She hunched low in the back as the Planetary Marshall cocked his horned, purplish head at the dirty, shivering group of women, and shook his head disgustedly.
"You're a worthless fool, Berta! Couldn't you find anything that was just a tad more comely than a spor-hog?! Our troops fight hard. We should at least supply them with a stable of whores that are a little less than abhorrent."
"Your pardon, Captain," the blue, serpent man said, with something that was very close to outright insolence. "All these mammals look pretty much the same to me. They've got all their arms and legs." He shrugged. "Our initial attack left survivors only on this big island and a bit of the surrounding archipelago. What's left alive has been starving and gagging on the dust particles in the atmosphere for the last three weeks. The population's dropped to just a few thousand, and we used up most of the young, shapelier females in the first week."
Captain Ginyu, ground his teeth and seemed to fight for
calm. "Fine. I suppose it doesn't matter one way or the other, now." He said curtly. "Your are whores to the legions in the service of Frieza, Lord of Tsiru-sei and all the known galaxy. Anyone can kill you at any time for any reason. But…if any of you lives through the next couple of days, you will be fed and watered and allowed to live---which is more than the rest of your race will be able to boast in a day or two. If any of you display any talent in your new profession, it may be that some officer will take you as his mistress and keep you in his own quarters. But for the moment, you'll bed down in the ship's garrison with my troops.
Now, get them the hell off my bridge, Berta! They stink to high heaven!"
She followed, inside the group of twenty or so other women, head lowered, stooped down in a limping gait as though her spine were twisted, to camouflage the figure and fine-boned grace that no amount of make-up or dirt could hide. If they saw what was beneath the rags and filth---
The docile little band of survivors trailed after the serpentine Ginyu as he led them into the bowels of the great white ship that had landed on Chikyuu twenty-three days ago, bearing inside it the death of the whole world. They had been met with resistance, this shipfull of invaders. More than the Ginyu warriors would have thought possible for this out of the way world. But the greatest warriors of this out of the way world had been preparing for an invasion for nearly a year. She shuddered as she shuffled along with the others. Chikyuu's defenders had been expecting only two enemy warriors to arrive. Not an entire ship of killers, even stronger than the Saiyans Kami-sama had warned them of. The Ginyu and their shock troops had beaten Raditz' two companions to the punch, had intercepted the clarion call Son-Kun's brother had made to the last two surviving members of his race. And they had come for the Dragonballs themselves. She frowned bitterly under the layers of prosthetics and soot. The Ginyu had won the battle…of course. Though Chikyuu's defenders, led by that green bastard Piccalo, who had once been their deadly enemy, had put up an amazing fight. They had killed the Chikyuu senshi to the man…to the boy, as well, she thought, her throat constricting.
Gohan-chan…you were so brave…
But bravery hadn't saved her oldest friend's son, or any of her friends. And when the last of them had fallen, the slaughter had begun in earnest. The Ginyu Captain, in a howling, suicidal rage at having discovered too late that he had lost the Dragonballs of Chikyuu for all time with the death of Piccalo, had laid the planet too waste. And now they all waited on the pleasure of their Lord and Master, this Frieza person, who would be coming to reprimand his favorite squad of killers for having so ham-fistedly lost him such a great prize. She wondered what sort of master these monstrous, vicious, merciless killers served. They were too afraid to even make a run for it. They simply sat here in their ship, as he had apparently commanded, waiting for him to come kill them. The surveillance bots she'd sent sneaking aboard in the last few days, tiny as flies and as unnoticed, had told her they were worried that if they made a break for it, their Lord Frieza would "get really pissed."
They turned a sharp corner, as she eased her way to the back of the group. She cut to the side quickly, as silently as she was able to move, and darted into a small nook in the wall…waiting. No one noticed. Huh…these people had every reason to believe they had nothing to fear from any of the occupants of this world. Let them keep on believing it a little while longer! She took a breath and peeked out of her hiding place, her heart pounding in her ears.
Nothing. Good. Now, for the hard part.
She made her way through the ship, one agonizing meter at a time, hiding and ducking away with just a half instant to spare on one or two occasions. By the time she reached the sector her spy-bots had shown was directly adjacent to the hub of the ship's atmospheric regulators, she was soaked to the skin with nervous sweat. She paused at the door of a secured corridor, taking a deep breath. The Lord of Tsiru-sei was due to arrive tomorrow, the Ginyu captain had told his troops. Since this meant, in effect, their collective heads for the colossal fuck up of losing the Dragonballs, the ship's entire compliment of warriors was busy getting laid and blitzed out of their minds. No one was paying any attention to this section of the ship. Even security opps was hopefully abandoned by now. She picked the door lock and crept slowly into the ship's brig, taking no notice of the last cell's lone, unconscious occupant. All the way to the far wall, centered between the rows of cells on either side and separated by only a bulkhead grate near the ceiling, lay the air shaft closest the oxygen circulation engines. She paused at the wall, gazing up at the vent she needed to access. It was too high for her to reach. She screamed, as a hand fell on her elbow.
