All Along It Was A Fever
Bulma widened her eyes as Vegeta's mouth crashed ferociously onto hers.
She didn't know what was going on – one minute, they were trading insults and abuse and the next, Vegeta had lunged for her, tugging at her hair, pulling her head forward and – she barely had had the time to register the faint pain in her scalp – he was kissing her.
And she –
She closed her eyes shut and went with it.
A hand raised instinctively, on its own accord, to touch him, palm flat on his chest, holding him back just slightly, but her head tilted backwards nevertheless and her mouth opened to Vegeta's aggressive tongue.
His kiss was hard, unrelenting – scarily different from anything she had ever experienced before. He was holding her lower lip between his teeth, pressing down on it and Bulma feared he was going to bite it off, but amazingly she did not care – she let the hand she had on his chest slide around his back, holding him, squeezing him, and she fought to keep up with the fierce strokes of his tongue, struggling, kissing and biting and a fire mounted in her belly, scorching hot – it was barely comfortable, barely tolerable, it was too much.
She turned her head to the side, breaking off the kiss, breathing hard through her dilated nostrils.
She could walk away now – slap him hard for the violation of her personal space and run to her room – locking her door – she could hide forever in her bed, she could disappear forever under the blankets that would forever protect her. She could –
"Vegeta, what –
Her words were cut off by another rough kiss and she couldn't think clearly enough to remember what she was going to say to escape. She moaned wordlessly against his mouth, like an animal's call, and she let go of her self-restraint, she just went with what was happening in a weird, disconnected way – almost as though she was looking at the scene from the outside.
The two figures by the broken mirror, enveloped into each other – Vegeta's wild hair recognizable from miles away, the way she had always been able to recognize him from miles away – and his head was bent on the blue-haired woman's collarbone and Bulma knew that the woman could feel his breath hot on her white skin, and she was breathing harder in turn.
Without realizing it, without even wanting to, she removed his shirt and she saw his dark naked skin, so different – so different - dappled with bruises and scars and scratches – and she paused at the sight. She knew his dark eyes were averting her presence, they were fixed on the wall behind her head, but she could hear his harsh breathing and for a moment she thought she could feel his heart beating.
She moved her lips over his skin and kissed every single scratch and scar, the way she wanted someone to kiss her own scars – except the one she carried were invisible. Aching and invisible and they probably would never heal – she would never look at him with longing, or fantasize about him, ever again – she could lock Goku in her heart and never let him out, not even to look at him – but she could never forget. There was nothing she could do about her own scars – but, at the moment, she could kiss Vegeta's bruises.
So she did, slowly, with excruciating care, she felt his taste and his skin.
She heard Vegeta grunt, she pictured his eyes going wide and then fluttering shut. She looked up and she had been right – she felt a cold shiver ran across her spine, so deep that her bones rattled –
"Bedroom," she murmured, her voice leaving her throat in a halting, breathy sigh and Vegeta's dark eyes opened to meet hers for a split, burning second. And for whatever the reason they sank deep, breaking her soul in half.
Vegeta sat on the edge of his bed as Bulma closed the door silently and walked to stand between his legs.
Her fierce blue eyes sparkling through the darkness and the only sound was her audible, quivering breath – he raised an arm and slid a hand on her back, under her white shirt. He felt her skin under his calloused palms and it was like glass – he had never imagined it, and now he knew it felt smooth and cool to the touch, and delicate and almost – perfect. And immediately, he hated himself for the thought.
He turned his head, looking away – but Bulma was already undoing the buttons of her shirt. She shrugged it off, then she slowly lowered her panties – she stood naked between his legs.
Vegeta could feel the faint scent she emanated, an alluring fragrance he didn't know – and he turned to gaze at her naked body, his face set in a mask that revealed nothing as he investigated her. Bulma smirked and she reached out, running a thumb across his cheek.
"What is it," she said. Not a question, not a statement. "Are you already sorry you came to me?"
– and that spark of lively spirit was enough to ignite again Vegeta's bones – in a flurry of movements, Bulma found herself pinned down on the bed by Vegeta's weight.
"Shut up," he grunted, his breathing fanning heavily on her face and Bulma sent him a small, sly smile.
