You can change it," he said, pulling her hands away, "but you won't see the change right away. You only facilitate it. Regardless, you're avoiding the point: you are going to marry Yamcha, and you're going to pretend you're happy with him."

Bulma dropped her hands in her lap. "I never was good at faking." She bit her bottom lip. "Seriously, it would be easier to just not marry him."

"You should have thought of that before you blindly accepted his proposal." Vegeta stood and turned away. She watched his tail flick back and forth, reminding her of an irritated cat. "Having power does not free you from the consequences of your choices, woman. You should remember that next time you want to disobey me."

"Yeah, yeah, I got it." Bulma rolled her eyes.

"That's good," Vegeta growled, grabbing her arm and dragging her to her feet," because next time I won't be so forgiving."

Bulma whimpered, rubbing her shoulder she was sure he almost pulled from its socket. "This is forgiving?" she hissed. Her mouth drew down in a frown when he didn't respond. She saw that he was gone. "He could have at least helped me out of this damn dress!"

She looked at herself in the mirror and turned from side to side, reevaluating the dress. She pulled her hair back at the nape of her neck and gave herself a dazzling smile. "Definitely not," she said with a fading smile, dropping her hands to her sides. "It's way too poofy."

Sneering, she threw the door open and shouted at Lillie to help her out of the dress. She spent two more hours trying on dress after dress, all the while wondering why Vegeta couldn't just tell her which one to get if he was so obsessed with running her life. Obedience. It had never been Bulma's greatest strength, but it never even occurred to her that she wasn't obligated to follow his instructions.

A/N: This chapter wasn't all that hard to write, but it did take time with work and a whole lot of stuff going on in life. But I got it done for you, so enjoy and review, please. And congratulations, if you're reading this you made it through the ides of March!

Beta'd by lilpumpkingirl