Disclaimer: I don't own DBZ or the characters.
All right, so this story has been in my mind for a while now (as well as 2-3 others), but I didn't want to work on it yet until my mind kept pushing me towards it. It kind of goes hand in hand with another story I did, Foster Family, which was surprisingly well received. The plot is completely different and a little more dark/depressing (in my opinion), and for that, it's rated M. I hope you enjoy this adaptation.
Today was just an ordinary day at the West City Fire Department. Thankfully there had been no calls, no fires destroying the homes of fellow citizens. Those on duty were eating their lunch, away from some of the more business type men in their precinct. That was just the way firefighter, Vegeta Kurobushi, liked it.
Vegeta had been a firefighter the majority of his life, following in the footsteps of his late father. The flame-haired youth had always dreamed about joining his father as a firefighter one day, though he had never gotten the chance. Irony was not one of Vegeta's favorite things, so when his parents passed on from a plane crash Vegeta became angry with his circumstances. He almost gave up on his dream, but someone stopped him.
One of his father's friends still worked at the precinct and was the one who got him involved. His name was Nappa and he was the best guardian Vegeta could have asked for. His parents' deaths were hard for him, but Nappa took him in so that the system wouldn't. Vegeta stayed with Nappa until he graduated high school and was able to afford a small apartment on his own. He was the one that encouraged Vegeta to join the department, and he was the one who taught the young man all he knew about safety on the job.
The other two in their group were Kakarot and Raditz, two brothers who were really good at their job. Vegeta had already been training when they had joined. Raditz had moved out on his own, searching for a job after his father threw him out. Kakarot had left home wanting to support his older brother. Neither of them had spoken to their father since and were perfectly happy being roommates and joining their district.
"So you want to come with us?" Kakarot stated after nearly shoving a sandwich down his throat. "Our treat, Vegeta. What do you say?"
"No, Kakarot," Vegeta sighed. "I want to be left alone."
"But it's your birthday!" his friend shouted calling the attention of their other compatriots. Vegeta flashed glares in response to their questioning and judgmental gazes, and then glared at Kakarot. "Sorry…what I meant to say is we should celebrate tonight."
"I don't celebrate," Vegeta retorted. "After I get off, I'm going home."
"Well, whatever," Raditz piped in after taking a long sip of his coffee, then resting a dark blue mug on the coffee colored table. "It is your birthday after all."
"Lay off," Vegeta muttered before he heard his boss, Rodney, call for him.
Kakarot and Raditz looked over to Vegeta nervously. "What the heck did you do now, boy?" Nappa questioned.
The response was a shrug. "Hell if I know." With that, Vegeta stood up and walked into a small office with his head held high.
Rodney sighed when Vegeta sat down in the seat across from his desk. Rumors continued to go around the department and it was his job to clear them. Vegeta had always been a hardworking and committed firefighter, ever since he was a teenager even, so he had no reasons to doubt his abilities. If the rumors proved true, however, something would have to be done to make sure no lives would be endangered.
"Good afternoon, Vegeta," Rodney said attempting to be pleasant. "I hear birthday wishes are in order."
"Not really," Vegeta replied nonchalantly while looking at the gray, paper-covered walls. "Why am I in here?"
Now, Rodney wasn't a bad guy, but he always irritated Vegeta. The man tried to act like a father to him and the flame-haired youth did not take it well. He didn't care if Rodney worked closely with his father in the past or even if he had met him few times when he was a small boy. Rodney was not his father. No one could ever replace him, and no one except this short, stout, balding man in front of him ever tried.
"Vegeta, I'll get straight to the point," Rodney replied harshly, though reluctantly. "I was told by someone here that they saw you at the bar again last night."
Vegeta stared at Rodney blankly before shaking his head. "I fail to see how that is any of yours or their business. Let me guess, Yamcha, right?"
"Vegeta," Rodney said sternly. "Our mission here is to save lives, and you can't do that if you have a hangover in the morning and lack focus."