"Make me," she said, defiantly, her eyes burning and churning, and she arched her hips in a silent invitation – Vegeta's face was a stony mask she couldn't read. But she could see his black eyes narrowing – then he lowered his head and started to kiss her breasts and Bulma stared at the ceiling, biting hard on her lower lip – he worked his way downwards and she scrunched the sheets in her fists, shivering – she closed her eyes as tight as she could –
Time lapsed and what seemed like a moment later he pushed into her, hard – she wasn't bracing herself and she yelled so loud that he clapped a hand against her mouth, muffling her cries with his fingers, and he slammed his hips forward again – she was sinking beneath him, she tilted her head back as a muffled moan escaped her throat – he could probably snap her in half, he could shatter her like glass, but she didn't care. She wanted him to – she kept her eyes shut the whole time as she felt him move back and forth, as she felt his heat and his sweat, as they rolled between the sheets knocking bones together, but nothing hurt – Bulma wasn't there. She was floating, watching as the two figures struggled against each other in a tumultuous meeting of battered souls and bodies, nasty and magnificent all at once – trying to prove to themselves that they were alive.
She opened her eyes for a moment, but his expression was still unreadable – she grabbed a fistful of his hair and kissed him forcefully, and Vegeta answered by grabbing the back of the headboard and slamming into her with more strength than ever and she cried out but nothing hurt, nothing hurt – everything was nasty and magnificent at once, and she spread her legs wider and he did it again and again and again...
The next time Bulma opened her eyes the soft blue and grey light of the impending dawn was already making its way through the window and it was unusually cold – she wasn't entirely sure of where she was.
She stretched her arms and her legs, stretching and stretching until they hurt in a pleasant way – she let out a big breath and sat up.
She was alone in that bed with the navy blue sheets that didn't belong to her. Technically they did, but no – that wasn't her bed, it wasn't her room and Vegeta was nowhere to be seen. Well – she thought, as she fully woke up – it wasn't like she didn't expect it. And it wasn't like she didn't know where he could be, anyway.
She got out of the bed and struggled for a moment to find her clothes, her white shirt that was too big and her panties – then she quickly got dressed and left Vegeta's room while it was still early enough and her parents were still sound asleep.
She started to walk at normal, slow pace – it was an ordinary morning. She walked by the bathroom and its mercifully closed door, and her pace quickened, she walked past the gravity room and didn't hear the familiar buzz that told her someone was using it.
So Vegeta wasn't there as she was expecting. He had disappeared – wasn't that convenient as hell.
Bulma started to run. She ran and ran, she skidded past the corner that led to the staircase, she ran up the flight of stairs, she banged the door of her room open, she stalked to her bathroom and puked violently, delivering herself of the lingering taste of Vegeta, of the hot sensation of his lips against hers – thinking how the hell her life had gotten to that point.
Everything had been so blissful and luminous just a couple of months ago – now everything was disrupted. And the all-time low had been reached – Vegeta picking her up from the floor.
Sex with Vegeta. And not just some sex – a powerful experience that resembled a tempest. Kami, what was wrong with her?
Bulma heaved one last time, painfully, then she wearily flushed the toilet and stood up. It was done. There was no coming back, not really – once again she had to cope with her horrifying deeds, to live with her awful decisions – maybe she wasn't cursed, maybe she really was a bad person, a malignant entity sent on Earth to wreak havoc – worse than Frieza. Everybody used to tell her so – maybe there was some truth to it.
She splashed some cold water on her face, not looking at her reflection in the mirror, trying to rein in the panic attack she felt was coming – she stumbled in her room and with trembling fingers she lit up a cigarette at the fourth try – when she was finally able to take a long, soothing drag she thought that maybe the worse was over , she exhaled and let the nicotine eat away the edge of the anxiety she was feeling – when she saw the smoke curling up against the ceiling she broke in half.
A sharp snap and Bulma was in pieces. Horrified, she crushed the cigarette in the ashtray on her desk, she ran to the toilet just in time to dry heave again, the senseless panic taking a firm grasp on her whole being, making it impossible for her to breathe – she went to bed and curled up, shivering in exhaustion. The crazy thought that it was raining in her bedroom crossed her mind – but then it was obvious – tears. Tears falling in a sluggish flow, soaking the pillowcase that felt cool beneath her cheek.
