The Afterlife Blues
Yamcha glanced one last time at the screen, catching a glimpse of the silver white moon as it reflected against the long pane of window glass. The veil of delicately opaque muslin was the only thing obscuring his full view of its glow. With his heart pounding to the rhythm of disbelief, and his hands unconsciously clutching the small machine in a death grip he tried to wrench his eyes away. She was still at the window… still watching the space she had just vacated, watching Vegeta's predatory shadow as he hung in the air.
His head wrung to the chorus of so many questions, and it felt completely impossible to give proper attention to any of them. The conversation had been silent. He didn't have a clue what had been shared between them in words, but it didn't matter. He was sensible enough to know it didn't bode well for his heart.
Two hours ago, having made sure the rest of the 'King Kai pose' had drunk themselves to sleep, and that the grass next to him was practically drowned in sake (so as not to become the victim of intoxication himself) Yamcha had, by the ingeniousness of his own guile, managed to test his new toy. All creatures inside the house were lost to the spell of liquor giving him free range to watch his girlfriend and keep a close check on her vulnerable situation. Nothing, however, had quite prepared him for what he had just seen.
At first he had watched in goofy congratulations as the view-screen de-fogged to show a shapely leg, arcing out from a hot tub of perfect bubbles. Silently he had gazed, transfixed as the sponge followed every inch of her perfect skin… skimming across her navel and rubbing under the flesh of her beautifully rounded breasts. The sight was tempting to say the least and he'd had to rearrange his training gi several times within those moments, even absently wondering if it went against the spiritualism of King Kai's planet to have a quick wank to relieve the heat suddenly crashing tsunami-fashion to his crotch.
Those feelings, however, were soon put aside as she waded out of the water, her wet skin sparkling against the bathrooms eerie candlelight. Wrapping herself in a long white towel she had walked from the en-suit and flopped onto the pastel sheets of her queen-sized bed… a bed (he remembered with a wicked grin) that he knew intimately. Wet tendrils of aquamarine her hair lay soaking on the pillow as she turned her head to look at the nightstand, staring intensely at the photograph that adorned its top. After watching a moment she had gently picked it up, running a long and elegant finger along its glitter-speckled frame.
He'd closed his eyes, reliving the moment it had been taken. He could smell the freshly cut grass of the city park and feel the rain pelting on his skin, (two of many sensations he had become insanely eager to experience again) as Bulma pouted, raindrops catching delicately on her perfect cherry lips. He could hear her voice, whining and child-like as she complained about them not having a picture taken together since he had moved into the city, holding the disposable camera loosely in her hands… disappointment shadowing the usual light of her eyes.
He'd caught himself quickly from the reverie so as not to risk tears. There was no one to see them, but still it was not something he wanted to think on… his guilt. He had treated her badly in the past; he could see that now. Time… death… they had taught him so much. Bulma was precious to him, and he remembered with shame and regret what an ass he'd been to her on occasions… their relationship, and his mind drifting from the happiness it could have offered, with the glare and glitz of his career as a professional baseball player.
Still he had remained faithful to her. That counted for a lot, right? Especially when every other page three model was throwing herself at his feet in a pathetic attempt to further their career with a quick roll in the hay with baseballs number one super star. Ok, he had on occasion taken the odd one or two out for a meal or in one particularly memorable event, the circus, but it had been nothing more than a regular standing flirtation, innocent and completely safe from his relationship with Bulma. The only thing he could seriously blame himself for was keeping it a secret.
Still, as he'd seen her looking at the photo of them standing together, soaked to the skin, shivering in the park, Yamcha had felt a very strong sense of longing and possession. It was unlike anything he had felt before, an agonizing mixture of pride and sadness as the screen blurred with her tears. That was how she had stayed for several minutes, just staring at the picture, stroking the side of the glass. During this time he'd wondered what was going through her head. He was selfish, wanting to fall inside and explore more thoroughly, just as he had when sharing King Kai's visions… but of course he couldn't. There was nothing he could do other than be a distant and silent spectator of demon bribed, Bulma TV.