"I wouldn't have come if I wasn't alert!" Vegeta shouted standing and placing his hands on the desk. "I don't see how it's your business if I go out to a bar or not. You don't even know how much I drank. Just to be clear, I'm sober. I never come to work drunk."
"Vegeta, the person who told me has seen you there before," Rodney pressed. "Others in the department have seen you there consecutive nights. I think you might have a problem, son."
Vegeta felt a lot of anger towards his boss, for multiple reasons. First was his accusation. Vegeta drank often, as any man did. No, he didn't have a drinking problem, or at least he told himself that. Sometimes it would just be one to get over a long a stressful day. Sometimes one became many. But he definitely didn't have a problem. He never drank anything heavy, and it was never enough to impair his senses the next day. What he did with his life was his business, and no one else's save Nappa. If Nappa hadn't harassed him about it, there was no way in hell he'd allow his boss to lecture him on his personal habits.
"Don't call me that," Vegeta said darkly. "As for your allegations, you have no say in what I do if it doesn't affect my work, and you know it hasn't affected my work, so we are done here." Vegeta didn't let Rodney respond to his tirade. Leaving the bald man stunned, his brown eyes widened, Vegeta returned to the common area. He only had a few more hours left anyway.
Four minutes. He only had for minutes before he could leave and return home. He wasn't on call for the night seeing as it was his birthday. Vegeta was ready to get out of there and spend a quiet evening at home, alone. When he was alone, he didn't have to worry about concealing his emotions as much as normal. He could drink in peace without being harassed, or so he thought until this day disproved that theory. He only had to wait four minutes.
And then chaos ensued. After a peaceful day with no calls in, the alarm in the firehouse blared making sure all who was there could hear. Everyone reacted in the normal way, including Vegeta who no longer cared about those four minutes. After all, someone needed them, needed him.
He was the first one on and off the truck, going to Nappa for suggestions on how to enter. It was a building in the center of town, thankfully away from other buildings, but it would spread if they weren't careful. The white, domed building that was both a home and business to one of the greatest inventors out there was completely engulfed in flames and black smoke with only few ways in and out. Workers had made it out and looked disheveled, rundown, and were either receiving medical attention or panicking.
"What do you need me to do?" Vegeta asked Nappa. This was always a little unconventional for the department seeing as the main goals were always to contain the fires, but what Vegeta was asking is was he needed inside and was everyone out safely. Vegeta's main goal was to save the lives of whoever was remaining inside.
"Workers are panicking because their boss and his wife and daughter are still in," Nappa explained, "but Vegeta, there's no way in and if there is, most likely you won't get to them in time. Just work on containing the fire."
Vegeta ignored him, getting the gear he needed including a mask to get inside. "Vegeta, don't," Nappa ordered, though he knew it was falling on deaf ears. Vegeta wasn't listening any longer.
As soon as Nappa said there were three civilians still inside, Vegeta's mind was on autopilot. He knew what he needed to do: go in, get the survivors, and get out. The youth didn't even hear the concerned calls of his friends and guardian as he charged in through the burning front door.
Surrounded by flames, he searched around for the three people he needed to find. He only had minutes to find them, avoiding spots where the ceiling was threatening to cave in. And then he came across a scene he wished he would never have seen.
There was the daughter of the scientist hovering over the burning bodies of her now deceased parents, attempting to yell for help but choking from the smoke inhalation. When he got to her, she was fighting his as he tried to lead her away from the gruesome sight. The girl did not want to leave, but Vegeta managed to forcibly lift her ignoring her kicks and punches.
Nappa was concerned, waiting by the trunk, hoping that Vegeta would get out of there soon. Some of the others in the squad were busy trying to contain the fire, and were thankfully succeeding. As an older member of the district, he was looked to as the leader, and right now he was worried about one of those his duties and conscience had him protect.
Parts of the domed house were breaking and crackling and he knew that if Vegeta didn't appear in the next five minutes, he wasn't going to come out at all; and that was driving the bald man insane. He should have tried harder to stop him, regardless of how much he would have fought. At least he would know that the youth was safe.
