Kitty's Fan Fics

World Enough And Time

Chapter3

DISCLAIMER: I DON’T OWN DBZ OR ANY CHARACTER OF THE SAME. I’M NOT RECEIVING ANY MONEY FROM THE WRITING OF THIS PIECE OF FAN FICTION

WARNING: ALL YE UNDER 18 GO AWAY NOW! This fic contains violence, adult themes, sex, and profanity. If this is not your thing, don’t read it.

Chapter III: Yardrat: Year Two

In the four months since the Saiyan fleet had made landfall on Yardrat, Nappa had still not been able to face that bastard Bardock across a Privy Council meeting without clenched fists that he could barely restrain from wrapping around the "Royal Seer's" throat each time the man spoke. He had found that if he imagined doing just that throughout the entirety of each meeting of his Prince's chief advisers, he could function with a fair degree of civility toward him. It was already three hours past dawn, and they were still yammering on about the pros and cons of taking on another race of wholly enthusiastic allies. High powered allies. He shifted irritably in his chair, a weakling Madrani construct and much too small to comfortably accommodate the backside of a man as large as himself, and broke in over the droning voice of Turna. The man was sighting stats on average Maiyosh-jin energy levels, as though every real warrior in the room did not know, had not memorized the fighting powers of every space-faring race in the known galaxy before he reached his fifth year.

"I don't see the problem?" He said to the room at large. "The Maiyosh-jin, or what Freiza left of them, are strong. Not as powerful as Saiyans, but nothing to turn up our noses at if they want to throw in with us in the war. They are not warriors by trade, but they have the hate of having their world put to the torch to fuel their will."

"They are treacherous by nature," Vegita said. "They are famed for it throughout the galaxy. They are not to be trusted under any circumstances. But…you are right. They have seen their world burnt. Zarbon, you had personal dealings with the Royal House."

The blue pouf adjusted the lost green locks of his long hair like a girl primping. "Burka will shake your right hand while he steals the left. His sister Garida is his twin, in every aspect. Jeiyce…" He frowned darkly. "I knew him on Tsiru-sei. He is a powerful fighter and can lead warriors into battle with a great deal of skill. But he's out of his mind. He hides it very well, but he's stark raving mad. He will be a liability and might betray his entire race just to get back in good with Frieza. He worships the old monster."

"Bardock?" Vegita said.

Bardock this and Bardock that. Nappa came perilously close to snarling aloud. Since the Seer's reinstatement, the Saiyan no Ouji was rapidly losing the ability to make any decision whatsoever without consulting that charlatan.

"They are treacherous," said the other man, his voice thick with a back country western dialect that betrayed his worthless common blood. "But they will be true to this fight. Frieza is hunting down the refugees of Maiysoh Prime out of spite, and they know their survival lies in our victory. Jeiyce will not betray us in this. But he will cause trouble if we let him sup at our hearth."

"Then we will let him cause it elsewhere," Vegita murmured. "We will fight as allies with the Maiyosh-jin, but not beside them. We will provide aid to them and they to us as needed, and let Jeiyce open up a second front against Tsiru-sei."

"They gave us a gift of good faith at the parley, Ouji-sama," Turna said with a solemn grin. "Something we have been in desperate need of for the length of this war and have not been able to spare the resources or manpower to assemble. A two hundred chambered zygote incubator, with a full conception lab. The Maiyosh-jin scientists crafted it especially for Saiyan infants." Good man, thought Nappa. Turna was loyal to the old ways, the ways of his father and his father before him. As were all of the men on the Council…with the exception of Bardock, of course. And how in the name of hell had Frieza's blue-skinned ex-bed warmer wheedled his way into this meeting?! "With your leave, we can take egg samples from every viable Saiyan female and begin to grow---"

"We will keep it well," Vegita cut him off. "We will put it in the bunker capsule with all of the most precious, indispensable assets we have, and keep it safe. But we are at war. We cannot spare the manpower or technical drain a crop of two hundred infants would create. If we win, we will use it to increase our numbers when victory is achieved. If we lose, it will not matter."

The boy had brains, Nappa thought nodding in agreement. A crop of mewling, useless infants was nothing they needed at this juncture. Though why Vegita had allowed breeding with lesser races was beyond him. The first wave of half-breeds had only recently begun training, and would very shortly be thrown into the mix of battle to fight well or die. That would be the test of whether this pollution of Saiyan blood with alien filth had been justified. If the little half-breeds fought well, then the Prince would have once again surprised him by taking what seemed a course of madness and pulling a victory out of it. Of course, when the war was won, the little bastards would have to be put down, but…they would have served the purpose for which they were created. To strengthen the armies of their fathers' race. And if the half-bloods were too weak to survive battle at three and four years old, they would be culled all the sooner.

"At the very least, my Lord," Nappa said firmly. "We should get you an heir. Several, in fact. We can hold the brats in cryo-storage, as embryos.But should you fall by ill chance, your line will die with you."

The boy was silent a moment, considering. Nappa fought to keep his face unfurrowed as another wave of frustrated anger washed over him. What the hell was there to think about? The King had loaded his brat down with too much thinking---alien ideas, non-Saiyan ideas. He had known no good would come of the weakling tutors his Lord had brought in from other worlds---another of that bastard upstart Seer's meddling suggestions. A King needed to be strong and cunning and hold with the traditions of his people. Nothing more. Too much learning led to giving pause when it was time to act, and for all the boy's magnificent strength, he was sometimes hamstrung by his education. And sometimes distinctly un-Saiyan.

"I will not give Frieza more fodder for his labs or his Super Mechs," Vegita said finally. "If we fall, my brats in cryo-storage would become his next crop of 'biological components'."

Everyone nodded uneasily in agreement and Nappa felt a twist queasy fury at the thought of any son of the Royal House being so…defiled. Again the boy was right. He snorted. Maybe there was something to this thinking before acting blather at times. He would make a great king when all was once again set to rights. He was the strongest child of his line in a thousand years, and Nappa on occasion still felt the same thrill of half-superstitious awe in the presence of the young prince's power he had on the day of the boy's birth.

The Legendary… Vegita was close to that barrier it gave Nappa an almost religious tremor of awe now and then. He would lead them through this hell of near annihilation if any man born of mortal flesh and blood was able. And beyond it, to take their rightful place as rulers of the galaxy. All he needed was guidance. A firm nudge here and there in the right direction and a stern, constant reminder of his heritage. The young were by nature arrogant, each generation thinking they invented fire, and never saw the inherent dangers of change. And this boy was doubly so, born into such unimaginable strength. But Nappa knew that all these minor flaws would one day be swept away. When the boy finally ascended to Super Saiyan, he would understand that strength was the only marker of righteousness, and return Vegita-sei's children to their old ways. All of these extreme, survival measures the boy had taken were only temporary. He would----

"It seems like too much good luck that the ship yards should have been laid on a world with so few defenses." Articha said frowning. The battle-scarred woman sat near Turna, her tail unconsciously flicking her mate's ankle.

Turna nodded. "A trap. And the bait is tasty, is it not? Frieza's second largest ship foundry and ore processing station. Arbatsu feels…wrong, Ouji-sama."

"It is guarded by mechs…." Bardock's hollow voice sent a nervous shiver around the room. "Many, many Saiyamechs. We will win, if we attack. We will lose many men, though. We must face these atrocities and fight them sooner or later. But it will be a hard victory…hard on our warriors' minds and moral to see up close what they have done to our brothers. And I See danger there for you, Ouji-sama. They will try to take you alive. I…I would advise against this target."

No one spoke for a long moment.

"We will go." Vegita said. "It's best to harden to the sight of it sooner than later. And Tsiru-sei will try to take me alive each time we face her armies. I will not let that fact paralyze me into inaction. Two hundred warriors, and fifty Madrani as cleanup crew on the ground. We leave in two hours." No one quite had the balls to voice their disdain for the Madrani artillery units and their weapons packages after the fall of the base on Madran. Their shame was great enough as it was.

"Wine, my Lord Nappa?" Their shame had a face, and it was kneeling beside his chair, eyes downcast, a study in humility as a slave's should be. Though he knew the little whore was only playing at servitude. This was the kind of woman a man might break in half, and still hear her curses ringing in his ears as she died. The cream-colored skin was pale with fear at his nearness and it gave him some measure of joy knowing she feared him, though her hand was steady on the flagon as she poured. It would be so easy to snap that little neck in an instant and put an end to the grinding dishonor of owing this…this breeding animal his life. No…she was more than that.

She was a symbol of everything his people had lost. In her machines that took glory from the hands of true warriors and laid it in the arms of any creature with wit enough to point and shoot. In her virtual enslavement of Raditz, a man he had never liked, but whom she had wound almost overnight in her arms and legs until he seemed to have no will beyond her whim. Raditz had doted in idolatry on the alien bitch, and this from a man who before falling to her charms had taken more lovers in a year than most men took in a lifetime. In her whelping of yet another half-breed, another shameful reminder of Vegita-sei's destruction and her current desperation. And more than all those things, in the Prince's poorly hidden desire for her himself. She would not have his Prince, Nappa thought with smug amusement, eyes catching hers, full of flat hatred. She would not ensorcel Vegita-ouji with those soul stealing eyes as she had that fool Raditz. His mouth curled. Vegita would avenge his warriors' honor on her body and her mind, and humble her in every way possible. The boy had shown a talent for more of his father's cruelty than Nappa had ever hoped possible in his decision to keep her alive, and have her pay out her debt slowly rather than with a quick, merciful death. She would pay for her arrogance and hautiness. The look in her eyes said she was paying even now. It was the look of veiled anger, and crushed pride threatening to slip lose from its tether. It would only take a little nudge. He smiled. "Raditz fucked more Madrani strumpets in the year he dwelt with you than in the five years before he took you, woman," he said softly. "He must have found you a poor----" The flagon crashed down on his head, denting the metal in with a thunk.

"Don't you dirty his name by speaking it, you lying, stinking animal!" The woman screamed. The other members of the Council were staring, some grinning openly at the little thing's brass balled nerve.

