“What is it?”
She was sitting up in the bed, the sheer silk of the sheets molded against the curves of her shivering, naked body, shivering as the cold night air wisped in through the open French windows. Whatever she saw on his face, dimly lit in the pallid starlight, gave away nothing of the death-scented sense of dread he woken tangled in moments ago. He scanned the grounds and the surrounding city to the limit of his senses, but he could scent nothing now, no presence or threat that would have given him such cold horror in his sleep. Nothing. Perhaps it was nothing more than a lingering impression of some dark dreamâ€¦
“Nothing,” he said with more surety than he felt. “It is nothing.”
“Then close the windows and some back to bed,” she said softly. “I’m freezing. There was no sharpness in her voice, not even the barest hint of coldness. But it was there. It was possible that she was not even consciously aware of just how angry she was with him. How angry she had been sinceâ€¦since everything had been put right again. He returned to bed obediently, wrapping his arms around her, his mouth brushing the short-cropped blue hair, moving downward to the soft line of her jaw.
“I will warm you, woman,” he growled softly. A ripple of pleasure shot through her body, a sense of joy mingled with rising heat at nothing more than his touch. Whatever had obstacles or hurdles had lain between them in the course of their often storm-tossed relationship, when skin met skin, there was no misunderstanding or pause. She kissed him, teeth grazing his lower lip like a Saiyan woman demanding her due of her mate. But then her breath caught in a little stitch, and she made a soft choking sound.
“I thought I’d lost you forever, Vegita,” she said, her voice trembling. “When I woke just nowâ€¦oh Kami, I thought it had only been a dream that you were alive again, that you were still d-d-” He put his lips against hers, tightening his embrace so she could feel his presence all the better. “I am no phantom, you fool woman,” he murmured against her throat. “I am flesh and bone as well as spirit. I am here.”
They had not spoken of his death once in the six days since returning from Kami’s Palace. She had nearly taken Kakarott’s head off when the fool had mentioned it in passing as they all stood around in dazed relief in the aftermath of Evil Buu’s death. She would not hear it mentioned.
Later that night, after returning to the eerie normalcy of Capsule Corp, she had sat still and calm-faced, her slim, graceful back straight as a rod, while she listened to him tell the tale of all that had happened, omitting nothing. Of all he had done, the evil and the good. He had stood before her like a prisoner in the dock, awaiting judgement, awaiting the explosion that was surely brewing beneath still surface of her expressionless porcelain face.
But no explosion had come. She had simply nodded, matter-of-fact, and opened her arms to him.
“It’s over and done with,” she had told him firmly in that too-calm voice. But it was not. She was very like him in so many ways, one of the most marked being her instinctive way of turning pain to anger almost instantaneously. But thisâ€¦ He had a feeling, deep and sure—though he did not pretend to fully understand the twists and turns of her mind completely, even after ten years—that theâ€¦the wound he had dealt her in his madness at the Budakai was too great for anger. Perhaps this was his penance. That though he had cheated Hell a second time, he had also driven a subtle but deep wedge between himself and his womanâ€¦and shattered her trust of him irreparably.
He drew back a little, pushing the short wisps of her bangs from her face, waiting for her to speak if she would, ready to bare the full force of her rage.
He had no words to offer in his own defense for what he had done. There were no none. She only stared at him, her sky-colored eyes pale as twin moons in the darkness.
“Bulmaâ€¦” He began, with no idea of what he was going to say. A spear of ice drove into his spine and he stiffened, and he drew up sharply, his body tensing.
“Vegita?” She said fearfully.
The dream-spun sense of the boy’s ki flared to full wakefulness. The brat sensed it too.
Poppa! There’s something—!
I will see to it! Come to our bedroom. Now, boy!
Trunks was at the bedroom door and through it in less than a second, knocking the wood from its hinges. “Poppa!” The boy gasped excitedly, his eyes bright and ferocious. One good thing had come of Baba-di’s machinations, at least. Trunks had been seasoned to true battle. And having known it once, would crave it evermore with every ounce of his Saiyan blood.
“Vegita, what—?” Bulma was saying.
“There is something outside,” he said curtly. “Lock the window behind me, Trunks. And do not leave your mother alone!” He was out the French window and gone before either of them could protest.
