Dragon Ball/Z/GT Fan Fiction ❯ Beyond Survival: Sole Survivors II ❯ A New Complication ( Chapter 3 )

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]

BEYOND SURVIVAL
A SEQUEL TO “SOLE SURVIVORS”
An original DBZ story by QueenSaiyajin
(Rated NC-17 for some mild sexual situations—though not in this chapter.)
 
Please send any and all feedback to queensaiyajin@aol.com
Previous chapters, as well as the prequel, Sole Survivors, available at www.geocities.com/vegetabulmaromance
 
 
 
Chapter Three: A New Complication
 
Bulma could feel her own heart clench with Vegeta's as their adopted daughter ran from the room. She had feared this. For all that Arnaki had suffered and witnessed had left her in a state of shock that had never let the horror of reality sink in. Not fully. The safety, and happiness, that she had found here with them had helped to block out the pain of all she had lost. But Bulma had known all along that someday it would resurface. A child could not lose her parents, her family, her entire planet, without being scarred deeply. It had all happened so quickly, that she had never truly had time to mourn. Vegeta and Bulma had become her parents, Trunks and Chibi her siblings, Vegeta-sei her new world. She was a princess here, the fantasy of all young girls throughout space and time. Yet the frightened child who had had her life ripped violently from her had always lain below the surface, obscuring her grief in the security that the Saiyan King and Queen had tried so desperately to give her.
 
Vegeta's face was an emotionless mask, but Bulma could feel his pain as sharply as her own. The little girl that adored him, that looked up to him as a hero, had seen only a glimpse of the side of him that shamed him terribly. Yet it had been enough. To frighten her. To terrify her, even. To remind her of just what Saiyans were capable of doing.
 
What his father had done.
 
What Vegeta could very well do if he deemed it to be necessary.
 
“I'll go talk to her,” Cordera offered softly, breaking the silence that no one else would.
 
“No, wait,” Vegeta told her abruptly, then looked her in the eyes, adding, “Please. I…need to speak to you first.”
 
The girl nodded as Vegeta turned to Bardock.
 
“I want a full report on Frigia's activities. Contact our representatives on Lodi-sei now and have them find out how many Tsiru-jin survived.” He turned to Trunks as Bardock left to carry out his orders. “Trunks, I want to see the head of the Saiyan News Network immediately. Bring him to me, along with any existing copies of the transmission from Lodi-sei. I will not have them continue to broadcast that abomination's propaganda to my people!”
 
Bulma looked at him in shock. “That's censorship!” she told him with reproach.
 
“And?” he asked her defiantly. “What would you have me do, Bulma, allow her to create dissension among our people? Do it, Trunks, now!”
 
Bulma fumed as her son followed his father's commands, leaving the suite. The Queen Mother was watching her son's face, with disapproval as evident as her own. “Vegeta, taking away freedom of the Press isn't going to solve anything. Isn't this supposed to be a free society?”
 
“It is a Kingdom,” he told them both in no uncertain terms. “And I am the King. I will decide what's best for my people.”
 
“They've already seen the transmissions, Vegeta,” his mother told him. “The damage is done. If you silence them now you will appear to be a tyrant. Your critics will say you are no better than your father.”
 
They were harsh words, and the fury on Vegeta's face made it clear that if anyone else had suggested such a thing, he would have destroyed them on the spot. “Then what do you propose?” he asked through gritted teeth.
 
“Why not just be honest?” Bulma told him. “Make a public address and explain why you—“
 
“I am the Saiyajin no Ou!” He retorted. “I don't need to explain my actions to anyone!”
 
“Maybe not,” his mother replied carefully. “But you should. You had every right to destroy every Tsiru-jin alive, and if you were to kill Frigia and her people tomorrow you'd be doing the entire galaxy a favor. Why not help your people to understand your reasons?”
 
“Papa! Papa!”
 
Trunks had been trying to get his father's attention for the last ten minutes at least, but Vegeta had been ignoring him in the urgency of the matters at hand. The toddler had flown up into his father's face now, and Vegeta finally told him a bit too sternly, “Not now, Trunks!”
 
Bulma watched in utter shock as her little son, who could fly better than he could walk, growled angrily at his father and shot him point blank with a ki blast in the face.
 
Vegeta's reflexes reacted before he could even register what had happened. He grabbed the child by the arms and held him so tightly that Trunks began to cry. Even as the stunned Saiyan realized that it had only been the toddler lashing out in anger, and loosened his grip, his astonishment turned quickly to an anger that seemed to border on terror. “Trunks! You must never do that again, do you hear me, boy?!” he said nearly shaking the boy in his grasp.
 
“Vegeta, he's only a baby—“ Queen Rabia began.
 
“And what if he had done that to his mother?!” Vegeta shouted, revealing the true source of his anger. The blast had been like nothing more than a puff of air in his face. But had it been aimed at Bulma, she would most likely have been killed, or at the very least, disfigured beyond repair.
 
