Bulma put one foot in front of the other, making her way down the main hall, glancing at her radar discreetly and trying to stay out of the way of the bustling servants. The Royal Wing was just past the double doors that loomed a few hundred feet in front of her, and her radar was telling her that ki's lined the hallway beyond. Royal Guards. She gulped.
He wanted her to just...walk through the enormous, busy palace like she did it every day! And sashay down the hall like, like some...some lady of the night? Her heart was thumping inside her chest, her mouth was dry, her hands were clammy. Had he informed the guards? Would they kill her on the spot? Damnet, she had had enough of this feeling for one day!
The day had been impossibly long and draining; she was tired and hungry. She just wanted this over with so she could go home and help Gohan with his homework, indulging in her few, simple pleasures, before falling asleep.
The crowd began to clear the last dozen feet. Worrying her lip, she approached the guards at the door, who stood rigidly against the wall staring at her.
"State your business."
"I'm here to see the Prince?" She answered meekly. Would they believe her? All she wore were her scrubs under her lab coat, her shoulder length hair tied loosely at the nape of her neck. There was no persuading anyone she was here for...carnal pleasures. Gack. She hoped he knew what he was doing, because she wasn't convincing anybody.
She nodded weakly.
One of the guards opened the door for her. "You are expected."
She shuffled nervously between them and across the threshold. The door shut behind her heavily, startling her, and she glanced back and saw that one of the guards followed just a few steps behind her. He remained silent, watchful.
Acknowledging the escort with a sigh, she again put one foot in front of the other and made her way down the wide hall. It was dimly lit, the weight of the darkness and the oppressive quiet disarming. The hall was long, with no door in sight. The floor gleamed white alabaster, with bolts of red and black, her loafers slapping against it softly. Along the walls were murals, depicting giant apes howling at the moon, beating their breasts, traveling in hordes over a rocky, desert landscape. Lots of portraits of Oozaru battling among trees dripping with vines. Where were the forests on Vegetasei in which the Oozaru learned to climb and developed thumbs and tails? She considered the wonder of the shapeshifting Saiyans, whose ape forms were no longer bipedal, with a scientist's thoughtfulness. The style of the frescoes seemed outdated, and she wondered if maintaining the art and their history was why the hallways were so poorly lit. Bulma quickly dashed the thought away. It was impossible for a Saiyan to care about anything other than a fight, let alone art.
The guard surpassed her and came to a halt, and she came up short trying not to bump into the colossal warrior's behind. He rapped on the black wood door, which swiftly swung open, revealing the bored Saiyan Prince sans cape and armor.
"Oh, good. The woman's here. Well? Are you going to stand there staring at me or are you going to get undressed?"
Bulma's jaw dropped, but the Prince grabbed her by her shirt front and dragged her in before she could holler at him, slamming the door on the guard's face.
He left her there in the doorway, walking over to his desk where he hovered over some papers, as though they had occupied him before she had interrupted him.
She pointed her finger at him stiffly, seething, unable to form the words she needed to. He glanced her way. "These are the files on the Aisllee project. Why don't any of them mention Cold parts?"
She growled, strangling with emotion, feeling very much like a steaming kettle. Would this day ever stop challenging her dignity?
"Offworlder," he snapped, glaring. "Grow up. I have no intention of bedding you. Now come over here and do your damn job before I make you regret it." Seeing that she was a step away from exploding, he stared at her impatiently before smirking. "Are you upset that I have no desire to bed you?"
Bulma's rage stuttered to a stop. Mortified, she blushed. "Can we just get this over with?"
"Let's get to business."
He turned and faced her fully now. In his room, without his royal armor, he was no less intimidating. In fact, he seemed even more obviously predatory. Without his symbols of power, his concealing cape, the chest plate with the wide shoulders, it was evident now how much he moved like a hunter. He stood at the desk, glaring at the papers, clearly in a mood, and she unconsciously moved closer to him with curiosity. He didn't seem like he was accustomed to paperwork, staring at the papers like something in need of being slain.
"What are these?" She asked politely, gesturing at the papers spread out over the beautifully rendered, dark wood desk.
