Chapter 53: Understanding.

Sorry this chapter was late coming. I finally got my pet Snake, so he's been occupying most (if not all) of my time. Little bugger finally ate. Thank Kami! Thanks for all the awesome reviews! Camaro: Thank you for the kind words. You flatter me!

~J.J _________________________________

Bulma stared, uncomprehending, at the face of the man she had come to love. It didn't make sense. It didn't make any sense at all. And yet. . . it was Vegeta, who stood before her.

Wasn't it?

Everything was the same. The strong, smooth line of his jaw. The sensual lips hidden by an angry scowl. The upsweep of hair that pulled back from his head in a sharp, exagerrated widows peak. His build, the way he stood with his arms crossed over his chest.

She did not understand what she saw.

"V. . .Vegeta?" she made herself say. Her lips were trembling, and her eyes were wide. She clutched the hem of her shirt and balled it into a fist. She wanted to run into his arms. She wanted to stand up and launch herself into his embrace, hug him until he couldn't breathe, tell him she loved him until he was deaf from the force of her words, but something held her back. Something like gut instinct in the back of her mind told her that she wasn't crazy, this -wasn't- Vegeta. He was Sayajin, but not her Prince.

The man standing before her peered down at her with a sudden, dangerous look. "What did you call me?" he hissed. His voice was much like Vegeta's, but different. The man sounded almost. . . aristocratic. It was arrogance, but a different kind entirely. It was a civilized arrogance. Something she did not expect from a Sayajin.

"I. . . " Bulma tried to form words. "You. . . " she was torn between wanting to run and wanting to cry.

"Out with it." The man demanded. Bulma noticed a tail lashing out behind him. She swallowed hard, not liking the sudden look on his face. Thoughts of her body being vaporized in a ball of energy cleared her head enough to speak. "Who are you?"

It was the only thing that needed to be answered. This wasn't Vegeta. It wasn't. . . was it? She needed to know. She stared at him, her eyes travelling over the same face she had stared at so many times.

A moment passed, where uncomfortable silence reined. The dangerous look began to slowly dissipate from the man's face, although Bulma felt no less terrified. Why did he seem so upset by the mention of Vegeta's name? Why. . . didn't any of this make sense? Then, the man did something she had not expected him to do. He walked toward her and extended a hand. He held it there in front of her, and she only stared at it. He waited a moment.

"I thought you humans were good at accepting help." He said smugly, and Bulma's gut twisted when a familiar sensation of anger and amusement assailed her. Not only did he look like Vegeta in every single way, but he had that same smug way of insulting her, too. She continued to stare at his hand for a second longer, terrified to take it.

"Get up." He said, motioning his hand closer. There was no mistaking the authority in his voice. Trembling, Bulma reached out and took his hand. His skin was soft and smoothed, but calloused. Just like Vegeta's. She swallowed hard, unable to look at him, and he lifted her from the ground with as much effort as it took her to lift a piece of paper. It took a second for her legs to steady.

"Your name. You said it was Bulma Briefs. Is that correct?" The dangerous look had vanished from his face, leaving a ghost of unease.

She nodded dumbly.

"It had better be. I do not take well to liars." he said. Bulma flinched at the tone in his voice. "Now," he turned and suddenly began to walk away, into the ship. He motioned over his shoulder with a wave, indicating that she follow. The man behind her, who she hadn't yet looked at, nudged her. She stood rock solid, planting her feet apart, unwilling to go.

"W. . .what are you going to do with me?" She whispered to his back. He turned slowly.

The look on his face stilled her heart. "Are we going to have a problem, Bulma?" He asked, peering curiously at her with cold amusement.

She said nothing. Finally, she made herself shake her head. She was trying desperately to figure out why these two men would want her. How did they find her? What had happened to Vegeta? What were they going to do with her?

The man behind her pushed her roughly and suddenly, startling her out of her thoughts, and she stumbled ahead into the corridor of the ship, her mind turning more and more numb by the second. The man behind her clamped one gloved hand onto her shoulder and steadied her ahead. They caught up with 'Vegeta' shortly.

