WARNING: ALL YE UNDER 18 GO AWAY NOW! This fic contains violence, adult themes, sex, and profanity. If this is not your thing, don’t read it.


Chapter: IV---Morning


What have you done?

His eyes snapped open and his arms clenched involuntarily, drawing a faint murmur of protest from the woman who lay wrapped around him. The coppery shafts of sunlight bending through the shuttered windows of his bedroom were noon high. He had slept half the day away. He buried his face in flowery scent of blue hair, marveling at the softness of the woman's skin beneath his hands. His woman's skin...all his. He had never waited so long for anything in his life…

He had been weaned on pride and power. From the time he had known anything at all, he had been aware that one word from his lips meant the fortune or disgrace, the life or death, of all those around him.

All save one.

From the time he could stand steadily on his own feet, he had known that there was sufficient power flowing through his body and mind to set his foot upon the neck of most of the adults who surrounded him. And by his fifth year, "nearly" had become "all".

All save one. All save his father.

The pride shining in his father's face as Vegita grew stronger, faster, and more cunning in combat with each passing year was not a thing he had ever taken for granted. If anything, it was the source of his incessant, tireless determination to grow stronger. From the day of his birth, he had heard the whispers, just on the edge of his hearing, uttered in awe and more than a little fear. Legendary… In the mind of the King of Vegita-sei, the promise of what his heir might become was nothing short of understood. And in the mind of the prince, his sole purpose in life was to achieve that prize.

Super Saiyan…

If the members of the King's privy council had looked on in displeasure at the their lord's unseemly regard for the crown prince, at what most of them had firmly believed to be dangerously close to coddling affection, they had been apoplectic after the instatement of the Seer. Vegita had never learned how Bardock, a second class warrior from nowhere, had gained the ear of his father in one brief audience, though he imagined the Seer had proved his abilities beyond a shadow of a doubt in some spectacular way.

Very probably, he had just spoken, his voice like a hollow song of doom, his eyes full of the nearly substantial specters of all that was to come. The most unnerving aspect of the prophet's curse was the inability of those who heard his words to disbelieve them.

After the Seer's arrival, everything had changed. Bardock had confirmed the King's hope to fact---that the young prince was indeed the Super Saiyan come among them again. His father had begun to train him personally after that, setting much of the day to day workings of governing in his ministers' hands, deaf to the rants of his Councilors. He had categorically rejected Nappa's pleas to foster the prince on Tsiru-sei as a placating gesture to Frieza after having broken off relations with the lizards so abruptly. Nappa had blustered that a little time with Frieza's mercenary armies, with a chance to see and experience real battle and conquest, would "toughen the boy up."

Whatever Bardock had prophesied of that possible future, Vegita was never told, but his father had come near to killing Nappa in a rage for those words.

For Vegita, the true changes had begun months after break with Tsiru-sei.

The tutors had come first, dozens of whey-faced weaklings, with books and schedules and countless reams of useless facts to memorize. Vegita had balked at first, throwing a murderous temper tantrum that had cleared the royal audience hall of every mealy mouthed, book-toting one of them. Terminally. And for this, he had received the first beating of his life. In all his six years, no one had ever stayed his hand or denied him the least little thing he wanted.

"…two more years, perhaps three, Sire, and he will be uncontrollable." Vegita remembered Bardock's soft voice, laced with the dark, frightening tones of Sight. "He must learn discipline now. No hand will be strong enough to curb him soon---not even yours. He will be the strongest of his line, my Lord. But he must also become the greatest if he is to save our people from annihilation."

So, Vegita had been beaten bloody and half-conscious by the one hand still strong enough to do so. His father's. And it had still been a near thing.

After the initial shock, rage had taken him, and he had fought back with all his might---and for the first time in his life, he had lost. His father needn't have bothered with blows. The King's final parting words in the wake of that first beating had cut deeper than any wound he would receive for years to come.

"A king takes every road to power that presents itself, brat," Vegita-ou's deep, rusty voice had been full of calculated, cold contempt. "It seems I was wrong to have set so much store by you."

Vegita had lain in a pool of his own blood and tears, untended, all that night, weeping and shivering with pain and humiliation. And worse, the loss of his father's regard. Before dawn, rough, callused hands had sat him up and wiped the blood from his small, swollen face.

"Get your hands off me, you stinking peasant!" Vegita snarled, cringing at the sound of the break in his voice.

"You can earn his respect again, Ouji-sama," Bardock told him solemnly. "I can See how you may regain his favor."

Vegita was silent, trying to mask the half-superstitious awe the man's Sight inspired in everyone, even his father. "How?" He had finally whispered.

"Learn, my Prince. About the galaxy around you. The histories, the sciences, the battle tactics, and politics of all the peoples you will one day rule as Emperor, if you do not fail your promise."

"I will not fail!" The boy Vegita had been barked out, glowering up at the Seer.

"You will fail…" Bardock's voice had been like a cold hand from the grave around his throat. "If you do not learn to fight with your head as well as your body and Ki. If you do not learn how to learn."