Maybe it had all been a nightmare? Hopefully? There was a slight possibility that she would wake up and be sixteen and there was no dragon ball waiting for her in the basement, right?
She laughed mirthlessly and sniffled as the tears kept going steadily.
She felt so sad and empty she was paralyzed. Paralyzed with despair. For a moment last night she had been alive – now she couldn't get up. She could not get out of the hole she had dug up for herself. Even Vegeta was gone. Locking Goku away in the deepest recess of her heart wasn't enough – it was not nearly enough to make a life without him bearable. Life without him was grey and brutal and painful. It was like a bad joke and she just wanted to hide in bed from all of it for the rest of her days –
The sob that escaped her throat nearly choked her and she cried with violence for a long time, for everything she had done and for everything that was yet to come, for the uncertain future that was so scary it robbed her of the ability to move a muscle. She was truly paralyzed. Everything she did was wrong – and there wasn't much she could do to make it better. She could wish it all away, sure and then what? Even then, she wasn't sure the dragon could erase everything that had been – and then what?
She closed her eyes –
The light tapping of knuckles against her window made her look up. Bulma sat up, her heartbeat quickening at once – the headache the sobbing had caused dissolved into nothing in the space of a blink.
Somebody was knocking on her window – there was only one person who'd ever done that –
She jumped to her feet, even the paralysis had melted off her bones. In a moment, she was at the window and she hastily moved the white curtains aside.
And he was standing there.
With the sheepish smile and the hand at the back of his neck. Bulma felt her knees going weak at the sight of his warm dark eyes, at the way they sparkled with a perpetually hidden laugh. And she noticed that his eyes were not just black and his gi was not just orange and blue. Everything was painted in brighter colors, everything was vibrant and alive in a way she had never imagined would be possible. It was beautiful and eerie at the same time.
But Goku was smiling at her, and she had gone for many days without that smile. He tapped once again against the window.
"Hey, friend!" he said, all eyes and smile and his lively voice was somewhat muffled by the window pane. Bulma mentally chastised herself and quickly opened the window, stepping aside – she expected the cool breeze of the morning to hit her, but it didn't happen. Oh, well.
"Goku!" she said, breathlessly. "You… you're back!"
She threw herself in his arms and he caught her effortlessly, as always, because they had that tender, perfect connection, they had a rhythm, they fit each other perfectly.
He held her close without uncertainty.
He said nothing, but he picked her up so that her feet didn't touch the ground and he kissed her slowly, lingering, playing with her lips and her tongue and he tasted like burnt sugar and melting marshmallows and he smelled like the forest in summer and Bulma breathed him deeply, taking everything she could from him, she drank his presence as though he was water and she had been lost in the desert for so, so long.
Goku put her down and smiled at her, his smile too big for his face, the one she loved the most. He had forgiven and forgotten everything, she was sure.
"I've been thinking about you," he said, in the innocent way only he could muster. "Have – have you been thinking about me?"
Bulma smiled and nodded.
"Of course, dummy," she breathed and Goku chuckled lightly.
"Wanna go for a walk?" he asked with a playful wink and Bulma once again smiled fondly.
"Sure," she replied. "A walk!" she then added pointedly. Goku laughed and nodded.
"Yeah, yeah, don't worry!" he said, waving a hand and she closed her eyes and after a moment she was standing in the middle of the clearing where the grass wasn't just green and the water wasn't just blue. Bulma closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. It was her favorite place in the whole world.
She noticed something with the corner of her eye and she looked up at the trees.
"What is that?" she asked, pointing her finger and Goku turned and looked up.
The yellow balloon, which wasn't just yellow, had somehow caught itself again between the highest branches of the tree, and it was trembling slightly through the air, trying to get free. Bulma frowned as she examined it, but Goku smiled.
"Oh," he said. "It's the yellow balloon. Wait," he flew up and freed the balloon from the tree, then he turned to Bulma holding it by the thin string. Goku was wearing that funny white turban – Bulma hadn't noticed it before.
It was raining.
"Here you are, Bulma," he said and Bulma mindlessly took the balloon from his hand.