He growled a little. "These are the reports given to me on the Aisllee project. One set from my father's advisors, one set from your supervisor. Both contradicting the other." His head whipped toward hers. "Someone is hiding something from me. You said you saw Cold Parts on the fuselage? Explain yourself."
"Well, okay," she began, inching towards him to glance at the papers. He let her do so, although tensely. "Until now, this project has been pretty uninteresting. No one had acted as if anything were...controversial...about it. We were given the Aisllee remnants to identify why the ship had broken up in orbit, which my supervisor explained to you. I was given the task of modulating the wreckage, like I told you. Nothing really challenging about it." She complained. "While I was inspecting the wreckage, I noticed there were quite a few parts that were manufactured by the Cold Empire. Including the black box." Her voice softened as she noticed his face darken. "I thought nothing of it. I assumed there might be some economic agreement between you, although even I know your empire's are not on the best of terms..."
His face tightened.
"May I?" She pointed to the papers.
He nodded curtly.
She rifled though them, until she found the blueprints.
"Do you see this?" She asked softly. He nodded once. "This is the ship's source of propulsion. They were using keranite, because there was residue all over the engines."
He frowned, confused.
"I'm sorry, I don't know much about Saiyan exports, but I've heard that keranite is embargoed. It's extracted from Cold territories, and that's it. No Saiyan should have access to it," she continued. "Not only that, but we can assume they hadn't been stranded and forced to use it, if we were to explore other reasons the ship would be outfitted with Cold parts. Saiyan ships can't tolerate it, it doesn't properly explode in the cylinders, the ship just won't move with it. Which means the ship engine was deliberately outfitted for it."
"These men were on a simple purging mission, coordinates clearly mapped, in safe territory, with no behavioral problems on their record," Vegeta countered with irritation.
"Someone on the inside of your cabinet has made a deal with the Cold Empire," she breathed, putting everything together. "Am I getting closer to why you've brought me here?"
He set his cold black eyes on her.
He still didn't trust her. She didn't blame him. She didn't trust him, either.
"Explain to me how involved you are in First Strike."
"How do you know I'll be telling the truth?" She mused, lips turning upwards.
"It's quite obvious to me you have no idea what you're doing," he replied flatly. "I have no fear that with a little persuasion you will tell me what I want to know."
Her eyes widened.
He waited for her to quake, but instead, her heart shaped face turned stormy. "What is so unbelievable about me that you think I don't pose a threat?" She crossed her arms over her chest. "I seem to recall surprising you with a thousand volts of electricity not more than a week ago."
"And it did not prove successful."
"I wasn't expecting to run into the Saiyan Prince!"
A self satisfied smile tugged at his lips. "You got lucky."
"I pulled your file." He told her abruptly. "You arrived here eight years ago aboard a shipping vessel directly from Earth with 4,000 others, many who've taken up service positions around the quadrant. You've been relegated to the Science Wing as an O-4 Operator and Maintainer ever since. The fact that you've remained while others have...disappeared...is noteworthy. Why make a deal with First Strike, when you've done so well...Unless you're a plant?"
He watched her expressive face transform again as she scowled at him deeply, regarding him with contempt. "Have you no concept of freedom? Are you really so removed from the life of your Empire's laborers that you can't understand why someone would want to leave the drudgery of enslavement and the whims of those who murdered their family?"
His face darkened. "Pathetic. You are not the only one who has to be somewhere and do something they don't want to."
"You live in splendor," she hissed, "while the rest of us break our backs to keep this Empire alive. It is not the same thing."
He leaned in, chest heaving. "Do you have a death wish? Do not presume I will endure your smart mouth simply because I am in need of an informant. I don't need your smart mouth anymore than I need a headache."
His breath hit her in the face, and she clenched her jaw before poking him in the chest, earning a scary rumbling.
"Now who is challenging someone beneath them?"
To her surprise, his face fell, and he took a step backwards.
Before she could gloat or reason out his reaction, there was a knock on the door.
"Get on the bed," he snapped at her, and made his way leisurely across the room to open the door. Bulma moved to sit rigidly with crossed legs on his bed and watched a servant bow deeply in the doorway, before wheeling in a tray. The aroma of food hit her, and she tried ignoring the answering pang in her belly.
"Get out," the Prince snapped at the servant, and the servant slinked out of the room.