Remembering now, Vegita smirked at how deftly his father and the Seer had manipulated his emotions, and in doing so, changed the course of his life irrevocably, altering and shaping the man he had grown to become. And in doing so, formed a---a closeness between himself and his father that should never exist between a King of Vegita-sei and his heir. Had they known even then that Vegita-sei was doomed? Had the King known---known what would befall him? Vegita clenched his eyes shut, trying to block out the image of his father's face, wired into that---

He brutally thrust the thought away. He would not think of it or let his mind dwell on yesterday until he stood face to face with Frieza. Oh gods, there were not words for what he would do when he got his hands on the Lord of Tsiru-sei!

Bardock had known…maybe. The infuriating, unnerving man had said their fate was no longer linear, since the destruction of Vegita-sei. Which meant he had Seen the death of their world, perhaps years in advance, before the possibilities of all their tomorrows had fractured. Time was a branching tree, Bardock said, of nearly innumerable potentialities. And Bardock could See them all. He would hate the man if he could, for having failed to prevent the destruction of their world with his foreknowledge, for having failed to save the king and hundreds of thousands of Saiyans from the nightmare of Imsul. And for not telling me what had befallen my father when he knew all along, Vegita thought blackly. He would hate Bardock if he could, but Vegita was fairly certain the frightening son of a bitch was walking through a hell of his own Sight that was sufficient punishment for all the man's failures and manipulations. He did not tell me, because he knew the shock would help to push me into the leap to…to Super Saiyan. Around and around it went. Vegita could not hate Bardock for the curse that had saved his people from complete extinction.

He drew his fingers the fine blue silk of Bulma's hair, touching his lips to her bare, porcelain skin, feeling the rushing need to have her again surge up inside him.

He had learned discipline, had learned to think and "fight with his head." He had learned how to learn in a desperate, grim determination to win his father's good will again…though he knew now, he had never actually lost it.

In the long days that began with training in combat and the arts of war and ended, late in the night sometimes, with his academic tutors who emired him in the politics, economics, history, science and military strategies of a hundred worlds, a strange thing had happened. His father, the only warrior on Vegita-sei who could still just match his strength, trained Vegita in the early mornings. But then, sporadically at first, then with growing regularity, the King had begun to sit in on his lessons, usually with Bardock glowering and intently watchful at his shoulder. It had only occurred to Vegita in the last year or so that his father's "observation" of the heir's education coincided exactly with the time that Vegita-sei began to build her own Empire…that his father had been silently absorbing the learning he was all but ramming down Vegita's throat.

So, the spoiled, illiterate Prince of Vegita-sei had learned discipline and control as he learned his facts and figures. He had learned how to take power where it was offered and how to use it once acquired. And above all, he had learned duty, and how the mightiest of kingdoms might be brought to ruin through their lord's use of too much power---or too little. And he had come, by way of these lessons, to the most jarring realization of his young life---that being a great king did not mean having everything you wanted, when you wanted it, how you wanted. Very often, it meant the opposite.

He rolled over, levitating a half-inch above Bulma's body, not disturbing her sleep, fingers tracing over the mark he'd made on her shoulder, feeling a scowl begin to pull down his features. He had not been exerting control when he had done this. Or discipline or anything resembling rational thought. He had been reeling inside a conflicting mixture of shuddering grief in the aftermath of having---having ended his father's torment, and soaring elation at having at last what he had desired to the brink of obsession. At the end of the night, the only coherent thought he could grasp any hold on was that he must not lose her, that she must be his completely, utterly…forever.

What have you done?

All the days of his boyhood had been given over to training and study, as his father and Bardock mercilessly drove him to prepare for the storm they had both seen on the horizon. And manhood, which had truly begun for Vegita on the day Frieza had burned Vegita-sei to a dead sphere of smelted rock, had brought with it all the care and weight of his rank, the sleepless, grinding burden of having every living member of his race look to him with utter, absolute faith that he could lead them through this war for survival. As though he knew the answers. In all those short years from boy to man, there had never been time for women. He smirked. Before Vegita-sei's fall, he had only ever had limited contact with female Elites, his fathers advisors, women like Articha. A battle-scarred veteran nearly a hundred years his senior was not exactly the sort of woman to inspire sexual fantasies in a young man's imagination. After the war had begun, there had been no time for anything except the war. There had only been the need to grow stronger, to seek out knowledge---any knowledge---that would aid them in this fight, to hold his people together in mind and body, and never, never show any sign of weakness. Never show any hint that he did not have the answers, that he was unsure, that he felt any of the despair of the near hopelessness of their cause that mere soldiers felt.


From the first instant he had seen her, standing slim and proud, raised up on tiptoes screeching into Nappa's face, he had been drawn to her with an unnerving, inexplicably over-whelming rush of magnetic desire. In the weeks and months that followed, Vegita quickly came to realize why his father had kept him so isolated, why he had unconsciously avoided all contact with Madrani and other alien women after the war began. Desire burned through the clean, cold logic of neccessity as though it were paper, frayed single-minded thought to shreds with nothing more than a half-instant touch of fair skin encasing bone and muscle as fragile as a bird's, with nothing more than the angry glare of blue eyes flashing in a beautiful face. A face that began to haunt his dreams. As he began to instinctively goad her into a weekly courtship spar on the weapons testing fields of Madran, like a cowardly sneak thief he had always found a way to touch her during the course of each "duel". And the glimpses he caught of the fighting spirit housed in that frail body only served to stoke the fires of his imagination all the more. She had fought him to the wall, without quarter, never once flinching in her angry resolve to find a combination of her dangerous little machines that would track him down. And in the end, she had done just that.