"No problems, Raine?" The Vegeta-lookalike asked. Bulma stared at him out of the corner of her eye as they walked, taking in his attire. He wore form- fitting black pants, though they were not of the spandex material Vegeta so often wore. A black and silver chestplate with gold strapping covered the bulk of his torso. His neck was covered nearly to his chin with the same black material as his pants, although it was slightly tighter. Gauntlets covered his wrists. He wore traidtional Sayajin footwear.

"One beast." Raine replied. "I took care of it."

Vegeta slowed in his tracks, and Bulma's heart skipped a beat at the sudden change of expression on his face. "Ah." he said slowly, turning to her. She suddenly realised he stood a full two feet taller than her. She unconciously shrank back.

He lifted a finger in front of her face. "You lied to me."

She fought to swallow past the sudden lump of fright in her throat. "I. . . I was only worried. I didn't want to chance anything." She suddenly noticed a necklace hanging from his neck. A strange symbol glinted from the medallion; a anchor-like shape. She stared.

Hadn't she seen that somewhere before?

His face was unreadable. She didn't like his expressions; they weren't easy to decipher.

"What was this 'beast' you were hiding?" he demanded. He paid no attention to the fact that she was staring at the necklace.

Sadness battled its way through her fear, and she was suddenly overcome with sorrow for Spider and Ghost. "He was my friend, not a beast." She lifted her chin, ignoring the way her voice trembled.

"Friend?" Vegeta snorted. Beside her, Raine chuckled with him.

"Odd 'friend' to have aboard." Raine remarked. "Damned thing was a Roctorn."

"R'haksin. So that's where you've been." Vegeta said, his dark eyes flittering from Raine and back to her. He waited a moment. When he realized she wasn't going to say anything, he motioned his head toward the corridor, and they continued walking.

"We'll get you. . . settled." he said as they walked. "You get one hour, and then I get my answers."

Bulma's mind raced. Settled? One hour? Thoughts of being raped and vaporized had been tumbling through her mind, but it seemed it would not be so. Raine tugged impatiently on her arm and dragged her ahead. She finally looked up at him and nearly gasped. Raine could not be Sayajin. Long black hair hung well past his shoulders in a gentle, flowing wave. Parts of it were tied into small braids, and bones and beads and other assorted oddities decorated the length of it.

Raine noticed her staring, and turned his face to her. Bulma's eyes widened. Sharp, clear blue eyes stared back at her from a smooth, untouched face. He had a square jaw, a long nose, and thick, brooding brows. Her eyes flickered over his body for a split second. He had the build, and the tail. Yet. . . she had never seen a Sayajin so. . . pretty.

She snapped out of her staring. What was she thinking? She had to get out of here. "Where are you taking me?" she grabbed his hands, trying to pry his grip from her wrist. It was useless.

"To the brig." He replied calmly, and looked back ahead.

"No, not the brig." Vegeta called over his shoulder as they came to a stop at a door. He pressed a few buttons, and the door opened with a hiss of air. The air within was stale, and the area darker. Bulma felt relieved for the rest from the harsh brightness.

"Not the brig, sir?" Raine sounded confused.

Vegeta turned. "No." He said, inhaling a deep breath. He leveled a gaze at her that made her insides turn to jelly. "She'll come to my quarters."

Bulma's blood turned to ice at the look in his eyes.

"I think she'll be most comfortable there."


He had exhausted his body to the point of shock.

Feeling hopeless, Vegeta sank to his knees in the strange blue liquid, and ran his shaking hands through his hair. Behind him, the strange woman with the black eyes watched him silently. He had nothing left to give. No energy would come to him. He looked ahead at the endlessness of his prision, and couldn't even muster enough anger to scream.

"Do you see, now?" She asked him, her voice a distant chime.

He ignored her. All he could think of was Bulma. He didn't remember what had happened to bring him here. Where ever Bulma was, she would need his help. He could help her. He could.

"And still you keep me here." He growled softly, closing his eyes in defeat. "I can't even kill you."

The woman clasped her hands together sympathetically. "Do not hate what you do not understand, Vegeta."

He raised his head. "All for a reason, right?"

She said nothing.

Vegeta snorted, and made himself stand. His hands tingled with the exertion of sending thousands of beams of energy through them. The ki blasts had simply dissipated into the air around them as though they were nothing more than harmless bubbles. Never in his life had he felt more useless, more frustrated. He had begun to realize. . . here, he could do nothing. Here, it did not matter that he was the Prince of the Sayajins. Here, his power was useless.

