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A Dragonball Z fanfic
by Latin_D

DISCLAIMER: Akira Toriyama and Toei Animation own DRAGONBALL Z. No copyright infringement is intended.  C&C desperately needed.

The last lonely stars silently faded out, as the world readied itself for a new autumnal day. The darkness receded, long shadows lingering with obstinacy on every rock and tree, and nature dressed up in smoldering reds and ancient golds as it impatiently waited for the sun's arrival. Out of the shadow cast by an old, barren oak, like a wraith, he came.

Walking slowly across the dark green slopes, the old man stood out in the pale light, his steps secure and his deportment proud, almost regal. Only his gray hair betrayed his advanced age, for his body was still fit and healthy, primed for battle. And though his eyes were old and tired, and his gaze had lost most of its once distinctive belligerence, a hard, savage glint lived on in their depths.

Following some unheard order, he halted his advance. A signal was sent then, subtle and powerful at the same time. Tilting his head back, he serenely regarded the deep blue sky and the small, purple clouds.

"I'm here, Kakkarot," he whispered to himself, his breath steaming in the cool morning. "Don't keep me waiting."

Dried leaves rustled wildly in response to a sudden gust of wind, and the first ray of sunlight lit the peaceful clearing.

Vegeta gazed at the beloved specter, and his chest tightened. Bulma's face was wrinkled, the years having taken their toll on her once stunning features. However, in her eyes, her soul still burned fiercely, untamed; in them, he saw his own past.

Her frail form rested unmoving on the large bed, pale arms inert at her sides, her ashen skin contrasting against the blue sheets. She was a ghost, a mere memory of the strong, vital woman he had accepted as his lifelong companion.

Many people stood around the bed; some were relatives, even more were friends. Kakkarot was there, holding his mate and smiling vacantly in a foolish attempt to calm the stupid woman. Death had long since lost much of its meaning to him. How could you grieve the departure of a loved one when you yourself had spent decades in the afterworld? Idiot. He didn't understand…

Kakkarot's child, Gohan, was also among those present, next to his human mate. Any other day, Vegeta would have sneered at the sight of the bespectacled Saiyan. Gohan, who had once been the most powerful of his kin, a prodigy by his own right, stood serene now, domesticated and docile. How he was able to ignore the call for battle, Vegeta would never know. Unforgivable.

More familiar faces milled around. His children, both holding one of their mother's hands in their own. Trunks was crying, Vegeta noted with disgust. Was his son not a warrior? A member of the strongest race? Bra was a woman; it was different. His grandchildren were behind them… Human brats, with little spirit in their bodies.

Over one of the corners of the room, Krillin waited. The strongest human was bald once again, not by choice, but because of the overwhelming force of time. His sad eyes were fixed on Bulma, and he leaned slightly against his never-aging wife. Pathetic.

And in the middle of it all, Vegeta saw the woman who would have been his wife, too tired to walk, struggling at the brink of death. Suddenly, with a barely perceptible wave of her hand, she beckoned him over the bed, and, grudgingly, he complied.

"You can go now, Vegeta," she breathed, her voice a shaky whisper. "I know how much you hate these things." She smiled.

"Bulma, I—"

"It's okay; don't worry. I'll be fine, you'll see." Bulma closed her eyes, and continued in a tone so soft only Vegeta could have heard, "Thank you."

Vegeta felt his eyes moistening, and rushed out the room before anyone could notice.

The old warrior waited, his arms crossed across his chest, ignoring the subtle aroma of dried nature permeating the breeze, disregarding the dawn, which bathed him in eerie, cold light. It can't be long, he thought. Right at that moment, something pulled at his senses, and he spun around, witnessing his oldest rival materializing before his eyes.

Touching his forehead with two strong fingers, Kakkarot teleported through thousands upon thousands of miles by sheer will and concentration. At first, only a blurred outline of his lean body could be seen, but in mere instants the transition was completed, and where once there was air, now a man stood. A crackling noise reached Vegeta's ears as Kakkarot's black boots crunched the multitude of yellow and orange leaves that covered the grass.

Another awesome technique Kakkarot had somehow mastered; another display of his prowess. Another insult to Vegeta's heritage.

"Finally." Vegeta took some pleasure in the fact that, for once, there was no grin in Kakkarot's face.

