Disclaimer: I get tired of these. DBZ is not mine, never was, never will be.
A/N: Warning, some parts of this are pretty mushy. I tried to avoid it but couldn’t help it, I was in that sort of mood. Sorry.
Also, I felt some credit should go to the song, ‘Wasn’t it Good’ by Tina Arena, which helped get me in the mood in the first place. In particular, these lyrics:
You were in your world, I was in mine
Breaking down the barriers, we broke all the rules
But wasn’t it good? Wasn’t it fine?
While I took for granted, you took your time
Longing for love, oh how we tried.
But it’s over now, that’s understood.
But wasn’t it good?
He was standing near an ocean of the deepest blue, tinted gold and orange by a setting sun. Above him the sky seemed to reach till forever and beneath his bare toes, the sand was warm and soft. He could have easily been the only person in the world.
Except for her.
She was standing closer to the tideline, dressed in flowing white, taunting the waves to come closer and not retreating when they threatened to. How very like her, he thought.
Without even thinking, Vegita moved towards her, taking her in his arms. But she didn’t turn around, just leaned in closer to his body. For a moment they stood in silence, saturating themselves in the peace of the moment and the company of the other.
"Vegita," the sound of her voice was like a caress; soft, entreating. He moved his lips to her ear before replying.
She smiled at the sound of her name. It was a refreshing change from ‘woman’. "I’ve missed you."
"I know," he responded as he ran his hands across her arms, enjoying the soft feel of her skin. "I hate that this is the only place of peace we have left; this place we’ve created through the bond."
Her face suddenly took on a seriousness, which, by some miracle, only reinforced her beauty. "He doesn’t know about this place yet, about the bond. He was trying to get in, but I’ve hidden it from him. To protect you, my love."
My love. It suddenly occurred to Vegita that she would never be able to say such things in the real world, where things were more serious and life was hard and….no. He wasn’t going to think about that place. Not yet, anyway.
"Kame, Vegita," she said, turning in his arms so as to be closer, to be face to face. "I know what you went through…the torture. He’s shown me things, lies about us. I know they’re not true, but I’m so tired of fighting him and sometimes I think I’m beginning to forget the truth."
"Don’t talk about those things," he told her sternly. He was already hurting too much as it was.
"I need to. You need to know, so that you’ll be able to kill me when the time comes. You may be the only one who understands what it’s like, not to belong to yourself, to belong to him," she was pleading now, looking into his eyes so he could see all that she was feeling. He didn’t need to see her, though, to tell how she felt. They were bonded and in this place the lines between them faded into nothing. The feelings of despair were as much his as they were hers.
Vegita ran his hands through her hair. "This is my fault. He’s trying to get to me through you. Kame, even death hasn’t stopped him!"
"No, it’s not your fault. I made the gate, I let him in. But if it makes you feel better I can blame you," she tried to joke but her smile was only half there.
For a time they just stood in each other’s arms. Neither wanted to ask how or why they were in a place which only existed in their minds and neither wanted to ask when they might have to leave. Now dragged on for forever, though the sun never set.
Finally, Bulma spoke. "I wonder why we’re at an ocean. I love the sea but I know I didn’t create this."
"On Vegitasei, oceans were rare and sparse," he explained, his mind drifting into the past. "To find them one had to make a long journey and overcome a lot of obstacles. But because they were so pure, so untouched by our presence, the effort was well worth the rewards. I made the journey once, when I was very young. My body was sore and severely malnourished and I was so close to giving up on my quest when I found it; blue that went on forever. There are no words for the feeling but this reminds me of it."
"This ocean or being with me?"
"Both." The honesty of his answer broke his steely resolve and the only thing Vegita could think to do was to press his lips to hers. A kiss always managed to stem the flow of her tears; this time, it would have to stem his. "Gods, woman, what am I going to do without you?" he asked after he broke away.
"I won’t leave you," she whispered softly, bringing one hand up to trace the jagged lines of his face, to brush against his lips, taut and thin with worry.
