Author's Note: Ooh, even chopped in half, this half of the chapter got a bit fat. Enjoy, my lovelies!
Brolly tried not to think of how this was Tarble's life's blood the mop was picking up and smearing across the parquet floor. Tried not to think of it as the water in his bucket turned red and even the bubbles of foam disinfectant on top turned pink and then red. Of course, the smell didn't help. Even spoiled, he could smell whose blood it was.
Tarble was the only one who had been kind to him before Bulma and the others arrived. The guilt he felt was like a lead weight crushing down on his heart.
The water in the bucket was now so stained he doubted it would clean more than it dirtied. He took it through the corridor, past Goku who was wet-vacuuming the carpet, and into the bathroom to pour it down the toilet. As it swirled around the white porcelain, red and foul, Brolly started to feel ill. Once it was empty, he left the bucket and ran through the kitchen, around the lounge and down the rampway. He almost added his own breakfast to Bulma's when the smell of her vomit hit him, and he stumbled to the edge of the cliff, squatting down to take deep breaths.
He heard Goku come to stand behind him a few moments later.
'Are you okay?'
'Not really,' he admitted, and then wished he hadn't. Why was he always so cowardly?
'Yeah, the smell is really hard to take. Poor Tarble.' Brolly felt Goku's awkward pat on his shoulder. It was as inadequate as the words, though Brolly would have been hard pressed to be more expressive. Now Goku was the one who talked to him the most. But Goku wanted something from him, just like Nappa had. And Brolly couldn't see why he couldn't fail Goku just like he'd failed Nappa. Better that he let Goku know now.
'It's not just the smell.'
'What else is it?'
'What Nappa did is my fault.'
'Huh? How could it be?'
Brolly struggled to put it into words. 'Nappa wanted me to rule the galaxy - he wanted me to step up and be the great Saiyan leader I'm supposed to be. I told him I didn't want that, and he got real mad. That was a while ago, and he wouldn't speak to me afterwards. He wasn't planning on taking Bulma or betraying us before then, and look what he did since!'
Goku crouched down beside him. 'But that doesn't mean it's your fault.'
'It is! He gave up on us because of me. There's something wrong with me, Goku! I should want to rule the galaxy - Vegeta does! Nappa would have if he could have! But instead I hate fighting, I'm scared all the time and blood makes me sick… I shouldn't be like this!'
'I think you're fine,' Goku told him. 'I don't want to rule the galaxy, either.'
Brolly held back the retort that there was something wrong with Goku, too. Vegeta, Nappa, even Raditz, his own brother, had said that Goku was a simpleton.
'You're still way more like a Saiyan should be than I am. I know I'm the Super-Saiyan thing, but I'm not really. And I don't think I will ever be able to teach you how I did it, because I don't know how I did it! It will probably never happen again, and the Saiyans will have waited a thousand years for me to show up and all I can do is screw up their legend. I'm like the last chance to save Saiyankind, and I'm broken!'
Goku sighed. 'There's not much of Saiyankind to save, except for Tarble. If you help us do that...then that's all a Super Saiyan is meant to do, right? Anyway, I don't really believe in that stuff. Do you?'
Brolly wasn't sure. Even if he didn't, it didn't change the fact that it was his failure to rise that had flipped Nappa's switch.
'Don't worry about all that,' Goku said when he didn't answer. 'Nappa did what he did because, deep down, he was evil.' He stood up again. 'Come on - the faster we finish this, the faster we can go clean ourselves up the river.'
Brolly got heavily to his feet. He didn't want to go back in the ship, but if he didn't was he just going to be a burden to Goku, forcing him to finish the rest by himself?
'Hey, the hose cleaner thingee doesn't seem to be getting all the bloodstains out of the carpet. Do you think I should use the stinky bleach stuff on it?'
Brolly shrugged, realising another shortcoming in himself. 'I don't know. Tarble was the cleaning expert - I just did what he said.'
'How long you going to be there?' asked a hoarse, peevish voice.
Vegeta opened his eyes on a clouded sky that was still bright enough to have him clamp his eyelids shut immediately.
'Am I going to have to call the tourist police?'
This time Vegeta raised his head to peer between his spread feet. In the building in front of him a glass patio door was mostly filled by a squat, orange-skinned being that he judged to be female by the fact that it had four fleshy breasts under its skin-tight romper suit.
'No,' he croaked.
'You gonna move on then?'
'Yes,' he said, though he had no idea where it was he would be moving on from. His brain was spinning inside his skull, and his stomach started to make like it wanted to join in. He didn't feel like moving at all. 'At some point. I may be a little longer.'
The woman grunted. 'You'd better be gone next time I check out here or I'm calling them!'
The patio slider slammed shut.
Vegeta let his head fall back, not remembering, nor wanting to remember how he got here. He wiggled his arms, legs and feet carefully, then pressed at his skull. He wasn't injured, just hungover, therefore whatever happened to get him to this state could wait.
He must have snoozed a while longer because he awoke to hot sun on his face and another, more playful, voice.
'There is a very strange flower blooming in the garden.'
He opened his eyes again, and this time didn't even need to raise his head to see the speaker. A floor up from the orange woman's patio door was a balcony, and a shimmering pink-white alien woman bent over it to look down on him.
'Urh,' said Vegeta, not having enough wits about him to form a reply.
'Whenever you feel like breakfast or a shower, come on up.'
Vegeta squinted in confusion. 'Do I know you?'
'Not really,' she said, lifting a hairless brow coyly. 'We were introduced last night, but you passed out before we could get to know one another,'
Vegeta groaned at his own stupidity. She skipped away from the balcony's edge with a wink. He did recall a balcony featuring in his night. Was this the same one? And was this woman the hostess of the club? It didn't look like the back of a club from out here.
Taking a better look around, he could see he was in a courtyard garden, ringed by two-story dwellings. There was a sharp knock on the patio window, and he saw the orange woman giving him a very pointed look.
He forced himself to sit up, then paused, waging a vain battle against his flipping stomach before losing and vomiting profusely into the flowering shrub next to him. Shrub? Yes, he had slept in a flower bed. Soil, and perhaps insects tickled down his neck and back. Something squirmed under his hand and Vegeta leapt to his feet, fearing a worm, and fell backwards over another bush.
'Hey!' the woman yelled from behind the glass.
Vegeta was ready to be out of here anyway. Throwing up had made him feel a little better, and the vomit stunk like the bilge water from a fishing boat. He made a leap for the balcony rail, fell short and ended up dangling from the bars instead. Trembling with the effort, he pulled himself hand over hand up the bars to the rail and dragged his leg up and over. Only once he had his two feet on the balcony did he notice the stairs down to the garden on the other side. One of the greatest warriors in the galaxy, reduced to a weakling and an idiot. He should never have let Raditz talk him into going out!
Oh, but Raditz hadn't. He remembered now that it had been his own idea because…
Vegeta took a heavy seat on one of the plastic chairs he found. The images he'd sought to hide from last night returned, spinning with his head and mingled with his nausea. What had he hoped to gain by drinking the night away? It had changed nothing, except he now had a horrible hangover to accompany his desolation.
'Hey, you're up!'
The woman was back, towering over him in the chair. Lizard's Balls, how tall was she?
'Full marks for observation,' he replied.
The woman crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes at him, but smiled as she said, 'You're Victor, right? Radness told me about you.'
Victor? Radness? Vegeta's pickled brain took precious seconds to work out what she was talking about. She read something else into his hesitation.
'Wait a minute - are Victor and Radness just your sphere field tournament stage names?'
'Something like that, yes.'
'Wow! So, I get a drunken booty call from Radness, and I don't even know his real name? Because I was going to say that Victor is a great name for someone who fights tournaments. And so is Radness! Urgh! I can't believe I'm just working that out!'
