Pandora's Box: Chapter 4
aka Exposition of a Fallen Prince

Round and round the Planet Earth
Goku took Vegeta
Goku thought 'twas all in fun...
But not to Vegeta

It had nearly become routine. Every couple days or so, Goku would call Capsule Corp looking for Vegeta, and every time he spoke with him, he somehow managed to convince the prince that it would be a good idea to go out and do something - anything. So, for a "few" months running, Vegeta had been exposed to a great deal of culture, and though he'd never admit it outright, he was having just a little bit of fun. Goku had taken him to a variety of places: the zoo, the movies, the arcade, the museum, even the ballpark. And if Vegeta hadn't enjoyed the certain place they had went to, he had at least enjoyed Goku's company and constant antics.

With the schedule they had built, Vegeta had learned not to stay up exceedingly late or sleep in too long, and so, he lied on the floor of his room in a half-conscious state waiting for the phone to ring. His tail flopped around aimlessly, expressing how comfortable and content he was at the moment. His rest was interrupted by a phone call however, and willing himself, he reached around in the direction of the ringing until his hand came upon the receiver.

"Hn?" was his greeting, as he didn't bother to move or open his eyes.

"Hey Vegeta," Goku warmly replied from the other end, "How're ya feeling?"

Vegeta's tail wandered around, looking for a bottle that wasn't empty and he repeated, "Hn."

A chuckle came from the other end of the line, "Tired?"

Vegeta, a bit frustrated that he had nothing around, threw one of the empty bottles at the wall. It broke with a loud crash and the brunette said, "Uhn hn." He licked his lips, forced himself to move, and spoke in a rather quiet voice, "..Tired."

Another chuckle came from Goku, "Well, breakfast is on me if you can manage to get up."

Vegeta inhaled and gave a large, silent yawn as he stretched out like a cat, his tail puffing a few times before the prince opened his eyes, "Ah...alright. I'm up." He hung up the phone and lounged, waiting a few seconds before he could sense Goku in his room.

"Honestly Vegeta, I don't understand why you like it dark all the time," Goku said, stumbling around while looking for the light switch.

He flipped on the light and Vegeta covered his eyes with his arm. "And I cannot understand why you like it so damn bright," Vegeta murmured, wondering if he should fight the urge to get up or not.

"C'mon! I want to eat breakfast while they're still serving it!" Goku whined playfully, nudging Vegeta's form with his foot.

The prince growled lowly in his throat, "Screw it...if you want to go that bad, carry me."

Goku laughed for a moment before replying, "Okay!" Vegeta's eyes opened in surprise, and before he could move, Goku's arms were around him, cradling him with one arm under his knees, and the other around his back. The brunette muttered some complaints, but, being as lazy as he was, he just gave in and rested against the younger man.

"Remind me to kick your ass later for this," Vegeta said, his voice nearly a whisper as he began to doze off.

"Sure," Goku said with a smile, transmitting them out.

They reappeared on the backside of a restaurant. A loud gasp caused Goku to turn around, and there was some kid hauling a bag of trash into a dumpster. "Hi!" Goku greeted him enthusiastically, "Sorry if I scared you!" The young teenager rubbed his eyes, took a few steps back, and then made a mad dash into the back door of the restaurant. Shaking his head slightly, the taller Saijin refocused his attention onto the prince. "Do you want me to carry you in as well?" Goku teased, pausing to inhale some fresh air.

"Hn," Vegeta said in response, making no effort to move. He was probably still unconscious.

Goku chuckled as he walked around the building and into the front entrance, getting quite a large amount of stares and strange looks. The hostess was no exception, " many?"

Goku smiled warmly at her, "Two."

She gave a quick nod, "Smoking or Non-smoking?"

Goku took a glance down at the brunette and said, "Smoking."

The young woman escorted them to a booth and set down two menus on the table for them, "Er...your waiter will be here momentarily."

Goku gave her a nod, "Alright, thanks." Once the hostess went off, Goku carefully set Vegeta down in the booth. With that accomplished he sat down on the opposite side, quietly drumming his fingers on the table as he waited, blissfully ignoring the stares he was still receiving. He looked out the window at the morning sun and the birds chirping in some nearby trees, 'I'm such a sucker for nature stuff. It's amazing no one's called me a hippie yet.' Goku smiled at the thought and looked over at the other side of the booth, even though he couldn't see Vegeta. The prince was lying prone with his legs dangling over the edge of the seat. After a few moments though, Vegeta's fuzzy tail came over the side of the table, feeling around for something.

"Hey Vegeta," Goku called out, sitting up in his seat so he could see half of the prince's face.

"Hn?" was the only reply he got.

"You're not at home," Goku finished before sitting himself down again.

