I'm back with more Blending In. Yes, this is the second time I've posted this chapter. I realized after I posted it the first time that I needed to continue the chapter rather than jump to a new chapter due to plot construction issues and avoiding adding unnecessary conflict that was going to derail the main plot (long story…. I've thought about this for a while). So, if you've already read the first part of this chapter, sorry. Jump down about halfway to see the new material.
Ooh, and don't forget to read the author's notes at the end. I'm doing something a little different in the next chapter, and I need reviewer help. :)
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Chapter Nineteen: Gravity Room
In the months following Nappa's reanimation, the two Saiyans rebuilt the little house in the woods with the help of their new friends. The rest of Vegeta's summer was spent sparring with Goku and hatching plans with Bulma to reverse engineer the Saiyans' space pods into a faster, more efficient interplanetary vehicle.
In fact, Vegeta found himself spending more and more time with Bulma. Even more than he spent training with Goku. The pair's conversation the night before the Dragonball wish, regarding Vegeta's desire to return to space and defeat his former master, led to many shouting matches. Most of these centered on Bulma's belief that Vegeta was crazy to want to actively seek out someone who definitely wanted to kill him. But eventually, Bulma agreed to take the technology from Vegeta and Nappa's space pods and create something that would allow Vegeta to train at a higher gravity and increase his potential before he launched into space and confronted Frieza. A gravity room would give him a fighting chance.
Understandably, Nappa would be very much against Vegeta's plan to return and face Frieza. That's why Vegeta simply didn't tell him. Sure, Vegeta told his guardian about the gravity function of the spaceship. He just didn't tell him that it could fly.
Bulma figured out a way to bypass the activation code sequence easily enough. So, as far as Nappa was concerned, Vegeta's increased time spent with Bulma must have been due to romantic attraction rather than technical dependency.
And even though Vegeta hesitated to admit it, Nappa's suspicions weren't completely unfounded.
Bulma's technical prowess had impressed Vegeta since the two had first met. The more time he spent with her, the more he found her intelligence fascinating. And that wasn't all. She believed in his character, even though she knew the truth behind his past. She stood up to him during any argument, even though her power level was less than some bugs on planets Vegeta had purged. And the way she looked, dressed in that grungy jumpsuit and covered in engine grease after hours of working on the gravity room, made his breath catch.
In the lucid times in between these weaknesses, Vegeta reminded himself that his mission to defeat Frieza came first. But when he was in the moment, sitting up with her late at night in the lab or hanging out with the group when Goku, Chi Chi, Bulma, and he went on what he and Bulma vehemently claimed were not double dates, he couldn't help wondering what it would have been like if she had kissed his lips instead of his forehead that night.
When such distracting thoughts clouded his mind, the only relief from his frustration came from training. Sparring sessions with Goku became daily events. However, Chi Chi seemed to be trying to return the favor of Bulma's matchmaking by having Goku hint to Vegeta to start an official relationship with Bulma. Goku's inability at subtleness could have been humorous, if it wasn't so annoying.
"Enough, Kakarrot!" Vegeta spat as he redirected Goku's axe kick, knocking the other Saiyan off balance. "I have more important things to do with my time than win Bulma's affections. I don't need a girlfriend!"
Goku regained his footing in the field outside Vegeta's house. "Aw, come on Vegeta. It's not so bad. And Chi Chi wants us to go on real double dates."
"I don't care what your harpy wants me to do," said Vegeta.
"Hey!" Goku crossed his arms and pouted. "Don't call Chi Chi names."
"I'm done talking about this." Vegeta stomped away.
"Wait," called Goku. "Where are you going?"
"Bulma's putting the finishing touches on the gravity simulator tonight."
Goku laughed. "I really don't believe you when you say you don't want to date her."
"Go home, Kakarrot," said Vegeta. "I'm going to test out the machine. That's it."
"Admit you like her."
Vegeta growled a response.