"What're you doing, Vegeta?" Kakkarot asked, puzzled. "What'd you want?"

"You know what I want," Vegeta snarled, "what I demand: a fight."

"But why? I haven't seen you in days, since—"

"Because," Vegeta cut in, scowling at him, "I'm a warrior, and I'll be one 'til the day I die. Nothing will change that, nothing!" His eyes shone an unnatural red, his teeth baring as his heels dug deep in the earth.  "Now FIGHT!"

White, blinding fire ignited around Vegeta's small body, and he sprang at the surprised Kakkarot like an implacable tiger at its hopeless prey. The fight began.

He glared at the sterile wall in front of him, hearing the old wooden clock hanging from one of the walls at the far end of the corridor as it clicked incessantly, signaling the seconds that slowly went by. It was driving him insane.

Doctors and nurses swarmed down the hall, moving with a level of chaotic coordination worthy of the puny ants they represented in his mind. Patients traveled past his eyes on some occasions, too, all of them resting in swift gurneys, either going towards or coming from surgery—humans were so fragile. A faint scent of antiseptics pervaded the air, making him feel uneasy, and he anxiously clenched his hands.

Where was Bulma? More than one hour in there, and still no news of her. What was going on? His patience was running thin, and it had not been one of his stronger traits in the first place. Bulma's mother chattered with a stranger at his right, and her father played with his newest gadget at his left. Oh, if he weren't the only one capable of repairing his ship…

Through the constant clamor, unabashed by the crowd's noise, the clock's ticking reached his ears. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click… The bell suddenly rang loudly, indicating the beginning of a new hour. It proved too much for the Saiyan warrior, though.

Vegeta jumped up to his feet, letting loose a guttural growl from deep within his throat. A small ki-blast quickly disposed of the bothersome wall clock, reducing it to dust in a mere second and leaving a sizeable hole in the concrete behind. Then, extending one of his hands, he grabbed an unlucky nurse who happened to pass by the hem of his shirt, and lifted him up, his own eyes locked into the other man's.

"You have exactly," Vegeta growled, his voice low and dangerous, "one second to get into that room and find out what's going on, human, or I'll destroy this hospital and the whole wretched city around it. Understood?" Seeing the nurse, who couldn't be older than thirty, nodding vigorously, the Saiyan prince let him go. "Now go!"

"Y-y-yes," the young man stuttered, trying to steady his shaky legs while keeping his eyes on Vegeta and backing towards the room's door, "I-I'm go-going…"

At that moment, the door swung open, and out came a man wearing a white lab coat. Vegeta immediately shoved the nurse aside, forcefully throwing him to the floor, and rushed up to the doctor.

"Where is she?" Vegeta demanded.

Wide-eyed, the doctor hastened to reply, "Inside; she's resting. Everything went fi—" He saw Vegeta hurrying past him, and called after him, "Hey, you can't—"

Vegeta stopped his advance, and turned his head around. "I can't?" His eyes flashed angrily, sending the doctor scuttling away. Vegeta snorted.

The room was mostly deserted; only a nurse could be seen, cleaning, rearranging and generally preparing it for when it was next needed. Equipment hang on the powder blue walls or rested on console tables, most of it disconnected or inactive; instruments lay atop worktables of stainless steel, ominous in their varied shapes and forms. Soft yellow light filtered through a window to his right, filling the area in a dusky glow.

Only a very small part of his mind noticed all this, though, as he found himself entranced by the scene unfolding before him. Bulma sat on her bed, white and blue blankets covering her legs up to her waist, her back against the headboard. Cradled in her arms, slowly being rocked back and forth as he slept peacefully, was a tiny child—an infant.

His son.

He basked on the sight for an instant, careful not to disturb the moment, but his eyes informed him of a very important fact.

"What's this, woman?!" Vegeta exploded, wildly swinging his arms around. The fact that Bulma hadn't been startled further angered him, as it reminded him of the power she held over him. "All Saiyans have dark hair! How's this possible?!"

"Shhh." Bulma didn't look surprised at his outburst, almost as if she were expecting it. "You're gonna wake him up. Who cares about his hair color, anyway?" She gazed down at the baby's rosy, innocent face, and at the sparsely distributed silver curls that framed it, and grinned slightly. "He's beautiful. In fact, I know he'll grow up to be a real lady killer."