He had learned from infancy to school his face, to hide all his thoughts and emotions behind a cold, frowning mask that was now second nature. But even so, the run of his thoughts had not gone unnoticed. Not by Nappa, who in ways, could read him better than anyone save his father and Bardock.

And not by Raditz.

He didn't know when the thought had occurred to him, snaking its way into his mind until it became an almost tangible temptation. To take her from Raditz, to have her as his own. It had come hand in hand with black thoughts born of jealous rage, of knowing the woman he wanted spent her nights in the bed of another, of imagining her in Raditz' arms…

It was his right. The old laws said that the stronger warrior had the right to anything belonging to the weaker. But…the end result of that logic was anarchy, and worse, dissent. A prince must be feared and honored to lead well, but he must also be trusted. And one look at the growing, angry resolve in Raditz eyes---this strong, faithful soldier of Vegita-sei who had served his people and the crown well all his days---had told him he would have to kill the older man to take this prize from him. Though it would be his right, Vegita knew the trust his warriors held for him would be irreparably damaged in the wake of such an action. The histories of countless worlds were littered with accounts of princes and rulers who had lost kingdoms in the aftermath of such a betrayal, simply because they could not unify a people who no longer had any faith in them. And the woman will hate you forever, his mind had whispered. By this time, he had seen just enough of her heart to know that she would die before bending to his will if he took her in such a manner. And because of all these things, he had stayed his hand.

Then the night in her lab, when he had come upon her with tears rolling down her face, her back straight, her shoulders trembling, as she had come to terms with the fact that she was the last of her kind, and that there would be no reprieve from the events that had destroyed her homeworld. He had touched her face without thinking…and seen the want that had been tearing through him for weeks mirrored in her eyes. And he had known in that instant that he would tear the stars out of their place in the heavens to have her if he must, regardless of Raditz or his duty to his people or the child growing inside her. She would be his.

Deep in the darkest niches of his mind, he began to toy with the idea of sending Raditz on a series of carefully picked, extremely dangerous missions. The last thing he had expected was the blunt, plainspoken audience he'd had with Bardock's firstborn less than a week later.

"Will you be sending me out on the Shikaji raid, Ouji-sama?" Raditz had asked him tonelessly after a late-night briefing session for the series of aggressive strike and run hits they would be using in the next few days. The bigger man had deliberately waited until the conference room was cleared of all but the two of them. "That is a precarious attack, likely to lose many warriors." Raditz went on softly. "Have you set this one aside for me, my Prince?"

"I had not thought of assigning anyone to captain that strike yet," Vegita lied, stone-faced, wondering wildly if the man had somehow absorbed some of his father's super-natural powers. He had known what was in Vegita's mind. Simply known. "It is a nasty target. The Shikaji are loyal to Tsiru-sei."

"If one's prey is loyal to the enemy, perhaps the best attack is an under-handed one. As opposed to outright combat." Raditz murmured, coal eyes flat with resolve. "Though you would lose honor in the eyes of many of our people should you take the spoils of this battle in such a deceitful manner.

From Shikaji, I mean."

"You dare…" Vegita had been so infused with fury he could barely speak for a moment. He half rose from his chair, his Ki sweeping upward like a blue flame. Raditz had ignored it.

"Shikaji is a beautiful world, my lord. Full of riches I'm sure you have contemplated on more than one occasion. But---" The older man closed his eyes and his face looked as though someone had driven a knife into his chest. "But if you must take it, Ouji-sama…I would beg you to take care that you do not destroy it in doing so."

Slowly, very slowly, Vegita sat down. He was still shaking with rage, but the wheels that turned the engines of his mind had begun to move again. Raditz knew there was no way to prevent him from taking what he wished…and the man was only asking that Vegita not harm her. And again, it had come to him with cold clarity…that to snatch the woman away from the other warrior in this back-handed fashion, to deliberately send Raditz to his death, and then have her before her man's body was even cold, would be to break the precious thing he wished to have.

And there was more to consider than himself, the girl or Raditz. How transparent had he been? If everyone knew or suspected what was in his mind, he could not let his own wants over-run his reason. He could not do as other men did, could not allow his desires to outweigh the well being of his people. And slowly, he mentally stepped back from the edge of that precipice in horror at how close he had come to dividing his people in their greatest hour of need. All for the lust of a woman.

"I will send no strike team to Shikaji, soldier," Vegita said softly after a long silence. "We cannot afford the loss, and I do not---I do not wish Shikaji ill---I---" He discovered to his horror that it took effort to meet the big man's clear, direct gaze. He had been so close, so close to shame and dishonor and--- "I will not repay your loyal service in such a manner, Raditz."

