a rewrite of an older tale by Dot
Part Three: Mind Games
“You don’t seem surprised to see me here.”
Vegeta didn’t turn around. “Of course I’m not surprised. Kakarot couldn’t have been the one to leave me a written note, much less suggest that we take our sparring elsewhere; he’s not that considerate.” He looked around at the lifeless terrain where he and Kakarot had once battled for the fate of the planet. “Although I’m just a bit disturbed that you know this much about me.”
“I know a thing or two, yes.” She strolled to his side, just behind his peripheral vision. “But one can only learn so much by watching from the outside. The rest—including how the little royal bratling became a family man—is a complete mystery.”
It would have been simple—and far easier—to turn her in a smoldering heap of ashes then and there, and she knew it. Which was why Vegeta was going to pretend that she didn’t bother him in the least. “I don’t see how that’s any of your business.”
She made a move as if to approach him, but settled for rocking on the balls of her feet instead. “Come on, Vegeta. There’s nobody here. You don’t have to pretend that you don’t know me.”
Vegeta looked her up and down, taking in her long, black, Saiyan hair and furry brown tail that betrayed her feelings by flicking back and forth. “All I can come up with whenever I try to think of you is one big, long blank.”
She stiffened, but recovered before he could make any comments about her lack of self-control. “Well, then, maybe this will refresh your memory.” She leaped up to a pillar, one of the few that weren’t vaporized decades ago in Vegeta’s furtive attempt to destroy Kakarot. And once again, Vegeta hoped that the selection of this locale was a mere coincidence instead of just another part of this Saiyan’s inexplicable obsession with him. A light breeze swirled around her as she began to speak, and her unfeminine voice carried across the space between them.
“Get up! You can do better than that!”
“I can’t.” His body hurt. His hurts had hurts. The slightest bit of motion resulted in searing, blinding agony.
“Stand up, or this is the day you die, Little Prince!” She began to gather a sphere of energy in her outstretched hand. “You’ll be buried in a forgotten grave and replaced with some other nameless brat.” Was it just his imagination, or did her voice break when she said that? “No one will mourn you, do you hear? No one!”
The dim vision of a boring lecture tugged at the back of Vegeta’s mind, but he did not indulge in any reminiscence. “So you know the nursery tale of how a pauper supposedly came to inherit the throne of Planet Vegeta because the King was terrible at politics.”
This time, she bristled. “It wasn’t just a nursery tale, or the government wouldn’t have been so eager to ban the ‘Lady Maple’ version. I may have only been six at the time, but unlike some slackers I kept up with current events.”
The resonance was stronger, but once again Vegeta dismissed it. “That was all very enlightening, really, but I have better things do to than sit here and put up with your nonsense.”
Just as he stood up, she was standing before him, a glowing sword pointed at his throat. “Well, then, you do remember this little device, don’t you?” She peered down the length of it at him, her dark eyes smoldering. “I wonder how it feels to be stabbed with your own life force?”
Vegeta grabbed her arm as she lunged forward and twisted it. She spun with it, letting go of the sword and using the momentum of her body to strike at him. Without a second thought Vegeta blocked, and then roared with surprise as the sword took on a life of its own and swung at him, nicking the edge of his arm.
“Come on, Little Prince, don’t tell me that’s all you got,” she taunted, the manner in which she spoke suggesting that she was still quoting the age-old words of some slave’s fantasies. And yet, her body language did not read as hostile. The sword, too, just acted as distraction, cutting in when Vegeta got too close to her. “Come on, there’s only twenty-eight days of fun and games left.”
Vegeta blinked. That line had been in the story, too. Something about the former Princess being shipped off to another planet so she wouldn’t be a bad influence. And then—and then what? He had read the tale once, as part of that mind-numbing critical analysis course his tutors wouldn’t let him skimp on no matter how many times he tried to wriggle out of it. And this blasted Saiyan dancing in front of him, treating him like a child, wasn’t helping matters at all. “What the hell do you want?”
She stopped, letting the sword drop. “Vegeta. It be me,” she said in their native tongue, but her grammar was pidgin and her pronunciation odd, as if she hadn’t used it in ages. “Why you no speak me? Hate you me many much?”
Now she tries the crying, Vegeta thought, resisting the urge to roll his eyes. Even Bulma does a better job at this.
