Disclaimer: I do not own DBZ, or the characters from it. I do not make any money from the writing of this story. But if I did...Trust me when I say there would be whole saga's dedicated to Bulma and Vegeta's relationship.
Warnings: Cussing! (Phew, back to normal)
A/N: So I've made it to my new county/place and am settling in--so yeah! That should mean more regular updates...but you know how that goes. Anywhoo--thank you to all of my awesome readers/reviewers for being so damn awesome all the time. You guys are really understanding and I love that. Also, this chapter is for all of you who were asking where Vegeta was last chapter...
Lilpumpkingirl, you have managed to still be an amazing beta, no matter how much or little I throw at you at a time. Keep it up!!
Also, also--one last shameless plug. I had a request from one of my reviewers last chapter for a story idea, and I just wanted to direct you guys to my (random ass) tumblr where I have a lovely ask box which I leave open specifically for others to leave me ideas/words/songs/whatever that I can turn into a drabble or story. Find it at okieday17[.]tumblr[.]com[/]as…
All right! On to the boys!
Chapter Twenty-Five: No Girls Allowed
Vegeta, despite the distance he had put between Bulma and himself, was not having any easier of a time than she was (not that he knew this, what with being on the other side of the country and all). Yes, he had been the one to build up a large wall between them, and yes, he had been the one who had been unkind to a woman who had almost lost her life (a woman who he was finding it harder and harder to deny he had some sort of feelings for). But he was finding it hard to keep his mind off of her even at Saiyan Castle (he did have one!) near the Scottish borders. So he occupied his days and nights with anything and everything, but the woman herself. During the day, he rode his grounds, visiting the tenants who lived on his large estate, helped with maintenance of the tenants properties, checking on crops and livestock, and whatever other manual labor he could do to occupy his hours when the sun was up. He caught up on his own property, on the politics of the region, and generally did what a real Duke (who was not also a spy) did.
His nights were full of working out the problem of Zhelonie and Frieza. He had kept up correspondence with Basil, and the list that Bulma had provided had undoubtedly saved many lives. The men and women whose name and aliases had been compromised were now either under the guarded protection of the crown, or they were moved somewhere where they would be safe. Vegeta frowned as he thought about those two options--neither was appealing to him (or anyone who had enjoyed the freedom of being a spy, really) and he was thankful, not for the first time, to see that his name was not on the list. Never mind the fact that he had put himself in a self-exposed exile these last few weeks. It came down to the fact that he could return whenever he wanted.
Not that returning to London was all that appealing. Recently it seemed to hold nothing for him but headaches and unanswered questions--which is why he had ridden Thunder for two days until he had gotten to the farthest away Vegetasei property that was in England proper. So he could think in peace. He could have crossed the English Channel to the continent, and go to his many estates and holdings there as well, but that was a bit extreme in his opinion...especially as the whole spy game had been kicked up a notch the second Bulma found that very real list of spies.
When they had found the list, they had all but confirmed that Frieza was indeed on English soil, putting a huge chunk to the piece of the puzzle in also confirming who the Ginyu Force really was. In his correspondence to Basil, he learned that they had allowed the acting troupe to move on, but they were now under closely guarded watch, all of their reporting's heading straight back to Basil, who would then tell Vegeta what he could. Even knowing who the Ginyu Force was, though, did not help them find Frieza. London was an extremely easy place to disappear into, and Frieza had taken full advantage of this in choosing to come during the busy Ton season. But still--they were close! Knowing who the Ginyu Force was, and that they were indeed passing messages to Frieza--it was like they had two very vital clues. Not that it mattered since they were missing the step that tied these two clues together. Frieza was in London, and had corresponded to the Ginyu Force...through Zhelonie. But who was Zhelonie?
Vegeta could not help but come back to that one question, over and over. Forcing himself to think over every last person he had met during the season. Or to the seasons before, to recall every bit of gossip he had gleaned through Bulma (or, unwittingly, through listening to her mother's prattle--for being an airhead, she sure knew a lot about other people's businesses), to even just every French sounding name he could recall. He wrote lists and lists of possible names, crossing names out, rewriting them again, then crossing them out again. It was like everything boiled down to that one question.