Vegita whirled her around by one arm from his chair beside Nappa, his face furious, his hand raised to deliver a blow---and froze. Only for a fraction of an instant, for less than half a heartbeat. And in that one instant of hesitation, Nappa's gut knotted and he went cold all over. The look on the boy's face…was wrong. Then, Vegita lowered his hand with a smirk and turned the woman, pulling her over his lap, her round rear in the air. And he began to swat her backside. The room erupted in coarse roars of laughter as the Prince spanked her, while the woman screamed seditious obscenities at the top of her lungs. Nappa found himself laughing along, though he did not feel in the least amused. Neither Bardock or Zarbon seemed to find the show very entertaining either.

The boy had balked on the follow through of the blow Raditz' whore so richly deserved. He had… Gods, the woman was already working her will on the Prince! He moved out of the council room in the Prince's quarters, and began calling his battalions to the deck of the fighter that would carry the first wave of warriors in the attack on Arbatsu. He felt numb. Feeling something so wrenching it could not be hate. Hate was too weak a word for this. If he killed the Chikyuu woman a thousand times, it would not absolve her of what she was plotting, he thought bleakly, hours later, as the ship jumped out of hyperlight speed and the assault began. Then, there was only the bracing sting of the icy winds of the upper atmosphere as they jumped out of the flyer, soaring down on the shipyards like birds of prey. There was no time for anything after that but the sweet call of battle. The brats were screaming, hurled out the second fighter into the press of the fight, moments after the ships launched the artificial moonlight baubles, their eyes reddening mindlessly as the madness of their first Oozaru change took them. Nappa dodged under the giant, lumbering sweep of one of the Tsiru-jin mechs, feeling the sickening familiarity of Saiyan ki flowing out of the monstrosity, and shouted with anger as the change took him as well. He brought one fist down on the metal thing, feeling its sautered parts crack, and swung around with a hay-maker right, knocking the head off. It fell like a stone to the ground a mile below, and Nappa roared, spinning in the air. He didn't have to look long for a new target. Three more mechs were closing in on him, glowing red with power. And he suddenly realized that the advantage of the moonlight was not in their favor alone. Oh shit! The mechs were feeding off it somehow, absorbing its light and power, though they could not change! Something small and tailess whipped out of the night and slammed through one of Nappa's mechs like of torpedo. Kakarott! He would teach that disfigured little bastard to steal his opponents! He swung and roared at the boy, but the brat dodged effortlessly, diving down, chasing after something that Nappa could not see. Gods, the little fucker was strong! He had blown through the mech in his path without even a glance in Nappa's direction, simply because the thing stood in his way. He would dearly love to kill the young half wit, would have done so months ago when the boy had taken the first unbonded Saiyan woman anyone had run across in two years as mate, but the power he sensed radiating from the youngster was…not something he could match. He roared again at the thought of being ousted from the marriage bed and out-matched in strength by one of Bardock's by-blows. He smashed down, crushing ships and mining equipment under giant feet, bellowing to his flank squad to lay down supressing fires as----A Saiyamech plummeted down on him, driving him feet first into the ground. Articha's squad was blurred down and she gripped Nappa's shoulders, tossing him aloft again. Above them, other mechs were blasting the moonlight orbs to pieces. The night grew cold and large around him and the other warriors who rallied around at his side. They had taken out the moonlight on purpose. Could the damned things think?

The boy Kakarott zipped upwards on the edge of his peripheral vision, one small body clutched under each arm. The fool was carrying wounded back to the hovering fighters, like some kind of puling Madrani stretcher bearer!

A sharp spike of power and the flash of Vegita's face twisted in anger and pain. Nappa wheeled in the air, his heart in his throat. "No---!" the Prince was wounded, and…Oh gods, no! He was at the center of a concentrated ring of Saiyamechs. The air was suddenly full of the monsters, as they swarmed up from hidden silos in every direction. They had been waiting.

A bare handful of the enemy's full numbers had greeted them in the initial attack. In the same instant the creatures he had been fighting had blown out the moonlight out of the sky, the others bunkered underground had launched and made a direct b-line for Vegita. Trap! It was all a fucking trap! He streaked across the miles that separated him from the boy, the hope and the future of his entire race, seeing the red lights that looked poisonous and somehow wrong lash out of the Saiyamechs surrounding the boy. Seeing that every warrior in the air was for the moment so hard put to defend himself that no one could lift a hand to help. Seeing and feeling the younger man's foundering ki… Nonono! They cannot kill him! Oh gods, they must not take him! A ship was rising slowly from below the place where Vegita was now fighting for his life, whirling and struggling in a mass of gripping, tearing metal tentacles. A Tsiru-jin ship ready to shoot starwards and launch into hyperlight speed the instant the mechs managed to deliver a knockout blow and shove the boy inside the bone white craft. And Nappa suddenly knew with cold certainty that he would not be fast enough to help the prince before they took him. A bullet of light shot past him, and a swelling tidal wave of power ripped through Nappa's senses. Kakarott…

"Go, you thick-headed little bastard!" Articha was shrieking beside him as the boy whipped past her. "Save him! Don’t let them take him!" The woman's voice was almost a sob of terror.

Kakarott blew through the ring of Saiyamechs encircling the prince and lanced out with a volley of power that set the entire sky alight, taking out the Tsiru-jin ship and a dozen mechs in one blast. Vegita had righted himself, rallying more strength from his last reserves. The two young men began firing, fighting back to back, pounding the mechs to shrapnel with the combined force of their might. From all sides now, warriors were burning to their aid, and a low, snarling cheer began to rise as the mechs ambled drunkenly about in the air. The controller thing, whatever device it was that had commanded and orchestrated the Saiyamechs attack, must have been on the Tsiru-jin ship Kakarott had destroyed. Everyone was cheering now, hailing the Prince, hailing Bardock's whelp, as they tore through the last of the flailing mechs with vicious joy. Nappa shot forward, seeing the two youths exchange ferocious grins, seeing the blood on Vegita's chest, his shoulder, streaming down his face… He caught the boy just before he began to fall, unconscious.

The Madrani sawbones on the Prince's ship all but pushed Nappa aside as he began to treat Vegita, and the big warrior did not take offense. The weakling had his priorities straight. Around them, the whimpering of wounded Madrani and the faint, bitten back growls of Saiyan warriors, all shot to pieces by the mechs red blasts, and the high, mewling cries of the half-breed freshmen soldiers, many of whom had been killed or wounded when the mechs had taken out the artificial moonlight contraption.

"He has multiple wounds and a great deal of blood loss…and nerve trauma from the red beams the mechs were using," the medic was saying to the clustered group of pale, worried Saiyans. "It's as though he's been repeatedly shocked with some sort of electrical weapon. But he is stable and will live."

"See to it that he does," Nappa growled softly, gazing down at the boy's too-pale face.

Somewhere close by was the soft sound of a child weeping. He turned and saw Kakarott and the little half-breed of Raditz kneeling by the cot of another child as a medic slowly pulled the sheet over the small, bloodied face. Bardock knelt nearby, winding a burn gauze around his own arm, his scarred face grim and tired. Toma and the girl Anyan were sitting silent and exhausted beside him, while that nancy boy Zarbon regarded Kakarott sadly. Bardock's brat was holding the whining half-breed, stroking his hair, speaking softly to him. Nappa opened his mouth to voice his disgust at such an obscene display---and closed it, glancing at the faces around him. Everyone---Bardock's squad, Nappa's warriors, the grizzled, bloody members of his own majority faction on the Privy Council---was regarding Kakarott with solemn thankfulness. Something black and almost uncontrollable rose up inside him. Vegita had been his sole care since the day the boy had been born. Longer. Nappa had been the Queen's bodyguard before that. The glory, the honor of saving him should have been his! Not this brainless, high-powered cub's. He calmed by slow degrees over the course of the journey home, never leaving his Lord's side, slowly and grudgingly beginning to realize it did not matter a jot who had saved the prince as long as the boy lived. As they drew near Yardratsei, the Madrani pulled Vegita out of the one regen tank the entire fleet possessed, looking weak, but more than half-healed. The boy tried to raise his head, tried to speak, as they carted him back to his own quarters by stretcher.

"Rest, Ouji-sama," Nappa told him gruffly. "We will see to everything."

A soft gasp greeted them at the door of the Prince's household. The Chikyuu-jin woman looked on pale and stunned as they carried Vegita through the house to his rooms.

"…not as bad as it looks," Zarbon was telling her softly. "He'll be fine in a couple of days, Scopa says."

Scopa, the frighteningly useful Madrani physician, was snapping out orders to his betters, ordering this med kit laid here and that monitor placed there as he set up a med station for the Prince in his own bed chamber. Vegita's voice, weak and so soft Nappa could barely make it out, spoke with a faint grin playing around the edges of his eyes.

"Bardock…remind me…listen to you…next time…"

Nappa turned and left the room, and the group of faces he only now realized included all of Bardock's little clique as well as members of the Elite Privy Council took no note of him. Articha, Turna and one or two others seemed to find the nearly social fellowship Vegita had displayed for this ragged band of peasants in the last months amusing, calling them the "Commons Privy Council" in jest. It was a wrenching blow to the face, one last painful realization to add to a growing list this day. The Prince would be advised by Bardock. Not him. He was rapidly losing his pull and his proper place in the councils of his lord, and soon, he would be nothing more than---

He ran directly into the Chikyuu woman as she nearly ran from the kitchens with some medical trinket that Scopa had ordered her to fetch. The sight of that cream-skinned, beautiful face staring up at him in startled fear caused something inside Nappa to snap almost audibly. A man could only take so much in one day. He reached out without thinking and seized her by that slim, fragile neck, and shoved her back into the kitchens. She tried to scream, but he tightened his hand and cut off her wind.

"You…" He said thickly. "You will not have him, woman. You will not twine my Prince round your finger as you did that fool Raditz." He pushed forward with a vicious snarl, pressing her against a wall, feeling the ripe curves of her body against his and that white, silken skin under his hands with a horrified and completely unexpected rush of burning lust. Gods, what kind of mesmeric witchcraft did this woman wield?! He gritted his teeth to wring her soft little neck and still her corrupting power forever. A sharp stab of pain and disorientation struck him in the stomach like a mallet, and he released her, sinking to his knees, weak and dizzy. The tiny "Ki Gun" in the woman's hand was trained on his forehead.

"If I shoot you again at this range," she said, holding her throat gingerly, "It will probably stop your heart."

"Bitch…bitch from Hell…know what you plan….I know you are scheming to ensnare my prince."