"You won’t have a choice; you said so yourself. You would rather die than stay a slave to him and I can’t blame you in your decision because I would do the same."
Bulma raised her eyes to his, luminescent in the setting sun. "Heaven won’t be heaven without you."
Vegita could only gaze off into the sunset in reply. "I can feel him pulling at you again. We don’t have long."
"I know. But if you could just tell me…just say it this once…and I might be able to fight him. At least until the end comes."
He watched the play of emotions over her face; hope followed by doubt followed by fear. How had he convinced her - convinced himself - that this would be difficult?
"I love you, Bulma. I didn’t think it was possible, not for someone like me," he confessed, "but it’s true. I love you. I’m only sorry I didn’t say it earlier."
Sighing, she clung to his shoulders, pressing her forehead to his. "I know. But it’s good to hear, if only in this place. I love you too, Vegita. However this plays out, whatever you have to do, it won’t change."
And with a silence that was audible she was gone and he was alone again.
*Where were you?*
Bulma shuddered. It was a cold, harsh awakening, to be back in Freeza’s hold, but Bulma shrugged it off. She had to, or they would be discovered.
Nowhere. I’m always here; where else is there for me to go?
*Don’t lie to me.* Freeza told her. She was desperate to let on that she knew who he was now, having spent some time with Vegita, having had access to the knowledge of what this thing in her mind really was. Luckily for her, she had trusted her instincts straight away and kept those most secret parts of her mind hidden from him. *You were somewhere else.*
I don’t know what you’re talking about. Look, I want to leave. NOW. Let me out of here.
Bulma had the misfortune to reflect, in the silence that followed, on how losing her temper was not going to help her any. But it was too late, any pretence between her and the monster was long gone.
*I can tell you’ve changed your mind about accepting my help,* Freeza told her. *Now it’s too late. For him and for you.*
For him? Kame, no. Vegita. She thought she’d felt pain from him, but she automatically classified it as a mental anguish. Could he be injured? Had she hurt him without realising it? She wouldn’t even have been able to tell because he would have hidden it from her, for her sake.
What did you do to him, you monster?
*Nothing that you shouldn’t have done a long time ago. I can see how he could dominate a creature as pathetic as you, but with these wonderful new powers of yours…*
What makes you think I would have wanted to?
Freeza laughed and Bulma shuddered. She could happily live out the rest of her life without hearing that sound ever again. *You’re even more pathetic than I thought. You truly love him, if there is such a concept, that is. If you could learn to love something as utterly evil, utterly tainted as the Saiyajin Prince then perhaps you could even learn to love me.*
Freeza meant it as a joke. But the thought that, at one time, her husband and this monster had quite a lot in common filled her with self-doubt that quickly mutated into pure hatred. Hatred that she was being made to succumb when, in all places, she should have been in control. Hatred that this creature was violating her deepest emotions until it got to the point that she could watch nothing more than false memories created to distort those emotions. If it weren’t for the bond, that blessed anchor to her true self, she would have long ago submitted to what Freeza presented as the ‘truth’; that she was nothing more than dirt to Vegita.
I’ll find a way to fight you, she swore to him. This is MY mind and I can use it against you. I won’t let you take control.
*My dear child, I already have control. How else do you think I could have just used Vegita’s body for a punching bag?*
No, you wouldn’t…
*I would and I did. It was thrilling to see his spirit so miserably broken. And now the Gods are even helping me. You’ll never believe who they’ve sent next.*
Bulma shuddered to think what the answer was and prayed she’d never have to hear it. But her prayers were unanswered.
I’m gonna need a manual for this one.
That was Gohan’s first thought as they entered Bulma’s basement lab. Of course, he didn’t say anything to Trunks; the guy was already looking frazzled. He didn’t want to give the impression that, as far as saving Bulma-san went, he had no idea what he was doing.
Even if it was the truth.
As Gohan circled the ‘gate’, as Piccolo had called it, he realised that even if you were, by far, the top of your physics and math classes that didn’t put you in the same realm as someone like Bulma Briefs. Still, and he probably had his father to thank for this, when Gohan saw a bad situation it only gave him more room to make things better. Gods, father, please come out of this one alive.