But no tears came. She just stood there, waiting. “Vegeta.”
What did she expect him to do? He wasn’t about to lie to her in any language. It took him a while to come up with the right words, not having used any of it for quite sometime himself, but by and by he managed it. “I cannot hate someone I do not remember.”
She gazed at him, her expression returning to its previous cold blankness. “I—” she shook her head and returned to the most common language of Earth. “I see.” She picked up the sword from the ground. “At least it will make ending your miserable lives easier.”
Vegeta checked his arm; the blood was already coagulating, and he was otherwise uninjured. “At this rate, you and your spongy cohorts will be the ones to die instead.”
She shrugged. “I guess we’ll find out twenty-eight days later.”
And then she was gone, leaving Vegeta alone with his thoughts.
Bra punched in the special key code using the keypad that Mama had installed at kiddie height when her brother Trunks—but she liked to call him ‘Trunch’, to tease him—was old enough to use the room by himself. “Okay. Now the fun part begins.”
Pan tested out her arms and legs, marveling at the sensation of weight. “Cool! This is like being at the moon walk, except we’re heavier!”
“It gets even better. Watch.” Bra sat down in her circle of dolls and began to concentrate. A few moments later, one of them began to rise off the ground.
“Wow,” Pan watched in awe as the doll levitated and made an elegant, albeit upside-down, circuit around the room. “How’d you do that?”
“It’s easy. See, the line where you begin and everything else ends is really fuzzy, so all you have to do is reach just a little bit and change the shape of the line—” Bra demonstrated by crossing her energy with Pan’s.
“Oooooooh,” Pan breathed. “Papa can do it, too, but he hasn’t teached me yet. He says I should wait until I’m more grown up, first.”
Bra, having had more practice, levitated another doll with minimal effort. “That’s okay. My Daddy’s teaching me how to fight, so I can teach you.”
Pan nodded. “How many more days?”
“Twenty-eight.” Bra helped as Pan bobbled a doll, almost dropping it. “Nono, you’re forcing it too hard.”
“Oh, okay.” This time, Pan managed to correct the tilt herself, and she broke into a grin at this accomplishment. “This is easy! We’re going to kick their butts!”
Bra let another doll rise into the air, joining the others in an intricate dance. “No. No butt-kicking. We just stop them from hurting anybody.”
Goten stretched out on the hill, letting his sore muscles get a break. “You’ve come up with some pretty hair brained ideas, Trunks, but this is your worst yet.”
“It got you out of the house, didn’t it?” Trunks rotated his arm. “And besides, it’s always good to have a Plan B in case Plan A doesn’t work.”
“What’s Plan A? Ow!” Goten punched Trunks back in the same spot where he had been hit, and groaned as he overextended. “You’re just mad that your dad’s been using you as a punching bag in the name of training for the last two days.”
“The more training the merrier, right?” Trunks pulled his hovercar capsule out of his pocket and threw it to the ground. “Let’s stop by Korin’s for a quick break and give it another shot.”
Goten groaned again. “You’re not going to stop until we get it right, are you?”
“What do you think? All the motions have to be perfect and on top of that we have to make sure we don’t repeat the Buu debacle. I can’t practice this with anyone else.” Trunks extended a hand to Goten. “Can you still move?”
Goten grabbed Trunks by the arm, winced again as another wave of pain shot through his body, and wrenched himself to his feet. “Barely.”
Trunks nodded. “All right. We’ll just do a little light sparring after Korin’s, and then we visit the good old boob tube.”
Goten grinned. “Now you’re talking.”
Gohan wrapped his arms around his wife and shared a quick but intimate kiss as she entered his office pulling a large cooler behind her. “Mmm. Lunch and dessert. You spoil me.”
Videl made a mock scandalized expression. “Here? Now? What would the neighbors think?”
With Videl still hugged against him, Gohan closed the thick oak doors and twirled around, causing her to shriek in delight. “The room is soundproofed. No one will hear a thing.”
And of course, by saying such a thing, Gohan invoked Murphy’s Law.
The phone on Gohan’s desk sprang to life with the voice of his administrative assistant. “Mr. Son? Your mother sent you lunch again.”
Gohan sighed. “I’ll be downstairs to sign for the packages right away.”