His feet lit on the soft grass of the little wildlife preserve Briefs kept on the grounds that ringed the main complex. He stood motionless, listening. The animals were still and utterly silent. They sensed it too, in their own way. A cold, stealthy, and somehowâ€¦sly predator close by. He grinned, baring his teeth as he caught the tiniest flicker of a presence in the tall fronds that encircled the amphibians’ lagoon. The grief-edged distance he had felt from Bulma in the last week needed an outlet. A violent one. It would solve no problems and repair no breachesâ€¦but it would feel good to kill something right now.
He saw it.
And sank into its bottomless, crimson-eyed gaze as it swept toward him in slow motion, cloaked in the dark like a lantern that shone blackness, while he stood helplessly, watching it come.
Consciousness faded in lazily. A sweet, dark song of unfulfilled need seemed to be lulling him to out of a light doze. Something was not right. Something wasâ€¦Something was sitting on him, croaking at him almost mockingly. He stared groggily at the distinct markings of the amphibian perched on his chest and grinned maliciously.
“Still alive, old frog?” His own voice sounded like a croak. His throat was so parched it felt raw. He sat up and tossed Ginyu back into his stagnant domain with a nasty smirk. He tried to stand and fell, gasping and shaking. His throat was damp and sticky with a stinging warmth. He lay a hand on his jugular and drew back fresh blood. The cowardly bastard had managed to wound him with that cheap mesmeric trick! He coughed and stood unsteadily, snarling softly with fury. Gods, he was thirsty!
He needed to drink. Now that he had put a word to it, the remedy was obvious. He needed something rich and hot, something to melt the icy numbness that had settled into his veins as he lay wounded in the cold night. He growled softly, scenting the terror-frozen animals hiding in the darkness around him, hearing their hearts thrumming in their chests—He stumbled over something small and still, and his heart froze in his chest for a bare instant before he sensed Trunks’ Ki, still bright and strong, radiating from the boy’s still body like a blue-green flame.
If the intruder had gotten past him and then the boyâ€¦He leapt back up to the balcony with a burst of strength born of real fear and smashed his fist upon the great panes of the French windows, cursing himself for a fool. It did not break… gods, he was as weak as a babe, he thought hollowly, leaning against the glass, his legs betraying him again. The short flight to the balcony had taken all the energy he had. Bulma’s face appeared on the other side of the pane, pale and worried. Her hand was fumbling at the latch.
“Let me in, Bulma,” he said softly. That sense of bone-deep chill was worse now, spreading through every inch of his body, gathering in a gnawing, empty ache in the pit of his stomach. He neededâ€¦he needed something to warm him up.
But something in the tone of his voice, perhaps some subtle difference that someone who knew him less well would have missed, perhaps some ancient and nameless instinct, made her hand pause on the lock. She peered through the glass, her face a fraction paler.
“Vegita?” she said slowly.
“Woman,” he snapped irritably, sounding much more like himself,
“It is cold out here.”
She opened the door and let him in, frowning at the drying blood around the gash at his throat. “Where is Trunk?” She asked tensely. “We heard you yell, and Trunks took off after you. I couldn’t stop him!”
“He is well,” he began. He doubled over, crying out faintly, as a knife of ice drove into his stomach and twisted cruelly. He could hear her voice, crying to him, feel her arms around, trying to catch him as he sagged to his knees. He ground his teeth, hissing with the effort it took not to scream, as he tried to steady himself against her. It was worse than the red-hot spikes of agony Baba-di had driven into his brain, trying to cow him, to make him submit. It was worse than any pain he had felt in a very long time, but it was not the worst he had ever experienced. Not by a long stretch. He slowly began to master it, slowly began to make sense of Bulma’s frantic words.
“What is it?! Oh Kami, Vegita, what happened to you?!”