She turned and looked down into the eyes of a short, grayish-green, little frog of a man. She drew in a hiss of breath and nearly flung herself at the man. Guldo…he was the one that killed Yamcha! But she turned the angry snarl rising up in her throat to a whimper of fear, and sank down to her knees.
"P-p-please, my lord! Please don't kill me!"
The creature's piggy little eyes regarded her without sympathy. "What the hell are you doing here, girly?"
"I-I wanted to t-try to stow away when you take off. I thought no one would look for me here. Please---!"
"We aren't going anywhere, you stupid trull," the Ginyu said.
He eyed her a moment longer, then shrugged, his shoulders sagging. "This ship, this planet, and everybody on it, including myself unfortunately, will probably be blown to bits come the morrow. Stay if you want." A thought seemed to occur to him as he continued to eye her closely, beady eyes taking in the hideous prosthetics she'd applied to her face. "You're not exactly a looker, are you?" He grinned, a nasty leer. One hooked hand gripped her by the arm and jerked her toward the one occupied cell in the brig. He opened the door with a magnetic key and slung her roughly inside. "Here you go, you little monkey bastard! A whore of your very own on your last night this side of Hell!" He turned with out a backward look and left the block, snickering softly.
"Shit!" She said after he was gone. "Shitshitshit!!!" She glanced over at the other occupant of the cell, still dead to the world. The oxygen vent that led to the circulation system did not extend above this cell as well. It could only be reached from outside the cells in the brig's narrow corridor. She sat down on the floor, beside the metal bunk, trying to will herself calm. It was okay…just an annoying delay! They even knew she was here now, or one of their number did, and didn't give a damn. She would just have to pick to cell lock and---something soft and furry flicked her arm and she nearly jumped out of her skin. She turned to regard the man on the bed, who was wide awake now, black eyes glittering at her in the dim light. Her eyes, round as saucers, fell on the part of his body that must had touched her. His tail…Oh Kami, it's another fucking Saiyan!
"Gods, you're an ugly woman," he said weakly. He turned his head a little more to the side, to look at her a little better. The movement seemed to take almost all the strength he had.
"Yeah?" She muttered. "Well, it beats the hell out of getting gang raped." She narrowed her eyes at him threateningly. "Speaking of which, don't try anything funny, unless you want your testicles kicked up into the roof of your mouth." She said those words with a lot more bravado than she felt, beginning to edge away from him.
"I am in no condition take you up on your challenge, woman." He sniffed, smirking nastily. "And I would not be so desparate as to bed down with such a hideous thing as yourself at the best of times."
She edged back a little closer, cautiously surveying her cell mate. He wasn't lying about being in bad shape. He looked like someone had beaten him within a bare inch of his life. Over and over. She knew she should turn away, knew she shouldn't draw any closer to this dangerous creature, another of Son-Kun's nightmarish race. But curiosity got the better of her. "You're one of the Saiyans…Raditz' friends."
Those black eyes grew harder, his body twitched as though he would have risen if he could. "Raditz was a fucking idiot for getting himself killed like that. I told him nothing good would come of trying to retrieve his fool brother. How the hell do you know Raditz? He was only here a day before he died." He chuckled weakly. "Though I've seen him seduce his doxies in a shorter amount of time than that."
She snorted indignantly. "Raditz was killed by my friends. He warned us as he was dying that you were on your way. Our world's best warriors trained to fight you, but before you came---"
"The Ginyu arrived," he snarled. "They ambushed our pods as we landed and killed Nappa, the other of my race who traveled with me."
"And Son-Kun, the one you would probably call Kakarott, is dead as well. We would have wished him back with the Dragonballs in another two days, if they hadn't killed Piccalo." She shook her head. Too many almosts… She sat up a little straighter, shoving her mind away from the debilitating thoughts.
There was hope for everything to be made right. Everything!
"So…they are all gone," he said softly, almost as though he had forgotten she was there. "I am the last."