The Prince picked up the covers of the silver trays, eyeing the food, before his eyes flicked over at her. "I tell you to get on the bed so that you can look well ravished," he drawled, before placing the plates on his desk, "and you're sitting over there like you're ready to take an exam. Now tell me. What have you learned from First Strike?"
The succulent aroma of steak was causing her mouth to water, and her eyes roamed over the small feast in front of him with intensity. "Hm?" She glanced back and he caught her licking her lips.
His eyes narrowed. "Get your eyes off my food."
Her eyes widened at his defensiveness. "I wouldn't be so hungry had my lunch not been smeared across the floor by some Saiyan brute!"
"Yeah, well, you can go fill your big mouth once we're done here, because the Prince of Saiyans does not share with commoners."
She didn't know whether to be furious or humiliated. "I don't get an evening meal. It's proscribed."
His brows dipped in confusion as he pulled a piece of steak off his fork with his teeth. She quickly decided she liked the way he looked when he was puzzling something out; it was a cross between a kind of cute vulnerability and a marked interest in solving a puzzle. "What do you mean?" His slight royal enunciation laced his words almost imperceptibly.
"I mean, I won't be be eating anything until tomorrow afternoon. We're allowed only one meal a day, at lunch chow." She turned away, embarrassed, and her hands fluttered in the air, shooing the topic away. She sighed. "I'm not a First Strike spy. I'm just a woman held against her will looking to live in safety, freely, and First Strike made me a deal. There's really no more to it than that. And you should believe me. The only people I've talked to since I arrived here besides First Strike and my superiors are the Son family, and one of them is confined in my room and the others are in the realm of the Heaven with the Kai's preparing for a war. So they don't have time to chat," she bemoaned.
It was like someone flicked a light switch on them at the same time. Their eyes met; Bulma's eyes widened and she threw her hand over her mouth. Vegeta's eyes became predatory as they zeroed in on her.
"What did you say?" He crooned.
She instinctively backed up, her oxfords finding purchase on the full red carpet as she stumbled from his study area onto his bed, the backs of her knees hitting the wood chest at the foot.
The Prince seethed down at her, his gloved fists balled at his waist. She had no idea she could be so scared. Enduring the Prince's wrath was confronting death, like uncontrollably losing purchase at the edge of an abyss.
"What are you hiding?" He bellowed.
"Heh heh," Bulma tittered, as she realized her shoulders were pressed against his massive headboard and there was nowhere else to go. "You misunderstood me. Who knows what I was talking about. I don't know what I was talking about! It's nothing, really!"
"Shut up," he hollered, "and tell me."
"You can't have it both ways!" She yelled stupidly.
Suddenly the Prince's ki burst around him, a thick sapphire vortex, the violent energy ruffling his spiky locks, causing them to twitch and sway.
"You have one second to tell me before you're stardust."
"My best friend Goku is a Super Saiyan and he's going to come to Vegetasei to purge the Elites!" She shrieked, her own hair whipping around her as she grit her teeth at the hurricane of dark energy ripping throughout the room.
"What?" The Prince cried incredulously, his ki swiftly diminishing.
He gave her an utterly baffled face, before growing a slanted grin. "A Super Saiyan. There's only one Super Saiyan in this universe," he cajoled, chuckling, "and that's me."
"You can go Super Saiyan, too?"
He glanced away, crossing his arms and sniffing. "You misheard me. I am the only one in the universe powerful enough to be the Legendary."
She gave him a sideways look. "Tell me, does the Legend tell of a blonde haired, green eyed Saiyan warrior with unprecedented strength?"
Vegeta just stared at her.
"Yep, that sounds just like Goku."
"You're telling me there's another Saiyan out there who can go Super Saiyan?" He asked belligerently. "Where is he? Why don't I know about him? What kind of game are you playing?" He hoisted her by the shirt, shaking her against the pillows, pinning her there with his weight. "Tell me everything and I might make your death a little cleaner."
How many times was she going to do this today?
The energy around him expanded outwards again, less violently and more precise, and he held up his hand, dazzling bright with an energy beyond her comprehension. Death followed the Prince like a shadow, and all she could think is she didn't think it was fair for her to go like this.