She frowned again. "Everything's wrong," she said.
"It's okay," Goku replied quietly.
"No," Bulma insisted and all the fear she had been feeling before came back full force. "No, it's not!" she yelled, because everything had been so vibrant and colorful and now it was all fading to grey with the rain. "I'm sorry I locked you in!" she said, holding onto the balloon for dear life. "I didn't mean to! Do you believe me?"
"Bulma, hey, it's alright."
"Tell me what do," she sobbed. "You always know what to do!"
Goku shrugged against the glittering sea at Kame House. "You're strong. You're going to be okay," he said, but his voice sounded too far away and Bulma tightened her grip on the thin string, because the waves behind him were getting higher and higher, booming against the shore and she wondered how it was possible that the tide had yet to swallow Goku – she had no other choice but to yell into the raging wind.
"How?" she wailed. "Son Kun, please, please, tell me what to do!"
Goku was giving her his apologetic smile, then he opened his mouth to answer, but something caught his attention – Bulma followed the direction of his glance in time to see the yellow balloon pop loudly just above her head.
She sat up with a start, breathing heavily.
She was in her room.
A dream –
Instinctively, Bulma turned her head to the window – it was ajar, the curtains half open, the morning breeze flowing in soothingly, but there was no one on the other side of the glass.
She tried to bring her breathing under control and, this time, she succeeded. She could feel the tears drying on her cheeks, pulling uncomfortably at her skin and she let herself fall back against the pillows – closing her eyes, thinking about Goku's face and the line at the side of his mouth and the scary waves – but he had said it was going to be okay.
So – it was going to be okay.
He sensed something popping in the distance and his concentration slipped, just a little bit – but just enough for Piccolo to notice and the Namekian immediately capitalized on the mistake –
Goku didn't see the punch coming quick as lightning and, therefore, he didn't dodge – his eyes widened on their own accord as the pain exploded in his face without warning.
"Ow, Piccolo!" Goku exclaimed, quickly bringing a hand to his nose to staunch the blood that was slowly but surely trickling down, staining his lips and his chin. He gave a tentative sniff and winced. "That hurt!"
Piccolo merely raised a brow ridge and smirked. "Yeah…" he said slowly. "That was kind of the point."
Goku chuckled under his breath and wiped the blood with the back of his hand. "You're no fun sometimes," he muttered and Piccolo glared at him.
"I'm not supposed to be fun, whatever that means," he replied dryly. "We're training. We're supposed to focus. Or do you happen to know other ways to get stronger?"
"Well yeah, I could always go Super Saiyan," Goku said with an impish smile and Piccolo narrowed his eyes sternly.
"Is this your idea of being funny?"
Goku giggled at his friend's outrage. "Ah, relax! I'm kidding," he said with a genuine smile.
"No, you're not."Piccolo snorted and smiled in turn at the weird Saiyan from Earth he had come to consider something that resembled a friend. "Well, why don't you transform instead of just bragging about?" he continued. "I could use a change of pace today. It's not like I can't almost keep up with a Super Saiyan."
"Well," Goku said, cracking his knuckles jovially. "Since you're asking so nicely!"
Sure, Piccolo had made great progresses – he could totally keep up with his Super Saiyan transformation, as long as Goku didn't try too hard and the truth was – Goku didn't feel like trying hard. Actually, he didn't feel like transforming at all, because, lately, weird things had been happening to him whenever he tried – with the white-hot release of power something else came, far less pleasant, far less thrilling – a tight feeling, the spooky sensation of a strong, vicious hand closing around his lungs and squeezing – taking away all the breath he had in him. He had quickly dismissed the feeling – until one night, it had happened when he was at home, just out of the shower – the steam had tickled his throat and he had coughed lightly, then harder and then harder, until he had found himself taking ragged breaths that were insufficient, sweat pouring off him – it had been awful, a little bit like dying.
When he'd felt like he could move without falling over – it had been too late already.
"Yes, you can."
"No. Go ahead. Go home."
When Bulma had left the clearing that night, throwing him one last, brief glance that had lingered only for a small second, Goku hadn't said anything. He had watched her go – aqua hair dancing on her back and shoulders – and he had done so in silence; wordlessly, he had kept his eyes on her red hover-car as it floated across the sky and away from him.