His arms tightened around her, trying to reassure her without words. His throat was too dry and cracked to speak suddenly. He lay his head on her shoulder, breathing unsteadily. “thirsty”
“I’m going to wake Poppa, and call a doctor,” she was saying anxiously. “You need—“
He held her firm as she tried to pull away from him. “I need you, Bulma,” he whispered harshly against the warm pulse of her throat. He knew now what he needed, what he had been craving during that spasm of agony moments ago. What would slake his thirst and thaw the biting cold inside him. He was kissing her hard now, grazing her shoulder and neck with sharp teeth. He pushed her down beneath him on the floor and began pulling at her night clothes and his own, deaf to her pleas to let go, to let her summon a medic for him. Her protests turned to soft, high gasps as he drove his full length into her roughly, sinking inside her tight heat. He broke the fragile, silk skin at the base of her throat as he had so many times before, and the hot, sweet taste of her life poured into hi mouthâ€¦.And it was everything he needed. It was a balm to the aching, empty cold in his body. It was all he had been starving for, a satiation beyond words. She shrieked as she came, bucking beneath him repeatedly, as he drank deeper and thrust into her harder and harder, her cries rising in his ears like a song of all her life’s desires fulfilled. He could sense, feel, their breath and heartbeats falling into rhythmic sync, that she was coming over and over without pause, climbing to a dizzying new climax with each drought he drank from her, with each stroke her thrust inside her. She was inside him, her life-force gushing into him with her blood, filling him with everything that was her, she was—
She was sobbing softly, her fists hammering futilely on his back, her face buried in the crook of his neckâ€¦her mind sliding into his. “bastard … selfish bastard…” The words and the hurt wrapped inside them sliced into his mind like a serrated blade. You gave your soul to Baba-di!
Tried to be rid of meâ€¦to stop loving meâ€¦Why, Vegitaâ€¦why? The full force of her pain struck him like a sucker punch to the gut.
Why?! Why, goddam you?!
It was the question he had feared most, the one he would never have been able to answer aloud. Kakarott had beat it out of him, and still he had not said the deepest reasons that had driven him to do what he had done. Why?
He could not say why, even think it for more than a fleeting second or two at a time, butâ€¦He poured it into her mind, all he had thought, all he had felt, and she shuddered beneath him as he slowed his pace inside her, giving her the memory of his actions, and the feelings for which he had no words.
She was all there was for him, she and Trunks. Everythingâ€¦And he could feel her begin to understand vaguely that perhaps there really were no
words for what he felt. His love for her, his sense of her love, was likeâ€¦like a man looking at the sunrise after a lifetime of blindness. She couldn’t fathom how much it meant to him, because she had know love all her life. Before he had known herâ€¦oh godohgod! Ohâ€¦Vegitaâ€¦ He drew the memories of his life before Chikyuu away before she caught more than that one fleeting glimpse, knowing they would horrify her.
It had been too much. Did she see that? Could she ever understand? Too much that was good, too much that was kind and gentle and—and everything that would get a man gutted if he let it work its way into his heart. And more than that, more important than any pain it caused him, was the danger
she was in, she and the boy, simply be being close to him. Because everything that was good, everything he treasured in any way, died, crushed and mangled in a bloody mess. And the fear of losing all that he had built on this soft green world with her had grown to a paralyzing terror. Better to be rid of such unnatural, weakling’s affectionsâ€¦better to stop caring for her and the boy, and simply leave this world. Because if he no longer loved them, perhaps they would be safe.
He choked on a sob as he drove into her one last time, feeling her shaking with tears as she gasped weakly for breath. She was—He looked down at her and knew he had never known any true measure of the word horror until this moment. She was trying to hitch little mouthfuls of air, trying to speak,
her face and her body—she was bled white as bleached boneâ€¦ He uttered a wordless, animal howl of denial.
“â€¦coldâ€¦” She breathed shallowly.
Her heart was slowing, falling out of step with hisâ€¦failing. He lifted her head and tore open the gash in his throat, driven by a kind of bone-deep, desperate instinct he didn’t understand. What had he doneâ€¦What had he done?! He pressed her lips to the flow of his own blood.
There was no word of protest or revulsion—a drowning swimmer will grasp at any rope. Her mouth fastened on his neck and she drank in great, gulping swallows, taking all he had, clinging to him with growing strength. She pushed him on his back and mounted him, sliding around him, moving over him as she drew back what he had taken from her. And he began to come as she had, poised on a long, breathless crest of a wave of pleasure that never broke against the shore. And thenâ€¦ Then it was over. He caught her in both arms as it burst inside them, holding her in an embrace that would have crushed her bones an hour ago. Not now. She was changing before his eyes, her bones hardening, muscle and sinew morphing into sleek, moon-pale strength. Her eyesâ€¦her eyes were red, full of his blood, glittering and incandescent in the darkness. He kissed the blood, his blood, off her lips, blinking away reddish tears.