After a little while, Gohan began to see how things went together. It was beautiful in it’s simplicity; so many fairly normal pieces of machinery combined to create something that couldn’t have been made with just the one piece. Each section had to work together as a unit.
"Well, I think I know how to work it now," he announced to Goten and Trunks who had been nervously wandering around the lab.
"That’s great," Goten said. "But how will that help Bulma-san?"
Sighing, Gohan replied, "I don’t know. Technically, we don’t want to do what Bulma-san did. We could only make things worse; we could accidentally let someone else in." He shuddered at the thought of being possessed by the soul of a creature like Cell. No, we definitely don’t want to do that.
"But how did Freeza get through in the first place? It’s hard to believe that the door just opened up beside him and he jumped through," Trunks offered.
"You’re right. I think there must have been some kind of…suction I suppose. A kind of field generated by the gate…" Gohan scanned though Bulma’s notes for the machine, left on the table. They were in the form of a log, a day by day account of her thoughts and discoveries regarding the machine - the barriers she’d encountered and how she’d fixed them. It was enough to make a physics teacher cry; it was more than amazing.
"Here!" he put his finger on one of her scrawls while Trunks and Goten crowded around to see. "Bulma hypothesised that if her gate were to work, a suction would be placed on the other side by the inherent differences between that world and ours. However, as a person must be ‘compatible’ with that world…"
"What does that mean? Compatible?" asked Trunks.
"Basically it means that on that side, people exist as spirits and on this side, as living people, so they can’t just come through. It would require some type of energy to make someone ‘compatible’," explained Gohan.
"That’s what must have happened to your Okaasan," Trunks said. "She would have had to use some of her own ‘energy’, her ki I guess, to make Goku-san compatible. And maybe Freeza tricked my mother into using some of hers."
"Or he found it by taking possession of her body," added Gohan solemnly. "I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t sense the opportunity coming."
"So what do we do about it?" Trunks asked. He was secretly trying not to imagine how it would be if Goku-san failed and his father had to be woken…it would not be good.
"We could try to reverse the suction, couldn’t we, ‘Niisan?" asked Goten. "Open the gate into hell but put it in reverse."
"I don’t know. Even if we could, the last thing we’d want is to suck everyone in the area into hell. I don’t think that would make us very popular with the neighbours."
Silence once again descended on the trio. Come on, Trunks urged himself. Some of ‘Kaasan’s intelligence must be buried in there somewhere.
"Wait! Gohan you said that only someone ‘compatible’ could go through - without an external source of energy that is."
"Yeah," Goten added, excited now by the path of thought his friend was following. "And the only thing ‘compatible’ on this side of the gate with hell is…"
Gohan smiled with such devious satisfaction, Trunks was eerily reminded of his father. "Freeza."
At the same moment Gohan was exploring Bulma’s lab, Goku was flying in search of her. He and Chichi could have been where Bulma was in a few seconds, if he’d used shunkan idou. But Goku wasn’t so sure that would be a good idea; firstly, he’d seen what Freeza had done to Vegita and it wasn’t very pretty so he needed to be cautious. Secondly, he wanted to have the chance to leave Chichi somewhere, even if trying earned him some pre-battle bruises from his wife.
"What are you thinking about, Goku?" Chichi asked suddenly. Had he been that obvious?
"Nothing," he told her, trying to smile.
"Don’t lie to me, Goku," Chichi said. "I’ve known you since we were both little. I can tell when you’re thinking."
"I was just thinking that this is the only time I think I’ve taken you flying since Gohan was born. Without the nimbus, anyway," he said.
Chichi smiled and it warmed him from the inside out. "I like it. We should do this more often."
She didn’t need to add ‘if we survive this’ because, for her, it somehow always got added on. That was her burden for loving Goku, the strongest man alive. Still, as morbid as it sounded, at least this time she would have the chance to say goodbye.
"Oh-oh," he said suddenly.