A beautiful summer night.
The light breeze had a faint scent of flowers and fireflies were lighting up the darkness, crickets were singing without a care in the world and the pain had not consumed him all at once like a nuclear fire.
He had felt no inner beast raging inside his skin the way it had been the first time he had gone Super Saiyan on the dying blue fields of Namek.
Bulma had said she didn't love him and he had just felt tired. He had felt like someone who had given up – and he'd never given up in his life before – ever. He had felt drained.
And, from that night, a hollow, deaf feeling had taken a place in the middle of his chest, making itself at home, never actually leaving him.
Not sharp nor quick, not quite like a break, but whatever glue was holding Goku together started to melt off the moment Bulma's car disappeared in the sky. He didn't explode nor snap, he didn't shatter– he was just too tired for that – he simply started to fall apart in sluggish gulps so that no one, not Chichi, not Gohan, not Piccolo, no one, not even himself, could tell that he was.
But now Piccolo wanted his training and, hell, Goku wanted it too.
Because fighting helped – it was his nature, he had it in his instinct and he didn't have to think, he didn't have to talk, he didn't have to feel, he just had to move, to dodge, to hit, to win, to lose, to have fun, to enjoy the thrill – without ever stopping, because if he did stop for breath, every single time she came crashing and booming down at him like a blue raging wave, her skin made of snow, her smiles and her frowns, her laughter and her shrieks, she bombarded his senses and bounced around painfully in his skull.
Goku closed his eyes and focused, reaching out to the core of his burning power, to the heart of it, to the blazing fire that inhabited his soul – he gritted his teeth as the wildfire spread from his heart to the rest of his body, he tilted his head back and with a scream he rose to claim that power as his own– when he opened his eyes, the irises were of the deepest aquamarine, and his blonde hair stood up to an invisible magnetic field and the golden aura burned the air around him.
Piccolo was quick to hide the amazement at the sudden burst of energy and Goku gave him his most confident smile, even as he felt the sweat trickling uncomfortably on his back, on his forehead – the air his own aura was consuming was already getting too thin for him – it was as though his own transformation wanted to backfire on him – but he wouldn't let it. He wanted the beauty of combat – he needed it.
"You sure you can keep up?" he teased and, as an answer, Piccolo attacked immediately.
Goku dodged easily and they started to trade blows so powerful that the air around them seemed to explode every time they clashed, every time the loud thuds of fists and knees and feet hitting the target resonated through the air.
And as Goku focused on the green blur that was Piccolo moving at supersonic speed, he didn't think of the way her skin was white and unblemished like newly fallen snow. He didn't think of the way her eyes flickered scanning his face, he didn't think of the way she had said I'm yours and he'd believed her, he didn't think of how once again she had taught him another new thing about life, he didn't think how he had learned what actually being in love meant. He didn't think –
As the speed escalated, Goku started to slip.
Something wasn't right – again the breaths he managed to take were not enough for him, they went in too short and too fast, because as soon as he took one, he immediately fought for another, hoping the next would get him more air – beautiful air, much-needed air.
As the burning, salty sweat poured from his brow into his eyes, Goku blinked and shook his head – there were two Piccolos now coming at him, wasn't that a handy trick, and it was so so very hot – the vicious hand squeezed harder and Goku gasped as the pain enveloped him and then receded and then again and his heart was pounding loudly, but somehow it was in his head – he ducked and somehow dodged Piccolo's roundhouse kick – then something blue danced at the periphery of his vision and he sharply whipped his head towards it to get a better look – Piccolo's knee caught him square in the stomach and he doubled over, saying goodbye to the remains of his air supply – but he could not stop or the blue wave would come back again, telling him things about the stars and I'm yours and can you do one thing for me – so Goku straightened, gritted his teeth and went to counterattack.
He brought up a fist for a backhand that connected with some vague part of Piccolo he couldn't really see – he sensed as Piccolo darted out of his reach and Goku took the opportunity to try and catch a deep breath, but every intake of air brought a wave of piercing pain through his chest, so excruciating that it was better not to breathe at all then – Piccolo was standing a few feet before him, probably coming up with some new tactic and Goku didn't want to stop the fight, he raised a shaky hand, ready to fire a barrage of ki blasts – the blue shadow appeared right beside Piccolo and with a feral shout, Goku aimed his blasts at it.