Eventually the effort of remembering appeared to become too much for Bulma, and she had sat bolt upright, violently shaking her head as she drove the tears away with her dishevelled towel. She'd swung her legs determinedly over the side of the bed, grabbed her underwear and dressing gown from the side, and hastily dressed.
The photo frame had still been lying on the bed, semi submerged under her towel when she walked past five minutes later. Yamcha could see twin faces reflecting out of the glass, cheek to cheek, and smiling up to the ceiling. Of course it was Bulma who had seen it and she had broken her stride to look it over one last time, before turning it face down, and walking out onto the balcony.
He'd been knocked sideways. His thoughts trying to clutch at desperate and inconceivable reasons as to why she would do it, but none of them stood the test of his reality. All he had been able to do was watch and wait for the mystery to play itself out. He had still been trying to sort out how he felt on this point when yet more was added to his misery.
Of all the people he had least wanted to see at that point, it had to of been the fucking Saiya-jin prince, but fate just had to kick him while we was down! The asshole sauntered onto his adjoining balcony as though he were the most important creature alive. It was naturally Vegeta that Yamcha had attributed to causing all the jealousy bullshit in the first place, and seeing the Saiya-jin and his girlfriend getting along in such a comfortable way did little to appease him, or stop him from feeling sick. It was made all the more painful when Bulma's attention was immediately dragged in that direction. He had seen her body go through a metamorphosis at the Saiya-jin's presence. Limbs that had been completely sagged against the wall in depressive reflection were instantly alert and animated once again.
The rest of the encounter had been muddled up into little moments, flash frames of growing anger or hurt. When he saw Vegeta's eyes burning into hers, and how they had dropped momentarily when the wind had loosened the tie of her dressing gown…. When Bulma absently ran her thumb across his thigh in exactly the same manner she once had his, and when Vegeta had reached out to take her cigarette, and purposefully let his fingers linger. It was becoming more and more obvious to him that Vegeta was attracted to Bulma, and it made him feel ill, confounded all the more when he realized there was absolutely fuck all he could do to stop it.
"Fuck!" he whispered dejectedly in the present, shoving the demon screen back inside his training gi so as to avoid detection. "Fuck!" He swore again, ki now seeping slowly away from his body.
He heard the slightest of rustling from inside, instantly setting his senses on edge. Rolling his forehead in the balls of his hands he tried to think properly. It was no good, he was trying to rein in his emotions, trying to stop the dampness from flooding his eyes, but it wasn't working.
"I have to get out of here!" he realized as the small patter of feet left the house and Chaotzu could be seen a distance away, stretching against the warm sun. He felt trapped, stifled. There was nothing else for it. Slowly he stood up, his ki still visible in the air.
"Good morning Yamcha!" Squealed Chaotzu, very well able to see the scarred fighters body now he was standing out like a sore thumb against the peaceful backdrop of King Kai's planet.
In response Yamcha looked up, standing tears in his eyes. Instantly he felt ashamed and turned guiltily to study the floor, powering up even further.
"Yamcha!" Chaotzu continued, "Yamcha what's wrong?"
Yamcha's fists clenched tightly by his side, "Nothing… that is… tell Kaio-sama I said thanks for the training." He stuttered, and pushing up from the floor, he leapt into the sky, flying straight up to the distant target of snakeway.
Bulma leant back admiring her handiwork. Packing, for her, was close to an art form. It was something she had become weirdly adept at over the years, not that it was anything surprising, considering the number or adventures she had been on when younger, and more recently as the demands of her work had suddenly increased, but she took an innate pleasure in doing it none the less. Plus, as she kept telling herself over and over again… this was one step closer to freedom.
It was at times like this that she missed the comfort of Yamcha the most, but then it was becoming increasingly apparent at the same time, that this time without him was doing her some good. It was setting things in a proper perspective and giving her the space away from commitment and friendship to get a true angle on what she wanted. Of course it wasn't supposed to have the third dimension to it, as she secretly knew it did now, but then nothing was perfect, least of all her, or her mind.