Staring at the entrance that was starting to become a danger zone, Nappa had just about given up that is until Vegeta came rushing out with a blue-haired girl. The older man was about to offer help before Raditz rushed over. The girl was hysterical and choking having been exposed to the smoke and flames. Raditz took the girl in his arms and brought her over to the medical team while Vegeta went back to the trunk to return the mask. Then right after, he went over to the young girl.
The oxygen mask was given right away, though she was still coughing a lot. Her family's workers were coming over to check on her health and apologize for the accident that had allegedly caused the fire. He heard them say her name, Bulma or Miss Briefs, numerous times. She kept attempting to respond, but couldn't speak and began coughing again. And then she looked at him, her blue eyes searching him for some sort of answer as to what she just witnessed that night. Terrified and devastated by her loss, tears joined the ash and matted down hair on her pale face. Vegeta didn't know what to say or do, but the shock of losing one's parents was too great and he knew that. For some reason unbeknownst to him, he wanted to go with the medical staff and make sure the girl was okay; his plans and desires to be alone for the night were forgotten.
There was only one way to get information at the hospital, especially when it came to someone famous. It involved breaking the law and privacy of the patient, and if he got caught there would be some problems, but he needed to make sure the young girl, Bulma, would be okay.
"Who are you hear to see?" the female greeter questioned as he made his way to the desk. By this time, he had been home and changed from his uniform into a dark blue, long-sleeved and black pants. It was better that he draw less attention to himself since he was breaking hospital policy.
"Bulma Briefs," he stated earning a raised eyebrow. "I'm her cousin."
"Oh, okay," the woman replied writing out a visitor's pass for him. "That's room 420."
"Thanks," Vegeta muttered taking the pass before heading to the elevators.
It didn't take long for him to reach the room. Thankfully no one was in the hall either. It would make it easier to see Bulma's file without anyone knowing he was there.
Not even seconds after he opened the front cover, there was a doctor standing in front of him clearing his throat and looking quite perturbed. Vegeta closed the file and placed it back on the door. "What were you doing?" the doctor asked irritably.
Vegeta crossed his arms in challenge. "I just got here. I wanted to check on my cousin's progress," he lied.
The doctor, believing his lie, nodded. "She'll make a full recovery physically, although for now she's suffering residual damage from smoke inhalation. I was actually going to check on her now. Would you like to join me?"
Vegeta hesitated slightly, but nodded and followed the doctor in the room. He saw that Bulma was asleep on the bed covered by a single white sheet. Her arms were burnt slightly, but that would heal over time. She looked so much cleaner and peaceful than she had at her home.
"Hm," the doctor drawled, "I was hoping she'd be awake to test her voice."
"Her what?" Vegeta asked harshly. "What's wrong with her voice?"
The doctor sighed before writing some things down in her chart. "Between the trauma of losing everything and the damage from the smoke, she won't be able to speak for a while. The smoke damaged her vocal cords. It will take some time for that to heal, but she will heal."
A pit formed in Vegeta's stomach. He couldn't help but empathize with the girl. He wanted to know more, but it would look too desperate on his part if he wanted his ruse to work.
"Anyway, I have other patients," the doctor said. "I'll be back in a bit to see if she's awake. With everything she's gone through today it might be good for her to see a familiar face. Mind waiting here?"
"I-" Vegeta attempted to refuse before the doctor flew out the door. "Oh great," he muttered to himself. Now the doctor was expecting him to stick around when he really should be leaving. Well, it wouldn't be too bad if she couldn't talk and recount his lie.
So Vegeta decided to stay and look around the hospital room. He always hated how they were always nothing but plain, white walls. There was a dry erase board hanging at the side of her bed that held the names of the nursing staff and doctor. Then he saw a dry erase board on the table next to Bulma, most likely to aid her in speaking.
A soft moan alerted him to Bulma being awake. Well, at least she could still make sounds even if she couldn't speak. Maybe that's why the doctor said she'd recover. Their eyes met briefly before Bulma narrowed hers at her intruder. Vegeta didn't even care that he was caught. Instead he just handed her the board and asked, "How are you holding up?"