“Actually, I’ve already signed for it and it’s outside your office.”
“Thanks.” Gohan opened the door and grimaced at the number of boxes sitting in front of his office. “This is still too much, even for me.”
Videl flopped down on the couch as Gohan brought them in. “She still sends you lunch?”
“She used to drop them off in person and wouldn’t leave until I ate all of it.” Gohan sighed again. “And she used to cook twice as much as this.”
Videl took the last package and forced a smile. “Well, at least we don’t have to worry about dinner tonight.”
Gohan unpacked one of his mother’s labors of love and wondered whether he should drop the other bombshell. Maybe later. After all, the threat didn’t quite feel real enough yet, and although Videl tended to be a bit more progressive in certain matters, she was just as protective of Pan as Chi-Chi had been of him.
Videl stared into an open lunchbox, chopsticks poised above a morsel. “Do you think those Suponjians are serious? About—you know.”
Gohan almost choked an a spear of asparagus. Did she just read his mind? “I don’t know, but it’s best to assume the worst.”
Videl nodded, still not eating. “Pan’s starting to take an interest in martial arts. I told her I’d think about letting her take lessons.”
Well, no point in avoiding the topic now. “I could teach her. Nothing serious, just the basics of self-defense.”
“That’d be nice.”
Gohan pulled Videl into a hug. “It’ll be all right, Videl. Things will turn out fine.”
Videl squeezed back, holding on as if for dear life. “I hope so, too.”
Bra put a hand on Pan’s shoulder. “Relax, Pan. She’s not the enemy.”
“She is too!” Pan snarled. “I heard Papa and Mama talk about her! She wants to kill all of us!”
The stranger’s lips quirked upward in a manner that reminded Bra of her father. “Will you try to stop me then, little warrior?”
“No,” Bra cut in before the fuming Pan could try to start a fight. “My name is Bra, and this is Pan.”
“Ah,” the stranger nodded. “I suppose I should say ‘nice to meet you’.”
“HEY!” With that furious shout from her brother, Bra felt herself being swept up into his arms.
Bra sighed. This was not going to end well. “Go away, Trunch.”
Pan also attempted to escape from Goten’s grasp without much success. “Put me down, Ten-ten!”
The children were, as usual, ignored as the ‘adults’ discussed ‘grown-up’ stuff. “What are you doing in my house?” Trunks demanded.
“Your mother,” the stranger replied, pausing just long enough to watch Trunks squirm, “invited me over to help with her research. I suppose I should be a bit more worried given the fact that she’s probably doing it to figure out how to kill me, but—” and here she shrugged.
Trunks did not look happy about his newest house-guest. “So why are you wandering around?”
“You’re so cute when you do that ‘Chief of Homeland Security’ face, Little Prince.” The stranger reached out to pinch Trunks’ cheek, but he batted her hand away.
“Answer the question,” Trunks all but hissed, hands clenching into fists and the barest hint of a golden glow lighting his sour features.
“Not that it’s any of your business, but I have the rest of the day off.” She shook her head. “And you really need to relax. I’m no so stupid as to attack your precious baby sister in your own house a month before the real happy fun killing times are supposed to start.”
Pan’s eyes went wide. “Ooh, I think she just dissed you!”
Bra slapped her forehead with her palm and grimaced. Leave it up to Pan to say the worst possible thing at the worst possible moment. Goten, meanwhile, went into a coughing fit as he guffawed backwards into his throat, and the stranger herself seemed on the verge of laughing out loud as well.
Trunks was, needless to say, Not Amused. “I’m warning you—”
“Don’t even try, Little Prince. There is absolutely nothing you can threaten me with.” Bra shuddered a bit as the stranger’s now cold eyes swept over her. “And if I really wanted to have my way with her—or any one of you—not even Vegeta himself could stop me.”
Trunks made the mistake of trying to grab the stranger in the arm.
She snatched his wrist out of the air and twisted it just far enough that Bra was sure it would cause pain. Trunks winced, but his hold on Bra did not falter.
“If it were not in my best interest to hold back, you would be short one limb right now,” she informed him. When Trunks’ response was to glower, the stranger let go. “Good. It pays to learn how to pick your battles, instead of charging into everything like some reckless spoiled brat that’s never fought anything tougher than itself.”
