Bulma Brief looked around in exasperation. They’d left her. Krillin and Gohan had left her all alone in some stupid dingy crevasse, by herself, on a strange planet with who-knows-what kind of super-powerful space aliens flying around. They’d left her. As had been their habit during the entire trip, Krillin and Gohan had flown onto the scene, yelled some rushed, incoherent explanations and excuses, and then blasted off before she’d even had a chance to chew them out for leaving her there in the first place. Something really urgent was happening out there, and she had no idea what was going on, let alone how to help.
Krillin had mentioned something about Vegeta, too. Just thinking that name made her shudder. That monster was on the planet, too? Bulma felt a wave of anxiety pass over her as she worried about her friends. She took a seat in front of a table she’d set up as a desk in the small space. Various gadgets were strewn about, some of them in pieces; the aftermath of her trying to relieve her boredom. Picking up the dragon radar, she remembered that if Gohan was still carrying the dragonball he’d held, she’d be able to track his movement. Turning the device on, her fears were confirmed. One of the dragonballs was moving steadily away from her position. She sighed and looked up at the sky. And her eyes went wide with fear.
"When I find that kid, I’m going to tear him limb from –" Prince Vegeta’s tirade - and his landing – were interrupted by a high-pitched scream. His attention was immediately drawn to a blue-haired woman sitting in front of a desk, a look of complete and utter terror frozen onto her face.
"I remember her," Vegeta thought to himself, "She’s the girl who was with that bald-headed earthling and made a fool of herself cheering for Zarbon."
"Alright, woman, where’s the kid?" His voice was a low menacing growl, and he narrowed his eyes as he pronounced the last word.
"Answer me!" He shouted. Bulma nearly fell over backwards.
"I – I don’t know!" She stammered. "I really don’t!"
Vegeta scowled. "Do you think I’m a fool? That I can’t tell that you’re lying to me?"
Bulma, terrified, tried to think of something to say, but her thoughts were interrupted by the beeping of the dragon radar. Vegeta’s gaze snapped over to the device. He coolly stepped over to the table and snatched the radar from out of her hands. He pressed the button on top a couple of times and examined the device carefully.
"Wait a minute…seven…" Realization dawned on him. "So THIS is what that brat used to find my dragonball!" Vegeta roared with rage. "You’ll pay for this, kid! You can’t escape me now!" He started to run out from between the cliffs, his eyes bright with fury.
"STOP!" Vegeta was halted mid-takeoff by Bulma’s voice. He turned and scowled at her. "That won’t do you any good!" She yelled. "Gohan and Krillin would rather die than give you that dragonball!"
Vegeta laughed coldly, and the sound echoed off the walls. "That’s the whole point, earthling." He sneered. The look on his face made her anger boil.
"Besides," she said in her cruelest tone, "They’re too strong for you anyway."
The words were barely out of her mouth before she felt a gloved hand grab her by the throat and lift her off the ground. She stared at him, choked, and then winced, expecting him to blow her away. But instead something strange happened. The prince seemed to calm down. His mouth slowly drew itself into a cruel smirk, and he gently put her back down on the ground, releasing his grip on her throat. He held the dragon radar in one hand and grabbed the back of her jacket with the other.
"What are you DOING?" she cried.
The prince chuckled. "They might be willing to die for the dragonball, but let’s see if they’re willing to throw your life away." Bulma gasped as he took off, carrying her by the back of her jacket.
Terrified, Bulma screamed and flailed around.
"If you don’t shut up," Vegeta warned, "I’m going to dro-" his remarks were cut short as Bulma’s jacket ripped and she plunged towards the planet. Without a thought, Vegeta’s reflexes kicked in, and he managed to catch her a few feet away from the ground. Petrified, Bulma wrapped her arms around Vegeta’s neck and held on as tight as she could – until she realized who had caught her and recoiled in horror. She tried to push herself away from him and continued her shrieking. Suddenly Vegeta detected a powerful ki.