The woman regarded him with cold contempt. "Nappa…go home. I don't have time to clean up the mess if I kill you tonight." She seemed to know instinctively what to say. What would shame him most. He surged up with a rush of enraged, strength and lurched at her. Vegita would very probably kill him for ending her life, but he would gladly die a hundred such deaths if it saved the boy from her. It was worth it.

A hand pushed him back almost negligently, and he sank to his knees again, still reeling from the crippling effects of the woman's weapon. "Get your own bed warmer, Nappa," Bardock said nastily. The full bulk of the Council and all Bardock's followers were smirking at him from the sitting room they had all filed into as the doctor ordered them all out to leave the Prince to his rest. His own allies mocking him. Articha, in particular, seemed to find the fact that the girl had sucker shot him a source of great amusement. Bitch. All women everywhere were all inherently evil when it came right down to it.

"Vegita-ouji has honored my house tonight for my son's heroics," Bardock told him with a grin. "Since my son is recently mated," another grinding abrasive in the wound of his pride, "our prince had gifted me with the use of his Chikyuu woman for the night. Kakarott, get the girl's brat and bring him." And with that, he swung the sputtering woman over his shoulder and left, his band of warriors trailing after him, bearing the girl away to the safety of their camp. Nappa wished he could believe Vegita had not sent the woman to Bardock's bed to keep her safe from him, but the memory of the look on the boy's face this morning as he stayed his hand from striking her in Council would not allow him to. He glared cold murder at the other Council members, snuffing out their smiles. A moment later, a voice, young and clear, broke through the shaking sweats of the after-effects of the gun shot, and he raised his eyes, and saw Kakarott. Raditz' youngest cub was cradled in his arms and the other one, Radu, stood beside him, holding his hand.

"If you touch Bulma again, I'll kill you," the boy said coldly. The younger man's gaze was sharp and hard and bore no trace of his habitual idiocy. "You're a bad man, and you like to kill for fun, not because it has to be done."

"You fool…" Nappa heaved himself up to his full height unsteadily. "We are all killers. It flows in your veins thicker than your own blood. That is what it means to be a Saiyan, you ignorant castaway!"

"Not any more." The boy's calm answer was like a death knell to Nappa. "You can still be a Saiyan and a strong fighter and fight for what's right, Nappa-san." The pity in the youngster's face was the final humiliating blow of this terrible day. "Toussan says if we don't change, we'll die."

A hard, pencil-thin smile spread across Nappa's face. "Your father?" He studied the boy's face with calculated malice. "You think your father isn't just as much of a killer as me? Let me tell you about your noble Bardock, boy." And he did.

Five minutes later, he watched the young man flee across the base compound, sobbing like a child, his nephew Radu bobbing along anxiously behind him. Nappa smirked, feeling better than he had all day.



Gokou woke at dawn, warm and rested, feeling soft skin, hard muscle, and a fluffy tail wrapped around him like a blanket. He smiled and nudged the sleeping body at his side, and she tightened her grip on him, her mouth seeking him even before she had fully risen from her habitually light sleep. Sometimes she had bad dreams about the three years she had spent in the prisons on Imsul, but she always denied it in the morning. He wished he could make her think it wasn't something to be ashamed of, that crying wasn't a bad thing only babies did, but…It didn't do to try to tell people things they had to learn on their own. There were no bad dreams in her eyes this morning, and he let her pull him against her naked body, touching every part of her in a wondering, fast-burn of good feeling and quickening need to be inside her. And then he was inside her, slipping into her burning, sweet warmth, and it was…it was… He didn't know the right words to say how good it was, or how right, or how happy. They strove against each other like runners in a race to some wonderful finish line, collapsing in tangled, sweaty laughter as it all exploded inside him, and inside her, and all through every inch of his body at the same instant.

They bathed in the hot pool bath his father had left running for them when he went out. Toussan always got up two or three hours before dawn to go meditate with the Yardratsei-jin Elder people before training. They were teaching him how to See the future better. Toussan had told him last night that he and Anyan needed to move into his own quarters at some point, since he was a married grown-up now. He guessed he was, but the thought still made him sad, and he had been happy when his father added that there was no immediate hurry.

"Time to train," he told her brightly.

"Time to load out gear onto the fighter carriers," Anyan told him, with a grin. "We're going to hit a Tsiru-jin base today if the Prince gives the okay.

Remember?"

"How'd you know that?" He asked as they stepped out of the bath. He began drying her with his towel, trying not to think about pulling her back into the water and back into his arms. They had lots of stuff to do if they were going into battle today. He pulled on clothes, gloves, boots, and the armor that felt like a second skin to him after a year of constant warfare.

"I listened to Zarbon and your father talking about it last night. And Jula told me some other stuff she heard Bardock say."

"You and Jula shouldn't eavesdrop on Toussan like that," he said as they bounded out of the house and across the training yards that lay just a mile away. "It's not nice."

"It's the only way you ever find anything interesting out, Kakarott," she said without remorse. "We have full warrior status by law, but if you hadn't noticed, everybody still calls us 'brat'. Which means they still think of us as kids."

"It's not so bad being a kid." A thought occurred to him, as he spied a large troop of tiny figures marching back and forth, up and down the field.

"Hey Radu!" He zipped over to the ranks of little boys, waving. He liked Nissan's little boy…loved him actually. Most Saiyans got all embarrassed and even mad if you said the word 'love', even Anyan, but he could still think it if he wanted. And feel it. Since the arrival of the fleet, since finding Bulma and his nephews alive and well, and himself in the center of what seemed to be a large, growing family of friends and blood kin, he had made a point to play with the boy every day, racing and mock-sparring in the twilight hours after training was through for the day, after the little boy had finished his drill training. Radu had told him last week with barely contained joy that he and the other boys in his troop, all the oldest of the Madrani-Saiyan children, were going to get to fight in the next battle.

That would mean this one today, if the Prince decided yes. Bulma had seemed really unhappy about that, she kept repeating how Radu was only four and a half years old over and over, but Anyan had told her she had gone to her first battle at about the same age and it would be okay.

"They drop you in a shower of moonlight and you change to Oozaru and start tearing up the turf." Anyan had told Bulma. "You're not in real danger, because almost nothing can take down us down or ever hurt us in that form, and you don't have time to be scared. It was kind of fun actually." That had made Bulma feel a little better, though not completely.

Gokou grinned as the boys all broke formation and ran to him, all talking at the same time. At first, it had only been Radu that he played with at nightfall, then his nephew had asked if he could bring his friend and that had quickly grown to a whole pack of boys, all from Radu's kid's platoon. He knew Bulma didn't want Radu to get hurt, but…he would have felt the same as each one of the little boys clustered around him if he were in their shoes. He would have been about to die with excitement at the prospect of fighting for real beside the grownups. Radu's friend Spurat jumped up on his back, crowing with delight.

"Toussan says it's gonna happen, Gokou-san! He thinks we're gonna go today!"

"I want to fight beside you, Jisan!" Radu said happily.

"I can't change like you will, Radu-kun," Gokou told him. He knew everybody thought that should bother him and make him sad, but he didn't really want to change into something big, giant and hairy. It sounded too much like the monster that had stomped Ojjiisan and killed him. "But I'll come get you if you get in trouble, okay? Did anybody sing the song I taught you when you marched today?"

Shouts of yes all around, and the sea of little faces launched into the rhyme at the top of their lungs.

"Five little monkeys, jumping on the bed,

One fell out and bumped his head,

Momma called the doctor and the doctor said,

'No more monkeys jumping on the bed!'"

"Get your mangy little tails back in formation before I skin the lot of you!" The drill sergeant yelled from across the field and all the boys jumped guiltily and streaked away, waving goodbye.

Gokou turned and saw Anyan staring at him strangely. She didn't yell at him much anymore, not like she had before they were mated. But on occasion he caught her looking at him the way she was looking now, her face both confused and soft at the same time.

"You'll make a very doting father one day," was all she said. She seemed to think that wasn't a bad thing.

They met up with the others on the far end of the training fields, and Gokou saw with some disappointment that his father and Zarbon-san were still not done with their meeting with the Prince.

"He'll be along," Toma told him. It was a big relief that Toma had not been mad at him for what Gokou had been doing with Anyan several months before they were married. He had lived in constant worry that he would be, back when it was all still a secret. But Saiyan people didn't seem to think that what men and women did together---or boys and girls, in the case of himself and Anyan----was something that you shouldn't do.

They fought, all of the others against him, in a rough bout of bruising blows for the better part of three hours, and it only got better as the sun climbed higher. Then a trumpet blared out across the yards and a cheer went up. They would fight for real today. He grinned at Anyan, and whirled her around in the air, his blood already racing in anticipation.

Far away, he caught sight of Radu and his friends leaping about in the air crazily in celebration.

Bulma…

"Anyan, will you come with me to see Oneesan before we load up?"

She regarded him, her face slightly worried. "Okay," she said without comment.

Toussan had said to never visit Bulma without taking Anyan too, because the Prince wouldn't like it and it looked bad. Huh. At first, Gokou had been sure that he didn't like Vegita at all, but now he couldn't decide. He knew now that the Prince was acting nasty to her in front of his chief warriors just to make them think he was punishing her for…something really stupid. Everyone had explained it to him over and over and he still couldn't really understand how you could be mad at someone for saving your life and everybody else's.

"Would Nappa and the other old men who're his friends rather be dead?"

He had asked her the last time she had tried to explain it to him. "I know I'm not really that smart about a lot of things, but that seems awfully stupid."

Vegita had laughed out loud at that---something he almost never did---from where he sat beside the fire on his chair watching Bulma try to teach Anyan how to play chess. From the far side of the great stone fire pit in the center of the Prince's sitting room, the harmony of Zarbon-san's mellow baritone and his father's sweet tenor drifted over. Toussan never sang unless he'd drunk a lot, but he had a good voice. Toma was trying to join in, but he was tone deaf and Gokou really wished he would stop. Bulma closed her eyes and stared at him like she was sad. She seemed less sad these days, though, especially when all their friends came to visit at night sometimes.

Vegita always watched Gokou like he thought he was going to grab Bulma and kiss her while he wasn't looking, and that made Gokou mad. But you couldn't say that outright to a Prince, the others had told him, or tell him that the very thought of kissing Bulma, who was like his sister and a lot older than him as well, was just about the ickiest thing he could think of. It seemed like someone who ruled everybody, could do it a lot better if people told him the truth all the time. But Toussan had said to leave it alone.