"What is it?"
"I can sense Freeza anymore. I could a minute ago and we were close but…"
The blast came out of nowhere. A searing ball of light came up from the forest floor beneath them so quickly that Goku only had enough time to shield Chichi’s body from the blast before it struck, hitting the Saiyajin squarely in the back. It wasn’t an incredibly strong blast but the suddenness of it put Goku off balance and the two were soon plummeting to the forest floor, the canopy helping to break their fall.
"Oh, you have no idea how much I’ve been looking forward to this. Isn’t it satisfying to finally reach the pinnacle of your life, monkey?"
Goku opened one eye gingerly to find Bulma standing before him. As with Vegita, he saw the difference immediately; the eyes, the stance. It was Freeza all right. Goku wouldn’t be able to forget that ki signature anytime soon.
"Of course, I’m not sure if life is the word I should be using," Freeza added. While he spoke, Goku kept his eyes focused on him but secretly sensed out where Chichi was. She was a few metres away but behind a sturdy-looking tree. She was unconscious but okay and Goku breathed a sigh of relief.
"What do you want, Freeza? To fight?" he asked calmly, turning to Super Saiyajin straight away. I’ve defeated him once, I can do it again. Of course, he wasn’t in Bulma’s body last time.
"No, monkey," replied Freeza, shaking his head. "What I want is for you to DIE!" As he cried out Freeza lunged forward, faster than Goku could follow, and landed a kick in the Saiyajin’s chest. Goku cried out, drawing more power into himself. This was going to be harder than he thought.
"I know what you’re thinking," Freeza said. "You’re wondering why that hurt so much, eh? You thought that I would be disadvantaged in the female’s body."
Standing up, Goku flashed his boyish smile. Don’t let them see you’re afraid. "Yeah, the thought had crossed my mind."
"Well, I have some news for you. That brat of hers changed something in her when he changed the future. She was given the knowledge of each of the females of each timeline and this sufficiently raised her telekinetic skills," explained Freeza. "Combined with my own power, this body is more than what I need to defeat you."
"That could be true," said Goku, "if I hadn’t died. You know what happens to a Saiyajin’s strength after they’re defeated. That’s why you destroyed our planet; you knew fighting us would only make us stronger." He managed to grin with self-confidence. Unfortunately, the truth was he’d have to be pretty threatened to hit Bulma, whether it was Freeza inside of her or not and he hadn’t even given his fighting skills a test run since he got back. The truth was, Freeza did have the upper hand.
"Then let’s put your strength to the test," Freeza said. "But I get the feeling you won’t throw yourself into this; not when I have the body of your ‘childhood friend’. I think you need some incentive."
"Like what?" Goku asked, getting into a fighting stance.
"Like the fact that once I’m done with you I will hunt down the half-breed mongrel brat of hers she spawned with Vegita…"
"He has a name! It’s Trunks. And anyway, the Trunks who killed you doesn’t exist in this timeline, remember?" Goku could feel his blood heating up.
"He still exists here - as a little boy, I’ll admit - but I’m sure he’ll last more than a few seconds at least. Saiyajins are hard to kill like that."
Forget heating up. Goku’s blood was boiling. He didn’t want to lose control but at the same time he knew he may not have any trouble fighting Freeza after all.
Freeza smiled. "But before that, of course, I will enjoy killing the whore of yours that you think I haven’t noticed yet."
That was it. The last straw. No one threatened Chichi in Goku’s presence and remained standing. Screaming, he threw himself at Freeza, already planning out the sequence of hits and kicks he would use. But he never got the chance to use them. Just before he could reach him, Freeza disappeared.
"Over here, monkey." Freeza was sitting comfortably in the boughs of a nearby tree, laughing. "Seems that it’s much easier to move faster with a lighter, smaller body."
Goku cried out and lunged again, forcing himself to move faster, almost using shunkan idou. But once again, Freeza was gone before he even laid a finger on him. Only this time, he reappeared behind Goku and brought an elbow down right into his back, forcing Goku to the ground.