"He's not a true Saiyan…" Vegeta trailed off as she nodded to him to come closer. However, she could hear him still cursing under his breath when he finally approached the bed.

"Here," she said, handing her lover the baby. "He's all yours, tough boy."

"Wha—?!" Taken off guard, Vegeta reflexively took his son in his arms, his usual bravado forgotten in the unreality of the situation. "B-but I never—I mean, I don't know how to—"

Bulma smirked mischievously. "Just don't drop him to the floor and everything should be just fine."

Vegeta held the child in his strong arms with exaggerated gentleness, feeling awkward and ridiculous. What was he doing there? He was a member of the nobility, a prince, not a blasted nursemaid! However, as he felt the unbelievably light weight and the comforting warmth of his son's frail body against his skin, he found it impossible to get angry with him. The babe closed his hands, chubby fingers forming a small fist. Hardly one befitting a powerful fighter, but that would change, Vegeta decided mutely. That would change.

He heard Bulma's parents entering the room, and quickly gave the baby back to his mother. She took him wordlessly, but Vegeta could see the mirth in her eyes. He would get her for this…

Vegeta whirled around, moving towards the window as he ignored the old couple fussing over their grandson. Thus, no one noticed the proud, crooked smile that formed in his face, and he hurried to erase any trace of it.

Blow after blow rained mercilessly on Kakkarot's unprepared body. Each one of them struck with the strength of a meteor, bolides containing enough kinetic force to obliterate a mountain. That a life form could deliver them was amazing; that another could withstand them was humbling.

But every being in the universe has limits, and Kakkarot was not the exception. He had been caught off his guard by the vicious attack, and Vegeta hadn't given him the time to regain his balance. Maybe it could have ended there, and victory would have finally been Vegeta's.

But that's not what he desired—not that time.

With a final devastating punch to Kakkarot's gut, Vegeta stopped his onrush, and let his fists hang tensely at his sides, his sight fixed on his enemy. Kakkarot flew uncontrolled towards a nearby small timberland, buzzing over the grassland, and crashed against one of the old trees with a thunderous crash. Splinters shot like darts as the colossal tower of wood was rendered apart, unable to stop Kakkarot's momentum, and he flew on, leaving a clear path of destruction through the forest as dozens of trees toppled like thin, skeletal twigs. A deafening boom rent the air as the old Saiyan met the ground at last, and a dense cloud of dust rose in answer, obscuring the land from the yet tentative, weak rays of the cold sun. Brown-gold leaves loosened, their withered, frail bodies falling crumbling, the pieces scattering into the winds in short-lived spirals.

Kakkarot lay in the center of a vast crater, half-buried by a thick layer of soil. The old Saiyan made no move for a few moments, his head turned to the side and his eyes closed, like in deep slumber. Then he stirred, and his eyes snapped open as anger narrowed his brow.

The inferior peasant hadn't even deigned to bleed, Vegeta noticed almost clinically. The usual rage was subdued, and the sight of his recovering opponent only caused him to shiver slightly as the long-familiar thrill of battle ran through his body. His heart sang loudly, preparing itself for the trials to come.

With the simplicity of those who are not bound to the earth any more, the few chosen whose spirits gave them what nature herself had denied, Vegeta rose into the air, feet rigid and unmoving, as if they were still pressed on the hard, packed ground. In mere seconds he hovered dozens of meters over the battleground, waiting. The breeze picked up, almost continuous now, and his dark hair trembled wildly in excitement. A few stray locks came to rest over his face, momentarily blocking his vision. He ignored them, though, infinitely confident in his other senses. Focusing in his adversary's ki, in the minuscule paths of energy outspread through the lowborn warrior's body, he could perceive his every movement—see without seeing. He felt him slowly rising to his feet, then looking up and staring at him. Kakkarot's ki fluctuated and grew, leaving the deceitful limits of the flesh and expanding. Tendrils of energy, invisible for all practical purposes, reached out almost hesitantly and pushed outwards in a process that required more skill than brute force. Vegeta guessed more than saw the inscrutable bubble of sheer whiteness surrounding Kakkarot as he gracefully took to the air, when a light puff of air finally moved the offending forelocks away.