Gokou frowned as they lighted in the pretty courtyard in front of the house where Bulma and his nephews lived with the Prince, and banged on the door. Toussan had also said not to spar with Vegita. Ever. Somehow, probably with his special Sight, his father had known that the thought had been percolating in the back of his head for some time. He would really, really like to see just how strong Vegita was, to see if he could fight full tilt against the Prince and not knock him down with the frustrating ease he was able to pound everybody else when he trained. Maybe Vegita could even beat him. He pushed the gnawing, temptation away. He had promised Toussan he would not, and it would only make him upset if he thought too long about something he couldn't do. But how could he ever get stronger if he couldn't fight someone as strong as himself or stronger, and push his limits?

Bulma opened the door and Gokou's grin faded at the sight of her face. Her hair and clothes were all rumpled like she's been sparring, and she looked upset. No…She looked furious. The kind of furious Yamcha had always said it was best to cut and run from before she got a hold on you.

Her face was pale as a ghost's.

"Oneesan?" He said uncertainly.

"Son-Kun…they're taking Radu, aren't they? " He nodded and she launched into a torrent of angry words, cursing the Prince and all Saiyans everywhere. She turned away and stomped back into the house, walking as though she had sat on a rose bush and her bottom was sore. They followed her hesitantly into the main sitting room, hearing a loud crash as they hit the threshold. Bulma was throwing things at the Prince of the Saiyans. Everything she could get her hands on, screaming at the top of her lungs.

He blurred toward her and caught her wrists in a firm but gentle hold, and Gokou felt Anyan's warning, half-restraining hand on his arm before he could move. Vegita lowered his head, staring into her face without any anger, and Gokou relaxed.

"Please…" She whispered. He had never heard Bulma beg anyone for anything. Ever. "You can stop him from---"

"If he stays behind, he is dishonored for life, woman," Vegita told her.

"He will be a pariah, branded a coward…And he wants this with all his heart. His blood will call him to fight all his life, just as Kakarott's did before he even knew what he was. Don't begrudge him his birthright."

Her blue eyes burned into his, and Gokou could almost feel the electricity jump between them where his hands met hers. Then she nodded slowly, defeated and heart-sick. "If he dies today, I'll hate you forever, Vegita," she told him coldly, pulling her hands out of his grip. "I'm not sure I don't already."

Vegita looked mad. Mad enough to hurt her, and Gokou tensed angrily again. But…he also looked sad somewhere in the back of his eyes. As if he wished for just a second he could change everything about his people's ways and their very nature to please her if he had the power. Gokou was momentarily stunned as a sudden realization hit him. Vegita…really liked her. Maybe loved her. And not as a friend either.

Bulma walked over to the two younger warriors and kissed them both on the cheek, leaving Anyan looking embarrassed. "Bring Radu back alive, Son-Kun." Her eyes were bright with tears. "Watch out for him."

"I promise, Oneesan," he whispered.

He was silent and thoughtfully while the others talked and joked among themselves during the trip to the world with the Tsiru-jin ship yards. His father looked worried. And that was a bad sign in someone who could see the future. Was something terrible going to happen? If it was, why were they going at all?

"Someone needs to tell him to be nicer to her, then maybe she'd like him more," he told Zarbon, minutes before the attack jump. He had tried to begin the conversation without mentioning names, but Zarbon was really smart and knew who he was talking about anyway.

"That someone probably should not be you," Zarbon told him. "Saiyan males are notoriously territorial when it comes to their women."

"We are?"

"Do you remember how you felt when you killed Mousrom?"

Gokou nodded. It had been something close to what he'd felt when he hit Frieza on Maiyosh Prime, but different. Angry. Protective…and jealous.

"Vegita feels the same way when you are around Bulma," Zarbon said. "Not because you will hurt her, but because he knows she loves you."

"But she's not even really his girlfriend."

"No…but he would very much like her to be. And that makes it worse for him to see her love someone else, even if it isn't romantic love."

Gokou sighed, feeling over-taxed with the whole situation. "Love doesn't have to be hard like that." It was the easiest thing in the world, or had been for him.

"I wouldn't know," the older man said. The quiet regret in his friend's voice made Gokou's chest hurt. He didn't understand the details of it, and was pretty sure he didn't ever want to, but somehow Frieza had ruined that kind of thing for Zarbon. There were lots of Madrani men who had tried to talk to him and more than talk to him. Bulma said Zarbon was beautiful, and most of the Madranis who tried desperately to catch the blue man's eye must think so too, but… He would talk to them sometimes, sometimes more than talk. But he always kept his distance emotionally, never letting any of them in the way he did his friends in Bardock's squad. And if you couldn't be friends with the people you slept with, you wouldn't ever be able to love them. The thought of wanting to love and be loved, and simply being incapable of doing it was probably the saddest----

The alarm rang, the signal to drop, and it was time to fight. And with that, every thought not pertaining to the moment at hand fled from his mind and was gone. They dove from the carrier's open hatch, down into the night.

Anyan was on his left side and Toussan was on his right. They swooped over the countless miles of gridded ore mines and factory parts plants and assembly lines, directing round after round of shots at everything below them. No one in Bardock's squad used or needed a scouter since Gokou had taught them all Kame Sennin's technique of reading power levels with just your head. There was no one on the ground, no defenders guarding the automated ship yard. There were no people anywhere, but he could still feel hundreds and hundreds of high level fighting powers somewhere. That was bad. And if---no, when---all those strange, somehow warped ki signatures leapt out at them, they would all be very badly out-numbered. His father was cursing, sensing the hidden power as well.

A horrible sound snagged the far edge if his hearing, high and shrill and terrified. The fake moons Toussan had taught Bulma how to make were hanging everywhere in the sky, making the night as bright as day. No one in their squad was changing, having been chosen as one of the special strike teams to deliver pinpoint blasts to the most dangerous targets. Which was good, because he and Zarbon would have been left out. Far across the burning plains of factories and warehouses, they were throwing Radu's kid's squad out into the air. Some of them, he knew, couldn't even fly that well yet…and they were screaming. It was scary, horribly, horribly scary, the first time you fought and knew that losing would mean dying. And they were all so little… He gasped and dodged of column of red light that was hurling right for him. The broken-feeling, twisted kis he had sensed a moment before were suddenly rising all around them, big and gray, arms out-stretched like---He back-pedaled and dipped down, avoiding dozens of razor wire tentacles that shot out from the ends of the mechs' arms and another red blast from the thing's chest region. He fired with an angry shout and blew it up, turning back in Radu's direction frantically. He blinked. None of the boys were little anymore. He grinned faintly as he felt the distant flicker of Radu's ki, and the swirling, mad joy of being suddenly big, bad, and having lots of things to squash flash through his nephew's mind.

The he wheeled around and fired again, double-handed, at two mechs that were closing in on Anyan as she fought a third. Kyouka cried out as a red bolt from another metal giant caught him from behind . He wobbled in the air and the sawing tentacles snaked around his ankles. Bardock threw a blast at the thing, cutting through the cables, and Zarbon blew it out of the sky.

Toma caught Kyouka and began pulling the barbed metal ropes off his feet, hissing angrily as they shredded and tore flesh as they came off. Toma handed the limp man to Ruta and the boy shot upward in the direction of the field infirmary ship. Gokou turned and fired again, hearing himself growl angrily like some kind of big, furious cat and not caring. He knew he would never have grown half as strong as he had in the last eighteen months without the pain and fury of having lost everything. Maybe he would have found a way to this level of power later in life if he had not, but never so soon, never at the age he was now. It always rose up inside him like a bondfire doused in gasoline whenever he fought, dimming the sweet, clear joy of combat with the memory and the faces of everyone he had ever loved, surrounding him with ghosts. It was better now because he had new friends and new people to love. But it didn't hurt less, and he didn't think it ever would. It was like a hole in his chest where all the people and things of his dead childhood had been. That hole inside you never went away, but in time, you got used to it being there. He slammed two giant heads together, brushing their auras, with their physical proximity. He pulled back, sick.

There was a part of the mind's of the men these things had been made from that was still alive and awake and screaming inside their metal shells. He screamed himself angrily, and launched a bolt that stopped the pain for them.

Jisan!Jisan!Jis---!

He didn't stop to think or tell anyone where he was going, he simply burned through the masses of new Saiyamechs, rising up from thousands of open pits in the ground, slamming mechs and Saiyans alike out of his way, his stomach clenched in a cold knot of terror. Bring Radu back alive, Son-Kun… He couldn't be too late! He couldn't, he couldn't, he couldn't!

One of the metal monsters was lashing out at Radu and his friend Spurat with tentacle cables, while another was shining a black, flat light from its head that blanked out the moonlight. Radu and his friend were no longer giant and indestructible. Now, they were only little boys, and they were screaming with angry defiance as they fired blasts at the things slowly closing in on them. One of the razoring cables caught Spurat around the chest and throat an instant before Gokou shot it, searing through the tentacle.

The boy fell struggling to the ground, and Gokou blasted both mechs to bits.

He snatched Radu up in one arm, and turned…and choked with horror. Spurat had tried to pull the cable off his throat and the barbs had----

He grabbed the other child and shot into the sky, half-sobbing, hearing the cries suddenly of a dozen other children in Radu's squad, seeing that the mechs had shot out the moonlight machines overhead, nearly screaming in frustration that he could not carry all of the children on the ground to safety this instant. He sprang into the open hanger where Doctor Scopa had set up triage, and the Madrani medics took Spurat from him and began to work on him. He knelt and hugged Radu tightly.

"I'm gonna go get more of your friends, Radu," he told the trembling boy.

"Stay here and help the doctors."

He rocketed out of the ship, scanning for the blips of the boys' kis. The air was full of so many mechs now, he could barely see the ground.

Kakarott!!

Toussan?

Vegita-ouji is in trouble! His father's voice echoed in his head. Go save him! They're going to take him alive if you don't, and if they do, we'll lose this war and everybody will die!

He wheeled in the air and found the dimming flame of Vegita's ki, setting the air around him on fire as he bulleted toward the Prince. He began firing before he even reached the place where the older boy fought in a desperate fury, surrounded by nearly a hundred mechs. They had already snagged him with their tentacles, and like Spurat, he was tearing his own body to pieces as he tried to rip free. They were shooting him over and over with their red beams, methodically wearing him down. Gokou fired again and cleared away half the metal things as he plunged into the center of the ring of Saiyamechs. Something white and cold was rising beneath them, and he blasted down without thinking, as he sensed the cold ki of the Tsiru-jin in side. Vegita shook off the helping hand Gokou tried to offer and ripped away the last of the cables that had bound him. He was bleeding all over the place.