She returned his kiss with surprising force, shaking her head.
“You didn’t! Vegita, what happened to you outside?”
“Somethingâ€¦cold attacked me. It did this.” He touched his throat.
She was staring at the gash on his neck, fingering the matching wound on her own neck. “It was a vampire,” she said flatly. “What is that?”
She began pulling on her clothes, speaking hurriedly as he did the same. “Most people think they’re legends, but Poppaâ€¦he used to hunt them when he was young. One of them killed a girl he was in love with when he was a boy—don’t tell Mom that, by the way. She think she’s the first woman he ever kissed.” She turned on him, her eyes furious and full of fear. “We have to kill the one that attacked you in the next few hours. Right now, he’s sort of holding us in this halfway state through a kind of symbiosis, but soon the—the infection will take root inside us, and we’ll be vampires permanently.”
“What is a vampire?” He asked again irritably.
“A parasite whose body is dead,” she said bleakly. “It feeds on the blood and life-force of other living thins to live.” Her ivory pale face turned whiter still.
She doubled over with an agonized scream, just as a shrill, tiny cackle erupted through the open windows behind them.
The full magnitude of what had just happened to them had still not impressed itself on Vegita, she knew. She moaned faintly, drawing into a ball, her arms clutching her stomach. Vegita’s had slipped around her abdomen, soothing and easing the pangs with just the sense of his touch. She’d learned in the first year of being his lover that he was almost completely incapable of expressing softer emotions. The very presence of such feelings, when he had first begun to realize that he cared for her, had sent him running from her as though all the armies of Hell were on his heels. He could not be coerced to speak of feelings aloud, even under slow torture, she imagined. But if he could not say the word “love”, he had learned to do it. A little better with each passing year. A little more the man he should have been and less the monster he had been raised to become. Until the Tournamentâ€¦ She squeezed her eyes shut against the memory of his face as he had raised his open hand in the arena and killed several hundred people. Just to make a point to Son-Kun. The cold, almost beatific smile on his on his face had been so—
And now, his cold, murderous expression as he stood before her, shielding her from the squat, greenish-gray thing that stood on the balcony, should have been no less terrifying. But knowing what drove him to do what he did, then and now, took all the fear away. And the agonizing sense of betrayal
that had eaten at her insides for a week now.
“It can’t come in unless we invite it,” she gasped weakly. The sound turned to a low moan when she saw what the creature held in one clawed hand.
“Give me my son,” Vegita hissed, deadly soft, the red tint of his eyes matching those of the thing that held their son by the throat. A soft, sick-sweet chuckle. Why do you care if I feed off this dainty morsel, warrior? You are my kind now. Greedy fellowâ€¦Have you not drunk your fill of the woman? Why do you want him back?
“Because he is mine!!” Vegita roared. He whipped forward, as the thing had known he would, crossing the threshold of the French doorsâ€¦outside the protection of the house. The vampire made no move to defend itself, as she tried to shout a warning, tried to tell Vegita—but he had already fallen into
the thing’s eyes.
Fool, the dead thing said. You were not supposed to turn the woman. I had thought a killer such as yourself would not hesitate to drain her dry. An icy, skeletal hand gripped him by the throat, as he tried to pull his eyes away, tried to move. You cannot fight me. You gave the girl all your strength.
All that was left of it after I drank the first drought, that is. I am afraid you are a bit of a liability nowâ€¦” It’s nails extended to long razors, preparing to flex, preparing to slice his throat open to the bone.
Bulma shrieked and threw herself forward without thinking, beating the creature away from Vegita, though it still kept Trunks tucked firmly under one arm. Vegita’s bloodâ€¦I’m full of Vegita’s blood and his Ki, she thought dimly as she back-handed the gray thing and leapt forward again. She gripped its bony leg as it tried to scramble back up to its feet, and squeezed viciously. It wailed, high and shrill, as she felt the brittle bones beneath her fingers give way.
“Give me my baby, you blood-sucking fucker!” she rasped, tightening her grip.
The gray lips split in an obscene parody of a smile. And it handed Trunks over. Too easily. It had given its one bargaining chip up far too easily. She bent over Trunks, examining him anxiously for bite marks. Beside her, Vegita was snarling softly, half-conscious.