Booty call? He paid closer attention to her scent. She smelled clean, like shower gel and powder-fine skin, but there was an undeniable hint of both sex and Raditz. She took a seat on the plastic chair next to him, which was good because looking up at her was not making his head feel any less woozy. He didn't want to be wherever here was, talking to whoever she was.
'You have me at a disadvantage,' he said, forcing himself to make the effort, 'I don't know your name, assumed or not.' The words reeked so badly of the etiquette lessons Frieza had forced on him that Vegeta heard them as if they didn't come from his own mouth; he cringed at what a pompous prig he sounded.
'I'm Anemone. Did Radness...mention me?'
He frowned. 'Do you mean to say you've met him more than once?'
'He didn't say? We met up before each of his fights.'
Vegeta slouched forward, putting his swirling head in his hands. So Raditz had betrayed him too, in his own small way, by spending money they couldn't spare!
'Is Anemone your real name, or your hooker name?'
That pearly white skin of hers blushed pink. 'Oh, so Radness did tell you about me.'
'No, I just know his ways.'
She sat back in her chair stiffly, the conversation dead in the water, which was just how Vegeta wanted it. He could hear a shower running inside and smell the hints of Raditz on the moisture that drifted out of the apartment door from a bathroom inside.
Hurry up, he silently urged.
'I'm sorry about your teammates,' Anemone said carefully. Vegeta looked over at her in surprise. She wore a solemn expression now. 'Radness said you'd had two deaths in the team yesterday.'
Vegeta had no idea how to respond. For a couple of moments he didn't seem to be able to move.
'Yes,' he managed to say in the end.
Her face showed sympathy, and even a hint of moisture around her eyes. Vegeta looked away again. 'That's so awful. One was a mentor, of sorts, he said. That must be very hard.'
'It's not him I will miss.'
'You'll miss the other more?'
Vegeta had to take a big gulp down on the nausea that was rising again. His intestines didn't feel so happy, either. 'I do not wish to talk about it.'
Vegeta got to his feet, seeking the bathroom. Opening the door, he ignored Raditz's yelp and made a beeline for the toilet. Making a split second decision he dropped his trou and loosened his sphincter; if he was going to go at both ends at once, he'd rather puke on the floor than shit his pants. The lessened pressure must have helped his nausea though and he didn't yak again.
'Oh, gods! Holy Hells, Vegeta!' Raditz yelled from the shower cubicle. 'I'm stuck in here!'
'You're not chained there - fuck off!'
Raditz hightailed it, long hair sluicing water across the floor as he grabbed a towel and ran.
When Vegeta eventually felt well enough to leave the safety of the pot, he stripped off his ruined silk outfit and took a shower of his own, helping himself to a fresh towel from the basket of neatly rolled ones. When he was done, he found an assortment of colognes, breath fresheners and deodorants on the shelf. The tiles underfoot were smooth and cool. Anemone ran a fancy bordello; he could almost mistake it for a spa.
Vegeta decided to check out the smoothness and coolness of those tiles against his cheek, and took a nap on the floor.
He awoke to a knock.
'Did you die in there?' Raditz asked.
Raditz stuck his head in, spied him wrapped in a towel on the floor and snorted.
'Come on! Anemone is cooking breakfast- well, can you still call it breakfast when it's already after lunchtime? Anyway, she's a great cook.'
'I don't feel much like eating.'
'It won't be a big meal - more of a snack. She tries her best, but she just doesn't seem to get how much food makes a meal.'
'Not even a snack.'
'Just eat a little bit at least, or you'll hurt her feelings.'
Vegeta couldn't believe what he was hearing. He remembered that he was angry with Raditz.
'Who cares about a whore's feelings? You're paying her for the service, right?'
'What? No! I'm not paying Anemone!'
Vegeta sat up and started pulling on his soil-stained silk pantaloons. 'Don't bother lying - she already admitted to me that she's a prostitute. You were trusted with a job, Raditz! Make money, not spend it, fucking some expensive whore everytime you were off the leash! You are more reliable than Nappa, but only by degrees!'
Raditz flushed red and stepped into the room, closing the door behind him, his face contorted.
'Don't compare me to Nappa!'
The gleam in Raditz's eyes actually scared Vegeta for a moment, vulnerable as he was with his pants around his knees and his balls hanging out on the tiles. He'd never seen Raditz so angry. He didn't think Raditz could be this angry.
'Yeah, Anemone's a whore,' Raditz snarled, low and quiet. 'But she's not a whore for me! I never paid her anything! We hang out - and fuck - because we like hanging out and fucking each other! And when she is nice enough to dip into her own pocket to make me a meal, I fucking eat it!'
Vegeta tensed, readying himself to defend against Raditz. He was so feeble at that moment that Raditz would probably stand a good chance of winning if they fought.
Instead, Raditz whirled around, disappearing with his hair cracking like a whip and slammed the door behind him. Then the door opened a crack and Raditz freed the fat hank of hair that he had accidentally closed in it.
Five minutes and some quiet contemplation later, Vegeta sat himself meekly at the small white dining table in the small, white dining nook while Anemone served up something fluffy and savoury that did smell delicious, but turned his stomach.
'Thank you,' he murmured as she whisked the pan away.
She seated herself, and Raditz attacked the bowl with gusto, showering Anemone with compliments between mouthfuls. Anemone replied sardonically, but with real appreciation in her eyes. Vegeta struggled through two forkfuls, but had to stop.
'I'm sorry I can't eat. I'm afraid I really overdid it last night.'
She nodded. 'It's totally all right.'
'I don't make a habit of drinking, let alone drinking so much.'
'I get it, I really do. You should have seen me when my younger brother died. I was a wreck for months on end.' She cast her eyes down to her own plate and shook her head slightly. 'To be honest, I'm still a wreck over it, but I figured out that drinking wasn't helping me.'
Vegeta looked at Raditz, wondering if he had told her who Tarble was to him, but Raditz only had eyes for Anemone.
'You didn't tell me that,' Raditz said. 'How did he die?'
'He was marching in an anti-Cold Empire protest outside the PTO garrison when the assholes opened fire. Just mowed down hundreds of peaceful protesters to scatter the rest.'
'Shit.' Raditz exchanged a glance with Vegeta. Vegeta suddenly felt like an imposter to be sitting here at this table. They had both done far, far worse than that in the name of Lord Frieza. 'Was this before you left your home planet?'
She nodded. 'We were both still kids, really. He should have been in school that day. He was still dumb enough to think that peaceful anything would help against Frieza and the PTO.' She fell into silent contemplation of her bowl.
Vegeta jerked in his seat at the sound of his name shouted in his ear.
Raditz looked at him in confusion. 'What about her?'
'She's talking over comms. You can't hear her?'
Realising she must be using the private channel between her and himself, Vegeta stalked out of the room and out to the balcony at the back before pressing his transponder.
'I'm here. What is it?'
'Vegeta! Where are you? I need to talk to you!' She was crying and emotional. His nausea returned full force.
'Can't you just come back?'
'Are you in danger?' he asked.
'No! I just- everything is fucked up!'
Vegeta grasped the back of one of the lightweight patio chairs as he swayed. 'Calm down. What is happening?'
'Nothing! Nothing is happening or can happen!'
Well, that was confusing. 'Then you will be alright until I return?'
There was a pause and then she came back on the line, sniffing. 'Yes, I suppose it makes no difference how quickly you get here. Just as long as you come.'
'Then I will be there as soon as I can.'
There was no reply.
He looked out onto the courtyard and considered the possibility of launching into flight at this moment. He broke out into a cold sweat. He needed to eat, yet that seemed just as impossible.
'Trouble back at camp?' Raditz asked, joining him.
Vegeta shook his head. 'Perhaps. I need to go back.'
'Do I need to go back?' Raditz asked, his face scrunching up.
'Do you have someplace better to be?'