Piccolo watched with a deep frown as the small spheres of bright yellow energy flew past him, not nearly close enough to barely leave a scratch on him – and directed his attention at Goku, who was floating in front of him but there was something unnerving about his stance – it was almost as though he was arching backwards – Piccolo squinted – to get air, to open his airways.
Piccolo shot forward to close the distance to the Super Saiyan.
"What's wrong?" he asked point blank, taking in the pitiful appearance of his rival, but Goku didn't answer – he just attacked again and again, weak, laughable blows that Piccolo could have dodged and parried with his arms tied behind his back.
"Is this the best a Super Saiyan can do?" he taunted and he heard Goku growl like an injured animal, before easily dodging a flurry of blows aimed at his face – Piccolo snapped his leg back and his foot hit hard on Goku's ribcage, and Goku shouted in frustration before shooting a ki blast so fast that Piccolo didn't see it coming – but there was hardly any strength behind it. Piccolo skidded backward only slightly and was about to go back to the offensive when Goku's golden aura started to flicker and falter violently before going off altogether. Goku's hair abruptly went back to black and he started to fall towards the ground like a dead weight.
"Damn!" Piccolo hissed under his breath, before hastily flying down to break his rival's fall, but Goku had it under control already – he hit the ground more forcefully than he would have under normal circumstances, but ultimately, he looked unscathed. Piccolo landed beside him.
"What was that?" he inquired at once and Goku laughed faintly, dizzily swaying on his feet.
"What?" he asked giddily.
He didn't feel the pain in his chest anymore, he didn't even think that drawing a deep breath was important – he felt great. In fact, he felt pretty damn fantastic – that was odd, he breezily thought. Maybe his brain was dying – without warning, his legs turned to jelly beneath him and Goku, having managed the impressive feat of standing on his two legs for a grand total of six seconds, suddenly started to sag. Piccolo growled and caught him, frowning at the way Goku's body felt limp in his grasp, at the way his clothes were drenched in sweat through and through.
With an impatient sigh, Piccolo lowered Goku on the grass.
"Son?" he called.
Goku's eyes were shut tight, but Piccolo knew he wasn't unconscious – just completely out of it for some reason. His jaw working furiously, Goku's breath was coming in short, wheezing gasps – Piccolo studied him for a moment. He looked like he had been sapped of all his strength – maybe they overdid it, that was all –
"Goku?" he called again, resolving to tap the cheek of his rival, without bothering to be particularly gentle – and Goku finally squinted his eyes open, meeting Piccolo's stare with a dazed, glassy look.
"I think I'm going crazy," was what Goku croaked past his dry throat.
Piccolo frowned. "What?"
Goku closed his eyes and swallowed painfully. "I see – blue stuff," he huffed laboriously. "It wants to choke me."
Piccolo stared for a moment, trying to figure out if Goku was playing a stupid, not-funny-at-all prank – but the sweat and the wheezing couldn't possibly be manufactured – the nonsense he was talking was caused by something real. Piccolo snarled and hastily, roughly, he pushed the palm of one hand against Goku's forehead, growling in dismay all the while – it wasn't like he was a nurse or a nun or whatever.
"You're running a fever," he stated at last and there was disbelief in his voice. He didn't imagine it was possible for someone like Goku to fall victim to such a mundane thing.
Goku giggled weakly and shook his head, that ended up lolling weakly on the grass. "Uh, no, I'm just tired –
Piccolo stared blankly. "You should go home."
Goku swallowed again and shook his head more forcefully, his nostrils flaring, his pupils dilating scarily. His chest went up and down increasingly faster as he huffed and puffed for some air.
"Yeah…" he said vaguely. "No…" he then added. "No. I'm good here."
Piccolo rolled his eyes and pulled Goku up. "Come on, you, heavy bastard," he muttered taking one of Goku's arms and pulling it across his shoulders to support him.
Goku moaned in discomfort, annoyance or maybe the both of them – his head lolled limply on Piccolo's shoulders as they stood. "I'm fine, I swear," he all but whined. "I don't want to go home."