Poised in the air, Kakkarot mirrored his own stance, his features grimly set. "Okay, Vegeta," he conceded, "we'll fight. But then we'll talk."

Vegeta shook his head. "There'll be no 'then', Kakkarot." His back arched painfully as his blood boiled, and he crossed his arms over his chest; his lungs were unbearably hot, and he felt every breath as it coursed along his throat, scalding. Beautiful warmth, holy fire. "I'll make sure of it!" he yelled, snapping his arms to the side. A sonic boom ripped the morning, and Vegeta relaxed at last, straightening his body. Kakkarot regarded him with a mixture of wonderment and concern, yet he kept quiet.

One last moment of quietude, and the storm was unleashed.

He wearily opened his eyes, and a bright blue-green world filled his vision. It took Vegeta an entire minute of looking at the amorphous bubbles dragging through the gelatinous substance that surrounded him to realize that he had woken up in one of the regeneration tanks Bulma's father had built for him. Again.

Judging from the lack of pain, he concluded he must have been unconscious for a long while—that his fingers had wrinkled was another clue. He felt the warm thick gel against his skin, soothing and calming, and closing his eyes again he wondered how he had arrived to the tank. The last thing he remembered was lying on the gravity room's floor, not able to muster the strength necessary to turn off the machine. Four hundred times the gravity of Earth was still too much for his body to handle, but it was only a matter of time. Every passing day he felt nearer to his ultimate goal; he would become a Super Saiyan yet. And then, he would find Kakkarot.

Vegeta checked his body, moving his arms and legs around as far as the small chamber let him. He couldn't sense anything wrong, not even the slightest hurting; the regeneration tank had done its job. Looking out the high strength clear polycarbonate that the cylindrical vessel's wall was made of, he noticed that there appeared to be no one in the lab at the time. It was strange; both Bulma and her father spent most of their time in it, and he was used to finding the scientists working in this or the other every time he needed to use the tank. And the annoying girl, of course, never missed an opportunity to pester him, ranting about how obsessed and narrow-minded Vegeta was, and how he probably had a death wish to be overexerting himself like that, and that one of these days he would kill himself… Nonsense.

He pressed the push button installed at the top of the tube, and reached behind his head, undoing the clasp that held the respirator in place. The thick fluid slowly retreated downwards, and the transparent cylinder opened with a soft hiss. He rose to his feet, putting the mouthpiece aside, and his eyebrows arched when he glanced down at his body. He was naked, he discovered, unconcerned. Who could have undressed him? Immediately dismissing the thought as unimportant, he headed for the bathroom, the dripping gel leaving a clear trail behind him.

A quick shower later, he donned one of his numerous blue and white training suits, its elastic material clinging to his skin. He had made Briefs create many of those, as despite their incredible durability and extraordinary properties, they frequently weren't able to resist his practice sessions, for some reason. The automated attack drones were a joke, after all. Inwardly grinning, he left the bathroom, and walked down the hall towards the mansion's main entrance. Capsule Corp. was the most powerful business organization of the Earth, and though the manufacturing plants were distributed all over the world, most of the research was still carried in Bulma's own house—thus the imposing size of the house. That was the main reason he had insisted in having the gravity room placed outside the house; he wanted to avoid all kinds of distractions. Plus, it meant he didn't have to see the irritating old couple.

He was about to open the large doors when a demanding voice stopped him short.

"Where do you think you're going, mister?" Bulma asked, and Vegeta heard the angry note in her voice. What was it this time?

"Leave me alone, woman," he grumbled, thinking that perhaps if he ignored her she would go away. "I don't have time for this." He was wrong.

"Well, guess what?" She quickly moved around him, putting herself between Vegeta and the door. "I won't leave you alone, and if you think I'm gonna let you go to that darned room again, you're way, way wrong, buddy!" She folded her arms defiantly.

Vegeta frowned, and said, in a dangerous, low tone, "If you have any regard for your life, you'll move. Now."

"No, I won't!" Bulma declared, undaunted. "I'm not going to drag your unconscious, half-dead, and very heavy body again to the recovery tank, you thick-headed, obtuse jerk! One time was more than enough!"

"You took me to the lab?" Vegeta asked, surprised but keeping his cool. "All by yourself?"

"Yes!" she responded hotly.