Raditz had opened his eyes like a man given reprieve as he hung on the end of a noose, and gazed at him in slowly dawning hope. He said nothing for a moment or two, simply stared into Vegita's faltering gaze. Then he nodded shortly, saluted and turned to leave. But then he paused at the door. "Ouji-sama, I have no right to ask anything of you…"

"You have the right," Vegita said.

"A soldier's next breath is never a certainty, Ouji-sama. If I do not live to see the end of this war…My woman has many enemies, though she does not know it. I would ask that you give her and my sons your protection should I fall in battle."

"On my life I swear it," Vegita whispered.

He had not given Raditz one truly dangerous mission from that moment until the end of the man's life. Until he had put a hole through the other man's chest, thinking Ginyu must have snatched his body and dispatched his old body and Raditz with it. The man's selfless, unhesitating choice to take back his mortally wounded body rather than see Ginyu gain possession of Vegita's body was the stuff of war songs and legends.

He nearly hissed aloud at how close he had come to losing her as she bore Raditz' son alone with only a four-year-old child to attend her. He remembered how the room had wheeled dizzily around him when he saw her lying dead white in that blood drenched bed, gasping shallowly for each failing breath. As with so many of the Madrani women who bore Saiyan children to term, the boy's Ki had torn through his mother's defenseless body in the terror and pain of being born. If he had come even ten minutes later---

After the landfall on Yardratsei, he had kept his distance, had not so much as touched her in passing. Though the thought of her lying asleep in the next room---his by law, his by right, his in every sense if he wished to take her---had burned hole in his mind sometimes. But again, to have her without her consent, while she still wept audibly in that room night after night for her dead mate, would be to destroy the very thing he wished to possess. He knew he would never be satisfied until he saw those sky-hued eyes turn on him with the same adoration she had shown Bardock's son.

He had come inches from having her the morning before the battle of Arbatzu, when a bare instant of the physical contact he had avoided so well sent them both into a kind of…mad fever of heat and desire. He had strained the limits of control and sanity to hold back then, when he had her in his arms at last, soft and warm and gasping against his neck, the perfect fit of her body pressed down beneath his. And in the next instant, it seemed he had earned her undying hatred for refusing to ruin the life of a child she thought of as her own. It rarely struck him as it had on that occasion, just how alien she really was. That she would bar Radu from the full realization of his blood, see him stripped of honor, outcast for life, rather than see him go into danger. As though life without honor was worth living. Perhaps her definition of honor was different, limited to adults. Had her people believed that a child coddled to the point of condoning cowardice would grow to have any honor at all? Then, late that same night, falling into the cool, sweet softness of her arms, all her hatred forgotten, as she drew him into her bed, however innocently, for the first time. It had been worth every wound.

Back and forth she tossed him, one moment seeming to echo every thought, feeling and desire he had for her, the next instant angry and cold and full of resentment that she should be his possession and not her own. Her will and pride were the match of his, if not her strength. She suffered being owned with a greater grace than he would ever have been able to manage had their positions been reversed. Seen in that light, perhaps it was a wondered that she wanted him at all.

He pushed himself inside her gently, and her eyelids fluttered open, arms winding around him as she awoke with such a sweet eagerness that--- Oh gods! Then the only thought that clung tenaciously to the firestorm enveloping his mind was the sure knowledge that he would never have his fill of her. That this need for her would grow each time he tasted her sweetness, buried in this warm, tight embrace, plunging toward a satiation that would always leave him desperate for more and more and more---He cried out like a man shot through the heart, feeling her gasp and tremble beneath him as she finished in the same instant. Shot through the heart…It was an apt phrase for what she had done to him.

"Woman…" He whispered aloud.

She met his gaze, her breath and heart slowing, her flushed face still and thoughtful. He wasn't even aware that he was holding his breath. Then the sun seemed to dawn on her face, as she put aside the last of her mourning and the last of her doubts. And his whole being convulsed under the light of her smile. One small hand made its way to touch the mark he'd set on her shoulder in the early hours of the moment, almost caressing. The mark that said that she was his now, his for all time. The mark…Oh gods, the mark would be visible! And if it became known---

What have you done?

She frowned, reading the horror that must have shown on his face. "Vegita?"

"I have put you in greater danger than you were before," he whispered hoarsely.

The blue eyes widened. "As your mate---?"

"I cannot take a mate like a common soldier." He sat, half-levitating upwards to kneel on the bed, still holding her against him in case she grew angry and tried to run---which she very probably would in the next few minutes. "If every other member of my race took an alien mate, they would still see it as my duty to take a Saiyan to wife. Even the most liberal-minded of my warriors will turn on you to the man and seek your life if they know."

Division, insurrection, conflict within the ranks of an army that must fight as one in order to survive! What had he done!? And it was not only that. He had been half-mad when he took her that first time, he had held nothing back at the end…nothing at all. Oh gods, what if he had put her with child? It would be several hours before he would be able to sense it if he had, but then…

She was shaking her head gently, her fair skin going a shade paler. "You--you are their "Legendary"…their prophecy come to life, Vegita. They bowed down to you like men worshipping in a temple yesterday. How could they argue with anything you---?"