Time for Bra to the rescue, or something. “He helped saved the world twice.” All right, so one of the times the real hero was Trunks’ time-traveling alter ego, but the stranger didn’t have to know that.
“Did he now?” The stranger examined Trunks up and down a few times, causing him to look rather uncomfortable. “Well, well, well. Appearances can be quite deceiving.”
“You can put me down now, Trunch,” Bra said, taking full control of the situation. “I was just going to show my new friend here all your embarrassing baby pictures.”
“Like you know where they are,” Trunks muttered, complying nonetheless. He knew that Bra always got her way, no matter what, and he was still smarting from the lesson in why it was a bad idea to mess with an unknown threat.
“She does too!” Pan chirped, giving Goten a hearty thump on the back of his head. “Now put me down, Ten-ten, before I clonk you another!”
“Ow! Okay! You don’t have to hit so hard, geez!” Goten let Pan drop while he put on a melodramatic display of mock pain.
Bra rolled her eyes and took the stranger’s hand into hers. “Come on. Let’s get away from these boys.”
The stranger smiled again, and this time she was genuine, even kind. “As you wish, my Lady.”
Trunks rubbed his shoulder as they walked to their part of the house, once dubbed the ‘Den of Solitude’ as a joke. “Thanks for being ever so helpful when your best friend since childhood was in dire peril.”
Goten shrugged. “Hey, I had my arms full with Pan. Blood is thicker than water and all that, you know. Besides, I’m not stupid.” Like you, his annoyed expression seemed to imply.
“She was in my house,” Trunks all but growled.
“Your mom’s house,” Goten corrected, almost getting clobbered in the head a second time as a result. He headed to the miniature fridge and pulled out two sodas, tossing one to Trunks. “Geez, and I thought your dad was the overactive violent one.”
“And that’s the weird thing. Dad hasn’t done jack shit, I mean besides using me as a punching bag in the name of training and all that. He’s also twitchy as hell the rest of the time, but I thought he’d have been all over this mess the moment it started.” Trunks opened the bottle with his teeth while he leafed through his extensive game collection. He spat the cap into the trash can, smiling a bit at his mother’s angry note declaring that she’s not his maid, and then scowled again. “I can’t believe Mom—” he shook his head. “No, actually, I can. She’s always been the type to take charge and face trouble head on.” Even if it might kill her, he almost said.
“Yeah. My Mom’s taking all of this surprisingly well, too.” Goten sighed. “I think she’s totally lost it. Not only is she acting more normal than she’s ever been in years, she—” and here he blushed bright pink. “She’s encouraging me to go out and ‘expand my horizons’! What the hell is that supposed to mean!”
“Isn’t it obvious? That’s totally mom-speak ‘go out and get laid, son’.” Trunks couldn’t help but laugh as Goten turned even redder. “You should totally go for it, before she reverts to her usual paranoid self.”
“No freaking way!” Goten exclaimed, looking like he was about to explode from embarrassment. “She’d kill me!”
“So? You already died once and you’re gonna bit the big one permanently someday. Might as well get your cherry popped before that happens.”
Goten sank further into the couch. “You don’t have to make it sound so crude.”
“And you don’t have to sound like some uptight old church lady.” Trunks gave him a look. “You do like girls, right?”
Goten colored again. “Of course I do! It just—feels wrong to look at a girl and want to—to—”
Fuck her into next week without even giving a shit about what her name is? Trunks thought, but he knew better than to state that out loud. The poor kid was so sheltered that Trunks was sure the mere thought of holding hands with someone of the opposite sex who wasn’t family could make him faint. “All right, all right. Back to what’s ‘really’ important.” He turned the speakers to full blast and basked in the resultant ocean of music.
Goten picked up his controller and grinned. “Yup. What’s ‘really’ important.”
Bulma blinked several times in rapid succession as Vegeta set down a steaming mug of coffee in front of her to make sure she wasn’t hallucinating. “What’s the catch?” She asked, looking back and forth between the coffee and the husband she thought she had figured out.
“I didn’t put anything in it, if that’s what you’re implying,” he answered. “Other than coffee, obviously.”
Bulma wasn’t sure whether to feel touched or paranoid. “And why, pray tell, did it occur to you to give me coffee?”