She looked down at her hastily scribbled notes. "Oh crap! Make-up!" she gasped, fluttering into her bathroom.
"All done yet?"
Bulma skidded to a halt on the tiles and peered around the door, "Almost."
"You're mother's making a family dinner for us tonight, she asked me to let you know to be downstairs by six."
"Thanks dad. Oh, hey! Have you got everything covered for whilst I'm gone?"
"Just about sweetheart, the only thing that won't be is maintenance on Vegeta's training room, but I've already spoken to him about that and he knows to take it easy for the next two weeks."
"Yeah right!" She laughed, pulling open the cabinet and dragging all her cosmetics into a large make-up bag. "Vegeta take it easy? I doubt it."
"Well I guess he doesn't have much choice, not if he wants to keep training. By the way, Pumpkin, I forgot to tell you what a wonderful job you did on that machine. Ingenious!" He cooed, walking into the bathroom and laying a kiss on her forehead, "I'm proud of my little girl!"
Bulma blushed, twiddling her thumbs, "Thanks daddy, but it wasn't really…"
"Now don't be getting all modest on me, take the compliment as it was meant and finish packing!" He said turning out of the room long before Bulma was able to tell him it wasn't actually her design. She shrugged. It didn't matter that much, there was no hurry to set him straight.
After laying the cosmetic bag carefully in the corner of her hand luggage, she checked her list one final time before closing the door gently behind her and walking out into the hall. The clock at the end proudly announced it was three o'clock, and she frowned slightly, tapping her fingers against her bare arms. She had three hours to kill. What to do?
Work was taken care of. There was no point going to get a snack if she was eating later. There wasn't enough time to get in some last minute shopping. She sighed long and low. After a moment of consideration and still no further to finding anything to do she gave up, deciding to just start walking, not knowing where it would take her.
A few minutes later and she found herself in the spacious living room, glancing about to find something to do. The large projection screen of the TV dominated the far wall, but she shook her head. She just wasn't in the mood for it. Instead she moved towards the CD player, running her finger along the stack of discs to the side. Music sounded like a very good option, and she smiled as she slid the chosen CD into the player.
Making sure it was on repeat she flopped face first onto the couch, resting her head on the arm, closing her eyes, and enjoying the strained wails of a melodic guitar as it diffused around the room. She loved doing this - just closing her eyes and letting the harrowing rock music take her on a journey around her own mind. She lost herself in the rhythm and dreamland it created, floating along with the tangled chords. It didn't give her brain poignant leaps forward or offer the multitude of answers that she had been asking of it recently, but it let her unwind… relax and take in the moment for what it really was, peaceful and hers.
An hour later and despite the volume of music, Bulma cracked open an eye, realizing she'd actually fallen asleep. She sighed lightly and stretched out in a cat-like fashion. Her fingertips grazed something that felt out of place. Tentatively she reached out again, a little further this time, running her fingers along it, exploring the phenomenon, and trying to recognize it through the daze of sleep. It was warm and smooth, covered in an elasticized fabric.
"Are you quite finished?"
Bulma's hand automatically jumped back with the rest of her body as her cheeks burned a deep crimson.
"Vegeta!" she gasped, blinking the tiredness out of her eyes, and hoping to Kami it had only been his leg she'd touched. "S… sorry."
He snorted indignantly, but didn't say anymore. Bulma felt extremely awkward and self-conscious. His eyes were trained on her, burning a hole with their aloof intensity. She gulped once, trying to fathom just what that look held. Was he pissed off with her… had she touched…? Her cheeks burned twice as red!
She hadn't seen anything of him since that night on the balcony two days ago, and she'd been secretly glad for it. There'd been something in the conversation, which had managed to send chills skittering down her spine, and she'd been appalled to find out it wasn't necessarily a bad sensation. Of course it was nothing more than the transference of his ki which had set the air around her alive as she'd touched his skin, but still it had been… pleasant…. something she had never even dreamt of associating with Vegeta.