"My ascension may only add fuel to the fire." He wished he could believe it would be as she said. "If they see you as having "ensnared" their demi-god made flesh. Perhaps…perhaps they will be too in awe of me at first. But it is amazing how quickly awe dims with familiarity. In any case, I will not take the chance." He schooled his face to a harder expression. She began frowning apprehensively as well, as though she knew what his next words would be.

"You will not go into the open, or leave this house unless it is on fire."

"What?" She whispered dangerously.

"You will cover this---" He gestured to her shoulder. "---at all times, even indoors. I will set a watch on you around the clock. I can rotate members of Bardock's squad to take it in shifts." Bardock and his son, he knew he could trust, even if his worst fears were realized. And the Zapriasei-jin, Zarbon. The blue man would not be able to tell if she were bearing or not, and wouldn’t give a damn if he did. The others…Yes. If he trusted Bardock's Sight with the lives of everyone on Yardrat, he would trust the Seer's choice in comrades. But she could be seen by no one else until he knew for sure.

"I will have everything you need to continue your work brought here from your lab, and---" She had begun thrashing in his arms, trying to pull away from him. Gods, she was so frail…He was holding her in a feather-light embrace and she still could not break free.

"No!" Her voice was rising with each word she uttered. "No! I--I trusted you! I gave myself to you, and---and---Goddam you! You won't take away what little freedom I still have left! I'd rather die than---!"

"You will not!" Her screams broke off abruptly in a little gasp at the roar he had just uttered. He grabbed her shoulders and shook her lightly. "I will not see you die! I will not! I will not lose---!" He choked off the flow of unseemly words threatening to break free of his clenched jaw. But her face had suddenly softened, though those glorious eyes were now full of tears.

"Bulma." He said her name softly, almost despairingly. She was right. He could not do this to her. She would pine and die like a wild thing in a cage if he imprisoned her like this. But what was there to do to keep her safe and still his?

The end of the war was perhaps weeks away now that he had achieved the full realization of his promise. He would first raze the factories of Imsul to the earth…and then see to Frieza. Cut off the old lizard's head, and the Tsiru-jin Empire would fall into fractured disarray. But no victory, no matter how sweeping, would make his people accept an alien woman as their queen, or the mother of their next king. He had been the worst kind of idealistic fool to think that he would be able to have her as his mate openly when the war was over. If she was indeed carrying his child, there was nowhere in the galaxy that she would be safe from his people's wrath when it became known. "I--I will not lock you away permanently. But stay indoors all this day." He said finally. "I will know better what to do tonight. But you must cover the mark always. Even among friends."

She only stared at him for what seemed like an interminable length of time. Then she kissed him. "We'll figure something out," she whispered.

We. Even in the face of this seemingly insurmountable impasse, something inside him leapt with joy at hearing her use that word. We…

There was a sharp clatter from the other end of the house, and she started in his arms like a spooked cho-deer. Who would have the audacity to---?

"Stay here," he ordered, snatching up a bed sheet to wind around his waist. He followed the noise through the house, wondering what suicidal madman would enter the royal quarters uninvited, especially after yesterday's events. Maybe his woman's precious "Son-Kun". The boy was going to get a painful lesson in royal etiquette if he--- He stopped in the door arch to the kitchens, gazing down at the culprit, a broad smirk spreading across his face.

"Vegita?" She was right behind him. Of course. The woman was more disobedient than Nappa at his worst. "What---?" She broke off with a low cry.

"Oh baby, I'm so sorry!" She pushed past him to the baby who sat on the pantry floor, happily shoving huge handfuls of some sort of grain cereal into his mouth. "Oh Karot-chan, how could I have forgotten about you, even for a few hours? Just let you lie there hungry and wet and crying and---and---"

She continued babbling as she swept the baby up in her arms. The boy began to cry as well---she had just pulled him away from the grain canister he had been feeding from. "I'm a terrible mother!" She said weepily, apparently addressing the squirming baby, who was still reaching futilely for his breakfast.

"Woman…" He frowned. She was still rocking the boy, berating herself as though she'd left him to die in the desert of exposure. "Bulma!" Her head snapped around at the sound of her name. "He is nearly eight months old. If you leave him unattended, he will not shrivel up and die. He will simply crawl out of that cage bed you set him in and go looking for food himself. And he---" He raised the canister up to the brat's chubby grasping hand and the boy crowed with delight. "He needs to eat at each meal until he cannot move. Mostly red meat, now that his teeth are coming in. This is not a Chikyuu-jin child, woman. He is more durable than you can imagine. If you leave him in the desert alone, he will hunt and forage for his own food. If you toss him a hundred meters into the air, he will strike the ground, spit the sand out of his mouth and crawl away."

She stared at him blankly. Had she really been so isolated by Raditz and himself that she did not know all the ways that this child she had born was different from her race? "Oh," was all she said. Then her mind switched tracks in that quicksilver way he had become familiar with since taking her into his household. "Vegita," she said suddenly, all traces of the fluttery, cooing manner she'd shown toward the brat gone. "What would I have to do to be legally free? To make them accept me as your mate?"