"How do you think?" she wrote on the board. Okay, so she was mad. "What are you doing here? You shouldn't be here."
"I only wanted to make sure you were alright," he replied. "I wish I could have done more for you, but I couldn't, and I felt responsible."
"You obviously know what the problem is. Why would the doctor give you information? You're not family!"
Vegeta chuckled and crossed his arms over his chest. The smug look on his face was all she truly needed to see to know he had screwed over the system. "I told them I was your cousin."
Bulma looked infuriated and hurriedly wrote down another message after erasing. "I could report you right now and you'd end up in jail or without a job."
Bulma froze and stared blankly at Vegeta. She couldn't believe he called her bluff. Sure, she could get him in trouble, but she wouldn't. If anything she'd correct the staff on him not being her cousin, but by being a close friend who was checking on progress. Despite the intrusion, he had rescued her even when she was hysterical. Then she saw a forming bruise on his face and held back a gasp. Had she really hit him that hard?
"No, but I'm changing your story with them," she scribbled. "They can't think you're my cousin when you aren't."
He answered with a shrug. "Fair enough. Now…do you have a place to go?"
Bulma was taken aback by the question, but thought on it. She never spoke to any of her relatives, she wouldn't feel comfortable with her staff, and her only friend was going to be out of town for a week. When she got out the hospital, she wouldn't have a place to go for at least that long.
Vegeta didn't know what caused him to say it, especially since he hated having houseguests, but she would need a place to go when they finally released her. "Well, you do now," he offered.
Bulma's mouth dropped open before her lips set in a firm line. She looked to the hospital sheet and shook her head feeling guilty for having snapped at him earlier. Then, with the marker, she wrote another message. "Why? Why would you help me?"
"Because I want to," was all Vegeta could say, not knowing the answer himself. He mentally scoffed at himself, the part of him that wanted to be alone freaking out at the part that was inviting some random girl he saved to live with him.
"Thank you," was what she wrote before erasing and before the doctor entered the room again.
"Ah, Miss Briefs, I see you're awake now," he said. "Your cousin came a little while ago."
Bulma graced Vegeta with another glance before writing, "He isn't my cousin. He's my friend, but I'll be staying with him."
"Oh?" the doctor questioned giving Vegeta a small heated look. Vegeta snorted slightly before crossing his arms and leaning against the wall, allowing the doctor to check on her. "That's against hospital policy, you know."
"We know, but it's an arrangement we had because it's hard for non-family members to get information on people they might as well be family with," she lied.
"Well, whatever works for you," he told her. "Don't make a habit of it though. You could always just sign a form allowing the medical staff to talk to him instead of lying and possibly getting each other in trouble."
"We'll keep it in mind."
The doctor finished checking her out and picked up his clipboard. "She's doing okay. We'd like to keep here overnight for observation, but she should be able to be checked out tomorrow sometime. Does that work for you?"
"Yes," Vegeta replied. "I am off tomorrow. Besides, I need to get things set up at home for her to settle in."
"Good, we'll call you," the doctor replied handing him the clipboard. "We'll get the number from you, Bulma, when the time comes."
The doctor left before either could object, but Vegeta solved the problem by writing the number out on her board. "I'll leave you to rest. I need to go prepare the spare room in my apartment. Is there anything else you need?"
Bulma answered with a shake of her head. Vegeta nodded and then turned to leave. He stopped when he heard a tapping and looked to see Bulma glaring at him. "What?" he rasped.
"Have a good night."
He smiled sadly, chuckling and earning the girl's confusion. "Yes, you too. Rest." And with that, he was gone, onto start a new chapter in his life. Happy Birthday to me.
A/N: Yes, so I was originally going to wait to post this, but I decided against it. I'm posting it now; however, I want to write ahead on the next few chapters so that I can give weekly updates hopefully sometime next month. Let me know what you think about the first chapter, and if any of you know anything about firefighters and departments, let me know. Any info would help.