Something In The Way
A towel loosely thrown around his neck, Vegeta was walking down the corridor of the second floor of Capsule Corporation, fuming.
This training was getting him nowhere.
He was stronger and more muscular and in the most perfect physical health of his life, but still – he was getting nowhere. Three years had gone by since Kakarot had become the Super Saiyan, fulfilling the legend and at the same time emptying Vegeta's destiny and three years of merciless training and of painful quests into himself had been utterly and completely useless.
What was Kakarot's secret? What had sent him to the edge of his power and then beyond, what had allowed him to tap into a whole new pool of strength, of energy, of might? There had to be a secret and Vegeta hated this. What could Kakarot possibly know that he didn't? It was simply preposterous and Vegeta thought that only slapping the secret and the smile out of Kakarot's face would make him feel slightly better with himself. Punch that face until the bones turned into dust – ha, how he wished he could do that right now.
But someone else was having a fight apparently because a scream and a loud crash resonated from a few doors ahead, where he was headed, and Vegeta stalled.
He glanced at the clock on the wall, it was late – the corridor was plunged into semi darkness. He had never had the displeasure of running into someone that late at night at Capsule Corporation, let alone someone that loud. It had happened only once, years ago, with – the woman.
Another crash of unmistakable exploding glass came from the door he now knew was the second-floor bathroom. A deafening silence followed and Vegeta stretched his ears and his senses while advancing towards the door without even knowing it. It was slightly ajar as if whoever was inside had slammed it forcefully and it had bounced back on the hinges before settling – Vegeta didn't know why he peered inside.
He found the woman huddled on the white tiles of the bathroom floor. She was hugging her transparent legs, her blue head abandoned on her knees, looking away from the door. Shards of glass were everywhere on the floor, in the sink, a huge piece of the mirror was missing – she had been the one who turned it into those silvery fragments, into that glittering grey dust. Vegeta narrowed his eyes.
The woman was foiled like a piece of paper and there was something entrancing in that pitiful scene. But he wanted to leave. He was about to turn and go away when she raised her head and looked at him with eyes that were flashing furiously. How she had sensed his presence, he didn't know – maybe a shift in the silent, still air had betrayed him.
"Ever heard of knocking?" she spat venomously, not making efforts to move from her foiled position
Vegeta gave her a blank stare. "Ever heard of locking a door?" he countered, keeping his voice level as a block of ice.
Bulma snorted, she had a weird grimace on her white face. Then she sniffed hard, and before Vegeta could notice that her eyes were glistening, she spoke in a choked hiss.
"Are you here to gloat?" she said. Vegeta saw the fury sparkle in her wet eyes as she glowered at him, and he clenched his jaw but said nothing. "You were right," she continued in that voice that sounded like a mean exhalation of breath. It sounded like it came from the other world. "Now go celebrate and leave me alone."
Vegeta furrowed his brow.
"What are you talking about, you crazy woman?"
She was struggling up a steep mountain path, the hill was broken and hostile, but she knew it well enough.
The vegetation was thick at the sides of the trail and she was trying to keep her balance by occasionally leaning onto the branches of the trees and bushes that offered her some kind of raw handrail.
The forest was eerily silent.
It was almost dawn and the lights were pale and cold, almost bluish, cerulean. She kept going, she was almost there. In fact, just as she emerged onto an open, rocky plateau, out of nowhere a warm hand landed firmly on her shoulder.
She knew that touch and she knew that warmth.
Finally. She smiled and turned to meet a smile just as intense.
"You found me," Bulma said through a smile. Goku laughed and winked.
"It's a small world," he said, reaching out with a hand. Bulma took it and, as soon as their hands connected, Goku laughed and drew her in his arms, lifting her off the ground and spinning her around, and his laughter and her little shrieks of surprise and then of delight echoed throughout the forest and down the valley, in their clearing below.
He put her down and cupped her face between his hands, leaning down and kissing her. The kiss was full of strength at first, but it let up, softening, breaking into smaller kisses that then lengthened themselves again, going back to the languid intertwinement of tongues.
He let the kiss go and glanced in her eyes that were flickering in the way he loved. A big smile widened on his face.
"Hi," he said.
Bulma laughed, blissfully happy. "Hi..."
Goku pulled her against him. Her hands went to grab his hair, clasping them in her fists as their mouths crashed together again, fiercely, while the sun finally rose up from the horizon.
And so the affair began.
Bulma and Goku didn't acknowledge it out loud nor in their thoughts. In the first weeks, when they met at their spot and carved out moments of summer for themselves, being wild and young, splashing in the water, rolling in the high grass, they never thought it was an affair, that it was adultery on his part and that she was a mistress. Pretending that the real world didn't exist was their first mistake.
It was a divine idyll, living in their little private world, kissing under the blue sky, never thinking. When they made love, it was as if they were made for each other.