She was silent, staring at him. He had been coming to Chikyuu to do exactly what the Ginyu had done. For all she knew, he could be even more vicious than---it didn't matter. It hadn't happened. And the dark, shadowed hollows behind his eyes said more than any outward signs of grief that he was not thinking of conquest or murder or anything at all right now except the cold, numbing truth that he was alone in all the galaxy. The last of his race. Something, some internal instinct beyond words, told her not to offer any words of comfort. That anything she said would only make it worse.
"And you were what, to these Ckikyuu warriors?" he said conversationally after a minute or two. His lip curled in contempt.
"Not a warrior. Nor mate either, unless they were stone cold blind."
"I was their friend," she said irritably. "And occasionally, I built things for them. Machines to help them with this or that, when there was a need."
He shook his head derisively. "Weaklings…to use machines in battle. Only a coward would do such a thing!"
"They all died pretty damn bravely!" She said angrily. "At least they didn't get their sorry asses taken alive!"
He hissed again, and shifted on the little bed. And she knew that had he been able to move or rise at all, that she would have been in danger of her life. He lashed his head, and she saw something white and blinked, locked like a constrictive choker around his throat.
"What is that?" She whispered, checking her watch. Three and a half more hours. Time just flew when you were having this much fun. "That thing around your neck?"
He stopped twitching and growled up at her like a caged animal. "It is a Tsiru-jin Ki damper. It is crippling my power, so I cannot escape…or even rise to my fucking feet!"
"Could you…" She bit her lips, anxiously, gripping the pulse wrench she had reached for almost without thinking. No…she couldn't trust him! He was just as much of a killer as these other pirates. A clang at the doors of the brig's cell block made her decision for her. There were four of them, very drunk from the looks of them, staggering toward their cell, peeking in at her owlishly.
"Nothing else left but this…" One of them said, hiccuping. "Damn…Guldo was right. She's got a face that would stop a foundry freighter!"
"Beggars can't be…" One of the others belched loudly. "Can't be choosers." They began weaving unsteadily toward the cell.
"Dammit!" She said. She turned back to the Saiyan, her hands already raising the wrench, moving over the white collar smoothly.
She knew her eyes were full of stark terror. Caught between the hammer and the anvil, with no one to trust. "Swear to me," she said harshly. "Swear to me on the honor of your dead people, and the grave of your homeworld, that if I let you loose you won't hurt me or let anyone harm me!" He spat out an obscene, snarling refusal. "I can get us both out of here, Saiyan! Away from them and away from Chikyuu!"
"Damn you to hell, woman…I swear!" He rasped. "Set me free!"
She flipped through the pulse setting on her wrench, finding the right frequency just as a clammy hand fell on her shoulder from behind. "How 'bout a little end of the world party, doll---" He never finished the sentence. A short series of blasts sang past her ears and cut them down like a sword slicing through bamboo. The man beside her was on his feet, swaying, gasping for breath. She put one shoulder under him and half-dragged him from the cell.
"Can you climb?" He looked like he could barely stand.
"They had the collar on its highest setting…" He said faintly.
"…I will recover in time…" But it had taken almost everything he had at the moment to kill those troopers. And…oh Kami, now the entire ship would have felt his energy, and the deaths of their comrades. She was out of time.
"I need to get to this air vent." She pointed up. "Can you boost me?"
He nodded, glowering at her. She put one foot on his hand and he raised her with a grunt of effort. She reached in her filthy clothes and pulled out a capsule, popping its case and tossing it down the airshaft. It had a fifteen second delay. She ripped the laser sauter out of her belt and sealed the air vent's grid, blocking them off from the rest of the ship's air supply. She heard the capsule pellet pop, and dropped down to the ground. He had leveled another blast at the cell block door, melting the metal, sealing it shut. "You are poisoning them?" He asked, sagging against the wall.
"It's knockout gas," she said, watching the brig door apprehensively. "It's the only thing I could find that would work on all their different physiology types the same."
"How quick…?" He asked. He slid down to the wall, clutching his side, breathing shallowly.
She held her breath as they waited for the hub of the air circulation system, just outside of engineering's main vent shaft, to carry the gas through the ship. Ten agonizing minutes. No one came. No sound stirred throughout the ship.
"If they were still on their feet, they would be have come by now, woman." The Saiyan heaved himself up, still favoring his ribs. She noticed with a gasp that a pool of thick blood was seeping through the fingers he had pressed over his side.
"Time to kill," he said blackly, with a terrible eagerness.
"Time is something we don’t have," she said. "This Frieza person is on his way right now. I can clear the ship of all of them in an instant from engineering."