'Here?' Then seeing the look on Vegeta's face he hurried on. 'It's just that Anemone has the whole day off, and as long as I'm not needed I was hoping to keep her company awhile. Bulma didn't ask me to go back, did she? Otherwise, why didn't she use the group line?'
'Is it not enough that we came here last night for your...booty call?'
Raditz's face hardened a little. 'We came here last night because you were so drunk you couldn't even walk, and I couldn't fly. We were just lucky that Anemone had finished working for the night and was still awake to let us in and give us a place to stay. Though you chose the garden to sleep in.'
Vegeta flushed red. 'Fine. Do what you will. But I will be leaving as soon as I can.'
He returned to the dining room, Raditz at his heels, and tried to force his belly into taking more food. He gagged on the first forkful.
'Was that your girlfriend calling?' Anemone asked from where she was preparing hot drinks.
Vegeta scowled at her. 'My ship's mechanic wants to talk to me urgently.' He put down the fork, defeated. Then he laid his head on the table, feeling a little faint.
'I think he'll be staying a bit longer,' Raditz said, sounding too cheerful for Vegeta's liking. 'He can't fly while he's this hungover.'
'He does look pretty feeble.' She sighed. 'Wait a minute.'
She left the room and returned to place something on the table next to Vegeta's head. He lifted it just enough to see it was a foil pouch with a sipper lid.
'It's a party pouch,' she explained. 'Seeing as I was planning on doing some partying in the coming days, I've got a few in stock. They cost fifty credits each, by the way, so I'd appreciate it if you could pay me back.'
'Never heard of a party pouch.'
'No? Well, I hadn't either until I came to Baccanelli.' She went to the cupboard, got out two glasses and filled them both with water. 'The pouches are full of salts, electrolytes, vitamins, glucose, some natural stimulants, and enzymes to replace the ones that your liver uses up metabolizing the alcohol. They work for all mammals with a glucose based metabolism.' She placed the two glasses before him. 'Now, get that down you and then drink the two glasses of water. You'll need another two glasses in an hour.'
'I doubt I could get even half a glass down.'
'There's an anti-nausea agent in the gel, too. You'll get it down.'
The gel was unpleasantly sweet and salty, and artificially flavoured, but he started to feel a little better from the second sip. Anemone was right - by the time he finished the pouch he was easily able to drink the first glass of water. He struggled a little with the second, but he was soon feeling half the man he should be, rather than a mere hundredth. He demolished the contents of his bowl, appetite reactivated.
'Thank you for the excellent meal and the hangover cure,' he said, getting up from the table. 'Raditz, do you still have enough money on the credit chip to pay the woman back?'
'Good.' He nodded once more to Anemone, then jogged to the back of the apartment and took a running jump off the balcony into the sky.
'Is he usually that dramatic?' Anemone wondered.
'And the rest.'
'I can't believe he's your boss. I was picturing someone older. And taller.'
'Yeah, don't tell him that.'
Raditz stood up to wrestle the credit chips from the pocket of his tight pants. He took two out and rubbed them together.
'Got a chip reader?'
'In my line of work? Of course.'
She fetched it and he waved one chip over it, deducting the fifty credits. Then he handed her the other.
'What's this for?'
'Your two thousand credits.'
She looked at him in confusion. 'Actually, it says one thousand, nine hundred and fifty seven credits, but I think I would remember if you owed me that much money.'
Raditz could feel himself turning red in the face. What had seemed the honourable thing to do now seemed rather over the top, and maybe a little too revealing of his feelings.
'It's the money that you lost betting on me in the last sphere field match.'
'You got it back?' she exclaimed. 'How? Did the betting office just let you have it?'
He was getting so red now that he could feel his pulse pounding in his throat. 'No, I er…earned it.'
'Radness! Oh, my goodness!' She gripped the credit chip tight in her hand and then rushed forward and threw her arms around him. 'You didn't need to do that!'
'I'll take it back if you don't want it.'
She laughed. 'Thank you! Thank you! You don't know what this means!'
'It's for your get-out-of-whoring fund, isn't it?'
'Yes! I have enough money now to buy myself out of the contract with the agency like...next week if I wanted!'
'That's great,' he said, grinning. He was so happy seeing her happiness. The filthy comments and leers he'd endured at the strip club seemed all worth it now. 'Sorry about the missing forty credits. I had just over two thousand, but I must have used the wrong chip at some point last night.'
She pulled back and smiled at him. 'Don't worry about it!'
He hugged her tight, inspired by hope. She'd been rather surprised and annoyed when they'd shown up last night, and only the sob story about the deaths and stopped her from throwing them back out again. That and Vegeta falling off the balcony and passing out in the garden. Under those circumstances she had eventually accepted his excuses for ghosting her, and let him in her bed.
'I thought you'd forgotten all about me,' she admitted when he loosened his grip around her. 'Or else gone off-planet without saying goodbye. Dex said he hoped he never saw you again, so I figured you'd done a runner.'
'No, I just didn't have much opportunity to get away after we broke the sphere field in Sweet-Stuff. And when I did get away, I was busy earning the money on the side for you.'
'You could have still swung by.'
'Yeah, I guess.' How could he explain that he'd felt too bad to come see her with empty hands?
'You're an unexpected softie, Radness. Or should I say...what was it that Victor called you?'
'Just now, when he left. He told me that Radness and Victor are only your stage names! You've been holding out on me!' She was still smiling, so he knew she wasn't really mad. 'What's your real name?'
He turned over the possible answers. He could go with Randy, which he didn't particularly like. Or he could go with his actual real name. Was there any point in hiding it still? If his plan went as he hoped, she would have to know it soon enough.
'Raditz,' he replied, watching her carefully for any sign that she recognised it. There was none.
'Raditz? It's very similar. And still short.'
'That's why I picked Radness.'
'My real name is Anathanashtra Thulieschaloe me Cee-Elissastra.'
'What? Anemone isn't your real name?'
'No! They made me pick a new name when I arrived in Baccanelli. The agency said my name was too long and no one would remember names based on weird ancient tongues.'
'Anathanasa- what was it again?'
'Anathanashtra Thulieschaloe me Cee-Elissastra. It means Blush on the Underside of the Clouds at Dawn, of Moonlit Bay in Ancient Oisterian.'
Raditz knew he would never remember it. 'Why didn't you just go with Blush?'
'Why didn't you just go with Radish? Hey! This reminds me! You kept me a secret from your boss!'
'Well, you met him - he can't even admit to himself having a thing for Bulma. He's always been completely anti- um, relationships and romantic claptrap and that sort of thing. I was pretty sure he'd try and stop me seeing you.'
She grinned. 'Is that what we have between us? Some romantic claptrap?'
Raditz started to blush, realising what he'd just said. But then again, if he was to keep moving forward with Anemone, didn't he need to acknowledge it? 'If you wanna call it that.'
'Mmm, my romantic claptrap partner? Has a ring to it. So, why did you bring your boss here last night then? Do you think he'll try and stop you now?'
He shrugged in her arms. 'I hope not. Last night it seemed like a good idea - a way to introduce you two to each other. I dunno what I was hoping for. I guess that was a bit of a dumb idea given how drunk we were.'
'A bit,' she agreed.
'But maybe things will be different now with Ve-Victor, after yesterday.'
She tilted her head up and kissed him on the lips; a little something that made his heart leap. He wondered if she was going to start something at the breakfast table, but it seemed that was all it was, and strangely, he was okay with that. There would be time for sex later.
'I hope so.'
When Vegeta made it back to camp he was thirsty again and still hungry. Without thinking overly much about it, he entered the cruiser. Only once he was inside did he register that the smell of blood had mostly been replaced by the smell of disinfectant and bleach. Shuddering, he went to the kitchen and poured himself and drank three glasses of water in a row.
As he prepared to leave again, he found his limbs in disagreement. He stood in the kitchen, stuck between urges to be out of this place as soon as possible, and to return to the master bedroom. Was Tarble still in there? Had it all really happened?