"To be free, you only need prove yourself as strong as any of the most powerful of your enemies." An impossibility, in other words. "I still could not openly claim you as my mate. But I could take you as my free concubine, and you would no longer be a slave in my household."

"That's a start," she said slowly.

"To have my people accept you as their queen…" He frowned, considering. "I do not know. Perhaps if you did something that proved your blood to be the equal of mine in their eyes. But I cannot imagine what that would be. Something on the order of killing Frieza personally, I think."

Her eyes lit with a glint of something that would have struck fear in the heart of a lesser man, that made him fight to mask a grin of pride and a little awe as he tried to imagine what manner of construct she could possibly be contemplating.

"Really?" She said softly. "Is that all?"

He sometimes stood in amazement at the level of stupidity a man would have to descend to in order the think this woman weak.




He sent out a terse wave-com command for Kyouka to stand watch on her for the day. The moment the tall warrior cleared the threshold, he left her warbling over the brat, while she scribbled over one of her innumerable design pads furiously with her free hand. No one approached him as he headed out into the high desert alone.

Four hours later, he came burning back to the training grounds, dirty, dishelved and furious. He found Kakarott sparring with his mate and a dozen others…the whole pack of them against the boy. He stood in the air, angry and hot, watching Bardock's son hold back to keep from killing the warriors he was repetitively driving into man-sized craters in the earth, saw the familiar look of burning frustration. It was a look Vegita had worn in every training session since childhood, the same feeling he felt when sparring with…well, anyone.

Attaining the status of the Legendary would not help him or anyone else it he could not transform at will. And he had just spent the entire afternoon learning that he could not. Not yet. He had a sense that he needed both impetus and challenge. A slow grin curled one corner of his mouth. He had a fair idea that the change required not only straining himself to the limit of his power, then pushing beyond it. It also needed a kind of towering rage.

And Kakarott never failed to set his teeth on edge, though he couldn't say why specifically. He was a brave warrior, though not what one would call bright by any stretch of the imagination. He was also very probably, Vegita thought with an odd mix of something that was half jealousy and half eager anticipation, Vegita's match in strength in his unascended state.

The Super Saiyan gene…he bears it as well. And the rumors that Bardock had so blandly confirmed, of his son cold-cocking Frieza himself in a fit of rage…

He was perfect.

"Kakarott!" He called. Every warrior on the field froze in the air, staring.

Vegita had spent his entire life being the center of attention in any public arena, but this…this almost reverent fear would very probably begin to make his skin itch soon. Bardock's son sped to him, and Vegita found himself paradoxically annoyed that the younger man showed no hint of the trembling awe every other soldier was radiating. But then, the bone-head could barely remember to call him by his title at the best of times. Now he was… Vegita had to hunt for a name to put to the look the younger man was giving him.

He finally realized it was very like the expression the boy had worn when he'd told Mousrom's sons of their father's death at his hands. It had been difficult for Kakarott to grasp that both men were delighted to be shed of the domineering old bastard. The look was sympathy, condolence…something just an inch shy of pity. Vegita clenched his teeth to keep from snarling at the thought of Bardock's son feeling sorry for him. As though the fool could imagine how it would feel to see his father---

He pushed the away the thought, and the images that accompanied it wrapped in a shuddering wave of pain. He grinned mirthlessly as it occurred to him that he and Kakarott had yet to exchange one word, and already the younger man was making his blood boil. Perfect.

"Come with me," he said shortly.

He turned and sped out into the desert plains, not looking back to see if he was being followed. He could sense the other warrior's burning curiosity as they flew in silence for the better part of an hour. They landed finally in a cracked, parched strip of red earth.

"You will spar with me, " he said, noting the boy's look of dismay with a frown. "Or are you too afraid to battle the Legendary, even in training?" He had thought Kakarott's alien upbringing would give him greater resistance to the religious fear of the Super Saiyan.

"No!" Kakarott shook his head emphatically. He looked both frustrated and regretful. "I really, really want to spar with you. I have since you came to Yardrat-sei. But…"

"But?" Vegita snapped impatiently.

"My Toussan told me not to."

"Your---" Vegita's frown deepened in honest confusion. ""Why?"

Kakarott shrugged. "He just said not to…uh, Ouji-sama."

Vegita fought the urge to grind his teeth. "I am your Prince, Kakarott. When I give you a command, it supersedes the wishes of your father or anyone else!"

The boy thought about that, then shook his head. "My Toussan's not just anyone else. When he says don’t do something and you do anyway…Remember Arbatzu?"

Vegita remembered Arbatzu. His near death, near capture. Kakarott's rescue. He felt a black, deadly rage begin to smolder deep inside his chest. Was the boy reminding him of the men lost because of his decision or that he was beholden to Bardock's son for his life? No…there was neither slyness nor condemnation in those childlike eyes. Why the hell would Bardock forbid such a thing?