He nodded with an angry frown, probably disappointed that he wouldn't get to kill the entire crew with his bare hands, and followed her out of the block. It took five minutes to rout the ship's security controls to the auxiliary in engineering. The spy bots had brought her an interesting piece of info on the security features contained in the command codes of the alien vessel's computer. She keyed in the nasty little safety feature, the "ejection seat", that provided a terminal remedy to shipwide takeover. There was a dull roar from all around them as they every living thing on board was blown out the open hatch doors, and into the grassy slopes of the hillside beneath the vessel. She only hoped none of the women she'd entered the ship with had been injured, as they'd been "spaced" with the rest of the crew. She turned at the sound of a loud thud. The Saiyan had passed out, falling to the floor bonelessly. She rummaged through the capsules hidden throughout the seams of her clothes, and found a floormat bed. She popped it, and rolled the man onto it. No way she had the strength to carry him anywhere. She'd have to trust that his oath would hold him, keep him from killing her when he awoke.
An hour later, she sat on the bridge of the ship, sunk into the captain's chair, watching the receding sphere of Chikyuu's sun on the view screen, gazing down at the space coordinates she'd just laid in. Kami-sama's last, fading message, echoing in her head and through her soul. There are other dragonballs, child. The first and greatest abide on the world of my birth, and the dragon bound within carries the power of three wishes…Go to Nameksei…and undo the evil of this day. And as the words had echoed through her head, the space coordinates had filtered in as well, as clear as the written word, etched into her memory. Undo the evil of this day…And all the horrors that had followed. She rose and explored the suite of rooms just off the main bridge, the captain's quarters probably. She peeled off the sagging prosthetics, the distended nose, the drooping, bulging eye, the bumpy boils the size of grapes, and nearly fell asleep in the shower. Clean…It felt so good to be clean again. The computer had given her a figure of time that roughly corresponded to fourteen hours. Time to sleep. She stumbled out of the shower and fell into the overly big bed, closing her eyes. She'd had long hours alone, huddled in the basement bunker below Capsule Corp with only the dead bodies of her parents to keep her company, to think of how to use the three wishes to fix everything. She could even bring back Son-Kun. She could…She drifted off to sleep in the middle of a thought.
Some instinct brought her out of her troubled dreams with a jolt. She glanced around the darkened room, catching a flicker of movement. He was sitting on the floor, just beside the bed, breathing hard, his forehead resting on the mattress. He raised his eyes to hers, and she swallowed hard. So much rage and violence there, and more than a little madness. And pain. He had been hurt, she thought guiltily, and she'd just left him in engineering, bleeding…The steam from the bathroom told her he'd tried to shower and nearly used up all his strength in the act. He was shirtless now, wearing a pair of dark, loose pants, his waist bandaged. He must have dragged himself to sickbay first.
"How long until you recover your strength?" She asked quietly.
"A day…I think," he replied shakily. "I have never worn a collar for so long or at such a high setting." He snarled in frustration, softly. "I saw the course you laid in. Do you have allies there?"
"Allies to be, I hope. I think they can help me."
He smiled coldly. "With their dragonballs?"
She froze, staring at him in horror. "How---?"
"It was all that fool Ginyu raved about as he was torturing me. The body snatching coward! How one of the warriors he'd slain had been a son of lost world of Namek. It is legend…as are the dragonballs men say they forge there. Ginyu blithered endlessly about how they could appease Frieza and save all their hides if they only knew the coordinates to Namek-sei." He snorted. "As though fortune-hunters and crackpots have not sought those coordinates since time out if mind." He regarded her smugly. "And now I shall see this world of myth for myself. And have my wish after all."
She leaned forward, spitting at him in anger. "You can't have them! Not until I bring back my world and all my people!"
He blinked at her in surprise, though not at her words. She abruptly realized that she was completely naked, with only the bed sheet pulled around her, and that she had just moved into a shaft of light from the bathroom, illuminating her face. She fought a frightening, conflicting impulse, not to shrink back, knowing he could probably scent fear like an animal, and to keep the blood from rushing to her cheeks. Something in the brief, quickly hidden expression that had flickered across his hard face, so hungry and honest in its raw need, had made her want to blush like a schoolgirl.
"You are not a crone," he whispered, eyes burning, nearly radiating heat.
"I had to get inside the ship without being…picked by one of the officers," she said softly, trying to keep her voice steady. Her jaw clenched angrily, shoving away thoughts of raging hormones and her own very real danger. "I---I'll make a deal with you. The Namekian dragonballs have three wishes. I only need two."