In the end, the ludicrous hope that yesterday was all just a crazy dream induced by drugs and drink had him creeping into the corridor, past the twin bedroom and stopping outside the master bedroom. He knew immediately that it hadn't been a dream. The last remaining scent of blood was coming from here - it had seeped through the carpet under the door, and been diluted and blotted up, but the pinky-brown stain was still there. When he laid his hand on the door handle it was ice-cold. Tarble was inside.
He stood a long time with his hand on the door. He didn't understand the compulsion he felt to look, nor the fear and dread he felt every time he put pressure on the handle to turn it.
What was the point of this? He dropped the handle and left the ship, leaping straight from the rampway down into the campsite.
There he found Kakarott and Krillin fussing over the spit and a grazing animal of some sort that they had found to cook on it, and Puar and Brolly struggling to read aloud from some book, taking turns to sound out the glyphs. Krillin and Kakarott greeted him, then stood watching him nervously. Brolly glanced up, then went back to his reading, mutely this time.
'Vegeta!' Puar cried, and rushed towards him before slowing and stopping still some distance away. 'Are you okay?'
'I'm fine. Just hungry. What do you have that I can eat?'
He looked through a stack of defrosting frozen meals and dried foods beside the campfire.
'They're for dinner,' Krillin pointed out.
'And I'm hungry now.' He selected two frozen meals and then chucked them in Bulma's "microwave" unit to heat up.
'Where were you last night?' Puar asked.
'Out with Raditz,' Vegeta replied wearily.
'Is he coming back?'
He sighed. 'When he's good and ready, apparently.'
'What did you two do?'
'Nothing of consequence. Where is Bulma?'
'She went down to the waterhole for a bath.'
If she was taking a bath, things couldn't be too bad. If she was taking a bath, she would be alone, and he sensed that whatever she wanted to say, she wanted it to be private.
Awkward silence descended on the group. Puar returned to her reading, and Krillin and Kakarott discussed the necessity of having a second animal on the spit if Raditz decided to show up for dinner. Vegeta hurriedly shoved the food down, burning his mouth but easing the hunger shakes that were starting to take him.
As soon as he was done eating he ran down the path to the stream, making sure to brush loudly past the leaves and branches so she wouldn't be surprised by him coming.
'Did he just rush off to see Bulma washing in the river?' Krillin asked the others.
'Looks that way,' said Puar, frowning. Brolly also frowned, face turned towards the unseen waterhole.
'Que angry screeching in three, two one…' Krillin quipped. They all waited, listening for it. But it didn't come.
It was dark down by the waterhole. The tall cliff that formed one side of it kept it in shadow for much of the day under usual circumstances, but the ominous dark grey clouds that filled the sky cast it into a green gloom. The place had a heavy scent of warm, moist vegetation, the ground still damp from last night's rain, and the air ripe for more.
He stood on the large rock next to the slow trickle of a waterfall that filled the waterhole. Bulma was on the far side of the pool, her crossed arms laid across one of the boulders that broke the surface, head resting on her arms.
'Bulma,' he said, surprised she hadn't heard him coming.
'Vegeta,' she replied to the water.
'You wanted to speak to me.'
She raised her head as if it was a huge effort. Her face was leaden, as if her features weighed too much to animate. She looked like she'd aged overnight. Not her best look.
'We...are...fucked,' she said, raising her eyes to him.
He tried to suppress the surge of panic those words induced. 'In what way?'
'The ship can't be sold.'
'I had figured as much. So, we must rely on your wormhole generator.'
'No - I don't know if we can!'
Vegeta flinched at her sudden explosion. She was not done yet, though.
'I have to start all over with the navigation system because my particle accelerator and all my research towards it got struck by lightning last night! Because I NEVER CONSIDERED that we might have a thunderstorm out here!'
Vegeta suddenly didn't feel quite so stupid for getting struck by lightning himself.
'Then you will start all over again. How much time did you lose?'
'About two weeks, but it's not just that! We can't rely on it working! I did some research today on how long it would take to get back to Namek via one of these privateer wormholes, and we've already missed the first window of opportunity - even if we left right now and used the Centennial wormhole, we wouldn't get there in time to use the first set of wishes! If the Nameks are using them, and I'm sure they are, our next chance is our last chance! At least it is for Earth! How can we rely on a navigation system that may never work? It might take me months more before I have it working, or it may never work, but we need to make a move, soon!'
Whatever thread she'd been hanging on to snapped, and she started to cry, bowing her head to the stone again.
'What happened between now and the last time we talked about the wormhole generator to make you give up on it?'
She tried to talk, but it was unintelligible through her tears and her mumbling into her arms. Vegeta levitated down to alight on the boulder above her, then crouched down to hear her better.
'What happened between your first test and this? You had confidence in the device at that time.'
'I really thought we were going to be able to sell the ship and buy our way there! The wormhole generator was only a back up plan. I didn't realise...I wasn't relying on having to use the generator! When we were going to sell the ship it didn't matter that I hadn't gotten to the point of testing this entangled particle navigation theory. And even once it's working, I have no idea how long it might take to open a wormhole in a useful place! Now the ship is wrecked, I realize what a longshot the whole project is!'
'It may still work.'
She raised her head. 'It might, but I can't gamble the lives of everyone on Earth on it!'
Vegeta tried to stifle his disappointment about the wormhole generator. Though it would have been quite the coup to have wormhole travel in his pocket, so to speak, he supposed it was not necessary to have it immediately. Bulma would still be in his service until he defeated Frieza. If he defeated Frieza.
'Vegeta, I know you don't really care about the people of Earth, but it's part of our deal. We need to get there in time to wish Kami back to life before an Earth year is up! What are we going to do?'
He looked into her face, wondering what it was that she wanted him to do or say. He wanted her to stop crying, he knew that. Looking at her made his throat ache.
'We must have a back up plan in action.'
She looked up at him from the water, a pleading look on her face. Strands of her wet blue locks clung to her wet shoulders and the straps of her bikini. He realised it was longer than it had been. She was right that time was passing, something he never really paid a lot of thought to, but timing was essential to the success of her mission.
'What should our back up plan be?'
He took a seat on the boulder, dangling his feet in the water next to her. His pantaloons got wet, but they were filthy with sweat and dirt anyway.
'We must intercept and hijack some ships.'
He wondered why he was having to explain it to her. They had already discussed this idea, she just hadn't liked it at the time.
'Is that the only way?'
'It is the best, surest way to get us there in the time we have.'
She continued to stare up at him with a solemn face.
'I know it is not your favoured option, but if you say the wormhole generator is not to be relied upon, it is our next best option, do you agree?'
She looked pained. 'I don't know.'
He realised then what she wanted. She wanted him to make the decision that she couldn't bring herself to make. He knew she hated collateral damage, and maybe it was rubbing off a little, because he himself was not as cold about it as he had been. Thinking of the last innocent life he had taken - one of the doctors who had tried to help him with the tracker in his head - still made him cringe.
'We will endeavour to pull it off without needless loss of life, but shipjacking is a messy business. I can't guarantee someone won't die.'
'Thank you. But what about fighting our way through a wormhole? Could that be done without killing people?'
'That would certainly involve a lot of deaths, and a decent chance that would include ours.'
'Then, I guess you're right. It has to be shipjacking.'
She sighed and rested her chin on her hands. She'd stopped crying, which was a blessing. 'How do we go about it?'
He shrugged. 'We'll come up with something. But we need to start soon, and depending on the ships we take and the market we find, it could take two or three or even four ships before we've made enough money to buy passage. I would suggest not selling them on this planet - we can steal from the vicinity of Baccanelli, but we can't sell here. It would be too suspicious, and this planet is too law-abiding. We'll need to look at our options close by. It would be preferable to pick a place with marginal ties to the Cold Empire, and even better if they don't have a strong commitment to law and order. I'm thinking of a trading post - one of those planets that have a ruined environment, or were never much to begin with, so the residents make their money by providing a no-holds barred trading market instead.'