"I want to," Kakarott went on, almost to himself. "The only way I'll ever get stronger is by fighting someone stronger than me. And I want to get stronger." He met Vegita's eyes and the Prince felt an odd chill waft through him at the sudden flicker of sharp intelligence there. "I want to kill Frieza."

Vegita whipped forward and gripped the shoulder straps of the other man's armor, all patience lost. "I will kill Frieza, soldier! And you will obey me in this or I will beat you to death here and now!"

The boy stared at him for the tick of three seconds, his face suddenly a portrait of Saiyan inexpressiveness. Then he grabbed Vegita by his chest plate and jerked him forward, nose to nose. His habitually open face had drawn down into an ominous, tense frown. "You smell like Bulma."

Vegita was momentarily speechless at this sudden shift in mental gears.

"I can smell her all over you," Kakarott said darkly.

"The woman is not any concern of yours, Kakarott!" Vegita hissed, his Ki beginning to swell like wildfire in dry grass. "She is mine, not yours! If you value your life you will remember that!"

"She doesn't belong to you!" Kakarott snapped. "You can't own a person!

Don't talk about her like she's a thing you own!" The other boy was growling low in his chest, teeth bared. "You better not have hurt her!"

Vegita swung without thinking and drove the bigger warrior into the ground. Kakarott was up and on him in half a second. And they fought.

Full out, nothing barred or held in reserve, tearing up the dusty red earth below them and burning through the sky like warring comets. At some point, even through the screaming rage, Vegita felt himself begin to grin.

This was it! This was what he desperately needed, and what he had not had since childhood. A strong opponent to test his limits, to push him further, faster, higher. Kakarott wheeled around and cartwheeled over his head, pinning Vegita's arms to his sides from behind. The other boy wasn't grinning. He still seemed furious.

"I don't care how upset you were last night!" Kakarott rasped. "I don't care if you’re a Prince. I don't even care what my father says. If you made her do anything she didn't want to, I'll still kill you!" Vegita screamed, and the power flowed in with the mad rage and tore a hole through the roof of his Ki. He caught fire, blazing golden and brilliant. And he cried out again, striking the younger man down. The very thought that Kakarott would presume to call him to accounts for anything! That the bastard would think that Vegita had---! He raised his fist again and struck harder. Kakarott fought back like a four-tailed tornado, with every ounce of strength he possessed, but Vegita slowly beat him down. It took much longer than it should have. And for a brief second or two, Kakarott seemed to flare with his own golden aura and rise to meet his power blow for blow.

Then it was over.

Vegita stood beside Kakarott's heaving body, watching Bardock's son struggle to breathe through splintered ribs. Unbelievably, the boy began to chuckle painfully. "…that…what you wanted?"

"Yes," Vegita said softly.

Kakarott tried to push himself up and collapsed again onto his back. He met his Prince's eyes with another eerie gleam of that elusive intelligence. "I'm close too, you know."

Vegita nodded wordlessly, through gritted teeth. He hadn't been imagining things a moment ago. Kakarott was straining at the threshold of Super Saiyan, perhaps only inches behind himself. He felt another angry twist of jealousy lance through him. This was his, this godlike power. His alone! He had paid for it with the ransom of his father's blood!

"I think it's not just rage the breaks the barrier," the other boy murmured.

He tried to rise, and this time managed to sit up. "The times it's almost happened for me…One was when I met Frieza face to face. He had killed everybody I ever loved except Bulma, and then he hurt my Toussan and was about to kill Zarbon-san. And he thought it was all funny. And I just…"

"Snapped," Vegita whispered. He sank down to his knees beside the bigger warrior, powering down. The exhaustion hit him like a physical blow, all of yesterday's battle and last night's sleepless sweet labor rising up and pulling at his limbs and heart like a leaden weight.

"It happened later when my Toussan got hurt again," Kakarott went on softly, his eyes bright in his bloody, dirt-covered face. "For a second or two, I thought he was dead, and it was like I broke open inside and all this ---"

"---power came pouring out," Vegita finished the sentence with him. That was it. That was exactly how it had been.

"I think it has to be rage mixed with an equal amount of love that …sort of puts you over the top." Kakarott said thoughtfully. "At least at first. When you learn to control it, you'll probably be able to do it at will."

"You---" Vegita fought to keep his jaw from dropping open, as realization struck him. "You bastard…" He said wonderingly. "You said those things---"

"I know you wouldn't do something like that to Bulma," Kakarott said. "But she tears you up inside, doesn't she? Being in love's like a knife in the heart sometimes. To go Super Saiyan, I think something has to happen that just tears out your heart, rips it to pieces, and stomps up and down on what's left. Like your battle yesterday in a bad way. Or like Oneesan in a good way. I think that's why I haven't done it yet. I wasn't strong enough when the Ginyu men came to Chikyuu, or I'd have done it when they---when they set my world on fire. Since then…I love Anyan, but we can be together and be happy and nothing's complicated. And I haven't lost anyone I loved like you did yesterday." He said it so matter-of-factly, giving voice to feelings and griefs that were not his, that Vegita had to fight the urges to strike him again. "I'm gonna have to tell Toussan about this, but I bet he'll say it's okay now. I think---" He stopped.