"Let me go." he said hoarsely.

The woman hung her head. She had not yet given him a name, nor an explanation. She had simply watched, expressionless, as he had expended himself to no avail. "I told you, Vegeta. I cannot."

He turned to her, his eyes furious. "Bulma could be dead." he said fiercely. "I need to go to her."

She scrunched up her features into a mask of pain and shook her head. "Bulma needs something from you that is more important than your assistance."

Vegeta growled in frustration and leaned against the air. It held him, curiously. He glared at her. "I'm sick of your riddles. Speak to me straight, or don't say anything at all."

She spread her hands imploringly. "What would you have me say?"

"I'd have you tell me why I'm here, what happened to me, and why you will not let me go!" he roared, advancing toward her. His body yearned to tear her to pieces, and he felt the anger at not being able to.

Untouchable enemy.

"If you would sit, and listen with your heart, I would tell you." she paused. "Would you do that?"

Vegeta looked around once more at the strange, unending world surrounding him. He could run forever, he knew, and would find no end. He could fly as high as he dared and would find only darkness. Wherever he turned, he remained behind.

He turned to her and sighed grudgingly, sitting himself down on the ground before her.

"Speak." he said. "And I'll listen."


"Sit down."

Bulma stared ahead of her at the massive, king sized bed. It was neatley made, to her surprise. The Vegeta look-alike stood behind her and motioned for her to sit down. She stared down at the comforting offer, and then swallowed past her yearning. She turned to him.

"Why haven't you killed me yet?" She asked. "Why do you not simply get it over with?"

Vegeta's lips turned up in a smirk. Bulma looked away, refusing the sweet memories that swelled within her breast at the familiar sight. This was -not- Vegeta.

"You intrigue me." He replied simply, moving closer to her. Bulma flinched as he brushed past her with hardly a touch. He chuckled. "Do you fear me?"

"I know your kind." She replied quickly. His gaze sharpened.

"I know." He said. "That is what intrigues me."

He did not give her time to answer. "You called me 'Vegeta'." he said after a moment's pause. He was walking slow circles around her, and every move made Bulma more and more uneasy. She felt her arms wrapping around her of their own accord. "Why?"

He stopped in front of her. She was powerless to resist his gaze, and stared into it. She said not a word.

"You will find I will tire quickly of your intriguing qualities, Bulma Briefs." he said softly, but with deliberate menace.

She did not mistake the threat in his tone. "You. . . you look exactly like him." she looked down at the ground. "How do you know him?"

"I think that is my question." He replied. He walked over to the bed and undid his armor with a click, tossing it negligently onto the bed. Bulma watched as he loosened the material at his neck, rotated his thick shoulders, and tucked the strange medallion into his shirt. He noticed her watching and frowned.

"You think I mean to rape you."

Bulma was struck by his words, but found she had no retort. He was right. She had been thinking just that. Feeling warmth blossoming on her face, and a strange fear bubbling in her gut, she clenched her hands and forced them to her sides.

He snorted. "I have more honor than that."

Bulma suddenly felt angry. "What I have seen of Sayajins, I did not think 'honor' was in your code."

He cocked his head and smiled. "Oh? And what have you 'seen' of Sayajins."

"I know. . . " Bulma halted, a lump gathering in her throat. "I know one."


She nodded.

Vegeta resumed his pacing. He tucked his hands behind his back and watched his own steps with curious interest, seemingly deep in thought. "And this Sayajin would be Vegeta."

Bulma looked away. She was revealing too much. She couldn't tell this man about Goku, or anyone else back home for that matter. Yet here she was, saying most everything that popped into her head simply under the threat of torture, which hadn't even been implied.

She looked up and gasped. He was staring right at her, inches from her face.

"How do you know him?" he said quietly. "Answer me."

Bulma tried to turn away, but he grabbed her wrist and pushed her back against the wall. She shrieked out of fright and tried to struggle, but it was useless. He pushed her body against the wall with his own, and she fought desperately to remind herself that this was not Vegeta, this was not Vegeta.

He leaned his face into her neck and inhaled deeply. She shuddered, terrified for her life, and crawling with sorrow.

"How." he repeated, tightening his hold on her wrist.