'They sound seedy,' Bulma said.
'Oh, they are.'
'But why does Frieza not shut these trading post planets down?'
'He does when they get too big for their own good. When the volume of trade is low enough though, it's not worth the expense of invading and setting up law and tax systems. Frieza isn't going to waste his effort on a few million miserable souls selling bootlegged and stolen goods.'
They sat in silence for a while. Vegeta recalled their last two shipjackings and realised that Tarble had been instrumental in both of them with his conveniently innocent manner, juvenile looks and "sick dad" routine. They weren't going to have that in their arsenal this time.
'You're in your fancy clothes,' she noted. 'Where did you go last night?'
He groaned. 'Last night it seemed like a good idea to get rip-roaring drunk with Raditz. I was mistaken.'
'And you dressed up nice to attract the ladies?' Her mildly acidic tone surprised him.
'No. My training suit was fried to a crisp. I got struck by lightning out in the desert, if you must know. Raditz selected this for me to wear.'
'I wasn't trawling the bars for a woman, if that's what you're thinking.'
'No, I wasn't thinking that. I was thinking that I don't feel quite as dumb for my particle accelerator getting hit by lightning now.'
'Were you out all night?'
'Most of it. Raditz has been cultivating friendships with the natives - we stayed at the apartment of some giant glamour girl he's been secretly seeing. Did you know about that?'
'What? No! How did he manage that?'
'Lied about there being training before each sphere field match. There wasn't. He was just meeting up with this woman for a good fluffing before each match. Krillin had to have been covering for him.'
'Krillin didn't mention anything about it to me.'
Vegeta pressed his lips closed, annoyed that he had let the conversation slide into the inconsequential. In the silence that followed, the thoughts that were so loud in his head felt like caged tigers, prowling around and around, desperate to get out. But he couldn't bring himself to just speak them. Instead he spoke...near them, hinting that they existed.
'It was unfortunate I had to wreck the ship.'
'It had to be done or I'd be-' She shivered. 'I don't even want to think about it.'
'It shouldn't have gotten to the point that it needed to happen. I should have seen the threat that Nappa was becoming.'
Her mouth turned down. 'But how could you have? No one did. He even fooled me, and I had less reason to trust him than anyone.'
'Even Tarble took him as more of a threat to your safety than I did. I thought Nappa was too loyal and too stupid to attempt what he did.'
She shivered again, and continued to tremble. 'Can we not talk about him, please?'
Vegeta turned on the rock to look at her better. Nappa had terrified her so thoroughly that she was still scared and the man was dead. He hated him even more.
'Then I'm sorry it was Tarble, and not me, that was left to try to stop him.'
This was maybe the wrong thing to say. It pushed her over the edge back into tears.
'Then you'd be dead and I'd probably be lost!' she said, and began to sob. 'Tarble was so brave. He must have known that Nappa would be ready and waiting for him when he got back in the airlock, and that he was so injured that Nappa could easily...'
Vegeta felt his throat closing again, and he clenched his fists, fighting against the effect her tears were having on him. He knew his own order had sent Tarble back onto the ship, and Tarble had gone, likely knowing what awaited him.
'I don't understand it!' Bulma was saying. 'How Nappa could've… How could he kill another Saiyan? Especially Tarble!'
Vegeta said nothing, trying to hold himself together.
Bulma looked up at him, eyes hard and critical as she searched his face for something.
'Do you even care that it was Tarble?'
He steeled himself, taking a breath before speaking. 'Of course I do. I owe Tarble.' Saying it made it worse. He cleared his throat. 'For his service.'
'He was a good soldier, in the end.'
'He wasn't just a good soldier! He was your brother!'
Those words struck his heart like a knife. She knew, or she had guessed it. They had probably all guessed it while he had refused to accept it. And if he was honest with himself, he'd suspected it, even before Guru's tampering stirred the memories to the surface. He'd just been too ashamed to admit he could be the bloodkin of such a weakling. Now he was ashamed that he had denied it for so long when it was apparently obvious! Tarble hadn't deserved that. Tarble was far superior to the so-called Elite in their midst.
'I know,' he admitted aloud for the first time. 'And I should have told him-' He stopped, disbelieving, as his voice broke into a sob. Swiftly, he covered his face with his hands, but it couldn't stop the shaking of his chest. Gods, no, this was embarrassing, but he couldn't seem to stop it now it had started. Weeping for Tarble? Nappa would laugh his ass off!
Fuck, I hate the man!
He heard a rush of water, and then wet arms were wrapping themselves around his shoulders. He stiffened, wondering what this was about for a second before he remembered that Bulma was an Earthling, and this is what they did. They comforted each other in times of sadness with hugs and touches. His sobs became a hiccup of laughter for a moment to think that Bulma was now including him in one of these useless Earthling gestures. Still, he was not inclined to give it up. Her scent filled his nose, and that was a comfort - to have her close, to be filled with the nearness of her.
'We can bring him back!' she said. 'You know that, right? We can bring him back with the dragon balls!'
He wrapped his own arms around her, pulling her off balance to half sprawl across his lap. They stayed that way for a while; Bulma soaking his shirt, her narrow back heaving with tears while Vegeta stifled his own against her shoulder, feeling ashamed for having let any out. He didn't know what was wrong with him. Was it the drinking last night? Or the drama and horror of yesterday? He felt worn thin, his emotions too close to the surface.
After a time he became aware she was making small, stroking movements against his back. He did the same to her, marvelling at the softness of her wet skin under his fingers, his utter relief of having her body pressed against his after all this time. He had almost lost her!
'Your bitch of a mate,' he heard Nappa say in memory, and Bulma squeaked as the momentary spasm of fury and dismay caused him to squeeze her too hard.
Fuck the man! he told himself. Who the hell cares what Nappa thought of Bulma or mates, or my father and mother, or anything? He's not here to shame me or give me one of his guidance sessions!
Bulma's tears wound themselves down.
'What's going to happen when we get to Namek now?' she asked, still pressed against his shoulder.
'We will hunt balls and make wishes.'
'But what wishes will we make? I need to make the one to bring Kami back to life. But that leaves three wishes to make and only two left. Your immortality, taking away Frieza's immortality, and bringing Tarble back to life.'
Vegeta sighed. He had known this question was coming.
'We will have to remain on Namek for another Namek year. How long did you say they were? Four galactic months long?'
'Six. But which wish will wait?'
'It hardly matters.'
She stood up out of their embrace and sat on the boulder, next to him. Vegeta's arm hovered. He wasn't sure if he should keep holding onto her or not.
'We could go back to Earth in between wish cycles,' she said. 'We'd have enough time to spend a couple of Galactic months there before we needed to go back to Planet Namek.'
'Why would we do that?'
'Because there are still PTO clean up crews and caretakers on Earth, right? We could deal with them before Kami resurrects the people of Earth.'
'And we could get back to Planet Namek to find that Frieza has also found it and blown it up.'
She leapt to her feet again, looking as if she were about to leg it to Namek to head off Freiza's speculated attack. 'You think he would? We don't even know if he's looking for the dragonballs still!'
'He's at Planet Frieza 65, according to Nappa. That's the nearest PTO base planet to Grenoulliea II and Namek. He's looking for them.'
Her face fell. 'Shit! But then, what is the point of reviving the people of Earth if they just get murdered all over again by PTO soldiers?'
'What is the point of saving the people of Earth if Frieza lives and is immortal and there is no way of undoing that? Do you think he's just going to forget that Earth exists?' Even as he said it, he knew that by his own logic, taking away Frieza's immortality needed to be in the first batch of wishes. That meant choosing between his own immortality and Tarble's life for the third wish, and he had a feeling he knew which one Bulma would prioritise. 'Let's not fret over it before we need to,' he suggested. 'Let's just find the blasted planet first.'
