Oh, hi there. Sorry it's been so long, guys. I didn't mean to go five months without an update. I promise I've been thinking about this story, but I just never got around to writing more. I reached one of those plot traps that tend to fall from the sky, and I had to chip through it with a blunt spork until I got free.

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Chapter Fourteen – Rain

Physical wounds heal faster than mental ones.

Within a week, Vegeta's exhausted body recovered fully from his battle with Zarbon. He returned to his exercise routine, using a spare laboratory as a makeshift gym. Living in the middle of a city had its disadvantages. Mainly, a large population made it impossible for him to practice in the open. Humans don't do well when they see someone flying through the sky, openly firing energy blasts. Stunts like that tend to end up on the evening news, Bulma constantly reminded him.

In fact, the evening news had a variety of theories on what exactly transpired the night of the West City High School dance, ranging from a gas explosion to a terrorist attack. According to the news, the government quickly dismissed most of the eyewitness reports revolving around aliens. Vegeta wondered why.

Bulma shrugged the whole situation off. "Earthlings aren't ready for the whole alien thing, I guess," she said.

When West City High School reopened a week later, Vegeta did not return. Nappa's original plan to keep a low profile by attending a high school no longer seemed applicable. There was no way he could go back there now. Regardless of the government's view, the students and faculty at the school had witnessed Zarbon call him out at the dance, connecting the two in the explosion and damage.

Bulma and the rest the group did their best to curtail the rumors circulating about Vegeta at school, but in the end, even Bulma agreed that it might be best if Vegeta took the rest of the year off.

He wasn't welcome there anymore.

Not that Vegeta cared.

So, instead of returning to the classroom after the school reopened, Vegeta played hooky.

"What are you going to do with yourself when you're not at school?" Bulma asked on the third morning as she gathered her school items and placed them in her backpack. She picked up her umbrella and slipped the strap onto her wrist. "That laboratory can only take so much before it collapses."

Vegeta stretched on the couch and shrugged noncommittally. Bulma spoke the truth. The spare laboratory he had been using as a training area wasn't exactly his first choice, and he hadn't been particularly careful with the walls. Most now sported large dents and burns. A testament to his unyielding aggression.

"I'm sure I'll find something to do," said Vegeta.

"Well, just be careful you don't collapse the building," she said with a smile as she opened her umbrella to shield her from the rain on her way out the door.

Vegeta waited until he heard the hum of Bulma's air car fade into the rainy distance before he leapt from the couch. He was not going to spend the day in the makeshift gym, and he certainly was not going to spend it on the couch. No, Vegeta knew where he was going. He had waited long enough.

He walked nonchalantly through the rain to the edge of the Capsule Corp. complex and blasted into the sky. Icy raindrops soaked his clothing and flattened his bangs as he climbed upwards into the cloud cover.

With his body healed, it was time to face his mental anguish. Vegeta adjusted his course and headed home.

Little remained of the little house by the woods. From the air, the charred wood beams and surrounding dead grass scarred the green land. It was hard to believe there ever used to be someone living inside.

Vegeta landed gently in front of what used to be front door. The actual sight of the house was even worse than he imagined. There were no fire fighters this far away from the city. The fire Zarbon started when he attacked Nappa burnt itself out. There really wasn't much left.

Vegeta picked his way through the wreckage. Everything smelled like smoke. The stench choked his senses, and he brought his t-shirt up to cover his nose.

The damage in the kitchen was the worst. Zarbon must have blasted his way into the house from the roof above, no doubt catching Nappa off-guard. The collapsed debris of the ceiling covered the floor, and rain soaked the ground. Vegeta shuffled across a wooden beam towards his room.

When he reached the doorway, he stopped. Everything familiar in the room was gone. The few books and clothing items Bulma or Goku had rescued in the days following the fire really were the only visible things worth saving, but that didn't mean there wasn't something else.

Vegeta reached his closet and found the one thing he was searching for under a pile of ash. From the charred remains of his closet, Vegeta pulled forth his Saiyan armor.

He knew it would still be there. The designers built the armor to survive higher temperatures than the house fire. Through the flames, it had remained intact.

Vegeta wiped the soot from the strong, flexible material with his damp sleeve. Good as new.

With his armor in hand, Vegeta turned his back on the shell of the little house and left. He walked in the rain through the woods to a clearing he knew well. Hidden under the branches of a long-dead fallen tree, rested two round spaceships.

Vegeta rested his palm against the cool metal of the nearest ship. The rain softened the coat of grime that had built up on the surface during his time on Earth. The grit shifted under his fingers.

Vegeta withdrew his hand and reached inside a compartment in his armor, pulling out a small remote control. Pressing a series of buttons released the hatch on the ship. It opened with a slow whine.

The familiar stale odor of dried sweat and blood wafted over him. As did the memories of time spent cramped in the small ship. Inhaling a quick breath of the forest air, Vegeta ducked into the ship, tossing his armor down beside him on the stained seat.

Vegeta turned his attention to the control panel of the ship. Three exposed wires stuck out of the panel like unruly weeds. Reconnecting the blue wire would restore power to the ship. The yellow would activate the navigation systems. The red wire controlled the homing signal and the communications system. All three connections were required to launch the ship.

Today, Vegeta would only be priming the power and navigation. Connecting the red wire would instantly alert Frieza to his location, and he didn't need to add that complication until he was absolutely sure he was ready. Today was not that day.