She grabbed his fist with both hands, the hand that held her life or death. She looked up into his face pleadingly. "Give me a minute to explain."
The Prince regarded her touchwith wary surprise. She waited for his response with anguished eyes.
His ki finally died down, until their fighting faces were lit only by lamp light.
"I want you to promise me you won't hurt us once I tell you. I want you to promise me safe passage," she was surprised to hear herself say.
"How dare you make demands to me after I spare your life," the Prince wondered bellicosely.
"I'm not asking for much," she explained. "We have no home waiting for us should our plans even work, just a planet that's been cleared of life. All we'd really have is the right to refuse to play slave for the institution that destroyed our planet and our families. I don't really have a choice but to help you or die," she implored. "So I have to give the Saiyan Prince an ultimatum. You don't get anything from me otherwise. And your Empire hinges on it," she finished, trying her best to sound threatening.
He had bared his teeth at her by this point, his eyeteeth gleaming in the soft light. "You are insane," he grit.
She was still gripping his fisted hand. "I will tell you everything I know, and you can have your Empire, and you can have your war, and I won't bother you anymore. It's a win-win."
"Your planet is gone. It's been blown to bits by the Colds over a territory dispute. You have nowhere else to go."
Her face turned ashy.
He had hoped to relish her horror at the news, to regain his control by exploiting her emotions, but as he absorbed her crestfallen look he felt...guilty.
All he could do was watch her.
She whipped her head to the side to hide her flickering emotions. In a thick voice, she continued the negotiation. "Just send me somewhere safe. Somewhere nice to look at. I just want to not be bothered anymore." After a few sniffles, she turned back to him, face set, eyes watery. She dropped her grip on his hand, which he felt fleeting disappointment about.
He stood, stepping backward, giving them space. She stood, smoothing her hair and adjusting her lab coat. It was ironically more awkward than pretending to be bedding each other. He watched her cross her arms over her chest a little wearily, looking worn and washed out in the gray scrubs of her work attire. Her hair had mostly come loose from the tie in their struggle. She stood straight, awaiting his response without much hope from under tired lids.
Finally, he agreed. "You will tell me everything. And for the duration of your stay on Vegetasei, you will stay here, in my room, so you cannot inform anyone."
He thought she didn't have anything left to give, but she surprised him.
Her face contorted. "What?! You're just going to lock me up here?"
"You will not exist anymore. You will be gone. Erased. Dead, to everyone else. You will give me all the information you know, and more, if I request it." She endured the onslaught, grimacing. "You will be quarantined in here until I confirm everything you say and this war has been taken care of. If you're found to be honest once I take care of this problem, you will have earned your freedom. I will promise you safe passage to wherever. If you are deceiving me, well," he gave her a sinful smile, "I will punish you. Saiyan style...Public torture..."
He watched her face.
"Okay," she whispered.
"Either way, I win." He promised sinisterly.
No longer have to go into work? That can't be so bad, she tried telling herself.
She nodded. "But we have to get Gohan."
"Go-han?" He pronounced the word uncertainly.
"Yes. Goku's son. He lives with me while Goku trains with the Kai's."
The Prince looked contemplative. "His son is Saiyan? Is he a rebel?"
"Goku grew up with me on Earth. He's married to ChiChi, who is from Earth like I am. Gohan is half Saiyan, and no, they are not rebels. Not unless you count being unappreciative of your world being purged rebellious behavior," she replied flatly, watching him askant.
"Then let's get this over with. Do you have your toy?"
"The one that let you sneak around my palace."
"Yes. But, how about this?" She pulled something tentatively from her lab coat, holding it out to him, the eyepiece with the green lens which she had created for Goku so that he would have some tablet for sensing the ki's around him.
She flicked it open and set it over her eye, holding the piece steady as it scrolled through a wealth of information about the outside world before finding its target, narrowing on the prince and prompting her with a number.
"Oh. Wow." She looked at him with wide eyes, one obscured by opaque plastic. "No wonder I couldn't detect you in the hand held scouter." He was frowning at her, and she plucked it off her face and handed it to him. "It detects power levels. My other radar was disadvantaged because it couldn't detect strong ki's. Difference in materials, I suppose. This one will read any ki." His hand closed around it, and he peered at it suspiciously before fitting it over face. She reached up and reset it, fingers brushing his face, then stepping away so he could get a good read on her, his cheek still tingling from their contact. She heard the chirp which meant she had been targeted, and he smirked. "Just as I thought," his dark eyes lit up with playful wrath. "Pathetic."