There was a pause, and then the shorter Saijin said, "Oh." Goku reached into his pocket and pulled out a small pack. He tossed it carelessly towards Vegeta, causing it to slide across the table and fall onto the brunette's chest. "Hmm?" Vegeta grunted, lifting the pack up and forcing his eyes open to examine what had landed on him. "Morley's...?" the smaller man seem confused.

"For you," Goku said with a chuckle, delighted when he finally saw what looked like a waiter coming his way.

"Hi," the young man greeted, "I'm Brian and I'll be your waiter. This morning's special is Belgium waffles. Can I get you anything to drink?"

Goku beamed as Brian took out a pad of paper and a pencil, "Yeah! Sure! I'll need a pitcher of orange juice, two pitchers of water, and a cup of coffee. Go ahead and mark us down for six of the specials, okay?"

Brian seemed a bit nervous, as if he had been taken off guard, "Yeah, sure."

Vegeta slowly pulled himself up into a sitting position, "Why did you order a cup of coffee? I thought you hated coffee."

Goku, bored, played with a complimentary toothpick that had been laid out on the table, "I do. But as far as I remember, you don't. That is, when you have it with a square."

Vegeta blinked a few times before he nearly shouted, "A what? A square?? What the hell is a square!?" Goku burst out laughing and waved his hands to tell Vegeta to calm down.

"Geez, Vegeta!" Goku paused, snickering at the thought of what he was about to say, "You really aren't hip with the lingo around here, are you?" Vegeta fiercely ripped the plastic wrapping off of his pack of cigarettes, all the while simply glaring at the younger Saijin. Goku began to laugh and couldn't stop, even when Brian delivered their drinks. Vegeta tried his best to ignore the laughter, and took a sip of his coffee. He went to light his cigarette and found that he had no matches or lighter on him. A man behind him was smoking and reading a newspaper, just minding his own business.

"Hey," Vegeta tapped the man on the shoulder, still ignoring Goku who was nearly falling over.

The man shot him a wary look, "Y..eees?"

Vegeta gave a gesture, "Could I borrow your lighter?" Goku didn't seem able to stop and tears were coming to his eyes. The guy fumbled to give Vegeta his lighter as fast as he could. Vegeta turned around for a moment to holler, "For god sakes, Kakkarot! It wasn't that funny!!" All eyes turned to them at that moment, though neither Saijin seemed to notice.

Goku wiped away his tears, "But Vegeta--! Hip with the lingo? ..Square??" He started laughing again, even harder than before.

Vegeta glared and turned around again, taking the lighter that the other man was offering. He lit up and handed the object back, "Ah. Much appreciated." And still ignoring Goku, Vegeta sat calmly, sipping some coffee and smoking his cigarette. After a few minutes, Goku seemed to have calmed down and he looked over at Vegeta.

"My cheeks hurt," Goku admitted with a chuckle, "Vegeta, you make my cheeks hurt." The prince grit his teeth before accidentally inhaling the rest of his cigarette. Luckily though, Brian was arriving with the first set of plates.

"What's this?" the brunette asked as a plate was set before him, "I didn't order anything."

Goku shrugged lightly, "Yeah. You were still out of it so I took the liberty of ordering for you."

Vegeta said nothing, merely picking up a fork and digging in. After the plate was clean, which was very soon, Vegeta declared, "Well, since you ordered it, you can pay for it."

Goku grinned over at the prince, pouring them both refills, "Of course."

After staying a few hours, and driving the cooks to their limits, Goku finally declared, "I'm full!" He rubbed his stomach and gave a sigh, "That was really good! Don't you think, Vegeta?"

The prince gave a small yawn, covering his mouth with a hand, "Yeah, whatever." Suddenly a figure stood next to the table, and both Saijins looked up.

"Trunks!!" Goku shouted with joy, standing to give the teenager a quick hug, "How are you? Was your trip ok? How's your mom? C'mon, sit down!" Goku scooted over and made room for the purple-haired man.

Chuckling, Trunks sat down next to Goku, "I'm fine, I'm fine..The trip went well, and mom's doing alright. Actually, though..I'm not supposed to be here right now."

Goku's eyes widened in shock, "Why not??"

Trunks pushed his bangs out of his face nervously, "Well, you see...I told mom what happened and well.." Trunks looked up at Vegeta and then over to Goku, "Could we talk about this in private?"

Vegeta scoffed and angrily pulled himself up, "I'll just save you the trouble. I have to go to the restroom anyway." Trunks and Goku watched Vegeta storm off towards the back of the restaurant, his tail lashing back and forth in wide swings.

"I think I upset him," Trunks said with a frown, feeling a bit guilty.

"Don't worry about it," Goku assured, placing a hand on Trunks' shoulder momentarily, "Now what were you going to tell me?"