Vegeta could not help but feel that if they solved who Zhelonie was, that everything else would snap into place. Or, it could be that Vegeta hated being outsmarted--and he was currently being outsmarted by this figure, who flaunted being a spy in public. The problem with Zhelonie was that they knew he was there, that he was able to get into the Ton's balls, opera's, musicales--any events he wanted to, really--but they did not know who he was or how he was doing it. And Vegeta had a sneaking suspicion that Zhelonie knew that they knew he was there. How could he not be aware that he was being searched for? He probably delighted in being looked for but not being caught--which made him extremely dangerous. He was a masked agent at the moment, and he could have the most secretive information being unwittingly spilled in front of him, all because Vegeta could not figure out who he was.
Vegeta found this task consuming him, overcoming him to an unhealthy degree, even as he went about Saiyan Castle, on this lordly duty or that ducal duty. He wrote down everything he could think of, even if he was in the middle of breaking the newest Vegetasei stallion, and would later pin it up in his secret study as soon as he could (of course he had one here as well, he could very well not leave things out for the staff to find). His wall was covered with dirty scraps of papers, napkins, other reports he had written on the back of, all with clues as to who Zhelonie was. He would spend hours every night rearranging it, changing it, pulling things down, putting them up--looking for that elusive answer.
He knew he feverishly wrote Basil, and absorbed any information from him the second he received it (which was few and far between--he was in his furthest away estate, and even on the fastest horses, from here to London it was a two day trip), never letting his mind stop. Even in the middle of the night, he would find himself bounding from his bed, writing down that new piece of information his brain had grasped hoping it would help answer his unanswerable questions.
He was being more fanatic about this than he had been about most of his other spy duties (he could not say all...he knew there was at least one task he was/would be more fanatical about than this one, or anything else in his life for that matter) but there was a very good reason for that. Simply if he stopped what he was doing, he would find his mind straying to that other bit of niggling information he wish he could forget about--namely, Bulma Briefs.
He could not, and would not let himself mope about or think about her. He had made the decision to cut her out of his life, and he would stick to that decision with all of his might. He knew he had made the decision for the best of reasons, and that any sort of attachment would be foolish on his part. So why then...why did he find himself remembering how soft her hair was? Or just how sweet her lips were? And why, for heaven's sake, did his chest seem to hurt when he remembered how she had looked when he had looked her in the eyes and told her he did not want her?
But before he could ponder those questions too deeply, or probe that open wound that seemed to be festering in his soul, Vegeta would furiously force himself to think of another name to add to his list of suspects for just who Zhelonie was. It did not help that almost all of his intel on this season seemed to come from the very woman he had sworn not to think about--but that could not be helped. Nor could it be helped that he had to finally return to London, despite his fervent wishes otherwise. As Basil so bluntly put it in today's response to another of Vegeta's questioning missives, I often find it easier to have information about potential spy candidates when I happen to be in the same CITY as said spy. As much as I enjoy being your pen pal, Vegetasei, I do believe it would be best served for the mission, and your sanity, if you returned to London.
The letter had not surprised Vegeta, but he had not been happy about it either. He had been putting off returning to London as long as he could, as well as the long, two-day journey ahead of him, as he knew that it meant he would have lots of time to think. Oh joy. But still, Vegeta left Saiyan Castle with as much fanfare as he had entered it (which put it at about a zero on the level of fanfare's). Promising himself that he would spend most of the ride back thinking further on his theories about who Zhelonie was, and not at all about that blue-haired witch who had ensnared his mind as well as his body.
Easier said than done.
Vegeta arrived back in London on an unusually bright and sunny day, at odds with the chillier, more overcast nature he had left in the borderlands. He had frowned at the lovely day, wishing he were back where the weather seemed to match his mood, but knowing that it would be downright foolish not to be where Zhelonie and Frieza were, especially as things seemed to be steaming towards a head. As he rode Thunder back to Saiyan Hall though, his bad mood only soured, especially as he found people out and about, smiling, laughing, and basking in the warming glow of the sun. He frowned even deeper at their good moods, wishing, more than usual, that he did not have to be in London right now.