One morning of June, Goku lowered his head to kiss her shoulder, moving his mouth until it reached the white hollow at the base of her neck. Once, twice, three times he kissed it and Bulma tilted her head back to give him more room, a silent invite to give her more for she was burning with desire. But Goku lingered on that spot, his lips hovering, barely touching her skin. She could feel his breath tickling like a feather, with each inhale and exhale.
"You smell like something I'll forever like," he said at last, in a whisper so innocent that Bulma felt her heart, her lungs, her stomach – her soul – melt.
They never said the three words. They limited to give each other mutual, crystalline joy and the real world was far away. Days went by in a sated peace.
Then they became bolder, more reckless and one morning of July, Bulma was taking a shower in her en suite bathroom, at home. She was lathering up her hair, eyes closed, grimly thinking about the work awaiting in the lab, the new prototypes, the control tests, still half-asleep when – he suddenly appeared out of thin air.
Bulma opened her eyes wide and screamed. Goku let out a laugh that came from the belly, he howled holding his sides and Bulma scowled ad took the bottle of shampoo and threw it at his head with all her might.
"You scared me to death, dummy!" she yelled, glowering daggers at him, but Goku was already taking off the orange top of his gi. "What are you doing?" she asked arching an eyebrow.
Goku freed himself hastily from the remaining of his clothes, frantically – he was like a bull attracted to red.
"We don't have much time," he explained, climbing into the shower with her and holding her close, kissing her hurriedly under the tepid spray of water. Bulma squirmed a little, but she immediately relented, lost in his muscular arms. "I'm supposed to teleport Gohan home," he said, between pecks at her lips.
Bulma laughed but tried to stop him. "I don't understand what you mean, but it sounds like a terrible cover," she said, managing to grab a hold of his wrists, but Goku was kissing her neck, then her breasts. "Isn't instant transmission supposed to be, I don't know... instantaneous?" she continued, but she was already losing her breath, pinned against the tile wall by his body, feeling the desire building at the base of her spine, clouding her brain. She stopped thinking about boring stuff – she stopped thinking altogether.
They fell heavily on the bed a few moments later, soaking the sheets with their wet bodies. She looked up at his wide-eyed shameless ecstatic face and couldn't help but laugh at his goofy expression.
"What?" he said.
"How are you always this happy?" she asked in an amazed laughter.
Goku grinned his huge grin too big for his face. "Well, I don't like sad."
Bulma chuckled and reach out to brush the bangs away from his forehead, uncovering his eyes, drowning in the black. Her Goku. Her happiness, her adventure, her life, her soul. The river meeting the sea. He was her everything – and he didn't give her the time to finish the thought because he covered her mouth with his mouth kissing her fiercely, then he traveled down on the neck, and down as she arched her back, and he lingered on her navel – the knot of life.
Bulma thought she was losing her head as she felt his lips insist on that spot softly, teasing, maddening – she wanted him now, more than anything else in the world. And they were in the middle of it when she half-heartedly tried not to leave scratches on his perfect back, but she knew she was – but it was fine – they were battle wounds, nothing short of ordinary and she sank her nails deeper and deeper, knowing they could go higher and higher –
After, he kissed her nape. He unglued the wet, tangled hair that was sticking to her sweaty skin. She smiled an exhausted, satisfied smile against the white bedding as he pulled the sheet up to her shoulders, almost as though he was tucking her in. She felt as the bed was freed from his weight when he made his way back to the bathroom to recover his scattered clothes and she watched with a one-eyed squint as he started to get dressed. Goodbye, perfect abdomen. See you, beloved legs. She closed her eyes.
"Do you have to go?" she whined.
She could hear the apologetic smile in his voice as he replied. "Gohan," he said. "Summer school starts in less than an hour and he was out to train with Piccolo again."
Bulma sighed and turned on her back. Goku was fastening his blue belt. "You're proud of him for sneaking out," she stated in a deadpan voice.
Goku giggled sheepishly and nodded. "You don't know how much," he answered at last.
Bulma rolled her eyes, shaking her head with a smile, then she got up, bringing the white sheet with her, wrapping it around her body as she went to plant herself in front of him. Goku lowered his head slightly so that his forehead was resting against hers and they closed their eyes savoring for a moment that intimate, profound gesture.
They broke apart with a sigh.
"Come on, get out of here!" she said, swatting him on the chest. "I have work to do!"
Goku laughed. "Alright, alright," he said. "Will I see you tonight?" he asked, as he prepared to teleport.
"Of course," Bulma replied in a loving breath.
And, with that, he was gone.
Bulma sighed, then she turned around and it was in that moment that it hit her.