Vegeta reconnected the blue and yellow wires and sat back into the seat as the control panel pulsed with light.

"Activation code," prompted an automated voice.

Vegeta lazily typed in the eight-digit code he had used since childhood.

"Unrecognized," stated the voice. "Please enter activation code."

That was strange. He sat straighter in the seat and reentered the code. Perhaps his muscle memory had faded from the months on Earth. He would type it in more carefully this time.

"Unrecognized," stated the voice again. "Please enter activation code."

Was this even his pod? Maybe he opened Nappa's by mistake. Vegeta glanced around. No, he recognized the frayed fabric from when he used to pick nervously at the upholstery after battles when he was little and the blue trail of smeared Azulurian blood in the shape of a space slug to the right of the dashboard. This was definitely his ship.

Upon further observation, Vegeta saw a folded piece of paper sticking out of the console above his head. He grabbed it and read Nappa's writing.

Vegeta, if you're reading this, then you've probably figured out that I changed the activation codes to the space ships.

"Obviously, Nappa," said Vegeta through gritted teeth.

I didn't want you sneaking out one night and launching into space and getting yourself killed. We're staying out of it here for a reason. If this is an emergency, come talk to me about it. We'll figure out something together.

Nappa

Vegeta crumpled the paper into a ball and incinerated it angrily with his energy. "Nappa, you idiot," he snarled. Vegeta began wildly typing in codes. He tried everything from his birthday to the date the Saiyans proclaimed victory over the Tuffles. His official power level. Nappa's power level. Random numbers. Everything. Nothing worked. It would take a lifetime to crack the code. "No, no, no!"

Vegeta exited the craft, slammed down the hatch, and kicked the metallic hull. Vegeta released the rage threatening to overwhelm him. He screamed towards the rainy grey sky. "I can't! I can't come and talk it out, because you're dead, you fool!"

Vegeta sat back on his haunches and took a shaky breath. "What now?" he mumbled as he lowered his face into his hands.

At the same instance the thought struck him, a bolt of lightning danced across the sky.

"Zarbon's ship." Vegeta stood with a sly smile. He knew that code by heart. Zarbon boasted about it all the time. It was Zarbon's own power level. 00023148.

Vegeta shot into the sky. The craft would be nearby the house. After a few minutes of searching, Vegeta found it in a crater surrounded by a grove of trees. Unfortunately, it was less than intact. Burnt pieces of wreckage from the ship lay strewn about the craft's landing crater. Vegeta landed in the mud.

In his mind, he knew what happened. After Zarbon attacked Nappa, Vegeta's guardian did what he could to keep the prince safe. In a last ditch effort to keep their location a secret, Nappa must have destroyed Zarbon's ship just as he did the alien's scouter before he caught up with them in the park. Protecting him to the end, but at the same time cutting off any route of escape.

"Nappa, you fool." With something between a sob and a moan, Vegeta sank to his knees on the forest floor, pounding the wet leaves into the muddy ground. "I wasn't strong enough to stop Zarbon by myself. I'm not strong enough to beat Frieza. And now, I can't even get off this back-water trash heap of a planet. Are you happy, now?!"

Another dead end. No activation code, no space ship. No space ship, no escape. Earth was the end of the line.

Unless, he could figure something out fast, Vegeta would be fated to live the rest of his life trying to pass for an Earthling. Not an acceptable scenario, but what else was there?

Utterly defeated, Vegeta sat heavily on the root of one of the downed trees. He leaned back against the bark and let the rain fall onto his face.

Vegeta let acceptance wash over him. He sighed. It looked like his mind was made up for him. Vegeta certainly didn't want to spend an eternity on Earth, so wishing for it was out of the question, for now. Wishing Nappa back, it was.

At least, now he didn't have to wallow in uncertainty. His path was finally clear. Oddly, once he realized this, he felt more than a little relieved. Like he could suddenly breathe easier, because he wasn't drowning in his own indecision.

This didn't mean he was happy about it. No, he wanted nothing more than to beat the activation codes out of his soon-to-be reanimated guardian. But for now, he had to settle for knowing he would see Nappa again.

The more he thought about it, the more at peace with the situation he became. He still had time. With Zarbon's tracking signal disabled and his scouter destroyed, Frieza didn't have a lock on his location. He wasn't coming any time soon. Vegeta would become stronger still.

Vegeta returned waterlogged and chilled to Capsule Corp. with an hour to spare before Bulma arrived home. He took a hot shower and put on dry clothes and felt a lot better about life in general.

Just as Vegeta settled back onto the couch, the door opened, and Bulma entered.

"It's raining cats and dogs out there," she said as she shook the water out of the umbrella at the door. "Don't tell me you've been on the couch all day."

"Nope," said Vegeta, sinking into the cushions.

"So then, you found something worthwhile to do on your rainy day?" she asked.

"Yes. I did."

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I love water imagery, you guys. It's an addiction, but I can admit that I have a problem. That's a start, right?

Also, this quote:

"... millions long for immortality who don't know what to do with themselves on a rainy … afternoon." ~ Susan Ertz

IMPORTANT INFORMATION:
FYI, I've started an Ask Young Vegeta blog on Tumblr. For anyone that ever wanted to ask our favorite teenaged Saiyan a question, now's your chance! (The blog is set in the DBZ universe, not this AU.)

I'm not allowed to add a link on this page. Just search "Ask Young Vegeta" on Tumblr. It'll get you where you need to go.