"Put your back to mine, Kakarott!" He shouted. "And we will put these defiled warriors out of their misery!"

They fought, and it was good. It was nearly as good to fight beside someone every bit as strong as yourself as it was to fight against them.

As the air began the clear around them, smoke and blood hanging everywhere, Nappa shot forward and caught Vegita just as his eyes rolled back and he went limp. Gokou turned, ignoring the cheers of the soldiers gathering around them, and dove groundward, seeking the frail, glowing sparks of the kis of the children in Radu's squad. He began ferrying the children up to the ship, his teeth clenched, his eyes dry. At some point, he noticed Anyan and Zarbon beside him, each bearing small burdens in their own arms. Almost all of the small bodies strewn across the blackened ruins of the ship yards were still alive, but that didn't make up for the one that weren't. An hour later, they had all been accounted for, one way or another, and he stood in the triage infirmary, his arms locked around Radu's small, shaking body as the doctor pulled the sheet over Spurat's head. Radu's friend had been so excited this morning. It hadn't been supposed to happen like this. The moonlight was supposed to keep all the little boys big, strong and safe. But that didn't matter to Spurat now. Gokou wondered where the boy's father was, and if he would be sad. He knew most Saiyan fathers were not like Toussan and Nissan.

Throughout the trip back, he held Radu, not letting him go, or wanting to think about how close he had come to losing him. He would have carried him in his arm like a baby as he followed along beside his father, walking along behind the Prince's litter as the bore him to Bulma's house, but Radu squirmed to be let down.

"I'm a warrior now, Jisan," he whispered. "I shouldn't let anybody carry me if I'm not hurt."

"Okay."

Bulma gasped out loud and turned pale when she saw how bad Vegita looked, and Gokou was glad she hadn't seen the bloody mess he'd been before the doctors stuck him in the regen tank. He stood with Radu at the back of the room, listening to Vegita try to talk to his father. His words came out in a weak whisper.

"Bardock…remind me…to listen to you…next time…"

Nappa stamped out of the room, looking angry and jealous, but not quite daring to slam the door behind him.

"Rest, Ouji-sama," Toussan said.

"…woman…"

"My Lord?" His father frowned, leaning down toward to hear better.

"…reward your house, but …not insult your son's mate…" Vegita was cutting his eyes in a weird way at the other members of the Privy Council.

"…take her…until I…recovered."

"I understand, Ouji-sama," his father said. "You are a gracious lord."

He followed his father and the others as they left the Prince to sleep, knowing there was a big part of that exchange he had missed. He stopped, beginning to move forward furiously as his eyes fell on Bulma, all alone in the kitchen hallway with Nappa. His father put a hand on his shoulder.

"Stop." Bardock walked over to where Bulma was holding a gun on the big man, who was sitting on the hall floor as though he had just had the breath knocked out of him. "Get your own bed warmer, Nappa." Gokou stared at the marks on Bulma's throat, seething with rage, not really hearing anything his father said to the bald man until he spoke his name. "Kakarott, get the girl's brat and bring him." Good, he thought, as he made his way to Chibi Kakarott's baby bed in Bulma's room, hefting the baby up on his shoulder, Radu trailing along beside him. That was what the Prince had meant when he told Toussan to take her. Vegita was afraid Nappa would hurt her while he was too injured to stop him…and he nearly had. He walked past the big warrior, who was still sitting on the floor, looking like he'd just lost all the good things in his life in one day.

"If you touch Bulma again, I'll kill you," he said coldly. It was a bad day when the world around him stayed fixed for very long in this clear, cold light that made everything so much easier to understand. "You're a bad man, and you like to kill for fun, not because it has to be done."

"You fool…" Nappa heaved himself up to his full height unsteadily. "We are all killers. It flows in your veins thicker than your own blood. That is what it means to be a Saiyan, you ignorant castaway!"

"Not any more." The bigger warrior's face was such a mask of enraged, cheated pain, Gokou felt an unexpected flash of pity. It must be agonizing to see everything you'd ever known changing and not be able to except or understand it. "You can still be a Saiyan and a strong fighter and fight for what's right, Nappa-san. Toussan says if we don't change, we'll die."

Nappa's face slowly broke into a horrible little smile. "Your father? You think your father isn't just as much of a killer as me? Let me tell you about your noble Bardock, boy. Do you know what a purging squad is?

You don't, do you? No one's told you shit about the old days, before we broke with Frieza. Before those miserable Kanassans scrambled his brains, your 'Toussan' was the captain of one of the most high volume planet killers on Vegita-sei. They'd come down to a world, sometimes using the moon, sometimes just their own fire power, and kill every living thing on the surface. They'd purge it. Ask him how many worlds he's wiped out. I doubt he can even count that high."

"You're a liar…" Gokou whispered. He had begun to shake all over.

"He blew those worlds to hell, boy." Nappa said grinning. "Just like the Ginyu did that worthless shitpile you grew up on. Ever wonder how you got on that worthless shitpile, brat? Did that thought ever cross your feeble mind? Your father sent you there as a baby, the way we did almost all useless, low-powered infants like yourself back then, to change at the first full moon and purge the planet in the Oozaru madness. He gave you to the pod seeding unit because you had such a low energy level at birth, you weren't really good for anything else. He sent you away because you were so weak it was a fucking embarrassment to him that he'd sired you."

The world was turning gray and flat around him, and the look on Radu's face said even his nephew had known some of these things about his father.

He backed away, shaking his head, feeling as if somehow, everything he loved was dying all over again in front of his eyes. Nonono…

Yes.

He could feel this force feeding of cold statements coming together in his head with other things, things he had heard or seen or noticed in passing. Conversations that he had paid no attention to, mentioning things he had not wanted hear or know. Toussan… He barreled out the door into the night, weeping as he had on the day Chikyuu died.



She lay in the capsule bed Jula had made up for her in the hearth room of Bardock's house, feeling too much, too many things to ever put into one word or a thousand.

The morning had begun with the sound of Kakarott's demanding yips, as it always did. The baby was getting huge, and he was not even five months old. She had fed him and bathed with him cradled against her chest, feeling the brush of his little tail against her arm as she sponged him off, feeling a kind of warm glow run though her at the sight of the frowning little face that looked more like his father every day. Grief still ached inside her like an open wound, but not as much as it had in the first gray, numb days after she had lost him. She felt horribly guilty sometimes, that she could laugh and smile and take joy in her days when Raditz was less half a year in his grave. But he would have been angry in the extreme to see her "blubbering" over him, had even told her not to mourn him. He had lived and died with honor.

She dressed in a light, flowing skirt and white blouse, the coolest things she owned. There was only so much power to spare for the air cooling nuts and, thought the deserts nights often dropped below freezing, the days were sweltering. As she stood before the mirror turning this way and that, hitching her blouse up to her breasts, she decided that the exercise harness she had built in the courtyard had done the trick. Her tummy was every bit as flat as it had been before the baby. Hmm. Her breasts were bigger though. They seemed much more prominent now that her body had slimmed down. In fact, they were---

She frowned, glaring at the reflection of the man who had entered her room silently. "What did I tell you about knocking, Vegita?" How long had he been watching her?

He returned that glare without apology. "I will enter any room in my house when and as I please, woman."

She turned on him, eyes narrowed. "Actually, this is my house, since I built it and every other damn capsule house on this base."

He moved toward her, head tilted back so he could look down his nose at her. Which was the only way he could achieve that effect since they were exactly the same height. He stepped right up to her, invading her personal space as he so often did, apparently without even realizing it. "As I own you, all that was yours is now mine."

Bastard…

She swallowed hard, the bright, reddish shafts of morning sun filtering through her open bedroom window, stinging her eyes, making them burn.

She would be damned if she'd let him see how deep that arrogant statement had cut. "What do you want?"

"The Privy Council meets with me in half an hour. Here. You will attend us."

She frowned suspiciously. "And give you the report on the Super Mech lab files Bardock and Zarbon brought us? We've only partially cracked the encryption---"

"You will serve them mulled wine and keep your mouth shut," he said, studying her face as the blood rose to her cheeks with anger. "When you break the encryption, you will give your findings to me alone."

She took several deep breaths. Most of the time, she was able to forget the hard reality of her new situation. When she labored beside her Madrani tech team, rebuilding Pulli's sensor array and deconstructing the Tsiru-jin mech, searching for the correct combination of serial line and frequency waves to build an "off switch" for the damn things. When Son-Kun and his girl---no, his young wife---came to visit her and the boys, sitting up late into the evening, sometimes followed by Bardock and the others, trailing in by ones and twos as they finished the day's labors. That Vegita had allowed her this frequent social outlet had surprised her at first. Though not half as much as his working knowledge of capsulation technology, gleaned from her own specs and lab records. She supposed she shouldn't have been so snobbish to think that a Saiyan couldn't comprehend complex mechanics, but then Vegita was very smart for a Saiyan. And amazingly well-educated. On other nights, when they sat alone together, as she rocked Kakarott slowly in the capsule cradle she had built, he would ask her about the governmental structures and social mores and histories of Chikyuu, smirking at such improbable concepts as slaveless egalitarianism and democracies. And slowly he began to teach her the laws and ancient customs of Vegita-sei, sometimes telling her the histories and legends of his people, stories of heroes who seemed like gods and warriors in some alien Wagnerian epic.

At times like these, it was almost possible to believe he was some exotic exchange student she'd met of university, the son of the ruler of some small island principality come to West Capital to learn the ways of the modern world. All these things made it all that more jarring when the truth of how things stood came crashing down on her like this.

"I thought…I thought things would have cooled down toward me by now. You said---"

"I was mistaken!" He sounded angry at the situation, and unreasonably, at her. "If anything, the danger to you is greater. Nappa never ceases to stir the memory, and so it festers in many warriors' minds. I have told one of Bardock's men, Kyouka, that he will now assist you in your weapons lab."

A bodyguard…she needed a bodyguard even in her own lab.