The wind gusted in the trees above, and ripples danced over the surface of the water. Bulma shivered. She was reluctant to leave Vegeta's side when he seemed so accepting of her closeness, but she was getting cold.
'I'm going to go sit in the hot water to warm up,' she told him, and waded the short distance to the pool's hot-spot, wondering if he would follow. As she settled herself with her back against the cliff face, sitting on the hot gravel in warm water up to her neck, Vegeta got up and pulled the sleeveless silk shirt off and dumped it on the boulder. Bulma felt a flutter of excitement that she tried to ignore. This was not the time. And just because he'd let her hold him didn't mean he was interested in starting something between them again.
Then he unfurled his tail from around his waist, unbuttoned his pants and pulled the sodden things off.
Hot damn! I can't help myself!
'You stopping there, or are you taking it all off?'
He gave her a cross look, cheeks starting to redden. 'Foul-minded female. I was coming to join you, but now I don't know if my person will be respected.'
'I'm sorry,' she said, at least half meaning it. 'I promise to "respect your person".'
Despite his protest, when he joined her, he sat so close that their arms touched. Bulma was buoyed, until he spoke again.
'I feel like I am missing pieces of the story,' he said. 'As if I can't completely understand what happened until I hear it all from you.'
Her heart fell. She'd told the tale once. She didn't want to relive it again.
'Did Raditz not tell you?'
She supposed Vegeta, of all people, should know everything. She took a deep breath, readying herself. Maybe this time she could just say the words without them affecting her?
'A week ago Nappa came to me and volunteered to help with the effort to get to Namek.' She stopped, wondering yet again how she had believed him.
Vegeta nodded. 'Tarble told me about that. He said it was because Nappa wanted to see the Saiyan-Earthling alliance ended as soon as possible.'
'That's exactly what Nappa told me. He wanted to replace Tarble as my assistant, too. I guess what he really wanted was the chance to have me and the ship to himself at the same time.'
Vegeta closed his eyes, frowning like he was in pain. 'It seems so obvious now. Tarble and I thought that for the sake of caution he should still be your guardian, not Nappa, and yet we still took Nappa at face value!'
'Well, so did I, and I really should have known better! He hated me. He hated all women, including - actually, especially - his own mother. Did you know that? He told the boys that all women are conniving, selfish whores who only use men for their own ends.'
Vegeta shook his head slowly, his gaze distant.
'You know the day we bailed from Earth and you were still in the regen tank? Nappa was going to rape and kill me, and the only reason he didn't was because Radtiz reminded him that you might be pissed if it turned out you still had a use for me.' She started to shake again, despite the heat of the water and the river bottom. Now as she looked back at it, it seemed like she'd been walking on a knife's edge with Nappa the whole time. How could she have ever considered trusting such a man?
'You didn't tell me about that.'
'I didn't know if you would even care at the time.'
He frowned, looking across the water towards the slab of stone with the trickle of water. 'I care now.'
She studied his profile. She knew he meant it. By actions he had proved that he did, many times, even when his words didn't always match his deeds. He just didn't always care for her feelings.
Suddenly he turned his frown on her. 'Why are you shivering? Your teeth are chattering.'
'Are they? Sorry, I c-can't seem to help it.'
'You're still afraid.'
Not wanting to seem a coward, she said, 'I'm not. It's just that remembering it does that to me.'
His lip lifted in a snarl and she froze in confusion as he lifted his arm out of the water and wrapped it around her shoulders, pulling her tight against him.
'The bastard deserves to die three times for what he did - once for his betrayal, twice for Tarble, and the third time for terrorizing you. Will you stop shaking now?'
His arm around her shoulder felt stiff and awkward, and the fact that it was there at all was just a bit astonishing. She appreciated it all the same, but it still didn't stop her trembling.
'N-Nope, sorry. I don't think I can get through telling you about yesterday without shaking.'
'Maybe you should tell me tomorrow - maybe by then it won't have this effect on you.'
'No, I'll tell you now.' She didn't want to feel this weak. This wasn't her! 'I already started, so I'll finish.'
She rushed through a summary of their trip to Metrophilia, and the memories were now all warped and heavy with foreshadowing. When she told him how she saw Nappa blast Tarble out of the rampway, about Tarble having his chi-leveller on while Nappa didn't, the telling was not so easy. She found herself sliding down the rock wall until the water lapped at her lower lip, shaking like a leaf. She was able to talk through being bound to the bed and as much of what she could remember of what Nappa had said about his plans, the deal he made with Frieza, and the general contempt he held Vegeta, Brolly and herself in, but she turned her face into Vegeta's shoulder so he wouldn't be able to see her so easily.
'He told me that if it was up to him, he'd put me out the airlock once we were in space, b-but for Frieza's s-sake, and the deal he made, he needed to actually keep me alive the whole way. He said...'
Let's just be as accommodating as we can to each other.
This was her limit. She could not tell Vegeta about that - the words wouldn't come. Begging Nappa not to rape her, his leering disgust with her, the "lesson" he planned to teach her was too much to admit. She just stopped, the words ringing in her head.
'Is that when...' She was surprised to hear how rough Vegeta's voice was. His breathing was harsh, but she couldn't bring herself to look at him. 'He took your clothes?'
She nodded. 'Then Tarble came,' she whispered, not lingering on the words, not wanting to see those images in her mind again.
'Damn that fucker! Hell is too good for him!' Vegeta punched the surface of the water with his free hand, sending water flying and a wave rolling up Bulma's nose. 'I should have ripped his tail off when I threatened - he was no Saiyan! I should have killed him long ago!'
She held herself tense while he raged. She knew it wasn't directed at her, but she was still too shaken to endure it.
'It's okay,' she lied, wanting him to calm down.
'It's not okay!'
'But it will be okay! I'm safe thanks to you and Brolly and the others. And Nappa can't harm us anymore.' She dared to look at him. He was watching her, his eyes an endlessly deep black, and his expression was ferocious. She held his gaze, trying to smother the flames of his anger by force of will. She wasn't broken. She might be scared, but it would pass. Vegeta was with her, on her side and literally by her side. But she didn't want his anger right now. It was too late for all that.
'It's going to be okay,' she said more softly.
'I am not a child, Bulma. We don't yet know if it will be "okay" and there is no point in deluding ourselves.'
'You and I have a plan though. A way forward. There's no danger threatening us at this moment, is there?'
He shook his head in begrudging agreement.
'And Plan C has a good chance of success?'
'Then it's going to be okay.'
Little by little, the tension eased from Vegeta; his arm around her shoulders softened and relaxed. She realised she had stopped shaking.
'Do you agree?' she asked.
He gave her a flash of his sardonic smile. 'I suppose things will eventually return to their baseline level of fucked-up-edness, yes.'
'That's the spirit.'
He gave a short laugh, and seeing that, she felt a little better herself. She smiled, then closed her eyes and laid her head back on his shoulder. For a long time neither of them said anything. Bulma was content to soak in the moment. It was such a relief he was here, and such a miracle that he was the one with the power to calm and comfort her. Krillin, Goku and Puar had tried to, but she still felt she had to be strong for them when she had no strength left. With Vegeta, somehow she had fallen apart and yet still felt strengthened afterwards. He was her perfect ally.
When she opened her eyes again he was still watching her with the smallest of puzzled frowns. His gaze dropped to her lips and back to her eyes. She wondered if he had something to say, but whatever it was, he held it in. She had something she wanted to say, too; that there was a warm ache inside her chest that made her feel like singing when she looked at him. Yeah, she couldn't say that. He would piss himself laughing.
As neither of them were budging on saying their piece, she thought maybe she should look away. She didn't though, and instead the moment built into its own thing. For every second she looked into his eyes, her heart beat a little faster. His fingertips brushed against her arm - a tiny movement that could easily be dismissed - but she knew what it was. It was her chance to get up and walk away from him if she wanted to.