"So," he began, a knowing smirk spreading over his usually stony features, "you were the one that stripped me, weren't you?"

Bulma's eyes widened as she realized her mistake. "Er… um… sorta, kinda." she stammered, blushing mightily. "I mean, I kept my eyes closed, and the healing is faster when the skin isn't covered, and I thought that—" She cut herself short when he noticed the self-satisfied look in the young Saiyan's face.

Vegeta raised his chin smugly, crossing his own broad arms in defiance. He didn't bother to hide his amusement as Bulma's face reddened even further, this time in indignation. After a second, though, Vegeta worriedly saw how she abruptly relaxed her posture, a sly grin appearing her face, and her eyes glinted dangerously. A lesser man would have shuddered.

"I don't know," she assured, "what you're so happy about. After all, there wasn't much to see." She closed her eyes, prepared for the outburst sure to come. She wasn't disappointed.

"WHAT DID YOU SAY?!" Vegeta exploded. Bulma could swear she saw a faint red aura surrounding his body.

"I mean," she continued, pleased with his reaction, "I think I'll have nightmares about it." She brought a hand to her mouth, rubbing it in mock-rumination. "Maybe I should make an appointment with a psychologist; you know, to help me get over this terrible experience…"

Now the aura was plain visible, crimson flames flaring wrathfully around the enraged warrior. "ONE MORE WORD AND I'LL SWEAR I'LL DESTROY THIS WHOLE DAMNED PLA—"

"Oh, shush." Bulma put a finger to his lips, giggling quietly. Vegeta's anger deflated like a burst balloon, but he kept scowling at her. "You're so fun to tease." She took a step backwards, and examined him critically. "To tell the truth, your body isn't half-bad. I mean, sure, you're short—a midget, compared to most people—"


She raised a placating hand, interrupting him again. "Let me finish, okay? Jeez," she muttered, shaking her head, "Saiyans these days… Anyway, despite that, I think you're cute. Handsome, even. Your personality, however, leaves a lot to be desired."

"I don't have to hear this crap! Out of my way!" he commanded loudly, but Bulma remained impassive.

"If you only opened yourself a bit more, and stopped being such an insensitive, rude idiot…"

"SHUT UP!" Vegeta yelled, feeling the beginnings of a headache forming. He pinched the bridge of his nose, and then asked, "What do I have to do to get rid of you?"

"You can't," she answered matter-of-factly. "As I was saying, I guess you could find a girl out there willing to overlook all those enormous flaws you have—but she'll have to be deaf, 'cause you sure are loud when you speak. Now, I have some friends…"

Uttering a roaring growl of frustration, he threw his arms to the air in frustration. "If you can't be quiet, woman," he said at length, grabbing both sides of her head with his strong hands, "then I'll have to silence you myself!"

And with that, he kissed her.

"Mmmph! Mmphh! Mmmm…"

They both rushed forward at the same moment, flying with such swiftness and lethality that they could have been confused with giant birds of prey. Their fists met, the impact driving both combatants back, but they wasted no time to unleash new attacks. With awe-inspiring speed, they roamed the skies, trading blows ceaselessly. Flurries of punches were dodged with ease, and counterattacks were evaded. One of Vegeta's kicks finally slipped past Kakkarot's defenses, but he ignored the pain, grabbing the outstretched leg, and hurled Vegeta to the ground below. The Saiyan prince recovered himself in time to avoid the collision, but when he looked back at the place where Kakkarot had been, he found it empty.

A sudden peak of energy and a blurred image at the corner of his eye was all the warning he got. He hurtled himself forward at full speed, cursing himself for his inattention, and felt the heat of the massive ki-blast as it went past him, missing his back by millimeters. Hearing the thunderous explosion as it crashed against the forest at his back, he scanned the sky in the direction the blast had come from. Kakkarot was there, his hands cupped at his side enclosing a ball of blinding light. The ball grew abruptly in size, the energy seemingly seeping out from between Kakkarot's fingers as if trying to escape from his control. Vegeta hastily prepared his own attack, gathering his ki in the palms of his hands, when Kakkarot shouted his trademarked war cry. Vegeta saw the large ki-blast howling in his direction, unstoppable, and hurried to shoot the energy he had garnered, hoping against hope it would be enough.