As interesting as this was, however, it didn't help her avoid awkwardness now. "Shit!" She exclaimed, rubbing her eyes, in an effort to evade his. "Can't I even have a quick nap without alien interference! Geesh, I'd have less trouble if I lived in Roswell!"
He didn't say anything, but simply snorted and walk away.
Bulma looked at his retreating back with confusion. What the hell? "Hey Vegeta," She called out, climbing clumsily over the back of the sofa, "Wait up!"
He didn't, just walked on at the same pace as before. Perhaps he knew she would catch him, because when she eventually planted herself between him and his chosen path, he simply crossed his arms haughtily over his chest… no protestation passing his lips.
She smiled, as he glared at her. "What?" He spat.
"You obviously came looking for me for a reason. You might as well tell me why."
He looked out of the window; disdain working on all his features, "And what if I said I didn't have a reason?"
She shrugged, "You'd be lying."
He simply raised an eyebrow, curiosity catching his figure and holding him under its spell.
"Well come on… out with it… I'm a busy woman!"
He snorted, "Didn't look that way to me."
Bulma just glared.
"When are you leaving for this charade of a vacation?"
Instantly she relaxed, "First thing tomorrow, why… have you changed your mind?"
"Coming with me, you ass!"
"No." he said absently, "No I haven't."
"Oh…" She felt a little disappointed, and immediately scolded herself for it.
"That old fool father of yours, told me the training room will be without maintenance for two weeks. Is that correct?"
"Hey! My father is not an old fool! He's the most intelligent person on this pla..."
"Like I care!" He rudely interrupted, "Now answer the damn question!"
"Yes!" she spat, "You'll have to go easy for a couple of weeks. If it gets broken then no one will be here to fix it. Dads gonna have his hands full doing both mine and his job. Do you think you'll be able to manage that?"
"Of course I will! So long as it's working in perfect order before you leave, then it will be working in perfect order when you get back. It may be hard for your limited human brain to comprehend, but I am more than capable of controlling my power."
Bulma smiled, her anger lessening. "Well." She said, looking to the clock, "If that's the case then I'm free for the next two hours… you want me to do a last minute diagnostic?"
"In that?" He questioned, looping a finger under the strap of her delicate sundress.
Bulma tried unsuccessfully to hide the shiver his touch sent sprinting through her body, as she snatched the material out of his hand. "Yes! It's not like I'm going to get my hands dirty. It's all done through the central computer."
She walked defiantly past him, trying to ignore the disobedience of her body. It was doing that teenager fluttery tummy thing, and no matter how many times her mind screamed no, no and HELL no; it still wouldn't go away!
Vegeta was following her at an appropriately regal distance, but Bulma walked on as though she didn't notice. She was a little surprised therefore when his gruff voice floated up from behind.
"Were you serious?"
"When you asked me to go on vacation with you… were you serious?"
"Well yeah, why shouldn't I be?"
"Isn't it supposed to be some sad attempt on your part to find meaning in your worthless little life?"
"It is… but?"
"But?" he questioned.
"I dunno I thought it might be interesting having you tag along."
"Why? Why would you want that when you protested against it so much to begin with?" he demanded, his voice suddenly taking on a threatening demeanour, dagger tipped and icy.
Bulma stopped dead in her tracks, the hall clock chiming the hour in the background. "Well… I'm not sure. Perhaps its because even though you're a complete asshole 24/7, I actually kind of like you. I thought it might be nice to get to know you a little better." She blushed slightly and took a step back, her legs smacking against the corridor wall.
He laughed out loud, merciless and cold "Stupid creature!" He spat, "Get to know me? Ha! Don't make me laugh!" He shook his head, chuckling low, "Curiosity killed the ningen. Remember that."
"And that's supposed to scare me away?"
"No. I'm hoping you'll have enough intelligence to take yourself away. All you will ever need to know about me is that I crave power, and that I will stop at nothing to attain it. Your pathetic little emotions and affectations mean nothing to me, as does you planet, your friends, and your family! I hold no hint of caring for them and if blasting them into the next dimension meant I would become stronger and reach Super Saiya-jin sooner, then I would have done it the moment I stepped foot on this mud-ball."