Trunks looked down and twined his fingers together in his lap, "Well..I told mom what happened when I was here. She got pretty upset, not angry, but you know..upset. So she took a look at the time machine and found a small bug in it. She fixed it and sent me back to the 'real' past. When I returned to the future, I was so bored and..and really lonely...I reprogrammed the time machine to the way it was before mom 'fixed' it and, I am."

Goku sat back in his seat, a grin on his lips, " little troublemaker.... Hey Trunks? What do you mean the 'real' past? And what's the 'real' past like?"

The demi-Saijin looked up at the taller man, a half-smile appearing on his features, "The 'real' past is the past of my timeline. This time is a parallel timeline, similar, but not the one that branches from mine. And it was...interesting, I guess. My mom seemed a lot nicer then, and Zarbon wasn't around, so my mom was still with Yamcha. Dad...was...something else. I hate to admit, but I really like this 'version' better."

Goku's eyes sparked at the mention of another Vegeta, "Wow..really? What exactly was he like?"

Trunks shrugged a bit, his gaze falling once again, "Really bold. Almost arrogant, even. I wasn't able to see him that long, as I was just warning the other you about the androids, but I can tell you..he has tons of pride. Quite a lone wolf, I'd say. And a lot more powerful, that's for sure. Not as nice as this Vegeta."

Goku looked up at the ceiling, trying to imagine it all, "Huh, who would've known....Um, what about me, Trunks? What was I like?"

Trunks grinned and relaxed a bit, "You? Man, were just the same." The full-blooded Saijin had to laugh about that. A few seconds later, Vegeta returned, but he was not alone. One of the employees was yelling at him about something. As they reached the table, Goku decided to listen in.

"There's absolutely no smoking in the bathroom!" a large man in his early thirties informed, "I'm going to have to fine you!"

Vegeta, still with his cigarette in his mouth, turned around. He paused, removed his cigarette, and blew smoke out into the air, "Well, you know what? That's great. Fine me. I really mean it. Fine me. I dare you. Just try it. There's nothing you can take away from me. I don't have a birth certificate, a social security number, a driver's license or anything. I'm not from this pathetic planet-" He thrust up his tail into the man's face, "-as you can see. So just do your worst. I dare you. Go on. I dare you."

The man blinked a few times in surprise as the brown tail wagged in the air in front of him, and then he took a few steps back. "I could very easily destroy you all," the prince informed with a dark smirk, cigarette dangling from his lips. The man ran off towards the back of the building in an instant, most likely to call the police. Sighing, Vegeta looked down at Goku and Trunks, "I hope you're finished discussing whatever the Hell I couldn't hear, because I'm getting the fuck out of here, now." He turned and began to walk off as Trunks scrambled out of his seat, Goku in tow.

When they were outside in the parking lot, Trunks attempted conversation with his father. "Hey, I'm sorry about this private stuff," Trunks said solemnly, "but I don't think you really want to hear about my family life anyway."

Vegeta was finishing off his cigarette, "Oh? Is that so? Well then, tell me, how was your mom?"

Trunks blinked a few times, completely shocked, "Wh-What?"

Vegeta inhaled deeply before turning his head to the side and exhaling the smoke. He turned back to Trunks, "You heard me. How's you mom? Your dad? Brothers? Sisters?" Goku stood nearby, watching in mute fascination.

"Uh.." Trunks decided he wouldn't exactly lie about this, "Mom was good. Happy to see me again..My dad..well, my dad died, when I was little. I never knew him. I don't have any brothers or sisters."

Vegeta looked off for a moment, taking another large puff, "Sounds kinda like me."

Trunks couldn't believe his ears, "What?"

Vegeta growled, nearly shouting, "I said..Sounds kind of like me!" Trunks shuffled his feet and put his hands in his pockets, feeling nervous and guilty for upsetting his father again. Vegeta dropped the remains of his cigarette and put it out by stepping on it with the heel of his shoe. "I was the only child in my family," Vegeta explained, still looking off, he himself seeming quite distant, "My mother died after giving birth to me, and my father was killed by Frieza when I was still a boy. I had no siblings." There was silence for a moment, each of them wrapped up in their own thoughts. "But hey.. that's life," the prince stated bitterly, turning around to face Goku, "Now where are we going?"

Goku seemed to snap out of his trance when Vegeta looked at him, "Ah...I suppose I'm taking you back. Chi-chi wanted me home for lunch. She's been complaining that I've been going out too much. Oh well...I suppose I'll have to resort to sneaking out, eh, Trunks?"

The demi-Saijin grinned a little and gave a nod, "Yeah. ...Is it alright if I go back with you guys?"

Goku put one hand on Vegeta's shoulder, the other on Trunks', "Of course you can come with!" They blinked out. Reappearing in the den, Goku removed his hands and put them by his side. "So Trunks, are you going to be staying for awhile?" the taller Saijin tried to make the atmosphere a bit lighter.