She smirked back at him. "Yeah, well, no one said you had to be strong to have the advantage. You can be smart, too." She winked at him.
He focused as the scouter registered dozens of ki's, including the guards outside, and many more. "What are its proximate limits?"
"Half a mile. That's as good as I can do. I am stealing this stuff from leftover parts in the tool room, you know."
He handed it back to her, giving her a patronizing glare."And you are building this tech why? You said yourself you're not a fighter."
"For Goku. He...has plans to come here. To take care of some business."
The uncomfortable silence settled around them again. The Prince looked at her with deadly intent. "If he is coming to kill me, he won't leave alive."
Bulma shook his head, looking at him tentatively. "He...has plans to restore balance to the universe. First the Saiyan Elites...and then the Colds."
She squirmed under his consideration.
"Why the Elites?" He asked slowly.
"I don't think you'd understand." She crisply replied.
"Try me," he growled.
"Let me explain it to you like you're five, then," she snapped. "Because they're bad. Because they destroy people's lives, their homes, their planets. They enslave and kill them with no motivation except an empty gesture of strength. It's genocide on a massive scale, this competition between the Saiyans and the Colds for expansion and profit, and no one is brave enough to tell you...them...to stop. Well, now there is."
"Have you heard of the Legend?" He asked her briskly. He stepped closer to her. "Do you know why the Gods created the Super Saiyan, the Saiyan with enormous recesses of power? Because he is the adjudicate. He crops up every thousand years from between Heaven and Hell to restore balance to a people who were given over their fair share of everyday strength. He reaps what others have sewn," he told her closely, "and he measures your worth by that which you have already harvested. He is prescient, sent to remind Saiyans that Otherness exists inside them and they are not pure. He is the Reaper of Saiyans, and he is the Purger from Purgatory. Do you see now?" He grabbed her chin, staring into her eyes with a taut face and stormy eyes. "Your friend may be a Super Saiyan, but I am the Legendary. I will purge those rancid Elites and wretched advisors from this realm. I will remake the rules. I will take back my kingdom, not some intergalactic peacekeepers. Me."
They stared at each other, inches away from the other, unblinking. "I want them gone. And you're going to help me do it. Do you understand now? My way."
"I won't do anything that jeopardizes my friend's lives," she resisted, her head held still in his hand.
"You have a strength and smarts that is absent from many of my people," he mused. "Would that they were more like you."
Her eyes widened.
"Just less puny, and with absolutely none of your ridiculous coloring," he sniffed, releasing her.
Her eyes narrowed.
"I thought you were the, the Dark Prince." To say his name is to summon the man. And here he was. "You're...you're chaos and destruction, embodied. Why would you want peace?"
He jerked the breast plate over his head, attaching his cape to the shoulder plates with military precision. "I didn't say I wanted peace." He smiled cruelly and strode back over to her. "I just want to remind my people of their responsibility to our tradition."
"This is a power play," she commented. Somehow, she was disappointed.
"This is not a game of power," he snarled, pushing open the paper door balcony, cool night air hitting them. "Because then, I would win. This is a battle of wits. Put the scouter on. Is their anyone in our path?"
She fit it on, squinting into it. "Two over the walls, three in the garden."
Without warning, he grabbed her and hopped over the ledge, and she stifled a scream, throwing her arms round his neck tightly. He sprinted down the parapet, his footsteps soft, and then jumped to a balcony on the opposite side of the courtyard.
"One over there," Bulma warned him, pointing to the brush. The Prince sidled to the right, feet finding purchase on the shallow stones of the palace walls, his ki ever so lightly flaring to steady him, and hopped gracefully over a guard's head, landing them in a tree and earning a smattering of cursing from Bulma.
"In front of you," she warned, the emerald screen alerting her, and he stood still against the tree trunk amid the thick foliage, both holding their breath in the darkness while a guard passed. When she motioned they were all clear, he flew them in low to the Science Wing.