Bulma shuddered at the thought, but knew that Trunks wasn't to blame for this. Even as Vegeta told him that if he had done that to Mama he would have hurt her—or worse—and the boy began to cry, Bulma's fury rose, not towards her son, but the one who had pushed him to learn these things far too early.
 
“What did you expect, Vegeta?!” she cried, taking the crying boy from him and holding him close. “To teach him to use his powers before he can even understand what he's doing—I told you it was a mistake!”
 
“ I taught him to use ki blasts when he's in battle!” he shot back at her. “Not to go blasting people just because he's angry!”
 
“Oh, really?” Bulma asked, knowing he heard the hypocrisy in his own words. “And were you battling the video screen? Because he saw you do that with his own eyes, so why shouldn't he think that's acceptable behavior?”
 
Vegeta set his jaw, unable to answer. There was no appropriate response. But his face had paled with his own realization that his son was only emulating his own behavior. Bulma looked down at Trunks, who was clinging to her, still sobbing. Did he understand what Vegeta had told him? Did he realize just how much more powerful he was than his own mother? “It's okay, Trunks-kun. Just never do that in the house, and never do that to people just because you're mad. That's very bad, and Mama will be very mad at you. Do you understand?”
 
She was sure that the stern tone in her voice would always be sufficient to keep her son in line. Hadn't her counterpart in that other timeline raised Trunks all by herself?
 
The boy looked up at her, his big blue eyes full of tears. “Yes, Mama,” he said quietly, then snuggled against her.
 
She looked at Vegeta, aware of his turmoil, but filled with too much of her own to deal with his right now. “I'm going to talk to Arnaki,” she said quietly, and left the room.
 
 
 
 
Vegeta watched her leave, wishing that he could hold on to the anger, but feeling it drown in his utter despair. How could everything that had seemed so right just months before be falling to pieces around him? He'd known that rebuilding Vegeta-sei would not be an easy task, but progress had been made, and the sins of his father had been forgiven, if not forgotten. Or so he'd thought. He'd truly believed himself capable of being a different kind of king, and yet his own actions and words came back to bite him in the ass. How foolish of him to let even one Tsiru-jin live, and even more so to think that his act of vengeance, no matter how he tried to veil it in a defensive strategy, would be beyond reproach. The criticism would come, from his own world and others, and his mother was right; to quell it now would be to confirm his own tyranny. To deny accountability for his actions and pretend that he owed no explanation to his people would be the epitome of foolishness, or worse.
 
It would be just as his father would have done.
 
Had those nine years really molded his character beyond repair? He hadn't thought so. And yet as he'd watched his baby son mimic his own outburst of power and rage, he feared that in less than two years he had taught the boy exactly the type of behavior that he had found most repugnant in his own father.
 
Bulma had been right. He should not have been surprised. Any more than he should have been shocked by his daughter's outburst. Her words had wounded him more than he could ever speak aloud. What dark rage must lie beneath the surface of that sweet young child. He couldn't blame her. On the contrary, he blamed himself for betraying the fragile trust that she had put in him, the unconditional love that she had shown him despite the horrors that she had been forced to endure.
 
“Father?”
 
He looked up to see Cordera studying him with what might very well be a latent rage of her own. How thoughtless he had been to believe that either of these girls could forget all that his father, his race, had taken from them. “I'm sorry. I truly am,” he said softly.
 
For a moment his daughter-in-law seemed confused as if not sure what he was apologizing for. But her face softened as she said gently, “You have nothing to be sorry for. You've been a father to both of us.”
 
How he wished he could believe that she was sincere! “I need to ask you something,” he told her, his voice calm despite the tumult of emotions whirling within him.
 
“Anything,” she said kindly, sensing his pain.
 
He thought for a long moment, trying to find the right words, his stubborn pride and inherent fear of showing the weakness of emotion making his next utterance more difficult than he could have imagined. “Do you…and your sister…blame me…” No, that wasn't concise enough. “…despise me, even…for what my father did to your world?”
 
To his palpable relief, Cordera shook her head without hesitation. “No, Father. You have given us everything—“
 
“After my father took everything away from you,” he replied bitterly.
 
“From the moment you met us, you took us under your protection,” she reminded him, pointedly avoiding any discussion of the former King. “You accepted me with no reservations as your son's mate, and your planet's princess. You adopted Arnaki, and have been completely loving, not to mention indulgent, towards her.”
 
“Yet now she thinks I'm a monster, just like my father,” he said dully.
 
“You are not a monster, and you are not your father!” she told him in no uncertain terms. “You've broken no faith with us or with your people. What you and Trunks did was justice, and Mother and Queen Rabia are right—if you simply tell the people why you felt it necessary to destroy the Tsiru-jin, they will support you. There was no innocent blood spilled on Tsiru-sei, and everyone in the galaxy knows it.”
 