Mentally, he derided himself. He’d been so distracted by the girl’s screaming that he’d let his guard down. He looked in its direction only to see a huge blast heading straight at them. With no time to dodge it, Vegeta turned himself- and the girl in his arms- away from it as it struck him squarely in the back. Bulma screamed hysterically as Vegeta, still carrying her, plummeted towards the forest they’d been flying over. At the last second, Vegeta spiraled and hit the ground back first. Bulma was tossed out of his arms as Vegeta’s unconscious body rolled over several times and skidded to a stop.
Holding her head with one hand, Bulma slowly stood up. In the sky, she could see Krillin looking down at the forest. Krillin? She couldn’t believe that Krillin had blasted Vegeta in the back. "Oh, wow!" Krillin bragged out loud. "Wait’ll I tell Gohan and Bulma that I shot VEGETA out of the sky!" He exclaimed. With that, he flew off laughing cheerfully. Bulma was stunned. He hadn’t seen her at all. She could have been killed. "As a matter of fact," she thought, "Why wasn’t I killed? Even a small part of that blast would have been enough to fry me. But it never even touched me." She looked uneasily towards Vegeta’s body. "Did he…shield me from that blast? No. No way. I must be losing my mind. Krillin just had good aim. Oh, Kami, I really am losing my mind!" She looked confusedly at the crumpled body. "Is he…dead?" She stepped closer, and was startled by a weak moan from the body. She was tempted to run away from her captor while she had the opportunity. But her thoughts from before returned. "If he did save me, even if I’m just being crazy, I’d never be able to live with myself if I just left him like this."
* * *
A short time later, Vegeta was lying on a small bed in a capsule house Bulma had set up in the clearing. As she took off the top half of his armor and bandaged his wounds, she couldn’t help but marvel at his muscular chest and arms, even if they were rather bloody. The burns on his back would take some time to heal, and so would the gashes that the tree branches cut in his arms and sides. She left him on the bed and walked out of the small dome. She sat on the ground next to the door and rested her back against the outside wall. There, she debated about what to do next. After a few minutes she heard sounds coming from inside the house. "Is he conscious already?" she wondered. She opened the door and peered in cautiously. He was talking in his sleep.
"…please, father, don’t…don’t leave me…don’t leave me with Frieza…please…I’ll be strong…I’ll be strong…please…no…FATHER!" Bulma was startled, but tried not to disturb him. With his eyes closed like that, he looked so lost. Like a little boy. For a moment, she pitied him…but her rational mind quickly reminded her of all the damage he’d done on earth. She wondered what it all meant. He sounded so desperate, and so afraid. She closed her eyes as she turned away, and walked out of the shelter, resuming her seat next to the door. In a short time, she had drifted off to sleep.
* * *
Bulma was awakened by the sound of Vegeta’s footsteps inside the house. She quickly wiped the sleep out of her eyes. Vegeta emerged from the dome – still shirtless, she noticed – looking bewildered. When he saw her sitting there, he started. She smiled at him uncertainly. "Wh-where did all this come from?" He asked, sounding completely flabbergasted. She felt like giggling at the sight of the almighty prince of Saiyans looking so completely confused, but she wisely suppressed her laughter. "Capsules." She stated. He still looked confused. It took her a moment to remember that the Saiyans weren’t exactly regular Capsule Corp. customers. "My father owns the Capsule Corporation." She explained. "We have a method to store large items in small capsules like these." She held up one of the capsules she carried with her. She pressed the rigger, tossed the capsule, and her airbike appeared amidst a puff of smoke.
"Amazing." He said.
The awe in his voice made her feel proud. Staring thoughtfully at the wide-eyed prince, she wondered if his arrogance was just an act to cover up his insecurity. She remembered how angry he’d been when she’d said that Gohan and Krillin were stronger than him. She also remembered thinking that he was going to kill her. Feeling Bulma’s eyes on him, Vegeta looked over at her and began to look uneasy.
"Why…did you do this? Why did you he-" Vegeta caught himself. "Why didn’t you run away?" He started to look lost again.
"Why did you protect me from that blast?" She asked in return.
"Hmph." Vegeta looked away from her and started to cross his arms. He winced as a sharp pain ran through his left shoulder.