She put Kakarott down for a nap before making her way back to the kitchens, then to Vegita's conference room, eyes down, face blank, pouring wine like a waitress in her own home…His home. Zarbon gave her a covert wink as she moved around the table, trying not to notice the dark, bloody stares many of these powerful, deadly warriors were giving her. Bardock was speaking when she passed his chair. She liked Son-Kun's father more than she would have thought possible, and was heartfully glad to see that he cared for her friend and even showed him open affection. But when his eyes were filled with the shadows of things that would be as they were now, he scared the hell out of her. She tensed with fear as Nappa's dark gaze fell on her.

"Wine, my Lord Nappa?"

He had studied her silently, then smiled and…and said what he had said about Raditz. Her hand was moving before she could stop it, her voice rising with rage. Vegita had yanked her around by the arm, his hand raised.

And here it was had last, she had thought. The public beating he had threatened her with months ago, the end of her dignity and any false, lingering illusions of freedom. His eyes widened as he saw the look on her face, his hand freezing in the air. He couldn't do it. Then that microsecond of pause fled, and a smirking mask slid over his face. She found herself yanked across his lap, her butt in the air, and…the son of a bitch had spanked her. She sat on the floor where he dumped her as the Council adjourned, a red din of murderous rage ringing in her ears. When he finally entered the sitting room an hour later, he found her standing, cold and silent.

Standing because it hurt to sit. She was holding one of the smallest, deadliest, newest models of her ki-gun.

"I'm going to carry this with me from now on for protection," she said tonelessly. "Nappa said…what he said to me deliberately, to make me snap like that. He's not going to forget, is he?"

"No. He will kill you the first chance he gets. It may be that he would willingly die by my hand---and he most certainly would---just to see you die." She shivered, fear drowning anger, at least for a moment. "I would kill him now." Vegita moved across the room, his eyes dark and brooding, drawing close, less than a foot from where she stood gazing at him, her face pale. "But Bardock says he will be needed to do…something. He will not tell me what, saying that if I know, things will not happen as they should."

"That's…really scary."

"Bardock is frightening by the very nature of what he is," Vegita agreed.

"A man who can See the place and hour of all our deaths. He---" He broke off, staring down at the ki-gun pointed at his chest.

"Do you want to kill me, Vegita?" She hissed at him. "Because if you ever hit me again, for any reason, in public or in private, one of us is going to die. I'll blow your goddam head off if you ever raise a hand to me again!"

He stared at her. Then she began to realize he was hiding a broad smirk, or trying to. He stepped forward, closer, into the muzzle of the gun.

"Will you?" Threatening a Saiyan's life, she suddenly remembered, was a veiled way of coming on to him in their charming culture. She frowned, noticing a broad, flat instrument in his hand, and forced out the low, burning sensation the new note in his voice had set in the pit of her stomach.

"What is that?" She said.

He did smirk then. "Something you might need. It is a tissue knit from Radu's training pack. The brats use them to mend the bruises and minor injuries they receive sparring, so they will be fresh for the next day's bouts. Hold still." The gun was out of her hand and he took hold of one of her shoulders, reaching around with the other hand to lay the device flat against her blistered rear before she could draw in a breath to curse him. The warm, healing pulse streamed into the sore flesh, washing out the pain as though it had never been, as he moved it in a slow circular motion. It was all she could do not to sigh aloud as the persistent stinging subsided. His breath brushed the side of her face. He was so close their bodies were nearly touching. Then the swell of her breasts brushed his chest, and he shuddered as though he's touched a live wire. The room went from uncomfortably warm to sweltering in an instant, the hand resting gently on her shoulder tightened, and she opened her eyes to stare into the black heat of his gaze.

"Better?" He breathed.

She nodded, not trusting herself to speak. She had to stop this. She had to…

"I struck you here," he had turned off the knit, but his hand was still on her back hips, drawing smooth, gentle circles. "Because it does no real damage, and hurts less…" His was voice soft, deepening to a husk. "I told you once before I did not wish to hurt you."

"Then don't you ever…do it again…" She was trying to think, trying to hold onto the fury, but there was a truth the Saiyan people acknowledged and reveled in, that other races tried to deny in themselves. The line between raging anger and desire was hair thin. In the months since taking her into his household, he had not laid one finger on her, had not so much as touched her in passing. Now, he was… He was not doing anything, not forcing her into anything. But just as it had the first time, and every time they had touched, his hands on her skin set off an incendiary, chemical reaction that was utterly independent from her will. His lips brushed the line of her jaw, and she suddenly realized distantly that vowing he would not have her without her consent did not bar him from trying his damnedest to seduce her.

"My life on my word." His breath had quickened, and he slowly pulled her against the full length of his body, drawing his mouth down her neck, leaving a scalded trail of heat behind.

"…Veg-vegita…you…"

"Tell me you wish me to stop and I will stop…" His mouth was on her collar bone now, and she leaned forward, her head falling onto his shoulder, her breath becoming ragged. It had been so…oh gods, it hurt so much to never be touched, to have been held every night in strong arms and suddenly be left in the aching cold of an empty bed! She was surrounded by people every day and still completely alone. "Shall I stop, woman?" He asked softly, and one hand pushed her blouse up, smoothing over the bare skin of her stomach, rising to catch one breast in a gentle caress. "Shall I?"

She was gasping for breath, trying to say something, to tell him to stop… "Vegita…" Oh gods, what did she want? The room tilted, and she was on the floor. His mouth was hot and burning over breasts, her nipples, her throat. Then his voice whispering jaggedly in her ear, as his hand began pulling up the hem of her skirt, his whole body shaking against hers as he lay over her, one knee between her thighs. His fingers trailed along the waistline of her underwear and she moaned softly against his neck.

"Let me have you…" The soft words a command, but his tone just inches shy of pleading. "Oh gods, woman…tell me you want me!"

"I…I want…" An alarm klaxon sounded, ringing harsh and shrill throughout the base and the length and breadth of the training grounds, jarring and sudden enough to make her jump, and break through the half-swoon of dizzy want. What the---oh gods, no!

It was the call to fall into rank to be chosen for a mission strike. She had been wrapped in humiliated anger as she served at Council, then in rage afterwards, that the full implications of what this raid would mean had momentarily escaped her. Radu…Radu would go to war today. Oh, dear gods… "Stop! Stop it!" She sat up, staring at Vegita in horror, his face startled and flushed.

Someone was thumping on the courtyard door like they wanted to break it down. She sprang up and ran to answer it, the world seeming to spin wildly out of control around her. Son-Kun's worried frown greeted her at the door, and she nearly sobbed.

"Son-Kun…they're taking Radu, aren't they? " She didn't wait for his answer, she wheeled and ran back to the sitting room, spitting curses as she went. "You can't have him, you bastard! Do you hear me?!"

Vegita looked stunned and momentarily confused. She began throwing the tiny potted desert plants she had been nurturing to add to her little courtyard flower garden, lobbing them at him as hard as she could.

She knew in some corner of her mind that she was out of control, but she was completely unable to stop. "Raditz died for you, Vegita!" She shrieked.

"You can't have his son! I won't…" She choked. "I won't let you kill him like you did my husband!" He caught her flailing fists, and she saw the words hit home and cut to the bone, saw his face pale, before the impassive mask slipped back into place. She leaned into him weeping uncontrollably, feeling the heat of his body against hers. "Please…" She begged brokenly, "You can stop him from---"

"If he stays behind, he is dishonored for life, woman," Vegita told her implacably. "He will be a pariah, branded a coward…And he wants this with all his heart. His blood will call him to fight all his life, just as Kakarott's did before he even knew what he was. Don't begrudge him his birthright."

She had sagged, hopeless, defeated. She barely remembered kissing Son-Kun and Anyan goodbye, asking her friend to look after Radu. When she turned back to Vegita a moment later, he had gone cold as ice, standing rigid and angry with his back to her.

"I must go prepare for launch."

"Then go," she said coldly. She had turned and stumbled back to her room, to sit holding Kakarott, rocking him in numb sorrow as the engines of the fighter carriers roared. She couldn't even go see Radu off, hold him one more time. It would be an embarrassment to him if she even came to the launch. The day had gone by in a slow, agony of waiting and worry and pain. When the signal reached base of the approach of the fleet bearing heavy casualties, it was night. She greeted the entourage of warriors bearing Vegita back to his own house with pale shock. No one had mentioned anything in the transmissions she had monitored about the Prince being wounded. As the stretcher-bearers carried him past her into the house, she felt her heart skip a beat, and then begin to hammer in her chest. He looked---oh gods, he looked like he had been torn to pieces! She nearly collapsed with relief when Zarbon told her that he would make a full recovery. Oh gods, I sent him into that battle with all those cold, angry words…they could have so easily been the last things I ever said to him!

Then Radu leapt into her arms, clutching her in an embrace that nearly knocked the breath out of her. "Kassan…" She kissed his face, and squeezed back tears of shuddering relief. There wasn't a mark on him.

"Are you okay, Radu?" She asked anyway.

"Fine." His arms tightened around her for a second, then he pulled back, and she saw with a look of sad recognition, the little boy smooth away the reflection of his emotions from his face, molding his features into a carbon of his father's. He would not be telling her what had happened today. Or crying in her arms about how bad it had been. That part of his life was over now. She wanted to scream at someone, anyone, her rage at the years and years of childhood this son she had never born had just been robbed of.

She pulled the blankets up, listening to a low drift of conversation from the room Bardock shared with Jula, and the soft sound of Radu's snores from Son-Kun and Anyan's bedroom where the boy lay curled between the two older youngsters. She shivered at the memory of the ham-fisted grip of Nappa's hand around her throat, and the terrifying look of violent, hateful lust she had seen glinting in his eyes. Bardock says he will be needed…Vegita's words, speaking of another of the older man's eerily accurate prophesies, was the only thing that had kept her from killing him.

Then Bardock had appeared out of nowhere, slung her over his shoulder like a caveman, and taken her away.

"If you don't put me down right now, goddammit," she had said, the second they were out of earshot of Vegita's house, "I'm going to---"

"Damn, she's got a loud mouth!" Toma said judiciously, as they neared Bardock's house.

"Bardock!" She nearly shrieked. "My baby---!"

"Kakarott's bringing him, girl! Stop clawing at me!" He set her on her feet.

"If you think I'm going to crawl into bed with you---"

"You'd have to fight Jula for me first," Son-Kun's father snickered. "Vegita-ouji sent you with us to keep Nappa or someone else from doing this." He gestured at the livid bruises on her neck.