"What's this about going to Capsule Corp. tonight?" Nappa walked into the clearing from the pathway to the house. "I was just coming to tell you dinner's ready. Now you're leaving?"
"Gotta go," called Vegeta over his shoulder. "We're turning on the gravity machine tonight."
Nappa shared a knowing look with Goku. "Well, don't stay out too late. And wear your jacket." Nappa picked up Vegeta's jacket from where it lay, forgotten on the ground.
"Yeah, yeah," Vegeta swung the light jacket over his shoulder and took off, flying towards the setting sun.
Vegeta arrived at the back entrance to Capsule Corp. labs just as the sun sank below the horizon. He used his personal key card to let himself in and switched on the lights, revealing the finished gravity room, which would also eventually shuttle him back to face Frieza. The spherical ship loomed over the lab, the product of three months of fabricating and Bulma's technological ingenuity.
"You're here early." Bulma entered from a side door. "I thought you'd be sparring with Goku for another hour or so."
Vegeta smirked. "Not when I could be here." He hesitated for a moment and then added, "Trying out the machine."
Bulma's rolled her eyes. "Well, let's try it out, then. Ready?"
"Sure it will work?" Vegeta prodded.
"I'm the one that programmed it," Bulma swaggered over to the external control panel. "It's going to work." She turned and stuck a finger into Vegeta's chest. "As long as you don't push it too far to fast." She deftly plugged in a sequence of code and rotated the dial 10 degrees. "20 times Earth's gravity."
"I could handle 100 times Earth's gravity." He grabbed the dial and twisted it a full rotation, but the numbers didn't change.
"I put in a failsafe, because I know you," said Bulma. "It only goes past set benchmarks if I put in a password. Let's start out with something I know you'll be able to survive."
"I could handle it." Vegeta stood back and crossed his arms over his chest, flexing his biceps to prove the point. "What's the highest it goes?"
"200 times Earth's gravity, but today, we're staying at 20."
"I won't even break a sweat," he complained.
"You just came from sparring with Goku. You already smell." Bulma turned her nose up and walked away. "Are you getting in or not?"
Vegeta lifted his arm, sniffing his own odor. It wasn't that bad.
Once inside the Gravity Room, lit by dim red bulbs, things began to heat up fast. The extra energy burned to compensate for the increase in gravity produced a sheen of sweat instantaneously. It felt great.
Vegeta's home planet's gravitational pull was about 10 times what Earth's was, but adding another 10 G's to that made even the simplest movements difficult. Just the way he liked it.
After a quick stretch, which proved a work out in itself, Vegeta fell into one of his favorite fighting forms. The difficultly of performing even those practiced movements excited him.
Vegeta emerged from the simulator an hour later on wobbly legs. The short time spent in the room felt more like a day-long training marathon than a measly sixty minute workout. This Gravity Room was going to boost his potential faster and more efficiently than training with any opponent. He wondered what gravity level Goku would be able to handle. Surely not as much as he would.
"What were you saying about 100 times Earth's gravity?" Bulma asked sarcastically. She handed Vegeta a water bottle as he collapsed in a nearby chair.
"That I'm going to work up to it," Vegeta laughed, accepting the drink and pouring half of it on his head. "But set the level to 30 next time."
"So what'd you think?" she asked.
"I need something to hit, though," Vegeta panted. "Maybe some bots?"
"Okay, Mr. Needy," said Bulma. "I guess bots would be a good project." Bulma sat on a second chair and leaned back. "But I was thinking of putting in a stereo though," she mused. Bulma looked over at the clock on the wall and stretched. "It's already nine-thirty," she yawned. "You'd better get back home. I'm going to bed."
"But I've stayed up all night with you to work on this before," Vegeta complained. He did not want to leave. Not after just one workout.
But Bulma was already powering down the machine. "Tomorrow's the first day of school, Vegeta," said Bulma. "I have to get my beauty rest, so I don't look like I've been in the lab all night."
"Who are you trying so hard to impress anyway?"
Bulma rolled her eyes and locked the gravity simulator with a few keystrokes.