This is going to be harder than I thought, Goku realised, picking himself up off the dirt. Damn, I hate it when I’m right about these things.
A few metres away, roused by the shouts of anger and the sound of bone crashing down on flesh, Chichi was waking up. Only to find herself with front row seats for a nightmare.
Goku and Freeza were fighting. The only thing which amazed Chichi more than the fact that she could actually follow their movements - probably a result of training with Goten for so long - was that Freeza was winning. It was strange to watch Bulma, who had a knowledge of martial arts similar to Chichi’s knowledge of quantum physics, beating up Goku. She knew she should move to a safer place but at the same time, got the distinct feeling that neither party wanted to use ki blasts. Perhaps it was more personal to use your bare hands.
Chichi winced as once again, Freeza moved too quickly for Goku and got him from behind. But even with his increased speed, Freeza shouldn’t have been able to beat Goku. It seemed that her husband may have been holding back so as not to hurt Bulma’s body too badly. This was going to be the only time Goku’s huge heart was a disadvantage.
Goku. Chichi reached out through the bond.
Chichi, are you okay?
Yeah. But listen to me, Goku. You have to let go. Forget about holding back. If you do, we’re all going to die and Freeza will be unstoppable. She filled her mind’s voice with earnest.
But Chichi, what if..
Forget what will happen to Bulma. I know she’s our friend but do you think she’d want Freeza to succeed? Do you think she’d want to live for that?
Chichi never heard an answer but she saw her response in Goku’s renewed vigour. He wasn’t just hitting harder, he was making each hit count. At this rate, Freeza was not going to last much longer.
And he didn’t.
With Goku’s last bone-crunching punch to Freeza’s stomach, he fell to the ground, clutching his midsection.
"Stop! Don’t hurt me anymore, Goku. He’s gone," a soft voice came from beneath Bulma’s curtain of hair.
"Bulma?" Goku’s face instantly softened, then just as quickly switched to worry. "Are you alright? I didn’t hurt you too badly, did I?"
"No, just help me up, please."
Chichi frowned. Something was wrong about this; it had all been too easy. Peering into the darkness she tried to make out Bulma’s face. There was something about the eyes…
They were still red.
"Goku, don’t!" she cried out but it was too late.
Set off by the sound of his friend’s voice, or at least what seemed to be her voice, Goku had let his guard down and approached her fallen body. It had only taken a second for Freeza to raise one hand and fire a blast at Goku’s chest.
Even in Super Saiyajin form, the blast at such close range was too much. With her heart in her mouth, Chichi watched him fall.
Goku, no, she whispered. But he wasn’t dead. She could sense it, he was still hanging on. And she could sense that he was hanging on…for her. So she wouldn’t try to hurt herself again to bring him back. Gods, could it be that he loved her as much as she did him? She hadn’t thought it was possible but now that she looked back, maybe it was. After all, this was the first time she had been here for this, for the moments in which Goku teetered between life and death and in the moments when he searched for something to keep him fighting. And it was her.
Freeza’s cold laugh pierced the night air and her thoughts. He could also see how badly Goku was hurt and how close he was to death.
"So, monkey," he said, standing over Goku’s prone body. "I suppose we would be even if I just left you here with the shame of your defeat. But somehow, I don’t think that’s going to cut it this time."
He raised his arm for the death strike and…the unthinkable happened. Out of nowhere a creature, with a ki so small he’d never even sensed her coming, jumped out of the darkness and attached herself to his back. "Leave him alone!" she cried. Goku’s wench. He’d forgotten about her.
Freeza was about to laugh at her pathetic attempt to attack him when suddenly pain shot through his head, shooting down his spine and immobilising him. "Aaagh!" he cried.
His hair! The female had wrapped her hands through Bulma’s hair and pulled with all her strength. The weakness was something Freeza was unfamiliar with and he sorely missed the presence of his tail; he had never been vulnerable from behind before.
But she, as the strongest human woman on earth and with all her rage, was barely a match for Freeza. As soon as he overcame the pain she was ripped from her position and thrown to the ground beside her mate.