"Oh," she said, feeling less than quick on the uptake. Vegita had told Bardock to protect her…when he was so badly injured he could barely speak. She felt a cringing wave of guilt, remembering the things she had said to him this morning. The blame she had laid.

Then…oh, then Son-Kun had flown down to where they stood before Bardock's home, setting her baby gently in her arms. And his face…

"Son-Kun?" She touched the wind-dried tears on his face, saw Radu biting his own lip to keep from crying too.

"Kakarott, what is---?" Bardock began. The boy flinched away his father's hand on his shoulder. Anyan stopped, staring at the horrible, clenched look of grief and anger in her mate's eyes.

"Toussan…" Son-Kun whispered. "What is a purging squad?"

"Shit." Said someone softly. Toma, she thought.

"I think Nappa probably explained it pretty well, Kakarott." His father answered solemnly. And Bulma gripped the pommel of the gun at her hip, suddenly understanding what must have happened. Nappa's petty, malicious revenge on Bardock and on her.

"That mother-fucking---" Anyan began.

Son-Kun turned on her, his eyes shining with that scary intelligence he displayed at times. "You knew, Anyan. And Oneesan? And Zarbon-san?

You all knew, and didn't tell me."

"Tell me what that would have achieved, brat." His father's voice was still soft. "Do you feel better now that you know? I told you that before the changes we had been a race of destroyers, Tsiru-sei's hired killers. What did you think I did as a warrior of Vegita-sei in that time?"

"I…I thought…" Son-Kun began to cry again, sinking slowly to his knees. His father knelt with him, touching his shoulder again, gripping firmly. "I didn't think…I guess I never really do."

"Look at me, boy!" The boy looked up at his father's face, still shaking his head as if it would help make all his father had confirmed for him untrue. "You are not feeble minded. If anything, you are…'different minded'. Your head works differently than most people's, but you are quicker that any of us when it matters." He paused, letting this sink in.

"You didn’t want me…"

"No," Bardock said. "An evil man would never want a child like you. But I do now. I have killed more living things than I could ever count. All of the warriors of my generation have. In my youth, I lived to kill. There was nothing in my empty head but the anticipation of the next slaughter. If the Kanassans had not laid this curse on me, I would have never been anything other than the strong, clever beast I was. But I can See now. And I have changed. And the bitterest aspect of the curse, for all of us, all Saiyans, is that changing means a man has to live with the things he has done. And know he can never take them back."

Son-Kun stared into his eyes, still as a stone, for the full space of two minutes. No one moved and no one spoke. Then he pitched forward into his father's arms, shaking like a leaf, and Bulma felt a sob rise in her throat as she heard the words the boy said softly. "I love you. I know I'm not supposed to say that word, but I don't know why. But it's true. I love all of you, and I won't take it back!"

"Have I told you the reason we do not say the word, Kakarott?" His father awkwardly put his arms around the boy, holding him. "It is because we know that putting such of thing into words cheapens it. A man could speak until his voice ran out and his throat cracked and bled, and still not have said enough to do justice to what it means. So we do not try. It is not a thing a man says…it is a thing he does." Bulma had knelt beside him, and all the other had as well, no one speaking. How long Bardock had held the weeping boy, how long they had all sat with him together in the red, dusty sands, with the chill air whipping around them she didn't know. But when they had all finally gone to their beds, it had been all right. Maybe better than all right. Some gracious god was watching over Son-Kun to have given the sweet boy she loved so deeply a father who had grown to love him as well. But she would be hard put to keep from killing Nappa the next time she saw him. They all would.

Vegita…

She had been so angry, so full of fear and rage at the helplessness of her situation, that she had not seen…too much. He had not simply had her, taken what he wanted from her, despite the varying degrees of legal rape that went on in Saiyan society and always had. In the sitting room, even with her in his arms, he had not broken his word. He had asked, not forced. His every act in regards to her, since he had first saved her from Nappa after the fall of Madran, had been deliberately aimed at keeping her alive and safe, even the spanking in Council. And she had repaid him by laying the blame for Raditz' death on his head. By reminding him his own hand had killed her husband's body. By sending him to what nearly was his death thinking she hated him. What exactly did she feel for him? She couldn't define or explain the nearly over-whelming physical need he inspired in her. But there was more…like a yearning for a part of her own self she had lost.

No! No! No!

She had been her entire life, a kind of princess in her own right, daughter of a man who all of Chikyuu looked to because of his knowledge rather than his power. From the time she had been able to fend for herself, she had been allowed to roam the breadth of her world, never reigned in, never ordered to remain home or do anything she did not want to. Her father believed the only way to find knowledge was to seek it out, and he had set her free to do so. She would not, was incapable of, living in a situation where she was powerless, where she was commanded to do this and do that by another person. The public fiction of her slavery did not matter so much as the private reality. Even a good master was still a master at the end of the day.

She knew that a giant part of everything she valued about herself would die if she went to his bed when she was not his equal. And more than all these things, was the deep, cold terror that this…feeling she had for Vegita, would grow into something that---Coward…she thought harshly. You know that if you let him in, you will die if you lose him…losing Raditz nearly killed you…and losing Vegita would very probably finish the job. And he came so close to dying today…

He blurred around the edge of the fire, stopping, nearly collapsing, beside her bed cot. "Vegita---Oh gods, you shouldn't be---"

His face was white as bone, but he gripped both her arms, pulling her up to meet his eyes. "You…will not hate me…" He could only plead with her in the form of a command, it seemed. He swayed, and she caught him, holding him in her arms. "Bulma…" He lay his head on her shoulder, breathing shallowly. She didn't know how he had managed to fly over here in the first place.

"I don't hate you…" She leaned into him, closing her eyes. "I'm…It's not your fault that Raditz died…or that Radu went to war. I was wrong to say that." He shuddered against her, whether in relief or pain she couldn't tell.

"Vegita, your wounds---"

"I am stabile, Scopa says. Though he would squawk louder than you at your loudest if he knew I had left my bed. I only need rest…" His weight pressed against her and she realized he could barely sit.

"Then lie down," she whispered, and pulled him down beside her, her arms still around him.

What the hell was she going to do? How would she manage to keep what was…happening between them at bay. She sighed, tired and emotionally drained. She couldn't figure it out tonight. But for the moment, just for now, she could hold him. His eyes were already drooping shut, when she kissed him, soft on the mouth. "I don't hate you," she told him again. He closed his eyes and slept.



The Super Mech found Yardratsei three months later. It blacked out the new sensor array, moving so quickly no one on the watch stations at the fifth and sixth planets had time to even get off a warning, or probably know what had hit them. It crept into the orbit of Yardrat in early morning, sniffing out the kis of its own origins, and falling dreamily into the atmosphere of the planet that should have been obscured by telepathic illusion to anything that could see and think. Bulma saw the red glint off the mech as it caught the light, sparkling in the rising sun, from the window of her workshop.

Every head of every Saiyan was turned to the sky, their faces strange with an unaccustomed blanch of fear…and sick, enraged horror. Bulma stared up at Kyouka's pallid, clenched face as they stood blinking in the bright light outside her workshop that looked out on the base's central square. Warriors from the training grounds and Madrani from the myriad of technical facilities were running or flying to the square, tense and silent. All clustered around the entrance of the Royal quarters, where Vegita had been closeted with his Privy Council since last night, drawing up plans for a coordinated attack with the Maiyosh-jin forces. In the growing throng of several thousand people, not a sound stirred.

"It is the end, Bulma-san," Kyouka whispered. His Maiyosh-jin mate, Rubi, so far gone in pregnancy she could barely fly, landed lightly beside him and Bulma's young bodyguard gazed down at the red-skinned girl, seeming to forget Bulma was even there. Rubi must have flown across the entire breadth of the complex…for no other reason than because she wished to die at his side.

Bulma pulled Kakarott out of his baby sling on her back, holding him against her, and watched in frozen terror as the metal thing slowly descended, burning in a brilliant halo of golden light. It set down in the center of the square, red sand swirling away in its wake in a hundred spinning dust motes. It did not move.

As the door to the Royal quarters slowly swung open, the mech's dull gray head rotated round to fasten on Vegita's blank, hard face like a tracking beam. Nappa stood at his side, towering over his Prince, and unbelievably, the older Saiyan seemed to be so paralyzed with fear and loathing of the metal monster before them that he could not move.

"Oh gods…" The harsh, rumbling voice cracked, with an odd, out-of-place note of sorrow.

Vegita did not pause, or miss a beat in his stride as big man beside him stopped, unable to go on. He stepped into the square, and his face…there was a mountain of hate and pain and searing rage behind that flat, stony expression he wore. "I know why you have come," his calm voice was startling in the utter quiet surrounding them. "I will not fail you."

He hurled himself like a rocket at the Super Mech. And they fought, shattering the westward ring of the mountain range that wrapped around the red plains where the Saiyan base lay, shaking the earth so violently the tallest spires of the Yardrat Hive City toppled and the more hastily assembled capsule structures collapsed in piles of metal flats, gouging stadium-sized pock-marks in the planet beneath them, and cracking every window on the base with the force of their blasts. On and on they fought, all day, until the sun began to sink low in the west. And all that long, fearful day, all those on the ground watched in dead silence, waiting to see if they would live or die. At the end, they were directly overhead, burning up the sky like torches hurled aloft…and Vegita screamed, his voice hoarse and raw with so much rage and agony and grief, she felt the tears she had forced down throughout the torture of this hellish day, well up in her eyes. Vegita's aura, his ki, ignited and burst into a golden flame of blazing power. He cried out once more and hurled the mech to the earth like a stone. It crashed just south of the square, and the ground rippled as it struck, knocking Bulma off her feet. Toma reached out a hand almost absently to catch her. At some point in the day, Son-Kun and the others of Bardock's squad had simply wandered over and silently sat beside her. No one had spoken or moved all day except for Bardock, his hand on Son-Kun's arm, speaking soft and urgent, telling the boy this was not his fight…

The Super Saiyamech landed in a sitting position, sizzling and smoking. At some point during the day's battle, its great chest plate had been blown off, revealing the remains of the man who lay embedded within the machine.

The hard-faced, bearded man was still alive…and oh gods, he was still awake and aware.