Bulma stepped closer. "Watch it!" she cried, ‘You’re badly hurt."
A low growl rumbled out of his throat. "When I get my hands on whoever did this, I’m going to…" Vegeta rapidly prepared to blast off. Reacting quickly, Bulma stepped closer and jabbed him in the side, right on his bandages. Hard. Vegeta fell down on his knees, doubled over in pain.
"You’re too badly hurt to fight anyone now. You’d lose. And besides, you don’t even know who hit you."
Vegeta snarled. "This is all your fault anyway! If you hadn’t been screaming, I would have sensed him coming!"
"Well, excuse me, but you’re the one who KIDNAPPED ME in the first place!" Bulma was shouting now. "AND you DROPPED ME!"
"I didn’t drop you, your jacket ripped and you FELL! You’re just lucky I didn’t let you HIT THE GROUND!" Bulma was about to retort when she suddenly realized who she was dealing with. He could have blasted her to bits by now.
"It’s your fault you were flailing around so much anyway." He grumbled, avoiding her gaze as he stood up. He shakily walked back to the dome with one hand holding his side where she’d hit him. She stood staring at the door for a few minutes after he’d closed it.
Vegeta groaned as he lay back down on the bed. He couldn’t believe that such a weakling human could have hurt him so badly with one little jab. She was right, though. If he fought in his current condition he’d be killed. But what did she care? He couldn’t figure out why she’d helped him. Didn’t she realize he was the enemy?
After tossing and turning for a while, Vegeta’s stomach started to growl. He contemplated asking the earthling for food, but quickly decided against it. He’d already showed her enough weakness. She knew Kakarott’s friends. She could run off and tell them and they could kill him. He sat up abruptly. He couldn’t believe his stupidity! She could already be gone! He got up and ran out the door, looking around frantically. She was still sitting next to the door. He stared at her in amazement. He realized that it wouldn’t make any sense for her to help him out just so that her friends could kill him.
Bulma stared right back at him. He still hadn’t put his armor back on. She wondered what had made him come running out like that.
"You’re…still here." He said stupidly. Bulma noticed that he seemed to relax a little bit. Vegeta turned and sat down on the other side of the doorway. "What’s he up to?" Bulma wondered. She remained silent, expecting him to say something, but he just stared straight ahead, looking thoughtful. After a few minutes, she couldn’t stand the silence any longer.
"Are you hungry? I’m going to get some food." He gave her a sideways glance. "You can have some if you want." She said. He didn’t move from his place. She expanded one of her capsules into a small refrigerator. Opening it up, she pulled out a couple of sandwiches. She sat down in front of a large flat rock to one side of the clearing and placed the sandwiches on top of it. As she took a bite out of one of the sandwiches, she couldn’t help but glance at Vegeta, but he just sat there, staring straight ahead.
Vegeta had watched the whole thing and it was all he could do to keep himself from drooling. After a few minutes, he couldn’t stand it anymore. Trying to soothe his pride, "After all, she offered. And she’s eating too.", he walked over to the rock and sat down across from Bulma. He grabbed one of the sandwiches and took a bite, chewing thoughtfully. They sat in silence for a couple of minutes. Finally, Bulma decided it just wasn’t a real meal without some dinner conversation. She’d barely spoken to anyone – except herself, anyway – in weeks.
"Vegeta…" He seemed a little startled as she broke the silence. He thought it was strange to hear anyone say his name without fear, reverence, or hatred in their voice. "What’s your father like?" she asked. Vegeta almost started choking on his sandwich. "I told you about my dad and how he invented the encapsulation process. So how about your dad?" She tried her best to sound casual and friendly. She was thinking about what he’d said in his sleep before. She wondered what it meant.
Vegeta finished chewing. "My father was king of Vegeta. Now he’s dead." He declared icily.
"Oh, I’m sorry, I…"
"Don’t be." He replied. "I’m not." Something in his voice told Bulma that he was lying about the last part. It seemed strange to imagine Vegeta, who’d nearly destroyed her planet, as having a father. Or grieving for one, anyway.