Vegeta nodded, his conscience soothed by the words that meant so much more coming from someone who had been a victim of Saiya-jin tyranny. But one concern remained. “And Arnaki?” he asked quietly.
 
“She loves you, Father, very much,” Cordera told him, making him flush no matter how much it secretly reassured him. “She never really dealt with her grief over our parents. It happened so quickly. And I know a part of her feels guilty, as if in being so happy here with you and Mother she is somehow betraying them. She's almost said as much. I think she's afraid of losing this family too. Especially as your baby's birth draws near. She doesn't want to lose her place in your hearts.”
 
“That would never happen,” he said softly, too emotional to speak. Bulma had been right.
 
“Give her time. And assurance. She'll be fine,” Cordera promised him. “If you want, I will still go talk to her.”
 
He shook his head, resolute now in how he would settle things on all counts.
 
“No. That's something I have to do.”
 
 
 
 
Bulma tried to push her annoyance at Vegeta from her mind as she knocked on the door to Arnaki's room. Her children were her main priority now—the toddler that was following at her heels, the infant that was all too anxious to make her entrance into the world, and the little girl whom she loved as much as if she had given birth to her. Arnaki was teary-eyed as Bulma came to sit beside her on the bed, Chibi Trunks looking at his big sister with concern.
 
“You knew,” were the first words she uttered, a statement more than an accusation. “You and Cordera both knew that that's where they'd gone, Father and Trunks, right before the wedding.”
 
Bulma nodded solemnly, guiltily. “Yes, we did. I didn't think it was something you should be worrying about, and that's why Vegeta and I decided not to tell you.”
 
“Remember I told you about those nightmares?” the girl asked quietly.
 
Bulma sighed. “The ones about your planet.”
 
“The ones where his father destroyed my planet,” she reminded her needlessly. “I can still hear the screaming…see my parents…my brothers…It's like it's all happening again, and I'm just as terrified as I was that night…”
 
Bulma wrapped her arms around Arnaki as she began to sob. “It's okay,” she soothed her. “You're safe now…”
 
“I kn-know,” she wept. “And every time I would wake up I would tell myself that. That Father is the King now, and he'll protect us…But when I heard that he had…des-destroyed a planet, just like…”
 
“Shhhhh,” Bulma whispered, hugging her more tightly. She didn't want to hear Arnaki say it again. She didn't want anyone to ever even think that Vegeta was anything like his father had been. “Arnaki, everything your Father does is to protect us, and protect his people. I know it may be hard to understand why destroying that planet was necessary—but it was. And I know it's hard for him to say, or even show sometimes, but he loves us all, and he'd be devastated to think that you would ever feel unsafe here with us.”
 
His essence filled her even as he cleared his throat to let them know that he was at the doorway. Arnaki looked up, afraid almost, of what his reaction would be to what he had most probably heard. But even as Bulma could feel his anxiety over their daughter's distress, she sensed the calm resolve in him, as he asked quietly, “May I talk to you, Arnaki?”
 
The girl nodded, sniffling, trying to hold back the tears, though her face was wet with those already shed. Bulma stood so that he could take her place at Arnaki's side, taking Chibi Trunks by the hand to lead him away.
 
Chibi was looking up at Vegeta hesitantly, not quite sure if his father was still angry at him. Vegeta managed to curl his lips into the only smile he could muster, and winked at the little boy. By the look on Chibi's face, Bulma knew that the message had gotten through loud and clear.
 
Don't worry, woman. I will make my amends with you, too, he thought to her as their eyes met.
 
She didn't even have to think a response. She was sure he knew that she was proud of what he was about to do, difficult as it was for him.
 
“Father, I'm sorry,” Arnaki said anxiously, but Vegeta shook his head.
 
“No. I'm sorry I didn't realize how you would feel when you found out. I should have…explained to you.” With his hand he wiped the tears from her cheek, as he began, “I was a little younger than you when my Father turned me over to Frieza.”
 
Bulma's eyes opened wide as she realized just what extent Vegeta was willing to go to in order to help their daughter understand what he had done. And as much as she felt she should not be here for such a private moment, her pride in him was too overwhelming right now to even think of walking away.
 
“No one…only your Mother,” he went on, “knows how he…tortured me… in unspeakable ways. And in the time I spent on his planet, I knew that they were all…demons…who thrived on the torment and pain of others.”
 
“Oh, Father,” she whispered, her fresh tears for him now, not herself.
 
“I could not—and I will not—ever allow those vile creatures to torture another child. Not mine—“ he said in a broken voice, certainly remembering what King Kold had done to Trunks, “—not anyone's. And that is why I can not rest until every one of them is dead.”
 
Arnaki threw her arms around him, hugging him tightly. “I'm sorry for what I said, Father. I love you. I really do!”
 