He chuckled, low in his throat, almost a purr, mocking her. She was in no position to make or offer deals and they both knew it. She would be very lucky if the oath she'd forced him to swear kept him from killing her. "Only?" He asked softly.
"What the hell do you want?" She asked in exasperation. "If you ask to be immortal, like every other big, bad would-be dragonball thief I've ever met, then all your problems are over."
"What the hell do you want that needs two wishes for yourself, Chikyuu woman?" He shot back.
"I---Son-Kun." She sighed, shaking her head. "The dragonballs could bring back Chikyuu and everyone on it in one cleverly worded wish, but they can't revive anyone who's been dead more than a year."
"No?" He murmured. He seemed to take that to heart for some reason, though his dark, angular features barely shifted. Had he thought he could wish his own world back? Those slanted black eyes narrowed as he seemed to read her thoughts and the secrets she knew. "Yet you have a scheme to circumvent that obstacle." He wasn't asking a question. He had seen the truth in her eyes.
"I have hope," she said unsteadily. She tore her gaze away from the burning darkness in the Saiyan's eyes. She couldn't define or rationalize or explain it…it bordered on abject madness given her situation and his obvious desire for the dragonballs, his obvious violent, murderous nature. But she could feel herself beginning to drown in those black, deadly eyes each time her gaze met his.
His hand, hard and callused, shot out and caught her behind the neck, forcing her to look at him, forcing her closer. He pushed himself up with his free arm and managed to raise himself up to sit on the bed beside her. Her breath caught in her throat, her heart slamming against her breastbone, as he pulled her slowly toward him, until they were nose to nose. She clamped both hands over the hand behind her neck, trying to dislodge it, trying to twist out of his grip. It wasn't painful, just…immovable.
"Tell me your plan, woman," he said with deadly gentleness.
"I---I would ask Namek's dragon to take him and myself back in time one month, for only ten minutes. One month ago, Son-Kun hadn't been dead a full year. Then I would use the second wish to bring back Son-Kun and I could also warn Chikyuu about the Ginyu ship and tell them to use their dragonballs to hide Chikyuu from---"
"It will not work," he said flatly. "Reparation of the past has been tried many times by many different peoples in the galaxy. Time machines cannot fix what has already occurred. Temporal physics does not work that way. You would be creating a new timeline where your mate never died, where Chikyuu never fell, but when you returned to the present, this timeline would be unaltered."
She sagged. He had no reason to lie, and he seemed to be as affected by his own words as herself, his face bleak and angry.
"Maybe…" She began. "Maybe the Namekian dragonballs don't have the same restrictions as Chikyuu's. They are the first, I was told, and the most powerful. Maybe they can still revive someone who's been dead longer than a year." She wouldn't give up hope. She wouldn't!
"It may be so…Only a fool gives up hope before all is known to him." He eyed her closely. "Kakarott chose a faithful woman."
She smiled tremulously. "He wasn't my husband. Just my friend."
"Was he, indeed?" He had not shifted his eyes from her face as she spoke, or moved his hand from the back of her neck. He was still so close she could feel the heat pouring off his half-naked body in waves, feel the minute tremors running through the hard-muscled frame. He's weak…so weak he can barely sit up…and I still can't pull free. "We shall see what we shall see on Namek-sei." The burr of his rusty baritone was somber, so soft-voiced she was startled. "I will give you one wish to restore your world and your people. In this way, I absolve myself of the life debt I owe you, since I may not simply kill you without breaking my oath and my honor. But I will take the two that remain."
"What…what do you want from the dragon?"
The hand behind her neck flexed, and she shuddered against him as he seemed to tense in barely contained fury and madness. "Revenge," he replied, still soft, like the rustling whisper of cemetery leaves. "For my people…for myself. I want to kill Frieza. Beyond that… cannot think beyond that. I will think of a use for the second wish. I can---can see no future beyond the…old monster's death…I…" He slumped forward, sagging against her, his head falling onto her shoulder, his breath labored. She caught him, supporting his weight, thinking he had passed out again.
"You damn Saiyans don’t know when to lie down and let yourselves heal," she said softly.
He seemed to shiver as another breath of a chuckle reached ears. "Time enough to rest in the grave," he murmured against her throat. She felt a dim thread of horror at herself as a rush of heat seemed to rise from the pit of her stomach and envelope her. Yamcha's body isn't even cold yet! Her mind screamed at her. And here she sat, getting hot flashes over this---this---
The hand still resting behind her neck tangled itself in her hair, and his other arm tightened around her like a vise, pulling her against his body. He pressed his weight forward, half-collapsing onto the bed on top of her.
