debbiechan fanfiction

Always A First Time

by debbiechan

Disclaimer: I can make no claim to owning DBZ, yet I have a masochistic compulsion to tell this damn story.

A/N: Eternal gratitude to LisaB who betas my work and whose as-yet-unfinished Dbz/Tomb Raiders crossover gave me the idea for Vegeta’s training underwater in this chapter.

Chapter Fifteen: In Deep

“Don’t you ever learn from your mistakes?” Bulma to Vegeta, episode, 124


After a blinding rush across the sky in no particular direction, Vegeta slowed down and realized that he was flying over the same beach where he had taken Bulma the previous night.

What am I? A shuttle service? I was just here.

The sun was low but full over the horizon. Rays of warm daylight shone on the green water.

Vegeta veered away from the shoreline into the open ocean. He flew until he gauged from the coloring of the water that it would be deep enough to dive.

He had never done this before.

Good. A challenge.

The large majority of the planets purged for Frieza had very breathable atmospheres but Vegeta had learned on the few thinly oxygenated ones that he could hold his breath for about a half hour. Perhaps now, because he was stronger and knew better how to manipulate his ki, he could go twice that.

Better not to risk staying under that long.

He could execute a simple series of underwater movements first. The pressure would not be on a par with the gravity machine, but his concentration would bear the added difficulty of using ki instead of oxygen to fuel his body’s organs for some moments. Vegeta’s fighting style was naturally fluid, but the water resistance might lend a different tenor to his routine. There would be no bots down there in the deep, but maybe there would be an occasional sea creature to fend off.

Vegeta took a deep breath, felt the solidity of air at capacity in his lungs and diaphragm, and dove into the ocean with a clean, soundless splash.

Down, down, down, deep into blackness.

**

Bulma placed the medical chart she had been reading on Yamcha’s bedside table.

She could still smell sea salt in her hair. She hadn’t showered yet when the lawn maintenance man had buzzed her to say that he’d found “a guy with bloody head by the front gate.” She had pulled on shorts and a shirt and had dashed to the infirmary where Yamcha had been carried. All the while her mind had been chanting No Vegeta, damn you Vegeta, please Vegeta you didn’t kill him. Her panic had been eased the moment the day nurse told her that, pending the signing of a few forms, the patient was ready to go.

The infirmary room was brightly lit. There were tiny yellow flowers on the wallpaper design. Everything’s fine, Yamcha’s fine, Vegeta didn’t do it.

“Good thing we didn’t have to use a senzu on you,” Her tone was guarded but cheery. “We need to save all those for the battle with the Androids, and senzu don’t exactly grow like weeds, you know. Papa and I have been trying to sprout one for months now, but their growing environment seems to be irreproducible outside Korin’s Tower.”

Wasn’t it seven--no, eight months ago that she had been sitting at Vegeta’s bedside in this very infirmary?

Yamcha was lying, head against a pillow, wearing a very sour expression.

“Well, let me look at it,” she demanded, and Yamcha sat up in the bed and turned the back of his head to her. There was a bald spot where the med tech had shaved Yamcha’s hair before suturing the wound. The cut was unbandaged--an inch long and almost as wide, bloodless but reddish, a mere ridge of bumpy flesh held together by transparent stitches.

Yamcha’s face was furrowed with a pain that seemed bigger than the bump on his head. Stupid male egos. It bugs him that Vegeta is stonger. They’re both on the same side against the Androids now--who’s stronger shouldn’t be an issue.

“Your hair should grow back all pretty in no time,” Bulma said, “but it looks like you got yourself another scar, buddy.”

“Vegeta tried to kill me.”

“It was just a warning, and you know it.” Bulma gave a short laugh.

The attack had to have been so fast that Yamcha could not have possibly dodged it, but the strength of the blast had been calculated to alarm, not to kill. Vegeta had exquisite control. He probably knew perfectly well how much energy Yamcha could withstand without being gravely injured.

There had been no witnesses to the event, but Bulma had read what Yamcha reported to the infirmary nurse: Vegeta threw a ki blast at me. It knocked me back a few yards. I hit my head on the front gate and blacked out. Feels like one of the metal railings skewered me.