Only Bulma could see her husband's eyes grow red as he held the little girl tightly in his grasp, lightly kissing her hair. And though he would never say it aloud, she could hear him whispering in his private thoughts, “And I love you, Arnaki. More than I can tell you.”
 
Once again, her beautiful King had brought her to the brink of tears, awing her with a demonstration of the pure good within him that even he had never imagined he possessed. The capacity for love that his Father and Frieza had imprisoned in anger and hate, but had never fully extinguished. Just like his power, it rose to the surface when Vegeta needed it most. When those he loved needed it most.
 
“I have something I need to do now,” he told her, reluctantly breaking away as he found his own composure.
 
“Okay,” Arnaki said happily, not even needing to ask what it was. But he told her anyway.
 
“I'm going to have a press conference,” he said, as much to Bulma's surprise as the girl's. “There won't be any more debate as to whether or not I destroyed that planet. I will tell them what I did, and why.”
 
He looked into Bulma's eyes as he rose, striding towards the door, as he added darkly, “And I will make it clear what will happen to Frigia if she threatens us or any of our allies.”
 
“Papa fight?” Trunks asked innocently, looking up at his father. “Me too!” he insisted excitedly, the thrill of battle seeming to flow in his veins as naturally as blood.
 
Vegeta bent down to pick him up, his expression grave, save for the tenderness in his eyes towards his youngest child, whose potential and strength they had foreseen in his future self. “Not this time, my son. But when the time comes, you too will go to battle to protect your family and your people. And that,” he told him, remembering the incident earlier, “is what your power is for.”
 
The toddler nodded, his face consciously taking on the serious countenance of his father, with an understanding that was beyond his years. And Bulma knew that despite Vegeta's rage over the situation at hand, he was struggling to separate himself from the behavior that would make him seem like his own father. He would be more than a better king. He would be a better father to his children. It was not the first time Bulma had seen him exert extra effort toward that goal. He would give his children, all of them, the love and the guidance that he had never known himself.
 
Don't make more of this than there is, woman, he broke into her thoughts, clearly hearing her ruminations as if she had said them aloud. I'm simply doing what is right.
 
And that's why I love you so much, she thought back shamelessly, suppressing a giggle as his cheeks turned crimson.
 
 
 
The young Saiyan who ran the Saiyan News Service, was obviously terrified of his King. He stood in the throne room now, kneeling before Vegeta respectfully as the Saiyan Prince Trunks, who had brought him here, stood watching to see his father's next move. The thought that Vegeta might kill the man on the spot had clearly occurred to all of them, and Vegeta could sense the man's fear as he awaited his fate.
 
Weakling. No wonder he's not a warrior, Vegeta thought to himself in disgust. Yet he did have to admire the man's nerve in airing Frigia's interview in the first place. He obviously had known that he risked his King's wrath.
 
“Rise,” Vegeta ordered him, boring into the man with his onyx eyes. “Now tell me, where did you obtain that interview?”
 
“We picked up a tachyon transmission. It was fairly obvious that Frigia wanted it to reach us.”
 
“So you played into her hands and broadcast her propaganda throughout the planet. You fool!” Vegeta barked angrily. “Did it never occur to you that as a matter of planetary defense you should have reported this at once to me?!”
 
The journalist looked down, out of a mixture of respect and fear. “I am sorry, Vegeta-Ou. I thought—“
 
“No. You didn't think at all,” Vegeta snapped at him. “You've forgotten what her kind did to our race, enslaving us and eventually destroying us. Instead you let her appear as a victim of Saiyan brutality. Is that what you want our people, and the galaxy to think?!”
 
“N-no, Sire,” the man replied in a wavering voice. The smell of his fear was pitiful, and Vegeta had to fight the urge just to put him out of his misery. “Please, Your Majesty, just tell me what you would like us to do to make up for this indiscretion. I've already turned over the recordings to Prince Trunks, and instructed our news teams not to discuss this matter on the air at all.”
 
“Then instruct them to come here immediately,” Vegeta ordered him.
 
“Sire?” The Saiyan looked up at him as if just realizing in confusion that his life was to be spared.
 
“I will address my people directly through your network,” Vegeta told him, being sure to add, “Just make sure that I'm broadcast as widely as that abomination was.”
 
“Yes, Vegeta-Ou,” the man replied readily, the relief visible in his countenance. “Even further. Planet-wide, and over every news feed
throughout the Empire.”
 
Vegeta nodded his approval, dismissing him.
 
He'd get these bastards to work for him now. And hopefully, Frigia would get his message loud and clear.
 