"You---you're not up to this," she said, her voice trembling with a wrenching mixture of terrified panic and…something else. Something deep and ancient in the human psyche. The need to release the horror and shattered grief of the last few weeks. The need to reaffirm her own survival in the most primal and instinctive way.
The Saiyan's voice was a whispering growl in her ear. "I am most definitely 'up' to this, woman." He lay over her, his forehead touching hers, his breath against her lips.
"Please…" She whispered. She was being torn in half from the inside, torn with wanting this, wanting him, in the most basic, animal way, and wracked with fear and the indecision of her thinking, rational mind. She knew he could feel her shaking like a rabbit caught in a snare beneath him. But somehow, she also knew, without any rational way of having gleaned the knowledge, that he could sense, that he could smell, that a part of her wanted him. "Please…" She said again. Oh gods, she didn't even know what she was trying to ask. He was silent for a long moment, and she lay still, calming by slow degrees, feeling the steady rise and fall of his chest against hers.
"I swore an oath not to harm you…" He said finally. "Shall I roll over and pass out again, woman?" The vibration of his soft laughter rippled against her body. "I could manage that easily."
One burning hot hand brushed the side of her breast lightly, a hesitant, almost accidental touch. And Kami help her, that and his soft question, asking rather than simply taking, as he so easily could have done, overturned the scales of the war raging inside her with an almost audible crash. She sank her fingers into the thick, black spikes of his hair, and locked her mouth against his. The bed sheet and his pants were torn away, kicked aside in one blurring instant, and then…
And then, there was no time or chance for second thoughts, as he kneed her thighs apart roughly. He was inside her, plunging inward without foreplay or so much as a precursory caress, and she locked her arms around the stone-hard muscles of his lower back, urging him onward, riding that razor-edged blade of desire that lay in some dark, fearful place between terror and arousal. He pounded the breath out of her lungs, pinning her under him in the steel cage or his arms, his own breath coming in great, gasping gulps, his head cradled in the soft bower of her breasts. He drove into her again and again, deep and hard, without any control or care for her, and it occurred to her in some dim part of her mind that could still think, that if he hadn't been injured and half-dead from the "Ki damper" the Ginyu had shackled him with, she would not have survived this. Then his back tensed, every nerve straining taught and rigid, as he came inside her with a hoarse cry, clenching his arms so tightly around her she couldn't breathe. He lay above her, not withdrawing or disengaging himself from her body in any way, shaking like a man in the grip of a breaking fever. It had been about two minutes since they began. He raised his head at the sound of her faint, gasping voice.
The crushing embrace around her chest eased, but he did not release her. He propped himself up on his elbows, his coal gaze burning into her blue, tear-filled eyes, as she tried to catch her breath, as she tried to come to terms with what she had just allowed to happen. Yamcha…
How many times, a cold little voice spoke in the back reaches of her mind, did he cheat on you?…When you were both still alive and together?
A warm hand brushed the tears off her face, bringing her back to herself, away from her guilt. The Saiyan's face was hard and cold, so at odds with that gentle gesture. Something flickered in his eyes for a bare instant, a shadow of worry, of vague, nameless horror. "I swore I would not hurt you," he said after a while, repeating the words he had spoken moments before in a quiet rumbling whisper. It took her a moment to realize he was asking her a question.
"You didn't…" She said softly. His eyes said he saw through that lie effortlessly. He had hurt her, though he hadn't actually injured her. But her whole body felt bruised and tender. Her voice was shaky, barely above a whisper. "I…I've only ever been with one man, and now he's dead…and it's not a light thing for me to---to…" Oh gods, why was she telling him this, babbling everything that was roiling inside her head out loud? But he only nodded.
"Your kind mate once, and for life?" He murmured.
"It's our custom…" Her voice hardened, almost against her will. "Unless one partner is faithless."
He nodded again, almost to himself. "That is good." He didn't bother to explain himself. He bent her head, taking her lower lip in his sharp teeth, nipping it slowly and gently, his feral race's version of a kiss. "Again?" He breathed the question into her mouth. He was already hard again inside her, already moving within her, very, very slowly.