Her heart gave a lurching beat, as if it had tripped over itself. A warm wash of anticipation bloomed from her breast and came to settle in the apex of her legs. Were they going to try this again?
But what if we kiss and it's just like last time?
The racing warmth instantly became cold dread.
She couldn't take any more of Vegeta's seesawing between lust and vitriol. Here she was sitting in his arms, but if he were to snatch all that away again and blame her for his "moment of weakness" when they needed each other the most... He would break her heart this time, and she would never forgive him.
Lightning flashed overhead. Vegeta hadn't noticed how dark it had gotten until he saw Bulma's delicate face illuminated in perfect detail. She was so beautiful. She was also frowning. He had an urge to press his lips between her brows and banish it. It was almost as strong as the urge to haul her into his lap.
I can't believe I am thinking such things!
But he was, and the longer he looked at her the more he yearned for her. It was going to overpower him. Unless he wanted to lose control, he should extricate himself from this situation right now.
No good. The effort of fighting himself was more than he could manage at this moment. And why should he not have her? Raditz had his own woman secreted away in Sweet-Stuff Village. He didn't recall Raditz ever getting such intense scrutiny from Nappa over his choice of bedmates, and why was that?
'Your bitch of a mate!'
Nappa had shouted that over comms for everyone to hear, to shame him. But what had Nappa known? Maybe nothing Nappa had ever said was true. How would they ever know what a Saiyan was or should do? Nappa said not to lose himself to a woman lest he be taken advantage of, but Bulma had the truth of it when she said Nappa hated all women. Why hadn't he recognised that pattern in Nappa before? Was that how all Saiyan men thought of their women? He'd been so young last time he'd seen Saiyan men and women together at the same time, he didn't know.
The truth was, he wanted to lose himself. He could already feel it happening where his skin touched Bulma's; he was melting into her, mixing with her human Earthling essence. He didn't care anymore if it was the Saiyan thing or the right thing, or a revolting thing to do - what did it matter when he was already so thoroughly disgusted with himself anyway? A failure such as himself was worth losing.
Thunder rumbled across the sky, getting louder in waves until the cliff against their back trembled. Bulma made neither a move towards or away from him. Uncertainty beset him, but he could stand it no longer. He leant towards her, his heart already racing in anticipation of feeling her lips on his, and also fear that she would turn him away.
She jerked her head back.
'No?' he guessed, breathless and trying not to sound dismayed.
She shook her head, her frown deeper, like she might cry again.
'Vegeta, I don't want to do this if you're just going to walk away and leave me like you did the other times.'
'What do you mean?'
'I mean after we kissed in my house, the night you got your tail back, you stormed off and said it was all a mistake. And after we had sex you pretended like it never happened!'
Right, he had done that, hadn't he? He hadn't really considered how she would have felt about that until right now.
'That won't happen this time.'
'So you're not going to say it was a mistake, or an accident, or all my fault?'
'This is definitely on purpose, on my part.'
'Then promise you won't say that it isn't right, or that you can't give me what I want, or whatever bullshit you fed me the other times.'
'I promise,' he said. Even as he said it he knew it was a reckless thing to promise, but he didn't want to think it through. There was no consequence worth considering in the face of his hunger for her.
Her frown wavered. He took the chance and raised his lips to kiss it, as he had imagined. When he pulled away again he saw to his surprise that it had worked. She now looked like she might laugh. He suddenly felt foolish.
'It is dark - I missed,' he lied.
She reached an arm around his neck and pulled him to her. Their lips touched and parted, and Vegeta was released from a prison he hadn't known he was in; he felt like he could have floated into the air without the use of chi. He dove in, pouring his yearning into the kiss, riding a crest of joy as he felt their tongues touch and slide together. The feeling was so powerful, he wanted to crush her to him, but he didn't give into that, knowing that he could literally crush her if he was careless Instead he reached for her, gathering her in closer with both arms, the slippery sensation of their wet skin sliding together under the water making him crazy, as if their kiss was now wherever they touched - their hands, legs, their chests brushing together.
Bulma found herself in Vegeta's lap, reclined into his arms as he pinned her with his kiss. She opened her eyes as they parted, and seeing his eyes half open with hazy lust, felt a giddy pulse of arousal that almost took her breath away.
Part of the attraction of kissing Vegeta had always been how questionable it was. Now the risk wasn't to her safety or to her moral integrity, it was to her heart. The dread she had felt earlier had not entirely gone away with his promise. It coiled with her desire, giving it a heavy, sharp edge, that she surrendered to. Let it cut her if it was going to, if he was going to. She arched in his arms, laying her heart open to him.
They kissed again, deeper and more desperate, Bulma clinging tight to him. Her skin came alive as he slowly trailed a hand down her ribs, her hip, and her thigh, making her shiver again, and not from cold or fear this time. The sweet moment collapsed under the weight of passion, and it was stunning; gratifying; hot. His touch became bolder, trailing between her legs, up her stomach to her breast.
Wanting to touch him in return, she twisted like a fish in his arms, turned to face him and straddled his lap. She floated too high in the water to make contact, but Vegeta grasped her waist with his tail and planted her firmly, pulling an exclamation from both of them as their centres bumped together.
Now her own hands were free to roam his body; the smooth shapes of muscle under his skin, the occasional ridge of scars, the hard warrior's body that somehow made her feel safe. Shoulders, pects, abdominals - all the way down to stoke the hardness swelling between them, straining the fabric of his wet underwear. Vegeta's hands skimmed over her back and breasts, snagging in the bikini straps. She felt the halter-neck tie come loose, and did nothing to stop it as it slipped down and her breasts floated free. She didn't bother feeling shy this time - he'd seen them before and he'd seemed to like them quite a lot. His eyes followed his hands as he rubbed thumbs and palms over her nipples.
She rose to her knees, chest out of the water in invitation, and he pulled her towards him, taking one into his mouth. She held in a moan, but when his free hand began to rub her through her bikini bottoms, the dual sensations adding to each other, she let it out anyway.
Alerted by the lack of pressure round her chest, she looked around and saw her bikini top drifting away towards the edge of the pool. Hurriedly, she pulled herself away from Vegeta, who gave a cry of confusion.
'What are you doing?' he asked as she snatched the escaping top.
'I only have one bikini, and I'm not letting it disappear downriver!'
Standing, she waded back to the boulder and dumped it safely on top of Vegeta's clothes.
She turned to see Vegeta gliding silently through the water after her like a stalking crocodile. He stopped in front of her, waiting expectantly.
'Yes?' she asked.
'Are you going to stop there, or are you taking it all off?'
She was starting to feel a little shy now, standing topless in thigh deep water.
'Will my person be respected?'
Grinning, she took the bikini bottoms off, too, with as much grace as she could muster. She worried briefly that there was nothing to stop one of the others coming down and seeing her undressing for Vegeta, but it was not enough to make her stop.
Vegeta watched her, neck deep in the water, his eyes level with her tuft of blue pubic fuzz. Drifting closer, he ran his hands up her thighs under the water, up over her buttocks, and again, and this time he trailed one hand up her inner thigh, slowing as he went, almost hesitantly cupping her nakedness. Bulma leaned back against the rock slightly, widening her legs, feeling his fingers ease through the slipperiness to explore. He looked between her face and her cleft, and she started to blush, even as she got wetter at the thought that he might like what he saw. His face was so close to her pussy she wondered if he would...if he would use his mouth?
Lightning flashed again, making her think of camera flashes, and she swiftly closed her legs and covered her breasts, looking at the top of the waterfall where she'd left her towel. No one was there though. Vegeta laughed at her, pulling his hand free from her clamped thighs, then laughed harder as a crack of thunder rocked the ravine and made her jump.
'Jeez! That was close!'
'Still scared of thunderstorms, I see?'
'Just scared of being electrocuted to death is all.'