She cried out, tears springing into her eyes. "He's my lover!" She nearly yelled into his face, struggling slightly.

He drew back so suddenly that Bulma stumbled forward, startled. He cocked his head to one side, regarding her with a sort of inane amusement. "Lover?" he sputtered the word with an incredulous, loud voice.

She rubbed at her wrists, wincing at the pain from her broken palm. She didn't know how to react.

"Y. . .yes." She said uncertaintly. "You do not believe me?"

He threw back his head and roared with laughter. "You've been injured far worse than you let on, human!" he shook his head. "Vegeta does not know the meaning of the word 'Love'." he snorted and walked away. "Sayajins have no use for love."

She glared at his retreating backside. "Don't sound so sure of yourself!" she said indignantly.

He turned. "I knew Vegeta well." he said after a moment. A silence stretched for pause before he cocked his head again and regarded her with a curious smirk. "He raped you, then?"

Bulma's face flared with anger and embarrasment. "How dare you speak of Vegeta that way!" She suddenly felt strength returning to her voice. "You don't know anything about him!"

"And you are daft, woman." He said, his own voice raising. "I knew Vegeta well enough."

Bulma scowled, tears running freely down her cheeks now at the memories of the Prince. "I suspect the Vegeta you knew was much different from the Vegeta I know." she said fiercely.

"His child grows within you, that is true enough. How it got there was not an act of 'Love', human." He scoffed, amused at her bewildered expression. "What? You think me a fool? I could sense him the second you walked into the ship."

"How. . . "Bulma's hand wrapped around her belly protectively. "How did you know that?" she narrowed her eyes, trying to push her fear aside. Curiousity was mounting. "I knew Sayajins could sense Ki. . . but how did you know it was Vegeta's son?"

A smirk. "Because I am Vegeta's brother."

Bulma's heart skipped a beat. "What. . . ?" Her eyes grew wide. Brother? "How. . . that can't be."

"Why not?" He asked, amused. He ignored her as she stumbled forward into a chair against the wall, one hand pressed to her chest and the other steadying her decent. She lowered herself into the chair, her heart thundering, her eyes wide. Brother? Why had he not told her of a brother?

"He did not know."

Bulma's head swivelled around. Fear lept into her throat. "What?"

He frowned, staring into the distance. "I was born a secret. I was not as strong as the Prince, and therefore, I was not the destined heir to the throne of Vegetasei." he paused. "My brother went on for greatness, while I remained a discarded plaything. I wasn't enough, but I was powerful. Thus, they made the decision not to kill me."

"Play. . . thing?"

He walked over to the large window beside the bed, clasped his arms behind his back, and gazed out at the stars. "You know. If we hadn't found you, we'd have spoiled a truly good thing."

Bulma inched back in the chair. "What do you mean?" She whispered, caught in his cold gaze as he turned on her.

"Vegeta's son." he shook his head. "Why he chose a human eludes me." he turned from the window and walked over to her chair, ignoring her sudden frightened cry. He took her wrist and pulled her up.

"What happened. Why is your Earth not demolished?"

Bulma's mind raced. She couldn't tell him about Goku. . . but what if he already knew? Vegeta was dead, but even she did not know for sure. Could she tell him these things? What would he do?

"If I tell you. . . you'll still kill me." she said hoarsely.

He made an exapserated face and rolled his eyes, dropping her wrist from his grip. "You humans truly are insipid creatures. I will not kill you. Not while you are of value to me." she followed his gaze down her body where it rested on her belly.

She did not mistake the meaning of his look.

Her blood ran cold.

"I'll kill myself." she said firmly, taking a step back. "I won't let you have him."

He chuckled. "Really. You'll kill yourself, and your unborn child. The child of the man you foolishly love."

"Do not presume to call it foolish." She whispered with venom.

"And what else would I call the rape of a human woman? Do not fill your pretty little head with such delusions. You mean nothing to Vegeta. He merely used you as a shell for his heir."

Bulma stared at the Sayajin before her with cold fury. Slowly, she reached up to where her collar was, and began to undo the buttons at her neck. Slowly, and with careful deliberance, she rolled the material down to where the twin bite marks should be. Fighting to control her fear, she prayed for her fingertips to find the marks. They were her only proof now. They were her only memories.