"Yeah, I'm going to try," the younger man said, a grin threatening to take over his expression, "You watch over those androids to make sure they don't pull anything." Trunks gave Goku a wink, chuckling.

"Alright then," Goku responded with a smile, he then turned to Vegeta, "I'll call you when I'm free, ok? I gotta run now, take it easy!" He waved with one hand as the other put two fingers to his forehead.

"Later, Goku!" Trunks said, waving back. Vegeta gave a nod of recognition before Goku vanished.

A few seconds later Bulma walked into the room, "Did I hear Goku or am I imagining things?"

Trunks stepped towards her, "Yeah, Goku was just here, but he left. He had to go back home."

The alternate version of his mother gave a sigh, "Oh good. Zarbon and I were in the other room wrapping his presents and I didn't want him to see what we got him!"

Trunks blinked a few times, confused, "His presents? What's going on? Something special..?"

Bulma smiled warmly at him, "I guess I forgot to tell you this morning, Trunks. Today's Goku's birthday! We're throwing him a surprise party at Master Roshi's at seven. Would you like to come along?"

The demi-Saijin beamed with excitement, "Would I ever! Oh, but I don't have a present to give him...When are you leaving? I want to run out and get him something before we go!"

Bulma motioned for him to follow her into the kitchen, "It's only twelve now, but we have to be at Master Roshi's at five to make sure to get all the decorations and such in order." Trunks gave an understanding nod, looking over at Zarbon who was trying to stop Keichii from pulling off all the bows on the presents.

"Okay then, I'm going to be off. I'll be back around four!" Trunks stated, bounding for the door when he stopped short in the hallway. He backed up and entered the den where Vegeta stood, gazing out the window, not blinking. "Hey, Vegeta...?" Trunks called out, leaning against the doorframe and tilting his head to the side. His father's head snapped in his direction, a scowl on his face like usual. He said nothing in response to Trunks' greeting, his lips pulled into a tight, curt frown. Trunks ahemed quietly, walking towards Vegeta until he was about halfway across the den, "I'm going out to look for a birthday present for Goku. Would you like to come with?"

The prince's lips curled as he released a snarl, "Why would I want to? Utterly pointless. I have no money for one thing. Even if I did, and I was able to purchase something, when would I be able to give it to him?"

Trunks' eyebrows furrowed together and he shifted his weight, "I don't know exactly what you mean.."

Vegeta scoffed, folding his arms, his fists clenching, "I guess you wouldn't. I'll make it clear for you: They. Don't. Want. Me. There. Understand?"

Trunks took a deep breath, holding it for a moment before saying, "Well, who cares what they want. This is Goku's birthday so I doubt they're going to say anything about it. I'm sure Goku would want you to be there anyways, so I think it's alright if you go to the party." Vegeta briskly walked by Trunks, mumbling a "whatever" before he headed towards the back door in a fury. Trunks sighed and decided to let him go, 'He needs some time to think about what I said. I don't want to pressure him into coming.'

The prince stormed out of the back of the building, careful not to slam the door even though he was angry enough to destroy something. Normally he turned to his drinks, but now.. Now was one of those times when, in the past, he would volunteer himself for a purging mission. He did this particularly on some days when he couldn't ignore the growl of his stomach as well. He wanted to take his fists and just beat the living fuck out of something. Pure, raw rage. In response to what? A blistering rejection from an unseen force, there simply to delight in torturing him. He wanted to twine his hands around something's neck and just squeeze. He wanted to train under intense gravity, like Kakkarot, until he'd tear his muscles apart. He wanted to breathe smoke.

He walked through the garden that Bulma's mother tended, and by some weird stroke of luck (or misfortune), the lady was there looking after some flowers at the moment. She had heard someone come outside and she turned to see who it was, "Oh! Hello, Vegeta! How're you doing?"

The Saijin stopped in his tracks and gave her a grim smile, "Hnn." He tried to sound as irritated as possible.

"I'm sorry, dear," the blond said, looking sympathetic, "At least you're still as handsome as ever!"

The prince's whole body tensed at the comment, and he cracked a very nervous smile, 'Why does she say that?' Even though the woman was Bulma's mother, he didn't doubt that whenever she spoke, she only spoke the truth. Dishonesty for his woman wasn't possible, she was just too good-natured. "I suppose," he said, looking elsewhere, trying to force his cheeks to stop flushing. Compliments were a rarity for Vegeta, and it made him very skeptical to receive one. He recalled all the times Freiza would compliment him and a shiver ran up his spine.

"Would you like to help me?" Bulma's mother asked innocently.

If it was anyone else Vegeta would have sworn he would've just blown up the entire garden right then and there, but instead he shook his head, "Botany doesn't interest me. Now, if you'll excuse me..." He didn't give her time to reply, merely heading towards the back of the garden where there was plenty of wide open space. The blond watched him stalk off for a moment before she went back to tending her flowers.