Seeing the empty bed, the crumpled bedding, the wet patch where their bodies had fallen together – it hit her like a full force train… that she wanted more. She wanted more from him – she wanted a bed of their own, with their sheets, the blankets with his smell on it. To fall asleep beside him every night. To wake up with his smile in her eyes, his giggles in her ears, have breakfast in bed together, do everything together.
She felt a pang of insane jealousy thinking of his whereabouts. Had he already made it home? And where was Chichi? She knew she didn't need to worry – he spent all of his time away from the house when he wasn't with her, training, hunting, making woods. She knew that Goku didn't touch Chichi anymore, that his desire was only for her. But then why – why on earth Goku had to spend his nights next to her? Why couldn't he make his home with her in West City – why they had to sneak around like a pair of criminals? Even if deep down she knew the answer – and the answer was Gohan – it didn't lessen the sudden pain that the empty, unmade bed was causing her. Was she such a terrible person if the essence of her soul had turned out to be a married man? Bulma didn't think so. That morning of July she allowed herself to think that she was not a horrible human being – but that she was simply in love.
And love, now she knew – wasn't pretty. Building a love took time and blood mixed with sweat and tears. It broke the veins in the wrists – the building of a love did not repay of the pain it caused – and yet you would never want to stop that growth. You'd let that love grow up forever, you'd let it become one with the sky.
What did she want from him?
Everything. Simple as that.
And that was the second mistake – fencing herself in their relationship, demanding everything from it, shutting out what had nothing to do with them.
But she didn't know that yet – so that night, laying side by side on the grass of the clearing, stargazing – they had the talk and the conclusion they reached was the most natural and well thought out. When Gohan would be older they would come clean.
Bulma was satisfied. Gohan was already eight. So… soon.
They had not said the words yet. She had been narcissistic enough to think that they didn't need to, that it was below them, that what they had was not of this world, it was too big to be reduced to syllables and sounds, to be labeled. That they liked different kinds of sounds.
That night of July, he was laying on the grass of their clearing next to her, the Milky Way above their heads like so many years before. The fire was crackling and popping not too far behind them. Bulma had brought along a plastic bag full of white and pink marshmallows – a thing from her childhood – and they had roasted them on the fire despite Goku's skepticism. But then she had fed him that sticky sweet stuff, from her fingers to his mouth – and, of course, he had liked it and the marshmallows disappeared in a matter of minutes.
"I told you so."
"Yeah, but now I'm even hungrier."
"Shut up," Bulma had said, silencing him with a kiss that tasted of burnt sugar. The hungry, greedy response to her kiss had made her giggle faintly against his lips. "Are you going to bite me?" she had murmured.
Now he was quiet, the only movement was his chest rising and falling slowly with his steady breathing. Bulma rolled on her side to face him, propping her head on one arm. She could see his face – he had the starry sky in his eyes when he returned the gaze. His mere presence was filling her with pure happiness and she knew that was it – she was exactly where she was supposed to be. The words could go out now.
Goku smiled. "What?" he asked.
Bulma paused. "Nothing," she said at last.
She wanted to hear the words first, the words that would bring them out of paradise and into the real world.
Bulma, you coward.
Goku grinned then, with a fluid motion, he pulled her from her waist, making her climb on him. He ignored her shrieks of surprise. "Come here, friend!" he exclaimed cheerfully.
Goku reached out and cupped the side of her face with one hand. He was relaxed, but the look in his eyes was the one of the serious matters, the intense one, the one that left Bulma breathless.
"We're going to be okay," he said simply.
Goku nodded, then a mischievous grin widened on his face. "If you don't bail on me again," he added and Bulma rolled her eyes playfully.
"You're an idiot."
They had all the time in the world and the two of them… it was love. It didn't matter what they said to each other – they were chained.
It was the first day of August when Bulma heard the explosion that made the ceiling of her lab tremble.
She was in her denim overall, the one she didn't care if it got oil and dirt on it and she was unscrewing the bolts of the portable refrigerator that didn't want to hear about being encapsulated. Bulma growled under her breath.
"We'll see who's tougher, you piece of junk," she muttered.
The blue equation was hanging on the wall, still incomplete – the blue marker neatly fastened to the board thanks to a magnet. She hadn't worked on that for a while, but that confused writing had a weird effect on her, it was nice to know it was always there.
Bulma briefly checked her watch – but no, it was early, she was supposed to meet with Goku in the evening –
When the explosion came, she almost swallowed the cigarette she held between her lips. There was a deafening roar and everything trembled – Bulma heard loud crashes indicating that a lot of her tools and instruments had met their fate and the lights went out for a long moment before flickering back on.
She looked around, moving exclusively her eyes, right and left – the rest of her body was numb with apprehension.
What the hell had just happened? West City was not known for earthquakes – an attack? A grenade, the war? Oh Kami, was it Frieza again? He was after the dragon radar, wasn't he?