"Was it a long time ago?" She asked.
"He was killed twenty years ago." She thought she heard his voice waver as he said that, but she figured it must have been her imagination. Her scientific mind couldn’t help but wonder about what had happened, but the death itself seemed like something too painful for her to discuss without risk of bodily harm.
"So who took care of you when you were growing up?"
Vegeta started coughing. As he cleared his throat, a shadow passed over his face. "What does it matter now, anyway?" He snapped. "It was a long time ago. It’s none of your concern!" Bulma was taken aback by his harsh tone. She expected him to get up and stalk back into the house, but instead he just sat there, eating, with a pissed-off look on his face. "I must have hit a nerve." She thought. She decided to keep quiet, but she was left with just as many questions as she’d had before she’d asked him anything. She thought about what he’d said in his sleep and wondered who killed his father, why it was so painful to talk about his childhood, and who Frieza was. She mulled it over in her mind as she ate.
Looking around at the clearing where they were sitting, she thought it would make a romantic place for a picnic. She giggled inwardly and couldn’t help but blush. When she noticed that Vegeta was looking at her with a puzzled look on his face, she blushed even redder and looked away.
"This earthling certainly is strange," the prince thought to himself. Trying to keep his mind off his past, he wondered what had made her ask so many questions about his father. He didn’t want to think about it. He had pressing matters to worry about that were more important than things that had happened decades ago. He already had six of the dragonballs gathered together and that half-Saiyan brat – his blood boiled just to think about it – had taken the last one. But he’d soon get it back with the help of that radar device, using the girl as his bargaining chip. But he couldn’t hand the girl over now. She knew that he’d been injured. That he was vulnerable. Vegeta started to get annoyed. This was becoming more and more complicated. Suddenly, he stood up. "Where’s the radar device for locating the dragonballs?" Bulma was startled away from her thoughts.
"The dragon radar? I didn’t even think about it. Umm, you were holding it when we were flying."
Vegeta cursed himself. "I must have dropped it when I was trying to – "He paused. "…When we were hit by that blast." Bulma looked at him strangely.
"We have to find it!" He declared. Bulma cursed inwardly. She’d hoped he’d forgotten about it and would leave Gohan and Krillin alone.
"You can’t go looking for it now! You haven’t completely healed yet, and you might run into…whoever hit you."
"That’s a risk I’m going to have to take." He snarled.
"Wait!" She yelled. "We can take the airbike." She pointed at the vehicle she’d released earlier from the capsule. "I’ll have to drive though. It’s my bike, and I practically built the thing myself."
A few minutes later, Vegeta emerged from the dome-shaped house with his armor and gloves back on. Bulma cheerfully hopped onto the bike. Vegeta sat behind her.
"I can’t believe I’m doing this." They both thought at the same time. Bulma took a deep breath, pressed a few buttons, and took off at breakneck speed. Nearly thrown off the bike by Bulma’s reckless driving, Vegeta was forced to uncross his arms and hold on to her waist. Bulma tensed as she felt his hands on her waist, and laughed nervously. The sound was lost on the wind. If Vegeta heard, he didn’t respond. She slowed down when they reached the right place and circled, flying low over the trees. Vegeta watched for any signs of the radar while Bulma concentrated on not crashing. A few minutes later, he spotted it on the ground between the trees. He was off the bike and running for the device before she’d even finished the landing. When he was a few steps away, a shadow emerged from the trees. Bulma gasped. "Krillin!" She cried.
"Bulma!" The short, bald man responded. "So that’s her name," mused Vegeta.
"Hey Gohan!" Krillin called out. "I’ve found her!" Gohan came running, holding the dragonball in his hands. Vegeta’s eyes flashed. "Ve-Vegeta?" Krillin had finally noticed the Saiyan prince standing a few feet away from the airbike. "What are you doing here?"
"I’m here to get my dragonball back. C’mere, you little brat." He growled, stepping closer to Gohan.
"Oh no you don’t, Vegeta." Krillin charged up his ki. "I shot you out of the sky once already." Vegeta’s eyes burned with rage. "We can take him, right Gohan?" Krillin shouted.