The brunette stopped and stared out at the horizon for a few minutes. The short conversation had managed to shift his mood almost entirely into a different spectrum. Now he wished for a bit of Jack Daniel's to wash away the remnants of his broken dreams, but he lacked the motivation to return to the house.

Instead, he peeled off his stained shirt he had been wearing for the past three days. He never cared about hygene anymore. He bent over forward, placing his palms firmly against the ground, and with excruciating slowness, he pulled his body into a handstand. He gazed across the landscape upside down, finding comfort in the disorientation. His eyes fluttered closed and he breathed deeply, the earthy smell a bit relaxing. He opened his eyes again, looking into the vastness of the empty blue sky. It reminded him of the ocean in a way. Deep, blue, consuming. His mind began to ease as it started to wander about aimlessly, filling his head with faint memories and half-constructed ideas.

He smiled lightly as he imagined gravity doing a 360. How wondrous it would feel, to fall away from the earth and into that deep, blue sky. To glide through the air and eventually fall into space.. He stared for a few more moments before he let himself collapse. As his back slammed against the ground, the minute pain almost seemed to wake him up. It probably wasn't best to dillude himself.

He sighed roughly, his eyebrows knit in frustration. Space held a lot of bad memories. It was a rival to these Earth memories now. Space reminded him of things like Freiza taking him away. Like the end of his planet. Like the end of his people. Everyone gone, except for Kakkarot. 'Maybe I will go to that stupid party,' Vegeta mused to himself, 'I should repay Kakkarot for wasting all that money on me.' He picked himself up and grabbed his shirt before walking towards the back door, 'I can't believe I'm going to do this.'

He avoided Zarbon and Bulma easily enough, and when he entered his room be began his search. Glancing around, he couldn't see any shirts lying about, and he didn't want to wear the one he was holding again. Growling softly, he tossed the piece of clothing into the corner and zig-zagged his way through the mess of his room until he reached his unused bed. Crouching down, he felt underneath the piece of furniture. He pulled out a handful of empty bottles and he merely tossed them over his shoulder, not distracted in the least when they all gave a loud shattering sound, the shards raining down on the carpet.

'What the?' he asked himself when he felt a box shape. Curious, he pulled the object out to look at it. He recognized it instantly: the box of cigars Goku had bought for him the first time they went out. He hadn't smoked any of them, though he wasn't exactly sure why - they were excellent quality, top of the line. His hand rested on top of the box for a moment as he remembered that day, his tail twitching with uncertainty.

Snapping out of his trance-like state, Vegeta tossed the box on top of the bed before resuming his search. Finally, the prince felt fabric and a small smirk appeared on his face. He pulled the material out and gave it a look over. It was plain white with no stains, and from the smell of it, it was in good condition. With a strange sense of achievement, Vegeta slipped the shirt on, thinking, 'Time for a nap.' He looked down at his floor, at the small circle of carpeting that wasn't being occupied by glass bottles or aluminum cans. He then looked up at his empty bed save for that of the box of cigars he had placed upon it. Shrugging, he crawled onto the bed, stretching out lazily as he prepared himself for sleep.

Staring at the ceiling, he felt the box next to him nagging at the corners of his mind. Finally, he rolled over onto his side and opened it, inhaling the fresh scent of tobacco. Inside he had placed the small packs of cloves, and almost daring himself, he removed the cherry one and decided to try them. Carefully setting the box aside, he tore off the plastic wrapping of his "squares" and searched for a lighter. He had one in his right pocket. He lit and inhaled, surprised at the result. It did taste like cherry, but there was a less familiar flavor mixed in since he was used to cigarettes. It was like eating flavored wood, but it was very relaxing. His tail thumped the bed quietly in his approval. His eyes drooped, and before he realized it, he was practically exhaling through the clove too, so he found the nearest bottle and dropped the butt into it. His head hit the pillow, and a blissfully blank sleep overtook him.

He awoke to someone nudging him and calling his name, "Vegeta. Vegeta... Vegeta..? Hey..Vegeta, wake up..." The prince mumbled something that was probably a string of curse words, and shifted his position. He spread himself out eagle style as he stretched, yawning silently. He blinked and looked up to see who it was who bothered him.

"Trunks..?" he asked, blinking a few times to clear his vision as he sat up.

"Yeah, I just wanted you to know that I'm leaving now and if you want to come to the party it starts at seven," the demi-Saijin said in a soft, non-offensive tone.

Vegeta shrugged, drawing his knees up and wrapping his arms loosely around them, "I'll think about it, kid."

Trunks nodded and began to carefully make his way out of the room, "Alright then, I hope to see you later." The teen quietly shut the door behind him as he left. Vegeta stared blankly at the wall.