"It seems I am still learning from my mistakes," Freeza said, his previous calm being overridden by anger that something so pathetic caused him pain. "I no longer underestimate the Saiyajins; it never occurred to me to be wary of their whores. I should have learnt sooner; the one whose body I possess fights me constantly."
Chichi raised her chin defiantly. "And this one is going to keep fighting you if you kill Goku."
"What makes you think I would consider not killing him?" Freeza asked.
"Because you’re no fool. If you kill him our friends will find a way to bring him back and he will be stronger than ever," explained Chichi. "But if you only kill me and leave him alive, even for the brief period I’m gone he will wish he had died for not protecting me. Won’t that be pain enough to make up for what he did to you?"
Freeza raised his eyebrows. The creature had piqued his curiosity with her little suggestion and the strangest thing was that it was probably true. The Saiyajin was unlike the rest of his race in that it was his sickening compassion that drove him, not the lust for power. Perhaps an emotional ‘death’ would be more appropriate.
"You know, wench," Freeza said, "I think you may be right. And even if you aren’t, I can always kill Goku later. Yes, there will be a lot of opportunities later. Say bye-bye now."
Terrified but also overjoyed, Chichi bent over Goku. "I’m sorry, Goku. I had to do this. You may not understand now, but perhaps later you’ll know why I had to do this. I love you." She planted a kiss on his lips as his eyes fluttered briefly.
"Chichi…" he moaned.
She stood up and took a fighting stance well away from Goku. "Ok, I’m ready."
"You really are a Saiyajin’s whore, aren’t you? You have to go out fighting. So be it."
Freeza raised an arm and Chichi prepared herself for her death when suddenly a voice came into their heads.
It was Dende. But what on earth was he doing? Nothing he said at this stage was going to help her. At least, that’s what she thought.
"Who are you?" Freeza asked.
I am Dende, the guardian of earth and the maker of it’s current dragonballs. I want you to know this; if you kill the woman, Freeza, I will end my own life and the dragonballs will disappear.
"You wouldn’t dare!"
Don’t test me. Your fight is not with the woman Chichi. Leave her alone.
"You can’t stop me!" Freeza cried out, raising his closed fists to the sky above.
Perhaps not, but someone else will. And she isn’t worth your time anyway.
There was a torturing silence while Freeza weighed up his options. "Fine," he agreed finally. "But I will have those dragonballs. I will be immortal!"
With that he was gone. When she was sure he was not going to change his mind and come back, Chichi fell to her knees beside Goku and cried tears of relief.
Miles away, Gohan could sense what was going on in the fight between Freeza and his father, down to each and every punch. But he forced it out of his mind; he needed to focus on the situation at hand.
"Niisan?" Goten asked from where he was reconnecting the primary power supplies to the ktc.
So his brother could sense it, too. "Should we do something?"
"We are," he answered. "I know you’re worried; I am too. But ‘Toosan can take care of himself and we need to work on this gate."
Admittedly, Gohan thought, they had made a lot of headway on reversing the gate’s suction field. It had taken him a while to figure out how to do it but with Trunks and Goten helping it was taking no time at all to set up the actual mechanics of it.
As if reading his thoughts, Trunks asked, "How much longer do you think this will take?"
Gohan sighed. "Another half-hour, maybe. Too long, in other words."
Dende. Looking around the room, he could see that his brother and Trunks were hearing it too.
"What is it, Dende?" he asked.
Are you having any success?
"Yeah, why do you ask? It’s my father, isn’t it? I can sense his ki is weak, he’s injured."
It’s okay, Piccolo has gone to get him. How are you going, though?
"Fine," Gohan answered. "It may take us a little longer, but. Do you want me to go fight?"
No, the little god was adamant. Stay there and keep working. It may be the best chance we have at this stage.
"But what are you going to do?" asked Trunks. "We can’t let him collect the dragonballs."
"Or hurt anyone else," added Goten.
Dende sighed. I’m going to go wake up Vegita.
* * * * *
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