Outside, in the hedges, he put her down, and she worked to regain her balance.
"How many?" He asked.
"None," she answered, cracking open a power box on the wall and mashing buttons.
"There are no guards in the Science Wing?"
"They turn off the power, so we're locked in there. They don't believe we're capable of insurrection." The door slid open quietly, revealing a dark hall and stairs beyond. The moonlight from Vegetasei's two moons stretched toward the staircase before stalling. Vegetasei boasted three moons total, but its third moon appeared only once every eighty years, accompanied by just the right Blutz waves to turn them all into living terrors. At the foot of the stairs, she turned suddenly to the Prince.
"Tell me," she confronted him in the darkness and shadows. "When the Elites have been expunged, will you still be treating off worlders like dirt?" She proceeded again down the stairs in front of him, glancing behind her.
He narrowed his eyes at her. "It's not my fault you were too weak to resist us. The strong survive, while the weak-"
"Spare me your Nietzsche and social Darwinisms." Her face hardened as they descended in near total darkness. "Just because you're physically able to overpower us does not mean you have the right to. That's the point."
"Like hell it doesn't," he snarled, only a step behind her.
"Oh really?" She mused. "Then because I am smarter than you, does that mean I should just leave you here in the dark in a strange place, because I can, hm?"
"You are not smarter than me," he grit out, a hair's breadth away from spitting.
She grabbed his wrist, pulling him into a doorway, popping open a box of wires.
"You're awfully cute when you get defensive."
A door popped open, leaving the Prince stuttering, face warming, before he was dragged inside. The lights flicked on, and Gohan stood in his sweats, holding a ball of ki uncertainly.
"It's just me," Bulma assured him, smiling.
Gohan glanced at the very dangerous looking Saiyan at her side.
"Oh. Of course! Gohan, this is...the Prince. Of Saiyans." She looked between them. "He's safe." Her mouth drew into a little frown as she doubted for a moment whether to classify him as 'safe.'
"Offworlder, are you addled? Safe is the last word I would use to describe me," he snarled.
"Yeah, well, I guess you're right. How about benign? Like an annoying tumor that hasn't been surgically excised yet?" She smiled sweetly.
The Prince glowered at her, and Gohan glanced uncomfortably between them.
"Hu-hullo," he finally greeted, bowing, diffusing the tension briefly.
Bulma watched him proudly. She was going to have to mention to ChiChi that her prodigal son hadn't forgotten his manners around royalty.
"Prince..." She blinked, and then turned to him expectantly.
He looked sideways. "Vegeta," he grumped.
"Prince Vegeta, this is Gohan. Goku's son. And I am…well, you know who I am. 04192." She cleared her throat.
He looked at her with one elegantly raised eyebrow. "Don't you have another name...One that isn't such a mouthful?"
"Bulma," she said unfamiliarly, frowning. "My real name is Bulma."
"Bulma," he said, without thought.
She nodded, and then glanced around the small room with disappointment. "Well, this is where we live." They had stepped out of the narrow doorway and into the living room, which held a couch with a crisply folded blanket and pillow, a small table with two chairs, and a pile of computer parts and machinery. The kitchen was just a bit further in, in the far corner of the living room. It was small, with an arms width of counter space, one stove coil and a narrow sink. Altogether, the room was about ten feet long. To the right was a bedroom, holding a messy, unmade bed and a small desk with a computer, with no room in between. One had to climb over the bed to get out the door, or sit on the bed to use the computer.
"They shut down our power at night to seal us in to prevent us from...I don't know, mayhem?...but I have it rigged so that we have our own power generator." She gave him a small smile, which deflated quickly. To think that she was sharing all her secrets with the Empire's darling. "We don't really have anything to bring with us, except our clothes and our computer."
"Where are we going?" Gohan asked with concern.
"The Prince will be...keeping us, until your Father arrives. That way we can stay safe." She was lying through her teeth.
Gohan looked at her uncertainly. "I'm not sure my mother would agree to that," he informed her, not rudely. Kami bless his heart, Bulma lamented. He is still so good in a world so bad.
"I know, sweetheart, but I don't think we really have a choice." The two shared a look.
At her concerned but firm insistence, he nodded. "We will have to tell her soon, then."