"Cheer up," said Bulma. "We're starting our senior year!"
"Hurray," Vegeta deadpanned. With a grimace, Vegeta stood. Stupid password.
"Whatever," said Bulma. "Go home. I'll see you tomorrow."
So, Vegeta left, not looking forward to starting school again. With Nappa back and a whole summer passed for the student body to cool off, it didn't look like Vegeta had any option but to return to high school. Not without some serious badgering from his guardian, which Vegeta would rather avoid.
Vegeta flew home, wandering if one summer really was enough time for a whole school to forget about an alien blowing up the gym.
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No. The other students at West City High School had not forgotten that the gym had been blown to pieces by an alien, apparently trying to collect a bounty on Vegeta's head. Instead, over the summer, tales of the event had churned long enough in the rumor mill that the story sounded more and more like an urban legend rather than anything resembling the truth. "My best friend's boyfriend stayed in the gym, and this is what he saw."
Most of the returning students probably didn't even believe the myths they recirculated to the incoming freshmen, all of which eyed Vegeta with a mixture of awe and pure terror as he entered the building.
He had to admit, it was nice to be respected, but the suspicious glances of the older students and gaping stares of the younger ones legitimately creeped him out.
Vegeta found Bulma in the lobby, comparing newly printed schedules with Chi Chi. He approached, sidestepping a freshmen girl that looked like she either needed to faint or wanted his autograph. He couldn't tell which.
"Looks like you've got fangirls now, Vegeta," remarked Chi Chi, as the younger girl caught herself staring, ducked her head, and scuttled away.
"Wait till they find out he's a prince," teased Bulma.
"A fact I'd rather not share with everyone, thank you." Vegeta took out his neatly folded schedule from his jacket pocket and handed it Bulma, trusting her to find any classes they had in common.
"Now that the cat's out of the bag, I figured you'd want to bask in the glory of your new fame," laughed Bulma, holding the two schedules side by side.
Contemplating this statement for a moment, Vegeta responded with a shrug. "Nappa's not going to be happy about this. I was supposed to keep a low profile."
"How exactly did Nappa get you enrolled again anyway?" asked Chi Chi. "You didn't even show up for the last month of class."
Bulma answered for him, not looking up from the schedules. "Dad helped Nappa draw up some paperwork claiming illness or death of a family member and that Vegeta had to stay home to care for him."
"I guess that's not a total lie," said Chi Chi. "You just kind of combined the two situations." She scanned the crowd. "Has anyone seen Goku this morning?"
On cue, Goku rounded the corner, clutching a steaming breakfast burrito in each hand. "There you guys are!" he said. "The food truck across the street had a two for one special this morning. Want one?" He offered one of the foil-wrapped entrees to Chi Chi. It oozed refried beans and eggs and smelled like it might have an entire bottle of hot sauce poured on it.
"No thanks," she eyed the burrito with revulsion. "I already ate."
With a shrug, he downed the burrito in two bites.
Bulma handed the schedule back to Vegeta. "History with me sixth period. Don't be late," she said. "Goku, let me see yours."
Goku fished a crumpled schedule from his backpack, smoothing it on his leg with his free hand. He handed it to Bulma.
After a quick scan, Bulma's face lit up. "Awesome!" she said. "We've all got lunch together again."
The bell rang, and students hurried to make it to class.
"Meet at the same table," she called as she dashed away.
Vegeta awkwardly made it through the first day back at school. Though not as dauntingly difficult as his first day in the spring, his return brought up new challenges. The teachers seemed even more unnerved by his presence than the students. Not that he really cared what anybody here thought of him.
Regardless, it was going to be a long year.
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Okay, I'm doing something a little different for the next chapter, but I need reviewer help. I'm writing a bunch of short 100-word drabbles taking place over the next year of our heroes' lives. Everything from holidays to silly "slice of life" situations, centering on the development of Bulma and Vegeta's rocky relationship. So, if you have a prompt for one of these, let me know in a review.