Twin towers of fire clashed, fighting for dominance as their masters poured their life forces in them.
Kakkarot's preparation paid off, though, and Vegeta found himself slowly pushed back. He sweated under the enormous strain, and his arms trembled. Desperate, Vegeta called for his innermost reserves; he wouldn't lose, damn it. Not that day. For a moment, it seemed to work, and he saw his foe being driven back by the onslaught. However, it wouldn't last, and soon Vegeta felt his strengths faltering. Step by step, Kakkarot's attack gained ground, till Vegeta could sense the red heat of Kakkarot's ki against his hands, indomitable like a force of nature.

A primal, uncontrolled rage seized him then, and his mind raced with thousands of irrelevant memories of pain, regret, and fury. Amidst the confusion, his body mutated, and although only a few changes were noticeable in his outer shell, his core was far more corrupted. Liquid fire now flowed in his veins, his heart a large furnace which warmed his whole being. His eyes, once dark and full of emotion, were now deep blue pools, cold and calculating—and yet equally menacing. Wildly dancing and standing erect, his hair was no longer gray, but instead a clear blond which easily lost itself with the golden aura that pulsated around the warrior. This was the power he had for so long sought, the one that was his right. And yet, in those moments of rare reflection and nostalgia, he feared it. Because this was the power that had destroyed his planet, and slew friends and family alike. No one should be so powerful, no one. Not even him.

Vegeta let his arms hang at his sides, and Kakkarot's attack, free of barriers to stop its advance, sped
forward. He made no movement to defend himself, and just stared ahead with an almost bored expression in his face, as if he were watching an inoffensive, yet pesky bug. The blast rammed into him like a freight train, a loud explosion rattling the morning, and the outpouring of energy continued for many a second. When the air finally cleared, the wind taking with it the dust, Vegeta hovered impassively, wholly unharmed.

Kakkarot nodded, his face serious. Vegeta saw his race's prodigy transforming, much like he had moments before, and marveled at the power of the Saiyan. Kakkarot's eyes went blank, and Vegeta knew the rage owned him now. His opponent's golden mane swaying erratically behind him and a pair of blue-green eyes staring back sent a shiver through Vegeta's body. Finally.

"This time for real, Kakkarot?" Vegeta called, his voice relaxed.

"This time for real," Kakkarot agreed.

Starflame erupted from their bodies, engulfing them completely as they prepared for the incoming duel. Slowly, the energy was reabsorbed, to be focused immediately in their hands. They adopted the same position, lowered hands cupped and bodies slightly bent to a side, as if lost in some deathly dance. They yelled their challenges together, but their voices were lost in the uproar of their attacks. Golden energy collided, blue air forgotten in the background. For whole minutes both combatants threw all they had in the blasts, and Vegeta felt his winning. He smiled then, a full genuine smile.

"Thanks, Goku," he breathed through his exertions, and then his hair grayed again.

Vegeta felt Kakkarot's ki enveloping his body, and the world turned white. He couldn't hear nor feel anything; all he could see was the purest whiteness, omnipresent and calming at the same time. And then he sensed two strong arms holding him, and his body exploded with pain. His vision cleared, too, and the first things he saw were Kakkarot's dark eyes over him. He looked down, and noticed his chest and arms were covered in dark blood, his outfit having disappeared. He grimaced as Kakkarot set him on the ground, the cold grass chilling his bare back.

Kakkarot shook his head, and Vegeta knew the reason. His body was broken. Probably nothing could be done to save him. And Kakkarot was sure his stubborn rival wouldn't let himself be saved. Vegeta allowed himself the feeling of accomplishment sweep over him. It had been a good fight.

"Vegeta…" Kakkarot's face was stricken with sadness as he gently held Vegeta's head upright.

"Y-You a-always were a s-sentimental fool," he growled softly. He coughed violently, spitting thick glob of blood. Kakkarot's eyes watered, and Vegeta glared at him, albeit with none of the old scorn. "T-this w-was not our l-last fight."

Kakkarot nodded solemnly, and Vegeta closed his eyes.

"Farewell," Kakkarot whispered, "Vegeta, King of the Saiyan." He closed his eyes, and let his head rest against his chest.

With a last blast of wind, a tree shook loose its last brittle brown leaf, twirling away from the forlorn and
gnarled old oak.


The End.

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