His entrance into Saiyan Hall was uneventful, as he found that all of the elder residents were out and about (the dowager, out and about? He did now know whether or not to thank his lucky stars, or to worry what she was plotting), and that Bulma was holed up in her room, while Kakarrot was outside sparring with Nappa and the bald runt. Nappa had not joined Vegeta on his trek in the wilds, as Vegeta had needed him to remain in London, to see what leads he could scare up from his usual sources. Vegeta knew he would have to pump Nappa for information in a little, but for right now, he would leave his man to his sparring.
Vegeta took the relative quietness and solitude of the house in with a deep breath, before ascending the main staircase. He headed first to his room, where he changed from his dusty riding clothes, before he turned right back around, changed into another set of black clothes, with every intention of heading straight back out the front door and heading straight to the War Offices so he could speak to Basil in person.
So he could not explain why he found himself, instead, turning into the guest wing, heading to where he knew Bulma's room was. His feet seemed to have a mind of their own as they carried him closer and closer to where her quarters were, frowning as he remembered the last time he had been here. The unsuccessful attempt to make her his mistress the night of the opera. If only he could turn back time to that much simpler time when he knew the only thing he wanted from Bulma was her body. Well and her sharp mind...but that night he would not have cared if she were a halfwit.
He stopped right outside of her door staring at the solid oak door, and he knew he would not knock. He was not here to talk to her, or to confront her, about anything. Long gone were the days where he would consult her with his thoughts about the mission, and even longer gone were the days he would seek her out just to see her smiling face. But he grew a great comfort, that he dared not analyze, simply from standing in front of her closed door, his hand on the wood, as he pictured her on the other side, working furiously at her latest invention. He took a deep breath, the lilac aroma he would always associate with her permeating straight through to his bones, awakening a singing in his blood that he thought he had purged himself of.
"What are you doing?"
Only Vegeta's years of training in the service and as a spy stopped him from dropping his hand and jumping away from the door, guiltily. Instead, he turned, slowly drawing his hand back to his side as he took in the younger man standing not ten feet away from him, curiously watching him. Kakarrot stared at him, his head cocked to the side, and Vegeta studied him for a hint of maliciousness. But there was none. Kakarrot just stared at him, genuinely perplexed.
Vegeta straightened, cursing his lack of height, but glad to know his authority made him appear taller than the mere pup in front of him. "I am here to check on the progress of the ships engine from your sister."
Kakarrot's eyes did not narrow in suspicion, nor did his mouth give a knowing smirk, as Vegeta would have expected. Instead he only crossed his arms, cocking his head more. "So why don't you knock and ask her?"
Vegeta wished he knew this man in front of him more (outside the training grounds that was), to know whether or not this questioning fool was an act of his or not, but Vegeta did not, so he could not. "Even you must be aware of how inappropriate a situation like that would be. To knock on a woman's closed door, seeking entrance, especially into her private chambers."
Kakarrot shrugged, "Never stopped me."
Vegeta's mouth drew into a hard line at that though he knew, by Bulma's own admission, that her and Kakarrot were nothing more than (adopted) siblings. "Well, you are brother and sister. Circumstances are different."
Another obtuse shrug, which drew Vegeta's ire.
"So your plan was to stand outside Bulma's door until she came out?" Vegeta mutinously said nothing, only crossing his arms, facing his cousin fully. Kakarrot leant back against the wall behind him, as if he was settling in for a long chat. "Might as well get comfortable. Bulma hasn't really been coming out of her room much lately."
Unwittingly, Vegeta started forward, his ears perking up, "Really?"
Kakarrot nodded, crossing his arms and his ankles as he casually took in the Duke. "Yeah--she's been pretty intensely working, she does that sometimes. Usually when she's near the end of a project...or when her and Yamcha would be fighting."
Vegeta cursed himself for caring, but he could not stop himself from asking. "Yamcha?"