 
 
 
 
The press filled the throne room, anxiously awaiting his arrival. It was the first time Vegeta Ou had called a press conference, and there was no doubt a tension in the air as the journalists who had broken the story of Frigia's return wondered if they hadn't been brought here just to be made an example of with a public execution. Such acts would not have been beyond his father, Vegeta knew, and once more he felt the internal struggle of Saiyan instinct versus better judgment. He would not be his father, and yet neither would he be seen as weak. His face was an emotionless mask, or more precisely, that look of constant disdain that Bulma had pointed out was his preferred public façade. It was enough to make the fear of his subjects obvious.
 
Good.
 
“My people. I have asked you here today to address the accusations made by Frigia,” he said, purposely deleting the Tsiru-jin's title. “Questions have been raised as to whether I was responsible for the destruction of the planet Tsiru-sei, and whether that contradicts in any way the new path I have set for our race and our Empire. I am here to tell you unequivocally that yes, I did blast that cursed planet out of existence. Several weeks ago, Prince Trunks and I set out on a mission to destroy every remnant of the Tsiru-jin race, a species that is an abomination responsible for the torture and destruction of countless civilizations, including, I needn't remind you, our own. The fact that a few of those lizards survived was an oversight. We vowed to have strength without loss of honor. It is precisely for the honor of the Saiyan race and the safety of every planet under our protection that I made the decision to rid the galaxy of this plague. At this moment, I have no doubt that Frigia and her people are using force to manipulate the government of our ally, Lodi-sei. This I can not, and will not, allow.”
 
“Vegeta Ou!” a young journalist called boldly from the crowd. “Does this mean you're going after Frigia yourself?”
 
Vegeta paused a moment, knowing all eyes were on him, but seeing only the wide blue eyes that were looking at him in apprehension.
 
“Frigia and her people are to leave Lodi-sei immediately,” he replied. "If the remaining Tsiru-jin agree to settle on an uninhabited planet, and remain uninvolved in galactic politics--", something Vegeta knew was impossible even as he spoke it, "then I will allow them to live."
 
There was a collective but silent gasp, and Vegeta wasn't sure if it was for his unexpected offer of mercy, or his bold audacity in presuming to allow Frigia to live. He went on with the words he knew his people expected of him.
 
"If, however, Frigia or any of her people come anywhere near Vegeta-sei or any of her allies, I will consider it a wanton act of war, and my tolerance for their existence will be at an end."
 
There were no more questions. He had made his intentions totally clear. The ball was in Frigia's court now.
 
 
 
 
 
 
The throne room had cleared, the press more than satisfied with the King's address, not to mention the freedom he had granted them to openly discuss not only the situation but any developments that might arise. Vegeta would definitely use them to his advantage, not only to broadcast his message, but to monitor the pulse of his people and their response to his words. His only proviso had been that they inform him first of any news of Frigia. Considering the security concerns, even Bulma had to admit that it wasn't--what had she called it?--censorship, but a reasonable measure for the sake of planetary defense.
 
She stood before him now, his Queen, his woman, uncharacteristically quiet though he hadn't really taken the time to notice until now. A quick glance to make sure that they were alone, and he stepped closer to her than he would in public. His face softened as he drew her into his arms, allowing himself to shed the warrior that had taken over throughout this crisis and to be the man he had been when they'd been the sole survivors of Frieza's massacre on Namek. Things had seemed so much simpler then, in that short idyllic time when he and his blue haired angel had lived and loved as if they were the only beings left in the universe...
 
"You did great," she told him softly as she kissed him lightly on the lips.
 
"It will all be over soon," he assured her, hugging her to him. He could feel the contented wisps of his daughter's ki as she rested between them, and he brought his hand down to caress their unborn child. "I will finish this and be back long before your time. I promise you."
 
He could feel her body, no, her entire being, tense at his words. She pulled away to look into his eyes, her own wide with panic. "What do you mean, you'll be back? Where are you going? You gave Frigia an ultimatum, but--"
 
"Which she will ignore," he put in with certainty.
 
"You don't know that!"
 
"Yes, I do," he said darkly. "She is her brother's twin, and will take my ultimatum as a declaration of war. As soon as our scouts inform us of her next move, I will set out to destroy her once and for all."
 
She said nothing, and even her thoughts were silent behind her sullen expression. It was...odd, for her.
 
"Bulma, Bardock has already foreseen that the battle will not take place on Vegeta-sei. You and the children will be perfectly safe here with Bardock and Kakarot to protect you. But if it would make you feel better, Trunks can stay behind as well; I can easily dispatch Frigia and her minions myself."
 
She shook her head. "No. He should be by your side."
 
There was still something she was not saying, and it suddenly occurred to him the one thing they had forgotten to discuss in the whirlwind of events of the past two hours. "Is something wrong with the baby?" he asked suddenly, seeming to take her off-guard. "You never told me what happened at the Infirmary. My mother said you had contractions--"
 
"False alarm," she told him, mustering a slight smile. "Don't worry. She's fine. The doctor said she's very strong."
 