The pangs struck her again, like and infusion of icy pain, shot throughout every nerve and fiber of her being, gathering to a screaming crescendo in the pit of her stomach. Her empty stomach. Oh no! Nonono!
She bent over Trunks, whimpering faintly. The boy stirred in her arms.
He smelled like honey and new-baked bread to a famine scarecrow, like cold spring water after months in an endless desert. “Oh god, noâ€¦.noâ€¦”
Drink, Bulma Briefs, the creature crooned. Drink and ease your pain.
“â€¦can’tâ€¦I can’tâ€¦” But Kami help her, she was bending her head lower over the defenseless throat of this child she had carried inside her, she
was— Vegita snatched Trunks from her arms and threw him behind them, back inside the house. She collapsed, sobbing hysterically. She hadn’t been able to stop herself! Vegita had pulled himself to a shaky stance and was standing directly between herself and Trunks and the vampire, growling like a cornered lion, his teeth bared.
“Keep your rotting, dead hands off my family,” he said. He raised his open hand to the creature, drawing on some deep reserve of power, and blasted a plate-sized hole through its chest.
You cannot kill me! You cannot!
“Is that not why you sought me out?” Vegita hissed, aiming another blast that incinerated its legs. “Because I am a killer?”
“Take his head off!” She screamed. “It will just regenerate if you don’t!”
Nonono! I can give you all you have ever dreamed of having, warrior! You will be immortal as one of my kind! You can rule this world, all the worlds in the galaxy, if you wish! Have the power of a god, the wealth of a thousand worlds at your feet! What is it that you want, warrior?! Name your price and it shall be yours! Telllll meeee!! What do you want?!
Vegita’s face was like a stone, his blood-red eyes full of murder. “I have it already.” And he tore the vampire’s head from its shoulders in one vicious jerk. the balcony was suddenly bathed in red, burning light, and Bulma felt herself begin to fall. She was unconscious before her body struck the carpet.
“â€¦hunted them to near extinction when I was a young man,” her father’s voice was saying. “But we didn’t get them all. I always worried one of the survivors would try something like this.”
She was lying in her own bed. The voices drifting from the hallway outside the bedroom sounded hushed.
“And Bulma and myself?” Vegita’s sounded tense with submerged worry.
“Hmm? Oh, you’re both fine. My UV ray fried him up to a crispy critter after you decapitated him,” Poppa said. “He won’t be regenerating. And the two of you won’t be sprouting fangs or bat wings.” Poppa was silent for a moment, then he spoke again in a grave, serious tone she had seldom heard him use. “Don’t beat yourself up about biting her. I know these monsters, hunted them all over the world when I was a lad. You couldn’t have stopped yourself, my boy. And you saved them both from him when it mattered most.” Vegita’s response was an eloquent grunt.
“This vampireâ€¦I think his name was Szyiktra. One of the older ones we never caught. He came after Bulma and Trunks to get at me for killing his relatives, I guess.” Poppa sighed tiredly. “It’s scary, isn’t it? How the things a man does in his youth can come back to haunt himâ€¦and his family.”
Vegita was silent. “You know, young man,” her father went on thoughtfully. “When you first came to live with us, I thought you were a stainless steel, died in the wool, world class asshole. Couldn’t see what my little girl saw there.” A low chuckle from Vegita. “And now, old man?”
“Now you’re a stainless steel, died in the wool, world class assholeâ€¦who’d die to protect his family. And that’s better than good enough in my book.”
She heard the soft sound of Poppa’s bunny-slippered footfalls patter off down the hall. Vegita came back inside, shutting the new bedroom door the servo-bots had erected behind him. He sat down on the bed beside her, his face as hard and cold as bromide frozen steel.
“You will be well in a few days, your father says.” “That’s nice.” She wanted to talk to him, to hear him say all the things he had let her see when their minds had become entangled.
“Vegitaâ€¦” But he frowned and shook his head, as though he could barely stand the memory of having laid himself so open at her feet. Of having revealed so much of what lay behind that stone barrier around his heart. So, she only said, “What about you? Are you okay?”
“No,” he murmured, reaching down to cup her face. “But I will be. A little better with each day that passes.”
She smiled and tried to sit, but he met her halfway, easing her weak, trembling body back down onto the bed. She kissed him.
“That’s good,” she said.