She considered the distance she had to cover to make a run for the basement, the odds of being shot at again by that creepy pink dude – where was Goku when she needed him?
Minutes of tense silence went by. Bulma swallowed and adjusted her grip on the screwdriver –
The door suddenly opened and Bulma by reflex threw herself under her worktable, covering her mouth with her hands, trying to be as still and silent as possible.
Bulma frowned. "Mom?"
She crawled out from her hiding spot and looked up. "What's going on? What was that?"
Mrs. Brief was looking at her with her usual smiley expression, apparently not ruffled at all at the sight of her daughter crawling towards her on hands and knees for apparently no reason, screwdriver between her teeth like some kind of make-belief pirate.
"What?" she chirped, bringing a hand to daintily cup her cheek.
"Mom!" Bulma exclaimed, exasperated. She took the screwdriver away and continued. "Mom, the earthquake! The explosion! Didn't you hear a huge blast?"
"Oh, oh! Yes," Mrs. Briefs said cheerfully. "It's the reason I came down here looking for you, silly."
Bulma got to her feet, scowling, but she knew there was no point in arguing with her tranquil, imperturbable mother. "Well, what was that?" she inquired impatiently. "It sounded like –"
Mrs. Briefs' face suddenly became sad. "Yes, I'm afraid Vegeta finally destroyed the gravity room," she said in her small voice. "There was a lot of smoke, oh dear. Your father wanted to know if you can help them."
Bulma gaped. "Is-is he dead?"
She didn't wait for an answer, she was already storming up the hall and to the stairs – she followed the awful stench of smoke and burnt flesh, her mind a blank void. She had killed a man.
Her father was kneeling down beside a very still shape. Bulma felt something drop from her chest to the pit of her stomach. Dread. Cold, cold dread. She was a murderer.
"Dad!" she breathed, kneeling on the rubbles beside him, her eyes scanning Vegeta's ravaged body. Blood was everywhere and his face was so swollen and crushed and battered it was unrecognizable. Her dad had lowered his head to place one ear on Vegeta's chest.
"Is he breathing? Is he breathing!?" she asked in a high-pitched scream and time stretched to infinity as she waited for her father's answer.
Bulma deflated. Every fiber of her body became of useless rubber, she doubted she could be of any help to her father. But she had to at least try. She wasn't a murderer. Not yet. Not ever.
It was the same first day of August when it happened for the first time.
Goku was sparring with Piccolo near the waterfall of Mount Paozu. It was nice, clear summer day, the perfect weather for some serious training – and Goku was having the time of his life. Piccolo was a smart tactician and a brilliant, skilled fighter and, even if he was in his Super Saiyan form – for the first time in months, by Piccolo's request – Goku didn't dare to drop his guard, not even for a second. He was alert and focused, ready to change his tactics and to keep up with Piccolo's changes in his combinations of techniques. Going at it hard was the only way to constantly improve and the both knew it.
He dodged a ki blast aimed at his chest and darted towards Piccolo in a speed that bordered on Instant Transmission, then launched a front kick to Piccolo's sternum, and didn't stop when the boot connected with Piccolo's ribcage – that first attack was more to annoy him than anything else – he retracted quickly and as soon as his foot hit the ground, he launched a roundhouse kick with his rear leg. Piccolo growled as he was hit, but without wasting time he blurred out of sight and Goku turned and ducked instinctively, dodging a vicious kick but –
Piccolo's fist caught him square in the stomach. Goku painfully coughed up some saliva with luckily just a little bit of blood in it. Still – that hurt.
"About time someone punched a Super Saiyan!" Piccolo said between labored breaths.
Goku chuckled and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
"I'll try not to take it personally," he replied with an impish grin, trying to regain the breath the punch had taken away from him.
He coughed and gritted his teeth as the pain suddenly sharpened. He lowered his head, a tight hand he knew from somewhere closed around his lungs, his body strangely numb. Then, as soon as it came, it was gone, the pain had engulfed him, then receded. A lazy low tide.
He shot another grin in Piccolo's direction, but Piccolo was frowning.
"What?" he croaked, raising his eyebrows.
Piccolo narrowed his eyes but said nothing, so Goku crouched into his perfect fighting stance that left no openings.
"Time to return the favor!" he asked with a cheeky smirk. "Ready?"
"Pfft. Always," Piccolo answered and he lunged at Goku, who knocked his fist aside. "Aha!" he managed to say, before dodging a flurry of powerful strikes, that he interrupted by swiftly disappearing and reappearing behind Piccolo, launching a kick that Piccolo dodged and so they went on until sunset – the cold unpleasant hand showed up again but Goku, lost in the frenzy of adrenaline and excitement that hand-to-hand combat provided him, simply ignored it. When he fought – he was a flame against the sky.