He looked into her eyes, probing into her mind, knowing something wasn't quite right. Tell me what's wrong, woman... He had placed his hands on her arms, but she shook them off, pulling away from him both physically and mentally.
 
"Everything's fine," she said, in what he knew was a lie.
 
Vegeta could feel his sudden worry and anger vying for supremacy as he said, "Bulma, you will tell me now!"
 
But before she could even respond, Bardock cleared his throat to announce his presence. "Forgive me, Your Majesties, but this is urgent."
 
"It had better be," Vegeta grumbled, turning his attention to the other Saiyan. But as he saw the ashen pallor of Bardock's face, his concern with his mate was pushed temporarily aside. He had never seen Bardock as distraught as he appeared right now, and his mind raced with a dozen equally terrifying and morbid possibilities.
 
"What is it?" he asked, his heart in his throat.
 
"I've had a vision," he told them. "I know where Frigia will go. And if you don't stop her, you will have her brothers and King Kold to contend with."
 
Vegeta stared at him in utter shock. "But how is that possible? Kakarot and I destroyed them! Unless--"
 
"The dragonballs," Bulma guessed, finishing his thought. "Oh my gods, Bardock, don't tell me she's gone to Earth!"
 
"She wouldn't know about Earth's dragonballs," Vegeta reasoned. "But she must know that Vegeta-sei and Earth were brought back by the Corwal-sei dragon. Is that where she's gone, Bardock? To Rossdark's planet?"
 
The Seer nodded. "You must stop her before she makes her wishes, Vegeta-Ou. I only saw Frieza, Cooler and King Kold, but with the Corwal-sei dragonballs--"
 
"She could resurrect her entire race," Vegeta finished grimly. He examined Bardock's features, the usual calm that seemed shaken, the customary courage tinged with a hint of real fear. It was as if he had seen a ghost. In truth, he had. The specters of a past that neither man could ever forget.
 
“I will not let them destroy us again,” Vegeta vowed quietly, at once furious with himself for even contemplating for a moment that they could. But Bardock's demeanor had drawn to the surface the fears of the child he had once been, the weaker man, whom Frieza alone had terrified for the greater part of his life. “He is no match for me now,” he said aloud, both for Bardock's and Bulma's sake as much as his own. There was no need to qualify whom “he” referred to. Bulma herself had suffered at Frieza's hands, Vegeta's desire to protect her all he had needed to ascend to Super Saiyan. And Bardock had been murdered by Frieza, in the blast that had destroyed Vegeta-sei decades ago.
 
“You should take Kakarot with you,” Bardock advised him, in that voice that told Vegeta the man had foreseen that this was how things were to be. Yet, confident once more that he could take on the entire Kold clan, Vegeta was hesitant to follow his advisor's counsel.
 
“Kakarot must stay here to protect Vegeta-sei in the absence of myself and Prince Trunks,” he decreed, though his unspoken, and protect my family, was evident in his eyes.
 
“Sire, I…beg you. If Frigia makes her wish, Trunks and Kakarot will both be needed to deal with her armies while you take on the Kold clan yourself.”
 
“Then I'll get there before she has time to make it,” he replied brusquely, considering Bardock's suggestion an implication that he was not capable of handling this alone.
 
But Bardock was insistent, disconcertingly so. “Vegeta Ou, I assure you that Queen Rabia and I can…see to the safety of the royal family.” He had come out plainly and spoken Vegeta's only fear aloud. Damn him.
 
“Fine,” he declared grudgingly. “Have Trunks and Kakarot meet me immediately in Launch Bay 2. Order three of the new model space pods prepared. They're faster, and we'll make it to Corwal-sei in two days.”
 
“Yes, Your Majesty,” Bardock responded, visibly relieved, and hurried to carry out the order.
 
“Immediately?” Bulma asked suddenly, coming up to him. She'd been uncharacteristically quiet during his exchange with Bardock, but as he looked at her now he could see her face pale with fear. “Vegeta, she hasn't even gone there yet. It's a vision. Shouldn't you wait--?”
 
“Until she has the dragon balls?” he clipped. Why was she questioning him on this? But the fear in her wide blue eyes softened his face and his tone as he said, “Do not worry. You will be safe here. Bardock is right. He and my mother are both powerful enough to protect you and the children from any internal threat. And I shall dispatch Frigia and her whole damn race if need be long before they could possibly prove a menace here.”
 
“Okay,” she said, clearly holding back the argument he had come to expect. She was so irrational when she was expecting, even more so than normal. He tried once again to touch her thoughts, but she was—holding them back as well. How had she learned to do that?, he mused. Had her bond with him somehow strengthened some innate telepathic ability that she possessed?
 
He would save his ruminations for the long journey. “I need to go,” he said, gently now. He took her face in his hands, kissing her on the lips, unable to do without that one indulgence of warmth before he set out. I love you, he projected into her mind, having learned to love telling her as much as she needed to hear it. He felt the hot flush of her skin, felt the quickening of her heart, relished in the urgency of her kiss, as his words had the desired effect.
 