Kakarrot smiled at Vegeta, though his tone of voice remained casual. "Bulma's old suitor in America. The one she broke up with right before she came here?" Kakarrot stood, cracking his back out, casually adding, "Though they would probably be back together if we were in America. Those two have been on and off for years. We're all waiting for them to make it official--Bulma thought it would have been this past winter if...well, if we hadn't left."
Vegeta wished he could walk away from this conversation, wished he could throw his hands up and say he did not care, but instead he found himself unable to stop asking questions. Especially about this fool of an idiot Yamcha--Vegeta remembered him, though he did not remember the name. The scarred idiot. How could one not remember him? He had guessed that Bulma and that fool had been lovers--but to know that her and this man might have gotten married if he had not showed up? That started a black pit boiling in his stomach, that had him cracking his knuckles as he imagined putting a hole through this man's stomach. If the only reason they were not engaged already was because of Vegeta's interference in Bulma's life than he was glad. Beyond glad. That idiot did not deserve her.
Kakarrot spoke again, halting Vegeta's envious thoughts, "The only times she's come out recently have been when that icy blonde woman called on her...and Viridian, I think?"
Vegeta's head reared back to Kakarrot, his eyes growing large. The icy blonde woman? Viridian?!! Not knowing which piece of information to grasp on first, Vegeta felt his throat clog, and he tried to clear it, trying to work through the gasp that was caught there. The icy blonde woman...that could only be Eighteen. But why in the dickens would she call on Bulma? What on Kami's green earth could his former have to say to Bulma? And Viridian?! How dare he call upon her in Vegeta's own house! "I hope she did not receive him. That would be highly improper."
Kakarrot gave him a broad smile, reaching over to smack Vegeta on the back, congenially. Vegeta had to fight the urge to congenially punch Kakarrot right back in the face, especially as he heard his cousins idiotic response. "Don't worry about it. I was there."
Vegeta felt like snapping, oh that makes everything better than, doesn't it?! But knowing that the longer him and Kakarrot stood right outside Bulma's door, the greater the chance would be of the two of them being discovered by the woman herself, he desperately tried to think of way to get the two of them out of here. "Well thank you for maintaining her propriety." Vegeta's eyes flashed as he took in Kakarrot in his training gear, suddenly feeling the blood beneath his skin pounding with the need to thrash something, soundly. "How about you show me if you have improved at all in the last few weeks, and we spar?"
Kakarrot's eyes finally widened with interest, but he shook his head after a moment of contemplation. "I have already sparred outside today. I am tired." Vegeta saw an unusual glint in Kakarrot's eyes as he continued, "Though...if there were some indoors gentleman's club, with an actual ring and training equipment we could use..."
Vegeta felt his own eyes narrowing. Was his younger cousin bribing him into taking him to Jackson's? Bribe might be too strong of a word for something as innocent as asking to be brought to a indoor gentleman's club--but Kakarrot seemed good and planted in the spot he was currently standing in, which boxed Vegeta into being right outside Bulma' s door. Did Kakarrot realize how much Vegeta wanted, no, needed to escape from where he currently was without being forced to awkwardly run into Bulma? Vegeta's lip turned up in a snarl at that thought, especially as Kakarrot stood, only idiotically smiling back at him and he considered giving his cousin a sound thrashing for daring make such a request of him. As he took a step forward, though, Vegeta heard movement behind the door he was standing in front of, and he froze. Shit--they needed to get moving, and they needed to get moving quickly.
So Vegeta only nodded, before pushing past, speaking as he walked away. "Meet me at Jackson's in an hour. Do not be late."
He did not have to turn around to know that fool of his cousin was standing behind him, grinning like an idiot.
Vegeta's visit to the war offices was uneventful. Basil was happy, but not surprised, to see Vegeta back in his offices after the last missive he had sent him. The only news Basil really had to report was that nothing had really changed, though a large number of spies were still going missing. The forces were being rallied, all active members of His Majesty's royal service being asked to the capital or to go into hiding. Vegeta knew that this had partly to do with the fear of how many covers were blown, but also with the fear that a war was fast approaching and that Basil wanted as many troops on hand as possible for when the time came to strike.