"I know," She said, looking sadly at the floor, "But that doesn't mean you have to hide from everyone. Remember, I invited you here because I wanted to, not because I was forced, bullied or scared into it. Just because you'd prefer to be flexing your muscles, destroying anything and everything in your wake doesn't mean we have to be strangers."
He frowned deep and solemn, moving so close that his nose almost touched hers, "Stay out of my business ningen," He threatened, "Stay out of it. Trust me…you will not like the consequences if you don't."
His eyes flashed with something difficult for Bulma to place. Were those deathly orbs looking for fear, or for something more impossible to give… understanding? He seemed to be waiting on a reaction one way or another, trying to see how her mind worked with the words gifted to her.
"Is it so bad…" She asked dejectedly from under lowered lashes, "Me wanting to be your friend?"
His eyes closed, his mouth setting into an even more grim and snarled frown than usual. "Friends just get in the way, ningen." He said low and to the floor, "They are a burden to be carried, a target for vulnerability, and dangerous to a warrior in every respect."
Somewhere in the confines of Bulma's chest there was a pang of sympathy for the violent man standing before her. How deprived his life must really have been to hold such a blinded view. "No," She whispered, moisture building defiantly in her eyes, "That's not true Vegeta."
"And what would you know?" He shouted, his breath hot on her face, "What suffering have you lived through, what darkness has ever clouded your perfect little life huh? What gives you the right to stand here and lecture me on this? Giving a shit for anything is dangerous to me, and dangerous to the object. Do not wish for it Bulma." He said, his voice strained as he held a gloved hand up to her face, "Do not wish for it!" he snarled again, driving his fist into the wall beside her head.
Bulma screamed in shock as he yanked it back out, showering her in an avalanche of plaster, "Your friends will be wished back soon enough ningen," he snarled looking over his fist and flexing it with a wicked grin, "Enjoy them if you like, but rest assured, once Kakarrot returns then we will settle our differences once and for all, then maybe when each one of your precious z fighters is lying dead by my hands, bloodied and burned at my feet, you will understand the true burden of friendship."
In an instant he was striding away from her, his ki illuminating the hall in stark lines as he scuffed the skirting boards, making the whole house shudder. Bulma was left shivering in shock, wondering just what in the hell had happened. She hugged herself tightly; trying to rid herself from thinking about the hate she had seen spilling through his body and the look of sadistic pleasure that had swept across his features as he'd spoken of killing her friends. Had she become insane! Had she honestly thought she could become friends with such a monster, did she actually think he'd be willing to change a lifetime of destruction, just because of a few short months in her house?
"Idiot!" She muttered, breathing heavily as she steadied herself with a hand against the wall. "I'm an idiot!" With an effort to expel every thought of the asshole she walked defiantly out of the room, slamming the door behind her, and cursing him under her breath.
Once outside she looked up to the awesome structure, bulging out from the perfect lawn and casting long dark shadows. Anger still held its sharp edge to her emotions as she stared, and mixed with the hurt unaccountably rushing in behind. She turned her nose up and walked away. If he didn't want to even try to be nice to her then she wasn't going to do him any favours. Sod running diagnostics, she'd spend the rest of the afternoon helping her mum in the kitchen instead!
The next morning and the abnormally good weather for October had eventually broken. As Bulma sat stirring her cereal around the large breakfast bowl, looking out of the kitchen window she could see a dull, damp mist descending over her father's buildings. She smiled down at the tickets on the worktop, congratulating herself on her timing. The closed in weather would have meant staying indoors and she was sure that the combination of guests would have driven her completely insane.
"Yes Dende." She replied a little startled. At some point she had forgotten he was in the room.
"Whereabouts are you going?"
"To a part of Chikyu called the Mediterranean. It's a beautiful place and the countries around it are steeped in history." She pushed the brochure to him to look at. "I'm flying out to Palma at midday and then its two weeks on a cruise ship visiting some of the countries and islands around that area. Italy, France, Spain…. they're all beautiful. There's even a trip to Pompeii, I can't wait to see the lost city."