“Why does there have to be a ‘why’?” Vegeta leaned over her, peering at the screen Bulma had been studying, and she felt her heart skip a beat when his arm brushed against hers. “Well, well, well. Did you wrangle a confession out of that girl, or did you figure this out all by your genius self?”
It was beyond ridiculous to be blushing like a teenager for this infuriating Saiyan (worse because he would notice and give her no end of teasing), but something about the lilt in his voice and the posture of his body put her in the mood for mischief. “A little bit of both, I guess. Talking to that girl was worse than squeezing blood from a rock.”
“Wouldn’t it be more productive to find out who’s pulling her strings and using your charms on them instead?” Before Bulma could sock Vegeta in the arm for that, he continued. “Of course, they probably won’t care for a solution that doesn’t involve exterminating us, but it might be worth a shot.”
Pretty much every romantic inclination fled at that thought. (Whether this was for good or for ill remained to be seen.) Bulma sighed as the train of thought she was on before Vegeta interrupted chugged on in full force. “Why do these kinds of things always have to end like that?”
Vegeta shrugged. “If you come up with any plausible alternatives, I’m all ears.”
Bulma found herself staring even well after Vegeta left the room, wondering whether he had been replaced by some sort of non-evil twin.
“—and this is a picture of everybody on my birthday!” Bra handed the album to the stranger and got up. “I need to go potty, I’ll be right back, okay?” She ran out of the room without waiting for an answer and found Papa, who was heading her way.
“Hey there, Princess,” Papa greeted, picking her up and swung her through the air before setting her on his broad shoulders.
“Shh!” Bra admonished. “The lady Mommy invited over is in there! You’ll scare her away!”
“Oh, right.” Papa dropped his voice to an exaggerated whisper. “Is this better?”
Bra giggled. “You’re so silly, Papa!”
“Yes, yes, quite.” Papa began walking again, swaying like he had too much to drink. “My, you’re getting big, Bra.”
Bra grabbed two large fistfuls of Papa’s thick, spiky hair and twisted them to the right. “No, no, the other way!”
Papa took Bra’s hands into his. “As you wish, Princess.”
Pan picked up the heavy photo album without effort and put it back on the shelf, then got the stranger another one. “This isn’t fair, you know.”
“What isn’t fair?”
“You know a lot about us, but we don’t know anything about you.” Pan sat facing the stranger and crossed her arms. “And you won’t tell us anything, not even your name.”
“Why should I tell you anything? You’d think I was lying.”
Pan thought about this long and hard. “I could pretend to believe you,” she offered.
The Saiyan blinked and stared at Pan in stunned silence for a good minute. “That’d be nice, wouldn’t it, to pretend?” she mused out loud. Her hand rested on a picture of a group picture taken at one of the reunions held long before Pan had been born.
The clock on the wall began to chime, indicating that Pan’s favorite show was on. “Um, I can’t talk to you right now. Maybe another time, okay?”
The Saiyan turned the page and began looking at a new set of pictures. “Maybe.”
“That’s a promise!” Pan called as she ran as fast as she could to the nearest room with a television.
They—the Briefs, the Sons (all of them!), and the Saiyan—somehow managed to fit in the kitchen. Bulma claimed this made for a more intimate dining affair, but Trunks’ suspicion was that she just didn’t want to go through the trouble of setting up the larger reception area.
Bulma presided at the head of the table, along with two sets of unused silverware for her deceased parents, as she’d always done after one, and then the other, passed away. Vegeta was to her right, Trunks to her left. Next to Trunks was Bra, who insisted that the Saiyan eat with her, and of course that meant Pan sat with her too, but due to space constraints she ended up in Gohan’s lap. Videl shared the end of the table with Goten in a rather awkward manner, since she was left-handed. However, the other lefty at the table was Chi-Chi (whose appearance at Capsule Corp was not a complete surprise, but not one anyone looked forward to, either), and she was on the other side of Goku so that his large body tended to prevent the two women from glaring at each other too much.
Bulma kept most of the conversation going, talking about safe, superficial subjects in a running monologue that every once in a while was interrupted by the two girls piping up to put their two cents in. Vegeta managed to behave himself, keeping a straight face through some of the things that even Trunks had a hard time not rolling his eyes at. Gohan was trying to eat and feed Pan, something he couldn’t quite do at the same time. Goku and Goten stuffed themselves, oblivious to everything else going around them.