Vegita, burning like a golden star, hovered directly before the open chest cavity, gazing at the damned soul trapped inside. She heard him whisper one word. "Otoussama…" Then he raised his open hand and blew the abomination to glowing metal shards.

All around her, the Saiyans were falling on the their knees, laying their faces down to the red dusty earth, as Vegita slowly set down among them. Bowing down in what was nearly idolatry. "…Legendary…" The words drifted on the hot, smoky air around her from all directions, whispered in hushed awe. Vegita seemed not to notice. He was cold and calm and terrible, shining like an amber lantern in the fading light.

"Ouji---Ou-sama…shall we prepare to leave this world?" Nappa's deep voice was shaking in terror and joy, like a man face to face with his god.

"Ouji-sama, Nappa." Vegita sounded strangely gentle in that frightening countenance. "I will ascend to no throne until this war is won. Speak Seer." He didn't bother to ask the question.

"Yardratsei will not fall, Vegita-ouji," Bardock intoned quietly. "He came of his own accord, and bore no tracing device."

"Nappa, we must see to the damage the base has suffered…" Vegita trailed off.

"I will see it all made new again, my Prince," the big man rumbled. He had not risen from his knees yet.

"Bardock…what has this day's work changed? Tell me what you See."

Vegita was not looking directly at anybody or anything, his utterly impassive face raised to the sky.

"I See many things, my Lord," Son-Kun's father replied. "I will tell you all that I may."

The two men spoke so softly she couldn't make out the words. Then Vegita strode away from the wrecked square, the other men trailing behind him as he began to bark out commands, his back straight, his face set. And they began the meticulous process of putting the damage the battle had wreaked on their base back to rights.

Bulma rocked Kakarott to sleep, laying him down for the night in his crib bed, lighting the fire in the sitting room as the bitter chill of the night crept in. At midnight, he had still not returned, and she bathed in the stone bath pool, numb and lost in thought. What would it be like to see someone you loved wired into that atrocity? Defiled and raped and mutilated in every way imaginable and left cognizant and aware of their own hell every inch of the way? And Tsiru-sei wanted Vegita, Son-Kun and both her sons for the gene they bore, to use as batteries for the Super Saiyamechs, to do the same to them… She suddenly realized with horror that Bardock had spoken true once more when he had prophesied that she would kill both Kakarott and Radu herself before she let them fall victim the same fate Vegita-ou had suffered.

Vegita…

He had told her over a year ago that he could not think that his father lived, could not bear the thought of the things Frieza would do to him.

And now to see that creeping, gnawing fear made real… It had pushed him over that unimaginable threshold of power he had been striving for since the fall of Vegita-sei. As he recovered from his wounds from the battle of Arbatsu's black ship yards, she had devised a distraction for him, a kind of mistress, to take his attention from her completely. She had been nearly insulted at how effective it had been. She had built a high gravity simulation dome, that could counterfeit the effects of planetary gravity in excess of five hundred G's. He had promptly begun to kill himself in it, in an incessant, obsessive fury to become stronger. She pulled her bath robe around her, brushing out her hair, and made her way into the sitting room, lost in worry, to dry off before the fire.

He had come in so quietly she hadn't noticed it. Vegita was sitting beside the circular hearth, in the black, high-backed armchair he favored, immobile as a marble statue. He was still in his bloody, sand-scored armor.

He had half a dozen superficial wounds she could see, that had clotted and dried. No one had tended them. Very likely, no one had dared. She drew closer, stopping beside his chair, barely breathing. She didn't stop to think, to measure or weigh the consequences, she didn't let the stomach-wrenching sympathy twisting through her insides show on her face, she didn't hesitate.

She reached out and took his hand, pulling gently but firmly. "You need a bath," she whispered.

He stood slowly, and followed her, letting her lead him to the still hot water like a sleepwalker, and she nearly lost control of the tears she was ruthlessly beating down when he stepped into the water, clothes and all. She stared at his blank, cold, disconnected face for several seconds. Then she stepped into the chest deep water with him, and began pulling at the latches and buckles of his armor, peeling it off him. The black bodysuit beneath it was in shreds, and fell off around him in the water without the armor to hold it together, revealing dozens of gouges and gashes and burn marks. He stood like a mannequin as she bathed the sand and blood off his body. As she reached up to sponge away the blood splattered across his face, she realized with dull horror that he had been wearing his father's blood speckled across his forehead and cheeks since this afternoon. And he now he seemed to be locked behind a wall of silence, unable to react or even speak, unable to release any of the horror boarded up behind his eyes, now that the need to take action and issue commands and make decisions was no longer urgent. Now that the base had retired to an uneasy, deathly quite rest that would still not bring sleep to many who lay in their beds. I would be screaming at the walls and tearing out my hair and weeping blood if I had just seen Poppa entombed in a mechanized hell like that…if I had just had to end his suffering with my own hands. Oh Kami, everyone I lost died a quick, clean death, but on Vegita-sei…

And he couldn't even cry. She had no doubt the ability had been pummeled out of him before he could even stand on his own feet.

So, she cried for him, wrapping her arms around his chest, laying his unresisting head on her shoulder, as she shook apart with the sorrow and terror of how bad it had been. At some point, his arms began to move, to cling to her as though she were a life preserver in a stormy sea, tightening with no warning into an embrace that pushed the air from her lungs, and made her gasp softly in surprise and a little pain as he compressed her fragile bones. He didn't respond to her soft pleas to loosen his grip, but the vise around her body eased marginally. He lifted her, levitating out of the bath, kneeling on the hot flatrock tiles of the bathing room, holding her against his naked body. He had begun to shake uncontrollably, his face cinched up in the strain of holding everything in, and she started in surprise as he cried out once. It was a drawn-out, rolling scream, tapering down into soft, gasping hitches of breath. It was the closest he could come to tears, and for that as well, she grieved with him. She put both hands on his face and kissed his mouth, banishing apprehension and worry for what the next day would bring if she journeyed down this road with him. He uttered a low, soft growl, of reaction to the wildly veering tangent that her hands tracing down his cheeks and her mouth on his had just sent him spiraling down. Of buried want and aching need to hold and be held. Of long suppressed desire, tearing its way to the surface. And again, his arms nearly crushed the life out of her as he returned the embrace. He pushed her down beneath him, his mouth burning over hers, trailing down her throat to taste her breasts, before rising again to bury his face against the soft hollow between her neck and shoulder.

She was lost. There was no going back from this, but for the moment she didn't give a damn. He skin, his hard body pressed over hers, was fever hot, his breath harsh in her ear, as his hands tore off the soaking bath robe that lay between them. She felt like she was burning alive with the heat of his hands, his mouth, her whole being seared with need toward the aching empty place between her legs. His hand brushed her there, finger stroking gently, and he gasped in her ear, shuddering as she moaned softly. He was lying between her thighs now, turning her mouth to meet his again, and it crossed her mind faintly to wonder where the hell he had learned to kiss as his tongue delved into her mouth, tasting her.

"Bulma…" He breathed shakily against her lips. "Tell me you want me…tell me!"

"I want you…Vegita...Oh, Kami, I want you!" She inhaled and cried out faintly as he drove into her in one smooth stroke. He was lying inside her, breathing against her mouth in gasping little stitches. He lay like that for a full minute, not moving, hands roaming over her body, exploring the soft curves and plains, slowing the pounding charge of his heart, shaking as though he were in the throes of a fever.

"Yes…" He husked in her ear, and began to move inside her, slow, gentle thrusts. "Yes…yes…" He quickened his pace, bowing his back, driving deep into her, using more strength, as she locked her legs around him and moved under him, with him and he---Oh Kami! Yes! She shrieked and lashed her head back, and came, sobbing his name. It was not a climax, it was some kind of minor nuclear detonation inside her body, her mind, her heart.

She would never have the strength to go back, never had the will now to deny him any part of her, no matter how things stood between them in the world outside this room. But that was not now. Now, he lay in her arms,

trembling in the aftermath, and she vaguely realized it had been less than five minutes since they began…

He had been younger than Son-Kun when his world was destroyed by Frieza, and she didn't know why she had assumed he would have had women before then. There must have been palace courtesans and such…but, no. Everything about him said he would not touch a woman who sold herself, who was weak, who had no pride. And Saiyan women…no again.

Crown Princes were not as free as legends made them out to be in fairy tales…and royal bastards were the seeds of civil wars. Then, when the war began, there would have been no time, no opportunity, as he was born down by the crushing weight of being a man too soon, of holding his people together in the darkest hour of their history and keeping them alive…at an age when most boys on Chikyuu had not even finished high school.

"Bulma…" He never spoke her name unless he was in some moment of extremity. Now, he lay above her, his weight pressing down on her, his eyes dark and dry…but burning with the words she knew she would never hear him say aloud. Because love was so rare and precious to his people, they could not bring themselves to name it. And because, as Bardock had said, it was something they did, not something they said. "Bulma..." he said her name again. He began to move inside her again, growing hard again within her, and burning away any thought or contemplative languor. She nudged him over, rolling him on his back, and began to move above him, watching his face, seeing the inexpressive mask he wore like a second skin wash away as she moved over him, seeing his eyes grow dark with need for more of her, even while he was still inside her. When and how they found their way to his bed, she didn't remember. How many times he had her, as she had him, coiled around and and above and below and within each other in tireless, sweat-soaked labor til dawn, it didn't matter. Just before daybreak, he pushed her hair to one side, lying above her, as he moved slowly within her, building speed slowly. "You are mine…" He said harshly. And buried his teeth in the skin and flesh of her shoulder. She grasped his back, nails raking red welts, as she buckled under the wave of the pleasure from his bite. Past the point of no return…There was no going back…not ever. She lay gasping and half conscious by the time he finally broke the bite, and he kissed her mouth, giving her the sweet, salt taste of her own blood.

"You are mine," he said once more, so soft she could barely hear it, though his breath was in her ear, teetering on the edge of sleep.

"Yes," she agreed, just as softly. He was asleep, and she kissed him once more, feather light. "But you're mine, too…so it's okay." She lay quietly, watching Yardrat's red sun rise on a new day.

* * * * *

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(Coming Soon: Chapter IV---Frieza steps up his efforts to take Vegita alive,

Bulma begins searching for a way to gain her freedom, and Vegita decides to take the war to Tsiru-sei's front door. And Nappa's still lurking in the background…)

Chapter4