"Yes," she said, beginning to shake again, this time with adrenaline and unsatisfied need. Two minutes, huh? He was going to have to last longer than that this time. It suddenly struck her like a falling boulder why he had spent himself so quickly. Did---did his people "mate once, and for life"? Did he consider this…binding in some way? She shook it away for the moment. It was too damn late to take anything back. She pushed gently, and he rolled obediently onto his back. "It's best when you build slowly toward the end," she said softly, smiling down at him. "Very slowly… begin gently, and end…not so gently." His eyes, gleaming in the dark room like ebony jewels, were intent on her face, as though it were all that lay between him and damnation itself. She felt a deep, quick burn of pleasure blooming inside her as she began rocking above him. She had been Yamcha's first lover and he had been hers. They had learned and explored and taught each other over the tumultuous years of their relationship. This was something new and frightening and wonderful…to show a man all she knew, to teach him the arts of love-making. She continued moving slowly, gaining speed in sweet, torturous increments, touching and tasting the perfect body straining against hers with her mouth and gentle fingers. She didn't need to encourage him to do the same. His hands began moving over her body, smoothing over her sweat-soaked skin, squeezing and kneading where she guided them, then roving over every inch of her of their own accord, with a kind of smoldering greed kindling in those midnight eyes, as his breath began to labor in time with hers. She tossed her head back and bucked above him as the raging, torrent of release lashed through her, and he sat bolt upright, sinking his teeth into her shoulder like a snarling animal, growling deep in his throat like a big, deadly feline, and---Oh Kami! She began to come again, gasping like a drowning swimmer as he held her, as everything seemed to be suddenly ebbing out of her and into him, feeling and formless thought flowing from his mind though hers, then back again, rising like a tidal wave with each exchange of sensation, until she shrieked and sobbed at the end with the loss of it. She fell into his shaking arms, weeping like a child, feeling every shiver of pleasure and heat in his body as though they were inside the same skin, weeping all the harder as it faded, leaving her alone again. Only, she wasn't alone. Not completely. Whatever it was…was still there, faint and intangible, but there. She blinked the fresh tears out of her eyes.
"What did you do to me?" She was half-afraid to hear the answer.
"I cannot kill you…" He gasped. "Or allow you to come to harm. So, I bound you to me…" He nipped her lip again, his heart still slamming inside his chest, hammering against hers. "I will keep you, and keep you safe. You are mine."
"Yours?" she said softly. Something very close to cold rage was beginning to brew in her gut. Mine… "You think you own me, Saiyan? Nobody…nobody owns me!" She stopped, as something occurred to her, though how she knew it she could not say. "Whatever you did to my head, the tie…or whatever the hell it is, binds both ways, doesn't it?"
"Of course it does, you fool woman," he snapped, smirking at her with a supreme smugness that made her want to take a swing at him. And probably break her hand if he was anything like Son-Kun. She suddenly realized that all the fear she'd felt for him was gone. Simply fled, probably for all time. Because…because the tie bound in both directions.
"My name is Bulma," she snarled back. "Bulma Briefs…and I don't respond to 'woman', you chauvanistic alien prick!"
"I am Vegita, Saiyan no Ouji of Vegita-sei, twenty-seventh of my line, and the strongest warrior living, save one." His smirk widened. "And I will call you whatever I wish…woman."
She was just cognizant enough to know when she was being deliberately baited. So, she sighed instead, swallowing the loud, nasty comeback on her lips. "I'm too tired to curse you like you deserve…Saiyan." She hid a grin as his eyes narrowed at her use of that word as a form of address. "I'll wait til morning when I can do it properly."
His lips twitched. "I have not yet mentioned how much I regret not being able to kill such a loud-mouthed, inconvenient load of useless baggage as yourself. Perhaps I will take back the one wish I so graciously granted you." He sobered abruptly, his eyes going blank with flat hate. "Frieza will find this world we are journeying to, woman. His ships' nav computers are all networked together. He knew our destination the moment you laid in the course." She could feel the blood draining away from her cheeks.
"The people…He'll kill them all."
He shook his head irritably. "I don't give a damn about the fool Namekians. They can roast on a spit for all I care. But if Frieza gets his hands on the dragonballs, any dragonballs…it is the end of everything. He will…" He stopped, clenching his teeth. "It will not happen. I will use the dragonballs to become stronger. Stronger than any living thing in this or any other galaxy! Strength is the only road to safety, mate of mine. Only a fool thinks otherwise."