“A warning?” Yamcha lay his head back on the pillow. “What was he trying to warn me about? That he does mean to kill me at some point? What have I ever done to him?” There was a timbre to Yamcha’s voice Bulma hadn’t heard before; it sounded… bitter? “Face it, Bulma. The guy just gets off on terrorizing people.”

Bulma set her jaw. She was angry with Vegeta right now, but she’d been angry with Yamcha for weeks, and she felt the familiar stirrings of a snit fit coming on.

“Okaaay, let’s put this in perspective, Yamcha. Vegeta’s been on Earth quite a while now. He hasn’t killed anyone. He’s kept to himself for the most part. His throwing a blast at you was like me throwing a book across the room. He just lost his temper. We all do it.”

“We don’t all have mass murder in our pasts either.”

“He’s on our side now, Yamcha.”

“The only reason he hasn’t killed anyone is because he knows Goku would have his ass if he did.”

“I--I don’t believe that’s the only reason.”

“Why? Because you’re sleeping with him?”

Bulma froze. Her heart leapt so high in her throat it felt like it was going to fall right out of her open mouth.

Yamcha’s face seemed to take a very uncharacteristic satisfaction in her distress. “Wouldn’t be keeping it a secret from everyone if he wasn’t a mass murderer, right?”

“How long have you known?”

“How long have you been sleeping with him?”

Bulma put her hand on her heart. “What’s that supposed to mean? You know I wouldn’t have cheated on you.”

“No? First you invite the guy who killed me to stay at your house while I’m dead. That’s a pretty big betrayal right there, Bulma. I guess it only follows from there that if you’re capable of sleeping with a mass murderer, then you’re pretty much capable of anything.”

Bulma wanted to yell. It would be familiar ground: yelling at Yamcha. But her conscience clutched at her. There he was, lying in an infirmary bed after having been blasted by Vegeta, and--was what he was saying true? Was she such an awful person? Her eyes began to sting.

“First of all,” she began in a small voice, “I saw the whole thing on television and it wasn’t Vegeta who killed you, it was that little plant guy. We’ve been through this before. Whether or not we can trust Vegeta as an ally in the fight against the Androids has nothing to do with whether or not I’m sleeping with him.” She was dimly aware of how feeble her argument sounded. “Vegeta’s not--he’s not a bad person. I think I understand him a little. I think--”

Calm was not an easy thing to maintain right now.

“Oh Yamcha, I was going to tell you, but I was waiting for the right time.”

“And when was that going to be? The next time Vegeta landed one of your friends on a stretcher? Or killed someone?”

Bulma stood up from her chair. She put out her hands and tried to wave away what was happening. “I can’t do this now. I can’t have this conversation with you right now.”

The door creaked open and the nurse’s head peeked in. “Ms. Briefs? Dr. Briefs called looking for you.”

Bulma felt her shorts pockets and realized she hadn’t brought her communicator.

“He’s not online right now,” continued the nurse. “He said to tell you that he’s at Capsule 3 and to meet him there.” The nurse smiled at Yamcha. “The Doc said to give you his best. And I’ve got some aftercare papers for you at the front desk, but you’re free to go.”

Yamcha was staring at the ceiling. “I don’t need that stuff,” he muttered.

“Thanks Robin.” Bulma managed a smile. “I think the tough guy here is going to live.”

When the nurse closed the door, Bulma turned to Yamcha and blinked away the tears that had welled there earlier. She was going to stay calm. She was a grown-up now.

“I’m going to work now. I know you hate me for helping Vegeta right now, but the gravity machine is very important. There’s something here bigger than me and you, Yamcha, and it’s the future of the whole planet.”

He didn’t answer her.

“Look, me and Vegeta started after you proposed to me and I turned you down.”

That wasn’t exactly true, but Bulma didn’t ever want to get into the details of the atrium day with anyone.

“I didn’t want to hurt you,” she went on. “But I felt like you and I were over long before that night in the restaurant, and our breaking up didn’t have anything to do with Vegeta.”

Yamcha was still staring at the ceiling.