'It won't strike us down here.'
She knew that, and hated that the knowledge hadn't stopped her instinctual fright.
She lowered her hands, then flinched as a cold drop of water struck her in the shoulder, then another on her breast. A few drips splashed into the water, and then in the space of seconds rain was sheeting down, smashing into the waterhole so hard it was difficult to tell where the rain ended and the river began.
Bulma gawped, momentarily shocked by the drenching cool running down her face and body. Vegeta laughed again, illuminated by more lightning and then drowned out by more thunder.
'I really feel the universe is trying to tell us something,' Bulma suggested.
'The Saiyan Goddess of the storm would show her approval with thunder and lightning.'
'If I was lying, how would you know?'
He stood up out of the water, revealing the fact that he'd ditched his underwear at some point without her noticing. He wrapped his arms around her and then pulled her back into the warmth of the water. She squealed, but let him tow her to the tiny sandy beach formed in an alcove of the cliff. He beached them in the shallows, head and shoulders out of the water and clear of the worst of the rain while it drummed into the pool around them. They huddled chest to chest, arms around each other as they watched their familiar waterhole transforming. The trickle of a waterfall had already become a gushing spout. Every handful of seconds brought another flash of lightning, the thunder was almost continuous, and the trees lashed about in gusts of wind.
'Well, this is intense,' Bulma said, almost shouting to be heard over the thunder and pounding rain.
'Quite the sight,' agreed Vegeta, then turned away from it to her. His hair was plastered to his head and shoulders in a way that she found both adorable and sexy. He was grinning, looking immensely pleased as his erection nudged gently against her belly. The weather was suddenly much less interesting than the feel of their naked bodies pressed to each other.
'Do we wait it out?' she asked, her lips feeling thick.
'I think that may be best. I would survive a mid-air strike of lightning, but I don't know about you.'
'Yes, and you're apparently a walking lightning rod.'
He bucked his hips, pressing his cock against her. 'What are you saying?'
She sniggered at his crude joke and reached down to touch his "lightning rod." He pulled her to him, pressing himself into her hand. When his tail wrapped around her hip, she hesitated. She wasn't sure how she felt about it, or what to do with it. It was an undeniably inhuman feature, and last time they'd been this intimate he hadn't had it. Cautiously, she wrapped her hand around it. Vegeta stilled, staring into her eyes. Remembering how he had reacted last time, she dragged her fingers over the sodden fur. He didn't tell her off or pull away, so she stroked it again
The sound he made wasn't even a moan, more of a whimper, and he fell against her. For a second she thought she had hurt him, but he rolled onto her, burying his face in the crook of her neck and nipping it with a soft bite. The sensation sent shivers through her, and she repaid the favour, tasting the sweet saltiness of his skin.
They rolled together, getting sand caked in their wet hair, heedless while they touched, legs tangled together, hands exploring, stroking, grasping. Soon it was so dark that the only time she could see his face was when lightning flashed.
Several times they needed to shuffle up the tiny beach as the water level rose, until at last there was no beach, and Vegeta had to sit up against the cliff. Seeing this, Bulma straddled him, knowing exactly what this would lead to. Indeed, Vegeta arched his hips, cock probing vainly for entrance, but he only slid helplessly back and forth. It felt good anyway; she rocked herself on him, wondering if this was weird, but liking the sensation too much to stop. Vegeta wasn't complaining about it though - he was cupping her breasts, rubbing his face against them. When he took her nipple in his mouth again, the pleasure of it joined the mounting ache between her legs. She felt an emptiness there - a wanting to be full that she had never known before. Now was the time, in a way that it had never been before.
Raising and then lowering herself slowly, she guided him in with her hand. Vegeta groaned long and loud as she enveloped him. She was afraid it might feel as uncomfortable as it had the first time, but it was so much better, like she was softer in eagerness for his hardness.
She moved atop him, cautiously at first, catching his mouth in a kiss, muffling a moan. But soon she needed more, deeper, faster. Vegeta helped her; gripping her hips, raising her and bucking up into her with each stroke, making her gasp as the pleasure built with every soft collision. She gave up on stifling the sounds she was making and let them fly free into the thunderous din. She was in a place past self-consciousness. There was just their tiny world; warm, dark and wet sliding bodies and breath shared between kisses.
The end arrived quickly. She came with a cry, her limbs trembling. Vegeta held her to her rhythm for a few thrusts longer until he came to a convulsive, shuddering stop, his own cry muffled in her shoulder.
For a few moments she lived in a world without context - no past, no future to think of, just the two of them catching their breath. The layers between them and around them seemed to be gone. In the embers of her orgasm it was so simple. She leaned into him, wrapping her arms around his neck, pressing into him for the warmth of his chest. His arms stayed around her, his breath hot on her neck. They weren't Bulma and Vegeta any more - they just were. She felt connected to him; a sweet, heavy ache that linked her heart and his.
But that is just my imagination, she told herself. I like him SO much, but he is Vegeta. I doubt he feels anything so romantic.
Eventually she had to acknowledge the cold water she was kneeling in and the rain still pelting her back.
'Can you tell the storm to give it a rest?' she mumbled.
'I'm flattered you think I have so much influence, but I'll give it a go.'
Ah, yes, he was Vegeta. She sat back in his lap.
'Begone, storm!' She liked the way she could feel his lower abdominal muscles working when he shouted. 'Bulma, the Earth Woman, commands it!'
He was answered by more thunder. She clambered off of him, sitting beside him against the cliff and found herself waist deep in cold water. The waterfall was a true waterfall now, and the tumble of rocks next to it that she used as steps to get in and out of the pool was part of the water feature. She watched as the trunk of a small tree washed over the waterfall, submerged and resurfaced only two feet away. In the other direction, around the corner and further down the ravine, a flickering orange glow marked a tree on fire.
'Do you know what? I think we might need to get out of here!' she said.
They got to their feet, and the first problem they encountered was that the boulder was now submerged and their clothes were gone. Bulma looked around the waterhole for any sign of her bikini, or the towel she had left up top that must surely have been washed down. Even taking one step out into the waterhole filled her with fear. What had been a barely perceptible current half an hour ago was now a treacherous torrent.
'I suppose that's what we get for being distracted.'
Bulma couldn't believe just how distracted they had been. Half the planet could have blown up and they might not have noticed.
'Can I risk flying you back to camp?' Vegeta asked. 'I think you'd likely break your neck or drown trying to walk back.'
Bulma thought so, too. 'The strikes are already further away than they were - the leading edge of the storm is gone. I think it should be okay, but keep low. I really hope no one is outside to see us!'
'I imagine they will all be in the ship or your house.'
'They'd better not be in my house!'
Vegeta scooped her up into his arms.
'Wait a second!'she cried, feeling how she was already oozing through his grip. 'I'm too slippery now that I'm all wet and naked. You'll drop me!'
'You might. Maybe there's a better way to carry- oh!'
He tossed her in the air, turning her so they were belly to belly. and he held her under one shoulder and around her knees. His tail snaked around her waist, gripping tightly,
'You're not going anywhere.'
'No, Vegeta! I am not flying ass-first through a storm!'
But it was already happening.
They crested the edge of the ravine and Bulma could see the remains of the latest campfire smoking forlornly in a puddle. Light streamed out of the cruiser where it sat on the edge of the plain. She was still facing it when Vegeta landed, just as another figure landed outside the rampway, silhouetted in the light.
'Oh my god!' she yelped, realising that the cruisers lights could probably illuminate all the way to the house for a Saiyan's sharp eyes.
'What?' Vegeta said, turning to put her naked ass towards the figure.
'No! No! Put me down!'
Vegeta dropped her feet, and she scrambled to get behind him.
The silhouette doubled over and Raditz's laugh could be heard even over the rain.
'That's not how you do it!'
Author's Note: Thoughts? Feels? Let me know in that handy review box!