Piccolo growled. "What are you, twelve?"
Goku shook his head and gritted his teeth.
"I can't – I can't breathe – at home."
Piccolo paused. "It's not like you're doing a good job at it right now, anyway."
"Please," Goku said in a faint murmur.
"Suit yourself," Piccolo said finally, lowering Goku back on the grass, where he promptly collapsed until he was laying on his back.
"I'm fine," he repeated tonelessly, even though it was suddenly so so cold. Was it already snowing? Goku shivered at the thought of her white skin and at the cold waves that had him in their grasp. "I'm just tired."
Gradually, slowly, Goku got his breath back – he was going to be alright. He was tired – so tired – but he was going to be alright. Without realizing it, he fell asleep, a faint smile gracing his lips – in dreams, they sat side by side, facing the pond, toes in the grass.
They were going to be okay.
Bulma nervously fixed a strand of her freshly cut bob behind her ear, then she stared at the ceiling, exhaling impatiently through her mouth. She was getting restless – maybe it had been a bad idea. No, scratch that maybe – it was a bad idea. Everything about that situation was bad.
"So?" she huffed and her mother, who was standing patiently at her side, smiled her trademark gentle, daydreaming smile.
"Well, Bulma dear," she chirped. "I told you, you couldn't possibly be right – I'm way too young to be a grandma!"
Bulma shot her a livid glare.
"Mom!" she warned. "Shut up!" Then she turned to the doctor who was grinning nervously from the other side of her mother. "Go on!"
The doctor cleared his throat and renewed his grip on the ultrasound probe – then he pushed it again against Bulma's exposed belly, moving it back and forth under her navel, applying a light pressure.
Bulma raised her head slightly and looked at the dark screen. Her face was set in a rigid grimace, she didn't know what she was supposed to think – part of her hoped her mother was right, and that nothing would show up – part of her was searching the black screen in trepidation, a faint fear building slowly, icily, in her stomach and crawling upwards.
And then it appeared - in the shape of a tiny, teeny seahorse, and a white dot coming and going – it was a beating heart.
"Here it is," said the doctor and Bulma's breath itched in her throat.
"Oh, Kami," she whispered in awe.
"Oh, Kami," her mother echoed in a thin voice.
The doctor typed something on the pad on his ultrasound machine and then turned to his patient with a kind smile.
"Well, Mrs. and Miss Briefs – everything's fine. Your blood tests came back and everything is fairly normal and this – is a healthy baby growing at the right pace."
"B-b-b-baby?" Mrs. Brief stuttered. "A-a-are you absolutely sure?"
The doctor scratched his head, perplexed. "Uh, hem, well, yes… it is a baby, I mean –
"Ignore my mother, doctor," Bulma said promptly. "She's… in shock."
"It's alright, Miss Briefs."
Bulma swallowed and looked at the screen that was now off, back to black. A crazy thought crossed her mind.
"I-I… I used to smoke. A lot."
"Even after you knew?"
The doctor nodded thoughtfully.
"Bulma," he said with confidence, suddenly jumping to first-name basis. "It's going to be okay. It's not too late. If you want, you can make it. But it's up to you. You have to start taking care – you're not on your own anymore. And you're not alone. Is that right, Mrs. Briefs?"
Mrs. Briefs blinked. But after a moment, her usual smile was back and she patted Bulma's head. "O-of course, dear."
Bulma's eyes were lucid. She let her head fall back on the small bed and took a huge, deep breath.
She was strong enough.
She had to believe it – she wanted to believe it.
"Okay," she whispered.
Bulma's real journey started with a the cold sensation of the gel on her stomach and a seahorse, the gentle smile of a pretty much unfamiliar doctor and her mother sudden, hiccupping sobs of joy and paralyzing terror – that for some reason comforted her, because they gave her something to bitch about.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" Mrs. Briefs sniffled. "My beautiful little girl is going to be a mom!" she then wailed, resuming her sobbing louder than ever.
Bulma glowered at her mother. Then, without a warning, an empty, sad feeling washed all over her.
"Shut up!" she repeated and started to sob as well, choking desperately on her own tears.
The doctor smiled and scratched his head again, looking between the two women.
"Well, I've seen worse."