She shivered as she touched them. Heat sprang into her fingertips as they connected, and she turned, triumphant, and proud of the man she loved, to show her glory to the critic before her.

The man's eyes grew wide and cold as he took in the site of the bite marks. The symbol of the Sayajin Bond.

The symbol of true and honest affection, the only affection for one such as a Sayajin.

Furious and bewildered, he grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her to him, inspecting the marks with a frantic denial.

"Everything you know about your brother is untrue." Bulma said as he shoved her roughly away. She stood a proud woman before him, her love proven, Vegeta's honor safe. "Vegeta is a good man. He is not the man you once knew. If you think to use his child. . . for whatever means, I will kill myself."

She turned to him with her own look of furious determination. "Do not presume me a fool, simply because I am a woman."

The man stood at the window, his fists clenched, his eyes uncomprehending. Fury and bewilderment coursed through his veins, a curious mix. She had been right. Vegeta had. . . Bonded with a human.

He turned slowly.

"Everything I knew of my brother. . . was hatred." he stared at her as she stood holding her belly. "He knew not of Love. He knew only death." he swallowed. "We knew only death."

Bulma looked away. "You can change. Vegeta did."

"You speak of him as though he is gone."

She raised her head, suddenly frightened, and tried to think of an answer.

"I. . . "

He chuckled softly, shaking his head. "It does not matter. I sensed he was dead."

Bulma stared.

"It's true. . . then?" she whispered, stepping towards him. "You cannot sense his ki?"

The man turned, and Bulma saw sorrow in his expression. "I have tired of talking."

"Wait! You can't just-"

She was cut off as he stalked toward her, his face a deadly warning. "I can do whatever I want." he hissed. "I'll have no lip from you, human."

"I have a name." Bulma snapped, amazing herself at the familiarity of the situation. Constantly, she was finding she had to remind herself that this man was not Vegeta.

The man seemed not to care. "You'll stay here tonight." he said sharply, motioning toward the bed. "Tomorrow, you are up early. You will work for me."

Bulma stepped toward him. Her head was bogged down. She couldn't think fast enough. "Wait! What do you mean, work?"

"I mean, you'll work." he hissed through clenched teeth. Bulma couldn't understand why he was suddenly so angry, but she knew Vegeta had something to do with it. "You can work, can't you?"

"I'm pregnant." Bulma mumbled feebly, knowing it was a sorry excuse.

Just as she knew he would, he shook his head with a sneer and waved a hand at her. "You are only a few weeks along. That won't be your excuse for months to come."

The room was spinning.


"What sort of work do you expect me to do?" she asked. Her tongue felt thick and useless in her mouth.

"Are you any good with machinery?"

For a moment, Bulma considered saying nothing. Feigning obliviousness. After all, women did not know a wrench from their elbow, right? He could believe her. She would lie.

And yet. . .

She searched for steel resolve within herself. "What if I can? Does that make me of use to you?"

"That. . . and a few other details." He said, his anger vanishing at the hint of her sudden strength.

"I know a fair bit about machines." Bulma said after a moment. She looked him in the eye. "I'll fix whatever you need me to fix. . . on one condition."

The glare returned. "There will be no conditions."

"You will allow me to return to my ship to collect a number of things. The Roctorn included."

"It is dead. Useless to you."

"You do not know that."

"Raine does not mistake his kills."

"Your ship has malfunctioned, hasn't it?"

A silence stretched between the two. Human and Sayajin regarded one another with a cold, defiant hatred. The Sayajin needed her. She needed the Sayajin. Neither would admit it, but both knew.

"You need me." Bulma affirmed softly.

"Get your rest." He said, turning his back to her and stalking toward the door. "I will be here early tomorrow morning. You will rise when I have need of you. Do not try to escape; Raine will be positioned outside this room."

Bulma looked down at the floor. "May I at least have something to eat?" she asked quietly.

Cold, black eyes flickered uneasily toward her for a moment, and then hardened abruptly. Saying nothing, he turned and exited the room.

The door slammed shut behind him, the locking mechanisms sliding into place with a loud clank. Bulma slumped to the floor, her bravery gone. She hugged her knees to herself, and finally let herself go.

Where ever her Hope was now, the stepping stones were slippery. _______________________________________________________________________