"Hey everybody!" Bulma called out as she opened the screen door with one hand while the other balanced some presents.

"Oh, hi Bulma!" Krillin stood up and walked over to her, "Need any help?"

She paused to think about it, "No, I think we'll be cool. Zarbon can handle it. Where do the presents go?"

Krillin guided her towards the kitchen, "On the table with the rest would be great."

Zarbon entered a moment later, Keichii was in his arms crying, "Bulma! I think he's hungry."

Bulma set the presents down and went to have a look, "Yeah. He didn't eat much for lunch, he must want something now." The lady scientist looked through the fridge for something to give to the baby while Zarbon went to get the rest of the presents.

"Oh, it's okay, Zarbon, I got them!" Trunks said, carrying the stack of presents.

"Here, I'll get the door," the changling offered, holding it open for Trunks.

"Yeah, thanks, man," the demi-Saijin replied, "Where do these go?" Krillin pointed in the direction of the table and Trunks gave a nod.

Bulma, who was giving Keichii some apple sauce, spoke up, "Okay, so what else needs to be done?"

Yamcha pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket and looked it over, "Well..let's see. The food is taken care of, believe it or not, and so is the party favors. Drinks will be arriving momentarily, so I guess we have to finish decorating."

Tien gave a smile, "That shouldn't be hard to do. You know, considering that we're able to fly."

Bulma huffed as she cleaned up after Keichii, "Hey, speak for yourself! Some of us still do not have that ability, you know!"

Krillin gave a nervous laugh, "Well, don't worry about it then, Bulma. You can handle watching over Keichii and maybe do some decorations down near the ground. We'll handle all the tall stuff, okay?"

The blue-haired woman shrugged it off, "Alright, that sounds perfectly fine to me."

Trunks stepped forward, trying to get a look at what was on the list Yamcha held. The bandit, seeing his interest, passed it to him, "You wanna call dibs on something?"

The teenager chuckled, "Perhaps... Man, there sure is a lot of stuff to do on here! Why didn't you just add 'repaint the room' to the list?"

Yamcha laughed at that, taking the paper back when Trunks extended it, "Hey man, don't worry, we'll get it all done. Wanna help me put up the banner?"

Trunks gave a nod, "Sure." At that moment, the door opened and two figures carrying some cases came inside.

"Hey, Gohan, Piccolo!" Krillin greeted them both with a smile.

Gohan grinned when he saw the bald monk, "Hey, Krillin!"

Piccolo gave a nod, "...So where do the drinks go?"

Krillin ran into the kitchen, opening up a line of coolers that had been set up, "In here, guys." The Namek set down his stack, and began opening the cases and pouring the drinks into the coolers. "Need any help, bro?" Krillin asked the young demi-Saijin.

"Yeah, there's a ton more cases outside," Gohan mentioned as he began to follow his teacher's lead. On the way out, Krillin caught a bit of Tien and Yamcha arguing.

"It's crooked!" Tien complained, pointing, "The one side is higher than the other and it's off center!"

Yamcha looked over the banner before saying, "Oh come on! You can barely tell!"

Trunks, in an effort to make them calm down, moved his side up just a bit, "Is that better?"

Tien sighed, folding his arms, "It's still off center."

Krillin lugged in a few cases of sodas, noticing Zarbon wasn't doing anything, "Hey Zarbon? Would you get the extra box of decorations from the hall closet? Thanks.." The alien sighed to himself before walking off to find the hall closet and the box of decorations. The coolers were rapidly being filled while the argument about the banner still went underway.

"All I'm saying is that it just doesn't look right!" Tien complained, sitting down on the couch.

Yamcha grabbed his shoulders and shook him a little, "Tien! Calm down! Think a little...Would Goku actually care if the banner is off center??"

Tien looked down in thought for a moment, "No..."

Yamcha stood up triumphantly, "Then stop worrying about it! We've got other things to do!" Zarbon entered the room with a cardboard box, and he set it down on the coffee table. Yamcha took out his check list and marked off the banner, "Okay! Let's get movin'!"


An hour and a half later, the gathered Z "gang" lounged about the living room, the setting sun casting the room in a hazy orange color. "Man, I think I spent so much energy preparing for the surprise party I think I'm too tired to actually do it," Tien mumbled, putting his hands behind his head and closing his eyes as he began to relax.

"I'm too excited," Trunks said in response, "I'll probably pass out right after we yell surprise though."

Yamcha chuckled at that, "Nah. There's going to be too much chaos for that to happen."

Krillin gave a small yawn, stretching out, "Hey..when's Chi-chi going to get here?"

Gohan paused to think about it, "I think she said a half of a hour till. She had to make an excuse to get out of the house and make up a reason for dad to be here."

Piccolo glanced over at the clock, "It is a half of an hour till." Just then, the door opened.