The only immediate news was that there was a function that Basil wanted Vegeta to attend that evening, as it was being thrown by the French embassy--which meant that every French person living in London was sure to be there. Basil spoke in his usual no nonsense tone as he relayed Vegeta's orders. "Now that our numbers have dwindled, we need every available spy with enough blue blood to be there tonight. Tell Lilac to be on her highest alert."
Vegeta frowned at that, his face set like stone at the mention of Bulma, even through her code name. "I will not be seeing Lilac before the event. I suggest you send her a note telling her yourself."
Basil's eyebrow quirked up, but he said nothing on that, the rest of the meeting progressing without incident. As he stood to leave, Basil gave Vegeta a rare smile. "We are happy to have you back in London, your Grace. It makes things much easier to have the top spy in London actually in London."
Vegeta gave a nod to that as he frowned at Basil's smirk, but beyond that he saw no reason to comment, so he only turned and left the room.
He made it to Jackson's before the appointed time with Kakarrot, and smiled at Korin, who was beaming to see Vegeta back at his place. "Vegetasei! Long time no see. I thought we had finally lost you to the crush of the season."
Vegeta smirked, shaking his head. "Never."
Korin did not move from his chair, only motioning to the back room. "Well you have impeccable timing as always. It is a Tuesday, and Piccolo is currently alone in the back training room."
Vegeta bowed to Korin, cracking his knuckles expectantly, even as he walked towards the back room. The tumult of emotions he had been going through, especially since his 'enlightening' conversation with Kakarrot resulted in a singularly pulsing desire in Vegeta to fight. Besides his cousin, what better person to exercise this desire on?
Piccolo was in the middle of a training kata when Vegeta entered the room, stopping on the threshold to watch the graceful movements of the other man. Piccolo was an interesting fighter--a man who was totally at zen with himself and his surroundings, which made him dangerous as he seemed to sense the movements around him before they even happened. As Vegeta saw Piccolo finish up his kata, he stepped further into the room, smirking. "Piccolo."
Piccolo did not seem that surprised to find that he was no longer alone in the room as he looked over his shoulder, only walking over to towel some sweat off before he spoke. "Your Grace." He hesitated a moment (as he often did) before he continued. "I was beginning to lose hope of us ever sparring again." His voice was cool, calming, like water--as it was every time he spoke.
Vegeta shrugged, cracking his neck as he rolled it. "Sometimes Ducal duties pull me outside of London."
Piccolo's green eyes flashed as he took the man in, but he only moved back to the center of the ring, his voice soft as he replied. "Of course."
Vegeta dropped into a sparring stance, not wanting to waste any time. He was grateful to see Piccolo do so as well, but before either could throw a punch, Vegeta remembered Kakarrot's near arrival and decided to alert the man to their change in training. "My cousin will be joining us in about a quarter hour. He is also an excellent fighter, so I do not anticipate him posing a problem to our usual pace."
Piccolo, who had been rotating his arms, stretching them out, stopped at Vegeta's pronouncement, frowning. He suddenly stood from the position he had been in, and looked to the clock on the wall as if he had forgotten it was there. When Piccolo looked back, Vegeta saw something unfamiliar flash in the other man's eyes. "Unfortunately, your Grace, I cannot stay much longer. I had not realized how late the hour has grown. I have an important appointment today that cannot be missed and appreciate your patience until we can fight again."
Vegeta frowned, wishing to question the man on his change of heart, but before he could, Piccolo was giving him a respectful bow as he strode from the room. "Until Thursday."
Vegeta stared at the doorway the man had just fled through, perplexed. Not much thought could be given to the change of heart, though, as a few seconds later, footsteps approached, and Kakarrot appeared in the room, being led by a smiling Korin. Korin took no notice of Vegeta's perplexed face, or the lack of the Indian in the room, only smiling broadly. "Here is the Duke now. Why don't you go change in those rooms I showed you, and meet us back in here?"