"I agree with you…" She said. "But there are all kinds of strength." He snorted derisively. She hesitated for a second or two, then laced her arms around the tense, knotted muscles of his shoulders. He seemed to be on the edge of some kind of ferocious outburst, then he slowly let himself melt into her arms, sinking back down onto the bed on his side, wrapping himself around her. Mate of mine, he had called her. Just like that, he saw her as wedded and bedded and…his. And the most horrible, unreal aspect of the whole situation was that she didn't know whether to run screaming from him, or feel wonder and tenderness and something that could be the beginnings of lov---No! He had done that…thing to her head, chained her to him in some alien, frighteningly permanent way, warped her emotions to bring on this warm feeling surging up inside her every time their eyes met! He had---
She sighed, exhausted, weary to the bone. He was watching the emotions play across her face, almost as though he were reading her thoughts, his body warm and hard and solid in her arms. Whatever he had done, she had a deep, instinctive sense that he couldn't take it back. That this was keeps. She stroked the high cheekbones of his face, trailing her finger down to his lips. They could deal with this in the morning, she decided. "We should sleep," she said. And she kissed him. Those cold, killer's eyes regarded her with a momentary warmth of feeling that nearly set her to crying again, as a piece of the emotions tearing through him rippled into her.
They stood on the bridge of their stolen ship, staring down at the scan readout on the ship's computer. "Nothing," she said numbly. The entire planet was deserted of any higher lifeforms.
"No," he said. He stood beside her on uncertain footing, not quiet clutching the console before them for support. He had not recovered his strength during the night. If anything, he looked worse, his face flushed with a rising fever. She didn't say this aloud, or ask if he was okay. They both knew he wasn't, and he would probably take any solicitousness as an insult. He pulled up a trace scan from the nav computer, running a cross reference through the astrometrics charts.
"They left in one ship," he growled. "Less than two days ago. If it had been longer, the hyper-light trace would have dissipated. The nav comp is locking in the same course they took based on the scan trace." He slammed his fist down on the panel, smashing it. "This is the direction they went, but the destination…they are heading for Ckiykuu!"
She nodded, checking the course against the star charts. "We must have flown right past each other. Kami-sama…" She set her jaw and turned to face him. "Chikyuu's celestial gaurdian, our deity, was Namekian by birth. Maybe he sent out a kind of distress call to his people before he died."
"The mindless fools are running headlong into Frieza's arms," he growled softly. His expression seemed to be promising murder and mayhem to Kami-sama's people for no offense other than having inconvenienced him. Then he paused, considering. "No…that is not right. He would have arrived on Chikyuu several hours ago. It would take him on time at all to chastise the Ginyu and blown the planet to hell." He didn't seem to notice her blanch at those words. "Then he would follow our ship…"
"So, if we ditch this ship somewhere, and then return to Chikyuu in a different ship, he'll have no way to find us," she said, nodding. "And a world he just destroyed is the last place in the galaxy he'd look for us!"
"Then," he said with a kind of dark, terrible anticipation. "Then there is only to relieve these weakling Namekian sorcerers of their prize."
"These people make dragonballs, Vegita. I imagine they’ve got mental and mystical powers we can only guess at. Fighting power isn't the only kind of strength. All the strength in the universe won't help you if someone can make you think you're aiming a Ki blast at an enemy, when you're actually blowing your own foot off." She stared at him a moment longer, letting that sink in, then added softly. "When we find them…why don't we just ask them if we can use the dragonballs instead of going in blasting? It might save a lot of running around."
"When we find them," he said in that quiet, velvet baritone that sent a chill of want and fear down her spine. "We shall see what we shall see."
He was the most frightening thing she'd ever set eyes on, she thought distantly, as he stepped a little closer to her, gazing into her eyes with black intensity that made her knees began to buckle.
He was beautiful and evil and dangerous and more than a little mad, she suspected. And she somehow knew that the ferocious desire that was, even now, rekindling in her body was more than just a physical by-product of what he had done to her, binding her to himself. What do you do, she wondered, when the devil takes you as his bride…and you find that you wanted him to?
If he thought he was going to harm her people or her friends or these hapless, unknown Namekians, who were rushing like angel's of mercy to Chikyuu's rescue…if he thought he was going to do any of the bloody, murderous things she saw shadowed in the depths of those dark, dark eyes, while she stood meekly by, he was in for a hell of a surprise.
"I won't let you kill any innocent people, Vegita," she said flatly, as he pulled her against his shaking, feverish body. "If you do…'mate' or not, I'll fuck you up."
He grinned, and brushed her jawline with his lips, cupping her breast in one hand, stroking the nipple through her blouse, as she gasped faintly, her heart beginning to race, her hands finding their way to his face. "Are you so very dangerous, woman?" He breathed in her ear.
"Yes…" She said softly, kissing him, tasting his mouth like a dark, sweet poisonous wine. "As a matter of fact, I am."
"That is as it should be," he murmured. He lowered her to the floor of the bridge and had her.
* * * * *