Dende looked confused, "How do you lose a city?"
Bulma chucked, "Well… it was lost a long time ago, I think it was around AD79. Pompeii was a great Roman city but it disappeared under tonnes of ash when Mount Versuvius erupted. It wasn't found again until the first part of this century and has been carefully excavated ever since. They've found large streets filled with shops and buildings still in tact, and every day they find something more. It's supposed to be like stepping back in time over two thousand years."
"It must be wonderful having a planet with such a long history." He sighed, "Namek had a lot of history as well, but we knew little of what happened before the great disaster. It left only a few of our kind alive. I wish I knew more about it, but Guru never told me."
Bulma felt sad for her little friend. "I'm sorry kiddo. I can't imagine how horrible it must feel to lose your planet."
Dende nodded sadly, "It was a beautiful place wasn't it Bulma-san… Namek?"
"Yes," She agreed, "It was very beautiful… from what I saw of it."
"I wish I could see it again… just once."
"Namek was a disgusting planet!"
The dark snipped voice came from the doorway and it was no surprise to either of them to see Vegeta leaning against the frame. On inspection he pushed away and moved to the fridge.
"If you wanted true beauty, then you should have seen Vegeta-sei. It would have blown both your pathetic little planets out of the water."
Vegeta's presence unnerved Bulma slightly, especially after their argument the previous day, but curiosity soon got the better of her.
"Oh… and what makes you say that?"
"I'm simply stating facts," he groused, opening a bottle of orange juice and downing it as he leant against the cupboards. "There were few planets as impressive in raw natural grandeur. The suns movements were far more dramatic than they are here… setting the horizon on fire against the mountains and desert. The extra gravity made the whole atmosphere glow red with heat and power. Those that survived to gaze on Vegeta-sei's Hli-ryah-nyan; were a privileged breed indeed."
Vegeta paused, lost in a vision that was completely his own. Bulma watched him, looking straight ahead, now oblivious to the rest of the room. She smiled and lightly shook her head, wondering if he knew just what a gift he was giving her. Words were words, and despite what he had screamed at her the previous day, he couldn't completely hold himself away from her. Even if he didn't know it she was learning more about him everyday, and when he took away the anger and temper, stripping himself of it's sharpness, she was surprised to find the man underneath it all was absolutely fascinating to know.
"I think…" Dende spoke nervously, "I think I would have liked to have seen that Vegeta-sama."
It was enough to snap Vegeta out of his reverie, "No you wouldn't brat!" he snorted, "The gravity would have squished you flat like a pancake!"
Shoving the container in the bin and helping himself to a left over chicken leg from last night's dinner, he went to walk out of the room. Unfortunately for him Mrs. Brief rushed in just at that moment, stopping his escape.
"Bulma!" she gasped, "You're taxi's here. The driver's putting your bags in the back, and you had better hurry if you want to make it to the airport on time. Well… come on!" she harried until Bulma was escorted in her haze through the door and out into the grey morning mist.
There was a whole entourage waiting for her exit. Her father was flanked on either side by a selection of Namekian refugees, and her mum and Dende weren't far behind. Giving both her mum and dad a big bear hug each, and shaking hands with the elder of the Namekians, Bulma climbed into the back of the taxi.
Having waved whilst the driver had finished loading the hover car, Bulma sunk back into the seat, excitement racing up her spine, "Freedom!" she congratulated, as the engine started, and the taxi began to roll down the long gravel drive. Just as the car was about to turn out onto the main road Bulma saw a sudden and brief flash of light in her peripheral vision. She turned in her seat to get a better look, only to see a dominant shadow precariously balanced on the top of the training room. Vegeta's outline was unmistakable, and she felt a little sense of victory and happiness as the taxi twisted through the traffic of Capsule Corp. Parade, knowing that Vegeta had abandoned his morning routine to, in his own warped way, say a silent 'goodbye.'