Vegeta looked at the two men, frowning as he saw the bonds of camaraderie already growing between the pair of them. Korin was his master--and he did not like that his cousin was already growing friendly with him. Though he could not explain why. Korin was a master to many--but maybe knowing that Kakarrot already shared so many aspects of Vegeta's life made him cagey about those that they did not have to. As Kakarrot gave a sufficiently respectful bow, looking reverent as he said, "Yes Master Korin." Vegeta only scowled at the pair, crossing his arms.
Kakarrot headed out of the room, and Korin walked further in, his smile in place as he stopped next to Vegeta, oblivious to Vegeta's black mood (or purposefully ignoring it). "Vegeta, you did not tell me your cousin was trained in the Turtle style."
Vegeta looked down at his odd little master, shrugging. "I was not aware that the Turtle style was something that interested you."
Korin chuckled as he shook his head, before turning his usual smile onto Vegeta. "Of course it should interest me. I trained the man who invented it."
That stopped Vegeta again, drawing his mind from the mystery of the disappearing Piccolo, and everything else that had been thrown at him that day. "You trained Kakarrot's master?"
Korin nodded, "Seems that way." He quirked his eyebrow, "Your styles must be amazingly similar. Have you noticed anything of that sort?"
Feeling petulant for some unexplainable reason, Vegeta stubbornly stuck his chin out. "As if I would deign to call that rubbish way my cousin has of sparring close to my own style."
Korin raised an eyebrow at Vegeta's tone, but ignored it as he turned back around to study the open doorway Kakarrot had just left through. He rubbed his chin, musing aloud, "I wonder if this is the same boy Roshi wrote me about so long ago. Found in the woods, living by himself--but with a great potential to be an amazing fighter. An incredibly quick learner--the best student Roshi had ever had. But his name was different.... What was it? Go--something? Gohan? Goten? Something like that."
Vegeta's lips were in a thin line again. "Goku?"
Korin snapped, smiling again, "That's it! If the boy has as much fighting spirit as Roshi wrote about, I should sell tickets to your two's fight."
Vegeta's felt himself growing snappish, but he only shook his head at his master's proclamation. So it did not seem to matter that Vegeta had trained under Korin, who was considered the greatest master in the British Isles. The same fighting style that Vegeta had been praised under was something, it seemed, that his cousin was already fantastic at. Great. Was there nothing in Vegeta's life that Kakkarot would not inherit once Vegeta was gone?
Vegeta's mouth turned to sand at that thought, and whatever need he had felt to fight left as well. Today as not going as planned at all. In London for only a few hours--and already Vegeta was counting down the hours until he would be able to leave. And, to top it all off, he had to attend some sort of society event tonight so he could try and flush Zhelonie out. Today could get no worse by Vegeta's own estimation--though maybe he should hold off in saying that until the dowager had seen him again. "I have lost the desire to fight right now. Please ensure that Kakarrot is set up with an adequate partner."
Korin stared at Vegeta with open eyes, but he only nodded, "Are you feeling alright?"
Vegeta did not bother to look at him as he walked towards the exit, "I find myself with no desire to fight suddenly and see no reason to go through the motions with a man I have already sparred with numerous times."
"I meant more you have never turned down the opportunity to fight before, Vegetasei."
Vegeta knew his voice was snappish when he answered, but he could not help it, "I just don't feel like fighting right now. Okay?"
Korin was oddly silent after that, and Vegeta resumed walking out of the room, but, as Vegeta suspected, Korin could not stop himself from having the last word. "Sometimes a troubled soul does more to hamper the fight inside of a man, than broken bones or torn skin."
Vegeta stopped at the open doorway, but he did not turn, only nodding to acknowledge that he had even heard the words, before he left Jackson's wishing to Kami that he were still in the borderlands.
A/N: Hmm, seems like everyone is full of secrets in this story. Seriously, is anyone exactly who they say they are?? (Where would the fun be in that?)
Anywhoo--hope I got you guys ready for the next chapter! I might be a little mean to Vegeta in the next chapter--but really, doesn't that asshole deserve it?