But except for the soft sigh of, I love you, too. Please…be careful… her thoughts were silent to him.
 
 
 
Bulma watched him leave, taking in a breath as she briefly considered calling him back, but biting her lip instead. She sighed, willing her thoughts to be calm, free of the fear and indecision that she had carefully concealed from him. A part of her was furious with him for leaving her at a time when she needed him most. But another part knew he had no choice. This was a battle only Vegeta could fight and win. Battle was inevitable, and victory the only option, not just for the sake of Vegeta-sei, but for the entire galaxy. He was the Saiya-jin no Ou. He had a duty, a responsibility, to his people…
 
But he was her husband too, wasn't he? Didn't he have a responsibility to her and to the unborn child that was already fighting to be born?
 
“You were right not to tell him.”
 
The voice startled her, and she looked up to see Queen Rabia, her mother-in-law, the tall raven-haired beauty that was more than twice her age, yet didn't look a day over forty. Rabia's eyes were full of compassion as she came to stand before the young Earth woman whom she had welcomed as her daughter, and her successor. Bulma might know Vegeta better than Rabia knew the son she had never raised, and yet her insight into the mind of a Saiyan male was so intuitive that she had become Bulma's closest confidante. A second mother, if not a friend.
 
“He was probing into my mind. I could feel it,” she admitted, not really liking to discuss the privacy of the Saiyan bond, yet knowing that Rabia understood it well. It was clear that she and Bardock had bonded, an intimacy the former queen had never shared with Vegeta's father. Bulma could see the tell-tale signs of silent communication between the two, and found it to be wonderfully romantic, though she knew that Vegeta still had a hard time wrapping his mind around the image of Bardock as his mother's mate. It was Rabia who had taught her the skill of controlling her thoughts, not as a matter of deception, but for the sake of shielding her mate from the distractions of her often potent and emotional thoughts. “I...don't like hiding this from him,” she admitted uncomfortably.
 
“He could not fight his best if he knew,” Rabia assured her. “Don't worry. Bardock and I will both be here for you.”
 
Bulma nodded, trying to smile even as she kept her mind from calling out to him. No, he couldn't be burdened with this, not now.
 
 
 
Within minutes Trunks and Kakarot had met him by the space pods, and he gave them last minute instructions as they prepared to board. “You will not, under any circumstances engage Frigia,” he told them in no uncertain terms. “You will leave her to me. At the moment, we have no reason to believe she has made her wishes, so you will only have to destroy her men.”
 
“My father seemed pretty sure she'll have brought back King Kold, Frieza and Cooler,” Kakarot contradicted him.
 
Vegeta gave him a look. “Not if we get there in time,” he replied brusquely.
 
“But we should have a plan just in case, shouldn't we?” the fool continued to prod.
 
“Fine, Kakarot. What do you suggest?” he asked in a patronizing tone, crossing his arms. “Because if we waste any more time on discussion, she will have made her wishes!”
 
“Well, I kinda want to take on Cooler again,” Kakarot replied enthusiastically, as if unaware that Vegeta was denigrating him. “It was a fun fight, and I'm a lot stronger now—”
 
“Fine, knock yourself out, clown,” Vegeta grumbled as the technician opened his pod.
 
“Dad,” Trunks said quietly, and one glance at his son told the Saiyan King what was on his mind.
 
“Yes, Trunks,” he said kindly, understanding the dark need for revenge that seethed within the boy. “Don't worry. If he's resurrected, Kold is all yours.”
 
Just as he would relish destroying Frieza once again, purging his own demons of the past.
 
He watched as Kakarot and Trunks entered their space pods, turning to his own when a call of, “Your Majesty! Wait!” stopped him in his tracks. He would have thought nothing had it been any other of his subjects. But as he saw the troubled expression on the face of Doctor Chamomi, the respectful and quiet physician who had saved his life and in whose care he'd left his pregnant wife, Vegeta's heart missed a beat.
 
“What is it?” he asked, aware that the color was draining from his face.
 
“Vegeta-Ou, I could not let you take off without knowing what I told the Queen earlier today. While I respect her privacy as my patient, my loyalty to you bids me to tell you—”
 
“What is it?!” he barked, using anger to shield the fear that threatened to creep into his voice.
 
“It's the baby, Sire. Even though she has a month of gestation left, she's become extremely strong, and her movements are causing increasing discomfort to the Queen. She nearly went into pre-term labor this morning. I advised her to have the baby removed and placed in a gestation pod, as all Saiyan babies are by this time, but she refuses.” He swallowed hard, as if afraid to speak the next words to his King. “Given the Queen's weaker state—pardon me, Sire, but the fact that she is human—I'm afraid the child could literally rip her way out of her mother's body. Carrying this baby to term could be fatal.”
 