Vegita narrowed his eyes. "You think what?"

"I think we weren't supposed to fight because it was important that you go Super Saiyan first. You'd have been really mad if you hadn't." Just like that. As though it was understood that he would do it one day. Vegita stared at him. The younger boy spoke as though there was no doubt in his mind. The insufferable, arrogant---

No. Kakarott had no arrogance, no ego. He had simply spoken the facts as he saw them. And he was right. He would have very probably gone insane with jealousy and hate for the boy is he had laid claim to Vegita's birthright first. Bardock had spoken truth again. Bastard.

"I want to train with you and get stronger," Kakarott said softly. "I--I'll go Super Saiyan when I have to." He shivered suddenly, as though the edges of his father's foresight had just brushed him. "I think that when I do, it'll have to be something as bad as yesterday was for you to push me over the edge. I'm scared of what that might be, Vegita…" He trailed off, and Vegita saw with a start of surprise that the boy's eyes were standing full of unshed tears. "But there needs to be two of us. Right now, they're taking all those thousands and thousands of Saiyans they have on Imsul and making them into mechs, and each one of them will be stronger than most of our warriors.

Toussan said they have five other people who are like you and me. People with the Super Saiyan gene. I bet they've already made them into Super Mechs too. When we attack Tsiru-sei, those five Super Mechs will be waiting for us---and all the thousands of others too. And Frieza himself.

You won't be able to be in two places at once, or fight the Super Mechs and Frieza at the same time. I have to be Super Saiyan to hold off the Super Mechs while you take care of Frieza."

Vegita glared at him for a long moment. His face did not change or reflect any of the torrential storm of conflicting impulse and emotion raging inside him. Duty warring with pride and raging ire at having been told so succinctly how things must be by this---this block-head. Only he wasn't a fool all the time, was he? Just as his father was not merely a clever, strong soldier. Do what must be done…the echo of his father's voice in his mind.

Duty, boy! Before pride and self and your own life if need be! Do what must be done to win!

"You will train with me," Vegita said finally. It was as close as he could come to voicing his agreement that the younger man must achieve all that he had accomplished as well of they were to win. The words simply stuck in his throat.

"Can we train in your gravity dome, the one Bulma built?" Kakarott's voice broke through his thoughts. He was on his feet now. The bright spark of insight that possessed the boy from time to time was absent now.

"We can do nothing more today," Vegita said irritably, watching the boy's battered face drop like a disappointed child's. "If you die, I will have to find another training partner."

"But I'm better now---"

"You will obey me, Kakarott!" Vegita said angrily. "Do not test my patience further."

Kakarott blinked. "I thought that's why you wanted me to spar with you in the first place. Because I'm really strong, and I make you really mad for some reason. Like how you thought Oneesan was my girlfriend at first, and got mad whenever I talked to her? Remember? Are you and Bulma going to get married? I'm glad she loves you! She was so sad when Nissan died, so it's good that---Hey! If you and Bulma get married, can I call you Nissan? You kind of would be if---"

"Kakarott, shut up!" Vegita thundered, making the other boy jump.

"I guess not," Kakarott said with a sheepish grin. Then he sobered abruptly. "But you better be good to her," he said flatly.

"Bulma," Vegita grated, feeling his blood beginning to rise again. "Is not your business."

"Yes she is," Kakarott said quietly. "Was that the first time you ever did that with a girl?"


"I thought so. When you're with someone like that, everything you feel for them gets…bigger and more afterwards. If you talk mean to her or all snotty like you do sometimes, it'll hurt her a lot worse now. She would never have let you have her if she didn't really love you, so you better not just treat her like she's a thing you own and that you can do or say whatever you want to. If you do, she'll end up hating you."

Vegita struck him, sending him skidding a hundred meters down the length of a man-sized furrow in the ground. He leapt forward, snarling with anger, and set his foot on the boy's injured chest. "If you ever say anything like that to me again, I will kill you, and all our needs for a second Super Saiyan be damned!" He was trembling, gazing down at the amber glow surrounding his body. He had done it again, gone Super Saiyan without even thinking about it. He released the power and sagged, nearly losing consciousness as he sank to the ground.

Kakarott smiled up at him, guileless and warm through bleeding lips.

"I wasn't sure before today if you really loved her, or just wanted her real bad," his breath rattled shallowly in his chest, and he spat red. "But she's…she's what triggered your jump to Super Saiyan both times today. That's how much you care…all the way down to the center of your soul." The boy nodded weakly. "You're good enough for her. You're not a nice man. But you're a good man." Kakarott turned his head slightly, directing his fading consciousness at the western horizon. "Uh-oh…Toussan's coming. I think---I think we're both in trouble." He passed out.

Vegita teetered to one side, feeling the on-coming blips of a dozen Ki's rushing toward them. It suddenly struck him that his woman might be less than pleased with this afternoon's work, and he grinned faintly. His woman.

All the way down to the center of your soul…

He fell on his back, unconscious.

* * * * *

Table of Contents
Chapter 3
Chapter 5