The apartment smelled stale, like a basement, and the only thing the dim lamp revealed was the dull linoleum and threadbare furniture. She wondered if the Prince had ever been somewhere so dingy and small. He looked very out of place, and too big to fit, although he was holding himself gracefully enough.
"Grab it and let's go," the Prince demanded, his voice roughened with suppressed emotion.
The Prince refused to fly them back to his room. He demanded that the two Earthlings walk but insisted that they would be safe. Sure enough, they ran into no trouble sneaking around uncertainly in the dark, the computer in Gohan's arms and their clothes clutched to her chest like they were a couple of looters with poor taste. Honestly, she was a little relieved to leave the hole she had had to call home for the last decade. Perhaps it was just because she was so tired. The day had been so long, and she was feeling numb and silly, as evidenced by the stupid way she kept finding herself mooning at the Prince's back.
Once they stood below his balcony, Gohan flew up and over the balcony and landed lightly, turning towards Bulma. As she was piecing together just how she would climb up there and whether or not she should yell at Gohan to put the damned computer down and help her, the Prince had grabbed her at the waist and leapt up. She clutched the clothes to her chest and squealed. He let her go carelessly once their feet touched ground and he strode into the room, opening a set of doors she hadn't noticed prior.
Gohan and Bulma peeked inside. It was an expansive sitting room, endless wood flooring and furniture, gold fixtures and and high pile rugs, surrounding murals of battling Oozaru. Bulma and Gohan stood still, mouths parted.
"Trying to catch flies?" The Prince drawled as he strode past them, turning on a lamp. "This is where you will remain until we can take care of our little problem."
"Why are you helping us?" Gohan interjected. "How do you know we're not going to hurt you or something?"
"Look, kid," the Prince snarled, "you couldn't hurt me if you tried. I'm letting you stay here because, frankly, you are harmless. The both of you." He sent Bulma a look that had her sneering back at him. "Although I have my eye on you."
"That's more like it." She placed their clothes on the sitting room nightstand and rested her hands on her hips. "Get the computer set up and we'll call your Mom," she told Gohan.
"Do you have a bathroom?" She asked the Prince. To her delight, a blush grazed his cheeks slightly. He grumbled and stomped across the room, where he slammed open the door. Bulma approached, her side grazing his as she slipped past, and he clenched his teeth at the contact.
She took in the lavishly large bathroom. "Wow," she breathed, looking over the gold and platinum fixtures, the marble toilet, the luxurious shower and claw footed tub. Suddenly, her heart was pounding, and she swallowed, before backing up into the Prince and looking at him with embarrassment. "I'm sorry," she breathed. "I can't-"
He reached out and snatched her arm as she went to escape, his own throat tightening with alarm.
"Can't what?" He growled, looking her over. "Where are you going? What are you hiding-"
"I'm sorry, it's just-" she wiped her palms on her hips, "it's just, I haven't been anywhere this...nice...for years. It's kind of unsettling." She smiled weakly, trembling, and looked the other way.
His brows dipped into a deep frown, before their eyes met. They stood like that for a moment, before his eyes slid downward and away. "The towels are in the cabinet. The shower is touch activated."
He was still holding her arm. "Afterwards you may eat my leftovers." He her go reluctantly, not meeting her gaze.
"Thank you," she murmured. "I promise we won't be a bother."
"You better not, or I will incinerate you both." He seeped menace, and yet, she had the feeling he was trying his best to be polite.
She put a tentative hand on his forearm, and he tensed, but didn't remove it. "Why are you doing this, really? I can't believe the Right Hand of Darkness would so easily take in an alien and an orphan."
Once again, he looked down at her lips, where she was bruised and swollen, a crack dried closed with blood.
She gazed at him with unwavering, deep blue eyes.
He moved in closer, until he was near enough to feel her breath on his face, and she tensed.
"Because," he breathed, peering down into her eyes, "have you ever wanted something so bad you could taste it?"
Her breath caught, and childishly, thoughtlessly, she nodded.
He came in even closer, his lips brushing her ear, his smooth cheek grazing her own.
"I want to challenge and defeat your Super Saiyan."
His breath curled around her ear, and she shivered, before he left her there.