Vegeta was sure all the blood had drained from his face, and through the heart that had crept up into his throat he managed to say, “Then remove it at once!”
 
“But the Queen refuses—” the doctor replied helplessly.
 
“Doctor, you are responsible for the lives of my Queen and my child!” Vegeta snarled in a threat that held a desperate plea. “You will do whatever is necessary to keep them both alive and in good health, or your life will be forfeit!”
 
The doctor seemed to shudder at the warning, but bowed his head respectfully. “Yes, Your Majesty. I swear to you that no harm will come to either of them while they are under my care. I would respectfully ask that you inform the Queen of your decision. She was adamant—”
 
“You mean stubborn,” Vegeta muttered, throwing back his cape. He turned to the guard who had been waiting for his final instructions. “Bring the Queen to me immediately. Tell her I must speak to her before I leave.”
 
The doctor seemed to heave a sigh of relief, and Vegeta wondered to himself just who frightened the man more—his omnipotent King, or his irrepressibly head-strong Queen.
 
 
His face was hard as she entered the launch bay, his eyes glaring at her as if he would erupt into a rage the moment they were alone. But as he ordered the others to leave, and he came to face her, she could see that hurt more than anger lay behind his defiant onyx stare.
 
“Why didn't you tell me?” he asked simply, knowing full well that he didn't have to spell it out further.
 
“I didn't want you to worry. You can't afford to be distracted—”
 
“So instead you keep this from me, and make a decision on your own that could very well cost you your life?” He was trying to be calm, yet there was an edge of panic in his voice.
 
“Vegeta, it's not that serious,” she began.
 
“Bulma, you have no idea what you're saying!” he retorted. “You aren't a Saiyan woman, and the doctor said the baby could potentially rip its way out of your womb!”
 
His own fear rippled through her, giving her a chill. “I carried Trunks full term,” she replied.
 
“ And you nearly died giving birth to him!” he reminded her. “I will not take that chance. I will not permit you to take that risk. You will allow the doctor to transfer the baby to a gestation pod immediately!”
 
Bulma's eyes opened wide, flaring with her defiance. “This is not your decision, Vegeta. You can't order me to do this. This is my body, and my baby—”
 
“It's our child, and you are my mate! You will do as I say!” His eyes had begun to flash bright green, his hair sweeping up in the glow of his Super Saiyan form. It was purely involuntary, she knew, engendered by his rage. But she wasn't afraid, as any other being would be in his presence. On the contrary, it never even occurred to her that he would hurt her, just as surely as she knew that her own child would never hurt her. Perhaps it was this very instinct that made her so certain that carrying the child to term would pose no danger to her.
 
She wasn't sure if her thoughts had reached him, or if he'd just realized that he'd been losing control, but at once he seemed to consciously will himself back to his normal state. She reached out to touch his face, and he covered her hand with his, turning his face to kiss it gently. “I can't…lose you, Bulma,” he said softly, closing his eyes. He drew her into his arms and held her tightly, protectively.
 
Just come home to me soon, she whispered in his mind.
 
I would give anything to not have to leave you right now, he murmured back, burying his face in her hair. It was something he could never say aloud. A thought, an emotion, that would make him seem weak to the people who depended on him.
 
That's why I didn't want you to know, she told him.
 
“I know,” he said softly. In the deepest part of him she could see his own trepidation that he would not be able to execute his mission while carrying this emotional burden. His very bond to her would beckon him back to her, especially should something go wrong…
 
“Nothing will go wrong,” she assured him. “Your mother even thinks the doctor is over-reacting. She's promised to be with me the whole time—“
 
“Hm. Even my mother knew about this before I did. Anyone else? Kakarot? His father?” he asked with a tinge of bitterness.
 
“No, Vegeta. Just your mother. She believes in natural childbirth, and you know now that she had no problem delivering you—those were all just lies your father told you. She understands how I feel.”
 
“Bulma, she's a Saiyan. You're—“
 
“I know you're not going to call me a weak human,” she warned with a devilish glint in her eye.
 
He smirked. “No. I don't suppose I would dare,” he admitted. He looked into her eyes, delving beyond with his mind. This time she let him. He saw it all. She was afraid. She didn't want him to leave. But she knew he had to. And she was certain, so certain, that carrying their daughter to term was the right thing to do…
 
He sighed deeply, releasing her, but taking her hand in his. “Promise me…that if you have any difficulty at all…you will let the doctor remove the baby.”
 
She nodded. It was a reasonable compromise.
 
He squeezed her hand, then reluctantly let it go. “I need to leave now. I will be back as soon as possible.”
 
She smiled, much more at peace now than she had been when he'd first bid her good bye. They were one right now, in mind and spirit. That alone would give them both strength for what lay ahead.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Chapter 2
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