Bulma sighed. “Get some rest. You’ve got a concussion and you look like crap. I’ll talk to you later.”

And with that, she left the room and hurried towards Capsule 3. She would lose herself in her work. Once she had her tool-belt on, it would be easier not to think about the look on Yamcha’s face.

Or the look on Vegeta’s when he had left her bedroom.

**

Vegeta needed more ki to counteract the deep cold at ocean’s floor than he had expected. His body was significantly hampered in resistance to both pressure and cold, so he could only execute a few slow summersaults and fighting stances on an underwater mountain slope before having to resurface.

He went down and came back up three more times.

Frustrating.

His body hovered, dripping water and inhaling precious air, just above the ocean waves. He reached out with his senses and felt for heat.

It was there, not far at all, surrounding a group of small volcanic islands. Deeper, deeper.
He found it! A crack in ocean floor, a swathe of steaming magma, and water that was not only warm enough but also deep enough.

Vegeta shot into the sky, flew to the area in minutes, dove in.

The darkness, the gradual increase of resistance as he swam down, the solidity of the task before him--it was all a relief.

Pressing against a barrier of pain was a relief.

Anything to fight against feeling … other things.

Vegeta kicked and punched and swept his limbs across the darkness. Ribbons of red magma waved past him in the ocean current. It was hot here. What Hell should have been like. As Vegeta flashed on that place--the cold quiet of the place, a Hell where memories were inescapable--he spun into a series of forceful tumbles against the current.

His chest burned.

Fight it, fight it, press on, keep on going.

He flared his ki and rolled across the fire seeping from the ocean floor. Yes! This was familiar--the burning terrain! Flames shot out of crevices like blood spurting, and his Saiyan power defied the worst of blazing assaults!

It wasn’t until Vegeta noticed his vision was blurring that he knew he was depleting ki faster than he had intended.

The underwater hot springs were throwing light on a world he could not see in other deep pressure parts of the ocean: there were strangely illuminated jellyfish here, giant clams and mussels opening and closing their colorless shells--apparently unaffected by the streams of volcanic matter swimming around them.

But the oceanscape was running together. Vegeta was seeing double.

He began to swim upwards, deliberately, not too quickly. He had plenty of time. Blood was roaring in his ears, and his chest ached.

Pain is nothing.

Physical pain had never been anything but nothingness. Vegeta was Saiyan. He was born to bear it.

The ocean pressure was alleviating. Vegeta felt lighter. He felt like his head was clearing. A feeling like right before going to sleep.

Pain never mattered.

It had been only hours after Vegeta was brought to Frieza’s ship that Frieza began to batter the young prince. Vegeta had not felt some kinds of pain before. His bones snapped, his stomach emptied itself over and over, his muscles ripped in places he didn’t know could hurt so much. But he had been so young then--he didn’t know what was happening. He didn’t cry out. The humiliation, which was so much worse than the pain, seemed to make the pain insignificant.

Humiliation was a feeling he grew to hate. He learned to outrun it. He learned to beat it down. He was always fighting the feeling.

Higher, higher. There is the sky and there will be air.

Vegeta felt so light-headed, and the feeling of being half-asleep was overcoming him. More memories were falling into his consciousness.

He had not been afraid. He had not been angry with Frieza… The prince had been too choked with rage over--

His first time in the regeneration tank! What a disgrace for a warrior. The drugs. The feeling of not being able to swim away.

Fear. Am I going to die here, in this miserable aquarium?

Vegeta’s head burst through the surface of the sea, and his mouth opened in a giant gasp.

He floated for a moment, trying to forget the experience of the past few moments.

He forgot them.

I will train in the gravity chamber tonight.

Vegeta looked around at the expanse of seawater sparkling in bright daylight. The strangeness of this planet was less oppressive to him now. The overwhelming blue-ness of the sky.

He thought of blue and how Bulma was no doubt working on Capsule 3 at this very moment. Blue hair in a ponytail, the toolbelt slung across her hips--or maybe she was carrying the small black case with the short handle.

Stop.

He would think about her later. He needed to catch up on his training.

Tired from his underwater efforts and still a little faint, he began to swim towards shore instead of flying.

 

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