"Hi, guys!" Chi-chi called out, heaving in some presents and some more food. A chorus of slurred, mumbled, and half-hearted greetings came her way. "Well I hope you're just as enthusiastic when Goku comes in," she said sarcastically, though, playfully.

Krillin picked himself up from his seat, "Here, Chi-chi, let me help you."

She passed some of the heavier items over to him, "Thanks, Krillin. The presents go on the table, I see. The one thing you're holding needs to be refrigerated. The blue box." Krillin set down the other boxes, placing the blue one in the fridge. The door opened again and everyone turned to see who it was.

"Is this where the party is supposed to be at?" a young black-haired man asked. Trunks automatically broke out in a cold sweat, regardless of what his mind was telling him. The sound of an aircraft landing outside flooded the house.

"All right! Master Roshi's back with the cake!" Yamcha cheered, pushing past the androids to race outside.

"This appears to be the place, Seventeen," Sixteen said, his voice not holding the mechanical sound it once had.

"Where's your bathroom?" Eighteen asked, looking around.

Krillin blushed slightly at her presence, "It's right this way." Tien looked over at Trunks, noticing the way Krillin was apprehensive and prone to accidents around the blond.

Trunks nervously smirked in response, 'Man...Krillin with the way.'

Yamcha's voice boomed out, "Make way for the cake!!" Everyone stepped back as Yamcha and Master Roshi carefully hefted the large cake up and on top of the counter.

"Wow! That thing's huge!" Trunks declared with a grin, his eyes roaming over the five thick layers, all covered in a creamy chocolate frosting that was intricately edged. The top layer was at least eight inches in diameter and it said "Happy Birthday Goku!" with a small picture of a smiley face with Goku's hair right beneath it.

Gohan looked it over in delight as well, "It looks great! What kind is it, mom?"

Chi-chi looked it over to make sure it wasn't damaged in any way, "Yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Your father doesn't like things too fancy you know."

Krillin returned to the room, "Holy cow! Look at that thing!" Most of the fighters gave the cake at least one good look, but after a few minutes, they all dispersed, losing interest.

"It's about a quarter till," Krillin mentioned, unable to stand still, "I'm so nervous!" Eighteen reappeared, though she stood in the back of the room with the other androids. The screen door opened, squeaking its protest again. Everybody froze, expecting it to be Goku because he as the only one missing from the party now.

"What are you all staring at?" Vegeta growled loudly, folding his arms as he stood by the front door.

"Oh geez, it's only Vegeta," Zarbon said, rolling his eyes.

Krillin gave a sigh of relief, muttering, "If it was Goku..I think I would have freaked."

The prince's tail lashed around, its motion snapping like a whip, "What's that supposed to mean?" He was obviously responding to the other alien's comment. Zarbon looked up into the brunette's eyes and Trunks felt his blood run cold. His instincts screamed out that this was bad news - it was like Zarbon was challenging Vegeta.

"It means," Zarbon said, his voice rising, "You're not welcome here. Who told you you could come?" Trunks squeezed his eyes closed briefly, expecting to get scolded in a moment's time.

"I said I could come," Vegeta declared in a tone that almost sounded like he was proud, "And I never heard anyone say I couldn't."

The blue-skinned man's eyes narrowed, "I would think you'd get a clue when we didn't invite you to come along."

Vegeta almost laughed, "Like I care about anything you have to say." There was a pause, and Trunks tried to swallow the lump in his throat. The unease in the air didn't lift. In fact, the demi-Saijin swore it thickened, becoming nearly palpable. Vegeta's tail coiled upon itself before uncoiling, a movement indicating defense as well as offense - a battle ready movement.

Zarbon abruptly laughed, taking a seat next to Bulma, "Oh Vegeta, you could never learn, could you?"

The prince stayed unmoving before he stepped inside a bit more, as if accepting the challenge, "Why..whatever do you mean, Zarbon?"

The alien chuckled evilly for a moment, "I thought you'd learn, especially after being under Frieza's rule for so long." The smile faded as Zarbon stood up, "But I think I'm going to have to teach you some manners. Again."

Vegeta blinked, looking unimpressed by Zarbon's threats, "Oh. Look at me, I'm trembling with fear. Give me a break, Zarbon, I wasn't even afraid of the androids. Peh."

Zarbon paused for a moment, his lips turning up in a sly smile, "Yes, Vegeta. You're right on some accounts, that much is true. But you never seem to get it though."

Vegeta's tail bristled in annoyance, "Stop being so damn subtle! Never get what!?"

Zarbon pushed his bangs out his face before looking the prince directly in the eyes, "I don't like you. We don't like you. No one..likes you, Vegeta. You're not welcome here. You never were."

Vegeta merely stared back. His tail stopped moving for a moment before its tip slightly twitched. A confident smirk overcame his face, "So? Tell me something I don't know."