"Right!" Gohan echoed. The prince smirked. In a flash, he was standing behind Bulma with his hand locked around her throat. Bulma choked and grabbed at his hand.
"Hand over the dragonball kid, unless you want to spend the rest of the afternoon picking pieces of her out of your hair."
Gohan hesitated. Vegeta tightened his grip. Gohan’s face fell as he rolled the dragonball over to Vegeta’s feet. Vegeta smirked and pulled Bulma close to him. "Thanks, Bulma." He whispered in her ear. In one movement, he shoved her on the ground, grabbed the dragonball, and, laughing, took off at top speed.
Bulma, still on her knees, rubbed her throat as she stared after him. "Bulma!" Krillin cried. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I’m alright." She seemed a little dazed.
"What were you doing way out here?" He asked.
"Vegeta…" She paused. Something told her that it was a bad idea to describe what had happened. "Uh, I noticed that six of the dragonballs had been gathered together, so I came to investigate on my airbike. But I dropped the dragon radar. I’d just found it when all of you showed up." She wondered why she was lying to them. "Why were you guys here?" She asked.
"We were looking for you." Gohan stated.
"Yeah we went to check on you after going to Guru’s. When you weren’t there we got worried and went looking for you. Gohan found a piece of your jacket nearby, and we thought you might have hid in the forest."
"Oh, I, I dropped my jacket. I guess some of the animals tore it up." She smiled. "Thanks for your concern you guys.
"We’d better go after Vegeta. He’s got all the dragonballs now, and we have to stop him before he makes his wish!" The two flew off and she waved after them. She hopped on her airbike and headed back to the clearing in the forest. When she reached it, she headed inside the house and rested on the bed. She fell asleep after a few minutes, unaware that the Ginyu Force had arrived on the planet and that Vegeta, Krillin, and Gohan had teamed up to fight them.
* * *
As Vegeta took off from the battlefield, leaving Kakarott to fight Captain Ginyu by himself, he smirked. "If there’s anything this whole experience has taught me, it’s that I’m an absolute genius!"
Back at the capsule house in the forest, Bulma’s eyes fluttered open. She thought she’d heard an explosion, but she might have been dreaming. Left on a shelf, the dragon radar was still on. As she picked up the device, she wondered what had happened to Krillin, Gohan, and Vegeta. "Huh?" She exclaimed on seeing the screen, "All seven dragonballs are gathered in one place!" She looked out at the sky. "But the dragon hasn’t been summoned yet…I have to go check this out!"
She ran out the door and hopped on her airbike, headed towards the location of the seven dragonballs. A short time later, she arrived at a large space ship. There were several huge holes blasted through the hull, and there were bodies strewn everywhere.
"They have scouters and Saiyan armor." She thought to herself. "They must be Vegeta’s men. That means Krillin and Gohan must have…" She shook herself and tried not to look at the corpses. "Best not to think about it." Still, she couldn’t help but be amazed by the design of the ship. She noticed a ramp and entranceway. "It looks like Gohan and Krillin blasted their way in and finished everyone off. I wouldn’t have thought they had it in them." She walked carefully, marveling at the technology, and trying to ignore all the dead bodies.
Just when she was convinced that there was no one around, she heard a noise coming from one of the chambers. The door opened automatically and she found herself inside what appeared to be a medical center. There were small, windowed chambers in the center of the room, and the shelves were covered with jars covered by labels written in some foreign language. She heard the sound of running water coming from behind a door on the left side of the room. The door opened automatically and she froze, standing in the doorway.
"YOU?!" Vegeta and Bulma exclaimed as they unexpectedly found themselves face to face. He had taken off his damaged armor and was wearing a new spandex suit. He was standing in front of a sink, the source of the running water she’d heard. "What are YOU doing here?" Bulma demanded as Vegeta got over his shock and leaned over to turn the faucet off. "I thought you were…" She almost said it.
"I’m just getting some new armor." He shrugged.
"What did you do to Krillin and Gohan?!" She shrieked.
He winced at the sound. "I didn’t do anything to your little buddies."