The Saiyan finished first and rose, nodding towards Bulma. “It was a nice meal, but I’d rather not impose on you like this on a regular basis.”
“I don’t plan on feeding you every day, either,” Bulma replied with a smile. “Only when I invite you over to be my guinea pig.”
The Saiyan shrugged. “At least you’re honest about it.”
“Always the best policy, right?” Bulma poked Trunks in the ribs. “Be a gentleman and walk her out.”
A chorus of “me too!” sprang up from Pan and Bra, which of course turned into a cacophony of whining as their respective parents vetoed the idea.
“Why does Trunch get to go?” Pan asked, twisting this way and that in Gohan’s arms. “It’s not fair!”
“Life isn’t fair,” the Saiyan answered at the same moment Vegeta did.
Trunks shoveled a few extra mouthfuls of food in the silence that followed, then stood as well. He cleared his throat. “Let’s get going.”
The Saiyan resumed her air of neutrality. “Yes, let’s.”
Bulma blinked several times to make sure that her lack of sleep wasn’t causing her to imagine that the Saiyan was sitting in the Capsule Corp living room looking through the Briefs photo albums.
When she was certain that this was no hallucination, Bulma stepped into the doorway. “You can turn the lights on, I won’t mind.”
The Saiyan continued to examine the pictures. “I can see just fine.”
“What about coffee?” Bulma offered, entering the room.
“No, thanks.” Now the Saiyan raised her head. “Do you have some sort of death wish?”
“You don’t have any reason to kill me, not right now.” Bulma sat down next to the Saiyan. “And if I were going to die anyway, I’d do it in a way that might make a difference, instead of cowering in a corner somewhere.”
The Saiyan smiled. “A sentiment worthy of a Saiyan. No wonder Vegeta’s so taken with you.”
Bulma snorted. “Taken? If I didn’t know any better, I’d think that he was trying to drive me crazy.”
“He might be. But he certainly has a strange way of going about it.”
“You sound like you’re pretty familiar with Vegeta.”
The Saiyan’s attention went back to the pictures. “I thought I was.”
What’s that supposed to mean? Bulma wanted to ask, but thought better of herself. She knew from her earlier experience that afternoon that if the Saiyan didn’t want to talk, there was nothing Bulma could do about it. And I had thought Vegeta was good at dodging questions. Sheesh.
The Saiyan’s eyes were on Bulma again. “Is there something on my face?”
Bulma was about to apologize when she had an idea. She gave the Saiyan a coy smirk. “Guess.”
The girl chuckled. “Playing hard to get, are you? If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you were trying to seduce me.”
Bulma pretended to ogle. “Now that you mention it, you are quite the looker. Too bad I’m already married and not into girls. Besides, if you’re going to go for anyway I’d thought it’d be my son.”
“The Little Prince?” It was the Saiyan’s turn to snort. “Even if we were closer in age, I doubt it; he’s even more spoiled than his father.”
“That he is,” Bulma agreed. “By the way, he didn’t give you any more trouble while he was walking you out, did he?”
“Nah.” The Saiyan closed the album with a quick flick of her wrist. “All right, it’s been fun, but that’s enough reconnaissance for the day.”
“Just a sec.” Bulma took out her wallet and found the most recent photo of the group together. “Keep this one. As a souvenir.”
“That’s a very nice gesture, but—” the Saiyan gestured to herself. “As you can see, I don’t have any pockets.”
“Oh, right.” Bulma scratched her cheek, examining the girl’s armor again. In addition to a full-body-covering of the typical ‘glorified spandex’, as Bulma once dubbed the suit as a joke, the girl also wore a belt upon which hung something that looked like it could have come off the set of a science fiction movie. Bulma wondered about the odd symbol stitched just beneath the golden shoulder band, but she had a feeling the girl wasn’t in any mood to talk about it in any way. “I’m sure you can figure something out.”
“I guess I could try.” The girl accepted the picture and stood. “Good night.”
Unnecessarily Long and Tiresome Authoress’ Notes:
Dialog more realistic, action condensed, and I still managed to cover most of the necessary information. W00t.