Zarbon exposed his fangs, his face contorted into a menacing sneer, "Oh, come on, Vegeta! Do you have any idea how long I've been waiting to get you away from me! I knew since you were a brat you were no good! Frieza ruled me with fear! But with you...oh, Frieza ruled you with bloodlust. He gave you people to kill and you gladly followed him."

Vegeta snarled with rage, and his tail bristled, looking like an array of needles, "That's bullshit! Frieza made me-!"

Zarbon interrupted him, his head tipping to the side slightly, "I watched you on your purge missions. I watched you, you little sadist. You always killed the children first because you liked to see the men suffer. Women and children first, right? Anytime I killed it was because of Frieza. I killed to save myself, I didn't kill for fun."

The prince's heart beat wildly in his chest, knowing he could not counter the accusations, 'He'd never understand!" Yes, his past was dark and morbid as he himself. Yes, he was a bad person without a heart or soul or conscience, but he couldn't help that, could he? The brunette was about to defend himself when Zarbon spoke up again, beating him to the punch.

"Oh, and let's not forget all those things you did while on Frieza's ship.." Zarbon trailed off tauntingly, his expression fading to evil amusement.

"What are you talking about?" Vegeta said, glaring at the changling with burning anger, his teeth clenching until his jaw hurt.

"When you get to be a high ranking officer like I was, you hear..things," Zarbon said, a cold smirk breaking across his features, "Like about what a certain prince does in his spare time."

Vegeta looked at him in utter confusion, his tail becoming dead weight again. Free time? He had class, or training, or... "Yeah, I heard you were popular with some of the elites," Zarbon said with mock-innocence, his smirk never falling, "Really popular. Said you were talented." Vegeta stood unmoving, like a block of ice, as Zarbon continued, "People would talk about how skilled you were with your mouth and tongue."

Vegeta flushed red completely, his tail snapping around his waist in an instant, "Shut up! Just shut the Hell up!!"

Zarbon stood and yelled over his protest, "People would say how good Prince Vegeta was in bed!!"

Vegeta's eyes closed tightly as his fists hands began to turn white, "Shut up!"

Trunks' stomach did end over end flips, 'Oh my this true!?'

Zarbon shouted loud enough for the whole house to hear, "Prince Vegeta, the easiest lay of the entire Frieza empire!"

Vegeta's voice boomed louder than Zarbon's, "SHUT UP!!!" He heaved in his breaths unsteadily, forcing himself to swallow, "You....You....SON OF A BITCH!" Vegeta's eyes burned, raw emotion washing over him, flooding him, drowning him, "That's not true and you know it!" He felt wetness against his fingertips, and still ignored any accompanying pain.

Zarbon folded his arms, "Do I really? Well, Vegeta, if you're so sure, then ask yourself this.. If you aren't so easy, and if you aren't so fucking twisted...why doesn't anybody trust you?"

The prince stared at Zarbon for a moment, bitter, stinging tears escaping his eyes. Roughly he wiped them away with the sleeve of his shirt, shame and anger overriding his system. "I...." He closed his eyes, more hot tears escaping, which were quickly disposed of. Vegeta's body began to shake, his muscles aching, "Well..I think I understand now." He choked, holding back his pain, determined not to show complete weakness, "Ha, fine. You win again, Zarbon." He let his rage consume him, let his indifference escalate to a point where it became pessimism.

A fake smile came to Vegeta's face, his voice straining as he spoke, "Yes, I killed billions of people. Yes, I had fun while doing it. Did you know a Saijin appetite is barely whetted when you're being rationed? I had a simple solution to that. Why not eat my enemies? It wouldn't matter, one way or the other their bodies would disappear, so why not make the hunger pains ebb? It became tradition. Eat the remains of an extinct race, how ironic, me myself the last of my kind." He paused again, to gain his composure, a smirk spreading his lips, "Oh yes. And all those things about Frieza's ship is true. You know exactly how it was, Zarbon. Down to the detail." A bitter laugh echoed throughout the silent house, "Yeah, I give the best head, you know. I'm more talented than you'd ever believe..."

The smile faded off of Vegeta's face as he forced himself to go on. His first attempt to continue failed as no noise was produced. "Or maybe, just maybe," Vegeta said, his eyes staring right into Zarbon's, "You have no fucking idea of what I've been through."

The screen door opened and everyone turned, frozen in place by the gravity of the whole argument that had went underway. Vegeta wasn't able to hold back any longer, he turned and pushed Goku out of the way, blasting off into the night.

"What?" Goku blinked in surprise as he watched the prince go, "What's wrong with him??"

Krillin quietly spoke up, "Something that has to do with none of our business."

Goku looked across all the gloomy faces, "What are you all doing here?"

Trunks, finally able to move again, stood up, "Happy birthday, Goku."

Part Five | Back
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