Bulma was completely lost. "Well…what happened?"
"An extremely powerful fighting force arrived and stole the dragonballs. Kakarott is fighting them now." He smirked at the thought of Kakarott getting creamed.
"Are Krillin and Gohan okay?"
"They’re off looking for the dragonballs. Looks like they’ll be too late."
"But how did you know the dragonballs were here? Who does this fighting force work for?"
Vegeta stepped over to a panel in the wall and pressed a button. A door opened and he pulled a new piece of armor out. "The Ginyu Force works for a tyrant named Frieza. I knew the dragonballs were here," He paused as he slipped the armor on over his head, "because I knew were Frieza’s ship was." He adjusted his gloves.
"How did you know that?"
"I used to work for Frieza."
"Who is he?" Bulma remembered the name from earlier, when she’d heard Vegeta talking in his sleep.
"He’s incredibly powerful, and he’s even more evil than I am." Bulma’s eyes went wide. She was beginning to understand some things. Why Vegeta didn’t want to talk about his childhood, why he’d sounded so frightened when he spoke in his sleep.
Outside, Gohan and Krillin approached Frieza’s ship. "This must be the ship Vegeta was talking about." Gohan said.
"Yeah, but what happened here?" Krillin asked as they landed.
"Isn’t that Bulma’s airbike? What if she’s in trouble?" Gohan worried.
"We’d better go inside and see." Krillin ran up the ramp with Gohan following behind him. "BULMA!" They shouted together inside.
In the ship, Bulma turned away from Vegeta. "Did you hear that?" She asked, turning back. "It’s Gohan and…" Vegeta was gone. Bulma ran out into the hallway, still clutching the dragon radar.
"Bulma! Boy are we glad to see you!" Krillin exclaimed.
"And you’ve got the dragon radar!" Gohan piped.
"What are you doing here?" Krillin demanded. "What happened?"
"I…I’m not sure. But the dragonballs are nearby!" She showed them the radar.
"Great!" Gohan shouted. "Let’s go summon the dragon!"
Outside, Gohan and Krillin dug for the dragonballs. Bulma refused to get herself any dirtier than she already was. From the shadows, Vegeta watched impatiently. Gohan explained to Bulma how these dragonballs required some kind of password. Just as they were debating who would go to Guru’s to try and find it out, Gohan and Krillin sensed someone coming.
"Is it your dad, Gohan?" Bulma asked. She couldn’t see anyone.
"I…I don’t know. Something’s wrong here. There’s two of them. It might be the Ginyu Force! We’d better hide!" The three of them ran behind a large rock as Goku and Jeice landed, both wearing scouters. It didn’t take long for Gohan and Krillin to realize that something was wrong. As the fight began and a stray blast hit the rock she was hiding behind, Bulma ran for cover under the ship. She tripped and fell, only to land right in front of a pair of white boots. Looking up, she was shocked to see Vegeta offering to help her up. She gratefully took his hand and pulled herself up, brushing the dirt off her clothes.
"You should get out of here." He said. "We—I mean, they don’t need you distracting them."
"But I can’t reach my airbike!" She pointed out at where the battle was taking place. He mumbled something under his breath, and before she could protest he picked her up in his arms and took off for the forest. She was completely caught off guard and nervously put her arms around his neck. She noticed that he smirked a little as she did. This time, she wasn’t as afraid that he would drop her. A short time later, they landed in the forest and he gently set her down. As he started to take off again, she called out, "Where are you going?"
"I have to fight Frieza. It’s…my destiny." He sounded a little sheepish as he said this. "Plus, I guess I’d better rescue your little buddies from Ginyu."
He started to fly off.
"But, isn’t Frieza stronger than you?"
A pained look came into his eyes as he turned around to look at her. "What, you think Frieza can actually defeat the prince of the Saiyans?" He laughed self-consciously. "Don’t be ridiculous." But the pained look in his eyes was still there.
"…Be careful." She stated simply.
He smirked and flew off towards Frieza’s ship. As she watched him, Bulma thought about what Vegeta had said. "My destiny…"
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